The Howling (1980)

Joe Dante

Dee Wallace - Karen White
Christopher Stone - Roy William Neill
Belinda Balaksi - Terry Fisher
Dennis Dugan - Chris Halloran
Patrick MacNee - Dr. George Waggner
Elisabeth Brooks - Marsha Quist
Robert Picardo - Eddie Quist

Genre - Horror/Werewolf

Running Time - 91 Minutes

Score - 3 Howls Outta 4

Probably the bastard stepchild of the horror genre, the werewolf sub-genre hasn't been treated with the greatest of respect over the years. Lycanthrope films started out well with the classic 1941 Universal Studios feature, THE WOLF MAN, starring Lou Chaney, Jr. It continued on strong, but as we see now, werewolf features aren't exactly must-sees or even all that good to watch to begin with. Movies like AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN PARIS and SKINWALKERS pretty much soured lycanthrope tales with their inept attempts to "scare" audiences.

I really don't understand why it's so hard to make a werewolf feature. As long as you use the common cliches [such as the full moon, lust triggers that lead to crazy animal sex, and wicked transformation scenes to wow the audience], with a decent script and compelling characters that we can somewhat care about, there shouldn't be a problem. But with the invent of CGI and the new trend of "style-over-substance", the werewolf has been pretty much been giving a shaft similar to a silver bullet to the heart.

The 1980s sure didn't have this problem though. Werewolf films were pretty common during this decade, using social commentary about our struggles to separate man vs. beast as the basis of these films. Movies like SILVER BULLET, WOLFEN, and AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON captivated audiences with their decent stories and cool special effects. One of the more popular werewolf films of the decade [and of all time] is THE HOWLING.

Loosely based on a 1977 novel by Gary Brandner due to a bunch of rewrites by multiple screenwriters, THE HOWLING was one of the first lycanthrope movies to actually show the werewolf transformation from man/woman to beast in a very believable, and frightening, way. While the film did decent business, it was completely overshadowed by the more mainstream and humorous AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON, directed by ANIMAL HOUSE's John Landis, which many consider to be the creme de la creme of werewolf flicks. And while I do believe AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON is the much better film, THE HOWLING is no slouch either and deserves the cult status that it has earned over the years.

A famous anchorwoman named Karen White (Dee Wallace) is in the middle of the biggest story of her career: getting close to a serial killer named Eddie Quist (Robert Picardo), who seems to have made Karen one of his objects of obsession. After meeting in a booth inside an XXX video shop and seeing Eddie do something strange, cops bust up the investigation by fatally shooting Eddie and leaving Karen traumatized. After Karen returns to work a bit too soon, Karen's husband Bill (Christopher Stone) and her co-workers Chris (Dennis Dugan) and Terry (Belinda Balaski) urge Karen to see a psychiatrist named Dr. Waggner (Patrick MacNee). Wagner suggests that Karen spend some quiet time at some group therapy setting called "The Colony" in the middle of the woods. Karen agrees and takes her husband with her.

Karen and Bill begin to familiarize with their new setting and befriend some others who are part of "The Colony". Some are professional and friendly, while others like the seductive and sexual Marsha (Elisabeth Brooks) are downright rude and uncaring [except to Bill, who Marsha definitely has a thing for and vice versa]. As Karen tries to remember her traumatic night in that booth, she starts to realize that "The Colony" is not what it claims to be. Especially when she starts hearing loud animal noises, like wolf howls. Bill investigates Karen's worries, suddenly getting attacked and bitten by a huge furry creature. Suddenly, Karen and her friends start to realize that "The Colony" is a safe haven for werewolves - and Karen is being groomed to become part of the pack.

While time hasn't really been perfectly kind to THE HOWLING, this werewolf flick is still a good piece of horror cinema from beginning to end. It's extremely subtle in its storytelling, paced more like a drama than an actual horror flick - which probably turns away a lot of people. But the film is one of the best of its kind and it's kind of sad that not many people appreciate this film as much as AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON.

Like I mentioned earlier, THE HOWLING is subtle. Many people would expect a werewolf film to be very fast paced, with tons of transformation scenes, and more violent attacks on film. THE HOWLING is far from that. It plays more like a mystery at first, setting up characters and location very slowly until 50 minutes in, where we finally see someone transform into a werewolf. Yeah, this could bore a lot of people and more action could have been nicely added to make the film a bit more exciting. But I kind of like the fact that it doesn't go full blown into the whole werewolf subplot because we get to see who the characters are and understand the film's themes before the good stuff gets introduced. It probably did the build up for a bit too long but at least there's an actual story and plot going on in THE HOWLING. You got to give it props for that.

I also dig the fact that a serial killer subplot is included in THE HOWLING. Werewolves are savage killers to begin with, so why not introduce the human side of that savagery as well? I wish we could have seen the history of Eddie's murder spree and why he would target Karen for a bigger mystery feel. But I guess it's enough to know that a serial killer is bad and an intelligent, beautiful, and vulnerable anchorwoman is good. There could have been a better storytelling method to link the two situations together, but it is logical once we see Eddie again at the end. Sometimes it's enough.

I think the biggest gripe with THE HOWLING is the lack of werewolf action. And yeah, I can definitely understand that. It's pretty much all at the end and they don't really do all that much but transform and scare people. But when we do get it, it's an incredible spectacle, even to this day. The transformation scenes, done by Rob Bottin [who also did THE THING], are awesome and frighteningly realistic looking. Watching the hair form, faces bubble, and snouts extend outward still amaze me today as they did when I was younger and scared by what I was watching here. Even the werewolves in full transformation are amazingly done, as you can definitely buy that these creatures are real and ready to kill. I do think some of the SFX that are clearly done through puppetry are kind of fake looking in an era of CGI reliance, dating the film a great deal. But I rather see werewolves like this than the ones in AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN PARIS, who looked like a CGI Scooby-Doo on steroids. But that's just my opinion. I could have done without the obviously animated wolves right at the end though. Made me laugh more than anything.

I do think that most of the characters in this film aren't all that interesting or as developed as Karen. Terry and Chris are okay and Marsha is interesting for the fact that she's bitchy, hot, and gets naked without abandon. Plus Eddie is a sick mofo and is pretty cool too. But the other characters either pop up and do nothing significant, or are as bland as they come. Karen's husband, Bill, who is supposedly one of the major characters, is just boring and uninteresting. Even as a werewolf, he was a non-presence. Just a horribly written character and Christopher Stone probably deserved better. At least he got to bang and marry Dee Wallace soon after the shooting of this movie. Some guys have all the luck.

I also hate it when horror movie characters do the dumbest things in situations most of us have enough common sense in figuring out what to do. The Karen scene where she confronts Eddie, in particular, really gets on my nerves. Now I understand the point of the scene is to display the transformation scene from human Eddie to werewolf Eddie so we can marvel at the special effects. What I dislike is that Karen stands right in front of him the entire time and does absolutely NOTHING to protect herself. I kept yelling, "Run, bitch, run!" during the entire scene. Shit, I would have either bolted out of there or gotten a weapon and beat the living crap out of him while he's transforming. What good is it gonna do just to stand there and admire the view? DO SOMETHING!!

Joe Dante directs a fine atmospheric film here. I like the little homages to other wolf films he adds into the narrative [like THE WOLF MAN] and bringing in cameos by Roger Corman and John Carradine. I also appreciate the fact that it's a very dark and gloomy film that raises the creep factor for THE HOWLING. It's also mildly humorous as well, though more in a witty sort of way than an actual "ha ha" way. The hamburger during the end credits always puts a smile on my face. The dream sequences and letting the viewer figure out what they could mean were very well done. And those transformation scenes were shot perfectly for its time. They totally suck you in as a viewer, wondering how in the world did the SFX team do that. There were a couple of syncing problems with the editing that I noticed, but they don't hurt the film at all. Dante knows how to direct a sinister and wacky film, and THE HOWLING is no exception.

The acting is very good as well. Dee Wallace was made a horror genre star because of this film and its with good reason. Her protrayal as Karen is captivating and appealing, as she presents us a real woman who is smart, vulnerable, and brave at the same time. She also shows a lot of range and she's truly the star of this film. Robert Picardo, who is pretty much great in any role, is charmingly creepy as serial killer Eddie. He plays the part convincingly well and his transformation scene is the highlight of the role. Belinda Balaski, Dennis Dugan, and especially Patrick MacNee are great in their respective roles. And Elisabeth Brooks is just bangable as hell as Marsha. I let her turn me into a werewolf any time she wants. Growl.

The only bad actor was Christopher Stone as Bill. Well he wasn't "bad" in the very sense of the word, but he didn't bring anything to the table. He was just "there" for me and I wouldn't have noticed if he and his pale ass were not in the film. Just a pretty bland performance in a cast of some very good ones.


- Repression shows the extent of how much we hate ourselves. I agree. I wish I can go back in time and kick my own ass for watching BLOODY MURDER in the first place. Not even repressing what I saw has managed to save my decreasing sanity.

