All posts by Jamal Bashir

Looking Back: PIECES

PIECES(1982)

Directed by Juan Piquer Simon

Starring Lynda Day George, Ian Sera, Christoper George, Frank Brana, and Jack Taylor

I just finished watching Pieces, and I have to say that this slasher exceeds expectations. The story is a very solid whodunit, and the kills were disturbing, but great.

Here’s a quick synopsis: A young boy named Timmy is putting together a puzzle of a naked woman. His mother sees this and demands that he gets a bag to throw the puzzle away. However, he returns with an ax and dismembers her. Forty years later, the viewer is taken to a college campus where some bizarre deaths occur.

I liked how the story keeps you guessing as to what Timmy’s role is at the campus. I will not reveal it because you’ll definitely have to watch this film to find out. You will be surprised. The kills are graphic, but with a purpose.

In addition to the surprisingly good story and the bizarre kills, the ending is very memorable. It is shocking along the lines of Friday the 13th and SleepAway Camp.

What else can I say about Pieces? All I will tell you is that If you want a great 80s slasher, this one comes highly recommended. My score: 8.5/10 (Add to your horror library)

WONDER WOMAN 1984

Directed by Patty Jenkins

Starring Gal Gadot, Chris Pine, Pedro Pascal, and Kristen Wiig

Wonder Woman 1984…how can I describe this film without giving away any spoilers?   Well, I will have to say that this is an ambitious, very superhero-laced movie that provides the emotional depth which will make you curious about Wonder Woman’s future adventures. Even though there were some elements that needed some strengthening, this movie kept me engaged from beginning to end.

This sequel is ambitious in the sense of the message it was trying to convey: the theme of being careful of what you wish for, because it will come at the expense of losing something more valuable.

Wonder Woman 1984’s beginning sequence is very strong, which was a great start for the movie. Gal Godot’s performance is a little stronger in this one..her performance with Chris Pine is a good showcase of their chemistry, as always.

We also received more of the “superhero” vibe, meaning the character showcased more of what she can do such as the lasso tricks in dealing with her enemies, her power of making things invisible, and her flying through the sky.

Now I will be honest and say that there were some elements that needed polishing. The way Steve Trevor returned is an example. Again, I will not give anything away, but it brought more questions that were unnecessary. Kristen Wiig gave a decent performance as Cheetara, but I felt that her transformation from “needy” to having similar powers to Diana needed strengthening. Pedro Pascal also gave a solid performance as Maxwell Lord, but it was not memorable in my opinion.

Overall, despite some questionable plots and scenes, Wonder Woman 1984 is an enjoyable film. This movie may not work for everyone, but if you’re a fan of the character, and you like superhero movies with an intriguing premise, this comes highly recommended. My score: 8.5/10(Watch in the theater if you can)

Looking Back: The Fly(1986)

WARNING!! (For those who have not seen this film) This review may contain some spoilers!

The Fly(1986)      Directed by David Cronenberg

Starring Jeff Goldblum, Geena Davis, and John Getz

I’m working on something that will change the world as we know it,” announces Seth to Veronica, the journalist who is looking for a good story. This sentence, in my opinion,  provides the set-up to this movie’s basic premise: A scientist who develops a major breakthrough with the idea to change the world, but a mistake creates some unfortunate results.

The Fly centers on Seth, a scientist who creates a device that teleports objects from one pod to another. Soon after he succeeds with a living organism, he decides to perform the act on himself. However, a fly goes into the pod without his knowledge, resulting in a genetic fusion of man and insect.

This film is a very engaging hybrid of horror, sci-fi, and romance. Jeff Goldblum’s(Seth) and Geena Davis’s(Veronica) romantic chemistry was impressive. I felt that their attraction developed a little quickly, but overall their relationship was organic and believable. The story kept me engaged, and the practical effects still holds up to this day. Those effects definitely made you believe that Seth was plausibly turning into a fly.

If you’re looking for a great Body-Horror movie that blends sci-fi and romance quite effectively, The Fly comes highly recommended. My score: 8.5/10(Add to your horror collection).

