The Craft Legacy (2020)

The Craft Legacy (2020)

The cover of the Australian release of The Craft Legacy

Film: I was a big fan of the original film The Craft. Fairuza Balk, Neve Campbell, Robin Tunney and Rachel True were most certainly the ‘it’ girls of the mid-90s buuuuuuuut I was in my 20s then, so maybe it spoke to me, and it felt kind of relevant, even though perhaps it wasn’t really.

Empire Records was the same, and even in 1999 when High Fidelity came out, it ESPECIALLY felt relevant as I went from a directionless manboy in his 20s to a rudderless manboy in his 30s.

So here we are, 25 years later and a sequel has been made and I’m conflicted: I’m keen to see a sequel to this film, but after watching it I felt totally disconnected to it. I thought maybe it was me, that I was out of touch with the so-called ‘woke’ movement or that maybe I don’t think that horror movies are the place to deliver messages like that.

…but horror movies have almost always had messages, haven’t they? I don’t think the problem with this film is the messages of equality, or the other issues it covers, but maybe that it tries to be the defender of everything at once, and that the story occasionally feels more like an after school special.

Our annoying protagonists

The Craft Legacy tells of Lily (Cailee Spaeney) who has just moved to a new town with her mother Helen (Michelle Monaghan) so she can be with her new beau, Adam (David Duchovney), a self-help guru specialising in helping men find their strength, and his three sons.

Lily, of course, being the new kid, has no friends, and her having an unfortunately heavy period on her first day leads to an embarrassment that would wilt any normal kid, but Lily makes three new friends in the form of Tabby (Logie Simone), Lourdes (Zoey Luna) and Frankie (Gideon Adlon), three close friends who have been trying to find a fourth to join their coven because… you guessed it, they be WITCHES!!

The four quickly realise that Lily (short for Lilith, you know, alternatively known as the biblical Adam’s first wife from the Book of Isaiah, or a demon) is the person that they were looking for and their power grows exponentially, and being teenage girls, it’s used on silly stuff at first as they experiment, but then more insidious things, for example, their changing the personality of the school douche-bag, Timmy (Nicolas Galitzine) into becoming a super-sensitive, totally woke soul.

Yikes! David Duchovney as Adam

As usual, power corrupts and one of them makes a selfish spell that starts to unravel the friendship, and we discover more about Lily’s past and why she has her powers, and maybe that Adam is much more than he seems…

This film was not made for me. It wasn’t made for a 50-something manboy who still likes a lots of 80s styled boobs ‘n’ blood in his horror films. I have to give it credit though. It does attempt to cover a whole pile of stuff that plays on young people’s minds today, like homosexuality, bisexuality, transgenderism, school bullying and others, and does it so casually that its the way we should all probably act around people who live differently to ourselves. The problem is though it does so many of these things that I imagine it would alienate a less open minded person, and maybe some of the messages get lost amongst each other.

The film is beautifully shot but I do have two major issues with it. The first is that it’s not really a new story. Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens showed us that a remake can be incorporated into a large storyline and not act completely like it’s a remake, but this just hits the same beats over and over and until it makes a weird left turn for the sole purpose of adding a new badguy, who is telegraphed early but when it eventuates, it’s just a bit dumb.

The other is the performances of the four leads. Now I can’t figure out if the teens are overacting and it’s disguised as being obnoxious, or visa versa. Honestly, I work in retail and they act like the people who distract the workers in a shop while another friend shoplifts. They are annoying and over-the-top and seem less like how teens actually act and more like how someone who is out of touch with teens would make them act. It reminds me of Stan Lee writing teens in the 60s, and them all having dialogue like teens in the early 50s, daddy-o. The rest of the cast seem far more grounded and real.

If I’m to be really finicky, the 11th hour connection to the first film is hamfisted and was like a studio addition that was just dumb.

All in all I’m trying to be nice to this film out of respect for the original, but it’s just dumb, annoying and boring.

Score: *

The menu screen for the Australian Bluray release of The Craft Legacy

Extras: There is a couple of extras but they are so brief they barely worth mentioning.

Franchise Legacy is a barely two and a half minute piece that references the original movie and it’s importance to this film’s legacy. I’ve had sneezes that were longer and more informative.

Powerful Story, Magical Director looks at writer/ director Zoe Lister-Jones and her approach to making the film, but I’m not sure barely 3 and a half minutes really is much of a tribute to a director’s skill set. Shame.

Deleted scenes, as usual, are better off not in the film. Lister-Jones does at least get to introduce them, and justify their removal, even though her reasoning doesn’t get fleshed out.