- Mentally unstable men like to take beautiful women they have a thing for out on a date to watch hardcore pornography. Men think it'll get women hot, but it really just gets them cold and unwilling to go on a second date. See also: TAXI DRIVER.

- At The Colony, people barbecue meat, dress weird, and play folk music that no one wants to dance to. Yep, this is a cult. Or an incestuous party in the South that they like to call a "family reunion". Where the fuck is my banjo?

- Eddie's corpse was missing from the morgue, surprising the coroner. I'm sure that's happened to every coroner who has tried to bag Keith Richards. They just can't get no satisfaction.

- Werewolves don't need full moons to transform, as they can change shape anytime they want. That's very much true as any kind of moon will do. So if someone dares to show me their bare ass again as a prank, it's the last thing they'll ever do.

- Don't ever enter a room with a "Have A Nice Day" sticker on its door, especially at a werewolf cabin. The last person that will be smiling is you.

- Werewolves can get real abusive when humans try to interfere with their goals and/or if they don't get their way. Ike Turner was apparently a lycanthrope. He just didn't realize that Tina Turner was his silver bullet.

- Don't ever let your werewolf husband give you a hickey. Not only will it turn you into the cutest werewolf ever, but PETA will probably throw paint on you for wearing fur. And then you have to take a shower, which will make you smell like a wet rat. The smell will turn off potential dates, making you celebate by default. It's just a downward spiral of pain.

I like THE HOWLING. It's not perfect and it's a bit dated, but it's still a damn fine werewolf flick that's more drama than action horror. With some good acting, a well written story, and some cool transformation werewolf scenes, you can't go wrong with THE HOWLING. Unfortunately I wish I could say the same for the sequels. But that's another howl for another time.


Lost Boys: The Tribe (2008)

P.J. Pesce

Tad Hilgenbrink - Chris Emerson
Autumn Reeser - Nicole Emerson
Angus Sutherland - Shane
Kyle Cassie - Jon
Greyston Holt - Evan
Corey Feldman - Edgar Frog
Gabrielle Rose - Aunt Jillian

Genre - Horror/Teen/Vampire

Running Time - 92 Minutes

Score - 1.5 Howls Outta 4

In 1987, audiences were treated to a youth-centric and silly vampire film called THE LOST BOYS. It made some bank at the box office, eclipsing the superior vampire flick NEAR DARK [which came out around the same time], and introduced the world to Keifer Sutherland, Jason Patric, and the phenomenon that was the Two Coreys [Feldman & Haim]. Beloved by many and seen as a cool piece of 80s nostalgia, THE LOST BOYS has been called "the greatest vampire flick of all time." Do I agree with that statement? Absolutely not. It's one of the best but it's not the best. This debate could probably go on forever.

I do believe that the one thing everyone can agree on is that THE LOST BOYS doesn't need a sequel. It's great as a stand-alone tale, so the thought of a sequel seemed unnecessary to many.

But like I always say, "When money talks, bullshit walks."

Here I am, 21 years after the original was released, and I'm writing about LOST BOYS: THE TRIBE - the official direct-to-DVD sequel of THE LOST BOYS. With a different director, writer, actors and characters [except for Corey Feldman, Corey Haim, and Jamison Newlander - who return briefly to reprise their roles from the original film], the teen vamp story that appealled to many of us 80s kids continues. Unfortunately, this film should have never been made because it really isn't all that great and just a major disappointment after all these years. Let's sink our fangs into this unnecessary and pointless sequel.

Moving to some surf California town named Luna Bay, siblings Chris (Tad Hilgenbrink) and Nicole (Autumn Reeser) Emerson [they're apparently the children of Michael Emerson and Star from the original THE LOST BOYS] hope to rebuild their lives after the deaths of their parents in a car accident by moving in with their Aunt Jillian (Gabrielle Rose). Chris used to have money from sponsors when he was a professional surfer, but his parents' death has hit him hard. Nicole, on the other hand, seems to be dealing with it by acting like a slut and being that difficult 17-year-old sister we all dread of having.

Chris and Nicole are invited to a party by some sleepy blonde dude named Shane (Angus Sutherland), who used to be a surfer himself until he disappeared for mysterious reasons. Well, it's not so mysterious - he's the head of his own vampire clan and these parties he does are to initiate more to his tribe [hence, the title of the movie]. Nicole falls for Shane and eventually drinks a vile of his blood, becoming a half-vampire and under Shane's vampiric spell. Chris, seeing the symptoms, decides to team up with Edgar Frog (Corey Feldman), who knows all too well about vampires [especially since he lost Alan to them years before]. The two decide to infiltrate the tribe, hopefully saving Nicole and ending the vampire threat.

Hmmm...haven't I seen this film before?

I saw LOST BOYS: THE TRIBE before its DVD release date from a bootleg actually copied straight from the DVD itself [it has all the special features and everything]. I even told several people who read these reviews that I thought the film was actually pretty decent. However, as I sat down and started to look at my notes and write this review, I realized how lame this movie really was. I'm not saying it's completely terrible, because THE TRIBE is not that at all. But it's pretty forgettable and very pointless.

I think the worst thing about THE TRIBE is that it's nothing but a rehash of the original THE LOST BOYS, but with worse characters, worse acting, a worse soundtrack [the version of "Cry Little Sister" here is terrible], and worse direction. It's pretty disappointing because I was expecting something more than I saw. I mean, it's been over 20 years. You'd think a lot of planning would have gone into this film. Nope, just a retelling of the original story but done for modern audiences. So instead of comic book stores, we get scenes of vampires surfing and motorcycling around town fucking with cops just because they're jerks. It's like the vampire version of The O.C., with an actual star from that very television show as the female lead character. We get a fat saxophonist instead of a muscular one. There's a mention of THE GOONIES [hardy har har!] and a line taking right from the original about THE TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE. Instead of an eccentric grandfather, we have an eccentric aunt. We even have Keifer Sutherland's younger brother as the lead vampire in this film [Keifer was the lead in the original]. It tries to be witty but falls flat on his face most of the time because we've already seen this film before. The only difference is that it was a lot better 21 years ago. This isn't a sequel. This is the epitome of lazyness and greed.

The characters in this film are pretty blah and/or annoying. Chris, our "hero", is a bit overprotective of his younger sister. To the point where he has shoving matches with her and drags her away from situations where boys even glance at her. And the weird part is that there was actually sexual tension between Chris and Nicole! Ew much? I get you don't want your sister to spread her legs open to every dude she sees, but Chris acted more like a jealous and abusive husband than a worried brother. Nicole was a bit better and more grounded as a character, but she's pretty much playing the Jason Patric/Michael role from the original except that she goes all the way with it while Michael fought the urges to give in into being a vampire. And the eccentric aunt, Jillian, was just annoying. She actually reminded me of Megan Mullany as Karen on Will & Grace, but 100 times worse. Everytime she was on screen, I groaned. Mute button!

The vampires are no better. It's like watching the cast of JACKASS but with fangs. They stabbed each other and videotaped it like it was all one big joke. They were all devoid of personality but one: asshole. Except for Shane, who wasn't a total asshole but definitely needed a cup of coffee or something. I was afraid he was gonna fall asleep on screen with his sloth-like mannerisms. And he's the main villain? Wow...

The best character was the one from the original: Edgar Frog. All grown up and now making surfboards while still a comic book lover, Frog is still the same guy you love from THE LOST BOYS. Still sarcastic, still sounding like a poor man's Clint Eastwood, and still kicking ass - Edgar Frog is the ultimate highlight of the sequel. And I have a feeling he'll be the highlight for the next installment of this "franchise".

The SFX was actually decent. There's a lot more gore and blood than in the original THE LOST BOYS. And it all looks pretty good. The vampires are pretty mean in this film, so it works on a more mature level. I will say the transformation scenes aren't all that new. If you've seen Buffy The Vampire Slayer or Angel, then you know what the vampires look like. It didn't bug me all that much.

The direction by P.J. Pesce wasn't Schumacher quality but it wasn't half bad. For a direct-to-DVD feature [and yes, it looks direct-to-DVD], I still thought it had some style and interesting edits. The action scenes were directed well and the cinematography looked good. There were things that sometimes looked a bit fake and low budgeted, plus any nudity was topped by flesh colored material that was visible if you looked at it enough. But I've seen worse. The pacing was good and I was never bored the entire 92 minutes. I have to give Pesce credit for that.

The acting was pretty bad though. It made me laugh a lot at how these actors delivered their lines. Especially bad was Tad Hilgenbrink with his goofy face and his forcefulness to act innocent. Angus Sutherland was worse than Hilgenbrink. He looks like a Sutherland. He has the presence of a Sutherland. But he can't act out of a paper bag. He mumbled his lines and seemed to not give a fuck. Even his sex scene with Reeser seemed ho-hum. Someone give the dude some vitamins or a Red Bull! And Gabrielle Rose just annoyed me with her performance. Too bad none of the vampires ate her. I would have praised the film more if they did.

