Barrett & Wingard Deal Another Terrifying Blow with BLAIR WITCH

Blair Witch. 2016. Directed by Adam Wingard. Screenplay by Simon Barrett.
Starring James Allen McCune, Callie Hernandez, Corbin Reid, Brandon Scott, Wes Robinson, & Valorie Curry.
Lionsgate/Room 101/Snoot Entertainment.
Rated 14A. 89 minutes.
Horror/Thriller

★★★★1/2
posterThis movie was a loaded gun for me when it hit. First, since I first saw The Blair Witch Project I’ve loved it completely. In all honesty, the marketing got to me when it was released, and for those who experienced it in the early days of internet there’s this buzz that still gets you going every time the movie plays. You get taken back to those trailers, the opening scenes, all the faux-reality, but the terrifying faux-reality that gripped horror lovers.
Second, I dig Adam Wingard and his frequent collaborator writer Simon Barrett. They haven’t reinvented the wheel, yet every project they take on is unique. They have such an excellent rapport as a director-writer team, which translates well into each film. A Horrible Way to DieYou’re NextThe Guest; each of these, for me, was a thrilling experience, albeit in their respective ways.
When it came out finally that The Woods, their latest collaboration, is in actuality Blair Witch… well, needless to say, I got excited. Taking on a sequel to one of the most groundbreaking horror films ever made, after the first fairly miserable sequel Book of Shadows failed to impress, is a monumental task. Not everyone is going to love Blair Witch. People seem to fall into a couple categories: either they think it strays too far from the original (to which I smirk questionably), or they think it’s too similar (there goes that smirk again).
Me, I find Wingard and Barrett’s film admirable, in a lot of ways. It gets more intense than its predecessor, that alone is saying something; hard to beat, but this sequel gives many of the best scenes from the original a run for their money. More than that Barrett’s screenplay, as opposed to the improvised and looser style of The Blair Witch Project, does wonders for the tension and gives the actors good stuff with which to work, ultimately allowing for better performances. Not every last person is going to love this. I do, and I hope others were as thrilled as me when they sat through its terror.
screen-shot-2016-12-21-at-8-29-18-pmOne of the immediate aspects I noticed, and enjoyed a ton, is the great sound design, helping to put it above the intensity of the first film in specific moments. There’s a feeling of being lost in the woods alongside these people because of the sound; a hovering, pulsing sound wraps the audience up, as it surrounds the characters. This, in conjunction with the camerawork – chaotic and frenzied in the more mortifying moments – makes for good scares. The original movie does well with its bare sense of reality, having the actors sent out into the woods relatively on their own and manipulated into being scared. Blair Witch succeeds in its mission to creep people out partly due to the sound and the visuals together, plus the fact Wingard did things similar to The Blair Witch Project‘s directors Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sánchez.
Mainly, Wingard used an air horn in the background of scenes in order to attain the right amount of jump from actors. And some will say, “That’s what an actor is for, they should just act!” – I say nonsense. Sure, don’t go William Friedkin and fire a gun next to somebody to scare them. I feel like the air horn is fine, it did elicit appropriate reactions. There are honest places actors sometimes aren’t going to get simply because they need to be genuinely scared to get there, not pretend scared, and Wingard gets the actors under his care to that place, manipulating horror from them in an unexpected way. Moreover, the actors just haul you to the darkness of that woods and far too many times, in the best kind of sense, you’ll feel as lost as they do, disoriented, frightened, paranoid; the whole gamut of terrifying emotion.

screen-shot-2016-12-21-at-9-29-03-pmscreen-shot-2016-12-21-at-9-30-23-pmThe acting is great, aside from any of the jump scares or the pure bits of scary madness. And it’s strange, because I’ve seen people complain that the acting is no good, or that it takes away from the tension. Totally disagree. Each of the actors gives it their all, as well as the fact a couple of them give absolutely awesome performances.
Wes Robinson & The Following‘s Valorie Curry as Lane and Talia, the would-be guides into the Black Hills woods, don’t only play interesting characters Barrett penned in addition to the others, they’re two of the best in the cast. Robinson particularly gets to the core of the paranoia driving so much of the story’s suspense. Once things progress to a certain point, both Robinson and Curry take us into a horrific space that gets eerier by the minute.
James Allen McCune (whose stint on Shameless was incredible) plays the brother of Heather Donahue, the catalyst of the adventure, and he does a nice job straddling between non-belief and belief until the situation becomes painfully clear near the end. I also can’t forget to mention Corbin Reid as Ashley. She plays a role that could’ve easily been lost in a bunch of blood and moaning and crying; while there’s a little of that, Reid brings an uneasy feeling to the gut when we see her character descend into the forest’s terror. Everybody involved brings their A-game, even the couple more minor characters. With a bigger cast this time, in contrast to the original’s trio, Blair Witch utilises every one of them to the fullest extent.
screen-shot-2016-12-21-at-9-36-52-pmI don’t want to spoil any of the best moments, although I have to mention one, hopefully without giving away too much. Just before the final half hour takes us into a frightening place, a scene involving the wooden Blair Witch figurines takes their presence to a whole new level. I can’t say much more – other than the actors’ reactions combined with the editing, and again the sound design, make for the moment that both shocked and pounded me into a state of horror.
Blair Witch is about on par with its original. Maybe a lot of others don’t think so, but damn it, I do. And I can’t deny that. I went into this expecting that there was a possibility I wouldn’t be thrilled. Regardless if Barrett and Wingard made this, two artists I admire and love to see working in any capacity (the latter’s stint with Cinemax and Outcast did wonders for the TV horror lover’s soul), I didn’t count out disappointment.
Yet no part of me was really disappointed. Barrett and Wingard did interesting things with the legacy of such a beloved piece of horror cinema. They refused to move too far from the film Myrick and Sánchez. Likewise, they branched out a bit, too; they didn’t retread too many paths. I loved the ending because it goes out on a similar note to the first, and in doing so almost shows us how the first actually ended. Dig it. As well, there’s an interesting conception of time in the screenplay; that’s all I’ll say. This does wonders in terms of writing to make the movie different, yet similar in a weird vein to the original film. If you want a good spoiler-filled look at this idea, check Screen Crush’s interview with Wingard here.
So even if there’s no general consensus, or even if that consensus is that this sequel doesn’t hold up, I dig this one. Barrett and Wingard confirm once again they’re worthy of helping to carry genre film forward, year after year. And who knows, maybe this will help a franchise get going, which I’d love to see. This didn’t wow at the box office, but it did make a profit for a relatively low budget film in today’s Hollywood system. I know that I wouldn’t mind seeing at least one more film surrounding the legend of the Blair Witch, no matter who takes it on. This movie proves you can update or reboot films years later without being totally derivative and without straying too wildly from what made the original so popular.

There’s Twice the Psychosis WHEN A STRANGER CALLS BACK

When A Stranger Calls Back. 1993. Directed & Written by Fred Walton.
Starring Carol Kane, Charles Durning, Jill Schoelen, Gene Lythgow, Karen Elizabeth Austin, Babs Chula, John Destry, Duncan Fraser, Jenn Griffin, Gary Jones, Terence Kelly, & Kevin McNulty.
Krost-Chapin Productions/MCA Television Entertainment/Pacific Motion Pictures.
Rated R. 94 minutes.
Horror/Mystery/Thriller

★★★★
poster1979’s When A Stranger Calls is a favourite of mine. There are far too many people who either don’t know it, or they don’t appreciate it enough. Tony Beckley’s performance as Curt Duncan, the titular stranger, is the stuff of pure nightmare. And somehow, 14 years later, Fred Walton’s sequel When A Stranger Calls Back nearly hits all the same eerie notes with a different story and some of the same characters.
Walton gets a bit wilder in this sequel, although just about every bit of it works. Charles Durning and Carol Kane return again as John Clifford and Jill Johnson respectively, each hardened and experienced due to their experiences with Duncan in the first film. In the position of Kane’s Jill this time around is Jill Schoelen as Julia Jenz, a woman whose life becomes a horrorshow at the hands of a demented, relentless stalker.
The sequel goes for a more outlandish stalker. His psychosis is much stranger than that of Curt Duncan’s urge to kill. Some might find the stalker’s gimmick cheesy. Me, I find it terrifying.
screen-shot-2016-09-30-at-2-29-25-amMimicking the original, Walton starts off with a suspenseful opening sequence with Julia babysitting. However, he sets it apart from the first film by not opting for an outwardly foreboding, unnerving phone call. So much so that Walton’s actually taken the phone out of the picture by literally having it cut dead. This allows the sequel to tread its own ground rather than march straight through the original material all over again. It’s the same, yet isn’t, and the familiarity solely helps as a jumping off point for the tension. At one point Walton cuts back to shots of the doorknob, ratcheting that tension to a maximum. The viewer waiting on seat’s edge to see it turn, or move even in the tiniest way. This moment never comes. Sidestepping the payoff leaves Walton with unresolved tension, poised for a wicked crash once the perverse and threatening action of the titular stranger breaks loose.
When it gets genuinely disturbing is the second stalking. Like Duncan, this stranger comes back again after the first time. But what this guy does as opposed to Duncan is play a far more psychologically threatening game with Julia than Duncan did with Jill; not to say she didn’t suffer, but boy, this stalker is a doozy. Here, the stranger plays sick games to ingratiate himself with Julia, to put himself in her life, somehow in a twisted frame of mind. When you find out what he’s doing later in the film, it is a trip.


Having both Kane and Durning back brings with them credibility, as well as a degree of continuity instead of a sequel that feels like a cash in, put together to get a quick payday for everyone involved, maybe boost the sales of the original. This way, their characters make the story more interesting; there’s more depth, more at stake. Of course it works out well because Jill’s experience in When A Stranger Calls is sort of how we also saw Sydney Prescott in the Scream series eventually become a victim counsellor over the phone – she provides a unique perspective that plays into Julia’s predicament with her own stalker. While the stalker feels weirder in a spooky way, this sequel is less psychological horror – even though there’s plenty of that – and more a dark, emotional thriller full of mystery.
Still, Walton does play well with the psycho-horror of this screenplay. He makes Julia’s apartment into an ominous, paranoid location where each shadow means potential danger. With lingering shots and choice edits, the apartment is like a haunting character in and of itself, which lurks around the viewer, and of course Julia. Walton and cinematographer David Geddes (Legends of TomorrowHalloween: Resurrection) give the film a great look, especially considering this sequel is a TV movie after all.
There are quite a few spectacularly creepy moments and scenes. At one point, the stalker stands over Julia as she lies in a hospital bed – he slaps her over and over, and it’s so horrific because you can clearly see the psychotic behaviour brimming along the edges, past ready to break out fully. SPOILERS! SPOILERS AHEAD! When we get a look at the stranger in his element – a ventriloquist painted black, a dummy on his knee with no facial features – there’s a shocking element to this revelation. Suddenly you understand, all of it. Honestly, this scene starts out funny. Then gradually it becomes unbearable. Totally unsettling shit. Particularly once people start leaving, weirded out by this ventriloquist act, and the owner of the club all but kicks the hell out of the stranger, there’s a sad, pitiful aspect to this man. Sort of emotionally crushing because he’s obviously got issues. Although there’s no connection, no empathy for him – we’ve seen what he does. The final showdown between him, Jill, and Julia is crazy. Very fitting and just as intense. A legitimately frightening finish, at times as frightening as Curt Duncan from the original.
screen-shot-2016-09-30-at-2-29-57-amI’ll always love the original most, and I do feel that it is rightfully the better film. That being said, When A Stranger Calls Back is one of the more underrated sequels to a classic horror that, for whatever reason, never gets its due. That’s probably in part because this went out as a TV movie. Not sure why it ended up that way, because it has the makings of a genuine film and Walton follows his own footsteps lightly, treading carefully in most of the right places.
My only complaint is that I wish we were given a bit more insight into the stalker. We do get plenty later once everything kicks up a notch. But there easily could’ve been more. Perhaps that’s part of it being a TV movie. If we got a full fledged theatrical release movie from Walton on this sequel, there may have been changes in that department. We’ll never know.
Despite any small complaints, this Halloween you need to see When A Stranger Calls Back. This one gets a bit more disquieting simply for how it gets a bit more out of control with a stalking stranger even more unhinged than Curt Duncan; if you can believe it.

An Uneven Sequel, My Guilty Pleasure – EXORCIST II: THE HERETIC

Exorcist II: The Heretic. 1977. Directed by John Boorman. Screenplay by William Goodhart.
Starring Linda Blair, Richard Burton, Louise Fletcher, Max von Sydow, Kitty Winn, Paul Henreid, James Earl Jones, & Ned Beatty.
Warner Bros.
Rated R. 118 minutes.
Horror

★★★1/2
posterI’m not going to try and tell you that John Boorman’s sequel to the original William Friedkin masterpiece is a great movie. It isn’t, and I know that. But still, despite the fact it isn’t what it ought to, there’s enough for me personally to appreciate.
Exorcist II: The Heretic suffered due to constant rewrites, number one. Boorman and Rospo Pallenberg (who in all fairness did good work with the director on Excalibur and The Emerald Forest) seemed to have rewritten continuously, consistently on and off set, just hammering the original work by playwright William Goodhart into an unrecognisable form. Even Linda Blair herself said the original script was good, but clearly got lost in the process.
I love the central ideas and themes in this film. From what it looks like at the core, Goodhart merely wanted to approach demonic possession through a standpoint of centring around the human psyche, effectively merging theology and science into one. However, Boorman and Pallenberg filled the script with too much exposition, which bogs down the pace and wastes the fine acting of Blair, and the man, the legend Richard Burton.
Disowned even by the director himself, this is an unfairly treated sequel. Again, it’s not good. I don’t agree it’s trash, either. It could never hope to match Friedkin’s original, that is no debate. Sitting in the shadow of that first film it often doesn’t get the proper attention it deserves. Look past the blemishes; they are legion. I won’t pretend to be blind and not see them. I also won’t bash this sequel simply because its predecessor is a masterpiece and everything isn’t executed as well as hoped.
screen-shot-2016-09-27-at-10-41-28-pmWhat encompasses my feeling about Boorman’s movie is how Martin Scorsese put it, in terms of theological perspective. He said that when you look at that central concept – poignantly observed by Father Merrin (Max von Sydow): “Does great goodness draw evil upon itself?” – then it’s possible to likewise view Regan MacNeil (Blair) as a saint. God is putting her through the tortures of the damned, testing her. And yes, the heavy-handed writing in the final script harps on that point much too blatantly. I can’t knock it too hard because the idea is still within reach. That’s the ultimate problem with Boorman and Pallenberg rewriting everything, there’s no telling how well things might have sounded if Goodhart’s words remained as he wrote them in the beginning; I can’t help feeling a playwright such as himself would try trimming things a bit. Although I do believe Scorsese has a great point. This movie has interesting themes, particularly in the vein of viewing Regan’s possession as saintly tribulation.
Most of all I dig how thematically this sequel goes for a merge of science and religion. The synchroniser, essentially a biofeedback unit, allows Father Lamont (Burton) an opportunity of validation – seeing a verifiable instance of possession, by way of scientific equipment. Of course the dialogue, once more, goes too hard on the expository side, but just the themes alone are worth entertaining. Lamont is plagued by guilt after having botched an exorcism. He starts wondering if there even is a God, demons, any of it, believing himself to have been duped, or at least allowing himself to fall into a bad way. The plot taking him into Regan’s possession, the fact Pazuzu essentially has latched onto her psyche, it’s a path towards redemption in some way for Lamont. Boorman mangles the execution of the journey there. If not this could easily be a worthy successor to the original.
screen-shot-2016-09-27-at-10-44-08-pmOne big part of why I do enjoy the film is because von Sydow graciously returned to play Father Merrin. Through Father Lamont, we’re able to take a look back at how Merrin first came in contact with the demon Pazuzu whilst visiting Africa. There’s so much awesome stuff in these parts, even once Lamont himself goes to Africa. First, when we see Merrin witness the boy Kokumo (later played in grownup form by James Earl Jones) taken by the demon, announcing “I am Pazuzu” with locusts swarming all over his face, the fabled confrontation alluded to in the original comes to life. Mostly what that does for me is make me want to watch the original because you gain this further sense, even in their brief initial scene, of the struggle of Merrin to cast this demon out. Later in the film when Lamont travels to Africa, just the locations (obviously set work) are a lot of fun. Boorman wanted to do everything on location in Africa, although that was too much cash to splurge for the production. I feel that this little portion actually works, and for not shooting anywhere near Africa (a combination of Arizona desert and soundstage set) Boorman at least managed to give these scenes an eerie look to compliment the story.
Ennio Morricone’s score and the cinematography of William A. Fraker are major elements of Exorcist II: The Heretic which feed its atmosphere. Morricone is always a treat, in any film his work appears. Here, he combines tribal sounds with those of a Christian mass, moving between wailing, chattering African rhythms to dreadful Roman hymnals, voices flickering in and out alongside sharp brass in staccato patterns. There’s too many pieces to mention, an epic score if there ever were one in a horror; sadly, the rest of the movie can’t live up to its awesomeness. At least Fraker – whose work includes Rosemary’s BabyBullittLooking For Mr. Goodbar, among others – captures a lot of good looking shots. The excellent feel of those African scenes is mostly due to his prowess behind the camera. He and Boorman conjure up interesting things during the synchroniser scenes when we see Regan’s two selves, the demon grabbing at the heart, so on. If it weren’t for Fraker and Morricone doing their best on the technical side of things, I probably wouldn’t enjoy this half as much as I do.
screen-shot-2016-09-27-at-10-44-58-pmI love this movie. Simultaneously being capable of recognising it’s many, many flaws. I know why people hate it, I certainly get that. But there’s a lot to love beneath the shitty rewritten script. Boorman is a favourite of mine as a filmmaker, although he’s got a few big rotten duds in his catalogue. Simply, I admire his willingness to do what he wants, to do things his own way. That doesn’t always translate well. Yet bless him for trying and having a vision.
Exorcist II: The Heretic is one of those movies you can laugh at a bit, and if you really want to, look inside some of what Boorman tries to get at. Ignore his botched work in certain scenes, go deeper to examine those themes of where religion and science might (or can) intersect. More than that there are hard looks at faith, guilt, and how people deal with the traumas of their own respective experiences.
This won’t satisfy you if looking for a sequel that’ll carry Friedkin’s legacy of the original on with dignity. It’s not a worthy follow-up in most cases. I still think it’s a 3&1/2 out of 5 star bit of horror. Because of the uneven directing and writing from Boorman (as well as Pallenberg on the script), the viewer is left to do most of the work in finding the diamonds in the rough. Believe me, though: it gets rough.

