9.15.2017

Midnight Confessions Ep. 126: "Back to school time... oh the horror!"


It’s September, which means it’s even closer to Halloween, but it also means back to school for a lot of the kiddies. So we thought we’d take a look at the film that started it all for Brad Pitt, CUTTING CLASS (1989), but before we go back to school, we get to go to CHEERLEADER CAMP (1988)—but we start with our thoughts on the new IT movie as well as the filmography of the late great Tobe Hooper. He made a lot of good horror flicks and they’re all worthy of discussion. 

Plus music by W.A.S.P., Murderock, Oingo Boingo, Faith No More and Nirvana.






 




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9.10.2017

It (2017)


Directed By: Andy Muschietti

Starring: Jaeden Lieberher, Bill Skarsgard, Jeremy Ray Taylor, Sophia Lillis, Finn Wolfhard, Wyatt Oleff, Chosen Jacobs, Jack Dylan Grazer, Nicholas Hamilton, Jackson Robert Scott

Genre: Horror/Supernatural/Clowns

Running Time: 135 Minutes


PLOT (from IMDB): In the town of Derry, Maine, the local kids are disappearing one by one, leaving behind bloody remains. In a place known as ‘The Barrens’, a group of seven kids (Jaeden Lieberher, Jeremy Ray Taylor, Sophia Lillis, Finn Wolfhard, Wyatt Oleff, Chosen Jacobs, Jack Dylan Grazer) are united by their horrifying and strange encounters with an evil clown (Bill Skarsgard) and their determination to kill it.

REVIEW
With a record-breaking box office this weekend worldwide for an R-rated horror film, 2017’s version of the Stephen King adaptation IT has taken everyone by storm. Clowns are upset, people with coulrophobia are soiling themselves, and horror fans are extremely happy that a horror film has saved the box office after a dry Summer season. IT was a film that was heavily hyped and debated about by fans of the novel, and by those who had fond memories of the 1990 television miniseries that brought us a memorable Tim Curry as Pennywise the Clown, creeping many of us as children and pre-teens. There were people that said the new adaptation would suck. There were some that believed that the source material would never translate well on screen in any format.  There were people who were displeased with the casting and the look of the modern Pennywise, feeling the film was going to fail the moment it was screened. And to all those naysayers, you were dead wrong about this one. IT not only surpasses the previous adaptation, but it manages to be a really good time too.

While 2017’s IT is a great film, I didn’t think it was perfect. I did have small issues with the movie, but it didn’t take away from my enjoyment of it. I thought some of the CGI, especially in the final act, wasn’t the greatest. I know CGI is something us modern audiences must get used to in order to watch supernatural events happen on film. But there were certain times where Pennywise looked like a cartoon and it took away a bit from the scene. It’s not as bad as some of the CGI as in Andy Muschietti’s underrated 2013 horror film MAMA, but it’s evident. I also felt that some of the characters didn’t get as developed as others. I think Mike got a bit of the short straw, especially when a lot of his character was given to Ben [the history of Derry’s tragic events]. It’s hard to give everyone a strong arc in a 2-hour film, but there were times where Mike just felt like he was “there” rather than really feeling as if he was part of the Losers Club. And probably the biggest flaw of the film: it wasn’t that scary. I’ve never been scared of clowns, so Pennywise made me laugh more than anything. And jump scares don’t do much for me 99 percent of the time, and didn’t do much for the audience that I was sitting with [none of them screamed or reacted to these moments]. I found IT enjoyable as a well-written adaptation of one of Stephen King’s better novels rather than feeling any sort of fear of what I was watching.

That being said, IT is a pretty great adaptation of the novel’s first half. The dialogue is strong. The characters are interesting. And it had a nice flow from Pennywise terrorizing poor Georgie, to the Losers Club finally confronting Pennywise for all the trouble he’s caused Derry. For me, IT is more than just Pennywise the Clown haunting kids and using their fear to feed his hunger. I’ve seen some complaints online with people wanting more Pennywise and wishing he was funnier, not understanding that the story is not even about Pennywise really. He’s just a plot device to give deeper meaning to what the child characters are experiencing in their lives.

IT is really about the struggles of growing up in a tough world. We’ve all experienced adults not really understanding our feelings towards certain things. Bill loses his younger brother and his parents treat him like a nuisance they don’t want to deal with, taking out their grief on him when he only wants their love and support as he personally feels guilty about it. Beverly deals with rumors of promiscuity while being sexual abused by her father. Ben is bullied for being overweight, while pining for Beverly - who in turn has eyes for Bill. Mike is bullied for his skin color, while still haunted by the death of his parents. Richie cracks jokes to hide his insecurities. Stan struggles with his identity. Eddie deals with his hypochondria, due to his mother who has passed on Munchausen syndrome to him. Even psychotic bully Henry is somewhat sympathetic, as he has a hard ass police father who bullies him. You can understand where his anger comes from, even if he is an evil prick. The kids all have issues we can relate to, since we were all their age once. Pennywise feeds on their insecurities, eventually making them stronger [or weaker] in the process. Unlike the TV adaptation, which has a very good first half in its own right, this version gets what the novel is really about in terms of its subtext, its tone, and how it portrays its characters.

