The Curse Of The Werewolf (1961)

DECEMBER 31, 2008


After Brides of Dracula and Evil of Frankenstein, I’ve decided to start checking whether or not any of the films on my Hammer set were sequels to films I hadn’t seen yet. Through this, I discovered that The Curse Of The Werewolf was actually the ONLY werewolf movie that Hammer ever made. I found that pretty surprising; how is it that with all of the movies they made during the 50s-70s, only one focused on one of the big three classic monsters? They actually had more about Jekyll and Hyde!

One reason it’s a shame is that this one, while pretty good, could definitely have benefited from 20/20 hindsight when it came time to make another. Oliver Reed is the werewolf, which is an incredible idea in theory (I had visions of a drunken wolf man trying to kill someone, but instead he just keeps laughing, tripping over himself, and generally just having a blood-free blast), but Reed doesn’t appear until nearly FIFTY minutes into the film! The reason for this is the rather involved setup; it’s not enough to just have a stranger come to town and bite Reed or whatever. No, a stranger comes to town, he gets tossed in a dungeon by the evil king, a little girl falls in love with him, and when she is a grown woman she gets tossed in the cell too, gets raped by the guy, kills the king, runs away, is taken in by a nice rich couple, has the stranger’s kid, and then dies. Then the kid is seen for a while as a tyke, before the movie’s four hundredth “time has passed” fade out occurs and Reed finally enters the film. Good lord!

And this presents a rather troubling issue: at this point there’s only a little over a half an hour left of the movie, so Reed kills a broad within minutes of his introduction. The best thing about the old Wolf Man movies is that you really felt bad for Larry Talbot, but here, even though he’s not a raving lunatic (well, relatively speaking, this IS Oliver Reed here), you don’t get to know him long enough before he does something deplorable, which makes it kind of hard to sympathize.

Still, all of the Reed stuff is top notch entertainment, almost making you forget the rather bland first hour. He runs around in a Mariachi suit, carries out what I believe to be the most upsetting and traumatic marriage proposal in cinematic history, and makes what can best be described as an “annoyed pigeon” sound when he growls. We are also treated to my favorite mob/torch moment in monster movie history. One of the townsfolk, as is dictated by law, tosses his torch at the monster, who is on a nearby roof. But instead of lighting him on fire or whatever, Reed picks up a bale of hay, which immediately engulfs in flame. Reed then tosses it back at the crowd, thus turning their own torches against them! Yeah! I bet the guy who sells them all the torches (I like to think he has a cart, like a New York hot dog vendor) felt pretty bad about that.

Director Terence Fisher (who else?) really botches what could have been the all-time best “monster’s dead, so the movie’s over” moment in Hammer history though. Reed’s character’s father puts a blanket over him, and momentarily covers the camera lens with it, leaving an all black image. It would have been fucking AWESOME if they cut right then to credits, but Fisher breaks Hammer protocol by inserting a quick shot of someone reacting to the tragic loss of a once human character (his fiancée, in this case). Hammer movies don’t usually bother with such sentimental nonsense, so I’m not sure why they thought outside the box for once when they had the perfect opportunity to wrap it up with the blanket thing. Oh well.

So, yeah, it takes a while to get to the actual werewolf part of it (plus the “curse” stuff never really has any payoff) but it’s still an above average werewolf movie. It’s a bummer Hammer never made another. Maybe the new Hammer studio will do one of their own if the Benicio Del Toro one (from Universal) takes a break from being delayed and turns out to be a big hit.

What say you?


Terror-Creatures From The Grave (1965)

DECEMBER 30, 2008


I kind of like the irony of Mill Creek providing widescreen transfers on a few of the films from the Tales of Terror set, because the whole idea of providing a widescreen image is to allow viewers to enjoy the film as intended. But I highly doubt that director Massimo Pupillo intended Terror Creatures From The Grave (Italian: 5 Tombe Per Un Medium) to be seen on what appears to be a VHS transfer of a camera shot bootleg, with sound that occasionally turns into underwater garbling noises and the occasional jarring splice. I swear there are actually two prints being used, because occasionally a splice will come and then the film will look better (or worse) then it did a second ago. But hey, A for effort and all that.

I should make a separate tagging for movies that I wish I could watch again on a decent transfer, because all the image/sound problems were really distracting from what is otherwise a pretty solid movie. It reminded me of some of the other 60s Italian films I’ve seen, such as The Ghost (which also starred Barbara Steele), but in a good way. I liked the mystery angle especially; I’ve seen so many of these horror movies in which the “monster” turns out to be just some guy that it’s now a nice surprise when there are legitimate supernatural elements behind it all.

Unfortunately, because of the attempts to keep this sort of a mystery, not a lot happens onscreen. We see a lot of people FINDING corpses, but not a lot of people BECOMING corpses. Luckily, the few we are offered are pretty fun, particularly a wheelchair bound guy. What is it about wheelchair-bound victims that make their deaths such a mean-spirited joy? I think of the old hag in Gremlins, and of course the death of Mark, patron saint of wheelchaired horror movie characters, in Friday the 13th part 2.

Also, because a lot of the movie is talk, there’s an issue that comes up a lot – dubbed dialogue overlapping. Because the English takes longer to say than the original Italian (I guess), we often have conversations in which people reply much quicker than they naturally should, because the pause in between one character’s line and another’s is wiped out by the longer dub track. It’s kind of funny to see someone “reply” so quickly to a question though.

One line might be a mistranslation, but either way it’s a gem. When delivering some exposition (the backstory involves the Plague, which was apparently enough to get Edgar Allen Poe a writing credit), a guy mentions “horribly severed heads”. As opposed to all of the wonderful and beautifully severed heads you are accustomed to?

Also, our hero looks like Joe Pesci from My Cousin Vinny. I’d screenshot it, but I already took the DVD out and it’s so blurry you probably wouldn’t be able to see the resemblance anyway.

So, yeah, if you can find a good copy, I’d recommend this one. It’s slow, but the payoff is pretty good, and it has all the hallmarks of the 1960’s Italian “horror movie in a castle” genre: crypts, inheritances, moors, and well, Barbara Steele.

What say you?


Blackwoods (2002)

DECEMBER 29, 2008


At this point, I don’t think I need to once again explain that I am no hater of Uwe Boll. Sure, his films have problems, but there’s no such thing as a filmmaker who achieves greatness every time out (Christ, I’ve always at least been able to finish Boll’s films, I can’t say the same for Steven Spielberg thanks to 1941), and more importantly, they are far from the bottom of the barrel. Anyone who truly thinks that Alone in the Dark is the worst movie ever made clearly hasn’t been reading my site. But despite my minor appreciation for the guy, I still haven’t gotten around to watching any of his pre-video game movies, which are often cited as “not as terrible” by even his harshest critics. So I was hoping Blackwoods, made in 2001, would be a minor gem, relatively speaking anyway.

