Case 39 (2010) *May Contain Spoilers*

Christian Alvart

Renee Zellweger - Emily Jenkins
Jodelle Ferland - Lilith Sullivan
Ian McShane - Detective Mike Barron
Bradley Cooper - Douglas Ames
Callum Keith Rennie - Edward Sullivan
Kerry O'Malley - Magaret Sullivan

Genre - Horror/Thriller/Suspense/Supernatural/Evil Kids

Running Time - 109 Minutes

It must be difficult working as a social worker in a child protective services position. It can't be fun dealing with issues of child abuse, neglect, and foster care. Lately, these workers have been giving a bad rep, due to certain cases where they have failed to notice the signs of child abuse before it was too late [Nixmary Brown being the infamous one recently]. A lot of people have lost faith in these workers due to their actions [or lack thereof].

So it's no surprise that CASE 39 treats the social worker characters as incompetent and naive individuals. It's not because they don't notice children being abused. It's because they're fooled by a little girl who acts innocent, but is anything but. Unfortunately, I can't be fooled in believing this film is worth a movie ticket price this weekend when it's a rental at most. Let's open up this file and see why CASE 39 is nothing more than a mediocre "evil kid" flick.

A child social worker named Emily Jenkins (Renee Zellweger) looks into the case of Lilith Sullivan (Jodelle Ferland), a 10-year-old girl whose parents (Callum Keith Rennie and Kerry O'Malley) don't seem quite right mentally and emotionally when it comes to Lilith. Emily believes that Lilith is being abused, but can't seem to prove it or get her supervisor to back her up without evidence. One night, Emily receives a phone call from Lilith who urgently cries for her help. Emily and her police friend Mike Barron (Ian McShane) rush over to find Lilith's parents trying to bake her in their oven. Lilith's parents are arrested and Lilith is placed in the foster care system.

After finding a family for Lilith, Lilith begs for Emily to take care of her. After some hesitation, Emily can't refuse and has temporary custody of her. Even though things start out well, things eventually get worse when people in Emily's life start dying. Emily finds out that the victims received phone calls from her home, making her suspect that Lilith is behind the murders.

CASE 39 is one of those films that has a lot of potential but fails to live up to it for various reasons. What could have been something more ends up being nothing but your predictable and mediocre "evil kid" film, a trend that started in 1956's THE BAD SEED until most recently in 2009's ORPHAN. ORPHAN sticks out in the sub-genre because it had a twist no one saw coming - a twist that actually made sense and worked for the film's benefit. CASE 39 is more of a supernatural story, putting it in the same territory as 1973's THE EXORCIST and 1976's THE OMEN. Yes, Lilith is demonic and uses her victim's fears to cause them harm. We've seen films like this before and honestly, I have no problem with that the fact that it takes a pretty predictable route. After all, originality is hard to come by these days. But the filmmakers behind CASE 39 don't do anything to really make the film stand out, making it nothing really special.

The screenplay by Ray Wright, who wrote the English-language remake of 2006's PULSE and the remake of THE CRAZIES (2010), writes a pretty standard and predictable story. I feel bad for CASE 39 because while it was released in Europe last year before ORPHAN, it'll end up being remembered as a film that waited two years to be released in North America [a whole year after ORPHAN was released here]. CASE 39 really needed an interesting twist to make it live up to ORPHAN's twist. Unfortunately, the only explanation we get about Lilith is that she was born without a soul. Nothing more, nothing less. There's nothing about her being a demon. There's nothing about what her motivations are or how she ended up in the system to begin with. It's almost as if Wright forgot to give viewers an explanation for Lilith's actions and just stuck one on her at the last minute. It's even worse in that Lilith's powers of using people's fears against them to the point that they die is extremely interesting. But no one does any research or even tries to decipher who or what Lilith is until the very end, which by that point is way too late. I think if more thought was placed on Lilith's supernatural abilities, CASE 39 would have been a stronger and way more effective film. Instead, it just feels like the same old, same old.

Plus, what was the issue with phone calls? You're telling me a demon needs to call someone first before they can do bad things to them? It's like ONE MISSED CALL all over again, and I don't need those kind of bad memories resurfacing! I just thought it was really silly and it's purpose is never explained. It could have been creepy if something was done with this subplot.

And the ending is just ridiculous. I won't spoil it, but all I could ask myself was "That was it? All that build up for THAT??" Not only can you see it coming, but it's illogical and not executed well at all. The finale is very lame.

That's not to say that Wright writes a horrible script. As a matter of fact, it's not all that bad. It's just not all that memorable either. The film has a decent structure. While it could have used more character development, at least there is some. And the dialogue isn't terrible either. In fact, I enjoyed the fact that we sympathize with Lilith in the first half of the film where she plays victim, creating a jarring effect when her true colors begin to appear. And I also thought it was ironic that the child social workers who did good deeds were the ones being punished. It was almost as if Wright really had a dislike for these workers because not even the good ones escaped unscathed. I know a lot of people lost respect for child social workers in the past few years. If Wright had done more with that, CASE 39 could have probably been a more inspired and interesting movie.

The direction by German-born director Christian Alvart, who directed ANTIBODIES (2005) and PANDORUM (2009) is actually pretty good. It has a subtle mood and creepy atmosphere at times, and the film looks quite polished. Maybe a bit too polished. I do think Alvart took a weak script and tried to compensate for it with a balance of visceral visuals and psychological themes. A scene where Lilith turns Doug's words around on him during a counseling session is pretty chilling at times. There's another moment where Emily is stuck inside an elevator that quickly plummets but ends up being nothing but an illusion that ends up being visually stimulating. I also think my favorite moment is where Emily locks herself in a room and something suddenly bangs on her door, smashing the hinges and throwing the furniture barricading the door to the side. We expect this vicious monster to appear, but it's just normal Lilith smiling at Emily and wondering why she's hiding under a bed. More moments like this could have been done because they really worked. But the studio had Alvart by the balls and he had to play by the rules. But I'm sure if he had his way, the visuals for CASE 39 would have made an uninspired script more inspired. By the way, CASE 39 does use CGI to reveal Lilith's demonic appearance, as well as for some of the murder sequences [in particular one dealing with a swarm of hornets]. Let's just say it probably would have been better if it was more implied rather than seen.

The acting is decent. Renee Zellweger was okay, I guess. She's never really impressed me as an actress and CASE 39 doesn't change that. She does manage to carry a level of empathy and terror that makes the character work for most of the film. But I do think a much better actress would have brought out more in the character. Still, Zellweger has come a long way from 1994's THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE: THE NEXT GENERATION. Bradley Cooper and Ian McShane do well in their extended cameo roles. Cooper had the best fear sequence and McShane took a nothing role and gave it some depth. I wish they were in the film more. The star here is Jodelle Ferland as Lilith. She's cute and creepy at the same time. I thought she did a nice job giving subtlety to a menacing role.


- As a social worker, Emily is in charge of a lot of cases. That's quite a COLD MOUNTAIN of paperwork to look through.

- Lilith's parents tried to bake her in an oven. I knew their traumatic childhood episode would turn Hansel and Gretel into murderers! And aren't Hansel and Gretel brother and sister? Ew....

- A child murdered his parents with a hatchet as they slept. If they refused his request for an increased allowance, then they were probably axe-ing for it.

- Lilith threatened Doug during their therapy session. She must have seen ALL ABOUT STEVE. It's understandable.

- Doug constantly had hornets coming out of his ears, eyes, nose, and mouth. Now I see why some of the women and men consider him the Bee's Knees.

- Lilith knew she wanted to destroy Emily's life once she saw that Emily was a good person and cared about her. She had her at hello. She had her at hello!

- Don't piss off Lilith in an elevator. She'll probably give you the shaft. Literally.

- Lilith's father, under delusions, murdered his Asian cellmate. What a bastard! If anyone was going to create a foolproof escape plan, it would have been him!

- A vicious dog murdered one of the characters. You'd think the dog would be happy after the Asian was killed!

