Discover more from Horror Bulletin
The Last Voyage of the Demeter, The Latent Image, Aliens, Misery, The Picture of Dorian Gray, and Amityville 1992
Horror Bulletin Weekly Newsletter #244
We’re back to our regular format this week with four movies and a short film. We’ll start out with the latest adaptation of Dracula— well, one chapter of it anyway, “The Last Voyage of the Demeter” (2023). We’ll then take a trip to a different kind of cabin in the woods with “The Latent Image,” also from 2023. After we watch a silly short film, we'll wind back the clock with “Amityville 1992: It’s About Time” and then watch the action-packed, but still often terrifying, “Aliens” from 1986. For the newsletter subscribers, we also look at two Academy Award-winning films: “Misery” (1990) and “The Picture of Dorian Gray” (1945)
Check out all our books with one easy link:
Thanks for reading Horror Bulletin! Subscribe for free to receive new posts and support my work.
Here. We. Go!
The Last Voyage of the Demeter (2023)
Directed by André Øvredal
Written by Bragi F. Schut, Zak Olkewicz, Bram Stoker
Stars Corey Hawkins, Aisling Franciosi, Liam Cunningham, David Dastmalchian
Run Time: 1 Hour, 58 Minutes
Spoiler Free Judgement Zone
This was very entertaining, taking a minor part of the Dracula story that usually gets very little movie time and expanding it into a full story on its own. The use of CGI was a little heavy handed, but there are enough practical effects to balance things out. Even knowing how things were going to work out for Dracula in the end, you still root for the characters and hold out hope for them. We liked it very much.
We’re told that “In 1897, a Russian schooner was chartered to carry private cargo. Consisting of fifty wooden crates from Romania to England. When the ship arrived, it was derelict.” We open on a group of policemen investigating a ship that’s blown in on the storm at Whitby, England. They recover the captain’s log, and it contains a warning. Credits roll.
We cut back to four weeks earlier when a caravan of gypsy wagons is moving many boxes through town. Captain Eliot and his grandson Toby disembark from the Demeter and start looking for a new crew. Clemens tries to join up to be the ship’s doctor but is rejected. The gypsies arrive with their cargo, but they won’t stay past sundown. The ship’s men load the many crates onto the Demeter. There’s an accident, and the captain takes on Clemens anyway.
As the Demeter sets sail, the gypsies are miles away and look back with relief. Toby shows Clemens around, and they meet Huck the dog. Joseph is the ship’s cook. That evening, Mr. Wojchek, the first mate, reports that they’re making really good time for the first day. Captain Eliot says this’ll be his final voyage; he plans to retire and make Wojchek his successor.
Meanwhile, the boxes in the hold look mighty ominous– until one opens and all the ship’s rats run away. All the food livestock goes crazy. Clemens goes to check it out and finds one of the boxes has burst open– it’s nothing but dirt inside. Oh, and there’s a woman inside one of them! Clemens wants to do a blood transfusion to save her life.
While they’re all distracted with this, another of the boxes opens up, and something far nastier than the girl wakes up. Mr. Olgaren sees a strange creature first, but he survives. Huck the dog isn’t so lucky. Joseph finds Huck’s body, along with all the food animals, dead. Nobody wants to stop in at port, because then they’ll lose their promised bonus. Because he’s the newcomer and some of the crew are racist, suspicions are cast on Clemens. Olgaren says there’s a powerful evil on board, “No man did this.”
Toby learns that the girl’s name is Anna, and she’s Romani. She keeps repeating the word “Feed” over and over in her sleep. Joseph notices that even the rats have gone missing. “Something drove them off. A boat without rats– such a thing is against nature.” That night, Mr. Petrofsky has his throat torn out by a big batlike creature.
In the morning, everyone knows about Petrofsky, and Clemens mentions that all the animals had their throats torn out the same way. Anna finally wakes up and says, “He is here!” Because of superstition, only Clemens is willing to talk to the stowaway woman. She tells him about life in Romania and about the creature called “Dracula” and his taste for human blood.
That night, Dracula gets two more crewmen, Larsen and Olgaren, so no one’s driving the boat when a storm hits. Olgaren isn’t dead though he’s badly injured. The captain orders the ship searched for whoever’s done this.
Night falls again, and Toby runs into Olgaren, who isn’t himself; he barely escapes. As they try to subdue Olgaren, they all get a good look at Dracula himself as he drains little Toby dry. Anna finally shoots the door open, but it’s too late for Toby, bitten but not dead yet. Olgaren, tied up to a mast, mentions that he can hear everything. Then the sun comes up, and Olgaren bursts into flame. They all assume Toby will be the next one.
Night falls once again, and Joseph steals one of the lifeboats and leaves. Anna and Clemens start searching in the boxes of dirt. Joseph, far away, learns that Dracula can fly. The lifeboat returns to the Demeter, empty of all but blood.
Toby dies before morning, so they prepare to bury him at sea. The captain has lost all hope at the death of his grandson. He says he thinks he saw the boy move, and then Toby sits up and bursts into flame in the sun, burning the captain.
