Monday, July 15, 2019

Teacher's Murderously Obsessive Pet: Devil In The Flesh II (2000)

Devil In The Flesh II (2000) (AKA "Teacher's Pet")
Rating: **
Starring: Jodi Lyn O'Keefe, Jsu Garcia, Katherine Kendall

Devil In The Flesh...Two? Why? How?

In case you hadn't heard of the original Devil In The Flesh (and I am not gonna blame you), its a 1998 teen thriller with a bodycount, starring Wes Craven's Scream (1996)'s Death-By-Elevated-Garage-Doggie-Door victim Rose McGowan as the titular "devil" which is teen speak for really obsessive murderous nutjob. Devil does quite fine as a timewaster but its forgettable enough to just be left on its own, which is apparently a sentiment the direct-to-video market does not agree with as there is apparently a demand to see where Devil will lead to next...

On that note, McGowan skipped this entry and her role as Debbie Strang is passed to Jodi Lyn O’Keefe, who starts this film strapped in a bed inside a mental institution while a butch nurse feels her up and her psychiatrist relays enough exposition from the first movie to know why we're here to begin with. (Basically she killed a bunch of people (and a dog) out of temperament. And probably teen angst) Debbie eventually murders her way out before hitching a ride with a rich kid enroute to a college writing course, who in turn soon realizes she just given a ride to an escaped nutjob only to end up pepper spraying herself blind before tripping and getting impaled into some rebars. So far so good for Debbie.

Passing the rich girl's identity as her own, Debbie enrolls to the writing course and make friends with an awkward computer geek, as well as start crushing hard on her professor in that typical increasingly psychotic way. This of course leads to her lashing out on a couple of extras and one potential Final Girl to their deaths, before making her way up to the stalking and brutalizing her professor and his lover for a finale that's not all that inspired or exceptional.

To be frank, the entire movie is really nothing that inspired or exceptional neither. We got a bit of your TV movie stalker drama here, a few Single White Female (1992)-inspired bad roomie cheap thrills there, pepper some cheesy bad one-liners accompanied by mostly bloodless kills within a random wet dream and college kid trepidation, and we get this kinda-entertaining-for-a-single-viewing-only cheapie that really isn't trying that hard to be forgettable. I mean, it's chuckle worthy for the amount of cheese and cliches it managed to work into itself but other than that, Devil In The Flesh II (2000) has nothing much else going for.

Not worth the time to track it down, but feel free to try it out if it is on cable. If you don't like it, the power button (or the channel buttons, I suppose) is just a click away on the remote.

1 female gets a syringe jabbed to her neck and back
1 male bludgeoned with a book
1 female lands on a rebar, impaled
1 male hit on the head with a nailed board
1 female electrocuted in a shower with a live hair dryer
1 female falls off a building
Total: 6

Saturday, July 13, 2019

Return to Amity Island: Jaws 2 (1978)

Jaws 2 (1978)
Rating: ****
Starring: Roy Scheider, Lorraine Gary, Murray Hamilton

Long ago in the distant past of 1975, soon-to-be filmmaker maestro Steven Spielberg released a Summer blockbuster called Jaws, forever changing how films are made and creating a horror thriller masterpiece that will remain unchallenged, even to be selected by the Library of Congress for preservation in the United States National Film Registry as a culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant piece of art.

This being said, who didn't see the possibility of sequels coming? Frankly, I never saw the need for one but, here we are, three sequels in existence and two of them are utter laughable trash that gave the franchise a bad name. Thank the horror gods Jaws 2 (1978) isn't one of them.

Set four years after the events of the original, Sheriff Brody (Roy Scheider) has settled quite nicely into the cozy island life while his wife Ellen (Lorraine Gary) works with a local businessman line in more vacationers and build resorts into Amity and his two sons, Mike and Sean, want nothing more than to enjoy their summer holidays. This is, unfortunately, the calm before the storm as another gigantic shark appears to have swam into Amity waters, seen early into the movie chowing down on a pair of rich divers who just wants a picture next to a wreck. The animal will soon resurface for another victim, devouring a water skier and soon causing a freak accident with a fire, killing a boater and giving our new shark a monstrous new-look.

