Directed by Alfred Hitchcock
Written by Joel Steinbeck (story), Jo Swerling (screenplay)
Starring: Tallulah Bankhead, William Bendix, John Hodiak, Walter Slezak, Henry Hull, Hume Cronyn, Canada Lee
IMDb 7.8/10 Rotten Tomatoes 91% Metacritic 78/100
NOTE: This is a clip from the film itself, not an actual trailer. I was unable to find a suitable trailer so, this is the substitute.
I have been wanting to get the review of this movie up for quite a while now. This is one of my favorite Alfred Hitchcock films. It is also one of his most underrated films. There are so many aspects of this film that make it unique, I really think Hitchcock was ahead of the times.
In this film, we have a group of people stranded in the middle of the ocean in a lifeboat (hence the name of the film). This group is a group of Americans (at least that’s what it seems). I’m not quite sure how these particular people ended up in this particular lifeboat but, that doesn’t even matter. What does matter is that they are stranded in the ocean during WWII. And as they start to regain their composure, they come across a man in the water, needing help. Now, as good samaritans they pull this man into the lifeboat…and realize he’s German.
Okay, quick break. You gotta remember that we are in the height of World War II. Any movie that is portraying the Axis and Allies, in the eyes of Americans at the time, should make the Axis, specifically the Germans, look like savage animals and the Allies are to look like saints. It’s a ridiculous mindset, an arrogant one too, if you ask me. Which I know no one did so, echhumm, moving on.
So, now there’s a bunch of “good guys’ in a lifeboat and they just saved a “bad guy’. Immediately, they want to kill him, or at the very least throw him back overboard. They have very limited supplies, no way of communication with the rest of the world and the rough seas to contend with. And time. Nothing but time.
As we go through the film, we watch the unraveling of humanity, the slow deterioration of civility on warp speed and the toll such a situation can bring on a group of average people.
This is an amazing story of human behavior. Especially when there is no law at sea. No police or courts or judges. No one to regulate anything. Just a bunch a people left to their own devices. And it gets sketchy, particularly when lives are at stake.
As rations and supplies start to run out, as thirst and hunger start setting and as fear coats everything in a dark sense of foreboding, these people start to learn just how little truly sets humans apart from other animals.
The first unique thing about this film is that the whole film takes place on a lifeboat. The whole film in one setting. That was unheard of at the time. And can you imagine the pressure to make a great psychological thriller with nothing but your cast and a lifeboat? I mean, you have no corners to hide things around, no creepy buildings or woods, no hidden monster or killer. Just exactly what you see on the screen.
The other thing is that, other than the music that plays for the beginning and ending credits, there is no musical score for this film. Another technique not widely used for thrillers. Music is almost a staple in horror because it helps lead up to the scare scenes. But in this film, Hitchcock opts only for the voice of the German as he sings and rows the lifeboat and the little wooden flute played by shipmates in the lifeboat to accompany him.
Now, there were some mixed feelings about this movie when it came out although the modern critics love it. But originally, it was thought that the Axis were made to look like good and decent people and the Allies were made to look like barbarians. Also, there was a little controversy over the character Joe Spencer. He is the only African-American in the film and the critics said the portrayal of the black man was too stereotypical. I’m sure this had something to do with the fact that it’s mentioned that Joe used to pick pockets. None of the critics took into consideration that Joe was well spoken, articulate, a family man, no longer a criminal, had a regular job. Hell, he could have been any ethnicity. I think they were reading too far into things at the time but, again, that’s just my opinion.
There was an underlying political tone to the film. While the allies are all fighting amongst themselves and losing site of the mutual goal, the bad guy comes right in underneath your nose and assimilates himself among you. Then, before you know it, you’re getting played from the inside and at war with each other instead of the common enemy.
The critics did praise the acting, directing and cinematography and was nominated for three Oscars, Best Director, Best Story and Best Cinematography.
Like I said at the beginning of this, this film is one of my favorite Hitchcock films. In all honesty, I didn’t think too much of it the first time I saw it. I was coming off of Psycho and The Birds and thought this would be similar. But this was different so it took an extra time or two watching it to really appreciate it for what it is…a classic.
