Mondo continues the Castlevania soundtrack bloodline with Super Castlevania IV, which marks the game’s soundtrack first foray into the 16-bit era. While music on the Sega Genesis had a tin, metallic clink sound to it, the Super Nintendo was much more bombastic, energetic and honestly, more clear and able to emulate a more orchestral score. Aside from Symphony of the Night, Super Castlevania IV is my favorite game and coming off the 8-bit games, I remember this soundtrack very well and couldn’t wait to listen to it again.
Immediately, it did not disappoint. The memory of running home from school on a Friday night and heading to the video store, picking this game up and playing it with the step-father late at night (we were big into playing the right games at the right times). I remember the eerie music droning over a black screen, keeping you anticipating what you are about to experience, followed by the opening text crawl over fog to the opening of the game. Not only did the visuals set the mood for a very ominous playthrough, but the music really brings it altogether. Combined with the graphics, you know that this is going to be a spooky experience with some action and right from the start when the Theme of Simon Belmont slowly starts as you make your way inside the castle and upon entering, the game brightens and the music kicks into full gear. You get a rush and feel like the ultimate vampire killer.
I just wanted to illustrate a picture in your head about how impactful soundtracks are to a game, especially something like Castlevania. Now that it’s on the Super Nintendo, it’s much more grandiose, allowing it pack much more of a punch. This is a soundtrack that really showed off the SNES’ musical capabilities and was just as much of an experience as the gameplay, because honestly, I don’t think this game would have totally worked if the soundtrack, well, sucked. When there are cooldown moments in the game, The Cave stage’s song is very relaxed, but something about it says that danger could still be lurking around the corner. The Waterfall has a very dooming and ominous tone to it, like you’re already at your funeral. The boss fight tunes are incredibly hair raising and nearly give me an anxiety attacking, making it harder to control the game. It adds a certain panic to the already difficult boss fight. Even Bloody Tears makes a return with much more gothic organ vibe with electronic drums, making it an interesting combination and although it’s not my favorite iteration of the track, it’s still pretty cool. Overall, I would say that this soundtrack has a very Fabio Frizzi vibe going on, making it feel like if Fulci had made the game in his prime.
Moving down the bloodline, so to speak, Mondo has been slaying (okay, okay, I’ll stop with the vampire puns) their video game soundtrack releases with the Contra series, Silent Hill and, of course, Castlevania and since we are moving on down the line with the sequels in this particular series, we finally get what is arguably the best Castlevania game’s soundtrack, Super Castlevania IV. The artwork is very, erm, eye catching, but not in the sense that you would think. Now I don’t dislike the artwork, in fact I think it’s fantastic and has a very Metalocalypse aesthetic to it, but it doesn’t look or feel like something of Mondo’s caliber… or Castlevania. Going to box art of the game, it’s very action oriented and features creatures as well as some of the castle in the game. It screams what a Castlevania game should represent. I’m not really sure what to feel here. The image on the back is lot more in the direction of what you would expect from a Castlevania game and the inside of the jacket is the map (keeping with that tradition as with all the Castlevania soundtrack releases), but I feel like this artwork misses the point. Even had said all of that, keep in mind I do like it, but I just don’t feel it properly represents the game.
The record itself is more representative of the game, with a flat grey that reminds of the rocks the castle would be built from or the oppressive nature of the game, splattered with blood red. It’s simple and maybe some would say dull, but I like the simplicity of it. It says more without saying too much and by that I mean it doesn’t need loud or wild colors to look attractive. As I look at it, I can’t help but think of the violent Gothic Hammer horror clicks and the old black and white monster movies with spider-webs and bats. Mondo really did their job here or perhaps I’m just overthinking it.
Super Castlevania IV’s soundtrack is one prime example of just how important a soundtrack can be. It walks a fine line between chilling and action oriented, appealing to both the horror and action genres. Fans will be pleased with this two 12” 180 gram LP set, featuring all 29 tracks from the game. It’s exciting, it’s haunting and I can see folks playing it at Halloween parties instead of spooky noises soundtracks. Artwork aside, I feel like this one is a masterpiece that is needed for every horror or video game aficionado’s vinyl collection.
So, what’s next? Rondo of Blood (always loved that title)? Symphony of the Night? Fans are clamoring for what should be next and the series seems to be getting released in order, so I guess we will have to lay in our coffins and wait.
(And here’s Mr. Goony Goon, aka Andrew Peters, with the conclusion of our Wednesday Were-stravaganza…Thanks, Ho-rror Ho-mie, and enjoy the rest of your hump day, freaky folks! 🙂 xoxox)
All the teens were howling for more Teen Wolf, so alright you sons of bitches, you want more? You’re gonna get more and I’m not just talking about a Saturday morning cartoon that’s only gonna last one season, I’m talking about a sequel. Not just any sequel, but the worst kind of sequel. You know the ones where they couldn’t get the starring actor back because he hated it so much, so they just rewrite the character to fit into the script. Not the story, just the character and it doesn’t matter if it makes sense or not and if you think they are gonna do something different this time, you’re wrong. Dead wrong. Teen Wolf Too is nearly a literal carbon copy of the first film, but instead of Michael J. Fox in highschool, you get Jason Bateman in college and instead of basketball being the sport, it’s boxing. Bingo, bango, presto. Now you got a film without working too hard and it’s easy money.
That doesn’t mean it’s boring or terrible. It just means that you’ve seen it all before, beat for beat and this is the best example of a film that doesn’t need to exist. When you think about how lazy this film actually is, it’s practically a cinema sin. You know what? The more I think about it, yes, yes it is a terrible movie. I get the feeling this movie was made as a starring vehicle for Jason Bateman, seeing as how his father Kent Bateman is the producer of the film and probably thought it would be a safe choice for his son to star in a sequel to a popular comedy. Or maybe this is the silver bullet this franchise needs before it gets out of control.
Jason Bateman replaces Michael J. Fox’s character Scotty Howard as his cousin Todd Howard who is well aware of the family curse or secret or whatever you want to call it. Point is, he knows that people in his family can turn into werewolves, but since his parents can’t, it doesn’t look like Todd will either… or so he thinks. James Hampton returns to his role as Harold to drop him off at college, not because it really makes sense, but because the filmmakers need shoehorn in the cameo as a connection to the first film. Like, remember they’re werewolves? Harold drives around as a wolf and nobody really seems to care or be surprised and I’m guessing this is pretty much how the audience feels. The cameos don’t stop there, however. As luck would have it, he’s not only going to the school as these two cool dudes, but he also happens to be rooming with Chubbs and Stiles from the first film! What are the odds. Mark Holton returns to play the loveable eating machine Chubbs, but I barely recognized Stiles. Not only because he was recast for whatever reason, but also because he has one of the most hideous mullets this side of the ‘80s.
Turns out Stiles had pulled some strings to get Todd roomed with them, because once again he wants to exploit The Wolf, to which Todd tries to assure him that he doesn’t have it in him. The wolfness that runs in the Howard bloodline is what got Todd into such a prestigious school in the first place, seeing as how Dean Dunn also wants to exploit him for the werewolves naturally gifted sports ability and giving Todd a free ride via a sports scholarship. Immediately, the Dean is established as a snobbish, one dimensional cartoon spoof of the Dean from another teen comedy, like Animal House. I will say at least he’s giving more dialogue and interaction than the principal from the first Teen Wolf film. Todd reluctantly agrees to all this, but the poor guy just wants to take science classes and chat with the brainy, cute girl Nicki who instantly falls for him and pursues him even though he’s a total dick to her and later bails on her to have threeways with the popular chicks while alienating his friends. Sounding familiar? I actually don’t understand why Chubbs and Stiles are excited for Todd to become the wolf when they know what a selfish asshole it turned Scotty into.
During a boxing match when Todd is getting trampled, that’s when he finally transforms into the wolf and whoops some ass, but this should come as no surprise. I mean, Teen Wolf Too mimicks the first one pretty much beat for beat, so this should come as no surprise. However, with Scotty in the first film, his character at least alluded to being kind of an asshole and you saw how the wolf was creating a massive ego, but here it just happens. Like, zero to one hundred. Luckily the Dean is giving him a free ride and all his teachers are giving him passing grades, except for his science teacher, Ms. Brooks (played by Kim Darby who I’ve always had a strange attraction for), who also has a secret of her own, but there’s also this weird sexual tension between the two and you half expect it to turn into wolf porn. Gotta say, that would have made the film more original. Todd was all focused on science and shit with the help of his teacher and then once he’s the wolf, he’s a total dick and it’s such a whiplash. There’s no build up or progression, it just happens. The film also does a sudden shift in time, like, all of a sudden it’s the end of the year and he’s failed his science final. It feels rushed, but hey, movie’s almost over.
