Monday, May 18, 2009
Review by 42nd Street Pete
2008; Directed by Toby Williams Starring Shea Whigham, Paulo Costanzo, Jill Wagner and Rachel Kerbs Released by Magnet DVD.
Considering the pile of poop that is passed off for horror movies these days, this one was a real pleasure to watch. It’s a monster movie, a real fuckin monster movie with no CG rap or handicam nonsense. One location, four principle players, gore, shocks, and, for once, a credible storyline.
A gas station attendant is opening the place for the day when he is attacked by something furry and full of spikes. A couple is heading in that direction to camp out. Also headed in the same direction is an escaped con and his junkie girl friend. The two campers are taken hostage when the Con’s car breaks down. They run over some kind of animal and blow out a tire. The animal has spikes sticking out of it like one of those sea urchins. They was also a sign by the road saying that this is a government test area.
While changing the tire, the Con gets a splinter in his finger, hence the title. The “dead” animal comes to like and the Junkie Chic freaks out. They arrive at the gas station to find it’s deserted. The Junkie find the attendant in the rest room. He begs her to kill him. She runs back to the others, but is attacked by the attendant who “rips right through her”. The Con shoots the attendant who dies. They lock themselves in the place. The Junkie seems to still be alive. The Con drags her toward the door, but she morphs into something and attacks. Her hand breaks off and gets in the place. The boyfriend, who is a biologist, sees that it feeds on blood.
He thinks it’s a fungus type parasite that uses it victims as hosts to attack others. The dead girl’s bloody corpse hammers her head into the glass door, trying to get in. It becomes a nerve racking game of cat and mouse as the creature attacks and absorbs a lady cop who shows up. The splinter in the Con’s finger starts taking him over so an amputation is performed using a Stanley knife and a cinder block. I’m not going to reveal anything else as this has to be seen. A good plot, characters that you actually care about for a change, nasty effects, and overall, a great little film. I give it four stars easily.
Review by 42nd Street Pete
Directed by Pierre Morel Starring Liam Neeson, Famke Janssen and Maggie Grace
This one was a real surprise as the usually reserved Neeson is cast against type as an ex CIA operative searching for his daughter, who is kidnapped by white slavers while vacationing in Europe. Using every dirty trick he knows to locate her, Neeson ups the violence quota by demolishing anything and anyone in his path.
Albanian white slavers( real fuckin scumbags ) kidnap teenage tourists, hook them on drugs and put them in assembly line brothels. Neeson’s daughter and friend are “taken”. Neeson is informed that if he can’t find her in a certain amount of time, he will never see her again. Neeson outwits the law and the scumbags at every turn. Seems the head scumbags are well connected with the law. When the leader tells Neeson, that “it’s not personal, it’s business”, Neeson retorts by emptying a Glock into his twitching body.
Taken has its roots firmly planted in grindhouse exploitation. The crowd cheered Neeson as he cuts his way though an army of villains and bureaucrats. One of the better scenes has Neeson drive two iron spikes through the guy, who kidnapped his daughter, thighs and then attach jumper cables to them. He zaps him a few time then, after he gets what he wants, turns the juice on full blast and leaves the guy cooking. Neeson is a one man wrecking crew as he leaves a body count worthy of Charles Bronson. A must see.
Review by 42nd Street Pete
Completely insane spoof of Batman, the Dark Night with Darian Caine as Batbabe. The Jerker, Rob Mandara, channeling Heath Ledger is completely insane as he’s hording all the porn in the city. It’s up to Batbabe to stop him. Someone on IMDB called this a “piece of excrement”, guess you can’t say shit on IMDB. Well, I’m here to tell ya that I thought it was funny. And I cameo in four roles, so whoever wrote that has no sense of humor and I get the distinct impression that he rubbed one out over Darian Caine.
Funny how these would be critics that write a blurb for Amazon or IMDB think they are the end all be all. It’s a spoof, stupid. This guy also trashed three or four other films by Bacchus. So this isn’t exactly Gone With the Wind, but Mandara’s Jerker had me laughing my ass off. This is a case of don’t believe everything you read. My attitude always has been see the film and judge it for yourself. Don’t take my word or any other critic’s word at face value because it’s just an opinion and opinions are like assholes, we all have them.