CASE 39 isn't a horrible film, but it's not a movie you'll end up remembering or talking about much once it's over. It had the potential to be something good, yet it comes off as lazy at times and overly predictable. Still, it has decent direction and acting so it may be worth your time if you're into this kind of movie. I wouldn't spend money on a movie ticket for CASE 39, but it's not bad for a rental when the DVD is released.

2 Howls Outta 4


Elvira's Movie Macabre Returns Tonight! Watch it!

This weekend, the all-new Elvira's Movie Macabre will premiere throughout the U.S.
She kicks off her weekly film-hosting program with NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD.

Albany-Schenectady WNYA SAT 12:30 AM
Albuquerque KWBQ/KASY SAT 12:30 AM
Anchorage KYES SAT 10:00 PM
Atlanta WATL SAT 12:00 AM
Austin KNVA SAT 12:00 AM
Austin KCWX.2 FRI 2:00 AM SUN 1:00 AM
Bakersfield KUVI SAT 12:00 AM
Baltimore WBFF.2 FRI 2:00 AM SUN 1:00 AM
Baton Rouge WVLA.2 FRI 2:00 AM SUN 1:00 AM
Birmingham WVUA FRI 1:00 AM
Boston WHDH FRI 2:00 AM SUN 1:00 AM
Burlington-Plattsburgh WPTZ.2 FRI 2:00 AM SUN 1:00 AM
Cedar Rapids KWKB TBA TBA
Champaign WBVI.2 FRI 2:00 AM SUN 1:00 AM
Charleston - Huntington WSAZ.2 FRI 2:00 AM SUN 1:00 AM
Charlotte WMYT SAT 12:30 AM
Chattanooga WTVC.2 FRI 2:00 AM SUN 1:00 AM
Chicago WCIU SAT 3:00 AM
Cincinnati WKRC SAT 3:00 AM
Cleveland WUAB.2 FRI 2:00 AM SUN 1:00 AM
Colorado Springs KKTV/KKTV-DT2 SUN 1:00 PM
Columbia, SC WZRB SAT 12:00 AM
Columbus, OH WWHO FRI 3:00 AM
Corpus Christi KTOV SAT 9:00 PM
Dallas WFFA.2 FRI 2:00 AM SUN 1:00 AM
Davenport WBQD SAT 10:00 PM
Dayton WRGT.2 FRI 2:00 AM SUN 1:00 AM
Des Moines KDMI.2 FRI 2:00 AM SUN 1:00 AM
Detroit WDIV FRI 2:00 AM SUN 1:00 AM
Dothan WDFX SAT 2:00 AM
El Paso KDBC.2 FRI 2:00 AM SUN 1:00 AM
Elmira WETM/EETM SAT 10:00 PM
Eugene KEVU SUN 8:00 PM
Evansville WAZE SAT 12:00 AM
Flint WNEM-DT2 SAT 12:00 AM
Fresno KMPH.2 FRI 2:00 AM SUN 1:00 AM
Ft. Myers - Naples WFTX SAT 12:30 AM
Ft. Smith KFDF.2 FRI 2:00 AM SUN 1:00 AM
Green Bay WIWB SAT 3:00 AM
Greensboro - H. Point WGHP SAT 3:00 AM
Greenville - N. Bern WCTI.2 FRI 2:00 AM SUN 1:00 AM
GSA WNEG.2 FRI 2:00 AM SUN 1:00 AM
Harlingen - Weslaco XHRIO/KSFE SUN 2:00 AM
Harrisburg-Lancaster WGAL.2 FRI 2:00 AM SUN 1:00 AM
Hartford & New Haven WTIC.2 FRI 2:00 AM SUN 1:00 AM
Honolulu NHON SUN 2:00 AM
Houston KIAH SAT 2:00 AM
Huntsville - Decatur WTZT SAT 9:00 PM
Indianapolis WTTV/WXIN.2 FRI 2:00 AM SUN 1:00 AM
Jackson, MS WRBJ SAT 10:00 PM
Jacksonville WCWJ WED 2:00 AM SAT 2:00 AM (OPT)
Kansas City WDAF SAT 2:00 AM
Knoxville WVLT/WVLT-DT2
Lansing WSYM SAT 2:00 AM
Las Vegas KVVU SAT 2:30 AM
Lexington WTVQ-DT2 SAT 11:00 PM
Little Rock KARZ SAT 12:00 AM
Los Angeles KDOC SAT 12:00 AM
Louisville WYCS SAT 1:00 AM
Macon WPGA SAT 5:00 PM
Madison ETVW SUN 1:00 AM
Memphis WMC.2 FRI 2:00 AM SUN 1:00 AM
Milwaukee WMLW SAT 12:00 AM
Minneapolis KSTC.2 FRI 2:00 AM SUN 1:00 AM
Mobile WFNA SAT 12:00 AM
Montgomery WCOV.2 FRI 2:00 AM SUN 1:00 AM
Myrtle Beach-Florence WMBF.2 FRI 2:00 AM SUN 1:00 AM
Nashville WTVF.2 FRI 2:00 AM SUN 1:00 AM
New Orleans WUPL SAT 12:00 AM
New York WPIX.2 FRI 2:00 AM SUN 1:00 AM
Norfolk - Portsmouth WSKY SUN 2:00 AM
Omaha KXVO SAT 7:00 PM
Orlando - Daytona WKCF/WESH SAT 12:00 AM
Panama City WJHG TBA TBA
Parkersburg WTAP TBA TBA
Peoria WAOE SAT 1:00 AM
Philadelphia WPHL.2 FRI 2:00 AM SUN 1:00 AM
Phoenix KAZT SAT 3:00 AM
Pittsburgh WTAE.2 FRI 2:00 AM SUN 1:00 AM
Providence WPRI/WNAC/WNAC.2 SAT OR SUN 2:00 PM
Raleigh-Durham WRAC.2 FRI 2:00 AM SUN 1:00 AM
Reno KRNV.2 FRI 2:00 AM SUN 1:00 AM
Richmond-Petersburg WUPV SUN 1:00 AM
Rochester NY WHAM/EHAM SAT 10:00 PM
Rochester- Mason-Austin KIMT-DT2 SAT 11:00 PM
Sacramento KQCA SAT 2:00 AM
Salt Lake City KCSG SAT 12:00 AM
San Antonio KCWX SAT 1:00 AM
San Diego XETV SAT 11:00 PM
San Francisco KFTY SUN 2:00 PM
San Francisco KOFY SAT 1:00 AM
Savannah WGSA SAT 11:00 PM
Seattle KVOS SAT 10:00 PM
Shreveport KSLA.2 FRI 2:00 AM SUN 1:00 AM
Sioux Falls KCPO TBA TBA
South Bend WCWW SAT 12:00 AM
Spokane KAYU.2 FRI 2:00 AM SUN 1:00 AM
Springfield, MO KRBK
St. Louis WRBU SAT 12:00 AM
Syracuse WSYR SAT 12:00 AM
Tampa WTTA SAT 9:00 PM
Toledo WMNT SAT 10:00 PM SUN 12:00 AM
Tucson KTTU SAT 12:00 AM
Tulsa KOTV.2 FRI 2:00 AM SUN 1:00 AM
Twin Falls KSAW FRI 3:00 AM
Tyler-Longview KYTX-DT2 SAT 11:00 PM
Waco-Temple KWTX/KBTX FRI 3:00 AM
Washington, DC WDCW.2 FRI 2:00 AM SUN 1:00 AM
Wilmington WMYW SAT 12:00 AM

Here's the new intro for Elvira's Movie Macabre. I'm digging it. Can't wait to see the Mistress of the Dark return this weekend. Just the fact that she's almost 60 years old and they gave her another shot at doing a TV show highlighting B-movie horror is an accomplishment in itself in this day and age. So watch it, appreciate it, support it, and promote it.

The Craft (1996) [Video Review]

Andrew Fleming

Robin Tunney - Sarah Bailey
Fairuza Balk - Nancy Downs

Neve Campbell - Bonnie

Rachel True - Rochelle

Christine Taylor - Laura Lizzie

Skeet Ulrich - Chris Hooker

Assumpta Surna - Lirio

Genre - Horror/Witchcraft/Teen/Drama

Running Time - 101 Minutes

I return with one of my favorite 90s horror films, THE CRAFT. It's not the greatest movie ever made, but it's an entertaining one with a great cast. So let me put a spell on you while you watch my latest video review.