Once again, the performances are fine and Stiles is surprisingly less annoying this time around, even taking credit for Todd becoming such a jerk, although you don’t really see much of Stiles marketing the wolf. Jason Bateman was a fine replacement and felt more like a geek than Michael J. Fox did, but I think that was the point. Scotty was just so average that nobody noticed him, whereas Todd is much more of a nerd, so his wolf-ism was supposed to be more of a surprise, but again, the film doesn’t explore this. Once he’s the wolf, he’s driving fast cars, doinking the babes and really good at boxing. Another element coming out of nowhere is Todd confessing his love to the geeky girl toward the end. In fact, she mouths the words “I love you” to power him up for the final match with the jock dude, who again, has no character development and is just there for the hero to have a villain to fight. Once he becomes the wolf, she’s pretty much out of the movie until the end and yet she sticks by his side while he’s off getting STD’s and treating her like shit. Of course at the end, he’s allowed to redeem himself once he realizes he needs to be himself and not the wolf. Gee, didn’t see that coming.
The makeup design is the same, the sets are the same, the acting is the same… the goddamn story is the same. Teen Wolf Too doesn’t need to exist, nor do I think it’s worthy of a new high definition transfer, but Scream Factory went ahead and gave it one anyway. I’m guessing it was some kind of a package deal with the first film or maybe it’s for the small, small crowd that enjoys the film. Keeping in theme with repeating the first film, there are only a small amount of extra features included, although on this release all of the featurettes were separated into smaller bits rather than just one big documentary. Other than that, it’s just a still gallery and a trailer.
Having said everything I did, I actually prefer Teen Wolf Too over Teen Wolf, it’s just that it’s the same movie with a different lead, it makes it feel like a remake rather than a sequel. The humor doesn’t work at all, Todd isn’t a very likable lead and I don’t care about him. Or anyone else in the movie. I still can’t believe this spawned a cartoon and a remake TV show. Now I understand why the TV show has little do with the movies outside of the name. Teen Wolf is a franchise where I may never understand the popularity. I feel like once something somehow sneaks its way into pop-culture, there’s no questioning it. It’s there and you’re supposed to accept it. Or perhaps I’ve gotten too old.
(Submitted by Mr. Andrew Peters…Thanks, Andy, you Goonie!!! 😉 xoxo)
High School is such an awkward period in all of our lives. Maybe the struggles we faced weren’t nearly as bad as they seem now, but back then it would make or break you or shape who you would become. The scare of bullies, struggling to fit in and find your place, finding out who you are and who you will become, striving to be the very best on the sportsball team and then finding out your family is a bunch of werewolves. Well, maybe not exactly that last thing, but the Michael J. Fox teen comedy Teen Wolf explores that very idea. Perhaps it’s some sort of allegory for going through puberty and trying to fit in? If it is, it’s a rather thin one.
So, here’s an unpopular opinion. Have you ever really liked something or at least you thought you did, because of how it’s viewed in pop culture, but then you go back and revisit it and it’s not all that great? That’s Teen Wolf for me. Who doesn’t remember this movie and who didn’t love Michael J. Fox? He’s the charismatic underdog you want to see win the big game. You want to see him give the jerk his comeuppance and you want to see him get the girl. Along the way, he’ll discover who he is, where he fits in and that the girl for him was beside him the whole time. I know I just described every teen comedy ever, but did they all have werewolves? I think not! Does that make this a better film? Eh… well, no.
Michael J. Fox plays your average teen, Scotty Howard, and when I say average, I do mean average. He’s smart, but not brilliant. He plays on the basketball team and he does alright, but he’s no superstar, but he doesn’t completely suck either. He’s not invisible to girls, but he’s no Casanova either. I think you get my drift. Scotty lives with his dad, who seems pretty lame for the most part, but the guy cares about his son and you get the idea that there was some tragedy in his life seeing as how the mother isn’t around. I think maybe it was hinted at, but I don’t believe it was. He has a connection to the principal who has it in for Scotty, always harassing him, but the conclusion to that is rather lackluster. We don’t want the dad character to be too sympathetic and besides, we’ve already wasted the legal limit of cliches on Scotty.
When Scotty isn’t looking way too sweaty playing shooty-hoops at school, he’s hanging out and partying with his friend Stiles. I think everyone remembers Stiles from this movie. Stiles is, like, basically what an STD would be in human form. Actually, they may be an inaccurate description, because you would need to get laid for that to happen and I don’t see anyone or anything sleeping with Stiles. This is a character that was definitely written by an adult who thinks what kids perceive as cool. In every scene, he’s wearing not only different sunglasses, but different t-shirts with such eloquent phrases that in no scream ‘overcompensation,’ like “life sucks and then you die” or “what are you looking at dicknose.” He’s constantly bursting into whatever room it may be, slapping everyone’s shoulders and giving them unwarranted nicknames and trying to make jokes that fall flat. If Stiles were a real person, you would want to kick him in the dick so hard and watch him double over in pain and then just as the pain was starting to go away, you kick him again and repeat. There’s a particular scene that sums up his character perfectly when Scotty isn’t sure what to do about being a werewolf, so he turns to his friend Stiles for advice. Panicked and sweaty, Scotty tells Stiles that he has a secret he needs to tell him. This makes Stiles stop searching for his stash and put a defensive guard up and asks, “Look, are you gonna tell me you’re a fag because if you’re gonna tell me you’re a fag, I don’t think I can handle it.” Scotty then has to quickly reassure his friend that he isn’t gay, but rather a werewolf, because that’s so much better. Don’t worry, homophobe, your buddy isn’t gay… he’s a mythical creature with brute strength and insatiable taste for people. Only in the ‘80s.
Also, Scotty can turn into a werewolf willy-nilly or whenever he’s angry (I guess?). The movie doesn’t really come up with a solid rule on when that can happen and he doesn’t really become a wild animal that goes around eating people. In Teen Wolf, he becomes really good at basketball and dancing and now girls want his hairy wolf dong. After slaying the hot cheerleader poon (who was secretly doing so to make her boyfriend jealous, because the film needs a human antagonist), this starts to get to his head and he understandably gets an ego about it. He parades around school and town as the wolf and everyone is high fiving him. He’s kinda become Stiles, who is now selling Teen Wolf merchandise. I’m not joking. This movie is meta. Also, I need to bring up the fact that the first time he turns into the wolf, nobody seems scared or shocked or at the very least, shitting their pants or screaming. They just look taken aback briefly and then once he starts doing fancy basketball tricks, they cheer their heads off and applaud. I’ve never seen a crowd latch onto something so positively so quickly.
Even though the film is about Scott’s struggles about fitting in by acting like he’s someone else, the person who is really getting shit on is his cute, adorable friend named Boof who has the hots for him. He’s constantly pushing her to the side to oogle over the cheerleader, but she still stands by his side and tells him they should be more than friends. Even after everything he does to her, she still sticks with him. I know it’s because she’s always liked who Scott really is and she can overlook the total dickhead he’s become as the wolf, but I find it inexcusable. I actually felt sorry for her character and wished she would’ve dumped him at the end for a hint of realism, but no. They live happily ever after. Girl, get yourself a real man.
If I were to sum up Teen Wolf in just one word after this recent revisit, I would have to say it’s underwhelming. Apparently, Scream Factory must have thought so too or perhaps anyone involved with the movie, because this Blu-ray release is pretty bare bones and, once again, underwhelming for a new release of such a former popular movie. Apparently, Michael J. Fox hates this movie and hated making it so much, I can see why he wouldn’t want to talk about this film for some extra features. To be fair to this release, it is a brand new high definition transfer that looks incredible, even if it reveals a lot of the faults in the makeup. There’s also an incredibly lengthy, in depth featurette called Never. Say. Die. The Story of Teen Wolf that is nearly two and a half hours long. Other than that it’s the basic roll call of a theatrical trailer and a still gallery. Not even a single commentary from anyone involved, which is kinda weird that Scream couldn’t find anyone willing to sit down and talk about this movie. Or they didn’t try to find anyone, because maybe they realized that nobody really cares about this movie.
I don’t want to take anything away from the movie, I don’t think it’s terrible (which I know must be hard to believe after my ranting), but I don’t think it’s spectacular or this monstrous hit comedy it seems to be selling itself as. Even though Michael J. Fox hates the film, he does a great job as a kid struggling with typical high school problems… and sweating a lot. Seriously, in every transformation or basketball scene, he’s drenched, even if he’s barely done anything. No human could possibly sweat that much. I also thought James Hampton and Susan Ursitti were great and very compassionate in their roles as Scotty’s support. The makeup effects are pretty decent and don’t look horrifying or grotesque like you would see in a horror film, but that’s kinda the point. It’s supposed to be cute and charming, but this makes the transformations scenes (if you can even call them that) suffer. Aside from his ears stretching a little bit, I don’t believe we see an actual transformation and this is during the era of werewolf movies, like The Howling or American Werewolf in London. However, those were horror movies showcasing the agony and the disfiguring transformation that would takes place, whereas Teen Wolf is more about a wolf being a cool thing. The shots will often cut away briefly and cut back to Scotty all wolfed out and ready to surf on top of vans. Oh yeah, he surfs on top of a van to The Beach Boys’ Surfin’ USA, because apparently the movie wanted to start an unneeded trend and set a spike in accidental deaths by stupid teenagers.
