Friday, December 30, 2016

Dark Tales of Japan Review

Disclaimer: Contains spoilers!

Plot Summary: An anthology of five tales told by a ghostly grandma aboard a late-night bus.

Review: Despite being made-for-TV, this wasn't half bad. Oh, sure, much of the special effects are horrendous and the budget limitations are palpable, but they managed to work with the material well enough to get the job done. My main gripe is that none of the stories are particularly interesting or memorable. It's not that they're bad--they simply lean toward the mediocre side of things. This isn't to say that you shouldn't give it a watch, however, you should keep in mind that average tales mixed with shoddy effects could come off as a disappointment; I mean, this ain't "Ju-on: The Curse" here. Finally, there is a separate issue only affecting the Western DVD.

Wraparound: If you were like me, you were probably wondering where the fuck is the wraparound discussed on the wiki page?! I don't know why it's not included, but you're losing out on about 10 minutes of material as well as the plot element that pieces everything together. True, the wraparound has no bearing on any individual tale, but it adds to the experience. Thankfully, someone did upload a, seemingly, complete version on youtube. So...all that happens is this ghostly old lady haunts a bus and its handful of passengers they pick up. She does address us, the viewing audience--which is a nice touch--and she creates a kind of interlude between segments. I actually thought there was a lot of potential here for a larger story, but things just kind of end abruptly once the driver runs away after having enough of the ghostly shenanigans. Overall, it's annoying this content was cut, but it's not exactly going to make or break the film as a whole.

The Spiderwoman: I want to say this entry was striving for satire; in a way, we see the depiction of how easily urban legends spread around Japan. For this urban legend we have the titular spiderwoman that people claim to see with all manner of conflicting accounts. Two journalists investigating the sightings come across the actual creature as she can take a human form. By the end, one of the journalists is magically turned into a...Spider-Man...? Eh, just no Kirsten Dunst, please, for the love of fuck! I guess this segment was okay if you don't take things too seriously. Unfortunately, the special effects are exceptionally terrible which really drags down the final impression. It sucks too because the filmmakers were finding creative ways to make it look like someone had a bunch of limbs earlier in the tale.

Crevices: This segment felt like an unofficial prequel to "Kairo" (or "Pulse" whichever you prefer). I mean, you've got a ghost being kept at bay by red tape so what else am I to make of that? Anyway, a guy comes looking to find out what happened to his missing friend. At the missing friend's apartment, there is nothing but red tape everywhere which baffles the guy and an accompanying landlord. While taking off the tape and looking for clues, the landlord suddenly disappears into thin air. Finding a video recording of the friend, the main guy realizes that some Sadako-clone is haunting the apartment and somehow can appear within any crevice. It makes little sense if you think too hard about it so just roll with it. Shocking no one, the guy tries to tape up every edge in the apartment only to miss one and die. I think this tale kind of embodies my issues with this film--it's not bad but you just shrug your shoulders and move on.

The Sacrifice: Okay, now this isn't the best entry, but it's got a little extra spice if you know what I mean. That's right, another sexy babe! And, WOW, this chick, Yu Yamada, was totally doing it for me--she looks like she could be Rika's fookin' sister! I can't stand the dyed hair, but exceptions can always be made! Wait, where was I? Oh yes, there is a story here. Apparently, when the main girl, played by Ms. Yamada, was little she saw her grandma die in order to save the ailing mother. This was some kind of sacrifice to a spirit or demon or monster or whatever the hell it was supposed to be! Now, as an adult, the main girl is somehow cursed by a dorky dude she rejected. With this curse growing stronger, the girl's mom decides she will sacrifice herself to this order to save our dear, sweet Ms. Yamada's life. Sure enough, this cancels out the curse and kills the dorky guy in the process as well. Then this leaves Ms. Yamada to now be the mother of my children so she can keep the sacrificial tradition going...or at least that's how it ended in my head. But seriously, this was just another so-so tale. It was kind of original, I suppose, but we don't really know why anything is happening.

Try and tell me she couldn't pass for Rika's evil, yet sexy, twin?

Blonde Kwaidan: I guess this entry was the best despite it being really short and ending in an idiotic way. Some businessman is visiting the USA and staying near Hollywood. His reactions are amusing and he loves all the blonde girls he sees. I especially loved when he discussed that Hollywood was going down for pointlessly doing nothing but remakes. You're fucking telling me, dude. Later on, after staying at another businessman's address, the guy is haunted by a blonde equivalent of Kayako. And now we know why you don't see long-haired, blonde ghosts running around...they look ridiculous; there is just something about the black hair that works. And I'm not joking about the whole Kayako thing--the blonde's body is found in a similar way to Kayako, and it's the same director, Takashi Shimizu, behind this tale. What ruins this entry is that it ends just when things are getting interesting. I can appreciate the jokes and humorous tone, but, due to general pointlessness and ending things prematurely, I can see people thinking this was the worst.

Presentiment: Lastly, we come to the longest tale of the bunch. Again, this could have been something special yet the potential is squandered needlessly. A guy plans to rob his company and then flee with some side chick.'s almost as if they don't want you to feel bad when he dies. So after pulling some next level "Mission Impossible" shit, the guy goes to leave the building when he becomes trapped on the elevator with three shifty characters. If you can't tell they're ghosts within one second you might need your horror credentials revoked. Ahh, but here's the spin--the ghosts have nothing better to do than to watch other people become ghosts. After somewhat, and rightfully, guilt-tripping the guy, he realizes they're ghosts when the rescuers say he's the only one on the elevator. Surviving the incident, the ghosts wonder what went wrong until some kind of "Final Destination" shit kicks in to finish him off. The ending is somewhat fitting since the ghosts wonder if the guy's lover will die next since she kept threatening to commit suicide if the guy doesn't leave his family for her. The grim reaper...I guess...informs them that she won't die for like 50 years and will have three kids. Hah. That's a good one.

All things considered, this film is slightly above average. More so, if you got screwed over with the Western release of the DVD, then I'd drop the rating down to a 5/10 since you're getting screwed out of the wraparound. There are plenty of positives without a doubt, however, the negatives are substantial. If there had been at least one impressive story that stood above the rest that could have alleviated the lackluster nature of the rest; instead, each tale is more or less of the same quality. Of course I got a new chickadee out of the experience, but others won't see much of a benefit from Ms. Yamada's inclusion. Nevertheless, I still think Asian horror fans might get a kick out of this. Casual moviegoers will probably want to avoid this one though.

Notable Moment: During the "Blonde Kwaidan" segment when the main guy is driving down Hollywood Boulevard. It's just a funny scenario, and he's such a cliched tourist, but the icing on the cake is taking a shot at shitty remakes of Asian movies.

Final Rating: 5.5/10

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Sadako vs Kayako Review

Disclaimer: Contains spoilers!

Plot Summary: The two biggest J-horror legends clash because...reasons.

Review: So here is a little Christmas present that has been long, long overdue. First, let me point you to this posting I made nearly a year ago: Sadako vs Kayako prediction. I was actually pretty damn close! In fact, I still think my ending, with the addition of Mimiko from "One Missed Call," would have been significantly better than what we got. Anyway, what to make of this film...hmm. Well, if this were intended to be an honorary "Ringu 3" it's not too bad. However, if I judge the movie on what was promised, it's an absolute fucking mess. The truly irritating aspect is how disrespectful the filmmakers are to the "Grudge" franchise. They are ignoring pretty much all sequels to both franchises, but they're definitely more faithful to Sadako (another aspect I predicted). But it's not just giving Sadako the advantage--Kayako gets beat hard and doesn't even show up until the 75 minute mark! Let that sink Kayako for an hour and fifteen minutes! They need to change the title to Sadako vs random Japanese girls. I have no idea what they were thinking, but J-horror is in dire need of a second wind or something.

They don't even show her face. Disappointing.

Might as well start off with what was working in the film's favor. If you ignore all the Kayako parts, and just fixate on Sadako, this is a worthy entry for the "Ring" series. This notion that Sadako and the tape have become a known urban legend around Japan was logical and established a certain air of mystery that was impressive; even as the characters express, the fact that VHS as a medium is outdated kind of makes the urban legend creepier. The cinematography and lighting are spot on, and this presentation also extends toward the Kayako side of things as well. In this same vein, the tone is captured commendably--better than I would have thought really. It's almost as if a "Ringu" script was lying around incomplete, and they filled in the holes with Kayako. The last thing that was, kind of, cool was the fusion of Sadako and Kayako into one being (wikipedia calling it Sayako). I guess this is intended to be the sequel-bait portion?

It's not the same without Takako Fuji, but the makeup looks better than the other entries without her.

