Friday, December 28, 2007

The Top Ten Films of 2007!

This was a tough one to construct. I had hoped to make a top ten list of trashy flicks but, to be honest, I haven't seen that many that were actually released this year. So, I'm doing this thing straight up. Yeah, the top ten films of the year. Things that might actually be up for awards. I know, I know. I'm sorry. If I had done this any other way this would be an incredibly short list. Also, keep in mind that I'm not a paid critic. Therefore, several films still remain unseen by me. For instance, I still haven't seen The Assasination of Jesse James, The Simpsons Movie, Breach, The Condemned, or The Hitcher. If you feel any of these films deserves a place on this list, let me know in the comments. So, without further ado...the best films of 2007.

10. Rescue Dawn
Anyone who thinks Bale's performance as Dieter Dengler in Werner Herzog's mini-masterpiece Rescue Dawn is awful (and I admit, I thought that for a second) should take a look at Herzog's documentary on the same subject called Little Dieter Needs To Fly. This is a fantastic performance given superb support by Steve Zahn and Jeremy Davies. I believe Bale's character is too quirky to be given serious consideration for a Best actor Oscar, but Zahn has to be a sure thing for a supporting actor nom. Typical of Herzog, we are presented with lushly oppressive jungle photography. The ending seems supremely corny, but take a look at the documentary. It happened EXACTLY the same way. I was moved by Dieter's unshaken optimism, even after the Viet Cong enlisted the aid of the Manticore at the end. Just kidding, that didn't happen.

9. Zodiac
What's this? Another film on my list that doesn't feature Creatures from the abyss, radioactive mutants, or Mons-turds (trust me, it's coming)? This is a slow burn of a film that may leave some viewers cold and unsatisfied. It's a shame because this just might be David Fincher's best film. Robert Downey jr is terrific as are Jake Gyllenhaal (for once), Mark Ruffalo (as the inspiration for Dirty Harry in a role that is very un-Dirty Harry), Anthony Edwards, and John Carroll Lynch as the lead suspect. The movie doesn't really answer many questions but does seem to take a firm stand on the placement of guilt. This is a 70s movie all the way down to the look, feel, and film stock. Needs to be seen more than once.

8. Sunshine
Finally, a return to smart, serious science fiction that also manages to entertain (sorry Solaris). In the not too distant future, the sun is burning out and, in a last ditch effort, Earth sends a group of scientists into space aboard the ill-named Icarus II in the hopes of reigniting it. What happened to Icarus I? Watch and find out. The plot sounds Armageddon-stupid, but this film is more about what happens during the journey. The cast is first rate with Hiroyuki Sandada, Chris Evans, and Cillian Murphy leading the way. Several set pieces stand out including one where we find out what really happens to man if he's trapped in space without a suit (hint; he doesn't turn inside out). Alex Garland and Danny Boyle (28 Days Later) provide us with one mis-step, involving Freddy Kreuger, but I forgive them.

7. Eastern Promises
Viggo Mortensen and David Cronenberg team up, again, to provide us with a perfect counterpoint to History of Violence. In that film, Viggo was essentially a bad guy pretending to be good. Here, he's a good guy pretending to be bad. In both cases, he is entirely convincing. Cronenberg has moved light years beyond the sterile, vaginal horrors of his early days. Here is a film that is not only moving, but beautiful to look at as well. Naomi Watts and Vincent Cassell are terrific, but it's Armin Mueller-Stahl who blows us away as the seemingly benevolent head of the Russian mob, residing in London. Still, the film belongs to Viggo and Cronenberg, who would be well on his way to winning an Oscar, except that he still insists on shocking the viewer (thankfully). In this picture, we are shown the most brutal throat slashing in mainstream film history, as well as a naked Viggo brawling for his life in a shower.

6. Black Book
Speaking of directors that will likely never win an Academy Award due to their tendency towards the shocking, Paul Verhoeven has crafted a stunningly good Dutch language film set during World War II about a Jewish girl (Carice Van Houten) who pretends to be a Nazi to help the resistance. Of course, this being Verhoeven, we are treated to a scene of Van Houten dying her pubic hair AND later having a large bucket of shit dumped on her. These are two things the Academy voters are not too fond of, in my opinion. Van Houten is the real find here. It's a beautiful performance. Sebastian Koch is terrific as well as the slightly sympathetic, stamp collecting Nazi that she pretends to love, but then sorta falls in love with for real. This is likely the only time a subtitled film will ever appear in this blog, so I suggest you revel in it.

5. The Bourne Ultimatum
I'm just going to come right out and say it. The Bourne films blow the Bond films away. It's that simple. Bond is just kinda silly in comparison. Take a look at Casino Royale for proof. They tried to Bourne Bond up in that one and while it was the best Bond film in recent memory, it still doesn't hold a candle to Bourne. Matt Damon was born to play Bourne. Sorry for that. These films are exceedingly smart. Jason Bourne never does something that isn't absolutely necessary. The films get a little too shaky-cam happy at times, but that simply serves to place the viewer in the midst of the action. The director of the best two films in the series (Supremacy and this one) is Paul Greengrass and he's done more than a bang up job. It's very rare that the ending of an action movie gives me chills. This one did.

4. Superbad
And you guys thought I didn't like comedies! The award for the funniest film of the year goes to Superbad. Michael Cera (Arrested Development) has teenage awkwardness down to a science. Jonah Hill as his best friend Seth isn't funny just because he's large. The funniest character is probably Christopher Mintz-Plasse as the "25 year old organ donor McLovin". Something tells me the actor will fade into obscurity as his lack of any range whatsoever is discovered. If only that had happened to Jon Heder. Basically, it's a night in the life of two High School students trying to get boozed up and laid. Seth Rogan and Bill Hader are hilarious as two cops that have yet to grow up. I won't say it's as good as Dazed & Confused, but I definitely laughed more.

3. 300
Perhaps the greatest crowd-pleaser I saw this year, 300 is a terrifically entertaining underdog story. Much better than recent Underdog stories such as Underdog or Dodgeball: An Underdog Story. Gerard Butler gladiators up as King Leonidas. Let's face it though. We didn't come here for the acting. The visuals are spectacular. 90% of what we see was generated inside of a computer. All of the landscapes, most of the beasts, and I think the majority of those androgynous Persians as well. The battle scenes are incredible, the deaths are brutal, and the testosterone is pumped to ridiculous levels. They tried to offset it a little by including a side plot involving Leonidas's wife, Queen Gorgo, but the ladies weren't buying it. Zach Snyder (Dawn of the Dead) continues to make his name as a visual stylist beyond compare. I can't wait to see what he does next.

2. The Mist
And the award for the film with the most fucked up, nihilistic ending that I loved this year goes to Frank Darabont's The Mist. Based on the Stephen King story of the same name, The Mist is the story of what happens after the military accidentaly opens a gateway to another dimension. It's an interesting, and not particularly original premise. In fact, the idea owes a lot to H.P. Lovecraft. Where the picture excels, however, is depicting the terrors that occur amongst a group of survivors holed up inside a super market. Marcia Gay Harden is terrifying as the sinister religious zealot Mrs. Carmody, while Thomas Jane and Toby Jones (a fantastic performance) believe that this is something other than the "end of times". The gore is abundant and the creatures will have your skin crawling. It's been weeks since I've seen it and I still can't shake that ending.

1. No Country For Old Men
I hesitated before proclaiming this #1 because I knew everyone else would. Then I thought to myself that if it looks like shit, feels like shit, and smells like shit than it must be shit. That's the case here only if we replace "shit" with best picture of the year. Enough has already been said about Bardem's Chigurh, the scariest badman of the last ten years or so. Only Chigurh wouldn't consider himself bad at all. Josh Brolin channels a younger Nick Nolte (was Nolte ever really young?) in his portrayal of Llewelyn Moss, the unfortunate soul that picks up the satchel of money from a drug deal gone horrificaly wrong. My favorite character moment was when Moss, feeling a pang of guilt, decides to bring a jug of water back to the scene of the crime, where a dying mexican was begging for "agua" hours before. The picture is excuciatingly suspenseful at times. At others, darkly funny. Roger Deakins provides beautiful, desolate photography. Tommy Lee Jones, as Sheriff Ed Tom Bell, plays a guy he's made a career out of playing, only this time he's even sadder (if that's possible). Carter Burwell's non-score suits the picture perfectly. Every character is note perfect, from Kelly Macdonald as Carla Jean Moss to Garrett Dillahunt as Deputy Wendell. Perhaps my favorite was the great Barry Corbin as Sheriff Bell's mentor, Ellis, who delivers one of the film's stirring monologues; "This country is hard on people...You can't stop what's coming. Ain't all waiting on you. That's vanity." The ending is considered by most as unsatisfying, but I thought it was perfect AND incredibly moving. The stuff of myths. Oh yeah, and I think it was made by the Coen brothers in case that means anything to you.

Minor complaints: No nudity. No aliens.

Coming shortly, my bottom five.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Manticore (2005)

The manticore is a legendary creature of persian (300 villains) origin. Half man, half bear, half pig I believe. Or is it half pig, half man, half bear? Wait, I just looked it up. It's half lion, half man, half dragon, and half scorpion. The Sci-fi channel, in 2005's Manticore, has chosen to address this legend in a scathing treatise on the war in Iraq. Of course, based on this picture, the manticore is actually about 75% lion, 20 % dragon, and 5 % scorpion or actually, what I might consider to be stingray. So, not quite half and half and half. Thankfully, they didn't even attempt the "man" part, even though it's in the fucking title. That would have looked even more ridiculous. Believe me, this thing didn't need any more help in that department.

