Skeletons (1997)

skeletons_5Starring Ron Silver, Christopher Plummer, Dee Wallace, Kyle Howard, James Coburn, Arlene Golonka, D. Paul Thomas, Paul Bartel, David Graf, Patrick Thomas, Clive Rosengren, Raymond O’Connor, Kathleen Noone

Directed by David DeCoteau

Expectations: Moderate.

On the general scale:
twohalfstar

On the B-movie scale:
threestar


If you know the name David DeCoteau, it’s probably because you watch B-Movies. Trashy B-Movies. Skeletons, though, is easily the most respectable and “normal people” friendly DeCoteau film I’ve seen, while also still feeling like he was the guy calling the shots. It’s impressive how his style is still able to filter through, and I wonder what might have been if someone had been gung-ho enough to throw a huge studio picture his way. I doubt we’ll ever find out what that would be like, but thankfully if you dig his style he’s incredibly prolific — for instance, he directed eight films in 2014!

Skeletons centers around a Pulitzer-prize winning journalist, Peter Crane (Ron Silver), who suffers a heart attack. He takes the advice of his wife, Heather (Dee Wallace), and they pull up stakes to get the family out of the rough-and-tumble big city. They land in Saugatuck, Maine, a small town with a population of 850. It is the quintessential small town: everyone is super friendly, they all know each other, and they all worship at the same church run by Rev. Carlyle (Christopher Plummer).

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The Frighteners (1996)

thefrighteners_1Starring Michael J. Fox, Trini Alvarado, Peter Dobson, John Astin, Jeffrey Combs, Dee Wallace, Jake Busey, Chi McBride, Jim Fyfe, Troy Evans, Julianna McCarthy, R. Lee Ermey, Elizabeth Hawthorne

Directed by Peter Jackson

Expectations: High. I love this.

threehalfstar


The Frighteners is Peter Jackson’s transitional film, bridging the gap between his small, imaginative indie movies, and his blockbusters to come. The Frighteners isn’t a perfect amalgamation of these things, but it does represent the closest that Jackson could probably come to replicating the manic energy of his early work while under the watchful eye of Hollywood producers. Thankfully, Jackson’s executive producer here was Robert Zemeckis, who let Jackson be himself while trusting him to deliver a fun film. Jackson definitely delivers the goods, but it is also such a tonally varied film that it completely alienated most of the American audience, causing the film to undeservedly flop.

In addition to the wildly flip-flopping tone that goes from absurd comedy to grisly horror without a moment’s notice, the plot itself is nowhere close to being a traditional “Point A to Point B” Hollywood plot. Instead, the film opens with a thrilling scene that we have no context on, and then moves into introducing us to the many characters around town. This gives The Frighteners something of a small-town, Stephen King novel vibe, as Jackson sets up the world that his characters will play in before really going for the jugular. And like a good Stephen King novel, The Frighteners might take a little while to get going, but it is still engaging its audience with exciting and whimsical things around every corner.

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Critters (1986)

Starring Scott Grimes, Dee Wallace-Stone, M. Emmet Walsh, Don Keith Opper, Billy Green Bush, Terrence Mann, Ethan Phillips, Billy Zane

Directed by Stephen Herek

Expectations: Fairly high. I’d wanted to see this since I was a little kid.

On the general scale:
onehalfstar

On the B-movie scale:
twohalfstar


I’ve seen parts of this over the years but had never seen it all the way through. I gave it a go, but this is definitely one that would be better with a bunch of friends. It’s a horror comedy and my sights were set a bit more towards gore-fest. The key flaw to my logic though is that I never bothered to notice that this was PG-13. That would have tempered my expectations quite a bit, instead of building them up over the last couple of decades.

Basically, the Critters (or Crites, if you want to get technical) make a daring escape from a prison asteroid, stealing a spaceship. A couple of shapeshifting bounty hunters head off in pursuit. The Crites land on Earth, rural Kansas to be exact. It’s been a long flight and their little Critter bellies are rumbling. From here it devolves into a slight clone of Hitchcock’s The Birds, if the birds were prison-breaking, meat-chomping little furballs from space. I loved the opening of the movie, even if it does focus on the family a little too much. As the film dragged on, my bloodlust raged. “When will the Crites start chomping the innocents?” I thought.

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