Score: *

WISIA: I probably won’t, unless they do a sequel, which is really obviously what they’d like to do, judging by the massive open ending they offered.

This review was done with the Australian Bluray release

Fairuza Balk is BACK… for about 3 seconds…

Cell (2016)

Cell (2016)

The cover of the Australian Bluray release of Cell

Film: I have read several articles about quantitive pedants claiming to cringe when they hear athletes claim that they ‘went out there and gave 110%’. I’ve actually read so many articles about it that I even stole the phrase ‘quantitive pedants’ from one of them, but I have to say, that as a percentage, I am 1,000,000% a zombie movie fan.

Let me tell you too, I don’t care what kind of zombies they are either! Fast, slow, virusy, no-more-room-in-hellish, metaphysical, green, grey, intelligent, stupid, whatever; I’ll take ‘em!

Another thing I love is Steven King movies! Not his books, mind, but his movies. I’m a huge fan of King’s ideas, but not his writing, which is something if you are a regular reader of this my reviews, will ready know as it is no secret.

Taking this into account, imagine my excitement when I discovered there was a zombie film based on a Stephen King novel! The only other zombie story I know of that King wrote was one published in the John Skipp and Craig Spektor edited anthology book The Book of the Dead which I liked so I had to give this one a go!

NB. There’s probably others but not being a reader of King’s work, I’m unaware of them.

John Cusack as Clay Riddell

Anyway, Cell starts with us being introduced to artist Clay Riddell (John Cusack), in an airport on the phone to his estranged wife, Sharon (Clark Sarullo) and son, Johnny (Ethan Andrew Casto) when the phone begins to drop out. Unfortunately for Clay, everyone in the airport is having trouble with their phones in the form of a signal which cause madness and sees them attacking each other without any regard for their own well-being.

Clay manages to escape the airport via the train station beneath, where he meets train driver Tom McCourt (Samuel L. Jackson) and the pair retreat to Clay’s apartment to decide on what their next move should be. They meet with another lost person there in the form of Alice (Isabelle Fuhrman) and the three decide to travel together to help Clay find Sharon and Johnny, along the way meeting many others in a similar people in a similar situation.

There is a another mystery though, in the form of an entity in a red hoodie who visits everyone in their dreams, but bizarrely has been visiting Clay for a while, and manifested in the form of a character he created… but what is it’s connection to the mobile phone call that causes people to turn into violent zombies?

The apparition in the red hood!

There’s a lot of problems with this film. A lot. The first is its boring. There are a few moments of action in the form of the zombie attacks, but in between those scenes are just banal.

The next problem is with the creation of the characters. Cusack and Jackson play the exact same characters in every other film they’ve done since 1999 (I’m sure Cusack even has the same costume on that he’s worn for the past 20 years!). All the other characters come and go so quick you just don’t care about them, even to the point when one of them has a drawn out dying sequence you just want it over with quickly, and it’s a shame because there is such an interesting mix of cast members in it… even Stacy Keach! I did like Lloyd Kaufman’s special appearance though.

Thirdly are some of the special effects are just terrible. The make-up effects are fine, if not generic, but there are several CGI fire effects that look like they came from an episode of Home and Away.

To summarise, boring, wasted actors and crappy effects make for a big waste of my time. Avoid.

Score: *

The menu screen from the Australian Bluray release.

Extras: No extras for YOU!

Score: 0

WISIA: Nope.

This review was done with the Australian Bluray release.

Zombies! Well, living people under the thrall of a weird phone call.

Creepshow 2 (1987)

Creepshow 2 (1987)

The Arrow Video cover to Creepshow 2

Film: I was born in the late 60s, which of course means two things: I’m very very old and I was an impressionable teen during the 80s, which means, I am of the boobs ‘n’ blood generation! A time where ‘banned in Queensland’ was a badge of honour!

This film, Creepshow 2, came from that era and has a special place in my heart as it was one of the first VHS films I actually owned! I honestly cannot remember if it was a sell through video I got from Kmart of somewhere like that, or if it were an ex-rental that a video shop gave me (I worked in one and they gave me tapes now and again) but it got watched over and over again.

Creepshow 1 and 2 were both written by Steven King and directed by George Romero and have their foundations in the joy the two found in reading EC Comics as kids. The short version of that company’s story is that EC Comics made pretty violent comics and caused the creation of the Comics Code Authority, which featured on the covers of many comics for years, and also resulted in Mad becoming a ‘magazine’ rather than a comic (in format) because magazines weren’t subject to it and it’s restrictions.

