Goon Review: Ben (1972)

(Submitted by our Ho-rror Ho-mie, Mr. Andrew Peters…Thanks, ya Goon-ie!! 😉 xoxo)


Willard had a direct sequel after the film’s fan favorite rodent Ben named, well, Ben. I don’t know how well Willard had done in theaters to warrant a sequel, but apparently it did well enough that Bing Crosby backed its production (seeing as he also financed Willard). Yeah, crazy to think that an old school crooner like himself wanted more killer rat movies, but once again this really isn’t about nature striking back. I mean, it kinda has that element going on, but like its predecessor, Ben is more about someone befriending the rodents. Instead of a socially awkward young man using his newfound friends as a means to get revenge, it’s a socially awkward boy just being friends with them and deaths just kind of happen incidentally.

We pick up right where Willard left off and I mean right where it left off. The police find what remains of Willard and uncovering his journal that mentions Socrates and Ben. To be honest, I missed this little tidbit of information at first and was really confused at how the hell the cops could have known the two rats’ names, but after a quick rewind, I saw what I missed. Not sure why I wasn’t paying attention or maybe the detail was glossed over quickly, but nevertheless it’s there. Detective Sergeant Cliff Kirtland is tasked with heading up this investigation, which seems like it should have come to a close almost immediately. Willard has basically been devoured by the rats, so I don’t know if his plan was to arrest all the rats or what. Ben watches menacingly from the rafters above as a single cop, all by his lonesome, hears something behind the wall and decides he should check it out. Now I have to ask because the movie presented it; what the hell was this guy thinking? It’s clearly rats that just ate a person. Why in the love of Nina Hartley’s sweet tits would he crack open the wall? What was his plan here? I’ve been asking, “what’s the plan” a few times now, so it’s safe to assume we’re getting the movie logic of cops that do stupid things in order for events to unfold. So yeah, he gets killed. Surprised?

Being a smart little bugger, Ben knows it’s no longer safe and it’s time for them to find a new home. Luckily, an awkward and lonesome kid named Danny happens to be kind of weird. Hopefully you won’t find him as mildly annoying as I did, because he’s the central character of the film and to desperately make him sympathetic, he has a heart condition that’s never really explained nor is it used to the plot’s convenience all that well other than to occasionally make you feel sorry for him or to build some tension. Sorry, movie, you failed on both accounts.

While putting on his one man puppet show that apparently Danny does to no audience, so it’s in no way kind of creepy, he notices Ben watching him from the window to which Danny tortures the poor rat by submitting him to his little play and the two quickly becomes pals. Don’t count on this ending happily, however, as the Police seem to be narrowing down the places to search and even come by asking questions after Ben and his army of badass rats protect Danny from a bully. In a very creepy turn of his character, Danny stares at the kid accusing him and says to the Police and all of the adults in the room that the bully must have fallen into a rose bush. The bully quickly noticing the Damien from The Omen death stare and agrees he must’ve fallen into a rose bush. It’s almost unsettling and for a brief moment you might be thinking that the movie may take a turn into dark territory with Danny losing his grip on reality, much like Willard had, but nope. They toy with the idea for a moment and discard it. The movie’s credit, it’s at least not trying to repeat Willard and wants to do its own thing.

Ben and the other rats terrorize the city in the sense that they are merely searching for food, but turn over a grocery store in the process and the death toll even spikes a wee bit. Kirtland continues his manhunt, or erm, rathunt and draws nearer and nearer until the film’s climax when it’s an all out war of man versus rats. I may have overhyped it in that last sentence, but I have to admit that it’s a little heartbreaking, especially with Danny desperately trying to save Ben. I can relate to that, because I would do anything for my guinea pigs and the most heartbreaking thing I’ve ever experienced is when I lost my first piggie to heart disease. I don’t think the film did very well, so there’s not another sequel, although I have to say I think it would have been great to see the further adventures of Ben. I can say that at least film’s started being kinder to animals around this time, so some poorly composited shots of rats being set on fire is used in place of actually setting rats on fire. Thank goodness this wasn’t an Italian production.

It was nice to finally see rats get some love, at least to some extent, but therein lies the problem… who was this movie made for? The kid becoming friends with the rats and all the whimsy that follows suggest it was made for kids, but the carnage ensues tells me that maybe it’s a horror film. Like with most of these mixed bag films, it can’t seem to decide which it’s trying to be and ultimately doesn’t do well with blending either genres. Although the younger audience might be enticed by the relationship between the humans and animals, they would probably find all the talking and plot development parts boring since it’s trying to speak to an older audience who in turn will find the parts involving Danny and Ben childish and the horror parts rather dull and not scary. While watching it, I couldn’t help but think of Pod People which had the same problem. JP Simon, the director of that film, wanted a horror film and the producers wanted a kiddie film, so both were mixed to poor results (although Pod People is fun as hell to watch, especially the MST3K version).

Ben is somewhat of a lost film in that the original negatives apparently couldn’t be found, but that didn’t stop good ol’ Scream Factory from fine tuning it from whatever source they could find. Seeing as a master source wasn’t used in restoring the movie, so while it doesn’t look as sharp or clean as Willard, I’m genuinely shocked at how good it looks giving what they had to work with. Like Willard, there isn’t much in the way of special features. Aside from a small interview with Lee Montgomery who played Danny in the film who also provides an audio commentary, you get your usual Scream Factory extras, like a theatrical trailer, TV spots, radio spots and a still gallery. Unless you’re a fan of the film or a Scream Factory completist, you’ll probably want to pass on it.

Ben is kind of a forgettable, especially in the horror or nature strikes back or child befriending animal or whatever the hell genre it is, but if there is anything anyone will remember from this movie it’s the theme song sung by Michael Jackson. I know, at first I thought it was a joke too, but an early ‘70s, young Michael Jackson sings the song and even has a giant credit during the opening text. Well, there’s that and Danny’s puppet play with a puppet of Ben which performs in front of Ben. It’s kind of weird. Even Ben looks creeped out. Maybe the movie should have been a puppet play.

#MightyMorphinMonday: Power Rangers (2017)

(Submitted by Mr. Prince Adam…Thanks, Heroic Ho-mie! 🙂 xoxo)

“A group of high-school students, who are infused with unique superpowers, harness their abilities in order to save the world.” (Lionsgate/Saban)

As I mentioned in my Mighty Morphin Power Rangers comic book review, I loved this television series as a kid. This movie stars the same characters in the original show, with different actors in the Zord’s, turning what was essentially a campy live action Saturday morning cartoon, into a live action science fiction, action adventure superhero film. While there is a shift in tone, to something that takes it source material a little more seriously, the core essential elements of the brand are upheld and respected. The Rangers are still teenagers under the guidance of Zordon, with the help of his assistant, talking robot Alpha 5. The Power Rangers derive their power from power coins which connect them to the morphing grid. They still are the pilots of Zord’s aka mechanical dinosaurs that can join together to form a giant robot known as a Megazord. Their main goal is to protect the zeo crystal and the world from Rita Repulsa, the sworn enemy of Zordon, who is aided by her putty patrol and Goldar, her chief lieutenant. With the core retained and carried over, the filmmakers still managed to deviate and change elements within the core ideas and those decisions, I feel, make major improvements. One aspect I absolutely loved is the back story and history of the Power Rangers. The Power Rangers go back all the way to pre historic earth. These alien warriors were charged with protecting the relatively young Earth and the life forms on it. The dominant life form at this time being the dinosaurs, which explains why the Zord’s take the form of those animals. In this iteration, Zordon is the leader of that team of Rangers, the red ranger. One of his teammates was Rita Repulsa, the Green Ranger. However, a power hungry Rita Repulsa betrays them in an effort to steal their power coins, the source of their power. However, Zordon hides the power coins, instructing Alpha 5 to cause a meteor strike from their ship. This results in Zordon’s death and sends Rita to the bottom of the ocean. The fallout of all this is the extinction of the dinosaurs. What I love bout all this is that, in the show Rita created the Green Ranger, so it’s serendipitous that in this take, she is the Green Ranger. It also gives Zordon and Rita a deeper connection and fuel for their hatred. Tying the original team of Power Rangers, to the time of the dinosaurs, not only explains why the Zord’s are dinosaurs, the film also makes Zordon and by extension Alpha 5, somewhat responsible for the dinosaurs extinction. That was surprising. I like that the filmmakers actually created an alien language for Zordon and Rita to speak. It makes the events of the scenario and the story conceit more believable. Most films don’t go that extra mile and just have the aliens speak English as if it’s some intergalactic and universal language.