Written and Directed by John Burr
Starring: Riley Egan, Elle Evans, Kate Mansi, Lou Ferrigno Jr., Max Decker, Jennie Fahn
IMDb 5.2/10 Rotten Tomatoes NO DATA Metacritic NO DATA
When I watched the trailer for this film I thought “This has potential.”. Now, remember that I clarified that not too long ago to mean that it has potential to be good and it has potential to suck. Basically meaning that I can see why it might be well received but, I can also see why it could flop as well. This time, it was potential to be good. And it far exceeded my expectations.
I think this is an exceptional indie film. And I’m not alone in that. Apparently, throughout eight different film festivals this film has won thirteen out of eighteen nominations. At the Austin Revolution Film Festival, it won, Best Horror Feature, Best Cinematography, Best In Show- Feature, and Best Soundtrack/Score. It again won Best Horror Feature at the Cape Fear Independent Film Festival and Best Feature Film at both Frackfest and Horrorhaus Film Festival. Other awards include Most Unique Horror Film, Best Original Score, Best Original Screenplay and Best Actor for Riley Egan.
It’s such a basic story and yet it is completely effective. A young man, Adam (Riley Egan), is…I guess you could call him one of the many starving artists trying to make a name for himself. He’s a quiet slender man with a love for his paints, brushes and canvases. He racks his brain night and day searching for inspiration inside him. He wants to create something amazing to take to the 440 Gallery to have the owner, Valerie approve it to hang in her gallery. He’s just not getting there. While his art is awesome, he knows it’s missing something, he just can’t figure out what.
But, he needs to figure it out soon because his life is crashing down around him. Not only is he having a hard time paying rent but the landlord, Lance, tells him that it’s going up another fifty dollars and he needs that money. (Side note: I thought landlords had to give a thirty-day notice of rent increase or something but this guy, just does it on a whim. SO shady. At the same time, he is informed of the rent increase we meet Hector, an intimidating brut with an arrogant and ignorant attitude that oozes from every pore.
Adam is also obviously extremely lonely…and vulnerable. He’s got a thing for a gal that lives in the building (her name is Maria, played by Kate Mansi) but, she’s involved with an abusive douchebag artist named Jason (Ferrigno Jr.). Jason Block. As in BLOCK-head. I swear this guy is probably one of the most insecure men to ever walk the earth. Whoa.
At a showing at the 440 Gallery, Valerie tells Adam he needs to find his muse. He asks her a few questions but kind of blows her off. Later, Hector (Max Decker) sort of bullies Adam into giving him a ride to see a couple friends. If he drives, Hector will give him a couple hundred dollars. Adam tells him to go kick rocks but, eventually his basic needs, like food and rent, catch up to him so, he tells Hector he’ll do it. They take their little trip and Hector gets into some trouble while Adam is out exploring a sound he hears in the woods. It is there he sees his Muse. He tries to show Hector that there’s a woman alone in the woods but Hector doesn’t care as he is caught up in his own messed up business at the moment.
They go back to their apartment building and Adam paints the Muse from his memory of that swift glimpse of her in the woods. He shows the painting to Valerie and she loves it. She wants more pieces like that one. Adam is thrilled.
Then the Muse shows up in his apartment that when things start to get really crazy. Now, all of a sudden Adam has it all. He’s becoming a success, he’s in love with his Muse (who is totally devoted to him) and he’s creating the best work of his life.
But, Adam soon learns that having the Muse by his side, in his head, in his heart, is not always a positive thing.
What happens with Adam and his Leannán Si (translates to the beautiful ones) now that she is front and center in Adam’s life?
Watch the movie and find out.
