6.27.2011

Peeping Tom (1960)

DIRECTED BY
Michael Powell

STARRING
Carl Boehm - Mark Lewis
Anna Massey - Helen Stephens

Maxine Audley -
Mrs. Stephens
Jack Watson - Chief Inspector Gregg
Moira Shearer - Vivian

Brenda Bruce - Dora

Esmond Knight - Arthur Baden


Genre - Thrillers/Psychological/Horror

Running Time - 102 Minutes


I think all of us at sometime have watched other people do things through windows or behind things where we try not to be spotted. As humans, we are born to be very visual creatures. We watch human behavior and we are fascinated by it, good or bad. That probably explains all those ridiculous reality shows on television - we just can't stop being voyeurs, or else our satisfaction won't be met in some way.

Apparently being a voyeur who enjoys watching people grow afraid before they die was hugely controversial back in 1960, as Michael Powell's PEEPING TOM was banned for many years after its release in the United Kingdom. British critics at the time condemned the film for being sadistic. Powell's career, which included directing 1947's BLACK NARCISSUS and 1948's THE RED SHOES, was pretty much done due to being ostracized for the movie itself. The only way many could watch the film for years was on a VHS and DVD that had an edited and more "tasteful" version of the film.

Thankfully, Powell's reputation was restored due to Martin Scorcese and Francis Ford Coppola citing him as a major influence in their directorial careers, as well as times changing, making PEEPING TOM look much tamer than modern cinema. Criterion DVD released PEEPING TOM in its uncut form, giving modern audiences a chance to see what all the "controversy" was about. And while nothing about the film is considered scandalous, PEEPING TOM just proves how great it is as it holds up fantastically well after 51 years.

PLOT
Mark Lewis (Carl Boehn) is heavily obsessed with watching people, to the point where he needs to carry a camera with him at all times to film the world around him. However, Mark's voyeuristic tendencies take a dark turn when he sets up murder scenarios where female victims are made to be scared before killing them with a sharpened leg of his tripod. He films these scenes, as well as the aftermath, and watches them looking for something he can't put his finger on.

Things begin to change for Mark when his downstairs neighbor, named Helen (Anna Massey), takes an interest in him due to his odd and aloof behavior. Since Helen is the only one who makes any attempt to be friends with him, Mark begins to enjoy her company. Mark tries to change for Helen, trying to keep his obsession in check. But Mark gives in to it when he murders a stand-in actress at the film studio he works at, starting a serious murder investigation that will link Mark to other murders he has done. Realizing his film is almost done when the detectives are on to him, he has to decide between running away with Helen or facing his own fear on camera.

REVIEW
PEEPING TOM is an amazing psychological thriller that was way ahead of its time. While Alfred Hitchcock's PSYCHO was the major horror/thriller focus of 1960, PEEPING TOM was actually released first and did a lot of the things PSYCHO was praised for. And while recently there has been a debate as to which film was more influential and better to the horror/thriller genre, I think both films have a place since PEEPING TOM is just as great as PSYCHO, but in a different way.

The narrative is pretty straight-forward, but the character development and the way things come together towards its end are extremely well-done. PEEPING TOM is as much of a horror film as it is a thriller, giving the audience chilling and psychologically interesting moments that will effect the viewer in some way. The fact that we follow the killer, Mark Lewis, the entire length of the film, is something we see in genre films today. But back in 1960, giving audiences a chance to empathize with the villain rather than the hero was seen as controversial and unheard of. If critics and audiences weren't so conservative, they would have realized that Mark isn't some one-dimensional villain murdering women he films on camera. There's a reason why he does it, which fleshes out his character greatly.

Mark became obsessed with voyeurism due to his voyeuristic father, who was experimenting how fear effects a human being on his own son. Mark didn't have a normal childhood due to being constantly scared out of his sleep and filmed on camera to see his reaction to certain things he would see. We don't really know what would make his father go to such terrible lengths to torture his son like that just for studies, but it does enough to send Mark on the same path. Mark is anti-social and isolated from society, knowing that his upbringing will never allow him to live a normal life. He's obsessive compulsive, always bringing his movie camera with him to film people and see the looks of fear on their faces. While he is a villain for murdering women, he's also a victim of circumstance - almost as if he was a battered child [well, in a way, he was abused emotionally and mentally] that becomes the abuser due to the fact that he was raised that way. Mark knows what he's doing is wrong, but he can't help it because it's the one true thing he knows and understands in life.

In many ways, Mark carries the profile of a serial killer. His modus operandi is always the same, as he lures women who enjoy being the center of attention on camera, and then scares them before killing them with the same weapon. Serial killers usually keep souvenirs of their victims in order to maintain the memory of the murder. Here, Mark films them dying, as well as the aftermath - like the police finding the body and the investigation that follows. This "documentary" Mark films is his way to maintain control over the situation, as if he's directing a film where only he knows the script. These snuff films end up being a sort of catharsis for Mark, releasing that pent up sexual frustration. But he has to continue his M.O. because he wants something different each viewing until he finds that perfect victim that will end it all. Mark is obviously sick and needs help, which makes the character very complex and interesting to watch. We understand and don't understand why he does what he does at the same time. In fact, Mark looks like your regular neighbor down the street who really loves cinema. While he's a bit socially awkward, you can still be in contact with him without much of a problem. Who knows how many people I've met that could be potential serial killers? Just because they look scary doesn't mean that they are. Some of the most infamous serial killers were actually good-looking people, which made it easier to pick their targets. Mark is a decent looking guy and can assimilate with the rest of the world with no one thinking the worst about him until all the clues point to him. That's scary in itself, I think.

We feel for Mark when he's unable to live a normal life with a girl he really likes: Helen. While she is a bit nosy, Helen seems to enjoy Mark's company and is the only one that really gives him attention on a mental and emotional level. While he still has a wall up, it crumbles each time he sees her. She even manages to get him away from his camera for more than an hour, even though it makes him uncomfortable. But once we see him desperately look for his camera when he spots a couple making out nearby [which is something he was filmed doing as a boy by his father], we realize that there's no hope for Mark. He's too deep into his obsession and it's only going to end up bad at the end. But the fact that he tries shows us that he wants to be helped and be like those around him. The man does have a conscience and a sense of what's right and wrong on some level.

And while PEEPING TOM refers to Mark, the other characters in the films are just as much voyeurs as Mark is. Helen constantly watches out for Mark, even going to his apartment without his permission to snoop around. She also begs Mark to show her his films, which disgust her, yet she can't take her eyes off of them. She has also written some book about a "magic camera", proving that Mark is not the only one obsessed with seeing. Mark's newsstand boss uses Mark to take nude photos of local models to sell to his customers, which is plenty. Mark works at a movie studio, which is obviously a case for voyeurism, as they're directing what the audience will see later on. The detectives follow Mark, watching his every move to see if he slips up. And Helen's blind mother, Mrs. Stephens, is a bit voyeuristic, although it's through her hearing. This allows her to realize that Mark is the killer that the police are looking for. And when she spies on him watching one of his films, she demands that he tell her what he was watching so she can see it too. It's a fascinating social commentary on something we all do in our lives, yet never really take much notice of until someone else makes mention of it.

