Welcome to Four Horsemen Films!

Here at Four Horsemen Films, we're dedicated to some of the very best and worst cinematic masterpieces you know, love, and despise. Think of us as Bad Movies for Bad People, or as a liaison to the inner sanctum of cinema. Or, just think of us as quick and entertaining reads. That's what Four Horsemen Films is all about.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Friday the 13th Part 2 (1981)

Friday the 13th, Part 2 (1981)
Written By: Ron Kurz

Directed By: Steve Miner

Starring: Amy Steel, John Furey, Adrienne King

Country of Origin: United States of America

The Idea:
It has become the prototypical device of any major Hollywood venture to produces sequels, prequels, and remakes in an effort to drive up sales on the original franchise for any 90-minute picture. Motion picture sequels got their start when Son of Kong made its debut the same year as King Kong, signaling the start of a glorious and altogether tainted legacy for any movie with a minimum of one follow-up.

Moviemakers worldwide pull no punches when making a new installment to capitalize on the previous one. How many sequels can you name that lived up to (or even surpassed) their predecessor? The short list may include The Godfather, Part II, The Empire Strikes Back, and arguable titles like Bad Boys 2 and Toy Story 2. To put it simply, that’s four titles in over 100 years of American cinema, making the list of cosmic failures desperately immense.

No genre has been slighted as badly by these macabre offspring quite like the horror genre. When talking about the pioneers of modern horror, you seldom hear of a film that left a legacy of sequels that were even “watchable,” much less decent. Each franchise gained its own cult status with a contingency of loyal fans dedicated to exploring the canon and background of their selected monsters, murderers, and madmen. But the same sentiments are echoed throughout all of this niche communities: the sequels fumbled where the originals scored.

Friday the 13th Part 2 is by no means a bad movie, but it is also not a very good one. Hurried along creatively in an effort to collect on the Summer success of the original, Part 2 diligently attempts to take on a brand new face (literally) and bridge the gap for further franchise exploitation. Using a clever plot device to go over the previous film’s events, Alice Hardy, the sole survivor of Pamela Voorhees’ gruesome Crystal Lake rampage, is attempting to salvage her life and put the pieces back together just months later. She fails, and is killed in a manner most anticlimactic just a scant 15 minutes into the production. I’d say that this was one of the moer disappointing aspects of Part 2’s mindless violence, but the same could be said of Count Dooku’s abrupt sendoff in Episode 3 after nearly all of Attack of the Clones was spent building his character. George Lucas stealing from horror movies? No wonder folks want him to skip on the Indy 5 discussion.

While we are led to believe that Alice’s death comes just months after the first massacre, the remainder of this movie is set five years afterward despite the filming having taken place just months after. Remember when the Jeepers Creepers sequel came out just a few years after the first despite the fact that the Creeper only comes out every 23 years? When you’re making money, you’re allowed to balk at continuity. Moving on.

Our new bunch of camp counselors are stationed at a campground adjacent to the condemned Camp Crystal Lake (what is this, Summer Camp Central?). They’re all given the horrifying details of what once happened over the hills and through the woods, but with a new twist: the townspeople apparently believe that Jason, the young boy who drowned and whose mother went on a killing spree, is still alive. Some say he’s protecting the woods from further deviance, and others claim he’s just fashioning himself an entrepreneurial business out of bear skins.

Basically, all you really need to know about our back story is that Jason is out for revenge for his drowning, the death of his mother, and any other things that piss him off on a day-to-day basis. With Jason in the fold, it is time to sit back and enjoy the bloodshed.

Body Count Roll Call:
Billy Hardy, Alice’s Son: Decapitated off-screen, the remaining head was stuffed into a refrigerator.
Alice Hardy, Former Camp Counselor, Sole Survivor of Friday the 13th: Gored with a screwdriver in the head.
Crazy Ralph, Superstitious Townsperson: Strangled against a tree with a wire.
Cop: Struck in the head with a claw hammer.
Scott, Camp Counselor: Throat slit with backend of a machete whilst hanging upside down.
Terry, Camp Counselor: Killed off-screen.
Mark, Handicapped Camp Counselor: Slashed in the face with the backend of a machete, then sent plummeting down a staircase in his wheelchair in the rain.
Jeff, Camp Counselor: Impaled with a spear while cuddling naked with Sandra (he was on top).
Sandra, Camp Counselor: Impaled with a spear while cuddling naked with Jeff (she was on bottom).
Vickie, Camp Counselor: Stabbed in the leg and chest.

