Needful Things (1993)


Needful Things: C-

Socrates: Glaucon, have you come across a movie based on a Stephen King novel that involves haunted antiques?

Glaucon: Yes, Socrates, I am familiar with it. How could I not be?! This movie has been parodied extensively, to the point where one might feel acquainted with it even without having seen the movie or read the book Needful Things. I cannot stand this movie! I give it a D-!

Socrates: Having never seen the film, I believe it deserves a B+.

Glaucon: Absurd! How can you be so confident in your grading without having seen the film, Socrates?! Do you expect me to believe –

Socrates: First answer this: Could it be said that the movie suffers from a forced familiarity that arises from the actors within it having been typecast repeatedly in the 90s? Thus, one might anticipate their actions throughout the film? For example, does Max von Sydow assume the role of a mysterious outsider with a uniquely commanding yet restrained menacing presence? And does Ed Harris portray an everyman hero delivering powerful monologues with visible signs of intense emotion and pulsing neck veins?

Glaucon: They do, Socrates.

Socrates: And does the actress who plays Honey Bunny from Pulp Fiction exhibit explosively violent tendencies, while the actor who plays the mayor from Pleasantville portrays an unscrupulous local politician?

Glaucon: Indeed, Socrates. The movie’s predictability is largely derived from the actors’ past performances and roles. Moreover, the movie’s production and acting are quite subpar, and the runtime is 120 minutes, creating a massive endurance challenge for the audience!

Socrates: Ah, I see. With the multitude of predictable characters within the movie, does it become difficult to genuinely empathize with the central conflict, their plight when faced with the malevolent actions of Max von Sydow’s character?

Glaucon. Yes, Socrates! Curious too that he admits to deriving pleasure from instigating conflicts throughout history, which have resulted in some of the most notorious and blood-soaked atrocities! Why then has he suddenly opted to employ a magic thrift shop to torment and kill a select few losers in Maine? It just feels a little too Stephen King!

Socrates: Interesting, Glaucon. But despite your overall critique of the acting, would you say this film still contains a commendable performance by Max von Sydow, considering the circumstances? Does Sydow skillfully transition between the roles of a friendly Swedish grandfather and a malevolent figure selling evil antiques? I imagine that the script’s inclusion of woeful puns would pose a challenge for anyone to maintain a composed countenance during filming.

Glaucon: Certainly, Socrates. I will concede that his performance was well done considering the circumstances. But, I thought you said you haven’t seen –

Socrates: Glaucon, I think you will soon see the fault in your logic. Your high standards for acting are commendable even if they lack conviction and easily crumble when I ask a single question! Also, your critiques of familiarity and length are problematic. Might there be room for enjoyment in indulging in simpler pleasures? Even if the film lacks excellence, it still manages to offer a degree of entertainment value, does it not? You yourself just gushed obscenely at the acting prowess of Max Von Sydow!

Glaucon: I just said his performance was commendable under the circumstances! I struggle to find merit in celebrating mediocrity, Socrates. This is not how we create a just society!

Socrates: Length and character predictability can indeed hinder our ability to engage fully with a story. Yet, might we consider the possibility that the filmmakers intended to create a highly predictable film, tapping into the stability we crave from life itself? Could it be that the clockwork cast and seemingly unnecessary sprawling scenes serve a purpose beyond immediate comprehension? Should you perhaps wait longer than 15 minutes after a movie ends to condemn it?

Glaucon: Your perspective gives me pause, Socrates. Perhaps I have been too hasty in my judgment. However, I still maintain that cinema should strive for greatness: Great acting with great casting, great writing with great structure.

Socrates: This line of reasoning leads to a disappointing destination, Glaucon. Let us not discount the value of exploring the works of Stephen King and the ways in which his idiosyncrasies have permeated our collective horror consciousness. Within the realm of familiarity, there is still space for discovery and appreciation! How else can you explain why various cultures enthusiastically celebrate the same stories over and over again, from opera to ballet to Kabuki theater? You aren’t prejudiced against the Japanese, are you Glaucon?

Glaucon: Now, wait just a minute! I –

Socrates: Then you agree it is through the embracing of guilty pleasures and acknowledging their flaws that we expand our understanding of the human condition and find unexpected joys! Joys that we keep for ourselves, and others that we use for the betterment of society!

Glaucon: Your words resonate with me somewhat, Socrates. Although I fail to see how Needful Things will help better society in any meaningful –

Socrates: Indeed, Glaucon. I am pleased to hear that you realize that you are a ridiculous ninny. Let us not be too hasty when condemning cinematic guilty pleasures, for they often allow us to enjoy the simplicity of familiar narratives and participate in one of humanity’s great entertainment pastimes.