Sadly, it’s a disappointing effort. While admirably slower paced and more focused on character and such, it’s pretty weak overall, and suffers from a lot of the same problems his more notorious films are known for: baffling use of slo-mo, nonsensical casting (Patrick Muldoon in a Jacob’s Ladder-ish psychological turn? No. Just no.), and a soundtrack that seemingly goes out of its way to not fit the scene. Nothing is as ludicrous as the anti-racism song that played over the love scene in AITD, but the selections from the Macy Gray-esque Charlemaine come pretty close, with her wailing about a failed relationship over shots of Muldoon accidentally running someone over.

But it also has a lot of the actors that are part of Boll’s stable, including Michael Paré as the town sheriff. He has what has to be my single favorite “Oh... Oh Boll...” moment in the entire film, when a waitress asks where the girl’s family is, and Paré instantly replies with this ditty, all in one breath, in the middle of a coffee shop:

“When people do wrong they know it, whether or not they accept it is another story. You get to believe your own lies if you tell ‘em long enough. You can’t escape your past no matter how hard you try; things have a way of coming back, some folks might call it haunting. I imagine my telling this story in years to come I’ll gloss over my part in it, relieving my conscience of my guilt. My nonchalance. The truth always comes back, it always does. God has a hell of a sense of humor.”

(I added in some punctuation that Paré’s script apparently omitted. I wish I could just show you the scene; my transcription doesn’t do it justice.)

Also on board is Clint Howard, who also appeared in House of the Dead. Unsurprisingly, he’s the best thing in the movie, playing a perverted motel clerk with Bozo hair, who offers condoms to guests instead of mints. Faring less well is Will Sanderson, cast as Muldoon’s friend who sits around playing GTA and grills him about his new girlfriend’s tit size.

Now, none of these thespians are known for their award-worthy work, and to be fair, they all do fairly decent with the script they were given, which had a good concept but a jarring tone/pace. It’s clear Boll wanted to say something about revenge and taking responsibility for one’s actions, but he needed a better writer to pull it off. There are two pretty big problems that he can’t overcome: Key information is hidden from the audience for far too long, and our hero is simply unlikable. There are moments where answers are about to be given, only to cut away to something else for a while, so that by the time Boll returns to the scene, you’ve already figured out the answer for yourself. Also, the scenes that play out in flashback, showing what REALLY happened, are so goddamn ridiculous (particularly the ones with Muldoon in his motel room) that it’s impossible to take the movie seriously anymore, which is precisely what it is trying to achieve at this point.

I am being intentionally vague, because even though the movie is like seven years old, I assume many of you haven’t seen it, and I don’t want to spoil it. And that’s a shame, because I REALLY want you to watch the hilarious trailer for the film, which gives pretty much everything away. But what makes the trailer so special is the narrator, who sounds like he’s making up his voice over on the spot. I have linked it below (there was no embed code), but beware: again, it spoils almost every twist in the movie.

I do want to point one thing out though: I dunno if it was Boll or his co-writer (Robert Dean Klein, who also wrote, *sigh*, Dark Ride), but there is an exchange between two of the redneck characters that floored me:

Redneck mom: “Because of this, I can’t get none of that.... what do they call it?”
Redneck son: “Satisfaction!”

Hahaha. Good to know even backwoods hicks appreciate the Stones. Or Britney Spears.

What say you?

Trailer: HERE


The Devil's Chair (2006)

DECEMBER 28, 2008


Last week someone asked why I always watch the extras for the movies I review, even the movies I dislike. I chalked it up to an equal mix of being obsessive compulsive and, in the case of those underwhelming films, an opportunity for the filmmakers to sort of state their case and maybe leave me a little less cold on their film. So it’s a shame I didn’t have The Devil’s Chair to bring up as an example, because I had passed on it several times in the store due to its extensive extras (commentary and a hour long making of), and had I not, I could have made a good point about the importance of extras, as the making-of gave me a whole new way of looking at the film. See, the movie ain’t all that good, but it shows promise from time to time, and ultimately, its biggest problem is a editing/screenwriting decision that seemed shoehorned into the final film, rather than an organic idea.

Throughout the film, our protagonist “freezes” the movie and narrates something. Sometimes it’s for a few seconds, other times it’s merely a few frames. Either way it’s annoying as hell, to the point where I kept yelling SHUT UP! at the narrator, who presumably couldn’t hear me. And worse, the haphazard frequency that it occurs means you can never quite get used to it. At times, it would become so frequent during a sequence that it made me feel like I was watching a DVD of one of those children’s storybooks for popular movies (where you get a tape, or, I guess CD now, of the movie being narrated as you look at select still shots). So like I said, it felt like something that got added in for whatever reason, because I couldn’t imagine someone sitting there and writing in a 3-4 word line to play over a shot that froze for a half a second.

And the extras confirmed as much. The movie was more or less an attempt by filmmakers Adam Mason and Simon Boyes to make a more commercial film (they were hired to make a “shit haunted house” movie under certain circumstances) that would help fund projects they truly cared about, but they didn’t want to make any old piece of shit either. However, as they were editing, they realized that they had indeed made a rather lousy film, so someone had the genius decision to write/record narration to play over any scene, moment, or even shot of the film that they felt was sub-par. A pretty terrible idea, if you ask me (apparently, they never heard of Blade Runner), and I am pretty certain that it didn’t help. I would love to see the non-narrated original cut of the film and see how differently it plays when I don’t have an annoying Brit yammering in my ear every twenty seconds.

But it’s not so much the concept of the narration that annoyed me, it’s the execution. The freeze frame stuff is only half as annoying as what he is actually saying, which is a lot of meta “look at this crappy horror movie!” type alleged humor. I’m sorry, but when the filmmakers are essentially making fun of me for wanting to watch a monster/splatter movie, they instantly lose a lot of my goodwill. It’s good that they indeed recognize their film’s faults, but calling attention to them in the most annoying way possible seems counterproductive. Hilariously, they point out how once they are finished with a film they never want to watch it again, yet all of these last-minute changes were designed to make a film that they were happier with. So the people who WILL watch it in the years to come won’t enjoy it as much because of the changes made by folks who have no desire in watching it?

Strangely enough, the making of is edited just like the film, albeit within the confines of a documentary. So instead of jarring freeze-frames, there are jarring quick cuts to the film itself, and instead of calling attention to the fact that it’s a movie by having the narrator say so, the editor simply zooms in and removes the color during a lot of the talking head shots, giving it a Natural Born Killers style feel. Again, it’s pretty goddamn annoying; I would suggest just listening to the making of’s audio track and looking at, I dunno, a piece of ham or something.

The most surprising thing about the making of, however, is when Mason began talking about his previous film, which was.... Broken! AKA the worst movie of 2007. I hadn’t remembered his name, and the box art for Devil’s Chair wisely doesn’t mention it. I’m glad I didn’t know before I watched the film, as I would have gone with a chip on my shoulder (something I don’t usually do, but man, Broken was REALLY fucking terrible). He mentions the film quite often, and seems pretty proud of it, to the point of sounding arrogant, but I didn’t really mind much. I’d rather a filmmaker (or anyone involved with a film) stuck to his guns about his past work rather than talk about how great it is when its time to promote it, only to slam it while he’s out for the next one (sadly, my hero, one Mr. Walter Bruce Willis, is one of the worst offenders of such behavior). I did get a bit annoyed when he claimed that Broken “isn’t torture porn, because it’s about Stockholm Syndrome”, which is like claiming that Con Air isn’t a high octane action movie because there’s that one part where Nic Cage dances with his wife. It’s torture porn pal, and one of the worst examples of it.