I really did think this movie was exceptional. The acting is great. It’s calm but intense. There’s definitely an eeriness throughout the entire film which, I happen to think, is hard to accomplish. I mean, it’s completely consistent all the way through. The Muse has this blank yet seductive look in her eyes the whole time, every time we see her. I personally feel it’s harder to pull off a role with no dialogue rather than one with dialogue. Fact is, everything has to be conveyed by body language in a role of that kind and Elle Evans is fantastic. The creature she plays, a Leannán Si or Muse, reminds me of a succubus in a way. A seductive sexual spirit that can help or hinder, although a succubus is usually considered to be of the demonic persuasion. Still, our Muse in this film isn’t all roses and champagne. There is a darker and more sinister undertow in the film that you can easily get caught up and invested in. But through the whole movie you can’t shake the feeling of dread and impending doom. The lack of emotion of the characters really sells the creep factor all the way around.
I can’t think of any reason why a regular horror fan wouldn’t like this film. There’s blood, violence, sex, murder, abstraction, supernatural activity, it’s got everything. So, please, go ahead and give it a shot. I think you’ll be pleased. It’s definitely something I would have paid to see in the theater. I can’t understand why a major studio didn’t try to pick this up. It’s unique and original in my opinion and I would think top studios would be looking for something like that, something fresh. And that’s just what we have here. I give props to the filmmakers and cast and crew. They really got the job done.
Toolbox Murders (2004)
Directed by Tobe Hooper
Written by Jace Anderson and Adan Gierasch
Starring: Angela Bettis, Brent Roam, Marco Rodriguez
IMDb 5.3/10 Rotten Tomatoes 53% Metacritic NO DATA
This is a Tobe Hooper remake of the original 1978 film directed by Dennis Donnelly. In this film, a young couple rent an apartment at the Lusman Arms apartment building. This place has a dark past which includes being the home of Elizabeth Short aka The Black Dahlia. The wife, Nell, is immediately against staying there and wants to go to a different place. Steven, her husband, points out that moving there put them in a tight spot financially and that they are just going to have to deal with it. “It” being the dumpy conditions, the weird freaky neighbors, the creepy handyman, the skeevy landlord and all the strange sounds that seem to come from inside the walls and him being gone all the time while doing his residency.
Right away odd things start happening. People start disappearing. For example, Nell has become friends with Julia, a gal a few apartments down, and she suddenly disappears. We also have some very strange tenants. The manager/landlord for starters. He is super creepy. Then there’s Ned, the quiet and emo-goth handyman. There’s Julia, a fitness nut who was once very overweight and is now almost anorexic thin. We have Austin, some jackass teenage boy who sets up cameras in some of the women’s apartments so he can perve over them later without their knowledge. There’s also an old man that lives there. He’s lived there for decades. And although creepy might not be the exact word to describe him, he definitely makes you feel uneasy. He rambles about buildings being like people and having personalities and memories. It’s eerie. That’s the word. Eerie.
Later, Nell also finds out that on every floor the fourth apartment is missing. There’s no 104, 204, 304, etc. The landlord seems to know something about it but is sketchy in his responses to her questions. Nell starts researching the building at the Los Angeles Preservation Society. She encounters a very enthusiastic employee and learns of magic symbols found in the building, black magic, cults, tons of information. This includes finding out that an entire townhouse exists within the building, hence the missing rooms.
She takes this information and starts to investigate the building. Remember, her husband is a doctor so he’s practically never home. So, she’s doing this all on her own. She locates the hatch that leads to the hidden townhouse. She eventually finds a hoard of dead bodies, her friend Julia, and tons of horrific things. She also finds the killer. Once he appears he removes his mask, showing himself to be a monster referred to (in the credits) as Coffin Baby. Apparently he was born from death, clawing his way out of his dead mother’s womb while she lay in her coffin at her burial.
Now, this is one time the creepy voyeur teen actually helps by being a pervert. He goes through his tapes and finds out that he video recorded Julia’s death. He grabs the tape and runs to Nell’s apartment to tell her but finds her husband, already panicked, instead. Austin explains everything to Steven and they go looking for Nell.