For those looking for blood and gore will be truly disappointed by PEEPING TOM. It's not that kind of film, but the lack of violence doesn't make it any less scary. We know Mark kills people. We see the victim's faces before they're impaled by his tripod leg. But we never see the actual act itself until the end. The mystery of what he does and what the acts look like let the imagination run wild, probably making it seem more violent than it actually is. That's why I enjoy old horror/thriller films like PEEPING TOM. I enjoy my gore too, but it's nice to have the audience take that mental picture of the implied violence and let their imaginations run wild. It's really a lost art these days unfortunately, because a lot of horror audiences today want to see the gory stuff. Ironic, since that reinforces the commentary this film is trying to say. Like I said, the film was ahead of its time.

The direction by Michael Powell is simply great. The film looks amazing, with the awesome use of Technicolor giving a lot of scenes life, which is great since the film itself is very dark in terms of story. The framing of shots and the mise-en-scene during scenes are simply stunning and really add a lot to the storytelling. The editing is top notch and the sound design is fantastic. Powell really crafted a beautiful film that's very expressionistic and it's easy to see why it would be compared to what Hitchcock had done in his classic films. I think Powell should be commended for taking such a risk with PEEPING TOM, knowing it would probably get him in big trouble due to its subject matter. Even today, I feel a lot of films that have come out after haven't taken as big of a risk that Powell made with this movie. Just an atmospheric and disturbing piece of work that ought to be appreciated.

The acting is great as well. Carl Boehm is just perfect as Mark Lewis. He plays a human being who doesn't know how to behave as one so amazingly that I'm convinced Boehm is really this way. He's creepy without really being scary, looking like the archetypical perfect male with blonde hair and blue eyes that hides his imperfections underneath. Yet his social awkwardness makes him sympathetic. Funny that Boehm and Anthony Perkins [as Norman Bates] played similar roles but in different ways. Norman never had a chance to be normal [the man was way off of his rocker], but Mark did, which makes him a bit creepier in a way. Boehm would have been just as honored for his performance like Perkins if it wasn't for the subject matter and the unwarranted controversy at the time. The other actors, like Anna Massey, Maxine Audley, and Jack Watson, are great as well. But PEEPING TOM belongs to Boehm. He is the film and carries it flawlessly.

THINGS I'VE LEARNED WHILE WATCHING THE GIRL NEXT DOOR UNDRESS THROUGH HER BEDROOM WINDOW

- A prostitute was terrified as Mark came closer to her with his camera. Either she had a case of camera fright, or she saw Mark's penis and knew "Tommy Lee" would split her in half.

- Mark was fascinated by a model's disfigured face. If that's the case, Priscilla Presley had her botched face list 51 years too late!

- Mark was called a "naughty boy" for watching a couple make out nearby as a child, saying he'll get spanked. I'm sure something got spanked later on...

- Mark's father used him as an experiment to see the relationship between the nervous system and fright. Who would have guessed that Mark's dad was Joe Rogan?

- An actress was hysterical and couldn't do her job, afraid she'd be the next victim. I get and feel the same way any time I watch a film starring Jessica Alba. Looks aren't everything, you know?

THE FINAL HOWL
PEEPING TOM is a film that didn't deserve the label placed on it for many years since there's nothing remotely controversial about it. It's well acted, well directed, and has a very deep and disturbing narrative running through it. If you're a fan of PSYCHO and haven't seen this movie, then don't hesitate to watch it. PEEPING TOM is definitely top notch and must be seen by every horror/thriller fan out there. This film truly is a classic.


SCORE
4 Howls Outta 4


6.23.2011

Shadow Puppets (2007) [Video Review]

DIRECTED BY
Michael Winnick

STARRING
Jolene Blalock - Kate Adams
James Marsters - Jack

Tony Todd - Steve

Marc Winnick - Charlie

Natasha Alam - Amber Diane McCormik

Diahnna Nicole Baxter - Stacey Gibson

Richard Whiten - Dave

Jennie Ford - Melissa Tucker


Genre - Horror/Science Fiction

Running Time - 103 Minutes


Interesting concept + Flawed execution = Mediocre Film. Fans of James Marsters, Tony Todd, and Jolene Blalock should check it out. Others might want to watch something else. Watch me ramble on about SHADOW PUPPETS in this video review.


6.21.2011

The B-Movie Bungalow Presents: Mega Python vs. Gatoroid (2011)

DIRECTED BY
Mary Lambert

STARRING
Debbie Gibson - Dr. Nikki Riley
Tiffany - Terry O'Hara

A. Martinez - D
r. Diego Ortiz
Kathryn Joosten - Angie

Carey Van Dyke - Justin

Micky Dolenz - Himself


Genre - B-Movie/Science Fiction/Bad Animals

Running Time - 90 Minutes


Back in the late 80s, my friends and I would create our own "Vs." fantasy fights before Hollywood took over and used them to make money off of two franchises at once. We had "Iron" Mike Tyson vs. Muhammad Ali. We had The Avengers vs. The Justice League of America. We had Freddy vs. Jason before FREDDY VS. JASON. And we had, what was likely the most debated battle of the time, Debbie Gibson vs. Tiffany.

Oh, the pop music of my youth. So cheesy. So commercial. So awesome. I actually remember that time where artists actually sang, instead of relying on auto-tune. Hell, pop singers used to write their own songs and even produce them! Hell, MTV used to play music videos back then! God, I'm so fuckin' old...

As I was saying, Debbie Gibson and Tiffany were the top two teen pop stars of the 80s. They both had big hits. They both dressed similarly, even though Tiffany was edgier than Gibson. And both had their own legion of fans, debating which one was better and which one would have the better and longer career. Boy, did we all lose in that pool. But hey, they must have done something right if they've both recently been offered acting jobs in shitty sci-fi B-movies. Gibson starred in the mediocre MEGA SHARK VERSUS GIANT OCTOPUS, being the best thing about that film besides Mega Shark chewing on planes and bridges. Tiffany starred in the slightly better MEGA PIRANHA, where her bad acting made her a standout. Figuring they're both willing to do these dumb films, The Asylum [the best bad studio at the moment] decided why not give people what they've wanted for 24 years. So pitting Debbie Gibson and Tiffany against each other in the film, MEGA PYTHON VS. GATOROID was the next logical step, I guess.

The film premiered back in January on the SyFy Network, garnering pretty big ratings due to the hype [and all the 80s fans feeling the nostalgia of the film's two stars]. The movie did so well for Gibson and Tiffany that they've now become the best of friends and are touring together this summer [would you judge me if I wanted to go?]. The question is: Is this success earned because people love nostalgia acts to make a comeback, or because the film was actually good and people want to see more of its stars? What do you think?

PLOT
A group of animal activists, led by Dr. Nikki Riley (Deborah Gibson) release a bunch of snakes [which they stole out of a lab] back into the Everglades. Unfortunately, Nikki has failed to realize that these snakes were tested on and have been growing to enormous sizes - so large that they're killing the local alligator population. Pissed off about this, a park ranger named Terry O'Hara (Tiffany) allows local hunters to find these pythons and kill them before the gators become extinct. This fails, as the snakes have multiplied not only in size, but quantity as well, killing most of the hunters [one being Terry's fiance].

