Suck (2009)

Rob Stefaniuk

Rob Stefaniuk - Joey Winner
Jessica Paré - Jennifer
Paul Anthony - Tyler
Mike Lobel - Sam
Chris Ratz - Hugo
Malcolm McDowell - Eddie Van Helsing
Dimitri Coats - Queeny

Genre - Horror/Comedy/Music/Vampires

Running Time - 91 Minutes

The Winners are a pop-rock band that are having trouble living up to their name. The lead singer, Joey Winner (Rob Stefaniuk), is so focused on making the band successful that he's blinded by what's in front of him. Joey lost the love of his life, Jennifer (Jessica Paré), who happens to be the bassist. His relationship with his current girlfriend, Susan (Nichole DeBoer), isn't great either. The rest of the Winners, Tyler (Paul Anthony) the guitarist, Sam (Mike Lobel) the drummer, and Hugo (Chris Ratz) the roadie are frustrated by Joey's situation.

Things for The Winners begin to rapidly change, as Jennifer suddenly becomes attracted to a groupie named Queeny (Dimitri Coats). What she doesn't know is that Queeny is a vampire and he seduces Jennifer into becoming one as well. Although already sexy, her vamp state makes her even hotter and gives her a magnetic stage presence that music fans can't keep their eyes off of. Unfortunately, her new condition has left Jennifer killing people for their blood, leaving Hugo [as her Renfield] to clean up each mess. Jennifer tries to convince the band to turn and use being vampires as a way to gain what they want: fame and fortune. While most of the band is willing to go for it, Joey is hesitant. A creepy bartender (Alice Cooper) tells Joey to go for it, while his studio owner Victor (Iggy Pop) tells Joey to really think about the repercussions.

Meanwhile, the vampires are being hunted by Eddie Van Helsing (Malcolm McDowell), who wants to kill every fanged creature for what they [especially Queeny] did to his old girlfriend (Barbara Mamabolo) back in the 1970s. Will everyone involved get what they want? Or will things start to SUCK?


- The acting. I thought, besides the cameos, that SUCK had a very cool cast of actors. Rob Stefaniuk, who also wrote and directed this film, can also act very well as lead singer, Joey Winner. He's plays the straight man to the comedy believably and I thought he did a good job keeping the film together. Jessica Paré was a lot better as Jennifer. She has got to be one of the sexiest vampires to have ever graced a television or movie screen. She has a presence you can't ignore, plus she had nice comic timing and seemed to be having fun in her role. Malcolm McDowell, although not in the film as much as I would have liked him to be, does a fine job as vampire hunter Eddie Van Helsing. He brought a sense of class to the film by being all McDowell-y. Dave Foley is pretty funny as the band's manager. I think of the main cast, Chris Ratz was really the last standout. He has the best lines as the French-Canadian roadie who was the Renfield of the film. I thought he was pretty funny.

- The cameos. SUCK has a lot of cool appearances that really heighten the fact that this is a horror-comedy that's definitely rooted in rock-and-roll. Alice Cooper plays a creepy bartender who may, or may not, be a vampire. His daughter, Calico, plays a waitress. Iggy Pop plays Victor, who runs the recording studio for The Winners. Henry Rollins plays a jerk of a DJ in a great bit. Rush guitarist Alex Lifeson plays a Canadian border patrolman in a funny scene. Dimitri Coats from Burning Brides plays Queeny, looking like the Mad Hatter from 2010's ALICE IN WONDERLAND. My favorite, however, had to have been Moby, playing Beef Bellows - a metal singer of the band Secretaries of Steak. He was a douche and a self-proclaimed ladies man. Seeing Moby in a role one wouldn't expect out of him, since he's an electronica/techno artist, just made me laugh in a good way. Just a great sign of respect for these artists, who did a bang up job in making SUCK very memorable.

- The soundtrack. Just a rockin' soundtrack, which SUCK should have. The Winners have the majority of the music, which I dug. Plus we have music by Alice Cooper, Iggy Pop & The Stooges, David Bowie, Burning Brides, and The Velvet Underground. This is what a music-horror film should sound like. Definitely created a mood and atmosphere that makes SUCK more successful than it has any right to be.

- O LUCKY MAN! footage. In a flashback for Eddie Van Helsing, where he watches his love sing and then get seduced by Queeny, we get clips interspersed with current footage from the 1973 Malcolm McDowell film, O LUCKY MAN! At first, I thought Stefaniuk had found a way to make CGI so powerful, that it turned McDowell young again. But he cleverly used footage from another film that fit in perfectly to the story, making the flashback one of the most convincing flashbacks ever. Just amazing and cool of McDowell for even allowing the footage.

- Exciting direction. Rob Stefaniuk did a great job behind the lens. We got a few montages that look like music videos. I thought these were great, as it really reminded the viewer that this film is about rock-and-roll first. Plus they were shot well and pretty funny. I also loved the scenes where the band performed on stage, as they had tons of style - from slo-mo to slick angles. I loved the stop-motion scenes where a toy hearse was driving on a map whenever the band traveled to another venue. I thought they were cute. I also thought the pacing was good. The editing was iffy at times, but mostly okay. The film is low budget, but looks great thanks to nice cinematography and excellent lighting - especially for the vampires. Each vampire had a glow about them, making them stand out in each scene they were in. Just like characters in the film, the viewer can't take their eyes off of them. I thought that was a great touch. Just really cool visuals. I dug it a lot.

- Good script. The screenplay by Stefaniuk is pretty standard if you've seen any other film where a rock band goes through trials to become big and famous, which leads to dissension and an inevitable downfall. But the vampire aspects, as well as some comedic moments, help make it seem a bit fresh again. It never takes itself seriously, as it doesn't send a message that reads 'Be careful what you wish for...yadda yadda.' It's a satire of the fickle music industry, one Stefaniuk knows all about since he's been a member of bands. In a lot of ways, the vampire aspect is really a horror way of conveying the idea of addiction. Jennifer, once she becomes a vampire, is completely addicted in killing others for their blood. When she promises she won't turn her fellow members into vampires, she breaks it and does it anyway because she couldn't help it. It's this addiction that helps the Winners gain popularity and much success, as the typical rock-and-roll lifestyle is making them legends in the industry. It's the band at their most creative, which is cliche but it works. It's not the best written film, as some of the characters could be deeper and some aspects of the story could be stronger [the vampire hunting stuff could have been paced a bit better]. But for the most part, it's a solid script.