REVIEW: 976-EVIL 2 (1991)

“Here is an ancient text that discusses 976-EVIL.”

976-EVIL 2: D-

Socrates: Glaucon, I have come across a mind-bending film called 976-EVIL 2. It tells the story of Spike, a wise-cracking motorcyclist, who finds himself entangled in a battle against a haunted jerk-off hotline. Have you encountered such a narrative?

Glaucon: Socrates, I am well aware of this film, but I have no experience with actual jerk-off hotlines – haunted or otherwise. I need you to accept this fact before we converse further. 

Socrates: Glaucon, I am your friend. I am perfectly willing to uphold your ridiculous jerk-off hotline denials and pretend that you are not a sick deviant so that we may discuss the film. 

Glaucon (sighs): Very well, Socrates… Where shall we begin? With the villain, perhaps? The story revolves around a teacher with, shall we say, “unsavory” tendencies who uses a supernatural jerk-off hotline to project himself onto the astral plane to commit heinous acts against blonde teenagers. Quite a distasteful premise, wouldn’t you agree?

Socrates: Indeed, Glaucon. And what do you make of this teacher’s preference for targeting blonde teens? Does it not raise questions about the origin of his motives and the depths of his depravity? Targeting this group so specifically speaks to pathological behavior often present in minds that dwell in the depths of sexual fetishes, like… your friend… whom we discussed at length while exploring the philosophical depravity of 976-EVIL, the genesis for this Satanic jerk-off hotline saga. 

Glaucon: Ah yes, my friend Epicurus who was ensnared in the unfortunate web of phone sex addiction back in 1988… A sad, sad tale that absolutely centered on his carnal jerk-off hotline impulses! I do not think this film is so complicated, Socrates. Perhaps the slaying of numerous young blondes is merely a cinematic choice fit for the genre, a means to generate suspense and shock value. After all, these filmmakers often rely on such cheap tactics to captivate the audience. If we suspend our disbelief to allow for an astral plane jerk-off hotline, why not suspend it further and accept the premise at face value?

Socrates: Perhaps, Glaucon. Yet, as the story unfolds, we encounter a multitude of unoriginal ideas and borrowed elements beyond the reuse of the demonic jerk-off hotline. The parallels to other films, such as Evil Dead 2 and Pleasantville, are evident and there is also a character who is a veritable carbon copy of Elvira, Mistress of the Dark with dyed blonde hair. Does this not suggest a lack of creativity and originality on the part of the filmmakers worthy of condemning this film?

Glaucon: Socrates, it is not uncommon for artists to draw inspiration from existing works; you know this. We’re talking about the filmmakers who are crafting a feature film around a magical jerk-off hotline! And besides, there are new and exciting ideas in this film: Spike is haunted by phones; they ring wherever he goes! There is a scene where they manage to blow up a truck! How did they get the money for this, Socrates? Let us not forget about when Spike kills himself so he can infiltrate the astral plane and combat the evil blonde-killing teacher. 

Socrates: Indeed, Glaucon, what you speak is true. I will concede that this is the first film I have seen in which a teen suicide leads to the creation of an anti-jerk-off phone sex ghost. I am willing to give this film a D-.

Glaucon: Agreed!

REVIEW: The Passion of the Christ (2004)


The Passion of the Christ: B+

While Bloodcrypt’s primary purpose has always been to provide a safe haven for closeted gay politicians to meet up with hairy bi-curious traveling salesmen, we sometimes like to post reviews of horror films. And one of the best things about reviewing movies is that sometimes you get to bring an obscure little movie to the attention of a wider audience.

While it certainly got lost in the shuffle of movies like Saw and Saw II, along with Saw III, Saw IV, Saw V part 3, and Saw: Look Who’s Sawing Too, a lot of fans of the “torture porn” genre would appreciate a film like The Passion of the Christ. It has everything you want in a film from this genre: beatings, blood, more beatings, nails through body parts, and Aramaic.

What sets this film apart is that it makes it a period piece. It all takes place in some obscure backwater territory of the Roman Empire during the reign of Emperor Nero. The primary victim is some guy named Josh or something (it’s been a while since I’ve seen it) and he’s being tortured under the order of Pontius Pilot. (What’s frustrating about the movie is that you never get to see what kind of a plane Pilot flies.) The tricky thing is, Pilot’s not all that into it, and he even does some sort of symbolic thing where he cleans his hands or some shit. I’m not sure what that’s all supposed to mean. But the point is it’s a bunch of bearded Druids (or something) who want the Josh guy dead. Why do they want him dead? It’s not clear. He seems like he’s pretty cool. Maybe it’s because they’re jealous.

