Ho-wdy, Ho-rror Ho-mies! Happy John Waters’ 71st Birthday Day!
In ho-nor of the Pope of Trash’s birthaversary, we have a review of his Serial Mom submitted by our very own Mr.Andrew Peters! Thanks, Ho-rror Ho-mie! 🙂 xoxoxo
The ‘90s was a strange time, especially for movies. The ‘90s didn’t quite have the identity that previous decades had, especially the ‘80s and it seemed like it wanted to forget all about the ‘80s while mimicking it at the same time, making it feel lost. Movies from that time suffered the most, especially the horror and comedy genres. Horror flicks thought they were being clever by attempting to mock the films of the ‘70s and ‘80, but it had a very cynical attitude about it, especially the slasher genre. I think we got the worst slashers out of the ‘90s. Comedies didn’t fare any better. They lacked the heart and characters that carried the films of previous years and decided to focus on cliched stereotypes they felt what their audiences perceived as cool. Oh, and help us if the two genres were attempted to be combined and you know how I feel about those. It’s like nobody knew how to speak to the generation of that time or what was happening in the world.
Nobody except for John Waters, that is. He’s a fashionable man that captures the look and style of a more pop art version of the swinging ‘60s. There’s also something very sleazy and mischievous about him that you can’t help but be fascinated with. He turned everyone’s heads – and stomachs – with the 1972 bizarre trash flick Pink Flamingos that featured both someone performing oral sex and that same person, Divine, eating dog shit. It also showcases someone bending their legs to expose their butthole and open it and close it in a rhythmic fashion. I’m just giving you an idea of what kind of filmmaker John Waters is. He loves to shock you with his sense of humor, but what if you were to take that style out of the trailer park and move it into suburbia? Well, you’d get Serial Mom.
Serial Mom has that humble ‘50s and ‘60s white, wholesome family with a ‘90s aesthetic, but underneath is a sweltering, festering nest of sleaze slowly oozing out and infecting the rest of the film, but by the time you notice it’s too late. Violence and the very mild gore is meant to both disgust you and make you laugh. The film is not only a more subtle parody of the horror genre, but it’s also a very dark comedy that is far more relevant today than it was at the time. It very intelligently brings to attention just what a media circus a famous court case can be and how we over sensationalize and idolize a serial killer, turning a blind eye to the horrors they’ve caused when we shouldn’t. In a way, this movie predicted the OJ Simpson trial if you can believe it. This isn’t just some low budget, made on the fly type of shlock. This film actually looks like a real film, meaning that the production value is high, cinematography is well done and certain things in have a soft focus to give it a very dreamy or more wholesome quality to it. Serial Mom even has a killer cast to help bring it to a more professional sense (even though it’s just a clever disguise), like Kathleen Turner in the lead role as Beverly Sutphin and Sam Waterston as her husband Eugene, with Matthew Lillard in his first role as her son Chip and Ricki Lake (yes, from The Ricki Lake Show) as her daughter Misty. Together, they appear to be the most perfect family. Mom prepares dinner and cleans the house as dad reads the paper and gets ready for work. Chip and Misty bicker before school about their seemingly important teenage lives, but when everyone leaves and Beverly is all by herself, she immediately partakes in her current favorite hobby; making obscene phone calls to her neighbor Dottie Hinkle. Just the look of pure joy that dons Beverly’s face as she asks Dottie about the pussywillows and if the Cocksucker residents live at 4215 Pussy Way. Immediately, a whiplashing tone is set that’s gonna keep juggling you back and forth. It’s like an amusement park ride; it’s gonna spin you around and make you nauseous, but dammit if it’s not fun.
Between her daughter’s unfaithful boyfriend, a neighbor that don’t recycle and her son’s friend that won’t buckle up, now she has to deal with two detectives nosing around. At first, it’s routine. The police are only digging up clues to find the culprit behind Dottie Hinkle’s phone calls, but with everyone misbehaving, Beverly has to do something about it. After the garbage men and her family wish that certain people were dead, she decides that for the good of her family, she must kill those that can’t be nice or abide by society’s rules. Like one of Chip’s teachers, for example, who believes all of the horror movies that Chip watches is affecting his mental health and that he should seek professional help and that Beverly is a poor parent for allowing him to see such garbage. Well, she’ll show him! Using her car, she runs the sucker down and drives away with no one but a stoner as a witness. Still, the witnesses story summons the police to the Sutphin residence and now they are suspicious, especially after digging through her garbage and finding books on serial killers. The suspicion is heightened when Beverly gores her daughter’s cheating boyfriend with a fireplace poker after catching him shopping around with another girl (Traci Lords in a cameo). Now the police are sniffing around long enough to catch her in the act when she goes after Chip’s friend who is ranting about her being a killer, but fortunately he’s literally caught with his pants down by the Sutphin family and is saved. For now.
That doesn’t thwart Beverly’s rampage, but she’s eventually apprehended by the police and taken to court for her heinous crimes, but like they say, innocent until proven guilty. The final act of the film is her court hearing and it has become a full blown media circus with Misty selling Serial Mom merchandise and Chip acting as her agent for the film being made about her life that will be starring Suzanne Somers who appears as herself. With nobody to defend Beverly but herself, the tables seem like they will be against her, but just wait until how she charms the judge and the jury and proves that maybe she’s not crazy… although she really is.
Scream Factory’s release of Serial Mom is to kill for. I don’t believe this is a 2K transfer, but it certainly looks as sharp as a butcher knife and it also has some killer extra features. Sick of my puns yet? Anyway, the main attraction for the features in my opinion is the feature commentary with director John Waters, who is always entertaining. He also does another new commentary with star Kathleen turner which I also recommend checking out. If you aren’t familiar with John Waters’ commentary, check out his commentary on Christmas Evil. He has nothing to do with the film, but he and the director talk about the movie and it’s pretty funny. Other features include John Waters talking with Kathleen Turner and Mink Stole about the making of the movie and there also a featurette called Serial Mom: Surreal Moments that has interviews with the aforementioned trio along with Matthew Lillard, Ricki Lake, Patricia Hearst and a few others. There’s also an original promotional featurette, The Making of Serial Mom along with The Kings of Gore that looks at the works of Herschel Gordon Lewis and David Friedman and the theatrical trailer for good measure.
Serial Mom is one of the funniest horror comedies to come of… well, ever. We seem to be hitting a wave of them now and they all seem to confuse nostalgia and homage with a half hearted attempt at long running fart jokes made of fads from the era they are supposedly paying respects to. Serial Mom is smart, hilarious and dark. It’s a perfect blend of everything you could want and although it’s not as sleazy as previous John Waters’ films, it really doesn’t need to be and I have to say it’s probably his most well made film. Happy Birthday, John Waters! Stay filthy, you Prince of Puke! 🙂 xoxoxo
(Submitted by Mr. Andrew Peters…Thanks, you Ho-rror Heartthrob, you! 🙂 xoxo)
To me, horror comedies rarely work out. I’m sure I’ve talked about this before, but I feel that most of them fail at either being a horror or a comedy. Usually, the cast knows what kind of film they are in, so they tend to play it up and delivering each line as if they are winking at the camera. The characters are usually stock cliches and more often than not, they confuse blood and gore with horror. Now as nice as those things are, when put in the hands of someone who misunderstand what either a horror or a comedy are, the film comes off as inauthentic and, well, stupid. Not to mention, they seem to be poorly filmed. The shots aren’t well planned and it’s like the filmmaker has no idea where to point the camera. I get the feeling that most of the time they don’t.
Luckily, Night of Something Strange isn’t any of that. Sure, it falls into some of the cliches, but they are done right, if that makes sense. At first, even I was a little worried when the characters were being introduced, but as the film goes on, you understand why they are and how they play into the plot and some of them become likable. Maybe it’s due to the film’s low budget or how the cast has a connection to each other, but they come of as genuine in playing their roles. A lot of heart went into this movie, something you don’t see very often anymore. That’s another thing; it’s shot like a movie. The cinematography is impressive to say the least and the use of lighting is done to effect the overall tone of the film. Everything that most lower budget films seem to misunderstand and mimic are done right here. Indie filmmaking seems like it’s becoming a lost art, but every now and then you get something that restores your faith. Night of Something Strange did just that for me.
Night of Something Strange opens with a tall, brooding hospital worker named Cornelius (Wayne Johnson) who looks like he probably has some issues. Sure enough, he shows us what kind of issues he has when he wanders into a morgue and decides to bang a female corpse. You could say that Cornelius is getting lucky, but I would say he’s getting unlucky seeing as how this particular corpse seems to have a still active STD. Not just any STD, but something that causes a much more serious side effect; you turn into a sex crazed zombie. Cornelius heads home and as the virus takes effect, he pisses all over his bed and then rapes and infects his mother. Talk about starting your movie off with bang. Where else are you gonna find necrophilia, watersports and incest all within ten minutes? Well, the last one I’m only assuming is only incest since the relationship between the two characters isn’t established, but I get the feeling it’s mother and son. It’s easily unsettling and let’s you know what you’re in store for. You would think at this point, the film was only trying to set the bar for absurdity, but it’s only getting started.
With Cornelius now free to run amok, we turn our attention to our central cast of characters in a high school. Or college. I don’t know which. All I know is that I was surprised to see Brink Stevens appear as their teacher in a cameo. Regardless, these are the people you will be spending the run time with and like I said, at first they may seem like cliches and they are all kind of assholes in their own, but stick with them. You will come to like them. The core girl of the group is Christine (Rebecca C. Kasek) and is probably the least douchiest of them all. Her friend Carrie (Toni Ann Gambale), Carrie’s boyfriend Freddy (Michael Merchant) who is probably the biggest douche of the group, token stoner Brooklyn and chubby Jason are all headed for a little getaway with their friend Pam (Nicola Fiore) and her boyfriend Dirk (Trey Harrison) who has suspicions that his girlfriend is cheating on him when he takes a peek at her phone and notices a dick pic. Still, he hasn’t been laid in a while, so he’s gonna let this slide for a bit. At least until he gets laid.
