REVIEW: 976-EVIL 2 (1991)

“Here is an ancient text that discusses 976-EVIL.”

976-EVIL 2: D-

976-EVIL 2: Spike, the wise-cracking, barely shaved motorcyclist is back, battling a haunted jerk-off hotline for another 90 minutes. This time, instead of Spike’s cousin getting mixed up with the demonic forces of erotic landlines, it’s a dickhead teacher (played by a guy who looks like he’s a dickhead in real life) who dials 976-EVIL and projects himself onto the astral plane so he can murder people.

Professor Dickhead has a thing for killing blonde co-eds, which he demonstrates in the opening scene where he impales one with a fake stalactite backstage at the school theater. “Welcome to my Hell!” exclaims Professor Dickhead, and then there is an eruption of red corn syrup and an abrupt cut to Spike riding his motorcycle.

Spike has presumably been on a nomadic bender since the end of the first 976-EVIL movie, where ostensibly harmless occult phone sex led to him throwing his cousin through a portal to Hell. Now wherever Spike goes, phones ring ceaselessly, which makes him glare like a badass. At a crusty bar in a small town, he finally picks up the phone, right after befriending… a blonde co-ed…

Spike, the blonde co-ed, and Professor Dickhead are quickly entangled in a deadly triangle of evil jerk-off astral plane warfare.

From here, the movie showcases an array of unoriginal ideas. Just like the last movie, using 976-powers eats away at your physical form, so Professor Dickhead gradually starts to resemble an “after” picture of a decade long meth addiction. The Professor is very Freddy Kruger-ish (a nod to Englund, who directed the first 976-EVIL movie, or just unoriginality?); he likes to make jokes, laugh, and teleport around while he kills people.  From there, the similarities start to resemble borderline plagiarism; nothing that is straight-up theft, but the lack of ideas is clear: there is a scene where a room gets possessed, just like in Evil Dead 2 (talking animal head and all); a scene where someone is zapped into a black & white TV show, just like in Pleasantville; the owner of the Satanic bookstore is a clone of Elvira with bleached hair. I suppose in the first place, you shouldn’t sit down to watch 976-EVIL 2 with very high expectations, but there was literally nothing new to see here.

After some research at the Satanic bookstore, Spike winds up killing himself (they actually blow up a truck for this scene; how they got the budget to do so, I couldn’t tell you) so he can become Ghost Spike and save the co-ed from Professor Dickhead. He (very anti-climactically) succeeds and then explodes into a multi-colored constellation of floating dots which dissipate into the heavens, much to the glee of the unscathed blonde co-ed. Lucifer’s phone sex avatar has been defeated and the main character looks like a fucking Dark Side of the Moon laser light show. I guess that’s a happy ending?

Oh and then the co-ed is arrested for all of Professor Dickhead’s murders because, no blonde co-ed, we don’t believe that some jerk-off phone sex ghost killed everyone until some guy you just met became an anti-jerk-off phone sex ghost and stopped him.

REVIEW: Christmas Evil (1980)

'Twas the night before Christmas, and all through the house, not a creature was stirring except Santa in his jack-off dungeon.

‘Twas the night before Christmas, and all through the house, not a creature was stirring except Santa in his jack-off dungeon.

Christmas Evil: B+

Christmas Evil has everything I look for in a good cult classic. It takes itself somewhat seriously, has abysmal acting from people trying as hard as they can to act, and has clichés before they were clichés. This was like a Taxi Driver Christmas Special. And before you get on your Silent Night, Deadly Night high horse, please note that Christmas Evil came out four years before SNDN…

Harry experiences some Christmas-related trauma as a young boy (he sees his father dressed as Santa, going down on his mom RIGHT NEXT TO THE CHRISTMAS TREE) and then grows up with a weird Christmas complex. He learns Santa isn’t a guy who comes down the chimney with a sack of toys, he’s a guy who smells like Pall Malls and does naughty things to your mom just 18 inches away from your stocking.

