Bad Ronald

Oh boy, I am so excited to have a chance to write about Bad Ronald today. I first heard about this cult made-for-t.v. movie from 1974 during an episode of Ugly Betty, of all places. Betty’s roommate, Amanda, blames everything bad that she does on Bad Ronald. I looked the reference up and discovered one of the strangest t.v. movies I’ve ever heard of. It has everything! Made for t.v. movie seventies styles and a killer kid.
Please excuse the quality of the screencaps. The only DVD of this available is a Warner Archive Collection bare-bones release from 2009 and everything’s a little muddy. I’m not sure if the movie looked like this when it first aired. This movie is begging for a Scream Factory release with a nice, clean transfer and loads of extra features.
The movie stars Scott Jacoby as misfit Ronald Wilby. He’ll look familiar if you’re a fan of The Golden Girls because he plays Dorothy’s son, Michael Zbornak.

Ronald is a nerdy outcast with a controlling mother played by Kim Hunter, who’s best known as Stella from A Streetcar Named Desire.


Ronald dreams of going to medical school so he can become a doctor and cure his mother’s unspecified illness. He also loves to paint and draw and is fascinated by an imaginary kingdom that he created, Atranta.
After being humiliated while asking out his crush, he accidentally bumps into her little sister, Carol Matthews (Angela Hoffman). They trade insults and this quickly escalates to violence and he pushes her, making her fatally hit her head on a cinder-block. The descriptions I’ve read about this movie emphasize the accidental nature of Carol’s death but I tend to disagree. It’s a fierce attack by a boy at least five years older than this girl. It’s creepy how quickly Ronald snaps.
Ronald buries Carol and confesses to his mother what he’s done. They take the door and door-frame off of their spare bedroom, and plaster and wallpaper over it, creating a secret room. They create a little door in the pantry to slide him food and his mom tells everyone that Ronald ran away.
Their plan works until the mom has to go into the hospital and get gall-bladder surgery. She dies and Ronald is trapped in the house. He becomes more and more isolated and drills peepholes all over when he realizes that realtors are showing the house (The realtor is played by John Fielder, who played Dorothy’s plain-looking but good in bed boyfriend, Eddie, on The Golden Girls). He spends most of his time drawing more pictures of Atranta and trying to hide from nosy neighbor Mrs. Schumacher (Linda Watkins).
Eventually, a family with three daughters moves in and Ronald becomes fixated on the youngest, Babs Wood (Cindy Fisher).


He’s also enraged when he realizes the oldest sister is dating Duane Matthews, Carol’s older brother. Babs has never liked the house and the rest of the family has started noticing weird noises and missing food.
At one point, Mrs. Schumacher sees Ronald and dies of shock. He hides her body, leaving her house empty.
The movie ends with the parents leaving the girls alone for the weekend. Ronald tries to kidnap Babs when she’s alone but she escapes and he locks her in Mrs. Schumacher’s basement. He tries to make it look like she ran away and that’s what the police think when Babs’ sisters report her missing. They don’t believe she was kidnapped until middle sister, Althea (Cindy Eilbacher) accidentally discovers the peephole.

The movie ends with Ronald being arrested.
This movie has great atmosphere and is really good at being creepy. The last moments when the girls realzie someone has been spying on them are very tense. Scott Jacoby is great at showing Ronald’s mental deterioration. Kim Hunter is also quite good in this and it would have been great to see more of her.
The movie clocks in at just over an hour long. The movie’s main flaw is that it doesn’t really establish Ronald’s relationship with his peers or his relationship with his mother. I wish it were just twenty minutes longer to show Ronald being bullied, so his reaction to Carol would make more sense. It would also be great seeing his mother being more overbearing and how unhealthy their relationship is. I know some people consider “remake” a dirty word but this movie could stand a good remake.
The movie’s main plot hole is that no one seems to notice the missing room. Babs’ mother comments that it’s strange that a four bedroom house only has one bathroom (The other bathroom is walled up with Ronald’s room). It’s strange that the realtors don’t notice this missing room. The outer dimensions of the house wouldn’t match the inner dimensions.
What saves the movie from being bad is its short run time. It’s long enough to tell a story and doesn’t overstay its welcome. It does have some unfortunately generic t.v. music. A great score could have really elevated the tension. This movie’s fun for cult movie fans but isn’t necessarily for everyone.
I’m going to end this review with a gallery with some of Ronald’s creepy artwork.

