So once again we have survived.

Archive for October, 2015

Halloween H20: Twenty Years Later

Friday, October 30th, 2015

tn_H20Earlier this month when I reviewed HALLOWEEN II I wrote that it was “easily one of the best or the best HALLOWEEN sequel they made.” I was being a little cagey, saving it for today to reveal my opinion that the actual best sequel is 1998’s HALLOWEEN H20: TWENTY YEARS LATER. First I watched it again and verified that the verdict still stands now that we’re only a couple years away from being able to make HALLOWEEN H20-20: HALLOWEEN H20 TWENTY YEARS LATER. Also this time I learned that it plays even better when watched immediately after II.

It seems designed for that, because it begins with “Mr. Sandman” by the Chordettes, the same thing that played as Laurie rode off in the ambulance at the end of II. Unlike the other sequels it leaves Loomis dead after blowing himself up with Michael (Donald Pleasance had passed away by this point anyway). But Laurie isn’t the only major character to survive II: there was also Marion Chambers (Nancy Stephens), Loomis’s nurse colleague. That’s who Michael comes after first.

Marion’s still working as a nurse, and still chain smoking. She comes home to her house in a different Illinois suburb besides Haddonfield and finds it broken into. The police take their sweet time coming, but two neighbor boys (one played by Joseph Gordon Levitt, SHADOWBOXER, KILLSHOT, LINCOLN) keep her company while she waits. I like that because in HALLOWEEN Laurie tried to run to a neighbor’s house for help and they turned off the lights and wouldn’t answer the door. Marion does have helpful neighbors, but things don’t turn out any better.

Of course this is the opening kill scene, but it’s also a strategic move by Michael, who ransacks Marion’s office, searches her files and leaves an empty one labeled “Laurie Strode,” signaling that he’s figured out the whereabouts of his sister (a triumphantly returning Jamie Lee Curtis), last survivor of the Halloween Murders. She’s in California, working as headmistress at a boarding school attended by her 17 year old son John (introducing Josh Hartnett) under the assumed name Kari Tate. (read the rest of this shit…)

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.

The Return of the Living Dead

Thursday, October 29th, 2015

tn_rotldThere are a bunch of movies that I consider among my very favorites, that I refer to all the time, and then when I try to make a link to them in another review I realize what in God’s name, how have I not officially reviewed the greatest zombie movie ever made by somebody who is not named George Romero? And what does this say about me as a person?

Not being made by Romero was actually kind of the whole point of this one. Romero and NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD co-writer (and infamous 30th Anniversary Edition maker) John Russo disagreed with Romero about how to do a sequel. Romero thought it should be one of the best movies of all time and Russo wanted to go a different direction. So Romero made DAWN OF THE DEAD and Russo wrote a book called THE RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD which apparently starts with a bus crash in a small town where the locals aren’t able to impale the brains of the dead like they usually do. (The book is very rare and pricey so I haven’t read it for myself).

The film rights ended up with Tobe Hooper with DARK STAR star/Jodorowsky’s DUNE would-be effects guy/ALIEN writer Dan O’Bannon working on the script. When Hooper left to do LIFEFORCE instead O’Bannon took over as director and rewrote the whole thing to be more humorous and have nothing to do with the book. (Russo got a story credit along with Rudy Ricci, another Romero buddy who wrote THERE’S ALWAYS VANILLA and was one of the bikers in DAWN OF THE DEAD. In the end Russo wrote the novelization of the movie that came out of the book that he wrote in order to make into a movie.) (read the rest of this shit…)

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.

The Fog

Wednesday, October 28th, 2015

tn_fogFive minutes before midnight and the 100th anniversary of the founding of his coastal California town of Antonio Bay, John Houseman tells a ghost story to a group of kids gathered around a campfire. He claims the town was founded on gold stolen from a deliberately sunken pirate ship (like in the cool samurai movie GOYOKIN, or the Tom Laughlin western THE MASTER GUNFIGHTER), and the original owners will be coming back tonight for what’s theirs. This would be corny as a wraparound story, but it’s perfect as a prologue and a warning. We enjoy the art of oral storytelling and a brief pause before the movie marches into an atmospheric title sequence set to a great synth score that could only mean this is a John Carpenter film.

This is more of an ensemble than many Carpenter movies. I’d say the lead is Stevie Wayne (Adrienne Barbeau), local DJ who broadcasts out of a lighthouse she owns. She ties the other characters together because they hear her voice and music wherever they go. She plays mostly old timey jazz, which makes for a good soundtrack and also can sound eerie when echoing tinnily in an empty room.