Funny how IT is a better A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET film than the last few sequels and that stupid remake. I guess it can be done!

As for Pennywise, I loved how he was used in this film. I was worried he’d be overexposed as the film’s visual antagonist, but he only appears when necessary. He’s less funny than the previous adaptation, but way more vicious and sinister. If I were afraid of clowns, he’d be the one I’d be worried about instead of Tim Curry’s wonderful interpretation. Pennywise is no joke in this film.

The characters wouldn’t work without some great actors playing them. The child actors are absolutely fantastic, really bringing a genuine bond and chemistry between them all that reminded me of THE GOONIES and/or STAND BY ME. Jaeden Lieberher did a great job carrying the film as Bill, the leader of the Losers Club. I felt his guilt and grief over the loss of his brother, denying himself that Georgie was dead when he knew what the truth was. He captured that childlike innocence that we never want to lose as we grow up. Sophia Lillis was a standout as Beverly, capturing a lot of depth for someone so young. She played off of so many actors, yet shared a different dynamic with each of them, fleshing out a tragic character looking for that light at the end of the tunnel. Lillis is one to watch out for. Stranger Things’ Finn Wolfhard was great as Richie, providing the film with the comic relief. His dialogue is the absolute best and he was the one I most connected to. Hey, I had a foul mouth too when I was younger and had no shame about it. Fuck off. And Bill Skarsgard blew me away as Pennywise. I was really unsure about his casting at first, but he brought the devious and sinister nature of the character that Stephen King envisioned in his novel. Tim Curry will always be Pennywise to many of us, as 1990’s IT is one of his best performances. But 2017’s IT needed a darker version of the character - a Heath Ledger to Curry’s Jack Nicholson, I guess you can say. It totally worked and I look forward to seeing Skarsgard again in the second part. 

Andy Muschietti’s direction is really inspired. I enjoyed his visual eye for MAMA years ago, praising his work on that film. But IT is a much better playground for him, as he’s able to conjure up some memorable imagery that many of us are still taking about days later. The fear sequences are really tense and suspenseful, especially inside of the Neibolt House during the last half of the film. I liked that the film looked it could have been made in the late 1980s, from the fashion, to the technology, and to pop culture easter eggs splattered throughout. I loved the direction during the projector scene where Pennywise figures out what the Losers Club is planning for him. I also dig that each location for the characters look different and look lived in already. I had issues with some CGI, but others really worked and helped the film pop visually. It’s a really beautiful film from a director who knew what kind of film he wanted to make here. And I got to say - the gore in a film starring children really surprised me. I won’t spoil things if you haven’t watched, but no child is safe right from the opening sequence. It’s unfair to compare it to the 1990s version, since that film was restricted due to television rights and FCC guidelines. 2017’s IT just proves that this story deserved an R-rated treatment on the big screen to highlight the nightmare feel of the novel.

And 2017 has had some great soundtracks. The New Kids on the Block gag was really funny, but hearing Anvil. The Cult, XTC, and Anthrax during key moments that enhanced the scenes was really cool. I’ve been really digging the use of popular music in movies lately, and IT was no exception. It captured the time frame and the characters within the story perfectly.

THE FINAL HOWL
IT really surprised me. I was expecting it to be better than the 1990 adaptation, but I did not expect the film to be this good. I’m actually worried the second part won’t live up to expectations now. But Chapter One provides what you want in a horror film. You have a great villain. You have characters you can relate to and like. You have memorable moments. And you’ll enjoy yourself because it’s a film that actually has heart and treats its source material with a ton of respect. It didn’t scare me unfortunately, but it may scare someone else. IT is, without a doubt, one of the best Stephen King adaptations ever put to film. I’m so happy it’s doing so well, because that means horror is doing well. No one is in the Losers Club when it comes to that.


SCORE
3.5 Howls Outta 4



9.09.2017

Lunar Cycle [July 2017 & August 2017]


This section of the blog is due to me being lazy, I mean swamped with watching so many films that I want to discuss on this blog. But I don't really have the time, so I decided to quickly [well as much as I can really] to review films I don't really want to focus too much time on. You'll be seeing these more often than not. Time for the reviews!






