Friday, October 31, 2014

Halloween II (2009)

Well, here we are, with the final film of the whole Halloweenfranchise, which seems like it ended it with this one movie.  Yes, Halloween II, the sequel that Rob Zombie said he would never do after working on the reboot a scant two years before, brought him back to put more of his style into it, a style that not too many fans enjoyed.

Though you may read my piece on the 2007 remake and come away thinking I had hated it, you’d be wrong because I thought it was quite good.  However, I felt it was unneeded and just a way for Dimension—as well as all involved—to make money.  To really impress me, and most of the fans, they’d have to do what was done in 1998 and make a sequel to what was done prior.  Although they had cheated and ignored a few sequels that had been made, at least the continuity was kept in place and we were given an original story with a poignant theme.  But Dimension had shot themselves in the foot by giving the green light to the following sequel, 2002’s Halloween: Resurrection, which gave them no choice but to reboot the whole thing. 

So after the mildly successful reboot, the logical thing to do was to get a sequel on the fast track.  But what would they call it?  They weren’t just going to give it the same name as the original’s sequel, were they?  That’d be too confusing when looking up these titles.  On top of that, who was going to direct it?  Zombie said he was burnt out and definitely wasn’t going to return for a sequel.  In fact, he announced a project that he was working on that would take precedence over anything else.  He even indicated that he’s an artist, implying that working on a sequel was beneath him.

Not too long after that, guess who was back in the director’s chair to take on the sequel?  That’s right…Rob Zombie.  And guess what title they gave the sequel?  Yes…Halloween II.  Wow…these guys are such visionaries.

Well, Zombie tried to save face by letting everyone know he was going to make this sequel his own, that he wasn’t tied into making a remake of the original part two, but to make his own part two.  So that was sort of promising.  Scout Taylor-Compton and Malcolm MacDowell were both set to reprise their roles, as well as a few other actors, so it looked like we might be getting something special.

Anyway, before I get much further, let me give you the synopsis of Halloween II.

The film opens shortly after Laurie Strode (Scout Taylor-Compton) shoots Michael Myers (Tyler
Mane).  The story progresses a year with Laurie going through therapy to deal with what happened, whereas Dr. Loomis (Malcolm MacDowell) is using the tragedy to sell another book.  Meanwhile, Michael is seeing visions of his mother (Sheri Moon Zombie) as he makes his way to find Laurie.

The whole story is convoluted and has a lot more to it than that, but for the sake of shortening the breakdown and not giving too much away, I gave just the least amount of details possible.  For one, the whole beginning of the film will piss some of you off for reasons I can’t give without spoiling it.  Also, I don’t want to give away how certain aspects came to be.

So, where do I start?

Let’s talk about the character of Laurie and how her personality has developed since we’d seen her in the 2007 film.  Of course, it’s understandable that she went through a lot of grief as she lost her parents and some of her friends because of a deranged killer and it doesn’t help much that she had to fight for her life on top of all that.  But Rob Zombie wrote and directed her character to be such an ugly and detestable person, she comes across as someone you really can’t care about as the movie goes along.  Even as shallow as she becomes throughout the story, she’s given hateful friends as well.  I’m thinking that we’re supposed to see her as a person who is losing her sanity, but it just doesn’t seem that way.  One of the biggest problems I’d seen in this film, for instance, is when she finds out some information that makes her very upset to the point where she’s violently sobbing.  What does she do?  She goes with her friends to a big Halloween costume party and is suddenly giddy and partying.  I don’t know…overall, I just don’t find myself caring about her character.

Thankfully, the movie is grounded by her friend, Annie (Danielle Harris), and Annie’s father, Sheriff Brackett (Brad Dourif).  But their performances aren’t enough to save this film.

I do like the travelling Michael Myers, getting back to finding Laurie, as he grew a beard and has become more feral and living off the land.  But, I always question this…where was he travelling from?  When he’s being taken away from Haddonfield, the ambulance didn’t get far before he stopped it.  Laurie moved in with the Bracketts not far from town, seemingly on the outskirts.  Why is Zombie making it look like Michael has been walking for miles and miles, as if he’s been travelling across country?  Although it’s pretty cool, it just doesn’t make sense in the scheme of things.
Malcolm MacDowell as Loomis is wasted in this film.  All we see is Loomis acting like a dick, only hungry for the fame and money, not caring about anything else.  Although it may have been believable to make him have a change of heart later in the film, the story takes too much time showing what he’s doing which has no bearing on the story.

Finally, the one thing that really pissed off fans was the concept of having Michael see the ghost of his mother (Sheri Moon Zombie).  I thought it was done well at first, thinking it was a nice original touch by Zombie to include this facet in the movie, but after a while it became tiring.  At the climax, however, the appearance of the apparition was a bit confusing.  Was she just a figment of Michael’s imagination?  Was she a real ghost?  This part of the film has its pros and cons, I guess.

Zombie was right when he said he was going to make this his own, as the formula went away from a masked man stalking the town of Haddonfield.  Instead, he focused on the turmoil Laurie is going through, adding a bit more to send her over the edge until she finally does.  As a whole, this film is not about a disturbing killer, wanting to continue his murderous ways, but about what happens to Laurie psyche.

Well…my final “bit” on Halloween II?

Rob Zombie gives us a logical sequel to his 2007 remake, but injects a lot of his ugliness he tends to put into his films.  Instead of a place where we can connect and associate with, he gives us nightmarish backgrounds and spiteful themes.  These themes work in his original films, but seeing that this is still a remake of the original series, I think he should’ve made it a bit more mainstream so that it would be accepted by a broader audience.  All in all, the film missed the mark, but it still made money…that’s all that matters to the studio and producers, right?  And speaking of the film being a success…where’s part three?  It’s been five years now and no confirmed sequel?  Come on, Dimension…or Weinsteins…or Akkad…let’s get it together!

Thanks for reading and have a Happy Halloween!

Cinema Bits is on Twitter and Facebook.

Well, this is—more than likely—the last “bit” you’ll read on here.  It’s been fun, writing these reviews of films old and new, and I hope it helped anyone out there who’s never seen them.  The writing and editing of this blog really took up a lot of my time, sometimes even taking up some from work—which was a risky habit in which I had partook.  I’ll still be posting news and short reviews on my Twitter page, so keep an eye out for those tweets.  For the few of you who’ve checked out my blog and the scarce amount of you who’ve even added a comment here and there, thank you for your patronage and readership.  Cinema Bits may evolve into a podcast sometime in the near future, and perhaps you’ll still see a review pop up now and again right here, but for now I’m just going to enjoy watching movies without taking notes or remembering certain scenes and themes to write down into a review shortly thereafter.

Thank you and keep on watching those movies!

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Let Me In

Not too long ago, in 2008, a Swedish film called Let the Right One In was released and it took the world by storm.  Many horror aficionados praised it—especially fans of the vampire subgenre—and a few of my fellow horror movie buffs recommended it to me, citing that I’d love it.  So, always giving anything a try, I ventured throughout the Netflix web site and found that the film was available, having it sent out to me right away.  Although I had my reservations about foreign films—especially the trouble of having to alternate between reading the subtitles and watching the action on screen—I went ahead and took a gander at this film when it arrived in my mailbox.

