The Love Witch Film Review: A Love Letter to Hammer Horror

The only thing I knew going into this was that it was a throwback to Hammer Films, and that I had seen a listing for it playing at an Alamo Drafthouse Cinema theater a while back while I was visiting Austin for the weekend. Other than than, I went in fairly cold, not knowing what to expect really or if it was a serious take, or a comedy, or a horror film. The main selling point was that it was about a witch, and my wife loves that kind of stuff, so when Amazon recently offered it under their "new releases", we jumped on it on a Saturday night. Let's dig in.

When Elaine, a modern day witch, uses spells and potions to get men to fall in love with her, she gets more than she bargained for, and gets herself into some serious trouble. 

Quite simply, this little film was such a breath of fresh air. A wonderful homage to classic Hammer films and melodrama's of the 60's and 70's, only done with a very tongue-in-cheek type humor that's not overly done, and still manages to effectively pull off what it's trying to do for the most part. To put it simply, it's a love letter to this era, and while not perfect, there is so much to love about this entire production. From the casting, to the insanely detailed and authentic design of everything from the sets, the clothes, the hair, makeup and down to the camera work. I was so enthralled into this world that writer/director/producer Anna Biller has created that I soaked up every single 35mm frame and image like it was my last. It's also important to note that Biller is also the set decorator, editor, did the score, costume designer, and art director, literally making her a one-woman-army. Wearing all these different hats behind the scenes didn't impede negatively on the films success either. Usually when one person does so many different jobs in a single film they tend to ignore or not put much effort into a certain area, but not here, except maybe the script, which I'll get into later. As far as pure design goes, the film is flawless in bringing this era of filmmaking back to life.

Outside of it's impressive design in nearly every department, what really makes the film work is it's cast, most notably Samantha Robinson in the lead as Elaine. Gorgeous and seductive, she looks like she literally came right out of a Hammer Film. And one of the things I liked most about this film is that Anna Biller cast all of the other roles with just as much care and precision. There's not a bad actor in the film, and each does an outstanding job in their roles. Now, it should be noted that this is a light-hearted homage that's very tongue-in-cheek and self-aware, so I think some might have mistakenly found the acting to be bad, or thrown off by it, when in fact it was purposely hammy, conveying the same cheesiness that we find in these classic films that did it by accident, only here it's on purpose. A lot of reviews I've read keep mentioning this part and I can't help but feel they're missing the point.

Now, as much as I enjoyed this, it's not perfect, and does suffer from a few issues. For all of it's style and creative energy, at times it's lacking substance and becomes tedious and sometimes dull. Some of this can be attributed to the fact that it's too long for it's own good, clocking in at 2 hours. Half an hour could easily have been trimmed. And while a lot of the things you see in the film are pretty, offering up dazzling eye candy, if it doesn't mean anything or go anywhere then you tend to get bored, and that's exactly what ends up happening, and ultimately while it starts off really strong (if you're into these kinds of films), it begins to slowly become less and less palpable. But really, and I can't state this strongly enough, you have to really be a fan of these types of films to enjoy this one, and if you can get past the first 5 minutes, then you'll know whether you can stomach the rest or not. And I say that in a very honest and genuine way, not in any way meaning to deter you. It's just that having read many other reviews on this, it seems either a lot of people just don't "get" what they're trying to accomplish here and completely miss the point, or that they just thought it was bad because of the cheesy dialogue and hammy acting, which of course was all done on purpose to accurately convey the feeling of that very special and specific time in film history.

Though a bit too long and tedious, I still found enough to love about this film that kept me invested and thoroughly entertained, mainly in the main actress who seduces you right from the beginning. and also in Anna Biller's impeccable design of literally everything. It's just a tour de force of the senses that tends to overstay it's welcome, yet still remains enjoyable "if" you're into these kinds of films.


80's Horror: The Carpenter Film Review

This is a film that's been on my radar for quite some time, mainly because of that silly cover, and also because Wings Hauser sticks primarily to action or action/thrillers, and the idea of him playing a deadly carpenter was something that always stuck with me. Never having an official DVD release, with the VHS being fairly easy to come by, I never really made much of an effort to get this when there are others that rate higher on my "want list". But a good friend of mine recently scored this, shockingly, at a local Goodwill and was kind enough to gift it to me. So let's dig in.

When an unhappy couple buys an old house and decides to renovate it, they soon discover that there may be more to the house and it's history than they bargained for as a mysterious and charming carpenter seems to appear out of nowhere at all hours of the day and night. Soon the woman starts becoming attracted to him, but is he just the figment of the imagination of a troubled woman, or is there something real and sinister happening?

I loved the concept, and the idea of Wings playing a killer carpenter. It's ridiculous for sure, but also very attractive in a cheesy way. So we went in with rather modest expectations, only to be a bit confused by the whole experience. For starters, it's not a horror film. I don't know what you would call it, but it's definitely not a horror film because it's not creepy, or scary, or even anything really. We struggled with how we would categorize it, but came up empty. It's almost as if they tried to make an undefinable film and actually succeeded. If it was meant to be horror, they sure didn't do much to steer it in that direction. The violence, of what little there was, was handled so poorly that it comes off as a bit comically surreal, with the first scene of violence making you chuckle rather than feel anything else.

The movie looks and plays out like a made-for-tv Lifetime movie, with a lot of emphasis being put into the dramatic relationship between the husband and wife, who are renovating a house, and their deteriorating relationship. Hauser, seems to randomly show up periodically, but it's never as cool as you hope it will be. In fact, his entry and exit in nearly every scene of his limited screen time is done with such little impact that each scene fizzles to an unsatisfying thud each time. Too bad too, because Hauser is clearly having a good time in the role, as he should. That character deserves a much better film than this, and for all of it's clever idea's, so much is never explained. * SPOILERS: Like, for example, why does his ghost stay attached to the house? Has he always been there, even with the previous owners? Why does he choose to kill some and not others? 

I think one of our biggest complaints is that the film was pretty devoid of any real gore, or even blood. Even if the film was lacking in many area's (which it is), and even if it didn't feel like a horror film like it was supposed to (which it doesn't), had it at least been creative in the kills, or even just gory, that would have been something. But we don't get any of that, on top of it just being pretty dull for the most part.

While not memorable or even all that likable, it's not a total loss. Wings Hauser is brilliant in the role, and he's having a great time being weird and crazy with power tools. Too bad he's barely in it. And whether it was on purpose or not, The Carpenter is just a wholly weird experience. You just can't figure out what film it's trying to be, and why it's never as good or even entertaining as it should be. The tone shifts randomly, and the film as a whole just never flows well, resulting in a weirdly uneven film experience. Hauser saves the day, but not by much.