The TV Series boasted that the Power Rangers were “teenagers with attitude.” Yet given the nature of the show, we got the most cookie cutter Leave it to Beaver kids you could possibly have. This film actually gives us teenagers with attitude, or at least ones dealing with issues. Jason was a football star in the making, who ruined his career after a prank gone wrong led to a car accident, ending his playing days. Kimberly Hart was a bit of a cyber bully of sorts, who sent nude photos of a fellow student throughout her previous school. Now in a new environment, she is the one who is ostracised by classmates. Billy Cranston is a science nerd whose experiment caused a minor explosion on school property. The added intrigue for this character is that he has Autism. These 3 Rangers meet in Saturday after school detention. It has a very Breakfast Club feel to it, which I think is great and highly appropriate, given they are teenagers. Trini, the yellow Ranger is dealing with her sexual orientation and struggling with coming out to her family, while Zack, the Black Ranger, frequently skips school, to take care of his ailing mother. These two outsiders often skip school and hang out in the Angel Grove gold mines or mountainous regions. While they all go to the same school, they aren’t necessarily friends and don’t know each other very well. That’s great for this film because the best part is the interactions between the Power Rangers. You see their friendships grow and you watch them become a team. They need to be in tune with each other to morph and to pilot the Megazord, so when all that finally happens in the third act of the film it’s earned. For the most, I’ve got nothing but praise for the young cast. Dacre Montgomery and Ludi Lin were solid. I thought both actors were believable in conveying their character various issues but I didn’t buy them 100% as outcasts or “teens with altitude.” The two best of our young cast are Naomi Scott and RJ Cyler. I had a huge crush on the original pink ranger as a kid, so any actress who can get me to totally invest in her take on a character is doing a good job. I really believed she was remorseful for her past deeds and was trying to escape the shackles of her past. RJ Cyler highlights how intelligent and uniquely awesome people with Autism are. I find people with disabilities are highly under-represented on film and when we are, we’re all painted with the same brush. Here though, this character is given his due. Not only is he incredibly smart, but he is the audiences conduit to what it would feel like to be a Power Ranger and how cool it would be. He’s the first one to morph and is actually the glue that ultimately binds the team together, allowing them to become the heroes they’re supposed to be. As a kid I didn’t care for the Blue Ranger, but in this film he was my favorite. Part of that is how the character is written, but a lot of that comes down to the actor’s performance. The weakest of our heroes in terms of performance and character is Becky G, as the Yellow Ranger. First off, her struggle with revealing her sexual orientation to her parents is only glossed over, while every other character got more screen time. Also, the actor is a pop singer by trade, and only a select few have been able to make the transition with any success. Unfortunately for Becky G, I don’t think she will join that club!

Elizabeth Banks relished her role as villain Rita Repulsa. Yes, her plan was straight forward, almost “mustache twirly” at times but I felt it was written that way on purpose as homage to the source material. Yes, Ms. Banks chews scenery and goes over the top, but she’s far less ridiculous than the Enchantress (the only thing I really didn’t like about Suicide Squad). Elizabeth Banks was genuinely frightening as Rita and in those moments she was money! (See what I did there… Money in the Bank). Bryan Cranston as Zordon was stunt legacy casting, as he voiced monster roles in the original show, but it is genius casting. His Zordon is confused at the complicated inner workings of the teenage mind. He’s stern, when the teenagers aren’t grasping what they need to learn, yet he is calming and compassionate when the need arises. Having Zordon be a former Power Ranger who experienced failure, makes his bond with the team feel stronger. He’s no longer just the man behind the curtain. He’s not an all-knowing Wizard of Oz fraud. Let’s look at the visuals and action in this film. Gone are the spandex costumes and in its place is an armor with an alien look and feel to it. The updated design still honors the original concept but ultimately makes so much more sense, since the original team were in fact aliens in the film. The Power Rangers command center being Zordon’s old ship also makes sense. I also think it being buried deep underneath the Angel Grove gold mines, where the meteors strike at the beginning of the film took place is a more practical story point. While I though the exterior of the TV show’s command center looked cool, largely because it looked like an Egyptian pyramid, its location never made sense. Rita Repulsa’s wardrobe is a definite improvement over the television predecessor. Since she was once the Green Ranger, I like that her outfit is essentially a defunct, dark and twisted take on the Green Ranger armor. Her armor has morphed to fit the characters personality. Goldar’s redesign seemed a little too much for my liking. He was literally a giant liquid gold monster. He reminded me of the golden fountain in the Ferrero Rocher chocolate commercials. Just imagine that fountain could walk and you’ll get what I’m talking about. Given the success of the Planet of the Apes franchise, there’s no reason they couldn’t have gone with a talking gorilla in gold armor like the original show. The Megazord forming and fighting looked great. There’s even a nod to the original show in that it forms in the cover of fire, from the bottom of the damage from the Angel Grove goldmine. The fighting between the Megazord and Goldar was very clear and concise. I appreciated that I could actually clearly see fighting moves being performed. This isn’t always the case in some movies, like Transformers or Pacific Rim. There’s even a joke about the Transformers film in the third act fight that got a laugh out of me. While the fighting between the Megazord and Goldar was well done, the hand to hand combat between the Power Rangers and Rita’s Putty Patrol as she attempt to steal the Zeo Crystal leaves a lot to be desired. It’s not that the fighting was bad, it’s just there wasn’t enough of it to really judge. That’s a shame, especially since the cast said they worked hard at martial arts training for the film.

As a fan of the original show, I was worried that this franchise had passed its exploration date in terms of appeal with modern day film fans, who weren’t already fans of the property. I was worried the filmmakers would change the DNA of the property so much, that it wouldn’t feel like a Power Rangers. However, the film stays true to the most important part of the concept and for my money, the changes made the Power Rangers better. As is sometimes the case with origin stories, the action beats and fighting sequences are less than I expected, though the Megazord battle does satiate that need to a degree. However, the focus was clearly on the characters and the team dynamics of the Power Rangers and in that department the film succeeds. Whether you’re a long-time fan of the franchise, or totally oblivious to it, give the film a look for yourself. I think you’ll have a morphenomenal good time at the movies or watching it from the comfort of your own home when released digitally and on Blu-Ray.

Alien: Covenant Review *Spoilers*

(Submitted by Mr. Andrew Phibes…Thanks, Kinky Ho-bo! ;)xoxo)

“Here at least we shall be free; the Almighty hath not built. Here for his envy, will not drive us hence: Here we may reign secure, and in my choice to reign is worth ambition though in Hell: Better to reign in Hell, than serve in Heaven.”

-John Milton, Paradise Lost

 

“I’ll do the fingering.”

David, Alien: Covenant

Alien: Covenant is a strange beast. It’s both a sequel to 2012’s Prometheus and an apology for it. Director Ridley Scott still seems to be interested in the ideas and conceits explored in that film, but also wants to satisfy the fans who were vocal in their burning hatred for it. As a result, Alien: Covenant is a hybrid of Prometheus and the original Alien: a monster mash of high-minded concepts and ghost train theatrics. If you were hoping to see the return of Prometheus‘ Shaw (Noomi Rapace) or more of the Engineers (the extraterrestrial creators of mankind) in this film, I’m afraid you’ll be sorely disappointed. However, if you’re hungry for atmospherics, gore, nostalgia, and tons of monsters, this is the film for you.

Set a decade after Prometheus, Alien: Covenant  concerns the crew of the colony ship Covenant and their discovery of what appears to be an uncharted paradise. It’s revealed that the planet is inhabited by hostile creatures and… well, you know the drill. The film more-or-less plays out the way you’d imagine, though that’s hardly a bad thing. What we have here is essentially a “Greatest Hits” of the Alien franchise. Eggs are hatched, distress signals are answered, creatures burst from stomachs, and faces are hugged. The film does nothing new with the series, but it’s a highly enjoyable return to basics. In that regard, it’s the Star Wars: The Force Awakens of the the Alien series.

Like Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Alien: Covenant  is a soft reboot masquerading as a sequel. Prometheus is essentially jettisoned in favor of a more familiar bit of sci-fi terror. Unfortunately, that means that most of the characters/creatures left alive at the end of Prometheus are disposed of. Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace) is given a, um, less-than-happy ending, which I thought was pretty lame. After building the character up and setting up further adventures for her at the end of the previous film, Alien: Covenant gives Shaw the ol’ “Newt/Hicks” treatment. I personally believe that Dr. Shaw deserved a better send-off, but I suppose the studio wanted to distance themselves from Prometheus as much as possible. In fact, the only element from that film that is used to a significant degree in this film is also the one element that was universally praised:  Michael Fassbender.

R.I.P. Dr. Shaw.

