Thursday, October 25, 2012

Middle Aged Angst That Is Laurie Strode: Halloween H20: Twenty Years Later (1998)

Halloween H20: Twenty Years Later (1998)
Rating: *1/2
Starring: Jamie Lee Curtis, Josh Hartnett and Adam Arkin

So, this was Michael Myer's own comeback for the 90s? Really? Why are every one of his comebacks so underwhelming?

Now, don't get me wrong, I remember liking this as a five year old kid back one Halloween night when my dad brought home a copy. I know it's the same movie cuz I recall the oh so shocking "beheading" of Michael Myers. But as a true test of time, I decided to rewatch this again two years ago, and again today as of writing, and honestly, I wondered if my dad just fast-forwarded the whole movie to the good bits cuz there are so many uninteresting fillers here. So. Many. Uninteresting. Fillers.

After finding her home ransacked, Marion Chambers, a colleague of Dr. Loomis seen in the first two Halloween movies, informed her neighbors of the robbery where in they called the police to drop by later and investigate. But whilst waiting, Marion finds some of her files on Laurie Strode, the survivor of the original Halloween massacre, missing and that she's not entirely alone in the house. Rushing to her neighbors for help again, she finds them murdered and that the killer's none other than Michael Myers. After a brief chase and a near close call on flagging down the police, Michael gets to her eventually, slits her throat and leaves right before the cops could get in.

We later find out that Laurie faked her death and changed her name to Keri Tate. She's now the headmistress of a private boarding school in Northern California and life's anything but roses for Laurie/Keri as the events of 20 years ago still haunt her, taking a hobble to her parental capabilities as a mother of a teenage son and as a girlfriend to her lover.

Now that Halloween is fast approaching, it's the holiday closings for the school and Laurie's son and his friends decided to hold a private party in the School's basement. Unknown to them, using the files he stole, Michael found his way to his little sister and soon, the Halloween night years ago will repeat itself once again...

As far as I'm concerned, I'm not gonna blame the producers on doing an entirely different approach; the movie is less of a slasher flick as it is more of a character study around the first two thirds, focusing on Laurie's turmoil from the night her brother came home. I'm guessing the filmmakers wanted a sequel, or an alternate timeline, that will cater for both old school Halloween fans and the new generation wave of slasher fans, courtesy of Wes Craven's Scream. Unfortunately for me, this means slow burning the story on Laurie only to feature Michael in the last act in his honest-to-God slasher-y goodness.

Not the best approach since it means giving less screen time for the rest of the casts, including the boogeyman who started it all, thus overdoing the drama that is Laurie and Michael's odd family matters, tying itself too much from the original and overdo the details to the point that it is kinda annoying. The mother-son conflict is also a tired run as I saw this act too many times, with the one tackled here hardly making any dent to the sub-plot.  There is also a stab at alcoholism to give Laurie some depth, but, um, when was the last time that wasn't done, too?

What I can highlight from the movie, however, is how it managed to flow quite nicely around the last act; sullen the plot may be, even an unsatisfied fan such a myself can't deny on how good the climax is with its surprisingly shocking finale that divides fans on whether accepting this or not. Personally, I hate to see Halloween end with a movie as dull as this but yes, this should have been how it all ended. (Seriously, why has it nobody ever thought of just cutting off Michael's head instead of shooting him repeatedly? Isn't his very existence right now already a proof that he can survive bullets? As invincible as he is, why not cut off his head then?) Then there's the Tim Burton-esque variation of the theme that I learned to enjoy through its haunting tune and a cameo of Ms. Curtis own mum Janet Leigh!

Scream may had added a new sense of wit to the slasher genre of the 90s, but that ain't no excuse to jump into a fray and do every trope religiously. Halloween was a slasher movie, from head to toe. H20? It's only a third of a slasher flick and more in common to any MTV teen angst series, only with a middle aged mum in place of a bratty teen girl. I love Jamie Lee Curtis, she's a wonderful actress (despite not embracing her horror flicks pre-Hollywood life, which is bad juju if you ask me. You don't bite the hand that fed you, Ms. Curtis...), but not even her performance was enough to save this rather overcooked mess of a meal.

Halloween fans may clamor, but I'm sticking elsewhere in this franchise. Least it's better than that lame "middle child" Halloween 5: Revenge of Michael Myers...

