The Haunting (1999)

Film: The 90s were a time where horror was really suffering. The idea of creating a franchise rather than good, quality horror, due to the popularity of Jason, Michael and Freddy, had become paramount to the studios and it didn’t kill the genre, but it certainly put it on life support.

The Blair Witch Project was a clever manipulation of the general populace with a crappy film made interesting by the suggestion that is was real, and many people fell for it. It want u til Scream thoigh that Wes Craven really pulled horror back from being like westerns or musicals: only made now and again for nostalgias sake.

Another thing that saved horror in the late 90s and early 2000s was the remake, the idea that taking an older film and redoing it. Not a new idea surely, especially when you consider the popularity of John Carpenter’s The Thing and Chuck Russell’s The Blob. Also, taking a film from another country and making an English version of it seemed to really give the genre a kick in the pants. Yep, remakes were the way to go…

Unfortunately, and I’m burying the lead here, The Haunting possibly wasn’t a great choice.

The Haunting is a close to the book film, based on the novel The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson, and this version was written by Road to Perdition’s David Self and directed by Speed’s Jan De Bont.

It’s tells of Nell (Lili Taylor) who after 11 years of taking care of her ill mother, has joined a group including Theo (Catherine Zeta Jones) and Luke (Owen Wilson) of people with sleep disorders, collected together by Dr. David Marrow (Liam Neeson), at Hill House, a beautiful old mansion with a hidden secret.

The house isn’t the only thing Wilma secret though, Dr. Marrow hasn’t brought them to the house for an insomnia study… no, he had brought them together to study fear, and house suggestions can make the human mind create a false narrative, but what he didn’t expect was that the house MIGHT just actually be haunted…

This film starts of with a casting choice that’s pretty impressive. Taylor, Neeson and Zeta Jones are really quite adept at the character archetypes they create (the shut-in, the nutty doctor and the slut) but unfortunately Wilson sticks out like a sore thumb. Sure he’s fun in the comedies he’s been in, but here he feels like he’s taking nothing seriously. I’m not sure if De Bont thought he could take the bone-headed surfer dude-type and make him a serious actor route again, like he did with Keanu Reeves in Speed, but it doesn’t work here. He seems to take none of it seriously, and that’s a detriment to the story, which is a shame because with the right cast this could have been ok… even a challenger to the other remake about a haunted house that came out at a similar time, The House on Haunted Hill.

It is, however, nice to see cameos from Marian Seldes and Bruce Dern.

Unfortunately the visual aspirations of the film were possibly a little high too. There are several cgi effects that are so bad… SO BAD… that it’s hard to take the film seriously. I’m not a fan of bagging a film too much due to its effects, I’ve seen some films with truly DIRE special effects, but these are really horrible. A product of the time, sure, but terrible.

On the flipside if that, the set design is grand, and majestic, and overdone as some if those old mansions were!

It’s final and main problem is it’s just not good! The story is fine, but the jump scares aren’t jump scares, and the slow burn scares just don’t work. It’s never truly a scary film as a movie about scary ghosts SHOULD be!

Another issue I have with this film is the packaging. Lili Taylor is clearly the star of this film, but she is 4th billed on the cover, and in the original marketing. She’s a fine actor and that’s a bloody crime!

On a good note though is the quality of this Bluray. The image is super bright and crisp and presented in a 2.35:1 image, and the audio, which will really work out your bass channel, is presented in Dolby DTS-HD MA 5.1.

Even though the accuracy to the novel is lacking, the Netflix series The Haunting of Hill House is a more entertaining prospect, you’d honestly be better off watching that.

Score: **1/2

Extras: Absolutely nothing.

Score: 0

WISIA: It’s not really very interesting, so no.

R.I.P Ernie Colón: Comic artist

Was very sad this morning to find out that comic legend Ernie Colón had passed away.

Colón was born in Puerto Rico in July 1931, but lived in the US until his passing on the 8th August 2019.

Colón started as a letter for Harvey Comics working on Richie Rich before working as an artist for the same Company.

