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Movie reviews (titles starting with A)
02-03-2017, 02:37 AM (This post was last modified: 02-04-2017 07:20 AM by goodcop2000.)
Post: #1
Movie reviews (titles starting with A)
Aaah! Zombies! (2007)
2 tasty brains

This obviously low-budget comedy featured one interesting twist - the zombies we meet continue to think and act on their own will but they do not realize they have become zombies. As the movie progresses, the viewer is shown two realities - what the zombies perceive and what is really happening. Unfortunately, that one interesting idea is not worth sitting through the bad acting, unfunny gags, and ridiculous, disjointed plot.

The ABCs of Death (2012)
2 twisted tales

I was very excited to watch The ABCs of Death when I read the concept: 26 rising directors were assigned letters from the alphabet and created short death-related films titled after words starting with their letters. Unfortunately, this anthology greatly disappointed me. With a few exceptions, the stories were either unimaginative, infantile, or excessively perverse. I feel like the short running times of the films made the directors so desperate to get a reaction from the viewer that many of them just aimed for shock value without any artistic merit. My favorite among the whole lot was the film for letter T, an entertaining claymation entry from Lee Hardcastle. I also enjoyed the letter B from director Adrian Garcia Bogliano, the letter D from Marcel Sarmiento, and the letter U from Ben Wheatley. The sections directed by Ti West and several of the Japanese directors were particularly bad. For those who are going to see the movie, I don't want to give away any titles or plots because guessing the title for each section is part of the game.

The Abominable Dr. Phibes (1971)
4 fiendish plots

This movie tells the story of a disfigured man played by Vincent Prince who is seeking revenge against a group of people. The plot is fun and features inventive kills. There are some good special effects and images. I enjoyed the black humor and Peter Jeffrey who is very funny as Inspector Trout.

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter (2012)
3 dripping fangs

I watched this movie because I enjoyed the book by Seth Grahame-Smith (who also did the screenplay). Though the idea of Abraham Lincoln fighting vampires sounds funny, the movie makers played it as a straight action/horror. The acting is just average and at times the movie feels a bit slow. On the plus side, the story is fun and there are some really entertaining slow-motion action sequences (ala The Matrix). When Lincoln is assassinating bloodsuckers by the bushel, it's pretty awesome.

Alice, Sweet Alice (1976)
4 creepy masks

This is an American film that feels like an Italian giallo. It is a very well done mystery that revolves around a troubled 12-year-old girl named Alice whose younger sister is brutally murdered. The police and even some family members suspect Alice. All of the primary actors give excellent performances. The plot features intense murder scenes and some nice moments of suspense, aided by an eerie score.

Alien (1979)
4.5 gelatinous eggs

If you don't object to science fiction with your horror, Alien is a terrific film. The story follows the crew of a space freighter on its way back to Earth. Their trip is unexpectedly interrupted due to a signal received from a supposedly uninhabited planet. Director Ridley Scott does a masterful job creating a bleak, tense atmosphere. The cast is outstanding and includes Tom Skerritt, John Hurt, Ian Holm, and Sigourney Weaver in one of her earliest appearances. There are some nice surprises in the plot and a number of striking images. My favorite moment in the movie is a close up of a cat's face as it hides in the shadows, carefully observing a violent confrontation. Some of the special effects are slightly dated now but they were groundbreaking at the time. In fact, Alien won an Oscar for its visual effects.

Aliens (1986)
5 gelatinous eggs

It is a rare occasion when a movie sequel surpasses the original, but as much as I love its predecessor, Aliens is a lot more fun. Ellen Ripley (Sigourney Weaver), who survived the first encounter with the dangerous alien species, is recruited to help investigate a possible problem on the same planet. She is accompanied by a platoon of kickass space Marines, but they are up against a challenge bigger than any they have faced before. James Cameron takes over the directing role and he delivers action, excitement, suspense, drama, and anything else you could ask for in a sci fi horror! Weaver shows much more emotional range in this entry and she is outstanding. Horror fans know that the Academy Awards generally ignore horror films, but in addition to winning an Oscar for best visual effects (again), Weaver was nominated for best leading actress. The supporting cast is great as well with particularly memorable performances from Bill Paxton, Lance Henriksen, and Paul Reiser.

