Archive for Jeffrey Combs

The Frighteners

Posted in Comedy, Horror, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , on December 17, 2013 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

In 1990, architect Frank Bannister loses his wife Debra in a car accident. He gives up his profession, letting his unfinished “dream house” sit incomplete for years. Following the accident, Frank gains the power to see ghosts and befriends three: Cyrus, a 1970s gangster, Stuart, a 1950s nerd, and the Judge, a gunslinger from the Old West. The ghosts haunt houses in the area to accumulate work for Frank’s ghostbusting business; Frank then “exorcises” the houses for a fee. Most locals see him as a con man.

Frank cons local health nut Ray Lynskey and his wife Lucy, a physician. Ray dies of a heart attack not long after. An encounter with his ghost leads Frank to discover that an entity representing himself as the Grim Reaper is killing people and marking numbers on their foreheads that only the psychic can see. Frank’s wife Debra had a similar number when she was found.

Because Frank can see the numbers ahead of time, he can foretell the murders, but this puts him under suspicion with the police, even Sheriff Walt Perry, who is usually patient with Frank. He calls in FBI agent Milton Dammers. Highly paranoid, obsessive and disturbed from years of undercover work, Dammers is convinced that Frank is psychically responsible for the killings. Frank is captured and detained after the town’s newspaper editor-in-chief Magda Rees-Jones is killed – she has previously publishing articles attacking him. During the confusion of the arrest, the Judge “dies” when he tries to protect Frank from the Reaper.

Lucy investigates the murders and becomes a target of the Grim Reaper. She is attacked while visiting Frank in jail, but they escape with the help of Cyrus and Stuart, who are both dissolved in the process. Frank wants to commit suicide to stop the Grim Reaper. Lucy helps Frank have a near-death experience by putting him into hypothermia and using barbiturates to stop his heart. Dammers abducts Lucy revealing that he had been a victim of Charles Manson and his “Family” in 1969.

In his ghostly form, Frank confronts the Grim Reaper and discovers that he is the ghost of Johnny Bartlett, a psychiatric hospital orderly who killed 12 people about 32 years earlier, before being captured, convicted, and executed. Patricia Bradley, then a teenager, was accused as his accomplice, although she escaped the death penalty due to her underage status. Lucy resuscitates Frank and they visit Patricia. Unknown to them, Patricia is still in love with Bartlett and on friendly, homicidal terms with Bartlett’s ghost. Lucy and Frank trap Bartlett’s spirit in his urn, which Patricia has kept. The pair make for the chapel of the now-abandoned psychiatric hospital hoping to send Bartlett’s ghost to Hell.

Patricia and Dammers chase them through the ruins. Dammers throws the ashes away, releasing Bartlett’s ghost again before Patricia kills him. Bartlett’s ghost and Patricia hunt down Frank and Lucy. Frank realizes that Bartlett’s ghost, with Patricia’s help, was responsible for his wife’s death and the number on her brow.

Out of bullets, Patricia strangles Frank to death, but Frank in spirit form rips Patricia’s spirit from her body, forcing Bartlett to follow them. Bartlett grabs Patricia’s ghost, while Frank makes it to Heaven, where he is reunited with Cyrus and Stuart along with his wife Debra. Bartlett and Patricia’s spirits claim they will now go back to claim more lives, but the portal to Heaven quickly changes to a demonic looking appearance, and they are both dragged to Hell. Frank learns it is not yet his time and is sent back to his body, as Debra’s spirit tells him to “be happy.”

Frank and Lucy fall in love. Lucy is now able to see ghosts as well. Frank later begins demolishing the unfinished dream house and building a life with Lucy while the ghost of Dammers is riding around in the sheriff’s car.

REVIEW:

A couple of years ago, AMC was showing The Frighteners as part of some scary marathon they were having at a time that wasn’t Halloween. I can’t remember what else was shown, but I know that Fright Night was shown either before or after this. I didn’t get the chance to watch for whatever reason, but I did say I was going to eventually get to it and, well, you get the picture.

What is this about?

Blending humor and horror, director Peter Jackson’s outlandish tale centers on shady psychic detective Frank Bannister (Michael J. Fox), who uses his ability to communicate with the dead to boost his business. But when a sinister spirit is unleashed and members of the community are mysteriously killed, the P.I. — with the help of a comely widow (Trini Alvarado) — must use his powers to get to the bottom of the supernatural slayings.