Harry grows up and gets a job at a toy factory and in his spare time, he spies on little girls and boys, keeping a genuinely creepy naughty/nice list. He also hums Christmas carols non-stop, builds his own custom dolls/action figures, and shuts out the outside world completely, effectively turning his home into his own demented South Pole.

The people at the toy factory start taking advantage of him even though it’s Christmas time. It’s very Dickensian. After an escalating series of minor abuses from coworkers and family members, Henry does the only thing that makes sense: He dresses like Santa and goes on a killing spree. “Naughty” people get attacked with a hatchet, “Nice” people get toys that Henry made after hours at the toy factory and in his South Pole jack-off dungeon.

There are some demented scenes of people getting slashed during midnight mass and another scene where Henry kills a guy in his bed on Christmas morning and then leaves behind toys for the guy’s kids. There are also some hilarious scenes of Harry hiding in bushes and driving around in a sex offender-y van, dressed like Santa, talking to himself.

At one point, some townsfolk form a mob, gather torches and weapons, and run around looking for Harry like some 18th century Carpathian villagers.

Henry is a likeable slasher who has a Travis Bicklian moral code he tries to stick to, but he is eventually undone by his own need to be a real-life Santa. I’ll leave it at that. This is a good slasher and I recommend you check it out.

REVIEW: Shakma (1990)

You DO NOT want to see what he is doing with his hands.

You DO NOT want to see what he is doing with his hands.

Shakma: F

Some teenaged nerds all work together in a lab carrying out experiments to genetically modify apes and give them super-intelligence, strength, and agility, which always turns out to be a great idea in every horror movie I have ever seen. The teens are strangely cheery and self-absorbed as they work to decode baboon genomes while acting like they are characters from Saved by the Bell. One ape, Shakma, almost murders a guy, so they put poor Shakma down with (what appears to be) lethal force and wheel his unattended corpse into an empty room with an unlocked door. Another great idea.

The professor who runs this operation is a real piece of shit. He wears a bowtie and corsage and never for one single second ponders the ethics behind his chimp-enhancement experiments; he is always diddling around on his computer, swiveling around in his office chair, and pontificating like a wannabe Bill Nye the Science Guy. More like Bill Jerk the Science Jerk, right? “Making great progress on these homicidal genetically modified apes today! Everything sure is swell! Science is marvelous!”

One day, instead of devoting a single thought to the hubris and absolute stupidity behind heading a program that is essentially a murderous super-ape factory, the professor decides to close shop early and conduct a live-action role playing game with his staff, which he will be overseeing as the Dungeon Master. This involves walkie-talkies, motion sensor technology, and eventually, a bloodthirsty Shakma (nope, he is not dead). What could go wrong?

The teens wander around the building all night as pawns in the professor’s RPG and eventually, recipients of Shakma’s vindictive maulings. Shakma fucks some shit up and it is not pretty. I don’t mean the carnage, I mean it looks lame. There are quick shots of what is basically baboon stock footage edited into longer shots of the teens being molested by a baboon hand puppet (I wish I was making the puppet thing up). There are no shots where Shakma and the actors are in the frame together and the illusion that they are is fucking flimsy at best.

They got an actual baboon for the movie and IMDB claims that the filmmakers were able to capture some great shots of Shakma going apeshit by putting a female baboon in heat nearby. I believe it. Watch the movie; pretty much every time Shakma is banging on a door or window, he has a giant red-rocket boner.

Man, I wonder what was going through that director’s head when he told the crew “Hey, today, I want to get some shots of the baboon getting mad, so we need to work together to give him a boner and get him really frustrated.”

If that sounds appealing to you, teens thinking they are playing a version of Dungeons & Dragons as they get killed by a super-ape that never spears in the same shot as them, then I don’t really know what to say to you.

REVIEW: Unfriended (2015)

"LOL bro you are like totally dying right now! OMG!"

“LOL bro you are like totally dying right now! OMG!”

