It Watches opens to a car driving down the winding road, followed by two motorcycles. The bright daylight and smooth music feels different from other Dave Parker films, however his name is all over the credits with him writing, directing and editing the movie so I have great confidence and indeed, inside the car we got a couple of guys talking about working on a reality TV show. Characters in the entertainment industry doing scary stuff is a staple of Parker’s work and I feel like I’m back on familiar territory.
Arriving at the house where he is spending a getaway weekend, our main character, his arm in a sling, is struck by an eerie bout of déjà vu. We explore the house with its featureless walls and Gothic chandelier and he begins to video diary so as to let us know what exactly is going on here. Indeed, the entire film will be a mixture of found footage and traditionally shot – not necessarily leaning to heavily one way or the other.
Occasionally we get glimpses of cameras hidden in the corners, but it’s not until 18 minutes in that we really see someone is watching him through those cameras. They note the arrival of a woman to the house.
The peril and paranoia start up shortly after that my neighbor drops by and the girlfriend vanishes. The film really begins to gain speed just before its halfway mark turning into a frantic paranoid descent laced with off-kilter camera angles and occasional jump scares. This movie demands your attention. Frequently the creepiest elements happen in the background, and you’ll miss it if you’re not paying attention. This is not a film to put on for background noise or to watch while you do something else. With this movie, Parker shows s real interest in the subtle and in a more holistic approach to storytelling where things not front and Center are just as important as everything the camera is focused on.
If I have any complaints it’s that the twist at the end feels a little sudden and clumsy, but nevertheless it’s evidence of growth as a filmmaker. This is a maturation of artistry, and attempt to build suspense and create scarce without throwing gallons of blood on the screen. It’s a departure, but it’s a good one and I’m glad to see Parker showthese kind of chops – even though I kind of miss the monsters and blood.
I genuinely want to see more from this director, and I hope everybody reading this will run out and support his current projects as well as any upcoming ones because this is definitely one of those kind of directors horror really deserves
The zombie walk at the Five O’Clock is one of my staples. It happens twice a year and I always try and hit at least one, if not both events. The past couple years I’ve frequently had conflicts for the spring one (though I did make it last year as Slimer) so it was nice to be back on my old stomping grounds here.
The event started with a costume malfunction. As I walked the half block from my car to the bar, something snagged on the bottom of my left monkey foot. The bottom ripped right off. While the top of the shoe still held and covered the top of my foot, I spent the entire walk with only my sock to walk in. You might say I lost my SOLE at the monster walk.
Over the last few years I’ve noticed attendance has been dipping. It always made me sad to see fewer people at these events and I had wondered if perhaps it’s time had passed. This time around though, the attendance had actually increased, with a healthy horde of monsters ready to invade Lakewood. Indeed, while there were still some familiar faces missing, it was cool to see some friends that don’t usually make this event. The evil clowns Sickin and Scurvy showed up. I know Scurvy’s alter ego Unidrone Cosplay from the convention circuit – particularly Fantasticon where she and her partner won the costume contest in their Five Nights at Freddy’s suits. They’d driven two hours from thier home in central Ohio to be with us Saturday. Also in attendance was the redoubtable James T. Quirk. Jim is an old friend and occasionally works with me in Heroes United. He’d donned an appropriate red shirt before zombieing up for the walk.
There were more kids than ever. This one in particular is a family freindly walk. I’ve brought my own kids from time to time. They’re getting older now, but the number of really small children there was amazing. One of the things that is such great fun about this sort of event is watching the creepy monster kids just running around and being kids. Chasing each other, trying to catch the drone, harassing the clowns. There was a kid Pennywise in dirty black and orange that was obsessed with my gorilla suit.
I’ve got to admit, it was one of those days where I really didn’t want to get out of bed. i’d debated going all day, but in the end I like these kind of events. We raised a lot of money and canned goods for the Cleveland food bank, and I got to pull the Gorilla out of my closet to do so.
I expect to be back in the fall.
