Yesterday I knocked out eight or so quick hits of movies I enjoyed in 2019. I should have mentioned in that first post that I’m talking about movies I watched in that year, not necesarily movies that came out in said year. If that were the case, I probably wouldn’t have much to write about as someone who mainly gets their entertainment from Netflix (digital AND disc, like an O.G.), Amazon Video, the library and Hulu! Let’s get back to it!
Here’s the brief pitch of Law Abiding Citizen: after his family gets killed and one of the murderers goes free for rolling over on the other one, crazy tactical genius Gerard Butler spends 10 years setting up traps and planning to take revenge on not only the killers but everyone involved who failed him in the prosecution of his family’s killers. It’s basically the story of a supervillain. And a damn good one at that because Butler plans for nearly everything. It turns out he worked for a government think tank that tasked him with developing ways to kill certain bad guys and he excelled like crazy. Everything he does has been planned out to the Nth degree and only thanks to his hubris does he get caught in the end.
But, like I said, it’s basically the story of how a supervillain became a supervillain. He’s got all the angles figured out, has all kinds of tech at his disposal and even a ton of warehouses that he uses as his secret lairs. All that being said, the movie does require quite a bit of belief suspension. There are a lot of dumb parts in the movie that don’t follow logic. Why doesn’t Jamie Foxx’s daughter turn off the DVD of a man getting tortured to death? Why do the cops aim their guns at the recently exploded car and not the direction that the rocket came from? Why doesn’t someone just shoot this guy in the face (especially considering the overly complicated ending which probably caused more collateral damage than Butler’s entire rampage.
That being said, I only found myself coming out of the story a few times with “what the?” moments, many of which are nit picky, but they are sloppy and should have been cleaned up. SPOILER WARNING I will say that I thought that Trick ‘r Treat and Iron Man’s Leslie Bibb was Butler’s man on the inside about 40 minutes before the movie ended. Then, not soon after, she died. It was a fiery car bomb death that I assumed was fake and kept on watching the movie because I hadn’t thought at that time that Butler would out-Prison Break Michael Scofield and he was really operating on his own. So, thanks to my paranoia, Bibb’s death held no emotional weight for me. Ah well, it’s not a home run, but it’s a fun little movie to watch when you’ve got some free time and want to see a Saw-like series of killings with a villain who’s got some interesting things to say.
You guys, I’ve been waiting to see Trick ‘r Treat for what seems like three years now. Back in the day when Rickey was the Hollywood editor at Wizard I remember him excitedly telling me about TrT, saying it was kind of like Nashville or Go with several stories intersecting in unexpected ways, but with horror. It’s a concept I’d never heard of before. But then there were all kinds of problems. It was supposed to be in theaters in 2007 (as you can see from the poster) and it wasn’t. Then it was supposedly pushed back to come out in theaters in 2008 and it didn’t. Well, it finally came out today and it was worth the wait!
Not only does the film follow several groups of characters, it also jumps around in time, starting with the end of the night and hopping around from there. I really don’t want to drop any specific spoilers, but I will say that I appreciate the different kinds of stories you get here. There’s a monster, a supernatural slasher, ghosts and ghouls and regular old killers. For horror fans who like their stories completely explained by the end of the film, this isn’t really the movie for you. And I really like that aspect of it. Some things are explained, like the image of the kids on the bus in the ultra creepy costumes, but others are completely unexplained. Unless I missed something, which is entirely possible.
There’s a lot going on in this movie and I would gladly give it another watch in the near future or even add it to my collection, but I’d feel kinda bad sitting on this Netflix DVD when I know so many other fans out there are looking to check it out. Two more things before I leave you to watch this flick yourself. One, Sam, the little burlapped dude in the poster above, is probably my favorite slasher of the past 10 years. And, two, be warned, a LOT of kids get killed in this movie. I’m not talking about 24-year-old teenagers, actual kids around 14 years old and younger. I wasn’t really bothered by it, but was surprised. I wonder if that had something to do with the movie getting moved back. Hopefully, it will do really REALLY well on DVD and we might get another horror movie out of Michael Dougherty.
