I’ll Always Know What You Did Last Summer (2006) Review

Posted in I'll Always Know What You Did Last Summer with tags , on September 10, 2014 by Last Road Reviews

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I’LL ALWAYS KNOW WHAT YOU DID LAST SUMMER

** ½ Out of 5

Tagline- What He Knows Might Kill You

Release Date- August 22nd, 2006

Running Time- 92-Minutes

Rating- R

Screenplay- Michael Weiss

Director- Sylvain White

Starring- Brooke Nevin, David Paetkau, Torrey DeVitto, Ben Easter

When the original film was released in 1997 it was part of the revival of the slasher film, which started with Scream in 1996 with both films being written by Kevin Williamson. In the horror genre if your film is successful its almost a given a sequel will be made and while the original film was a box office hit the sequel I Still Know What You Did Last Summer was a moderate hit and while it opened strong and turned a profit the box office gross was down quite a bit from the original. However somebody decided it would be a good idea for a 3rd film, but rather than a theatrical release it was made for the DTV market. By the time I’ll Always Know What You Did Last Summer came out it was 8-years since the 2nd film and the slasher film wasn’t nearly as profitable, but there was still a market for these films. If you’ve seen the first film than you’ve pretty much seen the 3rd film as well. While most slasher sequels were nothing more than a rehash of the original film they also in some cases had their own style, but this series the idea isn’t quite strong enough for a franchise and while I did enjoy I Still Know it was far inferior to the original even if a fairly fun watch. But I’ll Always Know is a very tired act and the formula was stale and the makers of this fail to inject any new life into the series and I’ll Always Know is pretty much a remake of the original in sequel form.

After a 4th of July prank goes wrong, which results in the death of their friend, a few teenagers make a vow to keep what happened a secret. However 1-year later they begins to receive various messages that somebody knows their secret and is out to make them pay.

The screenplay was written by Michael Weiss who also wrote Butterfly Effect 2, Journey to the Center of the Earth and Hostel III. The script by Weiss is a rewrite of the original as its nearly identical in structure and characters are basically the same with minor changes, however the script lacks the sharp and clever writing Kevin Williamson brought to the original. The one idea I did like however is the Fisherman has become an urban legend of sorts, which to me was an interesting touch. Part of the urban legend is the Fisherman stalks and kills guilty teenagers, which is only sort if true as in the first two he also killed adults and even people that had zero connection to him. I suppose this can be seen as a spoiler so you’ve been warned, but I really don’t think it matters. While there’s no shortage of suspects its implied the killer is Ben Willis from the first two films only now he kind of looks like a zombie when we see his face. Weiss turns him into another Jason Voorhees type character. Even though I enjoyed the first two my only issue is I could never accept Ben Willis as this indestructible killer. Characters such as Jason and Michael Myers aren’t really given much character development until later in the franchises so its easy to accept them as un-killable and characters such as Freddy and Candyman are already established as supernatural right from the start. Ben Willis is humanized too much for me to accept him as a killer that just won’t die however with that said the ending of I Still Know could be seen as a dream sequence much like the ending to the original its the one last scare before credits so I guess he isn’t exactly indestructible. The Fisherman is given no backstory this time around of any kind (though he already had a backstory in the first two, but nothing is added and outside of a couple of mentions of the first two films this is its own film) and he also has no dialogue and while again its implied its Ben Willis its never actually stated as fact so regardless since the Fisherman has no real depth to him this time around I could sort of accept him as a supernatural figure to some degree, but going back to him being humanized in the first two it also makes the fact he’s a walking corpse a bit absurd. The script again is a rewrite of the original and lacks any originality and while the same could be said for I Still Know it at least offered up something a little different. The script is quite subpar and while passable to some degree its hindered by being again a rewrite of the original, but lacks everything that made Kevin Williamson’s script so successful.