How to see it:
To this day it's never gotten any kind of release other than VHS and Laserdisc. After having finally seen it, I can understand why I guess. I can't imagine it being all that "in demand" for a new release. You can find bootleg rips on DVD fairly cheap online, as well as the VHS, which comes in the standard cut as well as an Uncut Version.


Revisiting Quentin Tarantino's Death Proof

We all know how Tarantino and Rodriguez set out to make Grindhouse, doing something that hadn't been done before, and utilizing their ever-growing power and status as important innovative filmmakers to deliver a 2-Film Grindhouse experience, complete with fake trailers to films that we all are dying to still see, only to have it crash and burn in a matter of days. So I won't get into that. What I will say is that when I first saw Death Proof for the first time, I hated it. Hated it with a passion. I found it long, dull, too talky, and it didn't look like the kind of film they were touting it as....not to me anyway. I hated the character of Jungle Julia so much that I wished her dead within 2 minutes of seeing her on screen. I hated the constant long conversations between the females about nothing that never drove the film forward in any way. I hated that Tarantino thought he knew how women talked and acted in their little clique's. So I avoided it for years. 

And then a funny thing happened. For some reason I decided to revisit it last year, and surprisingly, I was absolutely blown away by it. I loved it. All of the things that I hated about it before didn't bother me anymore. In fact, I found these specific touches the very things that made this film so special......aside from the casting of Kurt Russell as Stuntman Mike, introducing the world to the legendary hot badass that is Zoe Bell, and of course the insanely rad car stunts. I decided to revisit it yet again recently so I could introduce it to my wife for the very first time, and again, I loved it, but most importantly, she loved it more.

Tarantino has often regarded this film as his worst. I've read several quotes from him saying this, but I've never come across an article or interview where he goes into detail about why he feels this way. It's a broad statement, and I can only assume that he's not calling it a bad film at all, but rather the least of his favorites in his entire filmography of pretty great films. For a long time I considered it his worst as well, only to rediscover it and be head-over-heels in love with it now. In any case, if this is the worst he can do, then he's in damn fine shape because it's leaps and bounds better than most other directors can offer on a good day. I was also much more observant this time around, and noticed a few things about this that I hadn't before.

For starters, one of my biggest issues with this prior was that I felt Tarantino only really gave it the whole vintage Grindhouse vibe early on in the first 10-15 minutes. But that's not true. It's more prominent in the beginning, sure, but he keeps it going throughout the entire first half of the film, for a good 45 minutes.

Which brings me to another aspect of this film I hadn't noticed before. Death Proof is like 2 different stories, both 45 minutes long each, that are only connected together because they both feature Stuntman Mike as the protagonist. But they're 2 separate stories with two sets of women that Stuntman Mike is after for no other reason other than that they're pretty women. But one thing I noticed before, and again this time as well, is that unlike with the previous story involving the girls leaving the bar, Tarantino does not continue the Grindhouse-looking vibe for this second story. And that was something that bothered me a lot the first 2 times I saw it, but I realize now that it's maybe because this portion of the film really needed to focus on the insane stunt work, and having the film look muddy and grimy might tarnish all the work that went into creating some of the most intense, most spectacular car stunt work we've ever seen on film. In an era of CGI Fast & Furious nonsense, the fact that they were able to pull off some legendary car chases, crashes and stunts 100% practically just blows my mind. It's the main thing anyone will walk away from with Death Proof, and having revisited it a few times, I feel that it was a wise decision on his part to focus more on the stunts rather than the look of the film for the second half of Death Proof. Tarantino still keeps up the basic aesthetic, just without the scratches, missing scenes, and elements to make it look worn to shit.

It goes without saying that from the very beginning, QT has had an uncanny ability to expertly cast his films, and it's no different with Death Proof. Kurt Russell as Stuntman Mike was just brilliant. The guy, mainly known for his iconic roles in John Carpenter films, here turns in a devilishly evil performance as an egomaniac stunt driver (so he says) who gets his rocks off out of terrorizing innocent young pretty ladies. Russell is so good in fact that it's become one of his most recognizable and iconic performances in his 50+ years long career.

But Russell isn't even the standout in this one.....shockingly. No sir. That honor goes to Zoe Bell, a stuntwoman from New Zealand who got started on Xena: Warrior Princess as a stunt double and who blew Tarantino away so much after playing The Bride's stunt double in Kill Bill that he cast her in this. Here she shines brighter than any other in the film, and she proves to be a natural in front of the camera, and most importantly, completely likable. And to see her doing her own stunts in quite a few shockingly harrowing scenes will blow you away. If anything, Death Proof, and more importantly, QT, introduced the world to Zoe Bell, and simultaneously proved what a total badass babe she is.

On the flipside, I have one single complaint, and that is that I still found Sydney Poitier as Jungle Julia utterly annoying. I hated every second she was on screen and I found her so unlikable that any scene she was in was a struggle for me to get through. Rude, stuck-up, condescending and arrogant to the max, if this is what QT was going for, then he succeeded wholeheartedly. Needless to say, I'm glad she was only in half of this film and found her death to be completely satisfying.

Upon this revisit, I have moved this film up significantly on my list of favorite Tarantino films. Not sure exactly where it falls, but it's pretty high up, definitely before Django Unchained, Jackie Brown, Hateful Eight and Inglorious Bastards. It's an often maligned and overlooked gem that only gets better with age and each new viewing. Though QT himself considers it his worst film, I find it far more enjoyable than some of his most recent films. Sure it's just as "talky", but it moves along faster and coupled with his Grindhouse-inspired touches, makes it a thoroughly enjoyable ride.


The Void Film Review

Try as you might, it was near impossible to go into this without any preconceived notion or high expecations that this was as good an 80's throwback to classic Carpenter as we would ever get. At least, that's what nearly every single review, buzz and positive word of mouth were saying when this hit the festival circuit on into it's release on demand just this past Friday. I don't remember when the last time was that a film came out and tried so hard to steer you in this particular direction. Yea there have been attempts with varying degrees of success with It Follows comes to mind as a highlight. With that being said, it was near impossible to not go in and expect to be wowed. Did it work? Let's dig in.

No, it did not. I saw this with a group of 4 and we all went into this pretty pumped as we're all horror fans. The fact that they kept touting this as a throwback to classic John Carpenter films (among other horror directors like Lucio Fulci) was even more exciting. So it pains me to say this but when it was all over, none of us really enjoyed it. And personally speaking, I don't know where all the "throwback" talk was coming from. Outside of the fact that a lot of practical effects work was utilized, and rather well for that matter, nothing about this film screamed homage or throwback in the slightest. Not even in the one area that really would have sold it, and that would be the score, just one of many area's The Void failed to deliver.

