Halloween Scene: The Evil (1978) & Twice Dead (1988)

Well, I didn’t manage my time very well yesterday and wound up finishing the second movie of my double feature after midnight. I’m aiming to have two double features up today, but we’ll see, there’s a lot going on. These two picks were easily chosen for me my Shout Factory’s latest Roger Corman Double Feature. There’s a fun feature on the DVD where you click on it, it plays some trailers and then gets into the first movie. After the first one, there are some more trailers and you get the second. I appreciate that kind of efficiency on a disc even if the movie theater lobby images are a little too Reboot.

As it turned out, both The Evil and Twice Dead are haunted house movies after a fashion which, anyone who read my review of the original Amityville Horror knows, is not a genre I enjoy. But these two movies offered up takes that were different enough to keep me from groaning through the whole movie.

The Evil is about a couple who buy an old house and want to turn it into a rehab facility, so they invite some friends to come help with the remodeling. Soon enough the dog starts freaking out and the main blonde woman starts seeing things like a ghostly figure luring her to a book with some mysterious writings. Luckily it doesn’t take long for the house/demon/ghost to get mad and lock everyone inside. There’s lots of talk about what’s happening but soon enough dudes are cutting their own hands off and enjoying it, women are getting chased around by ghosts and dogs go after people sounding like an X-Wing or TIE Fighter flying through space.

While watching the movie I was thinking “Man, this is a pretty big Evil Dead rip off” what with the group of friends in a remote location, the inclusion of a book, invisible forces going after them. I noted that it’s like the Sam Raimi flick in a bigger house, but as it turns out The Evil came out three years before Evil Dead. Weird, right? Anyway, it’s an okay movie with some goofy acting, especially in the scenes when the whole house shakes. Some people stumble around like they’re drunk while others flip around like it’s Cirque du Soleil. Also, the end is just kind of weird. The main guy goes down into the hatch you see on the poster and winds up in a white room talking to the demon who looks like a cross between Santa and Grandpa Munster. I couldn’t tell if the ghost and this demon were the same guy or what, but then again, I was half paying attention and I have to keep the volume low so as not to wake the missus. Anyway, the scene reminded me of Neo meeting God or whatever in the last Matrix movie or the Tall Man’s room in Phantasm. Either these things are all coincidental or The Evil is one of the most influential movies in horror. I’m guessing it’s the former.

Oddly enough, I couldn’t find a poster for Twice Dead, so I just went with the Cult Classics Double Feature box. This is one weird flick. A family with two teenagers moves into an old house that a 30s film star killed himself in a long time ago and a group of teenage punks has turned into their hang out and don’t want to give up. Right off the bat, the dad tells his son to grab his shotgun and shoot these douches, but the cops come and they bail. As much as I wish the movie followed the dad kicking ass, he and the mother go out of town leaving the two kids at home. The gang tries to attack them and they seemingly get slaughtered, but it’s really just the two kids who live there using gags from the special effects class at school (?!) playing a big prank. The gang doesn’t take kindly to this and come back to attack the kids again. This time, though, the ghost of the movie stars kicks their asses in increasingly bloody fashions (hence the slasher tag).

It’s a weird little movie that takes some pretty big leaps when it comes to logic. Like, why do the punks even care about the house? Why do the main kids think that pretending to kill the punks will have zero repercussions? And, in general, why are the punks so crazy that many of them are willing to kill, including poor Todd Bridges who was pretty good in the movie and then got iced.

But, overall, I liked the flick. The strangeness of the special effects prank angle was fun as was the idea that the ghost is an old movie star who winds up helping the people who live in the house, gave it enough originality within a pretty tired genre. The effects were pretty good both in the story and in the movie overall, plus it’s got some funny moments (“What is that a penisaurus?”). Overall, I don’t think I could say that Twice Dead is a good movie, but it’s definitely a fun one.

Best Double Feature Ever: Expendables & Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World (2010)

How weird is it that on April 17th of last year, I wrote a post about how excited I was about Expendables and Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World and now, lots and lots of months later, I got to see both flicks in the theater on the same day? At least sort of weird.

I actually cleared my work schedule earlier this week so I could go see Expendables at the first showing in my town. It was the 11:20 show at the Destinta and I had an amazing time. The movie, which combines all the best action stars ever (okay, maybe there were a few folks not in the movie, but there’s never been a movie with this many of them) as a team of mercenaries doing jobs. The actual Expendables consist of Sylvester Stallone, Jason Stahtham, Jet Li, Randy Couture, Terry Crews and Dolph Lundgren. They’re going up against a drug kingpin (played by David Zayas of Dexter fame!) who’s working with Eric Roberts who has Steve Austin as a body guard. Stallone got the job from Bruce Willis when Arnold Schwarzenegger doesn’t want the job. Oh and Mickey Rourke used to be an Expendable but he retired. I think that covers everyone.