Throughout his career, he worked for Dc Comics, Marvel Comics, Warren Publishing, Eclipse, Atlas Comics and Valiant, on characters like Amethyst, Dreadstar, Damage Control, Red Sonja, Magnus Robot Fighter and many others.

Tragically, Colón passed away, aged 88 after a year of fighting cancer, but his legacy of over 60 years working in the comics field, not to mention painting, sculpting and other works, has left an indelible mark on the industry.

Rest In Peace, Mr. Colón.

All images (c) copyright their respective owners

Dustin Ferguson’s New Documentary

If, like me, you love a good… or even a bad… doco about cinema, you might be interested in this film currently about to hit production, by Dustin Ferguson, director of Robowoman and Horndogs Beach Party.

This documentary, titled ‘Direct To Video – Straight to Video Horror of the Nineties’ is certainly something I’ll be VERY interested in as personally, I think the i0s is the very WORST decade for horror, and of that opinion can be changed, I’ll be open to it.

Poster by Mancat Design.

Deep Blue Sea (1999)

One from the rewatch pile…

Deep Blue Sea (1999)

Film: You have just got to love a good monster movie, and it’s especially great when that film has a monster that is either based in reality, or is reality tweaked to some tiny degree to make it even more fearsome, or in the case of a film like, say Zombeavers or Night of the Lepus, a tiny bit fearsome.

So, of course everyone loves a good shark movie; hell, if the Sharknado films are anything to go by, everyone loves even a BAD shark movie! Deep Blue Sea came along at just the right time: The 90s, in general, was a wasteland of bad horror being made as studios tried to tap into what made the 80s franchises so great, but missed either the point, or the boat.

Sure this decade gave us Scream, which in itself was a parody of Craven’s own work, and The Blair Witch Project, which was more about clever marketing than good filmmaking or storytelling but in general, horror had temporarily gone the way of the western.

Deep Blue Sea was somewhat of a surprise. Written by Valentine’s Donna and Wayne Power, and Bait’s Duncan Kennedy, one thing from the 80s this film did utilise was Renny Harlin as director, who is probably best know for A Nightmare on Elm Street 4, and a whole bunch of action films from the 90s, including Cliffhanger and Die Hard 2.

Deep Blue Sea tells of a scientific facility in the ocean known as Aquatica, where scientists, including Dr. McAlester (Saffron Burrows), Jim Whitlock (Stellan Skarsgård) and other are attempting to show off to a potential investor, Russell Franklin (Samuel L. Jackson) their research into getting proteins from genetically altered shark’s brains and using them to repair the broken pathways in the brains of sufferers of Alzheimer’s disease.

The problem is the sharks have gotten smarter, and even though shark wrangler Carter Blake (Thomas Jane) has suspicions, even he isn’t aware of just how smart, and very soon the sharks have figured out how to flood the facility, and using the staff as their very own human smorgasbord…

This film honestly could have been called ‘Deep Blue Trope’ as it took generic formulas from 80s slasher films and turned them into a monster movie. This is basically Friday the 13th, with the stereotypical teens (the cool black guy, the oversexed couple, the frigid final girl and the cool tough guy… and some throwaway characters you would never care about) in an abandoned area with no way out and something stalking them, which is a shark instead of a serial killer: it even does the killer POV camera shots! Maybe the juxtaposition of these two horror tropes is what makes the film kind of interesting.

The movie, yes, is generic, but I have to admit that I have a big problem with just how smart the sharks became. An animal working out that a gun is something that can hurt you is one thing, but figuring what video cameras do and then disabling them, with no context, is quite another, and ultimately, Jane’s character’s realisation as to the shark’s motivation, we’ll, even for a monster movie is pretty far-fetched.

There is some nice early appearances of some actors who went on to the greater things. Samual L. Jackson was still an actor when this was made, and didn’t just play Samual L. Jackson, like he does these days.

The real tragedy of this film is the closing credits are choked with an awful rap by LL Cool J, who also plays the chef who works at the facility. I also must admit to feeling sorry for Saffron Burrows: Even though her character is possibly the most important one in the film, and is even the only human on the cover, she actually doesn’t get a cover credit, and instead Skarsgård and Michael Rapaport, who aren’t in it as often, do. That’s a pretty sad indictment on the film’s release.

