Crazy Uncle Rich’s Halloween Round-up: The Finale!

Posted on November 5, 2014



Children of the Stones (1977)


A scientist and his son travel to an English village built inside a circle of standing stones. Almost immediately, they notice something odd about the villagers – a divide between everyday people and “the Happy Ones.” As more and more of the people become “happy,” the two newcomers race to figure out what’s happening, and how to escape.

Children of the Stones is hard to categorize as science-fiction, suspense, or horror. It’s a British television series. Watching it takes about three hours. The special effects are what you would expect from ‘70s British TV, but fortunately the story doesn’t depend on them.

I thought this was genuinely suspenseful and well-done, with no gore and no extreme horror. I recommend checking it out. You can find the whole series on YouTube (see below).


Pulse (1988)

Best I could do

Best I could do

A lightning bolt hits a power station. An elderly suburban widower goes crazy, tears up his house, and kills himself. A young boy (Joey Lawrence) flies from Colorado, where he lives with his mom, to California, to visit his dad (Cliff De Young) and dad’s new wife (Roxanne Hart). Turns out dad lives across the street from the deceased widower. As the boy tries to adjust to life in a California suburb, electrical devices in the house begin behaving with deadly intent.

Writer/director Paul Golding provides no pat answers in this movie. The origin and nature of the deadly pulse of electricity goes without explanation. Some people will like that, and some won’t.

That said, this movie plays very well on technophobia. The performances are universally realistic and grounded in real human emotions. There’s a little blood, and some real suspense. The usual plot holes and wtf moments don’t stop me from recommending it.


Beyond the Black Rainbow (2010)


A young woman tries to escape from a secluded, futuristic, commune where Dr. Arboria attempts to help people achieve true inner peace.

This movie is quite well done, with some disturbing imagery. That said, at no time does it attempt to give the audience a hook to follow the story. It doesn’t bother developing characters well enough that we want to follow them or root for them.

The disturbing imagery includes some gore and graphic violence. The story and characters aren’t relatable enough to be scary. Skip this one.


FDR: American Badass (2012)


Werewolves are real, and everyone knows about them. They are, in this movie, the source of polio. A Nazi spy werewolf bites Governor Roosevelt (Barry Bostwick) while he’s hunting in upstate New York with his buddies (including Bruce McGill and Richard Riehle), giving FDR polio. FDR kills the werewolf, boosting his popularity enough for him to run for, and win, the presidency. Which is a good thing, because the Axis powers of WWII are all run by werewolves, who want to infect the entire world with either polio or lycanthropy (honestly, it’s just not that clear).

So, knowing that much, I thought this sounded like a batshit insane horror comedy. The beginning of it actually is. After that, the sexism and racism both grate, the jokes get beaten into the ground, Eleanor Roosevelt never gets the kind of moment she deserves, and it just becomes tiresome. Which is a shame, because the cast also includes Ray Wise (as Douglas MacArthur), Paul Ben-Victor (as Mussolini), and Kevin Sorbo (as the ghost of Abraham Lincoln).

There’s tons of fake blood and zero scares. I apologize for having watched this film. Please don’t repeat my mistake.
(This trailer is NSFW)


Europa Report (2013)

europa report

This movie uses a mix of studio and “found” footage to tell the story of an international space mission to Jupiter’s moon, Europa. Since we know there is liquid water under Europa’s icy surface, it seems like a reasonable place to look for life other than on Earth.

My wife thought Europa Report took too long to build up to the climactic moments on Europa’s surface. On the other hand, one of my earliest memories is of watching an Apollo mission return to Earth. I’ve been a space fan ever since, and I was very impressed with how much research went into the film. The use of real space imagery and realistic space ship engineering kept me interested. I liked the way the story moved back and forth in time, reminding us that the mission was doomed and inviting us to watch for the little moments leading up to catastrophe.

There’s a strong cast, including Sharlto Copley, Michael Nyqvist, and Dan Fogler. There’s almost no gore, and a lot of tension. Some people may agree with my wife that it’s too slow for their tastes, but this one worked for me and I recommend it.


Jug Face (2013)


Filmed in Tennessee, this movie tells the story of a pregnant teen trying to escape her backwoods community before it can sacrifice her to preserve the healing powers of a pit, and to prevent retribution from “the Shuns”.

This is another film where my wife and I had different reactions. She felt that Ada, the pregnant teen, was a stupid coward whose choices endangered friends and family. I felt that Ada wanted to preserve her own life and that of her unborn child, and that the only options open to her were all bad.

I tell you about that so you’ll understand how good a job the movie does of creating sympathetic characters. My wife accepted that the pit benefitted the community, and that the community followed its beliefs when it sacrificed a community member to the pit. I, on the other hand, saw the sacrifices as murder, and that the community only needed the pit’s healing powers because it couldn’t be bothered to drive to the emergency room.

This movie has some gore and some genuine tension and suspense. I recommend it.


Nothing Left to Fear (2013)


A preacher, his wife (Anne Heche), and their kids accept an invitation to come to a rural community and take over for a retiring pastor (Clancy Brown). The locals seem willing to lend a hand, especially if it means getting outsiders (like the movers) out of town sooner. As the preacher’s daughter begins making friends with a local boy, she starts to realize that the whole town is hiding something.

This movie explains enough that you can follow the story, but does not explain everything. I liked that. I’ve said for awhile that the best drama comes when two parties come into conflict by doing what they believe is right. In this movie, the new pastor and his family try to stay alive, while the “retiring” pastor and the community do what they must to keep a portal to Hell closed.

This movie had some gore, some violence, and left me feeling unsettled. Seeing good people do bad things for good reasons seemed a little too real. The movie ends the way it began, suggesting that we may be powerless to escape historical cycles of violence. Which is my way of saying that this was a good scary movie, and I recommend it.


R.I.P.D. (2013)


A cop (Kevin Bacon) murders his partner (Ryan Reynolds), who accepts an assignment in the afterlife to the Rest In Peace Division, an organization of otherworldly police that brings escaped dead people back to the afterlife. Something big is going down, and the new guy will have to work with a veteran miscreant (Jeff Bridges) to stop it.

Ugh, I wanted to like this movie so much. I love the cast – Ryan Reynolds, Jeff Bridges, Mary Louise Parker, Kevin Bacon, James Hong, and Robert Knepper are all good. Bridges and Bacon both chew the scenery to great effect, but are clearly slumming it.

The overall trouble, I think, is that there is no stake for the characters or the audience. The characters can’t be any more dead than they already are. There’s only one living character in the movie, and we don’t spend enough time with her to care about her. The big mistake the RIPD characters make is blindingly obvious and involves a mechanism that we, the audience, never see work properly before it spectacularly fails.

This movie clearly wanted to be a supernatural Men In Black, but lacks Barry Sonnenfeld’s deft touch. Sadly, I have to recommend skipping it.


The Summary

Great crop of movies this year. Delighted to find some real scares and good storytelling in this crop.

Definitely see Byzantium, Cockneys vs Zombies, Rigor Mortis, Pulse, Jug Face, and Nothing Left to Fear.

Consider seeing Vampyr, The Children, Saint Nick, Europa Report, and Children of the Stones.

They’re not horror movies, but see Beasts of the Southern Wild and Riddick.

We now return you to the everyday horrors of modern life, until next year…

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Posted in: Movies