The Numbers:
Murders by Pamela Voorhees: 9 in Part 1
Murders by Jason Voorhees: 10
Men Killed: 6 (11 Total)
Women Killed: 4 (9 Total)
Camp Counselors Killed: 6 (15 Total)
Animals Killed: 1 unidentified, assumed to be a dog (2 Total)
Total Body Count for the Series: 20 (not including animals)

Final Thoughts:
Much of what you see in Friday the 13th Part 2 could actually have been far superior, and, if anything, this film had numerous missed opportunities that leave you in disbelief rather than terror. The producers are much more in it for the psych-out and cheap scares than the overall plot, which for the first hour, is a carbon copy of the original film. The end product is truly rushed and seems to disregard a number of important plotlines and cast members towards the end. In a way, Jason isn’t made to look like anything but an incompetent killer rather than the unstoppable lunatic. Wearing a burlap potato sack instead of the signature hockey mask (which had yet to be revealed in the series) didn’t help matters, making our antagonist look ridiculous rather than menacing. Several camp counselors are unaccounted for in the final 10 minutes, giving this movie the highest technical survival count of any in the series. In fact, those counselors were off in town drinking and smoking, a chronic no-no of anyone who dares survive one of these movies. Some of the death scenes treaded the same water as Friday the 13th, while others, like Mark’s wheelchair freefall, were easily the most sadistic in the series. And the ending is more confusing than decisive, a motif that would haunt audiences for years to come. At the time of its release, Friday the 13th Part 2 had to compete with any number of slasher rip-offs trying to make a quick buck off of the original film. Too bad it ended up looking just like one of them.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Friday the 13th (1980)

Friday the 13th (1980)
Written By: Victor Miller

Directed By: Sean S. Cunningham

Starring: Betsy Palmer, Adrienne King, Jeannine Taylor, Robbi Morgan, Kevin Bacon, Harry Crosby, Laurie Bartham, Mark Nelson

Country of Origin: United States of America

The Idea:
Friday the 13th. What can I possibly say that will offer up a new dimension to the most exhausted, most lucrative horror franchise in the history of American cinema? The Jason Voorhees hockey mask is as iconic to the silver screen as the three circles that form a Mickey Mouse emblem is to children. There has never been, nor will there ever be, a series as important to the genre that specializes in blood, guts, and gore as Friday the 13th.

What was once a scarier-than-hell exercise in torture and panic has become an almost essential date movie, luring in fans of all ages to jampacked theaters in hopes of seeing their least favorite counselor get strewn across the screen in a violent rampage. It has been deemed everything from revolutionary to obscene and holds as many special awards from around the globe as it does cease-and-desist letters. When you’re talking about horror movies, it would be impossible to ignore the mammoth contributions of the series that brought red meat back to the American movie theater.

As a reviewer for a website that specializes in bad movies (or good movies people think are bad), it has been a long, strenuous battle as to whether or not the Friday the 13th series belongs as a prominently featured piece. The fact of the matter is that with all the references, rip-offs, and wannabes flooding the market nearly thirty years later, an important history lesson might well be the best way to tackle the franchise, one film at a time. With that in mind, we begin with the movie that notoriously knocked The Empire Strikes Back from its box office pedestal in the Summer of 1980, Friday the 13th.

Starting with a 1958 flashback, Friday the 13th wastes little time setting the tone for a creepy and violent exhibition for the macabre only. The first in a slew of counselor purges occurs when an unidentified stalker leaps out of the shadows with a butcher knife and thirst of blood. Fast forward to present day (or 1980), and it appears as if the new class of counselors for Camp Crystal Lake are reading to begin again despite the history of the infamously named “Camp Blood.”

And now, I will attempt to give you a brief but not too confusing history lesson on Camp Crystal Lake. In 1957, the camp experienced a major tragedy when a young boy drowned in Crystal Lake. The following year, our aforementioned double murders took place, making the came uninhabitable for over 20 years. No one ever found the murderer on that evening, but since time has aged the old campground past the point for “Reasonable Suspicion,” these young up and comers believe they can revive it to a prosperous summer oasis once again. The townspeople respectfully disagree, hence the bastardization “Camp Blood.”

Now that you’ve been given the basics of the story, I guess there’s nothing left do but watch the heads fly as the campers get dead one by one like they’re part of an Agatha Christie epic. Rather than keep you preoccupied with minute details, I’ve decided that this series requires a different sort of review, so spoilers abound in the next few sections.

Body Count Roll Call:
Barry, 1958 Camp Counselor: Stabbed in the abdomen while attempting to defend himself from sexual prosecution.
Claudette, 1958 Camp Counselor: Killed during ensuing struggle, death not shown.
Alice, Camp Counselor/Cook: Throat slashed in the woods.
Ned, Camp Counselor: Throat slashed in a cabin.
Jack, Camp Counselor: Gored through the throat with an arrow.
Marcie, Camp Counselor: Axed in the face.
Brenda, Camp Counselor: Murdered off-screen, later thrown through a window.
Steve, Camp Owner and Counselor: Murdered off-screen, strung upside down in a later scene.
Bill, Camp Counselor: Shot repeatedly with arrows.
Pamela Voorhees, Killer: Decapitated.

