Kaidan (2007)

JUNE 30, 2009


I was kind of surprised to see a new film from Hideo Nakata going direct to DVD. Not that a foreign film would ever see a wide release in the states (unless it involved a lot of guys being kicked. Or Nazis.), but I figured his name would carry enough weight to get him a limited release here, especially when dealing with familiar territory (vengeful ghosts). But after an hour or so of Kaidan, it became pretty clear why Lionsgate (or any other studio) wouldn’t want to spend the dough to put this in a few cinemas: for the most part, it’s a giant bore.

And it’s a shame, because at its core is a pretty interesting story. It’s kind of long-winded, but the long and short of it is that an ex-lover haunts a guy forever, bringing harm to each subsequent lover he takes. Everyone’s had to deal with an ex at some point, and the best horror films are the ones that are ramped up metaphorical takes on real world problems, so this should be a winner.

But that’s not the case. For starters, it’s too goddamn long. All Asian horror films run a bit on the long side, but they rarely FEEL as long as this one does, which is literally seconds under a full two hours but feels more like three. The core story is fairly simple, so what makes it so long? Well, how about the fact that the same shit happens over and over? Our “hero” (more on him in a bit) keeps taking on new lovers, the ex keeps appearing in occasionally creepy moments, and then in a panic he kills the new lover thinking that it’s the ex come back to life. The circular nature not only makes the film feel longer due to the repetition, but it also keeps the stakes from being raised. When your climax comes down to a sequence of events that is identical to something that occurred at the end of the first act, there’s a problem with the storytelling.

Another major problem is that our hero is a fucking douche. The whole movie could have been avoided if he wasn’t such a damn flirt. Within days of beginning a relationship with one woman, he’s chatting up and giving flowers to another. Over and over. He’s like Michael Mancini from Melrose Place (who at one point began cheating on his mistress with his wife’s sister). Plus, and I don’t mean to be mean about this, but the actor is kind of strange looking (he looks like a female Tim Curry in drag), so that he can so quickly attract and bed so many women in such a short period of time is sort of hard to swallow. Plus, again, he’s kind of an ass, so what the hell is the appeal? He doesn’t even have a good job! (He sells tobacco - more douchiness).

The sad thing is, had the movie been 90 minutes (and thus cutting down on the repetition), I’d probably have come out of it liking it more. There are some decent creepy moments here and there, and the finale (completely spoiled on the DVD cover, for some reason) is pretty epic, as our hero begins taking on like 10 dudes at once (and doing a fairly good job to boot) before receiving his final comeuppance. There’s also a shocking death late in the film, presented in a somewhat subtle “wait is he HOLY SHIT he IS dead!” manner. The setting is also quite nice, it’s not set in modern times for once (no haunted techno-devices, yay!), and shows a side of Japan we don’t often see in these films.

Also there’s a part where a couple argues and the woman tries to slam the little flimsy sliding door as she leaves. It’s awesome.

Also, and I can’t stress this enough - I liked that it made sense. At no time during the film was I confused as to what was going on or who certain characters were. By now I almost expect to be baffled by the narrative, so to maintain a strong grasp on the material was a refreshing change of pace. Plus I stayed awake for the entire thing, which I think is a first for a J-horror. Woo!

The only extra on the disc is a trailer reel, which has some of the usual LG stuff mixed with a few J-horrors, such as Ju-On 2 (the one I haven’t seen yet) and one of the Ringus. Ironically enough, I hope LG’s acquisition of this film means that they are considering a remake. I may be sick of Asian remakes, but for the most part that is due to the fact that they don’t change anything. Here, I really think that a good movie could be made out of this with a tighter script and more appealing actor (and character) in the lead. What’s Bradley Cooper up to?

What say you?

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Simon Says (2006)

JUNE 29, 2009


Depending on how you look at it, Simon Says is either the worst you can do in the realm of decent movies, or the best you can do among the bad ones. There is JUST enough entertainment value to keep it from being completely abysmal, but at the same time I couldn’t really bring myself to care about a goddamn thing occurring on the screen. The film could have ended mid-scene and I wouldn’t have minded.

Let’s start with the good. The film stars Margo Harshman, whom I was quite taken with after a brief turn in From Within. The script doesn’t really give her a hell of a lot to do, but there IS a scene where she pretends to seduce Crispin Glover’s character, who is understandably smitten with her. And Glover is having fun, playing dual roles. One’s a retarded man-child, the other is a sort of southern-fried backwoods hostile type. Anyone who doesn’t spot the “twist” about his character from a mile away hasn’t seen enough movies (indeed, it's "revealed" in such a half-assed manner I have to assume the writer knew we all would have figured it out by then anyway), but it’s still fun watching him dive right into two roles and chew up the scenery, as opposed to the more introverted performance he gave in Willard, which was the last time I can recall him having so much screen-time.

I also liked the batshit crazy kills. Simon/Stanley has set up a bunch of contraptions around the forest, most of which, when triggered, will send a pickaxe (or several pickaxes) directly into someone’s skull or chest. There’s a hilarious bit where the resident stoner character sets one off and then rolls out of the way, dodging dozens of the damn things while continuing to smoke his fatty. Unfortunately, just about all of them are done nearly completely with terrible CGI, which severely lessens their impact. I understand that the film had a low budget and thus ILM probably wasn’t returning their calls, but still - it’s a shame to see so many cool kills wasted due to poor effects. Even if they were done right by someone else, they would lose their novelty a 2nd time around.

Also, the movie is strangely a slasher version of Scooby-Doo. The stoner guy (who looks like a young Dana Carvey) is obviously Shaggy, and there’s a dumb blond guy and an even dumber blond girl to stand in for Fred and Daphne. Harshman, as the final girl, I guess can be Velma, since she’s smarter than the others. There’s even a dog! Except it gets kicked to death, a fate that Scrappy unfortunately never suffered.

Bringing the movie down a few notches is the interminable first half hour or so (until the first kill, and actually a bit beyond since the first kill makes no goddamn sense). All of the characters are introduced as dipshits, to the extent that I couldn’t even tell which one was the Final Girl until I recognized Harshman. I’m not sure why so many modern slasher films go back to the generic stoner stereotype (Why not a heroin addict? Mix it up a little), but it wore thin years ago, and by now it’s just excruciating. And this guy is the absolute worst; I actually begin to long for Jack Black’s character in I Still Know What You Did Last Summer. Worse, since modern slashers always kill the Final Girl’s boyfriend off early on, we are stuck with him until almost the end of the movie. And to be fair, he does have his moments (the aforementioned stoner acrobatics), but the annoying ones all but completely obliterate them.