Unfriended: C-

As a business model, this is the best horror movie I have ever seen. It apparently cost nothing to produce and in fact, it seems like the conception itself made money before the film even hit theaters. In an MTV Production where every kill is off-screened or shaky-cammed, where virtually 100% of the movie is framed in big-name product placement, where the actors are all unknown teens with very undemanding roles, I imagine the cash flow pre-ticket sales to be somewhere between epic and unimaginable.

The plot is a cross between I Know What You Did Last Summer and Fear.com, featuring a handful of morally dubious teens who collectively LOLed at the gruesome suicide of a cyber-bullied classmate all coming together to Skype and talk shit on the anniversary of her death. Their chat session becomes “haunted” by a paranormal chatroom presence and then the teens are systematically killed while the #poltergeist ROFLs.

I’ll pay the movie another compliment by acknowledging that it the most original flavor of “found footage” that I have seen probably ever. Since The Blair Witch Project, pretty much all FF movies (sex tapes not included) took the same approach with the only innovations being that they were tied to various genres. Monster movie? Cloverfield. Superhero movie? Chronicle. And so forth. Same story frame: Footage is found and played back with all of the grain, shake, and terror. Unfriended is different. The grit and immediacy of FF is there but it is rebooted for the Cell Phone Video Age; you’re not watching video footage found in a dead teenager’s handy-cam, you are watching a Skype session unfold in real time on a teenager’s laptop, with each of the chatters dying off one by one. It was as clever and fresh as a gimmicky twist on a now gimmicky genre can be.

The fun stops there. For all the novelty in the setup, I felt incredibly unentertained for all 88 minutes. I suspect this was because every character was sitting at a desk or laying on a bed for the entire movie. There is a kind of sedentary feel to the whole thing. I never feel like the haunting is “pursuing” the characters, if that makes sense. The deaths are all abrupt with little or no buildup, all off-screen implied kills. The shaky-cam cop out is updated to buffering. It gets fucking old.

I also don’t think the movie is going to age well. Imagine someone made a mediocre (that is being kind) Myspace-based slasher flick ten years ago. It would probably be a joke now. The “skin” that this movie wears is Skype and a bookmarks bar full of Millennial-friendly brand partners. I just see people ironically laughing at this movie a few years from now, un-ironically laughing years after that, and finally sighing dismissively until the end of time.

Ultimately, I’ll give this movie props for trying something inventive with found footage, but when you get past the shtick-ish shell, it is an incredibly cheap and uneventful slasher drone with nothing to offer other than the continued implication that you should download Spotify.

REVIEW: It Follows (2014)

It-Follows-car

It Follows: A+

This is the scariest movie I have seen in a long time. Even if you have little problems with the bold styling of the film, you have to give it credit for keeping you in a constant state of dread from beginning to end. I am trying to remember the last time a film had me searching every detail in the frame as intensely as I did with this one.

Everyone wants to talk about is the soundtrack, so let’s do it: The soundtrack is killer. It’s virtually all synths that will immediately endear the movie to John Carpenter fans and any viewer with a soft spot for 70s-80s horror films. It’s a meticulous refurbishing of the same beloved sounds that were the backdrop for decades of horror movies. I still have the end credits’ song stuck in my head.

Strangely, the best moments in the soundtrack are the monotonous arpeggiating Carpenterian ones because they parallel the film’s monster, who can only walk very, very slowly in a straight line. It’s a shapeshifting ghost that is always walking in your direction. There is no origin story; if it catches you, it kills you in the worst way and no one knows why. The movie opens with a graphic demonstration of this and then shifts to a group of lazy suburban teens who get tangled up in the following. The only way to lose the curse is to “pay it forward” through sexual intercourse. Then the ghost follows whomever you banged. The ever-problematic horror movie teenage sex drive is now actually a relevant plot device instead of a thoughtlessly inserted slasher trope.

You can walk, run, or drive away, but the ghost will just steadily walk to wherever you are, disguised as a friend or family member, hungry to fuck you up. This is what had me searching every shot. Is that guy in the background walking slowly toward the protagonist? What about her? Is she acting weird? What was that little shadow in the back corner? I was so involved in the terror of the movie I completely forgot I was in the theater.

