Father Gore's 2nd Make a Case looks at the squandered potential in Wes Craven's 1989 SHOCKER.
This slice of late '80s horror offers blood, gore, and capitalist critique! Dig in.
Wrong Turn 4: Bloody Beginnings. 2011. Directed & Written by Declan O’Brien, based on characters by Alan McElroy. Starring Jennifer Pudavick, Tenika DAvis, Kaitlyn Leeb, Terra Vnesa, Ali Tataryn, Samantha Kendrick, Victor Zinck Jr, Dean Armstrong, Sean Skene, Blane Cypurda, Dan Skene, and Scott Johnson. 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment.
Rated R. 93 minutes.
★★1/2Declan O’Brien did not impress me with the previous instalment, Wrong Turn 3: Left for Dead, but I’ve got to say I like this one at least a little better than that.
Bloody Beginnings doesn’t particularly pull out all the stops, it isn’t a masterpiece – not by any stretch of the imagination – but aside from the acting, and some of the dialogue, the blood and gore pleased me for a good slasher, and the kills were vicious. This is by all means a slasher movie; a little different from run-of-the-mill horror. I think slashers need to be judged a little differently than other sub-genres of horror, that’s why this one gets a little better of a rating than the previous Wrong Turn disaster under O’Brien’s care.
The premise of Wrong Turn 4: Bloody Beginnings is the origin story of the inbred cannibals in the West Virginia Mountains. We start off in 1974, at the Glenville Sanatorium in W.V, where the three cannibal brothers are patients, locked away for their own safety and that of others. They manage to escape, killing anyone and everyone in their path. Cut thirty years later – a group of friends go snowmobiling in the woods, eventually ending up at the now supposedly abandoned Glenville Sanatorium. A storm rages outside. After not too long, the friends discover someone is still checked in at the old asylum, and the brothers emerge from the depths to carve themselves up a bit of fresh meat to throw on the fire: nothing like a bit of lunch on a quiet, stormy winter’s night.
Immediately, I loved the first scene when I saw it. You’ve got some great elements going on: the creepy asylum, the West Virginia deep woods, patients going wild, and then the three brothers. The use of classical music over the end of the opening scene is excellent, I love when filmmakers put classical or old style music over horror, or any intense situations on film; the juxtaposition makes for something interesting, you almost want to smile until you remember what’s going on in front of you. There’s just utter madness throughout the opening bit. When the three brothers kill the doctor it is a great, wild kill, and certainly sets the tone. It looks good, too. I was afraid O’Brien would pull out a kill like the first one in Wrong Turn 3: Left for Dead, which looked horrible – and not in any sort of good, practical effects type way, it was cheesy and CGI’d to death. This one was gory fun.
I don’t like that O’Brien felt the need to go for nudity again right off the bat. I’m fine with sex scenes, if they serve their purpose; I don’t need to watch a movie for sex. And yeah, it’s a staple of 1980s slashers, but the 80s this ain’t, and the nudity in this was just silly. The first scene with the main characters came off needless, when O’Brien could’ve used that time to really jumpstart our emotions towards the leads – instead, you don’t really care about any of them, not at the start, not much in the end.
Furthermore, the acting in this was not good. A couple people held their own, but much of the acting came off wooden, very stilted. The only real emotions I bought from anyone of these characters was fear; development-wise, they didn’t do much for me. I honestly felt bad a little for the Daniel character [Dean Armstrong] because he was the only sensible, nice guy of the males in the film. Unfortunately Armstrong’s acting is a bit stiff, and he didn’t pull me in far enough with the empathy. The other guys I certainly did not relate to because they were foolish characters. This is the biggest problem for Wrong Turn 4: Bloody Beginnings, the characters don’t catch us and make us care enough for the kills to pay off in the way they are meant to for a slasher; we should care about them, so when they die it’s either a shock or it makes us emotional. The script isn’t perfect, though, it wasn’t so bad a group of solid actors could’ve have made things work. These actors aren’t the worst, but they’re far from the best. Horror needs good acting, or else so much of the framework of a horror film will fall flat on its face.
The kills are my favourite part of this entry in the series.
When they first killed the doctor I anticipated there might be some better deaths in this movie than in the last one, which relied too much on computer generated-looking junk that ultimately does not sell itself. Here, there are some great practical style effects. Those types of kills in horror always come off more effective because it’s visceral, you can see and almost feel the skin peel off, slice open, bleed, and it makes for a better reaction.
