Welcome to the Crypt!

Welcome to the Crypt!

Enter the Crypt as John "The Unimonster" Stevenson and his merry band of ghouls rants and raves about the current state of Horror, as well as reviews Movies, Books, DVD's and more, both old and new.

From the Desk of the Unimonster...

From the Desk of the Unimonster...

Welcome everyone to the Unimonster’s Crypt! Well, the winter’s chill has settled into the Crypt, and your friendly Unimonster won’t stop shivering until May! To take my mind off the cold, we’re going to take a trip into the future … the future of Star Trek! Star Trek was the Unimonster’s first love, and we’ll examine that in this week’s essay. We’ll also inaugurate a new continuing column for The Unimonster’s Crypt, one written by the Uni-Nephew himself! This week he examines one of his favorite films, one that, quite frankly, failed to impress his uncle, Jordan Peele’s Nope. So enjoy the reading and let us hear from you, live long and prosper, and … STAY SCARY!

Popular Posts


Essays from the Crypt

Essays from the Crypt
Buy the best of the Unimonster's Crypt

Search This Blog

20 January, 2024

The Unimonster's Top 13 ... Star Trek Movies!


Star Trek Movies


1.)  Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982)

2.)  Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979)

3.)  Star Trek: First Contact (1996)

4.)  Star Trek III: The Search for Spock (1984)

5.)  Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (1986)

6.)  Star Trek (2009)

7.)  Star Trek: Generations (1994)

8.)  Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country (1991)

9.)  Star Trek Into Darkness (2013)

10.)         Star Trek Beyond (2016)

11.)         Star Trek: Nemesis (2002)

12.)         Star Trek: Insurrection (1998)

13.)         Star Trek V: The Final Frontier (1989)

T. L. Willis' Notes on ... Nope!


I’ve been racking my brain trying to figure out how so many people can find Nope to be so boring, monotonous, and just plain bad.  Nope is one of the recent horror/sci-fi films to truly engage me and reach something deeper than just entertainment value, in the same vein I put Hereditary.  Horror can truly be more than just blood guts and boobs, just like they put it in the movie X, “It is possible to make a good dirty movie” and I think Jordan Peele’s sensibilities as a director proves that more than most.

From the beginning he has shown himself to have a complete grasp of the medium and how to tell an effective story.  Even though I find Us to be his weakest there’s not much in there that you can point at as being bad or even mediocre.  I believe Nope to be his greatest achievement as a director although he did win an Oscar for his screenplay with Get Out which is hard to top, Nope calls back to the OG blockbuster in

Jaws in more ways than one.  There’s plenty of articles written about it, and much more thoroughly than I can do here, but that alone is enough to make me question anyone who loves Jaws and looks at Nope as some boring and plodding film.

Jordan Peele isn’t trying to pull the wool over the audience’s eyes with the themeology within, he lays everything out as plainly as possible so you can place everything together as you go. 

“But what about the MONKEY???”

That’s easily explained with the opening frame of the film when we see the Bible verse explaining exactly what it’s all about.  Spectacle and exploitation.  We as humans have exploited animals and humans for entertainment and spectacle for generations and generations.  So going from that directly into the tragedy that happens with Gordy it puts it plain as day.  Even Gordy almost breaking the fourth wall to look at the audience before cutting to the opening credits plays into what OJ says later in the film.  “Don’t look it in the eyes,” treating these animals and creatures with respect and honor instead of antagonizing them, and putting them in positions where anything could flip in the blink of an eye.

Having our main character be a horse trainer that knows how to respect and treat animals puts everything into perspective when later we see characters either treating animals poorly, or even insinuating such.  As the film goes on the main character OJ learns to respect the main “monster,” noticing its behavior is more like a wild animal than some extraterrestrial being.  Switching his perspective from it being an Alien monster they have to deal with to seeing it as an equal and treating it as such is such a fresh take on it and only adds to how compelling this film is.

The journey of every character moving from looking for glory and fame, or trying to save their ranch, to understanding and respecting these animals is one that sticks with me as someone who has always had a soft spot for animals. 