Directed By: Edgar Wright

Starring: Ansel Elgort, Jon Bernthal, Jon Hamm, Eiza Gonzalez, Lily James, Kevin Spacey, CJ Jones

Genre: Action, Crime, Music

Running Time: 112 Minutes


Plot From IMDB: After being coerced into working for a crime boss (Kevin Spacey), a young getaway driver (Ansel Elgort) finds himself taking part in a heist doomed to fail.

Review: Edgar Wright continues his hot streak of crafting entertaining and well-made movies with BABY DRIVER. A dream project for Wright since the mid-90s, Wright has managed to merge a crime-thriller with the element of music to create fleshed out characters, exhilarating car chase scenes, and a cute love story that will likely become a cult classic for years to come.

Wright, who also wrote the screenplay, uses real songs to create character depth. This is especially true with the lead character Baby - a young man who suffers from tinnitus due to a car accident from when he was a child. Constantly listening to multiple iPods that have songs that reflect his mood, his actions, or how he feels about the world around him, it gives Baby a ton of personality without the use of dialogue [which Baby doesn’t really have much of in the film]. It also builds upon the action sequences, as Baby is listening to music as he drives or gets away, as if he can’t live without a soundtrack motivating him. The visuals of these action scenes of car chases and shoot outs are already kinetic and thrilling. But the music adds another layer, as if you’re watching a Grand Theft Auto game come to life. The best part is that, unlike the FAST AND FURIOUS series [which you know I love], the action is all practical with no real special effects in sight. It’s easy to follow and sort of seem like a throwback to films like THE FRENCH CONNECTION. There’s nothing over-the-top about the soundtrack, or the direction of the action, which I greatly appreciated.

Speaking of the soundtrack, tracks by Queen, T. Rex, and The Commodores just highlight how magical classic music was before it became a soulless brand and product. Watching Baby dancing around to music that reflect his mood, or watching him walk away dejectedly to a ballad is so simple, yet expresses so much about his character and how he sees the world around him. The soundtrack, in a lot of ways, is the most important character of BABY DRIVER.


The actors are just fantastic. Ansel Elgort has been impressing for a few years now, but BABY DRIVER is his crowning achievement so far. Without saying a whole lot throughout the film, he comes across as an actor who would have been a huge star during the 50s era of Hollywood. Elgort has a ton of charisma and the camera loves him. He has a wonderful presence on film that proves he’ll be a leading man in no time. The supporting actors are just as great. Some are stronger than others, especially a captivating Kevin Spacey as Baby’s boss. He’s having fun in a role that lets him be a menacing force. Jamie Foxx also shines, as the bad seed of the crew who has to challenge everything with a swagger and sarcasm that has been missing in his recent performances. Jon Hamm and Eiza Gonzalez play a modern-day Bonnie & Clyde, portraying a nicer side before proving how dangerous this couple-in-love really is. And as Baby’s love interest, Lily James is cute and sweet as Debora. I wish she had a bit more to do and was fleshed out more beyond being the stock girlfriend, but James and Elgort have a lot of chemistry with each other. You definitely root for the two to make it out of all this happily ever after.

BABY DRIVER is a film I had wanted to see once I watched the first trailer for it, and it exceeded my expectations. It’s a stylish film that has purposeful substance in terms of its presentation and it’s story. It has an energy most modern films which they had - scenes with a purpose, actors who are confident in their roles and in their director, and a director who finally got to make his dream movie and not screwing it up. Not only are you invested in our main character, but you’re drawn into the lives of the characters that surround him. With action and drama that you will remember for a long time, BABY DRIVER is one of 2017’s must see films.









Directed By: Jon Watts

Starring: Tom Holland, Michael Keaton, Robert Downey Jr., Marisa Tomei, Jon Favreau, Zendaya, Donald Glover, Jacob Batalon, Bokeem Woodbine, Laura Harrier, Logan-Marshall Green, Jennifer Connelly (voice)

Genre: Action, Fantasy, Science Fiction, Adventure, Comic Books

Running Time: 133 Minutes


Plot From IMDB: Peter Parker (Tom Holland), with the help of his mentor Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.), tries to balance his life as an ordinary high school student in New York City while fighting crime as his superhero alter-ego Spider-Man when a new threat (Michael Keaton) emerges.

Review: I’m not going to lie to you - I wasn’t excited one bit for SPIDER-MAN: HOMECOMING. The second reboot for this film franchise, the idea of it wasn’t thrilling. The trailers didn’t do much for either, making the film look more like an IRON MAN spin-off rather than a new SPIDER-MAN film. I actually loved Tom Holland’s new take on the character in CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR, but did I really need a new trilogy with a different actor in the role?