Those of you who are expecting something along the lines of I Spit on Your Grave or its remake, known as I Spit on Your Grave, might be disappointed. Yeah, you watch as Josh gets beaten into a pulp. There’s even a part where they whip him, and the whip has little spikes in it which tear his skin off. When the beatings are done, they stick him way up in a tree next to a couple of other guys who are put up in other trees. (Why were they beaten? I dunno, but I think that this movie demands a prequel!) When all that’s done, you expect Josh to finally find his way off of it and deliver some payback. Well, I don’t want to spoil it for you, but they imply a lot more than they show, if you know what I mean.

Not only does this movie deliver the thrills while instructing the audience on an often-overlooked piece of history, but what really makes it great is that since Josh is Jewish, it really turns into a tribute to the Jewish people. The director, Mel Gibson, himself a Jew, clearly wanted to pay tribute to the culture of those who have been responsible for so much of what’s great about American entertainment, and he really delivers with this one.

REVIEW: The Omen (1976)


The Omen: B+

The anti-Christ is up in here, up in here and he’s a weird, bug-eyed little boy. This movie has a style similar to Rosemary’s Baby in that it manages to invoke “terror” and interest without in-your-face gore but instead with subtle suspense and events that gradually increase in creepiness, building up to the big Satanic conspiratorial reveal at the end.

Gregory Peck’s sexy ass is an American diplomat to England. When he isn’t eating bangers and mash while sternly furrowing his brow, he’s hanging out with his wife and their little boy Damien. Only Damien isn’t their actual son! Their son died shortly after being born and ol’ Peck was convinced by the creepy hospital staff to swap the dead baby for a newborn whose mother died in childbirth. And, get this, he didn’t tell his wife about the switcheroo!

What a dope.

Once Damien is around three years old, all of a sudden, there’s some morphine-addicted priest and the professor from Ninja Turtles 2 trying to convince Peck that his son is the anti-Christ and that he should take him to a church and kill him. Who the FUCK would believe that? Certainly not Gregory Peck. These priests. They’ll say anything for a little attention.

And so begins the cycle of the movie that involves Peck slowly realizing the truth while the body count rises and Satanists (both humanoid and canine) embed themselves in strategic positions to protect Damien.

I feel bad for Damien. Could you imagine being the Prince of Darkness but you have to sit there pretending to be a little boy all the time? Eating baby food and riding a tricycle? Pretending you don’t know how to talk or read just so you could effectively cause global annihilation one day? Bor-ing. At least he gets to kill someone in the funniest scene of the movie (which involves a tricycle).

The music is good, the Satan stuff is really funny (but meant to be scary). The kills are abrupt and fun.

REVIEW: Rosemary’s Baby (1968)


Rosemary’s Baby: A+

This is one of the best horror films ever made. It’s psychologically creepy as fuck and the writing/acting/direction are fantastic. Structurally, each scene is like a scene from a play with a beginning, middle, and end that all contribute to the overall plot. There is no wasted screen time or pretentious/frivolous scenes thrown in for the hell of it.

Rosemary and her struggling actor husband Guy move into a New York apartment building and befriend local weirdos Roman and Minnie Castevet. The four of them drink fancy cocktails, and swap stories by the fire with Guy and Roman having plenty of private after-dinner chats while Minnie distracts Rose in another room. I wonder what they’re talking about in there…

The film starts by getting you hooked on Rosemary. She is so sweet and charming it’ll make your face hurt! Guy, on the other hand, has all the charm of a pedophiliac car salesman, which is probably why Rosemary begins to suspect him of selling their first born to the Castevets in exchange for material wealth and success. After a few weeks of Guy and Roman’s private time, good news! Rosemary is pregnant! She is a little distressed when she wakes up with scratches all over her body and what feels like a roofie-hangover, with no memories of sex with Guy, only remembering how the night before, Guy was fucking FORCING HER to eat this creepy ice cream sundae that tasted like chemicals. But, regardless, she knows right off the bat that she is with child and this makes her super-stoked.

