Friday, October 4, 2019

#2,506. The Final Terror (1983)

Directed By: Andrew Davis

Starring: John Friedrich, Adrian Zmed, Ernest Harden Jr.

Tagline: "If you go down to the woods today you're sure of... "

Trivia: The prologue with the couple on the motorcycle was filmed after principal shooting on the movie had wrapped

A cross between Deliverance and Just Before Dawn, The Final Terror is a down-and-dirty, often unnerving horror flick that features a cast any filmmaker would absolutely die for. 

A team of forest rangers, Zorich (John Friedrich), Marco (Adrien Zmed), Nathaniel (Ernest Harden Jr.) and Boone (Lewis Smith), heads deep into the woods on a work detail, one that’s scheduled to last a few days. Hoping to combine business with pleasure, the ranger in charge of the crew, Mike (Mark Metcalf), brings his girlfriend Melanie (Cindy Harrell) along, and she in turn invites her friends Wendy (Daryl Hannah), Vanessa (Akosua Busia), and Margaret (Rachel Ward) to join them. 

Fellow ranger Egger (Joe Pantoliano), who acts as their driver, reminds Mike that a couple was murdered in that same section of forest just a few weeks earlier, and that it’s too dangerous a spot to set up camp. Mike and the others laugh at Egger, who, in a fit of rage, packs up and leaves. It isn’t long, however, before the remaining campers realize that there is, indeed, someone lurking in the woods, a dangerous killer who, if the evidence is to be believed, may just be ‘ole Egger himself! 

Shot in 1981 but not released until 1983, The Final Terror marked very early screen appearances for such future stars as Daryl Hannah (Blade Runner, Reckless), Rachel Ward (Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid, Against All Odds) and Joe Pantoliano (The Goonies, The Matrix). From top to bottom, every member of the cast turns in a solid performance, but Pantoliano is especially strong as the backwards Egger, the outcast of the bunch who has a knack for pissing everyone off (his first scene, where he attempts to wake up his sleeping compatriots, is especially tense). From the get-go, Pantoliano’s Egger is clearly unhinged, and like the others, we the audience have no problem believing he’s the killer lurking in the woods. Also excellent is John Friedrich as Zorich, a gung-ho Vietnam Vet who is only too ready to take the fight to Egger (there are times when Zorich is even more terrifying than Egger). 

Yet as good as the cast is, it’s the forest itself that sets a convincing, ominous tone. Director Andrew Davis (who also handled the cinematography) offers up a handful of effective night scenes, often setting his camera far away from the characters, as if to emphasize the fact they are completely alone in the deep, dark woods. There are even a couple of creepy set pieces (chief among them an isolated cabin filled with horrific trinkets and severed animal limbs), not to mention an ultra-suspenseful raft trip down the river, at which point the rangers and their female companions realize someone is watching them, and that person is very, very near. 

Save a handful of scenes, The Final Terror is not a bloody film. It is, however, a real nail-biter, and a movie that deserves a much bigger following that it’s ever received.

Thursday, October 3, 2019

#2,505. Blood Hook (1986)

Directed By: Jim Mallon

Starring: Mark Jacobs, Lisa Jane Todd, Patrick Danz

Tag line: "Blood Sports of the Human Kind"

Trivia: Most of the cast has never appeared in another film

It was probably about 15 minutes or so into 1986’s Blood Hook that I started to think this micro-budget slasher film was, in reality, a comedy, a spoof, if you will, of the entire subgenre. 

For starters, Blood Hook was distributed by Troma (The Toxic Avenger, Class of Nuke ‘Em High), and on top of that its co-writer and director, Jim Mallon, would in later years produce the original episodes of Mystery Science Theater 3000. Hell, in an interview conducted for Vinegar Syndrome (the label that released Blood Hook on Blu-Ray), Mallon even said it was the ‘60s comedy sketch show Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In that inspired him to break into show business in the first place! 

So, taking all of this into account, I figured Blood Hook just had to be a comedy, right? 


Seventeen years after witnessing the mysterious death of his grandfather, Peter Van Cleese (Mark Jacobs) inherits the old man’s former home: a cabin situated on a picturesque Wisconsin lake. Accompanied by his girlfriend Ann (Lisa Todd) and friends Rodney (Patrick Danz), Kiersten (Sara Hauser) and Finner (Christopher Whiting), Peter drives out to inspect his new property, which has been cared for all these years by his grandfather’s long-time friend Wayne Duerst (Paul Drake). 