Thursday, May 7, 2009
Review by Kristin Battestella
My father and uncle cringed when hoisting my heaviest trunk up my new condo’s steps, and my husband was downright appalled when he asked what was inside.
“My Dark Shadows tapes,” I told him.
All 42 taped off TV with their scribbled labels-some even with commercials! My mother was a fan growing up, so I saw reruns now and again as a child and spent most of my teen years thanking the Sci Fi Channel for airing the entire gothic soap series from beginning to end. My obsessions come and go, so I’ve never upgraded to MPI’s VHS series or the new DVD releases of Dan Curtis’ half hour daytime soap, which ran from 1966 to 1971. Every October, however, I get a hankering for Barnabas, Quentin, and that creepy theme music. Thus I rented Dark Shadows: Bloopers and Treasures.
Perhaps one of the most well known-if not THE most- known show ever for hokey production values, Dark Shadows episodes were taped live, with no time to correct mistakes, much less budget and technology of the day. Some of the bloopers presented are almost famous; the late Louis Edmunds as Roger Collins claiming, “Some of my incestors-incestors!-my ancestors are buried here.” There’s falling sets, name flubs, and just as many trick candles, cameramen, and boom mikes as there are cast members. Although some of the editing is poor, and a few of the mistakes presented are actually tough to spot. It would have been nice to have the segments divided and labeled or introduced by the cast. There’s no background music, but it’s neat that the goofs seemed to be grouped together by actor. Who’s the biggest culprit? I can’t tell you!
The music video segment opens and closes with some creepy highlight reels and poetry from Jonathan Frid as Barnabas Collins, but of course we have nearly all the musical segments from the show. Both incarnations of Pansy Faye and ‘I Wanna Dance For You’; Quentin’s theme and the lyrics to ‘Shadows of the Night’; even a very young Nancy Barrett grooving it up at The Blue Whale.
This compilation dates to 1991 and 1992, but Lara Parker looks quite old in her newer In Salem segment. The witch history, locations, and guests are very interesting and go hand in hand with Dark Shadows’ resident witch-who’s also pushing a new DS novel. Unfortunately, the sound and editing is poor and tough to hear.
At least there’s great fun to be had in the game show segment, although I’d never heard of The Generation Gap. (The clothes! The Hair!) Jonathan Frid’s heartthrob cheers from What’s My Line and Alex Stevens’ removal of his wolfman mask on the same show is a delight. Joan Bennett needed no introduction on Line, and it’s sad her prolific work is not known to today’s audiences. Yet it’s amazing that there’s still treats like this to be discovered from almost a fifty year old show.
The promos segment is a little misleading, however. This is Dark Shadows Bloopers after all, so the promos-which were promoting MPI video, conventions, and Dark Shadows books- are instead a reel of slip ups with Kathryn Leigh Scott, Lara Parker, and Jonathan Frid. Comedy Tonight turns the tables and presents Dark Shadows inquisitor Jerry Lacy as a vampire, and there’s even a commercial for Barnabas pillows. Alrighty then! There’s a separate section devoted to merchandise as well, including books by David Selby, and a very creepy trailer for the Dark Shadows audio dramas.
I was surprised to find this DVD widely available, although my VHS Dark Shadows Scariest Moments is just that, a VHS only. The menus and music are fun and user friendly, I like the jazzed up rendition of Quentin’s theme. Dark Shadows: Bloopers and Treasures is a must for fans young and old, but I don’t know its caliber as an introduction piece. Young folks might laugh and tune in or laugh and tune out. There’s plenty of DS material to be had for all: DVDs, books, even mouse pads from darkshadowsdvd.com. For some spooky fun, try Dark Shadows: Bloopers and Treasures one October night.
Saturday, April 18, 2009
Review by Kristin Battestella
As if we needed another werewolf movie, Wes Craven’s 2005 wolf fest Cursed came and went at the box office. Plagued by actor pullouts, production problems, and script changes, the unrated edition of Cursed actually wasn’t that bad.