Like how the script follows the same exact structure of the original film the same can be said about the direction by Sylvain White. There are as mentioned plenty of sequels that rehash the original film. I Still Know did just that though it also had its own style. Friday the 13th Part 2 is pretty much the same exact film as the original even at times being shot for shot. Whereas it worked fine in those two films in rehashing the originals it didn’t here as again the formula for this franchise was quite tired and White never really injects anything new in the film. The direction isn’t bad, but does lack the energy often found in these films and the suspense and scares are very much slasher filmmaking 101. After a decent start I’ll Always Know does get sluggishly paced through the bulk of the middle as again like the original most of the action is confined to the final act and in IKWYDLS that worked fine as it was a solidly directed and written film, but the same can’t be said here. White does fair better with the final act as there’s a little bit of excitement, but its brought down by again being slasher filmmaking 101 and even after the action kicks in it does get a bit tiresome. What really in the end more than anything that sort of sinks the film is the atrocious editing, which attempts at being flashy, but it comes across as quite cheap and lame. Whatever happened to simple editing techniques? Sometimes simplicity is the best way to go. I have no idea if Sylvain White wanted the film to be edited the way it was or if it was the editor, but the editing here is terrible and while even with better editing I’ll Always Know wouldn’t be a great film, but perhaps a little more could have been made out of it.

The acting is a bit subpar outside of the main actors and they manage to make a little more out of the material than there actually was. Brooke Nevin as Amber is basically the new Julie. Nevin is quite attractive and a fairly decent actress as well, but the only thing that hinders her performances is she’s a total clone of Julie though none of this is the fault of Brooke Nevin. Don Shanks who played the Fisherman is better known for his stunt work, which he also has a credit here, but Don Shanks also appeared briefly in the 1984 cult classic Silent Night, Deadly Night (and also did stunt work on the film), but he’s probably best known to horror fans for playing Michael Myers in Halloween 5.

I’ll Always Know What You Did Last Summer isn’t a terrible film, but it just isn’t very good either. And while my review sounds mostly negative and my rating quite low I didn’t hate the film and once every few years I’ll revisit (than quickly remember why I wait a few years). This was by far the weakest of the 3 and the film just follows the original film way too much. While the cast is fairly decent and Brooke Nevin a likable lead unless you absolutely love the first two films I’d say this is a skipper. The ending was left off for a 4th film, which thankfully hasn’t happened.

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I Still Know What You Did Last Summer

Posted in I Still Know What You Did Last Summer with tags , , on September 9, 2014 by Last Road Reviews

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I STILL KNOW WHAT YOU DID LAST SUMMER

*** ½ Out of 5

Tagline- Some Secrets Will Haunt You Forever!

Release Date- November 13th, 1998

Running Time- 100-Minutes

Rating- R

Screenplay- Trey Callaway

Director- Danny Cannon

Starring- Jennifer Love Hewitt, Freddie Prinze Jr., Brandy, Mekhi Phifer, Jennifer Esposito

By the time 1998 rolled the slasher film was once again popular, but this time the biggest difference is these films were now embraced by Hollywood. After the success of I Know What You Did Last Summer the sequel was rushed into production and came out just a little over a year later. When it comes to 90s horror Kevin Williamson is the first name that will come to mind and Williamson of course wrote Scream & IKWYDLS the two films that re-popularized the slasher film and that’s really what’s missing here as this one while in my opinion a fun film does lack the Kevin Williamson touch. I Still Know What You Did Last Summer was met with mixed reviews and is far inferior to the original, but with that said it does offer up enough fun and while it’ll never go down as one of the great slashers I would rate it as one of my favorites of the 90s. It’s just a fun film you can kick back and relax with.

1-year after the events of the original film, Julie (Hewitt) is still in college and still dealing with the events from her past and her relationship with Ray (Prinze Jr.). But when she and her friend Carla (Brandy) win a trip to the Bahamas they expect to have some fun, but Ben Willis (Muse Watson) the Fisherman shows up and begins to kill off the staff members at the hotel as he works his way to Julie.

The screenplay was written by Trey Calloway and the opening act is very much a rewrite of the original film as it focuses on Julie’s guilt over the events of the hit and run as well as her encounter with the fisherman. Even though the script early on is a total rehash and while it lacks the cleverness of Kevin Williamson’s writing it is however the strongest aspect of the script. In someways its like two films were written as once we get to the Bahamas the script takes a much lighter tone and it bares no resemblance to the opening as suddenly Julie is over her guilt. While the script does form its own identity the characters are more or less the same as the original. Bottom line is the script is nowhere near the level of the original, but it’s fairly entertaining, but the biggest flaw is the needless and silly plot twist in the final act. Trey Calloway isn’t Kevin Williamson, but he does deliver a fairly entertaining script that works best early on despite being a complete rehash, but Calloway does however always manage to keep the script fun.

