Saturday, July 31, 2010

Blockbuster Trash: The Messengers 2- The Scarecrow

As we near the end of the month, we get to the final direct-to-DVD sequel of July.  Sadly, there are still tons more to cover in other months, including Wargames 2, The Net 2.0 and Timecop 2- oy vey!  What film is on tap for today?  Why it's a direct-to-DVD prequel to a 2007 film that did mildly-well and had it's teen star get famous.  Is that all that's required to get one of these things made?  If so, that's extremely-sad.  As part of Sam Raimi's Ghosthouse line, The Messengers was made by The Pang Brothers- a pair of siblings who have yet to make a good movie that I've seen.  For the record, I've only seen Forest of Death (meh) and the remake of Bangkok Dangerous (feh).  Anyhow, this film is not made by them, but is instead made by some guy I've never heard of before.  Given how sub-par this film is, I'll probably end up seeing another 20 films by him in the next few years!  The big problem with this film is simple: it's not a real prequel.  A prequel, by definition, is a film set before the earlier events of a previous film that sets up the events to come.  This film fails to do the latter, ending up making it feel like some sort of weird, side story without an ending.  I'll have more to say in the review proper.  Get out your Satanic farmers for my review of...
The film begins by showing a farm in a state of disrepair and malnourishment.  The problem is simple: he can't afford a good irrigation system to keep the plants watered.  As a result, they barely grow, thus making him barely break even.  It's a lovely Catch-22, isn't it?  The farmer- aka the evil assistant from Blade II and the detective from Cigarette Burns- lives with his wife and family, although things are strained.  I hope you get emotionally-invested in them, because they're pretty much all you get for at least an hour!  Hope finally shines for him when he decides to put up a scarecrow.  I may not be a farmer, but that would be the third or fourth thing that I would have done to begin with!  There's more to it, however, as the land is also protected by some sort of weird, magical spell that can be tapped into.  The results are far less interesting than they sound.  His neighbor (aka the 'Jump to Conclusions' guy from Office Space) is the one who suggested it, so he gets all the blame...I mean, appreciation.  Speaking of blame, the loan officer shows up and tries to take the farm, but our hero insists that they'll get enough money by the end of the season.  He also makes sure to yell at him very loudly where people can hear.  This won't end up biting him in the ass, I'm sure!
Things are beginning to look up for the family, so, naturally, everything has to start going wrong now.  First, the loan officer from the bank is violently-killed, leading the police to suspect the guy who threatened him in a loud argument.  Oops, guess I was wrong earlier.  Second, our hero starts to have weird visions of a hot, young blond woman, setting up some extremely-pointless nude scenes that up the rating to 'R.'  Oh good, I was worried that it would only be PG-13.  There's nothing wrong with visions, except when they lead you to get a little 'too passionate' with your wife and hurt her.  Like I said, things are still looking up, even if the guy is starting to act a little crazy.  Like one of the posters' reviewers says 'It's The Shining gone country.'  Yeah, that makes total sense.  I can just feel the sense of isolation as he stands in front of a wide-open field in broad daylight!  Meanwhile, the younger son starts to see weird things too, many of them related to the ugly-ass scarecrow in the field.  Our hero continues to act more erratic and rely more on the advice of the neighbor than his wife.  When he starts to suspect something is going on, he goes to see the man, only to be greeted by the blond.  Just a hint to all you married readers: having hot, passionate sex with a blond next door is not good for the marriage.
After a whole lot of nothing and a pair of off-screen kills, things finally pick up...a little.  We start to get hints that our hero is going crazy.  He gets a book from the neighbor which contains ancient magical spells and is confronted in the attic by the neighbor...only to have the book be his Bible and nobody be there.  This is all the push that the wife needs to leave him, choosing to move out.  Years of poor, starving life and this is what is the final straw.  This all leads up to one scene of him trying to get her to forgive him, only for her to tell him to leave before she stabs him.  Ah, love is grand!  Seriously, after over a decade and two kids, it's all going to be dead and buried, huh?  All of this, of course, is a set-up for the finale in which she tries to leave with the kids.  After making me wait and, quite frankly, being a little bitch about it, the scarecrow finally does something on camera.  In terms of scarecrow-related terror, it's better than the guys in burlap masks from Dark Harvest, but much more than the awesome guys from Scarecrows.  Just a reminder: Scarecrows was made in 1988 and this was made in 2009.  After a sort-of interesting fight, the thing is killed and the family leaves.  Um, you missed the whole point of making this prequel...
Country or not, this movie sucks!  Was it so hard to make a film about a killer scarecrow, a Satanic farmer and black magic interesting?  I guess I should expected nothing but the least from you guys, huh?  The acting is alright, although it goes in the usual method of going way too loud when things go bad.  There is a middle ground between painstakingly-dull and ridiculously-animated, you know.  The movie just doesn't deliver on the ideas and thrills that it promises.  Instead, it chooses to relegate it's scary stuff to the very last twenty minutes or so in a rushed and silly manner.  Speaking of not delivering, this is not a real prequel!  The set-up is simple: man runs farm, goes crazy and kills family.  Instead, we get the first two, but not the latter.  How are the ghosts upset by their violent and untimely deaths if they didn't die there?!?  Maybe I'm being too picky though.  Maybe this was all a set-up to The Messengers 3: The Other Scarecrow.  Yeah, that's stupid.  The movie is just not nearly as interesting or clever as it should be.  Here's another thing for you: our hero of this movie is supposed to somehow turn into Sex and The City's John Corbett for The Messengers.  Yeah, right...
Next up, we kick off August with the first Living Dead film on the list.  This one is a low-budget zombie film shot in the inner city- yes, another one!  Stay tuned...

Impossibly-Redundant and Lost In Translation: Blood Beach

After a thorough dissection of 1980's Blood Beach, I thought it would be appropriate to check out some poster art for it.  First up, the alternate American poster...

