On this #TerrorTrailerTuesday, we’re paying tribute to a groovy cat who’s real outtasight…
Yes, it’s the Invisible Man, the villain beyond vision! The fiend who can’t be seen! The scourge of locker rooms everywhere! H.G. Wells’ Fantastic Sensation!
While we take it for granted these days, the idea of the invisible man is truly frightening (and ho-rnifying… ;)) one. To quote Claude Rains as the invisible one, “An invisible man can rule the world. Nobody will see him come, nobody will see him go. He can hear every secret. He can rob, and rape, and kill!” I mean, there’s a reason that ho-rror filmmakers have been telling Invisible Man stories for decades now. The threat has all the malevolence and cunning of a sinister genius, but with no way of detecting him.
Of corpse, others have seen the funny side of this kinky kreep. After all, the Invisible Man can’t be invisible without going… au naturel. I daresay there are just as many Invisible Man comedies as there are terror tales. Even James Whale’s The Invisible Man is loaded with large helpings of black comedy. Guess you can’t spell “slaughter” without “laughter”… 😉
Whether you like him scary, silly, or just plain seXXXy, it’s as clear as the monster himself that the Invisible Man is a true icon. So without further a-BOO, here are the terrifying trailers to top off your #TerrorTuesday. 🙂 xoxo
Ho-rrificly Ho-rnifying Bonus: The seXXXy scene that launched a zillion Invisible Man fantasies (at least for me ;)).
Today’s fright fest is a creepy cheapie from the King of the Bs, Roger Corman. It’s a MAD Magazine mash-up of monsters and mobsters known as… Creature from the Haunted Seais the third in a series of funny fright films Corman produced in the late ’50s and early ’60s, the previous two being A Bucket of Blood (1959) and The Little Shop of Horrors (1960). While those brilliantly bloody burlesques are seen as B-movie masterworks, Creature has dwelled in relative obscurity for decades now. The advertising sold the film as a straight Ho-rror picture, which it certainly is not. Naturally, the film pissed of a lot of creep-seekers and the film did poorly. That’s a shame, because this a pretty groovy Ho-rror comedy. Okay, so it ain’t the most hilarious film ever made and it didn’t spawn a musical remake with Rick “King of Kings” Moranis, but it’s stuffed with quirky ideas and a deliberate goofiness. Its combination of spy spoof, crime comedy, and Ho-rror humor is very much of its time, but that only makes it serve as a goofy sort of time capsule. Plus, it has one of the greatest goofball monsters of all time… Ho-ly crap! That’s what happens when you don’t give Cookie Monster a cookie!
Do you dare face the “terror” of… The Creature from the Haunted Sea?!
(And here’s Mr. Goony Goon, aka Andrew Peters, with the conclusion of our Wednesday Were-stravaganza…Thanks, Ho-rror Ho-mie, and enjoy the rest of your hump day, freaky folks! 🙂 xoxox)
All the teens were howling for more Teen Wolf, so alright you sons of bitches, you want more? You’re gonna get more and I’m not just talking about a Saturday morning cartoon that’s only gonna last one season, I’m talking about a sequel. Not just any sequel, but the worst kind of sequel. You know the ones where they couldn’t get the starring actor back because he hated it so much, so they just rewrite the character to fit into the script. Not the story, just the character and it doesn’t matter if it makes sense or not and if you think they are gonna do something different this time, you’re wrong. Dead wrong. Teen Wolf Too is nearly a literal carbon copy of the first film, but instead of Michael J. Fox in highschool, you get Jason Bateman in college and instead of basketball being the sport, it’s boxing. Bingo, bango, presto. Now you got a film without working too hard and it’s easy money.
That doesn’t mean it’s boring or terrible. It just means that you’ve seen it all before, beat for beat and this is the best example of a film that doesn’t need to exist. When you think about how lazy this film actually is, it’s practically a cinema sin. You know what? The more I think about it, yes, yes it is a terrible movie. I get the feeling this movie was made as a starring vehicle for Jason Bateman, seeing as how his father Kent Bateman is the producer of the film and probably thought it would be a safe choice for his son to star in a sequel to a popular comedy. Or maybe this is the silver bullet this franchise needs before it gets out of control.
Jason Bateman replaces Michael J. Fox’s character Scotty Howard as his cousin Todd Howard who is well aware of the family curse or secret or whatever you want to call it. Point is, he knows that people in his family can turn into werewolves, but since his parents can’t, it doesn’t look like Todd will either… or so he thinks. James Hampton returns to his role as Harold to drop him off at college, not because it really makes sense, but because the filmmakers need shoehorn in the cameo as a connection to the first film. Like, remember they’re werewolves? Harold drives around as a wolf and nobody really seems to care or be surprised and I’m guessing this is pretty much how the audience feels. The cameos don’t stop there, however. As luck would have it, he’s not only going to the school as these two cool dudes, but he also happens to be rooming with Chubbs and Stiles from the first film! What are the odds. Mark Holton returns to play the loveable eating machine Chubbs, but I barely recognized Stiles. Not only because he was recast for whatever reason, but also because he has one of the most hideous mullets this side of the ‘80s.