Director Danny Cannon delivers a fun movie and while he seems content on following the same exact style of Jim Gillespie only he does this without the suspense and tension found in the first film. With that said however, Cannon does manage some decent scenes of suspense it spots. Unlike the first film, which works as both a thriller and slasher film, I Still Know is at its most fun and strongest when playing up to slasher conventions. The pace of the film starts off strong with a more serious tone, but once the film shifts locations and opts for a more fun tone the pace can be sluggish in spots. When all is said and done, Danny Cannon does craft a fun film with some well staged death scenes, but just don’t expect as good a film of the original and take I Still Know for what it is and you might find yourself enjoying it.

When it comes to the 90s Jennifer Love Hewitt is one of the teen queens and perhaps in someways the 90s version of Molly Ringwald. While Jennifer may not be known for horror films as she’s only done two I would still rate her as a scream queen as she has all the qualities. She has the girl next door look (only smoking hot) and she always had a clean image as you never read about her in the tabloids. In some of her films, like I Still Know, the makers of the film did play up to her sexuality, but she never exploited herself. A lot of young females regardless of if its film or music at some point drop the clean image and very much play up to their sexuality to better market themselves and than there are others who are more famous for their private lives than their work. I’ve never met Jennifer so I can’t sit here and tell you what she’s like in her personal life, but she always kept it classy in her films and personal life and never sold herself out for more fame and fortune and she very much seems like someone a young girl could aspire to be like. Her casting in the I Know movies were perfect as she again very much fits everything her character is like.

I think part of the problem here with I Still Know is while the original film had a solid story and perhaps a little more than most slasher films, but the way the story goes it doesn’t leave many options for a sequel unless its turned into a body count film. The original worked well as a mystery, but here we know who the killer is and if it was a new killer it may be too much like Scream. When it comes to sequels lets be honest just about all of them really aren’t needed, but some work better than others and I just think I Still Know is hindered by its concept since the mystery is now gone. But than again did Fridsy the 13th and Halloween really need all those sequels? But something just flowed better in most of them and of course they were made to cash in on the originals, but yet they still worked for the most part whereas I Still Know seems a lot more pointless. Regardless its still an entertaining film and while the pace can be an issue in spots, but I’ll admit I enjoyed this one perhaps more than when originally released.

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I Know What You Did Last Summer (1997) Review

Posted in I Know What You Did Last Summer with tags , , , on September 8, 2014 by Last Road Reviews

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I KNOW WHAT YOU DID LAST SUMMER

**** Out of 5

Tagline- If You’re Going to Bury the Truth, Make Sure It Stays Buried.

Release Date- October 17th, 1997

Running Time- 100-Minutes

Rating- R

Screenplay- Kevin Williamson

Director- Jim Gillespie

Starring- Jennifer Love Hewitt, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Ryan Phillippe, Freddie Prinze Jr.

Released in 1997 I Know What You Did Last Summer was part of the slasher film revival along with Scream with both films being written by Kevin Williamson. When looking back at the 90s it was Kevin Williamson who redefined not only the horror genre, but the teen TV drama with Dawson’s Creek. But sticking with horror, when Scream was released in 1996 the slasher film was pretty much dead with only the franchises making any money, but even they were a little below par and the horror genre as a whole, while still successful to some degree was probably at one of its weaker eras in quality and the in box office. But with Scream, Kevin Williamson took an old and tired style of film and brought a breath of fresh air to it. I Know What You Did Last Summer is every bit as well written as Scream though they’re also both quite different. ILWYDLS while a popular horror film in my opinion is also vastly underrated as well. If you ask me oit isn’t just one of the best slasher films of the 90s, but its the best of any decade. Kevin Williamson was very much on the pulse of the horror genre in the 90s and I would rate him as one of my film idols and a writer I often look to for inspiration.

Four friends make a vow to never again speak of the accident, in which they hit a man with a car and thinking he was dead they dumped his body into the water, but he was still alive at the time. Now a year later they get messages saying I Know What You Did Last Summer and soon enough they are stalked by someone who knows their secret and after a couple of appearances just trying to scare them it soon turns to murder as someone is out for revenge.

The screenplay by Kevin Williamson is cleverly plotted with terrific characters with plenty of depth. What I love about the films written by Williamson is they’re actually well written and while there are plenty of excellently written horror films by this point in the genre horror films weren’t exactly known for having a plot or strong writing. The beauty of horror films is you can get away with a subpar script (well to some degree), but when well written it makes things all the better and Williamson is a great writer. Williamson has a style like every writer, but he isn’t a one trick pony either and IKWYDLS very much showcases how talented of a writer he is. Its refreshing to see a slasher film that actually is well written with terrific characters and the script actually plays out more of a thriller with slasher aspects thrown in.

