(Submitted by Mr. Anton Phibes…Thanks for the insight, freaky friend! 🙂 xoxo)
(Spoilers, obvi. :))
I just love a good amusement park spook ho-use. If you frequent this site, you likely share that sentiment (and also, THANK YOU, YOU ROCK! 😉 -DP). Spook houses are always immensely popular during the Halloween season, and a good few scare up some good business year-round. They have haunted us since at least 1915, utilizing the same reliable scare tactics for decades. You know the ones I mean… flashing colored lights, hanging sand bags masquerading as the dead, and actors in fright masks jumping from out of a dark corner to deliver a well-timed “BOO”. Most of these attractions employ these ancient tricks, but some do It with more imagination and skill than others. Haunting a house is art like any other. The same applies to cinematic hauntings. 2014’s Annabelle is pretty mediocre fright fare. By no means is the film terrible, but it’s out of the mind as soon as you’re out of the theater. All of the classical tools of terror are present, but they aren’t harnessed to their full potential. However, Annabelle: Creation is a fantastic spook house, with similar jolts handled with greater style and a keen eye for horror. There’s hardly anything new about it, but it is perfectly frightful. As one can deduce from its title, Annabelle: Creation is an origin story of sorts. After the untimely death of their little girl, a toy maker and his wife allow an unknown entity to transpose its essence into one of the toy maker’s dolls, believing it to be the spirit of their daughter. Unfortunately, the entity is not their daughter and is demonic in nature. Twelve years after entrapping the unholy abomination, the couple provide shelter in their home for a nun and six young girls. When one of the girls unwittingly releases the demon, unearthly horrors target the inhabitants of the house in a most ghastly fashion.
Backstories for monsters and madmen can be a tricky business. Horrific beasts run the risk of losing their ability to inspire fear when they are known to us. Thankfully, this film avoids that by keeping the demon vague and the threat credible. While there aren’t buckets of blood being dumped about, grisly imagery is still abound. My personal favorite bit of macabre madness involves scarecrow that truly understands the first 5 letters of his title. Of course, Mr. Scarecrow is just one of many eldritch monstrosities that lurk in the shadows of this picture. There’s a horror for all tastes here.
The cast is all-around excellent, but the true stars are young actresses Lulu Wilson and Talitha Bateman. Wilson and Bateman play sisters and they work off of each other in extraordinary fashion. Their performances are a huge part of why this film works so well. Having appeared in this, Ouija: Origin of Evil, and Deliver Us from Evil, I’m willing to call 11-year-old Lulu Wilson the world’s youngest Scream Queen. As for Bateman, her performance is truly haunting and to say anymore would ruin the fun. Annabelle: Creation is an old-fashioned yelp-yarn that proves that the old tricks still have power in the right claws. It is the rare sequel that surpasses the original so completely that one almost forgets that it is a sequel. For lovers of spooks and shock, this film is a beautiful nightmare. This is how you haunt a house.
(Submitted by Mr. Prince Adam…Thank you, Super Friend! 🙂 xoxo)
“Beings with supernatural powers join together to fight against supernatural villains. This team of supernatural beings include John Constantine, Zatanna and Jason Blood also known as the demon Etrigan.” (DC Entertainment)
I read the first volume of Justice League: Dark from The New 52 and loved it. I thought it was one of the best books of that initiative. So when I heard they were making this movie, I was so excited. I thought it would be a direct adaptation of that story but it wasn’t. It was its own story using DC’s more supernatural heroes. I love how this movie uses the main well known heroes from the Justice League proper team, to transition to this team of darker, mystical heroes. Now I know who these characters are, but the casual movie buyer may not. So this was a smart decision. The film opens with people seeing others around them as demons and monsters. Innocents are killed in the attack, which brings the Justice League, specifically the Trinity into action. Superman stops a husband from killing his wife, Wonder Woman stops an out of control driver, who is mowing down civilians with her car and Batman stops a mother from throwing her newborn out of a window. These scenes, plus Constantine’s language alone, make the film worthy of its R rating. Speaking of Constantine, The Justice League surmises that magic and the dark arts are behind these occurrences. Skeptical of this, Batman scoffs and heads back to Wayne Manor. Back at Wayne Manor, Bruce Wayne goes through a series of blackouts and when he wakes, discovers the name Constantine seemingly written in blood on walls close by. They look as though they were written in blood. The way these scenes were filmed, it seemed as though Batman was being stalked and attacked by an unseen supernatural villain. We later learn that all this was the work of Deadman, possessing Batman’s body in an attempt to warn him. So Batman turns to my favourite Magician clad in fishnets, Zatanna, to find Constantine. She help Batman and, by extension, Deadman locate John Constantine. The next segment of the film sees John Constantine, Zatanna, Deadman, Jason Blood aka Etrigan the demon and Batman, discuss the culprit of the recent events. Since the likes of John Constantine, Zatanna and of course Batman have all had stints on live