- Comedy hit and miss. SUCK is a satire, so obviously the film will have comedy to get its point across. Not all the jokes work, however, as I wasn't laughing much for a pretty decent amount of time. Stefaniuk had a really tough balance here with trying to do horror, music, and comedy all in one. A film like THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW did it well. And while SUCK does have great music and enough elements to make it a horror movie, the comedy could have been better. A lot of it is predictable and cliche, which hurts the pacing and dialogue a bit. It does have great comedy moments, however, but it's not a total success.

- The ending. I really didn't like the way the film concluded, sorry. It just seemed out of place and unnecessary in my opinion. I get what it was trying to get across and why it was there, but it did nothing for me really. It felt like a set up for a sequel rather than a logical end to this story. I guess it was supposed to be ironic, but I just didn't dig it. Oh well.

SUCK does not live up to its title. It has a lot of charm due to its decent script, solid musical numbers, energetic direction, and cast of actors and rock stars. I honestly didn't think I would enjoy it as much as I did, but I'm glad I took the risk and streamed it off of Netflix. If you're looking for a vampire film that's Canadian and focuses on great songs and decent comedy, SUCK is right up your alley. Definitely an underrated gem more people need to bite into.

SCORE3 Howls Outta 4


The Guardian (1990)

William Friedkin

Jenny Seagrove - Camilla
Dwier Brown - Phil
Carey Lowell - Kate
Brad Hall - Ned Runcie

Genre - Fantasy/Horror/Thriller/Supernatural

Running Time - 93 Minutes

Being part of a pretty big family, I never had an outsider as a babysitter. Usually my grandmother would take care of me when my mom was working or out. If not her, usually my aunt and/or cousins would make sure I was okay. So I never had the real 'babysitter experience' as they call it.

But if I did have a babysitter or a nanny, I wouldn't have minded if she were anything like Camilla from 1990's cult film by William Friedkin, THE GUARDIAN. I mean, she's hot, has a sexy accent, and likes to bathe naked outdoors without a care in the world. Sure, she's some sort of druid who would have probably sacrificed me to a tree guarded by wolves, but I'm sure the risk would have been worth it. Why complain?

Unfortunately, there are some things to complain about THE GUARDIAN itself in terms of its narrative, as well as other things. But hey, it doesn't star Kevin Costner or Ashton Kutcher! That's a tree worth growing in Brooklyn, isn't it?

A young couple named Phil (Dwier Brown) and Kate (Carey Lowell) have their first child before moving into their new home. Both wanting to continue their careers, despite the baby's arrival, they advertise for a nanny. Their first choice mysteriously has a terrible cycling accident, leading to mysterious English hottie, Camilla (Jenny Seagrove), to be hired instead. Camilla moves into their home, which begins some strange things for the couple and their friends. Eventually, we learn that Camilla is some kind of tree spirit or druid that takes nanny jobs in order to find babies and sacrifice them to a tree that's protected by wolves. Apparently this tree can also heal Camilla as she's part of it. Can this yuppie couple stop Camilla from sacrificing their child? Or is it worth it just to see her bathe nude in the woods? As a non-parent, I'm pretty torn...

THE GUARDIAN brings back a lot of memories for me. I loved this film back in the early 90s, when my mom would rent it from the video store, or when it would play on a cable station. I always found it to be pretty trippy at times, as well as being content in watching Jenny Seagrove bathe in the middle of the woods nude [helped speed up puberty]. I honestly hadn't watched this film since, probably, the mid-90s, so it was a treat to feel all nostalgic about THE GUARDIAN. While it isn't as good as I remembered it, to be honest with you, there's still something about it that I like even with its many flaws.

The problems for THE GUARDIAN [based on the 1987 Dan Greenburg novel, The Nanny] lie within the narrative. The way the story's presented sets up why the story should have been better than it actually is. For a thriller to be successful, there should be a sense of mystery and suspense that will keep viewers guessing and watching. The story needs to build up to some huge revelation that will either shock the viewer or keep them satisfied if they figured it out. THE GUARDIAN bombs right out of the gate with this aspect of the narrative. Right from the start, we know that the film is about some sort of tree spirit who babysits infants in order to groom them for some sacrifice to see tree god or something supernatural like that. This is told to us via a title card, which honestly should have been shown to us somewhere within the film. Also, the very first scene before the credits is of Camilla sacrificing a baby to this very tree. Right there, the mystery is given away and there's nothing to surprise us later on. Does the film suck because of it? No, it's still watchable. But it would have been more effective watching our lead protagonists, or in this case the more active Phil, to figure this out and have all this revealed from his perspective. Instead, we already know the answers before anyone does. The film still is decently fun, but would have been stronger if we knew less about Camilla from the start.

Also, there's not much depth to Camilla's reasoning for what she does. It's hinted that she was some sort of guardian to this tree and they're connected physically and mentally. But it's never really explained why this is even happening. Why is this tree being fed with babies? Does Camilla bring this tree everywhere she goes? Is she even a human being? What about the Druids - what are their roles in all this? We don't much about anything about the supernatural stuff because it's never really explored. We can speculate and most likely figure out what's going on, but it would have been nice if the characters did as well and transferred that information so clueless people could get the message this film is trying to send. The supernatural aspect ends up feeling more superficial rather than deep, even if it's still interesting nonetheless.

Also feeling superficial are the characters, especially Phil and Kate. They're likeable, which helps make THE GUARDIAN more than watchable. But we barely know anything about them. Kate is pretty much absent or a non-presence for much of the film, which sort of weakens her marriage to Phil. Phil is the more active of the two, but besides his name and job, there's not much substance to him. Obviously, he starts having lustful feelings towards Camilla - due to the fact that he probably hasn't gotten laid in a while due to Kate's pregnancy, and because Camilla enjoys being naked around him. But nothing really comes of it, so it's just there because it's cliche. And Ned was there just to be a victim - nothing more, nothing less. But at least the characters are likeable enough, even if they are stereotypical.

Camilla is at least interesting only because she has actual motivations and does everything in her power to make sure her goals are met. She wants to sacrifice a baby? She'll pose as a kind nanny in order to get the child she needs. Someone in the way of that? She'll hurt that bitch in a bicycle accident. You want to rape her? Her tree and her wolf friends will rape you. You follow her and figure out Camilla's secret? She'll make you remember the only way a secret stays hidden is if only one person knows about it. You got the hots for her? She'll make you have wet dreams. Camilla doesn't play games and will make sure she accomplishes her goals. This character drives the film and keeps it entertaining, regardless of the flaws the narrative has.