As a film, and not being referenced to anything else, it's just alright. I kind of got the same feeling when we saw 2015's Baskin, which was constantly referred to as a darker, gorier, scarier version of Hellraiser. With both Baskin and The Void, the trailers make them look incredible, but the films themselves leave a lot to be desired. And that's really the big thing we all felt walking away from this. All the right ingredients are there; i.e. the talent in area's like the effects work and design, and you can tell they had somewhat of a decent budget to work with (and if they didn't, they did a helluva job in convincing us they did), but none of it is put to good use or utilized well at all. It's a bit frustrating because it really could have been a solid film.

And that gets me to another issue. Even if they had worked harder, or better, at the visual aspect, which they don't, and even if they had offered a truly synth inspired score to really give it that 80's retro vibe, which they don't, there are still a number of issues plaguing this film, most importantly it's pacing and structure. One of the things we struggled with for most of the film was that we just didn't care about what was happening at all. Add to that the fact that none of the characters come off as likable, and some just plain annoying, we found it difficult to connect with anyone in the film, let alone care about them. And then there's just the film itself, which just doesn't flow. Moments of pure boredom are only interrupted occasionally with a cool scene of some practical monster effects stuff that still gets muddled in the shaky-cam darkness of how these guys choose to shoot this film. Again, another missed opportunity to really make the effects work shine, the only good thing this film has going for it, and it's done in such a way that makes it hard to ever make out what's happening because of A) Shaky-cam, B) darkly lit, and C) quick edits. It's just another example of how their specific way of making this film, in essence, only sabotages it.

A bunch of unlikable characters we care nothing about

When the big reveal comes into play, and you figure out who's responsible for what's happening, it's again treated with little sizzle, resulting in a reveal that leaves little impact. In fact, I had to ask several in the group who they were referring to because it just wasn't made very clear. It's just another example of how poorly things were handled in a film that's ultimately a muddled mess.

It's not a total loss though. I will say the marketing and poster art has been pretty great. It's the kind of talent and inspiration in this area that you wish would have been implored in all other area's of this film. The effects work is also commendable in a time when most films like this stick strictly to CGI because it's cheaper and easier. The final act, as bizarre as it is, is definitely the highlight of the film and reminded me more of a trippy version of Hellraiser more than anything.

Overall it could have been great. A number of creative decisions really hampers the experience, mainly in that the filmmakers chose to shoot it like any other new horror film, rather than going for the full-on throwback vibe, which it very easily could have done with some minor changes and would have been all the better for it. I think the marketing really went above and beyond to sell the shit out of The Void when the film is nowhere near as good as the posters and festival buzz leads you to believe. I liked the idea as a whole though, but it just wasn't executed well. Had it been, it could have been a totally different and better film.


Documentary Dynamite!: Final Cut - The Making of Heaven's Gate and the Unmaking of a Studio

Months ago, when I discovered Michael Cimino's gritty, bloody masterpiece Year of the Dragon, I became somewhat obsessed with knowing as much as I could about Cimino, not only the filmmaker but the man. I soon discovered that former United Artists head honcho Steven Bach wrote a book about his experience in dealing with Cimino when he and UA hired him to make his next feature, after just having won Oscars in directing and for Best Picture for The Deer Hunter. That next feature would be the notorious Heaven's Gate, an epic period western that was originally budgeted at 7 million to produce (that figure came from Cimino himself), and would ultimately skyrocket to close to 50 million, and bombing so hard at the box office that it would go down in history as one of, if not the biggest, box office disaster in history. Remember, this was 1979-1980 and that was a lot of money back then. The entire situation was so bad that it's often blamed for destroying United Artists, one of the biggest studio's at the time.

This book, Final Cut, written by Steven Bach himself chronicles the years long headache and disaster of trying to control a perfectionist who would do as many as 50-100 takes for a single shot, and who got so behind schedule right from it's very first week of production that the story of making the film became much more entertaining than the film itself. Since it's release, Final Cut has been re-released several times with expanded or updated versions and you can find it for cheap on any online marketplace like Amazon, eBay or Half.com.

But wait, there's good news. While reading this book and really enjoying it - though personally I felt Bach tends to get sidetracked, going into area's that really have nothing to do with working on Heaven's Gate as a studio head, like for example, he keeps bringing up Woody Allen. I'm assuming it's because he was a great example of a filmmaker who made films on time, on budget, and was easy to work with, the complete opposite of his experience working with Michael Cimino. Bach also goes into great detail about how UA began from it's early days, so he dedicates a lot of time and many chapters on things like this until you get to the good stuff, which I found tedious more often than not. In any case, I discovered that there's a documentary of the same name based on this very book. So if you're not in the mood to read the actual book, the doc will certainly fill the bill.
Cinematographer Vilmos Zsigmond and writer/director Michael Cimino 

I gave it a watch last week and found it to be every bit as entertaining and informative as I had hoped. Using vintage footage of everything from on-set photos and new and old interviews, of a lot of the key players in the film and production, including Steven Bach himself, the documentary wisely trims the fat of the book and keeps to the meat of the story. Plus, it's narrated by Willem Dafoe, who adds a touch of awesome to the whole thing. I had heard that this doc was prevented from making it into the Criterion Collection DVD and Blu Ray release by Cimino himself, so the only way currently to see it is on YouTube, and thankfully, it's in it's entirety. There are several uploads where you can view it in parts, but there's also the entire thing available without it being broken up. For your convenience, I'll include the complete version below. Enjoy!


80's Thriller Throwback: Runaway

As my slight obsession with collecting vintage RCA VHS tapes (I just love that classic red border cover and the side-loading action on some of them) continues, I realized that this Michael Crichton classic was originally released on this format for the very first time upon it's release. Once I realized I had to have it, it was easier said than done. Apparently, this specific VHS release is hard to come by, and if you do, it's not cheap. Sure you may find it in a thrift store for mere cents if you live in a big city, but sadly, I don't have that luxury. It took a while, but I finally came across one in excellent condition for under $10. 

This is a film that seems to get little attention all-around. If there's anything that anyone will take away from it, it will most likely be that it was Gene Simmons first gig as an actor, and the start of his triple threat as a villain in a few 80's cult classics. It's also one of the few films legendary author Michael Crichton directed himself. So let's dig in.

Runaway is an outstanding 80's thriller, and a severely underrated one at that. I just absolutely loved the world Crichton has created in this, a slightly futuristic world where robots and computers do almost everything. Now remember, this was 1984, so these things didn't exist, at least not for every day use. There are moments in the film that are eerily premonitory to where technology has come today. Though these things are but minor details in the overall story, it's these flourishes that really give this film a unique voice.

I think one of the best things this film has going for it is that it was made in the early to mid 80's. This very specific aesthetic really drives the film, giving it a tone that works really well. I seriously doubt that it would be nearly as fun or entertaining had they made this today, or in the last 15 years. Having been released in 1984 gives the film a time-stamp, even if they try to set it in a futuristic environment, it's still very much an early 80's looking film and it's really what makes it work as well as it does.