This paranoia she has about Guy, by the way, is so entertaining to watch because the events that inspire it increase in intensity exponentially, starting with really subtle pangs of doubt to full-blown suspicions of murder and occult rituals, making for great pacing for a psychological thriller. While at first, she is only weary of what appear to be coincidences, she starts to freak the fuck out because she thinks she’s uncovering a global Satanic conspiracy that centers on her baby! 

Guy’s career mysteriously takes off and his rival in the biz contracts a terminal illness. The neighbors all take a special interest in Rosemary’s pregnancy, feeding her funky herbs and monitoring her every move. The Castevets act even weirder and become obsessed with her baby and it seems like everyone is in cahoots, ganging up on Rosemary. People die and stuff.

This is a movie like no other and you owe it to yourself to see it.  

REVIEW: Season of the Witch (2011)



Season of the Witch: B+

I originally wanted to give this movie an F-, but after thinking it over, I realized I was entertained and was basically laughing the whole time.

Nic Cage looks awful; every scene literally looks like they roused him from an overnight coke binge, threw him in a costume, and had him deliver his lines. Perlmen looks better but clearly cares so little about the movie it looks like he is having sexual fantasies the whole time while acting.

Needless to say the story was predictable, lame, full of plot holes, and uninteresting. Its sad attempt at political and religious commentary was so weak and transparent that the few lines that were delivered in this vain fell on deaf ears. The CGI was abysmal, lurking in Spawn level indecipherability, and in the end, Cage beats up a CGI Satan. Pretty whack but see it anyway; it will not disappoint.

REVIEW: Satan’s Slave (1976)


Satan’s Slave: D

A lot of Grindhouse films use this tactic of showing a totally insane, out of context prologue scene before or during the opening credits in order to cultivate some buy-in from the audience. That way, people will hopefully sit through all sorts of low budget garbage with the hopes of finding an explanation/resolution for the prologue or seeing something like the prologue repeated. Usually, the proverbial budget/action “wad” is blown during these introductory scenes and what makes up the other 98% of the movie is semi-torturous in its lameness.

This movie has two intro scenes:

1. A dude in red robes and an awesome looking goat mask leads a Satanic ritual in which a panicking blonde is stripped naked and sacrificed to Satan. All these Jawa looking motherfuckers hold torches and chant around him.

2. This dickhead yuppie named Steven tries to rape some babe in his bedroom. When she successfully repels him, he acts like everything’s cool and walks her to the front door. Then he slams her head in the door until she dies. Lots of red corn syrup and synth stabs.

The credits end. The movie begins. 19 year old Catherine is out for a nice drive with her mom and dad. They are going to visit her Uncle Alex (played by the same guy who was Alfred in the Michael Keaton Batman movies) at his beautiful home out in the country. The car crashes and her parents die.  Wah-wah!

Uncle Alex finds the traumatized, physically unscathed Catherine at the scene of the crash and takes her under his wing. He drives her home and gives her a tranquilizer so she will stop her stupid whining about her stupid dead parents. She wakes up and we find out that Alex’s son, Catherine’s cousin, is that door-slamming asshole Steven!

The movie is a Rosemary’s Baby rip-off. Catherine thinks she is Uncle Alex’s guest, but really, she is his prisoner; Uncle Alex is keeping her doped up on tranquilizers and grooming her for a Satanic sacrifice (like the blonde-Jawa-torch scene from the beginning) which is scheduled for a few days later on her 20th birthday. Steven is in on it too. While he seduces Catherine for some cringe-worthy cousin incest action, Uncle Alex uses voodoo to kill her BF who is just minding his own business back in the city. Fucking asshole, Alfred! I mean, Alex! There are other cultists helping them out as well.

The sub-plots are off the hook. Catherine has an inconsistent Shining-like psychic power. Steven’s mom was the sacrificed blonde from the prologue. Catherine’s ancestor was molested/tortured/murdered by Puritans. Catherine’s dead dad was in on it the whole time.

There aren’t anymore door-related deaths. There’s an eyeball shanking and ol’ Steven stabs some woman in the mouth with a piece of mirror. The movie is pretty boring, low budget Grindhouse with all the goofy music and shitty acting you could ever wish for.

REVIEW: 976-EVIL (1988)


976-EVIL (1988): D

Socrates: Glaucon, can you guess the reason I had selected 1988’s 976-EVIL for us to view tonight?

Glaucon: I’m not sure, Socrates. 

Socrates: Another question, then: We have been roommates for some time, yes?

Glaucon: For many years Socrates.

Socrates: And do you remember in 1988 when our phone bill was inordinately high due to some mysterious charges for numerous hours with 976 numbers? 