Well…I didn’t enjoy it.  Much to the disappointment of friends that suggested the film to me, I just couldn’t help but dislike it.  Although I found the story interesting, I didn’t think it warranted the praise it had received by a lot of horror film critics.  Now, I must say, I didn’t shut it off halfway through the movie, but watched the whole thing, thinking there might’ve been some saving grace that’d make me applaud it.  But, to me, there wasn’t…and I didn’t.  Someone asked me why I didn’t care for the film and I had to think about it for a while, not really sure myself why I hadn’t enjoyed it, and it finally hit me—the dubbed voices.  I recalled that when the disc booted up, I went through the menu and decided against watching the film in its original format, choosing to watch it with the English language dubbing.  When I informed my friend of that, he said that’s why I probably didn’t enjoy it.  He said not only did I miss out in the correct inflections of the actors’ voices, but also on the sound effects they’d used throughout, which I hear is rather unique.

Even with all that, I just couldn’t find myself trying to watch the film again.  I saw it.  I felt what I felt about it.  That’s all.

Well, cut to a couple of years later, and Hollywood wants in on this Swedish vampire craze.  Hammer Films gained the rights to the story and proceeded to go forth with hiring Matt Reeves (of Cloverfieldfame) to direct the American film version. 

Now, in my opinion, the worst thing Hollywood has been doing nowadays is remaking/rebooting/reimagining movies, showing no originality or creativity whatsoever.  Second to that, however, is when American film studios take films from other countries (especially if it’s a non-English speaking country) to make an English version of them.  Usually, the end result is something subpar in comparison to the original.  But was that the case with the American version of Let the Right One In?  That’s a good question.

Titled Let Me In, the movie didn’t veer off the Swedish film’s premise (besides the location) and, of course, the language spoken throughout.  I pretty much wasn’t looking forward to it when it was announced, but as time went on and I had seen the first trailer, I became interested and decided to see the film on opening day back on October 1st of 2010.

The film focuses on a young boy, Owen (Kodi Smit-McPhee), who’s bullied at school and is quite a
loner, spending most days by himself at the apartment that he shares with his mother (Cara Buono).  One day, he notices new neighbors—an older man and a young girl—moving in who keep paper plastered on their windows and are seldom seen.  Owen spends a lot of time in the snowy play area in front of the apartment building and he soon meets the young girl, Abby (Chloë Grace Moretz), striking up a friendship with her.  Soon, Owen realizes that Abby is a vampire.

Let Me In, just like the original Swedish film, is such a simple story, but was made quite strong in this American remake.  It’s a mystery to me as to why both films are nearly the same—with the location and language excluded—but I still love the American version way better than the Swedish one.  I usually don’t take consideration on the language of the film because I’ve seen many foreign films that I’ve enjoyed and would hate the idea if they’d ever be made into an American adaptation, so I won’t cite that as a reason why.  Even though both films take place in the mid-80s, it might be because this film is a more familiar look at the decade that I had grown up in, as we see the candy Owen consumes—“Now & Later”—that I had enjoyed as a child.  Also, seeing Reagan on the television in the hospital brought back memories of my youth as well.  I guess that’s what it is, the familiarity of the era this movie represents, as to why I enjoyed this version over the original.

Besides that, the two young leads of this film do such a fine job epitomizing their characters that you really felt a sense of reality in the story even though it was about vampirism.

In a lot of movies, you have kids getting bullied, but it’s usually hard to believe that the children playing the victims would get harassed at school, seeing that they’d probably conform well in school.  But with Kodi Smit-McPhee’s Owen, he just embodies the type of kid other children would be drawn to for intimidation.  Kids in school, unfortunately, are usually drawn to the weaker-looking youngsters and that’s exactly how Smit-McPhee looks like—a little weakling.

If there’s one thing I can commend the original film on is the casting of Abby (Eli in the Swedish version).  The little girl in the movie was perfect for the role because of a mysterious subplot that wasn’t featured in the American version (I’ll get into that later).  But she was able to be a little creepier, when needed, than Moretz was in this variation.  However, she was a great little actress in this film and I really enjoyed what she brought to it.  She definitely has a great career ahead of her as long as she avoids films like the remake of Carrie (what a turd that was).

Now, about the subplot that was featured in the original that wasn’t brought up in this film…let me go over it here and give you my take on it.  In the Swedish version, there’s a mysterious scene where Abby (Eli) is in Owen’s (Oskar in the Swedish version) apartment and she changes clothes.  He peeks in on her and notices her pubic area is scarred and sewn up.  It’s quick cut and is never mentioned or brought up later in the movie, but a lot of people were a little perplexed by it.  I guess in the book, it mentions or goes over how the girl was turned into a vampire.  Seems that she was actually a boy and was castrated before being turned, leaving her forever a little girl.  I’m surprised they included that little scene in the original without explaining it, yet I’m not surprised they didn’t include any of that in the American version.  You can imagine how audiences would feel if they saw that in this film—more than likely, uncomfortable—and just how taboo that would be in the first place.  I’m glad they left it out and there was really no need to have it in there anyway.

Also, another surprise performance was by Richard Jenkins as Abby’s “father.”  I was used to quite a few movies where he plays the funny straight man and thought I wouldn’t take him seriously in this movie.  But he pulled off a hell of a performance, especially when you understand what he really was to Abby near the end of the film.

The special effects in this film were subtle and not overbearing.  They were exactly what this film needed and I loved it.  Along with the music and film editing, this film was made so much better with both of those aspects working perfectly in this film.  Overall, the style that Reeves instilled within this film was brilliant, literally putting trivial characters in the background, never featuring them in detail (sometimes out of focus) nor having them seen in full; that was something I hadn’t seen before and I thought it was a nice touch in putting the emphasis on the two main characters.

So, my final “bit” on Let Me In?

It’s an above-average vampire flick that scares you, yet, at the same time, entertains you with its touching story within.  Although not original, Matt Reeves made the film his own with the extra special touches given, making this one of the best horror movies of 2010.  It shouldn’t be missed. 
Side note: whether or not you want to see the Swedish version first is up to you.

Thanks for reading and have a Happy Halloween!

Cinema Bits is on Twitter and Facebook.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Wrong Turn

Most of us have travelled far distances, trying to get from point A to point B in a decent amount of time.  When doing so, it’s never part of the itinerary to get stuck in traffic for hours on end.  Just a few weeks ago, I travelled to the city of Anaheim to catch a game between the Oakland A’s and Los Angeles Angels.  It was a three and a half hour drive to the stadium and it went pretty well on my venture over there.  However, getting back home was a different story.  Being that it was Labor Day weekend, seemed like everybody in California was on the road that day, particularly on Highway 101 heading north.  Like most of us are apt to do—not to mention how our GPS devices are now programmed to give us go-around alternative routes—I exited off the highway to take some back roads and avoided the freeway.  It didn’t help, but that’s not the point.  The point is, after seeing Wrong Turn, you might want to stay on the highway or main roads from now on.

I’m always trying to get a friend of mine to watch a lot of my favorite horror movies, but he always needs quite a kick at the beginning of the film to keep him interested.  If the film doesn’t have some action or female nudity within the first five minutes of the flick, it loses him instantaneously.  When trying to initiate a film that has a bit of exposition during the first few scenes, my buddy’s eyes glaze over and he begins to stare out into space, sometimes even falling asleep.  It drives me crazy, but I understand he has the attention of a flea so I can’t fault him for that flaw.  However, when I’d presented him Wrong Turn and he witnessed the beginning tease to the story (I won’t give it away because it’s quite a scary scene), his eyes widened and he perked right up, instantly interested in the rest of the movie (he also drooled over the female leads who wore very flattering outfits in this flick).  With all that said, after he finished watching the movie, he thanked me for introducing it to him and I felt a sense of a job well done.

So, the point of that story was just to explain that even the toughest critic was able to enjoy Wrong Turn.  But before getting any further, let’s synopsize the story.

