6.27.2008

The WTF? Worst Films Extravaganza Presents: Graduation Day (1981)

DIRECTED BY
Herb Freed

STARRING
Christopher George - Coach George Michaels
Patch Mackenzie - Anna Ramstead
E. Danny Murphy - Kevin Badger
E.J. Peaker - Blondie
Michael Pataki - Principal Guglione
Richard Balin - Mr. Roberts
Billy Hufsey - Tony Fisk
Linnea Quigley - Dolores
Vanna White - Doris


Genre - Horror/Slasher

Running Time - 96 Minutes

Score - 0.5 Howls Outta 4


Graduation Day - a time where scholars make that giant leap to a higher level of education, dressed in their caps and gowns in order to collect that piece of paper that will give people proof that they're not mentally challenged.

Sigh...I remember my High School graduation. Three and a half hours of nothing except for sitting bored as people you've barely known talk about stuff you're not gonna remember the day after in 90 degree weather. Yeah, that's fuckin' fun. Well, I guess it wasn't all bad. At least there wasn't a killer somewhere trying to off certain members of the graduating class for some strange reason.

On second thought, I kind of wish there was a killer out there somewhere that day. That way if I ever encountered him or her, I could have led them to the location of my ex-girlfriend, who had slept with a guy I was cool with the day before the event. You fuckin' whore! I hope you scratch down there for the rest of your miserable life, you bitch!

Sorry, I got carried away again about the past. Unfortunately, the same can't be said about my reaction to the 1981 slasher film, GRADUATION DAY. Just like my actual graduation, GRADUATION DAY is dull, slow, and you just can't wait for it to be over so you can move on with your life.

PLOT
Some gifted High School track star named Laura kicks the bucket after winning some track meet due to some blood clot. Her really competitive coach, George "Not the guy from Wham!" Michaels (Christopher George), is pretty much blamed for pushing her too hard and is fired from coaching. Around the same time, Laura's sister Anna (Patch Mackenzie - one of the coolest names I've ever seen an actress have) returns from serving in the Navy in order to pick up Laura's diploma during the upcoming Graduation Day ceremony.

Coincidentally [or maybe not], members of the track team that Laura was on begin to drop like flies right after Anna's arrival by a killer who likes wearing a fencing outfit, black gloves, and holding a stop-watch to calculate how long he can murder his victims [or something stupid like that]. Who is the killer? Is it Anna? Is it the really angry Coach Michaels? What about the uncaring Principal Guglione (Michael Pataki)? Or maybe it's Laura's "I'm too old for High School because I was leftback 15 times in a row" boyfriend, Kevin (E. Danny Murphy)? Or maybe it was that horrible band, Felony? I know they almost drove me to suicide!

REVIEW
I have three words for GRADUATION DAY:

WHAT THE FUCK!?

This has to be one of the most boring, stupidest, and goofiest slasher flicks I have ever seen in my life. That probably explains why I avoided this film for as long as possible. This is just a weird flick that lacks cohesiveness. Musical interludes? A killer who likes to fence? Really bad late-70s/early-80s fashion? This film probably has it all except for excitement, intelligence, and logic.
The story is pretty simple to describe:

Take the entire script from PROM NIGHT.

Subtract a prom setting, decent actors, a killer dressed like a cat burgular, suspense, tension, intelligence, and cool kills.

Add a graduation setting, annoying actors [plus Vanna White], nudity, a killer who likes to fence, a football with a blade attached to the end of it, and two musical numbers that just make the film worse than it actually is.

Slip in an ending that never wants to seem to end and you got GRADUATION DAY.

Anything else you need to know? Don't ask.

That's not to say that the screenplay is totally a waste. I mean, where else can you watch a bunch of "hot" girls flip over a really sleazy musical teacher who's wearing a blue suit and a bad toupee? Or every member in a single community owning the same pair of black gloves and a stopwatch to match? That sporting goods store is doing better business than Wal-Mart, lemme tell ya! Or how about the fact that no one is shown graduating in a film that's titled GRADUATION DAY? No diplomas. No throwing caps up in the air. I was even deprived of watching some Asian kid give his or her Valedictorian address! Not cool, GRADUATION DAY. Not cool at all.

And then there's the scariest part of the film - Vanna White actually trying to act! Oh my God! Make it stop, Mommy! Make it stop!

So you see, it has something for everyone.

Those aren't the only things that bugged me. Those damn musical numbers were either cheesy as hell, or really fuckin' mind-numbingly annoying. The opening theme is some disco song called "Everybody Wants To Be A Winner". If that's supposed to be this movie's equivalent to PROM NIGHT's "Prom Night (Everything Is Alright)", it fails on every level. Especially when it's being heard during a track meet. Doesn't really pump me up for the rest of the film. Then we had a folk song in the middle of the film that was probably the precursor to HIGH SCHOOL MUSICAL or something. Whatever. And finally, the roller-skating sequence of "Gangster Rock" sung horribly by New Wave band Felony. Not only did the band look more feminine than Boy George in his Culture Club days, but they kept singing the same exact verse and chorus for EIGHT STRAIGHT MINUTES!! What makes it even worse is that a double murder happened during this sequence, which really destroyed the impact those two kills had. And then in a roller rink, some people roll around the band while others are actually WALKING! It was like the most ridiculous thing I have seen in a film in a very long time. "Gangster Rock" is the worst 80s song I have ever heard in my life. If only someone had shown them what real "Gangster" was and shot these motherfuckers in a drive-by. God...

Then we have the murders taking place in the exact same spot in the exact same trail in the woods. Apparently, everyone has to walk through this path to get home. Really? There are no other routes in this town? Everyone can buy matching black gloves and stop watches, but not have the time to build or use other route? And the killer seemed to know exactly where his/her victims would be! Not only can the person fence, but they're psychic too! The endless possibilities in these slasher flicks never stop amazing me.

And then we have the ending. Or should I say the THREE endings? This film doesn't want to end! We get the ending where the killer is revealed and supposedly bites it. Then a second ending arrives when the killer makes a miraculous return and bites it again. Then the final ending, which is your traditional "one last scare" ending that's supposed to make you jump, but only make you groan because you realize the film isn't over yet. I didn't want to see the running time extended another ten minutes. It's bad enough I had to suffer through the 80 minutes I watched before it.

Was there anything that I did like? Well Linnea Quigley bares her breasts. That's always a good time in horror. Plus, we get one of the coolest murder weapons in any film - the football with a blade attached. Toss that sucker and watch it pierce right through your victim! Now that's what I call a 1st Down! Fun times for all.

The direction by Herb Freed isn't all that great. The pacing is totally off and the film doesn't seem to flow as well as a film should. Plus there's no scares, or tension, or suspense, or anything mildly interesting to make this movie worth more than a watch. It was like watching a really sub-par slasher film with music videos added in between. It didn't make a whole lot sense.

The acting is just as bad for the most part. Christopher George, who's pretty cool in anything he's in, does good as the asshole coach. I really liked him here. Patch Mackenzie was okay as Anna. She was made to be the lead suspect while at the same time groomed as the "final girl". It was kind of hard to root for her since she was gone for like half the film once she was introduced. She also had this sub-plot with her family that didn't go anywhere. Plus for a woman in the Navy, she sure does not know how to defend herself. The character sucked, but at least Mackenzie did what she could with the role.

No one else really stood out. E. Danny Murphy played the angry and a little loopy boyfriend fine. Linnea Quigley showed her boobs and looked kind of cute in an early role. And Vanna White - let's just say she choose the right path when she snatched that letter turning job on Wheel of Fortune. Yeesh.

THINGS I'VE LEARNED WHILE HAVING THE NEED TO DROP OUT

- Some driver made light of two Navy women in San Diego, calling them "real lesbos". Coming from a man who drives wearing a "two-sizes-too-small" violet shirt and a lemon-colored scarf around his neck in the summer, I wouldn't question anyone's sexuality.

- The killer uses a stop watch to know when to kill, or something dumb like that. I heard of having time to kill, but that's just ridiculous.

- The killer marked his or her victims with an "X" using pink lipstick. How tacky. That color is all wrong! "Dick Suck Red" is a lot more attractive and appealing to the eye.

- You grab the diploma with your left hand and shake with your right. I follow that rule each and every day - most likely in front of a toilet and with no diploma in sight.

- The brunette chick in spandex is a pretty good gymnast. She can spin on my bar anytime she wants.

- Delores flashed the music teacher to pass the class and avoid not graduating. I guess I won't need to ask what she got in Sex Ed.

- Coach George Michaels, who's blamed for Laura's death, denies pushing her too hard in track - saying that he loved her. I agree. He does have the "Freedom" to be a "Father Figure" or a "Jesus To A Child". He's completely innocent. You just gotta have "Faith".

- The New Wave band, Felony, sang "Gangster Rock" for 8 minutes. What really was a felony was that the song was 8 minutes too long!

- Don't ever pole vault over a mat of spikes sticking out. It's not too sharp...

THE FINAL HOWL
GRADUATION DAY
deserves to be leftback for boring me and wasting 96 minutes of my life. If you like early slasher flicks and haven't seen this one, I guess it's worth a look. If you like pointy footballs and Linnea Quigley's pointy nipples, I guess it's worth a look. If those things don't appeal to you, don't bother with this newest member of the WTF? Vault. You'll thank me later.

Hey Pat, I'd like to solve the puzzle:

"GRADUATION DAY CAN KISS MY ASS!"

