Horror On TV: The Great Bear Scare (dir by Hal Mason)


I came across this old cartoon on YouTube.  Apparently, it aired in October of 1983.

It’s about bears living in Bearbank.  Halloween is approaching and they’re worried about getting invaded by the monsters who live on Monster Mountain.  Well, that makes sense.  My question is why would you buy a house near a location called Monster Mountain?  And really, shouldn’t the monsters be in the houses and the bears in the mountains?  This cartoon is weird.

Anyway, the bears are getting ready to feel the city but little Ted E. Bear sets out to confront his fears!  Woo hoo!

I don’t know.  It’s from 1983.  That was a strange year, I guess.

Enjoy!

AMV Of The Day: I’m Not A Vampire (Soul Eater)


With Halloween rapidly approaching, it’s time for another AMV!

Anime: Soul Eater

Song: I’m Not Vampire by Falling In Reverse

Creator: VilaDeath

Past AMVs of the Day

A Ryan Callaway Halloween Double Feature : “One Winter Night”


Trash Film Guru

One thing no one can doubt for a minute : Ryan Callaway is a busy guy. Most years see him putting or two or three films, and here in 2019 he’s releasing his hour-long “short,” The Ghost In The Darkness, as well as the full-length effort under review here, One Winter Night, more or less simultaneously. Not even fellow New Jersey microbudgeter Nigel Bach can match that pace, and he doesn’t have anywhere near Callaway’s cast sizes and production complexities, given that he’s essentially cranking out everything from within the confines of his own home, and with himself as his only “star.”

Still, work ethic is one thing, actual ability something else entirely, and just because Callaway can pull off the seemingly impossible on a consistent basis doesn’t mean he always should. I got early access to this flick (which should be available for streaming on Amazon…

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The TSL’s Horror Grindhouse: The Hitcher II: I’ve Been Waiting (dir by Louis Morneau)


What the sweet Hell is this crap!?

So, the 2003 film, The Hitcher II: I’ve Been Waiting, is a sequel to the original Hitcher.  That’s the film where C. Thomas Howell plays a dumbass who picks up a hitchhiker played by Rutger Hauer and then kicks him out after a few miles because Hauer’s like totally insane.  So, Hauer responds by murdering random people and framing Howell.  The Hitcher‘s a pretty good film, largely because of the terrifying performance of Rutger Hauer as the title character.

The Hitcher came out in 1986.  It got terrible reviews and didn’t do well at the box office but it found an audience when it was released on video.  In fact, The Hitcher became a bit of a cult favorite, which is what it deserved to be.  Then, 23 years later, a direct-to-video sequel was released and….

Seriously, this movie is so bad.

C. Thomas Howell returns, playing Jim, the same character that he played in the first movie.  Jim is still haunted by what happened in the first movie.  He’s a cop now but he fears that his encounter with the original Hitcher may have contributed to him using excessive force on a kidnapping suspect.  Seeking some time away from the stress of it all, Jim decides to visit a friend in Texas.  He and his girlfriend, Maggie (Kari Wuhrer) hit the road and, as they drive through the desert, they see a hitchhiker standing by the side of the road….

Now, I know what you’re saying.  “Oh, come on!” you’re yelling.  “There’s no way Jim would be make the same stupid decision twice!”

Well, you’re right.  Jim doesn’t stop to pick the guy up.  Instead, Maggie is the one who decides to pull over.  Apparently, Jim has never bothered to tell Maggie about any of the terrible stuff that happened during the first film.  Considering that Jim is apparently waking up constantly with nightmares and he’s on the verge of having a mental breakdown, you would think that all of this would be something that he would share with Maggie but no.  Maggie is totally shocked when Jim later tells her that he had a bad experience picking up a hitchhiker.

Anyway, in this case, the hitchhiker is named Jack (Jake Busey) and …. wow, shock of shocks!  He’s totally fucking crazy!  That’s right — it’s happening again!  So, Jack is chasing Jim and Maggie across the desert, murdering people and framing Jim and Maggie for the crimes.  Does this sound familiar?  Jim is eventually killed, giving C. Thomas Howell an excuse to never have to appear in another direct-to-video sequel.  Can Maggie beat the new Hitcher at his own game?