The film opens with Chris Flynn (Desmond Harrington) driving through West Virginia and on his
way to a job interview.  A chemical spill on the highway brings traffic to a dead stop and he chooses to take an abandoned back road as a shortcut.  He ends up crashing into an incapacitated car sitting in the middle of the road, debilitating his vehicle in the process.  With both cars disabled, he teams with the group of friends who were stranded in the car—Jessie (Eliza Dushku), Scott (Jeremy Sisto), Carly (Emmanuelle Chriqui), Evan Kevin Zegers) and Francine (Lindy Booth)—to look for help.  Soon, they find they’re being stalked by cannibalistic mountain men and must fight to stay alive.

Let’s begin by saying that this film, by all means, is not much of an original story.  We’ve actually seen it in The Hills Have Eyes and even a little bit of it in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, so I can’t commend the writer, Alan B. McElroy, for any originality in this.  The director, Rob Schmidt, however, gives us a very unsettling sense of dread in Wrong Turn that sort of rivals what we’ve felt in the movies I’d compared it to a few sentences ago.  We definitely get a more grizzled and visceral film that will scare a lot of people, making them squirm in their seats at times and having them yell at the screen at others.

Of course, this movie features a lot of horror movie clichés that we’ve seen countless times before: the characters are stuck somewhere isolated, the cell phones don’t have service, the antagonists are able to track the protagonists’ every move, and so on.  But the sense of realism is there, with no humor, and a feeling of trepidation is understood throughout.  Wrong Turn is not one of those horror slashers where you sit with a smile on your face, thinking it’s fun or rooting for the killers to catch their prey.  No.  You side with the protagonists right away as you can relate to what they’re going through, not to mention that they’re likeable characters.  The leading characters in this film are not the secondary douche bags you see in Friday the 13th or Halloween sequels that deserve what they get.  They have character development and you actually feel bad for the ones who don’t make it and fall victim to the mutated inbreeds. 

There’s not much more I can add to this, seeing that it’s a simple story of kids getting stuck in the wooded mountains of West Virginia, only to be stalked by deformed killers.  But it’s definitely a scary good time with a message to everyone out there: stay on the main roads and never take shortcut through an abandoned wooded area.

So, my final “bit” on Wrong Turn?

The best of the franchise, which I still can’t believe they’re making sequels to this.  I believe the series is now up to six movies, with the latest one to be released just before Halloween.  Well, I can’t speak for the unreleased one, but all the subsequent sequels haven’t stood up to the original one in its shock value and suspense.  Do yourself a favor and see this one if The Hills Have Eyes and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre are your type of films…you won’t be disappointed.

That’s it for now…thanks for reading and have a Happy Halloween!

Cinema Bits is on Twitter and Facebook.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Night of the Creeps

You know how I feel about 80s horror movies, so I think I’ll finally stop waxing poetic on that decade.  I was in my teens between 1981 and 1988 and it was a tough time for me growing up, so that’s what I looked to for a way to live vicariously through the characters on the screen.  Yeah, most of the films were silly and unbelievable, but they were always entertaining and never missed the mark when it came to giving the audience a good time.  Even though there was an overabundance of horror films back then, most of them were solid and above mediocre standards.  I loved them and still do to this day.

Well…lookee there…I said I wasn’t going to be overly verbose on that decade, but I did it anyway.  It just goes to show that the subject of horror movies in the 80s is something I never get tired of talking about.

I’ve also mentioned before that due to the superfluity of that genre of films, I didn’t get to see quite a few of them that were released during my movie-going days back then.  So when I catch up these days, usually by checking out the catalog of DVDs on Netflix, they usually bring me back to that innocent age of my teenaged years.  Sometimes they’re excellent movies that make me think, “Why have I not seen this one?”  Other times, I turn off the flick twenty minutes into it, regretting that I had it sent to me in the first place.

Now, the odd thing about Night of the Creeps is that I had it sent to me some years ago and threw it on for a watch—maybe letting it play for a half hour or so—but decided to eject it from my PS3 and sent it back to Netflix.  The reason I didn’t get into it?  Probably because of my feeling that one should watch horror movies during the right time of year.  If you’d read my review ofThe Howling, I started off with editorializing my view of watching most horror movies during the month of October.  Not all horror movies, mind you, but the ones that were made during the decade of 1980 through 1989 generally fall into that category.  So I think that’s what went wrong when I first saw Night of the Creeps—it was probably during the spring or summer and it just didn’t keep my interest.

I don’t know what made me change my mind and decide to give the movie another chance, but that’s exactly what I had done.  I seem to recall that perhaps it was a horror movie podcast I was listening to that made me reconsider trying it out again (Horror Etc.? Corpse Cast? SlasherCast?).  Whatever—or whoever—had gotten me to change my mind, I’m glad it did.  I saw it again and it had such a profound impact on me, I decided to purchase the Blu-Ray (which coincidentally had been released a few months beforehand) and it now sits proudly in the front of one of my horror movie binders.

Night of the Creeps marks the debut of director and writer, Fred Dekker.  He went on to direct The Monster Squad a year later, an episode of “Tales from the Crypt” and the ill-fated second sequel in the Robocop franchise.  However, as a writer, Dekker has had a string of hits, most recently having a remake of The Monster Squad on the block as well as a rumor that Predatormight be rebooted as well (let’s hope that neither of them will happen—no disrespect to Mr. Dekker, but the originals are classics and don’t need to be regurgitated).  As a first-time writer and director, Dekker really hit it out of the park with Night of the Creeps.

The film opens, in an alien vessel in space, where an alien is running away from some others and
carrying some container.  It’s able to shoot the canister out into space where it lands on Earth.  The year is 1959 and the container is found by some young man as it opens up as some leech-like creature jumps from it into his mouth.  The movie jumps 28 years later and focuses on two friends, Chris (Jason Lively) and J.C. (Steve Marshall).  Chris attempts to impress a girl, Cynthia (Jill Whitlow), by trying to join a fraternity.  As part of the pledge, the frat leader, Brad (Allan Kayser), tells Chris and J.C. that they need to steal a corpse from the college medical center and place it in front of the sorority house.  Chris and J.C. attempt to do so and inadvertently release a corpse from a cryogenic tube, being scared off and not going through with the frat initiation.  But the corpse is the young man from 1959 and he’s now some sort of zombie, turning others into zombies as his body releases more of the leech-like creatures, making more and more people into zombies.

Now, one thing I hadn’t mentioned is the inclusion of the great Tom Atkins in the cast.  Complete with his signature mustache, he plays Detective Ray Cameron who’s been on the force for a while.  Through some flashbacks, and as a subplot, we see that there was a serial killer on the loose back in 1959 and he had a chance to save the girl that he had a thing for but he wasn’t able to do so.  I like what he does with the character in the film, being a smartass to everyone and delivering some cool—but cheesy—one-liners throughout the movie.  The tagline of the film is one of the best he delivers: “The good news is your dates are here.  The bad news is…they’re dead.”  I guarantee that by the time you’re finished watching this movie, you’ll be using the term “thrill me” every chance you get…I know I do.  For all the years Atkins has played serious roles in the middle of typical tawdry plots, he finally gets this one and is allowed to have fun with it.  You can almost see the twinkle in his eyes as he delivers some of the best lines in this movie.

Jason Lively and Steve Marshall as the two main characters are your typical 80s teen heroes, much like Anthony Michael Hall and Ilan Mitchell-Smith from Weird Science.  The antics Lively and Marshall get into as Chris and J.C., especially the contrived set-up to the movie, is emblematic of this movie—or any movie of the 1980s for that matter.  You’ve got to give it to them for taking their roles seriously and acting them out better than what you’d expect from a movie like this.