Steven finds Nell and frees her. He also has to fight Coffin Baby is they are going to make it out of there alive. He quickly succeeds in whacking Coffin Baby with a heavy object and then pulling a shelving unit down on top of him. Nell and Steven leave and the police arrive to handle the scene. They lift the debris only to find that coffin Baby isn’t there. While Steven is taken to a hospital to treat injuries he sustained during the struggle, Nell returns home to her apartment. Coffin Baby comes crashing through her window and goes to attack her. They struggle and she wraps a cord around his neck. He raises himself to kill her but is halted just long enough for the police to bust in and shoot him and he falls out the window. They all go to the window to see the hanging body and discover that there is no body, only the dangling cord.
Now, I have got to be honest. I have no idea why this movie would get a 53% from Rotten Tomatoes. I’m not saying it was horrible but, I can’t see why they would give THIS film a 53% and House at the End of the Street and 11%. It just doesn’t make sense.
Then the whole thing saying he clawed his way out of his dead mother’s womb?!?!? Seriously??? That’s not even plausible. If she was already being buried a) how did the coroner miss a full term baby and b) that long without a live womb to live in, that baby would be dead. It’s just utter nonsense.
The rest of the movie was alright. It really seemed like I was asking myself what was going on a lot of the time until the end…and I hate that. It seemed a little choppy and disconnected to me. But it was still entertaining enough that I watched the whole movie and only checked the time counter once and that was near the end.
I can’t say that I would recommend this movie to anyone but, if I were asked if one should watch it, I would tell them “it’s not great but, it’s not horrible either”.
12 Days of Terror (2004)
Directed by Jack Sholder
Written by Richard Fernicola (book) Jeffrey Reiner and Tommy Lee Wallace (teleplay)
Starring: Colin Egglesfield, Mark Dexter, Jenna Harrison, John Rhys-Davies
IMDb 5.6/10 Rotten Tomatoes NO DATA Metacritic NO DATA
Originally a made for television film, this story is based off of the Jersey Shore Shark Attacks of 1916. That year, in a span of twelve days, five people were bitten in the course of a shark attack. Only one of those victims survived. During these particular times, in this age of the early 1900s, very little was known about sharks. Experts largely based their “findings and opinions” on guesswork and conjecture. Because of this, even after the second attack experts were saying that more attacks were practically impossible. They claimed that they were fluke incidents and allowed the beaches to remain open. It was an unusually hot summer that year bringing warm currents up from more southern waters. With these currents came the sharks. Eventually, the shark believed to be the killer man-eater was caught and life returned back to normal. Or somewhat normal. After these attacks steel fences were installed along the coastal waters to prevent anymore sharks from reaching that close to shore. These incidents also sparked a profound interest in sharks and their behaviors launching numerous studies and the worldwide interest in the great beasts of the sea.
As far as this film goes, it’s fairly accurate to the documented story. The difference is that in the film it seems to imply that all the attacks were in one area and that’s not the case. These attacks happened up and down the shoreline in three different areas. But, other than that, the rest is fairly accurate. A few details were changed but that always happens when Hollywood decides to film history.
There were five victims in the attacks over those twelve days.
July 1- Beach Haven, Charles Epting Vansant, 25, attacked while swimming off shore, left thigh stripped of its flesh, bled to death
July 6- 45 miles North from first attack, Charles Bruder, 27, attacked while swimming 130 yards off shore, bitten in abdomen and legs were severed, rescued by lifeguards in lifeboat, bled out on the way back to shore
July 12- 30 miles North of second attack, Lester Stillwell, 11, attacked while swimming in creek that branched off from sea line, pulled under by shark; Watson Stanley Fisher, 24, bitten in the leg while trying to recover the body of Lester Stillwell, bled to death in route to hospital; Joseph Dunn, 14, attacked while swimming in creek, left leg bitten, pulled to safety by brother and friend, only victim to survive, permanently injured.
This is the story that inspired Jaws. There are a number of similarities between this movie and Jaws. We have a character that resembles Quint. We have a Mayor who is a royal putz. The little boy, Lester, we see his parents at the edge of the creek hoping that Fisher will rescue their son. There’s the massive hunt for the shark that a lot of people get in on for the reward offered to catch and kill the shark. Just madness all around.
