Ratman

Willard made animal attack movies popular again. Leading to several copy cats. I never would’ve known about Willard if not for my mom’s recommendation. Based on the Stephen Gilbert novel Ratman’s Notebooks, Willard is about a social outcast who is constantly pushed around by the people in his life. Willard’s only friends are the rats that he trains into his own personal army. I don’t have a fear of rats, but hundreds of rats crawling around would freak me out.

I assumed Willard would be entirely about rat attacks, but that isn’t the case at all. Willard is more of a character study with slow building horror. A young Bruce Davison is pathetic, but not entirely hopeless. The Bride of Frankenstein herself Elsa Lanchester plays Willard’s overbearing sick mother that he lives with. Oscar winner Ernest Borgnine is Willard’s manipulative boss who took over his father’s company and Oscar nominee Sondra Locke is the only woman who shows him kindness.

Willard faces possible foreclosure on his house and other problems that the rats can solve. His most beloved companion is white rat Socrates, but his most loyal friend is Ben. Ben is a black rat who genuinely looks sinister thanks to several well-trained rats in the movie. So many people deserve Willard’s wrath, but only his boss gets swarmed by rats. When Willard turns on the rats, he feels their wrath as well. Willard is slower than I expected, but the rats are worth the build up.

Willard

Willard talks to Socrates and Ben

Followed by: Ben

Fear Runs Deep

47 Meters Down: Uncaged is the same danger, but an entirely different cast. This time it’s a group of four teenage girls who go diving in Mexico and get attacked by sharks. The only similarity is having sisters as the primary survivors. Sophie Nélisse is the bullied Mia and Corinne Foxx is the more popular Sasha. Nia Long and John Corbett play their parents in a blended family that’s slightly more interesting for me.

Before Stargirl, Brec Bassinger played a mean girl who bullies Mia. Brianne Tju is their diving experienced friend Alexa and Sistine Stallone is their overeggar friend Nicole. This was actually the first film for Jamie Foxx and Sylvester Stallone’s daughters. Mia, Sasha, Alexa, and Nicole go diving to find an ancient Mayan city. It’s a lot easier to lose track of the girls since there are four characters to keep track of. Although more characters just means more shark food.

Sharks pop out of complete darkness and they have to deal with the usual problems like oxygen loss. Along with new problems like strong currents and being lost. Though Uncaged lacks the bite to end with a twist like the first movie. Instead Mia and Sasha actually fight off sharks with bloody injuries. 47 Meters Down: Uncaged has enough blood in the water to attract fans of the original movie.

47 Meters Down Uncaged

A shark comes towards Mia and Sasha

Preceded by: 47 Meters Down

In the Deep

47 Meters Down is literally the deepest shark attack movie I’ve seen. It follows two sisters vacationing in Mexico who find themselves caught in a life or death struggle with sharks. Admittedly, the premise is very similar to The Shallows released just one year before. Killer shark movies are surprisingly common, but it’s the survival aspect that’s similar. Claire Holt is the more adventurous Kate and Mandy Moore is the more cautious Lisa.

A couple of locals convince them to see sharks in a diving cage. Something I would never do, since everything goes wrong when the cable breaks and their cage plunges 47 meters down. It’s a terrifying situation full of dangers like oxygen loss, potential hallucinations, being unable to swim without decompression, and having several hungry sharks swimming around. The only person who can help them is the comforting voice of Matthew Modine.

The sisters don’t have the most interesting problems, but I was still wondering how they’d get out of the situation alive. They’re almost rescued once when the spare cable breaks and they plunge back down. The ending turns Lisa into the brave one who saves her sister and fights off sharks with flares, but there are several clues that lead to a shocking twist. 47 Meters Down is a quick undemanding 85 minute fight for survival.

47 Meters Down

Kate and Lisa in a cage with a shark

Followed by: 47 Meters Down: Uncaged

I Am Your Daughter

The Others is another kind of haunted house film. Psychological horror became very popular with movies like The Sixth Sense. The Others is also known for a twist that I unsuccessfully tried to avoid. Despite an English speaking cast that includes Nicole Kidman, The Others is technically a Spanish film. It was directed by Alejandro Amenábar and won Best Film at the Spanish Academy Awards. The Others takes place in a large old fashioned house during 1945 and centers on a small isolated family.

