1.25.2011

He Knows You're Alone (1980)

DIRECTED BY
Armand Mastroianni

STARRING
Caitlin O'Heaney - Amy Jenson
Don Scardino - Marvin
Elizbaeth Kemp - Nancy
Patsy Pease - Joyce
Lewis Arlt - Det. Len Gamble
Tom Rolfing - Roy Carlton
Tom Hanks - Elliott

Genre - Horror/Slasher/Thriller

Running Time - 94 Minutes


I don't see why so many people want to get married. Other than marrying someone who may be old, rich, and possibly on life support, what's the point? Who wants to be embarrassed as they stand in front of friends and family, learning that his bride [who is dressed in white - a color she should be ashamed of wearing since she probably has been around the block and back a few times] has been sleeping with the best man who happens to be his brother? And really...who needs to deal with the bride's ex-boyfriend getting revenge on her by stabbing her before her wedding? Do you have any idea how much mailing back every single wedding present is gonna cost? And the blood on the carpet! It'll take weeks to get the stains out! Seriously, what is the point??

Oh...for films like HE KNOWS YOU'RE ALONE to exist. Yeah, that's not really necessary. If I wanted to see HALLOWEEN redone in a lamer way, I'd watch Rob Zombie's 2007 remake [which is better than the film I'm reviewing here]. Still, 1980's HE KNOWS YOU'RE ALONE isn't the worst film I've seen. It's just not a good or much of an entertaining one.

PLOT
A bride-to-be is murdered in a movie theater. Detective Len Gamble (Lewis Arlt), who hasn't forgotten his own wedding day ruined when his bride-to-be was murdered, knows that the same killer is involved and is on a hunt to stop him.

Meanwhile, Amy Jenson (Caitlin O'Heaney) is preparing for her own nuptials with her girlfriends while her tool of a fiancee goes away for a bachelor party [banging other girls while he's at it]. Amy's ex-boyfriend, Marvin (Don Scardino), still wants Amy, who wants him back as well but is too much of a tease to do something about it. Soon, Amy realizes that the killer (Tom Rolfing) is stalking her, taking out whoever stands in his way.

Will Marvin save Amy from the killer? Will the douche fiancee catch gonorrhea and have burning pee for the rest of his life? Will Gamble shoot the killer six times? Will Amy drop the knife? Does the killer have family issues? Why am I not watching HALLOWEEN again?

REVIEW
HE KNOWS YOU'RE ALONE is one of the many slasher films to come out in the wake of the success of HALLOWEEN and FRIDAY THE 13TH during the massively profitable slasher boom from 1980 to 1984. It's also one of the forgotten ones, even though the beginning of the film was used in the opening of 1998's SCREAM 2 and features the film debut of future Academy Award winner, Tom Hanks. HE KNOWS YOU'RE ALONE doesn't hide the fact that it rip offs HALLOWEEN in a lot of ways, but does it in a less stylish and a much more boring way. The film isn't the worst horror film out there, but if you're going to watch a HALLOWEEN ripoff, why not watch the real thing?

The screenplay by Scott Parker is pretty derivative. The main sub-plot that sticks out at you is the killer's motive for murder. Since it's revealed to the audience right off the bat, it isn't much of a spoiler: the killer apparently was dumped by Detective Gamble's future wife, but couldn't handle the fact that she was moving on. So he killed her, something snapped mentally, and decided to kill all other brides in the same town. It's pretty simple and to the point. Right away, we know whoever is getting married is in deep trouble.

While I respect that we know why the killer is doing what he's doing, the mystery and scare factor is sacrificed because of it. There's no longer a "You can be next!" aspect in the film. If you're male, single, or don't believe in holy matrimony, you're safe. So while Jennifer Lopez and Elizabeth Taylor are screwed, Goldie Hawn's biggest worry would be why her daughter likes getting knocked up by musicians and enjoys starring in horrible Matthew McConaughey rom-coms. The fear is gone because of this knowledge, especially since we learn it within the first act. It also doesn't help that the killer doesn't bother disguising himself. We can clearly see his face whenever he's on screen, so he's nothing more than a regular guy with emotional issues. Rather than being terrified by the close-up of his eyes covered in eyeliner, we wonder why someone hasn't suggest seeing Dr. Phil or something. With the mystery gone, we're just left to watch these characters go about their day as they stumble into the hands of this guy in a lot of filler sequences. Not really exciting stuff.

Speaking of the killer's motive, it's kind of hard to stay focused on it when he ends up murdering innocent people along the way. Why bother killing Amy's friends if they're not getting married? Why kill the wedding dress clerk? Because they supported her wedding? Then why didn't he murder all the people at his ex-girlfriend's wedding if that was the case? It really makes no sense and left me wondering if this was intentional or just lazy screenwriting. Maybe it was both, who knows? But it was definitely a distraction.

I will say that at least we have decently written characters in the film. They weren't the most fleshed out people I've seen in a film, but at least they weren't entirely stereotypical either. Amy, the Final Girl, is actually quite likeable and pretty developed. She has an ex-boyfriend who she still loves. She's marrying a prick who cheats on her. Her friends seem to love her. And she's paranoid about the killer coming after her after she's spotted him a few times watching her. She has a bunch of different arcs and they create a character with a bit of depth to her. And the Marvin character is the comic relief and it works because he's pretty funny! So he's automatically a favorite to watch. The other characters aren't as fleshed out, but at least they all have personalities and their own stories for us to watch. It's a shame the Gamble character isn't as full as the others, because here was an attempt of creating a Dr. Samuel Loomis character - yet failed since we only know his reasoning to go after this guy and nothing else. The man is completely incompetent as a police officer and isn't seen much in the film, or does much of anything important. Again, what's the point?

