Pet Sematary (1989)

On the last day of Zombruary, we revisit a Stephen King classic!

One from the re watch pile…

Pet Sematary (1989)

Film: Whilst I am a pretty big horror fan, and I mean movies, comics, video games and books… in all its forms really… I have never been the biggest fan of Stephen King’s books. In the 80s I read horror novels non-stop as my trip to and from work was a long and boring ride. Unfortunately I don’t read as much anymore, but I blame my addiction to video games and the internet for that.

That’s not to say that I don’t like Stephen King though. The many MANY movies that have been based on his books I have always found to be an interesting distraction and occasionally I’ve even liked them. I guess what that means is I’ve always liked his ideas, but don’t like his writing style and find reading his books to be a laborious act.

Pet Sematary was made based on a screenplay that King himself did based on his book of the same name, and was directed by Mary Lambert, the director of a bunch of Madonna’s early videos and of the inevitable sequel Pet Sematary 2.

Pet Sematary tells of the Creed family: Louis (Dale Midkiff), a Doctor, his wife Rachel (Denise Crosby), their daughter Ellie (played by twins Beau and Blaze Berdahl) and son Gage (Mike Hughes) who have just moved to a new house next to a busy highway.

Soon after they move in, their cat Church is hit by a truck, and their neighbour across the street, Jud Crandall (Fred Gwynne) tells Louis that there is an old Native American burial ground behind a pet cemetery hidden in the woods. Louis and Jud take Church and bury him, without the rest of the family’s knowledge, and very soon, Church comes back… but now he’s mean, and smells.

A further tragedy hits the family when their boy Gage is hit by a truck, and ignoring Church’s personality change, and the warnings from the spirit of a dead cyclist who he tried to help, Pascow (Brad Greenquist), Louis exhumes his body and takes him to the burial ground. It when he returns he’s no longer their baby boy…

This story, based loosely on The Monkey’s Paw, with its ‘wishes gone wrong’ scenario, is probably one of King’s best. The film benefits from Lambert’s direction as she seems to be really in touch with the family relationships and the quality of acting from all concerned, especially the children, really sells the tale well. The appearance of Gwynne, best known as Herman Munster from The Munsters is a revelation as well, and you don’t think of him as Herman at all through the film.

This is the best type of horror film as the horror really comes from bad decisions and tragedy, rather than an external threat that is completely random.

Score: ***1/2

Format: Pet Sematary was reviewed using the Australian Bluray which runs for approximately 104 minutes and is presented in a decent 1.78:1 image with a matching DTS-HD 5.1 audio.

Score: ***1/2

Extras: A great bunch of extras on this disc:

The Commentary by Mary Lambert was done a while after it was made and so we rely on Lambert’s memory for the details of what happened during the course of the filming. It’s a fairly thorough commentary though I think she may occasionally get distracted by what she is watching s there a moments of quiets from her.

Stephen King Territory sees actors, cast, crew and even King himself discuss the origins of the story.

The Characters dissects all the characters motivations and the actors who play them.

Filming The Horror looks at how the crew got away with doing the effects for the film.

Score: ****

WISIA: Pet Sematary works on many levels and has enough shocks to warrant repeat viewing.

Silver Bullet (1985)

One from the re watch pile…

Silver Bullet (1985)

Film: I am an unadulterated fan of Stephen King films, but not of his books. It’s a strange quirk, I know, but I really like King’s ideas, but don’t like his actual writing style. I know that’s not a popular opinion, but I’d rather read writers like Shaun Hutson or Frank Herbert or Richard Laymon.

This movie is based on Stephen King’s novella The Cycle of the Werewolf which was originally published in 1983 with some beautiful illustrations by comic legend Bernie Wrightson, and King adds his skill to the script here but it has a massive amount of problems, insomuch that there’s a fair collection of lame jokes, cliche metaphors and just flat out clunky dialogue, most of which sounds like a 14 year old trying to impress a 6 year old, which is a shame because the story of a town under attack by some creature is a solid one.

This film was directed by Dan Attias, who has had a prolific career but mainly in TV and he has pretty much well worked on every big name series since the mid eighties.

Silver Bullet is narrated by Jane Coslaw (Megan Follows) whose paraplegic brother Marty (Corey Haim) believes that some mysterious murders that have taken place in the town are committed by a werewolf… but who IS the werewolf? After an encounter on a bridge, and a bit of Scooby Doo styled investigation, the kids, along with their Uncle Ned (Gary Busey) realise the werewolf is coming for them next and start to make preparations…

The movie is filmed a little like an after school TV show, and with the aforementioned hammy script, it comes across that way, but what salvages it is the appearance of some genre favourites like Terry O’Quinn, Everett McGill and Lawrence Tierney and then throw in some surprisingly low-budget gore and it turns into something a little better than that.

Speaking of low budget gore, the werewolf outfit is lacking in any kind of fear factor, and looks like Rupert the Bear with a tan, after six months at the gym. The de-transformation scene is pretty good, even though it seems like it’s just An American Werewolf in London’s amazing transformation scene… you know the one…. played in reverse.

