Archive for babysitter in danger

Fright (1971)

Posted in Fright with tags , , , , on September 4, 2012 by Last Road Reviews



*** ½ Out of 5

Tagline- The Scream You Hear Is Your Own

Release Date- November, 1971

Running Time- 87-Minutes

Rating- PG

Screenplay- Tudor Gates

Director- Peter Collinson

Starring- Susan George, Honor Blackman, Ian Bannen, John Gregson, George Cole

Fright was originally released in 1971 and John Carpenter’s Halloween is often compared to Fright as they both deal with an escaped mental patient stalking a babysitter and even has the mental patients doctor getting involved. However despite what many reviews may lead you to believe despite a couple of things in common both these films are also very different, but the movie I thought of during Fright was When a Stranger Calls and I think that would be a better comparison. Perhaps John Carpenter got some inspiration for Halloween from this movie, but again despite a couple of things in common these movies are both very different in the way they go about things.

While not a slasher film, Fright does have many of the elements we would later see in slasher flicks and I’m sure inspired many slasher flicks through the years and had this movie came out a few years later it probably would have played up to the slasher conventions a lot more. Amanda (George) shows up to babysit while the parents go out for the night, but soon somebody shows up at the house and begins to stalk Amanda and can this person be connected to the family Amanda is babysitting for?

The screenplay by Tudor Gates is well written and well-plotted and just might be the first babysitter in peril movie; while the backstory did sort of lack it however still works and the characters while not fully developed are strong enough to carry the movie. The identity of the killer is revealed a little too early on well I guess revealed is the right word since it’s not a whodunit or anything, but the killer is brought in way too early rather than the final act like say Friday the 13th, but seeing this movie isn’t about a killer murdering people right and left I suppose it would grow tiresome of having someone lurking in the shadows for the majority of the running time. Fright is the type of movie that doesn’t need a great screenplay, but a decent one and Gates delivers a good script nothing less and nothing more, but when all is said and done it does serve its purpose.

Director Peter Collinson does a very good job right from the opening by setting an eerie tone and many of these scenes are before the villain even shows up. By simple shots, Collinson is able to create some excellent suspense and tension and really sets an eerie tone. Visually this isn’t Dario Argento, but its simplicity at its finest. The first half of the movie is by far the strongest in terms of pacing and suspense and when the killer does show up (not before some false scares with someone else lurking around) it only makes the suspense and tension even stronger. However the 2nd half is when things start to get a little messy once the killer is brought into the movie and while the suspense and tension do sort of lack Peter Collinson still delivers a solid movie that just runs out of a little steam no fault to Peter Collinson or the writer Tudor Graves. Don’t go into Fright expecting a slasher flick, but a movie that features elements that would later be seen in slashers and while Fright isn’t action packed overall I thought Peter Collinson did an excellent job as the first half again is highly suspenseful and eerie and even if the 2nd half slightly lacks in these areas it’s still pretty good and gets the job done.

What helps keep Fright working well throughout is it does feature a strong cast and the actors are all very good, but it’s Susan George as the terrorized babysitter that really elevates this movie. While I haven’t seen a lot of her work I have seen enough to become a fan and she does a great job at carrying the movie and it doesn’t hurt that she was stunningly beautiful in this movie. Again the entire cast is all very good in their roles, but Susan George is the clear standout and was excellent.

Overall Fright was a solid if not a semi-disappointing movie that gets off to a really eerie start and while the 2nd half may not work as well Fright is still an excellent movie that deserves more attention than it gets.




When a Stranger Calls (1979) Review

Posted in When a Stranger Calls (1979) with tags , , , on April 19, 2012 by Last Road Reviews

Review by Dave Kaye


**** Out of 5

Tagline- Every Babysitters Nightmare Becomes Real

Release Date- October 26th, 1979

Running Time- 97-Minutes

Rating- R

Screenplay- Steve Feke and Fred Walton

Director- Fred Walton

Starring- Charles Durning, Carol Kane, Colleen Dewhurst & Tony Beckley as Roy Duncan

Released in 1979 When a Stranger Calls is a movie that more often than not draws very mixed reactions from the viewers and I personally understand why so many people hail this as a classic and others say how boring the movie was. But the one thing people most agree on is the opening act, which I’ll get into in just a little bit. When a Stranger Calls is often linked in with the slasher movie and while the movie isn’t a true slasher flick it does however feature many elements that slasher movies would exploit in the 1980s. At the time this was released the slasher flick was just about to get going with the success of John Carpenter’s Halloween in 1978 and while it wasn’t the first slasher movie it was the first to have major success in the box office. For those expecting When a Stranger Calls to be a straight up slasher movie you might find yourself disappointed and I often wonder had this movie come out a couple of years later would it have also exploited the clichés found in slasher flicks?

