Frogs (1972)

MARCH 31, 2009

GENRE: PREDATOR
SOURCE: DVD (ONLINE RENTAL)

If you watch a horror movie called Frogs, and the frogs don’t actually provide any of the horror, does it make a sound? Or, I guess, a visual imprint? Wait, I guess movies have sound too, so... wait...

Look, it’s fucking dumb to name a movie Frogs when the frogs don’t kill anyone. All I'm saying.

I don’t blame our amphibian ancestors though. Frogs are pretty creepy (I am afraid of pretty much any water-dwelling creature though, including if not especially fish), but they don’t really have any sort of attack power I can discern. Do they even have teeth? They got those giant tongues, but unless the frog itself is giant (which these frogs are not, they’re merely “slightly bigger than normal”), I can’t see the tongue causing much damage to someone.

So does the film have a complete lack of kills? Quite the opposite - the movie actually has a higher body count than I expected. As I pointed out in the Home, Sweet Home review, you don’t have horror movies centered on family gatherings all that often, because that means you are wiping out someone’s entire family instead of their friends and neighbors. And each person meets their demise at the hands of lizards, snakes, spiders (those aren’t even amphibious!), alligators, turtles, birds (again - fit the theme!), and crabs. Apparently there was a butterfly kill at one point (!!!) but it was deleted and replaced with snakes, giving them TWO kills in the movie. The frogs sort of get in the final kill, but they simply ribbit until the old guy has a heart attack, so that doesn’t count. Maybe that’s why the movie was named after them? The producers felt bad for not letting them in on any of the carnage?

In fact, the frogs are so unthreatening that a little kid actually casually walks by a few on the porch during the “escape” that serves as the “that was it?” climax of the movie. No theatrics like waving a torch in their direction or anything, he and the others just sort of mosey on by while the damn things sit there doing nothing, much as they did for the 80 minutes before.

And without an actual villain, the movie has no climax either. Like Twister, the movie ends when whatever scene is occurring around the 90 minute mark has reached its logical conclusion and everyone calls it a day. The big finale goes down like this: the hero (a young Sam Elliott!) clubs a snake, hands a kid a shotgun, and then they all get into a car with a good Samaritan who is in no way puzzled as to why a shirtless man with a shotgun and a trio of obviously upset women and children doesn’t care to explain what happened or where his car is. Awesome.

Another hilarious thing about the movie is that everyone calls the old guy “Grandpa”. Either there’s some weird incestuous shit going on, or the family has skipped a generation. He’s also a wonderfully horrible old man; he hardly cares when his grandchildren are killed, and also shoots a snake hanging over the dinner table before ordering everyone to sit down and eat, without bothering to have his black sla-, er, servant clean up the snake guts first. He’s also a selfish ol’ bastard - the family has gotten together for a week to celebrate four birthdays, but he repeatedly refers to “his” birthday being ruined or whatever. Spread the joy, asshole.

And this is supposed to be scary, but I just found it kind of heartbreaking:

Let him in! He obviously won’t fucking do anything.

What say you?

And now, Horror Movie A Day and Happy Hour Comics would like to present the newest in an ongoing series of HMAD-inspired comic strips. I hope you enjoy!! (Click to enlarge)

PLEASE, GO ON...

Laid To Rest (2009)

MARCH 30, 2009

GENRE: SLASHER
SOURCE: DVD (OWN COLLECTION)

The funny thing about horror movies is that there’s no such thing as majority rule. Majority rule says that Shawshank Redemption and Godfather are great, Epic Movie and Gigli are shit, and that The Postman is actually pretty good if you bother to watch it (which few people have actually done). But with horror, it’s pretty much always 50/50. And with remakes coming along at a steady clip, you can’t even single out a few exceptions like Psycho or Halloween, because there are several fans who honestly believe that those films’ remakes are superior (and even some who thought they always sucked). But still, you want to be optimistic. So when I saw that just about every major horror outlet (Bloody, Shock, Dread, Rue Morgue, and Fango), had pull quotes on the Laid To Rest DVD, I assumed that I would at least enjoy it.

And in terms of the movie’s main appeal, I did. Going solely by the kills, the film certainly delivers on a level I haven’t seen since in a slasher since Hatchet. But me, I’m a story/character guy, and on that level, I can’t say the movie works. Even by slasher standards, there is a severe lack of logic at times, and there is little to no character development or any sort of explanation for the killer’s MO. At times I felt like I was watching the 3rd or 4th part in a franchise that I knew nothing about.

Before I focus on the negative, let me praise what deserves it. Again, the kills are phenomenal - anyone disappointed with the relatively tame kills in Friday the 13th 2009 will certainly be satisfied here. Heads are torn apart with knives or melted on countertops, faces are sliced off... they all focus on the head for some reason, but they are expertly done nonetheless. Also, Chromeskull is a great villain (at least on the concept level, more on that later) – he is menacing (the actor playing him is Tyler Mane-size) and unique looking. There haven’t been many memorable NEW slashers lately, even in otherwise solid movies (Cold Prey is a good example), but Chromeskull is definitely a future T-shirt/action figure staple, assuming the movie is a hit for Anchor Bay.

But almost instantly, I was rolling my eyes at the contrived nonsense on the screen. Our heroine has amnesia, which is fine - but it’s some form of amnesia that leaves the victim practically invalid. She can’t form basic sentences or recall basic vocabulary (she repeatedly refers to coffins as “Dead boxes” - why she’d remember THOSE words but not others is none of our business), nor can she remember the number for 911 without a helpful, hilariously handwritten note that has the number. But yet, later she is able operate a GPS system with ease. And her amnesia has the most lackluster payoff of all time. I won’t “spoil” it, but it amounts to essentially revealing her occupation, which has no resonance with what her character has done throughout the movie. You know how like, Jason Bourne doesn’t even know how or why he is able to kick so much ass and drive awesome and everything, and then he finds out he’s a trained assassin so it all makes sense? Imagine if instead, Bourne turned out to be, I dunno, a mailman. That’s about the same level of resolution that the reveal offers here.

What it DOES do is offer some sort of explanation for why Chromeskull has targeted her, but again, this has story problems. If he’s after her and others like her, why does he kill so many other people? At one point she runs off with her new friend (Kevin Gage), and rather than pursue her, Chromeskull hangs around and kills two people who hadn’t even seen him. Of course, he has slasher teleporting skills, so it’s not long before he catches up with her anyway, but still. It’s one thing for something in a sequel to cause problems with an earlier movie (i.e. Halloween II revealing Laurie is his sister, which makes Michael’s actions in the first film make zero sense), but it’s another when it doesn’t even stay consistent in its own movie, especially one that is solely the creation of one person (respected, and rightfully so, effects guru Rob Hall is listed as the writer and director, his company did the makeup effects, he composed the score with other crew members, and he’s also listed as a producer).

