Film: You know that when you get a movie starring a famous popular musical artist that your in for a treat, right? How good is Glitter, starring Mariah Carey… or Crossroads, with Britney Spears… or Spice World, with the Spice Girls…
Ok, I have to confess the Spice World movie is a guilty please, but I think you get the idea!
Dave (Dave Grohl) and his band, The Foo Fighters (played by… well The Foo Fighters) are trying to come up with something special and different for their tenth studio album. Their record company man, Jeremy Shill (Jeff Garlin) will do anything to get them to produce the new album so when they ask for a new studio environment, he gets his real estate agent, Barb (Leslie Grossman) to find them somewhere.
What Barb finds them is a house in Encino that has a horrifying past, and very quickly, Dave starts seeing strange things and acting weird. The next door neighbour, Samantha (Whitney Cummings) tries to warn them of the house’s history, but has she come too late… well, of course she has!
This movie was written by Grohl and the a screenplay was adapted from it by the 2019 Pet Semetery remake writer, Jeff Buhler and Der Vulkan’s Rebecca Hughes. It’s director, BJ O’Donnell is best known for directing music clips for Slayer and other heavy metal bands, but was also responsible for Hatchet 3.
It’s certainly The Foo Fighters Show, and not only are they good at playing themselves, their comedy timing is impeccable and hilarious. It’s certainly a love letter to heavy metal, with a lot of new music played, and some amusing covers of old ones, including a hilarious scene where Grohl is abused by a dream version of Lionel Ritchie, PLAYED by Ritchie, for trying to steal his love ballad ‘Hello’!
Don’t think the guest stars stop there. In addition to Ritchie and a role played by comedian Cummings mentioned earlier, we also see a roadie named Krug (no doubt a reference to Last House on the Left) played by Kerry King, and the music producer, Rip Haight is played by director and composer extraordinaire John Carpenter, the joke being his characters name is an alias he has used occasionally when playing roles in his own films.
It’s a pretty solid story, both suitably gory and really funny at times. There is a lot of references to horror movies too, like Evil Dead, The Exorcist, The Burning and probably many more that I missed.
Studio 666 is an amazingly fun movie that would be a great double feature with something like Shaun of the Dead. This could have been an ego fuelled, cluster bomb of tripe but the entire production is a fun watch. The only two things that disappointed me were a lack of extras, and we only got a DVD release here in Australia.
Extras: There’s only one extra which is a gag reel, but for the first time in along time, it did actually get a chortle out of me here and there.
WISIA: Hell, yeah! A gory horror comedy that’s ACTUALLY funny.
This review was done with the Australian DVD release.
Film: I’m sure in and about this website I have expressed my ‘Stephen King thing’: I love his stories but don’t enjoy his writing. This means two things, of course: first, I’m some kind of literary heathan of whom shall forever be looked down upon by the book-loving majority, and two, I can watch any film based on a King novel without getting all ‘the book was better’ about it.
This film is an exception to any horror snobbery that may exist though as this film has pedigree in the form of a man known an John Carpenter, who both directed this film and composed the score (along with Alan Howarth, who has a decent horror pedigree himself). Not sure who John Caroenter is? Well, I suggest you sit yourself down and watch John Carpenter’s The Thing, Prince of Darkness, The Fog and Halloween.
Christine tells of Arnie (Keith Gordon), a nerd who is regularly beaten up and picked on by… well, by absolutely everyone except for his mate, Dennis (John Stockwell), who buys a beautiful 5os classic car who has the name ‘Christine’ from an old weirdo named LeBay (Roberts Blossom).
Unfortunately for Arnie, Christine has a secret. Slowly but surely, Arnie changes… he becomes cool and aloof, and those who have ever ill-treated him start either disappearing and/or winding up dead.
Dennis does some research about the car and discovers that LeBay’s brother and his family all died as a result of the actions of the car, and along with Annie’s on again/ off again girlfriend, Leigh (Alexandra Paul) try to find out what effect the car has over Arnie…
Christine is certainly a film of its time. The whole ‘nerd gets picked on but gets revenge due to supernatural means’ was done to death and we’ve moved on from it, and also we tend not to get men who are clearly in thirties to play teenagers any more. The thing is thoigh, I still don’t mind seeing that nerd get the hot girl and get his revenge on the jerks.
