• 20 Mar 2010 /  Reviews

    hackHACK!

    2007/18/86m

    “Who will make the final cut?”

    Director/Writer: Matt Flynn / Cast: Danica McKellar, Jay Kenneth Johnson, Juliet Landau, Sean Kanan, Adrienne Frantz, Travis Schuldt, Justin Chon, Gabrielle Richens, Wondgy Bruny, William Forsythe, Lochlyn Munro, Burt Young, Tony Burton, Mike Wittlin, Kane Hodder.

    Body Count: 13

    Dire-logue: “How’s that for improv, you two-bit amateur fucker?”

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    If you’re old enough to remember The Wonder Years on TV, where Fred Savage was a pre-teen growing up in the 60s while his grown-up self Daniel Stern narrated a load of crap about getting closer to his dad n’ stuff, you’ll remember his best friend-slash-object of lust Winnie Cooper. If you have no idea what I’m on about then just know that the grown up Winnie – Danica McKellar – takes the lead in this here quirkfest. It’s another genre-referential slasher flick – it’s Hack!

    Kane Hodder dies. Then we meet an assorted group of college students, led by McKellar’s dorky Emily, who has organised a stay-away trip to an island where they’ll complete a study on rock pools and stuff for the extra credit they each need. As later noted by Johnson’s token nice guy, there are enough stereotypes for a scary movie: the jock (who takes his football everywhere), the sexy exchange student (“fish n’ chips, guv’nor?), the flamboyant gay guy (who dances to Fame when nervous), the dope-smoking black guy and the sarcastic rock chick.

    hack6The group stay with perky couple Vincent and Mary-Shelley (Kanan and Landau), who are passionate about filmmaking. All this idyll is soon brought to a halt as the students start splintering off and then getting moiderized by a killer who dresses up in a variety of filmy costumes to commit their dastardly deeds.

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    I’ll be ruining nothing by revealing that the killers turn out to be Vincent and Mary-Shelley, making a horror flick of their own by copying scenes and motifs from various old classics. And The Ring. Teens are chainsawed, croquet-malleted, shoved down wells and fed to piranhas amongst other things, all with an excess of reflective dialogue – the Karate scene is especially amusing as is the final confrontation between survivors and killers.

    hack7Hack! does add a twist of its own towards the end, which had the effect of pulling the rug from under its own feet to some extent. This sort of revelation isn’t unduly rare for a slasher film but it’s never been one I’m particularly fond of unless it’s so deep-rooted you have no idea what’s about to hit you. I’d have preferred them not to meddle in the way they have and it damaged my appreciation for how entertaining the film had been up to this point.

    hack4There are a few elements that don’t tie up well in places, things I can’t go into without giving it all away, although quite why William Forsythe is dressed like a 19th century farm worker is a mystery. But the cast bears an appealing quality and the high reading on the randometer isn’t a bad thing in a production like this.

    hack8aWith this in mind, it shouldn’t be forgotten that Hack! is a cheap n’ cheerful ride, something that seems to escape the type of people who write “worst movie EVER!!!1!1!!!” on the IMDb boards and in turn praise the glut of torture-porn knock-offs because “they iz soooo realistikz!” This is a well made film – save for the tinny sound at some points – which has evidently been written as a love letter to the genre rather than an exercise in ‘let’s see how much violence we can get away with’.

    So for me it was funny and engaging but definitely not for all tastes unless you like your slash with a topping of grilled cheese and a endless array of throwaway one-liners, otherwise you’ll agree with the last line: “What the hell’s going on here?” “Just some piece of shit horror movie.” Maybe.

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    Blurbs-of-interest: William Forsythe was in the Halloween remake and iMurders; Sean Kanan was in Hide and Go Shriek; Juliet Landau was also in the Toolbox Murders remake; Lochlyn Munro was in Freddy vs. Jason, Scary Movie and The Tooth Fairy. Kane Hodder is in everything.

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  • 10 Nov 2009 /  Reviews

    jollyroger 2005/18/77m

    “Some things should stay lost at sea.”

    Director: Gary Jones / Writers: Jeff Miller & Gary Jones / Cast: Rhett Giles, Tom Nagel, Kristina Korn, Tom Downey, Kim Little, Pamela Munro, Justin Brannock, Megan Lee Ethridge, Hajar Northern, Ted Cochran.

