Horror on TV: Tales From The Crypt 3.7 “The Reluctant Vampire” (dir by Stephen Hopkins)

The Reluctant Vampire was the 7th episode of the 3rd season of HBO’s Tales From The Crypt!  It stars Malcolm McDowell as a vampire who is a little bit too nice for his own good.  Seriously, you can’t go wrong with Malcolm McDowell as a vampire.

The Reluctant Vampire originally aired on July 10th, 1991.


Horror Film Review: The Caller (dir by Arthur Allan Seidelman)

The Caller is a odd little film from 1987.

How odd is it?

It’s so odd that it’s difficult to know how to even describe it. On the surface, it’s a film about two people in a house. The Girl (Madolyn Smith) — and that’s how she’s credited at the end of the film — is staying in a secluded house in the woods. There’s a nearby town but, when the Girl stops there to get some gas, it’s impossible not to notice that there aren’t any other people around. When the Girl reaches the house, she makes a phone call and asks to speak to her daughter. From what we hear of her say to her daughter, it sounds as if The Girl is recovering from some sort of trauma.

After the Girl hangs up the phone, the Caller (played by Malcolm McDowell) knocks on her front door. The Caller seems to be a polite Englishman. He says that he’s recently had some car trouble and he asks if he can come in the house to use the Girl’s phone. The Girl lets him in but, as soon as The Caller enters, it becomes apparent that he was lying about having car trouble.

The Girl and the Caller talk. In fact, they spend several days talking. Sometimes, they’re friendly to each other and other times, they’re not. Their stories keep changing. At one point, the Caller claims that he’s a police detective and that he’s investigating a murder in the area. At another point, the Girl claims that she was responsible for the Caller’s car not working. We start to get the feeling that the Girl and the Caller might know each other and that each knows that the other is lying. Things get stranger as the night turns into day and then night again. The Caller appears to be leave but, just as mysteriously, he shows up again. The Caller tries to enter one particular room in the house. The Girl fights to keep him from doing so. The two of them taunt each other. Sometimes, they threaten each other. At times, they seem to be almost dependent on each other and you wonder if the Girl really wants the Caller to leave. They start keeping track of who is collecting the most points as they play a game that only the two of them seem to understand.

And it just keeps going and going. As many times as the Girl and the Caller both say that they’re done with conversation or that they’re leaving, neither can seem to abandon they other. Instead, they keep circling each other, like two trapped animals continually challenging one another for control. It all leads to a twist, one that you probably won’t see coming. Admittedly, the twist itself does seem to come out of nowhere but, because the film has been so weird up until that moment, the bizarre randomness of it all seems totally appropriate.

At times, The Caller can feel like a bit of an endurance test. McDowell and Smith are the only two people in the film and they spend the entire movie engaging in cryptic conversations that only seem to make sense to themselves. It’s not always easy to follow them as they go from one topic to another. Fortunately, both Smith and McDowell give excellent performances, ones that keep us guessing as to their true motivations and which also keep us interested in their enigmatic characters. You become invested in their drama, even if you don’t always understand it. The Caller is not a film for everyone but horror fans looking to take a chance on something a little different will be well-rewarded.

Film Review: Father Stu (dir by Rosalind Ross)

I don’t care what all the other critics said when Father Stu was first released in April.  It’s not that bad.

Now, of course, I should be upfront and mention that I come from a Catholic background.  My father’s side of the family is Irish.  My mother’s side is Italian/Spanish.  Am I saying that you have to have been raised Catholic to appreciate Father Stu?  Not at all.  But it does help.

And when I say that Father Stu is not that bad, what I mean is that’s actually pretty good.

Based on a true story, Father Stu stars Mark Wahlberg as Stuart Long.  When the movie opens, Stu is in a boxing ring, beating up his opponents while taking a lot of punishment himself.  From that opening scene, we learn a few things about Stu.  He’s a fighter.  He’s determined.  He’s willing to take a beating.  And he really doesn’t know when to quit.  We then meet his no-nonsense mother, Kathleen (Jacki Weaver), and his father, Bill (Mel Gibson).  Bill is an alcoholic truck driver, the type who shouts at other drivers and who gets into an argument with a random child about who is the worse driver.

