Film Review: FRANKENWEENIE
Stryker (Facebook); Jonathan Stryker (Twitter)
FRANKENWEENIE (2012) is a big-screen remake of his own 1984 short film of the
same name and utilizes the Frankenstein monster tale by Mary Shelley to tell a
clever story about a young boy, Victor Frankenstein, and how he copes with the
loss of his dog.
Victor loves making 16mm
movies with his dog, Sparky, in his hometown of New Holland, which looks like
Everytown, USA. Sparky stars as the
Sparkysaurus, because what young boy doesn't love dinosaurs? Mixing footage of Sparky with self-made
animation, Victor's movie shows off an imagination no doubt inspired by
"The Twilight Zone" and THE BEAST FROM 20,000 FATHOMS (1953). Victor, obviously and alter-ego for director
Burton, is an awkward child, and keeps a low profile from his classmates and
his neighbor Mr. Burgermeister, an overweight man who brandishes a
hedgeclipper. During a baseball game,
Victor manages to hit a home run, but unfortunately his dog chases the ball
into the street and is killed by a car.
Devastated, Victor mopes through school until his science teacher, Mr.
Rzykruski, shows the class how to use electricity to move a dead frog's
legs. Experiencing a eureka moment,
Victor is filled with a new sense of purpose, and converts his parents' attic
into a makeshift laboratory. Following
his teacher's instructions, he reanimates Sparky with the help of lightning.
Victor does his best to
keep Sparky's existence a secret, and a creepy kid from the neighborhood,
Edgar, wants to know how Victor did it.
Word gets out about Sparky, and other kids vying for a science project
attempt similar experiements until things get out of control. A rat becomes a crazed monster; a turtle is
made enormous and stomps among a town square carnival like a mixture of Godzilla and Gamera; and
sea monkeys run amok through the streets.
A cute, next-door poodle who fancies Sparky is made to resemble Elsa
Lanchaster; the name "Shelley" appears on a tombstone; and BAMBI is
displayed on a local theatre marquee.
The film's ending is a loving homage to James Whale's 1931 classic that
started it all and fueled nightmare for years to come.
FRANKENWEENIE shares many similarities to Henry Selick's 1993 film THE
NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS (produced by Tim Burton) in that a protagonist
compelled to do a good deed ends up making a mess of things. The film can been seen in 2D and 3D, though
the latter is preferable as it bolsters the onscreen antics. A black cat sticks its head into the audience
and hisses in one of the more memorable sequences.
Filmed on Canon EOS 5D
Mark II single lens reflux cameras and printed in black and white,
FRANKENWEENIE looks lovely. It would be
nice to see black and white return to the screen as an artform.
Danny Elfman provides
another memorable score to this amazingly-animated stop-motion film. Highly recommended in 3D, and finally someone
got the right idea to release it in time for Halloween.
Take a look at the MAD MONSTER PARTY, a film that inspired director Burton
to pursue this method of filmmaking.
Book Review: ALIEN VAULT
Jonathan Stryker (Facebook);
Scott's ALIEN (1979) is one of those movies that I just never get tired
of. It is a film that I love
unconditionally because it not only is one of the few films that makes me feel
as though I am in outer space, but also because it is a perfectly made
film. The advertising campaign is one of
the most genius marketing schemes ever devised for a motion picture.
was too young to see ALIEN at the Menlo Park Twin Cinema where it opened, in
addition to 90 other movie theater screens, on Friday, May 25, 1979, before
opening to a wider 635 theaters four weeks later. My parents were not the type of people to
take me to see an R-rated science-fiction film as I was only ten and-a-half
years-old. I look back at this now as a
good thing, because as a sensitive child the movie would've given me a heart
attack. I was expecting ALIEN to be a
film along the lines of STAR WARS and apparently, so did toy manufacturers who
released board games, viewmaster clips from the film, posters, puzzles, and an
eighteen-inch plastic doll replica of the titular monster that is widely
considered to be the scariest toy ever marketed to children, and today commands
hundreds of dollars on Ebay. Someone at
Kenner failed to get the memo from Fox that ALIEN was an adult science fiction
are few films that I have ever seen that have affected me as deeply as
ALIEN. Anybody who has seen it cannot
deny the film's sheer, raw power. Is
there another film, with the possible exception of William Friedkin's THE
EXORCIST (1973) or Steven Spielberg's JAWS (1975), both of which, like ALIEN,
deal with a seemingly uncontrollable force, that has elicited such strong and
quite literally gut-wrenching responses from audiences?
didn't see ALIEN until the summer of 1983.