Oh, who cares?  This version of The Hitcher basically has none of the weird subtext of the first film.  Unlike Rutger Hauer’s Hitcher, who seemed to be almost erotically obsessed with Jim, Jake Busey’s Hitcher doesn’t have much on his mind beyond killing people.  If Rutger Hauer was all about quiet menace and charismatic intensity, Jake Busey is loud and in your face and so obviously crazy that it’s hard to have much sympathy for anyone stupid enough to pick him up.

The main problem with The Hitcher II is that it gets so damn repetitive.  I lost count of the number of times that a cop showed up, refused to listen as Maggie shouted, “STOP!  HE’S A KILLER,” and then got gunned down.  Seriously, this film featured the stupidest cops that I’ve ever seen.  The same thing keeps happening for 90 minutes or so, at which point we get a pithy one liner and then big explosion.  And then the movie’s over!

Yay!

The Bloody Ballad of Squirt Reynolds, Review by Case Wright


Squirt

Horror Comedy is either beloved or loathed.  Not everyone is into it, but I do enjoy it. John Landis’ films always made me very happy and the The Bloody Ballad of Squirt Reynolds was 90% Comedy/10% Horror. If you have 8 minutes to spare, this is a good way to spend those precious moments.

There is a group of maybe campers or counselors or vagrants from the 70s, 80s , or maybe the 90s? Anyway, they’re in the woods around a campfire.  Ned (Nathan Hoffman) is playing on a number of instruments the corniest songs ever; I mean beyond  Nickelback.  He tells the story of a disfigured camper who people called Squirt.  In order to hide his disfigurement, he wore a Burt Reynolds mask; hence, Squirt Reynolds.  Anyway, Squirt Reynolds gets pranked, swears revenge, yada yada yada.

Then, the horror begins in the short and it is pretty gross and fun.  I would give it watch and over a ham sandwich or nice snack.  In a lot of ways, a good short is like a good snack.

A Ryan Callaway Halloween Double Feature : “The Ghost In The Darkness”


Trash Film Guru

So, this is kind of interesting — New Jersey microbudget auetuer Ryan Callaway used to swear up and down that he’d never touch the “found footage” sub-genre, and yet here we are, in late 2019, and apparently “never say never” is the order of the day because his latest, The Ghost In The Darkness, fits that beleaguered category to the proverbial “T.” So the question we have to ask ourselves, I suppose, is : now that he’s “gone there” — should he have?

You can decide for yourself if you’ve got Amazon Prime, since this has recently been made available for streaming there, but if you want my opinion (which I’ll take as a given seeing as how you’re visiting this site and all), I’d say that based on just over an hour of evidence (which qualifies this as a “short” by Callaway standards),  the necessary restrictions imposed upon…

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Bloody Art: Tale of the Vampire (1992, directed by Shimako Sato)


When Anne (Suzanna Hamilton) gets a job at the library, she is immediately attracted to the quiet and studious Alex (Julian Sands) and he to her.  Alex claims to be a scholar who is at the library to do research on “religious martyrs” but Anne cannot escape the feeling that she has known him before.  What Anne does not immediately realize is that Alex is a vampire and that she was set up with a job at the library through the machination of Edgar (Kenneth Cranham), another vampire who claims to be a doctor.  Once, Edgar and Alex were both in love with the same woman, the beautiful Virginia.  After circumstances led to Virginia being taken away from both men, Edgar dedicated the rest of his vampiric existence to making Alex miserable.  Anne, who looks exactly like Virginia and may even be the reincarnated version of her, is a pawn in Edgar’s latest scheme.  When Alex and Anne start to fall in love with each other, Edgar’s plan leads to tragedy.

Tale of the Vampire is an unjustly obscure vampire film from the early 90s.  It used to play frequently on late night Cinemax, where it was advertised as just being another sex-fueled horror film but actually, Tale of the Vampire is a moody and contemplative art film.  The focus is on Alex’s feelings of guilt and his fear of hurting Anne in the same way that Virginia was hurt while Anne has to decide how far she is willing to go to be with Alex.  All three of the main actors give good performances, with Cranham nearly stealing the show as someone whose actual identity will become obvious after repeat viewings.  Tale of the Vampire has never gotten the attention that it deserves and it’s not an easy film to find but I recommend it.