Surprisingly, HOMECOMING ended up being a lot more fun and Spider-centric than I was expecting. With no origin story this time around [thank God], the screenplay was allowed to get straight into the action and the characters after-the-fact. In fact, I enjoyed the John Hughes take on the mythos, bringing Peter Parker back to a teenager who struggles with balancing between his love for being Spider-Man and his frustration for having to be a normal teenager. I got a kick of watching the events of CIVIL WAR through his eyes, as he gives funny commentary about stealing Captain America’s shield or taking down Ant-Man. I also embraced Spider-Man actually enjoying being a superhero, especially at a time where superheroes have become serious and sort of gritty and bleak at times. Counter this with Peter acting like a total dork in front of his classmates, especially Liz - the girl he’s into romantically. He also struggles keeping secrets from his worried Aunt May, while doing everything in his power to impress Tony Stark by trying to take down the bad guys on his own. HOMECOMING was written by six people believe it or not, yet it still clicks for the most part, flowing pretty seamlessly from beginning to end and getting me excited for the next installments.

I think the best part of HOMECOMING for me is how they treated the Vulture. I’m not going to lie - the Vulture is probably a C-level Spider-Man villain at best, even though he is one of the character’s earliest foes. But unlike a majority of the villains in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the Vulture is treated as an actual character with genuine motivations that you can relate to on many levels. In fact, he’s probably the best villain in the MCU since Loki in my opinion. Instead of an old man battling cancer while trying to regain some sort of fountain of youth, Adrian Toomes is a city worker who’s feeling slighted by the city he works for after years of doing their dirty work to clean it up. He’s anti-establishment and anti-corporate, stealing alien technology to run his own lucrative business within the black market. He’s also Spider-Man’s true first test as the Vulture, whom the film gives a grittier and more updated look that is more than flattering on the big screen. He never overshadows the film as many other villains do, only popping up when necessary to move the film along. But the character has a bigger presence than I had expected. He’s probably the best big screen Spider-Man villain since Doctor Octopus in SPIDER-MAN 2.

If I do have issues, it’s with the love story between Peter and Liz. While it’s cute at times, I never felt genuine chemistry between Tom Holland and Laura Harrier at all in the film. I guess you can’t do steamier stuff with high-schoolers like you could with the original Peter/MJ dynamic, or the even more interesting Peter/Gwen coupling. But it felt a bit too Degrassi High/Afterschool Special vibe for me. Plus, the actors didn’t really share enough scenes for me to really care about this subplot. The only purpose of this angle was to lead into a twist that I surprisingly didn’t see coming. But other than that, I didn’t really care too much for it.

Speaking of twists, one of the final reveals in the film for a certain classic Spider-Man character left me a bit confused. I won’t spoil it, but I raised an eyebrow on it because the reveal seemed so different from what has been established in comics and in other films prior to HOMECOMING. I have no issue with the people involved in this reveal, as it’s definitely intriguing. I just didn’t buy it as a narrative piece, as it felt as something to shock fans rather than to confirm our suspicions. It just felt odd.


The direction by Jon Watts is fine. The use of a great soundtrack, plus vibrant colors and energetic transitions, created a nice visual presentation to reboot the franchise. It looked cute and felt younger than the previous films, which is the entire point of HOMECOMING. The special effects looked great for the most part and the action scenes are well done. 

The acting is probably HOMECOMING’s greatest strength. Tom Holland, without a doubt, is the best Peter Parker and Spider-Man out of all the actors who have portrayed the character. He gets all of Peter’s quirks and nuances down to a tee, quipping cool one-liners with the best of them while still balancing how dorky Peter really is. Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield were both very good as Spider-Man, but Holland seems to understand the character and nails it to perfection. Even better is Michael Keaton as The Vulture. Not being able to escape playing characters with wings, Keaton manages to be both menacing and sympathetic as a man who wants to do right for himself and his family by doing bad things to get ahead. His chemistry with Holland is great and it was great to watch him in a superhero movie again after all these years. And I was extremely happy to see that Robert Downey Jr. wasn’t a huge presence in this film, as the trailers led us to believe. He’s probably in the film for 15 minutes at most, only appearing when it’s important and to mentor Peter. That’s all you needed it to advance Spider-Man’s Avengers storyline leading into INFINITY WAR. You never feel overwhelmed by Downey or Jon Favreau [as Happy Hogan] in HOMECOMING. It obviously belongs to Holland, and lets other supporting actors such as Marisa Tomei and Jacob Batalon [as Peter’s comic relief best friend Ned] shine along with him. 

SPIDER-MAN: HOMECOMING really impressed me. I went in with low expectations, not caring much about another reboot. But it ended up being a fun time with good laughs, great performances, and cool action. Even if one of the final twists left me a bit irked, I’m still looking forward to seeing where they go next with the franchise once INFINITY WAR is over.









