9.19.2017

Tales From The Crypt Revisited: Demon Knight & Bordello of Blood

As I continue to dig into The Complete Box Set of the Tales From The Crypt episodes from HBO, and having a complete blast doing so, it suddenly hit me that I hadn't seen either of the 2 feature films since their original theatrical releases. I figured now would be the best opportunity to do so since we're smack in the middle of a TftC kick. And as luck would have it, a good friend of mine just so happened to have them on Blu Ray. So let's dig in.

Demon Knight
1995
Directed by: Ernest Dickerson

The one and only thing I remembered about this was that it was directed by Spike Lee prodigy Ernest Dickerson. And I always thought how odd it was for him to dive into genre films like this when he worked for Lee on a few of his classic dramatic films, and even beginning his directorial career with the hard-hitting urban drama Juice before diving into horror and action for a few years. 2001's Snoop Dogg horror film Bones would be his last feature film and he has stuck to television work ever since then. But hey, we're here for Demon Knight, his 3rd feature film. So let's dig in.

Between the two TftC films, this seems to be most people's favorite, and I can understand why. Dickerson's direction is very much in tune with the HBO series, and Billy Zane delivers one helluva performance as The Collector. And if truth be told, I doubt this would have been as good had someone else taken the role. Zane really gives 110% here and makes every single moment he's in a total blast. I wish I could say the rest of the film delivered the goods as much as Zane did, but it doesn't. It's not bad, and for the most part feels like an extended episode of the series, which speaks volumes of it's uneven and hit or miss structure. 

Going into this, I was pretty open to whatever. As the show has proven that you never know what to expect, I really didn't know what to expect. And since this was their first full-on feature film and quite a big deal, I was also hopeful that it would deliver the goods as much as most of the show's episodes had. And while it was entertaining, I can't say it was really all that great or fun. All of the actors, including Crypt regular and star of Demon Knight William Sadler, do well, even a very young and somewhat out of place Jada Pinkett, before she gained the Smith moniker. The gore is surely present, if at times ineffective. But I have to say that my biggest beef would have to be with Dickerson's totally uneven direction. There are moments of great visual kickassery, but then surrounded by lazy camerawork and uneven structure, you're kind of blindsided. Or at least it did me. And it's a bit frustrating too, because the scenes that standout are incredible. Dickerson obviously knows how to create some truly stunning images having worked with Spike Lee on several of his films, but it's never consistent in here and for the most part, this film looks like any of the "so-so" episodes of the show. But hey, that's just my opinion. 

If you're a fan of the show, you'll enjoy this film. Whether you love it is a matter of preference. I did not. But I did love Billy Zane's performance. I've never seen him so lively and having such a good time and really makes the film as good as it is. And while I feel it definitely could have been better overall, there's no denying Zane's magnetism. The confident cast does their best, with Sadler in the lead, and the effects work is commendable. And really, that might be enough for some people.

Bordello of Blood
1996
Directed by: Gilbert Adler

Having not been all that impressed with Demon Knight, I still went into this one with some excitment and enthusiasm. Just like that film, I remember virtually nothing about this, even though I'd seen it in the theater. You could argue that's a bad sign, but in my case, sometimes I just have a really bad memory. When the credits began to roll and I see names like Corey Feldman, Chris Sarandon and Erika Elaniak, well that just sounded like a recipe for a really good time. Did it deliver?? Let's dig in.

Hell yes it did. In fact, I ended up loving this one so much more than Demon Knight, even though DK seems to be the one that gets more love. For all intents and purposes, Bordello of Blood was just a really silly, cheesy, bloody fun time. Whether that was their intention or not is up to debate, but the end result spoke volumes for me, and I loved every second of it. It's the good time I was hoping for with the first film, but this one offers it in spades and there are a lot of reasons and people to thank. For starters, let's give a big thanks to the films writer/director Gilber Adler, who was one of the series regular producers and has gone on to be a high profile producer in the industry with a lot of large projects under his belt, here making his feature film directorial debut, and he does a killer job. Though I wasn't familiar with Gilbert Adler, other than being a significant member of the team behind the series, I have to admit I was pleasantly surprised with his direction in here. In fact, much more so than Ernest Dickerson's work on the first film. He uses a very restrained and simple approach, but it works really, really well. He doesn't over stylize anything, yet it's a slick looking film at the same time. I can't explain it. Where Dickerson would offer an insane number of dutch angle's and sweeping camera movements, Adler keeps the camera still, rarely ever venturing into handheld territory, and does a fantastic job framing his scenes. It reminded me of all the best episodes of the show. Though nearly everyone involved has gone on record saying this was a disaster from the start behind the scenes and during production, I would never have guessed that by the final product. And what blows my mind even more was that this was ultimately a box office bomb, destroying any plans for the third film in the trilogy.

I have to admit, I loved seeing Corey Feldman in a big budget feature. I remember he was going through drug rehab and trying to get his life back on track during this period, and if this film is any indication, the guy still has the goods and really gave it his all. In fact, he seemed like the only one really having a good time and enjoying himself. Erika Elaniak was a surprising choice for her character, as she's usually playing the blonde bombshell, but she was actually a good fit for the role. If you hear her talk about the part of her characters background in the "making of", you get a better sense of why she was such a good choice for the part. Though her background story for the character was never included, there are bits and pieces of it in the film if you pay attention. But really, it's Chris Sarandon who stole the show for me. His televangelist character was hands-down the best part of this film and they just couldn't have picked a better person. He was hilariously cheesy and over the top and I wish there was an entire film based just on his guitar-rockin' satan-bashing televangelist character alone. This film just made me love him more. And then there's the lead vampire, Angie Everhart. You know, she wasn't bad. Clearly a newcomer to film, I have to admit that I've seen worse, and though most of her dialogue was hilariously cheesy, she handled it like a pro and also seemed to be one of the few having a good time.

The same cannot be said for star Dennis Miller. I admit, I enjoyed him in the part. His very particular snarky sense of humor is on full display here, and I clearly felt that he ad-libbed nearly all of his dialogue. And it's that sense of humor that really worked well, and actually made it much more funny......for the most part. Of course, there still always seemed something off about him in here and even though he hammed it up and was just a condescending ass in the entire thing, even in the few moments where he really put in some solid acting, he just didn't look like he wanted to be there. And that couldn't be more true as I watched the "Making Of" documentary located on the Scream Factory Blu Ray release, which was fascinating to say the least. The entire doc pretty much consisted of the films actors and production trashing Miller and talking about how he was essentially a shithead to every single person on set and that it was an easy million dollar paycheck and he did not want to be there, so he made life hell for everyone involved. He even helped in the film's box office failure by appearing on Leno and begging people not to go see the film. But really, get the Blu Ray and watch the doc for yourself. It's fascinating. They talk to nearly everyone involved and we get some deep insight into all of the turmoil on set from the people who lived it. Its still funny though. I never would have guessed any of that from watching the film. It was a blast from start to finish and I'm shocked it bombed as big as it did. I still find it far better than Demon Knight in every single aspect. I guess you just never can tell.

Bordello of Blood really offers everything you'd want in a cheesy vampire film. Tons of blood, nudity, cheesy one-liners, great effects work, a stellar cast, and most importantly, it's fun. Fun, fun, fun. 