PRESS RELEASE: Magnet Releasing Takes North American Rights to I SAW THE DEVIL

Toronto – September 15, 2010 – The Wagner/Cuban Company's Magnet Releasing, genre arm of Magnolia Pictures announced today that it has acquired North American rights to KIM Jeewoon’s (The Good, The Bad and The Weird and A Tale of Two Sisters) I SAW THE DEVIL at the Toronto International Film Festival. Shockingly violent and stunningly accomplished, I SAW THE DEVIL transcends the police procedural, pushing the boundaries of extreme Asian cinema in ways that will surprise and thrill fans of the genre.

The Good, the Bad and the Weird’s Lee Byung-hyun stars as Dae-hoon, a special agent whose pregnant wife becomes the latest victim of a disturbed and brutal serial killer, captivatingly played by Oldboy’s Choi Min-sik. Vowing revenge, Dae-hoon blurs the lines between hunter and hunted and good and evil, eventually becoming a monster himself in his twisted pursuit of revenge.

"I SAW THE DEVIL is one of the most riveting and unrelenting films I've ever seen. It is an undisputable masterpiece," said Magnet SVP Tom Quinn. "Unparalleled in it's brutality, Kim Jeewoon deftly takes the serial killer thriller to new, profoundly disturbing heights. It's hard to imagine curating a genre label that didn't include this remarkable achievement."

The deal was negotiated by Magnet's Quinn with Youngjoo Suh from Finecut. Magnet will release I SAW THE DEVIL theatrically in first quarter 2011.

About Magnet Releasing

Magnet is the genre arm of Magnolia Pictures (www.magpictures.com), specializing in films from the vanguard of horror, action, comedy and Asian cinema, and is home to such films as Tomas Alfredson’s Let the Right One In, Neil Marshall’s sword and sandals bloodbath Centurion, John Woo’s historical epic Red Cliff, Ty West’s terrifying The House of the Devil, Tony Jaa’s Ong Bak trilogy, Nicholas Winding Refn’s Bronson, the Spanish horror film [Rec]2, and George A. Romero’s Survival of the Dead. Coming soon is Gareth Edwards’ highly anticipated sci-fi masterpiece Monsters, coming to theaters in October, and Quentin Dupieux’s Rubber, featuring a killer tire on a murder spree. Magnolia Pictures is the theatrical and home entertainment distribution arm of the Wagner/Cuban Companies, a vertically integrated group of media properties co-owned by Todd Wagner and Mark Cuban that also include the Landmark Theatres chain, the production company 2929 Productions, and high-definition cable network HDNet.

For additional information or requests, please contact:
Clay Dollarhide, cdollarhide@mprm.com

Brandon Nichols, bnichols@mprm.com

Janeal Bernhart, jbernhart@mprm.com


Resident Evil: Afterlife (2010)

Paul W.S. Anderson

Milla Jovovich - Alice
Ali Larter - Claire Redfield
Kim Coates - Bennett
Shawn Roberts - Albert Wesker
Sergio Peris-Mencheta - Angel Ortiz
Spencer Locke - K-Mart
Boris Kodjoe - Luther West
Wentworth Miller - Chris Redfield
Sienna Guillory - Jill Valentine

Genre - Horror/Science Fiction/Action/Zombies/Video Games

Running Time - 97 Minutes

With its fourth film out this weekend, RESIDENT EVIL has officially become the most successful video game franchise of all time. Who knew in 2002 that this video game adaptation would still be talked about, in good and in bad, would spawn a motion picture quadrology? The film really wasn't all that good and left a lot to be desired. It probably didn't deserve as many sequels as its gotten. Yet, here I am again discussing another RESIDENT EVIL flick, this time titled AFTERLIFE.

RESIDENT EVIL: AFTERLIFE is a sort of rebirth of sorts for the franchise. For one, it has brought the original director [and Milla Jovovich's husband/baby daddy] Paul W.S. Anderson back to direct and write. It also brings back the more claustrophobic feel of the first film where interior shots take precedence over exterior shots. And it also adds more Resident Evil game characters than ever before, with Chris and Claire Redfield, Jill Valentine, the Executioner Majini from Resident Evil 5, and one of the coolest villains, Albert Wesker, all appearing in one film [Leon Kennedy will probably be in the next film at this rate]. But the biggest addition of all is the 3D elements that seems to become the popular thing to do these days, for better or for worse.

If you've read my three previous RESIDENT EVIL reviews, you know I'm not the biggest fan of this franchise. I love the games but the films just make me scratch my head. Still, I find some enjoyment in them and I can see why people love these films so much. I wasn't really eager to see RE: AFTERLIFE. But I felt I had to complete this franchise before my sanity returned and warned me to stay away.

My only wish for the film was that it was better than that stinker, RESIDENT EVIL: EXTINCTION. And thankfully, my wish came true. RE: AFTERLIFE is definitely better than its previous installment. Still, the same problems linger and show why this franchise has gone longer than it probably should have.

Continuing four years after EXTINCTION, Alice (Milla Jovovich) and her countless clones have infiltrated the Umbrella Corporation building in Tokyo, Japan. They murder everything in sight, going after Umbrella's head honcho, Albert Wesker (Shawn Roberts). Wesker is one step ahead of Alice, murdering all of the clones in a massive explosion and escaping in a bulletproof plane. Predictably, the real Alice is already boarded on the plane to stop Wesker. Unfortunately, she's too busy getting one-liners in that she is vulnerable to Wesker injecting her with a new Umbrella serum that strips Alice completely of her superpowers, making her fully human. The plane crashes, but both manage to survive.

Six months later, Alice finally arrives at Alaska to find Arcadia, the haven where the non-infected are staying at. But Alice quickly realizes that there is no Arcadia in Alaska. Soon after, she reunites with Claire Redfield (Ali Larter), who has a spider device on her chest [created by Umbrella] to wipe her away of her memories and control her. Alice removes the device, taking Claire and herself to Los Angeles - now overrun by zombies [or paparazzi, what's the difference?]. They land on top of a building where they meet with more survivors: basketball player Luther West (Boris Kudjoe), TV producer Bennett (Kim Coates), actress Crystal (Kacey Barnfield), and Chris Redfield (Wentworth Miller) who happens to be a cop and also Claire's older brother. The survivors point Alice and Claire towards the real Arcadia, which is a ship in the Pacific Ocean. But before the survivors can get there, they must encounter zombies, Genados infected with the Los Pragas parasite, The Executioner Majini, and a superpowered Albert Wesker himself.

RESIDENT EVIL: AFTERLIFE is pretty much the same as the three previous installments. We get the usual lack of logical story. We get the wooden acting from everyone involved. We get decent amount of action. And the direction is what it is. The only difference is that Paul W.S. Anderson actually filmed the film in James Cameron's 3D Fusion Camera System, the same technique used to film AVATAR. And to be honest, this film would be a waste of time without the 3D thrown in. While not great, it does help the experience in watching RE: AFTERLIFE.

To discuss the lack of story and character development would be pretty much pointless. This franchise isn't known for deep, fascinating stories and their interesting and colorful characters. And RE: AFTERLIFE doesn't change that. I should be overlooking this aspect of the movie and praising it for at least being consistent in its "storytelling", but that wouldn't be fair as a reviewer to do that. I could ignore the lazy screenplay if other things in the film compensated for it. But there isn't enough action, visual style, or great acting for me to do that.

The fact is, we're in a fourth film in this franchise and we still have NO idea who Alice is. I will praise Anderson for stripping away her powers, which I had issues with for a while now. It actually makes Alice vulnerable now and gives her a new dimension to her character. Well it should have if he had allowed Alice to deal with the fact that she doesn't have an advantage over Umbrella anymore. But we never get a scene like that. In fact, it's like Alice hasn't changed except that she doesn't use her psychic powers anymore. She survives plane crashes, battles with The Executioner Majini and Wesker, and swinging away from zombies as if her powers never left. It wasn't a really effective plot point at all, even though it was the right move to make.

