Jack Brooks: Monster Slayer (2007)

JULY 31, 2008


I’ve been hearing about Jack Brooks: Monster Slayer for a while now, usually comparing it to Evil Dead, due to the blend of humor and horror, and the badass hero. But what the reviews don’t often mention is that the film is also a bit on the slow side, with the monster action mainly kept to the final 30 minutes. Still, it’s definitely worth a look, and I found myself unexpectedly identifying with Jack.

For starters, he’s got a bad temper. My favorite part of the movie has nothing to do with monsters; it’s simply Jack telling his shrink a story about how he got mad at his toaster and beat the holy bejesus out of it. As someone who has destroyed many an inanimate object for no real reason (I recall smashing a remote to pieces a few years ago for failing to pause the film when I hit the pause button), I definitely identified with this story. I only wish there was a scene of Jack playing Halo or something... his response to a total BS Spartan laser kill would be legendary.

Also, he’s a plumber, and when the movie (finally) has him spring into action, he uses his plumber tools instead of more traditional weapons. This reminded me of the character of Drapeman that I invented back when I hung drapes for a living. Drapeman used a curtain rod, a drill, and a spring-loaded device that would shoot drape pins at the enemy. I dressed as him for Halloween one year (best reaction: “Hey, that guy’s a curtain!”). Good times.

But enough TMI stories about me, let’s talk about the movie. Like I said, it takes a while to get to the monster stuff, which is a bit of a bummer. If folks are going to compare it to Evil Dead, then I’m going to expect a nonstop ride. No, the pace of this film is more like Slither, where there’s a long buildup and then a nonstop, ridiculous finale (the finale is actually very similar to Slither’s, as it features a giant blob, formerly one of the film’s characters, devouring people that are attached to its tendrils). And while I was relieved to see that Jack doesn’t spout off one-liners every other second, some of the attempts at comedy don’t quite work. One example is his girlfriend, played by the blonde from Birds of Prey (which just came out on DVD for some reason – that show was on like 5 years ago!). She’s whiny and needy, and basically annoying. Seeing Jack try to keep his cool around her isn’t quite as funny as it’s supposed to be – essentially, we’re laughing because he’s not smacking his girlfriend around? Haha? Plus her character is sort of tossed out of the movie unceremoniously (not even killed), which just makes her feel even more pointless.

Otherwise, this is solid stuff. The makeup effects are astounding for what is obviously a low budget film, and they are shown off quite nicely (as opposed to the sort of quick glimpse shit you get in some other indies). There are a variety of monsters, and while it’s not as gory as you might expect, everything looks top notch. That’s probably due to the fact that they didn’t use any goddamn CGI for the monsters. Every single one of them is a real world creation; be it animatronic, a guy in a rubber/foam suit, or puppet. Rock on!

The cast is also above average. With the exception of Robert Englund (having fun playing a goofy professor who becomes a slapstick-prone zombie thing), they’re all pretty much unknowns, but there isn’t a weak link among them. Trevor Matthews (who also produced) is quite good as the title character, and possesses that inherent charm that makes him fun to watch even when not much is really going on action-wise. You’ll wish the script allowed him to kick some ass earlier in the film. I should note that he and a couple of the other actors have Canadian accents that surface at random (“Get Oat!”), kind of funny.

Strangely, like yesterday’s movie, sodium figures into the plot. It’s introduced as a science experiment (“sodium will react violently to moisture”), which of course becomes important information later on in the plot. It’s a bit shoehorned, but at least it’s not like Horror At Party Beach, where they specifically say that sodium can kill the monsters and then don’t bother doing anything about it for another hour or so.

The DVD is pretty jam-packed, which is good as Anchor Bay has been rather skimpy lately with their smaller titles. There’s a commentary that’s the expected mixture of good natured ribbing among the participants and genuine info, but also a making of that’s damn near as long as the film itself. Plus, a pair of featurettes (one about the makeup/monster creation, another about the score) that are pretty great. There’s also a brief look at the filmmakers attending the screening at the Sitges film festival, some image galleries, and storyboard comparisons. 15 minutes’ worth of deleted scenes are also available, but I would suggest skipping them; they were obviously cut for pace but they all drag on even when watching them on their own. The last one (with Englund going to a bar) is kind of amusing though.

Despite the pacing issues, this one is definitely a winner. On the extras, they admit that the film is intended to be the first of a franchise, so one can’t help but suspect that a sequel will have more monsters, more action, and (hopefully) more laughs, now that we know who Jack is and what he can do. But we’ll only get a sequel should this one find an audience, so definitely get on the bandwagon now.

What say you?


Lifeforce (1985)

JULY 30, 2008


A while back, I pointed out that if I know a movie has been cut to shreds before seeing it, I will stubbornly wait until the full cut is released. But I was going to make an exception with Lifeforce, because I heard it was still pretty good. However, the cut on DVD IS in fact the longer cut (115 min), not the 101 theatrical version. I discovered after watching it that Tobe Hooper’s preferred cut is actually 126 minutes, but since the movie is overlong as it is, I’m gonna have to go ahead and declare this version fine as is. Sorry, Tobe.

(Unless the extra 11 minutes are simply more scenes of Mathilda May walking around fully nude. Nothing wrong with that subplot.)

It’s kind of an anomaly in Hooper’s career. Not that the guy has ever had a really consistent body of work (technically or creatively), but this one REALLY sticks out. It’s more like the 80s version of a Hammer film like Quatermass or something than anything you’d expect from the usually Ameri-centric Hooper. It’s also 2.35:1, and it was the last time he shot a film that way, best as I can tell. Hell, even the nudity isn’t really his bag; I can’t recall any real nudity in any of his other movies (save Eaten Alive), at least not as explicit as it is here.

There are some definite Hooper-isms though, such as low angle tracking shots and wooden performances. So there’s something. Still, I wish he had gotten more personally involved with his films (you almost never see his name in the writing or producing credits); one thing I noticed during the Carpenter fest is that even his more stand-alone films like Big Trouble In Little China or Christine feature his usual themes and motifs, something one would never really get from watching any number of Hooper’s films back to back. It’s even a bit ironic; he’s never really gone outside of the horror genre, and yet his movies have almost nothing in common, where Carpenter has done sci-fi, action, even comedy (Memoirs) and given each his trademark stamp.

Anyway, the movie’s pretty good. Like I said, it’s a bit too long, and has far too many stuffy British characters. It seems like a few could have been combined. It is based on a book called "The Space Vampires" (they changed it so that 20 years later no one would associate it with Dracula 3000), and I am willing to bet that rather than merge characters, they simply kept them all in and just reduced their roles. Which is why you get two scenes in a row of our hero (Steve Railsback) interrogating someone who has been infected with the alien/vampire/zombie thing (it never quite makes sense – they act like zombies but they are referred to as vampires by an incredibly hammy old Brit guy), characters we never saw before or see again.

