8.31.2012

The 550th Review: The Amityville Horror (1979)

DIRECTED BY
Stuart Rosenberg

STARRING
James Brolin - George Lutz
Margot Kidder - Kathy Lutz
Rod Steiger - Father Delaney
Don Stroud - Father Bolen
Natasha Ryan - Amy Lutz
K.C. Martel - Greg
Meeno Peluce - Matt
Michael Sachs - Jeff
Val Avery - Sergeant Gionfriddo
Helen Shaver - Carolyn
Murray Hamilton - Father Ryan


Genre - Horror/Supernatural/Ghosts/Demons/Haunted House

Running Time - 117 Minutes


A few years ago, I reviewed the 2005 remake of THE AMITYVILLE HORROR that stars Ryan Reynolds and Melissa George. I remarked that it was one of the better modern remakes of the '00s [still stand by that] because it took what the original film had done and slightly improved on its flaws. Many scoffed at me because I preferred the remake over the original, since a lot of people cherish the 1979 Stuart Rosenberg adaptation of the 1977 best-selling novel of the same name. For the life of me, I still don't understand why the original film is so damn loved. And as I noticed, some of those naysayers are now on the same boat as me. Why is THE AMITYVILLE HORROR held in such high regard as a classic?

I guess it may have to do with it being "Based on a True Story". The Long Island, New York house that's the inspiration for this horror story has become iconic due to claims by George and Kathy Lutz that the house was haunted with evil spirits. The story about the previous owner, Butch "Ronnie" DeFeo, is believed to be true, as he murdered his entire family in 1974 with a shotgun while they slept. Apparently DeFeo claimed that demonic voices and forces inside the house were telling him to kill. Whether the guy is suffering from schizophrenia or supernatural forces really made him kill is still yet unknown.

What has been disputed is the Lutz's story. Did their 28 days of hell in Amityville really happen? Or did they just want fame and fortune? Whether it's true or not, their story has created one of the most popular horror franchises in the horror genre for better or worse. And during a period with supernatural horror was at its peak with films like ROSEMARY'S BABY, THE EXORCIST, and THE OMEN really sucking in audiences, a film adaptation of THE AMITYVILLE HORROR was, without a doubt, going to grab a huge audience as well. And it did, becoming a massive success and creating a ton of sequels and the earlier mentioned remake.

The problem is that, unlike the other supernatural films I mentioned, THE AMITYVILLE HORROR doesn't really hold up that well and doesn't effect me in the way it was probably intended. To be honest, I felt the same way about the film when I was kid. I see some of the charms that so many love about this film, but I personally feel this film is overrated as hell and not all that good. Let's see why I won't be chopping wood anytime soon.

PLOT
At exactly 3:15 AM on November 13, 1974, a young man named Ronald DeFeo murdered his entire family with a shot in Amityville, New York. He claimed that demonic voices within the house had taken control over his mind and ordered him to kill his family, and plead insanity. While doctors believed he was schizophrenic, many in the neighborhood believed the house to be haunted.

A year later, the house is back on the market for a very cheap price. Newlyweds George (
James Brolin) and Kathy (Margot Kidder) Lutz buy the house and move in with Kathy's three young children and a family dog. As the family settles in, they unknowingly receive a visit from the local priest, Father Delaney (Rod Steiger). Delaney enters the home ready to bless the house, but is attacked by a swarm of flies and starts feeling nauseous and physically ill by whatever is inside the home. When he tries to warn the Lutz family about his suspicions, the reception goes bad each time.

Soon enough, George begins to feel sick himself, complaining of the house being cold even though the thermostat is above room temperature. He constantly chops wood for the fireplace, growing more distant and deranged each passing day. The family thinks George is coming down with a bad case of the flu, not realizing that random objects are moving around inside the house and demonic voices exclaiming, "
Get out!" are echoing throughout the home.

Kathy slowly catches on, as her daughter Amy (
Natasha Ryan) suddenly has an imaginary friend named "Jodie", who does bad things and forces Amy not to do anything. Friends are also creeped out by the house, random strangers pop up, and the history of the previous owner is learned by a local cop (Val Avery) who witnessed the terror that occurred a year prior. As George descends deeper into madness and begins looking like Ronnie DeFeo more and more each day he stays inside the house, the family begins to realize they need to escape this haunted house before history repeats itself.

REVIEW

THE AMITYVILLE HORROR is consider to be one of the best "haunted house" films to ever be made. Unfortunately, I disagree but that's only my opinion. I find THE AMITYVILLE HORROR to be overlong, boring, and not at all scary. I felt this way when I was eight-years-old when I watched it for the first time, and I feel the same way 23 years later.

The strengths and weaknesses of THE AMITYVILLE HORROR stem from the culture surrounding its release and how it has changed today. THE AMITYVILLE HORROR did big business because the 1970s were a time of conservative religion and fear that weak-minded folks were going to fall into the hands of Satan and his evil. Any project [film, television, books, etc.] involving the Devil or evil spirits was going to make a lot of money due to the culture's fascination with the subject. While ROSEMARY'S BABY pretty much started the craze, it was THE EXORCIST that really gave it its power. THE AMITYVILLE HORROR just jumped on the bandwagon and did well for itself because of it. I've read and heard that to truly review THE AMITYVILLE HORROR, you need to judge it by when it was released instead of modern times where the world view and pop culture compliment the film less. That's a fine opinion, but I still believe I would have felt the same way about the film in 1979 that I do in 2012. The film, no matter the reasons behind its creation, isn't all that great.

The narrative is pretty basic, to the point where you're just sitting while waiting for things to happen. The story does have memorable moments obviously. After all, many future films have parodied the walls bleeding blood, scary eyes outside of a window, and demonic voices telling people to get out. While cliche, these moments work for a reason because we expect things like this in a horror film. But between these moments, you're stuck watching a family drama unfold that isn't all that captivating. And that's the issue with THE AMITYVILLE HORROR - it wants to be a scary film, but also wants to portray conventional family values in the form of a soap opera. Can these two things work? Absolutely, but only when the people behind the storytelling understand how to merge the two together to create a single entity. Since the script wants to follow the book as close as possible, while exaggerating things for a movie going audience, it never maintains the balance it needs to not be boring.

As many characters that are in this film for two straight hours, we barely know any of them on any deep level. Sure, George and Kathy Lutz are likeable enough. But I honestly know nothing about their true relationship outside this incident. They seem to be a loving couple at the start, but I always got the impression that George was sort of distant with Kathy, who was more affectionate and willing to let things go just to maintain a sense of happiness in her life. She keeps saying that she really wants her marriage with George to work, as if it's implied that maybe this couple isn't as happy as the film would like us to believe. Why would she say this in almost a doubtful way if they were a solid couple? Also, Kathy's children don't seem to have a bond to George in any way. Daughter Amy claims that Jodie doesn't like George, and never defends him to Kathy or Jodie. I'm not expecting George's stepfather relationship with Kathy's children to be perfect. But usually it's on good standing if the mother marries the guy. It would have been nice to see what their relationship was like prior to moving into 112 Ocean Avenue, especially when I'm watching these two people for 95 percent of a two-hour film. That's why I'm never invested in George's slow descent into madness because you barely know the guy before the change. Hell, he could have been a serial killer before marrying Kathy. He doesn't look like the most friendly guy on the planet, as he's a bit standoffish. And the fact that Kathy just lets things happen without doing anything to change them until it's almost too late makes her weak in my eyes. But unlike the other characters, at least they do stuff that at least keep you somewhat interested. They're just not that interesting as single characters, working only when they play off each other.

