Needful Things (1993)

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Needful Things: C-

This is a movie based on a Stephen King novel and it has been parodied so many times that even if you have never seen the movie or read the book, you sort of have even if you think you haven’t.

What’s ironic about the movie’s forced familiarity is that the actors populating this film have been typecast so many times in the 90s that you sort of know what they are going to do the whole time. Max von Sydow is in it and you already know he’s playing a devil who deals in haunted antiques; wherever old MvS shows up, you can bet there’s probably some hidden evil afoot. Ed Harris is the hero and, yep, you guessed it: he delivers a powerful monologue while his neck-veins pop out. Honey Bunny from Pulp Fiction screeches and gets violent and the asshole mayor from Pleasantville plays an asshole assemblyman.

So we have a movie you have somehow seen starring actors who will somehow do exactly what you think they will. And the movie production and acting are not very good, so the movie is off to a rough fucking start once you get a few minutes in. Speaking of minutes: there are 120 of them in this movie! That’s a full two hours of layered Stephen King predictability; I would have sold my soul to trim this down to 80 minutes.

Also, there are so many characters that it’s hard to care when old MvS puts some Satan Antique Magic on them and they start murdering each other. He reveals he has delighted in stirring up conflicts throughout history that boiled over into some of the world’s most famous and bloody atrocities. Why he suddenly feels the need to use a magic thrift shop to torture and kill a handful of people in Maine remains the movie’s greatest mystery.

I dissed the acting, but Sydow is pretty good, all things considered. He does a great job of switching between Your Friendly Swedish Grandpa and Grandpa Satan Who Sells Evil Antiques. If you disagree, I’d like to see you keep a straight face while you sell Honey Bunny a haunted antique doll and three quarters of your lines are just the worst fucking puns ever.

There are scenes that seriously drag on to the point where you wish Satan would just open up a Hell-fire volcano in the town square and just be done already. There is one scene where Honey Bunny breaks into the Mayor’s house. Watch that scene and ask yourself if it was necessary.

Overall, this is a goofy 90s piece of horror clockwork that isn’t absolutely awful. There is some satisfaction in seeing a story play out predictably, I guess. If you are not a fan of 90s horror schlock or if you don’t have a soft spot for anyone on the cast, maybe avoid this one and see one of the (rarer) good Stephen King movies instead.

REVIEW: Carrie (2013)

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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: Carrie (1976)

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Carrie (1976) B+

So this chick gets her first period. Right in the shower at school. And then she starts screaming because she has no clue what a period is. Her weird religious mom never told her.

Then all the other girls start throwing these cotton balls and shit at her and yelling “plug it up” over and over again while the Period Girl screams and cries and gets hella traumatized. I think it’s kind of a commentary on mob mentality and the cruelty of crowds, because even the one who turns out to be the Nice Girl participates almost in like a trance. That is until Abby from “Eight is Enough”, who plays the PE Teacher, tears into the locker room and smacks her in the face. Ok, I said…I’m on board.

Then Abby tries to help the Period Girl by hugging her hot naked bloody body while she screams and then the light bulb explodes and everyone pretty much is like “Fuck!” Then they chill out and put on their clothes and wander away.

Also, Ed Rooney’s secretary is one of the Plug It Up Girls, which is also a band someone should start right now if any women read these reviews.

Then the PE teacher has to explain menstruation to Carrie (The Period Girl). Carrie…White. Heh. But it was good for the audience because apparently this happens to all women like several times each year. And not everyone knows that. Edu-tainment!

But Carrie is not like all women, and that’s when this movie goes from sexy to weird.

She apparently has menstrual-onset “tel-uh-kuh nee-sus”, which is how she pronounces it. It means she can move stuff with her mind.

All the Plug-it-Up Girls get punished and some of them can’t go to prom and that makes the Mean Girl want revenge on Carrie. But the Nice Girl inadvertently sets Carrie up for this revenge by getting her boyfriend, Greatest American Hero, to take Carrie to prom and to rig the voting so that Carrie can be Prom Queen.

Now leading up the climax at the prom, you got a few things going for you.

You got Danny Zuko bludgeoning some pigs. You got a music montage while the Greatest American Hero and his buddies guy try on tuxedoes and some of it’s in fast motion and funny. You got the “they’re all going to laugh at you” scene.

