So once again we have survived.

Hellraiser: Hellworld

tn_hellworldThe penultimate HELLRAISER, Rick Bota #3, is not really better than the previous DTV entries, and definitely way worse than any of the theatrical releases, but after three pretty samey ones in a row it was briefly refreshing to see the series, for the first time, try to pander to dumb young people. Elements include: an addictive internet game, an exclusive invite-only theme party, teen suicide, masked orgies, cell phones. Coming only 3 months after DEADER and from the same director it’s nice that it’s crappy in a completely different way.

Whoah, it's like the Matrix
Whoah, it’s like The Matrix

In the interim, LAND OF THE DEAD and THE DEVIL’S REJECTS had come out. That’s about it. Impossible to detect a change in the horror landscape. Instead of sticking with the times I guess they wanted to pull a LAWNMOWER MAN or BRAINSCAN type deal and base it around computer technology, so that the movie would already seem laughably dated and out of touch by the time it was finished editing.

The story is about a group of twenty-something friends (and one ex-friend) whose buddy Adam has just died horribly. We don’t know how it happened, but it had some connection to their shared obsession with a video game called Hellworld.

Two years later they’re thrilled to solve a virtual Lament Configuration and get invited to “a Hellworld party!!!” at a mansion on “86 Hillbound Drive.” It’s hosted by the great Lance Henriksen, who has a collection of puzzle boxes and weird babies in jars and claims the mansion was designed by LeMarchand, all of which delights his guests. There are young people dancing, drinking, mingling, some of them topless or just having sex right out in the open like it’s EYES WIDE SHUT. The host gives them all a cell phone and a paper mache mask with the phone number on the forehead so people will call and proposition each other. (read the rest of this shit…)

Hellraiser: Deader

tn_deaderHELLRAISER: HELLSEEKER director Rick Bota and writer Tim Day return for HELLRAISER: DEADER, rewriting from a completely unrelated script by Neal Marshall Stevens (THE CREEPS, CURSE OF THE PUPPETMASTER, THIR13EN GHOSTS). This is of course part 7 of 9 in the HELLRAISER nonology, part 3 of the DTV section and part 2 of the Bota Trilogy. It’s another one that follows the template of HELLRAISER: INFERNO more than the good HELLRAISER movies, doing another reality-bending is-this-real-oh-no-this-isn’t-real-am-I-alive-or-dead-wait-a-minute-Pinhead-is-here storyline.

It opens in a decrepit drug den piled high with passed out dopers and crack smokers and what not. One of them wakes up and starts taking photos, which is weird. I believe flash photography is prohibited in most havens of iniquity, or at least considered rude. But these guys seem pretty chill so nobody stops her and somebody even offers her some crack. She smiles and says she got what she needs, holding out a tape recorder.

still_deader3You see, she is Amy Klein (Kari Wuhrer, THE ADVENTURES OF FORD FAIRLANE, BEASTMASTER 2, ANACONDA), edgy American literary journalist and chronicler of the lurid English underbelly. She returns victoriously to the offices of The London Underground newspaper, apparently excited about a long day of transcribing whatever junkie gibberish is on those tapes. Fun! She’s late for a meeting and she probly smells like tar and ass, but everybody’s congratulating her on the publication of her most recent opus, “How To Be a Crack Whore.” (read the rest of this shit…)

Hellraiser: Hellseeker

tn_h6So here I am on part six. Of nine. Two thirds of the way through the HELLRAISER saga. But that’s only two fifths of the way into the ones I haven’t seen. The DTV ones. The difficult ones. And the God’s honest truth is that spirits are low. Morale is low. Quality is low. Every reasonable part of my brain tells me to turn back. But I won’t do that – I can’t do that – because if I give in now then I’ve come all this way for nothing. I’ll have put myself through all this just to be able to say “I’ve seen most of the HELLRAISER movies.” Not even most of the DTV ones.

That’s not me. No retreat no surrender. I’ve come too far. I’m not a quitter. Did Frank give up and quit? No, he went all the way to Morocco to find that box, and he got it, and he solved it. Maybe that’s a bad example.

By the time this one comes out it is 2002. Alot of important horror business started in 2002: the American popularity of J-horror (remake of THE RING while JU-ON and DARK WATER are released), the short trend of fast zombies (28 DAYS LATER), the endless RESIDENT EVIL series, Neil Marshall (DOG SOLDIERS), Eli Roth (CABIN FEVER), Lucky McKee (MAY), and most importantly it was the year of BLADE II. The closest comparison to HELLSEEKER I guess would be HALLOWEEN: RESURRECTION, the 8th, last, and worst of a series started in 1978. But that was a theatrical release.