The children, besides Amy, don't get enough to do [unless you count Greg getting a window slammed down on his hand, which doesn't break any of his bones for some reason that's never explained]. Amy's only real purpose is to introduce Jodie, her so-called "imaginary friend" who likes to sit in a rocking chair and trap babysitters in Amy's closet. Oh, and Jodie is a flying demon pig for some reason. I guess she was tired of Miss Piggy taking the spotlight, so she turned evil or something. I don't know why a pig would be one of the lead spirits inside of this home. Maybe Jodie was a Wonder Twin in a past life. I have no clue. It's a funny image though, which does raise the entertainment value of THE AMITYVILLE HORROR. I honestly thought the Jodie from the remake [who is human in that version] was integrated better into the story than this demon pig was. Maybe if the demon pig deal was given more time, it could have really been something pretty cool and terrifying. But we barely see it and it just comes across as silly. There had to be a reason why Jodie was a pig. But the story never tells you [I believe the novel does give the pig issue a lot more detail than the film does].

The Church stuff that's added to the film also left a lot to be desired. I understood why Father Delaney was in the story and I'm more than fine with his role in the narrative. If you're going to have an evil house, you need a force of good [usually a very religious person who has power in his faith] to balance it out. And I liked that he was effected by the evil of the house the moment he tried to bless it. It made him nauseous and gave him flu-like symptoms. It also attacked him with flies. It showed that his religion and the faith he had in it was a big threat to the evil living there. However, I didn't understand why it continued to effect him after he left the house. He got sicker. It tried to crash his car while he was in it. He even went blind because he spoke against the evil inside of a church. How did this evil leave the house and do this? It's never established how powerful this home is. Kathy's sister, who is a nun, was effected by the house as well. But all she got was nauseous. The Lutz family got affected in different ways, but once they left the house, the evil stopped hurting them apparently. So why was this priest such a threat that the evil wanted to destroy him? It doesn't make any sense and seems like the reason this even happens is to give Father Delaney something to do once he's introduced.


What I did find interesting within the narrative is how religion is treated in THE AMITYVILLE HORROR. In THE EXORCIST, it stands up against the forces of evil. While evil isn't truly dead by the end of the film, at least it wins the battle for the most part. In this film, religion tends to be treated as something worse than the evil inside the Amityville House. When Father Delaney tells his fellow priests about his suspicions about that house and how it made him ill, the other priests think that Delaney may be losing his mind and don't want to pay any more mind to the issue. For a man as respected in his parish and in the community as Delaney, wouldn't the other priests at least go along with the story? Even when the man goes blind, it's almost treated as an afterthought - like that sort of thing happens all the time. For men of faith, they sure seem more political than anything. They would rather turn a blind [no pun intended] eye to the matter rather than investigate. While I think the narrative is hurt by casting both the evil and the religious sect as villains, at least it's interesting to see the point of view the filmmakers had on religion here. Instead of trying to help a family deal with a spiritual crisis, they would rather cover it up and let it continue. Honestly, besides the house itself, the priests in the film have more personality than the people we're supposed to care about. I didn't really feel much for the Lutz unit, but I was disgusted by how the Church acted here. Shouldn't it be the other way around?

Speaking of the house itself, it's honestly the only character in the film that has any sort of personality. It can make its walls bleed. It can clog up its toilets with black gunk. It can move objects at will. It can produce images, like demon pigs and a face hologram of George Lutz. It can make psychics go orgasmic through the vibes it projects. And it can even speak to people so they can get scared off and leave. The house is the most interesting element of this film and it's the reason why the franchise keeps going back to it. This is a creepy ass house - one I wouldn't want to go near.

Also, this film is full of open-ended subplots. What was the deal with that detective? He spies on the Lutz home and then follows one of the priests to see what happened to Father Delaney. Then he disappears and is never mentioned again. Why is he even in this story? To tell the family what happened there previously? I'm sure this could have been done a different way, even if this is exactly how the Lutz family claimed it happened. Also, what was the deal with Delaney and Kathy? They seemed pretty close and concerned for each other. But whenever he felt there was trouble, he would barely try and warn her about it. So he made a few phone calls, but they never went anywhere. He could at least risked his life to warn her. Nada! Also, nobody wanted to be inside this house. Wouldn't the Lutz family have asked about the reasoning more than once? And when strange things did happen, why didn't the family start to think that maybe it was time to move out? Things like that tend to bug me, even if it's close to the "true story".

While the narrative is pretty predictable in terms of its beats and certain moments that need to happen in order for the story to be told, at least it has moments you'll remember once the film is over. While most of these classic images were cliche before THE AMITYVILLE HORROR was even released, at least they're used well and pick up the film's pace to grab your attention before you start falling asleep. Generic, but memorable.

In terms of terror, there's not much here. Sure, the house gives off a creepy vibe [as well as a creepy look - when the windows are on, it looks like an evil face staring back at you], but you won't have nightmares over this movie. Still, the scenes where DeFeo murders his family are pretty messed up, especially when he shoots the children in their sleep. And I like how they're edited in as the Lutz enter the home for the very first time. It's a striking contrast and also a possible foreshadowing of what will happen to the Lutz family. The red eyes outside of the window are pretty creepy too. But nothing is really that scary at all.

The direction by Stuart Rosenberg was hindered by a lame screenplay, but I did enjoy his visual presentation. It looks like a TV movie at times, but it's still competently shot. There was definitely mood and atmosphere sprinkled throughout the film when there needed to be. The editing was tight and I liked how certain shots were framed and composed. Some shots were done with the use of filters, which worked for me. And I thought the final act had some nice tension, even if it was fairly predictable. Rosenberg, who directed the much better COOL HAND LUKE, isn't to blame for the film's mediocrity. He made the most of visualizing a script that really doesn't accomplish much. He took the job seriously and I respect that.

The acting is mostly good. James Brolin is good as George Lutz, giving a subtle performance throughout the film. His beard during the 1970s was truly epic and just awesome on its own. But Brolin does a good job with the material. I like his presence. Margot Kidder was also good as Kathy. She hit the emotional notes nicely and looks good with an open shirt and no bra. No wonder Superman wanted her all those years ago. Natasha Ryan was also quite good as Amy, the daughter. She had a creepy quiet vibe about her that I felt the film needed more of. All the other supporting actors were fine in their roles as well.

However, Rod Steiger really takes the cake as Father Delaney. Talk about Overacting 101...and probably 102 as well. The dude was way too much in his role. I thought Al Pacino and William Shatner were hams. Steiger, an Academy Award winner, has them both beat. The guy overacts and yells every line in the film. That scene inside the church had too much volume going for it. I thought everytime he started to go off, the man was going to have a stroke or something. A pretty bad performance by Steiger, but an entertainingly bad one. He should have drank decaf before each take.

THINGS I'VE LEARNED WHILE MAKING PORK CHOPS OUT OF JODIE


- In 1974, an entire family was murdered inside of that Amityville home. I guess the culprit was tired of Keeping Up With the Kardashians. It wasn't them? Oh...

- The house started infesting itself with flies to prevent Father Delaney from blessing the house. I don't know why both sides even bothered. Nothing was going to save the Lohan family from the mess they would soon become. This isn't their Long Island home? Oh...

- Amy interrupted Kathy's and George's lovemaking. Now George is probably going to have to erase that memory from Kathy's mind to protect her. This isn't SUPERMAN II? Oh...

- The toilet was filling itself with black gunk. It must think this story is full of shit. It was just a clogging problem? Oh...

- George was impotent during sex with Kathy. He must have been thinking about Barbara Streisand. They weren't married yet? Oh...

- Father Delaney and Father Bolen also crashed due to an uncontrollable car possessed by evil. It must have been trying to get back at James Brolin and his awesome beard. This isn't the same possessed car? Oh...

