Horsemen (2008)

horsemen

Don’t.

Horsemen: D

Back when I worked at the video store, we would always get these awful straight-to-DVD movies that were trying to shamelessly capitalize on whatever the hot new releases were. When Transformers came out, we got Transmorphers. When Alien vs. Predator came out, we got Monster vs. Hunter. There was a never ending trickle of these knock-offs and all of them were the most horrible of horribles. I guess you can always count on people to be desperate or careless or both, because these movies would fly off the fucking shelves. What a business model!

Well, if Alan Quartermain and The Temple of Skulls is a poor man’s Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, then Horsemen is a poor man’s Se7en.

In Horsemen, the writers played “Anti-Hero Cop Bingo” and created Detective Dennis Quaid, a poor man’s Brad Pitt, who enjoys ignoring his family in favor of work, drinking, not shaving, and hitting his punching bag a little too much because he takes his job a little too personally.

The whole movie is about Detective Dennis Quaid examining meticulously staged murder scenes that all seem to have cryptic links to Bible passages. But not passages about the Seven Deadly Sins; that was Se7en, dummy! The passages in Horsemen are about the Four Horsemen! He doesn’t find his wife’s head in a boooooooooox or anything, but his family does get a little mixed up in this crazy kinda-plagiarized bullshit!   

Instead of one bald wack-o with a room full of composition books, the villains in this movie are a cult of death-worshipers. One of them gets captured and you have to watch multiple scenes with her and Detective Dennis Quaid in the police interrogation room where he utilizes an arsenal of psychological interrogation techniques like asking obvious direct questions, losing his temper, and getting bullied by the suspect. If you give a shit about intricacies of the story, watch these scenes because the interrogation room is really the exposition room.    

The dead bodies are the best actors. Some of them are dissected and impaled and hanging off of sex-swing/meathook contraptions and they are all more believable than any of the dialogue/scenarios that involve living people in this film. I will give the movie props for using some practical effects and creativity in their presentation of human charcuterie. Detective Dennis Quiad’s looks of disgust during these scenes are especially relatable, because that’s how my face looked for most of the movie.  

That’s where the props end. Overall, this movie is a bog of unoriginality that is a natural byproduct of the hype surrounding those Biblical conspiracy movies like The Da Vinci Code.

A Christmas Horror Story (2015)

a-christmas-horror-story

World of Warcraft: North Pole  

A Christmas Horror Story: C+

This one is an anthology movie that does a pretty good job of giving you what you want when you sit down to watch a Christmas-themed splatter-fest that had no chance in Hell of making it to theaters.

It’s no Creepshow, but CHS has four tales that are interesting enough. Let’s break them down with some micro-reviews:

  1. Story #1: A-. Santa’s elves become evil zombie elves, so he has to kill them all. This is completely self-aware splatstick that is basically an Evil Dead Christmas special. There is no shortage (get it? Elves are short) of puns in this one. There is a fun “twist” at the end of this story.
  2. Story #2: F. Some melding teens break into a haunted basement and have a good ol’ time getting slaughtered/seduced by a poltergeist who wants to get pregnant with the Anti-Christ. There are some cheap jump-scares and a cast of milquetoast teens doing things that teens do in horror movies. This one is beyond played out.
  3. Story #3: B-. A family chops down a Christmas tree and they bring it home. Instead of bringing their son home, they accidentally bring home a “changling,” who causes mischief like the kind from the Child’s Play movies. You know, sneaking around like a little asshole. A mostly comical game of cat-and-mouse ensues with the changling and the dad and I lost my shit when I first saw the makeup job they did on the changling. It looks like Mac and Me.
  4. Story #4: C. Krampus shows up and he is a fucking yoked World of Warcraft looking thing who wields a chain. Crazy Old Aunt Edda had this sick Krampus statue that looks like a piece from Todd McFarlane’s toy line, but her little shit grandson takes a break from guzzling energy drinks in his skinny jeans to smash it. Then Krampus, the albino orc from The Hobbit but with goat horns, murders the whole family.

Shatner shows up as the proverbial Cryptkeeper, a DJ spinning Christmas jams while he improvs awful jokes and ties the stories together. I wonder how much it costs these days to get Shatner to sit in a chair and babble complete nonsense for like 20 minutes.