The Numbers:
Murders by Pamela Voorhees: 9
Murders by Jason Voorhees: 0 (though a pretty traumatic attempted drowning at the end)
Men Killed: 5
Women Killed: 5
Camp Counselors Killed: 9
Animals Killed: 1 snake
Total Body Count for the Series: 10, including Mrs. Voorhees but not including animals.

Final Thoughts:
The original Friday the 13th is everything that’s right with horror encapsulated in a 90-minute free ride. The story is loosely tied together by an “urban legend” style haunting that keeps you spellbound while the producers create cheap scares in between death scenes. The counselors are believable enough as a crew of ragtag misfits assigned to keep the place from burning down, if they don’t do it first by partying too hard. The acting isn’t great, but it isn’t terrible either, and that’s not just because of Betsy Palmer and Kevin Bacon. Musically, this movie was one of the first to understand that a dramatic score can make a suspenseful sequence that much better. Original credit for that should probably go to John Carpenter’s Halloween, but the perfect execution of sound and sight is truly here. We’re even treated to the incarnation of one of the greatest standards in horror: Do bad things and you die. Taking in pleasures of the flesh, or enjoying drugs and alcohol is a nice way to mark yourself for termination. And of course, let us never forget that in a genre obsessed with pseudo-endings and swerve surprises, this was always one of the best. Pamela Voorhees’ emergence as the lead antagonist borrowed elements from the twisted Psycho while keeping the same tongue-in-cheek dark humor that gave The Last House on the Left a reputation. Tom Savini was at the top of the peak with makeup and special effects artistry here and two years previous on the set of Dawn of the Dead. Commercially speaking, it seems highly unlikely that we will ever see such a perfect collaboration hit the screen for a genre that lately makes its money by rebooting and rehashing everything in sight. Then again, the most lucrative parts of the Friday the 13th franchise stem directly from such an idea, so perhaps it is “point proven” for executives looking to slash budgets as well as fresh teenagers.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Soultaker (1990)

Soultaker (1990)
Written By: Vivan Schilling & Eric Parkinson

Directed By: Michael Rissi

Starring: Joe Estevez, Vivian Schilling, Gregg Thomsen, Robert Z’Dar, David Fralick.

Country of Origin: United States of America

The Idea:
I wouldn’t say that I’m easily impressed, but when it comes to writing reviews and watching bad movies, then maybe I’m easily swayed. The values I’ve rediscovered in the past few weeks via my Video Cassette Player have breathed new life into the website and my passion for the truly awful. In fact, I’ve become a scavenger of sorts; more willing to dig through the stacks at my local Goodwill than I am to peruse the new DVD shelves in a Best Buy. Facing facts isn’t easy, but if I must, I wholeheartedly acknowledge that my VHS lust is out of control.

I suppose you can imagine how excited I was, then, when I found this little number hanging on the shelf by itself at the local thrift. For less than a dollar, I was able to secure myself a copy of yet another MST3K-parodied gem, Soultaker. Look at that poster at the top of the page. Stare at it for as long as you can. When you see that on the front of the VHS box, you probably reacted just like me: holy shit, this will be awesome. The only way it could be better is if the tagline for Soultaker was "He'll Take Your Soul." It made no difference to me that the film was from a company no one had ever heard of, a video distributor that walked the fine line of decency, and contained a cast of “has been” or “never was” actors. This was something different. This was Soultaker, damn it.

Chances are you’re in one of two select groups when talking about this film: either you’ve never heard of Soultaker, or you’re part of the fan club. When it comes to a movie that is this, well-documented its hard for folks to sit on the fence. The story is very loose, which, at least, allows for it to flow quickly. A ragtag crew of youngsters looking to party and have some fun will soon have their party crashed and their hopes dashed as they wind up dead courtesy of the menacing (and sometimes incomprehensible) Soultakers. And with all this sex and violence mixing up in the early 90’s, its no wonder that we’ve got clich├ęs galore.

First of all, this movie exemplifies what it is to be a “macho man” in the late 80’s/early 90’s. Mullets, the “Wet Look,” goofy sunglasses, no chest hair, short shorts and cutoff t-shirts: man, this is rough. As if the men oozing machismo towards the no-class, low self-esteem vaginal crowd isn’t enough to get you interested, our lead teens (who look at least 35) seem to be torn lovers brought back together by fate…or something like that. If you don’t get enjoyment out of the fashion statements when juxtaposed to the tension of the plot, then you might want to fast forward.

