Archive for the ‘horror movies’ Tag

THE 15 GREATEST VAMPIRE HUNTERS   Leave a comment

By C. Michael Forsyth

Today, we hail vampire hunters. Without these intrepid heroes, the world would be overrun by blood-slurping creatures of the night. Armed with crossbows, stakes, crucifixes and holy water, they fearlessly go toe-to-toe with one of the most formidable of all supernatural beings.

Below are the 15 top vampire slayers of film and TV:

BLADE

Blade is the ultimate vampire-stomping badass. Portrayed by Wesley Snipes in the 1998 film Blade and two sequels, the African American superhero uses martial arts, a titanium sword, a modified MAC-11 gun and a variety of gadgets cooked up by his mentor Whistler, to wage war on the undead. Blade, whose mom was infected by a vampire while pregnant, is a dhampir, possessing the speed and strength of vamps, with none of their vulnerabilities. Driven by hatred of the creatures who stole his mom from him, Blade (real name: Eric Brooks) first appeared in the Marvel comic The Tomb of Dracula in 1973.

BUFFY SUMMERS

To the casual observer, Buffy is an airheaded blond cheerleader type. But in reality, she is the Chosen One in a long line of vampire slayers. In each generation, a girl arises to battle the forces of darkness, endowed with exceptional physical prowess and fighting abilities. Buffy’s gifts are enhanced by her Watcher, the stuffy Englishman Giles who takes a job as the school librarian at Sunnydale High School to train her. Assisted by her teenage pals, who nickname themselves the Scooby Gang, Buffy deftly dispatches vampires, demons and other supernatural menaces. The character was played by Kristy Swanson in the 1992 movie Buffy the Vampire Slayer and by Sarah Michelle Gellar in the TV series (1997-2003).

ABRAHAM VAN HELSING

Professor Abraham Van Helsing is the godfather of vampire hunters, first appearing in Bram Stoker’s 1897 classic Dracula, and later in innumerable films. The aged Dutch doctor is described in the book as  “a philosopher and metaphysician and one of the most advanced scientists of his day,” and in his letters, his signature is followed by a string of credentials, including MD, D.Ph and D.Litt. His wisdom and knowledge of the occult are crucial to the band of heroes, including Jonathan and Mina Harker, who ultimately destroy Dracula. Elderly, thick-accented actor Edward Van Sloan established the character memorably in the 1931 Bela Lugosi movie. But it was British actor Peter Cushing who delivered the most iconic incarnation of Dracula’s chief adversary. His Van Helsing is physically robust and resourceful. His most badass move was putting two candlesticks together to create a makeshift cross that he uses to take down the king of vampires in The Horror of Dracula (1958). Several of the professor’s descendants carry on the ceaseless fight against the undead, including Lorrimer Van Helsing, played by Cushing in Dracula A.D . 1972.

CAPTAIN KRONOS

The swashbuckling hero of the Hammer movie Captain Kronos, Vampire Hunter (1973) is a dashing swordsman and former army officer. Captain Kronos (Horst Janson) travels Europe destroying vampires with the aid of his partner, the hunchbacked Professor Hieronymus Grost  (John Cater), who is the brains of the operation. Their task is tricky because it turns out that, as Grost explains, “There are as many species of vampire as there are beasts of prey,” each variety with its own powers and vulnerabilities. The creature who plagues a Romanian village in this film cannot be killed by a wooden stake, and drains victims of their youth rather than blood. Kronos and his companion must figure out which member of the community is the vampire, as well as discover how to liquidate it. They are joined in the hunt by a beautiful Romani (formerly known as Gypsy) woman Carla (Caroline Munro), who had been put in the stocks for dancing on Sunday. I would have loved to see a film series in which the duo exterminate a different breed of vampire in each picture, but alas, this was the character’s only screen appearance.

J

JACK CROW

Jack Crow is the surly hero of John Carpenter’s 1998 film Vampires, played by wiry James Woods, whose pockmarked mug and sour screen persona usually land him villain roles. Crow leads a team of vampire hunters whose brutal techniques include using a grappling hook, cable and truck to haul snoozing bloodsuckers from their lairs out into the sunlight.  Although his unit serves under the auspices of the Catholic Church, Crow is foul-mouthed, cynical, and not above beating the stuffings out of an uncooperative priest. In the film, Jack pursues a master vampire who is seeking a relic that will allow him to become invulnerable to sunlight.  One of Jack’s most valuable team members is played by the least-known Baldwin brother Daniel, who, despite his obscurity is great in the flick!

SAM AND DEAN WINCHESTER

Hunky brothers Sam and Dean Winchester, the heroes of the TV show Supernatural, follow in their dad’s footsteps in hunting down and destroying things that go bump in the night, from demons to killer clowns. So, naturally, vampires are among their quarry. Atypically, in the Supernatural universe, wooden stakes don’t harm vampires. Blood-drinkers have to be beheaded, and the beer-swilling bros are happy to oblige. Not only do the pair wipe out multiple vampire nests, they manage to kill the Alpha Vampire, the original bloodsucker who got the evil plague rolling and is the most powerful of them all. They are even able to restore Dean to normal after he’s bitten and sprouts fangs. That said, they do have a soft spot for fangers who restrict their diet to donated blood bags and animals. And a vampire named Benny becomes Dean’s best friend after helping him survive a stint in Purgatory.  

GABRIEL VAN HELSING

Gabriel, hero of the 2004 movie Van Helsing, is best viewed as an entirely different character from Professor Abraham Van Helsing of Dracula fame. (Although he is described as a “re-imagined” version of the original in studio publicity materials). Certainly, his persona is a far cry from the cerebral Dutch doctor. This Van Helsing is a man of action played with steely Clint Eastwood machismo by Hugh Jackson. His backstory is considerably different from Abraham’s. Gabriel remembers nothing before he was found crawling up the steps of a church—and the screenplay hints that he is actually the angel Gabriel in human form! He yearns to earn a pardon for whatever forgotten sins he may have committed and thus regain his memory. To do so, he combats evil on behalf of the secret, Vatican-based Holy Order, which has protected mankind “from time immemorial.” Gabriel employs a variety of steampunk weapons to battle monsters who include Mr. Hyde, werewolves, harpy vampires and most importantly Dracula—who has hatched an evil plot to spawn hundreds of offspring growing in pods similar to those in Invasion of the Body Snatchers.

CARL KOLCHAK

Veteran wire service reporter Carl Kolchak has a nose for a good story. Unfortunately, many of his scoops never see the light of day, because they are about supernatural creatures! Each week, on the TV series The Night Stalker (1974-75), Kolchak turns up evidence that a mysterious death is the work of a monster; he doggedly investigates the case and finds a way to destroy the big bad—usually surviving only by the skin of his teeth. Unfortunately, the proof is almost always destroyed as well, making his claims implausible, especially to his grumpy boss Tony Vincenzo (Simon Oakland) who refuses to print the articles. In his first outing, in the 1972 TV movie The Night Stalker, Kolchak discovers that a serial killer hunted by the police is actually a vampire and is forced to take matters into his own hands.

