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