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Invisible Man, The: The Legacy Collection (DVD)

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“We’ll begin with a reign of terror. Maybe a murder here or there. Murders of great men, murders of little men, just to show we make no distinction.”

So does Claude Rains wax maniac during a pivotal scene from 1933’s The Invisible Man. Universal has chosen to re-release this classic film in a new Legacy Collection, which comes complete with the decent follow-up, The Invisible Man Returns, and goes pretty much downhill from there, ending on a bizarre morale at the conclusion of The Invisible Man’s Revenge.

But lets start with the first film, shall we?

Based on a story by master sci-fi write H.G.Wells, the story is of a man named Jack Griffin, who fooled with pieces of nature better left alone and now finds himself invisible. Rather than see it as a blessing, a way to move through life unnoticed and getting whatever he wants, he strives day and night to discover a formula that will bring him back to visibility. Some new characters were introduced in the movie that had no place in the original story, namely a scientist and his assistant for whom Griffin used to work for. They discover that one of the chemicals Griffin used in the mixture that made him invisible is monocaine, some rare herb that is said to cause insanity. But by then it’s too late, and Griffin’s already well over the proverbial edge. The movie ends with the tragic down note that characterized nearly all of Universal’s classic monster movies, the same note that suddenly disappeared from most of their sequels.

The effects in this movie are still enough to impress even some jaded fans of today, those used to CGI and digital mating. They pulled off some great stuff with the invisibility and I’m sure as an audience member it was even more amazing for it’s time. I only wish the effects had improved through the rest of the movies.

James Whale continued showing off is brilliance as director with Invisible Man, and it still stands up as a classic tale of science gone too far, and mans innate desire to control. The real center of the film is, of course, Claude Rains. Not necessarily his skill as an actor, in truth he seems a bit hammy, but his voice. It’s got just the right amount of menace mixed with desperation, and it fleshes the character out in a way no one else came anywhere near in the sequels.

This is the only movie with any extras to speak of, sadly. The documentary “Now You See Him: The Invisible Man Revealed” is informative and interesting, if not a bit too scholarly for my tastes. It gives some good insight into the making of the film and the history of its director, James Whale and features interviews with all sorts of experts. Clocking in at just under an hour it’s a good way to get to know the man you can’t see a bit better.

Other than that there’s a set of production photos and a commentary track from film historian Rudy Behlmer, which is about as entertaining as you can expect a commentary track from a film scholar to be. Just like the commentaries on the previous Legacy Collections, you can tell it was all pre-scripted and not spontaneous in the least. For me, that equals boring, but you may find different.

Then we have 1940’s The Invisible Man Returns. In this story we find the brother of Jack Griffin working as a scientist for some type of mining operation. When the head of the operation is accused of murder and set to be hanged, the only way to get him free is by making him invisible. Unfortunately, the effects of the chemical (the secret ingredient of which is now called duocaine for some unknown reason) start to have their effect on this innocent bystander too, and he’s forced to clear his name before he losses his mind completely. Entertaining and fast paced, it’s a good follow-up to the original, though not nearly as dark and with an overall much lighter tone. Director Joe May does a competent job of pulling of the effects, which had not been done in any capacity since the making of the original. Surprisingly they look pretty damn good. Oh, and I should mention the invisible man in this one is played by a very young Vincent Price.

1940’s The Invisible Woman has no resemblance to any of the other four films in the series in that it’s a straight-up comedy. Why Universal chose to include it on this set is beyond me, because it would’ve made a lot more sense to just pretend it never happened. No, it’s not a funny comedy, either; it’s just pretty boring.

The basic premise is about a girl working in a department store modeling dresses whose boss is a sadist. He likes to yell, scream, and fire his women at the drop of a hat, so when she reads an ad offering to turn someone invisible, she jumps at the chance for revenge. A love story is involved somehow, but more or less it’s just a waste of time. Sadly, one of it’s writers was Curt Siodmak, who wrote The Wolf Man the very next year. It is interesting to note, however, that one of the “gangsters” in this movie is none other than The Three Stooges’ Shemp Howard.

