Uncle Sam (1996) Review

RATING: 1/5

An undead soldier comes back to life to dress as Uncle Sam to fight off unpatriotic people.

I was expecting cheese, but sadly, there wasn’t enough.

The acting, oh boy. How the general/sergeant at the beginning talked, with his over-the-top gruff voice, perfectly set the stage. This was the thing that was the most laughable. The reactions that many of these actors portrayed was so bad, yet enjoyable. One prominent example was the main boy protagonist stepping on broken glass. There was no way a human being can saw “ow,” while delivering such a lifeless performance. Seriously I think the actual zombie had more life in his delivery than the boy.

I would say the “best” actor was Isaac Hayes, whose most famous for the “Shaft” theme. But “best” would be pushing it way too far. I was surprised Robert Forster, from “Breaking Bad,” was in here. RIP to both of them.

In terms of the character of Uncle Sam, may I ask how in the world did he obtain supernatural abilities? How can he teleport himself while chasing that guy during the sack race? Moving away from him, why does the wheelchair kid have psychic powers? Well I guess it doesn’t matter. What matters was seeing Uncle Sam kill in ridiculous attire, while giving an evil, ASMR voice. But I got to say the Uncle Sam mask in one of the vintage clips in the opening credits, looked creepier than what was shown.

The gore and blood effects were decent. The zombie look of Uncle Sam was, alright. Cinematography was alright and there was some nice long takes. While the teleporting scene made no sense, the scene itself appeared rather seamless which was cool.

My main problem with this was that I wished the movie would have gone more cheesier and cornier. I mean when one hears about a zombie soldier dressing up as Uncle Sam, one is going to chuckle. But the entire presentation and direction proved otherwise. The filmmakers probably wanted to make a legit horror movie because of how the camera movement and low-key music was executed. But the acting and dialogue completely clashed with those two aspects. And that juxtaposition can be amusing, but for me, the “serious” components brought some enjoyment down.

The slasher film was cheesy and ridiculous as one would expect. But there were times when the movie did get slow and rather boring at times. Then again, maybe this was one of those corny horror flicks best seen by a group, as opposed to solo watching. I would say skip to the Uncle Sam scenes and watch portions of some hilarious bad acting.

YouTube: Tk Theater Productions/LoneCentric Pictures

Instagram: tk_theater/lonecentricpic

A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) Review

RATING: 3.5/5

[SPOILERS]

A supernatural character haunts the dreams of teens to exact his revenge.

A slasher, at the time, that definitely took the genre to new areas.

The character of Freddy Kruger was something special. Robert Englund delivered a performance that only he could pull off for a character like this. Unlike Jason, Michael, and Leatherface, the character was given words to say and the manner he delivered them fit well. A dark, sinister, and black-comedic performance definitely gave this slasher an edge in personality.

As far as his design, easily recognizable. Now I do want to bring up “New Nightmare (1994),” for the Freddy design in that movie was originally going to be used here; while I do like that look more, the look here was still something I enjoyed. I love the knife glow aesthetic and the burnt appearance. It for sure had nightmare-type qualities, which was good for terrorizing the dreams in the teens.

When it came to the rest of the characters, they weren’t bad. In fact, like in “Halloween (1978),” there was some likability for the teen characters. I like the character of Nancy, as she was unraveling the truth behind what was going on and her plans in stopping Freddy. The history of what went down told by her mother was interesting in gaining insight of what happened and where it eventually led to. And, of course, this was the movie that introduced the public to one of the most popular actors working today, Johnny Depp. Now with most debuts, I’m not expecting hugely awesome performances. His performance, as Glen, was not bad. As I said, there’s likability with him especially when trying to help his girlfriend Nancy.

Now the one element that set the movie apart from slashers at the time, were the supernatural elements. To which I would say it was rather mixed. The film played games of reality to the viewer. Like a person wouldn’t know they were watching a dream as they assumed it was real. I say some of the transitions between the real world and dreams worked rather seamlessly. Primarily when it came to the character Tina walking out of her home and confronting Freddy in the alley. I would say the transitions worked in the first and third act. But for the second, the transitions felt abrupt. Thus I knew right away that I was in a dream.

When it came to the look or the effects done for the dream sequences, again, it was rather mixed. There was really cool effects that fit the dream and supernatural atmosphere. Like when Tina was forcefully being dragged up the wall and onto the ceiling in her room. Freddy pushing against the wall as he watched Nancy sleeping. The jet column of blood shooting out from the bed. These were done very well.

Where it did lose me was the look of the dreams. Thankfully the sequels did a better job at creating some wacky and distorted imagery as what dreams should be like. But in the first film, it felt lacking. The creativity was sorely missing, as the sets appeared very much like the real-world with little change.