Basically, Google ‘Frederick Wertham’ or ‘William Gaines’ for the full story.

Tom Savini as The Creep

Anyways, Creepshow 2 is an anthology film, and the three stories contained within are bookended by the tale of a young man waiting for something he ordered from the advertisements within the pages of his favourite comic, Creepshow, and as an issue of the comic flicks through the pages it reveals our tales. This section is mainly animated, but has a pretty awesome love action piece at first and the delivery man who delivers the comics is actually a fantastic mask, worn by horror make-up legend Tom Savini!

The first tale is titled ‘Old Chief Woodenhead’ and tells of a kindly old couple, the Spruces played by George Kennedy and Dorothy Lamour, who have a general store in a town which is on its last legs. There are heavy supporters of the local indigenous community, and are entrusted by their leader Ben Whitemoon (Frank Salsedo) to take care of their tribes greatest treasures, but unfortunately, the ne’er-do-well of the tribe, Sam (Holt McCallany) knows the Spruces have these treasures and has decided that perhaps he’d like them for himself…

The second story, The Raft, sees four friends (played by Paul Satterfield, Jeremy Green, Daniel Beer and Page Hannah) go to a secluded lake, late in autumn, to go swimming as the raft is still there until winter. What they don’t realise though is that there is something in the water… something hungry…

The Raft

The final story, The Hitchhiker, tells of Annie Lansing (Lois Chiles) who has been cheating on her husband, but tonight has lost track of time and needs to race to get home from her lover’s place before her husband gets home. Unfortunately, she hits a hitchhiker (Tom Wright) on the way home, and leaves him by the side of the road, but his spirit pursues her with the sole purpose to punish her…

As is typical of these Tales of the Crypt/ Twilight Zone styled stories, the objective is to show a supernatural punishment of some sort paid out to those who have transgressed some kind of moral code… and it still works!! Of the three, I think I like The Raft the best as it is nice and concise

I do have to admit that a lot of my love of this is purely nostalgic, and realistically the first film is certainly the better film, but I still enjoy every watch of it. The stories are in no way as impactful as the first film, but it is still lots of fun, and well made in every way.

Score: ****

The menu screen for the Arrow Bluray release

Extras: Crikey, does this little disc from Arrow Video have some extras on it:

Screenplay for a Sequel is an interview with Romero, where he talks about his love of comics, and how they influenced his career.

Tales from the Creep is an interview with make-up legend and actor Tom Savini about his work in the Creepshow films.

Poncho’s Last Ride is an interview with Daniel Beer, who played Randy in the episode ‘The Raft’, as he tells his anecdotes on his casting and the filming.

The Road to Dover talks to Tom Wright about his experiences as the ill-fated hitchhiker in the episode of the same name.

Nightmares in Foam Ruber (sic) sees us sitting down with Howard Berger and Greg Nicotero, the special effects team, and have them discuss their experiences of the production of the film.

My Friend Rick continues with Berger discussing his fandom of special effects legend Rick Baker, and with an accompanying personal anecdote.

Behind the Scenes is just some footage of the actual filming of the production with some nice behind the scenes bits.

Trailers and Tv Spots is the two theatrical trailers and one TV spot.

There is also an Audio Commentary with director Michael Gornick, which has some interesting information about the film within it.

Score: *****

WISIA: Creepshow 2 is a horror classic and I’ve already watched it hundreds of times!

Old Chief Woodenhead

Boss Level (2021)

Boss Level (2021)

The cover to the Australian Bluray release

Film: The whole ‘a day gets repeated over and over again’ is a trope that horror, sci-fi and comedy love. Personally, I think it’s for the opportunity of cheap laughs, showing the protagonist get injured/ die/ kill people over and over again without repercussions. Thankfully it would seem that most filmmakers KNOW it’s a trope that is quite derivative, and that gives them an opportunity to mix up the story a little, like with slasher film Happy Death Day and it’s sequel.

Boss Level is a surprising beast. Directed by Joe Carnahan, who co-wrote the screenplay with Eddie and Chris Borey, Boss Level should be a low budget piece of trash that pushes a ‘new’ action movie stars with a bunch of nobodies… but this stars Frank Grillo from the Marvel movies, and includes Mel Gibson, Maggie Q and Naomi Watts, and is as entertaining as dumb violent action gets.

