Saturday, October 15, 2016

Horror Film Gems

BOO! Halloween will be here soon, so I’ve been thinking about scary horror movies, of course. Below are four released from 2000 to 2005 that managed to scare the socks off me. Fortunately, they are available on DVD now for horror movie fans to enjoy.     

HALLOWEEN: RESURRECTION (2002). "Let the dangertainment begin," exclaims Busta Rhymes in one of the most creative thrillers in this highly popular horror-flick series. Playing a TV reality show producer, Rhymes’ character arranges for a group of teens to spend Halloween night in the place where Michael Myers’ murderous rampage began. Giving these college students tiny cameras as they explore Michael’s dilapidated old childhood home, Rhymes  expects BIG ratings for his daring program. How could he foresee that more than ratings would be at stake? For during the show, Michael unexpectedly returns -- and wants to make sure none of the interlopers leave alive.  

AMERICAN PSYCHO (2000). Stylish, satirical, and soulless, American Psycho goes inside the mind of a serial killer who looks more like a matinee idol than a murderer. It also questions if Patrick Bateman, the film’s title character, is any more demented than the society in which he lives. Symbolizing the materialism and self-centeredness of the 1980s, Bateman (Christian Bale) cares about things, not people and spends his leisure time in torturing and killing numerous victims. Although playing an unbalanced character, Bale has no problem balancing horror with dark humor in this remarkable performance. His monologues about pop music, delivered so authoritatively in the midst of terrifying and raunchy activities, both shock and amuse. The hunky Welsh-born actor even manages a comic flair while wielding a chain saw! Based on Bret Easton Ellis’ controversial novel, the film version of American Psycho emphasizes black comedy over gore, but it’s still a very frightening movie. American Psycho is the first movie since Natural Born Killers to give me nightmares. 

THE CELL (2000).  In The Cell’s spectacular opening scene, a woman in a flowing white garment gallops her sleek black horse over gigantic dunes of dark pink sand. She is Catherine Deane, a psychologist inside the mind of a young coma patient. But this dreamlike landscape pales in significance to the nightmarish world of serial killer Carl Stargher, the man she agrees to treat next.Deane (Jennifer Lopez) has mastered a new therapy technique which enables her to experience what is happening in another person’s unconscious mind. When Stargher (Vincent D’Onofrio) loses consciousness after a seizure, the innovative therapist must help FBI Agent Peter Novak (Vince Vaughn) find out where his latest victim is hidden before it’s too late. The only way to do so is by taking a dangerous trip inside the madman’s head. And what a creepy, disturbing trip it is! 

DEAD and BREAKFAST (2005). "Bed and Breakfast" is the first thing we see flashed on screen, but immediately after that, the word “Dead,” written in a blood-red color, splashes over Bed. Clearly, the title is really Dead and Breakfast instead. A clever way to get started, isn’t it? Fortunately, this little independent horror movie also serves up similar creativity and campiness almost from beginning to end. It’s a hoot! The story seems traditional enough. Six friends are traveling together to a wedding when they stop to stay for the night at a sinister inn in a creepy Texas town. After opening a mysterious object, one member of the group (Oz Perkins) turns into a violent ghoul. Before long, the ghoulish creatures outnumber the town’s living inhabitants. If this sounds a bit like zombie/ghoul movies you’ve seen before, you’re on the right track. But this one also features surprising musical numbers. (Think Rocky Horror Picture Show meets Shaun of the Dead.) 

You’re welcome, horror flick fans!

(If you would like to read my full review of each movie described above, please go to

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Saturday, October 01, 2016

A Poet Among Critics

Richard Jack Smith writes poems with ease
about movies designed to please.

Plus even some he thinks fall flat
and keep him from tipping his hat.

A fine poet among critics,
rhymes and images he does mix.

His reviews earn two thumbs up
and a poetry Loving Cup!

Here’s a tip of my hat to Richard Jack Smith for his amazing new book, A Poet Among Critics. However, in the interest of full disclosure, I have to mention that the poetry bug also bit me – and is forcing me to use poetry in film reviews too. But Richard’s book includes so many more poems than mine! And films of almost every genre are represented.

Because my favorite genre is “Musicals,” I’m delighted to see movies like Top Hat and Burlesque included. Next to musicals, I enjoy thrillers. Happily, the book also contains Richard’s unique poetic take on films like Nick of Time, Phone Booth and Psycho. Other genres are not neglected.  Sci-fi flicks, horror movies, Disney offerings, comedies, dramas, popular franchises and classics like Citizen Kane, King Kong and The General also receive careful attention.

Richard’s use of lush language helps make his poems come to life. Such remarkable visions he creates! For example, below are the last few lines of his perceptive, artistic Top Hat film poem.

Ginger Rogers, what a beauty!
Her moves creating ecstasy.
Black shapes upon room tone grey.
Suits and dresses so elegant, they say.

A cigarette held just so
before dancing on tip-toe.
A woman’s cheeky eyes
that love defies.
Leading to a romantic beat
and the audience cheering on their feet.

Those well-chosen words conjure up the 1935 Ginger and Fred Astaire musical romp, for sure. And A Poet Among Critics overflows with that kind of poetry magic. Well done, Richard!

NOTE: Richard Jack Smith writes film and soundtrack reviews for ReelTalk Movie Reviews. He is the author of two other books, Magical Movie Moments and Incidental Gold. For more information about A Poet Among Critics, please e-mail Richard at 

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