What's my prize?? What's my prize?? A box of Rice-O-Roni, the San Francisco Treat? Figures...

6.26.2008

Teeth (2008)

DIRECTED BY
Mitchell Lichtenstein

STARRING
Jess Weixler - Dawn
John Hensley - Brad
Hale Appleman - Tobey
Josh Pais - Dr. Godfrey
Ashley Springer - Ryan


Genre - Horror

Running Time - 98 Minutes

Score - 3 Howls Outta 4


It's rare to find to a horror film that has the ability to stand out from the rest of its kind. How many times can we count vampire films? Or werewolf films? Or ghost stories? Or films with a killer in the woods? They've been done countless time to the point where most of them are just pale imitators of each other, all done to make a profit. The fact that we have so many sub-genre of horror proves my point.

But sometimes, someone is brave enough to come up with something so unique in its plot and premise that you have no choice but give it your full attention. Now you have no idea whether the film is good or bad, but what it's about definitely makes you want to watch it regardless. So many horror films come and go that fly under my radar because they sound like another version of a better film I've seen in the past. But TEETH, about a virginal teenage girl whose vagina has a set of teeth that like to bite, definitely hit me in the face so many times that I had to see this film. And boy, am I pleased that I did. While TEETH isn't perfect and doesn't do all it can to raise the bar completely, it's still one of the better horror films I've seen in recent years. And it's not a remake! Yay!

PLOT
Dawn (Jess Weixler) is the kind of girl you'd take home to mom. She's blonde. She's cute. She's a born leader. She's a virgin. She lives in beautiful suburbia with her mom, step-dad, and unruly stepbrother Brad (John Hensley) behind a pair of nuclear cooling towers. What can be so wrong about this picture?

Apparently alot. Dawn's mom is really sick. Brad won't talk to her unless she's willing to give him the sex he's been dreaming about for years. No one seems to be taking her purity status seriously as several potential boyfriends force themselves on her. The latter situation only gets worse [or better depending on how you see it] because Dawn's vagina has a set of teeth that seem to chomp on whatever [or whoever] is inside of Dawn...down there. Yep, just your old-fashioned wholesome horror film.

REVIEW
TEETH
is one of those films that I won't be forgetting about for a while. I mean, it's about the coming of age story of some girl who has a vagina with teeth! That's not something you hear about or see every day. As a man, it's a nightmare to find out that the girl you're screwing has choppers where they shouldn't be until it's too late to save your baby-maker. Hell, it's downright traumatizing. And the fact that the film actually showed the aftermath a couple of times made me not only cringe in horror, but had me balling into fits of laughter that most comedies these days have failed to do.

I really thought the script was actually pretty clever for the most part. The characters were developed pretty darn well, especially Dawn, whose "female empowerment" was believable once she realized the power she had with her "gift" below. It's her story and you know her very well, rooting for her the entire way especially when she's being taken advantage of by some wolves in sheep's clothing. The fact that Dawn was preaching abstinence was a nice touch [and it makes sense], and the whole idea of wearing red rings on your finger that kind of looked phallic [Freud would have a field day with this] made the whole thing pretty funny and ironic.

I did feel that the male characters [besides the step-father, who along with the mother, were the only two normal people in the entire film] were written to be real creeps. Now I know the story has to establish Dawn as a victim of her sexual urges, being treated as a object by devious men, and of her toothy vagina - but it made things a bit TOO obvious and kind of felt forced. I'm not gonna lie. Men think about sex all the time, even when we try not to. If we really like someone, the urges will definitely be there. But not every dude is so keen on forcing themselves on a girl who is saying "No!". And what about that gynecologist? What a creep! Pervs like him usually drug the patient before getting that extreme with the examination. This guy had the balls to do it when Dawn was awake. Brad, the step-brother, treated his girlfriend like a dog and pretty much pictured that she was Dawn while screwing her. Brad wouldn't even talk to Dawn until she was ready to ride him. I don't think even The Brady Bunch was this fucked up sexually. But the dude who made a bet with his friend to screw Dawn and actually admitted it while he was in the act with her deserved to be a eunich. What a fuckin' fool. Yeah...talking to your buddy about a bet you made about the girl who you're screwing right in front of her is really smart. Hope it was worth losing your schlong, fucker! And I won't even get to the old dude at the end. Just proves that perversion is multi-generational. I just felt this type of characterization was TOO one-sided. There should have been at least some dude who was nice and kind - one who didn't have evil intentions in mind. But no one here fit that bill. Some call this a sexist film and I agree. The men totally got the shaft here [no pun intended].

And was this really a "empowerment" film for women? Dawn was just as bad as the men towards the end, screwing them just to make her point. It takes away the fact that she's a victim of her body and her situation, becoming a predator that's pretty much an equal to the men who do her wrong. Yes, some people can see this as having power and taking control, but is she better than the men she's doing this too? To call this a revenge flick is one thing. But to say this is a story of "empowerment"? I'm not really sure. She always had the power with her "gift" over the men to begin with. She didn't gain anything. She just decided to use it as a defense mechanism. I guess it's up for debate.

Plus the whole vagina dentata thing never was any deeper than that. She had a vagina with teeth, obviously from the power plant nearby that was shown more times than it should have been [after the tenth time, I understood okay?]. And she used it on guys who did her wrong. But other than that, there was nothing more to the whole thing. It pretty much coasted on the premise and didn't deliver that climax I was looking for. I think a lot more could have been done with this film, but that's just me. At least what TEETH did do, it did really well.

The direction by first-time filmmaker Mitchell Lichtenstein was good. It wasn't really stylish in terms of shots or storytelling at all. In fact, I found Lichtenstein's work to be so subtle that it made the film seem like "whatever". And that's not a bad thing because it made those cringe-worthy moments and the black humor stand out a lot more because of its quietness. Hopefully he'll continue making films, although it's gonna be hard to top a film about a girl with a vaginal teeth.

The acting was very good. Jess Weixler as Dawn was the star of the show and totally blew me away here. I bought her character from her naive and innocent beginning to her worn-down and vindictive end. She was cute. She was smart. She was charming. You can sympathize with her. Weixler did a really awesome job conveying Dawn's journey. She took the role very seriously and didn't play it as if she was in on the joke. There's a realness in her performance that totally made everything she said and did work. Weixler is the film and she's carries it on her shoulders like a champ.

The supporting characters were less developed but the actors did well with what they were given. Nip/Tuck's John Hensley creeped me out as Dawn's step-brother, Brad. He was the first victim of Dawn's snatch attack when his finger got bit when both were younger. Ever since, Brad wanted a piece of that vagina and hated the fact that the girl he wanted eventually became his sister. He was an asshole who treated women like shit and all he cared about was drugs, booze, and sex. Hensley played it believably and I kind of felt sorry for him, even though he was a massive tool. His scene at the end with Dawn cracked me up, you have no idea. Ashley Springer, Josh Pais, and Hale Appleman play Dawn's victims and all do a good job in their short roles. All deserved their fates. It's just too bad there wasn't a guy here I could relate to.

THINGS I'VE LEARNED WHILE STAYING ABSTINENT UNTIL SOMEONE CREATES STEEL CONDOMS

- If you play a game of "I'll Show Mine If You Show Yours", inspect the female area with your finger first. You have nine more of those. You only have one penis. Unless you're John Wayne Bobbitt - then you only have a half.

- Wear your red virginity ring until you trade it in for the gold ring you'll receive during marriage. Supposedly gold represents a lot of sex. Too bad from what I hear, most wedding rings are anything but gold.

- If your boyfriend is rubbing a milkbone in your mouth, it's not foreplay. He's calling you a bitch. If you're into that sort of thing, please ignore what I just read. I know a few girls who like it ruff ruff.

- Don't attempt to rape a girl who believes in purity. The violent act will bite in more ways than one. Circumcision anyone?

- Tobey's detached penis had a crab playing around it. Sometimes the joke just writes itself.

- Don't be a male gynecologist. Your perverted hand will get caught playing in the cherry tree by an angry vagina. I hope it's not your jerk off hand. That sort of thing turned Anakin Skywalker into Darth Vader.

- When your dog starts to warn you when you're having sex with a girl, listen to him. Man's best friend always knows best. Especially when he won't eat your penis. Human flesh is not the other white meat.

THE FINAL HOWL
While never taking it to another level beyond the simple premise, TEETH is still a horror film that's worth more than a watch. It's funny. It's gross. It has a chick with a toothy vagina. Seriously, where else are you gonna see that? Check it out because this film definitely deserves an audience. Now if you'll excuse me, I'm putting my red ring on. I'll be damned if I lose my boy down there...

6.23.2008

Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers: The Movie (1995)

DIRECTED BY
Bryan Spicer

STARRING
Jason David Frank - Tommy
Amy Jo Johnson - Kimberly
David Yost - Billy
Johnny Yong Bosch - Adam
Karan Ashley - Aiesha
Steve Cardenas - Rocky
Paul Freeman - Ivan Ooze
Gabrielle Fitzpatrick - Dulcea
Jamie Croft - Fred Kelmen


Genre - Action/Fantasy/Children

Running Time - 95 Minutes

Score - 2.5 Howls Outta 4


Let me just get this out of the way: I was a huge Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers fan. HUGE. Recorded all the shows until the end of Power Rangers: Zeo. Played the video games. Had actual three hour conversations with people I knew who watched the Power Rangers over the dumbest of things. My love for Amy Jo Johnson, who played the original Pink Ranger, rivaled that of Heather Locklear and Pamela Anderson at the time. This stupid show had a hold on my soul and wouldn't let go until I saw that crappy TURBO: A POWER RANGER MOVIE and said enough was enough [even though I did see some of Power Rangers In Space and Power Rangers: Dino Thunder].

