When picturing the Cavalcade Event 8 lineup, we’d already decided that it was going to be doing something rather different than the previous seven events. By focusing on the theme of Halloween, we were able to run off in different directions than those to which we had been bound previously. Able to touch on one-off topics like Pumpkinhead was definitely a big draw.

Directed by Stan Winston, the journeyman craftsman who lead the teams that brought the Terminator, the Alien Queen from Aliens, and the physical dinosaurs in Jurassic Park to life. The man was, frankly, synonymous with the best movie monsters and creature effects for over a generation-so when he puts together an original “dark fairy-tale fantasy” horror film involving Lance Henriksen and a demon, it’s something I want to see.

I’d heard about Pumpkinhead for years, of course. It wasn’t the most successful movie in the theaters at the time of its release in 1988, but has officially achieved “cult status” on home video. Enough so that they made 3 sequels and a comic book mini-series. Even though the sequels were supposedly terrible, word kept circulating that the original had some serious merit. Besides, there was a 20th anniversary DVD that had come out only a month prior. It was fate.

The film centers on Ed Harley (Henriksen), the owner of a small country store in the middle of nowhere which he runs while raising his young son, Billy. One day six fun-loving-horror-movie-style-idiot-teenagers happen by, decide to have some good old-fashioned goofy fun by… pulling out their ATVs and riding over the hills near the store. Woo. Before anyone can say “plot device”, Billy chases his dog out to the hills, gets himself run over, and Harley’s got a righteous mad-on for some blood vengeance. In short order, Harley finds himself a witch, mixes his blood into some kind of stew, and sets loose the titular demon.

Now, my rather flippant description of the movie’s plot doesn’t do it justice, but trust when I say this has much more to do with my inherent dislike of writing synopsis than the quality of the movie. This is a brooding, and deeply atmospheric monster movie that almost overcomes its B-movie origins. While not a great work of Shakespeare, the movie does evolve into a fairly well-played morality play by the third act, with Harley having to come to terms with the price of Vengeance. The movie succeeds in hitting every note its going for…

…Which is exactly why its not a good choice for the Cavalcade. The fact that it takes its time developing the relationship between father and son in the first act causes it to drag on an audience hungry for action. Later, when the Demon is slaughtering the teens, it’s more concerned with creeping out the audience (and it’s intended victims) than actually completing its task, which can lead the “suspenseful” moments to drag out…which can cause more rambunctious crews to start to check out of the picture.

Depending on your Cavalcade audience, this is either a fantastically told low-budget dark fairy tale, or a slow-moving bore. Your mileage may vary. But I, for one, am glad it’s in my permanent collection.

Aliens: Director’s Cut

I've been wracking my brain on this review for the better part of a week and a half now, trying desperately for a way to talk about the gob-smacking rocksauce awesome that is this film without degenerating into a quivering mass of gelatonous gibbering fanboyism.  I finally decided that it most likely wouldn't be possible, but I had to give it the old college try.

Following Ridley Scott's atmospheric and downright creepy Alien (1979)-Director James Cameron took an entirely different tack with his sequel. Whereas the first film focused on a small crew of miners being hunted by a solitary predatory Xenomorph, this film would see a crack team of mercenaries facing down hundreds of bone-gnawing extra-terrestrials. But anyone heading to this site knows this already. Because any film fan who claims to like Sci-Fi action, Sci-Fi horror, or movies in general has already seen this movie: Because it. Is. AWESOME.

Damn, almost made it through the first paragraph. Ok, let's try that one again.

Set fifty-seven years after the original, Ellen Riply (Sigourney Weaver), the sole-survivor of the alien attack aboard the space freighter Nostromo, wakes to a new world where all of her friends and family have long-since passed on. With no physical evidence to back up her reasons for blowing up a multi-billion dollar spacecraft, no one believes her tale of extra-terrestrial infestation, leaving her stripped of rank and marginalized. One of the most damning things against her is that the planet from whence the original alien was acquired has since been colonized, and no one has seen anything out of the ordinary for over 20 years.

Of course, before long, lots of out of the ordinary things happen, and the colony stops responding to calls from home. Time to send in the Space Marines! With Ripley along as a "Technical Alien Advisor", this rag-tag group heads down to LV-426 to find... well, you've got the idea.

I can feel the fanboy raging to get out, wanting to talk about the visual effects that still (for the most part) stand-up. Or the sheer number of genre-defining set pieces that would go on to become benchmarks for every space movie (indeed most Sci-Fi/Action movies) that followed. Or the unforgettable characters like Hudson (Bill Paxton), Vasquezz (Jenette Goldstein), Bishop (Lance Henriksen), and Hicks (Michale Biehn). Or the kick-ass final showdown between Ripley and the Alien Queen over the rousingly explosive score by James Horner! OR THE AMAZING CHASE WHERE BISHOP-

Ahh...there I go again. If I smoked, I'd need a cigarette. So let's bring it down a notch.

The Director's cut expands on the setup with the inclusion of a scene explaining the beginning of the infestation. While it's technically compitent, it slows down the pace of the film lessens the effect of seeing the planet and certain characters for the first time with the rest of the marines. However, this version also includes some other scenes that overall, make it a better experience than the theatrical version.

It goes without  saying that this film comes highly recommended for the Cavalcade, family dinners, wedding anniversaries, or any other occasion. It's beyond a crowd-pleaser. It's quality entertainment that succeeds on all levels. It's safe to say: If your group of friends don't love you for screening this film... you need new friends.