What did I like?

Balance. Horror comedies seem to be the type of films that everyone either love or hate, depending on if they swing toward the horror or comedy side of thing more. In this case, I believe we have a good balance between the two genres in this film, thanks to some good performances from the cast and decent direction from those on the other side of the camera.

Question. As the paranoid FBI agent, Jeffrey Combs is great. He actually reminds me of some shifty gangster turned stool pigeon from those old gangster movies, but that may be because of the hair. I wonder if he used this character as a basis for his voicing of The Question in Justice League Unlimited years later, because they have very similar timbres, except Questions isn’t insane…at least not in the same way.

Plot. I’m a little shaky as to my opinion on the plot, but if it gives an excuse to have a bunch of ghosts running around, then you can’t really complain, I suppose. The way the film climaxes is pretty nice. As a matter of fact that whole final sequence in the asylum (when did asylums become so scary, btw?) is a big payoff with all the shooting, stabbing, falling elevators, decaying floors and whatnot.

What didn’t I like?

Length. Can this be? Peter Jackson directed a film that was under 3 hrs? Even better, it doesn’t have that stretched out, padded feeling. Or does it? For me, at nearly 2 hrs, I felt this was a bit too long. Cut out a good 15-30 minutes and this would have been just fine, but that didn’t happen and we get this. I suppose it could be worse, though.

Newspaper. There seems to be some animosity between Michael J. Fox’s character and the editor of the local paper. At a couple of points in the film, I thought she was going to have something to do with the murders, or at least come back as a ghost the way the husband did earlier in the film.

Effects. For 1996, these aren’t exactly bad effects, but the Grim Reaper stuff still seemed rather cheap. Maybe I’m looking at it through modern eyes, but that whole computer grease look didn’t work, especially since a few years earlier liquid metal was done so convincingly in Terminator 2: Judgement Day, a technique that still stands up here in 2013, so there’s no excuse!

Now that I’ve watched both, I can say without a doubt that this was a heavy influence on Paranorman. With a title like The Frighteners, the movie poster, and the way a good 60% of this flick play out, one would think is it some truly scary film, but it isn’t. As a matter of fact, this is one of those Halloween party films you put in while your guests are arriving, so that you can warm up before the scary “main event” films. That being said, for what it is, this isn’t a bad film at all. I just feel it needs a little work to be better. Does that mean I don’t like it? Of course not! As a matter of fact, I actually recommend it, so give it a go, eh?

3 1/2 out of 5 stars

Bride of Re-Animator

Posted in Horror, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , on July 16, 2011 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Eight months after the events of Re-Animator, Dr. Herbert West (Jeffrey Combs) and Dr. Dan Cain (Bruce Abbott) are working as medics in the middle of a bloody Peruvian civil war. In the chaos of battle and with plenty of casualties to work on, they are free to experiment with West’s re-animation reagent. When their medical tent is stormed by the other side’s troops, West and Cain decide to return home to Arkham, Massachusetts. There, they resume their former jobs as doctors at Miskatonic University Hospital and West returns to the basement laboratory of Cain’s house to continue his research.

Using parts pilfered from both the hospital’s morgue and from the cemetery conveniently located next door, West discovers that in addition to whole corpses, his reagent can also re-animate body parts by themselves. He becomes determined to create an entire living person from disparate body parts.

West discovers the heart of Meg Halsey, Cain’s fiancée who died at the end of the first film and was thought to been reanimated by Cain with West’s reagent (it is implied that the re-animation backfired Cain was forced to dismember her afterwards), in the hospital morgue. With the promise to use the heart to re-animate a new Meg, West convinces Cain to help him with his project. Also stored in the morgue is the rest of the evidence from the “Miskatonic Massacre” (seen at the end of the first film). Inside, pathologist Dr. Wilbur Graves (Mel Stewart) discovers a vial of West’s reagent and the severed head of Dr. Carl Hill (David Gale). Using the reagent, he re-animates Hill’s head.