 Although the show ran only one season, it is a cult favorite that inspired several subsequent monster-of-the-week series, including The X Files. One of the reasons for its popularity is undoubtedly the believable depiction of a crafty reporter, played with irascible charm by Darren McGavin. It’s never really explained why Kolchak just happens to keep stumbling across monsters. My pet theory is that he was chosen by some higher power to be a white knight.

VANESSA VAN HELSING

Vanessa, herorine of the SyFy series Van Helsing (2016-2021), is a descendent of the legendary vampire-slayer Abraham Van Helsing. However, Vanessa (Kelly Overton) was adopted and has no knowledge of her impressive pedigree.  The young woman wakes from a mysterious, coma-like state, and quickly learns that during her three years out of commission, vampires have taken over the world. Luckily for humanity, Vanessa has extraordinary fighting skills that make her the perfect vamp-busting machine–and better than that, her bite turns vampires back into normal humans. Also, in what is more of a mixed blessing, when she consumes blood herself, she becomes even stronger and faster.  Unlike her brainy forebear, Vanessa relies on instinct more than strategy. And another drawback of her unusual condition is that when she feels threatened, she flies into an animalistic rage, killing without mercy. The show was inspired by Zenoscope Entertainment’s graphic novel series.

ABRAHAM LINCOLN

Honest Abe was more than our greatest president—he was also a prolific vampire slayer who used his wood-chopping skills and trusty ax to vanquish scores of the undead.  That’s the fanciful conceit of the movie Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, based on the novel by Seth Grahame-Smith. In this weird alternate version of history, at the tender age of 11, Abraham watches helplessly as a vampire attacks his mother, causing her death. The lanky country boy vows revenge and sets out to rub out every bloodsucker he can lay his hands on. He is aided in this quest by a mysterious mentor who teaches him vampire-slaying essentials—and even provides him with the names and whereabouts of people who are secretly vampires. Lincoln soon learns that vampires, whose stronghold is the South, are using slaves as a food source. He runs for President not only to save the Union but to end slavery, and to drive vampires from America’s shores.

DR. ROBERT NEVILLE AKA NEVILLE MORGAN

The chilling movie The Last Man on Earth (1964) was the first to depict a vampire apocalypse. Dr. Robert Morgan is the sole survivor in a world where everyone else has been infected by a mysterious plague. The disease has turned them undead, vampiric creatures that can’t stand sunlight, fear mirrors and are repelled by garlic. At night, Robert (Vincent Price) remains barricaded in his home. Each day, he embarks on a monotonous and grim routine, gathering his weapons and going on the prowl for dormant blood-drinkers. Those he finds, he dispatches with a stake, then burns their corpses to prevent them from coming back. The movie is based on Richard Matheson’s 1954 novel I Am Legend, in which the character’s last name is Neville, as in the 1971 version The Omega Man starring Charlton Heston and I am Legend (2007) starring Will Smith.

RAYNA CRUZ

The TV series The Vampire Diaries (2009-2017) featured plenty of vampire hunters. But Rayna Cruz (Leslie-Anne Panaligan) is without question the most powerful and relentless. Rayna has been a vampire slayer since the 19th century, when a group of Native American shaman cast a spell giving her enhanced abilities. She has incredible strength and speed, slowed-down aging, and most nifty of all, multiple lives, enabling her to bounce back from the dead. Rayna is armed with the mystical Phoenix Sword, given to her by her father and enchanted by the Shaman, that gives her the power to track down any vamp whom she’s stabbed. What’s more, the hilt contains the Phoenix stone, into which she can entrap a vampire’s soul and where they endure a personal hell.

THE ULTRAVIOLET TEAM

In the 1998 British mini-series Ultraviolet, a top-secret paramilitary organization known as the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith hunts down and slaughters vampires, with the joint support of both the British government and the Vatican. Global warming is once again the culprit, having spurred vampires to come out of the shadows to seize control of the planet. Led by a priest, the outfit uses brutal tactics to exterminate vampires, while investigating their plots against humankind. The team includes Detective Sergeant Michael Colefield (Jack Davenport), while Idris Elba costars as Vaughn Rice.

PETER VINCENT

Peter Vincent is a fearless vampire killer—or at least that was his role in the cheesy old movies shown late at night on a TV show named Fright Night, hosted by the retired actor. The real Peter, played by Roddy McDowell in the 1985 movie of the same name, is actually a rather timid, prissy fellow. When high school teen Charlie Brewster (William Ragsdale), a fan of the show, discovers that his next-door neighbor is a vampire, he takes the (totally illogical) step of seeking the assistance of his idol. Roddy gives the best performance of his life as the reluctant hero. In the 2011 remake, David Tennant plays Peter Vincent, this time a Las Vegas magician who incorporates vampire themes into his act and is known for his expertise on the subject. (This change makes it a lot less ridiculous for Charlie to turn to him for help). The name is, obviously, a tip of the hat to horror legends Peter Cushing and Vincent Price.

 It’s a sure bet that I will soon be adding another name to this list. Jamie Foxx is starring as a hardboiled vampire hunter, along with Snoop Dog, in the upcoming Netflix movie Day Shift, set to air in August, 2022.  Director J.J. Perry and producer Chad Stahelski both worked on the John Wick films, and they promise to bring the thrills of that action-packed, blood-splattering franchise to the world of vampires. The “first look” released by Netflix is awesome, packed with loads of eye-popping stunts and practical effects.

I hope you enjoyed this article. If you did, please take a moment to check out my latest project…

THRILLING NEW GRAPHIC NOVEL!

In the two-part graphic novel Night Cage, vampires overrun a women’s prison–and to escape, four surviving inmates must fight their way through an army of the undead. Picture ‘Salem’s Lot meets Orange is the New Black. Volume One is available on Amazon, and a Kickstarter is underway for Volume 2.

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The 15 Best Horror Movie Sieges   Leave a comment

Scene from Return of the Living Dead.

By C. Michael Forsyth

When well executed, the siege is one of the most compelling film scenarios. With a group of disparate individuals barricaded in a confined space or otherwise trapped, surrounded by an implacable foe, the situation is ripe for suspense, interpersonal conflict and drama. The scenario is especially effective in the horror genre, where the sense of dread is heightened by the abnormal nature of the menace, even when off camera.

