HORRORS! ANOTHER WEEKEND AT THE MOVIES - Home
ET TWO, ‘PSYCHO’?
For Hicksflicks.com, Friday, Oct. 23, 2020
EDITOR’S NOTE: This 37-year-old column was about a movie I had not yet seen but which had become so highly anticipated that I couldn’t resist some speculation. When ‘Psycho II’ did eventually open, my review was mostly positive, with reservations about the final act. Still, reading his again amused me; hope if makes pleasant reading for you as well. This was a ‘Hicks On Flicks’ column published under the headline, ‘After 22 years in a padded cell … ,” on May 8, 1983.
“Psycho” is one of my favorite horror movies.
The shower scene, of course, was so perfectly realized and terrifying that people took baths for months after the film’s release. Then there was that horrific house on the hill above the motel. And the final scene with Anthony Perkins as Norman Bates, sitting in his padded cell, thinking to himself that he was so serene, “I won’t even swat that fly.”
Well, next month we’ll find out if he ever did swat that fly.
“Psycho II” is coming. And whether that’s good news or bad news, depends on how you feel about the original film, Alfred Hitchcock’s work and the films made by the many pseudo-Hitchcock directors who imitate him.
Regardless of how you feel about it, though, it’s coming, with Anthony Perkins reprising his infamous role as the man obsessed with his taxidermic mother, returning home after spending 22 years in an institution. Vera Miles will also be on hand once more (she played Janet Leigh’s sister, the one who ultimately found Norman’s mother in the basement).
Janet Leigh, 'Psycho' (1960)
That such a sequel was made, coming out 23 years after the original, is unusual, of course. That it retains two of the original cast members is even more unusual. The real surprise, however, is the advance word we’re getting on the picture.
Reliable sources suggest the film is actually quite good on its own merits, that even though Richard Franklin — the Australian director of “Patrick” and “Road Games,” both rather Hitchish — is an admitted bona fide Hitchcock freak and has paid homage to his mentor in every scene, “Psycho II” apparently has some twists and turns of its own that are guaranteed to jolt you. And it’s reportedly relatively bloodless, despite the R rating.
That the script is by Tom Holland, author of the horrid “The Beast Within,” excites me less, but let’s not forget that even Hitch had some clunkers.
When the project was first announced I had natural misgivings. I’ve always considered “Psycho” a consummate picture, and I’m never too thrilled about modern moviemakers messing with classics, anyway (I can’t bring myself to turn on the TV version of “Casablanca”). But the more I thought about it, the more intrigued I became by the idea of “Psycho II.”
Then I began to come up with my own little scenarios.
What if Bates came home and we found out he didn’t murder Janet Leigh after all? How about if Vera Miles killed her own sister and put the blame on Bates? Or what if there was an extension of “Psycho’s” final moment, when the car is being pulled out of the lake? Suppose the trunk contained another stuffed body, this one of Bates’ father, and a connection developed between the Bates family, and that of Miles and Leigh? Or what if ghostly spirits came into the picture?
Too wild? Perhaps, but I’ll bet whatever surprises “Psycho II” comes up with are no wilder.
The one element that causes me to still be wary, though, is a photo included in the press kit that recently arrived form Universal Pictures: Young actress Meg Tilly in a shower.
It’s hard for me to believe that after all the films that have spoofed “Psycho’s” shower scene (Brian DePalma’s “Phantom of the Paradise,” Mel Brooks’ “High Anxiety,” etc. – even Perkins himself on TV’s “Saturday Night Live”) any audience can see a similar moment crop up in the sequel without laughing.
HORRORS! ANOTHER WEEKEND AT THE MOVIES
For Hicksflicks.com, Friday, Oct. 2, 2020
Low-budget independent features again make up most of the seven new movies opening this weekend, which are again dominated by horror films. Not that October is unique to horror; we’ve seen a lot of them lately. Well, I guess someone has seen them. Not me.