It wasn't supposed to be this way. I never saw the show from the beginning, avoiding it as long as possible. That is until my cousins stayed over for a week and forced me to watch that "Green With Evil" miniseries that debuted Tommy, The Green Ranger. The whole show was so ridiculous that I couldn't stop watching, hooking me for years. I even got other people to watch it, which shows that alot of us were addicted to this pop culture phenomenon that none of us can really explain how it came to be. I mean, the show was silly.

For example, why is the owner of a health fruit and juice bar so obese?

Why didn't the monsters kill the Power Rangers in mid-morph?

How much money was actually in Angel Grove's trust that they were able to reconstruct their city after multiple monster battles that knocked down paper-thin buildings?

Why did Rita Repulsa always throw her staff in the same exact spot on Earth to make her monsters grow?

It boggles the mind at how many children and teenagers bought into this illogical stuff. Yes, the mid-1990s were a weird time indeed. To be young again...sigh.

Since then, I erased all those Power Ranger episodes [something I regret every once in a while] and pretty much wish they stopped making those new Ranger seasons that get dumber and dumber by the year. Hell, this review you're reading shouldn't even be existing. But thanks to a blog written by my buddy Siko/Mike where he admitted his love for the Power Rangers back in the day, it created another thing we had in common. I kind of joked around about reviewing the original MIGHTY MORPHIN' POWER RANGERS: THE MOVIE, but Mike really wanted to see me review it. I figured that I still have the film on VHS and they even give it alot on those Encore channels. So why not? It'll make me look like a dork but at least I can be honest and show another aspect of my personality.

So I watched the film this weekend again for the first time in years. It's not as good as I remember it to be but it's still a fun film to watch and a definitely guilty pleasure of mine.

PLOT
While Tommy (Jason David Frank), Kimberly (Amy Jo Johnson), Billy (David Yost), Adam (Johnny Yong Bosch), Aiesha (Karan Ashley), and Rocky (Steve Cardenas) have fun skydiving, roller-blading, and practicing their hand gestures on each other [hmmm...], a group of construction workers uncover some statue of a claw holding a purple egg. Later that night, Rita Repulsa and Lord Zedd approach the egg and hatch it. This act brings out some evil intergalactic bastard named Ivan Ooze (Paul Freeman), who was supposedly trapped for 6000 years. Ooze decides to have fun to celebrate his freedom, going straight to the Command Center to incapacitate the annoying Alpha-5 and destroy Zordon, who mentors the Power Rangers. With Zordon dying, the Power Rangers have no more powers. Zordon and Alpha-5 sends the Rangers to some planet named Phaedos to find the lost powers of the Ninjetti, which releases a person's animal spirit into battle. With their new powers intact, the Rangers must do battle with Ivan Ooze and his minions.

REVIEW
MIGHTY MORPHIN' POWER RANGERS: THE MOVIE
was a pretty big hit when it was released back in 1995, which was the peak of the Rangers' phenomena. It pretty much takes the show and gives it an actual budget, using CGI to create much more animated Zords, monsters, and new abilities for the Rangers to use. The film doesn't really follow the show's timeline [this whole movie would be redone during the third season's premiere in an even more ridiculous way if that's even possible] but it gave fans a whole other look at what the producers of the Power Rangers would be capable of if they had actual money to spend on things other than footage from the Japanese show it was based on, Kyôryû sentai Juurenjâ. It kind of takes away what made the show so appealing in the first place [the cheapness of it all], but it's still a stupid and silly kid's film that could be enjoyed by the entire family.

The story isn't anything special. It's pretty much a standard Power Rangers episode but three times its length. The characters aren't given any depth other than that they always wear the color of their Ranger's uniform. The villains are the Kings and Queens of the one-liner. Especially that Ivan Ooze - ooh he's so fuckin' funny. NOT! But hey, this film is made for younger viewers. They're not gonna care about character development and well-timed jokes. They eat this shit up on a daily basis just to drive their parents insane. It's human nature. So in that sense, it succeeds in what it has to do. Sometimes you don't want to think when you're watching a film. This movie couldn't be any more perfect.

I do think the CGI is pretty funny to watch after 13 years. Even back in 1995, the last battle sequence looked so fake. But now? Wow, it really shows it's age. Everything is shiny and uses CGI that's better used for those horrible made-for-TV Sci-Fi Channel premieres every Saturday Night. I couldn't stop laughing at how bad it looked. Yeah, the same battle sequences on the TV show were pretty primitive as well but at least the Zords looked sort of real in a way that it wasn't too hard to believe. But this was just over-the-top. And why CGI and not actually Japanese footage to maintain the show's appeal? One word: merchandising. And believe me, Saban Entertainment [who produced this franchise back in the day] became filthy rich because of it. For those who complain about CGI in modern films, look at this movie. I think you'll take most of it back. At least the new armored costumes were nice though.

The action sequences are pretty much the same as the TV show but with better choregraphy and more wire-work. I mean, when a villain goes down, he doesn't just fall. He has to spin like a hundred times into a wall before falling. It never stops making me laugh. But the actors who play the Power Rangers are really talented gymnasts and martial artists. They're totally believable in their movements and battle scenes. Hell, I couldn't do 75 percent of these guys and girls can do. So while the fights are silly, they're still pretty cool to watch after all these years.

The direction by Bryan Spicer, who would do some directorial work on some TV shows, is adequate enough for this franchise. The pacing is tight, the sequences are handled with a lot of energy, nice transitional styles and edits. The cinematography was absolutely stunning, especially on Phaedos. Just a nice looking picture. I'm not looking for something that's gonna win an Academy Award. As long as it tells the story pretty well visually, I'm gonna dig it. And I dig watching this film.

The acting - well, the Power Rangers aren't known for its acting. A lot of it is pretty bad, but that's pretty much what makes the franchise so charming and addictive to begin with. Of the Rangers themselves, Jason David Frank, Amy Jo Johnson, David Yost, and Johnny Yong Bosch are the highlights. Frank is probably the coolest and most popular Power Ranger ever as Tommy, and he has a likeability about him that's charming and appealing. He makes a good leader too. Amy Jo Johnson is cute as Kimberly, and she would pretty much become one of the more successful Power Rangers by starring on Felicity and other shows, as well as having a pretty decently successful singing career. David Yost is perfect as the nerdish Billy, as he has the ability to deliver his lines and kick ass believably. I still won't forgive him for that fish episode in season one though. And he had to get the wolf ability in this film too. No fair. Johnny Yong Bosch was the best of all the Rangers, as he actually has a personality I can relate with. He's sarcastically funny and a great martial artist. Hell, he's the only person in the cast who did all of his stunts - in and out of uniform. Kudos. He's done some voice work for video games, recently as Nero for Devil May Cry 4. Nice to see him still doing stuff.

For Ivan Ooze, Paul Freeman was too hammy for me. Yeah, kids love this stuff, but his one-liners were so bad that I groaned after each one. But at least he doesn't take the whole thing seriously and seems to be enjoying himself in a really stupid role. So it works for the most part. And I liked Australian model Gabrielle Fitzgerald as Dulcea, the Amazonian warrior on Phaedos. Uber-hot and she actually has the ability to act! In a Power Rangers film? That's unheard of! But seriously, I liked her alot and wished she was in the film more. Trivia: Marigska Hargitay was supposed to be this role by the producers replaced her with Fitzgerald. Too bad - I always wanted to know what Power Rangers: Special Victims Unit would have looked like.

My final beef with the film - the sidekicks to Rita, Zedd, and Ivan Ooze. Only Goldar transitioned from television to film. Where's Baboo? Finster? Squat? They replaced those three with some pig dude named Mordant. And he did - absolutely nothing. Well he did say corny jokes, but that was it. At least Goldar got to fly away during the end. And what was up with his costume? He looked LESS detailed than the television version. Not cool at all. Ay yi yi yi yi!

THINGS I'VE LEARNED WHILE REALIZING THE POWER RANGERS IS PORNOGRAPHIC

- Skull considers himself the "swooping swallow". Thank you for sharing your sexual preference, but I didn't need to know that.

- Ivan Ooze was released from a sewer. I have a feeling all masturbating boys who leave it in the toilet will be blamed for this one. Ew...

- Ivan Ooze plays a flute that can shoot and cause damage. Are you sure this is a kid's film?

- Aiesha claims it'll be "one messy night." I'm sure that's not the first time she's said that.

- Ivan Ooze created feathered warriors to do battle with The Power Rangers. I had a feeling Ivan was into cock.

- Dulcea used her staff to scare away the Tengu Warriors and bully the Power Rangers. Any chick who's that masterful with a stick definitely deserves more than one date with me.

- Kids and their parents love playing with Ivan's ooze. Finally! Now I have an excuse for my sticky fingers during my alone time! I mean...wha??

- A skeleton of some dinosaur was hungry for Kimberly. I'd say eating her would be wrong if I didn't have the same thoughts running through my mind every time I see her.

- The guard monsters were stone-tough and eager to drive their maces into the Power Rangers. Rock hard? Thrusting their weapons like pistons? Really, are you sure this is a kid's film?

- Fred learned from Tommy's martial arts training to "use your head and, above all else, stay calm." I'm sure that's how Jenna Jameson was suckered into porn.

