REVIEW: Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer (1990)


Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer: A

Apparently, the director of this movie was commissioned to make a run-of-the-mill exploitation slasher flick with a budget of $110K and less than a month for shooting. What he made instead was a profoundly twisted psychological study of the mind of a murderous sociopath. People who watch this movie expecting to see meaningless carnage and boobs are going to be surprised to find that it is an actual movie… with carnage and boobs.

Henry, played by Michael Rooker, whom everyone likes to J-O over since his role on The Walking Dead, is a wandering serial killer who currently lives in a shitty apartment with his prison buddy, Otis and Otis’s sister Becky. Early in the film, we are given clues about how great of a serial killer Henry is. The film opens with a montage of freshly murdered corpses rotting in broad daylight in various locations, suggesting that Henry has been crafty enough to pull off a string of daytime killings in various locales without being caught. Oh, all the corpses are women, by the way.

The film then shows us two sides of Henry; when Henry hangs out with Otis he is an evil fuck. He commits a double murder in front of him which simultaneously worries and fascinates Otis. Henry then begins mentoring Otis as his serial killer understudy and they go on a super-wicked killing spree together. When he is with Otis’s sister however, he is apparently frail and kind. The two bond over childhood traumas and soon grow attached. Lots of tasty daddy/mommy issues here as well as neck-vein inducing tension; we keep remembering the montage of dead girls every time Henry and Becky are alone. Giving us this vulnerable side to Henry and juxtaposing it with his reptilian personality make him a really memorable round character and it creates a lot of suspense in the film.

Otis gets REALLY into murdering. Henry shares with Otis (and the audience) all the tricks to efficient killing and avoiding detection/capture. The most important rules seem to be 1) maintain a nomadic lifestyle and 2) ensure each killing has a different apparent motive / type of victim. The matter-of-fact way in which an efficient method for killing is explained, like the steps to a cake recipe, is chilling. Maybe the most famous / fucked up scene in the film is where Henry and Otis murder a family, film it, and then kick it and watch the footage and react as if they are watching Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, really hammering home the point that the most important “ingredient” for this recipe is a sociopathic inability to feel remorse.

The ending is so fucked up and great. I have no problem ruining shitty movies for you. For example, in Devil, the old lady is the Devil. See? Who cares? In Dark Skies, the older brother was the one whom the aliens had been visiting and intending to abduct. Fuck it. You have to check out Henry, though. I won’t spoil it.

REVIEW: Carnosaur (1993)


Carnosaur (1993): C+

If, back in 1993, you came out of the theater after seeing Jurassic Park going “meh, that was alright, but I wish there was more dinosaur-carnage,” or “’clever girl’ and then an implied off-screen kill? Weak,” then Carnosaur is for you.

It was released months after Jurassic Park, but that’s totally a coincidence. To even suggest that Carnosaur is a blatant rip-off of the most popular dinosaur film ever is just plain wrong.

See, in Carnosaur, the dinosaurs are bred using viral transmission and chicken DNA, which is radically different from splicing them with frog DNA like in Jurassic Park. Duh. Also, there aren’t velociraptors in Carnosaur, you idiot! The dinos are mostly deinonychus, which are the exact same thing as raptors, only a couple of feet taller. As if this wasn’t evidence enough of Carnosaur’s integrity, consider that in Jurassic Park, the dinosaurs all get loose and start fucking up the humans. In Carnosaur, the dinosaurs all get loose and start fucking up the humans.

Gotta love the premise for this: Some asshole scientist hates people and loves dinosaurs so she plans to use her resources as a geneticist at a poultry plant (not a typo; poultry plant) to resurrect some dinosaurs so that they can take over the planet and eat all the people. What she plans to do with herself, being a human, during the genocide isn’t addressed but Carnosaur isn’t what you’d call a “logical” film.

It’s like a bad, Kevin Bacon-less version of Tremors for people who like dinosaurs.

One thing I have to give this movie credit for is the limited CGI effects. There’s no glitchy polygon-looking dinos feasting on CGI gore like in Raptor Island. They instead have fucking HAND-PUPPET dinosaurs chomping up people. That takes balls! To make a feature-length dino-horror film and have most of the kills be carried out by hand-puppets, and expect your audience to watch, is gutsy and I would actually rather watch Carnosaur any day over the endless clones of CGI-based dinosaur horror films. Sure some of the kill scenes look like an elaborate oven-mitt flapping around on a tarp full of pig guts, but it still looks better than a LOT of B-movie horror gore I’ve seen.

Think about how many other movies could have been improved with the utilization of hand-puppets. Jurassic Park, Jurassic Park 2, Jurassic Park 3, and Schindler’s List, just to name a few.

