Archive for June, 2011

La Horde (2009)

Posted: June 30, 2011 in Movie Review
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La Horde (2009)

Directed By: Benjamin Rocher, Yannick Dahan

Starring: Jean-Pierre Martins, Doudou Masta, Eriq Ebouaney, Jo Prestia, Bucky Schuyler

Subgenre: Zombies, Survival

Synopsis: A group of rogue Paris policemen are seeking revenge on a drug dealer in a decrepit building when a zombie outbreak engulfs the building.  They must now team up with the drug dealers if anyone wants to get out alive.

Thoughts: The French have been kicking some serious ass in the horror genre the last couple of years, but they haven’t really delved into the zombie subgenre as much as they have the slasher and survival genre.  When I saw La Horde pop up on Netflix Instant Viewing, I was pretty excited.  I actually watched this as a double feature with Doghouse, the zombie-ish flick from the UK, which worked, as Doghouse was rife with humor while La Horde was much more brutal.

La Horde plays out in two parts, with the first part being about a group of cops seeking revenge for a fallen comrade and confronting a drug dealer and his gang and the second part starting with a zombie infestation.  The way the movie was split immediately reminded me of From Dusk till Dawn, and I thought it worked pretty out pretty well.

In my opinion, the first part of the movie is the weaker of the two.  The revenge angle and shootouts are pretty standard, but still come with that penchant for brutality that the French are becoming infamous for.  Once the zombies show up, it is nonstop action.  These are not Romero zombies, but are the fast moving dead we have seen in the Dawn remake and 28 Days Later.  For me, both versions have their place, but the fast movers worked well here.

The camera work and direction can be frenetic at times, but again, it just seems to work with this movie.  You feel a bit like you’ve just had a workout when it’s over.  The tension never lets up, which along with the great gore effects, ranks La Horde as one of the better zombie movies to come out in a while.  This is one that I will be adding to the collection as soon as I can find the Blu Ray at a reasonable price and I recommend checking it out if you get a chance.

The Funhouse (1981)

Directed By: Tobe Hooper

Starring: Elizabeth Berridge, Shawn Carson, Cooper Huckabee, Largo Woodruff, Miles Chapin, David Carson, Kevin Conway, Wayne Doba

Subgenre: Survival

Synopsis: Four teenagers decide to snoop around a carnival ride and become trapped inside while being stalked by a deformed killer.

Thoughts: Tobe Hooper had a pretty great run in the 70s and early 80s with Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Eaten Alive, Salem’s Lot, The Funhouse and Poltergeist.  Since then his career has been hit and miss, with more misses than hits.  The Funhouse is a pretty simple story, but well executed, making it worthy viewing.

It seemed like in the 80s, one of the scariest things a filmmaker could imagine was a deformed adult on a murderous rampage (see Friday the 13th, The Burning, etc) and The Funhouse is no different.  When the mask comes off Gunther, you had better not be eating anything.  This poor guy took more than one shot with the ugly stick.

The tight quarters of the Funhouse really lend to the buildup of tension and often create a sense of claustrophobia.  It is a great setting and one that should be used more often in scary movies (maybe it has been recently, but I can’t think of one off the top of my head).

The acting is decent, even if the characters are rather stereotypical.  The real star of the show was Gunther, the deformed carny with a penchant for murder.  Much like the Friday the 13th franchise, most of the characters are disposable anyways.  Elizabeth Berridge does an admirable job in her role as the lead female protagonist, but just doesn’t stand up to some of the best from this era.

Overall, The Funhouse is good movie, but not a great one.  I would call it above average for the era.  The setting and the “monster” really carry the movie, enough that this is worth watching. 

Wind Chill (2007)

Directed By: Gregory Jacobs

Starring: Emily Blunt, Ashton Holmes, Chelan Simmons, Martiellamy

Subgenre: Ghosts

Synopsis: Emily Blunt plays a college student catching a ride home with another student for the holidays.  It quickly becomes apparent that the guy is not who he said he is and was just looking to get the girl alone.  As the tension mounts, the pair crashes on a deserted back road.  Can they survive each other, the impending snow storm, and whatever else may be lurking in the cold?

Thoughts:  I had mixed feelings throughout Wind Chill. I greatly disliked Emily Blunt’s portrayal of the lead girl (oddly enough, we never learn either of the travelers’ names). She came across as a real snobby bitch, for lack of a better term. When it looked like she had been kidnapped by the crazy guy, I thought to myself, I really don’t feel all that bad for her. Part of a successful horror movie formula is having characters that you care about, or can at least empathize with, and in this aspect, Wind Chill fell short.