Director Jim Gillespie crafts a well paced film loaded with suspense and tension. Gillespie crafts much more of a thriller as the slasher parts are kept to a minimum until the final act. There’s been many films that mixed thriller and slasher and while some were successful the good bulk lacked identity, but Gillespie avoids that pitfall and neither the thriller or slasher take away from each other. IKWYDLS isn’t a body count film so if that’s what you’re expecting you might be letdown. The first murder by the fisherman doesn’t happen until the 38-minute mark. The next death doesn’t happen until the 72-minute mark. However in between death scenes Jim Gillespie builds an incredible amount of suspense and tension as the fisherman is waiting and watching. Once we get to the final act is when the film starts to play like the traditional slasher, but due to the build up its more effective than most. IKWYDLS also has perhaps the greatest chase scene of any slasher film. When the fisherman goes after Helen that whole sequence is the most effective scene in the film and in my opinion again rates as one of the best sequences in a slasher film.

What fascinates me the most about horror films in the post-Scream era is the casting and I’ve mentioned this in past reviews, but there came a point when it was nearly impossible to land an actor with any fame unless they were at a low point in their careers and there’s no way any up and coming actors sign on. IKWYDLS has an excellent cast with the main attraction being Jennifer Love Hewitt and Michelle Gellar both who were terrific. My only compliant is Jennifer doesn’t put up enough of a fight, but Jennifer has this really sweet and wholesome quality, which makes her one of my favorite scream queens despite only having a couple of credits.

I Know What You Did Last Summer was based off a novel by Lois Duncan and while I never read the novel from what I do know of it the book aims more for a young teen audience and the film while keeping the basic idea also very much strays. Lois Duncan has commented on her major dislike of the film and hated how it was turned into a teen slasher.

Overall IKWYDLS is one of my very favorite horror films of the 90s and one of my all time favorites. This was at the peak of Kevin Williamson’s career and later in 1997 Scream 2 was released and was another massive hit. But who knew not long after this Williamson would hit a rut as after the Faculty in 1998 it would be a while before he found any success as the films he wrote or produced were box office duds and his TV shows post-Dawson’s Creek didn’t last very long. While the Kevin Williamson era didn’t last more than a couple of years he accomplished more in those couple of years than most in the genre. Its films like this is why Kevin Williamson is one of my film idols.

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Body Bags (1993) Review

Posted in Body Bags with tags , , , on September 5, 2014 by Last Road Reviews

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BODY BAGS

*** ½ Out of 5

Tagline- Zip Yourself in Tight

Release Date- August 8th, 1993

Running Time- 95-Minutes

Rating- NR

Screenplay- Billy Brown & Dan Angel

Director- John Carpenter& Tobe Hooper

Starring- Stacy Keach, Mark Hamill, Robert Carradine, Alex Datcher

Body Bags, which aired on Showtime back in 1993 was meant to be a pilot for a new horror series, which would rival Tales from the Crypt, which was a big success on HBO. But a TV series never came to be and instead Body Bags would end up being a TV movie. 13-years after Body Bags, Showtime would find their horror series called Masters of Horror, which ran for two seasons. Body Bags is an anthology with two segments directed by John Carpenter and one directed by Tobe Hooper. I’ve always liked the concept for anthologies, but to be quite honest more often than not I find the films ok with a couple of exceptions and Body Bags is one of the exceptions. Even when I like the stories I sometimes feel as if more time was needed, but here I thought each story ran at the proper length where they didn’t wear out their welcome nor did they feel too short.

Body Bags as mentioned was directed by Carpenter and Hooper and in 1990 Dario Argento and George Romero teamed up for Two Evil Eyes, which like Body Bags was meant to be a TV series and like Body Bags, Two Evil Eyes never became a series. When you team up two popular filmmakers expectations are bound to be quite high and perhaps Body Bags doesn’t fully live up to, but at the end if the day its a solid effort. Starting in 1976 with Assault on Precinct 13, which was John Carpenter’s 2nd feature film he went on one of the greatest runs for a filmmaker in my opinion. From 1976-1988 Carpenter made some truly great films and perhaps films that might a be weaker were at least above average. The only film I didn’t really connect with was Prince of Darkness, which is a film I need to be in the right mood for, but outside if that I thought all the films Carpenter made from 76-88 were great or again the very least above average. The 90s is when many felt Carpenter started a decline, which really isn’t true. While a lot of his work in the 90s may not be personal favorites I enjoyed them for the most part, but I can see why some would dismiss them when compared to his 70s & 80s work. Body Bags in my opinion is one of Carpenter’s best from the 90s maybe even my favorite of his work from that decade. When it comes to Tobe Hooper I’ve never really been a huge fan of his work whereas Carpenter is one of my favorite filmmakers. I loved Texas Chainsaw Massacre and would rate it as the most terrifying film I’ve ever seen. TCM 2 was a solid effort and I quite liked it and to some degree I enjoyed the Funhouse, but it pretty much ends there, oddly enough though Hooper’s segment Eye was my favorite of the three stories.

