Nature of Shame: Trudging my way through the intermittent (and extremely relative) joys of the Friday the 13th series. Bring on Friday the 13th Part V because it’s the next one.
Hooptober Challenge Checklist: Decade: 1980’s
Friday the 13th Part IV was called THE FINAL CHAPTER so this must be the beginning of the epilogue. I’m not going to criticize the series for waffling on its promise of finality because it’s never made much of a point of making sense anyway. Why start now?
‘Friday the 13th Part V’ Elevator Pitch
The PTSD-riddled Tommy Jarvis awakens from a nightmare in which he watches two idiots dig up the grave of Jason Voorhees. (Corey Feldman appears in a cameo during the dream sequence to bridge Friday IV with Friday V.) A thoughtful undertaker even planned ahead and packed Jason with his hockey mask and machete. Tommy then arrives at a mental treatment facility that A) happens to be deep in the woods; B) is surrounded by absolutely lunatics; and C) is filled with other mentally unstable, horny teens, aka low-hanging murder fruit.
Same as It Ever Was?
I’ve never met a slasher movie that was less concerned with building tension than Friday the 13th Part V. The movie’s 22 kills come rapid fire and only a scant few come accompanied by an escalation of tension. We spend a fair amount of time with a secondary character getting tormented inside a port-a-potty, though. With a mixture of humor and horror, it’s easily the most effective sequence in the film, but that’s not saying much when the 21 others come at you rapid-fire, like a greatest hits episode of Jason’s Greatest Cuts.
Here’s a character you barely know and don’t like. Stabbed. Here’s another char– slashed. Here’s an– stabbed. Here– skewered.
The result is a film that dispenses with all pretense. By this point in the Friday the 13th series of films, fans wanted kills and titillation. There’s a refreshing frankness to a garbage movie that moves from horror beat to sexy bit to horror beat with minimal padding. There’s so much sex in Friday the 13th Part V that director Danny Steinmann, in an article in GQ, said he felt like he was shooting a porno in the woods.
Friday the 13th Part V: All Punches Pulled
The biggest problem with Friday the 13th Part V was writing a protagonist (John Shepherd) who spends the majority of the movie heavily-drugged in a catatonic stupor. Like the original Friday, Part V tries to build a mystery around the murders. Is it Jason? Is it Tommy? (Even Part IV feeds into this assumption.) Is it someone else entirely?
I won’t spoil the final twist. The best I can say about the painfully convoluted revelation is that it’s so dumb you won’t see it coming. The best twist, in fact, occurred behind the scenes. Producers cast John Shepherd and many of the other young actors without telling them about the movie they were making. Friday the 13th Part V was made under the working title “Repetition.” To prepare for the role, Shepherd spent months volunteering at a state mental hospital only to be told he’d trained to play the lead in a Friday the 13th movie.
Final ‘Friday the 13th Part V’ Thoughts
I haven’t loved any of the Friday the 13th movies, but I could never say they were boring. Friday the 13th Part V changed that. This movie’s version of lather, rinse, repeat — murder, sex, murder — numbs the senses. It’s gleeful trash cinema that strays from the consistent but predictable dread largely prevalent through the first four entries. I’m told better things lie ahead. #FingersCrossed.
Despite my reaction to this film, I welcome the future of Friday the 13th where it takes itself even less seriously — but also maybe figures out how to reinsert some suspense alongside the gleeful abuse of the formula.
Nature of Shame: Long ago purchased the Arrow Films Blu-ray based on the impressive package of features and the potential for a deep study of the low-budget independent horror filmmaking of Roger Corman.
Hooptober Challenge Checklist: Decade: 1960’s Year Ends with “6”
‘Blood Bath’ Elevator Pitch
Let’s paint a picture. Venice Beach, California. 1966. The beatniks are groovy and the birds are sexy, baby. A woman wanders the streets at night, lost in though, plagued by her argument with her boyfriend. She stops to admire a painting in a gallery window. It’s a Sordi. But Sordi is also admiring her as he’s stumbled into the night to admire his children in the window. He’s taken by her, asks her to pose nude for a new painting, a new Sordi. She happily obliges — to be the subject of a Sordi portrait! The girls will never believe it. Alas, the painter becomes possessed by the spirit of a long dead vampire ancestor and hacks her to pieces with a cleaver before dipping her body in wax. Day and night, the possessed Sordi stalks the streets of Venice Beach looking for his next victim.