For a slasher film, HE KNOWS YOU'RE ALONE is very tame and practically bloodless. Yes, you can say the same for the original HALLOWEEN as well, but during the slasher boom, slashers were expected to have insane death sequences and a bit of gore. The goriest bit here is seeing a decapitated head inside a fish tank. And you can tell it was fake as hell too. Other than that, you just see knife thrusts towards the camera. If the film was actually suspenseful, stylish, well paced, and had enough mood and tension to foreshadow these murder sequences, the lack of gore wouldn't even be an issue. But when you don't have any of those things, some blood would be a nice compensation.

The direction by Armand Mastroianni has its moments. It's obvious that he's mimicking John Carpenter's direction in HALLOWEEN. We get the first person POV shot from the killer's perspective. We get a scene where Amy walks through hedges while the killer stands waiting for. We get a scene where the killer watches Amy from a window, catching her attention. Even the musical score is almost exactly the same theme as HALLOWEEN's. And while the film looks nice and has decent framing and composition most of the time, there's barely any energy in the editing. In fact, it's shot very simple and is pretty drab for the most part. There are a lot of filler scenes as well, disrupting the pacing of the film. It's very cliche and there's nothing really exciting or interesting to look at when it comes to the visuals. Mastroianni does infuse some creepy and tense moments, but not enough to really capture one's attention throughout the film's running time. It's a poor man's John Carpenter at best. But if you're going to rip someone off, it might as well be someone great, right? And it was filmed in Staten Island, New York as well. I can't knock that either.

The acting is okay at best. Caitlin O'Heaney is good as Amy, our likeable and paranoid heroine. O'Heaney just comes across as honest and sweet, making her endearing and a stand out in early slasher roles. I did find her performance towards the end funny, though, for all the wrong reasons. Don Scardino of 1976's SQUIRM, as Marvin, was probably the best actor in the entire film. Coming across as the comic relief, he turned a one-note character into someone I was always looking forward to seeing. He just came across as natural and charming. Elizabeth Kemp was cool as Nancy. She didn't really do much but play the best friend, but I liked her. Lewis Arlt did nothing for me as Detective Gamble. His character wasn't great and the acting didn't help either. Tom Rofling as good moments as Roy Carlton, coming across as menacing at times. He also had moments where he came across as clumsy, due to the character not being as graceful as a horror killer should be. He was okay though. And of course, I can't conclude without mentioning Tom Hanks as psychology student, Elliott. Even though he's marketed on the DVD cover, he's only in the film for five minutes at most. He does well in his first film role, but doesn't show that star power he would gain in Bosom Buddies a bit later on.

THINGS I'VE LEARNED WHILE CROSSING OFF ROY CARLTON OFF OF MY WEDDING LIST

- Some slutty chick wouldn't let her lover feel her up. She's just like Jim Pardue - a cock tease!

- Some other chick was stabbed through her seat from behind inside of a movie theater. That's why people should stick to porn theaters. That way when they've been stabbed, it'll make them feel more alive than dead. Just ask Pee-Wee Herman. Might as well ask Charlie Sheen also while we're at it.

- Joyce is sleeping with her professor who teaches her Intro of some subject. I guess Intro involves just the tip while the Advanced classes offer the whole thing.

- Amy asked if it was worth getting married. Tiger Woods' ex-wife $ure think$ $o!

- The killer stabbed the wedding dress clerk with a pair of scissors. Looks like the new season of Bridezillas is going to be a bit bloodier than usual.

- Don't have a cigarette while relaxing after a long day with a killer on the loose. You'll be the one getting smoked.

THE FINAL HOWL
Even though it tries to be HALLOWEEN, HE KNOWS YOU'RE ALONE doesn't even come close to tying its shoes. It's pretty slow and forgettable despite a decent story structure and a game cast. Still, it's worth a watch if you're into slashers - especially ones that were made during its most successful era and not discussed often. And there's always Tom Hanks too, even though he's not in the film enough to make that a legitimate reason. A pretty mediocre horror/thriller effort that would make me file for separation, but not quite for divorce.


SCORE
2 Howls Outta 4


1.19.2011

Hatchet II (2010)

DIRECTED BY
Adam Green

STARRING
Danielle Harris - Marybeth
Kane Hodder - Victor Crowley/Thomas Crowley
Tony Todd - Reverend Zombie
Tom Holland - Bob
R.A. Mihailoff - Trent
Parry Shen - Justin
AJ Bowen - Layton

Genre - Horror/Slasher/Sequel

Running Time - 86 Minutes


In 2007, Adam Green presented HATCHET, a modern slasher film that he believed would bring "Old School American Horror" back to the glory days of HALLOWEEN and FRIDAY THE 13TH. Gory, explicit in its nudity and language, and housing a big brute for a killer, it had a mildly successful limited theater release and had good success on the DVD/Blu-Ray market. While Green had done short films before HATCHET, the film put him on the map - giving us one of the freshest horror filmmakers in modern times.