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2: Dark Comedy and the Repression of Leatherface

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2. 1986. Directed by Tobe Hooper. Screenplay by L.M. Kit Carson.
Starring Dennis Hopper, Caroline Williams, Jim Siedow, Bill Moseley, Bill Johnson, Ken Evert, James N. Harrell, Lou Perryman, & Chris Douridas.
Cannon Films/Golan-Globus Productions.
Rated R. 101 minutes.
Comedy/Horror

★★★1/2
POSTER Horror sequels are often unduly shit on. Many, in my mind, are actually worth their weight in blood. Some are most certainly worse than the originals, or they simply don’t bring enough to merit considering it as even a worthwhile sequel. But a lot are great, such as the often torn down Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge, Psycho IIExorcist II: The Heretic, and I’m sure there are a few more.
One of those oft maligned sequels is The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2, from the director of the original, Mr. Tobe Hooper. Maybe part of why this sequel strays a little past where the original marked its territory is due to the fact Hooper only directs, and the writing duties are left up to L.M. Kit Carson (he did a great screenplay for Wim Wenders’ Paris, Texas). Not saying this movie is poorly written. In fact, it successfully welds together the terrifying steel of Leatherface’s chainsaw with a good dose of backwoods Texas humour. One of the best aspects is the characters. Even Leatherface and his horrific appeal aren’t lost within all the black comedy, but rather we get doses of foolishness which lures us in, then the saw and the family do their work. Certainly not close to as nerve shattering as the original film, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 at least tries to do something different instead of emulating the same style, over and over; a technique studios nowadays use too often, trying to capitalize on the money made from particularly successful movies. In straight up opposition, Hooper switches things up and leaves it all on the table. What else would you expect from a Cannon Films production?
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On the air during her radio show, Vanita ‘Stretch’ Brock (Caroline Williams) and L.G. McPeters (Lou Perry) overhear what may just be a brutal murder, when two young college age dude-bros encounter – unbeknownst to the DJ – Leatherface (Bill Johnson) and some of his clan.
In town is Lieutenant Lefty Enright (Dennis Hopper). He’s investigating yet another possible chainsaw killing. His brother’s kids were killed by the dangerous chainsaw family a decade before. For ten years, he’s searched for those killers. When Stretch finds Lefty at his hotel and brings him the tape that possibly contains evidence of the latest murder, he doesn’t seem too excited. But after awhile, Lefty wises up.
Only it may be a little too late. One of the other Sawyers, Chop-Top (Bill Moseley), goes to visit Stretch at the radio station. And he’s bringing along a nice dose of steel with him.
Can Lefty and Stretch hold their ground? Or will they become yet another set of victims to the killer Sawyer clan?
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As I said, this movie is all about the characters. Whereas the original Hooper classic focused on the terror, putting innocent young people in the way of murderous psychopaths, the sequel keeps on with the killing, only it shifts towards giving us more of the demented maniacs in plain view. The original kept things in the dark, sorts of closing the family off from society. In this sequel, Hooper and Carson let the Sawyer family loose into the world, as if they couldn’t possibly be stopped. Therefore, we get to see more of Leatherface and learn different things of his character; for one, he’s a horny bastard, or at the very least sexually frustrated to the maximum. Plus, now he does this weirdly creepy and simultaneously funny shake while wielding his chainsaw; it kills me every time, a crack-up, but still there’s something scary about his enthusiasm. Then we’ve got Chop-Top, played magnificently and to cult status by the ever impressive Bill Moseley. He is always a creepy guy, no matter what character he plays (aside from stuff like Dead Air), but definitely amps up his eerie qualities to play this guy; he seamlessly becomes a part of the Sawyer world, adding eccentricity and further questions about exactly how completely maniacal this family is truly.
Aside from the family, though, we’re treated to both Lefty and Stretch. Hell, even L.G. is a decent character thrown in there. Well the stars of this show, aside from Moseley, absolutely are Caroline Williams and Dennis Hopper. Williams is not only a gorgeous lady, she oozes charisma, and having her play the on-air radio personality here was awesome casting. She really makes the character feel like a DJ, she talks like one and acts like one, so there’s an authenticity to her character, instead of that occupation feeling like a vain attempt at making her interesting. Add in Hopper, channeling both a renegade lawman and also some of his Blue Velvet craziness, and this whole thing is a ton of fun. Hopper’s character is a little campy, a little wild, but always interesting. He makes for a good showdown with the family, Leatherface in particular.
Note: the first scene between Leatherface and Stretch is one of my favourites, in any horror film. Because it’s dark and funny at once, then there’s this extremely disturbing sexual angle to it. Most of all, it brings some of the issues surrounding Leatherface to the forefront. He’s essentially a mentally challenged man caught in a murderous rampage, so he doesn’t know how to talk to girls, or impress them, except with his big, hard, long saw. Genius scene, incredibly well-written.
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The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 contains a hearty dose of nasty blood and violence. One scene is just Chop-Top bashing a head in, over and over, cut back and forth with Stretch trying to get away from Leatherface. Just the sheer amount of blood spurting out onto the floor is enough to make some of the weaker, casual horror watchers uneasy. There’s something else about this though, as it calls to mind the first film where Grandpa tried to use the hammer; here, Chop-Top knows how to use that hammer, and he uses it well. Later, we revisit the Grandpa scene in direct parallel; not as good as Chop, though. Even early on in the film where two of the dude-bros in their car run across Leatherface, we see a nasty, beautifully executed practical effect – a head gets sawed through, a cut going down into the skull and the face. Very nice makeup effects. Not sure how much he did himself, but makeup legend Tom Savini is credited on this picture, so if he supervised this work there’s no wonder much of it looks gruesome, and perfectly horrific. You could never have a Texas Chainsaw Massacre movie with bad effects, or if you do then it’s sure to not live up to its predecessors. For all its faults, this sequel to the original at least matches its vicious brutality at certain times.
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With a lot to live up to, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 is a 3&1/2 star horror. Never will it come close to its original. But Tobe Hooper crafts a nice, campy horror romp out of L.M. Kit Carson’s darkly comic, brutal screenplay. On the shoulders of Hopper, Moseley, and Williams, the characters come alive, and they’re able to carry much of the plot themselves. Maybe comedy isn’t exactly suited perfectly to Hooper’s creepy backwoods Texas world. But again, if anything you’ve got to applaud Hooper for not trying to carbon copy what he did previously in the original. If he simply slapped together another rehash, we’d all be complaining about that. Instead, be glad for his dare to be different, no matter the costs. This is still a lot of fun, has a fair share of blood and guts, as well as the fact Leatherface is weirder and wilder than ever. Make sure you toss this on next time you’re looking for a horror with comedy that’s not an outright comedy-horror flick. This can satisfy the need for kills and the need for some laughs in the right sort of way.

Halloween: Resurrection – Rosenthal Does Nothing for the Series

Halloween: Resurrection. 2002. Directed by Rick Rosenthal. Screenplay by Larry Brand & Sean Hood.
Starring Jamie Lee Curtis, Brad Loree, Busta Rhymes, Bianca Kajlich, Sean Patrick Thomas, Daisy McCrackin, Katee Sackhoff, Luke Kirby, Thomas Ian Nicholas, Ryan Merriman, and Tyra Banks. Dimension Films/Nightfall Productions/Trancas International Films. Rated 18A. 89 minutes.
Horror/Thriller

★★
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So at this point, the Halloween franchise has all but ran its course. Honestly, I do enjoy the previous film a bit. More than that I’m a fan of the entire series. Even the less than great entries can still be a lot of fun, as opposed to some of the later Friday the 13th entries which I find virtually unwatchable at times. But most of Halloween: Resurrection is just bad. Not everything is horrible, not at all. However, the lion’s share here goes to bad horror, forced comedy and not enough of the classic horror which makes Michael Myers so scary.
The effects in many scenes are well done, they’re also pretty gruesome and frightening. The acting is almost laughable in terms of the main cast – they’re almost upstaged by the rambling mental patient who rattles off serial killer trivia, from John Wayne Gacy to Ted Bundy, and so on. And too many times you’ll find yourself wondering how low the series will sink, starting with the opening sequence involving Laurie Strode and Michael in their final confrontation. Director Rick Rosenthal did an amazing job with the first sequel, Halloween II, but 21 years later he came back with a fistful of shit and did no justice to any of the other good movies throughout the franchise.
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Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) decapitated Michael Myers at the end of the last film. Turns out, Michael actually managed to switch his clothes with a paramedic. He made his way out and hid for three years, while Laurie rotted in a mental asylum. Although, she spent that time preparing for a showdown that had to be coming eventually. When it does finally, Michael ends up once and for all killing his long lost sister: what he always set out to do.
But evil never rests. Michael Myers goes back to the only place he ever knew outside of the walls of a psychiatric ward: home, Haddonfield. Only an internet show is being broadcast from the old Myers place. Freddie Harris (Busta Rhymes) and Nora Winston (Tyra Banks) at DangerTainment have set the whole thing up, selecting six young people to spend a night in the “birthplace of evil in its purest form“. Things don’t go so well, once it’s clear Michael has more definitely come home.
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Usually, if anything, I’m able to find a few good kills in any of these films. This one is no exception. Even while almost everything else happening is total junk, there are some interesting and very brutish kills. For instance, what slasher horror is complete without a nice impaling? Well, some of them are, I suppose. But the bad slashers, such as this one, really need those sorts of kills. If not, everything gets stale. Here, we have a character impaled by Myers, which ups the gory ante. Earlier, someone gets stabbed viciously in the head. Later on, the strength of Myers is once more evident in all its savage glory, as Michael ends up crushing a guy’s head into bloody chunks. An homage to the original Halloween sees a victim pinned to a door, hung by kitchen knives, almost similar to one of the deaths in John Carpenter’s masterpiece. But best of all, I do dig how people watch on while the others die, live streaming into the house. And to think – this was 13 years ago now. Today, the bloodthirsty internet audience might actually love this sort of thing. So, despite all the shortcomings of this mostly unnecessary sequel in the franchise, I can find a few little things to enjoy here and there. But not too much.
Halloween-Resurrection-2
One thing several of the Halloween films have in common, and make them more enjoyable than their lesser counterparts, is there have been good, solid performances. I can’t say that, at all, about Halloween: Resurrection. While I have a love for Busta Rhymes and his music career, the sentiment does not extend to his acting abilities. All the same, he’s probably the most fun of all the actors because at least Busta seems into it. Otherwise, it’s a cast filled with pretty-to-look-at people who can’t exactly act up to the level they need to in order to make this sinking ship float. With American Pie alumni Thomas Ian Nicholas, the geek goddess Katee Sackhoff, a terribly miscast Tyra Banks and Ryan Merriman whose most well-known credit to date is either The Ring Two or Pretty Little Liars, the entire cast couldn’t save this abomination. Perhaps if better actors wanted to be in this sequel, it might be different. As it stands, the acting doesn’t do anything to push the film to higher heights. I don’t mean to disparage these actors, I’m sure they’ve all done decently in other work, but this movie falls apart quicker than it should due to the lack of much talent, or at least effort, in the respective performances.
Halloween Resurrection 4Halloween Resurrection Michael Myers
I can give this sequel a 2 star rating without feeling too bad about it. Definitely does not deserve any more. With a good deal of brutality and decent make-up effects, some of the slasher elements of Halloween: Resurrection are up to speed with certain other entries in the franchise. Though, this is where the goodness ends. Including too much laughable acting, a terrible and unjust opening sequence involving Laurie Strode, and overall a story that does nothing for the franchise other than try to milk more money out of hardcore fans (who’ll see anything with the name Halloween on it if involving Michael Myers), this really is an abysmal sequel. Not saying there aren’t others, but this is absolutely one of the worst in the entire series. You don’t need to see it for any other reason than to be a completist. I even own it on a collection including the last three movies of the franchise, on Blu ray no less. But only because I’m a collector, and because I love Myers; regardless of how the Hollywood machine decides to pimp him out.

Halloween III: Season of the Witch – Better Than Remembered

Halloween III: Season of the Witch. 1982. Directed & Written by Tommy Lee Wallace.
Starring Tom Atkins, Stacey Nelkin, Dan O’Herlihy, Michael Currie, Ralph Strait, Jadeen Barbor, Brad Schacter, Garn Stephens, Nancy Kyes, Jonathan Terry, Al Berry, Wendy Wessberg, Essex Smith, Maidie Norman, John MacBride, and Loyd Catlett.
Dino De Laurentiis Company/Universal Pictures.
Rated R. 98 minutes.
Horror/Sci-Fi

★★★1/2
halloween-iii-season-of-the-witch-dvd-cover-13 The Halloween franchise is one of my favourites in horror. Not a big fan of the last couple. But seriously, from John Carpenter’s original masterpiece Halloween right up to Halloween V, I’m right in there with the biggest of fans. Each of them aren’t equally as amazing. They’ve each got their merits, though. I’ll say this: the first two are slasher horror masterpieces.
In the middle of all the regular Michael Myers pictures, there stands Halloween III: Season of the Witch. What ought to have been marketed as a spin-off from the franchise rather than actually being the permanent third installment has been banished to the world of cult classic verging on generally maligned. There are several camps of people who talk about this Halloween film – some say it’s terrible and has no merit, others (like me) think it’s real good and should’ve done better had the producers marketed it correctly, and then crazier people than I who say it’s the best of the series (sorry that honour belongs to the very first; no matter how much I enjoy some of the others).
What I know for sure is this is a good horror movie. It doesn’t deserve to be torn up, it also doesn’t need to be over praised. If you go into it knowing this is NOT a Michael Myers slasher, then there’s a chance you’ll come at it correctly and find the horror and quasi-science fiction elements enjoyable. Watch a trailer, any trailer for this film and you can understand it’s different from the others. But it isn’t bad different, it’s simply not a typical Halloween entry. Much as I love Michael, this movie has a creep factor wholly of its own and I firmly believe – without any hype – the only reason this movie isn’t more widely loved is solely due to how its been marketed. Take the Halloween title off this, keep Season of the Witch and maybe make a few more tenuous ties to Myers (like showing the original film on a television), you’ve got yourself a solid 1980s horror classic.
h3iiiSmall shop owner Harry Grimbridge ((Al Berry) is attacked by unknown men in the night. He flees and eventually ends up in the hospital. There, he’s later killed by one of these same men. Although, Dr. Daniel Challis (Tom Atkins) is witness to the man’s last words, and shows up just after his murder. Following the killer outside, he sees the man pour gas all over himself and strike a match, blowing his car sky high. This sets him off on a quest to figure out what happened – alongside him is Harry’s daughter, Ellie (Stacey Nelkin).
What they end up uncovering is a vast and horrific plot by businessman Conal Cochran (Dan O’Herlihy); one involving Halloween, threatening every boy and girl looking to put on a mask so they can head out for candy.

The whole opening 20-minute sequence is extremely creepy and a whole lot of fun: from when Harry Grimbridge is attacked by the suit & glove wearing assailants to the moment Dr. Challis watches one of them light himself on fire and the car explodes. Can’t think of a better way this movie could’ve started out. The writing here from director-writer Tommy Lee Wallace is solid and makes the film’s energy pump hard immediately.
HalloweenIII-MasksBartender: “What’s the matter – don’t you have any Halloween spirit?
Dr. Challis: “No

An obvious viewing of this film holds themes involving big versus small business, consumerism, corporations feeding off the figurative soul of children via Halloween, and more. I’m not the first to try and draw any of that out, nor will I be the last.
I love the character of Harry Grimbridge to start. Right off the bat you’ve got this small business owner, running a hold-out shop against the big supermalls and chain stores, still getting much of his business from kids just out of school – and he’s being hunted down by the robot-like, suit & glove wearing henchmen, the identical looking murderers; they are legion. A little later there’s a homeless man Dr. Challis comes across. He gets his head pulled off by two of them because he’s out rallying against the man. The homeless man happens to tell Challis about how Cochran (Dan O’Herlihy) won’t employ the good ole local boys, but rather imports his workers from elsewhere. Can this get any clearer really? It’s not quite on the nose, definitely in the vicinity. No matter, I think it works great because there’s metaphor yet it’s blatant and still that’s perfect. Makes for a bit of unsettling horror.
cochranThe effects aren’t all spot on, though, they are certainly effective. I love when one of the clone-like henchmen pulls Grimbridge’s skull apart by the eye sockets and nose. Incredibly vicious, both during and afterwards! When a woman dies at the motel, I thought the initial parts of the makeup effects looked great, but the the longer Wallace lingers on her the worse it looks. Still, there are other worthwhile effects. Particularly once the science fiction type elements find their way into the screenplay, the practical makeup effects are ghastly at times; in the appropriate sense. The orange juice-looking liquid used at one point is sickly and makes for an uneasy feeling in the guts. Great, great stuff.
A subtle scene involves a drill – we never get to see the brutish stuff, we’re left by Wallace to imagine it instead. Which I often find even more tough. Nice choice by him on this one. Could’ve easily been a gory kill and here it’s something that will probably make you cringe in different way.
Favourite effects scene has to be when the first young boy has his head destroyed by the pumpkin mask. The way the mask looks to start, breaking down and decaying like it’s burning up inside and out, then all the insects, the snake slithering through the boy’s dead mouth… it’s raw and disturbing. Some intense shots here, especially considering the whole family of three dies in the made-up living room set. It’s a shocker of a scene, super effective.
10.23-halloween3Halloween-3-04Taken on its own, as a sort of standalone spin-off, Halloween III: Season of the Witch is a 3.5 out of 5 star horror movie. There are plenty of chilling moments, different in subject matter yet similar in tone to the rest of the franchise. As well as the fact you’ll see several wild kills, a few of those even further contain fun practical effects. It isn’t as great as Halloween or Halloween II, but it is damn good stuff. A little different spin on the franchise, and why not? The whole series wears out past the fifth entry, even earlier for some other viewers, so what’s the harm in one movie taking another path? I see no reason why this should be a widely panned film. It’s not perfect, but there is great horror and a dose of science fiction even. Check this one out if you’ve avoided it until now. You may find yourself pleasantly surprised; or horrified, possibly.