The film is entertaining throughout and some of the effects of the car self-repairing are surprisingly good considering their age.
There’s a commentary with director John Carpenter and actor Keith Gordon where they talk about their careers and the time on the set of the film.
There’s about 20-odd Deleted Scenes on this disc, some of which I, for the first time ever, do wish we’re in the film. The Bullies Trashing Christine is a particular fun one, imagine Greased Lightening from Grease, but in reverse.
The featurettes Christine: Fast and Furious, Finish Line and Ignition all look at the making of the film, from the deal made with King and how this is essentially a monster movie. They are each about ten minute and honestly I don’t know why they didn’t just make a 30 minute doco about the film. Seems like they went to the ‘quantity’ column of extras to add value to the disc.
WISIA: John Carpenter films are always worth multi-views so I’ve of course watched this several times.
Film: Sometimes the tone of a film is really what makes it. Films like I Spit On Your Grave achieve what they set out to do by having the correct attitude, and succeed because of it. Sam Raimi’s original Evil Dead succeeded not just for its gory setpieces and crazy storyline, but also because of its chutzpah and the wry sense of humour, which at its core has the blackest of hearts. For me, Evil Dead 2: Dead by Dawn, the FIRST Evil Dead remake, made that black humour far too obvious and slapstick, and fails because of it.
This film suffers the exact opposite: its failure lies in that it takes itself FAR too seriously.
Mia (Jane Levy) is a drug addict, and her brother David (Shiloh Fernandez) along with friends Eric (Lou Taylor Pucci), Olivia (Jessica Lucas) and Natalie (Elizabeth Blackmore) have taken her to her family’s secluded cabin, in the woods, to help her dry out and support her through the coming down process.
What they find when they get there though, is that the cabin has been broken into, and some ritual performed in the basement. Eric finds a book, wrapped in plastic and bound in barbed wire, and curiosity being what it is, opens the book.
We all know what curiosity kills though, and after Eric reads a passage in the book, weird things start to happen. Is Mia’s coming down tougher than they all thought, or has something taken her… something that wants to swallow their souls…
Straight up I have to compliment director Fede Alvarez on the direction of the film. Whilst it may not have some of the innovation brought on by budgetary constraints that Raimi had to deal with, it is at times breathtaking. He managed to keep the film quite timeless by not having a load of current gadgets and by giving it that washed out ‘sepia’ look. Initially, the level of gore that has been reached made the little gorehound, hidden deep inside me, stand up and applaud, and more than once, cringe… which rarely happens these days.
Unfortunately, that’s pretty much where my interest in it stops.
The script was OK, but essentially the plotline is rehashed from the original, but updated to suit more current moviegoers attitudes, and with a few deliberate twists thrown it to throw fans of the original off. This is something that perpetually annoys me about remakes: the need to turn a story on its head JUST for the sake of being different. This is little more than a writer’s ploy to say he put ‘his’ mark on the film.
Sorry guys, but putting butter UNDER my popcorn doesn’t make me an innovator.
Of course, the film is full of those ‘fan service’ bits where iconic imagery from the original pop up for no reason other than to make you remember this is a remake, and not an homage or a flat out rip off.
The characters were photocopies of each other, and really any of them could have said each other’s dialogue and you wouldn’t have even noticed. This was made even more apparent by average performances, except for the one executed by Lou Taylor Pucci, whose performance was so annoying I considered punching the chips out of my television.
The real problem with this film though, lies in the fact that it didn’t ‘get’ the first Evil Dead. I stated earlier that I initially enjoyed the gore, but when you batter a viewer with non stop images of it, eventually the old brain starts to stop being shocked. Raimi’s Evil Dead understood that to make the violence and gore more shocking, you need shades of light and dark within the entire tone of the film. Raimi himself failed this uneasy balancing act with too much light in Evil Dead 2, and this film fails with its constant darkness. The original film had the idea of friends on a holiday to give the film some levity, but with idea that the friends are helping one of their own overcome a drug addiction, the story starts in a dark place, and doesn’t allow for any variation.