One of those guys is none other than Patrick Stewart. There are two odd coincidences with his brief role. One is that he is put in a wheelchair for a good chunk of it. Two is that he is in the wheelchair in order to be interrogated with sodium pentothol (truth serum), the same thing Stewart himself did to Mel Gibson in Conspiracy Theory, one of the 10 most underrated movies of all time. Also, at one point someone says “Houston, we have a problem”, which means Apollo 13 ripped it off (it’s even in the trailer!). Perhaps if I looked harder, I could find the source of every mid 90s movie in this goofy Cannon movie. Halley’s Comet also makes an appearance (the guy from Shinedown is nowhere to be seen, though we can assume he saw it waving and asking why he was always running in place*), shortly before turning our soda machines and lawnmowers into hunters of Emilio Estevez.

This is a Golan/Globus affair, making it my 2nd in the past 7 days (after Phantom). This was rather early on in their heyday, so they actually put some money into it. The space effects are a bit cheesy, but the makeups on the dead vampire things are fucking great. They explode into dust when they are killed (another thing ripped off – damn you Whedon!), which results in a great bit where one runs at a chainlink fence and explodes all over the people on the other side. Sweet! They also managed to get Henry Mancini, certainly no hack (though he simply used an unused score for a Hitchcock movie). The opening theme is incredibly rousing and totally distracts you away from the lame space effects.

There are a couple bits that are just nonsensical though. At one point a guy is watching his buddy talk to the evil vampire over a closed circuit monitor. It’s the only monitor, it’s not like he’s the security guard with 50 screens to watch, so you’re thinking he’s probably in the next room. But that is not the case; the vampire attacks his buddy, and he goes to save him. Unfortunately he is too late, because he has to run down like 5 corridors and through half a dozen rooms to get there. What’s the point of monitoring a situation if you’re too far to do anything about it? There’s also a very silly effect where blood flies from Stewart’s mouth and forms the hot vampire girl. That’s fine, except the fake Stewart head, which seems rather unnecessary to begin with (nothing happens to the head), looks like Steve Martin, not Picard. Of course, nowadays, there are at least three different widely available Stewart masks (for X-Men, Star Trek, and Masterminds) that they could have used instead. Oh well.

The DVD has no extras beyond the trailer (which features some of the full frontal nudity from the movie, surprisingly - the one below is edited). The main menu looks like it was designed by an Adobe Photoshop For Beginners tutorial, and it’s not anamorphic, but the sound mix is quite good for pre 5.1 film. Recommended if you find it cheap enough, though I would love a full blown special edition with Hooper’s commentary and/or a retrospective doc concerning the film’s troubled post production. I believe IMDb trivia is muscling in on DVD extras’ territory, and it’s time to take it back.

What say you?

*If you got that without Googling, congratulations! You obviously have heard the best album of the year!


Maniac Cop (1988)

JULY 29, 2008


When DVDs first became available, there were an inordinate number of titles that went out of print within a few months of their release. I have no idea why for the most part, while some had legitimate reasons (like Little Shop Of Horrors, which was pulled due to Frank Oz being a big baby about the deleted ending being one of the extra features), others were just taken off the shelves for the hell of it. One such title was Maniac Cop, and thus when I found a copy on Ebay for pretty cheap (less than 20 bucks) I snapped it up. And now, 9 years later, I finally watched it!

As the movie began, I saw a possible reason why it was put on moratorium (it has since been re-released - the one in the Amazon link is the new edition, not the one I am reviewing): the transfer is fucking atrocious. I have seen better quality on VHS tapes. It looks like its streaming over Youtube or something. The credits are all blurry, nothing has any detail, the blacks are washed out... it’s just a really piss poor job. Granted, in the early days of DVD there was a lot of inconsistency, but I really cannot recall a transfer this bad (especially on a widescreen transfer, which means they were working off some sort of master, as opposed to an actual VHS tape like Chopping Mall).

Luckily the movie itself is pretty fun. It’s an odd blend of standard cop/revenge movie and slasher, but it more or less works. If the film has one real flaw, it’s the casting of genre greats Tom Atkins and Bruce Campbell, and not giving them any real scenes together. I think they share the screen for a total of three minutes, all of which is just dialogue and exposition. Campbell, in fact, spends most of his time in a jail cell or an interrogation room, and it isn’t until Atkins is removed from the movie (via being killed) that he gets to actually DO anything. Bummer.

Another thing that annoyed me was the use of freeze credits. This is when you watch 3-4 seconds of film footage, and then it freezes to provide a credit. Whoever invented this should be shot to death. Unless it’s a Bond film, there is never anything worth paying attention to in the opening credits of a movie; and thus we aren’t being distracted by anything. You don’t need to literally slow the movie down to guarantee the viewer knows who the production designer or casting person is.

Some highlights include: the score, particularly when the title character has a flashback to how he became a Maniac; the rather high body count (there are like 4 kills in the first 15 minutes!); Atkins’ usual gruff awesomeness, and of course, Robert Z’Dar (“Oh Z’no!”) as the cop. You only see his legendary face toward the end of the film, but it’s a great “reveal” nonetheless. Action fans know Z’Dar from his amazing work in Tango & Cash, where he played “Conan”, a guy who just kept popping up to piss off Stallone (it’s really pretty amazing how much the guy is in the movie when he’s essentially an anonymous bad guy – I think he has more screen time than Jack Palance).

I also love the ending, because if you think about it, its kind of a downer. Everyone thinks Campbell is the killer, but of course we know it’s Z’Dar. So there’s this big car chase, which results in the Maniac drowning in the river. His body is not recovered (sequel set up – we see him rising out of the water unnoticed), and everyone else that encountered him is dead, so I guess Campbell’s name isn’t cleared. I would imagine this is explored in the sequel, but I kind of like the idea of a big fuck you ending, even if not intentional.

There’s also a bit I really liked where Atkins goes to a bar (shock). Not that it’s a really great scene or anything, but the bar (exterior anyway) reminded me of a location from Jim Jarmusch’s Down By Law, a fantastic movie that I haven’t seen since college. Thanks, random 80s B movie!

Bill Lustig rarely directs anymore, and that is a shame (his last film was Uncle Sam, in 1996). His movies are always fun (having a Larry Cohen script doesn’t hurt), and he’s just a great guy to listen to on the commentary track. What he is doing instead is just as important (if a great exploitation movie hits DVD in a giant special edition, chances are Bill is the guy who got the ball rolling on its creation), but I wish he could take time off to make a movie now and then. He’s always been under-appreciated outside of die hard horror nerds, and his sensibilities would definitely play well with today’s horror market.

What say you?


Cold & Dark (2005)

JULY 28, 2008


It’s good to know British folks make really shitty cop horror/thriller movies too. Cold & Dark is a dull, badly shot, utterly baffling movie that took a lot of effort to get through. It goes without saying that I dozed off, but even my wife passed out about 20 minutes in, and she NEVER falls asleep at a movie.

That could actually be the whole review right there, but why end the fun there? I haven’t even mentioned Luke Goss.

