The 500th Review: The Warriors (1979)

Walter Hill

Michael Beck - Swan
James Remar - Ajax
Dorsey Wright - Cleon
Brian Tyler - Snow
David Harris - Cochise
Tom McKitterick - Cowboy
Thomas G. Waites - Fox
Marcelino Sanchez - Rembrandt
Deborah Van Valkenburgh - Mercy
Roger Hill - Cyrus
David Patrick Kelly - Luther
Lynne Thigpen - D.J.

Genre - Cult/Action/Adventure/Crime/Drama

Running Time - 93 Minutes

Well it's finally here - my 500th review since I started blogging in 2006. That's a lot of words, a lot of time, and a lot of great support by all of you who continue to read, comment, like, and share my posts. Always appreciated.

For this review, I wanted to finally discuss a movie that I have been wanting to talk about for years now. It's one of my favorite films - a film I still believe was misunderstood at the time but appreciated now by the pop culture with its comic books and video games adaptations. It's a film, in my opinion, epitomizes how a cult film is defined. It's definitely a film that not everyone will like, but I feel was way ahead of its time. That film is THE WARRIORS. Can you dig it?

In a distant future in the crime-filled city of New York, all the New York City gangs have gathered to The Bronx to listen to Cyrus (Roger Hill), the leader of the most powerful and respected gang in the region - The Gramercy Riffs. At this meeting, Cyrus commands the gang-filled audience, wanting a truce between all the gangs. Cyrus feels that combining forces could help each of them grab a piece of the city, with no cops being able to stop them. While the crowd cheers in agreement, Luther (David Patrick Kelly), leader of The Rogues, decides to fatally shoot Cyrus.

The gunshot alerts the police, who are dying to get their hands on some gang members. As the gang members get away from the chaotic area, Luther frames The Warriors for Cyrus' death. Hearing this, other gang members begin to chase after The Warriors. In an unfamiliar place with so many people against them for something they didn't do, The Warriors must find their way back to Coney Island - hopefully alive.


THE WARRIORS is one of those films that may not be technically perfect in terms of cinema, but puts a smile on my face anytime I watch. It's kind of campy. The oddball group of gangs are memorable. The dialogue is quotable and quite silly. And the fight and action sequences are very charming in an exploitative sort of way. It may not be CITIZEN KANE, but I could care less about Rosebud at this point. THE WARRIORS want to come out and play-ay...

THE WARRIORS was originally a novel written by Sol Yurick in 1965 about gang life in New York City, which at the time wasn't the most fun or safest place on earth. Yurick was inspired by the Greek tale of Xenophon's Anabasis, which is about 10,000 Greek mercenaries who were stuck in Persia after the death of Cyrus, the leader of an army these mercenaries had defeated. The mercenaries' leader, Xenophon, led his troops through enemy territory in order to reach the safety of the sea.

THE WARRIORS follows this narrative pretty close, creating a dangerous adventure that not all The Warriors manage to survive or succeed. That being said, the narrative is very simplistic and could turn off those looking for something with more depth, storyline-wise. THE WARRIORS is a "chase movie" on the surface, with the characters mainly walking, running, fighting, and getting into subway cars to escape peril. I know people who find this boring and wish the film was more than just gang members walking and fighting each other, but they obviously can't see beneath the surface that THE WARRIORS isn't really about the simple story. It's about the things around it that enhance the story that make it the classic it is today.

THE WARRIORS greatest feature is its characters. The names of some of the characters represent either their personalities, or come from mythology of some sort to give you an idea on who these people are. Without their names, or even their appearance, you wouldn't know much about these people since we don't get any backstory or any explanation as to why the future looks this way and how these characters got to the place they're in socially.

Obviously Cyrus was taken from Xenaphon's Anabasis as the leader who was murdered to trigger the chase narrative. He's the leader of the biggest gang in New York City - a man who wants to bring all the gangs together in a peaceful manner in order to achieve a complete takeover of the city from the police who want to stop them. In a way, he's a mix of both Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X - having a logical vision that will help everyone involved get what they want. Unfortunately, he's killed and his death triggers the events of the film.

The members of The Warriors also have names that reflect their characters somewhat. The group's leader, Cleon, is named after someone from Greek history - a man who was against the Greek aristocracy. This explains why he agrees with Cyrus' vision - the only way his group will gain power is by joining others and overthrowing those in charge who are against each and every one of them.

Cochise, obviously named after a very famous war chief of the Apache tribe, dresses as a Native American and is one of the gang's best fighters. Cochise is translated as having "the strength of an oak" - which Cochise displays quite well.

We have Swan, who becomes the group's leader after Cleon. His name represents several things. For one, Swan is probably the most handsome member of the group, as the swan is considered a bird of beauty and grace. The swan is also considered the bird of the underworld, which makes sense due to the expression "swan song" used when something is finalized. Not surprisingly, Swan is the one who leads his gang out of the darkness and back to Coney Island, where there's sunshine and tranquility.

We also have Ajax, a name taken from Homer's The Iliad. While not having much in common with that character, Ajax is impulsive and a loose cannon. Rembrandt is obviously named after a Renaissance painter. And his name reflects the fact that he's the sensitive one of the group and the gang's graffiti artist, tagging the gang's name all over the place. Fox is the smart, sly one who tries to get the gang out of dangerous situations. Unfortunately, this leads to his own death [something I'll get to shortly]. We also Snow, who's the laid back and cool member.

And then there's Mercy, a former member of The Orphans who gets taken in by The Warriors after she follows them and helps them get back home. Mercy is an interesting character, especially when it comes to her name. She picks on The Warriors at the beginning, trying to instigate a battle between her gang [The Orphans] and The Warriors. When The Warriors want none of it, Mercy follows them, possibly sensing the code of honor within the gang and wanting to be a part of that [or something in general]. She sees the group as her way to move up in status within this society. Even though she's a nuisance and gets the gang members in more trouble than not, The Warriors are still willing to deal with her and protect her. In a way, The Warriors grant Mercy "mercy", eventually bringing her into the fold when she proves her loyalty to them. While there are other female characters in the film, Mercy is given the most depth and has one of the more interesting character arcs in the film.

Since we don't know any of the characters' backgrounds, we get to know them through their actions during the film. We watch Snow and Ajax argue over how to proceed with their escape. Snow wants to do it as quietly and calmly as possible, while Ajax wants to fight his way through. It's obvious from this who manages to make it to their destination. Women in the film also give away to good character development. Like in a lot of stories dealing with mythology, women are considered seductive and dangerous, luring men with the idea of sex and love that only leads to their doom at the end. Fox's exit is due to protecting Mercy. Ajax's exit is due to trying to force himself on a woman in a park, who just happens to be an undercover cop. And several of The Warriors are taken in by an all-female gang called The Lizzies, seducing them into a fun night involving making out, drinks, and music. Only one of them, Rembrandt, isn't interested in any of it - implying that Rembrandt may be a homosexual [even Ajax calls him out on it once in jest earlier in the film]. Also, when the group is in trouble, they all have each other's backs, even while separated. They're obviously a family and it shows during the film.

