Re93animator's Review Thread

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So is this, as I suspected, a wolfman/werewolf version of Coppola's Bram Stoker's Dracula? That's what it looked like it was going to be, to me, judging by the trailers I saw. A campy, horror, period romp. Is that close, in your opinion?

So is this, as I suspected, a wolfman/werewolf version of Coppola's Bram Stoker's Dracula? That's what it looked like it was going to be, to me, judging by the trailers I saw. A campy, horror, period romp. Is that close, in your opinion?
Close indeed. I'd say it's more reminiscent of Sleepy Hollow though.

Smart Money (1931)

Smart Money may not be a very memorable film, as it continues to become more and more of a lost gem, but it was a film much ahead of it’s time. Surprisingly, for a movie made only a few years following the silent era, it attempts to portray its story as mellow and down to earth as possible. It does this successfully with realistic characterizations and a lack of background music until its conclusion.

It’s about an uncommonly skilled poker player named Nick (played by Robinson) who discovers the world of underground gambling. After getting conned his first time playing it big, he surmises a plan that eventually takes him to the top of the underground gambling racket. But, with all of his gained success and wealth, comes a far too cocky attitude liable to get him in trouble one way or another. That and his weakness for pretty blondes prove to be his downfall.

It doesn’t have an abundance of stars, but the cast is still the only notable reputation that the film has. It’s known as the only feature that the two top-tier 30’s Gangster film icons Edward G. Robinson and James Cagney have appeared in together. Even though Smart Money isn’t the typical type of crime film that both stars were known for, their presence alone should be a turn-on for any classic film fan. And be sure to look out for a pre-Frankenstein Boris Karloff in a small role.

As I mention above, it's not the typical crime film that Cagney or Robinson were known for. At first glance, it may seem watered down, but it just plays out a more pragmatic point of view of criminals than most
Hollywood crime films. Most of the gangsters aren't portrayed as tough guys or psychopaths, but mundane human beings. That isn't an entirely positive remark however. The picture may seem too mundane to some.

Smart Money may not be a great film, but it is a pretty good one, despite the blatant racism and sexism it depicts. It’s not a film merely worth watching because of its stars either. It has plenty of substance, and it’s a fine way to pass the time for any classic crime fan.

Predators (2010)

Predators starts off with numerous people being parachuted to a destination unknown to them. As they interact and ponder over their whereabouts, they begin uncovering clues as to where they are, eventually discovering that they have been deliberately placed on an alien planet to serve as prey for a much more technologically advanced species.

Depending on how it’s looked at, the film may or may not come across as creatively written. It’s just about what anyone would anticipate from a film of its sort. The plot is considerably strong enough to support it. However, the dialogue holds it down at times. Though that gripe is easily dismissible considering how well each cast member plays their part.

Any premature naysayers of the films cast should suspend their reluctance. Adrian Brody shows us his surprising versatility by playing a convincing brute, and Lawrence Fishburne hits the nail on the head with his performance as a crazed ruffian, despite having a part that wasn’t much more than a large cameo.

Despite any advertising scheme that the film may have put out, the action is not the most eminent aspect of the film. Though the action sequences are satisfactory; they aren’t the biggest piece of the picture. The most integral part of the film is its meticulous construction of suspense. And the expertly applied tension to most of its suspense sequences is the reason that the film is worth seeing.

It isn’t nearly as good as the first flick, but considering that it was written and directed by names virtually unknown, it’s doubtful that many expected it to be. It is, however, very worthy of bearing the “Predator” label. And following the AVP films, it’s a breath of fresh air.

Though it does give a tip of the hat to its source plenty of times throughout, it is certainly not a remake, but calling it a sequel or prequel isn’t entirely accurate either. What it unmistakably is, is a worthy companion piece to its predecessor. “Predators” seems like a return to form for the sci-fi horror genre as well as its best and most ambitious contribution in years.


Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me (1992)

I’ll start off by saying that I’m not familiar with the television series, and by watching this film prequel first I contravened what most fans of the TV series would recommend. Apparently, knowing the series before watching the film is the best way to go. So, maybe it would be rightfully considered high praise for me to say that I loved Fire Walk with Me without having any prior Twin Peaks knowledge.

If there is anything I’ve learned about Twin Peaks from watching this though, it’s that Twin Peaks is a weird ass town. It uses a formula common in David Lynch films: features troubled/idiosyncratic protagonists in aberrant situations, has nearly every supporting character act like they were born on Mars, and throws in a noir-ish, dreamlike quality on top of it.

