House (1985)

Review by Carson Hearne

Running Time: 1 hour 33 minutes

MPAA Rating: R for adult situations, language, and violence

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Written by: Ethan Wiley and Fred Dekker

Directed by: Steve Miner

Starring: William Katt, George Wendt, Richard Moll, and Kay Lenz

From Friday the 13th reoccurring director, Steve Miner, comes a fun, dimwitted horror film filled with wonderful make up and creature effects. House does a great job of using great imaginative ideas in a creative way. The delivery of the film is generally very shaky and at times feel more like the pilot to a Tales From The Darkside reboot series (take that or leave it as you will). If it tells you anything about what kind of film this is, the story was written by the director of Night of the Creeps and The Monster Squad and also went on to direct many Tales From The Crypt episodes.

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Roger Cobb (William Katt) is a Vietnam vet turned successful horror novelist. After his son goes missing while at his elderly aunt’s house, and soon after the aunt kills herself, Roger decides that it is a good idea to stay in his aunt’s house to write his new novel based on his Vietnam experiences. Weird occurrences go on late at night, and demons both mental and physical can’t be driven away. Roger begins to wonder if there is more going on with the house than he originally expected.

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This is not a great film by any means, it may not be even a good film. But, it is definitely a blast for anybody who enjoys cheesy good stories and great special effects. I do have a big problem understanding what House is really trying to be, though. It’s like the writers were unsure if they wanted it to be serious or goofy, and it makes you uncomfortable when they put all these deep elements that don’t work into the mix. House has great comedic sequences though, and succeeds at showing the life of a well known author.

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Most of this film really feels like a high budget made for television or direct to video flick. The acting is sub-par from every actor and actress and the development really feels like it would work better on prime time than on the big screen. There are some very interesting ideas strewn throughout, but unfortunately the execution of the ideas really fall flat due to the unprofessional take on the story. I can definitely see where the love for this film comes from, though.

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There is some good scare tactics in this film that make up for some of the faults. It’s all really just bad storytelling but still a lot of fun. Roger’s flashbacks to Vietnam could have been executed in a better way by the kids in my freshman video class, honestly. But, even then, you still are having so much fun watching these goofy ass cliche sequences of the tough soldier and the captain that nobody likes, and it tries so hard to make you care about these characters while being made with every lazy story shortcut they could muster up.

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In the end, it’s just exactly what it is, a bunch of crazy effects made to wow you, which work. Plus, a very sloppily written story that fails at half of what it sets out to achieve. Then, a very amateurish cast that pulls me back a little bit further from having an all out fun time. Still worth giving a watch in my opinion if you’re into goofy horror comedies that would probably do better as a 30 minute episode rather than a feature length film.

Grade: C

Carrie (1976)

Review by Carson Hearne

Running Time: 1 hour 38 minutes

MPAA Rating: R

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(based on the novel by Stephen King)

Written by: Lawrence D. Cohen

Directed by: Brian De Palma

Starring: Sissy Spacek, John Travolta, and Piper Laurie

Carrie White is a pop culture horror icon that came from the mind of the widely acclaimed Stephen King. Growing up as a big King fan, I hold a special place for a large amount of his work and films adapted from his work. I have previously read Carrie before watching this film for this review. With a new look towards this film, It really doesn’t hold up as well as the book does. But, it still does the best it can and has some of the greatest performances and editing in horror film history.

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Carrieta White (Sissy Spacek) is the poor, laughing stock of the school. Raised in a bible thumping household, Carrie knows nothing outside the bounds of what her mother (Piper Laurie) will allow. After a confrontation occurs in the girl’s locker room over the knowledge (or more lack there of) menstrual processes. Out of pity, a young girl asks her boyfriend (William Katt) to ask Carrie to prom. But, what people don’t know is that Carrie has a special power. A power to disrupt her environment without moving a muscle. Will this end in happiness or heartbreak?? Life or death?? Anybody who has seen the theatrical poster probably knows the answer.

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I’ve always had a big problem with Carrie adaptions for the fact that they fail to cast Carrie correctly. Yes, Sissy Spacek is an amazing actress and kills (quite literally) as Carrie. But, Carrie is supposed to be the average chubby, underappreciated girl with zits you can find at any high school in the U.S., not the good looking actresses that always seem to be cast as Carrie. As a Stephen King adaption, Carrie is great as it stays pretty close to the book and has it’s own cinematic spin on the story. However, as a Brian De Palma film, it is definitely nowhere near his best work.