Yes, Goss once again stars in a really bad HMAD movie. It’s not as abysmal as Unearthed, but it’s becoming hard to get excited about seeing this guy’s name in the credits for any horror movie (I’m also in the minority on Blade II – a movie that got boring really fast). He’s got some sort of charisma I guess, but he’s hardly a great actor, and this movie’s script/direction does him no favors (he’s quite good in Hellboy 2 though – I guess Guillermo Del Toro is just a better actor’s director than this guy, the sadly named Andy Goth). He also suffers the indignity of two of the most awkward stunts in movie history. Late in the film, he’s running on top of a large crate when he suddenly jumps to one a few feet away... only to jump right back to the one he was already on (it looks cool to do it once, but twice in one shot? Pointless, Goth). But that’s nothing compared to one in the film’s first big action scene (relatively speaking – this movie is pretty light on the thrill-attempting, even by DTV standards). For whatever reason, Goss needs to get to the other side of a wall (actually what looks like a large garage door). He jumps up and begins shimmying over toward the middle of the door, only to then jump down (maybe 10 feet) as a hook careens toward him for some reason. The hook makes a giant hole, but then Goss jumps back up and just gets over the wall right above the spot he jumped from in the first place, rendering the whole shimmy/hook portion of the scene entirely pointless (and since it’s pretty weak to begin with, one wonders why they didn’t just completely remove it).

But of course, removing it would result in the film having even less action. For a movie about a pair of cops, one of whom is becoming an alien (or something), not a lot happens that one would consider exciting. Most of the movie is just Goss narrating things in a muffled, hard to understand accent (the lack of English subs is pretty annoying), talking about some rather dull investigation that serves as the movie’s throughline (because, you know, an alien cop is simply not enough to hold viewer interest. You need a story about phony IDs and warehouse robberies), and other things of that boring nature. When the gore actually makes an appearance, it’s admittedly pretty cool (alien cop has a clawed hand – sweet!), but it’s far too little too late.

Confusion seems to be the order of the day. Goth seemingly loves pointless jump cuts and disjointed dialog (I often have no idea who is supposed to be talking), and also bewildering close-ups that I assume are supposed to look arty and cool but are just annoying and awkward. It’s one thing to use “bad” filmmaking to disorient the viewer, but not so much that they can’t even follow what is going on, and I can’t say for sure that was even the intent anyway. There are also story elements that never make any sense or are explained (like why a corpse bursts into flames, or who the fuck the guy is at the end who suddenly begins spouting off exposition as our hero just sort of walks away from a non-battle with the film’s villain), and part of the plot is ostensibly about a goddamn coat. And I’ve already mentioned the nearly unintelligible dialogue, but Christ, even the goddamn opening credits are needlessly confusing:

What the fuck does that even say?

I see absolutely no reason to watch this movie, other than to catch a few glimpses of sexy co-stars Cassandra Bell and Carly Turnbull. However, neither of them are in the movie enough to keep your interest and ignore the movie’s plethora of problems. Oh and the score is pretty good.

What say you?


Exorcist III (1990)

JULY 27, 2008


After the stink of Exorcist II, I was hardly excited for another go round with Pazuzu, Karras, and Regan. But I knew about a certain top notch scare scene in Exorcist III, and most folks tell me it’s the only worthwhile sequel, so I went in with an open mind. And while it’s hardly as good as the original, it IS indeed a much more respectable followup, and its problems, for the most part, aren’t sequel-related.

The one exception is William Peter Blatty’s insistence on following plot points that are only present in his original book, instead of the movie. So it’s a bit puzzling to watch a movie called Exorcist III that hinges on something that never happened in the movie Exorcist I. Apparently, in that book, Karras and Kinderman were best friends, whereas in the movie they met once and sort of disliked each other. But now Karras is dead, and Kinderman (now played by George C Scott) is all torn up about it, going so far as to say that he loved him. So it kind of makes Kinderman look pathetic, like one of those folks you meet once through a mutual friend or something and suddenly they think they are your best pal and put you on their top 8 on Myspace. And since the movie deals with the death of Father Dyer, I wonder why he just couldn’t ignore Karras entirely and have Dyer’s death be what upsets him. At least that would sort of go in line with the alternate ending of the first film, and we actually see them as good friends in the early parts of this film anyway.

I have zero problems with it ignoring the second film, however. I’m sure Regan and co. are just fine elsewhere.

Otherwise, it is indeed a worthy continuation for the most part. The nice thing about the original is that it had a lot of characters left alive at the end, and all of them are worthy of their own movie (I’m actually kind of bummed that Dyer got offed so quickly, and also that Father O’Malley didn’t return to play the role – both of them deserve their own shot in the limelight). A detective mystery (of sorts) with the overtones of the Devil and all the themes of the first film is a damn good idea, if you ask me. And the aforementioned scare? Even though I knew it was coming (anyone who has seen the movie knows which one I mean) it still made me jump, and I can’t imagine how much of a jolt I would get had I been totally in the dark about it. There are some other freaky sequences as well, a nice improvement over the last film, which didn’t even seem to be attempting anything one would consider a “scare” scene.

Scott is pretty good as Kinderman. Like in The Changeling, his acting consists mainly of looking baffled or annoyed by everything around him, and saying things that don’t make a lot of sense (“I was signaling beings on Mars, sometime they answer.” – huh?), but he fills in for Lee Cobb quite nicely. He also gets angry at the drop of a hat; you never know when a seemingly innocuous line will be given a Patton-esque angry shout. And Brad Dourif is, as usual, a delight as a crazy killer guy. There’s also a great bit where he ends a scene by saying “Child’s play”, and then they cut to a little redhaired mop. I am sure it wasn’t intentional, but horror nerds like me love that type of shit.

Unfortunately, Dourif’s role is played by Jason Miller half the time. It’s a bit confusing, but I think it’s supposed to just be Kinderman’s imagination that he sees Karras instead of the Dourif character when the demon is pretending to be him? There are no extras to help explain this, but according to the IMDb, the movie was originally shot without Karras at all, and then Blatty went back and reshot part of Dourif’s role with Miller (as Karras). OK, Bill, whatever.

And that’s part of the main problem with the film – it’s just needlessly baffling a lot of the time. There are many dream sequences that are stuffed with symbolism that never really seems integral to anything, plus the schizo Dourif/Miller stuff, aforementioned odd dialogue from Scott, etc. The plot is compelling and fairly original, but they keep diffusing its strength with all this other nonsense that never really pays off. The book sounds like it makes a lot more sense (and also has other suspects for the Gemini Killer, something the movie barely even seems to care about after a while), so maybe I’ll check it out. I own it, might as well read it someday I guess.

One definite highlight of this film is all of the random bit roles and cameos. I don’t know how a movie that features Samuel L Jackson, Patrick Ewing, and fucking Fabio in a single scene can be altogether bad. Let’s Scare Jessica To Death’s Zohra Lampert also shows up as Kinderman’s wife (and is just as awkward as ever, though she’s largely absent for the bulk of the film). Kinderman’s partner is Grand L. Bush, who you all know as the non-Robert Davi Agent Johnson from Die Hard. And Kevin Corrigan plays the oldest altar boy in screen history, already displaying his traditional Italian “neighborhood guy” mannerisms. Scott Wilson also pops up, but his role is so damned inconsequential I can’t even begin to bother trying to describe his character.

Not a single person has ever told me anything good about part IV (either version), but I’m sure I’ll get to those eventually. But it’s kind of a shame, all the other major horror franchises has a sequel that truly lives up to the original. This one comes close at times, but in the end its merely decent, and I think if II never happened it would be considered a major letdown (rather than a “return to form” by default).