I’m not going to get into the plot too much because, let’s be honest, who cares? If you haven’t seen the movie what you’re wondering is “Is it a solid action movie or a bunch of old men playing war?” It’s a solid action movie. Period. I had a ridiculous amount of fun sitting in the theater watching the flick. There’s all kinds of cheesy one-liners (to be expected), awesome team-ups and fights I never expected to see (seeing Stallone and Statham pall around is like a dream come true) and, as I hope you were expecting, tons of blood, explosions, punches, bullets, knives and body slams (not in a cheesy “hey look we’ve got wrestlers in the movie!” way, but it a way that makes sense).

Speaking of the fighting, I really like how each guy has his own specialties and sticks to them for the most part. Li’s obviously the martial artist, but Statham’s got moves of his own mixing knife and gun play. Stallone uses an array of weapons, Lundgren uses his caveman bulk and Couture just kicks ass. It’s fantastic. I will say that the fight scenes get a little shaky/jumpy, but I just kind of opened my eyes real wide and absorbed as much as I could. I didn’t feel like I was missing anything, but I still want to watch the movie again so I can absorb even more of it.

It’s funny because a few years ago the ToyFare guys and I created a group called The Manly Men of Action which was a generational grouping of action heroes starring Arnold, Dolph, Stallone and Bruce as the 80s team. We also dreamed up groups from the 60s and 70s, skipped the 90s and went on to the 00s which was the whole plot of the first story (check out some rad wallpapers here). So, it’s pretty awesome that Stallone reads ToyFare and turned our idea into a movie, but would it have been so bad to ask us to cameo? Just saying. Oh, also, the movie hints at a long history for this team and previous incarnations and I would be completely down for sequels and prequels and comic book adaptations and an animated series and anything else.

I was actually less excited about Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World, but that’s only because my love of 80s action movies goes back further and is much deeper than my love of Scott Pilgrim. In fact, I’m not that huge a fan of the series and haven’t even read the last installment yet. I was really more excited to see what director Edgar Wright would do with the source material and how he would bring a comic book aesthetic to film. And he did it using some crazy jump cuts, lots of sound onomatopoeia on screen, lifting elements from Bryan Lee O’Malley’s panels and creating some truly epic fight scenes.

The story, as most of you probably know, is about clueless Canadian loser Scott Pilgrim falling in love with Ramona Flowers and having to defeat her seven evil exes to be with her. Like aside, the fights are numerous as are the video game references (coins fall from defeated enemies, weapons appear from seemingly nowhere and people glow red when they’re close to death). But I wonder if that makes the movie a little too inside baseball for your average viewer. I went with the missus to see the flick and she hasn’t read the books nor did she play Nintendo much as a kid, so a lot of the elements I was laughing at along with my fellow audience members (there were actually more people at the mid day Expendables than the 7:50pm Scott) went right over her head. She said she dug it and I asked her to write a post about it, but we’ll see.

But, you might be saying, “Who cares what the newbies think, if they don’t get it, screw ’em.” Okay, fair enough, I guess. But, from a business standpoint, you’ve got to imagine that people like me were already pretty much guaranteed to see the movie, but people like her (norms as I call ’em) aren’t. If she goes to work and tells her friends she didn’t really get it, then they might not go. What I’m saying is that it might have made a little sense to explain some of the video game elements earlier in the movie so that EVERYONE gets the gag. There’s even a scene where Scott and his then-girlfriend Knives play a Dance Dance Revolution-type fighting game, but if the elements were foreshadowed there, I didn’t notice. I was just watching the crazy game.

Another complaint–though a minor one–I had while watching the movie is that sometimes, the fight scenes seemed a little stagey, like Michael Cera (playing Scott) was responding to the next move in the series of moves before the attack was coming. It’s a minor complaint because, frankly, the fight scenes mostly moved pretty quickly, but I definitely got that vibe a few times which was a bummer.

Speaking of Cera, I really had my reservations about him playing Scott in the movie. Like I said, I’m not a die hard fan of the books, but in them, the character is kind of an infuriatingly dull loveable loser who just doesn’t understand most of what’s going on around him, while Cera’s awkward movie persona didn’t really jive with that. I’m still not 100% sure on it, as the movie sometimes felt wobbly as far as Scott’s characterization, but that’s how things were in the book. You really like him one moment, then he does something stupid and you want to give him a wedgie. Overall, I dug his casting and everyone else, so good on Wright and Company for that.