In the auditorium of the asylum, one of the girls is killed (one of the couple pictures above), and it works so well. The blood is plenty, and the reaction of the guy trying to grab onto her feet as she hangs from a barbed wire-like noose is perfect: he screams a wild, high yell, his face getting covered in the blood running faster and faster with every second from her open wound of a neck. You almost want to laugh at the scream this guy lets out, but it is perfect. It struck me as absolute shock and terror. Plus, the blood work is incredible. Great stuff.
I hate the term “torture porn”. So silly. I understand what it means, and the intentions of such a term in trying to describe the types of films that run under that banner, but – aren’t slashers meant to be full of blood and kills and carnage? Yeah, I get that some of it is overkill, what I don’t get is how relevant that is to anything. A slasher is a slasher is a slasher. You can try to spice things up – I loved You’re Next and thought it was a fresh new slasher flick for the modern era – but a slasher will always be made up from some basic elements: one of which is gore. What else do people expect a bunch of cannibals stuck in an asylum out in the deep woods of West Virginia are going to do? You think they’re going to all of a sudden start hunting? No, they’re going to eat people, they’re going to chop them up and make new dishes out of them – stir fry and all kinds of crazy concoctions – and it’s going to be a big, bloody, rotten mess. That’s what I came here for, anyways.
People will say I’m mental, but I’ll give this a 2.5 out of 5 stars. There is effort here, regardless if you can’t seem to notice right away. The horror element of this movie really works, for me at least. All the gore and the kills and the creepiness pays off. Whereas in Wrong Turn 3: Left for Dead there’s a lack of both good horror and any decent acting, this entry into the series gives us some worthy terror, packed with savage, bloody murder, and plenty of brutality to make things worthwhile. If that isn’t what you’re looking for, then go watch a ghost story, or a haunted house movie – or anything else than a slasher. Because if you’re looking for a slasher… there will be blood.
Bela Kiss: Prologue. 2013. Directed & Written by Lucien Förstner.
Starring Kristina Klebe, Rudolf Martin, Fabian Stumm, Ben Bela Böhm, Janina Elkin, Angus McGruther, Julia Horvath, and Jörg Koslowsky. 4Digital Media.
Rated R. 106 minutes.
There are movies which sometimes fool me, for one reason or another, into thinking they’ll turn out to be something much more than they really are – Bela Kiss: Prologue is one such film. Not that I expected greatness whatsoever, but the beginning wasn’t bad. The inclusion of serial killer Bela Kiss intrigued me. Also, the first fifteen minutes or so were decent enough I started believing this might not be too bad. To my chagrin, I slowly came to realize this movie was headed downhill.
The plot of the film is sort of foolish from the start. We get bits and pieces of the Bela Kiss story (I won’t go into this much – you can check it out online & get a much better description of his crimes than I will give you) & then nearly a century later you’ve got a bunch of robbers headed to a remote forest hotel. When they arrive it’s assumed the place will be their safe haven from any law enforcement or authorities, but their safety vanishes once people start to die.
I suppose the whole idea is that Bela Kiss may still be roaming around. There are all sorts of newspaper clippings, yadda yadda, laying around about Kiss; the bodies in the gasoline drums, pictures, et cetera. I mean, it’s just nonsense. Basically there’s no real explanation other than “blood gives you eternal life”, but somehow Bela Kiss hasn’t died – he’s almost 140 and still killing people. Or at least he’s having people killed so he can use their blood. I don’t even really know. It’s an awful, awful screenplay.
They sort of take Kiss’ story and mix in the, short, belief that he was some sort of vampire (due to puncture marks around the neck & the bodies being drained of blood). Instead of coming out with something interesting, it just seems really boring. Bela Kiss as a serial killer alone is terrifying enough. They could’ve given us a version of his story instead of making it into a very confused update, or whatever it happens to be.