When Stu is informed that he could very well die if he continues to box, he decides that it’s time to pursue another profession.  The 30-something Stu announces to his mother that he’s going to be an actor.  He may not have any training but he has a lot of personality.  Stu’s mother suggests that it might be a little late in life for Stu to pursue a career as a film star but Stu packs up and leaves for Montana for California.

He does manage to land one gig, a commercial for a mop.  But Stu’s acting career never really takes off.  Instead, he gets a job working in a deli.  It’s there that he first spots Carmen (Teresa Ruiz), a Sunday school teacher.  When Carmen tells Stu that she wouldn’t even consider dating a man who was not baptized, Stu begins RCIA at the local parish.  Eventually, he’s baptized into the parish but it’s not until he’s nearly killed in a motorcycle accident and has a vision of Mary that he truly starts to believe.  He also comes to feel that he’s been called to the priesthood, despite the fact that it means ending his relationship with Carmen.  Stu enters the seminary, under the watchful eye of the initially skeptical but eventually supportive Monsignor Kelly (Malcolm McDowell).  However, Stu soon finds himself facing his greatest challenge when he’s diagnosed with inclusion body myositis, a disease that will eventually rob him of his ability to care for himself.

When Father Stu was first released in April, it received a lot of attention for being an R-rated film about faith.  But the fact that the characters frequently (and colorfully) curse is actually one of the best things about Father Stu.  People curse.  Both the religious and the non-religious curse.  Catholics especially curse.  When you find out that you have an incurable disease that’s going to kill you by the time you turn 50, you’re going to curse regardless of how much faith you may or may not have.  Far too many films about religion seem to take place in some strange world where the 50s never ended and people still say, “Darn,” when faced with the world’s problems.  To its credit, Father Stu‘s characters never lose their edge.

Father Stu also received a lot of negative attention for the involvement of Mel Gibson.  That’s understandable but, at the same time, there’s probably no contemporary actor who is more convincing as a self-destructive alcoholic than Mel Gibson.  For better or worse, Gibson brings a certain authenticity to the role and that authenticity is what a film like Father Stu needs.

In the lead role, Mark Wahlberg brings a lot of sincerity to the role of Stu.  When we’re first introduced to Stu, he’s earnest but he’s not particularly smart.  He doesn’t think things through.  He’s the type of guy who will work hard in his job without understanding that it’s still not a good idea to show up at work looking like you’ve spent the weekend fighting people in an alley for loose change.  As a result of Wahlberg’s performance, it’s easy to see why everyone in Stu’s life is skeptical when he announces that he’s going to become a priest.  However, it’s also due to his performance that Stu’s eventual transformation is undeniably moving.  Wahlberg’s rough-edged sincerity keeps the film from becoming overly mawkish after Stu discovers that he’s ill.  He remains a fighter from beginning to end and it’s hard not to want to see him win.

Father Stu is probably the epitome of the type of film that audiences love but critics hate.  But you know what?  Sometimes, the audiences are right and sometimes, critics try way too hard to be cynical.  Father Stu is a touching movie, one that serves as an antidote to the God’s Not Dead-style of movies about religion.  It’s a good movie that, like its protagonist, never stops fighting.

Horror Film Review: Silent Hill: Revelation (dir by M. J. Bassett)

The 2012 video game adaptation, Silent Hill: Revelation, is gloriously silly.

It’s also a sequel to the first Silent Hill. While many members of the original cast do return and while the sequel’s plot does directly follow up on the first film, Silent Hill: Revelation still feels like an all-together different film. Whereas the first Silent Hill was atmospheric and, with its 2 hour plus running time, a bit ponderous, the sequel is short, direct, and …. well, I hate to use that word again, a bit silly. It’s also undeniably entertaining.

Sharon (Adelaide Clemens) is now 18 and is currently using the name Heather. With her father, Harry (Sean Bean), Sharon/Heather has spent the last several years of her life moving from place to place and trying to keep one step ahead of the Order, the Silent Hill cult. Heather — let’s just use that name — tries to make the best of her situation but she is 18 and she would like a chance to do normal teenager stuff as opposed to just spending her life on the run.