As luck would have it, Peter and his crew turn up on the very weekend that the town is holding its annual Muskie fishing tournament, an event so popular that it attracts thousands of people to the area, all hoping to catch the biggest Muskie in the lake and win the $5,000 grand prize. 

But there’s more than fish and fishermen in these here parts; there’s a killer on the loose as well, and by the look of it he’s set his sights on Peter and the gang. Peter, who is still hauntd by his grandfather’s death, can’t help but wonder if this is the very same psychopath that took out ‘ole granddad all those years ago, a death that has been officially ruled an “unexplained disappearance” (since a body was ever recovered). 

Will Peter learn the identity of the killer in time to save his friends and bring some closure to the past, or is history doomed to repeat itself? 

Blood Hook makes good use of its central location; the entire movie was shot in Hayward, Wisconsin, a lakeside community that is also home to a four-story-tall fiberglass Muskie, a structure so big you can actually walk through it (which Peter and his friends do soon after they arrive). As for the lake, it’s quite beautiful, and reminded me more than a little of the locales used for such early ‘80s slasher films as Friday the 13th and The Burning. In addition, the opening scene, a flashback where we see the demise of Peter’s grandfather (played by Donald Franke), was handled well, and, along with the techno score that played over the credits, was enough to give me a little hope that Blood Hook might just be worth the effort. 

Then, before I knew it, everything had gone to hell in a handcart. For one, the characters - from Peter all the way down to the most insignificant local inhabiting this tiny town - were as exaggerated as they come. I’m not talking exaggerations of real people, or even exaggerations of ‘80s slasher characters (which are themselves already pretty exaggerated). No, this was like an otherworldly exaggeration, as if aliens were trying to mimic human behavior. Nobody in this film acts in a believable manner, nobody utters a believable line. Then, a short time later, it’s revealed that the killer’s weapon of choice is a fishing lure bigger than a human forearm, with large hooks attached to every side of it (which he cast at his victims, hooking them and reeling them in). I mean, this damn lure was so impractical that it was ridiculous. If a fisherman tried to actually use it, the fish would scatter the minute this behemoth hit the water! 

As I sat there - slack-jawed - trying to make sense of what was playing out in front of me, a coping mechanism kicked in, and I spent the rest of the first half of the movie convinced that Blood Hook was a comedy. And on that level, its awfulness became much more tolerable (once the film was over, I looked Blood Hook up on the Internet Movie Database, where it is, indeed, listed as comedy / horror, so I was glad to see I wasn’t totally off-base). 

But then, something unexpected happened. Right around the halfway point of Blood Hook, when the killer’s identity is revealed to both the audience and, a few minutes later, the remaining characters, the movie changed gears. The characters seemed a bit deeper than they had before, and the tension was more substantial. All at once, Blood Hook started to feel like an honest-to-goodness horror movie. 

Now, I don’t want to oversell this: when I say the characters were “deeper”, I equate it to stepping out of the kiddie pool and into the shallow end of the main swimming area. It’s not like they suddenly transformed into actual human beings. As for the tension, it was more substantial only when compared to what came before it in the film. Even at its most gruesome, Blood Hook is not a movie that will give you nightmares, or even cause you to wince a little. 

Yet this subtle shift in quality was enough to win me over, and what had been nothing more than a lackluster comedy was now a horror film I was invested in, genuinely anxious to see how it would end. 

I know I’m setting myself up for a fall here. Like many fans of ‘80s slashers, I’ve been accused of seeing movies like Blood Hook through rose-colored glasses, allowing the nostalgic feelings I harbor for the time period to cloud my judgment. And if those same people who leveled these accusations were to actually sit down and watch Blood Hook, they might just have enough evidence against me to prove their case in the court of public opinion. 

Hell, it’s entirely possible that the fans who worship ‘80s slashers will be scratching their heads over this review, wondering how I found anything positive to say about Blood Hook

So pity me if you can. Judge me if you must. But know that I’m a victim of circumstance. I’m a child of the ‘80s, and that child sometimes just can’t help himself. 

The heart wants what the heart wants. And there’s was a small corner of mine that opened itself up to Blood Hook.