For any of you who love a good zombie movie, but want something more than what we’ve been given over the years, which is just a rehash of what George Romero has done, this is a refreshing one to see.  The reason the dead walk is a little on the sci-fi side of things, but it’s still nerve-racking how it all comes to be, leaving the whole movie full of tension. 

So, my final “bit” on Night of the Creeps?

Relive the 80s with this gem as you’ll get the practical effects that are notorious in these earlier
horror movies, the humor infused within is just enough to entertain but not ruin the story, you’ll feel the nostalgia of that era (especially if you grew up during that time), and there’s just so much more you’ll probably get out of this movie that I might’ve missed.  Overall, it’s refreshing that, during a time where slasher-type films were always green-lit for a horror movie release, a movie of this caliber and budget was given the go-ahead.  But just a word of advice…this is a perfect movie to see during the fall or winter, sitting in the dark with some popcorn and reliving that beautiful era of horror movie-making.

Thanks for reading and Happy Halloween!

Cinema Bits is on Twitter and Facebook.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Stepfather 2: Make Room for Daddy

In the world of horror movies, if there’s one rule that applies to all icons of fright is that they never stay dead.  Jason Voorhees has been stabbed, sliced, given a machete to the head, but he had always returned for the next movie.  Michael Myers was burned alive for a number of minutes after an explosion, shot multiple times (six times!) in the body and a few to the head, yet he returned.  It’s always a golden rule for a filmmaker to never kill off your boogeyman…sometimes it’s even WRITTEN in a contract clause.

So even though it seemed like the title character died at the bottom of the stairs in part one of this franchise, miraculously he returned for Stepfather 2: Make Room For Daddy.

Although, by this time, I was an avid moviegoer, this film fell off my radar and I hadn’t seen it until it was released onto VHS sometime later.  Being that I had loved the first film, I had no reservations in watching its sequel, hoping that it would be as good, if not better, than its predecessor.  Since it was truly one of the last horror films of the 1980s (it was released in November of 1989), I was on board with it wholeheartedly.

It’s funny because I remember when I had seen this initially and thought it was way better than its predecessor, considering it superior and headed in the right direction.  Years later, as I’ve aged and looked at films differently, I’ve changed my mind a bit.  I don’t know if it’s the story, the actors and actresses in the film, how it was filmed…I really don’t know, but I’ll go over it after this brief synopsis.

The story picks up with Jerry Blake (Terry O’Quinn), surviving the events of part one and incarcerated in a high security mental institution, gaining the trust of his assigned doctor and then
killing him.  After beating a guard to death and taking his uniform, Blake easily escapes the prison and checks in at a motel.  He alters his appearance, takes on the identity of Dr. Gene Clifford—which he finds the name in an obituary—and leases a house across from single mother, Carol Grayland (Meg Foster), and her son, Todd (Jonathan Brandis).  Soon, he gets to know the mother, starting a relationship with her and beginning to plan marriage.  But, as always, complications seem to arise and Blake—now Dr. Clifford—goes back to his evil ways.

You can’t really say that this is more of the same story that we saw in the first film, because some of the aspects are turned around here in this sequel.  But then you can say it’s more of the same story that we saw in the first film for the same reason.  Regardless, in the first film, you had the character of Blake marrying into the family of a mother and daughter, but in this one, it’s a mother and son.  The first film had the mother oblivious and not caring about Jerry’s past, while the daughter was suspicious and tried to investigate his history.  In this sequel, the son totally gets along with Jerry and has no qualms whatsoever, while the mother is the one who begins to be apprehensive about her soon-to-be husband.

Looking at the franchise as a whole, I’m glad that O’Quinn returned for this sequel.  A lot of actors and actresses will usually get big in the head when they become famous for a horror film and believe that returning for a sequel, or to the genre for that matter, is beneath them.  But he jumped back into the psychotic role of Jerry Blake and solidified it as his own.  You can imagine that this franchise would’ve ended here if he didn’t return just by looking at what happened in the next sequel (where O’Quinn didn’t return).

Although I love this sequel, one minor problem I have with it is that it seems like two different films.  As a whole, the movie feels like a made-for-television thriller, like something you’d see on the earlier days of ABC, NBC or CBS.  What’s funny about that is the interjection of horror scenes that give the film its rating.  It almost feels as if the filmmakers wanted this movie to be a straight-to-television production, but then decided to make it a full-fledged horror movie and added the R-rated scenes to make it so. 

Another problem I have is with the casting of Meg Foster.  Now, I have nothing against her, I think she’s a fine actress and I’d enjoyed her part in John Carpenter’s They Live the year before this film, but I guess it just falls on her eyes.  The woman has unusually light blue eyes, almost appearing white in color.  I know it’s a stupid reason to dislike a person’s performance in the film, but I’m just being honest; it throws one off when watching the film.  But as I had said, it’s not her performance that affects my judgment, just her eyeballs.  Maybe they could’ve had her wear contacts or something…?

Jonathan Brandis had done a great job as Todd, playing the everyday and all-around young boy.  The actor seemed like he had such a great career ahead of him and it’s a shame he cut his life short back in 2003.  But one can respect and remember him by watching this film, as well as his take as Bill Denbrough in Stephen king’s It.  Brandis definitely wasn’t the typical young actor who that would be cast in a film like this.  He’s believable and had an adult sense of how to perform in a film.

I believe director Jeff Burr was able to get better performances out of the players and get the type that was needed to display a distinctive film from that period.  He went on to direct Leatherface: Texas Chainsaw Massacre III the following year and seemed to thrive in the B-movie horror genre.  Where Joseph Ruben made the original The Stepfather more of a serious toned film, Burr infused the current (at the time) craze of slasher films to give this flick the horror formula everybody wanted back then.  The movie poster says it all, just by looking at it, as we see the crazed face of Terry O’Quinn while he’s about to plunge a huge knfe into a wedding cake.  If you don’t think 80s horror when seeing that artwork, then you haven’t lived in that era.

Of course, when watching this film all the way through, you’ll realize by the time the credits roll—and especially if you’ve seen a lot of these horror films from the 80s—that there would be a sequel.  The third part, however, leaves something to be desired, being that it was an inferior film.  O’Quinn didn’t return and they used the “killer gets plastic surgery” plot device to solve the problem of his absence.  But, from what I’d remembered, the actor who plays Jerry Blake just didn’t have the mannerisms to make it believable enough.  Unless you really love this franchise, by the time you get through parts one and two, I’d say skip the third film.

So…my final “bit” on Stepfather 2: Make Room for Daddy?

With minor complaints noted, this film is still a classic gem that one should watch to capture the feel and nostalgia of the 1980s.  O’Quinn is awesome as the stepfather horror icon and I think you’ll love it as well.  Both films make for a good marathon to watch during this time of year, so grab a tub of popcorn and enjoy both Stepfather flicks.

Thanks for reading and have a Happy Halloween!

Cinema Bits is on Twitter and Facebook.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Halloween (2007)

As I had finished my look at the last sequel of the original Halloween franchise, I’d mentioned that Rob Zombie twisted it up with his reboot and I think I might’ve been a little harsh with that remark.  I had liked Zombie’s approach to horror movies when he had made his directorial debut with House of 1000 Corpses and its sequel, The Devil’s Rejects.  I enjoyed the use of music he poured into most of the scenes, integrating it to go with the mood of what was presented on screen.  But I was fine with that because those were his original films that he had written.  More power to him, I say.