THE GUARDIAN has pretty decent special effects. It isn't a majorly gory film, but it does have some nice stuff for those who love their blood. We get an impalement, skin getting ripped off, some chopped limbs, and even a head bashed in. The tree is pretty bad ass in THE GUARDIAN. It kills those who endanger its mission. In a great scene, it actually caresses Camilla as it heals her wounds. The location of the woods look very fantastical as well, looking beautiful and very creepy at the same time. The practical effects were well done as well. Very good production designs here.

The direction by William Friedkin, best known for his works on THE FRENCH CONNECTION and THE EXORCIST, is pretty great. Originally meant as a Sam Raimi project [would explain the evil tree], Friedkin constantly asked for rewrites in order to feel a connection to the project [which would explain why the narrative isn't as good as it ought to be]. Even though the script ended up being pretty shallow, the visuals have a ton of depth. There's a lot of style here, with pretty cool camera movements [very Raimi-like at times], and moments where the film feels really bleak and creepy. In fact, there are some really nice tense and suspenseful moments, especially during the final act of the film. The picture also looked quite nice, and the editing was good. The visuals are probably the best part of THE GUARDIAN. Friedkin has been hit-and-miss during his long career, but THE GUARDIAN is one of his better directed films.

The acting is okay. Jenny Seagrove steals the show in every way as Camilla. Her British accent is very alluring and sexy. She also gives the character an edge and an aura of mystery that gives her quite the presence on screen. Plus she looks great naked. I'm surprised she didn't become more high profile because she did a bang up job in this flick. Without Seagrove, THE GUARDIAN would fall apart. Dwier Brown is decent as Phil. He doesn't really get enough time to really shine, but plays his cliche part well. Carey Lowell is a decent actress, but she isn't really in the film long enough to be anything substantial. Mrs. Richard Gere deserves better. It's a decently acted him, but the star shines brightest on Jenny Seagrove here.


- Camilla sacrifices babies to a tree. That finally explains why Lisa Stansfield has been around the world and can't find her baby.

- One of the potential nannies was killed by riding her bike over a pothole. That "Live Strong" wristband sure came in handy, didn't it?

- Phil had a nightmare involving his son, some wolves, and a creepy tree. Well, that's one way of getting morning wood.

- Don't try to rape a tree spirit. She'll find out the root of the problem and make you branch out into other activities, like dying.

- Phil had a dream about screwing Camilla. I've had a similar problem once. But when I heard that nasal voice and that laugh, I just ended up performing a Mr. Sheffield on myself.

- Ned was afraid of coyotes attacking him. I don't see why he's so worried. Those ACME products always backfire.

- Kate had no qualms about running over a wolf. She must be Team Edward, that bitch.

Sometimes it sucks growing up, because I didn't enjoy THE GUARDIAN as much as I had many years ago. Still, it's a watchable and decent movie that does a lot of things right as much as it does wrong. The direction is great, as there is a nice amount of tension and creepy moments to satisfy fans of the genre. Plus you get a really memorable performance by Jenny Seagrove. It's a shame the narrative didn't have more depth and explained things better in detail, as well as fleshing out the protagonists. Definitely an average movie, but worth branching out to rent or stream if you have a thing for hot British nannies not named Mary Poppins.

2 Howls Outta 4


Dracula (1979)

John Badham

Frank Langella - Count Dracula
Laurence Olivier - Abraham Van Helsing
Kate Nelligan - Lucy Seward
Trevor Eve - Jonathan Harker
Donald Pleasence - Dr. Jack Seward
Jan Francis - Mina Van Helsing
Tony Haygarth - Renfield

Genre - Horror/Drama/Vampires/Romance

Running Time - 109 Minutes

In a retelling of Bram Stoker's classic novel, a ship crashes ashore the coast of Whitby during a massive storm. The only survivor seems to be Count Dracula (Frank Langella), who moves into a mansion at Carfax Abbey, where he becomes neighbors to psychologist, Dr. Jack Seward (Donald Pleasence). What Seward doesn't know is that Dracula is one of the strongest vampires to have ever lived. He also doesn't realize that Dracula has been at sea for too long, causing his hormonal urges to really kick in as he has lustful eyes towards Seward's daughter Lucy (Kate Nelligan) and her friend, Mina Van Helsing (Jan Francis).

Dracula seduces and kills Mina, before she's reborn as a vampire. At her funeral, Mina's father, Abraham Van Helsing (Laurence Olivier), investigates his daughter's death and deduces that Dracula may be a vampire. While everyone in town doesn't believe him, the thought becomes more convincing when Lucy begins suffering the same fate as Mina. This brings Abraham together with Seward and Lucy's fiancee, Jonathan Harker (Trevor Eve), to stop Dracula, as the vampire plans to make Lucy his immortal bride.


- The direction. John Badham, who previously directed 1977's classic SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER, and would eventually direct 1983's WARGAMES and 1986's SHORT CIRCUIT, does a very good job bringing the play adaptation of the Dracula story to the big screen. The film has great production values and a ton of style. The framing and composition is great. The pacing is more than decent. I love the washed out look of the film [even though those who watched it in theaters got to see it in full color - which would be interesting to see as well], and how certain scenes got the color treatment. Badham had originally wanted the film to be in black and white to mimic the 1933 Bela Lugosi classic, but he was forced to keep the film in full color until the home video market allowed him to change the look in his original vision.

There's definitely a feeling of romanticism in this version of DRACULA rather than horror that's consistent from beginning to end, which is done quite nicely. There are some horror moments, like a throat getting sliced at the beginning of the film, a vampire confronting the protagonists in a dark mine, and the climax itself. There's a great sense of artistry here that I dug.

I also have to commend Gilbert Taylor's cinematography. DRACULA has a great gothic look and your eye is pleased the entire way. Just a visually stunning film that still looks fantastic in 2012.

- The acting. One of the strongest aspects of this version of DRACULA are the actors who give their own interpretation of the classic novel. Frank Langella is fantastic as Count Dracula. Like Lugosi, Langella had played the role on stage first. Instead of creating a terrifying portrayal of the character, Langella plays Dracula as a romantic savior and with a bit of sympathy as well. Langella gives the role depth by crafting an intelligent, yet witty figure who has a ton of charisma and a presence that makes you feel something for him other than fear. I liked Langella in the role.

The other actors are great as well. Laurence Olivier was pretty frail and ill at the time of filming, but he's very solid as Abraham Van Helsing. The accent is uneven, but more hit than miss. And he provides a moral center to the film that's lacking until his character arrives. He plays a great foil to Langella. Also great is Donald Pleasance as the quirky and odd Dr. Seward. Pleasance seems to be having fun in the role and I thought his performance was comical, but in a good way. Kate Nelligan as Lucy is also a stand out. I liked the focus and determination she gave the character. Plus she was sexy as well, which helped make Langella and Nelligan look like a very handsome couple. I thought everyone brought something to the film and really treated the material with respect. No complaints about any of the actors here.

