Last year, Jamie Lee Curtis returned as Laurie Strode in the new HALLOWEEN, exploring what life might be like for a horror heroine 40 years after she faced down evil. But did you know there was another late sequel to an iconic slasher film from 1978? I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE DE JA VU (full end credits title: “I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE DE JA VU a.k.a. DAY OF THE WOMAN DE JA VU”) is a writer/director Meir Zarchi’s direct sequel to his infamous rape-revenge film, with Camille Keaton (WHAT HAVE YOU DONE TO SOLANGE?) returning to her role as feminist writer turned violent avenger Jennifer Hills. It was filmed in 2015, but not released until disc and VOD last April.
Things seem to have turned out all right for Jennifer. She’s an author and counselor for rape victims. She doesn’t treat her violent past as a dark secret – in fact, she wrote a new best selling book about it. As the original film’s famous tagline predicted, “No jury in America would convict her!” And she’s close with her daughter Christy (Jamie Bernadette, MORTDECAI), a world famous model who’s thinking of retiring. (read the rest of this shit…)
THE BOY (2016) is a slight but enjoyable little PG-13 horror movie about taking a weird job. Greta (Lauren Cohan, DEATH RACE 2, Maggie from The Walking Dead) is a Montanan trying to get as far the fuck as she can away from an abusive ex (Ben Robson, DRACULA: THE DARK PRINCE, Vikings, Animal Kingdom), so she flies to a remote castle somewhere in the UK to work as the nanny for a rich couple called the Heelshires. The mom (Diana Hardcastle, THE BEST EXOTIC MARIGOLD HOTEL) immediately seems to be judging her, while the dad (Jim Norton, STRAW DOGS, MARY POPPINS RETURNS) is looser, but distant. When they introduce her to their son Brahms, he’s not what she expected. Like, she expected a human child made out of flesh. Instead he’s a porcelain doll propped up in a chair. She thinks they’re making a joke at first, so she laughs, and they look at her like she just took a shit on their floor. Maybe they should’ve been more specific in the CraigsList ad.
It’s a good “What would you do?” scenario. She came all the way out here, she probly needs the money, and you could assume “nannying” a doll might be easier than being responsible for a living human being. On the other hand, what the fuck, right? You’re gonna get paid by weirdos to pretend all day? Mrs. Heelshire gives her a detailed schedule of everything she’s supposed to do for this doll, has a million strict rules, watches her and keeps telling her she’s doing things wrong. Even if it pays well, how much advanced doll-playing would you be able to stomach? (read the rest of this shit…)
The 2014 werewolf romp WOLVES did not get a wide release, and has a 25% on Rotten Tomatoes. But I got stuck scrolling for a horror movie to watch one night, found it on that ad-supported streaming service Tubi, and remembered it had Jason Momoa in it, so I watched it. And it fulfilled its duties.
I’m sure WOLVES – which is the directorial debut of X-MEN/THE SCORPION KING/X2/WATCHMEN screenwriter David Hayter – was greenlit due to the popularity of TWILIGHT, and viewed with skepticism by potential viewers for that reason. It has minor similarities that I’ll mention later, but it’s a completely different tone, if anything trying to offer an alternative.
It’s the story of Cayden Richards (Lucas Till, MONSTER TRUCKS, MacGyver in MacGyver, and Havok in X-MEN: FIRST CLASS, DAYS OF FUTURE PAST and APOCALYPSE), a dude whose perfect life as high school quarterback in a small Texas town goes to shit when he discovers his werewolf side during attempted car sex and is suddenly wanted by the police for the munching of his parents. So he hops on a motorcycle (wearing one of those Tom Cruise style leather motorcycle jackets) and hits the road. (read the rest of this shit…)
In 1982 Paul Schrader followed AMERICAN GIGOLO with a look at another oft-ignored segment of society, the CAT PEOPLE. It’s a much hornier movie than GIGOLO – some of the posters even call it “AN EROTIC FANTASY” – and it compares sexual desire to turning into a hungry animal. That may sound like some ‘Schrader was raised as a strict Calvinist’ shit, but he actually didn’t get a writing credit on this one. Believe it or not he used a script by Alan Ormsby (CHILDREN SHOULDN’T PLAY WITH DEAD THINGS, DERANGED, DEATHDREAM, PORKY’S II: THE NEXT DAY, POPCORN, THE SUBSTITUTE)! I’ve read that he rewrote the ending, but I don’t see how he could’ve changed the very premise. So I honestly don’t know what this one is supposed to be saying – it seems to be a sexy anti-sex movie – but it’s artful and weird and compelling in all the right ways.
