Sorority House Massacre II

tn_sororityhousemassacre2slashersearch13I didn’t like SORORITY HOUSE MASSACRE, but man, SORORITY HOUSE MASSACRE II is not SORORITY HOUSE MASSACRE caliber. This one is a Jim Wynorski joint, so I guess it’s not really meant to necessarily be a real movie. This is one of the five movies he did between 1989’s RETURN OF SWAMP THING and 1992’s 976-EVIL II. Another one was SCREAM QUEEN HOT TUB PARTY under the pseudonym Arch Stanton. He has his thing he does. He churns them out and has fun and they usually have a little likable goofy humor in them, and then there is the rest of the movie.

In this one, five interchangeable college babes have to spend the night in an old house they have just purchased for their sorority house. The power and phones are not hooked up, there’s no furniture and also the reason they could afford the place is because a bunch of people were murdered there 5 years ago. But they have to stay in this scary place to meet the movers in the morning. (read the rest of this shit…)

Bloody Birthday

tn_bloodybirthdayslashersearch13Here’s a crazy movie. It’s pretty unique but it has many of the standard elements of a slasher movie. It takes place in the world of young people, with adults not really catching on to what’s happening. At the beginning a teen couple are making out in a cemetery and get murdered. At another point a couple we’ve never seen before are having sex in a parked van and get murdered. There is a Final Girl (and Final Little Brother) and like in HALLOWEEN she’s a buttoned up, responsible babysitter with a wilder best friend whose dad is the sheriff.

But there’s not some unseen slasher, or masked maniac, or supernatural force. There’s just three little ten year old kids who are total assholes and love to murder people. They are not quiet, creepy killers like VILLAGE OF THE DAMNED, CHILDREN OF THE CORN or young Michael Myers. They’re seemingly normal kids. The only explanation given is that they were born on the same day, during an eclipse. The Final Girl Joyce (Lori Lethin from RETURN TO HORROR HIGH) studies astrology throughout the movie, so you assume it has something to do with that. They were just destined to go on a murder spree. And to rack up pretty impressive numbers.
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The Purge

tn_purgeWhat if in the near future “unemployment is at 1%, crime is at an all time low, because one night a year” – on March 22nd, for a 12 hour period – “ALL CRIME IS LEGAL!”

You know, everybody gets all their rapes and murders out, everybody does their shoplifting and meth dealing, and public defecating and car theft and kidnapping and arson and all that, just let it loose on that day and unless you want to beat someone’s face in with a crowbar or jack off in front of your neighbors you just stay indoors and out of trouble. And all because of that 12 hours of mayhem the rest of the year the streets are so clean Paul Kersey could eat off ‘em!

Other than on March 22nd, llife would be so much better. And we must consider the value of this trade off. Would an almost-year of peace be worth the dangers and moral complexities of that one day? Thinking about THE PURGE you can’t help but consider the ramifications of trying something like this, ’cause it would obviously work, right? Why haven’t we done this?

Admittedly I have some questions. Are people really goonna postpone all their crimes of passion until that period? Can serial killers hold it in that long? Do mentally ill people know how to schedule when to snap? Can the drug trade get all their work done in one day a year? And what are they gonna do with their 364 day weekend? (read the rest of this shit…)

Machete Kills

tn_machetekillsThere are lots of funny things in MACHETE KILLS. For a while it coasts on enjoyably stupid jokes, like the ridiculous trailer for part 3 of the series that it opens with. Early on it has a little faux-serious melodrama, playing it almost straight when a clash with rogue soldiers, a Mexican drug cartel and an army in lucha libre masks leads to the death of Machete (Danny Trejo, DEATH WISH 4: THE CRACKDOWN, MARKED FOR DEATH)’s partner. I like the setup, with a redneck Arizona sheriff (William Sadler, DIE HARD 2) failing to hang Machete before he gets called in by the president (Charlie Sheen, NAVY SEALS, credited as Carlos Estevez) who offers him citizenship in exchange for doing a dangerous mission. I thought the joke of casting him was to have a guy as crazy as Sheen as the president, like wasn’t Mickey Rourke the president in MASKED AND ANONYMOUS? It honestly didn’t occur to me until seeing him on a White House set that his dad played the president in The West Wing (not to mention playing Kennedy). Anyway, the best part is the idea that this unsavory slasher/wife-and-daughter-fucker/assassin gets to sit in the White House and hear his offer.

