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Well, I finally went and did it – I published my new book Worm on a Hook. I want to be a little vague, but basically it’s a horror story about a group of friends who rent a cabin for Memorial Day weekend and run afoul of a seemingly-invincible killer back from the dead. And then, I promise you, it’s on. The goal was to find overlap in the conventions of traditional slasher movies and the ’80s and ’90s action I love, and meld them into one ass-kicking novel. I’m very proud of the results, and I think you’ll not only enjoy the story but get a kick out of spotting the ways I apply concepts from reviews and Seagalogy to my own storytelling.
I hope to find this one a bigger audience than I’ve managed for Niketown, so forgive me for going into promotions mode for a bit and leaving this as a sticky post above the new reviews. I’m available for podcasts and interviews – email me at email@example.com for inquiries. And if you read it, let me know what you think!
NOTE: If you’re outside of the U.S. your local version of Amazon should have it too – try searching for “worm on a hook vern” to find it.
I remember the sci-fi/horror movie PANDORUM coming out – I thought it was more recent than 2009, but that’s how it goes – and I don’t think I heard anything good about it. It was not something that was on my list to see until I found out Cung Le was in it, and then it still took me years to get to it. But now I can report that, though certainly not perfect, this is a very interesting space movie with lots of cool ideas. It’s in English with a decent budget and stars Ben Foster and Dennis Quaid, but director Christian Alvart is the German guy who did the serial killer movie ANTIBODIES. So it’s gonna be a little more off-kilter than most movies produced by Paul W.S.Anderson.
It has some overlap with what I call the Space Loneliness movies, because it’s about some people waking up from hypersleep during a 123 year interstellar trip. It’s different, though, because they’re not just the small crew of one ship like DARK STAR, ALIEN, BLOOD MACHINES, etc. The Elysium is built to carry much of the earth’s population to a new home on the planet Tanis, so it’s enormous, and when they run into other people they’ve never met them before. (read the rest of this shit…)
I’ve known for decades that Ice-T was in one of the many movies called BODY COUNT, but I never considered watching it until my friend Laird mentioned on Letterboxd* that it takes place on Thanksgiving. So thank you Laird, sort of, for inspiring some seasonal viewing. The only other Thanksgiving movie I had rented was HOME SWEET HOME, which I turned off when I immediately realized I’d seen it before. It’s the 1981 movie starring Body By Jake as a psycho, but they tricked me into thinking it was something newer by writing “Vinessa Shaw (Eyes Wide Shut)” on the cover. (She had a small part at about 4 or 5 years old.)
I didn’t realize I’d never reviewed HOME SWEET HOME. Next year, I guess. It probly would’ve been more fun than BODY COUNT, a thoroughly mediocre and largely uneventful low budget home invasion thriller, its one benefit being its recognizable cast. Daniel (Justin Theroux two years before MULLHOLLAND DR.) is bringing his girlfriend Susanne (Alyssa Milano two years after EMBRACE OF THE VAMPIRE) to meet and spend Thanksgiving with his very rich family, who he hates. They’re all much more snooty than him and ask him condescending questions about his job and if he’s still in “that cult,” which he clarifies was “Buddhist study group.” His drunk brother Justin (Nicholas Walker, Santa Barbara, who I honestly mistook for Linden Ashby the entire time) is particularly insulting, but somehow Susanne is nice about it to the point that it seems like they might end up together. (read the rest of this shit…)
Neither MIMIC or MIMIC 2 seemed to go over all that well, but that didn’t stop Dimension Films from releasing MIMIC 3: SENTINEL in 2003. This is probly my favorite of the three, and at the very least it deserves high marks for taking advantage of the pre-sold nature of the format to take a weird left turn, not at all the lower-budget-rehash approach of so many DTV sequels. It follows a drastically different template: the Hitchcockian voyeur thriller. It even uses a quasi-Saul Bass movie poster font for the title. But it doesn’t feel like they took an old suspense thriller script and grafted a bug man onto it, because it ties into and builds off of the world of MIMIC in smart and interesting ways.
This one is written and directed by J.T. Petty, whose THE BURROWERS I’ve been meaning to check out forever. He also did SOFT FOR DIGGING (a $5,000 student feature that I believe got him this gig), S&MANand HELLBENDERS. Here he’s made a movie that kind of feels like it comes out of the same school as early Soderbergh or Nolan – the hyper-intelligent indie guys that were more into old noirs than drive-in movies. (read the rest of this shit…)
One thing we’ve learned from sci-fi and horror films is that monsters and weird things find ways to survive, to evolve, to adapt, to keep coming back. It was true in the case of the Judas Breed, a bug genetically engineered by Dr. Susan Tyler to be a sellout traitor that kills off the diseased roaches of the Manhattan sewers and then dies out, that instead managed to squirt out tens of thousands of generations in a couple years and evolve into a six foot termite-mantis that can mimic the shape of a human to survive on the streets. It was also the case with the MIMIC movie series itself. Guillermo Del Toro and the Miramax marketing department created an identifiable enough brand, the Weinsteins or somebody okayed a direct-to-video sequel, and with a third of the budget and no need to attract box office I suspect it was able to be hatched with less of their scrutiny and meddling. While MIMIC is an interesting movie that doesn’t entirely deliver as slick mainstream entertainment, its sequels are in a good position to exceed expectations. They’re better than you fear and different than you expect, thus fulfilling the potential of the DTV sequel format. (read the rest of this shit…)
It really didn’t occur to me, when I decided to finally rewatch MIMIC, that it was a movie about a pandemic. One of the main characters is the deputy director of the CDC! But it’s not at all similar to the pandemic we’re currently in – “Strickler’s Disease” seems to only affect children, putting them in comas. Because it’s spread by cockroaches, aforementioned CDC guy Dr. Peter Mann (Jeremy Northam, THE NET, AMISTAD, THE INVASION) recruits a brilliant entomologist, Dr. Susan Tyler (then-recent Oscar winner Mira Sorvino, between ROMY AND MICHELE’S HIGH SCHOOL REUNION and THE REPLACEMENT KILLERS), who comes up with a novel plan: she genetically engineers a new bug called the “Judas Breed” that infiltrates cockroach colonies and pukes up a bunch of enzymes that increase their metabolism so they starve to death. Give the roaches a disease to stop them from giving us one.
