A Halloween post for 90’s kids. If you were a preteen anywhere between 1989 and 1996, Tales from the Crypt was the ultimate forbidden fruit. It pretended to be marketed for adults but was made for kids whose pre-internet minds would be blown by gore, nudity and swearing. The Crypt Keeper is still an intense sight (I can’t believe how articulated his face is and those eyes are creepy as hell) but only a kid could find his shitty Uncle jokes funny.
It’s not a good show. Unless viewed through a lens of nostalgia, most adults would find it boring and modern kids have a better horror pool to pick from. But it does have a couple of points working for it: incredible practical effects, fun gore, and a great roster of guest stars and directors.
While I’m calling this a Top 10 list, I only had around 15 contenders vying for a spot after going through 93 episodes. (For perspective, when I did a Twilight Zone Top 10 last year, I had to whittle down about 70 “top” episodes out of 156.) Continue reading
[Explanation of Ratings]
Stephen King Week Introduction
As I mentioned in the Introduction to this week, I’m not a completionist when it comes to King adaptations. I followed them until the early 2000s, then fell off the train. I enjoy most of these movies for nostalgic reasons – only the top slot would I argue the artistic merit of.
(I don’t know why I’m being coy. You already know what #1 is.)
10. Rose Red (2002 mini-series)
3 out of 5 stars.
Homage to Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House and Matheson’s Hell House with cheesy effects and predictable steps, but psychics-going-into-a-haunted house is a genre I love and Rose Red does a perfectly fine job of it. It’s an enjoyable afternoon-on-the-couch miniseries with a decent cast. We’ve got Julian Sands, Melanie Lynskey, Emily Deschanel, and Nancy Travis on board. I haven’t seen it in years but I remember liking Jimmi Simpson as the campus newspaper reporter.
Directed by Jon Gunn and John W. Mann. Written by Rick Gomez, John Gunn and John W. Mann. Starring Rick Gomez and Joelle Carter.
3.5 out of 5 stars.
Fallen-from-grace TV personality Dick Romans’ wife leaves him on the eve of their week-long anniversary party.
I spent years working in video rental stores, back when the world had video rental stores. When you have access to a wide range of films (and get sick of predictable, formulaic genre titles), you start seeking out anything experimental and off-the-beaten-path. Believe me, I know “independent” can mean shit just as easily as mainstream, but I found real gems by going through the single-copy new release titles that showed up each week. (Gems like Sound of My Voice, Leave, Dear Zachary, Kumiko the Treasure Hunter, Excision, Perfect Sense…)
I say the above to say this: The Week would have been one of those smaller releases I’d recommend to every customer looking for something different. It’s a comedy, certainly. Maybe even a romantic comedy, but not manipulative or pretentious or by-the numbers. Not change-your-life amazing, either, but very good across the board. If you worked in a video store for any amount of time, you’ll know exactly how rare that is.
Francis Ford Coppola’s 1974 film, starring Gene Hackman, John Cazale and Harrison Ford. Fun Fact: it lost the Best Picture Oscar to Coppola’s The Godfather Part II. Unpopular Opinion: it should have won. (But I also think Ordinary People deserved to beat Raging Bull, so there.)
4.5 out of 5 stars.
Private, paranoid Harry Caul is the best surveillance man in the country. He fears that his latest job – recording a couple’s conversation – may get someone killed.
I am not a Coppola fan; The Godfather is good, but you can keep the rest. Except The Conversation. It is a nearly perfect film, belonging to that wonderful genre of “did-I-inadvertently-record-a-murder?”, which also includes Blow-Up, Blow Out, and Berberian Sound Studio (all good in their own ways, but The Conversation is the best).
There’s a feel of a stage play (I have a weakness for this style): actor- and dialogue-focused, limited sets, long takes. The small cast gives effortlessly natural performances and we know all we need to about them and their relationships through movement, expression, tone and costume. Yes, this is Acting 101, but you rarely see such competence across the board. The cast is Bergman-level perfect, as though these actors have worked together and been living inside these characters for years.
And any chance you have to see John Cazale, you’ve got to take. He was incredible. Continue reading
(Yes, this is from “The Invaders.” No, it did not make my list.)
My credentials for this countdown:
I started watching The Twilight Zone when I was six.
I own the box set (and look at this, Holiday Shoppers: a less expensive box set was released a couple of weeks ago), which means seeing uncut/unedited versions.
I’ve seen every episode at least twice and re-watched many of them before making this list.
(And, to be clear, we’re discussing the original 1959 – 1964 run.)
(10) Death Ship (Season 4, Episode 6)
Written by Richard Matheson, based on his short story of the same name.
Three astronauts touch down on a planet and find a crashed ship that looks exactly like their own… with bodies that look exactly like their own.
Season 4 of The Twilight Zone was put into an hour-long slot, doubling the length of a show that sometimes felt stretched when it was in a 30-minute slot. “Death Ship” suffers from that stretching but two of my favorite Twilight Zone actors save the day: Jack Klugman (also in “A Passage for Trumpet” and “In Praise of Pip”) and Ross Martin (also in “The Four of Us Are Dying”) are great as two of the three astronauts.
Matheson (one of the all-time greats in the short-story field. Read. His. Stuff.) writes some of the best dialogue on the show. These astronauts interact not as preachy archetypes but as three guys who are scared as hell and have no idea what’s going on.
And this story just stays with you, like the best of Matheson. Continue reading