No better place to do that than at the Redwood Motel ran by a rather creepy old man who feels like a runaway member of family from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Now that Dirk has had some time to relieve from sexual tension, he breaks things off with Pam and befriends Christine outside and the two have a rather nice bonding moment and the chemistry feels rather genuine. Freddy, on the other hand, is doing whatever it takes to get some ass, including berating and threatening his verbal punching bag, Jason. Even Brooklyn falls victim to Freddy’s pranks when Freddy attempts a frat, but sharts on his face. You have to wonder why these people hang out with him, but I’m assuming it’s through his association with Carrie. Or I’m over analyzing what doesn’t need to be. Freddy’s sexual conquest – or his attempt at sexual conquest – could be a Porky’s style comedy on it’s own. After being denied sex, Freddy heads outside to the dumpster where he reckons is a great place to rub one out. His realistic style commentary over his fantasy where Jason comes into the room while he goes at it with Carrie makes watching a character beat off a little more comfortable. And funny. Even when Freddy knocks himself out by hitting his head on the dumpster, do you think that stops him from finishing. Not a chance. The champ picks up right where he left off when he comes to.
Now it’s time for shit to really start hitting the fan. Cornelius and the few others he infected show up at the Redwood Motel and begin their rampage, infecting a few more others. Poor Freddy now has this and another situation to deal with; having mistaken Jason for Carrie, Freddy becomes stuck in Jason’s butt and not only has to avoid having the others see him and the mental scarring this will cause, but also battle the undead. Gotta give props to Michael Merchant for spending half of the movie with his bottom hanging out and pulling off stunts while being stuck inside an unconscious man. Hey, give the guy a break. It’s dark in that room. Meanwhile outside, Dirk finds himself fighting off these zombies alongside Christine and they learn that a simple gunshot to the head doesn’t quite work like zombie films have taught us. As the chaos ensues, what are they to do?
I can’t tell you how much I was impressed with Night of Somethings Strange, perfectly blending the horror and comedy genres. I was reminded of Return of the Living Dead while watching and that’s never a bad thing. I laughed at the parts I was supposed to and I ended up even rooting for Freddy, the biggest asshole of the bunch. Maybe I’m a little biased knowing the actor, but every time he was on screen, you were guaranteed a raunchy gag and a laugh and the film uses a lot of sick, gross out moments for laughs. One in particular that comes to mind is when Carrie falls into a blood and shit soaked toilet while trying to pee in it or later when she gets kicked in the crotch by Christine and her shoe gets stuck right in there. There’s also little things, like Freddy getting a bloody condom on his face and the aforementioned sharting scene. It’s a film that would feel at home alongside any given Troma film. I also felt Trey Harrison was a great lead, commanding every scene he was in and Nicola Fiore was a treat and I wish she was in more scenes.
Being a zombie film, it does have some pretty decent special effects for the most part, but at times you can notice a change in the quality. Most times, I thought the makeup was gruesome and disgusting, but then there were times when it looked noticeably different and not for the better, primarily when CG was used. This is due to problems with the previous effects people, as the film unfortunately had to go through a few of them, but I don’t fault the film or the filmmaker for that. After all, it’s about getting lost in the story and the characters and it’s quite easy to do that in Night of Something Strange. It truly was a breath of fresh air in the indie zombie horror sub genre. I can’t tell you how many I’ve had to sit through in the last few years, the majority of which are unbearable to say the least. To see something that has heart behind it made this a pleasure to see. Director Jonathan Straiton really made one of the best indie horror films I’ve seen in a long time. He demonstrated that you can play with the stereotypes and cliches of the genre while also showing how to play against them. He made what should have been a purposely foul and raunchy shlock fest that would have otherwise been ineptly made into something that’s outstandingly terrific and will be remembered (and possibly imitated) for years to come.
Even though Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest wasn’t a hit with the fans, Konami still made a sequel, but decided to bring it back to its original roots and becoming more of the simple side-scrolling game that the first Castlevania was. Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse wasn’t just a retread. Not only was it a prequel to the first game, taking place centuries before those events, it also offered the player the ability to switch between playable characters and also take branching paths during certain points in the game. That’s Konami for you. Well, the old Konami. Always thinking outside the box.
The music this time around was different, but still in the same spirit, if that makes sense. In Dracula’s Curse, the tone seems to be much darker and it lacks that poppy punch (that’s the best way that I can describe it) that Simon’s Quest had. I guess the idea was to make it seem more gothic horror, having a much more metallic tinge and slower pace. It certainly fits the image that would pop into your head when you think of Dracula; a dark, blue evening with a full moon reflecting on a thick fog that masks danger. However coming off of Simon’s Quest that arguably has the best score in the entire series, Dracula’s Curse seems to lack that action-hearted punch. Not to say that it’s bad or anything, I just enjoy Simon’s Quest more thoroughly. The soundtrack, not the game.
Mondo’s presentation of Dracula’s Curse, however, is not lacking. The original artwork from Sachin Teng is hypnotically eye catching, making your brain try and piece it all together. Another thing you’ll notice right away is that this soundtrack is spread across two 12″ 180 Gram LPs, one Famicom and the other NES. Both versions have the same 28 tracks (which, by the way, is amazing amount of tracks for an NES game), but once again just as with Simon’s Quest, the Famicom version has a much more rustic sound than the NES version and for this soundtrack, I actually prefer the Famicom version. I feel like it has a much more gothic horror and atmospheric sound and it fits what I feel the game was trying to accomplish. Having said that, I do like the NES version of Stage 01, Beginning and Stage 06, Demon Seed better. Both have a higher energy that their Famicom counterparts don’t seem to have and those are some jazzy, energetic tracks. Konami Kukeiha Club once again did a fantastic job capturing a nightmarish batch of tunes perfectly fitting for a Castlevania game.
The records themselves are really beautiful too. The vinyls I received are orange with some black splatter all over them with tinges of white or silver here and there. There is a variant for you collectors out there, disc one is Trevor Bronze and Alucard Black and disc two is Grant Maroon and Sypha Blue. I haven’t seen those for myself, but I can imagine they are quite a sight to behold.
There’s no better way to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Castlevania series than with these Mondo soundtracks. Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse goes for $30 and while the split colored version is sold out, the orange with black splatter is still available, so get it while it’s hot.
The first Contra game released on the NES in 1987 was a huge hit and defined what we now know as side-scrolling shooting. Other games came along and tried to copy what it did, but they never got right what Contra did. It seems they could never get the simple controls, great imagery giving nod to action films of the Schwarzenegger and Stallone flicks, as well as HR Giger’s art and kick ass soundtrack that made the game so amazing. Sequels came and occasionally they would try something different, but always remained true to outstanding gameplay and soundtracks.
Mondo, who has been releasing some great video game soundtracks, like the Castlevania series and previous Contra titles, has just released Contra III: The Alien Wars to vinyl, moving up to the 16-bit era now and it is just as glorious as I remember it. And for some reason, 16-bit music sounds so fitting on vinyl to me. It must be that it brings me back to playing through this game during a summer when I was a young kid in Kansas. I remember it being around midnight and the aliens always creeped me out, but the music kept me going. It’s somewhat unlike the original game’s score, being a little more atmospheric, but at the same time it remains true to the fast drums, stinging synth military/action sound we’ve grown to love.
You can always count on Mondo to deliver some seriously talented art. Paul Mann depicts the classic red and blue clad Contra heroes, one looking concerned, the other with his war face is full on mad dog mode, in front of an explosion with a skull with beady eyes looming over it all. The bright and neon colors not only represent the ‘90s, but also how colorful the game is. When you open it to reveal the inside artwork, the war rages on with a full out action collage featuring aliens, robots, flying demons, helicopters, a city on fire… holy hell, this thing has a lot going on and with this single image, represents everything you love about this game.
The orchestrated score by Konami Kukeiha Club sounds magnificent on this 180 Gram Red & Blue Half & Half Camouflage, which I think is a nice tough as it represents the classic colors of Player 1 and Player 2. There is a blood splattered variant on white, so keep your eye out for that one. The tracks loop seamlessly, so it doesn’t feel like a short amount of notes being repeated tirelessly. If anything, the music is chaotic and full of energy that it’s sure to make your blood rush. The composers were taking full advantage of the Super Nintendo’s 16-bit capabilities and making it a much more dynamic score while remaining true to what the original started.
Aside from the first game, Contra III: The Alien Wars is my favorite soundtrack in the series and I’m so happy that Mondo has done it such great justice. Whether you’re a fan of the game or a fan of action/sci-fi soundtracks, I would highly recommend grabbing this one. It’s only $25 and can be picked up from Mondo’s store.
There’s nothing more sad to see a whole franchise crash and burn with a single miscalculation. Well, let me rephrase that, because miscalculation makes it sound like this film was planned for greatness. What’s the word I’m looking for? Fuckery? Yeah, let’s go with fuckery. I choose the word fuckery, because the studio stepped in and shit all over ideas and let the director, the great Fred Dekker, drown in it and killed the franchise until they finally remade it, which cemented its coffin in the ground for good. How did the Robocop franchise die out? I mean, what the hell happened and how could such a great character be treated so disrespectfully? The first film was so revolutionary for sci-fi and action and created one of the most memorable characters and even though the second film didn’t capture the same kind of magic, it still gave us a very entertaining comic book-esque film and remained true to the series. Robocop 3, however, is the watered down, kid friendly, dull sequel nobody was happy with.
I don’t blame director Fred Dekker, I don’t think most people do. I think by now we all know he was a hired gun, excited to work on a Robocop flick using some of Frank Miller’s rejected script ideas from the second film. Robot Ninjas? Sounds like that’s going to be really cool. There are some good ideas here, like with OCP lying to the media about destroying homes to make way for the new Delta City and the people’s uprising to take it back. It feels like the series has been building up to this, but how it gets there isn’t how we wanted it as fans.
