So once again we have survived.

The Pit and the Pendulum (1991)

tn_pitandthependulum“Confessions are only admitted under torture, otherwise you might confess just to avoid torture and it wouldn’t be a true confession.”

Stuart Gordon’s THE PIT AND THE PENDULUM opens with Grand Inquisitor Torquemada (Lance Henriksen, STONE COLD) and his Spanish Inquisition goons pulling a dead body out of a coffin, convicting him of heresy and giving him 20 lashes, which busts him apart until he’s a pile of bones. The man’s family watch, outraged, while a bunch of other rich people smile to themselves and lick their lips. Torquemada crushes the dead man’s skull into powder and uses it to fill an hourglass. That’s all before the credits start.

So, this movie is not fuckin around. And you guys know how I feel about a movie that’s not fuckin around. (Usually positive.)

Even still, it kinda snuck up on me. It’s a Full Moon production, and they’re doing a period piece (Spain, 1492) in the one castle they have access to, lots of fake looking wigs, some actors delivering their lines in a modern tone, some not. And then there’s a shitty looking font on the credits and they still couldn’t bother to change the title (it calls it THE INQUISITOR). And as it gets into the plot about a woman falsely accused by the Spanish Inquisition it seems like it’s gonna be mostly sitting through gruesome torture scenes: public whipping, burning at the stake, some citizens enjoying it, others being forced to watch, people tied to racks, screaming, getting slashed and/or sexually humiliated. But that’s just the fuel to a story that really comes together, a nice amalgam of Edgar Allan Poe ideas, adventure and most of all an extreme caricature of the type of hypocrites who stand in judgment of others to hide their own faults. Gordon worked in theater for years before RE-ANIMATOR made him a Master of Horror, and I imagine this is alot like one of his plays. (read the rest of this shit…)

Loving

tn_lovingLOVING is a pretty simple true story about something that should be pretty simple: two people are in love and having a baby and decide to get married and build a life together. Should be up to them to decide if that’s a good idea, you would think, but the trouble is that Richard Loving (Joel Edgerton, WARRIOR) is white and Mildred Jeter (Ruth Negga, THE SAMARITAN, WARCRAFT) is black, and in Virginia in 1958 it was illegal for them to get married.

Like same sex couples before we got marriage equality a few years back, they had to go somewhere else to get married (Washington DC), but back at home the cops kick in their door one night and arrest them. Richard gets bailed out but they won’t let him bail out Mildred. Wait to see the judge on Monday, they say, as if that’s a reasonable thing to ask a man whose pregnant wife is currently locked up in a cold cell for ludicrous reasons. They threaten to arrest him if he keeps trying to get her released.

The judge would make the Lovings do a year for this – for being married! – but they plea bargain. Instead they have to leave the state (their home, their property, their family, their jobs) and not come back together for 25 years. So, against their will, they go to raise their kid (soon kids, plural) in the city.

(Virginia: 13 electoral votes. DC: 3 votes starting in 1961.) (read the rest of this shit…)

Krampus

tn_krampusKrampus – the child-punishing anti-Santa Claus of Alpine folklore – is one of those things that a certain type of American nerd is a little too proud to know about. The same ones that make Cthulu jokes. But despite them it’s a good idea for a Christmas monster movie, and I think this one is good enough to reclaim the old half goat, half demon’s honor.

KRAMPUS came last year from director Michael Dougherty, the X2, SUPERMAN RETURNS and URBAN LEGENDS: BLOODY MARY writer who turned director with TRICK ‘R TREAT, the DTV anthology that seems to be growing into a minor Halloween tradition. I remember that being pretty good, but I think I liked this better.
(read the rest of this shit…)

Pieces

tn_piecesMan, I don’t know about PIECES, you guys. This is another one I first saw in an all night horror marathon. I remember liking it. But this kind of crudely-presented-brutal-fucked-upness plays better with a crowd who are rowdy and dazed and trying to stay awake than alone in my living room. Maybe I should’ve woken up a bunch of people in the middle of the night and made them come over.

It’s a Spanish movie, but it takes place in Boston. It’s kind of like GOOD WILL HUNTING in my opinion. (I have not seen GOOD WILL HUNTING). I wasn’t sure which version you’re supposed to watch, so I went with the original. The Spanish is not spoken with a Boston accent. It turns out this version also has a different score that’s mostly piano and pretty good, I thought.