Autumn Reeser was okay as Nicole. I really don't blame her as much as I blame the script. Her dialogue isn't all that great and she's pretty much non-existent during much of the last half of the film. But she's great to look at, so that's a plus. And Greyston Holt as Evan was the goofball of the film and he was okay too. He had some funny stuff in there and was pretty likable.

The best actor of the film, and I can't believe I'm saying this, was without a doubt Corey Feldman. It was like he never stopped playing Edgar Frog. He had the best lines [his speech about becoming a ordained minister online with a push of a button made me laugh] and seemed to be the only one really enjoying himself here. He's obviously gonna be the subject of the next LOST BOYS sequel, which the end credits and the two alternative endings set up. Let's just say that Sam Emerson [a much older Corey Haim - what happened to him?] and Alan Frog (Jamison Newlander) are gonna be back but not in a way that you'd expect them to. Haim's and Newlander's appearances are pretty much glorified cameos, but it was the most interesting and exciting parts of the movie. I think this should have been the sequel, not the movie I'm reviewing now.


- One of the vampires was able to tackle his victim and kill him, yet unable to kick his decapitated head without injuring himself. Aren't vampires supposed to have superhuman strength? Either this film is stupid or I'm just smart.

- Edgar Frog lives in a trailer in the middle of nowhere. I can't really see Corey Feldman living there. Haim? Yeah totally.

- "Death can be a positive thing." I'm sure O.J. Simpson and Robert Blake agree. ALLEGEDLY.

- When a beautiful female takes off her clothes and enters a shower that she's inviting you to, you better take it. Filthy boys like you and me deserve to get cleaned up in the dirtiest way possible. Oops, she dropped the bar of soap and she's picking it up. Whatever will I do...?

- "A lot of valuable information can be found by reading comic books." Yeah, like how Superman has to wear Kryptonite condoms to fuck Lois Lane so her head wouldn't explode when he ejaculates. Or how clones will not only ruin your life, but destroy the sales of your very popular comic book. I don't think Spider-Man has ever recovered from that one.

- Hot girls dressed in black and are really sexually forward are probably bloodsucking vampires. Or have a large amount of crabs. Neither one is good.

- Nicole is a vegetarian and finds blood disgusting. She could have fooled me. She seems to be really into meat whenever she sees a guy.

- "Vampires always look for a place with a history of human suffering - deep, dark, dank places - places that never see the light of day - places with lots of vermin - places that smell of rot, earth, and decay." - Edgar Frog

Are we really talking about a vamp hideout or the Neverland Ranch?

21 years in the making, LOST BOYS: THE TRIBE is a disappointment. If you've seen THE LOST BOYS, you've seen the sequel but better. It's not the worst film I've ever seen but it's far from being good as well. If you're interested in what THE LOST BOYS sequel looks like, then by all means rent this. But don't expect a film that breaks any new ground or even advances the original story in any way. Apparently they're saving that for part 3, making LOST BOYS: THE TRIBE nothing more than a set-up and transitional movie for something bigger. For Corey Feldman fans only.

The Lost Boys (1987)

Joel Schumacher

Jason Patric - Michael Emerson
Corey Haim - Sam Emerson
Keifer Sutherland - David
Corey Feldman - Edgar Frog
Jami Gertz - Star
Dianne Weist - Lucy Emerson
Jamison Newlander - Alan Frog
Edward Hermann - Max
Barnard Hughes - Grandfather
Alex Winter - Marko

Genre - Horror/Teen/Vampire

Running Time - 97 Minutes

Score - 3.5 Howls Outta 4

Ever since Bram Stroker wrote "Dracula" in 1897, much of the world has been enamored with the exploits of the famed vampire. From 1922's NOSFERATU and Bela Legosi's [as well as Christopher Lee's] iconic interpretations of Count Dracula to modern fare like TV's Buffy The Vampire Slayer and Angel - as well as films such as the BLADE trilogy, UNDERWORLD, and 30 DAYS OF NIGHT - vampires have graced us with their presence, putting their bite into the horror genre.

In the 1980s, we did get some vampire films in midst of all the slashing that was going on between Michael, Freddy, and Jason. Films like VAMP, NEAR DARK, and FRIGHT NIGHT thrilled audiences with our fanged undead friends. But it's always been one 80s vamp film that really captured the hearts of people who love vampire movies - THE LOST BOYS. The catalyst of the Two Coreys phenomenon and the true introduction of Keifer Sutherland and Jason Patric to mainstream audiences, THE LOST BOYS has been a cult phenomenon for 21 years with die-hard fans who claim this Joel Schumacher [before he took part in ruining the first version of the BATMAN franchise] film is the greatest vampire film ever made.

Do I agree with that statement? No.

But is THE LOST BOYS still a great 80s nostalgic vampire trip? Absolutely.

The Emerson brothers, Sam (Corey Haim) and older brother Michael (Jason Patric), move to some California coastal town with their mother, Lucy (Dianne Weist). They plan on staying with Lucy's father (Barnard Hughes) after their mother's divorce. Trying to quickly adjust to their new surroundings, the Emerson brothers visit a carnival during the nighttime. Michael becomes mesmerized by the very beautiful and mysterious Star (Jami Gertz), which eventually leads Michael to meet a group of rebellious teenagers led by David (Keifer Sutherland) that just happen to be vampires. While this happens, Sam enters a comic book shop where he meets the eccentric Frog Brothers (Corey Feldman and Jamison Newlander). Sam is amused when they claim to be vampire slayers by reading comics, not really taking them seriously. That is, until Sam notices Michael acting strangely after being with David's group all night. Not only does Michael have barely a reflection in the mirror, but he's too tired in the daytime and likes to float uncontrollably as well. Now believing that vampires exist in the form of his brother, Sam enlists to the help of the Frog Brothers to find the head vampire in order to save his brother from completely turning into a vampire.

is a great and enjoyable vampire film that surprisingly holds up today. I remember truly loving this film as a child and I still love it as an adult, even though I can see the flaws now. Still, it's a very well made film with some great music, great cinematography, and memorable dialogue and acting that make THE LOST BOYS stand near the top of the vampire film mountain.

While the script isn't the greatest in the world, there's still a lot to love about it. The dialogue is very hip, witty, and sometimes humorous. We get a bunch of pop culture references with mentions of THE TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE, Eddie Munster, Twisted Sister, and even that very homoerotic Rob Lowe poster hanging in Sam's room [hey, I won't question a teenager's sexuality - he has to deal with that by himself]. Even today it's still works and we totally understand these characters. I think the Grandfather character had the funniest lines, talking about sex and other things that made the teens uncomfortable. He also loved stuffing beavers. Looks like we have something in common.

The story does lose some focus as the film gets nearer to its conclusion. While I dig Sam's storyline with The Frog Brothers, I kind of think it took away from the whole Michael turning into a vampire situation a bit. I would have liked to know about how The Lost Boys came to be and how The Frog Brothers even knew there were vampires in their own city. Plus I think the struggle in becoming a vampire with Michael could have been explored a bit deeper because it kind of came and went. It felt like a vampire version of THE GOONIES, which isn't really a bad thing, but it kind of stops THE LOST BOYS from having its own identity in a way. It should have continued with the teen angst stuff instead of the kiddy feel to sell more tickets. It doesn't really bother me but I kind of wanted the film to be darker and grittier. After all, it is a vampire flick.

I do have issues with the lack of vampirism and the reveal of the "head" vampire. We barely see any fangs biting into people or any deaths on screen. It's kind of lame. I understand you need to market this to as many demographics as possible, but it could have been a little violent besides the ending. I'm not expecting body parts to fly in many directions on screen, but don't shed away from this stuff either. I mean, we barely even see the vampires fly. We mostly see first person shots of these events until the end. It could have been a budget thing but still, more would have been nice. And the "head" vampire is still pretty lame in my opinion. I don't think it was built up enough to really work and make an effective reveal at the end. It's kind of like, "It was that person? Really!?" I dunno...it just seems cheap to me.

Joel Shumacher is pretty much known for his style over substance way of filmmaking. THE LOST BOYS is no exception. It's beautifully directed with a lot of style and energy, to the point where you sometimes feel you're part of the action. Incredible cinematography and great editing, as well as crazy angular shots and cool effects [like the cliched smoke effect and slow motion], make THE LOST BOYS some awesomely great 80s eye candy. Obviously Schumacher had to cover up the fact that the characters in the film barely have depth to them by compensating with memorable visuals. It totally works in the film's favor because it's an entertaining ride all the way. I believe this is Schumacher's best film as a director because he does everything right.

Can I say the soundtrack is fuckin' awesome? "Cry Little Sister"? "Lost In The Shadows"? "Walk This Way"? Yeah, pick up the soundtrack.

