Sunday, March 17, 2019

William Castle's Straight Jacket (1964) Retro Movie Review

The film that has a horror tree like no other! Branching together multiple generations of horror greatness. Tying together much of the horror genre for the twentieth century. And to goes to prove a family who goes crazy together will stay together.....

A very young Lee Majors appears uncredited in this movie. His first credited film role was in arguably one of the greatest westerns of all time Will Penny (1967) from there the movie side of the business went downhill fast! Even though he was an up and coming actor, choosing to be in two movie horrors (not in a good way), 'The Norseman' (1978), don't watch under any circumstance, and 'Killer Fish' (1979), a very bad knock off of the already flooded 'killer fish movies'. But these highlights the difference between movies and TV. Make a bad TV pilot, it dies with little notice when the series doesn't get picked up. Make a bad movie it lives on into infinity and beyond, unless your Jerry Lewis 'The Day the Clown Cried' (1972). Nowadays he is best known for playing a parody of himself like in 'Ash vs Evil Dead' (2016-2018).

In the twilight of her career, Joan Crawford found new life in The Psycho Biddy movies. One of the biggest names in the '30s by the time this movie was made she was more known for feuding with anyone who crossed her path and being a diva on set. Unfortunately, the reason this movie isn't better can directly be traced back to her. Crawford still had incredible pull, having the script rewritten and numerous actors replaced. Just cause you can act doesn't mean you can write or understand a script (looking at you Donald Sutherland). Known to most people from the unflattering tell-all book 'Mommy Dearest'.

Unfortunately William Castle, by finding creative ways to promote his movies, became to be viewed as a B-movie film-making schmuck. Castle was the ultimate movie making hustler. Not only directing, producing, and starring but also pulling off outrageous stunts to promote his movies. Before the XD experiences, we have now in movie theaters, there was William Castle! His movies were much better than their budget should have allowed. Finding actors that deserved better scripts. And finding scripts that deserved better budgets. He had a hand in bringing to life some of the best horror movies in the fifties and sixties. He also tried to get studios to green light 3d years before the first, studios said there was no market for cheap gimmicks like that. Unfortunately, after the success of 'Rosemary's Baby' (1969) (purchased the rights but couldn't find a studio who would let him direct it) his health declined and he only worked on a couple more B-movies before his death.

George Kennedy plays the cruel opportunistic farm hand to perfection. A fixture in movies for over fifty years. He never got the leading man roles, but the more interesting supporting characters. Including a horror fan favorites 'The Terror Within' (1989), 'Creep Show 2' (1987) and 'Brain Dead; (1990). At the time of this movie, he was still a relatively unknown TV actor. Playing tough guys with limited lines.

The main reason why this movie has faded into obscurity is it doesn't compete in any category. It's not the best Psycho Biddy movie, both Whatever happened to Baby Jane? (1962) and Hush.... Hush, Sweet Charlotte (1964) were better. It's not the best Castle movie, not even for that year 'The Night Walker' is better. Castle both directed and produced better movies, 'House on Haunted Hill' (1959) and 'Rosemary's Baby' (1968). It's not Robert Bloch's (an H.P. Lovecraft protege) masterpiece, he wrote Psycho (1960). But it's still a fun movie to watch. 

Monday, February 18, 2019

The Axiom (2018) Movie Review

A gritty mashup of Pans Labyrinth (2006) and Evil Dead (1981) with a much darker end. A trip into a weird universe that brings out the certifiable mental patient in people. Siblings McKenzie and Martin with a group of friends follow a trail of bread crumbs left by their missing sister into a backwater hell hole. Where the group splinters into madness.

Director and writer, Nicholas Woods creates a universe that's interesting and has more stories to tell. Most of the major characters are fully formed. Even some of the secondary people leave you wanting to know what their story is. Two of the local boys go off to "play" in one of the other gates, leaving me really wanting to see their little adventure. The gate the sister is in, is visited all too briefly. But reveals images that beg to be expanded on, a story that needs telling.

They do a good job with the budget they have (seriously Deadpool 2 spent more on one AC/DC song than they did on all the guns in the first movie and probably the second too! and Ryan wannabe super hero with his CGI abs Reynolds, took three times to finally get one right, makes one bad rom-com after another and than gets to be Deadpool! Someone should sew his mouth shut, shave his head, make him wear a green fat suit and star in the remake of Deliverance playing Ned Beatty's role.), I've seen many Friday the 13th movies that looked and felt much cheaper than The Axiom.

This film has good cast aided by well-defined characters. It's amazing how enjoyable it is to watch beautiful women. Cinematographer spends an extraordinary amount of time focusing on Hattie Smith's butt (we might have a creeper). Which wears the best looking pair of Daisy Dukes since Dukes of Hazard. Every scene Nicole Dambro is in, she steals.  

The way this movie ends, can disappoint depending on how you like movies to end. First time I watched Barracuda (1978) it blew my little mind, a film could end like that. The big difference in these two movies is I would want to watch The Axiom again, and not just because the batteries in the remote are dead, when it happens to come on Svengoolie for the tenth time. 

Watch The Axiom on YouTube

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Rust Creek (2019) Movie Review

Sawyer (played by Hermione Cornfield) is an A-type personality, who has a dream job lined up, ready to conquer the brutal grind of the nine to five world of corporate America. Unfortunately, she is stuck in hillbilly hell between being chased by some pig farmers who think old sow Sally has a sexy little wiggle, a sheriff looking to retire early, and a meth cook cranking out batch after batch of poison while contemplating a good way to end it all.

One thing the film briefly touched on was 'what would one do to survive they would normally recoil in horror from?' We all know the morally challenging question of 'would you steal bread for your starving children?' The film skirted past all too quickly the moral questions the main character gets faced with. Missing out on adding some meat on to the story-line and critical character development. The one that gets used often in horror is will someone who's a pacifist fight to save themselves and their friends. Exploring human nature and what individuals will do to preserve their own lives is what makes the Saw (2004-2017), which is the second highest grossing horror franchise behind only Aliens (1979-2012), movies so interesting.

The small details do matter in being able to draw viewers into a movie. The lead character has a huge gash on her leg. There is no serious attempt to apply pressure and dress the wound till a day later. Also not addressed is how cold it is. There is no effort made to go back for clothes or keep warm. Even though with the loss of blood and being exposed to the elements all night any mere mortal would have gotten hypothermia and not been able to get up the next morning. You don't have to be Bear Grylls to realize treating gushing leg wound is a priority as is staying warm in freezing temperatures.

YouTube Rust Creek Trailer

Director Jen McGowan lets the viewer in on all the forces working against Sawyer. Leaving the viewer in on all the twists and dangers awaiting her. Most movies we already guessed who the bad guys are, when they will jump out, which side character will get it, and the heroine will get away. By showing the twists one isn't watching the movie calling out each scene before it happens. You just enjoy watching the movie.

 Official Website