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Non-Review Review: The Monster Squad

The Monster Squad is an affectionate celebration of the monster movies of yesteryear, written from the point of view of a generation that grew up with the Universal Horror monsters. When Dracula conspires with his monstrous brethren to conquer the world, it’s up to a gang of plucky kids and their knowledge of horror movie tropes and clichés to stop the lord of the vampires from swaying the balance of good and evil once and for all. It’s an understandably cheesy celebration of those old monster movies, one that benefits from never taking itself or its subject matter to seriously. However, there’s a deep and abiding affection to be found in The Monster Squad, a polite and endearing salute to the iconic monsters of the thirties (through the fifties) from a generation that has its own scary subjects to worry about.

Staying under wraps…

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Non-Review Review: Bride of Frankenstein (1935)

The monster demands a mate!

I always feel a little strange that I don’t completely love Bride of Frankenstein. James Whale’s Universal Monster movies are all among the very finest in the subgenre, and each of the three collected in this blu ray boxset are well worth the price of admission. And I really like Bride of Frankenstein. It’s great fun. It has a tremendous energy and surreal “buzz” around it that makes the movie fly by, no matter how many times you’ve seen it.

Whale has, as with Frankenstein and The Invisible Man, managed to draw together a fantastic cast, some amazing production design, a willingness to acknowledge the hokey nature of the material and the highest technical skill in pretty much every aspect of the finished project. And yet, despite that, Bride of Frankenstein never really feels like a single unified film. Rather, it’s a bit like the eponymous monster, strange bits and pieces from all manner of sources brought together and stitched up in a way that is far more aesthetically pleasing than its direct predecessor. I just find, personally, that with Bride of Frankenstein, the sum of the parts is actually much greater than the whole.

Scream queen…

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Non-Review Review: The Mummy (1932)

The Mummy is often unfairly dismissed as an inferior attempt to emulate the success of Dracula. It’s from the same writer, John L. Balderston, and the credits are even set to the same music – the powerful Swan Lake theme that opened that other iconic horror. I’d argue that the influence of Frankenstein can also be keenly felt on the picture, and not just in its leading actor. However, I think The Mummy is often unfairly overlooked when examining the Universal Monster Movies, playing more like a creepy existential romantic epic than a conventional creature feature horror film.

He needs his beauty sleep…

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Non-Review Review: Frankenstein (1931)

We are about to unfold the story of Frankenstein, a man of science who sought to create a man after his own image without reckoning upon God. It is one of the strangest tales ever told. It deals with the two great mysteries of creation – life and death. I think it will thrill you. It may shock you. It might even – horrify you. So if any of you feel that you do not care to subject your nerves to such a strain, now’s your chance to – uh, well, we warned you.

James Whale’s Frankenstein tends to be overshadowed by its sequel, The Bride of Frankenstein, as perhaps the definitive take on the mad scientist and his creepy, tragic monster. While the script for Universal’s 1931 Frankenstein is occasionally a bit too loose for its own good, it’s still a stunning piece of classic monster movie cinema. I had the pleasure of watching the recent blu ray release of the film, and it looks just as good now as it ever did.

“It’s aliiiive!”

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Non-Review Review: The Raven (1963)

Part of me longs for the day that Edgar Allen Poe might get a cinematic adaptation befitting his work. I’m a huge fan of Poe, who is an author who seems destined to receive more cinematic homage that straight-up adaptation. So, despite having relatively little to do with the poem of the same name, is the epic team up of Boris Karloff, Vincent Price, Peter Lorre and Jack Nicholson worthwhile? Well, The Raven is almost too camp even for me.

I did say “almost.”

The Price is right...

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Non-Review Review: Targets

Targets still feels quite a bit ahead of its time, which is quite something for a film intended to transition between the classic horror monster movies and the more sinister and grounded modern horrors. Indeed, Boris Karloff’s last starring role seems to prefigure a shift in the type of horror movies flooding the cinemas, years ahead of the more iconic and mundane “slasher” icons who succeeded Dracula and Frankenstein as the monsters at the matinée. Targets is an intriguing and remarkable little film, charmingly understanded and perhaps appealing for the lack of pomp it attempts to generate.

The horror!

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What Measure is a Monster? or Sympathy for the Devil…

I loved Super 8. It was just a wonderfully made coming-of-age tale that paid excellent homage to those old Spielberg films (even those he produced, like The Goonies, not just the ones he directed). However, as I got thinking about the film, and the plot that focuses on a rather ugly-looking alien escaped from government custody, I did find myself somewhat conflicted in what to make of the menace. Was it a poor victim of torture and inhumane treatment at the hands of the United States military, or was it a genuinely evil creature that deserved to be put down? It’s interesting how Abrams manipulates us into feeling sympathy for the creature, despite the fact it tends to feast on innocent human flesh.

Well, it's certainly alien...

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