“I’m Paul Barlow, and this is my daughter Jo.”

“Malone.”

“You got a first name?”

“Yeah.”

Archive for the ‘Horror’ Category

The Devil’s Candy

Tuesday, October 2nd, 2018

All I knew about THE DEVIL’S CANDY (2015) was

1) I think it’s one of those ones with some kind of satan/heavy metal theme and

2) I’ve been meaning to see it because it’s the second movie from Sean Byrne, the Australian writer-director of THE LOVED ONES.

That’s why it took me a bit to figure out that this is taking place in America, and that the big Pruitt Taylor Vince looking dude is in fact the genuine item, and most of all that the muscly, tattooed, long-haired, bushy-bearded Matthew McConaghey looking lead was CAN’T HARDLY WAIT‘s Ethan Embry. I only realized it like 2/3 of the way in when I checked IMDb for somebody else in the cast. And I’ve even seen him in grown up roles like CHEAP THRILLS and LATE PHASES. So this is quite a transformation for him.

Embry (Masters of Horror: Incident On and Off a Mountain Road) plays Jesse Hellman, an edgy painter who is able to move his family from a small apartment to a roomy house thanks to a combination of soul-grinding sell-out commissions and a two-people-died-here discount. But, as I personally have noticed sometimes happens in movies, there seems to be something demonic or haunted or cursed or evil or unlucky or fucked up or at least just super, super uncool about the place. I mean, we already saw in the opening that Ray Smilie (Vince, K-9, CONSTANTINE), the adult and seemingly developmentally disabled son of the previous owners, heard whispers telling him to kill. His method of shutting up the voices is to play his electric guitar loud, but his mom makes him stop. It’s like George Wendt and Macaulay Culkin at the beginning of the “Black or White” video, but with more deadly results. (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.

Puppet Master: The Littlest Reich

Monday, October 1st, 2018

I haven’t watched a PUPPET MASTER picture since the early ’90s, so congratulations to this marketing that got me excited to watch the new PUPPET MASTER presented by the new Fangoria.

PUPPET MASTER: THE LITTLEST REICH is sort of a start-over made with the blessing but not direct participation of Charles Band. I don’t think I can technically call it a reboot, though, because it’s not supposed to end or replace the still ongoing original series. It’s an alternate universe version where the titelistical ruler of evil puppets, Andre Toulon, is a totally different character. Instead of a victim of the Nazis he’s a French-German Nazi sympathizer played by Udo Kier (BLADE, BARB WIRE) in nasty burn makeup. The screenwriter is S. Craig Zahler, and though it does not feel anything like BONE TOMAHAWK or BRAWL IN CELL BLOCK 99 it does continue his tradition of pushing the discomfort buttons and making me wonder “Should I be concerned about these racial themes?”

The main story takes place in the present, when artist and comic book store employee Edgar (Thomas Lennon, MEMENTO, THE DARK KNIGHT RISES) has to bite the bullet and go stay with his parents while getting back on his feet after a divorce. Desperate for money, he decides to take his dead brother’s rare hand-made puppet to Dallas to try to sell at a convention for the 30th anniversary of “The Toulon Murders.” But there are a bunch of other people there with their own original Toulon puppets, which all come to life (through goofy hand puppeting, not stop motion) and gorily murder Jewish, gay and black people. Puppetry and bigotry become one. (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.

Mandy

Tuesday, September 18th, 2018

MANDY is a deranged bad trip of a movie from director Panos Cosmatos (BEYOND THE BLACK RAINBOW). It features a high grade mega-acting performance from Nicolas Cage (FIREBIRDS), and Cosmatos is the rare director to cinematically keep pace with Cage’s style rather than try to balance it out. He and cinematographer Benjamin Loeb (KING COBRA) peel off the skin of reality and find the painted covers of obscure fantasy novels and death metal albums beneath.

Cage plays Red Miller, a lumberjack who lives in a cabin in the Shadow Mountains circa 1983 with his fantasy illustrator girlfriend Mandy (Andrea Riseborough, OBLIVION). One day they get kidnapped by a demonic biker gang and psychotic Christian cult led by hippie folk singer Jeremiah Sand (Linus Roache, THE CHRONICLES OF RIDDICK), who strings Red up with barb wire and (SPOILER) burns Mandy alive, leaving her to crumble into ashes in his hands.

But he escapes and gathers some weapons and comes back and fucking fucks shit up. And that’s enough to hang a movie on in my opinion but explaining the premise does not remotely describe the movie, which seems from frame one to be drugged out of its mind and/or existing on a different astral plane. I bet when they try to play BORN LOSERS on Civic TV, this is how it broadcasts – a psychedelic fever dream revenge nightmare. (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.

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.