Terry, grieving her fiance's horrible death and concerned about her beloved alligators, decides to steal some experimental steroids that increases aggression. Inserting the steroids into dead chickens, Terry feeds them to the gators that are left, causing them to grow into massive sizes. Now, these Mega Pythons are at war with these Gatoroids, while Nikki and Terry have their own war as well. But when the two animals decide to join forces and take over the entire state, the two women and Dr. Diego Ortiz (A. Martinez) must shake their love and fix what could've been an easy solution.

REVIEW

If you're thinking MEGA PYTHON VS. GATOROID, from The Asylum, is going to be a good film, then you're obviously more naive than Anthony Weiner thinking he could get away with sending photos of his junk to random women, who aren't his wife, on Twitter. MPvG carries on the tradition of these terrible "Mega" films that SyFy loves to showcase most Saturdays during the year, giving its audience a cheesy CGI crapfest featuring actors who only old people like me would remember and care for. Luckily for SyFy and The Asylum, I tend to like these stupid films because at least they know what they are. They're not trying to win awards. They're not trying to show up every other science fiction B-movie out there. They just want to entertain and bring some fun to its viewership. It's not a perfect B-movie, but I didn't find myself totally bored watching it.

MPvG has a very ridiculous screenplay. While the plot is stupid as hell, I can buy it because that's the story the filmmakers want to tell. And it does succeed in that somewhat. We do get what's advertised in the title much longer than what was promised in MEGA SHARK VERSUS GIANT OCTOPUS, even though the two opponents do join forces in the film's final act without much of an explanation [big issue here]. People want to see Deborah Gibson and Tiffany go at it, and they do in a very memorable catfight scene that wouldn't be out of place of a Dynasty or Melrose Place episode. And you have terrible dialogue that will either make you change the channel or laugh at how stupid it all is. But it's not like one wouldn't expect a script like this from The Asylum. This is what they do. This is how they make money and gain attention.

It doesn't work every time, but it does work here for the most part, because the entire film is self-aware as to how silly this all is and uses it to move the story forward. Does it go a bit much with that? Absolutely. There are too many winks and nudges here that do get pretty grating and annoying by the film's end [even though I love Debbie Gibson and Tiffany saying, "I think we're alone now. There doesn't seem to be anyone around." while Gibson utters "bitch" every now and then since she was the Good Girl years ago]. At times, it does try to hard to be this modern cult B-movie "so-bad-it's-good" classic, which hurts the film a bit. Films like TROLL 2 didn't have to do that because the director actually thought he was making a good film, causing it to be unintentionally bad, yet charming, at the same time. MPvG knows what it wants to be, which sort of ruins the entertainment and fun value somewhat.

Should I even go into character development here? Am I just wasting my time in telling you that these characters are all caricatures and are only in the film to be victims of their CGI counterparts? It would have been nice to get some sort of characterization here. After all, I kept wondering why Nikki was so obsessed with saving snakes while Terry really loved those alligators. My mind was running wild [into the gutter mostly], so it would have been nice to understand their motivations somewhat. But this film is never about understanding what drives these people to do what they do. It's about seeing them act so illogical and watch them try to survive an attack by giant animals. Plus, why are the title characters killing each other one moment, and then deciding to kill the humans instead the next? I can guess it's because the humans are trying to kill them both, but it just happens really making me wonder if a chunk of story was missing. That's no excuse for a shoddy script but I wasn't expecting depth here.

I will say that the dialogue is pretty funny [and awful] for much of the film. There are constant one-liners throughout the film, too many to quote really. But I was laughing every now and then, just enjoying how silly this film was. This is the type of narrative and screenplay for a film you need to be in a certain mood for. If you're looking for a deep story, MEGA PYTHON VS. GATOROID doesn't have it. Nowhere close.

The CGI here is pretty bad. The animals look like Pixar cartoons on crack. It would have been nice if the team took the time to give each snake and/or each gator different looks to distinguish each one in terms of creating personalities, but that sort of thing wasn't important I guess. Hell, even the scene that happens at the end in the city is full of bad special effects. I believe at certain points, the city itself was CGI as the animals attacked it. There was even a CGI helicopter at one point to save the main characters. There's really no shame in how low the budget is because the CGI reflects that quite strongly. I think the best special effect in the film involved Tiffany's bra for strapping those huge bad boys in every outfit she wore in the film. She was about to burst through those tight tops - and I wouldn't have complained one bit.

The direction by Mary Lambert, who directed Madonna's "Like A Virgin", Madonna's "Like A Prayer", and 1988's PET SEMATARY, is okay at best. For an Asylum film, the film does look pretty nice. Lambert takes advantage of the locations used in the film, trying to create some level of atmosphere. The film is also very well paced, never feeling longer than it is. I also appreciated that the film does live up to its title. We don't have to wait until the end for Mega Python and Gatoroid going after each other. These animals appear to hate each other right away, unlike that boring build up in MEGA SHARK VERSUS GIANT OCTOPUS where the two fought at the end for only two minutes. The attack scenes are staged pretty decently, I thought. I will say that the editing in the film is pretty bad though. There's a scene while Terry and Nikki are catfighting where the animals start attacking people at this fundraising event. Even though both scenes are right next to each other in terms of time and space, it's editing in a way that they seem to be in two different states. People are dying, screaming, and using loud weapons during the animal attack, but Nikki and Terry don't acknowledge it and wonder why no one is around after they both calm down. I shouldn't be looking for logic here, but without it, it just makes the editor look amateur. There are other moments like this as well, which kind of disrupt the flow a bit. But the direction is more positive than negative.

The acting is terrible, but that's the intention. I will say that Deborah Gibson and Tiffany aren't too bad and actually hold their own for the most part. Gibson is the better of the two, even though Tiffany is more enthusiastic in her role. If they still had their day jobs, I'd tell them not to quit them. But it took this film to give them their music careers back for a short while. Both are fun to watch as they berate each other and then throw down in a catfight involving food. And the songs they supply for the film are cheesy, but it works with the film. A. Martinez is the only actor in the film who takes anything in the story seriously, which actually makes him funny. He never smiles or laughs, always having this stern expression on his face. I really hope he was in on the joke, because if he thought this was an Emmy-worthy movie, I have a bag of magic beans to sell the guy. Kathryn Joosten, from Desperate Housewives, is probably the best actor as Angie. She knows she's in a shitty film and doesn't take anything in the film seriously. She has some of the best dialogue in the film and seems to be enjoying herself, while also embarrassed at the same time. It's pretty comical. And special mention goes to Monkees' member Micky Dolenz in a cameo as himself. He acts like a total douche in the film, which I hear is not too far from how he acts in real life, but allows himself to get eaten by a Mega Python. It's a harmless cameo and I laughed when he got swallowed.

THINGS I'VE LEARNED WHILE PETTING MY MEGA PYTHON

- Nikki has a thing for large snakes. Unfortunately, she'll probably have to settle for an earthworm in her personal life instead...

- "Someone has bitch for breakfast!" You mean someone actually wanted to eat Ann Coulter? Not even at my hungriest or horniest!

- Justin was surrounded by a group of Mega Pythons. I've seen a porn film like this once and it left the girl coming for more...