Michael Fassbender does double duty as the diabolical David and Walter, the unfortunate android aboard the Covenant. Mr. Fassbender is brilliant in both roles, imbuing both machines with their own distinctive identity. However, it’s David who steals the show and makes this film fantastic. David is delightfully, cartoonishly evil. He’s Michael Gough, Vincent Price, John Carradine, and a cobra fused into an unimaginably hammy chimera of urbane villainy. It truly is a shame they didn’t give him a cape and a mustache to twirl.
There’s also a weird, sexual tension between the two Fassbenders, starting with what is likely the most erotic cinematic flute lesson. The sequence does bring to mind a lot of the weird poetry Prometheus had going for it, and it is probably the most fascinating scene in the picture. At this point, the film takes turns to what could almost be described as “Fassbender porn.” And the internet has already picked up on this. Alien: Covenant isn’t even a week old, yet there’s a disturbing amount of Fassbender X Fassbender fan art. If you think I’m not going to include any of it here, you are deeply mistaken.

While the film generally plays out like a classical monster movie, some of the heavy ideas and literary references of Prometheus do pop up. Questions about the nature of creation are brought up and religious symbolism is scattered throughout. Percy Shelley. Lord Byron, and John Milton are quoted in thematically appropriate ways and Wagner’s Entry of the Gods into Valhalla plays at the end. It’s a little on-the-nose, but it’s all intriguing for what is primarily straightforward creature feature.
As for the rest the rest of the film, it’s loaded with great sci-fi gore, but nothing as intense as Alien‘s dinner scene or the surgery sequence in Prometheus. Katherine Waterston is a fine heroine, but she’s less compelling than the two before her. Is it, as one reviewer put its, a “masterpiece of fear?” No, but it’s an entertaining slice of Alien terror. I wish they had stuck to Prometheus more, but it’s loads of fun.  Alien: Covenant is mostly awesome… mostly.

Movie Review: Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 1 & 2

(Submitted by our Superhero Scifi buddy, Mr. Prince Adam…Thanks for sharing your thoughts with us, Super Friend! 🙂 xoxo

In Guardians of the Galaxy, a group of intergalactic criminals are forced to work together to stop a fanatical warrior from taking control of the universe. In Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2′ continues the team’s adventures as they unravel the mystery of Peter Quill’s true parentage. (Marvel Studios)

When I saw the teaser trailer for the first Guardians of the Galaxy, I wasn’t all that into it. I fully blame the Thor franchise for this, as the forced humor in those films, seemed to be rearing its ugly head here. However, to be fair, I knew very little about the Guardians of the Galaxy. Instead of getting on the internet to bitch and moan about what I wasn’t liking, I hopped on to Amazon and bought two trade paperbacks of the newest comics. In truth, the humor was perfectly appropriate for the odd ball bunch of characters that make up the team. After finally seeing Guardians of the Galaxy, I absolutely loved it. It quickly became one of my favourite MCU films and ranks in my top 5 from Marvel Studios. Yes, there’s a lot of comedy throughout but what James Gunn does, is make you care about the characters and shows you their tragedies, so that the humor has greater effect when it finally happens. This film starts with young Peter Quill by his mother’s bedside, as she gives him one last parting gift and words of wisdom, before succumbing to brain cancer. He then runs out of the hospital, only to get abducted by an alien space ship. That is a harrowing but heartbreaking way to open a film. While the rest of the story also hinges on Peter Quill, the other Guardians have their own issues. Most of these aren’t brought to bear visually like Star Lord, however they’re all discussed. Gamora has familial issues, being the adopted daughter of Thanos and having a sibling rivalry with her sister Nebula. Not to mention, she’s acting as a double agent of sorts, in the process of double crossing Thanos. The family drama is very real world, just like Peter’s mothers death from cancer is, it just takes place on an intergalactic scale. I love that no matter how odd these character are, their emotional baggage is very relatable. Rocket Racoon and Groot are more unique from the rest of the humanoid looking group. Rocket is a creation, a genetically altered talking racoon, while Groot is the last of his kind, a talking tree, with a speech impediment, where everything he says is heard as “I am Groot.” While both characters are adorable, they are outcasts amongst a team of misfits. If you’re someone who doesn’t feel comfortable in their own skin, or you feel misunderstood, you will gravitate towards these characters beyond their cuteness. Drax is the only character that’s hard to relate to. After all, when we first meet him, he’s in prison for going on a murderous revenge tour. However, he is trying to avenge the deaths of his family and has killed or is going after, Thanos and or those connected to him, or took part in the murder of his family. So while you might not identify with him, you will sympathize with him.

In several trailers and promotions, the Guardians of the Galaxy were classified as criminals and outlaws and technically they are, but that’s a misrepresentation. They don’t do anything in the film to make you second guess them, or root against them. As you discover their backstories throughout the film and watch them interact with each other, they’re nothing but lovable characters. This is an ensemble film but as I said, Star Lord is the main character and the team all meet through him. That occurs when the film picks up with the adult Star Lord stealing an orb contain an infinity stone and attempting to sell it to a dealer. The dealer reneges on the arrangement when he learns Thanos is after the stone. Speaking of Thanos, not only does he send Gamora after Peter Quill, he sends out a bounty for the capture of the self-proclaimed Star Lord. This gets Groot and Rocket on his trail, as well as his old partner/father figure Yondu. Yondu is the alien who kidnapped Peter at the behest of Peter’s mysterious celestial father, who Yondu describes as an asshole. He decided not to take Peter to his father and groomed him as a Ravager. However, he feels betrayed by Peter and wants to get in on that bounty cash. As Gamora, Rocket and Groot try and apprehend Peter, they are all caught by Nova Corps officers and are thrown in the Kylm, a prison in a trading post called Knowhere. It is here where the characters truly meet. They decided to team up to not only break out of prison, as well as selling the orb/gem to Gamora’s contact, the Collector. Drax comes into the equation because he wants to kill Gamora, in his quest for revenge on Thanos. However, Peter Quill talks him down, suggesting that if he joins them, he will get his revenge on Thanos, so he acquiesces. Speaking of Thanos, displeased with Gamora’s efforts, he sends Ronan, essentially his overpowered henchmen to take them out and retrieve the infinity stone. After they escape prison, they eventually strike an accord with the Nova Corps and Yondu, to join forces and bring down Ronan, which they obviously do. As for the infinity stone, even though Star Lord promised to give it to Yondu, he double crosses him and entrusts it to the Nova Corps. I mentioned the humor throughout the film and it comes in the characters interactions. I loved all of Peter Quill’s 80’ references, including Patrick Swayze in dirty dancing, and Tony Danza in Who’s the Boss. Not to mention, Peter’s ship being named after Alyssa Milano. Gamora’s naiveté mixed in with her overall badassery made the character a good addition. As I said Groot and Rocket were the most adorable characters but having Rocket be the only one to understand Groot is hilarious. It’s like a one sided version of broken telephone, where based on Rocket’s response, we the audience can piece together what Groot says. Also, Rocket being a sarcastic jackass and asking the group to steal another inmates prosthetic leg to assist in his escape plan just to see if they’d do it, made me laugh.. Drax’s humor came from his bluntness and lack of understanding of sarcasm. For example, when Star Lord says a pun went over Drax’s head, Drax responds; “Nothing goes over my head. If it did, my reflexes are so fast, I’d reach out and catch it. “Or when he refers to Gamora as a “Green Skinned Slut”, when he admits he has gotten over his grudge against her . He’s so straight faced and honest about it, I couldn’t help but laugh at the dichotomy of calling someone a slut and your friend in the same breath.

Two aspects of the first film I didn’t like were the villain and the third act finale. Ronan is another terrible villain. He’s a glorified lackey for Thanos, and the character is so over the top. It’s mustache twirl level. The film tells us that he wants to use the infinity gem to put an end to the Kree/Xandar treaty, which he feels has wronged his people the Kree, but the story never delves further into that. His antagonism to the Guardians of the Galaxy is nothing more than them being in the wrong place at the wrong time, as well as being in position of the Infinity Gem. The other thing that I didn’t care for was that Star Lord challenges Ronan to a dance off to distract him, while the others get the Infinity Gem away from him. As noted, I’ve loved every bit of humor in this film up to this point, but this dance off was out of place. The fate of Xandar and potentially the universe is at stake, and that’s the first thing you come up with. Does Marvel have a “1 Joke per Script Page” rule for their films or what? Not only did this gag pull me out of the film, but it lessened the severity of the situation and the impact of Groot’s death to spare his teammates. Don’t worry, in typical Marvel fashion, Groot didn’t really die, Rocket was able to collect pieces of him and plant him in a pot, so he could regrow.