THE FINAL HOWL
MIGHTY MORPHIN' POWER RANGERS: THE MOVIE
is still a guilty pleasure after all these years. It's stupid. It's ridiculous. It doesn't make a whole lot of sense most of the time. But that's just the way some of us Power Rangers fans like it. The CGI kind of ruins the film for me and the villain wasn't as strong as some Power Ranger villains on the television show, but it's still a fun watch from beginning to end. It won't appeal to everyone and I'm sure some people reading this dislike the Power Rangers and this film. And that's fine. But sometimes I just like to feel young again and this film hits the spot. Go go Power Rangers!

6.20.2008

The Quiet (2005)

DIRECTED BY
Jamie Babbit

STARRING
Camilla Belle - Dot
Elisha Cuthbert - Nina
Martin Donovan - Paul
Edie Falco - Olivia
Shawn Ashmore - Connor
Katy Mixon - Michelle


Genre - Drama/Thriller

Running Time - 96 Minutes

Score - 3 Howls Outta 4


They say sometimes the truth will set you free. We've been through so many things in our lives, good and bad, that we keep to ourselves. It never really lets people get to know us for who we really are. Instead, we project this image of ourselves as a defense mechanism because we're afraid what's behind that image won't be as acceptable from society.

Believe me when I say that while I come off as a very sarcastic and upbeat individual, I harbor a lot of anger, regret, and sorrow inside. Issues with my father, my childhood, people who I thought were my friends, and a whole bunch of other things constantly float around in my mind. I'm the kind of person who keeps himself in check, holding back from ranting about things I don't want to burden people with. I don't feel it's necessary to reveal everything about myself until the levee begins to crack and it all comes flooding forth. Some people know me more than others and I'm cool with that. But I don't ever expect the entire truth about myself to ever come out to anyone. Sometimes, those things are scarier than any horror film could possibly throw at an audience.

But this isn't a review about myself. This is for an independent little thriller that anyone heard a peep from in 2005 called THE QUIET. It deals with substance abuse, sexual abuse, physical abuse, and emotional abuse. The film uses the lead character, who is deaf and mute, as a way for the characters around her to reveal themselves. It's easy to tell people the truth when they can't hear what you have to say and not judge you. And while I said that the truth will set you free, THE QUIET proves that it could also trap you and the people around you in situations that you've never dreamed of being apart of.

PLOT
Dot (Camilla Belle) is a deaf and mute teenager who lost her mother when she was seven and just recently, her father. She is adopted by her Godparents, who happen to be one of the most dysfunctional families ever put on film. The mother, Olivia (Edie Falco), seems to be emotionally crippled and deals with her issues through prescription pills and alcohol. The teenager daughter, Nina (Elisha Cuthbert), is a very popular cheerleader at her school who borders on being a bitch to everyone around her. And the father, Paul (Martin Donovan), likes to keep it in the family [if you know what I mean]. Since Dot is deaf, everyone around her seems to feel comfortable talking to her about their innermost thoughts, such as sexual issues and thoughts of murder. What these people don't know is that Dot is also carrying a secret - one that could change the relationships and the situations around her forever.

REVIEW
THE QUIET
is one of those films I tried to catch on cable but never got to see it from the beginning. I read reviews for it and some were pretty negative, convincing me not to rush into seeing this film. But I got to watch it fully tonight [finally] and I really don't understand all the negativity. THE QUIET is a good little film. It's not perfect in the slightest but I think what it had to do it did pretty well.

Maybe all the negativity comes from the subject matter. Mainly the sub-plot between Nina and her father, which obviously involves incest, probably makes a lot of people uncomfortable. Yeah, it makes me uncomfortable too but things like this happen more than we care to share. And I thought it was handled pretty well. We don't see anything explicit, although Nina does say a mouthful about her activities to Dot. The whole issue isn't used to tell a message or used to create tension for the film. It never paints Nina as the victim and her father as the creep. Both are victims. Nina is extremely confused and psychologically damaged from having sex with her dad. She hates him for it, but at the same time loves him for it too. She doesn't know what she wants. She wants to murder him for making her feel horrible. But she doesn't want to see him dead either. She takes out her frustration on her mother, who is oblivious to everything [although you know she's not stupid and knows what's going on], and on Dot [who acts like her psychiatrist almost by just listening]. And Paul, the father, is just as confused as Nina is. He hates himself and actually calls himself "sick" for sleeping with Nina, but he doesn't have the balls to stop his lust for his own daughter. THE QUIET could have been easily written as a one-sided view on a serious issue. But after seeing both sides, we sympathize with both characters because it's real.

I think what really makes the film work is the Dot character herself. At first, we're not sure if she's deaf or not because of her constant internal monologue. But we soon learn she can hear and speak just fine, using the guise as a way to feel connected to other people, even if it's a negative way to do it. When people do find out about it, some are betrayed while others manipulate the situation. Seeing things through her perspective as an outsider being brought in against her will is refreshing and a great way to see these characters for who they really are and not for what they project back to us. Sociology 101 here and the screenplay uses it well.

I also liked the fact that the High School scenes were believably realistic. No stereotypical High School drama here. These characters acted like real teenagers at an environment that many of us found awkward and cruel for the most part. When the characters like someone, they really express it in ways regular people would. When they don't like someone, they're forward with their snide remarks towards that person. I never had this issue in High School [maybe Junior High School] but I know a lot of people experienced situations like this. It wasn't satiric or a spoof of High School life. This is the real deal here and I'm sure some people will have flashbacks as they watch these certain scenes.

I do think the narrative was a bit too predictable at times and the twist and turns could have been handled better. The final twist, especially, I saw coming the moment the situation preceeding it took place. Wasn't a surprise at all and I pretty much called how it would all play out. Plus, some of the choices the characters made were a bit off for me and I asked myself, "Would real people in a similar situation make the same boneheaded moves these characters made?" It seemed the decisions were more coincidental than anything. Sometimes life is like that but it didn't really feel organic to me. I also thought the film wasn't sure whether it wanted to be a mainstream flick or an independent one. The visuals were really glossy and quite beautiful, but it took me out of the rawness of the issues that film were very concerned with. Instead of watching reality play out, it felt more movie-like in nature. It's not really a bad thing but I wasn't sure what Jamie Babitt was attempting here.

Speaking of Babitt, who directed BUT I'M A CHEERLEADER, delivered a nice film here. While the glossy look took a bit away from the film, it was still very atmospheric, moody, and sexy visually all at the same time. The film had nice pacing, stylish shots that went well with the scene they were used in, and the editing was very tight. Can't really say anything negative about it. Just nice and subtle.

The acting was also very nice as well. Camilla Belle pretty much proves how wasted she was in the WHEN A STRANGER CALLS remake and 10,000 B.C. as she acts more than adequate here. She played the isolated and vulnerable Dot really well, as I bought every second of her performance. She needs to do more roles like this. Another actress who proved they can act as long as they're given good material is Elisha Cuthbert. She was dislikeable at first, but Cuthbert brings such a vulnerably and sadness to Nina that you're on her side by the end of the film. She handled all the emotional scenes perfectly and showed how talented she really is. She also looked great in her undies of course, but she acted her ass off too. Edie Falco and Martin Donovan were very good in their supporting roles as the parents. They could have been written very stereotypically and one-dimensional, but the two actors really flesh out the characters as best as possible. I was convinced by each one and while they had their issues, I still understood where they were coming from. Shawn Ashmore was very good as the love interest for Dot and Katy Mixon was so convincing as Nina's obnoxiously cold-hearted bitch friend that I was hoping something bad would happen to her. She was that good.

THINGS I'VE LEARNED WHILE...SHHHHHHHHH

- Dot wanted to be invisible. So do I. That way, I can walk into the women's showers without getting slapped. Geez, I just wanted a date for Friday night!

- Nina and Michelle believe that the news doesn't affect their lives. Yet, what happens on The Hills does? No wonder modern society is so fucked!

- When Nina put lipstick on Dot, Nina claimed Dot finally looked like a woman. Instead, she looked more like The Joker, which Dot did not appreciate. C'mon Dot! Why so serious?

- Girls seem to dig Shawn Ashmore. He gets the girls hot so he can just cool them down. Must be nice to be Iceman.

- Nina plans on running away, hoping to become a stripper so she can support herself. While I don't condone this lifestyle, I wouldn't mind watching her perform between the hours of 10:00 P.M and 11:00 P.M. - to help her get out of the business, of course.

THE FINAL HOWL
In my honest opinion, I think more people should speak up about THE QUIET. It's a well-acted, nicely directed, and occasionally gripping film with some very mature subject matter that's handled quite well. It's not perfect and some things probably didn't work as intended, but I think it's worth a watch if you haven't caught this film yet.

6.19.2008

The Funhouse (1981)

DIRECTED BY
Tobe Hooper

STARRING
Elizabeth Berridge - Amy Harper
Cooper Huckabee - Buzz
Largo Woodruff - Liz
Miles Chapin - Ritchie
Kevin Conway - Carnival Barker
Wayne Doba - The Monster
Shawn Carson - Joey Harper
Sylvia Miles - Madame Zena
William Finley - Marco The Magician

Genre - Horror/Slasher

Running Time - 96 Minutes

Score - 2 Howls Outta 4


Living in one of the largest metropolises in the world, I haven't had my fair share visiting carnival attractions. But when I did, I just thought the whole thing was hokey. Mutated freakshows, rides that go bump in the night [not because they're scary but because the trip getting there is bumpy], and food that I don't think even Kirstie Alley would eat - I sometimes wonder what the big deal is all about. I don't find carnivals scary, although I won't question people who do have a genuine fear of them.