9.18.2017

Thriller Throwback: F/X & F/X 2

Can you believe I've never actually seen either of these before? I'd always been aware of them, but like so many 80's thrillers, I never took the time to actually watch them. I was more of an action and horror fan back then. Who am I kidding? I still am! But I have grown to really love the thriller genre as well lately, especially those from the 80's and early 90's, which is exactly where these two fall into. When I found VHS copies of these at my local thrift shop, it was just the sign I needed to finally do what has taken me 31 years to get around to. Let's dig in.

F/X: The Art of Illusion
1986
Directed by: Robert Mandel

This film is such an excellent example of a smart, classy and competeint thriller. I really didn't know what to expect going in, but do love Brian Dennehy, whom I've seen in a lot of stuff lately, and just the fact that it's made in and set in the 80's was a big selling point. But then once the film started the full impact of how great this was hit me when I discovered that the premise centered around the fact that the main character of Rollie (Bryan Brown) is a master special effects technician in Hollywood. Boom! This just became 10 times more awesome. And better yet, they utilize that angle to it's fullest extent and I loved every second of it.

Rollie is a world famous special effects master. When a government agency hires him to create an effect/illusion for a mob witness in a scheme to put him in a witness protection program, he's double-crossed by the very agency that hired him and he sets out to clear his name.

Bryan Brown does a fantastic job in the lead. I don't think many people had heard of him outside of Australia at this point, and you have to assume that any big name actor could have played this part because it's not specific to an Australian by any means, but by casting Brown, who was big in Australia, F/X really elevates itself to a higher caliber. Brown adds his own spice to the mix, and sells it well. He plays Rollie like an arrogant, yet likable guy and really, that can be a hard thing to do to try and find the right balance. And he does it effortlessly.

I think that the main thing that makes this so great is the movie f/x angle. Here you get to see him work his magic and it's a blast to see. It's even more fun and amusing when he uses his talents to trick the bad guys and clear his name. It's almost like he's a vigilante, using his movie effects mastery to always one-up the bad guys. I'm telling you, it's a lot of fun and such a creative way to progress the story along.

If you're looking for a great 80's thriller full of thrills and ingenuity in a tired genre, this is the one for you. Solid craftmanship, great performances, and the special effects angle will surely win you over. Plus, you get to see a very young Tom Noonan as a henchman. It's ace.

F/X2
1991
Directed by: Richard Franklin

This one came 5 years after the original, and the story also utilizes that 5 year gap. One of the things that really got me excited about this one was that it was directed by Richard Franklin, who I've loved for his work as director on Psycho II, Cloak & Dagger, Road Games and the original Patrick. So unlike the first one, I really went into this one with some rather high expectations. Did it live up to them? Let's dig in.

Rollie (Bryan Brown) and Leo (Brian Dennehy) have gone their separate ways since the events of the first film. Rollie has found a new love and stepson and has retired from the world of special effects. When his girlfriends ex-husband and father to his stepson, a cop, asks Rollie to help them catch a killer by using his effects skills, he reluctantly agrees, only to have the situation blow up in his face and he's once again running for his life and trying to protect the ones he loves. With the help of his old friend Leo, they set out to exact revenge.

Yes. I mean, hell yes! I've been discussing these two films on both my Instagram and Facebook pages and this sequel really seems to split everyone down the middle. Some love it, or even like it more than the first, and others just feel it's unnecessary. I happen to agree with both, but at the same time, I absolutely loved it. Yes, there's nothing really in here that justifies a return after 5 years, but holy hell was it a blast from start to finish. There's just such a much more fun vibe this time around. We're already familiar with the characters by this point, and the ridiculous situations they find themselves, no matter how preposterous, always put a smile on my face. This guy is like McGuyver!

This is the kind of film that I always look forward to, the sequel that ends up being better than the original. But you know, that's all a matter of taste. I just so happen to feel this went above and beyond where the first film went. While the original laid the groundwork for these characters and some of the situations, director Franklin and company dial it up several notches, sometimes into the absurd, but always in a very late 80's/early 90's kind of way, which makes it somehow tolerable. There's a very specific polish to it all, a slick sheen that goes for broke in the most audacious way. While the first film plays it straight, resulting in an efficient and compelling thriller, this one has more fun with it. For me, it's like Lethal Weapon 1 and 2. The first one is dead serious and plays it straight, while the sequel, which also carries the serious tone for most of the time, also infuses more comedic and fun elements, even in the deadliest situations. That's how I feel about these two films and it's a formula that works.

I said it before and I'll say it again. I loved this sequel. It had everything I hoped it would and then-some. Brown and Dennehy make such an exciting team I wish they had made more of these. Richard Franklin's direction propels this film higher than I could have hoped. Whether it's dealing with the action sequences, thrills, drama or momentary funny bits, he handles it all with class and style, and F/X 2 is a much better film because of it.

9.16.2017

Laserdisc Cover of the Day: The Hidden Widescreen Collector's Edition

In anticipation for the October release of this classic hidden gem FINALLY coming to Blu Ray via Warner Archives, I thought I would dig out one of my favorite Laserdiscs in my collection. The Hidden was ultimately released twice on this format, the first being the basic Pan & Scan version, and then this Special Collectors Widescreen Edition, which was on 2 discs and came in a slick gate-fold style packaging with some really nice Special Features, something of a rarity with Laserdiscs. But just being available in widescreen in a step above VHS (which also had a widescreen release) was pretty badass back then. 

As you can also see from this specific edition, sometimes you just can't beat Laserdisc packaging or presentation. In addition to it's stellar packaging job, you get the best presentation of this film prior to DVD. Even the DVD, which I own, isn't that much of an improvement over this Laserdisc. So the new Blu Ray coming out, despite not having much in the way of extras, should be a vast improvement in terms of quality. And who knows? Maybe if it's a hit and sells well they'll eventually do some sort of Special Edition down the road. 

The Hidden Laserdisc Backside





































I shouldn't have to tell you just how awesome this film is, because by now it should already be a favorite in your collection. If by some chance you've never actually seen it yet, well let me tell you. It rules. It rules so hard. Directed by Jack Sholder (A Nightmare on Elm St. 2: Freddy's Revenge) and starring Kyle MacLachlan in only his third film, after Dune and Blue Velvet and Michael Nouri (Hologram Man). It's a fun sci-fi/action/thriller made only in a way that the 80's could produce, full of stunts, action, thrills and a performance from MacLachlan that I can only assume David Lynch must have seen prior to casting him in Twin Peaks and based his Agent Cooper performance off of because they're so similar. Or it could just be a coincidence. What do I know? Sholder's slick and solid direction gives the film a much more professional edge than most in this genre, and despite the fact that this didn't get a wide U.S. theatrical release, you'd never know by watching it. It's got all the bells and whistles of any big budget studio film and it's a shame it didn't get the big release and attention it deserved to become a breakout hit, which it very well should have been. The Hidden Blu Ray's tentative release date is set for October 20th. 