The other gangs, while not as focused on The Warriors, are all memorable due to their different appearances. The Lizzies are the female gang. The Baseball Furies are dressed in baseball uniforms, have face paint in the design of a baseball, and use baseball bats as a weapon. The Rogues, led by Luther, are the troublemakers and the instigators - the natural enemies of The Warriors. The Gramercy Riffs are the biggest gang, with like 100 members who seem to know karate and take no prisoners. They lead the other gangs around, rather than doing the work themselves. The Orphans are the lower class gang, who are outsiders and not even invited to the huge gang meeting earlier in the film. They're not respected by other gangs and treated as afterthoughts. The Hi-Hats are dressed like mimes. The Punks battle while wearing roller skates and overalls. They also have the best action sequence in a subway restroom against The Warriors and Mercy. There are other gangs as well, as the film is filled with colorful characters you'd want to know more of.

The greatest character in the film is obviously New York City itself. The first shot of the film is the Wonder Wheel - Coney Island's famous ferris wheel. We get sequences involving the subway, which were grimy, dirty, and all graffiti-ed up back in the day. We get shots of areas in The Bronx and in Brooklyn. 1970s New York City was a very dangerous place, which would probably surprise younger New Yorkers or tourists who see a cleaner and brighter looking city. It creates a ton of atmosphere and danger to the story, because this New York is a very unpredictable place. In many scenes, there are no characters other than The Warriors around, making the city look deserted when it's usually the opposite. When the city is on display, it's used to enhance the mood and tone of the story and film in a positive way. I think if THE WARRIORS was filmed in a different city, it wouldn't really feel the same.

The music in THE WARRIORS is great. We get the classic synth score by Barry De Vorzon. We get the classic "In The City" by Joe Walsh. We also get a cover of "No Where To Run" performed by Arnold McCuller. The D.J. in the film, who also acts like the film's narrator somewhat, plays some great jams on her station. Wish I could say that about radio these days...

The direction by Walter Hill is fantastic. Hill creates a futuristic world [that doesn't look futuristic at all] with a ton of style and a hint of surrealism. In the Director's Cut, Hill added comic book style transitions to give the film a graphic novel feel he wanted right at the start, but couldn't due to budget restrictions. While a lot of people felt this shouldn't have been added to what was considered a good movie, I think it actually enhances the fantasy of the story, making THE WARRIORS feel more special and unique than it already was. The cinematography by Andre Laszlo is beautiful, giving the film's visual life through its framing, composition, and even colors. The way the film is lit is great, as THE WARRIORS mainly takes place during the night time - yet everything is still vivid, as if the film is trying to say that you can always find a bit of light in a shroud of darkness.

Hill also has a great hand at creating some nice tension and urgency through the action sequences and the drama that unfolds. This could have been just a film about gangs trying to kill each other for whatever reason. But through Hill's story and vision, THE WARRIORS is really a tale of self-discovery and realizing that there's something more out there if they're willing to step back and look for it. Through editing and perfect pacing [separating the thrills and the quieter moments well], Hill allows the audience to watch the members of The Warriors to grow and mature. It's just a great feature and one of Hill's best, if not THE best.

The acting in THE WARRIORS won't garner any sort of awards anytime soon. But it's more than decent and the actors don't distract from the film at all. In fact, most of the acting is campy and entertaining. Some do stand out, however. Like Michael Beck, who is excellent as Swan - The Warriors' leader. He's subtle and quiet in the role, possessing a calmness that contrasts with the more animated and aggressive performances that surround him. Beck gives Swan an aura of mystery that's intriguing, and I like that. On the flip side, James Remar is great as Ajax. Remar goes all out as Ajax, creating an arrogant, aggressive, and explosive character who feels he should lead the group. Remar gets some of the best lines in the film, alienating his fellow peers and anyone else who will listen. Out of everyone in the film, Remar would later have the more profiled acting career. It's easy to see why judging by his electric performance here. Deborah Valkenburg is also great as Mercy. On paper, Valkenberg's character has the most development, but she adds more depth through her acting. This could have been a very annoying character depending on who was playing her. But Valkenberg has sex appeal and confidence that makes Mercy appealing. And the acting highlight probably belongs to David Patrick Kelly as Rogues' leader, Luther. He's just a loon and a scumbag that you have no choice but to like the guy. He makes Luther a character you can't trust or feel comfortable around. With three bottles and knocking them together shouting, "Warriors...come out and play-ay-ay...[which was completely ad-libbed]", Kelly created a pop culture icon that first comes to mind whenever THE WARRIORS is brought up.

Special mention goes to Thomas G. Waites as Fox. His performance is decent, but it's what happened behind-the-scenes that's more interesting. Apparently Waites was only on set for eight weeks of principal photography due to being difficult on set and always arguing with Hill about the direction of his character. This changed the script to THE WARRIORS majorly, as Fox was supposed to be the love interest of Mercy while Swan would have a different arc involving a gang called the Dingos. Due to his difficulty, Waites was killed off, which left Mercy and Swan becoming the love story of the film. It would have been interesting to see how the film was originally intended, but that's show business for you.


- The Warriors hear that Cyrus is considered the "one and only". I hope it's not referring to either Billy Ray or Miley. There will be some achy breaky hearts ruining this party in the U.S.A. if that's the case.

- The Gramercy Riffs are the biggest gang in New York City. They must be huge P.J. Soles and The Ramones fans.

- Mercy tried to instigate tension between The Warriors and The Orphans. I would like to say she did that because it was her time of the month. But in her case, she'd probably be dead for bleeding 365 days a year.

- The Warriors were afraid of the bat carrying Baseball Furies. Understandably, since they were wearing replicas of Yankees uniforms. It would have been laughable if they ran away from guys dressed like the Mets...

- Swan won an exciting baseball bat duel against one of the Furies. He must have learned those awesome moves during his strange trip to XANADU.

- Ajax has anger, sexual, and prejudice issues. And he's later surprised that his son became a serial killer who's obsessed with collecting blood samples?

- Swan was being chased by a gang with roller skates. Yep, he's still in XANADU.

While controversial upon its release [for no reason], THE WARRIORS is one of those cult films that still works extremely well today as it did back in 1979. It's not perfection on a technical sense, but as far as entertainment goes, only a few films can top it. Atmosphere and mood compensate for a simplistic narrative, while the direction and acting create a charm and appeal that will please. I'm probably overrating this film, but it's one of those gems that puts a smile on my face every time I watch it. I can definitely dig THE WARRIORS, Cyrus. I can dig it.


4 Howls Outta 4


Iron Man 2 (2010)

Jon Favreau

Robert Downey, Jr. - Tony Stark/Iron Man
Gwyneth Paltrow - Virginia 'Pepper' Potts
Mickey Rourke - Ivan Vanko/Whiplash
Sam Rockwell - Justin Hammer
Don Cheadle - Lieutenant-Colonel James Rhodes
Scarlett Johansson - Natalie Rushman/Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow
Samuel L. Jackson - Nick Fury
Jon Favreau - Happy Hogan
Clark Gregg - Agent Phil Coulson

Genre - Action/Adventure/Fantasy/Science Fiction/Comic Books

Running Time - 124 Minutes

Continuing from the conclusion of 2008's IRON MAN, Tony Stark (Robert Downey, Jr.) has revealed to the entire world that he is Iron Man. Within six months after the announcement, Iron Man has proven his existence could be the beginning of stabilizing world peace. However, the United States government, led by Senator Stern (Garry Shandling), and the United States military, including Tony's best friend Lt. Col. James Rhodes (Don Cheadle, replacing Terrence Howard), feel that Iron Man is too dangerous of a weapon and should be in the custody of the government.

While Tony is dealing with the government, he learns that the arc reactor technology that keeps him alive is now poisoning his bloodstream, slowly killing him. His narcissism is now ten-fold to hide his pain. He makes his assistant, Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow), the new CEO of Stark Industries. And pushes his Rhodes away by getting drunk and having an Iron Man/War Machine fight with him.