There are also some appalling jump cuts in the narrative. In the middle of the woods, stoner dude says (apropos of nothing) “do you know how long I can hold my breath?”, and then BAM! We cut to everyone on the shore of a lake, really concerned at how long the stoner guy has been under the water. Also, Simon stumbles upon a group of paintball players and then other campers (in case your déjà vu alarm just went off, yes - there are a number of moments in the film ripped off from Fridays 4-7), none of whom were introduced properly. Instead they are just suddenly in the scene as if they were always there. And then they get killed. It gives the film a sort of slapped together, careless feel, and coupled with the shitty effects, overshadows the film’s stronger points.

Also the movie uses “Zoot Suit Riot” TWICE. Good god. Nothing should bring back memories of that one summer when everyone was into swing/ska before coming back to their senses in the fall thanks to, well, Creed. Not really a lot better, but at least I never had trouble getting through Faneuil Hall due to a bunch of folks bouncing around like jackasses to the tune of “What’s This Life For?”.

Now, as I watched this online, I have no access to the extra features, which I understand is limited to a still gallery (which I wouldn’t bother with anyway) and a director commentary. Since the director is none other than William Dear, who directed Harry and the Hendersons, I would actually like to listen to him explain why he is now directing mediocre direct to video slasher movies. I would also like to hear why the entire Lively acting clan (Robyn, Blake, etc; though Jason must still be on his European Tour, as he’s MIA) shows up for a random cameo at the end of the film. Blake Lively’s appearance is actually prominently touted on the box, so Gossip Girl fans and/or pervy middle-aged masturbators will probably be disappointed that she appears only in the film’s final minute (and doesn’t even die). So if anyone has the disc and listened the commentary, let me know if it’s worth a listen. If he is under the impression that his film is a masterpiece and spends the whole time praising everyone including himself, then I’m not interested. If he’s candid and honest and knows exactly the kind of movie he made, then I will rent the disc proper and give it a listen. Deal?

What say you?

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Four Flies On Grey Velvet (1971)

JUNE 28, 2009


Even though I watch them all out of order, I never really grow tired of seeing Argento’s Giallo films. They’re all pretty much the same movie (artist of some sort, a murder, a helpful cop/PI, an ending that usually comes out of nowhere and is based on information we were never given), and obviously Argento was fine-tuning his craft until Deep Red, was pretty perfect until the late 80s or so, and then began to decline, but I walk away from just about all of them with equal satisfaction. So even though Four Flies On Grey Velvet (Italian: 4 Mosche Di Velluto Grigio) was one of his first, when he was still a bit sloppy, it’s as equally interesting to watch as say, Tenebrae, which is damn near perfect and was one of the first I watched, before I began to notice all the similarities (though I did point out that it was “similar to Deep Red”, natch).

This one’s a bit... loose, I guess I would say, compared to the others. Maybe the script just jumped around a lot, or maybe Argento was experimenting with editing. Either way, there are a number of scenes that seem to serve no purpose. Like when they cut away from a scene to show a woman yelling about getting the wrong mail. Her and her mail ultimately serve no function in the narrative, so why he would so quickly cut to her is beyond me. Also, the whole movie revolves around our hero” accidentally killing a guy, but it turns out that the guy isn’t really dead. This would usually be revealed via a line of dialogue from another character (like “Nice job faking your death...” and then the camera would reveal the non-dead guy with a shit-eating grin on his face). Here, we watch the guy eat dinner, make a phone call, walk around, and then finally meet up with someone else and explain why he isn’t really dead. I actually rewound the entire section of the film thinking I had missed something, because it was so oddly “revealed”.

Another odd thing, but one I kind of liked, is that the hero is a fucking douchebag. Not only does he cheat on his wife (with her cousin!) moments after refusing to join her on a trip, but he also seems to think everyone in his life should deal with him being a murderer rather than complain that it may bring them harm. He even treats the killing as something of an inconvenience; he repeatedly says “I killed a man” with the same tone of voice one would use to admit to scratching a car door in the parking lot. He also considers the flimsiest “evidence” in history (even for a Giallo) rock solid enough to start slapping the killer (a woman) around. Our hero!

Now to be fair, there might be more evidence. Unlike most Italian films’ US releases, no one bothered to translate any of the notes or newspaper articles that the characters look at before looking alarmed. As I do not speak Italian (though I have level 1 for Rosetta Stone!), I don’t know what any of these things are even referring to, let alone specifics. And given the amount of time spent in the movie on things that don’t matter, for all I know the newspapers are merely informing folks of the latest stock reports.

The movie has a “kill the killer and instantly cut to credits” ending though, so all is forgiven. Also, the little creepy puppet thing that the killer uses to hide behind (James Wan and Leigh Whannell have clearly seen the film) is awesome, I wish they had used it more in the movie. I also hope that they didn't destroy the only one they had for the trailer (it's damn upsetting to see it smashed up so badly in the spot - it's not in the film as far as I can recall).

A new DVD of this film has been asked about for years (I even asked Argento myself, when I interviewed him for Mother of Tears’ DVD release - total nerd boast post), so everyone owes Mya Communication (who?) a big sloppy kiss for putting one out, completely remastered and restored with a few seconds’ of material that was mysteriously cut from the US release. All of it occurs during the killer’s big explanation scene at the end of the film, and it’s still in Italian (even if you pick the English dub), so it’s easy to spot. The only other extras are trailers and the US version of the opening/end credits. It would have been nice to have Argento’s thoughts on the film finally seeing a proper release and also an explanation for those cuts (the theatrical cut’s version would make the killer’s motive even more baffling), but oh well. The transfer is top notch, so it’s definitely worth upgrading whatever shitty bootleg you had before.

What say you?

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Who Can Kill A Child? (1976)

JUNE 28, 2009


The question in the title of Who Can Kill A Child? (Spanish: ¿Quién Puede Matar A Un Niño?) is merely a rhetorical one, but the answer is pretty obvious after a while: the hero of this movie. While his wife never really shines on the whole “they are trying to kill us so it’s only fair that we defend ourselves” idea, dude practically embraces it after a while, machine-gunning the little bastards and smacking them around with oars and such. If they were to remake this movie, they simply have to cast Tom Jane in the role, since he’s proven to be good at such activity (The Mist) and also he’s an awesome guy and could use a good role.

The great thing about this movie is how goddamn unnerving it is. They never really explain why all of the kids snapped and killed the adults (the answer seems to be supernaturally-based though; there’s a scene where an evil kid stares down one who seems to be normal, and then the normal one is crazy too), but that’s what makes it scary. Plus, the kids seem to be having a grand old time, which makes it even scarier. The turning point comes when a really small one crawls into a duct in order to shoot our heroes, who have trapped themselves in a room. The kid smiles a big shit-eating grin before cocking the hammer, only to be gunned down by the hero, much to his wife’s horror.

Speaking of the wife, it’s not often I yell at a character in a movie, but I had no choice to do so when the dumb broad grabbed the steering wheel away from her husband, who was about to run over a bunch of kids in order to escape the town. The car crashes and they have to proceed on foot. If I was the husband, I can guarantee that if we managed to escape, I would be calling a divorce lawyer by the time we got back to safety. Not only did she ensure their doom, she also kept the audience from the awesome sight of a bunch of murderous children being run over. Lose-lose.