Now for the bad...and it's a considerable amount of bad! As I already addressed, Kayako doesn't show up until the movie is practically over. Sure, you see her hands for a second and hear some croaking but that's weak. Hell, Toshio probably does more in the movie than Kayako...AGAIN! On top of that, they didn't come close to capturing the design of the Saeki house. And yeaaaah, remember how Kayako was living near the woods with a well just chilling out in her backyard?! Talk about fucking contrivances! Speaking of retcons, why did they change what was shown on Sadako's tape? I already knew they would make Sadako more powerful (because she is), however, I'd hoped they would at least give equal action to both franchises. Instead, Kayako's inclusion is noticeably forced with shenanigans shoehorned in just because. This leads me to these idiotic spiritualists they introduce who can magically go head to head with Kayako and Sadako like it's no biggie. These spiritualists also casually know about Kayako and just come up with, on the spot, the idea that they will try to cancel out the curses by making the two ghostly ladies fight. This doesn't even make sense since whoever won would still kill the people they have cursed! You kind of have to see this shit for yourself, but, suffice it to say, the way the events unfold is horrific and also majorly contrived. Making matters worse is that the movie suddenly ends without any resolution. There is a post-credit scene so I guess the last two girls alive died...oh loss there. The last thing I'll add is how annoying the characters are. We have a dumbass who won't just ignore the Saeki house, a dumbass who goes suicidal out of nowhere, a dumbass, wannabe cool-guy, and a dumbass lead who is identical to every good girl in either series. The only character who had potential--though squandered nonetheless--was the blind, little psychic girl; her backstory might have actually made for a compelling means to link Sadako to Kayako. Whatever, dude.

I really don't know what I was expecting here, because the entire premise is preposterous. I guess I was hoping against hope that things would turn out good...somehow. In all fairness, the "Ringu" aspects are decent, and the groundwork for a respectable film was certainly there; can't say there wasn't potential. I wish the "Grudge" franchise made out better from a fan perspective yet I knew they would not handle things properly from the get-go. There are plenty of positives spread throughout like the look and tone which creates the illusion you are watching a proper sequel to either series. Unfortunately, they drop the ball hard at the end, leaving you unsatisfied and, ultimately, disappointed. Could there be a sequel to this one day? Sure. Could it actually be a good movie? Definitely but I wouldn't hold my breath. If you're a fan of either franchise I guess you should watch this for a sense of completion. If you are simply intrigued by the novelty of these two characters fighting then I think you will be unsatisfied. Overall, a mediocre time-waster that is more annoying if you were genuinely excited by the prospect of this film.

Notable Moment: When that one spiritualist dies while headbutting the professor. Whaaat? That was beyond moronic, but the bitch-slap to Yuri was amusing since it came out of nowhere.

Final Rating: 5.5/10

Monday, December 12, 2016

A Christmas Carol (2009) Review

Disclaimer: Contains spoilers!

Plot Summary: You know the drill...Ebenezer Scrooge is haunted by three spirits on Christmas.

Review: Well, it's that time of year again for my annual rendition of the Dickens classic, "A Christmas Carol." This time around we have a version from...argh...Disney. And Jim Carrey as not only Scrooge but the spirits as well? What, ruining "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" wasn't enough? I guess my main gripe with this interpretation is that it can't decide if it wants to be a faithful adaptation or slather that grimy Disney coating of shit all over things. Any time things get serious, and they depict the story in proper form, some idiotic segment occurs that feels like it's pandering to potheads or something. I mean, really, Scrooge shrinking down to mouse-size and being chased by a demonic horse and carriage? Huuuh? Fucking Disney...

So, obviously, the things that work best are when they stick to the source material. In all fairness, the film mostly stays on course with the story and, seemingly, only deviates to pad out the running time. However, there are plenty of aspects dropped that could have been played up if they really needed to fill that 90 minutes. For example, Tiny Tim does not get much attention considering his impending death is one of the main things that affects Scrooge's change of heart. Likewise, the time dealing with Fred and Scrooge's sister are almost entirely dropped. As for Jim Carrey...he isn't that bad to be honest. The rest of the cast are all decent too despite having bit roles. I am not a fan of CGI family movies, but I suppose this was an okay medium for a tale such as this.

As for the film's failings...hmm...where to begin? Well to kick things off let's address the copious amounts of upskirt shots of Scrooge. There were so many it was easily rivaling even the most hardcore, Japanese schoolgirl porn (HIGHLY recommended!) Okay, but seriously, the film is boggled down with mindless decisions that reeked of an executive feeling like things weren't Disney enough. I was especially annoyed by this retarded incarnation of the Ghost of Christmas Past. What on earth was that abomination?! Or the dancing of Fezziwig and his wife...oh god...can't take it. And what was up with Scrooge falling all over the place? For an old man, he sure can take a beating. In fact, remember in the book how Scrooge is always falling all over the place and miraculously not dying? Oh that's right, that never happened and slapstick comedy hardly fits this type of narrative. Probably the most egregious offense is how unconvincing this Scrooge's transition to nice guy was; I just didn't buy it. We don't get the kind of development other versions try to portray; the film was certainly hurting for any kind of emotional resonance.

I don't know...I found myself incredibly bored watching this. I'm only giving this a good rating due to using "A Christmas Carol" as the premise. If I rated based on my feelings alone this would be like a 4.5/10. The thing is, you can have fun with "A Christmas Carol" just as the Muppet version showed us. But you have to commit to things wholeheartedly; you can't half-ass it the way this version did. It's no secret I loathe Disney as a company, but, regardless, this isn't a very good interpretation of the timeless classic one way or another. Just stick to the Patrick Stewart version or the Muppets or the black and white versions...they're all better and more pleasing to the eyes.

Notable Moment: Any scene with that moronic interpretation of the Ghost of Christmas Past. Did no one in pre-production look at that monstrosity and chime in about the laughable design?

Final Rating: 6/10

Friday, December 9, 2016

Wind Chill Review

Disclaimer: Contains spoilers!

Plot Summary: Two college kids, heading home for Christmas break, become stranded along a haunted road.

Review: This isn't a full-blown Christmas movie per se, but it'll do the trick for this time of year. And, similarly to "Krampus," you will want to huddle under the blankets while watching. Now, I do like this movie, however, the criticisms laid against "Wind Chill" are more than fair. More specifically, the pacing is slow, the action is light, and, realistically, they had enough material for a half hour TV show. What does redeem the film is the brilliantly, snowy scenery combined with an engaging mystery as to what is happening. Does the story deliver on that mystery? Eh...debatable but not really. At the same time, there is a, somewhat, charming romance subplot between the two leads; though it annoys me to no end that neither character was named! Why do movies keep doing that?

The general premise is intriguing as we follow the girl--we will call her Emily--as she attempts to find a ride home for Christmas break. The film covers why she would willingly travel with a stranger, and college kids notoriously do stupid things to be cheap. Anyway, the guy giving the ride--we'll call him Ashton--is presented as an obvious red herring. In fact, I'm not entirely sure where they were going with this character at the beginning since it was as clear as day to any viewer he isn't going to be evil or anything. Sure, he's a bit of a stalker, but he explains his tactics in film and it makes sense from a dweebie, college kid's perspective. Surprise, Emily is the girl of his dreams (or whatever), and he just wanted some alone time with her so he arranged to be her ride. Since the emphasis of the story is about ghosts, much of this comes off as filler to stretch out the ideas surrounding this haunted road. This leads me to the actual main antagonist, a ghostly cop who tends to kill passengers every holiday season on this particular stretch of road he patrolled when alive. So the gist of the plot revolves around the two college kids trying not to freeze to death once they've crashed on this road. Likewise, the ghostly cop attempts to add them to his list of victims yet can't seal the deal for whatever reason. There is plenty of tension throughout, and, as I mentioned, that frigid imagery is powerful stuff. I kind of liked the romance building between the two as they struggled not to freeze, and I appreciate the general mood and atmosphere presented. Unfortunately, the pacing begins to drag with little happening for massive periods. Many scenes that could have been intense falter instead. By the end, the resolution to these events felt lackluster as Ashton simply dies, his ghost saves Emily, and that's only after a bit of last minute shenanigans. The Christmas element does add a little spice, however, it's greatly underutilized when it could have played a larger role.

Overall, "Wind Chill" is more of a mixed bag with quality production value. You have a bunch of great ideas and an original premise to set you off, but the follow through just isn't there. Events start off creepily enough yet that initial intrigue dissipates all too quickly as if a second writer finished the script or something. Either they should have condensed the story down to be a short (or anthology segment) or plot elements like the romance or cop's backstory should have been greatly expanded upon to fill out the slow parts. Instead, we get a lot of scenes where the characters suddenly gain second, third, fourth, infinite winds of energy to do things when they're seemingly dying only seconds prior. I do still recommend checking this out since the story is incredibly offbeat, but it doesn't completely embrace the holiday horror aspect you might want at this time of year.

Notable Moment: When eel-man pops up. Who, or what, the fuck was that supposed to be?

Final Rating: 6/10

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Krampus (2015) Review

Disclaimer: Contains spoilers!

Plot Summary: After their Christmas begins to fall apart, a family is tormented by Krampus and his demonic minions.