(DTV horror sequels that had come out since HELLRAISER: INFERNO:

FROM DUSK TILL DAWN 3: THE HANGMAN’S DAUGHTER, CHILDREN OF THE CORN REVELATION, MIMIC 2, AMERICAN PSYCHO 2.)

HELLSEEKER is the first since part II (and the only DTV one) to bring back Ashley Laurence as Kirsty Cotton, stepdaughter of Julia, niece of Frank and Final Girl of the two good HELLRAISER movies. Now she’s married to Trevor (Dean Winters, Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, 30 Rock, insurance ads) and they’re driving somewhere but they suddenly plummet off a bridge, and Kirsty doesn’t escape. Well, thanks for coming back, anyway. (read the rest of this shit…)

Sicario

tn_sicarioHere we go yo, here we go yo, so what’s a what’s a what’s a sicario? In Mexico, the onscreen text tells us, it’s a hitman. And the movie SICARIO is a nightmarish portrait of the byzantine conflict such a hitman would be in the middle of. Literally that would be the War On Drugs but metaphorically, it’s easy to think, it could be about the War On Terror, or any number of seemingly intractable cycles of violence. This is, after all, Canadian director Denis Villeneuve (PRISONERS, ENEMY) making an American movie about Mexico. It’s international and cross-cultural.

Our guide into Hell is Emily Blunt (EDGE OF TOMORROW, LOOPER) as Kate Macer, a new but talented FBI agent who raids a drug house in Phoenix and accidentally finds where a cartel has been stashing bodies. Next thing you know a meeting room full of mysterious higher-ups recruits her to aid in a vaguely defined interagency mission they say will lead her to the people responsible. She finds herself at an Air Force base with a couple dozen macho CIA, Delta Force and US Marshal tough guys who all seem to go way back and know exactly what’s going on and do this kinda mission in their sleep. And next thing you know they’re cruising over the border meeting up with militarized Mexican police forces and God knows who else. Nobody tells Kate anything. She just has to stay quiet and keep up. (read the rest of this shit…)

Hellraiser: Inferno

tn_infernoYou know me, I’m fascinated by DTV sequels. They’re an interesting in-between medium, a way to get movies made with enough name recognition to make money but not enough to spend money on. There are some that are an enjoyable use of the format (DARKMAN III, FROM DUSK TILL DAWN 2), some that are completely legit theatrical-worthy movies (CURSE OF CHUCKY), and even a few that are better than their theatrical forebears (the Hyams UNISOLs, the Florentine UNDISPUTEDs, THE MARINE 2).

But the HELLRAISER movies – something about them always seemed off limits to me. The Clive-Barker-executive-produced theatrical series ended shamefully in Weinstein-induced Alan Smitheedom, and I never got the impression that the DTV sequels were either a sincere attempt to revive the magic or a ridiculous enough bastardization to get a kick out of. Like, I don’t think they have one where Pinhead joins a biker gang or has to take care of a precocious little girl and learns how to love. So over 15 long years I have turned my back on five DTV sequels to HELLRAISER.

Until now. For some reason. Wish me luck. I opened the box.

(read the rest of this shit…)

Hellraiser: Bloodline

tn_h4HELLRAISER: BLOODLINE is produced and distributed by Miramax and, in related news, directed by Alan Smithee. It’s a mess, and it’s not surprising that it ended up being the last theatrical HELLRAISER.

You would remember it if you’ve seen it, ’cause it’s the one where Pinhead is in space. Hear me out, fellas. It’s a story that spans three time periods. It starts on a space station that has been hijacked by its own designer Merchant (Bruce Ramsay, BRICK MANSIONS). The space marines take him into custody and he tells them the story of how his ancestor invented the famous puzzle box that opens the gates to Hell, and now a debt has been passed on through the family and he’s trying to close them. Obviously they don’t get it, but he better convince them, because he has Pinhead trapped in a containment unit! (read the rest of this shit…)

Hellraiser III: Hell On Earth

Fair warning, I will be using this screen grab for now on.
Fair warning: I may be using this screen grab whenever possible for the rest of my life.

You wanna see a movie that throws all the creepy forbidden-ness and atmosphere of the HELLRAISER movies out the window in favor of inexcusably stupid ideas, terrible taste and corny datedness in a horribly failed attempt to be more like ELM STREET 3? Hey, you’re in luck! HELLRAISER III: HELL ON EARTH is just such a shameful embarrassment!