Having a killer with all of these interesting qualities but also never really explaining who he is or why he’s doing it is a bit of a missed opportunity too. And before anyone calls me out, yes, the original Halloween offered nothing in that department either. But that also applied to the costume – beyond his name, he was a blank slate in every conceivable way. Chromey, on the other hand, wears a mask that appears to be glued onto his face, has a leaking eye that he needs to inject with something every now and then, uses an elaborate series of technological gizmos (including the world’s first DV camera that takes AA batteries)... all these peculiar, possibly interesting things. And yet we never get as much as a hint as to what any of it means. I’m sure they are thinking prequel (a sequel doesn’t seem likely, unless they go into Jason Lives territory), but come on, throw us a fucking bone here, NOW.

Again, it eventually all feels like an entry in a well-known franchise. In a way, it kind of reminds me of the TV shows that came along in Lost’s wake. If you go back and watch the first episode (hell, most of the first SEASON), you would probably be a bit surprised to recall that none of the things that have taken over the show’s narrative (Dharma, time travel, Ben Linus) are even mentioned, let alone a significant factor. They let you get to know the characters, ground their situation in reality... and THEN sprung the gonzo sci-fi stuff on us at the end of the season (and even then, it was until I’d say season 3 that things got weird). But shows like The 9 and Invasion, both obviously created with Lost in mind, totally front-loaded their shows with the mystery and convoluted premises, never giving the audience a chance to really relate to them, and as a result, neither of them lasted more than a season.

Likewise, I think Laid To Rest could have been a better start to a solid franchise had Hall developed the lead characters a bit before the killer even appeared, and saved some of the stuff for future adventures, rather than present the first film as one nonstop (at times impressively so, admittedly) killing spree. It’s one thing to have questions and save the answers for later, it’s entirely another to do so before introductions are even made. Like the killer’s leaking eye thing - what’s the story behind that? To explain it would require either a flashback or a prequel now, whereas it could have been the result of an action he suffered in this film that was added to his roster of quirks in Laid to Rest Part 3.

The DVD comes with a standard collection of extras. Hall and lead/producer Bobbie Sue Luther provide an enjoyable enough commentary. Unusual for a track, they are married, which allows for some lighthearted bickering you don’t often hear in these things. The making of (which is kind of funny, as an actor and a producer describe the film in almost completely opposite ways, back to back) is about a half hour long and covers the entire production. Everyone seems to be working hard and enjoying what they are making/doing, so that’s good. Then there’s a look at the effects, which is surprisingly very short. Given Hall’s background and the fact that the movie is all but filler for the kill scenes, I thought this would be a longer and more in-depth piece. Then we get the trailer and some deleted scenes (the first of which is technically a joke, but a hilarious one) that won’t be missed. There is also a blooper reel, but damned if I can even tell what went wrong in half of them. Regardless of how you feel about the film, you can’t deny that Anchor Bay has delivered a nice collection of extras for the film, which is becoming increasingly rare these days for their independent pickups.

Like I said at the beginning, I really wanted to like the movie. I have friends who worked on it, and other friends who really dug it (and given messageboard postings and such, I am clearly in the minority here - a point I would like to stress for anyone using my thoughts on the film to gauge their own reaction). I hate to knock on an original R-rated horror movie (a technically sound one at that), but the script just needed too much work for the film to work as a whole for me. Some have pointed out that the film had a very small budget, but production value is not one of the film’s problems – in fact, I thought the film looked like it cost a lot more than it reportedly did. I wouldn’t mind watching another Chromeskull adventure, but next time I want someone equally as interesting on the good guys’ side.

What say you?

PLEASE, GO ON...

Of Unknown Origin (1983)

MARCH 29, 2009

GENRE: PREDATOR
SOURCE: DVD (ONLINE RENTAL)

Man, THREE New York monster movies in a row! I swear I don’t plan this shit. Even stranger, I swear that the house that at least serves as the exterior for Peter Weller’s home in Of Unknown Origin is the same one at the end of Q where the new egg is about to hatch. But I can’t be sure, they never offer an aerial or even a really wide shot of the place, and that’s all we got in Q.

But what they DO offer is a fucking awesome man vs. rat movie. I love how stripped down it is: the family is shipped off in the first few minutes, and there’s only one rat. There are a couple of side characters who you think might end up as rat fodder (the building’s handyman, Weller’s hot secretary) but nope. It’s always down to Weller and the rat, which is giant enough to be threatening but not giant enough to make the movie feel silly.

That’s not to say that the movie isn’t humorous. On the contrary, it’s pretty damn funny. But intentionally so. Weller more or less spends the entire movie alone, talking to himself, and he’s got some great lines throughout (when the rat chews out the electricity about an hour or so into the film, he mutters “I was wondering when you were gonna get around to that...”), and there are some terrific sight gags as well. It’s never set up or foreshadowed, so when Weller is chased by the rat into his bedroom and he dives onto a newly installed hammock, I laughed out loud. And even though it’s slightly obvious, I couldn’t help but grin when he grabs a copy of Moby Dick to pound the ceiling where the rat is chewing away.

It’s also a nice showcase for George P. Cosmatos, who got stuck doing a lot of lackluster movies in his later years (such as Leviathan, or his final film, Shadow Conspiracy, which also ended Charlie Sheen’s theatrical starring role career). He does a lot of rat point of view shots, which are all pretty solid. They are all scaled up sets, obviously, but the effect is sold quite well. He also creates some truly unsettling shots using a diopter, putting the rat’s foot in focus on one side of the frame as a poor cat (the movie’s only casualty) wanders around in the other side. The only blunder is that he never quite manages to really clarify how big the rat is in relation to Weller (seems about the size of his head), nor does he provide an explanation for how it seemingly can get into even tiny cupboards without making a hole.

On the commentary, Cosmatos explains this, citing the old Jaws example. I buy it for the first hour, but eventually you saw that the shark was big enough to eat Robert Shaw. The scenes where Weller is physically attacked by the thing are presented in quick cuts, and often in the dark. Weller’s also on the commentary (they are not together though), and it’s certainly worth a listen. Weller’s a pretty smart guy, and hilariously honest (he points out how it was hard to focus on his suitcase prop when Shannon Tweed, as his wife, was showering one room over). Cosmatos also explains that the movie wasn’t shot in New York, which ends my “house from Q” curiosity (I wrote the first half of the review before I watched the commentary, and I'm too lazy to scroll up and edit). They occasionally lapse into narration or silent mode, but it’s a pretty interesting track overall, and they point out things I had missed (like how Weller’s character walks perpendicular to the anonymous extras when things are going well for him, but parallel later in the film). Neither of them provide any explanation for the film’s otherwise awesome trailer, which ends on a suggestion that the house about to vanish into the next dimension or something. Watch it below, it’s fucking amazing if you’ve seen the movie, and needlessly misleading if you haven’t.