The last thing that really rubbed my rhubarb the wrong way here was the appearance of the ‘buried’ demon. Seriously, since the exposure to the Western world of Eastern films, particularly that of ‘ j-horror’, demon possession designers have gotten lazy, and I assumed I had fallen asleep, and someone had changed the disc I was watching to that of The Ring, or The Grudge, or any one of the other scary, black haired girl ghost films.
I really wanted to like this film, and honestly, the gore level almost fooled me into thinking it was a good film, but it’s not. The violence level is of what a good horror fan would want, but without levels of light, it’s just a barrage that eventually become overwhelming, and dare I say it boring and disappointing.
This, the SECOND remake of Evil Dead suffers from the same thing that the first remake, Evil Dead 2, suffers from, but from a polar opposite point of view. If you could take this FAR too dark remake and mix it with Evil Dead 2’s high level of levity you’d have a spectacular film. Wait a second… that already happened: it’s a film called The Evil Dead, directed by Sam Raimi. Watch that instead: it’s the best of both worlds.
Format: The sound and picture quality of this disc are outstanding. The picture is presented in Hi-def 2.39:1 widescreen and the sound punches you in the head with a Dts-HD 5.1 track that has some pretty amazing levels to it.
Extras: There’s some ok extras on this disc!
Commentary by actors Jane Levy, Lou Taylor Pucci, Jessica Lucas with Director Alvarez and writer Rodo Satagues is pretty good, and most of their recollections are either informative or amusing.
Directing the Dead is a look at what processes director Alvarez used to make the film, and get performances from the cast.
Evil Dead the Reboot has interviews with Rob Tapert and Bruce Campbell about being convinced to do a remake… sorry, a ‘reboot’, and with Alvarez and Sayagues about approaching a cult favourite and the risks therein.
Making Life Difficult discusses how psychologically hard it was for the actors to film the intensity of a film such as this.
Unleashing the Evil Force talks about the lore of the Book of the Dead.
Being Mia follows Jane Levy around on a day on the set, and looks at some of the tortures the director put her through… actually, a lot of the extras are very Levy Heavy, so the producers must have decided she is the Next Big Thing.
Previews starts with a trailer promoting Bluray as a format (hot tip idiots: I’m watching a Bluray disc, so I possibly already know about it) before giving us trailers for Django Unchained, After Earth, This Is The End, White House Down and Iron Man: Rise of the Technovore.
WISIA: There is enough gore to keep me going back, so yeah, I’ll watch it more than once!
Film: One thing I have found odd about cinema at the moment is that there is heaps of supernatural horror that’s popular to a mainstream audience. I am sure there is some kind of psychological reason that the general public is shying away from ‘real’ human killers in their horror, but I’m no psychologist so I can’t really comment on that.
What we have here is a film from Australia’s very own James Wan and Leigh Whannell, the creators of the Saw series and The Conjuring franchise, so Hollywood must love them with their ability to milk the cash cow.
Josh (Patrick Wilson) and Renai (Rose Byrne) have just moved into a new house but strange things start to happen after their son, Dalton (Ty Simpkins) has a minor fall off a ladder. Dalton goes into an undiagnosable coma and Renai decides after several bizarre encounters with various ‘things’ that the house is haunted, so they quickly move house again.
At the new house the family attempts to restart their lives but quickly discover that the house wasn’t haunted but instead, THEY are. Josh’s mother, Lorraine (Barbara Hershey) Steps in with some information and a contact, psychic Elise Rainier (Lin Shaye)
Aaaaaaand then it hits the halfway point, and becomes a farce.
Elise and her assistants, the ridiculous Tucker (Angus Sampson) and Specs (Leigh Whannell), come to investigate their claims, using such tools as a View Master Reel and other devices more ridiculous than anything Egon Spengler created in Ghostbusters, and then the film turns into a parody of Poltergeist, with the couple finding out their son has been taken to ’The Further’, which is basically the same as where Carolanne is taken in that same film.
The usual generic crap takes place with a visit the The Further in search of not his body, but his ASTRAL body which is what has been kidnapped by Darth Maul… I mean, a demon.
Will they get their son back? Will I care? Will this piece of crap spawn two sequels two date because people will watch anything if the marketing is good enough?
After an amazing opening with a likeable cast and a pretty interesting set up, even though it’s another stupid haunted house movie, is devolves into sloppy writing and generic imagery that has been done over and over again, even to the point Wan has even stolen from himself with some of the design looking like the Dead Silence dolls and ghosts, and then FROM here with some of the elements in The Conjuring.