Looking back, I’m totally shocked that this movie was popular enough to spin-off a sequel, a Saturday morning cartoon and a reboot TV show in 2011. Sure, this movie is (or was) popular, but I don’t ever remember hearing people clamoring for more of it or talking about the same way we do something like Friday the 13th. When I was a kid, we all had heard about this movie, but we weren’t talking about it like it was the funniest movie ever, like Ghostbusters. It was often mentioned in passing with little enthusiasm. Maybe there is a secret underground cult that really, really loves this movie and that’s the reason it’s so wildly popular, because otherwise I just don’t see it. Teen Wolf is riddled with cliches that were already feeling tired by the mid ‘80s and the only reason this film sticks out from the slew of emotionless, characterless teen comedies of that time is because, I hate to say this, the filmmakers were smart enough to make its main character a goddamn werewolf. One little, odd change and that’s all it took for this move to apparently become a smash hit. I don’t hate the film, but personally I don’t see it’s popularity nor do I remember it. Hell, nobody is even really talking about this upcoming Blu-ray, so maybe it’s one of those movies that is trying to sell you its own hype. Stiles must be part of its marketing.
I do believe that Dario Argento, director of such stunning and inspiring movies like Suspiria and Phenomena, gets plenty of recognition, but I’m not sure if he gets all the recognition he deserves. I dunno, maybe he does, but I feel like we should be talking about him a lot more. Some argue that the giallo genre was shaped and molded by Mario Bava and I totally agree with that, but I believe it was when Dario Argento got his black leather gloves all over it, he perfected it.
Before his films were known for being brightly colorful comic book images come to life, Dario Argento worked more with shadows and lights. There’s something so chilling about the way he shoots a black leather glove, outlined by moonlight, tracing the contours of a knife. I could go on forever about how visually impressive his movies are, but I think visually being able to tell a movie is something that is being lost. Ironic, I know, but consider everything we can do to make any frame of a movie you are watching look fantastic. Obviously, it wasn’t always that way and it took creative people with a stylish, artistic vision to bring it to life.
The Bird With the Crystal Plumage is Dario Argento’s directorial debut and the only comparison is Reservoir Dogs and Quentin Tarantino. Coming out swinging and swinging hard, sister. When you look at the core story of The Bird With the Crystal Plumage, it’s quite simple. I believe most of the greatest films are simple stories, but it takes a great director to tell that simple story. When you take a step back and look at it, it’s nothing more than a guy who witnesses a murder and helps with the investigation. Not too complicated, but once you introduce some interesting characters, a few sexy sirens, a killer that not only lurks in the shadows, but has taken an interest in the film’s protagonist who has reluctantly decided to help the police seeing as how he’s a material witness (because, you know, that’s totally acceptable). Argento will also start his notorious trend of the main character solving the murder by recalling clues through memory. It’s interesting how it’s used here, with no sound, playing over and over like a nightmare and seemingly getting closer and closer to the truth. As a viewer, you begin to feel like you yourself are reliving that horrible moment and I found myself on the edge of the seat, leaning in and intently staring at the screening, hoping to find some detail or clue Argento has left for his hero. And for us.
The answer is right in front of you the whole time, but you’ll never see it. When the film ends, it will become so obvious, but until then The Bird With the Crystal Plumage is an energetic thriller that has more than enough surprises and for the most part is easy to follow along. But before the end, you obviously have to start at the beginning, a theme that Argento’s giallos typically follow. Tony Musante plays an American (because that name screams America) ex-writer named Sam living in Italy who accidentally witnesses a murder on his way home one night. I just realized that the phrase “accidentally witnesses a murder” is an oxymoron, seeing as how I don’t think that’s anyone’s intention. And he was two days away from retirement, dammit, or in this case from moving! Seeing as how the inspector has taken Sam’s passport, he won’t be moving in the foreseeable future, so he may as well insert himself in the investigation and solve the case. Because, ya know, that’s something witnesses can do. It’s okay to meddle in police business and put yourself – the material witness – in danger.
By following some evidence, a left handed glove with cigarette ash on it, they connect this attempted murder to three other women that have been murdered, but there must be a bigger connection. Honestly, I don’t think there is between the victims or at least nothing that I recall. Partnering with his hot-to-trot vixen of a girlfriend (played by Torso’s Suzy Kendall, the film that is arguably one of the first slashers), they don’t necessarily connect the dots, but come across an interesting clue; the killer had bought a painting of a man killing a woman from a woman he murdered. Confused? Don’t be, it’s not as complicated as it sounds, but the way it fits into this puzzle as a whole may seem like a bit of a stretch, but I think it’s more of an interesting way to tie it all together. It also helps fill in the gaps when Sam isn’t being stalked by a figure in a trench coat and a fedora, like when he’s walking down a foggy street, totally unaware he is being stalked until he has a meat clever swung at his head! It’s a good scene and a cool shot, but I wouldn’t call it tense seeing as I don’t think the movie would try to kill our main character before is halfway over. This isn’t Executive Decision here.
The closer they get to discovering the identity of the killer, the more threats they receive, which is arguably understandable. At least from the killer’s point of view, anyway. That’s pretty much your movie right there, but like I said, it’s pretty simple at its core, but Argento throws in some interesting pieces to make it seem different or more complicated than it actually is. I do have to say that I wouldn’t say the ending is a twist since that’s pretty standard for giallos, but I will say regardless of the obvious red herrings, I didn’t see it coming and it was a hair raising revelation when Sam recalls the events correctly that night and identifies the killer.
Usually a director’s earlier works are noticeably weaker, but not Argento’s. This film looks just as beautifully directed as his later works, like Deep Red or Suspiria. The Bird With the Crystal Plumage is a strong, solid film that has a moderately suspenseful story with interesting, but not over the top characters (accompanied by great performances), sexy girls and amazing cinematography. The only thing it seems to be lacking is gore, something Argento would later increase with Deep Red and Tenebrae. The film isn’t a violent, bloody mess like you would expect from a murder mystery, in fact there is very little blood. Luckily, this isn’t a Fulci film, so it’s not like you’re expecting it or viewing it simply to watch people get their guts spilled or eyeballs tortured in some way. Then again, that’s where the two filmmakers are noticeably different; Argento was more about mood and style and Fulci – at times – was about atmosphere and gore.
The Bird With the Crystal Plumage joins the ranks of other great giallos put out by Arrow Video and I’m happy the first time in about ten years I viewed this film was on a brand new 4K transfer that looked sharp and colors were vibrant and wild that it was like viewing a catalogue of models and trends in the ‘70s. Being an Italian film, you do have the option of seeing it with its original Italian audio track (with optional English subtitles). This release also features a new audio commentary from Troy Howarth, author of So Deadly, So Perverse: 50 Years of Italian Giallo Films, The Power of Perception, a new visual essay on the cinema of Dario Argento by Alexandra Heller-Nicholas, author of Devil’s Advocates: Suspiria and Rape-Revenge Films: A Critical Study, new analysis of the film by critic Kat Ellinger, new interview with writer/director Dario Argento, new interview with actor Gildo Di Marco (Garullo the pimp). This release also features a reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Candice Tripp, as well as a double-sided fold-out poster and 6 Lobby Card reproductions. I think the bonus fans will enjoy the most is the limited edition 60-page booklet illustrated by Matthew Griffin, featuring an appreciation of the film by Michael Mackenzie, and new writing by Howard Hughes and Jack Seabrook. Lots of cool information to be found there.
The Bird With the Crystal Plumage is a classic, not matter if you see it as a giallo, horror or even as an Argento film, it perfectly represents all three. It may not be his best or bloodiest work, but it’s a great little thriller that doesn’t try to be bigger than what it is and still keeps you intrigued every step of the way.