Posted in 1970's, cult classics, killer kids, psychological, television, thriller | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 12 Comments

The Whip and the Body

Hey, look, an entry! I’m back with Mario Bava’s 1963 The Whip and the Body. This French-Italian co-production is alternately known as La frusta e il corpo in Italian or Le corps et le fouet in French.


The production stars Christopher Lee as the main antagonist, Kurt Menliff.

By the time this movie was made, Lee had already starred as Dracula, the Mummy, and Sherlock Holmes. Sadly, the English version isn’t dubbed by any of the original actors! So even though he has an amazing screen presence, we don’t get to hear his voice. We should always hear Christopher Lee’s voice!
I have the Kino Classics remastered edition that comes with an Italian or French track with subtitles, or English dubbing. I chose Italian since I’m familiar with the language already. This edition also has about ten minutes that were cut by censors.
Menliff is a sadist who drove a servant girl to suicide when he refused to marry her. He left his family’s castle in a vague Eastern European country and returned, allegedly to congratulate his brother, Christian (Tony Kendall) on his marriage to Kurt’s former fiance, Nevenka (Daliah Lavi).

Upon returning, he immediately resumes his sadomasochistic relationship with Nevenka, reminding her that she always enjoyed violence.

That is, until he’s found dead with a knife in his throat. The same knife that the servant he seduced used to kill herself. Who killed Kurt? Everyone in the castle has a motive, from Kurt’s father to the mother of the dead servant girl. What’s more, the people who Kurt claimed hated him start turning up dead. Nevenka claims to have seen the ghost of Kurt, who still sports red blood from his slit throat. Kurt manages to whip Nevenka even as a specter.

The major theme of this movie is repression. Nevenka represses her true feelings for Kurt. She knows she should hate him for what he did to the servant girl, especially now that she’s married to Christian, but she can’t resist Kurt.

The castle appears cold and damp. It’s mostly furnished in cold blues and blue-grays, but there are spots of red, suggesting hidden emotions and passion.
Secrets abound in the castle, from the literal secret passage that Kurt knows of to his father’s room, to the secret love that Christian has for the servant girl, Katia (Isli Oberon).
Color is such a major part of Mario Bava’s work. This movie features a very muted version of Bava’s aesthetic. The lighting is very toned down compared to Bava’s other works, with muted cool blues and occasional flashes of red. The lighting in this movie said more than the words in the script. Scenes and actors tended to be lit with the cool blue light, sometimes tending towards green, but when something tense was happening, the lighting would change to more warm, natural-looking light.
Here’s Nevenka in her room as Kurt haunts her;

When Nevenka is involved with Kurt the light tends to start more warm and natural and turns more red and lurid, especially when it’s on Kurt, suggesting their passion, violence, and destructive relationship.
See an emotional Nevenka at Kurt’s burial;

And check out Kurt in one of his final scenes with Nevenka;

It’s interesting that Kurt’s burial scene features actors in warm colors and more red imagery, considering how much blue is used throughout the rest of the movie.

Along with the more muted color, by Bava standards, the gore is also toned down. There are multiple whipping scenes and several scenes with slit throats but don’t expect buckets of blood.
The movie was interesting enough but it’s not my favorite Bava picture. It felt almost like a parody of one of the API Corman-Poe movies or a Hammer parody. Honestly, the sexual nature of the movie is what keeps it more interesting than a lot of gothic horror from this time period. This movie doesn’t feel like a typical Bava film but is still an interesting, weird gothic movie. I’d say it’s worth it if you’re a Christopher Lee fan because, although he doesn’t have many scenes he brings a distinct menacing presence to the movie.

Posted in 1960's, classics, foreign, ghosts, psychological, thriller | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Audition by Ryu Murakami

My Halloween marathon of the Halloween series kind of failed but I’m back with a book review. If you’ve been reading my blog long enough then you know how much I love the movie Audition.

Kiri-kiri-kiri-kiri.

Kiri-kiri-kiri-kiri.