The first thing I noticed was "wow, I know this scene." What Manticore has managed to do, brilliantly I might add, is rip off several other far superior movies. Like most Sci-fi originals, there is a galling bankruptcy of imagination. Here's the formula. Take a creature (either mythological or genetically altered), come up with a basic plot involving a group of characters isolated from the rest of society, rip off scenes from classic movies within the genre, mix in a few C-list (and below) actors, and Voila! You've made yourself a Sci-fi original. Manticore is a part of the "essential" collection, so I can only imagine what crap is considered non-essential. God, this movie stinks

Here's the basic plot. We're a few years into the debacle known as the war in Iraq. Apparently, the terrorists must think we're winning the war because they wake up a manticore to help fight their battle. However, the manticore just holes up in an isolated town called Al Kumar and feeds on the villagers instead. That's ok, they can just blame it on the United States later. For some reason, an american journalist for GNN named Ashley Pierce, played terribly by Chase Masterson (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine), and her cameraman come to this town because they heard some WMDs might be hidden there. What they find instead is a "living, breathing WMD". The United States Army stationed in the area, under the command of Major Spense (Jeff Fahey from Body Parts and Planet Terror), sends in a squad of soldiers led by Seargent Baxter (I swear it's George Lopez) and Corporal Kinky played by Heather Donohue (she was in Blair Witch Project, not The Bare Wench Project) to retrieve Pierce. I guess these are the C-listers. Actually, Fahey is more of a B- lister. No one else is really worth mentioning. So, the soldiers get to the town and are immediately under attack from the manticore. Can they hold out until support arrives? Oh, also one of the terrorists is in the town as well (played by Faran Tahir and looking like Mola Ram). There's also an Iraqi boy, with a heart of Saddam's missing bullion, to show us that not all Iraqi's want to blow us up.

The initial scene, the one where the beast is unleashed, is stolen directly from Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom AND Conan the Destroyer. I guess the filmmakers need to be given credit for that small coup. The slaughter that follows, in this scene, is not quite as good as Conan, however. The red stuff flies certainly, but we don't get to see much detail. Wisely, the creature is shown sparingly. Unwisely, this was not the case later on. Typical of Sci-fi, they employed Playstation 2 CGI. My favorite line came in this opening scene when Mola Ram says "for 2,000 years they have slept, waiting paitently to be called to rid us of our enemies". George Bush? If you're listening, I think it's time we left Iraq. Do you really want to take the chance that terrorists have access to such a weapon?

Baxter's squad is introduced to us during a stone fight that escalates into a firefight. Think Saving Private Ryan meets Brotherhood of the Wolf, which in turn, says "hi" to The A-Team. It didn't really work. They're a rag tag bunch of loveable guys though that truly enjoy each others company. Baxter is under the impression that their job is to help these people (the Iraqis), but his commanding officer (Fahey) has other ideas. A potential conflict that isn't really dealt with once there is a monster to deal with.

Once the squad reaches Al Kumar everything goes to shit, including the movie. The jokester of the bunch, Mickey is torn to shreds because he's been labeled "the boy who cried manticore". The Sarge radioes in that they "are under attack from an unknown entity that can't be categorized". There's an attempted helicopter rescue that shamelessy lifts the attempted rescue scene verbatim from Aliens, a film I'm pretty sure is infinitely superior. The guy named Busey (not to be confused with Gary or Jake) I believe is taken out during the "spectacular" crash. One soldier tapes a goodbye message to his wife, so we can only guess what happens to him seconds later. Yeah, he gets impaled by manticore's barbed tale. One thing struck me as odd though. Apparently, there was no medic in this squad or perhaps he was killed early on and I didn't notice. As one soldier lies dying, All Baxter can do is tell him to "hang in there"? No morphine, no gauze, no impromptu surgery. This film might be the greatest deterrent to military service that I have ever seen.

This particular picture ends, as they all do,
with the calling in of a strategic air strike. Is that going to destroy the manticore?

Are you kidding? Look at that thing! Clearly, the only way to defeat it is to rip off The Clash of the Titans and use a mirror. Then, the filmmakers can rape The Terminator and have it's glowing red eyes fade to black. By the way, the beast looked exactly like the image above, except it had the head of a lion and the wings of a dragon. Other than that, same thing.

If you're a Jeff Fahey fan, as I am, don't bother with this one unless you're a completist. I think he's halfway through his 50 picture deal with the Sci-fi channel, a contract he must be regretting. Why else would half his roles consist of throwaway parts filmed in the span of an hour? A quick word on the setting. This was apparently filmed in Bulgaria, a place I will not soon be visiting because it looks exactly like Iraq. A quicker note on Heather Donahue. Porn. It's in your future. How many times have I used that line before?

Friday, December 7, 2007

A new voice??

You may have noticed that I haven't been quite as prolific over the last month and a half. Basically, October burned me out. Beowulf 1999 has helped to rejuvenate me somewhat. I actually abstained from alcohol and took notes during that one. Anyway, I've been thinking about recruiting another reviewer for a while. There has always ONLY been one person that I've had in mind. However, since Roger Ebert won't even respond to my emails, I had to settle for Dan (above, left). He's a guy with similar tastes in trashy flix, but perhaps a slightly different style and point of view. The picture above is from last years Christmas party. As you can see, Rawhead Rex crashed the shit out of it. The hope here is that Dan will push me to constantly improve and not be so god damned lazy. If his writing serves to make me look bad in comparison, then he'll be booted from the blog by January.

So, look for a Dan review. It could be this weekend. It could be next week. It could be never. At the very least, I got another posting out of it.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Beowulf (1999)

Christopher Lambert (Highlander) stars in this, the definitive interpretation of the Beowulf story. Why did Zemekis and company even attempt to top this one? Don't bother seeing his version, the one currently making decent coin at the box office. Even in 3D, it's kind of a joke in comparison. Beowulf 1999 even tops the Gerard Butler (300) edition, Beowulf & Grendel. What a travesty that piece of shit was. Fuck, Grendel wasn't even a monster. He was just some hairy pissed off dude with a thyroid problem. Don't even talk to me about The 13th Warrior, an abomination against celluloid. Not only could they not spell Beowulf's name right (Buliwyf??? What the fuck?), but they forgot to even include Grendel in the story. Puh-lease. Anonymous was surely rolling over in his grave after that came out. Let's be frank here, people. I'll save you a lot of time. This picture blows the original epic poem out of the water as well. Kids, I'm talking to you. When your teacher assigns you to read the poem in class, just skip it. Watch this instead. If you're like me, it might take a couple days of slogging to get through the poem which, to the best of my knowledge, was longer than a page and had a terrible rhyme scheme. Beowulf 1999 is the solution to your problem. It clocks in at a crisp 87 minutes. That's even better than the Cliffs notes. You can thank me after you score an A on the quiz.

Beowulf 1999, unlike those other crap festivals I mentioned, takes place in the future (the 5th-6th centuries A.D. can go fuck themselves too). Not just any future, mind you, but a post apocalyptic one. Post apocalypse > ancient fucking times. Therefore, better. How do we know this takes place in the post apocalyptic future? Besides the techno beat pulsating during the battle scenes, the movie features a few characters with eye glasses (which featured quite prominently in Mel Gibson's post apocalyptic tome, Beyond Thunderdome). A castle, right out of an M.C. Escher nightmare, stands in for that rinky dinky beer hall that Hrothgar called home in those other versions. This castle features moving parts which are often engulfed in fire. The castle even has it's own god damned public address system, a vast improvement over screaming and yelling that was all too common in the days of yore.

Christopher Lambert plays the titular character in, what some might call, a wooden performance. His tone of voice never changes as he talks about the "darkness" that pursues him wherever he goes. I won't go there. It's a brilliant performance. Equipped with crossbows and a multitude of sharpened gadgets, Lambert's Beowulf is the James Bond of post apocalyptic barbarians. Upon being called an "idiot" for coming to the curs-ed keep, Beowulf responds "only an idiot WOULD come to this damned place....unless he was already damned". So fucking deep, I began developing a man crush.

Hrothgar is played most ably by Oliver Cotton (Christopher Columbus: The Discovery) the man who couldn't, for the life of him, get Grendel to fight him because he fucked Grendel's mother....and well, I won't spoil the BIG revelation. You'll just have to watch for yourself. I'm trusting you NOT to read the poem. This is so much better. Hrothgar is even provided a lovely daughter, named Kyra, played by Rhona Mitra (of Party of Five fame). Gotz Otto plays Roland, Hrothgar's #1 swordsman/kung fu master. His unrequited love for Kyra provides some tension, not that it was needed (so much already!) between Roland and Beowulf, whom Kyra clearly pines for. These are the main roles, but what really puts this picture over the top are the supporting ones. Brent Jefferson Lowe (The Jacksons: An American Dream) plays Will, hip hop comic relief, assistant (soon to be promoted?) and nephew to the weapon's master (Charles Robinson from Night fucking Court!). After Robinson is given a tragic death, where he scrambles blindly around on the floor after Grendel knocks off his glasses only to have the beast eviscerate the shit out of him, Will is finally given his well deserved promotion. Will has his doubts about his abilities but is comforted by Beowulf, who tells him "you don't have to be good ALL the time. Once should suffice" or something like that, I'm paraphrasing. The movies sheer brilliance continues to cloud my thoughts.

Do I need to get into the plot? Ok, Grendel is a monster. Every night he makes his way into the castle and kills as many of Hrothgar's men as monsterly possible before sun-up. By the time Beowulf arrives, there are forty men left. Why does Grendel do this? Where did he come from? Why couldn't Hrothgar just keep it in his fucking pants?? To find the answers, netflix this immediately OR pick it up in the "$5 and under" DVD section at your local video store. It saddens me greatly that this picture isn't secured firmly in the "priceless" DVD section, a price I would most assuredly pay. So misunderstood.

