How can you go wrong when you mix Stephen King, Gary Busey, and one of the Coreys? Trick question… You can’t go wrong. Plus if you add in a few werewolves, and some campy gore, you’ve got a big bundle of 80s horror known as “Silver Bullet.”
Corey Haim plays Marty, a boy stuck in a wheelchair that’s been dubbed the Silver Bullet. The story is narrated by his older sister, Jane (Megan Follows), reminiscing about the past. But in the present the story’s set in, she pretty much feels that he’s a pain in the butt. That starts to change and they find themselves coming together when people in their small town are turning up not only dead, but ripped to pieces. And the murders are metaphorically ripping the town apart as well.
When Marty’s best friend becomes the latest victim, the townsfolk seek some vigilante justice and want to hunt down whoever — or whatever — is killing people, despite pleas from the local sheriff. Of course, they go out hunting it at night. During a full moon.
Do I really need to tell you how that’s going to end? Yeah.
When Uncle Red (Busey) comes to visit Marty and Jane, that’s when things get really interesting. After Uncle Red builds Marty a supercharged motorized wheelchair and gives him some fireworks, Marty sneaks out in the middle the night to go set them off. Little does he know, this will bring him face to face with the beast that is terrorizing his town. During this late-night confrontation, Marty injures the werewolf, putting out an eye. It escapes, so Marty and Jane go on a hunt around town to find out who has a telltale injured eye. And suffice it to say, it is not the person they expected.
Unfortunately, the werewolf knows that they know, so they have to rely on Uncle Red to protect them when the beast comes to attack the only ones who know his identity.
The movie is based on Stephen King’s short story, “Cycle of the Werewolf.” Many King adaptations tend to turn into more campy fun than horror when they hit the screen, and this film follows that trend. That doesn’t mean it isn’t good… I mean, this is a classic 80s horror film that’s a lot of fun. And I’ve always been really partial to werewolves, but don’t expect any fancy transformation scenes in this one. In fact, I think the werewolf sort of looks like a teddy bear — I’m guessing that wasn’t exactly the effect they were going for.
Of course, there’s a bittersweet element to it now in light of Haim’s early demise, and the living train wreck that Busey has become. This is a pre-“Lost Boys” Haim, before Hollywood tore him apart. And Busey is in his prime here. The film is family-friendly if you’re looking for a film for kids that still appeals to adults.
Although you might have to explain Busey’s line that he’s more nervous “then a virgin on prom night.”
Retro Cinema is a new column that reviews a different retro horror film every Monday. Subscribe at the top of the page for updates on new film reviews, interviews and horror news.
It’s no coincidence that this week’s Retro Cinema choice is “Hellraiser.” Because in case you haven’t heard, the remake has been given a green light. Now, I know you hard-core horror fans like me are out there saying “Oh, God no, not another remake!” But fasten your seatbelts kids, because for once this is good news: Clive Barker is gonna direct and Doug Bradley is coming back as Pinhead.
When Barker first directed “Hellraiser,” he had a very limited budget and in fact, he confesses in the DVD commentary that he basically got the resurrection scene special effects done for much less than what it should’ve cost (only $25,000) because the studio liked what they saw of the film and threw a few more dollars their way. That scene wasn’t even in the original script due to not having a budget for it.
I think it’s fair to say that this time around, Barker won’t face those kinds of problems. Nor have to resort to the cheesy painted in special effects he did himself — those being my main criticism of the original as well as the pretty dreadful acting of Ashley Laurence (sorry, but it’s true.) Sure, there are a few things that went wrong, but a whole lotta things went right.
While I’m sure most people reading this have seen the film, I don’t want to give away too much just in case, but let’s just say after “Hellraiser,” people really didn’t look at hooks and chains quite the same way again. Nor their prim and proper British wives.
When people think of Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee, they think of legendary film studio Hammer. But there was another British film studio that liked to pair the two in horror movies, Amicus films, who put out some great horror anthologies. Not only did we have the House of Hammer, but the House of Amicus, and like it’s better known rival, Amicus was a house that dripped plenty of blood.
One of the best anthologies produced by Amicus was “The House That Dripped Blood.” This four-part anthology featured Cushing and Lee, although they performed in separate segments. It also featured legendary Hammer vixen Ingrid Pitt, vamping it up in her typical fashion. Basically, that woman just played herself in each of her roles, with “herself” being utterly fabulous with her long cigarette holders and plenty of cleavage.
The first of the four segments features a writer and his wife who move into the old house that serves as a backdrop connecting the four stories. He wants to finish his novel about a vicious murderer. Problem is, it seems his murderer is coming to life and stalking him and his wife. Sounds very Stephen King, doesn’t it? Well, this was before Stephen King made it big, as the film was produced in 1970. Although one has to wonder if this didn’t inspire “The Dark Half” just a little bit. For the record it was Robert Bloch who wrote these stories.
