I have been working as a film journalist since 2010, dividing the first four years between radio broadcasting and entertainment writing in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex. In 2014, I entered Fresh Fiction (FreshFiction.tv) as the features editor. The following year, I stepped into the film critic position at the Denton Record-Chronicle, a daily North Texas print publication. My time is dedicated to writing theatrical film reviews, at-home entertainment columns, and conducting interviews with on-screen talent and filmmakers, as well as hosting a podcast devoted to genre filmmaking (called My Bloody Podcast). I've been married for seven happy years, and I have one son who is all about dinosaurs just like his dad.
Preston Barta // Features Editor
To coincide with this weekend’s horror convention happening in Dallas-Fort Worth (Texas Frightmare), there are a few bloody genre releases that have been restored to frighten and entertain collectors.
TROLL / TROLL 2 [Double Feature]
Rated PG-13, 82 / 95 minutes.
Director: John Carl Buechler / Claudio Fragasso
Cast: Michael Moriarty, Shelley Hack, Jenny Beck, Noah Hathaway and Phil Fondacaro / Michael Paul Stephenson, George Hardy, Margo Prey, Connie Young and Deborah Reed
Do not expect quality horror with the TROLL films. They are about as low as they come, especially TROLL 2 — a film that widely is considered to be one of the worst movies of all time. However, as terrible as these movies are, you cannot beat the entertainment that comes from watching them with good company, the bonus features that are included and the sheer joy of poking fun at its absurdity.
1986’s TROLL is an ambitious movie. It’s got this creepy, somewhat perverted, troll king who’s in search of a mystical ring that has the power to possess and turn humans into trolls themselves. This troll begins his quest at an apartment in San Francisco, where he finds a father named — get this — Harry Potter (Michael Moriarty) and his family (Shelley Hack, Jenny Beck and THE NEVERENDING STORY’s Noah Hathaway). I also should mention late singer Sonny Bono hilariously portrays the apartment manager and Julia Louis-Dreyfus plays another resident.
1990’s TROLL 2 doesn’t feature a single troll in its narrative. It’s all about these goblins and other dumb things. This movie, like The Room, exists on another planet. Nobody behaves realistically. It comes from filmmakers who have the wrong idea of what it takes to craft a movie. I mean, it has an erotic scene between a teen boy (David McConnell) and a witch (Deborah Reed, who’s actually the goblin queen) as they devour some corn on the cob. And let us not forget the weird scenes featuring goblins eating the humans who were duped into drinking or taking something they shouldn’t have. They unfortunately turn into plants and green goo.
Scream Factory has put these two goofy films into one collector’s edition. The best thing about the double-feature pack is it also includes the 2009 documentary BEST WORST MOVIE. It’s directed by the annoying little boy you wanted to kick the bucket at the start of TROLL 2, Michael Paul Stephenson. Stephenson expertly explores the fascination of the film, how terrible it is and the passion the filmmakers and talent had when they were making it. Things, of course, didn’t pan out. But they have found a new love for the movie over the years, because TROLL 2 has found its following. It’s a terrific documentary amid some ridiculous movies.
Extras: A TROLL making-of, still gallery, audio commentary, theatrical trailers and the BEST WORST MOVIE documentary.
THE HOUSE THAT DRIPPED BLOOD
A few weeks back, I wrote a summary for the horror anthology film GHOST STORIES. This 1971 movie, written by PSYCHO author Robert Bloch, is quite similar in its structure, but far more effective and thrilling.
Featuring the talents of icons Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing and Jon Pertwee, THE HOUSE THAT DRIPPED BLOOD follows the hauntings and terrors of the tenants who occupied the titular cursed rental home. (Think a smaller version of the Overlook Hotel from THE SHINING. Only instead of Jack Torrance going mad, you have multiple characters losing their heads across four different storylines.)
Some segments are more intriguing than others, my personal favorite being the one starring Lee (THE LORD OF THE RINGS) as the father of girl who has some scary voodoo powers. The final segment with Pertwee (DOCTOR WHO) playing a heightened version of himself (in a story about vampires) provides a nice analysis on horror that still echoes today.
Extras: A insightful new interview with Second Assistant Director Mike Higgins; a new commentary with film historian and author Troy Howarth (often the best kind of commentaries); a very good vintage featurette (“A-Rated Horror Film”), a vintage commentary with director Peter Duffell and the cast, theatrical trailers, radio spots and a still gallery.
As celebrated as Italian horror filmmaker Dario Argento is, I like very few of his films. Even most acclaimed work, 1977’s SUSPIRIA (getting a remake later this year), doesn’t do much for me. Thankfully, however, I found some grace in his 1989 co-scripted film, THE CHURCH.
Admittedly, it takes some time to get into the movie, because the dialogue is quite clearly recorded later — something you’ll recognize in a lot of Argento’s movies. It’s difficult to take a character seriously when he or she sounds like they were recorded in a tin can. But where the film goes right is in its scary imagery and its Poltergeist-like story: An old Gothic cathedral is built over the graves of witches, and all hell breaks loose by the end.
There are many images that are hard to shake. One sequence when a possessed man kills himself with a jackhammer will burrow into your brain. Another scene showcasing a winged snake-man grabbing a naked woman (a nod to Boris Vallejo’s “Vampire’s Kiss” painting) will also give you the heebie-jeebies.
If you crave mythology and demonic narratives (Trivia: THE CHURCH is known as Demons 3 in other countries), watch this merciless gothic thriller.
Extras: The Scorpion Releasing film includes a 20-minute interview with director Michele Soavi (THE SECT) and a nine-minute interview with Argento’s daughter, Asia Argento (xXx), who plays one of the primary characters in the film.
Also available this week: BATMAN & NINJA; FIFTY SHADES FREED; THE RETURN OF THE SWAMP THING (MVD Rewind Collection) and THE SINNER: SEASON 1.