Well, the scale of that is all wrong, but it's still pretty cool.  I really find the tag-line to the film to be silly, but it's on all of the posters.  Now, just for fun, let's check out the poster from Yugoslavia...

Holy lazy photo-editing, Batman!  The makers of this poster just wiped out the old poster and threw in a busty babe.  Not that I'm complaining about the inclusion, mind you, but it just feels silly.

This is a special, so don't expect another.  Of course, how many times have I said that now?

Friday, July 30, 2010

Rare Flix: Blood Beach

In the wake of the bore-fest that was Island Claws, my expectations are not that high for this film.  Like Claws, it's a fairly-lost '80s film about monsters, murder and sand.  Does this film appear to have more going for it?  Well, yes- thank God!  For one thing, it features John Saxon, a man whose mere appearances can make stuff like Welcome to Spring Break and Cannibal Apocalypse more bearable.  Secondly, it's director has made 10 films, immediately making him 10 times better than Hernan Cardenas.  Plus, it has Burt Young, a character actor who's always fun to watch, even if he has played the same character for thirty-odd years now.  What is the film about, you ask?  Well, apparently there are mysterious monsters that hide in the sand on a beach that kill people Tremors-style.  Okay, I haven't seen 50 versions of that story, so points in your favor.  Will the movie entertain though?  Get out your giant shovels for my review of...

I'm going to break with my usual plot summary pattern here, since it doesn't really fit.  Basically, the film is divided into three parts, just not evenly mixed.  First, you have: the monster attacking people.  This includes...
* A woman killed while walking her dog.
* The dog is later killed for no apparent reason.
* A woman is saved from a rape attempt when the monster(s) kills her would-be assailant.
* Another woman is killed while trying to walk across the beach.
* A beach bunny is killed while letting herself be buried in the sand. 
Still think beaches are cool?
The second part of the movie involves the police and our heroes trying to investigate the case.  The Captain (Saxon) and his lead Detective (Young) are on the case!  Thrill as they...
* Wander around the beach looking at stuff.
* Sit in a police station and complain about not having any clues.
* Stand around in a different room and...complain about not having any clues.
* In a great scene, Saxon bitches out the local community board for not giving them enough funds.
* This is followed by...more scenes of them complaining about not having any evidence.  Did this movie get stuck in a loop?
Finally, after a lot of talking about not having any evidence, they...get some evidence.  Our heroes figure out that the creature must be hiding out somewhere during the day and nighttime periods that it's not 'hunting.  After a lot of talk and wandering around scenes (can't get enough of those!), they find the monster and discover that it's...a weird plant-looking monster.  If the things from Day of the Triffids had sex with a giant oyster, you'd have this thing.  Anyway, after seventy minutes of build-up, the thing gets blown up.  Wow, that was underwhelming, huh?  The End.
As much as I hate to be redundant, this movie sucks.  The premise is neat and it really could have had something done with it.  There's a mysterious monster attacking people on the beach- sold.  The story never goes anywhere, choosing to go in a cycle of talk, kill and talk again.  Is it so hard to pace a movie properly and not make it a Mandelbrot Set?!?  The good actors in the movie are good, but the rest of them are just placeholders.  Nothing they do really creates any tension or interest- sorry.  The whole thing is just a build-up to a sub-par monster that doesn't do much.  I almost wish that they hadn't revealed it and chose to leave it a mystery.  Like that old axiom goes: the truth hurts.  I think that this out-of-context John Saxon picture expresses my feelings appropriately...

Next up, the final Blockbuster Trash of July brings us to a prequel to a film that only has one due to Kristen Stewart being famous now.  Will it change my opinion of this shit or just reinforce it?  Stay tuned...

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Rare Flix: Island Claws

At a certain point, you have to think: I've seen every kind of giant monster.  I've seen giant ants (Them!), beetles (Starship Troopers), grasshoppers (Beginning of the End), bees (Mysterious Island) and spiders(The Giant Spider Invasion)- those are just the bugs!  On top of that, there are giant sharks (Megalodon), Aztec Gods (Q: The Winged Serpent), eyeball monsters (The Crawling Eye) and even electric eels (Deep Shock).  I think that you get the point.  Where does all of this lead?  Well, it leads us to a fairly-obscure 1980 monster movie known as Island Claws.  What do you get?  Giant crabs, of course.  I know- I was hoping for giant crayfish too!  What does this film have going for it?  For starters, it has only one giant crab, immediately making it inferior to 1957's Attack of the Giant Crab Monsters, which at least had a few- even if they never appeared on-screen together.  Secondly, this is the first, last and only film written, directed or produced by Hernan Cardenas.  Alas poor Hernan, I knew you so little.  Well, thanks the invention of YouTube, we can all get to know you a little better- and for free no less.  Get out your boiling water for my review of...

The film begins with some of the scariest imagery ever put on film.  Are you ready for it?  Are you properly seated for this cataclysmic event?  Okay, here it is.  The first thing you see in this movie are crabs walking out of the water.  Oh the humanity!  Seriously, this is supposed to be scary or something.  At least Empire of the Ants showed you normal ants while setting up the idea of how scary they would be as gigantic.  This film- not so much.  After this bit of nothing, we are introduced to a scientist who is currently studying the growth patterns of crabs.  I don't know where this could possibly be going, do you?  He's being interviewed by a reporter about his work.  Slowest news week ever!  He has some pals who live in a nearby beach town, a group that takes up way too much of the movie.  Other than them, we have his best friend, who's played by Steve Hanks.  As far as I can tell, he's not related to Tom...so I don't care.  The plot is much less interested in any monsters, preferring to focus on the people.  On top of that, good luck trying to see anything in the night-time scenes.  Mind you, the streaming version online is a VHS-Ripped version, so I can't fully blame the movie.  Anyhow, the crabs continue to...just wander around.  Get to snapping already!