action film and television, as well as animation before, the film spends some time on the more unknown quantities in this film. In briskly paced flashbacks, we get the FYI origin stories of Deadman and Etrigan the Demon. For Deadman we see his murder during a trapeze circus act and his post death encounter with a Hindu Goddess, who felt pity on him and granted him his ghostly existence and his ability. With Jason Blood, the flashback takes us back to Camelot, where Merlin magically bonds Jason with Etrigan the Demon after he is mortally wounded. I must confess, I didn’t know much about Etrigan but I absolutely love that his origin is tied to Arthurian legend. I l also got a kick out of the interplay in that scene. Zatanna and Constantine have a history, and their bickering highlighted a past relationship and some sexual tension. This actual played out quite similarly to volume one of the book. When you throw in Boston Brand’s commentary during the arguing, it felt like a episode of The Big Bang Theory, with Penny and Leonard arguing and Sheldon making smart ass comments. Batman’s reaction to the irrefutable existence of magic only adds to the humor. Every time magic is on display early on in the film, Batman grimaces and almost grunts in disbelief.
Magical weirdness kicks off, when the group visits a colleague of Zatanna’s, Ritchie Simpson for help. When they arrive at his doorstep, they find Shroud Spirits of Death waiting for Ritchie’s demise. The group enters his house and they learn Ritchie has a mystical form of cancer. The group surmises that whatever triggered Ritchie’s mystical cancer, likely caused people around the world to start seeing monsters and demons and go on killing sprees. They bring Ritchie back to the House of Mystery and use the mystical Keshanti Key to access one of the unconscious civilian rampagers mind. While inside his head, clues seem to reveal that the culprit for all this chaos is Felix Faust. While the group confronts Faust, Ritchie Simpson reveals himself to be a sinister magician Destiny, from the time of Camelot. He was the character who fought Etrigan in the flashback scene. He lay in hiding to gain access to the House of Mystery, where the other half of the dream stone resides. With the full stone in his possession he has the power to gain vengeance on Jason Blood and rule the modern world. While Batman and the rest of the core Justice League is present during the final battle, it is the teamwork of Etrigan, Zatanna, Constantine and Deadman that defeated Destiny and saved the day. I loved that their plan of action was a combination of mental trickery and magical force. I was happy it wasn’t just fisticuffs the whole way through. I was genuinely shocked that Ritchie Simpson was in fact Destiny. That reveal was deceptive and unexpected. While I don’t know much about Etrigan, this film changes his status quo in this animated universe in a big way. I have no idea if this has ever been done in the comic books before, but for the film to separate Jason Blood and Etrigan, essentially killing Jason Blood, I thought was pretty ballsy. This film is definitely the formation of the Justice League Dark. At the end of the film, Batman extends offers to Zatanna and John Constantine to join the Justice League. So while they took the characters from the New 52 comic books, they definitely went their own way in terms of origin story for the film. My only complaint of this film is the use of Swamp Thing. What a waste of a great character. If he’s in the film for more then 7 minutes I’d be shocked..
The animation is dark and very sleek looking. It definitely takes it’s cues from the art of Mikel Janin. One of my favourite scenes is the twister that occurs trying to conceal the House of Mystery. It’s like Twister, but better because it feature superheroes and the Batmobile. Though, I was cringing to see that beautiful Batmobile get swept up and destroyed. I loved the origin scenes where both Deadman and Etrigan were highlighted. Those scenes had different and distinctive looks and could have easily been their own separate short movies. Also worth noting is the scene where Constantine and Zatanna enter the mind scape of the unconscious rampager. It was very trippy. Like 70’s acid trip trippy. Then out in the real world, Batman is chased through the halls of the hospital by the Shroud Spirits of Death. They look like a cross between the Undertaker’s Druids from the late 90’s WWE and the liquid that spewed from Penguin’s mouth in BatmanReturns. The third act finale features plenty of force fields, lit up mystical symbols of energy and corresponding energy blasts. You know, this movie has quite a bit in common with Marvel’s Doctor Strange film. By the way, that’s not a bad thing, as I enjoyed that film. The voice cast was all fairly solid. I am really getting used to Jason O’Mara as Batman. He has officially joined the Bat family in my opinion. By the way, knowing he voices Batman, makes his character on Agents of SHIELD so much cooler. It was great hearing Matt Ryan reprise the role of John Constantine. It was weird hearing him use some foul language but was great that the character was unrestrained by the R rating. By the way, it’s a shame that NBC cancelled the live action Constantine show. I really enjoyed it. I don’t know if Boston Brand is supposed to be from New York but Nicholas Turturro’s New York accent really fit the character. He was distinctive from the rest of the characters. Camilla Luddington is known as the voice of Lara Croft. Here though, she plays Zatanna. There is no trace of Lara Croft in here performance, and I give her a ton of credit for managing the backwards spell dialogue.
