The WTF? Worst Films Extravaganza Presents: The Stay Awake (1987)

John Bernard


Shirley Jane Harris - Trish Walton
Tanya Gordon
Jayne Hutton
Heath Porter
Ken Marshall
Lindsey Reardon

If IMDB doesn't even know who plays who, that says a lot about this film.]

- Horror/Supernatural/Slasher/Demons

Running Time
- 88 Minutes

I had watched this a month ago and had planned for a
HIT and MISS type of review. But I pretty much repressed a majority of this film because it's pretty much garbage. So to write a detailed review about why you shouldn't see this movie is pretty much impossible at this point. Luckily during every film I plan on reviewing, I take notes about the film that help me remember important moments and where I make comments about what I liked and didn't like. So instead of a normal review, I'm going to post the notes I wrote for 1987's THE STAY AWAKE. Watch me go from interested to frustrated during the 88 minute run time.


In 1969, some American serial killer [
who murdered 11 girls] gets ready for the gas chamber during his execution. However, he's not all that concerned about death, as he claims he won't die since he's the Angel of Darkness. He's executed and that's that.

Unfortunately, his spirit returns 19 years later - in Europe [
?] where he invades an all girl's school. The girls are doing a Stay Awake [where the girls stay awake all night] to raise funds for their school. So while the girls and their teacher do aerobics, watch horror films, and make out with boys, the Angel of Darkness kills them one by one.


I have three words for THE STAY AWAKE:


I wish I had a time clock for these notes. I apologize for that]

- Opening scene: Killer sexually assaulted 11 women and murdered them. Gets death.

- Opening scene okay - edits between execution and victims.

- Somewhat eerie score and okay soundtrack with doowop, hair metal, and jazz.

- "Angel of Darkness" - goes from human voice to demonic one out of the blue

- Dies in 1969 American, travels to 1988 Europe - WTF? Why would he do that???

- St. Mary's Girls School - girls doing aerobics - uh huh.

- Aerobics scene is like 5 fucking minutes. What is the point of this?

- Travelling POV shots.

- One of the girls is scolded for being "
fat" - She's not and actually looks decent. [Bitches]

- Boombox explodes and melts. Ghost laughs.

- Girls watch a horror film on TV. Teacher joins them.

- More POV shots with growling and weird sounds.

- A rat gets killed for no reason.

- School reminds me of the "Total Eclipse of the Heart" video.

- More POV shots. Why not?

- Even more POV shots. Oh c'mon!

- Girls play dead to scare Ms. Walton. Scene plays out way too long.

- Four dudes enter film and trespass on school grounds.

- The Stay Awake is supposed to raise school funds - by doing what exactly?

- Girls playing volleyball. Sigh.

- "
It smells like the ass-end of a camel..." - LMFAO


- The worst thing these girls do: smoke cigarettes. Rebels.

- Cross on Ms. Walton's necklace scares the Angel of Darkness away.

- Girls shower scene. No nudity whatsoever. What's the point? Could have made this film better.

- Another POV shot, this time done in Sam Raimi

- Goof: One girl in shower wearing something covering her breasts. Great direction, numbnuts.

- Old man on grounds gets heart pulled out of his chest. It still beats afterwards.

- Girls talk about sex and boys. I thought this film was called
THE STAY AWAKE, because this is boring me to sleep?

- The Angel of Darkness sounds like a mix of a crying baby and a meowing cat. I don't know if I should be disturbed, or laugh my ass off.

- Use of slow motion.

- Hose wraps around one girl's neck and kills her.

- Demon pops up. Strangles Alison's boyfriend with a tentacle.

- Ghost appears in human form with red eyes. Kills Alison, who looks like a man.


- Expository dialogue about Alison and Jason. Abortion and stuff. Why is this necessary?

- College boys dress in costume to scare girls.

- Angel of Darkness kills the college boys in demon form, strangling them with tentacles. One boy gets head squashed into the wall.

- Two other girls get murdered, I guess. Bad editing.

- Token black girl finally says something 61 MINUTES into the film, where she's been in since the beginning of the film.

- Token black girl runs away from group. She's grabbed by a tentacle but the cross on her necklace save her life.

- Token black girl asks for help. Ms. Walton and the other girls don't seemed bothered by her pleas. They leave her behind and go the opposite way. Stay classy.

- Girls don't seem to respond or react believably when the Angel of Darkness addresses them out of sight. FUCK THIS SHIT.

- The Angel of Darkness melts a phone. This movie is melting my brain.

- More POV shots. Fuck me.

- Dead girls become the Brides of Darkness. Um okay.

- Car explodes. I'm almost there.

- Girls decide to fight Angel of Darkness by hurling javelins towards him. Why do I bother sometimes?

- Fake ass puppet monster. Man in rubber suit.

- Fake ass puppet monster tries to burn Ms. Walton, but fails at his job.

- Ms. Walton, even though monster is chasing after her and trying to kill her, does a total costume change. Frizzed her hair too. REALLY??????

- Ms. Walton and the fake ass puppet monster don't behave realistically - almost robotic.

- Killed fake ass puppet monster with acid supposedly.

- Nope, still alive.

- Ending DRAGS.

- Demon gets burnt to a crisp.

- Girls are okay with what they just experienced, smiling and laughing. HUH?

- Love song plays during the end credits. FUCK THIS MOVIE.


Avoid THE STAY AWAKE like the plague. Don't stream it. Don't rent it. Don't watch it. Just forget it even exists - unless you need a quick cure for insomnia. Just a God-awful exercise of boredom, misery, and frustration. For a film caled THE STAY AWAKE, it'll do the opposite. Absolute garbage.



Original vs. Remake: The Fly (1986) [Part 2 of 2]

David Cronenberg

Jeff Goldblum - Seth Brundle
Geena Davis - Veronica Quaife
John Getz - Stathis Borans

Genre - Horror/Science Fiction

Running Time - 95 Minutes

I originally had this Original vs. Remake review for both THE FLY (1958) and THE FLY (1986) planned for months now as a single post. But with both films being vastly different, even though they do have similar premises, I decided to separate the two reviews and give each film their spotlight. Here's the link to THE FLY (1958). Now let's conclude this OvR with the 80's remake.

TRIVIA: This version of THE FLY was my first theatrical experience during the summer of 1986 at the age of 5. What my mom was thinking taking me to see this, I'll never know. But this blog probably wouldn't exist if it wasn't for that experience, so thanks Mom!

Seth Brundle (Jeff Goldblum) is an eccentric and awkward physicist who is on the verge of creating something brilliant. He meets a journalist, Veronica Quaife (Geena Davis), at a party - who is searching for a huge story that will make her famous. After chatting with Veronica about some experiment he's been working on, she sees a major story and decides to befriend him. Taking Veronica back to his apartment, Seth shows her his invention - a teleportation system that can transfer one object to another location using pods. It only seems to work on inanimate objects, but Veronica is impressed enough to want to write an article about Seth's work. Seth tells Veronica to wait until he's able to figure out how to transfer living things, in which she could write a book about instead. Veronica agrees and the two become lovers.

After a while, Seth is able to transfer a live baboon through the teleportation system without an issue. Seth wants to try it on himself, but Veronica is sort of against it. Seth ignores her warning and attempts the experiment. Unfortunately, a tiny house fly enters the pod with him during the transfer.

The transfer seems successful at first, as Seth looks fine. However, Seth begins displaying abilities that no normal human should have, worrying Veronica. In one of Seth's wounds, Veronica finds hoarse hairs coming out of it. Taking it to a lab, she learns that the hairs belong to that of a fly. Seth scoffs at it, but soon his body begins to deteriorate as becomes less of a man and more of a human fly.