1 male found with an ice skate sliced through his face
1 male found with throat cut
1 female had her throat cut with knife
1 male found with throat cut via corkscrew
1 female had her legs crushed by dumbwaiter, knifed
1 male knifed at the back
1 male decapitated with axe
Total: 7

Let's play the Hiding Game: Dark Night of The Scarecrow (1981)

Dark Night Of The Scarecrow (1981)
rating: ****
starring: Charles Durning, Robert F. Lyons and Claude Earl Jones 

This one's a keeper! A forerunner of the killer scarecrow slasher/thrillers, this little TV flick gave more chills and creep than most of any other killer scarecrow flicks out there. (save the underrated Scarecrows of 1988...which I also urge you, dear reader, to see)

The film opens with young Mary-Lee playing with a mentally challenged yet gentle man named Bubba (Larry Drake! I love this guy); feeling adventurous, Mary wandered off and sneaks into a garden to see a beautiful fountain only to be attacked by the owner's guard dog. Bubba went in, grappled with the mutt, and next thing we know, Bubba was seen holding Mary's seemingly lifeless body in front of the child's mother, crying his innocence.

Unfortunately, not everyone's buying his innocent man act, more specifically Otis Hazelrigg, a grouchy postman, and his trio of blue collar buddies who finds the man's friendship with little Mary is anything but sweet. Upon hearing the news of Mary being killed, the paranoid quartre rushed to finish off their so-called menace, who ran off home to his momma scared and confused. His mother suggests "the hiding game", wherein Bubba will disguise himself as a scarecrow to escape the lynchers but the persistent foursome had their way, cornering a frightened man (a scene that's both pathetic and awfully intense) before gunning him down.

Things didn't go as planned when the four hears from the CB radio that Bubba's really innocent as it turns out, he was the one who actually saved the girl. Stricken silent of their wrongdoing, Otis made it look like they were attacked and only defended themselves by placing a pitchfork in Bubba's dead hands.

True enough, the men were acquitted from their crime, much to the discontent of the simple man's mother and the district attorney, who finds their story far from believable. 

Soon after, the men began to chillingly die off in a series of mysterious accidents one by one, all of them seen an unnerving image of the scarecrow suit that Bubba died in. Could it be guilt being played on them or by them? Or is somebody out for their necks? As these men plays a desperate game of survival and conflict, one thing was certain: they will all pay.

It's a TV classic for the sub-genre people, Dark Night of the Scarecrow is a film of good construct, merging the sensibilities of a ghost story with that of the bodycounting vengeance premises of a standard slasher, resulting to a creepy and chilling thriller. While blood and gore isn't the movie's highlights, the movie got the ghost story with whodunit approach done with an effectiveness that it keeps you watching and wondering whether it is Bubba doing it from beyond, or these men are just getting dangerously paranoid by the minute. The build-up of the movie certainly seems to be going to the latter's favor, as these men are devolving into either blaming others for the suspiciously increasing bodycount, or grow superstitious in a hysterical way. We never get to see who's doing it either, so the anomalous state of these deaths also adds to the intrigue.

Not to spoil much, I'm gonna keep my mouth shut for the rest of the movie in favor for those who hadn't seen it yet. I'm just gonna go long to say that the other commendations this film has is the performance of nearly everyone in it and a workable scary looking scarecrow suit. Them hollow eyes and mouth never looked eerie.

Track down a copy, own it, rent it, see it, do whatever it takes to catch this cult classic.

1 male gunned down
1 male falls into woodchipper
1 elderly female suffers a heart seizure
1 male buried alive in a silo
1 male bashed on the head with a shovel
1 male ran through a pitchfork
total: 6

Thorn In My Heart: Halloween 6: The Curse of Michael Myers (1996)

Halloween 6: The Curse of Michael Myers (1996)
Rating: ****
Starring: Donald Pleasence, Paul Rudd and Marianne Hagan

Four stars? For a messed-up wreckage such as this? What can I say? The franchise finally loosens up, Michael adapted to the 90s and we finally get the sense of mayhem that Michael should had been doing since his return.

It's been six years since Michael's escape, courtesy of the mysterious man in black at the end of Part 5; an underground Celtic druidism cult known as the Thorn Cult has somehow obtained Michael in their possession and captured his niece, Jamie Strode (now played by a no-name 16 year old actress), who we now see impregnated and bearing a healthy baby boy. Through a change of heart, a nurse working for the cult decided to free Jamie along with her son one night, unbeknownst to them that Michael is watching and proceeds to kill off the traitorous nurse and gives chase to his niece. After a long cat-and-mouse pursue and a desperate attempt to call for help, Jamie managed to hide away her baby in a bus station and ultimately meet her demise under her uncle's hands and a mean corn thresher.

In Haddonfield, the nightmare that is Michael apparently became a distant memory and the local teens are trying to set-up a Halloween party in tribute to Michael's mysterious but welcomed disappearance. The Myers house is also now occupied by relatives of the Strodes (family who adopted michael's sister from the original), namely single-mother Kara Strode, her six-year-old son Danny, Kara's teenage brother, their jerky dad and their passive mum. Across the street watches a grown-up Tommy Doyle, the boy that Jamie Lee's character on the original babysat, now obsessed on figuring out Michael Myers and what motivated him into murder, suspecting a connection with a Thorn Cult. Elsewhere, Dr. Loomis, apparently grown tired and old of the mishaps, is now retired from Smiths Grove Insanitarum.