1942 came, and with it Invisible Agent which, although not strictly a comedy, is in no way a horror film by any right. Jon Hall stars as one of the descendents of Jack Griffin, who is approached by the Nazi party to get the formula for invisibility. He narrowly escapes their clutches, and ends up striking up a deal with the Allied forces to become invisible himself and drop into Nazi Germany to cause some problems.

I had a really hard time staying awake during this one, mainly because the plotting was snail-paced. But nothing wakes you up quicker than bumbling Nazis trying to impress women, I’ll tell you that right now. It’s kind of disturbing given what they later became known for (at the time they were just bad guys, not evil godless bastards) to see guys giving a zieg-heil every time they see each other and goose-stepping everywhere. But it’s played more for laughs than anything else, so I guess it’s almost forgivable. It’s just too bad the effects of mono/duocaine are not brought into play anymore; what better place to go on a killing spree than Nazi Germany? This movie, it should be mentioned, is the only one on the disc with a trailer. And it’s not very good, if you can believe it.

Finally, we come to 1944’s Invisible Man’s Revenge, wherein they tried their damndest to make things just a bit more evil for the final outing. This time our character is Robert Griffin (no relation to the other Griffins, apparently, must just be a cursed name) a man who suffered from amnesia for many years after a knock on the head and, in true WB cartoon style, recovered his memory when he was hit on the head again. He immediately goes to see his “good friends” who had left him for dead in the jungle to demand his half of their riches, but they knock him out and try to dispose of him.

After he escapes he comes upon a crazy scientist (John Carradine, always a treat) who has developed an invisibility potion that he’s eager to test on humans. Realizing he has nothing to loose, Griffin allows himself to become invisible and goes on a mini-rampage. No secret chemical ingredient is needed this time; Griffin’s already well on the other side of sane when he shows up at his friend’s door.

After terrorizing his friend for while he realizes he can get more accomplished if he’s visible again (don’t ask), and discovers the only way to accomplish this is with a blood transfusion. People die, until finally he’s attacked and killed by the scientist’s dog and a tertiary character gives a quick speech on morality or something to that effect.

All in all, a pretty sad assortment of movies if I do say so myself, with the first two the only ones worth watching repeatedly. Universal did another slap-together job with the menus, but the actual packaging is just as good as the first three. But the films do look great and the sound is what you’d expect, so it’s not all bad. I would have to say, though, of the six sets released in the Legacy Collection, this one is the weakest.

The Invisible Man: The Legacy Collection
(1933-1944)

Released by Universal Home Studios
Directed by James Whale, Joe May, A. Edward Sutherland, Edwin L. Marin, Ford Beebe
Staring Claude Rains, Vincent Price, Peter Lorre, John Carradine

Special Features
“Now You See Him: The Invisible Man Revealed”
Trailers
Production Photos
Commentary by film historian Rudy Behlmer

 

2 ½ out of 5

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Through the Cracks – Trick or Treat (1986) Review

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Starring Marc Price, Tony Fields, Lisa Orgolini, Glen Morgan, Gene Simmons, and Ozzy Osbourne

Directed by Charles Martin Smith


I have been a horror fan for more than half of my life at this point. Meaning I have seen most of the quality horror offerings under the sun. But that said, every once in awhile a classic sneaks past so we wanted to create this “Through the Cracks” review section for such films.

Case in point, I had never seen the Halloween horror flick Trick or Treat until last night. I know, right? How the hell did that happen? But these things do happen and so for everyone that has seen the flick a million times, this will be a review of the movie from a super horror fan that – at the age of 33 – is seeing Trick or Treat for the very first time.

Now let’s get to it.

First off you have to love the movie’s plot. Mixing horror and heavy metal seems like a given, yet preciously few films Frankenstein these two great tastes together.

Like many of you out there, I am a big metal fan as well as a big horror fan. The two seem to go together like chocolate and peanut butter. Or Jason and horny campers.

I dig bands like Black Sabbath, Judas Priest, and even those hair metal bands (Dokken forever!) and I’m well aware of the legends surrounding playing these records backward.

Off the top of my head, the only other flick that combines the two to this degree is the (relatively) recent horror-comedy Deathgasm. I say more horror-metal flicks! Or should we call it Metal-Horror? Yeah, that’s a much more metal title.