- The babysitter was trapped inside of Amy's closet by Jodie. Sometimes people aren't ready to come out, even when it's not a secret. This isn't about Jodie Foster? Oh...

- Even though a window slammed down on his hand, Greg didn't suffer any broken bones. He must be Plastic Man or something. This isn't Superfriends? Oh...

- George Lutz grows madder and madder each day. He must have been pissed that his ex-wife's movie, THE AVENGERS, did a whole lot better than his very own GREEN LANTERN. The role isn't being played by Ryan Reynolds here? Oh...

- George, armed with an axe, plans to murder his family. If only the family had listened to those warnings of REDRUM, this could have been prevented. This isn't a dull remake of THE SHINING? Oh...

THE FINAL HOWL
THE AMITYVILLE HORROR is probably one of the most overrated horror films ever. While the direction is good, the acting mostly solid, and the horror cliches used as well as they could be, the "true story" is just a bore for the most part besides when things start turning supernatural and horrific. The film is way too long and not much happens that keeps you captivated. But the memorable moments the film does have keep the film alive in the hearts of many and they have a certain charm to them. And while I think the film is mediocre, I never wanted to turn it off. Let's just agree that THE AMITYVILLE HORROR is average at best and move on. And if my house begins to bleed because of that, I'll just have to deal with buying tampons and plugging that bitch up.


SCORE
2 Howls Outta 4



8.30.2012

Hellraiser IV: Bloodline (1996)

DIRECTED BY
Alan Smithee (Kevin Yagher and Joe Chapelle)

STARRING
Bruce Ramsay - Philip LeMarchand/Dr. Paul Merchant/John Merchant
Doug Bradley - Pinhead
Valentina Vargas - Angelique
Kim Myers - Bobbi Merchant
Christine Hamos - Rimmer
Adam Scott - Jacques De L'Isle
Mickey Cotrell - Duc De L'Isle
Courtland Mead - Jack Merchant
Mark & Michael Polish - Twins
Charlotte Chatton - Genevieve


Genre - Horror/Science Fiction/Slasher/Supernatural/Demons

Running Time - 84 Minutes


PLOT
On a space station named Minos in the year 2127, a scientist named John Merchant (Bruce Ramsey) is the last descendant of the man who created the Lament Configuration puzzle box - the portal to hell that sets the infamous Pinhead (Doug Bradley) and his Cenobites free. Wanting to end Pinhead's reign of terror on his family and the world, he willingly opens the box to set him free in order to destroy him. Once Pinhead is freed, however, Merchant is taken prisoner by space marines who want to know what he's up to.

As Merchant is prisoner, he tells a marine (
Christine Hamos) about the history of his family and the puzzle box, starting way back in the 18th century. Supposedly, the box was unknowingly created to unleash hell on earth in the form of Angelique (Valentina Vargas) - a demon who enjoys seducing humans in order to feed and torture them. She's obsessed with the Merchant bloodline, following the family through 1996 and into the future. With Pinhead helping her in destroying the Merchant bloodline, can Dr. John figure out a way to stop Pinhead and Angelique? Or will the demons finally bring their "pleasures" to Earth?


REVIEW



HITS
- The intention and the concept. HELLRAISER IV: BLOODLINE continues the unfortunate decline of an original Clive Barker project that was considered special, due to it being very different from the slasher era that surrounded the film's release. Now, HELLRAISER has become a forced slasher franchise in its own right, diluting what made the first two films unique. However, I do respect and appreciate that BLOODLINE wanted to be its own film that would make it stand out from the previous entries.

BLOODLINE, written by Peter Atkins [who also wrote HELLBOUND: HELLRAISER II and HELLRAISER III: HELL ON EARTH], is sort of done in an anthology type of way - having three different timelines tell three different stories about the Lament Configuration's origin and the curse it has had on the Merchant bloodline [oh...that's where the title comes from!]. I'll get into the stories themselves shortly, but I thought it was an interesting storytelling tactic that separated itself from the previous installments. A lot of people complain about why an origin for the puzzle box was even needed, but where else could the franchise had gone at this point? We already knew about Pinhead's deal from HELLBOUND and HELL ON EARTH, so the logical step was to explain why this Lament Configuration is the gateway to Hell. It explains the strange final shot from HELL ON EARTH [the 1996 portion finally answers my question from the last HELLRAISER review I wrote] and actually makes this box feel important. In fact, the box is more dangerous than any of the Cenobites that come out of it. I liked that we saw three different time periods and how the box played in each one. I wish the execution was better [I read the original script to this film and it's a whole lot better than what we eventually got], but the intent and ambition was there. Too bad Miramax had to stick their greedy hands into the project and ruin it.

- The gore and SFX. While it's not the greatest special effects due to Miramax cutting the budget somewhat compared to HELL ON EARTH, it's not a surprise that they still manage to be a highlight when Kevin Yagher was on the project [at least for a while anyway]. Yagher is best known for his work on one or two of the NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET sequels and he handled the looks of all the demonic characters here. Pinhead still looks great. Angelique, in demon form, looks pretty hot. The twin Cenobites look pretty awesome in my opinion. And while the demon dog is a silly addition, at least it looks pretty creative. The Cenobites looked closer to Barker's vision rather than the ridiculous ones of HELL ON EARTH. That's a good thing.

I also thought the gore was pretty nifty here. The melting of a space marine by the twin Cenobites is probably the memorable one in this film. Not sure how they managed to do that, but it looked awesome. A guy getting decapitated by a mirror he's stuck into is pretty cool. The twins merging into one is a visual highlight. And we get the usual bites, scratches, stabbings, and cool stuff like that.

The space CGI looked weak, but it was 1996 and CGI was still being developed and played around with. It looked like effects from a TV show, but that's the budget they had had to work with. So I'm okay with it. I didn't mind the SFX at all.

- The acting. This was a toss up for me. I didn't particularly find a lot of the actors inspiring, but I didn't think they were all that terrible either. And compared to a lot of other issues with BLOODLINE, the acting here was the least of the film's problems.

Bruce Ramsay played three roles in the film, all members of the Merchant bloodline. I personally thought he was a bit bland for the most part. I thought his performance in the 18th Century portion was his best and it just sort of deflated once the other sections presented themselves. He wasn't bad or anything, but he never had that heroic lead impression on me.

Valentina Vargas, however, was much better as the mysterious Angelique. She was definitely a seductive presence who just screamed "bad news" anytime she appeared. I loved her accent and I really thought she brought some interest into her role. Too bad once Pinhead appears, Vargas becomes a background player. But I really dug her.

Everyone else was decent. Kim Myers, best known as Lisa from A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 2: FREDDY'S REVENGE, is still a good actress and does her best with the role of Bobbi. Charlotte Chatton was cool as Genevieve. A young Adam Scott was good as Angelique's boy toy, Jacques De L'Isle. Even better was Mickey Cotrell as Duc De L'Isle, coming across as very maniacal. Christina Hamos didn't do much as Rimmer, but she was kind of cute.

And of course, we have Doug Bradley returning as Pinhead. He still brings a lot of passion and deviousness to the role. But he looks kind of bored by this point at times, as he isn't really given much to do but just stand around and play with doves. He still brings a presence to the film though, so it's okay.

