Tag Archives: star power

Balboa vs. The Bad Man

d-toxD-TOX

2 Stars  2001/18/92m

“Survival is a killer.”

A.k.a. Eye See You; The Outpost

Director: Jim Gillespie / Writers: Howard Swindle & Ron L. Brinkerhoff / Cast: Sylvester Stallone, Charles S. Dutton, Polly Walker, Kris Kristofferson, Christopher Fulford, Robert Patrick, Jeffrey Wright, Tom Berenger, Stephen Lang, Angela Alvardo Rosa, Courtney B. Vance, Robert Prosky, Sean Patrick Flanery, Dina Meyer.

Body Count: 13


Based on writer Swindle’s book Jitter Joint, D-Tox was shot in 1999 and then denied a release until the beginning of 2002, when it briefly appeared in a few choice locations. Seemingly a vehicle to relaunch the waning career of its star, there’s little that aids the cause.

Sly is Jake Malloy, a fed chasing a cop-killing maniac who also does away with girlfriend Meyer and evades capture yet again. Unable to cope with his loss, he is admitted to a remote Wyoming once-asylum-now-rehab-clinic for traumatised cops, which is run by ex-officer Kristofferson. Shortly after Malloy’s arrival, the “suicides” begin. Of course, the genre congnoscenti knows better and the cast eventually catch on and realise the cop-killer is among them. But which of the many characters is he?

While the identity of the loon isn’t glaringly obvious, the outcome is totally unimaginative and anti-climactic, indicative of the whole Hollywood ‘villains can’t be Americans’ issue.

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Violence is toned down to an almost PG-level – the powerdrill in the eye murder sounds more interesting than it is – and most of the characters run around wearing thick winter Parkas reminiscent of those first seen in Urban Legend. Stallone moves away from his usual action persona with just enough charisma to carry off his role as the mourning drunk but the rest of the cast are strictly conveyor-belt fodder with the usual tragic histories that make them plausible suspects, which is a bit of a waste when you scan the impressive cast roster.

A good and not overdone finale wraps things up nicely but much of D-Tox is a waste of its great setting and it ends up as a second-gear action/slasher fusion that’s already been forgotten about.

Blurbs-of-interest: Jim Gillespie also directed I Know What You Did Last Summer and Venom; Dina Meyer was later in Crazy Eights.

Undo

hal-resHALLOWEEN: RESURRECTION

3 Stars  2002/15/86m

“Evil finds it’s way home.”

A.k.a. Halloween 8

Director: Rick Rosenthal / Writers: Larry Brand & Sean Hood / Cast: Busta Rhymes, Bianca Kajlich, Jamie Lee Curtis, Ryan Merriman, Katee Sackhoff, Sean Patrick Thomas, Thomas Ian Nicholas, Daisy McCrackin, Luke Kirby, Tyra Banks, Brad Loree.

Body Count: 10

Dire-logue: “Great legs Donna, what time do they open?”


If somebody came to you and asked you to write a sequel to a movie where the main character’s head was chopped off at the end, what would you do? This must’ve been a dilemma faced by the screenwriters of this much-maligned follow-up to 1998’s ultra-successful Halloween H20, which raked in enough to make further movies a certainty. So how does Michael get his head back? Easy, he never lost it.

We begin impressively enough with the reintroduction of Jamie Lee’s Laurie Strode, now locked up in an institution with a dissociative disorder after she found out that the man whose head she axed off was in fact a paramedic dressed up in her brother Michael’s boiler suit and mask, his larynx crushed to ensure no speaking. Hmmm, we all say and move on. Michael comes to get Laurie at the asylum and duly does so when her confused state of mind prevents her killing him when she has the chance.

hr1This story arc done n’ dusted, we meet our final girl, Sara, a student at Haddonfield U (!?) who has been roped in by her good-time pals Jen and Rudy to entering a content to explore the Myers house during a Halloween night webcast for Dangertainment, a questionable production company run by Busta Rhymes and Tyra Banks. Well, the characters they play at least…

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Rappers in horror films, eh? Several have turned up in the shores of the slasher genre; Snoop Dogg in Bones, LL Cool J in H20. Surprisingly, LL Cool J bypassed any issues of ego and did well in an undemanding role and has gone on to carve out quite an impressive on-screen CV, including techno-slasher flick Mindhunters and techno-shark cheesefest Deep Blue Sea. On the shoulders of Rhymes, however, is the nominal lead and to say he struggles with the task is somewhat of an understatement. Banks, on the other hand, has only what amounts to a cameo in a few scenes.

