Ho-wdy, Ho-rror Ho-mies! Happy John Waters’ 71st Birthday Day!
In ho-nor of the Pope of Trash’s birthaversary, we have a review of his Serial Mom submitted by our very own Mr.Andrew Peters! Thanks, Ho-rror Ho-mie! 🙂 xoxoxo
The ‘90s was a strange time, especially for movies. The ‘90s didn’t quite have the identity that previous decades had, especially the ‘80s and it seemed like it wanted to forget all about the ‘80s while mimicking it at the same time, making it feel lost. Movies from that time suffered the most, especially the horror and comedy genres. Horror flicks thought they were being clever by attempting to mock the films of the ‘70s and ‘80, but it had a very cynical attitude about it, especially the slasher genre. I think we got the worst slashers out of the ‘90s. Comedies didn’t fare any better. They lacked the heart and characters that carried the films of previous years and decided to focus on cliched stereotypes they felt what their audiences perceived as cool. Oh, and help us if the two genres were attempted to be combined and you know how I feel about those. It’s like nobody knew how to speak to the generation of that time or what was happening in the world.
Nobody except for John Waters, that is. He’s a fashionable man that captures the look and style of a more pop art version of the swinging ‘60s. There’s also something very sleazy and mischievous about him that you can’t help but be fascinated with. He turned everyone’s heads – and stomachs – with the 1972 bizarre trash flick Pink Flamingos that featured both someone performing oral sex and that same person, Divine, eating dog shit. It also showcases someone bending their legs to expose their butthole and open it and close it in a rhythmic fashion. I’m just giving you an idea of what kind of filmmaker John Waters is. He loves to shock you with his sense of humor, but what if you were to take that style out of the trailer park and move it into suburbia? Well, you’d get Serial Mom.
Serial Mom has that humble ‘50s and ‘60s white, wholesome family with a ‘90s aesthetic, but underneath is a sweltering, festering nest of sleaze slowly oozing out and infecting the rest of the film, but by the time you notice it’s too late. Violence and the very mild gore is meant to both disgust you and make you laugh. The film is not only a more subtle parody of the horror genre, but it’s also a very dark comedy that is far more relevant today than it was at the time. It very intelligently brings to attention just what a media circus a famous court case can be and how we over sensationalize and idolize a serial killer, turning a blind eye to the horrors they’ve caused when we shouldn’t. In a way, this movie predicted the OJ Simpson trial if you can believe it. This isn’t just some low budget, made on the fly type of shlock. This film actually looks like a real film, meaning that the production value is high, cinematography is well done and certain things in have a soft focus to give it a very dreamy or more wholesome quality to it. Serial Mom even has a killer cast to help bring it to a more professional sense (even though it’s just a clever disguise), like Kathleen Turner in the lead role as Beverly Sutphin and Sam Waterston as her husband Eugene, with Matthew Lillard in his first role as her son Chip and Ricki Lake (yes, from The Ricki Lake Show) as her daughter Misty. Together, they appear to be the most perfect family. Mom prepares dinner and cleans the house as dad reads the paper and gets ready for work. Chip and Misty bicker before school about their seemingly important teenage lives, but when everyone leaves and Beverly is all by herself, she immediately partakes in her current favorite hobby; making obscene phone calls to her neighbor Dottie Hinkle. Just the look of pure joy that dons Beverly’s face as she asks Dottie about the pussywillows and if the Cocksucker residents live at 4215 Pussy Way. Immediately, a whiplashing tone is set that’s gonna keep juggling you back and forth. It’s like an amusement park ride; it’s gonna spin you around and make you nauseous, but dammit if it’s not fun.
Between her daughter’s unfaithful boyfriend, a neighbor that don’t recycle and her son’s friend that won’t buckle up, now she has to deal with two detectives nosing around. At first, it’s routine. The police are only digging up clues to find the culprit behind Dottie Hinkle’s phone calls, but with everyone misbehaving, Beverly has to do something about it. After the garbage men and her family wish that certain people were dead, she decides that for the good of her family, she must kill those that can’t be nice or abide by society’s rules. Like one of Chip’s teachers, for example, who believes all of the horror movies that Chip watches is affecting his mental health and that he should seek professional help and that Beverly is a poor parent for allowing him to see such garbage. Well, she’ll show him! Using her car, she runs the sucker down and drives away with no one but a stoner as a witness. Still, the witnesses story summons the police to the Sutphin residence and now they are suspicious, especially after digging through her garbage and finding books on serial killers. The suspicion is heightened when Beverly gores her daughter’s cheating boyfriend with a fireplace poker after catching him shopping around with another girl (Traci Lords in a cameo). Now the police are sniffing around long enough to catch her in the act when she goes after Chip’s friend who is ranting about her being a killer, but fortunately he’s literally caught with his pants down by the Sutphin family and is saved. For now.
That doesn’t thwart Beverly’s rampage, but she’s eventually apprehended by the police and taken to court for her heinous crimes, but like they say, innocent until proven guilty. The final act of the film is her court hearing and it has become a full blown media circus with Misty selling Serial Mom merchandise and Chip acting as her agent for the film being made about her life that will be starring Suzanne Somers who appears as herself. With nobody to defend Beverly but herself, the tables seem like they will be against her, but just wait until how she charms the judge and the jury and proves that maybe she’s not crazy… although she really is.
Scream Factory’s release of Serial Mom is to kill for. I don’t believe this is a 2K transfer, but it certainly looks as sharp as a butcher knife and it also has some killer extra features. Sick of my puns yet? Anyway, the main attraction for the features in my opinion is the feature commentary with director John Waters, who is always entertaining. He also does another new commentary with star Kathleen turner which I also recommend checking out. If you aren’t familiar with John Waters’ commentary, check out his commentary on Christmas Evil. He has nothing to do with the film, but he and the director talk about the movie and it’s pretty funny. Other features include John Waters talking with Kathleen Turner and Mink Stole about the making of the movie and there also a featurette called Serial Mom: Surreal Moments that has interviews with the aforementioned trio along with Matthew Lillard, Ricki Lake, Patricia Hearst and a few others. There’s also an original promotional featurette, The Making of Serial Mom along with The Kings of Gore that looks at the works of Herschel Gordon Lewis and David Friedman and the theatrical trailer for good measure.
Serial Mom is one of the funniest horror comedies to come of… well, ever. We seem to be hitting a wave of them now and they all seem to confuse nostalgia and homage with a half hearted attempt at long running fart jokes made of fads from the era they are supposedly paying respects to. Serial Mom is smart, hilarious and dark. It’s a perfect blend of everything you could want and although it’s not as sleazy as previous John Waters’ films, it really doesn’t need to be and I have to say it’s probably his most well made film. Happy Birthday, John Waters! Stay filthy, you Prince of Puke! 🙂 xoxoxo
(Submitted by Mr. Andrew Peters…Thanks, you Ho-rror Heartthrob, you! 🙂 xoxo)
To me, horror comedies rarely work out. I’m sure I’ve talked about this before, but I feel that most of them fail at either being a horror or a comedy. Usually, the cast knows what kind of film they are in, so they tend to play it up and delivering each line as if they are winking at the camera. The characters are usually stock cliches and more often than not, they confuse blood and gore with horror. Now as nice as those things are, when put in the hands of someone who misunderstand what either a horror or a comedy are, the film comes off as inauthentic and, well, stupid. Not to mention, they seem to be poorly filmed. The shots aren’t well planned and it’s like the filmmaker has no idea where to point the camera. I get the feeling that most of the time they don’t.
Luckily, Night of Something Strange isn’t any of that. Sure, it falls into some of the cliches, but they are done right, if that makes sense. At first, even I was a little worried when the characters were being introduced, but as the film goes on, you understand why they are and how they play into the plot and some of them become likable. Maybe it’s due to the film’s low budget or how the cast has a connection to each other, but they come of as genuine in playing their roles. A lot of heart went into this movie, something you don’t see very often anymore. That’s another thing; it’s shot like a movie. The cinematography is impressive to say the least and the use of lighting is done to effect the overall tone of the film. Everything that most lower budget films seem to misunderstand and mimic are done right here. Indie filmmaking seems like it’s becoming a lost art, but every now and then you get something that restores your faith. Night of Something Strange did just that for me.
Night of Something Strange opens with a tall, brooding hospital worker named Cornelius (Wayne Johnson) who looks like he probably has some issues. Sure enough, he shows us what kind of issues he has when he wanders into a morgue and decides to bang a female corpse. You could say that Cornelius is getting lucky, but I would say he’s getting unlucky seeing as how this particular corpse seems to have a still active STD. Not just any STD, but something that causes a much more serious side effect; you turn into a sex crazed zombie. Cornelius heads home and as the virus takes effect, he pisses all over his bed and then rapes and infects his mother. Talk about starting your movie off with bang. Where else are you gonna find necrophilia, watersports and incest all within ten minutes? Well, the last one I’m only assuming is only incest since the relationship between the two characters isn’t established, but I get the feeling it’s mother and son. It’s easily unsettling and let’s you know what you’re in store for. You would think at this point, the film was only trying to set the bar for absurdity, but it’s only getting started.