Turns out Stiles had pulled some strings to get Todd roomed with them, because once again he wants to exploit The Wolf, to which Todd tries to assure him that he doesn’t have it in him. The wolfness that runs in the Howard bloodline is what got Todd into such a prestigious school in the first place, seeing as how Dean Dunn also wants to exploit him for the werewolves naturally gifted sports ability and giving Todd a free ride via a sports scholarship. Immediately, the Dean is established as a snobbish, one dimensional cartoon spoof of the Dean from another teen comedy, like Animal House. I will say at least he’s giving more dialogue and interaction than the principal from the first Teen Wolf film. Todd reluctantly agrees to all this, but the poor guy just wants to take science classes and chat with the brainy, cute girl Nicki who instantly falls for him and pursues him even though he’s a total dick to her and later bails on her to have threeways with the popular chicks while alienating his friends. Sounding familiar? I actually don’t understand why Chubbs and Stiles are excited for Todd to become the wolf when they know what a selfish asshole it turned Scotty into.
During a boxing match when Todd is getting trampled, that’s when he finally transforms into the wolf and whoops some ass, but this should come as no surprise. I mean, Teen Wolf Too mimicks the first one pretty much beat for beat, so this should come as no surprise. However, with Scotty in the first film, his character at least alluded to being kind of an asshole and you saw how the wolf was creating a massive ego, but here it just happens. Like, zero to one hundred. Luckily the Dean is giving him a free ride and all his teachers are giving him passing grades, except for his science teacher, Ms. Brooks (played by Kim Darby who I’ve always had a strange attraction for), who also has a secret of her own, but there’s also this weird sexual tension between the two and you half expect it to turn into wolf porn. Gotta say, that would have made the film more original. Todd was all focused on science and shit with the help of his teacher and then once he’s the wolf, he’s a total dick and it’s such a whiplash. There’s no build up or progression, it just happens. The film also does a sudden shift in time, like, all of a sudden it’s the end of the year and he’s failed his science final. It feels rushed, but hey, movie’s almost over.
Once again, the performances are fine and Stiles is surprisingly less annoying this time around, even taking credit for Todd becoming such a jerk, although you don’t really see much of Stiles marketing the wolf. Jason Bateman was a fine replacement and felt more like a geek than Michael J. Fox did, but I think that was the point. Scotty was just so average that nobody noticed him, whereas Todd is much more of a nerd, so his wolf-ism was supposed to be more of a surprise, but again, the film doesn’t explore this. Once he’s the wolf, he’s driving fast cars, doinking the babes and really good at boxing. Another element coming out of nowhere is Todd confessing his love to the geeky girl toward the end. In fact, she mouths the words “I love you” to power him up for the final match with the jock dude, who again, has no character development and is just there for the hero to have a villain to fight. Once he becomes the wolf, she’s pretty much out of the movie until the end and yet she sticks by his side while he’s off getting STD’s and treating her like shit. Of course at the end, he’s allowed to redeem himself once he realizes he needs to be himself and not the wolf. Gee, didn’t see that coming.
The makeup design is the same, the sets are the same, the acting is the same… the goddamn story is the same. Teen Wolf Too doesn’t need to exist, nor do I think it’s worthy of a new high definition transfer, but Scream Factory went ahead and gave it one anyway. I’m guessing it was some kind of a package deal with the first film or maybe it’s for the small, small crowd that enjoys the film. Keeping in theme with repeating the first film, there are only a small amount of extra features included, although on this release all of the featurettes were separated into smaller bits rather than just one big documentary. Other than that, it’s just a still gallery and a trailer.
Having said everything I did, I actually prefer Teen Wolf Too over Teen Wolf, it’s just that it’s the same movie with a different lead, it makes it feel like a remake rather than a sequel. The humor doesn’t work at all, Todd isn’t a very likable lead and I don’t care about him. Or anyone else in the movie. I still can’t believe this spawned a cartoon and a remake TV show. Now I understand why the TV show has little do with the movies outside of the name. Teen Wolf is a franchise where I may never understand the popularity. I feel like once something somehow sneaks its way into pop-culture, there’s no questioning it. It’s there and you’re supposed to accept it. Or perhaps I’ve gotten too old.
Since Ol’ Mr. Goony Goon just gave ya an ’80s comedy ho-wler, I thought I’d CREEP the theme going with My Mom’s a Werewolf, a 1989 lycanthrope laugh lark… starring Susan Blakely, Diana “Jason’s 60th Victim” Burrows, and John Saxon!
My Mom’s a Werewolf tells the tales of a housewife (Susan Blakely) who is bitten on the toe by a werewolf (John Saxon), thus beginning her transformation into a monster.
Guest Director: Quentin Tarantino
Once she discovers her condition she tries to conceal her secret from her husband and daughter… with hilarious(?) results. When her secret is revealed, the woman’s daughter and her ho-rror-obsessed friend must find a cure… before it’s too late. Ok, so this film is not good, but it’s a watchable kind of “not good”. John Saxon is a credible-enough werewolf and most of the cast is fun. The whole affair is aglow with the neon brilliance of the 1980s and loaded with some eXXXcellent Ho-rror references. Keep an eye out for Forrest J. Ackerman at a Ho-rror convention.
Personally, I think think this goofy little film is… Check out the ’80s were-madness below:
(Submitted by Mr. Andrew Peters…Thanks, Andy, you Goonie!!! 😉 xoxo)
High School is such an awkward period in all of our lives. Maybe the struggles we faced weren’t nearly as bad as they seem now, but back then it would make or break you or shape who you would become. The scare of bullies, struggling to fit in and find your place, finding out who you are and who you will become, striving to be the very best on the sportsball team and then finding out your family is a bunch of werewolves. Well, maybe not exactly that last thing, but the Michael J. Fox teen comedy Teen Wolf explores that very idea. Perhaps it’s some sort of allegory for going through puberty and trying to fit in? If it is, it’s a rather thin one.
