Tag Archives: yo! Hollywood

STAY ALIVE

stayalive

STAY ALIVE

2 Stars  2006/15/83m

“You die in the game – You die for real.”

Director: William Brent Bell / Writers: William Brent Bell & Michael Peterman / Cast: Jon Foster, Samaire Armstrong, Frankie Muniz, Sophia Bush, Milo Ventimiglia, Jimmi Simpson, Wendell Pierce, Adam Goldberg.

Body Count: 8

Dire-logue: “I just met you, like, Goddamn yesterday so kiss my ass!”


The tagline should tell you all you need to know about this lazy effort. Dorky gamers in possession of a demo release, who were foolish enough to read aloud a prayer to start the game, discover that their fate on screen neatly corresponds to their fate in the real world. Thrown into the mix is a CGI witch-slash-serial killer woman, the subject of a conveniently local urban legend.

You can just imagine a group of studio execs around a table saying, ‘you know, The Ring made a lot of money. Let’s copy it but instead of a video tape, we’ll have a video game!’ High-fives and whooping ensue as they decide to chuck in some Final Destination-type deaths and some Elm Street thematics, completed with the requisite undead female villain. Stamp it with a PG-13 rating to pull in the likely crowd and you’re done.

Given the cast features some semi-knowns; grown-up child star Muniz and a pre-Heroes Ventimiglia, it all looks so cheap and rushed. And it takes itself so damn seriously! Check the scene where the assembly line goth chick surmises the entire plot in a deadpan spiel in an attempt to convince her friends of the danger. Manufactured tat with a cash register where the heart of its artistic form should be.

The Joke’s on You

aprilfoolsday

APRIL FOOL’S DAY

1 Stars  2008/15/88m

“She has a killer party planned.”

Directors: The Butcher Brothers / Writers: Michael Wigart & The Butcher Brothers / Cast: Taylor Cole, Josh Henderson, Scout Taylor-Compton, Joe Egender, Joseph McKelheer, Samuel Child, Jennifer Siebel, Sabrina Aldridge.

Bodycount: …is any of it real?

Dire-logue: “This is supposed to celebrate someone coming out, not going out!”


Snotty rich sibs Desiree and Blaine hold a coming-out party for Scout Taylor-Compton’s high-society debutante, which is ruined when an April Fool’s prank on Desiree’s rival, Milan (!), ends up with the poor girl toppling over a mezzanine to land atop a grand piano and totally dying.

One year later to the day, those involved in the joke are summoned to Milan’s graveside where they are confronted with a letter, supposedly from the dead girl, stating that they will each die throughout the course of the day unless the person responsible turns themselves in to the police.

Is it/isn’t it a joke dialogue ensues and, true to her word, the group begin perishing in bizarre ‘accidents’ until numbers are whittled down to the final three and a couple of twists are glued to the end for those dim-bulbed enough to misunderstand the concept of prank-themed slasher films.

afd

By far the worst of the remake scrum, AFD ’08, ignores everything that made the ’86 original so much fun and turns it into a cynical after-school drama production with the most unlikeable characters you could imagine. Ponsing around in their shiny cars and designer clothes, we want these bastards dead! It’s got far more in common with Cruel Intentions than any horror movie, has no heart or soul, no sense of fun, no blood, no suspense – it’s simply devoid of merit. And the twist is simply groanworthy. I wanted to attack my TV screen with a hammer at the end of this.

Scout Taylor-Compton is surely becoming some sort of slasher-remake jinx after trying to fill Jamie Lee Curtis’ shoes for Rob Zombie’s depressing Halloween redux. An obnoxious, insulting film if ever there was. The joke is most certainly on the audience.

FRIDAY THE 13TH (2009)

friday-the-13th-poster-3FRIDAY THE 13TH

4 Stars  2009/18/101m

“Welcome to Crystal Lake.”

Director: Marcus Nispel / Writers: Damian Shannon, Mark Swift & Mark Wheaton / Cast: Jared Padalecki, Danielle Panabaker, Amanda Righetti, Travis Van Winkle, Aaron Yoo, Derek Mears, Julianna Guill, Arlen Escarpeta, Willa Ford, Ryan Hansen, Richard Burgi, Nick Mennell, Jonathan Sadowski, Ben Feldman, America Olivo, Kyle Davis.

Body Count: 14

Direlogue: “I have more chance of fucking a penguin than that girl.”


I. Loved. It.

How do you remake a non-classic classic? If something has only gained ‘credibility’ through a kind of kitsch nostalgia, much like my rants about Fame, can upping the budget and trying to play down some of the genre pitfalls actually change the core essence? After all, you can’t polish a turd – but you can roll it in glitter!