This was a very good shark movie. It was filmed well and the acting is good. The movie had suspense and was a chilling blast into the past. It seemed so much more REAL LIFE than Jaws and this is much more believable, even though Jaws is one of my all-time favorite movies. I could recommend this movie to almost anyone. I really did think it was that good. And it’s only 1h29m so, once again, it’s not long and drawn out to where our attention breaks. See if you guys can find it, it’s definitely one to watch.
Don't Breathe (2016)
Directed by Fede Álvarez
Written by Fede Álvarez and Rodo Sayagues
Starring: Jane Levy, Dylan Minnette, Daniel Zovatto, and Stephen Lang
IMDb 7.1/10 Rotten Tomatoes 88% Metacritic 71/100
In following with the great horror formula of stupid teenagers being a necessary evil, this film is no exception. Here we have three dumb delinquents who somehow get the genius idea to rob a retired US Special Forces Gulf War veteran. (Okay, right there, is there anybody out there that DOESN’T think that is at the top of the list titled “People NOT to Rob”?) It is said that the old man is rich due to the receipt of a large settlement after his daughter got killed. They also know he is blind as a result of injuries sustained during the war so, they think this guy is the perfect target.
WRONG. Let’s skip over the fact that he’s blind for a second. These Special Forces guys are hard core. They are trained to withstand and dish out more than these teens ever even thought of imagining. These are the kind of guys that can kill in an instant woken out of their sleep without a moment’s notice of threat and without making a sound. And these three dorks think this is an easy victim. Then, let’s not forget that when a human loses one of their senses, the other four senses become extremely heightened. So this blind man can hear things better than a dog can when it’s silent. The man could probably hear a mouse fart for crying out loud. And again, these morons think “hey, let’s go rob the man who is a trained defender with heightened senses”. I mean, just writing it sounds so stupid to me. Nonetheless, that’s their plan.
Once they get into the house they quickly realize that they are up against exactly what I described and not some weak, frail, decrepit old man. While they try to find the million dollars that is supposed to be in the house, one by one they have to run, hide and fight off their victim, who has now become the predator and they are the prey. And there’s a certain depravity to the old man that is sure to creep anyone out. Anyone normal, that is.
Now, there are a few good things I will say about this movie. First of all, the war vet is a beast. I would never want to run into this man in a dark alley. Also, the fact that everyone is so on edge and has to stay silent throughout their time in the house makes it very intense. It’s also a very suspenseful flick. It’s only an 1h28m long. Honestly, any longer than that and it would have been way too much, too boring, too drawn out.
Still, I thought it was good. I can’t say I thought it was as good as the critics did but, as you all know, we are often in disagreement on what is good or bad. This wouldn’t be a movie I would put at the top of my recommendation list but, if you haven’t seen it, you might as well.
Directed by Mark Tonderai
Written by David Loucka (screenplay), Jonathan Mostow (story)
Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Elisabeth Shue, Max Thieriot
IMDb 5.6/10 Rotten Tomatoes 11% Metacritic 31/100
Once again it seems I am in disagreement with the almighty critics. I now believe they just don’t like horror and also expect too much from the genre. It’s as if they miss the whole purpose behind horror and slasher flicks. But, I’m getting off track.
I watched this movie the other day and, after looking up the review scores, I’m surprised it got such a low rating across the board. Now, I’m not saying that this movie should win any awards or anything (which it actually did, I looked it up) but, I do think that it was a good flick.
A newly divorced mother, Sarah, moves into a new house with her daughter. The house next door is the subject of almost ALL the neighborhood gossip as a double murder happened there some time ago. Against her mother’s wishes, Elissa (Jennifer Lawrence) becomes friends with the young man who lives next door. Sarah (Elizabeth Shue) tries to forbid her daughter from this boy but, it does no good. They soon find out that the gossiping neighbors don’t even know the half of what is going on in that creepy house of horror at the end of the street.
Now, how can that be an 11%?
Personally, yes, I can agree that a lot of the movie is predictable. But, not all of it. And that is what I thought made it good. It’s a quick paced movie. It’s only about 1h45m. And it IS suspenseful. Even if you know what is coming, it still works.