The acting is effective. Jason Patric plays a great brooder and it works for the Michael character. You can see that he's also vulnerable when he starts to transform and relies on his younger brother to help him. He has good chemistry with Corey Haim, who is kind of annoying here but you still like him anyway because you'd probably act the same way in a similar situation. Jami Gertz is hot and sexy and she totally works for me here. I'd probably turn into a vamp for her too. Keifer Sutherland looks the part of a bad boy vampire and plays the part pretty well. He definitely has a presence about him that's evident even today. Corey Feldman is pretty funny here trying to act tough. Not his finest performance but it works. Dianne Wiest is very good as Michael and Sam's mom. Barnard Hughes is fuckin' fantastic as the grandfather. I love this dude. He always popped up at the right time to inject some humor into the film. Just a really big cast where some became major stars and others kind of faded into obscurity for different reasons. Well, there's always LOST BOYS 3 [yes, I've seen LOST BOYS: THE TRIBE and that'll be my next review].


- Don't ever demand a vampire to stop having fun at an amusement park. The consequences will bite. Literally.

- Sam is upset that there is no television at Grandpa's. No THE HILLS? No THE BACHELOR? No ACCORDING TO JIM? Sounds like Heaven!

- There was a Chippendales-like singer performing on stage with his horn. While some people may be into some oiled up meathead gyrating while singing on stage, I don't think it's "saxy" at all. Blech.

- Sam made an entire monologue about how certain comics shouldn't be grouped with other comics because of storylines, writers, artists, and such. The fact that I understood Sam completely makes me a geek, huh? Yeah...

- Don't ever fall for a woman named Star. She'll either give you a hickey that will change your life or have people believing that you're gay. Don't worry Al Reynolds...I believe you're straight. ::snickers::

- One of the reasons Sam's mom divorced his dad was because he didn't believe in the "closet monster". Oh, so he was a Scientologist? Or Al Reynolds?

- Sam's grandpa gave Sam a stuffed beaver. I'm sure it's not the type of beaver he wanted to stuff, but it's the thought that counts.

- Putting a mixture of holy water and garlic into a water gun is a great weapon against vampires. Just like with sex - pump it up, shoot, and make the shot count.

- Don't ever put a bampire inside a tub of holy water and garlic. Yeah, it'll kill them but then your sick and toilets will explode and gush out blood. Just because I'm Latino doesn't mean I have great janitorial skills, you bigot!

is a cult vampire classic and deservingly so. It's nostalgia factor makes the film as good today as it was years ago, reminding us who lived through it that horror used to be entertaining and fun. Nothing more, nothing less. While I do notice the lack of character development and actual "horror" THE LOST BOYS possesses as an adult, it doesn't take away from the fact that this vampire flick is still one of the best out there. If you've never seen this for any reason or just want to feel like a kid again, THE LOST BOYS is worthy of a watch or three. They sure don't make them like this anymore.


Stupid Teenagers Must Die! (2006)


Jovan Meredith - Kane
Ashley Schneider - Julie
Devin Marble - Alfie
Lindsay Gareth - Tiffany
Renee Dorian - Madeline
Cory Assink - Geek One
Jonathan Brett - Geek Two
Will Deutsch - Ryan

Genre - Horror/Comedy/Parody/Independent

Running Time - 80 Minutes

Score - 1.5 Howls Outta 4

With the abundant of remakes and sequels of classic films from our past, it seems that the movie industry is looking back to make money for the future. But instead of making these films similar or better than their original copies, they're pretty much damaged to the point where the violence is less subtle, the camera shakes more to nauseate people, and instead of an R rating, we get PG-13 so the teen market can eat it up like candy. So fuck nudity. Fuck blood and guts. Let's turn a horror remake of a much better film into a horror equivalent of Gossip Girl. Yeah, true horror fans want to see that.

The industry doesn't seem to realize that horror fans want the horror from the 1970s and 1980s back. That's when horror was not only violent and perverted, but fun to watch for all the right [and most of the time, wrong] reasons. It was also intelligent too, which is why films like HALLOWEEN, A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET, THE EVIL DEAD, and THE TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE hold up even to this day. While mainstream Hollywood refuses to go back to the old way of doing genre flicks, the independent scene seems damned in bringing back the horror most of us grew up with. One example is Jeff C. Smith's STUPID TEENAGERS MUST DIE!. Smith attempts at a homage of the 1980s by bringing back cliches: the seance, people getting possessed by demons or evil spirits, nudity, stereotypical characters, and 80s fashion. While I appreciate the attempt, STUPID TEENAGERS MUST DIE! doesn't really succeed all that much. It's not a horrible film at all like some people made it out to be, but it's not a great one like some others made it out to be either. Better gather around my Ouija board because I'm about to summon a review for this sucker.

A group of thirtysomethings [who claim to be teenagers] get together at some haunted house where some dude named Murder McGee killed his entire family and then himself. These stereotypes attempt to do a seance inside the mansion, leading to releasing the spirit of Murder McGee. McGee begins possessing these stupid "teenagers" one by one, committing murder by using their bodies. Can these stupid "teenagers" find a way to get rid of this evil spirit, or are they forced to spend the 1980s "Oh oh oh oh oh oh...just Hangin' Tough"?

STUPID TEENAGERS MUST DIE! advertises the following:

- Excessive violence.

- Gratuitous nudity.

- Zero budget.

Riiiight. Besides the zero budget [and believe me, this film has a ZERO budget], everything else was false advertising.

Excessive violence? Sure there's blood and guts in the film, but we don't really see the violence happening half the time. Shit, I see more violence in a single episode of The Real World then I did in this horror film. FRIDAY THE 13TH has excessive violence. SAW has excessive violence. FINAL DESTINATION has excessive violence. ELEKTRA has excessive violence [well at least to my head anyway - oy]. STUPID TEENAGERS MUST DIE! has no excessive violence. It's just enough violence that you could see in mostly any other horror film. And you could barely see it anyway due to the excessively poor lighting. I'll get back to that later.

Gratuitous nudity? Really? How so? Two or three boob shots? That's gratuitous? No bush? Not even an asscheek? What kind of 80s horror homage is this? When I'm promised "gratuitous nudity", I want to see a massive amount of breasts on screen so I can pop a boner and give myself a happy ending. Wolf Jr. barely woke up from his nap during these "gratuitous" moments. When Wolf Jr. doesn't wake up when promised, The Big Bad Wolf is not happy. At all.

However, the "zero budget" part was dead on. How can you tell? Well it looks like it was shot with a camcorder that probably cost no more than 100 bucks. The lighting sucked 60 percent of the time. For a film that takes place at night and in a dim haunted house, that's a pretty big fuck up. The audio was so bad that I could barely hear the actors when I had the volume close to the max on my television. Maybe that was a good thing though considering some of the dialogue. And the SFX of the film? Laughable at best. Everytime someone got possessed, they looked like Alice Cooper rather than a scary demon. I like my Teenage Frankensteins, but that make-up had me dying. But it goes with the promise of a "zero budget", so it works.

I do feel that the "zero budget" part is a cop-out in a way though. 80s slasher films, even though they didn't have blockbuster budgets, didn't really look as cheap as this film does. They did look sort of professional. And I've seen some low budget flicks like this one that look impressive even with a small budget. IT'S MY PARTY AND I'LL DIE IF I WANT TO has a similar theme to this and it looks a million times better than STUPID TEENAGERS MUST DIE!. So I think Jeff C. Smith took a cheap way out with this one, no pun intended.

I think Smith also missed out on the fact that he was making a parody here. Sure, we get the cliches and the things that make a slasher film what they are. But without a large body count, large amounts of T & A, and a villain we can get scared by or root for, what's the point? And the film is not even all that hilarious either. Sure, the two geeks do have some funny one-liners and the token black dude, Kane, told it like it is, but other than that? I was kind of bored and waiting for something funny to make me laugh. Plus it didn't look or feel like an 80s film to begin with. Just because you cast two Madonnabes and have a black guy wear a "Thriller" jacket doesn't make your film an 80s film. It looked wrong. It felt wrong. I see the attempt that was being made here but it didn't work for me at all.

I will say the direction isn't all that bad. Sure the lighting and cinematography sucks, but the way the film was shot was actually nicely done. It was edited good and some of the possession stuff at the end was nice. The build up was pretty slow but I liked that there was some sort of mystery in the film. I didn't love it but I didn't hate it either. Jeff C. Smith has some talent as a visual storyteller. He just needs a bigger budget to really make it happen.

The acting was decent as well. The best one was Jovan Meredith as the token black guy, Kane. He took what was stereotypical by those annoying token black characters in horror films [the ones that usually died first] and destroys them. He's the only character I was really invested in, as he said things I would say and did things I would do. He was really the only fleshed out character here. I liked the dude alot and I think he has a future ahead of him if he can pick a better film. I also liked the two geeks played Cory Assink and Jonathan Brett. I gotta admit - they made me laugh. They had the best dialogue and were enjoyable to watch.

The other actors didn't do much for me though. They were pretty annoying and I wanted them to die really quick. Unfortunately it didn't happen soon enough. Fuckin' thirty-year-olds playing teens. What is this, Beverly Hills 90210!?


- Always wash your fake tombstones. You don't want them filthy before you stick them into dirt. ::scratches head::

- If you're not careful inside a haunted house, you could get stabbed to death by someone under a sheet. That's what happens when you forget to change the fabric softener. I knew that teddy bear was evil.

- Seances seem to bring out the passion in hot lesbian chicks. I really need to buy a Ouija Board. H-L-A? Y-E-S!