I’ve seen so many horror movies and out of all the horror movie I’ve seen I would have to rate the first 21-minutes of When a Stranger Calls to be the very best opening acts I have ever seen and most likely ever will see. The opening act is prime example on how to truly create suspense and tension; the opening act should be essential viewing for anybody that wants to work in the horror genre, from the writing, which was simple, but highly effective, to the way it was directed, shot, edited, scored and acted I was on the very edge of my seat and I don’t think any horror movie had this much effect on me. The opening scene was truly terrifying and also it was simplicity at its very best. Each minute of the first act raises the tension unlike any horror flick I have ever seen. By the time you reach the end of the opening act you’ll be held in such suspense that scaring you is now simple. Any filmmaker can create a jump scene where the killer or ghost or whatever pops out of the corner and most of the time jumping back is just simply a reaction. How many movies have you watched where you jumped back, but weren’t scared at all? It’s just a reaction and any filmmaker can do that regardless if they are a good filmmaker or a hack, but I would say most of the time in jump scenes we just react and aren’t really scared unless the scene is set up well, but a simple jump scare anybody can create.

As I stated the reviews for the movie are mixed, but even those that didn’t like the movie often cite the opening act and I honestly cannot think of a movie where I was held in so much suspense that I was on the edge of my seat. After the opening act When a Stranger Calls does slow down and this is where the criticism is often aimed at and a lot of people found the middle sections of the movie boring and I really can’t argue against that since it wasn’t the most exciting, but on multiple viewings I have gained a little more appreciation for what the movie was doing and again it may not be the most exciting, but it does work fairly well, but the opening act was so amazing and in reality I don’t think any filmmaker would have been able to sustain that throughout the entire movie.

The screenplay written by Steve Feke and Fred Walton was overall pretty good; the first act was very well written and extremely creepy, but after the opening act the film changes focus. The opening act has Jill Johnson (Kane) babysitting and she starts to receive phone calls the caller simply asks “have you checked the children?” After the opening we find out the caller Roy Duncan (Beckley) killed the children Jill was babysitting and was locked away in an insane asylum, but escaped and John Clifford (Durning) is now on the hunt for Duncan.

The middle sections of When a Stranger Calls plays out more like a crime/drama with a few moments of suspense thrown in along the way; Feke & Walton take an interesting approach and the easy thing to do would have been to focus on Jill and perhaps have Duncan stalk and kill her friends and I suppose that would have been the more crowd pleasing angle to take and that’s why I mentioned earlier if this movie were made a couple of years later if it would have gone down that road. The script mostly just focuses on Duncan is homeless and rather pathetic as we see him begging for money and wandering around and we even see him get beat up at a bar and like I said the character is rather pathetic and almost sympathetic due to that, but seeing as he’s a child murderer there really is no sympathy for him. The other portions of the script has Clifford going around looking for Duncan and after a while the script does start to repeat itself and while I more than understand the complaints, but I liked the direction the screenplay took even if not the most exciting. The script might drag in certain aspects, but overall I found the movie well-written.

As director Fred Walton again delivers in my opinion the most terrifying opening act that is prime example on how to make a horror movie and yes I would rate When a Stranger Calls a horror movie simply for the fact, Walton’s goal in the end is to scare the audience with the suspense. Just because When a Stranger Calls doesn’t rely on gore and jump scares doesn’t make it any less of a horror movie. The middle sections of the movie Walton does a good job at least I thought so in keeping the movie fairly interesting and while there are moments where it does get a little too slow Walton does though throw in a few suspense scenes to keep things moving there is a truly great suspense and tension filled scene at the hour mark. Again I fully understand the complaints, but I felt Walton really did an excellent job throughout the movie and delivers a terrifying opening act and then delivers an interesting crime/drama in the 2nd half.