The Hidden Laserdisc Inside Gate-fold

9.15.2017

Walter Hill's Streets of Fire Review

When it was announced that Shout! Factory would be releasing this on blu ray recently, it renewed my interest in wanting to finally revisit it. I honestly didn't remember hardly anything about it, other than it's cast and that Walter Hill wrote (along with Larry Gross) and directed it, and I love me some old school Walter Hill. But I also came across the soundtrack on vinyl recently, and I have to admit it was pretty damn good. So I was enthusiastic and excited going in.

I enjoyed Streets of Fire, but I didn't love it. It has a lot of great production value, with Walter Hill really giving the film a fantastic 50's era look and feel, but to be honest, aside from the opening and ending, not a lot happens for large chunks in the middle. And that's really what surprised me the most, for a film that's I assumed would be a musical, really only has 2 moments in the film that would be considered musical numbers, and it's these 2 moments in the film that I loved the most. Weird! As I'm not big on musicals in general, I was pleasantly surprised that the 2 numbers in the film that bookend the film were the parts I enjoyed the most. This is largely due to the fact that the songs are really good and really strong, combined with Diane Lane's outstanding performance as the female rocker (this girl can really move and sell the fact that she's up there giving it her all) and the tight slick editing, these musical numbers are arguably the strongest and best moments in the film.

But interestingly enough, there are only a few minor moments like a fist fight inside a cafe, a sequence where Michael Pare shoots a bunch of motorcycles in an alley as they ride up and down, and the fist fight between Michael Pare and Willam Dafoe at the end, I can't say I was very entertained in the action department. Not that I was expecting this to be an action film, but I kind of feel that it was sorely missing some important elements in that area to really give it a little punch of excitement or maybe even some solid tension or thriller elements. Still, it wasn't a bad film, just not a terribly exciting or entertaining one, and I really felt that it could have been. I mean, there's an amazing variety of talent in here, from the production design, the ensemble cast and Tough Guy Cinema vibe, to it's searing soundtrack incorporating rock n' roll and R & B and Diane Lane's electrifying performance when she's on stage. There's really just so much to like in here, but I didn't feel it fully reached it's potential. I mean, Dafoe is an amazing villain in here, but he's surprisingly absent for large chunks, and it's a shame too, because he's just such an interesting looking character.

I'm glad I revisited it, but I'm also glad I didn't pull the trigger on that new blu ray, though I will admit that the picture quality would have been an amazing improvement over the old DVD. I feel Walter Hill had some amazing idea's and the right vision, but there was just something missing keeping it from being a total badass. Whatever that ingredient can be is debatable, I personally feel it needed some more tension and action and less drama and romance, but that's just my taste. Still an entertaining and slick looking film, so it's definitely worth your time should you choose to revisit this one.



9.14.2017

Alan Silvestri's Predator Score Now On Vinyl!


Being the collector that I am, one of the things I love to collect is film soundtracks and scores, and Alan Silvestri's legendary score for Predator has been high on my list for as long as I can remember. While I never went nuts trying to track it down, when it would cross my mind, I would randomly search for it on various online platforms, but as you may or may not know, it's one of the hardest scores to come by, so when you do find it, it's not cheap. And as far as I can tell, it's only ever been released on CD. And please, before you bite my head off if I'm wrong, this is just going on my personal experience and research. It may have gotten a vinyl release somewhere else in the world at some point, but to my knowledge, it's never gotten a cassette or vinyl release here in the United States. Again, if I'm wrong on that, don't beat me up too bad on that information. And if I am, then holy cow. This has got to be the rarest film score on the planet because I've never even seen an image of it. So I'm pretty sure that it hasn't, which is really surprising. But I'm confident in saying that it's never been released on vinyl.


That all changed last month when I discovered that a company called Real Gone Music somehow was able to get the rights, produced newly commissioned artwork and released this baby for the very first time on vinyl in a Limited Release of only 1300 copies, when that hadn't been done before. Not only that, this crazy news flew so far under the radar that not a lot of people, including myself, even knew about it until it was already out and people were posting their pictures of their newly shipped pre-orders. How did I never hear about this??? Of course, by the time I heard about it, Real Gone Music had already sold out by that point. Not surprising.

But there's still hope! At this time, you can easily find it on a number of online sites like Amazon, eBay and a whole bunch of others. You just need to do a google search and you'll be set. I was able to find mine on eBay for roughly the original asking price of $39.95 (Real Gone Music's price). As of this post, I still see some going for around the $45 range and higher up to over $100. So if I were you, I'd grab this while you still can for a relatively decent price because you can rest assured that this will only go up higher and higher in price soon.

Alan Silvestri's score is one of the most recognizable scores in film history. He was able to create something so unique and macho for a film that blended elements of both action and horror. It helps that it was at a time (the 80's) when some amazing scores were coming out left and right. You can't say that anymore, because it feels like the industry has been all tapped out, but creating a memorable and iconic score for any genre of film was just as important as the film itself back then. Sadly, that's not the case today. In fact, I can't remember the last time a score stood out in a recent film. Maybe Turbo Kid?


Here are the facts regarding this specific vinyl release via Real Gone Music's website:

Alan Silvestri: Predator: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack (Limited Brown & Green “Camo” Vinyl Edition) Limited to 1300 copies
Alan Silvestri: Predator: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack Predator: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack (Limited “Infrared” Vinyl Edition)  (Webstore Exclusive) Limited to 200 copies
  • Though Derided as Derivative When It Came Out, Predator Has Only Grown in Reputation as One of the Great Action/Sci-Fi Films, and Marked the Full Flowering of Arnold Schwarzenegger as a Genuine Movie Star
  • The Soundtrack by Alan Silvestri (Romancing the Stone; Back to the Future) Has Also Become a Cult Favorite, Sparking No Less Than Three Limited-Edition CD Releases
  • Silvestri’s Score Is Every Bit as Brutal and Hard-Hitting as the Film Itself, Employing a Full Orchestra, Deft Electronic Touches, and Bruising Percussion
  • Among the Highlights Are the Eerie, Descending Strings as the Predator Descends to Earth, the Propulsive Military March That Introduces the Commando Team, and the Simple Trumpet Fanfare in “He’s My Friend” Lamenting the Loss of a Fallen Comrade
  • Sound Is Taken from Intrada’s 2012 Complete and Definitive Edition of the Score
  • Real Gone Music’s Vinyl Release Features Newly Commissioned, Custom Front Cover Art by Rafał Wechterowicz Depicting the Predator in All Its Gory Glory
  • Gatefold Double-LP Set Also Includes Production Stills
  • Green and Brown “Camo” Vinyl Release
  • Limited to 1300 Copies
  • FIRST EVER VINYL RELEASE 
Alan Silvestri’s masterful score to Predator has been one of the most sought-after action film soundtracks of all time, sparking no less than three limited-edition CD releases that all successively sold out in short order. And it’s little wonder; fresh from back-to-back triumphs with Romancing the Stone and Back to the Future, Silvestri employs a full orchestra, occasional, deft electronic touches, and—most of all—bruising percussion to fashion a score every bit as muscular and hard-hitting as the film itself. Among the truly inspired touches are the eerie, descending strings as the Predator descends to earth, the propulsive military march that introduces the commando team, and the simple trumpet fanfare in “He’s My Friend” that laments the loss of a fallen comrade. Yet, because the film came out in the ‘90s during the premature death of vinyl, Predator has NEVER been released on LP…till now. Real Gone is proud to present Alan Silvestri’s score to Predator in a double-LP set featuring newly commissioned, custom front cover art by Rafał Wechterowicz that captures the Predator in all its ugly mother******ness, with additional stills from the production decorating the gatefold package. The sound to our release is taken from Intrada’s 2012 complete and definitive edition of the score, and it comes on green and brown “camo” vinyl limited to 1300 copies. Get it before it disappears into the jungle!
Side One
  1. Fox Fanfare
  2. Main Title
  3. Something Else; Cut ‘Em Down; Payback Time
  4. The Truck
  5. Jungle Trek
Side Two
  1. Girl’s Escape
  2. Blaine’s Death
  3. What Happened?
  4. He’s My Friend
  5. We’re Gonna Die
  6. Building the Trap
  7. The Waiting

