Slither (2006)

Slither (2006)

The Umbrella release of Slither with amazing slipcase by Simon Sherry

Film: James Gunn is certainly one in a million. Most people know him from Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy and The Suicide Squad, but his career before that was SO much more fun, and honestly, creative.

There’s an amazing two pack of films that I suggest to anyone who doesn’t know his work, and that’s his superhero film Super, starring Rainn Wilson, and this film, Slither.

Slither tells of the small town of Wheelsy, and after an argument with his wife, Starla (Elizabeth Banks), Grant Grant (Michael Rooker) finds himself in the woods, potentially about to commit adultery after being reunited with a school friend, Brenda (Brenda James), but unfortunately, Grant ends up having a dart shot into his abdomen by something that appears to be not-of-this-earth.

Michael Rooker and Elizabeth Banks as Grant and Starla, respectively

Grant collapses and we see, via X-ray, the dart burrow it’s way up into his head.

The next day, Grant is a changed man: he is quieter, and is desperate to collect as much meat as he possibly can, and Starla has noticed the change. Grant revisits Brenda, and with two newly grown tentacles, impregnates her with, what we find out later, to be thousands of leech-like brain slugs.

Whilst all this is happening, Sheriff Bill Pardy (Nathan Fillion), a childhood sweetheart of Starla’s, is investigating Brenda’s disappearance, and obviously, all this quickly collides as the slugs invade the town, and burrow into the mouths of everyone they comes across… will he and Starla survive?

This film is extraordinary in that the fun is a gory, gross out horror movie, that still has elements of laugh-out-loud comedy. The story is solid, and doesn’t overexplain where the ‘thing’ came from initially, except for in some interesting hive-mind flashbacks.

A brain slug tries to take over Emily (Matreya Fedor)

You can really see Gunn’s early career at Troma influencing this film, except for the budget. The humour is sophomoric (thankfully) and the gore is sudden, disgusting and surprising. There is a body bisection that still, after many if watches of this film, delights me to no end.

The cast is also fantastic. Fillion is charming and likeable and Banks is just adorable as well. Special mentions have to go to the appearances of Lloyd Kaufman as the town drunk, Jenna Fischer, a TV crush of mine from the Office, as the police receptionist (who also starred with Gunn in the film LolliLove) and Gunn himself as the most awkward of school teachers.

Gunn’s slick writing and directorial style is present here as well. The script is full of old school jokes, some of which may not sit well with a 2022 audience, but fit for the location and time period, and the direction has some really interesting angles which really makes the film fun to watch. The effects don’t sit as well as they did, but that’s to be expected and if you are able to overlook some of those bits of CGI due to age… this movie is almost 20 years old remember, so even though the practical effects are great, some of the CGI isn’t so perfect, but it’s all still very effective.

This film is a beautiful throwback to films like Henenlotter’s Brain Damage or Stephen Herek’s Critters and could be watched alongside them and not seem at all out of place, even though this film was made 20 years later.

I think I really like this film because of its 80s/ drive-in influences, and was more than happy to revisit it! This Bluray from Umbrella Entertainment is from their ‘Beyond Genres’ imprint and has a pretty awesome slipcase by Simon Sherry.

Score: ****

The menu for the Bluray release of Slither

Extras: A bunch of fun extras on this disc that were on the original DVD back in the day.

Audio commentary with James Gunn and Nathan Fillion is interesting and charming and full of lots of reminiscing about the films of the 80s and the making of this film.

The Slick Minds and Slimy Days of Slither: Making of Featurette is a quick ten minute look at the origins and making of the film.

Who is Bill Pardy? starts as an amusing set of outtakes of Fillion, saying ‘I’m Bill Pardy whenever he screws up, but then turns into an amusing roast of Fillion by the cast and crew.

Slither Visual Effects Progressions looks at the different plates the CGI went through from the initial filming to the resulting effect.

Bringing Slither’s Creatures to Life:FX Featurette goes through all of the practical effects used in the movie, ad is quite fascinating!

Slithery Set Tour with Nathan Fillion is a brief bit with the ever charming Fillion filming some behind the scenes stuff with his particular brand of comedy.

The Gorehound Grill: Brewin’ the Blood is basically a recipe for the blood used in the film.

The King Of Cult: Lloyd Kaufman’s Video Diary is a little bit of home video made by Lloyd Kaufman, the King of Troma, and the man who directed Gunn’s script Tromeo and Juliet, who was invited by Gunn to have a cameo in the film.

Deleted Scenes and Extended Scenes as usual are an interesting watch but ultimately not necessary.

Gag Reel is one back from the old days when gag reels were actually funny and not staged like the modern day Marvel ones.

Score: *****

WISIA: I will easily watch this film at anytime!

Nathan Fillion takes aim!

This film was reviewed with the Umbrella Entertainment Bluray release.

Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974)

Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974)

The Umbrella release of Texas Chain Saw Massacre

Film: I was a latecomer to seeing the Texas Chain Saw Massacre. Being in Australia and too young in the eighties to be part of any tape-swapping scene, and then a bit of a loner in the early 90s, I didn’t actually get to see it until it was first released on DVD.

Should I hand my horror fan card in now?

The problem with seeing it so late is I was completely entrenched in the hype from mags like Fangoria, Samhain, Fear and the hundred of other mags and books I had been exposed to before seeing the film. Could a film live up to everything I had heard for all those years? Of course not!

Texas Chain Saw Massacre tells of a group of young kids travelling through Texas to see a family home; Sally (Marilyn Burns), Kirk (William Vail), Pam (Teri McMin), Jerry (Alan Danziger) and the disabled Franklin (Paul A. Partain) who decide it would be fun to pick up a hitchhiker (Edwin Neal), an extraordinarily strange man who is kicked out of the van after attacking Franklin with a knife.