This sets Brody into a spiraling case of paranoia and panic (paranoic?) as though he wasn't personally present during the aforementioned shark attacks and really has no leg to stand on to claim these were done by a monstrous fish, he cannot help but feel uneasy with the chance is history might be repeating itself. It also doesn't help that the local high figures are quickly dismissing his ramblings about another shark on a possible munching spree, who proceed to step stand their ground further after Brody unknowingly panics beach goers during an investors' visit, ruining the island's chance of getting back on their feet, economically-wise.

All of this, of course, will lead to a climactic showdown as Brody is left with no other choice but to take matters on his own hands, especially when the shark eventually returns to start feeding on a group of teenage boaters marooned near a light house, two of whom happen to be his own kids...

Just as the original Jaws (1975) can be seen as a form of proto-slasher with its use of POV shots and dramatic build-ups around its first half before shifting gears to an ocean adventure about three men hunting a monster of a shark, Jaws 2 (1978), on the other hand, comes pretty close to being a bonafide slasher as not only does it kicked up the bodycount and violence but a share of the plot's focus and murders centers on mostly teenage victims, with the killer shark even getting a slasher villain makeover ala nasty burn wounds on its face for that more gruesome and intimidating trait and behaving a lot more "capable" than the prior film's animalistic shark. Ramming boats and chasing water skiers are a few things we can expect from a common sea carnivore, but overpowering a moving rescue helicopter enough to drag it under the waters just to munch dead its pilot? That's post-Friday The 13th: A New Beginning (1985) Jason Voorhees-level of absurd villain strength right there! But, of course, the film is far from being that paint-by-number dead teenager shlock we all know and love, though I will admit we could have still gotten a interesting killer animal flick to watch if Jaws 2 (1978) gone down that route.

To be precise, the shark slasher shenanigans occur at the first twenty something minutes and last third of the movie, leaving us with a middle act that is more or less echoing too much off the first movie, with Sheriff Brody trying his darnest again to convince the town's officials (including Mayor Larry Vaughn who should have known better by now) about the possibility of an active shark attack to prevent any further deaths from happening. The key difference here is that Brody is facing this mostly on his own, a conflict that's probably the best reason to watch this sequel albeit its predictability and pacing  that may understandably put some viewers off as, while not perfect, a returning Roy Scheider does gave his all to make this character and his trials work (Despite, on Scheider's behalf, originally not wanting to do this movie and frequently clashing with the film's director Jeannot Szwarc during the movie's filming), thus making this good chunk of the drama centering on him and his reasonable post-trauma stress from tackling another Great White feeding frenzy worthwhile a watch.

It isn't long then that the man ends up taking the matter head on when the attacks go too obvious, leading us to a fondue-feisty yet satisfying last act despite being filled with a cast of teens that're hardly standing up save for the cheese they reek. In fact, plenty of these teen characters basically got introduced with a name only to devolve into shark chum by the last third of the movie with a 30 percent chance of possible survival and 70 percent chance of uttering a line matching the stereotype they're representing. It does dull down some of the suspense as we hardly care whether these characters would make it alive or not, but thankfully the shark's stalk-and-kill sequences were fun and intense enough to proudly carry this movie, packing mean shark attack actions, a welcome amount of ham and still sporting some nice photography and effect shots, not withstanding the more robotic looking shark effects whenever the animal rears up its ugly head.

Yes, Jaws 2 (1978) barely surpassed its predecessors as a narrative and the movie's troubled production could have a say or two in that matter, but it still manages to be this entertaining wetlands animal horror/thriller piece. Basically, it's a retread of the original with Brody getting uncomfortable in his double role as both the movie's doomsayer and heroic final man, but with the saving grace of Scheider's presence and the last 30 plus minutes of teens/shark action, this movie could have been way worse than a rotting beached whale. No means a classic but watchable at its best, recommended for good late night monster movie viewings.

1 male eaten by a shark
1 male eaten by a shark
1 female eaten by a shark
1 female immolated in a boat explosion
1 male eaten by a shark
1 male had his helicopter pulled into the water by a shark, drowned (or eaten based on a deleted scene)
1 female eaten by a shark
1 shark tricked into biting a live cable, electrocuted until head bursts aflame
Total: 8

((Also, no. I won't be bother covering these two stinky fishes. Not only are Jaws 3-D (1983) and Jaws The Revenge (1987) hardly slasher-esque movies, but they're... just horrible mind-numbingly dumb sequels. And this is coming from a guy who enjoyed The Redeemer: Son of Satan (1978)!))