The whole movie turns from a straight up Jaws-like horror film into an almost modern Western in the 3rd act and you don’t even notice it until after.  That to me is a mark of a masterful director, and Jordan Peele in my mind is one of the smartest directors out there right now.  Every line of his scripts, every frame of his shots, every edit put into place, it all has meaning and contributes to the overall picture and theme he means to speak about.

I know themes and deeper meaning aren’t always everyone's cup of tea but Nope to me is a perfect example of a horror film that is fun and exhilarating while also saying something and saying it brilliantly.  Peele doesn’t let his themes and messages bog down the film and lets them breathe.  He knows how to balance a film and to me that’s what makes him one of the best directors out there.

I could genuinely talk and write about this film for an eternity.  This is less of a review and more so just me gushing about how much I love this movie and it kills me that so many of my friends and family members to whom I recommend it, find it to be a bad film.  I get it but at the same time I don’t really get it.  After watching it how can you not have that feeling like you just witnessed a modern epic tale?  I’m not going to say Jordan Peele himself would be disappointed, but I definitely would be.

Nope definitely has its fans, but from my experience I’ve seen far more that dislike than like. That's just a travesty to me, man. Its smartly written, masterfully shot, acted perfectly, hilarious, scary, engaging, and so many other adjectives I could use. Hopefully, though, this encourages anyone to go back and give it another shot with a new mindset and outlook on it. Maybe give it the RESPECT it deserves.


Top Ten Treks

Regular readers of this page are familiar with how my love of Horror films began with William Castle’s 13 Ghosts, watching it with my older sister at the age of five or six.  They know that I stood on line to see the most frightening film I had ever seen, Jaws, in my eleventh summer.  I saw Star Wars, Episode IV: A New Hope, when it was simply a little Sci-Fi adventure called Star Wars.  I collected comic books and monster mags.  I built model kits.  In short, I was Geek when Geekdom wasn’t cool. 

But my first love, the franchise that made me a nerd long before it was recognized as a franchise, was Star Trek.  My love of the series began when I saw my first episode, the original series episode Miri, when it had its initial broadcast on the 27th of October, 1966.  I was three month shy of being three years old, but I can clearly remember being mesmerized by the show, by the children that figured prominently in that episode, by the bold colors of the uniforms, and by the starship Enterprise herself, though it would be some time before I understood that the Enterprise was a primary reason for my love of Star Trek.  Even at that early age, I was deeply into astronauts and all things Space-related—not unusual for children of the ‘60s.  It was an easy transition from Mercury and Gemini to Starfleet.

I’m also inordinately fond of lists.  Since childhood, I’ve had a need to sort, categorize, alphabetize, and itemize all sorts of information.  From my favorite Werewolf movies to my top ten songs of 1976 (sorry, but Muskrat Love didn’t make the cut), I made a list to memorialize it.  It should come as no surprise, then, that I had lists that ranked my favorite Star Trek episodes, lists that changed as my tastes grew and matured.  By the 1990s, those lists had expanded to include several movies, as well as new Star Trek series.  To be sure not all of these were good, but all were Trek, and were to varying degrees entertaining.  Recently, we were introduced to the Kelvin timeline, which launched a new Kirk and Spock on an ongoing mission to where no one needed to go, and the streaming service Paramount+ has been churning out new Star Trek programming with the regularity of tribbles on Viagra.  The result has been nearly 900 hours of Trek, from the superb to the nonsensical.

The following is the Unimonster’s Top Ten Treks, across all series and movies, from The Cage to Hegemony, 1965 to 2023.  Like all such lists, it is highly subjective, based on my personal opinion, and is unlikely to match anyone else’s perfectly.  Still, I think most of my entries would appear on the lists of most serious Trekkers (yes, I prefer the old-school distinction between Trekkies and Trekkers), and are some of the best examples of the universe that Gene Roddenberry created nearly sixty years ago, examples of why this little Sci-Fi show, this “‘Wagon Train’ to the Stars”, has become such a phenomenon.