A couple of technical blunders could help make the case for a remake (which as far as I know, will never happen due to the fact that horror filmmakers today are mostly pussies when it comes to this particular subject matter). For starters, the blood is pink. Even Dawn of the Dead’s is more realistic. And there’s not a lot of it, which actually makes it worse. In Dawn, after a while you just got used to it, but here, it’s used so sparingly, it distracts every time. Also, the sound design is a bit annoying. The “La la la” music, meant to be creepy, is just irritating after the first time it’s used. It also jumps around a lot (though this might be the fault of the DVD, Dark Sky certainly fucked up before with the sound on their releases), so be prepared to keep your finger on the volume button so you can turn up some dialogue scenes and then turn down loud and shrill action bits.

Speaking of the dialogue, another thing I loved was how the couple spoke English when they were alone, but Spanish when they were talking to others (well, the husband does anyway). I always hate movies that feature people traveling to another country, yet the dub has everyone speaking the same language all the time. It adds a layer of realism to the film that you don’t often see.

Having just watched Children Of The Corn, and also Vinyan a few weeks ago, it’s even more impressive how much I enjoyed the film, and I want to thank HMAD reader Chris for recommending it.. They’re all basically the same movie (the creators of both have admitted to this film’s influence), but this is easily the best of the lot. The grim ending alone puts it above Children, and unlike Vinyan, it dives right into the horror aspect of it all, instead of endless bickering between the parents. Also, the island setting reminds me a lot of the one in Antropophagus, so there’s another check in the “pro” column.

The DVD has a few bonus features, which is nice as so many of these obscure Spanish films don’t have a goddamn thing. One is an interview with director of photography José Luis Alcaine, and the other is with director Narciso Ibáñez Serrador (who also directed Blame, something I was not aware of until after I watched the film). Both interviews are quite good, and contain the usual candid attitude that I love about these 70s guys (Serrador admits he didn’t like lead actor Lewis Fiander). There’s also a still gallery but I didn’t bother with it. There is also another unadvertised bonus, and that is the MOST ANNOYING MENU LOOP EVER! Good god, I made the mistake of putting the DVD in and then going to the bathroom, and had to endure 10 seconds of overly loud children laughing and 3 or 4 notes of music repeating over and over and over. By the time I was able to run over and hit play I began to wish that I had wiped my ass with the DVD instead of TP. This sort of helps my theory that the film’s sound issues are the fault of Dark Sky and not the film, however, so that’s good.

What say you?

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I Sell The Dead (2008)

JUNE 26, 2009


Heading into Westwood again (ugh), I was a bit weary of I Sell The Dead. Not that it sounded bad or anything, but because I took a quick look at director Glenn McQuaid’s filmography on IMDb, and discovered that it was almost guaranteed to be scarier than anything in the film itself: The Off Season, Trigger Man, etc. But he just worked effects on those films; I Sell The Dead is his directorial debut, based on his own script. I tried to keep that in mind as I sat down to watch the film, and to my happy surprise, my fears were mostly unwarranted: this movie's quite fun.

For starters, the tone is definitely that of old EC Comics (I just picked up "The 10 Cent Plague", which details the efforts to censor/outlaw EC's and other comics in the 50s, can’t wait to read it), something we don’t get often enough. Maybe folks are just too afraid to be compared to Creepshow, but this tale of a pair of graverobbers is a perfect fit for the stylized and "funny/scary" feel of Romero's film. McQuaid tackles the inevitable comparisons head on, though, with some animated transitions and combined “overlay” style shots. But there’s nothing wrong with evoking the style of a terrific movie, and there’s no reason why the EC style should be limited to one film (one from over 25 years ago at that). Let’s bring it back!

I also dug the engaging performances by Dominic Monaghan and Larry Fessenden as Arthur and Willie, our heroes. Monaghan is in slightly familiar territory; some of his dialogue and character actions brings Charlie Pace to mind, but he’s having a lot of fun, and as long as he's starring in a film, he is not romancing my beloved Evangeline Lilly, so I am all for him starring in more films. Plus, his character explains sandwiches at one point, forever endearing the character to me. Fessenden is even better though. It’s rare to see him in such a large role (Habit I think is the only one he may have had more screen time, and that’s just because the movie’s longer), and he is a riot, owning most of the film’s best moments. His unconventional appearance limits the type of roles he can take, but it’s good to know that when the need arises, he can do more than pop up in minor roles.

It’s also impressive on a technical level. The budget surely wasn’t too high, but they really sell the “ye olden tymes” setting with the sets and exterior locations (graveyards, mostly). So I was amazed to discover that the entire film was shot in New York, including parts of Manhattan. It takes place in some unspecified time in the past (let’s say the late 1700s), so you’d suspect maybe some isolated European villa served as the primary shooting location, but nope. Everything’s within driving distance of the Empire State building. Excellent work. The opening credits are also incredible; it’s one of the best of its type I have seen in ages.

The only area that could have used some work is in the story’s structure. It feels too episodic at times, without any real driving force heading toward the film’s conclusion. For example, at one point they dig up the grave of what turns out to be an alien, and you think that the movie is suddenly going to kick it up a notch and open up this large conspiracy of grave robbing or something, but once the particular matter is dealt with, it’s never mentioned again. McQuaid admits that the film started off as an anthology (before he decided to focus on the Monaghan and Fessenden characters), but it often still feels that way. There are basically four stories in the film of about 20 minutes or so each, plus a wraparound with Monaghan telling the story (stories) to Ron Perlman. And each story works on its own, but when combined it feels a bit like watching four episodes of a TV show back to back, rather than a typical cinematic feature. And again, the film is still plenty entertaining, but I just wish that the story was as impressive as its cast and technical aspects.

Image Comics will be putting out a one-shot comic that tells the film’s story (with some changes; it was based on an earlier draft of the script, presumably one without budgetary limitations factored in) this August, and I can’t wait to get it. The art in the film (and on the film’s awesome poster) is quite good, and I suspect that the story may even be more enjoyable in graphic form. It would certainly make an excellent monthly series, with Arthur and Willie continually discovering different monsters (along with the alien, the movie also has vampires, zombies, and ghouls), grave-robbing rivals, etc. Fans of "The Goon" or Ben Templesmith’s "Wormwood" series would definitely dig it.

What say you?

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ZMD: Zombies Of Mass Destruction (2009)

JUNE 25, 2009


I am not a successful screenwriter, but my buddy Simon is, so I will steal his description of the LA Film Festival, because it’s better than mine: "Their programming is elitist, they show movies everyone's already seen, and the festival takes place in a part of town, Westwood, where I wouldn't take a sick dog to get murdered."

