REVIEW: Jacob’s Ladder (1990)


Jacob’s Ladder: B-

Tim Robbins plays a scatterbrained ‘Nam vet who believes that demons, real and figurative, are out to get him. Is it a government conspiracy, or is Robbins nuts, or both? He has sort of a mullet, that’s for sure.

I hope you enjoy movies in which the protagonist suddenly wakes from a nightmare, drenched in sweat with a look of terror still on their face. Over and over. Because this is one of those movies.

The film progresses with the jagged velocity of a bad LSD trip. There are tense quiet scenes that are interrupted by violent Vietnam flashbacks and demon action. You might get up to grab a beer while Robbins is being adjusted by his chiropractor and when you sit back down, he’s being stabbed by Charlie in a jungle ambush.

The demons are great. Sometimes there’s just a reptilian tail subtly hanging out of someone’s trench coat. Sometimes, some guy in a car will jiggle around and morph into a demon. In one scene, Robbins is bobbing his head at a house party and everything explodes into demonic pandemonium like the orgiastic “lizard scene” from Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas.

Imagine you work at the post office, have a mullet, and ate the brown acid and now that’s your life forever.

When Robbins discovers that his war buddies are also haunted by demons, the supernatural element of the film settles down a bit and now we’re in an X-Files style government cover-up story complete with sunglasses-wearing guys in black suits and an abundance of car-bombs. Did the US government expose Robbins’s platoon to toxic materials that induce hallucinatory demon trips? Sweaty sleep-deprived Tim Robbins tries to get to the bottom of this.

You aren’t really sure if it’s demons or the government who are ruining Tim Robbins’ life, so the movie keeps you guessing, which is good. Macaulay Culkin gets hit by a truck, which is okay.

Points off for the most pompous/abrupt post-modernist cop-out ending I’ve seen in a while. This is the godfather of M Night Shyamalanian “twist” horror endings for sure.

REVIEW: Gallow Walkers (2011)


Gallow Walkers: D+

Did you See Blade and think that it would have been vastly improved had the mythology been tweaked to include the Wild West and the special effects had been severely downgraded? Well then you would fucking love Gallow Walkers!

Wesley Snipes is back from his forgot-to-pay-his-taxes “vacation” as Aman, not Blade. Look how Bladey he is, though!

Blade is the son of a mortal woman and a vampire, determined to hunt the undead, whom he hates, because they killed his mother. Aman is the son of a mortal woman and a demon, determined to hunt a band of ever-resurrecting outlaws, whom he hates, because they killed his sister.

Blade was raised by a biologist vampire slayer in a filthy auto body shop. Aman was raised by a shaman demon hater in a filthy slaughter house.

Blade uses small firearms, a sword, and projectile weapons to murder vampires. Aman uses small firearms, a whip, and projectile weapons to murder demon outlaws. Both of them have uncanny precision too!

Aman doesn’t fight Triple H with fangs like Blade did, he fights Diamond Dallas Page who wears a metal bucket on his head.

The one-liners, Snipes voice-overs, and ridiculous hair will trigger Blade nostalgia.

The borrowing from other movies does not end there. Aside from bucket head DDP, the antagonists include a dude with no skin who must purloin it from his victims ala Hellraiser, a female outlaw who looks like Daryl Hannah from Blade Runner, some fucking goon who looks like Bib Fortuna from Return of the Jedi, an omniscient demon who sounds like Unicron from the Transformers animated movie, and a billion expendable Gallow Walker undead outlaws who vary in sophistication from stumbling zombie to suave megalomaniac kingpin.

Exposition overload! Entire characters exist only as plot devices to prompt Snipes to tell his life story. The flashbacks are constant. Not from all that acid I did over the span of the last decade, I mean the flashbacks of Aman’s stupid fucking origin story that is basically the same as Blade’s. I’m not talking about the chemicals that will be in my spinal cord for the rest of my life.

The spaghetti western nod is there, and for the effort, they get credit. The action/gore is minimal and computer generated. Almost all of the kills are from gunshots that blast the victim off screen. The music is exactly what you would expect in a cheap western.

Nothing special to see hear, worth a few chuckles and interesting enough to play the whole way through.


REVIEW: The Gate (1987)


The Gate: B-

Introducing… Stephen Dorff! That’s right! Before America’s favorite tweed-wearing e-cig salesman acted in such gems as and Immortals, he made his debut in this little flick about as young boy who accidentally opens a gate to another world, allowing a cornucopia of evil creatures to enter our dimension.

The film is about little kids fighting monsters in white suburban America. It’s a little more serious than Monster Squad but way goofier than Lost Boys. Little Dorph comes home one day and finds a magic rock by his tree house. He and his annoying asshole friend Terry bust the rock open and read the magic runes inside. Typical white people. Weird stuff happens after their reading. Little Dorph’s dog dies and his house stretches and compresses like the Haunted Mansion ride at Disneyland.

Terry winds up being the “wise elder” character even though he is like fucking twelve years old. He plays a metal record backwards while reading the lyric book and concludes that the magic rock is a relic that can open portals to demonic planes and all that is needed to complete the process is to dump a sacrifice in the hole from which they extracted the rock. How does Terry know all this? Oh, you know, comic books, heavy metal, a serious lack of friends, and (probably) tons of jerking off.

Some idiot buries little Dorph’s dog in the hole and the Gate-shit really hits the Gate-fan. We get zombies, shape-shifting demons, gremlins. Terry becomes a zombie. Little Dorph is caressed by a demon and an eyeball grows on the palm of his hand. Nothing seems to slow the monsters down except… The Bible! Typical white people. Little Dorph reads some Psalms and eventually chucks the Bible into the Gate/hole, but all it does it temporarily repel the monsters and piss them off. They storm the house and really fuck it up.

In the end, little Dorph launches a toy rocket that his sister was going to give him for his birthday at the head demon. The rocket represents love, family, and blah-blah-blah so it kills everything and little Dorph wins. The eyeball on his hand is gone; Terry is alive and well, ready to go home and masturbate; even the fucking dog gets resurrected! The Gate/hole has been sealed. The end.

Is it scary? Not really. There are some charming stop motion effects and some legit looking make-up. The CGI looks like the effects from the first Ghostbusters. The creature design is unique enough. This is more of a “fun” horror movie where the little kid winds up saving the day. I’m probably biased because I remember watching it a lot as a kid, but it’s a fun ride (a goofy-as-fuck ride, but fun) and worth a view.