It only makes sense that someone, somewhere would take the idea of “What if Ozzy Osbourne really was evil and came back from the dead (you know, if he had passed away during his heyday) to torment a loner fan?” Great premise for a movie!

And Trick or Treat delivers on the promise of this premise in spades. Sammi Curr is an epic hybrid of the best of the best metal frontmen and his resurrection via speaker is one of the great horror birthing scenes I have seen in all my years.

Add to that the film feels like a lost entry in the Nightmare on Elm Street franchise. More specifically the film feels like it would fit snugly in between two of my favorite entries in that series, Dream Warriors and The Dream Master.

This movie is 80’s as all f*ck and I loved every minute of it.

And speaking of how this film brought other minor classics to the forefront of my brain, let’s talk about the film’s central villain, Sammi Curr. This guy looks like he could share an epic horror band with the likes of Mary Lou from Hello Mary Lou: Prom Night II and the Drill Killer rocker from Slumber Party Massacre Part II.

Picture that band for a moment and tell me they aren’t currently playing the most epic set in Hell as we speak. I say let’s see an Avengers-style series of films based on these minor horror icons sharing the stage and touring the country’s high school proms!

In the end Trick or Treat has more than it’s fair share of issues. Sammi Curr doesn’t enter the film until much too late and is dispatched way too easily. Water? Really? That’s it?

That said, the film is still a blast as director Charles Martin Smith keeps the movie rocking like an 80’s music video with highlights being Sammi’s rock show massacre at the prom and his final assault on our hero teens in the family bathroom.

Rockstar lighting for days.

Even though the film has issues (zero blood, a rushed ending) none of that mattered much to this horror hound as the film was filled to the brim with striking horror/metal imagery and a killer soundtrack via Fastway and composer Christopher Young.

Plus you’ve got to love the cameos by Gene Simmons (boy, his character just dropped right out of the movie, huh?) and Ozzy Osbourne as a mad-as-hell Preacher that isn’t going to take any more of this devil music. P.S. Watch for the post-credits tag.

More than a few of my closest horror buddies have this film placed high on their annual Halloween must-watch lists. And after (finally) viewing the film for myself, I think I just may have to add the film to mine as well. Preferably on VHS.

Trick or Treat is an 80’s horror classic. If you dig films like Popcornand if you put the film off like I did, remedy that tonight and slap a copy in the old VHS/DVD player.

Just don’t play it backward… God knows what could happen.

All said and done, I enjoyed the hell out of my first viewing of Trick or Treat. But what do YOU think of the film? Make sure to hit us up and let us know below or on social media!

Now bring on Trick or Treat 2: The Prom Band from Hell, featuring Sammi Curr, Mary Lou Maloney, and Atanas Ilitch’s Driller Killer from Slumber Party Massacre Part II!

  • Trick or Treat (1986) 3.5
3.5

Summary

Charles Martin Smith’s Trick or Treat is a sure-fire Halloween treat for fans of 80’s horror flicks, as well as fans of heavy metal music.

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User Rating 3.59 (22 votes)
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AHS: Cult Review – Clowns, Cults, Politics, and Peters

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Starring Evan Peters, Sarah Paulson, Billie Lourd, Cheyenne Jackson, Frances Conroy, Mare Winningham, and Allison Pill

Created by Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk


** NO SPOILERS **

It’s here. We’ve reached the end. The newest season of “American Horror Story” has ended and now we are here to provide you guys with our season review of AHS: Cult.

Spoiler free.

To start things off let me say I’m not the world’s biggest fan of “American Horror Story”. It breaks down like this: I enjoyed the absolute hell out of the first season of the series (“Murder House”), couldn’t get through “Asylum” (I know, I know, I’ve tried), dug “Coven” for what it was, really enjoyed “Freak Show”, and again I couldn’t get into “Hotel” or “Roanoke”.

That’s the story of me and “American Horror Story”. Plain And simple. But what did I think of the new seventh season of the notorious horror anthology series? Let’s find out.

Back when the seventh season of AHS was first announced (then going by the title “AHS: Election”) I was immediately intrigued by the new season because I heard it would not include any supernatural elements. Like the fourth season, “Freak Show”.