I sense another question from my captive audience. You want to know why Hrothgar and his men didn't just leave the castle and run? Because, inexplicably (yes, sometimes even the best movies lack an explanation for everything. It's a little thing called subtlety) an army has surrounded the accursed place. They kill anyone that flees. They're not working with Grendel, so I think their motive is purely one of religion. Occasionaly, the director, Graham Baker (The Omen III) cuts back to this band of barbarous zealots where we get to witness them looking upon Hrothgar's keep through a scope of some sort (post apocalyptic) and commenting on the action with lines such as "my GOD look at the size of that thing!" Graham Baker is a brilliant, brilliant director. I can only assume that he died, however, because this was his final film.

Of course, you can't have a film about Beowulf without having a Grendel (Fuck you 13th Warrior!). And this one has its Grendel and then some. Again, a vast improvement over every other interpretation because this guy is a fucking predator. When I say "predator", I don't simply mean he's an animal that hunts or kills other animals, although he kind of is that. No, he's an alien that hunts human prey (and sometimes aliens) and is equipped with a cloaking device. He didn't use that laser-spear thing in this one, since I guess it wouldn't have been fair. It now becomes pretty clear that the predator in Predator was sent back in time to waste Arnold Schwartzenegger (also, Hercules in New York) who is most obviously an ancestor of Christopher Lambert's Beowulf. It's a little tough to pick up on and since most of you would miss this connection, I'm here to, well, connect it for you. Of course, I was a little shocked to learn that Grendel's mom IS Pamela Anderson (played here by future oscar winner and past Playboy Playmate, Layla Roberts). She has a great scene with Roland, near the climax, with some terrific dialogue that I won't recount for you now. The scene slowly builds as she moves closer to poor Roland and the techno music pulsates gently. I half expected it to end with a pop shot all over her pretty face.

Unfortunately, all great things must come to an end and this is MOST certainly a great thing. Wisely, Baker, in constructing his magnum opus, trimmed off all the horrible fat from the poem. Beowulf is a bit more conflicted here, as he is the son of Baal, "lord of lies". Therefore, duh, he has to always be fighting evil, lest he become that which he fights. All that nonsense about a dragon was trimmed as well, though, let's face it. If they left the dragon in, Beowulf probably would have been fighting a tank with a blow torch attached to it or something. Actually, that would be kind of cool. I'm sure they filmed it, but the studio made them take it out. We need the estate of Graham Baker to prepare his "final" definitive cut, although how does one improve on perfection? The thing that makes this one far superior, the icing on the cake, if you will, is that Beowulf is not a slave when it comes to beautiful women. Oh, Grendel's mom is mighty tempting, especially when trying to convince Beowulf that he'd like the feel of "hot blood pumping down his throat". Wait a minute? Did she just question his sexuality? Anywhoo, then she turns into a giant crab-thing and the lucky viewer is treated to Baker's piece de resistance. Oh, glory, thy name is Beowulf 1999.

Or, maybe it sucked, and in actuality, I love all the other versions? I don't know, can't remember.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Alligator (1980)

If you're a fan of Urban Legends than you should probably check this one out. Urban Legends is pretty much garbage. Alligator is not. You've heard the one about the baby alligator flushed down the toilet? The alligator then grows to epic proportions and feeds on those unlucky enough to venture down into the sewers. This movie takes on that particular legend but blends in some elements of its own about an experimental growth hormones used on dogs. The gator, named Ramon (named so by the little girl that originally purchased it from one of those touristy gator farms down south), feeds on their abandoned carcasses and grows really large. Also, I think the hormones give him the ability to teleport.

A humorous diversion, chock full of some grisly deaths and moderate scares. Speaking of grisly, why is it that the whole "vs" phenonmenon didn't take off more. I know, Godzilla did it to death, but those matches were basically just guys in costumes wrestling each other. We're starting to see these pictures come out today with films such as Alien vs. Predator, Freddy vs. Jason, Dollman vs. Demonic Toys, and Ecks vs. Sever to name a few. Personally, I think we should go back to the 1980s and before to film death matches between these pictures, particularly the ones about nature run amuck. For example, why not Prophecy vs. The Nest? I would certainly love to see The Swarm vs. The Kingdom of the Spiders. Why not The Stuff vs. Street Trash?? I guess the movie I most want to see though is Grizzly vs. Alligator (you probably didn't think i had a point when I said "speaking of grisly, did you?), not just because they both blatantly rip off Jaws. In the case of Grizzly, it was right there in the god damned tag line: "Jaws with claws". No, not just because of that. Not just because, like Jaws, neither beast gets a fair shake with their demise. Hell, Grizzly get's blown up by a fucking bazooka. How is that fair? No, the real reason I want to see this particular match is to see how the Grizzly approaches a battle with a 36 foot, 2000 lbs alligator. How does he avoid being taken in by Ramon's single best move, the death roll? Sure, the Grizzly has some enormous claws and teeth, but Ramon's got near impenetrable skin, a jagged whip like tale. Grizzly's best chance would be to gouge his eyes or cover them to put him to sleep, but, see, I'm not sure Grizzly would follow that strategy. Why? He's a fuckin Grizzly. So, to sum up, I give Ramon about a 90% chance to win this fight. Then again, what do I know? Ramon spent all the majority of Alligator eating dead dogs and children. Perhaps I give him too much credit.

This is a movie that's much better than it has to be, much like Frankenhooker or Kirdy Stevens' The Animal in Me. Credit for that can probably be given to the writer John Sayles (Piranha, 8 Men Out, The Return of the Secaucus 7, Lone Star). Sayles, I'm sure, added all of the humor including an allusion to Edward Norton (one of Ramon's victims, a sewer worker). No, not the actor, the honeymooner. I'm not going to give very much credit to the director, Lewis Teague. He followed this up with Cujo and Cat's Eye. I think he was last seen filming the Dukes of Hazzard reunion movie. He did an ok job.

Where Alligator really shines is the cast. Robert Forster (The Black Hole and Jackie Brown) plays David Madison, the cop who seems to have a difficult time holding onto partners. They tend to get shot or eaten. Robin Riker (Body Chemistry II) is his love interest Marissa but, in a twist, she's also the girl that purchased Ramon as a child. Robert Doyle (Barnaby Jones) plays Marissa's angry, vindictive father who flushes poor Ramon. He's only in this for a minute. Also, this was his last picture. My favorite character was Frank Pentangeli (The Godfather II) as Chief Clark. Whenever Madison screws up, Frank is there to fire him, but he always takes him back. Good old reliable Henry Silva (Chained Heat) even shows up as some sort of professional crocodile hunter. I guess they were confused because this was an alligator and so predictably, Silva gets eaten. He must have had some bad intel.

I mentioned earlier that this movie is funny. I know I'm not the trustworthy sort, so I'll just spell it out for you. A kid gets eaten at his own birthday party. Do I even need to elaborate? Ok, they are playing a rousing game of "walk the plank" as young kids are apt to do. The boy, dressed as a pirate, is pushed off the end of a diving board. He sees the alligator the instant before his friend, unaware of Ramon's presense, pushes him in. The water becomes red. Happy fucking birthday. Hysterical.

There's another great scene, set in the ghettos of St. Louis (Note: The film takes place in St. Louis) where some kids are playing stick ball in the streets and the alligator busts through the sidewalk. Since this occured directly after the suburban pool incident, I just assumed that the gator had taken on the ability to think himself across town. Of course, he's still working out the kinks of his new superpower, otherwise he wouldn't have gone through the sidewalk. That looked like it hurt. I loved when one of the stickballers ran to his apartment and grabbed a knife out of his room. I was anticipating a fight, but, unfortunately, the kid wised up and realized only a fool would bring a knife to a gator fight.

The alligator effects weren't really effects. I think it was a real gator. They must have used some trick photography to make it look big and for the most part they worked. Except for the scene were he goes through the sidewalk. That was terrible. The gator in that scene was also fake, and it showed. There's not much else to say. You will know if you will like this movie before you even see it. If you like it when people get eaten, especially rich, spoiled people (the wedding scene is priceless) than you will love this one.

Also, it goes great with a gin and tonic. Or seven.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Soldier (1998)

"I've seen things you people wouldn't believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I've watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhauser Gate. All those... moments will be lost in time... like...".
-Roy Batty, Replicant, Nexus 6

Todd (Kurt Russell), like Roy, was at Orion. He fought in the battle of Tannhauser Gate. He TOO shed a tear, only it wasn't raining at the time. How is that possible, you ask? Soldier has been labeled a "side-quel" (by Blade Runner and Soldier scribe David Webb Peoples). While Blade Runner is an indisputable masterpiece, especially the new "Final Cut", Soldier is a decidedly minor film. Still, there's nothing wrong with a "minor" film, especially one that is competently made. Surprisingly, that's the case here. Who knew Paul W.S. Anderson (Resident Evil, AvP, Mortal Kombat) had it in him?

Chosen at birth in the year 1996 (Year one), Todd was trained as a soldier. A subsequent montage shows us his training through 2013 (Year seventeen) and then his combat career in such battles as The War of the Six Cities, the Moscow Incident, and the Battle of the Argentine Moons. Finally, in the year 2036 (Year forty), Todd becomes old and so the American government looks to younger alternatives. These replacements are a group of genetically altered supermen (read, Replicants. As far as I could tell, the main difference between the "replicants" of this film and Roy Batty's Nexus 6 version is a lack of empathy in the Soldier versions) commanded by the snivelling, West-point trained Colonel Mekum (Jason Isaacs). Todd and his fellow soldiers are rendered obsolete. This point is driven home when the pride of Mekum's supersoldier project, Cane 607 (Jason Scott Lee), annhilates Todd and a couple of his buddies in a "friendly" competition. Todd, left for dead, is literally taken out with the trash. By this, I mean he is dumped on a landfill planet somewhere in the outer rims (along with other refuse).