And then we have the other characters, whose only character development are their names and occupations. The newer characters didn't bother me much anyway because they were zombie food anyway. But Claire still doesn't feel like Claire. And Chris is as bland as they come. And even though the two are siblings, they hardly talk to each other or share scenes together. Some backstory for these characters would be nice. Just throw your fans a bone here!

And Wesker is okay, but he doesn't do enough to really effect you as this major villain. He's an awesome character in the video game franchise, who has a long history with Umbrella and S.T.A.R.S. In the film, he's treated as an Agent Smith ripoff from THE MATRIX. The character deserved better, even though I didn't hate the portrayal all that much. He should have been in the film more to really matter.

I will say that the narrative is a lot simplier now, and it doesn't have many subplots that distract the flow of the film. We clearly understand the goals of the characters and it's followed through pretty much. There's no more experimenting on clones. There's no more moments of Alice's eyes changing to reflect her new powers. It's pretty much kept as a small group of survivors trying to make to a place where they live safely without infection. The story felt closer to tone to the first RESIDENT EVIL, which was kind of refreshing.

I will praise RE: AFTERLIFE for having the best action in the franchise so far. The opening sequence with the Alice clones is pretty cool and ties up that sub-plot as best as Anderson could write it with his capabilities. The ending with Wesker is more of a skirmish than an actual battle, but it was cool to see the Wesker from the video games using his superpowers on Alice and the gang. The best action sequence was the one with the Executioner Majini. That dude is intimidating in Resident Evil 5 and he was pretty imtimidating here as well. I wish they had explained who he was or where he came from, but this is a RESIDENT EVIL film we're talking about. They just supply questions, not answers. Still, I thought the action was handled well for the most part and kept me from being bored, although the dead spots were pretty obvious as the film went along.

The direction by Paul W.S. Anderson is a mixed bag. The pacing is off at times due to the fact that we get massive amounts of action, then a period where characters just talk and walk around, followed by more action, followed by talking and walking, and etc. This wouldn't have been an issue if the talking and walking was shot in a more interesting manner. Also, Anderson loves his MATRIX-like slow motion filmmaking, to the point where it started to annoy me after a while. I don't think this was more worse than during the fight between Alice/Claire vs. The Executioner Majini. There was times during that sequence where I actually felt a bit of tension and suspense, but then Anderson ruins it by filming portions in slow motion. It just ruined everything! Without the slow motion, this fight would have been pretty awesome for a RESIDENT EVIL movie. But it completely takes you out of it. And the way it was framed as well was just awkward. You have to see it to understand. Other than that, the film looks good. The editing was tight. And the 3D, while not the greatest I've seen, is actually very well done. You get a bunch of things flying at you, like weapons, blood, brain matter, and other stuff. I thought a lot of it was very cool and it definitely made the viewing experience a lot better than it probably should have been.

The acting in RE: AFTERLIFE is pretty bad. Milla Jovovich is still bland as Alice, although I will say that this is her best acting performance as the character since the first one. She still does action very well and she was emoting a bit more at times, which was nice to see. I think she was more game for this one since her husband was the director. But I didn't mind Jovovich at all. Ali Larter, on the other hand, is no Claire Redfield. She's a better actress than this but she's just wooden as hell here. I have to blame Anderson for not bringing out more from her, but it wasn't a great performance at all. Wentworth Miller is just as bland as Chris. He tries to be this badass but just comes off looking bad. He doesn't get to do much either. Shawn Roberts was also wooden as Wesker, but he had his moments. And Boris Kudjoe as Luther West was okay as well. He seemed to be more into the film than the other actors.

And stay after the end credits to see a familiar face return to the movie franchise. From the looks of it, I'm kind of interested in the next installment. I can't believe I just wrote that...


- Always walk away from a hot girl standing in the rain for no reason. She's probably a zombie. Or thinks she's participating in a wet T-shirt contest. Dead and stupid - not exactly an attractive combination.

- Don't ask Wesker questions. He'll just shoot you in the head. Or make you watch him in DIARY OF THE DEAD. No one deserves either fate.

- Even though she was stripped of her powers, Alice still managed to survive a plane crash without much injury. If only John Denver had his DNA manipulated by Umbrella...

What? Too soon?

- Alice arrived in Alaska, disappointed to find out that Arcadia wasn't there. Well, Arcadia hasn't been around since the mid-80s. She should have known that the members are back in Duran Duran now.

- Chris Redfield was locked inside a cage, saying he knew the way out towards Arcadia. Well if anyone knows how to break out of prisons, it's this guy.

- Alice and Claire took care of the Executioner Majini. The only thing better would have been receiving an achievement or a trophy for 50 GS for sitting through it.

If you're a fan of the RESIDENT EVIL movie franchise, then you'll enjoy RESIDENT EVIL: AFTERLIFE. If you're not a fan, then stay far away. I'm in the middle when it comes to these films. I enjoy them as mindless entertainment, but it's becoming obvious this franchise needs to end sooner than later. Still, it's an improvement over EXTINCTION and I can't say I wasn't entertained. RESIDENT EVIL: AFTERLIFE is a film I wouldn't mind watching on DVD or cable every once in a while. But I wouldn't spend 18 dollars to see this in a theater, even if the 3D helps the film a decent deal. No movie is worth that much, especially this one. But it was better than I was expecting it to be and I'm pretty satisfied by that.

1.5 Howls Outta 4


Machete (2010)

Ethan Maniquis
Robert Rodriguez

Danny Trejo - Machete
Robert De Niro - Senator McLaughlin
Jessica Alba - Sartana
Steven Seagal - Torrez
Michelle Rodriguez - Luz
Jeff Fahey - Booth
Cheech Marin - Padre Benito Del Toro
Don Johnson - Lt. Stillman
Shea Whigham - Sniper
Lindsay Lohan - April

Genre - Action/Exploitation

Running Time - 105 Minutes

In 2007, Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino [among other filmmakers] came together for GRINDHOUSE, a three-hour tribute to "grindhouse" cinema of the 1970s. Creating a solid double feature in PLANET TERROR and DEATH PROOF, the experience was fantastic. Unfortunately, the mainstream audience wasn't sold on this idea and GRINDHOUSE did poorly at the box office, only finding its true cult audience with the home video market. Sandwiching the two films were a bunch of faux-trailers to complete the grindhouse experience. One of these trailers was for a film called MACHETE, a character played by Danny Trejo in all three SPY KIDS films. It was shot exploitation style, with classic narration that stated that "They've fucked with the wrong Mexican!" The trailer was a hit - so much in fact that MACHETE was actually made into a real full-length film.

Three years later, MACHETE was finally released to pretty decent success at the box office. Surprising since it's an exploitation film through and through - a genre not really appreciated by the mainstream audience. But with the co-direction of Robert Rodriguez and the diversity of stars that jumped on board, there was no doubt people were going to get curious about MACHETE.

The real question is whether the actual film matches up to the hype of the trailer? Well while I think the trailer is brilliant and the film doesn't completely live up to it, MACHETE is still a solid film that probably should've been made in this modern era of cinema. Yet it's here, and I'm very happy that it was made because MACHETE is an entertaining movie from start to finish.

Machete (Danny Trejo) is an ex-Federale whose wife and daughter are slain by an evil drug lord named Torrez (Steven Seagal). Years later and trying to pick up the pieces of his life, Machete is picking up jobs to make ends meet, including one near a taco stand run by Luz (Michelle Rodriguez) - who is in charge of The Network, which helps immigrants get jobs. One day, Machete is hired by Booth (Jeff Fahey), who wants him to assassinate Senator McLaughlin (Robert De Niro), a man who is anti-immigration and is losing in the polls for the next election. Machete takes the job, but realizes he's nothing but a mark in a set-up as Machete is double-crossed and is blamed for the attempted hit [which boosts McLaughlin's poll ratings]. Confronted by an ICE agent named Sartana (Jessica Alba), who realizes that Machete is a victim, she helps Machete get revenge on those who fucked with the wrong Mexican(s).