With Cornelius now free to run amok, we turn our attention to our central cast of characters in a high school. Or college. I don’t know which. All I know is that I was surprised to see Brink Stevens appear as their teacher in a cameo. Regardless, these are the people you will be spending the run time with and like I said, at first they may seem like cliches and they are all kind of assholes in their own, but stick with them. You will come to like them. The core girl of the group is Christine (Rebecca C. Kasek) and is probably the least douchiest of them all. Her friend Carrie (Toni Ann Gambale), Carrie’s boyfriend Freddy (Michael Merchant) who is probably the biggest douche of the group, token stoner Brooklyn and chubby Jason are all headed for a little getaway with their friend Pam (Nicola Fiore) and her boyfriend Dirk (Trey Harrison) who has suspicions that his girlfriend is cheating on him when he takes a peek at her phone and notices a dick pic. Still, he hasn’t been laid in a while, so he’s gonna let this slide for a bit. At least until he gets laid.
No better place to do that than at the Redwood Motel ran by a rather creepy old man who feels like a runaway member of family from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Now that Dirk has had some time to relieve from sexual tension, he breaks things off with Pam and befriends Christine outside and the two have a rather nice bonding moment and the chemistry feels rather genuine. Freddy, on the other hand, is doing whatever it takes to get some ass, including berating and threatening his verbal punching bag, Jason. Even Brooklyn falls victim to Freddy’s pranks when Freddy attempts a frat, but sharts on his face. You have to wonder why these people hang out with him, but I’m assuming it’s through his association with Carrie. Or I’m over analyzing what doesn’t need to be. Freddy’s sexual conquest – or his attempt at sexual conquest – could be a Porky’s style comedy on it’s own. After being denied sex, Freddy heads outside to the dumpster where he reckons is a great place to rub one out. His realistic style commentary over his fantasy where Jason comes into the room while he goes at it with Carrie makes watching a character beat off a little more comfortable. And funny. Even when Freddy knocks himself out by hitting his head on the dumpster, do you think that stops him from finishing. Not a chance. The champ picks up right where he left off when he comes to.
Now it’s time for shit to really start hitting the fan. Cornelius and the few others he infected show up at the Redwood Motel and begin their rampage, infecting a few more others. Poor Freddy now has this and another situation to deal with; having mistaken Jason for Carrie, Freddy becomes stuck in Jason’s butt and not only has to avoid having the others see him and the mental scarring this will cause, but also battle the undead. Gotta give props to Michael Merchant for spending half of the movie with his bottom hanging out and pulling off stunts while being stuck inside an unconscious man. Hey, give the guy a break. It’s dark in that room. Meanwhile outside, Dirk finds himself fighting off these zombies alongside Christine and they learn that a simple gunshot to the head doesn’t quite work like zombie films have taught us. As the chaos ensues, what are they to do?
I can’t tell you how much I was impressed with Night of Somethings Strange, perfectly blending the horror and comedy genres. I was reminded of Return of the Living Dead while watching and that’s never a bad thing. I laughed at the parts I was supposed to and I ended up even rooting for Freddy, the biggest asshole of the bunch. Maybe I’m a little biased knowing the actor, but every time he was on screen, you were guaranteed a raunchy gag and a laugh and the film uses a lot of sick, gross out moments for laughs. One in particular that comes to mind is when Carrie falls into a blood and shit soaked toilet while trying to pee in it or later when she gets kicked in the crotch by Christine and her shoe gets stuck right in there. There’s also little things, like Freddy getting a bloody condom on his face and the aforementioned sharting scene. It’s a film that would feel at home alongside any given Troma film. I also felt Trey Harrison was a great lead, commanding every scene he was in and Nicola Fiore was a treat and I wish she was in more scenes.
Being a zombie film, it does have some pretty decent special effects for the most part, but at times you can notice a change in the quality. Most times, I thought the makeup was gruesome and disgusting, but then there were times when it looked noticeably different and not for the better, primarily when CG was used. This is due to problems with the previous effects people, as the film unfortunately had to go through a few of them, but I don’t fault the film or the filmmaker for that. After all, it’s about getting lost in the story and the characters and it’s quite easy to do that in Night of Something Strange. It truly was a breath of fresh air in the indie zombie horror sub genre. I can’t tell you how many I’ve had to sit through in the last few years, the majority of which are unbearable to say the least. To see something that has heart behind it made this a pleasure to see. Director Jonathan Straiton really made one of the best indie horror films I’ve seen in a long time. He demonstrated that you can play with the stereotypes and cliches of the genre while also showing how to play against them. He made what should have been a purposely foul and raunchy shlock fest that would have otherwise been ineptly made into something that’s outstandingly terrific and will be remembered (and possibly imitated) for years to come.
Even though Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest wasn’t a hit with the fans, Konami still made a sequel, but decided to bring it back to its original roots and becoming more of the simple side-scrolling game that the first Castlevania was. Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse wasn’t just a retread. Not only was it a prequel to the first game, taking place centuries before those events, it also offered the player the ability to switch between playable characters and also take branching paths during certain points in the game. That’s Konami for you. Well, the old Konami. Always thinking outside the box.
The music this time around was different, but still in the same spirit, if that makes sense. In Dracula’s Curse, the tone seems to be much darker and it lacks that poppy punch (that’s the best way that I can describe it) that Simon’s Quest had. I guess the idea was to make it seem more gothic horror, having a much more metallic tinge and slower pace. It certainly fits the image that would pop into your head when you think of Dracula; a dark, blue evening with a full moon reflecting on a thick fog that masks danger. However coming off of Simon’s Quest that arguably has the best score in the entire series, Dracula’s Curse seems to lack that action-hearted punch. Not to say that it’s bad or anything, I just enjoy Simon’s Quest more thoroughly. The soundtrack, not the game.
Mondo’s presentation of Dracula’s Curse, however, is not lacking. The original artwork from Sachin Teng is hypnotically eye catching, making your brain try and piece it all together. Another thing you’ll notice right away is that this soundtrack is spread across two 12″ 180 Gram LPs, one Famicom and the other NES. Both versions have the same 28 tracks (which, by the way, is amazing amount of tracks for an NES game), but once again just as with Simon’s Quest, the Famicom version has a much more rustic sound than the NES version and for this soundtrack, I actually prefer the Famicom version. I feel like it has a much more gothic horror and atmospheric sound and it fits what I feel the game was trying to accomplish. Having said that, I do like the NES version of Stage 01, Beginning and Stage 06, Demon Seed better. Both have a higher energy that their Famicom counterparts don’t seem to have and those are some jazzy, energetic tracks. Konami Kukeiha Club once again did a fantastic job capturing a nightmarish batch of tunes perfectly fitting for a Castlevania game.
The records themselves are really beautiful too. The vinyls I received are orange with some black splatter all over them with tinges of white or silver here and there. There is a variant for you collectors out there, disc one is Trevor Bronze and Alucard Black and disc two is Grant Maroon and Sypha Blue. I haven’t seen those for myself, but I can imagine they are quite a sight to behold.
There’s no better way to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Castlevania series than with these Mondo soundtracks. Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse goes for $30 and while the split colored version is sold out, the orange with black splatter is still available, so get it while it’s hot.
(Submitted by Mr. Andrew Peters…Thanks so much for this, Ho-rror Ho-mie…You rock all the socks!! 🙂 xoxo)
The slasher films were burned out by the late ‘80s and horror fans were looking for something to fill in that void. In 1987, a relatively unknown writer and filmmaker named Clive Barker would step up and give the fans something dark, something violent and painful, something with some heart… something different. Adapting his own novella, The Hellbound Heart, it was retitled Hellraiser (to sound less like a romantic movie) and took audiences by surprise. The film contains a deep, dark mystery, villains that are demons to some, angels to others and human elements that are more threatening than the monsters themselves (an element he would use again in Night Breed). Throw in some decent effects and gore, a little S&M and you have yourself a hit. Theater goers ate it up and Hellraiser was a success.
The film would go on to spawn quite a number of sequels that, like all horror franchises, seemed to quickly drop in quality, with the exception of Hellbound: Hellraiser II (which is arguably a better film than the original). There is a reason for this. You see, the first two films were produced by New World Pictures, a studio who were looking for something different and allowed the filmmakers some creativity. By the time it came around to making the third film, Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth, New World Pictures had gone bankrupt and Miramax, a studio well known for meddling in productions, thus totally fucking them up, hired a director who was better at comedies and made it more of a generic slasher that nobody was happy with.
Of course, there are more sequels, but we’re gonna stop there because Arrow Video has released the first three films in a box set called Hellraiser: The Scarlet Box. I’m sure they tried acquiring the rights to the other films, but be thankful they could get their hands on the first three, especially the first two films. I feel like this allowed them to focus more on these films themselves, allowing for great looking restorations and a lot of in depth bonus features which there are a lot of. And also being Arrow Video, this collection is released in a rather fantastic looking box and it’s not the lament configuration like you would think and honestly, I’m glad it’s not. We’ve seen that done before and it’s obvious. Artist Gilles Vranckx illustrates Pinhead with his dark gaze and upon opening the box you are treated to more of his work, that being the top of the head of a character from the film for each movie and other artwork for the bonus features and that’s not all. I recommend checking out my unboxing video, otherwise I will just be repeating myself and besides, you don’t want to talk about amazing art, you wanna show it.