The movie is alright, but one thing that bugged me a little was the lack of a unified tone. There were three directors working on this and the stories in the anthology each feel like they belong in different movies.

If you are in the mood to ask “Are you fucking kidding me?!” out loud multiple times while watching an anthology flick that doesn’t take itself too seriously, check this one out.

Boston Strangler: The Untold Story (2008)

boston_s

The Bundy Curse is real. 

Boston Strangler: The Untold Story: F

“What’s Bud Bundy up to?” someone probably asked one time. Well, in 2008 he was in this waste of time movie that was so awful it made me want to go on my own strangling spree.

Bud plays Albert, a guy who reminds me of Jake LaMotta in Raging Bull, but only in that one scene where Jake complains about his dinner and throws plates around, not any scenes where he is tough/interesting/emotional. Just imagine the scene where Jake LaMotta doesn’t like his steak, but it’s Bud Bundy and he’s totally unbelievable/unintimidating and the other actors are probably unpaid interns and all you can think about doing is choking the life out of a string of innocent victims.

Albert has that look on his face that Bud would get on Married With Children when he would trick one of Kelly Bundy’s friends into bending over or something (JUST DRIVING THE STUDIO AUDIENCE WILD!) for pretty much the entire movie. You know, the smirk that comes with rubbing his palms together. God, I just wanna strangle when I see that look now.

This movie is based on a true story: There was a Boston Strangler IRL and this guy Albert claimed to be him. However, there is a lot of speculation surrounding the legitimacy of his confession. And so someone decided to dramatize these events and rely on the acting of Bud Bundy to bring it all home. Way to go, everyone involved.

I can think of a bunch of other true crime / washed up actor combos that would have been way better, even if shot on a shoestring budget (which this most certainly was):

  • “Jeffery Dahmer: The Untold Story” starring Chandler Bing
  • “Zodiac Killer: The Untold Story” starring Cousin Balkie
  • “Nightstalker: The Untold Story” starring Dean Cain
  • “BTK Killer: The Untold Story” starring Kurtwood Smith

You could make any of the above movies with like $20,000 and it would have been better than “Bud Bundy Smirks in a Tanktop Featuring Strangling.”

The film also focuses on the passionate police shenanigans of a paint-by-numbers hardass detective who tries to figure out if Bud Bundy is really a killer. Guess what? It’s boring and there is nothing anyone can do to convince me that this actor cared about this movie at all. Plus, he is smirking the whole time too! If you thought Bud Bundy made you want lock eyes with someone while you lethally squeeze their neck, how do you think you’re going to feel if the fucking subplot to that is this other smirking guy (played by the guy who was the original Wishmaster) getting annoyed with due process and police work?

I’m really trying to think of something nice to put in this paragraph, but the movie is just the worst. The only reason it doesn’t get a UV is because of the morbid curiosity factor regarding Bud Bundy and what he is up to.

The Neon Demon (2016)

neon_demon

So fetch.

The Neon Demon: B

Is it Earth-shattering? No. It’s pretty fucking good though.

It’ll push all your buttons if you like Mean Girls, Dario Argento, and Mulholland Drive. It’s like all of those put together, and unlike Blood Orgy of the She-Devils, this film actually has a Blood Orgy of the She-Devils.  

The Nicolas Winding Refn aesthetic is there, so let’s talk about it because that’s probably why you are watching this movie. You don’t even know what the movie is about, do you? First of all, yes, there’s fucking NEON all over the place and there are really creepy synthcore sounds. Every shot is perfect, just like in his other films, so there’s that. If you like the man’s work, you will not be disappointed.  

What is the movie about? Not much: Jesse is this doe-eyed girl who moves to California to become a model. That’s kind of it. It is a mostly unoriginal story of show business “consuming” the innocent. Everyone is really mean and if you’ve ever seen Valley of the Dolls, you’ll probably feel like you are noticing things in the movie that others are not, so good for you. Keanu Reeves is in it and he pretty casually advertises he’s a sex trafficker.  