I was so happy and surprised when one of my friends told me that it was based on a 1997 book by Ryu Murakami.
audition-cover
When she asked if I wanted to borrow it my reaction was something like, “Hell yes! Sign me up!”
The plot of the movie is remarkably similar to the movie. Aoyama is a widower with a teenage son. He’s looking to remarry at the urging of his son. His friend, Yoshikawa, suggests holding auditions to meet the perfect woman. This is how he meets Asami, a beautiful but troubled and dangerous younger woman. He falls head over heels in love with her despite the warnings of Yoshikawa who’s suspicious of her.
The book is short at only 190 pages and borders on being a novella. I can’t speak for how it reads in Japanese but the prose in the English translation is incredibly stark. Murakami spends little time on adjectives and spends more time on building the characters, especially Aoyama. In the movie, Aoyama is older, not ugly but dorky and out of step. In the book, he’s alienated from contemporary Japanese culture and spends his time reminiscing about the past. His work and hobbies are mostly focused on the past, whether it’s listening to classical music or convincing a renowned pipe-organist to come to Japan for a concert.
In the movie, after Aoyama and Asami spend a night together at a resort, Asami disappears and he never sees her again until she hunts him down and tortures him. What I liked better in the book is how explicit it is about how much Asami’s disappearance hurts Aoyama. He searches for her for months and you really see him deal with the depression of losing someone he’s in love with without an explanation that he can understand.
There are two scenes in the book that get treated very differently in the movie and I thought that was an interesting contrast. I’m talking about the sex scene between Asami and Aoyama and the scene where Asami tortures Aoyama.
First, the sex scene. It’s incredibly brief but uncomfortable in the movie. The movie doesn’t really show the sex but you watch the scene and you realize that Asami is really weird. In the book, it’s about ten pages of rough sex and it’s brutal. I don’t mean that it’s rapey, I mean more that it’s between two incredibly damaged, lonely people.
Now, the torture scene. In the book it’s about twenty pages but it’s nowhere near as explicit as the movie. Honestly, the last thirty minutes of Audition are where the movie really shines. Everything in the movie basically leads up to this one part where you find out exactly what happened to Asami and what she does in her free time. It’s beautifully filmed, hallucinatory, and terrifying. What happens in the book feels like an outline but what happens in the movie feels fully fleshed-out.
Here’s the Audition segment from Bravo’s 100 Scariest Movie Moments.

That’s honestly the main critique of the book. It’s so short that it can feel like you’re reading a screenplay. But I also consider that the mark of a successful novel, when you want to know everything about the characters and everything that happens.
I recommend this book for fans of the movie but I’m not sure if it stands alone for people who haven’t seen the movie.

Posted in 1990's, body horror, books, foreign, psychological | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Halloween IV: The Return of Michael Myers

Seventeen more days ’till Halloween, Silver Shamrock! I’m back for the Halloweenening 2016 with my review of Halloween IV: The Curse of Michael Myers.

By this point in the Nightmare on Elm Street series I was starting to get bored with the sequels and my fondness for A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master is based almost entirely on nostalgia. In contrast, I found this to be a completely solid horror sequel. It’s not innovative the way the original was but it isn’t boring and has some genuinely creepy moments.
This movie was supposed to be another anthology entry, like last week’s Halloween III: Season of the Witch but the movie performed so poorly that the producers wanted to bring Michael Myers back. As much as I enjoyed Halloween III, I can understand people wondering where Michael Myers went. This really iconic character was introduced in two movies and then just disappears. John Carpenter worked with Dennis Etchison, who’d written Halloween novelizations to write a script but it was deemed too cerebral. So Carpenter and his frequent collaborator, Debra Hill, sold the rights, and this is how we have a fairly standard slasher sequel. I kind of wonder if there’s a place in the multiverse where Carpenter and Hill’s version exists. Halloween IV was good but I will always wonder what their sequel would look like.
The movie returns to Haddonfield. The opening has some great, desolate shots that are pretty creepy. You find out that Laurie Strode is dead. Halloween IV came out in 1988 and by this time, Jamie Lee Curtis was ready to walk away from the series. So we follow her daughter, Jamie (Danielle Harris), who is coping with the death of her parents and nightmares of a strange man. She lives with a foster family in Haddonfield.
Michael Myers (George P. Wilbur) remains in a coma after the events of Halloween II. He’s being transferred to Smith’s Grove and Dr. Loomis is NOT supervising this transfer. You know that if Dr. Loomis (Donald Pleasence) were there that Michael Myers’ arms would be strapped down with chains, duct tape, and rope. Nope, his arms are unrestrained during the transfer, so, as the ambulance attendants talk about his still living niece, he springs to life and just murders everyone. His real target is Jamie but any living human being between him and her is a target.
Watching this movie, I realized that I accidentally lied about not having seen the later Halloween sequels. There’s a scene where a bunch of jerk children from the 80s are teasing Jamie for being an orphan and not celebrating Halloween when I realized that I’d absolutely seen this movie, so TBS or TNT must have shown it at least once.
This is the third time Michael Myers has escaped so this time the entire town of Haddonfield is on lock-down. That’s a cool idea that you don’t really see in the Nightmare on Elm Street series. Although, so much of A Nightmare on Elm Street is spent convincing adults that something awful is happening that I can’t imagine a whole town going into lock-down for Freddy.
Jamie’s foster sister, Rachel (Ellie Cornell), does everything she can to protect Jamie but there’s some incredibly unsubtle foreshadowing about Jamie’s future.