After hearing Jamie begging for help on a local radio show, Tommy finds her baby and runs into Dr. Loomis at the Haddonfield Memorial Hospital, telling him that the baby he have with him is the last of the Myers' bloodline. Fearing for the people that lives in the Myers house, Loomis departs momentarily with Tommy to warn the Strodes, but the attempt failed and Michael murders the two occupants no sooner as Loomis left.

Meanwhile, Tommy meet up with Kara and her son, Danny, warning them of the dangers they're in if they stay in their house. He also shares with them the information he has regarding the Thorn cult. It soon becomes clear that Michael isn't the only threat, as the cult finally catches up with Tommy and demands for the baby. But for how long is Michael going to be under their control? And by then, who will be left?

This is how Michael should have came back; full on gore, no holds barred while still put together (somewhat) logically. It's never boring, the fast pace is filled with either building or intense scenes, and unlike the previous two, the character scenes are actually worth something. (No offense Danielle Harris. We still love you, just that screaming and running got old pretty fast)

The Thorn Cult subplot is an oddball addition to the movie, mind you though; it's a bit of a cheat and a stretch of an explanation to one of cinema's most recognized man monster but as far as origins go, this one has a creative sense to their motives: it's a hunch, but I'm guessing with them doing a Celtic ritual early in the movie and then doing surgeries in the latter half, the Thorn Cult are probably merging magic and science to treat some sort of disease, given to the hints such as charting rune lettering with genetics. But given that is the reason to do all this, why let Michael live? I mean all they need is the baby, so why still keep him around? We'll never know.

In full slasher film terms, Halloween 6 is also the entry that didn't shy away on the red stuff. It's almost a game change, but Michael Myers here finally wised up and got creative with his killings. From the classic knife stabs and slits, to an messy axe murder and head impalement, to a full on gore fest of a baked head via fuse box and a machete massacre. Also, kudos to George P. Wilbur, who did a fantastic job on acting as the maniac, capturing the air of threat that was Michael as closely as possible with the characters earlier 80s incarnations.

My only gripe with this flick is that I really wanted to know if some major characters here died; I mean cheats may come and go, but this movie already done enough cheats to have me wishing they could at least spare us some closure. The most infamous of these unclear fates can be seen at the ending, an anomaly that I can sort of live with for how kinda creepy it is, but we never really know who or which died back in that final scene...

There's actually another version of this movie, dubbed the Producer's Cut, which features an entirely different opening and ending, among many others changes. As of writing this, I only heard about it and I kinda like what I'm hearing, but so far, I'm going to stick with this as my underrated fave entry. Even the highly praised H20 has nothing to the gore-filled craze this entry has (don't you judge me! H20's talky nature bore the hell out of me!), so if you're very open to B-movie worthy plot twists, monster bloodshed and seeing Michael Myers bleed green liquid from his eyes, then Halloween 6 is a curse worthy of your attention!

1 female had her head shoved to a spike
1 male had his head twisted and nearly decapitated
1 female pushed to a corn thresher
1 female hacked with axe
1 male pinned to a fuse box with a knife, electrocuted until head explodes
1 male knifed on the gut
1 male had his throat cut with knife
1 female stabbed to death with knife
1 female found knifed on the gut
5 victims slaughtered with machete
1 male head pushed through bars
Total: 15

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Mikey, just stay down: Halloween 5: Revenge of Michael Myers (1989)

Halloween 5: Revenge of Michael Myers (1989)
rating: *
starring: Donald Pleasence, Danielle Harris and Ellie Cornell

Guess the comeback for Michael Myers in the late 80s was so good that it cashed in a lot of moolah and before you know it, we got this overworked dreck.

Totally ignoring the shock ending Part 4 left us with, Revenge had Michael Myers somehow crawling his way out of the mine shaft he was shot down into, got carried away in a river's current and then stumbles next to a hermit's cottage. Said hermit kept the unconscious Michael under his care for a year and got thanked for his good deed with a broken neck when the killer woke up on Halloween.

As of routine, he's off to finish off Jamie and anyone that got in the way. (the works) All the while, Jamie is kept under Dr. Loomis' care and suspects that Jamie's psychic connection is the key on figuring out Michael, ending the madness once and for all. (Also the works) Insert Jamie's big stepsis Rachel dying, Rachel's bestfriend looking after Jamie, more teens to kill, a Halloween party for kids, sad attempts to humanize Michael and a Mysterious Man in Black that does nothing but stand around and look... mysterious, next thing you know, an overblown pile of wasted sheets of paper known as a script happens, which somehow turned into this movie.