Grillo and Watts

Boss Level tells of ex-special forces muscle-bound himbo Roy Pulver (Grillo) who wakes up every single day to find a bunch of assassins trying to kill him. Pam (Meadow Williams) tries to shoot him, the German Twins (Rashad Evans and Rampage Jackson) try to blow him up, Kaboom (Aaron Beelner ) also tries to blow him up (but with explosives, whereas the German Twins use bazookas), Smiley (Michael Tourek) tries to spear him, Guan Yin (Selina Lo) tries to cut him up… you get the idea: there’s a lot of people out to get him!

‘I am Guan Yin, and Guan Yin has done this!‘

Roy’s problem is, every single one of them have succeeded in killing him, but the second he dies, he wakes up back at the beginning of the day, with all the knowledge that he had been killed over and over again, and no matter how many times he tries to survive.

He does continue to try though (but only after a few depression episodes where he just allows himself to be murdered), and eventually starts to work out that he is very deliberately stuck in this time loop, but what does it have to do with his ex-wife Jemma (Watts) and her boss, Colonel Clive Ventor (Gibson)…

This film, like all these types of films, as I stated earlier, exist to show the funny side to how ridiculous the concept is, and the torture of the lead character is completely for our own amusement, especially when you think he’s achieved something that gets him away from one baddie, only to fall to some other fatal mishap. Let me tell you as well, these are some bloody and violent mishaps too! Roy even talks in a voiceover about how he’d prefer to be shot rather than stabbed because stabbing hurts more!

The mix of actors in this film is great too. Grillo’ s performance is hilarious, action-packed and even tender at times. Watts (who I have a crush on for years) is still a solid support and Gibson’s magical villain is spectacular. The wonderful array of assassins is fun and funny, and they even cop some of the deaths just as bad as Grillo does. Selina Lo’s Guan Yin is a particular highlight and her beauty combined with violent swordsmanship is a grand juxtaposition, and her exclamation whenever she kills is fantastic too.

Honestly there’s not much to NOT like about this film, but it’s essentially like a Fast and the Furious film: you see it for the spectacle rather than an intelligent story. I will say though that it’s sudden sci-fi U-turn is both expected and surprising.

Score: ***

The menu from the Australian Bluray

Extras: None.

Score: 0

WISIA: It was dumb fun, so it’s definitely getting watched again!

This review was done with the Australian 2021 Bluray release.

Guns, guns, guns.

The Unholy (2021)

The Unholy (2021)

The cover to the Australian bluray

Film: I picked up the new Blumhouse film, The Unholy, on a whim. I had wandered into my local movie retailer to pick up a couple of different films, and in a classic case of ‘while you’re down there’, I grabbed this as well.

One thing I didn’t realise until the end of the film is that this film is based on a book, The Shrine, by one of my favourite horror authors, James Herbert, who also wrote The Rats trilogy, and Sepulchre.

This film version of that book, was written and directed by Evan Spiliotopoulos, who wrote the live action version of Beauty and the Beast from Disney.

The film starts on February 31st, 1845 – we, the viewer, get to witness the burning of a witch from the POV of the victim, as her soul or spirit (or whatever) is cast into the body of a doll.

… and yes, that date is correct…

Jeffrey Dean Morgan as Fenn

Flash forward to now, or yesterday, or tomorrow, and we meet scumbag washed-up alcoholic photographer Gerry Fenn (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) who now works for a National Enquirer, Alien Elvis Stole My Sister- styled website who has been sent to the small town of Banfield to photograph a mutilated cow, only to find the ‘mutilation’ was actually a graffitied Metallica ‘M’ on the cow’s hindquarters.

Whilst with the farmer, Fenn notices an object shining under a dead tree and after a bit of digging, finds a small doll, which the farmer suggested may have been a ‘Kern Baby’, a doll that farmers used to bury in their fields to get good crops. Fenn smashes the idol and takes a few photos to try to salvage his journey to the small town and prepares to leave.

On the trip out he crashes his car after swerving to miss a girl standing in the middle of the road. He climbs out of the vehicle and follows her, only to find her return to the dead tree he was at earlier.

Cricket Brown as Alice

We quickly learn her name is Alice (Cricket Brown) and that she is the deaf-mute niece of the local priest, Father Hagen (William Sadler), but the very next day, both her hearing and voice return to her, and she claims to have been visited by the Holy Mother, Mary.

In addition, she discovers she is also able to heal the sick, bringing a paraplegic boy to his feet, and healing her uncle’s lung cancer… but Fenn is getting his OWN visions, and think perhaps that something more unholy might be behind the healings…

Herbert’s book was an absolute corker that took me about a day to read, which, if I’m honest, is how I find all his books. This film is disappointing in comparison. Of course, the idea is interesting, but Spiliotopoulos’ modernisation and translation of it has several tropes that are overused in this religious type of film. It’s not all bad though.

