Werewolves Within (dir. by Josh Ruben)


Mention the name Ubisoft to most people, and most responses are about their videogames. Assassin’s Creed, Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six, and my personal favorite, Tom Clancy’s The Division. Ubisoft also has a movie production arm to it, along with an effects division called Hybride. With all that, I’m surprised Ubisoft hasn’t tried to develop their own films before. “Werewolves Within” may be one of the better Videogame adaptations around.

Earlier this year, the film premiered on the Tribeca Film Festival’s “Tribeca at Home” digital offering. I was able to watch the film there (a total of 3 times – two because I enjoyed it, and a third to showcase the film to my cousin, who also liked it), along with a few other films.

Werewolves Within is the tale of Finn Wheeler (Sam Richardson, Veep, We’re the Millers) a Ranger taking on new duties in a snowy Vermont town. He’s a pretty nice fellow – he rides under the speed limit and is considerate of others. While he’s getting to know his new neighbors, they are all forced to hunker down during a major storm. Of course, things become a little weird in the form of power outages and quite possibly a werewolf running around town, but who better to have around you than your neighbors in such stressful times? Can Wheeler survive in the town and discover the mystery? The film moves like The Thing or The Beast Must Die in that the members of the town begin to suspect each other is the killer (or killers, like Scream) in question.

The film is peppered with familiar faces, such as Milana Vayntrub (NBC’s This is Us), Harvey Guillen (FX’s What We Do In the Shadows), Glenn Fleshler (HBO’s Barry), Wayne Duvall (The Hunt), & Catherine Curtin (Netflix’s Stranger Things). The banter between them all is fun to watch and each one brings a bit of comedy to the table. Richardson & Vayntrub in particular are the stand outs, though.

Where Werewolves Within really shines is the pacing. Most of the films at the Tribeca Film Festival have an average running time of about 100 minutes. How those minutes are used are important. Don’t believe me? Pair Tenet and WW84, which both have a running time of about 2:30 minutes (about as long as Avengers: Endgame) Werewolves Within moves from scene to scene at a pretty brisk pace. Fans of Ubisoft’s The Division may recognize the New York Shortbows in the movie, which officially makes them canon in the tale.

If the movie has any drawbacks, while there’s horror, the focus is more on the comedy. This isn’t terrible, but if you’re walking in expecting something like Dog Soldiers, Werewolves Within isn’t exactly that. It does handle it well. One other nitpick is that there’s an overused camera technique where the someone on screen does a really slow pivot, bringing their subject into our view. The first time is nice, but after about 3 times, you almost expect it. Again, not horrid, but a little odd. The movie also has it’s share of gore, but it’s a bit light compared to some other films.

Overall, Werewolves Within is a great late night treat that’ll have you laughing, with some nice jump scares.

Love and Monsters (dir. by Michael Matthews)


love-and-monsters-movie-posterDylan O’Brien is one of those actors that I’ll run to watch anything they’re in. I did so for 2017’s American Assassin, and have been making my way through MTV’s Teen Wolf. The guy oozes charisma, so when I found out his latest film, Love and Monsters, was available both in theatres and on Demand, I scooped it up without blinking.  It’s kind of ironic that both he and his Teen Wolf co star, Tyler Posey, both have films this month (Posey is in Alone, also on demand) where their characters are caught up in apocalyptic nightmares.

Love and Monsters is a lighthearted monster film about stepping out of one’s shell, making some mistakes and growing along the way. O’Brien carries the film with humor and action, along with help from the supporting cast.  It’s still a monster story, but it’s one just about anyone but the youngest of viewers can watch (and even then, it should be okay).

Sometimes, you just have to come out of your shell, which really isn’t easy to do when the world is suddenly populated with giant creatures. Joel (Dylan O’Brien, American Assassin) loves Aimee (Jessica Henwick , Underwater), but they happen to be separated in underground colonies about 90 miles from each other. Everyone manages to survive in their own way, and going up to the surface is particularly dangerous when everything wants to eat you.  Joel does the small work around the underground bunker he’s in – making Minestrone, cleaning up the place – because he can’t handle the monsters outside.. When Joel decides to make the trek to reach Aimee, he has to learn how to survive in a world where everything wants to eat you. Befriended by a dog, Joel meets some friends along the way. Love and Monsters is a near perfect fit for the post Quarantine world. It speaks of isolation, communication over distances, while still hitting some themes on taking some risks (calculated, when possible), and learning to trust one’s instincts.

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Joel (Dylan O’Brien) and Boy (Hero the Dog) navigate the unknown in Love and Monsters. 