The acting. David Cronenberg's re-imagining of THE FLY works on so many levels, it's kind of hard where to start praising it. But I think if we have to start anywhere, it should be the acting, which really elevates the film for me. Jeff Goldblum, who I now can't watch in anything without thinking he'll regurgitate on someone, is excellent as Seth Brundle, and later Brundlefly. His quirkiness and awkwardness really gives Seth a ton of character and personality. This could have come across as cheesy and weird, but the fact that he overtalks and twitches in almost every scene makes him oddly charming, sympathetic, and likeable. Even as Brundlefly and he's corrupted by his "evolution", you still feel for the guy because Goldblum still keeps him human beneath the monster. I don't think Cronenberg could have had a better lead for this role. Goldblum shines brightly here.

Same goes to Geena Davis, who plays the typical girlfriend/damsel-in-distress role with a ton of depth and sympathy. Her portrayal of Veronica is great, because she's the character the audience will identify with the most. She's the one who witnesses Seth's transformation from quirky nice scientist to corrupted man-fly along with the viewer, becoming the audience's connection to the story. It also helps that Davis was dating Goldblum at the time, because they have a ton of chemistry on-screen and helps make their quick love story more believable than it should be.

And we also have John Getz in a smaller role as Veronica's editor and her ex-boyfriend. His Stathis comes across as the antagonist of the film, due to his jealousy of Veronica's relationship with Seth. But even in a supporting role, Getz gives a one-note character like Stathis a lot of depth and becomes sort of a hero in the film's final act, being the only one to help Veronica with Brundlefly.

I think the casting is top notch here and I love that it's a small cast. Cronenberg obviously wants the story and the visuals to be what people remember, and the actors' portrayals definitely enhance that.

The narrative. While still based on the 1957 short story written by George Langelaan and the 1958 adaptation starring Vincent Price, David Cronenberg and Charles Edward Pogue take the premise and really turn it on its head. In fact, the film is a character study of Seth Brundle. It just happens to turn into a horror story that'll depress and disgust you.

Having not watched THE FLY since I was a pre-teen, I never noticed until now that each act plays like its own genre. The first act, with involves Seth and Veronica meeting and falling in love, is like a romance dramedy. We meet the two characters right away and see their attraction for each other, which allows them to develop as characters from the start. We may not know much about their pasts and why they connected so quickly [if it wasn't for the acting, I wouldn't buy the love story so easily]. We also meet Stathis, who we learn is not only Veronica's boss, but her ex-lover, which creates a triangle of sorts. Allowing the first 30 minutes of the film to establish characters, locations, and especially what Seth has been working on gives THE FLY a more than solid foundation for the rest of the movie. With all these necessary things out of the way, it allows the real story to unfold without any distractions.

The second/middle act plays out like a twisted superhero film. As Seth starts realizing that his experiment has gifted him with certain abilities that aren't human, he begins to have fun with what he can do. He begins climbing walls. He begins having large amounts of sex due to his energy. He even breaks a man's arm during an arm wrestling scene that'll make you cringe. However, instead of being a happy, exciting moment, Cronenberg and Pogue turn it into a disturbing one. Seth becomes corrupt by his new abilities, in denial of the truth happening right in front of him as his body begins to decompose. He also loses Veronica [
who still loves Seth], which pushes her back towards Stathis.

This leads into the final act, which plays out like your traditional horror/monster film. Seth officially becomes Brundlefly, regurgitating on those standing in his way of keeping Veronica in his life, melting certain limbs. He also becomes more fly-like, easily climbing and leaping across buildings to kidnap Veronica and make sure she doesn't abort the baby [his baby] she's carrying. In a lot of ways, it reminded me of King Kong - kidnapping the love interest until the monster self-destructs as the human side wins out in the end. We also get more horror moments, like Veronica dreaming that she'll give birth to a larvae, and Brundlefly's skin falling apart to reveal a giant fly underneath. We don't get a happy ending and we don't know what happens to the other players in the film - until the unnecessary sequel, that is. Even as the film ends, both the characters and the audience are unnerved by what happened.

What also gives the narrative weight is the theme of THE FLY. While many have speculated that the film is about AIDS, although the disease was still very new and fresh in 1985/1986, Cronenberg has said that THE FLY is about the idea of mortality and aging. In a lot of ways, what Seth goes through could be compared to a man dying of cancer. It's as if the experiment he does on himself is a form of chemotherapy, and the treatments are destroying his body. Instead of dwelling on the fact that he's dying, he's enjoying the last days of his life as a human being and being selfish if he doesn't fulfill his final wishes. And Veronica has no choice but to watch the man she loves die in front of him, not knowing what to do and wishing she's not forced into the hand she has to play by the end of the film. It's sort of sad that Seth gets everything he had ever wanted in THE FLY. He gets the beautiful girl. who actually loves him no matter what he does or what he looks like. He creates a project that will immortalize him in the science world. This guy is the epitome of a success story, yet his obsession with his project ruins it all. THE FLY is a tragic tale, and that's probably the most horrific thing about it.

The screenplay works because you're never wondering why these characters do what they do, and why things happen. Everyone's motives are convincing and credible. It raises the human drama for THE FLY, which is why people still love this film today.

- The direction. David Cronenberg breathes new life into an old tale. Unlike the original film, Cronenberg creates a world of dread and bleakness - even during the happier moments. The film does have a ton of subtle style, letting the story and the acting visualize his script rather than weird angles and surreal images. I'll get into the special effects next, which help visualize the story, but Cronenberg directs THE FLY very straightforward and doesn't infuse a message that's all that hard to decipher, unlike some of his other films around this time. THE FLY is probably the Cronenberg film many people have seen the most, due to the fact that it's the most mainstream up to this point and easily accessible to audiences. The editing is sold. The cinematography is sort of gritty, which gives THE FLY interesting atmosphere. And the score by Howard Shore is brilliant and poignant, matching the story really well. The visuals just click in THE FLY, which makes it stand the test of time.

- The gore and special effects. Helping the direction are the awesome practical special effects and make up. Imagine being five-years-old and watching what you see in this film. Even today, I'm still disturbed by Jeff Goldblum's transformation from man to monster. Decomposing flesh, melting skin after regurgitation, finger nails being peeled off, teeth and ears falling off, and heads being blown off. Let's not forget that broken arm and that pull of the jaw that rips Seth's skin off to reveal a giant fly underneath. Just really gross "body horror" that leaves an impression on you. And it's all done wonderfully. I believe it when Seth climbs walls. I believe it when things get transferred from chamber to chamber. I believe it when Seth reveals to be a giant fly, which still looks awesome and creepy as hell. The practical effects really make everything look real and scarier. I'm sure if another remake is made, the effects will be all CGI, which would suck. THE FLY proves that practical effects still work better than most CGI these days - and this film was made 26 years ago. Just awesome stuff.


David Cronenberg's version of THE FLY still impresses almost 26 years later. The narrative is a tightly written character-study with a theme that still resonates today. The special effects are still believable and disturbing. The acting is just excellent, thanks to a small cast. And Cronenberg directs a mature film with subtlety, allowing the actors and story do the work for him. I was really effected by this film at 5 years old and it still effects me today, but for different reasons. Just a fantastic film and remake, proving that they sure don't make films like this anymore. Definitely recommended if you haven't watched this film for whatever reason. THE FLY won't bug you, as it's in a class all of its own. Still an amazing work of art.