Mostly Wan’s direction is pretty good, and the performances he gets from Wilson and Byrne make them immediately sympathetic protagonists, and he cleverly uses a few tricks from Mario Bava via Dario Argento to occasionally have some impressive looking scenes, which is usually spoiled by using the fast motion camerawork found in film clips by Marilyn Manson 20 years ago.
It’s a real tragedy when a promising first act gets crapped on by a disappointing second and third. Don’t bother with this film at all, unless it’s on free-to-air.
Format: The reviewed copy of this film was the Australian, region B Bluray which runs for approximately 105 minutes and is presented in an amazing and clean 2.40:1 image with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack.
Extras: The disc opens with trailers for Tucker and Dale Vs Evil, The Beaver and The Tree of Life before we are presented with the menu.
Horror 101: The Exclusive Seminar isn’t really a seminar about horror, but instead is the filmmakers explaining what they decided to write within the confines of this film, and how they decided to turn some of the tropes of traditional horror on its head.
On Set With Insidious is one of those usual ego-strokes where all the cast and crew talk about how awesome each other are, and this is all intercut with behind the scenes footage of the production.
Insidious Entities looks at the ghosts and demons of the film.
There is also a trailer for the film.
WISIA: I hate this post-millennial ghost story crap thats completely dependent of jump scares rather than actually being frightening, and the only reason I watched it again was for the benefit of you, dear reader, so you won’t have to.
Film: I have said on several occasions that I am not a fan of ghost/ demonic possession films. It’s not because I am afraid of them, but rather I don’t believe in either so the stories hold no fear for me, and are occasionally interesting distractions rather than actual entertainment.
That’s not to say I don’t enjoy a good movie when it’s made, or am excited by a great performance, it’s just I don’t find the stories engaging enough as I find ‘true’ stories about possession to be a farce.
Anyway, this is the first film, directed by Australian director James Wan, about the real-life, honest-to-goodness psychic ghost-hunters, Lesley (Vera Farmiga) and Ed (Patrick Wilson) Warren and their exploration of the Perron family haunting, where Roger (Ron Livingston), his wife, Carolyn (Lili Taylor) and their 5 daughters move into a new house where strange things start happening.
Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga as the Warrens.
First their dog dies, then noises and a whole pile of spooky hocus pocus occurs, driving Carolyn to ask the Warrens for their help to try and get rid of whatever is in their house… and what is the horrible secret of the mysterious bruises appearing of Carolyn’s body…?
Considering this film is supposed to be based of a true story, it is full to the brim of stock standard tropes of generic, uninteresting ghost films. A whole bunch of jump-scares and totally post-millennium ghost story make-ups that are uninteresting and universal looking make this film little more than run-of-the-mill.
Also, Wan has included a pair of cannon-fodder buffoons, like the ridiculous Specs and Tucker from the equally daft Insidious films, who are really just mimicking those characters, and stand in as the ‘technical’ and ‘protection’ archetypes seen in stuff even back to Poltergeist. I’m not sure why they need a gun-toting type in their war on supernatural terror, but there he is, useless as boobs on a bull. Even with the Annabelle icon he robs not just from the history of possession/ ghost cinema but also from his own film Dead Silence from a couple of years earlier.
Lili Taylor as the haunted Carolyn.
The real win in this film is the cast. Wilson and Farmiga have a chemistry rarely seen in films anymore: they actually feel like a couple who have been together for years. Lili Taylor is amazing and ageless as she always is… seriously, she has looked exactly the same for 20 years! Surprisingly too, all 6 of the children in this film are amazing and not one of them is in the slightest bit annoying… or ‘the Anakin Factor’ as I like to call it.
The construction of the story is really clever too. Two set-ups occur in the first 45 minutes of this film, one of the family’s haunting and the other, the Warren’s history and skill set, so essentially for that period you are watching two separate stories that intersect when one requires assistance from the other.
It’s a nicely made film with some great performances but essentially it is a dull as dishwater, generic post millennial ghost story that surely must only appeal to people who don’t normally like proper horror films.