Yeah, that’s the same costume a young Michael Myers wore. I’m not like Dr. Loomis, I’m not normally the kind of person to dismiss a child as pure evil, but those old-timey, Pagliacci and Harlequin-style clown costumes are eight hundred times scarier than a regular clown costume, and any child that willingly chooses such a costume is devilish. Jamie dreams of Michael Myers but she doesn’t know who he is. Her fate is tied to his in a way that I don’t think is explained until Halloween VI: The Curse of Michael Myers. I remember nothing of Halloween V or Halloween VI, unless I watched them in a fugue state like this movie, so I can’t explain further how or why Jamie and Michael Myers are connected, aside from genetics. Regardless, the movie ends with Jamie reenacting Michael’s crimes and killing her foster mother.

I would have liked seeing Rachel fight Michael Myers more, honestly. She seems resourceful but the struggle between her and Michael isn’t nearly as painful as the fight between Michael and Laurie. Instead, we mostly see Michael dispatch a house full of people and fighting Rachel is an afterthought. She does survive a drop off a roof, though. And speaking of surviving long falls, I’m beginning to think that Dr. Loomis has some of Michael’s immortal evil in him. Not only did he survive being stabbed by Michael, then being immolated in Halloween II, Michael throws him out of an elementary school window in this movie and he seems mostly okay. This is a 75-year-old psychiatrist, not Macho Man Randy Savage.
The pacing in this movie is similar to the faster pacing of Halloween II but it doesn’t have as many P.O.V. shots. The movie makers were smart to stick with a synth-y score that retains the original theme.
All in all, this is a fun, entertaining movie, without being groundbreaking art. It’s good, but I wonder what could have been if Carpenter and Hill had been involved.
As I watch this series, I think that Michael Myers is becoming my favorite slasher icon. There’s an irrational chaotic evil to Michael Myers that I appreciate. As Dr. Loomis is hitch-hiking to fight Michael he’s picked up by a preacher who says, “You can’t kill damnation, Mister! It don’t die like a man does.” Freddy Kreuger is looking for vengeance and Jason Voorhees is trying to avenge his mom, but Michael Myers has little reason to exist (Until we learn about the Curse of Thorn. As of now, he has no reason to exist). Bad, traumatic things just randomly happen in life and so does Michael Myers.
Previously on the Halloweenening 2016
Halloween III: Season of the Witch

Posted in 1980's, famous movie monsters, halloween 2016, killer kids, serial killers, slasher | Tagged , , , , | 3 Comments

Halloween III: Season of the Witch

Every year, I basically miss Halloween because my mortuary school finals for the fall semester tend to fall around Halloween. My semesters tend to start early and run very short. So, I wont be dressing up this year, but, dangit, I miss watching movies for Halloween. I can’t really do a marathon because I’m still in the midst of school, but I figured I could do one movie a week. And what’s more Halloween than the Halloween series? This has the benefit of being a series of movies that I’m not really familiar with. It’s strange, I know that the A Nightmare on Elm Street and Friday the Thirteenth series got a lot of play on t.v. when I was young but I never really noticed the Halloween series on t.v. This is doubly true for Halloween III: Season of the Witch.