Jesse quickly becomes the “it” girl in town; everyone wants to photograph her or bang her or break into her motel room late at night to rape her because her chaste mojo makes her an irresistible gem in a swamp of artificial douche-bags. Her coworkers, are cruel 21-year-old minxes, fucking ancient crypt-keepers by industry standards, and they absolutely hate her and the way she lands gigs by just being her awestruck adorable self. You can tell early on that their jealousy is murderous. Stop trying to make staying alive happen, Jesse. It’s not going to happen!  

Supposedly, instead of yelling “Action!” before scenes, Refn would yell “Violence, motherfuckers!” and then the actors would, you know, do violence. The movie is mostly a centrifuge of nightmarish perfume ads and people hatefully glaring at each other as the “plot” slogs along. There is some really cathartic gore at the end (a “blood orgy”, if you will) too, so hang in there, gorehounds.  

People like to rip this movie a new asshole with the argument that it looks killer but lacks substance. Maybe the plot of Neon Demon is too simple for you because you are a fucking genius, so I’m sorry Christopher Nolan didn’t write this movie. If you wind up watching Neon Demon, you’ll just have to suffer with that huge brain of yours.

Look, I thought Only God Forgives was pretty awful (The pacing was like watching oatmeal ooze down a window and I just couldn’t give less fucks about the characters; what are they like kung-fu mobsters who are sad all the time? Get a fucking life.) but every shot was technically flawless and the boring nonsense looked incredible. It’s sort of the same here, but the characters aren’t just static cliches; they actually change and are interesting.

REVIEW: Krampus (2015)

krampus

Krampus has terrible posture. 

 

Krampus: B-

Even with its goofiness and predictability, I still found Krampus weirdly enjoyable and charming. The movie channels a Christmas-Horror Spirit more similar to the black humor in Gremlins than that of Silent Night, Deadly Night or Christmas Evil. It’s a hyper-self-aware PG-13 movie that should be filed under comedy maybe more so than horror. So if you were expecting to see some carnage, this isn’t gonna give you your fix, you sick fuck.

But if you are sentimental like me, the movie might actually bring back fond memories of Christmas and all the fun that came with it! Homemade cookies, a warm fire, being left to die in the snow by my father who didn’t love me anymore, and opening presents with my cousins.

Santa is for good kids and he brings presents. Krampus is for bad kids and he brings torture and death. Fathers are for leaving you stranded in the snow to die a lonely death. This I know.

A kid makes a wish that his family would just fuck off, exactly like Kevin in Home Alone. “Fuck off, family!” (I’m paraphrasing) he scrawls on a little note, which gets carried into the night by a stray gust of wind. Krampus gets the kid’s letter and he shows up to slaughter the kid’s family. Krampus has a crew of killers who are all Christmas themed: There are some asshole elves, some asshole gingerbread men, some asshole toys (who really remind me of the puppets in the Puppet Master movies), and some asshole snowmen.

The real asshole is absolutely the dad character, who gets scared and leaves his daughter to die in the snow. One Christmas, my dad stopped in the woods on a snowy evening, read me a Robert Frost poem, and then pushed me out of his truck and drove away. The cold was biting and ruthless, but I swore my vengeance would be colder.

The “Christmas Spirit” part of the movie happens when the kid realizes that, compared to Krampus and his homicidal throng of death-elves, his conservative uncle isn’t that bad. He begs Krampus to spare his family. But Krampus gives the kid a “fuck off” of his own. I know a thing or two about begging. Try begging, try howling, into a dark Christmas night that howls back with a blizzard. Try begging to a God who abandoned you one night, to a God who turned his back as you trudged through 20 miles of snow. Try cursing your father who left you for dead, who cast you out like so much Christmas trash!

Anyway, the make-up and effects in the movie are great. Yes, there is some cookie-cutter CGI, but Krampus looks sort of like a Guillermo del Toro creature and his elves look like something out of an R-rated Where the Wild Things Are. There isn’t really any gore in the movie. The carnage is all PG-13 and/or off-screen. No dead kids, no blood and guts. No hands and feet made blue and feeble by your long trek in the snow, by your black march to the tool shed where you can barely grasp the machete on that night that left you without a God, without a family, and gave you instead a hunger for the blood of the father who had forsaken you. The movie doesn’t have any of that.