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

#2,504. Don't Go In The House (1979)

Directed By: Joseph Ellison

Starring: Dan Grimaldi, Charles Bonet, Bill Ricci

Tag line: "If you do...then don't say we didn't warn you"

Trivia: The house used in this film is now the museum headquarters of the Atlantic Highlands Historical Society in New Jersey

There was a lot to love about 2007’s Grindhouse, a rollicking homage to ‘70s exploitation cinema co-directed by Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez, yet one of my favorite aspects of that movie (or should I say double-feature?) were the fake trailers that appeared throughout, written and directed by a handful of filmmakers. The best was Eli Roth’s “Thanksgiving”, an ode to the slasher films of the 1980’s (I’m still hoping Roth will eventually turn this idea into a feature film one day, like Rodriguez did with his fake trailer for Machete), but I also enjoyed Edgar Wright’s “Don’t”, a trailer spoofing the “Don’t” movies of the late ‘70s and early ‘80s, like Don’t Answer the Phone, Don’t Go in the Basement, and Don’t Go In the Woods

Don’t Go in the House, a 1979 horror flick directed by Joseph Ellison, is yet another entry in this most unique class of pictures (I hesitate to call it a subgenre, seeing as many of these “Don’t” movies had plenty in common with the slasher films that were also in style at the time). 

Don’t Go in the House starts off by introducing us to its main character, Donny, and showing us, in no uncertain terms, the trauma that took hold of him at a very early age; in a childhood flashback (which occurs within the first 10 minutes on the movie), we watch as Donny’s mother (Ruth Dardick) holds her son’s arms over a lit oven burner, torturing the poor boy for some minor infraction. 

Though he still lives with his mother, a much older Donny (Dan Grimaldi) now works at a New Jersey trash incineration plant. While at work one evening, Donny sits by and does nothing when co-worker Ben (Charles Bonet) has an accident and is badly burned. Donny’s boss Vito (Bill Ricci)) chastises him for his inaction, and Donny’s bad day gets even worse when he arrives home to find his mother has passed away. 

Distraught at first, Donny eventually starts listening to the voices in his head, telling him he’s now free of his domineering mother (“We’ll help you”, the voices say. “You can do anything you want to do now”). As a means of enjoying his new-found freedom, Donny burns his mother’s corpse, then dresses her up and sits her in her favorite chair. In these scenes, we pity Donny, whose life is suddenly and unexpectedly spiraling out of control, and both the filmmakers and Dan Grimaldi do a decent job showing us the lead’s mental breakdown and its immediate aftermath. 

That pity soon turns to fear, however, when Donny lures the unsuspecting Kathy (Johanna Brushay), a local florist, back to his house. Once there, Donny knocks Kathy unconscious, and the next time we see her, the poor girl is naked and hanging by her arms in what appears to be a fireproof room. Her screams for help become even more intense when Donny suddenly appears in the doorway wearing a Hazmat suit and carrying a flamethrower! This scene is easily the most grisly in the entire film, and is one of the reasons Don’t Go in the House was categorized as a Section 2 Video Nasty in the UK (Section 2 means the film was never actually prosecuted as a Video Nasty, but major cuts were required before it could be released to the home market). 

Unfortunately, as we’ll soon discover, Kathy won’t be the last girl to suffer such an awful fate. 

Despite its moments of brutality, Don’t Go In the House ultimately feels more like a psychological horror film than a straight-up stalk-and-slash flick; from its early scenes where Donny’s mind snaps to later on, when he’s “haunted” throughout the house by his mother’s charred corpse, the filmmakers manage to keep us on our toes, never quite sure from which direction the next scare will come. 

Personally, I’m not a big fan of the “Don’t” movies (1981’s Don’t Go in the Woods was particularly inept), and Don’t Go in the House is by no means a perfect horror film. For one, the voices that haunt Donny throughout the picture, telling him to kill, are often indecipherable; due to the combination of soft whispers and a clunky echo effect, there were times when I couldn’t make out a single word these voices were saying (to be fair, though, this could have been an issue with the transfer I watched, and not the movie itself). But thanks to a strong final act (which kicks off when Donny accepts an invitation from his co-worker Bobby, played by Robert Carnegie, to go on a double date) coupled with some effectively creepy moments help make Don’t Go in the House one of the era’s better “Don’t” films.

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

#2,503. Outcast (2010)

Directed By: Colm McCarthy

Starring: Kate Dickie, Niall Bruton, Hanna Stanbridge

Tagline: "Evil Runs In The Blood"

Trivia: The book Mary gives Fergal for his birthday is "Titus Alone", the concluding volume in the 'Gormenghast' trilogy by Mervyn Peake

Outcast, a 2010 Irish horror film directed by Colm McCarthy, hits the ground running; in the opening scenes, a man arrives at a trailer park and announces he’s ready to take on “the mission”. This man is then led inside, and subjected to what appears to be a very painful tattoo session, covering his entire torso in ancient insignias. 