Halloween III: Season of the Witch is the Civil War of the Halloween series, it turns friends against friends and family against family. People either love it or hate it.
Some background might be helpful. John Carpenter and Debra Hill wrote the first two Halloween movies. They were reluctant to make a third movie but they had ideas for other movies centered around weird events happening around Halloween. Halloween III: Season of the Witch was supposed to be the first of several movies focusing on Halloween weirdness without Michael Myers but its initial box office run was poor. So it was decided to resurrect Michael Myers and the world has lost what could have been multiple, weird Halloween stories. Make no mistake, this movie is damn weird in the best way. It’s like a sci-fi witch movie or if Lord Summerisle from The Wicker Man had robots and a computer. On the plus side, it’s great seeing this movie become a cult classic.
Tom Atkins stars as Dr. Challis. He starts investigating the circumstances of an odd murder-suicide that occurs at the hospital where he works. With the victim’s daughter, Ellie (Stacey Nelkin), Dr. Challis uncovers the sinister secret of the Silver Shamrock Novelties Company. It turns out that Conal Cochran (Dan O’Herlihy, I knew I recognized him, he was Andrew Packard on Twin Peaks) worships the old Celtic gods and needs a sacrifice to bring them back.
I know I’ve said this already but this movie is just damn weird. It has this very old fairy-tale kind of horror merged with what was considered emerging technology for 1982. I truly don’t think I’ve seen a story that’s merged technology with the old gods in quite this way.
I can see why people find this movie off-putting, aside from the utter lack of Michael Myers. It has a moderate anti-consumerist/anti-media message that I’m not sure if 1980s America wanted to hear, especially from a movie in the Halloween series.
Do kids still get yelled at for sitting too close to the t.v.? This feels like it was a very 1970s through 1980s concern parents had, but I know I definitely was scolded for that. There are loads of closeups on the t.v. and the title sequence is actually a super-closeup on the t.v.
halloween3titlecard
You can almost feel the static electricity buzzing your nose just looking at that. The Silver Shamrock advertisements make Dr. Challis’ children pretty mindless and this is before the supernatural element is even added.
The family that we see Cochran test his sacrifice technology on, the Kupfers, are pretty much the embodiment of mindless consumption. They’re tacky, loud, and shallow, although I’m not necessarily sure this warrants being sacrificed to the elder gods.
This movie is almost like a proto-They Live, with the distrust of what everyone else accepts. It also has this meta element, with the movie Halloween playing at several points within the movie. So, it’s a movie about Halloween, produced by the maker of the movie Halloween, with the movie Halloween playing within it. It’s also set in Santa Mira, the town where Invasion of the Body Snatchers was set.
I ended up enjoying this movie immensely, it’s the techno-pagan movie that I didn’t know I was missing from my life. The pace is pretty good, it still has John carpenter’s creepy synths that are pretty much perfect for the story being told, and it’s moderately gory. It’s not Michael Myers stabbing teenagers gory, but Cochran’s henchmen like to gauge eyes.
Guys, have a happy Halloween!

Posted in 1980's, fantasy, halloween 2016, sci-fi, supernatural, witchcraft | Tagged , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Don’t Breathe

I’m back and I’m reviewing this summer’s most talked-about thriller, Don’t Breathe directed by Fede Alvarez. This is probably going to be my last hurrah since school starts in two days, I’m still working, and I’m officially on-call to work on my clinicals for mortuary school. I’m glad I got to see an amazing movie before my nose is back to the grindstone.
Before I start the review, I’d like to give a shout-out to Otto’s Tacos at 141 Second Ave. in New York City. I went there for post-movie tacos and churros with my best friend. The shrimp tacos were outstanding. There was a problem with our order of churros so they gave us a fresh order with extras. I was not expecting this many churros! The staff was nice and the food was great without being pricey so if you want good tacos on the east side then go to Otto’s.

We were expecting two or three churros but got a damn basket full of them.

We were expecting two or three churros but got a damn basket full of them.


I saw this poster at the movie theater (City Cinemas Village East, a really swell little theater) but there’s another one I’d rather discuss.

Can we take a moment to discuss this poster?

I know I’m a bit of a broken record when it comes to poster design, but the late 1990s into the early 2000s were such a dead zone for poster design. I love Wes Craven but I wonder if it’s something to do with the movie Scream because that movie had the famous poster with the super-closeup of the character’s face and suddenly every movie poster was like that. Now, this poster is the kind where you can learn something about the movie instead of just telling you who it stars. I wonder if filmmakers who are close to my age (Fede Alvarez is five years older than me) remember how great poster and VHS artwork were in the 80s and are emulating that style. This poster looks like the kind of movie you’d choose at the rental store and you’d have to bargain with your mom before she let you rent it.
I also realized the poster reminded me of something but it took me a couple of days to put two and two together. It’s very similar to the poster for another Wes Craven flick, The People Under the Stairs.

