• The Haunting

    The Haunting

    ★½

    Half-o-ween 2021: Day 2!

    Exactly the kind of movie which must have made sense for maybe three or four months the exact year it was greenlit, and then never again for the rest of history. Thus we cultural historians twenty years later are left to gape in awed bafflement at this bizarre, inexplicable object wherein the director of SPEED and TWISTER attempts to turn Robert Wise's 1963 psychological art-horror classic* into a big-budget special effects extravaganza. With a cast that…

  • The Terminator

    The Terminator

    ★★★★

    Half-o-ween 2021: Day 2

    Ah, April, when a young man's fancy turns to Half-o-ween! I had thought my impromptu Terminator retrospective would have to get shuffled to the back burner in favor of a slate of horror movies, until Mayor of Halloween and Acting Assistant Secretary of Half-O-Ween Dan Prestwich reminded me that, in fact, the original Terminator probably counts as a sci-fi horror movie. In October, regulations require me to be a little more strict in my genre requirements,…

  • Hunchback of the Morgue

    Hunchback of the Morgue

    ★★★

    Half-o-ween 2021: Day 1!

    Warning: Animal Cruelty

    A winningly peppy film by the standards of Paul Naschy (born Jacinto Molina Álvarez), who I love in theory but who has a track record of producing grindingly draggy films out of fun genre premises. Not so here, though, and maybe the reason is that this isn't just a fun genre premise, it's at least three and maybe as many as five genre premises. You figure it's gonna be Naschy's riff on The…

  • They Nest

    They Nest

    ★★

    Half-o-ween 2021: Day 1!

    This turns out to be a USA channel TV movie, so don't go in expecting a lot in the way of nudity or gore. Instead, you get an unabashedly dopey, small-scale creature feature about killer cockroaches invading a small northeastern island community. It knows it isn't really going to be able to blow you away, but isn't ashamed of what it is, and at least makes an honest effort at resembling a real movie, which is…

  • Terminator 2: Judgment Day

    Terminator 2: Judgment Day

    ★★★★½

    After noticing how janky and malnourished TERMINATOR 3 and DARK FATE are despite featuring plots virtually identical to the universally beloved JUDGEMENT DAY, I decided to go back and check if this was really as good as I remembered.

    And it is! I'm happy to inform you that this fucking rocks. It is not, on the whole, very different from those two sequels, except that instead of being middling and muddled, it's in fact very excellent and focused.

    Part of…

  • For a Few Dollars More

    For a Few Dollars More

    ★★★½

    Lots of great stuff here which never quite coheres into a great movie. But! The great stuff is nothing to sneeze at: Van Cleef is phenomenal, effortlessly taking control of the movie the minute he shows up and never letting go for a second, more or less making young whippersnapper Eastwood play second fiddle in his own movie (which turns out to be fine; Eastwood gets to be the mythic trickster here, a force of chaos which disrupts the more…

  • Sturgill Simpson Presents Sound & Fury

    Sturgill Simpson Presents Sound & Fury

    ★★★½

    I seem to be the only person on Earth who unabashedly loves this ridiculous, unlikely chimera. It helps, of course, that I am also the only person on Earth who seems to unabashedly love Sturgill Simpson's groovy, genre-hopping album of the same name, which I think is some of the most fun, smartly-built pop music in years. But the movie version is informed by the album, rather than in service to it; it uses the songs to set a tone,…

  • The Lonely Island Presents: The Unauthorized Bash Brothers Experience

    The Lonely Island Presents: The Unauthorized Bash Brothers Experience

    ★★★

    Like most Lonely Island stuff, I think I respect its commitment to the bit more than I find it consistently hilarious (maybe because I'm only vaguely familiar with the events its satirizing). But it's a quick, silly watch which finds plenty of fun comic premises in the scenario. And it's definitely committed. Shouldn't our guys be wearing huge muscle suits, though?

  • Criss Cross

    Criss Cross

    ★★★★

    A crisp and sharply-written film noir with a nasty bite. I'm not in love with the flashback structure, but the film gets by less on its twisty plot and more on its corrosive bitterness, painting a searing portrait of a man on a nightmarish descent into willful self-destruction. When I first saw it, I think I took the narration's bleak fatalism at face value; for whatever reason, Lancaster's character is simply fated for ruin. But no, while the narration pleads…

  • Zack Snyder's Justice League

    Zack Snyder's Justice League

    ★★★½

    I don't have any particular affinity for this group of intellectual properties, and this is obviously a very stupid movie which is also many lifetimes too long. But I'll give it this: its extreme, indefatigable earnestness and absolutely unalloyed certainty in its own angsty awesomeness is by a huge margin the closest thing Ive ever experienced on-screen to settling down and losing oneself in the spandex-y soap opera of a comic book as as teenager. Every review on letterboxd seems…

  • The Two Faces of Dr. Jekyll

    The Two Faces of Dr. Jekyll

    ★★½

    Not one of Hammer's more stylish ventures of the era, and feels a little small-scale, but also features a rather compelling angle on the tired old Jekyll/Hyde story. Hyde, here, is not so much Jekyll's "evil" side as he is a version of Jekyll freed from the smothering Victorian repression which has turned him into a inhuman automaton, so detached from his life that he doesn't even realize his sleazy wife (Dawn Adams, A KING IN NEW YORK[!], THE VAULT…

  • The Mangler

    The Mangler

    ★★½

    A weird, weird fucking movie in ways that have nothing to do with it being about a haunted laundry machine (which seems to exist for the sole purpose of folding gigantic white sheets. What, is this where 18th century clipper ships come to do their laundry?) It’s almost completely plotless, for starters; huge chunks are spent in weird pseudo-philosophical discussion between Ted Levine's character and his brother-in-law, except they aren’t exactly discussions because the two of them seem to be…