Clemens and Wojchek decide to start working together to fight the unseen beast. Anna says Dracula has been “rationing” them, one per night. Now, London’s only one day away, so it doesn’t need them anymore. Anna wants to scuttle the ship, but Wojchek says he’ll take care of it. The captain, however, is very much against that idea. He volunteers to take the ship out to the deep ocean, so the creature has nowhere to go.
But first, there’s one more night they must survive. They can see the shores of England. A very mysterious fog suddenly rolls in, limiting everyone’s vision. Mr. Abrams is quickly torn to pieces, and Wojchek takes a fall before he meets Dracula. The captain ties himself to the wheel and goes without much of a fight, leaving only Clemens and Anna.
Clemens comes face to face with the large bat-man, and it’s a very one-sided fight. The two humans soon find themselves thrown overboard during a storm as the Demeter crashes into the rocks near Whitby.
In the morning, Anna and Clemens wake up holding onto a floating mast. Her eyes are all milky; there’s no way to give her another transfusion, so she’s going to change. She says she’s made her choice and burns up in the sunrise.
Later, in London, everyone’s reading about the “Whitby Ghost Ship.” Clemens knows about Carfax Abbey, and he’s planning to go there and kill Dracula. Then he sees the toothy man in the pub with the wolf cane who walks right past him, scratching him on the neck.
About the only time I’ve seen the “Demeter” chapter of “Dracula” addressed was in part two of the 2020 BBC version of “Dracula.” That installment of the series was probably the best of the three episodes, so it only makes sense for someone to do a feature film of that mini-story. The isolation and claustrophobia of a ship, along with the superstitious men, make this very tense. The fact that we all knew how it was going to end doesn’t help.
The creature’s look is based on 1922’s “Nosferatu” and he looks and acts like a shaky, weak, batlike animal who is powerful but not getting enough blood, not anything like Christopher Lee, Bela Lugosi, or even Gary Oldman. Through most of the film, he’s a CGI creature.
Other than the CGI creature, the performances are all good. Clemens surviving at the end could maybe sort of set up a possible sequel, but that shouldn’t happen. It just ends with him swearing to defeat Dracula, but his character never shows up in the books, so we know he doesn’t.
Overall, we both thought it was very good.
The Latent Image (2023)
Directed by Alexander McGregor Birrel
Written by Alexander McGregor Birrel, Joshua Tonks
Stars Joshua Tonks, Jay Clift, William Tippery
Run Time: 1 Hour, 23 Minutes
Spoiler Free Judgement Zone
This one has you wondering what’s really happening, what’s real or imaginary, and what the characters are actually up to. The three guys do an excellent job, the setting and set is perfect, and the script is clever with good pacing. We both really liked it right through to the end.
Ben is a writer, banging away at a typewriter. He cuts himself and bleeds all over the page. He’s working alone out in a cabin in the woods. He hears someone outside and goes to investigate. Much later that night, he sees someone with a flashlight outside. We see that there’s someone inside with him. The stranger cuts Ben’s throat.
Then Ben wakes up at his desk. That was all a dream, but there is a stranger sitting on his couch who’s bleeding and asks for bandages. The man takes his clothes off and is passed out when Ben comes back into the room.
In the morning, Ben wakes up, and the stranger is reading the draft of his book. He says his ride broke down, and he got lost in the woods. Ben explains that he’s been writing a mystery thriller. The man says he’s visited this cabin before while hunting. Ben offers to drive him into town, but he declines.
We cut to Ben exploring the woods with his vintage film camera. He finds a single shoe out in the woods. He films the stranger looking in the trunk of his car. When the man walks away, Ben sneaks over to see what’s in the trunk, but he doesn’t get that far. The man decides to stay and try to fix his car.
Ben gets a message from Jamie, whom Ben has abandoned back home. The man has left his jacket on the kitchen chair, and Ben smells it before putting it on. Jamie shows up, and he’s Ben’s boyfriend; they kiss and make up for the fight they had. Except Jamie’s not really there, that was Ben’s imagination.
The man goes off into the woods with a shovel and starts digging. What did he have in the trunk? The man burns some clothes, but they don’t seem to be his clothes. Night falls, and the man says he can’t fix the car. It’s two hours each way to town, so he’ll have to stay the night again.
The man admits he’s been living out of his car and had hoped the cabin was empty; that’s why he’s here. The man takes a shower, so Ben goes through all the man’s stuff. He finds a black ski mask. The man comes out of the shower and grabs Ben– for a kiss. Then he bends him over the table and gives Ben what he’s been waiting for– no, that was just Ben’s imagination again.
Ben and the man talk about the plot of the story. Ben says his story was based on a real case of someone who went missing in this very cabin. Actually, several people went missing, and that’s interesting to Ben. The man talks about better ways to kill a man than what Ben had in his book. The man talks about tying Ben up and tormenting him; it’s clear that the man could overpower Ben at any time. Ben likes it and tells him to keep going, so the man ties his hands and sits him in a chair. It’s all heading toward erotic until the man uses a gay slur, which is an immediate turnoff for Ben, who asks to be untied.