9.13.2017

Revisiting Nolan's Batman Begins

I make no qualms about my dislike for Christopher Nolan films. I feel he's a good filmmaker, always on the verge of being a great one, but always doing something to fuck that up. The thing I do like about him is his passion for film, especially the importance of 35mm, and his love for cinema. He's clearly a talented filmmaker. He possesses that gift, there's no doubt about it, but some of his creative decisions just blow my mind sometimes. But I'll get to that in a bit.

As he's not one of my favorite filmmakers, I don't rush out to see any of his films. I get to them eventually, except for the Batman films. They came out in a time when I was hungry for Batman material. And though I wasn't a big fan of Dark Knight Rises, I did enjoy The Dark Knight, but my memory of Batman Begins is fuzzy. I think I'd only ever seen it that one time in theaters, so I was kind of itching to revisit it recently. Not really sure why either, I just kept feeling that of all the Nolan films I've seen, I might actually enjoy this one the most. As luck would have it, TBS was playing this on a Sunday afternoon. Perfect. Lets dig in.

The many years since my initial viewing of this classic have been quite kind to Batman Begins. I loved it. There were so many creative touches courtesy of Nolan that I just loved, and to be honest, quite surprised this is the same Nolan who makes films today. There's something very toned-down and simple about this film, even though it's a bit epic compared to other "normal" films. But I guess in Nolan's "Batman Universe", this is a much smaller film compared to the 2 that followed, and I love it for that. The film progressed very nicely compared to "most" of his films, and guess what??? It wasn't confusing as hell, which was another aspect I loved. I just feel his films are overly complicated when they don't need to be. Can anyone truly understand "everything" that's happening in The Dark Knight? Sure it's a brilliant film as a whole, but it veered off into so many unnecessary directions that like most of his films, comes across a bit pretentious. Not to mention, I would constantly lose interest. Lucky for us, he hadn't headed in that direction yet here.



I think one of the strongest aspects to this production was Nolan's use of miniatures, model work and practical effects. For a film made in the 2000's, it was a beautiful and refreshing thing to see. There's just something much more visceral utilizing model work rather than CGI. Sure Nolan uses CGI often, and more often than not it's unnoticeable, which is quite effective. The last thing you want is to be taken out of the moment by an overuse of CGI. But then there are moments when it is, and it's hard to really leave any kind of lasting impact when you know that effect you just saw was the result of a computer and not something tangible. Kudos to Nolan for going the practical effects route with this one. The whole third act with the train was astonishing and oftentimes breathtaking to me.

As much as I typically dislike Nolan films, and as much as I loved this one, there were 2 problems I did have. First and foremost, it's a problem I have with "all" Christopher Nolan films. And that is that as strong a director as he is, the guy can't shoot a fight sequence if his life depended on it. This is the one area he loses me every time. For some reason, he always turns to handheld "shake the shit out of the camera" territory and always shoots up close, rather than allow us to see what the hell is going on and who's fighting who. I can never tell, and always give up trying to figure it out. I've never seen a fight sequence from him that I liked, because it's an editing and composition mess every single time. Yea I've heard "he shoots this way to put you in the moment, like you're in there" excuse, but I don't feel it does anything other than make you nauseous. But that's just me.

Another area I found that I didn't really feel worked well with the rest of the film was, to my surprise, the entire first act where Bruce is learning his skills from Ducard (Liam Neeson), before heading back to Gotham. I don't know, it just feels so detached from the rest of the film visually. A few expertly framed shots are marred by a constant handheld lazy aesthetic that completely takes away from any impact these scenes could hold. Given the locations, I'm shocked he chose to shoot nearly all of this first act this way instead of really making it look stunning, like it very easily could have and not just any other film. You may disagree with me on this one, but I just really felt it took so much away from the aesthetic tone of the rest of the film. It came off as very ho-hum to me, where it really could have been a stronger way to start the film.



Despite my two gripes, I really and thoroughly enjoyed this one. So much so that it's my favorite of his Batman trilogy. I loved the stripped down feel to it, and some of his work, including the Tumbler sequence, are simply incredible. There are strong moments of greatness, and then there are moments that make you wonder just what the hell he was thinking with certain creative decisions. Regardless, it's one helluva Batman film and though I have never been a fan of this Batman suit design, or of Christian Bale in the role, as a dark crime noir style film, it delivers some solid goods.

9.12.2017

The Disaster Artist Official Trailer Is Up!!


If you love bad movies, and who doesn't really, then you're well aware of the existence of a little film called The Room. It's quite literally a disaster of the best kind. That film's co-star, Greg Sestero, wrote a best-selling book about the making of that cult classic, and what it was like being a friend to the film's writer, director, producer and star Tommy Wiseau. I've read it, and it's a great book, full of hilarious and highly insightful information regarding the insane production and also just who the hell Tommy Wiseau is. I'll tell you, nobody really truly knows. He's a mystery of epic proportions and guards his secrets with a tight reign. Though little bits and pieces of his past have been dug up, I don't think we'll ever really know the "whole" Tommy.

James Franco stars as Tommy Wiseau (brilliant casting) and directs this adaptation of Sestero's book The Disaster Artist with his long-time partner and friend Seth Rogan producing and co-starring. Franco's brother Dave plays Greg Sestero. The film will be released on December 1st and has already been receiving rave reviews from the festival circuit. I for one cannot wait! Check out the trailer below.


9.09.2017

90's Action Attack!: Perfect Target


1997
Directed by: Sheldon Lettich
Category: Action

Perfect Target is a 90's action film courtesy of Lionheart and Double Impact writer/director Sheldon Lettich. I'd never heard of it or even it's star, Daniel Bernhardt until I came across this somewhere recently online. So I snatched up the DVD in one of those old clear snap-cases for dirt cheap. Let's dig in.

I'll be honest, the only selling point for me on this was the fact that it was a Sheldon Lettich film. I didn't know who Daniel Bernhardt was, and though Lettich hadn't really made a solid or entertaining film since the early 90's when he was making Van Damme a breakout star, I held out hope that there was some solid work in here considering The Hard Corpse was a pretty big letdown for me. The cover for this didn't help, but the names featured on the cover under Bernhardt's sure did. And those would be Robert Englund and Brian Thompson. SOLD!