Every Wednesday and Friday
Right off the bat I feel like they wrote the songs for this first and then tried to figure out a movie around it, throwing in whatever character they could make work. It’s not actually that far fetched when you consider the cast is made up of mostly singers – Kelly Clarkson, Charlie XCX, Nick Jonas, Even Pitbull is in there hamming it up as Uglydog. The thing is, when I go to a musical (and this is certainly NOT being advertised as a typical Disney style musical. it’s on the poster, but nowhere in the trailers) I expect showtunes (maybe that’s just my twenty years in theatre talking). This is packed with Youtube friendly pop songs, and the various scenes seem like set pieces designed to get us from one song to the next. Even my kids noticed it, and it was their main complaint.
It’s a simple story about your flaws making you beautiful and valuable. Longing for an owner to love, our uglydoll heroine Moxie leaves Uglytown with a group of friends and they spend the film trying to pass Quality Control testing led by a meglomaniac Aryan doll who is determined to keep the uglydolls tucked away out of sight in Uglytown or worse yet – RECYCLED! It’s a safe and typical kids movie storyline that hits all the required beats and that we’ve seen a hundred times before (in this year alone).
What makes this so disappointing is how much this feels like a missed opportunity. I was a young parent when the Uglydolls came out. There was something rebellious and edgy about them. IceBat was my daughters favorite toy before their popularity skyrocked. Even the presidant’s daughters had Uglydolls (for the record, my kids had them first. Barry was obviously copying ME.) This would have been the perfect opportunity to create a subversive comedy – something like the Muppets back in the 80’s. Something edgy and sharp that adults would get, while the kids have fun watching the silly characters. Once in a while we get a post modern gag like the Oliver! homage, but that’s about as close as it gets. Uglydolls is as safe and typical as can be. That’s a shame because Uglydolls aren’t really a thing anymore. Even three years ago, the name alone might have been enough to carry them over the finish line, but in 2019, the brand has kind of run out of gas. Small children may dig it as a one-time afternoon diversion, but this cookie cutter entry into the already oversaturated kids film market does nothing to distinguish itself and likely won’t reignite the popularity of the brand. If anything, it’s the final nail in the coffin.
Uglydolls opens nationwide on May 3rd.
(oh and that “All Dolled Up” number? I already did that YEARS ago!)
Man, that’s some ominous music – and there is no Canon logo here. None of this bodes well.
I’ve got to be honest, I didn’t even know this one existed. And with this kind beginning, it’s very different tone. I’m a little perplexed at what Bronson’s doing at a fashion show… It doesn’t quite read correctly. Still it’s a very 90s sort of intro and look.
Bronson is finally beginning to show his age as well. While in previous films he could pass for 40, in this one he is looking every bit of man in his late 60s and early 70s. It’s a problem, and one that I would usually dismiss… but the truth is the lines on his face are so deep that just a can of hair dye wouldn’t have been enough to make him look younger. The fact that he issurrounded by much younger actors brings their problem into even sharper focus.
Of course Bronson should know better than to ever propose to anyone because it means she is immediately going to be assaulted – though to be fair he probably couldn’t have foreseen her getting her face smashed into a mirror by a transvestite in the ladies room. Like I said, things feel different this time – even that moment where he snaps the chamber back into his vigilante gun, it’s framed differently, almost heroically. Indeed, when I saw the way they were lighting both the previous and following scenes with that dramatic blue lighting – I knew I was in a comic book.
The lawyers, headed by Saul Rubinek, are practically cartoons and the mafiosos are standard issue bad guys with big guns and lots of bullets. Also, don’t forget the obvious stunt men in bad wigs. Hint if the stunt man has his full face on display, you don’t want to show the stunt in slow motion!
Despite all this, it’s the best looking of all the Death Wish films. It’s nicely shot, on great looking sets. A bit of a drag now that Bronson doesn’t start killing people until literally the halfway point of the film. In fact, for an action film it’s actually quite slow. And then, once Bronson finally starts taking the law into his own hands, he’s not shooting! He is using new and innovative ways of dispatching his enemies but that’s not what the deathwish films are all about is it? Acorrding to Brnson’s Loose, he’d begun to tire of the same old thing and really wanted more interesting kills and found a director who agreed with him. It’s weird, even when he does use a gun, it’s not a gunshot that usually kills the bad guy – they fall into a vat of acid or ground up or some other ridiculous whammy. All around it’s just a very different kind of action from what we’ve seen in this series, and I can’t help but wonder if this didn’t contribute to it being a box office failure.