Three years later, Strickler’s disease has been wiped out, the two doctors are married, and everything seems fine, except weird shit is happening under Manhattan. A mysterious vagrant type guy drags a priest underground, and only an autistic kid named Chuy (Alexander Goodwin) witnesses it. Chuy’s guardian Manny (Giancarlo Giannini, BLACK BELLY OF THE TARANTULA) is a shoe shiner, so the kid has become affixed on people’s footwear, and for some reason he calls this attacker “Mr. Funny Shoes.” I don’t know why, but that’s one of my favorite details in the movie. (read the rest of this shit…)
HIS HOUSE is a horror movie that recently went straight to Netflix. The kind that played Sundance and that critics love (I just checked and it’s still 100% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes after 82 reviews). That’s about all I knew about it, which is a luxury we have during this time when many of the big movies go straight to streaming. I like and recommend watching movies blind when you can, but this is a review, so here we go.
It’s about a refugee couple who escape South Sudan and are given a temporary home on the outskirts of London, only to find something evil there. It’s one of these stories that relates supernatural happenings to trauma and makes the line sort of blurry for the characters so they don’t at first know which one they’re experiencing. It benefits from great leads and strong direction by rookie Remi Weekes (also writer, with a story credit to Felicity Evans & Toby Venables). (read the rest of this shit…)
There’s something going on in the world of indie action that I don’t think gets enough attention. It started in 2016 with KICKBOXER: VENGEANCE, a fun remake of the Cannon classic, with stuntman Alain Moussi in the lead and JCVD himself, in eccentric character actor mode, playing the mentor. It was directed by John Stockwell, who did pretty good with IN THE BLOOD and some of his other movies, so when the screenwriter took over as director for the sequel that didn’t seem like a good sign to me.
I was so wrong! KICKBOXER: RETALIATION turned out even better than the first one, with much more ambitious and assured direction, including complex choreography with great long take camera work. Of course, writer/director Dimitri Logothetis wasn’t some screenwriter getting his first shot at directing – he’d had a long and unusual filmmaking history that started in ’80s b-movies, producing HARDBODIES 2 and directing SLAUGHTERHOUSE ROCK, and included the 1989 boxing documentary CHAMPIONS FOREVER. Incidentally he’s also a blackbelt in Kenpo karate, having been taught by Ed Parker (he says he got to train with Elvis three times).
Now Logothetis has reunited with Moussi for another action vehicle, not a remake but a sci-fi story he first tested out as a comic book. And since it has a crazy premise and a good supporting role for Nicolas Cage maybe more people will notice this time. (read the rest of this shit…)
YOU GOT SERVED (2004) is a formula melodrama about a subculture of fiercely competitive dance crews in L.A. At night they have showdowns in what looks like a boxing gym, taking turns doing routines, the victor decided by the crowds who fill the place to the brim and cheer so loud it sounds like a stadium. In the opening scene sometimes they jump and when they land their feet seem to cause the earth to shake, as if they are Titans. But mostly the movie tries to seem down to earth.
It centers on Elgin (Marques Houston, BEBE’S KIDS, HOUSE PARTY 3) and his best friend David (Omar “Omarion” Grandberry, WRONG SIDE OF TOWN). They and their friends are incredible dancers but sadly they talk about it more as a “way out” than an art or a passion or something they were born to do, even though it must be all of those things. In the opening battle the prize is $600, but I counted at least eight people they have to split it between. I’m sure battling is way better than working an 8 hour shift, but I don’t think you could win enough of these to pay the rent. So David and Elgin reluctantly supplement it by doing deliveries for a drug dealer named Emerald (Michael “Bear” Taliferro, HALF PAST DEAD; later directed STEPPIN’: THE MOVIE). (read the rest of this shit…)
On the podcast SO DO WE STILL LIKE THIS?, Shawn M of Canada convenes with friends and guests to revisit pieces of pop culture from when he was younger (mostly the ’80s and ’90s) and see how they hold up. He was kind enough to have me on to talk about WORM ON A HOOK and my other books, but more importantly he let me be on the episode that revisits the 1996 film THE PHANTOM! He actually hadn’t seen it. I had. I was honestly so hyped to do this because I really believe there’s alot to discuss about this movie and I enjoyed the conversation. Let me know what you think.