Joe Estevez (brother to Martin Sheen, so yes, he’s part of the family), plays only the second creepiest Soultaker on the prowl as these kids drink and drive. The first is a large, Thor meets Fabio like creature with an incredibly huge face. His jaw width alone has to be some kind of Guinness World Record. Estevez, complete with pocket watch, determines that these kids are out of time given their reckless ways, and after about three minutes of alternating shots between the turmoil in the car and live-action pole position footage, they finally pay dirt (or just regular dirt). When Estevez heads in to claim the souls, a ritual he performs while giving his best Shang Tsung impression, he is only able to obtain one of the five teens. Estevez transfers the soul into something that appears to be a glow-in-the-dark cock ring in the interim. He must now hunt down the remaining four and complete his job,

Here’s where it gets confusing: they’ve pretty much split the reality plane in two, wherein all of them died in the automobile accident, yet their spirits believe nothing has truly gone wrong and they can still walk as mortals. Think of this as “Sixth Sense” disease, in which the dead with unfinished business walk the Earth not realizing they are in fact deceased. Yet, they’re not exactly dead either, since they have vital signs in reality and are simply in a comatose state. Whenever the Soultaker hunts down a member of his prey (which he does to Bleach-Blonde-Brad about five minutes later), he literally kills the spirit and then makes it evaporate into thin air. Then, in reality, they flat line. So what happens when the spirits discover their separation from the real bodies? Well, unlike the typical collaboration of body and soul upon the realization of actuality, these guys just don’t seem to comprehend the circumstances beyond their control. Are you getting all this? There will be a quiz.

Quickly, it comes down to the former lovebirds against the Soultakers, but the ante is raised up when Natalie, our lead temptress, is sort of reincarnated former love for Estevez. What follows is your typical pursuit thriller that raises serious questions about the real “evil” of Estevez. He’s almost sympathetic. Or maybe just pathetic. Either way, you’ll feel the same for him as you do for the movie.

Quote of the Film:
“They seem to think that someone’s trying to kill them tonight.” -Mrs. McMillan, an awesome mom, spirit medium, and negotiator.

Final Thoughts:
To their credit, the makers of Soultaker do a fabulous job of raising the all-important question as to whether or not you can be displaced from your body and feel stuck in some kind of Purgatory awaiting closure. Movies as thrilling and psychological as The Sixth Sense examined this theory, as did much less notable films like Casper. The concept alone is a great one to toy with and can be explored in about nine thousand different directions. All that said, this movie fails to truly explore any of those dimensions past the “but are we dead? Or are we alive?” conundrum that reels in the tedious stale fish after about 15 minutes. Like I said, the concept of life after death, purgatory, fate of your soul and everything in between is really cool. This movie isn’t.

Monday, January 25, 2010

The Horrible Doctor Bones (2000)

The Horrible Doctor Bones (2000)

Written By: Raymond Forchion

Directed By: Ted Nicolaou

Starring: Darrow Igus, Larry Bates, Sarah Scott Davis, Rhonda Claerbaut, Danny Wooten, Tangelina Rouse.

Country of Origin: United States of America

The Idea:
I firmly believe that watching bad movies takes years off of my life. While there is a definitive truth in this (simply spending 90 minutes at a time on these masterpieces is time I’ll never get back), I actually believe that these movies are aging me horribly, day-by-day. But with only one life to live, I want to spend many of my remaining years remembering the fond times when I scoped out a diamond in the rough and found that it had more of a social and geo-political statement than anything currently in the A-List (I’m referring to you, Avatar). Tonight’s picture is not one of those kind of films. Instead, we’re getting The Horrible Doctor Bones, the second entry for Full Moon Pictures in as many publications.

An aside, if you read the review for Dead & Rotting, then you’re probably well aware that this is the other Full Moon VHS currently in my possession, so it likely means more of the same. And a further aside to the aside, my trailers that supplant this film are far worse than the other video. First, I get a trailer for a poorly done, low-budget voodoo doll epic, Ragdoll. Then, as if that wasn’t enough, I get two more commercials for Ragdoll, one hyping the action figure of the menacing voodoo killing doll from the film, and one hyping the soundtrack. These two commercials are then in duplicate for The Horrible Doctor Bones even before I’ve watched the movie. The action figure costs $19.99, minus shipping and handling. This VHS cost me .99 Cents. We’re off to a hot start, folks.

The titular character of this one doesn’t take long for his presence to be known. Dr. Bones is in fact a record producer that lures young talent into his underground studio for sound and music experiments. Now, I’m not sure what’s weirder here: the fact that whenever Bones appears onscreen, a bizarre sound effect that sounds like a plunger in action plays, or the fact that his musical experiments result in his test subjects doing less rapping and more head exploding than planned. I’m gonna say, just this once, that the whole head exploding murder thing is probably meant to be the primary focus of these bewildering goings on.