Leave it to any studio to step into a multimillion dollar franchise and say, “how can we make MORE money?” Realizing that their audience was primarily young adults and teens, they decided to water down the film, strip it from all the subtle social satire, remove all blood and a good majority of violence to sell more tickets… even though the majority of their younger audience was already seeing the movies. Oh, and we have to add a kid that’s super good at hacking, because that’s relatable to today’s youth and let’s give Robocop a jetpack and an arm mounted machine gun, because we need to sell toys. Needless to say, the end product was not very good, nobody was happy, Orion went bankrupt, poor Fred Dekker was thrown under the bus and the franchise was dead and buried until they would decide to dig it up and defile its corpse in 2014 for the remake.
Detroit has gone to hell, citizens are being bullied out of their home and to relocation camps, which the media is seeing as a friendly gesture, but in reality these folks are being forced from their homes and families are being separated, like Nikko. She’s obsessed with Robocop and others, like ED-209 and seems to be a cliched, smart, tech savvy little lady. At the beginning, she’s stripped from her family by OCP’s armed force, the Urban Rehabilitators (which kinda sounds like a terrible ‘90s rap group) that is also called Rehab, led by the nasty and British McDaggett. Yeah, that combination sounds real trust worthy. She’s sad for about a minute, maybe a minute and a half, until she’s found by a resistance group, led by a woman named Bertha. Bertha is actually based off a Frank Miller character called Martha Washington from his Give Me Liberty comic book. She’s a cliched version of a tough and well organized, militant woman and I say cliched, because it comes off as disingenuous to actual strong women and not only that, but her plans… well, they suck and are terrible and I’m not surprised they get lots of people killed. Upon connecting with her group, Nikko immediately forgets about her parents and helps hack an ED-209 so the group can steal some weapons from a police arsenal. It’s honestly so stupid that it hurts to watch that scene. She just walks up to an ED-209, a machine known for malfunctioning and blowing the everliving shit out of people, hacks into its ankle and then gives a shoulder shrug and a shit eating grin. I was expecting some cartoon trombones to play.
But suddenly, a police car with tinted windows is hot on their tail? Do you think the only person we can’t see could be… Robocop? First of all, why are they keeping him a secret and secondly, how come Robocop is the only guy on the force to get tinted windows? Another pressing matter I should bring up is that because of his commitment to Naked Lunch, Peter Weller was replaced by Robert John Burke. Don’t get me wrong, Burke is a terrific actor, but he seems lifeless and stiff as Robocop, almost more… cyborg. I know that sounds weird, but he lacks the regained emotion that Peter Weller brought to Robo. Doesn’t matter, as Robo gives up his pursuit to help out his partner Anne Lewis (Nancy Allen) who crashed into James Lorinz from Frankenhooker while in pursuit. James Lorinz steals the show for a moment, doing his lovable and somewhat mildly insults in his Jersey accent. Unfortunately for him, they realize they are in gang territory and shoot blindly into the dark as most cops are trained to do. Just when they are about to be attacked, Robocop drives off the roof of a building and upon landing, blasts at the gang with his new arm mounted machine gun so the kids can scream, “I WANT THAT TOY!”
OCP now wants Robocop’s emotions wiped (I think or I’m getting confused) and put on the rehabilitation squad, but a turn of unfortunate events would have him do otherwise. In an attempt to get out of the movie, Nancy Allen is shot and killed by McDaggett while her and Murphy are protecting some citizens in a church that the Rehabs are trying to relocate. It’s a weak and relatively unfaithful departure for the character of Anne Lewis, but there are far more problems in the film than this and I’m sure Nancy Allen didn’t care. Robocop takes a grenade to the chest that pretty much lays him out for a good chunk of the film. Yes, the same Robocop that has battled other robots several sizes bigger than him, taken tons of bullets, run over and was even previously set on fire is now completely phased by a shot to the chest. It’s all for the sake of the plot so we can spend time with the human characters, but you’ll soon see just how boring Robocop 3 actually is. It’s not that the characters are unlikable, they are just really uninteresting and it’s hard to care what they are up to, so I’ll just sum up the middle part of the film; they get the doctor who cares for Robocop to fix him up and she realizes that when the resistance robbed the police armory, they stole Robocop’s jetpack, so now he has that.
But Murphy’s (that’s Robocop in case you forgot), got a promise to keep to his old partner. He sets his sights after McDaggett with intention of taking him down. Dead or alive! Well, since this is super neutered PG-13, probably attempt to take him in alive. However, OCP’s parent company, the Kanemitsu Corporation, has sent cyborg ninjas to make sure that Robocop and the resistance are taken care of, so that way OCP stocks won’t plummet and they won’t go bankrupt. Isn’t that an exciting plot for kids? It does lead up to a kinda cool fight scene between Robo and the cyborg ninja, but it could have been a lot more better had the action hadn’t been toned down. It’s also very short, but after it’s done, it’s time for the cops versus OCP in the battle for Detroit! I know, sounds exciting, but trust me… it isn’t. It’s very lackluster and the action equivalent of a tiny, wet fart that you’d barely notice.
Well, what can you say about Robocop 3 that people don’t already know? It’s a goddamn shame. That’s all I can think of when I think of this movie. It’s a shame about what happened to director Fred Dekker (who is an extremely talented man) and it’s a shame that this is the movie we got, because the studio wanted to make more money. Well, they didn’t and they didn’t deserve to for this, but then again, we didn’t deserve this money and Robocop didn’t deserve to go out on this note, dammit. I know, technically he didn’t, he went out on a worse note with the remake, which actually makes Robocop 3 seem not nearly as bad in comparison. I will say that the effects and music in the this film are still quite fantastic, as is the sound design. At least those staples of franchise were kept intact, but everything else from the acting, the characters and most of all, the plot, are all very bad. I know when we talk about films being bad, people think that there must be something funny or entertaining about them, because they are bad. I wish that were always the case, but it rarely is. Some films are just bad.
In any case, Scream Factory brought you Robocop 2, so they are also bringing you Robocop 3, which surprisingly (or not surprisingly) is not presented in a new 2K transfer. There is, however, quite a few new bonus features that deal with the making of the film, interviews with the cast and crew and so on, as well as trailers and such. You know, your usual Scream bonuses.
I can’t recommend Robocop 3 to fans of sci-fi or action film. Hell it’s hard enough to recommend it to even the most die hard Robocop fans. It’s not the worst film or the worst sequel out there, but it’s not a good movie and there’s very little entertainment to be found in it.
RoboCop was the answer to everything wrong that was going on in the ‘80s, both with cinema and what was happening in the world and politics. It was a heavy-handed satire against violence, corruption and greed while being smart and entertaining about it, as well as an allegory about religion. It’s about a police officer named Alex Murphy who is gunned down in the line of duty only to be brought back to life in a cybernetic body to continue his fight against crime, but the real movie is a about a man lost in a machine trying to regain his human elements. Originally, it was supposed to be a Judge Dredd film, but an original idea was taken instead and it was a blockbuster. I remember having the toys, which is something else the ‘80s did; sell toys for kids based on ‘R’ rated movies! That’s right, I couldn’t watch it, but I could play with the toys. RoboCop was smart, incredibly graphic and fun. The film made a ton of money and in Hollywood that means there is going to be a sequel.
1990 rolls around and RoboCop 2 rolls out. Things in the world have changed, both for better and for worse that made plenty of fodder for the film’s writer, a comic book artist and writer named Frank Miller (ya know, the Sin City guy), to thrust Alex Murphy into and giving the film something to say. However, this time around it isn’t nearly as subtle and it may be trying to say a little too much. I liked the idea of a comic book writer penning the script. It makes total sense seeing as the first film is kind of like a comic book, but RoboCop 2 feels like it was written by a comic book writer if that makes any sense. It’s far more silly than the first film and there is more than enough a,b and c plots going around that arise in the film and are quickly resolved. Every fifteen minutes or so feels like an issue from a comic book series and the film has a more slapsticky sense of humor to it and even the colors are brighter, including RobCcop’s costume which has a very blue tinge to it. Even the dialogue has a very cartoony vibe to it. It’s like the film isn’t taking itself very seriously, at least not nearly as much of the first one, but does this make it better? No, but don’t discredit it as a bad film. RoboCop 2 is a tremendous amount of fun.
The film picks up about a year after the events of RoboCop and RoboCop 2 opens in familiar territory; with a satirical commercial and a Media Break news footage. The commercial is a for a product called Magnavolt that fries criminals who try to break into your car. This is made charming by a cameo from John Glover as the sales person. Now that we’ve opened with some violence and some chuckles, it’s time to get serious. There’s a new drug called Nuke destroying Detroit that seems to flooding the streets and with the police on strike, the Mayor is failing at his job. OCP has plans to overthrow the Mayor and take control of the city by creating a new, more luxurious Detroit called Delta City, thus winning the hearts of the concerned citizens. But being a corporation and coming from a comic writer’s angle, all corporations are evil and OCP plans to put the cops and other public servants out of jobs, citizens out of homes all for the sake of financial gain! Nothing really comes of these plans, but in a rather odd twist of a character, The Old Man (the CEO of OCP) played by Dan O’Herlihy, who seemed like a genuinely good dude in the first film, is now a greedy, backstabbing sonuvabitch. Honestly, it feels like Dan O’Herlihy is playing his Conal Cochran character from Halloween III. I almost expect OCP to sell masks that turn your head into mush and bugs when their commercials play. It’s a character change that kinda feels out of nowhere and for no reason other than the idea of a president for a large company must be evil, because all companies are evil.