Perfect Target was a good action film. Not great, but much better than The Hard Corpse, another Sheldon Lettich directed film I recently saw. There's nothing about it that really stands out, other than it's impressive supporting cast with legends Englund and Thompson delivering the bad guy goods, but I wasn't really expecting much either, other than a good time. In that department, it delivered. While it wasn't filled with wall-to-wall action, there was enough in the beginning and end to satisfy, with the remainder of the film's charm lying squarely on the shoulders of the 3 leads, Bernhardt, Englund and Thompson.

Daniel Bernhardt was a big surprise for me. For one, somehow I'd never heard of him, but after seeing this, I know I've seen him somewhere. After some digging, I realized where. He was the "upgraded Agent Smith" in one of the Matrix sequels. I have to admit, I really liked him. He reminds me a lot of Van Damme in his early days, only a much better actor. But even then, his slight accent (Swedish I think?) is highly noticeable and with some of the dialogue, he sounds so much like Van Damme it's eerie. But he shows a lot of promise and comes across as a very confident and charismatic action hero lead in more ways than I was expecting. It's a shame he never made it into the big time, because he's a very likable guy. He's been a busy fella though, who continues to work today. Here's to hoping he'll find his big mainstream breakout.

I'm going to assume that this is the last good Sheldon Lettich film. I'm not going to say he's the best director or action director out there, but there was something very special with Lionheart and Double Impact. A very simple, yet very 90's and enjoyable way of shooting that is hard to pin down, yet it's unmistakable Lettich. Double Impact would have to be his crowning achievement in my opinion. That's pure 90's action cheese at it's finest. Looking into his filmography, it would seem that he was never able to match that kind of entertainment or quality again, but he will always be one of the forefathers of the martial arts/action movement of the late 80's/early 90's. He helped jump start it by writing Bloodsport and continuing to work with Van Damme a few more times, igniting his career and then attempting to sustain it during Van Damme's lull with films like Legionnaire and The Hard Corpse, but by that time, both of their careers had already been in a steep decline. 2006's The Hard Corpse would be the last time Lettich would direct, but Van Damme continues to work tirelessly, with some solid and memorable moments sprinkled throughout, with his Van Johnson show on Amazon being such a spirited highlight.

This won't become one of your favorite new action films, but it's a helluva lot better than a lot of these in the same genre. For the cheap price it goes for, it's absolutely worth your time, even if it's just to see some villainous turns from Robert Englund and Brian Thompson. Daniel Bernhardt was a pleasant surprise, and absolutely carries this film with his macho magnetism. If anything, this convinced me to seek out his other films.....finally.

9.07.2017

Quick Shot Review: Annabelle: Creation


2017
Directed by: David F. Sandberg
Category: Horror

I should start off by saying that I'm generally not a big fan of new modern mainstream horror. With that being said, I only saw the first film because I was with a group of friends who really wanted to see it, so we all went. Not surprisingly, I was pretty let down. I don't know what I was really expecting, but it sure didn't deliver in a way I had hoped. So going into this one, I remained skeptical. In fact, I had no desire to ever see it to be honest. But a friend of mine who writes articles and interviews for horror magazines mentioned how much she loved it, and that it surprised the hell out of her. That's really all I needed to hear to entice me. So we went  in skeptical, but hoping for the best.

I can't believe I'm saying this because I despised the first one so much, but this was actually a damn fine movie. Dark, brooding, intense and highly entertaining with some great practical effects work and performances, especially from the little girl lead. It has such a strong "vintage horror" vibe and was able to hit all the right notes that I can't help but feel this very well may be one of the best new horror films I've seen in a theater in a very long time, all courtesy of Lights Out director David F. Sandberg. He did a phenomenal job on this. And let me tell you, I'm not a big fan of most modern mainstream horror, but I appreciate what James Wan is doing for the genre. He's literally revitalizing it. This is hands-down a big standout in modern horror. I got a real kick out of listening to all of the constant yells and screams in the theater audience - It's been a while since I'd experienced that. A lot of new directors can certainly learn a thing or two from Sandberg. You won't find any shaky-cam/quick-edit bullshit in here. No sir, it's nothing but class all the way. If you haven't seen it yet, even if you haven't seen the lame first one, check this out soon. You won't regret it. 

80's Action Attack!: Missing in Action



1984
Directed by: Joseph Zito
Category: Action

As much as I grew on Cannon films as a kid in the 80's, and as much as Chuck Norris was a big idol of mine from then and into adulthood, something about this particular film never appealed to me. Of all of Chuck's films that I watched regularly as a teenager in the 80's and 90's, this was not one of them. The fact that I've actually seen it before, yet remember virtually nothing about it was a bit worrisome as I decided to revisit this recently once I saw Hulu Plus added this, along with it's sequel, to their new September lineup. So let's dig in.

Missing in Action is a great little film, and after having finally revisited it, I can understand why it wasn't one that stuck out in my head. More than anything, Cannon Films has been synonymous with low-budget cheese, whether it was intentional or not. I mean, how can you watch Hercules and NOT find it intentional? And then there are other great examples such as Over the Top, where the cheese-factor was 1000% NOT intentional, yet it was so in such a glorious way. But Missing in Action is anything but cheesy. In fact, it's a damn fine film all around, the result of some solid work from a lot of different areas.

This was the beginning of a long line of films between Chuck and Cannon throughout the 80's and 90's, and I can see why this has always been a standout in his filmography. It's pretty damn good with a lot of that going to director Joseph Zito, who he would re-team with later for the best, cheesiest, most ridiculous Chuck Norris film of all time, Invasion USA. Zito possesses a strong sense of direction behind the camera, and the film is a true testament to that. It's not overly stylish, yet he does such a fantastic job putting scenes and sequences together in a very evenhanded way. You could never pick out a Joseph Zito film just by looking at it if you didn't already know he directed it, but he does a much better job than most would have with the same material. You'll never see a lazy handheld camera shot, or any type of silly quick editing gimmicks to enhance or mask anything. It's just simple old school filmmaking done right, and if there's anything Missing in Action does, it's reaffirms my belief that simple is sometimes better than flashy.

I noticed some other aspects about this film that made it all the better. For starters, it's not a big film. There are a few impressive action sequencers for sure, but if you really pay attention, there's no more than a handful or so of actors in each scene, even the big moments where Chuck is infiltrating a Vietnamese prisoner camp to rescue American POW's. But unless you really focus on that, you wouldn't even notice. And that's the power of some really fine editing. There was another moment around the same time in the film when a hut explodes into a huge ball of fire. Arguably the best explosion in the film, followed by a series of 4 or 5 other big explosions. But again, if you pay close attention, it's the same explosion, just from different angles using different camera's. And that's not me nitpicking, rather it's my obsessive compulsive way of making a strong point. That with some strong editing, even a small budget film can look big. Film editors Joel Goodman and Daniel Loewenthal knew this well and do it gloriously here. Kudos to you two.

Another component that really adds a touch of bravada and class is the score. Normally a score for a low-budget action film about rescuing POW's in Vietnam starring Chuck Norris wouldn't be a standout, but in this case it was. While I do love a good film score, and often track them down on vinyl if they're in the "synth" realm, there was really something about this one that caught my attention. Legendary B-Movie composer Jay Chattaway, who's done a lot of Star Trek shows in his later career, but really got his name in the game with the Maniac Cop score, which is now iconic. Chattaway's score here is big, and loud, and adds so much depth to the film overall. Usually these score's are pretty standard throwaway and interchangeable, but this one stands out and makes the film better, and feel bigger.