It’s not that this is a completely BAD film, it’s just that if I am going to watch a werewolf film I have seen before, I am probably going to go for The Howling or American Werewolf instead. Sorry Silver Bullet.

Score: **1/2

Format: This film was reviewed with the Umbrella Picture, region B Bluray from Umbrella Entertainment which is presented in a decent 2.35:1 image with a clear and crisp 2.0 DTS-HD audio.

Score: ***

Extras: Soooooo many extras on this disc:

First we have a commentary with Director Daniel Attias hosted by Michael Felsher from Red Shirt Pictures, in which we celebrate the film and Attias’s career.

Dino’s Angel Takes On Lycanthropy: Martha De Laurentiis remembers Silver Bullet sees De Laurentiis reminisce on her experiences in Hollywood and on this film. She is delightful and has a great recollection of the time spent on her film career.

Isolated Score selections and audio interview with composer Jay Chattaway for a soundtrack fan is a pretty exciting way to watch the film. Like a director’s commentary, this feature brings the score to the forefront of the sound and has an associated commentary with Chattaway, hosted again by Michael Felsher. It’s an interesting look both at Chattaway’s career and choices made on this film.

The Wold Within: an Interview with Everett McGill sees McGill revisit his acting choices for the role he played in the film. Can I just say that some people get cooler with age, and McGill is one of those.

Full Moon Fever – interviews with special effects artists Michael McCracken Jr and Matthew Mungle looks at the effects and make-up for the film. They discuss their careers and then look at what they did for this film.

We then have a trailer, a tv spot, a radio spot and a… ugh…. image gallery. The image gallery is at least a 70-odd image, slideshow type with Chattaway’s score over the top.

Score: *****

WISIA: As I said in the main body of this review, there’s other werewolf films I’d rather watch, so probably not again.

It (2017)

One from the to watch pile…

It (2017)

Film: I missed this one in the cinemas, but I work in an environment that celebrates pop culture, and so all of my customers and workmates… and family for that matter… we’re banging on about this reimagining/ retelling of the famous Stephen King novel: I literally couldn’t get away from It! For one particular company it was their best seller for several weeks and all the collectors of the pop culture community were going absolutely ape for anything with Pennywise the Clown!

For those who don’t know, It is based on the book of the same name by Stephen King and was originally produced in 1990 as a two part TV mini-series, directed by Halloween III’s Tommy Lee Wallace, and has been repurposed… I hate saying a film is a remake when it’s just from the same source material…. for a new audience, with a new split of the story into the two time periods (the book and previous mini-series tells of the adult and child versions of each character), and an update in the time period when it was set. I assume when it was made in the 80s, the 50s seemed as far away as what the 80s do to a younger audience today.

This film was directed by Mama’s Andy Muschietti and his style in this film is almost an 80s pastiche but still firmly has modern effects and aesthetic: it’s actually really clever and engaging, and never boring to watch.

It tells of a scourge on the small town of Derry. Every 27 years a spate of misfortunes occur, and we start our tale with the disappearance of Bill Denbrough’s (Jaeden Lieberher) young brother Georgie (Jackson Robert Scott). Bill’s group of friend, the Losers’ Club (Fin Wolfhard, Jack Dylan Grazer and Wyatt Oleff) with their newest members (Sophia Lillis, Chosen Jacobs and Jeremy Ray Taylor), decide to do some investigating and discover a horrible clown shaped creature known as Pennywise (Bill Saargård) has been feasting on the citizens of the town for many years.

We the threat to them becomes greater, the kids decide to fight back, but will all of them survive….

There is a lot of good to say about this film: mostly the acting is really good, especially from Lillis, but the one drawback is Wolfhard, who is clearly here to draw on his Stranger Things popularity. It’s stands to reason that of the Losers’ Club that she would be the best as she is a little older than the boys. The real winner is Skargård as Pennywise, who nails the bad guy character perfectly.

On that, clearly the studio is trying to make a franchise, and I reckon after the next film, which will obviously continue the story of the kids but as adults, we might see a continuation ‘stories inspired by Stephen King’s It’ styled thing. I don’t mind that idea at all, I could watch more adventures of Pennywise in a Freddy Kruger styled franchise (which they kind of announce in a cinema marquee which clearly states ‘Nightmare on Elm Street 5).

If I have to be a super picky reviewer, I’d say that the CGI of the paper boat in the opening scene was a little flat but that improved massively through the course of the film and some of it was absolutely amazing.

Part original It, part Goonies but all horror, I came into this with low expectations mainly because of the amount of mainstream movie watchers who loved it, but I was pleasantly surprised and look forward to both watching it again and the inevitable sequel. It’s easily one of the best mainstream horror films to be released in the past ten years.

Score: ****1/2

Format: The reviewed copy of It was the Australian release Bluray which runs for approximately 134 minutes and is a perfect 2.40:1 image and DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track.