There are a few cops that aren’t on strike, like Anne Lewis and her partner Alex Murphy or as you know him, RoboCop. RoboCop is focused on tracking down the Nuke operation and taking it down along with its ringleader, Cain. Tom Noonan, who I mostly remember from the Sega CD game Corpse Killer is a fantastic villain. He always seems like he’s in another world and plays Kane as someone who sees himself as the next messiah. Not to mention he’s very psychotic and calm about it. His partner in crime is a ten year old kid named Hobbs, who is foul mouthed and shoots at cops. Seeing something like this as a kid totally blows you away, like when Macaulay Culkin told Elijah Wood, “Don’t fuck with me,” in The Other Son. You can’t believe how vicious someone your age could be. Well, I should mention RoboCop is tracking Cain down when there isn’t filler to attend to. The first subplot that just as quickly brought up as it is dropped is Robo being a total creep and stalking his wife. I realize the scene was brought up to see that he’s Murphy, a human being and not a cyborg, but when his wife finally confronts him, he just shoos her away and none of this is ever mentioned again.
What other subplots should we mention and then never mention again? I suppose we could talk about some of them to get them out of the way since they are irrelevant to the main plot, like when RoboCop is turned into scrap by Cain and his gang. He’s rebuilt, but OCP wants to give him some new directives that make him more friendly, spends time teaching moral values and thinks about the beautiful day. Sure this scene is funny, but it’s a subplot that is taking a jab at all the complaints the parents had against the first film. One of my favorite scenes is when a kid’s baseball team is robbing an electronics store and even after the coach is shot, he still reads him his rights and then immediately trying to teach the kids why shoplifting is wrong, who in turn cuss at him and run away. It’s a great scene, but again, this subplot bears no weight to the actual storyline. Robo fries himself on an electric fence to reboot, thus deleting all of his prime directives (something RoboCop 3 retcons) and do you know what he immediately does? Rounds up the rest of the cops and goes after Kane, which is what the movie should have been doing all along. These subplots are nothing but padding the overall length of the movie. Sure, they’re fun, but ultimately you don’t need them.
Now we get a big shoot out and a chase scene with plenty of cool moments, like RoboCop stealing someone’s motorcycle and jumping onto a truck to catch Cain, but crashes the truck and Cain may not make it. Luckily for him, The Old Man at OCP has been shacking up with Dr. Faxx (more like Dr. Foxx, amirite?), who seems to be morally bankrupt, so she’ll fit right in. Even more important, she seems to have her own agenda, but what could it be? Well, we never fully find out, but a deleted subplot tells you that she was Cain’s Nuke partner. Her role now is to convince The Old Man to let her find the subject for a new RoboCop and she happens to know where to find the perfect brain… a recently nearly comatosed drug lord on life support should do the trick. After a cool effects scene of removing Cain’s brain, they slap it into the new cyborg body and Dr. Faxx sets him loose to kill the mayor along with Kane’s old crew. Oh yeah, Hobb’s wants to give the money to the Mayor to pay off OCP allowing the Mayor to keep his position in office in exchange for allowing Hobbs to continue selling Nuke, thus making him rich.
There’s too much going on in this movie. No wonder a lot of it was changed or cut. All you need to know now is that RoboCop ain’t taking it and it gonna destroy Cain once and for all in a goofy, Looney Tunes-inspired robot battle.
Essentially, it’s a mega budgeted live action cartoon, complete with wacky slide whistle sound effects (I’m not kidding) that leads up to a pretty badass robot fight. Robo seems to have more of an attitude this time, seemingly more aggressive and angry, but that’s because the world around him has gotten worse as you see through various subplots. I mentioned those in great detail and honestly, you could cut them to get the run time down, but they do offer a lot of entertainment value, so why would you? The humor in this sequel takes a much more cartoon approach and there isn’t as much subtle or satirical comedy, although RoboCop 2 still manages to have a dark sense of humor about everything. The violence is also still intact, but it appears less bloody on screen, but still manages to be visceral, mean and hard to watch at times, like when a traitor cop is slit from sternum to belly button with a scalpel.
Brought to you in a brand new 2K scan from Scream Factory, RoboCop 2 looks absolutely magnificent on Blu-ray. It’s sharp, it’s clean and the colors really jump out and for a comic book stylized movie, it’s exactly how you want to see it. There are some special features that include featurettes and interviews with some of the cast and crew, but glaringly absent from any of these is RoboCop himself, Peter Weller, so I’m left to wonder why he would decline or not be included. I would have loved his perspective on the making of this movie, although there are two new audio commentaries to offer some insight. Another missing would be writer Frank Miller even though one of the special features was how they went about adapting his screenplay that was deemed “unfilmable.” Of course, it’s rounded off with your usual trailers, still galleries and so on.
Seeing as how the first RoboCop made so much money, the studios wanted more of that and this time around you can feel more of their presence. With the nudity, swearing and violence toned down just a touch and the live action cartoon feel trying to reach the kids, it’s clear they wanted to market this for toys and so on for the kids to buy, but for the adults in the theaters, seeing as children would see this on home video anyway. Of course, this would come to bite them in the ass by the time RoboCop 3 comes around, but we’ll get there. It’s not as good as the first film, nor does it have as much to say, but it’s still greatly entertaining and a pretty decent sequel, although some of the subplots could have been dropped while the others could have been reworked a bit to add some more depth to characters and the plot to make it a better film. But hey, RoboCop 3 can’t be as bad, right?
(Submitted by Mr. Andrew Peters…Thanks so much for this, Ho-rror Ho-mie…You rock all the socks!! 🙂 xoxo)
The slasher films were burned out by the late ‘80s and horror fans were looking for something to fill in that void. In 1987, a relatively unknown writer and filmmaker named Clive Barker would step up and give the fans something dark, something violent and painful, something with some heart… something different. Adapting his own novella, The Hellbound Heart, it was retitled Hellraiser (to sound less like a romantic movie) and took audiences by surprise. The film contains a deep, dark mystery, villains that are demons to some, angels to others and human elements that are more threatening than the monsters themselves (an element he would use again in Night Breed). Throw in some decent effects and gore, a little S&M and you have yourself a hit. Theater goers ate it up and Hellraiser was a success.
The film would go on to spawn quite a number of sequels that, like all horror franchises, seemed to quickly drop in quality, with the exception of Hellbound: Hellraiser II (which is arguably a better film than the original). There is a reason for this. You see, the first two films were produced by New World Pictures, a studio who were looking for something different and allowed the filmmakers some creativity. By the time it came around to making the third film, Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth, New World Pictures had gone bankrupt and Miramax, a studio well known for meddling in productions, thus totally fucking them up, hired a director who was better at comedies and made it more of a generic slasher that nobody was happy with.
Of course, there are more sequels, but we’re gonna stop there because Arrow Video has released the first three films in a box set called Hellraiser: The Scarlet Box. I’m sure they tried acquiring the rights to the other films, but be thankful they could get their hands on the first three, especially the first two films. I feel like this allowed them to focus more on these films themselves, allowing for great looking restorations and a lot of in depth bonus features which there are a lot of. And also being Arrow Video, this collection is released in a rather fantastic looking box and it’s not the lament configuration like you would think and honestly, I’m glad it’s not. We’ve seen that done before and it’s obvious. Artist Gilles Vranckx illustrates Pinhead with his dark gaze and upon opening the box you are treated to more of his work, that being the top of the head of a character from the film for each movie and other artwork for the bonus features and that’s not all. I recommend checking out my unboxing video, otherwise I will just be repeating myself and besides, you don’t want to talk about amazing art, you wanna show it.
The first film, obviously, is Hellraiser. The film where it all started and would unknowingly launch one of horror’s most memorable icons, Pinhead. He wasn’t credited as Pinhead and apparently Clive Barker doesn’t necessarily fancy the name as he was originally named Priest (probably to take a jab at religion), but he’s credited as “Lead Cenobite” in the credits. Although he’s a movie monster, he’s not the bad guy. In fact, the cenobites are considered angels to some, demons to others. The real villain of the film is a depraved man named Frank, who is always looking for pain and pleasure. He finds that in a mysterious box that calls upon S&M creatures that pull him apart with hooks. The imagery of rusted hooks, a dank basement, blood and other visceral gore really pops out in the film as it appears to be stylized. Sure you’ve seen this stuff before, but in Hellraiser there’s something beautiful and disgusting about it.
Dirty Harry’s The Scorpio Killer Andrew Robinson plays Frank’s brother Larry who’s kind of a push over. Sort of a loveable loser. He and his wife Julia are moving back into his old home, but it appears Frank had been there at some point and Larry comments that he’s not a good guy and probably in jail somewhere (which isn’t far from the truth). Julia seems to have rather fond memories of Frank seeing as they were having an affair and she was going to split with him leaving poor Larry in the dust. Upon moving in, Larry cuts his hand open, gushing blood, and spills it on the floor in the attic where Frank was taken by the cenobites. The floor absorbs the blood and a slimy, bloody human begins to form out of the floorboards, but what is it?
Visiting the attic once again, Julia discovers that gory lump of mess is none other than Frank who needs fresh blood in order to become whole again. After some persistence and because she’s an evil bitch, Julia agrees to help Frank and brings random dudes home from the bar with promises of sex, but the only hammering going is a hammer to the back of their heads. At one point she even cracks a guy across the face with a hammer and his jaw looks mangled, he’s missing teeth and the image looks like something out of an old EC comic and I mean that in the most sincere way possible. Frank’s evolution is one of the most memorable and coolest designs ever. He’s basically just human muscle and tissue – like if you were to turn a person inside out – and wears a suit leaving blood marks on it. It’ll stick out in your mind forever, it’s such a cool image. Good ‘ol Larry is none the wiser and has no idea what’s going on while his daughter Kirsty is coming to visit and right away you get the vibe her and Julia have never gotten along. Kirsty is a character that has become a “final girl” of sorts; she’s sassy, she’s tough, but for me, she never really stood out, but maybe that’s because between the cenobites, Frank and Julia, I feel she just kinda vanishes.
