UNDERRATED SEQUELS- “Amityville 2: The Possession”

MV5BMTYwMTAyOTY4OF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwNjMwODQ2NA@@._V1_SX640_SY720_Perhaps one of the most underrated sequels in horror cinema history is “Amityville 2: The Possession,” the 1982 follow-up to the classic haunted house movie. What makes “Amityville 2” so great is that it is a film that can be watched and enjoyed without having to see the original. Unlike your standard horror sequel this film has its own identity and is actually a prequel to “The Amityville Horror.” With its solid cast and convincing special effects, it truly is a great film, in fact some might say that it’s an even greater film than its predecessor.

The film revolves around the Montelli family who move into the same haunted house where all of the events of the first original “Amityville Horror” will eventually take took place. The family is headed by the abusive and alcoholic father Anthony, played extraordinarily by Burt Young. The Montelli family soon realizes as mysterious things happen that there is an entity in their house. However it is not an ordinary ghost inhabiting the house but a demonic presence intent on destroying the family. And it will do it by possessing the teenage son Sonny.

The best way to imagine this film is “The Amityville Horror” meets “The Exorcist.” To be honest this film rips off of “The Exorcist” a lot. It has several elements that “The Exorcist” did including demonic possession, exorcisms, and priests. While this film is not as powerful as “The Exorcist,” it is still enjoyable and fun nonetheless. The scenes that show the exorcism of Sonny features some pretty good special effects too, such as the way that the demon has transformed Sonny into an ugly looking creature.

If you like demonic possession/haunted house type of films, you should definitely check this one out and see one of horror cinema’s most underrated sequels. While the original “Amityville” didn’t really feature many special effects, this one goes straight for the throat and includes elaborate visual effects, monsters and exorcisms. What makes this film so underrated is that not many people know of it or have seen it and that is a shame.

-Dakota Bailey

TERROR TV: Tales from the Crypt – “Dig That Cat…He’s Real Gone”

CRYPT ep 3 pic 1Tales of the Crypt had many memorable episodes, but “Dig That Cat… He’s Real Gone” is by far the most memorable episode of the first season. Given the Crypt-Keeper’s intro to the story you are given the impression that maybe this was the very first episode they filmed and perhaps they aired it out of order, but I am just speculating. “Dig That Cat… He’s Real Gone” in a way set the standards for the rest of the series in terms of the show’s macabre and often entertaining death scenes and dark ghoulish humor.

Ulric, a homeless drunk, is given the rare opportunity by a mysterious German doctor to receive a brain gland from a cat through surgery, giving him nine lives. Once Ulric is given the gift of nine lives he immediately goes into the carnival business, subjecting himself to spectacular deaths for profit, but with each death Ulric becomes more greedy and corrupt.

“Dig That Cat… He’s Real Gone” is one hell of an entertaining episode, with purposely hammy and fun acting from both Joe Pantoliano as Ulric and Robert Wuhl as the witty and zany carnival show host. What’s even more fun is director Richard Donner’s camera work, which has many kinetic shots, odd close-ups with wide angle lenses, and off-guard elliptical editing. However, the most fun had from this episode of The Crypt isn’t watching your typical body count as we instead watch Ulric die multiple times for profit, each time more fun and macabre then the last, practically poking fun at humanity’s natural bloodlust. To top off it all off the fun ends with an ingenious twist that of course gives our poor Ulric a needed comeuppance.  If you’re looking for a Tales from the Crypt episode that is not particularly scary but incredibly fun to watch, look no further than “Dig That Cat… He’s Real Gone.”

– James J. Coker

UNDERRATED SEQUELS – Godzilla vs The Smog Monster

 

Godzilla vs HedorahToho’s attempts to break away from children’s entertainment hit a peak in 1971 with the mother of all What-The-Fuck moments. Never since, nor again has there ever been a more satisfying movie to say “the fuck did I just watch?” during the end credits. After taking a trip out to a horribly polluted beach, film director Yoshimitsu Banno was inspired to address environmental issues through cinema. Since Godzilla was once a personification for the atom bomb, he seemed to be the perfect vessel to tackle the idea of turning Earth into a massive cesspool. That’s where the idea stopped being straight forward, for unless Banno was breathing in noxious fumes throughout the entire production, I have no clue how he wound up making what he did. But I thank him for it deeply.