They also speak pretty openly about the baffling Hollywood tradition of filming without a completed script, replacing actors, etc. I mean really, outside of something like Project Greenlight, you probably won’t find a DVD with as much candid and fascinating information about how a film evolves, why parts of it don’t work, why story ideas get dropped, etc. Say what you will about the film (which, I realize, I haven’t done yet), but if you’re a film geek that loves this kind of stuff, I highly recommend watching the extras for this one; it’s the most informative/no bullshit collection of features I’ve seen on a disc in ages, and, if you haven’t guessed yet, far more interesting than the finished product.

As for the movie, well, it’s kind of hard to enjoy when every crowd pleasing moment (such as when the monster – which is a fucking great monster by the way – chases a girl in her bra) is mocked by the film’s narrator. It all feels like when someone you look up to says “Hey do you like (whatever movie)?” and you say “Yeah, it’s great!” and they go “I think it’s terrible”, and then you feel stupid for liking it. Well forgive me for renting a movie about a killer chair and expecting to have some fun. The final twist, while not entirely surprising, is still effectively implemented (and pays off at least the IDEA of having the narration, if nothing else), and kind of ballsy to boot. And the look of the film is quite nice, a welcome change from the ugly DV nonsense in their previous film. Again, I can’t help but wonder how much more enjoyable the film would be without the narration/freeze-framing. It would certainly be shorter, which can only help (it takes FOREVER to get going, though once it does even the narration can’t totally kill the momentum).

I will say this: it’s definitely not one of those generic psychological/supernatural type thrillers that I will completely forget about in a few weeks (it’s actually the 2nd killer chair movie I’ve watched this year, but I already forget the other one’s name). For all its faults, there’s enough promise here to make me interested in their next film (Blood River) – I just hope that it’s a film they are proud of as is, rather than one they feel they have to “fix” and in turn make (presumably) worse.

What say you?


Dead Of Winter (2007)

DECEMBER 27, 2008


The only reason I rented Dead Of Winter (aka Lost Signal), besides the awesome “It looks like Duel but in the snow” cover art, is because it was directed by Brian McNamara, who was the nemesis/fonzanoon in Caddyshack II and also popped up in Arachnophobia. I found it somewhat amusing that he turned to directing (he also appears as the sheriff), and was curious to see if his directing style was as non-descript as his acting. Unfortunately, Spielberg himself couldn’t make a good movie out of this script, so whatever directing skill he may possess is pretty hard to critique based on this drivel.

One thing he needs to learn is proper lighting though (or how to yell at his DP for such errors). The outdoor scenes are OK, but interiors are overlit to the point of blindness:

Christ, I’ve seen pornos with more natural lighting.

He also needs to get his ego checked at the door. The full on-screen title is actually Brian McNamara’s Dead Of Winter, as if he was John Carpenter or something. First of all, he's not John Carpenter. Christ, this is his first movie! Second: putting your name in the title is kind of ballsy when you were not one of the producers and/or writers on the film. If you look at the Carpenter films, he only puts his name on the title when he did something BESIDES direct, i.e. write or producer or hell, even merely composing. When he DOESN’T do any of those other things, his name stays off (See: Memoirs of an Invisible Man).

He should also reprimand his props guy, because early on we see a fridge with a “Lost Cat” poster on it. Uh... shouldn’t that be outside? Unless your home is the stomping grounds for all stray cats, it’s not going to do much good to anyone as long as it’s only visible to hungry family members.

But the real problem with the film is how nonsensically set up it is. We know that the two kids are merely hallucinating because of the crystal meth they snorted, yet the entire movie hinges on the idea that we believe the kids are really in danger from snow plows and killers and such. Plus, their hallucinations go on for about 6 hours, despite only snorting a single line of the stuff. (hallucinations aren't even a primary side effect of crystal meth, and only then in high doses, which I would think a single line would not count as). So you spend the entire movie wondering why screenwriters Robert Egen and Graham Silver couldn’t be bothered to have them use a drug known for strong/long-lasting hallucinations, such as LSD. Then, about five minutes before the film ends, we learn via flashback that LSD was indeed added to their (one) drink. Why was this information hidden from the audience? It’s not like it’s a twist or anything, and it simply results in explaining something that had probably caused most of the audience to lose all interest in the narrative (NOTE - Apparently there is a shot of this early on, that I missed. I was wrong. Movie still sucks).

Not helping matters are our annoying leads, both of whom I wanted to freeze to death before they even went into the snow. They spend the entire movie yelling at each other, talking nonsense, or shrieking at a killer that’s not really there. At one point the boy half of the couple makes a tired Shining reference, and then yells “Didn’t you see that movie?” Yes, and I wish I was watching it again right now, instead of enduring the 45th “guy yells at his girlfriend” scene in this movie. Plus, they are both drug users, which makes them hard to sympathize with. Let ‘em rot.

Also, beware of any movie in which the casting is done by one of the producers, because you end up with mother-daughter pairs that couldn’t look less alike:


The real bummer of it all is that the finale is actually kind of sad. There’s a dumb and uninspired little twist that apparently took the red eye from horror movie land, but otherwise, the final five minutes play out like a tragic drama, and damned if I didn’t feel kind of bad for McNamara’s character, as well as the kids’ respective parents. Since it’s essentially an R rated horror version of an after-school special, I fully expected this sort of “SEE WHAT DRUGS CAN CAUSE!” wrapup, but it was still somewhat moving.

What everyone in the production failed at though, was making any one moment in the film even half as creepy and unnerving as the transcript of the 911 call made by the people that this really happened to (yes, for possibly the first time in ages, the “based on true events” disclaimer at the top of the film isn’t bullshit). Obviously, if you read the news report I linked, you will get the end of the movie kind of spoiled, but unless you are a Brian McNamara completist, there’s no reason to watch the movie anyway other than to learn what happened to the kids, and the article does just that, sans bad lighting.

What say you?


Omen III: The Final Conflict (1981)

DECEMBER 26, 2008


I debated putting Omen III: The Final Conflict in the “hero killer” category (a genre in which the villainous character is the one we root for – not counting Freddy/Jason type slasher movies), because I don’t think we are supposed to WANT Damien to succeed in his ultimate goal. But since the film doesn’t give us any other characters to really care about, you end up sort of cheering on Damien due to a lack of options.

And maybe that’s why his goals aren’t really all that high-reaching. He doesn’t seem to want to be president (which would have been AWESOME), and he only kills those who pose a threat to him. Even when he is offered a longer position as an ambassador, he’s all like “only 2 years, then I gotta go back to run my company.” It gave me an awesome idea for a movie, in which the Devil (or God) is reborn as a pretty lazy dude, and he only uses his powers for things like making his soda cold when he forgets to put it in the fridge. Then at the end he is shot to death by a burglar or something, just to give the movie some action.