This is the style of slasher movie like NIGHTMARE or SLEEPAWAY CAMP or even HALLOWEEN now that I think about it where the killing dates back to childhood and the walking-in-on of a sex act. In this case though it’s a boy’s mother taking away his best porno puzzle and rather than fighting for his right to party he chops her up. He gets away with claiming it wasn’t him, though. Being a kid is a good alibi. (read the rest of this shit…)

Lone Wolf and Cub: Baby Cart to Hades

tn_babycarttohadesWhen you’re the shogun’s executioner and your wife is murdered and you’re set up and your life is ruined and you choose to take your son on the demon’s path and become an elite assassin for hire, you do alot of wandering around having adventures. Part 3 of the LONE WOLF AND CUB series (or, if you prefer it dubbed and edited to be dumber, part 2 of the SHOGUN ASSASSIN series) is episodic in a good way. They cross a couple different enemies, get offered a couple different gigs, get into some shit with the Yagyu Clan, and their nemesis Retsudo is mentioned but not seen, like The Emperor in STAR WARS.

On their travels, Ogami Itto (Tomisaburo Wakayama) and son Daigoro (Akihiro Tomikawa) are jumped by a bunch of ninjas, so he kills them. (SPOILER)

Along a road there are some watari-kachi, mercenaries, drifters who go around trying to get gigs, often just “hired for show when someone needs more men in their procession” because the kind of lords they work for can’t afford to hire them full time. (see also: film critics) They’re sitting around with Master Kanbei (Go Kato, SWORD OF THE BEAST), who they consider uptight, so they try to take him down a notch. “You’re really peculiar. You don’t drink, you don’t touch women.” They don’t get him because they figure the only reason it’s worth having their job is to “have fun,” which we quickly realize means to rape women along the highway.

Master Kanbei chooses not to participate when these pricks run off to attack a passing mother and daughter, knocking out their male servant. But he doesn’t stop them either – not until he hears them brag about who they’re all working for. Then Kanbei intervenes in a very calm, business-like manner: he kills the servant, then the two victims, then makes the three mercenaries draw straws so that one can be killed and blamed for the murders. (read the rest of this shit…)

Doctor Strange (2016)

tn_doctorstrangeIn his latest vehicle, the King of DTV Action Scott Adkins plays “Lucian / Strong Zealot,” the right (or possibly left) hand man to a dark master of mystical world-bending sorcery magic spell power beams named Kaecilius (Mads Mikkelsen, VALHALLA RISING). Kaecilius was once a student of The Ancient One (international martial arts superstar Tilda Swinton, CONSTANTINE) but now suspects she is siphoning dark magic to extend her life and therefore steals a magic ritual from a special book of ancient something something, etc. So Lucian / Strong Zealot and another person are sent after The Ancient One’s new student Dr. Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch, WAR HORSE) to try to destroy his magic apartment in New York and they have a fight in a hospital where they’re both ghosts but it’s kind of weird because (SPOILER IN FIRST PARAGRAPH OF REVIEW) Benedict Cumberbatch defeats Scott Adkins.

screen-shot-2016-11-27-at-8-35-50-pm
And Scott Adkins as “the ghost of one of the minions.”

Okay, the truth is this is not a Scott Adkins movie. His character is small enough that when his big scene is described in an Entertainment Weekly article they don’t bother to credit him. It’s weird that as Marvel Studios continue to build this vast universe of re-usable characters they chose to use

1) Idris fucking Elba as “magic bridge operator”

2) Ray god damn Stevenson as “one of Thor’s friends that he has back home”

and now

3) Scott mother fuckin Adkins as “henchman who gets beat up by magic cape” (read the rest of this shit…)

Skinheads

tn_skinheadsBefore GREEN ROOM, before Election 2016, there was Greydon Clark’s SKINHEADS (1989), about a small gang of neo-Nazis running wild.

It starts, like so many cheap action movies, with the gang robbing a convenience store. But in this case they there’s no hero to kick their ass, and they intentionally turn their wrath on the elderly Jewish owners and a young black customer.

Now that they are murderers, they decide maybe it’s time to get out of town for a bit. Take a vacation in the mountains somewhere outside of Reno. But their rampage continues when they stop at a cafe and pick a fight with some other patrons. After Tiny (Duane Davis, UNDER SIEGE, TYSON, PAPARAZZI) accepts the challenge and outboxes the biggest, dumbest skinhead, Brains (Dennis Ott, “Bar Character,” ROAD HOUSE), their crazy leader Damon (Brian Brophy, CITY OF INDUSTRY) shoots and kills him. (read the rest of this shit…)

Imprint

tn_imprintIMPRINT is a quiet little indie supernatural drama from 2007 that I never heard of until I was looking for genre movies from a Native American perspective.