Two more quick complaint and this one actually goes back to the books. First off, like in the first volume, I think it takes too long for the rules of the world to get established. You go from normal people to crazy superhero/video game fights in the blink of an eye without much of a warning. The other problem is that the books felt like they were running out of steam and rushed towards the last couple volumes (I can’t speak to the 6th volume). I mean, come on, two of the exes are twins? I guess it’s not necesarrily a bad thing that we spend time with the character of Scott before he and Ramona start dating, but some of the exes just feel rushed.

Okay, enough bitching. The effects are awesome as is the music. I think I might actually go out and buy the soundtrack (though as a music geek I’ve got to call bullshit that Scott can afford one of the most expensive basses around–the kind you have to call Musician’s Friend just to get the price off–and Steven gets such a good sound out of an acoustic that doesn’t look to have a pick up anywhere inside it). I LOVE the bass battle.

All in all the movie’s a lot of fun (at least for 20-something dudes) and, from what I can remember, follows the comics pretty well (though I wonder if deviating a little more might have helped make the story more accessible to non geeks). Anyway, if I had to choose one movie between Scott and Expendables to see again this weekend, I would definitely go with Expendables. I walked out of that movie just feeling awesome all over, but I’m really glad I got to see both movies in the theaters on opening day. I haven’t done that for just one movie in quite a while!

A Double Feature for the Ages: PCU (1994) & The Boondock Saints (1999)

2008-07-07
2:37:26 am

The other night (Wednesday I think), I decided to get caught up on my movies from Blockbuster so I watched a double feature of PCU (1994) and The Boondock Saints (1999). Now, these two flicks don’t have anything in common (trust me I looked), but I really enjoyed re-watching both movies.

 

PCU’s about this high school senior (pre-frosh) who comes to visit a college (based on Wesleyan from what I’ve read), but instead of staying in the dorms, he ends up in a place called The Pit that used to be a fraternity house back in the day, but is now co-ed housing. We had something like this at my college, they were called SLUs (for “single living units,” I think). Anyway, the blind dude from Becker signed Jeremy Piven (who even then, looked about 30) up to house a pre-frosh, but he’s having none of it. After the usual “introducing the new kid to all the different groups on campus” scene (I still love those scenes, even long after high school and college), the pre-frosh successfully pisses off each and every highly-sensitive group and minority on campus. Meanwhile, David Spade plays a yuppie who belongs to the fraternity that used to live in The Pit. He’s conspiring with the president of the school to get The Pitters kicked out of their place. All of this leads to a killer party at The Pit (so they can raise money to keep their house) where George Clinton and Parliament/The P-Funk All-Stars play. Then they ruin the bicentennial thingy so the dean gets fired. Basically, the whole idea is that being overly politically correct (hence PCU) actually separates people instead of bringing them together. Oh, and that beer and funk solves everything.

I remember watching this flick on Comedy Central back in the day. I’m not sure if it was on the T & A Matinee that they used to do right around the time I got home from grade school (excellent scheduling CC!) or just on the pre-South Park station, but I saw it a lot. And it made me want to go to college. It was a lot of fun watching the movie post-college because, even though the movies about 15 years old by now, there’s still a lot of truth in the cartoony antics. Oh, it’s also a lot of fun watching it and calling out different people. One of the guys from Big Love is in it, so is Gary Busey’s son Jake. Oh, also, Zak Penn of X-Men movie writing fame go-wrote this movie. That’s awesome. If you haven’t checked out PCU, I highly recommend it.

Which brings me to Boondock Saints which is a flick about two Irish brothers in Southie (that’s in Boston, kids) who decide to become vigilantes and kill bad dudes in their neighborhood. One of the mob bosses isn’t too thrilled about this, so he arranges for an incredibly dangerous hitman that goes by the name Il Duce (played by the second teacher from Head of the Class Billy Connelly) to kill the brothers. Oh, duh, Willem Dafoe plays an FBI agent trying to figure out who’s killing these bad guys. He’s like a profiler I guess. They shoot the scenes pretty interestingly, basically they show the brothers about to kill somebody, then jump to the aftermath when Dafoe shows up. Dafoe then re-imagines the whole thing, at one point, even acting like a conductor. It’s a hard thing to explain, but it was pretty cool to see.

I was kind of surprised about the reaction I got to my friends when I told them I re-watched Saints. I really enjoyed the movie (in the same way you enjoy a good Punisher comic, who doesn’t like watching bad guys get wasted? especially when the guys doing it are just so damn likeable), but when I mentioned it to a few of my friends they said they didn’t like it very much. But it wasn’t really the movie they disliked but the hype that surrounded it. I only ever had two people tell me I should watch it, so I didn’t realize there was such a huge cult following around the movie comparing it to Pulp Fiction (which I would definitely not do). So, I suggested they check it out again, like I suggest all of you to check it out. I’m also excited to see the long-planned sequel that may or may not ever happen. Heck, I’d even check out a comic based on The Boondock Saints.