- Dracula's 70s fro. Yes, it looks silly to see Dracula sporting his Studio 54 hairdo while he's trying to get it on with women. But it entertained me and gave the character a different look no one else had presented before. It dates the film, sure. But it put a smile on my face each time Langella appeared. So I'll let it slide.

- The different take on the story. While I would have preferred a more horrific vision of the Dracula character, I can appreciate and respect that they tried to turn Dracula into a sex symbol who wants love rather than just blood and power. DRACULA was actually developed from a 1976 Broadway show that was very successful [also starring Frank Langella as well], and complimented on the romantic take on the story. In a lot of ways, DRACULA presents the title character in a likeable, sympathetic light. He's handsome. He has charisma. He's charming. He never comes across as purely evil, but a man who's on a mission to find eternal love, even if it's executed in a terrible way. DRACULA was also one of the first vampire films where Dracula [or vampires period] were able to withstand daylight, giving the excuse that night is happening somewhere in the world. If you're looking for a ferocious Dracula who's a sexual deviant and a serial killer, you won't find it here. But if you want a love story, then this is the road you need to travel on. Does it fully work? No. But it's interesting.

- The score. John Williams composed the score to DRACULA. Right there, it makes it an instant hit. A lovely soundtrack that fits the film really well.

- The love scene. As cheesy and hokey as the presentation is during this very infamous scene where Dracula seduces Lucy and has sex with her, it made me laugh at how bizarre it is. I mean, red laser beams?? Really? Was this supposed to arouse me? Or make me pee on myself in laughter? I don't think this scene had the intended reaction out of me, or for many other audiences. It's an inspired choice, but just feels so out of place compared to everything else going on in the film. I've seen porn with more subtlety.

- The name switch. While it does allow for some characters to enter a bit more naturally into the story, I still think switching the Lucy and Mina characters will end up confusing those who have read the novel or watch other version of the Dracula story. It took me a while to get the names straight because I'm familiar with the original version. It doesn't hurt the film at all really, but purists might be up in arms about this change.

- Love story. DRACULA is a romantic drama rather than a straight-on horror film. Dracula and Lucy are meant to be in love with each other. As outside forces try to pull them apart, they just seem to come back together stronger. Well, that would have been the way I would have seen and felt it, if the film actually allowed the two characters to have more scenes together.

There's no depth at all to make this love story work. Dracula and Lucy barely have any scenes together, and rarely have moments alone where I can feel that they two are destined to be together. There's obviously an attraction, but it's based more on lust and control [on Dracula's part] rather than a connection based on the heart. The only reason people buy the love aspect is because that's how DRACULA was marketed. But it never worked for me because there was no realistic build to it. It happens for the sake of it happening, rather than it being a natural part of the story.

1979 had a ton of vampire films, including the remake of NOSFERATU THE VAMPYRE, SALEM'S LOT, and the comical LOVE AT FIRST BITE. But DRACULA stands out by focusing less on the horror story, and more on the romantic side of the famous vampire. Great performances, excellent production values, and an interesting take on the classic story make this one worth seeking out even with its flaws. If you're looking for something scary though, this is a definite pass. But if you're looking for a different version of Dracula that relies more on style and drama, then this adaptation is for you.

3 Howls Outta 4


Dead Calm (1989)

Phillip Noyce

Nicole Kidman - Rae Ingram
Sam Neill - John Ingram
Billy Zane - Hughie Warriner

Genre - Thriller/Psychological/Drama/Suspense

Running Time - 96 Minutes

I always find it interesting to watch A-list actors and actresses in their early roles pre-celebrity, especially if they starred in horror films. While there are a tiny few who embrace their horror genre past in someway after becoming tabloid fodder and award winning performers, most of them probably want to forget their earliest roles. Do you think Paul Rudd still puts HALLOWEEN: THE CURSE OF MICHAEL MYERS on his resume? Does Tom Hanks still care that HE KNOWS YOU'RE ALONE? I don't think George Clooney has plans on going to that RETURN TO HORROR HIGH reunion if they're advertising THE RETURN OF THE KILLER TOMATOES. Once many actors feel they're above the genre, their past is most likely forgotten or they'll make sure it's erased in the minds of their audiences.

1989's Australian thriller, DEAD CALM, is particularly an interesting case, as this feature was A-list actress, Nicole Kidman's, first mainstream movie. This is before Keith Urban. This is before the botox. This is before the Academy Awards and the Golden Globes. This is even before Tom Cruise. DEAD CALM has a 22 year old, fresh faced, Kidman starring alongside already established actor, Sam Neill, and up-and-comer cult actor, Billy Zane. Re-watching DEAD CALM after many, many years, I wonder if Kidman still talks about this film, as this movie was the one that got her noticed and led to her current place in pop culture. I hope she does, because DEAD CALM is a very solid thriller with good performances by her and her co-stars. Let's see why DEAD CALM is still worth sailing on the ocean for...

John Ingram (Sam Neill) returns home after serving in the Australian Navy. Unfortunately, it's not a great welcome home, as his wife Rae (Nicole Kidman) was in a car accident that tragically murdered their young son. As Rae is left injured and traumatized by her son's death, John decides to take Rae on their yacht in order to get away from the real world for a while.

After a month of sailing, they come across a sinking ship. From that ship, they see a young man, Hughie Warriner (Billy Zane), paddling towards them. Seemingly disturbed by events on that sinking ship, Hughie explains how he is the only survivor of an outbreak of botulism. John is very suspicious about Hughie's story, so he decides to check out the other ship. This leaves Rae alone with Hughie, who has been locked inside a bedroom.

John makes it to the sinking ship, realizing his suspicions were right as he finds the other occupants on the boat murdered. As John tries to make it back to Rae, he doesn't realize that Hughie has awakened and broken out of the bedroom. Threatening Rae, Hughie takes over the yacht and sails away from John's location so he doesn't find them. Believing that John won't be able to reach her in time, Rae takes matters into her own hands in order to survive Hughie's plans for her.

DEAD CALM is based on a 1963 novel by Charles Williams that was originally planned for a film adaptation as early as 1970 by Olson Welles. However due to financial issues and the death of Laurence Harvey, who was supposed to play the killer, the project was abandoned. That is until 1988, when Phillip Noyce decided to revive the project - making Nicole Kidman and, in a lesser extent, Billy Zane into future stars. Baring a slight resemblence to Roman Polanski's 1962's KNIFE IN THE WATER in terms of its premise [but done in a more psychological thriller form], DEAD CALM is one fans of the genre should watch for more than just curiosity on Kidman's debut role.