At the same time, a woman rents a rundown apartment in a Scottish tenement, and during her first night there performs a ceremony where she chants in Gaelic, cuts a gash into her chest, and uses the blood to paint a symbol on the wall. 

We know nothing about either of these two characters at this point, or why they’re subjecting themselves to all this pain. In fact, through a fair portion of Outcast, we’re kept in the dark as to what is actually happening, yet director McCarthy (who co-wrote the screenplay with his brother Tom) still manages to weave the tale in a manner that is consistently intriguing. 

Eventually, we find out that the man with the new tattoos is Cathal (James Nesbitt), and he has agreed to hunt down and kill a mother and her teenage son. The woman who sliced her own chest is Mary (Kate Dickie), the mother Cathal is now after, and she lives with her son Fergel (Niall Bruton). Mary and Fergel have been on the run for some time, but now that Fergel’s 15th birthday is upon them, mom and son know they’re in danger, and are sitting tight in their new surroundings, waiting for Cathal to bring the fight to them. 

Then one very unexpected complication arises: the shy and withdrawn Fergel catches the eye of pretty next door neighbor Petronella (Hanna Stanbridge), who lives with her alcoholic mother and mentally challenged brother, Tomatsk (Josh Whitelaw). While Mary is busy doing everything she can to protect her son, Fergel and Petronella fall deeply in love with one another. But as Mary warns Petronella, Fergel is no ordinary teenager, and there will be dire consequences should the two youngsters ever decide to consummate their relationship. 

Along with building upon its central mystery (why are Mary and Fergel being hunted?), Outcast repeatedly blurs the line between good and evil in that we’re never quite sure who it is we should be rooting for: Cathal or Mary, both of whom are capable of terrible things (having tracked mother and son to the tenement complex, Cathal tortures a teenager to try and learn their exact whereabouts, while Mary uses her knowledge of ancient Gaelic to send a pesky housing officer, played by Christine Tremarco, off to meet her doom). As events unfold, though, we begin to realize that part of the film’s charm is it avoids creating clear-cut heroes and villains for as long as it does, keeping our curiosity piqued as we watch some pretty intense stuff play out before our eyes. 

Though steeped in Gaelic folklore and customs, Outcast is nonetheless a violent, down-and-dirty horror film, featuring its fair share of bloody gore (some of which the characters inflict upon themselves). As far as the performances are concerned, Bruton’s Fergel and Stanbridge’s Petronella make for a likable couple, and the two are solid in their respective roles. But it’s James Nesbitt and Kate Dickie who command our attention, and the battle of wills between them proves to be the film’s most fascinating aspect. In one memorable scene, Cathal, aided by his guide Liam (Ciarán McMenamin), attempts to locate the apartment where Mary and Fergel are hiding by honing in on Mary’s psychic energy, while Mary, in the comfort of said apartment, uses whatever spells she can to keep Cathal from completing his task. The two never meet face-to-face in this scene, yet we see in their faces (which McCarthy shows by cutting back and forth between the two) just how fierce this mental skirmish has become. 

Shot on location in Scotland and Ireland, Outcast is a very gritty film (the tenement complex is the perfect locale for what proves to be a bloody showdown), and there are even moments when the movie delves into creature feature territory (resulting in a final scene that is as tense as it is exciting). But with its roots firmly entrenched in ancient customs and traditions, Outcast is more than a run-of-the-mill, gore-infused monster flick, and the deliberate manner in which director McCarthy relates his tale of spells and magic adds quite a bit to the film’s overall appeal.

Friday, March 15, 2019

#2,502. Death Ship (1980)

Directed By: Alvin Rakoff

Starring: George Kennedy, Richard Crenna, Nick Mancuso

Tagline: "Those who survive the ghost ship are better off dead!"

Trivia: The setting was the Carribean Sea, but the exterior water filming location was the Gulf of Mexico

Death Ship, a 1980 Canadian-produced horror film, was based on a script written by Jack Hill, the creative mind behind such exploitation classics as Spider Baby, The Swinging Cheerleaders, and Coffy. Though only billed as a story consultant (the final screenplay was penned by John Robins), just seeing Hill’s name in the credits was enough to pique my interest. And while it may lack the exploitative goodness of some of Hill’s directorial efforts, Death Ship is just eerie enough to hold your attention. 

