I use hands to help my fellow man / I use hands to help with what I can / But when I face an unjust injury / Then I change my hand into FIST OF FURY

Archive for the ‘Horror’ Category

Revenge

Tuesday, August 7th, 2018

REVENGE (the 2018 release with the pink logo, not the Kevin Costner/Tony Scott one) is a great rape-revenge movie. Not a subversive one in my opinion, just a really good version of the form that goes mercifully light on the first r-word and entertainingly extravagant on the second. Obviously the very idea of the genre is upsetting, but as far as these things go, it’s a fun time. It has no interest in gritty realism or wiping your nose in the shit. It’s not even about any “dig two graves” or LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT don’t-stoop-to-their-level anti-revenge moralism. It has alot of symbolism and poetic exaggeration and exists in a world where human bodies have an impressive capacity for withstanding severe injuries and extreme blood loss.

(NOTE: If this sounds like something you can dig, I suggest seeing it and not reading the rest of this review yet, because I will be using SPOILERS to discuss alot of what I find most interesting in it.) (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.

Hereditary

Thursday, June 14th, 2018

Many horror movies have a little bit of the ol’ status quo at the beginning, a seemingly normal day to contrast with when things start getting crazy. HEREDITARY starts with a funeral, but it’s fairly uneventful, so that’s our calm day to want to get back to when the world starts shitting right into a fan.

Annie Graham (Toni Collette, SHAFT, xXx: RETURN OF XANDER CAGE) has just lost her mom. But the family’s feeling strange about it because Grandma Ellen, from the sounds of it, was a weirdo and a total pain in the ass. Annie starts hallucinating her mother’s presence and decides to go to a support group. Her husband Steve (Gabriel Byrne, END OF DAYS, COOL WORLD) looks out for the family. Their teenage son Peter (Alex Wolff, MY FRIEND DAHMER) doesn’t really care and just wants to smoke weed and stuff, while their younger daughter Charlie (Milly Shapiro, Tony winner for playing Matilda on Broadway!) is… strange. Builds things out of junk, plays with dead animals, munches on a chocolate bar next to grandma’s open casket.

Eventually, weird shit happens. There are apparitions, seances, paranoia, pretty standard stuff. But it’s put together and unfolded in ways that feel new. I’m trying to be non-specific, even though it’s the type of movie that would be hard to spoil. The things that happen are too wild to pin down as a premise or plot twist that can be succinctly explained. It’s a good one, as you may have heard. (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.

Prom Night (2008 remake), + closing thoughts on the PROM NIGHT series

Tuesday, June 5th, 2018

At a glance the PROM NIGHT of 2008 doesn’t seem like a remake at all, but more of a re-use of the title. It doesn’t take any major elements of the original or its unrelated sequels – there’s no children’s game turned deadly, no principal’s son or masked killer or prom queen burned alive and back as a ghost or evil priest, no Hamilton High or Brock Simpson or even ambiguity about which North American country it takes place in (it’s in Bridgeport, Oregon, though filmed mostly in L.A.). It does take place on prom night, though, so I totally get why they wanted that title.

If you look closely it is arguably based on a somewhat forgotten plot point of the original 1980 PROM NIGHT, but if so that detail is now a xerox of a xerox of a xerox of the fifth revision of the 13th draft. The part in question is the original’s red herring about the pedophile who was blamed for the sister’s death and now has escaped and the police are trying to make sure he doesn’t come to the prom for revenge. The remake/”remake” uses a similar escaped lunatic template, but in this one it’s ex-teacher turned stalker Richard Fenton (Johnathon Schaech, ACTS OF VENGEANCE) who, three years ago, became delusionally obsessed with his student Donna (Brittany Snow, PITCH PERFECT, BUSHWICK) and murdered her family in front of her. Unlike PROM NIGHT (but like PROM NIGHT IV and their original inspiration, HALLOWEEN) there’s no whodunit mystery in this one. He definitely did it, he really is here, he for sure is killing a bunch of people, and we’re seeing it. (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.