Without further ado, let’s countdown my Top Ten Treks.

10) “The Last Generation,” Star Trek: Picard, Season 3, Episode 10—I must admit, I have not been a fan of Paramount’s efforts to continue the Star Trek mythos.  I find their series to be too dark, too woke, and too far removed from Roddenberry’s vision of what Star Trek should be.  Stylistically, they’re poorly designed and executed, and technically, the storylines are weak and uninteresting.  I find Discovery to be Star Trek’s worst series, easily surpassing the previous bottom-dweller, Voyager.  And Picard isn’t much better.  The entire series plods along, with little rhyme or reason, until this, the series’ final episode.  With the Borg having assimilated all of Starfleet, it falls upon Admiral Picard and the crew of the Enterprise-D to come to Earth’s rescue once again, aboard the rebuilt and curated NCC-1701-D, liberated from the Starfleet Museum.  This was the ending that Star Trek: The Next Generation deserved thirty years ago, and all I can say is better late than never.  This episode reminded me that, when it was good, TNG was very good, and when it was at its best, it was among the best of Star Trek.  This episode was, for me at least, among the best of Star Trek.

9) “The Ultimate Computer,” Star Trek: The Original Series, Season 2, Episode 24—I always loved the episodes that served to expand upon the fact that the crew of the Enterprise, or Deep Space Nine, or Voyager, did not exist in a vacuum; they were part of a much larger organization, a Starfleet, tasked with both the exploration of Space, and the defense of the United Federation of Planets.  I loved to see our crew interact with the rest of the Fleet, whether casually or in times of crisis.  To see not one, but four Constitution-class starships sharing the screen with the Enterprise was guaranteed to make me happy from the first time I saw it.  As I grew older, however, it was the implication in the aftermath of the episode’s events that fueled my imagination.  How had Starfleet explained the loss of one starship, damage to three others, and the deaths of nearly five hundred officers and men?  Had they told the truth?  Had they covered it up?  It’s the unanswered questions that guaranteed this episode a place on this list.

8) “Relics,Star Trek: The Next Generation, Season 6, Episode 4—I’m a sucker for nostalgia, even if it’s just blatant fan service.  When Godzilla looked with disdain at his Americanized ‘cousin’ Zilla, in 2004’s Godzilla: Final Wars, we who were long time fans knew exactly what was going to happen—Zilla was in for an epic asskicking.  When Thor’s hammer flew into Cap’s raised fist, even Marvel Comics’ biggest detractor—your very own Unimonster—had to fight the urge to stand up and cheer in the theater.  And when Captain Montgomery Scott, Starfleet, Retired, recently rescued from the transporter pattern buffer of the USS Jenolen after seventy-five years, asks the Enterprise holodeck to recreate the bridge of NCC-1701, “—no bloody -A, -B, -C, or -D,” well, it nearly brought tears to my eyes.

7) Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan

, 1982—On the whole, the big screen hasn’t been generous to the Star Trek Universe.  Fans are well aware of the ‘Odd Movie Curse’, how those films in the series that are odd-numbered have been, to put it kindly, underwhelming.  However, even those films that are generally regarded as good have left many fans dissatisfied, plagued with continuity errors, non-canonical references, and storylines that were forgotten as soon as the end credits rolled.  The Wrath of Khan managed to avoid most (though not all) of these pitfalls, and gave fans a good script, great action, and an emotionally compelling finale.  That it is the best Star Trek film earns it a place on this list.  That it’s not better than it is keeps it from ranking higher.

6) “The Expanse,” Star Trek: Enterprise, Season 2, Episode 26—Since The Next Generation, there’s been something of a tradition that Star Trek series need a season or two (or three) to grow into their potential, to really hit their stride.  With TNG, it happened with The Best of Both Worlds, parts 1 & 2.  With Deep Space Nine, it was the second season episode The Wire.  With Voyager—well, when it happens I’ll let you know.  With Star Trek: Enterprise, though it got off to a faster start than the previous franchise entries, at least in my opinion, it still took some time to get up to speed.  By the end of the second season, however, the show was beginning to jell.  The cast was becoming comfortable with their characters, the storylines were improved over the first season, and the series was finding its place in the Star Trek Universe.  With The Expanse, Enterprise finally had an enemy worthy of the name, in the form of the Xindi, and a continuing plot that would last throughout the third season.