- Micky Dolenz of The Monkees is performing at a fundraiser to save the Everglades. "I'm A Believer" that Dolenz took that "Last Train To Clarksville" but got off at the wrong station.

- Deborah Gibson and Tiffany have an "epic" catfight involving food and cleavage. "Only In My Dreams" this fight "Could've Been" done with less clothing.

THE FINAL HOWL
MEGA PYTHON VS. GATOROID isn't high art, but it's a decent way to spend 90 minutes if there's nothing else on. It could have been better and more fun [because the cast and crew were obviously enjoying themselves here], but I got what was advertised which is more than okay with me. I still think MEGA PIRANHA was a more fun film, but MPvG was pretty close. If you're looking for a good sci-fi movie, don't bother with this one. But if you like bad films that'll make you laugh at how dumb it all is, then check this one out. You could do worse.


SCORE
2 Howls Outta 4






Deborah Gibson - "Snake Charmer"



Tiffany - "Serpentine"

6.20.2011

Original vs. Remake: The Stepfather (1987 & 2009)


DIRECTED BY
Joseph Ruben (1987)
Nelson McCormick (2009)

STARRING
(1987)
Terry O'Quinn - Henry Morrison/Jerry Blake/Bill Hodgkins
Jill Schoelen - Stephanie Maine

Shelley Hack - Susan Blake

Stephen Shellen - Jim Ogilvie

Charles Lanyer - Dr. Bondurant


(2009)
Dylan Walsh - David Harris/Grady Edwards/Chris Ames
Penn Badgley - Michael Harding

Sela Ward - Susan Harding

Amber Heard - Kelly Porter

Paige Turco - Jackie Kerns

Jon Tenney - Jay Harding

Sherry Stringfield - Leah


Genre - Thrillers/Psychological/Horror/Cult/Remake

Running Time - 89 Minutes (1987)/102 Minutes (2009)


Since Father's Day took place during this weekend, I figured I would at least doing something appropriate for the blog even if I don't celebrate the day. Growing up without a father is one of the struggles I had to deal with in my life and every third Sunday in June has always been another day rather than that day. Still, I'm happy for those who do celebrate it and cherish it because you guys have something special that I won't be able to have until I have my own children to celebrate it with. That's not to say that there couldn't have been chances if my mom had married any of her boyfriends [some were better than others]. But if they were anything like Terry O'Quinn or even Dylan Walsh in both versions of THE STEPFATHER, then I'm glad I'm skipping Father's Day.

1987's THE STEPFATHER is a cult horror-thriller that was loosely based on true events of one John List, a man from New Jersey who murdered his wife, mother, and three children one day before running off and assuming another identity before marrying another woman before being arrested for his crimes. The film was barely seen on its release, only making a little over $2 million, but was a huge staple amongst horror fans on home video and cable. It also catapulted the career of Terry O'Quinn, who is probably more famous now for his Emmy-winning turn as John Locke on Lost. O'Quinn would later star in the 1989 sequel, THE STEPFATHER II, but decline to appear in the 1992's THE STEPFATHER III - all declining in quality as the series went on.

After being somewhat forgotten for so many years, Screen Gems decided to capitalize on the remake trend and recreate THE STEPFATHER for a teen audience. The remake, starring Dylan Walsh and Gossip Girl star Penn Badgley, was released in 2009 as PG-13 [rather than the original's R rating]. It didn't set the box office on fire, but did make its budget back, making the remake somewhat of a success. Still, with the original film finally released on Region 1 DVD and Blu-Ray for the first time to coincide with the remake's release, a bigger audience was now able to judge which version of the story was better.

After watching both versions this week, it was really interesting to see how both movies differed, while staying somewhat similar, to appeal to their respective demographics. Both films have their positives and their negatives [one version in particular]. In this edition of Original vs. Remake, let's see which STEPFATHER is worth marrying and which one deserves to be stood up at the altar.

PLOT
Both films share similar plotlines. Henry Morrison (Terry O'Quinn)/Grady Edwards (Dylan Walsh) change their appearances and identities after they murder their respective families and leave the scene of the crime. Under different aliases [Henry is now Jerry Blake/Grady is now David Harris], both men come across single mothers (Shelley Hack/Sela Ward) who are looking for father figures for their children. Six months are the meeting, the men are either married (1987) or engaged (2009) to these women, upsetting their children (Jilly Schoelen/Penn Badgley). The Stepfathers attempt to woo the children like they did their mothers, focusing on creating the archetypical perfect family.

Unfortunately, people outside the family circle interfere with this plan for perfection, making the children suspicious of this new man in their lives. Realizing that nothing they do will make others see things their way, these Stepfathers feel that their new families don't measure up. And when they don't measure up, bad things begin to happen.

REVIEW

(1987)
THE STEPFATHER has always been one of those thrillers that gives me a nostalgic feeling. And I'm not the only one who feels this way, as the film has gained a massive cult following due to its subtlety and restraint, which was unique compared to other horror films [mainly slashers] that were out at the time. While it's not a perfect film and is a bit dated due to its cheesy 80s score, THE STEPFATHER is still worth a great watch even after 24 years.

The narrative of THE STEPFATHER is fairly strong and told well through action and dialogue. Unlike other thrillers/horror films of the time, the film is never about how the characters will die. Instead, it's about the situations that lead into the characters' deaths. In a lot of ways, THE STEPFATHER is really the character study of the title character, as well as the child who refuses to accept him due to seeing right through his facade. That, in itself, makes this film stand out from the rest of its peers.

The character of Jerry Blake [or whatever alias he uses] is more complex than one would expect from a genre film like this. Right from the first minutes of the film, we learn a ton of information about the man. Usually when one murders his entire family, they would probably run from the scene of the crime right away and hide from authorities. But Jerry doesn't do that. Instead, he already has a shaving kit neatly set up in the bathroom, where he takes the time to wash his face of the blood that's on it before cutting his hair short, shaving his messy beard, showering, and putting on a nice suit. It's as if the man is cleaning himself up for an important meeting or job interview, rather than escaping from a crime scene. It's not until he walks downstairs, whistling "Camptown Races", that we see exactly who this man is - a monster who brutally murdered his family in cold blood. It's such a striking opening sequence that it lingers for the rest of the film, making us realize that he'll probably do this to his next family. The fact that he had everything set up before the violent act and how calm he is after the act just displays a pattern that this man has been following for a while now. He's a total psychopath, which makes him quite interesting to watch.