As stated numerous times, to me Friday the 13th is anything but a turd. I genuinely consider it to be at the very least competently made. People may laugh, but most people haven’t seen 473 other slasher films to compare it to.

fri1a

Here, Bay and his Platinum Dunes house of horror remakes (previously destroying The Amityville Horror and The Hitcher) could be seen as a curse as much as a blessing when it comes to Jason Voorhees. Their take on The Texas Chainsaw Massacre impressed me, but then I’ve never liked the original so it wasn’t difficult. But here was a film I loved. Argh. I was shaking throughout the ads and trailers. But at least they didn’t let Todd Farmer near this one.

OK, so remember Jason Goes to Hell? Remember it wasn’t very much loved? Hey, I like the film but we all know there are only a few good scenes: the beginning and the kids who go camping. Friday ’09 is very much like those two scenarios, it’s mega-nostalgic in its photography, characters, setups and the like. This be good, this be!

friday-13th-remake

As it goes, the events of the original film don’t re-occur here, it’s not a remake as such. We begin at Camp Crystal Lake in 1980 and the fate of Mrs Voorhees (a perfectly cast but oddly named Nana Visitor) and skip to ‘the present’ where five campers hike into Jason’s wilderness, a couple of whom discover his home while he slaughters their friends, killing all but nice girl Whitney (Righetti) because she resembles Mama Voorhees. Six weeks later, Whitney’s brother Clay (Padalecki) comes to town looking for her, coinciding with seven college kids out to party at the condo of rich snob Trent’s dad.

While the college kids serve as interim victims for Jason, Clay and second nice girl Jenna (Panabaker) discover the remains of Camp Crystal Lake and also that there’s a psycho living there, a psycho who has recently donned a hockey mask he found whilst slashing up a local. The expected massacre ensues and all roads lead to the bro-sis reunion and foiled escapes from Jase.

fri2a

jasonThere are a few areas that could have been improved upon, most evidently is the total lack of need for this to be anything but another sequel. This should be called Friday the 13th Part 12, paving the way to the thirteenth 13th. The scribes pull a Halloween H20 on us, re-writing the in-between after the first movie and essentially taking the best bits from 2, 3 and 4 in the hope of kick-starting a revival.

But as far as complaints go, that’s the main issue. Everything else is business as usual (ka-ching!) The paperthin teens are cut to pieces in a variety of surprisingly not-so-inventive ways, there’s more nudity than anything since A New Beginning and the requisite rainstorm eventually enters the equation in the final reel. No shots of the moon though!

As the main characters, Padalecki, Panabaker and Righetti are all effectively able and it’s nice to see Richard Burgi (albeit fleetingly) as ‘The Cop’. Aaron Yoo makes the best impression out of the doomed teens, whilst the other five range from the annoying moaner, via the token black guy to the two hot chicks who disrobe but look, sound and walk exactly the same!

fri3a

So, we got drug smokin’ kids, a campfire story, rain, assorted weapons, likeable leads and a Jason who runs for the first since since 1984! There’s a fitting body count of 13 (one more if you count Mrs V in the prelude) and hope of a sequel. Thus, I cannot conceal my joy that this project was undertaken and, ahem, executed so well.

Blurbs-of-interest: Jared Padalecki got waxed in, uh, House of Wax and was also in Cry_Wolf; Nick Mennell appeared in My Little Eye and also Rob Zombie’s Halloween remake (as Bob). America Olivo was Britt in Circle and Elijah Wood’s mommy in the 2012 remake of Maniac.

MY BLOODY VALENTINE 3D

mybloodyvalentine3dMY BLOODY VALENTINE

3 Stars  2009/18/101m

“Nothing says date movie like a 3D ride to hell!”

Director: Patrick Lussier / Writers: Todd Farmer & Zane Smith / Cast: Jensen Ackles, Jaime King, Kerr Smith, Tom Atkins, Kevin Tighe, Megan Boone, Edi Gathegi, Betsy Rue.

Body Count: I counted 18


One thing’s for sure – it ain’t 1981 anymore!

And so, Hollywood’s latest candidate for a rinse n’ makeover arrives. A bit of a cult classic, the original is reportedly Quentin Tarantino’s favourite slasher flick. Strangely, it’s about the only film he hasn’t ripped off yet…

As the plot of a masked-miner offing partying youngsters at his place of work wasn’t likely to pull ‘em in these days, those crazy folks at Lionsgate decided to make this a 3D experience! Cool, huh? There hasn’t been a theatrical 3D slasher flick since, oooh, Freddy’s Dead back in ’91? Wise decision in the current climate. Unwise was hiring Todd Farmer to scribe the thing. Now, while I’m sure Farmer is a nice chap (he plays the trucker FYI), he did write Jason X and the watered-down ghostfest that was The Messengers. His intentions might be good – play things back to their roots: gore, full-frontal nudity – but his script doesn’t make a whole lotta sense…

mbv1mbv2

The walking oil-painting that is Jensen Ackles is Tom Hanniger (they kept some of the original names – yay!), who is apparently to blame for an accident at his pop’s mine that causes a cave-in and strands six of the men in the rubble. When they pull out the lone survivor, Harry Warden, they discover he slaughtered the other five in order to stay alive. Shortly after, Harry wakes from his coma and murders 22 people, finishing at the mine where a group of employees and their babes are partying.