The first film, obviously, is Hellraiser. The film where it all started and would unknowingly launch one of horror’s most memorable icons, Pinhead. He wasn’t credited as Pinhead and apparently Clive Barker doesn’t necessarily fancy the name as he was originally named Priest (probably to take a jab at religion), but he’s credited as “Lead Cenobite” in the credits. Although he’s a movie monster, he’s not the bad guy. In fact, the cenobites are considered angels to some, demons to others. The real villain of the film is a depraved man named Frank, who is always looking for pain and pleasure. He finds that in a mysterious box that calls upon S&M creatures that pull him apart with hooks. The imagery of rusted hooks, a dank basement, blood and other visceral gore really pops out in the film as it appears to be stylized. Sure you’ve seen this stuff before, but in Hellraiser there’s something beautiful and disgusting about it.
Dirty Harry’s The Scorpio Killer Andrew Robinson plays Frank’s brother Larry who’s kind of a push over. Sort of a loveable loser. He and his wife Julia are moving back into his old home, but it appears Frank had been there at some point and Larry comments that he’s not a good guy and probably in jail somewhere (which isn’t far from the truth). Julia seems to have rather fond memories of Frank seeing as they were having an affair and she was going to split with him leaving poor Larry in the dust. Upon moving in, Larry cuts his hand open, gushing blood, and spills it on the floor in the attic where Frank was taken by the cenobites. The floor absorbs the blood and a slimy, bloody human begins to form out of the floorboards, but what is it?
Visiting the attic once again, Julia discovers that gory lump of mess is none other than Frank who needs fresh blood in order to become whole again. After some persistence and because she’s an evil bitch, Julia agrees to help Frank and brings random dudes home from the bar with promises of sex, but the only hammering going is a hammer to the back of their heads. At one point she even cracks a guy across the face with a hammer and his jaw looks mangled, he’s missing teeth and the image looks like something out of an old EC comic and I mean that in the most sincere way possible. Frank’s evolution is one of the most memorable and coolest designs ever. He’s basically just human muscle and tissue – like if you were to turn a person inside out – and wears a suit leaving blood marks on it. It’ll stick out in your mind forever, it’s such a cool image. Good ‘ol Larry is none the wiser and has no idea what’s going on while his daughter Kirsty is coming to visit and right away you get the vibe her and Julia have never gotten along. Kirsty is a character that has become a “final girl” of sorts; she’s sassy, she’s tough, but for me, she never really stood out, but maybe that’s because between the cenobites, Frank and Julia, I feel she just kinda vanishes.
Kirsty finds Julia bringing some random guy inside one day and decides to investigate where she finds Frank along with the box. Escaping with the box, she accidentally opens it and what she summons is something not what she would have ever imagined. Leather clad, pale looking creatures step out from the shadows; one with her throat opened, one with no eyes and mouth exposed that’s always chattering, a fat one and another with pins in his head. Wanting to take her away and know her flesh, Kirsty literally saves her skin by informing them that Frank had escaped and she would bring them to him, but what Kirsty doesn’t know is the surprise that Julia and Frank have waiting for her. Even though you see it coming, it’s kind of a bummer, but the ending needed it in order to work properly.
Hellraiser is without a doubt a horror classic creating an icon that the fans would dub Pinhead. The film easily sticks out against other horror films put out by the studios at the time and that could be for one simple reason: it wasn’t a slasher. I mentioned earlier, this was made after the fall of the slasher genre and Hellraiser blurred the lines of whether or not the monsters were really the bad guys. The human characters, like in Nightbreed, are for more diabolical than they are. The humans explore forbidden sexual desires, murder, pain and pleasure and pretty much everyone aside from Kirsty and Larry are pretty despicable. This also wouldn’t be a film about pain and pleasure without some of the fetishes. Not only does it have its fair share of nudity (most from Julia), but the cenobite’s outfits represent fetish gear, but it’s supposed to. Not only is it something we as an audience hadn’t seen before, but it looks dark, twisted and yet somehow desirable, much like the cenobites themselves are supposed to represent.
Outstanding makeup effects all around on Frank and all of the cenobites, it looks about as realistic as you could be at that time and you have to give the actors accommodations as it could not have been comfortable in all of that makeup. You also have to give them a nod for being able to perform under all that makeup, showing emotion and range. That’s another good thing the film had going for it was its performances by the amazing cast. Even Clive Barker, who had no major film experience before, showed what a force he was when he had to think of how to film in such tiny spaces (the film was shot in a real house, not on a set) and still had all of the moody lighting and even some great camera angles. Hellraiser has earned its status as one of the most iconic and influential horror films and it’s unfortunate that it’s seen as a run-of-the-mill slasher mostly because of its sequels.
Hellbound: Hellraiser II, however, is a phenomenal sequel in my opinion. I think I may actually like it better than the original and I do have my reasons. It takes the story in the next logical steps, it explores who the cenobites were, we see more of Kirsty develop (I actually like her in this film), we’re introduced to someone more vile than Frank, the makeup is still great and is it just me or did anyone else find a skinned Julia sexy? Can’t be just me. Anyway, I feel like the sequel found ways to continue the story, make it more entertaining without having to outdo the original and ends on a nice note, but could also be continued… but we all know what direction they went with that.
One thing I love about Hellbound is that it picks up immediately right after the first film where we find Kirsty in a hospital for crazy people. What about that underdeveloped boyfriend she had in the first film? Well in a throw away line, it’s noted that he already went home, so stop worrying about it. They could have not said anything, but it’s a cool little mention that ties all the little things to the first film. This ain’t like Friday the 13th Part 2 where suddenly Paul is missing and there’s no explanation. It goes without saying that the police would think her story is total hogwash and she’s totally bonkers, but Dr. Channard thinks otherwise. He believes in what she’s saying and it’s no spoiler that this doctor is completely mad. Dr. Channard learns what he can from Kirsty about the box and the cenobites and one other important detail; Julia died on the bed and can be brought back through the bed just like Frank. So almost immediately, Dr. Channard goes down to the super secret sub-basement of the looney bin, grabs himself a looney and allows the poor bastard to begin cutting himself with a razor, spilling his blood all over the bed, thus freeing Julia.
Julia’s looking, well, let’s say she’s had better days… and skinless. Just like Frank, she requires fresh blood in order to regain her flesh and duping Dr. Channard is part of that since he can supply all the fresh blood via mental patients. She also makes promises of showing him all he’s ever wanted to see and he’ll experience all the pleasures and blah, blah, blah, you know this part. Well, there is one obstacle in the way; how to figure out that damn box! Even though Kirsty seemed to have no problem twice, it’s just too hard. Luckily patient plot device, a young mute girl they call “Tiffany,” happens to be obsessed with solving puzzles and is amazing at them. It all has a purpose, tying into her unlocking the puzzle of her memory or something, but that doesn’t really matter in the film. This is essentially her only purpose for the film, but the actress still manages to make Tiffany a likeable character and you do feel sorry for her. She isn’t just some helpless kid or the damsel in distress, she seems to be a survivor.
Meanwhile, Kirsty manages to escape the hospital with the help of her Nurse, a guy named Kyle, who looks like a Steve Guttenberg stunt double, who decided to help Kirsty after witnessing Julia’s return. Kirsty has her own agenda, however. She awakens one night to see a skinless man who has written, “HELP ME, I AM IN HELL” on the wall in his blood. Could this be her father? She has to know for sure. The two of them decide to go to Dr. Channard’s house and do some snooping around, but unfortunately for Kyle, things don’t go so well. This is actually kinda tragic as Kyle was proving to be a tough character, throwing himself in harm’s way and doing the right thing. This just goes to show you that nobody is safe in Hellbound. Things become even less safe after Tiffany opens the box and allows Julia and Dr. Channard to enter into the other world, a world full of unknown pains and pleasures.
Kirsty bumps into Kyle and the two of them search for Kirsty’s father as Julia brings Dr. Channard to her god, Leviathan who needs souls. Julia volunteers Dr. Channard, who had the desire to experience something else, and pushes him into a machine that then turns him into a cenobite, but not just any cenobite… this is something else. A giant wormy arms drags him around by his head as all kinds of tools can emerge from his hands and tentacles that are razor sharp whip around his body. He poses a real serious threat, so Kirsty has no choice but to ask for the help of Pinhead and crew which boils down to a Royal Rumble between Channard and the cenobites (side note, that would make an awesome band name). It’s actually not as bone crunching or memorable as you would think, seeing as Channard dispatches of them rather quick. There’s a little gore and you get a glimpse of who the cenobites used to be, but since you never learned anything about them (other than Pinhead… and even that was just a little bit), you’re just left with questions that will unfortunately never be answered. Still, there’s some movie left as Tiffany and Kirsty have to outwit Dr. Channard and Julia, as well as another surprise guest.
As I mentioned earlier, I find Hellbound to be an amazing sequel and I actually enjoy it more than the original and maybe that’s because it doesn’t take itself as serious as Hellraiser, but doesn’t mock it. It takes the rules and the characters and expands on them, but my problem is that this was never followed up on properly. However, that is not the fault of director Tony Randel, but instead at the glutinous asses of the executives at Miramax and there brand new label, Dimension. Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth is the definition of a bastardization of franchise. It not only spits at the fans, but it flat out doesn’t care about what it is. Rather than take a risk and further develop what the first two films carefully and heartfully developed, Hell on Earth takes a drunken, dehydrated, yellow staining piss and turns the film into a generic slasher movie. A really stupid one.