This is evident when we actually watch Jerry interact with his new family: Stephanie and Susan. He treats them with love and care. He charms the pants off of his wife, hosts parties for his neighbors who seem to befriend him, and even has the respect of his co-workers. He even tries to buy the affections of his stepdaughter with a puppy and getting her back into school after she's been expelled for fighting with another classmate. The man constantly mentions this idea of family values and that family traditions, such as eating together at the dinner table and going on trips together, are the most important things in the world. It's when these values and traditions aren't met to his standards that Jerry starts to lash out, breaking down memorably in his basement as his stepdaughter watches from the shadows. The man is in constant battle with himself, with all the personalities he has assumed for years most likely, trying to convince himself that the perfect family can exist. It's when that conviction ends that things get bloody, resulting in Jerry looking for a new family as he plans to murder his current one. While the film doesn't outright say it, a couple of things are implied here. One, Jerry was obviously mistreated in some way as a child. He does bring up once that his father wasn't the most caring and loving man as he grew up. Like Stephanie, Jerry also has father issues that he struggles to deal with, trying to become the father his own wasn't. His intentions are good, but his execution is heavily flawed and deadly. Also, this whole idea of traditional family values seems to be a social commentary on how some conservative Americans still view family life. According to them, a family needs to have a mom, dad, 2.5 children, a house with a white picket fence, and possibly a dog of some kind. This was a big deal back in the 80s, and even today, some Americans still see a family this way. The reality is that no family is perfect. There are a lot of single parents out there. There are a lot of married couples who don't even have children. The divorce rate is the highest that it has ever been. Families, even those who manage to keep a solid foundation, are still dysfunctional on some level. The fact that Jerry is looking for perfection is truly a lost cause because he'll never be satisfied. That's what makes him scary, because this pattern will continue until he can't continue it anymore.

What's so great about the character development here is that Jerry, while viewed fairly as a psychopath, also creates a level of sympathy from the audience. I think it really clicks, well for me anyway, during that small scene where Jerry watches one of the families he sold a house to. He sadly watches how well the husband and wife greet each other and express their affections while holding the hands of their young daughter. It's the stereotypical perfect family that Jerry has been longing for, yet it's out of his reach even though it's right nearby. We all strive for perfection in some way, but most of us realize there's no such thing really. The fact that Jerry, even though I'm sure knows that he'll never find that perfect family, still tries to make it happen is pretty sad and we feel somewhat bad for him. It doesn't erase his crimes, but the fact that he's three-dimensional makes a part of us wish that he actually achieves his dream one day.

As for Stephanie, she already realizes that a perfect family doesn't exist. She has her own father issues, stemming from her father's death - something she still has trouble accepting and dealing with. She acts out in school as a way to deal with her anger. And she refuses Jerry as a replacement for her father because she doesn't want him replaced, plus it doesn't help that Jerry tries too hard to please her. When she learns that a man in a neighboring town murdered his family just around the same time Jerry came into the picture, she tries to gain info on what this murderer looked like. While she's a smart, pro-active girl, Jerry is more pro-active, always a step ahead of her due to experience.

Ironically, the only man in the film who could be considered a father figure would be her psychiatrist, Dr. Bondurant. He treats Stephanie like an equal, gives her advice any time of the day, and never pushes Stephanie to accept Jerry as her father. When Jerry murders Dr. Bondurant after the doctor lies about who he is to get a chance to talk to a distant Jerry [odd that both male figures in the film use aliases to get what they want], Stephanie is devastated and relies on Jerry because there's no one else really. Things go well until she realizes that Jerry sees her as a child he has to control rather than an equal [like Dr. Bondurant], ruining their relationship for good. Stephanie is a normal teenager who wants to live her life on her terms, wanting her father back while rebelling against her new one. It's a real character going through a real situation - one we all can understand at some point.

I do wish we could have learned more about Susan. She loves being married to Jerry, willing to deal with his odd behavior at times. She tries to push Stephanie into accepting Jerry, yet understanding why Stephanie doesn't want to. A character like this should have more depth than what's presented in the film. Even though Jerry tries to, Susan is really the one keeping this family together by being the mediator. This character has a story that needed to be told, but it wasn't because this film is really about Jerry and Stephanie. I do think it would have brought out more tension if she was developed though and had more scenes with her and Jerry interacting as a married couple.

I also have to mention the brother-in-law angle with Jim Ogilvie. I understand why the character is in the film. I mean, after all the families Jerry has murdered, you have to believe that someone related to any of those victims would want to find out the truth and search for this man. I'm convinced by the addition of this character because it's supposed to add tension and suspense to the film. You really can't have a thriller without a character like this. My issue here is that this arc doesn't go anywhere at all. Jim figures out where Jerry has been hiding, eventually finds him, and just ends up getting killed without some sort of satisfying resolution. What's the point of building this guy up if his story is cut [no pun intended] short without any sort of major confrontation at the end? Interesting concept but flawed execution.

THE STEPFATHER does have great moments in its story. The chilling opening sequence really sets the tone of the film, with this man murdering his family without much of a guilty conscience. Jerry's breakdown in the basement is a classic moment that reveals a lot of character, while furthering the tension between him and Stephanie. Plus we have memorable dialogue, like during the scene between Jerry and Dr. Bondurant where Jerry says, "Well, I don’t think this one is right for you. I think you’d be more comfortable somewhere else. This house is for a family. You know, the family. Home sweet home. All that crap!”, and the classic "Who am I here?" moment where Jerry actually forgets who he is supposed to be playing due to his frustration and stress.

The film, while brutal and violent at times, is never all that graphic in terms of gore. We do see a lot of blood, like in the opening scene, and especially during the end [which is cliche but ends the film in a decently satisfactory sort of way] with the use of knives, guns, and even a phone. There's also a scene where someone gets their head bashed in by a 2x4 repeatedly, which made me laugh since the "wood" bended like rubber at one point. We also get nudity, from both Terry O'Quinn [front and back] and Jill Schoelen [front and back] - controversial over Schoelen's scene due to the fact that the character was only 16 [Schoelen was really 23 years old at the time]. But it's never extreme like a lot of R rated horror films today.

The direction by Joseph Ruben is very competent. Since the script is pretty solid [which Ruben co-wrote as well], Ruben doesn't use style or flash because he doesn't have to. Ruben lets the actors and the narrative do the work for him, just taking his time and focusing on the characters' relationship with each other to build tension and suspense, only using the violent moments where they're necessary and move the film forward. The flow of the film is very natural and the mood is well done as well. Patrick Moraz's synth 80s score can be cheesy at times [especially during happy moments involving the Stephanie character], but it was the sign of the times and you can't help that. Ruben would later go on to direct more thrillers like THE STEPFATHER, such as SLEEPING WITH THE ENEMY and THE GOOD SON. But I believe this film is one of his strongest works.

The acting is definitely the highlight of the film. Jill Schoelen is cute and mousey as Stephanie. She really gives the character that down-to-earth feel, creating a realistic teenager going through things no teenage girl should go through. I thought she was very natural in the role. Shelley Hack as Susan was okay at best. She's not all that memorable really, but then again, the script doesn't give her much to work with really. It's fine for what she's given. Stephen Shellen was good as Jim. I was convinced that he wanted revenge on Jerry. Charles Lanyer was good as Dr. Bondurant. He wasn't given much either, but he came off as one of the more likeable members of the cast.

The star, however, is without a doubt Terry O'Quinn as Jerry. O'Quinn usually plays supporting roles in many of the TV shows and films he acts in, but he's a revelation in the leading role as a man who is on a psychotic break due to his obsession for the perfect family. Everything he conveys, like his happiness, sadness, frustration, anger, wanting something that could never exist is just so convincing, creating one of the few complex characters in the world of horror. He's the sole reason to watch THE STEPFATHER. He should have gotten nominated for a major award. He's that good.


(2009)
I have three words for THE STEPFATHER remake:
WHAT THE FUCK!?