Green would continue directing good horror films after HATCHET, especially with SPIRAL and FROZEN [and producing GRACE]. But Green had always intended to continue the world he created with HATCHET, wanting to make the sequel gorier and more over-the-top than the last installment. Danielle Harris, most famous for her roles in both versions of the HALLOWEEN franchise, replaced previous Final Girl Tamara Feldman [who didn't seem to want to even be in a sequel for whatever rea$on], giving HATCHET II more of a buzz than the previous film held. The buzz increased when Green himself stated that he would release the film in limited distibution in Unrated form, refusing to let the MPAA butcher his vision. So in October, HATCHET II was released 68 AMC theaters - to a dismal response. The film did so badly that it was pulled out from theaters after its opening weekend, going straight to On Demand channels and eventually to DVD/Blu-Ray on February 1st.

It's really a shame it didn't get a chance to shine in limited distribution because HATCHET II isn't a bad film at all. It's almost as fun and entertaining as the original. But it's not a perfect sequel, as it does things better than its predecessor, while sacrificing certain aspects that made the original a fan favorite. Let's see why HATCHET II shouldn't get the axe completely.

PLOT
Continuing right after HATCHET left off, Marybeth (Danielle Harris) has luckily escaped the wrath of deformed killer, Victor Crowley (Kane Hodder). She returns to New Orleans, seeking the aid of Reverend Zombie (Tony Todd), the man in charge of the swamp tours that butchered everyone but Marybeth in the original. Knowing that Crowley has the remains of her departed father and brother, Marybeth wants Zombie to go with her to give them proper burials. Zombie, having ulterior motives of his own, decides to make it a hunting adventure. Grabbing a group of money seekers including Shawn's twin brother Justin (Parry Shen), enforcer Trent (R.A. Mihailoff), and Marybeth's uncle Bob (Tom Holland), Marybeth and Zombie lead through the swamp to retrieve the bodies and take care of Victor Crowley if necessary. It's safe to stay that only a few will survive.

REVIEW
HATCHET II is what you would expect from a horror sequel - stereotypical characters, more gore, a quicker pace, and a bigger budget. HATCHET II definitely has a ton of awesome kills by our deformed monster villain, but unfortunately loses some of the charm and atmosphere that the original HATCHET held. So the question is - do you want a really gory film without much charm and atmosphere? or do you want a film that relies on atmosphere and charm to give that gore more of an impact?

The narrative by Adam Green is an extension of what he brought forth in HATCHET. Green's main focus is obviously to continue the story of Marybeth and her arch-nemesis, Victor Crowley. In this aspect, I think Green does very well. We understand her desperation and fear to bring back the bodies of her father and brother by going back to the swamp that Crowley is master of. And of course through Marybeth, we finally understand Reverend Zombie, whose swamp tours seem to have ulterior motives that some of us suspected in the original but are answered fully in this film. The way the story connects the two things that lead to a pretty thrilling finale work due to the fact that Green purposely held back information in case a sequel was green-lit to reveal the rest. And I thought it flowed well and made sense, even though a certain twist at the end made Zombie look like an idiot since he seemed so knowledgeable and sure of the consequences of his actions [probably the main flaw of the story]. But the story moves quickly and flows well, while making sense most of the time. So I can't complain too much about it.

The main sub-plot with HATCHET II is the origin of Victor Crowley himself. While the original film pretty much implied that Victor Crowley was just a regular deformed child who was accidentally "murdered" by his father, who was trying to save him from a fire caused by a horrible Halloween prank, Green decides to change it a bit. Now it seems that Crowley is actually a supernatural, cursed "demon" who was placed upon Thomas Crowley by his dead wife as revenge for cheating on her. And apparently Victor Crowley can't die unless he gets revenge on those who burnt him when he was younger. While I appreciate a more detailed explanation of the events behind Crowley's motivations, I was completely satisfied with just having him be a deformed, strong, un-killable son of a bitch. Why explain the need of his supernatural abilities? The fact that he can't die as easily as you or me pretty much implies that. It just felt as if Green needed to explain who Crowley is, like HALLOWEEN: THE CURSE OF MICHAEL MYERS did with Michael Myers, or JASON GOES TO HELL: THE FINAL FRIDAY did with Jason Voorhees. It's not really necessary, even if it did motivate Zombie's character. It doesn't hurt the film, but it just seemed like it had to be there in order for the sequel to even exist rather than it just coming out naturally.

A major issue to the screenplay is the lack of character development. While the original HATCHET didn't excel at this either, at least there were only a small group of characters we followed. That allowed their interactions to really shine through, even if you disliked the character portrayals. In the sequel, there are too many characters and they're pretty stereotypical. Some of them are actually interchangeable for the most part. And most of them weren't all that interesting. Even Marybeth, who's supposed to be our Final Girl, is pretty much a non-factor and uneventful character until the finale where she gets her revenge. To be honest, the best characters were Reverend Zombie, Justin, Bob, and probably Trent. That's only because they had distinct personalities compared to the other characters and they actually brought stuff to the table. Every one else was just there or just annoyed me. Especially that Vernon guy. If he was supposed to be the comic relief, he failed BIG time!

That's another issue with the narrative - it tries to be funny like the original but it only made me chuckle a few times. It's as if the humor is ill-timed or the jokes aren't funny. It kind of sucks since the original HATCHET actually had humor that worked, which makes it why a lot of horror fans seem to enjoy it. To be honest, I think this should have been a more serious affair instead of making it goofy. Oh well.

I do appreciate the homages in the film though. From the long chainsaw that plays tribute to LEATHERFACE: THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE III [R.A. Mihailoff played the title character], to a mention of Glen Echo [the setting of BEHIND THE MASK: THE RISE OF LESLIE VERNON], to the clip of Parker [from FROZEN] discussing about suing the ski resort, to even the cameos from Lloyd Kaufman and Adam Green himself, it's cool to see a horror fan like Green give us nostalgia trips. And seeing favorite characters from the original, such as Jack Cracker and the two porn star airheads, is awesome as well.