Justice League Dark takes the characters from the comic books and manages to tell a wholly original story. That in and of it self is quite the accomplishment. Add the fact that in character origin stories and its villain, this film is better than Marvel’s live action Doctor Strange. That’s an animated film is better than a live action feature film is an absolute win. If you’re a fan of DC’s magical characters, you can be happy they’ve been given the respect they deserve. Buy this movie so that Warner Brothers sees the interest, which will give them confidence to explore these characters in more animated and live action films
(Submited by our Ho-rror Ho-mie, Mr. Andrew W. Peters…Thanks, Madman Magee! 🙂 xoxo)
Ovidio G. Assonitis, like most Italian film directors, had a wide variety of films he’s directed, including the Jaws cash-in Tentacles and the Exorcist cash-in Beyond the Door. Hey, it’s Italy in the late ‘70s/early ‘80s and cash-ins or rip-offs were their thing. He’s also produced a number of films like Piranha II: The Spawning, The Curse, the excellent and often underrated The Visitor, as well as American Ninja 4 and 5. Needless to say the guy knows horror and he also knows movies, so I was psyched when Arrow released Madhouse, an overlooked slasher film from 1981, in a brand new 2K restoration.
However, upon revisiting it, I understood why it’s possibly overlooked. It’s not that I hated, in fact I’m probably one of the few people that rather enjoy it, but I can see why people might find it so underwhelming and that’s because, well, it is. It’s a well made movie and it does have a very interesting premise, but for an Italian made slasher flick, it’s actually kinda tame and falls into cliched trappings and then there’s the reveal of the killer… hoo boy, it’s pretty obvious from the get-go who the killer is and you really hope they don’t “go there,” but, yeah, they do. It’s not only that it’s painfully obvious, but there doesn’t seem to be a clear motivation and honestly it kinda dampers what they were setting up. I gotta say and sorry for sounding like a broken record, but for an Italian made slasher in the early ‘80s, this film feels kinda like it’s playing it safe.
I keep calling it a slasher flick when Italy was more commonly known for suspenseful giallos and while Madhouse toys around with the idea of being a giallo, it doesn’t commit to being one. The same can be said about it being more of a character drama between two twin sisters, one evil and the other good. There’s a fine variety of different ideas here, but the movie can’t seem to decide on which one it would rather be and ends up being a moderate, ho-hum horror flick and for being Italian produced film, a country known for reveling in gore, it’s pretty tame. I don’t know if this was due to budgetary problems or perhaps Ovidio G. Assonitis thought it would make his film more suspenseful and to his credit, it is wonderfully shot and full of dark shadows, so it at least has a very ominous mood.
It opens up interestingly enough; two young girls sit still and silently in blackness as the camera pans in until one starts smashing the other one’s face in with a rock. Alright, movie, you have my attention. I’m interested in finding out what that was about, but unfortunately, we never do. At least, not really. Fast forward years later and the girls are all grown up and you could say they took different paths. One grows up to be a school teacher for the deaf and a stone cold fox, Julia, played by Trish Everly. Who’s Trish Everly and what else has she been in? Exactly. According to IMDB, this is her only credit and she never forayed into the world of acting again which is a shame, because she puts in a terrific performance.
Her sister Mary, on the other hand, has been less fortunate, living her life in a mental institution with a skin disease that has left her disfigured. Talk about drawing the short stick. Mary is under close observation by Father James, a friend of the family who Julia refers to as Uncle. Father James seems a little too pleasant and a little off kilter, so if you know anything about slasher films, I’m sure you’ll be able to see what direction they are taking this character. About halfway through the film, after the reveal of the killer, his character takes quite a silly turn as he’s nonchalantly hauling a body bag into a basement and chasing Julia’s landlady around the her building, skipping and singing children’s nursery rhymes. It’s kind of a whiplash in tone of character and I’m assuming it’s because people are under the impression that just because children’s songs are in a horror movie that makes it’s creepy, but they forget it needs to have context. That’s not the case here. It seemingly comes out of nowhere and I found more puzzled instead of interested and laughed at this reveal. If anything, this dampens the Father character’s motivation for everything happening. In fact when questioned about it, he just giggles and spouts a nursery rhyme that has no bearing or meaning on the situation. It explains nothing or maybe it does. Either way, it doesn’t ever explain why he’s doing what he’s doing.