Anyway, writers in particular will get a kick out of the whole writing process and the way writers tend to try to make their characters so real — Sometimes a little too real. The Dominic character is very sinister on the page and as a flesh and blood stalker. And oh, that creepy laugh.
Is he real or is he just a figment of the writer’s imagination? Watch it and find out the twist at the end.
Then we move into the second segment, with Cushing looking mighty sharp in a red smoking jacket… so elegant and refined. As he listens to his classical music and goes through his theater programs, he comes upon a photo of a beautiful woman and walks into town looking quite lovelorn. He happens upon a “Museum of Horror” and decides to check it out.
As he wanders around the museum, which is basically a waxworks, he comes upon a rather interesting display of Salome with the head of John the Baptist on a platter. And this Salome seems to have a mesmerizing effect on Cushing… Her eyes remind him of the woman in the photo he was looking at earlier.
“She is beautiful isn’t she? My Salome…” says the proprietor out of the blue. Where did that guy come from? “Perhaps she reminds you of someone? You see, she has a strange effect on people. They seem to see in her all sorts of things.”
As it turns out, not only does she remind Cushing of his long-lost love, but she’s modeled after the proprietor’s deceased wife, who he says was a murderess who was executed for her crime. So he created the tribute to her to preserve her beauty for all time.
Suffice it to say that dead or not, he doesn’t take too kindly to other men ogling his deceased wife. First, he takes out his jealous rage on a friend of Cushing’s who stops in after a visit, then on Cushing himself when he finds he can’t stay away.
That’s quite a woman, wax or not.
The third segment features Lee, as a rather uptight widower and father of a young girl. Seems his little girl has an unnatural fear of fire, and Lee has a rather unnatural fear of just what powers this little girl might possess. Seems Mama dabbled in some of the dark arts, so Lee doesn’t like to have any dolls around the house. Unfortunately, the young woman he hires to tutor the little girl doesn’t really quite understand the complexities of the situation, and when he destroys the doll given to his daughter as a gift, she doesn’t just get mad, she gets even with Daddy.
This old house has a whole lot of old books, and some of those books have some witchy spells in them. Mix that with some candles melted down to make a brand-new doll, and I think you see where this is going. It doesn’t end well.
The final story of the anthology is where Pitt finally gets to shine. An actor moves into the house and his current role is playing a vampire in a horror film. He hates the cheesy sets and the bad, fake looking costumes, so he takes upon himself to find his own vampire cloak. He goes to a vintage clothing an antique store and finds a something much more real. Little does he know how real it is.
But when he puts on the cloak on set, funny things happen. Funny, as in him sprouting fangs and trying to bite his costars. But no one seems to believe him when he tries to tell them the cloak has magical powers to turn him into a vampire, least of all Pitt. When he sets out to prove to her that the cloak is real, let’s just say he’s in for quite a surprise.
All four stories of this anthology featured great actors, great stories and some really creepy moments. You can’t go wrong with Lee and Cushing, even outside the Hammer franchise. If you haven’t heard of Amicus before, I strongly suggest you not only check out this movie, but some of their other titles as well: Another big favorite of mine is their feature film “The Skull,” featuring Cushing. You may have a great Hammer collection, but your horror collection is far from complete without some Amicus, as well.
Near Dark just may be one of my favorite vampire films ever. This little horror sleeper features Lance Henriksen, which gets you off to a pretty good start right there. Throw in Bill Paxton, the criminally-underrated Jenette Goldstein, a Tangerine Dream soundtrack, a forbidden romance, cowboy vampires and have Kathryn Bigelow direct it all and you have the recipe for greatness.
In addition to adding the unconventional twist of combining the Western with a vampire film, Bigelow expertly handled how to do a vampire romance right. You have elements of forbidden love, a family that doesn’t like the boy you brought home, but it doesn’t fall into tweenie, puppy love drivel. It’s sort of a westernized, modern-day Romeo and Juliet. Or something like that.
All I know is that this movie is the shit.
Bigelow directed Near Dark long before her Oscar-winning days and even before her cult classic Point Break. I believe this wasn’t long after she divorced mega-successful director James Cameron, and she “borrowed” some of the actors he’s used in his films, including Goldstein with a small part in Titanic as well as Bill Paxton. She also throws James LeGros a small part in this film, who would go on to play one of the bank robbers in Point Break.