After so much tedium, something finally starts to happen.  After a scare with our heroine, in which she nearly runs into a non-threatening line crabs, she discovers a giant crab carapace.  Incidentally, why is there only one giant crab?  I can accept the giant crab mutation due to nuclear radiation or some shit, but why only one?  Getting past that, we finally get to see the giant crab in the last ten minutes of the film.  I'm skipping a lot of filler here (including a sub-plot with a sick, Haitian girl), so you can thank me later.  It first shows up to attack our heroes at a house by...attacking from the outside.  Do we get a wide-shot to show the monster?  Nope.  Instead, we don't get to see it until the final minutes.  How does it look?  Well, just picture the King Kong animatronic from the Universal Studios ride and you get the idea.  It's built to scale, but there's no life behind those eyes.  The final battle is a long, protracted one built around our heroes being able to inject a tranquilizer in it, while the thing just sort of flails its arms around with all the motion of Yo Gabba Gabba's Brobee.  It's all very..well, silly.  After a while (including the death of one Cuban man), the thing is taken down.  What a way to waste 80 minutes!

This movie sucks, even when you split it up into nine different parts.  Where should I begin?  For starters, the plot is barely-there and doesn't even address much of the environmental stuff that you might expect.  I never care much about it in films like Day of the Animals, but at least they bother to linger on it long enough to make the point.  This film says 'Nuclear radiation made them grow, it's bad- who cares?!?'  Secondly, the acting is really not much to speak of.  None of the people really stand out, which is odd when you consider how much the film spends with them.  Th whole point of this style of film-making is to save money and build characters.  This film pretty much just does the former and not the latter.  What else can I say about this movie?  It's about 70 minutes of build-up to a bunch of people battling a stationary monster.  Wow- just wow.  People paid money to see this, you know.  Mind you, not that many, since Cardenas only made this one film and never worked again.  It's just a shame that he didn't stop at zero!

Up next, another lost '80s classic arrives and it also involves sand, monsters and murder.  Can John Saxon's bad self make it better?  Stay tuned...

Impossibly-Cool Cover Art: Scream and Scream Again

What happens when three horror legends all work together in one film?  Add in a kick-ass poster and you've got a winner in the form of...

Aside from that lady's giant skull, this is a great poster!  It grabs you by the neck and says 'Watch this now- or you're next!'

Sadly, the actual film is a confusing mess featuring Russians, a zombie and all three actors in separate scenes.  Talk about disappointing!  Even Christopher Lee said that he still has no idea what it was about!

Next up, a movie poster features the most ludicrous gun ever.  Even Reb Brown would say 'That's impossibly-big!'  Stay tuned...

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Kick Flicks: High Kick Girl

Japan is a weird, weird country.  I know that I've talked about it before, but it bears repeating.  This leads into today's film: High Kick Girl.  The film was marketed in a very simple way: here's a film with hot chicks in short skirts doing high kicks- you fill in the rest.  It's a simple and silly premise, but those can work if done right.  Here's the thing: this movie is not a comedy.  I know- I was surprised too!  Everything about it is plugged in a comedic way, or at least in a self-referential way.  No, this film is played 100% serious.  I'm totally serious here.  On the plus side, this film is pure action.  On the negative side, there's almost no actual plot.  Will that imbalance ruin the film or help it?  Get out your tartans for my review of...

After some random B-Roll of Japan and assorted camera changes, we get thrown right into a fight scene.  Set-up is for pussies!  One random Japanese guy beats up a bunch of other random Japanese guys.  In a gimmick that will get old fairly quickly, they replay most of the major blows Walker: Texas Ranger-style.  It's cute a couple of times...but it happens about twenty.  After that scene, we are introduced to our heroine.  She is a cute Japanese girl, who is shadowed by a nerdy guy.  He leads her to a group of karate students, whose leader she promptly challenges to a fight.  Her goal: take his black belt.  He laughs at her challenge and prepares, only to let his guard down for a second and get taken out with one kick to the side of the head.  Down goes Tyson, Down goes Tyson!  By the way, the only reference to the side effect of her kicking in those skirts takes place here.  No, really.  As she goes to leave, the others pick a fight with her friend, leading to a long battle.  Replayed move count: 6 or 7.  After she leaves, we are immediately introduced to her karate class, which is led by a man known as Matsumura.  His name is important for later.  After ten minutes (seriously!) of practice and a narration about the importance of karate, we learn that our heroine is trying to join a group of tough guys/gals known as the Enforcers.  Hurray- a plot!

Her initiation to join the group is to fight a group of tough gals dressed like Yo-Yo Girl Cop leads, which she wins.  Afterward, she learns that she is going to be used as bait to lure out Matsumura- a man that his group apparently has a beef with.  Despite running a school under his own name, they couldn't find him until now!  This leads to a pointless fight scene in a lake bed...just because we needed another one.  Finally, we have a fight scene that takes up the final third of this 90-minute film.  This has more fighting and less plot than District B-13!  Matsumura makes short work of the people in his patch, including a woman with a weighted chain, a man with a sword and the random Japanese guy from the opening fight scene.  Replayed Move Count: 12 or 13.  He gets to the main room, only to find our heroine and her friend held hostage.  He surrenders, getting beaten up by a buff girl in workout gear.  Our heroine makes a comeback, leading to the man fighting back as well.  He defeats 'buff girl' and 'girl with stick' before fighting a line of men.  Meanwhile, our heroine takes a pounding from a crazy man (just punching, you perverts!) before taking him out.  Matsumura makes it to the final guy who is...a guy with a gun.  Our heroine saves him at the last minute and is rewarded by...getting bumped back to White Belt in order to earn her Black Belt properly.  Hurray?  Final Replayed Move Count: 25 or so.

