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Plane Perfect

fd-dvdFINAL DESTINATION

4.5 Stars  2000/15/94m

“No accidents. No coincidences. No escapes. You can’t cheat death.”

Director: James Wong / Writers: Jeffrey Reddick, Glen Morgan & James Wong / Cast: Devon Sawa, Ali Larter, Kerr Smith, Kristen Cloke, Seann William Scott, Amanda Detmer, Chad E. Donella, Tony Todd, Daniel Roebuck, Roger Guenvuer Smith.

Body Count: 5…+ 287 others

Dire-logue: “Because of you I have to sit here and watch…fucking Stuart Little.


It’s strange to think how long ago the year 2000 was in film terms, well in any terms really. I was a carefree 21-year-old lapping up any and every dead teenager film I could find. The Scream franchise ended in that year (although recent rumours may suggest otherwise) and there were a lot of theatrically released slasher flicks: Cherry Falls, Urban Legends: Final Cut, Hollow Man, Scary Movie (when it wasn’t done to death). But this one beats ‘em all.

Done to death is a fitting choice of words, as it not only describes the premise of this film, but also what’s happened to it thanks to the degrading scripts for its three sequels, the most recent of which is due out later this year. Fresh from seeing the trailer for The Final Destination, I decided to blow the dust off the original film and give it another whirl. Truth is, I dropped half a star off. Yes, it still kicks ass, the plane crash still terrifies me and the bus moment has truly become part of horror history – but, I dunno, the film kinda wore out its welcome towards the end and I got a bit bored, my index finger flirting with the fast-forward option.

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As if it needs introduction, Final Destination quite blatently re-tells the story of TWA 800 for its opening shock. High-schooler Alex (Sawa – where’d his career go?) is off to Paris on a class trip and is a little anxious about the 7-hour flight. And so he should be, no sooner are they off the ground, than the Boeing 747 starts to shake, rattle n’ roll, the cabin loses pressure, the fuselage splinters, kids get blown out into the void and they’re eventually eaten up by a wall of fire – then he wakes up. Minor coincidences tell him this was no dream and he causes a ruckus that gets him, five other students and a teacher ejected from the flight, which then explodes minutes later, much to the shock of those who were yelling at him seconds beforehand.

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It’s the perfect urban legend. We only need to look at the aftermaths of similar incidents to read those stories of lucky souls who missed their plane to gauge what an impressive concept we’ve been given here. A few weeks after the incident, Alex finds his fellow ejectees start dropping dead in increasingly bizarre ways. A contrived trip to the morgue with weird girl Clear (Larter) culminates in a meeting with Tony Todd’s gravel-voiced mortician, who informs them that they cheated death, so now it’s coming back to collect on the debt. Ergo, instead of your standard whodunit, Final Destination is, rather, a howdunit

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The victims are stalked by a dark blobby shadow that has the power to make taps leak, but more often than not just capitalises on the mistakes of its quarry: stepping out into the road, drinking vodka from a broken mug, slipping over on to wires etc. The deaths are impressively choreographed, occasionally funny and liberally bloody, though not nearly as much as in the follow-ups and often forecast by images and factors seen earlier on. The cast gel together impressively, with character traits and flaws used to give a dimension all but entirely absent in the ensuing films; Sawa is a good reluctant psychic and Larter an interesting heroine and their friends slightly less developed but equally affected by the guilt from surviving the plane crash.

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Because of the gravity of the plane crash and it’s terrifyingly realised effects work, things can only go down hill to an extent: no matter how creative death is, it can’t compare. Supposed rules governing the order in which the victims die are interesting but became suffocating in the sequels and tie-in novels and the shocker ending chosen over the original, softer final scene cemented the franchise, with a new film surfacing only every three years. Sounds like I’m down on the sequels, but I liked them – more than that, Final Destination 2 is loads of fun, 3 was good but sleazy and I imagine 4/The will follow the tried and tested plan. The fact that there’s no T&A in the first one is telling. Try to forget how contrived the whole concept became and enjoy it for what it is.

"I'll see you soon... I've signed on for the sequel."

“I’ll see you soon… I’ve signed on for the sequel.”

Blurbs-of-interest: Larter and Todd returned in Final Destination 2 and Todd was back again for the fifth movie, and can also be seen in Scarecrow Slayer, iMurders, two of the Hatchet films, and Jack the Reaper ; Kerr Smith appeared in the 3D remake of My Bloody Valentine. Kristen Cloke was in the Black Christmas remake, that was produced and directed by writer Glen Morgan.

Meltdown

houseofwaxHOUSE OF WAX

3 Stars  2005/15/113m

“Prey. Slay. Display.”

Director: Jaume Collet-Serra / Writers: Charles Beiden, Chad Hayes & Carey W. Hayes / Cast: Elisha Cuthbert, Chad Michael Murray, Brian Van Holt, Jared Padalecki, Paris Hilton, Jon Abrahams, Robert Ri’chard.