This brings me to another point – the title. Basically states it’s the prologue of a story. Whose story? Certainly not Bela’s story because if it were a prologue to that then we’d most likely have a look at his childhood. Or do the filmmakers understand the meaning of ‘prologue’? Not to be rude. I just really don’t get why the word is in the title. I could maybe get with it if they called it Bela Kiss: Epilogue because this is most certainly the end/continuation of Kiss’ story. I try to never really get hung up on a film’s title, especially horror, but this is just laziness. It’s like they were trying to figure out some cool title, they really wanted to the serial killer’s name in there, and all they could think of was the word prologue. I can’t get over it. Sloppy. Unless someone can give me an explanation for it that makes any sense. Otherwise this is one of the rare cases where a movie’s title really pisses me off for having no significance whatsoever.
Most of this was a real heaping pile of nonsense, however, there were a couple scenes I really liked for the camerawork. Two of these particular moments both involve bodies being dragged. One is early on when the group of robbers end up blowing away a man in the forest on their way to the hotel; the gore is pretty good here, and also the camera view as the body is dragged away looks neat. Same sort of camerawork happens again later once one of the poor victims in the hotel is being hauled away for who knows what sort of torture – the disorienting feeling the camera angle puts us in really works. Not that there is a whole lot of incredible visual flair throughout the entire film. Though, there are a few instances I really enjoyed like these two moments.
Some of the slasher-type bits of Bela Kiss: Prologue worked well enough. There are one or two scenes which really put this in the slasher genre. Although it is a bad movie and I wouldn’t compare it to any good slashers already out there. Regardless, we get a few nasty throat slashings, stabbings, and other violence. Enough to satisfy the blood quota. That being said, there’s nothing at all new.The villain runs around with a knife senselessly, casually slitting open jugular veins and thrusting blade after blade into victim after victim.
The finale of the film is fairly blood drenched and gory at parts. Yet I’ve seen much crazier violence. They try to go for this big finish, but it really left me cold. Part of the reason why is because I cared about one of these people. They were awful, petty so-called robbers, who all look like they were cast from out of magazine ads; the characters were weak and ridiculously stereotypical of the worst slasher movies. Then there’s the terrible attempt to throw in a final scene where “The Master” shows up, with his hokey blood red pupils, chomping on a cigar, and telling the woman who runs the hotel their plan has only just begun; he cackles, I cringe. Like a rotten cherry thrown on top of a curdled ice cream sundae. Even worse, the last scene is just atrocious! The dialogue was breathtakingly bad, and the whole way things caped off was just really horribly done. Sloppy from start to finish.
I can’t give this movie 0 stars because there were honestly a couple moments I enjoyed, which I discussed earlier. Plus they had enough blood in a couple scenes that I was able to at least enjoy the deaths of the useless characters in the movie. I’ll only give this a .5 out of 5 stars. Most of this is really cringeworthy. I find Bela Kiss interesting because I’m interested in the psychology of serial killers; I’ve read books from people like Elliott Leyton to Christopher Berry Dee, the subject is just fascinating. However, the filmmakers really took a creepy story that could’ve provided the basis for a pretty neat period piece (I know this isn’t exactly a massive budget film – I’m just saying this idea is better served in other ways than a mixed-up modern slasher), and turned it into something forgettable. It certainly did not do the film any favours the acting was subpar. I couldn’t wait for this whole ordeal to be over.
If you have any interest in Bela Kiss, go watch some documentaries on A&E or somewhere else. This has nothing to do with Kiss other than they hijack his story to come up with a load of nonsense. Avoid this. If you’re looking for serial killer stories being adapted into fictional horror, stick with Ed Gein’s tale told through movies like Psycho and Silence of the Lambs, or even the classic Texas Chain Saw Massacre. Because Bela Kiss: Prologue is not worth the hour and forty-six minutes you’ll waste trying to struggle through the running time without fast forwarding past huge chunks.
Not all the naughty boys get coal in their stockings. Some get murderous cravings!
Not all remakes are bad, not even close. This one? It's a stinking turd.
Psycho II. 1983. Dir. Richard Franklin. Screenplay by Tom Holland.
Starring Anthony Perkins, Vera Miles, Meg Tilly, Robert Loggia, Dennis Franz, and Hugh Gilin. Universal Pictures.
Rated 18+. 113 minutes.
There’s no debate to be had: Anthony Perkins IS Norman Bates. The way Perkins inhabits the role in the first two Psycho films is amazing. It’s particularly interesting to see Norman in Psycho II quite some time after his institutionalization, and to see how he is a little older, maybe a little wiser, or maybe not.