Tony also has to deal with a rival weapons manufacturer named Justin Hammer (
Sam Rockwell), who will do anything to destroy Stark Industries. There's also the presence of  Russian scientist Ivan Vanko (Mickey Rourke), who blames the Stark family for what happened to his father. Vanko decides to make his own weapon suit to destroy Tony as Whiplash.

On top of all this, Tony is still getting bothered by S.H.I.E.L.D. director Nick Fury (
Samuel L. Jackson), who wants Tony as part of his "Avengers Initiative". There's also the distracting presence by secretary Natalie Rushman (Scarlett Johansson), who seems to be helping Tony for reasons more than just a steady paycheck.


- The cast. IRON MAN 2 is inferior compared to the 2008 origin story that proved that Spider-Man, Superman, The X-Men, and Batman aren't the only superheroes that could work when adapted to the big screen. But the cast are still solid in their roles for the most part, which makes IRON MAN 2 a more than watchable sequel.

Robert Downey, Jr. may still be the greatest casting for any superhero, as he's still fantastic as Tony Stark/Iron Man. He looks like the character. He acts like the character. The man is a presence in every scene he's in, due to his massive levels of charisma, humor, and comedic timing. He's awesome, especially when he makes the script better than it actually is. Gwyneth Paltrow does what she can as Pepper, given less to do in this sequel even though she has her own arc. But she and RDJ have good chemistry and she's always a welcome presence in the Marvel Universe. Mickey Rourke is great as Ivan Vanko/Whiplash - when he's onscreen anyway, which is not as much as you would think considering he's the villain of the film. He brings a lethality to the role that the film needed more of. He does a close-to-perfect Russian accent and makes what could have been a one-note villain into someone we care about. Rourke takes Vanko's pain and anger, portraying it convincingly. Even during moments where he just sits, the silent rage carries a presence. Wish he were in the film more.

Sam Rockwell is a highlight as the jealous rival, Justin Hammer. He's funny, arrogant, and even deviously nasty in his performance. He really fleshes out Hammer into a character we despise, even though we understand his motives. I hope he returns in IRON MAN 3 in some way. Scarlett Johansson is decent as Natalie Rushman a.k.a. Natasha Romanoff a.k.a. The Black Widow. She doesn't get much to do in order to flesh out her character in any way, but she's damn sexy in the role and has one of the best fight scenes in the film. She carries a confidence that makes her appealing on screen. She wouldn't have been my first choice for The Black Widow, but she grew on me as she appeared more and more. I hear she's a lot better in THE AVENGERS since she gets more to do. But she's welcome here. Samuel L. Jackson returns as Nick Fury, truly becoming the character and having great scenes with RDJ.

The only casting choice I'm in the middle with is Don Cheadle as Lt. Col. James Rhodes. Cheadle is a fantastic actor, but I feel that Terrence Howard was a better fit in the role. He brought a subtlety to the role that Cheadle doesn't really bring to the table. Still, Cheadle is good in the role, but something about his character felt off to me in the sequel. Not sure if that was the acting or the writing. Could have been both. Loved seeing Rhodes as War Machine though, no matter who the actor was behind the armor.

- The music. Even though some of the song choices were questionable in when and where they were used [a remix of Queen's "Another One Bites The Dust" feels kind of odd during a scene where two armored men fight], I did love the soundtrack. Besides the actual film score and Queen, we also get two AC/DC songs - "Shoot To Thrill" and "Highway to Hell". I'm sure there were others as well, but I had no problems with the soundtrack at all.

- The action sequences. Even though IRON MAN 2 isn't heavy on the action front [I'll discuss this more shortly], the action we do get is pretty awesome. I mentioned Black Widow's fight with Justin Hammer's guards earlier. We have the final fight that involves Iron Man and War Machine vs. Hammer's robot minions and Whiplash [although Whiplash gets taken out pretty quickly unfortunately] - where the special effects look great, especially the suits of armor. We also have the Iron Man vs. War Machine drunk fight at Tony Stark's birthday party. But the best, and most exciting one, is the sequence at the Grand Prix where Whiplash faces Iron Man for the first time. Just great choreography, stunts, and CGI. Good lord, do I love Tony's suitcase suit and how it comes together. Just a beautiful piece of special effects right there. When the film contains action, it's spectacular and thrilling. It totally brings out the geek in me.

- The direction. Although I feel his work on IRON MAN was a lot better, Jon Favreau still manages to keep the film together visually for the most part. The action sequences are tense, exciting, and never dull. The CGI looks very good. The editing is great. The cinematography is fantastic. Even the quieter moments are shot well, and are captivating to watch visually. I do think the pacing is a bit off at times, especially the middle "talky" section. But it picks up as the film heads towards its conclusion. It's a miracle how Favreau managed to glue all of the many plot lines together in a logical way, but he makes it work. That's why IRON MAN 2 is still worthwhile, even if it's inferior to IRON MAN.

- The plots. On the positive side of this topic, it's great that IRON MAN 2 has many storylines going on - because that keeps the film moving. The best ones in my opinion? I think the Ivan Vanko revenge subplot is handled well. We understand his motivations right from the start, and it builds logically until the conclusion. I think what's interesting about Whiplash is that he would rather show Tony's vulnerability to the world rather than just kill him. He wants Tony to suffer like his own father had suffered. It's more depth than what a usual super-villain possesses in this type of film.

I also dug the Tony Stark/Justin Hammer rivalry. The banter between the two characters is great. I love how Hammer tries to emulate Stark during his expos and interviews. I also love Hammer's part in Vanko's revenge indirectly as well. Each man has their own agenda and it's great seeing two villains use each other to get what they want individually. Hammer is one of the better characters in the film and I thought Rockwell gave him a ton of depth.

I also liked The Avengers stuff as well. IRON MAN 2 is really the first film of the five lead-in movies that really sets the notion of THE AVENGERS movie officially happening, which leads to a bigger role for Nick Fury and the introduction of Black Widow as a spy at Stark Industries. Fury's way of dealing with an uninterested Stark is great, and how Stark starts realizing that the Avengers Initiative could be a good thing is one of the more interesting storylines here. I also dug the appearance of Captain America's shield [which Stark uses to prop up an experiment without care] and the after-credits scene involving Thor's hammer, Mjolnir. It gets me excited for THE AVENGERS for sure.

- The plots. On the flip side of the coin, the abundance of subplots brings the film down. Like the case with many superhero films, there's too much going on.

We get Whiplash's revenge plot against Iron Man.

We get Justin Hammer's revenge plot against Iron Man.

We get Whiplash and Hammer backstabbing each other.

We have the set up for The Avengers.

We have Tony Stark dying from the element that's keeping him alive.

We have Pepper Potts struggling as CEO of Stark Enterprises.

We have Tony dealing with the sins of his father and coming to terms with the truth.

We have the government against Tony over who should own the Iron Man suit in the interest of world peace.

We have Tony and Rhodes struggling with their friendship, leading to Rhodes taking on of the Iron Man prototypes to become War Machine.