Even though Morgan feels like he’s sleepwalking at times, and Cary Else’s’ performance is occasionally ostentatious and William Sadler is… well, William Sadler, the winner of the acting department was Cricket Brown, who plays both the victim and the bold promoter of our evil, is consistently on-point. She plays every scene with the confidence the role required. I’ll point out that even though what I said of the actors sounds like an insult to each of them, it actually somehow meshed really well.

Some of the special effects were a little off, especially the fire effects, but the make up of the actual baddie was absolutely terrifying, and a credit to the make up department. It was actually difficult to look at and surprising when it’s finally exposed.

Unfortunately this film was one that was hit by Covid-19 during its filming, and one of the stipulations made when they returned to filming was that the cast had to be reduced to 10 only on set. This was something I did actually notice, particularly with a red headed cast member who stood out, so when they were reused, it was a little obvious. I wrote it off as being the same character just in a different part of town.

I wanted to like this, and I think if I really dig deep within me, maybe I do a little, but it was just to generic, and a little boring, for it to be really successful as a good film.

Score: **

The Australian Bluray menu screen

Extras: None.

Score: 0

WISIA: There is actually something about this film that would tempt me to watch it again, even if I can’t put my finger on it.

This review was done using the Australian 2020 Bluray release.

The Kern Baby

Wrong Turn (2021)

Wrong Turn (2021)

Film: In general I find it strange when they ‘reboot’ a movie series. I’m a firm believer that if a series reaches the end of its live span with the movie-going public, it should be allowed to rest. When I first heard about this film, it was called ‘Wrong Turn: The Foundation’ and I must have glossed over the idea of a ‘reboot’ and was more than happy that I’d see more of Three Finger’s cackling and his family’s murderous ways.

What I found though upon purchasing this Bluray… yep, physical media lives… is the abandonment of ‘The Foundation’ part of the name and a film that completely abandons the entire concept of the ‘first’ bunch of films, and basically just kept the concept of a weird-arse family living in the woods, and more traps than you could shake a noose at.

This film adds much more to the mix, and at the risk of burying the lead, does it quite well. The reason for that might be because the writer of the original film, Alan McElroy, is back at the writing desk for this one.

The film starts with Scott (Matthew Modine), in backwater Virginia searching for his missing daughter, Jen (Charlotte Vega). He files a missing person report with the town sheriff, who comments on her ‘black fella’ boyfriend (a foreboding of the townships attitudes, indeed) and shows her picture to several locals, none of whom claim to have seen her, but all of whom are as weird as hell.

Before we enter too far into his story, we flash back to over a month previously where we see Jen, her boyfriend Darius ( Adain Bradley) and their friends Adam (Dylan McTee), Luis (Adrian Favela), Milla (Emma Dumont) and Gary (Vardaan Arora) in the same small town ready to hike along the Appalachian trail… when unfortunately, they make a… you guessed it… WRONG TURN!!!

Very quickly, one of the party of friends is killed by a falling log which panics the others and causes them to run off the trail, making them lost even deeper in the woods. They camp overnight and in the morning, Adam finds that his girlfriend Milla has disappeared, and is caught by some weird forest dwellers in a trap. The rest of the friends confront the strangers, who don’t seem to understand them, and after Adam is untied, he kills one of them with a makeshift club, furnished from a dropped branch.

The death of one of their own upsets the other member of the forest family, and very quickly, they are pursued by their associates, whom the friends find out are part of something called The Foundation, a group who live hidden in the mountains, patiently waiting for the fall of America.

I think the biggest problem with this film is the use of the title Wrong Turn! It seems to have suffered a bit on many of the online reviews but I imagine that was due to the fact that this is in NO WAY a sequel. A better way to have sold this film would have been to have promoted it as ‘from the mind of the writer of Wrong Turn’ with the simple title of ‘The Foundation’. Franchise fans would have been extraordinarily pissed of, I imagine, when they found this to be not even slightly associated.

I, however, found this film to be a breath of fresh air, and for some reason was reminded of Jordan Peele’s films. Thematically they are different, and I can’t explain why it reminded me of them… maybe in the way it was filmed, I’m not sure, but I also was reminded of 2014’s Welp aka Cub from Jonas Govaerts, due to its environment and its constant feeling of moisture and claustrophobia.