Good luck with that! When Harry mysteriously vanishes, Heather finds a message telling her to go to Silent Hill. Teaming up with her classmate, the enigmatic Vincent (Kit Harrington), Heather heads back to Silent Hill. She hopes to find both Harry and Rose (Radha Mitchell) but the Order has other plans. Soon, Heather and Vincent are back in the alternate dimension, dealing with monsters and stabby blind nurses.

As is typical of horror films about cults, there’s a lot of talk about sacrifices and using blood to bring about a new age and everyone worships some mysterious God who doesn’t sound all that pleasant. Whenever I watch a movie like this, I find myself wondering how the cult got started in the first place. Who woke up one day and said, “I’m going to follow the demon that regularly kills all of his followers. Now, let’s go alter some adoption records!” I also can’t help but notice that cults can never do anything the simple way. Instead, there’s always some alternate dimension or some extremely complex ritual that has to be performed and it all has to be done at a certain time of the year. Maybe if they just simplified things, they wouldn’t have so much trouble getting stuff done. Maybe instead of always trying to steal new souls, they could just be happy with the ones they have. I mean, it’s just common sense.

But anyway, back to Silent Hill: Revelation. Silent Hill: Revelation usually gets dismissed as an inadequate sequel but I was entertained. The plot moves quickly and the film features some memorably gory scenes. The scene where Heather suddenly hallucinates about Silent Hill while walking through a mall was enjoyably gruesome. At the same time, I couldn’t help but regret that Revelation never quite succeeded in duplicating that ominous atmosphere of the first film. If the first film felt like a nightmare-come-to-life, Revelation feels more like the season finale of a long-running, supernatural-themed television show. It’s fun to watch but it’s not particularly challenging. That said, Adelaide Clemens gave a sympathetic performance as Heather, Sean Bean’s natural gravitas was put to good use, and Malcolm McDowell made a brief appearance. The film kept me entertained.

Holiday Film Review: The Christmas Chronicles 2 (dir by Chris Columbus)

If I ever actually meet Santa Claus, I’ll be really disappointed if he doesn’t look like a bearded Kurt Russell.

Russell plays the role of St. Nicholas in The Christmas Chronicles 2 and he’s absolutely perfect in the role.  It’s not just that Russell is an intensely likable actor, though that’s certainly some of it.  Santa, after all, should be a likable character and it’s pretty much impossible not to like Kurt Russell.  Even when he was killing people in Death Proof, he was still the most likable serial killer that you could ever hope to meet.  Beyond just being likable, though, Russell brings a lot of joi de vivre to the role of Santa.  As played by Russell, Santa loves what he does.  Spreading Christmas cheer and keeping the holiday spirit alive is what he lives for.  Over the years, movies have given us stern Santas and humorous Santas and occasionally even incompetent Santas.  Kurt Russell is the fun Santa.

In The Christmas Chronicles 2, Russell is joined by his real-life partner, Goldie Hawn.  Goldie plays Mrs. Claus, who turns out to be a witch but a good one.  She’s the type of witch who makes gingerbread cookies the explode, which is certainly the best type of witch to be.  As I watched Goldie Hawn in this film, it occurred to me that if Hollywood is ever foolish enough to try to remake The Wizard of Oz, Goldie would be the perfect choice for Glinda.  Not surprisingly, Hawn and Russell have a lot of chemistry in The Christmas Chronicles 2.  They’re the perfect couple.  They’re exactly who you would hope Santa and Mrs. Claus would turn out to be.

(I have to say that, of all the Hollywood couples out there, Kurt Russell and Goldie Hawn are the couple that I would want to actually live next door to.  Kurt seems like he would be good about repairing stuff around the neighborhood while Goldie seems like she would be the type to keep an eye on my Amazon deliveries until I got home from work or wherever.  I’d much rather live next to them than George and Amal Clooney, if just because the Clooneys seem like they would be the type to complain because you accidentally clipped their yard with a lawn mower or something.)