Trejo’s face is even more rugged than ever, if possible, and he doesn’t have to joke around. He’s fun to watch just being that same character, but now equipped with various high-tech variations on machetes to chop people up with. Robert Rodriguez (credited as sole director this time, and also with his name above the title, but only a co-story credit) once again fills the movie with a huge, unlikely cast, mostly playing colorful gimmicky characters: Mel Gibson (PAPARAZZI) as a weapon inventor/space cultist planning to blow up the world, Demian Bichir (2012 best actor nominee for A BETTER LIFE) as a revolutionary/terrorist/something, Amber Heard (DRIVE ANGRY) as a government agent undercover as a beauty queen, Walton Goggins/Cuba Gooding Jr./Lady Gaga/Antonio Banderas all playing the same assassin called El Camaleon, Vanessa Hudgens (SPRING BREAKERS) as a girl that’s in one part, Sofia Vergara allowing Salma Hayek some dignity by stepping in to play the deadly Madam character with army of killer prostitutes (see also Lucy Liu in THE MAN WITH THE IRON FISTS, Zoe Bell in BAYTOWN OUTLAWS, etc.) (read the rest of this shit…)

Sorority House Massacre

tn_shmslashersearch13Here’s a much dryer and less fun sorority-pledge-in-house-where-somebody-died-a-long-time-ago movie than KILLER PARTY. Actually, I’m not sure Beth (Angela O’Neill, ALIEN NATION) is technically a pledge. She’s a family friend of the house mother or something? Her aunt who raised her died recently, she’s staying with this lady who’s going out of town and leaving her with the sisters, who are very welcoming and keep saying she’ll like it and want to stay. Like they’re trying to sell her on their sorority instead of scare her away like in other movies.

In the KILLER PARTY review I talked about the fraternity/sorority movies, but this one is different. It might be trying for a more positive portrayal of sororities, but my guess is the rookie filmatists just didn’t put much thought into the story, or just wanted to have “sorority” in the title, because there’s no reason why these girls can’t just be friends or roommates. There is no hazing, no competition, no parties other than an upcoming “Pow Wow” with teepee that never happens, little drinking, less sex than HALLOWEEN. They’re not jerks, they look after each other, or at least after their guest. (read the rest of this shit…)

Anaconda

tn_anacondaThis may surprise you, but I have always wanted to see ANACONDA. It’s a theatrically released, pre-SyFy Channel, early CG giant snake movie with an all star (more so now than then) cast, and I heard pretty good things about it, including a description of the best part of the movie (a famous scene involving Jon Voight) which was convincing. But somehow in all these years I never rented it. And then all the sudden last month Seattle’s S.I.F.F. Uptown screened it in a remastered DCP. The kind of thing I was hoping would happen to make up for all the theaters being forced to switch to digital. You take away our 35 mm, you better give us theatrical re-releases of ANACONDA and shit like that.

Maybe that’s why I never watched it. I was waiting for it to come back to the big screen. Maybe dreams do come true. (read the rest of this shit…)

My new Bruce Willis essay on The Village Voice

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Check out my new Bruce essay on The Village Voice websight (web exclusive – they tried printing it on paper but my writing was so hot it caught on fire). This is basically my response to the anti-Bruce sentiments a few weeks ago when he was in the news for dropping EXPENDABLES 3 and a couple other incidents. Apparently this piece has turned out to be more of a bummer than I intended, and the headline does sound a little harsh. But really I’m just trying to illustrate how much of Bruce’s power in DIE HARD comes from not being a standard action guy, and therefore it makes sense that he’s grown restless with being pushed into the standard action guy slot. It’s a celebration of his talents and unique place in action movie history.