On this garbage planet, Todd encounters a colony of stranded humans (Sean Pertwee, the luscious Connie Nielsen, and Michael Chiklis who unfortunately did not don "The Thing" makeup for this role), who crash landed here years earlier. It baffles the mind, however, that they have not been discovered since space garbage trucks seem to make weekly visits. Still, minor detail. Todd has trouble fitting in initially, because, let's face it, all he knows is war and killing. He knows little about setting the table, washing dishes, or babysitting. Things that are important to any successfully peaceful society. So, he decides to teach a young kid, Nathan, how to protect himself against a viper indigenous to the planet instead of his basic chores. Later, he experiences a flashback and nearly kills The Thing. The colonists have had enough and, so, it's time for banishment. Todd doesn't take it very lightly and he actually sheds a tear, something he's never done before. Ok, I could go on and on about the plot. Basically, Colonists take Todd back. New supersoldiers (led by Cane 406) conduct training exercise on Garbage planet. Training exercise becomes actual combat (as Colonists are deemed hostile). One side wins.

I liked this picture a lot more than I did the first time I saw it. If you're looking for a movie where Kurt Russell's character has 104 words (Not lines, words) of dialogue, than this is the one for you. It's a great way to see Michael Chiklis playing the anti Detective Mackey. He's a pussy here, but a good hearted pussy. The special effects are top notch, for the most part. If you look closely, you'll even notice a spinner from Blade Runner on the garbage planet. Oh, and Gary Busey shows up, in a good guy role, as a commanding officer who fights to keep Todd and his fellow soldiers from going out of print. Did I mention Connie Nielsen (Gladiator) is hot? Apparently, they were supposed to have filmed the Battle of Tannhauser Gate, but I guess it wasn't in the 75 million dollar budget. I hope for Kurt Russell's sake that they didn't pay him per word. There's a great fight at the end between Todd and Cane 406 that reminded me of the Rocky and Apollo Creed fight at the end of Rocky I. If Rocky had been able to use props in that one, say a helicopter propeller blade, he would have fought someone else at the end of Rocky II. See, that's why Todd is superior to Cane. Cane may be faster, stronger, maybe even technically smarter. If he's anything like the Nexus 6, he's at least as smart as his maker (I'm not sure if that would be Tyrell. I'll just assume it though). Unlike the Nexus 6, however, he lacks the human quality of emotion and heart. Roy Batty and Todd fight to sustain their life. They have heart and they know love. Cane fights because he's supposed to.

Ok, it's not a great picture. It's a solid one. I'm not a Paul W.S. Anderson apologist, by any means. I dug Event Horizon, tolerated Resident Evil, and while I thought AvP was ok, it could have been SO much better. This might be his best film. It's certainly his most underrated if it's possible for an Anderson film to be underrated. If you can get beyond the ridiculous coincidence that Cane and his troops, out of all the worlds in the galaxy, would choose this particular dump to conduct training exercises, then you might enjoy it too. The last image is one of hope as Todd embraces his newfound ability to love and, for the first time in his life, look toward the future.

Note: I'm not giving away whether or not Todd lives with that last line. It could be someone else's future, right?

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

The Blob (1988)

To celebrate the release of Frank Darabont's The Mist we will look back upon Frank Darabont's The Blob. He didn't actually direct The Blob, but he contributed to the screenplay, along with Chuck Russell (who directed). In fact, Darabont cut his teeth by writing such 80s schlock as The Fly 2 and The Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors. He is perhaps best known for writing Mary Shelly's Frankenstein as well as a little known film called The Shawshank Redemption. If you get TNT it's possible you've seen it. Chuck Russell directed Dream Warriors as well as the Jim Carrey vehicle, The Mask. He followed those "classics" up with such crap as Eraser, Bless The Child, and The Scorpion King, so clearly his career went down the shitter. Boy, did he get off to a great start though because The Blob is a fantastic little gem from the "small town accosted by science/meteor/aliens gone awry" genre, a genre that includes such classics as Critters, Slither, Night of the Creeps, The Being, etc, etc. Quite possibly, my favorite type of movie.

"Timing is everything" - Paul Taylor, star wide receiver of the Aborville Colorodo High School football team, all around hunk, and Blob food.

A truer statement has never been uttered. I take it to mean that this movie, this remake, was made at the perfect time. If made today, it would feature soulless CGI and vapid pretty teeny boppers. Thankfully, it was made in the late 80s so instead of Tom Welling and Jordana Brewster we are treated to the likes of vintage Kevin Dillon and Shawnee Smith (before she fucked it all up by starring in the Saw quadrilogy). We're even treated to some terrific character work by Joe Seneca (Seaquest DSV), Paul McCrane (Robocop and Dr. Romano from E.R.), Bill Mosely (The Devil's Rejects), Candy Clark (Q), and Jeffrey DeMunn (The Mist).

Here's the plot. Once again, the government has fucked us over. It's never a good idea to conduct genetic experiments in outer space, but, you know what? The government could fucking care less. Darabont is infatuated with the idea of the government fucking shit up. Whether it be through our faulty prison system (see Shawshank and The Green Mile), genetic experiments (see This Movie and The Fly II) or through creating rifts in the time space continuum (The Mist; a FANTASTIC movie, by the way). Anyway, the Blob. It starts as a meteor, lands in the outskirts of Arborville, latches onto an old hobo, and then makes its way to the Emergency room where the movie pulls a Psycho on us. By that, I mean, a character that's been set up as a hero is offed in the most horrific way imaginable. Perhaps, I've said too much already.

The movie is full of great special effects (notice I didn't say for its day?). Ok, there is one terrible effect, where the blob chases Brian (Dillon) and Meg (Smith) along the ceiling in the diner, but it's forgiveable and kinda nostalgic. There are several great scenes, including the aformentioned E.R. scene, the diner scene (Yep, we get to see a guy blobbed and squeezed through a tiny drain), and a sewer scene. The best scene is a remake of a scene from the original, as a couple of kids, Meg's brother and his headphone addicted pal Eddie, sneak into an R rated slasher film. They have to endure an asshole who likes to give away plot points immediately before they happen. What kind of a sick fuck would do that shit? It's clear Darabont and Russell despise this fucker too because shortly thereafter, yup, you guessed it. Blobbed. By the time the blob hits the theatre, it has consumed a third of the town and is by now, enormous.

As soon as the government shows up, we know who the REAL villains are. Led by Dr. Meddows (Joe Seneca), they are all dressed in white bio containment suits and carry automatic weapons. Here's a taste of how much Meddows values human life:

"This isn't one of you text-book exercises, Mr. Jennings. This is an experiment in biological warfare, or hadn't you noticed? That organism is potentially the greatest breakthrough in weapons research since man split the atom. What we do here will affect the balance of world power! Of course there are lives at stake - whole nations, in fact. And that's far more important than a handful of people in this small town. And that is my cross to bear, Mr. Jennings. Now carry out your orders. "

Darabont would go on to help create "superior" films. To be honest, I don't care much for Shawshank or The Green Mile. To me, his heart seems to lie with the fantastic. I'm greatly pleased with his return to the genre this year with The Mist. It's possibly the best adaptation of a Stephen King horror story since The Mangler. Just kidding, since Sleepwalkers. Kidding again, Maximum Overdrive. Sheesh, I don't know when to stop, do I? You get the point though. Their have been a lot of shitty King movies. The Mist is the best since Misery and possibly even Kubrick's The Shining (a film King, himself, inexplicably, detests). If I had to describe The Mist in one sentence, I would say "if Maximum Overdrive and The Stand fucked, this would be their bastard child". Well, The Blob has nothing to do with Stephen King. Very little to do with Steve McQueen either. I'll just say that if the giant critter at the end of Critters were to have sex with the original The Blob and then take a post coital shit, this movie would be that runny pile of excrement. I mean that in the best possible way. It's a terrific horror picture. Check it out.

Sorry I haven't posted in a while. I hope to be back shortly with another review, or possibly two.

Monday, November 5, 2007

The Hidden 2 (1994)

Remember that movie from 1987 called The Hidden? This is a sequel to that one, not to the 2005 Michael Haneke film Hidden (Cache). That would be pretty strange if this were a sequel to that one, because this movie predates it by eleven years. Also, Haneke should probably sue because this one could be accused of seriously fucking up the continuity of his terrific film. It's french, but still terrific. Anyway, it's not a sequel to a film about horrifying voyeurism. Instead, it's a sequel to a film about space slugs that go in through your mouth and control your mind, so I guess this discussion is rendered moot.

Warning!! The paragraph directly below spoils The Hidden (1987). I'm assuming most of you have seen it because, well, it's pretty great and I can't imagine not having seen it. If you haven't, rent it now, then read on.

The Hidden is a borderline great film. Directed by Jack Sholder (Freddy's Revenge) , it stars Kyle Maclachlan (Dune) as a dectective from outer space tracking a space slug that takes over a human host, robs banks, jacks cars, listens to 1980s guitar rock, and ingests lots of drugs. The slug uses up it's human host and then moves on to a new one. Michael Nouri (Go Bots: War of the Rock Lords) costarring as earth detective Thomas Beck is also on the case. At first he thinks Maclachlan is crazy, but eventually he comes around. For the terrific finale, the slug has inhabited a presidential candidate and since these slugs have little personality, his speech consists of him repeating "I want to be President" and the idiots eat it up. Finally, he gets blowtorched by Maclachlan and the slug is zapped with a special phaser. See, the catch is, earth weapons are useless against the slugs apparently. We need an alien phaser that is callibrated to their frequency. Conveniently, the phaser is also useless against humans, so if the slug happens to jump on your shoulder your friend doesn't have to aim too carefully when shooting it off. During the finale, Beck was shot twice in the gut by the slug (based on the number of cops shot in the chest, kevlar was clearly not in vogue back in the 80s) but "saved" by Maclachlan in the hospital, at the cost of his own life. Also, a dog stole away from the crime scene with a part of the space slug. Oh, and B movie staple Clu Gulager has fun in a minor role. The end.

