Halloween Countdown: horror mini-reviews (part 3)

This week, let’s look at a few 80s horror movies, and also a handful of 1930s horror classics. As always, my ratings are what I think the films should be rated on IMDb.

Child’s Play (1988)
Creepy little doll. A minor horror classic of the 80s. There is a risk of this scenario being silly and laughable, but that wasn’t the case for me. Was actually quite effective.
Rating 7.7

The Lost Boys (1987)
Rewatch. I didn’t get what the big deal was, when I saw this 80s classic 2-3 years ago. So I gave it a second chance. It has atmosphere, and a cool soundtrack(Cry Little Sister is a highlight), but Joel Schumacher was never a great director.
Rating 7.0

Near Dark (1987)
Directed by Kathryn Bigelow. The first 15 minutes are effective, but the rest didn’t engage me to the same degree. I thought the story was a bit weak. Just a group of vampires going around killing. The scene when vampires get burnt by the sun was well-done. But the whole kidnapping thing, why would the vampires risk their lives in daylight for that? Bill Paxton in maybe his best performance. I’m surprised Near Dark is considered among Kathryn Bigelow’s best films, to me it’s decent, yet overrated. Maybe I should rewatch it some day.
Enjoyed the score by Tangerine Dream.
Rating 6.5

The Fog (1980)
Not one of John Carpenter’s best, and honestly difficult to keep a straight face. The fog effects are pretty good, and does a fine job of concealing the evil. Useful when you have a small budget.
Rating 6.0

Day of the Dead (1985)
We get to see a doctor operating and conducting experiments on zombies, in order to alter their behavior.
The gore effects are very realistic, for example when a zombie gets a drill to the head, or a guy’s head is ripped off.
Not a bad zombie movie, but ultimately, I think this third entry in Romero’s trilogy is the weakest of the three.
Favorite quote: “It takes more energy to keep quiet, than it does to speak the mind. Go ahead, let go of what you’ve got now”
Loved the opening theme
Rating 6.7

Tremors (1990)
Rewatch. It has some cheesy, cliche dialogue, but the special effects are good. At first the attacks are scary, but after a while not so much. Maybe they got the idea from Return of the Jedi, the sand creature in the desert? What kept me watching is the enemy seems impossible to defeat. The ending is stupid, though, how do they know how many are left?
Rating 7.0

Sisters (1973)
Brian de Palma horror/thriller. Features a number of surprises. The split screen scenes may annoy, I felt that added to the suspense. The birthday cake scenes were memorable. The twist I managed to guess pretty early on, but a good movie. People have complained the Quebecois accent sounds Parisian, I guess only Canadians would be bothered by that. Another minor complaint is the blood is unrealistic and too red.
Rating 7.5

Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde (1931)
Great acting, great screenplay, great visuals. Enjoyed this adaptation of the classic story by Robert Louis Stevenson. Especially the first half hour I was hooked. The rest is good too, and is all about the performance of Fredric March. It’s astonishing he played both roles, during the movie, I thought it was a different actor playing Mr Hyde.
I’m going to have to track down the other films by director Rouben Mamoulian, Queen Christina (1933), and The Mark of Zorro (1940).
Rating 7.7

The Old Dark House (1932)
Many of these 30s Universal horror films are only about 65-70 minutes long, so you get through them quickly. By director James Whale, who made the classic Frankenstein movies. This is regarded as among the best of his other films.
A group of travelers are caught in a storm. The residents of the old house are creepy, the butler (an unrecognizable Boris Karloff) speaking a language we can’t understand.
It isn’t scary by today’s standards, but is good for pacing. We are slowly introduced to the ensemble, and I wanted to know what happens to the characters. While it may not have any stand-out scenes, in some ways it’s a film about prejudice and openness, when you meet new people.
Favorite quote: “I could do with a drink. If people have to be soaked, they should be soaked inside, not out”
Here we are, six people, sitting around, and we’ve been talking now for nearly two hours. What do we know about each other? Not a thing.
Rating 7.2

The Invisible Man (1933)
Directed by James Whale. Tricky to review, because the special effects are amazing, and deserve 10/10. It’s a pity the story is just ok.
The freedom of doing what you want when you’re invisible is quite mind-blowing, but also a lonely place to be, because other people are scared of your appearance.
The story is simplified by having him insane. To me would have been more interesting, if he was sane.
On a side note, the innkeepers wife’s screaming is seriously annoying.
Rating 7.5

The Wolf Man (1941)
The story feels contrived, but on second thoughts, as with The Wicker Man (1973), I get the feeling events are pre-planned, that what happens was meant to be.
Most of the film is the build-up, once we see the werewolf, unfortunately the creature doesn’t really do that much. Bonus points for the cute girl.
Rating 7.2

Island of Lost Souls (1932)
Loved the opening credits, with the water splashing over the text. It draws you in with its atmosphere, especially the first half hour. But it kind of lost believability, when Dr Moreau talks of animals converted to human form, because they don’t look like that.
Favorite quote: “Say, what is all this mystery about Moreau and his island? I don’t know. If I did know, maybe I’d want to forget”
Rating 7.4

Agree or disagree? Have you watched any of the above? Which horror films do you plan to watch this October?
Next week, I’ll blog about horror again, Japanese & South Korean, Vincent Price horror from 1960s, and a couple of Peter Jackson’s splatter movies, stay tuned!

