Nightwatch (1994)

NightwatchMartin is a young law student who’s looking for a typical student job: something that will earn him a bit of money but won’t get in the way of his studies. He ends up seeking a job as a night watchman at the Forensic Medicine Institute, which seems to be perfect. Just sitting there all alone at night, being able to spend some of that time studying. It doesn’t take many nights before paranoia starts setting in, and several unexplained things start happening at the place. Is the job just getting under his skin and fraying his nerves, or is something else at play here? Things get worse as one of the victims of an uncaught serial killer is brought in to the morgue, and just as Martin seriously starts wondering if he’s losing his mind, something happens that ends up making him the prime suspect of the murders.

 

Nightwatch (Danish title Nattevagten) is a Danish horror thriller from 1994, written and directed by Ole Bornedal. After Bornedal released his television film Masturbator (1993), he got the inspiration for Nightwatch after visiting the morgue, which he found to be “both scary and beautiful”. It made him think about how, on the outside of a morgue the daily life continues on, while on the inside you’re standing there with the realization that this is where everything ends. Upon release, the film was a huge success in Denmark where it sold 465.529 tickets. In fact, it got so popular that it ended up being a bigger box office hit in the country than Jurassic Park the previous year.

 

The movie starts out fine enough, with a quick introduction to Martin and the other main characters. When he gets the job and the old, soon to be retired, night guard shows him around, there’s a checklist of “rules” the guard advices him to follow: get yourself a radio. When going into the room with the stiffs, just look straight ahead and never to the sides. And so on. If this wasn’t a movie from 1994, you could’ve thought this setup was based on some kind of classic Creepypasta story. However, like with many things that happen in this movie, you’re thrown a load of red herrings already from the start in order to make you just as confused as the main character ends up being.

 

Originally, the movie was seen as a rather gruesome little flick, and while there are some topics that certainly are controversial (necrophilia, under-aged prostitutes, etc.) none of these topics are displayed in a manner that’s exposed enough to be adequately disturbing. Sure, it was probably an entirely different experience back in ’94 when Scandinavian movies didn’t have much to offer in the horror genre to being with, but seen with modern eyes it’s not really going to crawl under your skin. There are several effective scenes here though, especially when Martin takes his rounds in the morgue when he’s not sure exactly what is going on, and the scene of a grisly murder that happens during the soundtrack of a cheesy, upbeat Danish song (Lille Lise let på tå) that provided a perfect paradoxical effect. Overall it’s a fun and exciting thriller with lots of twists and turns, and although there are some slight pacing issues throughout, it keeps you entertained and guessing what will happen next.

 

While the movie was a huge success in its home country, there were some who didn’t exactly find themselves pleased with the whole situation. Apparently, the film caused a rise in number of people who had withdrawn their organ donation wills, and Professor Morten Møller claimed it was due to the film’s distorted image of doctors, students and researchers’ treatment of the dead and their body parts. He stated: “The movieNightwatch’ has certainly not had a positive effect on us. I don’t know what people imagine. That we should be sexually interested in the dead and want to lie down on their bed? A crazy fantasy that has not the slightest hold in reality.” Oh well…in any case, there’s no doubt that Nightwatch certainly had quite an impact in its home country.

 

There was also an english-language remake of the film released in 1997, also directed by Bornedal, and this year, a whole 30 years later, we get a sequel which is called Nightwatch – Demons are Forever. It was originally released in Denmark in December 2023, but it’s starting to hit the theaters elsewhere in May this year.

 

Nightwatch Nightwatch Nightwatch

 

Writer and director: Ole Bornedal
Country & year: Denmark, 1994
Original title: Nattevagten
Actors: Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Sofie Gråbøl, Kim Bodnia, Lotte Andersen, Ulf Pilgaard, Rikke Louise Andersson, Stig Hoffmeyer, Gyrd Løfquist, Niels Anders Thorn
IMDb: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0110631/

 

 

Vanja Ghoul

 

 

 

The Rift (1990)

The RiftNATO sends out a crew in order to find out what happened to their missing submarine, the Siren I. For this, they use the experimental submarine the Siren II, and along with this crew the designer of the sub is amongst them. He finds that the corporation who had the submarine built, Contek, has made several modifications to the original design. He is not very happy about this, and the mood is already a bit strained and a lot of things definitely feels a bit off with the whole mission. When they get signals from Siren I‘s black box, they are led to an underwater rift that is full of toxic weed, something the on-board scientist points out should have been impossible since there shouldn’t be any plant life at this depth. Of course, they find out that Contek and Siren I had a lot of secrets, and the full truth of their mission is yet to be revealed to them.

 

The Rift (aka Endless Descent) is a B-horror movie from 1990, directed by Juan Piquer Simón who also directed movies like Pieces (1982) and Slugs (1988). There were a lot of underwater horror and thriller movies released around this time, most notably The Abyss from 1989, which was also one of the very few of these that became a box-office hit. Of course, like with many prior movie successes, there will always be those who try to jump on the bandwagon in hopes of traveling along with the popularity. The results are often a blend of meh-movies and some true B-horror schlock, in which the latter often deserves their own little spot here in the crypt of the Horror Ghouls.