Irena (Nastassja Kinski, TERMINAL VELOCITY) is a pescatarian virgin orphan who arrives in New Orleans to reunite with her long lost brother Paul (Malcolm McDowell, FIST OF THE NORTH STAR). Paul lives in a big house with his Creole housekeeper (Ruby Dee, UP TIGHT) whose name is pronounced “Feh-molly” but spelled “Female.” The brother and sister do a juggling act together as they reminisce about playing circus as kids, and Paul is immediately standing uncomfortably close to her and doing weird incestuous nuzzling. The movie never addresses that if the actors are playing their real ages Paul would’ve been 18 when she was born. But Ruby Dee seems to be playing her real age of 60 while looking about half that, so what is age, anyway? (read the rest of this shit…)
AMERICAN GIGOLO. Paul Schrader’s prequel to AMERICAN PIMP. Older brother of AMERICAN PSYCHO. Cousin to AMERICAN NINJA. Quite a family of movies there.
I really should see more of Paul Schrader’s stuff. Obviously I respect him for writing TAXI DRIVER and revere him for writing ROLLING THUNDER. I remember loving BLUE COLLAR. MISHIMA: A LIFE IN FOUR CHAPTERS was incredible. More recently FIRST REFORMED really impressed me. But there are some very famous ones I haven’t seen. This one, I gotta admit, I ignorantly assumed wasn’t my thing. Some Richard Gere movie. Who cares?
It was getting more into movie soundtracks on vinyl that turned me around. AMERICAN GIGOLO is a pretty common, relatively inexpensive find, so I picked one up, and really liked it. Then I figured okay, I should see where these sounds come from.
Young, slim, squinty-eyed dreamboat Richard Gere (a little after DAYS OF HEAVEN, a little before AN OFFICER AND A GENTLEMAN, way before FIRST KNIGHT) stars as Julian Kaye, L.A. gigolo. In his business there’s alot of ambiguously talking around things on account of the illegality. Lots of not stating what’s going on, or denying it – saying “you’ve heard wrong” or “you’re mistaken” when someone’s too direct or seems like trouble. So it’s interesting that he ends up suspected of a murder he didn’t do. We’re not sure at first if they really did hear wrong, really are mistaken, or if he’s just doing his usual shtick. (read the rest of this shit…)
As John J. Rambo may or may not have shed his last blood on cinema screens, perhaps it’s a good time to remember him in all his glory when he had been pardoned by the president and was free to hang out with his pals like Turbo and Touchdown, fighting mostly non-lethal battles with the mercenaries, bikers and cyborgs of the S.A.V.A.G.E. terrorist organization. That’s why I watched and wrote about “First Strike,” the first episode of the 1986 cartoon series Rambo: The Force of Freedom.
MAY THE FORCE OF FREEDOM BE WITH YOU
As always, thanks to everyone who has been able to support the Patreon. That extra monthly check has improved both my life and my writing by allowing me to work fewer shifts of the day job and focus on the good shit here. I hope the quality of the reviews here as well as the bonuses over there like the TWILIGHT series help to express my gratitude.
“I make the impossible possible. Takami Tsurugi. Remember that if you want to live long.”
The thrilling conclusion to Sonny Chiba’s STREET FIGHTER trilogy is called THE STREET FIGHTER’S LAST REVENGE, but it doesn’t really feel like a finale. It feels more like another in what should be an endless series of adventures. Though released in 1974, the same year as the other two, Chiba’s black-clad anti-hero-for-hire Tsurugi seems to have evolved his operation. After taking a recruitment call he rotates the phone attached to his wall, opening a secret door to a room full of uniforms, wigs and latex masks. He’s a fuckin master of disguise now!
His mission is to retrieve Go Owada (Akira Shioji, who played a different character in the first movie) from the midst of a violent worker strike at a chemical plant. Tsurugi impersonates a member of the riot squad and breaks ranks to bust through the window, go in and beat the shit out of everybody, steal a specified black mah jong case, arrest Owada, steal a police car and bring him to the mobsters who hired him.