4 Howls Outta 4


Original vs. Remake: The Fly (1958) [Part 1 of 2]

Kurt Neumann

Patricia Owens - Helene Delambre
Al Hedison - Andre Delambre
Vincent Price - Francois Delambre
Herbert Marshall - Inspector Charas
Charles Herbert - Philippe Delambre

Genre - Horror/Science Fiction/B-Movie

Running Time - 94 Minutes

I originally had this Original vs. Remake review for both THE FLY (1958) and THE FLY (1986) planned for months now as a single post. But with both films being vastly different, even though they do have similar premises, I decided to separate the two reviews and give each film their spotlight. So let's start with the 50's horror classic that started it all.

Helen Delambre (Patricia Owens) was at the scene of the crime of her scientist husband, Andre Delambre's (Al Hedison), murder - a crime she confesses to without much emotion. After trying to hide the reason why she committed the crime, she tells her brother-in-law Francois (Vincent Price) and a police inspector (Herbert Marshall) about Andre's secret scientific experiment - a machine that would transfer an object from one location to another by bringing down its atoms and rebuilding it at the second location. It works on inanimate objects, yet has issues doing the same with living organisms [proven when his cat is turned into atoms and never comes back in solid form]. Andre figures out the formula eventually, but decides to test the experiment on himself. Unfortunately, a house fly with a white head was inside one of the transport chambers during the time of Andre's transference, causing the two to merge...


- The acting. THE FLY is a classic sci-fi/monster film from the 1950s and still manages to get praised over 50 years later. The acting has a lot to do with that, as it's solid all around. Patricia Owens carries the film as Helen, the poor neglected, yet supportive, wife of Andre. Owens does a fantastic job doing a slow burn from loving and supportive wife and mother, to a woman who begins losing her mind due to what happens to her husband. I think I enjoyed her performance more when she was a little nutty, especially when she's serving police officers [who want to arrest her for murder] as if she's done nothing wrong. I also loved how obsessed she became whenever a fly came into the room. I really thought she did a great job.

Al Hedison is also great as Andre. I bought him as a family man, who can't help but be obsessed with his work. But it isn't until he becomes the man-fly hybrid that Hedison really gets to do his thing. I'll discuss the special effects later, but it's well known that Hedison does play the mutated Andre and portrays his torment as a human fly in a realistic way. You really feel the struggle Hedison gives Andre, as he attempts to maintain control from the fly portion of his brain. I hear two or three actors turned down the role due to lack of screen time and face time. Probably a good thing since Hedison does a great job in the role.

The big name in the cast is obviously Vincent Price as Francois, Andre's brother. I think a lot of audiences probably think Price is playing The Fly here, but he's in a secondary role and supporting the main cast. While his presence does take away from Owens and Hedison in a way, Price is really the heart and soul of the film. He has a tremendous presence and his voice captivates you in every scene. He also brings a kindness and grounds the film during the more emotional scenes. I do wish he were in the film more because he's great, but any Vincent Price is good Vincent Price. Also, we have some good performances by Herbert Marshall as Inspector Charas and Charles Herbert as the cute Philippe, Andre and Helen's son. Just a nice, small cast that really bring out the emotion of this sci-fi film.

- The direction. Kurt Neumann really does a great job with the direction of THE FLY. The film is very melodramatic throughout, which is great because the tone is very consistent and you buy whatever you're watching. It feels like a drama for much of the film's runtime, until we watch Andre conducting experiments that bring a sense of horror to the movie. In fact, Neumann does the film a favor by giving a slow build of dread and tension from beginning to end. You know something bad has happened and as you see why, the atmosphere gets thicker and more tense in each scene.

I liked the slow reveal of Andre's transformation as The Fly. At first, we don't see him. Then when we do, he has something covering his head and he's hiding one of his hands. Then he hides how he eats his food, which is mainly sugar. Then Andre reveals his fly hand. And then in a great moment when Andre has his guard down, Helen takes the cloth off of Andre's hand to reveal the fly head. I love the shot of Helen screaming and then the next shot that replays the scream, done in a kaleidoscope effect in the point of view of Andre's fly vision. Just a really cool visual set up there that is still effective today.

I also think the film looks absolutely stunning for 1958 standards. It was shot in CinemaScope, which used anamorphic lenses to create a widescreen presentation. Very colorful, except for the laboratory scenes, and framed/composed really well. It's a shame that Neumann passed away a week before THE FLY had its wide release. He never got to appreciate the classic he created. Neumann did a really impressive job with this big budgeted film [film cost between $400,000 to $700,000 in 1958 dollars, believe it or not].

- The story. THE FLY was based on a short story of the same name by George Langelaan that was printed in Playboy Magazine in June of 1957. While some things have been changed to create a smoother film experience for audiences, the narrative is pretty much the same. THE FLY is pretty much a variation of the Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde story, but told through the eyes of the scientist's wife - watching her husband transform with her own eyes since we barely watch his perspective of his change [only in short bursts]. While we do see Andre struggle after his DNA has been merged with that of a fly, it's really Helen's story. She's the one neglected. She's the one out of the picture when it comes to the truth. She's the one who tries to find the fly that accidentally got into Andre's experiment, becoming obsessed with that task. She's the one who sees Andre's transformation and helps him commit suicide. She tries to be the good wife. She tries to be the good mother. She tries to be the good sister-in-law. Helen is the one who has to deal with what Andre has done at the end. It builds her character quite a lot and we like her, because even through really bad times, she's still there for Andre wanting to help him become the man he once was.

Andre's role is the message of the film - playing God with science will only lead to terrible things in the end. His quest for knowledge and to make a mark in the world's future technological expansion leads him to his fate. His obsession with his invention may have financially aided his family, but he turns out to be a bad father and husband because he hardly spends time with them. Maybe his transformation is karma for not having his priorities straight. Either way, Andre's story is one of tragedy that leaves a lasting impression on his family [judging by the sequels that would result from this].

The story is fairly simple and straight-forward, but have great moments. From the family cat, Dandelo, becoming nothing but atoms that meow into thin air, to Andre's slow transformation into a human fly, to the constant search for the white-headed fly that Philippe caught but was forced to let go by Helen [a great moment of dramatic irony], to the ending itself, THE FLY is very memorable. The ending, in particular, is probably one of the most classic moments in the horror genre, as Francois and Inspector Charas prove Helen's innocence by finding a fly caught in a spider web that has Andre's head and human arm, screaming "Help me!" while a spider attempts to eat him. It leads to an interesting theme about the laws of life and death, concerning what would be considered murder, that seems to imply that killing any living thing is considered murder. THE FLY is a great story because we all have a quest for knowledge, which sometimes gets us into trouble even when it isn't planned. And especially during the 1950s, the idea of science and technology was a scary thing for many people. THE FLY reflects that a great deal.

- The special effects. While primitive compared to what we see today [or what we saw in the 1986 remake by David Cronenberg], I still think the special effects are still very cool all these years later. I thought the scenes where objects were being transferred from one pod to the next were shot and edited well, with cool lighting and sound effects. The fly head and the fly hand look great in my opinion. I like how the fly face twitches, making it look more creepy and probably scaring the bejeezus of people back in 1958. And the "Help me!" moment with Hedison's head on a fly body looks a bit fake, but I'm still impressed they pulled that off 54 years ago. Just a great visual presentation all around. It still holds up.