The direction is great and the ‘hero’ group feel far more like real people than franchise victims. The bad guys are suitably scary, and their actions justified rather than just moustache twirling evil-for-evil-sakes types. The main villain, Venable, played by Bill Sage, has an oppressive presence, though for me I’m afraid that someone who is a wood dwelling priest-like character, his hair was far too well-groomed, and that’s possible my only criticism.

This film is less a horror movie, and more the cinema version of a Far Cry movie… and I don’t mean the god awful Uwe Boll one staring Til Schweiger and Udo Kier! It travels along a quite the clip, and is full of surprises. I can’t recommend it enough.

Score: *****

Extras: Not a brass razoo!

Score: 0

WISIA: I’ve watched it twice already, so yes!

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.

Hellraiser (1987)

Hellraiser (1987)

Film: I may be a little old and set in my ways, but I am willing to listen to alternate opinions and think about stuff that I may not agree with, and can sometimes even be swayed. There is a caveat though: one thing I have to assure you about is I will never EVER be convinced that the 80s WASN’T The best time for horror!

Because it was.

100%.

Truly the 80s were one of the generations of horror when legends were built, not just in film, but also in literature. Clive Barker is certainly one of those legends. Not just with his selection of six volumes of horror short stories The Books of Blood, but also with his debut directorial effort (also based on his novella The Hellbound Heart, first published in volume 3 of the Dark Visions anthology series of books) Hellraiser, described by the reviewer for Melody Maker magazine as the greatest British horror film ever made.

Hellraiser tells of Larry (Andrew Robinson) and his wife Julia (Clare Higgins) who are moving into his abandoned parents house after his mother’s passing. They find that his brother Frank (Sean Chapman) a ne’er-do-well who is also Julia’s adulterous partner, unbeknownst to Larry, has been staying there but now appears to be missing… and seemingly in a hurry…

What they don’t realise is that Frank was the recipient of a mystical puzzle box called The Lament Configuration, which opens a door to Hell and drags you in. When Larry cuts his hand whilst moving in, his blood dripping onto the floor allows Frank (now a skinless monster, played by Oliver Smith) a door to escape from Hell, but he requires more blood to regain his full human appearance, and Clare is more than happy to spend her days luring men back to the house for him to consume from his hideout in the house’s attic.

He does eventually reveal himself to Larry’s daughter, Kirsty (Ashley Lawrence) who escapes his clutches and steals the puzzle box, accidentally activating it and releasing Pinhead (Doug Bradley) and fellow Cenobites, creatures who collect the souls of people, offering them an opportunity to feel the ultimate ecstasy. Instead of taking her though, Kirsty offers them Frank, whom they don’t believe managed to escape Hell… so it’s up to Kirsty to prove to them who he is.

I still remember seeing the trailer for this at a Village cinema in Sydney, and even that creeping me out, so when it finally arrived I couldn’t wait to see it, and I was thrilled by what I saw. For me, horror before this has been either monsters or slashers, and this film certainly opened my eyes to a different form of horror, and how in the right hands, a low-budget film could be just as, if not more thrilling than the biggest of blockbusters.

This film has quality thrills, great acting and a solid storyline that’s like nothing you’ve ever seen. Of all the big guns of 80s horror, Hellraiser is certainly one of the biggest, and shouldn’t be missed. The sequels, of course, get lesser as they go on and honestly, if you must watch any of the 9-odd films, you should watch the first three, and then stop.

Score: *****

Format: The quality of the feature seems to be only slightly above that of a DVD release, but it’s 1.77:1 image and Dolby HD-DTS Master Audio 5.1 sound do the job.

Score: ***1/2

Extras: Whilst Umbrella used to be the legends of extras, they seem to care less about it now.

Score: 0

WISIA: It’s a classic and deserves to be rewatched regularly. Mind you it also deserves a more complete package of extras so THIS release might not be the one to get!

The New Mutants (2020)

The New Mutants (2020)

Film: A strange thing happened to the 13 year old me in 1983… no, not pubic hair and the realisation that boobs are amazing… no, I became a ‘proper’ comic collector. I had been collecting comics for almost a decade at this point, but comics were something I rolled up and shoved in my pocket, and carried around in cardboard boxes with little regard for comic company, numbering or continuing stories.

I just liked the pictures with the words.

In 1983, though, I picked up something special whilst at the local news agency with my mum, who was doing her lotto: the first issue of a comic which would change my life, The New Mutants.

The New Mutants told of teens, some the same age as me, who upon hitting puberty, discovered that hidden in their DNA was a horrible secret/ curse of special abilities that if untethered, could accidentally kill others. Thankfully, they were taken on by the kindly teacher Professor Charles Xavier, who at his private school would just teach them and protect them, would also train them to use their powers, but unlike his other team, the missing (at the time) X-men, he wouldn’t allow them to become ‘super heroes’… but they are strong-willed teens, so obviously THAT wasn’t going to happen!