Maybe that's why Tobe Hooper's third directorial venture, 1981's THE FUNHOUSE, didn't affect me as well it should have. It's not a bad film, but it's highly uneven due to a very bland screenplay that doesn't capitalize on the slasher sub-genre enough. Still, it's not a total waste of time.

PLOT
Teenager Amy Harper (Elizabeth Berridge) goes out on her first date with hunky Buzz (Cooper Huckabee), with friends Liz (Largo Woodruff) and Ritchie (Miles Chapin) on board. Instead of going to the movies like Amy had promised her parents, she decides to go along with her friends to the local carnival. After spending time there making fun of the whole scene, smoking dope, and making out each other, the four friends decide it's a good idea to spend the night in a carnival ride at the funhouse.

They first think it's all fun and games. But soon they witness a fortune teller (Sylvia Miles) argue with the slow and deformed son (Wayne Doba) of the carnival barker (Kevin Conway) after he pays her for sex and prematurely ejaculates. Enraged by the embarrassment of the situation, the son murders the fortune teller. The carnival barker catches wind of it, soon learning that there are witnesses to the murder when Ritchie drops his lighter from above the scene through a crack in the floor. Now worried for their safety, the group must find a way out of the funhouse before the deformed son murders them all.

REVIEW
THE FUNHOUSE
is a mixed bag, just like Tobe Hooper's career. While the film looks good and the beginning and last half of the film are actually quite watchable, the rest of the film is a big mess. The film has a perfect setting and premise for an 80s slasher film, but Hooper and the screenplay don't do enough with it to make it work for the most part. Personally, THE FUNHOUSE is a disappointing little 80s slasher flick.

I think the main fault lies within the screenplay by Larry Block. After a strong beginning that I'll discuss later, it meanders slowly as we watch 45 minutes of characters being set up and doing nothing remotely interesting to maintain one's attention. Now I love characterization, especially in horror films because it's so rare. But when you have more than half of a film slowly showing these characters and what they're about without actually doing a good job of it, then you're just testing my patience. Hell, I almost fell asleep during this portion because I was so bored. We learn nothing really about the people we're supposed to invest ourselves in other than they like to make out and smoke weed. They're not even really stereotypes either, which would have helped because at least I would have some sort of impression of them. But I got nothing but these four characters walking and riding through a carnival without tension, suspense, or a scare. Blah.

What's worse is that the second portion of the film is pretty well-written when things start to pick up. Here we have some tension and some decent sequences involving the monster of the film against these characters. It feels like another film within the same film. Not a really good job. And even if the last 40 minutes of the film are watchable, I wonder how many people will actually sit through the long-winded first act just to get to this point? The pacing is totally off here and it pretty much lost me for most of the film.

I also thought some plot elements were really flawed in the script. Like the sub-plot with Joey Harper (Shawn Carson), who is the kid brother of final girl Amy. He sneaks out of the house to go to this carnival and does nothing of note whatsoever. He sees Amy entering the funhouse and never exiting, wondering if she's playing a trick on him. After that, all he does is walk and look around until he gets caught and his parents have to take him home. That's it. Really? Why waste my time with this? It's like finally getting to have sex with your girlfriend but she'll only let you stick the tip and not letting you get off. Don't start something that you're not gonna finish properly.

I also thought the way the monster revealed himself was pretty lame too. We see him during the set-up scenes walking around in a Frankenstein's Monster mask while supervising the funhouse ride. Even when he's screwing the fortune teller, he still has the mask on. But when his father starts berating him for murdering their "family", the monster just takes off the mask to reveal something that either looks like the Michael Myers mask from HALLOWEEN 5, but with two faces, or Michael Jackson in a few years when his face melts due to all the surgery he's had on it. All I could do was laugh at the face. I'm sorry. It didn't scare me at all. And seriously, that big head could NOT fit into that Frankenstein monster mask. So fuckin' silly, I tell ya.

Back to my point...revealing the monster during the MIDDLE of the film loses any tension or suspense for the rest of the film. People love mysteries and not revealing what the monster really looked like would have viewers watching in order to see the pay-off. You save moments like that for the end, when the final girl struggles with the monster and unveils what he looks like. Not here though and it loses all mystique for me for the rest of the film. Pretty crappy move on the filmmakers' part here.

Only positive I can say about the screenplay is that the dialogue was well-written. The four leads sounded and acted like teenagers, even though they looked like college students ready to head to Grad School. And the villains acted like villains while at the same time creating a level of sympathy for both the deformed son and his carnival barking father. So at least the script did something right.

While not Tobe Hooper's finest moment [and he wouldn't really have many, I'm afraid to say], THE FUNHOUSE is still a nicely directed flick. The beginning of the film is obviously a homage to the opening sequence that kicks off the original HALLOWEEN [clown mask, POV shot, and knife], while throwing a shower knife scene that's taken right from PSYCHO. Unfortunately that's the highlight of the film for Hooper, but there are other things. Like some of the murder sequences are done really nicely, especially the sequence between Liz and the monster that's pretty disturbing. Plus the final act is really cool visually and ends the film nicely. And what about those boob shots? Very, very nice. I do think some scenes had takes that were too long and didn't lead much to anything [especially scenes with Joey] and the pacing wasn't as tight as it could have been. But still, it's one of his better directorial efforts. No TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE but what is?

The acting was okay for the most part. Elizabeth Berridge, who's probably best known as playing Mozart's wife in 1984's AMADEUS, is the best actor of the lot. She's pretty, can scream her ass off, and can deliver dialogue and scene direction. She has a nice rack too that she's not afraid to share with the viewing audience. Can't complain. Cooper Huckabee as Buzz played the tough guy pretty well. He looked the part and was likeable in the role. Largo Woodruff as Liz played the stereotypical best friend, but she does it well. She definitely seemed like the kind of girl I'd hang with for some fun in and out of bed. She has spunk, personality, and does a great "scared" expression. I dug her alot. Miles Chapin plays the handsome nerd role well as Ritchie. He was a dumbass and Chapin did a good job with it. Kevin Conway did a good job in his short role as the carnival barker. He was a bastard but I kind of felt bad for him as well. If someone witnessed my child murdering someone, wouldn't my first inclination be to protect him in any way, shape, or form? Especially if he doesn't really understand right from wrong? He's no Father of the Year, but I didn't think he was totally bad. Conway also played the freak show announcer and the strip club presenter [yes, the carnival had a strip club - gotta love the 80s]. Sylvia Miles has a nice cameo as the bitchy fortune teller/hooker. And Wayne Doba did a good job as the Monster. I felt bad for him too. Sure he looked like a freak but he couldn't help it. God was just really busy that day. Still, the latex mask didn't help the role much. Hard to make facial expressions underneath that ugly thing.

THINGS I'VE LEARNED WHILE NEVER PAYING A FORTUNE TELLER A C-NOTE FOR A HANDJOB

- Never be naked when a clown mask is inside your house. Your younger brother will just put it on and stab you with the closest knife he can find. See also: HALLOWEEN.

- Amy's mom doesn't see why Amy would want to date someone who works at a filling station. Apparently, Amy's dad isn't doing such a great job at that department, is he?

- The magician likes to stab his daughter in the chest for their magic trick. Hulk Hogan likes to stab his daughter too...just not in the chest area. ALLEGEDLY.

- Don't ever mock a fortune teller. You'll just bust their crystal ball(s).

- Joey was scared by the creepy old lady who preached about God. I feel the same way whenever I have that dream about Bea Arthur. Damn Golden Girls reruns...

- Don't hang around inside a funhouse. You'll be at the end of your rope. Literally.

- Don't accidentally conduct metal into loose electrical wires. You may be shocked by what happens next.

THE FINAL HOWL
While it starts off well, THE FUNHOUSE turns out to be another disappointment from Tobe Hooper. I was half-bored, half-entertained by this flick. There was so much that could have been done here to really make this film creepy, but the powers-that-be wouldn't allow it to take shape. Still, it's not a total waste of time. Fans of Tobe Hooper, carnivals, and slasher flicks may get a kick out of this one. Just don't expect too much and you'll be okay. I honestly think this film could use a remake, taken at Neverland Ranch with Michael Jackson as the deformed creature. Now THAT would scare me. J'mon! Hee hee hee!

6.18.2008

Funny Games (2008)

DIRECTED BY
Michael Haneke

STARRING
Anna - Naomi Watts
George - Tim Roth
Georgie - Devon Gearhart
Peter - Brady Corbet
Paul - Michael Pitt


Score - 3 Howls Outta 4


FUNNY GAMES is about a normal and happy middle-class family who go to their summer vacation home for some R & R. While Anna (Naomi Watts) cooks dinner and George and Georgie (Tim Roth and Devon Gearhart) set up a sailboat, Anna receives a visit from spiffy-dressed Peter (Brady Corbet). Peter is polite and wants to borrow a few eggs, which Anna easily hands over to him. However, Peter drops the eggs and apologizes. Then Peter drops Anna's cell phone into a sink of water, destroying it for the time being. Frustrated, Anna hands Peter more eggs so he can leave. Instead, the eggs drop again.

