Cast: Stacy Snyder, Joanna Sotomura, Matt Mercer, Blaine Vedros, Ron Morehouse, Melody Melendez
Written and Directed by Kevin Sluder
Produced by Jose Gonzalez and Rachel Ferrell
Executive Produced by Kevin and Jennifer Sluder
Edited by Matt Mercer
Cinematographer Mike Testin
Music Steve Moore
Assistant Director Melissa Vitello
Production Design Rachel Ferrell
Key Makeup Artist Emily Lowe
Special Makeup/Blood F/X Josh and Sierra Russell, Russell FX
Associate Producers Bryan Ricke and Melissa Vitello
This was a unique opportunity to view something on the 2018 Film Festival circuit at this very moment. It was an incredibly good short film call Heartless. This is a film with a 12:24 runtime and is packed full with horror, madness, emotion, stereotypes and the poisonous power of guilt.
Based on The Tell-Tale Heart by Edgar Allan Poe this film captured the essence of the classic tale. Like a bucket of cold water to the face from the beginning, this film immediately gets your attention. This is an intense twelve minutes that left this horror fan with nothing but a smile of satisfaction and awe. Here we get a quick dip into the madness of a guilt ridden white collar professional and her dark mind and secrets.
This was such a surprise and a pleasure to watch. For horror fans, it would be a gem of a short film.
Leave it to Stephen King to create a movie that is, in my opinion, 100% realistic and plausible. This is a story that anyone can agree is possible to happen to practically anybody.
This is the tragic story of a typical household pet. His name is Cujo. He’s a St. Bernard that lives with the Camber family. Mr. Camber is a mechanic (of sorts…in a small town there’s always that neighborhood guy that does auto repair out of his garage…or barn).
Further in town lives the Trenton family, who are really our main characters of the film. There’s Vic (dad), Donna (mom) and Tad (son). They seem to be the average American family. But things soon start to fall apart for the Trentons.
Now, in the beginning of the film we open with a fun chase scene between Cujo and a fluffy little rabbit. (Personally, I root for the rabbit because well, I’m still a chick and bunnies are cute. Deal with it.) As Cujo is chasing this rabbit, it finds refuge in a hole that leads to a small cave. Cujo, of course, sticks his head in the hole to get the rabbit. But, there are bats sleeping in this cave and Cujo’s bark is a resounding wake up call for them. They fly about erratically in the small space and one ends up biting the poor dog on his nose. He rips his head out of the hold and flees whimpering.
Meanwhile, the Trentons are experiencing some marital discord. Vic is an advertising executive and things with the new marketing campaign aren’t going so well. Donna has been having an affair with her ex-boyfriend from high school. Vic finds out about this affair and is angry and heartbroken. Donna eventually tells the lover that they can’t see each other anymore. Her lover is not so happy about this.
In the midst of all this emotional family chaos, Donna’s car is having some issues so Vic tells her to take it to Mr. Camber to get fixed, as he is heading out of town for business. When she gets there, her son riding with her, she finds that Cujo is a huge rabid dog that has killed his owner, Mr. Camber, among others. Cujo has become very aggressive and violent given the fact that he has untreated rabies. He attacks Donna and Tad, forcing them to return to her car for safety. It is sweltering outside and they are not prepared for being holed up in this little car, which is quickly becoming an oven. Donna tries to start the car but, because that was the whole reason she was getting it fixed, is unsuccessful. (The car almost died on them on the way to Camber’s.) And because this monster of a dog is set on getting at them, they can’t roll down the windows or open the doors. Cujo sits and eyes them and the car, a true predator at this point. He’s not leaving without his pound of flesh.
During all of this, two things happen. The first is, Vic has been calling home repeatedly and is not getting any kind of answer. This leads him to believe that Donna is still having the affair and over a little time, weighs so heavy on him that he feels the need to immediately head home to find out what is going on. The second event is that Donna’s lover breaks into their house. He is overcome with anger and jealousy, the rage of the rejection he’s suffered and he obliterates the entire house. He tears up pictures, destroys bedding, trashing the kitchen, breaks furniture, I mean he really just lets out every ounce of hatred, anger, revenge and envy he has in him. Then he leaves.