(I used to LOVE the shit out of this movie, so seems appropriate to be included in out #TBT offerings…Submitted, of course, by Mr. Goon-y Goon himself, Mr. Andrew Peters. Thanks for the mammaries, Kinky Ho-mie!! 😉 xoxo)
The ‘90s was an odd time for science fiction films. It’s like they couldn’t be made properly and nobody wanted them, but dammit, they were trying. Made on relatively modest budgets for what they were trying to achieve, the films themselves were over ambitious and may have missed the mark, but something about them was noteworthy. Films like The Lawnmower Man, Johnny Mnemonic or Mimic come to mind. When you look at those films, you would be shocked at what the special effects they were able to achieve or what stars they managed to rope into them. Of course, none of them were appreciated upon release, underperforming at the box office, but these kinds of flicks seem to be special to fans of this genre and have gained cult following. However, I think the best example of a smaller budgeted, overhyped (at the time) sci-fi film would be Species. Yeah, remember that movie? Unlike the other ones I mentioned, this actually performed fairly decent and I think we can chalk it up to two things…
Natasha Henstridge’s boobs. After this movie came out, this just became the “did you see Natasha Henstridge’s tits in that one movie” movie. It was all anyone talked about in school and I seem to recall one kid loaning a VHS copy to another kid and need it back by tomorrow before his dad noticed it was missing. Seriously, before rewatching Scream Factory’s new Blu-ray release, the only thing I could recall about this film is that she’s some alien chick and you see her boobs a lot. In fact, I seem to remember this being sold as a very dirty, nearly X rated flick because of the amount of nudity and sex in it. However upon this viewing, I found that although the film does contain those, they weren’t nearly as prominent as I had remembered and it focused more on a cool sci-fi story, even if it is a tad underdeveloped. Seeing as how the film made three times its budget back, I would say that selling the sex angle probably helped it.
Species centers around a young woman named Sil (who at this point in the film is played by a very young Michelle Williams), some sort of alien experiment that seems to be rapidly aging. Her life doesn’t seem as glorious as you may expect an alien visitor to have; she’s kept in a bubble and doesn’t seem to have a whole lot to do and now some Professor X looking dude with eyeliner named Fitch (Ben Kingsley) decides it’s a good idea to gas her. Luckily for her, unfortunately for them, the underestimate the strength of her prison and the efficiency of their security staff as she manages to escape and twists a hobo around backwards while on the run, all before boarding a train. Cardio is important, even if you have a train to catch.
While aboard the train, she pigs out on all kinds of junk food before doubling over in pain and with the magic of early ‘90s terrible CG, we’re able to see that something is growing inside her. She cocoons inside a train car and I really loved the practical effect in this scene. It reminded me of the ghosts from Silent Hill 4: The Room where the ghosts would touch the wall and that goop would grow or something out of a Resident Evil game. It’s was pulsating and oozing until it gives birth to a fully formed adult Sil, now played by Natasha Henstridge, who parades around her wonderful ta-tas in a dozen scenes. I also want to point out that every decades boobs seem different from the following decades. Do you know what I’m talking about? Look at ‘70s boobs compared to ‘80s boobs and compare them to ‘90s boobs. Natasha Henstridge had probably the best ‘90s boobs, hands down.
So, unfortunately the have to throw in this boring thing called plot instead of having Sil run around naked the whole time. Ben Kingsley hires team of scientists – or scientist type people – and some sort of mercenary hunter dude, Preston “Press” Lennox, played by a post Reservoir Dogs Michael Madsen, so he was in pretty decent shape and his voice hadn’t quite sounded like it had a bottle brush down it, but was a little quiet and gruff. And seriously, “Press” Lennox? You may as well name the dude Max Power or Slam Chunklift. He and the ‘too-hot-to-actually-be-a-doctor’ Dr. Laura Baker (Marg Helgenberger) seem to hit it off, but honestly I thought she was possibly the weakest character and the film must’ve thought so too, because they give her a sex scene with some nice side boob, but while this sex scene is intercut with Natasha Henstridge and Alfred Molina’s, you don’t really care. Yes, by the way, I did say Alfred Molina. I bet you thought you’d never see Doc Ock from Spider-Man 2 make his “Oh” face, did you? His character kinda becomes the poon hound outta nowhere in a scene when they go out drinking and I think it’s for exposition sake, because if you haven’t guessed already, the whole point to Sil’s rapid growth and obsession with sex is to mate and procreate.
Now the movie never states if it’s because her species are regular horndogs or if she’s trying to recreate her own kind, so to speak, but as the movie progresses it becomes more urgent that she to her that she bangs. I honestly think this may be the filmmakers way of taking a stab at the audience. It’s basically a cat and mouse type of movie at this point, but with plenty of nudity. To be fair, my summary makes this seem much more simplistic than it actually is. Sil’s quite the clever lady and even kidnaps a woman, cuts off her finger and burns her alive to escape, giving her just enough time to change her hair color and become the predator to her prey, the group of scientists that have been hunting her. She manages to turn the tables and the conclusion is a rather interesting mix of creative and very sexualized HR Giger designed practicals to some PS2 level CG. What I took from the conclusion is that I got to see a see a supermodel try and strangle Mr. Blonde with her nipples. Yup, they shoot out like snakes and wrap around his neck. Didn’t see that coming.
It’s funny to me that everyone remembers this movie for having Natasha Henstridge nude for the majority of it when she actually isn’t, but nobody seems to remember Mathilda May being butt nekkid in damn near every scene she’s in throughout Lifeforce. However, for being a sex symbol in what is ultimately a somewhat sleazy, sci-fi/horror film, Natasha Henstridge does put on quite a good show and I’m not just talking about her nude scenes. She’s just as scary as she is sexy and she doesn’t start out totally evil, but instead her instinct and need to procreate overwhelms her she becomes more viscous. She does this transition very well and as I’m typing that out, I also wonder if that was the filmmakers intent, to take another jab at the hormones of the male audience. Or I’ve been overthinking this film way too much. Another great performance I didn’t mention was Forest Whitaker’s character who is kinda clairvoyant, but very emotional when he senses what feelings the other person is feeling. He plays all ends of the emotional spectrum, really showing off his talent and it’s probably why the guy kept getting better and better work. Well, except for Battlefield Earth.
I mentioned earlier that Scream Factory has released Species in a two disc set with the film being a brand new 4K scan and to be fair, that’s probably why the early ‘90s CG looks as bad as it does. It wasn’t really meant to be seen in that kind of quality. The first disc is the movie itself with two separate audio commentary tracks, one of which includes Michael Madsen, Natasha Henstridge and director Roger Donaldson that I recommend checking out. The second disc is home to all of the special features, like the interviews and behind the scenes looks (which there are several extensive ones included), still galleries, trailers and the alternate ending. The main and brand new featurette, Afterbirth: The Evolution of Species is a great look at the pre to post production work on the film and worth watching.
I never disliked Species, but after viewing it this time around, I think I see it in a totally different light and have a newfound appreciation for it. It wasn’t the ultra sleazy, ultra gory taboo film I remembered it being. Sure, the film touches on sleaze, but it has some class and sexiness to it. Most importantly, it has an interesting story with characters worth investing in. It’s not the greatest sci-fi/horror film out there, but hopefully with this release it gets the respect it deserves. There were three sequels, but Species II is the only one that unites the cast and worth watching. Maybe we will see a newly transferred Blu-ray release of that in the near future?
When The Texas Chainsaw Massacre hit the scene in 1974, it was huge. There was nothing quite like it to say the least. No other horror movie had presented itself in that way, so the imitators were sure to follow, although none of them would really come close. In 1980, Motel Hell would come pretty close, but just misses the mark and not in a bad way. In fact, Tobe Hooper (the director of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre) was originally slated to direct. Whereas TCM is dark and grisly, Motel Hell has a whole lot of charm and is quite a lot of fun… you know, for a movie about kidnapping/abducting, murder and cannibalism. As much as I love TCM, you can’t say the same thing, simply because it’s not meant to be.
Motel Hell actually feels more like a cash-in of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre Part 2, which wouldn’t happen for another five years. It’s odd that a film that didn’t intend on parodying the original TCM ended up blending horror and comedy decently that TCM2 would later also do. However, I don’t feel that Motel Hell is quite as dark as TCM2, not to take anything away from it still being a good film. In fact, Motel Hell was supposed to be much more dark with more violence and gore and included much more disturbing moments in the film, like a bestiality scene. There’s something the TCM films never had. In the end, the tone was lightened, the gore was used sparingly and what we got was still a fairly humorous and entertaining horror comedy armed with one of the best taglines, “It takes all kinds of critters to make Farmer Vincent fritters!” An obvious nod at the cannibalism in the movie, but a hint at what Farmer Vincent puts in his famous smoked meats, unbeknownst to his customers.
Along with his sister Ida, Farmer Vincent (played by legendary Rory Calhoun) run the Motel Hello – which for fun acts as the title card as the “o” in “Hello” flickers dimly – where they don’t seem to get a whole lot of customers. I guess that’s okay since they are able to keep up their farm and… well now I am just thinking about how weird having a farm and a hotel next to each other is. This is getting into Eaten Alive territory, another Tobe Hooper film. You think all those bills would be stacking up, but it seems like Vincent’s famous smoked meat is so famous, people come around from all over the place just to get a taste of his smoked meat.