But they pay him with a briefcase full of shredded newspaper, which was not the deal in my opinion, so he fights them and they’re enemies now. (read the rest of this shit…)
Well holy shit. I’ve taken my sweet time getting to all three of Jamaa Fanaka’s PENITENTIARY movies, but they’ve all lived up to my hopes. If you’re not familiar, they star Leon Isaac Kennedy (LONE WOLF McQUADE) as Martel “Too Sweet” Gordone, a man who is unjustly incarcerated but becomes a legend in the prison boxing circuit. I’m sure it’s an inspiration for the UNDISPUTED series, but Fanaka’s world is angrier, dirtier, and much, much weirder.
Released in 1979, PENITENTIARY was actually the third movie Fanaka made while attending UCLA. Unlike other directors considered part of the L.A. Rebellion film movement, he was more attracted to Hollywood than to political statements, so he made straight up lurid and entertaining blaxploitation movies. But racism, cruelty and injustice are central to his stories.
PENITENTIARY II (1982) brings the action into the outside world, and it’s a little slicker and more expensive, so it features Mr. T and Ernie Hudson.
But PENITENTIARY III (1987) is a Cannon Film. It is not fucking around. It would be an exaggeration to say that Cannon did to the PENITENTIARY series what they did to THE TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE with part 2, but there’s definitely a hint of that sort of unhinged insanity. We find Too Sweet still a free man, competing as a legitimate boxer, when his corner man is paid off to put something in his water. (That he looks over his shoulder nervously and then just openly pours something into the water in front of an audience without anyone noticing is one of many goofy touches.) (read the rest of this shit…)
“Listen, I got nothin’ against playin’ army. I don’t mind that at all. I think the ideology of some of these folks is good. But there’s assholes everywhere…” –Steven Seagal as Dr. Wesley MacLaren in THE PATRIOT (1998)
I knew exactly three things about THE STANDOFF AT SPARROW CREEK: it was supposed to be potentially controversial for having something to do with a militia, people loved it at Fantastic Fest last year, and it was produced by Cinestate. Because of the last one it was often mentioned in articles alongside the works of S. Craig Zahler, portrayed as daring independent films that are super fuckin edgy because they blur the line between “regular movie” and “movie that all neo-Nazis own on blu-ray.”
That’s probly why I put off watching it until now. But there really wasn’t much to be afraid of. Realistically we can assume that these characters who have dozens of AR-15s, grenades, Kevlar vests and shit stashed in a warehouse are right wing extremists, because they have dozens of AR-15s, grenades, Kevlar vests and shit stashed in a warehouse. But it’s not about that. The closest thing to a political view ever discussed is that some of them believe in killing cops. The two characters that are portrayed as potentially honorable are an undercover cop trying to bust the militia and a former cop trying to save the undercover cop. Race is never discussed, other than one guy being former Aryan Brotherhood (which is portrayed as a stain on his record). It’s really just a novel way to do a “flushing out the mole” type suspense story. (read the rest of this shit…)
You remember Rambo, John J. Vietnam vet, Green Beret, POW camp survivor, Congressional Medal of Honor recipient. In ’81, as a homeless drifter, he waged a one-man guerrilla war against the police department of Hope, Washington, wounding several officers, killing police dogs, blowing up buildings and causing one officer to die from falling out of a helicopter. But they let him out of prison for a secret POW rescue mission. Though he earned a presidential pardon, he decided to live in Thailand, living off odd jobs such as stickfighter, temple-builder, snake-catcher or river guide, with occasional missions to help the Mujahideen in Afghanistan or rescue missionaries in Myanmar. But eventually he came home to his dad’s place in Arizona.
It doesn’t seem like it, but that movie was 11 years ago. Rambo has short hair now, wears cowboy hats and runs his (now deceased) dad’s horse ranch. He lives with a woman named Maria (Adriana Barraza, AMORES PERROS, DRAG ME TO HELL), who I guess the photos on the wall indicate was his parents’ maid, and her granddaughter Gabrielle (Yvette Monreal from the El Rey show Matador), who calls him Uncle John and who he says he thinks of as his daughter. (read the rest of this shit…)