Killer Party

tn_killerpartyslashersearch13American movies of the ’80s were so fascinated with fraternities and sororities. Was that just an offshoot of the popularity of ANIMAL HOUSE? They saw that and realized the Greek system was a good way for a movie to have a bunch of young people drinking beer and having sex?

Maybe that’s all they wanted, but this world also has alot of built-in conflict in the rivalries between fraternities, or (as in this case) the new people going through hazing to try to get accepted. It’s a pretty good microcosm of the way alot of us remember the age of yuppies and Ronald Reagan: you got these good looking assholes in charge, coming from rich families, re-enacting weird fetishistic rituals of cruelty while excluding people different from themselves from their superficial, hedonistic lifestyle. Usually we’re supposed to identify with an underdog or outsider who’s trying to be accepted into this world, not opposing it. Here it’s two good looking girls (Joanna Johnson and Elaine Wilkes as Jennifer and Phoebe) and their quirky bespectacled friend Vivia (Sherry Willis-Burch, whose only other movie was FINAL EXAM) who the sorority sisters clearly don’t like. So there’s that tension that they might turn against her to get in, or after they get in. (read the rest of this shit…)

Curse of Chucky

tn_curseofchuckyThis Chucky series is one-of-a-kind. Of course it all started in ’88 with CHILD’S PLAY, a genuinely effective creepfest that put a drop of contemporary into a classic horror premise. It’s been a while since I’ve watched parts 2 (1989) and 3 (1991), but I remember the second is a pretty solid (if unnecessary) continuation and the 3rd one is, you know, terrible. But in ’98 the series was ingeniously reborn as absurdist horror-comedy with BRIDE OF CHUCKY, directed by Ronny Yu, and in 2004 we got the severely more ridiculous SEED OF CHUCKY, which was a great time at the movies for me and 25 other people around the world.

The constant through all these movies has been Don Mancini, credited with story and co-screenplay on CHILD’S PLAY, sole writer on every single sequel and director of SEED and now CURSE OF CHUCKY. He’s always trying to keep the doll alive so here he is 9 years later doing what he has to do to make a part 6: do it for $5 million dollars, straight-to-video, returning to the roots of it being a serious horror movie about one scary doll instead of a preposterous comedy with a whole family of puppets. The word “reboot” was even used in some write ups since for a while they were planning it as a straightup remake instead of sequel. (read the rest of this shit…)

Gravity

tn_gravityGRAVITY is the new one from Alfonso Cuaron, genius director who hasn’t done one since CHILDREN OF MEN seven years ago. You remember for that he and his criminally award-snubbed cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki (THE TREE OF LIFE, THE CAT IN THE HAT [!?]) devised several completely jaw-dropping long take shots where the protagonists run through these crazy battles and go through all kinds of shit without any visible edits. Remember that scene where the car is rolling down the hill and they get attacked by a band of marauders, or the one where he has to fight his way up the stairs looking for his elephant? Or actually I think one of those was TOM YUM-GOONG. But even so there were some great ones in CHILDREN OF MEN, and for GRAVITY they took that to the next level, doing most of the movie in long unbroken takes. You just stop thinking about it, but apparently the first shot lasts 17 minutes. And this is in an era when 17 seconds without a cut would seem like a long time.

Like AVATAR, this plays like a live action movie but actually has more animation onscreen than organic human flesh. Sandra Bullock and George Clooney play astronauts who are out in their astronaut suits fixing a satellite or telescope or some scientifical type shit when debris from an exploded satellite wrecks the shuttle and kills the rest of their crew. They have no contact with earth, no space ship and limited resources they gotta try to use to get their ass to the International Space Station or whatever. One of those space joints they got up there. Stop me if I use too much technical jargon and what not. (read the rest of this shit…)