A jam-packed luxury cruise liner, scheduled to return to dock in three days’ time, is rammed and destroyed by a ship that seemingly appeared out of thin air. Those who survived the collision include Captain Ashland (George Kennedy); his second in command Captain Marshall (Richard Crenna); Marshall’s wife Margaret (Sally Ann Howes) and their two children (Jennifer McKinney, Danny Higham); Crewman Nick (Nick Mancuso) and his girlfriend Lori (Victoria Burgoyne); an elderly widow named Sylvia (Kate Reid); and ship’s entertainer Jackie (Saul Rubinek). Together, this ragtag group climbs aboard the boat that hit them, which appears to be an abandoned World War II-era German warship. The survivors make the best of the situation, searching for food and a radio to call for help, all the while wondering what happened to the crew of this ominous vessel. 

It isn’t until people start to die, however, that Captain Marshall and the others realize they may not be alone after all, and that whoever (or whatever) is in control of this ship won’t rest until every last one of them is dead. 

Death Ship doesn’t get off to a stellar start. The collision that sinks the cruise ship is underwhelming, to say the least (it’s over far too quickly to generate any real tension), and if I somehow found myself aboard an empty warship in the middle of the ocean, I’d be asking a hell of a lot more questions than the characters in this film (like, if the warship is, indeed, abandoned, who dropped the ladder that let us climb aboard?). 

Fortunately, the fright meter jumps a few notches the moment the survivors start to explore their new vessel. Simply put, the German warship is one creepy-ass boat; each corridor is darker and more treacherous than the last, and the living quarters are covered from top to bottom in dust and cobwebs. Even the usual scare tactics you find in just about every ghost story – strange voices, doors and hatches that swing open by themselves – managed to send a shiver up my spine. In addition to its extraordinarily realized setting, Death Ship features a solid performance by George Kennedy as the no-nonsense Captain Ashland, a by-the-books commander who is more than a little susceptible to the German ship’s supernatural forces. 

Though lacking in blood and gore (save one very messy shower scene), Death Ship is an ‘80s horror film that still packs a punch.

Friday, March 1, 2019

#2,501. Strange Nature (2018)

Directed By: James Ojala

Starring: Stephen Tobolowsky, Bruce Bohne, Lisa Sheridan

Cameo: Troma regular Tiffany Shepis makes a cameo appearance as a photographer

Trivia: This film was inspired by true events that date back to 1995, when deformed frogs began popping up in rural Minnesota ponds

The discovery of deformed frogs in a small Minnesota town - situated on Lake Superior - may very well be tied to a series of birth defects that are rocking the local population. It’s up to former pop star Kim Sweet (Lisa Sheridan), who has returned home to care for her ailing father (Bruce Bohne, aka Andy, the gun store proprietor in the 2004 remake of Dawn of the Dead), to figure out what’s causing these bizarre mutations. But will Kim get to the bottom of it in time, or will nature beat her to the punch, unleashing its full fury on the residents of this backwoods community?

With its seemingly goofy premise and a brief cameo at the outset by former Troma regular Tiffany Shepis (as a doomed photographer), you might assume that Strange Nature is going to be yet another low-budget horror comedy. But writer / director James Ojala (a makeup / effects artist helming his first feature) plays it straight, transforming this 2018 eco-horror film into a deadly serious nature gone wild tale that also boasts a generous helping of impressive creature effects. 

Strange Nature does have its share of flaws: the story tends to meander, with sequences that aren’t set up properly (scenes are occasionally strung together with no rhyme or reason, hurting the overall flow). This, along with a clumsy romantic entanglement (designed solely to introduce an unnecessary plot twist) and a few loose ends that are never tied up (so was the salmon infected or not?), prevents Strange Nature from being a breakout success. 

That said, the movie does have a few things going for it that are sure to impress even the most apprehensive of genre fans. 

First and foremost is actress Lisa Sheridan, who delivers a solid performance as Kim Sweet, the washed-up pop star who, soon after hitting it big on the West Coast a decade or so earlier, gave a series of interviews trashing her home town. Now she is forced to return to that very community to care for her sick father (played extremely well by Bohne). Older and a bit wiser, Sheridan’s Kim is a determined, likable heroine, and we root for her every step of the way. 