Before and after each part there is a segment called The Morgue, which features John Carpenter as the Coroner, which is sort of like the Crypt-keeper from Tales from the Crypt. Tobe Hooper and Tom Arnold also appear briefly in the final part of the segment.

The screenplay by Billy Brown & Dan Angel was quite strong and unlike other anthologies I felt each story ran at the perfect time. First up is The Gas Station in which Anne (Datcher) is starting her job at the gas station working the night shift. She comes across a couple of eccentric, but harmless people, but soon finds herself stalked by a psychotic killer. Brown & Angel write a solid story with a couple of mentions of Haddonfield, which of course was the setting for Carpenter’s Halloween. Characters are entertaining and overall its a fun segment.

As director Carpenter crafts a well paced segment with some decent suspense. Don’t expect anything like Halloween, but The Gas Station was highly satisfying.

David Naughton appears in a small role with cameos from Wes Craven and Sam Raimi.

The 2nd story is Hair. This time Brown & Angel write a more campy script and it sort of reminds me of an episode of Tales from the Crypt. Richard (Keach) is losing his hair and is quite depressed about it. He pays a visit to Dr. Lock (David Warner) and Robert’s wish comes true and his begins to grow back, but like the old saying be carful what you wish for. This segment features some fun writing with a nice twist you probably won’t see coming.

John Carpenter crafts a fun segment that’s high on camp value and through its duration he always keeps Hair a lot of fun.

Deborah Harry appears as a nurse and Greg Nicotero has a cameo.

The final segment Eye is the more serious of the segments with Brent Matthews (Hamill) a career minor leaguer on the verge of a call up, but his dreams are ruined after getting into a car accident, which costs him his eye. He ends up going through with an eye transplant, which is a success, but his happiness is short lived as he begins to have horrible visions until he’s on the brink of madness.

Eye I found the best written of all the segments and despite the short running time Brown & Angel get the most out of things and develop the characters well and do a solid job on Brent’s breakdown.

Tobe Hooper makes like I stated my favorite segment in Body Bags. Eye runs at a strong pace and has a nice mysterious and eerie tone going for it.

Charles Napier has a bit part with Twiggy as Cathy Brent’s wife and the legendary Roger Corman appears as Dr. Bregman.

Overall Body Bags is an excellent anthology with three excellent and fun stories. I often wonder how Body Bags would have turned out if it did become a series. Regardless Body Bags is a fun film and comes highly recommended.

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Someone’s Watching Me (1978) Review

Posted in Someone's Watching Me with tags , , on September 4, 2014 by Last Road Reviews

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SOMEONE’S WATCHING ME

**** Out of 5

Release Date- November 29th, 1978

Running Time- 97-Minutes

Rating- NR

Writer/Director- John Carpenter

Starring- Lauren Hutton, David Birney, Adrienne Barbeau, Charles Cyphers

Someone’s Watching Me is a TV movie written and directed by John Carpenter, which originally aired in November of 1978, which was about a month after Halloween the film that started his career. However this TV movie was actually filmed prior to Halloween and originally Carpenter wrote it as a theatrical film, but Warner Brothers decided that it would be better served as TV movie and I happen to agree with that. While this is a solid film I don’t think it would work as well as a theatrical film and plays out better a TV movie. I enjoy a lot of TV movies from the 70s and 80s and even some in the early 90s and even when they turn out well they are often bogged down by TV conventions and can sometimes be overly sappy and dramatic even when dealing with serious issues, but Someone’s Watching Me is able to avoid those pitfalls for the most part and this to me is one of the best TV films and the film makes for a nice homage to the films of Alfred Hitchcock in particular Rear Window.

