Quick Takes: The Beyond, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Fright Night Part 2

beyondThe Beyond […E tu vivrai nel terrore! L’aldilà] (1981)
AKA Seven Doors of Death
twohalfstar

Starring Catriona MacColl, David Warbeck, Cinzia Monreale, Antoine Saint-John, Veronica Lazar, Anthony Flees, Giovanni De Nava
Directed by Lucio Fulci

I’m starting to think I’ll never completely warm up to Italian horror movies. They very rarely capture my attention fully, although when they’re good they are really good (like Suspiria). So I guess I’m trying to say that I’m gonna stick with ’em because I know — or at least hope — that there are gems to find. I definitely liked The Beyond more than City of the Living Dead, but it was still fairly uninteresting and slow for the most part. After hearing about this movie for years, it’s a little hard to understand that this is what all the hype was over. The gore, though, holy hell, so much to love there. I have to attribute the film’s reputation almost completely to the gore, because it’s pretty much worth seeing the movie just to see the nasty bits. Italian filmmakers definitely had a different approach to gore, and it often comes off as much more stomach-churning and revolting than in the films of their American counterparts.

invasionofthebodysnatchers1978Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978)
threehalfstar

Starring Donald Sutherland, Brooke Adams, Jeff Goldblum, Veronica Cartwright, Leonard Nimoy, Art Hindle, Lelia Goldoni
Directed by Philip Kaufman

Fantastic remake that’s nearly as good as the original. I wish all remakes were like this, in that it felt sincere, artistic & in complete understanding of what made the original film so great. It’s a remake that diverges from the original plot in ways that perfectly update the film to the ’70s, while still retaining the pervasive ’50s paranoia of “the other” that made the original film pop. A lot of times remakes change things and people like me wonder why they had to change it. In this film it all clicks, in such good fashion that the film almost exists as a separate entity to the original film. In some ways you could even say that it’s a sequel to the ’50s film, and this ambiguity also helps the film succeed. The whole cast is exceptionally good, with the main four of Donald Sutherland, Brooke Adams, Jeff Goldblum and Veronica Cartwright raising the movie to heights that genre films rarely reach. Sutherland is really becoming a favorite of mine, too, and for whatever reason he reminded me a lot of Clive Owen here (specifically Owen in The Knick).

frightnight2_posterFright Night Part 2 (1988)
threestar

Starring Roddy McDowall, William Ragsdale, Traci Lind, Julie Carmen, Jon Gries, Russell Clark, Brian Thompson, Merritt Butrick, Ernie Sabella, Matt Landers, Josh Richman, Karen Anders
Directed by Tommy Lee Wallace

The original Fright Night was about as fun as an ’80s vampire movie can get, so when I heard there was a sequel I was both jazzed and sure it was doomed to let me down. But no! Fright Night 2 is super fun and surprisingly solid. It builds its story on the same basic framework as the original, except they sometimes shift the genders of characters who filled the various roles originally. This gives Fright Night 2 a distinct feel that is its own, while also feeling very familiar and comfortable. To be more specific, this mostly manifests itself as Charley’s new girlfriend, Alex (Traci Lind), having a much more active role in the plot than Amanda Bearse did in the original. The vampires are multiple, too, and they’re all very different and fun. Fantastic FX work, too. There’s a body melting that’s just incredible! If you enjoyed the first one definitely seek out Fright Night 2!

Doctor Mordrid (1992)

Doctor Mordrid (1992)
AKA Rexosaurus (Germany), Invasori dalla IV dimensione (Italy)

Starring Jeffrey Combs, Yvette Nipar, Brian Thompson, Jay Acovone, Keith Coulouris, Ritch Brinkley, Pearl Shear, Murray Rubin, Jeff Austin

Directed by Albert Band & Charles Band

Expectations: High. This one should be a load of fun.

On the general scale:

On the B-movie scale:


If anyone reads the teasers I put at the end of these series reviews, I have a redaction to make. Last week I claimed that I’d be reviewing Doctor Mordrid, “the closest the world has ever come to an actual Doctor Strange movie!” This is actually untrue, as it seems there was a real, sanctioned TV movie in 1978. Maybe at some point I’ll get around to tracking that one down, but for now you’re stuck with the Full Moon rip-off. What’s interesting about this film, though, is that Charles Band held the license to the Marvel character while in pre-production for the film. The license expired before actual production could begin, and the rights reverted back to Marvel, but Band being the ever resourceful filmmaker decided he could switch everything around and still crank out a fun intergalactic sorcery movie. He fulfills every promise except the fun, so while Doctor Mordrid is a total disappointment to me, it still manages to be marginally enjoyable due to a whole host of impressive practical FX work.

You might ask, “How did Full Moon ever get the license to produce a Marvel Comics film?” Well, this was 1992 and Marvel was still in the period of finding how best to bring their stable of characters to the cinema. While DC was making popular movies based on Superman and Batman, Marvel licensed out Captain America to notable low-budget filmmaker Albert Pyun who made a bunch of Full Moon movies, some films starring Ice T, and a more recent film titled Bulletface. Anyway, also around this time Roger Corman got the license for the Fantastic Four, and apparently Band got the Dr. Strange rights. For some reason, Marvel bet hard on low-budget, whimsical takes on their characters and boy, did that pay off! As I’m inclined to connect unrelated things that may have influenced one another, I’d love to believe that this period of Marvel’s cinematic history led them immediately to shelve any attempts at filming their characters until they could pull it off right. Enter Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man, and the rest is history. But enough about Marvel’s misguided licensing practices of the early ’90s…

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