When Vic gets home he instantly sees all the destruction and calls the police, telling them his wife and son are gone, that the house has been broken into and trashed and that he believes he knows who did it, directing the police to his wife’s ex-lover. He also briefly suspects the lover of taking his family but, then he remembers that Donna took the car to Camber’s for repairs.
Now, because there’s no answer at that Camber’s house either, the Sherriff ends up going out there to check on things. Upon his arrival he too sees that Cujo is…not well, and that things have gotten really bad at the Camber place. He soon gets attacked before his is able to save Donna and Tad, who are struggling to survive in her yellow Ford Pinto. He gets into a scuffle with Cujo and for a second, he gets away, settling on the catwalk of the barn. But, soon he falls and Cujo mauls him, killing him.
Donna watches all of this and seizes the opportunity to exit the vehicle and strike Cujo with a baseball bat. She hits him over and over until the bat breaks, leaving her holding nothing but the ragged broken handle in her grip. Cujo quickly turns and lunges at her and his is impaled on the handle, it piercing his stomach, sending him to the ground. Donna jumps up, grabs the Sherriff’s gun and Tad, who is almost dead from heatstroke and dehydration, and bolts into the Camber’s house.
She quickly starts pouring water over Tad and giving him CPR to revive him. It works. Tad wakes up and Donna is beyond relieved. She thinks the whole ordeal is over and breathes a huge sigh through her tears.
Just then, a recovered Cujo comes crashing through the kitchen window, ready to devour whatever is in his path. But, Donna is ready for him this time. As he comes barreling through the glass she picks up the cop’s revolver and fires it right at Cujo without hesitation. She hits him and Cujo is finally dead.
Donna scoops up Tad into her arms and exits the house through the front door to find Vic standing at the bottom of the stairs leading up to the front porch. She stands on the porch and just stares at him with pure exhaustion and trauma, tears in her eyes.
As a Stephen King fan, I love this movie. I will say that my only complaint would be that the book ends differently than the movie, although I won’t tell you how just yet because I will be doing a book vs. movie post in the Book Reviews section as soon as I clear my reading list.
But still, this is a great movie. It really does take something you are supposed to love and something you never think would hurt you (the family pet) and turns it into a hellish and tragic unfolding of events that are not something of science fiction or impossible imagination but, something so simple and plausible. The basic bite of a bat causing a cataclysmic series of horrific deaths. Add to that the wife getting busted for having an affair and the idea that they don’t have a Norman Rockwell painting kind of marriage and family life makes it all the more relatable for the average viewer.
The introduction of Cujo as a fun and playful dog chasing a rabbit makes the carnage he unleashes all that more brutal. To see the change in Cujo over the course of the movie is truly a scary thing if you put yourself in the shoes of the characters. I mean, this is a St. Bernard, not a little toy sized dog that fits in your purse. This thing jumps up to say “Hi” and you are getting knocked over. Imagine what kind of force he has behind a jump fueled by rabid rage.
Also, keep in mind that King himself put this film on his list of Top Ten Favorite Movie Adaptations of his books. That’s a huge compliment seeing as how he was not part of the screenplay writing process.
This film is always fun to watch. It’s not incredibly long. It gets to the point on everything fairly quickly and doesn’t drag anything out too long. Just be forgiving of the hair and clothing styles. (We had to suffer with them back then, it’s only fair the new generations suffer viewing them too. It’s a shared pain.)
Fear of Clowns (2004)
Wow. This is absolutely one of the worst movies I have ever seen. The filming was bad, the acting was worse and the clowns were terrible. Our main clown seems to idolize Michael Myers and his weird stare where he leans his head slightly to the side as he watches his victims die. Only one slasher killer can pull that off and it isn’t this guy.