“A Call to Spy” (PG-13). During World War II the British government commissions a special undercover female-spy operation to build an anti-Nazi resistance force. Based on the true stories of Virginia Hall, an American agent with a wooden leg; Indian Muslim Noor Inayat Khan, aka Nora Baker; and their recruiter Vera Atkins (played by the most recognizable actress here, Stana Katic, who played Beckett on the TV series “Castle”).
“Save Yourselves!” (R). A hip Brooklyn couple realizes they’ve become so addicted to their phones that they’re losing touch with each other, so they unplug in a secluded upstate-New York cabin for a week, which causes them to be out of the loop when the planet comes under alien attack in this sci-fi comedy.
“Death of Me” (R). Vacationing off the coast of Thailand, a couple (Maggie Q, Luke Hemsworth) awakens hung over and with no memory of the night before, but when they watch a video from their camera, it appears that one of them has murdered the other.
“Tar” (R). Underground construction in Los Angeles awakens a creepy creature beneath the La Brea Tar Pits. With Graham Greene, Timothy Bottoms and Max Perlich.
“Possessor” (R). Horror/sci-fi jumble has a corporate assassin (Andrea Riseborough) inhabiting other people’s bodies to carry out her missions until it begins to take a toll and she finds herself inside a man (Christopher Abbott) whose controlling mind threatens to take over hers. With Sean Bean and Jennifer Jason Leigh.
“The Call” (PG-13). In the fall of 1987 four small-town teens terrorize a local woman they believe has wronged them, but when a prank backfires they find themselves on the receiving end of terror in her home. Horror staples Lin Shaye and Tobin Bell star.
“Bring the Soul: The Movie” (PG-13). This concert documentary spotlighting the seven-member Korean group BTS (aka the Bangtan Boys), is the film that preceded “Break the Silence: The Movie,” which opened last week.
Over on the “classics” side — not my word for most of these but the label the theaters have slapped on them — the latest entries include “Beetlejuice,” “Hocus Pocus” and “The Addams Family” (1991), all obvious attempts to bring in the family crowd for semi-Halloween movies. (The stores aren’t the only ones getting a jump on the Oct. 31 celebration.)
Along with “Now You See Me,” “Rocky Horror Picture Show,” two entries in the “Conjuring” universe, “Annabelle” Creation” and “The Nun,” “Crazy Rich Asians” and “The Secret Life of Pets 2,” local theaters are also bringing in … and this really stretches the “classics” label … the raunchy, R-rated “Bridesmaids,” “Girls Trip,” “Magic Mike” and “Trainwreck”!
And these titles are still hanging around: “The Empire Strikes Back,” “Akira,” “Jurassic Park,” “The Goonies,” “Back to the Future,” “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone,” “The Fast and the Furious,” “How to Train Your Dragon” and “Despicable Me.”
Lots to choose from if you’ve tired of movies at home and are willing to chance the coronavirus, despite theaters taking the usual distancing/masking/sanitizing precautions.
For Hicksflicks.com, Friday, Oct. 23, 2020
EDITOR’S NOTE: Most of the old reviews I post here are of movies that are being newly reissued on Blu-ray or DVD but my review of the original ‘Tremors’ is in this space because a new sequel is being released — ‘Tremors: Shrieker Island,’ No. 7 in the franchise — and it features as a goofy sidekick to Michael Gross, Utah native Jon Heder (yes, Mr. ‘Napoleon Dynamite’ himself). I haven’t watched it yet (from the trailer, it appears to have borrowed liberally from ‘Jurassic Park’ and is played with camp humor) but it’s available on Blu-ray and DVD, and the usual streaming sites. My ‘Tremors’ review was published in the Deseret News on Jan. 23, 1990.
"Tremors" is a throwback to the old ’50s creature features — you know, "The Blob," "Them!" "Tarantula."
But "Tremors" recognizes that its premise — in this case giant sandworms that look like they were lifted from "Dune" — is ridiculous, so it makes the clever choice of presenting itself as both monster movie and comedy.