Score: ***

Format: This film was reviewed with the Australian, region B Bluray release of the film which runs for approximately 105 minutes and is presented in a satisfactory 2.35:1 image with a pretty spectacular DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1audio.

Score: ***1/2

Extras: There’s a couple of Ok extras on this disc.

First there is a commentary with Harlin and Jackson, but I’m pretty sure they weren’t recorded together. Jackson talks about the story of the film, and Harlin looks more at the making of the film and the processes.

When Sharks Attack is a selection of behind the scenes footage with an occasional sound byte from a cast or crew member, which, to summarise, comes together as ‘sharks are scary’.

Sharks of the Deep Blue Sea looks at all the various effects used to make the special effects sharks work.

There is a trailer for the film.

There’s a bunch of deleted scenes as well, and, as expected, the optionally accompanying commentary does little to convince otherwise.

Score: ***

WISIA: Deep Blue Sea is an amusing distraction that I have watched a couple of times, but realistically, if it weren’t for a sequel coming out, I probably would not have revisited it.

The Super Nintendo Mini for Horror Fans!

So today I grabbed one of these beauties:

The Super Nintendo Mini! I preordered it several weeks ago, actually upon announcement, as this was my favourite video game system of all time.

I’ve only hooked it up to a little Sonic TV and I’ve played almost all of the 21 games, I leave the RPGs to a later date, but the unit is cute, about ten cm square and 5 or 6 cm high, but the controllers feel like they are the same size as the old ones. I bought it so I could play Super Mario and Mario Kart again, but was thrilled to find that a couple of frustrating old favs in the horror/ science fiction genre have made it on as well.

The awesome sideways scrolling…. actually, these three all are…. beat em up/ shoot em up Castlevania IV where you are making your way through a map slowly taking on harder and harder villains and obstacles.

Next is Super Ghouls and Ghosts:

Super Ghouls n Ghosts was a classic arcade game and it’s still fun and frustrating and features a brave knight in a fight against zombies, werewolves and other supernatural beasties.

Last but not least was the game Contra III: The Alien Wars

Contra III is another similar style of game but can be for two players simultaneously as two tough guys are up against an alien invasion.

So what did I think of the unit? Well, I’m not a retro gamer in the slightest and even though I appreciate the look back at the past and the fun that I had with these games, especially things like Starfox and Street Fighter in addition to the ones I mentioned above, but I’d rather super cool, realistic graphics and online connectivity with my gaming. Sure this was fun, but we certainly live in a better time for gaming now!

It’s a fun distraction, but I don’t see myself playing it for a great deal of time.

Power Rangers (2017)

One from the to watch pile…
Power Rangers (2017)

Australian Bluray Cover to Power Rangers

Film: I was probably too old to enjoy the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers when it first hit TV in Australia in the early 90s, but I enjoyed it anyway. I’ve always liked superheroes that wear a common uniform, like the Fantastic Four or the original X-men, so ‘sentai’ shows definitely appealed.

(Sentai is a Japanese term for a military unit, like Squad or Task Force, but is commonly used to describe Japanese superhero Tv shows when a super team is involved. My favourite Star Wars toys were always the rank and file soldiers too.)

Anyway, when this movie was announced, I decided I needed to rewatch, and what 20 years adds to the human mind is the capacity to see that in MMPR, the originals’ weren’t ‘teens with attitude’ like the opening titles would suggest, but instead were douchebags with superpowers who actually bullied two mildly retarded kids, Bulk and Skull, in between fighting an array of ridiculous beasts thrown at them by the amusingly named Rita Repulsa. 

I only watched this first series and didn’t continue on though I understand from friends who are younger than me that this show in all its forms was greatly influential on them, as they were of the age to have all the toys and stuff, and so nostalgia bit them hard. Conceptually I love the idea of all the various series’s that were made, even though I didn’t watch them.

So here we are, and I’ve just finished watching the new Power Rangers movie, and quite liked it.

This Rita (Elizabeth Banks) is definitely not a ‘repulsa’!

Power Rangers starts with a battle on earth millions of years ago between Zordon (Brian Cranston) and Rita Repulsa (Elizabeth Banks) which ends with Zordon having to sacrifice himself to beat her. 

