The Aisle Seat - Movie Reviews by Mike McGranaghan
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THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan


The Horror Show

Man, oh, man, The Horror Show is an amazing movie. I don't mean that it's good. In fact, it's quite terrible. (One of the credited writers is “Alan Smithee,” the pseudonym used when somebody is embarrassed enough to request their name be removed.) No, this is one of those movies that's so astonishingly crazy/bad that it becomes highly entertaining to watch. The Horror Show opened in April of 1989, six months before the similarly-themed Shocker. If nothing else, it can lay claim to having gotten there first. The film will be released in a Blu-Ray/DVD combo pack from Scream Factory on November 26. If you enjoy deliriously bonkers horror flicks, this is one to get on your radar.

Lance Henriksen plays Lucas McCarthy, a detective suffering Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder ever since capturing the vicious criminal Max Jenke (played by the late, great character actor Brion James). McCarthy shows up to Jenke's execution but, to everyone's surprise, it takes a higher-than-normal amount of juice to kill him. Actually, it doesn't really kill him at all. Jenke's evil spirit mixes with the electricity, sending him into some other dimension. He continues to terrorize McCarthy with a series of terrifying hallucinations, while also threatening the detective's family.

The Horror Show was clearly influenced by the lesser Nightmare on Elm Street sequels, as it positions Max Jenke as a neo-Freddy Kruger, capable of infiltrating McCarthy's dreams. While that idea isn't new, it does allow the movie to serve up a handful of completely not-scary but totally hilarious horror visuals. One has to admire the ingenuity of Mr. Smithee and co-writer Leslie Bohem (Dante's Peak) in coming up with such unhinged ideas. From the time Jenke utters his last words to the warden (“Blow it out your ass, pinhead!”), The Horror Show goes cheerfully off the rails. In one scene, Jenke morphs into McCarthy's wife in bed, allowing us the sight of Brion James wearing a wig and nightgown. Later, Jenke's face emerges from the pregnant belly of the detective's daughter. And what's supposed to be a nice turkey dinner turns dark when the main course begins to resemble the electrocuted killer. Also be sure to look for a hockey mask in McCarthy's basement, an in-joke from producer Sean S. Cunningham, who also brought us Friday the 13th.

As a fright flick, The Horror Show fails miserably. As a piece of camp, however, it's fantastic – a total trip from start to finish. Scream Factory celebrates the movie with some cool bonus features, including audio commentary from Cunningham. (The director, James Isaac, died in May of 2012.) He talks about why the film was marketed as an entry in the House franchise in some countries. There's also a nine-minute interview with stunt coordinator Kane Hodder, who talks about doubling for Brion James, a stunt that didn't quite go as planned, and a humorous on-set incident between he and Henriksen. Actress Rita Taggart, who plays McCarthy's wife, gets a ten-minute interview. Among other things, she discusses the firing of original director David Blyth and how his dismissal impacted the cast. Finally, the original theatrical trailer is on the disc, too.

All the bonus materials are fun and informative, and The Horror Show has been nicely transferred to Blu-Ray. It's a terrific package for a most unusual and amusing horror flick.

For more information on this title, please visit the Scream Factory website.

The Horror Show is rated R for some strong violence and language. The running time is 1 hour and 35 minutes.

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