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School’s Out. Again.

death bell 2 bloody camp dvd 2010

DEATH BELL 2: BLOODY CAMP

3.5 Stars  2010/86m

Director: Seon-dong Yu / Writers: Park Hye-min, Lee Jeong-hwa, Lee Gong-ju / Cast: Ji-Yeon Park, Jeong-eum Hwang, Su-ro Kim, Ah-Jin Choi, Shi-yoon Yoon, Chang-wuk Ji, Hyun-Sang Kwon, Bo-ra Nam, Yoon Seung-ah, Ho Jun Son, Eun-Bin Park

Body Count: 10

Laughter Lines: “How many white girls have you slept with in the States?”


In the 2008 original, top students at a school are forced into Crystal Maze-like traps that kill them should their classmates fail to figure out the brainteaser presented to them.

Well, it’s pretty much a complete retread for round 2, so much so the film runs exactly the same duration and one of the cast members returns, albeit in a different role.

At the end of the school year, the top 30 students at a school are kept back for a week to participate in a study camp to duke it out in the class rankings. We learn that shy Se-hee’s step-sister Cheong-tae apparently committed suicide some time earlier in the school’s swimming pool.

During a late-night study session, the students awake (I’m not sure if they were drugged?) to find the words “When an innocent mother is killed, what son would not avenge her death?” written on the blackboard and moments later a dead body falls through the ceiling. A tanoy announcement informs the group that they will start dying one by one if they cannot figure out what’s happening and why.

death bell 2 bloody camp 2010

Strict teacher Mr Cha and shy newcomer Miss Park do their best to keep everyone calm, but one straggler is slashed up by a motorbike with blades affixed to the wheels, that continually rides up and down the corridor he’s trapped in; a girl’s medication is swapped for poison; another is taken down by a rigged nail-gun trap and Se-hee experiences flashbacks of her life with the late Cheong-tae, whom she secretly despised.

More deaths occur with a couple of puzzles to thwart them that brainiac Se-hee solves, and it becomes clear that those being knocked off are in some way involved with the suicide.

Death Bell 2 is so identical to Death Bell 1 that you’d be forgiven for thinking you were watching the same film. In fact I began watching the original for several minutes before I realised the discs were mislabelled: Dead girl, mournful friend/final girl, smart kids locked in the school…

death bell 2 bloody camp 2010

The reveal is not as smart but the film can at least boast great visuals, acting, and structure: K-horror unfolds in a non-linear style, with past event flashbacks intermittently appearing to back-fill the story but not always in chronological order. It makes for a fascinating, long-arc style process you’d expect in a TV series.

More character development would help here, as some individuals are barely allotted names before they either die or vanish from the film completely.

BFRUSTRATINGU

jeepers creepers 3 2017

JEEPERS CREEPERS 3

2 Stars  2017/88m

“Third time’s the charm.”

Director/Writer: Victor Salva / Cast: Jonathan Breck, Stan Shaw, Gabrielle Haugh, Brandon Smith, Meg Foster, Chester Rushing, Jordan Salloum, Ryan Moore, Michael Sirow, Gina Philips.

Body Count: 14


Well…

I mean…

We waited, dude, not quite 23 years, but we waited 14 years for the next instalment of Jeepers Creepers.

We pondered the whole Cathedral rumours, the Old West prologue rumours, the Trish-and-teen-son rumours – it had become the horror film equivalent of Guns n’ Roses’ Chinese DemocracySpoilers ensue.

To quantify how Jeepers Creepers 3 (not a III to match II - most irritating) comes across, imagine that instead of another movie, they’d decided to opt for a cheap horror channel TV series. It looks like a 90 minute pilot for just such a thing. Name it Poho County or some shit, and focus on the lives of the people caught up in The Creeper’s 23-year awaited banquets.

jeepers creepers 3 2017

One might even think that the film could’ve been shot around 2008 by another director as a for-DVD stop-gap while Victor Salva worked out what direction he wanted to go in next. Y’see, Jeepers Creepers 3 is really Jeepers Creepers 1.5 – it’s set between the other two movies. WHY? What will this possibly add?

