Tag Archives: TV

CODA

coda

3.5 Stars  1987/15/96m

“When the music stops, the nightmare begins…”

A.k.a. Deadly Possession / Symphony of Evil

Director: Craig Lahiff / Writers: Craig Lahiff & Terry Jennings / Cast: Penny Cook, Arna-Maria Winchester, Liddy Clark, Olivia Hamnett, Patrick Frost.

Body Count: 5


An impressive minor Australian film originally made for a cinema release but ending up premiering on TV instead. A student of music at an exclusive conservatory is attacked in her apartment and thrown out of a window, surviving for the time being but later being murdered in her hospital bed before she can communicate vital clues to her would-be saviour and subsequent prime suspect.

Said suspects ex-wife – a classmate of the deceased – becomes entangled in the mystery and then obsessed with solving it, this finding herself next in line for stalkage as the maniac in a creepy plastic mask begins cropping up in her life. Because of its final televisual resting place, there’s not much grue here but many cues are taken from Halloween and it emulates some of those spookier moments to great effect, with the killer loitering outside the heroine’s room and stalking her and her friend at the opera!

A minimal cast roster confines all possible suspects and after the initial killing it’s a long time before the next murder but the length chase finale is excellent and confirms the film’s slasher movie ancestry, which it shies away from in the first two thirds in favour of character building and the Murder She Wrote-style sleuthing.

Coda (we’re told a musical term for the conclusion of a composition – la-de-da!) makes a lot of good use out of its intense classical soundtrack, from the metronome on the opening credits and is complimented further by lush photography and intelligent direction during the action scenes. About the only thing that prevents it from advancing further up the star-scale is the overlong mid-section and its preliminary reluctance to blend in with its generic habitat and consequential low body count, which could have been assisted by offing a couple of extra students halfway through.

Nevertheless, like its chosen musical accompaniment, this is a delicate and handsome piece of film.

Blurb-of-interest: Olivia Hamnett played Kate Peterson, the looney-tunes doctor, in Prisoner: Cell Block H.

“All my troubles seemed so far away…”

Yesterday I found some much-needed me-time and settled down with a few films. But in some karmic revelation, my choice of cinema seemed cursed. Cursed to tell me I’d have been better off at work! This is evidently my fault for watching SyFy ‘originals’…

First up was OPEN GRAVES

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2 Stars  2009/85m

Director: Álvaro de Arminán / Writers: Bruce A. Taylor & Roderick Taylor / Cast: Mike Vogel, Eliza Dushku, Ethan Rains, Lindsay Caroline Robba, Naike Rivelli, Ander Pardo, Boris Martinez, Alex O’Dogherty, Gary Piquer.

Body Count: 7


There was a trailer hanging around for this at least a year ago. It looked pretty good. It started pretty good with American surfer buddies Jason and Tomas trying to pick up Eliza Dushku, whilst on an extended break in Spain.

They and four others sit down to play a board game called Mamba, which is, of course, cursed. They roll the dice, pick cards, cards have cryptic messages about their fate. They’re out. The eventual winner will be granted whatever he/she most desires… Once the game is over, those who were ‘killed’ start dying for real.

Naturally, the non-Americans all die first: one guy falls over a cliff edge (after sliding down barbed wire – ouch!), lands on the rocks and is immobilised so that the resident crabs scamper over and start eating him. The next guy is chased by ten-dozen Black Mamba snakes and resolves that climbing a stack of logs will save him until he falls back into them.

A model turns old over night and another chick dies in a fiery car crash. It’s all kinds of Final Destination-lite with a fraction of the flair and imagination and it’s down to leads Mike Vogel and Dushku to play the game till the end in order to win it and wish everything un-happened.

Open Graves was tolerable enough but just doesn’t go anywhere… The CGI effects are dreadful and the ending is naff, plus the cheating guy never really gets his just desserts, which is all we’ve been waiting for.