The half-assedry is evident throughout the film, actually. Screenwriter Andrew Birkin can’t ever be bothered to give even the slightest explanation for why the priests who are trying kill Damien (using those daggers from Omen II) are so damned stupid. For example, they never seem to remember that as the Antichrist, Damien is going to be pretty hard to kill, and thus doing things like blocking him on a bridge and then calmly approaching him, dagger in hand, is pretty fucking ridiculous. Were they just hoping he would forget about his powers when his life was at stake?

The ending is a dud too. Damien is walking around muttering about Jesus and the Devil and the whole thing, then this broad just sort of quickly runs into the scene and stabs him, and that’s that. For the end of a trilogy, you would think they would introduce a formidable foe for him to take on in a big showstopping battle, but nope. Incidentally, part of the movie is about Damien’s attempts to kill the “Nazarene”, which is Christ reborn (NOT Chris Treborn), but he does so when the child is in its infancy and therefore can’t really do much. They should have had Damien fail and go into hiding or something, and then face off against the reborn Lord in part IV (which isn’t even about Damien, from what I understand).

Christ, they were even too lazy to put “Omen” in the title!

All that said, it’s still fun, and occasionally compelling. I like how matter-of-fact Damien is about his identity with some of his staff, and how he has followers everywhere. At one point he has them all meet up and he delivers a nice little inspirational speech, a nice touch. Also, there’s a great scene where he confronts a crucifix and delivers a monologue about who is the better son or whatever. Plus, since Damien is played by Sam Neill, even when he is having some truly atrocious things being done in his name, he is still rather charming.

One of those atrocious things is ordering the deaths of all male children born between 12 am and 6 am on March 24th. Unsurprisingly, we don’t really get any graphic gore or even onscreen deaths, but the suggestion of how they die is pretty gruesome/twisted. My favorite – a priest (apparently a follower), drowning the kid during his baptism. Harsh. Speaking of the deaths, Damien has apparently regained his “cause them to commit suicide” power, which he never used in part 2. The film’s first death is a result of Damien mentally telling a guy to set up an elaborate “open the door and cause a shotgun to go off” machination, possibly the goriest kill in the entire series.

It’s a bummer that Damien never got to really cut loose and cause the kind of havoc he was certainly capable of, but it’s still a good trilogy overall. It was a damn good idea to make each film about a different stage in Damien’s life, rather than just have him be a couple years’ older each time out. The jumping ahead causes some minor continuity errors (they always say the year, so the math never works), but it keeps the films feeling fresh and different enough from one another, which is pretty rare in any franchise.

Like II, the only extra is a commentary, this time by director Graham Baker. He says maybe 12 things over the entire 105 minute film, and 10 of them are just descriptions of the onscreen action. Sometimes he doesn’t even offer a complete thought, such as during the aforementioned bridge scene, when he suddenly announces “Kind of foxes’ point of view...”, five minutes after he last said anything and about 3-4 before he says anything else. Needless to say, don’t waste your time with it, or simply turn it on the first time you are watching the movie (he’s also seemingly unwilling to talk over any dialogue) if you really need to know his non-thoughts on the film’s production.

What say you?


Wicked Lake (2008)

DECEMBER 25, 2008


I am a man, and a very enthusiastic fan of horror movies. More importantly, I love junky movies that you’re not supposed to take too seriously, if at all. So the idea of a tongue-in-cheek movie about four hot girls making out with each other and then killing some rednecks with their supernatural powers should be a shoe-in for, at the very least, “so bad its good” entertainment, right? Then why, oh why, is Wicked Lake so goddamn boring in just about every conceivable aspect of its existence?

I mean really, if Robin Sydney and another, even hotter girl making out for nearly five minutes near the film’s beginning can’t even interest me, then director Zach Passero has already failed miserably. And that’s 10 minutes into the film! This could have been a decent short film with maybe 2-3 people. Take the standard survival horror setup, with one or two rednecks attacking our “heroine”, only have it turn out that she’s a witch or werewolf or vampire or whatever and kill them. Bam! Done. But nope, they have to make a whole movie about this. And you would think with 95 minutes at their disposal, there would be more than enough time to at least explain what the girls are, right? Not a chance! They are sort of witch-y, they display vampire powers, but they are only activated by a full moon. They’re everything and nothing all at once.

And again, none of this is supposed to be taken seriously (yes, Passero and writers Chris Sivertson and Adam Rockoff have decided to use attempted rape as a catalyst for their attempts at humor), so I could care less about the bad acting and nonsensically thin story. It’s the sheer DULLNESS of this movie that kills it. The lesbian stuff is dull. The kills are dull. The gore is dull. The bad redneck actors are so bad that their attempts to be over the top are dull. And needless to say, the scenes with two cops investigating, abruptly shoehorned into the film’s 2nd half without any sort of introduction whatsoever, are even MORE dull, because by design they are there to presumably give the audience a breather from the high hilarity and awesomeness that the lesbo/redneck/gore scenes were allegedly providing.

One of the cops is Tim Thomerson, who thanks to HMAD I am actually seeing more of than I have in the past 10 years (since his Full Moon Dollman/Trancers heyday). He fares no better than anyone else in this POS, but at least with him I have some sympathy for appearing in such drivel. Like me, I’m sure he was enticed by the over-the-top plot, only to discover that no one involved seemingly knew how to actually be funny or interesting.

Most annoying is Marc Senter, playing a wispy emo kid who makes his character from The Lost look bearable by comparison. It’s essentially a character Andy Samberg might play for 20 seconds in one of those “gotta fill some time” SNL sketches, only he’s around for the entire movie. To be fair, the one laugh I got out of the entire thing was when his character was impaled on a door 35 minutes in, only to survive for the rest of the movie. So people open and shut the door with his body still hanging there; it’s a funny sight gag. But still, I would have been MORE appreciative if I didn’t have to endure his “funny” character at all anymore, and I really hope for Senter's sake that he gets a role as someone likable someday.

The DVD comes with a poorly recorded commentary track that is, unsurprisingly, “fun”! Everyone is in a living room, talking over each other and talking about how fun the movie is. I think it’s safe to say that if you didn’t like the movie, you won’t like the track. There are also a collection of outtakes and deleted scenes, but considering the quality of the film itself, I couldn’t bring myself to suffer through them.

This movie was so bad I had to re-edit my “worst of 2008” list for Bloody Disgusting. Since it was already encoded and formatted and ready to post, it would have been a pain in the ass to put it at number 2 (April Fool’s Day is still the worst) and move everything else down, so instead I took out my old number 9 (Trapped Ashes, which was also bad but so obscure I felt it wasn’t worth noting) and put this in instead. My apologies to the makers of films 2-8, all of whom actually managed to make terrible films that were slightly better than this steaming pile.

What say you?


The Christmas Tale (2005)

DECEMBER 24, 2008


I am starting to notice a pattern with the discs in the 6 Films To Keep You Awake series. The first disc had two movies about abortion, and now disc 2 has two movies about children who love horror movies. But while A Real Friend ultimately turned out to have no real place in the realm of the supernatural, The Christmas Tale (Spanish: Cuento de navidad) is instead very reality-based until the final scenes.

NOTE - The ending will be SPOILED in the review!