Kirsty finds Julia bringing some random guy inside one day and decides to investigate where she finds Frank along with the box. Escaping with the box, she accidentally opens it and what she summons is something not what she would have ever imagined. Leather clad, pale looking creatures step out from the shadows; one with her throat opened, one with no eyes and mouth exposed that’s always chattering, a fat one and another with pins in his head. Wanting to take her away and know her flesh, Kirsty literally saves her skin by informing them that Frank had escaped and she would bring them to him, but what Kirsty doesn’t know is the surprise that Julia and Frank have waiting for her. Even though you see it coming, it’s kind of a bummer, but the ending needed it in order to work properly.
Hellraiser is without a doubt a horror classic creating an icon that the fans would dub Pinhead. The film easily sticks out against other horror films put out by the studios at the time and that could be for one simple reason: it wasn’t a slasher. I mentioned earlier, this was made after the fall of the slasher genre and Hellraiser blurred the lines of whether or not the monsters were really the bad guys. The human characters, like in Nightbreed, are for more diabolical than they are. The humans explore forbidden sexual desires, murder, pain and pleasure and pretty much everyone aside from Kirsty and Larry are pretty despicable. This also wouldn’t be a film about pain and pleasure without some of the fetishes. Not only does it have its fair share of nudity (most from Julia), but the cenobite’s outfits represent fetish gear, but it’s supposed to. Not only is it something we as an audience hadn’t seen before, but it looks dark, twisted and yet somehow desirable, much like the cenobites themselves are supposed to represent.
Outstanding makeup effects all around on Frank and all of the cenobites, it looks about as realistic as you could be at that time and you have to give the actors accommodations as it could not have been comfortable in all of that makeup. You also have to give them a nod for being able to perform under all that makeup, showing emotion and range. That’s another good thing the film had going for it was its performances by the amazing cast. Even Clive Barker, who had no major film experience before, showed what a force he was when he had to think of how to film in such tiny spaces (the film was shot in a real house, not on a set) and still had all of the moody lighting and even some great camera angles. Hellraiser has earned its status as one of the most iconic and influential horror films and it’s unfortunate that it’s seen as a run-of-the-mill slasher mostly because of its sequels.
Hellbound: Hellraiser II, however, is a phenomenal sequel in my opinion. I think I may actually like it better than the original and I do have my reasons. It takes the story in the next logical steps, it explores who the cenobites were, we see more of Kirsty develop (I actually like her in this film), we’re introduced to someone more vile than Frank, the makeup is still great and is it just me or did anyone else find a skinned Julia sexy? Can’t be just me. Anyway, I feel like the sequel found ways to continue the story, make it more entertaining without having to outdo the original and ends on a nice note, but could also be continued… but we all know what direction they went with that.
One thing I love about Hellbound is that it picks up immediately right after the first film where we find Kirsty in a hospital for crazy people. What about that underdeveloped boyfriend she had in the first film? Well in a throw away line, it’s noted that he already went home, so stop worrying about it. They could have not said anything, but it’s a cool little mention that ties all the little things to the first film. This ain’t like Friday the 13th Part 2 where suddenly Paul is missing and there’s no explanation. It goes without saying that the police would think her story is total hogwash and she’s totally bonkers, but Dr. Channard thinks otherwise. He believes in what she’s saying and it’s no spoiler that this doctor is completely mad. Dr. Channard learns what he can from Kirsty about the box and the cenobites and one other important detail; Julia died on the bed and can be brought back through the bed just like Frank. So almost immediately, Dr. Channard goes down to the super secret sub-basement of the looney bin, grabs himself a looney and allows the poor bastard to begin cutting himself with a razor, spilling his blood all over the bed, thus freeing Julia.
Julia’s looking, well, let’s say she’s had better days… and skinless. Just like Frank, she requires fresh blood in order to regain her flesh and duping Dr. Channard is part of that since he can supply all the fresh blood via mental patients. She also makes promises of showing him all he’s ever wanted to see and he’ll experience all the pleasures and blah, blah, blah, you know this part. Well, there is one obstacle in the way; how to figure out that damn box! Even though Kirsty seemed to have no problem twice, it’s just too hard. Luckily patient plot device, a young mute girl they call “Tiffany,” happens to be obsessed with solving puzzles and is amazing at them. It all has a purpose, tying into her unlocking the puzzle of her memory or something, but that doesn’t really matter in the film. This is essentially her only purpose for the film, but the actress still manages to make Tiffany a likeable character and you do feel sorry for her. She isn’t just some helpless kid or the damsel in distress, she seems to be a survivor.
Meanwhile, Kirsty manages to escape the hospital with the help of her Nurse, a guy named Kyle, who looks like a Steve Guttenberg stunt double, who decided to help Kirsty after witnessing Julia’s return. Kirsty has her own agenda, however. She awakens one night to see a skinless man who has written, “HELP ME, I AM IN HELL” on the wall in his blood. Could this be her father? She has to know for sure. The two of them decide to go to Dr. Channard’s house and do some snooping around, but unfortunately for Kyle, things don’t go so well. This is actually kinda tragic as Kyle was proving to be a tough character, throwing himself in harm’s way and doing the right thing. This just goes to show you that nobody is safe in Hellbound. Things become even less safe after Tiffany opens the box and allows Julia and Dr. Channard to enter into the other world, a world full of unknown pains and pleasures.
Kirsty bumps into Kyle and the two of them search for Kirsty’s father as Julia brings Dr. Channard to her god, Leviathan who needs souls. Julia volunteers Dr. Channard, who had the desire to experience something else, and pushes him into a machine that then turns him into a cenobite, but not just any cenobite… this is something else. A giant wormy arms drags him around by his head as all kinds of tools can emerge from his hands and tentacles that are razor sharp whip around his body. He poses a real serious threat, so Kirsty has no choice but to ask for the help of Pinhead and crew which boils down to a Royal Rumble between Channard and the cenobites (side note, that would make an awesome band name). It’s actually not as bone crunching or memorable as you would think, seeing as Channard dispatches of them rather quick. There’s a little gore and you get a glimpse of who the cenobites used to be, but since you never learned anything about them (other than Pinhead… and even that was just a little bit), you’re just left with questions that will unfortunately never be answered. Still, there’s some movie left as Tiffany and Kirsty have to outwit Dr. Channard and Julia, as well as another surprise guest.
As I mentioned earlier, I find Hellbound to be an amazing sequel and I actually enjoy it more than the original and maybe that’s because it doesn’t take itself as serious as Hellraiser, but doesn’t mock it. It takes the rules and the characters and expands on them, but my problem is that this was never followed up on properly. However, that is not the fault of director Tony Randel, but instead at the glutinous asses of the executives at Miramax and there brand new label, Dimension. Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth is the definition of a bastardization of franchise. It not only spits at the fans, but it flat out doesn’t care about what it is. Rather than take a risk and further develop what the first two films carefully and heartfully developed, Hell on Earth takes a drunken, dehydrated, yellow staining piss and turns the film into a generic slasher movie. A really stupid one.
But, ya know, it’s one of those really fun, stupid movies. It’s now the ‘90s. The ‘80s are dead and buried, so move over, ya schmuck! Hell on Earth has the cynicism that a majority of horror films had during the ‘90s. The attitude and direction of the film seems to be very disingenuous and even insulting, especially to fans of the Hellraiser series. Tony Randel was set to direct, but Miramax, after not only deciding to slash the budget, also thought his direction was too dark, so they hired Anthony Hickox. Why does that name sound familiar? Because, he directed the horror comedies, Waxwork and Waxwork II: Lost in Time, so of course he would be the perfect choice to fill in the directing shoes of a dark toned, serious horror flick. Are you detecting my sarcasm? Good, because I’m laying it on really thick.
Misunderstanding anything about women or women’s rights, the film picks its main character right from the cliche closet to win over the audience; a journalist named Joey who doesn’t want to show any T&A, but wants to be taken seriously. She’s got the drive, she’s got the passion, now she just needs the story that comes to her in the form of a goth teenager, or I should say an older woman unconvincingly playing a teenager, Terri (played by Paula Marshall). Now Paula Marshall is super cute and all, but I don’t buy her as, like, an 18 year old for a moment. After a botched story, Joey witnesses Terri run into the ER with a young man strapped to a gurney, chains all over his body that seem to be suspended in air, but nobody seems to be interested in that. After his head explodes, Joey decides this is gonna be her break and needs to get to the bottom of this! Trying to track down Terri, this leads her to JP, who I can only describe if an STD decided to take the form of a douchebag.
JP is that vile, sleazy guy we all want to highschool with; He’s a total dick to everyone, but because he has money, people hang around him and he gets chicks. Simple as that. When JP isn’t boning a random skank at his club, he’s out buying art, because he’s all dark and shit. Sorry, I just really hate this chode… which I guess is what they were going for, so congratulations (?). The latest installation to his collection is a familiar looking pillar with a familiar looking face. Pinhead. It’s Pinhead and after it gets a taste of a little blood, starts screaming and devours JP’s latest lay. This talking Pinhead face in the pillar expositions dumps about JP’s backstory, it needs him for fresh blood and this should all sound really familiar by now. JP agrees to do so, but doesn’t do a very good job.
I should back up a bit and tell you that Joey has learned that Terri is JP’s ex-girlfriend and that’s really all about it. Well, Terri asks for room and board from Joey for exchanging information to what happened that night and all we learned is what you knew as an audience member going into the third film in the franchise; he took the Lament Configuration. Yup, all that time investigating was building up to that thing you already knew. Going back to where we were, JP kinda sucks at getting blood for Pinhead, seeing as how the only girl he convinces to come back to him is Terri, who manages to get one over on him and Pinhead kills him by ramming a large looking compass rose into his head and convinces Terri to come with him. Oh, he’s back to his old self now. I guess all it took was two bodies. The people in these movies require less and less blood with each passing entry I guess. It’s like how Wolverine’s healing factor seems to get better and better with each X-Men film.