Then there’s prom and Carrie White wears a white dress. Then there’s blood, fire, fire hoses and explosions and crashing cars and crucifixions, and more fire.

It’s pretty scary.

It’s also funny how it’s called “menstrual” when men don’t get them.

 

REVIEW: Children of the Corn (1984)

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Children of the Corn: C-

I rented this when I was like thirteen and stopped watching after about thirteen boring minutes. After multiple attempts over several years, I’ve finally mustered up the attention span to finish it.

You already know what this is about; come on.

Linda Hamilton and her 80’s-as-fuck boyfriend decide to go on a road trip and make the mistake of driving through Nebraska. There’s nothing but corn and fundamentalist AM radio.

A dying kid stumbles out of a corn field in front of their car and they squish him. They make the genius decision to throw his corpse in their car and drive around with it. This leads them to a creepy adult-less town populated by a cult of murderous juveniles.

The movie is a fairly significant departure from the original Stephen King source material. In the short story, the kids all dress like Quakers and worship a demon who actually murders Linda Hamilton’s boyfriend. The kids execute the story-Linda Hamilton via sacrificial crucifixion. Some kids die too, through stabbing and sacrifice to the demon. The demon is the clear winner in the story. The adults are all dead and a flock of kids sacrifice themselves to it.

In the movie, there’s no badass murderous demon. There’s only something burrowing underground like a fucking tremor from Tremors. Linda Hamilton and her boyfriend survive thanks to the assistance of some rascally child cult dissenters. In the movie, the actual cult leader, Isaac, is sacrificed (as is his rebellious lieutenant). There is a huge build up that culminates in an 80’s CGI shit-fest and Issac is swallowed by a blob of orange saturation. Instead of the demon fucking everyone up, he just burrows underground like a fucking mole while Linda Hamilton’s boyfriend rigs the cornfield to blow.

There’s non-stop cardboard child acting and some seriously ugly child cult members who would benefit greatly by learning to breathe through their noses. I really dig the commentary on fundamentalism and the dangers of indoctrination. The story and movie both have a Lord of the Flies and Shirley Jackson vibe but the film execution is stale as fuck.

 

REVIEW: Silver Bullet (1985)

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Silver Bullet: C-

A crippled kid has to convince Gary Busey, his alcoholic uncle, that a werewolf is behind all the murders in their little redneck town. You can imagine how difficult this would be for the kid to accomplish since crippled kids probably want all sorts of special attention all the time and adults in his life, like Busey, are all but conditioned to drink more whenever he opens his crippled little mouth to tell his crippled little stories. Like all kids in horror movies who figure out who the monster is, he sounds like a raving dumbfuck every time he tries to explain his theories. Plus, all Busey wants to do is drink Wild Turkey 101 and sing anti-Union Civil War songs. It’s clear he loves his crippled nephew, but his monster obsession is a real buzz-kill.

This is a Stephen King movie, so if that matters to you, there you go. The werewolf looks pretty cool but he keeps slaughtering people in a disappointingly non-werewolf manner. Here’s what I mean:

1. When the sheriff (John Locke from Lost) gets wise to what’s going on, the werewolf… beats him with a baseball bat.

2. The werewolf breaks into a young girl’s bedroom and… throws her against the wall.

3. The werewolf hides in a redneck’s greenhouse and… impales the guy on a broken floorboard.

The movie is funny as hell and has basically every ugly thing from the 1980’s you could think of. The soundtrack is entirely horror synth stabs and 80’s butt-rock. At times, you’d swear you were watching The Goonies or Karate Kid. The cripple has a motorized wheelchair which he later swaps for a WHEELCHAIR/MOTORCYCLE HYBRID. He does wheelies and cheers during a four minute long butt-rock sequence.

Busey’s acting is cranked to level-11; you can almost see the coke dumping out of his pores and his neck veins look like fucking tree roots. So fun to watch. There’s also a priest with an eye-patch and unlimited expendable rednecks who drink Red Stripe with the labels ripped off.

There is a werewolf showdown at the end and, yes, there is a silver bullet involved.