It was on a home video system called Capacitance Electronic Disc which
was manufactured by RCA. The movie was
essentially pressed into grooves on a 12-inch disc like a standard long-playing
record. The disc was housed in a plastic
caddie to protect it from human hands, much like the alien incubating inside
Kane (sorry, couldn't resist), and I spent the entire summer watching this and
other movies that quickly became favorites.
For some reason, the image of the egg was reversed on the cover.
retrospect, ALIEN is no different than its classic predecessors in that the
great fright films of our time were all badly or poorly received upon their
initial theatrical releases. To think
that ALIEN was brushed off by some critics almost makes you want to call them
out for being film snobs. Bosley
Crowther believed that Alfred Hitchcock's PSYCHO belonged in a toilet; John
Carpenter's HALLOWEEN was, in his own words, universally across-the-board
panned by every reviewer who saw it; even THE SHINING (1980) was met with
lukewarm responses. In the end it didn't
matter what the critics thought, because the best advertisement for ALIEN, even
more so than its brilliant tagline and equally chilling trailers and movie
poster art, would be the throngs of people waiting outside the theater trying
to get tickets to see the film.
that Ridley Scott directed PROMETHEUS, which is due for release on home video this
month, it is only fitting that we revisit his classic 1979 chiller. Super-ALIEN fan Ian Nathan, executive editor
at Empire Magazine, recently penned ALIEN VAULT, a book which boasts itself as
the definitive story of the making of the film.
While it is considerably smaller than the glorious "making of"
books on STAR WARS and THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK by J.W. Rinzler, it is no less
audacious in its quest to act as a biography of the film itself. Ian knows this film inside-out.
VAULT is a definite must-have for fans of Ridley Scott's science-fiction masterpiece. While it covers material that is already
familiar to die-hard fans, it is still well worth the purchase. Starting with the late Dan O'Bannon, ALIEN
VAULT is an extraordinarily well-written account of the process of bringing
this brilliant film to fruition. This is
a very neatly put together affair that describes the main people involved in
the making of the film, crew members from the far corners of the world who came
together with their own perceptions, ideas, and pre-conceived notions about what
this film should be like, and how they were all put into a pot and mixed
together by director Scott to produce one of the most iconic and ultimately
most frightening motion pictures of our time, unequalled in this scribe's
access to Fox's archive of unpublished photos, in addition to his accumulation
of interviews over the past ten years, author Nathan has compiled a book that
cannot be experienced in digital format: there are pull-outs and pop-ups the
give the reader a deeper understanding of just how complex an undertaking
making this film was. Author Nathan
wanted this book to be the celebration of the experience of holding a physical
book in your hands.
The book has gone out of print fairly quickly, but
copies can be had from Amazon.com,
and Noble, and Ebay.
There is also a terrific website, Last Exit to Nowhere, that
features t-shirts based on fake corporations in genre films, and it features
logo designs based on the Nostromo and The Company, Weyland-Yutani:
Blu-ray Review: KILLER KLOWNS FROM OUTER SPACE
Jonathan Stryker (Facebook); Jonathan
I talk to people today about KILLER KLOWNS FROM OUTER SPACE, some of them are
under the erroneous impression that the movie was made for video. Quite the
contrary, the film was given a small but definite theatrical release on Friday,
May 27,1988. I recall walking through Times Square in New York City and passing
by the long gone Cineplex Odeon which featured the film on its marquee. I
remember balking at the prospect of spending seven dollars to see a movie that
looked, to be honest, terrible. I didn't catch up with the film until its home
video release sometime later and was positively delighted to find that KILLER
KLOWNS FROM OUTER SPACE is one of the most original, entertaining, and outright
funny movies made during the 1980s.
film is low-budget and extremely clever and creative; it almost looks like
something that would have come out of 1960s B-movie drive-in cinema by way of Samuel Zachary Arkoff or Roger
Corman. The film has gone on to become
something of a cult classic and deservedly so.