Imagine my excitement, then, when it was announced that 20th Century Fox was going to make a HORROR film based on my favourite comic of all time! Imagine my disappointment at the constant delays, some COVID-related, and some due to the Disney buy-out of Fox, and other because it was getting some bad press, even though no one had actually seen it.

The New Mutants FINALLY got a release in late 2020, where it was unceremoniously dumped… even though it was part of the successful but floundering (well, except for Deadpool and the magnificent Logan) X-men series… to DVD and Bluray (in the companies defence, it was right during COVID lockdowns and few, if any, cinemas were actually open). Tragically you can tell it was dumped by the fact that bother the symbols for Marvel, and it’s parent company Disney, and not mentioned on the front of the packaging, and are a tiny part of the back cover, which is a resounding ‘we are embarrassed by this movie’.

At the risk of spoiling the rest of the review, they are wrong.

This film was directed by Josh Boone, the director of teen drama The Fault in our Stars, who had envisioned it to be the first in a trilogy, which is now obviously abandoned, and was based on a script by him and Bad Grandpa’s Knate Lee… please don’t let those credentials scare you off… and is based loosely on the comics Demon Bear Saga, written by Chris Claremont, with art from Bob McLeod and Bill Sienkiewicz.

The New Mutants tells of Dani Moonstar (Blu Hunt), a teenage girl who has been admitted to a hospital after a tornado destroys her community, and her father is killed by… something…

At this institute, she discovers that the doctor in charge, Dr. Celia Reyes (Alice Braga) intends on keeping her there until she understands and can learn to control her mutant powers of being able to make people’s worst nightmares come to life.

Maisie Williams and Blu Hunt

Dr. Reyes already has a group of kids at the institute though: the quiet, but lycanthropic Rahne (Maisie Williams), the Brazilian hothead, Roberto (Henry Zaga), southern boy Sam (Charlie Heaton) and Uber-bitch, is-she-actually-a-demon Illyana (Anya Taylor-Joy), and quickly, Dani discovers that she is being held with these others, in a cage if sorts.

The problem with cages, though, is sometimes they keep what’s outside, outside, but they also trap everything inside, perhaps even whatever it was that killed Dani’s rather… and with 5 super powered and erratic teens, that could be a dangerous mix!

Roberto’s girlfriend is a hottie!

Now this film isn’t your traditional ‘Bang! Pow!’ Superhero movie, oh no. This takes all that bluster and works it down to something that you saw in some of the X-men films, especially with the horrors of Rogue’s (Anna Paquin) powers which caused he to be unable to touch the skin of another human being: getting your powers for the first time would be horrible. Mix with that the difficulties of puberty and a bit of sexual chemistry and you have an absolute cracker of a movie.

It reads very much like a super powered, horror version of The Breakfast Club, and honestly this probably does tap into my love of that John Hughes film, with maybe a little of A Nightmare on Elm St 3: The Dream Warriors thrown in for good measure.

The cast, for me, are an absolute dream. Maisie Williams, hot off her time as Anya in Game of Thrones, Charlie Heaton, the creepy hot guy from Stranger Things and Anya Taylor-Joy, my current obsession, and star of The VVitch and hit Netflix series The Queen’s Gambit. In a weird piece of chance, and I guess it’s what a good casting person does, the cast somehow both fit, and don’t.

The story is a great introduction to these characters, and choosing to make this film with horror and teen elements is just as clever as making Deadpool a full-tilt comedy. It was supposed to be the first part of a trilogy and it’s a shame we’ll miss out on that as this film quite heavily leans into a future appearances of X-men baddie, Mr. Sinister.

Just because this film was dumped by Disney, please don’t assume it’s anything bad. It’s great!

Score: ****

Format: This movie was reviewed on the Australian release, region B Bluray copy of the film. The 1.85:1 image and 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track are fabulous.

Score: *****

Extras: There’s a bunch of extras on this Bluray:

There are 7 deleted scenes which the movie really doesn’t miss at all.

Origins and Influences sees Boone, Lee and Sienkiewicz talk about the New Mutants comic. For me this is an unusual featurettes as Boone and Lee talk about how much they loved the New Mutants comic but it started off as a usual superhero comic, which for me, it definitely did not. Towards the end, it became boring and generic, but at first it was a proper school for people learning to control their abilities. I do appreciate it did become something unique when Sienkiewicz could really unleash his art style into it.