For those of you wondering, yes, that pun was intentional.
But what’s in those meats that makes them taste so damn good? Well, nothing but the finest ingredient… people! Vincent and Ida set traps to snare their victims, slicing their vocal cords (so they can no longer scream), plant them up to their chins in soil in a secret garden and feed them nothing but the finest feed, even if they aren’t the finest specimens. Like, would you ever think a balding, doughy health inspector who is nosing around the farm would be tasty? Vincent sure does. How about a drug addled metal group called ‘Ivan and The Terribles,’ one of which happens to be Cheers’ John Ratzenberger? He’s only in a couple scenes and I can’t remember if he even has a line of dialogue, but blink and you could miss him. Or a swinging couple that can’t sense danger when it’s literally tying them up and drugging them. Yeah, farm life is good for Vincent. Nothing quite like waking up and being your own boss, smoking your meat and having others from all over want to savor it.
Okay, I’ll stop with all the meat smoking puns. Anywho, Vincent’s life is about the change (not to make this sound like a wacky romantic comedy, but it kinda is) when a cute victim named Terry survives one of his traps. While being nursed back to health, she understandably has some questions, like “where is my boyfriend?” Vincent informs her along with the Sheriff, Bruce, who just happens to be his dimwitted brother, that he buried the body, so everyone should move on and forget about it. And that’s exactly what happens. Terry just seems to accept it and starts to fall more and more for Vincent while Bruce is falling for Terry. Oh boy, love triangles! Except, this is kinda like a hillbilly one, so you know at some point somebody will be pointing a shotgun at somebody.
Let’s talk about Bruce for a moment. Bruce is the comedic relief in a film that is about half comedy, so needless to say that he’s probably gonna get under your skin at some point. He also comes off as possessive and stalker-ish when it comes to Terry and I know, it’s supposed to be cute and charming, but when he’s forcing himself onto her and trying to make out with her while she screams and begs for him to stop, it’s kinda hard to want to support your lead.
Rejecting Bruce and growing closer with Vincent, even Ida begins to grow jealous of her, even going as far as attempting to drown her. She’s saved by Vincent which pretty much guarantees him a ticket to Bone City, but Vincent suggests that they should be married first and she agrees. Clearly this upsets Bruce so much that he actually goes and does actual cop stuff, like investigate the scene of the accident, even though it’s, like, days or weeks later. Hey, better late than never. Meanwhile, Vincent and Ida are immediately drugging Terry so that she passes out, allowing them to get to work. So, do they plan on doing this to her every night, because it’s going to get suspicious sooner or later, right? Luckily, Vincent plans on showing her the ancient art of smoking meat, a skill that is sure to come in handy on their honeymoon. If she doesn’t go along with it, at least they can always cook her too. Unless Bruce can stop them in time and I don’t blame anyone who doesn’t have faith in him.
Look, it all boils down to a gnarly chainsaw fight between Bruce and Farmer Vincent who is wearing a giant pig’s head. The movie is awesome just for this iconic scene alone, but luckily it’s very entertaining throughout the entire movie and Farmer Vincent is a likable character even if he isn’t doing the right thing, even if he believes he is. He’s a well developed enough of a character that you kinda follow along with him, which is a good thing, because this is his movie. You spend some time with the other characters, but not enough to get to know them outside of the single trait they are given. Except Bruce who comes off as a bumbling buffoon pervert.
However, I can’t say the same about the horror aspect. It’s a film about turning people into food and yet it’s not scary. Hell, it seems like it’s barely the trappings. Even films like Blood Diner explore (or in that case, exploit) the idea of cannibalism and make it visceral, somewhat painful and gory. In Motel Hell, the characters kinda mention it here and there, although occasionally some human carcasses or limbs can be seen. I don’t know if they were hoping it would have the same impact that Quint’s speech from Jaws would have, but the horror element in this film seems a little lackluster. Same can be said about most of the humor and being a horror comedy, like Evil Dead 2 and Blood Diner, they could have really explored using the splat-stick angle (after all, we are talking about people becoming smoked meat), but the film shies away from that as well.
I still like the film, quite a bit actually. I think it’s an honest attempt at a horror comedy and although I don’t think it’s the best example nor does it reach its potential in either genre, it still does both well. A few years ago, Scream Factory released a newly restored Blu-ray that looks fantastic and comes with enough special features to cram your meathole, like Audio Commentary with director Kevin Connor, moderated by filmmaker Dave Parker, The Making of MOTEL HELL featuring interviews with director Kevin Connor, producers/writers Robert Jaffe and Steven Charles Jaffe and actor Marc Silver, Ida, Be Thy Name: A look back at MOTEL HELL’s frightful female protagonist Ida Smith, Another Head on the Chopping Block: An interview with actor Paul Linke, From Glamour to Gore: An interview with actress Rosanne Katon, as well as a theatrical trailer and a still gallery. It also was given some great new artwork.
It’s an idea that was fully realized, but once the studio thought it would be too weird, they backed down and what you get is a watered down version of that vision, but at least that still entertaining. Especially that chainsaw fight.
If Above the Law, the third episode in The Walking Dead: A New Frontier series, left you feeling a little underwhelmed, then prepare to be totally blown away. Above the Law continued the story fine, but left me (the player) let down. I thought the story arc was fine and I did like how it had me questioning Clementine’s view of David, but it lacked any emotional punch or consequence to your choices and the action sequences were boiled down to repetitive button mashing. I’m not saying it was bad, I didn’t dislike it or anything. Thicker Than Water, the fourth episode, makes up for all of that. Maybe not necessarily make up, because I get the sneaky feeling Telltale planned on you letting your guard down, because there was nothing that could have prepared me for what happens.
Like all episodes, this one also starts with a flashback from Javi’s past, this time he’s with David at the batting cages shortly after the incident that got Javi kicked out from professional baseball. It’s never fully explored, but hinted at which I think is for the better and to be honest, it’s irrelevant to the main plot. The idea behind this little sequence is to allow you the opportunity to shape David and Javi’s relationship, but I have to tell you that not matter what you do, David is always gonna respond like an asshole, so I have no idea if I did good or bad. After that little trip down memory lane, we catch back up with the two in jail who bicker until Joan comes and takes David away and as Javi you get to explore the area to find a way to escape until Kate shows up and helps you escape where you meet back up with the group. Tripp and Eleanor are having a little spat and the weirdest of all things happened, at least in my game; Conrad showed up being all buddy buddy. This is weird, because back in the second episode I shot him in the head to save Clementine. Now, I’m not doctor or anything, but he looked pretty dead. Maybe I just shot him good enough to erase his memory of what happened… and apparently mine. Actually, I did research this and this is a glitch that was pretty common and the only way to fix it was to start over. Since I’m not doing that, I guess we will be seeing more of Conrad, although I feel like I missed out on his arch, so him being here really has no impact on me.
There are some really good bonding moments between Gabe and Javi as they set out to rescue David. Javi’s can lend Gabe some good advice on how to be a better person during a zombie apocalypse as you make your way inside a medical bay where you meet back up with Ava, who is happy or not happy to see you depending on whether or not you bailed on her in the previous episodes and if you did, don’t sweat. You can calm her down. Javi’s injured in a fight, but luckily the good, stoned Doctor is close by as if our pal, Clementine. Clem offers to patch up Javi and has to have an awkward conversation becoming how her bleeding means she’s becoming a woman. Ever think you’d get to be a part of that in a video game? Well, wonder no more. Of course, there’s another Clementine flashback, but this one is used to flesh out the relationship between Ava and Clem, so choose wisely. Me, I decided to be friendly, so I hope that works out. However, much more critical choices lie ahead, as well as some insight on what a good person David actually is.
n style=”font-weight: 400;”>Doctor Lingard awakens from his drugged state and spills the beans about Joan’s plan and that he doesn’t want to live anymore. He offers Clem and Javi the location of AJ if they give him an overdose or you can choose not to, well, that’s yet to be see. I was unsure of this decision when it happened. Seeing as I wasn’t expecting it, it totally threw me off guard and I had to think fast. I wanted to help Clem and get the location of AJ, but killing someone to do so seems like it was going against everything I was shaping Javi to be, so I opted not to. Looking back, I’m still not sure if I made the right decision.
Everyone’s back together and you help to devise a plan, so everything seems like it’s going good. In any incarnation of The Walking Dead, you know that’s not a good thing seeing as things go to shit equally as planned. You’re almost expecting what happens in the finale to come, but for the most part, I wasn’t prepared to deal with it. Sure, I knew this plan was going to go sour and it was sweet to see Javi and Kate decide they were gonna tell David about them and be happily ever after, but you know The Walking Dead can’t let things be like they are in fairy tales. I don’t want to say that these games don’t have happy endings, but rather end on a slight positive note. Unfortunately for the characters, that’s not how things go this time around. Let’s just say that ‘the shit hits the fan’ is putting it lightly.