We leave the unspecified, overcast town where the Cottons live for the majesty of New York City. As portrayed by Greensboro, North Carolina. We follow this asshole J.P. Monroe (Kevin Bernhardt, KICK OR DIE [I never heard of that movie, but I like the title]), who owns a big dance club called The Boiler Room which is actually three rooms: one a cheesy ’90s dance club with a DJ playing Soup Dragons, one with a heavy metal band performing live and one a fancy restaurant with classical violin players. J.P. seems as sleazy as Frank, but way stupider and douchier. He doesn’t seek hell and hooks. He just buys what he thinks is a cool sculpture. It’s actually the petrified (or something) column where we last saw Pinhead’s face. So when a rat crawls out and bites J.P. and he splatters his blood on it the face comes to life and starts talking to him, trying to make a Julia out of him. (read the rest of this shit…)

Hellbound: Hellraiser II

tn_hellboundHoly shit, man. You talk about a part II. Somehow this sequel takes the dirty, forbidden, evil vibe of Clive Barker’s original and pushes it into the realm of epic (low budget) fantasy. It’s hard to believe I saw this sicko movie at Christmas time in a suburban multiplex, but I did. That’s just how we rolled back in 1988.

Immediately after the events of part 1, Kirsty is stuck in a mental hospital, I guess for telling the truth about what happened. But she has bigger problems than having to get discharged. For example there’s the skinless man who writes “I AM IN HELL HELP ME” on her wall in blood. She’s not entirely free of her family’s dark underpinnings, because she goes over and touches it and then smears a little bit of the blood on her lip. But she takes it as a message from her dad.

Also there’s the matter of the bloody mattress that Julia died on, which she wants the cops to destroy so Julia can’t come back the way that Frank did. Little does she know that her doctor Channard (Kenneth Cranham, OLIVER!) is a death-obsessed weirdo, a high class Uncle Frank who collects puzzle boxes, Egyptian shit and information about Hell and magick and what not. He hears her talking about the mattress and it gives him ideas. (read the rest of this shit…)

Hellraiser

tn_hellraiserHELLRAISER is a rare event: a horror author, not necessarily an aspiring filmmaker, turns one of his short stories into a low budget movie, and it turns out to be a timeless horror classic. Like many prose writers Clive Barker had had a few disappointments writing screenplays (UNDERWORLD aka TRANSMUTATIONS, and RAWHEAD REX) that weren’t filmed the way he wanted them; unlike most he’d run his own experimental theater company in the ’70s, where he worked with many of his eventual film collaborators including star Doug Bradley and II-IV sequel writer Peter Atkins.

The movie launched a bit of a Hollywood career for Barker, but mostly in the ol’ Development, uh, Hell, so he’s only ended up directing two other movies (NIGHTBREED and LORD OF ILLUSIONS) in the nearly 30 years since, while continuing to be well known as a novelist and painter. Meanwhile HELLRAISER lives on in comic books, DTV sequels, endless remake talk, and tattooed on the flesh of fans. (read the rest of this shit…)

The Martian

tn_themartiana.k.a. Get Your Ass From Mars

THE MARTIAN is what you get with old master Ridley Scott working from a good script (by Drew Goddard, director of THE CABIN IN THE WOODS) based on a book with a real solid, simple premise: an astronaut is left for dead on Mars and is intent on surviving. It’s like ROBINSON CRUSOE ON MARS, but without a monkey! That’s the modern twist. No monkeys.

etAs you know, Matt Damon (HAPPY FEET TWO, HEREAFTER) plays the astronaut, Mark Watney. Just like my boy E.T., Watney is a botanist who’s just minding his own business being on a space mission collecting samples when something bad happens and the crew has to do an emergency take off, and then he doesn’t get on board fast enough. Unfortunately there’s no little Mars boy to hide him in the closet, feed him candy and dress him up as a ghost (or maybe those scenes were cut), but he does use existing equipment to jury-rig a means of communication to let the people back home know to come get him. And then he waits it out.

He has a limited supply of rations, and a long window before any theoretical rescue mission could possibly arrive. So, using seemingly pretty scientifically plausible methods, he figures out ways to use what he has to create more food, water, etc., and to deal with the other problems that arise, of which there are many. He’s in space, for crying out loud. Space is a motherfucker. He doesn’t even have to come across any Ghosts of Mars, there’s all kinds of other problems there. And we learn that a roll of tape is the most important tool anybody could have, followed by clear plastic/construction film.

(read the rest of this shit…)