5) “Little Green Men,” Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Season 4, Episode 8—One of Star Trek’s strengths was its ability to examine the human condition from the outside, by the use of an alien, non-human member of the crew.  Spock was the outsider in The Original Series, as Data was in The Next Generation.  For Deep Space Nine, that role was filled by Quark, the Ferengi owner of a bar on the station’s Promenade, his brother Rom, and nephew Nog.  In this episode, our intrepid band of Ferengi wind up back in time, becoming the aliens who crash-landed at Roswell, New Mexico in 1947.  This episode shows off the lighter side of Star Trek, something that has always been a part of the various series and movies, and it’s done very well here.  Episodes such as this show that, even in a series that was the darkest of Star Trek, at least until the Paramount+ era, moments of levity could be very refreshing.

4) “Yesterday’s Enterprise,” Star Trek: The Next Generation, Season 3, Episode 15—As anyone familiar with the Department of Temporal Investigations can attest, messing with the timeline can have serious consequences, perhaps none worse than when the USS Enterprise NCC-1701-C was pulled into a temporal rift, just as it was fighting to defend the Klingon colony of Narendra III, under attack from four Romulan warbirds.  When it arrived in the time of the Enterprise-D twenty-two years later, heavily damaged with most of her crew dead or wounded, the timeline had changed.  The Enterprise-D is a ship at war, a decades-long war with the Klingon Empire—a war the Federation is losing.  Guinan believes that the Enterprise-C is the cause of the war, or rather her disappearance from 2344 caused the war.  To restore the timeline, Enterprise-C must return to her hopeless battle with the Romulans, in the hope that her certain destruction in aid of a Klingon outpost will foster respect and trust in the Klingons, leading to a peace that will negate twenty years of history.  In my opinion, this episode marked the first time that TNG became more than just a sequel to The Original Series, and revealed the greatness it could achieve when it tried.

3) Favor the Bold / Sacrifice of Angels,” Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Season 6, Episode 5-6—Okay, maybe I’m cheating a bit by picking two episodes with one choice, but it is a two-parter, and it’s impossible to enjoy one without the other—at least, in this Unimonster’s opinion.  The Dominion War was the defining arc of DS9’s final three seasons, and was the first time we truly saw full-scale warfare in the Star Trek Universe.  Not ship vs. ship, not small-scale engagements, but massive fleets meeting each other in pitched battles.  We only saw the aftermath of the Battle at Wolf 359, and while the Battle of Sector 001 certainly qualifies as a major engagement, it, like Wolf 359, was against a single Borg cube.  Never before, or since, has Star Trek taken us closer to the Federation’s destruction.  That’s what made DS9 so special, and why I believe it to be the best Star Trek series of them all.

2) “Balance of Terror,” Star Trek: The Original Series, Season 1, Episode 15—As one might quite easily surmise from the previous entries to this list, I love action, and this allegory on Cold War brinksmanship definitely qualifies on that score.  It was based on Dick Powell’s popular 1957 movie The Enemy Below, which featured Robert Mitchum and Curd Jürgens as the commander of a US Navy Destroyer Escort and his counterpart, the commander of the Nazi U-Boat he’s hunting.  The episode serves to introduce the Romulans to the Star Trek universe, with the cloaked Romulan Bird-of-Prey serving as an analog for the German Submarine, and Mark Lenard, who would soon be brought back for the far more enduring role of Sarek, Spock’s father, as the Romulan commander.  Like Jürgens’ Kapitän zur See von Stolberg, he is a man who differs with his government’s policies and plans for conquest, and like von Stolberg, he is too dedicated and professional to let his personal feelings interfere with the performance of his duties.  The result is one of the most memorable episodes of Star Trek, and my favorite Original Series episode.