Strange Cormans Are Afoot at the Circle K
Even if you didn’t know the history of the production, you’d notice that something feels off about Blood Bath by the end of the first reel. While on vacation in Europe, Roger Corman purchased the rights to distribute an unproduced Yugoslavian espionage thriller called Operation: Titian (1963). Corman added actors William Campbell and Patrick Magee to the cast in order to make it more palatable to American audiences. In the end, Corman discarded the film, deeming it unreleasable.
In 1964, Corman assigned Jack Hill to salvage the project. Hill had just directed sequences for Corman’s production The Terror (1963). Hill shifted the location to Venice, California to match the movie’s Yugoslavian footage and turned a story about espionage into a horror movie about a madmen who kills models and makes sculptures out of their dead bodies. Corman again decided against releasing the film, now titled Blood Bath, featuring Hill’s changes.
Two more years passed before Corman again returned to Operation: Titian / Blood Bath. He hired Stephanie Rothman, an associate producer who’d worked on American International Pictures’ simul-shot Queen of Blood (1965) and Voyage to the Prehistoric Planet (1965), to do whatever she wanted with the existing footage. Her influence changed the murderous artist to a vampire. The actor who played the murderer, William Campbell, refused to participate in yet another reshoot, so Rothman had to add a magical transformation element to the killer’s bag of tricks to explain why the “vampire” looked nothing like Campbell.
At long last, the project received Corman’s seal of approval, and AIP released the film under the title Blood Bath in 1966 with Hill and Rothman credited as directors. It played in a double feature with Queen of Blood.
It’s a Blood Bath
As Blood Bath unspools, it becomes even more incoherent and tonally muddied. Moments of dire seriousness back up against jokey comic relief, and the vampirism angle feels tacked on like Nic Cage’s fake teeth in Vampire’s Kiss. It also rips concepts and beats verbatim from other, better horror films. It’s Frankenstein’s monster in form and function. No amount of massaging Blood Bath could cloud the fact that this was cobbled together from multiple unrelated concepts.
As a historical curio in the filmography of Roger Corman rather than a fully-rendered film, Blood Bath offers more to enjoy. The Arrow Films edition features all completed versions of the film, making the package as a whole worth digging into. Corman’s process of obtaining and shepherding Operation: Titian into its many iterations gives the die-hard film geeks plenty of fodder upon which to chew. Vampire/chewing pun intended.
The average moviewatcher, however, won’t find much of interest here. It’s cheaply made and impossible to follow. Once Corman moved on from Hill’s version, narrative logic got tossed out the window. Continuity errors and unintelligible footage run rampant. If the viewer is to make anything out of their experience with Blood Bath it’ll come in appreciation for small moments of visual ingenuity and surrealist horror and humor. And Sid Haig. Sid Haig’s magic-grow facial hair should provide at least a few overt chuckles. (He had to do Blood Bath reshoots while filming another movie that required different grooming.)
Final ‘Blood Bath’ Thought
View the Arrow Films 4-movie package as a whole, Blood Bath as a curiosity of scrappy low-budget filmmaking technique, or embrace the small time moody absurdities. The best part about this film and the Blu-ray package is everything else that comes along with it.
Nature of Shame: Jaws 3D caused me to cut bait with the Jaws franchise. Let’s see how the infamous Jaws: The Revenge can further degrade the series.
Hooptober Challenge Checklist: Decade: 1980’s Lowest-rated 80’s film
The reputation of Joseph Sargent’s Jaws: The Revenge precedes it. I never had a desire to conclude the Jaws saga because the series just falls off the table in half-measures (at least). There’s not too much backstory here other than contentment that I’d never let The Revenge into my life. Jaws (1977) is one of the most beloved movies of its era — Jaws: The Revenge has a 0%. Jaws 3D does not. I don’t put much credibility in RT scores, but I wasn’t willing to troll for a movie worse than Jaws 3D.
‘Jaws: The Revenge’ Elevator Pitch
Sharks are drawn to the Brody family like their family tree leaks blood. One might imagine they’d move to Kansas to escape the carnage, but no, Ellen Brody and family will not run with her tail between her legs! So the shark comes for her younger son. Bloody carnage! She believes a shark appearance gave her beloved husband Martin a heart attack. Does she leave after deciding that the shark is carrying some personal vendetta? No! She decides to take a vacation. Canada, perhaps? No! The Bahamas! Those dastardly sharks would never find her on an island nation in the middle of the Caribbean! — where elder son Michael works as a marine biologist. No harm will come to any of them, I tell ya!