Am I the only one who questions why this remake even exists, besides money? It's hard not to compare the remake to the original since they're both very similar in terms of narrative structure, but the remake is bland, tame, and just completely pointless. It's like a Lifetime TV movie, just without Tori Spelling, Lindsay Wagner, or Valerie Bertinelli starring in it.

The story is pretty much the same as the original, with a few adjustments. For one, the stepdaughter character is now a potential stepson. I guess it's an interesting take on the story. After all, Michael [even thought sent to military school] sees himself as the man of the house. This creates easy conflict with the David character since he obviously believes he is in charge of the household even though he's only engaged to Michael's mom for just a short time. It's the clash of the alpha males, fighting for what's right for the future of the family. If THE STEPFATHER remake wasn't so generic and dull, this subplot would be pretty awesome. But it's not because that concept isn't played around much except for what we see on the surface. Also, it does take away from the original's "creepy stepfather" vibe between Jerry and Stephanie - one of the reasons why that relationship works in that film's favor. There's an attempt to do something like that when David comments on Michael's relationship with Kelly, wondering if they're moving too fast [even though I believe they were both like 17-18 years old]. Why he would comment on a college bound guy's sex life is a bit odd for any father figure. But hey, I can't fault the writers for wanting to make the remake somewhat different to its source. That's what a remake should do. I just wish it was executed stronger.

I also have an issue with the fact that David is not exactly married into this family quite yet. The film is called THE STEPFATHER, isn't it? I guess THE FIANCE wasn't all that appealing to the studio. At least it creates a stronger mother character because of it. David seems to throw down the law as he sees fit, as long as it continues his pattern to be part of a perfect family. When David pretty much goes off on the youngest son, Susan actually puts David in his place about it. When he talks about his old-fashioned values about a family, Susan tells him to lighten up and let the kids do what they want. She even defends her relationship when David acts odd, because she loves him. It would have helped if Susan and David's relationship was set up better instead of skipping the entire six months of their dating life. But it's nice to see that the mother wasn't a clueless pushover like the one from the original. I guess the remake did something right there.

Speaking of Susan, her and her two youngest children are pretty pointless in this film. I understand why Susan is needed obviously, but were these two kids really needed to pad time? The son didn't do anything but play video games. The daughter had a few lines of dialogue but nothing really stuck with me. Why couldn't it just been Michael as Susan's only son? I doubt it would have changed the film all that much except make it shorter [which would have been a plus]. I guess the writers felt that a single mother of three children would be more than willing to accept this nutjob in her life than a single mother of one. It didn't hurt the original film, did it? So why add characters that don't need to be there?

In fact, they weren't the only characters who did nothing for me. The Sherry Stringfield character, Leah, did nothing of note. I guess she was supposed to be Susan's best friend but she added nothing to the film. And while I do enjoy Amber Heard in a bikini for 70 percent of any film she's in [one of the few positives about this remake], her character was nothing but the token girlfriend who refused to believe anything her boyfriend told her until it was too late. It wouldn't have been hard to give the Kelly character some depth or even something memorable to do besides lay around in the sun looking fine. Other than her looks, nothing about Kelly was worth my time.

The only characters that are somewhat developed are David, Michael, and Susan's sister Jackie. Even then, they're all underdeveloped compared to the original characters. David doesn't seem as obsessed with the whole "perfect family" concept as much as Jerry in the original. David does have his moments, like the video game moment, and does come across as somewhat creepy at times. But compared to Jerry, David is one-dimensional to the core. Instead of killing families because they've disappointed him, he kills them and others because they're suspicious of him. For David, it seems more about maintaining this pattern of serial killing that he's held on to for so long rather than achieving a specific goal. David likes to watch people. He likes to stalk people. He likes to push old ladies down stairs after they've seen him on America's Most Wanted and murder others by drowning them or poisoning him [like his previous family during the beginning, showing how tame this remake really is compared to the more violent original]. He's more of a slasher villain than Jerry was, as these supporting characters are just there to add a body count rather than deepen the story. It's also ironic that the smarter characters end up dying. Only in horror films.

Michael's deal, like I said, stems from the fact that this man is trying to take over being man of the house. The man is also trying to step into the role of his father, which doesn't work since Michael seems to have issues against authority figures to begin with. His relationship with his real father is sour. He's been in military school, even though the film never explains the reason for that. He has a girlfriend who he enjoys making out with, but the film never deepens their relationship to other than a physical level. There aren't enough scenes with Michael and his mom to establish their relationship. At least he's a character of action, as he's willing to snoop to see who David really is.

As for Jackie, she's probably the most logical character in the film. She admires David, offers him a job in a real estate company, and then constantly asks him to fill out forms so she can gather his personal info. Of course, David constantly avoids doing so, making Jackie suspicious to the point where she starts warning Susan about him. She's one of the few characters who seems real in this film, as she behaves like any other person would. Too bad she wasn't in the film more, but I appreciated that someone in the script actually had enough brains to take action and figure things out logically. Of course, this put her in danger, but at least the script had someone logical.

The worst part of the narrative is that it's just a watered down version of the original film. It's just too flat and nothing in the film is truly effective or all that memorable. It's as if the narrative just goes through the motions, giving us a thriller that could be seen anytime on Lifetime. Rough character development [didn't really care about any of the characters here], PG-13 violence, predictable jump scares, bland plot twists - it was just sub par stuff. And the ending is just over-the-top and so ridiculous that I just shook my head at it all [let's just say it's leads a sequel I'm sure no one will want to see]. It was just a pedestrian, lame thriller that belonged on TV rather than any sort of movie theater. This is disappointing because there was a ton of potential to really craft an effective thriller for a modern audience. Instead, it's just paint-by-numbers with no creativity whatsoever.

Unlike the original THE STEPFATHER, the gore is non-existent. I think the only blood we see is when David shaves his face and cuts himself at the beginning of the film. People do die, but it's done in a bloodless way. It's not like the original was a gorefest, but the tameness of this film was just frustrating.

The direction by Nelson McCormick was alright. The film barely had tension or suspense, which could have helped things. But it has a good pace, the editing is well done, and the film looks polished. Plus he loved lingering on Amber Heard's hot body, which I can't ever complain about [for you ladies and gay men out there, he also lingers on Penn Badgley's body as well]. The direction could have been more stylish to make up for the boring narrative, but it was a much better job than McCormick's work on his PROM NIGHT debacle. I just wish it wasn't so predictable.

The acting is probably the best part of this remake. Dylan Walsh, best known for Nip/Tuck. does what he can as David. He's supposed to be menacing, but the script never allows him to reach that potential. Still, he kept me watching and did well with the material given to him. Penn Badgley is decent as Michael, but it's not like he had a very demanding role here. Sela Ward was just there for me, even though she's a total MILF. Amber Heard is just in the film to fill in a bikini and give boners to the straight male audience [not that I had any problem with that]. Paige Turco and Jon Tenney do well in their respective roles, fleshing out their short roles through their acting since the script certainly didn't do it. Cool cast that was totally wasted by a terrible script for a pointless remake.

THINGS I'VE LEARNED WHILE WONDERING WHO AM I HERE

- Jerry Blake [as Henry Morrison] murdered his family before leaving. Looks like somebody couldn't answer that survey asked to 100 people.