Shayla Stonefeather (Tonantzin Carmelo, Into the West, Teen Wolf) is an attorney in Denver prosecuting Lakota teen Robbie Whiteshirt (Joseph Medicine Blanket) for murder. The local Native American community has come out in force proclaiming his innocence and protesting the unfairness of a nearly all white jury, so she’s seen as a traitor to her people when she gets him convicted.

Meanwhile her dad (Charlie White Buffalo, Into the West) is dying, so she goes back home to say goodbye and support her mother (musician Carla-Rae). She gets a call from her douchey white boyfriend/colleague Jonathan (Cory Brusseau, ESCAPE THROUGH TIME) saying that Robbie tried to escape and was shot to death, and then she starts seeing and hearing weird things around the house. Is she being harassed by Robbie’s angry brother Frank (Russell Chewey), or others who are angry about the Whiteshirt case? Or is it some ghosty business? Or a 50/50 blend?

And there’s another mystery. Her brother Nathaniel (Gerald Tokala Clifford, SKINS, SWELTER) has been missing for some time, possibly dead, after an incident with her father discovering him using meth. And though her father is catatonic most of the time, she hears him yell out things in the night, and got him to draw some pictures which seem to have some sort of significance. So this may be related to one or more of the mysteries. (read the rest of this shit…)

Child’s Play 3

tn_childsplay3“So here’s my advice: Grow up. You’re not a kid anymore. It’s time to forget these fantasies of killer dolls.”
Well, I think it’s safe to say we won’t be seeing that asshole doll Chucky ever again. He got his plastic head burnt to a crisp and yes, the Play Pals corporation did refurbish him in part 2, intending to prove the doll wasn’t sabotaged by an employee but instead resurrecting a serial killer to commit a murder spree mostly consisting of their own employees. Plus their factory got totally trashed. I don’t think they’ll make that mistake again! I’m sure when they cleaned out the factory they destroyed that grotesque pile of latex and Chucky flesh that was left of him and we can put that whole catastrophe behind us now.

Oh shit – they didn’t! Eight years after CHILD’S PLAY the same foolish CEO (Peter Haskell, ROBOT WARS) is convinced by the board to bring back the Good Guys dolls. They consider children to be “consumer trainees” and they can’t lose their biggest brand just because of “the fantasies of one disturbed boy.” (I wonder what he thinks happened to his murdered executives, or at his factory? One of his employees got his eyeballs poked out! Do not work for this company!) So they rev up the (noticeably smaller) assembly line again, some hooks pierce the Chucky blob (which I guess has been laying there alive for eight years) and it bleeds into a vat of molten plastic that will be molded into the new Good Guys dolls. And voila! Chucky is mint in package again.

(read the rest of this shit…)

Child’s Play 2

tn_childsplay2“It doesn’t matter. Wherever I go, Chucky will find me.”

CHILD’S PLAY 2 is an unnecessary but entertaining continuation of the story of young Andy Barclay (Alex Vincent) and that time when his mom accidentally bought him a doll that was possessed by the soul of Chicago serial killer Charles Lee Ray, a.k.a. The Lake Shore Strangler.

We pick up two years later. Andy is being put into foster care while his mom Karen is in a psychiatric hospital for believing in killer dolls. We only see her in a photo, but I’m gonna assume she’s in there doing pullups and getting buff like Sarah Connor when she was locked up for similar reasons. Andy goes to stay with Phil (Gerrit Graham, POLICE ACADEMY 6) and Joanne (Jenny Agutter, AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON) Simpson, though Phil doesn’t seem to like him and has very reasonable concerns about whether they’re qualified to raise a horribly traumatized kid.

Andy grew up in a small apartment in the city, now he’s in this huge house, he gets his own room with a bunch of toys, which he’s excited to see, but obviously he misses his mother. He doesn’t know when he’ll see her again, or how long he’ll be able to stay here. And he’s never had siblings before, but now there’s this teenager named Kyle (Christine Elise, BODY SNATCHERS). He walks into her room and she’s smoking and gives him attitude. She’s been the for three weeks but hasn’t unpacked because she’s never been able to stay anywhere for more than a month, and doesn’t expect that pattern to change. Andy overhears the Simpsons talking about him and feels bad, he gets scared of dolls, he’s not used to having a dad at all, let alone a strict one. But Kyle reassures him that Phil’s not that bad (she’s had much worse). So it’s just a movie about the challenges of being a foster child or a foster parent and stuff like that. That’s pretty much it. (read the rest of this shit…)