The Definition of Insharkity
It’s been said that the definition of insharkity is going back in the water, getting eaten and then doing the same thing over again. Never has this been more clear than in Jaws: The Revenge. Ellen keeps having PTSD shark flashbacks, and Jaws 4 draws on the slasher construct to create a kind of Laurie Strode (and fam) vs. the Shape on the high seas. Only unlike a slasher movie that presents its villain as a representation of pure, inescapable evil, Ellen could literally just leave. Amity never looked all that wonderful anyway. If the campers caught in their Friday the 13th nightmares could have just left camp to end their mortal peril, I’m quite certain they would have hopped on the first bus out of the woods.
On a related note this “How could this keep happening to the Brodies?” premise inspires plenty of unintentional humor. The aforementioned Ellen flashbacks of her entire family getting eaten by sharks or attacked my sharks. Sensing her elder son’s peril; in the middle of a dance with Michael Caine, no less; suggests something extra sensory, perhaps supernatural about this connection between Ellen and the fish. There’s no biological explanation for the narrative of Jaws: The Revenge. Jaws: The Revenge just is. As a viewer you can embrace the insharkity or you can, like schools of viewers before you, write the film off as Brody chum (instead of “bloody chum” — over-explaining mediocre puns is my favorite pastime).
The better — nay — best question about Jaws: The Revenge is how Ellen came to this realization that a Great White has a hit out on her family. Martin Brody killed the shark in Jaws and Jaws II. Unless the Lamnidae family of sharks has some kind of ancestral hive mind that pursues its aggressors across the oceans of the world, this is a textbook case of paranoid schizophrenia. Except for the fact that the movie normalizes her fears. This shark wants to kill Brodies and that automatically makes JTR more interesting than your average cash grab sequel. I’m dying to know how that’s treated in the tie-in novelization because you know Hank Searls embraced shark telepathy in his prose.
‘Jaws: The Revenge’ Spawns… Something
There’s no reason for Mario Van Peebles to speak with an accent. Was Michael Caine’s agent drunk in the 1980s? During the mid-80’s, he was all over the bloody map with Blame It On Rio, Hannah and Her Sisters, Mona Lisa and Jaws: The Revenge. Luckily for all of us he showed up to collect his paycheck and still brings swagger and doe-eyed charisma to an underwritten (unwritten) role of swoon-worthy pilot. Caine even talks like he’s doing an impression of Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon doing an impression of Michael Caine. Here’s the clip from The Trip (2010) for reference:
I’ve already assessed the clinically “inshark” (again, instead of “insane”) basis for this movie. Despite it all and despite its reputation, Jaws: The Revenge improves on Jaws 3D and I might even dare to argue that Joseph Sargent’s film is more entertaining than the objectively superior and more polished Jaws 2. I’ll share that confession with you, faithful readers and Hooptoberists, but I’m going to keep that to myself in mixed company unless plied with libations. The point I’m riding like a sunbather primed in the jaws of a Great white is that Jaws: The Revenge has reverted back to its B-movie roots. Steven Spielberg turned a B-movie premise into a global, industry-shifting blockbuster.
Between the rampant continuity errors and the comically mechanical shark, Jaws: The Revenge dispensed with any pretense that these sequels were ever able to attain a flavor cinematic excellence. With that guise of respectability finally swept out to sea, the fourth installment marries the slasher movie production mentality with the insharkity inherent to a series of movies about sharks repeatedly terrorizing a single family.
I’ll let Siskel and Ebert describe Jaws: The Revenge. They’re not wrong, but they’re discounting the entertainment value of inept filmmaking.
Final ‘Jaws: The Revenge’ Thoughts
Jaws: The Revenge had no business being released in theaters. It’s rushed, clumsy, incoherent, and the shark roars. Like a lion — that’s right. The final showdown between Ellen and the Great white suggests Sargent has taken cues from the Alien series. The badass woman going toe-to-toe (toe-to-fin?) with her nemesis in one final confrontation. The movie, however, can’t even maintain suspense for the ten minutes required to finish the fish. I’ll refrain from spoiling the method of ultimate demise, but I’ll state that it goes down among the most incoherent action finales I’ve ever seen.
When asked if he’d ever seen the finished film, Michael Caine said as only Michael Caine can: “I have never seen it, but by all accounts it is terrible. However, I have seen the house that it built, and it is terrific.”
It’s all true — but I had some fun, and that’s ultimately why we watch.