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The chemistry between Sissy Spacek and Piper Laurie is dreadfully realistic. I find myself cringing in intensity throughout their entire sequences together. They both were nominated for Best Actress in a lead and supporting role. The film from beginning to end is very slow up until the notorious prom climax. There are a few scenes that keep you going, but more often then not, I found myself having trouble keeping my attention on the film due to it’s average teenage drama build with some extraordinary occurences.

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Carrie is a must watch for horror/De Palma/Stephen King fans, no matter what though. Despite any flaws I found to pick out, this film is easily one of the best horror films adapted from King’s work, under Misery and The Shining. This film is very easy to find, and more likely than not, you’ve already seen this film. I personally don’t have the love for Carrie that I know many other people possess. Carrie has been praised to death, and for relatively good enough reason. A good watch that’s worth buying for your October season.

Grade: A-

Five Easy Pieces (1970)

Review by Carson Hearne

Running Time: 1 hour 38 minutes

MPAA Rating: R for sexuality/nudity and some language.

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Written by: Adrien Joyce and Bob Rafelson

Directed by: Bob Rafelson

Starring: Jack Nicholson, Karen Black, and Susan Anspach

Five Easy Pieces is another film from BBS, directed by Bob Rafelson (dir. Head) and starring Jack Nicholson (Easy Rider) now in the lead role as the Nicholson we know and love. On my BBS marathon, I’ve found Five Easy Pieces is easily my favorite film thus far as it is very personal and bitterly realistic. The situations littered throughout the film are incredibly uncomfortable and charming in an unsettling way. Five Easy Pieces shows an avante-garde story displaying the blue collar worker in the most blatant and unapologetic way.

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Bobby Dupea (Jack Nicholson), a former piano prodigy, is the perfect definition of a narcissist. He moves from place to place and makes ends meet where he can while doing everything in his power to lower the self-esteem of his girlfriend Rayette (Karen Black). After a long string of temper tantrums, unfaithfulness, and long nights out, Bobby loses his job and visits his sister at her recording studio. Upon learning of his estranged father’s illness that has pushed him close to death, Bobby takes a trip up the country to make amends with his past with Rayette following close behind.

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This whole film is driven by the brilliant performance of Jack Nicholson as he takes his destructive path across the country. He plays Bobby with a rebellious attitude that is a staple Jack Nicholson role that he plays many times throughout his career. There is a lot of fun to be had here as you see Nicholson go on his unpredictable rampages and even at the subtlest moments spit out insults and degrade anybody who crosses his path. His sincere disrespect for other people is what makes Five Easy Pieces so believable and is one of the main reasons this is my favorite BBS film so far.

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The soundtrack adds an atmosphere to the film that benefits the ideas and general mood of the film as a whole. The two types of music you’ll find in this is female sung country songs (which I usually wouldn’t be too keen of but it definitely works in this case) and classical piano music which both enhance these scenes substantially. Karen Black also does a great job combating Nicholson and plays the unintelligent blonde who will lower her standards just to make her boyfriend satisfied.

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“I move around a lot because things tend to get bad when I stay. And I’m looking… for auspicious beginnings.” Even with the many unlikable traits of the supreme asshole anti-hero, you can’t help yourself but love the charm that is given off by Nicholson. The cinematography from the very first shot to the final shot, that is held on to for an extended period of time, really just put you in the shoes of the protagonist and does an amazing job at making you feel his alienation and the constant need to make a living somewhere. The deep orange sunsets and dull blue ocean as well as many other beautiful vignettes make the film really visually stunning.

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Overall, Five Easy Pieces is a must see film if you wanna see pre-One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest Jack Nicholson flaunting his true ability to perform. A staple in rebellious cinema and one of the most interesting films that I’ve ever seen. The complexity of the characters, especially Nicholson’s Bobby Dupea, make you fall in love with every piece of this film in it’s own way. Definitely get your hands on this and give it a watch, if you haven’t!

Grade: A+

Easy Rider (1969)

Review by Carson Hearne

Running Time: 1 hour 35 minutes

MPAA Rating: R

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Written by: Peter Fonda, Dennis Hopper, and Terry Southern

Directed by: Dennis Hopper

Starring: Peter Fonda, Dennis Hopper, and Jack Nicholson

Continuing my BBS marathon is one of the most American films ever made, Dennis Hopper’s Easy Rider. This film is a perfect definition of America during the huge Woodstock hippie counterculture of the late 1960’s. Packed full of drugs and sex and plenty of rockin’ tunes to put you in the mind of a rebellious teen in an age of misunderstanding. With an amazing performance by Jack Nicholson, an acid trip that dips into very dark territories, and an ending that ends the film with a bang.