But, ya know, it’s one of those really fun, stupid movies. It’s now the ‘90s. The ‘80s are dead and buried, so move over, ya schmuck! Hell on Earth has the cynicism that a majority of horror films had during the ‘90s. The attitude and direction of the film seems to be very disingenuous and even insulting, especially to fans of the Hellraiser series. Tony Randel was set to direct, but Miramax, after not only deciding to slash the budget, also thought his direction was too dark, so they hired Anthony Hickox. Why does that name sound familiar? Because, he directed the horror comedies, Waxwork and Waxwork II: Lost in Time, so of course he would be the perfect choice to fill in the directing shoes of a dark toned, serious horror flick. Are you detecting my sarcasm? Good, because I’m laying it on really thick.
Misunderstanding anything about women or women’s rights, the film picks its main character right from the cliche closet to win over the audience; a journalist named Joey who doesn’t want to show any T&A, but wants to be taken seriously. She’s got the drive, she’s got the passion, now she just needs the story that comes to her in the form of a goth teenager, or I should say an older woman unconvincingly playing a teenager, Terri (played by Paula Marshall). Now Paula Marshall is super cute and all, but I don’t buy her as, like, an 18 year old for a moment. After a botched story, Joey witnesses Terri run into the ER with a young man strapped to a gurney, chains all over his body that seem to be suspended in air, but nobody seems to be interested in that. After his head explodes, Joey decides this is gonna be her break and needs to get to the bottom of this! Trying to track down Terri, this leads her to JP, who I can only describe if an STD decided to take the form of a douchebag.
JP is that vile, sleazy guy we all want to highschool with; He’s a total dick to everyone, but because he has money, people hang around him and he gets chicks. Simple as that. When JP isn’t boning a random skank at his club, he’s out buying art, because he’s all dark and shit. Sorry, I just really hate this chode… which I guess is what they were going for, so congratulations (?). The latest installation to his collection is a familiar looking pillar with a familiar looking face. Pinhead. It’s Pinhead and after it gets a taste of a little blood, starts screaming and devours JP’s latest lay. This talking Pinhead face in the pillar expositions dumps about JP’s backstory, it needs him for fresh blood and this should all sound really familiar by now. JP agrees to do so, but doesn’t do a very good job.
I should back up a bit and tell you that Joey has learned that Terri is JP’s ex-girlfriend and that’s really all about it. Well, Terri asks for room and board from Joey for exchanging information to what happened that night and all we learned is what you knew as an audience member going into the third film in the franchise; he took the Lament Configuration. Yup, all that time investigating was building up to that thing you already knew. Going back to where we were, JP kinda sucks at getting blood for Pinhead, seeing as how the only girl he convinces to come back to him is Terri, who manages to get one over on him and Pinhead kills him by ramming a large looking compass rose into his head and convinces Terri to come with him. Oh, he’s back to his old self now. I guess all it took was two bodies. The people in these movies require less and less blood with each passing entry I guess. It’s like how Wolverine’s healing factor seems to get better and better with each X-Men film.
Now, this is where the film just takes a complete turn and buttfucks the previously established franchise. Remember how I said this film became a generic slasher? Well in order to make him more like Jason, Freddy or Michael (which is stupid, because this is what made Pinhead interesting is that he was once human), he massacres an entire nightclub full of people. Just kills them for no reason. Before, the cenobites only sought out those that called them, the ones with desire. But here if you’re just mincemeat. Another thing it does to totally retcon what has been established is that Pinhead just creates random cenobites, whereas once again, had to be created of desire. Only those that were truly seeking other pains and pleasures could be turned. Not here. It’s just the more idiotic, poor excuse for creating new cenobites. These are so terrible, I can only imagine the pea brain asshole tasked with coming up with these characters.
I need to breathe for a moment before continuing on.
These cenobites are created from whatever profession they were currently holding. For example, the DJ is now a CD cenobite. The Bartender is some fat cenobite that chucks molotov cocktail, which I guess makes him any random rioter only he is wearing leather and has barbed wire wrapped around his head. Joey’s cameraman is turned into a cenobite with a camera in his eye and kinda looks like if Jesse Ventura were a Borg from Star Trek. You may be wondering why I’m just now getting around to mentioning him and well, the answer is that he’s barely in the movie, is uninteresting and adds to nothing in the overall story arch. He has maybe four scenes and only is there to positively reinforce Joey, essentially being her cheerleader by saying things like, “You can do it, Joey!” So not only were these cenobites not created out of desire, but they are uninteresting simply because we don’t care about them. These characters had no weight to the film and everything about them is ridiculous. You could argue that we didn’t know anything about the previous cenobites, but I would say it’s that we WANTED to know about them.
The final thing that is retconned is that in the two previous films, Pinhead could hold the box with no problems, but here it has to be given to him in order for him to hold it. Why? Well, because the plot needs him to. There was some dumb bullshit about Joey always dreaming about what may have happened to her dad and we do learn more about Pinhead’s previous life as Captain Elliot Spencer and how he needs Joey’s help to get Pinhead, his evil self, into his world so that he can defeat him… I dunno, it’s absolutely stupid. I’ve been using that word a lot; stupid, but what a perfect way to sum up this movie. I don’t even want to talk about it anymore. The special effects aren’t anywhere near as good as the other two movies, the story is taken in the wrong direction and Anthony Hickox, while I enjoyed the first Waxwork movie, is not the right man for directing a Hellraiser movie. There was some comedy in the film that just didn’t blend with what the tone should have been and with this script and making it a piss poor duplicate of what slasher movies had become, he proved he was not the man for this job.
I wouldn’t even say it’s a good bad movie, I would say that it’s a bad bad movie. I didn’t find anything redeemable about it and I’m shocked someone like Doug Bradley looked at the script and thought this was a good idea and took the role. I’m just venting anger on this movie, though. Miramax/Dimension really mishandled the property and couldn’t have cared. They looked at the first two films and just said, “Nah! Make it a loud, stupid, copycat of a slasher.” One good thing I will say about this release is that some of the bonus features are interviews that contain people trying to explain what went wrong and it’s nice to hear some refreshing honesty rather than the filmmakers trying to convince you that it’s a good film. Some may say it’s a good thing that this release does contain an uncut version of the movie, but I would heavily disagree. It adds absolutely nothing other than a few gore shots and destroys the pacing. It doesn’t even bother me that it’s taken from multiple sources of varying quality, it just brings nothing to the overall final product. I would have been fine with Arrow releasing the first two films in a nice set as a double feature, but I’ll take the third in a box set. It’s not unwatchable, but rather an interesting experiment in what not to do when making a sequel to an already established franchise. Arrow took the time to give this a package to die for, loaded it with so many extras that I can’t even count, but I can tell you that not only does each disc contain making of’s, interviews, audio commentaries, trailers, original EPK’s and so on, but there’s a whole other disc dedicated to the series’ creator, Clive Barker, who definitely deserves the spotlight. Even though his properties are often mishandled, like Night Breed (a film that’s still pretty damn good) and Rawhead Rex (not a good movie, but still entertaining), I’m more than happy that he was able to bring us Hellraiser as personally as he could and that a company like Arrow to the time and effort into seeing these new restorations through and presenting them the way they are.
Lucio Fulci left his mark in 1979 with Zombie, a film that many quickly dismissed as a Dawn of the Dead rip-off, but they would be wrong. It’s a cash-in, duh. Dawn of the Dead hit the scene hard and made an impact in the horror world. The imitators came out by the truck load and everyone wanted some of that sweet zombie cash, kinda like how it is today. Anyway, Fulci, although never fully getting the respect that he demanded, still made a name for himself that would sit along the likes of Dario Argento and Mario Bava. Having already done a few giallo and sexploitation films himself, he decided to venture further down this gory path in horror films and made other greats like City of the Living Dead, House by the Cemetery and what some consider his magnum opus The Beyond. Being labeled “The Godfather of Gore” (a nickname he shared with Herschell Gordon Lewis), he was targeted by critics as being sadistic. Crews often said he was unfair toward the women and his films were looked at by normal crows (you know, non horror fans) as being cruel and mean and that only a sick mind could create such a thing. What’s a director to do?
Take all the negative things people have ever said about you and make it into a joke. A dark, but hilarious joke. And it may be a joke that not everyone will get and that’s ok. For those of us that do, we get a good chuckle and it’s like we’re patting the director on the back and saying, “I feel ya.” For him, he gets to crook a little smile for his accomplishment. Those who ridiculed him and misjudged him are the butt of the joke without knowing it. Perhaps I am over analyzing what most look at as strange, gory horror film with comedic elements thrown in for good measure. But there are plenty of elements in Cat in the Brain that could be over analyzed. We won’t go into them all, but it may be a much deeper film in disguise. Could that mean we are the sickos, so desensitized to the violence that we don’t notice? See, there I go again.
The film literally opens with a cat in a brain. Fulci’s brain to be exact, as he’s typing away at his typewriter, coming up with gory demises for characters, because as we all know this is the only thing horror directors think about. Oh, that’s right… Fucli not only wrote and directed this piece, but he stars in it as well! The film then cuts to a scene from one of his other films, Touch of Death (another great dark comedy horror film) wherein a man is cannibalizing a woman. Fulci seems to be thinking about this while shooting his new film and continues to think about it even more when he tries to order at a restaraunt. The thought of consuming steak tartare repulses him and he leaves. His appetite now gone, he heads home only to be continuously haunted by visions of violence. His neighbor cutting wood with a chainsaw soon becomes blood soaked and coming after Fulci, as the director takes an axe to red paint cans. Is our good director losing it his mind?