Review: Coming from the writer/director of the amazing "Trick 'r Treat," I had hoped "Krampus" could be for Christmas horror what "Trick 'r Treat" was for Halloween horror. Alas, "Krampus" is not in the same league, but it is still a decent film in its own right. For me, it's the comedic direction that hurt the experience as the stakes feel low and the scenarios are too outlandish. "Trick 'r Treat" has a significantly better balance of tone. However, the real make it or break it moment is in regard to the ending--this ending was a big pile of meh.

I've covered the myth of Krampus before, but, for those unfamiliar, he's essentially a version of Santa that deals with the naughty children. In this instance, they claim that Krampus comes to those who lose hope on Christmas. This kinda makes sense, but it bugged me from the onset since these characters aren't particularly deserving of the fate that awaits them. Sure, some of them are assholes, but you'd think Krampus would have a bone to pick with actual evil people. Likewise, Krampus is depicted as being evil himself which is more hypocritical rather than him being a kind of moral authority against the naughty on Christmas. Eh...this is just nitpicking at this point. Anyway, what really worked for this film was the cinematography. The snowy scenery was well done and things felt like, as a character says, a twisted fairy tale; things looked so cold I wanted a blanket to wrap myself in! This general approach was the right move in instilling a magical, yet terrifying, situation for the characters to deal with. I do feel this setup was squandered slightly, however, the look and style is on point nonetheless. Another strong point is with a couple of the creature concepts; Krampus looks intimidating and a few of his killer toys are imaginative. I really wanted these ideas to be explored in a serious manner though.

As for the shortcomings, much of the problems lie with this comedic tone. The use of CGI, killer gingerbread men was a moronic idea both outright and in implementation. Considering all the other evil toys had a somewhat scary design, it was confusing as to why gingerbread men would receive as much screen time as they did. Another major problem is with the pacing. It's not that the film drags, but too much of the story involves characters just sitting around or staring out the window. Good film making needs to keep things rolling and only show scenes that contribute to the overall premise; these tedious scenes felt like filler or were an amateurish mistake. Finally, that ending really sucked. What was the point of anything really? Some kid tears up a letter to Santa and everyone goes to hell over it?! Likewise, if it was just this family learning their lesson, what became of all the other victims we see? Are they imaginary? I rarely say this, but that felt like a huge plot hole. I don't know...I was leaning more toward a 6.5/10 until the yeah.

All things considered, this is an above average film bolstered by the look and snowy landscape. The story does make you wonder where this is all heading, but the payoff isn't quite where it should be at. The actors are hamming things up too, but it doesn't bother me given the outlandish scenarios depicted. Come to think of it, maybe a more Christmas-y vibe would have enhanced playing Christmas songs that complemented a situation in an ironic way. Oh well. I do have my gripes yet I can still offer a recommendation to casual audiences. As far as veterans of horror go, I think this will be on the disappointing side since it includes nothing we haven't seen before. Still, it's probably worth a view just for the sake of promoting Christmas horror of this higher production quality.

Notable Moment: When the one sister is eaten by the jack-in-the-box creature. This was a cool idea for a monster, but it should have been a lot scarier in context. I mean, the other characters more or less shrug this horrific sight off.

Final Rating: 6/10

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Updated Review #15: Ichi

Disclaimer: Contains spoilers!

Plot Summary: A blind swordswoman, searching for her mentor, must fight her way through a horde of bandits wreaking havoc on a small town.

Review: There was no way my original review was doing my girl, Haruka Ayase, the justice she deserved--it's time we amend that just as I did with "Cyborg Girl." Come to think of it, this and "Cyborg Girl" came out the same year...twas a good year! Now, before we get ahead of ourselves, I'll lay out a few factoids. If the cover weren't a giveaway, this movie clearly has nothing to do with "Ichi-the Killer" which I should get around to reviewing at some point. Instead, this is a female take on the infamous Zatoichi character from Japanese cinema. If you're interested, there are like a million movies about Zatoichi, but I've only ever watched like one randomly. Here, things are not as simple as a gender swap since it's greatly implied that Zatoichi existed in this universe and was this Ichi's father (probably). At the same time, this Ichi still embodies the personality, style, and tropes of Zatoichi so it's worth a viewing for those that are familiar with the source material. Okay, enough of this nonsense, let's get to the review and my dear Ms. Ayase!

Cool sky, sexy babe singing...what more could you want?

So, surprising no one, the best aspect is Ichi herself. Ms. Ayase is so dreamy in all her roles, but she actually is an amazing actress. She always brings a lot of conviction to her characters and a stoic warrior works wonders; likewise, she does well with the blindness depiction and demonstrates an attention for detail. I must confess it sucks not to get even a tease of that voluptuous body she's working with, but she is one of the only chickadees that can still make rags look sexy. Anyway, Ichi is a genuine badass, and it's fun to see her slice her way through bandit after bandit. As with Zatoichi, the fighting style of using backhand strikes is interesting to see in action. Plus, I like the way she clutches at her walking cane that conceals her sword; it makes her look so helpless to bad guys who don't have a clue to what's coming. Ichi's backstory is a bit hazy, but it's good enough to explain why she avoids outright helping people. I guess she's somewhat of an antihero in this regard; though, she does come around by the end. The last thing I'll say about my girl is that I liked that they didn't make her invincible since she lost to the main villain and needed help to finally beat him as well. This felt realistic given the experience gap between her and the villain.

Okay, so let's say Haruka is not doing it for you...for some reason. Well, you still have a solid action movie with pretty good pacing considering the running time is just shy of two hours. Fights are fast-paced and mostly realistic without a lot of flashy exchanges. Pretty much everyone is dead in one or two strikes with a couple exceptions. Even the main bad guy doesn't get a massive battle. Sure, this approach may not feel as satisfying if you're expecting a 20 minute duel a la Anakin vs Obi-wan. There are drama and romance elements as well, but I believe the true strength of the film lies with the action and seeing Ichi. Essentially, you are following Ichi's journey and her realization that there are things in life worth fighting for. The set designs are good and the music helps though it's not quite my taste. I wish a little more time was spent showing off Japan's rural landscape, but I got the feeling that there were budget restrictions despite the heavily polished look to the production.

As much as I enjoy "Ichi," I have to acknowledge the flaws. One you will notice out the gate is the CGI blood. This truly perplexed me since we still typically see the makeup effects for the wounds afterward as well as the physical fake why bother with the CGI?! There is also one guy who gets his throat slit, and the effect is fucking HORRENDOUS! We are talking so shitty I nearly took half a point off just for that nasty blemish. Connected to this pointlessness is the cartoonish look of the villains. For a film that was grounding itself in reality did we really need these over the top goofs? I think there might have been somewhat of an influence from "Azumi" in this regard. Mmmm...Ichi and Azumi...what a fantasy. Sorry, where was I? Oh yeah, I was about to discuss the biggest flaw of all: the love interest, Toma. Ugh. He's annoying and his backstory is beyond contrived...goodie! He's not quite Jar Jar level, but he is in no way remotely worthy of Ichi. He's too much of a damn coward, but, more ridiculous, they made him a supposedly better fighter than Ichi! Oh good lord. His whole spiel is that he can't draw his sword anymore after conveniently blinding his mom in an accident. This plot line is stupid and makes his attraction to Ichi so much creepier since it's like he sees her as an extension of mommy. Bleh. This is why I just imagine myself in the story the whole way much more thrilling that way! If he at least weren't such a little bitch-boy I wouldn't have minded, but, hey, at least he does die so that's a huge plus.

Don't get all bent out of shape over that bitch-boy dying, my dear.

Overall, this is an engaging film well worth your time. Although there are problems strewn about, nothing is substantially hindering the experience. I do have my gripes with the romance subplot, but it's not like it's a huge part of the story; some people might actually enjoy it as well. Definitely come for Ms. Ayase killing it as Ichi and stay for the action scenes. The action isn't quite as relentless as the ADHD crowd might need it to be, but the average moviegoer should be fine. The dramatic portions could have been a tad more emotional, but the story will pull you in sufficiently especially if you grow attached to Ichi's journey. Obviously this film isn't for everyone, but those who enjoy Asian cinema or like to see hot chicks kicking ass will be thoroughly entertained.

Don't make her mad!

Notable Moment: When Ichi slices the lantern in the dark (the only light source mind you) and then dispenses with five goons in the blink of an eye. It's just such a badass scene that highlights Ichi's true capabilities.

Final Rating: 7/10

Monday, November 28, 2016

Hellraiser: Revelations Review

Disclaimer: Contains spoilers!

Plot Summary: Pinhead paces back and forth as a dysfunctional family experiences zany antics.