The sad answer is nothing. If anything it detracts from the mythos of the existing films, in much the same way as each Wrong Turn sequel and prequel and midquel cheapened the savage impact of the original. See that series for how the FX work became less and less convincing and more like dollar store Halloween masks for series mainstay Three-Finger. That’s not a far cry from Jeepers Creepers 3. That it was played in theaters for but one day before premiering on the SyFy channel should also be taken as a message of forewarning.

jeepers creepers 3 2017

What plot there is crowbarred into things picks up right after the winged beastie flies off with Darry Jenner. The cops try to impound the Creep Mobile but soon find it’s some kind of sentient machine, riddled with traps that cannot physically exist in the given space (unless steel spikes can bend?). The Sheriff returns – remembers the carnage from ’78 and calls in Creeper Hunter Michael, who owns a pick up with a mounted gun on it.

Hey, we’ve been here and done this!?

Elsewhere, Meg Foster and granddaughter are worrying about not having enough hay for their horse. Grandma keeps talking to someone who is revealed to be the ghost of Kenny (remember the Kenny and Darla story?), who buried something on the farm the day before he died, 23 years earlier. Granddaughter, Addie, goes to try and purchase hay, has brief flirtations with hay-purveyor Buddy, and accompanies him dropping off other orders for the afternoon.

This links on to a quartet of dirt-bikers who happen across Creeper Mobile in a field, try and break into it and end up skewered by its many traps. They’re assholes, so nobody cares.

jeepers creepers 3 2017

Meg Foster digs up the thing Kenny buried, and it’s a severed hand of the Creeper. Touching it gives you a full back catalogue of its life, what it is, where it comes from, etc. Is any of this shared with with audience? No. When the Sheriff comes by and touches it, experiencing the same intake of information is it shared? No. Neither is it used to defeat The Creeper, SO WHY BOTHER?

Addie is kidnapped by The Creeper and finds herself trussed in the back of his van with the last surviving dirt-bike kid. Why they’re wrapped in sheets and ropes before having whichever organs Mr C wants from them is just another one for the ever growing FAQ that should probably be addressed in the DVD booklet, along with ‘Why does Meg Foster look 103 years old?’

Side note: I always get Megs Foster, Ryan, and Tilly confused.

The Sheriff, Sgt Tubbs (last seen in JC1 and apparently only a day older), and the hunter guy take on the Creep Mobile, which is now also bulletproof (tires included) and can drop little mine-bombs like you get in Mario Kart. My head went into my hands for a minute here.

jeepers creepers 3 2017 gina philips

Eventually, Addie is able to escape, so I think she was supposed to be the lead? The film flits between characters so much it’s impossible to attach yourself to anybody for long enough to root for them. The Creeper goes to retrieve the hand Kenny buried and instead finds a sign that says ‘We know what you are’, shrieks into the night, and Buddy climbs aboard the schoolbus that will feature in Jeepers Creepers II.

WAIT! said I, if he has already experienced the nightmare of this creature then A). why the fuck is he going to a basketball game the very next day after 14 people have been murdered, and B). why in that next/last/whatever film does his character not speak up and say ‘oh hey, this thing attacked us yesterday!’ Retcon central.

What positives there are only orbit around it being good to see the Creeper Mobile back in play (those Jigsaw-lite traps though…), some decent photography here and there, a good score, and Breck is fine in his signature role – though that heinous red sweater needed to go. Everything else looks cheaper, drier, hugely unenthusiastic about itself. I can only think that budget constraints were so tight this was deemed a way of springboarding the franchise back into people’s minds in order to forge ahead properly in Jeepers Creepers 4, as the core demographic for teen-horror released in 2017 will only have been toddlers when the first two came out.

jeepers creepers 3 2017

Certainly, the end, where Gina Philips appears for literally about thirty seconds, hints towards a 2024-set next round, but given how long it’s taken this instalment to surface, we could be waiting till 2047.