Zito made this the same year he made Friday the 13th Part 4: The Final Chapter, a personal favorite of mine in the series. He would go on to work with Norris again in the 80's classic (and my personal favorite Norris film) Invasion USA, and follow that up with the excellent Red Scorpion. Sadly, he only made 9 films, with his last being 2003's Power Play, a film that was savagely destroyed by critics and fans of this once legendary film director. It's a pity, because he was a strong and talented director. Sure his last 2 films were bad, but what director doesn't occasionally make a bad film? I feel we could easily have gotten some more great action films from him had he been given the chance. I guess we'll never truly know though.

According to the fantastic Cannon Films doc Electric Boogaloo: The Wild, Untold Story of Cannon Films, this films sequel was actually shot first and then shelved after the Golan-Globus cousins weren't happy with it. They then made this one, liked it so much that they released it as the first film in the series, and then finally releasing the original film as the sequel/prequel Missing in Action: The Beginning. Knowing this, it will be interesting diving into that one. That will be a first time watch for me on that one. Until then.....

9.06.2017

Quick Shot Review: Mission to Mars


2000
Directed by: Brian De Palma

When I watched the excellent De Palma doc De Palma, it encouraged me to finally check out a lot of his films that I never got around to. While De Palma is pretty hit or miss, I will say that I thoroughly enjoyed digging into his backlog of films, and finding some great gems in the process like Body Double and Snake Eyes. And even though I knew he had done this sci-fi film, and even the idea of a De Palma sci-fi film sounds great on paper, something never made me want to actually check it out. I don't know why. So I finally got to it, and here are my thoughts.

Mission to Mars was De Palma's follow-up to his excellent Snake Eyes, his most De Palma-like film to date, while Mission to Mars is the complete opposite, ending up as his most un-De Palma like film in his filmography. But you know, that's just my opinion and I can admit that I still haven't seen everything he's ever done. I can appreciate what they were attempting to do with Mission to Mars, but it doesn't succeed, not by a long shot. While it kept my interest enough to actually finish it, I'll admit that it was hard at times to keep going. It's a slow film, painfully slow, and if you don't prepare yourself going in, it can be a trial to sit through. And I guess in the back of my mind I expected this, but also hoped for something along the lines of either something sci-fi/thriller cultish like Sunshine or slow but beautiful such as Star Trek: The Motion Picture or Blade Runner, - that although slow, was visually stimulating. And Mission to Mars is a pretty film, but it's not visceral enough to make up for the lack of any other form of stimulation or entertainment. It reminded me a lot of Steven Soderbergh's Solaris. Ultimately I walked away from this feeling very apathetic.

The cast is solid, the effects work is great, and De Palma keeps everything looking simple, clean and neat, but missing is any semblance of the De Palma I wanted to see in a science fiction film. There was a moment in the film halfway through that showed some real promise, and quite frankly it was the most interesting and left the biggest impression. It's a tense moment where the crew is aboard their ship in space and some trouble has occurred. While they try to find a solution and the situation becomes more and more dire, Ennio Morricone's score changes from boring, bland melodramatic symphony to a church organ with some synth beats thrown in the background, and let me tell you, this little touch added so much to a somewhat endlessly meandering plot and progression. I can't help but think how much better and more intense the film would have ended up had there been more of this score change. It definitely would have made it more lively, that's for sure. Too bad it was used for all but 10 minutes with the rest of the score being something you'd hear in a drama, and not an epic science fiction film.

All in all, while not terrible, it wasn't great or anywhere near what you'd expect from a master such as Brian De Palma. It just all comes across as very "meh", where it could have easily been something memorable.

9.05.2017

90s Action Attack!: Full Eclipse


1993
Directed by: Anthony Hickox
Category: Action

I remember fondly when this came out. I remember that it was an HBO production, and most importantly, that it was directed by Anthony Hickox, who I was as big fan of at the time. I loved the premise too, cops who turn into werewolves and dispatch vigilante justice in L.A.. But it's primarily an action flick, and above all else, that's really what sold me. And in that department, boy does this deliver the goods. I remember enjoying it initially, but I can honestly say that I haven't seen it since. So we're talking a good 24 years now, and I was hoping that this still lived up to those positive memories. And as chance would have it, I watched this during our much hyped Full Eclipse, but instead of going outside to view that, I decided to watch this "other" Full Eclipse instead. I think I made the right choice. Let's dig in.

Max Dire (Mario Van Peebles) is a dedicated L.A. officer nearing the edge when his partner has just been killed. He soon meets a Special Team officer (Bruce Payne) who tries to recruit him to his "special" unit. Max soon realizes that this team is not what he expected and learns that this groups special brand of justice might be too much for him to take. 

Did Full Eclipse live up to my expectations? The answer is a big fat YES. I have to be honest, I'd watched a few films before this that just didn't do anything for me, so watching this one completely made up for that. It was everything I wanted in a film like this and more. The best way I can describe it is that it's like an early 90's John Woo flick, only with werewolves. There is a ton of action in here, and it's hyper-stylized in a way that is very John Woo on steroids. And I have to give it to director Anthony Hickox (Waxwork 1 & 2, Hellraiser 3). For someone who's stuck primarily to horror up until this point, he does a fantastic job handling the action sequences. In fact, I'm sad he didn't end up becoming a bigger action film director or sticking to this very specific style of directing . But much like other directors, his visual style and approach began to change and he just never carried the same aesthetic or visual tone that some of his better earlier films had. Looking at his filmography, and their comments, reviews and ratings are tough to see. The guy and a lot of his DTV films have been slaughtered and savaged by bad reviews. But I guess I should judge for myself and check them out at some point. All I know is that I attempted to watch one of his later films once (forget which one), and I just couldn't get through it. It was a handheld shaky-cam mess and I couldn't believe it was the same guy who I admired so much up until that point. I mean, this is a guy who has done some amazing things visually with a lot of his early films, and I just can't stress that enough with Full Eclipse, a film that blindsided me with it's visceral punch of hard-hitting action and spectacle.



While this film carries elements of both the horror and action genre, it's really in the action where Full Eclipse excels. There was never a single moment during the action sequences where Mario Van Peebles wasn't shooting two guns at the same time while simultaneously flying through the air a la Face/Off or The Killer wearing a black suit and tie and landing on his stomach or back as he continues to shoot off rounds Chow Yun Fat style. Amazing. And again, it's also in Hickox's compositions and framing. Each scene, whether it be in the action or anything else, are so slickly realized and composited. It's hands down one of the slickest looking action films I've ever seen, and easily his most visually satisfying work to date.

While Mario Van Peebles was excellent as the lead, special attention must be made to the lead villain here, played by none other than resident bad guy Bruce Payne, and oh my word is he just amazing here. His attempt at an American accent is one of the most mind-blowing things I have ever seen, and really makes the experience all the better. It's bad, cheesy, over-the-top and quite simply, amazing. The rest of the cast is pretty solid too, with no weak links. But again, the real star of this film is Payne, and he steals every single moment he's on film.