Then you have Nick Castle (Tom Atkins), a local driving home late at night who picks up a young hitchhiker named Elizabeth (Jamie Lee Curtis). Think about this. Curtis as Laurie Strode, with her presumed virginity, was patient zero for the claim in SCREAM and other places that only a virgin can survive a horror movie. In this one her character gets picked up by an older stranger and is in bed with him within the hour. This is never implied to be a bad thing and they both survive and are heroic. Isn’t that what they call “sex positive”? And does a “sex positive” cancel out a “sex = death”? (I’m not good at math.) (read the rest of this shit…)

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.

Deadly Obsession

Wednesday, October 28th, 2015

tn_deadlyobsessionslashersearch15DEADLY OBSESSION is not the hidden gem I’m always looking for in a Slasher Search, but I suppose it deserves credit for seemingly trying copy other works in the stalker/slasher subgenre while also not really fitting the mold at all. So at least it’s different. Kind of.

The obsessed individual of the title is just credited as John Doe (Joe Paradise) and he’s an openly crazy maintenance man who gets yelled at for not doing his job. Instead of, you know, maintaining stuff he spends his shifts doing experiments on rats, then collecting their corpses neatly lined up in his refrigerator. He has a plot to poison ice cream as a way of extorting money from Gotham College president Brickley (or Brinkley according to IMDb, which informs me that actor William Klan also played “Interviewer” in THE TOXIC AVENGER). John Doe is extremely bitter about “rich brats” and always assumes that college students think they’re smarter than him. I mean just because he’s working class and because he plays with dead rats doesn’t mean he’s a dummy.

Also in my opinion John Doe from SEVEN is the same character. This is MANHUNTER to its SILENCE OF THE LAMBS. (read the rest of this shit…)

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.

Cheerleader Camp

Tuesday, October 27th, 2015

tn_cheerleadercampslashersearch15CHEERLEADER CAMP was supposed to be called BLOODY POM POMS, which makes more sense. The title the distributors chose doesn’t get across that it’s a horror movie. I’m sure they rejected a million titles that would’ve worked, too. SCREAM SPIRIT, SKIRTS OF BLOOD, GO SCREAM GO, GIMME AN AAAAAAGGGGGH, etc.

Anyway, it’s a pretty routine slasher movie that takes itself seriously but with some of the ’80s sex comedy stuff the title implies used as comic relief. A van full of cheerleaders head to Camp Hurrah for a cheerleading outing and competition, the two males are super horny and trying to get laid all the time, etc.

It’s kind of an A-Team of B-actresses. Betsy Russell (AVENGING ANGEL) plays Alison, sort of the protagonist and probable Final Girl because she keeps having symbolic nightmares about death and cheerleading, including ones where she gets slashed by razor sharp pom poms, and one where she joins the squad in cheering her boyfriend Brent (disco star Leif Garrett) as he has sex with Teri Weigel (MARKED FOR DEATH, PREDATOR 2, lots of porn). And then you have Lorie Griffin (TEEN WOLF), Rebecca Ferratti (GOR, GOR II, CYBORG 3, HARD VICE), and most importantly Lucinda Dickey (NINJA III: THE DOMINATION) plays Cory, the team mascot. She doesn’t really fit in and the bitchy camp director Miss Tipton (Vickie Benson, doing a broad Troma or John Waters type acting style like she’s in a different movie than the others) has it in for her, forcing her to wear her alligator mask while she eats.
(read the rest of this shit…)

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.

Candyman

Monday, October 26th, 2015

candymanI’m still fond of my CANDYMAN review from almost exactly 10 years ago, but I’ve been wanting to go more in depth about its subtext, which I think is even more striking today. I know the character of Candyman is really well known, but honestly I don’t think the movie gets enough credit for how much it has to say. All these years later I think it might be the best horror movie of the ’90s.

So I decided to do a new piece on it for One Perfect Shot. I think it’s pretty good. Check it out and tell your friends. Click on this link five times in front of a mirror:

‘CANDYMAN’ AND THE RACIAL DIVIDE: WHY ONE OF THE BEST HORROR FILMS OF THE 90S IS EVEN MORE RELEVANT TODAY

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.

The Last Witch Hunter

Monday, October 26th, 2015

tn_lastwitchhunterA tale has long been whispered of Vin Diesel – musclebound, gravel-voiced, meat-headed action star, professor of macho brotherhood and cinematic tributes to muscle cars and jumping from moving vehicles – and how he’s a huge nerd who loves playing Dungeons & Dragons. It’s an unusual badass juxtaposition and although I always believed it I also knew it could’ve been exaggerated as a way to endear himself to the “Geek” sights who helped turn PITCH BLACK into a minor cult success and get two unlikely sequels off the ground even though it seemed like no one believed in them like he did.