There’s more to it than that of course, this movie was released in 1994, after the death of the over-the-top action film (in my opinion, the last action hero signals the end of that era – and that film was released in 1993). Indeed, Stallone and Schwarzenegger were both trying their hands at comedies, seeing the decline of the action genre. This, combined with a Bronson that genuinely looks too old for the role, then budget, and practically no publicity (I don’t remember seeing a single commercial for this movie – and in 1994 I would have been just old enough to go see it by myself), it’s no wonder the film sunk. It’s not a bad movie in of itself, but it’s an odd sequel and definite direct to video fodder.
So, that wraps up the Deathwish series doesn’t it?
Wait, what do you mean there’s one more film?
Every Wednesday and Friday
Somehow, right from the start, this feels like a Canon film. I don’t know if it’s the low angle, or the leather jacket on Bronson, but this movie definitely want’s you to know exactly what kind of film it is as Bronson guns down three men attacking a helpless woman.
Somehow Paul Kersey has a new family here – and let’s be honest. It’s only ten minuets in and I already know this is going to end badly for them. Sure enough, not even five minuets later the daughter is dead.
Because it’s the end of the 80’s and we’re firmly in formula mode now, this becomes “The Vigilante vs. Drug Dealers”! I kind of liked it better when the bad guys were leather clad punks, but any port in a storm. Bonus points for one of the dealers being Star Trek Voyager’s Tim Russ, not to mention that Danny Trejo’s in this thing as well (two more guys I’ve met over the years!).
It feels like the Punisher more than ever to me. The idea of the Vigilante being hired by a rich patron to wipe out the criminal element. It’s very reminiscent of the Punisher’s “Circle of Blood” storyline. Thre’s stalking, sneaking around and false names. The similarity is only enhanced by the fact that this time around, the Vigilante is going after the mob.
Its interesting to see the police investigation back and trying to find the Vigilante. Even the Architecture background of Paul Kersey is given some lip service, though his identity is still very much more wrapped up in being the vigilante than being an artist.
I can’t help but notice that jokes are starting to get attached to increasingly outrageous kills. “I wish he’d just drop dead!” as a gangster plummets from his apartment building window and plows into a windshield.
It’s one of the more interesting sequels though because just when you think it’s over, there’s a double cross twist waiting to spring. It’s a nice bit of innovation to keep the series fresh. In fact, it’s really got my interest up for the next one.
Every Wednesday and Friday
The Sacred tries to creep us out right from the beginning, with imagery of spiders and blood and eyes over the credits before dropping us into 1709 and Indian (they say Native American, but they sure look Inuit to me) ceremony hosted by a high priest with cockroaches in his being. The creatures that come from the human sacrifice ramp up the creep factor with a satisfying amount of blood before blasting us back into the present day
A group of geology students sail into the wilderness, guided by a mysterious stranger (The doomsayer that’s in evey slasher film). At this point if feels very “Creature From the Black Lagoon”, but I suspect there’s no monsters here – just ghosts. Indeed, upon finding a totem pole, there are strange voices to be heard in the distance.
Creepy things start to happen once they arrive at their cabin. They discover their grounds were a place of judgement, and execution – they’re not the first to come here, but the last group didn’t leave alive. The land remembers, the land haunts and the land kills.
The Sacred is haunting and creepy and beautifully executed – one of the best films in the set. They’re proficient with the gore but don’t over use it. The film relies more on atmosphere to support some really well done kills and creature effects. I’m overwhelmingly impressed with how well directed and shot the film is – it may not be original material, but they play in this familiar sandbox really well, and the bloody antagonists of the climax to the entire film justice. This movie alone it’s worth the price of admission and a great reason to buy this collection.
Every Wednesday and Friday
Ah old Canon films. That familiar logo and the sign of quality as we roll into a gray New York on the bus and finally settle in an abandoned slum inhabited by leather clad punks. Man, it’s about as 80’s as you can get. Also, what is Bill from Bill and Ted’s Excellent adventure doing beating up old men for protection money?
It’s a different kind of start, with the police on Bronson’s case immediately, falsely arresting him and treating us to a jail scene in the first act where he battles an articulate punk that resembles the Kergan from Highlander.