Gene Simmons being evil as Dr. Luther in Runaway (1984)
As much as I loved this film, I only have one single complaint. As a thriller, the film is superb. All the basic fundamental ingredients are here and as a film, it's structured incredibly well. The acting is top notch with everyone involved, and I think it's also the cast that really gives the film some of it's strongest assets. But if I were to complain about anything at all, it would be that Michael Crichton is not a visually arresting filmmaker. Much in the way John Badham shot Blue Thunder, Crichton chooses to shoot a good 90% of this film using handheld camera's. So there's no real style to be found anywhere. Sure there are momentary seconds of brilliance, but for the most part, it's essentially fast and loose freestyle filmmaking, which really kind of bummed me out because just with the whole set design and very specific 80's look, the film could seriously have used a more streamlined approach to the visuals. It's a great film, but it's not a visually impressive one.

All in all, it's pretty much a homerun in the 80's thriller department. It's also a solid entry in the tech-thriller genre. Everything comes together better than you expect for a highly entertaining film; killer tech, outstanding structure and solid performances, If only Crichton put as much emphasis on the visual eye candy as he did on everything else, it really could have elevated this several notches into "amazing". As it stands, it's still pretty "fantastic".


Bad Movie Night & 90's Action Attack! Presents Kill Crazy

Directed by: David Heavener
Category: Action

I should start by saying I'm not familiar with David Heavener films at all. I know of him, but this would be my very first introduction into the world of David Heavener cinema, and it seems that based on this particular films cult status, I chose one of the best, or in the very least, one of his most entertaining in his decades long career. 

A group of mental patients from a psychiatric hospital for veterans go away for the weekend on a camping trip, only to discover that the trip is actually a hunting game where they will be the ones being hunted for sport. 

So yea, Kill Crazy is pretty terrible. But you know what? That just so happens to be one of it's biggest advantages and in a weird way, one of it's most endearing qualities. It's an amateur production if I've ever seen one, and Heavener, who acts as writer/director/star and songwriter in this, has no discernible talents behind the camera. Every aspect of this production, from the script, to the really bad parts where it tries to be funny, and down to the bad directing and editing can all be attributed to the fact that Heavener should have had some help in any one of these area's. But you know what? It's these amateur touches that really gives the film it's edge. Had someone more competent come in and made it better, I doubt it would have the lasting cult status it currently has. After having finally seen it, I get it too.

I will say this, I've certainly seen worse. And while I knew it would be bad going in, obviously I was hoping for David A. Prior or Amir Shervan level/quality of entertainingly bad low-budget action. Sadly, it doesn't quite reach that level of awesome, but it gets pretty close. And that's really what makes this film one that you can endure, because while it is definitely a bad movie, it hangs on to the edge of So Bad, It's Good aka Bad Movie Night material, and that alone makes it worth the effort.

I think one of the biggest surprises for me in this film was it's cast. I'm still a bit surprised who was in this mainly because I've seen a few of them do some pretty big stuff. For starters, Burt Ward is one of the mental patients. That's right, the original Robin: The Boy Wonder from the 60's television show himself. And then there's a sort of "Welcome Back, Kotter" mini reunion with Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs (Washington) and Robert Hegyes (Epstein) both playing mental patients as well. I don't know, it was kind of surreal for me to see these 3 actors from television shows I watched as a kid playing mental patients in a low-budget action film from 1990. But that's also kinda cool. It made the experience of watching this all the more.....entertaining, if a bit surreal.

Then there's the one and only David Heavener. I can't help but wonder that this guy would be a much better actor given the right material, or under the direction of a professional. He's not bad, not in the least. But one can't help but notice that he's just not a good filmmaker, and how much better the whole thing would have turned out with someone else handling the directing duties. And is it just me, or is he a dead ringer for Michael Nouri? It's uncanny.

Oh, and lest we forget his uber catchy country songs littered throughout the film, starting with the opening credits. I tell you what, they're fantastically cheesy, catchy, and unintentionally hilarious. It's painfully apparent Heavener wanted to be a country singer. I discovered that an earlier film of his, Outlaw Force, simultaneously released a soundtrack of his country songs on vinyl along with the film. In fact, the VHS has an ad that runs before the film to order that soundtrack by telephone. I've been told that commercial/ad is actually the best part of watching Outlaw Force. I guess I'll have to get to it someday to see for myself.

In one sense I was kind of hoping for more unintentionally hilarious Bad Movie Night material. As it stands, it's a decent entry into that particular little sub-genre that I love so much. We had a good time with it and it's one of those that gets better and more entertaining as it moves along, culminating in a very satisfying third act. I wouldn't say it's one of the best, but it may be one of the best in David Heavener's career.

How to see it:
Officially it's never been released on any format other than VHS here in the U.S., however, you can find it uploaded in it's entirety on YouTube from several different users.


VHS Cover of the Day: Thrashin'

Here's a film that I've known about nearly my entire life, yet only saw it for the very first time this past year. Of course, I loved it to death. It's just the right amount of 80's cheesy goodness in all the right ways, never overstaying it's welcome in any department and hitting all the right notes. In short, it's a blast from start to finish, and pure 80's cheesy bliss.

But getting my hands on one of these original tapes was easier said than done. Unfortunately it's a highly sought after one and I could never come across one for under $20. I'm sure if I lived in a bigger city I'd eventually find one in a thrift store, but unfortunately, I live in a tiny town that is notorious for offering crap when it comes to VHS tapes. I always kept an eye out though online and in VHS groups, hoping that one day my patience would pay off. Well, that time has come. Finally, I stumbled upon an eBay listing where they were selling it for a relatively reasonable price, and so I snatched it up. Of course, one of the things I love about these old tapes are the stickers that are found all over the cover and tape itself. I love them. It's an image into that tapes history. So the one that really had to make me laugh was the one found on the back, with a "Goodwill" sticker on it that had a price of .71 cents. Needless to say, the person I got this from made a hefty profit.

Now, if I can just get my hands on an original VHS of Rad...


The Punisher (1989) Ghana Movie Posters

Today I wanted to take a moment to spotlight these amazing hand-painted posters from Ghana of one of my all-time favorite movies, The Punisher from 1989. I've been following this art gallery, Deadly Prey Gallery, out of Chicago, IL for some time, but it wasn't until my good friend Jeremie Damoiseau, author of the kickass book Punisher: The Secret History, which chronicles the behind the scenes making of this 80's Dolph Lundgren masterpiece, turned me onto these two incredible images, that I knew they even existed. And now that I see them, my only thought is "How do I get these for my home?".