End Warning.

This is a pretty lazy fucking movie. I'm now referring to The Hidden 2. First of all, if you've seen the first one, you can skip the first fifteen minutes of this one because it's pretty much just a greatest hits montage of the final 30 minutes of the original. I suspect they did this so they could convince fans that Maclachlan and Nouri were in this too. No, instead we get Raphael Sbarge (Carnosaur) and Kate Hodge (Leatherface). So, with a runtime of 90 minutes, the meat of this particular story is just 75 minutes. In addition, they didn't even bother to give the main character, played by Sbarge, a name. They just called him Maclachlan because he's basically the sequel to Kyle Machlachlan's character in the first one. Maclachlan had a name in the original though. Lloyd Gallagher. To avoid confusion, I will, from now on, refer to Kyle Mclachlan as Mclachlan 1 and Rafael Sbarge as Mclachlan 2.

The movie, after the lame greatest hits intro, opens fifteen years after the original. The slugs have spawned from that dog I mentioned and have bided their time hibernating in some abandoned steel factory. Well, what are abandoned steel factories known for? I'll give you a hint. Mid 1990s. Yup, you guessed it. Raves. A few clowns are scouting out the location and immediately fall in love with it. They even plan to dub the party, "bad to the max". One of the scouts lingers behind and gets space slugged, hence the tagline "part alien. part human. And it's back for seconds".

Next, we are reintroduced to Tom Beck, who I was disappointed to learn is not really Tom Beck, nor is he Michael Nouri, who priced himself out of this picture. Tom Beck is really Maclachlan 1. So, Maclachlan 1 didn't really sacrifice himself to save Beck at the end of the first one. Instead, he just stole his body. This revelation kinda sucks. Maybe I missed something. Maybe Beck and Maclachlan 1 just occupied the same body. Anyway, Beck/Maclachlan is now played by Michael Welden (Under Siege). Apparently, there's a catch to these aliens inhabiting bodies. They rapidly age. If Maclachlan 1 was a douche, like those slugs, he could just jump into another body, but that would mean sacrificing yet another life rendering him almost as evil as those slugs. So, Beck/Maclachlan looks to be about 70 even though he's only 49. It's really not much of a distraction though because Beck/Maclachlan is only in this for a few minutes.

So, I guess when you subtract the intro plot involving Beck/Mclachlan, the real story is only about 65-70 minutes. The "real" story focuses on Beck's daughter, Juliet, who has followed in her father's footsteps and become a cop, though you'd never know from watching this film. Sbarge, as I mentioned earlier, is Mclachlan 2, the alien cop sent to finish off the slugs. See, word is they've beens spawning and are primed to take over the world. I'm not sure how that's possible. When these things mature and find a host (that would be us) all they seem to want to do is steal nice cars and listen to shitty guitar rock. Also, they eat shitty food and kill people. The idea is for Juliet and Mclachlan 2 to kill the space slugs before they're able to mature and infect people. I can think of worse ways to kill 60 minutes (if you fast forward through the rehash of part one) such as poking rusty nails into your genitals. That would kinda suck.

The acting across the board in this one is god terrible. Sbarge spends his screentime mimicking Kyle Mclaclan and, I suppose, in that regard he does a fine job. He's given a couple of amusing scenes; one where he tries to use chopsticks, and the other involving a toothbrush. Apparently, they don't have chinese food where he's from. He describes his world as "energy. light. no physical body. real, but not solid. live in spirit, but not body." Yes, that's exactly how it was written. Hodges comes across even worse, filling in for Michael Nouri. One minor improvement over the original is that Juliet and Mclachlan 2 get to engage in the carnal act, although there are some serious repercussions for Mclachlan 2 the next morning. Still, I'm glad we didn't have a scene where Nouri and Kyle Mclachlan go at it. That would just be confusing. In the original, it took a while before Nouri was convinced that Mclachlan 1 was an alien. In this one, Mclachlan 2 immediately leaves his body to prove his point to Juliet. All that character development we had to sit through in part 1 was a complete waste of time these filmmakers wisely thought. Let's get to it.

The acting in the minor roles is even worse. Thankfully, there are very few minor roles, and most of them consist of slug victims. At one point, an infected raver yells to Mclachlan 2"You couldn't hurt me if you tried!" It caused me to wonder a) if the slugs are developmentally challenged OR b) if my brother wrote the script when he was nine.

Speaking of the script, there are several plot points that caused me to wonder if the filmmakers were even working from a script or if they were just making it up as they went along. For example, when I learned that space slugs, after fully maturing, need to return to the steel factory to kill all of their non-mature siblings. It's pretty convenient that Mclachlan 2 would know this particular trait, so that he and Juliet can conveniently meet him/it there for the final act. Another thing I learned is that Mclachlan 2 and these Slugs, or "Hiddens", evolved from the same species. One now trails slime wherever it goes and is evil. The others, the Mclachlans, became spirits I guess. They both have the ability to invade host bodies. Confusingly, Mclachlan 2 has sex in this. I was under the impression that sex was evil. I think Mclachlan 2 tries to justify it by calling sex "love". We've all been there. Am I right?

This is a terrible picture, so I'll just mildly recommend it. The director, Seth Pinsker (several episodes of Eight is Enough) and his crew did very little right. The best directed scenes came at the beginning, but those were filmed by Sholder. There is one effect I liked, when a guy's chest splits open and the slug emerges. They almost won me over with this one because they employed stop motion. The movie does manage to provide us with a terrific ending, the ONE genuinely creepy moment, but then that's undercut because it's not really the ending and there's one more appallingly bad scene to go. So, these guys, these fucking lazy, unimaginative fucks, steal the best parts of The Hidden for their opening. Then they film maybe 60 or so minutes of actual story, a truly SHITTY story mind you, and somehow manage to include a shocking finish (I'm sure they blindly stumbled into that one) and THEN decide to get "ambitious" and tack on another ending?? An ending, which ruins the one good moment in this piece of shit? Here's a hint. It involves waking up.

Do yourself a favor. Check out The Hidden. If you've seen films like Fallen, Slither, or Hero of the Federation, then you've already felt its influence. The Hidden 2, on the other hand, can go away and fucking hide. Let me know if you want to borrow it.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Pumpkinhead (1989)

Lance Henriksen stars in this picture.

Oh, are you still here? I would think the realization that one of our greatest living actors is featured in this would be enough. I guess I'll have to write more then. Whatever.

Stan Winston is the guru behind the brilliant visual effects for such pictures as Aliens, Predator, AI, and Leviathan. Actually, he was only responsible for the robots in AI. See, that's what he does. He creates life out of the lifeless. I believe he even did some of the cyborg work in the Terminator films. Finally, he's able to slip into the director's chair and create a movie all his own (with a little help), and no, I am not referring to A Gnome Named Gnorm (I'll review that one when it's finally released on DVD, don't worry). Strangely enough, Pumpkinhead is also the first movie I've reviewed that stars Lance Henriksen, an actor that can make the foulest tripe palatable (if you don't believe me, check out Mimic 3. I, for one, am even looking forward to his appearence in Alone in the Dark II).

This is a terrific horror film, one of the best of the 80s. The story opens in 1957 and the first thing I noticed was the terrificaly rich atmosphere and the great score, full of dark ominous beats and a little twang. Danny Elfman meets Deliverance. A family living in an isolated farmhouse has battened down the hatches for the night. For they're aware that a creature is out stalking the forest searching for the prey it has been charged with killing. In this case, a suspected rapist. A man begins pounding on the door, but the father refuses to help him. The farmer's son asks his mother "why won't pa help that man?" To become involved is to subject yourself, and your family, to Pumpkinhead's wrath. Strangely enough, the atmosphere in the film's opening reminded me of a cross between Sleepy Hollow and The Night of the Hunter.

Cut to present day. The young boy, named Ed Harley, has grown up to be Lance Henriksen. He occupies the same farmhouse with his own youngin (that's what they call them in this picture), a sweet little kid with coke bottle eyeglasses. He reminded me of the kid in Jerry Maguire, only half as annoying. The love is evident between them and only an actor of Henriksen's caliber can get away with a line like "Your gramma used to wash my hands. She had tissue paper skin. It felt so good." Like most horror films, this is a morality tale about those that do wrong and have wrong done unto them. In this case, the wrongers are a bunch of young city slickers weekending in a small southern mountain town where they can practice their dirtbiking and boozing. The group consists of standard horror movie fodder, such as the black leather jacket wearing asshole, the slut, the virgin, the sympathetic curly haired nerd, and so on. We know what's in store for them because they're drinking heavily on the trip to the mountain. On the way, they stop at a grocery store, run by Ed Harley, but promptly run over his son with their dirtbikes. Ok, it was an accident, I suppose. It's kinda heartrending when Harley brings his son home and has to listen to his last spoken word, "daddy."