Directed By: Seth Gordon

Starring: Dwayne Johnson, Zac Efron, Alexandra Daddario, Kelly Rohrbach, Priyanka Chopra, Jon Bass, Ilfenesh Hadera, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II

Genre: Action, Comedy

Running Time: 116 Minutes


Plot From IMDB: Devoted lifeguard Mitch Buchannon (Dwayne Johnson) butts heads with a brash new recruit (Zac Efron), as they uncover a criminal plot that threatens the future of the bay.

Review: For those who really know me, I’m a huge Baywatch fan. Yeah, it’s stupid. The acting is questionable. The slow motion scenes are exploitative. But I watched every episode of the main series, Baywatch Nights, and Baywatch Hawaii [as well as those TV movies] without any shame. I loved the dumb thing, even if it tried to destroy my brain cells while doing funny things to my groin area. So when a film adaptation was announced with Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson that would be similar to the style of 21 JUMP STREET, I was all for it. Too bad what I got was a film not even worth wasting CPR on.

I’m not going to make this review longer than it needs to be. All you need to know is that BAYWATCH is an awful television show adapted to film, but it’s just an awful film period. It’s amazing how SIX screenwriters managed to mess up an easy premise that could have worked if they understood what kind of film they were trying to make. Was it supposed to be a homage to Baywatch? Was it meant to be serious? Was this supposed to be a 21 JUMP STREET type comedy that turned a dramatic television show into a film comedy? In all cases, they failed big time.

The reason why 21 JUMP STREET worked is because the writers understood how to handle a tonal transition that actually paid homage to its source material, while keeping it within the same universe as the television show. The jokes were funny. The cast were game. The cameos made sense. Everything clicked.


BAYWATCH struggles with this. The writers have no clue how to make the jokes work. There’s a running gag on how the lifeguards take matters in their own hands, doing the work that the police should be doing. It’s a good joke because that’s exactly what the television was about most of the time, never really explaining why lifeguards had so much authority outside of their jurisdiction. I wish the gag was funnier in the film, but I appreciate that the writers were aware of this plot. And I enjoy the banter between Mitch and Brody, as both are Alpha males trying to one-up the other. But the actual jokes themselves fall flat and I barely laughed at any of this. Most of the time, BAYWATCH tries to hard making us laugh. It doesn’t help when it also wants to be a serious action film, clashing with the comedic tone in my opinion. I wish it were one or the other in this case.

The only reason BAYWATCH doesn’t totally fail is the acting. The screenwriters and director Seth Gordon [who may have dealt with studio interference in terms of his vision] aren’t 100 percent committed to the tone of the film. But Dwayne Johnson does the best with the material he’s given, making the most out of playing Mitch. He plays it mostly straight, which works because he doesn’t seem in on the joke. I wish the film was more comedic, because Johnson’s serious performance would have stood out more. Zac Efron is also pretty damn good as Brody, Mitch’s more comedic rival. He has great chemistry with Johnson and seems to be having fun. I hope they co-star in another film that knows how to use their talent. The other actors play their parts well, especially Jon Bass as Ronnie - the overweight lifeguard that gets embarrassed in almost every scene. But it works because Bass is game for anything and has scenes that actually made me chuckle. Plus, it was nice to see David Hasselhoff and Pamela Anderson in cameos.

But other than that, BAYWATCH disappointed the hell out of me. I was expecting more since I enjoy the television show on a superficial level. But the film fell flat for me. Dwayne Johnson, Zac Efron, and other others tried their best with this sub-par material, but they couldn’t save it all the way through. I’m sure it made enough money for a sequel, so hopefully the next one will actually balance the action and the humor better. 

8.30.2017

Midnight Confessions Ep. 125: "Kick Ass August - Part 2 of 2"


In our 2nd and final half of Kick Ass August, we go back to the 80’s and check out the NINJA trilogy—what is the NINJA trilogy? Well, we're not sure we even know, but the movies are: ENTER THE NINJA (1981), REVENGE OF THE NINJA (1983) and NINJA 3: THE DOMINATION (1984). Grab a sixer of V8 juice and enjoy!






 




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8.11.2017

Midnight Confessions Ep. 124: "Kick Ass August - Part 1 of 2"


Kick Ass August is now in effect! That’s right, we’re diving into the action movie genre for all of August—but specifically, martial arts driven flicks. We needed a bit of a palate cleanser before we go into full horror mode in September and October. We’re starting of with 2 kick ass classics indeed: KICKBOXER (1989) starring Jean Claude Van Damme and RUMBLE IN THE BRONX (1995) starring the phenomenal Jackie Chan. 

Plus music by: Don Henley, A Tribe Called Quest, KISS and Dean Martin.