However, once the second part of the film kicked in and the ghosts started showing up, I felt the movie really improved. There were plenty of plot holes and questionable decisions made throughout, but this is a horror movie after all. The big one for me is that these college kids both grew up in the North East but yet took off on a 6 hour car ride without any sort of cold weather gear. The guy especially made me roll my eyes when he had a car with a window that wouldn’t roll up but yet he didn’t even have a hat or gloves. When he started to walk to the gas station and had his scarf hanging around his neck and his jacket half unzipped I literally laughed out loud. Anyone that has been outside in subzero weather knows that you are going to utilize any inch of clothing you have to cover your skin.

I would consider Wind Chill to be a very average horror film. While the production is well done in regards to acting, directing and cinematography, it is forgettable in the long run. It is probably worth checking out for fans of ghost stories, but otherwise, this is passable.

Watchers (1988)

Directed By: Jon Hess

Starring: Corey Haim, Michael Ironside, Lala Sloatman, Barbara Williams

Subgenre: Creature Feature

Synopsis: An explosion at a secret government facility unleashes a biologically altered monster and a super intelligent golden retriever.  As the government races to cover up the attacks by the monster, a teenager by the name of Travis stumbles upon the dog.  Travis, his mother, and the dog work to uncover the government conspiracy and to stop the monster from killing again.

Thoughts: Watchers is easily one of those movies where I had fond memories that were actually much better than the movie.  This was based, rather loosely, on the Dean Koontz novel, but really just used the basic idea and ran with the movie.  It has been at least 20 years since I read the book, so all memories of it are distant, but I remember it being a pretty good story.  Of course, I remembered this as being a great movie as well.

That’s not to say that Watchers is bad, it is just that I was a little let down by it.  Corey Haim just isn’t the same without Feldman at his side, and other than Michael Ironside, the rest of the actors are forgettable.  Ironside plays a psychopathic government agent, something he does very well.

I think what Watchers needed was a little more tension, or at least believable tension.  It was pretty boring at times, and even the ending was nothing great.  I know this one has its followers out there, but I don’t think I can count myself as one of them. Glad I caught this on Netflix and didn’t shell out big bucks for the OOP DVD.

Doghouse (2009)

Directed By: Jake West 

Starring: Stephen Graham, Danny Dyer, Noel Clarke, Lee Ingleby, Keith-Lee Castle, Emil Marwa, Neil Maskell, Terry Stone, Christina Cole, Mary Tamm

Subgenre: Horror-Comedy

Synopsis: A group of friends decide to head to a remote town to get away from their “women-troubles” and drink the weekend away.  Once they get to this remote village, they realize that their troubles are just beginning.  It appears if all the men in the village are dead and the women are all infected with some sort of virus that turns them into bloodthirsty killers.

Thoughts: I am the first to admit that British humor isn’t always for everyone, but for the most part, I “get it.”  Doghouse lays on the jokes pretty thick, taking its lead from Shaun of the Dead, but it works for the most part.  It was a nice little departure from the daily grind, not mentally taxing or depressing.

What stood out to me here are not really the guys on the trip, but the individual women that they encounter.  In these sorts of movies, the enemy, whether they are cannibals, zombies or some infected pseudo-zombies, seem to be rather generic.  Occasionally there are exceptions (Bud for one), but they are usually random nasty creatures.  Here each woman is very different, even stereotyped, but it just worked for me.  The hair stylist goes after the guys with scissors, there is a dentist using her tools for a more nefarious purpose and so on.  Each possessed woman is very different.  Their movements and facial appearance owe a lot to Sam Raimi and The Evil Dead movies as well.

Where I thought the movie lost a little steam was when the group made it into the church and discovered the military operation.  The possessed women subsequently advance to level 2 (is this a video game?) and are stronger, faster and tougher to defeat.  I started to lose some interest at this point, wondering when the movie would end.

Thankfully, there were some pretty funny moments soon after that pulled my back in.  The guys oblivious friend finally shows up and provides some comedic relief.  Doghouse is very much in the same vein as Evil Dead or Dead Alive, but not in the same league.  I would think if you liked something like Dead and Breakfast, you would like this.