The big red herring or twist of events happens when Julia receives word that Mary has escaped the asylum just in time for their birthday. The birthday doesn’t really play into the main plot, but give a reason for something to happen (I guess), but it just echoes of desperation for the film to take place during a holiday or event to mirror something like Halloween. To the film’s credit, the slasher does have a very interesting weapon of choice; a rottweiler. Yeah, I bet you’d never see the day a slasher film uses an animal as their knife. I was worried for the dog’s health and safety when remembering this is an Italian production, but luckily Ovidio here takes the dog’s well being into consideration. You figure a dog tearing apart the victims would result in a blood bath and mangled body parts, but if there is one thing really disappointing about the film, it’s that it lacks gore. I know gore doesn’t make a horror film, but spectacularly bloody deaths in a slasher makes a better viewing. At most, it’s blood smeared all over someone’s face and the most shocking death in the movie, the death of Julie’s favorite student, takes place off screen, but there I actually feel it gives it more of a punch, especially when she has to break the news to the other students at school. It’s a scene, however, that involves the dog being put into a headlock by Julie and putting a power drill through it’s head that this film is most likely notorious for. Even with a noticeable puppet in use, it’s still a rough scene to watch listening to the dog squeal.
During the finale of the film, I couldn’t help but think of Happy Birthday to Me (a slasher film I like, but find it a tad overrated) and that may be because Madhouse feels like it’s borrowing from other popular slasher movies of that time rather than try to be something original or experimental. That’s kind of surprising for being an Italian horror film, in a way, because while they were more known for ripping a film off, they still took the idea in a wild direction and made it it’s own beast. This feels more of the American cash-in variety where it takes no risks and spends no money on the gore budget. To the film’s credit, it’s the finale where you see what is most likely the goriest moment in the movie where a character takes an axe to the back, spraying chunks of flesh and squirting blood. You can’t help but wonder why this approach wasn’t taken during the rest of the movie. Maybe Ovidio wanted to make not necessarily a classier horror film, but maybe a more suspenseful one with more dignity. It’s unfortunate that’s not what happened.
Along with this being a new 2K transfer, Arrow also includes a new audio commentary with The Hysteria Continues. That’s sort of confusing as to why they would have the people from a comedy/horror podcast do the commentary for the film rather than the original cast and crew when they were able to get new interviews with them. You can also check out the alternate opening if you’d like and the theatrical trailer. I think the show stealer in this whole package is the newly commissioned artwork by Marc Schoenbach. Seriously a talented artist and that’s one hell of a spooky cover.
It’s not boring, but rather predictable and subdued. It is at least pretty to look with some creepy cinematography and it doesn’t hurt that it was filmed in a supposed haunted house in Savannah, Georgia. It’s more upsetting seeing what this movie could have been and what it turned out to be instead of it being an actual bad movie. It showed so much promise with a murderous twin angle and the classic black leathered gloved giallos and the end result is so disappointing. It’s tolerable and worth watching for a typical ‘80s slasher, but don’t expect anything beyond that.
(Submitted with utmost sincerity by Mr. Anton Phibes…Thanks, Ho-rror Ho-mie…As a Stephen King fangirl, I didn’t want to touch this one!! 😉 xoxo)
I’ve not read a single book in Stephen King’s Dark Tower series. At best, I have passing familiarity with the basics. However, I am aware of the enormity of its fanbase and the lofty expectations thrust upon this particular picture. For a good many years, Hollywood had attempted to bring this towering (Pun very much intended) series to the cinema, with the project being shuffled from one filmmaker/studio to another. With each crumb of new information offered on the project, fans expressed extreme excitement. After many false-starts and failed attempts, the film was finally made. And it is because of this wait that my heart goes out to all the Dark Tower fans. Even in my vast ignorance of the series, I can tell that this is not the Dark Tower film readers were clamoring for.
