Movie Review: GHOULS

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ghoulsSci-Fi Channel
2008
R

“I’ve been shot once today. Don’t shoot me again.”

The Sci-Fi Channel — now known as SyFy for almost ten years now — hasn’t had much of a track record when it comes to their original films. They tend to work best when they embrace the cheese-laden B-movie style and not take things too seriously. Unfortunately, the movie we’re reviewing today isn’t one of those.

Ghouls was originally broadcast on the then-named Sci-Fi Channel in 2008. I really had no idea this movie existed until just recently, when I watched it out of morbid curiosity one Saturday morning.

Gads was Ghouls a massive exercise in mediocrity. But, I’m getting ahead of things again. So, let’s relive this pile of tripe, then.

The film begins with a woman being exorcised of bad CGI black cloud spirits by a bunch of monks, capturing some kind of entity in a stone. We then cut to a college girl jogging and listening to bad nu metal (you may think that sounds redundant, but believe me, what they use in this movie actually makes me pine for Korn instead). It’s here where we get a taste of just how bad the acting is, and where my heart sunk down deep into my colon, taking any glimmer of hope that there’s anything redeemable about this movie. She runs — literally and figuratively — into her father, who’s there to tell her that her Romanian Grandmother — whom she has never met or knew much about — has died, and they talk about going over to the Old Country for her funeral. Then we cut to a couple of Van Helsing cosplayers decked out in dusters and carrying shotguns, running around the woods shooting at the bad CGI spirits from the beginning of the film, once in a while lobbing flash grenades at them. Once in a while, those CGI spirits turn corporal, into what I described in my notebook as Party City costume ghouls. One of the cosplayers sacrifices himself to let the younger one get away. Then we cut back to the girl, her father and the father’s girlfriend arriving in Romania and being picked up by the father’s brother in his totally bitchin’ horse and wagon combo. They go to the Inn their family owns and mingle with the locals, having fun with tarot cards and being fed massive slabs of meats. Soon the weirdness begins happening with the girl having visions of a, *ahem*, ghoulish nature (pun intended, because I hate myself), and she runs into the surviving cosplayer, who informs her that she’s the CHOSEN ONE! to release the ghoul queen that the town worships and become her vessel. She has trouble believing him, but of course events transpire to prove he’s right, so they both run around the village to avoid the villagers, the ghouls and…other stuff. She’s eventually captured, the ritual to put the Ghoul Queen into her happens, and in a twist no one cares about, the Ghoul Queen girl takes out all of the villagers in one fell swoop, is stabbed and carried away by the cosplayer. The end.

Where to begin with this movie. Let’s start with the biggest glaring misstep this movie takes: Ghouls is shot entirely in daylight. While I have seen horror movies made in the daylight, and done well, Ghouls doesn’t work that way. Have you ever gone to a haunted house attraction where all of the lights turned on and is only open in the later part of the morning through the afternoon? Not as effective, at the very least, I would say. The same here. The ghouls and scary stuff is laughable due to the daylight. And it doesn’t help that the overall quality of the movie — the effects, the acting, the script — is the same as an episode of the early 90s television show Goosebumps. Only, Goosebumps was deliberately that way due to its viewer base. There’s no reason for this movie to be this way.

I’ve already expounded far too long on this movie. Calling Ghouls “formulaic” and “hack” would be an insult to formulaic hack movies. Pass this one up, you have better things to waste your life on.

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: KINGDOM OF THE SPIDERS

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kingdom of the spidersDimension Pictures
1977
PG

“Well, that would explain Spider Hill…”

In between the end of his career-defining run on the original Star Trek series and his return as Kirk in Star Trek: The Motion Picture, America’s favorite Canadian import William Shatner kept relatively busy by guest starring on several TV shows and starring in several TV movies and miniseries. Kingdom Of The Spiders was one of the more memorable TV movies of that period. Memorable for all the wrong reasons, mind you, but memorable none-the-less.

I remember seeing a commercial for a re-run broadcast of Kingdom Of The Spiders in 1979, when i was but a wee lad. It featured the clip of the guy in a bi-plane freaking out because his lap was crawling full of SPIDERS! AAAAHH! Of course, I wasn’t allowed to watch it, as I was five at the time, and it was on past my bedtime. Oh, and my parents were operating under the assumption that Kingdom Of The Spiders was “scary” or something. Anyway, it wasn’t until recently that I finally watched the movie, while recovering from a malady with my knees, through the magic of Amazon streaming.