Monday, July 8, 2019

The Ghost of Inmate Past: Prison (1987)

Prison (1987)
Rating: ***1/2
Starring: Lane Smith, Viggo Mortensen, Chelsea Field

So there was a time in the late 80s and early 90s wherein we get this slew of horror movies about killers getting executed only to come back as (mostly electric) boogeymen. A lot of these will turn up as cult favorites like Shocker (1989) and The Horror Show (1989), though some seem to get the "Oh yeah, that existed" treatment, Prison (1987) being one of them which is kinda a shame for me since it's pretty fun on its own rights.

The film opens with a five-minute scene of an inmate getting escorted to an electric chair, with security guard Eaton Sharpe there to witness the final moments of this man as he go meet his maker with the help of ole' sparky. This event haunts Sharpe, all the way to twenty years later wherein he is now an appointment warden to the very same prison the electrocution took place, re-opened after it shut down back in the 60s.

Sharpe, truth be told, isn't quite cutting it as a prison warden as he appears tense, nervous and simply paranoid of just being there, but despite the objections of a sole female board member, he's to stay to oversee the first wave of convicts who will also be this prison's hired hands when it comes to the on-going renovations. In comes Burke (young Viggo Mortensen of the Lord of The Rings franchise, the amazing drama The Green Book (2018) and Leatherface: Texas Chainsaw Massacre III (1990)) a car thief with a heart of gold who gets paired up with a more religious inmate and tasked to unearth a long-sealed execution chamber. After a couple of whacks and cracking it open though, the chamber appears to emits a strange light that's seemingly coming out of nowhere.

The light, unknown to them all, is actually a malevolent force that remained dormant in the prison until the cement wall went down, wasting no time haunting the joint and starting a supernatural killing spree by pressure cooking a poor sucker to flames inside an isolation chamber and was about to claim another when Burke shows up and saves the day. The incident gets swiftly swept under the rug as an accident, a claim soon to be proven wrong when another inmate -taking advantage of a blackout that left the automated bars unlocked- gets crushed and impaled to death by living pipes and rebars while attempting escape, his body then soon dropped from the ceiling in front of stunned cons the morning after.

As more of these accidents claim the lives of cons and officers alike, Sharpe slowly goes unhinged and resorts to demean the convicts through inhumane hardships to control the situation, little knowing that the murders are somewhat connected to an age old debt he had to who could be a murdered man. Until then, Burke and company has no choice but to try survive not only the wrath of an undead killer but also a deranged warden with some power of the state on his side.

Salad tossing prison drama with supernatural slasher together, Prison (1987) is written and produced by Irwin Yablans (who also produced Halloween (1978) and its sequel, Tourist Trap (1979) and Hell Night (1981)) who originally conceived it as a more traditional bodycounter titled Murder in the Big House, with a live fleshy killer stalking and murdering convicts within a prison. Changes were made when a screenwriter pointed out how little the plot made sense seeing there's bound to be more than one other killer in a prison who can easily snuff out a slasher, even more a live one, thus resulting to this atmospheric supernatural convict-on-peril slay-a-thon filmed in an actual abandoned prison, with actual convicts. (No, really. One of the actors, former stuntman Stephen E. Little, was serving a sentence of manslaughter at the time of this movie's filming)

It isn't perfect admittedly as there are some sub-plots and hinted elements that could have been addressed better and characterization is mostly one-note, particularly when it came with the other convicts and the only female cast among the sausage fest. (seriously for the latter, she only appears time to time to spew exposition and little else) Thankfully, there's enough gothic horror scenery, slasher-friendly gore, and prison drama to go along the decent actors, making up for Prison (1987)'s rather less-than stellar script.

The film certainly tries to work its way to create tension and tone as the first third of Prison (1987) is where all of the straight prison drama conventions get played out, from the surprisingly colorful and "quirky" convicts (here's to you, Tommy "Lasagna" Lister!) to the power play between either the prisoners or the hardass warden's little cavalcade of guards. It's done with a steady yet reasonable pace that did slow down in the middle to make more room for the hoosegow shenanigans, but the resulting manic prison riot climax where a good bulk of paranormal chaos ensues made the wait worthwhile. (Especially if it features a Kane Hodder cameo as the main boogeyman, who reportedly stuffed live worms in his mouth for his scene) Plus, in the movie's defense, the supernatural kills here are as awfully gruesome as they are outlandish, crafted away in gooey red practical effects (courtesy of  John Carl Buechler, who did the effects for Friday The 13th Part VII: The New Blood (1988) and Curse of The Forty-Niner (2003)), with your classic fog effects and blue tinted lighting bringing out the macabre from the grimy and claustrophobic setting of the film's cryptic prison for that extra slice of near-Lynchian horror imagery.