I totally agree with his sentiment, but for whatever reason, their horror selections tend to be on the “good” side of things. I saw Let The Right One In there, as well as X-Cross (when the hell is that movie going to come out?!?), Flight of the Living Dead, and also an encore of Embodiment of Evil. But on the flipside, I am a bit tired of zom-coms, so I wasn’t sure how I would feel about ZMD: Zombies Of Mass Destruction. Luckily, it was a winner, and continued LAFF’s above average ratio of hits to misses within their still-too-narrow horror selection.

(I also stayed awake for the entire movie, which is something I’ve never accomplished at the Majestic Crest. Score!)

What sets ZMD apart from say, Dance Of The Dead (still not sure why people love that one so much), is an increasingly rare focus on actual social commentary within the zombie shenanigans. Every zombie film in the past 40 years owes at least a little to Romero, but doing the whole “message!” thing seems to be going by the wayside. Not that it’s a completely terrible thing to just make a straight up zombie film, but it would be nice to see a bit more often. Here, we have a directly post 9-11, George W. Bush America version of the usual “small town is besieged” setup (as opposed to the more metaphorical approach in Romero’s Land of the Dead). Our heroine is an Iranian who everyone thinks is an Iraqi, and has to deal with the fact that a good chunk of the town (thanks to a very obvious Fox News parody broadcast) thinks that “Middle Eastern terrorists” are responsible for the zombie plague.

Our other heroes are a pair of homosexuals, one of whom is still closeted. They have returned to town in order for the closeted one to finally confess to his mother that he is gay, at the insistence (OK, demand) of his lover, who is proudly “out”. The film specifically takes place in 2003, so writer/director Kevin Hamedani lost a bit of humor potential, as the topic of gay marriage is a far more prominent issue nowadays than it was 5-6 years back. In fact, the only time the humor really didn’t work on me is when the local priest hooks one of them up to a machine that can “straighten him out”. The humor in the film all works from the realistic characters faced with the ridiculous notion of the living dead, and this machine almost seems more far-fetched than the idea of zombies.

But like all zom-coms, you have to expect a certain number of dud gags and jokes, so it’s hardly problematic, especially when so many work. I laughed out loud a dozen times, and was charmed throughout. There’s a gag involving someone trying to escape after being (briefly) tortured that had me laughing for at least a minute, and someone’s simple reaction (“What?!?!”) to a particularly strange event made me laugh even harder. There are also a number of unique zombie gags, which is pretty impressive as you would think that it would be hard to come up with even one at this point.

It also has a few decent scares (p.s. slow zombies for the win!). The first outright attack is played for laughs, but it’s also fairly shocking in its suddenness. An assumed “safe” character is also done in when you least expect it, and it allows for some genuine suspense as our heroes make their way to safety, as you have that “no one is safe” feeling. Well played. The ending comes a bit abruptly (plus two of the featured humans suddenly disappear), but it’s still one of the more satisfying conclusions to a zombie film in recent memory, without any needless sequel setup (or worse, a sudden downbeat turn, like Bio-Zombie).

None of the actors have extensive resumes, but they are all pretty engaging, particularly Janette Armand as Freda, the heroine. Not only is she hot as hell, but she is quite natural both in the character scenes as well as the zombie killing ones. A terrific find. I also loved Andrew Hyde as her neighbor, who harbors an understandable crush on her (if you don’t laugh at “She’s four feet away!” early on, you’re a damn robot). His name is Brian though, so part of that might stem from my forever unfulfilled desire to play myself in a zombie movie (or for zombies to be real and get to fight some. Either or).

Man, I even liked the HD cinematography. Some of the wider shots suffer, as if the camera can’t handle more than 20 feet or so in front of the lens, but most of it takes place indoors, and the lighting is quite good. The movie probably cost less than a million bucks, yet looks 10x better than Michael Mann’s mega budget Public Enemies (seriously Mann, you’re one of our greatest modern directors - go back to using film please. Or at least have Robert Rodriguez show you how to use digital film.).

Obviously, the film is making the festival rounds right now, but hopefully folks can get an opportunity to see it soon without the hassle of a festival keeping them at bay. It’s the best of its type since Shaun Of The Dead, and the fact that it blends the social commentary in to boot (and does so in a slightly more subtle manner than stuff like Zombie Strippers) is quite laudable. If you’re expecting a special effects demo reel in the form of a film, you will probably be disappointed (though there is a sufficient amount of gore, and some great effects along with it - faces being pulled off, eyes falling out, etc). This ain’t a “splatter” zombie film. But it is a good one.

What say you?

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Children Of The Corn (1984)

JUNE 24, 2009


I dunno how, but I have managed to see many of the DTV sequels (and this was long before the HMAD days), yet never watched the original Children Of The Corn. I caught bits and pieces on local TV stations on lazy summer days (any New Hampshire readers? WNDS for the win!), and must have mentally figured that was good enough to dive into the increasingly ludicrous sequels (I gave up after the one with Naomi Watts).

Unsurprisingly, this one is the best, assuming my less than glowing memories of the others hold true today (though I recall thinking that the 3rd one, which took place in an urban city, wasn’t too bad). It’s obviously stretched from a short story, but in a way that sort of makes what works about the film even more impressive. In the original story, they hit the kid, drive to Gatlin, and pretty much die instantly. It’s fast paced and somewhat pulpy, with a downer ending and minimal time spent with the children.

The movie, on the other hand, pretty much throws everything out. The characters have the same names, and they go to Gatlin seeking help after hitting a kid, but that’s about it. For starters, the movie couple is fairly happy, whereas in the story they hate each other and are on the brink of divorce. They even change little things about the characteristics; for example, the guy (Burt) in the story has quit smoking, but in the movie he smokes, despite the fact that actor Peter Horton does NOT smoke in real life and looks rather silly trying to appear as if he’s a regular. Why bother making the change?

Also, the movie introduces two sympathetic children who help our heroes. I can go either way on them. I liked the idea of the whole town truly being against these two schmucks, but a 90 minute movie would suffer from the basic fact that neither of them would come into any real danger until the final 10 minutes or so. With the children, we at least have the suspense over whether or not the kids are really helping them, or leading them into a trap.

The movie also makes Vicky (Linda Hamilton) more integral to the proceedings. In the story she sits in the car while Burt looks around (for like, 2 pages) and then disappears, only to be found dead later on. Here, she goes along with Burt, bonds with the little girl, etc. Director Fritz Kiersch gets some mileage (OK, padding) by splitting them up and cutting back and forth between their respective “investigation”. And I love the bit of how they know something’s wrong because the "TV Guide" they find is three years old.