Stay with this gem if you pop it in because you get to see someone die giving live birth to a dinosaur and an epic T-Rex vs. bulldozer duel complete with prolonged side-profile  camera shots like you are watching a game of Street Fighter II and some seizure inducing strobe effects. Spielberg didn’t give you that, now did he?


REVIEW: Sinister (2012)



Sinister (2012): B+

The crazy thing about watching so many horror movies is that after awhile, you forget why you started watching them in the first place.  You watch for the death scenes, the gore; you hope for nudity.  The fact that the whole premise of a horror flick is supposed to be, you know, scary, is usually an afterthought.

That’s why I was so pleasantly surprised with Sinister, which, despite having a semi-recognizable star (Ethan Hawke) in the lead role, went pretty under-the-radar in theaters.  Yeah, it has all the usual tropes: creepy kids, late-night bumps in the night, “gotcha” moments driven by explosions of sound intended to make you jump.

This one works, though, because of a somewhat unique invention.  It combines the best elements of linear, narrative storytelling along with some genuinely horrific found footage.  Hawke’s a “true crime” writer who moves his family of four to a house where the previous family of four were all hung from a tree in the backyard.  The murder was never solved, and Hawke thinks he’s caught a break when he finds a box of Super-8 reels, along with a functioning projector, in the attic.

Sure, there are all the usual genre plot holes.  For instance, Hawke doesn’t tell his wife that the house’s last inhabitants met with a rather gruesome demise, and even though she knows what he does for a living, she doesn’t clue into this fact until their daughter starts drawing creepy pictures of the scene on the walls.  It’s an excuse to have a big, dramatic domestic altercation and for the wife to be the voice of the audience: “Get the fuck out of that house, morons!

However, the movies themselves (shot from the killer’s POV) are legitimate nightmare fuel.  The footage of the group hanging in the backyard tree (replete with bags over the victims’ heads and fruitless kicking at the air as they rise off the ground) sets the tone from the opening credits, and we’re then treated to four other similarly twisted mini-movies as Hawke reviews the evidence, whiskey in hand, eyes bulging with revulsion and terror.

The last is the most unsettling; it involves a lawnmower.  I’ll leave it at that.

As usual, the resolution isn’t as satisfying as the buildup, although it’s not bad.  The case could be made that Sinister is a mashup of other horror films that have done all of this better.

Still, there’s a test that any veteran horrorphile gives a thriller: If you’re watching late at night, and no one else is awake (the optimum way to watch, imo), and you’re even a teensy bit afraid to go into another dark room, and you jump at even the most benign noises, then the damn film has done its job.  I tensed as a stair creaked when I walked downstairs.  My heart leapt when I heard my infant daughter cry out in her sleep from the other room.  And when my wife, asleep in bed next to me, made this weird smacking sound with her mouth just at the film’s climax, I nearly squealed out loud.

Well, maybe you’re a fucking pussy, you say.

Well, maybe.  But I’ve seen lots of this shit.  I hope for a couple good “jump” scares per movie, and I’m usually let down.  This one had me unsettled from the beginning and pretty goddamn creeped out by the end.

Your scare mileage may vary, but it’s my review.  So fuck off.

REVIEW: Boa vs. Python (2004)


Boa Vs. Python: C

You thought it was pretty cool when The Avengers took characters from various franchises and put them all together in one movie?  I bet you did think that.  Well, let me tell you something.  You’re a stupid-ass.  Why?  Lots of reasons, probably, but the key one being that it had been done nearly a decade before!

That’s right.  Remember the sublime Boa from 2001 and the transcendent Python from 2000?  Of course you do.  Those were your favorite movies.  You never imagined in your wildest dreams that Boa Vs. Python would ever happen.  In fact, you were so certain that such a thing could not be that you subconsciously blocked its release from your memory.  You made absolutely no note of this, thinking that you couldn’t handle something that would make your face split open with mind-blowing, jizz-inducing, herpe-tainment.

So, you’re welcome, as I’m happy to remind you of what’s probably the best crossover one could have possibly made with this concept.  “But Dick,” you’re saying, “What if I haven’t seen either of the two previous films?”  Don’t worry yourself, as I was able to follow it just fine.  I don’t even recall any references to the previous two movies.  Exposition fans will not be disappointed though, as the script is sure to provide us with a scientist who explains the shit out of whatever’s happening.

This is an entertaining film to watch with a bunch of friends where you mock the dialogue and cheesy special effects.  If you watch it by yourself, you’ll realize that your life must be pretty empty, and you’ll probably shoot yourself before the end credits roll.