As a man simply looking for a good time at the movies, I wasn’t entirely displeased. The film had some small delights to offer and was mostly competent. Sure, it was riddled with cliche, but that’s something I can stomach. For the casual viewer, this film might be a pleasantly forgettable romp. It’s a lean, mean fantasy adventure with a few thrills and chills to offer, if nothing truly special. But audiences expected more from this material, and I certainly don’t blame them for doing so. When you’re drawing from a story told in eight volumes, a 95 minute film just isn’t likely to do the trick. From what I’ve gathered, the movie picks bits and pieces from various books in the series for its plot. I’ve also heard it said it that, outside of those cherry-picked elements, has very little to do with the series. As it is, the film’s plot concerns the last Gunslinger and his quest for revenge the Man in Black, a devilish sorcerer out to destroy existence. The Gunslinger is joined by Jake, a young man with the gift of the “Shine”, first seen in King’s The Shining. With The Gunslinger’s skill and Jake’s Shine, they must stop the mad magician before it’s too late.
The primary reason to watch this film are for the performances by the actors. Unfortunately, the script doesn’t allow them to utilize their full potential, but they’re still rather good. Idris Elba is always a fantastic addition to any film and his gruff demeanor suits the Gunslinger well. Tom Taylor as the young Jake is very likable and his performance brings to mind some of the great family fantasies of the ’80s. Matthew McConaughey steals the show with a hammy portrayal of evil that’s delicious in its daffy depiction of deviltry.
The Dark Tower is far from the epic people had hoped for. As agreeable popcorn nonsense, it’s perfectly serviceable. As an adaptation, I feel that fans will likely be disappointed. However, a TV series is still in development, so perhaps that will put the franchise back on the right trail. Let’s hope that the Gunslinger’s next ride is a glorious one.
(Submitted by our Goon Reviewer, Mr. Andrew Peters…Thanks, Ho-rror Ho-mie! 🙂 xoxo)
Well, the future didn’t quite turn out the way the ‘90s thought it would, did it? Computers, as advanced as they are, can’t quite do everything we thought they would do, especially make a computer virus biological and giving the host the ability to shoot it out of their eyes. Kinda missed the mark on that one just a bit. Black leather jackets with random pieces of plastic armor stapled to them didn’t quite become the fashion trend we expected them to, nor did using way too much hair gel and spiking it in random directions. You know what else didn’t work out? The cynical, snarky attitude of these movies that seemed to scream, “fuck you, grandpa! You’re too old and slow and we’re hip!” I don’t really know where I’m going with this and my segway isn’t really going to work the way I thought it was going to, but I think regardless of how bad these movies got, we always remembered them; Hackers, The Lawnmower Man, The Net, or any movie that featured someone frantically typing a keyboard spouting nonsense, really… I could go on.
And then there are the films we have forgotten, until you see them and then you wish you could forget all about them. Movies like Game Over, aka Maximum Surge and Cyberjack, aka Virtual Assassin (I can never tell which is more stupid’ the actual title or the alternate title), the latter of which I recently picked up at a pawn shop for sixty cents and no matter how many times I stick a fork in the light socket, I can’t short circuit my brain and burn the memory of this movie out of my head. I don’t know how else to explain how generically stupid it is, but this is one of those instances where that makes it more enjoyable. How else to explain it? Well the film is pretty much Die Hard mixed with every bad ‘90s cyberpunk movie, complete with bad wardrobes and goofy techno-babble and there isn’t really anything to comment on without making fun of it since it’s wildly ridiculous… so let’s just do that, shall we?
Michael Dudikoff, who must have been taking a break from “starring” in all those American Ninja movies, stars as ex-cop turned janitor, Nick James. Oddly enough, at no point does he shout at anyone, “I’m Nick James, bitch!” Can we pause for a second and ask the real question at matter here; does anything really star Michael Dudikoff? I mean, sure the guy kinda knows martial arts, but let’s face it… he’s kind of a weenie, with his prepubescent teen voice and his, erm, beautiful head of hair. Alright, so the guy may not quite be at the level of B-movies, but I would say at least C to higher grade of Z-movies.
Anyway, he’s the janitor at this high tech, super lab place that makes all kinds of techy, computery things. You know, the kind that doesn’t matter, because even for made up mumbo-jumbo it’s total bullshit. It’s here that a scientist, Dr. Royce and his way too hot daughter, Alex (Suki Kaiser), are developing some kind of a computer virus that is becoming too intelligent (I think, seeing as it’s kind of unclear) and is the first virus that can also become biological that will give the host supercomputer powers, I guess since it’s heavily foreshadowed that’s what will happen later. This calls the attention of an elite hacker terrorist group led by Brion James who sports a black leather jacket with shoulder pads that only could have existed in the ‘90s and created by Rob Liefeld and hair styled after Dragon Ball Z’s Gogeta. He and his goons storm the place and take it over, threatening to execute everyone inside if they don’t get control of the virus. But there is one slight oversight to their plan… their roster of employees fortunately doesn’t include the janitorial staff, which seems to only compose of one man. And that man is none other than Nick James, who is almost immediately discovered and shot in the arm, but luckily he’s a tough guy in a ‘90s action movie, so he just walks that shit off. He kinda just hides in a vent for a while and watches as some of the hostages get wasted and Alex’s father gets shot dead for trying to shutdown the virus. Come to think of it, he’s kind of a lousy hero.