- Madeline calls herself the Death Master. Yet, she walks amongst the living. Yeah, she's the best at what she does. Poser.

- Two nerds were tied up while sitting in chairs as they wore pink pillow covers on their heads. I'm sure it's not the kind of pink they were hoping to have their heads inside of, but it's a start I guess.

- Tiffany claims the haunted house is very Amityville. Yet, the house hasn't possessed anyone, made the walls bleed, or told anyone to "GET OUT!" Yeah, I can totally see the connection.

- Madeline told the punk wannabe, Alfie, that if he were a better lay, she'd be more into sex. I guess his Sex Pistol is shooting blanks.

is pretty much a failure, in my opinion, but it's not bad enough to be one of the entrants of my WTF? Vault. It has some decent stuff going for it, but it just didn't click for me like it did for other people who really enjoyed this film. I'll stick to NIGHT OF THE DEMONS. At least Linnea Quigley shoves a tube of lipstick in her boob in that film. That scene alone is more entertaining than the entire 80 minutes of STUPID TEENAGERS MUST DIE!. Rent this at your own risk. Other than that, don't bother.


Hitman (2007)

Xavier Gems

Timothy Olyphant - Agent 47
Dougray Scott - Mike Whittier
Olga Kurylenko - Nika Boronina
Robert Knepper - Yuri Marklove
Ulrich Thomsen - Mikhail Belicoff

Genre - Action

Running Time - 94 Minutes

Score - 2 Howls Outta 4

HITMAN is based on a series of video games by Edios Interactive. The film version begins by showing us the internal workings of The Organization, which is known by every single government in the world. Here, The Organization takes young children and turn them into killers through teaching them series of martial arts and weapon combat. These "killers" receive a number, get their heads shaved, and get stamped with a barcode on their backs.

Years pass and one of The Organization's greatest assassins is Agent 47 (Timpthy Olyphant), who is hired to assassinate the Russian president, Mikhail Belicoff (Ulrich Thomson). He pretty much does the job without much trouble, until he sees Belicoff appearing in the public eye soon after his "death". All of a sudden, 47 is being chased not only by The Russian Secret Service, but by The Organization, who ratted 47 out.

47 is also being pursued by an Interpol officer named Mike Whittier (Dougray Scott), who wants to prove to his superiors that The Organization really does exist and will be troublesome in the future. Along the way, 47 meets up with Belicoff's sex slave, Nika (Olga Kurylenko), taking her under his wing after kidnapping her as a hostage first. 47 now has to fight his former friends and Russian enemies while protecting Nika, saving his own ass, and exposing the truth behind Belicoff.

HITMAN is in another line of video games-into-movie adaptations that's nothing but a disappointment. It's not a horrible film, but it's bland and doesn't have much to offer the viewer at all. Xavier Gens, who directed the horror film FRONTIER(S), brings a lot of visual style to this action film. It looks exciting and seems to be enjoyable eye candy, but it's one of those cases where it's all style and no substance. That's not always a bad thing because that could work. THE TRANSPORTER films are perfect examples of that. But unlike THE TRANSPORTER films, HITMAN is unable to maintain the momentum and adrenaline needed to keep one's interest from beginning to end. Gens does present some cool stuff, like decent action sequences [the choregraphy is actually very well done in HITMAN] and some cool explosions. But that's pretty much it. The direction is just decent, with nothing remarkable included.

The story is also very flawed. I just couldn't get into this film as much as I wanted to because of it. Nothing is really explained or even makes any sense. Like what is The Corporation? Why do they do this? Why do they turn their backs on Agent 47? Why is the whole Catholic thing behind the organization never explained when it's shown to us multiple times? Why would the Russian president allow his double to get killed by Agent 47 when he could have kept him around for something more important? Why keep Nika around and protect her knowing she didn't witness the faux assassination? It's just too many damn questions and not enough answers. Plus, the film starts at the end and the rest of the film is a flashback that leads back to the beginning of the film. We know Agent 47 survives the whole ordeal. Our investment into his safety is completely evaporated. What a waste of time. By half way into the film, I just started to zone out. Skip Woods, who wrote the screenplay, also wrote SWORDFISH and has written the upcoming G.I. JOE flick. After watching HITMAN, my expectations for G.I. JOE has hit an all-time low.

Another flaw was the cast. Especially Timothy Olyphant as the lead. I know he's a good actor. Watching DEADWOOD and some of the other films he's been in prove that. But he's totally miscast in this film. He just seemed stiff and uncomfortable while trying not to give away the fact that he knows he's in a pretty crummy film. He never comes across as dangerous or a threat. He just looks bored and ready to cash that paycheck. Plus he needs to quit the deep voice because it was unconvincing at all times. Vin Diesel, who is credited as an executive producer, was supposed to star in this but dropped out for whatever reason. While not everyone is a fan of Diesel, I believe he would have made HITMAN better than it is. He has the presence and the charisma to pull the Agent 47 role off that Olyphant lacks. Olyphant has great body language and handles scenes well, but he doesn't have enough to carry this film.

Dougray Scott, who pretty fucked himself over when he dropped the Wolverine role to star in MISSION IMPOSSIBLE 2, gets to star in another crappy role where he does absolutely nothing of note as a Interpol agent. He obviously tried, but I didn't really give a fuck at the end. Olga Kurylenko was the best actor in the film as Nika. She seemed to be having fun, plus she was very sexy. Thank God I had something great to look at.

I do think the film would have been a lot worse without the musical score by Geoff Zanelli. It was very energenic and engaging. I dug it alot and made even the duller scenes appear more exciting.
is a total rental/wait for cable to show it. This could have been a good film. The elements were definitely there. However, I don't know where it got screwy and ended up into this boring mess. Still, it's worth a look if you like action. Just don't expect to be too excited by HITMAN though. As far as I'm concerned, this film could swim with the fishes and I wouldn't bother searching for it.


The Car (1977)