This movie...is very lopsided.  The story is extremely-minimalist, only serving to connect the fight scenes.  Even then, it's a bit hard to follow or make much sense of.  Why couldn't they find Matsumura again?  Why did our heroine go from being a bad-ass to a background object in the story?  The simple thing is this: the movie is full of fighting..and it's damn good.  If you like movies that are more focused on action than characters, story or acting, this is a must-see.  The downsides?  The actual lead of the film (Matsumura) is a very bland, emotionless guy.  I guess that can work in a Seagal sort of way, but he comes off more like Joel Hodgson.  I'm not sure if this is intentional or not.  Honestly, it feels like they needed a guy who could do all of the actions and didn't worry about his ability to emote.  If that's not the case, I apologize.  In spite of this, I recommend this to any fan of high-kicking and skull-shattering kicks.  There's almost no plot...but it still kind of works.  Just don't go in expecting a comedy.

Next up, I cover a nearly-lost '80s film about giant killer crabs.  Get out your giant, tiny combs men!  Stay tuned...

Lost and Found: Cleopatra (1899)


The Story
Georges Melies is a big name in the name of cinema, even if many of us don't know the name.  His most famous film is A Trip to the Moon (translated from French), which features the iconic image of the moon with a rocket in it's 'eye.'  The man made roughly five-hundred films during his hey-day, although only 170 or so are currently in possession.  In 1899, he made Cleopatra, a two-minute short film about the Queen coming back to life as a mummy.  Sadly, like most of his films, it vanished into obscurity...
Was It Found?
Yes.  After over one-hundred years, the film resurfaced in, where else, France.  In 2005, a secret storeroom was opened and the film was discovered.  How many secret film storerooms are there?  We need to check all of them, people!
Significance?
This is one of the first horror films ever made, even if it is only two minutes long.  As far as technical achievements of its time, it's up there.  While not as famous as A Trip to the Moon, it is nearly as significant.  Because he was pioneering the use of special effects and helping create theatrical genres, all of Melies works are of great importance- even the ones that vanished for 100 years.

Next up, an 88 year-old Disney film disappears into the void.  Will someone find the poor Ms. Hood?  Stay tuned...

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Forgotten Sequels: Candyman 3

After a surprisingly-good sequel in Candyman: Farewell to the Flesh, a decline in quality was guaranteed.  How did it come about?  For one thing, the license was bought by another company.  Secondly, the film was made direct-to-video, as opposed to being released in theaters.  Another thing to note is that Tony Todd took a Co-Producer role on the film.  I can't necessarily blame the quality of the film on him, although I should note that the only other film he's credited as a Producer on is Scarecrow Slayer.  No, really.  The big thing to note is that this film follows the adventures of the daughter from the Epilogue of the last film.  Given that that film was made in 1995 and the girl grows up by 20+ years, this film is apparently set around 2015.  Do you guys think of things like that when you write screenplays?  Oh yeah, we've also gone from Virgina Madsen to Donna D'Erico.  Be afraid- be very afraid!  Get out your bee repellent for my review of...

Our story begins like some sort of existential art film.  A woman walks into a disturbingly-white bathroom and sees blood on the wall, bodies in tubs and other visions.  Never mind that it still has a Baywatch star in a t-shirt and panties!  This is also the last time that I will ever compare this film to any art film ever!  After that distraction, we get a long credit sequence shown over a dozen shots of the hook.  Yes, it's scary- move on!  Our grown-up heroine is trying to restore her family legacy, despite the urban legend that The Candyman has become.  She has uncovered a stash of paintings that the man made while he was alive and she uses them for an art show to explain how human he once was.  Naturally, she gets pissed when the art gallery owner advertises it as The Candyman Exhibition!  She reams him out, but he manages to calm her down.  At the show, we see some weird punks that will sort of be important later.  We are once again told the story of Daniel Robitaille aka The Candyman.  I know that you're marketing this to a new audience, but this is also the third film.  If you don't think we know the story, put it on the damn box- not in here!  The difference is that these are done in pretentious flashbacks.  By the way, they re-stage the famous death scene and screw it up, placing it at night and having Daniel on a cross, not the ground.  Did you watch your own film?

After another fake-out scare (see- I told you) by the gallery owner, the party disperses.  Our heroine- still upset at the stunt, takes the subway, only to be confronted by The Candyman, who floats into the shot on a swarm of bees.  You waited until the third film for that kind of entrance?!?  He makes some vague speech about how he's going to convert her and she passes out, ending up outside the gallery owner's house.  She finds him and his lady friend dead, the latter stung to death by bees.  The police suspect her, but also have another suspect: the actor who played a 'crazed fan.'  He shows up at her house later and is a bit pissed, although she manages to convince him to work with her.  A detective from earlier follows them, playing up a plot point that will also come into play later.  They end up at the man's house, where our heroine learns that he has a kid.  He takes her to see his grandmother, who just so happens to be a voodoo priestess of some sort.  I should also mention that this film is set in Los Angeles, for absolutely no good reason.  She warns our heroine about some sort of spirit and cracks an egg, leading to a bee crawling out of the yoke.  Wow, that's so deep!  It means...um, it means nothing.  Moving on...

Things take a turn for the worse as the actor is kidnapped by The Candyman after a drunken night of passion.  Thanks for coming, pal- you get to sit on a cross covered in bees for the rest of the film.  Our heroine returns home one night only to find her roommate being killed by The Candyman.  Our heroine's penchant for ending up near or around murder scenes makes her a more clear suspect, a plot point that was neat in Candyman 2.  Here- it's just kind of 'eh.'  We also steal the 'heroine runs through a crowd from the cop' scene from the last film, although it's during the Day of the Dead Festival instead of Mardi Gras.  One funny bit has a drag queen being mistaken for our heroine though!  After escaping, she is grabbed and captured by the weird punks from earlier.  They talk about being Candyman fanboys, hiding in a tin shack spray-painted to be The Candyman's face.  Yeah, good hiding place!  Anyhow, one of them does the 'say Candyman's name five times' bit and he kills them all.  In the final showdown, our heroine discovers the self-portrait of The Candyman...and burns it, finally killing the man.  Oh yeah, he shoots bees out of his wounds too.  The End.

