The Dunwich Horror, Shriek of the Mutilated, and Silent Hill: Revelation

THE DUNWICH HORROR (1970) A colorful/psychedelic answer to Rosemary’s Baby, this adaptation of the H.P. Lovecraft tale is light on plot but extremely well-made and fairly suspenseful. Naive college student, Nancy (Sandra Dee), is pulled into the sinister world of Wilbur (Dean Stockwell), the youngest son of the infamous Whateley family from the small town of Dunwich. Little does Nancy know that Wilbur is actually the son of an ancient, evil god who’s using Wilbur to open a doorway into another dimension in order to bring forth a race of monstrous beings called the Old Ones. Director Daniel Haller keeps the pace moving at a good clip, and builds tension slowly. Dee is sympathetic enough, and Stockwell does good wild-eyed craziness in a role that seems prime for a Dark Shadows subplot. The climax is rather lackluster, but The Dunwich Horror is solid early ’70s supernatural horror. B

SHRIEK OF THE MUTILATED (1974) A totally bizarre, poorly made, but extremely entertaining Bigfoot melodrama shot in Westchester County, New York. A college professor (Alan Brock), obsessed with finding the legendary Yeti, takes his students on a woodsy excursion in order to secure proof of the creature’s existence. The young ones dismiss the Yeti as a figment of the professor’s imagination, until they start getting torn to bits by a large beast with sharp teeth and claws. And just when you think it can’t get any weirder, it does – and then some! Written by Invasion of the Blood Farmers‘ Ed Adlum, and Ed Kelleher, Shriek of the Mutilated is an accidental camp classic. With its stilted acting, awkward editing, and hilariously cheesy dialogue, the movie feels (unintentionally) like a spirited homage to Ed Wood. B+

SILENT HILL: REVELATION (2012) Six-years-later sequel to the first, and superior, Silent Hill movie has teenager Sharon (Adelaide Clemens), now going under the name Heather Mason, on the run with her adopted father, Christopher (Sean Bean), after the events of the earlier film. The past comes back to bite them in the butt when Christopher is kidnapped by a doomsday cult and brought to Silent Hill, where Sharon must go to rescue him. The plot is a hotbed of confusing mythology and storyline – taken mostly from the Silent Hill 3 game – and never makes much sense. It doesn’t really matter because the movie mostly works as a visceral monster flick, with a good eye on detailed creatures and set pieces, including a sequence involving a giant spider-thing made up of mannequin pieces. Clemens is likable, but love interest Kit Harington suffers from massive accent slippage; Bean is wasted, and Carrie Ann-Moss’s participation is essentially an extended cameo. B

The Dead, The Girl with All the Gifts, and Greta

THE DEAD (2010) Inventive, Romeroesque, slow-walking-zombie tale about an American mercenary (Rob Freeman) who survives a plane crash in West Africa and, along with a local soldier (Prince David Osei), must battle hordes of the walking dead while trying to find safety. Freeman comes off too generic and dull for the lead character, and although the story’s pacing is nice and fast, a more energetic and likable protagonist – think Ken Foree’s Peter in Dawn of the Dead – would have given the film a more suspenseful vibe. There is good stuff here, with plenty of appropriately gory gut-munching and limb-tearing, a unique Burkina Faso setting, and a fittingly downbeat ending. Followed by The Dead 2: India. B

THE GIRL WITH ALL THE GIFTS (2016) Intelligent and suspenseful zombie/apocalyptic end-of-the-world horror adapted from a 2014 novel, which itself feels inspired by The Last of Us. Years after a fungal virus turns most of humanity into mindless, flesh-eating zombies, a team of soldiers and scientists experiment with the latest generation of infected: children who can speak and think at their own will. When their facility is torn down by a swarm of zombies, a small group of survivors, plus one of the infected kids, escapes and must journey across London to find a government outpost. It all sounds like a Day of the Dead/28 Days Later/Last of Us concoction, but Girl with All the Gifts is actually highly original in both execution and story, which is carried by its smart, well-written characters and extremely intense set pieces. B+

GRETA (2018) Those expecting a hair-pulling, knife-throwing, knock down, drag out fight-to-the-death thriller in the Fatal Attraction vein might be disappointed in this character-driven psycho-stalker piece by Neil (Interview with the Vampire) Jordan. Taking pity in lonely spinster, Greta (Isabelle Huppert), recent college grad Frances (ChloĆ« Grace Moretz) begins a friendship with the middle aged woman, but as time goes by Frances begins to question Greta’s true motives, and sanity. Frances is likable and Greta is both sad and twisted, with a superbly balanced performance by Huppert that gives the film, and character, much more credit than the material deserves. That’s not to say the film isn’t good, because it is, to a point – Jordan builds tension when Greta’s psyche cracks, and her scenes with Moretz feel genuine. Frances should have been written a little more headstrong and energetic, and the climax practically begs for a full-throttle, Friday the 13thesque cat fight, but, sadly, never delivers. Still, this is entertaining stuff. B

Knock at the Cabin and The Night Flier

KNOCK AT THE CABIN (2023) Not-really-horror horror from the increasingly unreliable M. Night Shyamalan, which promises spectacular, apocalyptic destruction but, sadly, never delivers the goods. While on a woodsy vacation, a small family is taken hostage by a quartet of armed people who all claim to share the same vision of the end of the world, which only a sacrifice can stop. Guess who has to make the sacrifice? Plodding and uninvolving, Knock at the Cabin relies so heavily on its “What If?” scenario that it forgets to have any fun with the material. Instead of sympathetic, well-written characters trapped in a doomsday plot (as with Shyamalan’s Signs), the characters in Knock feel like manufactured caricatures written for the purpose of creating inauthentic drama, without the slightest possibility of a genuine outcome. D

THE NIGHT FLIER (1997) A surprisingly good adaptation of the Stephen King short story, in which ruthless tabloid journalist, Richard Dees (Miguel Ferrer), pursues vampiric serial killer Dwight Renfield (get it?), who uses a private plane to fly into remote towns and massacres anyone nearby. The rather oddball scenario could have been made to be superbly corny and predictable, but luckily director/writer Mark Pavia treats the material with the highest respect, adding an eye for creepy, grisly detail that makes the story move at a good pace. A sense of humor and some effective set pieces – a lengthy hallucination, in which Dees is trapped in a nightmare of blood-spattered vampires is terrific stuff – help to create a good, if imperfect, flick. The KNB make-up FX are excellent. B