REVIEW: Creepshow (1982)

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This is another Stephen King anthology film and was directed by George Romero.  It has 5 stories. It’s an homage to horror comics from the 50’s. In fact, the first time I encountered the stories in this film was in the tie-in comic book (drawn by the great Bernie Wrightson) that was published at the time the film was released. I found it in a Safeway magazine rack while my Dad was taking his blood pressure at that free thing Safeway has. The comic and the movie are both on my list of favorite things (at # 57 and 58, respectively. # 56 is making crack heads do footraces for crack I don’t really have).

Anyway, he best films are the ones with characters that have desires and motivations the audience can relate to. Creepshow has that in spades.

For instance:

  • A ten-year-old boy who wants to voodoo doll his dad.
  • A put upon daughter who wants to bash in her awesome father’s head
  • A dirty hillbilly who wants $200 for the meteor he found.
  • A rich guy who likes videos of drowning people.
  • A college professor with a loudmouth wife and access to an abominable snowman.
  • An old man who hates people and bugs, but not in that exact order.

I know I’ve felt all of these exact feelings, and if you’re being honest with yourself you know you have too. What I like about Creepshow is that it delves into these everyday human desires and fleshes out what would happen if only we had the freedom to indulge in them. You know…a FREE country. Not “Obamerica”.

This film might seem dated to today’s douchebag viewer like you. It was cheesy for its own time-but that’s intentional. The comic-booky visual scheme works well. It provides an otherworldly feel that makes the outrageous events more acceptable and makes the 80’s seem less lame.

This movie is perfect example of how enjoyable the fun/scary thing can be when done properly-with respect and affection for the genre and its history. It’s not even too scary for kids. You should buy it and watch it. Then you should leave it out so that your 9-year-old can find it with minimal effort and then show it to your 7-year-old. They’ll watch and end up just sort of traumatized. But more importantly, they’ll feel like they got away with something. Occasionally, you just have to give kids these little victories.

Why? Because if you don’t they’ll voodoo doll the fuck out of you. The prologue/epilogue of this movie makes that clear.

But even if your kids don’t have voodoo dolls, you have to let them win a few. If you don’t, the next thing you know your son wants to be a nurse and your daughter’s dating outside her race.

You listening, Dr. Loomis?

REVIEW: Cat’s Eye (1985)

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Cat’s Eye B+

Would you like to see a cat fight a troll? And James Woods fight addiction? AND Ted Striker fight a pigeon? AND Drew Barrymore fight the changes in her growing pre-teen body?

Well then have I got a movie for you. It’s three three three movies in one and it’s all made from Stephen King’s short stories.

The first story is about James Woods trying to quit smoking and is really good. Remember when he tried to quit doing blow in The Boost? Well he’s even worse here. I don’t want to spoil anything so I’ll just tell you what this story has going for it:

* James Woods yelling

* James Woods being scared

* James Woods giving a doll to a retard

* James Woods desperate for ice cream

* Animal torture

* Person Torture

* James Woods telling a guy to shove it up his ass

* A mob guy

* Funny music during both types of torture

* A guy named “Junk” making out in a convertible (with a girl!)

* A disfigured person.

* James Woods begging for mercy.

How can you not want to watch that?

The second story is about Ted Striker from Airplane trying to steal this guy’s wife. The guy is a gangster, though, and wants to make a dangerous scary bet with Ted Striker to see who wins the wife. I can’t say no more without spoilers, but let me tell you that the gangster is played by that guy who wanted to slip it to Dustin Hoffman in Tootsie. He’s scary here too.

This movie also has Drew Barrymore at an awkward stage. Not only was she becoming a woman, it’s obvious that her off-camera lifestyle was catching up with her. She looks real tired and she’s all bloated and puffy-kind of like John Bonham right before he died.

There’s this troll who lives in her wall that wants to sit on her chest while she’s sleeping and suck her breath out of her mouth.

So this cat has to save her.

Personally, I think the troll represents adult sexuality and he’s trying to suck her out of her child’s life into the sex-drenched hell of adulthood.

Which is why she grabs and hugs her “cat” so much. She wants to protect it and it in turn protects her.

So it’s really about female empowerment. So show this to your daughters so they don’t go out banging too much. And your sons can watch it too and they might not start smoking.