Body Count: 6


There are a lot of reasons that we should hate House of Wax: it’s a remake, it’s chock full of unrealistically good looking teen stars from various TV shows and Paris Hilton’s in it. Yes, America’s answer to Jodie Marsh (*shudder*) previously had a small role in the craptacular Nine Lives where she played a catty American fashionista (a stretch) and here, as girlfriend to Elisha Cuthbert’s textbook heroine, she does pretty well with the role and had to suffer much of the film’s advertising campaign centering around the opportunity to see her die!

Elisha and Paris are girlfriends to a couple of guys heading to a big football game; Jared Padalecki is Elisha’s squeeze and they are irritated by the presence of her twin brother Chad Michael Murray and his dorky buddy. Paris’s BF is – gasp! – black and doesn’t get much to do for the entire film. They camp out and the next morning find one of the cars immobile so Elisha and Jared stick around to go and find a new car part while the others skip off to their sacred game.

how1They end up in the tiny township of Ambrose, home to Trudy’s House of Wax (“it is wax – literally!”) and Jared is then captured by a looney psycho while Elisha tries to run away from the not-so-friendly gas station attendant. This all happens about fifty minutes into the film, having up until now featured very few scary things, although the DVD features a cut scene featuring the murder of a broken down motorist. Of course, we figured out ages ago that everyone in the town is made of wax and this happens to Jared, who is stripped, shaved and placed in a bizarro wax-shower thing that turns him into another model for the museum.

how6The others return and Chad and his dumbass friend go looking for his sister, split up, and one finds the gas station, the psycho therein and a finger-snipped Elisha while dumbass friend finds waxy-Jared and the sharp ends of a couple of knives that cut his head off. Paris and her BF get murdered next, hers is a protracted chase through a rusty old parking garage, reminiscent of Wendy’s chase in Prom Night, until the moment 95% of the audience bought their tickets for occurs and the killer skewers her with a rusty javelin, right through the head!

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Chad and Elisha are soon running for their lives and set a fire which begins melting the House of Wax from within, which looks pretty cool until the effects department evident got bored and just started to play around with the picture by bending it like the state-of-the-art special effects from Earthquake. In 1974.

how3Grinding on towards the two hour mark makes House of Wax a bit of a chore from time to time, but it’s actually a fun slasher romp with some neat ideas and grisly murders. Paris does okay with her “slutty blonde victim” part and the waxy finale is something we’re unlikely to see anywhere else. Most definitely not for discriminating horror fans, but if you’re game for some trashy entertainment and well-executed executions, then you could do a lot worse.

how4Blurbs-of-interest: Jared Padalecki graduated to a surviving role for the Friday the 13th remake; Jon Abrahams was in Scary Movie. Casting-bod Mary Gail Artz was an actor in Don’t Go in the Woods.

VALENTINE

valentine-box-cover-2VALENTINE

3 Stars  2001/15/92m

“Love hurts.”

Director: Jamie Blanks / Writers: Tom Savage (novel), Donna Powers, Wayne Powers, Gretchen J. Berg & Aaron Harberts / Cast: David Boreanaz, Marley Shelton, Denise Richards, Jessica Capshaw, Jessica Cauffiel, Katherine Heigl, Fulvio Cecere, Daniel Cosgrove, Hedy Burress.

Body Count: 9

Dire-logue: “Jeremy Melton couldn’t manage a water fountain without screwing up, I don’t think he’s capable of an intricate revenge plot.”


Urban Legend is my favourite entry in the 90’s slasher movie revival: it had everything I wanted from high pitched screams to a reveal right out of a Scooby Doo episode. Naturally, when I heard its director Jamie Blanks was doing another slasher flick I was, y’know, totally stoked! Valentine is – rather loosely – based on Tom Savage’s novel and harks back to that age old slasher staple of adolescent school trauma turns geek into weapon-toting psycho…

val2aThe geek in this case is Jeremy Melton, a scrawny, bespectacled, buck-toothed teen who’s only sin is to ask five girls to dance at their Junior High Valentine’s prom thingy. Three cruelly decline, one says “maybe later”, and the fifth, outcast fat girl Dorothy, accepts and is later found sucking face with Jeremy by a group of boys who assume he attacked her, which she agrees with, and then pour punch over him, strip him down to his pants and kick the crap out of poor Jeremy in the middle of the dancefloor!

val-2picsJumping ahead thirteen years, Heigl’s med student Shelley supplies ‘the Barrymore role’ of long-sequence-of-death first victim and her friends gather for her funeral. Kate (Shelton) is to-ing and fro-ing back to her jar-tapping boyfriend Adam (Boreanaz); man-magnet siren Paige (Richards) cruises through life with a trail of men after her; fun girl Lily (Cauffiel) is dating a sleazy artist and Dorothy has lost all the weight but is being sucked in by conman Campbell…