I'm probably missing others, but geez - that's a LOT of storylines to follow in a two-hour film. Because of this, certain characters get the shaft. Because of this, storylines don't get developed in the way they need to in order for them to be substantial in any way. I would have liked to have seen Pepper's struggle with being CEO of a large company and the fact that many people felt she was unfit for the role. We get a glimpse, but it isn't enough. Tony's death sentence is just an excuse for Tony to act like a prick to his friends and change the Iron Man suit a bit for merchandising purposes. Tony's want of his dad's acceptance was dealt with in the first film, so why rehash it? And how did Rhodes know how to use the Iron Man suit so well anyway? And why would he betray his best friend so easily, knowing he was doing more good than harm? A lot of these issues needed more time to develop, but it's hard to do that in such a short time. With two heroes, two villains, and stuff that's there to set up for a bigger feature, IRON MAN 2 is clogged down by too much [or is it too little?] plot.

- Not enough action. I don't mind a comic book adaptation that would rather focus on the story than on the action sequences. The first IRON MAN was like that as well and it worked. IRON MAN 2 contains some very good action sequences with great CGI effects and energy. But the film does feel longer than it should because there's just too much story. The story should segue into the action and vice-versa, enhancing each other to create a good pace and a memorable tale of good vs. evil.

We get the first action scene about a half-hour in. The second one occurs an hour in. And the final one is 100 minutes in. There's just too much space between the action, which drags some of the film down. People expect an IRON MAN film to have more action than this, especially when the origin tale is finally out of the way to allow these sequences to be more of a focus.

I'm not saying the film needed to be 100 percent action. I feel there should have been an action sequence near the beginning of the film and maybe short bursts of action while the story-focused scenes played out. IRON MAN and IRON MAN 2 are pretty much the same length, yet the first one seems a lot shorter than the second. That's because Favreau combined the story and the action in the right way in the first film, allowing the pace to flow naturally. The second film seems to drag at times, because there's just too much story that needed some exciting action to pick up the pace a bit.

Even though it's a disappointing sequel in terms of the first one, IRON MAN 2 still manages to be good superhero entertaining for the most part. While there's just too much narrative and not enough action to really be all that exciting, some of the subplots are developed well, the action is fantastically done, the direction is solid for the most part, and the cast is great at their roles. Not the greatest Marvel Comics film, or the greatest pre-THE AVENGERS film. But it's still a good sequel that's worth your time. Let's drink to that.

3 Howls Outta 4


Popcorn (1991)

Mark Herrier
Alan Ormsby

Jill Schoelen - Maggie
Tom Villard - Toby D'Amato
Derek Rydall - Mark
Tony Roberts - Davis
Dee Wallace Stone - Suzanne
Kelly Jo Minter - Cheryl
Ray Walston - Dr. Malcolm Mnesyne

Genre - Horror/Slasher/Comedy/Cult

Running Time - 90 Minutes

Maggie (Jill Schoelen) is having trouble due to some bad dreams. She's been having some bizarre nightmares about some bearded dude whispering disturbing stuff to her - a dude she doesn't recognize. Trying to turn a negative into a positive, Maggie decides to use her dreams as ideas for a screenplay she's trying to complete. However, Maggie's aunt (Dee Wallace Stone) doesn't seem to share in Maggie's positivity for reasons made unclear.

Meanwhile, the film school she attends is trying to have a fundraiser by showing old B-movies that utilize 3-D and aroma gimmicks. While setting up, Maggie and her friends find "The Possessor" - an old film directed by Lanyard Gates. Gates is considered to be a drugged up hippie who lost his marbles, which led to the murder of a lot of people who were in attendance at the screening of the film. Gates also tried to murder his own family on stage, but was shot dead. Or was he? And why does Maggie feel connected to Gates?

As Maggie worries about her connection to the late demented director, her friends end up getting killed during the fundraiser while an unsuspecting audience enjoys themselves. Is Gates back and out for blood? Or is someone else behind the madness?



- The B-Movie homages. POPCORN is one of the first horror films to reference other films within its narrative, making our characters aware of the horror film rules and motifs. The film festival is based on B-Movies from the 1950s, especially the William Castle variety with different gimmicks involving sight, smell, and touch. And quite honestly, this homage to horror films of yesteryear is the highlight of this slasher film.

gives us three fake B-Movies, all of which are silly, campy, and so well done that I wish they were actual features. "The Mosquito" is the 3D film and it feels as if it were made during the era of 1950s science fiction films. The dialogue, the way it's shot, and the acting all feel authentic. We only get clips of the film, but each time it played, I looked forward to more. "The Attack of the Amazing Electrified Man" is the film where the audience would get randomly shocked in their seats anytime the monster would attack. It's obviously a riff on THE TINGLER, but the black-and-white look made it seem like it was made during those classic monster movies. And "The Stench" is the aroma film, basing itself on Japanese monster films. I thought some of the shots shown were pretty funny and cool.

, while a slasher film made long after its boon during the early 1980s, seems to embrace the B-movies of the past wholeheartedly. There's nothing wrong with that at all, as the fake films presented seem to have been made with a ton of heart and professionalism. They were the best part of the film for me.
- The cast. While the acting isn't the greatest ever, the charming cast help keep POPCORN afloat through its flaws. Jill Schoelen, best known for her work in 1987's THE STEPFATHER, does well in the role as the Final Girl, Maggie. She apparently replaced another actress in short notice, but you couldn't really tell by her performance. She does what she can with the material and helps carry the film pretty well. Dee Wallace Stone and Ray Walston are pretty wasted in bit parts, but do what they can with what they're given. The late Tom Villard is way over-the-top as Toby, but I enjoyed his performance. He gave the film a ton of energy whenever he was on screen, and really had the most depth out of all the actors and characters in the movie. He was the most memorable out of all the actors. Kelly Jo Minter, of SUMMER SCHOOL and A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 5: THE DREAM CHILD, has some standout moments - especially one where she kicks some guy's ass. That was pretty funny. Derek Rydall is decent as Maggie's boyfriend, Mark, giving the character some sympathetic notes. Plus, he had a falling and tripping gag that ran kind of old after a while. I think if the script was better and the actors had more to do, the acting would have been outstanding. But for what it is, it's more positive than negative.

The villain. I won't spoil the mystery for those who have not yet seen POPCORN, but I actually dug the villain here. Just a really batshit crazy character with an interesting way to get around undetected. The voice impersonations and the awesome facial masks to cover their true appearance is pretty rad. I'm sure the villain was inspired by more personable villains, like Freddy Krueger, who used great one-liners to become majorly popular and likeable. The villain here isn't that memorable or anywhere near Krueger's league, but I liked the character and his/her motives. The film was a lot more fun whenever he/she appeared.

The murders. For a slasher film, POPCORN isn't particularly gory at all. In fact, the film was pretty much a low budget affair, so I'm sure special effects weren't exactly a priority. But the way the characters do die are pretty nifty in their own way. Someone gets impaled by a giant mosquito during the screening of the film it's inspired by. We get a gassing and an electrocution [in an electric chair] as well. Not a really violent film, surprisingly since this is a slasher, but I thought that the deaths were cool because each one occurred as the film they were inspired by were playing in the theater. It was a nice touch, I feel.


- Direction and tone. From what I've read, there seems to have been some behind-the-scenes trouble when it came to who directed POPCORN. Alan Ormsby, who was the screenwriter for 1972's CHILDREN SHOULDN'T PLAY WITH DEAD THINGS and DEATHDREAM, also was the screenwriter for POPCORN, as well as the film's original director. After Ormsby shot some of the footage, he decided to leave [or was replaced, said by some] the director's chair, which allowed PORKY'S actor, Mark Herrier, to direct the rest. Ormsby was the man responsible for directing the three B-movie segments, which are quite honestly the best looking parts of the film. They all have the right tone for the eras each film are inspired by, as well as the best cinematography as well. It would have been great to see Ormsby direct the entire film, because I'm sure it would have come across better.