There are other decent performances as well, including John Hennigan as the rough-around-the-edges yokel who serves as the movie’s primary mortal villain; and character actor Stephen Tobolowsky (best remembered as Ned, the pesky insurance salesman who hounded Bill Murray in 1993’s Groundhog Day) as the town’s mayor, who, like all authority figures in these sort of horror stories, ignores the facts that are staring him in the face (in one of the film’s few humorous moments, an exasperated Kim even says to Tobolowsky’s character “God, you’re like one of those movie Mayors”). 

But what really lifts this 2018 horror flick to the next level are its makeup and creature designs. Under the watchful eye of director Ojala himself (who had previously assisted with the makeup and effects on such big-budget spectacles as X-Men: The Last Stand and 2011’s Thor as well as the 2008 indie horror film Deadgirl), the effects in Strange Nature range from serviceable to extraordinary (Ojala and his small crew do an especially remarkable job depicting the various birth defects). In addition, the movie’s final act features a handful of grisly moments, including one of the more disturbing throat rips I’ve seen in some time. 

Though it does sometimes struggle with the same issues that plague many low-budget horror films (along with the problems mentioned above, a few of the supporting performances are sub-par), Strange Nature proved a pleasant surprise.

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

#2,500. Henri Langlois: The Phantom of the Cinémathèque (2004)

Directed By: Jacques Richard

Starring: Henri Alekan, Catherine Allégret, Jo Amorin

Line from this film: "One must save everything and buy everything. Never assume you know what's of value"

Trivia: Was nominated for Best Documentary at the 2004 Chicago International Film Festival

When I started my 2,500 movie journey back in August of 2010, one of the things that excited me most about it was the possibility of uncovering some cinematic gems, films I might otherwise have never seen that could be among the greatest ever made. And because I enjoy such a wide variety of genres (and had no idea from which direction a hidden treasure would hit me), I felt the best way to approach this challenge was to keep the selection process as random as possible. 

I spent many a day over the past seven plus years staring at my DVD collection, waiting for one particular title to grab my attention. On rare occasions, I’d put together a schedule, or select a movie that fit into a current holiday season, especially in October (for Halloween) and December (for Christmas), but more often than not I woke up in the morning with no idea what film I’d be writing about in the afternoon. 

From the very beginning, though, I knew which movie would be the last - aka #2,500: Henri Langlois: The Phantom of the Cinémathèque

The reason is simple: it’s the film that inspired me to undertake this challenge in the first place! 

Directed by Jacques Richard, The Phantom of the Cinémathèque is a 2004 documentary on the life and times of Henri Langlois, arguably the greatest cinephile who ever lived. For decades Langlois ran the Paris Cinémathèque, and his love of movies inspired the members of the French New Wave (Francois Truffaut, Jean-Lug Godard, etc), all of whom would huddle together in the dark, drinking in the films that Langlois showed on a daily basis. 

In addition, Henri Langlois was one of the world’s foremost film archivists; by some estimates, he amassed a collection of 50,000 movies, and is credited with saving such highly-regarded classics as The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, The Blue Angel, and a slew of others, which, without his penchant for preserving the cinema’s rich history, might have been lost forever. 

Unfortunately, because his inventory was so massive, there were those (including the government-run film commission, which funded the Cinémathèque) who felt Langlois lacked organization, and let things get too far out of his control (his refusal to copy highly flammable nitrate prints onto newer film stock didn’t endear him to the officials, either). So, in 1968, Langlois was removed from his position with the Francais Cinémathèque, an organization he himself co-founded (along with Georges Franju and Jean Mitry) in 1936. 

His ouster sent shock waves throughout the cinematic community, and sparked a revolution. Led by Truffaut, Godard, and a handful of others, daily protests (attended by hundreds of students and young film fans) were staged in front of the Cinémathèque, a few of which turned violent (police tried on several occasions to disperse the crowd, and at one point a policeman even clubbed Jean-Luc Godard). Support poured in from all over the world, with prominent filmmakers threatening to pull their movies from the Cinémathèque’s library if Langlois wasn’t immediately reinstated. 

With the pressure mounting, Langlois was allowed to return to his position with the Cinémathèque, but all government funding was cut off. 

Still, even without the subsidies, Langlois continued “rescuing” as many films as he could, the cost of which forced him to spend the final years of his life in abject poverty. He died of a heart attack in January of 1977 – aged 62 - but not before receiving an Honorary Oscar from the Academy in 1974, for "his devotion to the art of film, his massive contributions in preserving its past and his unswerving faith in its future". 