 




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7.28.2017

Midnight Confessions Ep. 123: "Summer Sextravaganza 2017 - Part 3"


Our 4th annual Summer Sextravaganza comes to a close this episode, but we’re leaving with a bang…or is that a buzz? Today we’re taking a look at the SLUMBER PARTY MASSACRE trilogy! Staring with the orginal from 1982, the sequel from ’87 and part 3 from 1990. It’s a rather fun slasher franchise that just happens to be directed and written by women! 

Plus music by: Andrew W.K., Quiet Riot, Nirvana, Alice Cooper and DMX.






 




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7.22.2017

Midnight Confessions Ep. 122: "Summer Sextravaganza 2017 - Part 2 + George A. Romero Tribute"


Our 4th annual Summer Sextravaganza continues this episode with a look at two naughty versions of children's stories. First, the late-night Skin-O-Max classic, CINDERELLA (1977) and FAIRY TALES (1978), a sort of softcore-live action-Shrek. 

Also, we reflect on the filmography of the late George A. Romero and his incredibly influential body of work. 


Plus music by: Danger Danger, Cinderella, 2 Live Crew, Goblin and the Misfits. ROMERO LIVES!







 




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7.18.2017

The WTF? Worst Films Extravaganza Presents: I Still Know What You Did Last Summer (1998)

DIRECTED BY
Danny Cannon

STARRING
Jennifer Love Hewitt - Julie James
Freddie Prinze, Jr. - Ray Bronson
Brandy Norwood - Karla Wilson
Mekhi Phifer - Tyrell Martin
Matthew Settle - Will Benson
Jennifer Esposito - Nancy
Bill Cobbs - Estes
Jeffrey Combs - Mr. Brooks
Jack Black - Titus Telesco
Muse Watson - Ben Willis

Genre - Horror/Slasher

Running Time - 100 Minutes



After a rough few years in the early-to-mid 1990s, the horror genre [more specifically the slasher sub-genre] was revived massively after the sudden success of Wes Craven’s SCREAM in late 1996. Because of teen audiences and mainstream horror fans loving the self-referential treatment that Craven provided in his nu-slasher movie, studios saw dollar signs and wanted to capitalize on the success. Fans came in droves to watch:

  • Michael Myers confronting Laurie Strode after 20 years.

  • Chucky finding a girlfriend who loved murder as much as he did.

  • Jared Leto and others trying to survive a crazy game of urban legends.

And the most popular one of all - four fresh-faced teenagers trying to survive a fisherman with a hook for a weapon after they had accidentally run him over during the Fourth of July.

1997’s I KNOW WHAT YOU DID LAST SUMMER [a loose adaptation of the Lois Duncan 1973 novel] was the first considered, and probably most successful, Scream rip-off. With a $17 million budget, the film made $125.2 million at the box office - promising the start of film careers for Jennifer Love Hewitt, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Ryan Phillippe, and Freddy Prinze Jr. that never really came to be [although all four would be pretty successful on television]. With this level of success, it was inevitable a sequel would be produced to ride the post-SCREAM wave.

Rushed into production a year later to capitalize on the nu-slasher popularity, 1998’s I STILL KNOW WHAT YOU DID LAST SUMMER [ISKWYDLS for the rest of this review for my own sanity] was released with twice the budget, but less the box office [$84 million] of the first. It brought back Jennifer Love Hewitt and Freddie Prinze Jr. [who were extremely popular by this point], as well as bringing in a R&B/hip-hop star in Brandy Norwood to bring in a more urban audience [like the HALLOWEEN series and THE FACULTY would also do at the time]. It received negative reviews, but still manages to maintain a cult following after almost twenty years.

Which brings the question: Is ISKWYDLS a misunderstood slasher sequel? Or does it deserve the negative reception? In my opinion, the answer is very clear.

PLOT
Two years after the horrific accident that changed many lives, Julie James (Jennifer Love Hewitt) is trying to continue her college life even though she’s suffering from terrible nightmares about the fisherman killer (Muse Watson) that murdered her friends the year prior. Her relationship with Ray (Freddie Prinze, Jr.) is struggling because she doesn’t want to return home, as well as Ray being slightly jealous with Julie’s friendship with Will (Matthew Settle). Dealing with high levels of stress, Julie’s friend Karla (Brandy Norwood) tries to hook Julie and Will up - thinking it will help her woes. When Karla wins a free trip on a radio station to the Bahamas, she invites both Julie and Will - as well as her boyfriend Tyrell (Mekhi Phifer) - along to forget their troubles.