Here are my favorite horror movie siege scenarios: 

DEMON KNIGHT (1995) — Billy Zane, a marvelously creepy villain in Dead Calm, delivers another chilling performance as a powerful demon in human form known as The Collector. The Collector is on the hunt for drifter Frank Brayker (William Sadler) the guardian of a key that contains the blood of Jesus Christ and that can unlock enormous powers. Brakyer takes refuge in a decommissioned church that has been converted into a boarding house. The Collector is unable to enter the holy building, but summons a horde of demons to surround it and uses his cunning and supernatural powers to influence its residents. Brayker and the occupants, including the fearless owner, a prostitute, a secretive postal clerk and a convict on work release (Jada Pinkett) must hold off the Collector and his minions, while keeping the precious artifact out of his evil clutches.

NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD (1968) — Needless to say, this is the grandpappy of all zombie apocalypse flicks. Traumatized by the murder of her brother at the hands of a zombie, Barbra (Judith O’Dea) takes shelter in an isolated farmhouse in rural Pennsylvania. While she remains virtually catatonic for the remainder of the movie, she is protected by the resourceful Ben (Duane Jones), who drives off the undead with a rifle and sets about boarding up the home. They are soon joined by a middle-aged couple who’d been hiding in cellar, along with their young zombie-bitten daughter, and later a young couple. As the cannibalistic ghouls besiege the farmhouse in ever-increasing numbers, conflict mounts between Ben and the dad Harry Cooper (Karl Hardman).  Beyond its seminal place in the zombie subgenre, the movie is noteworthy for its eerie black and white cinematography, inspired by the surreal 1962 cult classic Carnival of Souls.  A take-charge African American protagonist was unusual at the time—and the devastating shock ending is unforgettable.

THE BLOB (1958) stars Steve McQueen in his first leading role as the young hero, also named Steve. When a meteorite crashes to Earth, it turns out to contain a small, gelatinous, amoeba-like alien that envelops and consumes its prey. A nearby Pennsylvania town falls victim to the amorphous mass as it gobbles up everything its path, including vagrants, doctors and unlucky theater goers and others, steadily becoming larger and larger. Steve, his girlfriend and her kid brother wind up trapped in a diner along with the owner and a waitress, as the now building-size creature engulfs the greasy-spoon joint. Because of the believable concept of an alien life form and its terrifying method of attack, the Blob remains one of the greatest monsters cinema history, despite what now seem primitive special effects.

DAWN OF THE DEAD (2004) — It’s a dead heat between George Romero’s 1978 masterpiece and this remake helmed by Zack Snyder in his directorial debut.  The reboot lacks the sociopolitical subtext of the original, which took a swipe at consumerism. Still, I rank it slightly higher thanks to the superior effects and the stellar cast, led by Ving Rhames as police sergeant Kenneth Hall. Set in Milwaukee, Dawn of the Dead follows a group of survivors who take refuge in an upscale suburban shopping mall when the zombie apocalypse erupts. Delving deeper than the fight for survival, the film focuses on conflict between the characters, as The Walking Dead later would. One of the most gripping storylines: the group has to figure out what to do about a pregnant woman who’s been bitten—and may give birth to a zombie baby!

RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD (1985) — One of the best horror-comedies of all time, this zombie siege is set in a medical supply warehouse.  Two dimwitted employees accidentally unseal a military drum, releasing a toxic gas called Trioxin that resurrects the dead and unleashes a horde of shambling, brain-munching zombies. The intrepid owner Burt (Clu Gulager), his hapless workers, his mortician buddy and a band of teenage punks become trapped inside. The wickedly funny flick introduced the trope of zombies craving brains as their preferred a delicacy.  Among the highlights is Linnea Quigley as Trash, a morbid exhibitionist who tempts fate by dancing naked in a cemetery and describing her fantasies about being ravished by ghouls. It’s not before her wish is granted, and she returns as the world’s sexiest nude zombie.

FROM DUSK TILL DAWN (1996) The first half hour or so of the movie seems like an ordinary thriller as two fugitive bank robbers, the Gecko brothers, flee toward Mexico. Seth (George Clooney) is an unflappable professional, while Richie (Quentin Tarantino) is a perverted psycho who clearly climbed out of the shallow end of the gene pool.  The hoodlums kidnap a family with an RV in order to smuggle themselves over the border. The driver Jacob Fuller (Harvey Keitel) is a recently widowed pastor experiencing a crisis of faith, traveling with his teenage children. In Mexico, they arrive at the Titty Twister, a strip club where the Gecko brothers are supposed to meet their cohort Carlos at dawn. The place appears to be a raunchy paradise, especially when Salma Hayek at her bodacious prime performs a tantalizing striptease. Unfortunately, the topless bar turns out to be a vampire nest, and Seth and the hostages soon find themselves barricaded inside while a host of bat-like bloodsuckers lay siege. Two other patrons survive the initial battle: a two-fisted tough guy played by Black exploitation era icon Fred Williamson and a biker named Sex Machine played by special effects wizard Tom Savini in a rare appearance in front of the camera.

DOG SOLDIERS (2002)—A squad of six British soldiers are dropped off by chopper in a forest in the Scottish Highlands for a routine training exercise. Attacked by a pack of towering, ferocious werewolves, they manage to make it to a cottage, which is quickly surrounded by what turns out to be a family of lycanthropes. The grunts are armed with automatic weapons, but since the bullets are not made of silver, they merely slow the wolfmen down. The plucky soldiers desperately fend off the creatures, hoping that if they can make it to sunrise, the shapeshifters will revert to human form.  The Brits display stiff upper lips and Cockney courage–especially one lad who has the gumption to box a wolfman who busts into the house. Kevin McKidd stars as the heroic Pvt. Lawrence Cooper along with Sean Pertwee as Sgt. Wells—the squad leader who shows true grit even after being disemboweled and bitten.

THE KILLER SHREWS (1959) – Although widely dismissed as laughable schlock, that’s primarily to the low-budget “special effects.” The plot was actually pretty neat.  Employing more logic than the typical mad scientist, a genius doc performs genetic research using shrews because of their short life spans, which allows him to track the progress of his DNA tinkering over multiple generations. Putting safety first, he conducts his experiments on a remote island. Nevertheless, the best laid plans of shrews and men goes astray when the critters evolve to the size of collies—and since shrews eat three times their body weight each day, they are incredibly voracious. Ship Captain Thorne Sherman (James Best) and his party become trapped in the scientist’s compound, surrounded by the flesh-hungry giant rodents. (Which, thanks to that low budget, WERE portrayed by dogs wearing shrew masks!)