From Halloween to America's Next Top Model

From Halloween to America’s Next Top Model

Six teens enter the Myers house and begin tooling around, looking at dusty objects, all of which seem a little too obvious and easy to find in a house that, according to the let’s-continue-to-ignore-the-sequels policy, has been empty since the sixties. Never mind the family who inhabited it during Halloween 6. Anyway, they pair off and begin to get killed by Michael, who has been residing in a cave-like dwelling beneath the basement. Unlike the previous film, there’s an abundance of brutal bloodletting here with some grisly final outs for the budding cyber stars.

hr4When only Sara is left, she is aided by a group of teen partiers who are watching the show and communicate with her via web text thingies on a device I’ve never seen before or since. Eventually, she and Busta face off with MM, things wrap (thankfully no rap!) and there’s yer usual ‘he ain’t dead’ ending. For both actually as Busta Rhymes seems to be as invincible as Mike. Oh yeah, there’s that line, the one everyone in the cinema groaned at: “trick or treat…motherfucka!”

hr6Despite how ridiculous Resurrection is – and it’s really, really ridic. – and Rhymes sub-dreadful acting abilities, not to mention the martial arts sequence, there’s still some fun to be found here, all you have to do is look for it. Detach it from the rest of the story, pretend it’s a different film altogether, just a slasher flick in an old house with some webcams and Resurrection becomes quite an entertaining B-flick with some good kills, nice chases and the added touch of the remote guides who try to help Sara escape. There’s some decent casting at the teen level too, unfortunately overshadowed by Rhymes’ top-billing: Sean Patrick Thomas, Katee Sackhoff (pre-BSG) and Thomas Ian Nicholas look like they’re having a laugh, even if they might remove this title from their select filmography in the future.

hr5On the flip side, it’s obvious why it’s the likely most-hated of the Michael films, pre-Zombie remakes, there’s little to no respect for what went before, either in H20 or the mid-sequels. By 2002, the reality-TV based horror was already dated, which is unfortunate as the film was due for a Halloween 2001 release but returned for re-shoots when Miramax considered it too unscary.

Some have suggested that it would have been a good move to have Sara turn out to be Jamie Lloyd, not dead after all. I agree with this, it would have served as a good launching pad for the next film or two. Alas, they chose otherwise and when mainstay producer Moustapha Akkad was killed in 2005, all plans for Halloween 9 were washed away and the remake came to be. Bad times.

hr7Blurbs-of-interest: Rick Rosenthal directed the 1981 Halloween II and made a cameo in Lost After Dark; Ryan Merriman later took the lead in Final Destination 3; Daisy McCrackin was in A Crack in the Floor. If you don’t know what other slasher flicks Jamie Lee Curtis has been in then why are you here?

HALLOWEEN H20: 20 YEARS LATER

halloweenh203.5 Stars

1998/18/83m

A.k.a. Halloween 7

“Blood is thicker than water.”

Director: Steve Miner / Writers: Matt Greenberg & Robert Zappia / Cast: Jamie Lee Curtis, Adam Arkin, Michelle Williams, Josh Hartnett, Jodi Lyn O’Keefe, Adam Hann-Byrd, Janet Leigh, L.L. Cool J, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Nancy Stephens, Beau Billingslea, Charles Durand, voice of Donald Pleasence.

Body Count: 7


Some things in life are inevitable; “death and taxes,” my dad always said. But let’s not leave out the commercial tendancy to ‘strike while the iron’s hot’ so to speak, or, cash-in on a trend. In this case it was Scream. Scream, Scream, Scream wherever you looked in the horrorsphere left in the wake of Wes Craven’s let’s-state-the-obvious slasher flick. As that film featured footage from Halloween, only survivalist recluses would be fool enough not to consider a big time return to form for the first born serial slasher. Yes, Michael Myers came back!