We then flash forward to now, where all-star high school football player Jason Scott (Dacre Montgomery) is put on detention for tomfoolery in a cow which resulted in police involvement, and in detention he meets slightly autistic Billy (RJ Cyler) whom he defends against a bully and the two become u easy allies… especially after Jason learns that in return for a favour, Billy can disable his police tracker ankle band.

That night the pair go to a mining facility in their town where Billy blows up a part of a cliff face as he believes his father, who died there, knew there was something in the rock. The explosion brings the attention of fellow detention inhabitant, Kimberly (Naomi Scott), school dodging Zach (Ludi Lin) and outsider Trini (Becky G).

 Behind the cliff they find a wall made of crystal with weird coloured coins inside. They each take a coin and the next day find they are now recipients of superpowers. The three meet up back at the mine to try and find out what happened, but what they find is a buried space ship maintained by an annoying robot, Alpha 5 (Bill Hader) and the spirit of the aforementioned Zordon.

Zordon tells them they are now the Power Rangers, and that their powers are a gift to help them defeat Rita as her return is predestined, but will the teens be able to learn how to ‘morph’, which so they can fully realise their true, full powers and defeat her?

It’s great how this film takes the essence of the TV show and distilled it into a proper science fiction film which shakes all the established norms, like the appearance of the kids (no more race-based Ranger colours), and Kimberly’s bullies are now two female characters straight out of Mean Girls. There’s other throwbacks like the appearance of the Zords is straight out of the TV show, with that profiled attack formation, and keep your eyes out for some of the originals popping up here and there.

I think what really makes this film is the teens take it in full seriousness and that makes the film feel real, but it balances off perfectly with Banks’ preposterously overblown badguy performance. That’s not to say the teens don’t have fun with it as there are several occasions where the ‘normal’ antagonists (Kimberly’s bullies and the redhead kid who terrorises Billy) get various come-uppances, but in general their plight is played completely straight, and I guess that will play better with teenaged viewers as all those teenaged problems feel completely real when you are that age.

As far as the story is concerned, it’s a pretty solid origin story delivered well, and most of the special effects are good, though the close-ups of Goldar, one of Rita’s minions, and his ever moving, flowing gold body are average at best. 

Red Ranger/ Jason (Dacre Montgomery) kicks some butt!

Typically I can’t not mention the soundtrack. There is a cool mix of re-done songs from the 90s, an awesome synth score and a new version of the ‘Go Go Power Rangers’ song.

Krispy Kreme have obviously put their hands up for a bit of promotional claptrappery and product placement as there is one sequence where I believe the phrase ‘Krispy Kreme’ is thrown about by every lead character within about 5 minutes of each other.

If I am to have any real criticism of this film, it’s the two female leads looked a little similar. Not that you get them mixed up, but perhaps a visual cue to separate them a little more could have been beneficial.

This film combines all the angst and teenage pain of alienation and the things people expect of you (like a John Hughes movie might display) and mixes it with a familiar, and yet somewhat unfamiliar science fiction environment, and together they form an entertaining, though occasionally whiny film that’s a load of fun.

Score: ****

Australian bluray Menu Screen

Format: The film was reviewed with the Australian region B bluray which runs for approximately 123 minutes and is presented in a beautiful 2.40:1 image which is absolutely one of the finest images I’ve seen on bluray. The sound is presented in Dolby Atmos which through my 5.1 seemed to drop out Zordon’s voice occasionally, so I am not sure whether my equipment couldn’t handle the audio file accurately or if the file had an issue.

Score: ***

Extras: There’s a decent mount if extras on this disc:

An audio commentary by director Dean Israelite and writer John Gatins which is an thorough and interesting commentary though a lot of stuff from the ‘Making of’ extras are repeated here.

The Power of the Present is a dissection of the history of the Rangers and how this film was made, and features great interviews with all involved, cast, crew and even the producers of the original programme! It’s really interesting and well worth the time. It’s actually a bunch of approximately 15 minute shorts that can be watched as a whole making of piece. 