Now, this is where the film just takes a complete turn and buttfucks the previously established franchise. Remember how I said this film became a generic slasher? Well in order to make him more like Jason, Freddy or Michael (which is stupid, because this is what made Pinhead interesting is that he was once human), he massacres an entire nightclub full of people. Just kills them for no reason. Before, the cenobites only sought out those that called them, the ones with desire. But here if you’re just mincemeat. Another thing it does to totally retcon what has been established is that Pinhead just creates random cenobites, whereas once again, had to be created of desire. Only those that were truly seeking other pains and pleasures could be turned. Not here. It’s just the more idiotic, poor excuse for creating new cenobites. These are so terrible, I can only imagine the pea brain asshole tasked with coming up with these characters.
I need to breathe for a moment before continuing on.
These cenobites are created from whatever profession they were currently holding. For example, the DJ is now a CD cenobite. The Bartender is some fat cenobite that chucks molotov cocktail, which I guess makes him any random rioter only he is wearing leather and has barbed wire wrapped around his head. Joey’s cameraman is turned into a cenobite with a camera in his eye and kinda looks like if Jesse Ventura were a Borg from Star Trek. You may be wondering why I’m just now getting around to mentioning him and well, the answer is that he’s barely in the movie, is uninteresting and adds to nothing in the overall story arch. He has maybe four scenes and only is there to positively reinforce Joey, essentially being her cheerleader by saying things like, “You can do it, Joey!” So not only were these cenobites not created out of desire, but they are uninteresting simply because we don’t care about them. These characters had no weight to the film and everything about them is ridiculous. You could argue that we didn’t know anything about the previous cenobites, but I would say it’s that we WANTED to know about them.
The final thing that is retconned is that in the two previous films, Pinhead could hold the box with no problems, but here it has to be given to him in order for him to hold it. Why? Well, because the plot needs him to. There was some dumb bullshit about Joey always dreaming about what may have happened to her dad and we do learn more about Pinhead’s previous life as Captain Elliot Spencer and how he needs Joey’s help to get Pinhead, his evil self, into his world so that he can defeat him… I dunno, it’s absolutely stupid. I’ve been using that word a lot; stupid, but what a perfect way to sum up this movie. I don’t even want to talk about it anymore. The special effects aren’t anywhere near as good as the other two movies, the story is taken in the wrong direction and Anthony Hickox, while I enjoyed the first Waxwork movie, is not the right man for directing a Hellraiser movie. There was some comedy in the film that just didn’t blend with what the tone should have been and with this script and making it a piss poor duplicate of what slasher movies had become, he proved he was not the man for this job.
I wouldn’t even say it’s a good bad movie, I would say that it’s a bad bad movie. I didn’t find anything redeemable about it and I’m shocked someone like Doug Bradley looked at the script and thought this was a good idea and took the role. I’m just venting anger on this movie, though. Miramax/Dimension really mishandled the property and couldn’t have cared. They looked at the first two films and just said, “Nah! Make it a loud, stupid, copycat of a slasher.” One good thing I will say about this release is that some of the bonus features are interviews that contain people trying to explain what went wrong and it’s nice to hear some refreshing honesty rather than the filmmakers trying to convince you that it’s a good film. Some may say it’s a good thing that this release does contain an uncut version of the movie, but I would heavily disagree. It adds absolutely nothing other than a few gore shots and destroys the pacing. It doesn’t even bother me that it’s taken from multiple sources of varying quality, it just brings nothing to the overall final product. I would have been fine with Arrow releasing the first two films in a nice set as a double feature, but I’ll take the third in a box set. It’s not unwatchable, but rather an interesting experiment in what not to do when making a sequel to an already established franchise. Arrow took the time to give this a package to die for, loaded it with so many extras that I can’t even count, but I can tell you that not only does each disc contain making of’s, interviews, audio commentaries, trailers, original EPK’s and so on, but there’s a whole other disc dedicated to the series’ creator, Clive Barker, who definitely deserves the spotlight. Even though his properties are often mishandled, like Night Breed (a film that’s still pretty damn good) and Rawhead Rex (not a good movie, but still entertaining), I’m more than happy that he was able to bring us Hellraiser as personally as he could and that a company like Arrow to the time and effort into seeing these new restorations through and presenting them the way they are.
If there are two problems tearing this country apart, it’s definitely rabies and LSD. And satanic hippie cults. Okay, so three things. And hippies, can’t forget them. But, who is going to inform us about these evils and the destruction they cause, leaving people’s lives in shambles? Who? I’ll tell you who! Director David Durston with his film I Drink Your Blood, although there is no blood drinking, except for the chicken’s at the beginning, but nothing that would imply “yours”. The title was actually thought up by the film’s producer in order to sell it as a double feature, as it played alongside I Eat Your Skin. I guess something like “I Accidentally Drank Rabid Dog’s Blood and Now I Have Rabies” isn’t nearly as catchy.
It’s a film that seemingly takes those things seriously during an era when we weren’t quite informed on what they are nor really had any scientific idea what they were, so it comes off as rather… hysterical. This is only reinforced by how absolutely bonkers things get throughout the movie as hippies and construction workers run amok, all because of tainted meat pies. I always knew that those would somehow be responsible for an outbreak resulting in many deaths. Never trusted a meat pie as far as I could throw it and believe me, I can throw one pretty dang far.
A satanic hippie cult, led by the almost Cesar Romero-Joker-esque quality Horace Bones, who call themselves “SADOS (short for Sons and Daughters of Satan),” have to hole up in a Podunk little town with a tiny population to avoid any detection from the fuzz, you dig? You see, one night during the group’s little get together for one of their little rituals, which they do totally butt nekkid, local girl Sylvia is spotted watching the festivity. However, locals aren’t allowed on the scene and she is beaten (to which her new-found friend of the group, Andy, seems a little too casual about this). While trying to leave this little town, their van breaks down and they do the next logical thing, which is buy meat pies from the local bakery run by Mildred, who tells them that most of the town is abandoned and awaiting demolition. Ah, good thing they decided to get some food from the Exposition Bakery! The group decides to whole up in a hotel indefinitely.
Let’s talk about the group for a minute. As I mentioned, the group is led by the Native American Horace Bones. Andy is the sensitive one, who isn’t happy with the group. Then you have Rollo, the angry black man. Shelley is the questionable member, never sure what his intentions are. There is also Sue-Lin, the group’s mystical Asian woman, there is also a promiscuous groovy chick (whose name I forget) and then you have Molly, the overweight woman who is pregnant with Horace’s spawn and the cute mute Carrie, played by an uncredited Lynn Lowry in her screen debut! It’s a diverse group and everyone is here to stereo-typically represent everyone!
Sylvia’s brother Pete, who steals the show with his “gee-golly-educational film” performance, is rather unsettled by them and knows they are up to something… probably because Horace is a cackling madman and the group isn’t exactly subtle, even though the townspeople never really catch on to this. Pete’s grandfather, the veterinarian (don’t worry, this will make sense in a moment), decides to take action against Sylvia’s abusers, but his plan is easily foiled by Horace who just simply takes his shotgun away from him. Good going, pops. The old man is beaten and drugged with LSD and trips serious balls in one of the most laughable scenes to follow.
So what is LSD? Well, don’t worry. The film seemingly pauses for a moment and switches over to ‘Educational Film Mode’ and lets Pete be the voice of the audience to ask what is that L.S… whatever you call it stuff and Sylvia explains what it is and the dangers it holds. Trust me when I say it’s going to take you out of the movie for a moment, but it’s going to leave you chuckling. And the best part is, the film hasn’t even kicked into high gear!
That night, a rabid dog is strolling around and making noise, so Pete puts the thing down with his granddad’s double barrel and devises genius plan. It’s so genius, I’m sure there are some twisted, evil kid tendencies with Pete that the film unfortunately doesn’t go into, but his family may want to have him checked out: He sneaks out with his granddad’s veterinary kit and uses a syringe to siphon the dog’s infected blood, injecting them into the meat pies the Sons and Daughters of Satan of been buying. Seriously, out of all the evil revenge plans in every movie ever, is that not one of the best? It’s unclear if Pete’s intentions were to kill them, make them sick or maybe he didn’t know what would happen, but you can definitely say he got more than what he bargained for!
The members of SADOS fall ill that night, sweating and gripping their stomachs in pain, until they start foaming out the mouth and becoming violent, even toward each other. Rollo severs the foot off another member with an axe and runs off, chasing the groovy chick after being thwarted by Horace and his sword, Molly and Carrie bolt and Andy heads off to hide at Sylvia’s since he was the only one who didn’t eat the meat pies. He takes shelter there and along with her, and no worries, Pete is there too to get in the way and do whatever it is that Pete does. Whatever is though is sure to make you laugh.
Having a group of rabid, Satan worshiping hippies is bad enough to unleash on an unsuspecting town, but the groovy chick offers herself to all of the construction workers (yes… ALL twenty or thirty of them) in order to feel protected, but unbeknownst to her, she infects all of them! Every rabies infected psychopath sets their eyes on Sylvia, Pete, Mildred, Andy and even grandpa and the most bat-sh#t crazy finale ensues, accompanied by some outstanding, hectic psycho music to play along to enhance the chaos. The survivors try to defend themselves and survive as the town runs rabid, quite literally, and all kinds of violence ensues including an epic sword fight, a decapitation and plenty of shotgun blasts… and of course a PSA about rabies in the guise of an exploitation film that’s gone completely bonkers.
Now the film does end with an open question, one that will be blindingly obvious, so I recommend checking out the deleted ending that not only ties that loose end up, but also ends the film on a very dark and grim, but fitting, note.
Grindhouse Releasing presents I Drink Your Blood in a brand new HD transfer and holy moly is this print all nice and cleaned up for you. It’s how I imagined it must have looked during its drive-in theater run. There’s little damage, some and the colors are nice and bright, which makes a film of this nature really pop. There are more than enough extras to go around, most of which are carried over from the previous DVD release, but there is a new audio commentary from actors Jack Damon and Tyde Kierney as well as a new interview with David Durston. The big additions to this release is the inclusion of David Durston’s previous films I Eat Your Skin and Blue Sextet making this the perfect exploitative triple feature.