That bit and several others seem very Stephen King esque, so it may come as something of a surprise to learn (if you haven’t read the story) that all of these things were the invention of screenwriter George Goldsmith (King had no involvement with the film’s production). Specific rock n roll songs, a mechanic who treats his dog like a partner (and says the film’s best line: “We’re out of gas... and you can’t use the bathroom unless you buy some gas!”), etc... these things all reek of King’s pop-culture and oft-overlooked comic touch, but none of them are in the story (the mechanic character is the film’s design entirely). It’s kind of odd that they managed to completely change the structure and ending of his story but yet come off as feeling faithful to his style.

Speaking of the ending, it feels like a bit of a copout. I figured Hamilton would live, especially as she takes on a bit of a mother role for the two “good” kids, but why couldn’t Horton have bought it? Goddamn happy endings. Luckily this was 1984, so if you wanted to see Hamilton lose her love interest in a movie, you only had to wait a couple months, but still.

Anchor Bay’s Blu-Ray is pretty goddamn phenomenal, if I do say so myself. They’ve never really disappointed me with their transfers, but holy shit. The level of detail and vibrancy to the color is astonishing, particularly in the well-lit diner scene that opens the film. The credits sequence as well; you can actually see the texture of the cheap paper on which the little girl has colored all of her visions. I’m no expert on high def and all that stuff, but I know what I can see, and I can see that of all the “old” movies I’ve seen on Blu, this is by far the most impressive.

They have also put together a nice collection of extras, both new and old. Carried over from the 20th anniversary DVD is a 36 minute recollection from cast and crew. It’s a typical piece, and a lot of the stuff is covered on the other supplements, including the three new pieces. One is with the production designer and composer, two folks you don’t often hear from on these type of things. Then Hamilton (who does not appear on the original piece) talks about her experiences, and also seems to be unaware that John Franklin, who played Isaac, was not a young boy but a 23 year old man at the time of filming (Franklin suffers from a growth deficiency). Finally, producer Donald P. Borchers talks about his role in the production, though he seems like he is reading his memories from a report. The commentary is also held over, and it’s a fun track, with Kiersch, Franklin, Courtney Gains, and producer Terrence Kirby ribbing each other and occasionally pointing out some errors (and those god awful effects - apparently New World cut their budget halfway through filming). You can also put on a trivia track, but like Hellraiser’s, a lot of the stuff the track displays is identical to what is being said on the commentary. Though, it does offer up a few new gems, such as the fact that Hamilton and Horton (who doesn’t appear in any of the bonus features) were once married and divorced before they made the film. Given that the short story had the two of them fighting and bickering all the time, I have to wonder why they didn’t use this to their advantage and get what would be the most genuine “couple who hates each other” chemistry in film history.

If you have the old release, then you probably don’t need to upgrade unless you own a Blu-Ray player (which you damn well should). The new supplements are good, but nothing that will justify another 15-20 bucks. However, if you’re like me and equipped with BR, then by all means check this disc out when it hits stores in a few weeks. The transfer is immaculate and can be used as a reference for whenever an “old” movie (ahem, Ghostbusters) has a less-than-stellar BR transfer and people say “Well how good can it look when it’s x amount of years old?”. If a low-budget B movie can look this good in high def, everything should.

What say you?

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The Bloodstained Shadow (1978)

JUNE 23, 2009


It’s rare I watch a Giallo that’s not from Argento or Bava, so if The Bloodstained Shadow (Italian: Solamente Nero) is not one of the better ones outside of their realm, please accept my apology for enjoying it, and then suggest some others. For all I know, it’s among the weakest, because I have so little to compare it to. It could use some tightening and a bit more gore, but otherwise it’s exactly what I want from a Giallo.

And what do I want, exactly? Well, some great murder scenes, obviously. Like I said, there’s not a lot of blood (the murderer mainly just strangles folks, though there is a nice bit where he/she tosses an old woman into a fire), but they are all well-staged and coherent, which is more than you can say about some others I’ve seen. By grounding the film in something that actually resembles reality, it allows the story and characters to shine through, with some impressive visuals to boot.

It also has its fair share of wonderfully strange moments, like when a woman tries to cheer up her retarded son by dismembering a doll that he hates (this part actually disturbed me a little, as she really fucking annihilates the damn thing). I also love all of the extras in the movie, as they are all colorfully blunt and seemingly carrying out their actual lives. There’s a pair of drunks outside of a restaurant rambling about whether or not one has time for another round, a few cops questioning the sex life of the film’s hero, and a guy who is really impatient about getting his food in another restaurant scene. It’s also the rare film to have a line of dialogue like this: “That man has tried to molest my little boy again. This is the fourth time!”

She says this to a priest, who then goes off to confront the would-be pedo. The idea of a priest giving someone shit for being a child molester is somewhat like me complaining about someone being too harsh on Lionsgate. Also, the plot point is rather unnecessary in the long run (the guy is one of the first to die, and his red herring man-servant is never seen again), but it’s still, if nothing else, unique.

I also liked how the mystery was structured. Some might consider the end a bit of a cheat, but I didn’t see it that way, and thanks to an exposition-heavy explanation from the hero as to how he figured out who the killer was (complete with flashback footage - it’s like an early version of the Saw montage), everything makes sense and fits together. There’s a brief moment early on that seems to be trying to make the hero a viable suspect (he appears wet when there was no reason for him to have been outside), but other than that, it’s unusually sound in that department. Plus I didn’t figure out the killer’s identity until pretty late into it, so that’s also good.

I am curious - does Venice only have that one street, or is that the only one that they allow film crews to work on? It’s the same one you see in Don’t Look Now, Last Crusade, and probably a dozen others. When our heroine (Suspiria’s Stefania Casini) begins walking around the area, I kept expecting that freaky little rain-coated woman to run out and stab a surprised Donald Sutherland.

The DVD’s only extra besides the trailer is an interview with director Antonio Bido, who comes across as far more sane and coherent than many of his peers. He explains why Goblin is not credited with the score, talks about working with the actors, and apologizes for not sticking with the Giallo genre, and mentions having a new script in that vein, which, 7 years later, has sadly not been filmed. Maybe if Argento’s aptly titled Giallo is a hit, it can help pave the way for a resurgence in the genre. It’ll help keep me in business, at any rate.

I was saddened to discover that this film is relatively unheralded. The trailer is not on Youtube (a scene is though), the IMDb page is below average in terms of having info (the message board is completely empty too), and there is no Wikipedia page for it. There's a lengthy page for the Saw theme song ("Hello Zepp"), but not for this movie? Come on now.

What say you?

And now, Horror Movie A Day and Happy Hour Comics would like to present the newest in an ongoing series of HMAD-inspired comic strips. I hope you enjoy!! (Click to enlarge)

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From Dusk Till Dawn 3: The Hangman's Daughter (2000)

JUNE 22, 2009


Dear PJ Pesce,

Stop making direct to video sequels to beloved vampire movies. While From Dusk Till Dawn 3: The Hangman’s Daughter has its moments (unlike Lost Boys 2: The Tribe, which had none), it’s still a pretty lame movie, and drags down the reputation of the awesome original. It’s clear that you’re a pretty lousy filmmaker, so if you could stick to making your own films outside of franchises, that would be great. Thanks!


