Wednesday, July 30, 2014

A-maize-ing Movies

Yet another series in my long effort to watch as many horror franchises as I can. While I was hoping to get some Texas Chainsaw in here first, it appears that Children of the Corn was destined to be next on the list. Mainly because I found parts 2 through 7 in a value pack while shopping. I may be more in the mood for some brutal grind-house stuff, but I am getting some crazy Stephen King instead. I will accept that.

Children of the Corn (1984): Wow, no wonder this is considered a classic of the horror genre. This movie is pretty much the epitome of why I think the 80's made the best horror movies. There is the right mix of violence, suspense, and story. An interesting tidbit of information, I never knew before seeing this movie that there was an actual supernatural element. I always assumed the movie was about a cult of kids who killed their parents and sacrifice people to a made up god. I didn't realize the god was an actual thing. It was a nice surprise to me. Overall, the entire movie is a solid horror movie. I don't have much else to say that probably hasn't already been said. Good movie, well worth the praise it gets.

Children of the Corn II: The Final Sacrifice: A sequel made nearly a decade after the original. Can't be that good, right? Wrong. It turns out, this is a pretty decent movie. Other than the obvious differences in fashion and how completely different the kids look, there is not a lot to complain about. There is one scene of really bad CG that could have been left out, but even that is somewhat forgivable. The plot is a good follow up, showing the aftermath of the discovery of what happened to the parents of the original movie. There is also an interesting subplot that sort of explains why the kids ended up being so susceptible to the influence of "He Who Walks Behind the Rows." Once again, a good movie that ends up being well worth the time I spent watching it.

Children of the Corn III: Urban Harvest: The inevitable third movie, which usually runs into difficulty living up to the earlier entries. This is no exception, but that is not to say it isn't good. In fact, it is very good. It is also very 90's. In this entry, we take the kids out of the corn field and into the city. Even with that shaky premise, the movie pays off pretty well. The only real problem comes in at the end, when the reveal of the true nature of the antagonist is pretty bad. The effects, which up to this point have been good, also fall apart at the end. I do have to admit I loved seeing the creepy kid from Demonic Toys as the creepy kid in this movie. Also, early and uncredited appearance by Charlize Theron. So, yeah. Fun times. Will it continue?

Children of the Corn IV: The Gathering: I'm not sure what to make of this one. On the one hand it gives a bit of a back story to the whole thing by telling the origin of kid preachers (and possibly even He Who Walks Behind the Rows). It also has Naomi Watts, who is always great to see in a movie. However, it is also kind of lame. I mean, really, mercury is the weakness of the villain here. Mercury? Isn't that kind of everyone's weakness with the whole toxic thing? I am kind of meh on this one.

Children of the Corn V: Fields of Terror: Wow, another stinker. Which is a shame, since the cast isn't horrible. I like David Carradine, Eva Mendes, Adam Wylie, and Alexis Arquette. I don't like this movie. Moving on.

Children of the Corn 666: Isaac's Return:We are back to better movies again. Not world class cinema or anything, but just good fun. Here we find out that Isaac was not killed at the end of the original movie, but merely comatose. The children of the original kids are now reaching adulthood and there is a prophecy that one of them will bring about the return of He Who Walks Behind the Rows. While overall the movie is just a standard plot about a girl trying to find out about her past, and consequently being the key to an evil prophecy, the way it all plays out is fun. Nothing new here, but there doesn't need to be.

Children of the Corn VII: Revelation: I knew it couldn't last. We have come back to the less-than-amazing world of direct to video sequels. This movie is so forgettable, I had to look up the plot on wikipedia to even remember what I saw and write about it. Though, to be fair, the idea of produce filled with the blood of those sacrificed to it is kind of nifty. Nothing special here though.

Children of the Corn: Genesis: This was an interesting one. The movie starts with a couple stranded on the side of the road. They notice some phone lines and decide to try and call for help. Cue creepy loner living in the middle of nowhere. While much of this movie was pretty predictable in the way the plot was laid out, there were a few refreshing changes. The loner's mail order bride trying to seduce the male protagonist, only for him to (probably) turn her away and tell his wife about it was a nice change. The fact that the female protagonist was pretty outspoken in a non-offensive way was also a refreshing addition. My only real criticism was the end, where a bunch of people show up out of nowhere with no real explanation as to who they are, where they are from, or why they are there. What makes it even more annoying, is that it feel like there was meant to be more to that in the movie and it was left out for some reason. Even the back of the DVD case makes it sound like this was meant to be a big plot point. Otherwise, though, a nice addition to the franchise.

Children of the Corn (2009): I am a little conflicted on this one. On the one hand, it is a new take on the original with some alterations. On the other hand, it is a remake with some alterations. I like that they made it a period movie, taking place in 1977. That simplified the plot be not forcing the inevitable cell phone dead zone to prevent calling for help. The fact that they protagonist had fought in Vietnam was played well to explain his ability to fight back, as well as the expected flashback. Said flashback was actually done pretty well too. The interplay between the husband and wife, however, was horrible. I pretty much hated her completely, and strongly disliked him until after her death when he was able to do his thing solo. It was surprising to see the husband killing as much as he did. I know these were possessed fanatical kids, but they are also kids. You don't see children get killed in movies. Impressive and ballsy to pull off. Finally, I loved how this departs in significant ways from the original. Malachai is not nearly as evil, nor is he as rebellious as before. The movie has more overt supernatural elements. The end is much darker. I don't think this is better than, or possibly even as good as, the original. But, it does a good job of differentiating itself and standing as its own thing.

All in all, I like the concept of what this series is. Religious fanaticism and creepy kids are two things I like in horror. The execution of some of these was a little lacking, but that is to be expected when you tack sequels on to something. Entertaining, lite movie fare. Good enough for me.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

No Strings Attached

In my efforts to see as many horror franchises as possible, I have taken to buying discount movie bundles at WalMart.

Don't judge me.

I realize that this is both a waste of money and very stupid. I don't really care. It is doing this that allowed me to get the majority of the Halloween and Children of the Corn movies. I loved Halloween, and have yet to watch CotC. But, really, you can't go wrong with either of those series.