The moral of the story is to be thankful for what you have, even if all you have are assholes, because the asshole you know is better than the asshole you don’t know. Maybe if you feel wronged by someone, even if that someone is a family member — a father perhaps — you should take matters into your own hands. Instead of writing a letter, you should creep through the house with a machete on Christmas night, filled with a darkness more terrible and hollow that the darkness of a thousand blizzards, consumed by your one promise to yourself, your promise for vengeance, for blood. I think that’s the moral.

REVIEW: The Hidden 2 (1993)

hidden_2

“Woof-woof! I want to die!” – The people involved in the making of this film.

The Hidden 2: F

I thought I wanted more from The Hidden, but I have changed my mind. It was stupid of me to want such a thing. It was fine the way it was and I don’t want any more Hidden. I should have been satisfied with a berserk alien movie that celebrates its own shamelessness as a ripoff of other science fiction horror movies. But I greedily wanted more and look what happened: The (fucking terrible) Hidden 2.

I’m sorry to be the one to tell you this, but the alien from the first film left behind some eggs. The eggs hatch in this one and they do pretty much the same thing their dad did: they possess a bunch of people and go on visceral crime-sprees with all the ambition of a cracked-out Jeff Goldblum-style Death Wish goon.

The cover of the VHS says “They live for lust. They live for power. They live forever.” I assume they are talking about the newly-hatched parasites, but that makes zero fucking sense because a) they are not sexual at all, b) they just want to do stuff like eat cheeseburgers and steal cars, and c) there is no mention of any sort of immortality, and their lives are actually very easily ended with the stupid ray gun that the stupid Good Alien has.

Maybe the tagline is talking about the new Good Alien and his human love interest. They hook up, but they have about as much on-screen sexual chemistry as a pile of wet rags. And I’m not talking about those sexy rags. I mean unsexy rags. It’s Alien Seed all over again, and this is a movie that you do not want to be compared to on any level.

The guy from Carnosaur is in it. So it’s got that going for it… I guess.

I am not even exaggerating when I say that about twenty minutes of this movie are totally unaltered scenes from the first Hidden movie. They seriously edit in a LONG clip from the first movie and pass it off as an “intro” to the sequel. Then they throw in another generous clip as a “flashback.” Then (I’m not joking) they have the audacity add ANOTHER clip in the form of our heroes reviewing VHS security camera footage from the climax of the first movie. It is pretty lame. All in all, The Hidden 2 is maybe 60 minutes of original content.

And the content sucks ass.

The same brainless “homages” to Terminator and The Thing are there and they are somehow worse. There is even a scene where a dog gets possessed and there is a gross dog transformation scene like the gross dog transformation scene from The Thing. There are also some terminator-esque “files” that the Good Aliens accesses. I’m surprised there wasn’t “alien-vision” that ripped off all the first person Terminator shots. The parasites carry out some attacks outside of their hosts (like the face-huggers from Alien! Holy shit, am I just now noticing another case of plagiarism?), but they look like cheap puppets that someone threw at the actors.

The layers of meaninglessness to the movie have basically made me a level-10 nihilist. It is a shamelessly unoriginal sequel to a shamelessly unoriginal movie. The hatchlings have all the same abilities/criminal inclinations as before and there is a Good Alien with a Special Gun hunting them with the help of an “I don’t believe it!” human sidekick.

“F” City, population: The Hidden 2.

 

REVIEW: The Hidden (1987)

hidden

Take me to your leader… of this strip club.

The Hidden: B-

The Hidden is a weirdly charming mash-up of plagiarism and cheap 80’s tricks: It has the “Good Guy vs. Bad Guy from Another Word” thing from The Terminator and the “Who’s the Monster in the Room?” thing from The Thing. These setups are re-packaged with Chuck Norris-movie quality and come together to form 90 entertaining and brainless minutes of cassette deck boom-boxes and rocket-launcher carnage.

What’s interesting is that the movie is (pretty much) unanimously respected as a solid film (everyone from Roger Ebert to Amazon.com reviewers write glowingly about it) despite the fact that it consciously replicates other movies while stripping the thought from them. The movie is based on the plots/tropes from The Terminator and The Thing, but there are no deeper allegorical/philosophical messages about mankind’s fear of technology or Cold War paranoia. Now, you could argue that these things were only superficial backdrops in the films I mentioned, but they were at least there. The Hidden revels in the pointlessness of its own monotonous violence.