Ben goes to bed alone. He dreams about Jamie, who tells him to wake up. He goes outside in the dark and checks out the man’s trunk. It’s got the IDs of several people, along with a hunting rifle. He then finds out that his own car is broken as well. Ben tells the man that it’s time to leave. Now.
Ben goes inside to find his typewriter smashed and the manuscript shredded all over the floor. The man talks about a hitchhiker who always “gets away with it,” and “has had a lot of practice.” We get a flashback to Jamie stopping to pick the man up. “He was easy prey.”
The man tells Ben that Jamie’s out in the woods and gives him a head start to go find him. He calls Jamie’s phone and follows the ringing he hears until he finds Jamie, not dead, in the woods. No, that was imagination; he’s really dead.
The man arrives and tells Ben to pick up the shovel and bury Jamie. Ben refuses to dig. “You’re just gonna have to shoot me.” The man laughs that he’s out of bullets, so Ben whacks him with the shovel and runs.
The man chases Ben back to the cabin. Ben holds the man off with a knife, but the man is too fast. They struggle with each for quite a long while. Eventually, Ben stabs the man right through his forehead.
Nope, all of that was just Ben’s book. Jamie says that’s a little excessive; he thinks the ending is too dark. “I don’t think he’d be able to live with something like that.”
Ben raises the knife, but then he stops and puts it down again. The man gets up behind him…
Ben wakes up in the woods, in the process of being buried by the man right next to Jamie, who smiles.
The man goes back inside the house and takes a shower to wash the blood off. Someone very dirty comes inside. The man hears something and goes to investigate. Ben appears and cuts the man’s throat. No, the man was just having a dream. He gets up and starts cleaning up the cabin, removing all the evidence.
Except he forgot the film camera that proved he was there…
The set and setting are excellent, and the music and sound are great too. There are only three real characters, and they all do fine as well.
I was wondering all along if the man was simply a figment of Ben’s imagination or just him visualizing his thriller story. I also wondered what really happened to Jamie, as his absence was suspicious all along. Even as it all developed, I wasn’t quite sure what was real and what was imaginary, which was fun all the way to the end.
With only three actors and a cabin, films don’t get much more bare-bones or low-budget than this, but it all looks really good and is entertaining throughout.
Short Film: Fck'n Nuts (2023)
Directed by Sam Fox
Written by Sam Fox
Stars Maddie Nichols, Christopher Rydell, William E. Harris, Vincent Stalba
Run Time: 11:55
After some over-the-top titles, we open on Sandy, who calls Dan “to talk.” Dan is outside with flowers, so she runs outside and tells him that he never should have come here. He declares his love for her, but she doesn’t seem happy to hear it. She says her family are nuts. Really.
We get some strange glimpses of Sandy’s family inside.
The very definition of nuts. It’s got an interesting, hyper-saturated lighting scheme, and the acting is good for this story. You pretty much know how it’s going to go; it’s just a matter of the reveal, so it’s more suspense than anything else. Oh, that reveal!
This is really good!
Amityville 1992: It's About Time (1992)
Directed by Tony Randel
Written by John G. Jones, Christopher DeFaria, Antonio Toro
Stars Stephen Macht, Shawn Weatherly, Megan Ward, Damon Martin
Run Time: 1 Hour, 35 minutes
Spoiler-Free Judgment Zone
Bad things happen because of a clock from Amityville because of reasons. It’s got some interesting ideas here and there, but it’s unexplained and fairly random. There is a story and some characters you kind of care about, but it’s not a great sequel. In fact it’s so thinly connected to the first movies that it’s a stretch to call it a sequel.
Jacob comes home; he’s an architect that is somehow involved in the project. He just bought an antique clock that the whole family thinks is creepy. “It came from one of those houses we tore down for the development.” A creepy old woman outside sees the house change into the “Amity House” for a moment.
Andrea isn’t the kids’ mother, she was just there to watch them while Jacob was out of town. Jacob invites her to spend the night. She’s seeing Leonard, but Jacob is very persuasive; they have the sweatiest sex ever.
Downstairs, the clock does something strange involving a drill and razorlike knives. Peaches the dog doesn’t like the clock and barks angrily, so the son, Rusty puts her back outside in the rain. Rusty flips a light switch and their modern living room becomes a torture chamber.
It’s awkward in the morning when Andrea is still there to see the kids off. Jacob goes for a run but is attacked by the vicious Peaches the dog, who isn’t their dog. He’s badly injured, but also does some real damage to the dog. We cut to Andrea in the hospital afterward. The doctor treats Andrea like Jacob’s wife, and she doesn’t appreciate that.
Rusty skips school to play chess with Iris, the neighbor who watched the building change last night. He tells her what he saw. “It’s very old and it’s traveled a long way,” she says.