One thing that’s worth mentioning is a totally gratuitous nude scene with Angel Boris.  We get to see her take a bath, so it’s instructional for those who don’t understand the process.  Since she was a Playboy Playmate, she’s a professional naked-getter.  It’s not like those movies where some girl just takes her shoes off and goes, “I’m naked!”  Ms. Boris actually takes all of her clothes off, as only a true pro could do.

REVIEW: Thinner (1996)


Thinner: C-

Confession time! I saw Thinner in the theater… TWICE! I saw it once, and then the week after, I saw it was playing as part of a double feature with Bad Moon, so, I did what any blue-blooded 13 year old American at the time would have done: I sat down for Thinner a second time and proceeded to rethink my life during the opening credits.

This movie is funny, but that’s okay because the subject matter begs to be executed in a comical manner. The story revolves around a morbidly obese criminal defense lawyer named Billy. He is a celebrated member of the community and a hero in the world of organized crime as he just lied his size 48 pants off to get some mob bosses acquitted in a huge court case. The guy looks fucking ridiculous; they take one of those “That Guy” actors (who usually has a supporting role in like, every TV show and dozens of movies), gave him the lead role in Thinner, and stuck him in what looks like a caucasian version of the Nutty Professor costume.

He has an awesome night of binge excess in which he eats a bunch of desserts, gets drunk, and, while getting road-head from his wife, smashes his car into a gypsy who was crossing the street, killing her. Talk about the cherry on the ice cream sundae of Epicurean-lawyer partying! I have never seen being dangerously overweight look so good!

Billy uses his influence in town to get off scott-free; no murder charges or DUI for Billy! Just some judges and cops back-slapping him and sharing one big unified LOL over the corpse of this stupid gypsy who totally cock-blocked poor Billy right at the climax of his dessert/brandy/blowjob party. Hahaha! Stupid gypsy!

As he’s understandably mocking this dead gypsy and reveling in his apparent invincibility, the gypsy’s dad puts a revenge curse on him that makes him lose weight at an alarming rate. At first, Billy gives no fucks; he gets stoked because he can finally see his dick again, but when he starts putting the pieces together, he realizes that he’s going to wake up as a skeleton one day no matter how many pieces of deep-fried wedding cake he dips in mayo and lard.

He enlists the help of the mob, specifically Joe Mantegna, who does the Fat Tony voice the whole movie (automatic letter-grade bump), to intimidate the gypsies into lifting the curse. They finally cave and drag the “Thinner” curse into a pie. Whoever eats the pie gets the whole curse at once and shrivels up like the Crypt Keeper. Billy feeds it to his cheating whore of a wife and his BFF with whom the wife was boning.

How they stretched this into a 90 minute movie, I do not know. This is a thinking man’s movie. And by that, I mean there is a lot of negative space and “thinking” scenes where Billy is tracking the gypsies down and trying to figure shit out. Nothing scary about it. It’s basically a comedy.

REVIEW: Hotline (1982)



Hotline D

Wonder Woman works in a bar and gross men hit on her. Then one follows her home and breaks in while she’s sleeping to smell her hair or something, but he doesn’t hurt her. I actually kind of related to this, because I don’t want to hurt anybody, but there’s lot of hair I want to smell all the time all around me everywhere.

So she starts also volunteering at a psychiatric help-line for some reason, and she starts to get stalker calls from this guy whose first pitch is:

“Barber barber, shave a pig, how many hairs to make a wig?”

He wants to kill her and chop off her hair or something, which I also relate to because I really like long black hair and Wonder Woman, she has tons of it.

Once in high school, there was this girl with beautiful black hair on whom I had a big crush. She came to school one day with a short pixie cut, which was pretty sexy as well. But she asked me how I thought it looked, and I said:

“Great. But did you save the old hair?” and she said:

“No. Why?”

“I could’ve made a hand puppet out of it.”

Then I stared at her. And she laughed. She laughed because she thought I was joking. Then we started hanging, and we made out a couple of times and once went skinny dipping at midnight in this Irish guy’s pool in which we weren’t allowed.

And she let me hold her wet body afterwards ‘because it was so cold. I couldn’t close the deal, though.

Maybe I should give her a call.

Anyway, it’s a mystery and he keeps calling and her co-workers start calling him The Barber. He wants her hair and she doesn’t want him to have it so that’s the conflict.

The ending doesn’t make much sense, but it’s still cool because it’s not the guy who is openly obsessed with her for the whole movie who turns out to be The Barber. It’s actually open-obsessed guy’s best friend who hates her for not returning his friend’s love. And he wants make something for his friend out of her luxurious hair. And he’s her boss also.