Now I’m a fan of ghosts and weird creature-men with drills for d*cks, don’t get me wrong. But the series has thus far relied almost exclusively on horrors of the supernatural variety (other than “Freak Show”) so this major change of pace was again welcomed by this guy.

Instead of vampires, aliens, and witches this season relied on terrors of the mind. Psychological fears and anxieties. The horrors man does to man. Deep issues.

Oh, and clowns. Like a lot of clowns.

But just because this new season didn’t include anything supernatural, that doesn’t mean the 11-episode season wasn’t filled with twisted visuals and horrifically disturbing acts. No, sir. This season boasted some showstoppers including S&M, gimps, and a house of horrors that wouldn’t be out of place in a Rob Zombie flick. It was all good.

But let’s backtrack a bit here.

Allow me to rundown the season’s plot for those who may be unaware. “AHS: Cult” tells the tale of a world post-election night. The literal dawn of Trump’s America. In one corner we have Sarah Paulson’s soccer mom, trying to fight through life with a series of crippling phobias (including clowns, holes, blood, and being a good person).

And in the other corner, we have Evan Peter’s angry, white (blue-haired) male, looking to seize Trump’s new position of power to bring about the end of… Actually, I want this to be a spoiler-free season review, so I’m just going to say the dude’s got big plans.

Like Manson-size plans. Let’s leave it at that.

With these two characters established, the new season then proceeds to send them spiraling into a collision course of political sabotage, intrigue, and clown-based nope, nope, nope-ing that can only end with one – or both – of them dead as Dillinger.

Overall “AHS: Cult” belonged end-to-end to Mr. Evan Peters. The young actor has continued to show his striking range from season to season of Ryan Murphy’s horror show and this season was no different. Peters’ turn as not only Kai, the blue-haired leader of the titular cult, but as infamous leaders such as David Koresh, Jim Jones, and Charles Manson – to name a few – owed this season.

I can only hope he doesn’t pull a Jessica Lange and opt-out of more AHS next year.

Speaking of top performances, “AHS: Cult ” showcases some other chilling and memorable turns with Alison Pill’s strangely vulnerable, put-upon wife character being the best next to Peters in my eyes. This actress needs to be in more films/TV!

Along with Pill, actress Billie Lourd killed it time and time again. The “Scream Queens” breakout star and Carrie Fisher spawn was yet again a highlight in her second Ryan Murphy series. Bet she has the starring role in next season. Mark my words.

Add to that, the season also boasts a handful of fun cameos, including John Carroll Lynch’s return as Twisty the Clown, Emma Roberts as a bitchy reporter that will do anything to end up on top, and Lena Dunham as SCUM Manifesto writer Valerie Solanas. The cameo cast killed it and I wish they would have been present for more episodes. What are you gonna do?

On the sour side of the season, I didn’t dig Sarah Paulson’s character. At all. But I’m sure that was the point. Right? I’m still not sure. But, boy, I wouldn’t even want to be stuck in line behind her at a Starbucks for three minutes, let alone spend the better part of this season’s 11-hours with her and her whiny bullshite. Urgh.

That said, she pulled it out by the finale. That’s all I’ll say.

In the end, I enjoyed this season as much as – if not more – than any other of the series. “Murder House” will still no doubt go on as my favorite season of the series, but “AHS: Cult” will rank third after season one and “Freak Show”.

While I was on the fence about the season after three episodes, the show ended up ditching Paulson’s character (and/or shifting her arch) after a lull so the episodes picked up quickly. Whenever the season turned its focus back towards Peters (in whichever incarnation he was playing at the time) the show got better and better. Every time.

Not a bad way to spend my Tuesday night for the past 11 weeks.

Bring on season 12.

  • American Horror Story: Cult (2018)
3.5

Summary

The seventh season of Ryan Murphy’s American Horror Story was Evan Peters’ show all the way through. The young actor pulled out all the stops time and time again to make what may have been a lackluster supernatural-free season a winner.

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User Rating 4.13 (23 votes)
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The Axiom Review – A Stylish and Clever Slice of Independent Horror

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Starring Hattie Smith, Zac Titus, Nicole Dambro

Directed by Nicholas Woods


The Axiom is an ambitious, well directed, impressively acted and stunningly shot independent horror film that has just a few, teensy little flaws holding it back from greatness (and therefore will have to settle for just being really, really good, instead).