In short, Prison (1987) is a bonafide lost classic that surpassed my expectations despite being flawed. It balanced out its big house character play with blood-chunky supernatural slasher quite well, granting us a final product that is far from golden, but crimson red enough to warrant a viewing or even a cult following from good horror fans.

1 male executed via electric chair
1 male cooked alive in a heated isolation chamber
1 male impaled to death by rebars and pipes
1 male crushed and garroted to death by barbwires
1 male blown through the chest by a beam of light
1 male electrocuted to death
1 male falls to his death off a ledge
1 male seen murdered
1 male thrown against a pole
1 male shot with a shotgun, left for dead
1 male shot dead by an automatic rifle
1 male impaled through the arse by a flung pickaxe
1 male shot to death
1 male found dead, cause unknown
1 male found dead, cause unknown
1 male bled to death from a shotgun wound
1 male electrocuted, immolated in a car explosion
Total: 17

Sunday, July 7, 2019

Off The Bad Hook: "I Still" and "Always Know What You Did Last Summer" Double Bill Review

The late 90s will always be known for slasher fans as the years wherein eye-candy teen TV stars invaded the revived bodycounting fad thanks to the surprise success of Wes Craven's Scream (1996), thus begin the plethora of modest budget dead teenager films with their Scoody-Doo inspired motives and often dry murders. The title-mouthful I Know What You Did Last Summer (1997) was  and still is one of the more competent cash-in to the success thanks to its focus on a workable mystery and fair character building than self-referential cheese and humor, so it isn't much of a surprise that talks of getting it a sequel got brought up. 

Problem? Two of them sequels got made. And they're both cooked in badly burnt cheese.

I Still Know What You Did Last Summer (1998)
Rating: **1/2
Starring:  Jennifer Love Hewitt, Freddie Prinze Jr., Brandy Norwood

Taking place a year after the original Summer, Hewitt's character Julie James is back in college and struggling with the fact that her friends got killed by vengeful psychopathic fisherman named Ben Willis and that she, herself, nearly became a victim. She in turn constantly gets nightmares about Mr. Willis returning to end what he started, a trauma that is affecting her studies and love life, unable to choose between continuing her old boy Ray (still working boats in their home town) and fellow college student Will, who's everything dorky.

Luck will turn for the somewhat good for Julie as she and her friendly roomie Carla win four tickets to the Bahamas through a radio show and I say not too long because someone with a hook for a hand and wearing a rain slicker attacks Ray the night before Carla and her friends leave for the trip, killing his friend and soon making their way to Julie's vacation. As you would take it, staffs start dropping dead like flies and it isn't long before the vacationeers are all that's left, trapped in an island in the middle of an overnight storm season, with a killer fisherman.

The cliches and cheese are the obvious culprits to this sequel's mediocre story as the first film's focus on crafting likable character and a serious tone to go along its mystery are replaced by dumb choices, naive characters and way too many plot conveniences and holes. Some of these hamminess work in the sense that they're laughably stupid, but a lot of them just felt tired, forced and rushed. There were some fun cameos (Jeffrey Combs, Jack Black and Bill Cobbs) to note on and the kills, gladly, are bloody enough to somewhat warrant small good points to see this sequel intentionally but other than these, I Still Know What You Did Last Summer (1998) just felt stuck, really nothing more than a retread of the first film only drowned in unintentional (?) humor and banality.

I'm clearly not a fan but should you see it for the cheese alone, you might do better than I did accepting this movie's direction and existence.

1 male gets a hook through his mouth
1 male got his face slashed across with a hook
1 female slashed, hooked in the back
1 male stabbed in the chest with a garden shear
1 male found hacked in the head with a machete
1 male hooked through the neck
1 male found impaled with a collapsible harpoon
1 female gets pinned through the floor with a collapsible harpoon
1 male gets a hook to the chest
1 male shot to death
Total: 10

I'll Always Know What You Did Last Summer (2006)
Starring: Brooke Nevin, David Paetkau, Torrey DeVitto

And here we have the odd duck in the Summer franchise; released direct to video in 2006, Always reduced the events of the first two film as well as our killer fisherman Ben Willis down to an urban legend, where it is now said a ghostly killer fisherman will hunt teenagers on July 4th should they be keeping some dark naughty secrets. A small group of teenagers thought this would make a great prank and have one of them dress up as The Fisherman and chase the rest in a faux attack, only for all of it to end very badly when it results to an accidental death.