With so much going on in so little time, budget was overworked, continuity was neurotic (why is the Myers house suddenly a giant gothic mansion?), characterization was rushed and very cliched (comedy cops? are you kidding? And what of that mysterious man in black?) and none of the thrills and intrigue the first two movies from this series made it into this entry. The murders are fair, but it has zero suspense and gore's more ho-hum as it has nothing very shocking to offer. Except, of course, the death of Rachel, who even the producer of this entry regretted doing as it lagged the film into a hobble with very little people to root for.

Well, there is still Danielle Harris, but her performance here is nothing different from of Part 4 and even worse was that she's paired up with a random boy who nearly became a child victim himself. They even put in a good cheese measure by having Michael tear-jerking as lil' Jamie sweet talked his uncle, making him take off his mask and be a good Uncle for 20 seconds before freaking into a rampage. So, Michael has no control over his actions? I dunno, it's their rushed story, not mine. Donald Pleasance returns as Dr. Loomis again and not much changed for his character here, though I do believe he's getting nuttier in each movie, at least hinted here when's he's willing to use Jamie to lure Michael into a trap. Guess hunting evil does that to you...

With a little more thought and a little less of the random, this movie would probably had made a lot more sense. But, as of any franchising, there's always gonna be that one sequel that'll stink to high Heaven. Will this spell the downright spiral of this movie series into mediocrity? Well, the next sequel kinda says that, but it was my kind of mediocrity.

1 male knifed
1 female stabbed to death with shears
1 male gets a gardening claw to the head
1 male pitchforked through the back
1 female sliced with scythe
2 males found murdered
1 female stabbed on the chest with knife
1 male bludgeoned against steering wheel
1 male hanged
1 female seen murdered
1 male found murdered (who is this again?)
9+ males shot dead with machine gun
Total: 21+

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Mikey's Homecoming: Halloween 4: Return of Micheal Myers (1988)

Halloween 4: Return of Michael Myers (1988)
rating: **1/2
starring: Donald Pleasence, Ellie Cornell and Danielle Harris

When I first saw this title, which was sometime around a few years ago back at College, I was all hyped up due to the fact that the very mediocre (yet watchable) title-only sequel Halloween 3: Season of the Witch, a movie about mass infanticide courtesy of some Halloween mask sorcery, left a rather unsatisfied taste on my mouth. As a slasher fan, I guess it's only natural to be all giddy in seeing the grandfather of all slashers come back in his whole gory glory but being released so late in the 80s had me worrying. Worrying it may not taste as sweet as I hoped it'll be and, true enough, it wasn't.

It was somewhere in between "good" and "bad".

Ten years have passed since both Michael Myers, the infamous "shape" that terrorized Haddonfield, Illinois with bloodshed, and his psychiatrist-turned-hunter-of-evil Samuel Loomis were charred alive in a fire that should had killed them. Instead, Michael was left in a coma and Loomis survived with just a few burns, the latter still worried about The Shape's still living presence.

This one Halloween Eve's night however, Michael was scheduled for a hospital transfer when, after hearing a conversation between two ambulance crew about Michael having a niece, he wakes up from his decade long slumber and murders an entire ambulance staff before escaping into the night. With Loomis' Michael-senses tingling, he went on to pursue the killer once more, intending to finish him off for good. Least to say, a wine-slinging preacher Loomis hitched a ride with pretty much explained the problem of his predicament: "You can't kill damnation, mister. It don't die like a man dies."

Cinematic history. Right there.

All the while, Michael's new knife target, Jamie Strode, seems to be having it rough already as she is bullied and teased for being the orphaned niece of the Boogeyman. Her only sense of security was her adoptive older sister Rachel who just passed off a date with the local hottie to go Trick or Treatin' with her little sis; but with Michael skulking around town knifing people to death and Loomis' presence riling-up a bunch of gun-totting locals, forcing the convinced sheriff  to take some lawful action into the situation, Jamie might be up for a Halloween night she'll never forget.

Halloween 4 should have been a grand welcome back to the one I call the "messiah" of slasher flicks, the one man-monster that started the boom of the slasher Golden Age. After the original's director, John Carpenter, attempted a luke-warm entry to what could have been an "anthology film series", six to seven years of hiatus almost spelled "rest-in-pieces" for our ole' buddy The Shape until somebody decided to resurrect the franchise to cash in on Michael's cult status.

The problem was (least for me) that the movie focused on some odd angles, mostly on the fact it kept a keen eye on a young Danielle Harris character Jamie and her desperate attempt to cope with the fact that she's related to a demented serial killer as well as survive the night her uncle decided to visit town. Should have been good, honestly, if only it didn't felt like the story cheated on so many aspects of what makes a good sequel, which is normally to tie itself from a prior title without giving up its own story. Too many elements from the first Halloween was linked to this and yet it failed to explain how Laurie Strode got a daughter and how Jamie got some sort of Psychic connection to Michael. It was as if it's expecting a lot of people to know exactly where all this is coming from but. franky, it ain't working too well.