Have no fear, Dr. Egon Shwarz is here! Having recently attacked a female journalist, tearing off her clothes and nearly sodomizing her because of a scene he recently filmed for a nazisploitation film, Fulci checks in to the local shrink to get to the bottom of it. However, Dr. Shwarz has plans of his own. With Fulci in a hypnotic state, the doctor tells Fulci that all of the violence he sees in his head he will believe not only that it’s real, but that he is also committing it. Geez, what a dick! And all because he is having marital problems and hates women! Hey, wait a sec… could this be a parody of how people are seeing Fulci? Perhaps. Either way, the plot has gone into full gear and the madness is about to begin. With Fulci not being the patsy, Dr. Schwarz manages to take a number of victims while wearing crazy eyes and the creepiest grin you will ever see. A decapitated hooker is found near the set on a night that Fulci walked home, but that’s not the only case. More and more bodies turn up near the set and Fulci begins to vividly hallucinate more frequently and much more extreme. Is he really losing his mind and committing the murders or is it the doctor? Well, it’s not so much of a mystery as it is a joke.
So, is all the footage from his other films part of the joke, because the Italians were notorious for reusing footage from other movies to pad out run time and save money? Well, you make that decision. The film also includes a lot of aforementioned gore and some nudity that may seem like it was inserted pointlessly, like when Fulci is staring out his window and he seems a woman in leggings topless and feeling herself. Along with the murders of women, Fulci was possibly taking jabs at everyone calling him misogynistic. You know, I’ve been going on about Fulci in the lead role and have yet to comment on how good his performance really is. Of course, the English dubbing is, well, it’s what you expect from Italian horror films. Let’s leave it at that.
Previously available on DVD, Grindhouse Releasing has released it on Blu-ray for the really sick horror fans out there. The first thing I noticed is that the film has a somewhat softness to it and to be honest, I didn’t notice a big – or any – difference in video quality from the DVD. Not to turn you off from this release seeing as it has plenty to offer. The slip cover is cool and glows in the dark and the Blu-ray case itself is reversible. There are plenty of other features too, like in depth interviews with director Lucio Fulci and Brett Halsey (star of Touch of Death), the Italian theatrical trailer and best of all, in traditional Grindhouse Releasing fashion, a bonus CD soundtrack! Your unfamiliar horror fans or average movie goers could argue that the film is part glorified clip show, using bits and pieces from some of his other works, Touch of Death and Ghosts of Sodom and the rest is typical misogyny from a sick and twisted old man, filled with nothing but grotesque violence toward women. They would be right, in their own sense, but I think they would be wrong. I would argue that it’s a clever, possibly misunderstood man satirizing himself for the sake of good humor and having a blast doing so. Either way you look at it, it’s a fun experiment and I think the humor and parody work where they are supposed to while the gore isn’t too extreme as his previous films, it is pretty over the top and possibly played for laughs. Cat in the Brain, also called Nightmare Concert, is a fun little experiment from Doctor Fulci that I would say won’t be entertaining to your average horror fan, but those of you looking for something a little more twisted, check this out.
(Submitted by Mr. Andrew Peters…Thank you, Ho-rror Ho-mie! And yeah, we can definitely agree…Waxxx statues are creepy AF!! It seems like they were solely invented for murderin’ purposes!! 😉 xoxo)
Can we agree that wax statues are creepy? Something about their shiny complexion and mannequin-like thousand yard stares that seem to follow you no matter where you are in a room are perfect nightmare fuel and yet very underused in horror film. You have fantastic exceptions like House of Wax (I’m talking the Vincent Price classic) that uses wax shells over human corpses to display the madman’s work. Surprisingly, this is an idea that was never fully exploited in the horror genre. What about rampaging, killer wax statues? Well, something like that did happen and it was actually a lot of fun.
Waxwork was a really imaginative horror comedy from director Anthony Hickox that was fun, adventurous, scary and gory. Like, surprisingly gory. At times, these varying moods can seem confusing as to which age group or audience it’s aiming to please, but a majority of the time they mesh well and make the movie a complete blast to watch. It captures that whole high-school-teens-in-trouble-with-the-supernatural-but-nobody-believes-them concept that the ‘80s loved so much, yet also seemingly captures the whimsy and magical wonder of movies you loved as a kid, except with a lot more creatures eating people and head’s getting cut off. Honestly, at different points in the film I felt like I was watching a fun, enchanted kids fantasy film and then the language and gore will totally throw you for a loop, but it’s a small you loop you learn to accept and it’s blended pretty decently.
Gremlins star Zach Galligan plays rich, spoiled high school elite Mark who acts maybe a little too mature for his age when he isn’t playing the overly jealous and possessive ex-boyfriend role to China. Not the country (lawlz), but the beautiful Michelle Johnson’s character. There seems to be a love triangle between him, her, a couple other dudes and the shy, petite virgin, Sarah (Valley Girl’s Deborah Foreman). Guess who will end up together? This all takes up the first several minutes, probably more, of the movie and kinda sprinkled here and there throughout the movie, but ultimately it’s irrelevant to the main course. A Waxwork operated by the always commanding and charming David Warner appears seemingly out of nowhere overnight and Mark and his friends China, Sarah and Tony (Twin Peaks’ Dana Ashbrook) are invited to check out it’s grand opening. I get a feeling it’s gonna be killer!
I apologize for that last attempt at a joke. I’m writing this while getting over the flu for the second time this year already.
Tony almost immediately finds himself drawn into a werewolf display, quite literally. He instantly begins having a long monologue and believing he was somehow hypnotized and that’s how he can see, feel and smell his surroundings. Gotta give Bobby Briggs credit for keeping his cool and still being a dick about the situation. He comes across a cabin with John Rhys-Davies who turns into a werewolf, which is what I’m sure would happen in real life if you were trapped in a cabin with him. Tony is bitten and begins transforming, but not before some hunters with silver bullets put them down. The camera very artistically pulls out to reveal the aftermath as the display just as Mark walks by looking for his friends who seem to be having their own gory adventures, like China who gets drawn in my Dracula’s gaze or maybe it’s because Miles O’Keefe has that super intense stare. This is one of the more gorier sequences and it uses some of those moments to a more humorous advantage, like with a man strapped to a table missing the meat off his leg and people keep hitting it and he screams in pain as he’s trying to help guide Sarah how to kill the vampires.
With a few friends missing, Sarah and Mark leave and get the police involved, one of which is one of my favorite cliches, a chain smoking detective who has a short temper. This detective takes a walk through the Waxwork and can’t help but notice all of the victims in the displays look a lot like people that have gone missing. Could it be a coincidence? Time to investigate, but not tell any other cops what you’re up to so when you go missing, nobody comes looking for you. There is a point for David Warner to be doing this, I think, that comes out when Mark visits his godfather who reveals to him all kinds of things about the occult and Satan, so you know, typical evil stuff, but it all leads to an absolutely glorious, silly, batshit battle between the wax monsters and a bunch of old guys with sabers. At least watch it for an old man in an electric powered wheelchair covered in flimsy armor and spikes.
I would say that Waxwork is imaginative, creative and a lot of fun most of the time, even if it’s not consistent at those. It’s funny at times, can be creepy and I thought the makeup work was excellent and even with some of the gore cut, it’s still pretty gory, especially when you see an old man get his head yanked off. Each one of the sequences feels like a different short film directed in a different style or by a different person and yet it fits. I especially liked the black and white zombie sequence. The sequel, Waxwork II: Lost in Time, on the other hand, well, is something of the exact opposite of that, but not for the lack of trying. The film certainly tries to recapture that same humor, magic and excitement, but unfortunately feels misguided and nothing seems to work where it should. Most of the jokes aren’t funny, the plot pieces seem out of place and the overall idea seems lost in what it’s trying to do and nothing mixes.
The sequel picks up immediately where the original left off with Mark and Sarah escaping the burning Waxwork building with Mark having significantly longer hair and Sarah significantly being a completely different actress. Clearly some time has passed, plenty of movies have continuity issues between sequels, so let’s just ignore it and move on. Sarah goes home to an almost abusive stepfather played by George ‘Buck’ Flower who’s murdered by the escaped severed hand at the end of the first film, which Sarah then completely pulverised Evil Dead style in the dish drain. Ok, so now that that’s happened, where do you go? How about to a semi-serious courtroom drama about the aftermath of the events and Sarah being on trial for the murder of her stepfather, her friends and the events that happened at the Waxwork? I know this seems like it could be an interesting way to take the franchise at this point, but how do you follow up something that was somewhat lighthearted, magical and scary by throwing in the idea of ‘this is what would happen in real life’? It’s a little jarring and with what’s about to follow, it’s gonna be like mixing peanut butter and shaving cream. Sure, you can do it, but should you? It doesn’t blend well and what you get is a mishmash of ideas that should have been their own entities and an film that leaves you unsure of how to feel.