Nature of Shame:
Since I watched Blacula, I had to watch the sequel, Scream Blacula Scream. Obviously.
Hooptober Challenge Checklist: Decade: 1970’s Black director or predominantly black cast
It’d be a more interesting story if I’d seen Scream Blacula Scream but not the original Blacula. Alas, I have no such story and predictably, prosaically, I’ve not seen the sequel. I do, however, as a copyeditor have license to question the title’s use of commas, or lack thereof. The vocative comma is necessary for direct address in the would-be title Scream, Blacula, Scream. That’s assuming, of course, that the title’s telling Blacula to scream — something I’m not sure we can assume since it shouldn’t be Blacula experiencing fear. He can’t even see himself in a mirror. How is he supposed to quake at the sight of his own visage. (The title actually comes to fruition by film’s end, but I’ll get back to that in a bit.)
If we’re to assume that his victims are doing the screaming, perhaps the title should have been Scream! It’s Blacula! (and then add that final Scream! if absolutely necessary. That scenario actually sounds more like the introduction of a late night talk show host a la “Heeeeeeeeere’s Johnnny.” I can’t deny that the title rolls off the tongue, but making heads or tails of its intentions is an entirely different matter.
I happened to glance at the MGM Soul Cinema DVD that I borrowed from the library and the title on that DVD features the vocative commas. (See cover art above left.) What ho?! Even though they’re not on any of the original poster art or in the movie’s title card, they appeared on the covers of the 2004 DVD and 2009 re-release.
A dying voodoo queen chooses Lisa (Pam Grier) as her successor, overstepping her son Willis (Richard Lawson) and legitimate heir. To get revenge he buys the bones of Blacula/Mamuwalde and resurrects the vampire to do his bidding. Fatal flaw in his plan, however — Mamuwalde comes back to life and bites his petulant ass, turning him into a subservient vampire. Just follow this next part to the best of your abilities because it’s about to get bumpy.
Justin, an ex-cop with a collection of African antiquities, investigates Mamuwalde’s murders. The two meet at a party, discuss his artifacts, and Mamuwalde spots pieces of jewelry worn by his late wife. At this same party (dude obviously knows how to party), he meets Justin’s girlfriend — the newly christened voodoo priestess with the afro that launched a thousand ships — and asks for her help in lifting the vampire curse placed upon him by Dracula. Mamuwalde has to evade Justin’s investigation and protect Lisa from his ever-increasing vampire army if he has any hope of resting peacefully.
Mamuwalde? I hardly knew ye!
In his review, Roger Ebert wrote that the film shows evidence of having been made in a hurry with limited funds. And the first one was what, exactly, if not a cheap production made fast and cheap to capitalize on fleeting cinematic trends? I don’t always agree with Roger, but he usually makes some kind of sense.
Scream Blacula Scream, if nothing else, has the added benefit of Pam Grier — who amplifies production quality just by appearing on screen. As Lisa, she’s an ideal counterpoint to William Marshall’s sympathetic villain — a confused voodoo priestess who’s just coming into control of her powers. The camera worships her just as William Marshall works the lens to magnify his powers of audience seduction, directing a version of male gaze inward and outward at the same time. It’s not a gaze of the leering variety. Through the movie’s perspective (and the perspective of most vampire films), this gaze craves control and places the viewer on the same wavelength as Mamuwalde.
Mamuwalde seeks control over his curse. He’s Dracula’s disciple, a monster created by a racist European, and must manage his thirst for blood in order to win the sympathies of Pam Grier’s voodoo priestess. The movie’s greatest bits of trickery? Withholding Pam Grier so that the audience also desperately craves her return and the fact that Scream Blacula Scream actually more resembles a story about addiction than a 1970’s cheapie horror film sequel.
So Scream Blacula Scream is actually Leaving Las Vegas?
I’m not going to tell you how to read the film — and I can’t even claim to know with any certainty that the filmmakers had this in mind when they made Scream Blacula Scream. Directed by Bob Kelljan (Count Yorga, Vampire — a movie with an appropriately placed comma) and written by Joan Torres, Raymond Koenig, and Maurice Jules, Scream Blacula Scream offers a much tighter production than its predecessor, but also a more ambling narrative. Without building predictable horror beats, Kelljan has made a character study about Mamuwalde overcoming bloodlust to save his soul.
