It’s that time again. Some horror fans celebrate October by watching a movie or two a day. Others do deep dives into all their favorite franchises. I’m mixing the two up and putting a slightly different spin on it all with The Great Chronological Franchise Project! Because I”m some kind of glutton for punishment, I decided to put all of the original (non remake) films in the Psycho, Romero Zombie, Halloween, Friday the 13th, Scanners, Phantasm, Return of the Living Dead and even Final Destination series’ in release order and watch them. Here’s the list I’m working off of:
Last week I found myself in the enviable position of being in the house alone during the day with a bunch of work to do on my laptop and the television unoccupied by children demanding to watch the same two episodes of Bubble Guppies on repeat. So, like anyone who hasn’t been able to stay up past 11 on a week night in recent memory, I decided to watch three movies in a row all on Amazon Prime! Continue reading Halloween Scene Triple Feature: Shivers, After Midnight & Billy Club
I should have solid, deep, fond memories for the first time I saw Jason X, but I’m sad to say I don’t. I remember enjoying the movie, thinking it was more tongue in cheek and funny than straight-ahead scary, but I can’t recall the specifics around actually seeing it. Usually none of this would be a big deal, but I’m fairly certain that Jason X was the first old school slasher film I saw on the big screen. It came out in April of 2002, so I would have been down at Ohio Wesleyan towards the end of my freshman year of college. A lot was going on, but I know I saw it in theaters. As a horror fan, my timing is pretty crappy because I was a young kid for most of the good slasher movies in the 80s and was only able to see entries like this one, Freddy Vs. Jason and some of the remakes in theaters. To be fair, though, there was a nice little horror revival that kicked off around the time I turned 16, so that was good timing.
Anyway, I know a lot of people don’t like this film, but I’m not one of them. I completely get being disappointed by the movie’s tone after waiting nearly 10 years between Friday The 13th films and getting this one. Add in the fact that the previous entry was the terrible Jason Goes To Hell and that the entry before that was a let down by not living up to its title and you’ve got a fanbase that was itching for some classic Jason and didn’t feel like they got it.
Jason X also fell into that strange subcategory of horror sequels that take a lead character and inexplicably put them into space. It happened with Hellraiser and with Leprechaun and then it happened with Jason. Luckily for me at the time, I hadn’t seen any of those other movies and probably wasn’t all that familiar with the Alien films either, so a lot of this stuff was relatively new to me. I’d also probably only gone through a few of the original Jason films once, maybe twice each, so I didn’t even have that good of a Jason knowledge or fandom to disappoint. Basically, when I watched Jason X in 2002, it was the perfect storm of what I thought was a fun movie with pretty great kills mixed with an almost complete ignorance of what this movie was following, referencing and commenting on.
Even today, though, after seeing a lot of those movies, I can still enjoy this film and not on a completely nostalgic level either. I love that this movie actually pits Jason against soldiers and shows that he can take out even well-trained people and not just half naked teenagers. I also enjoy how they get him on the ship even if the initial escape makes little to no sense. Hell, I love that there’s a friggin’ warrior robot in this movie! Oh, and cyborg Jason? Yeah, I like that too. Before he got his upgrade you actually thought they might be able to kill him forever by shooting him into the sun or something, but now the already scary guy who can’t die has technology working on his side which makes him even more difficult to defeat!
Again, though, I get why people don’t like this movie. Even though it’s set in the future, everyone looks super 2001. The sets are fairly well done, but still look like something out of a Si-Fi show from that era. While Jason is portrayed perfectly by Kane Hodder, there’s not much more in the way of depth when it comes to the rest of the cast. Uneven dialog delivered by so-so actors does not a great film make.
I’ll tell you what, though. There’s still some pretty great moments like anytime Jason appears in a corridor and the kids scatter. There’s just something about that presence bursting into a well lit room that still gets under my skin a little bit. It almost makes it more realistic. And how can you not love that bit with Jason smashing the sleeping bag against the tree in the VR room? I laughed pretty hard at that the first time (maybe I do have some memories ratting around in my head) and I didn’t even get the specific reference at the time. I’ve since watched Part VII several times including once in the past few weeks and like that gag even more.