 

Jason X (2001)

Directed By: James Isaac

Starring: Lexa Doig, Jonathan Potts, Kristi Angus, Lisa Ryder, Chuck Campbell, Melody Johnson, Peter Mensah, Kane Hodder, Todd Farmer, David Cronenberg

Subgenre: Slasher, Sci-Fi

Synopsis: Jason has been captured by the government and is being held at a secret research facility near Crystal Lake.  Upon learning that they cannot kill him, they decide to cryogenically freeze him.  Of course, things don’t go as planned and Jason ends up killing several soldiers.  The lone remaining scientist manages to lure him into the cryo chamber, but also ends up getting frozen herself.

Fast forward to 2455 and a team of students led by a scientist are exploring the “old” Earth and stumble upon Jason and Rowan (the scientist).  They bring them back to their ship and manage to revive Rowan, but Jason is pronounced dead.  Jason comes back to life a short time later and does what he knows best, hacking and slashing his way through the students and everyone else on board the ship.

Thoughts: In 1993 we saw Jason Goes to Hell end with Freddy pulling Jason’s mask down into the ground.  It was obvious that the next time we saw Jason on the big screen, he would be battling Freddy.  But in 2001 Jason X debuted. I guess it wasn’t very easy getting Freddy vs Jason made, and while it was in never-ending development, Todd Farmer presented a script to the studio that would not interrupt any of the continuity for the franchise (as if there had ever been much).  Farmer’s script placed Jason in the future, and ultimately, in space.

Personally, when the first trailers came out for this, I thought it was a terrible idea.  What a shitty way for such a horror icon to go out.  The last two movies had been weak, at best, and now they were launching Jason into space.  This was beyond jumping the shark.  I wasn’t the only one that thought this way, as the movie bombed at the box office, making just over 13 million at the domestic box office.

But a funny thing happened when I watched this for the first time quite a few years back.  I actually enjoyed it and have even watched it several times since.  Sure, there are some parts to the movie that could have been done better and parts that seem as if they were done for a SyFy movie of the week, but overall, this is a lot of fun.

The actors all do about a good a job as you can expect, although I am always a little unnerved by Lisa Ryder, who plays KM-14, the android.  Most of the characters fall into the typical Friday the 13th stereotypes, just set in the future.  Jason X also features the best cameo in the entire franchise; David Cronenberg plays the part of the “government official” in the prologue.  Screenwriter Todd Farmer also has a small role as a soldier.

While Jason’s first rampage through the ship is pretty classic, this movie gets to be a lot of fun when the ship’s computer accidentally repairs and upgrades Jason, giving him robotic limbs and a shiny brand new mask.  As the tagline says, “Evil Gets and Upgrade!”

Jason X also features a return to great kills by Jason.  I think Farmer and the producers realized that the past couple of movies tried to get too fancy, and they just brought back Jason’s brutal side.  Well done, especially the nod to one of the best kills in franchise history in the hologram room.  Good stuff indeed.  On top of that, Jason X easily boasts Jason’s largest body count, although most of them are not on screen.  He is responsible for an entire space station blowing up! OK, even if you don’t count those, there are some great ones in Jason X.

Don’t approach Jason X too seriously.  It’s best taken with a dose of comedy and maybe a couple of beers.  If you didn’t like it the first time around, maybe give it another shot.  It is my favorite one since Jason Lives, and is also the last time Kane Hodder wear’s the mask, at least to this point.

On a final note, if you are looking for the Freddy vs Jason review next, I did that one when I went through the Nightmare franchise.  It can be found here.

Favorite Death Scene (SPOILERS): This one is easy.  Even though there are a handful of great death scenes in Jason X, nothing tops the Liquid Nitrogen face smash for me.  The camera shot from below the surface of the liquid was genius and the sheer force with which Jason smashed the frozen head into the table was just awesome.  I would put this one in the top 5 kills of the entire franchise.

I will admit it, I love Jason X.  It is one of my favorite guilty pleasures in the horror genre. Review coming soon…

 

Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday (1993)

Directed By: Adam Marcus

Starring: John LeMay, Kari Keegan, Steven Williams, Allison Smith, Steven Culp, Billy Green Bush, Richard Gant, Kane Hodder

Subgenre: Slasher

Synopsis: Jason is alive and well in Crystal Lake and is the target of an FBI sting.  After Jason is blown to pieces, he is brought to the local morgue where he proceeds to possess one of the coroners.  Jason then uses the possessed body to hunt down his last remaining relatives, as they are the only ones that can truly destroy him.