- The 18th Century portion. Of the three different timelines in BLOODLINE, I found myself more glued to the past storyline where the Lament Configuation was actually created and used for evil. Learning that the box was never intended to be a gateway to Hell was interesting, and I liked the characters involved in making it happen. Duc and Jacques De L'Isle wanted the box and cast some sort of spell on it, allowing them to conjure up Angelique into the skin of a woman they had murdered [in a very cool moment]. In a lot of ways, it reminded me of the first two HELLRAISER films, with a human opening the box to gain some sort of power that he/she failed to understand. The presence of Angelique, using sex to seduce and torture her victims, reminded me of the more positive aspects of this franchise. I also thought the setting fit the Clive Barker vision of HELLRAISER very well and wish the entire film took place during this time period. Hell, I would have been happen if the portion was longer like it was in the original script [where character development and the motives of Angelique were presented more clearly]. But Miramax wanted Pinhead to appear sooner [he doesn't appear at all in the past story], so the best part of the film was edited down. Bastards.


MISSES
- The 1996 and 2127 portions. Here is where the tone of HELLRAISER changes from supernatural/demonic story to full on slasher mode - losing me in the process. The 1996 portion is the soap opera part of the film, dealing with relationships between Merchant and his wife - as well as Pinhead and Angelique. Angelique is obsessed with Merchant for whatever reason. I wasn't sure if she wanted him to make a box that would open the pathway to Hell, or close it completely so she could remain on Earth in the guise of a human [which she seemed to enjoy]. But Pinhead appears, feeling that Angelique is wasting too much time seducing Merchant when she should be torturing him to get the job done. Angelique, who was an interesting addition to the story, now becomes a supporting player once Pinhead appears to speak monologues and one-liners. Pinhead also refers to Angelique as "Princess", I guess implying that she some sort of demonic princess in Hell. While the original script explores this more, the film never bothers to elaborate other than that.

We also get Pinhead turning twin guards into Cenobites [I guess he'll make anyone one these days - which goes against what was established in the earlier films], and Pinhead kidnapping Merchant's wife and son to get his attention to open up the pathway to Hell. Pinhead has now resorted to blackmail out of desperation. What the hell has happened to this character? Pinhead could just murder everyone if he wanted to with a single snap of his fingers. Now he's resorting to blackmail? And why is Pinhead taking care of a demonic dog and petting doves? What the hell am I watching here?

The future scenes are no better. It's just your generic slasher flick, with shallow characters getting murdered in various ways. Nothing here really captivated me. I could care less about these paper-thin space marines getting murdered by Pinhead and his Cenobites. Sure, the deaths were cool looking. But this goes against what HELLRAISER is about. And I won't even get to the film's ending. Just ridiculous.

The best thing I can say about these sections of the film is that they're not boring and never made me want to turn off the film. But once Miramax bought this franchise, HELLRAISER quickly became a shell of its former self. It starts out promising, but once we get to the present and future stuff, we're back to mediocrity. Such a shame.

- Most of the visual presentation. The "Alan Smithee" name should give away that the direction is going to be an issue in BLOODLINE. Kevin Yagher planned for BLOODLINE to be his first directorial movie after mainly being a popular horror special effects artist. He had a pretty good script to work with, decent actors, and enough money to make his vision come to life. But then Miramax stepped in and started changing things. They slightly cut the budget. They eliminated certain things from the story, just so Pinhead could appear in the film sooner. They also didn't like the structure of the film either. Yagher tried to work with the studio, but eventually realized it was a losing battle. With reshoots and edits done behind his back, Yagher submitted the "Alan Smithee" pseudonym and left the project.

Miramax, needing the project completed, went to their go-to guy Joe Chapelle to finish BLOODLINE. Having already butchered the theater version of HALLOWEEN: THE CURSE OF MICHAEL MYERS, yet doing a decent film in PHANTOMS, Chapelle seemed to be the golden boy of Dimension. Rand Ravich, who would later direct THE ASTRONAUT'S WIFE, wrote the scenes that weren't filmed so Pinhead could be in them more. The project was obviously a behind-the-scenes mess, which results in a very confused sequel.

It's hard to say who directed what, although it's believed that Chapelle shot all the space scenes while Yagher directed everything else. Either way, the visual presentation doesn't click for the most part. The best scenes, like I mentioned, are the ones involving the 18th Century subplot. This portion feels like an actual HELLRAISER film and have a really surreal and bleak atmosphere that's welcomed. But then the rest of the film looks cheap, almost as if it were made for television rather than for the big screen.

It doesn't help that once the 18th Century stuff is over, the mood and atmosphere is all but gone. Sure, there are some nice shots and hints of style throughout the film. Hell, I thought the set for the space station looked pretty cool. But the editing is a bit off. The pacing has issues. And the mood is no longer there. BLOODLINE isn't sure what film it wants to be - an anthology film, a slasher film, or a moody supernatural film like the original HELLRAISER? This confusion bleeds into the direction, especially when two different directors that don't compliment each other are helming a single film. A nice looking film, sure. But nothing particularly interesting besides the expected gore scenes.


THE FINAL HOWL

It's really sad what became of HELLRAISER IV: BLOODLINE. It has such a cool premise, yet the execution was severely flawed for two-thirds of it. It's a nice looking film. The acting is pretty decent. The special effects work. And the 18th Century portion was very interesting. But the visual presentation is suffering from schizophrenia and the other two portions within the film aren't as captivating as what was before it.

This was intended to be the final HELLRAISER film, yet it was only the final released in theaters as the sequels went straight to video. The film pretty much bombed at the box office and it's really no surprise - what brought people into HELLRAISER to begin with was pretty much gone by this point anyway. I totally blame Miramax and Dimension Films for sticking their noses where it didn't need to be. I get that they need to have some input, but not on the level that they had here. Those who read the original script know this sequel had so much potential and could have revived it for many. But the potential just got wasted over greed. Just a by-the-numbers sequel that isn't as bad as many say, but is nowhere close to the quality of the first two films. Time to stick this one back into the box until next month, where I'll begin the straight to video sequels with HELLRAISER: INFERNO - a film I haven't seen. That should be interesting - at least more interesting than what this sequel was.


SCORE
1.5 Howls Outta 4




8.28.2012

The B-Movie Bungalow Presents: Kingdom of the Spiders (1977)

DIRECTED BY
John "Bud" Carlos

STARRING
William Shatner - Dr. Robert "Rack" Hansen
Tiffany Bolling - Dr. Diane Ashley
Woody Strode - Walter Colby
Marcy Lafferty - Terri Hansen
Lieux Dressler - Emma Watson
David McClean - Sheriff Gene Smith
Altovise Davis - Birch Colby
Roy Engel - Mayor


Genre - B-Movie/Horror/Thriller/Evil Animals

Running Time - 97 Minutes


PLOT
In Arizona, a rancher named Walter Colby (Woody Strode) finds one of his calves unconscious and foaming at the mouth. He calls the local veterinarian, "Rack" Hansen (William Shatner), to figure out what's going on. After taking some samples of the now-dead calf, he sends it to a lab for results.

The next day, a beautiful entomologist named Diane (
Tiffany Bolling) arrives in town, telling Rack that the calf died from a powerful dose of spider venom. Rack has trouble believing this news, but Colby and his wife, Birch (Altovise Davis), reveal that they've been dealing with a spider infestation problem for some time - having a spider hill in their field. As they look, they realize that the spiders have created more than one hill and are growing in number. Diane believes that the use of pesticides have made the spiders lose their cannibalistic ways, looking for other sources of food to quench their hunger. With some sort of annual fair about to begin, the town is now at the mercy of some pissed off spiders.


REVIEW



STORY
- Screenplay: The narrative for KINGDOM OF THE SPIDERS is like one of my biggest fears put on film. In case you don't know, I have a pretty bad case of arachnophobia. Small spiders - big spiders - those eight-legged bugs just freak me out. So to watch a film where an entire town gets infested with tarantulas that seem to grow in number gives me the shivers. So maybe it's because of my personal feelings, but I find the screenplay and story of this film to be highly effective.