This movie sucks...unfortunately.  The plot has a few good things going for it.  It attempts to humanize The Candyman a bit more, while also expanding on his past a bit.  I like all of that, but the story just has no forward momentum.  On top of that, the acting is...well, not good.  I can't fault Todd here, as he does his usual 'silent bad-ass' thing to great effect.  No, the obvious culprit is D'Erico, who apparently had people tell her that she should try real acting!  Just a note: you can't and you shouldn't.  Seriously, it's like watching a High School play where the lead actress is played by a Middle-School student...who is not that bright.  She sticks out like a sore thumb, just like the movie's attempts to make some titillation by having her wear small, revealing outfits all of the time.  The gore factor is upped a bit from Candyman 2, although most of it feels the same.  I guess there's only so much you can do with a hook hand, but they could have tried a bit harder.  On the plus side, the bees look cool.  I just wish that Todd and the production company could have left well-enough alone.  You don't have to make a trilogy just to make a trilogy.  This is advice you could have taken, George Lucas!

Next up, Japan brings us a film about girls in short skirts that kick high.  It took 30+ years for you to make this?!?  Stay tuned...

Lost In Translation: Reanimator

Reanimator is the film that really put both Stuart Gordon and Jeffrey Combs on the map.  It was a cult hit everywhere, including Japan...

That's...that's how you sell the movie?  You pick a freaky scene from near the end of it?  That scene, no less!  Plus, I'm curious what 'Zombio' means.

Up next, Japan continues to baffle with an odd look at a George A. Romero classic.  Oh, I hope it's Monkey Shines!  Stay tuned...

Monday, July 26, 2010

Forgotten Sequels: Candyman 2

A new name arose in the horror market circa 1992: Candyman.  It's not as cute as it sounds, actually being the tale of a large, black man with a hook for a hand.  The guy also has a penchant for bees not seen since the last County Fair in Georgia!  The gory film tells the tale of a young woman haunted by an urban legend that just dares to be proven true.  The movie starred Virginia Madsen and Tony Todd, who finally broke out in the way he'd always dreamed of.  Naturally, a sequel was bound to follow a few years later.  As far as being a sequel goes, the film does feature the same villain, but no other returning cast members.  Mind you, it is a slasher film sequel, so they could have just killed all of the other characters!  In another change, the movie takes place in New Orleans around the time of Mardi Gras, as opposed to the urban Chicago setting of the original.  As we'll learn, this killer moves to any place where the holiday will best fit.  I think versatility is a virtue lacking in most killers, don't you?  Will this live up to the original or prove to be another inferior horror sequel?  Get out your creepy masks for my review of...

The film begins with a pompous man telling the tale of The Candyman.  Johnny Exposition has silly, hand-drawn pictures to accompany the tale.  That kind of takes the drama out of it, don't you think?  Anyhow, a black guy fell in love with a white girl in the Antebellum South, got his hand cut off and was killed by bees.  When asked about whether the legend is real or not, he says 'Candyman' into the conveniently-reflective cover of his own book and nothing happens.  Of course, we are treated to a fake-out scare that turns out to be a publicity stunt.  Get used to that sight tomorrow.  One of the men in the audience does not like his joke and threatens him later, since apparently he has some sort of family connection to the issue.  In a bar that night, the pompous author goes into the bathroom, only to be confronted by and killed by The Candyman!  By the way, avoid close-ups of the prosthetic hook hand- it looks fake!  The man from earlier is blamed and we get a chance to meet his sister and mother at the police precinct.  We learn that they are all part of a family that was descended from The Candyman's lover back in the day.  They talk about how they feel like they're cursed, which may prove to be true, since the cops are trying to peg the brother as a serial killer.

The gore quotient is pretty low so far, but it's only so that they can focus on character work.  The sister is married to a New Orleans bar owner, who is played by one of those character actors you always go 'I know him from...something' when you see him.  Everyone in the area is obsessed with the partying related to Mardi Gras, which sets up a nice bit of distraction.  Our heroine visits the old family house and tries to engulf herself in her teaching work, but horror strikes home as The Candyman kills her husband.  This doesn't help the brother's murder charges, of course, since they now suspect her of being a killer too.  It must be genetic!  This tragedy leads her to looking more into the legend of The Candyman.  There's a killer on the loose, but let's make time to talk to Dennis Leary's black friend!  She finds out the real truth about her brother.  You see, he was very quick to admit guilt in the man's death, despite the fact that he wasn't guilty.  The truth is this: he was trying to hide The Candyman from the sister.  Much like the woman from Boogeyman 3, it just doesn't work!  Oh well- you win some, you lose some.

As Mardi Gras approaches, our heroine gets closer and closer to the truth, even as The Candyman lurks in the shadows.  The brother is 'saved' by The Candyman arriving in the interrogation room and killing the cop that is hitting him, but the brother dies when he tries to flee from the station.  Our heroine tries to talk to someone who can help her...which just ends in him being killed by bees.  Bees, my God.  The police pursue our heroine through a crowd on account of everyone around the siblings ending up dead.  She confronts her mother about The Candyman, who finally reveals the full, God's honest truth to her.  Our heroine goes to the old estate and tries to destroy The Candyman's source of power: the mirror that contains his soul.  It's amazing how 100+ year old mirrors hold up, isn't it?  She gets to it, but has company.  He allows her to see the full experience of his torture, death and rebirth.  By the way, The Candyman name comes from one kid calling him that- lame!  As the place fills with water, she tries to escape the estate..only to be cornered again.  When she breaks the mirror, however, the killer dies.  In the epilogue, our heroine's young child nearly invokes the killer's name, which she stops.  The End.