    Body Count: 16

    Dire-logue: “Just drinking a little, smoking a little dope and all your friends got massacred, right?”

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    This cheap n’ cheesy quickie from the same studio that brought us the Scarecrow films takes many cues from The Fog in a tale of a murderous pirate back from the dead to behead the present day ancestors of his treacherous crew.

    Considering the studio’s choppy resume, Jolly Roger nicely outperforms the previous efforts both technically and in terms of its general enjoyability. Other films that are pilfered include Leprechaun and Jason Goes to Hell. The short running time is a plus, as the sky-high body count escalates at a nice pace to outweigh the detective efforts of the boring teen couple who witness Roger’s slaughter of their high school friends – four corpses in the first fifteen minutes!

    The killer, meanwhile, yo-ho-ho’s his way through town collecting severed heads to put in his Dead Man’s Chest with pirate-themed one liners at every turn, kinda like the lovechild of Freddy Krueger and Jack Sparrow. The sword decapitations are sloppy but gory and there’s a funny hand-chop thrown in as well. Endless clichés by numbers, with generous T&A, gallons of gore (though rum is nowhere to be found, much to Roger’s chagrin) and characters so thinly drawn that they barely have enough screen time to do much but die! Not for all tastes for sure but genre completists should get a kick out of it.

    Blurb-of-interest: Gary Jones directed Boogeyman 3 and Axe Giant.

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  • 05 Nov 2009 /  Reviews

    initiation

    1983/18/93m

    “…The night new blood is pledged.”

    Director: Larry Stewart / Writer: Charles Pratt Jr. / Cast: Daphne Zuniga, Vera Miles, Clu Gulager, James Read, Marilyn Kagan, Frances Peterson, Hunter Tylo [as Deborah Morehart], Paula Knowles, Joy Jones, Trey Stroud, Peter Malof, Christopher Bradley, Robert Dowdell, Patti Heider, Mary Davis Duncan, Rusty Meyers.

    Body Count: 10

    Dire-logue: “[Here's] to being young, staying young, and dying young.”

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    Four-and-a-half stars!? You may spit your coffee across your keyboard – but yes, almost top marks for my favourite stand-alone slasher flick of the 80s – it is The Initiation. Read on and I will explain my madness reasons…

    Things begin in the normal film style with the credits. These are boring. After the credits, things begin in normal slasher film styleé with a nightmare sequence of a little girl wandering down a hall, into her parents room, there’s a fight, there’s a fire, there’s the no-longer adorable child wielding a knife… Time to wake up! The dream belongs to Kelly Fairchild (Zuniga, later from Melrose Place), who is rudely snatched out of her subconscious by a load of sorority girls with candles chanting (somewhat ironically given what’s to come) “Delta Rho Chi, never will die,” over and over and over.

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    Kelly and three other pledges – slutty Alison, wise Beth, and virginal Marcia – are escorted down to learn about their ‘hell week’, which will finalise their induction into the sorority. Big-mouthed bitch Megan informs them that their hazing stunt will be to break into the mall that Kelly’s father owns and steal the nightwatchman’s uniform.

    Meanwhile, Kelly flits between seeing her arms-length parents (Miles and Gulager) and frequenting ‘the dream factory’ run by young professor Peter and his absolutely adorable assistant Heidi. Together, they aim to expose the root of Kelly’s recurring dream and find out what happened before a convenient amnesia-fest for everything before she was nine.

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    Elsewhere, a group of mental patients are released from their asylum and one of them, seen only by his surgical gloves, rakes the stern ward nurse to death and steals her car. Who is it? What do they want? What does that man keep doing with his tongue?

    Kelly’s parents try to hide the truth from her and also the viewing audience by talking cryptically and blaming themselves for ‘what they’ve done’ la la la… The teens attend a come-as-your-suppressed-desire party where we acquaint ourselves with who’s going to die later, see a giant walking penis and witness Kelly and Peter hook up.