Apart from that, the film also needed more blood, guts and thrills, to step up Michael's game and make him fit to the generation he's going to slaughter. Instead, they tried the slow-burner approach which failed along the attempts to flesh out the two lead characters, which I find really hard to root for if they spend their entire screen time screaming and crying. To make matters worse, I never thought I'll see the day Loomis go overboard on the doom-saying business and Michael Myers looked less threatening with that clean cut version of his mask on. (How on Earth did he got another exactly like the one he had years ago?)

On a positive note, there were some good scenes that got thrown in later in the movie; there's one with Michael skulking around a garage shop wearing a more effective looking "mask" made out of bandages (Honestly, I prefer this over that cheap Halloween mask he wore on this title), and another involving a massacre in a moving truck, though none of them had it like the highly acclaimed rooftop scene where Michael stalk and lumbers as he tries to stick his knife to either his niece or her adoptive sister. The sub-plot involving the feds and the town's more revenge-fueled residents (which, for some reasons, are rednecks), though not fully tackled, is also a breath of fresh air for a slasher title.

The ending of the film is an anomaly for me; I neither liked it or hated it, but I can't really deny how satisfying it was. Just too bad they didn't bother to follow it up with the next sequel and, instead, actually ignored this shock-twist almost completely! (And no explanation, too! What the fuck, man?)

In the end, it's a fan's movie. Die-hard Halloween followers will definitely get a good kick from this, but I'm gonna stand on my ground and say that I really expected more coming from a Halloween entry, especially if it's a comeback for Michael Myers. More satisfying murders would have helped and I wished they had loosen themselves up a bit with the continuities; perhaps it's this trait's the very reason why I chose the underdog entry Halloween 6: Curse of Michael Myers over this as Michael's true comeback for me. (Pitchfork me all you want, I ain't changing my claim!)

1 male thumbed through the skull
1 female killed and 2 victims killed offcamera
1 male stabbed on the chest with a steel rod
1 female found murdered
1 male thrown into transformer, electrocuted
3 males found mutilated
1 male shot to death
1 male found bent in half
1 female pinned to the wall with a shotgun
1 male had his neck snapped
1 male knifed on the gut, thrown off a truck
1 male knifed then thrown off a truck
1 male thrown off a truck
1 male had his throat ripped open
total: 18

As Usual, Marijuana Saves an Otherwise Disastrous Day!: Idle Hands (1999)

Idle Hands (1999)
Rating: ***1/2
Starring: Devon Sawa, Seth Green and Elden Henson

Before he was a doomed psychic boy running from Death itself, Devon Sawa was Anton Tobias, a lazy slacker whose life revolves around his parent's couch, junk food and weed. He basically wastes his life with his stoner friends (Elden Henson and *gasp* Seth Green!) but all that's gonna change when his parents mysteriously disappears (killed actually) and his right hand begins to act with a murderous mind of its own, killing his two bestfriends in the process. Worse even is that he also unwittingly asks his hot neighbor (completely unaware of the murderous hand) out for the Halloween dance and, further complicating all of this, there's also a groovy chick with a magical dagger out to destroy the evil that seems to be possessing hands.

Now guided by his zombified buds who came back to life for reasons that the distance of "the light" is too far (and that it comes with uncool music that sounds like "Enya"), Anton must find a way to stop his possessed hand from killing everybody else, which should have been less of a burden if it remained attached to Anton. Guess cutting it off was a bad idea...

Idle Hands (1999) is a stoner movie done as a horror comedy that defies a singular sub-genre. We got dabs of Satanism, possession, zombies and a delicious slasher movie that proves not all killers must be seven feet tall to be threatening.

It is often disregarded by many critics as a flopfest as the movie really felt like a feature length version of Evil Dead II scenes involving a similarly possessed hand in a torture and killing spree. It tries the slapstick approach around the first bulk of the run as Anton, with the evil hand is still attached, attempts to control it from murdering anybody at arm's length, but it never has the same kind of looniness and gory mayhem Ash had with his own killer limb in the aforementioned Evil Dead sequel. There's also a hint of Beetlejuice in it, where Anton's two bestfriends come back as the pot-smoking dead who seems to have no real problem adjusting to their new undead state and remain nonchalant about Anton's killer hand. And to top the movie's disregard to any sense of realism, we also have a young Jessica Alba playing a character our Anton have been crushing on, falling for the wiggling hand antics of our hero. (And they had sex! What the hell?!)