Hey gang, hope everyone had a happy Thanksgiving break. My apologies again for my lack of updates these past few weeks. Whatever staying-up-late stamina I had must have been completely spent in October. But, over the Thanksgiving break, Rickey, Em and I went to visit her parents in New Hampshire where they have FearNet and movies on demand so Rickey and I spent every evening watching as many horror movies as we could. Hopefully this long post with reviews will make up for some of my lack of posting.
So, after working most of the day, waiting for Rickey to come up (traffic was pretty bad between him and us) and the four hour drive from our place to Em’s parent’s house, we were understandably tired. But that didn’t stop Rickey and I from attempting to watch our first horror movie of the weekend and boy did we choose a doozy. Waxwork is about a bunch of kids who decide it’s a good idea to go to a wax museum that pops up in their neighborhood one day. Actually, there’s a pretty funny scene where two of their group decide it’s a bad idea and bounce. I loved that scene. It reminded me of what I would do in that situation. “You want to go into a stranger’s wax museum even though we have no idea who he is or whether the wax figures will come to life and kill us? No thanks, I’m good.”
In actuality the movie is a bit more creative than that as the kids get sucked into whatever kind of scene the wax figures represent. So, when the girl approaches the vampire set, she’s transported to a creepy castle where she’s forced to eat what looks like cranberry surprise. And then…
Okay, we didn’t get any further than this scene. We were both tired and bored by this point and I’m pretty sure we both fell asleep while watching it. The only other interesting piece of info is that Zach Galligan, of Gremlins fame, stars as a spoiled rich kid. The funny thing is is that Rickey and I are both avid readers of Horror Movie a Day and it turns out that he watched the movie too, though he actually finished it. Sounds like it actually got kind of cool towards the end. Oh well, the on demand stuff saves your progress in the film for 24 hours, but by then we were watching…
CHRISTMAS EVIL (a.k.a. You Better Watch Out, a.k.a. Terror in Toyland) (1980)
And boy, what a stinker. After a long day of being terrorized, uh, I mean spending Thanksgiving with Em’s family, we came back and everyone eventually went to bed so we decided to get ready for Christmas by watching a movie about a dude dressed as Santa killing people. According to my beloved Creature Features, this is the first incident of such a film and it is not a good one. The whole plot revolves around this dude who saw his parents not really doing anything sexual (they were barely touching and fully clothed while pops was dressed as Santa) who now sleeps in Santa PJs, works in a toy factory and keeps tabs on the neighborhood kids to see who’s naughty and nice. That’s a big chunk of the movie.
I think we both fell asleep at about the same time Thursday night. The next evening we figured we didn’t have too much time left and put the boring flick back on. It’s actually kind of interesting in the last 15 minutes. If you feel compelled to watch this movie, do so from that point on and you’ll get the gist of it. Once the killings finally start happening (on the steps of a church with the jerkiest, most apathetic clergy I’ve ever seen), the movie doesn’t really pick up as our killer finds himself back at his company Christmas party celebrating with the people who were earlier making fun of him. It really doesn’t make any sense. Oh, there’s also a scene where Santa scares a kid by hiding in the bushes in his bright red suit. In true horror movie fashion, the kid’s mom doesn’t investigate her son’s accusations of a man in the bushes and just gives them a quizzical look before driving off.