Godzilla vs The Smog Monster was TOHO’s first attempt at redeeming themselves after releasing “Godzilla’s Revenge” a year before(known to the Godzilla crowd as the worst monster movie ever made). Whether they succeeded at this or not is up to the viewer, but it was a step in a new direction that they would end up never treading again. In the film, a small life form known as Hedorah who lives off of waste left by humans begins to evolve into a much larger organism as it consumes more and more pollution. It eventually gets so big that it is able to destroy an oil tanker, causing a massive natural disaster to the local eco system and making itself known to Japan’s population. This activity grabs Godzilla’s attention, who arrives to kick Hedorah’s swampy ass. Once he is beaten however, he retreats to the ocean and absorbs tons of polluted material and comes back twice as large as before. He attacks Godzilla using his only true power; shitting on him. Really though, Hedorah’s power, is he turds over all life in sight. Hedorah begins terrorizing Tokyo itself in this same manner, and with this we see just how scary the film can be. Once Hedorah’s toxic sludge touches someone, they just decomposed and become skeletons lying in the streets(This small aspect of the film is enough to propel it closer to a horror film than the rest of the entries in the classic Godzilla series). Once the 2 monsters ignite a rematch, a scientist named Dr. Yano realizes that drying Hedorah out may kill him, because that’s how dog shit works too. After supercharging a couple gigantic electrodes with his atomic breath, Godzilla dries him out and then violently tears him to pieces with his bear hands(or claws?)until nothing is left of him.

Ok, now, you’re probably wondering why you should wanna watch this after hearing that the story is rather format and predictable? What makes it special, let alone underrated, right? Well, this film is goddamn drug trip that barely makes any sense what so ever. First off, the first thing we see in the film is a female jazz singer giving us a performance worthy of a James Bond film, all while we see many different camera shots of a bubbling, shit-filled lake right behind her… We hear this song(which is conveniently titled “Save The Earth”)many times throughout the film, adding to its charm, as well as its awkwardness. Continuing on, we also see characters in this film having weird hallucinations, which really add nothing to the narrative. The most prominent example of this being a man in a night club seeing everyone on the dance floor with fish heads. This ends as soon as it begins and you have to just ask, “why?” An MTV-esque split screen of looping Godzilla images comes out of nowhere at one point, almost interrupting the film itself to say, “whoa isn’t this random? Ok, well back to the fight now!” The movie also gives us out of place animated sequences, reminiscent of Pink Floyd: The Wall. One segment even goes as far as to stop the film entirely just to give us a short documentary on space exploration. I’m not kidding and no, It has nothing to do with the movie, nothing… But hey, it’s in there! Needless to say, this movie is fucking awesome.

This is by far the closest that a Godzilla movie has ever come to being considered an exploitation film. We think we’re supposed to see a Ted Turner backed Green Peace film, but instead we’re getting a movie reflecting the human race during the 1970’s drug movement! The film doesn’t necessarily understand what it is, but at the same time, it is completely comfortable with that. Further, this film did so well at the box office that a direct sequel was actually planned. But alas, because of reasons that never happened, and Godzilla vs Gigan was next to be birthed, and the era of Godzilla films for children were to come to an end.