Part of Final Girl's Film Club ----------------------------------------------------- DIRECTED BY Elliot Silverstein STARRING James Brolin - Wade Parent Kathleen Lloyd - Lauren Humphries Ronny Cox - Luke Henry O'Brien - Chas John Marley - Everett Peck R.G. Armstrong - Amos Clements Genre - Horror/Supernatural Running Time - 97 Minutes Score - 3 Howls Outta 4 With gas prices rising to unreasonable rates lately, less people are driving their cars across the continental United States. Not only does this make people who depend on travelling in cars angry, but I'm sure it makes the cars themselves angry too. And believe me, you don't ever want to see an angry automobile in action! What? You don't believe me? Have you seen DUEL? THE WRAITH? MAXIMUM OVERDRIVE? CHRISTINE? HERBIE: FULLY LOADED? Yeah, that last film scared the crap out of you, didn't it? Yeah, we're all still suffering nightmares over that piece of crap. Fortunately, I found a film about a killer car that is more B-grade entertainment than horror. And that underrated 1977 film is called THE CAR. What would you do if a car possessed by a supernatural spirit just entered your town and started to run people over with glee? If you're James Brolin, you'd do commercials for AAMCO and marry Barbara Striesand. I'd rather get run down by the car than marry evil, but that's just me. Let's see why THE CAR is one ride you don't want to pimp. PLOT Santa Ynez, Utah is known for its desert heat, friendly residents [except for that guy who likes beating his wife and becomes redeemed at the end], and the beautiful canyon scenery. Oh, the town is also known for its evil black Sedan that likes to run into people and kill them for whatever reason. Not only does this car like to kill bikers, police officers, and women in their own homes by leaping 4 feet into the air, but it also likes to use its horn. God, how annoying. Anyway, it's up to traffic cop Wade "I don't wear a helmet while driving a motorcycle because I'm too fuckin' cool for that shit" Parent (James Brolin) to see what's up with this black Sedan. As the death toll rises, Parent realizes that The Car can't be destroyed easily and is pretty much convinced by his partner Luke (Ronny Cox) that this automobile may be supernatural in Nature. If that's the case, what is The Car? Where does it come from? Why is it murdering people? And where can I get James Brolin's facial hair? Man, that's studly. REVIEW Let me just put it out there and say that THE CAR is a ridiculous B-movie that pretty much rips off JAWS [the studio wanted to ripoff the success of JAWS by turning the shark into a car], but adding in elements of THE EXORCIST to create its own film. Yet, I was highly entertained by this flick. It is what it is and takes advantage of that fact, creating a film that's very appealing and a blast to watch. It's brainless fun. Sometimes that's all you need in a movie, especially one like THE CAR. The story is pretty simple: a possessed black Sedan without a driver enters a quiet town and begins running them all over as several of the townspeople try to stop its ride of terror. Nothing more. Nothing less. We don't know why the car is doing this. We don't know who exactly is possessing this car. We don't even know why this small town of Santa Ynez was picked for this route of destruction. Nothing about this Sedan is explained. And quite honestly, it doesn't need to have an explanation. As long as you watch this car destroying people's lives in some of the most impressive ways possible, you completely buy the whole thing. Not once did I sit down watching this did I want to find out the specifics. I just enjoyed what was in front of me. There are implications that maybe this Sedan is being controlled by Satan. That's enough for me. I don't need or want some back story that's just gonna ruin the film's flow and mood. More destruction, less explanation is fine with me with a film like THE CAR. Not to say that the simple story is perfect. The human characters aren't all that developed really and come across as either bland, stereotypical, or just plain silly. Heck, the Sedan has a better personality than its human co-stars. Honestly, the character development scenes of the human characters weren't all that interesting to begin with. I mean, it's nice to know your characters by fleshing them out. But when that has nothing to do with moving the film's story forward, what's the point? There was no connection at all. Like, for example, Luke's alcoholism. He was sober for two years and due to the car's destruction, the stress of it led him back to drinking. But did the story go any further than that? Nope. It's a non-issue. So why bother putting it in? Things like that just drag the film down. I just wanted to see the car just run people down. Is that so much to ask? The JAWS ripoff stuff is pretty evident in this film too. I'm not gonna go into depth about this, but I will say is that if you know JAWS pretty well, you'll catch the "homage" in THE CAR. It's one thing being influenced by a better film. It's another taking the scenes and scenerios from this better film and using them by replacing the shark with a car. That's not originality. That's plagiarism. The action sequences in THE CAR are actually very impressive. As a matter of fact, I kept thinking of DEATH PROOF while watching THE CAR and seeing where Quentin Tarantino got some of his input. There's nothing fancy about the death scenes. No CGI is used. Real stunt drivers are doing their thing and doin' it, and doin' it, and doin' it well. Some of may come across as silly. I mean, what car can leap several feet in the air without a ramp - just to run over some lady who's talking on the phone inside her own house? If a car can't respect that feeling of being safe inside your own home, then you're pretty fucked. There's also a scene where the car flips over, flies in the air, rolls on top of some cop cars, crushes them until they explode, and then lands on its four tires again to continue it's destruction. It's brilliant! This car fuckin' rocks the house! I was clapping while watching that very scene. The visual effects by Albert Whitlock and the special effects by Bill Aldridge, Jack Faggard, Paul Hickerson, and Ed Kennedy are really spectacular for such a low-budget flick. I was impressed. The direction by Elliott Silverstein was good as well. For a film shot mostly in the daytime, it's very suspenseful. You kind of get tense whenever the car is chasing after someone. You know the victim is gonna get it bad, but the excitement is WHEN it's gonna happen. I was always interested in what would happen next and how they would stop this Sedan. The story was built up nicely and the lack of explanation to what was going on started to actually make its own sort of sense in a way. You understood what was happening without really getting the facts. That's impressive filmmaking right there. We also got POV shots [sometimes in red fliters] of the Sedan as he ran down his victims. And the use of the desert and isolated community and locale was fully taken advantage of. It made the film a bit more intense. I do think that the scenes without the car were pretty "made for TV". It kind of hurts the film a bit because they look cheap and aren't that well acted, but those don't really last long to do much damage to the film's pace. So all in all, nice work from Silverstein. The film's score was also very nice. It was sort of haunting and macabre in a way, which fit the mood nicely. There was also part of the score that was used in Stanley Kubrick's THE SHINING as well. It worked for me! The acting wasn't all that great, but in a film called THE CAR, I'm not expecting Oscar-worthy performances. James Brolin was the best actor here by far. He wasn't given anything really interesting to do other than be a family man and get his ass beat by a car, but he did it well. Gotta love the facial hair though. It sort of went away once he married Barbara Streisand. Correlation? Hmmm... Kathleen Lloyd was actually pretty funny at times as the fiesty love interest and female lead. Some people may find her annoying but it was nice to see a woman who was tough yet vulnerable at the same time. She also negotiates by grabbing guy's balls. Hey, it works for me! She could have turned it down a notch maybe in her performance but I still liked it. Ronny Cox doesn't do much either but again, he's fine. Henry O'Brien was kind of awful though as the stereotypical Native American. I wouldn't be surprised if some Native Americans would be insulted by this performance. He was "whatever" really. We also get appearances by Kim and Kyle Richards as Brolin's cute daughters. Wait a minute...Striesand and Paris Hilton? Man, was Brolin fucked from the start or what? THE FINAL HOWL THE CAR surprised me, I gotta say. I wasn't expecting much and actually had a good time watching some demonic car have its way with stupid people. That never gets old in my opinion. B-movie lovers should definitely check this film out. Even regular movie lovers would probably get some kind of kick out of this one. Besides DUEL, I'm sure THE CAR influenced Stephen King to write CHRISTINE and John Carpenter's direction for the adaptation. It's pretty evident if you want both films back to back. If you're looking for great acting and depth, do not watch THE CAR. But if you want to have a killer time with a pissed off automobile, you can do a lot worse. No more stop signs...speed limit...nobody's gonna slow THE CAR down.


Scanners (1981)

David Cronenberg

Stephen Lack - Cameron Vale
Jennifer O'Neill - Kim Obrist
Patrick McGoohan - Dr. Paul Ruth
Michael Ironside - Daryl Revok
Robert Silverman - Benjamin Pierce

Genre - Science Fiction/Horror

Running Time - 101 Minutes

Score - 2.5 Howls Outta 4

The mind is a weird thing. After all these years, many of us are still trying to understand how it works. Why are some of us challenged? Why do some us possess a sixth sense? Are there really people who are able to predict the future, see ghosts, move things, and read other people's minds? If so, why and how? Is it evolution or something more sinister at work?

In his fifth feature as a director, David Cronenberg takes these ideas of telepathy and telekenesis and uses them as his muse for the 1981 cult Sci-Fi classic, SCANNERS. Instead of focusing on the body like in his earlier work such as SHIVERS and THE BROOD, Cronenberg tackles the mind and how it may be more dangerous than the actual body itself. And while it's a good film in the early works of Mr. Cronenberg, it does have its flaws that prohibits SCANNERS from being one of his best. Still, SCANNERS is a pretty good Sci-Fi movie that one could wrap one's mind around.

Cameron Vale (Stephen Lack) is pretty much homeless and alone, due to the fact that he constantly hears the voices of the people around him in his head. He is called a Scanner - someone who is able to communicate telepathically. He can control people's minds to manipulate them, or just hear the thoughts in their heads for his own personal advantage. However, it's an ability he's unable to control and it's driving him insane.

Vale is kidnapped by some people working for one Dr. [not the short lady who loves sex] Ruth (Patrick McGoohan), who tries to help Vale understand who he is, what he can do, and how it could benefit humankind. Even though Ruth is involved with some government company that's researching the Scanner "threat", there's a bigger issue at hand: Darryl Revok (Michael Ironside). Also a Scanner, Revok is trying to form some sort of resistance against Ruth and the rest of society by trying to gather all of the 237 Scanners that exist around the world to get revenge for the mental mutation all the Scanners have received before they were born. Strong and determined [probably a bit crazy too], Revok will not stop until each and every Scanner out there is following his lead. If they don't, he'll kill them without hesistation.

Willing to help Ruth after he calmed down some of his scaning abilities, Vale joins up with the beautiful Kim Obrist (Jennifer O'Neill), who also happens to be a Scanner. Both attempt to get to the bottom of this whole Scanner issue and stop Revok from accomplishing his goal.

is probably the film that turned Cronenberg into an A-list director. It takes what CARRIE did a few years before and instead of extending the horror, Cronenberg takes most of the scares away in order to create a more cerebral story. Cronenberg attempts to explain how these powers came to be and how they're used as a way to propel the story, not just for gore and scares. It may end up being a slow ride to understand what's going on, but I appreciate the whole concept isn't written just for the special effects team to have a field day.

Cronenberg [who wrote the script] does exhibit some interesting ideas while concentrating on how the mind of a Scanner works. The use of art as a means to maintain sanity was pretty intriguing. One character, Benjamin Pierce (Robert Silverman), dove right into creating sculptures and painting portraits in order to stop hearing the voices in his head. It shows that a Scanner can release some of the things that bother him by externalizing into a positive activity, such as art. Doesn't explain why Vincent Van Gogh cut off one of his ears and killed himself, but I'll let that slide for now. The other side of the coin is Darryl Revok, who constantly drills some kind of hole in his head just so the voices could escape from his mind. And he also needs to kill others in order to find some sort of release from his stress. As sick as that is, it's Revok's form of art in a way.

Cronenberg also has messages within his script. The whole Scanner "threat" and the fact that the Government wants to eliminate most of them is pretty much a way for Cronenberg to express racism and prejudice in our society. Just like in the X-Men comics, cartoons, and films, being different will automatically make you an enemy of what's considered "normal." The Scanners' gifts make them dangerous and a threat to humankind, where it could instead be seen as the next level of the evolutionary scale. It shows the close-mindedness of our superiors and what lengths they'll go through to maintain whatever power they have on others. And just like in the X-Men, we see both sides of the same coin. Vale feels that the Scanners could work within society and be beneficial [Xavier] and Revok wants to unite with all the Scanners in order to take out the weaker "race" [Magneto]. Either way, nothing is solved and only leads to more conflict. Maybe Cronenberg believes that nothing will ever change. Who knows?