- Susan threw autumn leaves on Stephanie. Lucky she was in a good mood because, otherwise, she'd be experiencing fall...down the stairs.

- Stephanie has daddy issues stemming from her father's death. I heard Hugh Hefner is looking for a new daughter. Oh, he wants a girlfriend? Eh, same difference.

- Jerry is all for lost causes. Anyone who watched him for 6 seasons would already know that.

- Jerry beat up Dr. Bondurant with a 2x4. Hacksaw Jim Duggan would be proud. HOOOOOOOOOOOOO!

- David killed his family on Christmas. It must have been Garbage Day...

- David threw the old neighbor lady down the stairs to kill her. Too bad she didn't have that Life Alert System because it's obvious that she's fallen and won't be getting up.

- David killed Michael's dad, Jay, once he got suspicious. I guess death was part of the divorce settlement with ex-wife, Teri Hatcher.

- David drowned Jackie after she got suspicious. I guess the Ninja Turtles were too busy doing the Ninja Rap to save her in time.

- David doesn't change his appearance all that much once he kills a family and moves to another one. For someone who is an expert at Nip/Tuck, I really expected more.

THE FINAL HOWL
It's obvious which version of THE STEPFATHER to watch is. The original is a cult classic due to Terry O'Quinn's magnetic performance. The remake is only worth watching to see Amber Heard in a bikini. If the remake had tried to do something majorly different with its source material, I think it would have been perceived better. But compared to the 1987 original, the remake is just bland, tame, and all-around lame. Rent/buy the original. Skip the remake, even though I've seen worse remakes and worse films in general. I'll let the 1987 film bully the 2009 remake into the WTF? Vault where it can deal with its daddy issues. Maybe it'll help if it will...



SCORE

THE STEPFATHER (1987)
3.5 Howls Outta 4


THE STEPFATHER (2009)
1 Howl Outta 4


WINNER:
THE STEPFATHER (1987)



THE STEPFATHER (1987) Trailer


THE STEPFATHER (2009) Trailer

6.15.2011

The B-Movie Bungalow Presents: Piranha (2010)

DIRECTED BY
Alexandre Aja

STARRING
Elisabeth Shue - Sheriff Julie Forrester
Steven R. McQueen - Jake Forrester

Jerry O'Connell - Derrick Jones

Jessica Szohr - Kelly

Adam Scott - Novak

Kelly Brook - Danni

Ving Rhames - Deputy Fallon

Christopher Lloyd - Carl Goodman

Genre - Horror/Comedy/B-Movie/Cult/Remake/Killer Animals

Running Time - 88 Minutes


Last August, I reviewed one of the most popular "Animals Run Amok" films called PIRANHA. Directed by future THE HOWLING and GREMLINS director Joe Dante, 1978's PIRANHA was pretty much a Roger Corman produced B-movie that capitalized on the success of Steven Spielberg's 1975 blockbuster smash, JAWS. PIRANHA, while nowhere as great as JAWS, still manages to be a good time even 33 years later.

PIRANHA was a success when it was released, managing to maintain a higher quality of watchability compared to other JAWS ripoffs out there. It even had a sequel in 1981 called PIRANHA II: THE SPAWNING, which was James Cameron's directorial debut [in name only really, as he was fired two weeks into production due to conflicts with producers]. In 1995, PIRANHA was remade for the Showtime Network, starring William Katt, Alexandra Paul, and a young Mila Kunis. It's not a great remake and you wouldn't be missing much if you haven't seen it.

Last year, a second remake was released to erase the bad taste the first remake had created, plus make money for the struggling Dimension Films as the studio capitalized on both the remake and 3D trend [even though it had planned to be a 3D film even before 3D became a fad after AVATAR]. PIRANHA 3D, directed by HAUTE TENSION's Alexandre Aja, was released towards the end of the Summer movie season to better-than-expected success. The 3D effects, done after the film was shot, looked decent and even enhanced the enjoyment of the film at parts. The real question was if PIRANHA 3D would work well in regular 2D as well for the home video market. Suffice to say, PIRANHA (2010) is still a fun time no matter how you watch it.

PLOT
JAWS' Matt Hooper (Richard Dreyfuss in a fun cameo) is ripped to shreds by prehistoric piranha after an earthquake releases them from where they've been hiding. As the piranha continue to travel through Lake Victoria in Arizona, Sheriff Julie Forrester (Elisabeth Shue) asks her son Jake (Steven R. McQueen) to babysit his little brother and sister. Jake, being the teenager that he is, just wants to party as Lake Victoria is hosting Spring Break festivities.

Lucky for Jake, he gets recruited by Derrick Jones (Jerry O'Connell), who is the creator of a porn video series similar to Girls Gone Wild. Derrick hires Jake as a "sand-rat", meaning he wants Jake to take him on a tour of the lake to film some scenes for his latest film. Jake pays off his younger siblings $60 to stay home and out of trouble while he sails with his crush Kelly (Jessica Szohr) and two of Derrick's porn stars (Kelly Brook and Riley Steele).

In the meantime, Sheriff Julie and Deputy Fallon (Ving Rhames) find Hooper's corpse, wanting to know what happened to him. They accompany some divers (Adam Scott, Dina Meyer, and Richard Chavira) to the quake's epicenter hoping to find some answers. After two of the divers take a look and are eaten by piranha, Julie, Fallon, and Novak capture one of the fish. They take it to a local pet shop owner named Mr. Goodman (Christopher Lloyd), who knows a thing or two about piranha and explains that this type of piranha was thought to be long extinct and very dangerous. Realizing that there are more of them out there, our protagonists must stop them from ruining Spring Break and eating the tourists.

REVIEW
PIRANHA 3D is nothing but a dumb, entertaining time that's more about boobs and gore rather than telling its audience a heart-warming story that will bring a tear to a fan's eye. In fact, while it does take some moments from the original PIRANHA, this remake is also a silly homage to JAWS - even taking some of its score and creating visuals that are similar to Spielberg's classic horror film. It knows what it is and never takes itself seriously at all - which makes it a great B-movie/exploitation flick.

Discussing the narrative to PIRANHA 3D is probably moot since this film is not about the story at all. Still, every film does need some sort of narrative and should be talked about. PIRANHA 3D has a pretty simple plot: A quake releases ancient and deadly piranha - Spring Break is taking place where the piranha were released - horror ensues. Everything else is just a bonus. The simple plot is done very well, as we understand exactly what's going on and what will eventually occur from the moment the piranha are released [which happens right from the first scene without hesitation]. We could ask how these piranha survived for so long. We could question how no one else felt this earthquake besides Matt Hooper - an earthquake that was strong enough to open the ocean floor and release supposedly extinct fish. We could even scratch our heads at the coincidence of the timing of this attack during a huge tourist season like Spring Break. But this film doesn't require you to ask questions. In fact, you're not supposed to. PIRANHA 3D is a film where you leave the brain at the door and just take it for as it is. Things happen in the film just because they do. This may be a problem in other films, but if you have that issue with a movie called PIRANHA, then you need to take that stick out of your ass and learn how to enjoy a film without questioning every motive. Even with its lack of logic and random happenings, the film still makes sense and works in context of how it's presented to the audience.