For the longest time this was sort of the lost John Carpenter film as it was never released on VHS and didn’t get a DVD release until 2006 and as far as I know there haven’t been many airings of it either. This was long sought out and when finally released on DVD a good portion of the reviews were positive, but I think some people may have expected a little too much. Again remember despite being Carpenter’s 4th film it was shot prior to Halloween and since it was never released on home video we the fans have seen the films he’s made since and it’s again easy to forget this was just his 3rd film and let’s not forget he’s also working on a TV schedule. Someone’s Watching Me perhaps isn’t top 5 John Carpenter, but for me easily top 10 and a lot of what made John Carpenter such an iconic filmmaker is on display and he showed some great potential, which in my opinion he more than lived up to.

Leigh Michaels (Hutton) moves into a new apartment and not long after moving in she begins to get strange phones calls and gifts. However since the caller isn’t threatening her the cops are unable to do anything about it so Leigh tries to find out who the stalker is and put a stop to him.

The screenplay John Carpenter is excellent as its well plotted and filled with solid characters. John Carpenter has stated many times his love of Alfred Hitchcock and he pays homage to the master of suspense as the the script is clearly inspired by Rear Window however its not in anyway a rehash as Carpenter’s script has a style and plot all of its own. John Carpenter is a terrific writer and sometimes I feel he doesn’t get enough credit and with Someone’s Watching Me, he writes an excellent screenplay and while it isn’t perfect its still very good.

Due to the fact Someone’s Watching Me was OOP for so long it was almost a lost and forgotten film. Even though as I stated this came out after Halloween it was shot first so this would be Carpenter’s 3rd and he shows flashes of the brilliance he would later live up to. Carpenter delivers some great tense and suspenseful moments that rise above the good portion of TV films and even many theatrical films. The pacing is quite strong and Carpenter does an excellent job in creating an eerie feel. One of my favorite things about the movie is the phone calls. While they can be a bit creepy at times they start off as more annoying than anything. The caller isn’t really saying anything that could get him in much trouble and he’s actually sending gifts, which prompts Lauren Hutton’s character to say something along the lines of what do I tell the police he’s sending me gifts? What makes the film so creepy is the total lack of privacy as the stalker knows Leigh’s every move. The 1st half of the film is strong, but its the 2nd half when Carpenter raises the stakes and while this may not be his best picture it does feature some of his very best scenes of suspense with the highlight being when Lauren Hutton’s character is in the callers’ house and Adrienne Barbeau is in Hutton’s house. I don’t wanna spoil the scene, but it was a classic John Carpenter moment and was a great homage to Rear Window.

Like I said even the best of TV movies are often bogged down by TV conventions, but Someone’s Watching Me for the most part is able to avoid these pitfalls. Again I’m not sure if the film would have turned out as well if it were a theatrical film, but regardless Someone’s Watching Me is an excellent film in John Carpenter’s career. Even though it finally got a DVD release, but the fact it was never released on home video before that and with TV airings quite seldom Someone’s Watching Me is still sort of forgotten, which is quite a shame since a its a great film. This may not be top 5 Carpenter, but again its easily top 10 and fans while the film isn’t perfect as again its a very early film in John Carpenter’s career, but when all is said and done with strong writing, a great cast and some truly suspenseful moments Someone’s Watching Me turns out to be an excellent film.

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Initiation of Sarah (1978) Review

Posted in Initiation of Sarah with tags , , , , on September 3, 2014 by Last Road Reviews

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INITIATION OF SARAH

*** ½ Out of 5

Release Date- February 6th, 1978

Running Time- 96-Minutes

Rating- NR

Screenplay- Don Ingalls, Carol Saraceno & Kenette Gfeller

Director- Robert Day

Starring- Kay Lenz, Morgan Brittany, Tisa Farrow, Morgan Fairchild, Tony Bill and Shelley Winters as Erica Hunter

1978 sure was a great year for the horror genre theatrically and TV movies with such TV movies as John Carpenter’s Someone’s Watching Me, Are You in the House Alone and Devil Dog: Hound of Hell. TV films of the 70s and 80s (even the early 90s) are sort of a guilty pleasure of mine and while there are some classics such as Someone’s Watching Me and Dark Night of the Scarecrow, the good portion of TV films are fun, perhaps more than they should be and the Initiation of Sarah may not reach the height of the two films I mentioned, but its still a solid TV film that like many others is sort of bogged down to a certain degree by TV restrictions.