Peter is soon joined by his friend Paul (Michael Pitt), who is dressed the same way and is just as polite as Peter. However, he's much more creepier than Peter which Anna quickly picks up. She demands the two to leave, but they don't budge. Even when George and Georgie enter the house and ask them to leave, they still won't do it. George slaps Paul in the face, setting off a chain of events that make it clear that Paul and Peter are visiting this family with evil intentions. Apparently, the two want to play really sadistic games with them - betting that the family won't survive after 9 a.m. the next day.

FUNNY GAMES is a shot-by-shot remake of a 1997 foreign-language film for an American audience by the same director, Michael Haneke. Haneke, by doing this, is attempting to show the American audience how violence in media has made for acceptable entertainment through his story. It's ironic that the film is not entertaining at all. In fact, it's very unpleasant to watch and it's definitely not for everyone.

I had a hard time trying to come up with what to say for this review. I mean, FUNNY GAMES is not a bad film at all. Michael Haneke directs the film with a lot of style, even breaking the 4th wall at times just so the sadists [mainly Paul] can speak to the audience as if we're part of this horrible situation. While we sympathize with the family that's being tortured, in a way we're also becoming familiar with the villains as well. And that's a very uncomfortable feeling to have. What's also uncomfortable is the fact that Haneke enjoys using really long takes that sort of grate on you after a while. I think the one I can remember vividly is when the NASCAR broadcast on television is heard while the victims attempt to escape the horror. It's like 5 minutes of that one take, without edits or transitions, making you wish Haneke would focus on something else right away. It's apparently what Haneke wants you to feel because relaxing and feeling safe is not an option. Even when the film is really quiet, you still feel uncomfortable because you know something bad is gonna happen. It's an interesting method of directing a film, but it works wonders. Haneke definitely left me speechless by the end of it.

And the acting is also good here. Naomi Watts is incredible as Anna. She's vulnerable and she really lets herself go through humiliating situations [like get forcefully undressed by Peter and Paul to prove she doesn't have rolls], yet she continues to fight even when she knows it's in vain. It was hard to watch what those two bastards did to her character, knowing it was all for nothing. Tim Roth is more of a background player here, not doing much at all really. I personally though he was a pussy but that's just me, I guess. I guess it was good for the material given. Devon Gearhart was good as young Georgie. He was a little overzealous at times with his performance, but he played the role of a scared little boy well. Brady Corbet was a little off as Peter. His acting was a bit weird to me. However, Michael Pitt was dead on as Paul. He loves roles like this and it shows because he made Paul seem extremely dangerous.

But this film can't be rated because of how well the acting is or the nice direction. This is not entertainment. It's an experience and not a pleasant one at that. I personally wanted to turn this film off when things really started to feel uncomfortable, yet I didn't and wanted to see what would happen. What does that say about me? I didn't enjoy watching this at all, yet I couldn't stop looking at my television screen. And that "rewound" portion in the film really depressed me. I was expecting the Hollywood ending to this home invasion film, but Haneke gave me the total opposite. It's like one big tease. You want to see the bad guys get theirs in the end, yet it's not that easy and it frustrates you. You know how it's supposed to go, yet Haneke doesn't want you to have that satisfaction. Like Gage said in PET SEMETARY, "No fair. No fair."

THE FINAL HOWL
I really don't know what to say about FUNNY GAMES. I don't think you can actually rate a film like this and justify it. It's gonna be different for everyone and it'll continuously be debated upon. While a really well-made film that told a well enough story, I still can't recommend a film like this. I think if you want to see an anti-Hollywood film that isn't gonna give you what you expect, then rent this and see for yourself. But at the end of FUNNY GAMES, I felt empty yet full at the same time. It's a film I won't be forgetting any time soon. I've never seen the original 1997 version and I honestly don't want to. Seeing FUNNY GAMES once is enough for me.

6.13.2008

Hatchet (2007)

DIRECTED BY
Adam Green

STARRING
Joel Moore - Ben
Tamara Feldman - Mary Beth
Deon Richmond - Marcus
Mercedes McNab - Misty
Parry Shen - Shawn
Joleigh Fioreavanti - Jenna
Joel Murray - Shapiro
Kane Hodder - Victor Crowley/Mr. Crowley


Genre - Horror/Slasher

Running Time - 83 Minutes

Score - 3 Howls Outta 4


The slasher film was all the rage during the 1980s. Although many credit 1978's HALLOWEEN [which is NOT a slasher film] as the film to really kick the subgenre into gear [even though many films before that one could be classified as a slasher film], it wasn't until 1980's FRIDAY THE 13TH where movie studios saw a cash cow where they could make low budget films and get massive profits out of them. Films like A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET, MANIAC, THE BURNING, HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME, SLEEPAWAY CAMP, SLUMBER PARTY MASSACRE, and SILENT NIGHT, DEADLY NIGHT kept sprouting up every month, just to feed the horror fans with masked or deformed killers murdering teens in the most vicious ways possible. However, as the 1980s ended and the 1990s started, the slasher film was pretty much seen as a fad and milked for what it was. Now we have an endless supply of unneeded remakes, "torture porn", and PG-13 "horror" films that satisfy no one but greedy studio heads.

So it's no surprise to say that HATCHET, directed and written by Adam Green, is a refreshing change of pace from what's considered "modern horror". The advertisement for the film shows and says it all: a hatchet with blood dripping from it with a tagline below it that reads "Old School American Horror". As you guys know, I'm an Old School Soldier. And anything that presents itself as "Old School" is gonna get my attention. It's a ballsy move since horror fans still have our old favorites to watch whenever we need that slasher fix, but HATCHET attempts to bring back those glory days by splattering enough blood and body parts from stereotypical boneheaded characters who are not afraid to have sex and flaunt their body parts. It doesn't totally succeed and will not be considered a classic like HALLOWEEN or FRIDAY THE 13TH, but HATCHET is definitely an entertaining flick.

PLOT
Ben (Joel David Moore) has just broken up with his girlfriend and taken to Mardi Gras by his best friend Marcus (Deon Richmond). While Marcus is having the time of his life, Ben is tired of getting drunk and staring at breasts all day. Instead, he wants to join a bunch of New Orleans tourists on some haunted swamp tour. Marcus, relunctant all the way, decides to join his friend.

As the two travel on the tour in the dead of night, the boat hits a rock and everyone on the tour is left stranded in the middle of the woods. Apparently, they're now in the territory of Victor Crowley (Kane Hodder), a deformed legend who apparently died at the hands of his father. However, Victor Crowley is very much alive, ready to murder anyone who gets in his way.

REVIEW
HATCHET
considers itself a product of the slasher sub-genre and it definitely shows. We get the unstoppable monster who seems to have more lives than a cat. We have characters that are all pretty much slasher stereotypes. We have have the woodland setting and an ending that's pretty much a mix of both FRIDAY THE 13TH and THE TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE [kind of left me flat actually]. This is a silly, over-the-top slasher film through and through.

There is a difference though: the characters, while stereotypes, were actually more fleshed out than your usual slasher fare. They're not three-dimensional as one would like, but they all have a role and play it to a tee. It helps that the script, written by Adam Green, actually has dialogue that's most of the time witty and kind of funny. Mercedes McNab's dumb blonde character in particular, made me laugh at how stupid she was. And Deon Richmond's Marcus was made more to be just the Token Black Guy. One, he was actually funny because he wasn't made to be some kind of joke. It actually blended in with everyone else's dialogue and never seemed to bring attention to itself, which was good. Plus he wasn't the first one made to die, so I appreciated that. I liked the dialogue alot in this film, because it felt believable for the most part.

The story itself was nothing original. It was pretty much any slasher film that takes place in the woods kind of flick, but the woods are always a scary place so it still works. There are no major twists and turns. It's very cliched and very predictable, but aren't slasher films usually cliched and predictable? So it didn't bother me too much.

The gore, however, was pretty mean-spirited. This isn't your modern PG-13 flick. Arms got ripped off. People got impaled. Heads were twisted like a homage for THE EXORCIST. Some people got mutilated with power tools. All in good fun, I say. This is what a slasher film looks like, not that crap that called itself PROM NIGHT (2008). John Carl Buechler, who did work on several FRIDAY THE 13TH films and even directed one of them [THE NEW BLOOD], does an awesome job here. I loved it and I know other fans of this genre loved it too.

We also get boobies! Yay! We get some ladies who show off their ta-tas during the Mardi Gras scenes, plus Mercedes McNab and Joleigh Fioreavanti show theirs off as well! I was definitely in "Harmony", if you know what I mean. They even made out too. HLA! HLA! Why can't more horror films show fans what they want to see?

Adam Green directed a fine film here. His pacing was off at times, especially when the characters would bicker for minutes to get the point across, but I pretty much dug what he brought to the table. No quick cuts. No shaky-cam. Just nice ol' fashioned horror direction that showed what it needed to show, which it did quite well. I do wish there was more tension and suspense inserted into HATCHET, because things just happened without any major build up for the most part. Plus the film wasn't really all that scary, which kind of sucked. But as a homage to slasher films of the past, Green did nice work.

The acting was actually very good here. Joel Moore as Ben was not the stereotypical hero at all. He was tall, lanky, and a geek. But it worked because he was likeable, funny, and easy to relate to. Plus he had brains too, which was nice. Tamara Feldman as Mary Beth was good as well. Her character lacked some depth, but her performance made up for it and I bought her act. Deon Richmond as Marcus made me laugh while still being credible at the same time. Usually the black guy is the most annoying person in a horror film because of how they're written. But not in HATCHET - and thank God for that. I liked Richmond here a lot. He's come a long way from THE COSBY SHOW. Mercedes McNab also made me laugh as dumb blonde Misty. If anyone has a negative I.Q., it's probably this chick. Kane Hodder was also pretty cool as Victor Crowley and as his father. No Jason Voorhees, but I still dug the act. And cool cameos from Robert Englund and Tony Todd. Pretty good cast here.

