Masters of Horror: The V Word (2006)

VWord

Review: “Masters of Horror – The V Word”
4 stars

The Bottom Line

On one quiet night, best friends decide to break into the local funeral home to check out a body. Instead they cross paths with something more vicious than they ever could have imagined. This meeting will teach these boys the meaning of friendship and the importance of the V Word.

Pros:

  • Excellent acting all the way around
  • A nice twist on the tired vampire tales
  • Good special effects
  • Filled with dread, The V Word manages to sustain suspense for the entire running time

Cons:

  • Michael Ironside’s character is a bit predictable

Description:

  • Genre: Horror
  • Directed by Ernest Dickerson
  • Starring: Michael Ironside, Arjay Smith, Branden Nadon
  • Original Airdate: November 10, 2006
  • Network: Showtime

Guest Guide Review – “Masters of Horror – The V Word”

I’ve never been one for the customary vampire film. I tend towards the less gothic, grosser versions ala Nosferatu. There’s always been something inside me that likes my vampires to be dirty and terrifying from the get go. That’s exactly what I got with Ernest Dickerson’s first entry into the Masters of Horror series. This bloodsucker ain’t playing around! Even if I found the casting of Ironside rather conventional, he’s still a great choice as the villain. No brooding here, this guy enjoys his undead lifestyle!

What was so surprising about The V Word was how it captivated me. I was completely drawn into the plight of the teenage boys and really felt for them and the dilemma at hand. The excellent script by Masters of Horror series creator Mick Garris keeps their friendship natural and real. There’s no over-the-top silliness in their presentation, instead both Smith and Naden play it straight and come across as genuine buddies. The V Word has everything going for it – an appealing story, tight direction, atmosphere to spare and a good wrap – up but in the end it’s the excellent performances by these two boys that drew me over to the dark side.

 

This review originally appeared on About.com

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Vacancy (2007)

VacancyPoster

Vacancy
3 ½ Stars

To say Vacancy owes a bit to Alfred Hitchcock would be an immense understatement. From the groovy credits to the eerie Psycho-esque Motel to the cinematography, director Nimrod Antal apes the master in almost every scene. What sets him apart from other homages (and I’m using the term lightly), is that Antal somehow makes Vacancy feel fresh.

You Can Check In…

David (Luke Wilson) and Amy (Kate Beckinsale) are the unlucky couple whose car breaks down in the middle of nowhere. It’s just one of many bad things that have happened that night apparently, seeing that the couple loves to take nasty digs at each other via any possible opportunity.

Returning on foot to the gas station they stopped by earlier, the couple spot a hole-in-the-wall motel in back and decide to stick it out there until morning when they can have their car towed. This ain’t the Ritz either. Bugs on the floor, dirty walls and icky bed sheets give the room a nice skid row feel. However, someone has left behind an assortment of unlabelled VHS tapes for the couple’s entertainment. At first, Wilson watches the tapes in bewilderment. After sitting through a throng of people being tortured and killed, he notices that the room on the crude tapes looks awfully familiar. In fact, it looks exactly like the room our couple is staying in. Upon realizing that he’s watching a snuff film, things turn deadly.

… But You Can’t Check Out

The crux of Vacancy‘s success lies not in the story, which presents nothing new, but rather in the atmosphere. The hotel room looks so dirty you’ll want to take a shower afterwards, and the desolate location feels very isolated, leaving the potential victims with little hope. Where the film exceeded expectation is in the snuff tapes themselves. There’s a definite camcorder video feel to them and the brief clips come across as truly authentic, which upped the scare factor without resorting to overindulgent gore.

Wilson and Beckinsale are both good as the bickering couple. Prior to seeing Vacancy, I was only familiar with Wilson’s comedic films. His performance here was a treat and he proves that he’d make an interesting leading man. I’d like to see him cut his chops on more serious fare. Frank Whaley, who plays the hotel manager, is good but he’s a bit too mousy to come off as a truly intimidating character. Still, he jumped into the part with gusto and his mustache was a hoot!

The Bottom Line

Vacancy is a rarity in the cycle of modern Hollywood horror. It’s got fairly famous actors, but the film itself is small. So small, it feels a little like an old ‘70s TV movie with a bit of blood thrown in for effect. With current movie-going audiences hungrier for bigger, more violent fare, Vacancy was practically guaranteed to fail at the box office. Now with the DVD release, it will hopefully find the audience it so richly deserves.