While there's an insane amount of satisfying action, it's also a werewolf film, and in that regard, it also doesn't disappoint. I really have to give Hickox and HBO props for going the practical effects route on this one, because they could so easily have gone with lame CGI in it's infancy and it would have been absolutely dreadful. But I shouldn't really be all that surprised. After all, Hickox is the main who gave us the excellent Waxwork. Remember the werewolf design in that film? If you liked it, then you won't be disappointed here. Again, mad props to the team for going the old school route and not giving into the CGI fad.

This was a blast from start to finish, and a ton of fun. Much like other 90's films I've recently revisited such as Timecop and Freejack, Full Eclipse is an awesome example of this very specific type of action film, the 90's kind, and I really hope it gets a Blu Ray release someday. Though I will say that this DVD, even though it's from 2001, looks really good. The transfer was better than I was expecting, so I'm not complaining. Plus, I still dig those sweet snap-cases. If it's been a while, or if you've never seen it, it's absolutely worth your time to check it out.

How to watch it:
It's been released on VHS, Laserdisc and DVD. I haven't come across it to stream anywhere, and three's no blu ray in the works, but the DVD quality is actually pretty good considering it's age. Not streaming anywhere that I know of, but you can pick up any one of these physical formats for under $10.

9.04.2017

Netflix Recommendation: Little Evil

Here's a film I had never heard of before, and only decided to watch it because it sounded cute and interesting to my wife. Thinking it was a series, we threw it on only to be surprised that it was in fact a film, not a show. But let me tell you, I'm so glad she decided to watch it anyway because it was a fun, refreshing, clever and funny comedy that never took itself too seriously, and knew how to balance the right amount of humor in the horror genre. Little Evil is humorous take on The Omen, and it's even funnier if you are a parent or step-parent, as it touches on a lot of things we go through raising kids. Solid cast, solid laughs and a very well made film that plays with standard horror film tropes in a clever way.

Netflix has so much original content coming out so quickly that it's hard to pick just what to watch, what will be good and what will fall flat. And honestly, I have to rely on positive word of mouth or reviews and buzz that hit the news such as with their recent hit Glow to decide whether to take a chance on something. So I was surprised that this has no buzz whatsoever. But I can tell you, it's a fun one. Just give it a chance. You won't be sorry.


8.31.2017

Documentary Dynamite!: Unearthed & Untold: The Path to Pet Sematary


Here's a fun documentary that literally came out of nowhere. I had never heard of it, saw no buzz, no release info anywhere. And then one day while browsing Amazon this popped up and I couldn't believe it. Where did this come from? And do people even know about it? Why doesn't anyone talk about it? One night when we were looking for something horror-related to watch, this was a no-brainer. Let's dig in.

If you love Stephen King's famous novel, love the film adaptation, or just love horror in general, this is a must-see. This documentary touches on nearly every single aspect of this classic Stephen King tale, from it's inception, to book, to screen and it's lasting and enduring legacy. Filmmakers John Campopiano and Justine White do a meticulous job in investigating every aspect of the production of the first film, complete with interviews with all the main players, as well as production staff, the filmmakers and even down to the local town folk. Since King insisted that this be filmed in Maine, the production enlisted the help of locals for all aspects of the film and it's quite a treat listening to them talk about their experiences and how that film production affected the town in general. Really great stuff.

Pet Sematary has been regarded as one of the best King adaptations ever produced, and it really kind of took everyone by surprise, as you'll see in the doc. No one knew just how big it would be and how well it would be received, because Stephen King films generally have been hit or miss and a good portion of them don't do well or get adapted well, so this one kind of became one of the biggest successes with his book-to-film releases. There was so much I either didn't know, or had completely forgotten about in the decades since it's release. For one, I totally forgot that King wrote the screenplay himself, which is something he's only done less than a handful of times in his career, all with varying degrees of success.

This completely under the radar documentary took us by surprise and was a welcome addition to our documentary binge-watching. I'm still surprised that it's never mentioned or brought up. If you're a fan of Stephen King, horror, or just this film in general, you owe it to yourself to give this a watch. You won't regret it.

How to watch it:
You can rent it on a number of different streaming sites. I rented it on Amazon. There were only 1000 DVD/Blu Ray Combo's pressed, and I know there are still a few of those left for sale over at HorrorPack if you need a physical copy.

8.29.2017

Into the Night: A John Landis Masterpiece

Into the Night Laserdisc Cover
Let me start off by saying that I was completely unaware of this films existence. Now, I'm a big fan of John Landis. I grew up watching nearly all of his films in the 80's and 90's, with a handful of them being films I watched religiously, most notably The Blues Brothers. As I got older, I began to appreciate some of his lesser known films, like Innocent Blood, which I absolutely love now. But how in the hell this film came and went flying so far under my radar that I literally never even heard of it until just last week is beyond me. Yet here I was, casually browsing eBay for Laserdiscs, not looking for anything in particular when I stumbled upon this listing for a film called Into the Night, directed by John Landis and starring Jeff Goldblum and Michelle Pfeiffer. Confused I did some more digging thinking that maybe I never heard of it was because maybe it was a Made-for-TV Movie or something. But nope. It's a full-on theatrical release from 1985, right before he did Three Amigos! and I'd never heard of it until now. Obviously it didn't do well or it would be a better known film, yet now I'm fascinated as to why. So I decided to do a blind-guy since the Laserdisc was going to be less than $5 shipped. I figured why not? Let's dig in.

I'm not going to give you a synopsis because the less you know going in, the better. But let's just say Ed's (Jeff Goldblum) life is dull. An insomniac, he randomly meets a woman in the middle of the night, which leads him to a crazy series of adventures throughout Hollywood. 

Holy shit everyone. I can't believe how great this film was and how nobody EVER talks about it. How is that possible? This is the very definition of a lost gem. And it's such a "different" type of film altogether. I wouldn't even know how to categorize it really because it's like a melting pot of different genres, but it works! It's like Scorcese's After Hours, only set in California in 1985. And make no mistake, this is a very California film and it's amazing. Every single frame is drenched in 80's Hollywood, CA nostalgia. But it carries very much the same tone as After Hours, so that should give you some indication as to what to expect.



While I do watch a lot of movies on a weekly basis, with a lot of them being great, I can't remember the last time I was this surprised, enthralled and in love with a film experience. It's one of the most amazing films I've ever seen, and some of the most fun I can remember having with a film. It's like a dark adventure, thriller, comedy (while not actually being funny), drama and romance, all mixed together in a way that very few films can actually do. I don't even know how you could possibly and effectively even advertise this, so I'm not entirely surprised that it didn't do well in the theater. What blows my mind is the fact that I'd never even heard of it until now. I mean, for someone who grew up on Landis films, and just cinema in general in the 80's, it's quite a feat, yet it happened. And really, it's a travesty. More people should know about this film, more should be aware. It's such a unique film altogether, and if you love cinema, obscure films, or even if you just love John Landis films, you owe it to yourself to check this out as soon as possible. And I'll say it again, it's unlike any film I've ever seen. It's kind of like a dark, surreal odyssey through 80's Hollywood in the span of about 2 nights, with so much happening and so much being thrown at you, all in a very unconventional way that you don't really know how to take it all in until it's over, and then it just kind of hits you all at once and you realized you just had one of the most interesting movie experiences you've ever had.