DEAD CALM gets criticized and overlooked a lot due to the fact that the film doesn't really have a major plotline other than its idea. It's pretty much what you read in the plot - a couple goes sailing to escape reality, a survivor of a sinking ship gets on the boat talking about his ordeal, the husband goes to the sinking trip realizing the survivor is a killer, who is stuck with his wife on their yacht. There's nothing really more in terms of character arcs or major subplots. Normally, this would be an issue because there's not much depth in terms of narrative. But for some reason, this "moment in time" story really works because there are other factors [such as direction and acting] that flesh out, what really is, a skeleton script.

The story works because the characters are all active participants, driving DEAD CALM from its standard beginning to its exciting end. John Ingram is given more than just a name and a title, as he was a member of the Australian Navy. He's a family man who grieves for his son, while helping his young wife deal with the trauma which she feels is her fault. That makes him likeable right away. What increases that feeling is that John is an intelligent, intuitive man who sees Hughie for who he is, but needs proof in order to confront him about it. When he's on the sinking ship, John never gives up on getting off of it in order to save his wife from a killer. In a way, DEAD CALM is really two stories in one, with John's being the small narrative. For much of the film, John is by himself trying to survive and give the ship power, which is in vain - all to rescue his wife.

John's wife, Rae, is definitely the main narrative as she struggles with surviving Hughie, who obviously has insane plans for her. She starts out as demure and quiet, playing the victim role when John can't protect her from this madman [who thinks he's on a luxury cruise and has delusions of how he sees his relationship with Rae]. But as she soon realizes that John may never come back to her [even though she never gives up on him], she begins to seduce Hughie by giving him what he wants from her, as if she's just as interested in him as he is in her. Many question why Rae let Hughie have sex with her, with thoughts of Stockholm Syndrome being brought up. But Rae just used her sexuality, Hughie's weakness, to gain an upper hand on him. This changes her from victim to a smart, resourceful young woman who will do anything to survive for herself and for her husband, John. This makes her realistic and sympathetic. DEAD CALM doesn't represent the seas, but rather John and Rae's focus on each other - needing each other to remain balanced and centered amongst the storm of losing their son and their struggle with Hughie.

As for Hughie, he's clearly a delusional psychopath. He's murdered a ship full of people. He relishes on tormenting Rae in order to have control over her and make her see things his way. But he's so a charming, good looking man who looks like anyone else, other than the fact that he acts a bit odd. He's a realistic villain that you could encounter anywhere, whether on land or sea. That makes him scarier than most cinema bad guys.

DEAD CALM's biggest accomplishment is the film's tension. It's everywhere in this movie. There's tension between John and Rae over the death of their son. There's tension between John and Rae when it comes to surviving their respective ordeals to reunite. There's sexual tension between Rae and Hughie. It's thick and visible, as the film builds it up more and more each passing minute. This is done through Phillip Noyce's direction and the way scenes are framed and composed, as well as edited. This is also done by the acting, as each person is devoted to their roles as they create chemistry with each other and make their characters believable. While DEAD CALM is thin on a narrative level, it totally makes up for it in mood and atmosphere. You feel the suspense coming through every frame, keeping your glued to the film from beginning to end.

Phillip Noyce does a great job behind the director's chair besides the tension, mood, and atmosphere. As I already mentioned, the framing and composition is great. The editing is solid. Scenes where John tries to survive sinking while Rae and Hughie playing a cat-and-mouse game with each other to one-up the other are very suspenseful. The picture looks beautiful. The location on the sea makes the film work stronger than it probably should. It's just a really nice looking film done by a man who knows what he's doing behind a camera. He compensated a thin story with strong visuals - that's a good director.

The acting, in particular, is fantastic in DEAD CALM. Nicole Kidman would become a stronger actress as she racked up films in her career. But she still does a fine job as Rae. She looks great before whatever she did to her face in later years, as well as gives a very credible performance from victim to resourceful woman who will do anything to survive. DEAD CALM is still one of my favorite Kidman performances, even though I'm not a big fan of hers to be honest. Billy Zane is probably the best actor as Hughie. He's so good at playing an unhinged psychopath, that I was convinced he really was one. I think this may be his strongest performance that I've seen him in. Surprised he didn't have a more profile career out of this, even though I'm sure he isn't complaining about his current cult one. Sam Neill also does a very good job as John. He's pretty much by himself for much of the film, but Neill does a convincing job as a man who'll do anything to survive to rescue his wife. His scenes were very suspenseful. Just a great cast.

Do I have any issues with DEAD CALM? I kind of wish John and Rae dealt with the death of their son more, sure. I think it would have strengthened their bond before Hughie threatens to destroy it. It doesn't really hurt the narrative, but I think it should have been treated more of a bigger deal than it was.

The ending, however, irks me more. Is it a terrible conclusion? No. But compared to the rest of the film, it just comes across as silly, implausible, and completely cliche. DEAD CALM plays it so smart, relying on tense moments to reel the viewer in, that having a "cinema ending" where the killer has to get in his "one last scare" takes away from it. The film doesn't really need it, but I'm sure a lot of audiences loved it though.


- Rae wanted to take more than the needed sedatives to get over the trauma of losing her child. Whenever I need to be sedated, I just watch a recent Nicole Kidman film...with my EYES WIDE SHUT.

- Hughie claimed the passengers on his boat died of food poisoning. Well watching BLOODRAYNE is a bit hard to swallow and digest.

- Hughie's boat was filled with dead bodies. Man, that must have been quite the DEMON KNIGHT!

- Hughie told Rae that her face fascinated him. I agree. How much botox does it take to make anyone's face turn into wax?

- Hughie was a lot faster than Rae. She may believe in BATMAN FOREVER, but she can't out-quick THE PHANTOM.

- Hughie definitely wanted some of Rae. A lot of men have wanted to get inside her RABBIT HOLE.

- Billy Zane should stay away from boats. See also: TITANIC.

While not perfect, DEAD CALM is still a great psychological thriller that will keep you engaged. A great trio of performances and wonderful direction highlight a tense and suspenseful show. Sure, the narrative could have been deeper and the ending is tacky. But DEAD CALM is still worth watching and even buying. I wish this Nicole Kidman had stayed around. Damn you, Tom Cruise!