So, here’s an unpopular opinion. Have you ever really liked something or at least you thought you did, because of how it’s viewed in pop culture, but then you go back and revisit it and it’s not all that great? That’s Teen Wolf for me. Who doesn’t remember this movie and who didn’t love Michael J. Fox? He’s the charismatic underdog you want to see win the big game. You want to see him give the jerk his comeuppance and you want to see him get the girl. Along the way, he’ll discover who he is, where he fits in and that the girl for him was beside him the whole time. I know I just described every teen comedy ever, but did they all have werewolves? I think not! Does that make this a better film? Eh… well, no.
Michael J. Fox plays your average teen, Scotty Howard, and when I say average, I do mean average. He’s smart, but not brilliant. He plays on the basketball team and he does alright, but he’s no superstar, but he doesn’t completely suck either. He’s not invisible to girls, but he’s no Casanova either. I think you get my drift. Scotty lives with his dad, who seems pretty lame for the most part, but the guy cares about his son and you get the idea that there was some tragedy in his life seeing as how the mother isn’t around. I think maybe it was hinted at, but I don’t believe it was. He has a connection to the principal who has it in for Scotty, always harassing him, but the conclusion to that is rather lackluster. We don’t want the dad character to be too sympathetic and besides, we’ve already wasted the legal limit of cliches on Scotty.
When Scotty isn’t looking way too sweaty playing shooty-hoops at school, he’s hanging out and partying with his friend Stiles. I think everyone remembers Stiles from this movie. Stiles is, like, basically what an STD would be in human form. Actually, they may be an inaccurate description, because you would need to get laid for that to happen and I don’t see anyone or anything sleeping with Stiles. This is a character that was definitely written by an adult who thinks what kids perceive as cool. In every scene, he’s wearing not only different sunglasses, but different t-shirts with such eloquent phrases that in no scream ‘overcompensation,’ like “life sucks and then you die” or “what are you looking at dicknose.” He’s constantly bursting into whatever room it may be, slapping everyone’s shoulders and giving them unwarranted nicknames and trying to make jokes that fall flat. If Stiles were a real person, you would want to kick him in the dick so hard and watch him double over in pain and then just as the pain was starting to go away, you kick him again and repeat. There’s a particular scene that sums up his character perfectly when Scotty isn’t sure what to do about being a werewolf, so he turns to his friend Stiles for advice. Panicked and sweaty, Scotty tells Stiles that he has a secret he needs to tell him. This makes Stiles stop searching for his stash and put a defensive guard up and asks, “Look, are you gonna tell me you’re a fag because if you’re gonna tell me you’re a fag, I don’t think I can handle it.” Scotty then has to quickly reassure his friend that he isn’t gay, but rather a werewolf, because that’s so much better. Don’t worry, homophobe, your buddy isn’t gay… he’s a mythical creature with brute strength and insatiable taste for people. Only in the ‘80s.
Also, Scotty can turn into a werewolf willy-nilly or whenever he’s angry (I guess?). The movie doesn’t really come up with a solid rule on when that can happen and he doesn’t really become a wild animal that goes around eating people. In Teen Wolf, he becomes really good at basketball and dancing and now girls want his hairy wolf dong. After slaying the hot cheerleader poon (who was secretly doing so to make her boyfriend jealous, because the film needs a human antagonist), this starts to get to his head and he understandably gets an ego about it. He parades around school and town as the wolf and everyone is high fiving him. He’s kinda become Stiles, who is now selling Teen Wolf merchandise. I’m not joking. This movie is meta. Also, I need to bring up the fact that the first time he turns into the wolf, nobody seems scared or shocked or at the very least, shitting their pants or screaming. They just look taken aback briefly and then once he starts doing fancy basketball tricks, they cheer their heads off and applaud. I’ve never seen a crowd latch onto something so positively so quickly.
Even though the film is about Scott’s struggles about fitting in by acting like he’s someone else, the person who is really getting shit on is his cute, adorable friend named Boof who has the hots for him. He’s constantly pushing her to the side to oogle over the cheerleader, but she still stands by his side and tells him they should be more than friends. Even after everything he does to her, she still sticks with him. I know it’s because she’s always liked who Scott really is and she can overlook the total dickhead he’s become as the wolf, but I find it inexcusable. I actually felt sorry for her character and wished she would’ve dumped him at the end for a hint of realism, but no. They live happily ever after. Girl, get yourself a real man.
If I were to sum up Teen Wolf in just one word after this recent revisit, I would have to say it’s underwhelming. Apparently, Scream Factory must have thought so too or perhaps anyone involved with the movie, because this Blu-ray release is pretty bare bones and, once again, underwhelming for a new release of such a former popular movie. Apparently, Michael J. Fox hates this movie and hated making it so much, I can see why he wouldn’t want to talk about this film for some extra features. To be fair to this release, it is a brand new high definition transfer that looks incredible, even if it reveals a lot of the faults in the makeup. There’s also an incredibly lengthy, in depth featurette called Never. Say. Die. The Story of Teen Wolf that is nearly two and a half hours long. Other than that it’s the basic roll call of a theatrical trailer and a still gallery. Not even a single commentary from anyone involved, which is kinda weird that Scream couldn’t find anyone willing to sit down and talk about this movie. Or they didn’t try to find anyone, because maybe they realized that nobody really cares about this movie.