1) “In the Pale Moonlight,” Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Season 6, Episode 19—Star Trek has frequently been criticized for many reasons, some valid, many not so much.  However, when Star Trek’s best writers put their minds to the task, they could create greatness, with stories that helped to define the series for the fans, and explored the meaning of humanity in the future.  Episodes such as TOSCity on the Edge of Forever, TNG’s The Measure of a Man, Family, and The Inner Light, and DS9’s Far Beyond the Stars had already established the benchmark for quality in Star Trek, though in my opinion none could compare to this, the finest forty-odd minutes of Trek that I have yet to see.  Exploring themes of just how far one should be willing to go to win a war that must be won, and whether one’s personal sense of honor is a worthwhile sacrifice to that cause, the episode focuses on Sisko’s efforts to bring the Romulans into the war on the side of the Federation and its Klingon allies.  He turns to Garak, a former operative in the Obsidian Order, the Cardassian Intelligence service, to help him accomplish that task.  Garak’s knowledge of covert operations, as well as the inner workings of the Cardassian government, would prove invaluable to Sisko’s mission.  However, he soon realizes that the price of success might be a personal one.  The story is told to the viewer in the form of flashbacks, as Sisko speaks directly to us, breaking the fourth wall as he records a private log entry.  Though the plot is fascinating, it’s the performances of Avery Brooks and Andrew Robinson that really sell this episode.  In all of Star Trek, I find it to be incomparable.  I find it to be the best of Star Trek.

So here it is.  A lifetime love of Star Trek condensed to its ten best examples—at least, in my opinion.  Yours may differ, and that’s fine—but unless you’ve been watching it longer than fifty-seven years, don’t tell me I’m wrong.  Oh, and … Live long and prosper.

06 January, 2024

Unimonster's Top 13 ... 2023 Horror Movies!


2023’s Top Horror Movies


1.)               Last Voyage of the Demeter

2.)              The Nun II

3.)              Evil Dead Rise

4.)              Totally Killer

5.)              Scream VI

6.)              Thanksgiving

7.)              Talk to Me

8.)              Meg 2: The Trench

9.)              Hell House LLC Origins: The Carmichael Manor

10.)         Haunted Mansion

11.)         Saw X

12.)         Pet Sematary: Bloodlines

13.)         Five Nights at Freddy’s

05 January, 2024

A Haunted House, English-Style


The British Horror film, and indeed, Great Britain’s entire film industry, was teetering on the brink of the precipice by 1973, brought on in part by the faltering national economy.  In the words of Sinclair McKay, “By 1973, it was not merely the old British film industry that was in a state of outright crisis; the entire nation was.”  Hammer, with Michael Carreras now firmly in control, was in a steady decline, much like an aging senior citizen, in whom one illness rapidly leads to another, and another.  That year saw the release of only one classic Hammer Horror, possibly the worst of them all; the film that made Christopher Lee hang up the cloak and put away the fangs for good—The Satanic Rites of Dracula.

Fortunately, other companies were in there pitching, and doing a much better job than Hammer’s anemic efforts.  In fact, 1973 would see the release of two very good British Horrors, The Legend of Hell House and The Vault of Horror, and one that is the best British Horror film of the decade; perhaps the best Brit Horror ever—The Wicker Man.  I have discussed that film, and my reverence for it, at length in this column.  For now, we’ll examine John Hough’s excellent Horror film, The Legend of Hell House.

Following his departure from American-International Pictures, the company that he had founded with Samuel Z. Arkoff nearly twenty years before, James H. Nicholson started Academy Pictures Corporation, in partnership with 20th Century Fox, with plans to co-produce five films.  The first would be an adaptation of Richard Matheson’s sexually charged novel, Hell House.  Matheson would write the screenplay, toning down some of the more graphic sexual elements, transforming it into something suitable for the screen, and John Hough was tasked to direct the film.  Hough, who had recently directed Twins of Evil at Hammer Films, was a good choice; he was a solid, competent, and reliable director, the type needed to bring low-budget productions in on-time and on the money.