Review: Well, if you didn't think it could get any worse than part 8, here comes "Hellraiser: Revelations" to change all that! The best way to imagine this trash is to picture a shitty youtube parody of the franchise...then drop the production quality and budget to pittance. I mean, this is fucking horrendous. Sure, it's not the worst film I've reviewed over the years--big whoop--but this was still exceptionally bad; one might even say a total disgrace. I was waiting until this moment to address Doug Bradley who has been playing Pinhead over the decades. While I don't feel he was completely necessary, you certainly feel his absence with this laughable poser taking over the reins. Mr. Bradley brought a certain presence and gravitas to the role that this wannabe couldn't possibly begin to fathom. I've legitimately seen more intimadating cosplayers. The makeup effects are severely lacking and the filmmakers have no concept of effective lighting. Fuck...I just want to send everyone involved in the production straight to hell!

The story hurts my brain just to think about it. There are these two idiots who go to Mexico for drugs and hookers and somehow come across the puzzle box. Fake Pinhead pops up and takes one to hell while the other starts to kill more hookers...because...? This also magically brings the other friend back to life similarly to Frank and Julia except that's not really how things work. Sometime later, the families of the two friends are having dinner when shenanigans ensue. The "revelation" is that the one friend sent to hell takes the skin of the other guy which creates confusion for the families. Then, in an idiotic move that boggles the mind, the guy who escaped hell summons Pinhead again thinking he will be forgiving...because...? Taking stupidity to another level, they make Pinhead get all pissy when he's denied a soul by one of the parents. Keep in mind, the majority of this idiocy is occurring in some living room; everything looks and feels embarrassingly low-budget. The film mercifully ends with some bullshit about the one sister wanting to open up the puzzle box...because...? Thank goodness the running time was roughly 70 minutes...I don't think I could have taken another moment.

Needless to say, this is a miserable entry that tarnishes the "Hellraiser" legacy even further. There are explanations for why this entry is such insufferable shit, but I don't forgive it. I hated every single second of this movie and incessantly thought about tearing a few souls apart. And why the fuck was there a Pinhead junior?! If I wasn't so annoyed I would have been laughing at the outlandish stupidity. Needless to say, do not waste your time (and especially money) on this tripe. And this is the end for the moment. What a beautiful descent into oblivion this has been too. Supposedly there is a tenth movie coming, but I have zero confidence in it. Clive Barker has been discussing both a remake and permanent end to the franchise so I guess we will stay tuned until (or if) this ever comes to fruition. In the meantime, just stick to parts 1 and 2 and maybe 6 if you have the tolerance.

Notable Moment: That moronic incest scene. Like...what the fuck were they thinking? Who am I kidding, of course they weren't thinking!

Final Rating: 3/10

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Hellraiser: Hellworld Review

Disclaimer: Contains spoilers!

Plot Summary: The Hellraiser universe is a video game...or something...and idiots go to a haunted house or whatever the fuck was supposed to be happening here.

Review: Umm...Rika, sweetie...what the flying fuck did I just watch?! This isn't a "Hellraiser" movie whatsoever. We have gone far beyond missing the themes of the franchise or not pulling off the aesthetics--oh no--we have entered shenanigans of epic proportions! I'm speechless. It's hard to fathom the "thinking" that went into this installment. More or less, this is a haunted house movie where Pinhead shows up at the end for no real reason. I get's part 8 in a franchise that should have stopped at part 2...okay, fine...but this is insulting to whatever fans are left. And, believe me, I'm not just pissed because this is "Hellraiser" in name only--I'm annoyed because this is also an unbelievably shitty movie to boot. In fact, this is one of those instances where I kept thinking a stupid scene would be the "notable moment" only for that moronic scene to be eclipsed mere minutes later. I always love that shit!

The film opens by making absolutely no fucking sense, but that's is part 8 after all. Then we come to learn that one of two scenarios has unfolded, and the filmmakers were too lazy to even explain which is true. Possibility 1: somehow, the mythos of this franchise was turned into a video game by someone, somewhere, to trick people into opening the puzzle box I guess. Since this is virtually impossible to establish, we can mostly ignore the likelihood of that being true. Possibility 2: everything that has transpired in the franchise to date was fictional, and this entry is supposed to be reality. Scratch that, we are going with Possibility 3: the creators were lazy as fuck and barely altered an existing script as a big fuck you to the audience.

So our main characters are all fans of the "Hellraiser" video game yet it hardly contributes to the plot. I hate to admit it, but this notion of "Hellraiser" being a video game that lures in victims could have worked (if done right) and added something new to the mythos. Unfortunately, all that happens is the characters go to a party where someone has planned revenge against them for reasons we hardly understand. Yeaaaah, don't go expecting Pinhead or "we'll tear your soul apart" kinda shit to happen. I mean, Pinhead is there, but we come to learn he's just a hallucination and doesn't do much even at that. Anyway...the party and the zany antics that unfold are predictably dumb and cliche. As I mentioned, the story boils down to a haunted house movie with light slasher elements and titties added just so I won't lower the score further (credit where credit is due). Humorously, Henry Cavill is here playing a douche. How the hell did you go from fookin' Albert Mondego to this shit, dude?! However, the only real draw is to see the luscious Katheryn Winnick in another horror movie. And damn is she looking ever so sexy; not going to lie, her ass in those tight pants kept the score from plummeting into the 3/10 range.

After wanting to blow my brains out for 80 minutes, we come to learn that everything has been a hallucination while each character is buried underground for revenge. Everything "Hellraiser" related, the video game, and even Pinhead were nothing more than a ruse...or shitacular editing and script revisions. So...yeah...the whole movie is a revenge scheme very much grounded in reality...until the last couple minutes. Pointlessly, we cut to the guy that wanted revenge as he pulls a real puzzle box out of his ass and summons Pinhead for realzies! Oh no! But then his ghost appears to Katheryn Winnick? Whaaaat? Oh, fuck this idiotic movie!

If you enjoy "Hellraiser" in any capacity, avoid this film like the plague. This entry has nothing to do with anything and fails monumentally. If you ever wondered what a "House on Haunted Hill" remake part 15 would look like, this is it. This movie is absolute garbage from start to finish with only amble amounts of T&A to save the day. If the cenobite realm were actually real, I imagine in one of the darkest recesses, this would be playing on loop for eternity for someone whose eyelids had been cut off. Fuck this movie and whoever greenlit it.

Notable Moment: When Chelsea roundhouse kicks Lance Henriksen out of nowhere. That was so randomly stupid I literally screamed aloud "WHAT?!" as a reflex.

Final Rating: 4/10

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Hellraiser: Deader Review

Disclaimer: Contains spoilers!

Plot Summary: A journalist investigates claims of a cult that can bring back the dead and their connection to the puzzle box.

Review: This was close to being a competent sequel for "Hellraiser," but it ultimately fails by the end. Probably the most mindless aspect was the baffling decision to connect with part 4 of all entries. REALLY?! However, the best choice was to include Kari Wuhrer shown in all her glory. Now there's some flesh you can get to know, Pinhead. Another instance of getting things back on track was an effort to make things feel grimy again; parts 3-6 all felt like obvious sets. In other words, the aesthetics are where they needed to least for the earlier portions of the film. Unfortunately, the story is a mess as you, once again, feel the unrelated script that was reworked into a "Hellraiser" installment. Is it really this difficult to come up with an original idea? Or they could have--I don't know--just let the franchise end!

So this time around we have a mysterious cult referred to as the deaders or something. We do not get even close to enough information to understand what is happening here. Magically, the leader is a descendant of Merchant and wants to reclaim the power of the puzzle box or some shit...hell if I know. At the same time, Pinhead wants to stop this by "assisting" a journalist, named Amy, as she uncovers the shenanigans of this cult. Supposedly they need someone to open up the puzzle box and join the cult, but it's not working out for whatever, nonsensical reason. I can, kind of, appreciate the story the filmmakers were trying to convey, but the direction is lacking tremendously. Likewise, the special effects are shitacular which always drags down my ability to take things seriously. Realistically, the script needed another draft or two in order to bring clarity to the concepts depicted. The ending is especially pitiful as the cult is stopped but so is Pinhead as he's unable to take Amy to hell as planned. Besides nothing making sense, it's an annoying contrivance to see Pinhead use his chains on the cult leader yet not on Amy when Pinhead sees her trying to kill herself. I mean, literally, Pinhead is just staring like an idiot as Amy outsmarts him. Well, this franchise does love to make Pinhead look like a jackass it would appear.

Don't get me wrong, there are good ideas here, and the general tone kind of establishes a vibe similar to parts 1 and 2. Ms. Wuhrer does spice things up a bit as she uncovers the mystery going on, but, fundamentally, nothing can save the misguided direction in play. The cult, their activities, powers, etc. are ill-defined and not explained in a satisfying manner. The loose connection to part 4 is both infuriating and pointless. Pinhead does almost nothing, once more, and the puzzle box is shoehorned into the plot horribly. The smart move would have been to establish a cult made up of those who opened the puzzle box and managed to escape. Maybe even include a connection to Frank and how he came to know about the puzzle box through these people. Then demonstrate how the cult is into some next level shit after experiencing the cenobites and surviving. Well...that's where I would have taken this script. Oh well. On to part 8!