Incidentally, this is also a movie about poor people robbing rich people although I have a lot more sympathy for the robbers in The People Under the Stairs. In Don’t Breathe, Rocky (Jane Levy from Alvarez’s remake of Evil Dead), Money (Daniel Zovatto), and Alex (Dylan Minnette) rob rich people using information and keys that Alex gets from his father’s home security company. Rocky wants to run away with her sister from her family who are one step away from being Rob Zombie movie awful. They think they’ve found an easy score with nameless Blind Man (Stephen Lang), a blind veteran with a large settlement from his daughter’s wrongful death. Unfortunately for them, the Blind Man is physically formidable, smart, and mentally unhinged. Also, the Blind Man’s house is like Jame Gumb’s house if Jame Gumb cared less about couture and more about death traps. I can’t really say more about the story without giving away major spoilers.
Now, for those who are unfamiliar, The People Under the Stairs follows the protagonist named Fool. His mother has cancer and his family has just been evicted from their apartment by their slumlord landlords. Like in Don’t Breathe, Fool and his sister’s boyfriend decide to rob their landlord’s house because they supposedly have a stash of gold. I have greater sympathy for Fool because the stakes are so much higher for him. His mother is dying, their apartment is no longer theirs, and it’s not like he can just go out and get a job. I have a harder time mustering sympathy for the protagonists in Don’t Breathe, especially Alex. Alex’s character acts morally superior but he’s betraying his own father with every heist. At least Money is forthright about what they’re doing.
The movie was incredibly tense. It felt much quicker than its full length because I was so fully engaged with it. The cinematography was intense, especially when the gang first breaks into the Blind Man’s house. It captured how disorienting it must have been to be in this stranger’s house.
The music accented the action well and was actually quite beautiful while maintaining the tension. Plus, there were very few musical jump scares which is nice.
The visual effects were nice and very different-looking from the ones used in Evil Dead. Don’t let anyone say that Alvarez is a one trick pony. The makeup on Stephen Lang was also quite good, his scars and eyes looked painful but subtle.
The fight scenes were brutal and intense. One scene in particular gripped me, after the Blind Man discovers the gang in his house. He just starts punching the wall and that’s when you realize that he’s not just prepared to defend his home, he’s full of rage. I also liked a sequence in the basement after the Blind Man cuts the lights on the gang. What’s hunting someone in the dark to him? He already lives in the dark. The sequence definitely owes a bit to one of my favorite scenes in The Silence of the Lambs.

SilenceClariceNightvision
I like movies that make me think about the characters and ask questions about their lives. The Blind Man is such a compelling character for someone who doesn’t even have a name. Think about this, we’re given a clue to his daughter’s name (“Emma” is written on a wall in a bedroom in his house), but it’s like this guy is so forgotten by society that he doesn’t even get a name. Make no mistake, he does absolutely monstrous things that I won’t discuss because that is spoiler-heavy. But, at one point he had a family and people who loved him and that he loved. Where’s his wife? Does he have no friends left? Society has failed everyone in this movie but especially the Blind Man. People don’t just wake up monsters. I was actually so sad for him when I noticed that his daughter’s picture was upside down in one scene.
For me, there were two weak points. One was Money’s dialog. It didn’t sound convincing. I live in a neighborhood that isn’t as blighted as the Blind Man’s but is still pretty awful (A really bad major city in New Jersey). His dialog sounded the way people who aren’t from the hood think people in the hood talk.
The other weak point was this quirk with the cinematography. The camera would pan, then stop and focus on an object for slightly longer than necessary. Then you’d see the object come into play in a later scene. It was like this; “Pan across a workbench. Stop and focus on a hammer and hold for five seconds.” It was like being in a video game when an object is slightly highlighted so you know that Lara Croft can use it to solve an Incan puzzle. It was jarring and took me out of the moment.
What makes up for these issues are the actors’ performances. They were all believable. Jane Levy is put through the ringer (again after Evil Dead) but she makes a formidable Final Girl. Despite my criticism of the characters and dialog, Daniel Zovatto and Dylan Minnette bring a sincerity to their roles. They could have gone for stereotypes but didn’t. Stephen Lang brings a brutal gravitas to the role. A lesser actor could have dismissed the character and made it a cookie-cutter horror role. Here’s a quote from his recent Reddit AMA;