MACHETE is a great homage to the exploitation era of cinema. It has massive amounts of violence. There's a definite sex factor. The dialogue is pretty corny. And the story is very simple and straightforward, even though the message behind it is very calculated. MACHETE could have been a mess of a film if an incapable director was behind it. But Robert Rodriguez lives and breathes exploitation, which helps him find the balance between what works and what doesn't.

The screenplay by Rodriguez and his cousin Alvaro Rodriguez is self-aware of itself and uses it to its advantage. MACHETE is an absurd film and has no problem showing how proud it is of that fact. We have naked women who hide telephones in their vaginas like it was a natural act. We have men taking intestines and using them as means of escape. We have religious figures using God's name in vain and killing others without caring about the consequences. We have politicans being politically incorrect about immigration as if that sort of thing is accepted by the mainstream. We also have men hunting Mexicans for sport! All these moments are so damn ridiculous that they shouldn't work in a film's favor. But both Rodriguez cousins use the irony to create a surreal, yet entertaining film that knows these moments are ridiculous. MACHETE is not a subtle movie in terms of what it presents, which is exactly what an exploitation film should be.

The main subplot that glues MACHETE together is the immigration theme that's presented through multiple point of views. A lot of reviewers seemed to have an issue with this. This isn't because of the issue itself. I mean, the whole immigration debate is probably one of the leading news topics we're currently dealing with as a society. I'm surprised more films HAVEN'T used the topic as a starting point for a story. And I'm not going to sugarcoat it: MACHETE is definitely pro-immigration. After all, we sympathize more with the Mexican immigrants than we do with the "gringos" with political or financial power. I do think some scenes that focus on the issue do take away a bit of the exploitative feel of MACHETE. But it's never really forceful about whether immigration is a good thing or a bad thing. It never tries to push a social platform on its audience. The filmmakers have an opinion and decided to use that opinion in an exploitative way to entertain the audience. I honestly didn't have a problem with the social commentary of the movie. I think it actually enhanced some of it. Did it halt the flow a bit? Absolutely. But it never took center stage, which was refreshing.

My other issue about MACHETE would be the fact that the title character himself almost feels second-fiddle at times. I mean, it's hard to juggle so many intriguing characters in an 105 minute movie. I thought each character had a place in the story and were used appropriately in the story. But the film should have been more about Machete getting revenge on Torrez and Booth, and sometimes the film gets sidetracked from that. But it doesn't happen all that often, which is a plus.

The dialogue itself is instantly cheesy as hell, but I wouldn't have it any other way. Sartana's speech about the border is very hokey and would have been more effective if performed by a more capable actress. But lines like "Machete doesn't text," and Padre Benito Del Toro telling Machete, "I absolve you of all your sins. Now, get the fuck out!" are instantly classic. There's a lot of humor here at the expense of everyone. Americans, Mexicans, religion, politics, the life of a certain actress - nothing and no one is immune to ridicule here.

The gore in MACHETE is off the charts awesome! I kept ooh-ing and ahh-ing everytime someone got murdered. We see heads get cut off, limbs get cut off, gunfire, stabbing, intestines pulled out of bodies, blades through the skull, eyes getting shot, corkscrews through the head, and even a crucifixion scene. This film does not hold back on the violence and I appreciated that to no end. And these moments weren't even disgusting. They were more funny than anything. That's why it works so well.

The direction by Robert Rodriguez and Ethan Maniquis is solid. The film moves at a great pace. The editing is tight. The fight choreography is shot perfectly. I loved the grittier look of the film. It would have fit right in with PLANET TERROR and DEATH PROOF three years ago. Rodriguez and Maniquis are having fun bringing their idea to life, and the audience has fun along with them. I think Rodriguez is a fantastic director who can make incredible movies with shoestring budgets and blockbuster budgets. The man can do no wrong as far as I'm concerned. This movie may be silly, but it has a big heart. If anyone can bring exploitation back in the modern era, it's Robert Rodriguez [and Quentin Tarantino right along with him].

The acting in MACHETE is great for the most part. Danny Trejo, at 66 years old, finally gets a leading role and proves why it should have happened years ago. The man is a presence on screen, making Machete a true bad ass without a sweat. Trejo acts with his eyes, as he has barely any dialogue in the film. You can tell what his character is feeling just by looking at his eyes. That's the sign of a great actor. I don't think he should be leading a lot of movies, but given the right project, why not? He carries the film well and kicks ass too.

Robert De Niro seems to be having fun as the politically incorrect Senator McLaughlin. He's not in the film as much as one thinks, but he looks more motivated on film than I have seen from him in years. And I loved the TAXI DRIVER homage towards the end. Nice to see him make fun of himself like that. Same goes to Lindsay Lohan, who actually surprised me in her short role. It was obvious her April character was a parody of her real life, from the drug addiction, to using sexuality to gain attention, and to filming herself because the public wants to see more of her. I found her to be sympathetic and thought she did a good job. Let's hope this is a comeback for her. I still think she can do great things in cinema.

Michelle Rodriguez was cool as Luz. She was tough and sexy, but it wasn't forced like in some of her other films. It was a more naturalistic performance. It was refreshing to see and I enjoyed her alot. Jessica Alba is okay as Sartana. I thought she was miscast in the role of an ICE agent, to be honest. But she's eye candy, which the exploitation genre used a lot of their actresses for. So it works for me. Cheech Marin was hysterical as the priest. He had the best lines. Steven Seagal surprised me and made a captivating villain. It was nice to see him being part of the joke, since he tends to take himself way too seriously. Don Johnson hammed it up every chance he got and I loved it. And Jeff Fahey rocked it as the two-faced Booth. I think he's extremely underrated and should be in more films - better films. Just a solid cast all in all.


- A naked chick had a phone stuck up her vagina. It's the only time the "vibrate" option is preferable.

- Don Johnson doesn't like it when people step on his land. When you burn Nash Bridges with the guy, there's no turning back.

- Lindsay Lohan plays a drug addict. When did an exploitation film because a sad documentary of a troubled starlet's life?

- The Babysitter Twins play a couple of attentive nurses. Um, there's a porn movie in here somewhere, right?

- Michelle Rodriguez was seduced under the sheets by Danny Trejo. I don't know if his 66-year-old heart can take how FAST AND FURIOUS she is!

- Don't confess your impure thoughts and sins to your priest. He'll keep an inciminating file on your ass, causing your future to go UP IN SMOKE.

- Robert De Niro shot someone, stole a taxi, and drove away in it. If Jodie Forster and Cybil Shepard were around, I would have asked Robert Rodriguez whether he was talking to me. Who the hell else would he be talking...he talking to me? Well I'm the only one here!

MACHETE is a great film that's well-made in the style of badly made films. Great action. Great characters. Great exploitation screenwriting. Great direction. And a cast of actors that you'll probably never see together in a movie ever again. It's not a perfect film and it may not have lived up totally to the hype around it, but MACHETE is worth the price of admission if you're looking for a entertaining movie that never tricks its audience in trying to be something it's not. Now if we can finally get that THANKSGIVING movie rolling, I'll be a very happy Wolf.

3.5 Howls Outta 4


The WTF? Worst Films Extravaganza Presents: Resident Evil: Extinction (2007)

Russell Mulcahy

Milla Jovovich - Alice
Iain Glen - Dr. Issacs
Ali Larter - Claire Redfield
Oded Fehr - Carlos Olivera
Mike Epps - L.J.
Spencer Locke - K-Mart
Ashanti - Betty
Linden Ashby - Chase
Matthew Marsden - Slater
Jason O'Mara - Albert Wesker

Genre - Horror/Action/Science Fiction/Zombies/Video Games

Running Time - 94 Minutes

If I were to pick a video game franchise that I could working extremely well as a film franchise, Resident Evil would be near the top of the list. With five major installments and multiple spin-offs, there's a lot of material to base movies off of. I mean, you have zombies, puzzles, interesting characters and locations, and nail-biting action at times. How could a film studio screw this up?

Yep. I really asked that question. Where's my dunce cap?