Notable Moment: When Amy imagines herself at some kind asylum. First off, why would there be little kids mixed in with adults? Second, if some little girl drew that crazy picture of me my mind would be blown, because that girl must be the next Picasso or something!

Final Rating: 5.5/10

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Hellraiser: Hellseeker Review

Disclaimer: Contains spoilers!

Plot Summary: Kirsty's amnesiac husband struggles to figure out what's real and what's not while trying to find Kirsty herself.

Review: I'm not sure what the game plan was for this entry. If you strip away all of the bullshit, this is essentially a wannabe sexy version of part 5. The only real difference is that you can easily tell this main character is in hell all along, and they brought back Ashley Laurence as Kirsty. Bringing back Kirsty would have been awesome if it weren't for the fact that they completely ruin her character in the process. Thanks for that. Also--and I should have acknowledged this with part 5--the cenobites from this point on look less like they come from the mind of Clive Barker and more like "Silent Hill" rejected concept art.

So, yeah, shocking no one, the main guy, Kirsty's husband, is in hell all movie. Well, if you wanted to get technical, he was just arriving in hell as he realized he was dead. They have this whole amnesia thing going on, but it comes off messy with nonsensical edits CONSTANTLY. I hope you don't suffer from seizures because you might after a viewing. What all of this schizophrenic editing boils down to is trippy nonsense meant to be scary, but the budget is not where it needs to be to convey that emotion. As for that sexy angle...this guy gets all the ladies somehow. Don't ask me how--they're just throwing themselves at this dude. Don't get your hopes up though...this is far from erotic thriller territory; if anything, I can see some executive tacking it on to spice the garbage plot up a bit.

What makes this entry painful is that Kirsty's character is both wasted and tarnished. She is barely in the film as they're trying to have another mystery, similarly to part 5, where you wonder what happened to her. The best I can understand through the shoddy editing is that the husband wanted her to solve the puzzle box--for whatever reason--and she decided to exchange his soul and 4 other victims in order to escape Pinhead once and for all. Well...something like that happened...I don't even care at this point. Regardless of the details, we get a fanfic level Kirsty/Pinhead-pairing as she kills 5 people. The ending implies she gets away with all of this as well which is okay...I guess.

There is a point where Pinhead clearly wants to say "welcome to hell" but then they remember that's what happened in part 5! And that's how you will feel all film long. Oh, yeah, sure, a few things are changed up, but this is more or less the same script tweaked. Worse, all the aspects that made part 5 interesting are removed for those lame sex scenes. What made part 5 work was not the realization of being in hell or bizarre was the detective angle coupled with showing us the puzzle box at the street level. Even if you want to rip off your own franchise, you can't do it in the very next entry, you fucking idiots! I'm going to give this film an average rating, which is generous, due to the fact that it looked okay, the story was mildly acceptable as another standalone entry, and they did bring back Kirsty.

Notable Moment: When Pinhead comes out of an acupuncture poster. The CGI is utterly horrendous, however, I can appreciate the amusing concept at heart.

Final Rating: 5/10

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Hellraiser: Inferno Review

Disclaimer: Contains spoilers!

Plot Summary: A detective attempts to uncover a criminal underground involving the puzzle box.

Review: After part 4 pretty much fucked everything up, the studio did what any rational studio would do: hijack an existing script, make it about Hellraiser, and send it straight to video. Yippee! Believe it or not, in spite of the limitations, this entry turned out to be a huge improvement over 3 and 4. Of course, there is a caveat to understand about this movie. This feels nothing like the previous installments due to this script alteration. Yet, in a way, this captures an aspect of the mythos better than we've seen before; that aspect being the depiction of what happens when someone is taken by the puzzle box.

First and foremost, the film's genre leans closer to a psychological crime-thriller rather than straight horror. Obviously, this genre change will immediately piss off fans but roll with it. With the previous films the attempt was to up the scale and scope--here, the idea is to bring things back to the street level. "Inferno" shows us what ordinary people, like Frank, would experience when seeking and finding the puzzle box. At the same time, the main character is a sleazy detective trying to figure out what is happening with this mysterious puzzle box. Rest assured, you still have Pinhead showing up, but his role is severely limited which I think adds back to his mystique; did anyone really want him to continue down that goofy route from part 3?

As for where the film truly succeeds is in showing us what being in hell would be like. True, part 2 took us to the labyrinth, however, we saw it through the eyes of characters that didn't belong there. With "Inferno" they set up a twist where we discover the main detective was taken by the cenobites when he solved the puzzle box and that most of the film's events are his personalized version of hell. Again, we saw some of this through Frank in part 2, but this goes deeper into the supernatural nature of being trapped in the labyrinth. It is lame that they present Pinhead and hell as if they're teaching you a lesson about doing evil deeds--that is far from the message of the original. I don't know though, I can reconcile in my mind that Pinhead would cater his personality to the detective's suffering. Eh, there's a reason why the score is what it is.

I'm not saying everything comes together perfectly--the low budget is certainly noticeable--but we are given an original concept that helps flesh out the mythology of the puzzle box. I thought this notion of criminal elements trying to have the puzzle box worked well; it was like an urban legend almost. The twist at the end isn't fully realized, but it was a nice touch to see the detective slowly work toward having his skin ripped off which is the major fetish of the cenobites. If anything, when Pinhead says things like "we have eternity to know your flesh," this is what that would entail. The last thing worth mentioning is that this installment basically stands alone so, if you wanted to check this out, you don't need prepping. If you have your expectations in check--that this is part 5 in a franchise that has been demoted to video rather than a theatrical release--than you should be pleasantly surprised.

Notable Moment: When those ninja cowboys(?) pop up out of nowhere. Uhh...what the fuck was that all about?

Final Rating: 6/10

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Hellraiser: Bloodline Review

Disclaimer: Contains spoilers!

Plot Summary: The creator of the puzzle box and his lineage are cursed throughout time because...why not?

Review: To put it succinctly: what a complete fucking mess. This might not be the worst entry, but the production was clearly a nightmare and the ball was dropped severely. The sad part is that this could have been amazing given the scope imagined. An epic battle across time and space against Pinhead and the forces of hell? Sign me up. Unfortunately, what we actually got were plot inconsistencies, shoddy editing, missing scenes, wasted characters, cheap sets, and every other problem under the sun. Look, if you see good ol' Alan Smithee directing anything you should know there is a 99.9% chance for shit.

To kick things off they essentially ignore the events of part 3 except for the ending with the building designed to look like a puzzle box. In fact, they pretty much ignore everything about this franchise going into this entry which is a moronic decision. So there is some guy in the future who plans to permanently destroy Pinhead...which accomplishes nothing. Seriously, Pinhead dying is a meaningless accomplishment. Leviathan runs hell and can create cenobites readily out of people who open the puzzle box. Likewise, there should be numerous boxes so the goal should really be to collect them all and destroy them. Besides, isn't all this talk of hell with each subsequent entry kind of negating the idea that the cenobites come from a different dimension where pleasure and pain overlap? Oh whatever.

We come to learn that this future guy, Merchant, is the descendant of the original creator of the puzzle box. Of course, nothing makes any sense, but that's just how audiences like things, right? Magically the puzzle box opens a gateway to hell because it was sitting on a shelf when a demon was summoned? I don't know. Making matters worse is this idea that the creator's bloodline is cursed for no explained reason. It just is! The guy who explains this also becomes immortal for no reason too which is just swell. As for that summoned demon, she wears the skin of some random chick yet even when seemingly killed her form remains looking like that chick? What? And she's a princess of hell. So...Leviathan, this abstract shape, had a daughter? FUCK LOGIC! Oh, and you can control a demon as long as you don't stand in hell's way...whatever that is supposed to mean. How exactly does one stand in the way of hell?

Around the halfway point Pinhead finally shows up...this is during the 1990s. Pretty much every scene during this time is bullshit. For one, we just saw in part 2 that the cenobites go after who actually wants the box opened not necessarily the one who opens it. Then Pinhead is able to stay in our reality as long as he wants...which negates the point of part 3. They take time to bolster the cenobite numbers despite the cenobites doing nothing all movie. It's also very convenient that Pinhead's crew of flunkies never die or expands for 100+ years. Come to think of it, why the hell is that demon princess a cenobite later? Shouldn't she be her own entity? Ugh...where is that fucking script supervisor.

The future plot elements are the worst since the set looks pitifully cheap; the CGI especially is painful to behold. Apparently Merchant's end goal was to trap Pinhead in some kind of infinite light loop despite us clearly seeing the loop end. Okaaaay. And wow, way to go making Pinhead look like a total dumbass when he gets tricked. The best part is how the credits begin to roll immediately after Pinhead dies. Yay, hell is defeated, the end. What a shameful conclusion. How do you go from the goddamn labyrinth of hell to space in a matter of two movies?! It's actually really funny if you think about it.