Batman Returns with Burton’s Gothic Style

Batman Returns. 1992. Directed by Tim Burton. Screenplay by Daniel Waters from a story by Waters & Sam Hamm.
Starring Michael Keaton, Danny DeVito, Michelle Pfeiffer, Christopher Walken, Michael Gough, Michael Murphy, Cristi Conaway, Andrew Bryniarski, Pat Hingle, Vincent Schiavelli, Steve Witting, and Jan Hooks.
Warner Bros./PolyGram Filmed Entertainment.
PG-13. 126 minutes.
Action/Adventure

★★★★★
102114_BatmanReturns_PosterA huge fan of Batman now for about twenty five years, I only recently reviewed Tim Burton’s 1989 film; a favourite of mine. While there’s definitely even more of a cartoon-ish vibe with Batman Returns I almost can’t decide which one is my favourite. So many want to say Batman is better, however, this one combines even more of what I loved about the first one: the darkness and the campy nature of the comic books and graphic novels. With this film there’s not only a deepening of the visuals in terms of those aspects, Burton’s sequel to his own film also goes a little deeper into character than the first.
The character of the Joker is fundamentally supposed to be a bit of a mystery, so even the fact we saw Jack Nicholson as Napier before his transformation was more than you might anticipate. With Selina Kyle and Oswald Cobblepot in this film, there’s a lot of chances for Burton to dive into their characters alongside more and more Bruce Wayne. More than this, I find the look and feel of the movie makes things so much creepier than the first. There are plenty who would say creepy is not something Batman ought to be as a film, yet I say different. There’s lots of adventure, plenty of thrill and superhero fun, but Batman and many of the characters – especially those included here – are most certainly at least a bit scary. They aren’t as outright megalomaniac-like, except for the Joker and even he has an inordinate amount of darkness in him as a character. Batman Returns brings the cartoon comic nature of Batman and the villains to the world of film, and at the very same time excels by including so much of the darkness and violence you’ll likely not see in another comic book ever again (except for maybe the violence I anticipate will have found its way into Deadpool; hopefully at least).
Either way, I don’t feel this sequel gets enough credit, nor does Burton in general for making such wonderful adaptations of Batman. This is possibly my favourite of them all, though, I still can’t make a definitive decision whether or not I’m more a fan of this or the previous movie. Too much great stuff in them both, yet I’m always leaning towards this one for whatever reason. We’ll see if maybe I get to the bottom of it.
Batman_Returns_-_BatarangTo start, I love the look of the movie, from costumes to the makeup and special effects, to the scenes themselves. The cinematography in this film is courtesy of Stefan Czapsky, whose work includes Vampire’s Kiss, Director of Photography on Errol Morris’ incredibly documentary The Thin Blue Line, as well as D.P on the odd and wonderful Edward ScissorhandsA Brief History of TimeEd Wood (another Burton film I dig a ton), Matilda, and more. Czapsky also worked as gaffer and assistant camera on a bunch of awesome movies like Larry Cohen’s God Told Me ToQHe Knows You’re Alone, Martin Scorsese’s After Hours, and At Close Range among others.
He really does some good work here as D.P. Lots of interesting shots he captures, which really express the Tim Burton style. I imagine after working on Edward Scissorhands a couple years before with Burton they had a feel for one another, their style and methods, so much of that I feel comes out in this film. Throughout the movie, mostly due to the fact the setting happens around/on Christmas, Burton and Czapsky conjure up this incredibly dark carnival sort of atmosphere, and the tone stays pitch dark from start to finish.
Honestly, my pick for top shot of the film is right at the beginning where we get to watch little baby Oswald wash down the river in his basket, down into the sewers where he’ll remain for 33 years; it’s a great sequence following behind the basket, watching it float on through the water. So creepy and immediately makes us aware how grim this film aims to be from the outset.
Moreover, I think Burton and Czapsky draw out so much animal imagery throughout the movie. From penguins to cats to bats, there are a bunch of different moments where the animals show up in interesting ways. Great stuff, even if it may seem heavy handed. I thought Burton did good work in those terms, too.
5-things-you-might-not-know-about-tim-burton-batman-returns-20th-anniversaryThere’s something in this movie I love even more than the first: score. Fact is, even though I do love the sequence in the museum from Batman set to the Prince song “Partyman”, there’s a little too much of it all the same. Here, in Batman Returns, I think Danny Elfman has more of a chance to branch out, as opposed to the first. Studio involvement made the first a mix, with Prince and Elfman ending up both thrown around in the movie. This time around, though there were apparently troubles in the relationship between Burton & Elfman, I think the score is absolutely fantastic! Each character has their own theme, an aesthetic all to their own, and much of that comes from Elfman’s pieces. Like the bits with the cats and Selina, as they lick and bite her (et cetera), there’s neat idiosyncrasies happening in the score with violin strings scraping and screeching, and more. Elfman has a style all of his own, which really compliments much of Burton and his own aesthetic.
batman-returns-selinas-resurrectiondda12d1eebf83736f78a5b8e0a216f15One particular favourite scene of mine is when Selina (Pfeiffer) returns home after being thrown from the window by Shreck (Walken), and somehow surviving. There’s a creepiness and black humour to the whole sequence, alternating back and forth. The way Selina stumbles home, bleeding a little, her entire skin tone has changed to an almost milky white, it’s super weird in all the right ways.
This is another aspect I love even above the 1989 film. In this story, there’s even more violence and a further edge. While Nicholson’s Joker had some highly disturbing aspects to his character (think: Alicia the living & disfigured art installation), I can’t help but think of so many moments in this sequel pushing those boundaries.
Such as the nose biting scene. Of course there’s a darkly comedic feel to that scene, as well as what follows. But the actual visuals are nasty as hell. Penguin (DeVito) has enough black crap trickling out of his mouth as it is, then when he bites the poor unsuspecting Josh (Steve Witting) it is so vibrant, the gushing red from the nose all over the victim’s face, running down Penguin’s chin; such vivid violence while also it stays, at the same time, almost like a cartoon. It’s that fine line Burton manages to tread in so many of his films I find interesting when it comes to his take on Batman.
Burton-Batman-still-4I know most people will say I’m reaching way too far on this aspect, but here goes..
Batman Returns brings out an incredible aspect of the story between Batman and the Penguin (at least in his current form out of this screenplay). These are each two orphaned children, though, for very different reasons. It shows the difference some times between a hero and villain, that edge where one person falls over while the other person somehow manages to cling on tight. Penguin is the type who fell completely over, letting the darkness take him fully; Batman, while in the dark and very much gripped by it, has managed to hold onto the edge and not let go, refusing to even. While so many people focus on the parallel between Batman and Joker, a recurring plot and thematic device constantly used over and over in the films as well as the literature, I think this screenplay and the way Burton brings things to life really show a strong duality between Bruce Wayne and Oswald Cobblepot.
There’s a ton of further duality happening between Bruce Wayne/Batman and Selina Kyle/Catwoman. Most powerfully is the big costume party, or masquerade; you’ll obviously notice they’re the only ones not masked. Clearly you can tell these are two people more comfortable in their superhero personas, in their own costumes, than in their own skin – out in the open at a masquerade? More like their real face and their actual skin is their costume. Selina is truly Catwoman, deep down, as is Bruce actually Batman underneath it all. While I find the parallels between Bruce and Oswald most interesting, and furthest explored, it’s worth noting this excellent parallel between Bruce and Selina, as well. These are the little nuances of the script which take this above simply being a Batman vs. two villains film, as some see it. An appropriate sequel to the first, there’s even more character explored here than before with Nicholson’s knockout performance as the Joker. Not to mention the fact both DeVito and Pfeiffer are perfect in their roles. No one else could have done these roles justice like the two of these actors. Each are creepy and unnerving in their own right, offering plenty of fun and madness to counteract the more calm, calculated performance out of Michael Keaton.
br3There’s more of the weird, loner-style Bruce Wayne here out of Keaton. Even more than the 1989 film. Not to say either performance is better, simply I like how more of Bruce comes out in this screenplay. He’s a little more lonely, a little darker in a sense. Further than that, Bruce has also lost Vicki Vale since the first film and he’s got a broken heart. Already a man with a broken heart, Keaton brings out the vulnerability of Wayne. I’ve got to reiterate, for those who also love the Nolan trilogy like myself, Bale is awesome as Batman for me, I enjoyed him; however, Keaton and the screenplay for the two Burton films really emphasize the sadness of Bruce Wayne, the loneliness inside him, even more than anything in the Nolan films. Wayne is a weird guy, there has always been this quality to him even from the original comics. This is something Keaton brings out plenty, especially with a second chance here in Batman Returns.
Overall, while I gave Batman the same 5-star rating, I’ve got to admit over the years Batman Returns has evolved as my favourite of the lot. Still a huge fan of Nolan’s works as well, there’s simply something inescapably interesting and dark about Tim Burton and his two Batman films which draws me back, over and over. As much as I can watch the Nolan films, even back to back, time and time again, there are moments in Burton’s films which are engrained on my soul. Maybe it’s because they’re the ones I originally grew up with, but I think there’s more to it. Again I say it’s the cross of the perfect elements for Batman: the darkness and the grim side of him/the villains in Gotham, plus there’s the campy and fun nature of the comics and some of the original 1960s series preserved, which amounts to a potent combination.
Batman Returns is a vibrant and Gothic story of Batman/Bruce Wayne, including several villainous entities out of Gotham City, and Tim Burton brings it to life in the most wonderful way imaginable. Check this out if you’ve not seen it, especially if you love Burton and I think the same can be said if you do love the Batman comics in particular. This is great stuff and once more I say truly underrated.

Saw VI: Less Plot, More Guts

Saw VI. 2009. Directed by Kevin Greutert. Screenplay by Marcus Dunstan & Patrick Melton.
Starring Tobin Bell, Costas Mandylor, Mark Rolston, Betsy Russell, Shawnee Smith, Peter Outerbridge, Athena Karkanis, Samantha Lemole, Tanedra Howard, Marty Moreau, Shawn Ahmed, Janelle Hutchison, Gerry Mendicino, Caroline Cave, and George Newbern.
Twisted Pictures.
Rated R. 90 minutes.
Horror/Mystery

★★
saw_vi_ver6_xlgIn this Saw outing, Kevin Greutert takes up the reigns of the series. He’s primarily been an editor, having worked on every entry in the Saw series up until now (those duties were taken over by Andrew Coutts). With another screenplay from writing team Marcus Dunstan and Patrick Melton, Greutert attempts to somehow extend the legacy of Jigsaw a.k.a John Kramer into another film.
Luckily, this one cuts back down to a 90 minute runtime, something other entries might have benefited from as well. Problem is, no matter how lean and quick things get there seems to be a progressive drop into full on gore for gore’s sake, which began a couple sequels ago. Even worse, the screenplay does not match up to what they’re attempting to do. There are good things here in Saw VI, but not enough of the original atmosphere and tone of the series remains for me to feel like this movie belongs anywhere near the top few.
With a couple interesting traps and a fun, plausible step in the story of Jigsaw, there’s enough to watch through once. But unlike the first and third entries of the Saw series, I can’t see myself putting this on again (this was my 2nd viewing and twice was too much). Going for too many characters, too many switches between subplots, I feel like this sixth entry of the franchise doesn’t do much except try to come up with more elaborate traps in which to toss more fodder characters for murder’s sake. Maybe enough for some? Not for my liking. There are gore films I enjoy, but this one doesn’t even go for scary, not really so much CREEPY either; it aims only for disgust and shock horror, nothing else.
SimoneArmSaw6Saw VI shows us what happens after the previous film, when Agent Mark Hoffman (Costas Mandylor) makes it out of the house of horrors where Agent Strahm was crushed to death. Now the noose is slowly slipping around his neck, as the other law enforcement agents around him close in on the Jigsaw Apprentice; to Hoffman’s surprise, Agent Lindsey Perez (Athena Karkanis) is still alive after suffering terrible injuries in Saw IV. We get further flashbacks of Hoffman with Jigsaw a.k.a John Kramer (Tobin Bell) and his wife Jill (Betsy Russell), as well as Amanda Young (Shawnee Smith) who was the other apprentice to Kramer.
At the same time, a health insurance executive named William Easton (Peter Outerbridge) finds himself in the clutches of a new Jigsaw game – having been the one to effectively sentence Kramer to death, not providing him coverage for an experimental treatment to help his cancer. Facing most of the people he knows and loves, the few they are, locked into a whole crop of terrifying traps, he must face the gauntlet or watch them all, as well as himself, die.
saw_6_imageImmediately something I did enjoy was the first trap involving this film’s main character, the seedy insurance agent. Reason being is that, while gruesome, the graphic nature of that entire scene opted not to be too extreme – the most we get is a splash of blood, really. And that’s fine. Because sometimes, less is more. Particularly when the series has strayed wildly into the area of so-called “torture porn” (fucking hate that dumb label though). Giving us a creepy trap which works effectively without needing to go for complete blood and gore is something rare at the tail end of the Saw series, so I’ve got to give them props for that in terms of writing and production design, all around stellar job on this sequence.
Furthermore, while I do think stretching a series out is not always a great idea, there’s something genuine which strikes me about the plot and story of Saw VI, as a logical progression in the overall tale of Jigsaw. Bringing in the whole insurance angle is not far fetched. And though you can certainly still ask why bother to extend the series, I don’t think there’s much use in trying to tear down the logic behind the story. Not saying everything in the plot is plausible, not whatsoever, merely that I think the story of the insurance agent coming into play is sensible, as Jigsaw would’ve no doubt found their practices enough to warrant ending up in a trap. Which, of course, they do.
saw-6-saw-vi-04-11-2009-23-10-2009-19-gTo be honest, an aspect of this screenplay I could’ve done without is so much of John Kramer’s (Tobin Bell) wife. I know she’s part of the story, I know it needs to be sorted out, yet so much of it feels like it’s mashed in, tacked on for good measure. Again, the whole insurance agent plot is something I find pretty good, but all the stuff with John and Jill (Betsy Russell), even the stuff with Agent Hoffman (Costas Mandylor), it all feels INCREDIBLY TIRED. Mostly, I feel like they should’ve just kept the main focus on Jigsaw instead of involving so many other characters around him. Once more, I know the writers can’t simply ignore characters and start leaving them out, but at the same time this already trim 90 minutes could’ve probably been trimmed a couple minutes more for scraps.
There are some incredibly tense bits, for instance the STEAM TRAP involving William Easton (Peter Outerbridge) and his attorney Debbie (Caroline Cave), which I found pretty wild. It had me on edge watching Debbie trying to make it through that rough cage maze with the steam. Nasty. But then that tension gets ruined with too much switching back and forth between the traps and those characters involved, as well as showing bits with Jigsaw, Jill, Agent Hoffman, even Amanda Young (Shawnee Smith) is back for more action with new scenes for the first time since Saw II. There’s simply too many different things happening. Nobody can tell me I have a bad attention span or anything like that – check out the movies I love, and the sheer number of films I’ve seen over my 30 years on earth. There’s just TOO MUCH HAPPENING, not in a good way. Far too many characters for this 90 minute film to tackle; they’re just not needed, I don’t think. There’s no reason each and every last character here was essential to the film, not in any way. It’s a mess, in terms of how the screenplay flows, and throughout the film this throws the pace off to a point where it’s hard to recover. While I’m sure the back and forth between plots is meant to be intriguing, and also intense, when in reality it only serves to make this a jumbled sequel in the franchise rather than something well crafted and properly intense.
Hoffmanscars1Definitely one of the worst in this series, Saw VI is at best a 2 star film. There’s too much being thrown about in the screenplay by Marcus Dunstan and Patrick Melton, both of whom I do enjoy I have to say, for this movie to find a pace where it fits correctly. Instead, this movie sort of bounces all over the place from one scene to the next – very intense at times, others it’s sluggish and drags itself about with heavy handedness but under the guise of being full of mystery.
If you’re looking for a better entry in the series, I always suggest the first film and the third as my top choices. The second is decent, but those are honestly solid horror movies. Interesting, tense, and horrific stuff. This is just an excuse to try and make more money. Sadly, another franchise which has spiralled into the darkness in the worst sense.

Saw V: And Things Get Worse

Saw V. 2008. Directed by David Hackl. Screenplay by Marcus Dunstan & Patrick Melton.
Starring Tobin Bell, Costas Mandylor, Scott Patterson, Betsy Russell, Julie Benz, Meagan Good, Mark Rolston, Carlo Rota, Greg Bryk, Laura Gordon, Joris Jarsky, and Mike Butters. Twisted Pictures. Rated R. 92 minutes.
Horror/Mystery

★★1/2
saw_v_2008_4901_posterFrom this sequel on, I believe the Saw series loses its way in terrible fashion. This one in particular is about on par with the second film in the series, as they have their flaws. After Saw V, things get really bad.
That being said I do think there are a few things to admire about this film. For one, I think some of the traps in this one were, yes, brutal but also held a sort of creepily admirable quality. The stunts of the film themselves are enough to impress me – Scott Patterson did in fact do the water tank scene himself. I also like how there’s nothing silly in the way of some later films in the HalloweenA Nightmare on Elm StreetFriday the 13th, and other similar franchises, in the sense Jigsaw is dead; no changing that fact. There’s no resurrecting him, but instead his apprentices and, in a sense, victims go on to further his dark legacy.
What Saw V has going for it is more continuity in the story of Jigsaw, his apprentices, and some of what got introduced in the previous film. Going against it is less and less of the gritty, ultra grim style the first and third films had, which became to slip away again in Saw IV. What we’re left with is a decent horror movie with an interesting story, but too much concern once more for shock horror above character development/logic, atmosphere, and solid tension.
saw-5-003Saw V sees five strangers – or are they? – trapped in a massive game set in place by Jigsaw a.k.a John Kramer (Tobin Bell). Told to ignore their instincts, each of them strive to fight against one another in a brutal, vicious competition.
At the same time, Agent Strahm (Scott Patterson) makes it out alive from the building where Jigsaw enacted one of his games, as well as the place where he would end up dying. Lieutenant Mark Hoffman (Costas Mandylor) has also come away, mostly unscathed, and so Strahm – beaten and now scarred by the deadly game – tries to prove Hoffman is an apprentice to the Jigsaw Killer.
What unfolds is the story of Hoffman’s history with Jigsaw, as well as the pursuit of Strahm to find the truth and stop all the senseless killing once and for all.
saw_v03How did Mark Hoffman manage to make traps on his own? How did he make the first pendulum trap to mirror Jigsaw? He’s not an engineer, I can’t imagine his police expertise would lead him to have the ability to construct such elaborate pieces of machinery. Maybe I missed something? Doubt that, I actually rewatched this and learned a couple small details I’d missed before now. I don’t think I’ve missed an explanation on how Hoffman managed to do that initially. Seems like a bit of a gaping hole in character logic. This is one thing that really threw me off, as soon as it came into my brain. I mean, can anybody explain this? We’re never given anything in the way of backstory on how Hoffman actually managed to construct the trap he used on the man who killed his sister. I was always onboard with the traps because Jigsaw was an engineer – even as he got weaker, he had an apprentice to help him put things together, construct it for him. But before Hoffman met Jigsaw/was kidnapped by him, there’s no way he could have come up with the whole pendulum trap on his own. It’s too complex for a layman to simply draw up on a piece of paper then put together by themselves.
still-of-scott-patterson-in-saw-v-(2008)-large-picturePersonally I enjoy the whole thing going on with Hoffman, though, I think the script is lacking in regards to a couple aspects, such as how he managed to initially come up with his pendulum trap without any engineering knowledge that I’m aware of. Having Strahm investigate Hoffman, going back to some of the Jigsaw crimes like bits from the first one (remember the barbed wire trap with the near naked guy stuck in the middle?), it’s a lot of fun and also exciting.
What I think hinders this fifth film most is the scenario of the five people trapped in the latest game. Even in the second movie, which I wasn’t huge on, I still thought the big game with all those people trapped in the house was intriguing. Here, there’s even less intrigue, as the cerebral is completely gone. Even the visceral aspects of Saw V don’t come off in the way other horror movies allow the blood and gore to work, effectively scaring people instead of going all for the shock factor; tension, suspense, building things up can take a gory scene and make it work on a higher level than just a scene to show of special effects. This survival of the fittest competition these people have to endure is just TORTURE NONSENSE! Here is where the “torture porn” aspects of the Saw series really take things over wholesale and go running. Sad too because these movies have plenty of potential for being horror mystery movies with a bit of brains, instead they start descending quicker and quicker with every film into mostly torture for the sake of torture.
2008_saw_v_025 2008_saw_v_002While I enjoyed Saw IV enough, with the whole angle of Rigg being forced to step into Jigsaw’s shoes in a sense and the script with its interesting twist, plus the exciting finale, there’s not much here to enjoy in that vein. I’m not overly impressed with the script, as much of it is wasted on the group of people trapped together trying desperately to survive; this was tiresome, as there’s barely enough time for characterization when the bulk of the story has to do with Hoffman/Strahm, and there’s also the fact it was mostly shock and awe trying to get to us instead of any effective technique in order to creep us out with confidence.
All around, I find Saw V to be tedious. There’s enough here to give this a 2.5 rating, but no way I can even fathom giving it more. There are decent effects at times, however, most of the traps are beyond uninspired, the torture is fetishized even worse than it ever has been in the series, and the script is pretty damn lazy.
I actually own all the Saw films up to and including this one. While I’m only a real big fan of the first and the third film, finding the fourth half decent, there’s something about the series I enjoy enough to keep watching. However, past this one the last two movies are real bad. Things just devolve into a mess and by the seventh Saw it’s similar to how later Jason Voorhees efforts looked: laughable, contrived, too silly to take seriously on any level. I’ll watch them over again, simply for review purposes. If you haven’t seen the last two, you could honestly skip them over; some might say that about a lot of this series. Either way, you’ll see some nasty stuff, whether or not it’s scary is a whole other can of worms.