I am pretty sure I caught the end of this movie when I was like four or five. I know I saw a killer rat movie that had a conclusion in a basement, and I seem to recall water (the pipes have burst) as well. But the guy I had pictured in my head was a more mild-mannered type, like Dennis Christopher in IT or something. So I dunno. If there’s another early 80s killer rat movie that’s as good as this, I would certainly like to see it.

Also I’d like to quickly offer an aside about The Room. I admit to being quite late to the party (seeing as how everyone in the theater, even those claiming to be watching it for the first time, knew every line and were armed with spoons), but goddamn, if you have an opportunity to see this epic in theaters, you must. It’s not horror by any means, but it transcends any genre one could assign to it (if someone held a gun to my head, I’d call it a romantic drama, but that would be slighting it). It’s indescribable, and even if you’ve watched clips, you’re not getting anything even close to the right context (especially since the scenes exist without context in the film anyway). I went at 11:59 pm on Saturday (the word “midnight” should just be removed from the English language to avoid confusion), and was amazed to discover that the theater showed it on FOUR screens to meet the demand, despite having been shown once a month for years now. Even Rocky Horror doesn’t command that sort of treatment. I didn’t watch Of Unknown Origin until like 9pm today because I was too wired from The Room to fall asleep until like 6 am, which sort of shifted my daily routine by about 5 hrs. Anyway, I plan to go next time it comes around; if you’re in LA you simply must join me.

What’s new with you?

PLEASE, GO ON...

Q: The Winged Serpent (1982)

MARCH 28, 2009

GENRE: CULT, MONSTER
SOURCE: DVD (ONLINE RENTAL)

Attention: Makers of C.H.U.D. - THIS is how you make a low budget monster movie in New York that features under-loved character actor Eddie Jones in a small role. Q The Winged Serpent (recommended by HMAD reader Brian - not me) is hardly perfect, but its entertaining, unique, and puts every dollar on the screen. I am really glad that the stars (read: DVD online rental services) aligned so that I could watch these movies back to back - Q has benefited greatly from a not even 24 hours old memory of how easily this type of movie can go wrong.

Now, nothing against any of the actors in Chud - they were all great, but sadly working with a lackluster script. But none of them can really hold a candle to Michael Moriarty’s performance here. As in The Stuff, he’s seemingly on his own little planet, and the movie is the better for it. There’s a great scene early on in which he makes like Ty Webb on a seedy bar piano, and it’s probably the most entertaining part of the movie even though it has nothing to do with monsters or cult priests skinning some dudes.

Oh yeah - this movie isn’t simply a monster movie. There’s also a guy in a goofy bird costume skinning willing people alive. They (well, he - either it’s a one man cult or Larry Cohen couldn’t afford any robed followers) are (is) responsible for Quetzalcoatl’s rebirth in Manhattan. Hokey, sure, but it beats cinema’s seven millionth toxic waste and/or radiation explanation. And it gives Quetzalcoatl a break from being a summon spell, so there’s something.

Another cool thing about the movie is how high the body count is. Every 5-10 minutes, Cohen stages another attack. The effects are terrible, but that doesn’t matter. I’d rather poor effects than simply HEARING about such attacks or doing everything off-screen. And they all have their little humorous charms, like the guy who is convinced his co-workers are stealing his lunch. Again, it’s all about making up for the film’s weaknesses (i.e. bad effects) by maintaining a high level of “alternate” entertainment.

There is a subplot about Moriarty’s character that I wish was more prominent. After a botched jewelry store heist (this scene is so clumsy and random that I almost think Cohen half-assed it because it was ultimately superfluous), some crooks come after him. Having found Quetzalcoatl’s nest earlier in the movie, he leads the crooks to it, telling them that the diamonds are in there. And since he apparently has a high compatibility rating with Quetzalcoatl, it shows up almost instantly and devours the two guys. I was hoping Moriarty would find ways to take care of all of his problems like this - his landlord, maybe an ex-wife, but that’s pretty much it.

Another disappointment is that he sits out the entire finale with the monster. While David Carradine (!) and Richard Roundtree (!!!) take on the thing from various rooftops, Moriarty’s character sits in a hotel and deals with the cult guy. Would have been nice to have him around, being random and abrasive to the cops.

P.S. - remake casting choice for Moriarty’s role? Robert Downey Jr. Holy awesome.

The DVD comes with a surprisingly enjoyable commentary track. Cohen is usually a bore, but he’s joined by Bill Lustig, who asks him questions and keeps him from merely rambling about his other movies like he did on The Stuff track. He also tells a pretty awesome anecdote about Bruce Willis, so he got my vote right then and there. The awesome teaser ("Just call it Q, that's all you'll have time to say before it tears you apart!") is also included. I wish he could get Moriarty for one of these things, but c’est la vie.

What say you?

PLEASE, GO ON...

C.H.U.D. (1984)

MARCH 27, 2009

GENRE: MONSTER
SOURCE: DVD (OWN COLLECTION)

Some movies more or less coast forever on their title alone, and now that I’ve seen it, I think I can add C.H.U.D. to the list. There’s a reason why the word “Chud” gets used in so many Simpsons episodes, but hardly ever accompanied by an actual visual reference to the movie - the movie, quite frankly, is kind of a bore. I have gotten more entertainment out of repeating "Of course you'll have a bad impression of New York if you only focus on the pimps and the C.H.U.D.s." to myself over the past decade than I did in the 96 minutes it took to watch the movie today.

The main problem, as always, is pace. Given its prominence in the film’s title, you’d think the damn Chuds (I’m not going through and typing out the initials with periods every time, deal with it!) would show up more often. It would be like calling E.T., I dunno, after one of Michael’s friends. In the first hour it only makes two brief attacks, and even during the finale it doesn’t do a hell of a lot. Christ, they don’t even kill the obligatory human villain! He gets shot and then blown up by Daniel Stern. Who the fuck makes a monster movie and has Marv the Wet Bandit carry out the movie’s climactic kill???

The human villain is the other problem with the movie, in that he’s in it too much. You know the scene in Ghostbusters where the ‘busters, Walter Peck, and some other guys crowd in the mayor’s office and debate about the public’s right to know and safety hazards and blah blah? Well, a similar collection of scenes take up more than half of this movie, except they’re not funny. For every second of Chud footage, there’s about 10 minutes of a bunch of guys in an office being glib with each other. Exciting. You look at The Stuff, which came out around the same time, and you see how to make a fun (if not exactly action-packed) monster movie when the budget is tight. Christ, even 50s movies had more monster footage.