Hidden Horror Gems: SleepAway Camp

SleepAway Camp(1983)

Directed and Written by Robert Hiltzik

Starring Felissa Rose, Jonathan Tierston, Paul DeAngelo, and Karen Fields

When it comes to hidden horror gems, Sleepaway Camp definitely fits that definition. Honestly, I’ve never heard of this film until recently, but I am glad that I discovered it. I was so impressed with this movie, that I had to purchase a copy.

Released in 1983, this film centers on Angela, a shy girl whose family is killed in a boating accident. As a result, she goes to live with her eccentric Aunt Martha and her cousin Ricky. Years later, Aunt Martha sends the two children to camp, where some mysterious and bizarre deaths occur.

Sleepaway Camp is both impressive and provocative. It is a well-paced, solid whodunit. The idea of using actual children gives you an authentic “life at a camp” feeling, and their overall performances were very engaging and memorable. Even though the kills were not too graphic, the practical effects were solid. And the ending..well, there is a reason Sleepaway Camp has one of the greatest plot twists ever in horror. You’ll just have to watch the film to experience it.

Not to sound like a commercial, but your collection will not be complete until you pick up a copy of this movie. Make sure you get the Shout Factory! Edition to watch the extras and gain more insight into this unique slasher. My score: 9/10(Add to your library)

Another Look: A Nightmare on Elm St. 2: Freddy’s Revenge

A Nightmare on Elm St. 2:  Freddy’s Revenge(1985)

Directed by Jack Sholder

Starring Robert Englund,  Mark Patton, Kim Meyers, and Robert Rusler.

I haven’t seen a Nightmare on Elm St. 2: Freddy’s Revenge in awhile, so I decided to watch it again, and perhaps gain another perspective. Yes, I am aware of the controversy that surrounds this sequel, but when I first saw it I was very young, and honestly, I didn’t see the subtext. There are other videos and reviews that cover that subtext if you want to look more into it. Controversies aside, I will say that this entry is an intriguing take on the Nightmare canon, and it deserves another look.

This sequel takes place 5 years after the first one. It focuses on Jesse, a teenager that has moved into Nancy’s old house on Elm St. As to be expected, Freddy Krueger invades his dreams. His goal is not to kill Jesse, but to use him as a conduit to enter into the real world. The movie starts off very strong with the scene of Freddy driving the school bus, tormenting Jesse and the other characters riding it. I will not give the entire movie away, but there are quite a few scenes that gives Freddy’s Revenge more of a psychological-slasher vibe.

There aren’t many graphic kills, but the effects work is impressive. The story is well written with stellar performances by Mark Patton(Jesse) and Kim Meyers(Lisa). The dynamic between those two is so engaging, that I wish that they were further explored in some of the sequels.

This entry in the franchise..you have to admire the risk the filmmakers took when they allowed Freddy into the real world, basically giving a different angle to the Nightmare lore. Also, Freddy is more menacing and scarier, not having the comedic tone we see in the future sequels.

A Nightmare on Elm St. 2: Freddy’s Revenge may be considered underrated to some, but I will suggest that you take a different look at this one because of the risks, giving you another angle on Nightmare’s world. This film, in my opinion, is one of the definitions of an authentic horror movie. If you haven’t seen this one, I’d suggest you watch it and add it to your collection. My score: 9/10-(Collection-Worthy)

Looking back at the Animated Classics: 101 Dalmations

101 Dalmations(1961)

Starring the voice talents of Paul Wexler, Mary Wickes, Barbara Luddey, and Lisa Daniels

This may come as a surprise, but I just saw Disney’s 101 Dalmations for the first time.    And I have to say that after watching this classic,  I was very impressed with the story.

I don’t want to assume that everyone knows the plot, so for those of you are unfamiliar with the movie’s premise, it centers on a Dalmation couple, Pongo and Perdita. The two go on a mission to rescue their puppies from the fashion-obsessed Cruella DeVille.

101 Dalmations not only had a well-paced and impressive story, but the characters’ performances were engaging and memorable. Another particular aspect of this animated feature that I admired was the vast network the canine community created to help any dog in need. For example, when the humans were unable to find the puppies, Pongo’s friend The Great Dane, helped them find their children through his contacts and vast “barking” network.