The Hills Have Eyes II: Horny Mutants

The Hills Have Eyes II. 2007. Directed by Martin Weisz. Written by Jonathan Craven & Wes Craven.
Starring Cécile Breccia, Michael Bailey Smith, Archie Kao, Jay Acovone, Jeff Kober, Philip Pavel, David Reynolds, Tyrell Kemlo, Lee Thompson Young, Danielle Alonso, Eric Edelstein, Jessica Stroup, Joseph Beddelem, Jacob Vargas, Ben Crowley, Michael McMillian, Reshad Strik, and Derek Mears. Dune Entertainment.
Rated R. 89 minutes.
Horror/Thriller

★★
hills_have_eyes_two_ver7Funny, as much as I find myself a Wes Craven fan, I didn’t realize until watching this again while reviewing it that he wrote the screenplay with his son Jonathan Craven. I think it’s a slight touch better than Papa Craven’s original The Hills Have Eyes Part II from 1985, which despite being a guilty pleasure of mine is still a horrid film; not in the right way, either. However, this version of The Hills Have Eyes II is still nothing great or special in any way, shape, or form. There’s little to enjoy.
I say that with a little sadness. Honestly, the original The Hills Have Eyes is a favourite horror classic of mine, as well as the fact I loved Alexandre Aja’s remake a tiny bit more even. So I expected, or more so I hoped, that maybe Aja would be involved. At least Craven was, though, his script is not very good.
When Martin Weisz was announced to direct, I’d actually anticipated something halfway decent. Personally, I am a big fan of his previous movie based on the real life case of Armin Meiwes – Rohtenburg a.k.a Grimm Love. That was a different and also horrific piece of horror mixed with drama. The real case is wild enough, but the presentation of a script written by T.S. Faull by Weisz makes things even more intense.
Unfortunately I don’t feel as if Weisz brought much, if anything, from the style he cultivated in Rohtenburg to add to this film. There are a few decently creepy moments, most of which come very early in, but there’s not enough of this or any solid script to make this into a decent movie. Rather, The Hills Have Eyes II is one of the worst scripts Wes Craven has had his hands on, and I’m left hoping Martin Weisz will recapture some of what he did with his previous film later on down the road.
21478_1Starting off we come to see how the mutants in the hills from the first film are holding a woman captive. Once she has birthed a child for them, she is killed. Afterwards, some scientists and members of the U.S Army are murdered by more mutants.
Cut to a group of National Guardsmen in training with their sergeant. They’re out on a mission resupplying scientists working in a camp in the desert, there from the U.S DOD doing surveillance; those same scientists from the beginning scenes. When a group of them head up into the hills after finding the camp abandoned, Napoleon (Michael McMillian) and Amber (Jessica Stroup) are left with the communications in punishment. In the hills, the soldiers find the mutilated bodies of the people they’re there to help. Back down near camp, Amber is attacked by one of the mutants who quickly runs off when Mickey (Reshad Strik) is returning to camp with a sprained ankle. But when Mickey gets hauled through a crack in the rocks, virtually eviscerated in one brutal pull, Amber and Napoleon realize there is something sinister at work.
Up on the mountain, everyone else is cut off from contact, and this gives the mutants plenty of things to do. What began as a routine re-up mission devolves into a fight for survival, as only a handful of the soldiers wind up alive and in good enough to shape to try and make it out of the hills alive.
the-hills-have-eyes-ii-shared-picture-china-1386828415Was there ANY need of such a disgustingly graphic opening sequence? I mean, I’m not saying the story is a bad idea. There’s no reason not to believe the hill mutant clan wouldn’t be kidnapping women in order to make babies. First of all, they’re mutants; they probably have no control over their impulses, whether to kill or to rape or whatever. Doesn’t surprise me. Second, they’re mostly concerned with survival. They kill to eat, so as primitive, basic humans – though mutated – they’re probably hardwired to try and procreate. They’re essentially cavemen.
But all that said, why show us right off the bat such an explicit birthing scene? Personally, I think there’s a way to be effective , then there’s this: hitting us over the head with gory nastiness immediately. It’s not even so much that it disgusted me – I’ve seen more than my fair share of gore and savage horror – I feel like it’s heavy handed. Even in the opening scene of the 2006 remake, there’s still brutality and a scary beginning. This one is a load of tripe.
I think had the Cravens decided to just go with the opening being the whole sequence where the National Guardsmen and the scientists from the U.S Department of Defense get attacked by the mutants, this movie would’ve opened much better. The way things start out here makes me think “Ew”, but not in the sense of being good for horror. It’s all shock without any substance.
lAgain later on in the film, there’s more mutant sex. This is something I’m really bothered by because there’s no need of it. At all. I am totally fine, as I said previously, with the plot having partly to do with the mutants in the hills carrying on their family, breeding, kidnapping women to do the deed. It’s nasty, but as a plot it’s understandable. But there’s no condoning having to show actual shots of a mutant raping a woman. Certainly there was no point to showing a GRAPHIC mutant baby birth at the very start, so it doesn’t surprise me that there was more useless shock horror down the line.
There’s a potentially creepy film in The Hills Have Eyes II. One of the big problems I had with Craven’s original 1985 sequel to his film was the fact there seemed to be a tenuous link to why everything was happening; from the dirtbike team to Ruby becoming Rachel, and so on. I like the idea of this movie as a premise – the whole National Guard angle and the DOD scientists in doing surveillance is good. Plus, I usually enjoy horror films that mix in a military storyline/action. However, with too much of the mutant sex being a focus and a much less defined atmosphere in comparison to Aja’s remake, both the Cravens and director Weisz fumble a solid opportunity to make a terrifying sequel.
The-Hills-Have-Eyes-2-DI-1There are a couple aspects I do like, honestly. To start, I did find a couple of the mutants and their makeup effects pretty awesome, as well as the fact they were unsettling. Derek Mears plays a mutant named Chameleon, whose ability to blend into his surroundings are obviously a perk for him. While it was different to see a mutant who has an ability, as opposed to merely a deformity or hideous appearance, I enjoyed it all the same. There’s an added bit of danger, obviously, when a cannibal killer can blend into rocks and walls.
Moreover, I found one of the mutants – the blind one – was a creeper. Very weird and scary! His look/face eminded me of one of the Cenobites from Clive Barker’s Hellraiser and that’s always a good thing. The way he sniffed around everywhere in the darkness was terrible, in the best way possible.
So I have to say that while most of this movie is hugely disappointing, the mutants themselves and the makeup effects, their overall design, it was all pretty well executed. Doesn’t hurt that Greg Nicotero (who appeared as Cyst in Aja’s remake) and Howard Berger, along with a bunch of others from K.N.B EFX, were responsible for the makeup department, from the special effects to the hair to on-set makeup and design. These guys are classic. Even in shit films, I’m always pleased to see Berger/Nicotero & Co. in the credits because their work is usually pretty phenomenal. It’s no wonder they’ve become a staple in the horror movie business.

In the end, what hurts The Hills Have Eyes II most is that Jonathan/Wes Craven did not write a good script. I’d love to say this father-son team knocked one out of the park, because that’d be cool. Sadly, I cannot state anything so cool. The dialogue at times wasn’t too bad, yet most of the time I felt as if I was listening to a walking bunch of cliched U.S Army soldiers; the character of Crank especially made me want to punch holes in my eardrums. Even more damning is the fact that the characters themselves are pretty stupid. They make pitiful decisions. Now, I’m not one to criticize for little mistakes, or even the things people do when they’re scared – I’ve said more than once I put myself in the shoes of characters to try and feel their fear – but there’s no excuse for some of the behaviour these characters exhibit throughout the film.
What I did enjoy about the script was that Wes used little bits from his original sequel to throw in. Such as the whole hills location itself – in his first 1985 sequel, Craven had the mine shafts and all that happening. So here, there’s a much more elaborate version of that going on. Not sure if that was intentional or if the plot they wound up using simply lent itself to using the shafts, et cetera, but either way it’s one thing I liked about the film. There’s great atmosphere once down in the darkness there, as opposed to not much of anything going on before then.
Fun note – the shaft system was done by the same crew who worked on the excellent British horror The Descent, so no wonder the atmosphere and tone amped up once the film shifts to being mostly set down in the mine.
1348829106_1081550When it comes down to the nitty gritty, all the set pieces and makeup effects and interesting premises in the world do not an effective horror movie make. Although, I have to give The Hills Have Eyes II a 2 out of 5 star rating. I can’t deny there is some creepiness, from the suspenseful moments in the mine to the K.N.B makeup effects which made a couple new mutants look scary as hell.
But this Wes Craven script, written with his son Jonathan who has never written anything good honestly, is one if his worst. In fact, I’d almost say it is definitively his worst. I’d honestly put My Soul to Take, a near equally bad film, above this one; and that’s saying something! Mostly it saddens me because I hoped that with an absence of Alexandre Aja for the sequel to his remake Craven as screenwriter would make up for that. It did not, in any way.
My suggestion? Watch the original, or the remake, but this doesn’t have much to offer outside of some nicely executed effects and an eerie setting in the last half hour.

Wes Craven’s The Hills Have Eyes Part II: A Bad Acid Trip

The Hills Have Eyes Part II. 1985. Directed & Written by Wes Craven.
Starring Tamara Stafford, Kevin Spirtas, John Bloom, Colleen, Riley, Michael Berryman, Penny Johnson Jerald, Janus Blythe, John Laughlin, Willard E. Pugh, Peter Frechette, Robert Houston, David Nichols, Edith Fellows, Lance Gordon, and Suze Lanier-Bramlett. VTC.
Rated 18+. 86 minutes.
Horror/Thriller


hills 2 2When it comes to The Hills Have Eyes Part II, I can’t say in any way that it’s a good movie. By the same token I like it, as in it’s enjoyable for me. Do you know what I mean? It’s one of those guilty pleasure films. Wes Craven shot a bunch of this before A Nightmare on Elm Street, but it got slowed down because of budget issues, then after Freddie Krueger rocked the world the studio got Craven to put together a film for this; except only using the footage already shot. The reason there are a ton of flashbacks used in The Hills Have Eyes Part II is due to the fact he didn’t have enough footage to make a full feature, so filling in all the gaps were bits and pieces from the first. Now, it’s not that which makes everything a mess here. Well… it’s not only that.
In comparison with the original 1977 horror classic, this sequel is not nearly as well written. Not sure what else Craven had planned originally for the movie. Because even some of the initial plot is truly hazy. There’s no real explanation for some of what continued from the first movie, as well as a good few scenes that come off as eternally cheesy, so much so it’s hard to even care about the characters because they’re mostly walking cliches and tropes. Perhaps had the studio allowed Craven to go back and reshoot, plus shoot more, there’s a possibility this sequel could’ve turned out much better. Unfortunately we’ll never know. What we’re left with is a bargain basement horror, filled with nonsense. It’s one of the handful of blemishes on an otherwise impressively terrifying horror movie career on the part of Wes Craven.

The Hills Have Eyes Part II begins with Bobby Carter (Robert Houston) seeing a psychiatrist, trying to work through the traumatic events which happened eight years ago in the first film. He and Ruby (Janus Blythe), now called Rachel, run a dirtbike team. They’re headed out into the desert for a race, nearby where the massacre from the first film took place. Bobby doesn’t want to go, though, his psychiatrist urges him to try and do it. Instead, Ruby/Rachel goes in his place with the team.
But out in that desert, after their bus breaks down, strange madness begins to take hold in the desert. Pluto (Michael Berryman) shows up out of nowhere, attacking Ruby/Rachel, but no one will believe her at first. Despite her warnings they head out into the desert on their dirtbikes, jumping and racing about. What follows is more murder and mayhem from the cannibal family in the hills.
Heroes - Beast - The Hills Have Eyes (1977)A part of this movie I always thought was just way too excellent, amongst the foolishness, is when Beast has his own flashback. After Pluto (Michael Berryman) attacks Ruby/Rachel (Janus Blythe), we go back to when Beast and Pluto met in the original. There’s just something about this sequence I find both hilarious and also amazing at the same time. I can just see Wes behind his writing desk, cackling to himself, thinking that the dogs ought to have their day, too.
large-screenshot1There’s nothing much to enjoy about this sequel. Sure, it’s fun to see Michael Berryman again. He’s an excellent character actor in horror movies. His condition – not sure what it’s called but I believe one of the things it causes is no sweat glands – lends a bit naturally to playing an outsider, so I love that he willingly takes on these weird, psychotic roles, or just the strange and outlandish ones. He’s absolutely a treasure of the horror genre and continues to be.
However, seeing him is not enough to make any of the film worth sitting through. Not to mention the fact so much of the other acting here is downright terrible. I’m not even sure what the one guy’s name is – the loud mouth one always cracking jokes and laughing and being obnoxious – but I cared so little about him I didn’t bother to remember who he was – Harry? I’m going with Harry. His acting was incredibly bad. I don’t know if it was mostly him or mostly Craven’s writing. Certainly overall, the script does not help in any way.
TheHillsHaveEyesPart2-2That’s another thing. I happen to think Wes Craven is a pretty solid writer, most of the time. He has a few scripts I don’t find particularly intriguing, but I think a lot of his stuff is great horror. The Hills Have Eyes Part II is in no way a representation of his best writing, not in any shape or form. The dialogue is all stilted, as opposed to a lot of fun and creepy stuff which came out of the first film’s script. The characters are beyond generic; even worse, I happen to think Craven is decent enough at writing black characters most of the time, but his attempt to write the character of Foster (Willard E. Pugh) here is laughably bad.
My biggest beef is that we’re never fully explained anything concerning Ruby/Rachel and Bobby. It just makes zero sense to me. Why does Ruby bother to change her name? As if the census taker is going to come around wondering why Ruby from the hillside cannibal clan is now living in the city? I think not. It’s sort of silly, as if she’s escaping her past in a Witness Protection Act. Meanwhile, she goes back out into the desert with the dirtbike team. Why? She knows what’s out there. Bobby was smart enough not to go, I just don’t see in what universe Ruby would subject herself to going back out there; she clearly would realize if Pluto or any of the other mutants found her, they’d be pretty pissed, I think. Regardless of how the studio made Craven go back and work with things he’d already shot without being able to film additional footage, there’s no excusing a lot of lapse in intelligence that can be found in even some of the most basic elements of Craven’s script.
I can’t say there’s no way he would’ve been able to make this into a decent film, but it’s unlikely either way. The script is far too weak to start. Unless he planned to do rewrites if given the chance, I think we can certainly chalk this one up to a badly formed script on his part and that perhaps it would’ve been better off – on ALL fronts even his and the studio – just to leave The Hills Have Eyes as a standalone film.
The Hills Have Eyes Part 2 (2)Having gone through all the awful aspects about this movie, I can still put it on and enjoy it. Isn’t that strange? I’m not sure what it is. There are just movies I can sit through and get enjoyment out of even while they’re virtually useless. I like some of the music in the film, as well as the fact there are a couple genuinely creepy scenes. Outside of that, there’s nothing I can say is good. There’s simply a quality to this horrible and needless sequel that I can’t seem to shake; it sticks on me like a wet fart. But it’s a wet fart I happen to love, as bad as it is for me to enjoy.
This is a 1 star film simply because there’s a glimmer of something here, whatever it is I can’t tell but it is THERE. I’m telling you. Perhaps it’s the fact Beast is so prominent throughout a couple scenes, maybe I’m too attached to animals – dogs in particular. I’m not sure now, never have been, and I can’t be positive that I’ll ever figure it out. I think, above all, my lament for Wes Craven’s sequel takes precedence: I wanted this so badly to be a decent movie. There are a couple eerie moments, enough to make things creepy from time to time, but ultimately not enough for anyone else to call this even remotely a mediocre horror.
Don’t waste your time unless you’re a completist. Most likely you’re not crazy like me and you won’t find anything endearing about this dog turd of a Craven flick.

Halloween II: One of the Few Perfect Slasher Sequels

Halloween II. 1981. Directed by Rick Rosenthal. Screenplay by John Carpenter & Debra Hill.
Starring Jamie Lee Curtis, Donald Pleasence, Charles Cyphers, Jeffrey Kramer, Lance Guest, Pamela Susan Shoop, Hunter von Leer, Dick Warlock, Leo Rossi, Gloria Gifford, and Tawny Moyer. Dino De Laurentiis Company.
Rated R. 92 minutes.
Horror/Thriller

★★★★★ (Film)
★★★★★ (Blu ray release)
10173780_773811592685590_787591292064553113_n
There are very few sequels which come out living up to the greatness of the original film. Especially when we consider horror movies, there are not too many franchises that end up pumping out sequels that match the first.
However, I’d argue that Halloween II is more than a worthy sequel compared to its predecessor. I don’t like this more than the first Halloween, but all the same I think it’s one of the most flawless slasher horrors out there, and definitely a favourite of mine out of the 1980s; an era that held so much great, as well as shlocky and awful, horror from start to finish.
While John Carpenter only returned to this film in the form of screenwriter, I still find that Rick Rosenthal attempted to keep up with a particular style laid out by Carpenter in the original. In that way, with a build of tension and suspense alongside the continuously solid acting from both Donald Pleasance and Scream Queen original Jamie Lee Curtis, my opinion is that Rosenthal made a worthy sequel that should stand next to the original and not be derided as some less than decent sequel trying to capitalize off the success of Carpenter’s first film. Though Carpenter expressed more than once he wasn’t too pleased about a sequel, I think that in 1978 with an ending such as the original Halloween had, there was no way they couldn’t make a continuation. Today, it’s easy to say “no more sequels” because everything is a sequel, a remake, a reboot, a rehash – but in 1981, I bet tons of people wanted more Michael Myers. Maybe going on for over half a dozen movies was not the perfect concept, however, I love this sequel and I think it has enough of all the good stuff to warrant it being an excellent horror movie on its own, even without riding the coattails of Carpenter completely. Luckily, the script works well and it doesn’t come off as a needless movie, and I’m happy that at least Carpenter put his mark on things, even if only slightly through the script with Debra Hill.
Halloween II Myers in windowBeginning immediately after the events of 1978’s Halloween, we pick up as Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) is brought to the hospital. Dr. Loomis (Donald Pleasence) is somehow still trying to convince the authorities of Michael Myers’ impending danger, while the masked serial killer continues on stalking through the darkened streets of Haddondfield, trick-or-treaters still running around in their own costumes. Police are out, looking for the murderer, but Loomis still can’t get through to everyone how Michael is essentially the physical embodiment of evil.
With a quiet and isolated setting in a cold, sterile hospital, Halloween II gives us a claustrophobic romp through terror, as Michael Myers wants to find Laurie Strode – for reasons we come to discover – and he will stop at nothing to find her. Moving through the dark halls of the hospital, Myers cuts and cracks his way through everyone and every single thing in his way, until it’s only him, Dr. Loomis, and Laurie Strode left.
Halloween II 1981 8Really dig how the story starts right after the original events. This makes the tension and suspense feel as if it’s still lingering. Even years and years later, starting from the night of Michael Myers’ return and heading right into the plot of this film, I think it was one of the smartest screenwriting choices they could’ve made. It’s as if we’ve never left the streets of Haddonfield, like Michael Myers has been continually stalking Laurie, Loomis, all of us, ever since we last watched the 1978 original. Every time I watch it, the opening scenes from Carpenter’s Halloween that work into the official first scenes of Halloween II really put me back into that terrifying seat where last I sat. A great effect.
halloween-ii-2A few wonderful Steadicam shots throughout the halls of the hospital. I think not only does Rosenthal stick with a structure of suspense, he also goes for a similar visual style to the first film, which helps again to keep us in that mood extending out of Carpenter’s Halloween. There’s just enough of the movie sticking close to the 1978 classic while still remaining a separate film that I sort of love Halloween and Halloween II as a pair. Though I love the original most, there’s something perfect about how these two horror movies come together. They’re different beasts, but cut from the same cloth. To me, Halloween II becomes a logical extension of the first instead of merely coming off as rushed piece of work to be forced into the market, hoping to spawn more movies. Maybe others see it that way. Me – I love this and think it’s a great addition to the first, making Halloween into a legitimate series. Some say Halloween III: Season of the Witch ought not be considered as a part of the series – it’s more of a stand alone picture – however, I think it works in wonderfully. A lot say the series falls off heavily after this one, but I find the 3rd, 4th, and 5th instalments a lot of fun. That’s just my opinion. Not as good as the first two, but these first two films made it possible for Michael Myers to become that never dying embodiment of evil. At least in Halloween II, we’re treated to an excellent slasher film that works as an impressive double feature with the first.
halloween-ii-2-e1430018078368Apparently Carpenter went back, after believing Rosenthal’s version didn’t have enough blood, and re-shot some extra nasty parts to make it more visceral. Even though Rosenthal did not like it; he planned to go the same route as Carpenter did in the original, with little-to-no blood. So the story goes, Carpenter thought that with the newer slashers coming out and going for heavy gore, nasty kills, this sequel would fail to compete with the others and get washed away in a tide of new horror movies. I don’t think it detracts at all from the film, and even while Rosenthal didn’t approve I believe Carpenter did the right thing. There’s still a ton of suspense and genuine tension built up through the cinematography and how Rosenthal has that dark, fluid sort of movement with the camera going from one shot to the next. So in the end, I really don’t think Carpenter’s decision to add in a little more bloody stuff was a bad one. Stepped things up a notch while also not trying to imitate every last little detail of the original. Sets it apart slightly from the film it follows.
The kills add another dimension to this movie. I love Carpenter’s style in the first, but again, I think he’s totally justified in making this one a slight bit messier – on the blood side. Not that it’s outrageous, not at all. Though, there are a couple worthy moments of blood and terror, it isn’t anything over the top. It’s like that cherry on the top of all that succulent, delicious icing.
One of my favourite kill scenes is the part where he scalds the nurse to death. It is vicious, but it also starts off so subtly. First, in the background as the nurse towels off, we see her male companion get offed by Michael, almost in a fuzzy view. Then he works his way out and up behind her, as Myers so often does. She’s lulled into a false sense of security, thinking it’s her man back again for a good time, but then he
hall2blu_shot9nlNote: amazing to have included Samhain in what is most likely blood on a chalkboard in the school. Thought that was an expertly creepy touch. Not sure if it was Carpenter, Hill, or Rosenthal who came up with that one. Either way, it adds another level of creepiness to Michael Myers as a killer. Almost as if there’s something… supernatural at work. Though, there’s no effort to linger on that. And I think it’s why I love that moment – there’s no explanation, we’re left with only the weird word of Samhain: the beginning of the darker part of the year, a celebration at the end of harvest season. Is this meant in terms of Michael out harvesting his crops, cutting down victims? Or is it merely creepiness the child in Michael picked up along the way? Something he grafted onto his personality, the savage terror that sits behind his blank mask. Who knows. Regardless, it’s great.