There’s some minor action scenes here and there, enough to keep you entertained until the finale when all hell breaks loose. With David about to be publically executed, Javi attempts to talk their way out of it, to prove that people need to use words, not violence. Actually, he has a very strong, valid point, but Joan doesn’t see it that way. With two of Javi’s friends captured, you must decide who gets to live and which one gets to die and things only get far, far worse from there. David doesn’t keep his cool and makes matters worse and everything literally explodes out of a control. Then the episode just drops the mic right there.
I was entertained throughout the whole episode. I felt like a lot of things were coming together and we learned more about the all the characters, no matter how big or small their roles are. It made everything and everyone seem to come together and to watch it all quickly fall apart at the end was a sucker punch to face. You knew this was coming, but not to the extent of it. Things go out of control faster than you will be able to make a fully thought decision and you will undoubtedly be regretting the choice you made and second guessing yourself.
Thicker Than Water is a powerful episode, requiring you to think and act faster than you ever have. The consequences to your decisions and actions pack quite a wallop and at times even if you think you made the right call, something bad will happen. Just be emotionally prepared for it. With how great this episode was, I am both anticipating and fearing the next and final episode. I know there are going to be some tough calls to make and there are going to be some serious repercussions, but I can’t wait to see how it ends. Hopefully happy.
Ho-stess’s PS- On a Walking Dead-related note, this happened to me last night at the Saturn Awards. #TeamAbraham4Evah!!! 🙂 xoxoxo
(Before we get started , I’d like it noted for the record that I LOVE MR. JEFF FAHEY!!! 🙂
Now that that my shameless fangirling needs have been appeased, I’m happy to also let you know that this review was submitted by Mr. Andrew Peters…Thanks, Ho-rror Ho-mie! 🙂 xoxo)
I believe the ‘90s had an extravagant way of overblowing technology in movies more than any other era in film. Sure, the ‘70s and ‘80s brought us some far out movies in terms of where they figured technology would go, but look at films like Alien where it’s very lo-fi. Or how about War Games that when you think it about isn’t as farfetched as it may seem. Even the show Max Headroom predicted quite a few things as crazy as that was amidst all its New Coke slinging. It seemed like movies were showing the progression of computers, from controlling ships to how we interact and communicate in the world to becoming a part of a livable cyber-world and while the examples I listed were fairly spot on in predicting the future, most films seemed to miss the idea. Or they were just having fun.
Something that films have yet to portray accurately – or at least non-unintentionally hysterical – is hacking and virtual reality. These were crazes that were taking the country by storm and being portrayed in the stupidest possible way in media. They were often shown as what old people thought young people thought could be marketed as cool; some kid with socks on his arms, neon colored hair and a ‘tude mashing on his keyboard while spitting made up cyber-jumbo, often pitted against “the man.” See films like Hackers or Game Over (a 2003 movie which uses 35 minutes of Sega CD footage as part of the story, I’m not kidding), but every now and then something would come along and take the material a little more seriously and while still being farfetched, it managed to walk a fine line of believability.
1992’s The Lawnmower Man was such a film, even though I think it’s much better looked upon now then when it was upon its initial release.The virtual reality popularity was at its highest, spawning dozens of movies and TV shows, like the underrated VR.5. Sure, the special effects were bad and the idea of VR never lived up to the hype and the fad died faster than the Lambada craze. Outside of film, the idea of virtual reality was never fully realized, but in cinema… it would change your life, become weaponized (somehow) make you god and would take over the world! Hey, at the time it seemed possible, probably because nobody really understood it or just how unimpressively limp it was. Still, some rather cool ideas came out of it. For example, I never thought I’d see a monkey in a bad Robocop costume.
Seriously. That’s how The Lawnmower Man begins. With a chimp doing some bad Robocop cosplay. Well, there is a reason behind it, so it’s not just something random for the sake of being stupid. A pre-Bond and pre-Mrs. Doubtfire Pierce Brosnan stars as Dr. Lawrence Angelo who is using virtual reality to make chimps smarter, because SCIENCE! Of course, the evil corporation (they are always evil, scheming evil plans to do something evil with your well intentioned creation) Virtual Space Industries – or VSI – wants to use it at a weapon and mixed with the chemicals they’ve been feeding it, the chimp goes ape shit (pun totally intended), steals a gun, guns down a guard and escapes. Now, let’s back up for a second here. VSI wants to use monkey soldiers. They are actually training chimps in virtual reality for use in combat. Now, I want you to think about this and then picture a hundreds of chimps dropping out of choppers or parachuting into combat and mowing down the enemy. Holy shit… this is how Planet of the Apes starts. I never thought the guy from Dante’s Peak would be the cause.
So much wild and weird stuff is happening at once and it’s only going to derail from here, so I’m gonna do my best to stay focused. This isn’t the best movie for someone with ADD to try and explain. It also doesn’t help that there’s a bunch of pretty colors and ‘90s computer graphics mixed with some pretty stupid dialogue. Paying attention to what the hell is going on in the plot was hard enough, now I have to try and not laugh at what I’m seeing and hearing.
The chimp eventually ends up finding and befriending Jobe (Jeff Fahey), a simple man who mows lawns. Hence, The Lawnmower Man. Unfortunately for Jobe, his friendship with the chimp is ended when VSI finds and guns down the primate shortly thereafter, but Dr. Angelo takes note of the surprisingly good looking and buff handicapped man and realizes that he mows his lawn. Wow, what a coincidence, huh? Dr. Angelo entices Jobe with the promise of video games that can make him smarter, so long as Father Francis, Jobe’s caretaker, agrees. Fortunately, he doesn’t seem to mind, just as long as it doesn’t get in the way of his lashing Jobe repeatedly with a belt. It’s a minor subplot, but a subplot nonetheless. I should also point out that although this isn’t taken out of the Stephen King story of the same name, but it is a Stephen King cliche that it follows; misunderstood sad sack who is tormented and picked on until he acquires super-powers and gets revenge.
The reason I’m only now bringing up that this was based on a Stephen King novel is because, well, it’s not. Aside from the name and the character being a lawnmower man, this has nothing to do with Stephen King’s story. In fact, Stephen King sued to have his name taking off the film and all promotional material during the film’s release and won.
Dr. Angelo begins with smaller, interactive quizzes and puzzles with Jobe, building him up to some good ol’ VR racing/action games with his neighbor, young Peter who would later move to a shady NYC neighborhood and have an unhealthy obsession with Arnold Schwarzenegger action flicks. Jobe is quickly getting the hang of things, much to Dr. Angelo’s surprise, even more so when Jobe is showing signs of rapid intelligent growth. Jobe is much smarter now, able to comprehend complicated math equations, any event in world history and to not dress like a country version of a Good Guys doll. One might say he is learning too fast and Dr. Angelo is becoming concerned, but luckily a sultry woman in need of her fluids getting checked, Marnie (played by one of the sexiest creatures on this planet, Near Dark’s Jenny Wright) distracts Jobe with mowing her lawn… and I mean that in both ways. She lays the sexual innuendos on so thick, it’s like biscuit batter. Not a very subtle approach, but then again she still thinks Jobe is mentally challenged. Wait, so why is she hitting on him?
Meanwhile, The Shop (another Stephen King reference) led by a giant head on a TV screen of Dean Norris sends someone to babysit Dr. Angelo and swaps out the improved chemicals he’s been giving Jobe with the old ones that made the monkey crazy to expedite results. Soon, things escalate and Jobe realizes that he now harnesses the power of telekinesis and telepathy and quickly becomes more overwhelmed by his powers and his learning speed. This starts to send him spiraling down a dark path, no longer having content for humans, because of the atrocities they’ve caused and with his newfound powers, sets out on a course of revenge. He even gears up in a sweet VR cyber suit, so at this point it’s almost like a superhero flick, which makes sense seeing as how Jobe’s character was obsessed with comic books. Becoming too powerful for this mortal realm, he decides it’s time to infiltrate the cyber world to take over the world! After all, they didn’t spend all this money on CG for nothing.
I’m sure everyone remembers all the promos on TV and especially in print of the cyber-Jobe. I remember seeing that image of his golden face against that blue, honeycombed patterned background. Advertisement for this movie was everywhere and they were expecting this thing to be huge. On a ten million dollar budget, the film only did about three times as much which wasn’t as much as the studio had expected it to make. Combine that with mixed to negative reviews, the film just kinda came and went. The virtual reality craze was on its way out seeing as how technology just wasn’t quite there and the way it was portrayed in media was now seen as a joke, The Lawnmower Man just went away. It did get a direct to video sequel in 1996, The Lawnmower Man 2: Beyond Cyberspace (retitled to The Lawnmower Man 2: Jobe’s War for home video), but it was pretty much hated by everyone and still is. Personally, I fucking love it. It’s one of those ‘so bad, it’s good’ films.