I don’t want to give away the whole movie, but if you’re an animation fan who wants a good adventure, 101 Dalmations comes highly recommended.   My Score: 8.5/10(Add this to your collection).

Looking Back at Remakes: Maniac

Maniac(2012)

Directed by Franck Khalfoun

Starring Elijah Wood, America Olivo,  and Nora Arnezeder

Sometimes, remakes do not live up to the original. Other times, remakes are impressive to the point that they are their own films. Maniac(2012) belongs to that latter camp.

This more hi-gloss update of the 1980 slasher flick centers on Frank Zito, a man who has an insatiable lust for killing and scalping women. He soon meets Anna, an artist who asks for his help with her exhibit. Maniac asks if she will finally be the one who stops his lust, and perhaps give him a sense of the love he has always wanted.

One compelling aspect of Maniac is that it is shot in full POV, allowing us to see the movie through Frank’s eyes. I admired that because this makes the movie unique, not being a carbon copy of the original.

This film is more glossy and a little more artsy than the original. The performances and the overall mood gives you an eerie feeling, but I admit that you don’t get a real sense of intense fear until the third act. The kills are interesting, and if you are into blood and gore, this slasher is for you.

If you liked the original Maniac, you owe it to yourself to give this one a watch.  However, if you haven’t seen the original, that is fine.  I think you will still find this intriguing and enjoyable.  My score: 8/10(Add to your collection).

Hidden Horror Gems: StageFright

StageFright(1987)

Directed by Michele Soavi

Starring David Brandon,  Barabara Cupisti, Domenico Fiore

I discovered this movie Stagefright after watching a countdown of Giallo films, and I’m glad that I saw this one. At first, I thought it was going to be another typical slasher, but I was surprised at how engaging this movie was.

Here’s the basic premise without giving away any spoilers: An actor with a mental condition escapes an asylum and goes into a theater where a group of actors are rehearsing for a musical production.

A lot of ingredients made this film a must-see. I was impressed by the engaging story, excellent performances, soundtrack, the decent kills, and the gripping tension. If you are looking for a slasher that does not have the usual tropes, Stagefright comes highly recommended. My score(8.5-Add to your collection)

Looking Back: Hollow Man(2000)

Hollow Man(2000)

Directed by Paul Verhoeven

Starring Kevin Bacon, Elizabeth Shue, Josh Brolin, Joey Slotnick,  Mary Randle, Kim Dickens, Greg Grunberg, Willian Devane, and Rhona Mitra.

I watched Hollow Man  for the first time in over a decade, and I have to say that this movie is still impressive. What would you do if you couldn’t be seen? That is the question this movie explores. It also asks you to imagine the idea of gaining a new power, and then deciding on how to use it, for good or for evil.   Not to start comparing, but this film effectively examines the theme of invisibility more than The Invisible Man(2020), in my opinion.

For those of you who are not familiar with the plot, here is the basic premise: A research scientist decides to makes himself invisible, but his new ability produces some unfortunate results.

There’s a lot that can be said about Hollow Man, but this review may turn into a term paper, lol. However, you can not deny that the mix of sci-fi and horror, and the top-notch performances, particularly Kevin Bacon’s role as the main research scientist, gave the viewer some thoughts on the dynamics of invisibility and its effects on individuals and the larger society.

If you haven’t seen this film, you should definitely watch it and add it to your collection. My score: 9/10(Add to your library)

Looking Back: Sorority Row

Sorority Row(2009)

Directed by Stewart Hendler

Starring Brianna Evigan, Leah Pipes, Rumer Willis, Jamie Chung, Audrina Page, Julian Morris, Margo Harshman, Matt Lanter, and Carrie Fisher

I just watched Sorority Row the other night again, and I have to say that this slasher is enjoyable. How else can I describe this movie? It has a great cast, the engaging story has a nice whodunit element, and the kills are very creative. If you haven’t seen this House on Sorority Row remake, I’d highly recommend checking this one out and adding it to your collection. My score: 8.5/10(Add to your collection)