So the whole movie is about these kids who find a robber in a pit in the woods, and rather than turn her in or even really help her, they leave her in there until she tells them where the money she stole is. It's a fun setup; sort of like a horror/thriller version of The Goonies (albeit with foul mouthed children - they are pretty much the sole reason for the film's R rating), but unfortunately writer Luis Berdejo really wants to make a horror movie, and after some sort of generic confrontations and turned tables, it turns out that the woman really is a zombie of some sort, which is what their adolescent imagination had come up with in the first place (thanks to their repeated viewings of a movie called Zombie Invasion).

I only wish this was presented as the 2nd act twist, rather than as a twist ending. It would have been great to be suddenly thrust into a whole different genre at some midpoint, a la From Dusk Til Dawn, instead of spending the entire movie wondering when it will earn its place in a horror collection. For a while I was afraid that I wouldn't be able to even really count it as a horror film, and then the ending is more horror than anything else in the collection thus far.

Luckily, until that point it's pretty entertaining. The kids are all good actors (strangely, Pan's Labyrinth's Ivana Baquero is the weakest; she often seems like she's simply reading her lines) and their interplay is delightful, particularly in the earlier scenes before they start fighting with one another. The group's resident "nerd" is the best, mainly due to his amusing (and ultimately helpful) fascination with The Karate Kid. Unlike Real Friend though, they either got the rights or simply didn't care enough to obtain them, so the movie's title is given (and the kid calls himself Daniel LaRusso). Edgar Wright once talked about how when they were making Spaced, it was important that they use real games/movies/whatever instead of generic ones that simply invoke real titles, because it became a lot easier for the audience to identify with the characters. I understand being a little kid who wants to be the Karate Kid; but I wouldn't feel as strong a tie to a kid who was obsessed with some generic action movie that the filmmakers shot specifically for this film.

Which is ironic, because the zombie movie they are all obsessed with is INDEED a fake horror movie. The clips we see of "Zombie Invasion" suggest an over the top hybrid of a Spanish zombie movie starring a Bruce Campbell esque tough guy, and not a very good one either. Maybe the idea that they were indulging in fantasy would come across better had a real film like Dawn of the Dead been used instead, because the horror fans watching this would remember their own Romero-inspired zombie games as kids.

There are a couple of horrific moments before the final reveal though. Our villain tries to claw her way to the top of the pit, and you all know what happens to fingernails during such occasions in horror movies. Also, while she is still human, her demented rampage/chasing of the kids is pretty suspenseful, mainly because you kind of suspect that maybe Berdejo and director Paco Plaza have the balls to kill one of them.

I had to laugh too; my review of Real Friend points out how some of the film's background ambience is lost because it is not translated. Not the case here; at one point, the subtitles helpfully translate the "never would have guessed it" Spanish word "fotographias" for us. Even more amusing, it's literally in the background of a shot and has no bearing on anything. It's not like the kid is hiding in the photo hut or whatever. Awesome.

One final note I want to make, I know I compared it to Goonies, but it's actually more like a mean-spirited ET, as in both films the kids find something and hide it from adults. But even more obvious is the fact that Plaza never shows any adult's faces (besides the robber, obviously). Two cops are introduced, but shot in a way that you never once see what they really look like. I found that pretty interesting, and even though the making of never says it (at least, not in the part I saw - the disc was scratched and I had to skip over some of it), it's obvious that ET was an influence on both writer and director.

The making of focuses mainly on the kids, how Plaza had them bond for a while before filming, and how they would practice the stunts and such. It's mildly entertaining, but a bit overlong (22 minutes), especially considering that some of it is just B roll footage with music playing over it. One thing I learned - actress Maru Valdivielso (the robber), who is made to look kind of ugly in the film, is actually quite pretty in reality. Why they would take a pretty woman and make her look like Julian Richings, I don't know, but hopefully her next movie allows her good looks to be seen.

What say you?


Pulse 3 (2008)

DECEMBER 23, 2008


If nothing else, I'll give Dimension this: they never beat you over the head with their DTV releases the way Lionsgate does. Even though I sorta kinda liked Pulse 2 and thus would be among the very few to care, I didn't even know that Pulse 3 was already on shelves. Wasn't it only two months ago? If they can release these back to back sequels so, well, back to back, then where the hell is Feast III?

Anyway, like 2, it's not so much that it's a completely terrible movie, but rather an OK one that's unfortunately terribly made. Luckily, the greenscreen use isn't as rampant (i.e. several scenes are filmed normally), and also director Joel Soisson has worked its usage into the actual narrative, such as placing closeups of an IM window behind the actress instead of a typical background. However, it's still there enough to distract away from whatever impact a scene may have had. It's impossible to concentrate on what the actors are saying or doing when your eye is constantly drifting to noticeable composite errors and laughable lighting differences. Also, they sure as hell didn't go all out when it came to making titles; I instantly recognized the default font/size for a Final Cut Pro title placeholder for "Seven Years Later" style captions.

Sadly, while it may be a small step up in the technical error, the story isn't as compelling (for lack of a better word) as the previous entry. While 2 had some minor suspense and the occasional exciting setpiece, this one focuses on a single character who does little more than just walk around for the entire movie. Everyone she runs into is a threat, but without anyone else on the 'good guys' team, these scenes aren't as suspenseful as they could be, because there is simply no way that our only protagonist is going to meet any harm until the final scene (if that). On the plus side, lead Brittany Finamore is insanely cute, so putting her in every single scene is probably more beneficial than detrimental. Still, this is possibly the only time in history that a sequel got a harsher rating for a far less violent film (the body count for the entire film, not counting people who are already ghosts, is like, two).

One thing that was kind of distracting was the complete lack of Jamie Bamber footage. Our lead is the little girl from 2, and while she keeps seeing her mother's ghost (the scene where she confronts her is probably the best in the film), her dad is completely MIA, even in the occasional flashback to 2. I assume Bamber footage would have cost too much to re-use, and this movie is clearly a budget production. Oh well. Instead, our top billed genre star is Rider Strong, despite only appearing in two scenes (one at the beginning, one at the end). Strong is fine in the cameo role (though he occasionally has a look on his face that seems to say "Hey, didn't I shoot a sequel to Cabin Fever like 2 years ago? What the hell happened to it??"), but why they would choose to give this hardly-big star top billing for 5 minutes of screentime is quite puzzling.

As before, Dimension has provided us with a making-of and a commentary track. The making of is pretty weak; it's about 8 minutes long and contains almost nothing that isn't revealed on the far more entertaining commentary, which is provided by Soisson, Finamore, producer Michael Leahy, and editor Kirk Morri. Finamore doesn't say much, but the others provide the best possible type of commentary for this type of movie: they're perfectly aware that it's not the best film in the world, and they take cracks at it and the previous films, but also provide some nice info on its production, things that were changed, issues with filming, etc. The best is when they non-ironically point out how the film does not have any strong primary colors beside red (I can imagine a casting call for extras: "PLEASE, do NOT wear anything green!"). Oddly, they keep mentioning a deleted scenes collection, but no such thing is present on the DVD. I would have liked to have heard them explain why, considering the obvious lack of funds, they didn't just make one decent Pulse sequel instead of kind of half-assed ones, but I'll take a wisecrack about Kristen Bell as a consolation prize. No trailer is included, which isn't surprising because it appears as if Dimension didn't even bother to cut one (I couldn't find one on Youtube, which was the extent of the research I was willing to put in in order to provide it at the end of the review).