It is Friday, December 17th, and Dr. Lionel Barrett (Clive Revill), a British physicist and researcher into paranormal phenomena, has been summoned to a meeting with Mr. Deutsch (Roland Culver), an elderly millionaire, who has a proposition for the scientist:  prove or disprove the soul’s survival after death.  Do so, either way, and earn £100,000.  There are two stipulations, however.  He must begin on the following Monday, the 20th, and he has only five days.  Five days to prove or disprove life after death.

Barrett is intrigued, but how can he accomplish that task, one that, on the surface, would seem impossible?  Deutsch’s answer is simple, though unexpected.  He must go to the one place where the possibility of survival has not been refuted.  Belasco House—Hell House.  Two previous teams have investigated the mansion; eight members of the two expeditions died.  There was only one survivor, from the last group twenty years before.  That man, Ben Fischer (Roddy McDowell), will go with Barrett to the house, as will another medium, a young woman named Florence Tanner (Pamela Franklin).  Barrett’s wife Ann (Gayle Hunnicutt) will accompany him as she usually does on his investigations, though he warns her that this will not be like any other “haunted house,” calling Hell House the “Mt. Everest of haunted houses.”

The following Monday, the group arrives at Hell House to begin their investigation.  Florence is immediately affected by the entities present in the house, though the other psychic, Ben, keeps himself closed off.  However, the two mediums aren’t the only ones experiencing unusual reactions.  Ann Barrett, a sexually frustrated woman due to her husband’s inattentiveness, begins walking in her sleep, and behaving most improperly towards Ben.  Everyone seems under some form of attack, though Florence is particularly vulnerable.  The attacks on both women are personal, and sexual, in nature.  Barrett believes that the former owner, Emeric Belasco, was such a vain, cruel, evil man, and the litany of sins he practiced and encouraged steeped the house in so much malevolent energy, that it has become like a massive battery, providing anyone with innate psychic abilities with a surge of uncontrollable power.  There are no ghosts, no surviving spirits, just the untapped potential of the human mind.  Ben is convinced it is the spirit of Belasco himself, and though Florence agrees that it is a spirit, she’s not sure it’s Belasco’s.

As the week wears on, the attacks become more violent and aggressive.  Barrett is nearly killed.  Florence is raped by what she believes is a spirit.  Slowly, however, they uncover the secrets of Belasco House, including the discovery of the chained-up body of Belasco’s son Daniel, concealed behind a brick wall.  As the week draws near its end, Barrett has plans to fight back—a machine of his invention that will counter the energies in the house, clearing the house of its stored ability to cause harm.  If his theory is correct.

Reviews were mixed for the film, though generally not positive.  Mick Martin, writing for the magazine Cinefantastique, seemed to speak for his fellow critics.  “So much that made the book a blockbuster horror story is left out of the film that I find it impossible to view it objectively, especially after experiencing The Exorcist.”  The comparison to the far superior film may be a natural one, one I’m certain many critics couldn’t help but make.  As natural as that comparison may be, however, it did no favors for The Legend of Hell House.  Though the box-office numbers for the film were decent, it was not the success for which 20th Century Fox and Academy Pictures could have hoped.  Appreciation for the film has grown in the intervening years, however.  Andy Boot, in discussing the film, lays its lackluster performance on a lack of promotional spending. 

“The last film of 1973 was one that could—shock for shock—rival The Exorcist.  The only thing letting it down was the budget—not because of the actual production quality, but simply because it could not be hyped ... This is the type of horror movie that is impossible to do justice in print.  Kinetic and visually stunning, it is a superb piece of craft that needs to be seen to be appreciated.”

James Nicholson (R), and Samuel B. Arkoff (L).