Now, you guys know me and know that, in cases like this, I’m not going to say much about the movie plot as not to give anything away. BUT, I will say that the acting is actually good and there’s no corniness in the movie. It not a gory flick or very violent, there’s no blood really and there’s no REAL kill scenes. It’s a psychological thriller. And it does tickle the brain a bit.
I’ve been watching Elizabeth Shue from The Karate Kid in ’84 to her role on CSI in around 2015. It’s not that she’s a phenomenal actress but she IS good. I liked her on CSI. Adventures in Babysitting was a favorite movie of mine as a kid. And I have to be honest, I didn’t really know who Jennifer Lawrence was until I saw this movie. She’s a different generation of Hollywood than I am used to. But she was good too.
I liked that the film moved quickly and didn’t just follow a straight line. There were curves and corners that you don’t always see coming or see around.
I do think this is beyond worth watching. It’s a movie I’ll not only watch again but, I would have paid to see this one in the theater. I think almost any fan of thrillers and particularly psychological thrillers, would get a kick out of this movie. I feel it was well written and well made. So, I hope you guys check it out.
Cabin Fever (2002)
Directed by Eli Roth
Written by Eli Roth and Randy Pearlstein
Starring: Rider Strong, Jordan Ladd, James DeBello, Cerina Vincent, Joey Kern, and Giuseppe Andrews
IMDb 5.6/10 Rotten Tomatoes 62% Metacritic 56/100
In this film we have five college students that decide to go hang out in the middle of the woods in a cabin to celebrate the end of college. What awaits them there is far worse than thy could have ever imagined.
One of the guys from the group, Bert, leaves his friends to go squirrel hunting in the woods. He happens upon a man in the trees within the general vicinity of the cabin. He is begging for water and looks like death warmed over…a hideous death that has warmed over, mind you. He is obviously sick with something. Bert, fearful as the man keeps walking toward him despite warnings, shoots the man and runs back to the cabin.
Over the next couple of days, one by one they start to get sick. Everyone is upset. Paul tries to comfort a scared Karen and while they are supposed to be napping Paul, being the gentleman that he is (insert eye roll here), reaches between the sleeping girls legs and tries to get the goods going. He realizes the “texture” (for lack of a better term) feels weird and withdraws his hand to see blood and flesh all over it. As they remove the cover they realize she is basically rotting away.
The group decides to put Karen out of the cabin, for their safety of course. What a dick move. First you take advantage of her while she’s sleeping and then you kick her out because she’s sick. I mean, wow, some friends. But Karen isn’t the only to experience symptoms. Soon others are feeling sick as well.
But there’s one guy that is determined NOT to get infected and that is Jeff. He runs off with a six pack of beer and hides out in the woods until whatever is making everyone sick goes away. (Genius plan, I must say…another eye roll please.)
So, now we have Jeff hiding in the woods like a scared drunken rabbit. We have Karen that has been put out of the cabin into a shed structure. Paul, who tried to sleep with Karen, gets his kicks with Marcy. And some people are just plain freaking out.
Now, through a series of events Paul discovers that the infection is in the water that they are using in the cabin that is being pumped from a nearby natural source that is contaminated. But, by now, how many will be able to be saved?
Watch for yourself.
While this movie is completely predictable and lacking in true HORROR it does have a fairly decent gore factor and the story isn’t horrible. The acting is average and acceptable. It wasn’t painful to watch and I easily got through the whole movie with no issues. I think the story unfolds well and, as always, I have left things out of my summary. I don’t want to give everything away.
But this is a good horror flick for the average gore and grotesque lover. The Jeff character is played so well that, even as a member of the viewing audience, I wanted to knock his teeth in. I have seen this film a number of times so that should at least tell you a little something. It’s not the greatest horror film by any means but it’s certainly not the worst by any measure either.
But seriously. I thought it was good. It moved quickly, there was humor in it, there was a lot of good gore and nasty and gross things to look at and the acting was not bad. It’s definitely a movie that everyone should watch at least once.