I don’t want to take anything away from the movie, I don’t think it’s terrible (which I know must be hard to believe after my ranting), but I don’t think it’s spectacular or this monstrous hit comedy it seems to be selling itself as. Even though Michael J. Fox hates the film, he does a great job as a kid struggling with typical high school problems… and sweating a lot. Seriously, in every transformation or basketball scene, he’s drenched, even if he’s barely done anything. No human could possibly sweat that much. I also thought James Hampton and Susan Ursitti were great and very compassionate in their roles as Scotty’s support. The makeup effects are pretty decent and don’t look horrifying or grotesque like you would see in a horror film, but that’s kinda the point. It’s supposed to be cute and charming, but this makes the transformations scenes (if you can even call them that) suffer. Aside from his ears stretching a little bit, I don’t believe we see an actual transformation and this is during the era of werewolf movies, like The Howling or American Werewolf in London. However, those were horror movies showcasing the agony and the disfiguring transformation that would takes place, whereas Teen Wolf is more about a wolf being a cool thing. The shots will often cut away briefly and cut back to Scotty all wolfed out and ready to surf on top of vans. Oh yeah, he surfs on top of a van to The Beach Boys’ Surfin’ USA, because apparently the movie wanted to start an unneeded trend and set a spike in accidental deaths by stupid teenagers.
Looking back, I’m totally shocked that this movie was popular enough to spin-off a sequel, a Saturday morning cartoon and a reboot TV show in 2011. Sure, this movie is (or was) popular, but I don’t ever remember hearing people clamoring for more of it or talking about the same way we do something like Friday the 13th. When I was a kid, we all had heard about this movie, but we weren’t talking about it like it was the funniest movie ever, like Ghostbusters. It was often mentioned in passing with little enthusiasm. Maybe there is a secret underground cult that really, really loves this movie and that’s the reason it’s so wildly popular, because otherwise I just don’t see it. Teen Wolf is riddled with cliches that were already feeling tired by the mid ‘80s and the only reason this film sticks out from the slew of emotionless, characterless teen comedies of that time is because, I hate to say this, the filmmakers were smart enough to make its main character a goddamn werewolf. One little, odd change and that’s all it took for this move to apparently become a smash hit. I don’t hate the film, but personally I don’t see it’s popularity nor do I remember it. Hell, nobody is even really talking about this upcoming Blu-ray, so maybe it’s one of those movies that is trying to sell you its own hype. Stiles must be part of its marketing.
Howl-dy, fright fiends! We here at KH just ADORE werewolves in London… Warren Zevon’s Werewolves in London, the 1935 Werewolf of London, and just about any lycanthrope in England. We have no idea why our furry fiends frequent the Old Smoke, but we do know that hair-handed gents in the UK always make for a jolly good time! There’s no better example of this than John Landis’ An American Werewolf in London, one of the grooviest monster movies of the 1980s! Ah, yes… An American Werewolf in London… there’s just no way to overpraise that fabulously fantastic fright film. Landis’ picture effortlessly dances between the ho-rrific and hilarious like few films before and since. There’s a clear love for previous werewolf films on display, yet it constantly reinvents the genre in clever ways. It’s weird, it’s scary, it’s funny… it’s a true cl-ass-sick! I’m sure you’re all familiar with that marvelous monsterpiece, but did you know it was adapted for the radio? Yes, Kinky Kreeps! The American Werewolf ho-wled on in a 1997 BBC radio adaptation! It was written and directed by Dirk Maggs (the man who would produce new episodes of the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy radio show from 2003 to 2005) and featured actors from the film, including the great Jenny Agutter reprising her role as Nurse Alex Price.
The adaptation is mostly faithful, but it does add some backstory to certain characters… and tells us who was the original werewolf. There’s also a bit about a man escaping from an asylum where he is held under the name “Larry Talbot”…
For a trip back to London, listen to the play below:
When The Texas Chainsaw Massacre hit the scene in 1974, it was huge. There was nothing quite like it to say the least. No other horror movie had presented itself in that way, so the imitators were sure to follow, although none of them would really come close. In 1980, Motel Hell would come pretty close, but just misses the mark and not in a bad way. In fact, Tobe Hooper (the director of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre) was originally slated to direct. Whereas TCM is dark and grisly, Motel Hell has a whole lot of charm and is quite a lot of fun… you know, for a movie about kidnapping/abducting, murder and cannibalism. As much as I love TCM, you can’t say the same thing, simply because it’s not meant to be.
Motel Hell actually feels more like a cash-in of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre Part 2, which wouldn’t happen for another five years. It’s odd that a film that didn’t intend on parodying the original TCM ended up blending horror and comedy decently that TCM2 would later also do. However, I don’t feel that Motel Hell is quite as dark as TCM2, not to take anything away from it still being a good film. In fact, Motel Hell was supposed to be much more dark with more violence and gore and included much more disturbing moments in the film, like a bestiality scene. There’s something the TCM films never had. In the end, the tone was lightened, the gore was used sparingly and what we got was still a fairly humorous and entertaining horror comedy armed with one of the best taglines, “It takes all kinds of critters to make Farmer Vincent fritters!” An obvious nod at the cannibalism in the movie, but a hint at what Farmer Vincent puts in his famous smoked meats, unbeknownst to his customers.
Along with his sister Ida, Farmer Vincent (played by legendary Rory Calhoun) run the Motel Hello – which for fun acts as the title card as the “o” in “Hello” flickers dimly – where they don’t seem to get a whole lot of customers. I guess that’s okay since they are able to keep up their farm and… well now I am just thinking about how weird having a farm and a hotel next to each other is. This is getting into Eaten Alive territory, another Tobe Hooper film. You think all those bills would be stacking up, but it seems like Vincent’s famous smoked meat is so famous, people come around from all over the place just to get a taste of his smoked meat.
For those of you wondering, yes, that pun was intentional.
