• Deadly Strike

    Deadly Strike

    ★★★½

    I love this movie. I purchased it on VHS back in 1986. I couldn’t believe it was possible to buy a movie for $7.99! And in a small town with few video-rental options, I loved buying something I couldn’t rent or see on TV.

    Deadly Strike is basically a kung-fu Dirty Dozen (1967). A ragtag group of misfits goes on a quest to kill the big boss. (He's dealing drugs, or killing people, or something. Who cares? He needs to…

  • Phantasm

    Phantasm

    ★★★½

    Horror-movie fans suffer through countless poor movies to finally watch a movie like Phantasm. It has low production values, mediocre acting, occasionally strange editing, and odd cinematography. Yet it all works. Somehow. Most low-budget horror movies like this end up failing, sometimes in fun ways, but failing nonetheless. Phantasm, on the other hand, works. It’s kooky and weird, but it manages to create a compelling and creepy story.

    One of the reasons Phantasm works so well is that the locations…

  • A Nightmare on Elm Street

    A Nightmare on Elm Street

    ★★★

    It took me 9 years, but I finally got around to watching this. I remember when it came out I thought, Really? A remake so soon? The first movie was made in 1984, but the last (Freddy vs. Jason) was made in 2003. It just didn't seem like a remake was warranted. And then the reviews were tepid, so I ended up skipping this.

    The tone of the first Nightmare on Elm Street was serious but fun. The tone of…

  • Survive!

    Survive!

    ★★

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

    I remember seeing Survive! on TV when I was seven or eight years old. It was the ABC Sunday Night Movie. I remember vividly the teasers for the film: the plane crash, a man disappearing in the snow, and a close-up of a cross. I was hypnotized by the movie, but I ultimately turned if off because I knew it was headed toward cannibalism and I didn’t think I could stomach it. (It's hard to talk about this film without…

  • Overboard

    Overboard

    ★★★½

    I don't think I've ever seen Overboard all the way through until today. I've seen bits and pieces of the movie over the years on Saturday afternoon TV. Every time I saw a ten-minute snatch, I would think, "This looks fun. I need to see it."

    Overboard tells the story of Goldie Hawn as a rich, obnoxious socialite who uses her money and position to bully those around her. She hires Kurt Russell to build some shelves aboard her yacht.…

  • Witchboard

    Witchboard

    ★★★

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

    I remember hearing about this movie in the late 1980s. A friend of mine who watched a lot of horror movies said it was one of the best—and scariest—he’d seen in a while.

    When I finally got around to watching it, I was surprised by how unscary it was. It almost feels like a Hallmark horror movie. (Does Hallmark even make horror movies?) For example:

    —The film is brightly lit and much of it takes place during the day (and…

  • Zatoichi and the Fugitives

    Zatoichi and the Fugitives

    ★★★★

    Zatoichi stops by a house and hears a beating taking place. Several yakuza leave and Zatoichi finds a bloodied man. He helps the family take the man to the doctor. The doctor is very impressed with Zatoichi and asks him if he'd like to set up his masseuse practice there with him.

    Meanwhile, a wily woman blackmails a local boss into hiding some fugitives for her. The boss, Matsugoro, is an evil man, and he uses the fugitives to assassinate…

  • Hellraiser: Hellworld

    Hellraiser: Hellworld

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

    One of the first things you're taught in Creative Writing 101 is to never end a story by saying, "And it was all a dream." There are many variations of this ending: "And it was all a computer program" or "And it was all a hallucination." (The TV show St. Elsewhere famously ended by insinuating that the previous seasons had all been the dream of an autistic child. And the TV show Dallas retconned an entire season by implying that…

  • Freddy vs. Jason

    Freddy vs. Jason

    ★★½

    There’s something masochistic about horror-movie viewers. Like going back to a dysfunctional boyfriend, we return again and again to be humiliated and embarrassed. We have consistently high hopes for this next movie—it looks so good!—and yet we’re consistently disappointed. When will we learn our lesson? When will we have had enough?

    When horror movies work the way they should, they can be some of the funnest movies out there. But . . . they usually don't work the way they…

  • New Nightmare

    New Nightmare

    ★★★½

    I remember seeing this in 1994 when it came out. After the mediocre Freddy's Dead: The Final Nightmare (1991), I didn't have much hope that this would be good. (It also seemed like something from the 1980s intruding into the mid-'90s where it didn't belong. How did Freddy of the hair-metal age fit in with the new ethos of grunge?)

    I was pleasantly surprised by the film. I remember liking it quite a bit. I hadn't seen anything so "postmodern"…

  • We Were Soldiers

    We Were Soldiers

    ★★★½

    The war movie genre tends to inspire dedication in some and disgust in others. I suppose much of that comes from one's political perspective.

    I always try to view the film as a film first, and only look at the political ideology after. (I'm not sure that's always possible, but that's what I try to do.)

    We Were Soldiers is a solid war film and it's clearly trying to show war from the soldier's point of view. It's less concerned…

  • Friday the 13th

    Friday the 13th

    ★½

    If I were going to remake Friday the 13th for the twenty-first century, I would try to give my teenage victims at least some personality, some semblance of reality. Heck, I might even make them likeable! But the director of the 2009 version seems to think (a) that all teenagers are exceedingly dumb and/or (b) that audiences want to see teenagers who are exceedingly dumb. I’ll never claim that the ’80s slasher movies were classics, but they usually had one…