Sarah (Lenz) & Patty (Brittany) are sisters (Sarah is adopted) heading off to college. Patty is outgoing, while Sarah shy and more reserved. When they apply for a sorority, Patty gets into the popular one while Sarah gets into the least popular one that’s been dubbed PED (pigs, elephants and dogs). Sarah than becomes a target of Jennifer (Fairchild) who leads the popular sorority, but after a prank on Sarah she unleashes her vengeance through her telekinetic powers.

The screenplay by Don Ingalls, Carol Saraceno & Kenette Gfeller is fairy well written, but basically its a TV version of Carrie set at a college rather than high school and deals with sororities. Sarah while shy can be a little more outspoken when the time comes, but that hardly differs her from Carrie and Jennifer is nearly identical to Nancy Allen in Carrie on with TV limitations.

There really is some decent character development and even if the characters are copies from Carrie they are however strong enough to carry the film to some degree. The writers never really stray from knocking off Carrie and when they do make the changes they make fit well even if some of the differences are quite minor such as Patty being sort of the Sue Snell character and the only difference being she’s Sarah’s sister and never takes part in the bullying at all. Still with that said the script works well despite it nothing more than a TV rewrite of Carrie, but it also has enough to offer than simply being a rewrite.

Director Robert Day delivers a well-made film that gets off to an excellent start, but does get sluggishly paced in the middle sections as the characters while interesting can’t fully carry the picture. Initiation of Sarah, while not very scary does have some decent suspense and Day handles the film well even though he channels his inner Brian De Palma throughout the production. One scene in particular owes a great deal to Carrie, rather pigs blood, Sarah has mud and tomatoes and other things thrown on her and there is a shot of Sarah clearly taken from Carrie. This film was made at a time when TV films were competent and while this isn’t a great film its enjoyable enough and deserving of its cult status. The only real problem is the middle can get a bit sluggish, however Robert Day still manages to keep the film fairly interesting.

The performances were strong for the most part with Kay Lenz solid in the lead and she does just enough to separate herself from Sissy Spacek. Morgan Brittany gives a fun and energetic performance as Sarah’s sister who’s torn between her sister and sorority. Morgan Fairchild is a lot of fun as Jennifer and only hindered by being an exact replica of Nancy Allen in Carrie (again only with TV limitations of course). Tisa Farrow is a bit of the standout as Mouse and while she never reached the heights of her more famous sister, Tisa has proven to be a solid actress in her own right.

Overall Initiation of Sarah is a TV version of Carrie and nowhere near the brilliance and while my review may not sound overly glowing I enjoyed the film quite a bit and for fans of this kind of movie its worth seeking out and is probably the best of the Carrie knockoffs. The middle sections can be a little slow and the final act can only go so far since its made for TV, but with all that said I quite enjoyed this film. Its well made with solid performances and while it might borrow a little too much from Carrie at times its worth a viewing.

Tom Holland has a story credit and he would go onto write Psycho II as well as direct Fright Night and Child’s Play.

Long OOP with only a VHS release and rarely being aired anymore I saw this on Netflix and figured I wouldn’t see it again, but thankfully Shout Factory under their Scream Factory label released this in a double feature with Are You in the House Alone on a double feature titled Scream Factory Presents TV Terrors.

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Are You in the House Alone (1978) Review

Posted in Are You in the House Alone with tags , , , , on September 2, 2014 by Last Road Reviews

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ARE YOU IN THE HOUSE ALONE

*** ½ Out of 5

Release Date- September 20th, 1978

Running Time- 96-Minutes

Rating- NR

Screenplay- Judith Parker (Novel by Richard Peck)

Director- Walter Grauman

Starring- Blythe Danner, Kathleen Beller, Tony Bill, Robin Mattson, Scott Colomby, Dennis Quaid

Are You in the House Alone is a TV movie that aired on CBS on September 20, 1978 and for the longest time was seldom seen with few if any airings and only a VHS release that was long OOP and the film was semi-forgotten. I came across this film on Netflix and more or less enjoyed it, but I figured once it was no longer on Netflix I’d never see it again, but to my surprise Shout Factory under their Scream Factory label released this on DVD in December of 2013 along with another TV movie the Initiation of Sarah and the double feature is called Scream Factory Presents TV Terrors. I was quite excited about the release (for both films) and couldn’t wait to actually own it. I’m kind of a sucker for TV movies of the 70s and 80s and some into the early 90s. Many of these films are more often than not slightly hindered by TV conventions and can be a little over dramatic even when dealing with serious subject matters. TV movies used to be a regular thing on network TV, but now it’s very rare networks air TV movies with most now airing on Lifetime Movie Network or Hallmark Movie Channel.