Prom Night IV: Deliver Us From Evil

Monday, June 4th, 2018

By the time they finished off the PROM NIGHT series it was 12 years after the original. The ’80s horror cycle that had given rise to Mary Lou Maloney had petered out. This was a year of studio auteur horror (BRAM STOKER’S DRACULA, RAISING CAIN, DEATH BECOMES HER), genius cult directors getting to work with more resources (DEAD ALIVE, ARMY OF DARKNESS), shitty horror with morphing (Stephen King’s SLEEPWALKERS, not Stephen King’s THE LAWNMOWER MAN) and in my opinion the best horror movie of the decade (CANDYMAN). The PROM NIGHT series was part of another trend of lesser or totally unwanted sequels, arguably including PET SEMATARY TWO, HELLRAISER III: HELL ON EARTH, HOUSE IV, STEPFATHER 3, WITCHCRAFT IV & V, 976-EVIL 2, CRITTERS 4, AMITYVILLE 3: IT’S ABOUT TIME, BASKET CASE 3: THE PROGENY, THE GATE 2: TRESPASSERS and SCANNERS III: THE TAKEOVER (and some might say ALIEN 3).

PROM NIGHT IV: DELIVER US FROM EVIL, the finale of the original Canadian PROM NIGHT series (so far), ditches parts IIIII‘s story of the avenging prom queen ghost for some new religiously themed horror about some Catholic school students and their boyfriends from Hamilton High who get dressed up and rent a limo and do not go to prom. (So there is no disco, no rock, no Maestro Fresh-Wes, no popular music at all.) (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.

Prom Night III: The Last Kiss

Thursday, May 31st, 2018

PROM NIGHT III: THE LAST KISS is the only PROM NIGHT movie to directly follow up on the previous one. It opens on the grave of Mary Lou Maloney, who we see is now in Hell, where chained up dead girls in underwear and torn stockings do a kick line barefoot on burning-hot bricks to the tune of ’50s rock ‘n roll saxophone and moans of agony. But somehow Mary Lou (now played by Courtney Taylor, COVER ME, CAMP BLOOD) got a hold of a nail file, and when she manages to file through her chain she explodes out of her grave and EVIL-DEAD-cams right back to the school, where she manifests a working jukebox to lure in the night janitor (Terry Doyle, NIGHT FRIEND) and ask him to dance with her. She knows him by name because he was one of the many boys she dated in high school.

It’s a depressing commentary on small town life that this poor guy would still be living in the same god damn town where he grew up, mopping floors, and so mush-brained that when a mysterious sexy trespasser calls him by the same pet name as the girl he dated in high school who was burned alive in front of his eyes and recently came back from the dead, killed several students and burned down the gym during the prom he smiles nostalgically and says “I haven’t heard that name in 30 years. There was a girl–” (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.

Hello Mary Lou: Prom Night II

Wednesday, May 30th, 2018

HELLO MARY LOU: PROM NIGHT II doesn’t have a whole lot to do with the first PROM NIGHT, but it follows the same basic template of opening with a tragic past incident and then skipping to the present day, when older actors playing some of the same characters await impending tragedy at the senior prom.

This one seems even more CARRIE-inspired than the first one, even having a part where the protagonist is teased while playing volleyball in P.E. and gets hit in the head with the ball and knocked to the ground. But instead of having an obvious HALLOWEEN influence it’s the NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET series. This is, after all, a relatively late sequel – seven years later, in a whole new era of horror.

The classics were just pouring out in 1987: EVIL DEAD II, THE STEPFATHER, THE MONSTER SQUAD, A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 3: DREAM WARRIORS, HELLRAISER, PRINCE OF DARKNESS and many others. There was so much going on in the genre that this didn’t make the cover of Fangoria when it came out in October – that honor went to Jason Voorhees, with THE HIDDEN, PUMPKINHEAD, THE UNHOLY, GHOULIES II and WEREWOLF on the sidebar.

When PROM NIGHT came along in 1980 the modern age of horror had been just kind of kicking off. By ’87 it was an industry, it had a built-in audience that worshiped special effects artistry and loved franchises. So hey, PROM NIGHT was a big one. Time for another PROM NIGHT. Doesn’t even need Jamie Lee. She would’ve graduated by now. Who was the killer again? The brother? Well, that doesn’t work. Do a new one. Make her a prom queen. And put her name in the title. Maybe make it rhyme? (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.