This film has a real dark, moody, gritty feel to it and the romance between Caleb (Adrian Pasdar) and Mae (Jenny Wright) feels real. Mae makes you want Caleb to run off with her forever, foregoing his human life for the eternal thrill of running with the night. It’s hard to capture in words in a review, but when Mae tells Caleb to listen to the night, you feel that lure of the inhuman freedom that’s being offered to him.
Henriksen and the rebel family he’s created are true sociopathic desperados, especially Paxton’s character with his jugular splitting spurs and sick humor. It’s all just perfectly woven together, and proves you don’t need a big budget or special effects to make an amazing movie.
This is simply a must-see film not only for horror fans, that anyone with a remote interest in the genre.
One of the first books by Stephen King to find its way on celluloid was the made-for-TV flick “Salem’s Lot,” starring David Soul of “Starsky and Hutch” fame. (Don’t even ask me which he was because not only do I not remember, I don’t think I even knew back then.)
Now, when you think 70s and made-for-TV, one usually isn’t too optimistic about the result. But this was the exception, with good acting, nice makeup and yes, vampires that were scary and not emo. Not that should be surprising under the direction of Tobe Hooper.
The plot synopsis: Writer Ben Mears (a thinly-veiled King) returns to his hometown to explore some childhood trauma for a new book. He meets a girl, played by Bonnie Bedelia, and befriends the young teen Mark Petrie (Lance Kerwin) who is obsessed with the macabre (a thinly-veiled teenage King) and they join forces when the townsfolk start falling ill and dying unexpectedly. It’s no coincidence this starts shortly after a stranger arrives and occupies the spooky Marsten house, getting it ready for its new mysterious owner who no one has seen.
Or at least no one who lives to tell the tale.
James Mason is supreme as the evil caretaker for one seriously fugly vampire, and this was the first time I had seen a Nosferatu-inspired vampire. Between him, and the vampires tapping on the windows, this one has some genuine creeps. Geoffrey Lewis (Juliette’s dad) also has a great scene, featured below.
Grab this while you can: It’s out of print and you may have to go VHS to stay in budget.
Salem’s Lot (1979)Cast David Soul … Ben Mears
James Mason … Richard K. Straker
Lance Kerwin … Mark Petrie
Bonnie Bedelia … Susan Norton
Lew Ayres … Jason Burke
Julie Cobb … Bonnie Sawyer
Elisha Cook … Gordon ‘Weasel’ Phillips
George Dzundza … Cully Sawyer
Ed Flanders … Dr. Bill Norton
Clarissa Kaye … Majorie Glick
Geoffrey Lewis … Mike Ryerson
Barney McFadden … Ned Tibbets
Kenneth McMillan … Constable Parkins Gillespie
Fred Willard … Larry Crockett
Marie Windsor … Eva Miller Barbara Babcock … June Petrie
Bonnie Bartlett … Ann Norton
Joshua Bryant … Ted Petrie
James Gallery … Father Donald Callahan
Robert Lussier … Deputy Constable Nolly Gardner
Brad Savage … Danny Glick
Ronnie Scribner … Ralphie Glick
Ned Wilson … Henry Glick
You know when you go to those haunted attractions and they have that section that is pitch black? Yeah, that’s the part that freaks me out. I feel like I can’t breathe. Does that make me claustrophobic? Maybe, but I know movies where people go into caves or underground caverns produce just a little bit of that same feeling.
So as you can imagine, two fairly recent releases tapped into that claustrophobia, the first being As Above, So Below.
From the get-go, I hated the “heroine,” Scarlett (Perdita Weeks) and wanted to kill her throughout the movie. As some fearless seeker of the lost “Philosopher’s Stone,” she gives exactly zero fucks who she puts in jeopardy in her quest right from the first frame of the film to the last. I really hated her
They throw in some weird supernatural happenings in this one which I would normally like, but I really didn’t get it overall. Apparently they go through some gateway to hell where their greatest guilt trips come back to haunt them as their path gets smaller and smaller with cave ins behind them forcing them to keep going ahead into the unknown.
What the hell were you thinking going down there in the first place, dumbasses? I am never going down in that shit. NEVER, y’all.
I thought Catacombs was the better of the two Paris catacombs films, where Pink plays a jackass-y character who invites her sister to Paris for the sole purpose of terrorizing her and making fun of her it appears. They go to a party in the catacombs and of course mousy, bullied sister Victoria (Shannyn Sossamon) gets separated and lost.
The twist in Catacombs is there is a maniac killer down in the dark with Victoria. Why or why did you go down in that shit? There aren’t enough flashlights int he world to guarantee you’ll not get lost in the dark. Forever. That’s more than enough reason not to go without even contemplating maniacs stalking their prey.
Did I mention I am never going down in those catacombs? Hell to the no.