 TREMORS (1990) – Rugged handymen Valentine “Val” McKee (Kevin Bacon) and Earl Bassett (Fred  Ward) find themselves pitted against giant, prehistoric, worm-like monsters that live around  a small desert town of Perfection, Nevada. Joined by a pretty seismologist who has detected odd underground activity, and with the help of a gun-crazy survivalist couple, they try to protect the townsfolk from the carnivorous creatures they dub Graboids. To avoid the monsters, which are drawn to vibrations, the survivors are forced onto the roof of the general store and other high spots.  That siege is followed by an even more precarious situation when the group is stranded on boulders. The movie boasts one of my favorite lines, when Ward says, “Running isn’t a plan. Running is what you do what a plan fails!” Michael Gross, previously best known as the mild-mannered, liberal dad on TV’s Family Ties, gleefully shows another side as Burt Gummer, the gun-toting conspiracy theorist and prepper.

THE MIST (2007) is a based a novella by Stephen King, and not unexpectedly is set in Maine. After a severe thunderstorm causes the power to go out, several residents of a small town visit a supermarket to pick up supplies. An unnatural mist envelops the area—from which colossal, spider-like, Lovecraftian monsters emerge.  Tensions quickly rise among the shoppers as they fight to stay alive. Thomas Jane stars as David Drayton, a painter trapped in the store with wife, 8-year-old son and townsfolk, including a religious fanatic who believes the mist to be the wrath of God.

THE CRAWLING EYE AKA THE TROLLENBERG TERROR (1958) — Forrest Tucker, best known as conniving Sgt. O’Rourke on TV’s F Troop, stars as U.N. troubleshooter Alan Brooks, who is dispatched to investigate mysterious fatal accidents that have occurred near a resort hotel on the fictional Mount Trollenberg in Switzerland. The source of the deaths is a weird, radioactive cloud that locals believe is inhabited. It sure is–by a giant, tentacled beast with a single huge eye! Brooks, a mind-reading beauty (Janet Munro) and other hotel guests manage to make it to a well-fortified observatory. There, using Molotov cocktails, axes and other means, they struggle to survive until help arrives.

Shaun of the Dead (2004) — In this comedy-horror classic, Simon Pegg stars as Shaun, a downtrodden London electronics  salesman who becomes an unlikely hero in  the midst of the zombie apocalypse. Rising to the occasion and armed with a cricket bat, Shaun leads a band of survivors including pudgy pal Ed (Nick Frost), his mom, and grumpy stepfather (Bill Nighy). Shaun and his party make their way to the Winchester, a local pub where they make a last stand against the walking dead. Bit of a sticky wicket, you might say.

YOU’RE NEXT (2011) — In this slasher flick, estranged relatives at a family reunion are besieged by a group of bizarrely  masked homicidal maniacs.  Aubrey and Paul Davison (Barbara Crampton and Rob Moran) invite their adult children and their partners to their vacation home, hoping bury a few hatchets. Sharp instruments do indeed enter the picture as the nuts armed with crossbows and machetes encircle the isolated home, forcing the dysfunctional family to fight for their lives.

THE EVIL DEAD (1981)Directed by Sam Raimi in his trademark unhinged, over-the-top style, the story begins when five Michigan State college students vacation at an old cabin in a remote wooded area. Venturing into the basement, the youths stumble across The Naturom Demonto,  an ancient Sumerian book similar to H.P. Lovecraft’s fictional Necronomicon, along with a tape recorder into which a researcher has read passages. Foolishly, they play the tape and the incantation summons a legion of demons. The group battles to keep the malignant entities out, a task that becomes more challenging as members are possessed one by one. The square-jawed hero Ash Williams (Bruce Campbell) faces an onslaught of increasingly gory mayhem as he fights to hold onto his sanity and soul. I prefer the better plotted and acted sequel/remake Evil Dead 2 (1987). But nothing in it matches the unnerving elements of the original–most shockingly, a scene where Ash’s girlfriend is raped by demonically possessed trees.

MAXIMUM OVERDRIVE (1986) is also based on a Stephen King story, Trucks. After the Earth crosses the tail of a comet, all machines including cars, trucks and even vending machines, suddenly become sentient and embark on a world-wide killing spree. Homicidal trucks are the chief adversary of a group of people stranded at the Dixie Boy Truck Stop outside Wilmington, North Carolina. The film stars Emilio Estevez as Bill Robinson, Pat Hingle as Bubba Hendershot as well as Yeardly Smith (the voice of Lisa Simpson). The film is King’s first and only directorial effort and boasts a hard rock soundtrack by the author’s favorite band AC/DC.  I don’t recall the movie being all that bad, but it garnered nominations for two Golden Raspberry Awards, Worst Director and worst actor for Estevez. King himself takes a dim view of the film in retrospect, admitting that is a “moron movie,” and vowing never to direct again.

HONERABLE MENTION:

ASSAULT ON PRECINT 13 (1976)  — Although it is an action thriller, not a horror movie, this film directed, scored, and edited by John Carpenter of Halloween fame has the feel of a fright flick. A small group of police officers must defend a defunct precinct against a relentless street gang bent avenging the deaths of six of its members. Set in South Central L.A., the movie stars Austin Stoker and Laurie Zimmer as the cops. Darwin Joston plays Napoleon Wilson, a jailed murderer en route to Death Row, who redeems himself by helping the officers survive the night.

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I hope you enjoyed this article. If you did, please take a moment to check out my latest project…

THRILLING NEW GRAPHIC NOVEL!

In the two-part graphic novel Night Cage, vampires overrun a women’s prison–and to escape, four surviving inmates must fight their way through an army of the undead. Picture ‘Salem’s Lot meets Orange is the New Black. Volume One is available on Amazon, and a Kickstarter is underway for Volume 2.

Posted June 5, 2022 by C. Michael Forsyth in Uncategorized

Tagged with , , , ,

50 Best Alternative Horror Movie Posters   Leave a comment

Dozens of creative designers from around the world have taken a crack at creating alternative versions of movie posters for iconic films. Some choose to reinvent the poster in an entirely different style; some take a modern film and redo the poster in retro style. Some reimagine the film with a different cast altogether. We’ve collected the most ingenious alternative posters in the horror genre we could find. Feast your eyes and be sure to comment on your favorites below.

By James White
By Jonathan Burton
By Tony Coppin
By Monica Mizan
By Timothy Anderson
By Mike Saputo
By HC Art
By Blain Hefner
By Mark Welser
By Tyler Stout
By George Sokol
by Daniel Norris
By Ken Taylor
By Christopher Cox

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Take a break from scrolling for a moment. If you’re enjoying this article, please remember to check out my latest project…

THRILLING NEW GRAPHIC NOVEL!

In the two-part graphic novel Night Cage, vampires overrun a women’s prison–and to escape, four surviving inmates must fight their way through an army of the undead. Picture ‘Salem’s Lot meets Orange is the New Black.