The sequel for my money is a step up from the original in my opinion. Make no mistake, in terms of story, and story structure it’s pretty much the same. Characters and situations change, but the story structure doesn’t break the mold. This time around, the Guardians of the Galaxy are hired by the leader of the Sovereign nation to retrieve special batteries from a monstrous alien. In exchange for returning the batteries, the group is granted custody of Nebula who was captured for stealing the batteries in the first place. As they are dismissed, Rocket can’t help but steal a few batteries. Upon discovery of this the Sovereign leader sends of fleet of ships to attack the group and retrieve the batteries. When that fails, she hires Yondu and his Ravagers to retrieve the batters and capture the Guardians of the Galaxy. The Guardians of the Galaxy eventually team up with Yondu and his crew, not only to defeat the Sovereign army, but defeat the much larger threat of the film. A Guardian of the Galaxy even sacrifices themselves for another team member. Sounds a lot like the first film doesn’t it!? Despite this, there’s enough fresh elements that make this sequel better than the original.

The film does pick up on several open ended threads left open from the first film. One of which is Peter Quill’s celestial father. The character is first introduced in a flashback to his courtship and mating with Peter’s Mother. For this scene, the filmmakers used the de-aging CGI on Kurt Russell and you know what, it looks really good. I thought I was watching actual footage of 1980’s Kurt Russell. We first see him in earnest in the film, when he mysteriously provides an escape route for the Guardians as they evade the Sovereign Fleet. After a rough landing by the Milano, Star Lord finally meets his father Ego. Ego invites his son and crew to his planet. Once there, we get plenty of exposition detailing that Ego is a Celestial that manipulated matter to form a planet and placed itself at the planet’s core. After hundreds of years, he got lonely, so he formed a human body and traveled the universe, which ultimately led him to Earth and the love of his life Meredith Quill. When Peter asks why he didn’t return to Earth when she got ill and died, he intimated that a world without Meredith was a world he didn’t want to be on. He reiterates that he sent Yondu to retrieve him after Meredith’s death and blames Yondu for their delayed reunion. We get scenes of the newly acquainted father/son do bonding over shared taste in Earth music and Ego teaching Peter how to use his celestial power and manipulate energy and matter. This leads to a celestial game of catch. I got so swept up emotion of these scenes, that I didn’t see the twist coming. That twist being that this is all a ruse and Ego is the true villain of the film. He’s been looking for his son all this time, to use his son Peter’s celestial power, combined with his, to activate the seedling he planted on Earth to terraform it into an extension of himself. If that isn’t bad enough, he reveals he planted the tumor in Meredith’s brain, so she would die, allowing him to be left alone and easy for the taking. Even worse still, he’s attempted to do this on other planets he’s visited, but failed because his other progeny died when trying to harness their celestial powers. To use a wrestling term, I did not see that heel turn coming. One of the main reason I like this film a bit more than the first, is because Ego is a much better villain than Ronan. Part of that is the familial connection between Star Lord and Ego and part of it is the acting of Kurt Russell. The way both he and Chris Prat switch between being best of friends, to mortal enemies is emotional, raw and flawless. I could feel both the love and hate between the two characters through the course of the film. This plot point also gave us more info and more screen time for Yondu.

In the first film, you saw that Yondu and Peter Quill had an admiration for each other but the relationship was fractured. From Peter’s perspective, he believed that the only reason Yondu took him and kept him around, was because he was someone who could help him steal, getting into places where Yondu and his team couldn’t fit into. In this film, Yondu reveals that the main reason he kept him around, was because he didn’t want Ego to get his hands on Peter. Yondu taught Peter how to be self-sufficient and fend for himself. In a revealing dialogue with Rocket, Yondu reveals that he grew to love Peter and considers him his son. His action of taking Peter as a child got him in trouble with The Ravagers higher up personnel. Child trafficking is a no-no amongst The Ravagers. This plot point gives a cameo by Sylvester Stallone, who plays Stakar Ogord, and Michael Rosembaum as his right hand man, who exile Yondu and his crew from the Ravagers. Yay to James Gunn for including a cameo from Sly and Rosembaum. Boo to James Gunn for not putting Stallone and Russell in a scene together, for a mini Tango and Cash reunion. Anyways, back to Yondu. The moment where he sacrifices his life, to save Peter from dying in an explosion in a fight with Ego, was epically tragic. The moment before his death, where he says; “He may be your father, but I’m your daddy”, brought me to tears. This death does have a finality to it as well. Earlier in the film, Yondu makes a Marry Poppins reference that is quite funny. I won’t spoil it but keep an eye out for it. Michael Rooker is known as a character actor but he steals the film. By far my favourite character in the film, with Ego coming in second.

Three of my favourite characters from the first film left me with a mixed reaction. Groot was even better than last time, while Rocket and Drax left me wishing they would just shut up and had me rolling my eyes. Groot had only one way to go and that was up. As much as I loved Groot the first time around, how can you not love Baby Groot? The cutest part was how at every chance he got, he cuddled every member of his Guardians teammates. You will “aww” every time you see it. The funny part is when Rocket tries to explain to him about not touching the button to set off the bomb. He understands the words coming out of Rocket’s mouth, but he can’t truly comprehend them, which is why he wanted to push the button that set off the bomb. Essentially he has the mind of a two year old. Every time he appeared in a scene, that dynamic when mixed with what the rest of the group was going through, added the perfect amount of levity and fun to the situation. Rocket’s attitude in the first film was bold, brash and justified given his characters circumstances. However in this film, his attitude was amplified, to the point where he actively tried to push his crew members away. I understand that he felt that getting close to people hasn’t worked out in the past, so why go through that again, however, he got through those issues by the end of the first film. So this behaviour felt like retreading old ground from volume one. Speaking of retreading, Drax was a huge step backwards in volume 2. In the first film, his bluntness and naïveté was a driving force of humor. So James Gunn decided to ratchet that up ten notches, to where it became forced. This resulted in Drax becoming a cackling misogynistic brute, who besmirched and insulted Ego’s assistant Mantis, just to deflect his apparent growing feelings for her throughout the film. He flat out calls her ugly, I believe the word he uses is hideous. Then there’s the barrage of dick jokes he makes. He literally stops Ego in a piece of important, character building dialogue, to ask Ego if he created a dick for himself and how big it is. Then he and Star Lord make suggestive comments about the sizes of their package, I’m good with a raunchy penis joke now and again, but I think the four or five in this film were a bit excessive. Also, seeing as the Guardians of the Galaxy is the most kid friendly franchise to date in the MCU, you should be mindful that there are youngsters in the audience. There may have been more dick jokes in this film then Deadpool and for me, that’s problematic.

Much like the rest of both films, I am overall extremely satisfied with the visual effects in the films. The entire VFX team should be commended for making two entirely CGI characters Rocket Racoon and Groot look so real. Not going to lie, there were so many times in the first film, I wanted to reach out and pet Rocket or swing from Groot. Yes the performances are what connect you to characters, however, the first visual impressions makes you believe these characters exist, and these visuals succeed in that aspect in spades. Considering his background in smaller, low budget films I was impressed with several action scenes he crafted. Both films feature a space battle, between The Milano and Ronan’s warship in the first film, and the Sovereign fleet in the sequel. The space battles are epic in these particular scenes, almost Star Wars level worthy. Notice I said almost, so no one freak out. During the fight with the Sovereign fleet battle, when looking at the space battle from a POV shot of inside the Sovereign’s ships is a visual nod to an 80’s video game, which is in keeping with the fun tone of these films. The opening scenes of both films, are some of the most enjoyably interactive I’ve ever seen. Seeing Star Lord dance his way through an alien landscape, using dead fish like creatures as a microphone, dancing his way to stealing the orb, is like a hilarious absurd melding of So You Think You Can Dance and Indiana Jones. That shouldn’t work, but it does, making for an incredibly fun opening montage. Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2 starts with The Guardians fighting an alien monster, while Groot has music blaring in a stereo and is dancing, oblivious to the fight in the foreground. I love this opening because as a viewer, you’re totally transfixed, wanting to watch the battle, but at the same time, hooting and hollering over Groot’s adorably hilarious dancing. The third act featured Ego the living planet being destroyed. We almost got a firsthand look at a planet crumbling to its extinction. I’ve never seen it done quite like this. Ego transforms into a disembodied head at one point, which normally I don’t like, but it forces Peter to manipulating matter into Pac Man. Any time I can get Pac-Man references in a film is a positive. There were two instances where the CGI looked terrible. In the first film, when the Guardians join hands, trying to grab the infinity stone, the scene is engulfed in purple, as the team is literally being torn apart. This had to be one of the lamest looking third act finales in a comic book film. A clear sign that the filmmaker had exhausted his budget. In the second film, during the aforementioned fight with the alien monster, said monster looks rather rubbery and obviously CGI. Not as rubbery as the shark in Batman ’66 but considering we’re in 2017, this shouldn’t be an issue.