While the screenplay isn't as good as it could be, at least we have massive amounts of gory kills. And by God, this film is insane with its murder sequences. No wonder Green wanted the MPAA's hands off of this project. We get pulled intestines, a hatchet to the cooch, jaws pulled off faces, heads and bodies split in half, a propeller death, sliced faces and throats, and the double chainsaw-to-the-balls death. If you want a gorefest, HATCHET II is the film for you. And while the atmosphere and mood could have been better, I'm not gonna lie - these death scenes were awesome regardless. And I gotta love the beautiful breasts that were presented to the audience as well. Hot damn! It reminded me of a FRIDAY THE 13TH film, but more in-your-face and over-the-top about it. Definitely the film's highlight for sure.

The direction by Adam Green is a bit better than it was for the original. While some of the mood is lost, at least the film moves pretty quickly and gets to the point of the matter - watching these idiots die. It's definitely a true slasher sequel. I liked a lot of the framing and compositions of the shots. I thought the editing was good. And I think Green shot the action scenes quite well. I do have an issue about the really abrupt ending and some of the first act is a bit off at times. While no FROZEN, I still think Green did a good job with what he was given.

The acting in HATCHET II is above average. As much as I love Danielle Harris, I think she was terribly miscast and wasted as Marybeth. Tamara Feldman did a good job in the original because she evolved as the film ran, creating a believable character. Harris isn't really allowed to do that, pretty much whining and screaming for most of the film [which is understandable from a character standpoint, but it's not all that fun to watch]. Plus the accent went in and out at times, which was noticable in some spots. It's always a pleasure to see her act, but I don't think this role was for her. I did love her during the final act though, but that was only because she was allowed to do something other than standing around and crying. I still love you, Danielle!

Tom Holland was okay as Bob. I had no idea the writer/director was an actor. He wasn't horrible, but not great either. R.A. Mihailoff did a bit better as Trent, the enforcer of the group. He's used to action sequences and he did well during those scenes. Parry Shen was good as Justin, the twin brother of Shawn from the original. He had some funny moments and I believed his fear and confusion as well. Kane Hodder was cool as Victor Crowley like he was in the original. The man is still an intimidating force after all these years. Nothing was more scarier than that sex scene he was in. Wow. But the best actor, by far, was Tony Todd as Reverend Zombie. Maybe it's because he was the most developed character and had the best dialogue. But Todd bit and chewed the scenery any time he was on screen. I really enjoyed watching him enjoy himself.

THINGS I'VE LEARNED WHILE NEVER TAKING A SWAMP TOUR

- One of Shapiro's porn stars was his 5th grade history student. Apparently he taught her the Emancipation Proclamation when she freed his penis out of his pants.

- Thomas Crowley had an affair with his cancer stricken wife's Cajun nurse for two years until she passed. His wife then came back from the dead to curse them both with the birth of Victor Crowley. Damn, John Edwards better watch his back!

- Bob claimed that Reverend Zombie is only a reverend of being an asshole. If that's the case, I would like to attend one of his sermons.

- Cletus happily shot a booger from his nose, disgusting the rest of the squad. That s'not cool, man!

- Chad got his face smashed in. Someone call Dr. 9021-oh...nevermind.

- Two men got chainsawed from the bottom up, showing their balls dropping. Nice to see them finally hitting puberty!

- Justin trapped himself in Crowley's house, putting himself in a lot of danger. He obviously didn't do his homework, proving why stereotypes are around for a reason.

- Bob had trouble dealing with Crowley. I guess he realized this FRIGHT NIGHT was no CHILD'S PLAY...

THE FINAL HOWL
HATCHET II is a fun film to watch and it will certainly entertain you. In fact, it's your run-of-the-mill slasher sequel, which is why I enjoyed it for what it was. It's not a film everyone will love, especially since the mystery and the comedic value was done better in the original. But it makes up for it in fun cameos, better pacing, and a whole lot of blood and cool death sequences. If you're a fan of the original film or love really gory flicks, definitely check out this film. If you're looking for something deeper than that, get off this swamp tour pronto.


SCORE
3 Howls Outta 4


1.09.2011

The B-Movie Bungalow Presents: Puppetmaster (1989)

DIRECTED BY
David Schmoeller

STARRING
Paul Le Mat - Alex Whitaker
William Hickey - Andre Toulon

Robin Frates - Megan Gallagher

Irene Miracle -
Dana Hadley
Jimmie F. Skaggs - Neil Gallagher

Matt Roe - Frank Forrester

Kat
hryn O'Reilly - Carissa Stamford
Merrya Small - Theresa


Genre - Horror/Supernatural/Dolls & Toys

Running Time - 88 Minutes


For as long as horror films have existed, killer toys and/or dolls have existed. From 1920's silent horror film, THE GOLEM, to those two Twilight Zone episodes dealing with that creepy doll and that creepy dummy, to 1975's TRILOGY OF TERROR, to more modern stuff like 1988's CHILD'S PLAY and 1992's DOLLY DEAREST - watching harmless inanimate objects move by themselves and attack people can be pretty creepy. These are things we all grew up with as children. To have these products of our innocence turn into something more sinister is pretty scary, yet entertaining at the same time.