But what’s in those meats that makes them taste so damn good? Well, nothing but the finest ingredient… people! Vincent and Ida set traps to snare their victims, slicing their vocal cords (so they can no longer scream), plant them up to their chins in soil in a secret garden and feed them nothing but the finest feed, even if they aren’t the finest specimens. Like, would you ever think a balding, doughy health inspector who is nosing around the farm would be tasty? Vincent sure does. How about a drug addled metal group called ‘Ivan and The Terribles,’ one of which happens to be Cheers’ John Ratzenberger? He’s only in a couple scenes and I can’t remember if he even has a line of dialogue, but blink and you could miss him. Or a swinging couple that can’t sense danger when it’s literally tying them up and drugging them. Yeah, farm life is good for Vincent. Nothing quite like waking up and being your own boss, smoking your meat and having others from all over want to savor it.
Okay, I’ll stop with all the meat smoking puns. Anywho, Vincent’s life is about the change (not to make this sound like a wacky romantic comedy, but it kinda is) when a cute victim named Terry survives one of his traps. While being nursed back to health, she understandably has some questions, like “where is my boyfriend?” Vincent informs her along with the Sheriff, Bruce, who just happens to be his dimwitted brother, that he buried the body, so everyone should move on and forget about it. And that’s exactly what happens. Terry just seems to accept it and starts to fall more and more for Vincent while Bruce is falling for Terry. Oh boy, love triangles! Except, this is kinda like a hillbilly one, so you know at some point somebody will be pointing a shotgun at somebody.
Let’s talk about Bruce for a moment. Bruce is the comedic relief in a film that is about half comedy, so needless to say that he’s probably gonna get under your skin at some point. He also comes off as possessive and stalker-ish when it comes to Terry and I know, it’s supposed to be cute and charming, but when he’s forcing himself onto her and trying to make out with her while she screams and begs for him to stop, it’s kinda hard to want to support your lead.
Rejecting Bruce and growing closer with Vincent, even Ida begins to grow jealous of her, even going as far as attempting to drown her. She’s saved by Vincent which pretty much guarantees him a ticket to Bone City, but Vincent suggests that they should be married first and she agrees. Clearly this upsets Bruce so much that he actually goes and does actual cop stuff, like investigate the scene of the accident, even though it’s, like, days or weeks later. Hey, better late than never. Meanwhile, Vincent and Ida are immediately drugging Terry so that she passes out, allowing them to get to work. So, do they plan on doing this to her every night, because it’s going to get suspicious sooner or later, right? Luckily, Vincent plans on showing her the ancient art of smoking meat, a skill that is sure to come in handy on their honeymoon. If she doesn’t go along with it, at least they can always cook her too. Unless Bruce can stop them in time and I don’t blame anyone who doesn’t have faith in him.
Look, it all boils down to a gnarly chainsaw fight between Bruce and Farmer Vincent who is wearing a giant pig’s head. The movie is awesome just for this iconic scene alone, but luckily it’s very entertaining throughout the entire movie and Farmer Vincent is a likable character even if he isn’t doing the right thing, even if he believes he is. He’s a well developed enough of a character that you kinda follow along with him, which is a good thing, because this is his movie. You spend some time with the other characters, but not enough to get to know them outside of the single trait they are given. Except Bruce who comes off as a bumbling buffoon pervert.
However, I can’t say the same about the horror aspect. It’s a film about turning people into food and yet it’s not scary. Hell, it seems like it’s barely the trappings. Even films like Blood Diner explore (or in that case, exploit) the idea of cannibalism and make it visceral, somewhat painful and gory. In Motel Hell, the characters kinda mention it here and there, although occasionally some human carcasses or limbs can be seen. I don’t know if they were hoping it would have the same impact that Quint’s speech from Jaws would have, but the horror element in this film seems a little lackluster. Same can be said about most of the humor and being a horror comedy, like Evil Dead 2 and Blood Diner, they could have really explored using the splat-stick angle (after all, we are talking about people becoming smoked meat), but the film shies away from that as well.
I still like the film, quite a bit actually. I think it’s an honest attempt at a horror comedy and although I don’t think it’s the best example nor does it reach its potential in either genre, it still does both well. A few years ago, Scream Factory released a newly restored Blu-ray that looks fantastic and comes with enough special features to cram your meathole, like Audio Commentary with director Kevin Connor, moderated by filmmaker Dave Parker, The Making of MOTEL HELL featuring interviews with director Kevin Connor, producers/writers Robert Jaffe and Steven Charles Jaffe and actor Marc Silver, Ida, Be Thy Name: A look back at MOTEL HELL’s frightful female protagonist Ida Smith, Another Head on the Chopping Block: An interview with actor Paul Linke, From Glamour to Gore: An interview with actress Rosanne Katon, as well as a theatrical trailer and a still gallery. It also was given some great new artwork.
It’s an idea that was fully realized, but once the studio thought it would be too weird, they backed down and what you get is a watered down version of that vision, but at least that still entertaining. Especially that chainsaw fight.
Yesterday, we posted a clas-sick VHS screener promo for Child’s Play featuring Chucky. Well, it turns out that Mr. Fredrick Krueger was in the VHS promo business before Chucky was even packaged! To scare up some profits, Media Home Entertainment brought Freddy out of the dream world and into the TV screens of potential clients with a 7-minute video promo. The video features Robert Englund in full fright gear, hamming it up with the panache of Hulk Hogan. At this point, Freddy was more of a morbid funnyman than an unholy terror. But we like yuks with our yucks, and Freddy knew how to slay ’em! 😉 Once a monster has had at least one truly scary film, I think they’ve earned the right to sell out. In addition to some masterful salesmanship from Freddy, there are clips from The Late Show with Joan Rivers, scenes from the first three films, news footage, and other vintage goodies. If you ever wanted an idea of how big Freddy was in the ’80s, all you have to do is watch this video.