– Sterling “The Spork Guy” Anno

Watch Trailer Here

UNDERRATED SEQUELS – Godzilla vs Biollante

Godzilla vs BiollanteThe second feature in what was known as the “versus series” of the Godzilla franchise, Godzilla vs Biollante opens up where “Godzilla 1985” left off, with Godzilla being the villain as opposed to the savior. With TOHO producers feeling that the old formula was becoming stale, they decided to remove all traces of 1960’s/70’s camp from the new line of films. The first task in this process was coming up with brand new monsters for Godzilla to fight against. However, being producers and all, they had no creativity whatsoever and thus they had to call upon the fans to help them out. As a nifty marketing plan, Tomoyuki Tanaka asked the public to send in their monster and script ideas in the form of a sweepstakes. The winner would have his/her script adapted into the official sequel. Not so oddly enough, the winner happened to be a former Sci-Fi writer, and rightly so, as he ended up penning one of the creepiest monsters to ever be projected upon the silver screen.

The film begins right after the events of the last one, with clean up crews searching for survivors and scientists claiming the remains for Godzilla’s tissue that was left behind during his recent one-man recreation of Mardi Gras. The tissue, containing his genetic makeup, would be used to not only study the giant, but fight back against him as well. It is here that this entry in the series reveals its over-arching theme: World wide terrorism. Between mysterious mercenaries steal Godzilla samples, suicide bombers killing innocent women, and the U.S. trying to obtain tissue clusters for their own uses, the theme is pretty obvious. Read the previous sentence once more. See that part about the suicide bomber? Ok, now read ahead. The daughter of our main character, Dr. Shiragami, was killed in the Middle East during the aforementioned suicide explosion. Now five years later and still shaken up, he has turned his attention toward a more strait forward type of science, the metaphysical and psychic energy of… roses. ….

…Anyway, it is discovered by the terrorists that Shiragami is actually one of the leading experts in Godzilla cell manipulation. Soon after, in an almost Raimi-esque sequence, these same terrorist thugs are murdered by the self-aware vines of a giant mutant rose growing in the middle of a lake. Shiragami admits that he has secretly been creating it by combining Godzilla’s cells with Rose DNA, creating a Kaiju sized-plant. He names it Biollante and treats it how Andy Warhol treated processed soup. Continuing the theme of fear tactics, the U.S. team who almost made it out of Tokyo with some “G-Cells” have now threatened to blow up Mt. Mihara, where Godzilla currently lays dormant. Naturally Godzilla wakes and Japan’s army kills him. Just kidding, other way around. He eventually stumbles upon Biollante and a very short but sweet fight ensues. Though Godzilla easily wins, the result is almost depressing. With the plant being the good guy, it’s hard to root (no pun intended) for Big Green. Japan’s scientists develop a plan to take Godzilla down, using radioactive bacteria (continuing the film’s theme now with a play on bio-terrorism, ie. anthrax) that will essentially melt him down to nothing. That doesn’t work either. It seems all is lost and Godzilla is to win until the ground begins to shake. Green spores fall to the Earth and up comes Biollante once again, now in its true form. A GIANT part-crocodile, part-venus fly trap, part-Swamp Thing, part-fucking satan beast containing the exact genetic make-up of Godzilla himself. Biollante’s final form is literally the scariest Kaiju I’ve ever seen. It’s then revealed that the monster is also the reincarnation of Shiragami’s daughter, out to get revenge on Godzilla for killing her earlier in giant rose form.

After one extremely painful looking battle, which includes the acts of chewing on each other’s heads, rupturing the opponents stomach and shooting venus flytraps through the other’s hands (that last one is fucking brutal), Godzilla has no choice but to.. cool off in the end. Aww yeah. While there may not be an exact winner to the fight, (though I won’t spoil the fine details of why) the film takes its remaining few minutes to end its human side plot in one of the finest ways you’ll ever see TOHO do. Godzilla vs Biollante may have less monster screen time than most other films in the series, but the nonstop espionage side plots make up for that ten fold. What is it that makes this film underrated though? Well, for one, it’s had limited accessibility until only a short time ago. Though it was released on VHS under the HBO brand name, it was a limited print that once it was gone, it was gone. It was finally released on Region 1 DVD in 2012, but had limited to no marketing other than being released alongside Megashark vs Giant Octopus. I know, great plan, right?  All in all, people didn’t appreciate this film at all during its theatrical run. This was mainly due to the film having no returning classic monster to help reboot the franchise. Needless to say, after it flopped for that very reason, the next 3 sequels instead resurrected old foes for Godzilla to fight until Godzilla vs Space Godzilla in 1994. Nowadays the Godzilla vs Biollante has undergone a small cult rebirth. Noticing how much love was put into the human side of the story and just how mind-blowing Biollante’s presence is would be enough to allow anyone to realize what a stand-out this otherwise outcast actually is. I’m just glad Biollante isn’t a vigilante out to get those who aren’t vegans. I’d be fucked.