Blurbs-of-interest: Foster was also in Stepfather II; Jonathan Breck was in The Caretaker and Mask Maker.

Back to the Bellylaughs

cult of chucky 2017CULT OF CHUCKY

3 Stars  2017/18/88m

“You may feel a little prick.”

Director/Writer: Don Mancini / Cast: Fiona Dourif, Michael Terriault, Alex Vincent, Jennifer Tilly, Brad Dourif, Adam Hurtig, Zak Santiago, Elisabeth Rosen, Grace Lynn Kung, Ali Tataryn, Marina Stephenson Kerr.

Body Count: 8

“…The look on my victim’s face when they realise in that final moment that it’s all really happening: A children’s toy is actually beating them to death with a yardstick.”


Credit where credit’s due – the Child’s Play series has done an impressive job when it comes to continuity, more or less keeping on top of film-to-film plot lines for almost thirty years and seven movies. To that end, rather huge spoilers are necessary to ‘splain Cult of Chucky

Four years after the events in Curse of, original hero Andy Barclay – now mid-30s – has kept Chucky’s living head in a safe at home, and ritually tortures it. Nica Pierce, meanwhile, has been locked up in an institution and convinced by her shrink that she was the one responsible for the murders of her family.

cult of chucky 2017

Said shrink decides to move Nica to an isolated lower security clinic now that she no longer blames it all on a possessed Good Guy Doll, going so far as to bring in such a doll to a group session. Nica is fine with it, and the doll is summarily adopted by fellow inmate Madeleine, who treats it like a real baby. Bitchy Claire doesn’t trust Nica; away-with-the-fairies Angela claims she received a phone call from Chucky, warning them all he’s coming back; and multiple-personality sufferer Malcolm flips between thinking he’s Mark Zuckerberg and Michael Phelps.

cult of chucky 2017 alex vincent jennifer tilly

Nica receives a visit from Tiffany, who was somehow appointed guardian of her niece Alice, and breaks the news to her that Alice is dead. Broken, Nica attempts suicide but wakes in the morning to find her slashed wrist stitched up and a message for her left in blood. Meanwhile, another patient has successfully topped themselves, and the floodgates soon open in Nica’s memory.

Chucky stalks the halls, killing patients and staff by shattered glass and powerdrill, while Andy races to save the day, but has to get around Tiffany first.

The cult in Cult of Chucky is reached by a new voodoo curse that allows his spirit to possess multiple vessels at once, so ultimately we end up with this:

cult of chucky 2017

At the time Curse of was released, there was much hoopla over the back to being scary approach, which was the result of the remake falling through and the straight-to-DVD quasi-reboot coming instead. Though the film was sluggish in places due to its reduced budget, it succeeded in creating some atmosphere lacking in the Bride and Seed chapters.

Well, forget all that as Cult takes us back to the comic one-liners (albethem sometimes hilarious), wacky demises, Jennifer Tilly’s loony toon Tiffany back in the fray (but not centre stage), and a bit of a mess to try and untangle as things get weirder and weirder.

cult of chucky 2017

Mancini weaves things together well enough, leaving the door wide open for the eighth film – Christ knows what they’ll title it though – and as per Curse‘s post-credits gag, another face from pastures old puts in an appearance, giving the entire series a familial boost over its contemporaries. Fiona Dourif also gets to flex some reasonable acting muscle as well.

I’ve never been more than a casual fan of Chucky at best – he’s always entertaining and none of the instalments are crap, but I’d rank Cult in the lower echelons of the series, though it’s great to see the original creators still onboard and pushing things forward rather than phoning in a crummy remake or instalment-ignoring cash-grab as most of the others have done.