The first thing you realize when watching The Axiom is that this is a beautiful film. Everything is framed and shot in a lush and stylish manner, but one which is always tonally appropriate for the scene.

The second thing you’ll notice, and keep noticing as the film plays out, is that the movie really struck gold with this cast. Not only is there a total lack of the sort of stilted and unnatural acting seen in countless other microbudget horror affairs, but the performances are genuinely fantastic across the board. The main characters are believably chill and relatably normal in the early scenes, and the acting remains just as impressive once things start getting a bit more… intense. It’s not often that an independent horror film has so many good performances that it makes it hard to pick the movie’s acting VIP, but that is undeniably the case here. Taylor Flowers delivers what is probably the showiest performance (and does it very well, indeed), but the entire cast really is quite good.

The central premise of the film is both interesting and original, and touches upon the real life fact (given some recent attention in the ‘Missing 411’ books and documentary) that a lot more people sure seem to go missing out in the woods than seems reasonable, while simultaneously weaving all sorts of folklore, fairy tales and urban legends into the mix. It’s also clever in the way that it very naturally reveals aspects to the relationships between characters that serve to later – or sometimes retroactively – explain some of the more questionable decisions they make or attitudes they display. While that may sound like screenwriting 101, it’s surprising how many films fail to do this. The Axiom rewards the viewer’s attention in other ways as well, with many aspects of the movie that initially feel odd or unnatural receiving reasonable explanations (within the context of the movie) by the end. It’s not quite as challenging (or as rewarding) in this regard as, say, something like Session 9, but it does add a nice layer of complexity to the storytelling.

The film’s score, by Leo Kaliski, is also quite good. There may be a moment here or there where the music hits an overly familiar beat, but overall it not only fits the movie’s tone, but does quite a bit to help set that tone as well.

The only thing that I don’t feel the movie quite pulls off – and I’m trying to be vague here, because I feel like the less you know going into this film, the better – is some of the makeup effects work. The gore stuff is very well executed, but some of the other stuff feels like it was crafted with the intention of shooting it in a more… stylized manner. Instead, filmed as it is here, the result is sometimes less than impressive and can fail to make the impact that the movie seems to be implying that it should. And while some of what the makeup effects lack in execution is made up for with the ingenuity and creativity of their design, it’s still a bit of a shame when they don’t quite pull them off because, aside from a few niggles that I have with the writing, the effects are the only aspect of the film that occasionally fails to live up to the high level of technical proficiency that The Axiom otherwise demonstrates.

ADDITIONAL THOUGHTS:

  • Man, the acting in this movie is really good. The dialogue may stumble once or twice, but these actors always sell it anyway.
  • Give back Mia Sara’s DNA, Hattie Smith!
  • If you’re going to put your female lead in shorts this small, I hope you’re not sensitive to viewers unleashing a nonstop parade of “Has anyone seen my pants / OH GOD WHERE ARE MY PANTS!” jokes.
  • “You just pop this here ‘Blair Witch Stick Person / Anarchy sign’ sticker up on that there windshield of yours, and them park rangers? Well – heh heh – they won’t bother you none, no sir.” Hmmmmm…
  • The film really is shot amazingly well – better than a lot of mainstream releases. Cinematographer Sten Olson has a real future ahead of him.
  • As does writer / director Nicholas Woods, for that matter. Any director who can get this level of quality out of their cast and crew on their first ever film is someone to keep an eye on.
  • “I’ll make a run for it and get help,” says the female lead, and I’m like “Yeah, let her go – she has no pants to weigh her down.”
  • The gore effects in the movie are both realized and utilized very well.
  • Welcome back to horror movies, “I’ll be right back” dialogue spoken unironically by and/or to ill-fated characters.
  • The Axiom
4.0

Summary

In the end, The Axiom is a solid and entertaining flick that manages to wring a level of quality and originality out of the somewhat tired “Don’t Go in the Woods” horror subgenre not seen since 2012’s Cabin in the Woods. The cinematography and acting are hugely impressive, it features a nice, unnerving score, the premise is original and captivating, and the whole thing moves at a nice pace that helps keep the film’s flaws from dragging it down.

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User Rating 3.95 (20 votes)
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