We’ve seen dozens of stories about conflicted vampires. Scream Blacula Scream, by emulating and riffing predictable horror tropes without the ultimate gory payoff, transcends genre even as it cannot escape its considerable era-specific Blaxploitation style. The result? A dated sense of sameness consistently undermined by the movie’s stubborn resistance to convention. Mamuwalde struggles against his nature (rampant, random bloodsucking) in order to remove the shackles placed on him by his ersatz slave master. He must feed, but he also must struggle against his cravings to preserve his relationship with Lisa. Without Lisa he cannot be liberated. Without blood he goes mad. It does not end well.
Final ‘Scream Blacula Scream’ Thoughts
I don’t mean to spoil the outcome I teased with my comma argument earlier, but there is a moment at the end of the movie where Blacula does indeed scream. His fate left uncertain, his soul still without rest. I suppose it’s not-too-spoilery to state that the addiction wins in the end. Mamuwalde will continue to hunt the blood of the innocent, just as most addicts return to their drug of choice, alienating friends and family until no one is left on their side.
Where Blacula felt cheap and generally routine, the sequel waltzes around without a direct through-line from one scare to the next. This might sound like a backhanded compliment, but Scream Blacula Scream marginally and universally improves upon the original. It looks like a horror movie, but it doesn’t act like, well, much of anything in particular. If you like your horror-ish movies aimless but with a heap of swagger, you should check your resistance to movies without the appropriate vocative commas (but please try to control your thirst for Pam Grier) and give this Blacula double bill a viewing.
Nature of Shame:
Clearly I should have watched Blacula by now, right? I thought so, too.
Hooptober Challenge Checklist: Decade: 1970’s Black director or predominantly black cast
If I were interviewing myself for the Cinema Shame podcast I’d have to ask why — why did it take so long to get around to viewing the Blaxploitation Dracula. I love 70’s horror. I dig a good Blaxploitation outing. So, I don’t really know? These movies were just never in front of me. Hootober, as it tends to do, gave me reason to order them up from my local library to fulfill my quota for a film featuring a predominantly black cast or black director.
The Blacula Elevator Pitch
Do you want the short or the long version? Short? It’s Dracula… except he’s black! Now the long, too? Okay. In the year 1780, the Abani African nation sends Prince Mamuwalde to request Count Dracula’s help in suppressing the slave trade. Dracula scoffs at his request and sorta kinda threatens to enslave his wife. Mamuwalde takes offense and fights back against the racist creature of the night but is quickly restrained by Dracula’s minions. Dracula transforms the prince into a vampire, curses him with the name “Blacula,” and seals him in a coffin beneath the castle. In 1972, two homosexual interior designers (depicted in such a way that might make our contemporary hairs stand on end) purchase the castle and unleash the cursed Prince Mamuwalde and his instantaneous vampiric muttonchops.
Even Dracula’s a Racist
The most interesting takeaway from Blacula is how the filmmakers have made vampirism a stand-in for the historical and insidious plague of racism. Though the metaphor wavers as the film unspools, Blacula has made its most profound statement by the end of the opening scene. Like the classic Universal monsters, Prince Mamuwalde/Blacula has been rendered a sympathetic villain; sent to stem the tide of slavery, Mamuwalde has been made a slave of Dracula himself. Our goodwill might waver, however, as his killing spree becomes very equal opportunity.
Nevertheless, it’s a potent foundation that suggests the subsequent 80 minutes might be more a little more carefully plotted and that American International Pictures wasn’t just trying to capitalize on the stateside success of Hammer horror titles and the Blaxplotation movement.
Once the film leaves Castle Dracula, the slavery/racism as plague metaphor gives way for narrative convenience and equal opportunity vampirism. Director William Crain appears mostly content to let the jokey title carry the film. There’s some style to his production (the title credit sequence is a beautiful thing), but the overall package suggests inexperience with the genre and the filmmaking that inspired Blacula. Loose editing and amateurish acting in supporting roles highlight the film’s budgetary constraints, and unlike those shoestring directors of Hammer, Crain seems unable to masque the film’s shortcomings. Of course, some of the film’s lasting appeal derives specifically from these ambling and only intermittent production qualities — and he can’t be faulted for pointing his camera on William Marshall and letting him work his magic.
Blacula works in as much as its star Marshall can channel his virility through the camera lens. As the title menace, he’s a powerful screen presence that elevates the film whenever he’s spreading his plague throughout the urban landscape. The tragic figure of Blacula feels more Count Yorga than Count Dracula, and Marshall transcends the typical pitfalls of Blaxploitation in crafting his character.