If you were to ask me what an exploitation film is, I would point you to I Drink Your Blood as the prime example. This is without a doubt my favorite movie of all time. Everything about it is honest, meaning that it comes from a place of love for what it is. The filmmakers clearly loved horror films and wanted to tell an amazing story, no matter how wild or seemingly unreal things got it. It has that certain type of genuine feel to it that all of these movies that homage films of the 70’s and 80’s claim to have. Everything about this film works, right down from the comic-book bright red blood, the idea of a new disease and how little they knew about it at the time, making it more frightening, the groovy score mixed with some good old fashioned 70’s Satanic hippie cult fun, it’s not only educational, but it’s a pure bloody good time.
(Submitted by Mr. Andrew Peters…Thank you, freaky fiendster! :)xoxo)
If there is one thing I love about Italiansploitation films (that’s Italian made exploitation films, which I’m sure you were able to figure out), it’s that they would take a preposterous idea seriously while having fun with it. Sometimes without even knowing that’s what they are doing. The producers tell them that the Dawn of the Dead movie is popular, so crank out a zombie flick as fast as you can. Someone writes a script over a lonely, drunken weekend, turns it in and the first director that says they can make it on the lowest budget wins. The gore is ramped up, a few quirky and disturbing character traits are added and the film is cast. Everything is turned up to ten. The actors take their roles very seriously and put their heart and soul into it. Of course, sometimes it’s hard to notice once these films are atrociously dubbed. The film is then haphazardly cut together in a short amount of time and released to your local grindhouse theater the next day for your viewing pleasure. Nethertheless, once those credits start rolling, you aren’t sure what the hell you just experienced, but you loved it.
I have no evidence to back this up, mind you. It’s something I’ve gathered from watching bonus features, reading stories and the overall impression I’m left with once the film is over.
Burial Ground comes to mind as a perfect example of this. Everything about this film is poorly executed, so why do I love it so much? I should hate this film by all accounts, but I don’t. It’s a film that you can’t really talk about or review without putting it under a microscope and fully analyzing it. So hunker down, this is gonna be a long review. I know what you are thinking, “Isn’t there a movie called Nights of Terror?” Well, no. That movie is Rats: Night of Terror. This movie’s subtitle is Nights, with an ‘s’, plural, which is actually quite stupid since the film only takes place during one night. But seeing as how Night was already taken… or maybe they are being extremely technical since the opening of the film does take place on the evening before, but I don’t think they took that into consideration.
Mall Santa by day, back up ZZ Top member by night, Professor… ? (they just call him Professor or “the” Professor if they are being polite or perhaps in some cruel ironic ploy, his name actually was Professor) has just discovered the secret! A secret so secretive that it will be never be revealed what it is or even brought up by anyone again. He then wanders out to some tomb not too far from his mansion where zombies begin to rise and immediately eat him and by eat him I mean they rub identifiable lumps of gore all over their faces to mimic eating, even after his pleas that he is their friend.
First thing you are gonna notice about these zombies is that there seems to be a mix of pretty decent zombie makeup and some of the worst looking zombies you’ve seen. The makeup job can get so bad, that you can see the actors eyes and lips through the masks, even on a low quality VHS. The second thing you’ll notice is how slow they are are. And when I say slow, I mean S-L-O-O-O-O-W. Crawling doesn’t even define it. These zombies move so slow, you’ll think you’re watching a scene in slow motion. You have to wonder how they ever catch their victims to eat, but luckily we have a smorgasbord of daft idiots for them to feast on and I’m not sure where any of these people are in relation to the Professor, since it’s never really addressed (maybe as colleagues in passing, but I can’t recall). The stand out character from this group is Michael, played by Peter Bark, for a reason that will become glaringly obvious the split second he is on screen; he’s a dwarf in his mid 20’s with a bad toupee playing a ten year old. And if that isn’t creepy enough for you, he also has sexual feelings toward his mother.
Anyway, this evenly matched man to woman crew has returned after six months and what’s the first thing they do? Sex! Yeah, the film certainly knows how to maintain your attention, as you watch each of the three couples foreplay, until Michael interrupts his mother, Evelyn’s. She stands there totally nude, inquisiting the young lad about what he is doing, which I’m sure is in no way sexually confusing to the already sexually confused deviant. Without getting too far ahead of myself or psychoanalyzing the character, Evelyn seems to be sexually confused about her son as well, but it’s (surprisingly) more subtle.
The useless blonde archetype of the group, Janet, can’t help but feel that they are all in danger and wants to warn the others, but is discouraged by her lover Mark. The good ol’ ‘Prophet of Doom’. Most of these Italian films had them, even if they don’t fit into the story, like why is she suddenly getting these feelings? It’s never explained, so let’s move on to the next morning, where after some finely placed J&B Scotch product placement, we are finally giving a brief, but not open ended explanation as to why the zombies have risen.
The Professor was studying ‘the black arts’. There ya go.
And this is why all of the characters are here. This is what the Professor wanted to tell them. A simple phone call or letter would not do. Well, we needed a reason to group a bunch of dimwits together for a zombie, gut munching gore fest, so now we have one.
Now that all (and I do mean all) of the exposition is out of the way, we can move on to more exploitation! Each of the couples separate to do their own hobbies, like sketching, photography or George teaching Evelyn to fire a handgun (which, again, never comes back in the film, so take that, Chekhov’s gun!) Ultimately, all of these activities lead to heavy petting, leaving these fools to be distracted as the zombies emerge from the tomb and attack the profusely stupid and conveniently distracted couples. Janet and Mark are the first two to be attacked and although they aren’t sure what to make of the creatures, Mark intelligently states that, “Whatever they are, they aren’t human!” Thanks Mark, I wasn’t able to figure that out. As they escape, Janet runs around screaming and flailing, making Olive Oil look dignified, manages to get herself caught in a bear trap. Wait, why the hell is there a bear trap randomly placed there. Did I say bear? I meant nimrod trap.
Meanwhile, George is trying to seduce Evelyn, even while Michael is in the room (which I’m sure seeing random dudes grind on his mom is in no way adding to those sexual feelings toward her…). In a disturbing turn of the scene, Michael manages to gain his mother’s attention by finding a cloth, commenting that it smells like death, then showing George how to really seduce a woman as he kisses his mom’s hand all over while staring right into George’s eyes as if saying, “Yeah punk, let me show you how it’s done. I know what my mom likes!” I can’t believe I had to write that. This movie is making me feel ill.
Luckily before things go any further and turns into some weird fetish films, the zombies attack, killing George leaving Evelyn and Michael to defend themselves by throwing paint on the zombies and setting them on fire. James and Leslie, the other couple (sorry, that’s the best description I have for them) manage to save them in time, as they also previously saved Mark and Janet. They group takes shelter inside the house, with what looks like very helpful stage direction from a zombie who points for them to run in a certain direction. Finally inside with the butler and maid, Nicholas and Kathleen, they decide it’s best to check out the rest of the house to make sure it’s safe. Mark heroically volunteers defenseless Kathleen to go search the entire house by herself. Sorry lady, but we can’t spare any of these several people sitting around. After searching the house for a bit, Kathleen finds an open window to close on the second floor, but that doesn’t stop these zombies. These zombies are ninja like experts with their precise accuracy as one throws a tent spike right into her hand, pinning her in her spot and leaving them time to slowly cut off her head with a scythe, making this what could be the best zombie kill in a movie.
These zombies may look laughably stupid, but they know how to organize. Arming themselves with weapons from a nearby and conveniently placed tool shed, they march to the front door and begin smashing on it with tools. However James, who inexplicably now has a shotgun, starts blowing their heads off from an open window. Even these zombies aren’t that stupid, as after about a dozen of them have their brains reduced to mush, they begin to retreat. The group feels they are now safe for the night and Leslie heads off to find some bandages for Janet’s wounded leg, only to be jumped from a zombie outside as she passes a window, who uses a broken shard of glass to push through her brain. This calls for all the other zombies to infiltrate like a SWAT team and attack helpless Janet in a scene that feels like it goes on forever, until the others reappear and fight back.
That was pretty tense! I think everyone needs a break. As they all sit around and rest up, Michael uses this time to make a move on his mom by kissing her and groping, adding a whole new definition to breastfeeding, which she sickly seems to be going with, but snaps out of it and slaps him across the face and immediately apologizes. Yeah, this kid is gonna be messed up for the rest of his life, which coincidentally isn’t too much longer. He darts off only to have his arm devoured by a zombie Leslie, who I thought had glass stabbed through her brain (but, how did she turn if she wasn’t bit?). Evelyn finds the now dead Michael and bashes zombie Leslie’s head up against a bathtub, leaking all kinds of grossly colored juices.
No time for mourning your weirdo son, lady. The zombies have made a homemade battering ram (holy moly, they are resourceful) and have broken down the door! If only they were really slow moving and weak, then maybe they would have a chance of escaping… instead the remaining survivors hide until morning when Janet spots what looks like a monk heading inside the tomb. Monks? Sure why not! I’m sure they are downright neighborly and will offer shelter and help or, as it turns out, they are zombies and kill James upon seeing him, who almost immediately rises from the dead.
So what are the qualifications for becoming a zombie in this movie? Do you or don’t you have to get bit? How long does it take? Who cares! Zombies, right?
The final three realize they are locked in the tomb’s… workshed? Yeah, why does this place have a workshed? I guess when monks and the Professor aren’t studying the black arts, they are heavy into home repair. I’m sure a work shed is in no way a setup for the final act and our remaining victim’s fate (wow, I am using a lot of sarcasm in this review). Michael returns as a zombie, with a whole new arm somehow and a nipple bite later, Janet and Mark are being surrounded and being pushed headfirst into saw blades. The movie closes on a freeze frame, telling of a “profecy” of a “nigths” and that’s not a typo on my part.