THINGS I'VE LEARNED WHILE NEVER PICKING ON DEFORMED PEOPLE AGAIN

- Don't pee while standing on a boat. A crocodile will want to eat your penis as a feast. For some of you, it'll only be a snack.

- Don't look for your dad in the woods. You'll be ripped apart by what you find. Literally.

- Misty, the dumb blonde, never heard of NYU before. She obviously has never heard of G.E.D. either.

- Jack Cracker likes drinking his own piss. I know fishing is a water sport, but that's just ridiculous.

- Misty believes that cops and police are two different people. That's like saying bacon and ham come from two different animals.
- Don't stand in front of a burning door. The person saving you may have an accidental axe to grind with you. Literally.

- Misty said that "The vibrator goes into your cooch and not into your ear." I don't think even Kelly Bundy was that stupid.

- The scared victims wanted Marcus to check the moving bushes. It's probably just Rudy Huxtable playing Hide 'N' Seek. Don't get all worked up about it, Bud!

- Crowley ripped off Marcus' arms from his body. I have a feeling John McCain will pick Crowley as his running mate to combat Barack Obama.

THE FINAL HOWL
While never truly capturing the feel of an old-school slasher, HATCHET is probably the closest of any horror film that has attempted such a feat. It has boobs. It has gore. It has bushes that move. It has stereotypical people that are fun to watch. Plus, it's rated R! Like a HoRRoR film is supposed to be! For 83 minutes, you can do a whole lot worse than HATCHET. Now if you'll excuse me, I'm cancelling my trip to the next Mardi Gras. Damn swamp tours...

6.12.2008

The Strangers (2008)

DIRECTED BY
Bryan Bertino

STARRING
Liv Tyler - Kristen
Scott Speedman - James

Genre - Horror/Thriller/Suspense

Running Time - 85 Minutes

Score - 3 Howls Outta 4


Imagine you're the kind of person who prefers to chill at home in front of the television while watching a good movie rather than going out and partying all night until I come back smelling like puke and urine. Just when some hot lady is ready to pop out her two favorite friends, someone rings your doorbell. You ask who it is and they ask for some person who doesn't even live in your house. You send them away and rush back to watch two of the greatest things God has ever created. Suddenly, weird shit start happening inside your house, as if you feel someone is watching you...from the inside! Suddenly you turn around and you see the most horrifying thing ever in front of you: Paris Hilton. Not only that, but she also has brought a DVD for you to watch: BLOODY MURDER. You scream. You cry. Paris Hilton has made you her bitch in your own home. That's so not hot!

THE STRANGERS is sort of like that. Just without boobs. And Paris Hilton. And thankfully, BLOODY MURDER. But having three strangers wearing creepy masks inside your house that want to hurt you for an unknown reason is still a creepy thing to live through. But it's also a good feeling, because THE STRANGERS proves that horror can still be effective if the people behind the terror know what buttons to push.

PLOT
Kristen (Liv Tyler) and James (Scott Speedman) arrive at some cabin in the woods at 4 a.m. Apparently, their relationship is on the rocks after Kristen refused James' marriage proposal. As the two prepare to work things out and see if they can salvage what's left of their relationship, they receive a knock on the door. The two don't open the door, only hearing the person behind the door ask for "Tamara". The two dismiss the visitor and continue working things out. James heads out for something, leaving Kristen alone. Another knock on the door is heard, with the same visitor asking for "Tamara". Kristen starts getting nervous, not realizing that strangers have already infiltrated the cabin, blocking every way they can escape. Even as James returns to be with Kristen, the two struggle comprehending the horror that awaits them from these mysterious and heartless strangers.

REVIEW
THE STRANGERS
is apparently similar to a French film called THEM [or ILS] that deals with the same home invasion concept. Some are even calling THE STRANGERS an American remake of that film. I've haven't seen THEM yet but it's in my queue somewhere, so I can't really compare the two films. What I can do is say that ever since this film was heavily promoted, I wanted to check this fucker out. For the first time in a long time, I was genuinely creeped out and intrigued by a movie trailer. I had to see this film because it didn't look or feel like the PG-13 remake crap that Hollywood seems to have a hard-on for these days. And while THE STRANGERS wasn't the perfect horror film, it exceeded my expectations. This is a good horror film people. Suspenseful, tension-filled, moments that will make you jump, an atmosphere so thick that it weighs you down - this is what's missing in the horror genre for years now.

The story benefits from being really short [85 minutes] and being really simple. We meet our protagonists, know enough about them to like them and want them to work things out, and then BOOM - three strangers pop out of nowhere to destroy their second chance at their relationship. No big budgeted set pieces. No over-the-top characterizations of people we wouldn't wish on our worst enemy. No need for an overabundance of blood and gore to make the "torture porn" kiddies happy. Just a small of group of characters who act like normal human beings and are put into a really messed up situation that could happen to any of us. Less is more and THE STRANGERS proves it to be true. It goes from A to B to C to D without missing a beat and trying to go to some twist ending that was really the purpose of the film to begin with. THE STRANGERS is effective because it doesn't do or say much. Things just happen and we're just as much in the dark about them as the two leads.

First time director Bryan Bertino does an incredible job behind the camera. He brought a 70s style of suspense and psychological horror to THE STRANGERS. The man built tension and suspense so much that I was actually anxious while watching this film. Bertino made me paranoid. He made me feel uncomfortable. He made me feel claustrophobic. He had me glued from beginning to end here. I loved the homages to John Carpenter's HALLOWEEN in this film. From the killer(s) standing outside the house just staring at the leads, the use of sound to amplify the fear and tension, and to the whole "white mask peeking out of the darkness behind the victim and then going back into the darkness" worked for me. This is not an upbeat horror film. It's very bleak and gloomy. No quick cutting. No shaky-cam. Just old school horror directing here and I fuckin' appreciated it. Nice to know there's a director out there who learned from true horror films and showed everyone that the rules still work.

The acting was effective in my opinion. I think this was really Liv Tyler's show, as she convinced me of her fright and helplessly confused state. The girl can scream too. Must have gotten it from her dad. And Scott Speedman, who I've liked watching since his days on Felicity, was very good here as well. Both gave credible performances, especially when all they had to do was react and act scared. The three actors playing The Strangers (Gemma Ward, Laura Margolis, and Kip Weeks) creeped me out. They barely had lines of dialogue, but their body language said enough for me. This is now an actor's showcase type of film, but I wasn't expecting it to be. All the actors believe in the project and the script and it really showed on screen. Kudos to all of them.

Before I get to the issues I had with the film, I just want to address some people who were bothered by the lack of motive involving The Strangers doing what they did to Kristen and James. I read some reviews for this film and some people complained that they wanted to know why these three visitors wanted to kill two innocent people and felt that the film failed because of the lack of info. Now I understand people wanting to know motive, but isn't it scarier not to know? Hell, why do you think the original HALLOWEEN worked so well while the sequels got buried? Because we didn't know why The Shape was doing what he was doing. We didn't know he was Laurie Strode's brother. We just thought he was some psycho who wanted to murder babysitters. That shit is scary! Why the fuck would I want to lose that feeling by learning these strangers' true intentions? Would I have liked to have known the reasoning behind it all? Sure, who wouldn't? But the film would have lost something if that was revealed. I'm happy not knowing about these strangers. In my opinion, it makes them represent any psychopath out there who hurts and kills people without giving anyone a concrete reason why. Sure, it may leave THE STRANGERS vulnerable to a sequel to reveal these answers, but I didn't really give a crap while in the moment. All we need to understand is that they are doing bad thing. We don't need to understand why.

Now for the beef I have with this film - it was too predictable. I pretty knew where the film was heading, as I telegraphed things before they even happened. I know it's hard to be original these days in a horror film but a little going against the grain of things could have been attempted. I also knew what the outcome would be as well, making the film not as creepy as I would have liked it to have been. Plus, why was Scott Speedman's character gone for so long in the film? It just felt a bit weird just watching Liv Tyler do whatever it took to get away from these nutjobs. His presence was surely lacking anytime he wasn't around. But other than that, THE STRANGERS is fine in my book.

THINGS I'VE LEARNED WHILE WISHING I WASN'T HOME

- Dudes eat ice cream when they're depressed. I thought only women did that? I guess four years on Felicity will do that to you.

- Don't be concerned when you're talking to your boyfriend and the phone goes dead. It's just symbolizing your fate within the next few minutes. Just be patient.

- Don't drive your car if people are messing with you. They'll just ram theirs into yours just to keep you at bay. Damn that Xzibit! He'll do anything for one more unneeded season of Pimp My Ride.

- Don't ever believe a guy who said he went hunting with his dad. If he can't hit his target in the toilet bowl or in the bedroom, the dude has never shot a gun in his life.

- Don't ever walk inside a house uninvited. You'll get a greeting that'll boggle the mind. Or splatter your brains against the wall. Whichever comes first, I guess.

- When Kristen tried to get on a radio for help, one of The Strangers broke it to stop her. I know the feeling. I want to do that anytime I hear a Jonas Brothers' song on any station. Yuck!