Score: *****

Extras: Some pretty cool extras on this disc:

Pennywise Lives! looks at the first day that the young cast get to meet Bill Skarsgård in his Pennywise costume, and then explore the character.

The Losers’ Club explores the relationship that developed between the cast members of The Losers’ Club in the film, and how that made the film more complete with their friendship feeling more genuine.

Author of Fear is, of course, a look at Stephen King’s original novel through the eyes of King himself in a quite fascinating interview.

There is also a bunch of deleted scenes (and a gag scene) which aren’t necessary but a nice addition to the package. I’ve no doubt we’ll get a director’s cut of this film closer to the release of the sequel.

Score: ****

WISIA: Oh yeah, I’ll totally watch this again.

Bonus Friday the 13th review: Cat’s Eye (1985)

One from the re watch pile…
Cat’s Eye (1985)

The cover of the Umbrella Bluray release of Cat’s Eye


Film: I loves me an anthology film…. yeeeehaw! 

In the 80s there was a veritable Trevor trove of cool anthology films that all came out: Creepshow, Creepshow 2, Twilight Zone: The Movie, Tales from the Quadead Zone… maybe not that last one… but the mainstream ones were all entertaining and had great production values and big names attached. 

Cat’s Eye is certainly no exception to that rule, if anything, Cat’s Eye has a really nice pedigree (heh heh ‘pedigree’? Cat? Ahhhh forgedaboudit!). Let’s start with the cast: Airplane’s Robert Hayes, Videodrome’s James Woods, Firestarter’s Drew Barrymore, Casino’s Alan King, Dune’s Kenneth McMillan, Alien 3’s Charles S. Dutton… hell, even Scooby Doo’s Frank Welker does some special vocal stuff in the film! I also have to admit to having somewhat of a crush on Mary D’arcy, who played Woods’ wife in the film.

It doesn’t stop there though: this film was directed by Lewis Teague, a director who knows how to economically tell a story to various degrees of success, with films like Cujo, Wedlock, Jewel of the Nile and Alligator under his belt. When I say ‘economically’, I don’t mean that as an insult either: Teague tells the story so it is easy to understand and the performances he gets from his actors is always a good one.

Lastly, and most definitely not leastly… is that a word… we have this movie featuring three tales by horror legend Stephen King! Two of the stories, Quitter’s Inc and The Ledge were from King’s anthology book Night Shift, although The Ledge was first published in Penthouse (which is referenced in the story), whereas the final one, General, is an original tale made for the film.

Cat’s Eye starts with our introduction to a cat who is seemingly on the wrong side of a couple of King’s other villains, Cujo and Christine (in a nice nod to Teague’s and Carpenter’s films) before escaping to New York, where after a vision (yes, the cat has a vision) of a girl in trouble, he is kidnaped by a corporation called Quitters Inc. and we are thrown into our first tale where we see Dick (James Woods) wanting to quite smoking and going to a clinic called Quitters Inc. who have rather extreme measures of helping you quit… including torture… but will Dick quit?

Robert Hayes on the edge


The cat escapes Quitters Inc. and finds himself taken possession of by a gangster named Cressner (Kenneth McMillan) who has kidnapped Norris (Robert Hayes), a man with whom his wife is cheating, and bets him that he can’t circumnavigate the ledge around his penthouse suite: the prize being freedom, money and his wife… will Norris make it?

A young Drew Barrymore using her ‘pleeeeeeeease’ face


The final story, General, sees the cat, now named General by his new owner, played by Drew Barrymore, living with a family who have something living in their house… something Evil… that perhaps only General is aware of… will General save the family?

This film is a great deal of fun and is a real product of its time. It doesn’t take itself too seriously and has a couple of funny segments using a cover of the Police’s ‘Every Breath You Take’. It’s entertaining and with the loose story style starring the tribulations of the cat, the short tales flow into each other with no hiccup or ‘Cryptkeeper’ to keep the movie running, which is refreshing and a great idea.

Score: ***1/2

The menu screen from the Umbrella release of Cat’s Eye


Format: This film was reviewed with the Australian Umbrella release, region B Bluray of the film which runs for approximately 94 minutes and is presented in a perfectly fine 2.40:1 image with a matching 2.0 DTS-HD audio

Score: ***1/2

Extras: A couple of nice fresh extras on this disc:

Johnny Norris On The Ledge: Robert Hayes Remembers Cat’s Eye is a fond recollection of the time Hayes had in making this film. It’s not just a typical 5 minute ‘everyone was wonderful’ type thing either, it’s a fairly detailed half-hour chat.

Like Herding Cats: A Conversation With Animal Trainer Teresa Ann Miller is a quite fascinating look at the skill of animal training, and the Miller family as career animal trainers.

We also have a trailer for the film.

Score: ***1/2

WISIA: It’s a fun, light-hearted (mostly) and easy to watch anthology so it gets a regular look.

Got Woods?