At the end of the day, I know that Jason X isn’t a good movie and yet, I can look past the bad and just enjoy the good. Plus, this movie has one of my all time favorite kill scenes and it comes pretty soon after Jason wakes up on the ship. That bit with the head in the super cold water or ice or whatever still gets me! Plus, even for a guy with a faulty memory bank, there’s still a lot to be said for nostalgia.
The biggest release of the week by far is Louis Letterier’s Now You See Me, the magic-themed heist flick starring Morgan Freeman, Common, Jesse Eisenberg, Mark Ruffalo, Isla Fisher, Michael Caine, Woody Harrelson and Dave Franco.
How is it possible that a movie featuring Dwayne Johnson, Liam Hemsworth and Emma Roberts didn’t get a wide theatrical release as was the case with Empire State? Maybe it’s because, cool as the movie looks, Johnson just doesn’t fit in with the 70s period piece aesthetic of the film.
TV-wise, Person of Interest: Season Two, Revolution: The Complete First Season, Spartacus: War of the Damned – The Complete Third Season, Da Vinci’s Demons: The Complete First Season and Sinbad: Season One are all available now.
WB has a 20th Anniversary The Fugitive Blu-ray to check out, but there aren’t any special features listed.
We haven’t seen Mulan: Rise of a Warrior, but seeing this movie for sale on Amazon lead us to the above trailer and now it’s definitely on our to-watch list.
Hey, Jean-Claude Van Damme fans both Hard Target and Sudden Death now have fancy new Blu-ray versions. Note that both of these are all regions import discs that come with zero special features, so they might not actually be very fancy.
You guys like multi-packs? We here at Explosions Are Rad LOVE them. As you might expect we’re all over 4 Film Favorites: The Matrix Collection (BD) [Blu-ray] (basically the same thing as the DVD version that’s been out for a while) and the Dusk Till Dawn Blu-Ray/DVD Combo pack which features the three movies as well as Full Tilt Boogie, a documentary shot during filming of Robert Rodriguez’s initial film.
We’re also interested in multipacks with less well known films like Echo Bridge’s 8-Film Fast Action [Blu-ray] which includes People I Know, Ordinary Decent Criminal, Malevolent, Albino Alligator, David Cronenberg’s Existenz, B. Monkey, Dolph Lundgren’s Men Of War and Sean Bean’s Bravo Two Zero.
Finally, if you just can’t get enough Sharknado on Syfy, you can now buy your own copy for repeated watching.
I know, I know. Yesterday I said I was going to watch The Fly remake and its sequel today, but after having so much fun with David Cronenberg’s wild take on the original 50s classic, I decided to switch the theme from flies to Cronenberg and watched Shivers (or They Came From Within, but I like the one-word title and not just because it’s shorter).
Much as I was charmed by the original Fly, I liked the remake a lot more as a horror movie and as a story in general. I like that, this time around, the scientist (Jeff Goldblum) isn’t married to the girl (Geena Davis) who is a reporter for a science magazine instead of a doting wife. I also like that the story is more linear than the original because it doesn’t cut the legs out from under the drama (we know he’s dead in the first few minutes, we just don’t know who or what he is at that point). Plus, how can you go wrong with the scenes of Goldbulm’s parts falling off. I’ve watched a lot of horror movies this month, but I think this might be the only one to give me the willies (regular readers with better memories might be able to correct me on that one as my memory sucks).
I think that this might have been my first full, unrated viewing of the movie. Like I said yesterday, I knew the basic plot, but that was from seeing the movie on TV. I don’t remember giving it a rent when I was a budding horror fan back in the day, but it could have happened (remember that bad memory I mentioned?). I’m on board with people who think this is a great horror movie even if, as a comic book and horror fan, I’ve been significantly smashed in the face with the whole “scientist getting obsessed with his project and not caring about anything else” storyline. The effects, the script (I didn’t realize “Be afraid, be very afraid” came from this movie) and the casting are all spot on. Goldbulm first looks like a geeky scientist and then a fly creature, Davis looks like a kinda nerdy science journo (though not a very good one as it takes only a matter of days for her to sleep with her subject, what would Gay Talese say?). The awful clothing and hair can be a little distracting at times, but overall I really, really liked this flick. A question to Fly fans, is Fly II worth a watch? I’ve never seen it.