- A couple of subplots. While the narrative of THE FLY is great and works in both the original and the 80s remake, this version of THE FLY has some subplots that either seem forced or never go anywhere. While I appreciate what the message this film is trying to send to audiences for its time, there's an entire scene where Andre and Helen discuss the evils of science and technology that just seems so forced and ruins the film's flow for me. It's just so heavy-handed to me, especially when the film does a good enough job telling the same message without actually using dialogue. By having Andre turn into a fly and cause his wife and brother more grief than necessary, the message has already been made. Having three minutes where the characters discuss this seems unnecessary and unnatural. It's not the worst thing in the world, but I'm not a fan of that kind of storytelling.

Also, the love subplot between Helen and Francois never really goes anywhere. It's obvious from the start that Francois has feelings for Helen, which I'm not sure if she realizes or not. In a lot of ways, Francois is more of a husband and father than Andre is. I kind of wish there was more tension between the three characters in some form of love triangle, but it's not really what the story is about. Still, I kind of wish that angle for Francois was never in the story because it doesn't go anywhere, although the ending implies that something may happen. I guess in 1958, likeable characters couldn't covet their brother's wives.

The 1958 version of THE FLY is a classic for a reason - it has memorable moments, it has a great visual style, cool special effects for its time, a story that engages you, and solid acting by everyone involved. While there were things about the narrative that kind of bugged me, I still enjoy the hell out of this classic sci-fi flick and thing that every sci-fi/horror fan should check it out. No need to swat the original THE FLY away.


3.5 Howls Outta 4


When Wrestlers Act: The Chaperone (2011)

Stephen Herek

Paul "Triple H" Levesque - Ray Bradstone
Kevin Corrigan - Phillip Larue
Ariel Winter - Sally Bradstone
Annabeth Gish - Lynne
Yeardley Smith - Miss Miller
Israel Broussard - Josh
Enrico Colantoni - Dr. Etman
Jose Zuniga - Carlos
Kevin Rankin - Goldy

Genre - Action/Family/Drama/Comedy

Running Time - 103 Minutes

A former bank robber, Ray Bradstone (Paul "Triple H" Levesque) is released from prison years after his partners ditched him at the scene of some robbery. Reformed and wanting to start anew, Ray plans to make up time with his ex-wife (Annabeth Gish) and his daughter Sally (Ariel Winter) - both of whom don't want anything to do with him, fearing Ray will only disappoint them at the end again. When approached by his ex-partner in crime, Phillip Laure (Kevin Corrigan) about doing another bank heist, Ray reluctantly agrees to help.

During the actual bank heist, Sally is also on her way to a school trip in New Orleans. Realizing that the heist is a bad idea and would only send him back to prison, Ray ditches the mission and gets rid of the keys of the getaway car that he was supposed to drive. He decides to walk to his daughter's school bus [
that happens to be right in front of the bank that's being robbed] and appoints himself the school chaperone of the trip. Laure and his crew realizes that Ray has left them dry and without a car, tossing a bag of bank money onto the school bus where the rest of the luggage is stored. However, the bus leaves with the money, causing Laure and his men to chase it down while thinking of ways to get revenge on Ray - who spends the entire trip bonding with his daughter and protecting her from danger.


- The acting. Nothing about THE CHAPERONE is close to great or exceptional, but it does have its positives that saves it from being a completely terrible film. The first thing is the decent acting the movie contains. Say what you want about Paul "Triple H" Levesque in terms of his professional wrestling career and how he managed to sleep with and marry Vince McMahon's daughter to gain political power within the WWE. But he really isn't a bad actor and impresses here as Ray. He's quite likeable and hits the emotional notes quite well. He also handles the more action filled scenes as well due to his profession. He honestly deserved to act in a much better film than THE CHAPERONE.

The other actors are okay as well. Kevin Corrigan has a pretty generic villain in Larue, but makes the most of the part. Ariel Winter is a child actress that doesn't annoy me and has a spunkiness about her that was a bit endearing. Annabeth Gish and Enrico Colantoni are given nothing to do as Ray's wife and Sally's future stepfather, respectively. But they try their best. Yeardley Smith also isn't terrible as the teacher, Miss Miller. The teen actors were more than fine as well. It sucks that the script was pretty lame because the actors were ready to go here. But when you're not given anything interesting to do, it's hard to really sell the film. Still, the acting was the least of the film's problems and no one was bad at all. I think they all deserved better material here.

- The direction for the most part. Stephen Herek, best known for his directorial works on BILL & TED'S EXCELLENT ADVENTURE, DON'T TELL MOM THE BABYSITTER'S DEAD, and THE MIGHTY DUCKS, doesn't do a terrible job behind the camera. It's just not really the most interesting direction in the world. Still, he keeps the film together as well as possible, as the story seems to suffer with changes in tones and genres every half hour. The film is edited okay and the pacing is pretty quick besides certain scenes that try to be funny, but aren't by a mile. And the picture quality looks really great and professional, as this film seems to have had an actual budget to work with. Herek hasn't done great films as of late, but I don't blame him for dragging THE CHAPERONE down. Sometimes a director wants to compensate for a lazy script in vain, which is what happened here.

- The screenplay. Here is where THE CHAPERONE just fails - badly. Now before I really get into it, I just want to point out that this script is as predictable and cliche as it gets. A lot of people hate that, but in terms of this family vehicle, I'm okay with it. While I'll get into the marketing in a bit, I'm sure the demographic intended for this film are children 12 and under. So I doubt kids will expect surprises and twists and turns that will make the film extremely memorable. Kids just want to have a good time, and the way this screenplay plays out will probably achieve that.

Even so, the narrative forces its way to its predictable conclusion rather than things happening naturally. It's just lazy screenwriting 101 - I think even as a kid, I would have felt this script was dumb as a box of rocks. For example, when Ray helps Larue with the bank heist, his daughter's school bus just HAPPENS to be across the street. Wow, what a coincidence. Another coincidence? Putting the stolen money in the luggage carrier on the side of the bus that just happens to have Ray and his daughter riding on it! Oh my God...what irony! You know what's also ironic? The fact that when Larue gets to New Orleans, he happens to know people who will do his dirty work. And these goons happen to be like a few blocks away from the hotel Ray and his daughter are staying at! Gee, how is this possible? It's possible because it's stupid and things are made too easy for our characters. Don't get me started on the fact that the bag with the stolen money is identical to a student's bag, which causes a mix up of epic proportions! Hilarity ensues, y'all!

And for a film that's trying to be funny, it sure isn't. There's one moment in particular involving a universal remote control that's turning everything on inside Lynne's house as she's talking to Sally on the phone. It went on for like two or three minutes, and my only feelings on that scene were whether I'd miss anything besides several minutes of my time if I fast forwarded it. I guess the predictability and cliches are supposed to make audiences laugh, but it just ends up boring you and making you wish you were watching a better family film. Like KINDERGARTEN COP. Or HOME ALONE. Or CATCH THAT KID. You know...three films this film tries to be all at once and fails at each one?

You think I'm kidding? Ray acts like a cheaper version of Detective Kimble, disciplining the kids with some tough love at first. Then they warm up to him and defend Ray when it's believed he helped with that bank heist. And why would anyone think that? After all, it's not like Ray wasn't wearing gloves while driving the getaway car, his fingerprints weren't on the car keys, and his DNA wasn't all around the crime scene! Genius screenwriting!

As for the HOME ALONE similarities, the final act merges it with CATCH THAT KID, as the teens defeat the villains by setting booby traps for them as they trip and fall all over each other while using modern technology. Like I said, I don't know what genre this film is trying to fit into. Action? Family? Drama? None of them really seem to work for this one.