Andrea and Rusty go to see the dog’s owner, and the dog is just fine. That wasn’t Peaches who attacked Jacob. Rusty tries to tell Andrea about the weird room-switcharoo, but she doesn’t listen. Rusty experiences another time shift, about three hours.
Lisa offers to give Andrea her room, while Lisa sleeps in the living room. At 3 a.m., something invisible crawls into bed with Andrea. Andrea imagines seeing some kind of blood-monster in her bed and then lets Lisa out of the living room.
Peaches the dog is killed that night, and the police come looking for Rusty. Meanwhile, Jacob is obsessed with drawing the original Amityville house and clocks. The police want to know about Rusty’s friends, but Rusty isn’t cooperative.
Andrea’s real boyfriend, Leonard, comes over with food. Leonard has Andrea and Jacob’s relationship completely figured out, and Andrea agrees with him. As they talk, the neighbor’s hedges catch on fire. Rusty’s inside playing guitar, so he has no idea what’s going on– and no alibi. Leonard wants, no insists, that Andrea needs to get out of there.
Leonard goes downstairs and runs into Jacob, who isn’t really Jacob, who talks about hurting people before pulling out a pistol. Then he vanishes into thin air. Leonard is not happy. Lisa looks at herself in the mirror, but the mirror version does things differently from the real her.
Morning comes, and Lisa dresses all slutty; she’s changed since last night. Rusty goes to see Iris, and she believes him. He describes the torture chamber he saw in the living room. She shows him a picture of the room in a book. It was the home of a fifteenth-century child murderer and cannibal. She opens up her book on Amityville and sees the clock in a picture from there.
Through a weird series of coincidences, Iris is impaled by a diaper truck mascot. Rusty goes through her things, and he sees the pictures of the Amityville clock. That’s when the police arrest him.
Lisa lures her boyfriend into the basement and has him get undressed. He melts into the floor, screaming all the way down. Upstairs, Leonard takes a bath, but it’s all black sludge. It only goes downhill from there. In the main bedroom, Jacob wakes up, and he looks possessed.
Andrea sees something scary in Jacob’s office before she finds Leonard’s body hanging from a wire. Rusty comes from nowhere and tells Andrea about the Amityville Clock. Rusty goes looking for Lisa, but all the doors and windows are sealed. Jacob attacks Andrea, throwing her through the wall while sister Lisa tries to seduce her brother Rusty upstairs. Things are all getting very hectic until Andrea stabs Jacob in the dog bite until he passes out.
Andrea notices that Rusty is now a baby. The clock did something to him by running backward. He escapes out the front door. Andrea goes to smash the clock, but she finds gears inside the walls instead– the whole house is now the clock. She turns on the gas fireplace as the clock runs forward and ages her. Andrea, now looking a hundred years old, strikes a lighter and the house explodes, throwing the clock into another dimension.
Andrea wakes up, clean and uninjured. Jacob’s at the door. He’s just come home from his trip, and he’s brought an antique clock that he’s just bought. Andrea smashes it to the ground, shocking the rest of the family. She grabs her overnight bag and leaves.
None of it happened. Or did it?
This was the last Amityville Horror movie in the series based on a book. The actor who played Rusty looked like he was about forty and playing a high school kid– I was not convinced. The music box tune that kept playing got annoying really fast.
OK, so there’s this haunted clock. Why is the clock haunted? Why is it doing any of this stuff? A lot of bad, weird stuff happens, but at no point do we ever really know why.
Directed by James Cameron
Written by James Cameron, David Giler, Walter Hill
Stars Sigourney Weaver, Michael Biehn, Carrie Henn, Paul Reiser
Run Time: 2 Hours, 17 Minutes
Spoiler-Free Judgment Zone
This one still has the horror elements on the back burner from the first movie, but it’s much more of an action science fiction thriller. It’s an awesome sequel, bringing back Ripley and expanding her character. The whole cast is very good, and the special effects are excellent.
After the credits, we see the escape ship from the Nostromo from the first film. Inside are Ripley and her cat, still in cryo sleep. A giant ship shows up and opens the door. People come in, find the pod, and wake her up.
Back on Earth, Ripley wakes up and has a visitor. Burke comes in with Jonesy the cat, who is also fine. He tells her that she’s been asleep for fifty-seven years. She then grabs her stomach, and a chest-burster pops out– nope, just a fake-out nightmare. But the time passed is real.
Ripley wants to know whatever happened to her daughter after all these years. Amanda Ripley died at age 66, three years ago with no kids. She goes through repeated interrogations about destroying the Nostromo. The logs corroborate some of her story, but there’s no evidence.
Someone asks if there are any scary creatures on LV-426. The expert says no; she clearly doesn’t believe Ripley’s story about the Xenomorph. Ripley warns about the thousands of eggs on the planet. Mr. Van Leuwen says that terraformers have lived on LV-426 for twenty years, and they’ve never found anything unusual. They agree not to press charges, but she’s busted back to a civilian.