He eventually does come out of hiding, take out some of the terrorists using gimmicks like a hologram where he uses multiple images of himself to outsmart a goon and sock him right in the nose. It’s a scene that tries to make the hologram scene from Total Recall more artsy, like 2001 with strobing lights that follow people running down a hallway. It actually makes the action scene a little confusing. Anyway, Nick finally gets a gun and mows down the stereotyped thugs, including the black guy who speaks with a Rastafarian accent, because his trait is that he’s the black guy. There’s also the wildman with bleach blonde hair named Numb who is constantly cackling madly to himself and intently staring at people and saying off putting, creepy things in an attempt to be, well, creepy, but he’s more annoying and I wish I could repeatedly kick him in the nuts until he’s crying so hard that he can no longer cry and make noise. He could not exit the movie fast enough. But that’s just me.
Finally, they break through the firewalls, hack the mainframe and Brion James hooks himself into the computer and uploads the virus into himself and, boy, do I feel stupid for writing all of that out. Brion James can now shoot green computer energy from his eyes and hack into things, like SWAT team members that are apparently androids and has them attack the police so he can make his escape. However, he didn’t count on the resilience and martial arts training of a computer engineering conglomerate’s janitorial custodian! The final confrontation is extremely flaccid. It’s like sex lasting only a few seconds and you’re like, “oh, that’s it?” But, you’re happy it’s just over. That’s this movie.
I did skip a few things, like how Brion James is the one who caused Nick to lose his job as a police officer, but once you see how lousy he was at his job, I would say that it was overdue or he was gonna be on his way out the door sooner or later. There’s also a subplot that involves a sportsball team (they never say which sport, but I would guess that it’s baseball) and Nick and Alex constantly make jokes about how their outfield sucks or whether or not this team won the big game, but it’s just trappings. Nick has also lost a lot of money betting on this team and owes some mobster a ton of money who eventually comes after him, but Nick runs away and then it’s dropped faster than Cannon Film’s Masters of the Universe 2. I think it was just a way to show off their pointless technology, like the CRT videophone.
You know what? Let’s talk about the technology for a second. In these type of movies, there is this needlessness to overly complicate something that is already fine and simple. Take for instance a security card you scan through a reader on a door. You swipe it, the reader accepts it, the door unlocks and you go through it. Simple and effective. Toward the beginning when Nick goes to work, he swipes his card and then a monitor in front of him has to display his own photo and personal information – which I’m sure he’s more than well aware enough of – and then it has to read it back to him. Why? Because, computers! And technology! Look at how advanced it is! Isn’t that more impressive than just swiping a goddamn card? It does give Michael Dudikoff the opportunity to throw out a one liner. Here’s a spoiler; it sucks.
First of all, how the hell did this movie cost two million dollars? I don’t even see half of that on screen, which is something that seems to be a staple of these movies; over expensive that doesn’t perform at the box office or goes straight to video and is almost immediately forgotten about. I mean, this is a film that doesn’t even have a Wikipedia entry nor are there any reviews on Rotten Tomatoes. It seems that the whole world doesn’t know about this movie, so allow me to be one of the few to introduce you to this direct to video dreck. Sure, the plot is nothing more than a rip-off of one of the greatest action movies of all time, but the aesthetic of putting it in an overly complicated and silly cyberpunk world makes it fun simply for the aesthetic. And its overall badness.
(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.