Anyhow, one such purchase was the Puppet Master series. One box had 9 movies in it. That left one direct sequel and one crossover. Which led to another box with the movies that were directly tied to that crossover and another crossover. Which led to me getting the remaining movie in one of those series. Which led me to more movies that tied in. These movies also had more ties to other movies. By the time I had unraveled this knot, I had a list the was nearly the entire Full Moon catalog. I would be crazy to try to buy and review all of these movies.

So, of course, I plan on doing just that. However, I will not be doing it all at once. I am going to break this list up into a three parts. This entry will cover just the Puppet Master, Demonic Toys, and Dollman movies.

Puppet Master: A fun start to the series. We start with a puppet maker finishing off a new creation at some hotel in California in 1939. Which looks nothing like California, but whatever. A couple Nazis show up, and the guy hides his puppets and kills himself. Then we jump forward to the present...1989. Man, does this movie have some crappy hair and clothing. Seriously, the hero of the picture has the most glorious mane of mullet I have seen in ages. Regardless, the actual plot is some psychics are called to the old hotel by a buddy of theirs who was obsessed with the puppets. They all show up, find out the buddy is dead and left a wife nobody knew about as his widow. Then the puppets start killing everyone. The whole thing turns out to be some plot by the dead friend to live forever. I will be honest, I had to go look up the plot on Wikipedia to remember why he wanted to kill them all. In the end,the puppets rebel and kill the dude. The End. Puppets appearing: Pinhead, Blade, Tunneler, Jester, Leech Woman.

Puppet Master 2: His Unholy Creation: We start this movie with the puppets bringing their creator back to life with a serum. This is the first inconsistency with the movies, since in the opening of the original it is implied that the way they are brought to life is by way of a magical ritual. The other main continuity error is the tombstone lists the death of Toulon as being in 1941, which is a couple years after the first film showed it happening. The plot here is that the remaining psychic from the first movie has gone insane, and the government has sent in a paranormal investigative squad to find out what happened. In addition, the resurrection of Toulon brings with it the revelation that they puppets need pieces of brain to make the formula that keeps them going. Oh, and one of the investigators may be the reincarnation of Toulon's wife. We do get an interesting flashback to Toulon and Elsa in Egypt where we see how he learned to bring his puppets to life. As with the first movie, things do not go well for most of the people present and the villain gets some good old fashioned puppet vengeance. This is the last movie where the puppets are not the heroes of the movie, which I feel is kind of strange. Puppets appearing: Pinhead, Blade, Tunneler, Jester, Leech Woman, Torch.

Puppet Master 3: Toulon's Revenge: Here we jump back in time to WWII to see how it all started. There is a Nazi reanimation plot that ties in with the formula. Basically, they Nazis want to find a way to bring their dead soldiers back to life to keep fighting, and they think the formula Toulon uses will help do just that. Continuing with the inconsistencies is the fact that the movie takes place in 1941 (previously established as a time well after Toulon was both dead and in America). Another continuity error is the presence of Jester, who was apparently created right before Toulon's death and now shows up well before it. Oh, and we also have the introduction of the idea that the puppets contain the souls of no need for brain pieces now or something. This is still kind of a fun story, as it explains why a toymaker/puppeteer would have made such violent creations. In the movie, when the Nazis come to take the formula from him, they inadvertently kill his wife. So, the rest of the violence is all an act of vengeance and love. We also get the creation of Blade, and a great explanation for why someone who was on the run from the Nazis would have a puppet that looked like a member of the SS. Aside from the continuity errors and the fact that the kid in this is a freaking moron, this was a lot of fun. Puppets appearing: Pinhead, Blade, Tunneler, Jester, Leech Woman, Sixshooter.

Puppet Master 4: The Demon: Hey, look, more messing with continuity. Now, apparently, Toulon stole his life giving formula from some underworld god names Sutekh. Said god is pissed about this and chooses now to get his revenge. You know, decades after Toulon has died, been resurrected, and died again. If this hos how well Sutekh does at getting revenge, then it is no wonder he lost the secret of giving life to begin with. Anyhow, this plan for revenge is in the form of strange totem dolls that come to life to kill some computer programers. Because they have nearly created artificial intelligence. Which is totally the same as living puppets, I guess. OK, so this is a really bad movie with a very lame attempt at a plot. At least the psychic girl in it is hot. We also have Toulon's spirit reincarnated in the body of a puppet that can remove its head to place a better head on it. Which made me wonder why it didn't just keep the badass weapon head on and skip the creepy morphing into a dead guy's face head. The movie ends with a passing of the torch moment where the surviving computer guy is named the new puppet master. Puppets appearing: Pinhead, Blade, Tunneler, Jester, Sixshooter, Decapitron.

Puppet Master 5: The Final Chapter: Taking place immediately after the previous film, this movie is actually better than the one it is a sequel to. The movie starts with our new puppet master in jail for murder of his colleagues, the psychic in a coma after having her soul partially sucked by a totem, and Sutekh ready to come to earth himself to finish the job he started last time. Along for the ride are a new group of people who want to find the puppets to get the secret of their animation for corporate greed. Or something. All I really know is a lot of people die to puppets, Sutekh is defeated, psychic hottie comes out of her coma, and the movie ends ready to lead into a re-invigoration of the franchise. Puppets appearing: Pinhead, Blade, Tunneler, Jester, Sixshooter, Decapitron, Torch.

Puppet Master 6: Curse of the Puppet Master: Of course. Just as we are given an ending that would allow for a new path to the series, it is abandoned for something else. As usual, there is a continuity error. Leech Woman, who was destroyed way back in #2, is somehow back and as good as new. We also have no sign of our new puppet master at all. Instead, the puppets have somehow been acquired by a non-traveling freakshow or something. This was a strange movie, since it is pretty obvious what the end will be but the villain is kind of not very villainous. Like, I know what he is doing is wrong, and I know he deserves what he gets. It just seems like he is not evil so much as curious. Also, the movie ends so suddenly it feels like there is no resolution. All of the plot threads do get resolved, so there is nothing left to say, but is still feels very quick to end. Puppets appearing: Pinhead, Blade, Tunneler, Jester, Leech Woman, Tank, Sixshooter.