Blurb-of-interest: Adam Hurtig, who plays Malcolm, was also in Curse as Officer Stanton.

Baby Doll

Day Four… Getting a bit over-Chuckified by this point…

*

seed of chucky 2004SEED OF CHUCKY

3 Stars  2004/15/83m

“The family that slays together, stays together.”

Director/Writer: Don Mancini / Cast: Jennifer Tilly, Brad Dourif, Redman, Hannah Spearritt, John Waters, Billy Boyd, Steve Lawton, Jason Flemyng.

Body Count: 13

Laughter Lines: “If this is what it takes to be human, then I would rather take my chances as a supernaturally possessed doll – it’s less complicated!”


I remember a criticism of the series at the time of the release of Seed of Chucky that it’s become a joke only Don Mancini and Jennifer Tilly are in on and, despite how hilarious this outing is, they weren’t far off the mark. The horror series with some comedy had done a one-eighty and was now a comedy with some horror.

A pint-sized doll slashes its way through a British household in what’s revealed to be a dream of Shithead, a living doll imprisoned and mistreated by a ventriloquist. Shithead watches a report from the in-production movie Chucky Goes Psycho and realises Chucky and Tiffany are their parents, escapes, and makes it to Hollywood. When Shithead discovers C&T are just prop dolls, they read from the amulet they’ve had since forever and restore life to them one more time.

seed of chucky 2004

Chucky and Tiffany awake, kill a poor schmuck, and discover Shithead is without gender-decisive parts. They rename them Glen. Or Glenda. Pending their offspring’s decision. Chucky wants a son, Tiffany wants a daughter.

The trio of dolls hide out in lead-role Jennifer Tilly’s limousine and set up home at her place, planning to transfer themselves into the bodies of her and rapper-turned-director Redman. Jennifer, disillusioned with her career, plans to sleep her way into Redman’s Biblical epic, much to the disappointment of Jennifer’s PA Joan (former S Club 7 member, Spearritt), who is then subsequently fired.

Tiffany convinces Chucky to give up killing to set a better example to Glen/da, which he dishonestly agrees to, but offs Britney Spears and John Waters’ paparazzi behind her back, taking Glen/da along with him. Tiffany meanwhile, sorts out a voodoo pregnancy for Jennifer, and tries to atone for her past sins in a hilarious scene where she calls the widow of a previous victim and apologises.

seed of chucky 2004 jennifer tilly chucky

The film begins to fall to pieces towards the end as everyone falls out, Glen/da appears in drag, then wants to be a boy, or a girl, and the dolls attack each other while the now-heavily pregnant Jennifer tries to escape, eventually writing itself into a bit of an inescapable corner that Curse of Chucky largely ignored nine years later, but at least didn’t entirely retcon.

Best viewed as a dark comedy – you’ll certainly get a lot of laugh-mileage. The confusing narrative with Tilly voicing Tiffany was well as playing herself is difficult to get to grips with at various points, but the fans’ ambivalence and only moderate box office success (about half of Bride of Chucky‘s haul) kept a lid on things for almost a decade, during which threats of a remake were rife. That at least hasn’t happened yet, rubber fingers crossed.

seed of chucky 2004 hannah spearritt

Blurbs-of-interest: Tilly was also in The Caretaker; Dourif can also be found in Rob Zombie’s Halloween re-do’s, Urban Legend, Chain LetterDead Scared, Color of Night, and Trauma; Jason Flemyng (who later stated he wished he could erase this film from his resume) was in From Hell;

Valley of the Mid-Range Franchises: HOLLOW MAN

hollow man 2000HOLLOW MAN

4 Stars  2000/18/112m

“Think you’re alone? Think again.”

Director: Paul Verhoeven / Writers: Gary Scott Thompson & Andrew W. Marlowe / Cast: Kevin Bacon, Elisabeth Shue, Josh Brolin, William Devane, Kim Dickens, Greg Grunberg, Mary Randle, Joey Slotnick.