There are nods to 70’s and 80’s horror in ways I have never seen. The soundtrack is one thing, but the movie takes other horror totems and cleverly repackages them. The time period is ambiguous; maybe it’s in the 80’s, maybe not. There are some new cars, but no cell phones. It feels like the same era as Monster Squad and Lost Boys, but you know it isn’t. I mention these two movies because the terrorized teens in It Follows form a sort of fellowship where they try to analyze and defeat the ghost. There are boobietraps and everything.

The idea that teen sex is tied to horrific death is a tired convention of slasher flicks at this point. We all know that Jason is going to come eviscerate whichever teens are bragging the loudest about boning. But in It Follows, sex can literally be used to assign certain death to other characters and the protagonist is not a chaste bookworm who gets an advantage through abstinence. Now, she has an incentive to have the same thoughtless sex that was taboo for 50 years of horror movies. The thing we have been taught to dread takes on a new dimension.

I can’t say much more without giving up certain scenes/twists, but this is one you have to see…

REVIEW: Paranormal Activity 2 (2010)

paranormal 2

Paranormal Activity 2: B

Have you checked out the trailer for that Jurassic Park sequel, Jurassic World? Holy shit, man, they’re finally taking it to the next level! You don’t just have a theme park in the making, you have a functioning theme park with tons of visitors (read: more victims). You’ve got some big-ass prehistoric Hainosaurus (which is not technically a dinosaur, learn your paleontology, son). You’ve got some sort of genetically-altered super smartass dinosaur. You’ve also got tame velociraptors.

Yeah, I know, that might sound strange. How can you tame a velociraptor? Well, do you own a dog? Check this shit out: that motherfucker is really a wolf! I shit you not. Genetically speaking, it’s a direct cousin of that fuckin’ beast that ate up Little Red Riding Hood’s stupid bitch of a grandma. And you own it. And you pet it. And you pick up its shit.

Oh, but Richard, you’re saying, that took like, what, ten thousand years for wolves to become dogs! This new Jurassic Park movie doesn’t take place that far into the future! Well, asshole, maybe you might want to use the Google and read up on the domesticated silver fox. It was an experiment done in the former Soviet Union where they selectively bred foxes for tameness, and you basically went from vicious little beasts to pet foxes in just a few generations! Now apply that same shit to velociraptors. It’s been proven (in the first Jurassic Park movie) that those bastards can figure out how to open a door, and that’s when they’re at peak wildness. How many wolves do you know that can open doors? What, like maybe a few of them, at best? I believe I’ve made my point here.

By the time you’re reading this, the movie may have already come out and it might suck a dirty piece of ass. But that’s not my point. My point is that it did something different with the same concept.

Paranormal Activity 2 is basically the same movie as the first one, only it adds a little twist to the end. It’s not as impressive as having HD cameras in the 1980s like the third movie does, but if you liked the first, you’ll like this shit too. If you hated the first, nothing’s gonna change your mind. Me? I liked it. Wasn’t bored for a minute.

But I’m still craving for some kind of an interesting twist to the whole ghost/demon thing. Maybe in the (what are they on now?) next installment, we could learn that the demon is really the hero, and these stupid people have been doing all kinds of fucked up stuff when the cameras were off that we weren’t privy to in the first few movies. Like maybe they were screaming his name while masturbating, and when he’d show up to help them, they’d just laugh and continue to pleasure themselves.

REVIEW: Carrie (2013)

carrie_2014

Carrie: F

Yes, Chloe Moretz is a good actress. There. I got that out of the way. Now you go ahead and tell me what else this movie has going for it because I am at a motherfucking loss.

I have never seen a more pointless remake. This is the same exact movie from 1976 with only very superficial “updates” for a modern audience.

For example, the scene where Carrie gets her period in the locker room: Totally the same; they even throw tampons and do that cunty chant. One of the Plug It Up Girls uses a smart phone to capture the incident and posts it to Youtube. Other than that the scene is an awkward facsimile of the original. Why even remake it if all you are adding to it is a fucking iphone?