The film is, apparently, predominantly about the last days in the life of a surreptitiously drug-addicted and sexually active teenager named Laura Palmer, but no plot synopsis can truly give an accurate impression of the film.

There are no antagonists throughout, only an impending, looming sense of peril. The viewer is left with their own interpretation of where the danger comes from and most importantly, what it represents. With the protagonist’s supreme vulnerability, that sense of danger drifts into instability much of the time (especially when it reaches its climax).

It achieves its surreal quality with bizarrely colorful cinematography, idly paced camera movement, outlandish dialogue, a moody score, an abundance of still shots and of course, plenty of seemingly random images (though the ambiguous symbolism behind the images should get the viewer thinking).

There are plenty of surprises, and many abrupt shocks, but none are cheaply worked in. It’s the rare case where most of its shocks don’t contain much development, yet still leave an impression. And in the off-chance that they are built-up, they work exceptionally well.

Additionally, the film has a great cast, with names like David Bowie, Kyle MacLachlan, Jürgen Prochnow, Harry Dean Stanton, Kiefer Sutherland, Miguel Ferrer, Ray Wise, and David Lynch himself putting in appearances. Sheryl Lee plays the main role and gives a great performance that unfortunately didn’t amount to much.

It was released during the noir resurrection of the 80’s and early-to-mid 90’s, and it breaks the mold of what would be considered a typical neo-noir. Despite any confusion that the narrative may bring to the viewer, it’s hard to deny that Lynch masters his ambient surrealist craft here, and that his style is in full form with this underrated gem.

You have written some great reviews. I don't know why I've never come across this thread before. Oh well, I'm here now and I look forward to your next review.

Thanks especially for The Lodger, as I own the movie in an old not-remastered Hitchcock collection, but have never really felt the urge to watch it. After reading your review, I'm going to try to watch it some time next week.
"I want a film I watch to express either the joy of making cinema or the anguish of making cinema" -Francois Truffaut

House by the River (1950)

To some, it might seem like a run of the mill gothic noir, but the fact that it revs up its tone in full creaky-door-hinge mode, and uses it effectively as it does, should’ve solidified it with a classic status among noir films. Unfortunately, the film has pretty much been swept under the rug since the time of its release.

It’s about a wealthy writer named Stephen Byrne that, while under a drunken dilemma, attacks and unintentionally murders a maid. Byrne convinces his brother to help him hide the body, and surprisingly, in a break from noir tradition, nothing goes wrong… at first.

The two brothers’ interactions with each other after the murder make for some of the best scenes in the film. Stephen’s brother becomes consumed by guilt, while Stephen, much to his brother’s dismay, exploits the murdered woman by writing about her. But, while Stephen doesn’t feel much guilt, his own occasionally delusional paranoia is what ends up burning him.

Though its plot may come across as predictable and perhaps even a bit tedious, the fantastic showcase of its oddly psychotic main character is done in an extremely unpredictable manner. The creepily antagonistic performance from Louis Hayward is also worth a mention.

Also, take into account the way that it builds its tension by putting unsuspecting characters in dangerous situations much of the time, and it seems almost as if it could have come from Hitchcock. If not that, then the influence of his earlier work is sure there.

House by the River is just another one of the many forgotten classics directed by Fritz Lang, a somewhat remembered, yet still under-acknowledged master.


Dr. Mabuse, the Gambler (1922)

Perhaps one of the earliest true detective-chasing-criminal films, certainly one of the most inspirational, and still one of the best is Dr Mabuse, the Gambler.

Mabuse, almost a 1920’s version Hannibal Lecter in personality, is shown as he commits seemingly foolproof crimes with a mastery of disguise and an uncanny hypnotic ability. After a state inspector catches onto Mabuse’s series of crimes without knowing who committed them, he delves into the case.

Meanwhile, Mabuse uses his powerful influence to sick his lackeys on the inspector, leading not only to an inevitable dueling of hero and villain, but to a clash between criminals and the police department. As the inspector digs deeper and grows closer to unveiling Mabuse as the perpetrator, the more he seems like a rat in a maze of impending fate.

The character of Mabuse must have inspired loads of one-dimensional villains since his film debut, but his way of calm manipulation through fear is almost always without equal. He was one of cinema’s first master villains, and without a doubt the most interesting part of the film.

The film is a cunning example of early social commentary fused with film-noir. It also shows how much Fritz Lang could do with the silent format, and how much his work thrived on its dark content. It should be essential viewing for any Lang fan as a sign of things to come, with touches of predetermining greatness throughout.

