Movie Review: DOLLY DEAREST

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dolly dearestTrimark Pictures
1991
R

“I want my dolly!”

Stand back, everybody, as I’m about to nerd all over you again. Because this movie we’re reviewing today stars Denise Crosby, who is known in Star Trek fandom as both Lt. Tasha Yar and her own daughter Sela on The Next Generation. Mind you, her acting career stretches over a decade before then, but there’s no life before Star Trek for some geeks. Or after, sometimes. To horror fans, she’s known famously for playing the mother in the original Pet Semetary movie in 1989. But, this isn’t a review of that good movie. No, this is a review of the schlocky possessed evil doll movie Dolly Dearest.

In Dolly Dearest, an enterprising American Guy purchases a quaint doll factory in Mexico. He probably got it cheep due to its proximity to an ancien Mayan burial tomb for an entity with a name that translates as “Satan on Earth”. After he and his family — his wife (Denise Crosby!) and young daughter — arrive, they all check out the factory, which, as it turns out, leaves a bit to be desired. But, they discover a bunch of pristine leftover dolls, and one of them is given to the daughter. this doll manage to creep out their housekeeper, because DOLLS ARE CREEPY. Those soulless eyes, staring at you, unblinking, emotionless, you know they’re watching you as you sleep…

Okay, I’m back, after hyperventilating in the corner a bit. Where were we? Right, then…

Seems that, due to the close proximity to the fenced off bomb cave of Satan on Earth — and also because of a recent mishap while unearthing the remains of this delightful sounding corpse — the girl’s new dolly has been set to EVIL, and is trying to possess the kid. As dolls tend to do.

In the pantheon of “evil doll/toys” movies to come out in that time period, Dolly Dearest is probably the lamest of the bunch. It’s dull, slow-moving and about as tension-filled as a tea break with your great-grandma. It gets a bit more entertaining when all the dolls come alive and it’s evident the effects doing so are not exactly up to snuff. The big highlight here is Rip Torn, who plays an archaeologist and tries his darnedest to maintain a plausible accent. Otherwise, I found myself checking the clock on my phone way too often while trying to get through this Child’s Play knockoff. Pass on this one.

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Movie Review: The HOUSE THAT WOULD NOT DIE

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house that would not die, theAaron Spelling Productions / ABC
1970
NR

A few years back, I bought one of these 20 Horror Movies for $5 packs from Wal-Mart. Among the list of titles included was this old gem, The House That Would Not Die.

Originally broadcast as an ABC Movie Of The Week in 1970, The House That Would Not Die is one of those made for TV horror movies that really are a different beast all together. I have a soft spot for these kind of horror movies, as it is a bit of a challenge to produce an effectively made horror flick within the confines of the acceptable broadcast television rules. Meaning, drafting something with talent rather than relying on cheep shock value. Some rather good Gothic ghost stories have come from these Movie Of The Week formats. So, how does The House That Would Not Die fare?

The story revolves around a house (duh) that was built during the Revolutionary War in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, that is said to be haunted by the spirits of the original inhabitants. The house is inherited by one Ruth Bennett, who moves in with her niece Sara. The aforementioned spirits don’t take too kindly to this invasion of their personal space, and so the wackiness does ensue, thus leading to the two living beings and a local professor to delves into the history behind the house and deal with the scandal that lead to the haunting. Oh, and Sara and the professor get possessed by the spirits as well at one point.

The House That Wouldn’t Die, despite the cheeseball title, is actually a pretty decent old fashioned ghost story that works more on the atmospheric level than the visceral scare level. I’m not saying The House That Wouldn’t Die is a great movie. It’s really just okay, having that early 1970s broadcast television quality to it. No effects beyond superimposing film image for that “ghost possession” look, the film quality grainy, and the acting reminding me of an episode of Little House On The Prairie. It’s worth a rental, at the very least.

Movie Review: The BLACKCOAT’S DAUGHTER

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Movie Review BLACKCOAT'S DAUGHTER, TheA24
2015
R

During the dead of winter, a troubled young woman embarks on a mysterious journey to an isolated prep school where two stranded students face a sinister threat from an unseen evil force.