There are also scenes that one could see as sort of homoerotic in a way. I'm not saying that's the intent, but humor me here. There's no female love interest in the film. While Vale and Kim work together to stop Revok, they never bother to start any sort of romance. Maybe there's a spark there, but it's never acted upon. The whole scanning process to find other Scanners could be seen as a metaphor for "gaydar". They can never express aloud about their gifts to each other without being persecuted and turned into outsiders. Instead, they mentally communicate with each other like it's some dirty secret they need to keep under wraps. Remember, this was the 1980s and homosexuality was not as widely accepted in this very conservative time. There's also moments where certain Scanners mentally battle each other. Especially the scene between Vale and Revok, where they engage in battle while grimacing, moaning, and moving around as if they're having sex. Veins pop out in their foreheads and it's almost orgasmic as they mentally penetrate each other. I can't be the only one who sees this. I remember when Vale mentally attacks the woman at the beginning of the film, thinking how it seemed to be pretty sexual in a weird way. Again, I could be wrong. But that's just my opinion on it.

The special effects team probably enjoyed themselves on this film. I think we can honestly say that SCANNERS will always be remembered for that head exploding scene at the beginning of the film when Revok blows that dude's head off with only his mind. It's looks way better than any CGI could ever make it. It actually reminded me of that comedian Gallagher and his love for crushing watermelons with a mallet. The special effects team [Gary Zeller and Dennis Pike] deserve kudos for creating such an iconic moment in the genre of Science Fiction and Horror. The make-up by Stephen DuPuis, Tom Schwartz, and Chris Walas was also pretty well-done as well. Especially during the final scene where Vale and Revok have their veins popping out, among other things. I'm sure a lot of people wanted more gore in this film, but what we get is pretty damn good.

David Cronenberg is at his element here and it shows. It's a very nicely directed film where he takes what could be a very exposed and overdone concept of telepathy and telekenesis and makes them subtle. He takes his time to let us know the characters, how these powers effect them as people, and makes us wonder what we would do if we were a Scanner. Would we follow Vale's example, or does Revok have a more appealing way? It's a slow-moving film [which might turn people away] but I think it's worth sticking with if you're willing to give it a chance. I don't think it's Cronenberg's best work but even a flawed Cronenberg is a good Cronenberg. He gives us things to think about instead of actually telling us what we should believe. That's good directing right there.

Like I said, SCANNERS is not without its flaws. Some things bugged me alot in this film and I need to express them. One, the pacing was a bit off. I mean, the head exploding scene happens at the BEGINNING of the film. This is gonna lead people to think that things will just get wilder and more gory after that. Instead, Cronenberg takes his time throughout the whole middle portion for characterization before giving us the Vale vs. Revok climax at the very end [which doesn't even last all that long]. That was a mistake on Cronenberg's part because a scene like that just wants you to see more of the same thing and it's frustrating when it's not given to you. It makes SCANNERS seem like two different films because of it instead of one.

I also not that big of a fan of the score in the film. It's okay I guess for the subject matter, but it doesn't really help the film all that much to make it more exciting and entertaining to watch. Howard Shore did the score for this and I couldn't believe it's the same guy who scored the fantastic THE LORD OF THE RINGS trilogy. It's like I got scanned or something. It's not bad but could be better.

I also didn't like the ending of the film. I know the whole THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK "Luke, I'm your father" thing was a pop culture phenomenon, but it seems most films after that pretty much used that logic in order to make some sense into what's going on between the two central characters in a film. It's well-known about my feelings on how that pretty much doomed the HALLOWEEN franchise when it was used in HALLOWEEN II. I couldn't believe SCANNERS went in that direction as well. I guess I kind of spoiled things if you haven't seen this film yet, but the relationship between Vale and Revok seemed cliched and the dialogue didn't help much either. It sort of makes sense in a way but at the same time, there didn't seem to be enough evidence for it either. Apparently Cronenberg was writing this script as he filmed it, leaving the ending for last because he wasn't sure how to end the film. Yeah, it's pretty evident of that. I was also trying to remember where the ending after the end credits for X-MEN: THE LAST STAND stole its idea from. Yep, it was from SCANNERS. Then again, SCANNERS was influenced by the X-Men comics, so I guess it's a fair trade.

I also though the whole scene with Vale and that master computer was tacky as hell. To say that a computer has a similar "central networking system" as a human is pretty farfetched, even for 1981. Not only that, but the computer was getting hacked into and the scientist, who pretty much put his life work into creating such eleborate programs, didn't seem to worried about it and refused to do anything unless he had written consent from his boss.


I get paranoid just writing these reviews on my crappy computer. If someone is hacking into my shit, I'll be making sure something is gonna get fuckin' done. Waiting for written consent...FUCK THAT! And then the whole self-destruct thing and how everything blew up...yeah, whatever.

I also was not a fan of Stephen Lack's lack of acting talent. Totally flat and wooden. He did not convince me at all about Vale's struggle to find out the truth or gave me any reason to care about him. Not a good casting choice here. Especially when he was outshone by the much better and sinister Michael Ironside. Awesome bad guy and a great actor. This role pretty much typecasted him for life, but if you see him in this, you'll know why. He just exudes evil.

The other actors were mixed. Patrick McGoohan was very complex as Dr. Ruth. I was never sure if he was really a good guy or a bad guy. Probably why I liked him. He would say and do all the right things, but you knew there was something dark with this character. Good choice. Jennifer O'Neill was totally wasted here. She looks hot and is a decent actress, but is not given much at all. Oh well.


- If you're a woman, don't ever insult a homeless looking guy with mental powers. He'll cause you to have an epileptic fit that's pretty similar to a massive orgasm. Then again ladies, maybe you should cum to your senses and make fun of this dude...

- Vale struggles with large crowds because he can hear all of their thoughts at once, which I'm sure is extremely overwhelming. My solution: hang around Paris Hilton, Britney Spears, and Heidi Montag. From what I can tell, those girls don't do much thinking.

- Scanning minds can lead to the following symptoms: nose bleeds, earaches, stomach cramps, and nausea. Phew! Thank God! For a second there, I thought I was pregnant!

- Don't ever scan another scanner. Your head may explode and not in that good way like it does in the bedroom with your lover every night.

- Benjamin Pierce got shot to shit by 4 gunmen. Shouldn't he have known they were coming if he can read minds? He's apparently the Miss Cleo of Scanners? Poser.

- The runaway Scanners used a short yellow school bus to escape Revik. I guess they are a bit special in a way, now that I think about it.

- Vale, after the computer's self-destruct began while he was mentally linked to the CPU's nervous system, blew up the computer lab where the self-destruct started from and the gas station where Vale was linked up to a telephone inside a booth. Shit, he could give the Dark Phoenix a run for her money. Well, at least the crappy version from X-MEN: THE LAST STAND. The comic book Phoenix would totally kick his ass.


- Scanners have the ability to mindwipe another Scanner and take over their bodies for good. If I had that ability, I'd mindwipe Lance Armstrong. Yeah, I'd only have one ball. But at least I'd be cupping two breasts every single night. Huzzah!

is an interesting sci-fi film that could have been better, but isn't totally terrible either. The flaws do hurt the film a bit but if you dig some intelligence in your movies, you could do a lot worse than this. I'd probably watch VIDEODROME, THE FLY, or even his recent flicks like A HISTORY OF VIOLENCE or EASTERN PROMISES over this, but I wouldn't blow anyone's head off for liking SCANNERS. Totally recommended for science fiction, David Cronenberg, and Michael Ironside fans.


The WTF? Worst Films Extravaganza Presents: Frogs (1972)


Sam Elliott - Pickett Smith
Ray Milland - Jason Crockett
Joan Van Ark - Karen
Lynn Borden - Jenny
Adam Roarke - Clint
Judy Pace - Bella

Genre - Horror

Running Time - 90 Minutes

Score - 1 Howl Outta 4

Anytime I'm channel surfing while relaxing on my sofa in front of the television, I sometimes stop on the Discovery Channel or Animal Planet whenever they show a special of When Animals Attack. These shows just prove that humans and the rest of mother nature just can't seem to get along with each other.

People being mauled by bears? Sure.

Dudes getting clawed by pissed off tigers? That's gggggrrrrrrreeeeeeeaaaaattt!

Idiots losing their anal virginity when some angry bull shoves a horn up their butts? Oooh, that's gotta hurt.

Bumbling bastards getting murdered by frogs?

Wait...you've never seen people die from a frog attack? You're not the only one. You know why? BECAUSE FROGS DON'T DO ANYTHING BUT CROAK AND GET SERVED AS DINNER IN A FRENCH RESTAURANT!!

