"KEEP BUSTIN'."

Simon Says

My original goal with Slasher Search was to find the ‘70s and ‘80s slasher gems that I (and maybe everybody) had been missing. That’s still my hope, but as the pickings get slimmer and the years move on I might as well open it up to a movie like this – it’s from 2006, but I never heard of it, and it seemed promising from the box. The premise sounded potentially fun (Crispin Glover killing campers in the woods with elaborate contraptions) and it was even by a known director, Bill Dear, the co-writer of T2.

Or that’s what I was thinking, but that’s William Wisher. Bill Dear is the director of HARRY AND THE HENDERSONS, IF LOOKS COULD KILL and ANGELS IN THE OUTFIELD. And in many ways this does live up to what you expect in a gory horror movie from a guy known for cheesy family movies. It’s about a vanload of horny youths going on a camping trip, and they’re about as broad as they come. They’re all complete assholes who are trying to cheat on their girlfriends or steal their friend’s boyfriends. They like to stick their junk in each others’ faces and trespass and act obnoxious to the locals. It seems like there’s a rule that any scene where the viewer went more than a minute without wanting to punch one of the characters in the face had to be excised. (read the rest of this shit…)

The Seventh Curse

Let me try to explain this in pizza terms. You know how every once in a while you might get a pizza, and it’s not of the highest possible quality? They got all the ingredients there, but maybe the proportions are a little off, or it was cooked too much or too little or something, so it’s not the greatest, but at the same time it has crust and sauce and cheese and toppings and those ingredients together are always gonna taste pretty good? THE SEVENTH CURSE is like that. It’s kind of too gooey and falling apart but it has pineapple, fake ham and jalapenos, and that’s pretty much my favorite toppings. (I’ve come to prefer Mama Lil’s Peppers*, but this one needed more spice.)

It’s a supernatural action adventure with Chow Yun Fat playing the pipe-smoking occult expert Wisely (called Wesley on the subtitles of the DVD I rented), a character from a series of 156(!) novels. In this one he’s kind of a supporting character because it’s based on another book series centered on his colleague Dr. Yuen, here played by Chin Siu-ho (TAI CHI MASTER, FIST OF LEGEND). The books are by Ni Kuang, who in between writing enough novels to make Stephen King look like a lazy no good piece of shit also found the time to bang out screenplays for DIRTY HO, THE 36TH CHAMBER OF SHAOLIN, HEROES OF THE EAST, THE 8 DIAGRAM POLE FIGHTER, and literally hundreds of other movies.

He didn’t write this one (that was Wong Jing [MERCENARIES FROM HONG KONG] and Yuen Gai-chi [DRUNKEN MASTER II]), but would you believe he hosts it? It opens with him, playing himself, surrounded by women and talking to the camera.

(read the rest of this shit…)

3 From Hell

(I guess I should always say this, but SPOILERS)

The psychotic Firefly clan – introduced in Rob Zombie’s HOUSE OF 1000 CORPSES (2003) and made more vivid in THE DEVIL’S REJECTS (2005) are finally back in 3 FROM HELL, another mix of sun-soaked fugitive murder spree and stylized cartoon that’s at least a little bit of a comeback for Zombie after the crowd-sourced 31 (2016). That one had nice cinematography and performances but it was such a limp “I guess this is the kind of shit you expect from me?” greatest hits throwaway I couldn’t even muster the enthusiasm to write a review.

Since 3 FROM HELL is not as good as REJECTS, and not as big of a leap from its previous chapter, it doesn’t feel entirely necessary. And that makes it harder to ignore the hollowness of these movies. As far as I can tell they’re not saying much, just trying to be provocatively inappropriate, and they’re less about human beings than about Zombie’s fetishes: weird clowns, redneck chic, tattoos, bushy beards, satanic symbols, Manson Family nostalgia, ’70s rock montages, kitschy western gear over cheeky retro-t-shirts, black and white monster movies playing on old TVs. But I can appreciate most of that stuff, so I can enjoy an occasional dip into Zombie’s distinct mix of uncomfortably fucked up shit, cool visuals, some laughs and some stretches where you realize you’re too invested in these terrible people and feel like an asshole. (read the rest of this shit…)

Possession: Until Death Do You Part

POSSESSION: UNTIL DEATH DO YOU PART is a 1987 low budget slasher movie that’s not, as far as I can tell, a sequel to Andrzej Zulawski’s POSSESSION. That’s too bad, because there’s plenty of room for DTV type followups to that one. It could just be in the rehash style of WILD THINGS 2 or CRUEL INTENTIONS 2 – some other couple breaking up with one of them fucking a weird blob of tentacles. You could gender swap or you could have it be the two blobs are breaking up and one is fucking a human, there are many ways to mix it up. Or of course if it was me I would try to get Sam Neill to come back (or recast with Billy Zane) and lean heavily into his character’s background as a spy. More of a shitty cloak and dagger thing but with relationships and slime and what not. This movie has none of that.