Ten years later, Tom returns to town to finish up selling the mine and runs into his ex Sarah, now married to old buddy Axel, who is now the Sheriff and doing Sarah’s grocey store employee Megan ‘in secret’. Miner-murders quickly begin with an unfortunate nude lady and Farmer’s trucker, escalating to people associated with the mine. Victims are chiefly done in with a rusty old pick-axe, gorily most of the time and with sod-all sympathy from anyone.

mbvstore

Unlike the original film, the slayings occur in town over a few days surrounding Valentine’s Day, victims’ hearts showing up in candy boxes again, with a subplot thrown in to explain what became of Harry Warden to ‘tie-up’ questions the audience may have. Eventually, all roads lead back to the closed-off section of the mine and the identity of the killer is shoddily revealed. It’s a disappointing revelation that shows the studio’s primary concern was for the 3D effects. I imagine somebody turned around and slapped their forehead, exclaiming: ‘Shit! We have no motive and those flashbacks do nothing to clear it up…and how did the killer know where _____’s _____ was if only _____ knew!?’ There’s nothing that makes you sit back and think ‘oh yeah, I should’ve noticed that!’ It’s completely out of leftfield, yanking the film’s shoelaces undone so that it trips over itself in the middle of a crowded supermarket.

This minor (har-de-har-har!) complaint aside, MBV ’09 is a fun romp with lots of grue and chases thrown in, even if half the audience did grown when character’s decided to run through the woods into a delapidated house rather than stay on the road and risk the possibility of flagging down help. But this is a slasher movie – common sense has no place here.

Slightly off-topic, why do killers always choose to return years after in multiples of five? Couldn’t it have been nine or eleven years for once, ay?

Next month: Friday the 13th redux. Shudder.

mbv3

Blurbs-of-interest: Tom Atkins was in Maniac Cop; Jaime King was also the heroine in The Tripper; Kerr Smith cheated death in the original Final Destination. But not for long… Betsy Rue turned up in Halloween II (2009) and Groupie.

URBAN LEGEND

URBAN LEGEND

5 Stars  1998/18/96m

“Just because it didn’t happen, doesn’t mean it can’t.”

Director: Jamie Blanks / Writer: Silvio Horta / Cast: Alicia Witt, Jared Leto, Rebecca Gayheart, Joshua Jackson, Loretta Devine, Robert Englund, Tara Reid, Michael Rosenbaum, Natasha Gregson Wagner, Danielle Harris, John Neville, Julian Richings.

Body Count: 9

Dire-logue: “It’s like someone out there’s taking all these stories and making them reality.”


Urban Legend, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways… Damn, there are too many, I’ll just type it all out.

February 2009 will mark the ten year anniversary of my first of six cinema viewings of UL, my hands-down favourite ‘post modern’ slasher pic. You don’t read a lot of praise for this little gem; it’s often cited as being nowt more than a second-rate Scream wannabe. While it’s undeniably in heavy debt to that film, UL goes to all the places I wanted Scream to go to but didn’t. Like what, you say?

ul1a

Well, it starts with, like, the coolest murder set-up. Natasha Gregson Wagner (what happened to her?) is driving along a lonely stretch of highway when she runs outta gas. She pulls up in this dank little filling station where a stammering Brad Dourif entices her out of her SUV and attacks her. Or does he? Tasha gets away and speeds off, leaving Brad’s call of “someone’s in the backseat!” to be swallowed by the wind. Half a click down the road, a shady figure emerges from said backseat and swipes of her head with a funky axe!

Yes, it’s a slasher film about those stories, the ones you tell around campfires, in the school playground or when you’re slacking off work and want to talk about something other than the X Factor. Conveniently, the group of college kids at the centre of the ensuing terror are taking a class in urban legends, taught at Pendleton University by Robert Englund, which should be enough to make anyone think twice about signing up…

ul2a

We meet our teens-of-terror. There’s campus journo-wannabe Paul (Leto), who’s super-ambitious. Ambitious enough to commit murder though? He’s our Gale Weathers stand-in. Brenda’s got the hots for Paul and says a lot of neo-bimbo things to get his attention. Damon (Jackson) is the peroxidified-prankster who’ll do anything for a gag or a shag… Parker and Sasha are the oversexed couple; he’s an aging frat boy and she runs a call-in radio show about sex things. Then there’s Natalie, our final girl elect, played by the fab ginger princess who is Alicia Witt. Natalie is conscientious and smart, she can look after herself and she’s an unconventional heroine, none of this ‘woe is me’ crap…although she does have a few secrets that might be relevant…

ul3a

ul4a

The murders continue with good pace, each of them revolving around Natalie in some way: her date, her goth roommate (Danielle Harris – nice to see her ten years on from Halloweens 4 & 5). Natalie is the only one to suspect that the Parka-coated killer is twisting urban legends into the murders, but everyone she goes to with her suspicions thinks up a reason to disuade her: suicide, prank, suspect already in custody yaddah yaddah…