There are some deleted and extended scenes and as usual, they didn’t need to be there and their removal makes sense for the flow of the movie.

Outtakes are amusing I’m sure as recollection for the cast, but in this case aren’t very entertaining at all.

There is also the trailer, with the capacity to watch it with a commentary, which is something cool and unusual.

Score: *****

WISIA: Oh, I’ll watch this again and again!

The new Kimberly (Naomi Scott) is a great as the old Kimberly

Idle Hands (1999) Review

One from the re watch pile…
Idle Hands (1999)

Film: Many years ago I had this film on DVD, but as can one when one has a big collection of anything, things go missing, and this was one of the films (along with David Cronenberg’s eXistenZ) that has disappeared. I probably leant them both to the same person and never received them back.

If you have my copy of eXistenZ, whoever you are, I want it back! You can keep the copy of Idle Hands as I now have this whiz-bang bluray copy released by Umbrella Entertainment.

This film was written by Ron Milbauer and Terri Hughes and directed by Rodman Flender, who, considering how good this is, hasn’t really done anything like this again, though he is quite a prolific TV director.

Idle Hands tells of Anton Tobias (Devon Sawa) the ultimate slacker who spends his days smoking dope, watching MTV (and the hot girl down the street, Molly, played by Jessica Alba) and mooching off his parents, but Anton discovers what can happen when you spend too long idle.

Anton’s hand has become possessed and has turned him into a murderer, two of his victims being his best friends Mick (Seth Green) and Pnub (Elden Henson) who return from the grave and decide to help him rid himself of his devil issue.

The first thing they do is suggest he visit local metalhead, Randy (Jack Noseworthy) who being a metalhead, you know, is obviously a devil worshipper to try and find a way to exorcise it. He suggests he keep his hands busy because as the saying goes, idle hands are the devil’s playground, but will it work or will Debbie (Vivica A. Fox), a woman from a sacred order sworn to destroy possessed hands, kill him?

The cast are a massive piece of how well this film plays, even though it is dated as hell. Alba is great as the rebel girl love interest, Henson and Green are just a wonderful comedy team and I wish they had done more together, Noseworthy reprises his ‘bully metalhead character’ he’s done several times and does so well and Sawa holds it all together brilliantly.

There is some absolutely prime bits of comedy from Sawa in this: not only is his ‘devil’ hand performed brilliantly, he also manages to squeeze out some sublime, almost unnoticeable bits of comedy that once you see, are just brilliant. A particular favourite of mine is the disgust on his face when he is woken by a particular song on his clock radio, but when he puts his Walkman on, the same song is playing and an expression of satisfaction washes over his face.

Speaking of music, 90s music fans take note: The Offspring appear at the school dance in this film so if you like them, you’ll get to hear a few tracks, and even better, if you DON’T like them… well, I wouldn’t want to spoil it for you.

Idle Hands is a fun and funny film, with some great jokes!

Score: ****

Format: This Australian region B bluray of Idle Hands runs for approximately 92 minutes and is presented in a spectacularly sharp 1.85:1 image with a matching DTS-HD 5.1 audio track. The extras, however, are not as sharp.

Score: ****

Extras: A nice bunch of extras on this disc:

A director and cast commentary starring Rodman Flender, Seth Green and Elden Hensen. It’s a pretty entertaining commentary as the three of them are quite funny.

Deleted scene is just as the title suggests, a deleted scene, but it’s introduced and explained by the director and features the demise of the villain of the film. The ending in the film is far better.

Making of Featurette is a 6 minute mini about the making of the film… don’t expect and involved explanation on how to make a film’ it’s essentially a trailer with some behind the scenes stuff and a few interviews.

Theatrical Trailer, is just that, the trailer for the film.

Storyboard Comparisons feature split screen views of the film showing the storyboard sketches in one panel and the actually film in the other. I find these things interesting so I enjoyed this part of the special features.

Score: ***1/2

WISIA: It’s VERY 90s, but really funny and I’m glad to own it again.