The cast for Love and Monsters is so nice. In addition to O’Brien and Henwick, we have a pair of Marvel Alumni in Michael Rooker (Yondu in Guardians of the Galaxy), and Ariana Greenblatt (Little Gamora in Avengers: Infinity War) as Clyde and Minnow, respectively. They help to add to the comedy that O’Brien’s already offering.

I think what surprised me the most about Love and Monsters was the look of the monsters themselves. I was expecting something more along the lines of your typical Syfy channel movie fare. The CGI and monster effects in Love and Monsters are pretty good. I would have liked to have seen more monsters, but I really enjoyed it what was offered. Marco Beltrami and Marcus Trumpp also get some kudos for the soundtrack, having worked with Wes Craven and Guillermo Del Toro in the past. The theme for Love and Monsters has a pinch of Hellboy to it, and fits well to Joel and Boy’s (Hero the Dog) adventures.

If there are any problems with the film, I guess it would be that it moves a little faster than anticipated. That’s hardly a complaint. At about an hour and 50 minutes, it moves somewhat fast. Additionally, if anyone’s expecting a full fledged horror film, they might be a bit disappointed. It’s a comedy first, with monsters. As long as you’re not expecting serious horror, it’s great, but the film does have it’s moments of little jumpscares. There’s also the notion that if you’ve already watched How to Train Your Dragon or Zombieland, Love and Monsters might not feel entirely new. It does, however, manage to take what’s going in the world right now with social distancing and reference it without directly saying it has anything to do with it. I feel audiences might relate to Joel’s isolation from that aspect, and his journey based on any trial we’ve ever gone through in learning a new skill or stepping outside of our comfort zones.

Love and Monsters is a cute surprise of a film that might have you chuckling more than jumping around in your seat, but that’s okay. At least it’s entertaining. I really wouldn’t mind a sequel to this.

A Quickie That Clicks: GENIUS AT WORK (RKO 1946)


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Back in 2015, I reviewed a turkey called ZOMBIES ON BROADWAY , which paired Bela Lugosi with the “comedy” team of Wally Brown and Alan Carney, RKO’s cut-rate answer to Abbott & Costello. Well, it seems the studio threw together this unlucky trio again, along with co-star Anne Jeffreys and adding horror icon Lionel Atwill in another attempt at a scare comedy titled GENIUS AT WORK. Glutton for punishment that I am, I recorded it, then watched, expecting another bomb… and instead found a fairly funny little ‘B’ movie that, while not on a par with ABBOTT & COSTELLO MEET FRANKENSTEIN , is a whole lot better than the aforementioned ZOMBIES fiasco!

Brown and Carney are back in their screen personas as doofuses Jerry Miles and Mike Strager, which they played in all eight of their films together. This time around, they’re radio sleuths hosting a show called ‘Crime of…

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Halloween Havoc!: THE SMILING GHOST (Warner Brothers 1941)


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A mysterious killer stalks his prey in an old, dark house! Sound familiar? Sure, the formula has been around since Lon Chaney Sr. first crept his way through 1925’s THE MONSTER, and was perfected in the 1927 horror comedy THE CAT AND THE CANARY. THE SMILING GHOST, a 1941 variation on the venerable theme, doesn’t add anything new to the genre, but it’s a pleasant enough diversion with a solid cast courtesy of the Warner Brothers Stock Company of contract players and a swift 71-minute running time.

Lucky Downing, a somewhat dimwitted chemical engineer heavily in debt to his creditors, answers a newspaper ad for a male willing to do “anything legal’ for a thousand bucks. Rich Mrs. Bentley explains the job is to get engaged to her granddaughter, Elinor Bentley Fairchild, for a month. Smelling easy money, and a way out of the hole, Lucky and his best friend/valet Clarence take a train…

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Halloween Havoc!: BUBBA HO-TEP (Vitagraph 2002)


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Don Coscarelli, the man who brought you the PHANTASM series, scores a bulls-eye with BUBBA HO-TEP, a totally unique film based on Joe R. Lansdale’s novella. Lansdale is well known to fans of horror fiction for his books and short stories in the filed as well as other genres (crime, westerns, even comic books). Coscarelli’s adaptation is a delightful blend of horror and humor, and a bittersweet reflection on aging, if not gracefully, then with courage.

Bruce Campbell (ASH VS EVIL DEAD) stars as Sebastian Haff, former Elvis impersonator who may or may not really be The King. He believes he is, and that’s what matters. He’s stuck in a Mud Creek, Texas rest home, confined to a walker and battling a weird growth on his pecker. People at the rest home are dying, as you’d expect in a place like this, but under some strange circumstances that’re causing Elvis…

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Halloween Havoc!: FRANKENHOOKER (SGE 1990)


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Wanna have a good time? Got any money? Then go pick up FRANKENHOOKER, Frank Henenlotter’s tacky tale of terror that sets Mary Shelley’s classic novel on its severed head and features an explosive (literally)  combination of the goofy and the gruesome, with plenty of black comedy  strewn among the body parts.

