Bride of Frankenstein, the 1935 sequel to the Universal monster classic, opens with a postmodern device undoubtedly familiar to lovers of horror literature. On a dark and stormy night, we find three of England’s most heralded writers: Lord Byron, Percy Bysshe Shelly, and Mary Wollstonecraft, seated around a roaring fire discussing, among other topics, fear. It’s a scene reminiscent of the one that famously inspired the creation of the 1818 novel upon which the first film was based.
On the page and the screen, The Dark Half is Stephen King at what could be called his most stereotypically “Stephen King.” It’s a story those unfamiliar with the author are unknowingly referencing when they crack jokes about how all he does is write about authors in remote locations being besieged by the supernatural. While this reviewer happens to think King has more range than he’s credited with, this story is certainly in his wheelhouse and he mostly nails it.
Imagine if Viagra put Stephen King in charge of one of their ad campaigns and you have a starting position for Gerald’s Game. A husband, Gerald (a physically jacked and emotionally nuanced Bruce Greenwood), and wife, Jessie (Carla Gugino in a powerhouse performance), head to a secluded cabin to find the spark their relationship has been missing. Instead of a pair of bathtubs perched on a hill, Gerald decides the right accessories – besides his trusty blue pills – are police issue handcuffs.
There are a number of options open to parents should their child ever be run over by a gang of one-dimensional hooligans on dirt bikes. They could take said child to the hospital and hope, pray something can be done. They could report the incident to the police. Or, they could seek out a local witch and strike a murky bargain that involves her resurrecting a demon called Pumpkinhead to exact their revenge. It’s fairly easy to guess which option Ed Harley (the always entertaining Lance Henriksen) went with in 1988’s dark fantasy Pumpkinhead.
If the eyes are the window to the soul then that must make The Beyond a mischievous neighbor kid with a bat and a whole mess of baseballs. Lucio Fulci’s 1981 gore fest is driven by an almost otherworldly urge to inflict spectacularly revolting ocular trauma, utilizing thumbs, rusty nails, and even the occasional ravenous tarantula to do the job. This onscreen eyeball assault is matched only by the film’s persistent attacks on the common sense of those watching.
Writer/Director Eli Craig's second feature Little Evil understands that life is hard for stepdads, so much so that it gives them a support group where they can share stories of disrespect suffered at the hands of their kids. Despite the fantastical stories of abuse they’ve endured and their belief that their kids are demons, for one parent in that circle, Gary (Adam Scott), that assessment isn’t born out of hyperbolic frustration. His 6-year-old stepson Lucas (Owen Atlas) is literally the spawn of Satan.
Without Name, an ethereal wisp of Irish arthouse-horror, opens by warning those with epilepsy about the stereoscopic techniques used in the film. This is no doubt necessary as these sequences, particularly the big finish, are difficult to stomach even for someone un-afflicted. Not to make light, but – while warnings are being bandied about – it might have been nice to include something urging viewers to put on a pot of coffee before pressing play.
Like a rat-faced creature wearing a human mask, the cinematic adaptation of The Dark Tower is one thing masquerading as another. Its mask is that of a loving ode to Stephen King’s career-spanning, genre and mind-bending book series, one that can also serve as a safe entry for new fans. However, its true self is about as loving an adaptation as a Cliffs Notes pamphlet. Rather than welcoming them in, the hacked up narrative will make little sense to the uninitiated while alienating fans longing for a faithful (or even just coherent) take on King’s classic tale.
Quietly loitering at the intersection of horror and drama, Dig Two Graves is a starkly beautiful meditation on guilt and revenge. In the film, meticulously directed by Hunter Adams off a script he co-wrote with Jeremy Phillips, the ghosts of the past aren’t unseen slammers of doors or re-arrangers of furniture. Rather, those ghosts only exist in the thoughts and actions of the living, those unable to make peace with the past and who open themselves up to being consumed by it.
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