So do these little imbalances really make Idle Hands (1999) a bad movie? Oh, hell no! Let's try to remind ourselves that we have a possessed hand here killing people, not a historic re-telling of the Nazi Holocaust or Lord Christ's final judgement. We're talking about a horror-comedy here and though Idle Hands may fail as a tribute to some better horror/ horror comedies out there, it's pretty okay as its own mess. It has the teen slasher gig rolling with quite the effect, jokes and gags mostly laugh worthy and even well written when it hits you right, and the gore effects are a real eye candy. It also has one of the wildest party crash ever, with a rather nasty head scalping to boot.

The final set-piece of the movie is where all the crazy factor goes to by the time our killer hand starts disguising himself with a hand puppet, Alba is stripped to her lingerie while stuck in a death trap involving a car being raised to a ceiling pentagram, and a more heroic use for marijuana. Clearly. Not. To be taken seriously.

Idle hands (1999) is definitely a movie made to be a brainless yet fun horror comedy, though there are moments where the two genres are a little uneven in distribution. The movie's entertainment value varies among taste, coz I'm pretty sure not everyone has a tolerance for dumb stoners. Anyone with a taste for bloody grue and gutsy laugh, however, will find a good time with this movie as surely anybody with a good sense in their head should at least know what they'll be expecting from a movie about murder hands. (So stop your whining big shot critics, learn to laugh for a while!)

Grab a bag of popcorn, open up a few beers and light that cannabis! When the day's Halloween and you want a good laugh, why not try five sharpened fingers worth of laughs and shocks that is Idle Hands (1999)?!

1 male stabbed with bread knife offscren
1 female had an eye gouged, killed
1 male gets a broken bottle to the head
1 male decapitated by thrown buzzsaw
1 male gets a knitting needle through the ears
1 male gets a tazer gun to the face, electrocuted
1 female had her neck crushed
1 male bludgeoned
1 male had his groin crushed
1 male gets his scalp torn off
5 victims crushed by falling stagelights
1 female hanged and sliced through a fan
Total: 16
And since you guys sticked around until the end of this review;
here's a boob shot! 

Friday, October 19, 2012

Grab a shovel to Razorback Hollow: Pumpkinhead (1988)

Pumpkinhead (1988) (AKA "Vengeance")
Rating: ****
Starring:  Lance Henriksen, Jeff East and John D'Aquino

"Keep away from Pumpkinhead, Unless you're tired of living,
 His enemies are mostly dead, He's mean and unforgiving, 
Bolted doors and windows barred, 
Guard dogs prowling in the yard, 
Won't protect you in your bed, 
Nothing will, from Pumpkinhead."

In 1957, Young Ed Harley spots a bloodied man being hunted down by an enormous creature. The man stops at his family's doorstep and pleas to be let in, but Father Harley stood his ground and refuses to help the man as whatever's hunting him will harm the family if they intervene. True enough, the monster catches up and murders the poor chap. Thus live the legend of Pumpkinhead...

Moving to the present, Ed Harley is now a grown man with a loving son and a life he's satisfied with. He owns a local store where townies and traveling folks buy their supplies and it was a day like any other when six teenagers from the city stopped for gas and food. Harley has some errands to do for a friend that time so he leaves his young son alone to watch over the store, but when one of the teens accidentally run over the young lad with his motorbike, the rest flee the scene while one stays with the injured boy until his father's return.

Seeing what the teens did to his only son, Harley ventures deep into the woods in search of a witch known to possess powers that can right the wrong. He finds her but she informs Harley she cannot bring his son back from the dead and, instead, can bring vengeance to those responsible with a price. Harley agrees, gets tasked to dig out a disfigured corpse from a pumpkin patch and bring it to the witch so she can finish her ritual. With blood drawn from his and his son's hand, the demon Pumpkinhead rises to finish off the teens one at a time.

But as the demon continues his slaughter, Harley finds out that he can see and feel the agony of the victims; regretting his action, he begs the witch to stop the demon. But when she tells him what's done is done, he has no choice but to stop the demon himself and save what's left of the group.

A cult classic of its own right, Pumpkinhead gains its following due to its special effects, easy-to-follow plotting, good gore and an iconic monster. Though labeled as many as another teen kill due to it's similar tropes to pretty much any backwoods slashers made before, the film's only differential fodder is its killer is a gigantic demon, a throwback to the old monster films with a workably entertaining stab at a tragic vengeance story.

Billy, Ed Harley's son, is a nice kid; he's young, helpful and very loving. Seeing him die from the accident and his father grieving over his dying son is enough to bring out the dread and intensity from a simple yet effective story as the vengeance theme is played against both odds, with neither Harley or the teens can win against it. Only through redemption, the kind that comes with an ultimate price, can save them and that being said, Pumpkinhead's a tragedy for the horror kind, a bit more soul for the gore.