Vampires take over a women’s prison in the spooky, steamy graphic novel Night Cage, Volume 2
by Ken Taylor
by Ken Taylor
By Olly Moss
By Olly Moss
by Daniel Norris
By Laurent Durieux
By Jessica Deahl
By Chris Thornley
From Behance.net
By Mondo TEES
By Peter Stults
By Benedict Woodhead
by Geek Tyrant
Peter Strain
by Chris Weston and Jeff Boyes
WONDERBROS
WONDERBROS
By Oscar Delgado
Jerod Gibson
By Pikazilla
Asian version film poster
By Mark Wrobel
By Daniel J Permutt
By Matthew Florey Rowa
By Corina Lupo
By Sean Hartter
By Paul Stults
From Useltop
By Peter Wessler
By Brandon Moore
By Mikiedege

Take a break from scrolling for a second. I’m going to take this opportunity to plug my latest project…

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I hope you enjoyed this article. If you did, please take a moment to check out my latest project…

THRILLING NEW GRAPHIC NOVEL!

In the two-part graphic novel Night Cage, vampires overrun a women’s prison–and to escape, four surviving inmates must fight their way through an army of the undead. Picture ‘Salem’s Lot meets Orange is the New Black.

MOVIE “DONNER PASS” WILL SATISFY YOUR HUNGER FOR HORROR   Leave a comment

Teens' poor choice of a vacation spot proves deadly in horror flick.

Teens’ poor choice of a vacation spot proves deadly in horror flick.

By C. Michael Forsyth

I’ve long been intrigued by the tragedy of The Donner Party, pioneers who set out for California in the winter of 1846, became stranded in the Sierra Nevada mountain range and were forced to resort to cannibalism to survive.

News of the grisly events captivated the nation. The California Star reported, “A more shocking scene cannot be imagined than that witnessed by the party of men who went to the relief of the unfortunate emigrants. The bones of those who had died and been devoured by the miserable ones that still survived were lying around their tents and cabins. Bodies of men, women and children, with half the flesh torn from them, lay on every side. A woman sat by the body of her husband, who had just died, eating out his tongue; the heart she had already taken out, broiled, and ate! The daughter was seen eating the flesh of the father; the mother that of her children.”

Donner Party members James and Margaret Reed faced a terrible choice when stranded in the mountains.

Donner Party members James and Margaret Reed faced a terrible choice when stranded in the mountains.

The movie Donner Pass takes that already-horrifying tale and adds an extra ingredient to the stew: As a result of eating human flesh, the wagon train’s leader George Donner becomes a wendigo, endowed with unnatural strength and longevity—as well as an insatiable hunger for man meat. When a group of present-day teens pay a visit to a cabin in the cursed mountain pass, they soon find themselves on the menu.

The first scene set in modern times is less than promising. Four teens of quickly identifiable types drive toward the cabin, while one recounts an urban legend that Donner still haunts the woods. The story-teller cavalierly jettisons the well-known facts of the tragedy. In his version, Donner was the sole survivor, while in actuality 48 of the 87 members of the party lived. Par for the course, the kids are not deterred by talk of Donner’s ongoing snack attacks nor is their enthusiasm dampened by news that a woman’s half-eaten corpse was recently found, apparently the victim of a homicidal maniac.

KILLER, SHMILLER: The fact that there's a cannibal killer on the loose doesn't keep the Whore (Krystal Davis from a topless dip in the hot tub.

KILLER, SHMILLER: The fact that there’s a cannibal killer on the loose doesn’t keep Valerie The Whore (Krystal Davis) from a topless dip in the hot tub.

After Joss Whedon so brilliantly dissected the hackneyed remote-cabin scenario in Cabin in the Woods, it’s hard not to groan at another stab at it. However, the movie turns out to be well-executed, with some imaginative twists—and more than one of the characters is nursing a surprising secret. Yes, of course the archetypes Whedon pinpointed are back: The Good Girl, the Whore, the Jock, the Nerd, etc. And the characters die in exactly the order you’d anticipate. (Don’t expect the amorous couple who get busy in the hot tub to make it to the prom). But the interplay between the characters is engaging, particularly when they turn against each other as the situation grows more desperate. Although most of the plot turns are telegraphed five or ten minutes ahead, they are well thought out—and you many not actually see the final twist coming.

TRUST NO ONE: The Bitch (Adelaide Kane) creeps up on The Jock (Dominic DeVore).

TRUST NO ONE: The Bitch AKA Nicole (Adelaide Kane) may have a hidden agenda.

This isn’t the first time Hollywood has sunk its teeth into the myth of the wendigo, which is rooted in Algonquin Indian folklore. The movie Ravenous (1999) also featured a vampiric cannibal spawned by a Donner-Party-type catastrophe, and the intrepid brothers in TV’s Supernatural did battle with one.

Interestingly enough, psychologists have identified a real version of the phenomenon, just as there is for lycanthropy. “Wendigo Psychosis refers to a condition in which sufferers developed an insatiable desire to eat human flesh even when other food sources were readily available, often as a result of prior famine cannibalism,” according to Wikipedia.

I think one reason the Donner Party tragedy so profoundly affected the mind of the public is that it exposed an ugliness in Manifest Destiny and our winning of the West. Just as the sinking of the Titanic later put a damper on the Gilded Age, the Manson family murders revealed the dark side to carefree hippie movement of the 1960s and the Challenger disaster knocked the wind out of America’s triumphant space program.

PARTY ANIMALS: Georgia Donner, Eliza Donner and Mary Brunner survived the Donner Party tragedy--by resorting to the unthinkable.

PARTY ANIMALS: Georgia Donner, Eliza Donner and Mary Brunner survived the Donner Party tragedy–by resorting to the unthinkable.

And perhaps it lingers in our imagination more than a century and a half later because of the awful choice it presented. Would you resort to cannibalism to survive? Drawing straws and dining on the unlucky loser may seem morally defensible in an extreme famine. What would Jesus do? Hard to imagine Him nibbling on the calves of St. Peter. Still, He did say, “Eat of my flesh,” at the Last Supper, so He might be forgiving of cannibals. Anyhow, not much of a worry for a fellow who can mass produce fish and loaves of bread at will. But I digress. Chew the question over, then answer the poll below:

Also by the writer of this review is the new novel Sir Arthur Conan Doyle & Harry Houdini in The Adventure of the Spook House

Houdini and Conan Doyle investigate a bizarre disappearance  in new book.

Houdini and Conan Doyle investigate a bizarre disappearance in new book.

12 Horror Movies Hollywood SHOULD remake.   1 comment

By C. Michael Forsyth

I find the unending stream of movie remakes depressing. It’s a kind of self-cannibalization that generally signals a culture is entering its death throes.