Even Pam Grier-loving campus cop Reese (Loretta Devine, our Dewey stand-in) is sceptical… What’s a girl to do? Natalie part-convinces Paul to look into it, as it appears that the University’s own campus legend about a dorm massacre a quarter of a century earlier may also be more than just a myth…

ul5a

Grisly murders continue, all of them satisfying in their creativity without being excessively grotesque… There’s the psycho-under-the-car one, the Pop Rocks and soda one, another about flashing your headlights to cars driving around without theirs on and the wet dog in the microwave thing…

ul6a

Answers start to unfold eventually as Natalie confides her guilty secret to Brenda, that she knew the first victim and that they’d done something bad a few years earlier. Wouldn’t it just be so convenient if the reason that Natalie is always around for each killing is that it’s something to do with the ‘accident’ she was involved in? Hmm…time to assemble Fred, Daphne and Velma.

ul7a

In the final third, Blanks ups the ante on cliches-what-work. Now, most people moan and whinge about cliches, but that’s why we love these films, right? We’d be upset if the slutty girl didn’t die. Parker’s fraternity throws a costume party to commemorate the is-it-or-isn’t-it-true campus legend and Parka-man comes with an axe to grind. There’s a great chase scene when Sasha finally comes face to face with the killer with some nifty mini-stunts and great near misses, akin to the film’s production cuz I Know What You Did Last Summer, where Sarah Michelle Gellar – who incidentally was the first choice to play Sasha! – was accosted to the death by the psycho fisherman. It’s a great scene, let down like its contemporary by refusing to show the kill, but all is forgiven because everything’s so much fun!

ul8a

Action moves into the woods for a short while so that Natalie can discover a few things, cross a few suspects from her list, all the time jockeyed into position by a luckier-than-lucky killer, who’s surely got psychic abilities to be able to turn up in the right place at the right time every time!

We’re dragged back to campus for the finale, at which point the killer’s identity is revealed and this is the part where most people who didn’t like the film probably groaned aloud. Yes, it’s stupid and campy. No, the assailant probably couldn’t have possibly done most of the things they did. My God, that motive is cheesy! But hey, hell hath no fury, right? And that should spell out who it is if nothing else does!

ul10a

Ugly Betty scribe Horta adds enough humour to offset all the slashin’ and killin’, while Aussie helmer Blanks makes the best of the ultra-pristine university setting, even if he has too strong a penchant for strobe work and jump-cuts. It wouldn’t be easy to make a film like Urban Legend work; stringing together separate stories and making them all connect to the same group of people, perpetrated by one person is neo-impossible, hence the abject ridiculousness of it all.

I love the outcome, I love the killer’s soliliquy and I love the production quality. As it functions as a mystery, most people make their final judgement based on how satisfying the answers to their questions are. Somebody told me who the killer was before I saw the film so I was not let down by anything, if anything it set things up to make a majorly positive impression because it checked all my favourite boxes. Most of these things are down to the choice of Witt as Natalie, who wields a great scream, convinces as a college girl and makes the best face ever when it comes to facing off with the killer…

ul9a

Love. It. I want an ‘I Heart Urban LegendT-shirt. I’d wear it with pride alongside my Voorhees hockey top and Camp Crystal Lake Counselor shirt. The world might well be a better place if we all loved Urban Legend. No, really, it might!

Blurbs-of-interest: Loretta Devine was the only cast member to return for the largely-unrelated sequel, Final Cut, and the third film was all but an island, but still good. Rumours of a fourth come and go, it’d be nice if they did a ‘Return to Pendleton’ flick..! Gayheart and Jackson both make small appearances in Scream 2; Danielle Harris later turned up in Rob Zombie’s Halloween and its sequel and also Hatchet II, Blood Night, and ChromeSkull: Laid to Rest 2. Julian Richings (the creepy caretaker) was Three-Finger in Wrong Turn, and of course Englund and Dourif turn up all over the place in cameos and stuff. Jamie Blanks turned out Valentine three years later to even less positive reviews and a couple of other horror films more recently.

1 22 23 24 25