Charles Band felt the same way. The founder and producer at Empire Pictures during the 1980s, he contributed to a lot of iconic horror films such as RE-ANIMATOR, GHOULIES, and FROM BEYOND. One of Band's most popular productions was the Stuart Gordon directed, 1987's DOLLS. It was a cult hit that most likely helped in the success of a more popular killer doll film, 1988's CHILD'S PLAY featuring the infamous Chucky. In 1989, Band wanted to capitalize on CHILD'S PLAY mainstream success by writing his own killer doll film, but using the idea of handcrafted puppets that kill on their owner's command. So Band wrote the cult classic, PUPPETMASTER. Going for a straight-to-video approach with the film [feeling he'd make more money on the video market - smart move], not only was the film successful enough to create a ten-film franchise, but it made Full Moon Pictures [the distributor of the film] into a money-making company that famously cranked out low budget b-movies to fans' delight.

It's been over 21 years and PUPPETMASTER still has its audience, especially now that the film can be watched instantly on Netflix. But does it still hold up after all these years? Or did Charles Band pull the strings of horror audiences into believing this film was worth your money and time?

PLOT
In 1939, a puppet maker named Andre Toulon (William Hickey) makes puppets, using magical powers to bring them to life. As Nazi agents are on the way to kill him, Toulon hides the puppets inside his hotel room and then takes his own life.

Fast forward to 1989. A group of psychics [each having a different power] are called to the same hotel where Toulon took his life all those years ago. They unknowingly arrive during the funeral service of one of their own, Neil Gallagher (Jimmie F. Skaggs); most of them happy that Neil is dead and gone. Quickly after, the psychics start having nightmarish flashbacks and premonitions involving the history of the hotel. Pretty soon, the psychics are killed one-by-one by Toulon's puppets. Can anyone survive this puppet onslaught? Or will someone finally cut their strings once and for all [until the next sequel, that is]?

REVIEW
PUPPETMASTER is considered by many to be the franchise that has made Full Moon Pictures as popular as it is today [as well as being the company's most successful franchise]. And it's not hard to see why. Animated puppets are always fun to watch, especially when they can kill stupid characters in really horrible ways. However, if the story isn't as strong as the presence of these puppets, then its potential could be lost. And while the screenplay by Charles Band isn't horrible, there are still issues that prevent PUPPETMASTER from becoming one of the greats.

The narrative of PUPPETMASTER has so much potential, but it fails to do anything with it. For me, the best part of the story is actually the first ten minutes with Andre Toulon. In a short time, we understand a lot of things. One, it takes place during World War II. Two, the Nazis are after him. Three, he loves his puppets enough to hide them away in order to protect their secret. There's not a lot of dialogue or exposition to get that info. Just from the direction, the acting, and the storytelling, you can tell it's a great setup. I will say that I don't understand how Toulon brought these puppets to life [it's mention a couple of times during the film and I'm sure it's explored more in the sequels], but it's still a great beginning and keeps you wanting to watch more.

Unfortunately, the rest of the film falters. It's not because the present day stuff isn't interesting. In fact, there are a few things I do like about what the majority of the story tells. For one, I love how the main characters are all psychics. Not only that, but they seem to be psychics in different fields. Alex dreams of the future. Dana can sense evil and see it in her mind. Carissa is an empath, feeling and sensing the history of the things and people she touches. And Frank...well, I'm not really sure what he does. Maybe he sells cars or something, I don't know. But I think having the protagonists all have powers is an interesting and almost novel concept for a horror film like this. I wish Band could have explored these powers more, but what we do get is enough.

I also liked the puppet characters. Jester [the leader who can change facial expressions], Blade [the hook and dagger one], Pinhead [the strong guy of the group with huge hands to strangle people], Tunneler [drill head], and Ms. Leech [leeches come out of her mouth - very slowly] all have distinct personalities and are fun and interesting to watch. They don't say a word, just letting their actions do the talking for them.

And that's the problem with PUPPETMASTER - the puppets have more personality than the human characters. Boy, did these protagonists really stretch my tolerance level. Carissa and Frank were the stereotypical horndogs of the film [with a pretty funny sex scene by the way]. Dana and her horrible Southern accent talked to her and waved a feather around to prevent evil spirits. And Alex, our main character, had to be one of the dullest protagonists I have ever seen in my life. He did nothing of note really. The worst character was that maid, Theresa. She didn't die quick enough for me. What an annoying woman! There was no one to root for here besides the puppets. And the puppets weren't in the film enough for audiences to cheer them on. These characters needed development badly! It's hard to watch 40 minutes of these people chatting and discussing issues concerning Neil Gallagher when you could give a rat's ass about them. I wouldn't be surprised if I learned that people fast-forwarded these scenes, or just turned off the film altogether. Being pushed to boredom is not entertainment.

The special effects by David Allen Productions is low budget, but it has a charm that makes me smile. Some of the effects are obviously stop-motion animation with a green screen involved, but they don't look that bad. Other effects involved the crew moving the puppets via strings, or even becoming one with the puppet as was the case with Pinhead's arms. Obviously it looks primitive, due to CGI being so heavily relied on for many years now. But I always loved old-school special effects because it shows the level of talent and patience the crew was willing to have to make the puppets look like they really came to life. Personally, I prefer these effects over CGI [usually most of it looks fake]. And for 1989 and low budget, these effects are still pretty good. I can't hate on them.

PUPPETMASTER also has a bit of violence and sexuality as well. We get a tame sex scene, a puppet sucking a dude's nipple, attempted rape, and some nice boobs as well. As for the bloodshed, we don't see much. But people get murdered in variety of ways, such as suicide, drilled through the mouth and neck, fingers cut off, bloodsucking leeches, and throats getting sliced open. Although puppets are usually children's entertainment, this film is anything but.