The Australian Bluray menu screen
Format: This film was reviewed on the Australian Bluray release which runs for approximately 112 minutes. This film is presented in a perfect 2.4:1 image with an extraordinary, and I mean extraordinary, DTS-HD 5.1 audio. The soundtrack and audio style of the film is nothing short of spectacular.
Extras: The disc opens with a trailer for We’re The Millard, if that counts an an extra. I must admit I did buy that film based on this trailer.
The reviewed copy of this disc comes with a Bluray, DVD and ‘Ultraviolet’ version, which expired in 2015, so that possibly doesn’t count.
Onto the main extras:
The Conjuring: Face to Face with Terror looks at the actual family who believed they were being haunted that this film was based on. It’s interesting to hear the ‘actual’ tales from the people who were involved in the ‘real’ haunting and exorcism.
A Life in Demonology is a history of Ed and Lorraine Warren, the actual paranormal investigators. It’s a nice tribute to the two with some interesting stories.
Scaring the ‘@$*%’ Out of You looks at the making of the film and how even in a film that’s essentially a biopic, though a snapshot of an entire life, you still need to throw in those ghost story tropes to make it an effective horror film as well.
WISIA: I watched it twice: the first time originally and now to review it for you all. I doubt if I’ll watch it again.
Annabelle: has very little to do with this story but is now a money maker in her own right.
One from the re-watch pile… Night of the Demons (1988)
Film: I find it hard to criticise films from the 80s as this was when I really became a super horror fan. I’d liked monster movies before this decade, but early 80s still really distilled my love and made me the horror fan I am today.
It’s with a slight bit of embarrassment that I admit to this being not just because of stories of murder and mayhem, but also due to the ‘scream queen’ culture, and the names associated, like Brinke Stevens, Michelle Bauer, Debbie Rochon and the legendary Linnea Quigley. It was not always necessary due to Academy Award (r) acting performances that I admired these women, but more due to a more physical aspect of their performances.
Ok, because they were nude quite regularly, and I’m a fan of boobies.
So what is this film about?
Weirdo Angela (Amelia Kinkade) and her friend, the facile Suzanne (Linnea Quigley) have decided to hold a Halloween party for their friends, but what they don’t realise is, is that she is holding the party at the notorious Hill House, an old mortuary that has several legends of awful things happening associated with its history.
Of course, the moronic groups of sex-crazed teens decided to hold a seance, which of course causes one of them to become possessed, who then passes the ‘infection’ on, slowly turning all the group into demonic distorted images of themselves, but who will survive, and what sort of condition will they be left in?
Badly acted and a stupid story with bloodshed and bodacious boobies: it’s all the great things about 80s horror condensed into 90 odd minutes of fun.
Format: The reviewed copy of Night of the Demons was the 2004 release, region 1 DVD from Anchor Bay, and it hasn’t really aged to well, especially with our fancy new equipment that we have now, 12 years later, that’s not to say it’s unwatchable, but it could do with a touch up here and there. This edition is the unrated version with additional gore and violence (the cover slick’s words, not mine) and is presented in 1.85:1 widescreen with a Dolby Digital ‘Ultra Stereo’ soundtrack.
Extras: There’s a couple of extras on this DVD, of which the video quality on them all is lacking.
My Demon Nights is an interview with Linnea Quigley looking back at her career at her experiences on Night of the Demons. It’s interesting but ultimately superficial.
There is also a commentary with director Tenney, executive producer Walter Josten and Producer Jeff Geoffray.
There are two trailers, one the theatrical and the other the video, and three TV spots for the film.
Promo Reel seems to be a promotional piece for video store owners to tempt them into taking Night of the Demons into their shops for rental. It’s actually quite an interesting piece of propaganda!
WISIA: It’s one of my true loves from the 80s, and it gets a regular spin at my place.
One from the to watch pile… The Conjuring 2 (2016)
The Cover of the Australian Bluray for The Conjuring 2
Film: I don’t deliberately try to be antagonistic when I find things I don’t like that the rest of the general public, and fandom enjoy. It’s put me at the solo end of several arguments: my dislike of The Blair Witch Project, my love of the Holly Valance action film DOA and my absolute apathy towards George Lucas’ fiddling with the original Star Wars saga.