Needless to say, they fucked up big time. I can appreciate the vision and attempt to capture the scale without the budget, but you have to bring it with the story if that's the case--you can't have a total shitshow of a script to boot! Clearly there were too many hands in the cookie jar, but that doesn't mean I will fully forgive the debacle. It just blows my mind that this was the direction they took. The only thing more preposterous would have been to have the final shot of a xenomorph solving the puzzle box. The real kicker is that this is still technically the ending to the franchise as every other sequel takes place before the future we saw. If they were even half intelligent they would have included the cenobites from this film in the sequels but they don't. I'm just face-palming here.

Notable Moment: When Pinhead gets tricked by a hologram at the end. Come on, son, aren't you supposed to have supernatural powers and shit?! He's all lost and scared too like a kid who can't find his mom at the store or something!

Final Rating: 4.5/10

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth Review

Disclaimer: Contains spoilers!

Plot Summary: Pinhead is back--somehow--as he attempts to...uhh...take over the world?

Review: Completely ignoring everything that made the first two entries great, the filmmakers decided it was a smart move to appeal to the MTV crowd. Likewise, they concluded that Pinhead would best serve as another generic horror villain, dishing out one-liners and winks at the audience. In the wise words of Yoda, "That is why you fail." Sure, bonus points for having a song and video with the title--congratu-fucking-lations--but it doesn't match the tone nor come close to complementing the brilliant score taken from Christopher Young; in fact, that score is too good for this series from here on out. Now, while I do hate this entry as a matter of principle, it's mostly mediocre rather than outright horrendous. I mean, back in the early '90s this was just the kind of bullshit you came to expect. Only in retrospect do I realize that this franchise could have been something amazing in the right hands--hands with the vision to rival Clive Barker's imagination rather than shitting on his concepts.

To kick things off we have that stupid spinning cabinet-thing from the end of part 2 now magically containing the spirit of Pinhead or something after Channard killed him. It's implied that Pinhead has slowly been killing people in order to rejuvenate his powers and conveniently is almost powered back up once part 3 gets rolling. For whatever reason, the soldier that was Pinhead's original form has been separated, the evil being so powerful that the Pinhead persona has become a separate entity. In theory, this could have been interesting yet it isn't handled properly. All of these shenanigans coincide with a reporter discovering the puzzle box and a nightclub full of victim fodder. Pinhead's goal is to be free from the confines of the puzzle box and, I guess, hell itself. It doesn't make any sense so it's best not to dwell on why anything is happening.

Of course Pinhead escapes and decides to enlist new cenobites because he can do that for whatever reason. In another nonsensical move, Pinhead wants to kill the reporter due to her having a puzzle box. Funny, didn't Channard have 3 and the implication was that there were a bunch all over the world? But nah, let's just focus on this specific one that fell into the reporter's lap through a huge contrivance. Well...if you really wanted to reach to the heavens to explain this...I could argue the spirit of the soldier is tied to that particular puzzle box but they don't address it. Anyway, they attempt a few set pieces and launch the body count through the roof which is acceptable I suppose. Eventually, all the new cenobites are defeated almost as quickly as they appeared which made all them utterly pointless. As for Pinhead, he merges back with the soldier and is killed in the most laughably bad way when he's stabbed by the puzzle box. More to the point, that scene alone of Pinhead dying embodies how little this crew understood what "Hellraiser" was supposed to be about. To make matters worse, the ending is that the reporter puts the puzzle box into cement and then there is an office building made to look like the puzzle box built. Ugh. On the bright side, we had a tiny cameo from Kirsty so there's that, right?

I don't know what the hell they were thinking with this entry. There were a million directions you could have taken this series (or just let it end!), and they chose to embrace mediocrity. I know there are those who love this incarnation of Pinhead, but this simply doesn't work for me especially considering how influential part 2 was when growing up. There are a few acceptable ideas strewn here and there, but, fundamentally, this film misses the mark. You can find casual entertainment here as I did laugh at the cornball lines in a good way. It's just so fascinating to see the decline of horror between the '80s and that rough patch in the early to mid-'90s. As a result, we got the likes of "Hellraiser" 3 and 4. Fuck.

Notable Moment: When Pinhead kills all of those '90s rejects at the club. Besides loving the shit CGI, it's amusing that so many people are standing around waiting to die in ridiculous ways like a CD to the head.

Final Rating: 5/10

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Hellbound: Hellraiser II Review

Disclaimer: Contains spoilers!

Plot Summary: The psychotic doctor treating Kirsty uses a resurrected Julia to help him discover the world of the cenobites.

Review: Despite the noticeable flaws, plot holes, and major contrivances, I actually like this entry the best in the franchise. That doesn't mean this is the better film compared to part 1--it isn't--yet it seems the scope and vision are better realized; the lore of this franchise is greatly expanded upon as well. For me, I saw this entry before seeing part 1, and it had a significant influence on my thinking and creativity. This notion of a labyrinth dimension (hell if you will), where your worst fears or nightmares come to life, gives the viewer much to ponder when compared to traditional portrayals of hell. On top of that, this abstract entity, the Leviathan, that oversees the labyrinth with the help of cenobites establishes a bizarre, existential realm. It's all really intriguing!

I'll start with the negatives, because they become abundant right out the gate. Seemingly picking up only a day later after part 1, Kirsty is rightfully being interrogated by the police and being kept at a mental hospital. Three plot points in conjunction all annoy me at this point: 1) Kirsty knows plot details she could not possibly know 2) the film opens with scenes from part 1 only to show more as flashbacks anyway(?!) 3) Julia's subsequent resurrection is a retread of the events of part 1 to boot! Also, to a lesser extent, they wrote out of the plot that dumb Cosby-sweater-wearing boyfriend which I'm perfectly fine with. Next up, Julia runs around like she's some expert on hell and the Leviathan despite being dead for, what, two, three days at that point? Bitch, you don't know shit, shut your pie hole! As the story unfolds, many contrivances begin to add up like Kirsty being spared by the cenobites...again...or all the characters crossing paths in, what should be, an endless labyrinth. Of course, there are plain moronic scenes too such as Kirsty screaming "daddy" the moment she goes to hell. Yeaaah...because there aren't millions (maybe billions) of "daddies" in hell, sweetheart. Other nonsense is the ease to which the cenobites are dispatched with...again, why Channard is killed by the Leviathan, why does solving the puzzle box in hell do anything, why would Julia be working for the Leviathan if she isn't a cenobite, etc. Come to think of it, there are numerous story issues tacked on needlessly. Other than those grievances, there are still shoddy effects, but I can forgive a lot of that given how epic of a scope the filmmakers attempted to depict; that Escher-esque design is awe-inspiring.

As for the positives...I've already discussed the imaginative aesthetics of hell and how it has affected me. For that matter, calling this dimension hell is an oversimplification. This is a realm where pain and suffering are mixed with pleasure in a way that is hard to comprehend unless you're in the mind of Clive Barker. Another aspect that worked wonders was the expounding of this dark fairy tale vibe. You could easily describe "Hellraiser" as the most fucked up, twisted fairy tale out there with the whole evil stepmother thing, but part 2 fully embraces this idea. There is a whimsical, downright magical force at work in hell that allows for the warping of reality. And when an even better score by Christopher Young accompanies these events, it truly pulls you into this world whether you want to explore it or not. Unlike the first film, I'm satisfied with the actors this time around. Ashley Laurence steps up her game as Kirsty, Julia is better as a full villain, Pinhead and crew are fleshed out, and Channard is the kind of crazy villain that makes you smile. I may have ragged on the story considerably, but there is a lot to love and enjoy about this film. It's almost like going on an adventure...except it's into hell...

"Hellraiser" gave us a small taste of hell, but part 2 actually takes us there! For that, I choose this film over part 1 regardless of the increased story problems. If you can ignore the gripes--the same way I force myself to ignore the shot of Kirsty leaning up against a wall in the labyrinth and it shakes--then you will come to realize that this is a fantastic sequel. Maybe the characters should have spent more time exploring the depths of hell, but the grand scope and vision are successfully captured to a degree that allows the viewer to take things further. I would say part 2 was more ambitious than its predecessor while not deviating from the material that made part 1 iconic. Finally, no other sequel in this franchise ever again demonstrates they understood the core concepts of part 1 and 2. They are all either completely idiotic with Pinhead as a cliched slasher villain or try to take scripts that weren't meant for the franchise and add in Pinhead. To me, these two are the only entries worthy of your time.

Notable Moment: When Channard faces off against Pinhead and crew. The fight definitely could have been longer and filled with more action, but it's still an awesome moment. Plus, that line about "your suffering will be legendary, even in hell" is badass!

Final Rating: 6.5/10

Friday, November 4, 2016

Hellraiser Review

Disclaimer: Contains spoilers!

Plot Summary: Hellish pleasures and pain awaits anyone who solves a mysterious puzzle box.