Puppet Master 7: Retro Puppet Master: ARG! Why can't they keep the timeline and continuity of this series straight. Now we have a movie showing Toulon on the run, not in America, in 1944. There is no sign of the kid he had with him when he fled Germany at the end of #3. Not even a mention of the kid at all. It is very frustrating seeing no real consistency in these movies. Anyhow, the 1944 thing is a framing device so Toulon can tell his puppets about how he learned the process of bringing them to life. It is 1902, some sorcerer has stolen the secret from Sutekh (an attempt to tie #4 and 5 to the main story). The sorcerer flees to France where he encounters Elsa and Toulon, who have just met and are starting their relationship. Sutekh reanimates some mummies who hunt down the sorcerer and end up killing some people. So Toulon uses the secret to bring those people back in the bodies of his puppets and kills the mummies. Yeah. It's as dumb as it sounds. This also contradicts the previous films where it is show that Toulon learned the secret in Egypt when he is much older and married. Puppets appearing: Retro Blade, Retro Pinhead, Drill Sergeant, Retro Six-Shooter, Doctor Death, Cyclops.

Puppet Master 8: The Legacy: Here;s the movie that I was waiting for. Something to tied up the strange continuity errors and plot holes into one coherent story. By using pretty much nothing but archival footage from the previous films, we are told the story of the series. We see how Toulon had the secret, but supplemented it with the formula. We learn how he left the German kid somewhere safe while he ran. We find out the new puppet master was killed by a rogue agent for the secret. There is still some timeline inconsistency, but at this point I am willing to accept that since the rest was at least half-assed explained away. Too bad the movie is 99% recycled footage since I was marathoning these so I got bored watching this one. Puppets appearing: Pinhead, Blade, archival footage of various.

Puppet Master 9: Axis of Evil: And we are back to the 1939 timeline. No explanation for why or how they 1940's stuff could have happened. I will just move on and try not to care. Here a kid with a gimp leg but master carpentry skills sees Toulon's death and finds the puppets. He goes home, only to encounter the very SS agents who he saw at the hotel. Using the puppets he tries to prevent a Nazi plot to blow up a munitions factory. While the plot may be a little lacking, this was actually a fun movie. I have little to say about it, however, since my this point the budgets for the movies has gotten so low as to be pretty laughable. Puppets appearing: Blade, Pinhead, Leech Woman, Jester, Tunneler, Ninja.

Puppet Master X: Axis Rising: Just like with #4 and 5, this movie takes place immediately after the end of the last one. Except the cast is all different, including the look of some of the puppets. I can understand the difficulty in keeping a cast the same for movies, but they could have at least tried to find people who looked similar to the cast from before. They also could have pretended to pay attention to what the house the main character lived in looked like. Or gotten someone who can fake a German accent so that it doesn't sound British. Really, the only thing about this movie that was any good was that the bad actress who couldn't fake German is pretty attractive, and the Nazi puppets are kind of nifty. Overall, not good at all. Puppets appearing: Blade, Pinhead, Leech Woman, Jester, Tunneler, Six Shooter, Blitzkrieg, Bombshell, Weremacht, Kamikaze.

Demonic Toys: Holy crap, this is a batshit insane movie. We start out with some sort of strange dream of kids playing a card game. The game itself seems to make no sense. They just flip cards, say war, and claim they have won. After the dream ends, there's a scene of uncomfortable dialogue and bad acting followed by more bad acting. Really, the whole movie is just full of bad acting. Long story short, an illegal weapon sale/police bust goes bad and a few dudes die. The death of one prompts the heroine to do her protagonist thing, while the other death brings a bunch of toys to live via demonic means. No explanation why. Meanwhile, the night security guard calls for a delivery of chicken. The surviving cop and crook meet up, get trapped, get saved by the security guard and delivery guy, and shit happens. Really, for the most part the movie is just an excuse to get the cop (who is pregnant) into the same place as a demon child so we can learn about his plot to steal her baby's body so he can be reborn. Also, there's killer toys. Kind of meh, really. Toys appearing: Baby Oopsie Daisy, Jack Attack, Grizzly Teddy, Mr. Static.

Demonic Toys 2: Personal Demons: Holy crap, a Full Moon movie that isn't complete crap. I know, I know...I enjoyed some of the Puppet Master movies. I also know that i have not stated it yet, but there are a handful of movies these guys have put out that I really liked. But, seriously, this is a production house that is know for making crappy cheap movies by the truckload. While this entry in the series is far from great, it is actually not too bad. We have a scene of gloved hands taking the remains of two the toys from the last movie and fixing them. Then we find ourselves in Italy where a university student and an ancient toy expert are waiting for a buyer to show up to purchase an old toy that was uncovered in the basement of a building. The buyer shows up, with a crate containing the rebuilt evil toys, and everyone goes in to look at the new doll. There is a secondary plot of the buyer's hot wife cheating on him and wanting to replace the doll with a replica so she can sell the original and get away from him. The problem with this is the doll turns out to be possessed by a demon. The demon doll awakens the other two toys and they all start killing people. On top of this, a psychic midget is also around, and she becomes possessed by the spirit of the woman who originally owned the doll. In the end, pretty much everyone dies, the evil spirits are exorcised, and the toys are defeated. There were only a few negatives I have regarding this movie. First of all, they toys are done really cheap. Just like the later Puppet Master movies, they kind of skimped on the effects for the dolls and they looked less impressive than in the much older movies. Second, they rely on CG too much, and don't even spring for decent graphics at that. I think there were maybe three shots of actual practical stage blood to the numerous computer sprays. Pretty sad. Finally, the plot of the movie has nothing to do with the toys themselves. they are just shoehorned in to provide the necessary violence while the demon plot plays out. Still, for a 2010 Full Moon movie, not bad at all. Toys appearing: Baby Oopsie Daisy (called Baby Whoopsie here), Jack Attack, Divoletto.

Dollman: Ugh. This is also a bad movie. Really bad. Basically, bad ass alien cop ends stand off in a way the mayor doesn't like. In return, the cop is framed for killing innocents, which is never mentioned or important at all later on. He is kidnapped by the cronies of an old rival (who is only a floating head at this point). Stuff happens, the cop and head end up on earth where they are about a foot tall. Cop encounters a woman trying to clean up her neighborhood and the bad guy head thing finds a bunch of drug dealing gang members to work for him. More stuff, bad guys lose. Only thing anywhere near good in this is the over the top gun the cop uses. On his planet, it is enough to blow a dude to pieces with one shot. So, of course, on earth it is enough to hurt or kill a full sized human even though it is action figure sized.