What say you?


Hello Mary Lou: Prom Night 2 (1987)

JULY 26, 2008


What is it about the Prom Night movies that results in me never watching them at home? The first one was watched at a friend’s house during Christmas vacation, and now Hello Mary Lou: Prom Night II was watched in my hotel room during Comic Con. I suspect part III will be seen on a plane and IV maybe just on my Ipod. And like last time, the presentation wasn’t the best; my friend’s TV had a loose connection for the video wire, resulting in a fuzzy image on the original, and since I forgot to bring a remote for the DVD player, I watched II with the subtitles on the entire time.

Of course, that wasn’t too bad of a deal, the subs were pretty funny at times. Not only were they out of sync, but they also had a lot of misspelled words. My favorite was when a classroom erupts in laughter and subs inform us that the teacher is asking them to keep it to a “ball roar”. There’s another instance where the work “jerk” is given a capital letter, as if it was a proper noun. As someone who uses the term much more than the average man (talk to me for five minutes, I guarantee I’ll call someone or something a jerk), this amused me greatly. Also, whenever someone says “hmmm” the subs spell it “hum.” This must annoy the deaf viewers, because there are also instances of people legitimately humming. I hope they know the difference.

I actually like this one more than the original. Not hard, I don’t really like the original at all. But this one (which has nothing to do with the original) is more mean-spirited, a bit weird at times, and has a far more memorable antagonist. Oh and a better soundtrack. Apparently they spent all their money on licensing old 50s tunes (and Michael Ironside!), so while some stuff looks cheap, at least you get to hear genuine “oldies” during the flashback sequences (plus the title song plays throughout).

Of course, it suffers from some of the same problems as the original. It takes even LONGER to get to the goddamn prom, and there is very little suspense to any of the kill scenes. Also, I don’t care much when a sequel has zero connection to the original. Halloween III is valid because that was the intention (it doesn’t even take place in the same universe), but why not at least have a throwaway reference to the events of the first film? The only thing they do is give the school the same name (Hamilton High), but if it’s supposed to be the same one, they don’t mention it (you’d think someone would be like “We really should consider not having a prom here anymore”). And maybe then it was a new thing, but I am sick of movies with all of the characters named after horror directors. We have Carpenter, Craven, Browning, even Hennenlotter here, though the main guy’s name is Nordham, a name not a single person on the IMDb has. If your last name is Nordham and you have directed a horror movie, please let me know, otherwise I consider this a really lame error.

Otherwise, it’s a fun little movie. As I mentioned, it’s a bit weird. At one point, the possessed Vicki strips down (full frontal alert!) and begins fondling her also naked friend in the locker room. Then she makes out with her dad, who doesn’t seem to mind much (he also seemingly doesn’t care when she kills her mom – his wife! – a few minutes later). The weirdness extends to some of the setpieces as well. Early on, the heroine (before she is really full on possessed) is terrorized by her toy horse (which talks), and there’s a sort of exorcism scene where the priest says “the body of Christ compels you!” (being at Con, terrorized by “Sexy Jesus’” from Hamlet 2 on every corner, this bit really resonated).

There’s also one of the most baffling kills I’ve ever seen in a movie. Possessed Vicki grabs a large power cord in one room, which make a guy at a computer in a completely different room get electrocuted by those blue electric sparks that only appear in late 80s horror movies. How the hell did she manage that?

Also, she kills most of the movie’s sympathetic characters over the course of like 10-15 minutes, which is pretty awesome. And even though there is a bitchy rival character, she has the least malicious death scene. The movie even has a girl confess she is pregnant moments before being horribly killed! It’s not as excessive as say, Silent Night Deadly Night, but the movie’s mean streak is surprising and (obviously) appreciated.

Ironside is a bit dull here though, sadly. He’s playing the principal, and apart from yelling at his son a bit, he’s mostly playing a pretty meek dude. Why cast one of the most legendary hardasses of all time and then not give him anything to do? I’m all for casting against type, but for some actors it’s just not the right thing to do. I like my Ironside to be angry, lecherous, shooting 3 titted hookers in the back, etc. He’s not the only familiar face though; Saw IV and Dawn 04’s Justin Louis plays the male lead, and it’s kind of sad that he got big roles like this earlier in his career, whereas now his characters are often obvious fodder.

The DVD is pretty cheap, often less than 10 bucks. Unfortunately, it’s also featureless, and I can’t imagine anyone wanting to watch this movie more than once or twice. But it’s certainly worth a look either way.

What say you?


X-Files: I Want To Believe (2008)

JULY 25, 2008


I guess I have become incredibly skilled at Horror Movie A Day-ing; I was able to manage my time efficiently enough to go see a movie this year during Comic Con (despite more Bloody Disgusting responsibilities to boot). Last year, the three movies I watched were all taken in via 15-30 minute chunks (I think Penny Dreadful was watched over 5 different viewing sessions). I certainly never was able to watch one start to finish, let alone go off to a movie theater and see one (where I wasn't able to send texts, update my schedule, flip through the free crap I had amassed over the day, etc). But I was determined to see X-Files: I Want To Believe on its opening weekend, so I made sure to give myself a chunk of time "off" from my duties. Well played, BC.

See, the first movie was like a huge event for me. I remember driving to NY for the convention designed to promote it (even though there was one in Boston - Gillian Anderson was at the NY one so it was a better option IMO), and actually considering leaving my college orientation to see it at its first showing on Friday, June 19th, 1998 (yep, I remember the release date). I settled for a 7:30. But this one just hadn't excited me as much; I even passed up a press screening in favor of going to the New Bev. Still, I was more or less intrigued and hopeful that the new film would re-ignite my love for the series, which I used to watch 3-4 episodes at a time back when it first began being syndicated in the Fall of 1997.

I did not get my wish. And spoilers follow!!

Everyone (who cares) knows that this movie was not a "mythology" movie and would instead have a more "Monster of the Week" approach. Which was fine by me - the mythology had gotten so convoluted that half of the show's finale was devoted to poor Skinner (Shocker) explaining it all to the audience. But I didn't expect them to go SO far into "non-fans can get it" land. While Mulder's sister figures into the plot a little bit and Skinner is randomly inserted into the film about 10 minutes before it ends, it feels like Chris Carter and co. were using an unmade spec script from the show's second season as their template. William is mentioned once, almost off-hand; there is NO mention of Reyes, Doggett, or anyone else that isn't Skinner; and even the sister stuff is completely dropped after the first act.

Worse, the plot more or less hinges on Scully's non belief in supernatural events (it's really her movie, not Mulder's, perhaps to make up for the half-Scully-less first film). Which is kind of stupid, because she was pretty much a firm "believer" by the 7th or 8th season. It's one thing to still write off completely nonsensical things, but she is incredibly skeptical right off the bat of a mere psychic. And the movie eventually becomes a ripoff of Signs, as a seemingly throwaway line becomes the key element to resolving the plot.