As Julie arrives to the islands and starts loosening up and having fun, she starts seeing signs that the fisherman may still be stalking her - not realizing that Ray already had a dangerous encounter with him that left him in the hospital for a while. Things get worse when a massive storm hits the Bahamas, trapping the group as people disappear one-by-one. As Julie and her friends realize the fisherman is on the island extracting some revenge, an injured Ray does everything in his power to arrive at the island to save Julie.

REVIEW

HITS
  • The film’s setting. While most slasher franchises tend to keep their stories within the same location or familiar settings, I’m very glad that ISKWYDLS takes the story out of the suburbs and onto a tropical island location for a different vibe. For one, the Bahamas looks great on film. And two, it gives the characters a new field to play on. Unlike the first film, Julie can’t hide or go to locations she’s familiar with. She’s a fish out of water, trapped on the Bahamas with a man who wants her and her friends dead. Having the film also take place during storm season adds a bit of tension. It’s too dangerous to go outside, but the danger is even greater inside with the killer. No cops. No boats to escape on. The phone and electricity will probably not work due to the weather anyway. The characters are in serious trouble in an unfamiliar place. And while there aren’t many positives with this sequel, giving the film a new coat of paint makes it stand out from its predecessor in a good way.

  • The stalk sequences. While I KNOW WHAT YOU DID LAST SUMMER is a way better movie than this, the film was lacking some seriously tense kill moments where the killer would stalk his victims and murder them in brutal ways. It was a pretty tame slasher. ISKWYDLS, while not a gore-fest in any way, still manages to give the viewer more blood and a bit more gore that isn’t off-screen or edited quickly for a PG transition to the next scene. The fisherman’s hook wasn’t really used as much as it should have been in the first film, so seeing it in action here is a definite highlight. Ben Willis doesn’t hold back here on some of his victims, slashing throats or hooking someone through the mouth in brutal fashion. He also uses a pair of scissors on someone, as well as impales a victim while she’s trapped underneath a fresh corpse. The film also takes place mostly during the night, so we get to see some cool shadow moments that make the sequel feel more like a slasher than the first film.

  • Most of the acting. ISKWYDLS isn’t going to win the actors any awards, but I didn’t think most of them were terrible. Jennifer Love Hewitt tries with an awful script, showing us glimpses of a scared woman who is still haunted by her past. Freddie Prinze, Jr. improves greatly from the first film, acting as he gives a crap about being in this and bringing some toughness to his role. Brandy and Mekhi Phifer are the token black couple, but at least she’s decent and he’s funny at times. Matthew Settle brings a vulnerability and charm that I like. And Muse Watson continues to be somewhat chilling, even though he’s barely onscreen. Each actor had a role and they played it as well as the script would allow them.

  • Jennifer Love’s… Hewitts. Probably the highlight of this film for me.   


    Goodness gracious…


MISSES

  • Jack Black. In an uncredited role, Jack Black plays a white Rastafarian named Titus who likes to smoke weed and hit on ladies in vain. He’s also really annoying and grating whenever he pops up. In my opinion, Black’s role in this sequel is one of the worst performances in a horror film. I’m guessing he was hired to be the comic relief, but the only relief I had was when he was murdered way too late in the film. Even his death scene is one of the worst I’ve seen, as Black is way over-the-top with it and performs his demise as if he’s spoofing a horror movie rather than taking it seriously that he’s actually in one. I will say he’s probably the most memorable thing about ISKWYDLS, but for all the wrong reasons.

  • A waste of character actors. What do you do when you have Jeffrey Combs, Bill Cobbs, and Jennifer Esposito in your horror film? You waste them, of course! Combs, star of RE-ANIMATOR and other great horror/sci-fi stuff, doesn’t do all much but play an angry hotel manager that’s just here to be a victim. Bill Cobbs plays some voodoo character in an angle that never really goes anywhere. And Jennifer Esposito probably gets the most to do of the three, as she’s a big part of the final act. But still, she has no real character we can relate with and just ends up being fodder for the fisherman. These actors deserve better and probably could have elevated a pretty awful movie.

  • The screenplay. I think the worst part about ISKWYDLS is the script itself. Talk about insipid. I’m glad URBAN LEGEND, HALLOWEEN H20, and SCREAM 2 were released in the same year as this sequel. Otherwise, this screenplay would have set the slasher sub-genre decades back due to its stupidity.

A lot of things here don’t make sense. For one, the whole “winning a trip to the Bahamas from a radio contest” is meant for Julie to take a vacation with her friends there so the fisherman could trap them and have his way with them. But the call isn’t even for Julie. It’s for her best friend Karla, who answers the question for the win [even though she gets the answer wrong]. The killer could have assumed Karla would invite Julie to the island, but what if she decided not to go? What would he had done then? Would he still go after Julie? Would he wait another year to concoct another idiotic plan to gain his revenge? Why not just kill Julie and Ray if he wants them dead so badly? Why make a elaborate plan that could have backfired on him? It’s dumb.