 

Sure, the plot if somewhat threadbare and slightly silly, but the acting is overall decent enough for a movie like this, with Ray Wise having one of his more typical roles. The effects aren’t that bad either for an obvious low budget, and even though there isn’t an abundance of blood and gore, the death scenes are often vicious enough. While the movie starts off a little slow and sluggish, barely threading the water it’s supposed to dive into, it does start offering up some more intensity and surprises as we go along. There are at least some deep sea atrocities to set your eyes on here, including some giant killer seaweed, although the best creature feature parts are saved for the final scenes of the movie.

 

The Rift has its fair share of brutality, and serves up some amusing underwater sci-fi schlock. While it isn’t a movie that’s crazy enough to be especially funny, it is at least an okay popcorn-flick. Overall an average B-Horror movie, not great but entertaining enough.

 

The Rift

 

Director: Juan Piquer Simón
Writers: Juan Piquer Simón, Mark Klein, David Coleman
Country & year: Spain, USA, 1990
Actors: Jack Scalia, R. Lee Ermey, Ray Wise, Deborah Adair, John Toles-Bey, Ely Pouget, Emilio Linder, Tony Isbert, Álvaro Labra, Luis Lorenzo, Frank Braña, Pocholo Martínez-Bordiú
IMDb: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0099701/

 

 

Vanja Ghoul

 

 

 

Popcorn (1991)

976-EvilPopcorn is the title and popcorn is what you get – with a lot of cheese and confusion. On the surface, if not judging by the movie poster itself, this may look like one of the numerous slashers from the mid 1980s. It managed to trick me until the very distinct early 90s hip-hop music hit the speakers.

 

Popcorn starts off with some strange nightmares from the head of the young teenager Maggie (Jill Schoelen, The Stepfather‘s girl, here at age 28) about a younger girl who gets trapped in a fire and chased by some guy who tries to kill her. This is not just some random nightmare, however, as Maggie has subconsciously developed psychic abilities. Unlike her lost twin sister, Lydia Deetz, she can’t see dead people, though. But yeah, her nightmares and visions have some more relevance later in some way or another.

 

But enough of dreaming, because a big event is just around the corner. You see, Maggie and her film student classmates are preparing for an all-night horror movie marathon-screening at the old local and out-of-business movie theater, Dreamland. Here they’ll show a bunch of schlocky public domain films in the hope of funding some money for the university’s film section. To make it more eventful, they’re adding some inventive gimmicks in the purest William Castle style with three of the films. We have Mosquito in 3-D with a big mosquito model that flies on strings over the audience. The second is The Attack of the Amazing Electrified Man with the use of “Shock-o-Scope”, or simply called electrical “buzzers” in seats. The third one is called The Stench with Smell-O-Vision and you can just imagine that one.

 

The theater also has a dark history of the film director Lanyard Gates, who killed his own family while he shot the final scene of the film The Possessor –  a short, cryptic avant-garde reel that looks much like the nightmares Maggie has recently been having. So, the question is why and how. Well, she’s soon to find out when a killer is lurking around the theater, who’s also stealing the victims’ faces.

 

Popcorn had a troubled production, which shows more and more as the film progresses. The film was first helmed by Alan Ormsby, a veteran who’s already worked on films such as Children Shouldn’t Play with Dead Things (1972), the Ed Gein flick Deranged (1974) and Cat People (1980). After the first weeks of shooting, he was gone, just poof, and replaced with first-time (and last time) director and Porky’s actor Mark Herrier, of all people. Uhm…okey, then. Porkman does a steady job, though, despite the hiccups and a script that gets more convoluted. The third act is quite messy where we have twists and turns with a Saturday Morning Cartoon goofball of a villain that I would guess came out of the fart pipe of Freddy Krueger while he was playing Nintendo. We also have an intermission in the middle where the audience gets entertained by a reggae band to keep the party-mode going. Quite fitting considering that the whole film was shot on location in Kingston, Jamaica.

 

That Popcorn was released in a time when the slasher genre was more or less dead, didn’t do the film much favor. Despite the box-office failure, the film has since grown a cult-following and was also an inspiration for films like Wes Craven’s New Nightmare (1994), In The Mouth of Madness (1995) and Troma’s Shock-O-Rama (2005). In other words, Popcorn is overall an entertaining and fun little oddball flick with an original take on the genre. It’s also far more light-hearted and jovial than the average slasher with little to no blood n’ guts. With a theater packed with teens, you’ll have some expectations, but the film doesn’t grab that opportunity, sorry to say. What we have is a scene where a body count gets stabbed by the mosquito model with its stinger and a cheesy electrocution scene just to add an extra flavor to the gimmick shtick. But what really does the film is that we get the pleasure to see some scenes from the films featured in the theater. Attack of the Amazing Electrified Man is already a personal favorite where a manic Bruce Glover alone steals the whole show. I’d love to see the full version of that film.