The Christmas Chronicles 2 actually does have a plot and it tells a pretty sweet little story.  A bitter elf named Belsnickel (Julian Dennison) is trying to ruin Christmas and it’s all up to Katie (Darby Camp) and Jack (Jahzir Bruno) to help Santa and Mrs. Claus save the world’s Christmas spirit.  Along the way, Katie gets to travel through time and meet her father and both Katie and Jack learn about the importance of family.  It’s all very sincere and very sweet and if it doesn’t bring at least one tear to your eyes this holiday season, you’re hopeless.  That said, The Christmas Chronicles 2 is ultimately all about star power and charisma.  The film works because Russell and Hawn are a total joy to watch.  Consider this: it’s a 114-minute film but the main story is resolved in 90 minutes.  The remaining 24 minutes are spent watching Russell and Hawn light a Christmas tree and hang out with Santa’s elves and it’s absolutely delightful to watch!  By the end of the film, you basically just want to move to the North Pole and live with the Clauses.

The Christmas Chronicles 2 is currently on Netlfix and it’s a fun little holiday romp.  It’s perfect for kids and the adults who sometimes have to watch movies with them.  There’s a great musical number and a few surprisingly clever jokes.  (I loved that when Santa and Mrs. Claus watched It’s A Wonderful Life, it was a version that had been dubbed into the Elvish language.)  Check it out.  It’ll lift your holiday spirits.


Blue Thunder (1983, directed by John Badham)

Frank Murphy (Roy Scheider) is a Vietnam vet-turned-cop who pilots a police helicopter for the LAPD.  Every night, he and his partner, Richard Lymangood (Daniel Stern) fly over Los Angeles, helping to keep the peace and peeping on anyone undressing in a high-rise apartment.

Murphy is selected to serve as the test pilot for what is described as being the world’s most advanced military helicopter, Blue Thunder.  Blue Thunder is so advanced that the pilot can control the gun turrets just by turning his head and it’s also been supplied with the latest state of the art surveillance equipment.  The pilot of a Blue Thunder can literally spy on anyone while listening to and recording their conversations.  With the Olympics coming up, the city of Los Angeles wants to test out the Blue Thunder as a way to control the crowds and prevent crime during the Games.

Murphy may be impressed by the helicopter but he has his reservations about the program.  He immediately sees that Blue Thunder could be a dangerous tool in the wrong hands.  Those wrong hands would belong to Col. Cochrane (Malcolm McDowell), who was Blue Thunder’s first pilot and also Murphy’s commanding officer during Vietnam.  Murphy is still haunted by the atrocities that he saw committed by Cochrane during the war.

When it turns out that Murphy was right to be suspicious of Cochrane’s intentions, the movie turns into an exciting aerial chase above Los Angeles, with Murphy in Blue Thunder, trying to outrun F-16s, heat-seeking missiles, and eventually Cochrane, who enters the chase in a Blue Thunder of his own.

I’m always surprised that Blue Thunder doesn’t have a bigger following than it does.  It’s an action classic, with a gritty performance from Roy Scheider, a villainous performance from Malcolm McDowell, and comedic relief from the always reliable Daniel Stern.  Even Warren Oates is in the movie, playing Murphy’s LAPD commander!  The script actually does have something relevant to say about the militarization of America’s police forces (and it feels downright prophetic today) and the chase scenes are all the more exciting because they were filmed in the era before CGI and have an authenticity to them that is missing from most modern action films.

Blue Thunder is a perfect example of the “don’t do this really cool thing” style of action film.  The Blue Thunder helicopter is described as being a danger to everyone in the country and the movie even ends with a note saying that real-life Blue Thunders are currently being designed.  But I don’t think anyone who has ever watched this film has thought, “I hope they stopped making those helicopters.”  Instead, this movie makes you want to have a Blue Thunder of your very own.  They’re so cool, who wouldn’t want to fly one of those things?

Cinemax Friday: Dangerous Indiscretion (1995, directed by Richard Kletter)

Jim Lomax (C. Thomas Howell) is an up-and-coming advertising executive who, one night, picks up the sultry Caroline Everett (Joan Severance) in a grocery store.  What starts out as a one night stand between two attractive people who both buy their own groceries turns into a full-fledged affair with Caroline asking Jim, “Who are you?” after they sleep together and Jim struggling to define his own identity.