– Sterling “The Spork Guy” Anno

UNDERRATED SEQUELS – Godzilla VS Gigan

Godzilla_vs_Gigan_1972By the late 1960’s the Godzilla film series had been firmly established as a venture into children’s entertainment. After entries such as “Godzilla vs The Smog Monster” and the all too hard to forget, “All Monsters Attack”, these films had become means of teaching kids life lessons in the best way possible: By mixing it up with monsters punching each other in the face. However 1972 happened to be when that all changed. Frequently considered one of the most hated films in the classic Godzilla franchise, Jun Fukuda’s Godzilla vs Gigan is a feature that deserves a second chance, as a secondary interpretation for its plot has been easily missed by many.

The film’s story centers around a new Kaiju themed amusement park, aptly named Children’s Land (I know… Wow…). After Gengo, a manga artist, is contracted to help create concept art for the gigantic recreation center, he discovers a strange tape deck inside the park’s HQ, which is brilliantly disguised as a giant Godzilla tower. Once played, he unknowingly contacts the monsters Godzilla and Anguirus. After discovering that the whole theme park, as well as its creepy curators, are up to no good, the film’s script goes about its usual “reveal the villains as some kind of alien hybrid” trope. The extraterrestrial Disney knock-offs then summon two evil space Kaiju: New comer Gigan, and returning favorite King Ghidorah. Of course, Godzilla and Anguirus arrive to level out the playing field.

The climactic fight scene in a Godzilla movie is always the one aspect that will make or break it. Surprisingly enough, the fight scene in this movie usually considered a draw-back. Why is this surprising? Because it is one of the longest and, otherwise, most satisfying Kaiju fights in the original Godzilla series. Though it uses its fare share of lazy stock footage to add to its length (This time from Ghidorah, The Three-headed Monster and Destroy All Monsters), the film does so to provide us with the same sensation we felt while watching the Avengers partially help destroy New York City. I didn’t complain about evening out the fight/dialogue ratio there and I definitely won’t do so here either. Although the film can be criticized for many things, one of the main points of the film’s existence is constantly overlooked. Near the end of the film, our human protagonists, along with help from Big Green, destroy the theme park’s giant center piece: the Godzilla tower. Not only does this add to the wholesome level of destruction, but it symbolizes something from behind the scenes at the TOHO offices.

Since 1964’s Ghidorah, The Three-Headed Monster, the series had began taking a turn towards the child market. The films were teaching us about pollution, friendship, bullying and the family system. They were no longer allegories for the atomic age nor were they metaphors on nature’s fury. They were basically Sesame Street episodes as if produced by Roger Corman. Godzilla vs Gigan was the turning point for this. By watching with open eyes, you’ll realize the slightly darker tone this entry takes. Godzilla actual gushes blood a few times throughout the film which is something he’s never done before and that would only get more graphic in further sequels. The film also had no blatant moral to speak of. And how do we figure this? By examining Godzilla destroying the infamous Godzilla tower near the end of the film in a children’s park making fun of the very idea of Godzilla culture. In doing this, Jun Fukuda was symbolically killing off the “Godzilla is only for kids” mindset that Ishiru Honda had established before him. Although the following Godzilla vs Megalon would prove to be heavy on kid friendly viewing, the later Mechagodzilla films would take note from Gigan, eventually progressing into the very dark “versus series,” beginning with Godzilla Returns in 1984. With all that said, I’ll be leaving this review on a question. Was this review supposed to convince you that Godzilla vs Gigan is a good movie? No. It was supposed to convince you that it’s an important movie. That being said, feel free to hate it, but you better damn well respect it. After all, the death of the villains in this film directly inspired the ending of Team America: World Police. Now that’s how you make an obscure reference!