The Testament of Dr. Mabuse (1933)

Taking place years after Dr. Mabuse goes insane at the end of Dr Mabuse, the Gambler, he’s depicted as an almost brain-dead lunatic that dedicates every fiber of his being to scribbling on paper. But somehow, his presence is still felt in the seedy crime underworld.

Inspector Lohmann (the same inspector from Fritz Lang’s M), is simultaneously put onto what, at first, seems like a conspired cover-up. His leads keep winding up in the direction of Dr. Mabuse, who passes away immediately before Lohmann finds out about him. We then learn that, even after his passing, Mabuse’s crime spree continues being carried out in an unimaginable way.

It’s strange that the most fascinating aspect of the original film acted like a zombie throughout this. It follows the plot of Dr. Mabuse going insane, and while he still finds his ways of carrying out crimes within a mental institution, his characteristics are nonexistent. He’s reprised by Rudolf Klein-Rogge, in one of the easiest acting gigs he’s most likely ever gotten. One part of the film did add to the Mabuse character though. It was revealed, roughly, that Mabuse didn’t share the ideals of a common criminal, that he organized crime as a way to mock the lackeys who fell into his trap, and that he saw what he did as a part of his flawed human nature.

Another risky plot-point was the supernatural aspect, which shows Mabuse as a ghost as he continues to influence others carrying out his crimes. Lang himself admitted later that if he were to re-do the film, he wouldn’t have included the ghost portion. But, Mabuse’s ghostly presence does add a macabre tone that the film thrives on.

There is much reverence to be found in this for using its silent techniques so effectively as well. The opening scene is a particularly standout example of that. And the first scene featuring Dr. Mabuse’s return from the grave is a mini-masterpiece in itself.

Some critics may point out that film has its flaws. Perhaps the biggest flaws at the time of release were being too ahead of its period, and portraying its themes too roughly. It holds up magnificently now and shows hardly any signs of aging. This is a perfect fit for someone looking to break into classic cinema.


Hardware (1990)

In the post-apocalyptic future of Hardware, drifters with glowing eyes roam the wastelands, Iggy Pop is a vexatious radio show host, and Lemmy Kilmister is a cab driver that likes playing his own music.

A simple synopsis of the simple plot: A woman winds up with an android with a combative duty to kill all humans. Thus, we have this nihilistic piece of cinematic grit that was plugged as The Terminator for the 90’s.

The film is horrendously rated among the general public. I can’t wrap my brain around how most people can hate something that I loved so much. Objectivity is pretty much nonexistent when it comes to this. I can struggle to call it a good or even a bad flick, but its own uniqueness overshadows its actual quality.

The criticism that this gets for its campy tone and implausibility is understandable (though it’s beyond me why anyone would watch a film like Hardware with a serious mindset), but it’s actually a pretty well-made flick with some marvelous low-budget set design to boot. It may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but if you’re a fan of the genre, and you don’t take its plot too seriously, it can turn out to be tremendously entertaining.

Though the more I think about it, the camp value could have been just an undercurrent to support the filmmaker’s vision. One scene at the end left me flabbergasted. There’s something daringly original and amazing about having a man with a mechanical forearm sitting in the middle of a room cutting his human arm open and seeing insects crawl out of it (a completely random move), while trippy lighting and fog rule the surroundings. Then have quick cuts of the killer android moving ominously with a strobe light set behind it, while classical music is playing over it all. Maybe that’s one reason why, to some, it may suffer from stylistic overload.

After seeing this and Dust Devil, it’s a shame that Richard Stanley’s potential was never fully recognized. Even if most carry low opinions of this film, I don’t think that anyone can rightfully deny that the direction put into the film’s vision is incredibly creative.

Camp rating:

Shutter Island (2010)

Shutter Island is a brilliant thriller dedicated almost exclusively to the psych. Those who want a run of the mill scare flick may be disappointed, but it will do wonders for those that appreciate incredibly well thought out and constructed plots.

It’s about a U.S. Marshall named Teddy Daniels sent over to investigate the disappearance of a patient at an insane asylum located on a secluded island. I’m choosing my words carefully here, because it is an easy film to spoil. Chances are, if you’ve seen any bit of the film’s advertising campaign, you know too much.

It’s becoming common for the ones that praise it to say that it’s a film that demands multiple viewings. In a sense, it is. It’s certainly not difficult for anyone to enjoy it upon a first viewing, but those who do only watch it once are missing a big portion of the mystery. Subtleties rule much of the film, and clues or leads to its conclusion make up a big part of its grandeur; clues that take more than one viewing to distinguish.

