JWM SPOOKATHON 2017: The Last Man on Earth (1964)

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When a disease turns all of humanity into the living dead, the last man on earth becomes a reluctant vampire hunter. (IMDb)
Price’s great turn (see his masterful laugh-turned-sob, badass record-play during the barrage, perfect opening line-“Another day to live through. Better get started”-though the narration is at times redundant) within a tastefully chilling setting (the vampires aren’t overplayed) and a nicely crafted flashback make for a strong first two acts. The final one is weaker, unfortunately, despite a good twist (“you’re a legend”), with its annoying distressed damsel and sloppy action-climax.
7/10 (Good)
CREEPY QUOTE: “How many more of these will I have to make before they’re all destroyed? They want my blood. Their lives are mine. I still get squeamish.” – Robert Morgan
SPOOKY STILL: img_1899

 

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JWM SPOOKATHON 2017: The Bat (1959)

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A crazed killer known as “The Bat” is on the loose in a mansion full of people. (IMDb)
There’s not much 50s horror cheese to speak of here, save for the villain (those claws just seemed really impractical) and some action sequences, and what is here is overwhelmed by the refreshing female protagonist (the dryly witty Cornelia), engaging dual-mystery (even if its big reveal went unexplained), and consistently solid dialogue and acting (Doc and Mr. Fleming plotting murder is an early highlight, Cornelia’s summation an ending one: “You can hide money, but you can’t hide murder”).
7/10 (Good)
CREEPY QUOTE:
John Fleming: “What would you do for half a million dollars?”
Dr. Malcolm Wells: “Anything short of murder.”
John Fleming: “Why not murder?”
SPOOKY STILL: the-bat-04

 

JWM SPOOKATHON 2017: Horror Express (1972)

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In 1906, in China, a British anthropologist discovers a frozen prehistoric creature and must transport it to Europe by train. (IMDb)

Only gets better as the train travels on: From the opening supernatural-tinged mystery develops a tight and claustrophobic horror-thriller (the limited train setting is excellent) equal parts entertaining camp (see the wild-eyed priest-“There’s a stink of hell on this train”), chilling whodunit intrigue (see the eye-checking), and genuine creepiness (see the red-eyed monster’s bloody kills). A superbly suspenseful climax topped off with weird, grimy guitar-led music serves as a perfect ending.

7.5/10 (Really Good)

CREEPY QUOTE: “One man dead, another missing. It’s time we opened that box!” – Inspector Mirov

SPOOKY STILL:review_horrorexpress

Source Code (2011)

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A soldier wakes up in someone else’s body and discovers he’s part of an experimental government program to find the bomber of a commuter train. A mission he has only 8 minutes to complete. (IMDb)
I really wish it had ended with that surprisingly touching bittersweet freeze frame that brought the character-driven emotion underlying this mind-bending thriller to the forefront, instead of the less daring “all’s well” happy ending (even if it did offer another sci-fi twist). Regardless, this is well-acted, well-paced, and highly engaging throughout, with a nice balance between the subtle moral drama at headquarters and the more straight forward whodunit tension and deja vu fun on the train.
7.5/10 (Really Good)

 

Say Anything… (1989)

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A noble underachiever and a beautiful valedictorian fall in love the summer before she goes off to college. (IMDb)
While at times making it feel a little tangential and light, ultimately the broad multi-perspective narrative approach to telling this love story gives it an organic vibe while putting fresh spins on typical romance plot points (the pre-ending break-up had a unique cause) and throwing in new ones too (see Diane’s dad twist). Memorable dialogue with a flair for the poetic (see Lloyd’s monologue in the car, the final airplane scene), and artful edits (see Lloyd with the boys) give it extra juice.
7.5/10 (Really Good)

 

Tenacious D in The Pick of Destiny (2006)

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To become the greatest band of all time, two slacker, wannabe-rockers set out on a quest to steal a legendary guitar pick that gives its holders incredible guitar skills, from a maximum security Rock and Roll museum. (IMDb)
There are some moments of good comedy (the subversive take on the “inside all of us/inside your hearts” speech had me in stitches) to go with the entertaining soundtrack (the opening flashback number and the boardwalk jam are highlights), but not enough to distract me from the terrible script that can’t even do the generic underdog story right (where was their triumphant open mic performance?). It’s not boring (fun cameos help), but not every bit lands, and it misses the mark on a grander scale.
6/10 (Mediocre)

 

Year One (2009)

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After being banished from their tribe, two hunter-gatherers encounter Biblical characters and eventually wind up in the city of Sodom. (IMDb)
There are some laughs to be had from Black’s signature crazy schtick (I confess, it was his shit-tasting that got the biggest guffaw out of me) and Cera’s awkward one (“She’s really making that banana last”), and the irreverent trip through biblical history is occasionally funny, but it’s mostly just another crude and immature comedy overloaded with sex jokes, with a dumb plot slapped on top (Zed’s transformation was completely undercooked; it’s better to not even try with these type of films).
5.5/10 (Poor)