Retro Game Review: Heavy Rain (2010, Quantic Dream)


When it comes to Heavy Rain, it seems that there are two schools of thought.

Some people consider it to be one of the most important and ground-breaking games ever developed, a challenging mystery where nearly every decision that you make will effect what happens next in the game.  Unlike other games, there’s no easy do-overs in Heavy Rain.  If you get one of the four playable characters killed, the game will continue without them.  At a time when people had just started to get bored with games that featured a handful of endings, Heavy Rain revolutionized the entire concept with not just a good and a bad ending but instead with over 20 possible endings.  Your goal is to both discover the identity of the Origami Killer and also to save the life of little Shaun Mars before he drowns in a cage.  Fail and the chances are that the last thing the game will show you is an image of the flooded cage with Shaun nowhere to be seen.

Other people consider Heavy Rain to be a game where the main goal is to get Madison Paige naked as many times as possible.

Madison

Madison

Madison is the photojournalist who, suffering from insomnia, checks into a cheap motel and happens to meet Shaun’s father, Ethan.  Madison seems to spend the entire game either undressing or getting threatened by men who want her to undress.  If the player chooses, Madison and Ethan can make love in his hotel room.  The bra removal mini-game is actually one of the more challenging parts of Heavy Rain.  For the record, it is possible to play the game without Madison taking a shower, stripping for a club owner, having sex with Ethan, or even getting attacked by the crazy doctor who repeatedly tries to stab her in the crotch with a surgical tool.  It’s possible but I doubt many players have done so.

Ethan

 

How does Heavy Rain hold up after 9 years?  Surprisingly well.  The game has its flaws.  There’s the infamous and much parodied scene where Ethan searches for his son in a mall while calling out his name in a flat monotone.  Quantic Dream is a French company and, when you play the game, it is obvious that some of the voice actors were more comfortable with the English language than others.  But the the game’s rain-soaked and doom-heavy imagery all hold up well and the multiple endings make this a game that’s worthy of multiple replays.

Norman

All four of the main characters are intriguing, even the much-criticized Madison Paige.  The best of them is Norman Jayden, the drug-addicted FBI agent who uses VR technology to solve his cases.  Unfortunately, the game also seems to be determined to kill Norman.  If you can make it to the end without Norman either dying or abandoning the case, you will have truly triumphed at Heavy Rain.  My only complaint is that Lauren Winter, the prostitute who joins forces with private eye Scott Shelby, wasn’t a playable character because she had one of the most interesting storylines.  If Lauren and Scott both somehow survive the game, you’ll get one of the best endings that Heavy Rain has to offer.

Lauren

Scott Shelby, the private investigator, gets some of the game’s best scenes.  He is big and slow and he always seems to need to use his inhaler but he can still handle himself in a fight.  He gets the game’s big action set piece, where he takes out an entire army of armed guards in just a matter of minutes.  At the end of the scene, he also gets to make one of the game’s biggest decisions.  Do you do the “honorable” thing or do you leave a bad man to die?  Whichever decision you make, it is one of Heavy Rain‘s most satisfying moments.

Scott Shelby

The majority of the game centers on Ethan, the father who has has to avoid the police while trying to save his son.  He is given a set of challenges by the Origami Killer, all designed to prove whether he’s worthy of being a father.  The bra-removal mini-game may be the most challenging part of Heavy Rain but the sawing off your own finger mini-game may be a close second.  A close third would have to be the diaper-changing mini-game.  It’s amazing how many different things you end up doing while trying to keep a little boy from drowning.  At the same time, I was as proud of myself for changing that diaper as I was for unsnapping that bra.  I was less proud about sawing off Ethan’s finger but it had to be done.

Ethan and saw

9 years after it was first released, Heavy Rain holds up better than I was expecting.  It’s flaws are still there and the plot holes become even more obvious with each time that you play it.  A frequent complaint that I’ve read about the game is that, in order for the mystery’s solution to make any sense, you have to be willing to accept that the Origami Killer would not only lie to other people but would also lie to himself.  The challenges that Ethan are put through are sometimes too reminiscent of Saw and even the rightly celebrated atmosphere sometimes leans too heavily on the obvious influence of Davids Fincher and Lynch.  (That Norman Jayden is based on Twin Peaks‘s Dale Cooper should be obvious to the most casual of viewers.)