Kevin Bacon and Fred Ward ("The Right Stuff," "Remo Williams") are a pair of modern-day cowboys working as "handymen" in the Nevada desert near a small town called Perfection when they stumble upon the worms.
Kevin Bacon, Fred Ward, Reba McEntire, 'Tremors' (1990)
They join the town's few residents in trying to destroy the creatures, and when that fails they attempt to get into the rocky hills where the worms are unable to tunnel.
Among the townfolk are a pair of overzealous survivalists, well-played by Michael Gross (the father on TV's "Family Ties") and country singing star Reba McEntire, who have an arsenal in their bomb shelter.
There's definitely a campy tone to most of the laughs but Bacon and Ward are deadpan as they make wisecracks, resulting in a satisfying combination of humor and horror.
Like many of those monster movies of old, "Tremors" never tries to explain exactly what these creatures are: Oversized worms? Humongous snakes? Overactive shoelaces?
But it's funny enough and scary enough to while away 90 minutes, and, as you might expect, the special effects are first-rate as the monsters tunnel at high speeds, tracking their human prey.
"Tremors" is rated PG-13 but there is an abundance of profanity and enough violence, with accompanying glop-and-goo special effects, that you might want to steer young ones elsewhere.
Hi. I'm Chris Hicks.
But if you're looking for Chris Hicks the Australian rugby player or the American recording-industry executive or the Major League Baseball player or the author of "Think" or the singer-songwriter or the former basketball player, you're in the wrong place.
I'm Chris Hicks the movie guy from Salt Lake City. If that's who you're looking for, welcome to my website as I enter the 21st century … a little late (May 2013).
This site is all about movies, well mostly, and it's also about me, I guess, but I'll try to keep my ego in check.
My goal, my hope, is that you will be able to browse the pages here and be alerted to or reminded of some great movie you've never heard of or forgotten about. In other words, something that might enhance your movie-watching experience, whether it's by Alfred Hitchcock or Joss Whedon, or stars Audrey Hepburn or Jennifer Lawrence or someone you never heard of. And I've also tried to make it fun.
The bulk of stories and reviews here are gleaned (with permission) from my 40 years of writing about film for the Deseret News, a daily newspaper in Salt Lake City, with side trips here and there to other entertainment forms.
I'm no longer writing for the D-News so this is mostly archival stuff, primarily from the Deseret News but also from my 13 years with KSL Television and Radio, as well as other sundry freelance things I occasionaly come across in my deteriorating hard-copy files.
Hope you enjoy my little site. If you do, tell your friends. If you don't, just say you couldn't find it.
For Hicksflicks.com, Friday, Oct. 23, 2020
EDITOR’S NOTE: During my 20-year movie-critic career, none of my reviews touched a nerve as much as this one. I thought ‘Ghost’ was just OK — but when it became a monster hit (no pun intended) local fans came after me with complaining calls and letters to the Deseret News, my primary employer, and to KSL TV and Radio, where I worked part time.
Nary a week went by for a couple of months when someone didn’t call into ‘The Movie Show,’ a call-in radio program that Doug Wright and I did each Friday, to rake me over the coals. And for years after the picture left town we still had occasional callers dressing me down about it. I would explain that I didn’t dislike the film … I just apparently didn’t like it enough.
Anyway, here’s that original review, since ‘Ghost’ is returning to local theaters for a two-day run this weekend, courtesy of Fathom Events and Turner Classic Movies — Saturday and Sunday, Oct. 24 and 25. My review was published in the Deseret News on July 13, 1990.
And here it should be noted here that in addition to being a blockbuster box-office success, ’Ghost’ was nominated for Academy Awards for best picture and best editing, as well as for Maurice Jarre’s score. And it won for best screenplay by Bruce Joel Rubin and this is the film that earned Whoopi Goldberg her best supporting actress Oscar. So you see — what do I know?
"Ghost" — not to be confused with "Ghost Dad," despite some inherent resemblances — is the story of a really nice banker (Patrick Swayze) who is murdered and finds himself locked in some kind of spirit world where he must remain until his murder is solved.