The direction by David Schmoeller, who's directed films like 1979's TOURIST TRAP, 1986's CRAWLSPACE, and 1982's THE SEDUCTION, is a mixed bag. The film, remastered both visually and aurally, looks great. There's some nice style going on here, especially with the POV shots from the puppets' perspectives. The death scenes are shot well. The editing is good. The stop-motion effects next to the live-action stuff mixes together more believably than it probably should. My only major qualm is the pacing. PUPPETMASTER moves way too slow for much of its running time, only quickening the pace during the beginning scene and the last act. The scenes without the puppets' involvement just drag. Certain scenes, like when Ms. Leech attempts to murder Frank, seems to take forever. And while this scene was way too long, watching Alex get punched for like five minutes straight was a bit hilarious. Having your main character being beaten like a bitch - great screenwriting!

The acting is pretty meh as well. Paul Le Mat bored me as Alex. He's not a bad actor, but he didn't make me interested at all in his character. Not sure it was because of him or the script not giving him really anything to do. Robin Frates was just there was Megan Gallagher. She looked cute though. Irene Miracle [great name!] was okay as Dana Hadley. I'm not sure if her accent was fake or not, but it had a charm to it. She looked okay when she was scared. Matt Roe was sleazy looking as Frank and Kathryn O'Reilly had a nice rack as Carissa. Merrya Small annoyed me as Theresa. That voice...ugh. And William Hickey was classy as always as Andre Toulon. I was expecting a cat to crawl out of his mouth, but thankfully that didn't happen. And if you got that reference, you rock!

As for the DVD itself [the 20th Anniversary DVD, by the way], the video and audio has been remastered from the original print. The film looks and sounds really well. We also get a really short Behind-The-Scenes feature, an intro from Charles Band himself, and a bunch of trailers. It's not really loaded with stuff but at least it has something extra.

THINGS I'VE LEARNED WHILE GETTING MY NIPPLES SUCKED BY A PUPPET

- Don't ever interfere with a puppeteer's life. His magical puppets will eventually bury you and others on Sesame Street after they bash your brains in with a Fraggle Rock. That'll teach future citizens a lesson - a lesson for me to POOP ON!!

- Dana mistakenly told some blonde ditz that her grandmother was going to die, even though it happened years ago. No wonder Dionne Warwick didn't stay too long in the fortune telling business. That's what friends are for, huh?

- Dana pricked a dead Neil to see if he was really dead. Pricking is a common practice in prison, although the other person usually screams for his life.

- Carissa felt horny on her hotel bed because she sensed that Clark Gable was had sex on it. Frankly my dear, I don't give a damn!

- Frank scared Carissa by wearing a pair of nylon stockings over his head and face. It's nice to see someone still spinning out and boiling their hair after all these years.

- Dana enjoys talking to her stuffed dog. The least the dog can do is talk back. What a bitch!

- If you're a man, don't let your girlfriend tie you to the bed. That'll only lead to deadly consequences. See also: BASIC INSTINCT and BRIDE OF CHUCKY.

THE FINAL HOWL
While not the greatest killer toy film I've seen, PUPPETMASTER is still a worthy look. It has more than its share of moments and the puppet characters are great to watch. Plus after 21 years, it still manages to hold up somewhat. I've never seen the sequels in this franchise, but I'm willing to take the chance on them. Even flawed, I guess I'm still under Andre Toulon's spell...


SCORE
2.5 Howls Outta 4


1.06.2011

Lost Boys: The Thirst (2010)

DIRECTED BY
Dario Piana

STARRING
Corey Feldman - Edgar Frog
Tanit Phoenix - Gwen Lieber

Casey B. Dolan - Zoe

Jamison Newlander - Alan Frog

Seb Castang - DJ X

Felix Mosse - Peter

Steven van Niekerk - Lars

Joe Vas - Claus


Genre - Horror/Vampires/Sequel

Running Time - 81 Minutes


It's kind of funny that vampires seem to be the "it" monster at the moment [even though zombies are coming close]. Even though we've always had vampire stories, films, and even TV shows, watching vampires hasn't been as popular as it has today. It kind of sucks that it has to be because of TWILIGHT, but at least we True Blood, DAYBREAKERS, and 30 DAYS OF NIGHT because of it.

Fortunately, we'll also have 1987's THE LOST BOYS. Even though it took the spotlight away from the much better and grittier NEAR DARK [which came out around the same time], THE LOST BOYS is still a fan favorite amongst vampire fans for its humor, cooler-looking vampires, and of course the appeal of Corey Haim and Corey Feldman, who were the two biggest teen idols at the time. To this day, the film stands the test of time, entertaining modern audiences just as much as it did almost 24 years ago.

For some reason, it was decided that in 2008, a sequel was needed for THE LOST BOYS. LOST BOYS: THE TRIBE was released to great fanfare, but the response was negative as many [myself included] felt that it felt more like a rehash of the original instead of a sequel, just with a weaker script, characters, and actors. But the curiosity within the horror community made LOST BOYS: THE TRIBE into a successful direct-to-DVD feature, leaving no doubt that another sequel would be made.

So in 2010, we got LOST BOYS: THE THIRST, the third movie installment in this unnecessary franchise. With Corey Feldman and Jamison Newlander returning for the third time as vampire hunters, The Frog Brothers, curiosity was still there but the anticipation [which was killed by THE TRIBE] was not. So is THE THIRST another nail in the LOST BOYS' coffin? Or is it actually a worthy installment to a franchise that should have never been? This review may surprise you...