Unfortunately, Caroline is married to Roger Everett (Malcolm McDowell), a wealthy and ruthless businessmen who likes to quote the Art of War.  Unlike Jim, Roger knows who he is and what he believes.  He’s an evil businessman who enjoys destroying other people and who gets a kick out of fooling the world into thinking that he’s actually a compassionate philanthropist.  When Roger finds out that Caroline has been cheating on him, he sets out to destroy both her and Jim.  Because Roger is an arrogant bastard, he not only plots to ruin Jim’s life but he brags about it too.  He tells Jim that he’s going to make his life unbearable and he also says tells him that there’s not a thing that he can do to stop him.  It’s not as if Jim has ever read Suz Tzu and, largely due to the commercials that have been produced by Jim’s own firm, the public sees Roger as being a benevolent and sympathetic figure.  Jim and Caroline will have to team up to figure out a way to reveal Roger for being the monster that he is.

The main problem with Dangerous Indiscretion is that it asks us to accept the idea that C. Thomas Howell could be an equal opponent to Malcolm McDowell.  Howell was one of the better actors to regularly appear in straight-to-video and Skinemax films but he’s till no Malcolm McDowell.  As played by McDowell, Roger comes across as someone who eats his enemies for breakfast while Jim is just a callow ad exec who looks like the star of The Outsiders.  It’s Caligula vs. Soul Man and there’s not much debate about who would win that match-up in the real world.  It’s unfortunate that McDowell, who played a variety of different characters at the beginning of his career, later got typecast in purely villainous roles but he’s still charismatic enough as Roger that you know there’s no way that Jim and Caroline could ever outsmart him.  Whenever Jim and Caroline do pull one over him, it doesn’t feel right.

Fortunately, Dangerous Indiscretion is better directed than the average straight-to-video neo-noir and, even if they are outclassed by McDowell, both C. Thomas Howell and Joan Severance give good enough performances that you don’t get bored when they’re on-screen.  (This was actually the second erotic thriller that Howell made with Severance and it’s a definite step-up from Payback.)  As previously stated, McDowell’s the perfect villain.  By the proud standards of late night 90s Cinemax, Dangerous Indiscretion is an entertaining film with a great bad guy.

The Dirt On The Relentless: American Satan (2017, directed by Ash Avildsen)

The Relentless are the biggest band in the world, even though their music sounds like it belongs in the 80s.  Led by charismatic singer Johnny Faust (Andy Biersack), the Relentless have just released their debut album, American Satan.  Now, they’re touring the country, doing every drug they can get their hands on and every groupie that stops by their hotel.  The moral guardians say that The Relentless are a bad influence and are leading their children into Satanism.  For once, the moral guardians are right.  Back when they were just a struggling band in Los Angeles, The Relentless made a deal with Satan (Malcolm McDowell).  All they had to do was sacrifice the lead singer of a rival band (played by former teen idol Drake Bell) and all their dreams would come true.  However, if Johnny Faust had bothered to study his namesake, he’d know better than to make a deal with the devil.

The best thing about American Satan is that it was obviously made by people who know the music industry.  All of the details at the start of the film, with the Relentless struggling to get noticed and having to hit the streets and sell tickets to their own show, felt true.  It helps that most of the members of the Relentless were played by actual musicians.  What they lacked in acting talent, they made up for with authenticity.  The music industry is a tough business to break into, regardless of how good or bad your band is.  After watching Johnny and the Relentless struggle with crooked promoters and unsympathetic label owners, it was believable that they would consider signing a deal with the devil.

Much like the band, the movie lost its way after the contract with the devil was signed and official.  The rioting, the groupies, and the drugs were all too predictable and the movie just became The Dirt with Satan replacing Ozzy.  American Satan seems to be building up to an epic conclusion but it never seals the deal.  Instead, it just ends with a whimper, as if no one was sure where the story was supposed to be heading.  Still, any movie that finds roles for Malcolm McDowell, Bill Duke, Goldberg, and Denise Richards can’t be all bad.

At its worse, American Satan is an anti-climatic take on the Faust legend.  At its best, its Tipper Gore’s worst nightmare.

