"I got news for 'em. There's gonna be hell to pay. 'Cause I ain't daddy's little boy no more."

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…)


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…)


slashersearch15 tn_backwoodsa.k.a. GEEK

This year during Slasher Search I’m hoping to find a few more woods/camping/cabin based slashers, because I’m working on a novel that relates to this subgenre. So I started with one that actually had the word “woods” as part of the title.

BACKWOODS is a very routine low budget movie about a young couple who go on a camping trip and get into trouble with a feral mountain man type dude. Things do not look promising when the movie goes from the opening credits – with a hillbilly folk tune about racoon hunting creepily whisper-sung over black (you’ll be hearing this song alot) – to a shot of the protagonists riding bikes with cheesy drum machines and music so inappropriately upbeat it sounds like it comes from an old educational film strip. This is a pretty bad movie, but at least it’s not as bad as this music cue had me convinced it would be.

Karen (Christina Noonan, no other credits) and Jamie (Brad Armacost – holy shit, he was on an episode of Empire! I love that show!) are visiting Kentucky. Karen insists on riding their bikes through a mountain trail, then chaining them to a tree and hiking further until they set up a tent and have some sex and what not. Of course this is after a friendly local tells them definitely not to go up in that direction. No specific reason I want to mention but, you know, trust me on this.

The first sign of trouble: they keep finding chicken heads everywhere. Kinda weird. Then it seems like somebody’s watching them have sex. (read the rest of this shit…)

The Last Circus

tn_lastcircusFrom the monster clowns on the cover and the opening scene set in 1937 I really thought this was gonna be some kind of ghost or demon story, but it’s actually set in the sort-of-real-world. Director Alex de la Iglesia (DAY OF THE BEAST, 800 BULLETS) gives us another hard-to-classify brew of insanity, whimsy, tragedy and cruelty, like a Jean-Pierre Jeunet movie that got left out too long and went rancid.

It’s the tragic tale of Javier (Carlos Areces, EXTRATERRESTRIAL, I’M SO EXCITED), son of a clown (Santiago Segura, BLADE II, BEYOND RE-ANIMATOR, PERDITA DURANGO) who as a child watched his father’s troupe dragged away from a performance and conscripted to kill some rebels. Some resist, but his pop takes the machete they give him and goes to town, still wearing his makeup like a fuckin nightmare. Afterwards a Colonel (Sancho Gracia) enslaves him in a mine for years, until nerdy little Javier tries to avenge him with a guerrilla bombing, which has mixed results. On one hand, it kicks off a ruckus and some of the prisoners escape. On the other hand his father has his face stomped in by the Colonel’s panicking horse.

As an adult  in the ’70s Javier gets a job as the sad clown in a traveling circus. He immediately gets a crush on the aerialist, Natalia (Carolina Bang, AS LUCK WOULD HAVE IT, WITCHING & BITCHING), but she’s the property of his abusive funny clown superior Sergio. (read the rest of this shit…)

Halloween II

tn_halloweeniiHALLOWEEN II is… not HALLOWEEN. But I guess that’s why they added the “II” on it. I should’ve caught that.

Continuing immediately from the end of John Carpenter’s genre-defining much-imitated timeless unkillable masterpiece classic, and using most of the same crew (including cinematographer Dean Cundey), it’s able to imitate the style enough to recapture the feel sometimes. Other times it just emphasizes how outstanding and impossible to duplicate Carpenter’s touch was.

To be fair, this was written and produced by Carpenter and Debra Hill, scored by Carpenter, who also chose the director, Rick Rosenthal (who later ended the series in disgrace with HALLOWEEN: RESURRECTION) on the basis of a short he directed. Then, when it was filmed and Carpenter didn’t think it was scary enough he went and shot gorier death scenes. So he has a hand in it, for good or bad.

This is one of the rare sequels that just continues exactly from the ending of the last one. So it starts by replaying the ending of the original, where Dr. Loomis (Donald Pleasance) shows up to rescue Laurie (Jamie Lee Curtis) by shooting Michael “The Shape” Myers (in the new footage played by stunt coordinator Dick Warlock, the only major cast change), who then disappears. I always wonder if the end of HALLOWEEN, a series of shots of empty locations, was meant to imply that Michael could be anywhere, or that he IS everywhere. But part II goes with the first choice. He snuck off.

