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Posts Tagged ‘Clive Barker’

Sleepwalkers

Friday, October 30th, 2020

A rare movie-watching phenomenon that I love: rewatching one I saw decades ago, and have always believed sucked, but discovering that I really like it now. It happened with THE MANGLER, Tobe Hooper’s crazy adaptation of a Stephen King short story, and it’s happened again with SLEEPWALKERS, the first movie written by King that’s not based on a previously published work. Maybe it’s something about King’s stories, but more likely it’s that my tastes in horror have evolved since I was a teenager and saw this in the theater.

The mythological premise is established with a little text at the beginning: there are these fuckers called sleepwalkers, they are nomadic shapeshifters who are like vampires but instead of blood they suck the lifeforce of “virginal females,” and instead of sun or garlic or whatever they’re susceptible to cat scratches.

It’s a Stephen King thing. Just go with it. (read the rest of this shit…)

Books of Blood / The Mortuary Collection

Thursday, October 22nd, 2020

Well! Heh, heh! Hello there boys, ghouls and non-DIE-naries. It’s me again, your voluble villain of vivacious vicarious violence, Vern! I don’t tend to review the anthologies nearly as much as other types of horror, but this year two of the SCREAM-ing services have new ones that seemed promising. So I’ve prepared for you an anthology of anthologies, a little two-headed review I call THE PAIR-ER OF TERROR!

Hulu’s BOOKS OF BLOOD and Shudder’s THE MORTUARY COLLECTION both find fresh ways to deal with the horror host/wraparound story tradition. THE MORTUARY COLLECTION is formatted as stories told by creepy old mortician Montgomery Dark (Clancy Brown, PET SEMATARY II) – he looks like The Tall Man from PHANTASM – to Sam (Caitlin Custer, Teen Wolf), a young woman he’s interviewing for a job. I like that some of the stories had me thinking, “Well, that’s a pretty simplistic moralistic kind of ironic ending” and then Sam would point out as much, to Montgomery’s increasing frustration. And then the last and best segment is a story about Sam, ending with a great twist that leads into the wraparound finale, which really works as the climax of the movie and not just a wrap up.

BOOKS OF BLOOD sort of does the whole thing in reverse – instead of establishing up front what the stories are (comic books, campfire tales, etc.) they unfold and explain at the end what they’re all about, like an origin story. If you’re familiar with Clive Barker’s short story collections of the same name you know what that means (SPOILER: they’re the stories of the dead whose names are carved into a guy’s flesh.)

(read the rest of this shit…)

CANDYMAN and the racial divide

Thursday, November 1st, 2018

FROM THE VERN VAULT: Don’t worry friends, I’m not about to start doing reruns all the time, but there are two pieces that were written for One.Perfect.Shot that disappeared after they were bought out by Film School Rejects. Prompted by Rumsey Taylor I located them on Internet Archive and I’m reposting them for posterity.

Maybe I’m full of it but it seems to me this piece from October 26th, 2015 was a little ahead of the curve. At the time I knew of no one else who considered CANDYMAN the best horror movie of the ’90s and I didn’t think people talked enough about its exploration of the legacy of slavery in America. I’m proud of this as well as my 2005 take on the movie. (It’s not dangerous until I review it five times, is it?)

P.S. I am responsible for the headline but that term “the racial divide” bugs me now – I wish I called it “WE’RE NOT COPS – WE’RE WITH THE UNIVERSITY.”

‘CANDYMAN’ AND THE RACIAL DIVIDE: WHY ONE OF THE BEST HORROR FILMS OF THE 90S IS EVEN MORE RELEVANT TODAY

“These stories are modern oral folklore. They are the un-self-conscious reflection of the fears of urban society.” –urban legends lecture by Professor Lyle (Xander Berkeley)

“What if a person had this thing done to him and what if he had the opportunity to come back and say, ‘Watch out!’ to the world that created this person and the conditions?” –Tony Todd to Fangoria Magazine, March 1995

American horror movies have played off of all manner of primal and societal fears: tensions between social classes, the invasion of the sanctity of the home, the dangers of trespassing in forbidden places. But leave it to a couple of British artists – writer/director Bernard Rose and executive producer/short story author Clive Barker – to explicitly tie those themes to the racial atrocities of our history, creating a truly American horror story. (read the rest of this shit…)

The Last Movie Star

Tuesday, March 27th, 2018

Let’s say hypothetically you have a fondness for Burt Reynolds (HOOPER, CITY HEAT, regular HEAT, MALONE, UNIVERSAL SOLDIER II and III) but you find it depressing that circumstances have conspired to make his filmography this century include films like A MAGIC CHRISTMAS (as the voice of “Buster the Dog”), NOT ANOTHER NOT ANOTHER MOVIE, DELGO and Uwe Bolle’s IN THE NAME OF THE KING: A DUNGEON SIEGE TALE. Well, then THE LAST MOVIE STAR is for you. Writer-director Adam Rifkin (THE DARK BACKWARD, PSYCHO COP RETURNS, THE CHASE, DETROIT ROCK CITY, writer of MOUSEHUNT and SMALL SOLDIERS) devised the movie as a love letter to Burt’s career and a chance to show that he’s a legit actor. He wrote it for him and told him he would only make it with him. I think he hoped it could be a career reviver or re-contextualizer like LOST IN TRANSLATION or something.