Dollman v.s Demonic Toys: This is what happens when you start to run out of original ideas. The movie itself is a direct sequel the original Demonic Toys, Dollman, and also a movie called Bad Channels (which is later on the list of reviews). Diminutive alien cop Brick Bardo leaves the people from his movie to get a girlfriend, who is an equally small woman that was shrunk in a previous movie. Meanwhile, our pregnant cop from the Demonic Toys stuff is still on the lookout for more demons stuff. She is basically called crazy, suspended from the force, and finds Brick and his new girl to get help killing the toys. Cop dies, toys die, and I forget the ending. Pretty forgettable movie, except that Nurse Ginger is absolutely gorgeous. Dolls appearing: Baby Oopsie Daisy, Jack Attack, Mr Static, Zombietoid.

Puppet Master vs. Demonic Toys: What happens when you lose the rights to your movies, but not the character designs? This movie. What a strange movie it is too. In many ways, it is just like the actual Full Moon movies. But, in others, it is so much better. The plot barely has any connection to the rest of the series. As in, the only real connection is the name Toulon and the existence of the puppets and toys. The crazy thing is how bad the puppets and dolls look, but good their animation is. The effects are better than most of the other movies in either series, but the look of everything is worse. It is hard to really describe. Anyhow, I have very little to say about this movie. It was about as bad as any of these have been, with the added "benefit" of being made for cable television. Dolls/Puppets appearing: Baby Oopsie Daisy, Jack Attack, Grizzly Teddy, Blade, Six-Shooter, Pinhead, Jester, "Upgraded" versions of the puppets.

 Overall, I like the concept of the Puppet Master movies. Killer toys kind of appeal to me. The first movie in each of the series here is pretty interesting, with the quality going quickly down hill with each sequel. Demonic Toys likewise has an interesting idea, but it kind of fails to deliver in a way I wanted it to. Dollman is better left forgotten. The main thing I am taking away from these is how bad Full Moon movies are. Some are good-bad, like the first few Puppet Masters and the original Demonic Toys. Most are just bad-bad. I am not wondering if it is really worth my time, money, and sanity to try to watch the rest of the movies for this epic undertaking. I probably will, but it may take me a lot longer than originally planned.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Traffic Incident

In a stretch to find more horror movie franchises to watch, but not quite feeling like chainsaws being used in Texas, I took the chance to watch the Wrong Turn series. How can you go wrong with cannibal hillbillies? Oh...wait...isn't that what those chainsaw movies are about? Whoops.

Wrong Turn: The first int he series, and I wonder how it even became a series after this movie. It starts out OK, with a young doctor trying to get to a new job interview. His attempt at a shortcut to bypass a traffic accident leads to the inevitable trouble you would expect. Cue a lot of bad dialogue, stupid decisions, and so-so effects. With the cast in this, I was hoping for a bit more. I mean, I recognized 4 of the named actors in the opening credits and they are all usually pretty good. This movie was so predictable that I actually got kind of bored watching it and found myself surfing the internet. I have seen worse, but this was not as fun as I would have wanted.

Wrong Turn 2: Dead End:A sequel that is better than the original. Not something that happens often, especially when the sequel is an obvious attempt to cash in on what must have been a relatively popular movie. This time we have a reality show about surviving a fake apocalypse to get our victims into place. Once I started watching this, i remembered having seen it a while back on television. Even then, there were bits I had forgotten which surprised me. The death of a character I assumed was going to be the protagonists was a nice touch, as was the fact that the entire thing took place in daylight. Not many horror movies go with the well lit thing, so it is always nice to see. There was one pretty cool bit of early movie gore that was both fun and ridiculous at the same time. Overall, much better than the first movie.

Wrong Turn 3: Left for Dead:The inevitable, and dreaded, third movie. Not many series can hold up this long and fewer still can make something even passable for their third movie. This one is actually pretty fun, with an interesting and fresh plot. In this movie the hillbillies are after a group of escaped convicts, who are themselves pretty dangerous people. Much of the movie is actually just the escapees fighting amongst themselves, with Three-Finger the Hillbilly provoking a higher level of tension for them all. This movie had a couple of surprises in it as well, like the character I was sure was there just to provide another body having some real use for a scene or two. He does still die, of course. I also liked the twist at the end, and the twist on the twist. Half of it was expected, so good on the writer for throwing another level in there and catching me off guard. Not as fun as the lat movie, but still better than the first.

Wrong Turn 4: Bloody Beginnings: Movie four, and we hit prequel territory. That taken into account, it is not that bad. We get the expected torture, the usual horny teenagers doing stupid things, and the inevitable twist ending. Overall, I was pretty OK with this one. Nothing fantastic and original, but nothing so derivative that it ruined the movie for me. Plus, I liked how they ended it. Nice and sudden.

Wrong Turn 5: Bloodlines: The final (for now) sequel. I'm not really sure where in the timeline or mythology of the movie this one takes place. I know it references the last one with the hospital. However, the protagonists in this have masks based on the look of the villains, so it must have some link to the other movies. Except it doesn't really feel like it fits in. Instead of kids in the woods getting picked off, we have hillbilly revenge for the capture of their...friend? Mentor? Not really sure. The redeeming factor in this was that Doug Bradley plays a pretty vile character, and one that isn't in leather bondage gear for once. Not a bad movie I guess, just feels out of place in this series.

So, big picture, this is a pretty forgettable series of movies. The villains have no real personality, other than the damned goofy laugh that Three-Finger has. Which gets old fast. The makeup for the killers is laughable, but the gore isn't too bad. Didn't like the first one for being too murky to really see anything, didn't like the later movies for being nothing special. Kind of liked the second one though. That was a fun idea that played well. Would have been better off as a standalone, though.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Trick or Treat

Finally, I get around to watching the final of the "Big Three." Or four if you want to count those movies about some guy in Texas with a chainsaw. I'll get to those eventually. Anyhow, this series is classic horror.