KINGDOM OF THE SPIDERS is one of the many "animals run amok" films that were popular during this decade, following such classics as FROGS, NIGHT OF THE LEPUS, and THE FOOD OF THE GODS. Obviously, the focus isn't on the human characters and deep themes. It's focused on spiders scaring and killing people and other animals, and it does a great job in presenting that. During some generic dialogue and a decent amount of exposition to explain things, the story moves along when the spiders grow in numbers and begin terrorizing this small Arizona town. It keeps the film entertaining and engaging, as we want to see what these spiders will do and how these human victims will [or won't] handle this huge problem.

That's not to say the human characters aren't interesting or fun. Rack may not be the best. or most stereotypical, veterinarian in the world. But the dude is charming as hell and has a way with the ladies. He's also seen as a local hero and is brave enough to deal with these spiders to protect others. Diane also isn't the stereotypical damsel-in-distress/love interest type either. She's beautiful. She's smart. And she's pretty tough and cool under pressure as well. The other characters, like the Colbys, the lodge owner Emma Watson [who has an implied relationship with the likeable Sheriff Gene Smith], and the Mayor - who must have seen JAWS a few times and decided to focus on making money for the town from the annual fair rather than deal with the spiders first [which is always a good idea] - are all interesting to watch and fit within the narrative well. None of them are exactly deep or anything, but we get their personalities and most of them end up being likeable.

I also found it interesting that the locals in this town were actually kind to the spiders until they became a real threat. In fact, some of them just either shooed them away or gently let them go on their merry way. I thought it was an interesting reflection on this town and how these animals were perceived before the threat. If this were a city setting, those spiders wouldn't have had a chance. Most people would have just killed them. But these folks appreciated nature and its creatures, sort of expressing an appreciation of the environment and all its beings - small or large.

I thought the narrative also took elements from other popular films, and actually made them work. The bleak ending [one of the most memorable images in the film] reminds me of Alfred Hitchcock's ending of THE BIRDS. The survivors being trapped inside the lodge as the spiders try to attack them is definitely taken from George A. Romero's NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD. And of course, the greedy Mayor who tries to ignore the epidemic by taking the easiest route in order to make some money is a huge element from JAWS. While those films obviously used these things better, I thought they fit in well in this B-movie and were nice nods to those films.

The screenplay for KINGDOM OF THE SPIDERS isn't the greatest or deepest in the history of cinema. But it gets the job done and helps blueprint what happens to be a fun, entertaining B-movie.

- Direction: Director John "Bud" Cardos and his cinematographer, John Arthur Morrill, use their limited budget to the film's advantage. I thought the film had a great pace, with a three-act structure that's easy to follow and get into. I thought the film had some good tension and suspense, especially during the exciting third act. I loved the POV shots for the spiders before attacking their victims, especially since the victimized animals really did look afraid for their lives - which added to the effect. And there are a lot of nice framing shots and compositions that stick with you, like a victim having a bunch of tarantulas all over her body after they poisoned her, and others being surrounding by these spiders with no logical way out. It's not the most stylistic visual presentation of all time, but like the screenplay, it gets more than the job done. Watching Cardos build tension by adding more and more spiders into each frame until the movie's end really creates a sense of dread that definitely makes someone like me pretty uncomfortable for all the right reasons.

- Acting: I thought the acting in KINGDOM OF THE SPIDERS was really good. The star here is definitely Mr. William Shatner in one of his best roles in my opinion. He really makes Rack likeable and heroic, acting very natural and subtle within an uncontrollable situation. It's obvious that Shatner knows exactly that he's starring in a low-budget B-movie with spiders. But he never hams it up and makes the Rack character silly or forced. Shatner could have played the role tongue-in-cheek [which is a trademark he's usually known for], but he never does. Shatner never makes a mockery of the story and takes it as seriously as he can while still having fun with it. I thought he did a fantastic job here. I really enjoyed Shatner's acting in this film.

The other actors are good as well. Tiffany Bolling is more than cool as Dr. Diane Ashley. Not only did she play intelligent and tough convincingly, but she looked damn good doing it. The 1970s sure suited this woman. The other actors, like Woody Strode, Altovise Davis [wife of Sammy Davis, Jr.], and Marcy Lafferty [who was married to Shatner at the time], all play their roles well. I liked the cast, especially since they all brought something to the film and did it as seriously as possible.

Rating - 9/10


VIOLENCE
I'm judging this category in 1977 terms. And for 1977, KINGDOM OF THE SPIDERS is a pretty violent film. We don't really see much gore or anything, but people and animals do die by spider bites. The spiders do attack people in various locations, mainly inside the lodge and even on a dude flying in a crop duster airplane [where it crashes]. Also crashing are several cars, including one hitting a post that falls on the vehicle and crushing the person inside. These spiders definitely create a bit of chaos.

The violence also lends itself to the behind-the-scenes production, as many of the spiders died during filming. Most of them were stomped on, some were run over by cars, and others died due to the changes in temperature and climate. In 1977, animal rights groups didn't have much clout within the movie industry as it does now. If it did, these deaths would have been prevented. So when you see a spider get squished, it's real.

Rating - 7/10


SEX
KINGDOM OF THE SPIDERS is a pretty tame film sexually. There are a few innuendos and a love triangle between Rack, Diane, and Terri. And Tiffany Bolling is nude for a side shot, but it's brief.

Rating - 3/10


CHEESE
KINGDOM OF THE SPIDERS never hides it's made in the 1970s. The clothes, the hair, the ascots, the tight jeans - talk about being in a time capsule! Also, naming a character named "Rack" is so silly, it's freakin' awesome.

We also have a soundtrack full of scores used for television shows, like some episodes from The Twilight Zone and The Fugitive. The country song that opens and ends the film, by Dorsey Burnette, made me laugh because they just stuck out. And probably the silliest moment of the film - a person shooting their own hand just to kill a spider. I could not stop cracking up over this.

Not the cheesiest film ever, but it definitely has its moments.

Rating - 8/10

Total Rating - 27/40 = 2.7/4



THINGS I'VE LEARNED WHILE BEING CAUGHT IN THIS FILM'S WEB


- A spider attacked a grazing cow. That arachnid milked its for all it was worth.

- Not only can Rack lasso some steer, but he can rope in beautiful women as well. The man has no problems sending his spaceship into that black hole.

- Emma claims that her relationship with Sheriff Gene Smith soured because he went from sex to drinking, due to her "tiring him out". I think it had more to do with Gene finally having sex with the lights on. Beer goggles are a horny man's best friend.

- Colby and his wife found their dog dead behind their barn. Either the spiders killed the dog, or Michael Myers is anxiously waiting for Halloween to arrive.

- Rack does everything he can to get into Diane's pants. He's probably better off paying for a T.J. Hooker instead.

- The spiders attacked a pilot while up in his airplane. Their attempt to get revenge on flies took a wrong turn somewhere...

- Birch shot her own hand, because it had a spider on it. Someone took handgun a bit too literally...

- The Washburn Lodge was overrun with spiders. Last time they'll use Priceline.com!


THE FINAL HOWL

KINGDOM OF THE SPIDERS is one of the best B-movies of the 1970s, or any decade for that matter. William Shatner, in one of his best and more serious roles, rocks it along with a game cast. The narrative is simple and straightforward. The direction takes advantage of its budget limitations and definitely makes the most of it. And the film lives up to its title for sure, as there are so many spiders in this flick, I started to get creeped out. I'm bumping the score a bit because this film is a lot of fun to watch if you know what you're in for. It has a great sense of itself and has a great ending that I still remembered from when I watched this film when I was a kid. If you love William Shatner, spiders, and/or B-movies, KINGDOM OF THE SPIDERS will leave you caught in its web for sure.