We cut to the colonists on LV-426. It’s an extensive base with lots of people. There are prospectors spreading out all over, and one family finds the alien ship from the previous film. They go inside and leave the two kids outside in the car. Dad comes home with a face hugger, so you know where this is going.
Burke and Lieutenant Gorman come to see Ripley; they’ve lost contact with the colony. They want Ripley to go with the marines to check out what happened. Burke lays on the guilt and offers to get her license back– if she goes. After another nightmare, she agrees to go back.
We cut to the marine’s ship, Sulaco, loaded with heavy equipment and bristling with weapons. The cryopods open, and everybody, including Ripley, Burke, Gorman, and a whole squad of marines, wake up. We get a few minutes with the marines to figure who they all are. Sergeant Apone is their boss, working under Gorman.
The marines get Bishop to do a trick with a knife, and Ripley is terrified when she learns he’s an android with white blood. Burke apologizes that he didn’t think of it being an issue for her. It’s standard to have a synthetic on board. “I prefer artificial person,” responds Bishop. She doesn’t like androids and makes that clear.
Ripley briefs the men about her story, but the marines don’t care about the details. Hudson is a wisecracker, but Gorman isn’t putting up with his crap. They all get ready to land, and Ripley works in a big loader machine, a sort of robotic forklift. Hicks and Apone are impressed. Literally everyone loads into the drop ship and they leave the big ship in orbit as they land.
Lieutenant Gorman admits he’s not very experienced, which doesn’t impress the marines much. They fly over the complex, but they don’t see any people. The dropship lets off the marine’s wheeled vehicle and then heads back off to land at a distance. There’s a lot of damage on the inside of the buildings; clearly everything isn’t fine. The marines disperse, and the civilians watch on monitors.
It’s all very quiet and they don’t see any action. Gorman brings the vehicle inside as Hudson gets the mainframe online. A wary Ripley goes inside with the others. They walk into a lab area, and Ripley sees several face-huggers in tubes. Two of them are still alive. The medical log says the patients died while removing them. Something appears on the motion scanner; it’s a little girl, the one we saw whose father was the first victim. She’s Newt, and she doesn’t have much faith in the marine’s ability to protect her.
They find all the colonists’ implanted trackers, all bunched up in one place, so they all drive there. Once again, the marines deploy and search. This time, things are not so quiet. The whole building now looks very bio-organic rather than bare metal as it should. Ripley says the group is walking next to the nuclear powered atmospheric convertors, so they can’t shoot regular explosive rounds. Everyone gives up their ammo except for a couple of the marines.
They start finding the colonists, but they’re not all dead– not exactly. They watch a chest-burster pop out of one of them, and the marines burn it. This alerts the main group of aliens, who now attack the marines. Things go South very quickly. Vasquez and Drake start firing live rounds as Hudson panics.
Sergeant Apone gets killed, and Gorman doesn’t know what to do. Ripley takes over and drives the vehicle inside to save whoever’s left. After a super-hectic battle scene, the vehicle parks outside. A bunch of people died.
Ripley wants to nuke the entire site from orbit, and Hudson’s all in on that. Burke, on the other hand, says the facility is worth a fortune. Hicks is now in charge, so he calls the ship for an evac. The dropship, however, has been off eating lunch or something with the back door open, and an alien kills the pilot. The dropship crashes explosively.
Everyone takes some time to regroup and plan. Bishop speculates that there may be a “queen” laying eggs. He also tattles that Burke ordered him to pack up the facehugger specimens to return to Earth. Ripley says she won’t allow it. Burke sent the colonists out to explore that ship; this is all his fault.
Bishop calls and says the machine gun fire ruptured the reactor cooling system. They only have about four hours until the whole base blows sky high. Bishop volunteers to go outside to the big dish and remote pilot the second dropship down to pick them up.
Hicks shows Ripley how to use a marine gun including the grenade launcher. Ripley and Newt stop to take a nap. Ripley wakes up and notices that two of the facehugger sample tubes are on the floor, empty and her gun is gone. They narrowly escape the little monsters, but the door is locked so they can’t get away. We see that Burke has turned off the video cameras and gone full weasel-mode. Ripley’s resourceful, so she sets off the fire alarm. The marines arrive just in time to save them.
Meanwhile, Bishop gets the process started on bringing down another dropship.
Ripley tells them all about Burke, who wanted to impregnate someone and smuggle the embryos back to Earth in cryo sleep while sabotaging the marines’ pods. He could jettison the bodies and tell any story he wanted to get past quarantine. The aliens approach once again, and this time, they are up in the ceiling. In the ensuing battle, Burke gets away, but not for long. Hudson gets killed as do Gorman and Vasquez. Newt leads Ripley and Hicks through the air ducts as Bishop reports that the ship is on the way.
Newt gets lost, but she’s wearing a tracker, so Hicks tells Ripley that they can still find her. She carries the wounded Hicks out to the drop ship but then makes Bishop fly her back inside to rescue Newt. Bishop warns that the reactor is going to blow in nineteen minutes.