Glaucon: I… well… we’ve – we’ve been over this, Socrates! Epicurus was the one who called those numbers, not me! I would never –

Socrates: Ah, Glaucon, see how you jump to your own defense so suddenly?! Are you certain it was not you who sought the forbidden knowledge these numbers promised? Might it be that “Epicurus” is but a figment of your imagination, a veil you employ to conceal your own transgressions? How is it I’ve never met him? 

Glaucon: Socrates, I assure you, my words ring true. Epicurus was a dear friend who became ensnared in the siren’s call of those seductive digits. I merely bore witness to his unfortunate descent! I would never –

Socrates: Pray Glaucon, let us not dwell on your sexual perversions any longer! I tire of this pitiable game and, quite frankly, feel sickened by your lies. Rather, let us delve into the nature of this film, 976-EVIL, if you are able to calm yourself and suppress your temper, that is. The title suggests a connection to those infamous phone sex lines from the past. Yet, it appears that the movie does not explore many sexual connotations. Why do you think there is a misalignment between the film’s title and its content?

Glaucon: Perhaps the filmmakers sought to entice viewers with the allure of the supernatural, Socrates. For example, they may have intentionally employed the misleading cover art – the long-haired devilish phantom on the cover – to captivate the audience’s attention.

Socrates: Ah, so you believe that the movie manipulates the viewers’ expectations through deceptive marketing strategies! But let us explore the actual premise, unless you believe it will inspire you to become too aroused for speech. 

Glaucon: Aroused?! How dare you! I happen to – 

Socrates: Curb your violent lust, Glaucon, and recall with me how the film portrays a scenario where calling the titular number leads to encounters with Satan and the acquisition of demonic powers. Is this portrayal effective in creating a sense of tension and intrigue?

Glaucon: I don’t believe so, Socrates. The execution falls short of expectations. The movie predominantly focuses on building suspense between each kill, failing to establish a strong connection with the characters while more attention is paid to subtle changes in make-up effects for the accursed lead. The premise itself appears rather foolish and lacks the desired impact.

Socrates: Glaucon, I cannot help but sense a touch of guilt behind your eyes while you discuss this film centered on a haunted phone sex line, as if the dark secrets of Epicurus might be none other than a shadow cast by your own actions.

Glaucon: Socrates, I beseech you to believe my words. Epicurus, is a creation of imagination? Is the embodiment of another’s transgressions? These are foolish theories. I stand blameless in this tale of 976 numbers and was but a concerned observer while my dear friend destroyed himself. 

Socrates: Denial is the enemy of the philosopher, Glaucon as it conditions us to avoid confronting the truth. Now let us reflect on the implications of the film’s ridiculous plot. The protagonist, a rather abused nerd, succumbs to the allure of 976-EVIL and seeks vengeance against his tormentors. In doing so, he becomes a vessel for evil as we see the consequences of dialing those sinister and expensive numbers. The deaths by claws and spiders and the possessed room reminiscent of the most famous scene from Evil Dead 2 are most memorable. These are the elements that shape the narrative, but still, the question remains—what dark subtext lies hidden beneath the surface? Can we discern any philosophical lessons from this narrative if we delve deeper?

Glaucon: It appears to be a simple cautionary tale, Socrates, warning against the temptations of power and the consequences of surrendering oneself to darkness and phone sex-related temptations. The film conveys the notion that the pursuit of revenge can lead to the loss of one’s soul and the realization of the futility of violence.

Socrates: Indeed, Glaucon, there is wisdom in your interpretation! Revenge, it seems, is a path that ultimately leads to one’s own destruction. However, I cannot help but notice a peculiar connection between the film’s themes and the experiences of your “friend.” Might there be more to the cautionary tale here? Could it be that the movie indirectly alludes to the perils of indulging expensive sexual telephone activities that affect one’s roommates?

Glaucon: Socrates, while the film’s portrayal of the consequences of phone sex addiction is gripping, I assure you that my involvement in such matters is purely observational. My dear friend was to blame for the phone bill. I believe we are again drifting from our philosophical purpose by dwelling on –  

Socrates: Then it is settled, Glaucon. 976-EVIL, while quite lackluster in its delivery, begs us to consider the consequences of indulging in hours of phone sex at the expense of our loved ones. Our souls hang on the precipice while our late-night exploits – like the ones of your… friend – prove to be more costly than beneficial. I am glad to see we agree so fully and hope you will seek professional help for your embarrassing sex addiction, before we discuss the sequel, Glaucon.