Speaking of dumb, whenever the fisherman had Julie in his sights, he’d just scare her rather than kill her. The worst part is when he traps her in a tanning bed [which Julie has no problem doing after finding a dead body in her closet] with a zip tie, but doesn’t try to stab her or injure her in any way. The game is two years old. It’s time to play, fisherman. The other characters are even dumber, as they struggle trying to get Julie out of the bed by using barbells and other objects - when they probably could have just unplugged the damn thing.

Speaking of the characters, they’re pretty unlikable in this movie. We feel for Julie, as struggles with the nightmares of the fisherman haunting her. But for a girl who is supposedly traumatized, she enjoys wearing clothes that make her look like a sex-pot. Not that I’m complaining that all her clothes are a size too small to highlight her assets, but I doubt someone this scared would try to look this hot for whatever reason. Julie looking rough in the first film makes sense. What changed here? Karla, supposedly Julie’s best friend, also doesn’t mind trying to break up Julie and Ray’s relationship by pushing her towards their mutual friend Will, even though Julie has made it more than clear she’s against the idea. Yeah, I can trust this person! And Will goes along with this as well. I can trust him to home wreck my relationship, yeah! Tyrell makes fun of Julie’s trauma every chance he gets, which makes him a huge jerk. The other side characters are also unlikable, except for Estes - who has a backstory that is never really given the depth it deserves. Honestly, the only likable people here is Ray. And he’s barely in the film really. The characters had depth and likability in the first film. What happened?

And why is the fisherman still wearing a slicker? You’re on a tropical island, for frack’s sake. Wear shorts and a colorful shirt, you Debbie Downer. Seriously, Julie knows who you are and what you look like. Just blend in with the rest of the tourists and kill her. Not too hard.

And then there’s the twist in the final act. Boy… wasn’t that clever? If you pay attention to people’s names, you’ll catch the twist right away. But just the idea of this character existing and manipulating their way into Julie’s world for an entire year is pretty farfetched. I guess I shouldn’t be too upset about it, since it at least shows the screenwriter tried to do something clever here. But it just makes me roll my eyes every time the reveal happens. Some revenge plot…

  • The direction. Danny Cannon, who previously directed 1995’s awful adaptation of JUDGE DREDD, doesn’t really do much to redeem himself with ISKWYDLS. The film looks good and it’s paced well enough. But it’s mainly just scenes where characters are experiencing fake scares or dream sequences that don’t really move the plot along. And don’t get me started on the ending. Seriously, what was that? At least he made Jennifer Love Hewitt appear in a bikini, so he’s better than most bad directors I guess.


THINGS I’VE LEARNED WHILE MAKING SURE I GET A GREAT TAN BEFORE DYING A TERRIBLE DEATH

  • Julie woke up screaming in class after having a nightmare. C’mon, THE TUXEDO wasn’t that bad!

  • Julie almost stabbed her friend Karla with a butcher knife after Karla snuck into her apartment. Didn’t Julie learn anything from the fisherman? “Almost Doesn’t Count”, girl!

  • Ray freaks out when he finds a dummy in the middle of the road, thinking it was a dead body. That reveal was as disappointing as MANNEQUIN TWO: ON THE MOVE.

  • Jeffrey Combs is a hotel clerk. Unfortunately, not even an actor of his caliber can re-animate my interest in this sequel.

  • Julie sang a poor karaoke rendition of “I Will Survive”. The one time she deserved to get hooked off of the stage…

  • Housekeeping was upset about bloody sheets found in a hamper. Hey, when Aunt Flo comes a calling, sometimes you must answer!

  • Jennifer Love Hewitt wore a tiny bikini. There’s now a Party of Five… in my pants.

  • Ray kept getting abused by the killer. He must have just seen WING COMMANDER. Totally understandable.


THE FINAL HOWL
Sometimes a sequel shouldn’t be made, which I STILL KNOW WHAT YOU DID LAST SUMMER proves. It’s stupid and way too long for its own good, relying on cheap scares and plot holes to capitalize on the nu-slasher craze at the time. And while ISKWYDLS is a bad film, it’s not bad enough to consider it one of the worst horror films of all time. The acting and kill moments are decent, and you get Jennifer Love Hewitt wearing body hugging clothing that help keep your eyes on the screen. If you want an intelligent slasher film, there’s nothing to see here. No one needs to still know what any of these characters did last summer.

Or technically two summers ago.

Why is this film not just called I KNOW WHAT YOU DID 2 SUMMERS AGO?

God, my brain hurts.


SCORE

1 Howl Outta 4




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