And now on with the review!

I can’t remember much of the 2nd film anymore (Texas Blood Money), but I do recall that its connection to the original was rather flimsy. That is not the case with Hangman’s Daughter; not only does the ending take place in what will eventually be the Titty Twister, it also features the origin (sort of) of Santanico Pandemonium, albeit played by someone that isn’t quite as “Holy fucking shit!” hot as Salma Hayek was in the first film (if Edward Cullen is the alpha and omega for women who wish to be bitten by a vampire, than Santanico Pandemonium (pre-snake head version) is his female equal).

The problem is, they also try to match the original’s structure, in that you don’t know it’s a vampire movie until halfway through. Well, this is a sequel (or prequel, whatever), so I think anyone sitting down for it knows it’s a vampire movie. So keeping vampires out of it for a solid HOUR is just unforgivable. Hell, that’s even longer than it took for the first one to turn into a horror movie, which was also a longer film to boot. If the first one was like 60/40 in favor of vampires, this one is more like 70/30 in favor of criminals being bad but not so bad that you can’t justify rooting for them.

And that’s the other thing - why retain the same sort of “we all have a reason to hate each other but we have to band together against the vampires” thing and not even really follow through with it? The cool thing about the first one is that eventually, Clooney is a full on hero, protecting Juliette Lewis’ character. Here, they never really call a truce with one another; even when the vampires are attacking, the hangman is still trying to kick the hero guy’s ass. It makes the vampires feel like a non-threatening afterthought.

Also botching what little potential the film had is the abhorrent editing. So many moments fall completely flat because it seems like the revealing shot was taken away. At one point Michael Parks’ character says “Let’s get out of here!” and heads for the door, and then in the next shot everyone is surrounded by vampires. Huh? This is something that occurs almost every single time a horror or action element is introduced into a scene, to the point where I wondered if I was watching the airline version of the movie or something.

However, if you actually look at it as an action movie, it’s not TOO bad. The opening bit is like a lost sequence from one of Robert Rodriguez’s Desperado films (indeed, RR is credited with this film’s story), featuring some cool, physics-be-damned stunts and nice gunplay. There’s also a pretty rollicking wagon heist a bit later, marred only by the inclusion of Rebecca Gayheart, one of the most boring actresses of her generation (good thing she turned to crack...whatever keeps her out of movies). Luckily she’s one of the first to die, but that’s about 45 minutes later.

Also, the movie takes the bold step of trying to explain what happened to author Ambrose Bierce, who disappeared without a trace while traveling Mexico in 1914. Parks plays Bierce (and thus presumably NOT an ancestor of his character from the first film), and according to this movie, the reason he disappeared is because he fought a bunch of vampires and then rode off into the sunset with a thief and murderer. I’ll buy it. Of course, I find the notion of people that disappear and don’t leave a single trace behind to be very creepy, so I am a bit disappointed that they couldn’t have gone with something a bit more “horror” themed (like, I dunno, a goddamn vampire ate him). If you’re going to piss on someone’s legacy, go all out!

The DVD’s sole extra is a deleted scene (really an alternate ending), and they needn’t have bothered even with that much, though it does sort of tie into my “I wish a vampire ate him” idea. Dimension actually gave the film an anamorphic transfer (one of the very few in their late 90s/early 00s output), something the original film still hasn’t even gotten in Region 1. But like just about all of the Disney releases pre-high def mastering, anamorphic or not, the transfer is fucking shit. There’s no detail on anyone’s faces, backgrounds might as well be watercolors, and the sound is rather flat. Other older DVDs hold up well in the age of upscaling and Blu-ray, so I’m not sure why Disney (which includes Dimension, Miramax, Touchstone, and Hollywood, among others) always looked so lousy. It’s clear enough to see the strings on some of the bats though, so there’s something.

What say you?

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Wendigo (2001)

JUNE 21, 2009


One of my many irrational fears is that of snipers. Maybe it’s because I saw The Deadly Tower as a young man. Maybe I am the reincarnation of someone who died from sniper fire in a war or something. Maybe I just suck at Team Snipers. Whatever the reason, it allowed me to feel genuine dread for the first hour or so of Larry Fessenden’s Wendigo, as it deals with a regular family seemingly being stalked by a hunter as they try to vacation in a remote cabin.

The hunter is pissed at them because the dad (Jake Weber! Love that guy) hit a deer with his car and broke the antlers, which I guess would make for a pretty shitty trophy. The most unnerving scenes in the film (besides their initial confrontation, which scared me a bit due to a recent incident of my own in a parking lot with some drunken ass who thought I was parked too close to his car) are those in which Weber (and later his wife) find a hole in the wall caused by a bullet. That is so goddamn freaky! The idea that you could just be sitting in your home and then WHAM! You are shot by a guy standing hundreds of feet away.

Slightly less scary is the moment when the sniper actually DOES shoot Weber, but that’s more my fault than Fessenden’s. See, I’m sort of a cynical ass, and I always suspect that trouble is about to strike whenever movie or TV characters are experiencing joy. This is likely caused by love of Prison Break, in which characters ARE suddenly shot or blown up or run over or whatever whenever they find themselves at ease for even a moment. So Weber and his kid are sledding, and having a grand old time, and I suddenly yell "BLAM!" (as a joke), which drowned out the actual gunshot that occurred literally half a second after I made my dumb joke. I knew eventually more than a wall would take a bullet, but I honestly didn’t think it would happen so suddenly.

Sadly, from that point on the film begins to flounder. We get a twig monster that gave me unfortunate flashbacks to the horrid Blair Witch game for the PC, a guy in a monster suit (I think this is supposed to be an actual monster though, perhaps the title character), some weird acting by Weber, and a somewhat vague finale that seems to suggest the entire film was either a dream or the unconscious doing of the little kid. The reason the fim was working as well as it was for the first hour was the subtle realism of the whole thing; scaring you with simple tension. You throw a twig monster into the mix and you’re off in a different direction entirely. Incidentally, his film Last Winter suffered from a similar 3rd act problem, though this film I think works longer than Winter did before it started to go off the rails. However, I would like to watch that film again, now that I am more familiar with his work.

He also keeps throwing in these “animations” (his words), which are little sequences of filmed stills of the house (or a deck of cards, or a picture book), presented in rapid fire montage. They don’t really fit, in my opinion, and even if I didn’t suspect that they were a product of the time (2000), he also tosses in a straight up “Matrix shot” (spinning 180 degrees around a frozen moment in time) to prove it. It’s an indulgence he didn’t repeat with Last Winter (at least, not as far as I can recall), so hopefully it’s out of his system for good.

