Archive for John Carpenter

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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Halloween II (1981) Review

Posted in Halloween II (1981) with tags , , , , , on October 30, 2013 by Last Road Reviews

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HALLOWEEN II

**** Out of 5

Tagline- More of the Night He Came Home

Release Date- October 30th, 1981

Running Time- 92-Mintues

Rating- R

Screenplay- John Carpenter & Debra Hill

Director- Rick Rosenthal

Starring- Donald Pleasence, Jamie Lee Curtis, Lance Guest, Charles Cyphers, Leo Rossi, Hunter von Leer, Dick Warlock

Released in 1981 Halloween II picks up right where the original film left off and making a sequel to a classic film is never an easy task as it’s often a sitting duck for critics and fans, but on the flipside you have an audience before the film is released. Halloween II is one of the rare sequels held in high regard with some hailing as the best horror sequel and with some even rating higher than the original. I disagree on both accounts and while Halloween II is a solid film with enough jolts to get a passing grade it’s also in my opinion far inferior to the original. As far as 80s slasher goes I would rate Halloween II highly as its better than the bulk of these films and I would label it a classic slasher film, but as a horror film while a case can be made for it I would label just under classic status.

The plot for Halloween II is quite simple and actually there really isn’t much of a plot it’s just simply a continuation from the original film. John Carpenter & Debra Hill return to write the sequel and it’s quite clear based on the script they really didn’t have a whole lot of ideas on where to take the movie. Michael Myers (Warlock) pursues Laurie Strode (Curtis) at Haddonfield Memorial Hospital as Dr. Loomis (Pleasence) continues to search for Michael.

Also at this time the slasher flick was highly popular and Carpenter & Hill are content on following the format of the typical slasher flick of the time, which is ironic since all those films were following the format of the original Halloween. The characters are the typical type that dominated the slasher flick at this point; Halloween II is filled with faceless victims that are only here to add to the body count and none of them really make much of an impact on the movie. The plot of the movie relies far too much on the original and while this might work well through the early parts of the movie the middle sections however is when the plot runs out of steam and Carpenter has admitted he wasn’t sure where to take the movie and that’s how the brother/sister plot came about. It really doesn’t make a whole lot of sense and it’s clear it was a spur of the moment idea, and while it doesn’t really make sense if you don’t linger on it one can accept it.

For the majority of the running time Laurie is reduced to being in a hospital bed and there really isn’t anything Laurie adds to the movie and it seems she’s here for the sake of it. Laurie was one of the few characters in a slasher flick that actually had some depth and it’s a shame she doesn’t have a whole lot to do in Halloween II. Dr. Loomis has a little bit more going on than Laurie, but for the most part the script has Loomis repeating what he said in the first film only worded differently. As I stated the characters were one dimensional and were only there to add to the death toll of the movie; the characters have little personality and sadly unlike the original, the characters in Halloween II are the typical faceless victims. Despite the shortcomings of the script, Halloween II isn’t poorly written. Carpenter & Hill make the most out of it and while it’s disappointing the characters aren’t stronger I suppose they serve their purpose and Carpenter & Hill deliver an entertaining script and even with the flaws it’s still better written than the majority of the 80s slasher flicks.

Rick Rosenthal makes his directorial debut and delivers an entertaining, but uneven movie. From the start of the film, Rosenthal does set up an eerie tone and is able to deliver a movie that has some strong suspense and scares and this is one of the better made slasher flicks of the 80s. The pacing can at times lag, but the script can be partly to blame, but horror flicks can still be scary and suspenseful regardless of the script. I’d go as far to say the original Halloween became the classic movie it has due to Carpenter’s direction and music the script was good, but really nothing special. The hospital makes for an eerie setting and while Rosenthal does handle it mostly well, it does however get tiresome seeing Michael walk around the hospital in search of Laurie and most people will put the blame on the script and rightfully so, but again a horror film can succeed despite the script.

Michael is a lot slower in this one than the previous part and at times it’s a little frustrating since if he just moved at the speed he did in the original he would have caught Laurie with rather ease I suppose if one really wanted to they can explain it as Michael being a little bit weaker from being shot at the end of the original. There are times Michael moves at the same pace as he did in the original, but when chasing after Laurie in the final act he moves way too slow and John Carpenter did do some reshoots so perhaps it could be due to having two different filmmakers. For the most part Rick Rosenthal is content on following what John Carpenter did with the original and never really injects his own style to the film. And while if you’re gonna knockoff any filmmaker, Carpenter is a great choice and while this doesn’t hurt the movie it does however make Halloween II feel like a rehash without an identity. However with that said Rick Rosenthal still delivers a well made chiller with some genuine suspense and scares to go along with an eerie atmosphere.

The performances were quite strong for a 80s slasher and while the characters may be one dimensional the acting is a step above the majority of the slasher flicks made in the 80s. Jamie Lee Curtis delivers a good performance, but as I stated she really isn’t given much to work with, which is a shame since an excellent actress gets sort of wasted. Donald Pleasence is a little more over the top this time around and what I love about Pleasence is he could play a role straight like he did in the original Halloween, but he wasn’t afraid to ham things up either. Pleasence walks the line of straight and camp in Halloween II, but delivers an excellent performance and while the character doesn’t add a whole lot at times like always Pleasence is a joy to watch.