Review: I probably should have reviewed this franchise years ago but oh well. "Hellraiser" is easily one of the most indescribably unique films in existence. It honestly took me a good 10 minutes just to think up a concise plot summary! I mean, what else is there to compare it to other than ripoffs that came later? In the '80s, when horror was starting to go over the top, "Hellraiser" was not fucking around and tried to blow our minds. For me, I saw this movie when I was way, waaaaay too young. I probably would have been more scared if I could even comprehend what I was seeing. For casual audiences, the ridiculous sequels have cheapened the impact of the first (and second) entry, making Pinhead nothing more than a cliched icon. However, Pinhead, or the cenobites for that matter, are not what this series is supposed to be about. Hell, the cenobites don't show up until the third act anyway!

Where "Hellraiser" shines is in the raw creativity and imagination from Clive Barker who serves as writer and director. This notion of different dimensions and sadomasochistic, supernatural beings is...well...surreal to say the least. I'd say Barker's vision was successfully realized although, as hardcore as the movie may be, it's still tame compared to the book. Bringing this twisted tale to life are wonderful practical effects. From the grotesque designs of the cenobites to Frank's resurrection, things look an utterly disgusting kind of way that is. The excellent use of lighting makes everything feel creepier--with dinginess worn as a badge of honor--and the tight corridors almost create a haunted house vibe. Of course, the glorious icing on the cake is the epic score by Christopher Young. The soundtrack, as a whole, is simply powerful, rivaling any notorious score like that of "Halloween." As for the actors...they're decent, bringing in some unsettling performances, but I still picture other actors in the roles. In particular, Ashley Laurence, playing Kirsty, is a bit shaky with her first role. Though...she is next level '80s hot, and I'm glad Kirsty's stalker role was altered from the book into being a daughter.

While "Hellraiser" is certainly a horror legend, there are still serious flaws to acknowledge. One thing that is a bit nitpicky, but cannot be unseen, is the crew pushing the Engineer. Fuck, you can even see the dolly too! I did praise the special effects yet there are a few that don't stand up any longer; for example, that demon at the end looks terrible. Speaking of which, that demon thing is not explained for shit and makes little sense if you think about it. Likewise, where the fuck is Kirsty at when burning the puzzle box? And on the topic of my dear Kirsty, her Cosby-sweater-wearing boyfriend(?) is pointless and useless. Another nitpick, but annoyance, is why can't Frank get skin from all the people he's killed? He's killed plenty but stopped consistently regenerating and has eyelids...somehow. Eh, no individual gripe is excessively detrimental, but little problems do add up.

Realistically I'm only scratching the surface here, but that's because you really need to see this film for yourself to truly experience it. "Hellraiser" has such sights to show you and Clive Barker delivers them with a visceral style. You will find yourself repulsed by the dirty and warped designs to everything, but you will be entertained along the way--maybe even tantalized. The sequels may have greatly hurt the legacy, but that doesn't mean you should ignore the classics; besides, the soundtrack alone is more than worth giving this a view. Of course I wholeheartedly recommend exploring the pleasures this film holds but with the caveat that part 2 is where the real fun is at. WE'LL TEAR YOUR SOUL APART!

Notable Moment: There isn't one scene...but all the times characters act as if Julia is some kind of beauty queen or something. Are we seeing the same chick?! This has been irking me for nearly 30 years.

Final Rating: 7.5/10

Monday, October 31, 2016

Ernest Scared Stupid Review

Disclaimer: Contains spoilers!

Plot Summary: Leading up to Halloween, Ernest unwittingly frees an evil troll that was captured by his ancestor.

Review: I used to really like this movie as a kid, but, unfortunately, it does not hold up well at all. This was the last entry in the Ernest franchise to make it to theaters...which is kind of shocking they even bothered after how horrific "Ernest Goes to Jail" was. Of course Jim Varney still carries the ridiculous story with utmost conviction, but the zany hijinks are a bit too moronic in this instance. Sure, the Halloween aspect cushions the fall slightly, but they don't spend nearly enough time dealing with the holiday. In fact, the original script probably just wanted to have Ernest fighting a troll, and someone in the marketing department wisely realized you could widen the appeal by including Halloween themes.

If you're wondering why is there never any continuity in this franchise...well...I have no clue. This time around Ernest is a garbageman, randomly, and, in typical fashion, is fucking everything up. We get some little kids for friends too which I'm okay with...I guess. We come to learn a troll was terrorizing the town sometime ago in which Ernest's ancestor managed to trap the fugly creature. After building the coolest treehouse ever with the kids, Ernest inadvertently awakens the troll that just so happens to be trapped under the tree they used. I do want to mention, that in fairness to Ernest's stupidity, a different idiot is the one that told him the exact way to awaken the troll so it's just as much their fault as Ernest's for freeing the beast. Anyway, the troll needs the souls of children to--here we go again--take over the world or some shit with the help of his children. No one believes Ernest other than the kids, because it's Halloween after all. The troll does manage to accomplish his goal due to no one believing Ernest, however, this little troll army is defeated laughably easy. Apparently they are weak against milk and love. Oh god. This is one of the worst take over the world schemes yet, and this isn't the first time I've made that statement! By the way, why the hell is one of those trolls a dead ringer for one of the Killer Klowns? Hmm. In the end, Ernest, with help of the townsfolk, manages to defeat the pathetic trolls and restore balance to the force I think. The movie ends abruptly with Ernest, seemingly, fucking his dog and a hag eyeing the camera because why not, right?

This may not be the worst Ernest movie, but it's probably the biggest waste of potential. How do you not utilize the holiday more than this? Worse, the comedic elements, intended to be the heart of the film, fall flat; a significant number of the jokes are embarrassingly lame, and the gags and setups aren't making out much better. If you liked other Ernest installments I'm sure this will entertain you since it's, more or less, the same shtick with a Halloween veneer. On the other hand, if you have no clue what the hell an Ernest is, or find even the better entries like "Ernest Goes to Camp" to be bad, then you will definitely want to avoid this. Objectively, this a mediocre film with little to offer and quickly forgotten once the credits roll.

Notable Moment: When those kids are using precious pizza as a weapon and wasting it! Granted, the pizza looked like shit but come on!

Final Rating: 5/10

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Garfield's Halloween Adventure Review

Disclaimer: Contains spoilers!

Plot Summary: Intrigued by the prospect of free candy, Garfield and Odie embark on a night of trick or treating.

Review: Typically I wouldn't cover a short, TV special such as this, but, screw it, I make up the rules around here. Anyway, this special is near and dear to my heart as I've been watching it annually since the '80s. You'd think subsequent viewings would grow tiresome over the decades yet it still invokes the same entertainment value now as it did originally; I still like the songs and enjoy the little jokes. It's tough to imagine modern audiences fully embracing this special, but you'd be missing out that's for sure. You don't even need to be a fan of Garfield to appreciate the humor styling either.

What we have is typical Garfield action with him being a sarcastic and lazy bastard who is only interested in Halloween for the candy. Tricking Odie into helping him for twice the candy, Garfield decides on a pirate theme which adds another layer of material to explore. The songs work surprisingly well and the jokes still hold long as you anticipate kid-friendly antics. The animation is acceptable, but I'll admit it's not exactly mind-blowing or anything. The best part is that the story kind of takes an unexpected turn once Garfield and Odie end up on a mysterious island. Here, an old man explains to them that ghostly pirates are returning for their long lost treasure that night. It might not sound like all of these elements will mix, but, I assure you, the plot points blend seamlessly. Not shocking whatsoever, Garfield and Odie escape from the ghosts and manage to make it back home in one piece. Garfield even splits the candy 50/50 which is difficult for him to not be selfish. The ending works too, because you get that same, creepy old man popping up on the TV for a final zinger almost.

Whether or not you have kids, are a kid, or are simply looking for good, clean Halloween fun, this is worth a holiday viewing. Sure, you might be looking for a more hardcore recommendation this time of year--which I've covered hundreds of films that fit that bill--however, this special can still serve as a cool down; think of it as a way to forget all about Natre at the end of your bed! Regardless of the situation, this is a fun short that hits all the right notes. The comedy is solid and nothing feels dated at all despite over thirty years passing by. Of course it helps if you are already a fan of Garfield, but it's not necessary as I've stated--the story works well enough without any context for the characters. Just watch this--you won't regret it!

Notable Moment: When Garfield and Odie run into, seemingly, real monsters...also trick or treating for some odd reason.

Final Rating: 7.5/10

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

The Nightmare Before Christmas Review

Disclaimer: Contains spoilers!

Plot Summary: In a world where creatures only experience Halloween, the Pumpkin King wishes to celebrate Christmas.