The sequel proper begins with an excellent steadicam P.O.V. sequence. Carpenter has his scene from the point-of-view of young clown-costumed Michael spying on and then murdering his sister on Halloween night. Rosenthal has adult Michael walking around dark Haddonfield unseen by unsuspecting suburbanites. We hear his breath, the dogs barking and nearby cars driving by as he walks through an alley and looks into people’s homes. Some of the innocents he comes across are doomed, most will not know how close they came, or that they walked right past him without noticing his presence. (read the rest of this shit…)

a new piece on STONE COLD

tn_stonecoldThose of you who participate in the “Twitter” brand social media platform might have seen an account called “One. Perfect. Shot.” It follows the simple idea of posting beautiful frames from favorite movies, so you can admire their composition and lighting and what not. For example here’s a nice one from today:

I didn’t know this at first, but the guy that does it is Geoff Todd, who was the editor over at Daily Grindhouse when I did a column there. He also collects them at a websight, oneperfectshotdb.com, complete with, like, articles and shit. He asked me to write some of those articles and shit, and he’s always been good to me, so what the hell. I will be writing one or two perfect essays a month over there.

Since most of his readers probly don’t know me from Adam and Steve I figured I should introduce myself with a movie that truly represented who I am and what I represent, not only as a writer but also as a human being here on this planet just trying to get by and travel this journey you know what I mean so obviously I wrote the only thing a man in that situation CAN write, a little piece called:

Strictly Bozness: The Fiery Majesty of ‘Stone Cold’

I know I’ve written about this movie a couple times before, but come on. It’s fucking STONE COLD, man. This won’t be the last time either. “Stricly Bozness,” by the way, is what I wanted to call my book on the films of Brian Bosworth before I determined that too many of them (including the barely aired TV show he starred in) were unavailable for me to do it. Maybe some day.

Anyway, check it out and feel free to comment over there so they know somebody gave a shit.

Scream 2

tn_scream2SCREAM 2 is a slasher sequel that had a rare level of difficulty. The fringe nature of the subgenre normally allows part 2s some leeway as exploitational cash grabs, making room for everything from an okay continuation (HALLOWEEN II) to an experimental misstep (A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET PART 2: FREDDY’S REVENGE) to a perfection of the formula (FRIDAY THE 13TH PART 2) to a re-inventing masterpiece-in-its-own-right (TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE 2). But SCREAM was such a mainstream smash hit, and it created such a new interest in horror among non-horror people, that it had different expectations to live up to.

Also, its horror-movie-where-the-characters-know-about-horror-movies gimmick positioned it as sort of above horror movies, so they couldn’t get away with a normal sequel, they had to also say something about sequels. At the same time it couldn’t really follow the template of the sequels it was supposed to be commenting on because it’s a series where the bad guys die and the good guys come back in sequels, so it’s a totally different type of story from most popular slashers.

As if all that wasn’t a tall enough hurdle to jump over, this was maybe the first movie production to get screwed by internet spoilers. A first draft of the script got leaked online, so they changed the twist ending during filming. (I bet Elise Neal was bummed she didn’t get to do her killer reveal speech.) (read the rest of this shit…)

Insidious Chapter 2

insidious2INSIDIOUS CHAPTER 2 is another pretty good ghost movie from director James Wan (DEATH SENTENCE, FURIOUS SEVEN) and his longtime co-writer Leigh Whannell. It’s actually a better sequel than usual because either they set up on purpose what part 2 would be or they just happened to leave a good hook for it on accident. Chapter 1 was kind of a POLTERGEIST meets JAWS THE REVENGE deal where this family thinks their house is haunted by a demonic Tiny-Tim-loving Darth Maul cosplayer, but it turns out their son (Ty Simpkins, IRON MAN THREE) is haunted. The dad (Patrick Wilson, THE A-TEAM), has to go to The Other Side or Tiptoe Through the Tulips Land or whatever to straighten things out with these fuckin ghosts. But also we met his mother (Barbara Hershey, BOXCAR BERTHA), and there was some indication that something like this had already happened to him before when he was a kid.

Well, now it all ties together. We flash back to his childhood (Isn’t chapter 2 kinda soon for that? I think this is gonna be a pretty short book. Will this even be a novella?) and then we see how it connects to some spookiness going on with the family right now, particularly with dad acting weird, being seen doing odd things when he thinks he’s alone, and covering his growing agitation with an increasingly awkward fake smile. Did he come back from ghost world somehow… wrong?

The first one dealt with the fear of spooky kids, this is one is all about the fear of insane dads and husbands. And the idea of someone you know really well suddenly seeming different, not themselves.

(read the rest of this shit…)