Tag Archives: star power

City of the Doll

Cult of Chucky is pending. I noticed I’ve only reviewed two of the other films in the series, so let’s countdown to the release by rectifying that…

Day One:

 

child's play 1988CHILD’S PLAY

3 Stars  1988/15/84m

“You’ll wish it was only make believe!”

Director: Tom Holland / Writers: Don Mancini, John Lafia & Tom Holland / Cast: Catherine Hicks, Chris Sarandon, Alex Vincent, Dinah Manoff, Brad Dourif, Jack Colvin.

Body Count: 5

Laughter Lines: “He said Aunt Maggie was a real bitch and got what she deserved!”


The inauguration of a horror icon begins here with the hokey but fun enough debut, which gives us all the information we need as to how the spirit of the Lakeshore Stranger – Charles Lee Ray – projects his soul into a talking Good Guy doll using voodoo mumbo jumbo.

Said talking doll is purchased from a homeless guy by hard-up widow Karen Barclay, for her six-year-old son Andy’s birthday. Andy is overjoyed with his new friend, and soon begins relaying the slightly odd things Chucky is apparently telling him. This is bad news for his babysitter, who receives a blow to the face from a toy hammer and tumbles out of an apartment block window.

The homicide detective from the Strangler case is assigned and immediately suspects Andy of the killing and the death of the Strangler’s accomplice soon after. Andy is packed off to a clinic for observation, blaming Chucky who, of course, just prattles off his three phrases.

child's play 1988

Karen is quick to discover that there is more to Andy’s story when she finds the batteries that came with the doll are still in the box, in what’s easily the film’s creepiest scene. She tries to convince the detective but his instinct is to believe she’s just trying to protect her son from the consequences but then stumbles upon some coincidences between the case and that of the Strangler. Da-da-daaaaa!

Chucky himself finds that the longer he stays a doll, the harder it will be to find rebirth into a human soul and the more vulnerable to harm he becomes, and the only viable soul is that of the first person he revealed his true self to – Andy.

Relatively high-end production values distinguish this film from the dying slasher genre at the end of the 80s, raking in decent profits as Jason, Freddy, and Michael experienced diminishing returns. Child’s Play achieves its distinction – and probably a chunk of its success – to avoiding most slasher movie rules, at least in this first one, with murders by accident or voodoo as opposed to the doll-with-a-blade in the sequels.

child's play 1988 hicks sarandon

A fair amount of debt should be owed to Freddy Krueger, as Chucky soon becomes efficient with his potty-mouthed one-liners in Brad Dourif’s inimitable drawl. Imitators soon appeared in the shape of Puppetmaster (and its ten sequels!), Demonic ToysDolly Dearest, and even the more recent Annabelle, proving a degree gold had indeed been unearthed.

A lot of weight also rests on the shoulders of Alex Vincent who, aged just seven, does well with the dark material without descending into territory of annoying child who the audience secretly wants to see thrown into a meat grinder (see Absurd for that kid). He also gets to utter that awesome climactic line: “This is the end, friend!” For her part, Hicks does a great job as his beleaguered Mom and defacto final girl.

child's play 1988

Mancini’s original script was far more psychologically based, with the doll serving as an excuse for Andy’s psychosis and a critique of the marketing-to-children boom in the greed-obsessed 80s. Everyone remembers the urban legend about Cabbage Patch Kids right? As it is, despite the final act descending into outright parody as the doll that just won’t fucking die, something of a modern classic in spite of itself.

Blurbs-of-interest: Hicks was another Mom-on-the-run in 1982’s Death Valley, which featured another pre-teen kid as the lead; Alex Vincent returned for the next film as well as Curse of Chucky and Cult of Chucky; Brad Dourif was also in Chain LetterColor of NightDead Scared, Rob Zombie’s Halloween movies, Trauma, and Urban Legend.

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.

Kincaid lives!!! …for a few minutes

the back lot murders 2002

THE BACK LOT MURDERS

2.5 Stars  2002/91m

“The stage is set…”

Director/Writer: David DeFalco / Writers: Paul Arensburg, Steven Jay Bernheim / Cast: Priscilla Barnes, Charles Fleischer, Jaime Anstead, Brian Gaskill, Corey Haim, Lisa Brucker, Carrie Stevens, Heather Tindell, Dayton Knoll, Lori Dawn Messuri, Ken Sagoes, Alejandro Escos, Tom Hallick, Angela Little, Nancy O’Brien, David Solomini.

Body Count: 17

Laughter Lines: “You have assets: Use your ass and your sets.”


This production is a mess, but it’s an occasionally entertaining mess with some amusing lines – largely courtesy of Charles Fleischer as the put-upon director – and an interesting backdrop for the carnage to take place against. Mild spoilers ensue.

Your off-the-shelf horror movie rock band are about to hit it big and are shooting their debut video on a Hollywood studio back lot where The Lost World: Jurassic Park was filmed. Six months earlier, they fired their temperamental songwriter after he smashed a bottle over a barmaid’s head – will that have any bearing on what’s to come?

Also on set is the lead singer’s bimbo girlfriend Janey, whose father runs the label they’ve signed to, and bitchy PR woman Stephanie, who wants the video to be cutting edge – so much that she’s willing to cut a few other things in order to see that goal realised?

back lot murders 2002 ken sagoes

Well somebody seems hell bent on making it a video to remember, starting with a couple of special effects folks (this is one slasher flick where the black guy – Sagoes who was Kincaid in two mid-Elm Street sequels – does die first – ironically he first to die in The Dream Master as well!), and filming each slaying by camcorder.