From the get-go, this one sets up just like the other Full Moon entry, in that we’re spending a lot of time getting nowhere, all the while noticing dozens of continuity and plot errors, many of which IMDB would likely site as being “intentional by the cast and crew.” During the first 20 minutes alone, characters seem to have incredible projection abilities during their band auditions, creating microphone feedback whilst not even speaking into or near the microphone (which isn’t plugged into anything). There’s a few drummer close-ups that reveal a lack of playing or acting like playing ability as well as a bassist and a keyboardist, both of whom fail at pantomime (and their instruments are plugged into anything, either). The speakers in the background serve little purpose in such a small arena which also, apparently, has its own lighting production crew. And as if I haven’t pointed out enough stupidity, the Urban Protectors, the band with whom we are supposed to relate and support given that they are the only protagonists this film has sprouted yet, audition with a song that does something really bizarre for a live track: fade out. The song fades out. Now that is pure genius. Spend enough money on the movie for an action figure and a soundtrack, but forget that when using songs for the flick, you might want to reedit them for the audience’s benefit. The leads also toast out of Dixie Cups when they sign their record deal. Dixie Cups are gangster.

Now, while I can bash the complete and total laziness of cast and crew alike in this production (and I have), The Horrible Doctor Bones is not without some upside. It spends more time than the regular horror movie building a backdrop for the principle characters and Darrow Igus is actually halfway decent as Dr. Bones himself. He manages to manipulate the band into believing he can make them rich and famous, yet he’s already accumulated a body count higher than any albums or millions they’ve actually made. Bones brings out the innermost demons and troubles within each of the four Urban Protectors, making great strides towards his evil conception.

All of this has happened, yet the blood, guts, and gore that we likely thought we were going to get hasn’t. In fact, I anticipate that it won’t happen. Ever. You see, this movie takes all day to get absolutely nowhere. Dr. Bones is more concerned with lies, voodoo, and treachery than he is actually, you know, ripping someone’s head off. There is some heart-squishing and a few visuals of a devil-inspired Dr. Bones, but other than that, you really don’t get the big payoff you were hoping for.

Quote of the Film:

“Baby, if you was an ice cream cone, you’d definitely be licked.” -Pookie. Yes, Pookie.

Final Thoughts:
Unlike the actual music industry, most of this movie is completely out of sync with anything entertaining, and, ironically, makes you feel like your head is exploding. An inordinate amount of time is spent filming piss poor, underground music videos and blacksploitation for the 21st century. And clocking in at just over 72 minutes, that’s time they really didn’t have to waste, making this hardly a full-length feature film at all. Think of it more as a music video with brief spurts of acting, killing, makeup, and really terrible plot, and you’ll be watching an extended and uninspiring Thriller rip off. In fact, for a cast made up entirely of African-Americans, you’re somewhat surprised that one of them doesn’t play the race card given the overwhelming minstrelsy presented on the screen. Believe it or not, that may actually be a good thing. There are some very real circumstances and situations that the characters are put in, and the writing, from a dialogue standpoint, stands up stronger than 90% of horror movies released around the same time. The issues that these kids face should be reflective of their internal struggles with Dr. Bones, but instead, all of that falls by the wayside in favor of a very plodding, slow film that does little to showcase horror or scares. Sure it’s cheap, but you should never discount how important a good death scene is when matched up against the likes of this.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Dead & Rotting (2002)

Dead & Rotting (2002)

Written By: David P. Barton and Douglas Snauffer

Directed By: David P. Barton

Starring: Stephen O'Mahoney, Tom Hoover, Debbie Rochon, Trent Haaga, Jeff Dylan Graham, Barbara Katz-Norrod.

Country of Origin: United States of America

The Idea:
Like most Americans, I no longer own much in the way of video cassette tapes. Long gone are the ways of the VCR and VHS formats, save for some beautiful gems yet to be released on DVD. The upcoming film is likely not one of them. Looking over my options for tonight’s review, I came across not one, but two entries from Full Moon Studios, the production company known most notably for the Puppet Master cult phenomenon. In fact, when you look at the history of Full Moon, you can look no further than Puppet Master, because over the years, it’s the one franchise that has kept them in business and making money.

Full Moon was a company intentionally founded on the ideals that a lower budget film could still mirror what a big budget smash had to offer, and, for the most part, Full Moon delivers on exactly what it promises. Tonight’s selection, Dead & Rotting, is a great example of such b-grade schlock. This movie fits into about three or four subgenres of horror cinema, including Full Moon. Truth be told, the main subgenre that this picture falls into is the woman-on-a-rampage-out-to-get-deadly-revenge-genre. Mostly explored through vintage exploitation movies, it had a more recent renaissance with the release of Quentin Tarantino’s Death Proof. But tonight, this one finds itself so low on the totem pole, it makes Deadly Daphne’s Revenge look like Alien or Aliens, specifically if Ellen Ripley was involved.

Our story, as it begins, is about three men looking to punish an old witch rumored to live out in the woods. And while you might say that I’m calling her names, the truth of the matter is that everyone in this small, possibly-inbred town believes she is indeed a witch. They refer to her house as the witch house. The townspeople accuse her of the usual kind of mischief: razor blades in apples, terrorizing the youth, failing to water the grass or mow the lawn. You know, really evil, murderous kind of shit. She seems like a sweet lady to me, except that she treats her son like he’s a cat. And that too, is because he is. He transforms into one. I can’t make this shit up. That kind of motherly care inevitably leads to trouble, however. When her son is beaten down for being awkward by the three drunken stooges, she concocts a plan of revenge that promises to make them feel like they are “dead and rotting.” By the next day, all three men experience hallucination and begin to grow boils on their face that look more like everlasting gobstoppers. I hope somebody informed Mr. Slugworth.