 

Popcorn Popcorn Popcorn

 

 

Directors: Mark Herrier, Alan Ormsby
Writers: Mitchell Smith, Alan Ormsby
Country & year: US, Canada, 1991
Actors: Jill Schoelen, Tom Villard, Dee Wallace, Derek Rydall, Malcolm Danare, Elliott Hurst, Ivette Soler, Freddie Simpson, Kelly Jo Minter, Karen Lorre, Ray Walston, Tony Roberts, Bruce Glover
IMDb: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0102690/

 

 

Tom Ghoul

 

 

 

The Resurrected (1991)

The ResurrectedCharles Dexter Ward is showing increasingly bizarre behaviour, and his wife Claire hires a private investigator to look into his strange affairs. The investigator, John March, starts peeking around the isolated farmhouse which Charles recently started using after uncovering his family history and discovering that this abandoned farmhouse belonged to his ancestor. Said ancestor’s name was Joseph Curwen, to whom Charles bears an uncanny resemblance. John notices that there are numerous deliveries made to the place, and upon asking Charles himself, he explains that he is undertaking some chemical tests where he uses animal cadavers. While certainly showing off eccentric behaviour, there’s nothing John can use here to offer any explanations to the worried wife. Then, after a man in a neighboring house ends up brutally murdered, where his remains have been attacked and eaten as if by a crazed animal, John starts to believe it’s not a coincidence. He brings Claire with him to the farm in order to confront Charles, but find him in a state where he ends up committed to a hospital. The doctors find that his metabolism is inexplicably high, which causes him to become extremely hungry, and his cravings are for blood and raw meat. John decides he must uncover the secrets of the old farmhouse and what Charles was doing at the place.

 

The Resurrected (aka The Ancestor and Shatterbrain) is a 1991 horror film directed by Dan O`Bannon, and it’s an adaption of the H.P. Lovecraft novella The Case of Charles Dexter Ward. The screenwriter, Brent V. Friedman, had developed a version of the script which was titled Shatterbrain, while O`Bannon wrote his own ideas and had imagined the title to be The Ancestor. Friedman’s script was mainly used, but O`Bannon also incorporated some of his own ideas into the movie. Interstar Releasing planned for a wide theatrical release in 1991, but they went bankrupt before it could happen and thus it ended up straight to video in 1992. This movie was O`Bannon’s second and final movie as a director, after his directorial debut in 1985 with The Return of the Living Dead.

 

The Resurrected is not the first film to be based on Lovecraft’s The Case of Charles Dexter Ward. In 1963, Roger Corman made a film called The Haunted Palace, starring Vincent Price, which also provides a take on this story but very loosely and mixed with the Edgar Allan Poe’s story by the same name as the film. I haven’t yet seen this one, so can make no comparisons here. I have read the Lovecraft novella, and while it should go without saying that movie adaptions rarely manages to capture the essence of horror and wonder in Lovecraft’s stories (there are, of course, exceptions), this movie actually does follow the original story for the most part, just setting it in more modern times. Many Lovecraft adaptions tend to change so much that the original story is barely recognizable, and some just doesn’t really do the original stories justice. However, this is something I’ve come to terms with a long time ago, I don’t expect any Lovecraft adaption to be on par with the source material. I just want to be entertained. And some of the movie adaptions (both the decent and the bad ones) often manages to do exactly that, so I’m not gonna complain.

 

Now, most horror movie fans are well aware of O`Bannon’s The Return of the Living Dead, and have most likely witnessed some of his screenplay work in several of the movies in the Alien franchise, and other horror films like Lifeforce. Just like the original Lovecraft story, it starts in a mental asylum where Charles is incarcerated, and then the story moves backwards in order tell what happened. It’s set up a bit like a detective mystery, with a pretty blonde wife begging the investigator for help and all. Set in the modern times, which were the 90’s when the movie was made, works well enough. The opening scene which includes a bit of blood and gore before getting a scene where the investigator starts retelling his experience, helps fuel the story as the next parts are, unfortunately, a little bit too slow before it finally picks up the pace and delivers.

 

While there were some issues with the pacing, the viewing experience was upheld by a constant feeling of mystery. You keep wondering what Charles has been doing at the farmhouse, but it takes a little too much time to actually get there. Once secrets are revealed we get some really nice shots of monstrous creatures and a hellish underground basement lab. While apparently trying to veer away from your typical B-Horror cheeseflick with a more serious approach, there’s no doubt that once the blood, guts, and otherworldly creatures fill the screen we get to see that this movie doesn’t stray too far away from the B-movie range. And I mean that in a positive way, of course. Originally, O`Bannon actually planned for the movie to have more humor, but it was re-edited and re-cut which removed this, much to his disapproval.

 

Despite a few flaws, The Resurrected is a decent horror film with an ominous mystery-fueled atmosphere, great creature-effects by Todd Masters, and a fitting music score by Richard Band.

 

The Resurrected The Resurrected The Resurrected

 

Director: Dan O’Bannon
Writer: Brent V. Friedman
Country & year: US, 1991
Actors: John Terry, Jane Sibbett, Chris Sarandon, Robert Romanus, Laurie Briscoe, Ken Camroux-Taylor, Patrick P. Pon, Bernard Cuffling, J.B. Bivens, Robert Sidley, Des Smiley, Eric Newton
IMDb: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0105242/

 

Vanja Ghoul

 

 

 

Troll 2 (1990)

TrollTroll 2 is a film that examines many serious and important issues. Like eating, living and dying. – Director Claudio Fragasso

 

And speaking of dying, dear grandpa Seth is dead. RIP. Even though it’s been six months after his funeral, the ten-year-old kid Joshua has regular meetings with his ghost in his room before bedtime. Grandpa Seth sits in a rocking chair as he tells goodnight stories about goblins and witches who turn people into trees, bushes and everything green.

 

Because you see, once upon a time there were goblins who were vegetarians, and the only way for them to eat was to turn people into everything green. But this is actually not any fairytale. Oh no, these goblins actually exist. So beware. Now, sleep tight and have a good night.