Alien 3 (1992)
2.5 surly inmates

The alien-blasting action moves to a prison planet for this film. It's not a terrible movie but suffers in comparison with the first two in the series. The acting is decent but hampered by a bad script and overly dramatic dialogue. The set designs are cool and I liked the practical effects but not the CGI creature effects. The version I watched was the extended "assembly cut" which is definitely too long at almost two and a half hours.

Alien: Resurrection (1997)
2 gelatinous eggs

This movie definitely feels like a cash grab on the Alien brand. Star Sigourney Weaver acknowledged in an interview that she first declined the role and her mind was changed by a "truckload of money". The only highlights for me were some very good special effects, particularly in death scenes. The plot is ridiculous with events that don't make sense. The dialogue is bad and the acting is mediocre. Dan Hedaya is particularly bad playing a general because he plays it as a comedic role. The cherry on top of the sundae for the poor quality of the movie is the presence of a Ripley/alien hybrid that looks exactly like Ripley but with long green fingernails. Seriously.

Almost Human (2013)
3 bloody axes

The makers of Almost Human were obviously working with a limited budget but they managed to make a pretty entertaining film. The story is about a country boy named Mark (Josh Ethier) who disappears under mysterious circumstances, leaving behind his best friend Seth (Graham Skipper) and girlfriend Jen (Vanessa Leigh). Two years later, Mark returns but it may not be reason for celebration. The acting is just mediocre, but I enjoyed the plot and the overall pace of the film. While there are not a lot of special effects, there are a few good ones. There are some editing problems (continuity issues and timing of scenes), but the movie is worth a viewing for horror fans.

Altered (2006)
3 alien implants

Altered is not a big budget production but has some pretty well done special effects using practical effects, not CGI. The plot about some men dealing with alien visitations is nothing special but the acting is decent.

Amer (2009)
3.5 creepy grandmothers

I went into this film expecting a modern giallo. While Amer dredges up memories of Dario Argento classics, it is more of an experimental art film. Picture Suspiria meets Eraserhead! The cinematography is outstanding; it's a visually stunning movie. The sound effects are a huge part of the movie, used to create mood. There is not much music but when present it is great. The film is divided into 3 parts, following the life of a young girl as she grows up, but there is definitely not a clear, linear plot. It is best to just enjoy the experience without trying too hard to figure out exactly what's going on.

An American Werewolf in London (1981)
5 full moons

There are surprisingly few top-notch werewolf movies, but An American Werewolf in London is on the short list. Two American backpackers suffer a violent encounter on the British moors. One of the young men, played by David Naughton, is hospitalized. He befriends the nurse caring for him (the beautiful Jenny Agutter) as he struggles to deal with strange symptoms plaguing him during his recovery. The movie was written and directed by John Landis and he masterfully weaves light-hearted moments, romance, and subtle humor in to the underlying horror. The whole cast does a nice job and the special effects are outstanding.

American Psycho (2000)
4 bloody axes

It took me two viewings of American Psycho, separated by a number of years, to really appreciate it. The movie tells the story of young executive Patrick Bateman (Christian Bale) who outwardly appears to be just another yuppie clone. Unbeknownst to even his girlfriend, Patrick hides the heart of a deranged killer. Patrick's dialogue in the film is outstanding and Bale delivers it perfectly in a masterful performance.

The Amityville Horror (1979)
3 plagues of flies

This atmospheric, supernatural horror about a haunted house has a decent base plot but ends up with lots of loose ends. I feel like the filmmakers were trying to appear authentic and include all of the claims of the real family that lived in the actual house. The acting was decent but overly dramatic at times.

Amityville II: The Possession (1982)
2 stars

This followup to the famous haunted house movie spends the first hour on a cheesy story line with bad dialogue. There is a pretty intense murder scene then and the movie turns into a ripoff of The Exorcist but it's better than the beginning. I enjoyed the sound track. The cast engages in some pretty serious overacting.