Director Oz Perkins seems to be a name I should be watching out for, if his movie output that I’ve seen is any indication. So far, he’s only directed two movies: I Am The Pretty Thing That Lives In The House and this particular movie here, The Blackcoat’s Daughter, and I’ve only seen this one out of the two. But, just by watching The Blackcoat’s Daughter, I’m taken in by his rather potent slow-burning and intense style of horror movie making, something that has not been seen or experienced for a long time in this modern age.

I first heard about The Blackcoat’s Daughter in my standard way, from the rather good press given by some of the online reviewers I frequent. When I first heard of the title, The Blackcoat’s Daughter, I thought it was going to be another period piece, like The VVitch. The word “blackcoat” is normally a disparaging term for a clergyman, so I thought maybe another Ye Olde Timey tale of Puritan shenanigans. Or something like that. But, instead, it’s set at a Catholic boarding school in modern-ish times. Either way, I watched it, and here’s what I thought of it:

In The Blackcoat’s Daughter, it’s break time at a Catholic boarding school in upstate New York, and all the girls there have been picked up by their parents…except young Kat and the older girl Rose, whose parents haven’t shown up yet. The later of the two just gave her parents the wrong information so she could tell her boyfriend she might be pregnant; the former has had some disturbing dreams about her parents getting into a horrible car accident on the way to get her, so that may be what’s keeping them from showing up on time. With only them and a couple of nuns that live adjacent to the school there, Rose is given the task of looking after Kat. And so she does whatever any older sister-type would do: Tells Kat a story about the nuns at the school being devil worshipers, then leaving her alone for a date. Meanwhile, an apparent escapee from a mental institution has arrived at a bus stop late at night, and hitches a ride with an altruistic man and his wife. Meanwhile, back at the boarding school, Kat has been acting rather odd, which may have something to do with acting out because her parents haven’t shown up or called…or maybe she got possessed by the devil. Anyway, evil shenanigans ensue, people suddenly find themselves losing their heads (literally), and by the power of non-linear storytelling, the twist is…underwhelming, but still effective.

Overall, The Blackcoat’s Daughter was a very effective, very intense and atmospheric psychological horror movie that was wisely allowed to build slowly, creating a very tense atmosphere that didn’t rely on jump scares or loud music stings to freak out the crowd. This movie gets under your skin, and takes its time doing so, much like Rosemary’s Baby and The Omen. The story is also written in a way that, like the classic The Turn Of The Screw, you don’t know if there really is a supernatural evil influencing things, or if the girl in question is merely mentally unbalanced. Admittedly, the “twist” ending probably won’t do much for you, but by the end of the movie, you will be left drained and quite effected by how things unraveled. This movie stuck in my head long after watching, which makes this one of the better movie’s I’ve seen in a while.

Highly Recommended.

Movie Review: ARMY OF THE DAMNED

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movie-review_-army-of-the-damnedScreen Media Films
2013
R

When a pair of small town cops go radio silent on a routine call a police chief must go in to investigate. The search and rescue mission becomes a fight of epic proportions when those sent in to help are confronted with a force they’ve never seen before–an army of the dead. With tones of zombie action — Army Of The Damned is a gruesome battle sure to scare the hell out of you!

I love it when a DVD back cover blurb makes such grandiose claims as the one accompanying this here movie, Army Of The Damned. That’s why I usually like to include them at the lead-in for the reviews I write, so we can all see what the promise is and what the reality turns out to be. Especially when we’re considering horror movies. Like this one. Army Of The Damned.

Essentially, Army Of The Damned is more or less an attempt by Godsmack vocalist Sully Ema to parlay himself as a horror movie star. I mean, the guy’s a practicing Wiccan, sings about dark stuff with his band, and…um, is from New England, I guess. It’s not the first time a rock star has been in a horror movie. He is in pretty good company in the film, as horror film icons Michael Berryman (who, among others, was in two Motley Crue videos in the 1980s) and Tony Todd factor in among the cast. I could also point out that former boy band heartthrob Joey Fatone is in here too, but he’s not so much a horror icon as he was an icon of the soundtracks to every 12-year-old girl in the 1990s. It’s good to see he’s found work.