It wouldn’t be a difficult argument to make that Blacula isn’t actually a Blaxplotation film at all, but rather just a horror film featuring a predominantly black cast. To make the argument you’d have to really dissect representation in Blaxploitation films and to whom films like Shaft and Coffy are actually catering through their more exploitative urban elements. (I don’t have that kind of time this afternoon — sorry!) Mamuwalde’s a statement of black pride and power gleefully unshackled from the complicated expectations that come along with the kitschy tagline about him being “Dracula’s soul brother.”
Final ‘Blacula’ Thoughts
Wonderful elements abound — aesthetic style, Marshall, Marshall’s vampiric muttonchops, the score, Elisha Cook, Jr., the zip-bang of the final showdown in the chemicals plant — and Blacula didn’t disappoint, but the high points just couldn’t transcend the sloppiness of the overall production and second-act aimlessness.
Hooptober Challenge Checklist: Decade: 1980’s #Watch1989
I didn’t realize I owned this until I was sifting through some multi-movie releases. This particular DVD set, “MGM Movie Collection – 4 Musicals” featured The Phantom of the Opera, Absolute Beginners, The Saddest Music in the World, and Sandra Bernhardt in Without You I’m Nothing. Just because a movie title contains the words “opera” or “music” does not make it a musical. I’m hoping just one person tossed on this version of The Phantom of the Opera expecting classy production values and Andrew Lloyd Webber soundscapes.
The Phantom of the Opera Elevator Pitch
In modern day Manhattan, Molly Shannon hands young opera singer Christine Day (Jill Shoelen) a mysterious piece to perform for her audition. Having never heard of the composer, Eric Gessler, the two do some digging and discover that he may or may not have been a mass murderer. Fun! As Christine performs the piece during her audition a sandbag falls from the scaffolding and knocks her unconscious. She awakes in 1885 London, the understudy to the diva of an opera company. She develops a secret admirer who may or may not be killing anyone who stands in the way of Christine’s success.
If You Sing It, He Will Kill (And Try to Marry You)
Originally a Cannon release, the film changed directors and shifted to Menahem Golan’s 21st Century Film Corporation when Cannon went bankrupt. During the transition, the screenplay gained the modern framework and the expectation of a sequel called A Phantom of the Opera 2: Terror in Manhattan, which feels a little too close to a real-life Hamlet 2 for comfort. Fortunately (or unfortunately?) the sequel never came to pass and all that we’re left with is this surprisingly competent adaptation of Gaston Leroux’s novel.
I say “surprising” because my expectations were based on Menahem Golan. As if Globus was the steady head in that legendary film production duo. I threw this in immediately after Etoile because thematics. Ballet to opera — a can’t miss double feature of mediocrity and missed opportunity. Sometimes I just can’t with you, #Watch1989.
Like Etoile, this Phantom adaptation fails to go for the jugular. If I expected anything out of this film, I expected layers of grotesqueries on top of kitsch laced with tackiness. In an ideal world, of course. Instead of all that, this Dwight H. Little (Rapid Fire, Free Willy 2) directed film settled for a couple moments of legitimate shock alongside some fine (and squishy) Phantom prosthetic effects. Fine production values set a mood that have welcomed a more gonzo performance from Robert Englund as the Phantom and a few more creative kills. The movie sets expectations when the Phantom takes on a few naysayers in the alley and bowls a severed head at their feet. In that moment I thought I’d discovered something glorious. Unfortunately Freddy at the Opera this was not to be.
Phantom of the Opera settles into a Hammer Horror gothic-lite complacency. Everything looks great (all things considered — it is a Menahem Golan production after all), but Little fails to establish the underlying mood that carries the Hammer films, making those British productions more than what appears on the page. Without much humor to prop up this plodding and routine film, it falls just on the right side of watchable but short of “worth gushing about on Twitter.”
Final ‘The Phantom of the Opera’ Thoughts
When I go Golan, I’m expecting to be bewildered by some facet of the production. Golan assembled the necessary pieces, but like Robert Englund’s patchwork face in The Phantom of the Opera, it’s all just a teeny bit limp and sticky. Gore fans will find some practical effects to admire, Englund fans will find a cautiously subdued version of Freddy Krueger (though he does show his real face for a good portion of the film), and the rest of us can appreciate a good bowling-with-heads scene and a rampaging Bill Nighy and then bugger off to our next #Watch1989 and.or #Hootober feature.