If you go into Are You in the House Alone expecting a horror film you might be a little disappointed as the film is a thriller/drama and if anything it’s a bit more of a drama. The first half more or less plays more up to the thriller aspects whereas the 2nd half begins to feel more like a drama and even though I did enjoy the film it can be a little disjointed in spots. Are You in the House Alone for those who see it will no doubt see some similarities with When a Stranger Calls, which came out the following year in 1979 and while the two films go about things differently there are certain aspects of the film, which makes me wonder if Fred Walton who directed When a Stranger Calls got some ideas from this film. About 30-minutes in there is a sequence that when I saw this I right away thought of When a Stranger Calls and again they do have similarities, but they’re also quite different.

The film opens with Gail Osborne (Beller) being taken out of a house on a stretcher and when she arrives at the hospital we find out she’s been attacked and raped and from there we see the story as it unfolded. Gail begins to get phone calls and notes left at her locker. When she goes off to babysit one night her stalker appears and rapes her.

The film was based off a novel by Richard Peck, which I have not read so I have no idea how true the film stays to the original material. The teleplay was adapted by Judith Parker and all of her credits are TV shows and movies and her most notable work would be writing 6 episodes of L.A. Law during its 3rd season. The script by Parker is fairly well written as it balances thriller aspects and drama and while both are well written at times the script can be a little over dramatic and does suffer the pitfalls of many TV films. Despite being fairly well written the script can be a little disjointed and the script is at its strongest when its written as a thriller. The first half is more along the lines of a thriller, but the 2nd half is when it becomes more of a drama where Gail has some problems with her mother and her parents are also going through some marital problems also throughout the script it also focuses on a boy Gail likes. This is where the script can get a little over dramatic and while still decently written it isn’t as strong as the first half however these scenes do help continue to develop the characters, which is fairly well done throughout the script. The biggest problem is again it just feels disjointed as it switches from thriller to drama and the thriller aspects play a much smaller part during the 2nd half. Still with that said the writing is strong enough to carry the film to some degree.

Are You in the House Alone was directed by Walter Grauman who has made some theatrical films, but the bulk of his 79 directing credits are TV episodes or TV movies. Grauman has directed an episode of Columbo and several episodes of Murder, She Wrote and his last directing credit was actually an episode of Murder, She Wrote titled Southern Double-Cross for the 12th and final season in 1996. Walter Grauman for the most part balances the thriller and drama aspects of the film, but the film is slightly hindered by TV conventions. The pacing is at its strongest in the first half with some solid suspense and while nothing spectacular it is effective and as I mentioned there is a scene that is quite a bit like When a Stranger Calls. The 2nd half as the film shifts focus the pace does slow down and while never boring it isn’t as exciting as the first half. Grauman does deliver some decent suspense in the 2nd when the film calls for it, but for the most the film plays out as a drama in the 2nd half and at only 96-minutes the production does feel a little overly long, but again despite the issues I had in the 2nd half it still remains interesting its just that the first half was quite effective and would have been better served playing more up to thriller conventions.

I think the film works well mainly due to Kathleen Beller as Gail; she has this naive innocence to her, which makes her both likable and sympathetic. As I stated there are some strong moments of suspense and while the director plays a part in that obviously I also think it had a lot to do with Kathleen Beller’s performance. Unlike films of today where teens are way too smart for their own good, Beller comes across as a real teen. Blythe Danner is solid if not a little over dramatic in spots and look for Dennis Quaid in one of his early roles. Tony Bill who played Gail’s father also had a role in the Initiation of Sarah also released in 1978.

Overall Are You in the House Alone is a solid TV thriller and sure why the 2nd half isn’t as effective its still an excellent made for TV film. If anything I actually think the film would have been better off starting as a drama than becoming a thriller since the other way around makes it a little disjointed. My review may not be glowing, but I would recommend this to fans of made for TV films. As I stated a couple of times there are moments where it reminded me of When a Stranger Calls so there’s enough here to offer making it a worthy viewing. 1978 was quite the year for made for TV movies. Besides this film there’s the as mentioned Initiation of Sarah, the silly, but fun Devil Dog: The Hound of Hell and perhaps my favorite TV movie John Carpenter’s Someone’s Watching Me.

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