 

The brilliant idea of vegetarian goblins came from Rossella Drudi, the wife of Claudio Fragasso, who co-wrote the script. Here’s a quote from Best Worst Movie, a documentary from 2009 about the making of Troll 2:

I didn’t want to write your typical horror movie. So, I came up with a story about troll (goblins) who were vegetarians. Because at that point in my life, I had many friends who’d all become vegetarians, and it pissed me off. So I had the idea of replacing the vampires in the vampire story with vegetarians (like Duckula).

 

Only Joshua can see grandpa Seth (of course) and no one believes him. His mother has grown tired of him talking to his ghost and has a quick, serious conversation with him:

 

Troll 2

 

Banish him, you hear, boy? And yes, this is the actual piece of dialogue that was written which Josh’s mom says to him with the most dead and soulless eyes ever, as if she was straight from The Westboro Baptist Church. Good night and sweet dreams. Brrr! I prefer the ghost of grandpa Seth, thank you very much. With a script written like this, also by two Italians with very little to no knowledge of the English language, one would assume that the whole script was written in Italian and roughly Google-translated with no corrections. In reality, the script was written in such broken English that even the actors suggested to director Claudio Fragasso that they should at least ad-lib the lines to prevent the dialogues from sounding as retarded as it did on paper. Fragasso, the maestro that he is with an ego bigger than Jupiter, flat-out refused as his script was set in stone and perfect as it was.

 

But this little flavor of absurdity we just saw here is only the very top of the iceberg of this incompetent circus of a horror movie. It gets really batshit, to say the least, and it’s the reason why Troll 2 is praised by the same audiences who almost died from laughing at modern so-bad-it’s-good-classics like The Room, Birdemic: Shock and Terror and all the films of Neil Breen.

 

Back to the film: Josh’ parents are taking him and their teen daughter Holly on a summer vacation trip to a small country, hillbilly town in the state of Utah, called … Nilbog. And the place looks like a complete ghost town which has seen better days. Grandpa Seth is still here, though, watching over Josh’s shoulders. They swap houses with a family that welcomes them with a ready dinner table. Talk about hospitality. But that’s not real food, Grandpa Seth tells Josh. It’s Goblin food which will turn anyone who eats it into vegetables – the favorite food of the goblins! Grandpa Seth displays some of his magic ghost force to stop the time for a brief moment, so Josh can prevent them eating the food. He has only ten seconds. The tension and suspense is unbearable. Josh stands on the table while the rest of the family is frozen-out, opens his zipper and – you guessed it – pisses on the food.

 

Or in Claudio Fragasso’s own frustrating words while trying to explain to a confused ten-year-old who didn’t understand the context of the scene, and who the hell could blame him:  – You don’t worry, you jump on table, you unzip zipper, we cut, piss on table!

 

Aha, okey then…

 

His dad, Michael (played by Aaron Eckhart’s doppelganger, George Hardy), gets furious and carries Josh up to his room where he delivers his famous line:

 

Troll 2

 

And yes, this is the actual dialogue. This is also the line that George Hardy used in his audition for the film. In full seriousness, he shouted You can’t piss on hospitality in front of nine cigar-smoking Italian casting agents. And they didn’t understand a word he was saying. The only reason he got the part was because they liked his energy.

 

Like in the original film, we get introduced to a witch by the name Creedence Leonore Gielgud. And this one is from the west and as evil as a Saturday Morning Cartoon character. She lives in a small church where she brews a green, magic, toxic potion that turns people into vegetables, so she can feed her goblins.

 

Alice Cooper was apparently busy feeding his Frankenstein, so the role of the witch went to Deborah Reed. And ‘boy, her performance is a trip. I have not before or after Troll 2 seen overacting on such an absurd animated level, as we see here. It’s all up to eleven and beyond, and I bet she must have burned some calories after reading her goofy lines the way she did. I’d love to se her audition reel and the reactions of the nine cigar-smoking Italians. Reed died last year due to cancer at age 73, but she will always be remembered in her iconic role. RIP.

 

Troll 2

 

The Oh My God clip is the most flawless piece of cinema put together. The way that the music is synchronized with his delayed scream is just perfection, not to mention the fly on the guy’s forehead. That’s Stanley Kubrick-level of perfectionism right there when it comes to subtle details with hidden meanings.

 

Then we have the creature designs, or the goblin costumes, the pure definition of schlock that even makes the creatures from the original film look like something from Stan Winston.

 

Troll 2

 

Troll 2 was filmed during thirty chaotic hot summer days in Utah where all the cast and crew were Italians who, of course, didn’t speak English. The actors were local amateurs, the one worse than the other, and all of whom auditioned to star as extras, but somehow instead ended up in the main roles. That also explains one thing or two. Michael Paul Stephenson, who plays the annoying kid Josh, already had the (un)pleasure of starring in another film by Claudio Fragasso, with Beyond the Darknes (a.k.a La Casa 5), released the same year as Troll 2. He also made the documentary Best Worst Movie.

 

The original title was Goblin, but was released as Troll 2, because that’s what Italian distributors always do to shamelessly cash in on the success of other films.

 

Troll 2 was one of the lost gems, also called The Holy Grail of bad movies, that were rediscovered many years after its release. It wasn’t until the comedy theatre group Upright Citizens Brigade started to screen the film at their base in Los Angeles that the phenomena that was Troll 2 spread throughout the United States like a turkey on fire, and soon after globally. Then the now legendary Oh My God clip was shared on YouTube and the rest is movie history.