Meanwhile, police officer Lt. Leslie Chapham (Claude Earl Jones) begins investigating West and Cain. He bears a grudge against the pair, as they were the only unaffected survivors of the “Miskatonic Massacre” in which his wife’s dead body was re-animated into a crazed zombie. Chapham suspects West and Cain are responsible. When he stops by their house for a second time to question them, he discovers West’s corpse-filled lab and the two get into an ugly confrontation. West tells Chapham that he knows he killed his wife in a domestic violence attack. A fight ensues and West ends up killing Chapham by suffocating him with a cloth. West then re-animates the police officer with the intention of covering up his crime. Chapham violently wanders out of the house and into the cemetery next door.

Hill also bears a grudge against West, as West was responsible for his decapitation, the destruction of his body, taking away his crush and obsession Meg and having better theories about reanimation than Hill. Using his hypnotic powers, he commands Lt. Chapham to force Dr. Graves to stitch bat wings onto his neck, giving him back his mobility. He also extends his mental control to all of the zombie survivors of the “Miskatonic Massacre”, as well as newly-created zombie Chapham.

When one of Cain’s patients, the beautiful Gloria (Kathleen Kinmont), dies, West collects the last piece he needs for his creation: her head. With a complete body stitched and wired together, West and Cain inject the re-animation reagent into Meg’s heart. While waiting for the reagent to take effect, a package is delivered to their house. West retrieves and opens it. From inside, Hill’s winged head flies out. Simultaneously, all of the zombies he controls break into the house. West retreats back to the basement lab, where his creation, the Bride, has awoken.

A catfight breaks out between the Bride and Cain’s current girlfriend, Italian journalist Francesca Danelli (Fabiana Udenio), whom he met in Peru. Cain rejects the Bride’s love and sides with Francesca. Heart-broken, the Bride rips Meg’s heart out of her own chest and then literally falls to pieces. West diagnoses this as tissue rejection.

Hill and his zombies force West, Cain and Francesca to retreat through the wall of the lab and into a crypt in the neighboring cemetery. Inside, all of West’s prior re-animated body part experiments arise and make their way towards him (stopping only when Herbert commands them to). The unstable crypt begins to collapse, trapping Hill, West and the zombies. Cain and Francesca manage to escape the debris and they claw their way to the surface of the cemetery together. Hill, stuck in the debris, laughs manically, while Meg’s heart, still in the hand of the bride, stops beating.

REVIEW:

I must apologize for the briefness of this review, its been a long night, and I was barely able to stay awake through the film.

It isn’t very often that I watch a series of films out of order, but through some weird ordering on my Netflix queue, it happened that I skipped over Bride of Re-Animator after watching Re-Animator, and went to Beyond Re-Animator. Honestly, I don’t think it matters that much. These films aren’t made in a way that you have to see on so as to not be lost in the others.

What is this twisted tale about? Well, it picks p where the first film left off, only Dr. West is in Peru continuing his experiments. After some kind of infiltration, he and Dr. Cain decide to return home,. where they return to their previous jobs at the local hospital. This allows West to continue his experiments in Cain’s basement, and apparently dig a tunnel to the cemetery next door.

West’s new plot is to create life with these reanimated parts, and of course Cain is none too thrilled about the idea.

After some needless filler in the middle that introduces all the ancillary villanous characters and develops the plot just a bit further, we arrive at the climax which involves the head of Dr. Hill from the previous film, zombies, and of course, more re-animated parts.

As with the other films in this franchise, the acting is not what you signed up to see. If you did, I have to wonder what is wrong with you.

The special effects in this aren’t that great, but yo have to remember this was released in 1990, and didn’t exactly have the summer blockbuster budget we’ve all grown accustomed to in this day and age.

In conclusion, Bride of Re-Animator is ok. There isn’t anything necessarily bad about it, but there isn’t anything great about it either. For me, it was nothing more than an average flick. Feel free to check it out, though.

2 1/2 out of 5 stars

Beyond Re-Animator

Posted in Horror, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , on April 9, 2011 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

For the past 13 years, Dr. Herbert West (Jeffrey Combs) has been serving his prison sentence for his role in the death of a teenage girl at the hands of one of his zombies. With what scant supplies he has on hand in the prison medical center, Dr. West has been capable of performing only extremely basic experiments on rats. However, his lack of supplies does not prevent him from uncovering a key element in his re-animation process. When a young doctor named Howard Phillips (Jason Barry) comes to work at the prison, he teams up with West to help him attain the supplies and tools needed to bring his experiments to the next level. Phillips is the younger brother of the teenage girl who was killed (he’s shown watching West being taken away by the cops) and came to the prison for the explicit purpose of working with West. In the meantime, Phillips gets a girlfriend, the journalist Laura Olney.