This movie was written and directed by Kevin Kangas. I wish he would have tried harder. But, then again, the extra effort may have made it worse.
This film, and I use that term in its loosest sense, is an hour and forty-six minutes long. At the hour mark I was so over it I could barely get through the rest.
It’s obvious they tried to build suspense and if the filming and editing had been better they may have been successful. The victims don’t look frightened enough. The kills are bland and lacking in the slasher gore we’ve grown to love. The blood is such a vibrant and almost orange red that it is entirely unbelievable. It looks more like food coloring. They’ve got the color wrong, the flow and arterial spray wrong, just everything. In fact, pretty much all of the special effects were poorly done, in my opinion.
The acting is so bad and corny in this movie I can’t even say that it qualifies as “B” rate. There’s a few moments of comedy relief and there’s a more than a few moments of “dear killer, let’s get on with it, sincerely, the audience”. You seriously wait the whole movie for then last maybe, ten minutes, and even then, it’s not as if it’s satisfying.
I won’t bore you with the specifics but, the basic story is a woman is stalked by a clown that her shrink husband is supposedly treating AND a hitman that he has hired to kill her. And she is an artist who paints clowns.
So, yeah, that’s pretty much it. Like I said, not a lot to write home about on this one. Thankfully, I’ve watched it and won’t have to ever again. That’s an hour and forty-six minutes I’ll NEVER get back. The only thing I fear after this movie is the fact that they made a sequel.
Pet Sematary (1989)
Director: Mary Lambert
Louis Creed- Dale Midkiff
Rachel Creed- Denise Crosby
Gage Creed- Miko Hughes
Ellie Creed- Blaze Berdahl
Jud Crandall- Fred Gwynne
Victor Pascow- Brad Greenquist
Zelda (Rachel’s sister)- Andrew Hubatsek
I’m doing this review in a slightly different format. This is yet another movie adaptation of one of Stephen King’s novels. As a movie from my childhood, I truly always enjoyed this film. It was one that I watched with my Dad as he was a HUGE King fan and had read almost every book King had written. I have since inherited what was left of those books. But as a kid, this movie was both pleasant and creepy to watch.
This is the story of a family tragedy. A tragedy of love, hate and denial. Louis Creed thinks he’s doing a good thing for his family when he moves them from Chicago to a small, rural community called Ludlow in Maine. This place is a magnificent change from the hustle and bustle of the big city and the idea of small town living seems like just the refresher they need as a family. Louis has gotten a job as a doctor at the University of Maine.
They quickly befriend their neighbor, Jud Crandall, who is an old man that lives across the road from them. He warns them about the crazy traffic on this little country highway, a road that truckers and other vehicles seem to fly down at outrageous speeds with little to no regard for anyone’s safety. This warning comes from an incident that happens the first day there. Gage is a toddler and while no one has their eye on him, he wanders out through the front yard and almost gets hit by a trucker barreling down the highway. Jud grabs him up just in time and proceeds to give the warning to Lewis and Rachel.
Meanwhile, as they unpack the car, we meet their older child, daughter Ellie and her beautiful cat Winston Churchill, Church for short. They get to talking about pets and Jud tells them about a pet cemetery that is down a path that starts in their yard. He takes them to the pet cemetery and tells them that his own pet is buried there. It’s a creepy makeshift graveyard with a sign over the entrance that reads, “Pet Sematary”, scrawled in childlike paint strokes.
Now, when Louis goes to work on his first day, the day is anything but uneventful. He meets a young man named Victor Pascow who was hit by a car while riding his bicycle. Louis tries to treat him but, he soon succumbs to his injuries. Just before Pascow dies, he warns Lewis about the pet cemetery telling him the not to cross the barrier. Louis is shaken and creeped out as Pascow lays there dead and bloody, his words echoing in his ears. Later that night, Pascow comes to Louis and takes him to The Pet Sematary, warning him again that the barrier should not be crossed and that the ground is “sour”. Louis wakes up thinking it was just a dream yet, his feet are soiled with dirt.