 

Director Claudio Fragasso was also curious about the buzz and how the Americans had finally rediscovered his masterpiece, and flew to the states with his wife to get a sense of the phenomenon. Too bad he seems to have zero sense of irony. I’d earlier had an assumption that the guy was a first-class troll (no pun intended), like Birdemic director James Nguyen, but after re-watching some clips from the documentary Best Worst Movie, I’m not so sure. The clown really believes deep down that he made a genuine solid piece of cinema with Troll 2, and during an awkward Q&A after a screening of the film he looks completely lost, confused and irritated, and is about to implode. People were laughing too much at his film, even at parts that weren’t meant to be funny. Uh-oh! And he didn’t like that. His spicy narcissism and true colors really shine at the end of the documentary where he gets jealous of the actors’ popularity, giving them the death stare and even calling them dogs and liars. Classy.

 

Troll 2

 

There are many factors why Troll 2 ended up like it did for all the wrong hilarious reasons, but the main one is on none other than Claudio Fragasso, or the pseudonym of Drake Floyd he was credited as here. It’s the typical Ed Wood syndrome, just with an even more bloated ego, pompous arrogance, insanity and a head stuffed so far in one’s own delusional fantasy-butthole while refusing to hear a single input than your own bubbling farts. And to be fair, Fragasso hardly directed the film, costume designer Laura Gemser did, the one and only on the crew that spoke English fluently and translated the director’s directions to the actors. He also looked down on having any assistance from any English-speaking crew or cast because he was too lazy to learn some of the language himself. Mamma mia. Working on the set of Troll 2 must have been such a pleasant experience. I would like to see a biopic about the making of this turkey, like The Disaster Artist. Leonardo DiCaprio would be a great fit to play Fragasso.

 

There’s far worse movies than Troll 2, surprisingly enough, and at the end of the day, Claudio Fragasso has unintentionally managed to put together one of the best unhinged horror comedies of all time (if not the best) with not a single boring moment followed by a whole notebook of quote worthy lines. That’s a great skill and an achievement in itself. And that the guy to this day seems to be ultra-bitter about the films’ cult status and never seems to come to peace with it, is a bit sad. But that’s what happens when your ego becomes your own worst enemy.

 

There wasn’t made a Troll 3… or maybe it kinda was if we use our imagination a bit. We actually have two titles that were released with a.k.a Troll 3. The first one is Quest for the Mighty Sword (1990), an Italian fantasy film by Joe D’Amato. If the alternative titles wasn’t head-scratching already, this one is also known as The Hobgoblin and Ator III: The Hobgoblin. The other one is The Crawlers (1993), also a Joe D’Amato production about killing plants and was also filmed in the same area in Utah where Troll 2 was filmed.

 

Troll 2 Troll 2 Troll 2

 

 

Director: Claudio Fragasso
Writers: Rossella Drudi, Claudio Fragasso
Country & year: US, Nilbog, 1990
Actors: Michael Paul Stephenson, George Hardy, Margo Prey, Connie Young, Robert Ormsby, Deborah Reed, Jason Wright, Darren Ewing, Jason Steadman, David McConnell, Gary Carlston, Mike Hamil
IMDb: www.imdb.com/title/tt0105643/

 

 

Tom Ghoul

 

 

 

The Dentist (1996)

The Dentist I am an instrument of perfection and hygiene. The enemy of decay and corruption. A dentist. And I have a lot of work to do. –

 

His name is Dr. Alan Feinstone (Corbin Bernsen). And he’s about to have his worst day at the office. So are his patients, and co-workers – and everyone around him. On the surface, like a shallow Instagram page, he seems to have the perfect life with a big house with a swimming pool and all, and a seemingly loving wife.

 

And if the cold shoulders from his more and more distant wife wasn’t a bad start of his day already, he smells cigarette smoke from her mouth. Fuck. Now he has to brush his teeth again before he goes to the office. Because: Nothing, how matter how good or how pure, is free of decay. Once the decay gets started, it can only lead to rot, filth, corruption. –

 

And with that statement it makes me wonder if he has any politicians as clients. Anyway, we quickly learn that Dr. Feinstone is already a mentally sick man with a head filled with schizophrenia and delusions which he always battles to keep in check. But the stream of negativity which also triggers his severe OCD is going to push him over the edge any minute.

 

He finally hits the breaking point when he sees his wife cheating with the pool cleaner guy as she sucks his cock in the garden in broad daylight – on their anniversary day, even. Oof. And he’s already late for work. Now he just sees filth left and right. The floodgates of filth are open.

 

– Filth, filth everywhere. Especially children! They’re spoiled rotten! –

 

Dr. Feinstone is now on a mission. He will rip the filth out of people, tooth by tooth if it’s necessary. Cut off the tongue also while we’re at it. Get rid of all the filth. And you’d bet he has some special plan for his wife on the anniversary night.

 

Two police detectives, played by Tony Foree and Tony Noakes  get involved as soon Dr. Evil Feinstone leaves his trails of blood. Feinstone’s day isn’t getting any better when Mr Goldbum (Earl Boem), an agent from IRS, is on his neck for not delivering his taxes.