It’s also a terrific study in atmosphere, packing everything from gothic horror inspired cinematography to a classic classy mystery inspired tone. What it doesn’t do, is puts its style over substance, but rather blends both together majestically.

If you haven’t seen the film, you may want to skip over this paragraph. In a world where most critics and serious movie-goers despise twist endings that have been done before, perhaps sticking with the novel’s original ending was a gutsy move. At first glance, its ending may seem cliché, but few films have an approach to a twist similar to this one. The rare thing that sets it apart from the typical breed is that the “twist” ending is self-aware. It brings up seemingly inconsistent plot points, numerous questions, and perhaps even a sense of underwhelming conclusion to some. But, it doesn’t attempt to cheat its viewer out of everything that comes before it. Instead it embraces its ending and improves the rest of its plot around it.

Classic and modern cinema fans should be able to appreciate it alike. In its core lies wonderful homage to classic film-noir, Hitchcock and Lewton-esque horror. Anyone could have a good time watching this, but those who will love it are the ones who can let themselves get sucked into the puzzle that the film constructs, and explore the leftover pieces at the end.

Angst (1983)

After a man is released from jail back onto the desolate streets that he grew up in, his mental instability urges him to commit atrocity. He conjures a misshapen plan to kill that, after numerous mistakes, forces him to improvise.

Angst is perhaps one of the most disturbing non-exploitation films ever made, and also one of the unsung masterpieces of the 80’s. Because of its content, it never received a theatrical release, but it’s still managed to garner somewhat of a cult reputation over the years.

The film is, for the most part, a character study of its killer, and with such an outlandish mind being delved into, its strangeness stands out. What also stands out is the gritty realism of it all. With flashes of bizarre camera work thrown into the mix, it brings the viewer close into the killer’s cold, isolated world.

From the point of view of the madman, everyone else seems like an outsider, and this film demonstrates the paranoid interaction that the madman has with his surroundings. In a place that he feels he doesn’t belong, his urge to commit violence strengthens.

Though the film is quite graphic, it doesn’t throw a large portion of its attention at violence, and it’s not an exploitation film. To be precise, there’s only one scene that is overtly graphic. But, its disturbing sequences strike like an axe. The film’s genuine tone may make viewers cringe, as well as gaze in awe.


Encounter at Raven's Gate (1988)

Encounter at Raven’s Gate (or Incident at Raven’s Gate) is a virtually unknown Australian film that oozes the style of the late 80’s. It was released to a predominantly poor critical response. That coupled with a cast of unknowns make it pretty much unobtainable today unless you have a VCR or Netflix instant watch.

The plot may come across as jumbled to some, especially in the closing minutes. In both plot and (especially) style, I find it very comparable to Alex Cox’s Repo Man, which also has an intentionally weird cliffhanger of an ending.

It’s about a strange, irresistible force that inexplicably rears its ugly head near a place in the Australian outback called Raven’s Gate. It leaves a house deserted, melting its occupants, and casts a foreboding presence on any moving thing that comes close to Raven’s Gate.

Despite what Wikipedia’s description indicates, Encounter is not an arthouse film. It does, however, have a very artistic, albeit somewhat campy, style. The biggest highlight may be the lighting. Though it does get a tad too flamboyant and hectic at times, it compliments the film’s outback setting.

Rolf de Heer, the director, has gone on to build somewhat of a reputation, especially after bringing home a Special Jury Prize at the 2006 Cannes Film Festival. Encounter was made in the early stages of his career, and isn’t one of his most noteworthy flicks, but it does feature some promising sequences.

Overall, the film is far from great, but it’s a fun way to spend 1.5/24ths of your day, especially if you, like me, have an affinity for stylistic 80’s science fiction or for the science fiction-horror genre in particular.

just found this thread doing a search for "murders in rue morgue" (which it turns out you mentioned in a review of Mad Love). really enjoying these reviews, especially the classic horror.

just found this thread doing a search for "murders in rue morgue" (which it turns out you mentioned in a review of Mad Love). really enjoying these reviews, especially the classic horror.
Thanks. Here's some more classic horror:

The Picture of Dorian Gray(1945)

The key to the fright in The Picture of Dorian Gray is the anticipation. The film is preeminently a drama, and there aren’t any truly harrowing scenes until the second half of the film, but every time that there is an implication of evil, a subtle, somewhat creepy tone plays, and there isn’t any denying that the film brings the viewer to anticipate the main character’s downfall.