 

This review originally appeared on About.com

When a Slasher Isn’t a Slasher but is Still a Slasher

10ToMidnight

The slasher genre always did get a bum rap. It might have made oodles of dinero for the production companies, but they still turned their back on their product for fear of becoming victims to the backlash. Still, as with any tried and true formula, the slasher blueprint became a staple in other types of films. They might deny it, but many a film took the same conventions and just dressed them up all pretty, hoping no one would notice the soiled underpinnings. Here is are the 10+ movies that came to mind when I thought about films that fell into different genres but retained a little of the slash.

10 to Midnight (1983) – Instead of stripping nude for your killer, this guy does the honor himself! Then he chases you around and kills ya! And it’s up to tough as nails Charles Bronson to capture the punk, even if it means laying his own reputation (and his daughter) on the line. Great little potboiler with a vibrant Bronson and a stunningly built killer.

Angel (1984) – OK, so this movie wears its soiled underpinnings proudly! A sleazy exploitation movie featuring Donna Wilkes as the underage hooker on the lookout for a serial killer, this movie captures the truly seedy side of 80s Hollywood and features some great performances by Dick Shawn (in drag, no less) and Rory Calhoun.

ApartmentZero

Apartment Zero (1989) – The artiest film on the list, Apartment Zero invites the viewer into the lives of two roommates – polar opposites – one of whom is a serial killer. This movie plays around with the conventions of the genre but still leaves the viewer with a mesmerized, disturbed view of the world they’ve just experienced. An excellent film.

Beyond the Valley of the Dolls (1970)Beyond is a sex comedy that goes all nutzo at the end. It’s all about the slash and dash in this excellent psychedelic tripfest. Watch one of the beautiful people declare “You not just a broad – you’re an UGLY broad,” before getting his head chopped off. I say dude deserved it!

Cobra

Cobra (1986) – I’ve always been a little hesitant to see the slasher-esque-eries (yeah, I made that word up!) in Cobra, but so many people out there feel differently, so I knew it was worth including. Hey, my action movie, your slasher! Cobra is a fantastic flick featuring Sly Stallone as a tough as nails cop (who even cuts his pizza with scissors!) on the trail of a cult of killers who are out to get top model Brigette Neilson (looking really pretty in a reddish wig). The main bad guy is great and overall, this is one of the best action films of the 80s. And apparently one of the better slashers too!

Cruising (1980) – A bold film about the seedy gay leather community of New York, Cruising dealt with repression and sexual desire… and death. After years of constant maligning, I think the world is ready for a movie that tackles as many issues as it disposes of bodies.

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Eyes of Laura Mars (1978) – Fashion kills. Laura Mars mostly steers clear of actual sex in favor of fashionably photographed sex… violent sex. And it’s got everyone in a tizzy, including a killer who is picking off Laura’s friends and cohorts one by one. Unfortunately (for Laura – good for us!), she can witness the killings through her eyes as they happen, which leads to all kinds of mishaps and hijinks… slasher style.

Jaws II (1975) – You got teens stuck in an isolated area and you’ve got an unstoppable killer. Only this time it’s a shark! Jaws II is about the closest to a slasher film that a non-slasher film ever got. And maybe that’s why it’s retained its re-watchability for me over all these years. Oh yeah, and it’s got a scary shark that eats people. That too!

SilentRage

Silent Rage (1982) – Chuck Norris is the guy hunting down a seemingly unstoppable killer in a small redneck town. This movie mixes the action and slasher genre in all the best ways. I mean, it’s got Norris single-handedly beating the crap out of a large biker gang (probably the best scene in the movie) and some well directed slasher set-pieces. Also, the acting is great and the pacing is good too. It’s just tops.

Tightrope (1984) – Eastwood, who already did his own take on the classy slash (before they were slashers even!) with Play Misty for Me, is at it again with this dark film. He plays a cop hunting down a serial killer (ho-hum) but at the same time he’s struggling with his own sinister sexual appetite (not so ho-hum). And you know that leads to all kinds of horror filled goodness, now dontcha?