Into the Night Laserdisc - Backside


If there's one thing John Landis can guarantee in nearly all of his films, it's a healthy dose of cameo's, and in here, more than any other film he's ever made, he delivers. The cameo's! Oh the cameo's! I simply could not believe my eyes. I was in movie heaven. Of course, I should point out that you really have to be a lover of cinema and of filmmakers to even spot them, because if  you're not one of those people who obsess over filmmakers, then you more than likely won't spot them. My wife didn't. I had to constantly point out who everyone was. There are of course quite a number of popular and cult icons, directors and musicians that you won't have any trouble spotting, most notably David Cronenberg, and best of all, the hitman! But I won't spoil it for you here because most of the fun is spotting them and knowing who they are. But hell, even I missed quite a few and didn't realize that until the end credits. Have fun! It's a blast.

John Landis in his surprising turn in Into the Night

I absolutely loved and adored every single aspect of Into the Night, right down to it's title font. So much of this film just gets nearly everything right. John Landis, who has never been the most "visual" director, absolutely knocks it out of the park here, framing every scene in a very John Landis way, while also pushing his own envelope a bit, giving it more substance to every shot. I don't know how else to explain it, but if you're familiar with his very particular way of shooting, just imagine that but more, bigger, better and more impressive. Think of his work on The Blues Brothers, only more slick. Another surprising element is it's impressive soundtrack, led by........B.B. King of all people. And while that sounds a bit strange, to me at least, you'll be surprised how well his title song, complete with 80's synth (seriously!) fits the film so well. I  had to keep asking myself "That's a B.B. King song??". I don't know if it was a trend he was riding in the mid 80's, but the synth background music that played along with his guitar and lyrics was magnificent, and encourages me to want to check out some of his stuff from around this time.

This was the first film John Landis directed after the Twilight Zone: The Movie tragedy, and if I'm not mistaken, he may have even been in the middle of court proceedings during this time. Maybe that accounts for it's dark tone? I don't know, but I should also mention that Landis also appears in this. While he's been known to pop up in his films for a brief moment here and there, I'd never seen him in such a large role, and I must say, it was awesome. His character never speaks, yet it's his physical actions and reactions that speak volumes and generate legitimate laughs. It's both admirable and impressive on a number of different levels and for a number of reasons. It makes you wish he acted more, because he was a revelation, even though he never spoke a word.

Into the Night is the very definition of a lost, underrated or obscure gem. Very few films pack the same kind of visceral punch that this one does, and the fact that it's gone largely unnoticed is such a sad reality, when in fact, it's quite an amazing film. It refuses to be boxed into a single specific genre, or defined because there are so many different elements that make it so unique. Even for a film that could in some ways partly be called a dark comedy, there is violence that will surprise you that always comes out of nowhere and blindsides you. And that's one of many wonderful elements this film provides you, the viewer. And there's some good news in store for the near future. Shout! Factory just announced that they will be releasing a Collector's Edition Blu Ray in November as part of their Shout Select series. No word yet on any special features, but I for one will be buying this. It will look stunning in HD and in widescreen. Also of special note it that they will be using the original cover art, and not the terrible DVD cover art. I won't even show it here because it's just awful.


8.23.2017

80's Horror: Hello Mary Lou: Prom Night II

I can't even begin to tell you how pleasantly surprised we were with this hidden gem. While I do remember coming across this often in my teens in the 80's, I never actually watched it. But my brother did......a lot too. He loved it. Still, that wasn't enough to encourage me to actually do it. I don't know why. Maybe it was because I never actually watched the original until just last year? Yet now I realize the sequel has nothing to do with the first one. Go figure.

After Mary Lou Maloney is accidentally killed during an incident at prom in 1957, her soul is unleashed exactly 30 years later to wreck havoc and vengeance in the same school. 

Prom Night II bares no similarities or even storyline to the Jamie Lee Curtis classic (I didn't like it). Just in name. I'm guessing because it does in fact involve a prom night in a high school, and also to ride the coattails of a well-known classic. But imagine my surprise to discover that this little film, having never gotten a theatrical release, with no big names attached other than Michael Ironside (legend!!), or even anyone recognizable in the directors chair or in the screenwriting credits, would end up being one of the most enjoyable 80's horror films we've seen in a very long time. To put it into perspective, Prom Night II is like a perfectly balanced combination of A Nightmare on Elm St. Part 4: The Dream Master and Carrie, which is surprising in that ANoES4 didn't come out until the following year, so you can't say that it stole any ideas from that one, which makes it all the more special.

Interestingly enough, the film as it appears is not the film that was written exactly. Re-writes and re-shoots were done when the distributor didn't feel like the film worked. Also of interest is that it wasn't even written as a Prom Night sequel at all, but rather another haunted high school film until the distrubutors purchased it and decided to rename it Prom Night II. Still, despite it's name not having anything to do with the previous film, it's one helluva great ride in the "high school horror" genre, led by a pretty solid cast, with the only notable name being the legendary Michael Ironside, who does a fantastic job. It's also a bit trippy as hell, with some really creative surreal moments that tap into the whole "what's real and what's not" a la The Dream Master. And for a film who's director (Bruce Pittman) had never done anything to prove he could handle so many of the films offbeat surreal moments, much less a horror film in general, it's quite an accomplishment. I just discovered that some of that can be attributed to the films writer, Ron Oliver (he would go on to write and direct Prom Night III), who was tasked (after the fact) to go back and shoot some extensive sequences to give the film more of a punch, and really, it's these moments that really give the film more of it's surreal quality and tone. Whoever deserves the credit (I say both), they delivered something that nearly 90% of these films fail to accomplish: a cheesy, gory, fun and spirited 80's slasher with enough tongue-in-cheek humor to qualify as a near horror/comedy rather than just straight-up horror.

While the film boasts an impressively solid cast, it's really the films star, Wendy Lyon, who does not play Mary Lou (Lisa Schrage), but rather a timid, fragile nerdy girl with an overbearing devoutly religious and demanding mother. She was such a breath of fresh air. You'd never imagine where her character would eventually go later in the film and I must admit, it was a bit shocking, in a very enjoyable way. You'll see what I mean a good halfway through. It's fantastic.



You'd think at my age, 41, having been watching horror films all my life that I'd pretty much seen most of them and that the genre for me had already been tapped out. But nope! This film is a great example that there are still some great ones left out there that I still haven't seen. Little underrated gems that flew under my radar, or for one reason or another never got the love, respect or acknowledgment they deserved. This is one of those films, and I implore you to seek it out. It's worth the effort if you love cheesy 80's horror. Sometimes clever, oftentimes inventive, and purely entertaining 100% of the time, Prom Night II is pure 80's horror bliss.

How to see it:
Currently the film is available in it's entirety on YouTube for free and in widescreen. The DVD is fairly cheap, also in widescreen, and a pretty good transfer. That was my source for this viewing. The VHS is also fairly cheap and common. No plans for a blu ray release anytime soon I'm afraid, at least not in the U.S.