PLOT
Edgar (Corey Feldman) and Alan (Jamison Newlander) Frog are in Washington D.C., stopping vampires from turning government officials. During the battle, however, Alan is bitten, turns into a vampire, and flees the scene. Edgar feels like a failure and decides to live mainly in isolation.

Five years pass and Edgar is about to become evicted. He sells $65 worth of comic books to Zoe (Casey B. Dolan), who has a thing for Edgar. Before he can decide his next move, a beautiful, famous vampire novelist named Gwen Lieber (Tanit Phoenix) seeks him out so he can rescue her brother Peter (Felix Mosse), who has been captured by rave-loving vampires led by DJ X (Seb Castang). X and his buddies just happen to be in town for a big rave - one where Peter will be sacrificed for the Alpha Vampire. The rave has attracted thousands of young people who want to party and drink vampire blood called The Thirst. Edgar, Zoe, Gwen, a reality show survivalist (Steven van Niekerk), and his cameraman (Joe Vas) must stop the sacrifice before these vampires quench their "Thirst".

REVIEW
I really was expecting to bash this sequel. After all, I didn't dig LOST BOYS: THE TRIBE all that much really. The only things I liked about it were the epilogue with Feldman, Newlander, and the late Corey Haim which seemed to be the next evolution of the franchise, as well as Autumn Reeser's hot ass in lingerie [growl...]. Color me surprised, however, as I kind of dug LOST BOYS: THE THIRST for the most part. This third installment should have been crap, if history was to say anything about it. But it's definitely an improvement over THE TRIBE and feels like the true sequel to 1987's THE LOST BOYS. How about that?

The narrative for THE THIRST, while not great per se, is still stronger than what THE TRIBE brought forth. The main thing I liked about the story was that it focused on The Frog Brothers, mainly Edgar Frog. I liked these characters from the beginning because they were the geeks - the ones who knew exactly what they were dealing with and had all the cool weapons to take the vampires out. They loved comic books and believed they were bad-asses. How can you not like that? To see Edgar Frog go from down and out to Vampire Hunter is an entertaining ride that makes you want to root for the character, especially if you're a sucker for comebacks [talking about both Frog and Feldman here]. And I actually found Edgar's arc to be believable in context with the story. His brother turned into a vampire, he's unable to help him, and that left him bitter and angry. When he asks for help, he refuses at first. But realizing that he could save someone else to make up for failing his brother, he agrees to the mission. I also dig the fact that the vampires already know all about this guy and see him as a huge threat. A character's arc doesn't have to be complicated. Edgar's story is simple and it works.

I'll also mention Alan's arc, even though he's hardly in the film. It's pretty predictable that Alan would refuse to let the vampire side take over because he hates them so much, plus he doesn't want to hurt his brother. But it makes sense and I enjoyed seeing Alan and Edgar do their thing one more time. I do believe he should have had more of a presence in the film to really push his story forward, but it wasn't all bad. It's sad that Sam Emerson (Corey Haim) will never complete The Lost Boys ever again [due to Haim's unfortunate death, which gives his character's death more resonance]. If it could have happened, that would have been awesome for me.

Speaking of Haim, I enjoyed the tributes in the film for him. From the "Batman #14" comic book being placed at Sam's grave by Edgar, to the cool flashbacks of the original film, I really thought it was a nice, mature touch. It's nice to see this sort of class in franchise movies.

I also dug how the sequel self-references vampire lore and other pop culture trivia. Having Gwen Lieber as a parody for Stephenie Meyer, both writing vampire novels that romances and sexualizes the idea of what vampires are supposed to be, was very funny. It's definitely a criticism about those TWILIGHT movies that I totally agree with. Vampires can be sexy, sure. But they should also be ruthless killers, not daytime sparklers. I'm just saying. I also liked the idea of the reality show survivalist, who is obviously a Bear Grylls parody. This is obviously a criticism on reality show culture, which shows us reality, but in fictional form. I also think it was Feldman's way of making fun of himself for doing those two seasons of The Two Coreys years ago, as well as that season of The Surreal Life. There are also other things to point out, but I'll let you guys do that. But the film obviously pokes fun at itself and the state of Vampirism in the media today.

Unfortunately, the character development stinks in this film. Besides Edgar and Alan, we don't know who these other people really are besides their names and their occupations. Gwen's character changes in every scene. First she's desperate to save her brother. Then she happens to be a vampire novelist. Then she's a sex kitten flirting with Edgar. Who is this woman and why should I care about these things? Real women are confusing enough. I don't need my fictional women hurting my brain too! And Zoe, who has more personality as someone who understands monster lore and legend, has a thing for Edgar that seems forced. Why is she so into this guy? When did she become friends with Edgar? Why does Edgar trust her so much when he distrusts everyone else? She needed to be fleshed out. Lars and Claus were just two very one-dimensional characters. And even the villains were pretty lame and uninteresting. I understood their motives, but I didn't really care for these vampires. All they did was fly out of airplanes, have lesbian sex, and make humans drink vampire blood at raves. Not really exciting stuff [besides the lesbian sex that is], even though it does beat surfing vampires from THE TRIBE.

And the dialogue is a mixed bag. The film tries to be campy and humorous, which only works for some of the time. When it works, it's funny. When it doesn't, I hear that *wonk wonk* sound in my head. At least the screenplay expands on the LOST BOYS lore instead of rehashing it. So it's not all bad, I guess.