Shivers is kind of a combination of Dawn of the Dead and Towering Inferno with some Alien effects thrown in. The interesting part? The movie was made before Dawn (1978), was made before Alien and only really share a similar kind of setting with Inferno (which only came out the year before). The idea is that these people live in a huge building with all the amenities (medical facilities, stores, all that kind of stuff, so basically a really tall mall you can live in without have to fly in via helicopter). As it happens, a scientist who lived in the building was developing a parasite that would break man down to his basic urges. He supposedly killed them all, but that’s not the case and these weird worm things spread throughout the building making crazy sex zombies who just want to bone you and pass on the blood and sex lust to you.
Like The Fly, this movie has some spectacular effects. The scene reminiscent of Alien comes when a guy has one of the parasites in his stomach expanding inside, much like the chest buster. I can’t remember if Shivers influenced Alien or if the effects just happened at the same time. Cronenberg’s vision obviously grew in the ten or so years between these two movies, but you can see where he was coming from here.
Even though Cronenberg was known for being a really out-there director, it’s surprising how many still-taboo elements he dealt with this in the movie. You’ve got sexually transmitted disease, sexual assault, murder, pedophilia, the place of lust in society and what can happen if man gives over to his animalistic tendencies. It’s not exactly clear where the director comes down on these subjects, which is cool because it gives the viewer room to make their own decisions. Even though it’s brave, the movie could have done with some editing. Much like Scanners, this movie takes a lot of time not to get going but to get from middle to end. Luckily, by the time he did The Fly, it seems like Cronenberg learned a little bit about brevity.
I can’t remember if I first saw this movie as a rental from my beloved Family Video back in the day, but I do know that I purchased it my Freshman year of college from a going-out-of-business mom and pop video store in my college town. I went a few times and bought Dawn of the Dead (in a Day of the Dead box), Mom, Hot Potato and this one on VHS. I’ve watched it a bunch of times and even converted it to DVD thanks to my combo, recordable VHS/DVD unit. It’s actually pretty fun watching the movie with all the weird hiccups of a tape, but on DVD. There’s something great about that look that really works for older, smaller budget movies. I didn’t realize it, but the tape has an extra feature at the end with Cronenberg talking about the movie. I didn’t watch it this time around, though I might in the next few days. I think I’m going to watch a few un-reviewed favorites tomorrow starting with Dawn of the Dead. We’ll see where I wind up from there.
The above quote was straight from my lovely wife’s mouth as we watched the last episode of the third season of Alias. If you could somehow throw the word “crying” in there it would completely sum up my thoughts on this show. Season 3 really seemed to rehash a lot of previous ideas from the show (a man being betrayed by his spy wife, distrust in the organization, lying to loved ones, bad guys who just won’t die, incredibly sloppy spy stuff and crying. Lots of crying from our bad ass heroine.
The funny thing, though, is that I kind of liked these storylines better than those from the previous seasons. Maybe it’s that I knew what I was getting into when we started. Maybe it’s because the few people whose opinions I’ve heard said it was supposed to get so much worse this season, I’m not sure. I actually enjoyed this season more what with all the Rambaldi stuff taking center stage and twins and other family members coming to light. It’s not a great show, but the ticks seemed to be less (or at least less obvious) and you can see where shows like Lost and Fringe may have had their earliest seeds.
The most impressive element of this show, by far, has been the crazy amount of high quality guest stars they were able to pull in. Here’s a fairly completely list from Season 3: Scott Adsit, Djimon Hounsou, Bradley Cooper (he came back!), Richard Roundtree (seriously, Shaft is following me), David Cronenberg, Terry O’Quinn (he also came back!), Quentin Tarantino (also came back!), Isabella Rossellini (yeesh), Vivica A. Fox, Ricky Gervais (of original Office fame and general awesomeness), Raymond J. Barry, Peggy Lipton (Julie from The Mod Squad and Norma Jennings from Twin Peaks) and David Carradine (another returner). That’s a pretty impressive roster, especially when you consider that many of them made appearances in multiple episodes.
So, I’m curious to see how Season 4 and 5 go. I know there’s a twin or something. And a baby. But, since my expectations are pretty low, so I can’t really get TOO disappointed.
Yeah, I know it’s been a few days since Labor Day, but I’m still recovering. After a weekend filled with playing LEGO Indiana Jones with Em, going to craft fairs (yech), going to a rad Octoberfest and having an impromptu get together at our place (oh, and a lot of beer), I needed to relax. So, while Emily, her friend Vicki and Rickey’s girlfriend Sam went to the Ren Fair, Rickey and I watched roughly 8 hours of horror movies (4.25 in all).