The hospital setting really does it for me. One reason I enjoyed the modern slasher Fritt Vilt II is due to its reminiscence, but not carbon copying, of the setting and suspense from this movie; it really pulls off an excellent Halloween II vibe without stealing anything or trying to replicate it. A lot of that has to do with that setting of the hospital – it’s a place we’re meant to feel safe, a haven, somewhere the bad people and things aren’t supposed to be able to get us. However, Michael Myers always manages to go where he is not wanted, where others do not go. He will find a way in. And that’s what I find worming under my skin – the fact Myers is virtually unstoppable. Not even so much that you can’t kill the guy, but the idea there’s nowhere he cannot find you. He’s the ultimate apex predator.
Once inside the hospital, there comes all that claustrophobia, the stuffy feeling of not being able to get away. Not only that, Laurie Strode (Curtis) is also banged up, needing a little medical attention, so there’s a vulnerability to the hospital setting which ratchets up all that creepiness and makes the suspenseful moments inside the location all that more intense.
halloween-returns-5-fan-favorites-that-should-make-a-return-in-the-sequel-donald-pleas-522650Like I’ve continually pointed out, I love this movie. Both as its own scary movie, with much more on-screen killing and blood/graphic horror than the original, as well as the perfect companion to John Carpenter’s 1978 masterpiece of slasher horror Halloween. Certainly there’s enough of the DNA from the original film to make it work, I think Rick Rosenthal crafts his own thing here, making Michael Myers his own for 92 minutes.
And who can complain about getting more of Laurie Strode and Dr. Loomis? Donald Pleasence continues to make Loomis one of the best horror movie heroes out there – part madman himself, the doctor is unstoppable almost like his evil counterpart in Myers. All the while, Jamie Lee Curtis proves she has the chops even more in this movie than the first. There’s another aspect to Laurie Strode here once bits of her past are revealed, as well as the fact she’s injured and medicated in the hospital. Great performances once more from these two fine, fine actors. They bring real legitimacy to these first two films and I think it’s another big part of the reason why I’ve enjoyed it so much over the years.
No matter what the case, Halloween II lives up to what I think it should be: a tense and unsettling, claustrophobic romp through slasher horror. Myers is ever frightful and dangerous, while the revelations Laurie Strode faces bring new life to the young girl we saw emerge from the terror of Michael’s killing spree at the end of the original film. A bit of good nasty stuff with the kill scenes and excellent cinematographic choices on the part of Rosenthal, as well as a couple pieces shot by Carpenter himself, and you’ve got a great hour and a half of slasher madness. And never forget the always eerie music of Halloween, another significant element to the liquid terror oozing out of nearly every single scene.
I always recommend this as one of the best sequels out there in the horror genre. I’ll continue to do so, even if people think that’s foolishness. This is a great slasher and stands up there alongside the best, including its predecessor.

The Blu ray is pretty damn solid all the way through from picture and sound quality to the additional features included in the release from Universal Pictures. There are deleted scenes, an alternate ending, as well as the documentary film Terror in the Aisles, which is hosted by the ever fabulous Donald Pleasance and Nancy Allen; it’s a big compilation of scenes and trailers from crime, drama, horror, and sci-fi films from the 1930s up to the 1980s. Excellent addition to the Blu ray. Also, the quality is beyond incredible! What a great transfer. The scenes are so crisp, you just feel all the atmosphere leaking out from each scene. Most definitely worth a purchase. A solid part of my horror movie collection.

INSIDIOUS: CHAPTER 2 – Dark, Creepy, Moody

Insidious: Chapter 2. 2013. Directed by James Wan. Screenplay by Leigh Whannell.
Starring Patrick Wilson, Rose Byrne, Ty Simpkins, Lin Shaye, Barbara Hershey, Steve Coulter, Leigh Whannell, Angus Sampson, and Tom Fitzpatrick. Blumhouse Productions.
Rated 14A. 106 minutes.
Horror/Thriller

★★★★1/2
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Being a fan of the first film, I was excited to see what James Wan and Leigh Whannell had in store for us. I really think they make a good team. Maybe not a perfect team, but it’d be hard for me to say that there ever was a perfect writer-director team. Every combination, every artist as individual has their faults.
Regardless, Wan and Whannell obviously have very similar sensibilities. I find they know what horror is, or should be, and though there are flaws this series has a lot of the great classic style horror I grew so fond of as a teenager.

What made the first Insidious so interesting for me was that Wan created this incredible atmosphere throughout, which kept on from beginning to end. There were a couple too many jump-scare moments, but not so much it ruined the film.
Personally, I think that Insidious: Chapter 2 capitalizes on its faults from the first and turns those into something even better. From atmosphere, to performances (Patrick Wilson is fantastic here), to a bit better of a script from Whannell, I believe this sequel was able to step it up a notch not only in creepiness, in quality, as well.
INSIDIOUS-HEADLINEBeginning directly after the events of the first, Insidious: Chapter 2 starts as Renai Lambert (Rose Byrne) is being questioned concerning the supernatural activity that supposedly happened in the house, which lead to the death of Elise Rainier (Lin Shaye). The police have to investigate, so Renai and her husband Josh (Patrick Wilson) must take their kids to his mother Lorraine’s (Barbara Hershey) house.
Unfortunately, the ghostly presence continues to haunt Renai – a woman in white appears and terrorizes her. At the same time, Josh is acting strangely; Renai can’t look at him the same, their son Dalton (Ty Simpkins) hears his dad talking to someone while he appears to be alone. Even Lorraine starts to see the woman in white. Josh continues his weird behaviour, beginning to almost physically deteriorate.
Soon, Lorraine goes back to Specs (Leigh Whannell) and Tucker (Angus Sampson) to try and figure out once and for all what can be done to help the Lamberts get away from the evil presence plaguing Josh. And what follows proves to be even more difficult than bringing Dalton back from The Further.
insidious-chapter-2-nightmarish-international-trailer-videoSo I’ll begin with the very few things I thought were lacking/did not work in the film.
That “Hunter Ninja Bear” moment is an instance of the dumb comedy between the two ghost hunting characters Specs (Whannell) and Tucker (Sampson) that I thought hindered the first film. Luckily, this one went for much less of that comedy; there are still faint hints of it at times, but it’s less prevalent than in the first. This helps. However, it’s moments like these that make me roll my eyes. Some may find it funny, I find it tedious. Especially in a film that culls together such an pervading and perpetual atmosphere of dread/creepiness, I feel like this comedy is so far out of place that it’s not even sensible.
I get that some horror is infused with comedy, often very dark comedy, this is just not one of those movies, and I think Leigh Whannell basically jammed these bits in like puzzle pieces that don’t fit; it shows how awkward these scenes are when you look at the movie as a whole. In the moment they’re sort of laugh to yourself funny (for others – not me), but when you turn around you think, “Why were these bits of comedy stuck in here?” Just makes little sense to me. I guess that’s why I’m not a famous Hollywood writer/director.
insidious_chapter_2_rivers_of_grue-14I have long thought Patrick Wilson is a fantastically talented fella. He has that handsome leading man type thing going on, and at the same time he has this weird side to him. The two performances which woke me up to his rising talent: his role as creep photographer Jeff Kohlver opposite Ellen Page in Hard Candy, and the wonderfully pained/tender character Brad Adamson he portrayed in Little Children.
So I think, even more so than the first movie, Wilson does a phenomenal job here. To see him wither away in front of our eyes, in front of his family, is really unsettling at times. Especially once the dark force inside him starts to actual take him apart physically – a nasty, effective scene happens when Josh Lambert starts to pull teeth out of his own face, literally falling to pieces. Not only did the make-up work well in making him look caved/sunken in, Wilson did well at showing Josh fray around the edges; you could see his personality change as the Bride in Black took him over. Great, great stuff.
I thought Lindsay Seim was awesome as the young Elise. Naturally, they used Lin Shaye’s voice and dubbed it over, but Seim still had the feel of Elise in those brief flashback scenes. Excellent choice in casting.
Rose Byrne did a good job, but I also think Barbara Hershey deserves a shoutout. She is such a wonderful actress, with the small part of Josh’s mother she does get a bit of screen time. There were some nice moments with Hershey, as well as a few with her and Steve Coulter, who plays Elise’s old friend Carl.
Insidious Chapter 2 2013 (4)Again, as was the case with the first film, I love how James Wan builds the atmosphere. There’s a very distinct feeling throughout the entire movie. Also, when people are in The Further, all the dead wandering around in the dark, there’s this other highly distinct feeling. Wan makes us feel that shift between the two worlds, which in turn makes it all the more immersive.
I really enjoy how Whannell chose to explore the Bride in Black character more, then we are revealed the utterly disturbed world of Parker Crane. Worst is Parker’s Mother (Danielle Bisutti) – terrifying! When Specs and Tucker, gang in tow, head to Parker’s old house and they make all those macabre discoveries, I thought that section worked so well. The whole backstory to Parker and his mother is just amazingly ghastly. I loved every second of it!
In particular, there’s a great scene with the young Lorraine (played by Jocelin Donahue from Ti West’s throwback masterpiece The House of The Devil) where she brings her then young son Josh to the hospital where she works. There, Parker Crane (Tom Fitzpatrick) grabs ahold of Josh, howling at him in a terrible voice, frightening the poor boy. MAN! What a scene. I thought it was perfect. There’s a little jump-scare, yet I still found it truly effective. Because you keep reeling moments afterwards. Excellent, well-executed horror.
insidious-chapter-2-movie-wallpaper-19Sticking to the horror and subtracting some of the outright comedy between Specs and Tucker, I really think Leigh Whannell wrote a great script. Of course, James Wan pulled off the directing near perfectly. However, I still think that there should have been no comedy, whatsoever. Insidious is truly terrifying stuff, I honestly feel that comedy is out of place in a film that has such a pitch-black atmosphere and tone. Mainly it’s the style of comedy – very dumb stuff, I found. If maybe it worked on a darker level, the comedy would have went well with the horror. It doesn’t, though. That being said, I can’t knock the script that much. It fleshes out the characters Whannell introduced with Insidious, explains some of the previously unexplained events of the first film, and there’s the backstory of the Bride in Black, serial killer Parker Crane, which I found perfectly chilling.
This is a slight head above the first, so I’m giving it a 4.5 out of 5 stars. It’s near a perfect horror, for me anyways. I’ve seen it now probably 5-6 times since it first came out. I’d not seen the first in theatre, because I’m not actually a fan of being in the theatre (a cinephile with high anxiety isn’t good at times – I force myself to go for the stuff I really want to see), but I did go see this on the big screen. Good times, I must say. Everything here works, almost to perfection, from atmosphere and tone, to performances, developed characters, and the sound design is much better than the first (not so many purposefully jumpy string additions).
If you’ve not seen it, go watch NOW, and I hope you get the shit frightened out of you.

THE PACT II Lets Down its Predecessor

The Pact II. 2014. Directed/Written by Dallas Richard Hallam & Patrick Horvath.
Starring Caity Lotz, Camilla Luddington, Scott Michael Foster, PAtrick Fischler, Amy Pietz, Haley Hudson, Market Steger, Nick Micheaux, Brad Gunberg, and Suziey Block. Campfire.
Unrated. 96 minutes.
Horror/Mystery/Thriller

★★
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The Pact came out of nowhere for me, and despite what others have said about the film I thought it was a creepy, effective little horror. There’s a great hybrid of supernatural and serial killer horror that makes for an interesting effect. Not every single bit of it worked, but it was still a good horror movie.

Then, there was a decision to move forward with a sequel. When I first saw this announced, even as a fan of the first, I didn’t exactly jump for joy at the chance to see filmmakers try and extend the success of the original. My biggest problem is that the idea was complex, but it also remained a small, contained type of story that played out well on that scale.
With The Pact II, I feel like they tried to widen the story too far, encompass too much, and instead of sticking with what worked there’s just too little well written in the script to make up for its downfalls. I actually think that, had it been treated better, there could have been something useful made out of this sequel; there were several good, interesting ideas in the script, but I don’t feel as if they were appropriately played out. What might have been, in another universe, a decent flick ends up as a whole lot of junk, and The Pact II is relegated to the land of abysmal horror sequels.
imageAfter the events of The Pact, we catch up with June Abbott (Camilla Luddington). She is a cleaner who takes care of crime scenes after police and investigation units have finished. Soon, June begins to have visions of the now deceased Judas Killer, Charles Barlow (Mark Steger). She tries hiding it from her police officer boyfriend Daniel (Scott Michael Foster). However, copycat murders mimicking the Judas Killer’s M.O begin. June’s visions become worse and worse, she sees herself committing the murders, as if she were the murderer herself, right in his shoes.
Eventually, June sees fit to track down Annie Barlow (Caity Lotz) to try and figure out what’s happening to her. They also try reaching out to Stevie (Haley Hudson), the medium, but she cannot seem to offer much help.
Through twists and turns, June comes to figure out who the copycat killer truly is, and experiences firsthand the revival of the Judas Killer’s murders.
pact-2-movie-740x493For the most part what I thought didn’t work about this film is not that the script is poorly written, it’s the fact that this feels like too much an attempt to extend the first movie for no reason. I mean, the logic just doesn’t seem to be there. The script is well-written in the sense that the dialogue is not bad, nor are the characters; I actually thought June Abbott (Camilla Luddington) worked as a character, and she had history, a personality, flaws. So it isn’t the characters and the dialogue. What does not seem to work, at all, is how The Pact very much had a purpose for the supernatural/serial killer mash-up: Annie’s mother was so distraught over the pact she’d made with her brother Charles, the things he’d done, that her soul and spirit could not leave the house until Charles was dealt with, killed, whatever. So I thought that was spot on.
In opposition, The Pact II seems to want to extend the supernatural elements beyond what they were reaching for in the first place. I just don’t see the point in bringing out a copycat when there’s no great, only tenuous, links to the first film’s plot; this is just an excuse to try and cash in on a good indie horror picture.
Of course, it isn’t the first sequel to try and stretch out a premise from the film which it followed, but I just find that this one did not work in the slightest. There were creepy parts, no doubt. I found the first half hour of the movie half decent. But once everything sets in, then certainly after the tension ratchets up and the climax hits – you just realize how misguided the whole film is, truly.
H2jnI5kSPOILER ALERT – TURN BACK OR FOREVER SHALL YOU BE SPOILED!
The Pact II is also guilty of using terrible tropes. I mean, how many times have we seen the whole ‘the cop is the killer’. I’m not saying that someone out there can’t reinvent that whole trope and turn it around, maybe freshen it up somehow. But this movie uses it and there is nothing fresh about it. They even go for the ole bait-and-switch, using two different law enforcement officers, a cop and an FBI agent (how original), to try and throw us off the trail. Tricky, tricky.
What makes me sad about this is that the screenwriters/directors of this movie, Dallas Richard Hallam and Patrick Horvath, did an awesome little indie called Entrance, which I could not get enough of! Still can’t, I watch it frequently. A lot of people couldn’t stand it because it’s the slowburn to end all slowburn horrors. Honestly, even as a fan, I can admit that so much of the first half of Entrance is extremely snail-paced, and there’s not much going on. Yet underneath it all, the terror lurks. I’ll have to review it myself because it’s worth the watch. Stephen King also raved about it; I totally agreed with his review.
But anyways, it just saddens me to see Hallam and Horvath, who I thought were going to be somewhat different than most writer/directors in the horror genre, came out with a truly poor idea. The writing itself is not bad, it’s just the whole premise of what they wanted to do, it really does not work. For all the decent dialogue (though not all is good – some is certainly bad), the few scares, a dash or two of creepy atmosphere, Hallam and Horvath cannot break away from the dull stupidity of The Pact II‘s original premise. They should have left well enough alone and not done a sequel, honestly, but I suppose the original made enough of a splash producers wanted to milk this one. Too bad they brought in Hallam and Horvath, hope those two move on to something much better.
mv5bmjewota3otkyn15bml5banbnxkftztgwnju1odg2mje-_v1__sx1217_sy887_For all its crappy qualities, there are at least a couple decent performances in this movie.
Camilla Luddington does a good job with the character of June Abbott. I did actually like her as a character, even within the bad plot. Particularly, I thought it was neat how they had her cleaning up crime scenes; this sort of played into her personality, as well as the later story. I’ve never seen Luddington before, but I enjoyed her performance. Just came across the fact she does the motion capture and voice for the newest incarnation of Tomb Raider, which is pretty awesome.
Surprisingly, Caity Lotz returned as Annie. She isn’t in the entire film, but seeing her here was actually nice. The movie has beyond just a few faults, however, having Annie’s character back sort of rooted things a little more than I expected. Either way, Lotz is a good actor. She is subtle and not one of the Scream Queen types, which I personally dig. Too bad the plot of this movie is garbage, otherwise having Lotz return would’ve worked even better had they been able to come up with something more interesting and sensible.
The-Pact-II-02Ultimately, I can’t give The Pact II any more than 2 stars without kicking myself. It just isn’t worth a higher rating.
There are a couple creepy moments. One that really creeped me out involves the picture above; Charles Barlow, now a ghost himself (dumb dumb dumb), walks up slowly behind June and caresses her as she learns the truth about what has really been going on. That’s definitely a memorable scene, and it came off real weird/unsettling.
Other than that, there isn’t much else. A few decent scenes, plus the anchor performance of Camilla Luddington + the brief time we get Annie (Caity Lotz) back, but otherwise this is a complete dud. It’s too bad, I really loved the first one, this just does it no justice. I honestly hope that Dallas Richard Hallam and Patrick Horvath come out with something much better and more interesting than this on their next effort.