But the best part of the movie is the very end where Santa runs into some kids who he then uses as human shields once the parents get a look at him. By this point, we’ve already seen some Santas in a line-up, so you know the police are on the case. The problem is, how do these people know this Santa is the killer? One dude is so convinced that he pulls a switchblade on Santa. Santa gets away which leads to a Frankenstein-like mob with torches and everything chasing Santa through the street. He just barely escapes into his chimo van with a sleigh and reindeer painted on it (how the cops weren’t able to track this down after the church murders while it was just sitting outside the office party, I’ll never know). He heads over to his brothers house, where his brother almost chokes him to death, but he gets up and hops back into the chimo van just in time for the torch-carrying mob to catch up, causing him to swerve off of a bridge and…fly off into the sky Grease-style. I guess there’s some discussion about whether he survives or not, seeing as how you can hear a car crash sound at the same time as the van flies away. I don’t really care either way because this movie’s not good, but the image of that van flying away is just great. Rickey took a picture with his iPhone and it’s awesome. So, after finishing Christmas Evil on Thursday we watched an actual good movie called…
MIDNIGHT MEAT TRAIN (2008)
Which I had thought was a Clive Barker movie ever since I first heard about it, but it turns out it’s based on one of his stories. Anyway, some of you who are more into the goings on of the horror industry know that Lionsgate kind of buried this movie by giving it a limited release in cheap theaters only, which I’ve never actually heard of before. I was really surprised when I first heard this and still thought it was a Clive Barker movie, but I was still surprised after watching it because the cast is fairly well known, though less in the star power vein and more in the “hey, it’s that guy from that thing” way. You’ve got Bradley Cooper who will always hold a special place in my heart for his involvement in Wedding Crashes, Vinnie Jones who’s just awesome, Brooke Shields (?!), Ted Raimi and Leslie Bibb who played the reported who tried to corner Tony Stark in Iron Man (and then slept with him). With the right advertising and one of those annoying “from the creator of Hellraiser/Nightbreed/Lord of Illusion/half my nightmares” things, I don’t see why MMT couldn’t have had a fairly successful run in theaters. I understand the whole concept of studios wanting to make money on valid properties, but how the heck did Saw become a valid property? Someone needs to give another new franchise a chance. Gimme Trick r Treat already!
Anyway, I didn’t fall in love with MMT, but I did really like it. Cooper plays a photographer who’s trying to capture the real, raw underbelly of late night New York. While doing this he comes across a man (Jones) who he thinks killed a model he photographed the night before. As he slips further and further into obsession (following Jones at all hours of the night and showing up at his job as a butcher), Cooper’s girlfriend, Bibb, gets more and more concerned for him. From here on out, I’ll be in SPOILER territory.
So, as you can imagine this being a work based on Clive Barker, this movie doesn’t just lie in the real world, though there are plenty of real world scares. Jones is pretty terrifying as the killer. He’s already a huge dude, but by making him a huge silent guy in a crisp suit with a meat hook and a huge metal meat mallet, man, he’s just creepy. As Rickey pointed out, he doesn’t even need a mask like your typical slasher. And Cooper as the obsessed photographer really kills it, especially because it turns out that he’s right, but no one will listen to him. That’s one of my big fears in life, to know what’s really going on but not having anyone listen to you. Plus, there’s some real nail biters with Cooper getting way too close to Jones.
Like I said, the ending comes with some unearthly elements as it turns out that Jones isn’t exactly what he seems to be (even though he does murder people, remove their clothes and leave them hanging naked in a car of the subway. I don’t want to ruin it all, but it’s definitely worth checking out for fans of any of the above actors (though Shields only appears as a photo critic), Barker or horror.
Uncharacteristically, Rickey and I weren’t done with horror movies so we moved on to…
I’d actually watched Pumpkinhead before at Em’s parents’ place so I wasn’t really paying attention. Lance Henriksen stars in this Stan Winston-directed flick in which SPOILER WARNING Henriksen’s son gets killed by a dude on a dirt bike (it’s okay to laugh, it’s kind of silly) and then finds a witch who brings a vengeance monster called Pumpkinhead to life so it can kill the killer and his friends. That brief summary doesn’t really do the movie, which is actually pretty interesting, justice. There’s a lot more to this whole thing than just a revenge plot, as Henriksen grows to regret his decision and tries to actually stop Pumpkinhead. There’s really a lot going on and Winston did a great job with the movie, it’s too bad he didn’t direct more movies. And, of course, you can’t talk about a Stan Winston movie without talking about the creature effects. Pumpkinhead does look an awful lot like an alien, but it’s a really cool design, though I’m not really sure why they bother calling him Pumpkinhead (he looks nothing like a Pumpkin, though his grave is surrounded by pumpkins. Like I said I wasn’t paying a lot of attention, but the movie doesn’t really end like you might expect and is definitely a fun one to check out.
Okay, that’s enough for today. Check back tomorrow for the second and final part!