So, without getting into too too much detail, here’s what we watched and my thoughts on each:
MY BLOODY VALENTINE (1981)
I gotta say, we picked a good one to start with. Neither of us had seen this one before and I think we were both impressed. The basic story is that there’s this mining town called Valentine Bluffs in Nova Scotia where they used to have this annual Valentine’s Day dance. Twenty years ago, a bunch of miners were really anxious to get to the party so they did something wrong and the mine blew up. Now there’s a tall tale that says Harry Warden threatened to kill anyone who went to the Valentine’s Day dance, so they canceled it…until NOW! So, of course, someone dressed up in a pretty rad mining/dominatrix combo outfit starts killing people, cutting out their hears and putting them in heart shaped boxes. The dance gets canceled, so the genius miners decide to have their party at the mine. Craziness and death ensues.
Wow, that was a lot more in depth than I intended to go, but it’s probably because I really dug this movie. One thing that Rickey and I started wondering towards the end of the movie was whether we were supposed to assume the killer really was escaped mental patient Harry Warden or someone else. Think about it, this flick came out in ’81, the slasher film hadn’t been around for too long, so anything was possible. I neglected to mention that there is a main character named TJ (hells yeah!) who moved away from Valentine Bluffs and came back. His girlfriend is dating a guy so they become the main two characters (and thus suspects). Spoiler, it is one of them, but you’re really not sure which as they switch off in the final scene which actually takes place down in the mine.
The killings themselves aren’t all that spectacular and mostly off camera, but the killer does stuff an old lady into a drier in a laundromat, which the cop finds the next day. Also, I’m not sure if Canadian laundromats work differently than the ones here, but one drier kept drying all night long and never shut off. Come on Canada, how dry do you need your clothes? Another interesting note about Canadians? They drive like maniacs, whether it’s the miners leaving the movie in the beginning of the movie (each driving a car from a different decade, seriously, check it out) or, uh, driving away from the mine later after the killer strikes in the craziest swervy driving I’ve ever seen. I get being scared, but keep your sh!t together miners.
Okay, so that stuff was a little ridiculous, but like I said, I really liked this movie. You got the mystery of who the killer is, pretty great character development without getting too much into unnecessary back story. The killer looks awesome. The climax in the actual mine (the part is in the facility on the surface until some geniuses head down before realizing there’s a killer on the loose) is pretty creepy, mixing fears of claustrophobia and getting a pick axe in the head, especially in the scene where the killer smashes a series of lightbulbs hanging on a string, darkening the shaft with each pop of shattered glass. Really good stuff. If you haven’t seen it and your a slasher/horror fan definitely check it out.
APRIL FOOL’s DAY (1986)
Without much effort (we flipped the double disc over) and watched this flick. I had pretty high hopes because of how surprised and impressed I was by My Bloody Valentine. I wasn’t all that surprised or impressed with April Fool’s Day, mostly because of the ending which I will spoil shortly. The story’s somewhat poorly construed to the audience (neither Rickey nor myself really knew why these kids were meeting on a fairy boat or whether they all knew each other), but the basic premise is that a bunch of kids including Biff from Back to the Future and the main girl from Friday the 13th Part 2 (Amy Steel), are going to stay with their friend Muffy in her big old house on an island. It seems that Muffy likes to pull pranks and has the whole house rigged up. There’s also a few weird things in the rooms like bondage gear, a heroin kit and a tape of a baby crying. Then, as you would expect, the kids start disappearing one by ones, presumably getting killed. The couple that ends up being the last man and woman standing discover that Muffy’s gone crazy and then later that it’s her twin Buffy and then they find out in the end that…it was all a set up. It seems that Muffy was trying out a plan for turning the big old house into a murder mystery getaway.
Now, I’m not a big fan of stories in which the end of the movie completely wipes out the emotions you just felt. Also, I’d be pretty pissed if someone put me through all this crap just to test something out on me. What a jerk! But the movie’s not all bad, and to be honest, I knew something was coming up because I’m a doofus and started reading the IMDB trivia in the beginning which said the body count is 0. So, with that in mind I noticed that none of the killings were on screen and was just waiting for the explanation at the end. I really did like the cast, you might not have known why they all got together in the beginning, but you get the feeling as it goes on that these kids are pretty good friends. Even the goofy pranks display character traits instead of just being annoying.