But once the random influenza passes, the men plot a revenge on her once again, and, in true redneck fashion, fail to believe that she cursed them. They blame poison ivy instead, and in their overzealous state, they boil the cat (remember, that’s the witch’s son) on the stove as a present. Now who in their right mind isn’t rooting for the witch 20 minutes in? I mean, if the internet anonymous and social elite has taught us anything, its that you don’t fuck with cats. Everybody loves cats. Cut to her new plan, a revenge that turns out to be far worse than a simple spit of dust and two-day flu bug. She’s transformed into a beautiful young woman, and she plans to seduce the men to their doom.

Not surprisingly, the movie itself is very, very low grade and in parts, very stupid. When cutting costs on your budget and suppressing the need for quality, you create some horrible conceptual anomalies. After having sex with all three men, our harrowing witch can be seen giving birth to a bloody-crawfish type thing (keep in mind she had sex with them one day earlier) that she puts into a skull, and then puts that skull inside of a pumpkin. Then she buries the pumpkin. Think of it as an unholy nesting egg. And voila! Her army of undead super soldiers is born, ready to wreak havoc on those three rednecks. In an attempt to detail just what is going on this movie, I prove my point by realizing how terribly overambitious this project is becoming. It is all parts bizarre, and not in the “unintentionally funny” sort of way. The acting is third or fourth rate, the camerawork is reminiscent of a 3rd grade Paul Greengrass, and even the makeup and special effects, if I haven’t mentioned it before, look more like candies than blood and guts. Even the blades her minions are using to pick off the unsuspecting farmers are just...well...plastic. I mean they're clearly never going to break the skin, and it doesn't translate realistically to the viewing audience. They'd have been better off putting in 20 bucks for a digital depiction via James Cameron's favorite moneymaker, CGI.

And as if all of this wasn’t enough to get you to turn it off (or me to stop watching the VHS), we incorporated a second witch and a spell that might as well be named "Deus Ex Machina" to fight off the original spell caster. Happy endings, and not just in the sexual way!

Quote of the Film:
“That was the best I’ve ever had with a woman…as beautiful as you are.” -Eric, Wormy Redneck (Nice Save)

Final Thoughts:
Did I ever mention that one of the best parts of an old, crappy horror VHS is the old, crappy, horror trailers for other films in front of the feature presentation? Bumping Dead & Rotting were trailers for a stripper-vampire-skin flick called Cryptz, a reality television splatter fest that borders on the supernatural called Hell Asylum, and the genuinely horrifying clown slasher sequel, Killjoy 2. Amidst all of the badness that I’ve just viewed, I wouldn’t mind watching these three movies as well. Full Moon seems to understand that when you’re bad and on a tight budget, you’re allowed to get away with pretty much anything. When the surviving men killed the witch in this movie, I formulated a week-long alternate ending that seemed to be highly more logical and ended with the witch getting the best of these horny bastards. Of course, my ending also involved semen, but I think that’s the joy of watching Full Moon schlock. If they can get away with anything, I can write a review saying so and even incorporate my own alternate semen-ending and have it be just as plausible.

Monday, December 21, 2009

No Holds Barred (1989)

No Holds Barred (1989)

Written By: Dennis Hackin

Directed By: Thomas J. Wright

Starring: Hulk Hogan, Joan Severance, Kurt Fuller, Tony ‘Tiny’ Lister

Country of Origin: United States of America

The Idea:
The name says it all. Hulk Hogan. There has never been, nor do I expect there ever to be, a bigger name in the world of professional wrestling. Sure, you all have the list of names you could rattle off that compare, but EVERYBODY in the world has heard of Hulk Hogan. He’s a former five-time World Wrestling Federation Champion that starred as Thunderlips in Rocky III and made the terms WrestleMania and Hulkamania household and global. Say what you will about the state of his current situations, he’s still Hulk Fucking Hogan.

So it should come as no surprise that Vince McMahon and the WWF wanted to capitalize in any way they could on the Hulkster’s ever-growing popularity. The fastest and easiest way in the business of pro wrestling to get that license to print money is to merchandise the hell out of your talents. Hulkamania wouldn’t be what it was if you didn’t market the man to a wider demographic by slapping his face on everything you possibly could. There were Hulk Hogan action figures, water guns, coin banks, t-shirts, pants, championship belts, headbands, teddy bears, Frisbees, alarm clocks, watches, shoes, hats, slippers, and toothbrushes, and that’s just what I recall in my collection. Of course, it should go without saying by this point, that there were Hulk Hogan movies, too. In fact, both Hogan and McMahon recognized the need to make Hulk an even bigger star than he had already grown to be. So after Hogan’s appearance in Rocky III, the crew went to work on another cinematic epic of altogether different proportions: No Holds Barred.