Typically, Hollywood remakes movies that were perfectly executed the first time, like “Nightmare on Elm Street,” and the remakes tend to be inferior. The most unnecessary was the shot-for-shot remake of “Psycho” with Vince Vaughan standing in for Anthony Perkins (who was far better suited for the role).

A remake of “Carrie”  (1976) came out in 2020 – despite the movie already having been remade in 2002 and 2013. And although director Sam Raimi remade “The Evil Dead” (1981) with a better script and higher budget as “The Evil Dead 2″ a remake came out in 2013.

The trend will continue as long as producers feel the public doesn’t care much about originality and that they can cash in on name recognition. But what if remakes were chosen for artistic reasons? Why not pick movies that perhaps had a good premise but didn’t turn out as well as they might have due to low-budgets, poor scripting or primitive special effects?

Attack of the Killer Shrews

For example,  “The Killer Shrews” (1959) is ranked among the silliest ever made, but the premise is pretty good. A scientist experimenting on shrews on a remote island causes the voracious creatures – which consume three times their body weight each day – to become huge. That plunges a band of humans stranded on the island into a desperate fight for survival. There’s plenty of conflict between the besieged protagonists and the way they finally escape their predicament is nifty. The movie’s main flaw is that due to budget constraints the shrews were portrayed by collies in masks! In 2016, it was remade as a comedy horror flick, “Attack of the Killer Shrews.”

Here are a dozen other movies that SHOULD be remade.

Due to budget limitations, collies in masks portrayed the giant shrews.

Due to budget limitations, collies in masks portrayed the giant shrews.

 

Giant ants threatened mankind in "Them."

Giant ants threaten mankind in “Them.”

“Them” (1954) — In this flick, radiation spawns ants bigger than elephants in the New Mexico desert, courtesy of A-bomb testing. A strong performance by James Whitmore as a small town cop pitted against the enormous insects helps make this one of the best giant monster movies ever made. The special effects were impressive at the time, but imagine what could be done today.

A

Giant monster wreaks havoc in London in “Gorgo.”

“Gorgo” (1961) – A Nessie-type monster is captured off the coast of Ireland and put on display by circus owners in London. The surprise ending, as well as the relationship between Gorgo and a young Irish lad, are quite touching. However, as in “Godzilla,” a man in a lizard suit portrays the monster – the best that could be done at the time.

Billy the Kid Vs. Dracula

GIT OUT OF TOWN BY SUNRISE: “Billy the Kid Vs. Dracula”

“Billy the Kid Versus Dracula” (1966) – One of the most laughable movie titles of all time. But the premise has potential. We’ve seen how well the cowboy and sci-fi genres blended in “Cowboys & Aliens.” Why NOT have this iconic outlaw, who still fascinates historians – go mano-a-mano against the king of the vampires? (A better title might be in order, though).

Temptation in "Gargoyles."

Winged menace hits on Jennifer Salt in in “Gargoyles.”

“Gargoyles” (1972) – In this made-for-TV movie, it turns out that those statues that adorn cathedrals depict creatures that really exist — mankind’s most ancient enemy. An anthropologist and his daughter must defeat the winged humanoids before their brood of eggs hatch and they plague the world again. Cornel Wilde as the aging but still virile professor makes a splendid hero. And a young, hunky Scott Glenn as a long-haired biker made my big sister’s heart flutter when the TV movie aired. Although the makeup that transformed Bernie Casey into a gargoyle was convincing, the flight sequences were not. Now 21st century special effects could create a terrifying squadron of the gargoyles.

BAD VERSUS WORSE: Gabriel Byrne as a Nazi soldier battles an ancient entity.

BAD VERSUS WORSE: Gabriel Byrne as a Nazi soldier battles an ancient entity in “The Keep.”

“The Keep” (1983) – When I read the book by F. Paul Wilson long ago, I found the premise mind-blowing. During World War II a troop of Nazi soldiers takes refuge in a crumbling fortress – unaware that imprisoned in its bowels is an ancient being far more dangerous than they are. Despite a stellar cast including Ian McKellen and Gabriel Byrne, the movie was a critical flop. Hollywood ought to take another crack at the evil vs. eviler story.

Captain Kronos, Vampire Hunter

Swashbuckling hero takes a break from vampire-slaying in “Captain Kronos, Vampire Hunter.”

“Captain Kronos, Vampire Hunter” (1974) – The title character is a master swordsman and former soldier who travels the countryside slaying bloodsuckers with the aide of his sidekick, a hunchbacked professor. I love the premise that there are different species of vampires, each with its own powers and vulnerabilities. The vampire Captain Kronos encounters this time can’t be killed with wooden stakes. There is an element of mystery in addition to horror and action, since Kronos and the professor must figure out both who the vampire is and how to destroy him. My only complaint is that Horst Janson as Kronos is a bit wooden. A better actor could make for a rousing remake.

Van Helsing bore little resemblence to the old doctor in "Dracula."

“Van Helsing” hero bore little resemblence to the old doctor in Dracula.

“Van Helsing” (2004) – Normally, I hate remakes of recent movies, as in the case of the 2008 remake of the 2003 “The Incredible Hulk.” And I enjoyed this supernatural adventure, especially the scene where vampire harpies buzz terrified villagers. But the Clint Eastwood-type hero played by Hugh Jackman bears virtually no resemblance to the cerebral Dutch professor Abraham Van Helsing as we know him from Dracula. The steampunk, gadget-using cowboy actually is more like the hero of “The Wild, Wild West.” In fact, if you changed the name of the protagonist, you could just as easily have titled the movie “James West.” Why not a version featuring a young medical student Dr. Van Helsing based on Bram Stoker’s character, encountering the supernatural for the first time?

Too close for comfort. Rosey Grier and Ray Milland reluctantly share a body in the Thing with Two Heads.

TOO CLOSE FOR COMFORT: Rosey Grier and Ray Milland reluctantly share a body in the “Thing with Two Heads.”

“The Thing with Two Heads” (1972) – A dying racist millionaire arranges for his head to be surgically implanted on the body of a black man, in this misbegotten attempt to cross the blaxploitation and mad scientist genres. Oscar-winning screen legend Ray Milland humiliates himself spectacularly as the old bigot hitching a ride on Rosey Greer’s bulky body. But what if you remade this turkey as an all-out comedy? I’d love to see Kelsey Grammer as a snooty one-percenter forced to share shoulders with wisecracking Chris Rock.

Cannibalistic Humanoid Underground Dwellers haunt New York Sewers in "C.H.U.D."

Cannibalistic Humanoid Underground Dwellers haunt New York sewers in “C.H.U.D.”