Edwin Neal as the Hitchhiker

The group go to the abandoned family house and split off in their various directions, as horror youngsters do, exploring the surrounding area. Unfortunately for them, they find out exactly where the hitchhiker lives, and that he has an extended family of the cook (Jim Siedow), the practically immobile (and maybe mummified?) Grandfather (John Dugan) and the terrifying, monstrous, chainsaw-wielding beast Leatherface (Gunnar Hanson). This family LOVE having people for dinner, if you know what I mean… and unfortunately for some, there is fresh, young meat available…

Since that first watch, I’ve respected this film, but haven’t held it in the high regard on my personal list of most loved films like others had, mainly because I had seen and fallen in love with so many other horror films before I had the opportunity to see it, and it didn’t feel as special as I thought it was going to be: it wasn’t very gory, or bloody, but I could appreciate it was a pretty good story and the family, especially Leatherface, the main killer and TCSM icon, were terrifying.

The iconic red shorts scene

There’s no doubt the film really looks the business. Made with a low budget in 1974, the film looks hot, and dirty, and horrible… but not as in horrible filmmaking, because it really looks like a proper horror movie. Hooper makes every set up scene sweat with the heat, and every scene with the bad guys in it is full of dread, and that combination of heat and dread really makes the whole experience really claustrophobic, which is what proper horror really does, and because you see the cast both hot and in fear, you find yourself in the film with them. The upgraded and cleaned up version of the film may have been criticised by some upon release as it made the film look ‘nicer’, but it’s a grimy enough film to be able to overcome that.

I must put a caveat here and say ‘except for one’ in regards to the cast of characters. For me, the entire experience of this film is spoilt by the character of Franklin. I like to get really involved with the characters experiences and feel what they are feeling, but every time Franklin’s immature, whiny drawls come out, I disassociate from the film and find it hard to get back into it. Thankfully he doesn’t spoil the final scenes of the film, so at least the pay off is good.

I appreciate just how important this film is not just to horror, but to the film industry in itself, but personally, there are a lot more films that appeal to me far more. Still, everyone should see it at least once in their lives so they can understand that a film doesn’t have to be Citizen Cain or Gone With The Wind to lay industry foundations that will forever hold strong.

The menu screen to the Bluray release

Score: ***1/2

Extras: The disc opens with trailers for the Umbrella Entertainments releases for The Babadook, and The Quiet Ones, before we get SO many extras! There’s so much information for cast and crew across these extras, after you have finished watching them, you will feel like an expert on the film.

There are 4 (!) commentaries on this disc! One with Tobe Hooper, another with cinematographer Faniel Pearl, Sounds Recordist Ted Nicolaou and Editor J. Larry Carroll, a third with actors Marilyn Burns, Paul A. partial, Allen Danziger with Art Director Robert A. Burns and finally one with Tobe Hooper, Daniel Pearl and Leatherface himself, Gunnar Hanson. The first two commentaries are labelled as ‘new’ so I assume the others are on previous releases. There is just buckets of anecdotes and recollections across these 4 commentaries they almost make the other extras redundant!

‘Off The Hook’ with Teri McMinn is an interview with the actress who portrayed Pam, who, for me has the iconic shot in the film where she walks across the from of the house in the bright red shorts. There’s also that other iconic scene where she I’d definitely ‘on the hook’ but still, I love the shorts scene.

Interview with actor John Dugan, who played the Grandfather, under LOTS of makeup, obviously. He talks about his days in set and the heat (a common theme) under that mask.

Interview with Production Manager Ros Bozman of which TCSM was one of his earliest jobs, but he went on to do films like Philadelphia and Married to the Mob… he went legitimate, if you will. Again, interesting look at the film production from the POV of the actual production manager makes for an interesting watch.

40th Anniversary Trailer is the trailer made for the remastered version of the film.

Horror’s Hallowed Grounds with Sean Clark – a visit to TCSM Location. I like the HHG stuff in general as the revisiting of some of the locations can be fascinating, and this isn’t different. I do have to say I hate the skate punk film clip intro, but I’m willing to forgive that for the content of the rest of the episodes.

Deleted Scenes and Alternate Footage are the usual bunch of things that the film is probably better off without, which it’s popularity obviously proves.

Blooper Reel is ok but looks like it was filmed through a screen door.

Theatrical Trailer, Tv Spots and Radio Spots is about 5 minutes of the original advertising for the film. Now we have this beautiful remastered version it almost seems weird to see it so washed out and grainy… has the film lost something with the clean up? Not to me but I’m sure there are many who prefer the more ‘grindhouse’ feel to the way it used to look.

There are two documentaries on this disc; ‘Flesh Wounds’ and ‘Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Shocking Truth’. Flesh Wounds is divided into 7 parts and is a far more by-the-fans-for-the-fans affair, whereas The Shocking Truth is made as a more traditional doco about the film.

The Tobe Hooper interview and Kim Henkel interviews are certainly the nuts and bolts interviews of the entire disc. Interesting but some of the info has been heard before on the various commentaries and other extras across the disc.

Killing Kirk outtakes is exactly what it says on the box. Some different takes in Kirk’s murder. No commentary or sound though.

Outtakes from ‘The Shocking Truth’ is about 7 minutes of extra footage from the Shocking Truth doco not used in the film.

A Tour of the TCSM House with Gunnar Hansen is a 1993 shot-on-video look at the original location for the house where the original film was made, with commentary by Hanson as he wanders through with the camera crew, and then another in 2000 after the house had been restored… and it’s disturbingly filled with Easter bunnies and paraphernalia!

Score: *****

WISIA: Even though it’s not even in my top 20 favourite horror films, I still will watch it now and again to remind myself of it’s importance not just in the horror film industry, but the entire film industry.

Marilyn Burns as Sally, freaking the hell out!

This review was done with the Australian release of the film, provided by Umbrella Entertainment.