That's not to say that Herrier's direction is completely terrible. Some of the editing is good. Some of the shots are stylish, especially during the murder sequences and scenes involving the villain during the last half of the film. However, compared to the B-movie segments, the real plot line is pretty much directed in a generic way that doesn't really allow for much tension or suspense. The visuals aren't as shot as tightly as they could possibly be, and the cinematography isn't all that great either as the film looks grainy and darker scenes needed a bit more lighting. It's competent enough, but there was potential for more.

What also hurts the direction is the uneven tone. Is this supposed to be a serious horror film? Or is this a campy B-movie with silly, throwaway characters and a hammy villain? It never really balances the two out, confusing the viewer on how they should react to the film. Is POPCORN fun to watch? Sure. But it would have been a lot more fun if the film played it straight, as Maggie's plot had very serious and creepy undertones. It would have been fun if it was completely campy, where we don't take anything seriously and the characters are kind of in on it. Hell, a great director would have been able to balance the two in a way that you barely notice the different moods the film wants to build. But Herrier isn't the director to make that happen [
not sure if Ormsby is either, but his experience probably would have improved the final cut]. It's like watching Maggie in a thriller while everyone else around her is acting as if it's a comedy. Plus the musical interludes [with the reggae band - the film was made in Jamaica] ruined the flow of the film for me, even though I did enjoy the music in the film. It doesn't really work for me.
- Narrative too localized amongst main characters. I don't think the narrative, or the screenplay itself, is terrible. In fact, it has a lot of likeable and charming qualities. The fact that the killer goes after the film students behind the fundraiser is a logical plot that POPCORN did right. It's a slasher and that's the template of this sub-genre. The film students, besides Maggie, should be in fatal danger to set Maggie up as the Final Girl. POPCORN does that well.

However, you have a group of people inside the theater who are completely oblivious to what's going on. They're never in danger. They're never fearing for their lives. We, as an audience, can tell that none of them will probably die because the killer isn't focused on them. And that's an issue I kind of have with
POPCORN. I think if this was meant to be a horror film, everyone should have been in serious danger by this villain. Why would he just kill the film students? Isn't the audience supporting this fundraiser too? They should also be victims of this person's madness.

Take a look at 1985's
DEMONS. Everyone was in danger at that theater. Yes, you knew who the main characters were and why they were there. But other audience members were victims of the demonic attack that plaqued that showing. Hell, I think the horrors of the movie experience were done better in 2008's MIDNIGHT MOVIE. At least that had a tone I could identify with and all the audience members were pretty much screwed by the film's villain. That's what POPCORN needed to really raise it from average to good. There's really no threat here and I never felt that "anything, to anyone, could happen". Maybe that's due to a restricted budget, but the idea should have been there anyway.

Bland characterization. It doesn't help that POPCORN has really underdeveloped characters. To be quite honest, most of them were interchangeable. We had the slutty girl. We had the nerdy guy. We had the buff boyfriend. We had the tough girl. But other than those stereotypes, I had no idea who these people were. When that happens, I start to tune out and not care. I don't mind stereotypical characters as long as they have some sort of personality, or if the actors are trying to give them more depth than they probably deserve. Neither one is present here. I just felt indifferent about these people and didn't really care if the killer got them or not. They were neither interesting or annoying. They were just there for me, and that's never good. They were in the film because they had to be there to raise the body count. Luckily some characters were interestingly enough to keep me watching, but the supporting characters could have used a tiny bit more substance for me to react to them in a positive or negative way. My reactions were stuck in limbo, unfortunately.


While flawed, the underrated POPCORN is still a decent film that deserves some appreciation for its attempt to create something fresh in the horror scene of the early 1990s. The uneven tone, the average direction, and the dull supporting characters hurt the film. But POPCORN has some decent acting, great homages to classic B-movies, interesting methods of murder, and a villain who happens to be the highlight. POPCORN is a film that could use a remake of some sort, which could probably lead to a supplemental DVD/Blu-Ray package that it definitely deserves. Just above average POPCORN here. Could have used more butter, in my honest opinion.

2.5 Howls Outta 4


The Incredible Hulk (2008)

Louis Leterrier

Edward Norton - Dr. Bruce Banner
Liv Tyler - Dr. Betty Ross
Tim Roth - Emil Blonsky
William Hurt - General Thaddeus 'Thunderbolt' Ross
Tim Blake Nelson - Dr. Samuel Sterns
Ty Burrell - Dr. Samson
Paul Soles - Stanley

Genre - Action/Adventure/Fantasy/Science Fiction/Comic Books

Running Time - 113 Minutes

After getting Dr. Bruce Banner's (Edward Norton) transformation into the Incredible Hulk due to high levels of gamma radiation through an experiment, we find Banner in Brazil working in a factory that bottles beverages. Brazil is Banner's hideout, as he's evading the search made by the United States Army, led by General 'Thunderbolt' Ross (William Hurt) - who the experiments were conducted for. After some of Banner's radioactive blood accidentally is ingested by a customer who bought a tainted bottle from the factory, Ross sends a squad to go after him, led by the power-hungry Emil Blonsky (Tim Roth). Even though Banner had tried to suppress his anger with many techniques to keep his alter-ego in check, the ambush on him pushes him over the edge and into The Hulk, who can't be stopped by bullets or any other military weapons. Banner manages to escape, realizing he needs to go home in order to find a cure for his 'disease'.

When Banner returns to the States, he hides for a while until reuniting with his lost love, Dr. Betty Ross (Liv Tyler) - who also happens to be 'Thunderbolt''s daughter. Even though she tried to move on from Banner's incident and disappearance, she still has feelings for him and goes along to help him find a cure. Betty's allegiance with Banner paints 'Thunderbolt' into a corner - as he wants to protect his daughter while attempting to stop Banner from spilling any secrets that will hinder his plan to use gamma radiation as a weapon. Realizing that he needs someone special and strong to stop Banner, 'Thunderbolt' decides to inject Blonsky with some special super soldier serum that turns Blonsky into something of an Abomination.


- A new direction. The character of Dr. Bruce Banner/The Hulk has been a part of pop culture since his debut in 1962. Not only is he one of Marvel Comics' most popular comic book characters, but the character has starred in multiple cartoons and the insanely popular television show starring both Bill Bixby and Lou Ferrigno as Banner and The Hulk respective from 1978-1982. The same cast also starred in three television films in the late 80s through the early 90s.

In 2003, the character was finally given the big screen treatment with Ang Lee directing Eric Bana as Bruce Banner and Jennifer Connolly as Betty Ross. While THE HULK was a decent success, it wasn't the blockbuster studios and audiences were expecting. It's a shame because I'm probably one of the few who didn't mind the more character driven and introspective version of the character, although I do agree that the film should have had more "HULK SMASH!" One day I'll discuss this film in more depth, as it's one that will spark a debate in comic book fans.

Realizing that THE HULK wasn't the most fitting movie for their powerhouse character, Marvel decided to buy the rights of the characters for their own studio feature that would later tie in for this year's THE AVENGERS. Hiring TRANSPORTER 2 director Louis Leterrier and signing intense actor, Edward Norton to star in the lead role, 2008's THE INCREDIBLE HULK was meant to act as a reboot for the character in a more action-filled and traditional comic book manner. And while it made pretty much the same as Lee's 2003 film, most fans prefer THE INCREDIBLE HULK due to its energetic and fast paced style.