Kidman is fully committed to playing the paranoid fiercely religious mother Grace Stewart. The rebellious Anne and timid Nicholas are her children with a life or death sensitivity to light. The constant candlelit dark rooms make for a very creepy atmosphere. And that’s before any hint of ghosts. The only other occupants are Fionnula Flanagan as the housekeeper, Eric Sykes as the gardner, and Elaine Cassidy as the mute servant that Grace recently hires. They behave very strangely, but not as strange as Christopher Eccleston as Grace’s veteran husband who mysteriously returns from the war.

The titular others rarely make their presence known. Doors are unlocked, curtains are taken down, and mysterious voices are heard. The most iconic scene features Grace encountering her daughter under a veil who looks like an older woman. The twist is a deeply disturbing double whammy that reveals who the ghosts truly are. The Others will leave you guessing until the very end.

The Others

“I am your daughter”

Terror has No Shape

The Blob (1988) is a B movie with a big budget. The remake is another 80’s version of a 50’s monster movie. Much like The Thing (1982) or The Fly (1986), The Blob (1988) shows just how gory the concept can get. The remake retains the small town, teenage protagonists, non-believing police, and an unlucky old man finding the Blob falling to Earth in a meteor. Except this version has an 80’s appropriate cynical tone. The Blob is pinker, faster, more sentient, and able to grab people with tendrils. Deaths are horrifying with the dissolving process shown in graphic detail.

Its weakness to cold is the same, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t a few unexpected surprises. The stereotypical jock is made to seem like the hero until he dies almost immediately. Instead 80’s delinquent Brian is the unlikely hero. A young Kevin Dillon plays Brian and first time “scream queen” Shawnee Smith plays cheerleader Meg who starts to warm up to him. The Blob’s rampage racks up a high body count in familiar places like the movie theater and unfamiliar places like the sewer.

The biggest difference between the original and remake is the origin of the Blob. 50’s audiences accept an alien from outer space, but 80’s audiences need a conspiracy theory (or a reverend professising the end of the world). So the Blob is now a bioweapon gone wrong that the Government is trying to cover up. Men in hazmat suits are just as bad as the creature they created. The Blob (1988) may be in it for the kills, but there is a brain hidden under all that mayhem.

The Blob 1988

The Blob eats

Remake of: The Blob (1958)

The Monster that Ate Everybody

Beware! The Blob is a B movie’s B movie. Even though The Blob ended with a question mark, it took 14 years to get a sequel. I knew about the 1958 original for years, but the 1972 Beware! The Blob is practically lost. The cast isn’t entirely unknown, but the director is probably the most notable aspect. Beware! The Blob is shot by J.R. himself Larry Hagman. Although the budget was increased, somehow the quality feels worse.

The acting is even more bizarre with characters who are only around to get eaten. The plot is a much more 70’s version of the original with hippies running around. The Blob returns when a dimwitted engineer brings a sample back from the arctic. It’s clearly a sequel, even though characters can be seen watching The Blob on TV. The rampage starts up again with the Blob eating flies and cats before consuming half the town.

The Blob itself is bright red and resembles jelly more than it did before. Roles are reversed with teenager Lisa having to convince her boyfriend Bobby of the attacks. Of course no one believes them until it’s too late. This time the final rampage is at a bowling alley and the source of cold that defeats it is an ice rink. The sequel ends with another question mark, but nothing ever materialized. Beware! The Blob is a product of the 70’s.

Beware the Blob

The Blob attacks

Preceded by: The Blob

It Eats You Alive!

The Blob is a B movie that devours the competition. Originally released as a double feature with I Married a Monster from Outer Space, The Blob took on a life of its own. I’ve known about the iconic monster for years, but I never watched the 1958 movie. Mostly because I always thought it was colorized from a black & white version. Turns out the The Blob is just very colorful. It’s a cheesy B movie with a campy theme song, questionable acting, and a seemingly laughable threat.

Yet the Blob is actually more terrifying than it looks. It’s surprisingly based on a true story involving star jelly discovered in 1950 Pennsylvania. The Blob is a red gelatinous mass that falls from a meteor and quickly consumes everything in its path. Nothing can stop it! The more it eats, the bigger it becomes! The Blob is an early horror film centered around teenagers, because it was made for the drive-in generation. Even though newcomer Steve McQueen clearly isn’t a teenager, he does manage to show off his driving skills.

Together with co-star Aneta Corsaut as his sweetheart Jane and a group of friends, Steve attempts to warn the town. The police don’t believe them until things get worse. The Blob first consumes a poor old man, doctors, and random townspeople until it reaches a movie theater. Engulfing an entire diner with the main characters in it is surprisingly tense. The Blob genuinely feels unstoppable until it gets cold. Ending its reign of terror (or does it?). The Blob grabs your attention and doesn’t let go.