In mid to late 2006, it was announced that the original Halloween was going to be rebooted, with the job of directing going to Rob Zombie.  My first thought was that we were going to have Michael Myers stalking Laurie Strode with interludes of 1970s rock music throughout.  Then some disturbing news came out about how Zombie wanted to make the film a prequel, focusing on Michael Myers as a child, leading up to the point where he kills his sister, Judith Myers—no Shatner mask would be found throughout.  Man, the internet was on fire with angry fan protests and arguments.  I had to agree, I thought that was a dumb idea.

As I’m always saying, Hollywood needs to stop rebooting films and trying to pass it off as some artful retelling of a tried and true story.  But in the case with the continuing story of Michael Myers, Akkad and company jumped the shark.  There was no choice but to restart the series from scratch.  Basically, the only thing left they could’ve done was to send Michael into space, but the Friday the 13th franchise already did that with Jason.  If I were writing a fresh new screenplay to continue the sequels, I would’ve had Michael going after his nephew, John, like I had mentioned earlier.  But Moustapha Akkad, his son, or anyone else from Dimension, hadn’t called me for my services so it’s their loss (tongue planted firmly in cheek).

With all the craziness and hatred going on in the media, I was perfectly okay with the choice of Rob Zombie helming the new film, especially after it was said that we would see the adult Michael Myers in his signature Shatner mask stalking his prey.  So, waiting patiently for the release date, I was anxious to see what Zombie would bring to the table.

Now, speaking of release dates, that’s one thing that bugs me about this film—that it was released on August 31st of 2007.  Why?  A Halloween movie released while it’s still summer?  If you’re going to show a movie that takes place during October, release it in October!  Especially nowadays, where movies only last a few weeks in theaters, the movie was probably long gone in most areas when October came around.  Halloween is not your typical summer blockbuster, so it’s not something that people will flock to see during the warm season.  Normally, the films that do well during summer are action and sci-fi…and sometimes horror as long as it’s not a fall or winter themed film.  Who was the genius in the film’s marketing department that was behind this?

Well, it was what it was, so let’s break down the film.

The film begins with Michael Myers (Daeg Faerch) as a child and his life at home.  His mother,
Deborah (Sheri Moon Zombie) is a stripper and her live-in boyfriend, Ronnie (William Forsythe), is a bum who sits around all day.  He constantly makes fun of and berates Michael and his sister, Judith (Hanna Hall), all day.  Michael shows signs of trouble at school after being pushed around by a bully and on Halloween night, he snaps, killing Ronnie, Judith and her boyfriend, Steve (Adam Weisman), and is found by his mother sitting on the front steps to the house holding his little baby sister.  Michael is then committed to a mental institution under the care of Dr. Samuel Loomis (Malcolm McDowell).  But when the young boy shows no signs of getting better and begins to shut everyone out, even to the point of ceasing to speak, Dr. Loomis tells him he can’t help him anymore.  Fifteen years later, Michael escapes the institution and returns to Haddonfield for his little sister.

Hmmm, where should I start?

Let’s see…the concept of introducing a back story as to why Michael Myers became the way he had was unnecessary, in my opinion.  One of the best openings to any movie is the start of the 1978 John Carpenter classic.  It was a momentous shot, establishing the mystery as to why Michael Myers, as a child, would suddenly snap and kill his sister one night on Halloween.  And that’s the way it should’ve stayed.  The original series of films never went back and explained why Michael became evil, it was accepted and the audience moved on.  It’s more frightening to think that the boy just snaps and doesn’t appear to have a reason to want his family dead.  But to have it explained in Zombie’s version that his family seemed like a bunch of inbred hillbillies, making the child crazy by being responsible for his shitty life wasn’t as meaningful when the kid finally snaps—it’s expected and not as alarming.  Don’t get me wrong, it was different and showed that Rob Zombie wanted to do something original, but it really took away the shock when the scene finally played out.  I realize that we all know the story and knew he was going to do what he did, but I felt that Zombie’s vision of Michael’s home life was needless.

If there’s anything else that suffered from Zombie’s added exposition of Michael Myers’ childhood was the rest of the film, when he became an adult and travelled to Haddonfield.  It made the scenes feel rushed and shortened.  Seems as if Zombie really wanted the whole movie to be the prequel he talked about, but the studio wanted the reboot portion in it, then they all compromised and included both concepts into one movie.

The one thing that kept going through my mind was how unlikable most of the characters seemed to be.  I know the early scenes were to show how horrible Michael’s living conditions were, but there was no way the audience, in my opinion, could care for any of the Myers family members.  I was able to forgive those parts of the film, but as soon as we’re introduced to Laurie Strode (Scout Taylor-Compton), she annoyed me right away.  The little interaction with her mother, Mrs. Strode (Dee Wallace), embarrassing her by finger-raping the bagel she’s holding made me dislike her.  The rapport with her two friends, Annie (Danielle Harris) and Lynda (Kristina Klebe), seemed forced as well with no chemistry felt whatsoever.

Really, the only redeeming qualities of this film are the performances by Tyler Mane as the adult Michael Myers and Malcolm McDowell as Dr. Loomis.  I’d commend Dee Wallace and Brad Dourif (who plays Sheriff Brackett) in their performances, but Wallace doesn’t have much to do but to die after only a few minutes of screen time.  Dourif does well, but the silly discussion his character has with Dr. Loomis in order to force the explanation of how Laurie Strode is Michael Myers’ sister knocks his merits right off the board.

All in all, the story is rehashed quite quickly after a silly and long story as to how Myers had become the killer he grows to be.  The film is definitely worth a watch, but if you’re a diehard John Carpenter fan like myself, you may take umbrage as to what Zombie put forth in this film.  That’s my final “bit” and I’m sticking to it.

Any-hoo, thanks for reading and have a Happy Halloween!

Cinema Bits is on Twitter and Facebook.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

The Stepfather

As the 80s were coming to an end, quite few horror movies were released that basically told the world they didn’t give a shit the decade was closing out, they were going to keep showing up in theaters until people stopped going to see them.  Since 1987 was a big year for a lot of movies—not only horror—this one year became memorable for me because of a lot of flicks I’d seen back then.  There was A Nightmare on Elm Street 3,The Lost BoysCreepshow 2, and…The Stepfather.  And let’s be clear here.  In no way am I talking about the remake released a few years back, but the original 1987 cult classic, starring John Locke himself, Terry O’Quinn.

Once again, as I go over these reviews that I’m writing, this month is the best time to watch these types of movies.  Certain horror films are okay to see during the summer months, but most should be viewed when it’s dark outside and that they be seen throughout the month of October.

Even though I was quite familiar with this film at the time of release, I didn’t get a chance to see it within a theater or drive-in setting.  Instead, like most movies I’d seen back then, I waited until it was released onto VHS—usually close to a year after theatrical release—and rented it from the local rental shop (Blockbuster Video was probably around at that time, I’m sure), taking it back home and trying to see it without any interruption.  Because, let me tell you, it was tough back then, living at home and resorting to sit in the family room, hoping my parents wouldn’t walk in on the movie if it happened to show some boobage, get too gory, or just get crazy with F-bombs galore.  But besides that, looking back at my time when I had little to no responsibilities, just going to my part time job and then coming home to watch a movie or two, life was great.  But enough of this sidebar, let’s discuss The Stepfather.

The story is about a man who adopts the name of Jerry Blake (Terry O’Quinn), who wants to be the patriarch of a perfect family.  He goes from town to town, finding a divorced mother with a family and marries into it.  Whenever things don’t turn out the way he imagined it would be, he kills them off and moves to the next town to start all over again.  He finally meets and marries a divorcée, Susan Maine (Shelley Hack), who has a teenaged daughter, Stephanie (Jill Schoelen).  But, as always, things don’t work out as he’d like them to as Stephanie grows suspicious of Jerry.  So, once again, he makes his plans to move to his next town, but not before taking care of this family before he goes.