The real character to blame is the asshole in leather, named Joel. Harley decides to spread the blame around, however, when he calls upon the old witch Haggis, who lives up on Black Ridge. A spindly, awful old witch who, as far as I can tell, has one power. The power to call upon pumpkinhead. Pumpkinhead is buried in an old pumpkin patch out by razorback hollow (the names are fantastic). Linus was nowhere to be found, but I didn't look too closely from under my blanket. Anyway, He brings the body of P-head back to the witch who raises him with a few incantations and some drops of Harley's blood. Harley's blood is key because now he and P-head have a firm bond, almost like blood brothers, but stronger. Pumpkinhead is a horrifying creation, reminiscent, I suppose, of the Aliens in AvP. He's got a similar elongated head and sharp, jutting shoulders. Once he's commisioned to a task (in this case, killing all the city folk) he can't be called off of it. There's a catch, however. As each city folk succumbs to Pumpkinhead, Harley feels their pain. I'm not sure if it was the pain, or just general second thoughts, that caused him to ally with the remaining city people and try to put an end to this night of terror. When they encounter Harley for the first time that night, and he says "come with me...", I really wanted him to finish that up with "if you want to live". It took a few minutes of escaping, but then he finally said "you want to live?" and I felt like cheering.

I truly dig this picture. The characters are all note perfect, especially Henriksen as Harley, but also "Buck" Flowers, who turns in some great character work as Mr. Wallace. Brian Bremer is entirely convincing as Bunt, the young hick boy that allies himself with the city slickers. Also, Florence Schauffler as the old witch, Haggis. It's a relatively gore free film, which I actually appreciated. I mean, there are plenty of impalings and sickening noises, but nothing is lingered on. Mostly filmed at night, so the blood is hard to make out. Pumpkinhead is shown in pieces, and mostly in shadow, until the end as Winston follows the "less is more" philosophy of filmmaking. There's a great scene where some survivors try to find solace in an old wrecked church, and Pumpkinhead stands on the cusp, basically giving the middle finger to a religion he has no part in. I haven't seen any of the Pumpkinhead sequels, but something tells me CGI has found it's place in this world. I'll get to them eventually. Why does this movie continue to be unappreciated?

Hellraiser (1987)

This guy, Pinhead, kind of got grouped incorrectly with those big three slasher movie villains from the 1980s, in my opinion. Of course, I am referring to Michael Myers, Jason Voorhees, and Dr. Giggles. Just kidding. Dr. Giggles is from the early 1990s, otherwise, he'd be there. The other guy is, of course, Freddy Kreuger. This is absurd. First of all, Pinhead or lead cenobite, as he is referred to in Hellraiser, is NOT a slasher. This is not a slasher film. This is more of a mystical horror film, dealing with a realm where pleasure and pain are one and the same. Pinhead, I'm pretty sure, has never ACTUALLY killed anyone. Instead, he is more of a guide, or as Pinhead, himself, puts it, he's an "explorer in the further regions of experience." Whatever that means. Still, he's an incredibly memorable character considering that his screentime in the original Hellraiser amounts to barely five minutes. The scene where the cenobites first appear are some startlingly terrifying images, with "the chatterer" somehow managing to freak me out even more than Pinhead. Pinhead, unlike the three slashers I mentioned above, is a man, or demon, of eloquent dialogue. Myers and Voorhees never speak. Kreuger speaks mostly in puns, from what I remember (or maybe I'm thinking of the Gingerdead Man, the other burnt slasher), a form of dialect Pinhead would scoff at.

Arguably, Pinhead and his band of cenobites aren't even villains. The people they punish in this picture are certainly not good people. The story begins in England with Frank (Sean Chapman) attempting to solve an Oriental puzzle box in his home. Upon solving the puzzle, which, to me, looks to be ridiculously easy, the rooms starts to shift a bit, and blue lights begin emanating through the cracks in the walls. Suddenly, chained hooks fly out of the walls and embed themselves in his flesh. After Frank is torn apart, the Cenobites, lead by Lead Cenobite or Pinhead (Doug Bradley) as he is later called, appear to inspect the situation. In a little twist on the puzzle box, Pinhead puts the pieces of Frank's face back together. Unfortunately, having solved the puzzle of Frank's face, we're not rewarded with any kind of sadomasochistic torture.

It is perhaps a few months later, when Frank's brother Larry (Andrew Robinson) and his 2nd wife Julia (Claire Higgins) move into that same house, now abandoned. They just assume Frank is off on one of his adventures. It's pretty clear that Julia is not a terrific person either during these scenes, especially when she looks through Frank's things and ogles over his pictures (several including her). Oh, and we also flashback to a scene where they are doing it, in case you need it spelled out for you. By "doing it" I mean fucking.

So, Larry and Julia are moving in as I mentioned before. "Moving in" usually entails lifting things, often furniture. Larry hires the two laziest movers in England and ends up doing much of the work himself, which unfortunately includes moving an unbendable box spring upstairs, while trying to avoid that rusty nail jutting out of the wall. The scene is pretty predictable because we see that nail for about a minute before his hand scrapes across it. We do learn that Larry is basically a pussy here because he screams and runs to Julia (hiding out in the attic) for help, all the while complaining that he's about to pass out. The blood from his hand drips on the attic floor and somehow that's how Frank begins his journey back into reality. It doesn't make too much sense, but I don't really follow the rules of the Cenobites. Frank, begins as a slightly pulsating heart beneath the floorboards. The blood from Larry's wound is enough to turn Frank into a skeleton with about half a torso and a, barely, flesh covered skull. It's enough for him to begin talking again, however, and he begs Julia to bring some men back to the apartment, so he can suck their blood and fat through a straw and, thereby, regenerate himself. These scenes, as a child, had me turning off the TV and gagging, but since then, I've become so desensitized to gore that I just sort of shrugged and said "Is that all?"

Anyway, without giving too much away, the rest of the plot involves the lovely Kirsty (played by Ashley Lawrence), Larry's daughter who is suspicious of her stepmother. Clearly, with good reason. At one point, she comes into possession of the puzzle box, solves it, and makes a deal with Pinhead and friends to save her soul. A quick comment about the puzzle box. Why is this thing so easy to solve? As far as I could tell, all you do is press a button on the side, the thing opens up and then the cenobites appear. There's no challenge to it. I'm guessing the cenobites had an earlier box, but no one could solve it so they all sat around twiddling their thumbs and watching their "stories" on the television. Finally, the chatterer (Nicholas Vince) or butterball (Simon Bamford) or even more likely, the female (Grace Kirby) said "enough is enough, i'm fucking bored" and convinced Pinhead to tone down the difficulty level on the thing. It sorta lessens the meaning though when Pinhead says "The box. You opened it. We came." It would be really easy to accidentaly drop the thing or bump into it as you're moving a dresser across the room. I think they should give you a mulligan the first time you open it. If, after accidentaly opening it once, you are stupid enough to not get rid of the thing or put it in a safety deposit box somewhere, then you deserve to have the hooks tear into your flesh as Pinhead taunts you with lines like "No tears please, it's a waste of good suffering." Still, the bottom line? These cenobites are badass, but if you want to experience them fully, you'll have to watch the sequels. They're barely in this one.

Hellraiser's real villain is not Pinhead or any of the Cenobites, but instead, it's Frank, the man who would do anything to escape them. As a HUMAN, Frank wasn't really a good guy because he fucked his brother's wife, amongst other things. He's clearly a master manipulator. He somehow managed to escape the Cenobites, so he must be resourceful. As a puss dripping ATTIC MONSTER, Frank is just, well, he's just really fucking disgusting. Even when he finally get's his skin on, it never seems to fit right. He's constantly adjusting the skin under his eye. The line around his hair seems to be coming undone. The worst scene is when he smokes a cigarette BEFORE getting his new skin. I'm just glad he didn't try this before his lungs had fully redeveloped. But yeah, he's a terrible brother, a terrible uncle, an even worse lover, and, as it turns out, a revolting monster.

This is Clive Barker's directorial debut (based on his original story The Hellbound Heart) and he does a pretty good job with it. The photography is a little too stagnant at times, but the effects still hold up today. Not just the gore, but what little we see of the Cenobite realm, the beast within the mysterious hallway, the flying dragon like thing at the end (you know. the thing that morphed from the homeless guy?). The performances were excellent, in particular Claire Higgins as Julia and the guy that played "regenerating Frank" (Oliver Smith) or, as I intend to call him in the future, "Frank-Thing". The actor portraying "human Frank" was terrible. Ashley Lawrence is suitably inquisitive and cute, the perfect heroine. Barker would go on to some even more ambitious films (Nightbreed and Lord of Illusions), but would never achieve the success he finds here. I recommend the immediate sequel to this called Hellbound: Hellraiser 2, especially if nonsensical plotting and sex with skinless women is your kind of thing. Ashley Lawrence and Claire Higgins return for that one, as does Doug Bradley, billed as Pinhead for the first time.

If Pinhead were here with me right now, he'd probably want to add something like "watch this movie or I'll tear your soul apart." If Frank were here with me right now, I'd be dead and he'd probably be fucking my girlfriend. Now THAT's evil.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Splatter Farm (1987)

"I rank this with our top favorite pictures, not our top best pictures."
-Splatter Farm writer/director John or Mark Polonia (I couldn't tell
which one)

"If you think Splatter Farm is shit, you should see some of THEIR stuff."
-one of the Polonia brothers responding to rejection by one of
several distributors

This is the most poorly made geek show I have ever seen.