So if you hated Pulse 2, you'll hate this one too. It's got some of the same problems, and it improves on some areas while getting worse on others, making it pretty much even in terms of overall quality. But if, like me, you saw Pulse 2 as a somewhat entertaining sequel to a pretty terrible movie, then you'll get as much (or as little) enjoyment out of this one too. Lazy Sunday, in the late afternoon, watch Pulse 3 just to... something, something rhymes with noon!

What say you?


Wait Until Dark (1967)

DECEMBER 22, 2008


I remember in high school, when Quentin Tarantino was my biggest hero, I wanted very badly to go to NY and see his update of Wait Until Dark (with Marisa Tomei in the Audrey Hepburn role). But like pretty much all Broadway shows I'd ever be interested in, it closed after like two months (much longer than Dance of the Vampire or Whistle Down the Wind though), before I was able to even seriously look into planning a trip. Yet, I saw fucking Rent.

It's painfully obvious that the film was designed as a play. We have one location, and characters constantly drift in and out rather than leave someone on their own for too long. There's the odd bit here and there that's obviously designed for the screen (such as the entire opening), but I wish a bit more could have been done, like maybe showing the bad guys check out the husband's studio.

Also, it's clearly a big showcase for two actors, in this case Hepburn and Alan Arkin. Arkin's character is sadly absent for a lot of the 2nd act, but it just makes his appearances (some of them in costume; he is hilariously credited three times at the end of the movie) all the more enjoyable. As Arkin says on the brief retrospective interview (the DVD's only extra of note, not too surprising since almost everyone in the movie is dead now), back then it was pretty rare to have a character in a mainstream motion picture that was so bizarre and peculiar, and even though I clearly didn't see it back in its prime, I was still rather surprised to see someone behave so oddly in an Audrey Hepburn movie of all things. Nowadays, with guys like Christopher Walken and Crispin Glover more or less basing their entire career on being weird, it's nice to see it done so well by a guy who is actually acting, not just playing up a persona.

Since the movie more or less takes place in real time, you know that not a hell of a lot is going to happen until the final 10 minutes, so that didn't really bother me. It was still a pretty suspenseful setup, and I had fun seeing how they managed to stretch what could have been an Alfred Hitchcock Presents episode into a nearly two hour movie without ever really dragging. The movie's awesome "warning" ad (seen below in the middle of a rather spoiler-y trailer - try to skip to the obvious part and don't watch the rest!) suggests a more gimmick-y movie, like something William Castle would have done, but it's really more of a suspenseful character drama.

I would have liked more scenes of people hiding in the house while she blind-walks around completely unaware though. My favorite part of the film is when she goes to her closet and takes out a scarf, completely oblivious to the body that is hanging on the door. As she whips the scarf around her neck, the corpse's hair gets brushed aside, providing a macabre sight gag for jerks like me to marvel at.

As for the horror angle, well, again, it's pretty much just the last ten minutes. This movie pretty much invented the "he's not dead!" moment, and it still packs a wallop, thanks to the way it's done. Our guy doesn't suddenly reappear or grab her ankle or whatever, no, he literally springs across the room (from off camera) and tackles her. It's fucking awesome. I prefer the more subtle/creepy style of this standard moment (i.e. Michael slowly sitting back up behind a totally unaware Laurie), but for the shock value version, this one is hard to beat.

I was also happy to see Jack Weston in the movie. Short Circuit 2 was one of my favorite movies as a kid, but other than that and Dirty Dancing, I don't think I've ever seen him in anything else. He died in 1996 (8 years after SC2, which was his last movie for some reason), so that's a bummer. He's a great character actor in the M. Emmet Walsh vein.

What say you?


Hellbound: Hellraiser II (1988)

DECEMBER 21, 2008


Earlier today I was interviewed for a documentary about horror fans and why they do the things they do, like, I dunno, watch and write about a horror movie every single day of their life. One question was about whether or not I plan my movies, which I do not, and noted that I still didn't even know what I was going to watch today. But that was kind of a lie, because I had just gotten the new Anchor Bay release of Hellbound: Hellraiser II, and I was eager to revisit it.

Like the first film (I can't believe it's been almost a year since I watched it?), I only saw Hellraiser II once, when I was in eighth grade and watched all three (this was a happier, pre-Dimension time) back to back. Being a fan primarily of slashers, I didn't really care for any of them, and if it wasn't for Horror Movie A Day I probably still wouldn't have revisited them or watched any of the DTV sequels. Which is a shame, because the films are far better than I remembered.

While Pinhead may look cool and all that, the story is simply better suited for an older audience. The themes (the lengths one would go to satisfy their obsessions, for example) just don't really resonate with a kid who is watching it mainly for boobs and blood. I'm not even sure I understood what was going on inside Frank's personal hell back then.

The movie also had some surprising revelations for me. For example, I am currently editing a documentary, and at one point the subject of the film chuckles to himself after saying "What was on the agenda? Ah yes... an evisceration!" I have always been a bit baffled as to why he was saying that, but now I know that it's a line from the movie. Also, I think this movie may be responsible for my seething hatred of having wet skin under my clothes. When I shower, I dry myself for like a half hour, because if I feel any wetness on the interior of my clothing, I practically freak out (and instantly re-dry and put a different shirt on). Hell, even when I see people in movies just toss their jeans on immediately after getting out of a shower, I cringe. I think the scene where a skinless Julia puts on Channard's shirt, getting blood all over it, may have been the root cause of this odd phobia.

That or I'm just a giant fucking baby.

Also, as a sequel, it really delivers what you would hope for. It's not a copy of the first film, but it retains the same feel and brings back a lot of the characters (IMDb's trivia notes that the film feels muddled without Andy Robinson, but honestly I didn't mind his absence at all. It gave even more weight to the Frank scene), while expanding the mythology and introducing new villains/threats, particularly Dr. Channard. Having recently seen the lackluster sequels, the film's overall high quality is even more impressive; certainly Dimension has proven time and time again that it's pretty easy to make a shitty Hellraiser movie.

Not that it's a perfect film. There are some odd omissions of character, such as the rather personable cop who appears in the film's first 20 minutes and is then never seen again. And Kirsty has apparently gone back and read some of Clive Barker's notes or something, because all of a sudden she is an expert on the Cenobites (how did she even learn the term?), apparently gaining all of her knowledge after just looking at them for a few minutes. And while Tony Randel does an admirable job of taking over from Barker as director, I think he could have stood to lose three or even two hundred of the shots of Kirsty and Tiffany running down hallways together. There would still be several thousand for us to enjoy, so I don't think it would have been any real loss.