Candyman (2021)

Candyman (2021)

The cover to the Australian Bluray release of Candyman

Film: For me, Candyman was the last of the really amazing horror franchises. Based on a Clive ‘Hellraiser’ Barker story ‘The Forbidden’ and directed by Paperhouse’s Bernard Rose, it starred Tony Todd from Tom Savini’s Night of the Living Dead remake as a supernatural slasher, akin to the likes of Freddy Krueger, but with his revenge coming from a tragic backstory of victimisation and prejudice rather than one of a paedophilic lust that resulted in his doom.

If there was anyone to take the franchise and relaunch it, it would certainly be Jordan Peele. Peele co-produced and co-wrote this film with Wil Rosenfeld and director Nina DeCosta, who direction here impressed me so much that I have become an immediate fan!

Candyman tells of up and coming artist Anthony McCoy (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) who has seemingly been struggling to find his artistic ‘voice’, and that seems to be holding back his success. Luckily, he is supported by his partner, Brianna (Teyonah Parris), who is employed by a local art gallery.

Yahya Abdul-Mateen II as Anthony McCoy

In the quest to find his voice, Anthony visits Cabrini-Green, a part of Chicago that was once a housing project that became an area which was riddled with crime and became neglected by the government, and meets William Burke (Colman Domingo) who introduces him to the horrific story of the Candyman, a man who in Cabrini-Green in the 70s was accusing of disfiguring a young white girl by putting a razor blade in candy that he regularly offered the local children, and was beaten to death by the local police.

Legend has it that if you say ‘Candyman’ in a mirror 5 times, he will appear and murder you, and this appeals to Anthony, jumping onto the myth and creating art based around it. The problem is, sometimes when you open a door to a legend, it refuses to allow the door to be closed, and Anthony, both mentally and physically, starts to devolve as he discovers that maybe the legend of the Candyman is much MUCH more than it seems…

I have to say I went into this with low expectations. Not because of anything to do with the filmmakers, quite the contrary, I loved Peele’s Get Out!, Us, and Twilight Zone series, so his involvement was probably the thing that really made me pursue it. Instead it was that I have an irrational aversion to production companies digging up old franchises to revitalise them. Get Out! and Us are perfect examples of this: why the hell would I want to watch a continuation of a series that died over 20 years ago when there is modern, relevant horror like these titles being made.

Seriously, don’t say his name in the mirror five times!

Perhaps money talks, but judging from the extras, there certainly is a fondness in the black

community for the Candyman, so maybe now is the perfect time to bring back such a character!

DeCosta’s direction was the first thing that stood out for me. Her use of reflection in this as a tool to tell the story is amazing. So many scenes are shot looking at the reverse of the image that it creates an even more dream-like state. I was reminded of Ron Howard’s EdTV where almost every shot begins looking at a TV screen in a way to describe that what you see on TV may not be real. There’s also this fantastic replication of the opening top down view of the first Candyman movie, but, taking the ‘reflection’ idea, it’s shot from below look up. This could also be a look at the people who were trapped in Calibri-Green and other projects like it, and their desire to escape.

The cast are also on point and completely believable. Abdul-Mateen II’s artist is not one we would normally see in a film. Artists are usually seen as struggling financially, but here we see one who is having trouble expressing himself. Parris is a wonderful support to this character, being the driving force behind Anthony, and as someone who has a successful partner who drives me on with my various endeavours, I think I believe in this character more than most! Domingo is also a fascinating character with his sage-like information feed to Anthony, but it never quite feels right, and that pays off in the end.

Flashbacks in this film are also done with an idea that was welcome, and in a film about an artist, both Anthony and the original Candyman, perfectly suitable. Manual Cinema, a shadow puppeteering company, do all the flashbacks in this fashion, and the stories have this beautiful abstraction to them that’s welcome.

The soundtrack by Robert Aiki Aubrey Lowe suits the film as well, as it’s combination of soundscapes and voices put the viewer on edge constantly. I like these less traditional scores by untraditional performers and this one nails it.

All in all, I thoroughly enjoyed this film and it’s a welcome throwback to the original, and doesn’t ignore the original story, (one section even reveals a photo of Virginia Madsen in it). DaCosta has truly made a film that is proper horror; I’m not sure if I want to see another film in this series, but i think this addition to the legend in the current political climate was timely.

Score: *****

The menu screen the the Bluray of Candyman

Extras: A nice bunch of extras on this disc:

An Alternate Ending that I thought could have almost been a post credit sequence that was interesting and possibly a shame it wasn’t included as that.

There’s 3 deleted/ extended scenes that I’m actually disappointed weren’t included. One is an extended take on the art critics commentary on how it’s artists that cause the gentrification of poor neighbourhoods, next is the suicide of Brianna’s father and finally one where we see a bit more of just how awful the high school mean girls are. I’m not one to normally care deleted scenes but I liked these and realistically they were no more than a minute or two in total.

Say My Name talks about the legend of Candyman, and discusses briefly the violence committed on the minority communities in America. It may only go for 6 minutes or so, but the emotion and content of Tony Todd’s final words makes you stop and think.

Body Horror looks at the devolution of Anthony’s body after the bee-sting he receives at Cabrini Green whilst investigating the Candyman. It’s pretty gross. DaCosta mentions that she was influenced by David Cronenberg and it’s apparent.

The Filmmakers Eye: Nia DaCosta looks at DaCosta’s take on the Candyman legend, and how important it was to have a different cultural take on the legend.

Painting Chaos looks at the work on the film of Hamza Walker, an art consultant, who created basically an art show for Anthony’s work to be displayed amongst. To give it legitimacy, they borrowed work from black Chicago artists so that the art shows weren’t just a bunch of stuff on canvas bashed together by an art department, but instead really represented the local art community. They also look at the artists who did the work for the character of Anthony, Cameron Spratley and Sherwin Ovid, two completely different types of artists but both whose work really adds depth to the character.

The Art of Robert Aiki Aubrey Lowe looks at the score and soundscapes made for the film, and the take that Lowe has of Philip Glass’ original score.

Terror in the Shadows looks at the stunning beautiful shadow marionettes used in the film created by Manual Cinema.