3.5 Howls Outta 4


The B-Movie Bungalow Presents: Class of Nuke 'Em High Part II: Subhumanoid Meltdown (1991)

Eric Louzil
Donald G. Jackson
Lloyd Kaufman

Brick Bronsky - Roger Smith
Lisa Gaye - Professor Holt
Leesa Howard - Victoria
Michael Kurtz - Yoke
Scott Resnick - Dean Okra
Shelby Shepard - Professor Jones

Genre - Science Fiction/Comedy/B-Movie/Cult

Running Time - 90 Minutes

Six years after the events of the original CLASS OF NUKE "EM HIGH, the once demolished Tromaville High has now become the Tromaville Institute for Technology, or TIT for short [giggedy...]. In a smart move, the college is located right by, and even inside, the Tromaville Power Plant! An intelligent, yet scantily dressed, genetic scientist named Professor Holt (Lisa Gaye) has evolved human life, creating a genetically enhanced human being who matures within nine months and will do any jobs normal humans would refuse to. These Subhumanoids tend to have enhanced abilities, and can be identified by their belly buttons that are actually mouths.

A reporter for the Tromaville Tech Times, Roger Smith (Brick Bronsky), is a bit of a nerd and a recluse even though he's blond, good-looking, and has a bodybuilder physique [as well as bad body odor apparently]. As part of some expose, he takes part in a sex experiment where he's Number 65 [sloppy 65ths...lucky guy] to get it on with a Subhumanoid named Victoria (Lessa Rowland). Because she's decent looking, and mainly because she put out, Roger falls for Victoria and vice-versa.

Roger soon learns that Victoria is a Subhumanoid and accepts it. But he begins to worry when other Subhumanoids begin to melt down into green slime, leaving only some furry creature that seems to be the true body of a Subhumanoid - with the human appearance as nothing but a shell. Roger also learns that Dean Okra (Scott Resnick) is forcing Professor Holt to create a quick antidote to make the Subhumanoids into his slaves. Unfortunately there's more problems, as a squirrel has eaten some of the nuclear waste and has grown into massive size, destroying everything in its path. What's Roger to do?


- A weird and surreal storyline. Let me just get this out of the way - I'm not praising the screenplay as it has issues that overwhelm the film. It's a double-edged sword, really. But I will compliment the story on the fact that there's a lot of stuff that's going on to the point where you'll always be somewhat interested in something that's being told. We have the Subhumanoid subplot. We have a love story. We have a battle of good vs. evil. We have a giant squirrel puking on everything and destroying stuff. We have girls with big boobs all over the place. It's a strange film that really appeals either to various audiences, or no audience at all. It's far from perfect and there's too much stuff going on at times, but I appreciated the attempt to create a narrative as cohesive as possible. It's not going to win any kind of prize, but I was somewhat entertained by this dumb story. It's a B-movie from Troma - what do you expect? Shakespeare?

- Tromie. The giant squirrel is probably the highlight of the film. He only appears in the Final Act, but he's a breath of fresh air when he shows up. The film starts getting pretty tired by this point, so any appearance of a giant rodent grabs your attention right away. He starts out small, eating nuclear waste. The build up is comical, as we hear Tromie's thoughts in his head in a cute voice. Then he grows massive and starts destroying the college, the power plant, and killing people as if he were Godzilla on a rampage in Japan. I think it's also ironic that the main villains are a group of idiots called The Squirrels, yet no Squirrel is a major threat until a real one named Tromie arrives. Not the greatest movie monster ever made, but he's a fun one during the film where it needs it.

- The "special" effects. The monster creature in the first CLASS OF NUKE 'EM HIGH looked amazing for such a small budget. Any monsters in the sequel are nowhere close to look as good. But I do love stop motion animation, even when the creatures look ridiculous or hard on the eyes. We get some here, like a bulimic dolphin, a winged insect-human hybrid, and even a weird looking lizard thing. Tromie is obviously a man in a rubber costume, but it actually made me laugh, so that's a good thing. We also get a lot of people puking green stuff, as well as melting into fuzzy rubber creatures. It looks cheap, but I'm guessing that was the point. Nothing phenomenal, but decent for what it was.

- The soundtrack. I wish I could tell you the names of artists and songs, but it seems difficult to find any actual info on the film's soundtrack. But it does use some pop and pop-rock music that fits the comedic tone well. I liked it.

- Toxie cameo. The Toxic Avenger himself shows up during one of the scenes in a really surreal/meta moment. When he appears, the director tells Toxie that he's on the wrong set and that he's interrupting the filming of CLASS OF NUKE 'EM HIGH PART II. I like that the film was self-aware of itself, meaning that you know that you're not really meant to take anything that you see and hear seriously. Does this make the film better? No. But it's a fun little cameo by Troma's mascot and an interesting cinema move.

- Too much going on. Remember when I mentioned earlier that the story was a double-edged sword? Well that's because even though you'll never really be bored by the abundance of subplots, there's really too many of them to follow and not enough depth needed to make them mean anything in the end. Roger and Victoria get together only because Victoria was the first girl to sleep with him. Other than that, it's cliche and there's no real reason why Victoria falls for Roger. Maybe he had great sexual prowess along with his bad B.O., I don't know. The Subhumanoids aren't really explained. They seem to have enhanced agility and possibly super strength, but it's never really explored. Why they have mouths for belly buttons is a head scratcher. Honestly, what was the point of that? Tromie only exists because the film needed a monster to sort of relate to the first film. There's so much more that really needs to be developed, but it just happens for the sake of happening without any sort of reason why it's there to begin with. Plus we also have random moments where Roger, as a narrator, must point out in order for the audience to understand why we're watching this. By the way, I wish the film had started at the beginning, instead of starting at the end so Roger can narrate throughout the entire film. It was kind of annoying and unnecessary.

Look I understand Troma films aren't known for their really deep storylines. I know as a B-movie, this sequel is meant to be silly and illogical. But if you're expecting people to watch a film for ninety minutes, at least give people something they can latch onto. Will you be bored? Probably not. But you'll forget most of it once it ends. The first CLASS OF NUKE 'EM HIGH had memorable moments and interesting characters. The sequel doesn't really have that besides a random few. You end up a bit confused because there's just too much to absorb. That's why having SIX writers is never a good thing - too many cooks in the kitchen.

- The direction. The "too much" issue affects the visual presentation as well. With THREE directors, it does manage to look decent. But again, every frame has a ton of activity in both the foreground and the background. This depth of field is great, because it makes it realistic looking. But when EVERY scene has this and you're trying to focus on what's in the foreground, it becomes a bit jarring and distracting. Important stuff can be happening in the foreground to enhance the story, but I'm busy watching characters act silly in the background. People with ADD are going to have an aneurysm trying to focus on everything.