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In Halloween H20 (oddly pronounced H-2-O like, y’know, water…), we catch up with Jamie Lee Curtis’ final girl extraordinaire Laurie Strode, who faked her death and went into hiding, ending up as the head teacher at an exclusive prep school in California, miiiiiiiles away from Haddonfield. Unbeknownst to Laurie – masquerading under the name Keri Tate – the late Doc Loomis’ house has been ransacked, his faithful nurse and a couple of unlucky neighbours murdered and Laurie’s whereabouts discovered. Roll titles.

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While we reacquaint ourselves with Laurie/Keri, learn that she’s an alcoholic with a rebellious seventeen-year-old in Josh Hartnett, Michael drives across country in time for a Halloween reunion, complete with kitchen knife, boiler suit and freaky white mask. On the day itself, Hartnett and a trio of friends hide out in school for a private party that is, of course, crashed by Mike, who chases the survivors in Laurie’s direction for the ultimate showdown when she opts to stay behind and kill big brother once and for all, doing a neat 360 on Laurie’s mousy run-and-hide attitude from twenty years earlier.

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H20 was intended to be the last word on the subject and so ends with one of the most satisfactory resolves in the history of a genre infamous for loopholes and get-out clauses to allow for possible franchising opportunities. Effective as it was, watching it back now in the knowledge that we were cheated to satisfy the ridiculous concept used in Halloween: Resurrection four years later is frown-inducing to say the least. This, along with the script’s choice to ignore the story arc created in films 4-6, makes for a bit of a redundancy on H20‘s part, it’s rendered nothing but a handsome distraction. And that’s a little insulting to longterm fans of the series, who’ve invested in the unfolding saga of Myers tracking down and killing all his relatives only for it to be closed off, denied and then reverted to cut n’ dried slasher shenanigans in the next film.

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Nevertheless there’s much to enjoy here; Curtis is on fine form as Laurie, while almost nothing like her former self, she’s tough when the chips are down and really gives Michael a taste of his own medicine during the climactic one-on-one smackdown. Her supporting cast are good too, with Arkin amusing but underused as her lover, Michelle Williams – fresh from Dawson’s Creek at the time – as Hartnett’s girlfriend and even LL Cool J manages to squeeze some likeabilty out of his standardly foredoomed security guard character. Curtis’ mom, Janet Leigh, also turns up for a great cameo as a secretary, complete with her original Psycho car and hints of its theme as she requests of Laurie that she “be maternal” for a moment…

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There are some decent back-to-basics terror sequences on show, with Michael leering through windows in the background and spooking lost teens around the deserted school. This is only tripped up by a shrunken body count, which could have used another couple of disposable teens to add gravitas to Michael’s killing ‘spree’ at the academy. Things are amped when Hartnett and Williams flee from Michael and find themselves locked in gated vestibule, being slashed at through the bars.

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The film, based on a draft by Kevin Williamson, who was involved in almost all the slasher flicks of the period (and is credited as co-executive producer here), is positively littered with references to former films in lines of dialogue, musical quips (Carpenter’s theme still plink-plonks along nicely when called for) and visual motifs, all of which make H20 an enjoyable experience, even if it was made irrelevant soon after, indicating it sold out for a slice of the Scream pie. A solid sequel, not as honestly enjoyable as Halloween 4 and possibly Halloween 6 but one of the better entries in a great series.

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Blurbs-of-interest: O’Keefe played the sex-crazed killer of Teacher’s Pet; LL Cool J was in Mindhunters; Nancy Stephens was reprising her role from the first two Halloween films; director Miner helmed the first two Friday the 13th sequels.

ALL-AMERICAN MURDER

allamerican4 Stars  1991/18/90m

“He’s about to enter a jungle of sex, sleaze and murder… He’s going to college.”

Director/Writer: Anson Williams / Cast: Charlie Schlatter, Christopher Walken, Josie Bissett, Joanna Cassidy, Richard Kind, Woody Watson, Amy Davis, Mitchell Anderson, Craig Stout, J.C. Quinn.