Candyman: The Impact of Black Horror is an interesting discussion hosted by Colman Domingo with experts on horror and real-life trauma and mental health and the reverence of the character both to the black and horror communities.

Score: ****

WISIA: Seeing as how I enjoyed DaCosta’s work so much I can definitely see me watching this again.

An example of DaCosta’s use of reflection

Whiteout (2009)

Whiteout (2009)

The cover of the UK release of Whiteout

Film: One of the big problems with comic to film projects is compression.

If one is making a film of say, Spiderman, a cinematic script writer needs to look at 50 odd years of history and compress that into 2 odd hours of movie. Some writers attempt this by directly adapting a story, others just try to get a ‘feel’ for the character and others try for an amalgam of tales. Some would say that this is why many comic to film movies didn’t work, and why the modern comic movie DOES work as it simply gets its inspiration from the original work.

Ideally what one would do is to get a story that is a one off, like a novel! Whiteout is a comic written by Greg Rucka, who has written for DC’s Wonder Woman and Action Comics, and illustrated by Steve Leiber, who has illustrated Detective Comics and Conan and is published by independent publisher Oni Press.  Whiteout was popular upon its release in 1999 and to date has produced a sequel, Whiteout: Melt which earned an Eisner Award in 2000 for Best Limited Series. A third series Whiteout: Thaw, renamed Whiteout: Night, is yet to be published.

The film adaptation of Whiteout was directed by Dominic Sena who also directed the Nic Cage vehicle Gone in 60 Seconds and the Travolta/ Jackman thief gumbo Swordfish.

Kate Beckinsale as Stetson

Whiteout starts in 1957, with a Russian transport plane crashlanding into the snow after a gunfight between the co-pilot and a security team who are responsible for guarding ‘something’ results in the pilot getting his brains blown out.

Flash forward to now, and we are introduced to US Federal Marshall Carrie Stetko (Kate Beckinsale) who, after a disastrous experience with a traitorous partner, has worked in a research station in remote Antarctica for 2 years. The station is in a part of Antarctica that becomes so cold in the winter that planes aren’t allowed in or out for three months, and so the majority of the workers leave for that period. Stetko has decided to leave her position as ‘town sheriff’ permanently, and make preparations to leave for the last time. Unfortunately, her last days are marred by what appears to be a body seen by a pilot in a fairly remote part of the area which she has to investigate.

She grabs the Station’s doctor ‘Doc’ (Tom Skerrit) and they, along with a pilot Delfy (Columbus Short) fly out to the remote area where the body was seen, and what they find is not an accident victim, but the corpse of one who has been… murdered.

The body mysteriously abandoned in the snow.

So the story begins, and we have Stetko having to solve a murder in only a few days, and when it becomes compounded with the mystery involving the aforementioned crashed plane, and a case of gangrene to contend with, she has her work cut out for her.

The film on the surface appears to be quality, but somewhere along the line, just doesn’t click. There is nothing wrong with the acting, the story is a fine murder mystery, the direction is good, but for some reason it just doesn’t all gel.  I think it might be just that it has all been seen before, and the film doesn’t really offer anything new to the table. Essentially we have a Wild West sheriff attempting to solve a Holmsian mystery on the set of John Carpenter’s The Thing. I suspect this problem with it stems from the producers being dazzled by the visuals of the comic, but didn’t really see that it was a fairly average mystery story, and when those clever drawn visuals are removed, the story can’t quite hold its own.

Think of it this way; would the film Sin City have been so clever if they had made a straight up colour film adaptation, or would it have been a collection of fairly generic noir (without the noir) stories. I love that film, but am well aware that a good percentage of my affection for it comes from the visuals.

It has all the elements of a great thriller, with a pretty good cast to boot, but somehow, tragically, falls flat.

Score: ***

The Whiteout Bluray menu screen

Extras: After the disc starting with trailers for The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus, The Hurt Locker, The Keeper, and a Snickers advert starring Mr. T (remember them? ‘GET SOME NUTS!’) there’s a couple of decent extras on this disc:

Whiteout: The Coldest Thriller Ever is a traditional ‘making of’ documentary. It shows behind the scenes footage and has interviews with various cast and crew. Work-a-day DVD and BD extra stuff.

Whiteout: From Page To Film is a look at this process of writing and drawing the comic, and how it was adapted to the screen. There are some good insights into how an adaptation can work, or not work.

Deleted Scenes: At about 4 minutes you can see that these deleted scenes don’t really show too much extra, though they one shows both an appearance by writer Greg Rucka, and a look at just how mundane Carrie’s regular policing of the station are.

Score: ***

WISIA: Watch it once and give it away.

This film was reviewed with the UK Bluray release.

The killer kills again!

Hatchet for the Honeymoon (1970)

Hatchet for the Honeymoon (1970)

The slipcase to the Cinema Cult release of Hatchet for the Honeymoon

Film: I have a feeling that I don’t always give enough tribute to the ‘cult’ and horror’ part of my websites tagline, but sometimes it’s hard seeing as how superhero movies come under ‘sci-fi’ or ‘action’ (technically) and as a tiny website drowning in a sea of other bigger, and probably better websites, sometimes having ‘Batman’ or ‘Iron Man’ rather than ‘Dario Argento’ or ‘Mario Bava’ in your tags give you a higher SEO. That may sound a little rude, but even though I do enjoy writing movies, seeing that people are reading them is nice too!

Not today though, my horror loving friends! Today I’m overcoming my need for mainstream validation and it’s all about the aforementioned Mario Bava; easily one of the most important filmmakers of the twentieth century! Bava comes from a family of film experts, his father being Eugenio Bava, a cinematographer from the early days of cinema, and even though Mario trained as a painter, he eventually followed his father’s footsteps but his artistic flair is apparent in almost every film he made.

Stephen Forsyth as the tortured psychopath John Harrington

Seriously, I’m not going to bang on about Bava and his amazing films, but I will say if you DON’T know who he is, fix that immediately by watching things like Black Sabbath, Black Sunday, Blood and Black Lace and one of the best comic-based movies ever made, Danger: Diabolik!