Maybe some viewers were all “Wow! So clever! Video! It’s like Carrie, but for our generation, bro!” If that sort of scene is all it takes to impress you, someone might as well remake The Shining and be sure to include a scene where Wendy loses cell phone service. Or how about a Jaws remake where they try to track the shark with GPS?

“Aw man, it’s like they are trying to stop that shark, but it’s like, set in present day, bro!

The whole movie is like this. It’s almost a scene-by-scene reconstruction of the original film with a lame product-placement-feeling layer of the 21st century superimposed on top. The car still gets destroyed, but it is a 2013 Challenger. They dump pig’s blood on Carrie, but they play humiliating HD video clips on a projection screen behind her. The wardrobes are updated (fucking name-brand central) and they work cell phones into a few scenes.

At least they had Carrie conduct her telekinesis research at the library with actual books instead of having a montage of her Bing searches.

I’m not upset to see a movie resurrected in modern times(even though my gripes may make it sound that way), but the movie didn’t seem to have much of a point otherwise. That’s what pisses me off. Maybe I’m undermining the idea that the cruelty and alienation of adolescence holds up across generations, but a Carrie reboot was not an effective vehicle for this message. I get that that is what the filmmakers were probably going for, but I couldn’t help saying (out loud) “so fucking what?! I’ve already seen this movie!”

The acting was clunky. Tons of unnatural and forced dialogue from the teenage characters. You could tell some adults in LA wrote the screenplay. Julianne Moore was not creepy as Carrie’s mom, but I just think she is funny as a person, so maybe you will think she is scary when she is holding scissors and laugh-crying.

 

 

REVIEW: Shivers (1975)

shivers

Shivers: C+

Dr. Emil Hobbs thinks that humans have become too civilized and we need to embrace our inner brutality. I’m not sure, but this might be a reference to the philosopher Thomas Hobbes, who thought that deep down, humans were all ruthless animals.

Dr. Hobbs is conducting some medical experiments to make his philosophy a reality that some might consider unethical; he gets naked, strangles people, cuts them open vertically, and dumps potions on their guts. The potions make cool smoke like dry ice. Also, the potions make these slug-looking parasites grow in the dead bodies. These parasites leave the host body when they are big enough, moving on to infect the living. The infected become zombies who, instead of biting people, hug, kiss, and rape people. If you get raped by a raper-zombie, you become a raper-zombie too. And those are the bad guys in the movie: some sex-slugs and some raper-zombies. I’m not sure, but this could be a commentary on the residue of sexual paranoia left behind from generations of North American Puritanism. Could be.

Anyway, about those slugs. Here’s a breakdown of the holes they can/cannot get into:

  • Eye socket: No.
  • Ear: No.
  • Mouth: Yes!
  • Butthole: Yes!
  • Vagina: Yes!
  • Penis hole: Implied!
  • Belly button: No.

Maybe I’m looking into this a little too closely, but I think these sex slugs might be allegorical symbols for sexually transmitted diseases. Who knows.

Being a raper-zombie looks even worse than being a biter-zombie. Biter-zombies don’t bite other biter-zombies, but raper-zombies do rape other raper-zombies. How exhausting! Biter-zombies get to relax most of the time, only getting excited when there is a non-zombie around, but raper-zombies are constantly raping. I want you to think about that when you see all these good looking women in the movie who have sex-slugs in them. You might think “Oh, well, she can do her raper-zombie thing to me. I’m okay with that!” but just remember, that means you are signing up for a lifetime of grueling rape. I’m starting to think that this might be a thinly-veiled metaphor satirizing the temptation associated with the “Free Love” movement. I dunno. Just a thought.

In the movie, a bunch of people turn into raper-zombies and rape a bunch of other people into their zombie orgy. There is some trademark Cronenberg gore/terror and, this is just a theory, but I think there is also some social commentary in there somewhere.