In Kingdom Of The Spiders, William Shatner plays Doc “Rack” Hansen, a rural vet in Arizona whose days of vaccinatin’ cattle and sexual harassment of his assistance in doing so is interrupted by a call from a local farmer, whose calf as mysteriously fallen ill. After sending for a blood test to the university in Flagstaff, the science division send over one of their arachnologists to investigate, and for ol’ Doc “Rack” to hit on relentlessly. As you may have gleaned from the title of the movie, the spiders in the area seem to be organizing to hunt much bigger prey due to the spraying of pesticides having wiped out the spiders’ natural food supply. Next thing you know, they’re taking over the area, killing off livestock and people, and the mayor still doesn’t want to do anything to scare off the visitors that are going to come for the county fair that’s coming up. So, basically this is Jaws with tarantulas. Or something. Anyway, the population dwindles, and next thing you know everyone alive takes refuge inside the local Inn, only to wake up to the entire county being webbed over by their new spider overlords. The end.

Kingdom Of The Spiders is very much in keeping with other nature run amok horror movies that I’ve seen from that era. I’ve seen far more of these types of movies than I’m comfortable with, really. This one endures mostly due to the masterful thespian craft of William “It’s not a toupee, dammit” Shatner, who plays his veterinarian character much like he played Captain Kirk: a cocky manly-man who likes to chew the scenery as well as the ladies. This was a television movie, mind you, in case you forgot it being brought up a mere couple of paragraphs ago, so there really isn’t much by way of graphic and scary bits, beyond a bunch of live tarantulas wandering about and some people being webbed up. Mostly when the humans are attacked, they flail about with a bunch of spiders–who probably have no idea what’s going on in the first place–crawling about them, trying to hang on for dear life due to this human they were put on freaking out. The actors try to do the best they can with what they were given, with the melodrama used to keep me from falling asleep in the middle of things. Oh, useless trivia: The little girl that plays “Rack”‘s niece was played by none other than William Shatner’s actual daughter. There, that’s something you know now.

Overall, I think I may have had a better reaction to watching this back when I was 6 or 7. Sure, Kingdom Of The Spiders is cheesy, melodramatic and fun for all the wrong reasons, but I’ve also seen way worse than this. It’s worth a Bad Movie Night showing some time.

Movie Review: OUT OF MIND- The Stories Of H. P. Lovecraft

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out of mind the stories of hp lovecraft

Lurker Films
1998
NR

“Man’s relation to man does not captivate my fancy; it is man’s relation to the cosmos – to the unknown – which alone arouses in me the spark of creative imagination.”

Okay, so this isn’t so much a movie review, as it’s a review of a television special that was aired in 1998 that I stumbled upon on YouTube one evening.  But…eh, I’m too lazy to be bothered creating another category on this blog.  Besides, television technically qualifies as “moving pictures”, in other words “movies”, so I’m not really deviating far from the norm, here.

I think I may have missed out on my true calling as a PR spin doctor.  But I digress.

Out Of Mind: The Stories Of H. P. Lovecraft, at fist – going by the title alone – sounded like either a documentary of the celebrated weird fiction writer, his life and work, or an anthology series adapting his stories for the television screen.  Wouldn’t have been the fist time for the later.  Upon watching Out Of Mind, it turns out that it’s both a biography (of sorts) and an adaptation of several of his stories into one interesting narrative.

We start off with a bit featuring one of the more eerily convincing actors portraying H. P. Lovecraft explaining his inspiration for writing.  These bits of old-timey style filmed interviews with “Lovecraft” ae interspersed throughout the show, and lend an interesting reality quality to the entire thing overall.  Then we meet, in modern times, one Randolph Carter, a starving artist who just inherited a rather curious tome from a long-lost uncle he was never aware even existed.  This book happens to be the infamous Necronomicon, and because Randy forgot to say “klaatu barada nikto” before reading aloud from it, he’s suddenly beset by rather vivid and disturbing dreams involving his uncle and a scientist friend with a rather unhealthy interest in dead things and ancient forbidden evils.  Only, in these dreams Randy is his uncle, and the mad scientist is his best friend from the Dungeons & Dragons curio shop down the street.  And somewhere along the way, he runs into H. P. Lovecraft himself…and also a brain eating space squid.

Overall, Out Of Mind: The Stories Of H. P. Lovecraft was rather decent, an imaginative way to explore the fiction of one of the more influential early writers of modern horror and sci-fi, while indulging in a bit of fan-fic that has nods to several classic Lovecraft tales, along with a fun speculation on what it would be like for a fan to meet up with the writer, all while keeping the spirit of Lovecraft’s work intact.  Christopher Heyerdahl was fantastic as Lovecraft, playing him quietly intense, with a sense of whimsy and brooding.  I would say, check this out whether you’re a fan of Lovecraft, or merely curious and wish for a bit of a creative introduction to the man’s work.