Easter Review: Return of the Living Dead 3 (1993) 

Happy Easter everyone! Hope you are enjoying your eggs and get to spend some time with the ones you love. The guy from THIS particular film wanted to do that very thing, but got more than he bargained for…
‘Tis the day of resurrection, and so here is one from the re watch pile…

Return of the Living Dead 3 (1993)

Film: The first Return of the Living Dead film was a revelation to me when I saw it at Village Cinemas Sylvania when I was a teen. It was probably one of the first dates I ever took a girl on, and she never went out with me ever again.

Sorry Kylie.

Everything that was achieved in the film was amazing: art design, soundtrack, the cast… it felt like, to this little Australian suburban kid, what the American punk experience would be like, and then you throw something like zombies into the mix: astounding!

A few years later the sequel came out, and I was a slightly older teen then, but could immediately recognise that the new filmmakers hadn’t necessarily realised what made the first film what it was and filled the sequel with a real generic group of victims and they amped the dumb comedy up as they possibly didn’t have the skill Dan O’Bannon had with delivering the subtleties of black comedy.

By the time I had heard a third was coming out I was rolling my eyes, wondering how crap it could be… then I saw female lead Mindy Clarke on the cover of Fangoria and I though immediately,’ I gotta see this’. Looking like the daughter of a mating between Pinhead from Hellraiser and Trash from the first Return of the Living Dead, the contrast between the actress’ beauty and her ‘body modification gone bad’ appearance stunned me, and put this film in my headlights!

Whereas the first sequel had gone for laughs, this sequel written by John Penney (The Kindred) and directed by Brian Yuzna (Beyond Reanimator, Society), I had a pretty good idea that this movie was gonna be a trip.

Onto the film…

Julie (Mindy, now Melinda, Clarke) is desperate to see what goes on in her boyfriend Curt’s (J. Trevor Edmond) father, Colonel Reynolds’ military research facility. Curt, due to… well him being a teen and Julie being smoking hot… steals his father’s security card and sneaks in to find out what is going on.

What IS going on is that Colonel Reynolds is a part of a team who are trying to use 2-4-5 Trioxin, a chemical originally created to destroy marijuana but had the awful side effect of bringing the dead back to life, to try and create an army of controllable undead ‘bio-units’ to use in war instead of living soldiers.

They witness one of the experiments, and Julie becomes entranced by the idea of the Living Dead, hungry for brains.

Unfortunately, Curt and Julie have an accident and Curt decides to take Julie’s corpse to the lab to revive her, not knowing, or not caring, that she’ll become a zombie.

Of course she does become one, but finds that through self-mutilation she can control the urges up to a point… but how can a relationship work when one of the members is a reanimated corpse? Especially when you’ve upset the local gang… and maybe have bitten one of them…

This film is a blast; director Brian Yuzna isn’t the greatest director who ever lived, but what he lacks in talent he makes up for in enthusiasm and his ability to assemble a cast who can deliver a crazy story convincingly. Also, his lack of restraint when it comes to special effects is also something to be admired!

Black humour is one of those things than can easily not work, and the best thing they could of done with this story was keep it as the tragedy it was set up to be, which they did, and the whole tale works perfectly. Using some of the ideas proposed in the other two films, that is: being dead hurts, makes for a pretty interesting journey our heroes go on.

It’s atypical of most zombie films as there are actually few zombies! There’s no gigantic pandemic, no masses of the undead, just a couple of people in love making bad decisions… it even at times riffs on Frankenstein with its creator/ monster relationship. 

I do enjoy every second of it and recommend it to fans of the zombie genre.

Score: ****

Format: The reviewed copy of this film was performed on a region 1, USA release DVD which is about 10 years old. The film runs approximately 96 minutes with a not very sharp 16×9 image but with an OK Dolby 2.0 audio track.

Score: **

Extras: Surprisingly, this disc has three extras on it. There are two commentaries, one with director Brian Yuzna where he muses on the creation of the film and his cast and crew, and the other with actor Mindy Clarke, and second unit director Tom Rainone. Both are interesting, and it’s even more fascinating to hear about the making of a film from employer and employees.

There is also trailers for this film, and other Yuzna directed films Progeny, The Dentist, The Dentist 2 and Faust.

Score: ***1/2

WISIA: I really like this film and honestly, probably haven’t seen it enough! It’s time it returned to a higher rotation!