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Billy (Dennis Hopper) and Wyatt “Captain America” (Peter Fonda) travel from Los Angeles to New Orleans on their bikes to find somewhere they can enjoy themselves. Along the way they meet some warm welcomes and some very cold scolds from traditional Americans. They also come across a Texan lawyer (Jack Nicholson) that has always wanted to travel outside his home state to experience the world who joins along with them after getting them out of jail.

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“What you represent to them is freedom….¬†they’re gonna talk to you, and talk to you, and talk to you about individual freedom. But they see a free individual, it’s gonna scare ’em.” Jack Nicholson spouts out this wonderful set of quotes by a campfire while conversing with Dennis Hopper’s character, Billy. Nicholson brings a ton of heart into this film and without his presence, Easy Rider would not be as amazing as it ends up being. One can conjure up much joy from seeing Jack Nicholson’s wide grin and goofy dance when he brings out his old football helmet to go out on the road with some hippies.

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Most of this film is taken up with the protagonist’s riding their bikes out on the road while great 60’s music plays. There is an insane Mardi Gras acid trip in which Peter Fonda gets very personal with a statue that Dennis Hopper supposedly told him to talk to like his mother who had committed suicide while he was very young. There also are some hints towards rape and out of body experiences as the LSD takes hold of these characters we’ve come to love. There are also a couple big climaxes that will make your stomach flip and take every bit of comfort you have and strip you of it.

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Easy Rider is an ingenious fresh vision of American society that was well deserving of the acclaim it attracted and the awards it received from Cannes. The raw depiction of the generation of elderly vs. youth is enough to earn a watch for this incredible film of a very controversial time in American history. Definitely give Easy Rider a watch if you can get your hands on it!

Grade: A

 

Head (1968)

Review by Carson Hearne

Running Time: 1 hour 25 minutes

MPAA Rating: G

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Written by: Bob Rafelson and Jack Nicholson

Directed by: Bob Rafelson

Starring: The Monkees (Peter Tork, Davy Jones, Micky Dolenz, and Michael Nesmith), Victor Mature, Teri Garr, Carol Doda, Annette Funicello, Frank Zappa, Sonny Liston, Timothy Carey, and Ray Nitschke

How to describe the 1968 BBS film, Head, accurately? A psychedelic concert film starring The Monkees that’s also an anti-war mish mash of satirical comedy. That would be a great representation of what this 85 minute film entails. Although, it’s still such a hard film to really nail down because of wild and rampant it is. The one thing I can guarantee to anybody wishing to view this film is that you will have an absolute blast even with the lack of a real narrative.

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Head is a mix mash of different stories and musical performances that goes hand in hand with the popular counterculture of the 1960’s. The Monkees get into many difficult situations which each reflect the United States negatively. These situations take on such topics as Hollywood, Vietnam, Imperialism, and Consumerism as well as many others. An insane trip down the rabbit hole that begins and ends with a giant plunge.

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It’s really hard to review this film for the fact that it’s very self explanatory and there’s really nothing bad you can distinguish. But, it’s so out there that distinguishing all the good is just as difficult. I personally enjoyed this film immensely and think that it exemplifies everything about the 60’s perfectly. If you want to see a feature length experimental acid trip that tackles some really deep topics than this film is perfect for you. But, if you’re looking for a traditional story with serious substance, then this film will do nothing for you.

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The soundtrack of this film is one of the greatest things about the film. Prior to viewing this film, I had only heard of the Monkees and had not heard any of their material. This film showed me how original and enjoyable their music really is with some songs I found to be very reminiscent of the sound that had later been used in The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Also, the film was written by a young Jack Nicholson who had just incorporated himself with the BBS production company and would later bring us highly acclaimed films such as Easy Rider and Five Easy Pieces (which I will get into later in the coming months). Nicholson also makes a blink and you’ll miss it cameo in this film when it breaks the fourth wall on the studio set.

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In conclusion, Head is a strong film with an amazing sense of energy and political commentary. It’s an incredibly fun film and probably would be an amazing discovery to any stoner looking to trip out over something other than Cheech and Chong or Dazed and Confused or the average Seth Rogan flick. If that doesn’t tell you enough about the audience intended for this film.

Grade: B+

 

 

 

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