Also, he doesn’t have a cameo in the movie, which surprised me. He’s appeared in all of his others, plus shows up in so many indie horror movies (including Trigger Man, which also dealt with the dangers of snipers), so I’m not sure why he didn’t show up here. Not that I mind much, I find cameos distracting. Also, on the extras, we get the impression that he was wearing the Wendigo costume for at least some of the time, so there you go.

The extras are pretty solid. Larry gives a commentary in which he points out some stuff that had gone over my head, such as the idea that violence is part of everything we do (focusing on the knives/swords brandished by the Kings and Queens in a deck of cards), so it’s worth a listen. There’s also a terrific “fly on the wall” type behind the scenes piece that runs a little over a half an hour and covers many areas of production, including all of the extensive work that went into making the monster suit. Fessenden also gives an interview in which he talks about filmmaking in general. All of it is worth a look (unless you hated the movie, in which case you should probably play some Xbox or maybe make yourself a nice sandwich). I just wish that the comic book that is often mentioned was presented in whole as DVD-rom feature or something; it looks really cool but it’s also the type of thing I’ll never remember to look for once I hit “post” at the bottom of this review. Someone remind me!

In closing, I just want to ask the IMDb to stop listing shorts alongside features, or to at least designate them as such on the person’s filmography (with an (S) or something, like the (V) they put next to direct to video films). Larry has done about a zillion shorts, and while I’m sure they are worth a look, I just want to see what other features he has done. But to do so, I have to keep clicking on each title to see whether or not “Short” is listed in the genre section. Stop wasting my time, you IMDbastards!

What say you?

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Mega Shark Vs Giant Octopus (2009)

JUNE 20, 2009


The sad fate of Mega Shark Vs. Giant Octopus is that the trailer was seen by so many people who have never endured an Asylum film before. While it’s not directly ripping off any major blockbuster (as the trailers for upcoming Asylum films all are, including a Transmorphers sequel), the lack of action, horrible sets, and other blemishes are par for the course, so they will likely be disappointed that the film in no way lives up to its trailer.

And hell, it doesn’t even live up to their other crap-fests. At least Monster offered a reasonably decent pace (and camera-appropriate cinematography, which was actually an improvement over the too clean Cloverfield), but this is just a snoozefest, even during some of the shark/octopus scenes. I guess without a professional film to emulate, they are left to their own devices, forced to come up with their own character templates and plot points.

Some of those plot points include two scientists shacking up in a closet within minutes of their introduction to one another, and the fact that the shark and octopus were frozen in the middle of a fight, but upon being thawed, seemingly call it a truce and swim to opposite ends of the world, only to restart their battle thanks to a ruse involving pheremones. As for characters, we get Lorenzo Lamas playing the same generic “hard-ass” he always plays, and a guy that’s “getting married in two days” that is seemingly by himself on a plane (if you’ve seen the trailer, you know what plane I am referring to).

But this is a globe-trotting adventure! There are something like 30 countries represented in this movie, each with their own on-screen text explaining where they are. They go so overboard with this that even a goddamn helicopter flying around gets a setting card. However, while they do a decent job of matching the stock footage up with their stuff, all of the interiors look identical, so whether we are seeing the exterior of an oil rig in China or an army base on the California coast, it’s all the same goddamn control room in an abandoned warehouse somewhere in Chatsworth. It’s like watching a full length version of MacGruber.

The most puzzling aspect of the film, however, is director Ace Hannah’s (not a real name, thank Christ) insistence on removing the color for a second or two in the middle of a shot. Usually it’s to emphasize a lackluster action beat, like the Octopus wrapping its tentacle around a ship or whatever, but some of them come at random too. And it’s a terrible and annoying effect regardless of how properly he is using it. Knock it the fuck off.

But yeah, every awesome part is in the trailer, and when the film finally lives up to its title (10 minutes before it ends), all that happens is the octopus “hugs” the shark, who sort of writhes around for the most part (it does bite off part of a tentacle, an injury that disappears in subsequent shots). We see the same FX shot of this “struggle” three or four times, and then all of a sudden they just sort of sink down a bit and Lamas (or Debbie Gibson, I forget) announces that they are dead. I mean, Freddy Vs. Jason is just as bad until they get to the fight, but at least the fight delivered. This movie tops out twenty minutes in (the plane part) and never even gets close to "awesome" ever again (though it is kind of funny when a guy talks about “looking into the octopus’ eye” when the stock footage shows us a real, non giant octopus that appears to be sleeping).

To give the filmmakers credit though, this is seemingly the first DTV underwater monster movie in history where they chose quality over quantity when it comes to showing their monsters. The effects during the “above water” scenes suck, but when they are underwater “fighting” or just swimming around, they’re actually not too bad. So instead of a hundred bad shots, we have like ten OK ones (and they’re all reused two or three times).

Also, since the movie was just shot a few months ago (over the course of a week or so - I’m not lying), we have what I believe is the first released film to have that red/blue Obama “Hope” bumper sticker in it. So they got that going for them.

The DVD offers us a blooper reel which is mainly of one particular actor blowing his lines (and going all Ed Harris when he does so, so it has unintentional humor value). We also get to see the fairly impressive forced perspective technique they used for a shot of a dead whale on a beach. They are a little off with the scale (the whale seems to be about 200 feet long), but it’s a nice old-school approach that I respect. The Asylum also provides us with eight whole minutes of behind the scenes footage, like Lorenzo Lamas talking about his death scene, which is odd when you consider the fact that his character doesn’t die. The DP also offers his insight, which is the insight of a man who thinks he’s making high art, rambling about how the long takes allow the performances to come alive. Hilariously, he is more or less cut off by the end of the piece; a full frame graphic saying “THE MAKING OF MEGA SHARK VS GIANT OCTOPUS!!!”, as if to shame him into realizing what kind of movie he was talking about. The trailer is also included, but it’s buried in the “trailers” page instead of being showcased in the extras, and it’s not even the awesome one everyone watched on Youtube (neither Mega Shark nor Giant Octopus appear in the 30 second spot). Along with Transmorphers 2: Fall of Man, Asylum also promises us Dragonquest (an Eragon ripoff), Countdown: Jerusalem (appears to be a lift from 2012), and The Terminators (duh). There’s nothing for Star Trek, so I guess its success was just as much a surprise to them as the rest of us.

Oh, and keep the end credits rolling, as there’s a fake Evanescence song to enjoy. Asylum must be taking their unique brand of “how are they not getting sued?” entertainment into the music world!

What say you?

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Evilspeak (1981)

JUNE 19, 2009


When I watched Carrie 2 a few weeks ago (or last week, whenever the hell it was), I was trying to think if there were any male equivalent films. Sure, there’s something like Fade To Black, but that didn’t have any supernatural elements. As far as a guy getting actual powers and striking back against bullies and such, I couldn’t think of any. Not even Evilspeak, which I bought months ago and forgot about.