My more recent battles have been regarding my dislike of a lot of these post millennial ghost movies. I am no great fan of ghost stories anyway as I don’t have a great belief in the supernatural, particularly ghosts. Of all these ghost movies that have come out the only one that I really enjoyed was the Ethan Hawke vehicle Sinister, but as far as the Insidious series and these Conjuring films, including Annabelle, well, I’m not a fan.
(I will hold one caveat to the previous statement: I did really dig the initial ghostly j-horror films like Ring and The Grudge when they first came out, but the ‘wet girl’ ghost became old quite quickly)
The Conjuring 2 is another adventure of Ed (Patrick Wilson) and Lorraine Warren (Vera Farmiga), ghost hunter/ psychic investigator/ exorcists who in this instalment travel to rainy Ol’ England in 1977 to help the Hodgson family.
Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson in The Conjuring 2
Janet (Madison Wolfe) and Margaret (Lauren Esposito), the two daughters, decide to play, one night, with a witch board and accidentally bring out the horrible spirit of a man named Bill Wilkins (Bob Adrian) who decides to torture them, their brothers (Benjamin Haigh and Patrick McAuley) and their single mother, Peggy (Frances O’Conner)… or does he not even exist?
The Warrens are recently accused of being charlatans after an investigation of the Amityville house, and can’t be seen, as agents of the church, to be involved in any sort of chicanery… but is the evil in the house even MORE clever than first suspected..?
Straight up I have to compliment Wilson and Farmiga for their excellent performances. They are the rocks in the middle of the entire tale and are just so well cast and perform with so much conviction and they are a pleasure to watch. Add O’Conner to that mix and you have a pretty solid central cast. The kids are mostly all great though one of the young characters is supposed to have a stutter, and rather than be a realistic stutter, it sounds more like lines from Morris Minor and the Major’s Stutter Rap.
On a personal side note I have to say I was delighted to see Anatomie and Creep’s Franka Potente back. I feel like I haven’t seen her in years!
The spooky nun from The Conjuring 2
James Wan’s direction is quite good, and there are some clever camera tricks, and what felt like an occasional tribute to older horror films… I kept getting a Hammer Horror vibe at times… and in general it had a pretty cool, cold creepy feel to it.
There were two epic missteps that I found a shame though. One was the realisation of a ‘Crooked Man’ character who seemed too cartoony for the look of the film, and the final reveal, which I won’t explore for spoiler reasons, was just a little generic.
A small shoutout to the soundtrack as well. The ghostly incidental music is perfectly juxtaposed with music of the time, which both set the scares and the period. I’ve no doubt this soundtrack will end up in my collection.
The story was OK and whilst I am still not convinced by ghostly movies, I did quite enjoy this but it was about performance rather than the tale. It was a improvement of the first Conjuring, and a galaxy away from the bursting gall bladder that was Annabelle.
Format: As one would expect a modern film in a modern format looks excellent. The Conjuring 2 review copy is an Australian region B which goes for approximately 134 minutes and is presented in 2.40:1 with a Dolby Atmos 5.1 soundtrack.
Extras: There’s a pretty good bunch of extras on this, the shame is none of them run for very long.
Crafting the Conjuring as you may guess by the name, is a making-of deal, and is brief, but interesting.
The Enfield Poltergeist: Living the Horror investigates the ‘real’ case of the Enfield Incident, including interviews with the now-adult sisters that the film portrays, and Lorraine Warren herself!
Creating Crooked explains the invention and execution of the Crooked Man character, which I reckon would have been a cool make up effect and creature, but not in this film. Here he just seems to be a tacked on scare, which suits no purpose other than that,
The Conjuring 2: Hollywood’s Haunted Stage looks at paranormal investigator Johnny Matook and his investigation of one of Warner Bros soundstages which is apparently haunted. It’s pretty stupid and essentially a waste of disc space.
The Sounds of Scary checks out the score. Being a soundtrack nut I was excited to watch this, and was only disappointed by the brevity of it. I mean, horror soundtrack featurettes usually hit the same notes: it’s moody, scary, etc. I guess I might be a frustrated musician.
Deleted scenes are as occasionally correct in their absence from the film.
WISIA: Like I said, I’m not really a fan of ghost movies, so I’ll only watch this again if my family, who love these sorts of movies, want to watch it, otherwise it’s a dust gatherer.