18 thoughts on “Halloween Countdown: horror mini-reviews (part 3)

  1. Like you I remember when 'Lost Boys' came out. It was such a big deal, but I didn't get it then or now. It was ok. It had a great soundtrack though. I would have thought 'Pet Semetary' deserved a rewatch. I saw that movie as a preteen and it scared me so badly.


  2. @msmariah: Yeah, The Lost Boys is ok, but I wish another director had been on board, might have improved the overall package. A fond childhood memory for many of the fans I guess.
    As for Pet Semetary, never seen it, I'll go and youtube the trailer, thanks for the tip!


  3. Ahah, I just saw Tremors recently as part of a blogathon. I quite enjoyed it actually. I did see The Lost Boys in High School which I thought was pretty cool. Funny that now one of the punk vampires grew up to be Jack Bauer, ahahaha.

    Fun mini reviews Chris!


  4. @Ruth: Tremors and The Lost Boys are quite entertaining, both I felt were worthy of a rewatch. Yep, Kiefer Sutherland has been around the block 🙂
    Thank you!


  5. I saw Lost Boys when it came to video so I was the right age to like it. The attitude and music were great at the time. I also like Tremors. It was probably inspired by the classic science fiction novel Dune, not The Return of the Jedi. And they knew how many creatures were left because the seismologist had picked up their movements on her equipment and knew there were four.

    The Invisible Man is a classic and I like it, while The Wolf Man didn't do as much for me.

    I haven't seen Near Dark since it came to video (around 25 years ago) so I should do a rewatch on that one.


  6. @Chip Lary: You could well be right Dune was an inspiration for Tremors. Thanks for your take on the ending. To me it was just odd that everything was suddenly alright. Maybe there are more tremors further away, which her equipment didn’t read. It all felt so naïve to me, that they behaved as if there was no threat anymore. I guess that's the way it goes in movies.

    I prefer The Invisible Man over The Wolf Man as well.

    Curious to read what you think of Near Dark, if you review it.


  7. I felt that when I saw The Lost Boys that it was the future of horror. In a bad way. It was 15 rated for starters and really tame. It was released at a time when censorship was a tad harsh to say the least. So this level of horror seemed to be all that I'd got to look forward to. Thankfully Braindead appeared and things have relaxed. Phew.

    Tremors is a pretty great film because it's fun. It may be stupid but it's entertainingly stupid. Sisters sounds good as does The Old Dark House. Will have to add them to my watchlist.


  8. @Keith: I just saw Braindead (1992), and will review it next week, it managed to wow me.
    I agree Tremors is fun.
    The Old Dark House is good, a different kind of horror than today, it goes for a creepy atmosphere. Sisters was enjoyable. Hope you like those, and I'lll look out for your reviews.


  9. So great to hear you watched Braindead – it certainly wowed me to, I watched it some time this summer.
    Haven't seen any of these movies here but I'm going to watch The Invisible Man and Wolf Man for the Lambcast and Near Dark also sounds interesting (mainly because I like Kathryn Bigelow). My favorite horror movies that I caught up on this month are Alien and Aliens but yeah, they're like sci-fi landmarks so I did expect that. Ju-On: The Grudge is pretty interesting too, if you're into Japanese horror.


  10. Loooooove Tremors, Lost Boys and Child's Play. Glad I'm not the only one to find Near Dark underwhelming. Haven't seen The Fog but had heard good things. Interesting to hear you found it a bit laughable.


  11. @Mette: Braindead is the best “splatter” horror film I've ever seen. Just wow.
    Near Dark is ok, but for me it didn't quite live up to the “classic of the 80s” reputation.
    I have the The Grudge on my list, if I don't see it this year, I'll save it for next Halloween.
    I didn't know Lambcast are discussing The Invisible Man and Wolf Man, I'll give that a listen, when its available.
    Alien and Aliens are great, glad you enjoyed those, yeah, I think people disgree on the genre.


  12. @Pete Turner: Great you love those horror movies! Near Dark was underwhelming, but I suppose it does have a few good scenes, and a nice soundtrack.
    The Fog is worth a look, I've heard praise for it, so maybe I'm in the minority not liking it, who knows.


  13. Out of these, I have only seen Child's Play and The Fog. I agree with your analysis of the latter, and I would even give it the exact same score. An OK film, but not one of Carpenter's best. As for Child's Play, I want to revisit that this month. I haven't seen it since I was a kid.


  14. Eric @ The Warning Sign: Yeah, The Fog is decent, but not as great as Carpenter's best.
    I didn't know what to expect from Child's Play (1988),never saw any of the films from that series, I was pleasantly surprised, and to me it holds up.


  15. Nice round-up. Glad you liked Sisters. I really want to watch Island of Lost Souls, The Old Dark House, The Wolf Man, The Invisble Man and Dr. Jekyl and Mr. Hyde. I'm way behind on classic horror films. 🙂


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