What blows my mind is that Hollywood is still trying to make this movie. Not The Lawnmower Man, but the idea itself of a being becoming so intelligent that it wants to rule the world via computers. Transcendence comes to mind and shades of Lucy as well. It’s a recycled plot that for whatever reason people aren’t really interested in. I think it’s because The Lawnmower Man, as absolutely silly as it is once you think about it, did it really damn well. Sure, it’s not only taking the name from a Stephen King story, but similar plot elements with other various Stephen King stories. Not only that, the basic idea of a simple man becoming more intelligent through the use of technology is the premise of the novel Flowers for Algernon. In essence, you could say The Lawnmower Man is mish mash of cyber-punk with Stephen King tropes. And to be honest, I think it’s fantastic for that. Directed by Brett Leonard (who also directed to paranormal/zombie flick The Dead Pit) took various ideas and materials and wanted to make something that mixed the then trendy cyber-punk idea with various horror elements, like slasher and the idea of a ghost in the machine or a being becoming too powerful to control.
I have to also hand it to all of the actors involved for really selling what is pretty much an atrocious idea and making it work. Normally, this sort of film would have terrible special effects (well, worse than the ones on screen, even though they looked fairly decent for 1992) and littered with technobabble jargon, but all of that stuff is reserved. The use of VR footage is mostly scarce until the climax and Dr. Angelo talks like a normal human being instead of some “hip” hacker type of character just spitting out nonsense dialogue. Jeff Fahey even manages to make Jobe sympathetic, even when he begins to become too smart for himself and goes on a killing spree, but my favorite performance by far is Jenny Wright, because we get to see her boobs. I don’t care if that’s immature, she’s beautiful and so is her body. I’ve always had the hots for her.
The Lawnmower Man is finally available on Blu-ray, both the theatrical and the director’s cut on a 2-disc set thanks to your pals at Scream Factory. Disc one features the theatrical cut, which is also a 4K scan from the original interpositive and has a new look at the film called Cybergod: Creating The Lawnmower Man, featuring interviews with co-writer/director Brett Leonard, actor Jeff Fahey, editor Alan Baumgarten, make-up effects artist Michael Deak and special effects coordinator Frank Ceglia. Brett Leonard and Gimel Everett (writer and producer) provide an audio commentary and you can find some deleted scenes as well as the original EPK, some edited animated sequences and of course, the trailer and TV spots. Disc two is where you’ll find the director’s cut (which is also a 4K scan from the interpositive with additional “Director’s Cut” footage from the original camera negative) alongside another audio commentary from Brett Leonard and Gimel Everett, concept art, BTS and productions stills, as well as some storyboard comparisons. Needless to say, you get a lot of bang for your buck, but for me, just having both cuts of the film looking as freaking beautiful as they do here is worth it alone.
I absolutely adore The Lawnmower Man and that might have something to do with my fondness for the way the media sees computer hacking, gaming and technology. It brings back good nostalgic feelings and it’s worth some chuckles, but this film also takes itself very seriously and gets kinda dark at moments. Even though the idea of the movie is silly, it never once leads you to believe this is a joke and maintains a relatively good balance of taking place in the real world. Hopefully Scream Factory will release Jobe’s War in the near future.
As I read the title for Episode 3 of The Walking Dead: A New Frontier, Above the Law, I shouted “LEEEWWWW-AHHHH,” like Armand Asante as Judge Rico from the Judge Dredd movie. Anyone else? No, just me? Anyway, we last left Javi and his group at the mercy of The New Frontier so that Kate, who was just shot in the belly, could get some medical attention and who should come storming out of the gate to meet them? Javi’s brother, David, who they thought to have been dead this whole time and I’m sure he’s thought the same of them. Welp, get ready for an awkward family reunion.
Javi and David are clearly shocked to see each other alive and although David barely notices Gabe, he’s still happy to give him a hug nonetheless and is able to immediately get Kate some medical attention while Javi and the rest of the group get tossed in a cell. Looks like a happy family reunion is gonna have to wait so that the crew can basically recap the story up until this point. I found it odd that this time was just spent rehashing everything we just saw instead of moving it forward, but eventually David shows up to take Javi to meet with the other council members that will determine whether or not Javi’s group can stay and become part of The New Frontier. Hmm, a council of elder like folks that determine the greater good of the people? That never ends with deception and betrayal. I don’t foresee one of them screwing everyone over for personal gain in their own agenda…
But first, it’s time to visit Kate and it plays out about as awkward as you would think. Kate fakes pain to have a moment alone with Javi and of course David walks in at an almost opportune time. I don’t understand why they just don’t talk about it already. Kate’s feelings for Javi and her disdain for David becomes evident when she asks you to bail on this place with her and Gabe. No goodbyes, no explaining anything to David, just up and run. Your response to Kate feels like the first time in this episode that something may shape what happens later. Unfortunately, the rest of the episode feels void of this feeling.
Now that you are finally in front of the council, it’s time to see if you will fit in, but first the leaders; There’s a drug addicted doctor named Paul Lingard who is seemingly spineless, Clint the farmer who also seems spineless, then you have David (who we know) and that leaves us with Joan who is like if Roseanne Barr wanted hair like Rogue from X-Men. She’s a total ball buster and seems to have a power over the others. This becomes more predictable as this scene plays out and identifying the puppet master becomes quite easy, but Max appears to throw a monkey wrench in the situation and your rivalry comes forward. It doesn’t seem like no matter what answers you choose, the outcome is going to be the same; you aren’t allowed to stay… except for Kate and Gabe who are more than welcome, so David sends you packing and the dude doesn’t even seem to care. It was at this point I was starting to notice that there wasn’t any dire choices this episode, the choices I made don’t seem to have any weight, but we’re only about halfway through the episode, so there’s plenty of time for things to completely flip around. David isn’t completely without feeling and sends Ava out to give you a care package complete with a baseball bat and a map that has a location marked on it, so the group agrees to head there.
Along the way you run into someone who’s been missing throughout half the episode, Clementine. En route to this mystery location, Clementine explains to Javi why she hates David so much, via flashback in which you learn the fate of baby AJ as well as a council members drug abuse. Although I can see from Clementine’s point of view and understand why she hates David, you can also see that why David made the decision he made and was only looking for what was in the best interest of the group. This is something I picked up at this point is that David may not be the awful person Clementine has led us to believe. He genuinely seems to care about the people in his group and although his anger leads him to make brash decisions, he doesn’t seem deceitful. This episode rightfully focuses on David’s character and exploring it and even though at times you aren’t sure of ‘did he’ or ‘didn’t he,’ you get the feeling there is a greater evil out there, which we are about to find out.
Seeing as this episode has lacked an action sequence, one get tossed at you that is primarily just button mashing while trying to get a shudder door open. There is a bit of puzzle solving, but I wouldn’t even call it a challenge, but instead a race against a time. It’s supposed to get your heart rate moving, but by this point it’s kind of stale. Once inside the shelter after that close call, David arrives and you have a choice to open the door or not. Regardless of what you choose, it will open and once again, doesn’t seem to have any real effect. Javi and the group notice that the supplies in the shelter are from the Prescott Airfield, where you were previously attacked by The New Frontier, along with other places. David is pressed about the matter, but swears he has no knowledge of this and that’s confirmed once Max, Badger and some other thug arrive and exposition dump the hell out the plot, revealing the true culprit. Wanting some revenge for Mariana’s death, the group attacks. This is another Quick Time Event that requires a quick response seeing that even a split second too late results in your death. But if you die, no big deal, you just start right back where you left off.
The finale of the confrontation leaves you with a wounded Badger who you have the option to kill, let Conrad kill (if you didn’t kill Conrad in the previous chapter) or left him turn. I chose the latter, because fuck that scumbag. I get a feeling this may come back to bite me in the ass later, but I feel at this point, Javi really needs to be showing Gabe that murder isn’t necessary… even though we just shot that guy in the gut in self defense. Again, even though I still felt like this decision may come back around to me, at the moment it feels like it bears no weight and that’s something this episode truly lacks; the intense split decision making and the consequences. Even though the QTE’s were somewhat panic inducing, there was never a feeling if I did something incorrectly or my timing was off, it would affect the outcome of the game. In fact, it just resulted in my death in which case I was allowed to try again.
