Friday, April 7, 2017

Worth Mentioning - Point of Impact

We watch several movies a week. Every Friday, we'll talk a little about some of the movies we watched that we felt were Worth Mentioning.

Creepy things occur while Ryan Phillippe replaces Mark Wahlberg.


She-Wolf of London has a title that brings to mind a different sort of movie. When I first put it on, I expected to see a straightforward werewolf film about a woman afflicted with the werewolf curse rampaging through the streets of London. A gender swap version of Werewolf of London, The Wolf Man but with a wolf woman.

Instead of doing the expected, director Jean Yarbrough and writers George Bricker and Dwight V. Babcock crafted a psychological drama in which we can't even be sure if there's really a werewolf on the loose at all, since we never actually see one.

At the center of the story is June Lockhart as Phyllis Allenby, a young woman who is the last of the Allenby bloodline - a fact she doesn't even realized, because she thinks the women she's living with are her aunt and cousin. Instead, they're the family housekeeper and the housekeeper's daughter. Phyllis is engaged to be married, but she becomes distraught and distracted from her impending nuptials when people start getting mauled and murdered in the park near her home by what the survivors claim was a female werewolf. Hearing there might be a werewolf roaming near their home would be disturbing to anybody, but Phyllis has even more reason to be concerned. There's a legend that says the Allenby family is cursed by wolves.

Phyllis fears she may be the werewolf, and the dreams she has about stalking and killing people, of taking part in pagan rituals and becoming a wolf in a past life, would seem to confirm her fear. If more confirmation is necessary after she wakes up the morning after an attack with blood on her hands, mud on her slippers, and her robe wet with dew.

Still, there is some lingering doubt over whether or not Phyllis really is a werewolf. Actually, the mystery is quite easy to solve, the film pretty much gives away the answer within the first 15 minutes of the 61 minute movie, but it's still fun to watch things play out even with things being so obvious.

She-Wolf of London could have done with a different title, as the one it has might leave viewers feeling cheated, but if you can get beyond the expectations you may have going in you might be able to get some enjoyment from this simple story. I did.


An independent film directed by Hunter Adams from a screenplay he wrote with Jeremy Phillips, Dig Two Graves was filmed back in 2013, and while I don't know the story behind its four year journey to distribution, I can understand why this movie would take a while to make it out into the world. It's not a question of quality - the film is well made and looks wonderful, with Adams and cinematographer Eric Maddison bringing some impressive visuals to the screen. It's the fact that it's so unique. There's nothing out on the market today that I could really compare it to, so I would understand if someone were to question how it could be sold. But as a viewer, I found the film's uniqueness to be a great benefit.

Adams came up with the story idea after his own mother passed away and he began to wonder how far he would go to bring her back. That deeply personal connection to the concept comes through in the film, which is set in 1977 and centers on a young girl named Jake (Samantha Isler) whose brother Sean (Ben Schneider) dies in a tragic accident when he jumps off a cliff at a water-filled quarry. His body isn't recovered from the water, and likely never will be. Losing a brother is painful enough, but there's also a reason for Jake to have guilt mixed in with her grief: Sean jumped off that cliff because she was supposed to be jumping with him. She chickened out, and might have saved her own life by doing so.

Soon after Sean's death, Jake is approached by a trio of very strange guys led by the intensely creepy Wyeth (Troy Ruptash). These guys seem to know everything about the girl and what she has lost, and they also claim that death isn't as permanent as she might think. Wyeth can bring Sean back to life, all that's required is that someone take his place. He even suggests the replacement - Willie Proctor (Gabriel Cain), a bullied classmate of Jake's who has a crush on her. All she has to do is push Willie off that quarry cliff and Sean will come back.

Jake and Wyeth make a handshake deal that brings up all sorts of questions. Who are these guys? Can Wyeth really resurrect the dead? Why does he want Willie dead? Our protagonist wouldn't really kill an innocent kid, would she? And if she breaks the deal, what are the consequences?

Adding to the intrigue is the presence of the great Ted Levine as Jake's grandfather, the local sheriff. The sheriff has history with that quarry; thirty years earlier he and the former sheriff (Danny Goldring) tossed some bodies off that cliff. While Jake's story plays out, we also get flashbacks to 1947 that fill us in on the criminal activities of the law enforcement officers and reveal how the past ties in with what's going on in the present.

Dig Two Graves was quite different from anything else I've watched recently, and I was grateful to be seeing something that was a bit outside of the norm while still being rooted in a real, relatable world - in this case, picturesque small town Illinois. I was captivated and emotionally engaged throughout, and while some of the film's answers were easy to predict, Adams frequently found a way to put a twist on things and take them in a direction you might not expect.

A great deal of the film's overall effectiveness can be attributed to the incredible performances delivered by Isler and Levine in the lead roles. The cast does well across the board, but the movie is truly carried by those two actors, and they both do some stunning work here. Levine has had several great roles over the years, and I would rank this film's Sheriff Waterhouse among his best.

We know Levine is awesome, but it's clear that Isler is going to go on to do some great things, too. She's not the only one who shows promise, as this film also indicates that Hunter Adams is a filmmaker to keep an eye on. Dig Two Graves is a great achievement for a low budget indie, and I'm left wanting to see more of what Adams can do.