Copycat (1995) Review

One from the re watch pile…
Copycat (1995)

The Australian DVD of Copycat

Film: There was a period in the 90s where it felt like horror was maybe-not dead, but starting to smell a little. Even Fangoria was sticking blockbuster films on its covers! In the post Silence of the Lambs world though, a few thrillers popped out that surprised me with their level of entertainment, this, Copycat, being one of them.

(Yes, the irony of after a film like Silence of the Lambs that a similar film called Copycat would be released is not lost on me)

Copycat: Sigourney Weaver

Copycat tells of agoraphobic abnormal psychologist, who specialises in serial killers, Dr Helen Hudson (Sigourney Weaver) who has become this way due to being captured and tortured by a killer named Daryll Lee Cullum (Harry Connick Jr.) who was apprehended soon afterwards.

Thirteen months later a new serial killer has started a reign of terror in town, and investigating officers Monahan (Holly Hunter) and Goetz (Dermot Mulroney) are stumped, but when Helen starts calling them offering them advice, she ends up involved… but perhaps she was already involved… perhaps the killer is working on her involvement, and maybe it involves Cullum…

Now it’s not the greatest thriller in the world, and the technology in it is laughably dated, and not yet kitsch enough to be cool, but solid performances by the leads, particularly Hunter and Weaver, both of whom I been a fan of for years. There are some other actors who pop up in this as well who add to the acting quality of the film: Terror at the Opera’s William McNamara, The Punisher’s Will Patton and Pollock’s John Rothman.

Interestingly though I am drawn to it, and it remains a film that I return to quite regularly, even though it’s not so great. I think it’s because it is easy to watch, and the story, whilst a little generic, does have a few surprises that drive the female leads on, though the motivation of Hunter’s character is more alluded to than confirmed. 
Maybe that’s when the appeal lies, in the fact that it’s like comfort food: easy to consume but not necessarily a proper meal.

Score: **1/2

Menu screen for the DVD of Copycat

Format: This film was reviewed on an (admittedly) older Australian, region 4 DVD version of the film which runs for just shy of 1 hour and 59 minutes. The video, present in 2.35:1, was of a below average quality but I imagine the age of the DVD may have something to do with that. The audio was presented in a functional Dolby 2.0.

Score: ***1/3

Extras: Only a few extras on this disc. The first is a ‘cat and crew’ text piece that looks like you are able to see the credits of a bunch of cast and crew, but when you go to select them, only Weaver, Hunter, Connick Jr. and Amiel are available! It seems weird to me to list everyone, especially when you consider Mulroney, McNamara, Rothman and Patton’s many and varied careers!!

There is also a commentary by Amiel that is accessible by the ‘languages’ option on the menu. It’s a fascinating commentary that explores filmmaking and serial killers, and really explores how important the score is to a successfully creating mood and tension.

Score: **

WISIA: I actually really like this movie, even though the story is little more than an extended episode of a police procedural TV show, and not necessarily a great episode either. I think it’s due to the quality of performance by all the actors in it. Whatever it is, I do seem to watch it once a year.

Copycat: Harry Connick Jr. as Callum and a future unfortunate cop

Arcade (1993) Review

One from the to watch pile…
Arcade (1993)

The cover of 88 Films Arcade

Film: The 90s were a pretty dire time for this horror fan, and as an 80s horror fan, that may have been partially my fault. It the 80s we had become accustomed to every film becoming a franchise: Freddy, Jason, Michael…. even Full Moon Pictures, who produced this film Arcade, had their franchises with the Puppet Master and Subspecies films. By the time the 90s hit, horror was just potential series starting and failing; I’m looking at you, Brainscan and Doctor Giggles.

Those few early years of the 90s just were terrible, and even Fangoria knew that there was something gumming up horror’s plumbing as some of the articles, and covers of this period included mainstream films like Jurassic Park and Batman Returns!

Thankfully due to fresh blood like The Blair Witch Project (not a film I like but I appreciate what it did for the genre) and revamped old blood like Wes Craven’s with his successfully, cynical and self-aware Scream films, horror survived and didn’t go the way of the western or the musical, a topic discussed occasionally at the time.