Shit seems to be getting pretty serious, so the Mark decides that if they travel through time, they can collect some evidence and prove that the magic is real and Sarah will be totally innocent. Yeah, sure, that makes total sense. See what I mean about tonal whiplash? Also at this point, you’re going to start to notice that this is kind of an in name only sequel, meaning the idea of a Waxwork or what you think of is no longer, but it’s more like a continuing adventure, which I have to hand to them for trying something different. We are taken to some rather cool places, like a Frankenstein story where you really learn that the physical humor was really cranked up, but is more noticeably ineffective, a House on Haunted Hill era where I don’t remember what the hell the point of this one was, but like the zombie sequence in the first film is the most memorable and humorous mostly due to Bruce Campbell’s role and his physical humor as well as the camera work and lighting. The last segment is a magical kind of King Arthur sort of story and it’s at this point I had to wonder why this was called Lost in Time when none of the things happening are accurate to time or at least the real world’s time.
Well, short answer is because it’s later explained by a goddamn bird – yes, a bird – that it’s a parallel world. Ok, fair enough, but wouldn’t the title Lost in a Parallel Dimension be more accurate? Probably not as catchy, but at least I wouldn’t be able to call bullshit. I digress, but at this point you’re probably starting to notice just how padded this movie is and it’s going to drag and drag… and drag, especially the ending sword fight, which offers some cool ideas, but at some point you will feel like screaming, “END!” at your television. And it will… nearly two hours later. Yes, this is almost a two hour movie and so much could have been cut out of it. Whereas in the first film director Anthony Hickox managed to find a fine line in between all these different styles and genres, Waxwork II couldn’t find that same comfort zone. Nothing really blends well and you constantly feel like you’re watching a different film.
This is number three in Vestron’s Blu-ray library as a double features and although it’s under one package, each film is on its own disc as new a HD transfer and has their own special features. Well the first film has special features, the second film just has a trailer and audio commentary from Anthony Hickox and Zach Galligan, but you know what mean. The first Waxwork film has a six part documentary called The Waxwork Chronicles, a vintage “making of” featurette, as well as a trailer and a still gallery. Waxwork is also presented uncut, so even if you don’t like the second film, it’s still worth picking up for that alone.
(Submitted by Mr. Andrew Peters…Thanks, Ho-rror Ho-meboy!! 😉 xoxo)
Very few movies will leave me feeling left in the middle of the road, meaning I’m not entirely sure if I liked it or disliked it or the film just happened to have a really good scene or two that I thoroughly enjoyed. Welcome to that short list, Antibirth, a film released in the conjunction of IFC Midnight and Scream Factory, who I both love, but between this and The Devil’s Dolls I am seriously considering their judgement of the films they are releasing. Alright, maybe I’m being a little hard on Antibirth, I mean, it’s not like I hate the movie, but I was incredibly disappointed by it. After saying that, I should point out that it’s not ineptly made or stupid, it just wasn’t what I was expecting and seemed to move at a snail’s pace and I found it hard to keep my interest.
I know I talk about slow burns, movies that take their time setting up a plot, a lot of times, but Antibirth takes its sweet time getting there. I seriously think it was about halfway through the movie before I noticed any resemblance of a plot. Not that the film was confusing, mind you, but at multiple times I asked myself, “what the hell am I watching?” Not in a confused kind of way, but why I’m supposed to take long scenes of nothing but a stoner getting wasted interesting. It’s not all interesting as there are a few scenes that are noteworthy, but they are so far and few inbetween that it’s hard to recommend a movie just for a scene or two.
Natasha Lyonne plays the trashy, party monster Lou, and on a side note, it took me several moments to realize that this was the disco chick from Detroit Rock City. I gotta say, it does not look like she has aged a day in nearly twenty years. She kinda plays the same character (or maybe it’s just the Jersey accent throwing me off), except dirtier and trashier which is somehow more sexy. Then again, I’ve always had a thing for Natasha Lyonne. Anyway, Lou spends her days drinking, doing drugs, whatever it takes to get high. She occasionally refers to her father who apparently lost it during the Vietnam War and it’s alluded to that he killed himself, but this or what effect it had on Lou is never really explored. It’s brought up and dropped a few times, but nothing comes of it other than maybe this is why she is constantly in an altered state. Lou is not by far a likable character. When she isn’t doing drugs, she’s a foul mouthed chain smoker who eats pizza out of the garbage and lives in a hoarders dream trailer. It’s like she’s trying to be a cartoon version of a Rob Zombie character and honestly speaking, I didn’t want to spend a whole movie with this character, as she has no redeemable qualities and from what you will see in the movie, you have to wonder why she was chosen to be the center. To be fair, it does fit into the plot. There is a reason given to why we are following her, but at no point do I really want to. Lou wakes up one day with no recollection of what happened the previous night, which is what we see in flashy quick cuts wherein a shifty looking bearded man is leading her away from the party, where we can only think the unimaginable will happen.
Along with her friend Sadie (Chloe Sevigny), they try to get to the root of the problem, which is seemingly a pregnancy only there is one minor little problem; Lou claims that she hasn’t had sex in a really long time, after an abortion about a year ago and if you were worrying that the film wouldn’t show it, well let me ease your doubts. It’s a pretty disgusting scene, which I am sure some of you will get a kick out of. Figuring out with Lou is just a stop in this sideshow. It’s mentioned here and there, but the film would rather show you more scenes of her getting drunk and Sadie bitching at her for it. Along the way, Lou happens upon a mysterious woman, Lorna, played by Meg Tilly who looks like a combination of Winona Ryder and Charlie Heaton’s characters from Stranger Things. Lorna seems to have some answers, but Lou is resistant and goes about her debauchery lifestyle until further in the film when she tracks Lou down in her trailer and talks about her past with the Army and how she became a clairvoyant. Finally during the final act, things pick up and Lorna and Lou are on the path to realization that what may by inside Lou may not be human, especially seeing as she is growing in size rapidly. They track down Lou’s friends and Sadie’s ex-Marine drug dealing boyfriend to solve this riddle, which I won’t spoil just incase you want to check out the movie. I will say that it’s quite interesting, but unfortunately getting there takes a lot of patience and sitting through various subplots that barely tie together.
Antibirth is as if writer/director Danny Perez wanted to mimic the drug fueled, nightmare inducing style of Terry Gilliam with hints of a grungy David Fincher mystery and the trailer trash characters and dialogue of Rob Zombie while trying to make the birthing scene from Xtro, but got lost in just letting the camera run about a girl getting stoned and talking about nothing and the shift in tone between performances and tone make the movie feel confused. It’s not sure what it wants to be, so it’s hoping to use the drug fueled theme as a mask and play it off to be cool. At times it feels like it’s supposed to be body horror, other times it feels a bit sci-fi and then there is a mix of a stoner drama. There’s nothing wrong with mixing genres, Antibirth just feels muddled while it’s trying to decide what it’s trying to do and this shows with the actor’s performance. Natasha Lyonne seems to be in a comedy, while the supporting cast is in some kind of serious drama, then Meg Tilly steps in and almost crosses the line into campy territory.
As I’ve stated, I don’t think it’s a poorly made film. In fact, Danny Perez does seem to have an eye to tell the story, but I don’t think he quite understood how to tell it. There are several subplots to the overall story, none of which tie together really well and some seemingly drop out altogether only to be brought up again later, far after the point where I forgot about it. I could also mention the special effects that are done really well, minus the notable CG parts and offer up a pretty tripping viewing, especially when they are watching commercials or at a Chucky Cheeze style pizza place where people in furry animal-esque costumes dance around, mostly in front of lava lamp looking backgrounds. Another good thing about the film is the pop and punk rock soundtrack that I’m sure the targeted audience will get a kick out of.
As I mentioned in the beginning of the review, the film was released by Scream Factory in conjunction with IFC Midnight, who up until recently, I’ve been questioning their decisions. Possibly looking for new and different films for their audience, to which I can’t begrudge them for. The Blu-ray has a few special features, like shorts, storyboards and a trailer. Not much to really justify a $20 price tag, but some people may dig the film for what it is. Unfortunately, I can’t say I’m that target audience, as much as I do love seeing Natasha Lyonne. Surprised there’s not even a commentary track, as I think director Danny Perez really could have shed some light on the movie. If I were to sum up Antibirth, it’s an 80 minute set up to a ten minute joke. I don’t mean the film itself is a joke, but rather the film takes a long, long time drawn out time getting to the punchline that does pay off, but doesn’t make the journey worth the trip. To make a more accurate comparison, the movie is like that really immature friend you had in highschool and you don’t see them for ten years and then out of the blue, they call you to hang out. You go over there and they are still the same. Living in a mess, getting wasted and just acting like they don’t care. It’s no longer cool and you feel uncomfortable, so you are just waiting for the appropriate time to leave.
(Submitted by Mr. Andrew Peters…I love the crap out of the RE series, generally speaking, but have been hesitant to give this a shot after the mediocrity of the last couple games. Super appreciate you sharing your thoughts on this, Ho-rror Ho-mie…Sounds like I’m gonna have to give it a go after all!! 🙂 xoxo)
When Resident Evil hit the scene in 1996 on the Playstation, little did we know how much it would essentially change our lives. It didn’t give birth to the survival horror genre (in fact, it took the game play and camera placements right out of 1992’s Alone in the Dark), it absolutely changed and popularized it. Never again would we look at the genre the same way again. Resident Evil brought the genre into the spotlight forever and the game itself has spawned over a dozen sequels across many different platforms, some great and others not so great. Resident Evil 6 was by far one of the most disappointing sequels to the fans, focusing heavily on action elements rather than horror and being overloaded with dull, button mashing quick time events. The plot was contrived and, well, stupid, for lack of a better word. The original idea had been so diluted at this point that it barely resembled what it once did and people were sick and tired of being excited for a new Resident Evil game only to be let down harder and harder.