Just like the first film, the guilty gang make a pact to never speak of their involvement with the "attack", basically retreading the first movie as Always tries to recapture the magic of watching likeable characters battle their conscience and face the consequences of their secret. But seeing this is a cheaper production, none of the attempts are that effective and they're arguably more predictable at this time around. The titular death threat gets thrown down (modernized via text message) with the receiver trying her hardest to convince her innocuous batch of friends that trouble is brewing, only for them to give in once they get a near-death encounter with Mr. Hooky. Red herrings are brought up and introduced or re-introduced, climactic chase scene happen to boost the killcount, and then the twist. Oh, my gods, the twist.

This movie's reveal is the only reason why I hadn't kicked this film into the endless abyss; it's completely bonkers and so out of tune to what the entire franchise have built upon prior to Always that it's both unforgivably stupid and admirably brave on the producer's behalf if they thought this will fly off well without pissing the fans of the series. (Or the original movie) I guess somebody in the writing staff thought if it worked with Jason Voorhees and the Friday The 13th franchise, it would work here too? Well, at most, it doesn't. It's lazy and cheap, but it got a chuckle out of me so you got at least that.

If I am gonna be honest, overlooking the cheap characters, the annoying flashy edits whenever "The Fisherman" appears and this film's infamously dumb twist ending, I'll Always Know What They Did Last Summer (2006) would have been (or, for some, can still be) a passable rent for its bloody kills and fair pace to it's mystery. If only it has a more knowledgeable direction for... whatever it was aiming to do here...

Seriously, supernatural ghoul Ben Willis? What the fuck...

1 male falls unto a tractor, impaled on its exhaust pipe
1 male had his throat slashed with a hook
1 female gutted with a hook, dropped off a floor
1 male gets a hook to his chest, dragged away and killed
1 male hooked to the mouth
1 male gets hooked on the groin, pushed and impaled through a forklift's fork
1 female killed offscreen
Total: 7

Thursday, July 4, 2019

Secrets To Die For: I Know What You Did Last Summer (1997)

I Know What You Did Last Summer (1997)
Rating: ****
Starring: Jennifer Love Hewitt, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Anne Heche

It is well and known among the horror community that Scream (1996) revived the teen slasher movie back at the late 90s and this success meant cash-ins and copy cats, with I Know What You Did Last Summer (1997) among the early -and dare I say, more competent- contenders.

Scripted by Scream (1996)'s Kevin Williamson and based on a relatively tamer 1973 novel of the same name by Lois Duncan (Who reportedly loathed this movie), Summer centers on four friends living in a small fishing town with big plans after graduating high school. Julie (Jennifer Love Hewitt) and her boyfriend Ray (Freddie Prinze Jr) will be attending separate colleges in different cities but are aiming to keep their relationship despite the distance, all the while their friend Helen (Sarah Michelle Gellar) wants to become an actress in New York and her boyfriend Barry (Ryan Philippe) sets on becoming a professional jock.

It’s the 4th of July and Helen just won a local beauty pageant, much to her friends and boyfriend's joy. In celebration, the four heads to the beach for a bonfire and spooky stories before hitting the road again, albeit boozed. This leads to them swerving around a winding coastal road and hitting a random pedestrian, a possible manslaughter that Julie is resolved to report to the police but collectively turned down by her friends, fearing the crime will ruin their future. Instead, they all decided to dump the body to an isolated fishing dock, only to shockingly find out he's not quite dead and they may have drowned him in the bottom of the sea...

A year later and it seems the memories of this one fateful night still haunts the group, their once bright expectations for their future dulled down by the guilt; Julie is depressed and returning home from college, Helen is now working under her snarky older sister as a department store clerk, Ray resorts to become a fisherman after breaking up with Julie and Barry is keeping up a straight face while playing his way as a college jock, still denying the fact he and his friends may have murdered someone. When the movie's titular note shows up in Julie's possession one day, its made clear that someone knows their little secret and has no problem toying them around with antics such leaving a body inside Julie's car trunk (only to disappear in a matter of seconds), cutting Helen's hair while she slept and nearly running Barry down with a car.