Or lack thereof. Due to all the science vs. faith stuff, the actual horror/sci-fi elements are almost completely forgotten for large chunks of the running time. Also, anyone who sees the film will probably agree; the climax is one of the most half-assed in film history. It involves nothing more than Skinner holding a gun on some guys, and Scully hitting the bad guy in the head with a shovel. That's it. Even the TV show had impressive "battle" type scenes in the climax. The one here almost seems like an after thought.

All of this is even MORE of a shame when you consider that the first act is actually quite good. Like the show, we see a "happening" occur and then they work Scully and Mulder into the story. And since it's been 6 years (or 10 since the last movie), there's some catching up to do. These scenes are fun, because I've missed these two, and the little nods to the show (pencils in the ceiling, sunflower seeds, etc) made me smile. Also, the general idea (a psychic helping them find a serial killer) is perfectly acceptable; hell, it was the plot of quite a few episodes (including one called 'Beyond the Sea', which oddly aired later that night on TNT). I also loved the dark look and snowy locales, especially when the last four seasons were overall very warm and dry (due to the show leaving Vancouver for Los Angeles). But the movie reaches a turning point with the rather surprising death of one supporting character, and from there on it just feels rushed, half-assed, and just plain lazy.

I've already mentioned the climax, but the laziness isn't limited to there. Scully has a subplot about trying to cure a little kid of some obscure disease (call in House for this shit, and go fight monsters!). The parents say at one point that they want to stop the treatment and let God take control or whatever, but then the next time the story shifts to this dull subplot, Scully is still giving the kid the treatment. And the film's lone "monster", a two-headed dog, is never actually seen until it is dead, which is just plain silly.

Had this indeed been an episode of the show, it would merely be forgettable; a better one would be on the next week. But it's been six years, and the show is now defunct. The movies are the only new adventures we will get, and it's almost sort of a ripoff that no one (even Duchovny, who seems bored after about a half hour) really went to bat on this one. The dismal box office suggests this will be the last we see of the characters, which is just a tragedy. Even the series finale had some of the show's old spark and wit, not to mention a better use of its outstanding cast.

What say you?


Phantom Of The Opera (1989)

JULY 24, 2008


I remember my mom renting Phantom of the Opera for me when I was like 10, telling me “It’s Freddy!”, which was good enough for me. I had no knowledge of the Gaston Leroux story, so for me it was like seeing Freddy kill some dudes in the 19th century, which was more than enough to entertain me. Now, having seen like 5 or 6 other versions of a story I simply don’t care for, it’s a completely different enjoyable experience. This version does away with all of the goth-y sympathy (Argento), the music numbers (Schumacher), and the mall (Friedman) and simply makes it into a slasher movie. It’s not particularly great or anything, but it’s a fun take on the over-exposed tale of Erik Destler. And according to Wiki, it's actually pretty faithful apart from the gore. Maybe I'll read the book.

Of course, the other fun aspect to seeing it now is recognizing some of the co-stars. Bill Nighy, long before subjecting himself to excessive makeup in Pirates and Underworld movies, plays one of the opera house owners, and Molly Shannon plays Christine’s friend, long before appearing on SNL. Also worth noting is that Christine is played by Jill Schoelen, in one of her last horror roles before disappearing from this mortal coil (by making Lifetime movies).

The elaborate death scenes are also pretty gory and fun. I bet Leroux is rolling in his grave for never writing a sequence where Erik is attacked by some dudes in an alley and proceeds to kill them (at least I don't think - I can't recall this scene in any other version), or having blood splatter all over his face as he guts a guy caught on one of those movie-only ropes that instantly wraps itself around a foot and proceeds to send him careening into the air. And there is NO chandelier scene, which is also great to me. It's like the usual centerpiece or whatever, so seeing them skip it entirely is definitely preferable than seeing it staged yet again.

Not as elaborate are the sets, which I kind of liked (this IS a Golan/Globus affair). Yeah, it’s nice to have a film that acts as a production designer’s demo reel, but when the opera house, backstage areas, sewer tunnels, etc are only as detailed and complex as necessary, it’s easier to focus on the story and performances. Plus, it's just kind of endearing when you see things like an "iron" gate made out of painted wood.

Unsurprisingly, Englund is pretty goddamn great as the Phantom. The movie was shot around the peak of Freddy’s popularity, and since that means he was cracking jokes and wearing Superman costumes, Englund is obviously happy to play a scary character again. He has a few Freddy-ish oneliners, and the burn/skinless makeup is pretty much a ripoff of Freddy’s (during the face ‘reconstruction’ sequence), the character is otherwise different enough for it to not feel like a cheap cashin, which is probably all it was designed to be in the first place. In other words, Englund elevates the film, and you will probably wish he had gotten a few other meatier villain roles in his prime (since nowadays he primarily plays smaller, quirkier roles). He’d probably be more well-known as an all purpose movie monster legend like Lon Chaney or Bela Lugosi, not simply “Freddy”.

Another thing that had no bearing on me as a kid was that this film was Dwight Little’s followup to Halloween 4, my introduction to Michael Myers (and in turn John Carpenter) and the film that remains the high standard for Halloween sequels. Along with his other movies (most of which are action films like Seagal’s Marked for Death), you can see that he’s not exactly an auteur, but he knows how to deliver the goods nonetheless. I’ve seen this story told too many times for it to have any real suspense, but that said, its still a pretty fast-paced and more or less effective version of it. And the stuff that this version adds (the modern time bookends, slasher sequences) are definitely the highlights. Maybe they should have had him do, I dunno, Phantom of the Haddonfield Actor's Playhouse.

I got this movie for 1.99. The DVD is devoid of extras, but it’s still a damn good value. I would have gladly paid, like, 2.99.

What say you?


Dead 7 (2000)

JULY 23, 2008


Anyone who visits the Horror Movie A Day store (which lists all HMAD entries in reverse order, so that the most recent movie is on the top) will probably wonder why the Decrepit Crypt set is on the top spot when I haven’t watched a single movie from it since December. Well, there are two reasons. One, leaving a multi set in one spot is easier than looking around for it and ‘bumping’ it back up there every time I take in another of the 50 movies on the set; and two, I didn’t intend on going that long without dipping into the pack. But since all three previous movies, and now this one, Dead 7, had nudity and excessive gore, I couldn’t watch them at work like I do with the other budget packs. On the flipside, watching them at home is hardly enticing, as they are given lousy transfers that look worse on my HD set and also are simply not as appealing as my bigger budgeted, lavishly transferred Blockbuster/Netflixed discs, not to mention all the unwatched ones from my own collection.

However, today is the day I leave for Comic Con, and thus I needed a short movie so I could get it out of the way early before heading down to San Diego. So I grabbed the Decrepit set and looked for a movie under 80 minutes. Didn’t take long (the movies are 4 to a disc, on ONE side!), and in case you were wondering, I got down to San Diego right around when I wanted to. Hurrah!

Another sort of nice surprise was that Dead 7 was far more competent than the other movies I’ve watched so far from this pitiful set. It was still shot on ugly consumer video and starred non-actors, but that was a given. Unlike the others, I could tell that the director (in this case, one Garrett Clancy) knew what he was doing, and while he could use a better editor (than himself), the camerawork, blocking, etc were all fairly decent. You get the idea that with some money and a good crew backing him up, he could make an effective horror movie, a notion I never even dreamed about when viewing those other pieces of shit (all 3 previous Decrepit entries are among the absolute worst films I’ve watched yet for HMAD).