First thing in research is looking at behavior. You can find blind people doing extremely extraordinary things on the internet – jumping out of planes, driving cars, doing sculpture. It’s not what I was going to be doing but it makes you wonder – one can perceive blindness as a tremendous disability or explore all the different ways one can excel at being blind. I threw that into my internal mix, conceiving working through the phases of despair and self pity after his combat injuries, to work through that and arrive at a place of resilience and forward progress where he decides to not only survive but to assert himself. That was a great thing to learn. Many things contributed to the role, and it was very important to me to be familiar with the geography of my home. Moving through the house with speed and economy and confidence I was able to establish my sense of mastery over my own universe – which is vital – the king of the darkness as it were.

I’ve seen the Blind Man compared to the shark from Jaws but I think that Michael Myers is a better comparison. You can stab Michael Myers with a knitting needle, a knife, and a coat hanger, and then you can have Dr. Loomis shoot him six times but he always comes back. So does the Blind Man.
Do I recommend this movie? I do, it was an interesting, unique thriller. Honestly, my best friend and I guessed what the twist was going to be and we were right. But I’ve also watched and written about 231 horror movies, so that’s probably just my familiarity with the genre and not a reflection on the movie.
When people find out that I love the horror genre, the number one complaint I hear is “Nothing new is being made!” Well, this is new and unique. There are many compelling new horror films being released but people might just be looking for them in the wrong places.
If you’ve seen the movie and want to discuss it, feel free to do so in the comments. If you haven’t seen this movie then don’t read below this point.

Posted in 21st century, crime, psychological, things involving me, thriller | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Hellbound: Hellraiser II

Why do I do this to myself? If you know me, then you know that my relationship with Pinhead is complicated. He scares me but I respect his swagger. I really got lucky with this movie, then, since Pinhead has maybe fifteen minutes of screen time.
This sequel to the original Hellraiser is directed by Tony Randel with Clive Barker staying on as executive producer. If this movie had a theme, I’d say it was the banality of evil because the bad guys in this movie are so dang banal.
The movie starts with a two-minute flashback that I call “Pinhead: Origins.” An army guy (that I only know is Elliot Spencer because I’m familiar with the Hellraiser universe, I don’t think we even hear his name in the movie for over an hour; Doug Bradley plays Elliot Spencer and Pinhead) solves the Lament Configuration (Fancy name for the Rubik’s Cube O’ Death) and we see a quick montage of him becoming Pinhead.
Then forget that you saw that because we’re back in the present. It’s right after the events of the last movie and Kirsty Cotton (Ashley Laurence) is in a mental hospital after telling her account of what happened to her dad, stepmother, and uncle.
HellboundKirsty
She begs Dr. Channard (Kenneth Cranham) and his assistant, Kyle (William Hope, who played Gorman in Aliens to destroy the mattress that her stepmother Julia (Clare Higgins) died on.

