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  • Barbary Coast

    Barbary Coast

    ★★★

    The Joel McCrea side of the love triangle feels pretty contrived, partly because it’s squeezed for time (he doesn’t make his appearance until about fifty minutes in), partly because his infatuation with Miriam Hopkins feels like it’s based on nothing more than convenience. Instead of the one night of passion Garbo and Gilbert spend together in Queen Christina, McCrea and Hopkins have an hour of pleasant conversation (thanks to the Breen Code mucking things up), and not much in the way of screen chemistry. Edward G. Robinson is much more compelling as the gangster with class anxiety who’s desperate for Hopkins’s approval.

  • Aftermath

    Aftermath

    Embarrassing edgelord shit. Tries real hard to be shocking, but a pretty good latex puppet still moves like a puppet. Nothing in here is as awful or obscene as the scalps folded over the faces of the real-life dead in Stan Brakhage’s The Act of Seeing with One’s Own Eyes.

  • Dark City

    Dark City

    ★★

    I can see why this failed where The Matrix succeeded. It’s a competent Hollywood spectacle; it’s got great production values and a bombastic score to tell the audience how impressed they should be with it all. But it’s too insular and self-congratulatory, too much Hollywood trading on past glories as it so often loves to do. In 1999, The Matrix was something shockingly new. The Matrix was such a simple and flexible conceit that it became something mythic, tapping really…

  • Frankenhooker

    Frankenhooker

    ★★★★

    The faces Patty Mullen makes in Frankenhooker are so great. Even when it just involves her photograph; all the gags about the absurd places her face is taped up around the mad scientist’s lab work perfectly. (My favorite is a cut to her innocent smile stuck on the head of the Visible Man.) And then when she appears as the titular monster in the end, she’s not the butt of the joke. The situation’s funny because she’s selling it with…

  • Return of the Living Dead 3

    Return of the Living Dead 3

    Well, it’s got the nastier Re-Animator style gore effects I thought were missing from the first film in the series... Too bad everything else is as mediocre as I was expecting from the guy responsible for Bride of Re-Animator, so it never transcends its direct-to-video origins the way Stuart Gordon’s zombie movie did. This doesn’t  have a point of view really, and it’s got TV pacing, TV dialogue, TV staging, TV production values; it’s fodder. It’s got that po-faced soap…

  • The Return of the Living Dead

    The Return of the Living Dead

    ★★★★

    On this rewatch, I could very clearly hear the voice of the writer responsible for Dark Star. Here we’ve got the same kind of hapless idiots squabbling and desperately trapped for our anusement. That’s both good and bad; O’Bannon’s humor is witty and clever but also sophomoric, dumb in a kind of winking way. Yet I also find his cynicism a little abrasive and his dopiness disarmingly charming. And the ramshackle and meandering pacing that gives life to the dialogue…

  • The Last Man on Earth

    The Last Man on Earth

    ★★★

    The vampires here are totally Romero zombies, just not as bitey. Ben boards up windows in Night of the Living Dead basically so Romero can repeat the visuals of the vampires ineffectually assaulting Vincent Price’s windows in Last Man on Earth. There are sick little girls and burning pyres here too, grim news updates and a society breaking down as people become too stressed out to cooperate. And jumping ahead to the other films in Romero’s cycle, the desolate remains…

  • Invasion of the Body Snatchers

    Invasion of the Body Snatchers

    ★★★★★

    “Look at them! Right out in the open.”
    “That’s how they do it. That’s how they spread it. All those people are changed.”

    I was born the year this came out, and it may actually be the first horror film I ever saw. I remember watching it from the balcony of an old movie palace a few years after it was released. It was a second feature and I was a sleepy little kid watching something way too adult for…

  • Salem's Lot

    Salem's Lot

    ★★★★

    Hooper goes back to things that worked in The Texas Chain Saw Massacre and were sorely missing from Eaten Alive. Real world locations, a slowly gathering sense of dread; when the horrific intrudes on the everyday reality of the village, it really makes an impact, and the shocks here really get to pop. There’s a scare in here that literally made me jump out of my seat. I imagine it must have traumatized any kids watching this when it first…

  • Eaten Alive

    Eaten Alive

    ★★

    I was pleasantly surprised to see Roberta Collins’s name pop up in the title credits, only to be very disappointed by the pathetic Marion Crane character she’s forced to play in the prologue.

    This bites way too hard from Psycho, but I imagine it was made under some duress by Tobe Hooper and Kim Henkel, stuck with the job of replicating their earlier success with The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, only to achieve a much lesser effect here. Nothing builds;…

  • The Fly

    The Fly

    ★★★★★

    This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.

    I think it’s the best thing Cronenberg ever did, the counterpoint to Videodrome’s depiction of what it’s like to fall apart from the inside. There’s so much about Brundlefly’s plight that I can personally relate to, but the hardest part for me to watch has always been the attack on Stathis at the end. It’s so horrifyingly brutal that I’m always a little afraid to watch The Fly no matter how many times I see it.

    I do wonder what…

  • Rabid

    Rabid

    ★★

    Cronenberg has occasionally prided himself in interviews on somehow presaging the rise of stem cell research with the “morphogenetically neutral” skin grafts in Rabid, but I think he stole it from William S. Burroughs. It’s very similar in concept to the Undifferentiated Tissue which makes a memorably horrific appearance in the talking asshole bit from Naked Lunch. (Which obviously had an impact on him, given the passion project he underwent with his later film adaptation of the book. I think…