The term itself is a vintage wrestling colloquialism about a knockdown, drag-out donnybrook between bitter rivals. So just by hearing it attached to the name Hulk Hogan, you would assume you’re in for a thrill ride of epic clashes between Hogan and evil villains in some phantom outlaw world. Sadly, this would actually be the plot of a slightly less and slightly better Hogan film, Suburban Commando. No Holds Barred, however, decided to rest comfortably on the idea that they could be completely unimaginative, stupid, and campy and still get by on Hulk Hogan as a legitimate action star. The following evidence supports this case.

Hogan plays Rip, the World Wrestling Federation Champion and most popular number one super guy in all the known world. He’s the biggest star and everybody, especially competing television networks, is desperate to get Rip for a ratings plug. Did Hogan executive produce this so that he could play a character that is an even more egotistical version of himself? Actually, yes, he did.

Rip is the essential “say your prayers, eat your vitamins” version of Hogan that most of us grew up with. He fights the bad guys in the ring and gives back to his many charities and friends in his off-times. You’d never once stop to think what would happen if Rip had children that were untalented moochers who live off of his money so they can crash cars and record shitty music albums. No, that would be too much like Hogan. He’s playing Rip, a better version of…himself. Big stretch there. Rip’s influence on the world is borderline orgasmic to everyone he comes in contact with, but more on that later. For now, we’ll stay focused on the World Television Network, a rival station (though it is never made clear what channel the WWF is being broadcast on, either) and its crude owner, Mr. Brell. Brell has a vision in which everyone who isn’t on the same wavelength as he is immediately becomes a “jockass” (his words, not mine) and we should do anything possible to lure Rip to the network.

Brell, played by Kurt “I played a network executive in Wayne’s World, also” Fuller, is a total dick. He does everything in his power to treat his people like garbage, making sexist and sometimes racist remarks to them whilst never losing track of his quest to keep Rip exclusive to WTN. He even goes so far as to hire Rip a new publicist, Samantha, played by Joan “I feel like I was paid for this movie in” Severance. Not surprisingly, after weeks of following Rip around on the road attempting to seduce him over to the WTN and Brell, Samantha falls for the giant oaf. After all, what’s not to love about Rip? As if his already mammoth reputation hasn’t won you over, he’s a listing of some other things he can do through the course of cinema magic:
-Makes footprint indentations on the outside of limousines by kicking them from the inside
-Explodes through sunroofs with Michael Jordan-esque vertical leaps
-Terrifies toadies into shitting themselves on cue for comedic effect
-Speaks fluent French
-Creates hilarious anecdotes while oiled up and naked (side note: I got to see Hulk Hogan’s ASS way too many times in this movie)
-Saves restaurants and diners with his impeccable chair throwing technique
-Sets off pyrotechnics by throwing barbells at neon signs and mirrors
-Cures Cancer (probably)

With all of his plans blowing up, Brell decides to create the incredibly homoerotic “Battle of the Tough Guys” in an attempt to lure Rip to his network. Somehow, this shoot fighting, mixed-martial arts style of competition draws big ratings, especially when Brell introduces a cross-eyed monster by the name of Zeus. Zeus terrorizes opponents in the ring, and women and children out of it. He nearly cripples Rip’s brother Randy until Rip agrees to fight Zeus one-on-one on Brell’s network. What follows is a long, boring match that starts in a wrestling ring (despite advertisements of no ring, referee, or rules, which clearly, all three are present) and ends when Zeus tumbles a few stories to his assumed death while Brell finds a new and interesting way to electrocute himself to death. Nobody seems to care about Rip’s multiple homicide caught on tape, as the film ends in that generally awesome everybody loves everybody way that the 80’s made famous.

Quote of the Film:
“Dookie?” -Rip
Final Thoughts:
Its funny, because if you really wanted to delve into the complete and total works that this movie has to offer, you’d recognize that WWF inadvertently predicted their own latent competition with the rise of MMA and UFC in the states. Sure, it isn’t a Battle of the Tough Guys, but you get the picture. While I criticize this movie for being unimaginative, I do so for the all-to-obvious combination of Hogan and McMahon failing to come up with something different from their everyday lives. Did you know that they sat in a hotel room for three days completely rewriting this script when they didn’t like the first draft? And this is what they came up with? In the months that followed, Hogan feuded with Zeus on WWF television at both SummerSlam and the Survivor Series, until what was supposed to be a one-on-one encounter at WrestleMania VI. But when box office and pay-per-view receipts turned up less than expected, Vince McMahon axed the idea and went with the backup plan of having Hulk Hogan defend the World title against the up and coming Ultimate Warrior. I wonder how that ended?