It opens with a dude dragging a dead woman by one arm from the yard of his big house to a spot just inside the surrounding woods, where he digs her a grave. At first they’re not showing his face, but then they do, and he’s babbling animatedly about having thought she was different or some bullshit like that. His name is Frankie (John Robert Johnston, who became an executive producer of reality shows including Rampage, When Vacations Attack, Pranked and Bad Dog!), and he’s got a bunch of other dead women in his closet, plus he kidnaps a live one named Madeline (Sharlene Martin from FRIDAY THE 13TH PART VIII: JASON TAKES MANHATTAN) from a parking garage. He brings her home, says weird things to her, forces her to put on his mom’s dress, yells at her when she pulls down her top for a second because what if Mother saw her do that!? (read the rest of this shit…)

Possession

I’ve been meaning to see POSSESSION – the 1981 French/West German co-production from Polish director Andrzej Zulawski – for years. I’ve heard superlatives from its devotees, knowing little of its plot, just a description of its strange, arty vibe. But holy shit does it live up to the hype!

It’s a crazy fuckin horror movie. It’s a crazier fuckin relationship drama. Mark (Sam Neill right after OMEN III: THE FINAL CONFLICT) comes home to Berlin from a business trip, meets his wife Anna (Isabelle Adjani, THE DRIVER) outside their apartment, is frustrated that she hasn’t made a decision yet. It seems things are not working, they don’t know what to do, and are doing a bad job of faking it in front of their young son Bob (Michael Hogben). Anna is manic and indecisive, and Mark finds out she’s been sleeping with some guy he doesn’t know named Heinrich (Heinz Bennent, THE LOST HONOR OF KATHARINA BLUM). (read the rest of this shit…)

Undertow

Right after Kathryn Bigelow and Eric Red wrote NEAR DARK for her to direct, they wrote UNDERTOW for him. Her vampire movie got off the ground first, and it was almost a decade later when his weird thriller about three weirdos out in the woods during a hurricane became a Showtime movie.

It’s not supernatural, and maybe not even horror, but the mood somehow does remind me of NEAR DARK. Lou Diamond Phillips (RENEGADES) plays Jack (last name Ketchum, apparently!), who’s introduced in his car, drifting to the next town after – as he explains in voiceover narration – falling for a sheriff’s daughter. Too dangerous. But before he can find a new place to stay he drives his truck off the road into a forest and wakes up the captive of a paranoid old redneck named Lyle (Charles Dance, LAST ACTION HERO) and his timid wife Willie (Mia Sara, TIMECOP), who I assumed at first was his daughter. They live in an isolated home in some North Carolina woods that’s somewhere between a hermit’s shack and a luxury resort lodge. It looks cold and some of it is built out of rusty car doors, but it’s huge, with various buildings and facilities. (read the rest of this shit…)

Near Dark

NEAR DARK is what happens when young, hungry Kathryn Bigelow comes off of co-directing the arty biker movie THE LOVELESS and teams up with the writer of THE HITCHER to do horror movies. She and Eric Red sat down and wrote two scripts together, one for each to direct. A producer says on the making-of featurette that he trusted her to direct, then admits he told her up front that she had three days to convince him not to fire her.

Man, firing her would’ve been a huge fuck up! It’s definitely a cool scenario they came up with, but the primary appeal of the movie is Bigelow’s style, mood, attitude. I suppose the alternate timeline scab that took over would’ve at least had the great cast she put together. Yes, three of them (Lance Henriksen, Bill Paxton and Jenette Goldstein) had already been together in ALIENS (a movie that exists in some form within the NEAR DARK universe, unless the “ALIEN5” we see on a marquee meant PROMETHEUS). Bigelow correctly guessed that they’d not only be perfect for the characters, but would carry over a chemistry and familiarity that would work well as this outlaw family. Reportedly she hired them all separately and all were worried about the perception of following ALIENS with a low budget vampire movie. But they knew what they were doing. They chose right. (read the rest of this shit…)

20th Outlawversary Excellencefest


Today is, by my best guess, the 20th anniversary of Then Fuck You Jack: The Life + Art of Vern, the humble collection of movie reviews I crudely constructed on the free “home page” platform Geocities way back in the nineteen-god-damn-nineties. What started as a goof transformed, over the course of two decades, into some sort of life’s mission. I’ve learned, had fun, made friends, and written about a shit load of movies. More than 3,000, I’d estimate, because you’re looking at post #3,508 (including columns, blog posts and the posts I used to do to link to the new stuff).