After receiving some grisly gifts and cards – including maggot infested chocolates – the girls wonder about who might be behind things and eventually put two and two together (the cards are signed JM after all!) and leave things in the hands of incapable detective Cecere, who is more interested in bedding Paige. Of course, Cherub-Jeremy crops up for more intermittent murders, taking out Lily early on and Kate’s bizarre neighbour, who meets the nasty end of a steaming hot iron. Could Jeremy have possibly grown up into Angel David Boreanaz!?

val4aThings come to a head at Dorothy’s Valentine’s party (in a massive house with lots of deserted areas, natch) when the remaining girls and a line-up of suspects are gathered. More murders occur, Denise Richards pleases a generation of teenage boys by strutting about in a bikini, a powercut empties all and sundry out, leaving Kate to step into the heroine’s shoes and face off with Cupid. It’s here where Valentine loses its way to some degree, thus opening itself up to all the critical slaggery that was piled upon it. What is in fact quite a clever twist is botched by the cutting of a scene that doesn’t appear on the DVD either and so leaves a question mark over the actual identity of the killer. We discover Jeremy is in fact there, but is he… who’s… how… what!?

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Ergo, look at the IMDb message boards for all the twelve-year-olds rowing over who the killer is. Those of us who’ve seen more than five slasher films should be able to figure it out with ease but Blanks misses the shot here. Nevertheless, the film works in spite of itself and is a whole lot of fun. I’m only bothered by the killer’s bizarre motives: four of the girls merely decline his offer of a dance whereas he has the shit kicked out of him by several boys who, strangely, he doesn’t factor in to his revenge plot at all… Additionally, there are male characters who, in any other film, would be killed off with extreme prejudice who make it through in one piece – the ‘wax’ scene practically leaves the doors wide open with cookies and milk to beg the killer’s appearance! Shelton is also a weak link, playing it far too angelic as the final girl to muster up much support, she’s merely the one who doesn’t die rather than struggles against the odds. Richards and Cauffiel are the most fun to watch and Cecere makes a likeable idiot.

"I love you Buff- uh, Kate."

“I love you Buff- uh, Kate.”

Blurbs-of-interest: Cauffiel played Sandra in Urban Legends: Final Cut; Heigl had the lead in Bride of Chucky; Burress was in Cabin by the Lake.

SCAR 3D

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SCAR 3D

2.5 Stars  2007/18/79m

Director: Jed Weintrob / Writer: Zack Ford / Cast: Angela Bettis, Kirby Bliss Blanton, Christopher Titus, Devon Graye, Brittney Wilson, Tegan Moss, Ben Cotton, Monika Mar-Lee, Al Sapienza.

Body Count: 10

Dire-logue: “Hey altar boy! Come up here and take my virginity. I’m not graduating with it!”


Released in high-definition 3D for the cinema experience, on plain-old 2D DVD, is Scar up to much sans gimmick? In true Voorheesian mediocrity, it’s a yes and no affair.

Angela Bettis helps matters no end by virtue of the fact that she takes the lead as Joan Burrows, returning to her hometown of Ovid, Colorado (despite the film being Canadian) for the first time since 1991 when she and her best friend Susie were held captive and tortured by silver-tongued serial killer Bishop (Cotton), who plays a brutal game of slashing and maiming the girls in turn until one of them caves in and tells him to kill the other.

Through a series of flashbacks that occur throughout the film, we learn Joan eventually gave the order and managed to free herself and kill Bishop with a funky organ-sucking contraption used to embalm corpses. It’s one of those wicked “yeah, get the fucker!!” scenes.

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Back in the now, no sooner does Joan arrive back home (to stay with her cop brother and his soon-to-be-graduating niece, Olympia) then identikit murders begin, targeting Olympia’s gaggle of friends. Did Bishop somehow survive? Or is Joan so traumatised that it is she behind the madness?

Scar is like a slasher film in fast forward. Everything happens in no time at all with little complication. Things end in a similar fashion to how they began, with Joan bargaining for Olympia’s life. It’s a lot like W Delta Z (more commonly known as Waz) and the torture scenes are quite intense and grotesque. Inspite of male victims outnumbering females 5 to 3, most of the killings occur off screen and we only see pretty young girls being horribly tortured, which says a lot about the project. Also, the killer’s motivation, when eventually revealed, amounts to little more than “I like killing.” Deep.

Not an awful film by any standards, it’s nicely put together with its bleeding heart grossly splattered down its sleeve – it’s just forgettable and proof that grisly effects work, 3D or not, cannot compensate for an under written story and flat characters.

Blurbs-of-interest: Bettis starred in May and the Toolbox Murders remake. Brandon McLaren is also in Harper’s Island and SlasherTucker and Dale vs Evil and Slasher; Brittney Wilson was later in Scarecrow; Ben Cotton was also in Harper’s Island, Stan Helsing, and The Tooth Fairy.

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