Dr. West has discovered “NPE” (Nano-Plasmic Energy), an energy that can be extracted from the brain of a living organism through an electrocution-like process, to be stored in a capsule resembling a small light bulb. The capsule can then be connected to a corpse and used in conjunction with West’s previously developed reagent to restore the former dead to a life-like state. The NPE prevents the degeneration seen in previous instances, where the reanimated are nothing more than mindless zombies. Used together with the re-agent, reanimated corpses regain their skills, memories, and motor functions and nearly fully resemble normal humans.

The warden of the prison uncovers West’s experiments, and is subsequently killed and re-animated a la Dr. Carl Hill in the first Re-Animator. However, West uses the NPE from a prisoner’s pet rat, causing some unexpected side effects in the warden’s behavior. It manifests itself as the prison descends into utter chaos as a riot breaks out, with vials of the reagent circulating through the population. Soon, it is unclear who is dead, who is alive, and who has been exposed to the agent. During the chaos, Laura is killed. Phillips is believed to be criminally insane by guards, when they find him weeping over Laura’s head, severed from her body.

West manages to escape the prison by stealing Phillips’ I.D., when he comes across him weeping over Laura’s decapitated body before the guards appear. In the end of the film, West is shown putting on his glasses outside the prison, once he has slipped past security. He then throws a human eye, struggling to move, onto the lawn of the prison. After witnessing this, West slips into the night to continue his research.

REVIEW:

 Somehow, I skipped over the second film in the Re-Animator franchise, Bride of the Re-Animator, and went straight to Beyond Re-Animator. I will be getting to the second film soon enough, though.

This film continues the mad experiments that Dr. Herbert West was doing in the original Re-Animator. This time, though, we find him in prison and someone who’s life he affected as a kid now wants to work with him. As with the first film, this one is filled with bad effects, dead brought back to life, and supposedly attractive women that are supposed to be the female romantic lead.

The first thing that one notices with this film is how it seems to be a carbon copy of the original film, just in a different setting, and with a bigger budget…amazing what a few years can do, right?

The special effects are cheesy, yet for the tone of this film, they somehow don’t feel like they’re half as bad as one would think. I guess its because it is obvious that this is a bad, cheap film and we don’t really expect much.

I don’t really have much to say about this flick other than if you missed the first film, then you can pretty much see it again here in the third installment. As I said earlier, this is pretty much the same film, and yet it is still a cult favorite, for some odd reason. I have to wonder if that has anything to do with the books this was based on. I can’t really say this is worth seeing, but at the same time, I can’t say you should avoid it, either. The sheer campiness of it keeps it from being totally horrible.

2 3/4 out of 5 stars

Re-Animator

Posted in Horror, Movie Reviews, Sci-Fi/Fantasy with tags , , , , , , on December 22, 2010 by Mystery Man

PLOT:

At Zurich University Institute of Medicine in Switzerland, Herbert West brings his dead professor, Dr. Hans Gruber (Al Berry), back to life with horrific side-effects because, as West explains, the dosage was too large. When accused of killing Gruber, West counters: “I gave him life!”

In the emergency room of the hospital at Miskatonic University in New England, medical student Dan Cain (Bruce Abbott) tries in vain to revive a patient after other medical personnel have given her up as dead.

Dan is dating Megan (Barbara Crampton), daughter of school dean Alan Halsey (Robert Sampson). West arrives at Miskatonic in order to further his studies. West rents a room from Dan and converts the building’s basement into his own personal laboratory. There is an instant animosity between West and faculty member Dr. Carl Hill (David Gale). West declares that Hill stole the theory of brain death from West’s late mentor, Dr. Gruber. Dan discovers that West has re-animated Dan’s dead cat, Rufus, with a glowing reagent. West recruits Dan as his partner in research to defeat death. Megan dislikes West, especially after discovering Rufus re-animated in a state of dismemberment.