– Sterling “The Spork Guy” Anno

HIDDEN HORROR- Motel Hell

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“Meat’s meat, and a man’s gotta eat”… that’s the philosophy of farmer and Motel Hello proprietor (although, that darn “o” tube is a little fainter than the rest of the hotel’s neon sign’s characters), Vincent Smith, played brilliantly by a very slender and senior, Rory Calhoun.

Farmer Vincent has a reputation of distributing some of the finest cuts of meats in a 100-mile radius. But little does the local community know that he and his sadistic, stout sister Ida (Nancy Parsons) moonlight as cannibalistic agriculturists.

Vincent spends his nights setting traps for out-of-towners passing through the county, burying them up to their voiceless throats (thanks to Ida and her tidy sewing detail), and feeding them his special slop in order to get them ready for processing.

After Vincent takes on one of his victim’s girlfriends, Terry (Nina Axelrod), a love triangle ensues between the pair and Vincent’s jealous simpleton sheriff brother, Bruce (Paul Linke), that eventually escalates into a showdown reminiscent of the climax of Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2, sans a pig head mask.

Motel Hell is presented as a horror-comedy. It’s chalked full of awful acting (except by Calhoun), but what do you expect with a cast that includes two Playboy playmates (Monique St. Pierre and Rosanna Katon)? Keep an eye out for a cameo by Wolfman Jack as the salacious Reverend Billy. Motel Hell is worth a watch for being a satirical romp that steps outside the “fucked up family” genre, but still draws inspiration from films like Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Spider Baby.

-Matthew McPhee

HIDDEN HORROR-Magic

magic1978Perhaps one of the most star-studded and unknown horror films of all time would be the 1978 film ”Magic”. It stars a young Anthony Hopkins, Burgess Meredith and Ann-Margret, and it’s pretty odd that this film would be overlooked with that kind of cast. It could be considered one horror cinema’s best kept secrets.

Anthony Hopkins plays Corky, a shy aspiring magician. He auditions at a club on amateur night however, it does not go well as the audience does not appreciate his magic tricks. Fast forward one year later and Corky is now the big entertainer at the same club only now he has become a ventriloquist. He also has a greedy agent (Burgess Meredith) who is intent on making Corky a superstar. While Corky’s career is going very well, it’s not him pulling the strings, but rather-its his wooden dummy. Corky snaps under pressure from his agent and leaves the big city with his dummy to a country retreat. However he finds that he cannot escape his troubles so easily.

 This film is long and may seem boring at places, but the ending is fantastic. It is a it’s a psychological horror film that builds dread and tension. Anthony Hopkins is incredible as the awkwardly shy ventriloquist that is controlled by his dummy. What makes this film so psychological is the dummy is shown as if it were alive, but the movie could just be presented from Corky’s point of view. Corky is already presented as an unstable character, so the viewer must decide whether the film is showing his psyche or if his dummy is really alive.

Anthony Hopkins’ performance as Hannibal Lecter is so famous that people tend to overlook his other genre work. While this film is not a gory slasher there are a few scenes of murder and a little bit of gore. This film was released the same year as the legendary horror movie ”Halloween” so this film may have been overlooked because of it. While this film is not main-stream it has become a cult-classic and has gained some notoriety over the years. This film has also been re-mastered and released on DVD by Dark Sky Films, giving a new generation of fans a chance to see one of horror cinema’s best kept secrets.If you like 70’s horror, Anthony Hopkins, or ventriloquist/dummy horror films, this is a movie for you.

                                                  -Dakota Bailey