Ripley gears up and goes down after Newt’s tracker. After much hunting and digging through goo, she finds and releases Newt. Things are blowing up all over due to the reactor going critical, so Ripley accidentally ends up walking into a big room full of eggs. She looks up and sees the thing laying all the eggs– the huge Queen!
Ripley and the Queen look each other in the eye and Ripley threatens to melt all the eggs. The aliens all back off to let Ripley pass. When one of the eggs starts to open, Ripley blasts the eggs anyway. The enraged queen pulls itself loose from its big egg sack and comes after the humans.
The final countdown to the nuclear blast begins as Ripley and Newt run through the tunnels and up the elevators to the dropship rendezvous point. The queen follows not far behind. Bishop shows up with the dropship and they make a very narrow escape back to the main ship in orbit.
They get out of the dropship, and Ripley approves of Bishop’s work. They’re friends now. Until he’s torn in half by the Xenomorph Queen, who came along with them somehow. Ripley briefly gets away but soon returns in the big powerlifter she was driving before. In her new motorized exoskeleton, she’s a physical match to the giant queen, so they fight.
Ripley opens the door to the airlock and drops the queen inside. The queen pulls Ripley and the lifter down with her. With few other options, Ripley opens the outer door to the airlock. Everyone manages to hold on except the queen, who goes on a permanent spacewalk.
Ripley crawls over to Bishop’s top half. He saved Newt from going out the airlock, and he’s in sad shape but still talking. Ripley, Hicks, Newt, and Bishop get back into cryosleep to return to Earth.
In the future, the United States still has a flag with fifty stars on it, and Mexicans are still called illegal aliens, even jokingly.
It could be argued that this is more science fiction or action blockbuster than horror, but it’s got a great bunch of monsters, lots of gore, and a few excellent jump scares. That said, as far as military sci-fi goes, this is unequaled on film. This is two hours and seventeen minutes of nonstop action.
The acting is perfect. Sigourney Weaver reprises her role and expands on it really well. Bill Paxton has his most iconic role here, as does Lance Henrikson. Paul Reiser had only done comedy before this, but he’s perfect as a smarmy corporate shill. As with the original, all the characters have names and personalities, so they aren’t just nameless victims.
Directed by Rob Reiner
Written by Stephen King, William Goldman
Stars James Caan, Kathy Bates, Richard Farnsworth
Run Time: 1 Hour, 47 Minutes
Spoiler-Free Judgment Zone
This was the film that really got Kathy Bates noticed. She is excellent in it, perfect for the role, and James Caan really sells it as well. Most of the movie is just the two of them together. It’s well-directed with a good adaptation of the original story. It’s definitely one of the better Stephen King movies.
Paul Sheldon sits at his desk and writes “The End” on his latest manuscript. He then packs up his papers and leaves the cabin he’s been staying in to go back to the city. Credits roll as he drives his car through the snowy mountain roads. He soon runs off the road excessively.
We flash back to Paul and Marcia, his agent. He whines about being stuck in the “Misery Business.” Misery Chastain is an amazingly successful series, but he’s sick of the character and wants to write a book where she dies in the end.
Back in the present, someone pries open Paul’s car and pulls him out onto the snow. The car is soon completely buried in snow and will be for months.
Paul wakes up to Annie Wilkes, who tells him, “I’m your number one fan.” She’s a nurse, but he’s not in a hospital; he’s in a bedroom at her house. He’s pretty banged up, and he’s been asleep for days. Both his legs are badly broken, so he’s not going anywhere soon. Meanwhile, Marcia, the agent, calls Buster, the Chief of Police for the mountain area. She reports Paul as missing. Buster checks with the lodge and gets some details about Paul’s stay.
Annie talks to Paul about nearly stalking him at the cabin. She’s a great fan of the Misery series of books. He gives her permission to read the non-Misery book he just finished writing. She complains about the profanity in his book, and she gets a little “worked up.”
Buster and his wife/deputy Virginia drive the mountain roads, and he almost finds Paul’s car but misses it by just a few feet. Annie passes them on the road on her way home after buying the latest Misery book. Annie introduces Paul to her pig, Misery. She chases the pig around, snorting the whole time; she’s a very silly woman. She talks about how Misery, the character, not the pig, helped her through the loss of her husband. Paul knows she’s not going to like the book’s ending, but what can he do at this point?
“You dirty bird. How could you? She can’t be dead!” Annie stalks in in the middle of the night. “You murdered her!” She screams and demolishes the room. “I thought you were good, Paul, but you’re not.” She tells him that no one else knows he’s there. No one.
The next morning, Annie comes in all nice again and insists that Paul burn his new book. This spoils Paul’s mood even more than before, but then Annie sets up a table and typewriter for him to write the next Misery book; he can undo Misery’s death with “Misery’s Return.” Annie demonstrates that she’s really bipolar.
Alone in the house, Paul gets out of his room and tries the phone, which is destroyed. He does, however, steal some pain medication and hides that. He tries to get outside, but he can’t get out the door. When he hears Annie’s car coming, he scrambles back to his bedroom. He then opens the capsules and puts all the medicine in an envelope for later.