Anyway, Army Of The Damned is one of those horror movies that tries to be more than just the sum of its parts, shoehorning comedy into the mix. What results is a bit of a mess, but it’s a fascinating mess to watch play out in front of you. On the positive side of things, at least they didn’t go with the typical zombies in a house type of story; instead, these are somewhat alive bodies that were taken over by an evil entity of sorts. The acting is about as what you would expect in a low budget flick like this; hammy, not really taking things seriously, while getting more misses than hits going on. The highlight here is Michael Berryman’s character of the older retired police officer that has tangled with the entity before, and is now a reclusive crazy man stowing away guns for when the time comes to fight the evil again. Tony Todd is mostly in his “I’m the badass” mode, and that’s not bad. Outside of that, everyone else seems filler, though to be fair, Sully does his best to inject some personality into his character. He’s better than most, I will admit.

Overall, though, Army Of The Damned wasn’t a complete waste of time. It’s the fun kind of quirky bad that got a few chuckles out of me, whether it was intentional or not. It works the best when the gore-drenched action hits in the third act, and we get to see everything go up in deranged glory. Of course, the X-Files rip off that was the ending seemed out of place, but why not?

You like bad movies that go for something more than the usual zombies/vampire/satanic cult vibe, and tries so hard it’s rather adorable? Check out Army Of The Damned some time.

Movie Review: The CONJURING

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1-15 - Movie Review: The CONJOURINGNew Line Cinema
2013
R

“When the music stops, you’ll see him in the mirror standing behind you.”

Paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren work to help a family terrorized by a dark presence in their farmhouse. Forced to confront a powerful entity, the Warrens find themselves caught in the most terrifying case of their lives.

I’ll just get this out of the way fist thing: I feel a great big opportunity was missed by not utilizing the Megadeth song “The Conjuring” as part of this movie’s soundtrack. Sure, The Conjuring (the movie) was stylized as a period piece set in the 1970s, and using a metal song written in 1986 would have made no sense aesthetically; and sure, there might be a snag getting permission to use the song in the first place, what with Dave Mustaine all but disavowing the song due to his faith. Still, it would have made a nice end credits capper to an otherwise rather decent horror movie.

At this point, if it’s a horror movie, and James Wan’s name is anywhere near it, I’m all over it like a diabetic on insulin. And before you all start hitting me with the accusations of being an insensitive jerk, let me point out that I happen to be one of those big, fat Type 2 Diabetic people. Sure, I take Metformin rather than insulin, but still. Buggar off.

Now, where was I? Oh, right. The review.

Back in the mythical year of 1971, a magical time where everyone was suffering from the grand hangover from the 1960s, a family moves into an old farm house in Rhode Island. After discovering a boarded up entrance to a cellar, weird stuff starts happening in the house: all the clocks stopping at 3:97am, one of the kids feeling a weird tugging on her leg while trying to sleep, mystery sounds in the hallway, the pictures falling by some force…and, oh yeah, the dog ends up dying mysteriously. So, they decide to get professional paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren to check out what’s going on with the house. Turns out that it once belonged to an accused witch who sacrificed her baby to the devil and killed herself back in 1863, but not until placing a curse that would effect all who try to take her land. Which is something the Realtor should have outlined in the pamphlet while showing them the place, you would think. Since that time, it’s been the site of numerous murders and suicide deaths. Wackiness ensues when they decide to exorcise the house, causing all sorts of possession and murder attempts. Oh, and that blasted doll Annabelle comes into play for a bit as well, though not as much as you would have liked.

First off, I want to point out that I’m aware of the whole controversy surrounding the Warrens and their claims of true-life paranormal investigations. I’m also familiar with the scandals and exposure as frauds. I usually take the whole “based on a true story” tags on movies with a massive amount of salt in any case. Even biopics using the actual people they’re filming about as advisers I watch with some healthy skepticism. With The Conjuring, I more or less went into it as a straight-up horror movie, with no ties to any kind of “true story”. Really, if the story is good, who cares whether or not it’s based on something true?

And The Conjuring is a very good horror movie. When it’s all said and done, it’s a very well-shot and well-made retro style horror movie that builds the atmosphere effectively and utilizes practical effects to enhance the dread and horror. The period setting added to the feel of the film, and the acting was rather good. Overall, while I wouldn’t say it’s a keeper, I definitely would say you could watch it more than once and still get some enjoyment out of it.