Speaking of the hallway, it's kind of funny how time/better technology has sort of ruined certain movie effects. Being more hip to movie magic, it's pretty easy to see that the "endless maze of hallways" is really just three hallways (if that) shot from different angles. Also, even as a kid, I was always aware of bad effects in movies (such as the abysmal composite shot in Nightmare on Elm St 3 when the skeleton is fighting Craig Wasson), but I didn't see anything wrong with Hellbound when I watched it on an EP mode VHS copy. Now, in a glorious anamorphic transfer on upscaled DVD, I can see that the matte/composite shots in this movie are pretty damn cheesy, as are some of the effects on Dr. Channard. Don't get me wrong, they are imaginative and all, but the clarity of DVD really diminishes their impact. Another thing that I noticed about the effects which was just more amusing - whenever they cut to a closeup of a head being inflicted with some incredibly serious pain (such as pins being driven into it), the head doesn't move at all. I'd be squirming like a mother fucker!

Speaking of Nightmare 3... anyone else ever notice how similar the dynamic is with the female leads in the two films? Which movie am I describing? A curly brown haired woman from the first film helps a new character, a blond with bad 80s hair, fight the returning monster while running around both a mental institute and Hell.

One other minor thing - while I always love the idea of a villain redeeming himself in the face of a greater threat, it seems really abrupt when it happens here. Pinhead has no recollection of his human side, but once he sees a picture of himself, he instantly finds it in his heart to help Kristy out. It's an interesting story idea, I just wish it was threaded more into the narrative instead of coming more or less out of nowhere in the final reel.

Anchor Bay has put together a pretty great collection for this release, and it's pretty impressive how good the movie looks when you consider that there is an additional 90 minutes of extra features. The commentary and making of are carried over from the 2000 release, then 2 features are imported from other sources, and finally 3 all new featurettes were created specially for this edition. Unsurprisingly, the new ones are the more interesting, as they deal with folks we don't often hear from. Barker, Bradly, and Ashley Laurence are not in any of the new features, so instead we hear the thoughts of the other three cenobites, as well as Kenneth Cranham, who is delightfully British (read: dryly hilarious) as he recollects his turn as Dr. Channard. There is also a new interview with director Tony Randel, who talks about how he moved up from being a film librarian at Corman's company to a full fledged director. The old making of is typical of such pieces for films that were made before special editions were in vogue, in that for every minute of interview footage, there's two minutes of film. Even though it was produced by Barker himself, it's actually the weakest in the lot. Finally, there's an old interview with Barker from the set, and a new-ish (2004) interview with Bradley. Plus the usual trailers and such. Oddly enough, the box art makes no mention of the fact that this is the full unrated 99 minute cut, not the theatrical version you might expect. Which got me thinking: what if someone preferred the theatrical? Is it available on DVD anywhere? I know unrated cuts are generally more enticing, but more often than not, the added shit is worthless (see: Crimson Tide), so the choice should at least be available.

What say you?


Plasterhead (2006)

DECEMBER 20, 2008


After swearing off both the Xbox/Netflix hybrid, and direct to video indies, I watched Plasterhead, which falls in both categories. Hey I'm nothing if not a goddamn liar. Actually though, I HAD heard of Plasterhead; one time when I was covering the news updates for Bloody-Disgusting I got a press release about the fact that it had been picked up for distribution. I asked for a screener and never got one. But even though it sounded generic, the killer looked cool, and this being a year or so ago, I had not yet tired of these movies, so it remained on my radar.

Unfortunately, it's not much better than the movies that had me swearing off such things in the first place. Yet another group of kids take a shortcut, stumble on an isolated house, and get picked off one by one. Albeit very slowly. Actually, come to think of it, I'm not sure if any of them actually die. There's four of them, one obviously gets away, but the fates of the other three are left unclear. The resident black guy gets shot in the belly but he is alive last time we see him, with Plasterhead dragging him off somewhere. And the would-be hero, surprisingly taken down with a hammer, Kirk style (or was that Jerry?), is last seen lying in the road, still breathing (whether that's just the actor doing a terrible job at holding his breath or not, I have no idea). The resident slutty girl (who is going on spring break without her boyfriend, despite just getting engaged? Huh?) is pretty much dead though, but even she lives for quite a while after her initial attack.

It's also painfully acted across the board; only the woman playing the waitress manages to come off as slightly believable. Everyone else has two modes: wooden or ridiculously over the top, particularly the sheriff, who plays one of those movie-only cops who refuses to believe anything that makes sense lest the movie not fall into inane cliché, which seems to be the intent. So when he finds some bodies, obviously it is the work of the two college kids driving through town, NOT the town boogeyman (whose origin lies in the sheriff's own doing, something he knows perfectly well), and thus holds them at gunpoint rather than listen to reason.

Another insanely ridiculous development occurs early on, when one of our heroes (for lack of a better word) finds a purse with 500 dollars cash inside. He wants to pocket the money, which is understandable, yet even though no one saw him find the bag, he's "honest" enough to show the bag to his friends (whom he should know are more goody-two-shoes-y than he is) and announce his desire to keep the cash to use on their vacation. Why the fuck not just pocket the cash right from the start then? Why bother risking a "We have to report it to lost and found!" reaction when 500 bucks is at stake? Oh, because then there would be no movie, which brings me back to my initial question. Dude could have saved himself AND me at the same time.

Luckily, there are a couple moments that rescue this from the crap heap. One is the requisite "The gas station owner is creepy and also has no gas" scene. The guy playing the gas station owner is only like 30 or so from the looks of it, but he talks like an old man (and later we are told he hasn't had gas in 30 years, which means he was a VERY ambitious, if not business-savvy, toddler). It's the most charmingly nutty thing I've seen in quite a while. Plus, there's a nice little reference to Friday the 13th, and even though the winter setting is not really utilized, it's better than most snow-bound slashers, such as Shredder or Iced.

Also, the killer's backstory is unique, in that it takes a sad truth about the world (a hate crime) and uses it as the motive for a slasher with a plaster head (I bet he took like, two weeks to come up with his name). They fail to put this sort-of sympathetic character trait to good use though, as I thought maybe the black guy in the group would sympathize with the killer (or vice versa) and he would be let free or maybe even take up the mantle of Plasterhead. But no, even though the guy's dying from the sheriff's racism-fueled gunfire, Plasterhead doesn't seem to care. But at that point, neither did I.

One final thing I want to point out - the opening credits are bizarrely out of order. They will show a cast name or two over movie footage, and then cut to black for a crew credit (the DP, music, director, etc), and then return to cast names. I believe there is actually a union rule about such things, but what do I know about credits? Also, it is listed as "A Kevin Higgins/Michael Salerno film" ("THE" would be more accurate), but Higgins is the writer and director, with Salerno merely producing. Again, I'm pretty sure the director's guild has rules about such things, and the last thing you want to do is piss off those guys. Hollywood guilds are very strict about being complete assholes in order to "protect" the very people they are hurting when they pull rank.

What say you?


A Real Friend (2006)

DECEMBER 19, 2008


As I watched A Real Friend (Spanish: Adivina Quién Soy), I began wondering why no one's made the movie before, because the story is simple and also through its very design allows a filmmaker to pay homage to his favorite horror movies. Basically, a lonely little girl escapes into the horror movies she watches; her imaginary friends are Leatherface, Nosferatu, and Mr. Hyde. And maybe Pennywise or Cheezo... there's a clown that pops up every now and then, but he never really gets a moment to shine. They are in the kill scenes, and also pop up in the background from time to time. Leatherface is essentially the girl's best friend, and does things like give her a hug when her parents are fighting. Brilliant!