Robots With A Cause: Class of 1999 (1990, directed by Mark L. Lester)

The year is 1999 and John F. Kennedy High School sits in the middle of Seattle’s most dangerous neighborhood.  Teenage gangs have taken over all of the major American cities and just going to school means putting your life in danger.  However, Dr. Bob Forest (Stacy Keach!), the founder of MegaTech, has a solution.  He has taken former military androids and reprogrammed them to serve as educators.  JFK’s principal, Miles Langford (Malcolm McDowell!!), agrees to allow his school to be used a testing ground.  Soon, Miss Conners (Pam Grier!!!) is teaching chemistry.  Mr. Byles (Patrick Kilpatrick) is teaching gym.  Mr. Hardin (John P. Ryan) is teaching history.  When they’re not teaching, these robots are killing truant students and manipulating two rival street gangs into going to war.

Imagine mixing Rebel With A Cause with The Terminator and you get an idea of what Class of 1999 is like.  Two of the only good teenagers (played by Bradley Gregg and Traci Lind) figure out that the teachers are killing their classmates but they already know that they won’t be able to get anyone to listen to them because they’re just kids who go to school in a bad neighborhood.  Meanwhile, the teachers have been programmed to do whatever has to be done to keep the peace in the school.  Why suspend a disruptive student when you can just slam his head into a locker until he’s dead?  Director Mark L. Lester (who previously directed Class of 1984) is an old pro when it comes to movies like this and he’s helped by a better-than-average cast.  Any movie that features not only Stacy Keach and Malcolm McDowell but also Pam Grier is automatically going to be cooler than any movie that doesn’t.

When Class of 1999 was made, 1999 was considered to be the future and, in many ways, the movie did prove to be prophetic.  We may not have robot teachers (yet) but the idea of arming teachers and expecting them to double as cops has become a very popular one over the past few years.  Personally, I wouldn’t want to send my children to a school where the teachers all have to carry a gun while teaching but that may just be me.

Lisa’s Early Oscar Predictions For July

It’s that time of the month, again!

(No, not that time!)

It’s time for me to present my predictions for who and what will be nominated for the Academy Awards next January!  Now that we’re nearly done with the summer, the Oscar picture is becoming a bit more clear.  For instance, I do think that Once Upon A Time In Hollywood is going to be a player, if just because it’s about actors and the Actors Branch is the biggest voting bloc in the Academy.  (How do you think Birdman and Argo managed to win?)  And the trailer for The Irishman makes it look like the type of Scorsese film that often gets nominated.

Still, it’s too early to say anything for sure.  Last year, for instance, Green Book didn’t really become a player until fairly late in the season.  In fact, at this time last year, everyone still thought A Star Is Born was going to win everything.

So, with all that in mind, here are my predictions for July.  Be sure to also check out my predictions for January, February, March, April, May, and June!

Best Picture


The Aeronauts

A Beautiful Day In The Neighborhood

Fair and Balanced


The Irishman

JoJo Rabbit

Once Upon A Time In Hollywood

Pain & Glory

The Peanut Butter Falcon

Best Director

Pedro Almodovar for Pain & Glory

Kasi Lemmons for Harriet

Sam Mendes for 1917

Martin Scorsese for The Irishman

Quentin Tarantino for Once Upon A Time In Hollywood

Best Actor

Antonio Banderas in Pain & Glory

Leonardo DiCaprio in Once Upon A Time In Hollywood

Tom Hanks in A Beautiful Day In The Neighborhood

John Lithgow in Fair and Balanced

Eddie Murphy in Dolemite is My Name

Best Actress

Cate Blanchett in Where’d You Go Bernadette?

Cynthia Erivo in Harriet

Saoirse Ronan in Little Women

Alfre Woodard in Clemency

Rene Zellweger in Judy

Best Supporting Actor

Shia LaBeouf in The Peanut Butter Falcon

Malcolm McDowell in Fair and Balanced

Brad Pitt in Once Upon A Time In Hollywood

Jonathan Pryce in The Two Popes

Taika Waititi in JoJo Rabbit

Best Supporting Actress

Scarlett Johansson in JoJo Rabbit

Nicole Kidman in The Goldfinch

Janelle Monae in Harriet

Margot Robbie in Once Upon A Time In Hollywood

Meryl Streep in Little Women