For years I’ve associated Terry O’Quinn with his character in this film.  Any time I’d seen him in any movie, I’d say to myself, “There’s the stepfather!”  It wasn’t until his role on “Lost” that I finally identified with him as John Locke and not for the role in this thriller, but I’ll always remember him for this one; he just has that rage that’s needed for the times he goes nuts in this film.  There’s really no other actor who can pull this off as well as he can, which is probably why this franchise went into the dumpster when O’Quinn didn’t reprise the character for part three.  He really knew how to be the charming gentleman in this film, making you believe the impossible (as getting a job and setting up a home without proper identification and a social security number), although seeing this was the 80s, little details were not important to involve in the exposition of a story.  However, Quinn knew how to turn on the crazy and just snap into a scary nut-job at the blink of an eye.  You go from liking the guy to wishing he were dead, all in the span of a short scene.  Yes, Quinn was perfect for this role.

Jill Schoelen’s portrayal of Stephanie was your typical 80s heroine or survival girl that you’ve seen in numerous movies.  It’s not to say you’ve seen Schoelen herself in numerous movies—I don’t think I’ve seen her in anything besides this film—it’s the archetype of her character that you’ve seen.  She’s sort of the poor man’s Phoebe Cates for lack of a better explanation.  However, Schoelen’s performance was pretty cool and you didn’t see any cheesiness from her that you’d see from characters of that sort from other 80s films.

Playing Susan is Shelley Hack and she’s another actress you may feel you’ve seen somewhere before, but can’t place.  The only other movie I’ve seen her in was Troll, playing the same matriarch type of character, basically in the background and not exactly the focus of this film.  As the story really revolves around the character of Jerry Blake and the stepdaughter, Stephanie, the character of Susan is not really in the forefront.  But Hack plays a believable wife who trusts her new husband and doesn’t really see there’s something wrong until it’s too late.

Joseph Ruben does a fine job directing this film as he made it a more seriously toned film rather than the run-of-the-mill slashers that were being released year-after-year during that time.  He actually directed a favorite film of mine, before this one, called Dreamscapewith Dennis Quaid…sort of a precursor to Inception.  If you can find it on home media, I highly recommend it.  But Ruben knew how to set the right atmosphere inThe Stepfather and kept a great pace to keep your interest throughout.

It’s kind of difficult to put this film in the genre of horror; it’s more of a suspense thriller than anything else.  Not until part two came along did this franchise take a turn for the slasher side of the horror variety.  But The Stepfather is still a staple of the 80s, although it’s a little known gem to the world of that era.

So, my final “bit” on The Stepfather?

As I’d said, this isn’t really a slasher, but still a solid movie with an interesting premise.  Adding to that, the story is based on a true life crime which makes it all the more thought-provoking.  The Stepfather is one to watch and make sure to have a double feature with part two—I’ll talk about that one soon.

Well, that’s it for now…thanks for reading and have a Happy Halloween!

Cinema Bits is on Twitter and Facebook.

Friday, October 24, 2014


Being familiar with the song, “Ben,” by Michael Jackson, I never associated it with a horror movie, only thinking it was a song by a kid who was singing about his friend.  Looking back, it may have seemed a bit weird for a teenaged boy to be singing about another boy, but that thought never crossed my mind.  I just never knew the song was about a rat and that the nice melancholy tune was from a horror movie.  It wasn’t until 2003, when a new horror film called Willard was released that I’d figured all that out.

Willard, as it turns out, is a remake of a 1971 film of the same name, starring Crispin Glover as the title character.  Not until the end of the movie did I start putting things together, especially after hearing Glover’s rendition of the tune during the end credits.  After watching this new version, I decided to hit the internet and look up some info on the earlier films, finding out about the original film and that it actually spawned a sequel titledBen.  Subsequently, I found out through that sequel’s bio that that’s where the song, “Ben,” came from, as the theme for that film.

All that aside, when this movie was announced, as well as getting some trailers and television spots on it, I became very interested.  I’ve always liked Crispin Glover, from his part in Friday the 13th: The Final Chapterto his role as George McFly in Back to the Future.  Understanding his eccentricities, I understood why he ducked out of the spotlight, only taking on bit parts or starring in obscure films.  However, it didn’t help much when he made the news with his chosen appearance in public, not to mention his actions on “Late Night with David Letterman” back in 1987.  And I don’t think I ever saw any of the movies he starred in since that year until seeing him in 2000’s Charlie’s Angels—that was a treat for me and I was glad to see him in a more prominent role.

I was stoked about this movie, particularly after seeing some of the scenes in the trailers that had some obvious CGI’d rats that looked really well done.  So when this film had its opening day on March 14th of 2003, I took a trip over to the local theater and sat down to see it.

The film is about Willard Stiles (Crispin Glover), a socially awkward employee of a company his
father started, who is berated and embarrassed in front of his coworkers, daily, by his boss, Mr. Martin (R. Lee Ermey).  Tending to his fragile ailing mother (Jackie Burroughs), he finds his basement is overrun by rats and sets out traps for them.  After catching a large white rat on a glue trap, Willard notices that it’s tame and has some intelligence, so he decides to keep it as a pet, naming it Socrates.  However, a bigger rat—who Willard names Ben—constantly misbehaves and acts up to get Willard’s attention.  Both rats—as well as the colony that lives within the basement walls—begin to listen to and obey Willard, doing what he asks and following his commands.  When the relentless haranguing from Mr. Martin comes to a head, Willard decides to get his revenge.

Willard is directed by Glen Morgan, who has only directed two films in his career.  Most of his profession was spent writing and producing, in such films as 2000’s Final Destination and the Black Christmasremake in 2006.  Being that the latter was his last directorial duty, I can understand why he hasn’t gone back to that part of the movie business.  But with Willard, he was able to capture some nice moments between Glover’s character and the rats that weren’t digitally created.  Morgan was able to achieve a creepy and harsh world, yet grounded in reality with the supporting cast.

Crispin Glover was perfect for this part, even more so than his predecessor, Bruce Davison, who had played the title character in the 1971 version.  Glover already has an awkward way about him, so I imagine it wasn’t difficult for him to step into this role.  I understand the filmmakers even played to his facial features by subtly making up his face to darken around his eyes and to make his nose more protuberant, causing him to appear more rat-like.  If that’s the case, it worked, because there’s something about him in this film that just tells you he doesn’t fit in with normal people.

Any film that features R. Lee Ermey going ballistic is a film that entertains.  I love Ermey in this film and felt that, although it was over the top, his performance was well done and captured the perfect antagonist for the character of Willard.  While you have Glover playing a very quiet and introverted person, you have Ermey being positively loud and boisterous.  I loved it.

One opinion I have of this film is that it reminds me a lot of Tim Burton’s productions.  From the dark and gothic feel of Willard’s home to the cartoonish feel of his workplace, if you were to ask me who directed the film I would’ve guessed it was Burton.  Even though this film is considered a horror film—and there is some horror aspects in the film—the story is pretty mild and more entertaining than anything else, which makes me form the Tim Burton opinion. 

Since I’d never seen the original movie, I really didn’t think about comparing this one to its 1971 version.  But I liked what I saw in this one, especially the special effects they’d used to show the rats in a lot of the scenes.  One particular shot shows Willard getting out of the elevator at work, showing what looks to be hundreds of rats spilling out as the door opens.  I’m sure a lot of the shots included trained rats performing certain tricks, but there are other obvious scenes where they had to insert them via CGI.  To this day, the effects look good and believable, making one squirm if they don’t care for the furry little critters.