To be fair, it’s a more character driven movie than most, and well acted to boot. If bad actors were in the roles, the movie would be damn near unwatchable. Stern in particular is enjoyable to watch, as it was long before Home Alone reshaped his career into permanently playing goofballs. And it’s fun to spot all the future stars. The movie offers not one but two future commanders of the Pegasus (John Heard and Graham Beckel), an unrecognizable (read: thin) Jon Polito, an almost as thin John Goodman, and probably a couple of others. It’s not often you watch a mid 80s horror movie, even a big budgeted one, and recognize more than half the stars. But good performances only go so far; you want them to engage in some action!

It’s also needlessly over-plotted. It’s cool to have a few different heroes, but they spend too much of the movie apart. John Heard’s pregnant model girlfriend is a nice damsel, but do we need to see her photo shoot? Do we need not one but two shady guys tailing our heroes around? Even the monster scenes are padded out. The Goodman scene is the worst offender - him and his partner enter a diner, flirt with a waitress, order food, flirt some more... and then when the damn Chuds show up, we jump cut to later on when they’re all dead. Come on, movie, throw us a fucking bone!

The commentary track is far more entertaining. Heard, Stern, director Douglas Cheek, co-writer Shepard Abbott, and 3rd hero (this movie has three heroes!) Christopher Curry all engage in a lively track that’s neatly split between mocking the movie (Stern in particular hates the monster’s design) and reminiscing about making it. They speak quite freely about certain folks (such as the other writer), and point out the future stars with as much surprise as I did (I wasn’t even aware about Polito until Stern pointed it out). In fact, I would suggest just listening to their track even if you hadn’t seen the movie yet - they occasionally stop and watch the movie so you can enjoy some of the endless dialogue.

About a year ago, rumors were circulating that Rob Zombie was going to remake the film (rumors he actually confirmed, just to be an asshole and fuck with the horror sites that didn’t like his shitty Halloween redux). I would actually support such a remake - the whole “New York probably wouldn’t notice monsters” angle is pretty awesome, and totally blown by the movie since New York seems closed throughout the entire thing (all of the street set scenes are devoid of taxis, pedestrians, etc). Assemble a cast of great character actors, beef up the action and the humor, and it would be pretty kick ass. Not to mention possibly live up to the legacy of its own title.

What say you?

PLEASE, GO ON...

Screamers: The Hunting (2009)

MARCH 26, 2009

GENRE: TECHNOLOGY
SOURCE: DVD (STORE RENTAL)

I wonder if the producers behind the myriad DTV sequels that have cropped up over the past year or so want to murder Joe Lynch and the rest of the Wrong Turn 2 crew. By delivering such a top notch sequel, it elevated the idea of what a non-theatrical sequel could be capable of delivering, and in turn made their lazy efforts (let’s throw in an example here: Vacancy 2) seem even worse than they would had WT2 never come along. So it’s a nice surprise to report that Screamers: The Hunting, a sequel only one man in the world was asking for (that would be Don the DVD fanatic), is actually pretty decent. It wouldn’t win a cage match with WT2, but it’s certainly an example of how to deliver an entertaining entry in a fledgling franchise.

For starters, it improves on the original. Not by much, but it does so in the areas that count: gore and effects. The screamers look better, and they interact with the backgrounds in a far more believable way. They also fuck folks up - I was actually surprised by how gory some of the kills were. It’s hardly a splatter film, but compared to the nearly bloodless kills in the original, it’s fucking Dead Alive. Plus, the human/screamer hybrids are truly hybrids this time around; their jaws open to reveal machinery and blades inside (it kind of looks like a robotic version of those things in Blade II). The body count is higher too, for what it’s worth.

It’s also improved in the pace department. It’s more or less a remake of the original, with folks going to check on a distress call and yadda yadda, but they move along. In the original, the first 45 minutes gave us... a mostly offscreen plane crash and a mostly offscreen opening attack. Here we get true carnage, a firefight, a couple of gory kills, etc.

Unfortunately, it also retains the original’s bizarre penchant of keeping important cast members to the 3rd act of the film. At least they aren’t lying about Lance Henriksen’s role - he is listed in the “and” role, not 2nd billed like Jennifer “I don’t appear in the movie for nearly an hour” Rubin was in Screamers 1. But still, it’s not until the 70 minute mark that Lance finally appears, and he dies less than 10 minutes later. I actually began to wonder if the guy making the credits just assumed Lance was in the movie (“Space? Robots? DTV? Yeah, Lance has gotta be in here...”) and put his name in there just in case, as he doesn’t appear on the cover either.

Speaking of Lance, one must think of Aliens. For years, any low budget sci-fi/horror movie used Cameron’s film as a template when characterizing its main players. You always get the fish out of water teaming up with a bunch of hardasses. But it seems Screamers was actually using Battlestar Galactica as its template. We have the strong female, sure, but she’s not an outsider or whatever like Ripley was. They are a team, and they flirt with each other and more or less act like normal humans with normal issues. They even refer to the Screamers as "Toasters" at one point - sort of a giveaway. Even the requisite “evil” human isn’t a slimy fuck like Burke, he simply sees an opportunity to make some money, but isn’t doing so at the risk of his teammates’ lives. Keeping him in a morally gray area is far more interesting, much like BSG’s Baltar (at least, in the earlier seasons - I’m only on season 3 but he seems pretty much a full on villain at this point). It’s a change I hope to see more of; there’s only so many Hudson wannabes I can take in one lifetime.

At least one fellow reviewer has bemoaned the idea of rats being in the movie (and actually causing the screamers to “wake up”), but they were in the original too, so shut the fuck up. Rats are everywhere, and that’s all there is to it. Speaking of the original, it does have some ties; Peter Weller’s character is often mentioned (one of the characters is his daughter). Oddly, the opening credits once again say “based on the short story by Philip K. Dick”, but mention none of the original’s screenwriters.

Hey, why is it whenever someone in a movie mentions “raw materials”, I immediately want to go back to Star Wars Galaxies? Anyone else play that broken-ass game? I used to love crafting shit out of my hard-grinded materials. Folks would report of a great vein of Goobledygookdium on the planet Goofynameia and I’d go off with my survey tools in order to make a gun that would fetch me 200 credits... man, good times. I understand Fallout 3 has some crafting involved, I should get on that shit.

My notes have “Let’s go” written down. I dunno why, maybe I liked how they said it or something. Or maybe I was having flashbacks to The Cars. Whatever.

I also want to officially call it - every actress with the last name Holden is incredibly beautiful. Alexandra, Laurie, and now Gina Holden, the star of this movie (which, I am still technically reviewing, despite the length tangents I have taken). She reminds me a bit of Gabrielle Anwar, which is the polar opposite of a problem. She’s also the type of action heroine I like - she’s smart and tough, but she doesn’t have that annoying “grrrrl” attitude that makes me feel like I’m watching some sort of feminist propaganda (see: Tank Girl). Put this lovely woman in more movies, preferably ones people besides obsessive compulsive horror movie nerds will see.