Norman and Mad Jack

But, flaws and all, it’s impossible not to like this game or to appreciate the influence that it’s had on many of the games that have followed it.  Even it’s cheesiest moments are fun.  With the way the storyline branches out and changes depending on almost every decision that you make, this is a game that rewards frequent replays.  Each decision you make, you find yourself thinking, “What would have happened if I had done something else?”  Fortunately, with this game, you’ve got a chance to find out.  For that reason, Heavy Rain remains one of my favorites and a game that I’m looking forward to replaying soon.

Ethan, moping. Madison, helping.

 

Insomnia File #44: Cat Run (dir by John Stockwell)


What’s an Insomnia File? You know how some times you just can’t get any sleep and, at about three in the morning, you’ll find yourself watching whatever you can find on cable? This feature is all about those insomnia-inspired discoveries!

If you were having trouble getting to sleep at 3 in the morning, you could have turned over to Showtime and watched the 2011 action film, Cat Run.

So, here’s what you get when you watch Cat Run.  You get:

  1. A few beach scenes
  2. Some stylish action sequences
  3. A nearly incoherent plot
  4. Lots of naked people
  5. Two bumbling heroes
  6. A prostitute with a heart of gold, a young child, and an encrypted hard drive
  7. A cold-as-ice female assassin played by a distinguished, Oscar-nominated performer
  8. Massive and sudden changes in tone as the film goes from comedy to action to comedy again
  9. Sex
  10. Violence

In other words, Cat Run is a John Stockwell film.  As a director, Stockwell specializes in making unpretentious films, ones that usually feature beautiful people doing stuff on the beach.  He makes the type of films that will probably never win an Academy Award (though Kirsten Dunst perhaps deserved a nomination for her performance in Stockwell’s Crazy/Beautiful) but which are still occasionally entertaining if you’re in the right mood for them.  (Seriously, just watch Stockwell’s In The Blood and then ask yourself why he could make the perfect Gina Carano film while Steven Soderbergh couldn’t.)

Cat Run takes place is Montenegro.  The prostitute is named Cat (Paz Vega).  The encrypted hard drive contains footage of a politician (Christopher McDonald) killing a woman at an orgy.  The two bumbling detectives who help her out are named Julian (Alphonso McAuley) and Anthony (Scott Mechlowicz) and they occasionally get a funny line or two.  The assassin who is sent to take care of Cat is Helen and she’s played by Janet McTeer.  Helen is coldly efficient and ruthless killer but she has a difficult time tracking down Cat.  That’s the way it always goes, isn’t it?  The bad guys are always super competent until the movie begins, at which point they suddenly can’t shoot straight.

Anyway, Cat Run is not a particularly memorable movie but it has its entertaining moments.  It’s hyper stylish and the cast seems to be having a good time.  At the very least, you get the feeling that everyone probably enjoyed spending their days off in Montenegro and good for them!  McTeer, not surprisingly, steals the film but Paz Vega has some good moments too.  All in all, this is an enjoyable film that doesn’t have a hint of ambition.  It is what it is and what’s wrong with that?

Previous Insomnia Files:

  1. Story of Mankind
  2. Stag
  3. Love Is A Gun
  4. Nina Takes A Lover
  5. Black Ice
  6. Frogs For Snakes
  7. Fair Game
  8. From The Hip
  9. Born Killers
  10. Eye For An Eye
  11. Summer Catch
  12. Beyond the Law
  13. Spring Broke
  14. Promise
  15. George Wallace
  16. Kill The Messenger
  17. The Suburbans
  18. Only The Strong
  19. Great Expectations
  20. Casual Sex?
  21. Truth
  22. Insomina
  23. Death Do Us Part
  24. A Star is Born
  25. The Winning Season
  26. Rabbit Run
  27. Remember My Name
  28. The Arrangement
  29. Day of the Animals
  30. Still of The Night
  31. Arsenal
  32. Smooth Talk
  33. The Comedian
  34. The Minus Man
  35. Donnie Brasco
  36. Punchline
  37. Evita
  38. Six: The Mark Unleashed
  39. Disclosure
  40. The Spanish Prisoner
  41. Elektra
  42. Revenge
  43. Legend