Unfortunately, and at a risk of burying the lead, which is another way of saying ‘SPOILER ALERT’, this film isn’t in that category of ‘Bava’s you must see’.

Hatchet for the Honeymoon tells of John Harrington (Stephen Forsyth), a handsome man who suffers from an intense childhood trauma that he simply can’t remember, but he has discovered that every time he kills a bride, he gets closer to unveiling that which his mind has hidden.

Unfortunately, our dear killer has access to lots of beautiful young women, as he has inherited his mother’s bridal fashion house, which is predominantly kept afloat by the money from his wife, Mildred (Laura Betti), whom he wishes to divorce, but she flatly refuses, instead torturing him with her presence.

Dagmar Lassander as Harrington’s wife, Helen.

She tells him that she is going away for a week, but this is simply a ruse by her to catch him in an infidelity but he is so frustrated by her presence that he kills her and buries her in the garden. Everyone else maintains that they continue to see her about the grounds, which seems to lead John deeper into his madness, and an attempt at yet another murder…

It’s a weird bird, this film. Posing as a giallo but it’s fails to do so as it completely ignores the idea that we, the viewer, are to ‘help’ with the investigation, and we are only to ever see the murders from the killers point of view. Also, the inclusion of the subplot about the wife, which is totally unnecessary as it overcomplicates proceedings and makes the film’s flow choke on several occasions. This film would have been far better with just the idea of the woman-hating murderer having access to so many young women, which is a far scarier idea.

It is, however, beautifully shot and is worth looking at for Bava’s skill behind the camera, but as I stated earlier, there are better films of his to see that.

Score: **1/2

The menu screen for Hatchet for the Honeymoon

Extras: Unfortunately there is just trailers for other films that were released under the ‘Cinema Cult’ label, like the trailer for this film, Masters of the Universe, Dr. Phibes Rises Again, The Abominable Dr. Phibes, Electra Glide in Blue, Vanishing Point and Killer Klowns from Outer Space. It’s doesn’t seem like much, and it’s literally just adverts for other products under this label, but I must admit I took a great deal of joy in watching these trailers!

Score: ***

WISIA: No. it’s not REALLY worth the first watch as there are better choices. Want to watch a giallo? Watch Bay of Blood or Tenebrae or Deep Red. Want to watch a film about a madman who kills women? Well, Psycho or Deranged or either versions of Maniac are far better choices.

This film was reviewed with the Australian Cinema Cult edition Bluray.

Stare into the eyes of one of the victims.

Willy’s Wonderland (2021)

Willy’s Wonderland (2021)

The cover to the Australian release Bluray of Willy’s Wonderland

Film: Nicolas Cage has had an interesting career… highs like Con Air and Face/Off, and lows like the Wicker Man remake, and then there is the absolute batcrap crazy stuff that he has been putting his name to since about 2018. It seems that the man has become the meme, and do I have a problem with that?

HELL no! If there is one thing that upgraded-hair Nic Cage can do, and do like NO ONE else can, it’s batcrap crazy, and in a fantastic move, filmmakers have decided that employing Cage the Meme is a far better idea, and the films being released with him in it have just been nothing short of odder than the loose sock box and a thrift store.

Willy and the Janitor face off… pun intended.

Willy’s Wonderland is the product of the mind of screenplay writer G. O. Parsons and director Kevin Lewis and boy-oh-boy, if all you want in 90 minutes of Cage not speaking and beating 5 different colours of oil out of some Five Nights at Freddy’s styled robots, you’re in for a treat.

If you are looking for a sensible and intelligent script with the absolute pinnacle of acting and special effects so real you can’t tell them apart from reality, you may not enjoy this… actually, why are you reading this at all?!?

Nic Cage played a character only known as ‘The Janitor’, a silent loner with an addiction to soft drinks, who’s pretty damned cool car is crippled when he comes across some police road spikes. The local mechanic/ tow truck driver, Jed (Chris Warner) only takes cash and his in-house ATM is down, so what will our hero do?

Luckily for him, owner of local burger joint Willy’s Wonderland, Tex Macadoo (Ric Reitz), has a proposition: clean up the restaurant overnight, and he’ll cover the costs of the repairs of his vehicle.

Our hero reluctantly agrees, and discovers two things about the restaurant. The first is that it’s condition is best described as ‘absolutely disgusting) and second, IT’S FILLED WITH ANIMATRONIC ROBOTS MADE FOR CHILDREN’S PARTIES BUT NOW JUST PROGRAMMED TO KILL, KILL, KILL!!!

The Janitor’s night of cleaning quickly becomes a night of violent survival, and the potential for carnage escalates when you include a bunch of local kids, headed up by Liv (Emily Tosta), who are trying to burn the place down, and the local constabulary, Sheriff Lund (Beth Grant), who seems to have secrets and motivations, involving a cult of serial killers, that are revealed as our story unfolds…

My first thoughts on this film was ‘oh crikey, what a rip off’ when you consider it’s similarity to Scott Cawthorn’s 2014 video game Five Night at Freddy’s, which tells a less violent version of the same story, and even 2019’s The Banana Splits movie, which tells a comparable tale, but with a much-loved kids TV show at its core. Realistically, it could have also been described as a homage to John Swartzwelder’s 1994 episode of The Simpsons, in which the robot entertainment of Itchy and Scratchyland goes haywire and start attacking the staff and visitors to the park, which in itself was a homage to many sources, including Jurassic Park and The Terminator. What we can definitely say though is all of these things owe their existence to Westworld.

That thought, long though it may seem, stopped pretty quickly once this film REALLY kicked off. We’ve ALL seen performances by Nic Cage where we have thought ‘now that’s something unusual’ but this performance hit the highest mark on the Owen Wilson WOW-ometer. His character has some form of mental diversity which keeps him relatively silent, set to a timer and probably more mechanical than the robots from the restaurant, which is possibly the point.