This movie...is actually pretty decent.  The plot is simple enough, even if it meanders a bit at times.  The acting is actually pretty decent, with many of the actors feeling 'real.'  For films of this kind, it's a pretty rare thing.  The kills in the film are good too, although the movie does use the same 'Candyman stabs people in the back' death over and over again.  It's not a bad way to do it, but it reeks of trying to save money by not showing the 'entry wound.'  As a whole, it's a decent film...but I do have some problems with it.  Honestly, I just did not really buy all that much into the whole 'Candyman' origin tale.  It feels a bit silly, especially when you consider the old-timey flashback scene.  I get the 'cutting off the hand' thing, but why the honey?  Especially, when you consider that they act surprised that the bees show up!  Were you just doing that for fun and got surprised by the insects' arrival?  Plus, you could make the killer's name reveal be a bit less hokey and forced.  I'm nit-picking here though.  The movie makes up for this oversight with some good atmosphere, suspense and acting.  It is better than a horror sequel of this type has any right to be.  Can they repeat it one last time though?

Next up, the Candyman trilogy concludes with an ill-conceived, direct-to-video film starring a chick from Baywatch.  Continuity and time be damned!  Stay tuned...

VHS For The Win: Robot Holocaust

After the alien invasion wore down, we had to deal with the fact our own technology has turned against us...

Oh my God, Ultron has assembled an army of...vacuum cleaner attachment arms to kill us!  I do have to ask: how is it a robot holocaust if they do the killing?  Is my grasp of grammar so far off or is theirs?

Just to note: this movie has been done by MST3K.  No, I haven't seen it yet.

Up next, we learn that not is time not on our side...but it can kill!  Tick tock!  Stay tuned...

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Unholy Marketing: Dante's Inferno (2010)

The famous poem known as 'Dante's Inferno' has been turned into a great many thing.  As regular readers may recall, it was made into a post-modern film featuring finger puppets.  It was weird, but kept the spirit of the story.  It changed the names of Hell's residents to properly reflect modern sentiments, but that was about it.  On the flip-side, there's the Dante's Inferno video game from Electronic Arts.  This massively-morphs the tale into one of lost love and a man's descent into Hell to free her from the Devil's grasp.  Oh yeah, he also kills Death itself and uses its Scythe.  To quote the police chief from The Abominable Dr. Phibes- 'Words fail me, gentlemen.'  Speaking of said game, they made a cartoon out of it too.  After all, if you're going to horribly-mutilate a timeless tale, you might as well do so as many times as possible!  The film is the collaboration several anime directors, who apparently can't agree on a character look.  As if this thing wasn't odd enough, it's disjointed as hell!  Can the non-interactive, animated medium succeed where the interactive, animated medium failed?  Get out your Hell crosses for my review of...
Our tale begins with Dante riding home from the Crusades to rejoin his lovely wife.  In the woods, he's surrounded by a cadre of animals, including a wolf, a tiger and a lion!  Holy improbable combination, Batman!  To make things sillier, he does a tic-tac jump into the air while on his horse, spinning through the air and killing the things with his sword!  That about killed me right there, but we still have over seventy minutes left.  He finds his home wrecked and all of his family and friends dead.  Just to up the rating, his wife has one breast hanging out of her dress.  Things get worse when Satan shows up and takes her to Hell in her pointlessly-topless glory.  He rides after her, but, sadly, loses his horse to a group of demons that explode out of the Earth.  He manages to get into the first level of Hell, where he meets Virgil, his guide for this journey.  Are you ready for blood, guts and pointless character redesigns?
Once Dante enters Hell, some weird shit happens.  A bunch of demon-snakes fly around him, tear up his armor and sew a cross made out of leather into his chest.  Yes, demons sewed a cross into him.  In the film's defense, there is a reason for this.  Against the film's defense, it's stupid as hell!  As the poem goes, Hell is made up of several sections where people are punished for different Earthly sins.  It's good to see that some things stay the same.  Where this film differs, however, is that the different levels are clearly written as levels in the game, even giving you an 'end boss' for each section.  In addition, Dante recalls more and more of his memories from during the Crusades as he goes on.  Recall the part about this movie being made by a group of different artists?  Well, that leads to some confusion as we see more parts of the flashbacks revealed over time.  One of the most important ones is split between two different art teams, making for a really odd lack of continuity.  Dante has long hair in one section of the flashback, but not another?  Is it illegal to send notes to each other in Japan or something?
This film doesn't really much of a narrative flow, so there's no point pretending otherwise.  Dante fights a slew of demons, sinners and skeletons.  He gets to the end of one section, fights a 'boss' (be it the monstrous King Minos or the demon-form of his father) and travels there by way of some weird transportation.  For example, he's led across the River Styx by the son of Ares via a boat.  In this film, Ares' son is a giant, armadillo-looking monster that lives in lava!  The biggest controveries of the film involve Dante learning that his wife had an abortion while he was gone (yes, they show it...eww) and his subsequent battle with a horde of unborn children...with claws for hands.  That's...somewhat past the border of good taste, guys.  Throughout the tale, we learn that Dante is a complete asshole, killing 'foreign heretics' in cold blood, cheating on his wife and letting her brother take the fall for his crimes.  The Devil turns Beatrice into a demon, but he redeems her.  He battles Satan, only to learn that he did Scratch a favor by unfreezing him.  He prays for forgiveness, re-sealing The Devil.  Yes, it's a quite literal Deus Ex Machina!  He exits towards home and tears off the cross...only to reveal that the cross was Satan in snake form.  No, really.
Holy Hell, this thing is a giant mess!  Where should I begin?  For one thing, it's about as based on 'Dante's Inferno' as the 1999 Beowulf film starring Christopher Lambert was based on its source material.  You can't just say 'Dante goes into Hell, so let's call it Dante's Inferno.'  If anything, this is a version of 'Orpheus and Eurydice,' just with a lot more killing and less music!  Mind you, this was made under the auspices of being like the game, so I can't fault them too much for doing what they were told.  As a side note, Dante gets his Scythe from a demon here, as opposed to killing The Grim Reaper.  At least that's one change for the better.  Of course, they changed it from Dante sowing the cross onto himself (painful, but logical to a certain degree) to the demons doing (not so much).  The two key problems are the confusing art-style changes between the teams and the bad story set-up.  Dante changes outfits several times in the story, going from a full helmet to long, unkempt hair and to a circlet.  Can you keep your guys 'on model' please?  Secondly, the story is very obviously just a series of levels.  Is it too much to ask for you to disguise this a little bit?  To be fair, there are some neat visuals here and fans of bloody anime may get a kick out of it.  If you like the poem, you'll not be pleased though.
Up next, I finally get to talk about the first of the two Candyman sequels.  Will I be hooked or not get a buzz from it?  Stay tuned...