A significant difference from contemporaneous reviews, one might safely say.  The Legend of Hell House was the first film produced by Academy; there would be only one more.  In December of 1972 James Nicholson, the creative force behind the birth of Teensploitation and the Drive-In Movie, died of a malignant brain tumor.  His last production, Dirty Mary Crazy Larry, would be released eleven months after The Legend of Hell House.

06 November, 2021

In Defense of Halloween III


Recently, I put forward three opinions of mine that I felt were not likely to be shared by many in the Horror community.  As I explained at the time, I have never minded swimming against the tide of popular opinion, and had I not limited myself to three such opinions, then the article would’ve been a book.  But if I had made the list four opinions long, then the fourth might have been the most controversial of all—I happen to think that Halloween III: Season of the Witch is a pretty good movie.

Now, before effigies of the Unimonster are lit ablaze for this heresy, let me explain.  In 1982, I was as disappointed and angered as everyone at the blatant head-fake on the part of everyone connected to the film, especially John Carpenter and Debra Hill, who made it a condition of their involvement in the project that it not be a sequel to the first two films, thus forcing the decision to not have Michael Myers in this movie.  As with most fans, in the days before spoilers, scripts, even the completed films could be leaked on the internet months in advance, I went into the theater for Halloween III expecting to see my favorite Slasher once more carving his way through the population of Haddonfield, Illinois.  And like most, if not all, fans, I left unhappy with what I watched.

Halloween III was quickly forgotten in the flood of much better Horror films that seemed to appear on a weekly basis in the 1980s.  In time Michael himself would return to the screen, in the aptly named Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers, and all would once more be right with the franchise.  Well, as right as it could be when discussing the Thorn trilogy films.  And for most of the next twenty years, I seldom thought about Halloween III; I certainly didn’t go out of my way to watch it again.

In October 2000, however, I began collecting Horror movies, in order to occupy my mind and fill my time in the wake of my divorce.  The collection was to have no boundaries; new, old, good, or bad, if it was a Horror film, then I wanted it.  As a consequence of that choice, I was forced to reevaluate my opinions on a number of movies.  Some that I had once loved had aged badly in the years since I had last seen them, leaving me sadly disappointed.  A few, however, like fine wine had improved with age, developing a character and quality that had eluded me upon my initial exposure years earlier.  Halloween III is one of these.

In 1982 I was too focused on what the movie was not to appreciate it for what it was.  The eighteen-year-old Unimonster wanted a Michael Myers Slasher film and didn’t get one.  The fifty-seven-year-old Unimonster looks at it on its own merits, and sees a good movie, one capable of entertaining even so jaded a viewer as me.  Not perfect, not a great film by any standard by which one might choose to measure it.  Then again, most films aren’t.  Viewers are content with most movies if they can simply be described as “good.”  If I watch Halloween III today and see a good movie, how did I not see it then?

It has long been my contention that there was only one real mistake made in the development of the third Halloween movie, and that was making it a Halloween movie in the first place.  Had it simply been titled Season of the Witch, without a misleading connection to the Michael Myers Halloween

films, there would have been no preconceptions about the movie, thus no disappointment at it having failed to live up to them.

I’m not saying that the movie doesn’t have problems quite apart from the expectations of the audience going in.  The plot has holes large enough for the cast to walk through; said cast, with the possible exceptions of Tom Atkins and Dan O’Herlihy, not so much stumbles as they meander listlessly through their performances; and the Silver Shamrock jingle, carrying the signal that will activate the deadly microchips in the masks, is so annoying one finds oneself wishing that it did actually melt brains, if only for some relief.

But those negatives are balanced against some very positive points.  The concept is very good, even if the execution was somewhat lacking.  The masks, created by Don Post Studios, were very effective, and are still popular among fans and collectors.  And while most of the performances left quite a bit to be desired, both Atkins and O’Herlihy were on point.  Tom Atkins is one of my favorite actors, and he doesn’t disappoint here, and Dan O’Herlihy can chew scenery with the best of them.

Halloween III will never be a favorite of mine and will always rank near the bottom of the list when it comes to the Halloween franchise, with only the two Rob Zombie efforts earning a lower score.  On its own, however, it can surprise a viewer.  Just forget how bad Halloween III was and open your mind to how good Season of the Witch can be.