As I mentioned, when this film franchise first began, I had no idea who The Guardians of the Galaxy even were. As I said, the first trailer for the film didn’t even get me excited for the film. Yet, here we are two films into the franchise and their two of the best of the Marvel brand. One of the best things about these movies is, while they’re part of the MCU, they are standalone films in their own right. While I seem to have more issues with the second film, there was enough positive elements in Volume 2, that I still put it ahead of the first film. No matter which film you enjoy more, you’re guaranteed a sci-fi space opera full of emotion, humor and action featuring instantaneously lovable characters. Revisit the first one and most definitely see Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2, if you haven’t already.

Scary Shorties: Mickey’s Mechanical Man (1933)

Before Richard Matheson brought a robot into the ring and Toho had one rough up an ape, Disney gave us both of those wonderful things in 1933’s Mickey’s Mechanical Man, a knockabout cartoon caper that pits machine against beast. The short is about Mickey Mouse training a robot to fight an ape in a boxing match and… do I need to say anything else!? I mean, that’s pure monster movie magic as it is! Disney has produced more sophisticated shorts, but who needs sophistication when you have beastly brutes monster-mashing each other in glorious black-and-white?!

Mickey’s Mechanical Man is a fairly one-note short, but it plays that note so magnificently! There are gags aplenty and enough machine-on-monster action to satisfy  all you creature-craving crazies out there. Mickey and Minnie are always welcome, and the ape is as perfectly monstrous as one could hope for. As for the animation, it’s fluid, lively, and… well, Disney!
While there’s much to love about this ‘toon, the highlight is the tit-ular Mechanical Man. I’m a sucker for vintage/retro robots, and this affable automaton certainly fits the bill. Every bit of animation for the ro-boxer is brilliantly herky-jerky. The spasmodic, robotic pugilist moves like a wind-up toy with very little use for physics. It’s this kind of character and animation that make these cartoons such a blast to watch! Domo arigato, Mr. Roboto!

Check out the Battle of the Century below:


#SexOnSunday: The “We Are Groin” Edition

(Submitted by Smutmaster Eric…who, for the record, has a vastly different POV of the actual Guardians of the Galaxy than yours truly. It’s in my personal Top 3 comic movies, so I’m definitely going to be checking this parody out based on Eric’s glowing rec…Thanks, Kinky Ho-miebot! 🙂 xoxo)

Gnardians of the Galaxy (2015)

Running Length: 46 Mins.

Cast:

Aaron Wilcox as Pecker Quill / Star Load
Daisy Ducati as Gamwhora
Shane Diesel as Crax
April O’Neil as Rocket Raccooch
AJ as Groin

We meet Star Load in the process of stealing the “Infinity Bone” orb. After it’s in his possession, he’s interrupted by Kokrath (Tabitha Stevens) who wants it for herself. He gets by her and is next seen on a prison planet called “The Kum.” He joins forces with the other heroes and the sexy space adventure takes off!


Summation:

Gnardians is somewhat shorter than Guardians of the Galaxy, but overall more entertaining. The big budget hit didn’t have a marvelous moment and I couldn’t find an interesting trait between the five heroes. In the parody the dialogue is funnier and the characterizations a lot more enjoyable. I like the make-up, how the villain is defeated, the original theme song heard during the opening credits and its two sexual scenes are more exciting than watching numerous dull battle sequences.

Rating  out

Can be viewed for free on Woodrocket.com and is on the DVD Gnardians Of The Galaxy And Other Porn Parodies.

Goon Review: The Initiation (1984)

(Submitted by Mr. Andrew Peters…Thanks, Mr. Goon-y Goon! 🙂 xoxo)

There’s an old saying, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” which I would use to describe the slasher boom of the ‘80s. Halloween may not have started it, but it opened the doors and after Friday the 13th, these things were coming out by the dozens. They were cheap, quick and easy to make and movie goers were eating it up so much, studios were guaranteed a profit. It was like printing money. However, like too much of a good thing, people grew tired of it and the slasher genre more or less died, at least in the way it was. Slasher films were still made after the crash, of course, but tried to sprinkle in little unique twists and turns or really developing a more psychological idea. Nothing wrong with adding your own ingredients to a pre-existing recipe. After all, it could still be really good. Maybe.

The Initiation comes to mind as an example. It was sold as a slasher film, but having come out near the end of the boom in 1984, it had more going on for it when filmmakers tried to add a little more spice to their films. It attempted to be very psychological, and wanted to add three dimensional characters you could care about with a twist ending that would shock everyone…Unfortunately, it was bogged down by the slasher formula so much that it couldn’t figure out how to pace those ideas and just dumps them all in at the end and expects it to work. It seems there are a handful of movies from that era that suffered from the same fate, as if the writer and director wanted to do something different to avoid becoming another rip off, or something that would become stale.

The film starts in familiar territory; at a campus with some sexy coeds being initiated into a sorority. Well, looks like they are quite serious with that title. One of the pledges, Kelly Fairchild (Spaceballs’ Princess Vespa herself, Daphne Zuniga), has been having a reoccurring nightmare that she is trying to kill her father while he’s going at it with her mom (Vera Miles) when suddenly another man enters the room and is set on fire. As if that isn’t stressful enough, the sorority decides as part of the initiation, they need to break into a department store that Kelly’s father happens to own. Well, what a happy little coincidence. I guess that kinda defeats the purpose of breaking and entering, but rest assured that there will be plenty of shenanigans from the stock characters and trust me, these are some stock characters. The girls get at least get somewhat of a variety with the virgin, the bitch and the best friend, but all of the dudes… they are just dudes. The kind of dudes that make dick and fart jokes and try to fuck everything. Ya know, dudes.

For some originality and depth to the plot, the film has Kelly exploring her nightmares with the help of her psychology class graduating assistant, Peter Adams (James Read). Dreams just so happen to be Peter’s area of expertise and the two explore Kelly’s nightmare and amnesia, which happened because of convenient plot device. I don’t believe it’s ever explained, but really, does it need to be? Kelly’s mother forbids her grown ass adult college student daughter from talking with Peter anymore about the nightmare or the amnesia, but do you think she’s gonna listen? Hell no! In fact, the two explore it even more resulting in an odd outcome where Kelly responds to a different last name… wonder if that could mean that her father isn’t her father? Kelly even shacks up with Peter, but this was in the ‘80s when it was okay for faculty to hook up with students. I don’t think it could hurt her grades.

The movie movie actually spends a good amount of time with Kelly and Peter as they explore the depths of what this dream could mean, but elsewhere there is a generic slasher film waiting to rear its head. At a nearby asylum, a burned up caretaker may be responsible for the escape of several inmates and the murder of a nurse. The framing of the scene sure makes it seem that way, but that would be too obvious. Kelly’s parents are contacted and informed about the escape and murder, so what could their connection be? I’m sure things are starting to become obvious, but before a light is further shed on any of this information, we have a smorgasbord of teens to kill!

Kelly and some of the other pledges along with one of the sorority sisters finally get around to breaking into her dad’s department store and this is where the movie becomes a paint by numbers slasher. One thing very notable about these victims is that this is an early example of all of the characters being annoying and stupid, so it’s hard to care what happens to them. It’s almost as if the film is self aware of this and dispatches them quickly and some what unimpressively. A couple of them are shot with a bow or spear gun, maybe a stabbed a few times. The best death happens early on in the film when Kelly’s father (who I forgot to mention was Clu Gulager) who’s stabbed in the throat and decapitated with a machete, although the latter happens off screen. The number of teens dwindles down until Kelly is all alone with only the killer. Meanwhile, Peter is trying to locate Kelly, stopping by to get information from her mother who seems a little off her rocker. It’s the classic race for survival as the identity of the killer is revealed and not to spoil anything here, but it’s quite underwhelming mixed with a questionable, “huh?” It feels like it’s coming from nowhere, as if it were added at the last moment to try and shock the audience even though nothing has built up to it and nothing indicated it prior. It’s what you would call an “ass pull” or described as “assumingly out of left field.”

The Initiation may be overly ambitious with all the ideas it has and trying to connect them all together with the twists and turns, but ultimately the interesting and creative parts take a seat about halfway through the film so it can get to the slasher tropes. Honestly, I think this film would have worked better if it were one or the other, but as it is I don’t think it’s great. I don’t think it’s bad either. In fact, I think it’s better than okay, just not great. Not to take away anything from the actors’ performances, mind you. They all do a pretty decent job, but Daphne Zuniga feels like she’s not quite there yet, with her performance feeling slightly dialed back. (Maybe slightly elevated since her bit part a few years prior in The Dorm That Dripped Blood.) You would have to assume the bar would be raised with Clu Gulager and Vera Miles on the cast, but both seem to be phoning it in and Clu Gulager is barely in the movie before he’s dispatched with. Everyone else plays their stereotyped role pretty decently, but nothing stands out to make it unique or different. Not for lack of trying, though.