As the anniversary of the hit-and-run dwindles sooner by the day, the more dire the situation becomes for our guilty quartet when someone in a rain slicker and armed with a hook starts snuffing them and those who happens to be in the way down.

In its core, I Know What You Did Last Summer (1997) has a plot reminiscent of cult classics such as Prom Night (1980) and The House on Sorority Rows (1984), wherein the cast accidentally kills someone only to pay the price through death after attempting to brush it under the rug. What makes Summer different,though is its sheer focus on building character and a workable mystery not unlike the aforementioned trend-setter Scream (1996), only less self-referencing and considerably frugal on humor, an approach that brings a shred of realism to the movie's semi-outlandish plot as it tackles censure and morality, making the characters decent enough for our sympathy and root for most of their survival as they show (or for one, eventually show) concern for the crime they committed.

This mystery centered perspective does meant Summer lacks most of the usual exploits slashers of old are known for such as naked teenagers (although Hewitt's wardrobe does boast some cleavage and Philippe gets to show some pecs) and gratuitous gore, reducing kills to offcamera slaughtering, quick cut edits and splashes of blood, though the suspense is handled in a well paced direction, particularly in the hit and run accident where everything is either a struggle or an unwanted surprise, and too the chase scene between Helen and the killer at a near isolated town during the Fourth of July night. The posh and glossy production also gave this movie a high grand look with some beautiful cinematography and location shots, granting us a genuine small town mystery feel.

The only drawbacks I can see here are the bits and pieces of cheese and horror cliches littered around the script going against the semi-serious tone of the movie. There isn't much of it, so the damage isn't all that serious, just a bit distracting and, at times, might as well be expected seeing this is a slasher film. For its worth, I Know What You Did Last Summer (1997) is a strong solid slasher with all of the familiar dead teenager tropes packed around a decent mystery, thus an essential addition to any true slasher fan's collection.

1 male gets a hook through his jaw
1 male mentioned dead, body fished out from a dock
1 male hacked to death with a hook
1 male hacked on the chest with a hook
1 female had her neck slashed with a hook
1 female hacked to death with a hook
Total: 6

Saturday, June 29, 2019

You Are My Buddi: Child's Play (2019)

Child's Play (2019)
Rating: ***1/2
Starring: Aubrey Plaza, Mark Hamill, Gabriel Bateman

When I first heard about the talks regarding a then-possible Child's Play reboot, you can bet your ass that I was among the plenty who found the idea problematic as not only is the original franchise still active, but I really doubt there's a high demand for a re-imagining. Then again, the last we saw of Chucky have the killer toy possessing not only three to four (count it, three to four!) Good Guy dolls at the same time through a voodoo spell he found at a website, but also the body of a paraplegic girl who he miraculously cured into walking. Yeah, hard to follow if yet gonna jump right into it without knowing what happened in the previous titles, so I guess a fresh take might not be such a bad idea...

In this reboot, a multinational electronics corporation known as Kaslan developed a self-learning AI doll known as Buddi, packed with features including audio and video recording, syncing with other Kaslan products and controlling them to fit their owners' needs, and move by themselves for maximum playtime. In other words, a robot servant with an animatronic face, one bad programming away from going haywire.

And as you would have it, on a dark and stormy night all the way to a Buddi assembly factory at Vietnam, a disgruntled worker reprograms a random doll by removing all of its safety features as revenge for being fired and as a secretive last minute "fuck you" to the company before committing suicide.

Cut to Chicago some time later, young mom Karen Barclay and her 13 years old hearing-impaired son Andy just moved to the busy city neighborhood, with Karen working a frustrating retail job at a store selling Kaslan goods while Andy spends most of his days inside the apartments watching Youtube videos. Rightfully concerned about her son's lack of social skills and believing Andy's just exhausted from the move, Karen decided to gift him one day an early birthday present; a defective Buddi doll she got under the table. (My guess its the same one from the Vietnam sweatshop. I dunno why, perhaps something about its eyes mentioned glowing red...)

At first, Andy isn't quite keen on having his own Buddi doll coming from the fact that he is in his preteens and that the doll itself is pretty glitchy as it names itself Chucky, fails to follow a few simple orders and, more or less, just creepy. But as time flies by, Andy grew to like having Chucky around since his glitches left him capable of doing anything without much limitations like learning swear words and enjoy pranking jerks and creeps surrounding Andy's life. This soon caught the attention of local kids Falyn and Pugg, who eventually befriend Andy and all seems well.