 

The Dentist is directed by low-budget-cheese meister Brian Yuzna (the mustached brain behind 90s cult-classics like Society, Return of the Living Dead III, Bride of Re-Animator and Faust: Love of the Damned) made for HBO TV with a budget of $700,000. Most of it was filmed in a residential home (Yuzna’s, I guess) where the whole budget went to decorate the dental operation offices. Even with the tight budget, which would be advisable for a simple premise like this, they actually managed to get over the budget, leaving Yuzna unhappy with the finished production design. The gore effects seemed to be a second thought.

 

With that said, the film looks even lower on the budget and filled with restrains, but the always energetic Corbin Bernsen saves it from mediocrity with his manic, over-the-top performance. We spend a lot of time in the dental office where patients drop like flies under pretty suspect circumstances where the FBI would normally raid the building in a heartbeat. Dr. Feinstone is a crazed loose cannon who does his best to keep it together and not getting caught for doing kinky shenanigans with one of his drugged-out patients. If his day and his mind wasn’t a complete shitstorm already, it’s about to get worse.  So open wide and say fuuuuuuuck.

 

There’s some clever camera work and cinematography here despite some very dated “trippy” visuals which are as 90s as it can get. The effects, with its flavor of body horror, are nicely done in the unique schlocky way we’re used to seeing in a Brian Yuzna film, but the film’s highlight with the oversized mouth stretch, gets old old pretty fast. More time on the effect department would do the film a bigger favor. As a-madman-on-the-loose with a falling down psychosis, The Dentist is silly entertainment as long its lasts where Yuzna does the best of the little he had of resources.

 

The sequel The Dentist 2 (1998) is pretty much a nothing-burger with lazy and lackluster kills, filled with tedious drama where the trip to the actual dentist is more entertaining. Watch Stepfather II instead. Both films are available on a 2-disc Blu-ray from Vestron Video with audio commentary from director Brian Yuzna among other extra features.

 

The Dentist

 

Director: Brian Yuzna
Writers: Dennis Paoli, Stuart Gordon, Charles Finch
Country & year: US, 1996
Actors: Corbin Bernsen, Linda Hoffman, Michael Stadvec, Ken Foree, Tony Noakes, Molly Hagan, Patty Toy, Jan Hoag, Virginya Keehne, Earl Boen, Christa Sauls, Mark Ruffalo, Lise Simms
IMDb: www.imdb.com/title/tt0116075/

 

 

Tom Ghoul

 

 

 

Needful Things (1993)

Needful ThingsIn the small town of Castle Rock, Maine, a man named Leland Gaunt arrives in a sinister-looking black car. He opens a new antique store called “Needful Things”, where he sells various items which appears to have great personal value for some of the residents in town. And the price isn’t only in money: he also demands small “favours” from the buyers which are usually pranks they have to pull on other people. Like Gaunt’s first customer, a young boy named Brian Rusk, who wants to buy a rare baseball card and has to prank his neighbor Wilma in order to buy it. Sounds like a very unusual business practice, right? But the people just can’t stay away from the shop, everyone finds something they need there. Or, at least, something they think they need. And the pranks often come with a snowball-effect where things keep getting worse, and the pranks also becomes more violent, and even results in several deaths. The sheriff, Alan Pangborn, becomes suspicious of Gaunt and begins to suspect that he may not be what he seems.

 

Needful things is a horror film from 1993, based on Stephen King’s novel from 1991 by the same name. The film was directed by Fraser C. Heston. Upon its release there were mixed reviews, often negative and praising the performances but criticizing how it felt inferior to the source material. I haven’t read the book, so personally I cannot comment on this part.

 

The movie gives off a somewhat fun vibe, showing you early on that it never takes itself too seriously. There’s a slightly lighthearted tone to it, despite all the people turning on each other and causing all kinds of problems, even death. It’s amusing, all aside from a certain scene with a dog which is actually quite unpleasant. The amusing parts consists of how the shop’s customers are eagerly willing to “prank” other people in order to get what they want. It’s fun, and you keep wondering how far it will go. And sure: while the “pranks” start out innocently enough, the violence escalates, starting with that incident with the dog and the owner, a woman named Nettie, suspecting another woman for being behind it. And things get bloody.

 

The sheriff of the town, played by Ed Harris, is one of the few becoming suspicious of the new shop in town and its quirky owner, who is (and this isn’t really much of a spoiler) the devil himself. The portrayal of the devil as the shop owner Leland Gaunt, who is setting people up against each other and sitting back watching everything unfold, is actually quite clever in its simplicity. He never gets his own hands dirty, just tease people with things they want (or “need” in their own eyes), and then they are quite easily herded like a bunch of sheep. Typical human behavior makes everything easier for the evil ones, doesn’t it…

 

Needful Things is a fun popcorn-film, held up by some good performances especially by Ed Harris as the sheriff and Max Von Sydow as the shop owner Gaunt. It doesn’t offer any scares or a lasting impact, but it’s a fun watch when you take it for what it is.