If you know anything about these Ghanaian movie posters, then you know it's a true art form, and a dying one at that. So when artists from Ghana are still commissioned to turn some of our favorite cult films into hand-painted movie posters, often on two sewn-together rice or flour sacks, it's always a big deal. And as you may or may not know, sometimes they represent the particular film well, and other times it's as if the artist never actually saw the film and painted whatever came into their heads, which is also part of their appeal, am I right?

Deadly Prey Gallery sells every one of their hand-painted Ghanaian movie posters at their gallery and online. They're not cheap, but they're also one-of-a-kind pieces of art that can never be duplicated. When you purchase one, you purchase it knowing you own the one and only one in existence, and that right there is worth every penny.

You can visit their official website HERE.
You can visit their Instagram page HERE.
You can visit their Facebook page HERE.
You can purchase Jeremie Damoiseau's book, Punisher: The Secret History HERE.

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80's Attack!: Traxx Film Review

Directed by: Jerome Gary
Category: Action/Comedy

I remember coming across this tape many, many times as I regularly frequented the video stores back in the day. To be honest, I always thought the guy on the cover was David Rasche. And I continued to think that until recently, decades later. It wasn't until a fellow VHS Instagramer posted this tape and said something along the lines of "Holy shit, this is my new favorite movie". That kind of surprised me, so I did some digging and found that there are a whole lot of people who love this movie too. In fact, I didn't find a negative thing said about it. I also learned that it's not a cheap film to come by on tape, and since it's never gotten an official DVD or Blu Ray release here in the states as of yet, it would seem that the prices for this tape would be justified, according to the sellers. I secured a copy for about what they go for these days, so let's dig in.

One of the most important things I discovered about this film is that it doesn't star David Rasche after all, rather a radio disc jockey, and a highly famous one at that, by the name of Shadoe Stevens, making his film debut. It also stars Robert Davi as the bad guy, so I was pretty much sold with that alone. I have to admit though that the idea of it being an action/comedy, rather than an action film that's also funny, or a comedy that has some great action, had me a bit nervous. I hoped for the best, because with these low-budget action films, you never know. There are lots of hidden gems found in this genre, some of which have become all-time personal favorites, so I'm not ready to rule anything out just yet.

I wish I could say I loved this as much as most others do, but I just found it to be okay. It's good, and certainly entertaining for sure. Shadoe Stevens is a natural in front of the camera, and an even bigger badass as an ex-mercenary who wants to break into the cookie business, who decides to clean up a crime-ridden town for a big payday so he can fund this new venture. It's a silly premise, and an even sillier movie, which works in most area's, and doesn't quite hit the mark in others. And that's really my biggest complaint about this one. It never really hits the mark 100%, often narrowly missing it by a single beat. It's these moments that leave you a bit frustrated, because in all honesty, this very well could have easily been a home run. All the right ingredients are here, they're just not put together well.

I think the problem comes from the fact that it wants to be a comedy more than an action film, so the action is treated secondary, and it looks like it too. Only, there is a ton of action in here, right from the opening frames, yet it's just not handled very well, so it never comes off as good looking action, and it really puts a big damper on these sequences, of which there are a plethora of. I feel that had the film been treated more like an action film that was also funny, rather than a comedy that just happened to have some acion, and hired someone experienced in shooting action sequences, it could have really been great. It's painfully obvious this director has never handled action before, and I wouldn't be a bit surprised if he never did again after this. He's terrible at it. There's just too much action in this film for it to have been handled by an amateur, but that's exactly what we have here. About halfway through, the concept starts to wear itself thin, and you keep hoping that either the comedy will start to hit the right notes, or the action will step up, but sadly, neither happens, resulting in a film that always feels like it's one step off.

It's a pity really, because Shadoe Stevens is great, a natural, as is Robert Davi, and I have to admit, Priscilla Barnes is sexy as hell. If only it wasn't severely lacking in the action department, the forced comedy and absurd silliness of it could easily have been overlooked. As it stands, it's always just a single step away from being awesome. It's always missing that one beat or one ingredient that really could have made this shine. For my money, if they had had an actual action director, better editor or better second unit director, it would have fixed any number of it's pacing issues. But you know, I have to give them credit for doing something unique. It does work part of the time, and you can see what they were trying to do. I guess it goes without saying that I respect the effort if anything else.

How to see it:
You can watch it in it's entirety on YouTube. It's never been released on DVD here in the U.S. and it's currently not available to stream anywhere, not even to rent on Amazon. The VHS tape will run you anywhere from $10-$20, and frankly, that's a little too high for a film that's just alright.


The Secret History of Spider-Man Movies

Boy, it seems I keep coming across more and more information and fantastic articles regarding early Spider-Man movie efforts that never got off the ground. Here's a fantastic article by Charlie Jane Anders I recently came across detailing all of these failed attempts, with a lot of in-depth information and research, most of which I was completely unaware of. As originally published on the website io9.com back in 2011, Anders does an excellent job at sticking to the important information and the facts, while not veering off into personal opinions on the matter, something I know I would have been guilty of had I done it. Anyway, follow the link below for an excellent read on all things related to the decades long battle to try to get this Marvel character to the big screen. You'll also find links to the finished scripts to these abandoned films. Enjoy!


Nothing But Trouble Film Review: Nothing But Confusion

Directed by: Dan Aykroyd
Category: ???

The one thing I’ll always remember about this film is that one of my best friends back when this first came out loved it so much, and I hated it. He loved it because it was so weird, and I hated it for that very same reason. He had/has a tendency to lean more towards the weird and bizarre, while I usually stuck to mainstream. So it’s no surprise his favorite filmmaker is David Lynch, and mine would be someone more along the lines of Peter Hyams, Paul Verhoeven or Craig R. Baxley. I haven’t seen this since it first hit home video, and at the time, I just couldn’t understand how or why anyone could love or enjoy this film. But if there’s one thing I’ve learned these past few years, it’s that my tastes have changed vicariously, so maybe I’d actually enjoy it this time around. When I scored this on DVD for a mere 25 cents at a pawn shop, I figured it was a sign. So let’s dig in.

I can tell you that 25 years haven’t made it any less bizarre, but I didn’t hate it as much as I did back then. I enjoyed it to a very slight degree, because it was fairly insane from start to finish, but I can’t say it’s something I enjoyed for the right reasons or that I’ll ever feel the need to revisit this.

Written/Directed/Starring Dan Aykroyd, with a story by his brother Peter, Nothing But Trouble is kind of a surreal decent into backwoods hell in some alternate universe rather than a comedy, which is how it’s been marketed. It’s not funny, not in the slightest, and any attempt at even a dry humor falls flat, but what it lacks in humor it more than makes up for in being darkly imaginative and slightly teetering on absurd dark humor. It’s an uncomfortable surreal nightmare that doesn’t quite know what kind of film it’s trying to be, so I can only imagine the surprise, and maybe even disgust, of the casual moviegoer who actually paid good money to see this in a theater because it starred Chevy Chase, Dan Aykroyd, John Candy Demi Moore.

