It’s October everyone! Time for horror movies and lots of candy! As always for this month, I’ll be reviewing all sorts of scary, creepy, and strange thrillers in anticipation of Halloween, in addition to continuing the Year of Godzilla. Enjoy!
NO GOOD DEED (2014): I’m usually forgiving of the presence of dumb females in thrillers, but Taraji Henson’s character here single-handedly sinks the film; only recommended if you’re a huge fan of Idris Elba. D-
IF I STAY (2014): While it hues too closely to traditionalist afterlife formula, this heartfelt little film, like its main character (played wonderfully by Chloe Moretz), has a lot of fight in it. B-
THE GIVER (2014): Any potential this adaptation of Lois Lowry’s interesting book is squandered by the sub-par acting and lack of differentiation from other young adult dystopia fiction. D
THE NIGHT LISTENER (2006): A well-grounded creepy thriller with an ending that eschews Hollywood norms. B+
SATURN 3 (1980): The concept, set design, and various interesting touches add an air of somewhat-undeserved mystique around this entertaining-but-butchered labor of love by John Barry. C
Some more for the Year of Godzilla, including two international ‘kaiju’ films:
THE BEAST FROM 20,000 FATHOMS (1953): The original monster-on-the-loose film, complete with amazing effects by Ray Harryhausen. B+
GORGO (1961): The British film industry tries its hand at Tsuburaya-esque monster imagery; the results are stunning on a visual and storytelling level. B+
THE LAST WAR (1961): Toho’s depiction of World War III and the nuclear destruction of civilization is a nightmarish vision anchored by surprisingly touching human drama for a ’60s tokusatsu film. A- (The American version cuts nearly an hour of footage and places the entire film in a voiceover flashback, but is still worth seeing for a few interesting creative choices. C+)
FRANKENSTEIN VS BARAGON (1965): Toho turns Frankenstein’s monster into a giant kaiju, worthy of both Kumi Mizuno’s sympathy and an excitingly-clever battle with his dinosaur-like opponent, Baragon. C+
GAMERA (1965): Daiei Studios’ flagship monster and rival to Godzilla is introduced here with several memorable showdowns with the Japanese military, but as a whole, the film is very boring and repetitive. D+
INVASION OF THE ASTRO-MONSTER (1965): Probably the most entertaining Showa Godzilla film, with top-rate performances by everyone involved and the combination of classic monster battles and alien invasion. B+ (The American version, known as Monster Zero, is virtually identical to the Japanese cut, but will still get a recommendation for the simple fact that the grave sin of dubbing Nick Adams in Japanese is thankfully not committed here. B+)
As always, check out the archives for more, and support your local movie theater!