Plus while the tone is consistent, the pace is definitely uneven. There are lulls in the story that feel more like filler rather than anything substantial to the narrative. If this film was edited 15 minutes shorter, you'd still get the same film but in a tighter package. Funny enough, the European version is actually 10 times longer than the version I watched! I couldn't imagine what was added.

All I'm saying is that it's not a bad looking film at all. Yes it looks very low-budget, but that goes for every Troma film. It's just that the pacing was off and it could have ran smoother. Take out the scenes of filler and the jokes that obviously won't work and put together a shorter film that would come across as more effective. Problem solved.

CLASS OF NUKE 'EM HIGH PART II: SUBHUMANOID MELTDOWN doesn't come close to matching the original's charm and cult status. But it's an okay sequel that has some cool moments and interesting, yet silly ideas. I think if the film was more focused on just the Subhumanoids and less on everything else that was going on [giant squirrels, establishing too much on what goes on at TIT, narrating things we can actually see for ourselves], it would have been more effective. Not a recommended watch really. But if you're a Troma fan and like women with "melon heavy breasts", then CLASS OF NUKE 'EM PART II is worth attending for a semester.

2 Howls Outta 4


Unknown (2011)

Jaume Collet-Serra

Liam Neeson - Dr. Martin Harris
Diane Kruger - Gina
January Jones - Elizabeth Harris
Aidan Quinn - Dr. Martin Harris
Frank Langella - Professor Rodney Cole
Bruno Ganz - Ernst Jurgen

Genre - Thriller/Mystery/Action

Running Time - 113 Minutes

Dr. Martin Harris (Liam Neeson) and his beautiful wife Liz (January Jones) arrive in Germany for a conference on biotechnology. Believing he forgot an important piece of luggage at the airport, he hails a cab driven by Gina (Diane Kruger). However, there's an accident and Martin goes into a coma for a few days. Still disoriented by the event, all he wants to do is find his wife and get back to the conference.

Returning to the hotel where the conference is being held, Martin finds Liz. Surprisingly, Liz doesn't seem to recognize Martin. In fact, she claims to be married to another man (Aidan Quinn), who claims to be the real Dr. Martin Harris. Since Martin doesn't have any identification or any proof to confidently claim who he is, he begins to wonder if someone is playing a dangerous game with him or his life has been nothing but smoke and mirrors to begin with. Finding Gina, they both begin to collect the pieces to figure out what's going on. What they begin to learn turns into nothing but lies and government secrets that'll lead to murder.


- Neeson, Kruger, and Ganz. The acting [and pretty much everything else] is a bit uneven in UNKNOWN, but three actors stand above it all. Liam Neeson has really become the go-to guy for modern action films, due to the massive success of 2009's TAKEN [although Neeson proved he can do action back in 1989 with Sam Raimi's DARKMAN]. Neeson provides a reliable performance, managing to be convincing even with the most implausible material. He's strong as Martin, providing the perfect emotional cues needed, as he does a great confusion and angry. Not his best performance, but a highlight. Diane Kruger is very good as Gina, the cab driver who gets sucked into Martin's journey. Her character isn't all that much on script, but Kruger manages to make Gina interesting and worth investing in. Bruno Ganz had probably the most interesting character in Ernst Jurgen. Ganz does a great job making the character complex and somewhat mysterious, making the audience want to watch his character's arc. I think Ganz should have been in the film more, but he shines in every scene that he is in. I wish the entire cast was just as good, but they hardly had anything to do [Aidan Quinn and Frank Langella especially] or weren't good to begin with [I'll get to January Jones in a bit].

- The direction. Jaume Collet-Serra [who directed the 2005 HOUSE OF WAX remake and 2009's ORPHAN] does a good job helming the project visually. Even though some of the quick cuts were a bit annoying, especially during chase sequences [too many close ups and not enough establishing action shots], I thought the film looked great and the pace was really good for a mystery-thriller. There's shaky cam, but it's not overbearing and actually enhances certain scenes [especially the fights]. I do believe the direction is stronger during the first half of the film than the "falling apart" second half that starts to lose its way a bit as the implausibility factor increases. But Serra held my attention, so he did a decent job with UNKNOWN.

- The mystery. Before watching UNKNOWN, I honestly had no idea what it was really about except for what I had seen in the trailers. I pretty much ignored it last year when it was released and never bothered reading reviews for it, so I was never spoiled about what was really going on in the narrative. I knew it had comparisons to THE BOURNE IDENTITY, so I figured the film had something to do with some sort of espionage [whether it does or doesn't, I'm not spoiling it]. That being said, while the mystery was sort of a let down, I was invested in Martin's journey in finding the truth. The film's purpose is to figure out whether Martin is really telling the truth, or things aren't really what they seem to be - and that part worked for me. The reveal isn't the most original and doesn't really make sense to be honest, but getting there was kind of fun. It's just a shame the film continued for 25 more minutes.

- The uneven story. UNKNOWN starts out pretty strong and captivating due to its mystery narrative. But once everything is revealed, the film just becomes silly and predictably cliche. I really wish I could explain in detail about why the entire aftermath of the reveal is flawed, but I don't want to spoil it for those who haven't seen the film yet and are still interested in doing so. I will just say that while the first act and some of the second act grabs you because you want to know what's happening, the rest of the film plays out like any other stereotypical Hollywood action-thriller. The reason why the characters are at the conference to begin with is just stupid. Maybe if the whole biotechnological deal was explained in depth [which this film really has none of - another MISS in itself], it would have been more effective. It seemed like a big deal but it never felt like one, which is the problem.

Also, we have characters who are a big part of the mystery, yet are barely in the film to begin with. Aidan Quinn's Martin character should be more of a threat to Liam Neeson's Martin, but he's just there. Sure, they do confront each other violently at the end, but there's no punch to their meeting because they're barely in each other's atmosphere. January Jones' Liz is a non-factor, and she's the main character's WIFE! He wants to find out the truth for HER. So why isn't SHE a bigger deal in the story? And Frank Langella as Professor Rodney Cole is major for the story, yet only appears for like ten minutes. What's the point?

I also thought the way the antagonists were eliminated was very lame. Most die at Martin's hands. But the most important one dies via an explosion before Martin could even confront this person. I was like, "Really? That's it?" It's as if screenwriter Oliver Butcher had no idea how to end the film, so he decided to just rush through it while trying to make it "thrilling" and "exciting". Didn't really work. Not sure how the source material, Didier Van Cauwelaert's Out of My Head, is presented. But I'm hoping it was better than this. The screenplay had a lot of potential to be good, but just ends up being mediocre at best.