And Frank Stallone’s in it.

If this was hard R (hard 80’s R) instead of made for TV it might have been good because there could’ve been a lot more detailed hair-fetish stuff and Wonder Woman could have gotten (tastefully) naked.

REVIEW: Hell Night (1981)



Hell Night: C

This is a fairly entertaining little slasher film with pretty well-done suspense, some great jump-scares, some interesting murders, and Linda Blair dressed in ruffles and velvet. It doesn’t seem to have cost a whole lot, and I suspect that the biggest line item in the budget was Linda Blair’s cocaine.

But it loses at least one entire letter grade because the slasher is named ….Andrew. Andrew. When I think of a guy named Andrew…I just don’t think danger. I think of a Jewish lawyer or some red-headed perv or something.

So Andrew’s backstory goes thusly: He was the youngest son of Raymond Garth, the richest man in The Town That This Is In. Mr. Garth hated all his children, because as the movie describes them, they were “mongoloids” and “cripples”. Andrew had the bad luck to be born a “gork”-a word I’ve never heard, but it seems bad because when Garth killed the whole family and then himself, he punished Andrew by making him watch everyone die and then stay there alone. And he was never found, so he might just be living in the house.

So this Frat/Sorority combo at The College in The Town That This Is In is making 4 new pledges stay in the Garth house ALL NIGHT long after the biggest drunken, date-rapiest frat party of the year. Which is also a costume party.

There are: Slicky-Boy (who is dressed up as Robin Hood), British-Slut-Girl (who costume seems to be “whorish limey who wears underwear, boas, and flapper headbands everywhere”) the Boring Guy (whose costume is “feminine geek who has decided to assert his manhood by dressing like Lord Byron”). Then there’s the good girl, who is Linda Blair in velvet and ruffles.

So they’re locked in, and some things happen. One of those things is that Slicky Boy and the British Slut bang almost immediately, and she keeps calling him “Wes” instead of “Seth”, which is what HE says his name is. Even the last time she sees him. It was a good recurring joke seeing her strip away his identity like that.

As I said before, it’s actually a very solid slasher film with all the necessary tropes covered. It manages to provide some nice jumps and inventive kills. There’s also some subtle foreshadowing and deftly constructed suspense. But…I did see it when I was 10 and then once when my sister gave me the DVD as a joke and I watched it and then sold it to Rasputin’s. So maybe you can get it there.

There ARE some fairly glaring plot holes, but those don’t really matter if you just tell yourself to enjoy it. Don’t ask me why, for instance, if the Frat does this every year, no one’s ever gotten so much as a Wet Willie from…Andrew…all these years. Also don’t ask me who the hell is that other guy who Slicky-Boy blows away by the pool. I didn’t make the movie.

And the guys who did make it don’t care about your questions, and they’re probably laughing at you right now out on some pleasure boat somewhere while they snort blow off the butt cheeks of their Guatemalan slaves.

REVIEW: The Fan (1996)


The Fan: C-

Like Cape Fear? Welcome to a wonderland of type-casting where you can re-experience some of the DeNiro dementia as he plays Gil, a knife wielding baseball fanatic who stalks major league baseball’s biggest slugger, played by tax evading martial arts vampire Wesley Snipes.

If you thought it was going to be a movie about a possessed ceiling fan or something, you are just plain fucking wrong and obviously didn’t use context clues while viewing the above image from the movie. This is a pretty average thriller in which we see escalating scenes of stalking and violence. DeNiro has tons of knives and makes his trademark “it smells like shit in here” face whenever he hits a roadblock during his stalking or whenever Snipes rejects his slightly homoerotic and obsessive advances. At one point, Gil cuts a dude’s tattoo off. That’s pretty funny.

You should check out the Rotten Tomatoes reviews for this. They are so polarized and laced with bad baseball puns. Critics can’t decide if the movie is a “home run” or “out.”

Anyway, Gil kidnaps Snipes’s son and demands that he dedicate a homerun to him or his kid is getting shanked. It’s like The Make a Wish Foundation on crack! The climax is so stupid that I felt a little cheated. I actually really enjoy suspenseful thrillers in which the antagonist uses his/her brains to manufacture conditions ideal for some stalking. I like the sociopathic manipulation and the methodical planning. So when this movie, which does depend on and include this sort of guile, wrapped up in like two minutes with a police showdown on the field of a major league baseball game, I was a bit upset. It was just really abrupt.

I feel like the action-y ending is what Scott (the director) was probably most excited about. Action movies are what he was best at, even if it sometimes looks like Michael J Fox was doing the camera work during action scenes.  All in all, not a bad movie and worth a watch.