SCORE
3.5 Howls Outta 4




8.27.2012

The WTF? Worst Films Extravaganza Presents: Dark Tide (2011)

DIRECTED BY
John Stockwell

STARRING
Halle Berry - Kate Mathieson
Olivier Martinez - Jeff
Ralph Brown - Brady
Luke Tyler - Luke
Mark Elderkin - Tommy
Sizwe Msutu - Walter
Thoko Ntshinga - Zukie


Genre - Drama/Thriller/Sharks

Running Time - 114 Minutes


PLOT
Kate Mathieson (Halle Berry) is one of the most famous shark divers and marine biologists, especially for her work in South Africa. She's so good at her job, many consider Kate the "Shark Whisperer". Her husband, Jeff (Olivier Martinez), videotapes her exploits. However one day, one of Kate's closest friends gets murdered by a shark. The tragedy stops Kate from diving with sharks.

A year passes and her touring job is failing due to Kate's unwillingness to share her knowledge of sharks. Jeff, not seeing Kate in a year due to a falling out, returns to offer Kate a deal: a dying businessman (
Ralph Brown) wants to swim with sharks out of a cage, as well as helping his so-called wimpy son (Luke Tyler) to become a man by swimming with him. Needing the money, Kate agrees - not realizing that killer sharks are about to invade her life once more.


REVIEW
I have three words for DARK TIDE:

WHAT THE FUCK!?

I expected DARK TIDE to be a decent thriller. I expected DARK TIDE to be decently acted. I expected DARK TIDE to be entertaining for its 114 minutes. I didn't expect DARK TIDE to be boring, uninspired, badly paced drama that I regret wasting two hours on.

What you read in the PLOT description is exactly all you get with DARK TIDE. I wish I could say the narrative was deeper than that, but it's as shallow as the characters that populate this film. The film has a decent ten to fifteen minute opener that sets up an interesting film. The last fifteen to twenty minutes play out like THE PERFECT STORM, but at least something interesting happens [too bad you can't see most of it due to poor lighting]. It's everything in between that just bring DARK TIDE down beneath the level of mediocrity. THERE'S NOTHING GOING ON FOR EIGHTY MINUTES STRAIGHT! EIGHTY FUCKIN' MINUTES! All I got were characters arguing with each other about their love lives. All I got were characters who come across as annoying - to the point where I was hoping a CGI shark would leap out of the water and just swallow them whole. All I got was an EIGHTY MINUTE set-up to an 114 minute movie that led into a modestly "thrilling" 20 minute conclusion.

What a waste of fuckin' time.

DARK TIDE could have been 45 minutes long and still would have accomplished the exact same thing. There's nothing in the dialogue that will keep you coming back for more. The characters are bland and try to have some depth, yet the character arcs don't go anywhere important. The resolution to what the opening sequence sets up is non-existent. Honestly, I have no idea what the point of DARK TIDE is. Why was it greenlit? Who thought this was good enough to distribute? Sure, Halle Berry is an Oscar winner and looks pretty good in a bikini [she's not in one as much as one would like]. But DARK TIDE has a nothing screenplay. A narrative should build to something. The story here is just static and doesn't go anywhere at all. I want my two hours back!

The direction by John Stockwell is uninspired and dull. Here's a guy who directed BLUE CRUSH and INTO THE BLUE - two films that are entertaining in their respective ways, even if they'll never be considered classics or masterpieces. But at least the direction was better than average in each film, and the stories were somewhat interesting enough to merit a feature-length film. But besides some good cinematography and beautiful locations in South Africa, there's nothing here. There's no tension. There's no suspense. The pacing is completely off. The editing, especially during the final act, isn't great. In fact, it's hard to see anything during that act anyway since the picture is too dark to make out anything. The visual presentation could have made the screenplay seem better than it actually was, but Stockwell honestly had nothing to work with. I thought the opening sequence was good, but there's no excuse for what happened with the ending sequence. Just a terrible presentation that bored the hell out of me.

The acting is just "there". Academy Award winner Halle Berry really should think about giving her Oscar back, especially if she's now starring in films like DARK TIDE. To be honest, she's the best actor by default - only because she gets the most to do. I thought her voiceover work wasn't that great though, as you could tell she was reading rather than feeling. But she wasn't the worst actress I've seen in a film. She was just unremarkable and unmemorable really. The other actors don't impress much either. Olivier Martinez was bland, only sticking out because of his French accent [which the script makes note of countless times, since moviegoers are stupid]. I believe Berry and Martinez ignited their romance while filming DARK TIDE, so I guess that's one good thing to come out of this crap. The other actors were okay, especially Ralph Brown as the douchebag millionaire, Brady. But not even the best acting would have saved this film from failing.

THE FINAL HOWL
DARK TIDE is a waste of two hours. Besides a good opening sequence and an average conclusion [which was hard to see due to editing and bad lighting], the rest of the film falls flat on its face. The story is terrible. The direction was lazy and uninspired. And the acting was just 'there'. I really wanted to conclude this month with a great shark film, but DARK TIDE totally ruined that for me. Don't bother with this one. Let the sharks eat it so we never had to mention it ever again. What a piece of boring crap.


SCORE
BOMB



8.25.2012

Jeepers Creepers (2001)

DIRECTED BY
Victor Salva

STARRING
Justin Long - Derry Jenner
Gina Philips - Trish Jenner
Jonathan Breck - The Creeper
Patricia Belcher - Jezelle Gay Hartman
Eileen Brennan - The Cat Lady


Genre - Horror/Monsters

Running Time - 90 Minutes


PLOT
Siblings Trish (Gina Phillips) and Darry (Justin Long) are driving home from college during Spring Break. As they playfully bicker like brothers and sisters do, a beat up pickup truck [with the license plate "BEATNGU"] begins to ram into their car and try to run them off of the road out of nowhere. After a few scary moments, the truck passes them and leaves them wondering what that was all about. As they continue driving down the highway, they find the pickup truck parked by an abandoned church. They see a figure in a trenchcoat dumping bodies into a drain pipe. The figure sees the siblings, gets in his truck, and repeats the actions he made before. The siblings manage to escape, scared out of their minds.

Darry, curious what the figure was dumping into the pipe, wants to investigate. Trish refuses, but helps Darry after his insistence. Darry enters the pipe, as Trish holds his feet so he can get a better look. Trish loses her grip and Darry falls into the pipe. After recovering from the fall, he sees a bunch of bodies wrapped in sheets. Older ones have been placed on the ceiling and walls, almost like art. After Darry rushes out of the pipe with a bit of his sanity intact, he convinces Trish that they need to find the authorities.


The siblings stop at a gas station by a diner, urging for help and to call the police. While they wait, Darry receives a mysterious phone call from a strange woman (
Patricia Belcher), who claims to have dreamt of the pickup truck, the figure driving the truck, and the song "Jeepers Creepers" that seems to signal trouble. She claims that once the Creeper locks on to a person's scent, it won't stop until it gets what it wants. Thinking its a prank, they ignore it and explain to the cops what they experienced. Before they leave, they realize that someone has broken into their car and was smelling their clothes - especially Darry's clothes. Realizing that the Creeper is now after Darry, the siblings must find a way to get away from this creature before the creature gets them.