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    Amidst the slowly building madness, Peter and Heidi wax lyrical about what’s up with Kelly, who’s dream features standard Freudian, Jungian set-pieces: mom, dad, fire, mirrors – or is it…deeper? You don’t have to procrastinate for too long to figure out Kelly’s dream is, in fact, a memory, that the burnt guy is probably the same burnt guy working at the asylum and that there’s gonna be a whole lotta death comin’ our way!

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    On Prank Night, Beth decides that hazing jokes aren’t for her and drops out, leaving Kelly, Marcia and Alison to gain access to the mall where, unbeknownst to them, Todd the security dude has already been raked to death!!! with the small, trowel-sized rake thingy the killer likes to use. Alison dons rollerboots to ‘create a diversion’, while Megan and three frat boys enter the mall to scare the crap out of the pledges. Boys include walking-penis Ralph, Megan’s dorky boy-toy Andy and ‘other bloke’ Chad.

    The teens split off into groups and are stalked and killed by axe, bow and arrow, and hunting knife. The original UK video release had been trimmed by 59 seconds so it was nice to catch up with the grue on the DVD release, which includes a gratuitous cross-cutting between two teens having sex and another being stabbed to death, while screaming into the tannoy system.

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    This is a customer service announcement: Aaaaaaarrggghh!!

    Peter and Heidi figure out most of the mystery and he gets to the mall just in time to save the day – or so he thinks – as The Initiation pitches its curveball straight out of nowhere, opening us up to one of the campest, most fabulous reveals EVER! I want to tell you because I love it so much but up until this point the filmmakers were savvy enough not to let anything slip so you’ll just have to see it for yourself. Or read someone else’s review who gives it away.

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    What distinguished The Initiation for me was chiefly a mix of more comprehensive plotting and rounder characters: few films would dabble with so much Freudian-psychology so in your face and create the story around it. The identity of the killer isn’t spelled out for you, repeat viewings show that the clues are there but, unlike most other horror movies, there are no enormous neon arrows steering you to figuring it out first.

    Kelly is a rather standard final girl, battling with her rich-and-therefore-emotionally-barren parents and trying to fit in with her friends; Marcia is her luckless best friend who informs the others that contrary to their assumptions about her, she is not a virgin and was raped as a child, never having told a soul. It’s a sad, desolate moment, waaaay more than we expect from a slasher flick character but it makes us care about her fate. Hell, even Alison is more than your uno-dimensional slutty girl (despite appearing naked several times). The creators cared about their characters and therefore so did I, I didn’t want them all to die so brutally as they do.

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    Also impressing is the use of light and dark and shadows: the killer moves about in the background or appears as a creeping silhouette to catch their next victim: the camera work is great, timed to catch every glimmer of light on a sharp knife blade, swooping and panning to make the most of the shot and giving us way more than we expect in low rent filmmaking. Considering the crew shot overnight in a Houston Mall, the number of takes to perfect some of the setups must have been through the roof.

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    I love The Initiation; it’s enthusiastically made, well-acted, brilliantly shot, involving, confusing, surprising and you get the feeling that they really put their hearts into making a quality horror film. For a horror film it retains a crucial sense of fun (“Kelly didn’t get the blessing…” / “She’ll live without it.”) – there’s a huge walking penis for Christ’s sake!!

    Altogether now: Delta Rho Chi…never will die…Delta Rho Chi…

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    Blurbs-of-interest: Daphne was an early victim in The Dorm That Dripped Blood; Clu Gulager was the dad in A Nightmare on Elm Street Part 2 (ironically another film about dreams, return of the repressed blah blah); Vera Miles was, of course, Lila Crane in the first two Psycho flicks.

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  • 14 Oct 2009 /  Today I Love

    kids_from_fameThe Kids from Fame.

    How good were the 80s? Toooo good. I was a bit young for Fame the first time around but Justin Lee Collins’ reunion show last year prompted me to watch some and it ruled! Leroy, Bruno, Coco, Julie, Danny, Montgomery and Doris (my favourite) danced and sang their way through the melodramas of love, success, failure, drugs, wank-hole parents and did it with shiny smiles and morals! We should not forget Lydia, Ms Sherwood and Mr Shorofsky either.

    Hi-Fidelity, hi!

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  • 25 Sep 2009 /  Reviews

    hal-res 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; 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?

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