Annabelle (2014
3 lovely dolls

This movie is a prequel to The Conjuring and features a story about a cursed doll. It is decent but there is nothing exceptional about it. There are a few good scares and the acting performances are average. The script is below average and rehashes ideas from various old supernatural horrors although I did like the Rosemary's Baby references. The appearance of the doll is grotesque and makes it hard to believe anybody would buy it or keep it.

Antichrist (approx. 2007)
3 false prophets

Antichrist is a short Polish film (about a half hour long) with sub-titles. It features children, one of whom repeatedly claims to the others that he is the Antichrist in a very creepy manner. Nice acting by the kids but no real plot to speak of.

April Fool's Day (1986)
3.5 bloody axes

I was pleasantly surprised by April Fool's Day which is definitely more clever than the average 80's slasher. A group of college kids visit an island to party with their friend, Muffy, played by the lovely Deborah Foreman. Something strange is going on, though, as the guests start to vanish under mysterious circumstances. The acting is decent for the genre and I particularly enjoyed the zany performance by Thomas F. Wilson (Biff from the Back to the Future franchise).

Arachnophobia (1990)
4 hairy-legged monsters

Arachnophobia is billed primarily as a comedy, but there is plenty of suspense and horror as well, especially if you do not like spiders. The plot follows a young doctor and his family who have just moved to a small town. There is a sudden rash of suspicious deaths and signs begin to point to eight-legged suspects. The cast is solid, including Jeff Daniels as the young spider-hating doctor and John Goodman as an over-the-top backwoods bug exterminator. The blend of horror and comedy works well and results in a very entertaining film.

Army of Darkness (1992)
4.5 boomsticks

The third entry in the Evil Dead trilogy, Army of Darkness moves firmly into the comedy genre while still telling an entertaining horror story. Our hero Ash has been transported to Medieval England where he must battle the zombie-like Deadites and seek a way back to his own time. Bruce Campbell is superb as Ash, handling athletic action scenes, physical humor, and witty dialogue with equal expertise. The rest of the cast does a nice job, the story is fun and the movie contains many of director Sam Raimi's trademarks (e.g. filming from the point of view of launched projectiles). How can you not be entertained by Ash fighting a platoon of mini-Ashes and employing Three Stooges blocking techniques? This movie is a horror comedy gem. Hail to the King, baby!

As Above, So Below (2014)
3 creepy catacombs

This movie tells the story of some people who venture down into the catacombs beneath Paris. It has nice visuals and okay acting but the plot was kind of boring and the movie is not scary.

Atom Age Vampire (1960)
2 mad scientists

This movie combines odd elements. There is a Jekyll and Hyde story line along with the doctor doing experimental treatments on a disfigured stripper he has fallen in love with. Some of the plot doesn't make sense which may be explained by 20 minutes of footage that was cut from the original Italian version. The acting, dialogue, and voice dubbing are pretty bad. There are some fun moments when the doctor is in beast mode.

Attack of the Puppet People (1958)
2.5 mad scientists

Attack of the Puppet People tells the rather silly story of elderly doll maker Mr. Franz (John Hoyt) who discovers a method to shrink living things. Unfortunately for those around him, Mr. Franz decides to shrink people he knows and keep them as pets. The acting is very melodramatic but not terrible for that type of old school horror. The giant sized sets created for the shrunken people to interact with are actually pretty well done. I would recommend this for people who like old drive-in movies.

The Awful Dr. Orlof (1962)
2.5 deformed henchmen

The Awful Dr. Orlof is my first taste of famous Spanish director Jesus Franco's work. Franco, who passed away in 2013, churned out over 200 films from 1957 to 2012. Apparently, some of his later movies are basically porn and many opinions I have read point to his early black and white horror films as his best work. However, I can't say I was very impressed with this particular film. The story follows a former prison doctor, Dr. Orlof, who tries to restore his daughter's beauty by harvesting fair skin from lovely young women of questionable reputation. The best character in the movie is Dr. Orlof's blind, disfigured servant, Morpho. Unfortunately, one scary character and some nice camera work are not enough for me to overlook the silly plot, poor acting, and sloppy editing.
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