At least that's how it seems — though there are lots of other ghosts wandering around the streets of Manhattan who, for some reason or other, can't get to heaven either.
Learning he can communicate with a phony psychic (Whoopi Goldberg), Swayze uses her to make contact with his girlfriend (Demi Moore). He needs her help to find the motive for his being killed.
Whoopi Goldberg as a psychic demonstrates with ghostly Patrick Swayze that spirits should be heard ... for felt ... and not seen in 'Ghost' (1990).
But "Ghost" is so superficial and there are so few supporting characters of any depth that it's very easy to figure out who the bad guy is — despite attempts to make this movie a mystery of sorts. (In fact, neither Swayze nor Moore seems to have any friends or relatives at all.)
Swayze eventually manages to solve the mystery, with Goldberg's and Moore's help. And he benefits from a lesson in learning to move physical objects by concentrating with a grimace (just as Bill Cosby does in "Ghost Dad"), under the tutelage of Vincent Shiavelli, who offers a wonderful and all-too-small role as a territorial ghost who rides the subways.
Swayze, on the other hand, is called upon to do little more than look perplexed and/or frustrated, while Moore has lots of close-ups as she cries.
Goldberg is funny and brings the film to life single-handedly in her scenes, but she's so out of sync with the overall tone it's as if she wandered into the wrong movie.
"Ghost" is a mix of too many genres (the ending looks like the conclusion of "Close Encounters of the Third Kind") and a rather wrong-headed romance. We already know they can't get together.
If you want a ghost/mortal romance that does work, rent "The Ghost and Mrs. Muir."
"Ghost" offers only infrequent pleasures. It is rated PG-13, despite violence, sex, partial nudity, profanity and vulgarity.
For Hicksflicks.com, Friday, Oct. 23, 2020
EDITOR’S NOTE: ‘Wolfen’ is being reissued on Blu-ray by Warner Archives as one of four films in a set of 1980s horror flicks, the others being ‘Innocent Blood,’ ‘The Hunger’ and ‘Body Snatchers.’ Of those, ‘Wolfen’ is the best. My review was published in the Deseret News on July 27, 1981.
“Wolfen” purports to explain the thousands of disappearances that mystify police in American cities each year.
Those people are eaten by wolves, of course.
The film gives the impression that we are entering werewolf territory here — hot on the heels of “The Howling,” which placed werewolves in modern-day California, so why not a story about the same in modern-day New York?
Gregory Hines, left, Albert Finney, 'Wolfen' (1981)
But these aren’t men uncontrollably becoming wolves. They are actually wolves — wolves that have lived on the land since long before the white man came and who have developed extrasensory perceptions, as well as strength that allows them to strike and hide secretively, helping them remain undetected for centuries.
The overall film concept is told in the style of the current spate of “slasher” films, that is from the killer’s point of view, with the added dimension of a sort of computerized negative-reversed image and amplified sound. A Steadicam helps give the movement an even flow.
All of this is pretty effective, and as detective Albert Finney tries to track down whatever is doing the killing, the suspense builds in an exciting and horrifying fashion.
Unfortunately, the film begins to get awfully gory (including a wolf jumping at a man’s throat and decapitating him) and the shocks begin to be outweighed by the repulsiveness of what we see on the screen. (The sex is PG stuff; this is rated R for the violence and profanity.)
Finney is very good as the world-weary cop and Gregory Hines (he was the tap-dancing slave in “History of the World, Part I”) is his match as a pathologist. Diane Venora in her first film has a thankless role as Finney’s assistant, but she shines so we’re bound to see her in the future.
“Wolfen,” the first fictional feature directed by Michael Wadleigh (“Woodstock”), is a chilling horror movie for the most part. The filmmakers successfully take us beyond our disbelief of the strange premise and plunge us into a very believable unreality.
Gerry Fisher’s cinematography is also worthy of note, with excellent lighting in the night scenes and smart handling of the new computer technique.