BasicInstinct

Honorable Mentions:

Basic Instinct (1992) – Admittedly, this movie broke through all kinds of boundaries, pushed the envelope right off the desk and started a new sub-genre of overtly sexual thrillers (most of which could never hold a candle to this one). It is the movie that lived up to the stigma of films that sexualize violence and it had audiences in rapture. I think it’s so-so and let’s face it – it’s kind of a bold face rip-off of Tenebre. Yeah, I said it! And that qualifies it!

Body Double (1984) – Just one murder, but that phallic drill is only one step away from some Russ Thorn goodness ala Slumber Party Massacre!

Single, White Female (1992) – Jennifer Jason Leigh wants to be Bridget Fonda (well, who doesn’t?) and Bridget is putting up a fight over it! This superficial but fun suspense thriller embraced and ushered in the Home Invasion craze of the early 90s. A lot of films including Unlawful Entry, Pacific Heights, Hand that Rocks the Cradle and even Shannon Tweed’s excellent soft core thriller Scorned played with this idea, but SWF took it one step further with a nice stiletto heel to the eye trick.

 

This article originally appeared on Horror Yearbook

 

 

Whispers from a Shallow Grave (2006)

WhispersDVDBox

Whispers from a Shallow Grave
Directed By: Ted Newsom
Written By: Ted Newsom
Produced By: Trudi Jo Marie Keck, Ted Newsom
Featuring: Trudi Jo Marie Keck, Gerald Brodin, Gwen Brownson, Michelle Bauer, Linnea Quigley
2006

There has been an undeniable trend in the world of popular low budget cinema of late. The true crime crime genre has seen a lot of releases lately – from the good (Dahmer, Gacy) to the bad (Speck) to everything in-between. What audiences seldom see in this category are movies based on the point of view of the victim. To make it a bit more unique, the point is view in Whispers from a Shallow Grave is told post-mortem.

Based on the real life murder of model Linda Sobek, a case I remember well, mostly because it put up a red flag to all potential models that were setting up appointments themselves, without really understanding the danger involved. It seems rather disturbing that it took us all the way until 1995 to really understand the threat behind that sometimes sleazy business, but there you go. Sadly, Linda had to become the poster child before people started identifying the problem.

Linda’s (Trudi Jo Marie Keck) story starts after her death as she ventures back through her adult life recounting important events leading up to her murder. There’s much to take in, like her suicidal fantasies, her choice in bad men and her ultimate realization that she might not get out of the brutal situation alive. Linda can be seen in court defending her innocence as an unseen lawyer (ghostly apparition?) asks her questions about her sexual history, secrets, and her life as a model. Director Ted Newsom also intersperses some real life news and court footage to add a bit more realism to his cinema verite style. A portion of the film is spent on her killer, Charles Rathbun (Gerald Brodin), and although it’s a sinister look at the mind of a serial rapist and up and coming killer, it’s Linda’s story that is so compelling.

Strangely, this movie is reminiscent of the 70s Made for TV Movie Who Was the Black Dalia starring Luci Arnez. On the surface, both films seem wildly disparate, but they delve into the lives of two very lost girls looking for prominence on the Boulevard of Broken Dreams. To say both films explore the underbelly of the need for validation through fame would be an understatement.

Whispers rises above its budget and transcends the genre thanks to Newsom’s careful direction and obvious affection for telling Linda’s story honestly. Newsom has tackled everything from monster movies to slashers to documentaries. He’s a lover of cinema and it shows. Be forewarned though – this is a movie full of dark moments and rape. Newsom pulls no punches in his depiction of Linda as both kind and confused. There’s also a nice little cameo by Michelle Bauer (looking beautiful as usual) in a stark flashback that reveals Charles as the nasty little monster he is.

 

This review originally appeared on Pretty Scary.

Guys and Balls (2004)

GuysandBalls

Guys and Balls might not win any awards for groundbreaking comedy, but the affable attitude and feel good atmosphere makes it one of the better exports of late. Maximilian Bruckner is Ecki, an awesome soccer player in a small German town hiding the deep dark secret that he’s gay. After he is accidentally outed in front of the whole town, and kicked off the squad by his angry arch nemesis and fellow teammate Udo (Carlo Ljubek), Ecki calls his ex-team to a game of homos against heteros. He’s got four weeks to pull together a motley group of misfits and turn them into a team to be reckoned with. One guess as to who wins, but that’s beside the point, because along the way, Ecki and his teammates learn a little about being a band of brothers and, for some, becoming comfortable and proud of who they are.