“C.H.U.D.” (1984) — Beneath the streets of New York City lurk Cannibalistic Humanoid Underground Dwellers — homeless people living in the sewers who’ve been mutated by toxic waste into hideous, flesh-eating creatures. Having exhausted the supply of sewer workers, they’re now surfacing through manholes to feed on ordinary New Yorkers. The movie suffers because more screen time is spent on authorities covering up the crisis than on the monsters themselves. And when the C.H.U.D. do show up the makeup is cheesy. But it’s a great idea, given all the urban legends involving the labyrinthine tunnels, and with good monsters, a remake could be really frightening.

The Brain that Wouldn't Die

Heroine finds herself in over her head in “The Brain that Wouldn’t Die.”

“The Brain That Wouldn’t Die” (1962) — A scientist develops a means of keeping body parts alive. He finds a practical application for the breakthrough when his fiancée is decapitated in a car wreck. The lovesick scientist rushes her head to his laboratory, where he manages to keep it alive — and quite talkative — in a liquid-filled tray. Now all he needs is an attractive new body to attach to his sweetheart’s head. As the unhinged doc cruises bars for a suitable specimen, his fiancée goes a bit batty herself, communicating telepathically with a hideous experiment-gone-wrong locked in the laboratory cell. It’s all pretty crazy. So crazy it just might work, as a gory black comedy along the lines of “Re-animator.” (Imagine acid-tongued comedian Sarah Silverman as the nagging head).

"The Vulture"

Terror swoops from above in “The Vulture.”

“The Vulture” (1967) — I remember being scared out of my wits by this film about a half-man, half-vulture creature terrorizing people in a Cornish village. The townsfolk fear it is the vengeful incarnation of a sailor their ancestors buried alive with his pet vulture. However, I was 8 years old at the time. In retrospect, the special effects were awful and the “scientific” explanation revealed at the end is absurd. Still, vulture claws are among God’s scariest creations and, with a decent script and effects, you could scare the bejesus out of an audience.

MATHILDA MAY is a psychic vampire from outerspace in "Lifeforce."

MATHILDA MAY is a psychic vampire from outerspace in “Lifeforce.”

“LIFEFORCE” (1985) — While scouting Haley’s Comet, astronauts find a spaceship that contains the bodies of three human-like aliens in suspended animation. They bring the specimens aboard their ship for scientific study, but the specimens turn out to be vampires that drain psychic energy rather than blood from their victims. They overcome the spacemen and escape to Earth, where they unleash a vampire plague in London. Unfortunately, the movie is slow-paced and unexciting. And Steve Railsback — straight off a riveting performance as Charles Manson in “Helter Skelter” — is surprisingly bland as the surviving astronaut racing to stop the epidemic. I’d like to see a version of the space-vampire flick that doesn’t suck.

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THRILLING NEW GRAPHIC NOVEL!

Vampires run amok in a women’s prison in the gorgeously illustrated, 80-page graphic novel Night Cage. When a newly made vampire is sentenced to an escape-proof, underground slammer, she quickly begins to spread the contagion.

The tables turn on an identity thief in the latest thriller by C. Michael Forsyth. To check it out, click HERE.

The tables turn on an identity thief in the latest thriller by C. Michael Forsyth. To check it out, click HERE.

Of course, sometimes creative folks get it right the first time. The author of this article wrote the sexy and scary novel Hour of the Beast.

Check out HOUR OF THE BEAST by clicking HERE.

Nazis, Vampires and Lesbians Brawl in “BloodRayne: The Third Reich.”   Leave a comment

BUTT-KICKING vampire slayer Rayne carves up Nazi bloodsuckers.

BUTT-KICKING vampire slayer Rayne carves up Nazi bloodsuckers.

 

By C. Michael Forsyth

How could I resist watching “BloodRayne: The Third Reich” when it popped up on Netflix? A sword-slinging Vampirella battling Nazis; steamy lesbian sex and Opie Taylor’s kid brother as a kooky Dr. Mengele-type makes for a C movie well worth a 3:00 a.m. viewing when you’re in the grip of insomnia.

Rayne, like Blade, is a dhampir – the offspring of a woman who was bitten by a vampire while pregnant. She has all the abilities of vampires, such as superhuman strength and speed, but none of their vulnerabilities. She’s immune to holy water, garlic, crucifixes, the insatiable thirst for human blood — and, most importantly, the “day walker” isn’t harmed by sunlight. She’s driven by a mission to wipe out the scourge of vampirism one bloodsucker at a time.

As this movie begins, however, the curvaceous heroine’s primary antagonists aren’t vampires. Instead she’s kicking the butts of Hitler’s stormtroopers in occupied Romania. Rayne is far from the first superhero to mix it up with the Nazis. Captain America and Superman duked it out with them decades ago. But it is novel to see a busty, fanged Xena-type taking on German soldiers with twin samurai swords. And Nazis are still the best villains of all time.

Rayne and her allies in the Resistance are put on the defensive after she inadvertently bites a German commandant. He inherits most of her unique traits and Rayne is horrified by having sired a vampire for the first time. She vows to put him down before he delivers to Adolf Hitler the power to spawn an invincible army.

STAR Natassia Malthe brings two big things to the role of Rayne.

STAR Natassia Malthe brings two big things to the role of Rayne.

The story is well written and although the low budget is clearly evident, the production values are good enough that you accept the time period and setting. The movie’s biggest flaw is the star Nastassia Malthe. The actress brings to role a pair of magnificent breasts and… well, that’s it. Her wooden performance is as awkward as an eighth grader auditioning for a school play. Making things even worse, she’s hampered by a ridiculous costume: an aviator-type leather hat with earflaps that looks like it belongs on a Peanuts character. Malthe takes over the part of Rayne from Kristina Loken, who appeared in the first two films in the series and presumably was more convincing.

SCIENCE PROJECT: Dr. Manger (Clint Howard) delights in experimenting on vampires.

SCIENCE PROJECT: Dr. Mangler (get it?) delights in experimenting on vampires.

On the plus side, you have former child actor Clint Howard as a Nazi doctor who conducts gruesome experiments on vampires. Ron Howard’s younger brother starred in the 1967-1969 TV show “Gentle Ben,” but he’s never had quite the squeaky clean, all-American looks and persona of Andy Griffith’s screen son. Here, he puts his rat-like teeth and raspy voice to good use in creating a very creepy and entertaining character.

ZEIG HELL! Nazi Commandant Brand (Michael Mare) is consumed by bloodlust.

Zeig HELL! Nazi Commandant Brand (Michael Mare) is consumed by bloodlust.

Michael Pare does not fare as well as Commandant Brand. I’ve always liked this actor, who appeared in “The Philadelphia Experiment,” and wonder why he wasn’t able to parlay his exceptional good looks and talent into a berth on the A-list. Here, however, he delivers a fairly bland performance. He acts pretty much the same before and after his conversion. Pare’s Brooklyn accent doesn’t help.

