• Trusty Henchman

Have You Ever Seen...

Solaris (1972)

It's not like I'm going to add anything of substance to the discourse of a movie considered to be one of the greatest sci-fi films in history, but hey it was my first time watching it so maybe this will motivate someone else who's never checked it out.


The leisurely nature of the first act might turn some off, but it's beautifully shot and once we're into the thick of the space station segment it turns into an engaging existential nightmare. I was talking with someone about the film and they seemed surprised that I actually viewed it more as existential horror than sci-fi but seriously I do not feel like Tarkovsky gave much of a damn about the sci-fi aspects of the film. Tarkovsky wanted to bring more emotional depth to the genre as a direct reply to 2001, and the film delves deep into subjects revolving around the human psyche, suicide, and God. It skirts a little into the domain of identity horror as well, especially as Natalya Bondarchuk's character has to confront her nature as a duplicate of the main character's deceased wife.


Donatas Banionis' performance was interesting for me as towards the start I felt he was unengaging but as the story reveals the layers of emotional trauma he's experienced during his life then I did a 180. He brings a very haunted and emotionally drained persona to the film, one that informs the crisis he's experiencing as they meet a god-like creature that is unintentionally messing with the emotional well-being of everyone on the station. All of the performances were pretty great, especially Natalya Bondarchuk who is an absolute highlight of the film.


Some things didn't always hit me right, but there's a lot of nuances in the script and acting that made this a very enjoyable (and unintentional?) emotional horror/sci-fi film for me.


9 out of 10

 

Night of the Comet (1984)

This was a staple of my childhood as it was a favorite of my mother's, but I'm not sure I ever watched it all in one sitting to appreciate it fully. It's a campy comedy/horror/sci-fi mix revolving around the passing of a comet that essentially turns the bulk of humanity into dust or somewhat sentient zombies. A few teens in California find themselves as the only survivors and we follow them as they deal with living in the post-apocalyptic landscape.


Highlights include:

  • Catherine Mary Stewart as the lead. Between this, Last Starfighter, and Weekend at Bernie's she always had free rent in my young brain.

  • Kelli Maroney essentially being the influence for the creation of Buffy Summers.

  • Commander Chakotay (Robert Beltran) being the lead heartthrob.

  • I love Mary Woronov whenever she pops up in anything.

  • Evil zombie stockboy Willy kinda rules as an 80's villain who doesn't get enough time to shine.

It's a fun film that never takes itself too seriously and has fun with its genre tropes. It's also just an easy way to kill 95 minutes with an infusion of 80's schlock nostalgia, so you know what you're getting into for a solid movie night.


7 out of 10

 

The Frighteners (1996)

Y'know, for the most part the special effects aged mostly sorta ok. Some of the Reaper moving through walls and carpets looks kinda iffy on a re-view, but for '96 it worked pretty well.


If you've never seen this Peter Jackson supernatural comedy, the basic gist is that Michael J. Fox is a conman who can see and talk to ghosts and uses them to haunt people, offering his services in exorcising the spirits. This plot runs parallel to another where a doctor played by Trini Alvarado is investigating the past of a woman named Patricia who is trapped in a house under the legal guardianship of her mother. Patricia is haunted by a Reaper like spirit, and she and the Reaper are connected to a series of grisly murders from the 60's. It's kind of a sprawling and messy plot that's oddly paced, but it works out ok by the end.


It's a fun little horror romp with that unique Jackson flair, with highlights including:

  • Jeffrey Combs as a crazy FBI agent. I mean I'm almost legally required to love everything he's in, Combs is a favorite of mine.

  • I buy Jake Busey as a crazy 60's mass serial killer. That's requires like 0% suspension of disbelief.

  • John Astin is pretty great as a ghost cowboy, but also kinda creepy because the jokes about him liking to sleep with mummies because he 'likes it when they lie still' are sorta...ehhh....bleh.

  • R. Lee Ermey pops up for a couple scenes.

This is very much a popcorn film as it doesn't really stick with me for too long after a viewing. I always enjoy that viewing and the actors involved, but it's not like an incredibly deep script and plot either.


7 out of 10


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