Halloween: The one that started it all. Not just the start of the series, but the start of the entire slasher genre. Which is really funny, since there is nearly no blood at all and most of the deaths happen off camera. Even the stuff that happens on camera, so to speak, is really not shown. You hear it, and you see the after effect, but you never really see the knife entering the body at all. Anyhow, we start with some good old fashioned teenage sex, which leads to the inevitable first kill. The shock is who does the killing. Flash forward 15 years, and the killer escapes to go back home and do it all over again. The rest of the movie is a lot of build up with some pretty effective tension, followed by a bit of killing and a cliffhanger ending. What makes this movie so great is the aforementioned lack of on screen blood and guts, as well as the buildup. There are virtually no jump scares, where the killer lunges out of nowhere to get the victim. Instead, you have some wonderful lurking. The Shape (as he is called in the credits) literally just stands around looking ominous, then vanishes when you look away. It works very well to heighten your fear, without resorting to a cheap trick to get the audience to jump. I actually prefer my horror this way. Anyhow, the movies ending is a pretty great way to lead into a sequel.

Halloween II: Oh, look, a sequel. I never would have expected that. All kidding aside, this was a good follow up. Another groundbreaking movie with the first scene being the final scene of the prior movie. Especially interesting since this movie was shot 3 years later. The beginning of this movie is really just an extension of the last one in every way, offering some closure of plot threads from the first and leading into the actual meat of this movie. We get more of the lurking, done even better than before. We also get more POV shots from the view of the killer, which I am pretty sure was revolutionary for the time as well. The main plot of this movie is The Shape (finally actually called Michael Myers a few times) following the survivor of the last movie to the hospital to finish the job. In the process he takes out most of the staff of the place as well. The kills are more explicit this time around, as is the brief nudity. But, we still get more of implied kills as opposed to graphic violence. There is a jump scare placed into the movie, but it is more of the pressure valve to release tension variety instead of the killer jumping out to get you. The movie ends pretty definitively, so you just know they had to do something new for a sequel.

Halloween III: Season of the Witch: What the crap was that? No...Just...No...

Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers: And thus, a franchise is reborn. With the misstep that was the last movie, it is amazing this thing was even made. What is great is that it was, because this is exactly what was needed for this franchise. Michael Myers returns, as the title suggests. He has a niece that he wishes to kill now. I would say I am guessing she has a psychic connection to him, if I didn't already know they reveal that at some later point in the series. Nice use of foreshadowing with the clown costume, as well as a nice nod to the original opening scene. Closing scene was also pretty cool for the same reason. This movie was a little predictable in many places, but I credit that to my own knowledge of horror move tropes and not a fault of the movie. Overall, exactly what a Halloween movie should be, in my mind.

Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers: A great follow up to the last movie. The psychic angle is pushed a little bit more, but not too much. The little girl has hints of what is happening, but never knows the full story. The kills are still relatively low key, though there is more blood than before (again). The threat is still lurking in the shadows instead of jumping out at you. The body count is relatively low, but high enough to show the threat. I am also enjoying how the police are not completely useless in the movie. The may not like that Dr Loomis is worried about the threat of Michael Myers, but they do listen at least. I'm not sure how i feel about the introduction of the Man in Black, the tattoo looking symbol on both him and Michael Myers, and the ambiguous ending. Especially when I see there was a 6 year difference between this movie and the next one. That seems like a long time to wait to wrap up that plot line.

Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers: So, that just happened. Not a horrible movie, but definitely not good. Which is sad, because there is some decent potential there. The unresolved plot from the last movie is sort of explained here. Except, it isn't very well explained. Druids? Curses? Um, if I wanted that, I would just stick with the Season of the Witch atrocity. There is no explanation for why they kidnapped the niece and kept her prisoner for 6 years. How did she get pregnant? Why keep her locked up with Michael around, and not just kill her? So he can kill the baby, and end his family line? I am so confused by the whole thing. Then there's the side plot with the Strode family moving into the old Myers house. First of all, everyone knows the story of the house, except the people living in it. You would think that if anyone would know not to live there, it would be the family that adopted Michel's sister into. Also the plot with the little boy supposedly being the next in line for the kill your family druid curse...which is never really used. They bring the point up, but then never even play with it at all. Then there is the strange editing, where they will cut to something for no reason. Like there is a character banging on a door to get in, and the film jumps to showing the other side of the door...unlocked and with nobody there. So, why? What was the point of that? Or the numerous times that there is a sudden jump to something in a scene with no explanation or reason. All in all, this was a mess. Which, like I said, is a shame. I could have seen this going much better with a plot leading in to an introduction to a new villain. Just like how the fourth movie sort of led you to the introduction of a legacy kill, this brings the possibility up. I would have loved the reintroduction of Tommy (the kid being babysat in the original) as a protagonist if they had left the druid crap out. At least they kept the jumps to a minimum, even if they did ramp up the gore a bit more.

Halloween H20: 20 Years Later: The return of Laurie Strode. I think this was a pretty good entry into the series. I was a little unhappy they ignore the entirety of every movie since number 2. Ignoring 3 and 6 is fine, but the whole thing with the niece was not a bad plot thread. Regardless, they ignore that to move on with Michael wanting to kill his sister. Said sister is still a paranoid wreck after her experiences, and is now working at a private school. Which Michael finds, sneaks into, and starts another spree. I was happy that, evne though this was made after the slasher movie had come, gone, and come back it was still pretty close to the original method. More blood for sure, but still the looming in the shadows and not the jumping out of nowhere to get you. It had a pretty cool ending to, with Laurie knowing what was going to happen and taking the bastard out once and for all. Well played all around.

Halloween: Resurrection: So that once and for all thing was a little off. Turns out it wasn't Michael, and he is now back again to finish the job. Which he does early on. Nice closure to that part of the story. Unfortunately, that is before the actual core of the movie. What we get in this is not a Halloween movie, but a heavy handed critique of the (at the time) new fad that is reality television. Internet horror show, stupid college kids, and Michael Meyers. This has more boobs, more blood, more jumps, and less plot than any of the rest. It is still better than Season of the Witch, and about on par with The Curse of Michael Meyers. While I loved the cast of lovely young girls (many of which are still around and still hot), I was not happy with this one at all. Obviously, I am not alone since this killed off the original franchise. The time between this movie and the reboot is the same as between Season of the Witch and Return of Michael Meyers. That says a lot in my book.

