Retro Cinema: Salem’s Lot

Retro Cinema: Salem’s Lot

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 SoulBen 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 BabcockJune 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

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Dracula retold, and refreshingly sparkle-free

Dracula retold, and refreshingly sparkle-free

I’m really wish people would stop ruining vampires for me. You know what movies I’m talking about, without me even uttering the dreaded “T” word. And some of the lame, wimpy, effeminate vampires that have paraded around screen and in books in recent years. So I admit, I almost didn’t even bother to watch Dracula Untold. I figured it would be yet another disappointment.

Fortunately, I figured wrong, at least to a certain extent.

I could nitpick some flaws in this movie, but I’m going to give it a pass on a few things. Maybe my standards have dropped a little too low with some of the poor vampire movies out there, but I actually thought this was pretty damn good.

Dracula Untold tells the story of the origin of the great vampire legend, with an ancient vampire who has been cursed and dwells in a cave. And much like a Marvel superhero, he and his protégé he passes his curse along to can command bats. And let me tell you, they can make these bats do some bitchin’ things, as Ve Neill would say.

They can create storms and huge whirlwinds like tornadoes that the newly crowned Dracula uses as a cover to plow through entire armies by himself, trying to save his kingdom from being taken in a bloody war.

You see, this spin on the Dracula legend has him willingly taking the blood of the cursed vampire in the cave to take on superpowers, which will all go away and he’ll return to human if he can resist feeding for 72 hours. As you can imagine, this can sort of complicate date night with the wife, among other things.

All kidding aside, this movie has beautiful cinematography, fairly nice special effects — and yes, of course they use CGI for the bats (boo, hiss) — but overall this is a very solid entry into the annals of vampire movies.

It’s sort of like 300 with vampires and without the abs. Check out the trailer…

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‘The Devil’s Hand’ gets DVD release

‘The Devil’s Hand’ gets DVD release

the-devils-hand

Oh come on… don’t go in there! (The Devil’s Hand)

The Devil's HandWhat happens when you have six girls born on the sixth day of the sixmonth in the same Amish community with deep religious beliefs? Why, a demonic legend surrounding them, of course. The latest creepy devil legend thriller is  The Devil’s Hand, now available on DVD. Is this movie worth buying for your personal collection?

The Devil’s Hand has some scary moments and some great twists, using misdirection to keep the ending in suspense as far as who is the killer. And somewhat suspenseful which one of the girl’s is the “Drommelkind” of legend, destined to become “the Devil’s hand” on her 18th birthday.

The cast is mostly relatively unknown actors whose faces you know if not their names, and young actors, with the exception of Jennifer Carpenter, aka Debra Morgan on Dexter. Unfortunately, Carpenter is tragically underused here, except to scowl and smirk throughout the entire film as the evil stepmother. Sorry, Dexter fans, no potty mouth here as the devout Rebekah.

If the lead actress seems familiar, it’s probably because Alysia Debnam Carey bears a striking resemblance to Taissa Farmiga of American Horror Story fame, and Sarah is portrayed by Leah Pipes, who bears a striking resemblance to Radha Mitchell.

The acting and script are better than average and this is a very respectable horror film, if there are the typical moments when a character does something stupid that hastens their demise (hiding in a well?)

Obviously if you really love the movie you’ll want the DVD for your collection, but sadly, there are no special features to add value, so your decision will come down to how much you love the movie yourself.

‘Saw’ back in theaters this Halloween

‘Saw’ back in theaters this Halloween

This Halloween, Lionsgate will celebrate the 10th anniversary of the theatrical release of “Saw”, the film that kicked off the most successful horror franchise in history, by bringing it back to theaters nationwide for one week only.  The film will open on Friday, October 31st, with select screenings beginning Thursday night, October 30th.  The seven “Saw” films grossed $874 million at the box office worldwide and were hailed by the Guinness Book of World Records as the “Most Successful Horror Franchise” of all time.
“The launch of SAW was a signature event in Lionsgate’s history, establishing our first franchise and paving the way for our growth into a global studio,” said Lionsgate President of Acquisitions & Co-Productions Jason Constantine. “We are excited for our fans to revisit the twisted magic that first blew their minds on Halloween 2004.”
“As part of ‘Saw’s’ 10th anniversary, we’re thrilled to give new fans and audiences the opportunity to experience this film on the big screen for the very first time,” added “Saw’s” producers Oren Koules and Mark Burg.
“Saw” was the first collaboration for co-creators James Wan, who directed the film, and Leigh Whannell, who wrote the screenplay. Together, they also created the successful “Insidious” franchise, and Wan has gone on to direct such high-profile films as “The Conjuring” and the upcoming “Fast and Furious 7.”
Directed by Wan from a script penned by Whannell, SAW is a psychological thriller focusing on two men who wake up in a secure lair of a serial killer, with a dead body lying between them. The killer, nicknamed “Jigsaw,” leaves them tape recorded messages with details of how to make it out alive. The only way for one man to make it out alive is to do the unthinkable. The two men desperately try to find a way out, while also trying to figure out who’s behind their kidnapping. The film, which was released over Halloween weekend on October 29, 2004, was produced by Gregg Hoffman, Oren Koules, and Mark Burg.
Bigfoot stalks a cabin in the woods in ‘Exists’ (TRAILER)

Bigfoot stalks a cabin in the woods in ‘Exists’ (TRAILER)

It seems this particular group of young adults in this new trailer for “Exists” accidentally selected the Bigfoot option for their run in at the classic (overused) “cabin in the woods” horror film scenario. And it seems instead of “going ‘Squatching,” Sasquatch is hunting them.

The film documents five friends on a camping weekend in the remote woods of East Texas, who find themselves struggling to survive against a legendary predator that is stronger, smarter, and more terrifying than anything they would have ever believed exists.

Let me guess: we can expect lots of sex, gratuitous language and gore, all filmed by the people experiencing it in another “found footage” film. Although, to be fair, this film is brought to you by Eduardo Sánchez, who directed “The Blair Witch Project,” the grandaddy of them all. So if anyone should be allowed to use the ploy, he should.  And the film was an audience award winner at SXSW, so it could be quite promising.

But having said that, does no one watch “Evil Dead” before going off to a remote cabin in the woods? No cell phones, no neighbors, no chaperones is just a bad idea. And we won’t even get into having sex in a horror movie. That’s just begging for a gruesome death by monsters or supernatural forces, y’all.