At the time, a film about students spending the night in a department store was relatively original, but once Chopping Mall came along a few years later and did the same thing, you kinda forgot about this film. That’s a shame, too. Even though it may not seem like I enjoyed The Initiation, I actually enjoyed it quite a bit. It’s not the best slasher, nor is it the most original or boast some great practical effects and gory kills, it doesn’t really need to be. I think it’s fine just the way it is. Everything that could have been improved with it is still pretty good enough to enjoy on its own.

Arrow Video’s release of The Initiation might be one for the collection if you’re looking for an odd, out of the ordinary slasher. The new 2K transfer makes it look really great. Not perfect, but great enough to where it looks new, but still like an ‘80s slasher flick. There are a few extras, maybe somewhat lackluster, like with the audio commentary with The Hysteria Continues Podcast people that sounds as if it were recorded via Skype. There’s also a theatrical trailer along with a deleted scene and some new interviews with writer Charles Pratt Jr. and actors Christopher Bradley and Joy Jones, but no Daphne Zuniga for you fans out there. Not the greatest features for a movie coming Arrow’s library, but I can imagine finding features or people willing to do features for a movie like this may be a little tricky, especially seeing as it’s not nearly as remembered as most of the other slashers. However, that doesn’t mean you should pass this one up. It may not be as gory or crazy as something like Chopping Mall that does a similar premise, but it’s interesting enough to keep you watching and keep you guessing.

#TerrorTuesday: The Terror (1963)

Salutations from the Other Side, Ho-rror Ho-unds! It’s a Terror-ific Tuesday here in Karloffornia, so why not take a look at The Terror with Boris Karloff?
What a tit-le! How intriguing! How vague! “The Terror” is like calling a film “Horror Movie.” And it sums up the appeal of this film pretty neatly! The plot concerns Andre Duvalier, a lost Napoleonic soldier (a very young Jack Nicholson) who is rescued by Helene (Sandra Knight), an enigmatic woman who is revealed to be a ghost possessed by a witch. Eventually, after being attacked by a large bird and being separated from Helene, he finds himself at the castle of Baron Victor Von Leppe (Boris Karloff), The Baron’s wife passed away some time ago, but Helene bears a strong resemblance to her. What dark secrets does the Baron keep, and what ghastly horrors await poor Andre?

If that synopsis reads like a game of Gothic Mad Libs, that’s because the film largely was. Director Roger Corman was working on The Raven and finished the picture a few days early.  Realizing he had a pretty groovy set going unused until its demolition, the pragmatic Corman decided to crank out another film in those last few days. Along with the sets, Corman recycled Karloff and Nicholson from The Raven. Karloff later said:

“Corman had the sketchiest outline of a story. I read it and begged him not to do it. He said ‘That’s alright Boris, I know what I’m going to do. I want you for two days on this.’ I was in every shot, of course. Sometimes I was just walking through and then I would change my jacket and walk back. He nearly killed me on the last day. He had me in a tank of cold water for about two hours. After he got me in the can he suspended operations and went off and directed two or three operations to get the money, I suppose… [The sets] were so magnificent… As they were being pulled down around our ears, Roger was dashing around with me and a camera, two steps ahead of the wreckers. It was very funny.”

All the scenes that required the castle and Karloff were filmed in three days. After that, the film was passed on to Francis Ford Coppola (yes… THAT Francis Ford Coppola ) for a couple of days, then it was handed over to Jack Hill, Monte Hellman, and perhaps others who will forever go nameless. Rumor has it that Jack Nicholson even took over for a day. Each new director was tasked with making some sense of the original footage and adding new plot points and twists to this Frankenstein.
Despite its slapped-together nature, The Terror is actually worth the watch. While its backstory is more fascinating than the film itself, The Terror is decent fright flick with a few fairly creepy moments. It’s not be a genre masterpiece, but it’s got atmosphere and thrills aplenty. For a dose of Gothic nonsense, this one will hit the spot. It ain’t The Masque of the Red Death (1964), but it’s got skeletons, ghosts, witches, and King Karloff. That’s good enough for me.

For some thrills ‘n’ chills with Jack and Boris, check out the film below:

Happy May Day: The Wicker Man (1973)

(Submitted by Mr. Anton Phibes…Thanks, Ho-rrorday Ho-mie! 🙂 xoxo)

*Spoilers*


Happy May 1st to all you wicked witches and groovy ghoulies out there! For most, today is known as “May Day,”  and is primarily associated with sweet flowers and baskets full of small delights. To others, it is known as Beltane, a day in which faeries and spirits are uncommonly active. Magick is strong on this day, and protective bonfires are spread. Generally speaking, human beings are not at the literal center of these bonfires. However, if you are on the isle of Summerisle,  it’s entirely possible that things may get a little hot for you or someone you know…
The Wicker Man (1973) is a weird film. “Weird” is a word we have used numerous times on this site, but it’s a word that fits The Wicker Man better than most films. Even other “weird” films fail to be as weird.  For starters, The Wicker Man is not really a horror film until its last twenty minutes. Instead, it is best described as a “musical.” Hardly a traditional musical, mind you, but a musical. That’s not to to say the film is not unnerving, but it does it more with an overwhelming sense of things being off than with something that is obviously creepy.  However, once it reaches its conclusion, it does earn that “horror” label that it is associated with.

The plot concerns police officer Neil Howie (Edward Woodward) investigating the disappearance of a teenage girl from the island Summerisle. Howie is shocked when the island’s population denies the missing girl’s existence. Being a devout Christian of the puritanical sort, Howie is even more perturbed when he learns that the inhabitants are worshipers of a form of Celtic paganism. As the officer continues his investigation, the officer’s unease escalates when he suspects that the girl’s disappearance may be linked to a ghastly public festival.


Anthony “Frenzy” Shaffer’s screenplay is brilliantly crafted, making its finale (which I will get to very shortly) all the more powerful. its weird folk musical sequences and use of Pagan imagery make for a chilling atmosphere that doesn’t resort to crumbling castles, foggy graveyards, thunderstorms, or any of the classic horror tropes. The performances are all aces, especially Christopher Lee as the charismatic Lord Summerisle. Lee, who reportedly did the film for free, often said that Lord Summerisle was one of his favorite roles. While I’m partial to his work with Hammer, it is certainly an impressive performance in a career full of remarkable roles.
The ending is, understandably, the most talked-about part of the film. It has been parodied/referenced by just about everyone, is regularly cited as one of the greatest endings in horror history, and was even included in Bravo’s 100 Scariest Movie MomentsUnfortunately, that means that, even if you haven’t seen the film, you have a pretty decent idea of how it goes. Nonetheless, this overexposure can’t really diminish is just how effectively it plays out. No parody, spoiler-filled review, or single image online can capture just how powerfully disturbing it is or how horrifically real the performances seem. That is the ultimate testament to how masterful The Wicker Man is. Even if it isn’t completely unexpected, it still gets under your fingernails.

There isn’t a lot of competition, but The Wicker Man is definitely the greatest May Day/Beltane horror film of all time.  I highly recommend you give this classic shocker a view today. There’s just no better way for a ghoul to celebrate the occasion.

Happy May Day, creeps! MAY your dance around the Maypole be a pleasant one and may your Wicker Man burn bright.

Goon Review: Wishmaster Collection

(Submitted by Mr. Andrew Peters…Thanks, Ho-rror Ho-mie! 🙂 xoxo)

Even though I feel as if the fantasy genre has been more redefined toward films such as Harry Potter-type movies, to me it will always be about sword and sorcery. Movies like Waxwork and yes, even Waxwork II: Lost in Time captured that feeling while mixing and comedy and horror, although not so much with the latter. It must have been around the early 2000s when these kinds of films seemed to have vanished or shifted into something else completely, so what happened?

I’ll tell you what happened. The Wishmaster films happened. Well, I don’t have concrete evidence to back this up and the type of film that I am talking about are still around, but I seem to recall a massive drop off in the genre after the fourth and so far the final Wishmaster movie was in 2002. Sure, it’s purely coincidence, but I feel like the Wishmaster franchise perfectly represents what can go right, but also can go wrong with a franchise. The first film, while overlooked, is great and the second expands upon what the first introduced even if it’s not as good… then you get to the third and fourth films where a different studio is now making the films, totally doesn’t understand the property they have, never takes risks with expanding the lore or characters and just makes pretty, young adult dramas and can’t afford to make the movies. Fortunately, it ends there, unlike the Hellraiser films that just kept going and going.