Some time later, when Rachel and the kids are away for Thanksgiving, Church gets run over but a truck on the dangerous stretch of highway. Jud and Louis, to prevent Ellie from finding out her cat died and her sorrow that would inevitably follow, take the cat past the bounds of the Pet Sematary and bury Church in the “sour” ground.
Church comes back but, he’s not himself. He’s lethargic, he smells really bad (perhaps like death) and is viciously aggressive towards Louis. When Louis bring this difference up to Jud, Jud tells him that he buried his own dog up there and he wasn’t the same when he came back either. He still reassures Louis that, though Church is different, it’s worth sparing Ellie the heartache of losing her favorite pet.
Shortly after all this happens, poor little Gage, who once again wasn’t being watched closely, wanders into the road after his kite gets away from him and is hit by a truck and killed. Guilt ridden and devastated, Louis ignores Jud’s warning to not bury Gage in the sour ground and steals Gage’s body from his actual burial site and re-inters him in the area beyond the Pet Sematary. Rachel and Ellie are not home as they have gone to Rachel’s parent’s house after Gage’s funeral. Unfortunately, Ellie has been dreaming of Pascow ever since he died and he now comes to Ellie, warning her that her Dad is going to do something terrible. Rachel is unsettled by this and decides to return home after being unable to reach Louis.
That night, Gage comes back and kills Jud with a scalpel he takes out of Louis’ medical bag. Rachel returns to her home only to be coaxed over to Jud’s house by the haunting voice and memory of her dead sister Zelda. Instead of finding her sister, she finds Gage with the blood covered scalpel. She reaches down to hug him, not realizing what has happened and Gage kills her.
Louis returns home to get a call from Gage. He’s at Jud’s. He asks his Dad if he wants to play and says he’s already played with Mommy. He concludes the call with an eerie childlike giggle.
Louis fills two syringes with Morphine and heads to Jud’s house. On his way out of his own home, he encounters Church and kills him with an injection. Then he goes to Jud’s. He finds both Jud and his wife dead. After a brief struggle he injects Gage with the Morphine and Gage dies again.
Absolutely devastated by grief, he takes Rachel’s body and burns down Jud’s house. He takes Rachel to bury her in the “sour ground” even though Pascow comes to him yet again, warning him not to make it worse. But, Louis is losing his grip on reality and believes that this time it will work because Rachel has not been dead as long as Gage was when he buried him up there.
That very night, Rachel returns, her body a bloody and slashed shell of what she once was. She approaches Louis, who has been awaiting her return and they hug each other, Rachel’s rotting flesh not bothering Louis. As they hold each other, Rachel picks up a large butcher knife from the kitchen table and Louis screams in agonizing terror as the screen goes black.
This is a great movie. Though it’s not on King’s list of his top ten favorite movie adaptations of his books, he does still have a cameo in this film as the minister that performs Gage’s service. He often cameos in the movies of his books.
The special effects make up in this movie are excellent. Rachel’s sister, who is played by a man, is probably the scariest character to me. It’s truly just bone chilling the way they portray this sister.
Also, the whole idea is one that people often think about after losing people they love. What IF we could bring them back? Would they be the same? This is a story that tells the age-old lesson of how you shouldn’t mess with nature and things beyond nature too much. It’s almost like the tale of the trick the Devil pulls when he grants a wish or trades your soul for fulfilling a desire you have.
Also, these parents would NOT be getting the Parents of the Year award, let me just say that. There are two times in this movie that a toddler wanders to the street. What the hell are these people doing???? They just are some of the most inattentive parents ever!
The laughs and giggles from Gage and the cries and yells from Zelda are truly something that could give you the willies.
This movie is truly a gem of a classic Stephen King horror story. Any King fan will love it and I can’t imagine horror fans not liking it because of the whole story line.