Seriously, the RESIDENT EVIL film franchise is one that just makes me scratch my head. The fact that Sony, Screen Gems, and Paul W.S. Anderson refuse to let the franchise feel like Resident Evil is just bizarre. Why are the video game characters playing second fiddle to a film creation called Alice? Why aren't there enough zombies, Lickers, and other monstrosities? You have a lot of material to work from. Use it!

Still, RESIDENT EVIL has created the most successful video-game adapted franchise, with the third sequel, AFTERLIFE, being released this weekend in 3-D. Milla Jovovich as Alice appeals to a lot of people. The films, while critic failures, are commercial successes. And here I am on this blog, talking about the third film in the series called EXTINCTION - a film I [and many other people I know] disliked when I watched it in theaters back in 2007 and hadn't seen since. Yet, it's the most successful RESIDENT EVIL installment financially and even though it was considered the "final" installment, the cash flow changed that perception.

So after three years, has my opinion changed by RESIDENT EVIL: EXTINCTION? Yes, but not by much. It's still a stinker of a film, but it's not the worst video-game adaptation I've seen in my life.

Years after the events of RESIDENT EVIL: APOCALYPSE, the T-Virus has spread not just in Raccoon City, but all over the world. Now the zombie race is the majority, while the human race is the dwindling minority. Not only that, but all vegetation life has disappeared and the Oceans have dried. Only a small group of survivors are trying to find safety by travelling through this wasteland, never staying in one place long enough for the infected to find them.

Meanwhile, Alice (Milla Jovovich) is doing her own journey, trying to keep away from her allies so the Umbrella Corporation [who is tracking her] doesn't go after them. She finds a book that tells her Alaska is the survivors' only place of salvation. Along the way, Alice's superpowers continue to evolve with the addition of telekenesis on the X-Men's Phoenix-like levels.

Also, Umbrella is conducting experiments on Alice clones, hoping to recreate their most successful experiment. Apparently Alice's blood is the antivirus for the T-Virus. But the clones are flawed, only creating super zombies.

Why don't we just throw in the kitchen sink while we're at it?

I have three words for RESIDENT EVIL: EXTINCTION:


RESIDENT EVIL: EXTINCTION is considered the worst of the RESIDENT EVIL films as of this posting, and I have to agree. It's heavily flawed, with more plot holes than a slice of swiss cheese. The characters stink. And it just takes the series further away from its Resident Evil roots. Yet, there are things I do like about this installment that I didn't like in the other installments.

Let's get the positives out of the way first. RESIDENT EVIL: EXTINCTION has the best visual style of the franchise so far. HIGHLANDER and RAZORBACK director, Russell Mulcahy, brings his A-game to a film that probably didn't deserve it. But the film is visually stunning to look at and definitely has a lot of stylistic flair going for it. I thought the cinematography was beautiful, especially for all the exterior shots of Las Vegas and the desert wasteland in general. The aerial photography was great. The editing is mostly solid. I thought the action sequences were the best in the series, especially in terms of framing, composition, and choregraphy. Mulcahy does a fantastic job behind the camera, pulling the viewer in more than probably one should.

I also dug the homages to other films. Obviously, the apocalyptic wasteland is taken from the MAD MAX series, in particular THE ROAD WARRIOR. The crow attack sequence was inspired by Alfred Hitchcock's THE BIRDS. And the experiment at the Umbrella Corporation where they attempt to domesticate zombies is a tip of the hat to George A. Romero's DAY OF THE DEAD. While this did make me wish I was watching one of those three movies and reviewing them instead of this one, at least the homages worked for me.

I also appreciated the gore and the zombie make up here. This is the goriest of the series so far [even though it's still pretty tame compared to other zombie films], and it makes RESIDENT EVIL: EXTINCTION feel more like a zombie film than the other installments. Plus, the zombie make-up looks great and not as cheap as the previous installments. A definite upgrade.

Unfortunately, that's where the good stuff ends. Everything else in this installment is just lazy, uninspired, and/or a total mess. This is my third RESIDENT EVIL review in the past three weeks and I feel like I'm repeating myself everytime I write about these movies. Don't you think that's a sign that something needs to give here? I mean, is there any point in discussing the lack of character development? While this franchise isn't exactly known for strong, interesting characters, at least RESIDENT EVIL and RESIDENT EVIL: APOCALYPSE attempted to create some. RESIDENT EVIL: EXTINCTION doesn't bother. Besides Alice, who else can we invest our time and energy in? If Anderson doesn't give a shit about any of the supporting characters on paper, why should we care on the screen? This film has a great premise, even if it is a bit unoriginal. But at least make an attempt to make us care about the protagonists. I couldn't care who lived or died here.

Another big pet peeve - the characterization of Claire Redfield. I don't care what anyone says. This woman is NOT Claire Redfield. She has no traits of one of the most popular Resident Evil characters in the franchise's history. Just because you can name a character Claire and give her red hair like the video game character doesn't make her that character. Jill Valentine worked because she was a pretty decent characterization of her counterpart. I honestly had no idea who this chick was. And she doesn't do anything of note besides drive a truck and pilot a helicopter. Hopefully we'll get something more in AFTERLIFE [I doubt it], but this was just insulting. Apparently, this role was going to be Jill Valentine, but Sienna Guillory was committed to ERAGON. So they replaced her with Claire instead without changing the dialogue or scenes she was in. If Claire wasn't supposed to be in this film, she shouldn't have been put in. It would have been a lot better than this.

I also thought most of the Umbrella Corporation scenes ruined the flow of the film. Some of them were sort of interesting, like the domestication of the zombies and some of the Alice clone stuff. But I thought the board meeting stuff was just expository and it took me out of the film more than I already was. And seriously, is that the best they could do with Albert Wesker? He should be the Big Bad kicking Alice's ass! Instead, he just sits around a table. Lame.

And then we have the multiple plot holes. Like, why Jill Valentine wasn't mentioned at least once when she was a big part of the previous installment? Or how did everything become desert when in reality, it would have gotten colder and greener due to lack of electricity, gas, and water power? And the loss of humanity actually STOPS the water cycle? Wow, science is fuckin' ass-backwards in this RESIDENT EVIL universe! Why is Umbrella perfecting the T-Virus when there's no one left to sell it to? And why didn't Carlos kill LJ once he was bitten by that zombie? Why didn't Carlos tell the others? And the T-Virus, which has now become more advanced, took a full TWO DAYS to kick in on LJ, when the more primitive version took hours in the first two films? I call BULLSHIT.

And I won't even get into Alice getting every damn super power possible. I would feel better about this subplot if we knew who or what Alice is. In three movies, we're still unsure why Umbrella considers her to be special or how she's immune to the T-Virus. This plot hole needed to be filled two movies ago. And now we have clones? Ugh. Didn't anyone learn from that Spider-Man fiasco fifteen years ago?

The acting is also pretty terrible. Milla Jovovich handles action well, but she's just bland during the more dramatic scenes. She needs to emote something for the audience to root for her. Maybe it's because her face was altered by CGI. Or was it botox? I'm not sure. Oded Fehr does the best he can as Carlos. His scene smoking a blunt is probably the highlight of the film [which says a lot about the rest of it]. Ali Larter is usually cool with me, but she's just wasted as Claire Redfield. I didn't buy her tough act at all. I blame the writing for that. Ashanti should stay away from acting. She looks good though. Mike Epps does okay with what he's given. It was nice to see Linden Ashby as always. I like that dude, no matter if the material sucks or not. And he wasn't too bad here. And Iain Glen was probably the best actor and character as Dr. Issacs. He chewed the scenery every chance he got as the main villain of the film. He entertained me. I wish the other actors did the same. But I mostly blame the terrible screenplay for that. The material wasn't all that great to begin with.


- There was a huge pile of dead Alice clones for zombies to feast on. There might have been one for each bad video game-to-film adaptation, including this one.

- A bunch of goons tricked Alice and had her tied up in a pit. Well THE FOURTH KIND is abduction.

- Alice shot an arrow straight through a zombie's head. I guess William won't Tell no mo'...

- LJ made a date with Betty. He's "Foolish" if he thinks they'll both survive that long.