You don’t hear much about House II: The Second Story, so out of curiosity, I decided to see what the “professional” critics thought of it and jumped over to Rotten Tomatoes, because as we all know that’s where you go if you want opinions that matter. I’m actually shocked that this film holds a 0% rating currently on Rotten Tomatoes, based off nine reviews. A zero. Zilch. Nada. It’s not a bad film, at least not in the sense like a Transformers movie is, but I can see why people may dislike it; it very much steers away from the tone and satire the first film so brilliantly blended and is basically just a slapstick version of Indiana Jones with alternate dimensions. Hell, based on what I just said, that doesn’t sound too bad. I suspect that the watering down the horror elements and making it more zany and whacky is why critics didn’t seem to like it at all. Geez, it’s like they wanted a carbon copy of the first film, but with different actors… because that works so well with other franchises.
Okay, maybe they toned it down just a little too much, because despite that PG-13 rating it has (back when that meant something), House II is pretty much a kid’s movie. As I said, much of the horror is gone and mostly used for cheap and quick boo scares and the slapstick comedy is ramped up and the lead character is even given a whacky sidekick. Mix that in with a drinking elderly mummy from the Old West who speaks with a ‘oh-gee-shucks’ style and a cute puppy/caterpillar hybrid (yes, that is something that exists in this movie) and there ya go. The only thing I could think of that kept House II from getting a PG rating is the constant drinking going on in nearly every scene. There’s so much drinking in this movie that even my liver was killed by all the alcohol consumption.
Not taking place in the same house, but a different house (the movie is called House II, afterall). This time, it’s a rather large mansion that Jesse (Arye Gross… I don’t know, ‘ar ye’?) inherits, so he moves in along with his girlfriend Kate (Friday the 13th Part VII’s Lar Park Lincoln) along with his goofy friend Charlie (Jonathan Stark) and his wanna be popstar girlfriend Lana (Amy Yasbeck). I’m gonna talk about this subplot now, because at about halfway through the film the it’s dropped like a son dad is ashamed to talk about at Thanksgiving dinner. Kate is a record producer and Lana just so happens to be quite the singer, so Charlie and Lana are in hopes of getting her signed on to a record deal. Lucky for them, Kate’s boss (played by Bill Maher of all people) has the hots for her and listens to what she says and, well, that’s about it really. Once there is a misunderstanding with one of Jesse’s ex-girlfriends at a party about halfway through the movie, Bill Maher just puts his arms around the girls and escorts them and himself out of the movie. This is never really resolved, but then again it’s not really that interesting. Jesse and Kate barely share any screen time, so there’s no chemistry between the two. I also want to mention that it took me forever to recognize Jonathan Stark was the badass, undead Billy Cole in Fright Night!
The interesting stuff revolves around Jesse and Charlie’s misadventures once they learn about something called the crystal skull after seeing it in a photo with Jesse’s great-great grandfather also named Jesse (Royal Dano). Figuring the skull was probably buried with him, the two decide to go dig him up and find that he’s not only a mummy, but still very much alive. After Jesse reveals their connection and christian him with the nickname Gramps, they take him back to the house where they spend a good time in the basement shooting the shit, drinking some beers and hearing Old West stories. It’s a pretty charming scene and Jesse and Charlie seem so enthralled by Gramps’ stories. Upon seeing his own reflection, Gramps is heartbroken that the skull kept him alive, but did not restore his youth like he had hoped. I should also point out at this time that the skull’s powers are never fully disclosed, but just vaguely given. Very vaguely. I think the most descript explanation it’s given is along the lines of “it’s powerful.”
Oh, Gramps also informs Jesse that the house has multiple portals to alternate dimensions and he now has to protect the skull from danger and all this other nonsense. Jesse doesn’t say anything, he just kinda accepts it and everything in every dimension must’ve noticed the rookie taking over, because they all start trying to nab the damn skull. Luckily Charlie just happened to bring a fucking Uzi and enter multiple dimensions, like a prehistoric one where they befriend a baby pterodactyl that even comes to live with them, because funny! They even rescue some virgin babe she not only becomes a Mayan sacrifice, but also because Jesse now needs a love interest. However, there is a darker force looming over them, willing to get the skull at any cost… the zombie corpse of a man named Slim, Gramps’ old rival. Slim gunned down Jesse’s parents at the very beginning of the film at an attempt to get the skull, now Jesse, Gramps and Charlie get some payback and protect the skull at all cost or Slim will take over the world… I guess? His plans are unclear, but it probably won’t be good.
By far, the best part of the movie comes in form of John Ratzenberger (this film’s Cheers’ cast member cameo) as an electrician who also happens to be an adventurer. Yeah, this is a full time gig for him, both the wiring in your house and the multiple dimensions, swashbuckling, rope swinging and treasure hunting. He’s so nonchalant about it and plays it very low key, like he’s seen it so many times that he’s no longer impressed by it. At the end of it, he hands the boys his business card, which feels very much like a potential spinoff I would still love to see. His performance is very hysterical and in his brief time on screen, you’ll want more of him and beg for his further adventures and honestly, that’s what House III should have been instead of the series trying to get back to its horror roots.