Unlike Carrie and her ilk, our hero Stanley (Clint Howard!) doesn’t have powers from the start. He’s just an incredibly clumsy and un-liked kid who finds a Satanic computer in the basement of his Catholic military school (sure, why not?). And even once he starts dabbling in its dark magickal powers, he doesn’t really do anything until the film’s final 10 minutes or so. The computer actually has a bunch of pigs do its bidding. And no, this movie doesn’t take place on a farm; so I have no idea why the school has a pigpen in the first place, but I guess it’s worth it for the scene where a hot secretary woman is taking a horror movie shower and is suddenly eaten by a bunch of pigs who have somehow gotten into her apartment building.

So whenever the pigs aren’t around, not much is happening. Stanley falls down, gets picked on, gets yelled at by his teachers, etc. And he gets a puppy, so you know what’s going to happen there. It’s probably the first (and last) time I’ve actually looked forward to the scene where the poor pup is killed, because after a while I figured it would be what finally set Stanley off and the movie could get going. Incidentally, I knew a dog died in the movie and that’s why I put off watching it for so long, as it’s one of the few things in a movie I can’t deal with watching. Ever see Dominick & Eugene? You’d have to be a goddamn robot not to cry when Dominick’s dog gets run over.

The slowness doesn’t really hurt too much though. The ending mostly makes up for it, as Stanley begins flying around with a sword and lopping off the heads of each bully, plus he immolates a whole bunch of folks who never really did him any wrong (a truly original idea for this type of film!). He even throws a guy into the ceiling and somehow impales him on a candelabra! The pigs return too, for good measure. Plus, the slack pace allows for more character development, even the bullies get a few humanizing moments. And come on, how often do you get to see a film that STARS Clint Howard, instead of just having him sort of hanging out in the background of his brother’s films or making brief appearances in lousy horror movies.

One thing that does kinda fall flat is the final minute. Not only does someone besides Stanley kill the head bully (Don Stark!), but then it just sort of fades out while Stanley is still flying around. Then we get some on-screen text saying that he was put into an institute, before the computer turns back on and promises Stanley’s return, which never actually occurred, as far as I know.

The score is straight up ripped off from The Omen (and Omen II, for that matter), but I liked it. It often sounds like they are chanting “Santa lost”, which is a wonderful image to have if you are a big fan of Jack Skellington.

Can’t deny it makes sense...

The DVD has about 20 seconds of previously excised footage cut back into the film. The quality isn’t as good (the added shot during the pig/woman kill looks like a bootleg of stock footage from a VHS tape), but it’s a nice touch. There are supposedly another 20 minutes of footage still missing, but it’s mostly character stuff that most modern audiences would probably hate anyway. Still, it would have been nice to have on the disc, especially since it’s available elsewhere. Clint also provides a commentary along with producer/director/co-writer Eric Weston and one of the film’s PAs (whose name escapes me). It’s not a particularly interesting track; Clint has some funny memories about long shooting days (and having to buy his own toupee - was the guy always bald?), but the other two don’t say much except to point out where things were shot. And Weston sounds like Norm McDonald impersonating a Speak n’ Spell. The highlights have been turned into the trivia on the film’s IMDb page, so unless you’re a die hard fan of the film, you can skip it without worry. The trailer’s also on there, which makes the film look a lot more schlocky (read: “awesome”) than it is. So basically, it’s an OK package for an OK movie.

What say you?

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Anacondas: Trail Of Blood (2009)

JUNE 18, 2009


Those who follow me on Twitter already know the tragedy that struck today when I opened my DVD of Argento’s Four Flies On Grey Velvet. Namely, the disc inside was some documentary about babies. So I reported the disc as “having a problem” and brought it to my nearest Blockbuster to trade in for an actual horror movie. Making matters worse, all I could find was Anacondas: Trail Of Blood, which is the first film in the series to actually have characters return, but offers absolutely nothing else. Settling for a goddamn Anaconda sequel when you wanted to be watching an Argento film is like Megan Fox canceling a date with you so you spend the night pleasuring yourself to a Sears catalog instead.

As it was shot back to back with the last film, I guess I shouldn’t be surprised how lame it was - it’s the same fate that every “back half” back to back film pair has ever suffered (others include Pirates 3, Puppet Master 5, and Matrix Revolutions). But even then, it’s below par. For starters, more people are killed by gunfire than snakes, and the “good guys vs bad guys” stuff takes up so much of the movie, you could conceivably remove the snakes from the film entirely and it wouldn’t make much of a difference. Even the finale is more concerned with two guys whaling on each other than a snake; after the two humans fight for about five minutes, the damn snake just shows up, eats the bad guy once he gets a chance to do so, and then Krystal Allen (the chick from the last one) blows it up with a grenade.

Speaking of Allen, she is still struggling with her one-liner delivery. Last time she said it too early, now she says it too late. The snake blows up, all of its bits fall to the ground, etc, and then finally, at LEAST 30 seconds later, she says something like “Regenerate from that!” (this time, the Blood Orchid stuff causes the snakes to regenerate; only destroying their major organs can kill them). Come on, woman, it only counts if he’s alive and you say it as you’re right about to kill him! Ask Dolph Lundgren for some pointers. She also has cinema’s most useless “If I’m not back in five minutes” line - she says it, merely goes into a shack to check on a bomb, and returns without incident about 60 seconds later.

Speaking of completely useless things, check out what I noticed: the even numbered films in this series are plural (Anacondas), but the odd numbered ones are not. Cool, huh? Nope, but it’s more interesting than this movie.

And, you know, all the usual complaints: the effects suck, the characters are wholly uninteresting (even Allen is boring this time around), etc. Plus, I’m getting pretty fucking sick of looking at the Romanian forest. Even the deaths are pretty dull, and it doesn’t help much that so many of them are completely pointless. At one point, Allen and a possible love interest/hero are running along, well out of the snake’s reach. But all the same, the guy stops running and tells Allen to “Run! Just go!”. She protests, he screams GOOOO!, she lingers a bit longer, and then finally leaves. Then he just stands there until the snake arrives and eats him. Allen then arrives at safety seconds later. Had he just kept running there would be no problem - safety was in close proximity and he had nothing slowing him down; his stopping simply made no sense at all.

Sony clearly doesn’t give a shit about the movie either. Whereas last time they at least put a trailer on there for fans to enjoy (a purely theoretical reason), they don’t even do that much this time around (note - when I looked for a trailer to put in the review, I discovered that they didn't really make one, just a teaser comprised of footage from Anaconda 2). Instead, they offer about a dozen trailers for some of their other, better movies, plus 12 whole chapter stops and a reminder that poor John Rhys-Davies is an Emmy nominated actor. I wonder if he thinks about that very often while he struggles to keep from nodding off while learning his lines on shitty things like this. I bet he does.

I should have just watched the baby documentary...

What say you?

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