The story of how Freddy turned from a human to a dream demon was never explained. Neither was why he was doing the things he was doing. But for the “why,” one could dive deeper to gain a feel when the backstory was being said. So for that, I didn’t mind that it wasn’t explained directly. Though the “how,” I felt that was something New Line Cinema did to bait the audience for sequels, to come and watch until the sixth installment for actual explanation. Which can be a tad annoying sometimes for other franchises. Going back to “explained directly,” the plot did feel predictable. The moment Glen told Nancy about how to conquer monsters in dreams, I knew exactly how the movie was going to end.

While I did like Freddy, his agenda in the movie was scattered. Specifically for how he approached Nancy. My main issue was why he didn’t kill Nancy earlier on. There were many opportunities for him to do so. There was a time where he actually scratched Nancy’s arm, but he doesn’t kill her. For other slashers, one “could” make a “valid argument” as to why the killers didn’t straight up kill the final girl. But here, it felt more in one’s face.

Something worth noting was that the scare factor wasn’t there for me. There were creepy moments; the best one had to have been the dream scenes revolving Tina. But I wasn’t on edge as say “Friday the 13th (1980)” or “Halloween (1978).” It kept my interest throughout, but I didn’t get any chills. An aspect that could possibly tie to the pacing, which felt quick for me. It took some time to establish a setting or environment, but not enough to really let the ambience or atmosphere envelope me.

An interesting and refreshing take on the slasher genre for the time. The film had good performances, showcased an iconic horror villain, the plot was intriguing, it had some creep value, and delivered some cool effects. However the movie was bogged down by some lack of creativity, the intriguing plot had questionable elements, and some of the slasher tropes felt more apparent here than others. But still, if one hasn’t watched this classic, give it a watch. One won’t be disappointed.

YouTube: LoneCentric Pictures/Tk Theater Productions

Instagram: tk_theater/lonecentricpic

Friday the 13th (1980) Review

RATING: 3.5/5

The superstitious day brings forth blood, screams, and fright onto camp counselors.

Ten years ago, this was my first introduction to the Slasher genre. It’s been far too long.

The intro was nicely done. It perfectly summed up the type of the film one was going to receive. With its cinematography, music, direction, and of course, the kills.

Taking directions from “Halloween” (1978), there were plenty of POV shots utilized for the killer. A good use of this was during the introduction as the camera was hovering over the sleeping children. Other cool ones were when the killer would be observing the counselors from afar while hiding behind the trees.

Outside of POV’s, unlike “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” (1974), the movie took patience and let the camera sit to capture some very nice wide shots of the environment. These were effective in peaceful moments when displaying the scenic wilderness of Camp Crystal Lake. As well as creepy moments whenever the film needed to convey a sense of loneliness for a character in the scene. It was in those nerve-wracking scenes the camera showcased nice tracking when it followed a character’s every single movement. There weren’t any fast edits or jump cuts to disrupt the mood.

Music in the film was really good. The famous “ki, ki, ki, ki, ma, ma, ma, ma” is one of the most iconic scores in horror history. But besides the theme, there were a few other pieces that delivered the goods at keeping the suspense flowing throughout.

The movie had a few jump scares, but for the most part, director Sean S. Cunningham’s direction seemed focused solely on giving the viewer a sense of realism. There were plenty of moments sprinkled throughout that bad horror filmmakers today would do to ruin the chills. Perfect moments to add unnecessary jump scares but they weren’t present which was surprising. While aspects of this parallel to “Halloween” (1978), there were things in here that made this movie stand out.

Makeup artist Tom Savini really brought forth the terror with his skills. The kills in this were cool. With the axe to the head or arrows to the body, it was executed well. The best kill in this involved the knife going Jack’s neck in the bed. That still gets to me rewatching this. The reveal of Bill’s body pinned against the door by arrows was quite a surprise, even after forgetting it a while back.

One aspect that definitely stands out from “Halloween” (1978) and other prominent slasher movies that came before/after, was the reveal of the killer herself, Pamela Voorhees. At the time in 1980, it must have been quite something to have a woman be the killer. It’s a shame that a vast majority of slasher films, leading in the 80s and beyond didn’t experiment. But she was good in the movie. As her motivations were understandable and actress Betsy Palmer did good at portraying a crazed mother bent on revenge. The film did a clever job of keeping her reveal tightly-wrapped until the end.

As far as the other actors, there wasn’t anything deep for them, notably the camp counselors. However compared to “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” (1974), I will say the characters in this were a bit better. It was probably due to their performances or how the dialogue was written. Cunningham stated that he wasn’t looking for great actors, but in the very least, find people who were likeable and relatable. To which I say it was pulled off fine. So yes, the characters in this weren’t too bad.

Not to nitpick or pick apart questionable things, but I have to. Mrs. Voorhees being behind the tree while the character of Alice walks by, was highly unusual. Well maybe that correlated to the scene where that one cop toward the end was talking about the bad things that happen on Friday the 13th. Maybe some supernatural force was fueling Voorhees, IDK.