- Don't ever hide in a closet. Nothing good will ever come of it. See also: HALLOWEEN, CARRIE, and countless other horror films.

THE FINAL HOWL
THE STRANGERS
was a very nice surprise. It's not a perfect horror film and it's pretty predictable, but it unsettled me more than any horror film in a long time. If you're into psychological scares that don't require massive amounts of blood, gore, and inventive kills to get your goose, this film is definitely for you. If you're looking for the next SAW or HOSTEL, you ain't gonna get it here. Still, I think THE STRANGERS is definitely worth a rental or even a buy when it's released later this year on DVD.

Excuse me, there's a knock on my door.

No, Tamara's not here.

...Aw shit.

6.11.2008

Don't Answer The Phone! (1980)

DIRECTED BY
Robert Hammer

STARRING
James Westmoreland - Lt. Chris McCabe
Ben Frank - Sgt. Hatcher
Flo Gerrish - Dr. Lindsay Gale
Nicholas Worth - Kirk Smith


Genre - Horror/Thriller

Running Time - 94 Minutes

Score - 1.5 Howls Outta 4


I dread answering the phone. Sometimes you receive a call from someone you don't want to talk to for whatever reason. Other times, it's those damn telemarketers trying to sell you penile implant pills when you don't need them.

I don't need them! Really...I DON'T! Two inches is the new average size, right?

RIGHT!!??

Seriously if it wasn't for Caller I.D., I'd probably never answer the phone. I hear that phone ring and see that horrible number and I yell at the people around me, "DON'T ANSWER THE PHONE!" Yet, they don't listen and end up speaking for a half hour while taking a pointless survey.

You're probably wondering why I'm even writing about this. Does this have anything to do with the sleazy exploitation flick, DON'T ANSWER THE PHONE!? Nope, not all. Ironically, neither does the title of the film have any relation to the film itself. No one is being threatened on a phone. Answering the phone won't cause people to die in seven days. No one breathes heavily on the phone to scare people. Seriously, why was this film called DON'T ANSWER THE PHONE! anyway? Leave the answer on my voicemail because I'm dialing *69 on this misogynistic motherfucker!

PLOT
Kirk Smith (Nicholas Worth) is some Vietnam vet with issues. Either he's lifting weights while yelling at his deceased father in order to make himself feel better, or he's posing as a photographer to lure women into his web so he can rape them and murder them. Not necessarily in that order. Ironically, all these victims seem to be mentally unstable and patients of a radio personality, Dr. Lindsay Gale (Flo Gerrish). When Dr. Gale starts seeing a correlation between her patients and their deaths [wow, ain't she a genius?], she goes to Lt. McCabe (James Westmoreland) and Sgt. Hatcher (Ben Frank) - two bumbling, idiotic cops who are on the case to find Smith. I think the POLICE ACADEMY cops solved more cases than these two morons. Gale and McCabe don't get along at all, meaning that they're gonna eventually exchange bodily fluids for no apparent reason. Once the two, and Hatcher, start working together, the two cops realize that Dr. Gale is Smith's real target and they must do everything in their power to stop Smith.

REVIEW
DON'T ANSWER THE PHONE!
is one of those Grindhouse era films that caused a lot of controversy during its release due to its protrayal of women. You wanna see women get slapped around by a hulking beast of a man? Do you want to watch women show off their tits because...well for our viewing pleasure? Do you want to invest your time in watching women cry and act helpless while the men around them do all the work and act...manly? Well this film is for you!

Believe me, DON'T ANSWER THE PHONE! is one of the sleaziest films you could ever watch. I actually felt kind of dirty watching this, just because I'm so used to seeing women fight back in these type of films. Instead, all the women are weak while the men are strong. The men are also misogynist pigs who laugh at all stereotypes and do the dumbest things just to keep the film moving. It doesn't help that the script by Robert Hammer and Mike Castle makes them this way. Why would I want to watch a woman who needs a man to help her survive? Instead of fighting back and kneeing the asshole in the balls, the women just curl up into a ball and beg for their lives while letting the asshole do what he wishes to them. It's sexist and insulting to think that all women are helpless and weak. If their not, they're either prostitutes, victims of child abuse, or drug addicts. And it's funny how only one woman had a real professional job while the men were all working in some capacity. Yeah, that'll bring in an audience.

The script is totally inept, with situations and dialogue that'll just make you roll your eyes. Kirk Smith has got to be the sloppiest rapist/murder on celluoid. The dude constantly sweats. He doesn't use gloves. He screws women apparently without a condom. I know CSI wasn't the "in" thing back then, but catching a killer through DNA wasn't a new invention! He just did the stupidest shit as the film went on, only to give the detectives a reason to figure out who he was and how to catch him. Shit, MURDER SHE WROTE had more inventive police investigations than this! How the cops didn't catch the guy after at least the second rape/murder is beyond me. Speaking of Smith, I didn't get his deal. Sure I knew he was a nutjob, but was it because of Vietnam? Was it because of Daddy? Was it because of the puppy he loved and strangled to death as a child? Was it because of some religious purpose, like the film was trying to hint at but never followed through with? I mean, don't give me pieces and not solve the puzzle! Smith was the most interesting character by default but even I'm not really sure why.

The other characters are just terrible. Dr. Gale acts like a tough woman, but she's as weak as her patients. She actually tells Smith that she's scared of him to make him feel more powerful. I don't know what school she went to get her degree in Psychology. But I'd like to go there because if she can get one in four years, I know I can get one in four days. The two cops were incompetent assholes who treated women like objects and laughed at some dude dressed like a woman. That scene in the brothel house was just too silly for my tastes.

"Ooh...that dude's wearing a bra and a thong! Hyuk! Hyuk! What a freak! That's so fuckin' funny! Hyuk!"

Jerks.

And the dialogue was just bizarre. I've heard some things in this film that I never thought possible. For example, some nurse got raped, murdered, and mutilated. One of the cops speaks with a police photographer about the victim:

"Did you get a shot of that breast?"

"Which one?"

"The one that got bitten off."

No one can be that stupid, right? Sigh...

Robert Hammer isn't a great director at all. The editing sucks. There's no tension, suspense, or thrilling action. The music sounds like a score from a leftover porn flick. There's a ridiculous montage of people at the police station supposedly working like some bad skit for SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE. There's that brothel scene I previously mentioned. Nothing seems to go together to create a logical and cohesive narrative. At least he knows how to use slo-mo. That counts, right?

The acting is just bad all around here. Nicholas Worth is the only actor that actually is pretty decent for the most part. He's very convincing as the killer, although he does go over-the-top a bit during certain parts of the film. Still, he was the only one given enough time to somewhat develop into a character. The dude was a sleazeball and looked like he hadn't showered in days. It worked for me. He's far from Travis Bickel but he was alright. Flo Gerrish was eh for me. She looked bored most of the time and when she was scared, she looked more constipated than anything. She was kind of hot though, so I'll let that slide. James Westmoreland and Ben Frank were terrible as the cops though. They tried to be Starsky and Hutch and failed miserably. They annoyed me to know end, especially Frank. Blah!

Even with all my negativity, the film is what it is. It's supposed to be sleazy. It's supposed to be bad. It's supposed to be misogynistic. I'm not gonna lie - the boob shots were a plus. For that, DON'T ANSWER THE PHONE! works on what it's trying to achieve. But I didn't really like it and I feel this could have been a much better film if there was some sort of attempt in doing so.

THINGS I'VE LEARNED WHILE TAKING PORNOGRAPHIC PHOTOS OF MY LADY FRIENDS

- The nurse's mom sounds like a man. I didn't realize Nicole Bass was able to conceive. Thank God for modern science!

- The killer likes to strangle his victims to death before raping them. I guess he prefers his apple pie cool instead of warm. Ew.

- There was a billboard for a Bee Gees album in the film. Hasn't this movie suffered enough "Tragedy"?

- Kirk Smith liked to call the radio station with a stereotypical Latino accent while calling himself "Ramon". Now I see where Scott Hall learned how to speak from. Hey yo!

- A woman came in to see Dr. Gale about trauma over her father touching her when she was younger. I hope Brooke Hogan is watching, BROTHER!!

- The killer laughs everytime he hurts or kills his victims. I thought they stopped selling Smilex? Wait until The Joker gets a load of this!

- Kirk Smith uses the guise of a photographer to lure his victims, who think they're gonna be models. So if I see a news report about women getting raped and/or murdered, I'm blaming one person: Tyra Banks.

- "Drugs are more important than everything." Amy Winehouse is a huge fan of this film.

- It's against the law to commit suicide. Um, why would that matter if you're dead? Some laws are really bizarre...

- A detective and a psychiatrist are a match made in Heaven. Both manage to use their heads, although both don't use their brains - if you get what I'm sayin'! Wink wink nudge nudge...

THE FINAL HOWL
DON'T ANSWER THE PHONE!
is not a great film but I guess it does what it does well. Maybe it's because I'm watching this from a modern perspective, but I don't think even people who were old enough to watch this film back in 1980 took comfort in knowing how certain people were protrayed. I mean, watching women act inferior and seeing African-Americans accept hearing the N-word from white people directly to their faces may be someone's cup of tea, but it sure ain't mine. Still, it's not the worst film I've seen, nor the greatest. Watch it if you want. If you don't, it's one less shower you'll need to take to get rid of the stench that emulates from DON'T ANSWER THE PHONE! This one is not worth putting on redial.
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