With that done, I turned to the sorta-remake, CHILDREN OF THE CORN, alleging a ‘proper’ screen treatment of Stephen King’s tale.

poster_children-corn-syfy

1 Stars  2009/92m

Director/Writer: Donald P. Borchers / Cast: David Anders, Kandyse McClure, Daniel Newman, Preston Bailey.

Body Count: 8


King apparently disliked the cheesecake 1984 attempt to make his short opus into a horror film. Christ knows what he’d make of this shite.

David Anders and Kandyse McClure are married couple Burt and Vicki, driving through Nebraska in 1975, arguing about everything when they mow down a kid in the road. They end up stranded in the deserted town of Gatlin where the children have slain all the adults in tribute to He Who Walks Behind the Rows, a god living in the corn field.

Unlike the ’84 film, there are no good kids, no flashbacks to the murders and zero sympathy for anyone involved. Anders does alright with Burt but McClure is cast as such an unpleasant bitch that it’s impossible to care at all when she is killed by the army of brats.

Afterwards, Burt runs around the corn for ages (but gets to slay a couple of the corn-sprogs), the kids murmur endlessly about dreams in their stupid, forced accents. Little Preston Bailey – stepson of Dexter - not only drowns in his ridiculously oversized hat but also under the weight of the role of Isaac, apparent preacher of adult-icide. Henchman Malichai is also pretty lame, not a patch on Courtney Gains’ take in the original.

Burt dies too but we don’t see how or know why and the credits roll. I stared open-mouthed questioning why the last 90 minutes existed and there was a two-minute coda after the credits showing some of the kids blah-ing on about the corn some more but still nothing happened.

If King’s story is this boring, it’s no wonder they tried to spruce it up back in the 80’s. All of the straight-to-video sequels are better than this crap. Check out Final Girl for some other reviews on this pinnacle of filmmaking.

I’d class neither of these flicks as slasher films per se, although both shared some turf.

This summarises my Thursday, hereafter referred to as Black Thursday. Actually, I watched Bring It On: Fight to the Finish (with Christina Milian!) as well but that doesn’t really belong here…

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!

Harper’s Island: Episodes 12 & 13

harpersFinal body count: 31

And so it ends, the bizarre, drawn-out slasher flick that would normally only occupy a cool 85 minutes, but instead clocks in at around 546. The mystery is solved, a helluva lotta folks are dead  – but who will walk away?

Before we get to that, I’ll share some of my early suspicions and stuff. Initially, I expected Cal to be the killer. Why? Well, American films quite often cast the Brit as the villain. It was a pleasant surprise to learn that he was neither the psycho nor a coward, less pleasant when he got skewered by John Wakefield.

I thought early on that there must be more than one killer, due to the presence of the primary cast members when murders were committed elsewhere.

In my little utopic Harperian Island, I wanted to see Abby survive along with all round nice bloke Danny, Trish, Jimmy and, yeah, okay, Madison. Kids usually irritate me in these with their ability to live through anything but she had that great creepy vibe and that excellent line: “I’m not going to get to be a flower girl…Abby!”

In Episode 12, Sully and Danny manage to capture John Wakefield, incapacitate and imprison him – everybody still able to breathe breathes a sigh of relief but we know better… Wakefield requests an audience with Abby and fills in a few historical gaps and says he located his son. Suspects narrowed down to four. Is it Jimmy like everyone thinks? Nah… Been down that alley before.

S P O I L A G E   F O L L O W S . . .

After accidentally falling off a cliff (!), Trish finds a boathouse with a working radio and the group manage to summon the coastguard. Wakefield somehow breaks out and fights with Danny, managing to send him eye-first on to one of those paper-needle things (as seen in Intruder in 1988) and Shea and Madison escape. Unfortunately for the others, re-splitting up to take showers and stuff couldn’t be a more dense decision at the time and Trish puts on her wedding dress to show Henry. Coulda seen this coming… a noise outside sends him on the investigative detail and Wakefield attacks her, sending her on a woodland chase in her lovely white dress, which gets all dirty until she runs into the arms of Henry, who subsequently confesses he slipped Wakefield the key, murdered a whole loada people and then sticks a knife into her! Wakefield materialises: “Hi dad!”