The acting is also superior to the others. None of them are particularly great, but they know their lines, put emotion into them, etc. Particularly delightful (respectively speaking anyway) is Joe Myles, as the main jerk (peculiarly named Brownley - first name) we are supposed to root for (our “heroes” are criminals, once again). He looks like a cross between Wil Arnett and Peter Stormare, and he seems to be enjoying himself. There’s a great random bit when he yells at his girlfriend for not respecting Steely Dan, and also demonstrates the proper way to handle a CD (something I wish the Blockbuster clerks would explain to their customers – the DVDs I rent from the store often look like they were molested by rabid bears), and stuff like that is enough to give the movie a (slight) pass. There is also a terrific severed head appliance that is superior to even some non-indie films, and the hottest female cast member (Janet Tracy Keijser) is the one that offers the standard DC nudity.

I did take issue with one bit though – someone says that he’s gonna “pull a Lizzie Borden” or something to that effect, but then only swings his axe three or four times. Uh, I do believe Ms. Borden gave her mother forty whacks and then 41 for her dad. Who did she kill with only four? That part wasn’t in the story OR the nursery rhyme. Was there a baby or maybe a family pet that got deleted from the final version of the tale?

Of course, the movie is hardly what anyone would consider good. The plot makes little sense at times, our main characters aren’t really sympathetic in the least, and even at 75 minutes or so, there’s some needless padding (like a hide and go seek game sequence). And the closest thing to a heroine the movie offers is absent for about half the movie, so when she finally comes back, it seems like an afterthought.

And I know they don’t have a lot of money, but fonts can be found free, so there’s no need for such lazy titles (and why is the last name a different font than the first?):

You gotta draw in the audience with exciting fonts! Throw some Blades or maybe even a Wingding in there! Also, the first scene in the film is some sort of narrator in the Cryptkeeper tradition, but instead of a funny animatronic ghoul, it’s just some douche who comes off like Azrael Abyss. Also, the plot he describes doesn’t seem to be the plot of the movie we see, as he talks about two women who are trapped in a hell on earth or something, but then the plot is about four lowlifes who are targeted by an unseen ghoul for knocking a retarded kid into a well. Luckily he doesn’t reappear at the end; you might actually forget about him by the time the movie is over (I in fact did, until I went back to screenshot the credit screen).

Still, the relative competency and clear evidence that the folks involved were putting some effort into their movie is appreciated, and even made me hopeful that there might actually be 2 or 3 movies on the Decrepit set that are worthwhile (not counting Scream Bloody Murder, which somehow got tossed in with all these DV quickies).

What say you?


Werewolf Of London (1935)

JULY 22, 2008


One of my favorite minor characters on The Simpsons is the snooty clerk from Costingtons. He pretty much only says one thing: “Yyyyyeeeeeeessssssss!” (his odd speaking manner was explained away - he had a stroke). Well, most of the cast of Werewolf Of London talks exactly like that guy, so if you find him annoying, I urge you to steer clear of this film.

Another reason to steer clear is that you’ve probably already seen other werewolf movies, and thus this one doesn’t really offer anything new. Granted, it actually pre-dates The Wolf Man, and so respect must be paid, but that doesn’t mean it’s better. For starters, Larry Talbot is a far more interesting and sympathetic character than Dr. Glendon (Henry Hull), and the story is simply more engrossing in the later film. Here, the lycanthropy is tied to botany... hardly the stuff of excitement. Unless the plants are singing about eating Steve Martin or causing Jena Malone to strip off parts of her garments, I don’t want them in my horror movies.

Back to the characters though, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a collection of more sarcastic and bitter people in a movie. A full minute of the film is given to one shrill woman mocking the dialogue of another, slightly less annoying woman. They are often drunk or drinking, everyone seems to pretty much hate each other... but yet it just doesn’t entertain me as much as it should. Hell, I call for a remake, cast with the Apatow crew. They can spend the whole movie just mocking each other and then Paul Rudd can be the werewolf when time allows.

This side of the disc also contains a brief “documentary” about the history of the Wolf Man on screen, hosted by John Landis. It’s a nice little look and contains some pretty interesting trivia, I just wish it was longer. Each film gets about 5-7 minutes, when in reality, despite the obvious lack of a lot of surviving participants (though screenwriter Curt Siodmak was still around when the piece was put together), they each deserve a good 20-25 (except for She-Wolf of London, which is skipped entirely anyway, and for good reason). It’s hilarious when Landis points out that after a while they don’t even bother to explain why the Wolf Man has been resurrected at the beginning of a film.

My generally blasé feeling toward werewolf movies aside, this one is simply the first of what would become a longtime “series” of films about a sympathetic man becoming a monster, and it shows. It’s nice to see how it all started, but I am glad that The Wolf Man came along to improve on the formula. To me, it’s kind of like looking at the animatics of big FX sequences on a DVD – interesting, but it’s merely the groundwork for a vastly more entertaining spectacle.

What say you?


Asylum (2008)

JULY 21, 2008


Not sure the logic behind releasing two “mental” horror movies on DVD in the same week, but whatever. I’m glad I went with Insanitarium first, because it was a lot of fun and thus it wasn’t too much of a bother than Asylum was pretty goddamn dull, as I had already had my fill of the white walled genre. But it’s also pretty derivative; not only is the killer’s modus operandi identical to Freddy Krueger’s, but even whole lines of dialogue are repeated from Nightmare 3, something I would have noticed even if I HADN’T just re-watched that movie a few days prior.

The main problem with Asylum, however, is the complete lack of tension, suspense, or even thrills. We have six kids, with the hero/heroine obvious right from the start, and absolutely no one else. Hell, even the two minor characters (a security guard and the RA for the dorm our principals live in) aren’t even used as fodder. 4 death scenes for a 95 minute horror movie that’s not very interesting to begin with is pretty weak, if you ask me.

Making matters worse, the film is directed by David R. Ellis, who was 3 for 3 in terms of delivering the goods in silly movies. Cellular is a blast, Snakes on a Plane is crowd-pleasing fun (once it gets going anyway), and Final Destination 2 is something of a minor classic. But there’s not a shred of those films’ energy to be found here; everyone looks bored, the killer is a generic cross between Jigsaw and whatever the fuck Jeff Combs is supposed to be in the Haunted Hill movies (and, again, Freddy), the death scenes are incredibly half-assed (it’s the old “using their fears against them” type shit, but they are all just afraid of their parents or ex-boyfriends, so Fauxddy settles for just stabbing or hanging them most of the time), etc.

But the generic shit doesn’t stop there. Our heroine sees one of her friends dead. So she gets the cops and other friends to come see the body. Guess what? It’s gone!!! Just like in every other goddamn horror movie ever made. Just once, just fucking ONCE, I want someone to get someone to show them a corpse and have the goddamn thing still be there. It’s one thing to bring out clichés that work (i.e. – the whole concept of the Final Girl), but one as trite and annoying as that really should be permanently retired. The movie also features the “creepy” character (a janitor here) that turns out to have all the answers and aid the heroes in the end.