The DVD’s only extra is a featurette that was also surprisingly above-average. It covers the usual ground (casting, story, visual effects), but it does so by literally taking you through the movie (do not watch it before watching the film, as it gives away the end), and keeps random clip usage to a minimum. Its worth noting that Lance appears in it more than he does in the film itself. One thing I was looking for, however, was information on what the movie was shot on; it looked a lot like digital at times, but they never discuss it. The end credits are no help, I only learned that this movie’s existence is due to Canadian Tax Brackets - about a dozen different of them are “thanked”.

So is it worth a watch? I would say so. I had fun watching it, unlike the dull original, and it was competently made across the board. Compared to Sony’s other recent DTV sequels, it’s theatrical-worthy. And I’d like to point out that director Sheldon Wilson also directed the surprisingly decent Kaw, so at this point I have to assume he’s not one of the hundreds of faceless hacks out there in DTV land, and is someone who actually gives a shit. Kudos, sir.

What say you?

And now, Horror Movie A Day and Happy Hour Comics would like to present the newest in an ongoing series of HMAD-inspired comic strips. I hope you enjoy!! (Click to enlarge)

PLEASE, GO ON...

Critters 2: The Main Course (1988)

MARCH 25, 2009

GENRE: ALIEN, COMEDIC
SOURCE: DVD (ONLINE RENTAL)

I don’t know if I ever saw Critters 2: The Main Course as a kid. I remember the giant ball of critters, as well as the scene with the old man in the barn, but nothing else (i.e. guy in Easter Bunny suit being killed - which I think would leave an imprint). Maybe I started watching it and fell asleep, and then caught the end some other time? I dunno, who cares.

It’s slightly better than the original, thanks to a faster pace and better effects. Unfortunately it’s also rather lackluster - the movie is essentially a REMAKE with a faster pace and better effects. The story is identical: the bounty hunters are in space, hunting, and then get sent to Earth to find “krites” in a small mid-western town, where they more or less join forces with Scott Grimes. I mean, its closest cinematic cousin would be Gremlins, and when you compare how much they upped the ante and really delivered a great sequel in that series, you can’t help but notice that Critters 2 just sort of goes through the motions. Even its biggest draw - the giant ball of critters - doesn’t really deliver. It rolls over a guy and then gets blown up. It’s only in the movie for about four minutes, most of that spent rolling along a road.

It also resembles Gremlins at times, particularly during the initial attack on the town (and by initial I mean, pretty much only). They wreak havoc with the phone and electric wires, then devour a diner. They even laugh at each others’ misfortunes and make bug eyes and such. The original may be called a Gremlins clone, but other than the idea of pint-sized creatures running about, it never really FELT like a ripoff; everything else was fairly unique. Not so much here.

But it’s certainly entertaining. Again, a guy in a bunny suit is killed (and better - he’s played by one of the annoying cops from Halloween 5 - always a pleasure to see him get mangled), and there are some nice injokes about other 80s movies. At one point, the shape-shifting bounty hunter begins to transform into Freddy Krueger before it is thwarted by Charlie, who convinces it to turn into Mick Garris’ wife instead (what an oddly Freudian moment here).

Speaking of Charlie, I love the scene when Scott Grimes (whose visit to the town is never adequately explained, and he leaves the instant the disaster is averted) looks at a photo of him and Charlie, because it’s just a still from the first movie:

Who took that?

It’s one thing for Halloween 4 to use a production still of Jamie Lee Curtis from the first movie, as she wasn’t around to take a real one with Danielle Harris, but both actors are in this movie, and despite Grimes’ aging, it wouldn’t have taken much effort to have them take a candid photo in front of a car or some generic thing like that to avoid snarky comments from sharp-eyed horror movie nerds 20 years later. On that note, the idea of stills getting used as photos in the sequel will probably go the way of the dodo, now that any old photos can be Photoshopped together to create whatever photo type the plot requires.

Speaking of actor availability, the M. Emmett Walsh role of Marv the sheriff was recast with Barry Corbin here. It’s weird how sometimes swapping out an actor doesn’t bug me (The Dark Knight, for example, and that’s coming from a man who once worshipped at the altar of Joey Potter), but here it did, despite the fact that I like Barry Corbin just fine. Not sure why they bothered making him the same guy; it would have been just as easy to say Corbin’s character was Walsh’s brother and had turned his back on the town after Marv was run out of town due to the events of the first movie. Or something.

I also love how we once again have a 1988 monster movie in which an old man and his dog are among the first victims. The Blob and Killer Klowns From Outer Space also used this time-honored device. Why not an old woman and her cat? And I say this as a cat owner. And a woman.

There’s also an odd moment in which a little girl (the same one from Shocker!) takes a chocolate bunny to bed with her (?) before awkwardly setting it down next to her heater. Naturally the damn thing melts, providing a cover for the hatched critter egg nearby. It’s pretty much the most inane thing I’ve ever seen in a movie.

The DVD’s only extra is the trailer, which gives away pretty much every good moment in the movie. Garris usually provides commentaries for his movies, so I’m not sure why New Line (who almost never released bare-bones DVDs) didn’t have him record one.

Also, one final note - this movie carries on the fine Critters tradition of having Titanic personnel involved. The first movie had Billy Zane, and just about everyone knows that Critters 3 was the first film with Leonardo DiCaprio. And wouldn’t you know it, Russell Carpenter (again! After Cameron’s Closet) shot this film. Maybe tomorrow, if I lose my job (the current rumor floating the halls at NBC), I will spend all day in my underwear, crying, while cross-referencing the crew members of Critters 4 to see if the odd connection comes full circle.

What say you?

PLEASE, GO ON...

Blood River (2009)

MARCH 24, 2009

GENRE: BREAKDOWN, RELIGIOUS, THRILLER
SOURCE: “THEATRICAL” (DVD PROJECTED ON A SCREEN*)

“Is this the banality you came to see!?!?!”

I don’t know if that is the exact quote from The Devil’s Chair, but the gist is there. In that film, the narrator mocked the viewer for liking horror movies. That, added to the utterly reprehensible bullshit that was Broken, left me feeling pretty sore about the filmmaking team of Adam Mason and Simon Boyes. However, since Chair showed marked improvement over Broken, I figured I would give their newest film, Blood River, a fair chance, even going so far as to take the night off to attend the premiere and rub shoulders with such Hollywood royalty as Xander Berkeley and Balthazar Getty (a premiere for a presumably big budget Hollywood movie over at the Mann’s must have driven away the likes of premiere staples Bai Ling and the fat guy from Borat).

And again, they have showed improvement. Blood River is, if nothing else, extremely well-shot, capably acted, and occasionally engaging. However, it’s not enough to warrant a pass for the film as a whole, as it still has several problems, and simply not being abysmal isn’t enough to justify its faults.