A simplistic story that relies more on entertainment than teaching any profound lessons, Guys and Balls never comes close to the camp of Priscilla Queen of the Desert, but instead it falls somewhere between that and the other feel good soccer flick Bend it Like Beckham.

here! Films seem to have found a nitch for themselves with otherwise formulaic storytelling broadened by a gay slant. It sure worked for HellBent, the fantastic homage to slasher flicks, only in drag, and it’s well suited here too. Guys and Balls feels familiar but never fails to please with its engaging story and fine acting, especially from Christian Berkel as Rudolf, the previously-married-leather-fetishist who just wants his son to know who he is. It’s a touching moment when he first meets up with Jan (Marcel Nievelstein) after a few years of separation. Guys and Balls is full of these quiet moments, giving it an extra oomph that pushes it ahead of the current assembly line of gay themed films.

The Lost Boys (1987)

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Directed By: Joel Schumacher
Written By: Janice Fischer, James Jeremias, Jeffrey Boam
Cast: Jason Patric, Kiefer Sutherland, Jamie Gertz, Corey Haim, Corey Feldman, Jamison Newlander, Dianne Wiest, Barnard Hughes, Edward Herrmann

There are a lot of people who love the 80s. Some of us actually grew up in the era of pastel blazers and sockless shoes, while others are fascinated with the upbeat music and glossy film and television. Then there are those who think it’s only kitsch and therefore really “cool” and “ironic” to be into something they consider silly and throwaway. I can’t stand those people. And you know who you are. You are the ones who think people dressed really poorly back then, but you wear skinny jeans tucked into ankle boots (and you’re a dude!). You are the ones who text during films at revival houses and laugh at stuff that isn’t even funny just in case you might have missed the joke (god forbid). I think a lot of those people watch The Lost Boys and laugh to themselves about how trite the horror/comedy is while never appreciating why it is in fact a great film.

Confession: I saw The Lost Boys eight times in the theater all the way back in 1987. I went every week and spent the hard earned $3.35 an hour I made at my gross fast food gig on vampire splendor. Back then I thought The Lost Boys was more of a horror film for girls because of the four gorgeous vampires and the equally hot vampire-in-training, but I guess I wasn’t accounting for the comic book geeks known as the Frog Brothers, who were the envy of every nerd. When I watched the movie recently, for the first time in many years (at the AFI in Silver Spring, no less), I realized it’s a flick for everyone. From hot dudes to decent splatter to silly hijinks, it’s a work of pure fantasy, all the way down to presenting 1987 as a place of post-hippie glitter and stonewashed glamor.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you are quite familiar with the story. Jason Patric is Michael, the uber-stud who finds he’s being converted into a “Lost Boy” by super hottie Kiefer Sutherland, who plays David. Michael’s little brother Sam (Corey Haim) enlists the help of the Frog Brothers, Edgar and Allan (Corey Feldman and Jamison Newlander who is quite a cutie pie in his own right) to help get Michael back to the normal, annoying sibling he was. And of course there’s Starr (Jamie Gertz, who kind of rocked the late 80s), the beautiful half-vampire Michael wants to help but who could be his undoing.

As I previously mentioned, when The Lost Boys was originally released in 1987, it felt like it was more horror than comedy. I mean, I adored the Frog Brothers and everything, but it was Sutherland’s super serious David that I was drawn to. What can I say, I was a serious kid… Back then, at the tender age of 16, The Lost Boys had everything I desired – squirting blood, gorgeous guys and a rawkin’ soundtrack. But as the years passed, I have come to find it less scary and more of a fun comedy. There are guffaws galore here, mostly due to Sam and his vampire killing cohorts, the Frog Bros. And believe it or not, the humor still works. Now that I’m pushing 40 I can also see all the teen angst I was relating to. It’s so obvious what these kind of vampire movies are symbolic of, and it’s why people connect to them and to movies like The Craft (another favorite of mine). It’s all about the process of changing (and changing immensely) while finding your niche in this world. Michael is obviously easy prey because he’s the new kid on the block (Ah, The New Kids on the Block…) and he longs for acceptance. The Lost Boys are definitely the coolest studs in Santa Carla (and they’ve got the hottest girl in their gang), so it’s easy to see why Michael is drawn to them. His mother (Dianne Wiest) thinks it’s all about girls, and although that’s partly true, it’s evident she doesn’t get why he’s becoming different. Take out the vampire element and you have any teenager in any high school. How often do we not confide in our parents because we fear they can’t relate to us? A lot. And you can boil down almost any monster movie featuring a teen in the state of metamorphosis to this very element. That’s why I think they’re timeless.