And again, I’m not really against a complete lack of originality in a movie. Doomsday was a lot of fun, for example. But the difference is, everyone in that movie was having fun too. Not the case here; the only actor who seems to be enjoying himself is the annoying jock character, who’s too grating to matter. Everyone else, particularly the main girl (the broad from Disturbia) have two modes: sleepwalking, or serious ACTING! They all get their little moment where they talk about their deepest fears (which of course is just foreshadowing how they die), and it’s just laughable. The fact that they all occur back to back doesn’t help.

It’s also botched from a technical stance. It’s a college, but we never see a single other student after the first 10 minutes or so. Do these 6 kids have the entire dorm to themselves? Also, at the beginning, when they all meet, it’s presented as random: someone overhears two others talking and joins the conversation, the nice heroine reaches out to the loner kid standing off to the side, etc. Yet, wouldn’t you know it, they are destined to be roommates with one another (the RA guy says “You have been put in groups” – seems like they put themselves in one). What are the odds? There’s also a baffling bit later in the film when a scene switches from “Let’s go try to find a door (or whatever)” mode to a “go go run!” chase scene over the course of one second. Again, there’s no buildup or tension to the film, everything just happens because it happened in a better film that writer Ethan Lawrence obviously wanted to emulate. Even the “deep fears” stuff is badly done. After the first kid is killed, the others each talk about their problems one at a time, as if to tell the audience “Now that you know the gimmick, we’re gonna tell you right now how the rest of us will die.” Almost like they figured no one would like the movie, and thus decided it was only fair to the audience to essentially tell them everything that will happen at the halfway point, so folks could go home and beat traffic.

There were a couple things I liked. The school is Richard (Dick?) Miller University, and... well I wouldn’t say I LIKED it, but there’s a bit where the Final Girl looks up insanity on Wikipedia. I believe that’s the first time I have seen Wiki used in a movie (not just mentioned), so that’s... well, something. Hey, I’m trying.

Don’t bother with this nonsense. The DVD producers obviously phoned in their work as well; the thing doesn’t even have a trailer. It IS password protected for some reason; I had to watch it on a different player because I don’t know the code to my DVD player. ("12345" didn’t work so I gave up). Not sure what’s up with that – the parental lock on my player is turned off anyway? Maybe MGM/FOX were just trying to keep me from bothering.

What say you?


Ted Bundy (2002)

JULY 20, 2008


A while back I watched Gacy, which was an interminably dull and largely inaccurate version of the John Gacy story. Needless to say, it didn’t inspire me to watch others in the loose “franchise”, but I must have queued Ted Bundy around the same time, and it finally came up on my list over the weekend. Luckily, it was better than Gacy, but it’s still a giant missed opportunity.

Giving credit where credit is due, they got a lot of the details right surrounding the murders (Bundy is one of the few killers I’ve actually read a book about, though I never read the final twenty pages because someone stole it from my desk. I assume... he dies in the chair). They also kept in some of the other, lesser known elements, such as his rampant kleptomania and sock fetishes. As director Matthew Bright points out in his commentary, it’s largely the media’s fault that Ted is often thought of as a charming, regular guy – he was actually an introvert with almost zero social skills.

But they got other shit wrong too. Like, you know, a goddamn techno song in 1974. I know it’s a low budget movie and they probably couldn’t afford Zep or even Jefferson Airplane, but for the love of Christ, techno? And it’s even sillier, because it’s in a scene with typical seventies dancing, so you get Ted doing the “grab his nose and go underwater” bit while we hear NTISS NTISS WOYOWOYOWOYOWOYOWOYO. Speaking of the music, the main theme in the film sounds stolen from Thin Red Line.

And it’s also largely lacking any suspense or even narrative drive. Ted kills someone, then he has a fight with his girlfriend Lee (a woman who should be committed herself for putting up with the shit Ted does to her in the film), then kills someone... etc. They don’t bother doing any of the sort of “WHY” bullshit you see in a lot of serial killer movies (fictional or not), but you start to wonder if maybe they should. After an hour or so, you still have no real grasp on Ted OR Lee, and they never bother to have the various victims do anything to stick out. The one exception is Tiffany Shepis. Obviously she sticks out because she’s not an unknown, but since she’s playing Carol DaRonch (one of the would-be victims who managed to escape Ted), her scene is a bit longer. Whether the real DaRonch was as stupid as she is portrayed here, I don’t know, but her reaction to Ted’s Volkswagen is worth the price of Netflixing the disc alone. And they have a funny fight when she tries to get away, it goes on for like two full minutes.

Ted is sentenced to Death Row with like 20 minutes to go, which led me to believe maybe they would work in some of the Green River Killer stuff that I actually find really interesting. But no, Bright makes the rather interesting choice of having a very long scene of Ted being prepped for the chair. First his head is shaved, and then his asshole is stuffed with cotton (I guess you shit yourself when you are shocked – good to know!). It’s a very cold and somewhat brutal sequence, and it’s like seeing Ted get payback for the shit he did to the poor girls before (and after) killing them. In fact, the actual execution is rather tame in comparison to the cotton up the ass stuff.

Unfortunately, there’s a big problem with this scene – no one has aged! It’s about 15 years after the beginning of the film, and Ted looks exactly the same, as does Leigh (another blunder of the film is never really putting Leigh in danger – even if you don’t know shit about Ted, you can probably assume that when he walks up to a random girl at the beach, she’s a goner. The girlfriend? Not so much.). That always bugs me in movies. Maybe because there’s no way in hell I look the same as I did 15 years ago so I’m just jealous.

As serial biopics go, you could do worse, but while they didn’t make much up, they also failed to really focus on the more compelling aspects of Bundy’s story. I was hoping the disc would have at least a small piece on the real Ted (even text based), but the only extra is Bright’s commentary, which is incredibly boring. He just sort of comments on the real Ted; “He really did drink.” “He really did work at a crisis center.”, never once explaining how he got involved with the film, what filming was like, etc. He never even introduces himself! Ebert’s commentaries for movies he simply happens to like are more engaging and informative than this. He also hilariously fucks up discussing poor Shepis: first he says her name wrong (Shepkist?) and then claims she is the wrestler Madison. Which she is not. He gets other stuff wrong too, so as a result, this may be the only commentary track ever recorded in which you will actually know LESS after listening to it. He also laughs and makes off-color jokes during some of the murders, so in short... the guy is kind of a tool.

What say you?


Insanitarium (2008)

JULY 19, 2008


One perk of working for movie websites is the set visit, where you are usually flown to some exotic locale (Vancouver) and are given money to spend in addition to having meals, board, etc. all covered by the studio. It’s great. At least, so I understand. Since I have a real job, I never get to do those for Bloody Disgusting. The only time I DID was for Midnight Meat Train, which was shooting about 4 blocks from my apartment. No flights, no hotels, no meals (I did have a bottled water though), no nothing. And since my digital recorder was stolen before I could transcribe any of the interviews I did there, there’s really no proof I was there beyond a quick bit I transcribed that day, where MMT’s writer, Jeff Buhler, told me about a film he was doing called Insanitarium. I thought it was something he was developing, so I was pretty dang surprised to see it actually be released BEFORE Meat Train.