With this new information, the group forms a plan and splits up while Jesus leaves the group in what is the saddest moment thus far. He was such an interesting character and a lot about who he is or what he knows, what a damaged soul he is, is merely hinted at, but my guess is Telltale wanted to save him for a spinoff on a rainy day. Javi and David eventually confront Joan who in classic vaudeville villain style pours herself a drink and sips from it as she reveals herself to be the mastermind and her plan! I know it was supposed to be a shocking moment, but with how predictable it was mixed with how classically evil the display was, I couldn’t help but laugh.
Above the Law is so far the weakest of the episodes with no feeling of dire consequences and boring, button mashing QTE action sequences that are few and far in between. It does however pull a few punches with David’s character, making him somewhat of a believable good guy who is trying to do the right thing. This does make siding with Clementine against David this episode a little difficult, but ultimately the looming baddie Joan is about as a subtle as a Disney villain and regardless of your choices, you know you’re going to end up in the same position. That position, however, looks like it’s going to be leading to some really difficult choices. Consider this the calm before the storm.
You don’t hear much about House II: The Second Story, so out of curiosity, I decided to see what the “professional” critics thought of it and jumped over to Rotten Tomatoes, because as we all know that’s where you go if you want opinions that matter. I’m actually shocked that this film holds a 0% rating currently on Rotten Tomatoes, based off nine reviews. A zero. Zilch. Nada. It’s not a bad film, at least not in the sense like a Transformers movie is, but I can see why people may dislike it; it very much steers away from the tone and satire the first film so brilliantly blended and is basically just a slapstick version of Indiana Jones with alternate dimensions. Hell, based on what I just said, that doesn’t sound too bad. I suspect that the watering down the horror elements and making it more zany and whacky is why critics didn’t seem to like it at all. Geez, it’s like they wanted a carbon copy of the first film, but with different actors… because that works so well with other franchises.
Okay, maybe they toned it down just a little too much, because despite that PG-13 rating it has (back when that meant something), House II is pretty much a kid’s movie. As I said, much of the horror is gone and mostly used for cheap and quick boo scares and the slapstick comedy is ramped up and the lead character is even given a whacky sidekick. Mix that in with a drinking elderly mummy from the Old West who speaks with a ‘oh-gee-shucks’ style and a cute puppy/caterpillar hybrid (yes, that is something that exists in this movie) and there ya go. The only thing I could think of that kept House II from getting a PG rating is the constant drinking going on in nearly every scene. There’s so much drinking in this movie that even my liver was killed by all the alcohol consumption.
Not taking place in the same house, but a different house (the movie is called House II, afterall). This time, it’s a rather large mansion that Jesse (Arye Gross… I don’t know, ‘ar ye’?) inherits, so he moves in along with his girlfriend Kate (Friday the 13th Part VII’s Lar Park Lincoln) along with his goofy friend Charlie (Jonathan Stark) and his wanna be popstar girlfriend Lana (Amy Yasbeck). I’m gonna talk about this subplot now, because at about halfway through the film the it’s dropped like a son dad is ashamed to talk about at Thanksgiving dinner. Kate is a record producer and Lana just so happens to be quite the singer, so Charlie and Lana are in hopes of getting her signed on to a record deal. Lucky for them, Kate’s boss (played by Bill Maher of all people) has the hots for her and listens to what she says and, well, that’s about it really. Once there is a misunderstanding with one of Jesse’s ex-girlfriends at a party about halfway through the movie, Bill Maher just puts his arms around the girls and escorts them and himself out of the movie. This is never really resolved, but then again it’s not really that interesting. Jesse and Kate barely share any screen time, so there’s no chemistry between the two. I also want to mention that it took me forever to recognize Jonathan Stark was the badass, undead Billy Cole in Fright Night!
The interesting stuff revolves around Jesse and Charlie’s misadventures once they learn about something called the crystal skull after seeing it in a photo with Jesse’s great-great grandfather also named Jesse (Royal Dano). Figuring the skull was probably buried with him, the two decide to go dig him up and find that he’s not only a mummy, but still very much alive. After Jesse reveals their connection and christian him with the nickname Gramps, they take him back to the house where they spend a good time in the basement shooting the shit, drinking some beers and hearing Old West stories. It’s a pretty charming scene and Jesse and Charlie seem so enthralled by Gramps’ stories. Upon seeing his own reflection, Gramps is heartbroken that the skull kept him alive, but did not restore his youth like he had hoped. I should also point out at this time that the skull’s powers are never fully disclosed, but just vaguely given. Very vaguely. I think the most descript explanation it’s given is along the lines of “it’s powerful.”
Oh, Gramps also informs Jesse that the house has multiple portals to alternate dimensions and he now has to protect the skull from danger and all this other nonsense. Jesse doesn’t say anything, he just kinda accepts it and everything in every dimension must’ve noticed the rookie taking over, because they all start trying to nab the damn skull. Luckily Charlie just happened to bring a fucking Uzi and enter multiple dimensions, like a prehistoric one where they befriend a baby pterodactyl that even comes to live with them, because funny! They even rescue some virgin babe she not only becomes a Mayan sacrifice, but also because Jesse now needs a love interest. However, there is a darker force looming over them, willing to get the skull at any cost… the zombie corpse of a man named Slim, Gramps’ old rival. Slim gunned down Jesse’s parents at the very beginning of the film at an attempt to get the skull, now Jesse, Gramps and Charlie get some payback and protect the skull at all cost or Slim will take over the world… I guess? His plans are unclear, but it probably won’t be good.
By far, the best part of the movie comes in form of John Ratzenberger (this film’s Cheers’ cast member cameo) as an electrician who also happens to be an adventurer. Yeah, this is a full time gig for him, both the wiring in your house and the multiple dimensions, swashbuckling, rope swinging and treasure hunting. He’s so nonchalant about it and plays it very low key, like he’s seen it so many times that he’s no longer impressed by it. At the end of it, he hands the boys his business card, which feels very much like a potential spinoff I would still love to see. His performance is very hysterical and in his brief time on screen, you’ll want more of him and beg for his further adventures and honestly, that’s what House III should have been instead of the series trying to get back to its horror roots.
As like in House, House II also has a majority of impressive practical effects and a handful of not so good ones, the most impressive being the mummy or zombie makeup on Gramps and Slim. Gramps isn’t gross or decaying, but rather dried out looking fitting into his cowboy motif and hey, it won’t scare the kids. That’s left up to Slim’s design, which is decaying and much more darker and wetter looking, plus Megatron himself, Frank Welker, does the voice! The animal puppets, like the dog/caterpillar and the pterodactyl, are wide eyes and cute looking as opposed to looking like the monstrosities they actually would resemble to further indicate the movie’s intention to reach a younger audience. I know every kid would want a stuffed toy of the dog/caterpillar, but alas the marketing department screwed the pooch on that one, for lack of a better pun.
The film is paired with the first film in a double box set in the US (the UK got all four House films in their box set), House: Two Stories released by Arrow Video. Like the first film, House II is also a 2K remaster that looks absolutely fantastic, but also like the first film, doesn’t have much in the way of special features. There is a pretty indepth feature called It’s Getting Weirder!: The Making of House II: The Second Storyfeaturing interviews with Ethan Wiley, Sean S. Cunningham, stars Arye Gross, Jonathan Stark, Lar Park Lincoln, and Devin DeVasquez, composer Harry Manfredini, special make-up and creature effects artists Chris Walas, Mike Smithson, visual effects supervisor Hoyt Yeatman, and stunt coordinator Kane Hodder. Writer-director Ethan Wiley and producer Sean S. Cunningham provide a new commentary and a theatrical trailer and a still gallery round it out. There’s also some stunning new artwork by Justin Osbourn.
House II: The Second Story is a comedy right from the get-go. I mean, look at the pun right in the title. The title not only implies humor, but adventure as well and that’s exactly what we get and is it a perfect combination of the two? I’m gonna have to say no, but I don’t think it’s terrible either. In fact, I think the majority of it is fun, but there are moments that are rather childish (backing up my argument that this was aimed towards children) or poorly paced moments that make it feel dragged out. The feeling that this was aimed at a more younger, more marketable audience and the seemingly loosely connected adventures gives the film a feeling like it’s a handful of episodes of a failed TV show in the late ‘80s strung together and re-released as a movie so the company can try and recoup some of the financial losses. Hell, even John Ratzenberger’s character felt like he was shoehorned in as an attempt at a spinoff. The funny thing is, if they actually went for the PG rating and released this as a kid’s movie, I have a feeling it would have been far more successful.
House II, while not as good as its predecessor, still has some merit and can be a feel good, fun adventure even if it does feel a little childish.The characters are likable and have great chemistry together and honestly, I wouldn’t have minded seeing more. I can’t say the same for the other two films that follow and un(?)fortunately, House III (aka The Horror Show) and House IV aren’t included in the US Arrow set, The Two Stories. However, if you’re a completist, you may wanna get the UK version of this set that includes all four films.