The Blob

The Blob

Followed by: Beware! The Blob

Blind Vengeance

Don’t Breathe 2 is a confusing direction to take the two part horror franchise. Since it took 5 years to make a sequel, Fede Álvarez gave his co-writer Rodo Sayagues the director’s chair. Don’t Breathe made effective use of its concept in a way that was tricky to replicate. The original home invaders weren’t exactly saints, but at least they felt like victims. Don’t Breathe 2 basically turns the evil “Blind Man” into the protagonist by making the new home invaders more evil than he is.

Stephen Lang is as ruthless as he was before, but this time he’s too sympathetic. The first movie has twists that I won’t give away. So I’ll at least say that Norman Nordstrom survived and finally has the daughter he wanted. Despite their misguided attempts to redeem a murderer, the only character who comes close to being good is Nordstrom’s replacement daughter Phoenix played by capable newcomer Madelyn Grace.

Nordstrom and his Rottweiler protect her in his newly fortified Detroit home where Phoenix longs for freedom. The sequel at least replicates the tense atmosphere when the house is broken into. Even though the home invaders are mostly disposable criminals who are only around to increase the body count. The lead criminal played by Brendan Sexton III has a personal connection to Phoenix that make his true intentions more messed up. When she’s kidnapped, the once subtle film turns into a needlessly gory killing spree with a few clever tricks from “The Blind Man.” Don’t Breathe 2 is a rare horror movie with nobody to root for.

Don't Breathe 2

The blind man goes hunting

Preceded by: Don’t Breathe

Blind Ambition

Don’t Breathe is the exact opposite of Evil Dead (2013). Rather than make another blood soaked supernatural remake, director Fede Álvarez reunited with producer Sam Raimi to make a more realistic low budget original horror film. Like most modern horror movies, it was the concept that drew me in. Don’t Breathe is a reverse home invasion flick that gives the antagonist the limitation of being blind. Except that “The Blind Man” is more capable than he appears.

The naturally muscular Stephen Lang is intimidating as Norman Nordstrom, but slightly sympathetic as a blinded war veteran who ends up the target of calculating thieves. Evil Dead actress Jane Levy is final girl Rocky who wants to leave her abusive household, Goosebumps actor Dylan Minnette is the more virtuous Alex, and It Follows actor Daniel Zovatto is the obnoxious Money. Don’t Breathe is like a spiritual successor to It Follows since both take place in Detroit and make effective use of atmosphere.

The house is a terrifying labyrinth that gives Nordstrom a distinct advantage. Sequences like Rocky and Alex wandering a pitch black basement are a major highlight. Just as scary is the vicious Rottweiler that protects Nordstrom when he isn’t around. Although Don’t Breathe is only an hour and 28 minutes, it features an early twist that makes Nordstrom even more complex. I already didn’t like his nihilistic worldview, but what he plans to do to Rocky gets really disgusting. Everytime you think she got away, “The Blind Man” keeps gaining the upper hand. Don’t Breathe will leave you holding your breath.

Don't Breathe

The blind man defends himself

Followed by: Don’t Breathe 2

Clowning Around

Killer Klowns from Outer Space already sounds like an April Fools joke, but it’s a very real movie that I couldn’t make up if I tried. It’s a true old fashioned B movie that delivers what it promises. It’s goofy in a so bad it’s good kind of way. Killer Klowns from Outer Space features clown themed aliens rampaging a small town. Leaving a small group of over-the-top locals to stop the invasion. Klowns use every clown trick in the book.

Their spaceship is a big top circus tent, they use cotton candy ray guns, balloon animal hunting dogs, a compressed popcorn gun, living shadow puppets, and acid throwing pies. Since the Chiodo Brothers are more known for their special effects work, each klown has a funky design that will probably scare people with a fear of clowns. They all have distinct names, but none of them are able to talk. Just disturbing warped alien laughter.

As a PG-13 horror movie, Killer Klowns from Outer Space does get away with light blood and even a comedic decapitation. Although most of the town is killed or cocooned, almost every hero survives in the end. A sequel was talked about for a long time, but Killer Klowns from Outer Space is a rare horror movie with no follow ups to its name. So it remains a stand alone cult film. Killer Klowns from Outer Space is creepy and colorful at the same time.

Killer Klowns from Outer Space

Killer klowns from outer space