Before the series quickly dropped in quality (and even some will argue with me on that) the first film was somewhat fanciful, had an interesting story with a very unique character and great special effects, as it should seeing as the film is directed by Special Effects man Robert Kurtzman. You got it, the ‘K’ in KNB. Wishmaster is kinda like Aladdin, a supernatural genie is connected to the person who awoke him and causes all kinds of misinterpreted shenanigans. Only in Wishmaster, the genie’s shenanigans are deadly. Oh, and he’s not called a genie, he’s called Djinn (which to me sounds like a Mortal Kombat character).

Wishmaster opens a couple of hundred of years ago where the Djinn is talking a Prince or King (it’s unclear, but irrelevant) into granting his third wish so that he and his brethren can walk the Earth, basically causing Armageddon. The opening scene boasts some wild and impressive special effects as people are turning into all kinds of reptiles or dying in horrific, body twisting ways. It not only showcases the type of creativity and imagination the film has to offer, but it also displays the overall tone for the movie. Anyway, the Djinn is stopped and encased in a small stone rather than the typical lamp. Cut to present day, or present day 1997 rather, and a rich art collector named Raymond Beaumont (played by Freddy Krueger himself, Robert Englund) is waiting for the latest statue for his collection to be unloaded off a boat. Unfortunately, a drunk dock worker spills his drink all over the controls, squishes Ted Raimi in his quick cameo and the statue smashes all over the ground. A worker cleaning up the mess notices a familiar looking stone and steals it after making sure no one was looking.

Having pawned the stone off, it eventually gets into the hands of an appraiser, Alexandra (Tammy Lauren) and her boss who is played by the rubber faced son of Jack Lemmon, Chris Lemmon and determine that the stone is worth quite a pretty penny. Alex awakens the Djinn by rubbing the stone on her shirt to clean it, which I have to admit is kind of an obvious clever way to do that since you had to have been wondering how they were gonna work the whole rubbing-the-magic-lamp thing into this. Even though the Djinn is awakened, he is not freed, at least not until Alex passes the stone off to her scientist friend who has the hots for her and he accidentally frees the Djinn who then takes the face (literally) of a corpse on the table to assume his human form. Now, this is where the film is its most entertaining, at least when there aren’t cool special effects on screen. The Djinn is played by Andrew Divoff who, when he isn’t buried under makeup and prosthetics, is quite a remarkable character actor. He speaks with a low, gravely, but commanding voice behind a very sinister, Joker-esque grin. Something I didn’t notice til much later in the film is that Andrew Divoff never blinks when he’s in human form and there’s something very unnerving about that. He’s a man who understands his character and really gets into the role. If you watch this movie for anything, it should definitely be for Andrew Divoff’s  performance.

The Djinn is connected to the person who awoken them, so he now has to convince Alex to ask for three wishes, but before doing so, he’s gonna need to charge his batteries for the lack of a better pun. The only way to do that is to grant a person’s single wish in exchange for their soul. Seems like a fair trade to me. Souls are pretty much useless these days. Anyway, this is an easy way for the filmmakers to give the movie a body count, not that I am complaining. Since the Djinn twists his victim’s wishes, this is where Wishmaster gets really creative. Whether it’s tricking Tony Todd into making a wish that traps him in a famous Houdini-esque watery grave or Kane Hodder into glass… oh, that’s right. Candyman and Jason Voorhees also make cameos in this film. That’s one thing I love about it being directed by a really talented special effects guy; all the cameos. It’s actually with Kane Hodder’s character that we learn a very important piece of exposition. At this point in the film, you may be wondering that since the Djinn is all powerful, why doesn’t he just kill people or force Alex to make her three wishes? Well, while trying to enter a building where Alex is, he’s stopped by the security guard who won’t allow him to enter and gives him some trouble about it. He states that it’s frustrating to have all that power and only being able to use it when someone makes a wish. That’s a real smart way to give a being that’s all knowing, all powerful and immortal a serious achilles heel.

By now, Alex realizes that the visions she’s been having are a psychic connection with the Djinn who is tormenting her and she scrambles to stop him. Her story is somewhat uninteresting, but not so much so that you would want to shut off the film. She’s just a rather dull character. The climax of the film is nearly mirrors the opening via Beaumont’s wish, but it’s a little more gory. The special effects remain consistently great throughout the entire film and I should point out that they are so good, that if you pay attention, the little horns or tentacles (whatever they are) that are coming out of the Djinn’s head are always wiggling around. I thought that was a really unique touch and something I hadn’t seen before. Wishmaster takes an old fantasy tale that been watered down by children’s movies for far too long and really turns it on its head, making it a really fun movie to watch.

For Wishmaster 2: Evil Never Dies, they really took it by the horns and got nuts with it. Jack Sholder, who directed A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge, directs this picture and I swear he must’ve lost his mind. Everything is dialed up, way up to the point of ridiculousness and some of it is so incomprehensible, you’ll be sitting there bug eyed, jaw dropped at some of the things you will see. I’ll tell you one, because it’s also somewhat sentimental to me. It was shortly after this started playing on HBO or Showtime, whichever, and my step brother and I tuned in right when a prisoner was telling this cartoonishly smirking jerk that he wishes his lawyer would go fuck himself. Sure enough, that man’s lawyer twists and folds over and begins to literally fuck himself. Do you have any idea how many guys out there wish they could do that? Alright, movie, enough with the hard sell. I’m already sold! And that’s not even the tip of the iceberg. That may have to go to the film’s finale that takes place at a casino where a woman playing craps actually craps quarters. Yes, that happens in a movie. Complete with fart sounds and all. But hey, let’s talk a little about how we get here.

Once again, the main characters we are supposed to follow are the most uninteresting. A goth chick, Morgana (Holly Fields) and her boyfriend are robbing the Beaumont’s art gallery when things go south, it turns into a shootout, a bullet cracks open the statue, the stone falls out, Morgana finds it and yeah, you see where I’m going. Her boyfriend is fatally wounded by a security who Morgana kills in return, but seems remorseful about it on and off throughout the film. She never turns herself in, but turns to her ex-lover turned beefy hunk priest, Eric, for advice. It’s a priest, what do you think he’s gonna say? God this and god that, blah, blah, blah, I have feelings for you, but I can’t touch your cute little butt, because god, blah, blah.

Taking the blame for Morgana’s crime, the Djinn is now in prison to collect souls. Trying to expand upon what the first film started, the Djinn now needs a thousand souls in order to grant Morgana’s three wishes. This is not only a great way to take the character and story back just a little step and let the climax build, but also allow for more really great random character deaths! Some of these aren’t nearly as outlandish as the first, but as I told you earlier, some of them are pretty damn absurd. A prison has plenty of fresh souls willing to do anything in exchange for a wish, but not nearly enough. Maybe the filmmakers didn’t quite think out this one thousand souls idea, because the final act of the film at the casino feels like a copout. Not only is there far more souls, but the Djinn is now just granting the greedy wishes he overhears rather than having one on one conversations with people like he has previously. It feels like a plot writing device, because the scripts needs it done and quick and it was the only thing they could think of at the moment.

Nevertheless, our really boring duo of the goth chick trying to solve a supernatural crime, which honestly sounds like a failed CW show, learn of a way to defeat the Djinn, one of which is death. Unfortunately for those doomed souls, we find out that Morgana can’t be killed at the moment as she is being magically protected by the Djinn. Seems rather contrived, but I guess how else would you explain something we’ve all been thinking. Regardless, they head of to the casino for the final showdown that’s pretty amusing, mostly due to all the people running around panicking and an increase in the level of gore. That’s something I didn’t notice until the end is that this film is far less gory than the original. They ramp everything else up except for the gore, which is a rather odd thing to do. Sequels are usually bigger and bloodier and while this one is bigger, gotta say, not as bloody.

You can definitely say that like the original, the human characters are the least interesting, but with Wishmaster 2… boy are they REALLY uninteresting. As cute as Holly Fields is in this film, I just didn’t care what was happening to her or her relationship with that human plank of wood priest as her love interest. They were so boring, I didn’t even notice how bad the acting was in the movie until the very end. Not that any of that really matter, because Andrew Divoff as the Djinn appears in this movie more than he did in the first and he steals every scene that he’s in. He’s the reason you watch these movies. Well, him and the good special effects and interesting death scenes and I gotta admit that this one does have some interesting ones. Aside from the two aforementioned ones, my favorite and probably the best looking was when a man tells the Djinn he wants to walk through the bars of his cell. Bad choice of words, bub.