Prom Night

Tuesday, May 29th, 2018

PROM NIGHT is one of the early slasher cash-ins. It has a 2008 remake, though, so it’s a classic. It kind of seems like there’s not alot going on, because the body count is pretty low and the killings don’t start until 2/3 of the way in and there’s a surprisingly long uninterrupted disco dancing scene. But at the same time there’s a couple movies’ worth of things going on.

1. There’s the whole HALLOWEEN plot. A killer (also child molester) has been locked up (and burned up) and now it’s the anniversary of the murder of a little girl and he’s escaped and kidnapped a nurse and the police are trying to find him and I hope he doesn’t come after Jamie Lee Curtis (this time playing prom queen Kim, whose little sister was the murder victim).

2. Also there’s the CARRIE plot. A mean popular girl named Wendy (Eddie Benton, DR. STRANGE, HALLOWEEN II, Sledge Hammer!, married Michael Crichton and co-wrote TWISTER with him) is jealous of Kim getting to go to the prom with her ex-boyfriend Nick (Casey Stevens, THRESHOLD) so she gets a thuggish gum-chewing neanderthal lookin guy named Lou (David Mucci, “Quick Mike” in UNFORGIVEN) to help her with a cruel prank planned to take place when the king and queen are being crowned. (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.

A Quiet Place

Wednesday, April 18th, 2018

A QUIET PLACE is a really effective monster movie that goes a long way just on the strong execution of a simple, cool premise. 89 days ago as of the opening scene, civilization as we know it ended under the sharp teeth of some GREAT WALL-esque man-eating monsters. They’re blind, but they have great hearing and they run fast, so they’ll zip in and munch on anybody who makes any kind of noise. That could be some librarian’s bedtime story to keep the kids in line, but it feels a little more like THE ROAD or something.

We follow a family who have already developed methods to survive in this dangerous new reality. They live on an isolated farm, they speak in sign language. Their daughter (Millicent Simmonds, WONDERSTRUCK) is deaf, so she’s good at being silent, but of course she doesn’t necessarily hear if there’s a monster behind her or someone else is making a sound that’s gonna attract one. They’ve developed warning systems involving lights, torches that seem to communicate with other survivors (though we never see them) and various emergency backup plans. When they need to go into town to scavenge they walk barefoot on trails of sand (I wonder where they got all that from?) It shows just how serious this is, and how much work they have to put into it, and also it’s a cool visual. (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.

Night of the Living Dead

Wednesday, March 14th, 2018

An obscure kind of conspiracy: NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD

NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD is on a long list of the movies that I mention all the time in reviews and then when I go to add a link I realize that I’ve never officially written it up. It’s one of those classics that so much has been said about that it’s intimidating to even approach it. Seems presumptuous to think I might have something new to say about it.

It’s also a movie that I felt I had worn out at a certain point. I remember a Halloween some years back when I put it on and when it was over I felt I hadn’t gotten as much out of it as I used to, so I put it on hiatus. But now the Criterion Company has given us what could be the definitive release of the abused-by-public-domain film, which is as good an excuse as any to finally revisit the movie, discuss different aspects of it and see how its themes apply to these fucked up times we’re living in fifty years later. (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: Judgment

Tuesday, February 13th, 2018

It wasn’t much more than two years ago that I finally bit the bullet and reviewed the entire HELLRAISER series. I’d always had an attachment to the four theatrical ones (HELLRAISER and HELLBOUND: HELLRAISER II are still classics, HELLRAISER III: HELL ON EARTH is ridiculous, HELLRAISER: BLOODLINE is a mess with its hellbound heart in the right place) but had previously stayed the hell away from the DTV sequels (HELLRAISER: INFERNO (directed by Scott Derrickson), HELLRAISER: HELLSEEKER, HELLRAISER: DEADER, HELLRAISER: HELLWORLD and HELLRAISER: REVELATIONS). That last one feels for all the world like they just had to shit something out by the end of the month to maintain the movie rights, and that’s what they came up with. Yet they’ve gone almost seven years without making a new one or a remake. Could it be that they finally decided to let it–

AH, FUCK. They made another one. And you know me, I’m a completist, I can’t be the guy who’s watched nine of the ten HELLRAISER movies. I had no choice but to watch this shit.

(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.