Perhaps this movie could’ve been scarier or thrilling if they decided to make it into an R-rated film instead of PG13.  I’ve had many dissertations in this blog regarding the decision by filmmakers to go with PG13 instead of R, so I’ll leave it at that.  But regardless of the more family-friendly rating, this movie still delivers and will keep you rooted in your seat.

As a little trivia for you, Bruce Davison actually makes a little cameo in the film as you see his portrait on the mantel of Willard’s house.

So, without further ado, my final “bit” on Willard?

With a role tailored specifically for his quirkiness, Crispin Glover brings his talent into this film.  One
scene that tells you that is his crying fit he has at the funeral home, as he sobs uncontrollably, even having snot bubble out of his nose at one point.  He knows how to make himself appear as if he’s full of self-loathing and it goes well with R. Lee Ermey’s portrayal of a total prick.  The film is a great addition to your Halloween watching, so set up a rental and enjoy it with the family.

Thanks for reading and Happy Halloween!

Cinema Bits is on Twitter and Facebook.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

I Know What You Did Last Summer

Back when the 80s came to a close, a lot of horror movies were being released that really nailed the coffin shut on the genre.  The early 90s gave us quite a few stinkers that had everybody considering that it just might be the death of horror movies.  This was the time when theFriday the 13th franchise was sold to New Line Cinema which gave us one of the worst entries (Jason Goes to Hell), the Leprechaun series was another terrible chain of films that I can’t believe spewed so many sequels, and A Nightmare on Elm Street churned out some duds as well.  It surely seemed like horror movies during the early 90s went too far into the campier side of things, making the films goofier and less scary.

I had nearly given up on trekking out to theaters every time a new horror film was released, thinking that it will just be another cheesy letdown (there’s nothing worse than going to see some stupid film that you end up hating, especially when you’re spending around ten bucks to see it).  However, I still ventured out and was able to see some films that made the cut in my mind—but they were few and far between.  It wasn’t until Scream had hit the screens in 1996 that the horror genre took a turn back for the better, giving us a better horizon and a restored outlook of horror’s future.

It was the first time, in a long while, where people spread the word and talked about how good that movie had been.  Being that this was the time before social media or texting or even emailing became a craze…people used word-of-mouth, literally, to spread the news about Scream.

Nevertheless, and as always, when an original idea comes out that takes the world by storm, all kinds of copycats start popping up, diluting the waters and making that innovative model more of a tiresome concept.  But throughout all the boring films that came out, haphazardly emulating Wes Craven’s work, a few were worthy of enjoying.  One, which was released ten months after Scream, was the 1997 hit, I Know What You Did Last Summer.

As it so happens, the writer of Scream, Kevin Williamson, also penned this screenplay.  However, the difference here with this movie compared to the Craven film was that this one was based on an already-written novel of the same name.  Although the book was originally published in 1973 as a thriller for young adults, most of the story’s framework remained the same.  However, the movie’s script receives some embellishment to give it the slasher movie appeal—I’ll get to that later.

For now, let me synopsize it for you.

The film is about a foursome of friends: boyfriend and girlfriend, Ray and Julie (Freddie Prinze Jr. and Jennifer Love Hewitt), and another couple, Barry and Helen (Ryan Phillippe and Sarah Michelle
Gellar).  Celebrating the Fourth of July, they take Barry’s car for a drive, partying and having a good time.  When coming around a bend in the road on the outskirts of their coastal town, they fail to see a young man in the middle of the road and hit him.  After stopping and checking on him, they find that he’s dead.  Barry panics and tells the others that the police won’t believe that it was an accident, especially with the alcohol in the car.  With much conviction, he convinces the rest of them that they should dump his body in the ocean.  They argue a bit, but reluctantly agree to do so.  A year later, after all four had gone their separate ways, Julie receives a letter in the mail with no return address.  Upon opening the envelope, there is a piece of paper with one simple sentence written in capital letters: ‘I KNOW WHAT YOU DID LAST SUMMER.’

Okay, so this horror flick was directed by Jim Gillespie.  Who is he?  I really don’t know.  His résumé on IMDb shows he directed some television series and a couple of movies before getting this gig.  Since then, he took the helm of four other films before taking on the producer role of some British TV show.  Nonetheless, he was able to get some solid performances out of the lead actors and actresses, created a nice eerie mood in a lot of scenes, and looked to have a good career in his future when this movie was released to rave reviews.

Now, just like Jason Voorhees, Michael Myers, Leatherface, and so on, this movie brought us a new icon of terror with…The Fisherman.  The Fisherman?  Yes, that’s right.  As corny as it sounds on paper, the way this character is displayed in the first two-thirds of this film is great.  The villain gives us some nice scares and the vision of the getup left me unnerved.  Basically, the guy is dressed in a rain slicker, waders and rubber boots with a matching rubber fishing hat that shadows his face perfectly.  His weapon of choice?  A meat hook—characteristic of the type fishermen use to pick up and move large fish they’ve caught.  Just like slashers from the 80s, The Fisherman from I Know What You Did Last Summer stalks his prey, one-by-one, while the whole film has a serious tone and doesn’t get campy like many horror movies of the early 90s had done with poor results.

By the way, that’s the difference between this film and the book it’s based off—the inclusion of this guise the villain takes on.  Also, the identity of who’s wearing the fisherman’s outfit is different as well.  I told you I’d get to that later…I’m a man of my word.

In my opinion, all four of the leads were made into well-known stars because of this film.  Freddie Prinze Jr. (son of the “Chico and the Man” star) had a few small roles in TV and movies before getting the lead in this one.  The same can be said for Gellar, Hewitt and Phillippe.  But just like Neve Campbell, et al, after starring in Scream, these young actors took the roles seriously and played them as such.  Thus, it solidified them as good actors with a nice future ahead of them.

It’s disappointing that this franchise didn’t get much further than it had over the years.  I Still Know What You Did Last Summer was released the following year, but the story was so contrived and a little on the campy side of things that it just made it forgettable and not worth seeing again.  Some like to say that Brandy had a hand in it, and I might agree, as she cannot act her way out of a paper bag.  About 8 years ago, it was tried once more to resurrect the franchise with a staright-to-video release of I’ll Always Know What You Did Last Summer.  Looking at the film’s bio, I see that no one from the original cast is in it and it really has no tie to the original films besides the persona of The Fisherman.  Word has it that the franchise may be rebooted…if you know how I feel about reboots, you know I won’t go on from there.

Overall, my final “bit” on I Know What You Did Last Summer is that the film is a great stand-alone
horror flick, so don’t go ruining the experience by seeing the sequels.  From start to finish, this film entertains and scares you.  It actually boasts a pretty good murder-mystery “whodunit” tale to it, leaving you guessing who the killer may be.  Though the ending leaves something to be desired, it still grabs you and leaves you satisfied by the time the credits roll.  Even though the film takes place during the summer, this is still a great movie to watch during the Halloween season.

Thanks for reading and have a Happy Halloween!

Cinema Bits is on Twitter and Facebook.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Halloween: Resurrection

Let me precede this post to tell let you know that this review is going to be short and bitter (certainly not sweet) as I look back on this movie, which has got to be the worst sequel in the Halloween franchise.  All you have to do is think about two of the actors cast in this movie—Busta Rhymes and Tyra Banks—and you’ll understand why without needing an explanation. 
When this movie was first announced and described, my gut told me to avoid it when it finally opened in theaters, but I didn’t listen to it.  It was churning and gurgling, yet I turned a deaf ear.  After watching this film, I’ll never doubt my instincts again.