Review: I planned to review this film some time ago, but I was never sure if I wanted to cover it during Halloween or Christmas. In the end, I decided that the majority of the film is Halloween-centric so here we are. Anyway...this is an undeniably unique and ambitious example of filmmaking, however, I've never understood the appeal. Sure, the songs are catchy and the visuals are imaginative, but I guess I just don't "get it." The story makes little sense and the pacing is an absolute fucking mess with an impromptu villain added in the third act since most conflict in the plot is contrived and forced. Not sure how this crack trip was created, but anything this weird is going to attract a specific crowd one way or another.

Starting with the positives I must acknowledge the animation efforts. The character designs and general aesthetics are impressive and wholeheartedly original. Although you clearly feel Tim Burton's hand in the production, the crew did a fantastic job worthy of high praise. Overall, from a production standpoint, the movie is quite the accomplishment. Since the film is, more or less, a musical, I did like many of the songs. The voice actors also turned in admirable performances since I wouldn't have even recognized them from their usual speaking voices without consulting a cast list. While the story may not fully dazzle my senses, there is a certain, whimsical tone that engages the viewer in the way a bizarre fairy tale would.

As for the negatives, it's hard for me to accept the situations when it feels like they're making things up as they go. Yeah, this is a fantastic world where monstrous creatures simply exist--I can come to terms with that--but random things keep happening on the spot as if you are supposed to roll with the punches. I can't. For example, the Frankenstein-wannabe can just create lifeforms because Jack shows him a picture? Or Jack is shown being blown up and falling out of the sky and just brushes this off. Yet...we are to believe he's in danger when fighting Oogie Boogie? Speaking of which, Oogie Boogie comes out of nowhere, like he was supposed to be this threat all film long, and is easily dispatched with. AND the only reason he's in the story at all is because Jack enlists the help of his minions for no discernible reason despite being told not to trust them! Then the romance element is completely shoehorned in as if it's of epic proportions. It ain't. The running time is incredibly short--70 minutes without credits--and you feel like every plot point is rushed as if they just wanted to be done with it already. I don't know, dude...there is definitely a reason those cowards at Disney wouldn't attach their brand name until AFTER the film had succeeded.

As a fan of film itself, I can respect "The Nightmare Before Christmas," but it is not my cup of tea. There are numerous elements I appreciate especially in regard to the production and art style. Maybe if they went darker with the material--presenting an adult fairy tale perhaps--I could be more invested. To turn this into some kind of holiday movie for the kiddies, on the other hand, makes it bland to me somehow as if they wasted the full potential. Had there been, maybe, another 15-20 minutes tacked on to the film--establishing Oogie Boogie, explaining how all these holiday worlds exist separate from reality, etc.--then I believe a truer vision would have been realized. This is probably another instance where you will simply adore the film through and through or awkwardly shrug once the credits roll.

Notable Moment: The scene used for the poster--when Jack is singing across the moonlight. It's a great image, and I can see why they played it up for the marketing.

Final Rating: 6/10

Saturday, October 22, 2016

When Good Ghouls Go Bad Review

Disclaimer: Contains spoilers!

Plot Summary: Shenanigans ensue in a town forbidden from celebrating Halloween.

Review: Well, this was a hot mess. There must have been some kind of heavy editing going on before release since far too many scenes occur with little to no explanation. In one respect I can appreciate the attempt at an offbeat, childrens tale, but, on the other hand, I can't ignore the general sense of idiocy at every turn. I mean, even the core plot about why Halloween is banned in this particular town is laughably moronic. Then when we factor in Christopher Lloyd hamming up every damn scene things begin to get out of hand. R.L. Stine what the ducky were you smokin', buddy boy?

Apparently a random, goth kid was burned alive while working on an art project, and he cursed the town in death, forbidding the people from ever celebrating Halloween. For no reason whatsoever, the stupid townspeople believe in this curse instantly and ban Halloween. In actuality, we come to learn the kid was accidentally killed, and this retarded story was made up to cover up...the guilt...I guess. Either way, it doesn't add up no matter how you rationalize it. While this simplified version of the story works well enough, it is boggled down with endless, dead end plot tangents. The town is named after the main kid and his family because of a chocolate factory they own. Hmm. We get antics regarding the reopening of the factory and German investors. Then we have Christopher Lloyd's character telling everyone to call him Uncle Fred for no discernible reason. The main dude also has a love interest with the most womanly-sounding voice ever for a tweeny. There are, of course, shenanigans with bullies and dumbass townspeople acting like assholes. Oh yeah, the main kid's dad tries to hook up with some chick who happens to be the love interest's mom...which would potentially make them brother and sister if their parents married. DAD...quit fucking shit up! A giant pile of pumpkins materializes out of thin air to kill Christopher Lloyd, zombies materialize too, and we randomly get a reunion with a zombie grandma as if her character was hyped beforehand or something. A forgotten flashback scene, perhaps? That goth kid is somehow controlling fireflies which, according to Christopher Lloyd, glow due to magic. Well, thanks for clearing that up for me. The film keeps going back and forth about whether or not they're going to celebrate Halloween or not and there is some bullshit about an election? I don't know. Seriously, there are too many meaningless plot threads, and I'm not even addressing that child molester birthday party where Christopher Lloyd throws a fake hand in his pants and promises a 100 bucks to the kid that finds his hand. Oh goodness gracious...gonna make me cry from laughter.

Needless to say, they tried to tackle too much, and it does not come together cohesively whatsoever. Beyond that, the effects are weak and the acting can range anywhere from adequate to school play level. The jokes are cornball, but that's okay with me I suppose. The pacing is uneven, however, it didn't drag as much as I imagined it would. There are good ideas scattered about and the revelation about the goth kid's art project was somewhat touching...though, there was no buildup to the realization that goth kid idolized Christopher Realistically, this is too dumb for any kid over 8 yet, ironically, probably too scary for any kid under that age. If this is on TV...give it a whirl...why not? But I definitely would not waste my time seeking this out as it's mostly bland and easily forgettable.

Notable Moment: When a zombie Christopher Lloyd dresses up as a clown. Now that's some scary shit right there!

Final Rating: 5/10

Monday, October 17, 2016

Fun Size Review

Disclaimer: Contains spoilers!

Plot Summary: Hijinks ensue after a high school girl loses her little brother while trick or treating.

Review: There is also another movie called "Fun Size Horror," but, unfortunately, you get this instead. I think this "Fun Size" originally wanted to be a teen sex comedy but remembered it was made by Nickelodeon. It also tried, and failed, to be a serious drama was made by Nickelodeon. A primary failure was the inability to properly utilize the good looking lead, Victoria Justice. I guess she is supposed to be a sexy Dorothy from "The Wizard of Oz" but the costume is not incorporated meaningfully and barely acknowledged. It's tough to explain why this movie was so dumb, because the production quality was adequate. I think what was annoying me so much was the junior high mentality of all the characters--which was probably the target demographic--yet the actors are supposed to be seniors in high school while also looking older than that to boot. Plus, I can't ignore the general sense of idiocy to the comedy as most jokes fall flat. Honestly, what the fuck am I doing watching this shit? Am I really scraping the bottom of the Halloween-themed movie barrel? Yes. Yes, I am.

So Ms. Justice plays some alleged geek, named Wren, suffering from "She's All That" syndrome. Her, seemingly, mentally retarded brother is one of the most painfully annoying characters to date, and he runs away from Wren while trick or treating. Of course zany antics commence shortly after as a consequence since Wren and her best friend just want to go to a cool kid's party. Her friend, by the way, has an ongoing gag about using Nair on her butt. Ugh...don't even ask. Another point that irked me was the nonsensical portrayal of Halloween with like a million people roaming the streets as if this is a fucking Tokyo crosswalk. Nice try. This is like how an alien would interpret Halloween. Don't I wish the pussified people of this country would embrace Halloween to that degree!

Things get significantly dumber as we are introduced to a bitch-boy that hangs out with the brother. Keep this in mind...the brother is like 10 years old while this guy is probably 30. Then there is Wren's super friend-zoned love interest who does manage to get the girl...somehow. The worst aspect for me was their mom, "played" by Chelsea Handler. I just got the feeling that she showed up on set unannounced, and they filmed around her in such a way to include her actions into the plot. There are plenty of eye-rolling moments as the adventure unfolds in, what appears to be, the longest night of all time. Shocking no one, Wren gets her brother back and the family becomes closer once they realize they all miss their dad who died. Oh, good lord...

Well, you know this is a fantastic film because it ends with that brother shitting, naked, and crank calling Chelsea Handler. I don't know, dude...if you like Victoria Justice I guess this is the movie for you. There really isn't much of a draw here since the tonal shifts are a mess. The filmmakers could not decide what genre they wanted this to settle within and the cliches are overly abundant. The Halloween plot element does make things slightly more interesting, but, with characters that are this annoying, we needed a cathartic death or ten. Instead, we are shown a giant chicken humping a car. Argh. Is it really any wonder why this bombed?

Notable Moment: When Wren and her friends are driving down the "cool" part of town listening to a blaring Josh Groban. Admittedly, this was somewhat amusing.

Final Rating: 5.5/10