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Blockbuster Trash: Vacancy 2

Really?  Is this really necessary?  I mean, is there so much story that was left untold in the first film that a second one was required?  Oh, I see- this is a prequel.  For those of you who either didn't see the movie (guilty) or don't know what Wikipedia is (innocent), Vacancy tells the tale of a couple who are hunted down by crazed hotel owners who film their victims' deaths and sell the snuff films.  In the film, it's established that everyone who's been here has been killed.  So, gee, I wonder if these people survive?!?  The big problem here is that you're taking all of the mystery out of the equation.  In movies like Vacancy, The Strangers or Funny Games, the killers' motivations is unknown- making it all the more freaky.  It's a case of 'why do these people want me dead?!?'  Well, when you answer it, who cares?  When all the mystery and mystique is gone, they're just people with sharp/blunt objects that kill other people- big deal!  Imagine if The Texas Chainsaw Massacre spent the first 30-45 minutes talking about how crazy the family was and then had the horror occur.  Would it be as frightening?  No.  Now that I've established how pointless and asinine the entire idea of this movie is, let's discuss it in great detail.  Get out your handy-cams for my review of...
The film begins with a young, Japanese couple driving down the road very quickly.  As newlyweds, they're anxious to 'bomb each others Pearl Harbors,' if you catch my drift.  They go to the hotel and check in for the night.  Nah, they're just there to screw.  In the back offices, we can see the familiar hotel employees eyeing the proceedings.  At least they don't bother pretending that it's a surprise that they have cameras- one point for them.  Before anything really happens on-camera, we get an awkward wipe and the couple leave, speeding off into the night.  I'm sorry- were you expecting them to get killed?  Yeah, they just make amateur naughty-flicks apparently?  One of their friends comes in from his trucking route and talks about how the tapes aren't selling as well as they used to.  Just in time, another man shows up with a young woman in tow.  They go to their room in a hurry, with similar results.  What's not so similar, however, is that he chokes her to death and stabs her.  Okay, that part wasn't necessary, was it?  In an odd twist, the men are shocked by what they see and decide to attack the guy.  I guess there's a fine line between filming people illegally while they 'make whoopee' and actually committing murder.  They tie up the man and talk about what to do with him.  He makes them an offer- he'll teach them how to make snuff films and sell those instead.  In a rather silly moment, they agree with him without much debate.  That's...not logical, but alright.
By the way, the film's main characters are so important that they only show up now.  It's one thing for us to know that they're mostly just stabbing fodder, but it's another thing for you to announce it so loudly!  Our main heroes are an odd trio- a young couple visiting the girlfriend's parents and their black friend that comes along for the ride.  You may think that I'm over-simplifying things here, but that's pretty much it.  We get some little touches of drama where the guy is worried about going there when the girlfriend is recently pregnant, but that's about it.  In fact, once the action picks up, all characterization really goes out the window.  I love lazy writing, don't you?  They end up at the hotel to rest up for the night, the couple actually getting a room.  There's an actual plot point about the group of now-killers not knowing about his presence, but that lasts all of five minutes.  When the couple gets alone, they start to do 'you-know-what.'  Fortunately or unfortunately, their black friend goes channel-surfing and stumbles across the video feed for their room.  You guys have been making hidden-camera tapes for a long time and never figured out a way around that?!?  He explains the truth about the taping to them, which somewhat upsets them . Naturally, the group of killers does not feel too keen about letting them leave.
The movie oddly chooses to rush through some parts and linger upon others for too long.  Within a very short time, the escape turns sour and the fiancee gets captured.  He ends up being tortured and killed within minutes by the lead murderer.  Shows how important you were, huh?  The odd couple pair sneak around for a while, engage in some minor scuffles and actually get away.  Short movie, but I guess it could be...nah, it's not that easy.  They end up at a friendly house, only to learn that the man of the house is friendly to the killers.  Why?  They never say.  Before we get an explanation, the lead killer blows the couple away, leading to another chase.  The pair both end up back at the hotel, with the black guy dying off-camera.  The craziest of the group decides to torture the girl for a while, but she manages to escape and wound him in the face.  Wow, you suck as a killer, especially for someone who's so obsessed with it.  It's like being a swimmer who can't float!  Anyhow, she eludes capture for a while, proving to be the most durable of the cast.  She even sets one of the men on fire and kills another one before escaping.  In the aftermath, the group escape the building, dispose of all of the evidence- including the bodies- which leads to the police to not believe the girl's story.  Seriously, it just ends like that.  The bad guys get away to kill another day...in the original.  Feh.
This movie doubly-sucks.  As a sequel to the original film, it is just a straight-up example of being a copycat.  The formula is not changed, nothing new is done and it just underwhelms.  As a prequel to the film, it really sucks.  On one hand, they do set-up the group turning into killers...even if it makes no sense.  As a logical set-up though, it just makes no sense.  They completely scrub a crime scene within hours and simply move somewhere else?  Bullshit!  Do you really expect me to believe that just because you had to let the Final Girl escape?  If you want to write yourself into a corner, fine- just don't drag me down with you.  Aside from that, the acting is alright.  The main characters are nothing to write home about, leaving us just with the cast of killers to appease us.  Yeah, they don't do that too well either.  The only remotely-interesting one is the killer they bring in, if only because he's so good at being intense.  Once you get past that, he's just a one-dimensional killer.  If you're a gore-hound, there's not a lot of deaths in here.  You can count the number of kills on one hand, which is odd for a film of this genre.  A lot could have been done with this idea, you know.  We could have seen a traumatic event turn the people into killers.  We could have seen them take a slow descent into madness due to the lure of power and/or money.  Instead, they just become killers because...well, one guy suggested it.  There's not a lot to recommend here, folks.
Up next, I take the holiest day of the week to discuss a film involving demons, bloodshed and the slaughtering of unborn children.  Bonus points for it being a cartoon and a shameless marketing tie-in.  Stay tuned...