The film preys on people's fears of clowns, something that I personally
do not share. I never found clowns to be anything other than annoying, however
Stephen King's Pennywise the Clown from his novel IT (1986) certainly makes a
good argument as to why people fear clowns.
in Watsonville, CA and Santa Cruz, CA, KILLER KLOWNS follows a familiar formula
of a small U.S. town invaded by an alien intruder, but in this case an army of
aliens dressed like circus clowns who land in a ship masquerading as a circus
tent! Their cover is blown when Mike
Tobacco (Grant Cramer) and Debbie Stone (Suzanne Snyder) investigate the tent
and are stunned to find people cocooned inside cotton candy. Naturally, when they go to tell the police,
they are met with furrowed brows, insults and disbelief. John Vernon, who played the mayor in DIRTY
HARRY (1971), is hilarious as the officious Officer Mooney who just doesn't
believe anything that Mike and Debbie have to say. His partner, Officer Dave Hanson (John Allen Nelson),
is willing to listen to Debbie as they were once an item. Once he does realize the truth, the town is
subject to a mini invasion of killer klowns who kill people for
the film, over-sized ray guns fire popcorn; balloon animals come to life and
sniff out trouble; shadow puppets come to life and eat onlookers; and cotton
candy is used for nefarious purposes.
of the funniest sequences in the film is when a tricycle-riding klown
encounters a motorcycle gang and is taunted by a Meatloaf-look-alike crew
member who dares him to "knock my block off." The result is laugh-out-loud funny.
KLOWNS FROM OUTER SPACE has appeared on home video on VHS (which contained the
video of the title track by The Dickies), laserdisc, and DVD (which contained a
multitude of extras). The new Blu-ray
Audio commentary with the Chiodo Brothers (from the DVD)
Killer Klowns Featurettes (from the DVD)
Scenes (from the DVD)
the Blu-ray: Vignettes: Holy Smoke & Klown Auditions
Trailer (from the DVD)
that the Storyboard Gallery and the Photo Gallery that was featured on the 2001
DVD have been dropped, so hang on to that edition if you want those extras.
transfer itself appears to be sourced from the same transfer done for the 2001
DVD. However, the increased resolution
alone makes this Blu-ray a worthy upgrade since this film is so vibrant and
colorful. This is a bit of film grain in
the overall image, but nothing too distracting.
recommended, especially with Halloween four weeks away.
KILLER KLOWNS FROM OUTER SPACE
Blu-ray Review: MAD MONSTER PARTY
Jonathan Stryker (Facebook); Jonathan
MONSTER PARTY is a relatively obscure treat from 1967 that primarily made its
rounds to movie theaters as a Saturday and Sunday matinee film for children. Made by Rankin and Bass, the same production
team who famously brought RUDOLPH THE RED-NOSED REINDEER to television five
years earlier, MAD MONSTER PARTY is a stop motion musical that is the obvious inspiration
for Tim Burton's THE NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS (1993), boasting an infectious
musical score and a cavalcade of talent voicing the eclectic assortment of titular
Boris von Frankenstein, voiced by Boris Karloff who had one of the greatest
voices in the entertainment industry, decides to hang up his lab coat and turn
his castle and duties over to his less than capable nephew Felix Flankin (Allen
plans to make this announcement at a gathering of monsters that includes a
dim-witted monster he has created, the monster's mate (voiced by Phyllis Diller
who recently passed away at 95), his lab assistant Francesca (Gale Garnett), Dr.
Jekyll & Mr. Hyde, Dracula, the Werewolf, the Creature from the Black
Lagoon, The Invisible Man, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, the Mummy, and a King
Kong-like ape), and a creepy Peter Lorre-like character. Naturally, Felix goofs up everything, which
causes the monsters to conspire to eliminate him and find out the secret that
Frankenstein his unearthed, as the film hurtles towards its BLADE RUNNER-like
by a terrific musical score, MAD MONSTER PARTY was originally released on
Embassy home entertainment in the mid-1980s. This release, along with the
film's scarce television airings, was sourced from very dark 16mm prints,
making it difficult at times to see the action.