And with this kind of plotting, it'll take quite a performance to pull it off. Thankfully, Lance Henriksen is hail-worthy as his role of a grieving father whose rage is all understandable but redeems himself later on when he finds out his thirsts for revenge made him more of a monster than the demon itself. For the rest of the cast, especially the teens, left little to be commended since they're dispatched all too quickly around the second half, leaving the third to be no more than a long chase scene with the monster on the prowl for panicky teenagers. Then again, more of the focus was on Harley so this didn't bother me much, though it does make me think how different things would have been if the kids were more fleshed out.

The backwoods settings is also a surprising success compared to the majority of other backwoods slashers, capturing the sense of suspense and isolation with effects like fog and lighting bringing out some rich atmosphere, from the scenes involving the witch with bright red lights showing the seriousness of her role, to the thunderstorm-esque wind blowings that sortah acts like the creature's calling card. Gore effects are nice, not too shabby and not too gory. It's mostly tooth-and-nail maulings from the monster's end but there are murders which have it utilizing some tools along the way.

And speaking of which, no horror fan will fail to point out the creature effects showcased for the movie; though its design was inspired by the Xenomorphs of the Alien series, the demon Pumpkinhead is a tribute to folklores and legends made to life by some very well designed animatronics, twice as big as anyone in the film and twice as strong. It's origins was explained very little, including its unexplained connections to Haggis, an old witch that lives in the forest, save she seems to know the responsibility the creature carries when summoned. There are indications she likely still has some concern to the people that seeks her "help" as she warns them of it but, in the end, those people are the ones paying the most, a route that downbeats the film's ending but satisfying all the way.

A good watch for any night when you're craving for dead teens, backwoods horror or a plain B-Monster flick; kinda serious toned, featuring zero skins and moderate blood, but Pumpkinhead is still a deserving title for any slasher/monster completists, or to any horror fan in general.

1 male mauled and strangled to death
1 boy ran over by motorbike, dies
1 male mauled to death
1 female had her face clawed repeatedly and forced through a window
1 female dropped back-first to a rock
1 male impaled to a rifle
1 male shot to death
Total: 7

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Cuz everything's better with zombies: Cemetery of Terror (1985)

Cemetery of Terror (Cementerio Del Terror) (Mexico, 1985) (AKA "Zombie Apocalypse")
Rating: **1/2
Starring: Hugo Stiglitz, José Gómez Parcero and Bety Robles

Ah, Mexico. Where yesterday's slasher classics can be rehashed into something cheaper, yet still so enjoyably good. One of these rehashes took a whooper as this little holiday treat; another slash-a-thon with one hell of a gimmicky trash; mix-matching slasher, zombie, satanism, and kids in peril flicks in a three part act.

Opening the movie is one Dr. Cardan, dreaming of a white bloused lady being attacked by a stubby-handed serial killer named Devlon. This, unfortunately, turns out to be a clairvoyant vision as said murder is happening in media res and Cardan, fully convinced that Devlon's a demon, demands to see the killer's body cremated after old' stubby-hands gets shot to death.

All in the meantime, it's Halloween night; the one night in the year kids dress up in Michael Jackson jackets and wander around the streets unsupervised, as well as the one night six horny teens decided to have a good time inside a dusty old manor where they find Satanic trinkets and old tomes.

Seeing it is the dark holiday, the teens dare each other to steal a body from the morgue, thinking that inciting demonic incantations (or STEALING A DEAD BODY) is an equivalent of a turn-on for girls and its all just harmless fun. They do succeed on their little trick but makes a deadly mistake of stealing Devlon's body as, sure enough through them cursed incantations, the killer gets up on his feet once again and begins to slaughter one teen at a time with his stubby little fingers.

And just when you thought the movie's over with all them dumb teens dead, we suddenly have ourselves a new set of leads, this time a ragtag group of five kids who gatecrashes the local cemetery for a more exciting Halloween night, only to finds themselves under siege of Devlon's newly raised undead buddies.

From the Biblically crazed doomsayer to a hulking silent killer, Cemetery of Terror does a pretty fair job as a slasher flick around the first and second act, taking cues from Halloween (1978) only with loads of cheese, weirdness and, yes, a zombie flick third act. To think the hodgepodge would probably have messed up the movie but, in an relatively odd way, it kinda works. Yes, the change of tone from teen-kill to watching kids run around in a zombie filled graveyard might disappoint hard core slasher fans (not to mention the zombie fans as the undead scenes hardly had any action with these kids doing nothing but run, hide and live!) but as a whole, Cemetery of Terror has that cheesy sense that calls for some good intentions as a fun nonsensical movie.