It begins with the painting of Dorian Gray being completed, and Dorian making some painstakingly obvious remarks that are supposed to foreshadow the plot of the film, much akin to the beginning of The Most Dangerous Game film adaption. If you try to take Dorian’s early written words seriously, they may seem a little annoying. I point out The Most Dangerous Game as a similarity because it used a very similar technique to build its plot in the opening minutes of the film. For example, in The Most Dangerous Game, when Joel McCrea’s character (Bob) is talking with his buddies about big-game hunting on his boat, one skeptic steps in and asks what he thinks the animals must feel while they’re being hunted. Once McCrea responds in a careless manner, the boat immediately crashes… and the rest is history.

There are a few important words spoken by Dorian in the beginning though. For the necessity of a sensible plot, he states that he’d sell his soul to look young forever, and of course, his wish is granted as the film vaguely focuses on a mysterious foreign artifact that, according to his friend Lord Henry has historical significance. The fact that the artifact isn’t concentrated on much in the film makes its presence more ominous, and in the film’s most enigmatic sense, the artifact’s history is never revealed.

Despite Dorian Gray being in the title, Lord Henry is the most intriguing character. He’s played excellently by George Sanders in a role that Basil Rathbone allegedly wasn’t able to get. Henry’s care-free, selfish, pleasure-seeking philosophy angers most of those around him, but Dorian Gray takes his principles to heart, but is to naïve to gather a full understanding of what they mean. To Dorian, they mean to seek pleasure at any cost, even at the demise of others.

That’s where the social question really rears its head. Lord Henry is a brilliant character, but his views on life are too brash for Dorian to interpret. As Dorian goes out and becomes more and more careless, his reputation is brought down drastically, and his sins are stored in his mind making him guilt-driven. The twist is that Dorian has an immortal-like quality about him that fuels his carelessness, and since his face and body are ageless, his portrait becomes increasingly grotesque with not only age, but his corrupt past.

For a 1940’s Hollywood horror production, Dorian Gray is surprisingly subtle, with bits that could easily shock a viewer not expecting something that’s, occasionally, more visually disturbing than 95% of the films of its era. I’d advise everyone that hasn’t seen the film to disregard this paragraph, since the less you expect about the film, the more of an impact it’s prone to leave.


De dødes tjern (1958)

I know it seems like I’m beating a dead horse with the amount of obscure horror oldies that take up this thread, but… I just can’t help myself. Here’s another…

De dødes tjern or Lake of the Dead/Damned doesn’t waste too much time in presenting the plot basics. It opens up with an establishment of six friends traveling to a secluded cabin in the woods (!). In a way that feels like it’s been done quite a few times since, they discover that the supposed inhabitant of the cabin (the brother of one of the characters) has disappeared. As they unravel more about the cabin’s past, the circumstances of disappearance continually grow more questionable.

It contains a cast simple enough to pin down in the opening minutes: the detective that only looks at the facts, the somewhat cowardly but likeable writer, the somewhat brave writer’s wife, the cynical writing critic, the psychic woman who has a bad feeling about predictably key plot points, and the insightful psychologist.

The opening of the story isn’t too subtle, but the way it plays out has plenty of balance between all-out shocks and understated atmosphere. It lets its implications build, and presents satisfactory conclusions to them in an ever-present classic mystery fashion, a mystery aspect that makes it feel like a horror screenplay in the custom of Agatha Christie (complete with a small ensemble of ‘not everyone is who they seem to be’ characters).

In the end, all of these elements, simple as they may be, complement each other wonderfully. It doesn’t seem like an especially ambitious project, and it isn’t a masterpiece, but it’s entertaining enough to be, despite its obscurity, often considered one of the best Norwegian films ever made. I know my praise for it isn’t too high, but I still recommend it more than most of the films in this thread, because it’s a stylistically accessible scare film that I can’t imagine disappointing many.

So if anyone’s interested… I guess I’m gonna resurrect this thread in the stead of starting anew. I’ve got a fever, and the only prescription, is tediously writing some film reviews. However, please keep in mind that, naturally, looking back on much of the older content makes me wince (as I’m sure looking back on this stuff will too one day). Also, my keenness for many of the films previously rated here has fluctuated quite a bit since.

This, in particular, fills me full of woe:
Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me (1992)
I’ll start off by saying that I’m not familiar with the television series

I must clarify that now, six years hence, I’ve gone through the series 3 times in full, and I’d be pressed to think of many things in life that I’m currently a bigger fan of. So there.

I’ll post something hopefully tomorrow.