THE INCREDIBLE HULK is a mix of THE FUGITIVE meets DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE, with its chase narrative and the drama Banner struggles with as he attempts to keep his moods in check. While the story doesn't have much character development, especially in terms of the supporting characters, it makes up for it by presenting what the fans want - The Hulk smashing stuff and kicking ass. There's no origin story here, besides what's presented in a cool opening credits montage, so the rest of the film is allowed to present something different - or retro, as it's pretty similar to the structure of each episode of the television show [which I'm sure was intentional]. We see Bruce trying to find a cure, the military attacking him, The Hulk is unleashed due to Banner's anger over his situation, The Hulk kicks ass, and it repeats with slightly different variations. Nothing really wrong with that, to be honest. It's what most of us would expect out of a Hulk film, so I can definitely dig the narrative.

is mainly focused on Banner, as it should be, so he obviously gets the most depth. His struggle to get rid of the monster rather than control it is a great drama plot device. We watch him do meditation. We watch him avoid any sort of confrontation. We even see how sexual activity effects him in a negative [and interestingly human] way. Banner is obviously a victim of his experiment gone wrong, wanting to do the right thing by laying low, but can't due to outside forces wanting him found dead or alive. The cat-and-mouse chase between Banner and General Ross is great because it gives both characters personalities and something active to do. Ross wants the Hulk contained for his own selfish reasons [he doesn't want his part in it exposed while wanting to create more of The Hulk as a personal army] while conflicted over protecting his daughter, who has feelings for Banner. Betty is more of the stereotypical girlfriend role, but she has enough spunk to be something besides the generic damsel-in-distress. I thought the love story aspect was typical, but still worked due to the chemistry between Norton and Tyler. All three characters present a cliche dynamic that becomes interesting when one of them is really two people in one.

And then we have Emil Blonsky, who manages to be a formidable foe for The Hulk. With or without super powers, Blonsky manages to keep The Hulk on his toes and finally gives the character someone powerful to battle against. I thought Blonsky didn't have much of an arc, other than he wanted to be like The Hulk due to his power, but it's great to see him evolve from a proud soldier into a genetic freak known as The Abomination [one of the Hulk's greatest villains]. Add in Dr. Samuel Sterns [who later becomes The Leader], and you got a good Hulk flick here. The story isn't perfect and follows the template we're already used to, but it's what the fans wanted and that's fine by me.

- The acting. None of the acting is spectacular, but it gets the job done. Edward Norton [who also co-wrote the film under a different name] does well as Bruce Banner. He brings a level of sympathy to the character in a very realistic and natural way. Plus he's a pro at the action scenes as well. It's a shame he wasn't asked back to play the role in THE AVENGERS, but Norton wasn't exactly proud of this film's final cut. I'll get into that shortly. Liv Tyler does what she can as Betty Ross. She doesn't get a whole lot to do, but she has nice chemistry with Norton. William Hurt is a bit bland as General Ross [I thought Sam Elliott was a lot better in the 2003 film], but he didn't do a terrible job as a whole. Tim Roth hams it up as Emil Blonsky. I love it when he plays a villain and he played a nice foil to Norton. Tim Blake Nelson almost borders on annoying as Dr. Samuel Sterns, but he isn't in the film long to get to that point. Ty Burrell is just there as Dr. Samson. And the cameo by Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark is fantastic and a great way to tie the Marvel Universe together. Not the best acting in a superhero film, but they made the most out of the material.

- The direction. Louis Leterrier is a director who is more style than substance, but it works well for THE INCREDIBLE HULK. His visual style has a ton of energy and the action sequences are very impressive and exciting. The pace of the film is quick, as it just builds and builds towards it's action-packed climax. The editing is a bit iffy at times [some shots seem to be cut before they should be], but Leterrier does a great job keeping the film visually stimulating and watchable. A definite departure from Ang Lee's style, but one that seems to fit the franchise a lot better.

- The "Lonely Man" theme. In a great homage to the television show [besides the cameo by Lou Ferrigno and the short TV clip of Bill Bixby], the "Lonely Man" theme that played during the end of the show plays every once in a while as Bruce Banner tries to find a new place to hide. It's just a nice touch of respect by the filmmakers that made me feel all nostalgic.

- Not enough depth. While it's great that THE INCREDIBLE HULK has a narrative that enhances the action stuff, the film could use some more substance when it comes to certain characters and situations. Betty Ross doesn't really have much to do and is really just there for the love portion and to show people that someone can calm down The Hulk. Nothing more, nothing less. Betty is an interesting character because of her relationship and devotion to Bruce Banner. More scenes with her father would have been nice to really explore their relationship. Also, why did Betty forget about her relationship with Dr. Samson all of a sudden once she laid eyes on Bruce again? It was like it never existed, even though the two seemed more than chummy. It feels like something was edited out there. Very weird.

General Ross also had his inconsistencies. One moment he wants Bruce/The Hulk dead. Then he feels bad because Betty is in love with Bruce/The Hulk. But then, he uses people in her life to rat on her whereabouts to find Bruce to shut him up. He'll attack areas without question, even though it could kill anyone around him. You're never really sure what the guy's real deal is. He's so conflicted in terms of his actions, that he ends up coming across as confusing and not realistic. They either needed to make Ross a real bastard who didn't care who he was hurting as long as he achieved his goal in stopping The Hulk, or he's a concerned father who's doing his best to protect his daughter and everyone else from what he considers a threat to himself and others. The middle doesn't really work here.

I thought Emil Blonsky, while a cool villain, was a bit one-note at times. He seemed to be about just one thing [power] and that doesn't really make for an interesting character. Also, what was up with the dude who drank that contaminated bottle? What happened to him after he ingested the beverage? Did he become Hulk-like as well? It just seemed to disappear. I also thought the last shot was pretty lame too. It seemed to contradict with the rest of Banner's goal.

Apparently, a lot of the narrative misfires was due to conflicts between Edward Norton and the studio. Norton, under the name Edward Harrison, added lines of dialogue and extra scenes during each day of the shoot to accommodate for his character and the plot devices around him - about 30 more minutes worth [and the film is already too long at 113 minutes]. Norton took out the characters of Rick Jones and the presence of S.H.I.E.L.D., while adding scenes involving the flower that proved to be a failed antidote. A scene involving Captain America trapped in a block of ice was also deleted. The edits made, due to what the studios wanted, angered both Leterrier and Norton because they wanted a longer film that would create more character development. But when the studios wanted a film less than two hours, Norton decided not to really promote the film during the film's release. Whether the case, you can tell some sub-plots were shortened or taken out entirely as you watch the movie. It doesn't really hurt the film in a really terrible way, but it would have been interesting to see what a longer cut would have looked like.

- The CGI. Now I understand that both The Hulk and The Abomination have to be CGI effects because of the characters' looks. But at least make the special effects look as close to realistic as possible. Did I like the final battle between The Hulk and The Abomination? Sure. But it's kind of hard to take seriously when I'm watching two computer generated characters beat the crap out of each other, while CGI helicopters try to shoot down one of them. But like I said, I understand why it's used and it's better than the CGI used in THE HULK. But it just looks so obvious compared to its surroundings, making it seem funnier than what's probably intended. From what I've seen, the CGI in THE AVENGERS looks much more realistic - so applause for improvement. It looks as good as it can, I guess. But even some of the locations look computer generated. I'm a fan of practical effects, but the CGI isn't totally terrible. But it's somewhat distracting at times. Still, it's better than watching a bodybuilder covered in green paint kicking ass. It may have worked in 1978, but it wouldn't have in 2008.