And let’s face it, The Lost Boys is just good. Considering I’ve never been a huge fan of Joel Schumacher, I think he made the perfect 80s horror film. It’s sorta superficial, but it’s also got just enough substance to make it a classic in the genre. The art direction alone is amazing. Santa Carla, the abandoned hotel the vamps live in and Grandpa’s house are to die for! There’s so much to look at and soak up, the locations are almost a film in itself. However, I still wonder what exactly was up with that sexy Rob Lowe poster in Sam’s bedroom… There’s also some nice atmosphere and the creepy scenes may feel a little dated, but are genuinely eerie, and have remained that way. Some of the dialog is priceless. The famous “Death by stereo” line elicited applause from the pleased audience at the AFI screening.

However, for those of us who saw The Lost Boys when it first hit theaters, the movie leaves a bittersweet feeling. For me, it warmly recalls a time when I would watch a movie and thought it was representative of the world. No, I didn’t think there were sexy vampires running around, but I did think there was a Santa Carla, a place teeming with super cool punk rock kids who rode roller coasters all day. Sure, they exist, but in those numbers? Nah, and they’re never that clean anyway. Also, this is the year we lost Corey Haim and seeing him here at the prime of his acting career tugs at the heart strings. While most of the actors did well for themselves – Sutherland became Jack Bauer, Patric carved out a niche as the serious arty guy, Alex Winter went on to become a good director and Billy Wirth got even hotter –  Haim fell by the wayside. Unlike Corey Feldman, he was unable to pick himself up and he truly became a lost boy. One thing the lame hipsters will never understand is that those of us who grew up in the 80s aren’t that old (yet) and we’ve already lost Haim and River Phoenix, not to mention John Hughes, Michael Jackson and even Andrew Koenig. While these “kitsch-lovers” sit back and laugh at what I consider the greatest decade to grow up in (of course, I’m biased), they’ll never fully understand what it was that was, like, so totally awesome, and that’s what is so sad. For those lame-oids, the joke is on them.

This review originally appeared on Pretty Scary.

Night of the Living Dead 3-D (2006)

NOLD3D

Night of the Living Dead 3D
1 star

The Bottom Line – A modern retelling of the Romero classic, this is just another run of the mill zombie attack gig, minus suspense, horror and talented actors. Director Jeff Broadstreet is a far cry away from Romero’s sense of dread with a message.

Pros

  • Good zombie makeup
  • Sid Haig is always a welcome pleasure
  • Nude girls in 3D are, uh, different.

Cons

  • Slow and extremely uninvolved
  • Tepid soundtrack plays throughout 90% of the movie
  • Most actors were asleep at the wheel

Description:

Genre: Horror
Directed by: Jeff Broadstreet
Starring: Sid Haig, Brianna Brown, Joshua DesRoches, Greg Travis
Rated: R
Theatrical Release: November 10th, 2006
Studio: Midnight Movies

Guest Guide Review – I think we all decided after Tom Savini’s excellent remake of Night of the Living Dead, anything that could be added to an already amazing film had been done… and done right. It makes me wonder if the people behind the newest remake thought about what they were trying to accomplish or simply saw dollar signs floating across the screen. It pains me to say that too, because any small film that finds its way to a theater has probably gone the distance to get there. Alas, this travesty is not really worth feeling bad over.

Ben, who was originally played by the wonderful actor Duane Jones, is not much more than eye candy here. I don’t know why they opted to cast the part with a Caucasian actor (Joshua DesRoches), but it’s really a minor quibble as this film doesn’t seem to be allegorical of anything. It also allowed Barb (Brianna Brown) to have a less controversial love interest.

The pacing is lackadaisical and is only assisted further but the monotonous Johnny One Note performances. I will give credit to Greg Travis who is so hilariously awful that at least he’s entertaining. Haig is the best of the bunch, but he’s not given much to work with.

But what about the 3D effects, you ask? They are pretty boring, unintentionally amusing and very, very sparse. Someone said to me as we left the theater, “George Romero is going to kill himself just so he can roll over in his grave.” I concur.