A parasitic alien criminal who can possess human hosts goes on a wild crime spree on Earth. The alien behaves with Id-like impulsivity; whatever looks good, he steals it. The host he possesses for a lot of the movie looks like the dad from The Wonder Years if there was an episode called “Kevin’s Dad Tries Meth.” Imagine that guy in a sweat-soaked beige business suit committing grand theft auto, armed robbery, and assault with a deadly weapon while looking like he’s having a stroke / overdosing on ecstasy.

The alien parasite causes all sorts of entertaining/hedonistic destruction – slaying characters who are basically all 1980’s stereotypes, eating steaks, stealing boom-boxes – until some fresh-faced FBI motherfucker (played by the fresh-faced FBI motherfucker from Twin Peaks) comes to town with an uncanny ability to predict the alien’s criminal activity. Surprise! He’s a Kyle Reece-style “good” alien who is trying to stop the “bad” alien. He’s got a ray gun and no sense of humor, which goes great with his wisecracking city cop partner who “can’t freaking believe” everything that happens in every scene.

The Hidden starts off as an action/sci-fi and evolves into an insane buddy-cop movie that celebrates all the things you expect from bargain-bin 1980s VHS flicks: automatic weapons, mullets, cocaine, minorities using weird slang created by white people (This is Danny Trejo’s second movie and although I didn’t watch the credits, I bet his character was named “Mexican Guy who says ‘fuck!’” or something), and strippers with big hair.

Is it original at all, like even for one minute? No. But it’s pretty fun. All of the make-up was detailed enough and the alien itself (a three-foot phallic slug) is super-gross when it forces its way down the throats of its hosts. Before watching, lower your expectations accordingly and I think you’ll have a good time.

REVIEW: Clown (2014)

Haunted clown suits: How the fuck do they work?

Haunted clown suits: How the fuck do they work?

Clown: C+

There isn’t really anything fresh about this movie. Everything in it has been done a billion times, but it was compelling and silly enough to keep me interested. As far as clown movies go, it is funnier than Patch Adams but less funny than It. All three movies have dead kids though. So there’s that.

A guy finds a haunted clown suit, which he dons in order to amuse a battalion of annoying brats at his son’s birthday party. BAM: He’s cursed.

As explained by the Wise Elder character, Peter Stormare (the guy who feeds Steve Buscemi into a wood chipper in Fargo), clowns were originally not balloon sculpting ding-dongs, but cave dwelling Nordic demons who would feast on children. The costume is haunted and infested with demonic energy. Stormare even has a leather bound ancient text complete with Guillermo del Toroesque clown monster sketches, so you know he’s legit.

Dude can’t get out of the clown suit; it’s bonded to him like the Venom symbiote or the Goosebumps haunted mask and it is slowly transforming him into the Icelandic variety of Bronze Age kid-munching clowns. The only way to get him out of the suit/stop the clown-demon is to chop his head off or let him eat five children. Once he gets started munching on kids, you’d think they would just let him finish, but the other characters are committed to decapitation despite the pileup of child corpses.

To the guy’s credit, he tries to decapitate himself, but he quits trying once he realizes how fun it is to eat kids. Once the dust from the exposition settles, the rest of the movie is pretty typical possession/demon/slasher stuff that borrows from other popular killer clown stories: He has the fangs of It, but none of the one liners; he has the charisma of Gacy, but none of the sodomy; he looks just like a juggalo, but doesn’t dump Faygo all over himself or rap about titties.

The origin story of the actual movie is more interesting than the clown mythology in the film itself. A couple of guys made a fake trailer for this movie with no (clear) intention of ever filming the thing. In their mock trailer, they start with “From Master of Horror, Eli Roth…” which I guess flattered/interested Roth enough to track these guys down and invite himself on board as the producer. No one probably thought of this movie as “theirs”; the trailer-makers probably thought their inside joke got scooped up as Roth’s new pet and Roth probably thought his semi-pandering to internet horror nerds and attachment of his name would be enough of a contribution. What emerges is a pretty “meh” horror movie with some cool cinematography and make-up that follows a played out formula.