I actually don’t know the real reason, but I can only guess the reason these high profile actors agreed to participate in this was as a favor to Aykroyd. I can’t imagine these actors actually reading the script and thinking it was something they’d voluntarily want to be a part of. Even my movie companion, who loves weird movies (the weirder the better) found this to be too weird in a conventional way. She couldn’t understand so many of the creative decisions made in front of and behind the camera/scenes and struggled with finding any kind of enjoyment in it since she couldn’t even tell what type of film it was supposed to be. In fact, just based on the cover art alone, she thought it was a western, and she didn’t believe me when I told her it was set in the present tense via the early 90’s.

I have to give credit to Dan Aykroyd though. The guy, somehow, managed to make one of the weirdest films I’ve ever seen inside the Hollywood system, complete with all the bells and whistles. As far as production goes, it’s a bit impressive. At least in that department (sets and set design), it doesn’t disappoint. You’re eyes are constantly trying to take in and make sense of the Mad Max/Post Apocalyptic-style surroundings located within an old courthouse and it’s backyard. It's highly surreal in a very unconventional way.You don't know whether to be impressed, or wonder just what the hell it is you're watching.

I guess I can understand it's appeal to some people. It's weird as shit and never tries to be anything but. I'm sure the studio was worried and not sure how to exactly market it, so I suppose comedy was the safer bet, especially with this particular cast. But it's not a comedy. nor is it a horror film. It has particular elements that relate to both of those genre's, but never enough or done correctly to fall into either of those categories. Dark comedy or black comedy might be the way to go. In any case, it's not a highlight of Aykroyd's career either as a writer or director, and I'm not surprised that he never directed anything again after this.

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80's Action Attack!: Wanted: Dead or Alive

From what I remember, this film kind of came and went with little attention. It rarely stands out as one of Rutger Hauer’s more iconic film roles, and that’s a shame really because having revisited this some 3 decades later, it’s really a pretty great little film. I don’t know why it took me so long to come back to it, or why it never stuck with me the way other action films from the same era did. But alas, I’m here now with some great news. Wanted: Dead or Alive rules.

If there’s anything it’s known for, it will more than likely be the fact that Gene Simmons plays the villain, here as a Middle Eastern terrorist who has a vendetta against Nick Randall (Rutger Hauer)., a bounty hunter. But really, Simmons barely appears on screen, resulting in more of a glorified cameo until the very end. It’s really Hauer’s show and man does he deliver the goods.

W:DoA surprised me for a number of reasons. First, it’s more of a thriller rather than an action film. There is action, and it actually starts off like a great one, but there really isn’t a lot in here, or at least not as much as you’d expect. But that doesn’t take away from the enjoyment factor because regardless, it’s a great piece of Badass Cinema anyway. One of it’s other surprising aspects was just how well it was made. Writer/Director Gary Sherman (Vice Squad, Poltergeist III) displays a fine hand and a sharp eye for directing action. Well, not just the action, but the entire film. The film just looks fantastic, and clearly delivers the goods on a visual level. It’s yet another reminder of how these little films were made at one point, 30 years ago, where directors actually put effort into setting camera’s shots up, in giving the film an overall aesthetic. They don’t do that anymore, and if they do, it’s becoming exceedingly rare. Lastly, the whole Middle Eastern ( Delta Force) terrorist angle obviously wouldn’t play today, but it’s interesting to see how often this idea was used ( in films back in the 80’s, and how easy they made it look.

Going back to Gary Sherman, I feel I should discuss him a bit further because he’s an integral part of the enjoyment experience with this film. I’ve only ever seen 3 films of his, Dead & Buried, parts of Vice Squad, and Poltergeist III, and I didn’t enjoy any of them. So I went in a bit wary of how he could deliver a solid 80’s action film, only to be mightily impressed with his ability to do so in an exceptionally stylistic manner. W:DoA looks fantastic and Sherman outdoes himself with this film, easily making it his most impressive that I’ve seen.

Gene Simmons never really broke out into acting the way he really could have, more often than not playing himself in television show guest stints, but he did score a few memorable roles as a villain (all in the 80’s) in cult classics like Runaway, Never Too Young To Die and this one. He does so well in fact that it’s a shame he never stretched his acting chops further into other areas or projects. Or hell, it would have been just as cool if he just kept playing villains for the rest of his acting career because he’s so good at it, even when he doesn’t utter a single line. His menacing gaze alone says enough, and comes off as way too easy and natural for him.

Rutger Hauer is a revelation in this. Much in the same way he made Split Second as enjoyable as it was, he’s the main reason why this film is as great as it is, the glue that keeps it all together. It’s his show, and he steals and chews every scene and every second he appears on screen. The film looks fantastic, and Simmons is a great villain, but it’s Hauer who elevates this film to far beyond your average 80’s action/thriller. He makes it fun, whether he’s playing it as a straight up badass, or in the moments when he’s vulnerable, weak and tired – Hauer gives the role a healthy dose of bravado, even when he’s being a jerk.

If there was one thing I would have changed, it’s that I probably would have liked just a bit more action, but that’s not in any way a complaint, because as it stands, W:DoA is a fantastic film, with enough thriller and action elements to keep you entertained, on top of everything else you get such as a sharp script and memorable performances. If it’s been a while, it’s definitely time to revisit this little gem. You won’t regret it.

How to see it:
I tracked down a VHS, and was surprised to come across one in widescreen, which was a nice added bonus. But if DVD is your thing, it’s been released multiple times as a standalone DVD or as part of a 2 pk. with another film called Death Before Dishonor. You can get the 2-pk relatively cheap, but the standalone DVD will run you anywhere from $10-$30 surprisingly. It’s also been released on VHS several different times and on Laserdisc. You can also stream it from Amazon for a few bucks as well. Sadly, I haven’t heard of any Blu Ray release. 

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Phantasm: Ravager Film Review

Just this past year, I finally decided to dig into the Phantasm franchise for the very first time after getting my hands on the first film on DVD from a "going out of business" sale Blockbuster was having as they closed their very last store down here in South Texas. I quickly learned that this horror franchise was easily the most bizarre horror franchise I'd ever come across. Quite frankly, the films don't make a whole lot of sense, yet they're also highly entertaining in a very WTF? and absurd way. So I became a big fan instantly, with Part 3: Lord of the Dead (1993) being my personal favorite. Sadly, with Part IV: Oblivion, it was painfully apparent the series had run it's course, resulting in a muddled mess that made absolutely zero sense and offered nothing to the franchise whatsoever. Of all the Phantasm films, Oblivion was the most ambiguous. Die-hard fans waited nearly 20 years for a follow up, being teased years earlier with news of a completed film that never got released until just last year. The unfortunate passing of series star Angus Scrimm was the ultimate nail in the coffin, ending a franchise that began nearly 40 years ago. Because of his recent passing, I didn't want to jump into this one right away; I needed time to process the fact that he was gone forever, and not have that thought weighing heavily on me while I watched it. This past weekend, I felt it was time to finally dig in, so here we go.