There were some pacing issues in a few scenes. There needed to be more development, not just with the characters but maybe some other portions of the plot.

Approximately forty years ago, this movie came out. To this day the lawsuit of who owns the rights to the characters portrayed still persists. With no end in sight. But with that said, the film had great cinematography, classic music, some nice performances, nice direction, and it did one or two things to make it stand out amongst the slashers around the time. While being somewhat of a ripoff of “Halloween” (1978), this was still a nicely done horror movie and horror classic that one should see.

YouTube: Tk Theater Productions/LoneCentric Pictures

Instagram: tk_theater/lonecentricpic

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974) Review

RATING: 3/5

A road trip in Texas takes a bloody turn in the absolute worst for five teens.

One of the greatest and influential horror movies of all time.

Right out of the gate, the film’s introduction was pretty good. With the opening crawl said by the narrator, the camera flashes of corpses, and news being listened through the radio while the opening credits were on-screen. In addition to the news detailing certain bad events happening in the area. It was really nice at conveying to a viewer that the plot of the movie shown was based on real-life events. Mostly. The intro also foreshadowed the nice technical sides.

The cinematography and certain editing moments I dug. Whenever the movie was going through something intense, the camera would do many things in its power to make the viewer feel uncomfortable in the right ways. There were times the camera zoomed in and out. The film would fast-cut repeatedly to make the viewer feel the hellish mindset certain characters felt. There were moments where the movement seemed handheld, almost like a low-budget documentary. Which was adding to the realistic-type mood that the introduction was giving off.

Times where the film wanted to be foreboding and suspenseful, those worked well. My favorite was the scene where a couple of the teens entered the Sawyer family house. The setup and pacing were pretty good. The camera movement that I loved was when there was a dolly of the girl walking up to the house. As she did this, it looked as though she got smaller with the house in the background getting bigger with each second. It went to show that whatever was in the house, was something way bigger than she could handle. Going in deeper, I liked that the house was colored white. Usually white can refer to as something peaceful and calm, but inside it was the total opposite. But it made sense for Leatherface and his family to trap their victims.

In terms of sound, it was well done in some scenes. Most notably was whenever the last girl, Sally, was running away from Leatherface in the dark. That entire chase scene was, albeit a bit long, but it was tense. The fact of hearing the chainsaw out in the dark, coming closer, and with no idea of where exactly its at, is terrifying.

There was quite of bit ambient sound present. Like I said the movie definitely had a way to deliver to right kind of tone and atmosphere; another way it did so was to simply let the noises of the environment create the eerie goosebumps. The wind blowing through the tall grass, the creaky windmill, the nighttime crickets, those things added some creepy layers. The film did include distorted and tampered sound effects during the rapid-cut scenes which were good. I swear the chicken in the cage sounded like a crazed witch cackling. Telling the viewer that the girl, lying on the floor, had nowhere to run.

While the film had blood, there was surprisingly not much gore. The only notable gory moment was when the truck ran over Leatherface’s brother. There wasn’t any nudity or sex scenes which became pretty much a staple in slasher movies in the future. So that was interesting.

The fact that some things portrayed in the movie were based on real-life events, notably the things surrounding the serial killer Ed Gein, really tells one how scary the world can be.

Where the movie did lose points with me were the lackluster characters. I understand interesting characters are uncommon in slasher movies, but here it stands out. Especially coming from “one of the greatest horror movies” ever made. One doesn’t care that much for them. I will say the only teen worth caring some was Franklin. He seemed to be the only teen with common sense.

In the end however, one only cared about the killers slaughtering them. Which by the way, I feel that they had a bit more interesting characteristics than the teens. There were crazy but in a fun and horrifying way. Mostly notably the cook, Drayton Sawyer.

There were also dumb, stupid, and questionable things that I feel the need to point out. The teens not getting the hint of the knife penetrating the hand, the truck driver leaving his truck instead of driving off with Sally, Franklin tumbling down the hill for no reason, or the chase scene earlier on the driveway. Though I can probably dismiss that one as torture was to the Sawyer’s likings. The house Sally stayed at as a child really let itself go in such a short amount of time. Also the Sawyer house being next door seems a bit coincidental.

I feel like this is a movie built for the experience alone. The experience of being chased by some maniac by a chainsaw wanting to eat you later, is a horrifying feeling indeed. Which very well could explain for the great technical sides including cinematography, editing, sound, and direction. It makes up for the lackluster characterization and thin plot. While saying its one of the best horror films ever made is a tad overkill, no pun intended. It’s a horror classic nonetheless that one should definitely see.

YouTube: LoneCentric Pictures/Tk Theater Productions

Instagram: tk_theater/lonecentricpic