For starters, the movie is supposed to be set in 1969. This is never established with anything like a title card (I learned it from the written plot synopsis); instead they just show old Life magazines on a table and have the hero drive a cool “classic” car. The problem is, even present day movies, ESPECIALLY ones set in nearly-empty desert towns, have such things - it shows their “time has passed us by” nature. Likewise, our hero and heroine don’t dress any different than an average couple would today. Plus, shooting on digital doesn’t help matters in the slightest; you can’t ever really buy into a period feeling when you’re seeing it all through a very modern point of view. The period setting doesn’t really have any effect on the story (other than a reason why the couple doesn’t have cell phones, but those scenes are always written away with the “no service out here!” line anyway), so why they bothered I have no idea.

But the real problem of the movie is that it simply doesn’t make a lick of sense. The guy from Devil’s Chair is again the star, but this time he is playing a drifter who may or may not be an Angel working for God. Not the worst concept, but why he spends so much time toying with the couple (one of whom has a dark secret, ooooh) is never clarified. I mean, he’s working for God to punish sinners, right? They are hardly a rare breed; is it really the best use of his time to fuck around with just ONE guy for two days straight? He coulda probably have stopped 10 sinners in that time had he just gone up to the couple, said “Hey, I need to tell you something” and been on his way.

(SPOILERS FOLLOW)

But to be fair, he needs to do SOME legwork to get his results. An early scene shows us that he doesn’t inflict the killing blow on anyone; he seemingly needs to convince them to kill themselves, or in this case, have a “good” person kill the sinner. It’s never explained WHY he can’t do this, but fine. So why not just go up to the wife and say “Hey, your husband’s a child killer, the proof is in the trunk.” (actually I’m just assuming he’s a child killer - the script, again, doesn’t bother to explain WHAT the guy’s “sin” is, only that it has something to do with the woman’s son, his stepson). Why steal the spare tire and make up a story about being out of gas (especially when they know the guy’s a hitchhiker, a fact the couple never bothers to address) and go through 80 minutes of this shit just to end up pretty much doing that anyway? Like a woman WOULDN’T go ballistic on her new husband when she discovered he had done something awful to her 5 year old son, regardless of how much mental/physical strain she had endured in the hours prior to the discovery? Bullshit.

Of course, had logic been used, either on the script level or from the characters themselves, there would be no movie. So let’s move on.

Back to the “sin” - when your entire movie is built around this guy who we think is a good person turns out to be pretty bad, don’t you think it’s kind of necessary to explain exactly WHAT his sin is? I can’t even really buy the “child killer” angle, because the guy seems shocked to discover the kid’s corpse in the trunk, and not in a “how did THAT get here?” way but more in an “Oh my god my stepson is dead!” way. Assuming he wasn't just a lousy actor, was the character just a child molester? If so, did the Angel kill the kid? But he can’t kill anyone by his own hand, right? So who the fuck knows. For all I know the kid is a macguffin and his sin was stealing two grapes from the supermarket.

And I won’t even begin to wonder why everyone in the southwestern United States has a thick British accent.

I also had to laugh at the blown-tire scene. Like The Roost, we don’t actually see the accident; we just hear it and then see an aftermath that suggests a far more powerful force than a blown tire. I mean, they’re in THE DESERT, and yet we hear the car smashing into things. Plus our couple is pretty banged up. A few years ago, I blew a tire in heavy traffic on the CT turnpike and I didn’t even get a scratch on myself OR the car; how did this jackoff manage to mangle up his front end and practically tear his arm off?

(The one screenwriting decision I CAN laud is that this accident didn’t kill them - for a while I thought we were in “they’ve been dead the whole time” territory, but that wasn’t the case. The real case wasn’t much better, but at least it wasn’t a cliché)

At this point, I feel I have no choice but to give up on this filmmaking team. They show some talent in both writing and directing departments (again - the film is particularly well shot), but together their films always underwhelm at best. Each film shows improvement over the last, and that’s laudable (most modern horror filmmakers seemingly go the other way), but not enough to suggest that there is a solid, good film in the near future. Call me when they get to their tenth project together, then they might have something.

What say you?

*For a fucking premiere??? Jesus Christ. It's bad enough when they do shit like this at a film festival, but come on now.

PLEASE, GO ON...

Cat's Eye (1985)

MARCH 23, 2009

GENRE: ANTHOLOGY, SUPERNATURAL
SOURCE: DVD (ONLINE RENTAL)

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. “Hello.” But I’ll also say this again: any movie with a theme song is better. I’m not talking about a song like My Heart Will Go On”, which is Titanic’s theme but has nothing to do with the movie or characters. I mean a song like “Cat’s Eye”, from the movie Cat’s Eye, sung by Ray Stevens. I mean, the title is right there, but his lyrics refer to breath being taken away and such, and fans will know that a troll trying to steal a little girl’s breath is the plot of the 3rd story in the movie.

It’s also the weakest story, though that’s not really the filmmaker’s fault. A prologue that would explain 90% of the plot of the 3rd story was deleted by producers. Director Lewis Teague explains what would have happened, and admittedly it helps clarify the story, but still, it’s not quite as successful as the other two stories. Part of the problem is that the story is so far removed from reality, when the other two are fairly grounded. For an hour you’ve been watching a pretty good and plausible movie, and then all of a sudden there’s a little troll running around Drew Barrymore’s bedroom while a super-intelligent cat tries to stop him from stealing her breath. Huh?

It would also help explain the odd moments in the film in which the cat sees the ghost or spirit or whatever of Drew in store windows. These scenes occur during the other stories, and it doesn’t help that Drew appears as different characters in those entries as well. Actually, as I think about it, this is one of the most needlessly baffling movies ever made.

The first two stories are great though. The first stars James Woods and is based on Stephen King’s terrific short “Quitters, Inc.”, which depicts a companies unusual methods of getting folks to quit smoking. As an avowed hater of cigarettes who has no problem of telling complete strangers to stop smoking, I sort of love the idea of a company that will torture your family if you light up when you think no one’s watching. Plus, the “evil” exec is played by the great Alan King, and the story allows us to enjoy him singing “Every Breath You Take” from The Police while he dances around in a smoking jacket (or bathrobe, I couldn’t really tell).

Speaking of the song - all of the songs in the movies are lame covers. Not sure if they simply couldn’t afford the real songs or they wanted to add an element of uneasiness to the movie, but it’s distracting as hell. It’s like when you’re playing Guitar Hero and all of a sudden its “As Made Famous By” time and you’re all like “Awww, fuck this generic shit!”. I assume Stevens’ theme is real, however.

The 2nd story is also based on one of King’s, but I haven’t read it yet. This one stars Robert Hays, and it was nice to see him in a rather serious role. Airplane! is, of course, one of the greatest films ever made, and his starring role alone should have ensured him a bigger career. The story itself treads some of the same ground as "Something To Tide You Over" from Creepshow, but without the silly supernatural ending. The story also features an early appearance from Charles S. Dutton - Roc! It’s not quite as great as "Quitters", but the suspense is pretty goddamn tense at times. Then again I have recurring nightmares about being on ledges and such, so maybe it’s just me.