What can I say, other than that this was hands-down the worst film in the franchise, and a sad and terrible way to end one of the most unique horror franchise's in film history. Cobbled together with footage that was shot for an un-aired web series years ago, and incorporating new footage of some of the original cast members, much like Oblivion, Ravager makes zero sense. Worse of all, it looks and feels like a fan film, or something that someone shot on their iPhone. Yes, it's that bad. I half expected it to be shot digitally (which it was) since that's the way most films are made these days because it's much cheaper and easier, but co-writer/director David Hartman clearly has no sense of style when it comes to directing. Not that Coscarelli did either, but at least he had more of a professionals touch when it came to compositing and framing a scene. He knew how to keep the camera still, and more often than not, where to put it. This film looks like someone picked up their phone, opened up their camera app and just started filming as fast as they could. And when Hartman did take the time to put the camera on a stand to keep it still, they still come off as dull, sloppy and uninspired. I think David Hartman needs to stick to his forte, and that's directing animation for kids television shows. 

The clear lack of any kind of linear storyline or conventional plot (not that any film in the series had one) is made all the more frustrating by the fact that the film, one that took nearly 20 years to produce and made in an era where effects work has become cheaper to produce, with varying degrees of quality, looks so incredibly cheap. If they didn't have the budget to match the vision, why try and make it so big in the first place? They take this film in so many different directions, through alternate realities (seemingly) and post apocalyptic scenarios, but apparently didn't have the money to pull it off. And that's all you see when you watch this film, the many, many, many unforgivable shortcomings that fly at you at lightning speed. What's worse, or insulting, depending on how you look at it, Ravager plays out like a drama rather than a horror film. Why?

I only had 2 thoughts when this travesty of a film was over. 1), Why did they even bother making this? They should have just left it alone. Oblivion was a bad way to end the series, but Ravager was worse - just flat out terrible and an insult to not only the franchise, but to the fans who have kept the series alive and who waited nearly 2 decades for a proper sendoff. And 2), what a sad way for cult icon and legend Angus Scrimm to go out. Rather than on a high note, he sadly ends his career with the worst film in the entire 4 decades-long franchise. 

I wouldn't consider myself a die-hard Phantasm fan. I'm a fan, and enjoy the films, each to varying degrees, but it's really the character of The Tall Man that I love. He was able to create a character through sheer presence, using limited dialogue to deliver quotable and memorable lines that will forever brand him a horror legend. It's just too bad this was the film he went out with. 

There was only 1 single thing I did like out of this experience. The film begins with Reggie giving a 1 minute monologue, essentially telling you what has happened in the first 4 films up until now. Oddly, this was the one thing that actually made sense and what's more, he was able to give the first 4 films some clarity. It finally made sense! 

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90's Attack!: Doctor Mordrid: Master of the Unknown

Directed by: Charles & Albert Band
Category: Fantasy

Growing up on a healthy dose of horror as a teenager in the 80's and 90's, I never really got into Full Moon the way others did. I would dip into Troma from time to time, but mainly stuck to the mainstream stuff, so I wasn't even aware that this film existed until just this past year. I soon discovered that this was intended to be a legitimate Dr. Strange adaptation until Full Moon lost the rights (back when Marvel was allowing cheap low-budget adaptations of their popular titles), proceeding anyway and creating their own ripoff version. Whether that's actually true or not, it gave me a little insight into the film going in. 

What a completely pleasant surprise this was. For me, this tiny little film was able to do what Marvel's bombastic budgeted film was unable to, and that's entertain me. One of the most endearing things you'll notice immediately is that this is indeed a rather small production. So small in fact that it reminded me of an episode of a television show. But that's also one of it's greatest qualities. Because the film is so small and so intimate, not relying on a abundance of special effects or bad CGI to tell the story, rather the actors themselves and it's because of this that Doctor Mordrid is as great as it its.

Brian Thompson as Kabal
Let's begin with Jeffrey Combs, who soars and excels as the Doctor. His performance as the titular Mordrid is really the biggest plus that makes this film as entertaining as it is. His intensity, even in the most mundane scenes, is oftentimes hilarious and mesmerizing at the same time. Combs sells the shit out of it, and it makes me wonder how great he would have done in the role of Dr. Strange. One of the other highlights of this film is none other than cult cinema icon Brian Thompson as the villain Kabal, another mystical sorcerer who chooses to use his powers for evil. Aside from Combs, Thompson is another reason that this film works as well as it does. His peculiar accent and mannerisms help give the character of Kabal a much more memorable presence, and it's hilariously cheesy awesome.

Like I mentioned before, the scale of this film and it's story is so small that it looks and feels like an episode of a tv show, but that doesn't make it any less entertaining. Quite the contrary. It was a highly enjoyable experience and exactly what we were needing after spending the day watching a few duds. Could it have been better? Sure. Was it bad? Hell no! But what blows my mind is that I found it far more entertaining than the film I just saw in theaters last month. Even with all those insane special effects, they couldn't fix the fact that the film was really dull. At least in this one, you're invested, entertained, and you genuinely care about what's going to happen next, whether it's silly or not.

The good doctor being intense
While this film isn't filled with the amount of effects and magic play you hoped, I will say that what is in here is done rather well. Yea it's early 90's grade effects, but within the confines of the film and it's universe, they work well. I think the thing that was a constant surprise for me was how competent the entire thing was, from the direction, the pace, and the action. It looks better than you expect, and throw in the unintentional cheesiness, and well you've got yourself one helluva good time. Most of all though, it's Jeffrey Combs and Brian Thompson that make this great and worth the watch and investment. At a surprisingly short runtime of under an hour and a half, you've got nothing to lose.

I watched it on VHS, but it's also gotten a decent release courtesy of Full Moon on DVD and Blu Ray, which you can get for under $10. However, neither of these releases will be in widescreen; it's only available on full frame unfortunately. Honestly, it doesn't take away from the film in any way. It's not a visually impressive film to begin with, It wasn't made to be that way, so full frame works just fine, and this is coming from someone who prefers widescreen. So if you're getting tired of the stale big budget stuff Marvel throws at you, give this one a try. You might be surprised.