- Betty was killed by T-Virus infected crows. I guess Death is "Always On Time" and that makes him "Happy".

- LJ was infected by the T-Virus via zombie bite. I guess he won't live to see NEXT FRIDAY.

- Alice destroyed a group of zombies single-handedly. I'm sure she left them DAZED AND CONFUSED.

- Linden Ashby was bitten by zombies to death. Um... Fatality?

I'm getting sick of reviewing this RESIDENT EVIL franchise. I feel like I've written the same review three times. RESIDENT EVIL: EXTINCTION is more of the same, but worse. Great visual style, but not much else. How this ever became the highest grossing RESIDENT EVIL film is beyond me. This film has so many elements that could create a more than decent film. But it's just lazy and insulting to fans of both the video games and the movies. Unfortunately, I still have one more installment left to review. Though I'm going into it with low expectations, I'll be happy if it's better than this movie. RESIDENT EVIL: EXTINCTION is heading straight into the apocalyptic future of the WTF? Vault where it can...

1 Howl Outta 4


The WTF? Worst Films Extravaganza Presents: Psychosis (2010) [Video Review]

Reg Traviss

Charisma Carpenter - Susan
Paul Sculfor - David

Ricci Harnett - Peck

Justin Hawkins - Josh

Genre - Horror/Psychological Thriller/Ghosts

Running Time - 89 Minutes

Is Susan (Charisma Carpenter) crazy? Is Susan really seeing ghosts? Can I get my 90 minutes back? This homage to British horror deserves a Hammer to the head. Just a really dull, uninspired film. Avoid at all costs. Watch the video review.


Fangoria X-Clusive: Interview w/ Artist Scott Jackson

I conducted an interview with a great artist named Scott Jackson, who has done covers for music artists and horror magazines. Read my Q & A at Fangoria.


Leatherface: Texas Chainsaw Massacre III (1990)

Jeff Burr

Kate Hodge - Michelle
Ken Foree - Benny
William Butler - Ryan
R.A. Mihailoff - Leatherface
Viggo Mortensen - Tex/Eddie
Tom Everett - Alfredo

Genre - Horror/Slasher

Running Time - 81 Minutes (R-Rated Version)/85 Minutes (Unrated Version)

I don't think there has been a horror franchise that has baffled fans more than THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE series. While Jason Voorhees, Freddy Krueger, and Michael Myers have become mainstream horror icons with tons of merchandise and feature films, Leatherface and his family have struggled. It's weird to have a franchise where the first three parts are considered a trilogy, while the others happen to be remakes of the first film but with different characters and appearances. Why no one can truly handle telling Leatherface's story without rehashing the same crap over and over again is beyond me.

Tobe Hooper's THE TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE (1974) is an absolute horror classic that audiences are still chilled by today. It's portrait of backwoods Texas life, inspired by infamous serial killer Ed Gein, has gained the film massive notoreity and admiration amongst film lovers. Twelve-years later, Tobe Hooper's THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE 2 was released. The difference in tone [from a gritty horror flick to a polished horror-comedy] alienated fans of Leatherface [even though it's quite appreciated for how great of a sequel it is now], causing the film to bomb at the box office in 1986.

In the late 80s, New Line Cinema [home of A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET and the then newly-aquired FRIDAY THE 13TH franchise] bought the rights to THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE. The company saw Leatherface as a franchise horror player [even though it was proven just the opposite until the reboot in 2003] and decided to make a sequel they felt was more truer in tone than the last film. So they ignored the events of TCM 2 and retconned the story to give the franchise a new start with LEATHERFACE: TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE III.

I remember seeing the TV ads for this film and thinking that the trailer was freakin' awesome. I mean, it has to be one of the coolest trailers ever made for a film.

While I didn't know it was a parody of the film, EXCALIBUR, at the time, the trailer made me want to see this film in theaters. And at nine-years-old, I watched LEATHERFACE in a double bill with CLASS OF 1999. Definitely one of the better double billings I had an honor to sit through as a kid. I truly remembered enjoying this film alot.

Now it's been 20 years, and I finally sat down to watch LEATHERFACE again for the first time since. I saw the Unrated Version of the film [the reason for that will be explained later] and I was kind of disappointed. It wasn't as good as I remembered it to be, putting me in that camp that thinks THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE 2 is a much better sequel. Still, LEATHERFACE is a worthy addition to the franchise and a more than decent continuation of the Sawyer family. Let's rev up that chainsaw and review this once controversial sequel.

Acting as if THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE 2 never took place, the film begins with a bickering couple named Michelle (Kate Hodge) and Ryan (William Butler). They're driving from California to Florida [why they didn't just fly is beyond me], and have made a pit stop at Texas. They arrive at a local gas station where they encounter a perverted attendant (Tom Everett) and a smooth-talkin', friendly cowboy named Tex (Viggo Mortensen), who gives the couple a shortcut to where they want to go. Being stupid tourists by not following the map, they end up in trouble when they're chased down by a mysterious truck.

After they deal with the truck, their car breaks down. Ryan tries to fix the tires of the car, when they're confronted by Leatherface (R.A. Mihailoff) and his huge chainsaw. Michelle manages to escape with the help of a survivalist named Benny (Ken Foree). Unfortunately, Ryan isn't so lucky as he's caught in a bear trap, beaten by Leatherface, and taken away to be dinner. Michelle runs away and encounters a house in the middle of nowhere that belongs to Leatherface's family. Can Michelle escape or will there be another TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE?

Before I begin discussing the film itself, I need to take the time to explain the issues LEATHERFACE faced during its pre-production and production stages [which you could watch on The Saw is Family: Making Leatherface documentary on the DVD - which is great, by the way]. Let's just say that making this film was a mess for everyone involved. First of all, Tobe Hooper and Kim Henkel [the creators of THE TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE] had proposed several ideas for the next installment. Unfortunately the producers and the studio suits weren't having it [because they know better than the actual creators of the characters], so both men walked away from this sequel. So New Line Cinema, wanting to take the franchise in a fresh direction, hired screenwriter David J. Schow, who did uncredited rewrites for A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET PART 5: THE DREAM CHILD and would later write the screenplay for THE CROW, wanted to bring back the creepier tone that was present in the original film. Schow pretty much took the same premise of the original [male and female protagonists, Leatherface stalking in the woods, crazy cannibalistic family, no humor at all], yet adding a protagonist in Benny [best move he made], for a "new start" to the franchise. While Schow's script was actually pretty good, the screenplay relied on a lot of violence and graphic moments of gore.

Now if you know anything about the horror movies of the late 70s and 80s, the censors really had a field day with the genre. THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE was always considered a controversial series due to the chainsaw murders and the visuals needed to make them effective. Like with the FRIDAY THE 13TH franchise, the murder sequences had to be trimmed down in order to escape an X-Rating from the MPAA. Since this franchise was no where near fantastical like the ELM STREET franchise [which allowed very violent scenes to remain intact because they could "never happen"], LEATHERFACE already faced a roadblock. They also had issues finding the right director [Jeff Burr was pretty much their last choice after Tom Savini and Peter Jackson turned the film down], and finding the right SFX team [KNB, replacing Tom Savini's work from the previous film] to make it happen. Unfortunately, the MPAA was on this film's ass for the duration of the production, constantly giving LEATHERFACE an X-Rating due to its violence and gore [making this film the last film to receive an X-Rating from the MPAA due to the NC-17 rating being implemented shortly after]. So theater goers got to see a neutered version of the intended film.

Another roadblock LEATHERFACE faced was the shooting schedule. Schow was hired to write a script in January of 1989, but the studio wanted to shoot by June [although it was delayed until August], not really giving Schow a lot of time to write a script and really edit it. The script, like in many horror films, was what hurt LEATHERFACE in the end. Burr and Schow had disagreements over the direction of the film, causing massive rewrites to happen. Also, the Benny character had died in the original version of the script. But New Line's president Robert Shaye liked the character so much that he wanted Benny to survive. So the script had to be rewritten and the final scenes had to be reshot, creating a strange reappearance for the character at the end of the movie. All this chaos was finally edited into a suitable film that totally bombed at the box office. Filmmaking ain't easy, folks. Thankfully, the DVD offers both the theater version and the Uncut version. There's not much difference besides more violence, but I'm reviewing the Unrated LEATHERFACE because that's the film that should have been released.