REVIEW



HITS
- The acting. This was my first viewing of JEEPERS CREEPERS after so many requested that I watch it and review it. I'm glad I did because the film has a lot going for it. One of those departments is the acting. The two leads, Gina Philips and Justin Long, are really great in this film and anchor the film well. Philips really conveys the confusion and fear of the situation believably and the camera seems to love her. I thought her quieter moments were pretty powerful, and you really felt for her. Long was a bit more over-the-top, but I bought his act too. He was completely invested in the role and made you feel for his character as well. I bought his fear and confusion as well. I also thought the two actors had great chemistry with each other, really creating a real sense of sibling interaction that a lot of actors seem to have trouble conveying. From the moment they started to bicker, I was invested in their characters and see how their respective arcs would change during the course of the film. I really enjoyed them here.

The other actors don't get to do much but play their parts well. Eileen Brennan as The Cat Lady was a bit eccentric, but she made me laugh a few times. Patricia Belcher was okay as the psychic. She was a bit over-the-top, but I didn't think her performance was terrible or anything. And Jonathan Breck was very cool as The Creeper. Dude looked pretty intimidating. A cool cast here.

- The direction. Victor Salva is a controversial director due to his private life and how he went to prison for taping oral sex with a 12-year-old boy years back. But the man does have a great eye for filmmaking, especially in horror. JEEPERS CREEPERS is full of suspense and tension. I really liked how slow the film builds into revealing The Creeper, leaving the character mainly in shadow [or framed in long shots] until the final act of the film. The tone of the film is pretty bleak, as it never feels upbeat at all. You just feel dread from beginning to end. I thought the editing and cinematography was strong as well. Even the jump scares were cool. JEEPERS CREEPERS has some nice atmosphere and mood going for it. I thought the direction was very strong here.

- Most of the narrative. I thought Victor Salva's screenplay for JEEPERS CREEPERS was cool because it's a monster movie that sort of separated itself from the horror that infiltrated the genre back in 2000-2001 at the time. While I do feel the story falls apart in the final act, the first two acts are really good and keep you invested in what you're watching. The characters of Trish and Derry are very strong, very active, and very believable. We don't know much about them besides what we see and how they interact with each other during normal and abnormal situations. We relate to them right away because they come across naturally as bickering siblings who care about each other. Sure, they do stupid things, like check the Creeper's pipe when they should just drive away. But they're very likeable and you want them to survive this mess they stumbled into.

The mystery of the Creeper also keeps the narrative interesting. We see him here and there to begin with, mainly in his pick up truck whose license plate reads "BEATNGU". Like a scene from 1971's DUEL, this truck tries to ram and run the Jenners off of the road. The Creeper comes across as this unknown force that wants to hurt these siblings just because they were driving down the highway. Slowly, we see more of the Creeper and learn more about him. He loves to smell things to pick up a scent. He seems to travel really fast - faster than a pickup truck at least. He also likes to cut people open, eat their body parts, sew them back up, and keep them as trophies. We soon realize that the Creeper isn't just a normal serial killer who has targeted these kids. He's something else entirely. We do get some expository dialogue that sort of explains his motives, but we still don't know his origins, how long he's been doing this, and how come more people haven't seen or heard of him. Sure, by the time he's a focus within the narrative, the film loses a bit of steam. But there are still some answers left unsolved about this thing that obviously leaves it for a sequel [which does exist and will review soon].

The two main characters and the mystery of the Creeper are what keep the story of JEEPERS CREEPERS afloat for much of the film. The film starts to crumble once more characters enter the picture and we see more of the Creeper. But the first two acts of the film are tension-filled and strong in terms of suspense and characterization. So the film has that going for it and plays the monster element quite well.

- The look and actions of The Creeper. Even though seeing the Creeper makes JEEPERS CREEPERS lose its mystique, it's inevitable that the villain was going to be revealed before the film ends. Even so, I dig the look of the character and the potential it creates for a franchise. The Creeper has human features, but a bit more alien and demonic. He has claws. He has wings. He's like an animal who's primary motivation is to hunt. He's not the most original looking horror villain or monster ever thought of. But I thought it worked for the film and I was interested in seeing what else the Creeper was capable of.


MISSES
- The Cat Lady and The Psychic Lady. Here's where JEEPERS CREEPERS lost me. Let's first talk about the Cat Lady scene prior to the final act of the film. I'm not really sure what this scene had to do with anything. I guess it was to show that the Creeper meant business and how animals [in this case, cats] reacted to his presence. But it didn't add anything to the story and was just there to give the Creeper an extra victim to kill. I also didn't understand why they bothered to stop at the Cat Lady's house for help. After all, the Creeper single-handedly killed two police officers and ate part of a head. What help were they gonna get to stop this thing that seems to overwhelm and overpower everyone in comes in contact with? It made less sense when the lady told them she had no phone to call for help, and they stayed with her for a while. JUST LEAVE AND DRIVE AWAY! It bugged me and stopped the awesome flow the film previous had.

The Psychic Lady was also pointless. Her character wasn't necessary and only thing to offer expository dialogue that explained the actions of the Creeper somewhat. It just seemed so out of place. She had dreams about what was going to happen, hoping to change it. Yet what does she do? Let what she saw happen regardless! Some help she is! And then she mentions that the "Jeepers Creepers" song would play when The Creeper was after them. Yet it only played once and wasn't even used to its fullest potential. Anytime it was played, it was either the Creeper whistling it or the very end of the film. Why bother adding this element if nothing important is going to be done with it? I thought it was an interesting inclusion, but the potential for it wasn't used at all.

I also thought the police station sequence could have been stronger as well. I really wanted to see this police force shoot the shit out of this creature to see how strong it really was. Or have the Creeper destroy each member of the squad one-by-one for the same reason. Yet, nothing really happens there either. The Creeper kills a prisoner and a couple of cops. That's it. This could have been a cool moment of carnage in a horror film, yet we're denied. Not sure if it was because of budget reasons or Salva didn't even think about doing this, but I felt it was a lost opportunity to really give both sides a bit of character and create a memorable scene.


THE FINAL HOWL
JEEPERS CREEPERS isn't perfect, but I enjoyed the hell out of it. It had a fairly original premise that was executed well for the most part. The first two acts were strong. The acting, especially by Gina Philips and Justin Long, was great. The direction by Victor Salva was solid. And I liked the gore and make up of the Creeper. It was a fun, tense, and suspenseful ride that most horror films seem to lack these days. Some things, especially the final act, could have been improved upon. But I dug it and I'm glad I finally decided to take the time to check it out. Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to wash my laundry because I don't want that Creeper sniffing my clothes and chasing after me. I have enough stalkers as it is, thank you very much.


SCORE
3.5 Howls Outta 4



8.22.2012

The B-Movie Bungalow Presents: Shark Night 3D (2011)

DIRECTED BY
David R. Ellis

STARRING
Sara Paxton - Sara Powski
Dustin Milligan - Nick
Chris Carmack - Dennis Scrim
Joel David Moore - Gordon
Sinqua Walls - Malik
Donal Logue - Sheriff Greg Sabin
Joshua Leonard - Red
Katharine McPhee - Beth
Chris Zylka - Blake
Alyssa Diaz - Maya


Genre - B-Movie/Thriller/Horror/Sharks

Running Time - 90 Minutes


PLOT
Sara Powski (Sara Paxton) invites her college friends to her family lake house for some partying, boozing, sex, and whatever naughtiness they can come up with. As some of them go wakeboarding, a shark bites the arm of one of them (Sinqua Walls). They start to panic, fearing what may be inside of the lake. Every attempt they try to get help fails, leaving them helpless and hopeless. Even as the local sheriff (Donal Logue) and a couple of redneck locals (Chris Carmack and Joshua Leonard) offer their services, the sharks pick them apart one-by-one, eventually learning why the sharks are suddenly roaming that once-peaceful lake and who is behind the mess.


