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Hi everyone this is your Movieman Alan Russo back at ya again with my version of the "Halloween" movie reviews. This month we are going to review three holiday favorites that can be found at your local video store.

The first movie on the list is Wes Craven’s first motion picture and cult classic, "Last House on The Left."

Wes Craven's nightmarish odyssey of revenge helped to usher in a new era of graphic horror film making in the early 1970s. Inspired by Ingmar Bergman's THE VIRGIN SPRING (1960), THE LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT is a parent's worst nightmare come to terrifying life. Beautiful 17-year-olds Mari (Sandra Cassel) and Phyllis (Lucy Grantham) head into the city for a rock concert, but once there they are kidnapped by three repulsive, sadistic escaped convicts led by Krug Stillo (a menacing David Hess). After the gang drives the girls into the woods, where they rape and murder them, the disheveled crew ends up at the home of none other than Mari's parents, John (Gaylord St. James) and Estelle (Cynthia Carr). When John discovers who has unknowingly walked into his home, he exacts a revenge that makes the convicts' actions seem tame by comparison.

Working on a shoestring budget and coaxing naturalistic performances out of his actors (with the exception of two bumbling law enforcement officers), Craven displays the talent that he would later develop on a grand scale with A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET and SCREAM. Certainly not for the fainthearted, THE LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT remains one of the most visceral horror films ever made. The best part of this movie is the utter gore, not to mention just how sick in the head the convicts are, so for this film I give it Four evil and sadistic howls of pleasure!

Next up we have a classic from 1988 also directed by Wes Craven, "Serpent and the Rainbow." The real life story of a Harvard anthropologist who takes an assignment from a rich pharmaceutical firm to investigate a miracle drug found in a well established religion in Haiti--Voodoo. He soon finds the local fascist police force has taken as much interest in his findings as has the drug firm. From the book by Wade Davis.

The master of Horror Wes Craven does it again with his vision of "Serpent and the Rainbow," which is an interesting look into the dark side of Voodoo religion. The things that the main character saw when the dark priest was in his head were just awesome and I give this film three howls of pleasure!

And finally, we move away from Wes Craven’s films and move directly to one of my personal favorite horror movies, John Carpenter’s "Halloween."

Perhaps the most influential and successful independent film ever made, HALLOWEEN is the movie that put director John Carpenter on the map as a viable film maker. An exercise in simple, pure horror, HALLOWEEN takes us into the world of a mad killer, Michael Myers, who at a very young age stabbed his older sister to death. Locked away for many years in a mental hospital, Michael escapes one night and returns to his hometown to continue his killing spree. Jamie Lee Curtis, in her first role, plays the resourceful baby sitter who is chased by the killer on Halloween night.

Produced for very little money and a tight shooting schedule, HALLOWEEN was a stunning success when it was released. Written by John Carpenter and his longtime producer Debra Hill, the film set their careers on fire, with both of them working together many times over the next 25 years.

The film also made a star out of Jamie Lee Curtis and turned the slasher movie into a viable, successful genre. HALLOWEEN has been copied, parodied and even turned into a franchise of its own, but the original is still considered the best of the bunch. HALLOWEEN was John Carpenter's first foray into horror, and remains the standard to which all other modern horror films are measured. For "Halloween" I give Five horrifying Howls of pleasure!

Thanks for reading my Halloween edition of classic horror films you might want to see. I will be back here next month for another edition of Russo's Movie Mania! Keep the corpses coming and the blood forever running. Have a safe and HAPPY HALLOWEEN!

Hello all you crazy ghosts and ghouls, this is Balcony Betty, back once more to share my thoughts. I know what a lot of you must be thinking…It's October and a Halloween issue—Betty’s going to review a handful of slasher flicks and help fulfill the bloodshed quota for this issue. Right? Wrong. I’m going to review a few comedies.

First off, I have finally seen “Napoleon Dynamite.” All I can say is “Oh My God,” what a waste of film. This has got to be one of the stupidest movies ever made. Yeah, sure, a couple of jokes were funny but for the most part it was one boring stupid scene after another, and to be quite honest I found some of the jokes to be offensive. That said, I gave “Napoleon Dynamite” One Howl of Pleasure --after all I did laugh once or twice.

Next on my list is, “Big Daddy.” This movie was definitely more up my alley. It stars the always funny Adam Sandler. Now this movie was a comedy; I laughed so hard I snorted and on top of that it had the 'emotional little tug at your heart string' moments as well. I gave “Big Daddy” Three and a Half Howls of Pleasure .

Lastly, “Office Space.” This movie was funny but also had a lot of scenes I could relate to…what does “PC Load Letter” mean after all? I liked this movie because the little guy won in the end and the upper level management guys got what they deserved. I wish real life was more like that. I gave “Office Space” Three Howls of Pleasure

Okay, everyone, this is Balcony Betty signing off for a while. Yes, that’s right, this is the last time you will hear from me for a while. The next few months of my life are going to be pretty hectic and I won’t be able to review movies. So until the next time--and you never know when I will return to haunt you all with my thoughts--keep my balcony seat warm and ready for me. It's been real.

Hey there, gang. It's Reaper Rick wishing everyone a Happy Halloween for later this month. In keeping with the spirit of the 'Spirits' this month, I'm going to look at a few horror films that take us from the truly 'Horrible' to the mildly sublime. So get your fright faces on, 'cause here we go.