I guess it’s too late for that, because it’s out on video today and you probly never heard of it. But it kinda fits the subject matter to be a shabby little obscurity getting by on alot of heart. See, Burt plays 80 year old former six-years-in-a-row box office champ Vic Edwards. He still has money and a nice house, but he lives alone, hobbles around like he’s someone who won’t be walking for long, and people barely look at him anymore. He’s like a super hero who’s lost his powers. He can’t get what he wants by strutting around and smiling at women. He’s much more likely to creep them out than impress them.

The movie opens with a real clip of handsome, charming young Burt on TV telling a funny story, casually taking in the adulation of the audience, then smash cuts to Vic skinny and wrinkled and having to put his dog to sleep. (read the rest of this shit…)

Hellraiser: Bloodline

Thursday, October 15th, 2015

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

Wednesday, October 14th, 2015

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

Tuesday, October 13th, 2015

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

Monday, October 12th, 2015

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…)

Lord of Illusions

Friday, August 28th, 2015

RELEASE DATE: August 16th
RELEASE DATE: August 25th

tn_lordofillusionsAccording to Wikipedia, August and September are considered “dump months,” “when there are lowered commercial and critical expectations for most new releases.” And it has long been conventional wisdom that August is a crappy month for movies, when all the worst summer shit gets squirted out so the studios can be rid of it.

“For moviegoers, August also represents the nadir of Hollywood’s output each year,” writes Chris Hicks of Deseret News, summing up the belief of everybody else and everybody else’s uncle. Back in 2008, Vulture even did a study called “The August Movie: A Theory of Awfulness” which calculated that “the studios have put out 169 lousy movies in the past fifteen Augusts, and merely 26 halfway-decent ones.”

Release patterns have been changing in the years since, and few will deny the success and quality of GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY, or that it’s starting to become part of the Oscar season (best picture winners and contenders including ARGO, BIRDMAN, 12 YEARS A SLAVE and GRAVITY have come out in August). Last year Josh Rottenberg of the L.A. Times wondered “Is August no longer filled with Hollywood’s dog days?”

But I’m here to tell you that August was always a month full of promise. Sure, pre-GUARDIANS a studio wasn’t about to release a potential blockbuster smash at the end of the summer. But it’s a good spot for things that are a little more interesting, that they think might have potential but are maybe not for mainstream people. In fact, that’s my favorite type of movie. If you look at that Vulture study you can see that it’s based on an elitist mindset that dismisses movies on the basis of being lowbrow genre movies, even if they’re high watermarks for us. Their alleged 169 “lousy” movies included action pictures we love like HARD TARGET, DESPERADO and BLADE. And even a best picture nominee and universally beloved classic like BABE is only allowed to be “halfway-decent.” (read the rest of this shit…)

The Midnight Meat Train

Tuesday, January 27th, 2015

tn_mmt“Please, step away from the meat.”

Before THE HANGOVER made him a marquee name, and before he was nominated for Oscars three years in a row, Bradley Cooper was the star of THE MIDNIGHT MEAT TRAIN (2008). Sure, he’d already been in WET HOT AMERICAN SUMMER and WEDDING CRASHERS and some TV shows, like he was on Alias and he played “Jack Bourdain” in Darren Star’s short-lived TV version of Kitchen Confidential. But come on. Obviously nobody cares about that shit and I’m embarrassed that I just typed it. He was, and is, the star of THE MIDNIGHT MEAT TRAIN.

Loosely based on a Clive Barker short story, this is a tale of city life. It’s about fears of late night public transit, of deserted subway platforms and cars, and our curiosity about the other odd people who are out late. The model in the fur coat, the teens selling candy bars at 2 am, most of all the dour, weathered bruiser in the suit and tie (Vinnie Jones, GARFIELD: A TAIL OF TWO KITTIES), always hunched over clutching his bag and looking miserable.

Leon (Bradley Cooper, THE MIDNIGHT MEAT TRAIN) sees the guy and becomes obsessed with him. He follows him GHOST WORLD style, researches him, photographs him, dreams about him. Leon helps a lady escape from rapists, she goes missing that night, and he decides the man with the bag is involved. The more he investigates the creepier and crazier the whole thing seems. And he has a dream where he sees his own head on the guy’s body and it slits his throat and he sees his face reflected in the puddle of blood. You know, that old dream. (read the rest of this shit…)