When all is said and done Halloween II, while in my opinion not on par with the original it still gets it the job done by being a fairly suspenseful and scary movie and while I think this part lacks what made the original such a groundbreaking masterpiece, Rosenthal still delivers an excellent chiller that’s only really bogged down by being like every other 80s slasher flick, which is a disappointment since the original was a cut above everything that followed, but overall I’d still rate this as one of the better slasher flicks of the 80s and one of the better sequels.

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Halloween III: Season of the Witch (1982) Review

Posted in Halloween III: Season of the Witch with tags , , , , on October 12, 2013 by Last Road Reviews

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HALLOWEEN III: SEASON OF THE WITCH

*** ½ Out of 5

Tagline- The Night No One Comes Home

Release Date- October 22nd, 1982

Running Time- 98-Minutes

Rating- R

Screenplay- Tommy Lee Wallace (Nigel Kneale)

Director- Tommy Lee Wallace

Starring- Tom Atkins, Stacey Nelkin, Nancy Kyes, Ralph Strait, Michael Currie and Dan O’Herlihy

Has there ever been a sequel in a franchise that has received more hate than Halloween III? Over the years Halloween III has started to gain a cult like following, but it is still seen as the black sheep of the Halloween franchise. I’m sure everyone out there knows by now this is a sequel by name only and has nothing to do with the previous 2 or anything that followed. Had this been called Season of the Witch or anything besides Halloween III odds are this wouldn’t be nearly as hated and even now decades later. Like I said it has gained a cult following, but there are people that still rip this movie to shreds and my question is can people honestly say this is the worst sequel in the franchise? If anything I would put it in the middle and I could even make a case for this being better than most if not all of the sequels. Even though some other parts have received some negative reviews such as Halloween: Resurrection, but I often hear at least it had Michael Myers, but to me that’s far too willing to accept garbage and I simply cannot see how anyone can rate Resurrection higher than Halloween III. By no means is Halloween III among the all-time greats, but its a solid enough film at the end of the day.

Funny thing is people often bash franchises for following the same exact formula and being nothing more than a rehash, but when someone tries to mix it up everyone seems to hate it. Halloween III I guess does maybe stray too much as it’s a sequel by name only, but how many Michael Myers films can be made before it gets tiresome? Halloween III isn’t a perfect film, but its far better than its reputation. I remember seeing Halloween III as a kid and thinking it was alright. Sure it was a bit odd not having Michael Myers but I thought it was alright. Than I went years without seeing it and with the Internet age now among us reading all the reviews blasting it and it got me to wanna see it again as my memory of the film was pretty much gone. I finally saw Halloween III again sometime before the 2003 DVD release on AMC part of their Monster Fest line up. By this point last time I saw the film had to be in the 80s or very early 90s. I really didn’t remember much outside of the basic plot. Seeing it again I really didn’t get the hate and I’ve seen it a few times since on DVD and than blu-ray with the excellent Shout Factory release. I’m a defender of Halloween III. Like I said it isn’t one of the greats, I wouldn’t label this a classic (cult classic), but you would think Halloween III was among the worst films ever made based on reviews and this really isn’t the case, like I said I think its better than a lot of the sequels and in some cases on par with them.

Apparently the original draft of the script was written by Nigel Kneale who than wanted his name removed and rewrites were done by John Carpenter and later Tommy Lee Wallace who is the only one credited. So therefore I’ll just credit Wallace since he’s the only one listed. The script is actually fairly strong for the most part; Halloween III is actually well plotted in general with solid characters. The mystery aspect of the script is quite strong, but problem is as more information is released the script is slightly hindered. While the final act of the script is by no means poor its just not nearly as strong as everything that came before it. Overall though Wallace writes a good film with an interesting plot and strong characters and despite the films reputation I think Tommy Lee Wallace from a writing standpoint delivers one of the better written Halloween films.

Tommy Lee Wallace with Halloween III made his directorial debut as prior to this he worked on various John Carpenter films with such jobs with sound department, editing and as a production designer. Wallace would later direct the TV movie It based off the popular Stephen King novel. With Halloween III, Wallace gets off to a good start and the pace of the film is quite strong and Wallace sets up and eerie and mysterious tone, which keeps things moving through the bulk of the film. However once all is revealed and the script loses its steam so does the direction and while Wallace handles everything well Halloween III just isn’t as interesting despite Wallace’s best efforts. The pace does sort of drag a bit towards the final act and might have benefited from losing a few minutes off the running time. With all that said Tommy Lee Wallace crafts a solid film that again is nowhere near as poor as its reputation. The mysterious side of the film I thought was excellent and even if it does fall off a bit in the final act, Tommy Lee Wallace still delivers a very good film.