The characters in PIRANHA 3D aren't really developed much, but neither were the ones in the original. In fact, the purpose of all these characters is just for one reason: fish food. Sure, some of them have to live but we know most of them are here just to be torn apart by CGI fish. And that's more than fine here. Still, we do relate to some of the characters in bits. Jake's love for Kelly [and vice-versa] is set up well enough that we get that these two like each other. Jake's demand to save his siblings after they're stranded on the beach, because he's a good brother and because he doesn't want to get in trouble with his mom, shows that he's an actual human being surrounded by more cartoonish characters. Even the porn star, Danni, is given humanity as she flirts with Jake, yet realizes his feelings for Kelly and tries to push them together. And even though he's a caricature, Derrick's frat boy behavior is funny and endearing. He loves porn. He loves sex. He loves making money and taking every opportunity to make some. He also has the best dialogue in the film, which makes him pop out from the rest of the characters. He's not someone we can completely relate to, but we do understand where he's coming from regardless. I'm probably looking deeper into the characterizations than one probably should for this type of film, but when I see it, I'm gonna write about it. And even though PIRANHA 3D is silly fluff, there is some depth within the massive shallowness of it all.

PIRANHA 3D is really about moments, and this is where the film shines. The Matt Hooper cameo at the beginning is a great throwback to JAWS and its fans, bringing that character full circle to end things in a silly way. The underwater scene where Kelly Brook and Riley Steele are swimming, performing some sort of lesbian ballet [even while "The Flower Duet" from Lakme plays] has nothing to do with the story or even moves the film forward. But it's memorable because of how out of place it is and PIRANHA 3D probably wouldn't be the same without it. As a matter of fact, many of the moments involve nudity. From that wet T-shirt contest, to that girl who is paragliding with her jiggly boobs flopping around, and especially to the moment where the piranha bite off Derrick's penis where the piranha fight over it and end up spitting it out in disgust are great. The coup de grace, however, is the Spring Break scene where the piranha just maul the partiers in vicious ways. It's similar to the original's scene at the camp, but done with more gore and blood - as well as giving us a moment of one panicked partier getting her hair tangled to the propellers of a boat and getting it yanked so hard that it pulls the skin off of her face in one swift motion. That's the fun with PIRANHA - watching these stupid people get destroyed by fish and by each other's selfish needs, with nudity being a huge plus. That's why this film exists to begin with, and since it justifies it, how can I complain?

As a matter of fact, gorehounds will LOVE this movie. The SFX team and make-up people did a really great job visualizing the terror the piranha puts their victims through. We get people with missing skin, missing limbs, a blue lake that turns blood red with each attack, two girls sliced apart by cables that get loose, Eli Roth's head gets sliced off by a boat, the girl who gets her skin ripped off by her hair, and a piranha coming out of a victim's mouth after it chewed its way through her. Let's not forget Ving Rhames using the motor of a boat to kill some piranha, plus the explosion [which was taken from the original] at the end. There's something for everyone here. As for the look of the piranha, they look pretty stupid and unrealistic. As a matter of fact, they'd fit right in an Asylum production. But that's really the point, so I'll let it slide. And of course, the best SFX are the boobs we see throughout the film - well for me anyway. I'm surprised the MPAA didn't try to ban anything from this film before it was released to theaters. There were a lot more extreme things than most theatrical horror films are usually allowed to get away with here, especially during a "conservative" time like now.

The direction by Alexandre Aja isn't his best work [I prefer his direction on HAUTE TENSION and his 2006 remake of THE HILLS HAVE EYES], but it's still a well-directed film that showcases the B-movie level of goodness PIRANHA 3D is trying to promote. The editing is a bit weird, especially when prolific characters just disappear out of the blue without an explanation [Paul Scheer's character is a big one] and when a scene goes into another scene as almost if I'm watching different movies in one. But the cinematography is very beautiful and the pacing is well-executed [it feels much shorter than 88 minutes]. While not a scary movie, there are genuine moments of tension and suspense, especially during the Spring Break Massacre scene and the final act with the Forresters. I always liked Aja's work, even in lesser films like MIRRORS. He's done three remakes in a row. Hopefully his next film will be an original piece.

The acting in PIRANHA 3D won't win awards, but it does what it's supposed to: create entertainment. Elisabeth Shue, still looking as hot as ever after all these years, does well as Sheriff Julie Forrester. She still continues to be a presence on screen and you're drawn to her even during lesser moments. Her talents are way above a film like this, but she always takes her work seriously and does so here. Steven R. McQueen [grandson of acting legend Steve McQueen] is decent as Jake. He's not the greatest young actor I've seen, but he carries much of the film well and he's convincing enough to make an appealing lead. I think the character deserved a more nerdier actor, but what can you do? Jerry O'Connell is the star of the film as porn director, Derrick Jones. He's so over-the-top and such a bastard that you can't help but love him. The moment where he loses his penis is just hilarious. Kelly Brook is great as the porn star with a heart of gold. She looks great naked too. Jessica Szohr is okay as Kelly. She really didn't do much for me really in terms of acting. Ving Rhames is just okay as the deputy. He doesn't really get much to do really. Adam Scott isn't given much to do either but does well with his role as Novak. Christopher Lloyd brings 'Doc Brown' back through his short appearance as Carl Goodman. Plus we get some nice cameos by Richard Dreyfuss, Dina Meyer, Paul Scheer, Eli Roth, and Ricardo Chavira, as well as some porn stars in Gianna Michaels, Ashlynn Brooke, and Riley Steele. A really diverse cast but it somehow works.

THINGS I'VE LEARNED WHILE WANTING MY OWN UNDERWATER SEQUENCE WITH KELLY BROOK

- Matt Hooper got caught in a whirlpool, which caused his boat to tip over and left him prey for piranha. You'd think after 35 years, Matt would have gotten that bigger and stronger boat.

- Danni is a "wild, wild girl". That means you'll be itching while your pee burns after she shows you a "wild" time.

- "Show a girl a camera and she will perform." I blame whoever created the camera for giving us Paris Hilton and those Kardashian reality shows.

- "It's not cheating if it's with another woman." I've been saying that to my ex-girlfriends for years! Rules are there for a reason, ladies...

- The piranha bit a victim in the ass and ate the rest of her. Like Sir Mix-A-Lot, they don't want none unless you got buns, hun!

- The piranha took Derrick's penis. Talk about pulling a muscle!

- Jake, not listening to his mom and refusing to babysit his siblings at home, had to deal with the killer piranha. Looks like the hell that comes with ADVENTURES IN BABYSITTING run in the family!

THE FINAL HOWL
PIRANHA 3D is silly, stupid, and just a good ol' fun time. If you're looking for something with substance, this film is not for you. But if you're looking for a great popcorn flick for 90 minutes, this remake fits the bill. I think both the original and this remake are worth going out of your way to see if you're a genre fan. Hell, try and seek out the 1981 sequel as well if you love your killer fish movies. Even though it's being made by different people, I'm still looking forward to the sequel, PIRANHA 3DD, this November. Hopefully it'll be entertaining as this one.


SCORE
3.5 Howls Outta 4


Related Posts with Thumbnails