The 3rd, as I’ve said, is the weakest. Not only does the edited sequence contain all of the plot points that would allow a viewer to really understand it, but it simply lacks thrills. You know the troll won’t succeed in killing Drew OR the cat, and the parents are kept out of it. The effects are good (another day, another Carlo Rambaldi monster, though this one is far better than the one in Cameron’s Closet), and I love the obviously oversized set that would allow a midget in the troll costume to run around (as opposed to matted effects, which are also used to less success). Then again, this story was written specifically for the screen by King, which is almost always a red mark.

Teague’s commentary is pretty dull, he rambles about the various crew members and other movies they have worked on (even key grips and such get their due), and points out the King references some folks may have missed, but he also just watches the movie for long stretches. And the presence of the commentary makes the lack of the deleted opening even more annoying; they obviously put some effort into the release, why not go all out? The trailer (which promises “a monster or two” - the former is the right answer) is also included, as well as cast and crew bios. Did you know Drew Barrymore has gone on to be a major star?

What say you?

PLEASE, GO ON...

Cameron's Closet (1988)

MARCH 22, 2009

GENRE: SUPERNATURAL
SOURCE: CABLE (FEARNET)

You know how on The Simpsons the first five minutes are just sort of setting up the real plot in a really random way? Cameron’s Closet is kind of like that. It starts off with a kid that has telekinetic powers and is seemingly starting to rebel against the scientist types who are studying him (it actually feels like the movie starts halfway through its own narrative), but after a while it’s really about some monster and a cop with psychiatric problems. The telekinesis eventually seems forgotten entirely.

Of course, that wouldn’t be too much of a problem had the monster/cop section of the movie been interesting, or even coherent. I eventually hadn’t the slightest clue as to what the fuck was going on, only that there was a monster in the kid’s closet and this little artifact thing was the key to stopping it. A cop that got turned into a zombie factors in somehow. It’s bad enough when your killer kid movie (he more or less kills his dad in the first few minutes, making a machete turn and chop the guy’s head off in one of my all time favorite movie decap deaths) isn’t really a killer kid movie at all, it’s even worse when the one they give you instead is dull and largely kill free.

Speaking of the kills - how fucked up is this kid’s mom going to be? Except for the cop’s partner, the only deaths in the movie are of the most important men in her life: her ex (father of her child), her boyfriend, and her brother. I assume her dad is already dead or else he probably would have gotten offed too. Plus, the entire movie is about some mythical monster trying to kill her son, and does so by... killing other people? Including one that pretty much wanted to kill him anyway (the boyfriend guy) for scratching up his car with a rubber ball? For most of the movie, it seems that the monster is on the kid’s side, if anything.

Speaking of the brother - the monster makes itself look like his sister in order to seduce him before killing him (again, the monster seems to be making things more difficult for himself than they should be). However, the brother is into it, gleefully macking on what he thinks is his sister. And yet, even with light incest, I still don’t recommend the movie.

I dunno why, but this annoyed the shit out of me too: Cameron has his name spelled out in sheets of paper (one letter per page) on the wall of his room in a zigzag shape. But they aren’t spaced evenly, which drove me insane. So of course, director Armand Mastroianni (He Knows Your Alone - sadly this movie did NOT feature the first appearance of a future legendary actor) finds a way to show the damn thing like twenty times over the course of the movie. As if I needed another excuse to punch the movie in the face.

The worst thing about it, however, is that the monster was designed by Carlo Rambaldi (Alien and ET), which is ordinarily a good thing. However, he seemingly worked for ten, fifteen minutes tops on this one - it never moves or does anything cool. I don’t even think the entire body was ever shown in a shot.

Couple crew members worth noting though - the DP was Russell Carpenter, who went on to shoot Titanic ten years later. And Lawrence Bender, better known as the producer of Pulp Fiction, worked as a key grip. Other than Mel Harris (thirtysomething*) I didn’t recognize any of the actors, though IMDb says Bill Lustig is in there somewhere eating an ice cream, a scene I no longer recall.

I watched this on Fearnet, and it was of no better (or worse) quality than the DVD: full frame, poorly transferred from a subpar print (or just a VHS), you know the drill. I’m not saying it deserves such a half-assed release, but it’s good to know that bad movies get short-changed just like the good ones (i.e. The Abyss - still not given an anamorphic DVD release anywhere in the world).

What say you?

*"I need clearance to land on runway thirty... thirtysomething!"
"Thirtysomething has been canceled!"

And now, Horror Movie A Day and Happy Hour Comics would like to present the 8th in an ongoing series of HMAD-inspired comic strips. I hope you enjoy!! (Click to enlarge)

PLEASE, GO ON...

Monsters Vs. Aliens (2009)

MARCH 21, 2009

GENRE: ALIEN, ANIMATED, MONSTER
SOURCE: THEATRICAL (3D PRESS SCREENING)

What the hell is the difference between "Real3D" and "Tru3D"? I brought my Real glasses from My Bloody Valentine, because I knew that the theater showing Monsters Vs. Aliens used the kind that don't have hinges, which annoys me. But even though both appeared to be the same kind of lenses (that brownish gray, as opposed to red/blue), the Real ones didn't work. And then, of course, I missed the first minute of the movie while I looked around on the floor for my Tru3D pair, which I had discarded.

What DID work, luckily, was the film itself. After a rather slow beginning in which neither Monsters nor Aliens appear for at least 15 minutes, our heroine turns into a giant woman, and the movie begins proper. And before anyone balks at the idea of it not being a horror movie - correct, it's NOT a horror movie in the traditional sense (i.e. scares/violence/gore), but it DOES gain most of its mileage out of referencing horror movies, particularly those from the 1950s. So it is horror fans, not 8 year old kids, that will be enjoying the myriad references to The Fly, The Blob, Them!, etc., and thus in turn enjoying the film as a whole.

I haven't cared much for the Dreamworks CG films so far, like the Shrek films and Shark Tale, because they are overloaded with lame pop culture jokes (many of which are already dated by the time the film is released) and an over-reliance on A-list "vocal talents". Luckily, only one of those is still an issue here - even minor characters are voiced by big names like Renée Zellweger*. It's one thing to give the lead roles to big names; even Pixar/Disney does that and chances are their name is in the ads or posters. But it's distracting when an obviously minor character shows up halfway through the movie with a recognizable voice (and then you spend their whole scene going "oh its... its... shit, I know it..."). Hank Azaria and Dan Castellaneta provide like 90% of the voices on Simpsons; why can't one of the people they've already hired do a "funny" voice for a character with 2 lines?