But don't tell AIP and anyone else behind the 1972 FROGS about that. Apparently they believed that frogs are dangerous animals who have the ability to make much stronger and more dangerous animals like snakes, spiders, and lizards their bitches and do the dirty work for them. Especially when these animals would have trouble living in the same geographical area, let alone gang together to kill people. But hey, I'm just a critic and not a zoologist. What the hell do I know? Well I do know that Kermit does more physical damage in the bedroom with Miss Piggy than any of these frogs in the movie FROGS do. Let's dig this crap out of the swamp water and see why FROGS isn't worth eating flies over.

Pickett Smith (Sam Elliott) is a freelance photographer who happens to be in a canoe taking photos of the environmental damage us humans have done. While doing his job, a speedboat hits his canoe, sending him in the water. The driver, Clint Crockett (Adam Roarke), and his sister Karen (Joan Van Ark), help Pickett onto their speedboat and travel back to the mansion of their grandfather, Jason Crockett (Ray Milland) as a way to make it up to Pickett.

Pickett meets the rest of the annoying Crockett family. The overly cranky and stubborn Jason seems to be dealing with a massive overpopulation of frogs. How do we know this? Because they're shown every other minute and the Crockett family complains about their massive croaking day and night. Apparently Jason sent some employee named Grover to spray around to kill the frogs, but Grover hasn't returned. Pickett goes to find out what's up and soon discovers that Grover is dead, covered by snakes and other swamp life. Well I think he's dead, although Grover seems to be moving and opening-and-closing his eyes. But then again, I'm just a critic and not a doctor.

Anyway, Pickett returns and tells Jason about Grover's "death", to which Jason tells Pickett to keep quiet. Why? Because he has a birthday and holiday celebration going on and doesn't want any corpses ruining his fun. How fuckin' considerate. Unfortunately, the bodies begin to pile up, making the Crocketts and Pickett wonder if the overabundance of frogs have something to do with it. Party poopers...

I have three words for FROGS:


FROGS is one of your typical "nature runs amok" flicks from the 1960s and 1970s where Mother Nature seems to have a thing for making humans suffer for damaging the environment or something like that. I actually don't have issues with these kind of films because they can be pretty silly and entertaining while delivering the message of the film. I do have an issue when you name a film FROGS and they don't do ANYTHING but croak and look around. That's the extent of their evil, folks. They sit and croak. They don't kill anyone in this film, instead letting snakes, lizards, and a turtle do all the work. Why not call this film REPTILES, or AMPHIBIANS, or DON'T MESS WITH THE FORKED TONGUED MOTHERF'ERS or something? It would have been a lot better than just FROGS! Besides, who are afraid of frogs or consider them deadly anyway? Sure, there are poisonous bullfrogs out there. But these frogs were your regular boring frogs! What is the point?

The story is pretty flawed in FROGS. It's not the worst screenplay. In fact, it's actually pretty decent and the dialogue isn't too bad. But writing believable conversations does not make you a good screenwriter when nothing is really explained. For example, why are more deadly animals like snakes taking orders supposedly from frogs? I think that's what is going on because nothing in the film explains this phenomenon of frogs having telepathic abilities to control their fellow creatures in the swamp. I mean, lizards are doing the frogs' work. Snakes and turtles too. How the hell did the frog become the king of the swamp and pond area? If it was something supernatural or these frogs were chemically altered or something to possess this gift, then I'd be more forgiving. But the only explanation I get is that nature had enough of the human race destroying it and has now taken revenge. Now? They're taking revenge NOW? After centuries of ecological damage? Whatever. Screenwriters Robert Blees and Robert Hutchison may call it a good plot device, but I call it lazy. More meat is need on the story's bones for FROGS to be a bit more believable.

Another flaw in the story: the characters are pretty bland and/or annoying. Pickett Smith is an alright guy but he doesn't really do much of anything substantial or heroic to make me care about him. And the Crockett family...sigh, if anyone deserved to be murdered by frogs, it's these people. They're awfully dysfunctional. Most of the women whine to their husbands. They're incredibly racist [one of the members is dating a black woman (Judy Pace) and have black servants]. They try to be witty and funny, but act so seriously that it goes right over your head. Plus they're all idiots and I can't relate to idiots unless they're for laughs.

Well some things are unintentionally funny. Especially when we're supposed to believe that these animals are killing these people off one-by-one. The truth is that the animals only SET UP the demise. But the humans themselves are the ones doing their own killing. I like to call it assisted suicide, because that's what these morons stumbled into. There's one scene where one of the Crocketts runs with a shotgun in his hand [facing downward, which shows you what a genius he is] and accidentally shoots his leg, leading to a bunch of spiders webbing him with moss or something. Yeah, it doesn't make sense but this is FROGS we're talking about.

Another is some annoying woman chasing butterflies, but gets so scared off by some rattlesnake that she actually strangles herself on some vegetation. After struggling with that, she runs into another snake, gets bitten, and dies. She even turns blue after 2 seconds of the bite as if she were dead for 2 days. Not only does Mother Nature wants revenge, but she can speed up time too!

And then there's the guy in the greenhouse. Boy, did this one make me roll my eyes while laughing. Apparently he's watering some plants or something as some lizards [big and small] just march into the greenhouse and climb up to where open jars of POISON are resting. Yes, a greenhouse with jars of poison - I couldn't make this stuff up if I tried. Anyway, the lizards [under the frogs' command apparently] knock these jars down, creating some toxic gas within the greenhouse. Instead of running out like any person with common sense would, the idiot decides to bend down where the gas is and INHALE it! This obviously kills the retard, yet not the lizards inside the greenhouse. Then again, I'm just a film critic and not a biologist or a chemist.

And how could I forget the bitchy and whiny Jenny Crockett (Lynn Borden), who is a pro at getting her foot stuck inside the swamp and getting eaten by a turtle. I'm not sure if it was Leonardo, Donatello, Raphael, or Michelangelo. But I'm glad they had a great dinner.

The direction is okay. George McCowan gives the viewer nice looking locales for the swamp scenes and everything is pretty vibrant looking. He also enjoys shooting takes of frogs, lizards, and snakes. I think 70 percent of the film was composed of these shots alone. However, the editing was pretty crappy. The animals and the humans are rarely in the same shot together, taking away the effectiveness of the monotonous murder sequences. Plus that sequence where Pickett finds Grover is horribly edited. He finds him with his eyes closed, yet in the next shot, they're open. Plus when the snake crawls on Grover's body, he actually moves as if the snake is making him uncomfortable. Plus he's breathing the entire time, even though he's dead. It's actually kind of funny but it's still bad filmmaking. But I've seen worse in my lifetime.

The acting isn't really all that impressive. Sam Elliott is actually good here as Pickett Smith. Sans his trademark mustache, Elliott plays the alpha male hero very well. For all the ladies and gay dudes out there, Elliott appears shirtless with his hairy chest in display a few times to prove how masculine he really is. I guess that's who Salt 'N' Pepa talked out when they rapped about "Whatta Man". Joan Van Ark was decent as Karen Crockett. She had some good chemistry with Elliott [although the implications were there, the love angle never played out] and was unreckonizable because she looked so freakin' hot in this film. Who knew she was ever this good looking? Wow...what happened? She may think she looks good now, but I think she looks like a messed up Barbie Doll. But then again, I'm just a critic and not a beauty expert. What the fuck do I know? Ray Milland was good as Jason Crockett, although it was hard to like the character at all. He was just a cranky dumbass. But the performance was alright. Judy Pace was the token black girlfriend, Bella, and was mighty fine at it too. She did a good job displaying sassiness and intelligence. And she didn't die either! The rest of the cast was pretty blah or bad, depending on the actor or actress. The frogs were decent too. Could have used less croaking though and more murdering though.

- The Crockett family find it funny for a middle-aged woman to chase butterflies. You hear that, Mariah Carey? Stop the crap!

- Jason Crockett shot a snake. I thought snakes were supposed to be the ones doing the shooting when they're excited. I'm confused...

- Nature will get back at us when we take advantage of it and destroy what's good about it. That explains Heidi Montag and Spencer Pratt and why I can't seem to escape those two idiots. Damn you, Mother Nature!

- There's a game involving getting on a piece of hard wood while using one hand and a pillow. The rich may claim to have invented this activity, but I've seen this done in quite a few Jenna Jameson and Tera Patrick films in my time.

- Some lizards "killed" some dude by combining chemicals to make poisonous gas. That's what you get for not saving a bunch of money by switching to Geico!

- Clint got bitten by a water snake, which led to his demise. If he were a Paula Abdul fan, he would have known that it was a coldhearted snake. Just look into its eyes. Uh oh...it's been telling lies!

- Jason Crockett tried to force Kelly to stay at the estate with him to continue the festivities, despite family members getting killed. I'm sure that was Knot(s) Landing well with her!

isn't the worst film I've ever seen in my life, but it's one of the silliest and laziest ones I have ever witnessed. I was actually pretty bored watching FROGS. It took the simple concept of killer animals and did jack with it. The humans are the ones killing themselves. What's the point of FROGS then? Still, it will make you laugh every once in a while at how dumb these characters are and how the animals are barely in the same shots with them doing damage. But without a real reason for these animals to hurt people, what real reason does a viewer care? Total disappointment and worthy addition to the WTF? Vault. Ribbit.
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