Overall Halloween III: Season of the Witch is a solid effort that really doesn’t deserve the hate it gets. Who cares if the movie doesn’t center around Michael Myers. For the good portion of the running time Halloween has a nice and eerie feel and while the final act runs out of steam its still good just not as effective. Plus any film with Tom Atkins can’t be all bad. I like Halloween III and if more people would get over the lack of Michael I think more would see its actually a fairly good film.

The setting is Santa Mira, which of course is a homage to Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956 version) and while these two films are different they do have a similar tone and feel.

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Assault on Precinct 13 (1976) Review

Posted in Assault on Precinct 13 (1976) with tags , , , on July 13, 2013 by Last Road Reviews

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ASSAULT ON PRECINCT 13

**** Out of 5

Tagline- The Gang Swore a Blood Oath to Destroy Precinct 13 and Every Cop in It!

Release Date- November 5th, 1976

Running Time- 91-Minutes

Rating- R

Writer/Director- John Carpenter

Starring- Austin Stoker, Darwin Joston, Laurie Zimmer, Tony Burton, Charles Cyphers, Nancy Loomis

Released in 1976 Assault on Precinct 13 was John Carpenter’s 2nd feature film, but in many ways it was his first. Starting with Assault on Precinct 13 many members of the cast and crew would become Carpenter regulars and a lot of what made Carpenter such a great filmmaker can be seen here. The 70s were my favorite era of filmmaking and I just love 70s exploitation films and this fits in with the exploitation film and Carpenter crafts a gritty low budget film that while a little rough around the edges is also a truly excellent film and in my opinion one of Carpenter’s best films. The film isn’t without it’s flaws as Carpenter was a young filmmaker who was still learning his craft, but like I said a lot of what made Carpenter such a great filmmaker is here in its early stages.

The influence on this film was Rio Bravo as well as other westerns and Carpenter many times has stated his love of the western genre and Assault on Precinct 13 is very much a western just set in modern times and this also reminds me a little bit of Night of the Living Dead just without zombies as the gang members often lurk around almost zombie like and I remember reading part of the influence on this was in fact Night of the Living Dead.

The screenplay by John Carpenter is mostly strong with solid characters, but there really isn’t much of a plot, which can slightly hinder the first 30-minutes. Also even though I did quite like the main characters they don’t feature the depth that many later characters did in other Carpenter films and that can lead to an ok start to the picture, but with that said it was never boring or anything, but if you lost the first 30-minutes you really wouldn’t be lost at all since in someways it almost feels like filler until the action kicks in. Overall the script was solid if not flawed, but Carpenter shows flashes of brilliance with the script and despite the shortcomings it’s still an excellent script only slightly bogged down by the first half.

As director John Carpenter crafts one hell of a great film; while there were some problems with the script, but the direction more than makes up for it as Assault on Precinct 13 is a tense action packed thriller. The first half as I mentioned did lack a little bit in terms of writing, but direction wise Carpenter is able to keep things interesting, but once the attack happens Carpenter elevates the film from good to great. John Carpenter stages some truly great action scenes and than stages some of the best suspense scenes in his career. The main characters are basically trapped in the precinct and their out-numbered and out-gunned and we the audience feel as trapped as the characters do. As it becomes a life and death struggle to survive, Carpenter delivers a really tense film that will often keep you guessing. Despite the first half pacing is always strong and Assault on Precinct 13 at 91-minutes feels way shorter than that.

In my opinion Assualt on Precinct 13 is one of Carpenter’s very best films as it features likable characters, great action scenes, great suspense and tension and this for me is probably top 5 John Carpenter films. With an excellent cast and characters and Carpenter’s spot on direction Assault on Precinct 13 is a classic film that’s a must see.

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Horror by Year: 1982

Posted in Horror by Year with tags , , , , on April 14, 2013 by Last Road Reviews

Here’s my top 10 of 1982, which was a solid year, but as a list its not the strongest year. But I enjoyed all the films in my top 10. I know some people will disagree with my rating for the Thing. I like the film, but just never loved it as much as most Carpenter fans. Many cite that as one of if not his best. I’m a massive Carpenter fan, but it doesn’t crack my top 5. But again I do like the film just not as much as other people. Maybe one day that will change.

These lists are a work in progress as there will always be films left out since I either haven’t seen them (its not easy to track down certain titles and can be a bit expensive). Also there are films i haven’t seen in years and cannot fairly rate them. So at anytime the list can be altered.

10. Living Dead Girl- *** ½

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9. Madman- *** ½

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8. Pieces- *** ½

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7. The Thing- – *** ½

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6. Halloween 3- *** ½

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5. The Dorm That Dripped Blood- *** ½

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4. Friday the 13th Part 3- ****

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3. The Slumber Party Massacre- ****

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2. Tenebre- ****

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1. The New York Ripper- ****

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10 More Movies to Watch for Halloween

Posted in 10 More Movie to Watch for Halloween with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 19, 2012 by Last Road Reviews

Like the first list, this is in no order or an all-time favorite list.

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