Buster is still on the case, and he finally spots Paul’s car next to the road. They don’t find a body and assume that he froze to death in the woods. Buster sees the scratches from the pry bar Annie used and knows Paul didn’t get out on his own. Buster buys all eight of the Misery books and starts reading.
In the meantime, Paul starts a new book, but Annie doesn’t like it, so he needs to start over. Eventually, Paul comes up with something that Annie approves of. She plays her Liberace records for him all day. They have dinner and drink a toast; Paul slips the drugs into her wine. She spills her wine without drinking it. After that, Paul just writes because he doesn’t have any hope of getting out.
Annie admits that she’s fallen in love with Paul, but she knows he doesn’t love her. His legs are getting better, and the book is almost finished, so she knows he’ll be leaving her soon.
Annie leaves again, and Paul finds newspaper clippings that report he’s missing and presumed dead. He also finds out that Annie’s husband died in a “freak accident.” There are clippings of other convenient deaths. But wait, he also reads that Annie was arrested and tried for killing newborn babies. She’s called the “Dragon Lady” by the press. He wakes up that night to Annie sedating him.
He wakes up in the morning tied to the bed. “I know you’ve been out.” She also found the knife he had hidden under the mattress. She knows everything he’s been up to. She talks about “hobbling” and then puts a log between his legs. Then she takes a sledgehammer and breaks his ankles terribly.
Buster sees Annie in town and does some research of his own on her and her crimes. She even has a quote that’s identical to some of Paul’s writings. He checks at the general store and finds out about the typing paper she bought. He knows. He comes to Annie’s door, but Annie’s already sedated and hidden Paul. She explains that she’s Paul’s number one fan and has even bought a typewriter and paper to write books just like him. He doesn’t find anything, but then Paul wakes up and yells. Annie shoots a big hole in Buster’s chest.
Annie decides that she and Paul need to die together, but he talks her into letting him finish the Misery book so that at least Misery can go on. He finishes the book, and she brings him a cigarette, a match, and some Dom Perignon, as per his finish-the-book tradition. As she gets another glass because he invited her to join him in a final drink, he pours lighter fluid on the book and sets it on fire to torment her. She rushes to put the fire out, and he whacks her with the typewriter.
She attacks him in a rage, but he fights back hard. She shoots him but doesn’t stop that easily. He trips her, and she falls head-first into the heavy antique typewriter. Then he whacks her with a cast iron pig.
Eighteen months later, Paul walks through New York City with a cane. His agent tells him his latest book is going to be a hit. He’s now being taken seriously as a “real author.” She suggests that he write a book on his experience with Annie. A waitress walks up and says she’s his “number one fan.”
Both actors do an amazing job; they’re essentially the entire movie, and they’re both great. Annie is crazy, while Paul is desperate and conniving. Buster and Virginia are fun comic relief, but they don’t get a lot of screen time.
That ankle-breaking scene is the most painful thing to watch ever– the way that foot goes sideways is just too real. There aren’t any real special effects to speak of, it’s just one guy against a madwoman. Excellent!
The Picture of Dorian Gray (1945)
Directed by Albert Lewin
Written by Albert Lewin, Oscar Wilde
Stars George Sanders, Hurd Hatfield, Donna Reed, Angela Lansbury
Run Time: 1 Hour, 50 Minutes
Spoiler-Free Judgment Zone
A lot of bad things going on are implied in the story. There was a deal with the devil in the background. The debauchery and sins and perversions that Dorian partook in are largely hinted at around the edges. It looks good, the cast is skilled, and the direction is excellent. The cinematography was even Oscar-worthy.
London 1886. Lord Henry Wotton lives only for pleasure and doing basically nothing. He does, however, like to influence others. His friend Basil is evasive about his latest painting, Henry goes to see it. It’s a painting of a “young Adonis” named Dorian Gray.
Henry wants to know why Basil won’t allow it to be put into a gallery. Basil says it feels like the painting has a life of its own, and it is a private commission. Basil says he’d just as soon not have Henry meet Dorian, but then Dorian shows up and plays the piano. Henry warns Dorian about getting old and that he should enjoy being young and pretty while he still can. Dorian becomes conscious of the fact that he’s going to get old and die, and the thought terrifies him.
Basil’s young niece, Gladys, waddles in and says she’s going to marry Dorian when she grows up. We finally get to see the painting, which is in full color, although the rest of the film is black and white. Dorian wonders what it would be like if the painting grew old and he didn’t. “I’d give my soul for that,” he says.
Dorian goes out to a little pub, and everyone there notices him. Sibyl Vane comes on stage and starts singing. She and Dorian lock eyes, and she stops singing. Dorian stops in to see her after the show for a private performance. They sing and play piano and wind up kissing. James, Sibyl’s brother, doesn’t like Dorian much, but he’s shipping out tonight for a long time and doesn’t want to make a fuss.