- January Jones. She's hot. I just wanted to get that out of the way. Unfortunately, her acting doesn't quite match up to her looks. I couldn't buy her at all in this movie. She's supposedly playing Liam Neeson's wife, yet she had anti-chemistry with him [that's lower than no chemistry, everyone]. Hell, she doesn't have chemistry with anyone in this film. It's hard to have any chemistry when you act lifeless. Jones' 'ice cold' trademark may work on Mad Men and it worked really well in X-MEN: FIRST CLASS, where she played Emma Frost - a character that matches her acting. But it doesn't work here because you're supposed to feel for Martin when his wife doesn't remember him. But when she acts like a dead fish, can one really feel sorry, or possibly relieved that she's forgetful? Her character isn't interesting at all, but if Jones really cared, she could have made Liz someone to care about and invest in. Thank God Diane Kruger was there to pick up the slack, because January Jones was very disappointing.

UNKNOWN is truly a mixed bag of a film. Half of the cast is great, the direction works, and even getting to the mystery is kind of fun. But as the film runs, the more implausible and silly it gets, especially the final act. I'm guessing the movie is trying to mimic the mystery-thrillers of Alfred Hitchcock, but UNKNOWN only gets halfway there. A mediocre time waster for those who are fans of the genre and Liam Neeson. Otherwise, you're not missing much.

2 Howls Outta 4


Dear Mr. Gacy (2010)

Svetozar Ristovski

Jesse Moss - Jason Moss
William Forsythe - John Wayne Gacy
Emma Lahana - Alyssa
Andrew Airlie - Professor Harris
Cole Heppell - Alex Moss

Genre - Psychological Thriller/Serial Killers

Running Time - 103 Minutes

Based on a true story outlined in a memoir by Jason Moss called The Last Victim, the film depicts an 18-year-old Jason (Jesse Moss - no relation), who wants to do a term paper on convicted serial killer, John Wayne Gacy (William Forsythe). Knowing that Gacy preyed on young men, Jason begins working out and sending Gacy photos to seduce him. Gacy takes the bait, soon engaging in phone conversations and letters with Jason. Jason believes that he's the one in control of this relationship, hoping by gaining Gacy's trust, Gacy will confide in him about his famous crimes. However, as Jason is trapping himself within the house of lies he's made to gain Gacy's trust, he realizes that Gacy is the one perpetuating their relationship's pace, making Jason do things that make him completely uncomfortable. Jason's "research" forever changes him, both physically and mentally, as he delves deeper inside the mind of a psychopath.


- The acting. Even though DEAR MR. GACY is full of good actors, the film is really a two-man show. Jesse Moss is completely believable as Jason. His evolution from a normal young college student, who'll do anything to get a juicy story out of John Wayne Gacy, to a psychologically and emotionally damaged young man who becomes a bit mad and somewhat homicidal is convincing all the way. Moss gives it his all, hitting every emotional cue needed to make the character work. I really enjoyed watching his performance.

William Forsythe, however, is just incredible in his portrayal of infamous serial killer, John Wayne Gacy. He comes across as seductive, lonely, charming, and menacing all at once. He's just so believable in the role and I could care less if he doesn't look all that much like the real-life Gacy. He's just so haunting and spellbinding that you can't take your eyes off of Forsythe when he's onscreen. I think the only actor who played Gacy better was Brian Dennehy in that terrific TV movie, 1992's TO CATCH A KILLER. Forsythe drives the film and both he and Moss are riveting to watch.

- The story. When I hear "Based On A True Story", I tend to be skeptical because while the premise is intact, what's done with it is usually more fiction than fact. And while I'm sure some of DEAR MR. GACY was fictionalized in order to create a watchable film, I do believe it's as close to the memoir as possible. I love that the screenplay keeps the focus on Jason Moss, since he was the one who wrote the memoir to begin with, and never sensationalizes the situation - instead giving us a human perspective to the serial killer story we rarely see in cinema or on television. DEAR MR. GACY is never about the murders, even though we do see some bad things in flashbacks. It's about two men who are so different, yet alike in many ways, forming a strange bond that ruins them both. While Gacy is still portrayed as a monster, we do see a genuine [for him anyway] caring and gentle side to the man, as he feels that Jason is his only friend. And Jason's self-destruction, just so he can understand Gacy's world while trying to gain his trust for some valuable information, is both interesting and sad to watch. Gacy was a perverse man, and watching Jason fall into that world a bit is a bit creepy. It's a story of manipulation, rather than murder. I really appreciate the depth of the narrative, as DEAR MR. GACY is an eerie character study of how men, no matter where they are, being able to control others for their own benefit. It felt authentic and I wanted to know more about all the parties involved, especially since the real Jason Moss committed suicide in 2006 - years after these events. That's the sign of a good screenplay.

- The direction. Svetozar Ristovski creates a very tense and eerie film. I liked the look of the film, which looked washed out at times. The flashbacks had a darker tint than the current events of the film, which was a nice touch. The editing was great. The pacing was perfect. It was a low budget film, but the picture looked good. It's not a visually stimulating film, but it's a well made one for this type of movie. The story is so good and the acting performances are so solid, that all Ristovski had to do was let those two things tell the story. No complaints here at all.

- Story a bit uneven. This doesn't happen often, but DEAR MR. GACY does have a couple of plotholes. I do think that Jason's suffering was a bit off at times. He would hit rock bottom one night, and then the next morning act totally calm as if nothing major had happened. I'm sure this happens more frequently than believed, but I felt the change was a bit too quick. I think the story could have let it linger a bit before having Jason realize that he had to take matters into his own hands. It doesn't really hurt the film, but it almost like whiplash at times.

The other major plothole has to do with the "connections" Gacy has. Gacy was able to gain a ton of information about Jason, his family, and such. But how did he not know that Jason was a college student and doing a report on him? It wasn't like Jason was hiding it either, as he would talk to his girlfriend and his professor in public about it. It's possible that Gacy was unable to gain that bit of info. But he pretty much knew everything else and was using this info to manipulate Jason deeper into his perverted pit. I'm guessing this happened in real life, but it just feels like a movie plot device to build tension and keep the story was ending.

DEAR MR. GACY is a terrific psychological drama/thriller that audiences ought to watch. While it does have small flaws, the film has a strong screenplay, powerful acting, and solid directing. I would have never bothered with this one if someone didn't request it for a review. I'm very glad I took the chance because this really was a great "serial killer" movie. If you're expecting something really exciting and gory, look elsewhere. But if you enjoy well-written character studies, DEAR MR. GACY is definitely worth checking out.

3.5 Howls Outta 4

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