First off, I recently saw a horribly funny 'horror' flick called, "Monster Man." This movie must have had a limited theatrical release in 2003 and I don't even know if it made its way to DVD or not--I actually watched it on TV (but I got to see it on HBO, so it was uncut). This dark horror/comedy flick was written and directed by Michael Davis and starred Eric Jungman, Justin Urich, Amiee Brooks and Michael Bailey Smith as the 'Monster Man.'

It starts off as a typical 'teen' horror movie with two friends, Adam and Harley, on a road trip so Adam can stop the girl he loves from marrying another man. 'Course the girl doesn't even know Adam is alive, so right from the start the trip seems doomed to failure (or something 'Much' worse). Adam is a nerdy virgin and Harley is the complete opposite--a loud mouthed, alcoholic ladies man (he thinks) who is always putting Adam down and making him feel useless and pathetic. Harley reminded me of a young Jack Black, both in looks and attitude.

So, big surprise, the guys get lost on the way to wherever they were going and on a deserted stretch of road this really huge monster truck (which looks like a cross between a rusted trash can and a coffin) tries to run them off the road. They escape (the first time), but keep running up against this big truck whose driver seems to want them dead. Out of nowhere the boys come across a beautiful, hot looking hitchhiker (Brooks), whom they naturally pick up, since she is going the same way and they don't want to leave her out there with a madman in a giant truck roaming around. Strangely, they don't bother to ask her what she is doing out in the middle of nowhere thumbing a ride. Boys will be boys, I guess.

Then comes the inevitable struggle between Adam and Harley to win Sarah's affections. Harley is sure he has a leg up, since he is so cool, but surprise, she picks Adam because he is sweet, kind and a virgin(?) After that we have the gratuitous sex scene between Adam and Sarah which lasts quite a while.

The next day, the monster truck is back and runs their car off the road and then chases all three of them along a dirt track, deeper into the forbidding woods. Sarah is captured and Harley is knocked unconscious, leaving Adam to rescue the fair damsel from the crazed killer. Now the movie starts getting good.

The last half hour is worth watching, even if the first hour isn't. This part has a couple of snappy surprises, so I won't tell you how it ends, but it is pretty funny in a 'horrible' way. This is a good popcorn movie and a scream for Halloween watching. While not that great overall, it is still a fun, funny movie and I give "Monster Man" Two and a Half Howls of Pleasure .

Next I look at another movie from 2003 which seemed to have a limited run in theatres and has since been forgotten about. "Shadow of the Vampire" starred John Malkovich and William Dafoe and for those not familiar with this movie, it is the fictionalized version of how director F.W. Murnau filmed his masterpiece of horror, 'Nosferatu,' in 1921.

Malkovich plays German director Murnau, who wants to create the ultimate vampire movie. He has attempted to purchase the rights for 'Dracula' from Bram Stoker's widow for the film, but she refuses to sell, so Murnau simply changes the name of the vampire to Count Orlock and calls his movie, 'Nosferatu.' But he still needs something 'special' to make this movie live forever, so he takes his film crew and actors to the Balkan Mountains and hires an actual vampire, Max Schreck (Dafoe) to play Count Orlock.

This may seem a bit cheesy for a story line, but Malkovich and Dafoe pull it off magnificently. Dafoe is a classic vampire and looks almost exactly like the original Orlock. Watching the movie he is making progress in black and white scenes, while Malkovich goes slowly mad in an attempt to finish his picture, even as Orlock begins to drain his film crew of blood is enthralling and sometimes humorous. Malkovich and Orlock argue over such things as make up, lighting scenes and the mysterious injuries to his crew. Eventually, the crew discovers Malkovich's secret, but continue on with making the film.

If you are fond of vampire movies at all, this is one you must see. Many of the scenes are reminiscent of the original "Nosferatu" and are frightening in their similarity. I give "Shadow of the Vampire" Three Howls of Pleasure .

Now on to a horror cult classic--"Phantasm." This 1979 effort at horror is a classic, and like many cult classic horror flicks, "Attack of the Killer Tomatoes," "Bride of the Monster," and "Them," just to name a few, it is a poorly made movie. Poor acting, poor writing, poor editing, poor special effects--so why bother to watch it at all? Because like so many other classics of the 50s, 60s and 70s, it is SO bad, it's good.

For those who haven't seen it, the story line is basically this: a couple of brothers think something 'weird' is going on over at the 'Morningside' funeral home and cemetery. Dwarves in hooded cloaks and an undead 'Tall Man' are stealing the bodies of the deceased and sending them to another dimension to be slaves.

There are one or two fair fright scenes in this movie, but the grabber (literally) is the BALL! A silver orb streaks around the interior of the mausoleum as a techno security guard and attacks intruders. As it approaches a victim, two barbed blades pop out of the ball and when it hits you in the face, the blades hold fast to the victim while a large drill screws itself into your forehead and drains your brains out a hole on the opposite side of the sphere. Cool, huh? It's worth watching the movie just for that scene.

It has a slight twist of an ending and there were a couple of sequels (neither much better than the original), and all in all, it's a poorly made film. Still, it's another good popcorn flick and since it is a 'classic,' if you haven't seen it yet, Halloween would be a good time to check it out. For the Ball alone, I give "Phantasm," One Howl of Pleasure .

And, I guess that's it from me. Be sure to watch some good (maybe even some 'Bad') scary flicks this month. I'll be back at ya next time.



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