THE THIRST has a decent amount of gore and sexuality going for it. Getting the sex part out of the way, we do get to see some nice boobs and a frequent amount of lesbianism between hot vampire ladies. *Schwing!* The gore is also quite good for a direct-to-DVD feature. We get some nice bloody moments, a heart punched out of an idiot's body, disintegrating vampires via Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and the usual biting that vampires seem to do. All in all, I was quite impressed by how the film lived up to its R rating. All TWILIGHT fans need not to look here.

The direction by Dario Piana was quite good. The pacing was nicely done as those 81 minutes flew right by. The film looked nice, much better than THE TRIBE I thought.
The editing was tight. And the action sequences were film pretty well for the most part. I really liked the fight scenes in this film. There was one moment where it looked really fake [during the Lars vs. that big vampire scene], but other than that, the visuals were very serviceable. The production value for this sequel was reasonably high and it shows. I thought Piana did a nice job directing this film.

The acting isn't all that impressive, but it gets the job done. Corey Feldman chewed the scenery as Edgar Frog. He still uses that annoying Clint Eastwood [or is it Christian Bale as Batman] voice and hams up every bit of dialogue he has to say. He was, by default, the best actor here and I enjoyed watching him. Tanit Phoenix was very hot as Gwen. Her acting improved as the film rolled. She was decent. So was Casey B. Dolan as Zoe. She was consistent and I liked her. Jamison Newlander doesn't get all that much to do as Alan Frog, but it's nice seeing him anyway. And Seb Castang was okay as DJ X. He was a lot better than Angus Sutherland, but no where close to Keifer. Not the greatest cast of thespians I've seen in a film, but they performed to the best of their abilities.

THINGS I'VE LEARNED WHILE SACRIFICING SOME POOR SOUL DURING THE BLOOD MOON

- Vampires are feeding helpless human victims "The Thirst", which is vampire blood, at raves. The effects are like Ecstasy, except you'll end up shagging someone of the same sex without realizing it. Hmmm, maybe it is like Ecstasy. Ahhh, high school...

- Some blogger was being a prick to DJ X, threatening he wouldn't attend any one of his parties if he didn't get an interview. These bloggers...they're such dicks. All they do is bitch and moan and whine about every little thing, looking at the negatives rather than the positives. If they weren't so damn good looking, I'd tell them to "bite me" - which are the wrong two words for this type of review!

- Lars claimed to have the metabolism of a 12-year-old. So is his sex drive, from what I hear from some of his girlfriends. His behavior is not the only thing that's premature, if you know what I mean...

- Some chick freaked out when blood splattered all over her face. That's understandable. What splatters on her face is usually white!

- Don't have fisticuffs with a vampire. He'll just prove to you that when it comes to fighting, you have no heart. Literally.

- Don't ever try to win the love of a man who holds a lot of power. He'll stab you in the back - or bite your neck off. Whichever comes first, I guess.

THE FINAL HOWL
LOST BOYS: THE THIRST was a pleasant surprise. While it's not as good as the original THE LOST BOYS, it's light years better than THE TRIBE. And to be honest, that's more than enough for me. It's nowhere near perfect, but it's very watchable and slightly entertaining. THE THIRST is a cool homage to the original and the only true sequel to THE LOST BOYS as far as I'm concerned. I wouldn't mind a fourth installment at this point [c'mon, it's gonna happen anyway]. For thirsty LOST BOYS fans only.


SCORE
2.5 Howls Outta 4


1.02.2011

Chiller 13: The Decade's Scariest Horror Moments - REALLY???

So I was watching Chiller on TV the other day and I watched this countdown for the 13 Scariest Movie Moments [or Films, as the broadcast seemed to be more focused on] between 2000 and 2010. And I gotta say - if these are the 13 Scariest Films of the previous decade, then horror is in big trouble. I don't agree with this list at all. Take a look:

13. DRAG ME TO HELL (2009) - Sam Raimi



12. THE STRANGERS (2008) - Bryan Bertino (review)



11. FINAL DESTINATION (2000) - James Wong (review)



10. ORPHAN (2009) - Juame Collet-Serra (review)



9. THE DESCENT (2006) - Neil Marshall



8. HOSTEL (2006) - Eli Roth (review)



7. 30 DAYS OF NIGHT (2007) - David Slade



6. CLOVERFIELD (2008) - Matt Reeves (review)



5. 28 DAYS LATER (2002) - Danny Boyle



4. STEPHEN KING'S THE MIST (2007) - Frank Darabont



3. SAW (2004) - James Wan (review)



2. PARANORMAL ACTIVITY (2009) - Oren Peli



1. THE RING (2002) - Gore Verbinski



What do you guys think? Yay or nay?

Madeo [Mother] (2009)

DIRECTED BY
Bong Joon-Ho

STARRING
Kim Hye-ja - Mother
Won Bin - Yoon Do-joon

Jin Goo - Jin-tae

Je-mun Yun - Je-mun

Mun-hee Na - Moon Ah-jung


Genre - Mystery/Thriller/Drama/Crime

Running Time - 128 Minutes


This film discussion/review is for The Hunter College Film Blog [which is the blog for the college I'm graduating from this month - yay!]. There's a film of the month and the writers for the blog usually take the time to watch the film and give their thoughts on it. It's not one of my normal reviews, but since I contributed to it and wrote my thoughts on MOTHER, then I'm considering this my 388th review. So click on the link and read my thoughts on this fantastic film.

Film Discussion: MOTHER (2009)


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