There’s a dinner party where Henry argues with Sir Thomas about pleasure and how annoying women are. Sir Thomas takes offense and wants to leave even before the quails are served, so you know he’s really miffed. Dorian announces that he’s engaged, so Henry and Basil go to meet his bride-to-be. Basil turns out to be supportive, while Henry recommends just playing around and moving on.
Dorian takes Sibyl home to see his painting, and they talk about his Egyptian cat god. Dorian reads a poem from Oscar Wilde. He asks her to spend the night, and she cries and leaves, apparently forever; he’s taken Henry’s advice. He starts playing the piano and lures her back in. This was all a test of her morals, so Dorian really does break up with her in the morning. He’s… harsh.
Dorian feels guilty as he goes home, and he notices the painting. The expression looks different, crueler somehow. He remembers his wish and knows it’s absurd, but the thought is there now, so he covers the painting. He feels even worse and writes to Sibyl to apologize. Henry comes to the door to tell Dorian the news; Sibyl has killed herself with poison. Dorian knows it’s his own fault. Henry’s a hedonist and has no regrets about his advice at all.
Basil comes by that night and is amazed to hear that Dorian has gone to the opera with Henry after the death of Sibyl. “What is past is past.” Basil scolds Dorian for acting like Henry. Basil now wants to exhibit the painting, but Dorian absolutely refuses him. Dorian then locks up the painting and replaces all the servants.
Years pass, and Dorian doesn’t seem to age. Curious stories spread about his notorious, scandalous habits. He went to “dreadful places near Newgate Field and stayed there day after day.” Dorian himself notices the signs of sin and age in the painting, but he never changes himself.
Basil’s niece Gladys is still in love with Dorian, but she’s all grown up now. She tells Basil that she plans to marry Dorian; her fiancée David objects to the idea. Dorian asks if she’s heard the stories about him; they’re all true. “If I were to marry you, it would be an incredible wickedness,” he admits.
Basil comes to Dorian to talk about his reputation. Dorian offers to show Basil the painting, and it’s quite changed from what Basil painted. It’s a horrifying mess, and Dorian’s only 38. Dorian then stabs Basil to death and takes his baggage to the train station bound for Paris.
Dorian writes to Allen Campbell, who doesn’t look so happy to help Dorian. Dorian tells him about the dead body upstairs and that Allen should be able to dispose of the body with his medical connections. Allen refuses, but Dorian threatens him with blackmail, so Allen has no choice.
We see from Henry’s gray hair that more years have passed. Dorian proposes to Gladys, and her fiancée, sitting right next to her, isn’t pleased… again. They also hear that Allen Campbell committed suicide last night. Dorian later hears a street preacher talking about selling one’s soul.
James Vale, dead Sibyl’s brother, is in the crowd as well, but he doesn’t spot Dorian. James doesn’t know Dorian’s real name, so he’s having trouble tracking him down. Just then, Dorian walks in, and James confronts him, but Dorian’s far too young to be the man James has been looking for the past 18 years. Former friend Adrien fills James in on Dorian’s age… and home address.
Dorian and Henry notice that James keeps following him around. There’s a hunt, and a man is killed accidentally, not by Dorian; the man looked like a sailor, and he had a gun. Dorian goes to see the dead man, and it’s James. Dorian leaves town out of guilt.
David comes to see Gladys and Henry, and he’s done some research on Dorian. He bribed the servant for a key and went into that room. He didn’t see anything but a monstrous portrait painted and signed by Gladys’s uncle Basil. David describes the portrait and the cat in the painting as well. Both Gladys and Henry perk up; they know about that painting.
Dorian breaks it off with Gladys, his one good deed. Would he see a change in the portrait? He finds hope in the painting, as it does show a slight change. Dorian vows to change his life and turn things around. Or maybe he should destroy the painting instead? He picks up the dagger he used to kill Basil and stabs the portrait through the heart.
The painting shifts and reverts to his young self. Henry and David break into the room and find what’s left of Dorian under the young-looking painting. He now looks like what the painting used to show.
Angela Lansbury really was young once. This was her third film. This was Hurd Hatfield’s second role, and although he wasn’t as well-known as Lansbury, he also had a long career. The big star at the time this was made was George Sanders, but he really doesn’t do that much here, just showing up from time to time for exposition.
This won the Academy Award for cinematography, and it does look good. The occasional flashes of color when we see the painting were probably a lot more jarring in 1945 than it is today, but it’s still a nice touch.
Dorian never shows much emotion after the painting is created; it’s as if all that got offloaded to the painting as well. Still, the movie only covers around a twenty-year time span, so Dorian wouldn’t have been much older than 42– Why did he look sooooo bad at the end? He must have really been living hard and dirty.
Newsletter Contact Info:
Stay tuned for more regular and bonus reviews next week!
Book Store: https://brianschell.com/collection/horrorguys
Subscribe by email: http://horrorbulletin.substack.com
Thanks for reading Horror Bulletin! Subscribe for free to receive new posts and support my work.