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Movie News & Views: IT Trailer Premieres

I'll admit I wasn't all that excited when they announced a remake of the classic 90's horror film IT. While I do like and enjoy the original classic, I don't love it. I love parts of it, but mainly for me it's the excellent cast and well, of course Tim Curry as Pennywise The Clown. I think it's a solid film overall, but not one I would revisit often. But even still, news of a remake didn't excite me in any way. These days remakes, and the idea of them, seem to be better left unsaid. 90% of the time they're a waste of time and only leave you appreciating the original more and more.

This morning the new teaser trailer for the Andres Muschietti (Mama) directed remake premiered and I have to say, I'm mighty impressed. I'm really loving everything I see. I'm liking the classic Spielberg moments with the kids, and when it comes to a very unnerving and creepy vibe, Muschietti seems to have been able to capture that really well, at least in the trailer. So I'm pretty excited about this one, and count me on board. Check out the trailer below:


The House of the Devil and Death Spa VHS On Sale Now!

Heads up tapeheads! Gorgon Video has done another run on 2 of their highly sought after releases on VHS; Ti West's The House of the Devil and the 80's cult horror classic Death Spa. And the best part?? They're only $15 (as of this post) with $5.95 shipping. Hell yes!

As with any kickass release, flippers will ultimately come in and ruin it for everyone, so I suggest you grab yours while you can because these will surely sell out the way the first runs did. And really, you just cannot beat this price for such a quality release. 

Purchase the House of the Devil tape HERE.

Purchase the Death Spa tape HERE.

Or, just go directly to the Gorgon Video website HERE.

These will surely sell out fast!

As of 8 PM on 3/28/17, Death Spa has SOLD OUT, but House of the Devil is still available. And the price has gone up from $15 to $17. 

Movie News and Views: Rodriguez To Direct Escape From New York Remake

When writer/director/editor/musician Robert Rodriguez burst onto the scene out of nowhere back in 1992 with his cult classic El Mariachi, it was the beginning of a new trend in DIY filmmaking. The guy seemed like just what the industry was needing at the time, and he would follow up that landmark film with a few others that took the action and horror genre by storm, only to take a complete 180 turn and go in a completely different direction both in genre and in technique by 2001, nearly a full 10 years later with the release of the first Spy Kids. That film was the beginning of his transition into digital camera's and filmmaking, which would, again, start a whole new way of making films for other filmmakers. On the plus, it gave people a cheaper way to make films, on the negative, it gave people a cheaper way to make cheap looking films.

Rodriguez was one of my favorite filmmakers. His work on El Mariachi, Desperado and From Dusk Till Dawn, all films he shot on actual film, are considered classics to this day, and for good reason. They're badass. But not only that, Rodriguez had a very distinct style in how he shot films, even using trademark transitions that quickly identified them as a Robert Rodriguez film. That all changed with Spy Kids, and since then, he's become a director that doesn't resemble anything like the filmmaker I was obsessed with. Each new film since 1998's The Faculty is only another reminder of the CGI obsessed filmmaker he's become. Sure Sin City was fresh and exciting initially, but upon revisits comes off as choppy and less and less impressive. It just doesn't seem to flow naturally.

I for one am not at all on board for him to direct a remake of a beloved Carpenter classic. I don't know who initially came up with the idea, but personally speaking, I feel it's a bad one. And it seems I'm not the only one voicing my concern, as the film community, for the most part, feels the same. There are his defenders though who do feel he would be a welcome choice for the project. I'm just not one of them. If any film he's directed in the last 20 years is any indication, it's more than likely going to be a poorly rendered CGI mess, plain and simple. Hell, he couldn't even do Machete or Machete Kills justice, 2 films that should have been a home-run for him. Those are other perfect examples of his overuse of CGI for even the most minute little details, and it's maddening. Not only that, he doesn't seem to grasp the concept of having a CGI background look halfway normal or real in any regard, and it's details like that that seem to drive people like me mad. It's too much. What happened to the days of real gunshots and squib-work? The constant CGI blood, gunsmoke, and gun play puts a huge damper on every scene and I just can't help but feel it's totally unnecessary. I do have hope for Rodriguez though. There was a time when he was known as an important, gifted and progressive filmmaker. I doubt he'll ever go back to shooting on film, but if he can just lay off the excessive use of CGI for even the most mundane little things, I think he can become a top genre director once again. But where he stands now, I do not feel he's an adequate contender to helm a remake of a film I hold dear to my heart. But again, those are just my feelings. In any case, I'm sure he can't do any worse than what John Carpenter himself did with the awful sequel, Escape From L.A. Thoughts?

Psycho III Review: Perkins Steals The Show

Directed by: Anthony Perkins
Category: Horror/Thriller

When I randomly saw Psycho II for the very first time last year, I was blown away by how great it was. In fact, I loved it more than the original, and still do. Surprisingly though, it didn't push me to go out and get the remaining sequels any faster. Here we are a full year later and I finally got my hands on a DVD set that includes Parts II, III, and IV: The Beginning.

Before digging in I did a bit of reading online and discovered that a lot of people generally really like this one because it resembles more of a slasher, and as such, ends up being more gory than you'd expect. It's also the only time Anthony Perkins actually directed a Psycho film, and better yet, it's his directorial debut, which would ultimately be short lived. 

There are a lot of surprising aspects to Psycho III. Ultimately I liked it, but not nearly as much as I was hoping to. I think the one and only thing that really sells the film is Anthony Perkins performance. He's the anchor to the entire thing, and if we didn't have that, then the film would be pretty forgettable, which is a bit of a letdown since the previous entry, even if you had taken Perkins out of the equation, was a smartly written and expertly crafted thriller in it's own right. But this time out, Perkins stars and directed this entry himself, making it a unique film altogether.

As it stands, he does a better than average job. He gives the film a bit of style, but it doesn't always flow naturally. There are a few moments where I'll admit I was impressed with his sense of style, but it ultimately get's marred by the following scene that doesn't deliver in the same way. It could be the editing, or it could be that Perkins was just trying to find his groove, in any case, it's never consistent, often jumping from inspired to uneven. Most people, when describing this one, refer to it as the full-on slasher entry, and they would be correct. It's definitely gorier than the rest, but not gory enough to actually call it gory, just when compared to the previous 2 films. And I think that's what really keeps this from being great. Had it gone further into that area it could have been a great 80's horror slasher, but it teeters on thriller and slasher, often going back and forth unnecessarily and unsuccessfully. I think if they had just bypassed the thriller angle and just gone nuts with hit with more gore, more blood, more kills and more insanity, it would easily have set itself apart from the rest, making it a wholly unique film in the Psycho franchise. But alas, as it stands, it's a marginally entertaining horror/thriller that never realizes it's full potential in any area, made passable by Anthony Perkins scene chewing role as Norman Bates, who ultimately saves the film. I'm glad I finally saw it, but it didn't floor me the way it could have, and I'll more than likely never need to revisit this one.

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