(Submitted by Mr. Prince Adam…Thanks for helping spread the good word, Bat Buddy! 😉 xoxo)
Who created Batman? Well, if you scroll the reprints of old comic books or watch any Batman animated, or live action film prior to Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, it will tell you that Bob Kane is solely responsible for the creation of this enduring and much loved character. However, in the documentary film Batman & Bill presented by Hulu, Marc Tyler Nobleman uncovers a secret and exposes the truth. Shortly after the success of Superman, National Comics, which eventually became DC Comics, went to Bob Kane and asked if he could create a second superhero for them. At that Friday meeting, he assured them he would have their next superhero on their desk by Monday. Over the course of that weekend, Bob came up with an idea and then showed his friend and collaborator on other books what he had. That friend helped Bob tweak his ideas, implementing several suggestions, which improved and fleshed out the character. With both men happy, Bob Kane took the meeting, the publisher loved it and bought the character. Bob and Bill had a verbal handshake agreement, where Bob promised to split some of whatever he earns. However, during the meeting, Bob Kane never mentions that another person was involved in the creation of the character and negotiated a sole creator credit on The Bat-Man and eventually worked out getting a “piece of the pie”, as he put it. I don’t know, nor was it stated in the film, whether Bob Kane shared any money from that sale with Bill Finger. It was stated that Bill Finger was hired as a writer/ghostwriter on Batman later on. Some will say. “Well, at least he got paid for his work later on.” Well that’s all well and good, until you realize just how much of a hand in creating Batman Bill Finger actually had. First, it’s worth noting that Bob Kane came up with the name The-Batman. His version of the character was blonde, wore a red leotard and had a domino mask, akin to something Robin would eventually wear. Marc Tyler Nobleman, consults archives and comic book writers and artists past and present, to reveal that Bill Finger was responsible for the following concepts; the origin, the costume, Bruce Wayne, Dick Grayson, Robin, The Joker, The Riddler, The Penguin, Catwoman, the Batcave, Gotham City and the Batmobile. So, basically, Bill Finger created all the parts of Batman that are cool and make Batman…well Batman! Even when DC Comics discovered the truth, years later, they didn’t do anything about it, for fear of opening up a legal can of worms with Bob Kane. Bill Finger didn’t have funds to fight for his rights legally. The truth was made public to fans at an early comic con in the 60’s, when a DC Comics editor introduced Bill Finger as the creator of Batman. When he was questioned about it, he clarified what he was responsible for, which is all of the stuff l listed above. What’s great about this document, is that you hear the rare audio clip from this convention. You’re hearing Batman history, as you watch this documentary. A contributor to a Batman fanzine publicized the quote in one of the issues. This was Bob Kane’s first opportunity to set the record straight, finally giving Bill Finger the credit he deserves. Instead, he writes a letter absolutely, flat out denying Bill Finger’s comments, asserting that he was the sole creator of Batman and asks for it to be published in the magazine. As years passed, while Bill Finger struggled to make ends meet and ultimately died alone, Bob Kane enjoyed the fame and part of the fortune Batman brought with it. This miscarriage of justice, is what led Marc Tyler Noble to write this book. To give notoriety and a voice for the often forgotten Bill Finger. Our writer/narrator in this film becomes a detective out for justice for Bill Finger. He essentially becomes a real life Batman for Bill Finger. The detective work Mr. Nobleman does would make Batman proud. First, he goes to wear Bill Finger used to live and from there, discovers Bill Finger had a second wife who was still alive. From her info, he was told that Bill Finger had a niece and nephew. From there, he literally called every Finger in the phonebook until he found Bill’s nephew and niece. Here we learned that Bill Finger had a son. Marc Tyler Nobleman in the documentary excitedly perks up, as this relative could be one of the few that could challenge for creator rights for his father. Sadly, we learned that Bill’s son died of AIDS. Just when it seemed like legal recognition was lost for Bill Ginger, the discovery of his granddaughter is made. This was like an AH HA moment from the Batman ’66 TV show, when Batman and Robin would discover one of Riddler’s clues, or foil one of the Joker’s plots. Marc Tyler Nobleman urges Athena Finger to meet with Warner Brothers to discuss getting a creator credit for her grandfather. The film reveals that WB & DC acknowledged Bill Finger’s contributions but once again, didn’t want to open the can of worms in dealing with Bob Kane’s estate and trying to alter that credit. The documentary features an interview and quotes from the man who co-wrote Bob Kane’s biography, where Bob Kane produced a fake drawing of Batman dated in 1933 where he allegedly formed the concept of Batman. The reason this is known to be fake, is because it looked like the core modern drawing of Batman, with the insignia in the yellow oval etc. The first design, which was crafted by Finger, looked significantly different. In the same interview, recorded on tape and made available for the documentary, Bob Kane admits that Bill Finger was involved with 50-75% of the conception and creation of Batman. Armed with this recording, a lawyer and national attention, thanks to Marc Tyler Nobleman’s book and taking Athena Finger to conventions and spreading this story, Athena meets with Warner Brothers and DC Comics once more. This time. she is awarded with a credit byline, for her grandfather. Starting with episodes of GOTHAM & the release of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, Batman’s credit line will read; Created By Bob Kane with Bill Finger.
