Needful Things (1993)

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Needful Things: C-

This is a movie based on a Stephen King novel and it has been parodied so many times that even if you have never seen the movie or read the book, you sort of have even if you think you haven’t.

What’s ironic about the movie’s forced familiarity is that the actors populating this film have been typecast so many times in the 90s that you sort of know what they are going to do the whole time. Max von Sydow is in it and you already know he’s playing a devil who deals in haunted antiques; wherever old MvS shows up, you can bet there’s probably some hidden evil afoot. Ed Harris is the hero and, yep, you guessed it: he delivers a powerful monologue while his neck-veins pop out. Honey Bunny from Pulp Fiction screeches and gets violent and the asshole mayor from Pleasantville plays an asshole assemblyman.

So we have a movie you have somehow seen starring actors who will somehow do exactly what you think they will. And the movie production and acting are not very good, so the movie is off to a rough fucking start once you get a few minutes in. Speaking of minutes: there are 120 of them in this movie! That’s a full two hours of layered Stephen King predictability; I would have sold my soul to trim this down to 80 minutes.

Also, there are so many characters that it’s hard to care when old MvS puts some Satan Antique Magic on them and they start murdering each other. He reveals he has delighted in stirring up conflicts throughout history that boiled over into some of the world’s most famous and bloody atrocities. Why he suddenly feels the need to use a magic thrift shop to torture and kill a handful of people in Maine remains the movie’s greatest mystery.

I dissed the acting, but Sydow is pretty good, all things considered. He does a great job of switching between Your Friendly Swedish Grandpa and Grandpa Satan Who Sells Evil Antiques. If you disagree, I’d like to see you keep a straight face while you sell Honey Bunny a haunted antique doll and three quarters of your lines are just the worst fucking puns ever.

There are scenes that seriously drag on to the point where you wish Satan would just open up a Hell-fire volcano in the town square and just be done already. There is one scene where Honey Bunny breaks into the Mayor’s house. Watch that scene and ask yourself if it was necessary.

Overall, this is a goofy 90s piece of horror clockwork that isn’t absolutely awful. There is some satisfaction in seeing a story play out predictably, I guess. If you are not a fan of 90s horror schlock or if you don’t have a soft spot for anyone on the cast, maybe avoid this one and see one of the (rarer) good Stephen King movies instead.

REVIEW: 976-EVIL 2 (1991)

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

976-EVIL 2: D-

976-EVIL 2: Spike, the wise-cracking, barely shaved motorcyclist is back, battling a haunted jerk-off hotline for another 90 minutes. This time, instead of Spike’s cousin getting mixed up with the demonic forces of erotic landlines, it’s a dickhead teacher (played by a guy who looks like he’s a dickhead in real life) who dials 976-EVIL and projects himself onto the astral plane so he can murder people.

Professor Dickhead has a thing for killing blonde co-eds, which he demonstrates in the opening scene where he impales one with a fake stalactite backstage at the school theater. “Welcome to my Hell!” exclaims Professor Dickhead, and then there is an eruption of red corn syrup and an abrupt cut to Spike riding his motorcycle.

Spike has presumably been on a nomadic bender since the end of the first 976-EVIL movie, where ostensibly harmless occult phone sex led to him throwing his cousin through a portal to Hell. Now wherever Spike goes, phones ring ceaselessly, which makes him glare like a badass. At a crusty bar in a small town, he finally picks up the phone, right after befriending… a blonde co-ed…

Spike, the blonde co-ed, and Professor Dickhead are quickly entangled in a deadly triangle of evil jerk-off astral plane warfare.

From here, the movie showcases an array of unoriginal ideas. Just like the last movie, using 976-powers eats away at your physical form, so Professor Dickhead gradually starts to resemble an “after” picture of a decade long meth addiction. The Professor is very Freddy Kruger-ish (a nod to Englund, who directed the first 976-EVIL movie, or just unoriginality?); he likes to make jokes, laugh, and teleport around while he kills people.  From there, the similarities start to resemble borderline plagiarism; nothing that is straight-up theft, but the lack of ideas is clear: there is a scene where a room gets possessed, just like in Evil Dead 2 (talking animal head and all); a scene where someone is zapped into a black & white TV show, just like in Pleasantville; the owner of the Satanic bookstore is a clone of Elvira with bleached hair. I suppose in the first place, you shouldn’t sit down to watch 976-EVIL 2 with very high expectations, but there was literally nothing new to see here.

After some research at the Satanic bookstore, Spike winds up killing himself (they actually blow up a truck for this scene; how they got the budget to do so, I couldn’t tell you) so he can become Ghost Spike and save the co-ed from Professor Dickhead. He (very anti-climactically) succeeds and then explodes into a multi-colored constellation of floating dots which dissipate into the heavens, much to the glee of the unscathed blonde co-ed. Lucifer’s phone sex avatar has been defeated and the main character looks like a fucking Dark Side of the Moon laser light show. I guess that’s a happy ending?

Oh and then the co-ed is arrested for all of Professor Dickhead’s murders because, no blonde co-ed, we don’t believe that some jerk-off phone sex ghost killed everyone until some guy you just met became an anti-jerk-off phone sex ghost and stopped him.

REVIEW: The Passion of the Christ (2004)

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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)

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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)

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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)

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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)

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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)

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976-EVIL (1988): D

You would think that since 976 numbers were those nasty phone sex lines from the 80’s that they would advertise for on all the channels no one watched at like 3am, that this movie would have some sort of sexual connotation to it. But it doesn’t. There’s what looks like a demonic woman on the cover art. I remember seeing this VHS at the store a few times before I finally rented it and thinking to myself “I bet she comes through the phone and rips someone’s ballsack off!” or “I bet when you call the number and start whackin’ it, and you hear her voice, she possess you!”

I NEVER CALLED ANY OF THOSE NUMBERS. But I had a friend who did.

Here’s how it actually works: If you call the number, Satan talks to you. He starts turning you into a demon and urges you to commit sins. You get demonic powers which you can wield once you hang up the phone, but the more you do it, the more your soul is surrendered to Hell and the more you unleash evil shit into our world. The only way to recharge your powers is to call and have phone sex with Satan, which is actually a lot like those 976 numbers because you get addicted to them and have to keep calling to feel like a complete human being ACCORDING TO MY FRIEND, ANYWAY; I WOULDN’T KNOW BECAUSE I HAVE NEVER CALLED A NUMBER LIKE THAT.

At first, it seems badass because you have magic powers, but then you realize that your soul is gone and when you look in the mirror, you see the misleading cover art for 976-EVIL. It’s probably hard to look at yourself in the mirror after calling one of those 976 numbers in real life, OR SO I WOULD IMAGINE.

An abused nerd gets addicted to 976-EVIL and he starts getting revenge on the bullies who picked on him. There is death by claws, death by spiders, and someone’s face is ripped off. The makeup isn’t bad, actually. There is a scene where a room gets possessed just like in Evil Dead 2. There’s even a deer on the wall that comes to life.

The movie is nothing special. There aren’t very many “976” scenes, which were the best part; most of the movie involved ineffectively building suspense between each kill. I didn’t really feel attached to the characters, the premise was fucking stupid. 976 numbers aren’t scary. If they were, WHY WOULD MY FRIEND HAVE CALLED THEM SEVERAL TIMES WHEN HE WAS REALLY LONELY LATE AT NIGHT AND JUST NEEDED SOMEONE TO TALK TO WHO WOULDN’T JUDGE HIM? We may never learn the answer to this riddle just like we may never learn how someone thought up the idea for this fairly atrocious movie.