REVIEW



STORY
- Screenplay: SHARK NIGHT 3D is obviously inspired by several popular films - 1975's JAWS, 1999's DEEP BLUE SEA, and 2010's PIRANHA 3D. Hell, you get moments that originated from each of those films. The opening scene is JAWS for modern generation. The leaping sharks are from DEEP BLUE SEA. And the party atmosphere is definitely PIRANHA 3D. Unfortunately, SHARK NIGHT 3D isn't as good, or as fun, as any of those three films.

Will Hayes and Jesse Studenberg write a pretty generic script that pretty much goes exactly the way in which you would expect it to. Teens party, they go into the water, a shark attacks one of them, they panic as each die one-by-one. There's nothing we haven't really seen before. The lake house is isolated. Phones have no cell service. The redneck characters are either threatening or bumbling idiots. It's like a slasher film, but with sharks swimming inside a salt-water lake.

The characters are all stereotypes. We have the hot, nice girl. We have the tattooed chick. We have the nerdy guy. We have the token black guy and the token Latina friend. We have the comic relief. We have the good-looking jock. And we have rednecks. Some of them have some depth. For example, Malik [token black guy] really loves Maya [token Latina friend] and shows it by wanting revenge on the sharks when she's a victim of an attack. Sara [hot, nice girl] and Dennis [the good-looking redneck] have a history that leads to awkward conversations and situations. Nick [the nerdy guy] likes Sara, but wonders if she'll like him back - even though he's pretty studly for a nerd. And the rednecks have their own agenda that we don't find out until the middle-to-final act. Pretty simple to follow and understand stuff. Luckily, the characters all manage to be likeable in their own way, never once coming across as annoying or idiots. Some of them are better written than others [the sheriff, in particular, is probably my favorite character due to his comical and party nature], but at least the stereotypes worked in the narrative's favor rather than take away from it.

The "twist reveal" about the sharks and why they're in this lake to begin with is easy to figure out. In fact, it's pretty silly and makes you wonder how bored the culprits had to be to come up with something over-the-top as this. Honestly, I think a film about the reveal would have been more interesting and entertaining than the film that was written. But all-in-all, it's your standard teen shark flick - stereotypical characters who get murdered by sharks, while rednecks add another threat on top of that. The dialogue is what it is and moves the story along. I wish SHARK NIGHT 3D had played the narrative in a more fun and silly way, like PIRANHA 3D did with its story. The screenplay is too serious for its own good, which hurts the film more than it helps it. Still, the script isn't totally terrible, just generic.

- Direction: David R. Ellis is a director who divides fans of his work. Ellis is behind FINAL DESTINATION 2 [I know a lot of people who favor this sequel as the best of the franchise] and 2006's SNAKES ON A PLANE [which has become a pop culture icon]. He's also behind THE FINAL DESTINATION, the worst sequel in that franchise. SHARK NIGHT 3D is slightly better than THE FINAL DESTINATION, but it isn't as fun as SNAKES ON A PLANE was.

The good thing about Ellis is that he knows how to direct action and does have visual style. The scenes with the sharks attacking the characters are well executed and are actually fun to watch. The pace is good, as the film flows really well and doesn't wear out its welcome. The CGI, while not great, is handled the best one could. The cinematography and the editing is great, especially the underwater shots. The use of fast motion was used well to get the rid of the filler stuff out of the way. Plus, Ellis focused on the hot girls and their assets - can't hate that.


Unfortunately, I feel that Ellis should have gone the way of SNAKES ON A PLANE here and just made the story visually silly. As much as it wants to be serious and cater to a PG-13 crowd, it's a B-movie and should have felt like one. The direction, save a couple of moments where sharks leap out to eat people, is too straightforward and a bit more serious than I would have liked. Ellis does direct an entertaining film here, but there was a lot more potential here to really make it fun and memorable. Not showing the gore was a big issue for me here, because a film called SHARK NIGHT pretty much promotes blood and guts. But it's still a mostly visually pleasing film. I just wish it was sillier and had more tension and suspense.

- Acting: SHARK NIGHT 3D luckily has a good cast of actors. None of them really steal the show in anyway, but they all play their roles well and come across as likeable. Sara Paxton is a very good lead actress, and looks great in a bikini. I thought Sinqua Walls as Malik was great, taking what could have been a "token black" character and gives him depth. Walls makes Malik noble, loyal, and heroic. I really liked his performance. Chris Carmack and an almost unrecognizable Joshua Leonard [from 1999's THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT] are very good as the rednecks. Donal Logue was funny and cool as the sheriff. Dustin Milligan worked for me as Nick. And former American Idol finalist, Katharine McPhee, was pretty good as Beth. And she looked smokin' hot in a bikini. Man, if she had worn that on stage, she would have won that season for sure! A good cast that does what they needed to do.

Rating - 6/10


VIOLENCE
A film called SHARK NIGHT should have a ton of violence, involving sharks chewing on and eating helpless victims swimming in the water. And we do get that. Out of a ten person cast, only two people supposedly survive. We get a detached limb. We get blood. We get small sharks chomping on someone and eating them alive. We get sharks swallowing people in mid-air. Unfortunately, SHARK NIGHT is PG-13 - meaning that the gore the film should have contained isn't shown at all. PIRANHA 3D thrived on its gory murder sequences. It's strange that a film called SHARK NIGHT would shy away from it to gain a much younger demographic [the box office didn't get set on fire, yet the film did make its budget back]. JAWS was PG at the time of its release, but it did have moments of gore. I think SHARK NIGHT should have embraced this aspect of the film, especially since it was released in 3D. I'm not saying that showing more of the violence would have helped the film in any way, but it's sort of a tease when we do see body parts getting chewed off. The violence in the film is fine for its rating, but I don't think it comes close to matching its potential for the story its trying to tell.

Rating - 5/10


SEX
Since SHARK NIGHT is PG-13, the sex aspect is barely there. We see hot girls in bikinis. We see shirtless dudes. We even get a dude's butt clearly in view, yet none for any of the ladies. What the...? Oh we get is some side boob from Katharine McPhee! Who was this film marketed to? Pretty tame stuff, even though it enjoys teasing you with things that it'll never show.

Rating - 3/10


CHEESE
Like I already mentioned, SHARK NIGHT takes itself more seriously than it should. The sharks look fake as hell, but there's nothing really silly about them. Some lines are dialogue are pretty funny and clever, especially the one referring to Malik and Humpty Dumpty.

However, the after-end credits is something that can NOT be missed. A rap music video directed by Dustin Milligan, performed by most of the cast summarizing the film we just watched, is nothing but brilliance. I could not stop laughing and be entertained by this. Why couldn't the rest of the film be this ridiculous? This was, hands down, the best part of the film! Cheesy as hell, but in a delicious way. SHARK NIGHT needed more of this self-awareness. Too bad it was only displayed in a four-minute music video that occurs after the actual movie.

Rating - 6/10

Total Rating - 20/40 = 2/4



THE FINAL HOWL

It's not the greatest killer shark film ever made, but SHARK NIGHT is watchable, even if it isn't all that memorable once it's over. The direction by David R. Ellis is fine. The acting is good. The narrative is generic, but easy to follow. And the music video at the end is just fantastic. Still, SHARK NIGHT is too serious for its own good. The gore is pretty non-existent, which made the kills not mean much. The sexual aspect is tame as hell. It's a B-movie that seems to not want to be one, which is unfortunate in my opinion. Still, it's a decent time waster that's worth a rental, a Netflix stream, or a wait on cable/satellite. I've seen a lot better shark films. I've seen a lot worse shark films. SHARK NIGHT has a ton of potential, but doesn't seem to know how to use it in its favor.


SCORE
2 Howls Outta 4



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