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With the season on the horizon, remember the lessons of these non-starters
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The only theatrical feature from Rankin/Bass -- the outfit behind countless animated holiday TV specials including Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and Frosty the Snowman -- this quaint and colorful production pays amusing homage to nearly every movie monster in Universal's catalog, even to the extent of recruiting Boris Karloff to supply the voice of Baron Von Frankenstein. The story begins as the aged Baron invites all members of the Worldwide Organization of Monsters to attend the unveiling of his ultimate creation, a potion capable of destroying all matter. Before the assembled guests -- including Count Dracula, The Wolf Man, The Mummy, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, The Invisible Man, and The Creature from the Black Lagoon -- Frankenstein announces his retirement as the group's leader and the selection of his successor: his bookish, allergy-ridden nephew Felix. Chaos ensues, as nearly every creep and creature on the list begins conspiring against each other in a bid for the coveted office, including the Baron's outrageously voluptuous assistant Francesca (whose very presence stretches the film's "G" rating). The "Animagic" technique of stop-motion puppets is a refreshing medium for the larger-than-life monsters, and the parade of horror movie put-ons should delight viewers of all ages. Though the original negative was believed lost to neglect after the film's poor box-office performance, a pristine print has resurfaced, much to the delight of devoted fans who first discovered this gem via Halloween TV airings. ~ Cavett Binion, All Movie Guide
Child's Play seems to have been concocted by a parent who went berserk after standing in line for hours on end to purchase a Cabbage Patch doll in the early 1980s. The film opens with serial killer Brad Dourif taking refuge in a doll factory. Dourif is killed by the cops, but not before he has invoked a voodoo curse which transfers his soul into one of the dolls. That particular doll, nicknamed Chuckie, is unwittingly purchased by Catherine Hicks for her son Alex Vincent. Several murders occur shortly thereafter; all evidence points to Alex, who insists that his cherub-faced doll is responsible. Detective Chris Sarandon, the man responsible for Dourif's death, doesn't swallow Alex's story, but he agrees to investigate because he's sweet on Alex's mom. The slasher-flick ending of Child's Play would seem to have settled Chuckie's hash for good and all, but guess again--the film spawned numerous sequels. ~ Hal Erickson, All Movie Guide
Includes:Scream (1996), MPAA Rating: R Scream 2 (1997), MPAA Rating: R Scream 3 (2000), MPAA Rating: R Scream Scream is at once a slasher film and a tongue-in-cheek position paper on the "dead teenagers" movies of the late 1970s/early 1980s that plays as half-parody, half-tribute. Sydney Prescott (Neve Campbell) is having a rough time lately: she's still getting over the brutal rape and murder of her mother a year ago, and now one of her friends (Drew Barrymore) has been killed by a lunatic who harassed her with terrifying phone calls, then stabbed her to death while wearing a Halloween costume. Soon Sydney is receiving similar phone calls, quizzing her on the arcane details of such films as Friday the 13th and Prom Night, and is attacked by the same cloaked maniac. With her father missing, she has hardly anyone on her side except her best friend Tatum (Rose McGowan) and Tatum's brother Dewey (David Arquette), a half-bright cop. As for the murderer, it could be any number of people: Syd's father; her cute but overly intense boyfriend Billy (Skeet Ullrich); Tatum's goofball boyfriend Stuart (Matthew Lillard); or Randy (Jamie Kennedy), who works at the local video store and seems to like horror movies just a little too much. Much like Halloween, Scream spawned a series of sequels and inspired a large number of similar films -- its original working title, Scary Movie, became the title of the 2000 parody film by Damon Wayans. ~ Mark Deming, All Movie Guide Scream 2 A year after the monstrous success of 1996's neo-slasher flick Scream, director Wes Craven and screenwriter Kevin Williamson reunited for this follow-up. Since viewers last saw the characters, nosy newswoman Gale Weathers has written a sleazy best-selling book based on the events of the first film, a book that has been adapted into a Hollywood film called Stab, starring Tori Spelling as Sydney Prescott. The real Sydney (Neve Campbell) has since gone away to college in Cincinnati in hopes of leaving the horrific events of her past behind her. Unfortunately, at a showing of Stab, two college students are murdered in a fashion that is reminiscent of the slayings that took place back in Woodsboro. Suddenly, Sydney, her pal Randy (Jamie Kennedy), and dopy deputy Dewey (David Arquette) find themselves once again pursued by a ruthless masked killer. Among the other potential killers and victims are Sarah Michelle Gellar, Laurie Metcalf, and Liev Schreiber. ~ Matthew Tobey, All Movie Guide Scream 3 Wes Craven's Scream (1996) was a half-parody/half-tribute to the first wave of slasher films of the 1970s and 1980s, and since most of them spawned a large number of sequels, it's only appropriate that Craven and screenwriter Kevin Williamson produced a third installment of their Scream franchise. Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell), traumatized by the brutal murders of her friends, has left her hometown of Woodsboro and is working in California as a crisis intervention counselor. Meanwhile, "Stab," the novel by Gale Weathers (Courtney Cox Arquette), is spawning a series of successful horror films, and as Stab 3: Return to Woodsboro is being filmed in Los Angeles, a lunatic has gotten his hands on a copy of the script, and is murdering the characters in the same order that they die in the movie. But predicting who will die next is not as simple as it might seem, since the producers have circulated three different screenplays, with different endings. In addition to Campbell and Cox-Arquette, David Arquette returns from the first two films as less-than-bright "Dewey" Riley; new members of the cast include Parker Posey, Patrick Dempsey, Scott Foley, and Jenny McCarthy. Kevin Williamson wrote the original story, but the screenplay was penned by Ehren Kruger. ~ Mark Deming, All Movie Guide
Includes:White Zombie (1932), MPAA Rating: NR Revenge of the Zombies (1943) Night of the Living Dead (1968), MPAA Rating: NR Oasis of the Zombies (1982) White Zombie It is altogether typical of Bela Lugosi's lousy business judgement that he accepted one of his finest film roles for a mere $500 dollars. In the haunting low-budgeter White Zombie, Lugosi stars as Murder Legendre, a shadowy character who exercises supernatural powers over the natives in his Haitian domain. Coveting beautiful Madge Bellamy as his bride, wealthy Robert Frazier is refused her hand in marriage. He enters into an unholy agreement with Lugosi, whereby Madge will fall ill and die, then be resurrected as a zombie-and, implicitly, Frazier's love-slave. This is accomplished, but Lugosi, relishing the hold he has over Frazier, refuses to release Madge's soul. She is ultimately rescued from Living Death by her faithful beau Robert Harron and missionary Joseph Cawthorn (heretofore merely the comedy relief). Few talkie horror films have ever so expertly captured the "feel" of the silent cinema as White Zombie; the film's ethereal, ghostlike ambience enables the audiences to accept even the most ludicrous of plot twists. The producers, Victor and Edward Halperin, use the film's tiny budget to their advantage, evocatively suggesting the horrors that they haven't the financial wherewithal to show on screen. Lugosi is superb throughout, making the most of such seemingly innocuous lines as "Well, well, we understand one another better, now." Long ignored or shunted aside as insignificant, White Zombie can hold its own with any of the like-vintage Universal horror classics. ~ Hal Erickson, All Movie Guide Revenge of the Zombies The second of Monogram's "zombie" thrillers, Revenge of the Zombies is better than the first, if only because of its powerhouse cast. John Carradine does his usual as Von Alltermann, a mad scientist in the employ of the Nazis. Commissioned to create a race of "living dead" warriors for the Third Reich, Von Alltermann takes time out to attempt to revitalize his deceased wife Lila (Veda Ann Borg). Stumbling into the doc's laboratory is heroine Jen (Gale Storm), who is rescued in The Nick by undercover FBI agent Larry (Robert Lowery). As in King of the Zombies, Mantan Moreland provides his patented bug-eyed comedy relief; good taste aside, he's the best thing in the picture. ~ Hal Erickson, All Movie Guide Night of the Living Dead When unexpected radiation raises the dead, a microcosm of Average America has to battle flesh-eating zombies in George A. Romero's landmark cheapie horror film. Siblings Johnny (Russ Streiner) and Barbara (Judith O'Dea) whine and pout their way through a graveside visit in a small Pennsylvania town, but it all takes a turn for the worse when a zombie kills Johnny. Barbara flees to an isolated farmhouse where a group of people are already holed up. Bickering and panic ensue as the group tries to figure out how best to escape, while hoards of undead converge on the house; news reports reveal that fire wards them off, while a local sheriff-led posse discovers that if you "kill the brain, you kill the ghoul." After a night of immolation and parricide, one survivor is left in the house.... Romero's grainy black-and-white cinematography and casting of locals emphasize the terror lurking in ordinary life; as in Alfred Hitchcock's The Birds (1963), Romero's victims are not attacked because they did anything wrong, and the randomness makes the attacks all the more horrifying. Nothing holds the key to salvation, either, whether it's family, love, or law. Topping off the existential dread is Romero's then-extreme use of gore, as zombies nibble on limbs and viscera. Initially distributed by a Manhattan theater chain owner, Night, made for about 100,000 dollars, was dismissed as exploitation, but after a 1969 re-release, it began to attract favorable attention for scarily tapping into Vietnam-era uncertainty and nihilistic a