Now with that out of the way, how is the actual film? It's a good sequel, but not a great one. Yes, I remember loving this one when I was younger. But now that I understand filmmaking and can totally appreciate filmmakers going against the grain [like Hooper did with TCM 2], LEATHERFACE is nothing more than a polished, beefed up version of the original movie. It's sort of similar to how HALLOWEEN 4: THE RETURN OF MICHAEL MYERS is a more polished, beefed up version of HALLOWEEN. That's not to say that it's a bad thing. If you listen to a lot of TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE fans, LEATHERFACE is the film they're expecting after a gritty film like the 1974 original.

Even with the massive rewrites to the screenplay, LEATHERFACE still manages to move ahead quite well for the most part. If you've seen the original film, you already know the structure to this film. So there's no point in talking about the slash and hack aspect of it. What really makes this sequel stand out are the characters. They're pretty well-written and believable. There's no slapstick or over-the-top weirdos here. Yes, the Sawyer family are still nuts, but it's more subtle this time around. In fact, I could believe that something like what happens in this movie could really happen in reality.

I personally liked the protagonists of the film for the most part. Michelle and Ryan sort of annoyed me at the beginning, due to their constant bickering. But I understood it because it's believable. I'm sure driving from California to Texas isn't the most pleasant of experiences, especially if you're cooped up with someone. They weren't the most developed characters to be honest, but neither were the characters in the original. Yet I liked them because they behaved like normal, sane people even during this horrible situation. Even better is Benny, who seems to be a survivalist with his weapon stash and his great instincts. He's smart. He's cunning. He's not afraid to take people down in order to make it out safe. And he'll help people in need without a second thought. Every horror film needs a bad ass and Benny fits that bill well.

The Sawyer family are also likeable. While I do believe the earlier members of the family [The Cook, The Hitchhiker, and Chop-Top] are better, this version of the family wasn't too bad. I thought Tex, as the charismatic cowboy and ladies man, was a smooth dude. He proves you should never judge a book by its cover. We also have Alfredo, who thinks he's Norman Bates by peeping at women using the bathroom. I thought he was great because he was so just eccentric and weird. He talked to himself, tried to force himself on women, and made traps in the woods for dinner. I wish he was in the film more. Ticker was the normal one of the group, except he had a metal hand. And I thought the Mama character was cool too, even though she wasn't in the film long enough. My favorite character was the little girl, who is implied to be Leatherface's daughter. I'm guessing he raped one of his victims because I doubt any sane woman would want to get banged by this guy. She was so adorable, especially when she helped murder people and cook dinner. Aww, how sweet! She also had a skeleton doll named Sally, which is a homage to the survivor of the first film, Sally Hardesty. I honestly didn't remember the little girl all that much from the theater version. I guess the Unrated version gives her more to do. I don't know why her scenes were cut down in the first place. She was the coolest one of the bunch. This version of the Sawyers was the most loving, as they never fought each other much at all.

I do have issues though. One is Leatherface. Now I love his look and I dig his vibe in the film. He's a total badass in this film and I loved the metal leg brace. The guy was very intimidating, like Leatherface should be. It's too bad there's nothing else I could say about him. To say that the other portrayals of Leatherface are more interesting is an understatement. And while THE NEXT GENERATION is a terrible film, at least Leatherface had a personality. Sure he crossdressed and he whined like a little bitch throughout the film, but at least I felt something towards the character. This Leatherface is just dull. Even his tactics to murder people is pretty boring in this film. I would liked to have seen more moments with just Leatherface planning an attack, stalking victims, or even spending time with his family. It would have been great if he interacted with his daughter more. That could have been an interesting relationship if we were allowed to see it. I just think for a guy who the film is named after, he doesn't do all that much until the end really. If it's titled LEATHERFACE, it should be about the character. And this movie is anything but.

Also, the dialogue in this film is a bit wonky. I blame the rewrites for this mess, but I can only judge the final edit of the film. The dialogue is a bit uneven. Especially with the Ryan character, who has the worst kind of dialogue: exposition. He always states the obvious and is always on the nose about things. People don't talk like that. We know what's going on. We don't need to have him say it for us. I don't blame David Schow for this. Nothing good ever comes out of other people rewriting your script, especially if they add things in there that shouldn't be in there. It happens, unfortunately.

I also thought the final act was a bit sloppy as well. The set up in the first two acts worked for me, but the final act seemed like a throwaway. The Sawyers get dispatched WAY too quickly. I think they should have let the villains put up more of a fight then what they were given. And the ending leaves you wondering about the fates of certain characters, with its only intention being to set up a later sequel [which never happened - THE NEXT GENERATION was a bad remake, not a sequel], Even the original ending sucked as well. It felt unfinished to me.

The SFX by KNB is actually pretty good. Unfortunately, the MPAA refused to let theater goers to see the real good stuff back in 1990. Thankfully, the Unrated DVD brings some of the gore back. We get a crushed armadillo, we get an ear shot right off someone's head, we get shot off fingers, we get bullet wounds, bear trap wounds, chainsaw wounds, and a decent amount of blood. Still, I believe that these scenes were supposed to be even more extreme than what was shown. But I'll take what I can get.

The direction by Jeff Burr [who also directed STEPFATHER 2: MAKE ROOM FOR DADDY] was good. I liked his work here. He tried to infused some style here, like cool angles, darker lighting, and even a gloomier mood than the previous installment. I do wish the film had more tension and suspense. It has some, but it could have used more. But the movie is decently edited and has a nice brisk pace. I can't really complain about the visuals. The studio didn't really make his experience a pleasurable one, so I'm glad he was more than professional to get over that and make a nice looking film [even if he did try to get away from the finished product]. Poor guy.

The acting was more than fine here. Kate Hodge, in her first film, does well as Michelle. She's solid until the end, where her "brink of madness" phase feels a bit forced. Other than that, no complaints. William Butler also did a good job. Unfortunately, he had the worst dialogue in the film. Not his fault. Viggo Mortensen, pre-LORD OF THE RINGS, shines as Tex. He's charming. He's smooth and sly. And he's pretty intimidating towards the end. Even in 1990, you can tell this guy was going to do great things in the future. Ken Foree, from 1978's DAWN OF THE DEAD, is excellent as Benny. He was a total badass and I liked his performance. Hell, I just like this dude in anything. And R.A. Mihailoff was good as Leatherface. I liked the more aggressive nature to the character and he handled the saw well. I just wish the script fleshed him out a bit.


- Michelle told Ryan that "violence is no answer to violence." Viggo Mortensen needs to teach her A HISTORY OF VIOLENCE so she can get her damn facts straight.

- Alfredo taped bits of naked women from a magazine inside the gas station bathroom. I appreciate the station employees supplying masturbatory material for free. All businesses should be cost effective.

- A coyote was thrown into the windshield. Looks like the Road Runner wins again. Beep beep!

- Leatherface scared Michelle and Ryan by chainsawing their car. This new season of Pimp Your Ride is not worth dying for!

- Leatherface's daughter had a scattering of skulls and skeletons littered all over the floor. I bet he'll have a bone or two to pick with her if she doesn't clean that shit up!

- Mama Sawyer needs to speak with the help of a voice box. I hate when anti-smoking commercials infiltrate my horror movies. Now where's my carton of cigarettes?

- Leatherface uses an extra long chainsaw. It's quite obvious he's compensating for something.

I think if the MPAA and New Line Cinema had let this film be what it was intended to be, LEATHERFACE: TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE III would have been a better film. It's funny that horror films nowadays can show penises getting chopped off without a blink of an eye. Still, it's an effective slasher sequel that still does a lot of things right, considering the hurdles it had to overcome. Definitely worth watching, renting, and even buying [the DVD is pretty sweet] if you're a Leatherface fan. I don't like it as much as I used to, but it's still a very worthy sequel that deserves a lot of love.

3 Howls Outta 4
Related Posts with Thumbnails