Weirdly, the accompanying cast are great support to our silent, but violent hero. Beth Grant, a character actor of the highest order whose IMDb reads like a list of every TV series of the past 20 years, but is probably best known as the dreadful Kitty Farmer from Donnie Darko gets a much deserved lead in this movie. Emily Tosta as Liv is probably a standout as well, as she shows probably far more intensity than the film deserves, and is easily the least caricature-like, unlike her friend group who just tick off the generic horror film checklist. I must admit to liking the character played by Caylee Cowan, truly a traditional horror bimbo of the highest order but I’ve followed the actor on Instagram for a while so it was nice to finally see her in a role, a small as it was.

Caylee Cowan goes full-horror bimbo in this flick.

Speaking of generic, it may have been on purpose and a parody of a lot of the Chuck-E-Cheese wannabe places in the US, but whilst the characters stood out from each other, but didn’t really have any sort of their own definition, and so were a little forgettable. I can honestly only name three of them right now after finishing the movie just a few hours ago.

Weirdly, this silent hero vs robot cartoon characters actually works. I can honestly say that when the movie finished, I immediately wanted to see what The Janitor’s next adventure would be, and I’m totally on board for a sequel.

Score: ****

The menu screen to the Australian Bluray release

Extras: Only trailers for Willy’s Wonderland, Bill and Ted Face the Music, Parasite, Guns Akimbo, and Upgrade.

Score: *

WISIA: I think it might wear thin quite quickly, but right now I want to watch it again.

This film was reviewed using the Australian release Bluray.

The weird Tinkerbell-styled character

Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance (2011)

Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance (2011)

The cover to the Australian Bluray release

Film: Marvel comics of the 70s were some of the best comics ever made, and I really dig everything they did at that time. Actually, Marvel were heavily influenced by cinema at this time as they had their horror characters, their blaxploitation characters (like Power Man and Black Goliath), chop socky guys (like Shang Chi and Iron Fist) and their supernatural line, which included Satana, Man Thing and this guy, Ghost Rider.

OK, so I am the guy who liked the first Ghost Rider film: I need to point that out straight away. I am aware that that may have some of you not read my reviews at all anymore, but for any of its faults: it had the fucking GHOST RIDER in it… oh, and Eva Mendes in some outfits that were so tight you can almost count the hairs on her… well, they were pretty tight.

This new production, under the Marvel Knights line (a lower budget, more violent, less mainstream part of Marvel films) was directed by the team of Brian Taylor and Mark Neveldine, who brought us the Crank films and Gamer and written by Scott M. Gimple (episodes of The Walking Dead), Seth Hoffman (episodes of House and Prison Break) and David S. Goyer (Dark City and the Blade films… amongst others).

Nicolas Cage as Johnny Blaze

This reboot of the Ghost Rider tale sees Johnny Blaze (Nicolas Cage), the alter ego of the demon motorcyclist Ghost Rider approached by Moreau (Idris Elba), who is working for a religious order to stop the devil in his human guise Roarke (Ciaran Hinds) from kidnapping a boy, Danny (Fergus Riordan) from his mother Nadya (Violante Placido) for his own hidden reasons. Of course, Roarke has a mercenary working for him named Ray Carrigan (Johnny Whitworth) whose efforts to get the boy are assisted by a gift, a dark, evil gift…

… and then throw in Highlander Christopher Lambert as a tattooed religious fanatic and you have an absolute blast!!!

This film had a lot lower budget than the previous outing, but it is such a different film, with such a different vibe that a larger budget possibly would have been detrimental to the dirty look it achieved. The look of the main character, Ghost Rider, and his motorcycle, are so much fierier than in the first film. The skull is charred and the fire belches a thick polluting smoke that is echoed in the emissions from the motorcycle as well. His leathers aren’t smooth like in the first film, they bubble and pop, giving the fire real weight and you can almost feel the heat from it.

The Ghost Rider on his flaming hellcycle!

Most of the performances in the film are good, except, I hate to say it, for Cage’s. He is supposed to be a man haunted by a demon within, but sometimes it leans into vaudevillian which doesn’t really suit parts of the film.

The story is a little generic, and plot points will jump out at seasoned film goers well before they happen. That is not to say there aren’t some interesting moments (keep your eye out for a tribute to Pink Floyd’s Wish You Were Here, a joke about Twinkies’ use by dates and the Ghost Rider ‘hellifying’ a gigantic piece of digging equipment) but the direction is the hero here. Taylor and Neveldine deliver their hectic style seen in the Crank films, which suits the character perfectly and is a blast to watch.

Missed opportunity for comic geekdom department: there is a son of Satan in this and they didn’t call him Damien Hellstrom? Marvel fans will know what I mean!!

A pretty good film that is slightly better than the first film due to the manic direction and maniac performances. It knows its limitations, attempts to exceed them and does so well. Comic fans should dig it.

Score: ***1/2

The menu screen of the Australian Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance Bluray

Extras: Straight up I want to say one thing that pissed me off about this release. Columbia, in their wisdom, has decided to release two different Bluray releases of this film: one has the 3D and 2D versions on two discs, and the other version has the 2D version, a DVD and a digital copy… so why not a combo of all?!? I like my digital copies of films, and whilst I don’t have a 3D TV, I like to get the 3D versions in case I get one in the future, so what do I buy here? What will end up happening are probably both, or I’ll download a digital copy from iTunes. Either way: Columbia are bastards.

Due to this, I was unable to watch the Riding Into Another Dimension 3D Featurette as it was on the 3D disc and unwatchable on my equipment… sorry!

The Path to Vengeance is a great 6 part documentary looking at the trials that Neveldine and Taylor and their cast and crew had to getting this made. It’s an interesting look at filmmaking in Eastern Europe and the director’s take the whole thing with a great sense of humour.

The Deleted Scenes are cool: essentially unnecessary but interesting if only for the semi-finished CGI featured in them.