And then there's this recurring theme of Sun Tzu's The Art of War being referenced throughout the film. Ray says he read it in prison. The kids know what the book is. Apparently they use it to defeat the villains at the end. It just got annoying, as if the film was promoting the book rather than itself. Not to say it isn't a bad book to promote, as The Art of War is great. But once is enough. There's also a theme about dinosaurs, as Ray knows every fact about dinosaurs and happens to fill in for a tour guide that wasn't available during the trip. Things are just too coincidental to identify with, which makes THE CHAPERONE a tough film to sit through, even if it does try to be good.

The characters are no better really. Besides Ray, Sally, Larue, and maybe even Josh [Sally's crush], the others have no depth to them at all. I think the worst character was this really bitchy girl who was Sally's rival for Josh's affections. She was just annoying and her scene with her plump lips gone wrong wasn't funny at all. And she was there the entire final act. Just bad. Maybe younger people will enjoy this script more than I did. But I just thought it was stupid. It doesn't surprise me that the screenplay was written by a first time writer.

- Who is this film marketed for? It's bad enough THE CHAPERONE doesn't know exactly what genre it should be for much of its runtime. But I'm confused about the demographic this film is intended for. It's obviously clear that THE CHAPERONE is made for the younger set [those who probably watch The Hub or the Disney Channel] who'll find most of this stuff funny. But at lot of what goes on in the film is pretty adult as well. We get actual fist fighting, people using guns, and even a bit of bloodshed here. This stuff is not really suitable for kids, in my opinion. So I'm not sure who is supposed to watch this.

It's also marketed as a comedy, but comes across as more of a family drama than anything. It's like the screenwriter wanted to infuse every genre in an 103 film that would appeal to people of all ages. But it doesn't work because things are either to childish for grown ups or too mature for young kids. THE CHAPERONE comes across as disjointed.

Not the worst WWE Films movie I've seen, but THE CHAPERONE is one worth skipping unless you really love Triple H. While the acting and direction keeps the film afloat, the screenplay is a mess [even though it is predictable for a good reason and has some chuckle worthy moments] and doesn't accomplish what it sets out to do. I guess children may tolerate this film more than I did, but you could find a much better film with a similar premise. Believe me, they are out there. That being said, I didn't totally hate THE CHAPERONE and it slightly exceeded my very low expectations for it. Still, I wouldn't get on this school bus again, even if the trip to New Orleans was for free.


1.5 Howls Outta 4


Batman Begins (2005)

Christopher Nolan

Christian Bale - Bruce Wayne/Batman
Michael Caine - Alfred Pennyworth
Katie Holmes - Rachel Dawes
Liam Neeson - Henri Ducard
Cillian Murphy - Dr. Jonathan Crane/The Scarecrow
Gary Oldman - Sergeant James Gordon
Morgan Freeman - Lucius Fox
Tom Wilkinson - Carmine Falcone
Rutger Hauer - Earle
Ken Watanabe - Ra's Al Ghul

Genre - Action/Adventure/Crime/Fantasy/Comic Books

Running Time - 140 Minutes

The extremely popular DC Comics character, Batman, has had a very successful run on television and films. Popular serials like 1943's BATMAN and 1949's BATMAN AND ROBIN led to the 1966's camp classic, BATMAN THE MOVIE - which was a spinoff of the popular television show that lasted two years. As the character regained his dark roots inside comic books and superhero films seemed possible, thanks to 1978's SUPERMAN, Warner Brothers [who owned the rights to DC's characters] figured it was time to bring Batman back to the mainstream audience. Hiring Tim Burton, who thrived on dark and gothic styles, 1989's BATMAN was a bigger hit than expected, making $400 million-plus at the box office and doing even more business on the home video market. Obviously, this led to a sequel in 1992, BATMAN RETURNS [also directed by Burton], that happens to be my personal favorite but wasn't as appreciated at the time of its release. While it was successful, the sequel didn't do as well financially as the first film due to it being seen as "too dark and sexually explicit". Now, many fans consider it one of the better BATMAN films.

Due to the "darkness" that turned many away from BATMAN RETURNS, Warner Brothers fired Tim Burton from the director's chair and hired THE LOST BOYS director, Joel Schumacher, to lighten up the franchise. Schumacher's first BATMAN film, BATMAN FOREVER, was a more family-friendly comic book adaptation - one that was mega successful due to a great cast, exceptional merchandising, and a best-selling soundtrack - even if it wasn't critically well received as the two Burton films. Unfortunately, Warner Brothers saw the money in merchandising to a younger audience, wanting to drive the series into that direction. This led to 1997's BATMAN AND ROBIN, a film that played more like a live-action cartoon than an actual film. With a head-scratching cast, and costumes and dialogue that'll make the strongest man blush, BATMAN AND ROBIN bombed at the box office, only making a little over $100 million domestically. It's now considered one of the worst comic book films ever made - without much argument from me. This ruined plans for a fifth film, BATMAN TRIUMPHANT [which would have had Scarecrow and Harley Quinn as the villains], as the franchise was in an indefinite hiatus. It also didn't help that comic book films weren't as big of a cash cow in 1997 [besides Marvel's BLADE doing some good numbers].

However, 2000's X-MEN proved that comic book adaptations still had a place in movie theaters, doing decent numbers. It wasn't until 2002's SPIDER-MAN [which was a box office blockbuster that broke records] that making comic book films was considered cool and profitable again. As Marvel dominated movie theaters by bringing many of their characters to the big screen [while DC focused on its animation department and TV shows like Smallville and Birds of Prey], Warner Brothers realized that this was the perfect time to bring back Batman.

Hiring director Christopher Nolan, who was an indie darling for his great 2001 film, MEMENTO, and hiring David S. Goyer as screenwriter [who was responsible for the BLADE trilogy], the idea of rebooting Batman for movie goers seemed more ideal as it reached its production. Inspired by the classic Batman story, Batman: Year One, and wanting to use lesser-known villains such as Ra's Al Ghul, Scarecrow and Carmine Falcone to not overshadow Bruce Wayne/Batman's rebirth, BATMAN BEGINS was highly anticipated by comic book fans. Hiring intense actor Christian Bale as the lead and using Academy Award nominated and/or winning actors such as Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman, and Gary Oldman as the supporting cast, the buzz for the reboot grew. Intended as a trilogy, BATMAN BEGINS was released in 2005 to critical raves and good financial success [it would be nothing until what came next]. Bringing a more realistic Gotham City and a story/characters people could relate with and sink their fangs into, BATMAN BEGINS still remains one of the most beloved films in both franchises. And seven years later, it still holds up very well and proves to be a strong beginning to what would become an epic journey for our favorite Caped Crusader.

As a young boy, Bruce Wayne's (Christian Bale) world comes crashing down when a mugger named Joe Chill murders his parents during a mugging. As the sole heir of Wayne Enterprises, Bruce is unable to get over the events of his parents' death, blaming himself and wanting vengeance in order to deal with his dark feelings. After college, Bruce leaves his home of Gotham City without the knowledge of his loved ones - making many believe he's dead.

In truth, Bruce has traveled to the Far East where he begins putting himself in the shoes of criminals to understand their mentality. He's arrested, but after beating up six men at once, a man named Henri Ducard (Liam Neeson) takes interest in him. Ducard leads Bruce to the lair of the mystic fighting group known as The League of Shadows to train under Ra's Al Ghul (Ken Watanabe). After months of training, Bruce becomes an expert fighter in martial arts and the art of ninja. However, Bruce's views and the views of the League of Shadows differ when it's revealed that Ra's Al Ghul and Henri Ducard knew who Bruce was all along and trained him in order to return to Gotham City for its destruction. During a fight that burns down the headquarters of the League of Shadows and murders many of the members, Bruce leaves and returns to Gotham City.