Halloween (2007): Proof that Rob Zombie doesn't get it. Seriously, for a guy who is supposedly a big horror fan, he seems to miss the mark with his movies. This movie is a great example of that. He took everything that made the original Halloween great, and threw it all away. In this movie, we get more attention on who Micheal Meyers is than before. Which makes what he does later less interesting. So he had a bad home life, and some issues that were discovered early on. Now he's just like every real work psychopath. Part of the intrigue is that all we knew of the original was that he was a kid who killed his sister and her boyfriend, spent a lot of time locked up, and then escaped. With half of the movie devoted to his back story we suddenly know and care about him. Which makes him less scary. Then we have the gore. The original was pretty much blood free. This movie is dripping with the stuff, and usually after some pretty graphic violence. There is also a lot less "lurking dread" and more "run at you and break through walls" going on here. The only nice touch I can see is the cast was pretty awesomely assembled. What Zombie lacks in understanding good horror he makes up for in casting a shit-ton of horror icons. He gets points for including Danielle Harris and Ken Foree alone, not to mention the rest of the genre cast. Overall, this movie is only slightly more interesting than the last one. Still leaps and bounds better than Season of the Witch was.

Halloween II (2009): Just when I thought Rob Zombie couldn't ruin this series anymore, this movie happens. The movie starts well, and actually had my interested in the beginning. The way is mimics and updates the plot of the original Halloween 2 was great. I liked seeing the serious medical treatment that was needed for Laurie. Then we get the stupid dude driving around with the dead body of Michael in the back. They were completely unlikable, and after the crash the scene went on far too long before anything interesting happened. When we get back to the hospital, I immediately knew we were having a dream sequence. I also spent the entire time thinking that it was way to long to be a properly done dream sequence. After all of that, we get the real movie. Which shows how the surviving character have reacted to the events of the last movie, 2 years prior. Basically Laurie is a bitch, Annie and her dad are dysfunctional, and Michael has turned into Rob Zombie hallucinating horses. Meh. This overall felt like an attempt to mix Halloween 2 with aspects of 4 and 5. Just, you know, not as well done. Apparently the version I watched was not the original ending, as the ending I saw was not the one the Wikipedia article mentions. The ending I saw was far less interesting, and implied Laurie was killed. I wish I had seen the one in the article. I may have liked the ending better for it.

So, overall, this has become one of my favorite franchises. I think that this series does a great job with having tension without the jump, and violence without the gore. The silent killer looming in the darkness, waiting to kill until just the right moment is a great thing that needs to be played with more. I love how the first tow movies were directly tied together, and liked the potential that 4 and 5 had. I would have liked a better resolution for movie 6, and 7 could have been improved with keeping Laurie having had a daughter. It is best to just forget Season of the Witch and Resurrection, though. Season was a poor attempt to alter the idea fo the franchise, and Resurrection was just plain not a good idea. The Rob Zombie movies should never have been made, but part of that is probably my dislike of doing a remake for a franchise that people still know and like. Why remake something with Jason, Freddy, or Michael Myers in it when everyone knows who they are? Pick something less prevalent in pop culture. Anyhow, just like the rest of the major horror franchises I have been watching, starts good and goes down hill but has potential. No surprise there.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Fun with S&M

Hellraiser was my first horror movie. At least, first one I distinctly remember watching. I may have seen other scary movies before it, but this was the fist of the famous franchises I was exposed to. I have fond memories of watching the first and third movies in the series on rented VHS one Christmas morning. That was a good holiday. I think that because of this exposure early in my horror viewing days (which was later in my life than for many, I was in my early 20's) I have a special place in my heart for creepy S&M style demons and incredible supernatural gore.

Hellraiser: My first horror movie ever. What a way to start what has become an obsession with the genre. This thing is brutal. Truly amazing effects on it, which stand up even today. Probably even more so than normal, given the surfeit of cgi as compared to the practical effects used for this. Basic plot is guy moves into his old family home, his dead brother escapes from hell a bit at a time, and the wife commits murder to facilitate the escape. Interestingly enough, the cenobites which have come to represent the series are practically non-existent in this entry. They serve more as a plot device toward the end than a real antagonist. Still, gotta love this movie. It has some lovely camera work, good use of tension, and some of the best (and most graphic) use of makeup I have ever seen. This will always hold a special place in my heart. You never forget your first love, after all. New Cenobites: Pinhead, Chatterer, Butterball, Female Cenobite, The Engineer.

Hellraiser: Hellbound: Taking place immediately following the last movie (but with better hair), this is a very good sequel. Thematically, it follows the general plot of the original. Bad person brought back with the blood of someone else, does bad things, hell is unleashed. This time the bad person is not the uncle, but his lover. The instrument of the release is an evil psychiatrist. All in all, very much the same as the first movie, with an equal amount of gore and fantastic effects. The cenobites play a larger role this time around too. We learn the origin of Pinhead, and see glimpses of who the other cenobites were as well. The most shocking is the implication that Chatter was a young boy. The really shocked me, in a good way. I give this high marks for staying true to a winning formula. New Cenobites: Dr. Channard.

Hellraiser: Hell on Earth: After the last movie, where the cenobites have been set free of their tasks, we have a distinct lack of enemies for the series. Lucky for us, the Hollywood movie system has a way around that. In this movie, we find out that Pinhead was not destroyed as much as split. His human soul is now in whatever realm they go to after being freed from being a hellish S&M demon while his evil is personified as a more extreme version of Pinhead. Trapped in a sculpture, he is of course freed and all kinds of shit goes down. I like how they explain the excuse for another sequel, even if it is unnecessary. I also like how they end the movie in a way that allows for more movies if they so choose (and choose they did). The cenobites in this movie are pretty clever, being nice reflections of the personalities of those they once were. Not really a good explanation for why they become, since it was implied in the first couple movies that the transformation was more willing than this. Ah well. Enjoyable movie. New Cenobites: Pistonhead, Camerahead, Dreamer, CD, Barbie.