THE HUMAN CENTIPEDE II: FULL SEQUENCE – Depravity Without Plot

The Human Centipede II: Full Sequence. 2011. Directed and Written by Tom Six.
Starring Laurence R. Harvey, Ashlynn Yennie, Maddi Black, Kandace Caine, Dominic Borrelli, Lucas Hansen, Lee Nicholas Harris, Dan Burman, Daniel Jude Gennis, Georgia Goodrick, and Emma Lock. Six Entertainment Company.
Unrated. 91 minutes.
Horror

1/2★
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I’d always known from the subtitle of First Sequence in the first film, Tom Six would continue on to do more work on sequels. I think that was always his plan because it seems that subtitle intended right away there would be further films in the series.
That being said, I’m not particular thrilled that Tom Six decided to keep going. While I do find the premise of The Human Centipede II: Full Sequence, I think Six would do far better moving onto something else and putting his unique touch on another film. That’s his choice, however, and I’ve got nothing to do with it.
It only frustrates me because the first movie was a decent horror, and the beginning of this movie sets up an interesting premise, yet Six squanders the potential.
There’s a bit of a deeper idea behind this sequel. Certainly it’s meta, beyond the concept of meta, which is actually something I love. Though it’s only a bit of shock horror, much unlike the method Six went for in the first film, I feel like Six has a bit of a message here. It’s still just blood and gore and depravity, but the main character sort of speaks to the obsession people have with horror. I don’t know if, ultimately, Six is mocking people who think horror/disturbing films have an overall negative effect on people, or if he’s saying there are some twisted fucks out there who might be sitting at home or at their dead-end jobs plotting to use horror movie scripts as their own M.O. Not sure, but regardless, I think beyond all the cheap horror Six brings for this lacklustre sequel, there is some kind of commentary on horror movies, and how we as viewers interact with that horror as either detractors or fans.
The Human Centipede II Full Sequence 7Meet Martin (Laurence R. Harvey) – he’s a loner, mentally ravaged by his parents, living with his mother in a terrible sort of flat on a dreary housing complex. He is a nightshift security guard in a below ground parking lot. There, he watches The Human Centipede: First Sequence, fantasizing about applying the fictional Dr. Heiter’s methods to real life and making himself a real Human Centipede. At home, he is plagued by his mother’s hatred, tough guy neighbours who want to play their music however loud they feel, and a creepy doctor who seems to take an affection to Martin, though, the wrong kind.
Slowly, Martin begins to collect victims so that he might eventually create the fabled Human Centipede. It isn’t only a will to kill and hurt. Martin is beyond turned on by the prospect of connecting all his victims, mouth to anus, anus to mouth. He is a vile, wretched human being.
Thus begins the vicious and menacing sequel which is: The Human Centipede II: Full Sequence.
everythings-come-down-to-thisBefore I let loose on what I don’t like about this sequel, I’ll start with the few portions I actually really do enjoy about Full Sequence.
There’s something about the choice to film this in black-and-white that interests me. Not sure what Six was attempting to accomplish. Perhaps it’s because of how hardcore the gore and sick imagery is in the film, Six decided to go with black-and-white to try and counteract how vicious things look; if it were colour, I can only begin to fathom how brutal it might end up being. Black-and-white can really give off a natural feeling when used appropriately. I think Six does well with this concept, though, it does not help to really tone things down in the end because there’s just so much rottenness happening. Taking the colour out so that the blood and guts and nasty bits don’t look as vibrant and in your face, for this film, does nothing to lessen the blow. Maybe that’s not why Six chose to do this black-and-white, maybe he just imagined it would look a bit artsy and give the film some credibility. I don’t know.
I do think that at times this really works. The scenes at home with Martin and his mother, all those bits, they were spectacular as black-and-white. Honestly, if the depravity level weren’t skyrocketing into the outer atmosphere near Mars, this movie would have done well with the black-and-white scheme. I don’t think it hurts the horror, it does not detract. I just feel as if the horror here is for horror’s sake. I know that the story itself dictates how much blood and gore will come out – it’s all based around Martin’s obsession and sick lust over the original film. But still, I loved the first Human Centipede because, though highly disturbing subject matter, it felt like it was more restrained than I’d expected, and Six really put together a decent horrifying film.
The black-and-white idea is really something when it comes to a lot of scenes. Even that savage moment where Martin kills his mother, drags her to the table, then has a little bit to eat before egging on the musclehead upstairs and subduing him to add to his Centipede; I found this a chilling bit of horror. Honestly, if Martin hadn’t succeeded to even put together the Centipede, this might’ve worked. Then I guess that would defeat the purpose, there has got to be a form of the Centipede somewhere throughout the film. The end result doesn’t spoil the good black-and-white scenes, but I wish Six could’ve done something better with it all.

My big problems with The Human Centipede II: Full Sequence have to do with the excess of gratuitous EVERYTHING. Not only does Six go for more disgusting sequences of nasty gore, he pulls in a lot of sexuality. Now, I’ve just finished with reviewing the Wrong Turn series (I, II, III, IV, V, VI), and part of my problem especially with the later entries was that there was a lot of sex and nudity brought in to either fill time, or from some perceived notion that there needed to be some sex in order to be true to “horror roots” (which is nonsense; I won’t go any further on that). Six does exactly this with his sequel. While Martin (Laurence Harvey) could have been just as sick and maniacal without so much of the sexual aspects being played up, and graphically most of the time onscreen, Six still opts to pile it on when it comes to the sex, as well as nudity.
The whole aspect of Martin obviously being abused by his father is fine. That’s understandable, especially dealing with a psychopath like Martin; he’s bound to have a history of sexual abuse, or any abuse. But Six lays it on way too hard. There’s enough outright and graphic imagery here without having to full-on show us every last single little thing.
C’mon, Tom! You can leave bits to the imagination while still having your nasty fun.
Basically, I think it comes down to Six’s lack of worry as a screenwriter. I hate to say that, and it’s not to say he can’t write, but I just feel like too much of this sequel (as opposed to the first film) relies on shock horror and the “torture porn” aspect of his story instead of going for real tension and suspense. The first had some excellent moments of tension that worked, but here that’s almost non-existent. Six has the ability to write, it’s just as if he doesn’t want to at times.
Human-Centipede-2-YummyThis is one of those horror movies that goes way over-the-top with its excessive blood, gore, and overall nastiness. I know that’s probably exactly what Tom Six set out to accomplish, and perhaps that’s the total of his expectations for the film. Unfortunately, for me anyways, I really did think that the first Human Centipede was a good horror – for all its flaws, it was effective and it didn’t need to go far over the line. It gave enough to get enough of the reaction needed. Here, Six surpassed was is needed to effectively communicate the disturbed world of Martin, the loner security guard and Dr. Josef Heiter obsessive fan. I think the combination of all the ridiculous gore while Martin creates his Centipede and the depraved sexuality that’s going on at certain points (worst case: Martin humps on one of his victims collected for the Centipede and it is horrifyingly sickening) really made things too much to even enjoy. For the people who love shock horror, and dare I say it “torture porn” (again I fucking hate that label), I guess it’s really enjoyable.
But to me, this goes beyond shock horror, or whatever you want to call it. Martin shits himself, he farts and he makes disgusting noises, and at certain times during the film I was saying aloud, “Are you fucking kidding me?” Once again – maybe that’s the point Mr. Six is trying to get at, maybe that’s what he wants from me as a member of his audience. I just don’t find it to be good horror, nor is it enjoyable on any level when things get to the point of ridiculously staged debauchery and murder.
Don’t even get me started on the fact that, without all the proper medical equipment and knowledge, I don’t see how a guy like Martin, dumb and fucked up in the head as he is, could ever manage to successfully staple and tape together a Human Centipede. Not even touching the fact he had what, twelve people, ten? I mean, that’s just brutal.
maxresdefaultI can only give Full Sequence a half of one star. Honestly, I really did dig a lot of what Tom Six did in the first film, but this one is just an absolute mess – as we say here in Newfoundland, Canada, it’s a real fuckin’ state. What a brutal movie – and in no way do I mean that as complimentary. I thought a lot of the black-and-white was great when it involved the scenes at Martin’s flat, with his mother, et cetera. Even a few of the moments with him in the parking garage complex, before his big creation began, I found fairly well done and the black-and-white helped its creepy atmosphere. However, that does not keep up long.
In the end, there’s too much gross-out horror at work. The shock horror, the “torture porn” is all too evident. Some might say, “What did you expect?”. Well, frankly, I expected Six to follow up his decent start of the series with something near equal to what he’d done. What he did was try only to gross us out – nothing more. Maybe that’s fine for some, but even with the gory horror (think more modern like Martyrs – tons of gore and a great story) I often like to have at least some semblance of well-intentioned writing and coherence. Here, Six cops out, and instead of writing something that could’ve worked terrorizing wonders on his captive audience, all we get is the full toilet humour most jokes about The Human Centipede films cover. There’s no attempt at creating genuine horror. Here you’ll only find the disgusting, the nasty, and the wretchedly vile.
HC2 syringeBEWARE: in the last fifteen minutes there is some truly atrocious stuff happening – I’m not one to get disgusted, I have seen so many rotten and over-the-top disgusting horror flicks, but this one really took my stomach for a whirl. It’s not that which ultimately bothers me, it’s the fact this stuff has no real purpose other than shock. In the first film, there was at least an attempt on Six’s part to come up with something that was uniquely terrifying, this is just nothing but cheap gross-out horror and failed attempts at (crazily) dark humour.

P.S. Why does that mother step on her baby? Did I miss something? I get it – she wanted to get away. But would a new mother who’d just traumatically popped out her child really just go ahead and step on the gas pedal, crushing her infant child? Is that actually plausible? She couldn’t pick the thing up, toss it in the passenger seat with the umbilical cord and drive away?
Come on, Tom – you can do better. Or I don’t know, maybe the “What did you expect?” crowd is right – maybe I should expect nothing more than perversity and needless gross-out horror from you. I’m about to watch the third instalment, who knows what it holds in store for me!

WRONG TURN 6: LAST RESORT – How Low Can a Franchise Go?

Wrong Turn 6: Last Resort. 2014. Directed by Valeri Milev. Screenplay by Frank H. Woodward.
Starring Anthony Ilott, Chris Jarvis, Aqueela Zoll, Sadie Katz, Rollo Skinner, Billy Ashworth, Harry Belcher, Joe Gaminara, Roxanne Pallett, Radoslav Paravanov, Danko Jordanov, Asen Asenov, and Kicker Robinson. 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment. Rated R. 91 minutes. Horror.


WT6_ComicCon_Teaser_FNL
The shipwreck which was Declan O’Brien at the helm of several Wrong Turn sequels has finally stopped.
With Wrong Turn 6: Last Resort, the reins of the franchise has been handed over to Valeri Milev.
Though I’ve not seen anything by Milev before, I’ve wanted to get a look at his film from 2013 called Re-Kill. However, if this is any indication, I’m not holding my breath on it being something spectacular. The sixth film in this series is not the worst, certainly not, but it’s not good in any way either.
While some of the gore works, and this instalment isn’t hellbent on the awful CGI which plagued O’Brien, there is a serious lapse in the series logic when it comes to the characters and the setting, and in turn the whole plot itself. Not to mention, Milev is far more intent than O’Brien even was in his tenure as director to bring more nudity and sex into the movies. I’m not afraid of a bit of nudity in horror, there are plenty of solid horror films that do have nudity in them, but the only purpose these Wrong Turn films have had, especially those O’Brien directed, to use nudity is simply to try and keep people interested, or to perhaps they truly try and skew towards the male demographic. Either way, there are a ton of problems with this movie, just as much as some of the other entries in the franchise overall.
775689_3Wrong Turn 6: Last Resort throws so much of the little sense that exists in the franchise out the window.
Danny (Anthony Ilott) finds out, suddenly, that he has an inheritance waiting for him at the Hobb Springs Resort. He and his girlfriend Toni (Aqueela Zoll), Bryan (Joe Gaminara), Jillian (Roxanne Pallett), Vic (Rollo Skinner), Rod (Billy Ashworth), and Charlie (Harry Belcher) head out to the backwoods for the old hotel.
Of course, lurking in the hills of West Virginia as always are the three brothers: Saw Tooth (Danko Jordanov), Three Finger (Radoslav Parvanov), and One Eye (Asen Asenov). They continue to kill, maim, eat.
At the Hobb Springs Resort, Danny and his friends are greeted by brother and sister creepy duo, Sally (Sadie Katz) and Jackson (Chris Jarvis). The pair are hospitable, if not a little strange. Soon, though, an older vacationer at the resort goes missing. Sheriff Doucette (Kicker Robinson) asks them to keep a look out, pass around a flyer to see if anyone can help find the woman. However, she is long gone – probably chopped up for dinner by the inbred brothers.
Eventually, Bryan begins to discover things about the Hobb Springs Resort, terrifying, dark secrets, and things for him, as well as his friends, will never ever be the same.
44138475782283658387_zps233ae9e3.jpg~originalSo one of my initial beefs happens quickly.
Beginning with the last Wrong Turn entry, there’s this dumb trend of opening the movie with a “clever” (I use that in the lightest sense) way of using the dead/severed bodies of the brothers’ victims to give the number of the sequel. So, for Wrong Turn 5: Bloodlines, it was a severed hand that opened up with its five fingers stretched underneath the title. Now we get Roman numerals all of a sudden – probably because the filmmakers couldn’t figure out a way to plausibly get two hands to show 6 fingers without it looking clumsy. As if it made any differences: two bodies fall roughly in the shape of VI to help us spell out Wrong Turn VI: Last Resort. Just one of the reasons this sequel is another bad one.
6-wrong-turn-last-resortWhen the old woman gets killed, it is so bad. An axe gets tossed at full-force and not only does it throw her back to the wall, it apparently lifts her a foot off the ground before pinning her to it. I mean – it’s almost as bad as the opening kill in Wrong Turn 2: Dead End, which I found to be too over-the-top. Again it’s not like I’m looking for a level of total realism from these movies, but there’s also got to be a degree of logic in some senses. There’s enough brutality in these movies that it can still be effective without having to get cartoonish.
dbce6a2db2c67958515d1c7912507b88My biggest problem with this one is a combination of things.
First of all, I find Wrong Turn 6: Last Resort to be, by far, the most sexualized of all the sequels. Declan O’Brien started this, albeit only subtly, in Wrong Turn 3: Left for Dead. Even though I personally found the 4th film, Bloody Beginnings, to be better than most, he still got worse with it in that one; right from the opening scenes. Then the 5th went the same. Now, it seems like director Valeri Milev and writer Frank Woodward were intent on making sexuality a large aspect of this story. Some horror benefits from an angle of sexuality – most recently, It Follows uses the premise of sexual encounters to head into very interesting territory, and a few of my favourite classics from David Cronenberg such as VideodromeShivers, and Rabid all have sexual elements yet they work to serve a purpose.
Second, I just can’t get past the jumbled nonsense that the Wrong Turn series has become. Starting with the last sequel, Bloodlines, there has been a serious neglect of logic in regards to the characters of these films. I know this is not meant to be expertly crated horror like something you might expect from Rosemary’s Baby. All the same, you’d think they would try to keep the logic together.
I mean, how does this sister-brother combo of Sally and Jackson even fit in? Where did they come from? My understanding, especially from what’s discussed in Wrong Turn 2: Dead End, is that the effects of inbreeding only got worse and worse with each round of procreation in the family. It doesn’t make any sense to me that Jackson and Sally look normal. How are they not raving lunatics just like One Eye, Saw Tooth, and Three Finger? My problem in the last movie was the character of Maynard, and how he was seemingly able to coral the three brothers with a combination of a dominant attitude and physical violence, yet the brothers are supposed to inbred, unruly, wild, and immune to pain!? It just makes no sense, whether someone is supposedly part of the ‘family’ or not, that the three brothers allow themselves to be harnessed and controlled into doing what some third party wants.
Still, it makes no sense how Sally and Jackson are the only two normal, and actually attractive, people between the clans of hillbillies. Then there’s Danny, of course, who they’re trying to lure into the family tradition of brother-sister-cousin fucking, and Danny looks as normal as anybody. These inbred brothers have been around since 1974 – that’s what we know from Bloody Beginnings and its opening scene – so where did these branches of the family come from and how did none of them turn out to look like the brothers? We clearly see there are others involved in these so-called clans, later in the movie, and they’re all haggard, too! So it’s just ridiculous to have these two good looking actors there in the middle of it meant to be part of an inbred cannibal family. Too much suspension of disbelief in this case.
In a Q&A over at Fangoria, screenwriter Frank Woodward actually said he likes where there can be a big world in a story where so many other smaller stories can be told. Unfortunately, Mr. Woodward went too wide with this one and forgot to try and link things together. If perhaps there were some other chains binding Last Resort with the other 5 films, even the last terrible one, then maybe it would have worked a little better. Instead there is a tenuous connection to the series as a whole, and after that takes hold I find it hard to enjoy much else in the movie.
WrongTurn2I can give this a 1 out of 5 stars. Honestly, I know some people think I’m nuts for enjoying Wrong Turn 4: Bloody Beginnings the way I do, even though that’s only a 2.5/5 stars for me, not much better than this one. However, at least – for all its bad acting – the 4th film went for the prequel angle, we got to see the brothers before the initial events of the first Wrong Turn film, and it really started to setup a mythos of its own as a franchise, in my opinion. I actually couldn’t stand the 3rd movie, Left for Dead, but I liked that even more than I could enjoy Last Resort. Most of the other movies in this series suffer from poor written – varying degrees, but all suffer from the same symptoms. The problem I have with Last Resort is that it totally fumbles the logic of its own series, as was the case in the last entry, and I can’t get past that. I’m able to get past it enough to rate it better than Wrong Turn 5: Bloodlines, because at least this one had a few good gory moments; that last one was just off-the-wall nonsensical in too many ways.
Either way I cut it, this to me is definitely one of the poorer entries in the series. It pushes way too hard to sexualize the horror, including straight up naked women getting cut up, and to me that’s a staple of 1980s horror I’m not a fan of – I’ve explained this enough already, just does not serve a purpose for me in horror. There are other movies in the genre I do enjoy that have nudity, but they at least back things up with actual terror, some better writing, and decent acting – some of these Wrong Turn movies, especially this one, go too hard for the boobs and blood. I’m not into it. That, coupled with a lack of sense in the screenplay, really makes for an awful film.
I’ll never ever watch this again unless someone kidnaps me and forces it upon me, even then I’d fight like hell. These last two in the series have been just downright garbage. For good backwoods horror maybe check out a classic like Just Before Dawn, or a less horror-ish effort of backwoods survival in Southern Comfort or my favourite of that genre, the obvious choice, Deliverance.

Another one of these on the way for 2017? Oh mercy. I’ll see you then, and we can talk about how awful that might be. Though, I always wait to judge for myself. Maybe someone can breathe life into a series that once had potential, but has long since been ravaged – mostly by Declan O’Brien, now Valeri Milev has joined in on the assault. No idea who will be directing the next one. You can be sure it won’t be anyone too familiar, or maybe they’ll choose someone from the previous pool of directors. Jesus, we’ll see…..

