February 2021 Review: The Best and Worst Movies I Saw Last Month
Updated: Feb 6
Okay, I don’t really want to talk much about last month because as someone living in Texas, it was rough. The movies I watched were also largely disappointing. Despite that I was able to watch 38 movies.
WORST #3) The Alien Dead (1980); Director: Fred Olen Ray; United States
A meteor crashes in the swamplands of a small Southern community causing a few observers to turn into ravenous zombies. These zombies decimate the local alligator population before turning their attention towards the human population nearby. A local scientist attempts to get to the bottom of the situation before more of the townsfolk fall victim to the undead predators. The Alien Dead is a really hard movie to get through and it proves to be an endurance test every step of the way. While I understand it was released in 1980, I know that they had better technology to make a film look decent back then. Tons of films, low budget or otherwise could do it. The film itself is so trashy in quality that viewers can barely tell what’s going on half the time. The lighting is miserable and inconsistent, the effects are abysmal, and pretty much every technical aspect of the film is cringe. Don’t even get me started on the nauseating performances put on by the cast because it is too painful to recall. All of this could be forgiven in some sense if there was any sense of humor or camp in it, but it takes itself so seriously! The Alien Dead is best left forgotten in the swamps, or rather, your Amazon queue.
Overall Score? 1.5/10
BEST #3) Nosferatu the Vampyre (1979); Director: Werner Herzog; West Germany, France
A remake of the classic 1922 film, Nosferatu the Vampyre is a faithful retelling of the acclaimed Bram Stoker novel “Dracula”. Jonathan Harker makes the month-long journey to Transylvania in hopes of selling a house in Wismar to rich shut in Count Dracula. Upon arrival Harker is met with distrust from the locals and strange behavior from his host. After some deception, Harker is left locked in the castle and besieged with a mysterious ailment while Count Dracula steals away in the night to Wismar, bringing pestilence and death in his wake. This chilling and contemplative late 70s film is incredibly tense and unwavering in its vision. With strong characterization and dark imagery, this iteration of the archetypal Eastern European vampire story is an uncomfortable experience. Overflowing with folklore, melancholy, and rats, this tale stays true to the roots of the story of Dracula and the mythology behind vampires before they were popularized by modern media. Another strong positive to this film is its fantastic cast. Klaus Kinski’s performance of Count Dracula, in particular, is inspired and draws on fewer antisemitic tropes than earlier adaptations and the source material do. For fans of spellbinding folk horror and genre enthusiasts, look no further than this must-watch standard.
Overall Score? 7.5/10
WORST #2) Feeders (1996); Director: Jon McBride, John Polonia, and Mark Polonia; United States
Aliens have crash landed in a small town near the forest and are feeding on the locals. Two friends on a road trip stop in the town to get gas and take pictures when they are thrust into the mystery of the creatures. Various people they interact with are targeted by the creatures until the hapless duo are surrounded in an empty house in the woods. Feeders is a godawful film. It had to have been a joke, right? No one could think that this movie was really worth the price to keep at any random Blockbuster video in the 90s, right? I can’t fathom why anyone would spend $500 to make this and think it is acceptable to unleash upon the public. Hyperbole aside, this film has everything you could possibly want in an awful film: Z-grade acting, aimless writing, dollar craft store effects, embarrassing title sequences, repetitive scenes and dialogue, you name it and Feeders has it. Going into this movie, I knew it was going to be rough based on the IMDb score and reviews, but man, I didn’t expect it to be so terrible. I at least expected to laugh! I didn’t even get that satisfaction from it. If you have an appetite for anything entertaining, Feeders will not satiate you.
Overall Score? 1.5/10
BEST #2) From Beyond (1986); Director: Stuart Gordon; United States
Full disclosure before I start with this review, I may or may not have seen this film before this month. There were some discrepancies with my watchlist and I had recorded it somewhere but not elsewhere. Regardless, the film felt familiar but I could only recall seeing one scene, which could have been from a trailer. I decided to treat it as a new watch because my original score was incredibly off.
An adaptation of an H.P. Lovecraft short story, From Beyond starts off with two scientists from Miskatronic University developing a machine, the Resonator, to interact with other realities. After a disastrous experiment claims the life of the lead researcher, a psychiatrist takes the institutionalized physician back to the house where the horror started to recreate the experiment in an effort to free him from his confinement and gain notoriety in her field. Once they set up camp and repair the Resonator, things begin slipping back into the chaos. From Beyond is a bonkers science fiction horror film that throws a lot at the viewers. Bizarre creatures, specters made of malleable flesh, and a world parallel to our own threaten the safety and sanity of the group tasked with performing this experiment. While the effects are a little dated, they are incredibly well-done for their time, they create some pretty grotesque and imaginative creatures. Bright lights and beautiful cinematography help elevate the film to something beautifully macabre. Solid performances, strong characters, and a great script make for an overall invigorating and creepy viewing experience. You don’t have to look too far to find something wickedly fun in From Beyond.
Overall Score? 7.5/10
WORST #1) Feeders 2: Slay Bells (1998); Director: John Polonia, Mark Polonia; Country
Okay, I did a double feature of the Feeders movies early on in the month and I couldn’t stop after I saw the first one. I’m a masochist and I am valid! Feeders 2: Slay Bells takes place during Christmas. Presumably unsatisfied with their previous attempts to take over the world, the aliens decide that Christmas in a sleepy suburban town is their best bet for world domination. Once they arrive, they begin killing people indiscriminately without any noticeable plan or strategy. We are treated to some commentary of the survivor of the previous Feeders film who talks with crazed bug eyes about how aliens will take over the world. The same actor also plays the patriarch of the family that is being targeted by the aliens? It’s never really explained, but I’m sure the explanation would have been unsatisfying if it were. Take all of the problems of the first film and magnify them. I’m actually impressed that after starting from literal rock bottom that this group sunk further down with this entry. Everything, especially the effects and acting, are noticeably worse. And that says a lot about a movie that even the Syfy Channel wouldn’t touch with a ten foot pole. There’s no Christmas cheer in Feeders 2: Slay Bells, just alien Christmas disappointment.
Overall Score? 1.5/10
BEST #1) The Haunting (1963); Director: Robert Wise; United Kingdom
Based on the Shirley Jackson novel, “The Haunting of Hill House”, The Haunting tells the fascinating story of a house that consumes all those who inhabit its dark walls. Dr. John Markway has assembled a team of psychics and the descendant of the house’s current owner to perform a series of experiments in its supposedly haunted halls. Among these guests is Eleanor, an insecure and troubled woman with a sad past and a remarkable sense of closeness to the spirits that live in Hill House. An absolute classic, The Haunting is still an incredibly affecting film. Tense, uncomfortable, and overall seeping with dread, director Robert Wise masterfully crafts an atmosphere that stays with the viewer long after watching. We are treated to fantastic world-building as we learn of the fates of those who reside in the infamous Hill House and the true nature of why those gifted with psychic abilities are asked to journey to its perilous wonders. Julie Harris gives an excellent performance as the tortured Eleanor, vacillating between madness and extreme self-consciousness. She operates as both unlikable in her actions yet incredibly familiar and sympathetic in her situation and fear. She’s a great, memorable character along with the bold and charming Theodora, played by Claire Bloom, whose character is known for her lesbian undertones. Fans of classic horror theater will find comfort and joy in this solid supernatural horror story.
Overall Score? 8.5/10