As like in House, House II also has a majority of impressive practical effects and a handful of not so good ones, the most impressive being the mummy or zombie makeup on Gramps and Slim. Gramps isn’t gross or decaying, but rather dried out looking fitting into his cowboy motif and hey, it won’t scare the kids. That’s left up to Slim’s design, which is decaying and much more darker and wetter looking, plus Megatron himself, Frank Welker, does the voice! The animal puppets, like the dog/caterpillar and the pterodactyl, are wide eyes and cute looking as opposed to looking like the monstrosities they actually would resemble to further indicate the movie’s intention to reach a younger audience. I know every kid would want a stuffed toy of the dog/caterpillar, but alas the marketing department screwed the pooch on that one, for lack of a better pun.
The film is paired with the first film in a double box set in the US (the UK got all four House films in their box set), House: Two Stories released by Arrow Video. Like the first film, House II is also a 2K remaster that looks absolutely fantastic, but also like the first film, doesn’t have much in the way of special features. There is a pretty indepth feature called It’s Getting Weirder!: The Making of House II: The Second Storyfeaturing interviews with Ethan Wiley, Sean S. Cunningham, stars Arye Gross, Jonathan Stark, Lar Park Lincoln, and Devin DeVasquez, composer Harry Manfredini, special make-up and creature effects artists Chris Walas, Mike Smithson, visual effects supervisor Hoyt Yeatman, and stunt coordinator Kane Hodder. Writer-director Ethan Wiley and producer Sean S. Cunningham provide a new commentary and a theatrical trailer and a still gallery round it out. There’s also some stunning new artwork by Justin Osbourn.
House II: The Second Story is a comedy right from the get-go. I mean, look at the pun right in the title. The title not only implies humor, but adventure as well and that’s exactly what we get and is it a perfect combination of the two? I’m gonna have to say no, but I don’t think it’s terrible either. In fact, I think the majority of it is fun, but there are moments that are rather childish (backing up my argument that this was aimed towards children) or poorly paced moments that make it feel dragged out. The feeling that this was aimed at a more younger, more marketable audience and the seemingly loosely connected adventures gives the film a feeling like it’s a handful of episodes of a failed TV show in the late ‘80s strung together and re-released as a movie so the company can try and recoup some of the financial losses. Hell, even John Ratzenberger’s character felt like he was shoehorned in as an attempt at a spinoff. The funny thing is, if they actually went for the PG rating and released this as a kid’s movie, I have a feeling it would have been far more successful.
House II, while not as good as its predecessor, still has some merit and can be a feel good, fun adventure even if it does feel a little childish.The characters are likable and have great chemistry together and honestly, I wouldn’t have minded seeing more. I can’t say the same for the other two films that follow and un(?)fortunately, House III (aka The Horror Show) and House IV aren’t included in the US Arrow set, The Two Stories. However, if you’re a completist, you may wanna get the UK version of this set that includes all four films.
(Submitted by Mr. Andrew Peters…Thanks, my Ho-use-lovin’ ho-mie! 🙂 xoxo)
Where have all the good haunted house movies gone to, huh? I’m talking about the ones that are both fun and scary, the ones that are worth a laugh and a fright. Goes back to the old saying, “they just don’t make them like they used to.” I’m not complaining that all haunted house movies are bad, in fact some of them have been pretty darn good in the past few years, but they are horror rather than horror comedy. Well, unless you count those family friendly ones that occupy the Redbox that are neither scary nor funny. Admittedly, it’s a hard combination to juggle without getting too campy, but 1986’s House, while a little campy, nicely balances that fine line of horror and comedy.
Sean S. Cunningham, the producer of 1972’s The Last House on the Left and director of 1980’s Friday the 13th knows a thing or two about horror, so when he was attached to produce House, it may come off as puzzling to some since those films had such dark and serious tones. However, what people don’t know is that Roger Corman was an executive producer, so that could explain the camp factor. Staying with the Friday the 13th connection, Steve Miner, who had directed Friday the 13th Part 2 was at the helm directing a script by Fred Dekker (who would go on to make movies, like Monster Squad and Night of the Creeps) and Ethan Wiley, so this could explain why the movie nearly flawlessly handles the genres. You throw in Sean S. Cunningham’s buddy and composer Harry Manfredini and it’s safe to say that the film was in good hands. Of course, this was before Steve Miner directed terrible films, like Halloween: H20 or that abysmally insulting Day of the Dead remake, so this is before his decline when he was actually making good movies.
The Greatest American Hero star William Katt plays Roger Cobb, a writer who has a few issues (hey, you wouldn’t be a writer if you didn’t, right?). For starters, his kid suddenly vanished one day in the swimming pool and he couldn’t hold it together, so his hot actress wife, Sandy Sinclair (Kay Lenz) leaves him. Then his nutty aunt Elizabeth hangs herself in a big ol’ spooky mansion, the very one where his kid went missing. Roger inherits the house and decides to move in, because what better place to write his book based on his Vietnam experiences than a house he already has numerous traumatic connections with? After all, good writers pull from real life tragedies, but I think he may be overdoing it here. When he’s not pretending he’s throwing big parties while on the phone with his ex-wife, he’s possibly hallucinating his dead aunt marching around the house. So if he’s not seeing dead people, he’s dressing up in his old combat gear to try and having Vietnam flashbacks. I assure you, Roger isn’t crazy, but the film is setting up a rather interesting piece of character development that would be considered ahead of its time.