Christina Ricci stars as Ellie, a Craig Kilborn executive who’s trying to balance work, her younger brother Jimmy (Jesse Eisenberg) and her on again off again flame Jake (Joshua Jackson). After a grotesque car accident and strange encounter with a dog like beast, the orphaned siblings develop super strength, keen senses, and an allergy to silver.
The acting isn’t that bad, but it’s to be expected, and nothing here will take home any Oscars. Cheesecake victims Shannon Elizabeth and Mya are fitting scream queens, and Judy Greer (Jawbreaker) is perfect as Ellie’s bitchy boss. Only Joshua Jackson seems out of place. I’ve never seen Dawson’s Creek, and Jackson’s good guy turn in Gossip only solidified my Mighty Ducks perceptions. His ambiguous portrayal of reformed entrepreneur playboy Jake does help the films werewolf guessing game. Is he a werewolf? Good? Bad? I only wish Jackson wasn’t so wooden or hokey.
Christina Ricci has had far better success moving forward from kid roles. After Mermaids and Addams Family Values, Ricci turned to mature films like Prozac Nation and has developed a cult following with macabre films like Sleepy Hollow. Even though she always seems to be playing the same character, Ricci sells Ellie well, it’s not a stretch to believe her as the serious, intelligent executive who turns sexy, sassy, and spunky with here werewolf problems and powers. Ricci and Eisenberg look like brother and sister, and they play off each other well. Director Craven smartly focuses the film on the siblings and establishes their troubles early on. Craven balances the seriousness and humor here well. Craig Kilborn does make his appearance, but a sway towards total humor would make Cursed too hokey.
Craven has lost a step with some uneven Nightmare on Elm Street sequels, but the behind the cameras renaissance man has produced several quiet gems, including the remake of his own The Hills Have Eyes. With all the trouble Cursed faced, Craven and final screenwriter Kevin Williamson have accomplished much. I’m operating from the unrated version, which seems to have more head chopping and a few extra moments of gore. The opening car wreck is impressive, and Craven smartly delays the werewolf’s big reveal until well into the film. Some directors become successful and forget their fans or underestimate their audiences. Not here. Craven appreciates his fans, even pays homage to his past with props from his earlier work decorating Cursed’s horror themed nightclub.
One very pleasant aspect of Cursed is the ending. Even though it didn’t fair well at the box office, Craven left no room for a sequel. Ellie’s story and the werewolf mysteries are resolved nice and pretty. We like Ellie and Jimmy-we’ve rooted for them, but I for one am glad there is a complete ending. No jump out monster or screaming before the fade to black ala I Know What You Did Last Summer. It’s quite refreshing in this day of franchises.
The unrated DVD of Cursed is now quite affordable. Naturally it has the standard behind the scenes material and features from Craven. I wouldn’t have paid the price of admission at the movies, but Cursed is ideal for a chilly Halloween movie night.
Tuesday, March 31, 2009
Review by Kristin Battestella
I picked up a used copy of 1992’s Candyman for my husband’s horror collection. Even though he hadn’t seen it, I was certain it was right up his alley. Indeed Candyman hasn’t lost its touch. Pre Urban Legends and Tales From the Hood, Candyman is still the film for urban horror.
Virginia Madsen (Sideways) stars as Helen, a Professor’s wife working on her own thesis. Her sleazy husband Trevor (Xander Berkley) belittles Helen’s research, so she sets out on her own to investigate Chicago’s own urban legend, Candyman. While photographing in the projects, Candyman (Tony Todd) appears to Helen. Her visions continue and gruesome murders follow Helen. Soon the authorities suspect Helen, and Trevor thinks she’s crazy.
I can list plenty of other projects with both Virginia Madsen and Tony Todd, but for me, their definitive film is Candyman. Madsen’s ideal as the intelligent, determined yet oblivious wife obsessed with Candyman. Likewise Tony Todd is at his utmost creepy and somehow alluring as the unjustly tormented former slave. Madsen’s Oscar nominated turn in Sideways is nowhere near as memorable as her role here. Her initial calling of Candyman in her bathroom mirror and her final triumphant scenes are cult gold.