Once the final act starts we go back Jill Johnson now married with two kids of her own and When a Stranger Calls goes back to the horror aspects and the movie opens with a bang and closes with one. The final act may not be as tense and edge of your seat like the opening act was, but Fred Walton once again delivers very tense filled sequences and it does make up for the somewhat slow middle.

The performances were all excellent led by Charles Durning who delivers a great performance as the obsessed private detective; Durning pretty much carries the movie and does an excellent job and Tony Beckley as Duncan delivers an excellent performance. Carol Kane despite how well known she is for this movie only appears in the opening and closing acts and like I stated perhaps the more crowd pleasing plot would have been to keep the focus on Jill, but Kane is great in her role and is sympathetic and truly delivers an excellent performance as the twice tormented Jill.

Despite some problems with the middle sections, When a Stranger Calls is a highly suspenseful and very creepy movie with excellent performances. I’d advise those who felt the middle sections were boring to give it another try. It does grow on you and for those who haven’t seen it just expect more a crime/drama with some suspense thrown in during the middle. But the opening and closing act just might be the best you’ll find in this genre.








Absurd (1981) Review

Posted in Absurd with tags , , , , , on April 16, 2012 by Last Road Reviews

Review by Dave Kaye


** ½ Out of 5

Release Date- October, 1981

Running Time- 96-Minutes

Rating- R

Screenplay- John Cart (George Eastman)

Director- Peter Newton (Joe D’Amato)

Starring- George Eastman, Annie Bell, Charles Borromel, Katya Berger, Kasimir Berger and Edmund Purdom

Released in 1981 Absurd is a sequel of sorts to Anthropophagus released the previous year; Absurd isn’t very well known, but has built up a cult following and the plot for the movie is clearly inspired by John Carpenter’s Halloween as it takes several plot points from that film and there are even many similarities to Halloween 2, but I’d say it’s just a coincidence since both movies were released the same year and the same month. Absurd was directed by Joe D’Amato under the name Peter Newton and I like some of D’Amato’s work, but in general I find most of his flicks to be sub-par with the exception of Beyond the Darkness, which I felt was an excellent flick.

Absurd also goes under the title of Horrible, which just might be a better fitting name for the movie; ok so maybe Absurd wasn’t horrible, but quite honestly I didn’t think it was very good. The movie has its moments, but more often than not I found myself a bit bored throughout most of the running time. We have a killer (Eastman) escaping from a hospital and roams around killing a couple of people before setting his sights on Emily (Bell) who is baby-sitting, meanwhile a Priest (Purdom) is on search for the unstoppable killer. So as you can see the movie takes its basic premise from Carpenter’s film and several times the little kid in the movie refers to the killer as the boogeyman.

The screenplay by George Eastman under the name John Cart is the standard slasher flick of its era; I’m a big fan of Italian horror flicks, but I often find the screenplays very lacking and true you can also say this about many of horror flicks of the 80s in particular slasher flicks, but for the most part I often find the Italian horror flicks to be some of the more weaker ones in terms of writing. The characters are rather one-dimensional and also kind of boring at times. I love Italian horror and many films out of Italy easily would rate as some of my all time favorites, but these movies at least in the 80s sure weren’t known for their writing.

The Priest is sort of the Dr. Loomis character, but the character is rather boring and goes MIA during the 2nd half of the movie, which isn’t much of a loss. The only real likeable character here was Emily who is pretty much a clone of Laurie Strode. As the writer Eastman doesn’t really add much to this flick to really separate it from Halloween and while there were other 80s slasher flicks that totally copied Halloween more so than this, but at the end of the day it’s one of the weaker Halloween clones.

Director Joe D’Amato delivers an uneven movie that has some decent atmosphere, but it can also be quite boring during most of the running time. Absurd lacks any real direction and both D’Amato & Eastman are quite content with taking elements from Halloween. Joe D’Amato is a cult favorite, but as I stated earlier I find most of his work to be sub-par and Absurd is no different. There really isn’t much happening here and the pacing is quite sluggish. But when there is some action D’Amato delivers the goods; Absurd isn’t the goriest flick I’ve seen, but most of the death scenes are brutal enough to satisfy.

Overall Absurd was a nice attempt, but the movie is lackluster that’s poorly paced with boring characters. Absurd has built up a nice cult following and while I understand why so many enjoyed it I just found it rather dull, but it does have some decent moments and George Eastman is fairly creepy as the villain, but the movie is brought down by the sub-par production.