Hill manages to turn Halsey against both West and Dan. Barred from the school, West and Dan sneak into the morgue to test the reagent on a human subject in an attempt to salvage their medical careers. The corpse revives and goes on a rampage, attacking the duo. Dean Halsey stumbles upon the scene originally to force them out of the morgue for trespassing and, despite attempts by both West and Dan to save him, is brutally killed by the re-animated corpse. Armed with a bone saw, West finally manages to dispatch that which he has only just brought back to life. Hardly fazed by the violence and excited at the prospect of working with a freshly dead specimen, West injects Halsey with the reagent. Halsey returns to life, but in a zombie-like state.

Hill discovers West’s work and gains guardianship over Halsey whom he puts in a padded cell adjacent to his office. Dan and Megan break into Hill’s office where they find evidence that Hill has a secret obsession with Megan and has lobotomized her father. Hill has gone to confront West in his basement lab and threatens to blackmail him to continue his research so that Hill can take credit for West’s reagent. While Hill is distracted, West decapitates Hill with a shovel. Overcome with curiosity, West re-animates both Hill’s head and body. While West is questioning Hill’s head and taking notes, Hill’s body knocks out West. The body carries the head and steals West’s reagent, returning to Hill’s office. Exercising mind control over Halsey, Hill sends him out to kidnap Megan from Dan.

West and Dan track Halsey to the morgue where they find Hill’s body holding his head in a compromising position over a restrained Megan. West distracts Hill while Dan frees Megan. Hill reveals that he has re-animated and lobotomized several corpses from the morgue to do his bidding. However, Megan manages to get through to her father, who fights off the other corpses long enough for Dan and Megan to escape. In the ensuing chaos, Halsey is torn to pieces by the corpses after he destroys Hill’s head and West injects Hill’s body with what he believes is a lethal overdose of the reagent which began to destroy Hill’s body. Hill’s body mutates horribly and attacks West, who screams out to Dan to save his work as he continues fighting.

Dan retrieves the satchel containing West’s reagent. As Dan and Megan run from the morgue, one of the re-animated corpses attacks and kills Megan. Dan takes her to the hospital emergency room where we first saw Dan. He tries in vain to revive her. Finally in despair he injects her with reagent. Just after the scene fades to black, Megan screams as it implicates her re-animation backfires just like the previous re-animated

REVIEW:

 While watching Santa’s Slay the other day, I came across a trailer for Beyond Re-Animator, which is apparently the third film in this series. Being curious, I decided to check out the entire franchise, starting with Re-Animator.

I’ll be frank with you. I didn’t really know what to make of this film. On one hand, I liked the oddity of it, but on the other hand, it seemed a bit like a bad B-movie…even for something from the 80s.

Apparently, this film is based on a short story from the early 20s. If you look closely, you can sort of get the idea that it was written back then.

The story centers around a med student who wants to bring back the dead. In his mad quest to re-animate life, he inadvertently involves his new roommate and his fiancée, and creates enemies out of the dean and professor.

I’ve made statements in the past about horror movies that seem to be more about the suspense and not the gore, most recently, Prom Night, but this one is proof that a little bit of gore goes a long way. Of course, this was the 80s, when stuff like this wasn’t as commonplace as it is today. Damn those Saw movies!

The mixture of horror, camp, and comedy is what makes this film work. In a manner similar to The Toxic Avenger and that entire franchise (not counting the cartoon version, of course), this film seemed to have nothing worthwhile, but once you sit down and watch it, you find yourself hooked, and not really sure why. That is the mark of a good mixture of elements. I applaud those involved with writing this script. They did an excellent job of not making this into something that was too much of this or that.

Seeing as how this was made in 1985, one wouldn’t exect the best special effects, and so we don’t get anything spectacular. However, this is the 80s, so effects were done with actual make-up and not computers. The makeup artists outdid themselves with the corpses, that’s for sure.

Acting is not the strongest part of this flick, that’s for sure. These actors all sem like they were plucked right out of acting class.

In the end, I’m still not sure what I think about this film. I didn’t love it, but at the same time I think it was half way decent and far from sucking. There are plenty of things to be said on the pro and con side of this film. Still, this is not a bad flick and a decent time  can be had watching it.

3 out of 5 stars