Henri Langlois: The Phantom of the Cinémathèque paints as complete a picture as possible of its main subject, starting from the early days of the Cinémathèque (Langlois personally hid hundreds of movies during the Nazi Occupation) through to his tumultuous final years. Utilizing stills, archive footage (of Langlois himself, at work or just chatting about movies) and interviews with those who knew the man, director Richard gives us a sense of why some believe Henri Langlois was the ultimate cinephile. 

It is an engrossing documentary about an extraordinary man, but there was one specific element of Henri Langlous: The Phantom of the Cinémathèque that inspired my 2,500 Challenge: his approach to the movies he amassed over the years. Henri Langlois felt that every film, whether a classic or an obscure title, deserved to be seen. And during his run as head of the Cinémathèque, he played as many of them as he could, regardless of where the print was from or what condition it was in. “We saw tons of Italian films with no subtitles”, said Max Tessier, a filmmaker and historian who frequented the Cinémathèque during its heyday. “There were Japanese films subtitled in Russian, and Buster Keaton with title cards in Czech”. 

I'm sure this proved frustrating at times (patrons were often forced to decipher the story based on the images alone), but Langlois truly believed each and every motion picture he showcased sharpened his audience’s movie-watching skills. And because he rarely showed a movie more than once, people crowded into the Cinémathèque on a regular basis out of fear they might miss something special. 

Langlois’s philosophy struck a chord with me when I first saw this documentary in July of 2010. Like him, I had a DVD collection that was out of control, and featured many I had never seen (hell, I hadn’t even removed the shrink wrap from dozens of them). “Why not go on a cinematic journey of discovery”, I thought, “and in the process sharpen my own movie-watching skills?” And thus, DVD Infatuation was born. 

So, what now? What will I do without this challenge hanging over my head? It’s a question I’ve been asked many times the past few months. 

For starters, the reviews will continue. I do intend to take the next 12 months off, but starting in May of 2019 I will post five to six reviews a month, with two exceptions: 

1. Every October, I’ll continue the 31 Days of Horror I started in 2015 and post a new horror review every single day 

2. Every December, I’ll take a mini-vacation and post nothing at all. 

And what have I learned over the past 7+ years? Well, one of the key revelations was that a number as seemingly large as 2,500 doesn’t scratch the surface of what’s out there for the taking. Even a 5,000 Challenge - or 10,000 – wouldn’t have exposed me to all the cinema has to offer. There are so many films, so many subgenres, and so many countries turning out pictures on a yearly basis that it’s more than any cinephile can digest in a lifetime. For example, India has flooded the market with thousands of Bollywood movies over the decades. During this challenge, I reviewed exactly one: 2007’s Saawariya

This, of course, raises an interesting question: How many Bollywood films would’ve been enough? Say I watched 250 of Bollywood’s finest movies. That would have constituted a large percentage of my challenge’s overall total (10%, to be exact), but been a drop in the bucket as to what that particular industry, the largest in the world, had to offer. In a 2014 article for Forbes magazine, Niall McCarthy wrote that in 2012 alone, Bollywood released 1,602 pictures. Sure, 250 might have given me a taste of what’s out there, but I still wouldn’t have dared call myself an expert on Indian cinema. 

Bollywood wasn’t my only oversight. In fact, some of my omissions hit me like a punch to the gut. I skipped Dario Argento’s classic Giallo flicks; turned my back on the entirety of Stallone’s Rocky series; and completely ignored the Dirty Harry franchise. And I love all (or at least most) of those damn movies! Bottom line: 2,500 simply isn’t enough. 

That said, I wouldn’t have changed a thing. While a daily movie binge stretched out over almost 8 years may seem like a tremendous undertaking to some, I recommend the experience wholeheartedly. If I can watch and review 2,500 films in 8 years, anyone can, and the various cinematic nooks and crannies that I’ve explored since that first day in August of 2010 have paid off in a big way. 

Finally, on a personal note, let me say that I greatly appreciate the support and encouragement I’ve received from so many of you over the years (far too many to list here). Along with being a cinematic discovery, this endeavor has introduced me to so many wonderful people, helping me forge friendships that I hope will last the rest of my life. 

Thank you so much for joining me on this little journey, and to quote the late Roger Ebert, I’ll see you at the movies!