Dr. Channard

Dr. Channard

It seems like Dr. Channard doesn’t believe Kirsty but he’s actually been searching for a way to solve the Lament Configuration. Why? Who knows. He says it’s to understand. It seems like he wants to understand consciousness and death but opening an S&M torture hell dimension seems a little extreme. This is a problem the movie has, the character’s motivations never seem clear. At one point, reanimated Julia dubs herself the Evil Queen, but why? What is she even working towards?
Dr. Channard runs home and summons Julia from the beyond pretty quickly. Like Uncle Frank in the last movie, it just takes some blood. Julia shows up in a much more complete state, just missing her skin. The effects with the body horror really shine, even if they suffer the same jerky stop motion in other sequences. The body horror is top-notch.
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Meanwhile, Kirsty is receiving Hell-o-grams that her dad is trapped in Hell and is as skinless as a Lean Cuisine chicken dinner.
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Luckily, Kyle has witnessed Julia’s return and realizes that Kirsty was telling the truth. Dr. Channard falls for Julia pretty immediately, despite her utter lack of skin and clearly being evil.
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This is what I mean about the banality of evil with these characters. They’re motivated to total, unrepentant evil, over the littlest things. At least Voldemort had a master plan and wasn’t just thinking with his Voldepenis.
Kyle springs Kirsty from the hospital and he discovers that Julia’s been feeding on patients that Dr. Channard has provided. Julia dispatches Kyle and attacks Kirsty. When Kirsty wakes up, she finds another patient, Tiffany (Imogen Boorman), who’s obsessed with puzzles, solving the Lament Configuration.
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The Female Cenobite (Barbie Wilde) is all for claiming Tiffany but Pinhead is all, “No! It’s not the hands that summon, it’s desire.” So there is a kind of logic to the universe, I appreciate that. Also, this doesn’t happen until 51 minutes into the movie. For almost an hour, this is the Julia and Channard Show. Apparently, Hellbound: Hellraiser 2 was commissioned within a week of the original Hellraiser being released. But Clare Higgins didn’t want to return as Julia and the filmmakers realized how popular Pinhead was. Hellbound was supposed to have the last appearance of Pinhead. Thank goodness they changed this, since Julia’s desires are just so petty, and I find Pinhead to be much more interesting. I’ll continue to watch Hellraiser movies, even though Pinhead scares me, if I can learn more about his origins.
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Kirsty enters hell to try to find her father, and Tiffany is wandering in this fantastic, circus-like hellscape. There’s a clown juggling eyeballs and a baby sewing its own eyelids shut. The scene has this jarring, dissonant music that’s just great. I’d post pics but Netflix sent me a funky DVD and I had to switch from my computer’s player to my DVD player. So no screencaps of this really cool scene, just trust me, it was one of my favorites and terribly creepy.
Dr. Channard and Julia are wandering in his quest for knowledge with absolutely no further explanation of what he wants aside from sex with Julia, who’s lost her power mullet from the first movie.
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But this is Julia and she’s eternally devious and was just looking for a soul to give to Leviathan, who I guess is the big bad of the dimension. Dr. Channard is taken by this human-sized puzzle box and for a brief moment looks like this Francis Bacon painting, “Figure with Meat.” I guess those art history classes weren’t pointless.
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Meanwhile, Kirsty has found her dad’s house but Uncle Frank is really there. He tricked Kirsty because his torment is being surrounded by beautiful women but being unable to have sex. Reeeeeeeally? That’s his torment? How did he even get through high school… Julia saves Kirsty by destroying Frank, not out of any affection, mind you, but in revenge for Frank stabbing her.
You think Dr. Channard is dead but it looks like he’s become Pinhead Two: Electric Boogaloo and he’s ridiculous. He has these worm penis-things coming from his hands and he has this biomechanical robotic penis coming from his head. The worst part? He somehow kills all the Cenobites. There’s something so pathetic watching Pinhead die, although I suspect he wouldn’t have died if Kirsty hadn’t reminded him of his mortal identity.
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Julia loses her skin. Literally, it comes off like taking off rubber gloves. Kirsty is out of commission and Channard is advancing on Tiffany when Julia shows up again, looking a little worse for the wear. They kiss and it’s an uncomfortably long scene, seriously, it’s about two minutes long. Tiffany solves the puzzle box that’s been bouncing around and it turns out that that wasn’t Julia at all. Kirsty put on Julia’s damn nasty skin to save herself and Tiffany. The two-minute long kiss bought them time. Solving the puzzle box kills Dr. Channard and they return home.
But that damn mattress is there and a workman emptying Channard’s house gets sucked into it. Would someone please, PLEASE, just destroy the murder mattress?
My favorite part of this movie? Kirsty Cotton. Nancy Thompson and Laurie Strode get a lot of attention as final girls but I think Kirsty is so resourceful, especially for someone facing the actual powers of Hell.
I’m pretty scathing in this recap and I know this is going to upset some horror fans but I stand by what I said. While the effects were good (Some of them. A lot suffered from the stop-motion scorpion demon effect from the first movie, especially the penis worm hands) the plot was muddled and the character’s motivations were mostly unclear, especially regarding the bad guys. The performances of the baddies were good but I just couldn’t care about anything they wanted. I love Clive Barker’s writing but this movie is a mixed bag. Just because something is considered iconic doesn’t mean it’s good. I only recommend this movie if you’re a Hellraiser completist. I’m a completist so there’s a good possibility that I’ll watch the whole damn series, no matter how terrible it becomes. I expect my suffering will be legendary, even for hell.

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