The attention to detail was truly admirable, particularly for Leatherface. They never say his name (or the name of the movie), but the costume/mask are spot on perfect, as is the performance of Aitor Mazo (credited as Bubba, another nice reference). The film clips are recreated pretty accurately (though the "Chainsaw Dance" finale is set on a beach for some reason), and Mazo actually does a better job than at least 2 of the actual Leatherface performers (likewise, whoever did the makeup for this should be brought on to do any future installments of the regular franchise). Writer/Director Enrique Urbizu doesn't stop there though; when Leatherface cuts down a door he makes the exact same pattern that Gunnar Hansen did in the original film. Also, the frequent news reports that we overhear echo those in the first film (i.e. they are all about the discovery of bodies, murders, etc).

I loved this, because I hate when a movie sort of parodies a well known movie killer, but does it completely wrong. Like in The Blob when they go see a faux Jason movie. The mask is all wrong, the style is totally off... it's more distracting than entertaining. But not here; apparently the rights/licenses were not obtained (Nosferatu is in the public domain, so that's the only one they call out by name) but the detail is so accurate even a non-horror fan would probably figure out who the other monsters were.

Another thing that struck me was how much Spanish TV allows in their films (all 6 in this series are TV movies). At one point the girl's teacher picks up a hooker, who goes down on him in his car and then spits his load onto the sidewalk, and the girl's mom is seeing taking it from behind in a broom closet. Plus the murders are pretty gory. Our TV shows might have a lot of profanity, but even on Heroes (possibly the goriest mainstream show of all time) you never see a decapitated head rolling around (for proof, check out the recent decapitation of Universal Studios shirt guy).

I just wish it had been a little better overall. It starts off solid, but it loses steam once the "vampire" reveals his true identity. And then the twist ending really feels like a copout; without spoiling anything, I really was hoping to put this one into a different genre (which would also spoil it, but whatever). Luckily, the movie had earned a lot of goodwill with its horror-fan appealing setup and way above average attention to detail, so I was able to forgive it. It's just a shame that I can't give it a fully positive review, something I thought for sure I would after the first 30-40 minutes had charmed me so.

Another bummer is that I spent half the movie wishing that I had known a 12 year old girl who liked to watch Texas Chain Saw Massacre in her spare time. If this girl was in my 6th or 7th grade class, she surely would have been the first girl to tell me she only liked me as a friend.

There is one aspect about the movie that really struck me as bizarre: the protagonist's insane methods of food storage. At one point, she wants pineapple for her pizza, and retrieves some from under the sink. Who the hell keeps food under the sink? But the really baffling one came early on, when the mom asked if the girl had eaten the "Macaroni salad that was wrapped in tin foil and put in the microwave." What the fuck? Tin foil in the microwave? Macaroni salad kept in anything BUT a fridge? Remind me to never eat anything at this fictional person's home.

The making of is decent, if not essential. Urbizu is clearly a talented guy, and even in this brief look one can tell he cares deeply about all aspects of his production. As with the others, no other features are provided. I would think that there would be deleted scenes on all of them, since they have to fit a certain length to fit on TV (they are all 75 minutes long). Oh well.

What say you?


Ringu 2 (1999)

DECEMBER 18, 2008


I was about halfway through Ringu 2 when I began to understand why the American sequel had a completely new storyline rather than follow this one (the two original films are pretty identical, so I figured the sequels would follow suit) – this movie kind of sucks. The American Ring Two was even worse, but you can’t blame them for attempting something different rather than redo this overplotted and thoroughly unscary version.

Let’s get what works out of the way. They aren’t copying the original movie, and given the rather limited number of stories one could make about a haunted video tape, it was a wise choice to open it up a bit and stick with the characters, rather than bring in a bunch of new characters and have them suffer the same fate(s) of the people in the original. Also, more on that, the movie picks up a few days later, and all of the surviving actors have returned, so it feels like a genuine continuation, not a completely unrelated entry like The Eye 2. And there’s a rather surprising death of a major character halfway through (probably the primary reason this movie was not the basis for the American one), which is a ballsy move.

But that’s about it. The problems more than outweigh the high points. For starters, the movie is only about a tenth as freaky or scary as the original. There are surprisingly few scenes of long haired ghosts fucking with people, and those few aren’t particularly exciting either. The most suspenseful the movie gets is when a guy is trying to erase a tape and he keeps failing to do so.

Speaking of tape qualities, something bugs me. The only way to end your curse is to make a copy of the tape and give it to someone, right? So that copy is at least third generation at that point (since the one that caused all the trouble in the first place was itself a copy), right? So that guy makes a copy and gives it to someone to save HIS ass, and now we’re on a 4th generation dub. And so on. Well, then wouldn’t the tape eventually be so damn muddled and blurry that the ghost wouldn’t be able to find its way out of the well and into your TV? Also, what happens when you give the tape to someone who already had it? “No thanks, Steve gave me a copy yesterday.” Eventually, folks will run out of people to give it to.

Another issue I had with this movie was its stubborn refusal to keep things simple. There are so many goddamn subplots in this movie, I felt like I was watching three movies combined into one. Dead fathers, facial reconstruction, mute kids, psychic powers, super-water, spirit photography, police investigations... not to mention the damn video, which pops up from time to time, mainly to try to remind the audience that this is a sequel to Ringu and not Ju-On (which it often feels like). The water stuff in particular is annoying – apparently one of the after effects of being cursed is that you can turn ordinary tap water into super-absorbent water? What the hell kind of special power is that? Sylar wouldn’t even bother to snarl at the owner of that power, let alone cut open his forehead to take it. And the end of the film seems partially lifted from Exorcist II, hardly a great source to crib your sequel ideas.

Also, and this isn’t the movie’s fault, but I noticed that when you watch a foreign film, even with subs you’re still missing out on some of the ambience, because they can’t subtitle everything. Like at one point, the little creepy kid has scattered a bunch of pages, all of which have different things on them, but the subs only translate one (“I feel scared” or something of that nature). Newspaper articles, TV headlines, etc... all suffer the same fate. Even some dialogue gets left to the imagination – an interview with a girl who has watched the tape is playing, and after two or three lines, the subs no longer translate what she is saying for our benefit (the main characters begin talking over the video, but still, in my own language I’d be able to follow both). It’s like playing a role playing game without talking to any of the townspeople or reading the quest descriptions.

Luckily, the DVD has no extra features whatsoever, which means my time spent in the increasingly underwhelming Ringu universe was limited to the 92 minutes for the film itself. However, when I was looking the movie up on Wikipedia to see if I could gain any insight as to why a pretty decent movie can’t seem to come up with a good sequel, I discovered the existence of a Dreamcast game based on the concept. Has anyone played this thing? Dreamcast is the only console that I’ve never even touched, so I’m completely oblivious on the details.

What say you?


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