The film sports enough grue to keep any slasher fans watching, though most of the killings involve mutilation and dismemberment by Devlon's distractingly stubby clawed fingers. I did wish there was more to this killer aside from him being a disciple of Satan, a writer of his own tome and the proud owner of a weird beard, but thank God he at least has the common decency to let his presence (and bloodlust) do all the talking. The only real drawback I can point out from this movie is that its zombie climax lacks any flesh munching action. You cannot have a zombie flick with REAL zombies without a few cannibalization. Even from hybrids such as this.

A fast-paced fast food version of a slasher/zombie romp donning maximum pleasure from the oddest sides of the coin, Cemetery of Terror is a love it or hate it movie depending on your taste. Perhaps its my utter disappointment on seeing "fasting" zombies, but you can bet a Holiday night viewing out of this cheese.

1 female clawed to death
1 male shot to death
1 female found with throat cut
1 male clawed repeatedly, disemboweled
1 male had the back of his head pushed to a wall lamp
1 female repeatedly stabbed on the gut with broken bottle
1 female clawed to death
1 male gets a battle axe to the head
Total: 8

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Those Toned Specs, Oh Handsome Devil: Hellbent (2004)

Hellbent (2004)
Rating: ****
Starring: Dylan Fergus, Bryan Kirkwood and Hank Harris

Gay-themed slasher flick? I say, why not?

I'm a straight dude but that ain't no real excuse at all to stop myself from seeing one of the most acclaimed and well-enjoyed indie slasher flicks out there! Cuz, let's face it, that would have been sexist on my part and I don't discriminate. That'll be so... Un-slasher-like!

Hellbent is an easy movie to swallow for how classic the story is: it starts off with a gay couple doing it in a parked car in the middle of the woods and by the time one of them starts giving heads, the other gets his block chopped off by a sharp sickle, right before the killer viciously attacks his way to get the other half of this man-on-man shagging.

The case is noticed by the local police force, the same station where our lead boy Eddie works as their desk jockey, though his real goal is to become a cop like his late dad. Since it's Halloween, the chief decided to give him a break for the night, even let him adorn his dad's uniform as his costume, so he can meet up with his three lovable gay buds: Tobey, a head strong drag queen, Chaz, a bisexual sex-addict, and his shy younger bro Joey. Eddie also encounters a young biker getting a tat, who clearly notices our Ed eye-balling him from the distance.

As night fall, the quartet decided to walk through the same woods where the opening murder took place in typical dumb teen judgement, thinking the killer's long gone. But surprise, surprise, who's that topless devil-masked bodybuilder out there watching them? Surely enough, this unnamed masked man of the night follows these boys all the way to the party, apparently interested in collecting their heads for reasons unknown. After a hack-a-thon of headless spree, we're thinned down to just Eddie, his new lover and a home invasion final set-piece.

Regardless of preferences, Hellbent is a true slasher film at heart; it follows everything by the book and openly molded the plot with its homosexual theme thus the reason, I believe, why it garnished an open acceptance from not only its gay target audience but also straight horror lovers alike.

Despite its low-budget, production is beautiful with eye-catching Argento/Bava-esque style lighting, its even-paced action sequences are built right for intense and exciting scenes, and actors going the distance to make their characters likable. There's also some awesome gore effects that'll make any gore hound happy, one of the high points that goes well with everything else in the movie despite being CG generated/enhanced. While the murders are all the same kind of execution (decapitation by sickle), that didn't stop the movie to create some worthwhile kill scenes that brought out some cool, brutal and inventive sickle action, such as a victim gets hacked repeatedly in a populated strobe-lighted dance floor before getting his head cut and pulled off. There's another involving a man's near death experience with the killer's sickle, but only to be save by a glass eye in an image strikingly similar to Lucio Fulci's eye gag from Zombie.

The killer in Hellbent is also another score up for the film; around the decade of its release, slasher villains normally start off being mute only to break into a bumbling fools by the time they're unmasked. The killer in Hellbent, however, opted to be a pure invincible killing machine with no dialouge, no real identity and no real motive other than to slaughter. He wasn't even unmasked at the end, but I wouldn't think it matters. Why he targeted these men and whether he's hunting them cuz he's homophobic or he's simply doing it for the thrill of the kill will never be answered, but one fact is certain, he's good at what he does.

No matter what angle you look, Hellbent certainly got the slasher subgenre by the book. Everything from a Micheal Myers-inspired killer to the well made stalk-and-kill set-pieces, it certainly shouts near-perfection as a bodycount movie made to be enjoyed and, thankfully, does the job right.

1 male decapitated with a sickle
1 male decapitated offscreen with a sickle
1 male had his neck hacked with a sickle, head pulled off
1 male repeatedly hacked on the gut, decapitated with sickle
1 male had his head sliced off with a sickle
Total: 5