The opening credits referred to the availability of a soundtrack album,
however one was never released at the time. It took nearly 20 years for a now
defunct record company, Percepto Records, to finally issue the music on compact
disc, which is long out of print.
the film's original camera negative was reportedly damaged many years ago, rendering
it unusable. Whether or not it still exists, is anybody's guess. Fortunately, a
pristine 35mm print, which possesses a minimum amount of dirt and scratches at
the head and tail of each reel, survived and has been used for the new
Blu-ray/DVD combo release now available from Lionsgate. The Blu-ray is a revelation and the film has never
looked this good before. It is framed in
the 4 x 3 (1.33:1) ratio, but on widescreen monitors and televisions the image
can easily be expanded to 16 x 9 (1.78:1) without looking contorted.
the Blu-ray and the DVD have the following extras that have been ported over
from the Lionsgate DVD release from 2009:
Monster Party: Making of a Cult Classic" featurette (14:47)
"It's Sheer Animagic! Secrets of Stop-Motion Animation" featurette
with Mark Caballero and Seamus Walsh (9:35)
Ghouls: The Music of Mad Monster Party" featurette with Maury Laws (3:45)
Two bonus sing-along tracks for kids of all ages: "Our Time to Shine" and "One
new Blu-ray is a worthy step up from the standard DVD and worth the purchase.
Great for Halloween!
MAD MONSTER PARTY
DVD Review: THE TALL MAN
By Dave Dreher
- FOLLOW ME ON TWITTER
Sep 27, 2012, 2:59
I love a movie that surprises me from start to finish and
I'll be damned if THE TALL MAN doesn't do just exactly that.
What an unexpected little gem this one is and I can't urge
you strongly enough to head out to you local video haunt and pick this one up
Like probably the rest of my generation of horror fans when I
hear the words THE TALL MAN one thing and one thing only come to mind, Angus
The PHANTASM films have cemented that character in my mind
for all eternity but this TALL MAN has nothing to do with that TALL MAN.
There will be spoilers a head so please, proceed with
caution if you don???t want to know important story segments. Just stop here and go check it out, it???s
The town of Cold Rock is dying. No jobs, no money and the town is just barely
holding on. Poverty is rampant and folks
and their families are living in broken down trailers and shacks, it's not a
pretty scene and in this drab, unforgiving environment we are introduced to
Julia Denning. A local nurse whose husband,
the respected town doctor, has passed away and Julia is trying to hold it all
together with her daughter and young son and through her eyes we meet many of
the down trodden town folk and also learn of the local legend of THE TALL MAN
who is deemed responsible for a rash of child disappearances that have plagued
Things take a violent, personal turn when one night THE TALL
MAN breaks into Julia's home and takes her young son. An impressive chase sequence ensues and Julia
moves heaven and earth to get to her son.
It's also at this point that the film starts to morph and a series of
twists to the story arc really keeps you on the edge of your seat.
Jessica Biel really gives a tour de force performance
playing down her knock out good looks and really getting down and dirty as this
hard working mother who will stop at nothing to find her son.
What really impressed me was the ability of director Pascal
Laugier whose previous film MARTYRS was a bloody, vicious but beautiful work to
take this slower, more character driven story and really make it riveting. The story is beautifully written and it
unfolds at the perfect pace to keep the evolving tale and the surprises it
holds hitting the viewer at just the right time.
You've got to give this one time, got
to invest a little of yourself into it.
Not a lot of bloodshed, not a lot of high action but this one that
sticks with you and you find yourself thinking about long after the end credits
In a genre where the fans like to bitch
about "original" ideas and "remakes" killing the genre it's nice to see someone
take a chance and push the boundaries of the genre with a well written,
character driven piece that puts intelligence ahead of blood shed and feelings
ahead of boobs and sex jokes. I liked
THE TALL MAN, I like it a lot and if you give it a chance I think you'll like
it as well.
THE TALL MAN is available now from
IMAGE Entertainment. Go get it!!
THE TALL MAN