Body Count: 5

Dire-logue: “I’ll be history before my next history class.”


Rebellious back-chatter Schlatter (cool, huh?) – Artie – is given ‘one last chance’ by his Judge dad to make something of himself and is sent to the prestigious, depressingly clean-cut Fairfield College where he falls for loved-by-all sorority chick Tally. When she is incinerated before his very eyes, suspicion immediately comes knocking at his door in the shape of Christopher Walken’s detective. Not working in Artie’s favour is a history of pyromaniacally-themed incidents of yore.

Walken gives Artie 24 hours to find the real killer before the murder is pinned on him. As the minutes tick by, it transpires that perhaps Tally wasn’t the god-fearing, picture perfect daughter-of-a-senator she was seen to be by everyone on campus. And those people who knew valuable information about her that might just clear Artie’s name find themselves power-drilled, bitten by snakes or blown apart by the old grenade-down-the-pants.

TV director Williams (who played ‘Potsie’ in Happy Days) pieces together a light-hearted mystery with charisma and flair, helped no end by Schlatter’s amusing turn as the put-upon protag, he delivers a succession of witty one-liners while Walken personifies cool as the laidback cop, Decker. Further support comes in good form from Richard Kind (my favourite character from Spin City) as an envious colleague of Decker’s, Joanna Cassidy as the Dean’s horny wife who spends her time seducing the male students and Mitchell Anderson as a smarmy jock.

Genre addicts should have no trouble establishing the identity of the killer by the finale, but it’s still a very satisfying conclusion to a strangely seldom seen and under-appreciated mystery thriller.

Blurb-of-interest: Mitchell Anderson was in Deadly Dreams; Josie Bissett was in Mikey.

BURIED ALIVE

buriedalive

2.5 Stars  2006/18/91m

“Evil has awakened.”

Director: Robert Kurtzman / Writer: Art Monterastelli / Cast: Terence Jay, Leah Rachel, Erin Michelle Lokitz, Tobin Bell, Steve Sandvoss, Lindsey Scott, Germaine De Leon, Beth Biasella.

Body Count: 6

Dire-logue: “Great weekend…fuckin’ snakes, psychos and dweebs.”


Is Tobin Bell the new Pleasence or Englund? He seems to be cropping up in more and more obscure B-movies these days on the back of the Saw-travaganza. Good for him though, he’s pretty cool, ain’t he?

Anyway, Buried Alive isn’t Tobin-centric, he’s a red-herringy bit-parter this time round as a grizzled custodian at the ranch where collegiate cousins Zane and Rene – who’re a bit too close for comfort – bring a gaggle of friends for the weekend to party hard, initiate new sorority pledges and fall victim to a girl-ghoul who’s severely pissed off about something. She appears mostly to Zane (Jay) who has “stopped taking his pills” and can therefore see what nobody else does. Until later when suddenly they all can. Or something.

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Zane and Rene are of the belief that their ancestry is cursed, having something to do with their great-Grandfather burying his Native American wife alive, a big fire and a symbol on a talisman that protects those who wear it. It’s a confusing backstory that’s dragged out amidst hazing pranks and sexual exploits before the slashin’ begins, courtesy of the decomposing missus, who likes to bury axes into young academics, or chop them in half or slice their faces off…

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While we are privy to the cut n’ dried character cut-outs of the geek, the obnoxious jock and the sorority bimbos, it becomes clear that one of the pledges is a dark horse who not only knows a lot about symbolism and its relative lore but has the design from the talisman tattooed on her back, which saves her from becoming the resting place for the killer’s axe.

The second half of the film really cranks into gear, taking cues from recent J-horror hits and ending with a nicely done sorta-twist. Even with the upsurge in quality towards the finale (a reversal of what normally happens in horror films, which have a tendency to start well and go downhill), it’s a case of too little too late for Buried Alive to be much more than a passing interest.

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Blurb-of-interest: Bell’s other recent foray into supernatural slasherism is Boogeyman 2.

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