That is until Chucky starts getting too attached to Andy, harming those who physically and emotionally hurt the boy to an increasingly worrying degree. When Karen's arse of a boyfriend got abusive during one visit, things quickly escalates to bloody ends and Andy is left face to face with the matter that his Buddi have gone psycho when it gifted him one morning the freshly flayed face of his mom's boyfriend. (Nailed on a melon for some reason)

What soon follows is your simple stroll down cheesy slasher bodycounting mixed with obsessive stalker horror as Chucky do away more and more people (and animals) who it deem unfit to be Andy's friend or family, a complete contrast to our OG Chucky's modus wherein the voodoo practicing serial killing doll murders for the reason that he simply can. This makes Buddi Chucky more empathetic and sympathetic for his misguided and eventually hate-fueled attempts to become Andy's one and only companion, a fresh take that thankfully kept the destructive, maniacal and fun cheesy horror of watching a tiny killer toy in action after taking its time building up a surprisingly adorable and genuinely warm relationship between Andy and Chucky.

From what I can tell, Child's Play (2019) works greatly thanks to the committed performances of its strong cast. Mark Hamill steps in as the voice behind this movie's Chucky and his take on the guy is just wonderful, may it be voicing the doll's joyful and often misconceived innocence or spiteful jealousy and anger. Gabriel Bateman as this film's more angsty preteen Andy hits the cards right as a child hero bottled with insecure frustrations for all the bad turns in his life so far, struggling to resolve as many on his own to the best of his abilities. These two are on screen the most and their relationship as unlikely friends to sudden AI monster-and-hapless victim is the glue that kept this movie interesting, a fact that I'm sure that would have fair better if it also took the time to build around other characters including Andy's mother (played by Aubrey Plaza with a young parent spunk) and her douchey boyfriend Shane, a neighboring detective with a sassy yet adorable elderly mother and, probably the most unfairly under-explored set of characters that I wanted to see more of, Andy's new friends Fayln and Pugg. (Especially Pugg. Pugg is funny awesome!)

Looking further into it, the story is predictable at best, echoing the hammy B-grade horror and silly entertainment of late 80s and early 90s scifi slashers like Chopping Mall (1986) and Ghost In The Machine (1993), but that didn't hinder Child's Play (2019) from making the best out of its AI-gone-evil direction, Buddi Chucky's very "uncanny valley" animatronic design and movements (which do warrant some time and patience getting used to. Especially the weird E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982) influence to his design) an obvious product of this techno-horror route. Little to no horror was actually seen around the early bits of the plot, only hinting the downside behind the science of artificial life only when necessary for that effective foreshadowing and cathartic curveball before kicking it into full bloody bodycounting mode for all things grisly for the second half, peppered with some humorous Hitchcockian bits.

And for whatever it's worth, Child's Play (2019)'s murder set are gory, bloody and darkly funny at times, with the film's supermarket carnage of a climax probably standing out as one of this franchise's more exciting scene, utilizing the Buddi doll's feature to control other electronic goods to slice and dice shopping patrons before jogging back to your classic mano-a-monster finale. It might not be groundbreaking, but the film melds its now-charming-next-terrifying character relations with tech horror and slasher grue prodigiously well, and its polished production value and overall watchable talents make this reboot all that witty, messy and warmly welcomed as this year's decent cinematic surprises.

So if you're a wee bit concerned, don't be: Child's Play (2019) is its own monster and a great one at that. Count it as a spiritual companion piece to the original Chucky franchise if you may and just enjoy our new best Buddi at his best. And worst.

1 male jumps to his death
1 cat found murdered
1 male had his scalp shredded off with a tiller, knifed to death
1 male bisected groin first through a table saw, leg cut off
1 female knifed on the chest
1 male knifed on the neck, throat further sliced through a drone's propeller
1 female seen slaughtered
1 male seen attacked by a toy bear
1 female seen attacked by a toy bear
1 male dragged away, killed by a toy bear
A number of patrons and employees possibly killed offcamera during supermarket massacre
Total: 10+

Saturday, June 22, 2019

So here we have Bear McCreary's theme for Child's Play (2019)...

...Welp, I'm definitely gonna see this movie next week once I get mah moolah! Nothing's gonna beat the original franchise but it's high time we have another robot slasher movie other than The Terminator (1984), Chopping Mall (1986) and HARDWARE (1990).

Then again, we also have that weird upcoming slasher reimagining of Hanna-Barbera's Banana Splits...