With the help of his butler, Alfred Pennyworth (Michael Caine), Bruce decides to stop the criminal activity in Gotham by taking down mob boss Carmine Falcone (Tom Wilkinson). Announcing he's alive, Bruce takes interest in Wayne Enterprises - especially its high tech division run by Lucius Fox (Morgan Freeman). With Lucius' help, Bruce gains some heavy duty and hi-tech armor and weaponry to create an identity that will strike fear into the criminal world. Inspired by his childhood fear of bats, Bruce creates his new identity - Batman - using his skills from The League of Shadows to take down foes and scare Falcone. Along the way, he realizes that Falcone is targeting his childhood friend and future District Attorney, Rachel Dawes (Katie Holmes). Bruce also has to contend with a psychotic psychiatrist named Dr. Jonathan Crane (Cillian Murphy), who maintains his power over his clients by donning the role of The Scarecrow and making them relive their darkest fears. Not only that, but certain members of The League of Shadows arrive at Gotham, wanting to destroy it.

BATMAN BEGINS is considered the first Batman adaptation that gives the comic book fans exactly what they were looking for all these years. The film is gritty, dark, and real - proving that you don't need gimmicks, camp, or Bat nipples to create a great Batman story on film. The movie takes its source material seriously while adapting it for those who may not have read Batman: Year One, giving something to everyone - drama, action, and characters you can care about. The film does have a couple of flaws, but BATMAN BEGINS is definitely the perfect start to reinvent the live-action Batman films.

The screenplay by David S. Goyer and Christopher Nolan is a completely different beast from the previous BATMAN films. For the first time, Batman gets a full origin story that explains why he dons this costume and fights crime for a city that seems to have lost a lot of hope. We did get glimpses of what happened to Bruce Wayne as a young man in previous adaptations - just enough for us to understand what drove him to become Batman and why he constantly broods, even though he's one of the richest people in the world. But never to the extent this story shows us. Briefly mentioned in BATMAN FOREVER, BATMAN BEGINS gives us a real look as to how Bruce first encountered a bat, how he became afraid of the animal, and then used it to put his own fear into others. While the origin was changed in BATMAN, we actually get Joe Chill murdering Bruce's parents. This allows us to explore Bruce's guilt over the situation and his frustration over the justice system, feeling the need to take matters into his own hands in order for the pain to go away. When he's robbed of that and sees how the criminals have the power, he goes away and lives the life of a petty thief to understand a criminal's mentality. This explains why Batman is usually one step ahead of his villains, because he understands the way they think. We also find out how Batman got all his cool moves, as the film takes a chunk of time to show his training and what led him back to Gotham [and why]. It's also great to find out where his gadgets and outfits came from.

The point of the matter is that BATMAN BEGINS is the first BATMAN film to explore Bruce Wayne as Batman, instead of Batman as Bruce Wayne. Hell, it's the first BATMAN film where Bruce/Batman is actually the main character. Almost every scene involves the character, allowing the audience to know him and identify with him. Sure, we're supposed to root for him because he's Batman. But BATMAN BEGINS gives us a reason why, which was never a focus for the other films prior to the reboot. He's a human being, not just a guy who wears a silly costume and fights crime. The film is about his struggle to clean up Gotham City to avenge the death and restore the memory and legacy of his parents - and not the villains. Nice to see someone finally understood who the main character of the franchise was after all these years.

That's not to say the villains don't get focused on, because they do. They're just not the highlight of the film. Ra's Al Ghul tries to use Bruce to destroy Gotham. And when Bruce refuses, he decides to have revenge on him by doing the destruction himself. Carmine Falcone motivates Bruce into training into what would become Batman by threatening him and the people he loves. Falcone was also behind Joe Chill's murder - something taken away from Bruce. And Jonathan Crane, also known as The Scarecrow, is working for both men and threatening Bruce's love interest, Rachel Dawes, because she's getting too close to the truth. He also allows Bruce to deal with his fear, allowing him to somewhat overcome it. I also thought The Scarecrow was the best villain of the three - he was written very well. So while the three villains may not be the most memorable part of BATMAN BEGINS, they actually play important roles in developing Bruce's character as Batman. Without them, Bruce wouldn't have much of a reason to become a masked vigilante. They enhance his story, giving it depth and reason. That's what great supporting characters do - they offer great support, not steal the spotlight away.

The other characters do the same thing. Alfred is still Bruce's only true loyal friend, who keeps him grounded by offering him parental advice and helping him with his cause reluctantly at first. Lucius Fox creates Bruce's weapons and vehicles to stop the crime syndicate, only because Bruce is the only Wayne Enterprises employee or stock holder that pays him any attention and shows him respect for his talent. Plus all the stuff used are military prototypes, which grounds Batman into reality unlike previous installments. James Gordon, not a Commissioner yet, is Bruce's link to the crime world through the police force. Gordon is one of the few officers not corrupted by greed or pride, which allows him to see Batman as someone trying to help, not a threat.

And then we have Rachel Dawes, Bruce's childhood friend and eventual love interest. For me, she's the weak link of BATMAN BEGINS. It's not that she's a terrible character. In fact, she actually has some depth and is quite likeable. Most comic book films need to have that damsel-in-distress, girlfriend character that needs saving from the hero. But she doesn't really add much when it comes to that angle, to be honest with you. Sure, she needs saving from Scarecrow more than once. Sure, a lot of what Bruce does is because of things that she said that resonated in him. And she's one of the few characters that's not corrupted by power and wants to see Gotham City cleaned up the right way. But the whole girlfriend angle is barely there and feels forced at the end because this aspect of the story had to be in the film. Plus, she never really helps Bruce defeat the bad guys [although she does scare away The Scarecrow, who's not really a threat to Batman at that point anyway]. Once she's saved in the middle of the film, she doesn't really need to be saved by Batman again. Plus the two characters never felt like they naturally had to have a love relationship of some sort. It was more like a brother trying to protect his best friend, or sister, rather than someone he's madly in love with. So it's nice to have Rachel around, especially for THE DARK KNIGHT, but she doesn't have much of a greater purpose in this film like Vicki Vale, Chase Meridian, or even Selina Kyle had. You understood why those three women were in their respective BATMAN films. Rachel is more of a friend character that pops up every now and then to give the main character important information to move the story forward. I never felt Rachel's purpose was greater than that, which brings BATMAN BEGINS a bit down for me.

I also felt that the villains could have used a bit more depth, although I didn't have much of a problem with their portrayals. But it would have been nice as to why Crane resorts in becoming The Scarecrow. How did Carmine Falcone suddenly gain so much power in Gotham City? Where's the Lazarus Pit for Ra's Al Ghul and how did he do what he did to explain his appearance later in the film? These are questions that won't nag at you because the story has so much interesting things going on and moves fairly quickly. But the questions are there and would have been nice if they were answered for those who don't know the history of any of these characters. Then again, the film is long enough as it is, so I can see why the film just went right into it.

I will say that the dialogue is excellently written, even the silly one-liners and punchlines that are actually quite funny and lift the mood up a bit. There are a lot of memorable quotes in this film and they all seem to mean something for the characters as they reach the climax. BATMAN BEGINS is a very talky film, but one that's engaging. Characters say things that end up being important in the end, instead of just hearing themselves speak. Can't hate on that.