Much of the finale sees Henry and his father trying to off the final five survivors before the coastguard arrives. After sending Shea and Madison off towards land in a small motorboat, Sully gets himself killed, leaving only Abby and Jimmy to figure out the truth just in time and Henry shockingly murders his own dad instead of Abby, sets fire to the church to cover up the deaths and, as far as the cops are concerned, all loose ends are tied up.

It turns out that Henry would rather be with his half-sister forever and traps her inside a house on the island where they can live in secret. Jimmy is tied up in the garage as a ploy; Henry wants him to confess to being Wakefield’s accomplice so that no harm comes Abby’s way. Of course, she has other ideas and they manage to break free, kill Henry and save the day, albeit too late for 27 of the other cast members.

So there you have it, Harper’s Island finishes. I’d switched suspects to Henry a few episodes back, given that the writers were trying to push us towards Jimmy as the killer and neither Sully nor Danny seemed to have motive (although in hindsight, remembering that Sully was Trish’s former lover, he could easily have been the killer). In truth, I doubted the killer would be female and half expected Booth might come back from beyond the grave also… Que sera.

They did the best with what was left, but, from about Episode 9 the whole thing was wearing thin. The requisite once-an-episode victim tally couldn’t fill a whole 45 minutes’ worth and flashback padding and drawn out scenes of paranoia and people walking around the woods with shotguns were getting a bit tiresome. Ergo, a mostly successful try at something different for TV but I think this might be the last we see of this format.

I liked the cast a lot, Elaine Cassidy was a good, if not standardized final girl with the usual set of issues and she was backed by some good talent. Here are the blurbs-of-interest for the roster: Katie Cassidy (Trish) was the heroine in the remake of Black Christmas and was also in the remake of When a Stranger Calls; Gina Holden (Shea) was one of the rollercoaster victims in Final Destination 3; both Brandon Jay McLaren (Danny) and Ben Cotton (Shane) were in Scar 3D; Claudette Mink (Katherine) was in both Children of the Corn: Revelation and Return to Cabin by the Lake; Chris Gauthier was one of the rave victims in Freddy vs. Jason and Richard Burgi appeared in Hostel Part II and the Friday the 13th reboot.

Harper’s Island: Episodes 10 & 11

harpersCumilative body count so far: 25

Dire-logue: “Of all the weddings I’ve been to, this one ranks…near the bottom.”

As we head towards the climax of the CBS slasherama-drama, things take a more serious tone; with everybody convinced Abby’s dad is the killer, the group tries to leave the island, thwarted by an explosion and the discovery that the cops sent to rescue them have also beed murdered. Holed up in The Cannery, suspicions and conjecture take over and Maggie’s insistence that the locals are immune to the death train is provded fatally wrong (for her, at least).

Escape attempts ensue as they split to try and find another boat around the back of the island and Jimmy’s bizarre survival of the dock explosion poses some new questions, all of which are shadowed when Abby comes face to face with the real John Wakefield (played by BSG‘s Callum Keith Rennie – who I love).

In Episode 11, with Sheriff Mills permanently out of the way, Wakefield steps it up a gear and assaults those hiding out in the bar, offing Nikki and Shane quicksmart and chasing the others out. So is he the killer, then? It’s a bit of a rubbish outcome if so… Rest assured, CBS said one of the final eight characters is also involved – but who? Madison just might have the answer to that – or does she? Meanwhile, two of my favourite characters are eliminated in an uncharacteristically sad scene of self-sacrifice followed by self-sacrifice, shrinking the number of surviving cast members (Wakefield excluded) down to ‘The Final Eight’.

July 11th sees the final two instalments back to back and, hopefully, a surprising and satisfying resolve.

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