The Seduction (1982)

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DVD: “The Seduction”

Reviewed by Amanda Reyes
3 stars
The Bottom Line

Morgan Fairchild is the ever professional Jamie Douglas, an anchorwoman who’s got everything – a great job, a loyal boyfriend, a beautiful house… and a stalker. He’s Derek (Andrew Stevens), a deranged photographer who only views life through the skewed vision of his lens. When he sets Jamie in his sights, nothing will stop him.

Pros

  • Andrew Stevens is great in a fairly subtle performance
  • Cinematography is glitzy and glamorous
  • As the media insists on bringing us closer to celebrities, this film feels a bit relevant in these intrusive times.

Cons

  • Michael Sarrazin is the weak link in the cast
  • If 80s glamour isn’t you style, stand back! Hair doesn’t get much bigger than this!
  • I prefer to call it methodic pacing, but the tempo may be too slow for some

Description:

  • DVD Extras: Yes, including commentary and a nice reunion featurette.
  • Directed by: David Schmoeller
  • Starring: Morgan Fairchild, Andrew Stevens, Michael Sarrazin, Vince Edwards, Colleen Camp
  • Original Release Date: January 29th, 1982
  • DVD Release Date: November 7th, 2006
  • Distributor: Anchor Bay

Guest Guide Review – DVD “The Seduction”

Although, no one would consider this early 80s thriller a classic, it does have some interesting, if glossy, qualities to it. Andrew Stevens’ character is fairly well drawn for a popcorn thriller and eerily close to the kind of obsessive fan media folks have had to accustom themselves to. In fact, The Seduction’s voyeuristic theme still holds a candle about the warped ability to turn one’s fantasies into a dangerous reality when it comes to our media darlings.

Without a doubt, The Seduction is still an exploitation film, although it’s quite mild by today’s standards. After such notorious Hollywood thrillers as Basic Instinct made smaller films seem almost quaint by comparison, it’s kind of nice to see such innocence in Fairchild’s brief nude scenes. She’s good here, and looks lovely too but she’s a far cry away from her earlier, bitchier performances in such excellent TV fare as The Initiation of Sarah and Flamingo Road. But once she grabs that shotgun, Fairchild really kicks into gear. Fans of blondes with guns blazing and lovers of all things 80s will not be disappointed in The Seduction. And dig the totally awesome Dionne Warwick theme song!

This review originally appeared on About.com.

Pan’s Labyrinth (2006)

PansLabyrinth

DVD: “Pan’s Labyrinth”
4 ½ stars

The Bottom Line

In the grand tradition of the world’s darkest fairy tales, Pan’s Labyrinth is a disturbing and beautiful look at the life and mind of a child ripped apart by war and death.

Pros

  • Seamless storytelling
  • Beautiful special effects
  • Impeccable acting from the entire cast

Cons

  • Regardless of the term ‘fairy tale’ it’s way too harsh for younger audiences

Description:

  • DVD Extras: Gobs.
  • Directed by Guillermo Del Toro
  • Starring: Ivana Barquero, Maribel Verdu, Sergi Lopez
  • Original Release Date: December 29th, 2006
  • DVD Release Date: May 15th, 2007
  • Rated R
  • Distributor: New Line Home Video

Guest Guide Review – DVD “Pan’s Labyrinth”

Del Toro’s compelling new film Pan’s Labyrinth is at once sumptuous and disquieting. Aptly capturing the climate of a fascist Spain in the 40s, the film boldly explores a time when children were forced to experience the darkest parts of human nature while retaining their own innocence.

A poetic portrait of love and loss, Ivana Barquero’s sweetly bitter portrayal of Ofelia carries the film and she makes a perfect foe for Sergi Lopez’s Capitan Vidal, a sadistic military man bent on sadism. His scenes of torture are shocking but well shot and never gratuitous. However, this film is much too dark for younger audiences who might otherwise be swept away with the characters that inhabit the Labyrinth.

The story itself is picture perfect, and it moves effortlessly between realism and fantasy without ever overwhelming the audience with either. Del Toro crafts a unique and moving tale that might look like fantastical storytelling on the outside, but the core of the film and Ofelia’s obsession with escaping a cruel world are as timeless as ever. A must for fans of fantasy and horror.

This review originally appeared on About.com.