Christopher Nolan really outdid himself and brought Batman back to prominence in terms of box office success. His direction is fantastic. He keeps the story real and human, unlike the kookiness that Tim Burton inserted, or the camp that Joel Schumacher is associated with. Gotham City looks like an actual city, rather than a set. I liked the atmosphere and the mood that kept you visually invested. It's not the dark, Gothic looking place Tim Burton did with his version of Gotham City. But Nolan gives the film a gritty, corrupt, and bleak version of a true crime metropolis - with graffiti laced subways, dark alleys, and chaos due to the crime world being in charge. This looks like the Gotham City of the comics and the graphic novels. Nolan did his homework and did it well.

I also felt that Nolan handled the action scenes quite well. They are few and far between, so anytime they appear they end up being energetic and exciting to watch. This is due to the fact that the quick cutting during these scenes ups the kinetic energy [although sometimes it was a bit distracting, but nothing that ruined any of these scenes], as well as great angles and subtle CGI effects that enhance the scenes. I also felt that the choreography felt more real and genuine, as you actually believed that Batman can kick someone's ass due to all the training we saw him receive. The fight scenes in previous films was a bit lacking in some aspects, so it was nice to see Batman beat people up and act like a detective like he would in the comics. I also felt that the soundtrack by Hans Zimmer and James Newton Howard added to the emotion of the film as well. Just a beautifully directed film by a man who researched the character and understood how to make a Batman film that everyone could appreciate, fanboys or not.

The acting in BATMAN BEGINS is exceptional. While I still favor Michael Keaton, I do believe that Christian Bale is the closest to matching him in terms of live-action cinema. I think Bale makes a perfect Bruce Wayne, displaying a tough, masculine, dark, and sometimes playful rendition of the character. There are moments where you sort of see Patrick Bateman from AMERICAN PSYCHO come out through the performance, which I liked. As Batman, he's a great physical presence. The voice is a love-it-hate-it sort of deal, but I think the voice is better here than it is in THE DARK KNIGHT. Bale is great though and takes the role seriously.

Everyone else is great. Katie Holmes is very likeable as Rachel Dawes. I don't think she's the strongest actress out there, but she makes the most of what's written for her. Plus I don't hate her like some people do, for whatever reason. It's a shame that Bale and Holmes don't have much romantic chemistry, which sort of ruined those scenes for me. Cillian Murphy almost steals the show as Jonathan Crane/Scarecrow. It's nice to see this villain portrayed for a live-action film and I totally bought Murphy's crazy act here. Funny enough, I found him creepier as a psychiatrist then I did seeing him as The Scarecrow. That's a great performance! Michael Caine plays Alfred with a ton of class. Whoever cast him deserves a raise. Liam Neeson brought class as well. Love the guy. Gary Oldman was great as James Gordon. Nice to see the character given some time to develop in one of these films and Oldman is the perfect actor to pull that off. Tom Wilkinson was cool as Carmine Falcone, playing a convincing mob boss. Plus we get some extended cameos by Ken Watanabe and Rutger Hauer, all bringing the awesome. Just a fantastic cast that made BATMAN BEGINS more special than a lot of people had believed before its release.


- Bruce Wayne beat up a few criminals in prison. They must have made fun of his Huey Lewis and the News record collection.

- Some thug murdered Bruce's father [and mother] over money and jewelry. Some people have no sense of Law and Order.

- Bruce learned combat and discipline from Henri Ducard. As a man who trained with Jedis, tangled with wolves, and fought against assassins, you couldn't ask for a better teacher.

- Bruce believes that as a man, he'll be ignored. But as a symbol, he'll be incorruptible. Explains that phase Prince had during the 1990s. Too much Batdancing will do that to you.

- Alfred was worried about what excuse Bruce would make about his bruises after his Batman activities. I think saying that Drake and Chris Brown were fighting over him would work as good as any.

- The Scarecrow uses dust to make his victims experience their fears.

"Three feet tall!
Two inch fangs!
Three feet tall!
Two inch fangs!

Yeah, I'm not messing with that dude.

- Bruce insulted all of his guests at his birthday party, calling them "sycophants" and "two faced". Listening to those tapes during the filming of TERMINATOR: SALVATION, they shouldn't have been so surprised.

- Rachel is willing to wait for the Bruce Wayne she knew to come back from being Batman. Yet, she doesn't want to wait for her life to be over. Must be a Scientology thing.

BATMAN BEGINS is definitely the best Batman adaptation since BATMAN RETURNS [until THE DARK KNIGHT would later take that crown three years later]. The script is exceptional besides the forced Bruce/Rachel love subplot, the acting is A-list and fantastic, and the direction and visual style by Christopher Nolan brought the real Batman back from the camp that started to destroy the character. Why it took so long to finally make a Batman film actually about Bruce Wayne and Batman rather than the villains is beyond me, but I'm glad Nolan and Goyer made it happen. Still a great film and the Nolan era would get better from here.


3.5 Howls Outta 4


Stepfather II: Make Room For Daddy (1989)

Jeff Burr

Terry O'Quinn - Jerry Blake/Dr. Gene Clements
Meg Foster - Carol Grayland
Caroline Williams - Matty Crimmins
Jonathan Brandis - Todd Grayland
Mitchell Laurance - Phil Grayland
Henry Brown - Dr. Joseph Danvers

Genre - Horror/Slasher

Running Time - 89 Minutes

Even though he was murdered at the end of the first STEPFATHER film, Jerry Blake (Terry O'Quinn) managed to survive some fatal wounds and is now a resident at a psychiatric institution. Shocking since Jerry has only impersonated a few people and murdered many families who don't live up to this standard of perfection. Jerry's psychiatrist is amused by his thoughts and ideas of what the perfect American family is supposed to be, thinking of Jerry more as a friend than an actual patient. So much so, the doc has Jerry unchained every time they have a session. Since this quack is such a genius, he's murdered by Jerry as he stabs him with a sharp action figure of the perfect father [that Jerry made himself]. After killing a security guard as well, Jerry escapes the institution and leaves for the suburbs of California, not too far away from where he was being "treated".

Calling himself Gene and posing as a psychiatrist, he finds a nice home and counsels women who have issues in their love lives. Hoping to find a single woman who is the epitome of the perfect wife and could meet his standards, he finds her in a local real estate agent, Carol Greyland (
Meg Foster). Recently divorced and being a single mom to her only son, Todd (Jonathan Brandis), Gene has found his soul mate [at least for the time being]. They hit it off well, but Gene has to overcome a few obstacles to keep his dream alive.

One is the presence of Carol's ex-husband, Phil (
Mitchell Laurance), who wants Carol back and be a father to Todd again. There's also Carol's nosy best friend, Matty (Caroline Williams), who finds Gene creepy. As a client of Gene's, Matty realizes that she knows nothing about the man's personal history and doesn't feel he's good for Carol. It doesn't help that Matty is also the mail lady and opens Gene's mail, finding out that he's been lying about his identity. She also finds it strange when he never receives mail from family or friends. Unfortunately for Phil and Matty, Gene is taking no chances and plans to erase both people from Carol's life to make his dream of the perfect family into reality.


- Terry O'Quinn and the rest of the acting. STEPFATHER II: MAKE ROOM FOR DADDY isn't the most inventive, scariest, or memorable slasher film and/or sequel out there. But the performances are pretty great and help make the plot more entertaining than it has any right to be. Terry O'Quinn, in particular, is fantastic again as The Stepfather. He's still slightly weird and creepy. He still has his anger issues and rants to himself when things don't go his way. But this time, he seems to enjoy killing people a lot more. It must be the new one-liners that the script gives O'Quinn to say. And all of them are pretty funny. O'Quinn does look a bit bored at times, but when he needs to bring it, he brings it big time. Great actor.