What we get is not only a story about Norman trying to re-enter society, but also a sort of look into what it’s like when any violent mentally ill criminal is deemed fit to be integrated back into a normal life after having undergone various psychiatric treatments. By no means a statement, but merely an examination; we sway back and forth with the story, as we’re not quite sure if Norman has really been rehabilitated, or if Mother is up to her old tricks again. It’s just as psychologically trying as the original Psycho, but not in the way it feels like Hitchcock; it simply frays on our nerves, as we try to figure Norman out, and events push us to one side then back to the other.
A particular scene where Norman is handed a large kitchen knife to cut a sandwich for a young girl who befriends him (very similar to his sandwich dinner with Marion Crane from the first film) becomes a very nervous few moments; we watch as Norman battles his subconscious, or possibly Mother whispering in his ears about how nice it might be to kill his young dinner guest. I enjoyed how they played with the idea of someone toying with Norman, but also with Mother being very present still in his mind.
One of the things I really enjoy about this sequel is the fact it relies on more than just Perkins as Norman Bates to really drive things. While the original Psycho did start off with Marion Crane before shifting to Norman, this movie gives us a couple other performances to enjoy as well.
Both Vera Miles and Meg Tilly did great jobs here with their characters. Tilly, as Mary Loomis, was just enough of an innocent type to sort of be drawn in by Bates’ charm while also still remaining a bit of an independent and tough young woman. I liked how Mary Loomis was sympathetic towards Norman because it created this tension where you sort of teeter on the edge of wondering exactly what his intentions towards her are really. Their relationship is one of the real interesting parts about this underrated sequel.
Vera Miles, playing Lila Loomis, is spectacular. She is every bit a wicked and wild old woman here. Her character fight very well with the plot, as you’d naturally expect some of Norman’s victims to have family who would care enough to protest his release. Miles is a fantastic actress. She really plays a great character to provide some of the new plot developments here in Psycho II, and had they cast a lesser actress in the part it may not have worked as well. Miles gives us enough venom in her portrayal of Lila Loomis to really sell the part.
All in all, I would say this movie is a 4 out of 5 stars. The plot is really great, and relevant to modern society (how many killers are let loose on the streets again because they got an insanity plea & supposedly ‘served their time’ in an institution somewhere? Plenty!). Perkins, again and as always, is a revelation as Norman Bates. As I’m also a fan of the third movie in the series, Psycho III (see my review here), each time Perkins plays the character he seems to hone Norman into something more intricate and full of little idiosyncrasies. A treat to see the same actor come back to a character and not only do a good job again, but also add something more to the character with each turn.
My only reason for not giving the film closer to a perfect rating would be the whole situation with the boy getting killed in the cellar. It’s hard for me to believe that even though his young lady friend lies for him that the police would not take Norman into custody until they figured out some more about the situation. I mean, the man has been in psychiatric confinement for 22 years after killing a few people, he goes back to live in the exact same house where all the violence really happened, and then when someone gets murdered right in the cellar of this house they just let him stay free walking around on the word of some waitress? That’s my only problem with the film, and it’s not something that ruined it for me, just a little nitpick.
Other than that, I love Psycho II, and it’s criminally underrated especially when many horror franchises keep churning out sequels that get worse and worse ever year. This one is a keeper. A lot of people expected a direct copy of Hitchcock in some sense with this sequel, and unfortunately that was never going to happen. Nobody is able to replicate Hitchcock, even those who closely emulate him with their own personal style, and it’s silly to want another movie exactly like the first one. This is a very natural, organic sequel. It plays well both as a horror film, and also as a real psychological thriller, too. I really had no idea exactly what was going to happen until the very end – speaking of which, the end is also one of the great aspects of the film. It not only gives us a little surprise, setting things up for a further look at Norman Bates, it opts to make more of the story and expand things. No longer is Norman tied completely to the events of the original film, or his own story as we know it so to speak, and it kind of opens up the whole concept for further plots. Of course there’s Psycho III, but even if they hadn’t gone on to make another one I’m still satisfied with the little twists, and most certainly how thrilling the climax of the film came off.
You can do much worse in terms of horror sequels – this is one of the best, and absolutely one of the more underrated sequels in any of the big horror franchises. Norman Bates is an incredible character. Psycho II does an admirable job with his legacy. Plus, there’s a bit more hack and slash going on here – sure to appease any genre enthusiast.
Highly recommend you seek this out and enjoy it to the fullest!