THE INCREDIBLE HULK is a flawed film, but still manages to be entertaining and very watchable nonetheless. The character development could have been better. Some of the continuity is questionable. It could have been ten to fifteen minutes shorter. But there's a lot to like, especially Edward Norton's performance, a simple to follow narrative, energetic direction, and a nice homage to the television show. It's not as good as IRON MAN and/or THE DARK KNIGHT, both of which were released the same year, but still manages to be good popcorn entertainment.

3 Howls Outta 4


The Cabin in the Woods (2012)

Drew Goddard

Kristen Connolly - Dana Polk
Chris Hemsworth - Curt Vaughan
Anna Hutchison - Jules Louden
Fran Kranz - Marty Mikalski
Jesse Williams - Holden McCrea

Genre - Horror/Comedy

Running Time - 95 Minutes

Normally, you would see the normal format with PLOT and REVIEW here. But it takes a special kind of film to throw that out entirely. And THE CABIN IN THE WOODS is that film. Reviewing it and discussing it in depth would just ruin it for those reading who are interested and/or haven't watched it yet. Let's just say that the posters and trailers really don't show you much of anything of what the film is really about - and that's a great thing. THE CABIN IN THE WOODS is an experience and an interesting way to look at horror films past, present, and even future.

Even though I won't discuss the plot, I will say that Joss Whedon has done it again with his screenplay [which was co-written by director Drew Goddard]. I went into THE CABIN IN THE WOODS expecting a pretty normal horror-comedy with the usual twist at the end to cap it all off. But I was pleasantly surprised by the twists, turns, and the usage of the cliche conventions horror films have grown stale by that were turned on their head to become witty, clever, and almost unrecognizable. Every time I thought the film would go one way, it went to a totally different direction I could not see coming. The film repeatedly does this and you realize that this horror film is a lot smarter and different from the usual suspects. The characters are stereotypical on paper, but due to the situation presented, are given a ton of depth and are very likeable. Even the antagonist(s) is/are really well-written. I also loved the homages to other classic horror films and characters. Sure it had plot holes here and there [supposedly done purposely for a planned sequel in mind], but they never really bugged me while watching. I was on a ride and I had fun. That's all that matters.

The direction by Drew Goddard, who also wrote CLOVERFIELD, is great. Lots of stylish shots. Cinematography by Peter Deming was great. The pace was fast, as the film just builds and builds until its finale. The editing was fantastic and clever, jarring the audience from going to one scene to a totally different one in form of juxtaposition. The action sequences are exciting, while the murder sequences [while not scary] are a bit creepy and tense. It's not an overly gory film [until the end] but it's more than enough to satisfy those who have a blood lust when it comes to horror. There are a lot of subtle fourth wall references that are visually presented as well, which makes the viewing audience a lot of fun. THE CABIN IN THE WOODS could have gone off the rails due to its complex narrative. But Goddard manages a tight ship and should be commended and respected for putting together a visual feast.

The acting is more than solid here. Each actor and actress play their part to a tee. There are definitely highlights, which I won't share due to this review being a non-spoiler. But all the people involved 'got it' and played to it extremely well. No one in this cast bugged me. They all had a purpose and were great in making it happen. There's also a great cameo in the final act as well.

THE CABIN IN THE WOODS is said by some to be the end of how we look at horror films. But I feel it's a new beginning of a genre that definitely needed a kick in the ass to make studios and audiences realize that there's still a lot of originality left to create something different for true horror fans. Whedon and Goddard have crafted an incredibly smart and inventive film with sharp satire that's clever. It didn't scare me in the slightest, but it sure made me laugh at how genius the premise was. The less you know about THE CABIN IN THE WOODS, the better you are. This film is an experience that will surprise you in a good way. I 'got' what this film was trying to express and I appreciated it. I don't think I could recommend a modern horror film as much as THE CABIN IN THE WOODS. Dammit, I want to visit this one again now. So, so good.

4 Howls Outta 4


Cabin Fever (2002)

Eli Roth

Rider Strong - Paul
James DeBello - Bert
Cerina Vincent - Marcy
Joey Kern - Jeff
Jordan Ladd - Karen
Giuseppe Andrews - Deputy Winston Olsen
Arie Verveen - The Hermit

Genre - Horror/Comedy/Virus

Running Time - 93 Minutes

In a woodsy area, a hermit (Arie Verveen) finds his dog lying motionless, all bloodied. When the hermit checks on his beloved pet, a burst of blood squirts on the hermit's face. Unknowingly, he has been infected with a flesh eating virus.

Meanwhile, five college buddies - Paul (
Rider Strong), Bert (James DeBello), Karen (Jordan Ladd), Marcy (Cerina Vincent), and Jeff (Joey Kern) - are headed to these very woods for a weekend of anticipated debauchery at some cabin. After some relaxation and partying, the infected hermit [now decomposing and spitting up blood] approaches the group asking for help. Being scared, selfish, and afraid to catch whatever this guy has, the group lock themselves into the cabin refusing to help and accidentally setting him on fire instead.

The group feels various levels of guilt for what they've done to the hermit, but all agree to find help in order to get home safely. Unfortunately, the hermit died in the river - which leads into the water supply. That means the virus has now spread, unfortunately to the water drinking group back at the cabin.


- The gore. Even though CABIN FEVER had about a million dollar budget, KNB EFX Group deliver some memorable shock moments. We get a lot of bloody moments, especially infected people coughing blood all over the place. Plus there's a lot of body horror as well, as the skin of the victims get destroyed by the flesh eating virus. We get decayed faces, ugly rashes all over the body, and the infamous scene where Cerina Vincent shaves her legs to the point that she peels the skin off of them. It's not the goriest film ever, but it does it job to unsettle and make the audience cringe.

- The inspirations/homages. Eli Roth, while writing CABIN FEVER as he was working on  the film PRIVATE PARTS as Howard Stern's human alarm clock, was obviously inspired by some of his favorite horror films from the 1970s and the early 1980s. We get the redneck characters from DELIVERANCE (1972) and THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE (1974). We get moments going to the cabin in the woods from 1982's THE EVIL DEAD. One of the character's exits is lifted from the profound ending of 1968's NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD. We have the paranoia theme from 1982's THE THING. We got a dude in a bunny suit that reminded me of that creepy and weird scene from 1980's THE SHINING. Plus, David Hess' song, "Wait for the Rain", from THE LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT (1972) can be heard in the film as well. Some may say he's stealing from better films to create this movie, but I think Roth genuinely wanted to pay homage to those classics by creating a modern horror film. It's not original in anyway, but it works for me as he doesn't insult these inspirations at all.

- The acting. Not the greatest in the world, but the cast tries hard and portray their roles quite well in context of the narrative. Rider Strong, formerly of Boy Meets World, does well as Paul. He's no Shawn Hunter here, as he plays the role straight and is quite likeable. He saves the smugness for some of the other actors in the film. Jordan Ladd does well as Karen. She's nice to look at and played the best friend/object of affection believably. James DeBello is pretty damn annoying as Bert, but that's the character for you. Cerina Vincent is the stereotypical slut with a conscience and is good at it. Joey Kern was great as the douchebag, Jeff. Giuseppe Andrews is pretty funny as Deputy Winston, the one cop who would rather party than arrest anyone. Plus we get cameos by Eli Roth as the pothead Justin, Arie Verveen as the infected hermit, and a bunch of actors playing the hilarious redneck characters. I don't mind the cast at all.