Arcade is one of the not so successful attempts at franchise creation, but it does stand out as having, for its day, some pretty incredible computer effects not done by a big Hollywood company like ILM.

Arcade: Megan Ward and Peter Billingsley

Onto the story: Alex (Megan Ward) has had a rough year. First her mother committed suicide, and then her Dad, well, he should be committed. To make matters worse, her friends are a bunch of 90210-styled buttholes (amongst them, Seth Green, who still looks exactly the same as he does now). 

Dante’s Inferno is a club/ video game arcade that they hang out in, and some of them are quite excited to try a brand new virtual reality game called ‘Arcade’ which is introduced to them by a video game executive from Vertigo Tronics called Difford (John De Lancie), but there is something not quite right about the game.

The games antagonist, Arcade, can bring people into the game peemanentky, and manipulate reality to his own ends…

So I’ll get a few of the bad points out of the way first. The characters are the most facile, awful bunch of turds I have ever had the misfortune of witnessing. Seriously, they are like the worst of each of the jerk characters from the Nightmare On Elm Street series all put together in one film, and they grate on every single nerve you have. Now this wouldn’t be a problem if any of them could act, but there were less wooden performances in 18th century puppet shows.

Next is the character of ‘Arcade’ itself. Remember how the killer from Bad Dreams was like a poor man’s Freddy, and then the bad guy from Brainscan was like an even cheaper version of him? Well Arcade is an even cheaper version of him, but they spent a fortune on now-archaic special effects to realise him. He’s (it’s?) a taunting smartarse just like the rest of the group, so I am surprised he wants to kill them, and not just join their gang of butt-plugs.

Next, it’s Albert Pyun’s direction. Normally I like his direction, and count The Sword and the Sorcerer as one of my favourite fantasy films, but here it meanders along with the adore mentioned sub-par acting and clunky dialogue.

Arcade: Megan Ward and Peter Billingsley

Which brings us to the final issue. The packaging for this disc from 88 Films proudly announces ‘from the writer of The Dark Knight and Man of Steel’. The person they refer to is David S. Goyer, who didn’t just write THOSE two films, but also two of the best Call of Dutys (in Black Ops 1 and 2), and the Blade films, and the weird scifi film Dark City. This is not a careers highlight, and it’s not necessarily that the idea is bad, because it was great when it was a film called ‘Tron’, it’s just poorly executed, which possible circles back to the acting and direction.

It’s a circle of suck.

On the plus side, the computer effects, considering their time, are a fun look at where we were in computer graphics was at this time.

I must say though that my favourite bit is when the surviving kids meet the game programmer, who doesn’t look like a cool, hippy-nerd in a superhero shirt, but instead is a 40-something, porno-moustached nerd in a labcoat and spectacles.

As a weird aside, one thing I did find interesting was I kept getting reminded of the film Pulse that starred Kristin Bell and Ian Somerhalder, which in itself was a remake of the Japanese film of the same name from 2001. It was probably just me, but I just felt a few suggestions made by the film made me think of that one.
Unfortunately those couple of musing things didn’t make up for the rest of the film, and I kid you not, every 20 minutes feels like an hour. Don’t bother.

Score: *

88 Films Arcade title screen

Format: The reviewed copy of the film was the UK’s 88 Films region free DVD release. This film ran for approximately 85 minutes, and was presented in an average 1.33:1 video with a decent digital 2.0 audio

Score: **1/2

Extras: There’s a couple of extras on this disc, but not a great deal. First we have a ‘making of’ in the form of ‘Videozone’ which Full Moon Pictures used to put on VHS tapes at the end of the feature. This one’s pretty good as it has an early look at how what we now call CGI is created for the film.

There is also a trailer for Arcade, and an 88 Films Trailer Park featuring trailers for The Corpse Grinders, Two Moon Junction, Blood Orgy of the She Devils, Hideous, Girl in Gold Boots, Robot Wars, Dollman, The Doll Squad, Castle Freak and Slice N Dice.

Score: **1/2

WISIA: I am never, ever, ever, ever, ever going to watch this ever again.