And even more surprised to see how fun it was, a sentiment shared by HMAD reader LordScrodin, who recommended it some time ago. It’s not a particularly original movie, and the 2nd act drags a bit, but it’s just a good ol’ fashioned splatter pic, and didn’t deserve to go direct to video. They could have at least given it a midnight run a la Feast, because it’s the type of movie that would definitely play well with a big crowd of drunken folks. Besides, any movie with the line: “Paranoid delusions? Someone tried to eat my FUCKING FACE!” has to be appreciated (a runner-up: “He ate my arm, you selfish prick!”).

The latter line is probably the highlight of Carla Gallo’s performance, as she is otherwise dull and sort of mis-cast. Everyone else seems to be having a ball, but she feels a bit too serious. She’s cute as hell, and it’s nice to see her play someone besides “Bad Date” in a Judd Apatow flashback sequence, but she’s a weak link. To be fair, she plays nearly all of her scenes with Peter Stormare, who can have fun with anything and thus pretty much obliterates everything else on screen. After his disappointing (and all too brief) non-villain role in Premonition, it’s nice to see him play the mad doctor, and he’s clearly having a grand old time. Jesse Metcalfe, usually pretty stiff, also fares quite well as the hero; getting to stab and shoot zombie-ish cannibals is probably just as fun as rolling around with Eva Longoria (well, maybe not), but he actually seems more comfortable doing it.

And the gore is great. Not Wrong Turn 2 great (the kills here are sort of standard), but there’s a quantity over quality sense to it. Arms torn off, knives through the mouth, lots and lots of blood... by the end of the film, both our heroes are covered in it, as are most of the walls and floors that surround them. Of course, the setting is the usual movie sanitarium, all white and sterile, and it’s a nice little treat to see it so mangled and gory by the end.

I mentioned the 2nd act being a bit slow, but part of the reason is that the first act is so fast. We have a Prison Break (also with Stormare!) scenario, with a guy getting himself locked up to save his sibling and break back out, and it’s remarkable how quick he gets himself in there. I think by the ten minute mark he’s already locked away, and 10-15 minutes later he’s already on the “something’s wrong!” phase of horror movie hero development. We even get a nice cannibal moment about a half hour in. But after that it sort of treads water into the blood soaked 3rd act, and I wish Buhler had found a way to pace the 1st and 2nd acts a bit better. It’s definitely a film that keeps building and building (as opposed to a movie with 4-5 big setpieces), but that pace is thrown off a bit in the middle.

I like that the experimental drug is called Orpheum. We need more movie drugs named after music clubs. I would like to see an action movie with Van Damme or Seagal going after the guys who are putting Paradise or CBGBs on the streets. Speaking of names, there’s a guy named Loomis (yay!) and for some reason, the opening credits throw an umlaut on Buhler’s name, even though A. it’s not like that in the end credits and 2. It’s not how he spells it anyway, far as I know.

The extras are pretty light, but watchable. Thankfully there’s no usual EPK shit; for example, Stormare (who pronounces his own name, so I’m gonna go with that pronunciation from now on, since I’ve always gone back and forth between “Storm-Air” and “Storm-Arr-Ay”; the former is correct) conducts his interview laying down on an exam table and pretending he is Dracula. There is also a collection of deleted scenes, all wisely excised.

What say you?


Non Canon Review: Nightmare On Elm St 3: Dream Warriors

JULY 18, 2008


Freddy may be the most popular with general audiences (until Freddy vs Jason, the highest grossing film of any of the big 80s franchises was a Freddy film), but personally, he was always my least favorite of the “Big Three” (the others being Michael and Jason). There are more bad Freddy films than good ones, and since there’s seemingly no rules to his powers in the real world, it just didn’t have the same appeal as the more grounded Friday and Halloween films (other than the general supernatural element of the fact that they can’t be killed). However, Nightmare on Elm St 3: Dream Warriors has always held a special place in my horror heart, and dare I say it, I actually prefer it to the original.

While the original is great, it has a really odd structure, and since it’s more serious than any of the sequels, repeated viewings are not really recommended. But 3 was a great blend of the humor and scares, and the colorful cast adds immensely to the proceedings (another check against the original – even Johnny Depp is kind of dull). In other words, it’s the perfect type of movie to show at a revival theater, with a big crowd of people who love it while acknowledging how silly it is at the same time.

Back to the no rules thing, some of this stuff is just “huh?”. For example, Philip walks through a locked door. We can assume this is his dream, but he actually would have had to do that in the real world too for him to end up on the other end of the hospital. And during the climax, Freddy somehow attacks two non-sleeping characters (and leaves the “Dream world” in the process), a bit I never quite understood. And why does the ghost of Freddy’s mother age?

It’s hard to believe that the guy who went on to make Shawshank Redemption and The Mist is responsible for scenes like the one in Dream Warriors where a door appears in the middle of a room, and Patricia Arquette says “It’s a door!” as if it wasn’t clear to the other people in her group. But Frank Darabont (and Chuck Russell, who directed) also came up with some great lines, most of which are delivered by Kincaid (Ken Sagoes!) or the nerdy dude who becomes the “Wizard Master”. Oh, and if I may interject – you know how it’s kind of lame how Freddy kills him almost instantly? There was a big fight scripted, but cut for budget reasons. Hence the Dracula cape and seemingly pointless “electric hand power” he displays.

That tidbit was one of the many highlights during the post screening Q&A with Darabont and Russell (moderated by Diablo Cody). The two are old pals, and they, like the audience, clearly have a fondness for the film that doesn’t keep them from addressing its flaws. Darabont says it should be 20 minutes shorter (I disagree) and they have no idea why the door line is in there. I really hope someone filmed it and tosses it on Youtube, because it was a really informative and hilarious chat, and makes me bemoan the lack of a commentary track with the two on the DVD.

And need I say more?

Nightmare 3 was the very first movie I ever bought (a used VHS for I believe 2.99) and was also the first of the series I ever saw. Which may explain why I tend to like it more than the original, at least in the sense of “If I had a choice, I’d watch 3”. The original is certainly a “better” film in the traditional sense, but when you’re dealing with a guy who can go in your dreams and kill you, it’s best to just have some fun with it, which is clearly what 3 was going for. And then of course, the next couple sequels went too far in that direction. This is the last one where Freddy was genuinely scary and dark, and some of the series’ best kills are here (the puppet one remains my favorite). Plus, they don’t seem like they were developed by a bunch of guys sitting around thinking of ways for Freddy to kill people. And even if they WERE, they are well integrated into the story, so it doesn’t matter. Without this movie, it’s safe to say Freddy would be long forgotten. The goodwill earned from this film (and the financial success of the strangely daytime heavy part 4) led to three more films, none of which were a big success or very good (New Nightmare somewhat excepted – it’s a great idea but not executed as well as I’d have liked), and then of course, the abysmal Freddy vs Jason. So, in a way, fuck you, Darabont and Russell!

What say you?


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