Director’s Expanded Video Commentary is the best director’s commentary ever. It features Taylor and Neveldine standing in front of the film and commenting, stopping the film for ‘making of footage’ and picture in picture stuff with alternate shots and making of bits. It’s a really interesting and innovative commentary that has a wry sense of humour as well. It does; however, double up on some of the info given in the The Path to Vengeance doco.

Score: ****

WISIA: Probably just after watching the first one, so yeah, I’d watch it again.

Johnny Whitworth as Blackout

This review was done with the initial Australian Bluray release

Ghost Rider (2007)

Ghost Rider (2007)

The cover to the Australian release of Ghost Rider

Film: I am a massive fan of the ‘comic-movie’. Having read comics for over the past 40 odd years, I’m interested in any comic to film adaptation, be it a lowbrow comedy like High School Confidential, or a super budgeted blockbuster-y extravaganza like the Juggernauts that are the Marvel and DC products that we see today. I am always interested to see filmmakers takes on characters from my favourite literary art-form. Sometimes they can be super-duper adaptations, like Sin City, or Captain America Winter Soldier…and sometimes they can be Judge Dredd (the Stallone one, not the Urban one): either way, I am always keen to see where the producer’s will take a popular (or in some cases unpopular) license.

One thing I never understand though is unnecessary changes. Do some of these filmmakers feel a need to personalise a character for the sake of the audience, or is it for more egotistical reasons that makes them want to feel the character is their own? Ghost Rider is another example of unnecessary changes, but lucky for me most of it worked.

Ghost Rider tells the tale of Johnny Blaze (Matt Long) who, as a youngster, sold his soul to the Devil (Peter Fonda) in exchange for the life his father, a cycle stunt rider who has been diagnosed with lung cancer and is dying. The Devil, of course, cures him, but allows him to die in a motorcycle accident, which causes Johnny to become hellbent on self destruction, including throwing away a relationship with the lovely Roxy (Raquel Alessi).

Nicolas Cage as Johnny Blaze

Flash forward to now, and Johnny (now played by Nicolas Cage) is still trying to destroy himself, until he meets up with Roxy (now played by Eva Mendes) again. He tries to re-ignite their love, but is unaware that the Devil’s son Blackheart (Wes Bentley) is challenging his father’s rule, and that the Devil will soon call upon Johnny to fulfill his contract with him, by becoming his demonic hitman on Earth, which will no doubt play havoc with any potential of a personal life. After a chance meeting with the Caretaker (Sam Elliott), who seems to know more about his curse than he is letting on, Johnny learns how to use the powers of… THE GHOST RIDER!!

My biggest problem with this film was some of the characterizations. Nic Cage as Johnny Blaze was great… never before have I seen an actor play a two dimensional character so well, and his emotions swung from moody to brooding to angst-ridden with ease. Eva Mendes was wonderful as a cleavage that could speak. Seriously, I don’t think I heard a single world that came out of her mouth, as her role is a purely visual one!! Wes Bentley as Blackheart… well let’s just say that one of comic artist John Romita Jr’s most wonderful visual images was adapted into a skinny emo boy, and didn’t necessarily feel as oppressive and evil as he was in the comics.

Eva Mendez as Roxanne

Now though, we get to the performance cream, Peter Fonda as the Devil was inspired, and his longing looks at the motorbike were a grand harking back to his Easy Rider days. I suspect though, that his portrayal of Satan may be quite easy for him, and I suspect he may have been playing himself, as is Sam Elliott’s take on the gravelly, tobacco-chewin’ Caretaker.

As far as the film itself is concerned, it is a great time, if you don’t take it too seriously. Many movies rely on more than the stars abilities and this is one of them. The special effects are nothing short of brilliant! Anyone who goes to a film that features a burning demon riding a hog, who fights with a semi-sentient chain and doesn’t have a good time…well, perhaps you should be reading the reviews at Disney’s website. This review, as the title says, is for the extended version of the film, and to be quite honest, I couldn’t tell what scenes were extra ones! I saw this film at the cinemas, and the extras scenes don’t change the film, like say the extended cut of the Daredevil film, but just add to the scenes already there, like the extended cut of the Fantastic Four film.

There’s probably only one real unforgivable sin committed by this film, and that is that it’s Rebel Wilson’s first appearance in a movie. Truly scary.

While the performances may have been lacking somewhat, every time that flaming skeleton riding a Harley with burning tires comes onto the screen, you tend to forgive and forget.

Score: ***

The menu screen to Ghost Rider

Extras: After the fantastic extras on the DVD 2-disc set, these are somewhat disappointing.

There are 2 commentaries, both of which are interesting looks at the making of and ideas behind this film. The first is performed by director Mark Steven Johnson, and visual effects supervisor Kevin Mack, and the second is by producer Gary Foster. Also on this first disc are trailers for Spider-Man 3 and Stomp the Yard.

The next features on the disc are a series of Makings of. The first is titled Spirit of Vengeance, which deals with mainly the nuts and bolts of the making of this film, and showcases some of the locations in Melbourne Victoria, where the majority of this film was made. The second is titled Spirit of Adventure, which showcases the stunts of the film, and the last is titled Spirit of Execution, which is all about the post production of the film. All in all these come together to make a complete making of production, and feature interviews with Nicolas Cage, Eva Mendes, Sam Elliot, and many more, and are a complete look at the stuff needed to make a movie.

There’s also trailers for Spiderman 3 and Surf’s Up…. Yeah, this Bluray is THAT old!

Tragically, on the Bluray they have dumped the amazing 4 part doco about the comic book version of the character. A bad choice, in my opinion, as it was a thorough look at the character. Actually, these comic to movie docos seem to now be frequently absent from Bluray releases which is a damned shame.

Score: ***

WISIA: It has this weird irresistible charm that doesn’t require the knowledge of 30 different Marvel films to follow what’s going on. I’ll watch it again when I wanna watch Marvel but without the weight.