So the movie ends about as well as you thought it would. With obviously glaring typos over the survivor’s demise.
If it weren’t for the time that this movie was made, I would have sworn this is a spoof, otherwise there would be no explanation as to how bad things are in this movie. Complaints about some of the terrible and revealing makeup aside (at least during the close ups), these zombies are incredibly slow moving and weak. In order to make them a menace, the characters in this film are written to a point of stupidity so insane, that it is fiction. Nothing anyone does is something anything with a pulse would do. They stand around looking puzzled as zombies slowly shuffle toward them, then while escaping, they run head first into the undead, even though they have plenty of space to run around them. Of course, most zombie films are guilty of this, but here it’s overplayed. Thankfully, it plays for laughs and sheer entertainment. With the exception of Michael, I can’t say anything positive about the other characters. There is simply nothing to them, except to be a meal for the zombies. I’m not expecting deep character development, but literally all of these characters are the same. The guys are all faux masculine and the women just cry. In some sort of sick ironic sense, if it weren’t for Michael, there wouldn’t be any reason to watch these buffoons.
Playful jabs aside, the film isn’t horribly directed. Don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t consider it to be beautiful like a Mario Bava film or something like Fulci’s The Beyond, but mood is well established and the shots frame everything well to capture what is going on. The soundtrack is… interesting to say the least. It’s no Harry Manfredini score, but it’s odd keyboard ‘pokes’ and tense violin strings do accompany the film extremely well. And the gore. Oh yes, the gore. There is more than enough here to satisfy any like minded horror fan as these poor chumps are ripped apart and have their guts devoured, body parts torn or cut off and even the zombies themselves get their head smashed to bits. Also, I know I joked about some of the makeup looking pretty bad and it can be, but there are some good looking zombies thrown in, complete with maggot covered faces and all. And I do have to say, it’s refreshing to see zombies use some tools for a change and instead of mindlessly lumbering around, these zombies actually had something of a plan and did what they could to do it. I was often reminded of the first zombie encountered in Night of the Living Dead who uses a brick. There are very few breaks in between the carnage for you to sit back and relax, as something is always out to get you. Even the dubbing is fitting for the film. It’s as atrocious as you would expect (especially Peter Bark’s voice over) from an Italiansploitation film, yet it somehow fits into all of this.
Ever hear the phrase ‘so bad it’s good?’ Well, this is what the are referring to when they say that. This is a movie that by all accounts (the special effects, acting, directing, etc.) should be a bad film, but it isn’t. Everything that is bad is what makes this film good. Lying beneath its serious demeanor is a smirk of devilish charm, a film that is (or at least it must be) self aware and having some fun with you. Underneath all the layers of cheese is a delicious blend of fun and hokiness. Burial Ground is what I consider to be the definitive example of the Italian zombie genre of the 80’s. It’s not revered as a classic in the way that George Romero’s earlier zombie flicks are, but the film is looked as a classic in terms of what to expect from an exploitation film of this genre.
Luckily, Severin Films is also a fan of the film and completely restored it in 2K and even though it does clean it up too much to the point where all the bad makeup becomes even more evident, it’s still amazing to watch in clear detail. It wouldn’t even be an official release if you didn’t toss in a bunch of new extras, most of which are interviews with the cast and crew, so that means you have to read it since they are in Italian. There’s also deleted and extended scenes as well as the theatrical trailer and Severin also offers a poster along with it with amazing artwork from Wes Benscoter.
I really could go on forever about Burial Ground, but I think it’s easiest, and probably the best, to say you need to see it. I don’t think you can consider yourself to be a zombie fan or Italian film fan until you do.
Stephen King movies. Just opening up a review with that sentence makes me think about fortifying my walls and wearing body armor. I understand he has a very strong and faithful following and for a good reason; the guy is a phenomenal writer. That being said, I don’t think his films have always been well adapted when it comes to the big screen. There are a few exceptions, but for the most part, his films often follow the same plot structures, contain ridiculous, one note, cliched characters and often conclude with an ending that’s less than satisfactory. This is just my opinion, of course, but then he has those films that kinda fall in the middle of the road.
Let’s talk about Firestarter, for example. I know there are a ton of people out there who love this movie and rightfully so, but something about it just didn’t click for me completely. I didn’t hate the film, but I didn’t love it. I just thought it was okay, which I know is blasphemy to not adore a Stephen King adapted film, especially an older work, but just because I don’t absolutely love the film doesn’t mean I didn’t find the performances to be fantastic or the story to be pretty decent. It just wasn’t what I expected and I felt it dragged and repeated similar scenes.
A very young, post E.T., Drew Barrymore stars as the film’s titular character, Charlie McGee, who has the ability to raise the temperature and start things on fire, hence Firestarter. She also has one of the most buck-toothed, back woods, Stephen King character names of all time. Rather than the film be about her discovering her powers and causing havoc or going out for revenge, she is already fully aware of her powers, but is still learning how to fully control it. She’s on the run with her father Andy played by David Keith (not to be confused with Keith David) who are trying to escape from some government faction that likes to experiment on people called The Shop. You see, Andy met his wife Victoria (Heather Locklear in a very small role) during one of The Shop’s experiments that gave Andy telekinetic powers they oddly call “shove” or “shoving.” It’s kinda like how they had to make Danny’s powers sound more exciting by calling it “shining” in, um, The Shining. So for you X-Men fans, Andy is basically Jean Grey and Charlie is Sunspot.
After a long night of running from the suits and accidentally setting some jerk’s foot on fire, Andy and Charlie wind up at a small farm, ran by the friendly Irv (Art Carney) and his wife Norma (Louise Fletcher) where their cover is quickly blown, but Irv is rather accepting of the truth and we get a look back at what happened to Victoria and why Andy and Charlie are on the run. It actually feels like that part could have been written out and used as the movie, which honestly I would have rather seen. Soon, suits from The Shop show up by the dozen and seemingly multiply when the shoot Irv in the arm and Charlie begins setting them on fire and blowing up their cars. It’s quite an intense scene and referencing X-Men once again, reminded me of the scene from X2 where Pyro is attacking the police cars outside of Bobby’s house. When all’s said and done, the remaining survivors run away leaving quite an awkward situation for Andy and Charlie. Norma demands that they leave and this important for the ending when Charlie arrives to Irv and Norma welcoming her with open arms. Oh okay, I guess Norma had some time to blow off some steam? Why the sudden change of heart other than that the ending called for it to be happy. I’m getting ahead of myself.
With the two on the run, we meet the real driving force of the film, the evil that sends the events into motion, Captain Hollister played by a very scratchy throated Martin Sheen. Hollister was probably my favorite character of the film, because you aren’t totally sure of his intentions. He wants to capture Charlie and use her as a weapon, yet he seems to think they can only use her so much before she becomes totally dangerous and wants to destroy her. However, at other times, he seems like he doesn’t really want to kill her… so his hired gun John Rainbird offers to do it and seems happy to do so. George C. Scott disappears into the role of John Rainbird, complete with a classic villain look with scars, ponytail and an eyepatch. His character is absolutely insane, befriending Charlie so that he can gain her trust to kill her, because he wants to absorb her spirit and rid the world of the danger that she’s capable of. He seems very tragic and George C. Scott plays both sides perfectly. He’s threatening and violent and will frighten you into hiding, but he can lure you out and be totally trusting and seemingly caring. You’re never sure exactly where he’s coming form.
John and Hollister finally capture Andy and Charlie and separate them at The Shop, promising them both that if they do what they say they will be reunited. Of course, we know that’s not true and neither does Andy who’s being forced to take medication to dull his powers while his daughter is being pampered and given false promises if she uses her powers. At this point, I’m not exactly sure what it is they plan to do with the evidence of her powers… I believe it was to try and duplicate it with more people? Anyway, Andy devises a plan to escape and contacts Charlie while duping Hollister about his suppressed powers that leads to a fiery and explosive finale that ends pretty much how you think it will. Also, I forgot to mention the synth poppy soundtrack by Tangerine Dream that is damn good. However at time it may not always fit the context of the scene, it’s always welcoming to hear. I’ve always enjoyed their work, especially on Near Dark and although they didn’t record new music for Firestarter (the director was given pre-existing music they recorded), it’s easily one of my favorite soundtracks.
Although I stated that Firestarter was pretty middle of the road for me, I do have to say that the performances from everyone are fantastic. At a very young age, Drew Barrymore manages to handle a range of emotions, even crying and being vulnerable and then flipping that and becoming wily and dangerous. David Keith does a pre James McAvoy Professor X touching his temples, but mixing in a bit of that face and eyes intensity in Scanners whenever he used his powers. He plays Andy as a very protective father and a damaged man who is tired and stressed out from running and using his powers. You can see the toll it’s taken on him. I already talked about George C. Scott and Martin Sheen, which really concludes the majority of the characters that you spend time with. Heather Locklear is barely in the movie, but she’s adorable, so you can see how Andy would fall her. She’s not really given many scenes and doesn’t have any depth.
Scream Factory presents Firestarter in a brand new 2K scan that looks phenomenally sharp and clean. I can’t recall many dust or scratches and yet it’s not like it looks like a brand new film, but rather if the original print had no damage. Director Mark L. Lester offers a brand new commentary and is even interviewed in a new featurette, Playing with Fire, along with Actors Freddie Jones, Drew Snyder, Dick Warlock and even Johannes Schmoelling of Tangerine Dream. There’s actually a featurette on Tangerine Dream as well as a live performance of ‘Charlie’s Theme’, because they knew how good the soundtrack was to this movie that they had to include some features about it. The disc is topped off with the usual trailers, radio spots and still galleries.
Firestarter is one of the better Stephen King adapted films, boasting incredible performances and a killer soundtrack, but with a typical evil government/good guy on the run plot and it ends pretty much exactly how you think it will. Even though I don’t love the film, I like it just fine and think it’s well made, but it feels a bit underwhelming to me.