Friday, January 9, 2009

Sleepaway Camp III: Teenage Wasteland (1989)

Sleepaway Camp III: Teenage Wasteland (1989)
Written By: Fritz Gordon

Directed By:
Michael A. Simpson

Pamela Springsteen, Tracy Griffith, Michael J. Pollard, Mark Oliver, Haynes Brooke

Country of Origin:
United States of America

The Idea:
I am recognizing a few flaws in my previous entries in this series. I don't believe I mentioned it previously, but the time it took for the producers of the original cult film in this line, that being Sleepaway Camp, is just unfathomable. Even during the 80's, the filmmakers on this project and the previous one, Sleepaway Camp II: Unhappy Campers, waited approximately five years before releasing back-to-back sequels. Think about that for a second: When Back to the Future was released in 1985, Robert Zemeckis didn't ponder what could be. He acted on his bankable commodity and created a pair of sequels as well that saw release in under four years. Figuring that the BTTF series had a budget much larger than that of these movies, it is justifiable that it would take this long.

But why in God's name did we have to wait five and six years respectively for the conclusion of something so low budget that it could have been made in a single Summer as a three-film set? I present to you Sleepaway Camp III: Teenage Wasteland, a movie that takes its name alone from The Who's "Baba O'Riley." Any similarities between this movie and that song end right there. Sleepaway Camp III is the weakest in the series, and not just because The Boss didn't make a cameo appearance.

Filmed back-to-back with Sleepaway Camp II, we find ourselves in a familiar predicament: Angela Baker is at large once again, tearing through the world of teeny campers with no real motivation other than that she is one messed up...uh...woman. In the opening ten minutes alone, Angela runs over an incoming camper with a garbage truck and assumes her identity. I would love to question where she found the means to steal and operate said truck, but hey, who has time for logistics?

Angela's fellow campers this time around have all been rescued from various broken homes and juvenile detention centers in the area; places where she herself should be quite familiar with. What ensues is more murder and mayhem in the same sadistic fashion as before, except that Angela seems to have lost that imaginative spark she once had. If we were to look at the lasting novelty of the series, we'd notice that the biggest draw of these campy epics are the outlandish, bizarre, and often completely impossible death scenes. Too bad they skipped on them come round 3. Sure, it is still pretty gory, with Angela tearing off some limbs, forcing campers to snort poisonous chemicals instead of their cocaine, and even using blunt instruments to the extremes, but when she just shoots a guy for no other reason than to watch him die, I begin to lose interest in this massacre.

A gun? Really? What happened to the girl/boy that drowned a girl in a mound of shit? What about the girl/boy that flooded the pedophile with boiling hot water? What about the curling iron? Did you forget about the curling iron up the vagina? Where did our precious memories of the series go to? Apparently, by the time they needed to film this one, they just decided that beating someone with a tree branch was just as effective for the audience. In a word: Wrong.

In an attempt to redeem the film, there are dozens of references to other horror films and pop culture icons of the past and present, but none of them serves an particular purpose in the canon. After approximately 90 minutes of waiting for Angela to break out into "Born in the U.S.A.," she is defeated by the few surviving "good girls and boys" style campers who managed to evade her brief killing spree. When all looks to be over, go figure that Angela would rise up and kill the paramedics taking her to the hospital. I question the very intent behind that move, as Angela puts herself in quite the vicious cycle by doing so. Her fate undetermined, she rides off into the sunset and we are left the same way we were each film before.

Member of the crew who should've been fired: Writer Fritz Gordon must have exhausted himself with that "stellar" approach he brought to Sleepaway Camp II, because he just gave up in Sleepaway Camp III. Same story, same idea, same campers (some of them), same ending. Been here before, and it sucked then, too.

Best Name in the Cast: Three cheers for Pamela Springsteen, who once again takes the cake for the award. Yes, Baby Bruce worked on no other projects of note (save for Fast Times at Ridgemont High), and yet she manages to excel as a raving psychopath with no motivation and a serious gender complex. I can still hold out for her to sing "The Wrestler," though.

Quote of the Film:
"I like movies with really good acting, like Gone With the Wind or Care Bears." -Cindy (Seriously, WTF?)

Final Thoughts:
With the completion of this film, a fourth entered pre-production and looked promising. Entitled Sleepaway Camp IV: The Survivor, the film was to take place long after the original horrific events and it even had seeds of doubt planted about who the killer would be. Supposedly going to be another shocker, only 30 minutes of principle photography were ever released. The rest is shrouded in mystery, an unfortunate casualty of the disinterest that loomed after the release of Sleepaway Camp III. In fact, for nearly 20 years, it was the preceding film that killed the franchise in a most unjust fashion. Luckily for us, the original creators and actors came back for a return engagement and released Return to Sleepaway Camp last year. If I were you, I wouldn't voluntarily watch this one to get inside the mind of Angela Baker, unless, that is, you want to be the next Angela Baker. PENIS!