RAYNE takes out time from vamire slaying to enjoy a steamy massage.

RAYNE takes out time from vamire slaying to enjoy a steamy massage.

In the movie, we’re supposed to accept that the actors playing Germans and Romanians are speaking in their native languages, although we hear them speaking English with American accents. I understand the concept and it is totally logical. If we’re hearing characters speak as they sound to each other, why indeed should they have funny accents? The conceit was used in the classic commando flick “Where Eagles Dare” with mixed results. You could totally buy that when Richard Burton posing as a Nazi officer spoke in a clipped British accent, he was actually speaking German. When Clint Eastwood talked with an American accent it was harder to suspend disbelief.

The trouble with using this approach in a low-budget movie is that it risks the viewer thinking that the stars can’t act well enough to fake foreign accents.

Despite its flaws, the movie appears to be moving toward a rousing finale as a convoy led by the vampire commandant heads to Berlin to hand over the secret of immortality to Hitler. Unfortunately it ends rather abruptly. Darn! A scene of Rayne going toe to toe with a vampire Fuhrer would have elevated the film into a truly fun guilty pleasure. Instead, I’m afraid I can give it only a two out of five swastika rating.

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THRILLING NEW GRAPHIC NOVEL!

Vampires run amok in a women’s prison in the gorgeously illustrated, 80-page graphic novel Night Cage. When a newly made vampire is sentenced to an escape-proof, underground slammer, she quickly begins to spread the contagion.


Here’s why you SHOULD “Be Afraid of the Dark.”   Leave a comment

WHO ARE YOU CALLING A FAIRY? These tiny critters take no prisoners…oh, wait a minute, they do!

By C. Michael Forsyth

I’ve been chafing at the bit for months to see the remake of the memorable 1973 TV movie “Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark.” The trailer was one of the most compelling I’ve seen for a horror movie in years and it’s the brainchild of Guillermo del Toro, who directed the visually stunning “Pan’s Labyrinth” and “Hellboy.”

The premise is promising. A young, withdrawn girl is sent by her mother to live with her father and his new girlfriend in a 19th century Rhode Island mansion the two are restoring. The child is plagued by tiny, malevolent gremlins that emerge from the ash pit of a fireplace in the basement of the house – ancient creatures that prey on kids and drag them to their hellish underground kingdom.

The massive flaw that renders the movie almost unwatchable is that the entire family, especially surrogate mom Kim (Katie Holmes) are idiots. Look, I know that horror movie characters usually aren’t too swift and one of their traditional bonehead moves is staying in a house long after it’s become obvious that it’s haunted. But “Don’t be Afraid of the Dark” takes that to a ludicrous level.

It’s one thing to stay in a house after a troubled child in your care is traumatized by fear of creatures she claims to have seen in the basement. It’s another to stay after an old workman emerges from the basement with a tool in his neck following a savage attack and warns you from his deathbed to get the girl out of the house! Even after slow-on-the-uptake Kim learns from a librarian that the previous owner painted evil beings just like Sally described and vanished without a trace along with his son, she allows Sally to wander around the mansion on her own.

If there existed a child welfare agency devoted to the paranormal, they’d take the daughter away. (Hopefully in real life, Katie Holmes does a better job of mothering little Suri).

NO SUPERMOM: Dim-witted Kim (Katie Holmes) fails to take common sense steps to protect child.

In the original version, Sally was an adult. One striking scene from the 1973 movie stands out in my memory. The imps are repelled by light and as they drag Sally across the basement floor toward the ash pit, she grabs a Polaroid camera and uses the flash to fend them off. It was a pretty cool move, I thought as a kid. In the remake, when Sally tells Kim about the creatures’ Achilles’ heel, Kim gets a bright idea, smiles, and gives the girl one of the old-fashioned cameras for protection – instead of a freaking flashlight like any normal person would!

Using a Poloroid flashbulb for light isn’t a plan. Using a Poloroid flashbulb for light is what you do what a plan fails, as Fred Ward’s character in “Tremors” would say.

Little Sally, who unleashes the menace when she sneaks into the basement and uses tools to unseal the ash pit, isn’t much brighter. She continues to think the critters might simply want to be her friends even after she’s seen their monstrous, hissing faces up close. More unbelievably, she doesn’t tell Kim or her dad about the pint-sized pests even after they’ve repeatedly terrorized her in her bedroom. Nor does she tell her real mom, whom she’s clearly close to, over the phone. Here’s some advice, kids: When a swarm of small creatures from the bowels of hell try to shred you with a straight razor, tell Mommy or Daddy.

LESS THAN LOVABLE tot Sally (Bailee) gets the ball rolling when she sets the evil creatures free.

On top of not being very bright, our young heroine is far from adorable. Sally (Bailee Madison) is perpetually cold and sullen. When she meets Kim for the first time, she tells her, “My mother said he picked you because you’re young. But you’re not – you’re old!”

The biggest idiot, naturally, is dad Alex, who as is par for the course in horror flicks, pooh poohs his daughter’s fears long after any reasonable person would. Even after his child has run away out of terror, he refuses to leave until he’s held a big dinner party to show off the mansion he hopes to sell. Guy Pearce, as Alex, excels in playing uptight guys, most famously in “L.A. Confidential.” There he brought an intelligence and sincerity to the role that made you root for him. Here he’s just a jerk, like the pompous concierge he played in the comedy “Bedtime Stories.”

The scuttling, rat-like creatures look frightening. But, in the time-honored tradition of mediocre horror movies, we see way too much of them and they quickly cease to be scary. Heck, they’re almost as cute as the mischievous little devils in “Gremlins.” The CGI isn’t very convincing, further weakening their impact.

In an interesting deviation from the original, the creatures are described as fairies – nasty ones that collect children’s teeth. Guillermo del Toro, who wrote but did not direct the film, said in an interview that he got the idea from the books of Welsh writer Arthur Machen, whose works are mentioned in the movie.

“I love his idea that fairy lore comes from a dark place, that it’s derived from little, pre-human creatures who are really, really nasty vermin but are magical in a way, living as they do for hundreds of years,” del Toro said. “His books are what compelled me to do this.”

However, the case that the Tooth Fairy is actually evil was made with greater logic in the Darkness Falls (2003).

The takeaway for film buffs: A terrific trailer does not always mean a terrific movie. Also, if you’re stuck in a horror movie, never, ever go in the basement.

The author of this review penned Hour of the Beast , hailed by Horror Fiction Review as “a fast-paced, rip-snorting, action-packed, sexy college romp.” The book is available in hardcover and softcover at Amazon.com. But you can save $4 by clicking HERE! The Kindle version is just $7 and the eBbook is a measly $5. Be the first on your block to read this bone-chilling tale — before the movie comes out.

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