As for the main cast, they are quite good. Reese Witherspoon is far more tolerable when you're not actually looking at her (cute, yes, but ungodly annoying), and Seth Rogen steals the movie as the brainless blob who can't ever quite process who he is or what is going on (his response to a "if we don't make it out of here alive" type speech is worth the cost of admission alone). Hugh Laurie gets to use his real voice for the first time in ages, which is a nice surprise. The only real weak spots are Kiefer Sutherland and Stephen Colbert as a traditionally war-hungry general and the President, respectively. Nothing against either man (everyone knows I love Colbert almost as much as life itself), but their roles are so generic, and thus so are their lines. I really think it's time to retire the clueless President as a movie character - it hasn't been funny in years. It's one thing to use an obvious Bush stand-in for a quick throwaway joke (i.e. the Ho-Hos in Transformers), it's another to try to make a full blown character out of an overworn cliché. It's kind of sad that I had an easier time believing giant monsters and robots running amok than I did that a man so idiotic could run the country. Even Bush had basic motor skills, and didn't shriek like a girl (a gag even the kids in the audience didn't seem to enjoy).

But back to the pop-culture, for once, Dreamworks has gotten it right. Apart from the occasional line, one could go into this movie without a single shred of trivia floating around their brain and still enjoy it without feeling like they missed the joke. Even the references to the horror/sci-fi films mentioned before are subtle; you probably won't even notice that they are there.

The animation is also quite good. They've come so far in the past ten years when it comes to things like texture and hair detail. There's a running gag: whenever a character describes a latte they get an extreme closeup, and it's amazing how much detail they throw in: stubble, skin blemishes, etc. Spaceships and such also have realistic metal textures; if you ignore the cartoon title characters, the ships look identical to those scene in "live action" space-set films.

As for the 3D, I didn't find that it added to the experience as much as other recent films like Coraline. There are a couple of "in your face!" gags, and a key action sequence around halfway through the movie was much more exciting with the immersion, but otherwise I wouldn't bother dealing with the higher costs (and probably more sold out viewings); the movie's charms lie in the humor and story, not the gee-whiz appeal of the technology. Of course, the IMAX screen is desirable for the big action scenes, but again - not enough to justify the 2 or 3 dollar ticket increase (x number of family members).

Like the other DW films, it doesn't hold a candle to Pixar's best, but it's certainly a step in the right direction. Like Igor, it's nice to see these movies finding a new way to appeal to multiple generations and tastes (i.e. genre fans), and the lack of "timely" jokes will ensure that it will remain a favorite for future generations, while the Shark Tales of the world become irrelevant due to their reliance on jokes that won't mean anything to anyone born after their release date.

What say you?

*Two movies in a row with an actress named Renée. Just sayin'.

PLEASE, GO ON...

Sleepaway Camp II: Unhappy Campers (1988)

MARCH 21, 2009

GENRE: HERO KILLER (?), SLASHER
SOURCE: DVD (ONLINE RENTAL)

I remember seeing the box art for Sleepaway Camp II: Unhappy Campers (on a format known as VHS) back in the day and thinking it was cool: a girl with a bag full of other 80s horror movie staples, Jason’s mask, Freddy’s glove, Leatherface’s (or Lefty’s) chainsaw*... but for some reason it didn’t appeal to me otherwise. Not having seen the original didn’t help, but that didn’t stop me for the other series, I think Chain Saw is the only major horror franchise where I saw the first one before any of the sequels (and, for the record, I saw Chain Saw before part 2 even hit video).

So what do I think about it, now that I've finally given it a chance? Eh. I like the out of the box approach - not too many 80s slashers focus mainly on the killer (an unmasked one at that), and was a rather unique way of more or less remaking the original film (someone even dies in a bathroom stall again) while giving it its own identity. Rather than have a mystery killer, you just have Angela (now really a girl) killing folks at her leisure.

Unfortunately, that’s also what’s wrong with the movie: there’s nothing to it. You don’t root for any of the other counselors, because you never really spend any time with them away from Angela. There isn’t any story to speak of (even for a slasher movie), the movie ends once Angela has run out of people to kill. Sure, there’s a final girl (played by Emilio Estevez’ sister Renee), but her role is ceremonial at best. The final 10 minutes involve characters we just met or have long since forgotten about (a rather attractive counselor who only appeared in two shots prior to the “finale” is the focus of Angela’s final attack on the camp), and even with that obvious bit of padding, the movie clocks in at 78 minutes, including credits that run at about half-speed (and a lengthy dream sequence in which Angela dreams about all of the murders she committed earlier in the movie).

It’s also distressingly cheap. The few kids at the camp completely disappear after a while (not a plot point, trust me), and a number of the kills occur offscreen. It’s one thing for Dimension to toss out a cheapo Children of the Corn sequel by the time part 5 or 6 rolls around, it’s another to shoot the franchise in the foot almost instantly. And Simpson is a pretty lousy director; there is absolutely no build up to any of the kill scenes, nor do the scenes themselves carry much weight. It’s something of a joke that Angela is pretty laid back about killing people, but that joke gets old after a half hour. As a result, the movie has no rhythm to the movie at all; the deaths just happen whenever the movie feels like getting around to it.

What I DID like, however, is how laid back and utterly reprehensible most of these people are. When Angela tells the final girl the story of the first movie, the girl barely blinks an eye when Angela confesses to drowning someone. And a sex scene is capped off by the girl asking “You don’t have AIDS or anything, do you?” Awesome. We also have a pair of young lads who take nudie photos (and also get killed - a moment this “Nature Trail To Hell” fan really appreciated). And one of the characters listens to Flotsam And Jetsam.

And while it got a bit distracting, the idea of naming just about every character after a Brat Packer is kind of funny. Some are a bit obscure (T.C. = Tom Cruise, who made movies with Emilio but otherwise was not really a member), but it’s a fun sort of little game to play. It’s not often you have a Demi in a movie.

The DVD has 13 minutes of behind the scenes footage, which is narrated by director Michael Simpson, which is something I wish I saw more often. The nuts and bolts stuff is fare more interesting than actor EPK-ready interviews, but you don’t want to just listen to the source audio (which is mostly people talking inaudibly in the background). There’s also a commentary with Simpson, screenwriter Fritz Gordon, and the Australian guy who runs one of the two Sleepaway fansites. He’s annoying as hell, but Simpson and Gordon are pretty informative, pointing out odd bits like the reason for the “party hats” line, which was a sub for “nips”, a line the labor people objected to due to the presence of a minor in the scene. While the movie isn’t nearly as good, it’s a far better commentary than the one on the original movie (which I couldn’t even finish - Felissa Rose was like nails on a chalkboard), so there’s something.

Oh, before anyone bitches: yeah, it’s Bruce Springsteen’s sister.

What say you?

*Michael Myers is represented in the film’s end credits, which copy the font from the original Halloween. It’s depressing that I recognize this.

PLEASE, GO ON...

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