Body Count: 6


It’s doubtful the director of Total Recall and RoboCop would approve of anybody dubbing Hollow Man a slasher flick and most reviews at the time seemed oblivious to the pretty by-the-number stalk n’ slash opus that takes up the final act of a very ambitious movie.

Kevin Bacon is at centre-stage (sort of) as self-worshipping scientist Sebastian Caine, pioneer of a government project that turns living things absolutely invisible thanks to your go-to miracle serum. After initial and successful tests on animals, Caine volunteers to be the first human guinea pig in a scene that – at the time at least – was amazing enough to earn the movie an Academy nomination for best FX work (it lost to Gladiator).

He uses his new invisibility to do what most narcissistic heterosexual guys would do – he spies on his female co-workers, plays pranks on the other team members and is generally an ass.

However, when neither he nor the team can crack the restorative process, the consequences of having no reflection, no eyelids to enable sleep, and little conscience to begin with, Caine begins sliding down the rabbit hole. The latex masked made so he can be seen by the others is later removed and he discovers that former squeeze Linda (Shue) is now involved with other co-worker Matt (Brolin). Their lack of progress and Caine’s changing personality prompts a plan to confess all to the Pentagon and take their punishment for the deception.

hollow man 2000 kevin bacon

Predictably, Caine won’t have it and resolves to locking the rest of the team in their underground laboratory and killing them one by one. How’s that for a masked killer?

Gory stuff but not in the usual slashed throat / decapitated head way – the transformations in and out of invisibility are graphic as we’re given explicit glances at the interiors of the body, which isn’t so pretty – and Bacon happily goes full frontal again, levelling the objectification-by-gender table.

The FX work is the star here, and the film straddles its hybrid sensibilities between sci-fi, action and horror comfortably, almost as if it’s been concocted in a lab itself, with elements of Scream married to The Invisible Man and coated in Verhoeven’s clinical style of direction and Shue makes for a spunky heroine.

Listen out for the awesome Wonder Woman joke.

*

HOLLOW MAN II hollow man 2 2006

3 Stars  2006/15/92m

“There’s more to terror than meets the eye.”

Director: Claudio Faeh / Writers: Gary Scott Thompson & Joel Soisson / Cast: Peter Facinelli, Laura Regan, Christian Slater, David McIlwraith, William MacDonald, Sarah Deakins, Jessica Harmon, John Shaw, Bruce Dawson.

Body Count: 11

Laughter Lines: “You’ve really outdone yourself this time, usually when you people make a mess at least you can see it.”


Verhoeven returned as executive producer for this efficient enough straight-to-DVD sequel, in which the last of three invisible assassins from the DoD’s ‘Silent Knight’ operation is desperately trying to track down Laura Regan’s biologist, the only person with the knowledge to prevent his body deteriorating the same way as his predecessors.

In the meantime, he’s happy to eliminate anybody who gets in his way as well as various government high-ups responsible for his condition. For the most part, this is a chase-flick with biologist and the cop assigned to protect her on the run from Mr Invisible.

While clearly made for a helluva lot less than the first film, it’s still a handsomely put together and what visual FX are in play are done well enough, if not as CG-centric as before. Where a bit more investment could’ve helped is in the script itself, which, although armed by a good enough story built around the future of the project (events from HM1 are briefly referenced), there doesn’t seem to be very far to go with it. Perhaps it would’ve worked better as a TV show?

hollow man 2 2006

No more or less slashy than before; there’s a naked teen tryst in an early scene where, of course, when it’s time for the guy’s clothes to come off, the girl gets spooked so we only see her boobs and nothing of him. Yawn.

Blurbs-of-interest: Kevin Bacon was an early victim of Mama Voorhees in Friday the 13th; Christian Slater was in both Mindhunters and Playback; Laura Regan was the heroine in My Little Eye; Jessica Harmon was in Fear Island.

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