2002’s Halloween: Resurrection has a saving grace, however (and it’s hard to believe that it does after watching this train wreck of a film), so it may be worth a glance just for this sole reason—the inclusion of a Jamie Lee Curtis cameo.  But her scenes are at the very beginning and makes it that much more difficult to get through the rest of the flick.

Well, without further ado, and to avoid prolonging the discussion of this film, here’s the breakdown of the film.

Freddie Harris (Busta Rhymes) and his partner, Nora (Tyra Banks), run an internet reality show and decide on featuring the abandoned Myers residence with six college students spending the night inside.  As luck would have it, Michael Myers (Brad Loree) returns, aiming to kill them all off.

One thing I always tell people when they ask me about this film is that it’s worth watching for the first ten or fifteen minutes, but that’s it.  The rest is such a stupid mess of a movie, as Michael Myers shows up and kills each character until there are only two left (and one of them I wished he killed).  It’s actually hard to believe that this film started off so strong, giving us some great exposition as to how Michael Myers is still alive, I almost believe the beginning was just deleted scenes from the previous film.  I constantly ask myself, when watching this debacle, “How did they give this film such a strong beginning only to give us a bunch of shit for the remainder?”  Basically, as soon as Michael Myers hands over his butcher knife to the mental institute patient who knows all the stats of serial killers, you can turn off the movie and chalk it up to the shortest Halloween entry in the series of films.

Anyway, say what you will about all the other films in the Halloween canon, at least there was constantly a reason for Michael’s killing spree in every outing he was featured in: he was always trying to kill off the last of his family.  Yet, in this one—*SPOILER*—he finally achieved that goal (albeit, Laurie’s son is presumably still alive, but I guess Mike had forgotten about him) and decided to go to his old house and kill off a bunch of kids just for the hell of it.  Why didn’t they make the movie about him getting to John?  Even if they couldn’t get Josh Hartnett to reprise his role, they could’ve gotten someone else.  Anything would’ve been better than what they had done here.

Finally, I’ve got to ask—Rick Rosenthal, how did you direct such classics like Halloween II and Bad Boys (the Sean Penn film), but turn in a dud like Halloween: Resurrection?  I’m sure you wanted to do something different and go with what was popular at the turn of the century, like found footage films and the reality TV boom, but it definitely didn’t work here.

Anyway, there you have it—short and bitter.  My final “bit”?

Skip it.  Unless you want to see the first fifteen minutes of the film, I wouldn’t bother with this idiotic flop of a film.  If anything, I guess we can blame this movie for rebooting the franchise and giving it to Rob Zombie to twist it up.  Hopefully Dimension and Akkad will get something together and get the Halloween series back to its glory days…it’s been too long.

Thanks for reading and Happy Halloween!

Cinema Bits is on Twitter and Facebook.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014


I’ve mentioned before, on my take on The Strangers, that the reason I had decided on seeing that particular movie was because it was featured within the Halloween Horror Nights event at Universal Studios.  During that same experience, as you walked into the entrance of the park, the “scare actors” played out an evacuation, moving everybody out of the area as they had emergency vehicles and dressed in military tactical gear.  The trucks had hazmat symbols adorning the doors and the actors played out the scene as though the building facades had something lethal inside that they were protecting us from.  Of course, there were posters and advertisements around the park, so I knew the scene that was being played out in front of me was from the new film, Quarantine.

Just like The Strangers, at that point in time, the movie had come and gone in theaters, so I had to wait a few months before the film was released on home media.  Thus, when the time had arrived, I placed the film onto my Netflix queue and awaited its delivery.

Not too long before I had watched it, I’d realized that it was a remake of a 2007 Spanish film called [REC].  I’ll be honest with you and say that, to this day, I have not seen that version.  I’m sure I will one day, as I think the movie is actually available on Netflix streaming, but for now I’ll just discuss the 2008 American version.

The film opens, via raw footage, with reporter, Angela Vidal (Jennifer Carpenter), being filmed by
her cameraman, Scott (Steve Harris), as they get ready to film a report on the local fire department.  They interview firefighters, Fletcher and Jake (Johnathan Schaech and Jay Hernandez), within the firehouse when a report comes in to which they have to respond.  Angela and Scott go along with them in the emergency vehicle and pull up to an apartment building where a medical emergency was reported.  Along with some police officers, the firefighters enter the building and go up to an apartment where an elderly woman, Mrs. Espinoza (Jeanie Epper), suddenly goes crazy and they have to subdue her.  Soon, the firefighters and police, as well as a handful of residents, find out that they’ve all been locked in the building with the military outside ordering them not to try and leave.  When all cell phone and cable connections have been jammed so that no communications to the outside can be made, they all realize they’ve been sealed into quarantine…and believe they’ll never be allowed to leave alive.

Now this film is scary for two reasons.  First, you have the dread of knowing that the story involves some sort of infection that makes people into these crazed zombies.  Second, you feel the terror and helplessness that these people must feel when they realize they’ve been cut off from the world.  The thing about these fears that are presented and sensed here is that one is complete fantasy and the other is something that can very well happen.  I know the argument you may have with my opinion of the first trepidation of it having a fantastical aspect to it may be that it can actually happen.  My thought is that you’d be right, but I was looking at the story element of an infection turning someone into some mindless maniac.  By all means, an infection may spread and endanger a certain populace, but I still think it’s a little bit in the fictional realm to think that something would sicken us into monsters, giving us energy to be many times stronger than before.  However, whether or not that’s the case, the fact of the matter is that if something was able to spread, making it viable to institute a quarantine as to not let the virus—especially one with no known cure—get out into the population, I’m sure what happens in this story is exactly what would transpire in the real world.

The found footage style of the film had me doubt it at first, thinking back on all the ones that had been conveyor-belted out within the decade before Quarantine.  But the resourceful way that they had established it here (and, of course, I have to commend the Spanish filmmakers for this plot device used in the original), was that the whole thing was supposed to be a documentary.  Both main characters were professional reporters and it was in their line of work that their first thought was to document everything onto film—it’s what they were trained for.  With that in mind, you don’t have the unremitting thought that no one in their right mind would be filming when all this craziness is going on.  Believing the main characters are real reporters sets your mind at ease and helps you stay in the movie.

As you watch the story play out, especially when the action takes place in the complex, you may ask yourself what you would do in the characters’ situation.  Sometimes, when watching the movie, I think to myself that I would barricade myself in one of the apartments and wait it out.  But then my thoughts of the military burning the place down would enter my head and I’d feel the characters did what they could.  Then, I’d change my mind again and constantly think of an alternative to what they all end up doing.  It’s a constant barrage of “what ifs?” that you’ll think of, keeping this movie suspenseful for you.  Quarantinedefinitely has a rewatchability aspect that lets you revisit it over and over, making it a different experience every time you see it.

The main characters are believable enough and you can relate that they’re real reporters and
emergency personnel dealing with this nightmare.  Though now that I’ve devoted eight seasons to the “Dexter” television series, I can’t help but see Debra in this movie.  You can especially believe Johnathan Schaech as a fireman, seeing how much machismo he throws around and that mustache…whoa.  Everybody turns in a hell of a performance and makes this movie as authentic as it is.

So, what’s my final “bit” on Quarantine?

Although I can’t fairly compare it to the Spanish version, this American version hits the mark and might be the first found footage movie I can really believe in and enjoy thoroughly.  The movie gives you terror in the horror movie realm of things and also in a real world aspect.  Though the ending has something to be desired (the explanation to everything), it may be the most terrifying part of the film, which is perfect as everything builds up until that final scene.  I think most horror fans will love this…don’t miss it.

Well, that’s another one for the books.  Thanks for reading and have a Happy Halloween!

Cinema Bits is on Twitter and Facebook.