As numbers dwindle, highly-strung, campy director Henry deals with an endless parade of morons trying to get on screen: “Wow you’re an actress? In Los Angeles? How unusual.” But the rest of the film is expanded by long dull scenes of couples exploring buildings and the Elvis-masked killer not showing up soon enough. As usual, the scantily clad babes all flash their boobs before being chased away after their boyfriend is stabbed in the back.

Dim-witted Janey is somehow nominated to be the heroine, despite the film offering up a couple of other viable options earlier on (Henry’s assistant, who I think survives by leaving, and Wendy the fog lady), leaving us without a strong heroine figure to root for, just about the only remaining girl not to take her top off.

back lot murders 2002

The late Corey Haim’s comparable bit-part would go unnoticed if you – like me – didn’t recognise him. Barnes, however, is great in her sub-Betsy Palmer turn. Despite the curiosity of the Psycho house and a few other set pieces, this is one production probably better left in the lot – especially if you happen to watch the DVD featurette where the director claims it’s a “thinking man’s horror movie”. Right.

Blurbs-of-interest: Barnes was in Stepfather III; Fleischer was the dream doctor in the original Elm Street and was also in Chain Letter.

Sexyvil

american psycho 2 all american girl mila kunis 2002

AMERICAN PSYCHO II: ALL AMERICAN GIRL

2 Stars  2002/18/85m

“Angrier. Deadlier. Sexier.”

Director: Morgan J. Freeman / Writers: Alex Sanger & Karen Craig / Cast: Mila Kunis, William Shatner, Geraint Wyn-Davies, Lindy Booth, Robin Dunne, Charles Officer.

Body Count: 10

Laughter Lines: “I’ll make sure to get you home in time for Murder She Wrote.”


Burgeoning starlet Mila Kunis is apparently not fond of her involvement in this bizarre sequel to Mary Harron’s adaptation of the Bret Easton Ellis novel. Where that film examined the vicious world of capitalism, where male swagger competing eventually spills over into serial murder, AS2 is a straight up slasher flick.

Kunis is college freshman Rachael, whose babysitter took her along on a date with psycho killer Patrick Bateman and became his last victim before Rachael stabbed him dead with an ice pick. Undetected in this incident, Rachael successfully gets on to a criminal profiling course run by ex-FBI officer Robert Starkman (Shatner) whose one career black spot is the Bateman case.

In the week before Spring Break, Starkman is set to elect a teaching assistant for the following semester, and there’s no task Rachael won’t undertake to ensure she gets the job, which will lead her to her destiny – FBI training at Quantico. Firstly, her goal entails offing the three most likely contenders: Rich boy Brian, roommate Cassandra, and brainy Keith. Matters are further complicated by her interfering shrink who, after one session, diagnoses her as a ‘textbook sociopath’ and Rachael finds herself killing excess individuals to get her own way.

Sanger and Craig’s script shares more in common with the likes of Ripper: Letter From Hell and obsessed-femme-stalker sequel Teacher’s Pet than its predecessor. Kunis is a good soap opera style bad girl, but her narration of events severely tugs at the rug of credibility, and without the killings this would play more like an episode of Clarissa Explains It All than a serial-slasher pic.

Handsome production values go some way to distracting the viewer from what is really a wafer thin cash-in, probably rewritten to awkwardly tie in with the Bateman plot in order to get the greenlight. Still, seeing William Shatner traumatised is good for a laugh.

Blurbs-of-interest: Shatner was in Visiting Hours back in 1981; Lindy Booth was in Wrong Turn and the lead role in Cry_Wolf; Robin Dunne was in Scarecrow.

 

The Evil English

nine lives 2002 paris hilton

NINE LIVES

1.5 Stars  2002/18/82m

“Their number is up.”

Director/Writer: Andrew Green / Cast: James Nicolle, Amelia Warner, Paris Hilton, James Schlesinger, Patrick Kennedy, Ben Peyton, Vivienne Harvey, Rosie Fellner, Lex Shrapnel.

Body Count: 10

Laughter Lines: “Tim wouldn’t turn into a psycho killer over a bobble hat!”


I don’t really do patriotism. In fact, given my nation’s rather humiliating stance when it comes to tourism, football hooliganism, and more recently this Brexit idiocy, I’ve taken to adopting a foreign accent rather than be identified as English. SPOILERS follow.

Anyway, this slack possession-slasher gathers nine ex-public school friends at a remote Scottish mansion for a birthday celebration and soon fall victim to an English-hating spirit, who possesses members of the group to kill one another.

Suffice to say, without Paris Hilton’s involvement – she stretches herself to play a shallow American valley-girl – it would likely never have seen the light of day at all. The spirit is clearly so focused, it kills her first!?

Although proceedings start off okay, with some creepy ghost action – rapping noises coming from an empty hall etc – once the first murder is discovered, things fall apart quicker than a Paris Hilton album. And I once listened to one of those.

Admit it, you WANT them to die gruesomely.

Admit it, you WANT them to die gruesomely.

If you thought Hilton’s acting chops were limited, she’s Oscar worthy when compared to some of her co-stars, who encompass the combined talent of a GCSE drama class. Our heroine, Laura, is unsympathetic, dumb, and downright annoying. It is she who suggests people split up, and who also almost clairvoyantly pinpoints what is going on without a shred of evidence beyond a throwaway conversation she had about existentialism. Nine Lives shouldn’t meddle in such affairs.

Notable only for switching to a final boy once Laura turns the knife on herself to end the terror (yay!). The boy survives because he’s Scottish! Yeah. I know.

The spirit never puts in an appearance, but still gets a credit and by the time you make it to the credits – if you do – you’ll be wanting to gouge your own eyes out.

Blurb-of-interest: We all remember Paris in House of Wax a few years after this tripe.

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