Hellraiser: Bloodline: I love me a good back story. I remember watching this movie years ago, when it first came out on VHS. I loved it back then. Now that I have a bit more movie watching under my belt, going back was a painful experience. You know you are in for a bad movie when you see the director is "Alan Smithee." For those not in the know, that is the official pseudonym for a director who wishes to disavow all connection to a movie. A film has to be pretty bad for that to happen, usually. This movie starts int eh far future on a space station where a robot is used to open the Lament Configuration. We then get to have some plot exposition leading to flashbacks showing the history of the box. Well, kind of. We get the story of how the box was created, and how it was initially used to summon a demon. Then we jump to the present and see the descendant of the original toymaker who created the box being tormented by said demon in a building that is decorated to look like the puzzle box (an allusion to the last film). Then back to the future to watch a bunch of soldiers get killed before the space station is transformed into a larger version of the box, which is used to destroy the cenobites once and for all. More of an anthology movie than a linear plot, the opening sequence is too short while the second is too long. The finale feels to deus ex machina for my taste, and we don't get a feel for why Pinhead is even a part of any of this at all. I also have to wonder how Pinhead, who seemingly only existed since World War I, knows Angelique who was summoned from hell centuries before. New Cenobites: Angelique, Chatter Beast, Siamese Twins.

Hellraiser: Inferno: A really quite decent allegorical tale of a bad cop's decent into madness. Initially starting as an investigation of a violent crime, the movie spirals into the realm of the surreal and horrific as the cop tries to hunt down the mastermind behind a string of violent crimes. To make the hunt even more desperate, there is the indication that a child is being tortured and mutilated with each crime committed. It is a race against time to stop the crimes and save the unknown child. As the movie goes along, you find that things are not what they seem and it all ties back to the cop. A great movie, really, with a well handled plot and some pretty deep meaning behind it all. It just ain't Hellraiser. Other than a couple random cenobite kind of things which are really not important or meaningful tot he plot at all and a token Pinhead appearance toward the end, there is no reason to have made this Hellraiser at all. It's almost like someone saw the script for this movie, thought it would be good but was worried they couldn't sell it on its own merits, so they just tossed in some demons and a puzzle box and called it good. A shame really, since it detracts from what was an otherwise enjoyable movie as well as reducing the overall meaning behind the franchise itself. New Cenobites: Torso, Wire Twins.

Hellraiser: Hellseeker: Similar to the previous entry into the series, this movie seems more like a decent script that had some Hellraiser shoehorned in to make it sell. A husband and wife are in an accident, following which the husband cannot remember things clearly. Throughout the movie, there are glimpses of what he remembers, as well as quick cuts between alternate events of reality. Things like people dying, then not being dead. Or, him being in one place, then waking up in a place he was in a few scenes earlier. Some decent attempts to mess with the mind of the protagonist as well as the viewer. Then we get the final act cenobites and forced revelation of a puzzle box. While the ending of the movie is 100% reliant on Hellraiser and the greater storyline therein, it is not hard to imagine the original plot having a similar alternative that didn't require Pinhead or Kirsty Cotton. Sad to see the franchise falling apart so bad.. New Cenobites: Bound, Stitch, Surgeon.

Hellraiser: Deader: Well, on the plus side, this movie ties more fully into the Hellraiser mythos. Barely. More so than the last couple movies, but still only in a tangential sort of way. I have to be honest, I just finished watching this movie and I still don't think I fully understand what was supposed to be going on. Something about a guy bringing dead people back to life, who may be a descendant of the toymaker responsible for the box. I think he is supposed to be the villain, except he doesn't really do anything bad. Yeah, he has a cult of people who worship him and he convinced them all to kill themselves. But, he also has genuine miracles he can perform and none of them stay dead. So, kind of hard to find him all that bad. Less evil than the cenobites, who will torture and kill you for opening their puzzle box, which the want you to do. Not a great reward for doing what they ask, is it? Anyhow, it all ends in some blood and death and an explosion. Relatively entertaining, i guess. New Cenobites: Bound II, Little Sister, Chatterer III.

Hellraiser: Hellworld: So, Hellraiser without the cenobites? Hasn't really been done since the original. Yeah, the other sequels have a low cenobite count, but this one literally has none. Funny thing is, there are more Pinhead appearances in this one than on the last three sequels combined. He just isn't real. What we get instead is a Hellraiser themed, LSD induced, teen slasher film. Which is pretty enjoyable in and of itself. Just like the other direct-to-video sequels, this is a movie that could have prospered without the Hellraiser tie ins. It's a pretty decent movie with a pretty straightforward plot for the most part. In fact, it is one of the few movies in the horror genre I have seen in recent years that actually didn't have me guessing the ending early on. So, good movie if it wasn't for the attempt to shoehorn in Pinhead and friends. New Cenobites: None

Hellraiser: Revelation: So, a new Hellraiser. One in a long line of direct-to-video sequels to keep the franchise "alive." This one is nothing special. We get some video of a couple guys playing with the puzzle box, meeting Pinhead, and the usual end result. The rest of the movie takes place at a dinner where the families of the two boys are getting together to bond over their shared loss. They know their sons are missing, but not what happened to them. Then one of the two missing dudes comes back. the rest of the movie is a mix of flashbacks to what happened to the two when they were in Mexico and the events of the reappearance of the missing guy. Kind of a mix of a mystery, found footage, and Hellraiser. Overall, it is a passable movie. Nothing new or groundbreaking, though there is a kind of creepy incest scene that sort of wigged me out a bit. Big reveal is one that shouldn't surprise anyone. It does end in a way where they could do a sequel off of this one, which might be something worth seeing. Overall, just filler until a real Hellraiser can be done again. New Cenobites: Pinhead (revamped)

So, big picture, this franchise is pretty much my favorite of the big horror series out there. It was my first, as I said before. While most of the sequels have not been that great as Hellraiser movies, they are all pretty fun as movies in and of themselves. All of the direct-to-video ones were pretty much tapping into the latest fad at the time they were released, with a Hellraiser theme over the top to help sell them. I can say that the first 4 movies stand alone pretty well as a series. After that, the sequels are more independant than key piece of the whole.