The Dig Two Graves review originally appeared on

Nite Owl Theatre - HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL (1959)

From 1974 to 1991, WBNS-TV in Columbus, Ohio ran a horror host show called Nite Owl Theatre, hosted by a fellow called Fritz the Nite Owl. Nineteen years after the show ended, Fritz made his triumphant return to the horror host world with a new version of Nite Owl Theatre that began in October of 2010 - new episodes were put together monthly, would make their debut at a local Columbus independent theatre, and then would be available for viewing online. Unfortunately, new episodes are no longer being uploaded at this point, but Fritz is still out there, hosting theatrical screenings every month. Back in the summer of 2011, I attended a double feature screening of Bride of Frankenstein and Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein that was hosted live by Fritz.

Although I'm from Ohio, I didn't get to see the original version of Nite Owl Theatre because we didn't get Columbus stations. Instead, I became a fan of Fritz with the online show in 2010. House on Haunted Hill was the movie shown on the fourth episode of the rebooted Nite Owl Theatre, and it makes sense that Fritz got to it so quickly; a public domain movie starring Vincent Price is an obvious one to cover and a tough one pass up.

Fritz is an excellent host. I like it when a host shares their thoughts on the film and provides a good deal of information about it, and that's exactly how Fritz approaches his hosting duties. He offers a quick review of House on Haunted Hill up front, calling it a three star (out of four or five) film and praising the story, performances, production value, and effects. Over the course of the episode, he also gives some information on the filming location, discusses the career of Vincent Price, comments on the events of the film, talks a bit about actor Elisha Cook Jr., and tells us about the gimmick producer William Castle up with for the film when it was released in 1959: Emergo, where skeletons were sent floating over the heads of the audience.

Fritz is more educational than the average host, but there are some comedic moments. He does his hosting while superimposed over images from the film or inserted into them, and it's amusing to see where pops up sometimes.

The Nite Owl Theatre revival was presented as if it were a Saturday night movie show being aired on WNTL-Z, and another cool about it was the fact that commercial breaks were assembled using vintage commercials from the '70s and '80s. In this episode the commercials included ads for monster cereal, various toys, and a '77 Ford. Some of them were Halloween themed, some featured familiar faces - like the O.J. Simpson Hertz commercial.

As for House on Haunted Hill itself, I would agree with Fritz that it's a terrific film. The story of what happens when a wealthy couple invites five people to a haunted mansion, promising up to $50,000 to anyone who can make it through the night, it's one of my favorite haunted house movies. I wrote a little more about it last October.

SHOOTER (2016-)

I haven't read author Stephen Hunter's series of novels that focus on military-trained sniper Bob Lee Swagger, but I am familiar with the movie Shooter, a 2007 adaptation of Hunter's novel Point of Impact that starred Mark Wahlberg as Swagger. For years, I waited to see a follow-up to that film, figuring that Wahlberg's Swagger would be back for further cinematic adventures.

Instead, Wahlberg and Shooter director Antoine Fuqua have ended up executive producing a USA Network television series that stars Ryan Phillippe as Bob Lee Swagger... and rather than use other Swagger novels as source material for the series, the first season was actually another adaptation of Point of Impact, stretching the story out so it took ten 42 minute episodes to tell rather than the film's 125 minutes.

The set-up is the same: retired Marine Corps sniper Bob Lee Swagger is contacted by a government official and asked to scout a location the President of the United States will soon be visiting, because it is suspected that a sniper is going to be trying to take a shot at him. Swagger checks the location and figures out where any shot might come from, but is unable to stop an assassination attempt from happening... actually, the assassination is a success, it just happens to turn out that the POTUS wasn't really the target.

This has all been a ruse so that Swagger could be framed for the murder, so he has to go on the run and avoid the authorities and the conspirators that are tracking him down long enough to figure out why this has happened and how he can clear his name.

The show expands on that set-up by giving Swagger a personal connection to more characters - the man who tricks him into getting framed isn't just a random official, it's someone he served in the Marines with, Omar Epps as Isaac Johnson. Sawagger and Johnson were in Afghanistan together. This Swagger also has a wife and a young daughter (played by Shantel VanSanten and Lexy Kolker) who have to evade trouble while he's on the run; the movie Swagger just had a love interest he picked up along the way.

Both the film and series are mysteries, but there are more pieces to fit together on the show, more steps required to solve the case. These steps include having Swagger visit his former instructor Rathford O'Brien. O'Brien is played by William Fichtner, who totally steals the show while he's on the screen and delivers a line regarding his genitals that I will never forget.

Also trying to solve the case is an FBI agent, and instead of Michael Peña as Nick Memphis this time we have Cynthia Addai-Robinson as Nadine Memphis. This Memphis has more digging to do, and she makes for a strong, memorable supporting character.

The show also devotes a good amount of time to the actions of the conspirators, the main villains being played by Epps, Tom Sizemore, Eddie McClintock, Desmond Harrington, and Sean Cameron Michael. Plenty of time for the viewer to develop a strong distaste for them and a hope that they'll get what's coming to them. McClintock and Harrington's characters especially are the sort of slimeballs you just can't wait to see get their comeuppance.

Drawing a story out to such a degree can be risky, and there are times when I felt like Shooter was spinning its wheels a bit, but overall I was satisfied with the pace of the story and how it all plays out. There's plenty of pay-off as well, with the show delivering some very cool action sequences.

So Shooter the series is Shooter the movie all over again, just longer and more involved. I have enjoyed both, but now I want to see Swagger deal with other issues, and I'm not sure what path they'll be taking him down in season two. Will the writers be making up all-new stories for the character? Or will other Hunter novels be getting full season adaptations? I would hope for the latter.

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