Norm from Cheers (George Wendt) is his neighbor Harold who stops by to play the comic relief, otherwise we’d have a very down trodden Vietnam metaphor movie on our hands. He may provide us, the audience, with laughs, but he tends to get on Roger’s nerves when he isn’t providing beer or snacks. More often than not, Harold is a distraction from Roger’s writing at convenient times, like when he’s having some serious Vietnam flashbacks about some big ox of a soldier name Ben (Richard Moll). After Ben was wounded in combat, Roger couldn’t bring himself to finish Ben off, so he was subsequently dragged away by the enemy and tortured for weeks. It something that seems to haunt him, but now that haunting may seem to be manifesting physically as one night a monster pops out of the closet and claws at Roger’s torso! Knowing nobody will believe him, he knows that he will need evidence, but only makes himself look nuttier than a Payday in the process, wiring and rigging a number of cameras to go off right when he pulls a string and does the Pete Townsend powerslides on his knees out the front door and then reality kicks him hard in the nards as he’s just sitting there with Harold staring at him. Awkward.
Nobody believes poor Roger that some pugnacious hauntings are happening. Not Harold, not Sandy. Nobody. Could it all be in Roger’s head? That’s what you along with the other characters are starting to think at this point and it’s probably the most brilliant aspect of this movie. Long before it had a name it could be identified with, House was ahead of its time and was bringing attention to PTSD. I have to commend William Katt’s performance, because he really brings emotion of someone losing their grip on reality to the forefront here. As he pleads with Harold or whoever that the monsters are real, beads of sweat roll down his face, his voice cracks and you can see and hear the desperation that he just wants someone to believe him. Even when he is by himself being chased around the house by the specters, you start to wonder if it really is all in his head or if it’s happening. When he imagines his ex-wife stopping by and turning into a weird, blobbish, twisted version of her, he shoots it only to see it may really be his wife, you figure he’s definitely lost it and he killed someone. He breaks down in tears, but all is not as it seems as the monster rears its ugly head once again and this time, he cuts it up and buries it. The scene goes from being boo-scary, to horrifying (in the sense that he may have murdered a person) to funny, so the film wants to not only play with tone, but to also play with your expectations.
Not giving up, Roger is determined to make someone believe him and who better than Harold? After finally witnessing some sort of ghoul, Harold fails at helping Roger who is dragged into the closet and teleported to what looks like the Vietnam war where he comes across his missing son, but that’s not the only one. It seems like a familiar face, as rotten and decayed as it may not be, but familiar nonetheless, was responsible for kidnapping his son and now it wants revenge. Roger is now pitted against an old frenemy as he battles for his son and possibly his own sanity and really if you look at it like the events are all happening in Roger’s head, the film still works as a drama comedy instead of a horror comedy. I think that’s one of the best things about House, is that no matter how you perceive it, the film still works as that genre. Regardless of what was actually happening, it’s still about Roger’s struggle with the effects of war and coping with the loss of his son. It also just happens to be about spoopy ghosts.
Some of these ghosts are downright ghastly, like the closet monster with its many arms or the monster version of his ex-wife that has a high pitched, distorted voice that makes me feel uncomfortable, while others… eh, not so much. The two children monsters that come out of the chimney look dreadful in the wrong way. Their mouths and eyes don’t move, they look cheap and rubbery. In the midst of this fun film with great creature effects, you get these two that looks like the budget ran out, so they had to run to the Halloween store and get some cheap costumes. They aren’t prominently displayed on screen or featured very long, so it’s not very troublesome, but for the brief period of time they are on screen they can be an eyesore. Perhaps the best looking makeup effect is that of Ben all zomb-i-fied. Basically, take the look of Jason from Friday the 13th Part VII and slap some Vietnam garb on on Bull from Night Court and there ya go. He has exposed bones and organs, he looks dusty yet slimey, it’s absolutely fantastic looking.
Some of these effects may look less impressive on the new 2K restoration from Arrow Video. While the film itself looks marvelous, what with edges being sharp and colors being bright and vivid, it suffers a bit from looking too good. Often there were times you could see the faults in the makeup or prosthetics, like being able to see actor Richard Moll’s mouth painted black behind the false teeth of zombie Ben. It’s a minor nitpick and didn’t ruin my experience of the film. If anything, I was happy to finally view the film nice and clean for the first time, seeing as the only viewing experience I’ve ever had is my old VHS copy. The audio commentary by director Steve Miner, producer Sean S. Cunningham, actor William Katt and screenwriter Ethan Wiley is a good listen, providing some insight and memories on the making of the movie. Speaking of making the movie, there’s a great feature included called Ding Dong, You’re Dead! The Making of House that includes interviews with Steve Miner, Sean S. Cunningham, Ethan Wiley, story creator Fred Dekker, stars William Katt, Kay Lenz, and George Wendt, composer Harry Manfredini, special make-up and creature effects artists Barney Burman, Brian Wade, James Belohovek, Shannon Shea, Kirk Thatcher, and Bill Sturgeon, special paintings artists Richard Hescox and William Stout, and stunt coordinator Kane Hodder. Trailers and a still gallery round out the features.
I don’t think House is overlooked, but I think some have forgotten about or others may think it’s just a jump scare horror film, which it is, but it’s more than that. House has a message, something to say about the then unnamed PTSD and how some Veterans are affected by it and struggle. It’s also a charming comedy with plenty of likable characters and funny moments. In the wrong hands, this film could have been a disaster. A lesser cast and crew would have failed at juggling all the themes and ideas, but luckily you had a handful of talented people treating it with care and having a lot of fun that translates on the screen. The film is an absolute riot. It’s witty, charming as well as being scary and funny. I can’t think of many other films that are able to do all of that as well House. The film is packaged here in the states along with its sequel, House II: The Second Story, in a neat little box called House: The Two Stories. Although the UK got all four House films in their boxset (I’m guessing the US couldn’t due to rights issues), I’m happy at least the first film got a proper Blu-ray treatment. Well, maybe the second film too.