Party Line (1988)

PartyLine

I saw most of Party Line waaaaay back in the early 90s when it was first running on late night cable. I didn’t remember much except Leif Garret wore a wedding dress (!) and people spoke on the phone to each other. Not much to go on, but since I’ve been walking down this lane of fragmented Cinemax memories, I decided to pick up a copy and give it a go.

Wow.

I mean wow in a good way and a bad way. Like, I have a new appreciation for the psycho-sexual thrillers from the 80s and 90s. It was strange time folks, people still tried to include a story in the midst of its tawdriness. Can you believe it? And for the most part, a lot of these films aren’t as bad as people would have you believe. Well, Party Line is bad though. I mean, it’s about a supposedly incestuous rich brother and sister who bide their time by hitting the club circuit where Angelina (the AWESOME Greta Blackburn) lures horny men into her clutches with offers of real wild sex. Then Seth (Leif Garrett) shows up and slits their throat. He dons a red wig and takes no prisoners.

Enter Dan (Richard Hatch), a typical ‘goes against all policies but gets the job done’, cop who just happened to be at a nite club where the latest murder took place. He’s all angry, but dude he just cares. He ends up being paired with Stacy (Shawn Weatherly looking divine), a by the book assistant in the D.A.’s office. Yeah, you totally see where this is going, huh? But you don’t! Because lo and behold, Dan has a girlfriend, a fellow cop named Butch (Marty Dudek). Threw a wrench in that love interest angle, don’t it? Well, maybe not…

Anyway, Stacy and Dan check out this awesome 80s club with a killer live band and some great synth pop. They actually encounter Seth, who tries to give them false info. This kind of blows up in his face when he’s asked to leave his info with an officer for further questioning. Whoops!

And while all of this mayhem is taking place, there’s a sixteen year old nymphet who likes to call the “Party Line” and talk amongst other horny people. It’s so funny to see this, as it’s such a precursor to chat rooms. I like this idea better because you actually get a voice on the other line. Well, Jennifer kind of enjoys calling 976 numbers when she’s babysitting, so it’s not long before her lecherous employer, Mr. Simmons wants a piece of Jen’s action. He calls the Party Line one night as she’s arranging a date with The Fireman, who is Seth. By the way, she goes by the pseudonym The Explorer, which is kind of gross.

During all of this mysterious mysteriousness, Seth gets pulled over by Butch and he slits her throat. When Dan finds out, he means BUSINESS. He’s going to put some of that Apollo foot to ass and real good like, I tell you!

The next day, Seth shows up at a café with his requisite red suspenders and another Party Line listener approaches him as if she was The Explorer, much to Jennifer’s dismay. Then comes Mr. Simmons and the three soon leave to meet up with Angelina for a night of rough and weird sex. Things don’t go so well though and the anonymous girl and Mr. Simmons end up in a field in Malibu all nekkid and stuff. I’d like to say Mr. Simmons blew that one, but that’s kind of inviting a Three’s Company type joke.

Jennifer realizes she was just inches away from a madman and goes to Stacy to help catch the killer. I mean, someone needs to bring Mr. Simmons’ killer to justice. Right? Right? Oh, damn, I’m losing you…

OK, this movie rules. Aside from Leif in drag, the dynamics of his relationship with Angelina is amazing. She totally rules the roost and when she’s not playing mind games or killing, she’s working out. And she works out a lot. It also doesn’t take much to aggravate her as she’s often calling Seth a “Mama’s boy,” and slapping him. Personally, I think he kind of likes it.

Unfortunately, Angelina is actually the smart one. So it really doesn’t take long for the shit to hit the fan, but c’mon did you really want more than 90s minutes of a transvestite Leif slitting throats? Yeah, I wanted more too. It’s a fun movie, shot pretty well and Hatch is really good. Richard Roundtree shows up for a bit too and he’s always gold. And contrary to what I’ve read, Leif is actually quite good. He’s very subdued, but I think his character calls for that. Now, Greta Blackburn, damn she’s great. She wears only the BEST late 80s gear and has the coolest frosted perm this side of Dynasty! She’s a lot of fun to watch and I think even if this movie was just her slapping Leif for an hour and half, I’d love it all the same!

Party Line was directed by William Webb who also helmed the cruelly slandered film The Banker with Robert Forster – but that’s for another blog day!

This review originally appeared on the blog Genre Girls.