 

Needful Things

 

Director: Fraser C. Heston
Writer: W.D. Richter
Country & year: US, Canada, 1993
Actors: Max von Sydow, Ed Harris, Bonnie Bedelia, Amanda Plummer, J.T. Walsh, Ray McKinnon, Duncan Fraser, Valri Bromfield, Shane Meier, William Morgan Sheppard, Don S. Davis, Campbell Lane
IMDb: www.imdb.com/title/tt0107665/

 

 

Vanja Ghoul

 

 

 

Event Horizon (1997)

Event HorizonThe year is 2047, and the rescue vessel Lewis and Clark is dispatched to investigate the distress signal from a starship called Event Horizon. This starship disappeared seven years ago, during its maiden voyage to Proxima Centauri, and now it has mysteriously appeared in a decaying orbit around Neptune. The eerie distress signal consists of a series of screams and howls, in which the Event Horizon’s designer Dr. William Weir (Sam Neill) believes is the Latin phrase “Liberate me” (“save me”). When the crew of the rescue vessel, joined by Dr. Weir, enters the ship they find evidence of a massacre. They search for survivors, but then the ship’s gravity drive activates and causes a shock wave which damages the rescue vessel. They are all then forced to stay on the Event Horizon, and soon begin having hallucinations which corresponds to their fears and trauma…

 

Event Horizon is a science fiction horror film from 1997, directed by Paul W. S. Anderson and written by Philip Eisner. The filming took place in Pinewood Studios, and Anderson modeled the starship after Notre Dame Cathedral using an architectural cam program. And oh boy, did this film have a troubled production, where the filming and editing was rushed by Paramount when it was revealed that Titanic would not meet its projected release. Not only did the movie suffer from being rushed, but to top it all people complained about the “extreme gore” during the test screenings, and it’s claimed that some of the audience actually fainted. Even the Paramount executives were shocked by how “gruesome” it was, and demanded a shorter runtime with less gore, so apparently some of the best bits were cut away from the movie. The original 130-minute film was savagely edited on the studio’s demand, much to Anderson’s dismay.

 

It was both a commercial and critical flop, grossing only $42 million on its $60 million budget. In some way, the movie entered into its redeeming phase when it sold pretty well on home video, where the DVD release sold so well that Paramount actually contacted Anderson with wishes of beginning the restoration of the deleted footage. But, too late, because at this point it had been either lost or destroyed. So thanks a lot for that, you squeamish arseholes who demanded the movie to be cut during the test screenings. Had it not been for you, we’d have a much more disturbing and gory movie.

 

The movie can be best summed up as a haunted house-story set on a spaceship, which has quite literally been to Hell and back. Thus I guess some people were quick to label it as some kind of Alien meets Hellraiser, which isn’t really the case. Just like the typical haunted house setting, the fears play mostly on the psychological at first, and we already know from the eerie and sinister surroundings that things are not as they should be, with strange things happening that spooks the crew. And let’s face it: supernatural happenings in space is a lot more claustrophobic and threatening compared to happening in some old house. In a house, you can at least run outside…

 

The dark, empty hallways in the spaceship appear just as menacing and threatening as the hallways in an old mansion, and the visions the characters are seeing are suspenseful and effective. The performances are good, but best is Sam Neill’s performance as Dr. Weir who slowly starts falling into madness and becoming absorbed by the gruesomeness the starship brought back with it. There are no aliens running amok here, just anxiety, paranoia, violence and gore. It’s like the place it came from had been the very depths of Hell itself, which makes it very interesting when you keep in mind that the design of the ship was modelled after the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris.

 

Over the years Event Horizon has developed a cult following as well, sometimes referenced in other works of popular culture. It is an effective horror film albeit not a masterpiece, and it sucks that some of its most disturbing content is lost. Overall, it’s a decent 90s sci-fi horror which will probably forever hold the mystery of what those extra minutes of playtime could have been.

 

Event Horizon Event Horizon

 

Director: Paul W.S. Anderson
Writer: Philip Eisner
Country & year: UK, US, 1997
Actors: Laurence Fishburne, Sam Neill, Kathleen Quinlan, Joely Richardson, Richard T. Jones, Jack Noseworthy, Jason Isaacs, Sean Pertwee, Peter Marinker, Holley Chant, Barclay Wright, Noah Huntley
IMDb: www.imdb.com/title/tt0119081/

 

 

Vanja Ghoul

 

 

 

The Boneyard (1991)

The VoidAlley Oates is a well-respected psychic who’s received several prizes for helping the police solve crime mysteries over the years. Most of her job was to solve brutal crimes which involved children, which seems to have taken a toll on her mental health. Now she’s a deeply depressed, overweight (if she wasn’t already) middle-aged woman who spends her time burying herself in her bed under a mountain of blankets.

 

For some strange, bizarre reasons, this lady made me think of the nanny from Duckula. She’s got hands that could break coconuts, and I bet that her big, solid solid figure could easily crash through walls. Wouldn’t mess with her.

 

Anyways – life goes on as children are still missing and the local police need her help. A police man manages to drag her out of her hibernation cave to the the local basement morgue to unravel some dark mystery about three ghoulish corpse children. We learn that the bodies of the kids are possessed by some Asian demons called Kyoshi, and as they’re getting trapped in the basement, the ghoul juniors are about to wake up at any moment to get the schlock party started.

 

The Boneyard starts off with a dry and serious tone, more than it should, with static and boring dialogue scenes that didn’t leave the best first impression. But that starts to shift slightly when we enter the morgue and get introduced to the wacky receptionist, Miss Poopinplatz (lol) and her cute little poodle named Floofsoms. From here on, the film starts to loosen up and get more drunk as the silly, B-movie fun starts to set in.