One thing that really didn’t sit well with me though involved one of those weirder pranks I mentioned above. Throughout the movie the kids aren’t in on the gag until after they “die.” Remember that part where I mentioned a tape of a baby crying? Well it turns out that Muffy used personal information to really mess with her friends’ heads and that girl with the crying baby tape in her room actually had an abortion. It’s mentioned later by one of the other characters and then that girl “dies” and we don’t see her again until the big reveal seen at the end where she’s sitting there pretty unimpressed with the whole thing. What a d!ck move, am I right? But everything’s cool until she sneaks into Muffy’s bedroom and fake slits her throat. I’ll be honest, I kind of wanted Muffy to bite it in the end (which was apparently how an alternate version of the movie was supposed to end) because she really is the villain of the piece and she makes out like a bandit. Where’s the justice?!
Quick side, note, I love this movie poster. I remember seeing it at the video store when I was kid and being scared and later really intrigued.
Scarecrows was the last movie that Rickey brought up with him to watch. Before jumping in we went up to Arby’s and grabbed some grub. We sat back down and watched while we ate and soon realized that this movie kinda sucks and turned it off. It’s about these robbers, one of which pulls a DB Cooper and jumps out of the plane with the loot. He lands in farmland and goes on the run as his cohorts chase him down. Oh yeah, and the scarecrows in the field come to life and kill him. I’m probably gonna finish watching this sometime this week or next, so keep your eyes peeled for another review.
So, with the disillusionment that was Scarecrows we went up to Blockbuster and got Scanners, which I had seen, but Rickey hadn’t. I’ve enjoyed all of David Cronenberg’s horror/sci-fi movies that I’ve seen (especially the super-weird Shivers), plus the head explosion scene and final battle between Vale and Revok kicks ass. I had completely forgotten how long and intricate the plot is though. You see, Scanners are basically psychics and telekinetics who are cropping up in the world. Vale’s the good guy, employed by a doctor who turns out to be his dad to infiltrate Revok’s crew, the bad guy who turns out to be his brother. Rickey and I both fell asleep intermittently throughout the movie, but the slow, deliberate pacing actually made it easy to keep up with the story.
I’m definitely not going to really get into the plot here because it’s very intricate, though I basically spoiled the ending above. Heh, woops. But it’s definitely a cerebral journey that shows just how good Cronenberg used to be at bringing out the weirder aspects of humanity in these crazy surreal situations. Highly recommended, along with Shivers, eXistenZ, The Fly, though I can’t pass that same recommendation along for Eastern Promises which just seemed very “been there, done that.”
THE BURNING (1981)
So, after getting rested up we were ready to close things out with a good old fashioned camp slasher movie. Five years ago a camp prank went wrong and the creepy groundskeeper Cropsy gets burned close to death, but not all the way (“The skin grafts didn’t take” an orderly tells him as they roll him out of the hospital.). Now, someone’s killing kids at a different camp. That’s about it as far as the plot goes.
The big draw for me for this flick was the cast, specifically young Jason Alexander and Fisher Stevens who I didn’t really recognize until he spoke in that ribbity voice he has. Jason Alexander looks and sounds pretty much the same as you think he would, just less portly and more ripped. He plays a nice guy jock. There’s also a creepy kid played by Brian Backer (Mark ‘Rat’ Ratner of Fast Times fame) who spies on girls in the shower and just kind of stares creepily at people.
Like I said, the plot isn’t all that intricate. Some campers get killed at the main camp and then a group of them goes on a trip up stream. That’s where the killer really gets to let loose, killing an entire log raft of kids at one point in a pretty cool scene. There’s even a chase between the main killer, the weird kid and the main guy who turns out to be one of the kids who played a prank on Cropsy five years ago in some kind of huge ruined structure in the middle of the woods. I have no idea what the structure was, but it looked pretty rad.
I can recommend this one again for slasher fans as Cropsy runs around with some huge shears cutting off fingers and stabbing throats. It’s also great for camp movie fans like Rickey.
After this we were pretty horror movied out, so we watched an episode of Clean House, a show I find myself strangely drawn to. Good times!