THE COLLECTION Could’ve Been a Contender

The Collection. 2012. Directed by Marcus Dunstan. Screenplay by Marcus Dunstan & Patrick Melton.
Starring Josh Stewart, Emma Fitzpatrick, Christopher McDonald, Lee Tergesen, Tim Griffin, Andre Royo, Randall Archer, Shannon Kane, Brandon Molale, Erin Way, Johanna Braddy, and Michael Nardelli.
Fortress Features.
Rated R. 82 minutes.
Horror/Thriller

★★1/2
collection10My love for The Collector is strong, but I’m not so much a fan of The Collection. This sequel, though a good deal of fun, is not a great one in terms of doing anything smart.
What this sequel does is give us more of the evil Collector and his disturbing traps/kills, and it gives us more horror. All the while sacrificing good characters for amping up the scope of The Collector’s murder spree and his prolific status.
There were instances of characters lacking development in the first film, which I think carry over, even worse, to its sequel. Even further, The Collection is intent on adding more characters than are necessary to fill up the movie instead of maybe focusing on less characters that could have been fleshed out a bit more – a lot more, if I had it my way.
Marcus Dunstan and Patrick Melton essentially tried to go bigger with the scope of their villain, but instead of making things more interesting and intense, it mostly just made me roll my eyes.
There are a few things I did enjoy, they made the movie a decent bit of fun, but in the end Dunstan wasted the potential of The Collector as a new iconic horror villain in the sea of horror movies out there. While this movie absolutely makes The Collector into an even scarier sort, the creepiness in this sequel doesn’t come close to that of the original, trying to rely more on gore and increasingly intricate traps/set-ups within the villain’s hideout. Instead, there needed to be less reliance on new characters and stories and more focus on Arkin; he’s the whole reason things seemed to continue, he’s in the movie as a lead actor, I don’t know why they couldn’t have honed in more on him to make the whole story stay interesting.
the-collection-2012-gunThe Collection begins after Arkin O’Brien (Josh Stewart) has been taken by The Collector, following the events of the previous film.
We see a young girl and her father, Mr. Peters (Christopher McDonald) sitting in the back of a car as they drive. The father promises to always be there for his daughter – right before they’re t-boned and the camera cuts away.
We also see some newsreel footage of different television stations reporting on the murder spree of The Collector, even brief descriptions of his M.O, et cetera.

Skip ahead to the young girl from before, she is now grown: Elena Peters (Emma Fitzpatrick).
One night Elena goes to one of those real hip parties where it’s in a seemingly abandoned warehouse, or some other equally dubious place (I don’t know why any real people actually do this sort of thing but in reality – they do). There, everyone dances and parties and has a great time.
Then, once Elena goes to the bathroom, there it is: the antique trunk. Inside, of course, is Arkin – the newest addition to The Collector’s collection. On release of Arkin, this triggers a foolishly elaborate trap killing just about every last person inside the building, shredding flesh and bone to bits as it works through a drunk and ecstasy’d crowd (no doubt) dancing their hearts out.
Arkin manages to make it out of the building alive, but unfortunately Elena gets taken by The Collector.
Once in the hospital, Arkin realizes his family is still in danger. He tells them to stay away awhile. Then, a man named Lucello (Lee Tergesen) comes looking for Arkin, asking for help to track down the man who took Elena; her father, Mr. Peters, is wealthy and has a team assembled to find where the man brought her.
Reluctantly Arkin goes along, and once they find The Collector’s lair, he is forced to head inside with Lucello and a team of mercenaries. Within those walls, they have no idea what to expect, and things devolve into nothing except chaos, blood, and death.
3My problem with The Collection, as opposed to the first film, is that there’s too much going on. Already in The Collector, Dunstan and Melton focused too little on developing the characters of the family; while Arkin got proper treatment as a character, they did not. It’s a little worse in this one, sadly. Dunstan and Melton opt to include the new characters of Mr. Peters and his daughter Elena, even with a heavy backstory as they have, yet they’re not given as much depth as Arkin was in the first film.
The part that makes this such a downfall is the fact that Arkin is still a huge part of this film; he is the basic reason for the sequel, as the first movie ends with an excellent scene after the credits that pointed all signals go for a potential sequel. And it wasn’t like a cheesy, post-credits plea to say “we really want to do another movie”, it was just a great, disturbing finale to a movie. It came off unsettling.
But Dunstan and Melton passed up a great opportunity here. They clogged up the sequel with too many characters and Arkin suffered for it. Ahem, SPOILERS AHEAD! TURN BACK NOW OR FOREVER BE SPOILED: at the end of this movie, again, we get a great finale – again, setting up the possibility of another film to make this a trilogy – and it once more involves Arkin. So I just can’t help feeling the writers wasted an opportunity to let Arkin’s story grow. Sure, he is featured in a ton of the film’s runtime, however, it isn’t as if there’s much to him in this one. He’s residual here, when they should have amped Arkin up further; it’s probably Josh Stewart’s best role, to me, and they could’ve let him run more and more with it here. I’m not saying I know what would have been best/correct to do with the character here, I just know that what they did hasn’t done any justice for the character. It might’ve been just as interesting to have Arkin stuck in The Collector’s hideout, then somehow include his wife’s debt predicament in the whole matter.
4That brings up another problem I have – his wife was in serious debt with loan sharks, the money was due at midnight the same night Arkin went to rob the Chase house, and yet there she is on the television giving interviews, hoping her husband will be spared by the murderer out there with him taken hostage. I mean, maybe the sharks didn’t come because of all the cop activity around Arkin and his family after he’s been taken by The Collector – I don’t know. It bothered me, though. Just feel like there was a good foundation for Arkin as a character built up in the first film and The Collection blew the potential it could have had.
The-Collection-2012-movieThis one feels as if it’s really a Saw rip-off, whereas I felt The Collector was distanced enough from its influences to be something on its own. Even just the opening sequence made me go “oh brrrrrother” and roll my eyes into the back of my head a-la-Liz Lemon. Things got more and more silly. At least in the first one the scope wasn’t as wide; the house was big, but it wasn’t massive like an old abandoned warehouse. It reeked to much of a Jigsaw-like situation. Other than the fact The Collector set traps in the first movie, I didn’t get that Jigsaw knock-off vibe. Here, I really do. Not in the character, in the way his lair is setup. I mean, he basically had homemade Dahmer-style zombies running around in there, and that was way over-the-top, I couldn’t handle it. The part with that one girl who he’d essentially Stockholm Syndrome’d I didn’t find so far fetched, especially when it comes to serial killer territory. But the wild drugged up people he had going on, the massive pile of bodies in the basement – it got increasingly desperate and derivative of Saw to the point where I realized Dunstan and Melton obviously ran out of ideas for this movie and fell back into their Saw formula (I guess that’s the danger when you’re involved with two or three of the movies in that series – maybe it stuck to them like the stink of shit).
Some of the traps here really bugged me – there’s one part where these cylindrical, spiked tubes come down and impale one of the mercenaries whom Lucello brought, and it just feels so god damn nonsensical. Even in the first movie there were a couple moments I thought “Man this is a bit much”, but none of them blew me away to the point I almost laughed. The Collection ends up with too many little bits that made me feel like laughing, or just made me want to shake my head. Too bad.
snouty-pig-the-collection-official-trailerA part of The Collection I thoroughly did enjoy was the score. Again, Dunstan works with a Trent Reznor collaborator: Charlie Clouser. What a choice. The style of these movies really goes well with that industrial sound. Clouser opts for a more synthesized sound than Jerome Dillon did with the score for the first film, all the while still adding some real heavy riffs into his compositions. There are excellently ominous moments where Clouser goes for the synthesizer – bellowing, low tones almost shiver in our ears while The Collector stalks the halls of his hideout, looking for his prey – and then there are a few awesome guitar tracks.
There’s one part of the score from Clouser which starts with just short of 20 minutes left to the film that blows me away. It’s a great little guitar part with pounding drums, the foggy voices “ahhh” “ohhh” overtop, not too loud, and it sort of drones on in the background, making things feel epic. Leads up to some badassery on the part of Elena (Fitzpatrick) and Arkin (Stewart). Makes the big climactic moments feel all that much more intense. Amazing instance of Clouser’s power as a composer.
The_Collection-photo1I can only give this sequel a 2.5 out of 5 stars. That’s honestly being generous.
A lot of my problem has to do with the lack of Arkin’s development into a more significant character. I mean, by all rights they could do a third film. Perhaps it could be a prequel, I don’t know, (SPOILER AHEAD RE: ENDING) but it might be interesting to see a movie that starts off with Arkin after the events of The Collection. We could pick up with Arkin surveying all the things in The Collector’s actual home, where he’d tracked the killer down and taken him hostage in the same antique trunk where Arkin had once been locked up. Even if the movie got part of the way through and The Collector turned the tables on Arkin, getting loose – we could then have an almost action-thriller mixed with horror, as Arkin takes off after The Collector, intent on finding him before the killer either finds him, or begins to take more victims, or worse – vanishes into thin air. Whatever happens, another film or not, I think Arkin was downgraded in this movie, even with all the screen time he gets; he could have been turned into something better.
You’ll have a bit of fun watching this, but it’s nowhere near as good as its predecessor. I hope to see another movie in the series, though. I love The Collector as a villain. I didn’t find him as creepy here as in the first either, however, I did think there were some interesting bits going on. Mostly, Dunstan and Melton tried to take their near-iconic villain to a level he wasn’t meant go. I liked The Collector as a villain who did elaborate things, yet on a small scale, not only ensuring better invisibility to law enforcement but also in terms of the film world – it made things more plausible, and easy, for the filmmakers while things stayed on a limited scale. Bringing this sequel to a bigger, wider arena in terms of The Collector’s hideout and the innovation of new traps for him to use, did the movie no favours. I can’t recommend it, other than for the completist, or fans of The Collector who just want to see a bit more of the villain in action; even if it’s lacklustre.

JURASSIC WORLD Rides its Legacy with a Skidmark

Jurassic World. 2015. Directed by Colin Trevorrow. Screenplay by Derek Connolly, Rick Jaffa, Amanda Silver, and Colin Trevorrow; based on the writing of Michael Crichton. Starring Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard, Irrfan Khan, Vincent D’Onofrio, Ty Simpkins, Nick Robinson, Jake Johnson, Omar Sy, BD Wong, Judy Greer, Lauren Lapkus, Brian Tee, and Andy Buckley. Universal Pictures. Rated PG-13. 124 minutes. Action/Adventure/Sci-Fi.

2.5 out of 5 stars
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Personally, I was not thrilled with the idea of Jurassic World. I’m not against remakes. There are tons out there now because that’s just the way industry works – and though there are plenty of us who don’t really care much about these remakes, there are tons of people out there paying to see these movies. If not, they wouldn’t be made. Some of them bomb, others are hugely successful.
Personally, I’m just such a huge fan of the first Jurassic Park, and I even enjoyed parts of the sequel, though it’s nowhere near as good as the first. The original is a classic adventure film with such a perfect science fiction element, it all works so perfectly.
So when I heard Colin Trevorrow, who I’d never seen anything by (I plan on seeing Safety Not Guaranteed one day though), was going to make this new Jurassic World, I sort of rolled my eyes. I don’t bash films until they come out and I can see them; I don’t even bash them then. I just decide how I feel about them, judge them by what I think is a good film, and every genre is different. So I waited, and finally went to see it. While it’s not all wonderful, I did enjoy a few things about Jurassic World and had a little fun at times.

The plot of Jurassic World is nothing too innovative, other than the fact the park in the film is actually open, people from the public can not only watch attractions (similar to SeaWorld type events with big pools and stands of paying customers) they can also go in a gyrosphere which takes them out into the park where they can move around, see the dinosaurs up close and personal, and enjoy a very firsthand experience. Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard) is the director of the new park, Masrani (Irrfan Khan) took over the project from John Hammond. Owen (Chris Pratt) is the resident “animal wrangler” fresh out of the Navy awhile back; he builds relationships with the raptors, basically training them to take commands, however, a new employee almost dies at their hands and it’s clear that they aren’t exactly ready to be commanded.
Jurassic World offers the ability to build a dinosaur – almost like the newest fad for rich people with nothing better to do with their millions and billions – and so Masrani himself has asked for “more teeth”, creating the vicious hybrid Indominus rex. While Claire is trying to get more big corporate sponsors for the park, using Indominus rex as a ‘marketing tool’, her nephews Zach and Gray (Nick Robinson and Ty Simpkins) get sent to spend time with their aunt; she is the typical obsessed with work type, and sends the two off with her assistant until she has time to be with them.
Soon, the Indominus rex proves to be more sophisticated than all the other dinosaurs, a true threat, and it escapes the paddock in which it is kept. Even worse, Zach and Gray are out in one of the gyro spheres, and while the whole park is evacuating Claire can’t track them down. She and Owen head out to find the boys, and the adventure begins.
Jurassic WorldI thought the scene where Owen (Pratt) and the two employees went into the Indominus rex paddock was a really dumb kick off. I mean, wouldn’t they take all precautionary measures to make sure their dinosaurs – especially new genetically enhanced ones they cooked up in the lab – could not get out of those paddocks? It makes no sense to me why Claire (Howard) couldn’t just call up the control room immediately and confirm whether or not the dinosaur was in there. Did I miss something? Maybe I did, but I doubt it. To have Owen head out into the paddock like that was, to me, a huge lapse in common sense. It’s fine for a writer to assume characters, real ones, will do stupid things in the heat of the moment, those sorts of situations. However, this guy Owen is “building relationships” with the raptors, and he acts like he knows so much in general, he is former Navy – I just don’t see why he’d head out there like that without knowing fully if the dinosaur was gone or not. Even so, Claire should be the one following protocol to the letter. Owen actually berates her for not having her shit together, but that’s still not enough. I can’t believe that a few employees, along with this know-it-all Owen, would just go into a dangerous hybrid dinosaur’s paddock like that, so quickly. Just really made me wonder what the hell was going on from the get-go, hoping the movie would turn around sooner than later.
Problem is, when you kick off a 2 hour film with a really dumb sort of catalyst within 35 minutes, it gets hard to change the tide. I couldn’t help wonder how these dumb people made this park work to begin with if this is how they handle their business. I can suspend disbelief when it comes to the dinosaurs, because who knows – I mean, just awhile back they’ve claimed scientists might be able to genetically recreate a woolly mammoth in two or three years time. So it isn’t hard for me to use my imagination and enjoy the dinosaur aspect. That has nothing to do with reason or logic, or common sense. The blunder of this movie’s setup has everything to do with common sense, and I couldn’t wash its taste out of my mouth. It doesn’t matter that the dinosaur hid from thermal detection because the control room picked it up a few moments later, so why didn’t they just relax, use all the technology at their disposal first, and then send people into the paddock when they could absolutely be sure there was no savage hybrid dinosaur roaming around in there? I’m sorry, that’s just bad writing.
JURASSIC-WORLD-30-1940x1091I did like Chris Pratt, and I’ve got to say I’m not even that sold on the guy. Not that he isn’t good, he certainly has a lot of charm, he’s a good actor, and at times has that old classic movie star sensibility about him. Very good choice to play the “hero” here. However, that’s where my problem comes in. I like his character and all, but it just feels tired. I’m not saying that Bryce Dallas Howard, who is also pretty good here, needed to be the more heroic one, nothing like that. My problem is that this feels so much like Jurassic Park, so much so that it annoys me. The characters aren’t underdeveloped or anything, although I could’ve used much more character development in the early parts of the film before the action started. I feel like they took the pre-made template of the original film and instead of remaking it, they tried to “reimagine” things. Yet it’s a little over twenty years after the events of the first film, all those things happened – Hammond, Dr. Grant and Dr. Sattler – so it confuses me why they decided to carbon copy the characters so much. Even the boys, they’re such an emulation of Lex and Tim (Ariana Richards and Joseph Mazzello) from Jurassic Park, only with a new story.
The characters are not perfectly the same, they’re different, but it feels like it’s lazy writing. They just took the original film’s outline, tossed it in, gave all the characters new stories, and went with it. I can’t be the only who feels like Owen (Pratt) is a younger, more adventurous version of Sam Neill’s Dr. Alan Grant. Sure, they’re different people – Owen came from the Navy, Dr. Grant is a paleontologist – but the bits of banter between Owen and Claire (Howard) just feel like reheated elements. It’s actually like they reversed the roles of Dr. Sattler and Dr. Grant, by making Owen the more adventurous counterpart like Sattler was and Claire designated as the uptight and composed type the way Grant had been early on in Jurassic Park. Then to add the two boys on top of it all – why? They could’ve easily done this without having to put these two kids in there. I know it made things more personal for Claire. What I fail to see is why that needed to be an aspect. They could’ve simply put Claire in danger somehow, she and Owen could still go on their journey into the park, but yet the writers felt they had to emulate the original too much, they jammed those kids into the plot, and it doesn’t serve too much of a purpose. For me. Perhaps Steven Spielberg wanted that gyrosphere so bad and Trevorrow couldn’t figure any other way to get it into the movie other than to have those two kids be in the park. I don’t know, but it’s real tired. I guess the entire franchise has kids in it, one way or another, so they had to follow suit. I may have enjoyed Jurassic World a lot more if they stuck with the adults instead of feeling the need to include the two boys.
jurassic-worldIt isn’t a completely terrible movie. That being said, I can’t exactly say it’s great, in any way, shape, or form. Jurassic World, for me, is about a 2.5 out of 5 star film. The plot is almost non-existent, but that’s only because it’s such a rehash of the first movie. We already got Jurassic Park, and this not only recycles plot elements it really just mashes characters into the script, it reverses character roles from the first to make it seem like they’re new, and it does not work for me. The action is a bit of fun. I can’t say some of the moments with the dinosaurs aren’t great. Still, there’s something about the dinosaurs I didn’t get thrilled over either. The Indominus rex is made out to be a hybrid, and it does look different than most of what we’ve seen before or anything else in the movie, yet I wasn’t amazed. It looks like a different sort of Tyrannosaurus rex, some changed features. I hate to rag on the movie completely, but it’s as if I expected a lot from this, and it absolutely did not deliver. The performances, mostly Bryce Dallas Howard and Chris Pratt, were spot on – though, I do feel they really wasted Vincent D’Onofrio, a favourite of mine, in a minor, half-assed written part. Also, I have to say that Ty Simpkins does a great job with his performance – even while I feel like the brothers’ inclusion is one of the reasons I don’t particularly like the movie. I can still admit he gave it his all, he’s a wonderful child actor; hope he continues on to great things.
Ultimately, I didn’t enjoy a whole lot about Jurassic World. I wish they could’ve really done something fresh, innovative, and more fun, but they did not do anything of that. Some people will say “yeah well what did you expect?”. To that, I would reply: I expected a decent script and new characters, not slack writing and an attempt to recreate the first film but a new movie on its own. This is a lacklustre effort, and I’m not particularly thrilled with Colin Trevorrow’s directing, but I’m willing to give him a chance in the future (still need to check out his previous work as well).
For now, though? Jurassic World isn’t recommended, except for the completist amongst us. The upside: at least once you sit through most of the movie, the last half hour is action and you can enjoy a bit of weird raptor excitement. The finale overall sucks, and it’s mostly just such a rip-off of the first film that I couldn’t stand it. Sad way to end things.

V/H/S: Viral is a Weird, Wild Ride

V/H/S: Viral. 2014. Directors: Marcel Sarmiento, Gregg Bishop, Justin Benson & Aaron Moorhead, and Nacho Vigalondo (the Blu ray release will include the segment “Gorgeous Vortex” directed by Todd Lincoln).
Starring Emmy Argo, Emilia Ares Zoryan, Justin Welborn, Amanda Baker, Gregg Bishop, Nick Blanco, Dan Caudill, Stephen Caudill.
Magnet Releasing.
Rated R. 82 minutes.
Horror/Thriller

★★★★

Click on the titles for my previous reviews on the Blu ray releases for V/H/S V/H/S/2.VHS-VIRAL_FINISH-27x40_halfsize-691x1024So apparently a few people, for some reason, can’t get why I’ve given this movie such a high rating. I’ll attempt to explain it even further than I already have just in case any anonymous people once again have problems reading my review.