 

Return of The Living Dead meets a very low-budget version of George Romero’s Day of the Dead is maybe the best way to describe this odd little film. The gore is very minimal here though, yet The Boneyard has several moments of solid fun value and special effects. The little kids who run around in their ghoulish rubber costumes add to the goofy charm. And then we have one of the characters who turns into an animatronic monster straight from Beetlejuice. The film rounds off with a crazy climax which could as well have been a deleted scene from Peter Jackson’s Braindead. Some name-dropping here, I know, but you get the point. Overall, it’s nothing spectacular but has its unique scenes and moments that make it an entertaining midnight watch. Ruff, ruff.

 

The Boneyard is on Blu-ray from 88 Films.

 

The Boneyard The Boneyard The Boneyard

 

Writer and director: James Cummins
Country & year: US, 1991
Actors: Ed Nelson, Deborah Rose, Norman Fell, James Eustermann, Denise Young, Willie Stratford, Phyllis Diller, Robert Yun Ju Ahn, Richard F. Brophy, Sallie Middleton Kaltreider, Janice Dever, Cindy Dollar-Smith
IMDb: www.imdb.com/title/tt0101497/

 

 

Tom Ghoul

 

 

 

Lord of Illusions (1995)

Lord of IllusionsThe year is 1982, and a man called Nix has gathered his cult members in an old house in the Mojave Desert. His disciples refer to him as “The Puritan”, and he’s got real magic powers. He plans to sacrifice a young girl, and convinces his followers that this will save the world and grant them wisdom. At the same time, a group of former cult members are driving through the desert in order to stop him. Among them is Philip Swann, who ends up being attacked by Nix’s magic but is then saved by the young girl who manages to shoot Nix through the heart with Swann’s gun. Of course, this isn’t enough to kill the guy, so Swann takes a hellish-looking iron mask and fastens it on Nix’s head in order to “bind” him and his powers. Apparently, he then dies, and his body is buried in the desert. Fast forward to present day, which is thirteen years later, we’re in New York City where a private detective named Harry D’Amour is investigating occult cases, including an exorcism case which shakes him badly. During a new investigation which is supposed to not have any occult-related cases, he still ends up in a messy attack on a fortune teller which warns him that “the Puritan is coming”, hinting that Nix may return from the dead. The fortune teller dies before he can reveal anything more. Then, he gets hired by a woman named Dorothea, who is Philip Swann’s wife. Swann now works as a famous stage illusionist, and she fears for her husband and wants D’Amour to investigate if he’s being targeted. He’s invited to Swann’s next magic show, which then goes terribly wrong…and that’s just the start of D’Amour’s descent into a world of magic and madness.

 

Lord of Illusions is a neo-noir supernatural horror film from 1995, written and directed by Clive Barker. It is based on one of his own short stories, named The Last Illusion, which was published in 1985 in Volume 6 of the anthology Books of Blood. The movie stars Scott Bakula as the private detective D’Amour, and Kevin J. O’Connor (Swann) and Famke Janssen (Dorothea), the latter two both starring in Deep Rising from 1998. While Clive Barker kept many of the elements from the short story, he made enough changes so it’s practically a new story, which was apparently met with mixed opinions from the readers of his original work.

 

Those familiar with Clive Barker’s work knows that he’s most known for Hellraiser, and that his stories often range from traditional horror to dark fantasy and sometimes even comedy. A recurrent theme is how seemingly ordinary people end up in situations that are either supernatural or violent/mysterious in some kind of way. The stories can often be morbid and disturbing, and while some of them are more fun than unsettling, there is one story of his that really stuck with me, and that’s In the Hills, the Cities which was published in the first Books of Blood volumes. It was also published in the comic anthology Tapping the Vein with haunting visuals by John Bolton. His most famous work to this day is still Hellraiser, which was based on his short story The Hellbound Heart. A remake was also made in 2022, directed by David Bruckner.

 

Lord of Illusions is a movie that is nowhere close as renowned as Hellraiser, however. And it’s definitely more of an odd film, and thus destined to bounce off the radar for a lot of people. It’s a shame, though, as it really offers a nice blend of neo-noir with cosmic horror. A masterpiece it ain’t, but it’s still damn entertaining. The movie starts off with a bang, giving us a glimpse into a crazy cult leader’s world and his brainwashed followers, and a fight which ends in a brutal scene. While there are some parts in the film that move along a little slowly, it doesn’t really let up from there as we’re being presented with a steady delivery of action, murders, magic and insanity. There’s a few twists and turns underway as well, and some decent gore. Most specifically it’s got style; it’s pleasant to watch with a lot of intriguing scenes and settings like the creepy decrepit house in the desert and the magician’s victorian mansion for example. As for the movie’s special effects, there’s a range of the good to the pretty outdated. Some of the death and gore scenes are fairly well executed with believable effects, while some of the otherworldly elements looks like something from a Nintendo 64 game…but honestly, that’s part of the fun, and adds to the overall peculiar atmosphere of the movie.

 

So all in all I think that Lord of Illusions is a fun spooky ride, providing a bit of mystery and a lot of dark magic. It was the last film Clive Barker directed, and it may not be Clive Barker at his best, but it is definitely enjoyable.

 

Lord of Illusions Lord of Illusions Lord of Illusions

 

Writer and director: Clive Barker
Country & year: US, UK, 1995
Actors: Scott Bakula, Kevin J. O’Connor, Famke Janssen, J. Trevor Edmond, Daniel von Bargen, Joseph Latimore, Sheila Tousey, Susan Traylor, Ashley Tesoro, Michael Angelo Stuno, Keith Brunsmann
IMDb: www.imdb.com/title/tt0113690/

 

 

Vanja Ghoul