But the proof is in the pudding, and in this flavor of pudding Diesel plays Kaulder, an 800 year old witch hunter aided by a Catholic secret society called The Axe and Cross in controlling the descendants of the monstrous Witch Queen who killed his wife and daughter and cursed him to be immortal even though he was real sad. He uses spells to travel into his memories, where he has a long beard like a Lord of the Rings dwarf and yells “IRON AND FIRE!” whenever leaping at someone with his sword (which he notes he does not have a name for but has heard it called Such-and-Such the Witch Killer by others). I should also mention that sometimes his sword is on fire. So yes, he plays Dungeons & Dragons. He lives his life a quarterstaff at a time. And I bet he gets really into doing voices and yelling out battle cry catch phrases and stuff.

Most of the movie takes place in present day Philadelphia Pittsburgh (or present day Unnamed City Filmed in Philadelphia Pittsburgh). Here Kaulder, like Dominic Torretto, enjoys wearing fitted black long sleeve button up shirts with the collar opened wide, but he drives a different type of fast car. (There’s one part in the movie where a car drifts, but it’s an FX shot and he’s not supposed to be the driver.)

Michael Caine (ON DEADLY GROUND) plays Dolan, his Alfred-like right hand man of 50 years, but since Kaulder is older than him he always calls him “kid.” (read the rest of this shit…)

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.

Sweet Sixteen

Sunday, October 25th, 2015

tn_sweetsixteenslashersearch15“Now you listen to me, every one of ya, you listen damn close. Because if anybody in this town decides to take the law into their own hands, I’ll be on your ass like junebug on shit. I hope I make myself understood and pardon me ladies.”

SWEET SIXTEEN is a low budget 1983 slasher mystery shot in Texas. It seems promising at first because it has a certain level of filmmaking competence, an enjoyably corny theme balled called “Melissa,” sung by Frank Sparks, and a cool logo with a knife for a T.

That is not to say that it ever seems good. The aforementioned Melissa (Aleisa Shirley, SPACEHUNTER: ADVENTURES IN THE FORBIDDEN ZONE) is first seen during a long, sensuous, narratively (though not hygenically) gratuitous shower. From there we cut to a bunch of drunk rednecks (including Don Stroud) at a bar, play fighting and hugging their buddies until an elderly Native American man named Greyfeather (the final role of Henry Wilcoxon, CLEOPATRA, SAMSON AND DELILAH, THE TEN COMMANDMENTS) walks in. They immediately start racisting the shit out of him until young Native tough Jason Longshadow (Don Shanks, Michael Myers in HALLOWEEN 5) comes in to protect him with a knife.

Melissa, being the new girl in town, walks up to Longshadow in the parking lot and asks if he wants to “ditch the old man and go party.” As he bluntly rejects her a couple of the racists yell at him that he’s “into little girls.” He starts walking in their direction and they run away like they’re being chased by a bear. (read the rest of this shit…)

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.

Moonstalker

Saturday, October 24th, 2015

tn_moonstalkerslashersearch15“Oh, it’s just a harmless old guy.”

Part of why I love the slasher movies is the ritualistic repetition. Familiar elements presented, hopefully, in new ways. It’s like open source movie making: here is a simple, accessible code, do with it what you want. Do try this at home.

Of course, the danger with that type of democratic process is that there are gonna be alot of bad ones made either naively or opportunistically by people unable to do a good job. And the deeper I get into Slasher Searching the more of these I’m gonna be left with.

MOONSTALKER is, surprisingly, on DVD. But it’s an amateurish Jason-with-a-touch-of-Leatherface knockoff movie; any variations on the formula seem accidental. It’s one of those movies where the very first shot makes you realize you’re in for a chore. Actually it’s not a bad P.O.V. shot of a killer spying on some campers, but there are people dancing next to a fire and it is very clear that this is not how they dance. This is what some crew members do when the director says “go dance next to the fire” and there’s no music playing and they’re kinda embarrassed and trying to be sarcastic. (read the rest of this shit…)

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.

Hellraiser: Revelations

Friday, October 23rd, 2015
tn_revelations
SNL‘s Bobby Moynihan as Pinhead

HELLRAISER: REVELATIONS, the final nail in the head of Pinhead, has the audacity to open as a fucking found footage movie. Two young bros named Nico (Jay Gillespie, ANDROID COP) and Steven (Nick Eversman, VAMPIRES SUCK and this week’s episode of Agents of SHIELD) make a video of their road trip from L.A. to Tijuana, (which they think is hilarious to say in a fake Mexican accent). Nico in particular is an obnoxious dick begging to be punched in the face and/or torn apart by hooks, very reminiscent of the guys that get killed in the opening of TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE 2. He smirks with pride as he blows your fuckin mind by talking excitedly about donkey shows and hookers. Get it.

Jump cut to Nico shirtless on the floor in a square of candles solving the famous Lament Configuration puzzle box. And then Pinhead is there asking for the box. Or, wait… who is that guy? If you’ve seen BLOODLINE you remember it because Pinhead was in space, if you’ve seen REVELATIONS you remember it because they dressed some other dude up as Pinhead. (read the rest of this shit…)

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.