I think, overall, the story of Pinhead is pretty well done in the original theatrical ones. You have the introduction to the mythology, further exploration of it (as well as the origin of Pinhead), the result of Pinhead's being severed from his host, and the finale telling the story of the box as well as the end of the epic. A decent story arc.

Regardless, I look forward to the new remake/reboot...whenever it is finally made.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

'Til Death Do Us Part


Final Destination: A class of high school students is going on a trip to Paris. The plane takes off, and everyone dies. The End. Or not...turns out it was all a dream. Until it starts to happen. Cue airplane freakout, a handful of people getting kicked off, and the plane exploding as predicted. Now death wants to get the people that escaped. What follows is a series of convoluted deaths, an FBI investigation, and the inevitable twist ending. Like I said, the deaths are sometimes a bit convoluted, but they are all fun to watch. There are so many things happening during the death scene, it is almost a game to see what the eventual demise will be. There is also an interesting plot development where if you manage to avoid your death, you are skipped over for the next person on the list.

Final Destination 2: A group of friends are going on a trip when a horrific pileup on the freeway kills them all. Except it is all a premonition again. A bunch of people who were meant to die end up living, and are now marked for death. This time, they are dying in reverse order to when they should have died in the accident. Once again, we have convoluted and insane deaths happening. Some fun gore on a couple too (loved the window pane best of all). This time, the way to stop death is to have new life that was not meant to be. A pregnant woman who should have died in the crash much give birth for all to live. The only movie to have a returning survivor in it, this is a pretty good sequel that takes the ideas of the original and twists them.

Final Destination 3: High school seniors at an amusement park die on a roller coaster, except they don't. Death stalks them all, killing them in order. This time around, however, there are clues as to how they will die. Each had a picture taken that gave cryptic hints as to what their eventual fate would be. Now we have the3 fun game of not only trying to remember who dies when, but also trying to figure out what the picture will mean in the end. The deaths are not quite as "rube goldberg" as the other movies, but are equally fun due to to addition of having a clue about the impending doom.

The Final Destination: The usual beginning. Horrible accident at a racetrack that is just a premonition. More deaths of a crazy and convoluted variety. Honestly, this one was sort of forgettable. I had to look up the movie online to remember what the major deaths were. While I liked the death in the pool, and the escalator death was a nice image from the trailer, the majority of this was sort of uneventful in my mind. I do like how the end was a nice twist on the usual tropes of the movies. I think this movie more than likely was relying on the 3D gags to work, but I saw it in 2D on DVD, so I missed those. All the better for me, I think, as I hate 3D that relies on gags.

Final Destination 5: A return to the basics. A bunch of people are going on a business retreat (though they all look far too young to be executives) when a bridge collapses. Thanks to the inevitable premonition, they survive. One difference here is that the premonition doesn't give nearly the same amount of prep time as normal. Not that it matters, since everyone who tries to gets away and we know they will all be dying anyhow. We get more of the convoluted deaths, some of which are incredibly fun. We also find out that, in this case, death will let you live if you take the life of another. Basically, you kill a person when you are marked to die and you get their years. This makes for an odd turn later in the movie, but I can forgive that small issue. The final ending is also quite fun, tying the movie in with the rest of the series nicely.

Overall, I love this series. Decent plot development. Fun gore gags. Interesting game of guessing just how each death will happen, as well as trying to remember what order they should occur in. Good use of premonitions and hints of future events. All in all, a great franchise that I would be ok with seeing more added to. My only real complaint is the last two movies have been done in 3D. I am not a big fan of the 3D craze, and find some of the techniques used to be pandering rather than necessary. I hope that this fad will die down before another of these comes out. Otherwise, loving this series.

A Hunger Satisfied

I don't remember how I heard about these movies. I just know I found a bundle for them at Walmart and bought them off of some half remembered memory of the name.

Feast: What we have here is a goofy movie with an interesting premise. A bar of random people, each given a silly nickname and bio as they are introduced, is attacked by a group of monsters. Said monsters seem to be motivated by two things: eating and procreating. Base emotions but a workable motivation. What follows the initial attack is a series of the usual arguments, gross out effects, and the eventual survival of a small handful of protagonists. Overall, a decently fun movie. I did appreciate the fact that they play with assumptions with actors and roles in the movie. To say more on that would spoil the fun.

Feast 2: Sloppy Seconds: Taking place the day after the first movie, we have the beasts taking on a nearby small town. The survivors of the last movie are back (minus the two bigger actors, who I assume were to expensive to rehire). Along for the ride are a set of new characters to watch and hate. Really, not a lot of likable characters in this one at all. We get more of the stupid nickname/bio stuff, more monster vomit melting people, and more monster cum shots. This time around, there is more of a lowbrow humor than the last, as well as less of the horror element. Part of that is due to actually seeing the creatures better this time around. The movie has a sort of anticlimactic ending, where it all leads up to something that doesn't happen. Still fun, but less than the last entry.

Feast 3: The Happy Finish: Once again, set immediately after the last movie. once again full of bios, vomit melt, and monster semen. Survivors of the last movie, with the requisite surprising return, try to escape town. This time there is the indication that the monsters can be controlled. Kind of an interesting plot element. This movie is also the worst of the bunch. Nearly no horror, almost all camp. I mean, we have an action star who loses his arms and is told to walk it off. Let me reiterate...he loses his arms, survives this, and is told to stop complaining about little things like that. Blech. One thing I had a love/hate relationship with was the ending. It was funny, and random. It also felt like the writers had no idea what to do with the thing, so they tossed some random element in and called it good.

A movie series that started out strong, and lost steam as the movies went along. It could almost have been a Troma series, if the production values and humor had been worse. I like how the movie started with a decent motivation for the monsters (revenge plus primal nature). I like how the first movie feels like a good monster siege with some interesting twists. I do not like how the following movies proceeded to lose that edge in favor of fart and sex jokes. I do not like how the initial revenge motivation just sort of drops off in favor of stereotyped characters and stupid jokes. I sort of like the ending of the last one, in that it makes me laugh when I think of it. But, I also dislike it for making me laugh when I want to be thoughtful or intrigued after a horror movie. overall, i can't say these are worth picking up. Maybe netflix or something if you are bored.