This documentary fascinated me as it revealed a mystery about Batman’s creation that I and many other fans, weren’t aware of. It made me sad, that for so long, Bill Finger wasn’t credited for his work. Sadder still, that Bill Finger died alone, his son suffered and died from aids and Athena Finger raised her son as a single mom and for so long had to struggle to make ends meet, while another man reaped the rewards both public and monetarily, based on a good portion of someone else’s hard work. Ultimately, I felt uplifted and happy that justice had been done, for Batman’s most influential founding father. This documentary is also unique to watch because it breaks the mold of normal documentaries, by having some scenes drawn as a motion comic book. These scenes had the classic pulpy but noir look of the early Batman comic books. I will always appreciate Bob Kane for his 25-50% contribution, whatever that actually was, to Batman. However, I’m glad justice was done for Bill Finger and I am thankful to him, for creating many of the aspects of Batman I gravitate to and love. For the Finger family, Marc Tyler Nobleman was the hero they deserved and the one they needed. For Marc Tyler Nobleman, the truth wasn’t good enough. He deserved to have his faith rewarded, and it was. If you consider yourself a Batman fan of any kind, it is your absolute duty to watch and spread the word about this documentary.
(Submitted by a truly hardcore fan of the entire Ape-y series, Mr. Anton Phibes…Thanks for sharing your thoughts with us, ya dang dirty human!! 😉 xoxo)
We’ve all been to the Planet of the Apes before. Many times, in fact. The first visitation was in 1968 and it was a most magnificent trip. We made frequent stays throughout the ’70s. All were incredibly lovely, but lacking the majesty of the first. After a long hiatus, we journeyed back with Tim Burton in 2004, but I think we’d rather forget about that one. Our last two “Ape” vacations were pleasant enough, but I feared that the magic was gone. They certainly looked nice, but there was nothing really memorable about them. That’s why It is with great pleasure that I report that War for the Planet of the Apes is not only a fantastic return to the Planet, but perhaps the best since the first.
War for the Planet of the Apes is still very much a Planet of the Apes, but the “War” aspect is very prominent . The film takes inspiration from war movie classics like The Great Escape, Bridge on the River Kwai (based on a novel from the author of Planet of the Apes), and Apocalypse Now. Odd influences for a science fiction film, but it all works so very well. And while War of the Planet of the Apes does indeed draw from these sources, it still feels very much like its own film.
Picking up not long after the previous film, the movie depicts the further escalation of the conflict between ape and man. The ape clan, led by the chimpanzee Caesar (Andy Serkis), is at war with a military faction known as Alpha-Omega, lead by The Colonial (Woody Harrelson) Not wanting to suffer any more ape casualties, Caesar plans to relocate the clan from San Francisco to the desert. However, on the the night before their journey, the apes are attacked by Alpha-Omega, who kill Caesar’s wife and child. Filled with rage, Caesar begins a quest to avenge his kind.
The film is truly spectacular in every sense of the word. There’s a grandness to the entire picture, not dissimilar to the epics of David Lean. Director Matt Reeves does a masterful job balancing summer movie thrills, genuine suspense, and moving drama, even offering moments of silence that add weight to the proceedings. Reeves maintains a dark tone, but tempers it with moments of beauty. War for the Planet of the Apes is a grim film in some respects, but it offers hope and still serves as a rousing display of ape-based action. Of course, a planet like this is only as good as the apes that inhabit it. And these apes are among the most human in the entire franchise. All of the ape actors are incredible and imbue their simians with personality, but the movie rightfully belongs to Andy Serkis. Serkis was fantastic in the previous entries, but his performance is downright perfect here. His face, his emotions, and his power all shine brightly through the digital make-up. It’s easy for one to forget that Serkis is actually a human in real life. If any modern performer comes close to the magic that Lon Chaney had, it’s Andy Serkis.
As Caesar’s great enemy, Woody Harrelson is dynamite. Fearsome, cold, brutal… Harrelson’s Colonel is beyond chilling at times. Along with this version of Caesar, I believe The Colonel is destined to become one of the icons of this franchise. Newcomer Amiah Miller is beyond endearing as the mute Nova, named for Linda Harrison’s role in the first two original PotA. She often steals the scene without saying a word, although she does get to sign a few.
War for the Planet of the Apes ends on a landscape that brings to mind the original film, hinting at what lies ahead. If they do another sequel, I will certainly see it. But I think they should end the reboot franchise here. I can’t imagine a more beautiful conclusion to this franchise than this. If this ends up being our last trip to the Planet of the Apes, I’d be more than satisfied. Hail Caesar.
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.