- The direction. Eli Roth does a good job directing CABIN FEVER, his first feature film. There's a ton of style here, definitely inspired by his favorite horror films of the 1970s and 1980s. There's a lot of red filters used. We get some nifty POV shots. There's a great atmosphere that keeps you invested, especially when it helps create suspense and tension. The cinematography is cool, as it looks grainy like older horror films. There's a lot to like visually about CABIN FEVER. Roth definitely has a great eye when it comes to horror. You can definitely tell this was directed by a fan.

- The stereotypical characters. While this can normally be a bad thing due to lack of real depth to the main characters, it actually makes CABIN FEVER a fun watch. Each character is an archetype horror character, which is to be expected in the genre, but Roth writes them all well. Paul is the nice guy/best friend who has a crush on his girl-next-door best friend. He's pretty level headed and tries to keep the group together, making him the defacto leader and the one that figures out everything. There are some things he does that are questionable [I'll get to that in the next section], but he's pretty much the typical hero for the most part. Karen is the girl-next-door who wants to be best friends with Paul, but obviously likes him because he's a nice guy. She doesn't come across as a virgin or anything, but she's a regular nice girl. Bert is the annoying friend that you wonder why he's part of your gang, but he's there regardless. He likes to hunt squirrels for some reason and is just plain weird when it comes to social behavior. He's an annoying jerk, but there's always one in these kind of films. Marcy is the nympho who doesn't mind getting around with her male friends, but also happens to have morals as well. In a strange twist, she never turns into a bitch - which is a plus. Jeff is the friend who believes he's on a status higher than the others, making him the pompous prick of the group. His fear of germs and his lack of friendship make him a character you want dead right away.

We also have the funny deputy who just wants to party. Then he have the poor innocent hermit who gets infected. Plus we have the rednecks, especially Dennis. He's the weird kid who loves pancakes and enjoys biting people, which leads to bad results towards the end. I especially love the store clerk who has a strange appreciation towards the black community by calling them the N-word. A strange cast of characters that aren't original in any way, but they're written well enough to be mostly enjoyable.

- The subtext. While CABIN FEVER is a gory horror film on the surface, its strength comes from the themes behind the terror. The fact that the villain isn't a physical one, but rather a virus [a real virus to be exact - the flesh-eating virus] creates more dread and uncertainty, which strengthens the tension the paranoia brings to the film. In fact, the virus may be looked at how ignorant people view the HIV virus and the AIDS epidemic. The word "gay" gets tossed around quite a bit in this film, even by the female characters, as if that's a terrible thing to be a part of. Since AIDS was known as a "gay disease" in its earliest days, this doesn't seem like a bit coincidence. In fact, we're never really sure when CABIN FEVER takes place [even though we know it's modern], which helps create something timeless that could never be dated. When the group starts getting infected, they push each other away because they're afraid to catch what the other has. Since they don't understand what they're dealing with, they lash out at each other and segregate themselves for their own survival, which backfires at all of them when they start dying one by one. HIV and AIDS are still diseases that still make people behave today the same way they did back in the early 1980s, even though we have more knowledge about it. It's kind of ironic that some characters hide the fact that they have the disease, while others realize it during or after sexual relations. I may be reading too much into it, but the paranoia and fear of something that they can't understand or comprehend is something we all face in our every day lives. It's not too far of a stretch to think that Roth was using HIV and AIDS as sort of an inspiration for the subtext here, even though necrotizing fasciitis is a real disease that's scary enough on its own.

- The characters' actions. While I dig the characters, some of what they do makes it somewhat hard to like and/or respect them completely. While Paul does come across as the "hero" of the film, he does do some questionable things. For one, he finds out that his crush, Karen, is infected by fingering her genitals. This wouldn't be a problem, except for the fact that Karen is sick on her bed and Paul pretty much takes advantage of her in a subtle form of "rape". I always found this scene disturbing just for that reason alone. Also, Paul deals with Karen's disease by screwing Marcy, who screws Paul because Jeff treats her like crap. If I'm freaked out about the outbreak of some deadly disease, sex is probably the last thing I'm thinking about. That's just me though.

Also, the way the group treats others is pretty unlikeable. They put Karen in a shed, not wanting to deal with her infection to the virus. They also do it, believing that it's contagious and not wanting any part of it. Bert hides the fact he has it, running away and leaving his friends behind. Jeff covers his face and leaves his friends to deal with the virus on their own, disowning each one of them for being sick. Even before all this with the hermit, who only wanted help. I would be freaked out too, but to treat the man the way they did is pretty terrible. They pretty much try to attack him so he can go away. Yet, they don't mind some weird dude with drugs to stay around for a fun time. Nice to see they have common sense.

And the adults are no better. For authority figures and supposed figures of wisdom and experience, they decide to treat the disease by ignoring it and sweeping it under the rug. Or they'd rather party and not worry about it. I get that they had no idea how to deal with it because they were scared and unaware of what the disease was. But common sense says that if they were anywhere near the disease, they're probably gonna get it regardless of being ignorant or not. The characters are great because they all offer something different to the film, but some of their actions just left me scratching my head.

- The uneven tone. It must be hard to make a horror-comedy. It either tries too hard to be both scary and funny, or doesn't try enough and loses one or the other. CABIN FEVER is a little of both actually. There are some seriously funny moments in the movie. There are also some pretty creepy and cringe-worthy scenes as well. But it never manages to balance the two in a way that it's truly successful. CABIN FEVER both wants to be a legitimate R-rated horror flick, as well as a satire on horror cliches and societal issues. For a while, there's a ton of dread going on amongst the characters. Then all of a sudden, a really weird character will show up to add humor. If the film was tongue-in-cheek, this wouldn't be a problem. But the characters act seriously to their situation, which is why the audience takes it seriously. Adding bizarre characters to lighten the mood comes across as silly and distracting.

The ending itself pretty much says it all. I get why it's there, but it's just so absurd and silly that you wonder how the first 80 minutes led to that. CABIN FEVER has more slapstick and gags than necessary. I think if the humor was more natural in context to the horror, it would have worked a lot better. Instead, the film ends up being schizophrenic. I know a lot of people who are turned off by this film just for this reason alone.


- A kid named Dennis bit Paul's hand. The show was Boy Meets World, not Boy Eats World...

- Bert tried to shoplift a Snickers bar. I guess he was feeling like Winona Rider rather than himself.

- Bert likes to shoot squirrels. The guy is obviously nuts.

- One time, Bert's dog licked his balls and ass while he masturbated. Self love can be a bitch sometimes...

- The group exiled Karen after she got infected. It sucks not having good health insurance.

- Marcie skinned herself while shaving her legs. That Venus razor is definitely cutting edge technology.

- A redneck received a screwdriver to the head. Just be glad he wasn't a zombie. They really hate that.


CABIN FEVER is a good splatter flick that thrives on ambition and a love for the genre. The narrative and the subtext it uses are effective. The acting is good. The direction is solid. And the gore will make you cringe. For a low budget feature, it's an impressive watch. Too bad it tries to be too clever for its own good, pretty much destroying the great atmosphere the serious moments are trying to build [that final act almost falls apart because of it]. Still, it showed that Eli Roth made his stamp in the horror genre whether fans liked it or not. And after 10 years, the film still holds up.

3 Howls Outta 4

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