Thoughts: Well, this was New Line’s first shot at Jason, and they sure tried something new.  I applaud them for that, but Jason Goes to Hell is not without its issues.  The opening scene is great.  Right off the bat you get some classic Jason, with the girl in the shower and Jason chasing her.  The FBI sting was a surprise, not only to the viewer, but to Jason as well.

After that, the movie bears little resemblance to the Friday the 13th we have all grown to know.  Seeing as how Jason was actually blown into several small pieces, he must possess someone, and apparently the easiest way to do that is to get them to eat your black heart.  After that, when you need to switch bodies, you puke up a nasty black worm looking thing and that proceeds to go down the next victims throat.  Like I said, some really different ideas here.

The storyline is decent, but with seemingly every entry into the franchise, you are left with questions that are never answered.  All of a sudden, Jason decides he must kill off his remaining family members.  Just how he knows he must do this is never conveyed, nor do we know how he knows who or where they are. 

For me, one of the biggest downsides to this entry is the lack of screen time for Jason.  When he possesses someone, you see their reflection as Jason, but that is it, so you actually get very little time to see Kane Hodder do his thing.  That is a bad thing, because Hodder owns this role.

There is also a bounty hunter hot on the trail of Jason as well.  Creighton Duke is a bad man, and knows how to kill Jason.  You must use a mystical dagger to release all the tortured souls Jason has killed.  If the dagger looks familiar, it’s because it is straight out of The Evil Dead.  We are not talking about similar, we are talking the same dagger.  Also featured in the finale is the Necronomicon, so the producers must have really wanted to throw that little nod towards Ash, as both cameos are anything but subtle.  There is a final cameo that blows away the Evil Dead ones however.  After Jason’s demise, where he is pulled down to hell, his mask is left sitting in the dirt.  A certain clawed hand in a red and green sweater bursts from the ground to grab the mask, leading watchers to believe that the showdown with Freddy was imminent. 

It would make sense, as New Line held both properties, but Jason needed to make one more stop while all the script issues were worked out.  He had already been to the big city and now on to Hell, so where is the next logical place to send him?  Space obviously.

Favorite Death Scene (SPOILERS): A lot of the kills in Jason Goes to Hell happen off screen, but I have to go with Jason’s demise in the opening scene.  It is so over the top with gunfire and explosions and nothing like it had ever been witnessed in a Friday the 13th movie. Throw in the fact that it was a very attractive FBI agent that lured him into the trap, and you have a winner in my book.

Friday the 13th Part 8: Jason Takes Manhattan

Directed By: Rob Hedden

Starring: Jensen Daggett, Barbara Bingham, Peter Mark Richman, Saffron Henderson, Sharlene Martin, Kelly Hu, VC Dupree, Scott Reeves, Kane Hodder

Subgenre: Slasher

Synopsis: A year following Jason’s demise to Tina, a boat anchor hits an underwater power line, causing a short that resurrects Jason.  After killing the passengers on the boat, Jason makes his way to a cruise ship to continue his murderous ways.  The ship is bound for New York and the senior class of Lakeview High is onboard to celebrate their impending graduation.

Thoughts: It’s tough to find a lot of positives in this mess.  The storyline is a mess and the actors are worse than usual for slasher-fare.  Throw in some ridiculous events that make no sense and you have what I consider to be the worst movie in the entire franchise, and really, I don’t think it is even close.  I use to think Part 3 was pretty terrible, but it has even grown on me over time.

The first, and maybe most obvious question, is where in the hell did this cruise ship come from and how did Jason get from Crystal Lake to the harbor?  After he gets there, the majority of the movie takes place on the boat, no in the city, which had some pretty good possibilities.  Perhaps it should have been called Jason takes a Cruise.

Once Jason gets to Manhattan (or Vancouver, which is where the majority of the city scenes were filmed) it appears to something similar to Escape from New York.  The only people that the survivors encounter are some drug dealers and there appears to be barrels of toxic waste sitting around.  I have no allegiance to New York City, but I have to imagine that the way the city is portrayed really have to make their tourism people ecstatic.

The city is also the place where the single most ridiculous death in Friday the 13th takes place.  Jason actually confronts a kid with some boxing skills, and this kid thinks that maybe it would be a good idea to try and take Jason out with his fists.  Of course Jason absorbs the beating and in one swing, knocks the kids head clean off and it lands in a dumpster.  It looked terrible.  It was a bad idea with bad execution.  Now, it wasn’t as bad as when Freddy used the Nintendo Power glove on a kid and made him act like Mario, but it was still pretty bad.

