Wednesday, July 21, 2021

Capsule Reviews - July 21, 2021

The Dark and the Wicked (2020) –With their elderly father on the brink of death, Louise (Marin Ireland) and her brother Michael (Michael Abbott Jr.) take a few days off from work to help their mother (Julie Oliver-Touchstone) on the family farm. Far from welcoming them with open arms, however, dear old mom, who is convinced she and her husband are being tormented by a demonic entity, tells Louise and Michael that they shouldn’t have come. And it isn’t long before the two realize just how right she is! The Dark and the Wicked has its share of scary moments (including one very unnerving shower scene), but it’s the sense of dread that writer / director Bryan Bertino maintains throughout, and the feelings of helplessness and isolation that his characters are forced to deal with, that will linger long after the movie is over. Living up to its title, The Dark and the Wicked is indeed a very dark film, and the wickedness that torments its characters remains an enigma throughout, making it all the more terrifying. Rating: 9 out of 10

Eaten Alive (1976) – Tobe Hooper followed up The Texas Chain Saw Massacre with this 1976 outing, which in many ways looks and feels as if it exists in the same universe as his 1974 horror masterpiece. Neville Brand plays Judd, the proprietor of a rundown motel who has a nasty habit of killing his guests with garden instruments before feeding them to his pet crocodile, which he keeps in a dirty pond just outside. Also along for the ride are Carolyn Jones (of Addams Family fame) as the Madame of the local whorehouse; Robert Englund as a horny good ‘ole boy named Buck (his first line was lifted almost verbatim by Quentin Tarantino for a key scene in Kill Bill, Vol. 1); and William Finley and Chain Saw’s own Marilyn Burns as an incredibly unhappily married couple. As good as the supporting cast is (which also includes veterans Mel Ferrer and Stuart Whitman), it’s Neville Brand who steals the show. As played by Brand, Judd is almost completely insane, mumbling to himself and losing his temper at the drop of a hat. In fact, I’d have no problem believing Judd was a cousin of TCM’s Sawyer family. A gritty creature feature (the croc has a voracious appetite, and feeds quite often throughout the movie), Eaten Alive is a movie that rarely gets it’s due, and stands alongside Texas Chain Saw, Salem’s Lot, and Poltergeist as one of Tobe Hooper’s strongest films. Rating: 9 out of 10

Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah (1991) – Writer / director Kazuki Ohmori’s Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah is an entertaining Kaiju movie that blends sci-fi and action into the mix (there’s even a World War II battle scene). With the help of their time-traveling spaceship, visitors from Earth’s future – the year 2204 to be exact – return first to 1992, then to 1944, all in an effort to prevent Godzilla (who will supposedly destroy Japan in the near future) from ever existing. But are the visitors truly trying to save Japan, or do they have another motive for being there? The third film of the series’ Hesrei era (which started with Godzilla 1984) and the 18th Godzilla movie overall, Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah can be a bit goofy at times, but unlike other films in the series the story is just as interesting as the monster attacks; before the end credits roll, Godzilla (Kenpachiro Satsuma) and King Ghidorah take turns playing hero and villain, and an android from the future (Robert Scott Field) is an obvious nod to Robert Patrick’s character in Terminator 2: Judgment Day (which was released earlier that same year). Like most Godzilla films, the effects can be cheesy, the dialogue trite, and some of the film’s lighter moments might make you cringe (a scene with two U.S. servicemen that also pays tribute to Steven Spielberg had that effect on me). But if it’s pure entertainment you’re after, this one delivers. Rating: 7.5 out of 10

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