This is probably the most misunderstood and maligned entry in the V/H/S series. I never judge a movie by its rating online, or anywhere for that matter, but IMDB for instance has this somewhere around a 4 out of 10 star rating (IMDB, unfortunately, is mostly only great for finding titles/actors/et cetera – the ratings are ridiculous on there). I think that is such a nonsense rating. This is a worthy entry in the series, and it’s also a good, innovative horror movie. People don’t see it right now.  I get that – or no, no – I don’t get it, actually. I really don’t understand because I think this is the film where the whole concept of the V/H/S series comes to life, full steam blowing ahead.
I think it’s misunderstood simply because I don’t know why people prefer the other V/H/S films over this one. I love them all, but this installment has the most unique segments, and it’s definitely the most exciting in terms of energy; I never felt any sort of lag in this movie.

But who am I?  Just a lowly cinephile in a horde of horror fans.

The wraparound segment in V/H/S: Viral is definitely an interesting one. I wasn’t sure on the first viewing if I really dug it or not; things felt very chaotic and I wasn’t sure if it worked. Then, once I went back and watched this once or twice more, I started to really get into the whole segment (its official name is “Vicious Circles”) because it sets up the whole viral angle from the title; not only the main character’s intentions of being “a part of something bigger” than himself, but also just in how the videos come to is, as if transmitting around through cell phones wireless by way of this strange ice cream truck that’s rampaging through the streets on the run from authorities. It felt weird on the first watch, but second time around I started to really pay attention more, and I thought it worked very well to setup the whole film’s theme.

There are some real brutal moments in this segment, as well. Particularly, I really loved the scene where one kid is being dragged along from the back of the ice cream truck – his feet are flailing around awhile until finally they start scraping wildly along the pavement, and the sound is just disgustingly great, becoming only flying flecks of blood and bone. It’s one of the few moments in any film where I’ve literally cringed because of how it made me feel. A painful-looking moment. Loved it.
Vhs-Viral-Dante-640x360The first short directed by Gregg Bishop is called “Dante the Great”.  It centers around a magician, Dante (Welborn), who came into possession of a mysterious cloak (one formerly owned – apparently – by the great Harry Houdini but got sold because it frightened him). The cloak allowed him to do crazy, normally unattainable feats. But soon, it’s obvious there is something sinister driving the cloak and behind all its magic. Eventually, Dante kills people in pursuit of being the ultimate magician. I won’t say any more – you need to see this for yourself!

I really loved this segment. It’s my second favourite of the lot. The story itself is just really innovative in terms of horror – there aren’t too many horror movies out there (though a couple of questionable quality do exist) dealing with magicians. Why is it innovative? First off, “innovation” is defined as being “something new or different introduced”. So for starters, I began with saying there aren’t too many magician-themed horror movies. A user on IMBD had a particular problem with my review, which is fine. However, he commented that nobody wants to see a horror movie about magic “because it sucks and no one wants to see that *beep*” – I guess if that’s considered an explanation, then sure. For some of us, “Dante the Great” was unique in that a horror story about a magician is rarely done & I don’t think we’ve ever seen a found footage film about magic – correct me if I’m wrong. If this is the first magic-themed found footage movie then that alone is fairly innovative. It didn’t suck for me in any way. In a sea of horror movies, there are so many fast-forward-worthy films; the ones you just want to skip over until they’re done. For me, V/H/S: Viral had none of those moments. If it did for you, that sucks.  “Dante the Great” in particular is one of the better offerings in this installment.
I really dig this one. Bishop really uses the camera in some interesting and fun ways. A lot of people seem to get their brain in a twist over “who has the camera” and such things – but by using a magician and a supernatural-type cloak as the center of the plot, Bishop is able to not worry about all those little things. Because it’s about the magic! Dante can do anything. He proves this time and time again. Some of the scenes involving the police, specifically when they cuff Dante and put him in the back of the car, are just absolute perfection. The plot is great enough, but just the visual effects and the camerawork alone are worth the price of admission here. Really impressed by Bishop here, and hope to see some more fresh work from him in the near future.
VHS-Viral-photo-01Right off the bat, I absolutely love Nacho Vigalondo’s filmmaking. He is a special voice in a sea of horror films. Of course he loves time travel, so it’s no surprise his segment “Parallel Monsters” draws on elements of time travel, alternate universes (et cetera) to help him craft an expertly creepy, odd, and at times weirdly funny horror short. This one is about a guy who has built some sort of machine which allows him to essentially open a door and look into an alternate universe; through the door, he sees himself. We begin here as the man decides to finally switch places with the alternate version of himself on the other side. They agree to meet back there and switch over once more at a certain time. However, things get very weird for the man when he discovers the alternate universe into which he’d been peering is not at all what it seems. On the surface, at first it seems a little sexy, but slowly it devolves into the man’s discovery of a terrifying universe where nothing is sexy – and everything, especially sex, is awfully scary.
Vigalondo really knocks it out of the park with this one. I don’t know where he came up with this, but that man’s brain is genius – when he passes away, hopefully at a very old age, we should take that brain and preserve it, let future filmmakers study it/him. I can’t get over this segment. I really love, and own a copy of, his film Timecrimes. He does such an amazing job with the concept of time travel, et cetera. I don’t know if it’s just something he’s always been interested in, or it’s a concept he got into because it lent itself to very interesting horror movies – whatever the reason, I’m glad he loves it. When we finally get a look at some of the ‘people’ in this alternate universe, after they appear in their true forms, it is some of the scariest shit I’ve ever seen. Honestly. I was horrified. Once again, apparently this makes me crazy. I’m 30-years old, I’ve seen over 4,000 films, but because I’m terribly creeped out by something another person finds subjectively unscary I must be 12. OH – I’m sorry – have you been to the alternate universe where people have glowing faces, women’s vaginas are huge claw-like traps, and dicks are dripping, hair werewolf arms? Well, I apologize. The rest of us were disturbed by this. We’ve not yet been granted the ability to cross over into other universes and experience what life is like for the people there. Guess I’ll have to book a trip before watching any of Vigalondo’s movies from now on.

This segment is the best one in this film. It’s also the best segment overall in any of the V/H/S movies so far (I hope they continue to make more) – without any doubt. Anybody who disagrees? That’s fine. I love when people have differing opinions. I just agree to disagree. Even if they make another great V/H/S movie I doubt I’ll have a new favourite. “Parallel Monsters” is just so creepy, and a lot of fun.
VHS-Viral-Trailer-600x337The next segment is “Bonestorm” directed by Justin Benson & Aaron Moorehead, of whom I’m a fan (they did the excellent modern horror Resolution and the fantastic Spring). I enjoyed this one mostly because of nostalgia – I spent a lot of my teen years beating around the streets in my town skateboarding with my friends although that was in the late 90s and we mainly just had actual cameras. I actually still have some of the snapshots I took of my buddies and I doing lame tricks. Loved that stuff. “Bonestorm” is basically just the story of some skateboard kids, one who of course has a gun (maybe a little gun commentary on America in there?  I don’t know but it works!), who end up going into Mexican cult territory just across the border where they encounter some very scary people. This ends up in an all out blood bath where the young skateboard kids, the two who aren’t immediately killed, fight for their lives against a creepy group of cult-like worshippers (whose blood boils and catches fire, et cetera). It’s pretty wild.

I liked this segment, but it wasn’t all perfect. Though a lot of the young kids’ dialogue worked because they were young, some of it felt so forced and awkward. I wasn’t totally put off. Some of what they said was awesome, especially once the big fight starts going down. I loved how one kid went and switched on their music – says so much about our culture nowadays, and more so the younger kid – can’t even murder a bunch of weird skeleton people without putting on some tunes.
On the surface, “Bonestorm” sort of looks to be a real big excuse for blood and guts without much to it, but it’s more than that. First, we get a natural reason for the cameras, which sometimes is often an aspect fumbled in found footage; with the kids being skateboarders, especially in modern day, it’s only normal at least one of them has a GoPro or some type of recording equipment. I mean, one of them has a gun – not hard to believe they’d also have access to cameras. Second, I found it to be a good subversion of what we often see in horror – the monsters, or the villains (whatever they happen to be), don’t just rise up and obliterate everything, or at least not in total dominance. Instead of turning and running, the skateboard kids fight back. One even switches on their music, so they’ll have something to fight to – a soundtrack. Benson and Moorehead could’ve simply stuck with the kids running away, trying to escape all this scary stuff going on. Instead, they turn and fight. One of them sort of goes mental, which was hilarious. But it’s the end that caps it all off.
I thought the end of this segment was really awesome. Some people think it ripped off “Safe Haven” from the previous film, however, I think it went well with the whole cult vibe going on, and maybe it was more so meant as an homage. I don’t think, other than one part of the end, this resembled Gareth Evans & Timo Tjahjanto’s short from V/H/S/2. It fit well here for me because just as the two skateboarders think they’ve really kicked some ass and driven all those skeletal cult members into the ground, this (I don’t want to ruin anything so I’m keeping it vague) “thing” appears. Very cool.
Screen-Shot-2014-09-18-at-12.49.48-PM-620x400This is absolutely my favourite of the three V/H/S films. I can say that in absolute confidence. Not only are the ideas big, they are well-executed. I don’t know why I’ve seen some of the complains about this entry into the series that I have, granted some of that is mostly banter I see around the internet. I think all three of the shorts are great. The wraparound segment is pretty good, but there are also some parts I didn’t like a whole lot. I wasn’t a big fan of the moment in “Vicious Circles” where we land with the Latino gangsters – not that I have anything against the Latino gangsters, I just felt it sort of went too stereotypical, and also made them look really bad (misogynistic and very trash all around). It just didn’t flow with the rest of the wraparound. They should have tried to include less switching from camera to camera stuff, which is why they put this portion in, but it just comes off as too much; trying to cram all these bits into one. They might as well have just went ahead and included Todd Lincoln’s segment anyways, and cut some of the fat off those spots.

Regardless, I think V/H/S: Viral is easily the best in all aspects of the three films, so far, in this horror anthology series. I know I’m in the small minority, but usually I am when it comes to underrated films, or at least films I see as underrated. I think the ideas in the shorts themselves, mainly “Parallel Monsters” and “Dante the Great”, are so unique. That’s what a series like V/H/S needs if they want it to continue to have any sort of longevity. Otherwise, people will really bore with the whole concept. To me, it seems like a lot already are tired by it, but I think this is going to see better life on Blu ray, et cetera. Once people give the three films more time to sink in (it feels to me like they were almost rushed out in succession though I really love the series anyways), I really believe it’s going to hit people differently. I already love them. However, sometimes you have to give the general public awhile to digest certain movies. Maybe this will be one of them.
Right now, I suggest you watch it. I hope you’ll enjoy it. And either way, hit me up – we’ll discuss. Don’t just talk shit on the message boards. Don’t just say “the movie sucks” & half-quote what I’ve said trying to make your case. If you think it’s bad, share your thoughts – tell me! I know I’m in the minority, but that being said don’t expect me to give your opinions any type of equal weight in consideration if you can’t sensibly and sociably discuss a film. That’s what movies are all about.

V/H/S/2: A Mixed Bag of Nasty Tricks

V/H/S 2. 2013. Directors: Simon Barrett, Adam Wingard, Eduardo Sánchez, Gregg Hale, Timo Tjahjanto, Gareth Huw Evans, and Jason Eisener. Magnet Releasing.
Rated 18A. 96 minutes.
Horror.

★★★1/2 (Movie)
★★ (Blu ray release)

For my review of the first V/H/S on Blu ray, click here.  For a review of the third installment in the trilogy, V/H/S: Viral, click here.

vhs_2_poster_3The wraparound story for the first V/H/S held things together well enough. While it was at best a decently played out section of the film, what really sold me on it overall were the individual segments (minus one), which I thought were really creepy and the first was fairly innovative in terms of their use of found footage. This time around in V/H/S/2, the wraparound segment called “Tape 49” (directed by usual writer Simon Barrett) is much better than that in the first installment of the series, and by the same token I didn’t really like as many of the shorts this time around. While I still love this series, I do think V/H/S/2 is essentially the weak link of what is so far a trilogy; I’m a big fan of third regardless of what others think – I think it’s the most unique and definitely the most far reaching in terms of concepts, particularly the segments by Gregg Bishop and Nacho Vigalondo. That is for another review.

I’m a big fan of Adam Wingard, and I honestly love almost every single bit of his work, however, I really can’t get hugely into his segment here, “Phase I Clinical Trials”.
Quick synopsis: Wingard plays a man who has a bionic eye implanted by a company that will monitor his every move and record whatever he does – it isn’t long until he discovers the eye helps him see just a little too well, and a little too much.
500full It is not badly done whatsoever – let me start by saying this – I have no problem with the visuals or aesthetics in general. What I’m not a fan of is the execution in terms of how it was written. I find usually Barrett, who wrote this segment along with the one he directed, subverts some of the norms I come to expect from horror. Here, in “Phase I”, Barrett really plays into some foolishness. Like when the girl just suddenly decides the best way to ignore all the weird, undead-like stuff going on around her and Wingard is to take off their clothes and start having sex. I mean – come on. I am a big fan of both Barrett and Wingard, and I usually never find myself saying these things about their work together, but here it is just unbearably bad. I really thought this was some tired writing. The direction worked well, as well as benefitting from Wingard acting in the short, in terms of the filming techniques used (he talks about this in one of the featurettes on the Blu ray – Wingard wanted to have an actual actor play the part but because of the fact he was shooting the segment in the first person perspective he felt it easier to take on the role himself). Other than the fact Wingard directs well, this segment isn’t really much fun – a few cool effects don’t make a decent short horror. I like its finale; there are some creepy ghosts and all that. The build up, on the other hand, doesn’t really do anything for me.
VHS2_19-1024x576Eduardo Sánchez is another filmmaker whose work I really enjoy. He does really well in the found footage sub-genre, and thrives. His segment is a zombie-filled romp through some woods called “A Ride in the Park”, which sees a mountain biker zipping through forest recording on his GoPro – he comes across a wounded woman, gets bitten, and then slowly becomes a zombie. From there, we follow him and his GoPro as he wanders with a herd of zombies through the trees, terrorizing others, including a little girl’s birthday party.
VHS2_31-1024x576
Not only do I like the innovative use of found footage here with the GoPro camera on the biker, I really thought it was interesting to follow the perspective of a person who gets bitten by a zombie and becomes one himself. The GoPro really helps add to things by giving us a very up close and personal view of this perspective. Sánchez explores ideas about what happens to us after the zombie virus takes hold – do our feelings still linger? Can we retain any sort of control?

One really great, and heartbreaking, moment comes when the man-turned-zombie hears his phone making noise. After fumbling it from a pocket and realizing he accidentally dialed his girlfriend, a single pathetic-sounding groan comes from him, and it’s the stuff of good drama really. Thoroughly enjoyed this segment. It was good in all these senses while also being downright fun zombie madness – after the zombies infiltrate the birthday party it is just awesome.

Gareth Evans and Timo Tjahjanto teamed up to create a really horrifying and adrenaline injected segment named “Safe Haven”. This short takes a young documentary film crew inside the complex of a cult run by a man known as Father. They want to give an inside scoop into the cult with untampered footage, giving the leader a chance to present his group, unbiased, to the outside world. Father allows them unprecedented access into the complex. Soon after, the crew begins to realize something is amiss. I won’t say any more. Go in knowing only this, or less.
500full-1I love how the pacing really keeps up in this segment. Things kick in with crazy gore, horror, and downright terror. I enjoyed every second of this one. The effects are outrageous, in the best way possible, and even the performances, specifically that of Epy Kusnandar as the previously mentioned Father – he is maniacal, a little funny at times, and absolutely scary as hell. This is by far the best segment of the first two V/H/S films because it scares the life out of me, but it also remembers to stay fun, and doesn’t take itself seriously the whole time. The final moments of “Safe Haven” are brilliant, hilarious, and terrifying all wrapped into one.

I enjoy Jason Eisener, especially after I’d seen Hobo With A Shotgun, but his segment “Slumber Party Alien Abduction” isn’t his greatest work to date. Not that I didn’t enjoy it – it was a lot of fun. The story is basically about a bunch of kids, with the parents gone away, who are then laid siege upon by a UFO and some aliens. Pretty good little plot for a short.
I just thought there was a bit too much epilepsy-inducing light flashing. The effect worked in certain places. Others, it was highly annoying. It really did help several shots look more effective, particularly when one of the kids goes up into an attic, and there ends up being a number of alien-creatures already there, some coming up behind, and I thought it definitely enhanced things. On the whole, though, there was too much of it. I just wanted the segment to end after things kicked into high gear. The adrenaline was pumping, there is no doubt, however, I don’t think it pumped correctly because there was too much flashy nonsense.
Eisener should have focused more on the horror itself and the terror rather than trying to forcibly slip us into being terrified by flashing lights and noises; I, personally, was creeped out as it was with the aliens, I didn’t need some of the nauseating effects that came along with it to be scared. Really disappointed in this section ultimately, but I did love the initial setup, as well as some of the kids’ dialogue.
VHS2_72-1024x576Part of the reason I really did enjoy V/H/S/2 is, as I mentioned earlier, the wraparound segment. Barrett’s “Tape 49” follows two private investigators who are looking for a missing student, and after they manage to get into his seemingly deserted house they come across a bunch of strange VHS tapes. Once they watch the tapes, their night gets even worse.

I thought this angle for the story that sort of encompasses the film, explaining the tapes themselves, worked very well, and it was also directed well by Barrett. I just thought it worked even better than the simple premise of the first film’s wraparound segment. It was more intriguing.
VHS2_75-1024x576I think one of the things V/H/S/2 really does have going for it, adding something new to the second installment of this series, is that the whole film is really fun. It’s absolutely an exciting and entertaining ride. Though I didn’t really click with Eisener or Wingard’s shorts, they were still enjoyable even if I had some problems with them myself. “A Ride in the Park” and “Safe Haven” really hit the mark the best I could have possibly imagined (I expected good things from both Evans and Sanchez because I was huge fans of theirs previous to this movie), and they keep the energy of the entire film at a really high level.

If you enjoyed the first V/H/S then you will most likely enjoy V/H/S/2 because, for all its faults, the film tries its best at all times to be entertaining, innovative, and above all else scary, as well as disturbing. You can do worse than this movie – certainly, I wouldn’t own it on Blu ray if I didn’t think it was worth watching.
That being said, the Blu ray release is not really the greatest. While the picture and sound are incredible, there is little else to be excited about other than a 3-minute featurette on each of the segments; one includes a ridiculously pointless video of Sanchez and crew tipping over a dead and rotting tree, which ends in slight injury. I only enjoyed the featurette for, surprisingly enough a segment I wasn’t big on, “Phase I Clinical Trials” – I really like Wingard a lot, and just hearing him talk a little about the filming process, et cetera, it was nice. Though, it was still only 3 or 4 minutes. Neither of these features are longer than 5 minutes tops. Disappointing, especially considering this is a film highly based around the visuals. They could have done better.
Check out the Blu ray, but don’t expect a ton of great extras to keep you entertained. You’ll be getting the film and not much in the way of added toppings. The movie is pretty good. The Blu ray? You’re better off waiting for them to put out all the V/H/S movies as a set. Maybe then they’ll get some more, and better, footage to include for the fans. Until then, this a mediocre at best Blu ray release.