24 October, 2021

Horror All Night Long: the Joys of All-Night Drive-In Horror-thons


How one was first exposed to the joys and frights of Horror films has much to do with when that first exposure took place.  For those fortunate enough to be there at the beginning, their first taste of horror came in a theater, as the classic Universal Monsters first thrilled audiences.  If that initial experience happened in the late 1950s, then in all likelihood it came in the form of a local Horror Host, airing twenty-year-old cheesy movies to a late-night weekend audience, while dressed in a goofy outfit and doing his best to sound like Boris Karloff or Bela Lugosi [any resemblance to a certain Vampire Count of my acquaintance is purely a coincidence].  And to those of us who spent our formative years in the 1960s and ‘70s patronizing the local Drive-In Theater, there was a regular ritual in which we took part at least once a season, often once a month.  That’s when, apart from the routine Friday or Saturday night visits to our favorite ozoner, we would indulge in the All-Night Horror Movie Marathon, or Horror-thon.

Often used as a way to package films too played out for a regular run, even for easy-to-please Drive-In crowds, the Horror-thon was just another example of the need exhibitors had to wring every possible cent out of their venues, especially in the troubled decade of the ‘70s.  The decline of the Drive-In was well underway by the middle of the decade, exacerbated by the 1974 OPEC (Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries) oil embargo, and the resultant Energy Crisis, which had a profound effect on all industries dependent upon the American love affair with the Automobile, Drive-In theaters included. 

Another cause of the industry’s poor health, though still in nascent form, was the growing Home Video revolution.  While the battle still raged between VHS and Betamax to determine which format would become dominant, there was no longer any doubt that home video was the wave of the future, and that the ability for consumers to own copies of their favorite films, for them to enjoy in the privacy and comfort of their own homes, and at their convenience, would strike a severe blow to motion picture exhibitors at every level of the industry.  In order to fight back, theaters in general, and ozoners in particular, had to constantly strive to give the consumer more bang for their buck, and in so doing were faced with ever shrinking profit margins.  Keeping their establishments going all night long, while screening cheaply-acquired films that would bring in a guaranteed audience, was an economically safe bet.

However, the youthful Unimonster was blissfully ignorant of the socio-economic motivations behind these all-night fright-fests.  When I was a ten-year-old Horror fanatic, voraciously devouring everything I could in the way of monsters and scary movies, these dusk-to-dawn bacchanalias of terror were a godsend, an easy way for this young MonsterKid to feast upon the latest and greatest Low-Budget Horror available.

The first time I saw Night of the Living Dead was at just such a festival of fear and the same holds for such classics as Blood Feast, Children Shouldn’t Play with Dead Things, and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.  Movies as diverse as The Navy vs. the Night Monsters, Shriek of the Mutilated, and both Dr. Phibes films were screened for my eager enjoyment at such events, as were a panoply of Hammer’s finest Horrors, the titans of Toho, and the sexy, sensational, salacious Horrors from France, Spain, and Italy.

One might be inclined to say that I was on the young side for viewing many of these films, and I would, of course, be forced to agree.  However, I was blessed with an older sister possessed of three great attributes: a vehicle with a spacious trunk, a susceptibility to a little sibling bribery and/or blackmail, and rather liberal attitudes on just what constituted appropriate viewing for her younger brothers.  Suffice it to say that, the MPAA ratings notwithstanding, even as a ten-year-old I managed to see whatever I wished.

Today, in the age of streaming media, round-the-clock movie channels, and video-on-demand, the notion of sitting in one’s car overnight, to watch movies on an outdoor screen, in the company of squadrons of mosquitoes seems rather quaint—if not completely ludicrous.  And that’s sad, really.  Because those of us who shared the joys of warm summer nights under the stars, watching blood-spattered images flicker across the screen, gained so much more than just the movies we watched. 

We gained the indelible memories of how we watched them—and fell in love with Horror films for the first time.