I hope that output earns me the right to be self-indulgent today, because otherwise I’m in trouble! I went back to the beginning to prepare this retrospective, and many of the early ones are embarrassing, but most of them still make me laugh. I think I’ve lost some of that youthful craziness over time (sorry), but I also think I’ve gotten way better, especially around 2015. I’m glad it came that late, because I feel like I’m still growing. Still striving.

I look at everything I wrote and remember all the tragic shit I was going through during some of the later years and I can’t remember how I did it. I guess I was escaping into my work, but also stubbornly clinging to what I wanted to do with my life, even while spending so much of it waiting in hospitals. I probly owe some people some apologies.

But mostly thank yous. Few will make it through this whole post, so I want to do those first. Truly, sincerely, if it weren’t for you (yes – YOU!) I would’ve stopped before I ever got good. So many of you have commented or kept in touch over the years, or you drop me a line and tell me you’ve been reading since Ain’t It Cool, or you just discovered me or whatever. You make me feel like I’m not crazy, there are other people who are passionate about the same silly shit I am, or at least are entertained to read about it. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. And extra super beyond the call of duty thanks to Jacob Martin for once telling me I should keep writing reviews when I had stopped, to Phil Blankenship and david j. moore for getting me to show my face in public, to Clubside Chris Rowley for a ridiculous amount of work and financial support to create outlawvern.com and keep it online.

I need to emphasize that last one. Chris was there to catch me when Geocities finally shriveled up and died about ten years in. He not only gave me my url, but built this whole archive and everything on here. Before him if I remember right I’d just have a page for each letter of the alphabet, so if I finished the review of BEDEVILLED I’d paste it onto the page with all the movies that start with the letter B. Imagine if I was still doing that! He helps me with all my computer shit, so I know he has a particular set of skills, and I know right now he’s in need of a gig, so if anyone has/knows something for him please get in contact with him – his email is clubside360@hotmail.com.

And finally, thank you to my friends and family, including my parents (who gave me the leeway to decide what I wanted to do with myself even when they didn’t understand it), and most especially the anonymous Mrs. Vern, who has done more for me than words can express. Words is stupid.

I figured 20 years was a big a deal, but I wasn’t sure how to celebrate, besides getting drunk and doing karaoke, which is my plan for tonight. I decided it was a good occasion for self evaluation, so in the last few weeks I went through my entire archive and have compiled a year-by-year look back over important events and favorite writings from my ongoing climb up the holy mountain of excellence.

(read the rest of this shit…)

Bedevilled

BEDEVILLED is a powerful South-Korean film from 2010 about a disastrous reunion between childhood friends on the tiny, barely populated island of Mu-do. From the cover I expected something more gothic and intensely gory, and maybe supernatural? But it’s not like that. It’s all leading up to a bloodbath, so I wouldn’t deny its horror credentials. But it mostly plays out as a very involving character drama. So keep that in mind if planning a Halloween celebration.

It’s definitely a morality tale. Hae-won (Ji Sung-won, EMPIRE OF LUST) is a young bank worker in Seoul. At the beginning she coldly refuses to loan to a woman who’s about to lose her home. It reminded me of DRAG ME TO HELL, but she doesn’t get cursed for it, and she’s not doing it under professional pressure. In fact when she steps out her co-worker takes over and does help the woman. So it establishes her lack of compassion. (read the rest of this shit…)

Rush Week

One problem with doing Slasher Search every year is that I’ve watched so many vaguely similar movies that they really blend together. It’s disturbing how many times I’ve looked at a box having little idea if I’ve seen it or not. So when I came across RUSH WEEK I had to think it through. I’d seen FINAL EXAM, THE HOUSE ON SORORITY ROW, KILLER PARTY, SORORITY HOUSE MASSACRE, THE INITIATION, GIRLS NITE OUT… but no, this was an ’80s college campus slasher movie I had not seen.

At least it was supposed to be an ’80s movie. It was made in ’88, but it went straight to video in ’91. So it’s from when Chucky and Maniac Cop were born, HELLRAISER, PHANTASM, SLEEPAWAY CAMP, RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD and FRIGHT NIGHT were at Part II, and Michael Meyers was returning, but it came out when SILENCE OF THE LAMBS was best picture and they were killing off Freddy and moving on to finding people under the stairs and shit. It was left over from another era, not just in its approach to horror, but in its glorification of dumb fraternity assholes. It sort of centers on frat president Jeff Jacobs (Dean Hamilton, who went on to write, direct and produce such films as SAVAGE LAND starring Corbin Bernsen and BLONDE AND BLONDER starring Pamela Anderson and Denise Richards) and his rivalry with some other more preppie frat. They play such hilarious pranks as going to the other house’s presentation to tell parents “we’re the first homosexual fraternity on campus” and replace part of a film they’re showing with gay porn. (read the rest of this shit…)