What the hell was Marion Costly thinking? She's apparently the grandmother of one of the filmmakers, I think of Todd Rimatti (who played Jeremy). She plays an elderly farmer that sleeps with the skeleton of her dead husband/brother, drugs and rapes her visiting nephews, and for the coup de grace, has a piece of live dynamite shoved into her privates. Yikes. Perhaps I could understand if this were a studio production, but this is as amateur as it gets. She's certainly not getting paid a dime. The movie was shot in the late 1980s, so I can't imagine she's still alive. This is her legacy. Splatter Farm is her fucking legacy! I can only imagine the pitch. "Hey grandma, me and my buddies from school are making a movie. We need an old woman, are you game? We can't ever pay you, but you'll get to drug us and there will be implied sex, so there is that. Oh, and at the end you get blown up real good. Also, you were raped by your brother and the offspring becomes a horrific serial killer that likes to anally fist his victims and smear their feces all over their faces. He pees on them too, and also has sex with their severed heads. Are you still with me Grams? It gets better. After urinating on and fisting one of your nephews, your inbred offspring stabs him with a pitchfork and buries him in the backyard. He even licks the headless stump of a victim at one point and eats a heart freshly plucked from a corpse. Um, oh, and at the end, we'll force some dynamite in know where....and well, c'mon Grams, it'll be fun!"

I really have no idea where to begin. This is a terrible film made by retarded high schoolers and, what must be, the single most senile grandmother alive (at the time). It's shot on extremely cheap video. It's clearly inspired by Texas Chainsaw Massacre, although the brothers reference Blood Cult at one point. Yes, I watched the "making of" featurette, which is infinitely superior to the film it supplements, in the hopes of shedding some light on Mrs Costly's decision to appear in this thing. Unfortunately, I didn't find what I was looking for.

I should have turned it off by the fifth minute when Jeremy, after severing the hand of an obviously fake corpse, sticks that same hand in his unzipped fly, a fly that remains unzipped the entire picture. I strongly believe these kids (now likely in their late 30s) should be put away for a few years. I can't really object to the content. Yeah, it's extremely taboo and disturbing, especially coming from the minds of children (although, the brothers Polonia were sporting some pretty nice scumstaches), but it still could have been presented in an entertaining way, shot somewhat competently. No, these guys should be put away for putting their grandmother in this film. There's no way she had any clue what she was getting into. At just one hour, this thing was an hour too long. As obscene as the content was, it still moved at a snails pace. Why didn't I turn it off? Why?? The best moment of the film was when one of the brothers says "I'm sorry to interrupt lunch, but I got to take a shit." Yes, the cast was full of retarded rednecks. I won't complain about the acting. It's terrible, but that's to be expected. The gore effects were inventive, I suppose, when you consider the age of the filmmakers. Which is to say, NOT very inventive at all.

I guess I found out what my limits are.

Poor, poor Marion Costly. May you rest in peace.

I'm planning on reviewing/recommending a couple of movies on Halloween. I recommend this thing only if you're a masochist. Please don't give them your money. Based on the featurette, the Polonia brothers seem to have retired. I certainly don't want to give them any motivation. I'm thinking about scratching up the copy I got from Netflix.

I just checked IMDB. The Polonia brothers have been consistently releasing movies EVERY year. Splatter Beach is their latest effort. Never mind.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

30 Days of Night (2007)

I wasn't going to write this One up until I read Owen Gleiberman's revieW in the October 26 issuE of Entertainment Weekly. GleibermaN gives 30 Days OF Night a D rating and refers to It as a "soporific splatterfest" without realizing the oxmoronic quality of his phrasing. His scathing treatiSe continues as he sarastically derides the picture's basic premise As a "fright film that takes place entirely at night (what a revolutionary new concept!)" In this instance, his attack works, but ONLY if the film took place over the course of one regular night. It's right in the fucking title Mr. Gleiberman. 30 DAYS. A month of night. I'm pretty sure THAT's never been Done before. I guess Pitch Black cOmes pretty close to conveying an extended nightime, but I'm also pretty sUre Vin Diesel and Company were only on that rock for a day or two. Gleiberman calls Danny Huston's character, Marlow, a "tall, brooding, and rather natty scowler who bears a disquieting resemblance to Neil Tennant of the Pet Shop Boys". This isn't really true, but Gleiberman gets away with his "witty" little line because very few people even know what Neil Tennat looks like. The line that, for me, proved Gleiberman was having a bad day, when He wrote the review, was when he talks about Hartnett's character, Sheriff Eben Oleson. He actually says very little about Hartnett other than "he looks (like he's) about to cry", as if a malE character, the supposed tough guy, showing vulnerability is a contributing factor to a flawed picture. It's actually kind of refreshing. Look, Hartnett is far from a great actor, but he was more than proficient in this one. Did Gleiberman expect him to be like Chuck Norris or Steven Seagal? I might be wrong, but I think if you put any bad ass motherfucker in Oleson's situation there's an excellent chance he'd break down and cry like a little girl. Of course we are all entitled to our opinions and Mr. Gleiberman is certainly entitled to his. Unfortunately, far too many critics these days appear to choose an angle before seeing a picture, and then run with it. This movie is really critic proof, however, but it should still be reviewed on its own merits. Roger Ebert, of the Chicago Sun Times, wrote a perfectly fine, humorous review where he gave it two and a half stars (out of four) because it is "well made, well photographed, and plausibly acted and is better than it needs to be." Ebert, probably my favorite critic after the incomporable Vern, understands it's a genre film and reviewed it as such. I'm not sure Gleiberman understood that.

Of course none of that matters. What really matters is, what did I think? It's probably the best vampire picture since Blade 2. That's a pretty big fucking compliment actually because Blade 2 is pretty much a masterpiece and the ONLY film from that series I can watch more than once. David Slade (Hard Candy) did a more than competent job behind the camera, but the thing that really blew me away was the atmosphere, the sense of isolation and impending doom. Obviously, the first movie that might spring to mind is The Thing because of the arctic setting. It's the day of the first night before the annual month long darkness in the town of Barrow, Alaska, the northernmost town in the United States. Barrow is cut off from civilization by over 300 miles of wilderness and the only way in or out of town is the airport. So, when a mysterious stranger (Ben Foster), with receding gums and gristly stained teeth, wanders into town and demands some raw hamburger at the local diner one might think there would be some more questions asked. The stranger eventually ends up in a jail cell watched over by Sheriff Oleson (Josh Harnett) and forecasts a long fucking night ahead of everyone. It's not until all the cell phones are burned (I'm not sure how THEY managed to steal them all), the sleigh dogs are slaughtered, and the power is cut off that Oleson and friends start to think that maybe, just maybe, he might be right.

Exactly WHAT is coming, is not shown for a little while. Sure, we see silhouetes in the distance and hear sudden whooshes during an attack. These vampires are lightning quick and work their magic by grabbing a victim and pulling him or her into the darkness. Later, we learn that they are actually a society of vamps who have come thousands of miles to feed on Barrow, a town cloaked in 30 days of darkness. I guess I did have a question though. I mean, it's a great idea in theory, but Barrow can't have more than a population of 100 (especially after several of the townsfolk head south), ok, I think the sign indicated there were 121. Well, at least 75% are killed the first night. So, that's 29 more days of night to go with no more than 25 people left to feed on and the problem now become an issue of finding these people who, led by Hartnett and his pretty ex-wife Stella (Melissa George) have found a pretty decent hiding place in a hidden attic. I don't know, if Barrow had like a thousand people it would probably be a sound idea. The first night was like an all you can eat buffet at Old Country. The next 29 were more akin to dinner at one of those fancy french bistros i've heard about where snooty waiters dish out portions fit for a cabbage patch kid. Certainly wouldn't be my first choice. And, on top of the food supply running out, did I mention that this picture takes place in the northernmost town in the country? It's fucking cold. I guess that might not bother you too much if you're one of the undead and your blood's already cold. As Ben Foster's stranger tells us, "that ain't the cold coming, that's death."

Still, that minor plot hole aside, this is a pretty kick ass movie with some stunning photography. There were some snow squall images which were simply beautiful. The town of Barrow itself was a pretty amazing set, and we are even treated to a fantastic image of the first nightime massacre from above the town, as the camera slowly pans down mainstreet, as if mounted to a helicopter. I'll allow that this shot was most likely CGI, but it certainly didn't point itself out as such. The acting across the board was impressive, at least for this type of picture. No, no one's going to win an oscar, but they were all clearly comfortable and having fun in their roles. Special notice goes to Danny Huston (Children of Men) as the vampire leader Marlow, an actor who has played one of the most iconic villains of the last ten years in the unfortunately underseen film, The Proposition. Huston seems to relish the role and it's encouraging to see such a fine actor "slum" it every once in a while. The vampires speak in a strange gutteral language that sounds like a bunch of "click click derks", but adds to the overall creepiness. They do a lot of screeching and walk around with blood beards as they're clearly not into washing up after dinner. I think I saw Marilyn Manson as one of the vampires, but I'm not sure. Also effective, was Ben Foster, who I'm glad to see doesn't think too highly of himself to take what others might consider a throw away role and really turn it into something worth talking about. He kind of reminds me of a young Sean Penn, although, in this one, he looked like a very old, homeless Sean Penn.

The film is full of gory images and I loved how nothing came easy. By that, I mean, it usually took 3 or 4 good whacks with an axe before a head finally came off. Speaking of The Thing, there is one decapitation scene that reminded me of Rob Bottin's excellent work in that, where the head, after several good swings, was sort of hanging on by a few threads, probably the most disgusting scene. Watching this movie with an audience was pretty disturbing at times. I didn't really need to hear the rousing applause for the child decapitation scene, that was pretty much a firm crossing of the line. You guys are sick fucks.

