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April Fools Day (1986) – This ‘too straight faced for its own good’ horror film tries to separate itself from the pack of what then roamed the cinematic horror movie landscape.  Instead of falling into the killer with a gimmick and a quip genre that defined the age, Fools eagerly tries to carve itself out a place in the history of trickster cinema.  A group of college chums head off to an isolated mansion for a weekend of booze and sex with their best friend Muffy hosting   After a lot of setup one nincompoop after another wonders off into a dark corner and never returns.  It’s a notch above the decade’s trashier efforts but despite the attempt to be different the overall result is not much more than a lackluster slasher effort with a twist ending most people should spot a long way off.  Sometimes taking the high road gets you nowhere.

Nightbreed (1990) – A wild idea with lots of potential gone unbelievably wrong.  Clive Barker’s ambitious monsterfest surely inspired the adoration of Guillermo Del Toro as the creatures from this film would be right at home in a Hellboy flick.  The makeup effects are almost worth the effort to sit through an otherwise completely incomprehensible serving of monster schlock.  Craig Scheffer plays Boone, a guy suffering wild nightmares filled with ghastly beasts of all kinds.  Boone visits a shrink played with surprising sense of creepy by David Cronenberg.  The shrink convinces Boone he’s killed dozens of people in his sleep.  Boone takes off for a cemetery where all the creatures of his dreams live underground.  He’s killed by the police but comes back to life and becomes one of the monsters.  The shrink wants into the land of monsters where Boone has gone.  There’s a worried girlfriend who wants Boone to be human again.  Freaks galore wonder the landscape.  It goes on and on and on and on and on.

Each and every scene of this mess feels as if crucial information has been sliced away, leading the movie to feel like a haphazardly designed jigsaw puzzle with it’s pieces jammed together whether they fit or not.  Example, the cemetery where all the monsters and freaks live is just there.  It takes no effort to get to or enter.  You just drive there and walk in and there’s the freaks.  It’s well documented that Barker had to edit out about 25 minutes of material to make the studio happy.  Maybe that 25 minutes makes all the difference in the world.  Maybe the movie would still be junk.  I’d bet a few bucks the truth lies somewhere in between.  It’s an interesting mess as it is and those fond of creature effects should love it but if you wait around for it to make sense, you’ll wait in vane.

The Innkeepers (2011) – Director Ti West is an admirable student of the less is more horror film.  His 2009 effort The House of the Devil wasn’t all flash and gore and morons walking into death.  It was a slow burner horror effort that unfortunately culminated in a goof ending that made the slow journey getting there feel like a bit of a waste.  The Innkeepers feels similar.  It’s a textbook haunted house effort that is made with just enough finesse and skill to provide some restrained scares, but its final beats skewer the overall effort.

Two hotel employees (Sara Paxton and Pat Healy) wind down their tenure at a grand old hotel about to shutter its doors forever.  With just a random guest or two,  the duo pursue their quest to find a ghost in the hotel.  Of course there is one and as demanded by such movies, it’s a meanie of a spirit.  When I say Innkeepers is textbook I kid not a bit.  West has the spooky movie playbook in his lap and he follows it step by step.  Creepy noises, ominous hallways, all slowly building into the occasional gotcha moment.  It’s routine, sort of a Shining Jr., but it works well enough even though West doesn’t kick or shake the wheels of the ghost genre.  He strips it down to its barest essentials and lays it out which would be fine, but then he dumbs up things at the last second.  To reach his mandated ending of doom West has to wade into stupid waters. His dodged refusal to shake things up or try something new screws up his movie in the last lap and the otherwise solid effort wilts in the end.  If a decent, old fashioned scare is what you want, and you don’t mind the clunker finale, Innkeepers is decent October viewing.


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