The other actors are very good as well. Meg Foster, and her mesmerizing eyes, brings a nice calmness to the role of Carol. Even though her character is very naive, Foster still makes her likeable and sweet. You could see why The Stepfather would fall for this woman. Caroline Williams is also great as Matty, the best friend character who knows too much for her own good. Even though she's a snoop and sticks her nose in places it probably shouldn't be, she's still likeable, funny, and easy to relate to. You know she's gonna have trouble making it to the end, which makes her arc fun. The late Jonathan Brandis does well as Todd. He's a child actor that doesn't annoy the hell out of you because he comes across as genuine and authentic. I liked his scenes with O'Quinn. Mitchell Laurance and Henry Brown were fine in their respective roles. A small, but great cast that made the film really watchable.

- The direction. While not perfect, Jeff Burr's presentation is more positive than negative. Burr, who also directed LEATHERFACE: THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE III, PUMPKINHEAD II: BLOOD WINGS, and PUPPET MASTER 4 and 5, does a nice job infusing some visual style in the sequel. The colors are bright, with lots of blues and reds lighting key scenes. The editing was very good as well, as certain scenes were cut in a metaphorical way to reflect the characters or the situation at hand. The murder scenes were quite well shot, even though we don't see much gore. But the way they're framed and edited really enhance the kills. I appreciated that Burr wanted to give STEPFATHER II a different look and feel than the much colder and darker THE STEPFATHER. I do wish the film had more tension and suspense [only the Matty scene towards the end had any]. But Burr visualizes a lot of great moments, especially the memorable finale with the wedding. And I liked the pacing of the film and the lightheartedness of it all. STEPFATHER II is directed better than it has any right to be.

- A different perspective of THE STEPFATHER narrative. In THE STEPFATHER, the film's perspective was for the stepdaughter who didn't like Jerry and figured out that he wasn't the man her mom thought she had knew and married. Jerry's story was already established at this point, so we only knew about him from what was shown to us.

In STEPFATHER II, the film is definitely in Jerry's, or in this case Gene's, perspective. Instead of suspecting him and wondering if he's legit or not, we're now in Jerry's shoes as we watch his process in trying to make his dream of the perfect family come true. In the first film, Jerry was obviously the antagonist. But in the sequel, he's clearly the flawed protagonist who also happens to be the villain of the story. We learn a lot about Jerry in this sequel that makes us sort of identify with his ideas and dreams, even if his execution is a bit rough.

Inside the mental institution, he has a photo of a perfect family [in his mind] and builds models of a white house with a picket fence that has a mom, dad, and child living inside. After escaping and hiding in a motel, he watches a game show about winning a dream house, quickly catching his attention. He poses as a psychiatrist to meet the women in his neighborhood, trying to help them achieve perfection. In a funny bit, he watches a video dating service, skipping over women who don't match his needs [women discussing their diaphragms isn't a turn on for some men]. He bonds with Carol, instantly falling for her and her son, Todd [who unlike his previous stepdaughter actually likes Jerry/Gene]. Jerry/Gene is a happy man who finally achieves his goal - that is until people try to disrupt it, like an ex or a best friend of his soon-to-be bride. It's strange, but you sort of root for Jerry/Gene to get away with what he's done just so he can be fulfilled. It's kind of tragic when it blows up in his face.

STEPFATHER II could have been a complete rehash of the first film. And while this sequel does follow a similar template, at least the story is told from the killer's point of view. It gives us insight about him, how he achieves in getting close to making his dream of a perfect family happen, and shows us that he's quite likeable and charming if he gets his way. I think it's a good change and gives us something different from the first film, while still maintaining the same pattern in terms of its storytelling.

- Characters do the stupidest things and other plot holes. While I enjoy all the characters in STEPFATHER II, they really do stupid things. I would be okay with this if this was a natural character flaw. But it's obviously a forced plot device in order for the narrative to get from one point to the other. And you can tell because I doubt many people would do or behave like these characters, although I could be very wrong.

Jerry's escape from the institution is fun and there are several news reports discussing it. However, none of them show a picture of Jerry. You know, just in case people should be on the look out for him?? It's not like he disguises himself all that much. He just has different hair and contacts, but still is identifiable. And he doesn't even move away all that far from the institution. So how in the hell did he manage to stay in hiding from the law for over a year supposedly? It's kind of implausible, but sort of funny when you think about it.

The people in the suburbs are no better. Jerry, as Gene, moves in right away and says he's a psychiatrist. Without checking his background or getting to know him on a personal level, these suburban ladies decide it's a great idea to discuss their personal and sexual lives with him as if they're old friends. Yeah, because telling a stranger about humming while giving oral is always a great idea. Hell, Carol is the worst culprit as she trusts Jerry/Gene right away and falls for him without meeting any of his family, friends, or ex-girlfriends or ex-wives. She never bothered to ask him about that? No one is that alone, especially when you can afford a nice house and claim to have an educated profession like a psychiatrist. If I've been with someone for close to a year and I have yet to meet anyone who's known them in the past, that's a pretty big red flag.

At least Matty figures it out, since she's the smartest person in the film. Still, she breaks into Jerry's house, which he catches her do. She reads his mail, which he catches her do. And she threatens Jerry/Gene about telling Carol the truth, as if nothing bad will come of it. You just want to strangle this chick. Oh wait...nevermind.

Jerry/Gene is no better. For a guy who has murdered families and pretty much gotten away with it for quite a while, you'd think he'd be more careful in his actions. While he gets away with Phil's murder in an implausible [yet funny and entertaining] way, dealing with Matty pretty much ruins his entire plan. He steals her wine [which Carol remembers drinking days prior] and whistles his tune, "Camptown Races" RIGHT OUTSIDE the murder scene - which is heard by a blind neighbor. Since that song is Jerry/Gene's trademark, it's kind of dumb of him to be that confident and just give away who committed the crime. It's sad he messed up his own plan, which was going pretty smoothly until that point, but he should have known better.

And while I'm nitpicking all this, I still found all of these entertaining. I also understand why it happens, but at least these acts of stupidity move the film forward. But that's no excuse for smart characters to behave against type. It may be fun to watch and give the viewer the opportunity to shout at the screen, I'm sure there could have been other ways for the narrative to continue without compromising the intelligence of the screenplay.

- No sense of time. So Jerry/Gene, after he deals with Carol's ex-husband, tells Carol that he has feelings for her. She tells him the same and they become a couple. Great. No issues with that.

Then all of a sudden in the next scene, time has passed to about a year and Gene and Carol are engaged to be married! No time card. No transition. Nothing that would explain that a majority of time has passed. I think this is a lost opportunity, as it would have been nice to have, at least, seen a montage of the couple sharing good times together to create some sort of connection for us as an audience. A time card would have been nice too, just so the transition wouldn't have been so jarring. I wonder if there was a scene missing here or changed during the screenwriting process.

Not the most original and best slasher sequel out there, but at least STEPFATHER II: MAKE ROOM FOR DADDY is a fun and entertaining one that breezes by quickly. The acting and characters are a joy to watch, the direction is mostly solid, and making The Stepfather the main character rather just the villain was a good move to differentiate from the first film. I still think the characters act like idiots just so the story could continue onto its logical path and some time issues are a bit odd. But STEPFATHER II is better than it has any right to be, in my opinion. If you enjoyed the first STEPFATHER film, I think you'll enjoy the sequel as well. Definitely worth making some room for.


3 Howls Outta 4

Related Posts with Thumbnails