A victim of Wes Bentley’s Blackheart

Color Out of Space (2019)

One from the to watch pile…

The cover to the Australian Bluray release of Color Out of Space, from Umbrella Entertainment

Film: Here’s a bit of personal horror history, and something I have mentioned in previous, and no doubt will mention in future reviews: I am typing this review because of H. P. Lovecraft. I was a monster movie fan, and a fan of ‘old’ (called ‘classic’ these days) films when I was a teen, and then I watched Stuart Gordon’s screen adaptation of Re-animator, and my need for horror was transformed into what could only be described as ‘an unhealthy obsession’.

Since then I have consumed SO much Lovecraftian horror in book form, video games, spoken word records, comics, toys… hell, even board games which is a more recent obsession (currently sitting on about 15 board and card games based in the Cthulhu world) and I just can’t get enough!

So I’m guessing you can imagine my excitement when I heard that ex-actor, now meme legend Nic Cage was starring in a film based on Color Out Of Space, and then my rising excitement when the trailer was released and we saw that it borrowed the colour palette from Stuart Gordon’s From Beyond (another Lovecraft story). Throwing in the rebirth of Hardware director Richard Stanley certainly piqued my interest as well, even though I wasn’t an obsessive fan of his work.

I was very excited indeed which meant that my expectations were now really really high! Can the film live up to these expectations? Surely it could not!

Nicolas Cage as Nathan

Lavinia Gardner (Madeline Arthur) is a teen Wiccan who had been forced into a treechange by her father, Nathan (Nicolas Cage)and mother Theresa (Joely Richardson), along with her two brothers, Benny (Brendan Meyer) and Jack (Julian Hilliard). It a seemingly lovely quiet life, farming their alpacas until a meteorite, emitting an indescribable colour, lands on their property.

As you would expect, weird stuff starts happening: time starts fluctuating, odd pink flowers and insects start appearing all over the property, and things start changing, including Nathan, and when a hydrologist, Ward (Elliot Knight) investigating the local water finds ‘something’ in it, things really start to accelerate and the family unit starts to fall apart… but is this the start of a greater, perhaps apocalyptic event?

The meteorite/ alien thing/ weird weirdness

Stanley has created something pretty special here. Lovecraft had isolation as a theme in many of his stories, and to start with a family isolated from society when something strange happens, whose events then cause them to be isolated from each other really nails that down. The layering of being isolated even amongst a group of people seems really relevant in 2021 too. That anxiety of not knowing what is happening and not being able to find support in others because they don’t know what is happening either is almost frightfully prophetic.

There’s no doubt that Stanley has a magnificent cinematic eye, and his cinematographer (one of the great unsung heroes of cinema) Steve Annis translates it perfectly. The scenes of the forest are lush and feel like they are full of magic, and the scenes where we witness the actual ‘color’ are intrusive on the eye, and transform the natural beauty into a synthwave nightmare, that honestly, I really love… most of my automatic lighting in my house is set up in this colour scheme!

The effects in this movie are as horrible as they are beautiful. As I said in my opening preamble, the colour palette is borrowed heavily from Stuart Gordon’s From Beyond, but their is also a liberal dose of John Carpenter’s The Thing in the practical effects, and some CGI that is, if you’ll excuse the pun, out of this world.

In general, the cast are great, except maybe for Richardson who doesn’t seem to have much to do and is almost more a piece of scenery. Arthur is an absolute revelation and I’ll be looking into her other films for sure, and Cage doesn’t chew the scenery, he CONSUMES IT, like a bulldog eating a bowl of porridge.

There was a lot of fun stuff relating to Stanley as well. After watching the Lost Souls doco, I realised that several of the characters emulate/ display elements of his personality and life style (from what I could ascertain). There’s a cheeky bit of footage of Brando from One Eyed Jacks too… so I guess Stanley finally got to work with him?

This is a great return for Stanley, and I really hope he gets an opportunity to do more Lovecraft stuff but please not a sequel: this finishes nicely. Apparently this was supposed to be the first of a trilogy but due to some personal stuff which I’m not going to go into here, it’s been cancelled. If Stanley WOULD entertain the idea of a sequel, another Re-animator perhaps? Either way, this film was great and I look forward to more product.

Score: ****1/2

The menu to the Australian release of Color Out of Space

Extras:

Hot Pink Horror: The Making of The Color Out of Space obviously looks at the making of the film, and the chance the producers had taken on getting Richard Stanley, who hadn’t directed a film for 20 years, to direct this movie. It also explores the employment of the other cast and other aspects of the production. It’s an interesting take on why people are employed in films.

There is also 8 deleted scenes and a trailer.

Finally, the full length documentary ‘Lost Souls: The Doomed Journey of Richard Stanley’s Island of Dr. Moreau’ which looks at his career and the collapse of his career whilst making his version of Island of Dr. Moreau in the 90s. It’s an interesting documentary in so much that Stanley seems to be under the impression that both the opportunity came, and disappeared due to his visiting a mystic who cast a spell to assist in the production. It’s not just about Stanley’s vision, it’s also about the egos that also all seemed to be trying to disable the production after his departure. This was previously released separately, and would probably be a better extra on a release of The Island of Dr. Moreau, but I’ll take it.

Score: *****

WISIA: It was a great watch so I look forward to seeing it again!

The colour does strange things to poor Theresa (Joely Richardson)

NIC-TOBERFEST 2021

Charge your steins with your favourite ale, lager or stout and grab your tightest lederhosen because it’s time for NIC-TOBERFEST 2021!

Nic-Toberfest is the To Watch Pile’s celebration of everything Nicolas Cage, the hero’s hero! This month you won’t get your usual Wednesday reviews, you’ll also get a couple of extras too… that’s SIX… SIX reviews of Cage films, in which each one sees him in a nuttier role than the previous, and that’s not to mention a double feature (not Cage films unfortunately)for Halloween, one on Halloween and one on All Saint’s Day.

I hope you find it as exciting to read as I did to write!