Rare Flix: Aswang

No technical issues can keep from posting this review for you lovely people out there!  Long ago, I heard the tale of a film about fetus-eating vampires.  I was like 'that can't be real.'  I was wrong.  Way back in 1993, someone took a fairly obscure legend of the Aswang and made a film about it.  The reason I learned about this was due to a lovely company called Mondo Macabro.  I owe them for seeing a lot of films, including Tarkan vs. the Vikings, The Devil's Sword and The Queen of Black Magic- just to name a small portion.  Interestingly enough, despite being about a legendary monster from the Phillipines, this film was made stateside.  It tells the tale of a young woman who makes a business deal and learns to regret it.  So, can this movie live up to my own personal level of hype or will it just suck (in the bad way)?  Get out your axe-hammers for my review of...

After a credit scene that looks like it belongs in the finger puppet version of Dante's Inferno (great movie- check it out!), we get to see our heroine.  She is a young Juno-like girl who got knocked up and decides to make things right.  Nah, she decides to sell her baby to a young, infertile couple when it's born instead.  Incidentally, if this intro was not filmed in Canada, then God can strike me dead!  After she makes the deal, we jump to...seven months later.  Okay, that's a little odd.  She is driving in a car with the husband she's selling to the kid to.  Why?  You see, the guy has to have an heir to inherit the family fortune, so he brings the girl to pass off as his wife Janine.  I love happy marriages, don't you?  They drive around for a bit, making me worry that this is going to turn into Manos: The Hands of Fate.  Just to really freak me out, they get pulled over by a cop- only to have him realize who the guy is and let the couple go.  Unlike Manos, there is actually a point to this!  They arrive at the house and learn that things are not going well.  The mother is sick and kind of crazy, as evidenced by the scene in which she talks to a chicken.  The nurse is a nice Filipino woman who appears a little off herself.  Meanwhile, a man is wandering around a nearby field and finds a baby's skeleton.  Oh joy.  They run into the man later, with the 'husband' berating the man for being on their land.  The girl invites him for dinner, however, and it gets a little awkward.  He returns to his shack and is killed by a monster.  Thanks for coming!

Life at the house is a little odd.  The mother wanders around, alternating between being sick and being confused.  The 'husband,' meanwhile, appears to have a crazy side- even if he is subtle about showing it.  The family is definitely keeping a secret from our heroine, which may be related to a nearby cabin on the estate.  One night, the mother crawls across the walls and to the outside of our heroine's window.  She sends out a weird proboscis from her mouth, which goes through the window and up the girl's nightgown.  Thankfully, she wakes up and pulls the thing away from her 'lady parts.'  She tugs on the thing, causing the mother to lose her grip and fall to the ground, held up by the proboscis alone- that's gotta hurt!  The son hears the scream and runs outside, finding her in pain.  Naturally, he cuts the thing out of her mouth.  In the wake of this fright, our heroine flees to the cabin, seeking answers for all of this.  As it turns out, the man from earlier is in there, wrapped up in some sort of webbing.  Not only that, but the 'wife' from earlier is there and packing a chainsaw!  She nearly offs the poor girl before she manages to kill her with a garden hoe!  The husband comes in and drugs her, but she manages to run away.  She ends up with the cop from earlier, who thinks that she is just lost and returns her.  See- I told you it had a point!

As he's driving back, the cop begins to feel suspicious about the whole situation and calls in for information on the girl.  It's nice of you to care after you drop her off there!  He goes back to the house and is almost immediately killed- wow, that was pointless, huh?  The girl wakes up in the cottage again, chained to the wall.  She slowly but surely tries to reach for an axe-hammer to cut the chain.  The family returns and tries to get the mother to feed on the girl.  However, she dies, leaving the job up to the son.  He tries to kill the girl, explaining that he only needs the thing inside her- not her.  In desperation, the girl grabs the axe-hammer and cuts her hand off with one swing.  You need more calcium, honey!  She tries to escape, leading through a chase in the house.  She ends up in the grass outside with the man on top of her.  The maid shows up with an axe and he orders her to kill the girl.  When a proboscis emerges from the girl's womb, however, she swings the axe down at the man!  We jump to five years later and see the now-older girl being raised by the maid.  Her eyes turn white like Storm, revealing that she is an Aswang.  In a final scene, we pan across the grave markers of the family, revealing at least four different 'Janines.'

This movie is...really weird.  The plot is a mix of Juno and Nosferatu, but with fetus-eating thrown into the mix.  The mysterious Aswangs are an interesting creature to do a film about, albeit a freaky one.  To my knowledge, the only other film about them is Surviving Evil, a film made in 2008 with Billy Zane.  It has yet to be released on DVD in America, so have fun Region-Free DVD Player owners.  As for this film, it's definitely low-budget, but it does contain a certain atmosphere.  The whole thing is dark and dank, making you really relate to the girl's sense of fear.  The cast is very small, which makes you wonder why they were so quick to kill off characters like the investigator and the cop.  They may have been able to add more to your story, but whatever.  The acting is honestly quite good, although the characters only have a few key emotions to portray.  Given the small, claustrophobic scope of it all, this works just fine.  If you can find this film, it's worth giving it a look.  You may not like it as much as I do, but you have to appreciate the tale they managed to make with so little money.  It makes me curious to find out what else these people have done now.

Next up, Blockbuster Trash brings us the prequel to the film Vacancy.  Given that nobody survived the previous attacks, what is the point of this film?  Stay tuned...