I have a long unanswered question in relation to Part 8 as well.  To think point, Jason has killed pretty much everyone he encounters.  When they get in his way, they die.  It doesn’t have to be a camper, counselor or someone related to his or his mother’s death.  He doesn’t really have an agenda.  Going by memory, the only people I can recall that he didn’t try to kill were the kids in Part 6.  Yet, he walks through a busy New Vancouver street stalking his prey without taking notice of anyone.  He carelessly smashes a radio belonging to some punks and when they threaten him he pulls up his signature hockey mask to show his deformed face and scare them off. While slightly comedic, I thought this scene sucked.  He should have wiped the street with them. 

The ending was also ill conceived and never explained.  It made no sense and was summarily forgotten by the producers and more than likely by fans, in all subsequent sequels.  Other than not making sense, did someone really think that New York City (or any city for that matter) would flush their sewers with toxic waste on a nightly basis?  Think if the mayhem this would cause! There would be CHUDs everywhere!

Now, the one positive; Kane Hodder owns the role of Jason.  The way he walks and reacts to people around him is amazing.  The fact that he convey the character so well with body language is great.  It s shame Hodder wasn’t involved in the earlier (and better) entries into the series.  Imagine him in Part 4 or 6, it would have put those entries over the top.

After the shameful performance of Part 8, Paramount sold the rights to New Line, paving the way for Freddy vs Jason, but not before Jason would take a few pit stops, one in Hell and the other in Space.

NYC Tourism forced a recall of this alternate poster.

Favorite Death Scene (SPOILERS): Tough to find some good kills here, most of them are pretty weak.  It was almost as if the producers tried too hard to come up with something inventive.  I guess I would have to go with the bathroom scene and the mirror shard.  I thought they missed a good opportunity to have Charles die in some inventive wicked way, but instead, Jason gave him a swirly in a barrel of waste.

Friday the 13th Part 7: The New Blood (1988)

Directed By: John Carl Buechler

Starring: Lar Park Lincoln, Susan Blu, Terry Kiser, Kevin Blair, Susan Sullivan, Elizabeth Kaitan, Jon Renfield, Jeff Bennett, Heidi Kozak, Diana Barrows, Kane Hodder

Subgenre: Slasher

Synopsis: Tina, suffering from the death of her father that she caused, accidentally raises Jason from the bottom of the lake with her psychic powers.  Jason goes about what he knows best, killing teenagers that are partying near the lake, but this time he has to face off with Tina and her psychic powers.

Thoughts: Part 7 was originally intended to be the showdown between Jason and Freddy, but as we all know, audiences would have to wait quite a bit longer for that matchup to happen.  Instead, the studio and producers talked about having Jason face another horror icon, or something similar.  Lar Park Lincoln’s character Tina bears many resemblances to Carrie, from the Stephen King novel and movie.  I tend to think of this as Jason vs Carrie.

While this entry gets generally favorable comments from fans, it is never one I could get in to.  Blame it on the psychic angle I guess, but it just never hit s home with me.  I can talk about specific scenes in just about every movie, but for whatever reason, this one tends to fade out. 

There are some great aspects to Part 7, don’t get me wrong.  For one, it is the debut of Kane Hodder as Jason.  He would go on to portray Jason for 4 movies, the longest run of any actor playing Jason.  His portrayal of Jason is generally considered to be the best of the bunch, and I wholly agree.  I do think CJ Graham (Part 6) could have had a great run as well, but Hodder had an in with Director John Carl Buechler.  Hodder worked on Prison, where Buechler was doing SFX.  Hodder pulled off a scene where he put maggots in his mouth to help make a scene more believable, and that dedication really stuck with Buechler.  On a side note, how the hell is Prison NOT on DVD?  It was directed by Renny Harlin and starred Viggo Mortinson.

Lar Park Lincoln did a great job as the lead, as the series returned to a primary female character following the Tommy Jarvis arc.  Even though this isn’t my favorite entry, I think Lincoln was one of the better female leads in the franchise.  The other actors were suitable, but nothing special.

New Blood is worth checking out and all in all is a pretty good entry into the franchise, but it isn’t my favorite.  What could be the single best quality of Part 7 is that it is world’s better than what happens in Part 8, when Jason heads to the Big Apple.

Favorite Death Scene (SPOILERS): There are not a lot of standout kills here, but I decided to go with the death of Melissa when she opens the door.  Jason takes her out with an axe and chucks her over the TV in the corner.  I thought Kane Hodder really showed Jason’s animalistic side here.  Jason is unstoppable and will get to his next victim.