Then comes Resident Evil VII (switching to roman numerals now), which promised to be a whole other experience. The plot was unfamiliar with the series, the game is in a first person perspective to immerse us into the world of survival horror (which is a real treat for you Playstation VR users) and it did away with all those pesky quick time events. Already, it had won fans over and Kitchen Demo that was released blew our socks off. Now that the full game has been out for a little while and we’ve had a chance to play it, we can fully assess Resident Evil VII: Biohazard, the game that may save the franchise. Up front, I have to say it was kind of a rollercoaster, meaning that it has its ups and downs, but the downs aren’t too steep, they just seem like retreaded territory that should have been improved. I know I’m making it sound like it was a disappointment (believe me, it’s not), but it did take away from the overall experience of my playthrough and I couldn’t help but to think about how it could have been improved on. I’m getting way ahead of myself and we haven’t even made proper introductions yet.
The game centers around an average joe, Ethan Winters, whose wife disappeared three years ago and that’s all we know about the guy. We don’t know his day job, we don’t know what kind of survival background he has nor do we know what the dude looks like since it’s all from his perspective and there seems to be a lack of reflections in the game. Suddenly, he receives a video from his wife begging him to stay away from the Baker Estate out in Dulvey, Louisiana. That’s right, we are moving away from Raccoon City or wherever the hell the other games took place. You almost immediately arrive at the Baker Estate, a rather large, old Southern styled mansion, and quickly explore the property to find a back way in seeing as how the front gates are locked and the place doesn’t seem very inviting. This part of the game acclimates you with the basic controls so you are able to get a feel of what you are doing. It controls pretty much like every first person shooter you are familiar with; click the left thumbstick to run, click the right thumbstick to duck, yada yada yada. Along the way, you’ll see some Texas Chainsaw Massacre inspired artwork – things made from bones and animal parts – that act as an omen, but before shortly you’re once again entering the world of survival horror. The door behind you slams shut and you’re on your own. A sense of dread washes over overwhelms you. You can’t but feel as if you made a mistake, but there is no turning back now. And THIS is the feeling Resident Evil had long lost, but has finally recaptured.
Things only intensify as you begin exploring the Baker estate. The beginning hour or so acts as a tutorial of such, further getting you familiar with controls and items and what they can do as you’ll learn in one of the most stomach punching, gut wrenching scenes of dismemberment. You quickly find your wife and if you think escape this early on in the game is the end, then you are sadly mistaken. This only acts to raise some questions that need to be answered and, of course, introduce you the Baker family, who you officially meet over a dinner table scene very reminiscent of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. You may be noticing that this game is somewhere between the first Resident Evil game and TCM, which I honestly have to say is a pretty cool crossover. Imagine the Spencer estate from the first game all run down and dirty, filled with mold and rotting food and furniture.
Since I just brought up the Spencer estate and the first Resident Evil game, as the game progresses, you may start to notice that Resident Evil VII not only has the same feel as the original game, but also starts to hit the same beats. Not that this is a bad thing, in fact it’s welcomed. The atmosphere and surroundings are starting to get under your skin and you feel like you’re in constant danger… which you are. One big difference about REVII is the lack of zombies or infected throughout the game. Rather than the game throwing dozens of varied enemies at you, it instead has a lurking, hunting boogeyman in the form of one of the Bakers. As you explore and search the house, looking for answers and trying to solve the puzzles, one of the family members will be stalking you, pacing around the area, kinda like how Scissorman could appear at any moment in Clock Tower or to keep it within the same series, Mr. X in Resident Evil 2, only constant and random. It does add a sense of urgency on your part and makes for some seriously panicked gameplay, but at times I was getting very frustrated. For example, all I was trying to do was open a locked door and Jack, Papa Baker, kept grabbing me and tossing me, because the goddamn door unlocks and opens so slow (because, ya know, tension).
It’s not just being hunted down like a dog as you try and find your wife or an exit. There are puzzle solving elements, some that feel very familiar to those you solved at the Spencer estate in the first game while others feel a bit toned down. That’s actually for the best and helps the Baker estate feel more grounded to reality, as you wouldn’t expect an actual house to have these extravagant puzzles, which it sorta does, but hey… it’s a Resident Evil game. Unfortunately, the puzzles seem few and far inbetween and far too easy for any gamer. In fact, sometimes it feels like they are just giving you the solution. There were a few times with a certain puzzle that requires you to move an object to cast a shadow on the wall, where I swear it’s like the game said, “eh, close enough!” and just gave me the solution.
I had mentioned earlier that the game controls much like a first person shooter, which isn’t a bad thing. Considering we, as gamers, have been conditioned to these controls, it actually makes playing it very easy. The controls also have a classic Resident Evil style going on to them, so it also feels familiar in an old way. Keeping with the old style, you have a limited amount of item space, but unlike the original game, it’s pretty easy to manage and predict what you’re going to need or get to an item box, especially seeing as all the areas seem to loop around, making it easier to find one or even avoid whoever is chasing you. The number of items you carry can be expanded by finding backpacks and you can even combine items, mixing them together to make a single item, like herbs, only this time only green herbs are available. Those herbs can be taken on their own to refill a little bit of health or you can mix them with a chemical pack to make a stronger First Aid formula that heals much more. You can use those same chemical packs to make ammo or stimulants which can be used to find better items. The game also offers permanent health items that carry over into new games once you have beaten it.
There are some downsides to Resident Evil VII, however. I mentioned that it can be frustrating at times when you are trying to accomplish a single goal and a member of the Baker family is preventing you from doing so. It’s especially frustrating when it forces you to backtrack and linger around, waiting for them to move, just so you can do something, like advance through a door. I know the Baker’s are the only enemies I talked about, but there is more. To be exact, ONE more. An enemy called the molded will spawn from these moldy looking spots and they bob and weave, making them difficult to hit and can pack quite a punch. What else? That’s it. Seriously. Just the Baker’s and the molded. To be fair, you get three variations of the molded; the normal, crawling on the ground and quick and fat, but tough. It’s your average variety of the villain and as you run through the game, you will start to feel nostalgic for the zombies, especially in this setting, but then again, they don’t fit into this story. Believe it or not, the enemies that spawn have a reason for being there. The biggest offender about the game is that it uses the same stale, tiring survival horror setup.
Ok, so, the game starts being generous, giving you lots of ammo and health items. Then, it shoves you into corridors and lashes wave and wave of overpowered enemies at you, thus depleting you of the items you just collected. This makes no logical sense to do to a player and to think it’s still being done in games is just ridiculous. The game will also stock you back up on those items and you’ll wander into a room that looks an awful lot like some kind of arena, usually with explosive stuff around, indicating a boss fight. Again, why is this still being done? This completely removes the gamer from any heightened sense of fear they may be experiencing, because you can see it coming a mile away. It’s seriously disappointing to see this still being used. Resident Evil VII lacks some of the actual tense moments, often telegraphing ahead of what is to come and this removes any chance of a legit scare.
Is it the perfect Resident Evil game we all hoped for and thought it would be? No, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a damn fine game. It’s a step in the right direction, even if it wasn’t perfect. It was the breath of fresh air that the series needed. I was glad to see the series dump all of that stupid, nonsense and cartoonishly over the top action and character stories that built up to nothing and went absolutely nowhere (I’m looking at you Ada and Leon). Resident Evil VII does a great job at not leaving plot holes or feeling convoluted and actually raises enough questions to answer, but also leaving a few unanswered so you want more. It was great to see all the homages to the first game, but ultimately that’s all they were. Luckily, the series is headed in the right direction and needs to continue on this path if it wants to make a full comeback. Still, I highly enjoyed Resident Evil VII and I would like to see what comes next.
(Submitted by Mr. Andrew Peters…Thanks for the warning on this one, Ho-rror Ho-mie! 😉 xoxo)
I’ve talked about cliches before and that sometimes they work, sometimes they don’t. Sometimes it can make a film seem like it’s been photocopied from several other things that did the same thing, giving it a very stale taste. It can make a film so bland and uninspired that you barely notice the film and only see the things you’ve seen several dozen times before. That’s what The Devil’s Dolls is. Even though the core concept of the film is interesting, it’s the same film you’ve seen from major studios time and time again and considering this is an independent feature, I’m kinda surprised the film didn’t take any liberties and just played it safe.