Meet the New Mutants introduces us to the cast and the characters they play.

Audio commentary with Boone and Sienkiewicz is really fascinating. To hear two storytellers from different areas of creative storytelling coming together and discussing a project they both worked on in different media. It’s so refreshing to see a comic creative get such a voice in a commentary. Normally in most superhero movies, a tiny bit of lip service is paid to the source material, or poor Stan Lee was forced to tell one of his oft-told tales again, but this really feels like a tribute to the comic. Fantastic.

There’s also the teaser and theatrical trailer.

Score: ****

WISIA: Oh boy, it’s so good it’ll get regularly rewatched!

Anya Taylor-Jot is Magikal

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (2010)

Film: There is only one difference between a so-called ‘A’ movie and a B movie: The Budget.

Budget can make a story that is cheap, tawdry or nasty something that people take notice of because budget pays for bigger stars, better effects or a more ‘international story. There was an amusing meme that went around when 50 Shades of Grey was released that if Mr Grey was poor and lived in a trailer park, it would be an episode of CSI.

So too, this film, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, based on the first book of the Millennium Trilogy by Stieg Larsson, could have been a sleazy little film that slipped by and only had a fan base of those who liked the books, but instead, it attracted names like director David Fischer, screenwriter Steven Zaillian, actors Daniel Craig, Rooney Mara, Robin Wright, Stellan Skarsgård and Christopher Plummer, and a score by Nine Inch Nails Trent Reznor.

Interestingly, this is an English remake of the film which was originally made in Sweden two years earlier with Naomi Rapace (also from Alien prequel Prometheus), along with two sequels made immediately based on the other two books of Larsson’s trio. I say ’remake’ but that is unfair; it is another movie version of the book. Unfortunately o date they haven’t made the other two books, and judging by the next Lisbeth Salander film made, The Girl in the Spider’s Web, they won’t be made anytime soon, nor with the same cast.

This film tells of shamed journalist Mikael Blomkvist (Daniel Craig) who takes on an assignment searching for a missing member of Henrik Vanger’s (Christopher Plummer) family, who went missing forty years ago.

Vanger’s family, one of great wealth, has been at war within its ranks for years, which hinders Blomkvist’s investigation. Most of the family members are compliant as his research is under the guise of a biography, but still he finds insults and resistance.

Soon, he gets help from Lisbeth Salander (Rooney Mara), a sociopathic hacker with a fast motorcycle and a vicious sense of vengeance and the two of them discover a horrible secret the family has kept hidden for years…

I’m going to gush a little here as I absolutely love this film. I think it’s directed brilliantly, the ‘administration’ and research the characters do is fascinating and the cinematography is exquisite. Of course the ‘hacking’ is almost of a science fiction level and one has to assume it’s not like that at all, but who wants to watch three days of coding instead of something a little more video game-ish.

In a podcast I am the host of (not the To Watch Pile one, another one called The Nerds of Oz) in an episode where me and my co-hosts talked about our favourite characters of all time, I actually named a Lisbeth Salander as mine. Of all the actresses to have played her, including Clare Foy in The Girl in the Spider’s Web, Mara is certainly the most convincing, and terrifying!

The ultimate results of the story vary from the book, but in this case I am ok with that as it did make the ending surprising, which was nice.

If I am to criticise this film, and it really hurts me to say this as he is my favourite Bond, is Daniel’s Craig’s performance. It is a performances of subtleties and the character probably requires that, but occasionally I find him a little wooden.

That said, this is easily one of my favourite films, and I can’t recommend it enough.

Score: *****

Format: This film was reviewed on the Australian multiregion Bluray and is presented in an absolutely pristine 2.40:1 image with a flawless Dolby Digital DTS-HD MA 5.1 track.

Score: *****

Extras: This film comes with two discs. The first disc features the film (of course) and a commentary by David Fincher. Like most of his commentaries, it’s fairly complete and he clearly enjoys the act of filmmaking. There is also a whole second disc worth of extras on this one:

Men Who Hate Women sees the director, screenwriter and stars of the film discuss the popularity of the Millennium Trilogy books.

The Character and location tabs open a separate, quite inventive yet very Fincher series of menus (that’s evocative of a research part of the film) that feature the entire making of the film, from casting to location b-roll and the visual effects design of the very James Bond-like opening sequence. Fascinating yet exhaustive stuff. There is also a fairly complete look at the promotion stuff for the film as well.

Score: *****

WISIA: Love this film, love the characters, love the story, love rewatching it.