This really is a terrific GENRE film. It's a perfect halloween movie. From what I've heard the ending here isn't quite as bleak as the ending of the graphic novel. Well, I wouldn't say we're actually treated to a happy ending, pretty much everyone that stayed behind in the town dies, including the aforementioned child. The film really accomplishes everything it set out to. I don't think I've seen vampires in the arctic before, so that was something new. It's an idea for a picture I wish I had thought of. The film has terrific atmosphere, plenty of the spraying red stuff, a few moments of humor, and a roving band of zombie-esque vampires. Between this and I Am Legend in December, I might be vampired out come January. But, I wouldn't count on it. Still, I both lament and rue the fact that Slade didn't find it necessary to show us Stella's, what must be freezing rock hard, nipples. Spoiler alert! She made it till dawn, so maybe in the sequel. End spoiler.

Friday, October 19, 2007

They Live (1988)

It's up to Rowdy Roddy Piper to save the world in John Carpenter's most unheralded classic, They Live. This picture deserves mention alongside other Carpenter classics such as Halloween, The Thing, Escape From New York, and Big Trouble in Little China. Piper plays John Nada, a mulletted drifter, who finds himself looking for construction work in 1980s Los Angeles. He befriends super badass Keith David (The Thing) and is introduced to his world of communal living. In other words, he's a bum. Society, it seems, has slowly been taking a turn during these Reagan years, as the destitute far outnumber the comfortable. Piper is an optimist, however, and believes if he puts in his time, good things will happen to him. Boy, he couldn't be more fucking wrong.

His unbridled optimism is squelched when he finds a pair of special sunglasses, which allow him to see the world as it really is. Subliminal messages everywhere! Conform! Consume! Marry and Reproduce! Obey! And, printed on cash: This is your god! If that wasn't enough, it seems one out of every three humans is, in reality, a walking fucking skeleton from outer space! Of course, Piper won't stand for this and at one point get's to utter one of the greatest lines in film history, "I have come here to chew bubblegum and kick ass.....and I'm all out of bubblegum."

The film is probably most noteworthy for featuring the greatest back alley brawl in the history of back alley brawls,in my opinion, between Piper and David. Lasting nearly seven minutes, it goes on long past any semblance of reason. I even forgot why they were fighting, until Piper tried forcing a pair of shades on a nearly comatose David. It's certainly not a clean fight as we're witness to vicious ball crushing, hand biting, titty twisting, and a couple of back breakers thrown in for good measure. Crank up the volume for this scene, trust me.

This is more of an 80s style sci-fi actioner than horror film, but on that level, it really is magnificent. Although, I have to say, I'm not sure what's creepier. The unmasked aliens or Meg Foster's (Leviathan) impersonation of a human? (see directly below). Scary, isn't it?

There's an unbelievable scene where Foster throws Piper out of a three story home, built on the side of a hill, so we're really talking about a four story fall here, but because he's Piper he comes out ok. Of course, this being an 80s film, we've got a final battle royale with Keith David and Roddy Piper tag teaming those Reagonite aliens. This is probably one of those pictures you'll either love or you'll hate. The message is out there front and center, but dammit, Carpenter and company are so earnest in portraying it. The movie features superb performances from David, who needs more exposure and Raymond Jacques as Street Preacher. As for Rowdy Roddy Piper, well, let's just say he's got a future outside of the ring. He was terrific and blows guys like The Rock and Brian Bozworth (yes, I'm aware he was a football player) away when he says things like "Brother. Life's a bitch, and she's back in heat."

This movies worth a rental, at least, and, if anything, should succeed in bringing back the wearing sunglasses indoors look. Oh, shit, it's 2007? Fuck. Still, I stand by this one. Also, I stand by Piper, even if the last film he shot was called Street Team Massacre with Troma's Lloyd Kaufman. Sadly, he didn't use this film to launch his acting career because immediately following They Live, he played a cowboy in the little heard of Buy & Cell and followed that up with The Love Boat: A Valentine Voyage. It's time for John Carpenter to dust him off and put him in a good movie, but unfortunately, Carpenter, himself, hasn't made a good one since, um, They Live.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

House By the Cemetary (1981)

"No one will ever know whether the children are monsters or the monsters are children"
-Henry James

Lucio Fulci (Zombie 2 & City of the Living Dead), the director, later admitted he fabricated that quote.

At times terrifying. At times an imcomprehensible mess. Supposedly, inspired by H.P. Lovecraft, but other than the New England setting there really wasn't any comparison. Basically, a pschiatric researcher, Norman, and his family (wife named Lucy and a son named Bob) travel to New Whitney, Massachussetts to stay in an old house by a cemetary. The previous owner killed his mistress and then hung himself, so it seems like a perfectly reasonable place to bring an impressionable young lad. It doesn't take long before Bob is talking to dead girls and playing with creepy dolls. The first night, the family is subjected to a wailing child (not there own, so it must be the wind?), creaking floors, and heavy breathing. Later, they actually hear growling. Eventually, Lucy finds a tomb underneath the floorboards, but it's fine because as Norman tells her "most of the old houses in New England have tombs in them. Really, this isn't New York dear". Well, sure enough, I paused the film and went down into the basement of my apartment. He's fucking right, a god damned tomb. I hope my landlord doesn't raise the rent.

The house in this picture has the creepiest basement in moving picture history, one that even out creepifies my apartment basement. The first time the family goes down there, they are attacked by a giant bat, a bat that Norman pins to a table and stabs repeatedly. This is the kind of scene Fulci is known for. Remember the wood shard to the eyeball scene in Zombi 2? Well, there's nothing here quite that grotesque, but we do witness a firepoker to the abdomen, scissors to the back of a head (and out the mouth), more scissors to a chest, some pretty gory throat ripping, um...hmmm, what else? Oh yeah I forgot about a the maggots pouring out of the stomach scene. I'm pretty sure the villain here used a wooden shard to poke an eyeball, because when we later see the fire poker corpse she is missing her eye, but unfortunately, the director decided to show good taste and cut away. Speaking of cutting away, after a pre title nude scene, there were no more tits, so that was kind of a let down.

Anyway, the villain in this thing is not exactly what you'd expect. It's a late 19th century (movie takes place during the 1970s) scientist named Dr. Freudstein, who had perfected a technique to prolong his life, which involves regenerating his own cells by using the body parts of the living. So, he's lived in the celler for about 100 years, wearing some kind of skin mask that resembles a world war 1 gas mask, and also results in the terrifying heavy breathing Norman and family had been subjected to earlier in the film. Oh, what's that? Exactly what you expected, you say?

When you really break this one down, it's pretty much the opposite of Hellraiser. In that one, Frank, the villain, regenerates himself using the flesh and blood of the living. Sounds similar, but wait. In Hellraiser, he lives in the attic, which is pretty much the opposite of celler. Also, Hellraiser takes place in England, EXACTLY the opposite of New England. Frank has the Claire Huggins character bring dates home, and then she kills them with a hammer. In this thing, we think Freudstein is using the babysitter Anne to lure his victims, but no, he kills them himself. Is having someone kill people for you the opposite of killing them yourself? Or, is it just kinda lazy. Not sure. Anyway, back to Anne, the babysitter. What a physical beauty with an amazing pair of brown eyes. We're treated to several closeups of those eyes, and for a minute, I thought Sergio Leone was directing this one. She inexplicably shows up, sorta like the creepy nanny in the Omen. We see her cleaning up blood from Dr. Freustein's kills, so clearly she is with him right? Then why does he stab her repeatedly with a pair of scissors, and why does she seem shocked to see some freak of nature living in the basement before she dies? What did she think that red stuff was she was scrubbing up earlier? Karo syrup? The little annoying boy, Bob, hears her scream, but can't save her. Later, he goes down to the celler and trips over Anne's disembodied head, but his mom tells him Anne was just fooling around, so Bob gets annoyed that Anne would play such a cruel trick, like taking off her own head, on him.

There is a cemetary adjacent to the house, as well as IN the dining room. As far as I could tell, Freudstein's wife and daughter, likely the girl that Bob talks to, are buried there. Hmm, All the scary scenes involve the celler, but it gets pretty laughable at the end when the entire Norman family goes down there to confront the crazy doctor, who never talks, but just breathes heavily. I'd like to ask him if his life is really worth living, but I don't think he'd give me a very thoughtful response. The ending is completely muddled, but I laughed out loud when Bob came out of the celler after leaving his parents to their horrific demise and encounters the Freudstein women, who treat him as their own. Was Bob killed in the basement? Is he now a ghost? If so, where are his parents? Shouldn't they be ghosts too? Nothing really made sense, but I was still creeped out. Sometimes the best horror movies don't have to make sense. It's all about creating an atmosphere and mixing in a few terrifying set pieces. If that's what you're looking for in a horror picture, this one fits the bill. If you want nudity, don't miss the first minute of this one or you'll be pissed. The dubbing was fine, except for Bob. I think they got a little girl to do his voice and he also sounded the same whether he was terrifyed or playing with his race cars.

It's an older film, I know, but perfect for Halloween. If you look at the DVD cover, you'll know pretty much what to expect. My first thought when I started watching this was "it's a low rent Shining" and I stand by that, but, now, would like to modify it a little by saying "it's a low rent Shining, only if Jack was good and named Norman instead, and his wife was hot (no offense Shelly Duval), and his young boy Bob talked like a girl, but instead of a haunted hotel, we have a seemingly haunted house, but there's actually a physical presence in the celler, sorta like Frank from Hellraiser, and it kills everyone that stays in the house, so he can extend his pretty pathetic life indefinitely, and he's got a dead family, I'm sure he killed them, like in The Shining, only he doesn't have twin girls, but his daughter still talks to Bob, who seems to have telepathy at the beginning, but that plot strand is completely dropped...and instead of a topiary garden...or a garden maze, we have a cemetary, but nothing of note really happens there, except for the time when the real estate agent backs over a tombstone and then curses that same tombstone for dinging up her car, and there's also some nudity in this one too, but it's far superior to the nudity in The Shining bathtub scene". I guess I'll end there.