Right from the very first moment, you get the feeling you’ve seen this all before. I mean, how many times have you seen a skinny white girl in a tank top tied up and tortured? Far too many. I actually let out an audible groan and rolled my eyes and the only reason I kept watching was because it’s my job. Then I thought, “Well, maybe it’ll get better. Maybe something different will happen,” but nope. Not really. The film then cuts to a serial killer named Henry as he mumbles to some worry dolls and places them inside a wooden box as his captive girl struggles to get free, just in time as he picks up a large gas powered drill and chases her. Aren’t these scenes usually at the end of the movie? It feels like we stepped into a generic modern slasher during the last fifteen minutes. She comes across a cop who of course doesn’t listen to her warnings about leaving immediately and continues on with what he’s saying. It’s like he’s having a conversation with himself and this trope is absolutely frustrating and the only reason this scene exists is to throw in the film’s only really gory moment as he gets drilled through the head. Just as Henry is about to drill this unnamed girl, he’s gunned down by hard boiled Detective Matt off screen that wasn’t there a moment ago and saves her. Already, I feel like I’ve sat through this entire movie. Without seeing the rest of the movie, I can tell you all about these characters.
Matt should be celebrating that he just gunned down the serial killer he’s been chasing for years, but he’s not. The job has cost him his marriage and he now drinks and sits in his office, staring at the wall looking lost. You know, typical cop movie stuff. Another thing he does is not really follow police procedures. Rather than have the crime scene investigators haul the wooden box of worry dolls into evidence, Matt just tosses that shit in the back seat of his car which his daughter Chloe ends up taking to her mother’s antique store. Chloe decides to make these worry dolls into her jewelry and wears one herself and instantly becomes pale skinned and seemingly sick. Conveniently for everyone else in the movie and the plot Chloe happens to suffer from epilepsy, so they just pass it off as that. Even after she stabs the family dog to death and winds up at the hospital when she becomes unresponsive, they blame it on her illness. I wasn’t aware that random acts of murder was a side effect of epilepsy.
A young adult whose girlfriend bought him one of Chloe’s worry doll necklaces also goes pale and randomly murders a gas station attendant. Matt is called to the scene, because this case bears a striking resemblance to the one he thought he just closed; a similar marking or drawing that Henry left behind during his crimes. During his investigation, Matt believes that the victim must have had contact with Henry, but his investigation leads him to an old voodoo woman who wants the box, but Henry must first find all the worry dolls and place them back inside the box before sundown. This timeframe is suddenly thrown on you, seeing as how one or two nights have already passed, but the story desperately feels the need to make this seem urgent.
I think I may have just narrowed down the plot a little too much, which has even surprised me, but the more I think about it, there isn’t anything much else to say about the film. I mean, think of most horror movie and cop movie cliches and there ya go. That’s this movie. As the film draws near the end and they are trying hard to making it seem more tense than it actually is, the twists and suspenseful moments that it throws at you can be seen coming a mile away, so it’s very uneffective. I feel like I’m going in circles here, struggling to find something to talk about, but it’s such an unmemorable film that nothing stuck with me… and I just watched it last night and even took notes. I guess I could mention the characters, since I haven’t really talked about them, but they have no chemistry together. They even try the nickname game, always calling each other “buddy,” “Chlo” or what have you, but it comes off as a group of people that just met and feel uncomfortable being around each other and awkwardly and forcefully trying to strike up a conversation.
If there are any positives to take away from The Devil’s Dolls it’s that the performances are actually pretty decent, especially considering there is a child actor who must be possessed and the special effects aren’t half bad. I say half bad because the majority of it is slashed throats and blood spraying, as if the special effects person was only talented at just that effect and didn’t want to step out of their comfort zone. It’s an unfortunate shame, since the head drilling scene at the beginning was pretty cool. I guess you get your big effect out of the way in the first several minutes, hook in the audience and they’ll keep watching thinking they’ll get more of that. Hey, Scanners did something similar, except that movie was phenomenal. It’s kind of a shocker that Scream Factory of all companies released this movie on Blu-ray. I can’t recall if there were any special features included or not, although I can’t imagine you would want to check them out and at a $20 price tag, it’s probably best to skip this one. However, it is on Netflix if you get curious and I noticed it had about a one star rating. Now I know why.
I can’t say that The Devil’s Dolls was a bad film, it’s just not that interesting. It’s not unwatchable, it’s just forgettable. Nothing sticks out and I found myself very bored and since the movie is incredibly predictable, it’s like jumping forward into the future and having seen it before you actually do. I didn’t hate the film. I just don’t care about it.
(Submitted by Mr. Andrew Peters…Thank you, Ho-rror Ho-mie! xoxox)
Part One of Ties That Bind, the first episode of Telltale’s newest season of The Walking Dead, introduced us to a new character named Javi, an ex-baseball player that was trying to reconnect with his family when the outbreak happened and is now on the road with his brother David’s wife, Kate, and her stepchildren Gabe and Mariana. Along the way, shit happens as they tend to do in post apocalyptic zombie stories (how else would you get the plot moving?) and Javi is separated from his group and meets up with Clementine. The two get into all sorts of trouble that ends with Mariana, Javi’s ten year old niece, getting shot in the head by a group of assailants. The first episode tried to play against your senses and against what you would expect, but The Walking Dead has been pulling that trick for so long, you come to expect any happen moment to end in bloodshed. Still, it was great episode and we’re happy to see Clem back and the story is really taking shape.
The second episode, Ties That Bind Part 2, picks up immediately where you left off depending on the choice you made. Since I decided to stick with Clementine and bail on my family, Javi awoke after the explosion, the attackers have ran away in defeat, Clem thanks you for sticking with her, so that leaves only one thing left to do; bury your dead niece. Yes, that’s a part of the game and I have to say that I never thought I’d be attending a child’s funeral in a videogame, but here we are. It actually works for some emotional impact and it’s heartbreaking to see Javi breaking down, but luckily with Clem at his side, he keeps it together and the two head back to Prescott to check on Javi’s family. Gabe is still being an annoying brat and Kate is… well, Kate has had better days. Doesn’t look like she’s going to be making it much longer by the sound of things, but at the moment that’s the least of their worries as those jerks who attacked them, the ones who call themselves The New Frontier, are rolling up to the gates and demanding justice! Having Conrad’s girlfriend, Francine, as a prisoner, they snip off one of her fingers to get Javi to come down, but an untrusting Clem opens fire and everything goes to shit once again.
Seriously, The Walking Dead, enough with the finger cutting offing.
It was during this action sequence, I started to realize how much button mashing was in the particular episode. More specially, the Q button on my keyboard. It seems like every action scene that follows requires you to mash the shit out of the Q key and it grows stale pretty quick. Anyway, the group makes it out alive, well except for Francine, to which Conrad has some choice words to say to Javi. Gabe will raise his gun at Conrad and you have the choice to either talk him down or talk down to him. You might be noticing that this is the case most of the time when dealing with Gabe and I’m just realizing the game is wanting us to shape him into the man he will become. Will he becomes good natured like Javi (if you are playing him that way) or will he become hot headed and dangerous like David, his father? It’s an interesting way to take this character development, similar to what you could do with Clem in the previous Walking Dead seasons. The group decides to head to Richmond, VA, assuming that nothing but good things await them there.
After the situation diffuses the group finds themselves at a jam, literally. A couple of wrecked cars block their path and now is where you get to do some puzzle solving, kinda like what you did in Telltale’s Batman, only this is much more straightforward, almost like it’s on a rail. That does suck the fun and exploration out of it and makes it feel like a time consuming chore. Wouldn’t you know it, zombies await behind the wreckage and the group has once again fudged things up, but thanks to their new friend Jesus, they are able to find a way through the sewers and breaks the sour news to the group that The New Frontier has overtaken Richmond. Uh-oh, probably shouldn’t have sent Kate and Eleanor ahead. Jesus is by far the best thing about the game so far. Nicknamed after the lord and savior, this simultaneously trustworthy and untrustworthy dude talks like Christian Slater doing an impression of Jack Nicholson and does some near Matrix level martial arts, as he demonstrates once the group yet again makes the worst decision possible and makes the situation worse. But it does get worse for them. Clem reveals to Javi her true connection between herself and The New Frontier to which Conrad overhears and once separated from the others, threatens her with a gun and tries to convince Javi to side with him, using Clem as a bargaining chip once they reach Richmond. To further convince Javi, he puts a gun to Gabe’s head and you have a choice to either shoot Conrad or side with him. Wasn’t a hard decision for me.
Having reached Richmond, the group quickly finds the car with Kate inside and Eleanor missing, they also quickly find the gate to The New Frontier’s headquarters and Javi has a new plan; beg. Yup, walk right up to the gate and beg them to let you in for medical attention for Kate. A familiar face greets you at the gate and has reservations about letting you in, so you are given the choice of acting like a dick to him or trying to appeal to senses. No matter which path you take, it ends with a group of Frontier-ers coming down to take you in when you are greeted by their leader. Someone you know, someone you thought was dead and all the cliched, predictable storytelling moments in this episode lead up to this and I gotta say, I really can’t wait to see where it’s gonna go.
Clearly with the reintroduction to the familiar face at the end, Javi is going to have to make some hard choices, especially if you want to keep Clem as your friend. I think there are also going to be challenges with convincing Gabe to do the right thing, which is gonna make for a cool light side or dark side of the force kind of story arc with him. Although Ties That Bind Part 2 was full of stupid people making stupid decisions to move the story along, once the story got to where it wanted (which was at the end), it kinda made up for it, although I can’t forgive the repetitive button mashing action sequences that quickly wore thin. Nethertheless, episode 3, Above The Law (no, not the Steven Segal movie… although, that would be an awesome tie-in), should be out in about a week – February 7th-ish – and you know things are only going to get a hell of a lot uglier.