Jeffrey Franken’s fiancé Elizabeth Shelley is killed when the remote control lawnmower he invents runs her down, turning her into “one big jigsaw puzzle”. Saving Elizabeth’s head, Jeffrey vows to rebuild, probably after watching too many reruns of THE SIX MILLION DOLLAR MAN. Seems our boy, who’s a med school dropout now working for New Jersey Gas & Electric, likes to tinker around with mad science, as evidenced by the floating brain with one eyeball he keeps in a fish tank. His grand scheme involves rounding up hookers and getting them loaded on his latest invention, a deadly lethal…

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Halloween Havoc!: CREATURE FROM THE HAUNTED SEA (Filmgroup 1961)


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Roger Corman  satirizes himself in CREATURE FROM THE HAUNTED SEA, throwing in everything but the kitchen sink to create one of the most wacked-out goofy drive-in flicks ever filmed, that gets even goofier as it goes along. We’ve got goony gangsters, a lovesick spy, beautiful babes, and the silliest looking monster you’ll ever see.

Rapid Roger had just wrapped up shooting THE LAST WOMAN ON EARTH in sunny Puerto Rico, and since the weather was so beautiful, decided to quickly churn out another picture. He got screenwriter Charles B. Griffith to whip up a monster movie spoof (having had success with Griffith’s A BUCKET OF BLOOD and LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS) and retained the previously shot film’s stars. Actor Beach Dickerson designed the sea creature out of a wet suit, with ping-pong ball eyes and covered in an oil cloth to give it that straight from the depths look. Hokey looking…

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A Quickie on a Quickie: KING OF THE ZOMBIES (Monogram 1941)


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KING OF THE ZOMBIES is a 1941 Monogram horror quickie that does not star Bela Lugosi. Apparently, the great Hungarian actor was too busy at the time. I don’t see how, it’s not like he was making A-list epics that year.  Looking at his 1941 output, Lugosi starred in the studio’s THE INVISIBLE GHOST, SPOOKS RUN WILD with the East Side Kids, and had small roles in Universal’s THE BLACK CAT and THE WOLF MAN . That’s what, about 4-5 weeks worth of work? Anyway, the part of zombie master Dr. Sangre was taken by Henry Victor, best known as strongman Hercules in Tod Browning’s FREAKS.

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What KING OF THE ZOMBIES does have is black comic actor Mantan Moreland . In fact, I’m pretty sure if it wasn’t for Mantan, this film would’ve been lomg forgotten. I know many people today find his pop-eyed, mangled English, “feets do yo stuff” scairdy-cat schtick offensive and…

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Halloween Havoc!: ABBOTT & COSTELLO MEET FRANKENSTEIN (Universal-International 1948)


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It’s Halloween, and we’ve finally made it to the Universal Classic Monsters! Frankenstein’s Monster, Dracula, and The Wolf Man had last appeared onscreen in 1945’s HOUSE OF DRACULA. Shortly thereafter, Universal merged with International Pictures and decided to produce only “prestige” pictures from then on, deeming their Gothic creature features no longer relevant in the post-war, post-nuclear world. The comedy team of Bud Abbott and Lou Costello were also in danger of becoming irrelevant, victims of their own success, as audiences were beginning to grow tired of them after twenty movies in a scant eight years.

That “prestige” thing didn’t work out so well, and Universal went back to what they did best…. producing mid-budget movies for the masses. Producer Robert Arthur developed a script called “The Brain of Frankenstein”, giving it over to Frederic Rinaldo and Robert Lees. Lou Costello hated it, and the team’s gag writer John Grant was brought it to punch things…

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Halloween Havoc!: A BUCKET OF BLOOD (AIP 1959)


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We can’t have Halloween without a good Roger Corman movie, and A BUCKET OF BLOOD is one of my favorites. This 1959 black comedy is a precursor to Corman’s THE LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS, and I actually prefer it over that little gem. A BUCKET OF BLOOD skewers the pretentiousness of the art world, the 50’s beatnik scene, and the horror genre itself with its story of nerdy Walter Paisley, a busboy at a hipster coffee house learns making it as a famous artist can be murder!

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Walter’s a no-talent nebbish longing to be accepted by the pompous clientele at The Yellow Door, especially beautiful hostess Carla. When he accidentally kills the landlady’s cat, Walter covers it in clay (with the knife still protruding in poor little Frankie!), and brings it in to work. The grotesque sculpture causes a stir among the patrons, and Walter is congratulated for his brilliant work ‘Dead Cat’. Beatnik…

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