The Djinn is really brought to life, made both frightening and funny kinda like Freddy Krueger by Andrew Divoff. If you take anything away from the first two films, it will be his performance. He’s an actor that can pull his role off whether he is behind all that makeup or not. With some actor’s performances, you can tell whether or not they are enjoying themselves and Andrew Divoff is clearly having the time of his life and it shows. If not for him, this character wouldn’t work and in retrospect, I wondered why more people haven’t heard of this character or why he’s not as remembered as Freddy or Jason… and then I saw Wishmaster 3: Beyond the Gates of Hell.

And now is where the series not just nose dives, but nose dives and hits the side of a mountain. Hard. We’re talking only a few survivors, but they eat each other to try and stay alive, but the last survivor has gone so mad, that he can no longer return to civilization. Wishmaster 3 is… well, it’s… shit. I have no words for it other than “it’s shit.” Rather than expanding on the previous idea or building a new one in what could perhaps be the Djinn’s mythos, the film decides it would rather be a run of the mill, stale, uninspired slasher film that were coming out a dime by the dozen at that time. And if you’re thinking Andrew Divoff is gonna save you, you’re wrong. He’s been replaced by some wormy, lanky British guy who reeks of being a rejected Buffy the Vampire villain. Come to think of it, that’s the best way to describe this movie; like it’s the worst kind of fantasy/drama that not even the WB would show. It’s like an aborted Buffy or Xena episode. Now I know everything thinks a bad movie somehow equates to good because it’s bad, but some movies are just bad and shouldn’t be watched.

Wishmaster 3 revolves around your typical, cliched group of college kids that you instantly don’t care about and they aren’t relatable. Ok, not off to a good start, but unfortunately they are out leads. The center of which is a non-descript student, Diana, whose professor has an unhealthy obsession with her. Come to find out, he’s kind of a sexual deviant, which seems to always be a staple with these college-kids-partying movies. Well wouldn’t you know it, the pair uncover the stone that contains the Djinn and Diana accidentally frees it and almost immediately assumes the identity of Professor Barash. This is a good time to mention that not only has the whole subplot about the Djinn needing a thousand souls to become more powerful been completely forgotten about, but it’s different actors playing the Djinn, one in makeup and one out. Neither manage to capture the character you’ve come to know and neither even come close to living up to Andrew Divoff’s performance. This makes the entire film a chore to sit through, that nothing is worth mentioning.

As I stated earlier, the film is now a early 2000s paint-by-numbers slasher and the most unwatchable variety. Hell, even most of the victims aren’t friends of Diana’s, but more classmates. They weren’t developed, but they dress kinda slutty, so I guess we are supposed to care? In an attempt to try something different, Diana’s boyfriend becomes possessed with the spirit of Michael, an angle that I guess hunts down the Djinn. Sure, that’s fine and all except the previous films had gone out of their way to say that religion has nothing to do with them. Now I’m no expert, but I’m pretty sure magical genies aren’t in the bible. Maybe if the film had anything I cared about, I would be more upset about retconning the most obvious thing, but this comes off as so stupid it would be like making fun of the biggest idiot in your class when he does something stupid. It’s kind of redundant.

Wishmaster 3, for whatever reason, is one of those films that was made for the falsely angst, Hot Topic teen that assumes this movie is both horror and fantasy. Nothing about it sticks out, nothing about is fun, nothing about is any good. Everything from the lighting to the cinematography screams TV drama. Angles are stale and the camera rarely moves and I consider this a problem in horror and fantasy, because your shots and lighting and determine whether or not there is any mood. The special effects are pretty bad this time around. The Djinn looks exactly like what it is; a guy in a rubber suit and since we’re cutting costs, the tentacles no longer wiggle. None of the death scenes were memorable or at least worth mentioning. There’s nothing bloody or over the top violent or even creative. It’s so uninspired and lackluster that I actually had to pop the movie back in and watch some of them to be sure I didn’t miss one worth mentioning. I didn’t.

But all the hatred I feel for the third film is nothing like I feel toward Wishmaster 4: The Prophecy Fulfilled. You would think that this movie killed my family and left me for dead with the way I feel toward it. I was seriously dreading watching this one, knowing that there would be nothing of enjoyment to come out of it. For some reason, I want to hate it more than I hated Wishmaster 3, but I just can’t. Seeing as it was shot back to back with the third film, Wishmaster 4 is the same level of quality, if you want to call it that. My complaints are the same only I feel slightly stronger about them, because absolutely nothing was improved. I know, they were shot at right after each other, so there was no time to learn from mistakes. Both are directed by Chris Angel and I know you are all thinking the Mindfreak guy, but no. This is a guy who primarily directs awful video shorts. Clearly, he’s your candidate for a full length feature that relies heavily on special effects and mythology.

Would you believe that this film actually has worse characters than the ones in the previous film? I know it’s hard to believe, but it’s true. Bland college kids looking to party are the worst characters you could ever put into a movie, but Wishmaster 4 is full of sulking, overly brooding, self pitying characters that it’s impossible to even try and like them. The main two are a couple who seem to be so in love, having great sex and and drawing each other naked (you know, like every good relationship). The boyfriend, Sam, gets into an accident and can no longer walk, so he wheels himself around, drinking and feeling sorry for himself while being a total dick to his girlfriend, Lisa. Lisa also mopes around, but to her credit she at least tries to be caring toward Sam, even if most of the time it seems really spiteful. Their lawyer, Steven, is in love with Lisa and even offers her a gift that he accidentally drops and when it breaks open, wouldn’t you know it… the stone that contains the Djinn! How did it get there from the previous film? An explanation is never even attempted and quite frankly, I don’t care. Writing isn’t this film’s strongest feature.

The Djinn soon steals Steven’s face and if you thought the British guy from the previous movie was bad, hoo-boy. Wait’ll you get a load of this guy. He seems like he wants to emulate Andrew Divoff’s performance, but it comes off as a cheap Halloween discount store imitation. Rather than creepy and tongue in cheek, this performance is rather douchey and smarmy. Once again, he’s twisting people’s wishes and just as the previous film, none of them are memorable and not worth talking about. The only thing this film introduces that could have been really interesting was that Lisa actually makes three wishes, but there’s a catch; her third wish cannot be granted by the Djinn as she believes it’s Steven and wants to fall in love with him, so it’s up to her to grant her own wish. Unfortunately, the film fails at doing anything with this and almost seemingly forgets about it often. They also try to throw in another angelic figure that is now sent to kill Lisa so she can’t grant her third wish, although she already made it. Now, the film tries to be like The Terminator for a few moments as he chases Lisa like the T-1000 and trying to terminate her until he’s killed by the Djinn in a Highlander like sword battle. This film just can’t decide what it wants to be.

I would say it’s up to the viewer to decide, but it’s pretty unanimous that this film is total garbage. Like with the third movie in the series, Wishmaster 4 is unlikable and forgettable. Moments after seeing this you will ask yourself, “huh, did I just watch a movie?” Not to repeat myself, but nothing is memorable or worth mentioning. I could go on about the terrible special effects, but once again, I would just be repeating myself. Everything that made Wishmaster 3 a complete waste of time is present here at the same capacity.

All in all you could say that the Wishmaster Collection from Vestron Video is worth owning for the first two films alone and if you are some kind of masochist, then you can watch the last two. Personally, I have no desire to revisit Wishmaster 3 and 4 ever again, but upon watching the first two films, I had an urge to rewatch them. The first disc, which is all about the first film contains a good chunk of the bonus features that are worth checking out. There’s an audio commentary with the director Robert Kurtzman and writer Peter Atkins and another commentary track with Kurtzman and the Djinn himself, Andrew Divoff. There’s a good number of interviews with the cast and crew, including Kane Hodder, Tony Todd and Robert Englund, as well as a vintage making of featurette, some behind the scenes footage and the classic TV spots, trailers and so on. There’s enough for the first film to make this set worth it, but having Wishmaster 2 and all its bonus features is a plus, even if the bonuses are limited to an audio commentary with Jack Sholder, a trailer and the still gallery. Not that I’m complaining, because really that’s all you need for the second film. If you care, Wishmaster 3 and 4 also include audio commentaries, which may be worth it to hear if it’s delusional praise or to listen to them try and defend those movies.
So the Djinn may not have the staying power or notoriety of Jason of Freddy, but he’s far better than Horace Pinker from Shocker or the Trickster from Brainscan. Whereas the two latter villains were made to be horror movie icons, the Djinn wasn’t. He just turned out to be interesting and played by a talented guy. Wel, the first two movies anyway, which I highly recommend if you are looking for extremely imaginative horror/fantasy flicks and as for the last two films, I’d encase them in a stone and cement them so that they never may be found and curse the poor fool who unearths them, bringing armageddon to the eyes of those who watch it.

Ho-stess’s PS- Wishmaster Rocks!!! 😉 xoxoxo