After I first saw Candyman, for years I had dreams in which the fur clad and hook toting menace appeared. Todd’s trademark role and deep voice are that creepy, and like Bloody Mary, every kid has called Candyman five times in his bathroom mirror. Fans of gore and creative, bloody murders will no doubt enjoy Candyman. What little effects given are along the lines of fire, blood, and more blood. The violence, however, is not excessive. Integral to the story, many of the spooks in the film are carried out largely by the actors. Helen trips in the dark, dirty, messy projects we know it’s a place where real and fictious horrors can happen. When Helen enters a rank and bloody bathroom-is crap everywhere? Of course not. The audience, however, knows the smells through Madsen’s reaction and the director Bernard Rose’s swift pans.
One intriguing concept from Rose is the lack of those herky jerky Blair Witch style cuts and crazies. The scene of the crime is always fully panned, giving the audience a panoramic view. It’s almost like a three dimensional video game pulling the viewer in. Likewise, Rose moves the camera shots up and away, as if we were swooning like the characters onscreen. The camera work and gore doesn’t take away from Candyman like so many modern films that over do it and deter from the story with unrealistic effects. Clive Barker’s source story is allowed to shine.
Rose also makes use of some very beautiful and haunting urban artwork. Candyman graffiti appears throughout the film. Bees also play a significant part in the film, and this subtle attention to detail makes Candyman work. The families in the projects fear the legend of Candyman and the hooligans who commit crimes in his name-and the audience feels this fear. Like it or not, the racial statements in Candyman help the fear factor. Within the film, folks gasp at the thought of a white woman in the projects. When Helen is indeed attacked, through our collective mind we plant the seed for what the gangs, gang bangers, and hooks will do. Candyman isn’t real, but this film of racial violence and black legends fills the void left by the mainstream media and run of the mill horror standards.
Despite a very satisfactory ending, two sequels followed Candyman. Both 1996’s Candyman II: Farewell to the Flesh and Candyman III: Day of the Dead (1999) are worthy for fans who still can’t look in their bathroom mirrors. Lessened by the loss of Madsen, and direct to video styles for film three, The Candyman chills have continued into the 21st Century.
Candyman is for any fan of the macabre, but particularly those horror buffs tired of the formulaic scare. Intelligent fans, underground enthusiasts, minority audiences-who doesn’t Candyman appeal to? No matter how artistically displayed, the buckets of blood, a touch of nudity and sexual innuendo aren’t made for the young kids or squeamish prudes. Also be warned that Candyman features several brief scenes victimizing children and dogs. Several editions of Candyman and its sequels are available on DVD at affordable prices, or even a bargain VHS. But do avoid Candyman cut up on television. If you’ve got a fur coat and a hook, Candyman is your perfect urban horror movie and it’s great Halloween costume.
Tuesday, March 24, 2009
Review by 42nd Street Pete
1978 from Severin Films. Directed by Franco Prosperi. Starring Ray Lovelock, Florinda Bolkan, Sherry Buchanan, & Laura Trotter. Last House on the Left rippoff by the director of Mondo Cane. Real high on the cringe factor as three scumbags rob a bank, then hide out at a beach front house where a nun and five school girls are staying. One of crooks caves in the maids skull with an iron. Another of the guys tries to rape one of the girls and gets the business end of a rat tailed comb shoved into his groin.
The threesome torment and rape the girls. First the nun is raped. Then, one of the guys puts on make up and he and the guy who got stabbed double team one of the girls. The nun makes a deal with Aldo, the head douchebag. She’ll fix up the guy who got stabbed if they leave the girls alone. He agrees, but when one of the girls tries to escape, she is raped with a tree branch and left dead on the floor. Finally the nun gets the upper hand and she and the girls extract bloody revenge.
Florinda Bolkan is great in the lead as the nun. Lovelock is a convincing sadist and you despise him and his gang. An extra is an interview with Ray Lovelock, who is actually Italian. Franco Prosperi was one of the guys who created the phenomenon known as the “Mondo” movie. Mondo Cane, Africa Addido, and Farewell Uncle Tom are all part of his resume. Last House on the Beach was part of a slew of Italian ripoffs inspired by the granddaddy of sick flicks, Last House on the Left and each one was progressively grimmer than the original. The print is great and other extras include the German & Italian trailers.