Once Bronson has the blessing of the cops, it’s time to get things started. This film in articular feels more formulaic. We have drug pushing street punks. We know as soon as a girlfriend shows up, she’s going to die. We have an older male mentor. We have revenge for a bit player. A heretofore never-mentioned “old friend” murdered in the first five minuets. It’s all very convenient and formula driven, right up to the swelling music as Bronson looks over his dead friends war medals. The F bombs have increased too.
Seriously though. I’m having a difficult time taking Alex Winter seriously as he tries to be hard.
One of the things this film really gives us though, is a true villian. In previous films, the violence has been more random, and the gangsters scattered; on the run. This time with Tony Spiridakis, we have a villian – a face to the gang. It makes sense too, because t here’s less for us to explre with Paul Kersey in this one. Here, his identity is entirely “The Vigilante”. We’re not even hiding it anymore. There’s no Architect here. There’s no police investigation or mystery, this is The Vilgilante vs. the gangs and that’s it. Automatic weapons and big guns are the order of the day and the body count is at it’s highest.
A couple other notable bit players here. I spotted Ricco Ross. He”s one of these guys I see popping up from time to time – one of the grunts in Aliens, a cop in Wishmaster, and a gangster here. Barbie Wilde (the female cenobite from Hellraiser 2) is in here too. It’s during her punk days and I can’t imagine that look was much of a stretch! Finally, Marina Sirtis from Star Trek the Next Generation shows up as well. She has frizzy hair, a meek personality and is pretty much just a walking prop in this film but it’s an interesting curiosity. Fun fact. I’ve met all three of these people.
Because we’re firmly in the action formula, it’s the biggest, most explosive finale yet and by the end, Bronson’s not alone. Even the citizens of the slum are getting in on the act as the graffitied up neighborhood turns into a war zone.
It leads me to wonder…where do we go from here?
I’ll let you in on a little secret. I wasn’t planning on going back to Woo-Con. It’s not that it’s a bad show -quite the opposite. It’s well-run by fans with lots of heart. But it is a little smaller than I’m comfortable at. However, Maddie had a great time here last year and asked by name to go back this year. She was also eager to show off her new Serena (from Pokemon) costume in an anime environment, and I was interested in exposing her to some new shows, so early on Saturday morning we packed the car and drove down to Wooster, dodging cows all the way.
We checked in and headed straight downstairs to figure out which anime room Card Captor Sakura was running in. The screenings actually feel better organized this year, with two rooms (study rooms in the lower level of the student union with clear walls you can peer into and see what’s playing) dedicated to them instead of the one classroom in the upper level that they split between anime and video games. The gaming room was across the hall, with surfaces for tabletop and card games set up. After the screening of Fairy Tale, we swung by to gawk at the Warhammer miniatures.
Upstairs, panels were back in the same room, along with the improv antics of the Confused Greenies. Watching the improv troupe is one of the highlights of the show for Maddie, who laughed until she had tears in her eyes. I’m familiar with them from ConCoction, but it’s always good to see them, especially here in their second year. The Greenies presented a new skit involving a magical girl trying to fight a supervillian, except his catgirl kept getting in the way. It may be my new favorite of thier stuff.
I’m not sure why they blocked out three hours for the costume contest. Attendance hadn’t grown significantly and even with the extra attention the judges gave each contestant, we were through in an hour or so. While we were prepping, Maddie got recognized from her Youtube channel, something that just made her con. I always say this is my favorite part of cosplay, hanging out with people before a contest. I think Maddie is seeing that too. She talked Pokemon with several other people (mostly college kids, but at a con – age dosen’t necessarily matter) and got to know everyone. She remarked about how friendly everyone is, and I really dig that.
Despite the size, the dealers pack an amazing amount of stuff on those tables. Artists, comics, anime, manga and adorable handmade oddities. I noticed that the line up had changed a bit this year, and ended up grabbing a bunch of pieces at one of the art booths. Maddie came away with a Sakura charm for a keychain that she’s going to make into a necklace.
I actually really like Woo-Con and it was cool to see it was even better run than last year. I’d love to see it grow a little more, but I don’t know if that’s really something they are interested in. Woo-Con remains a quaint little college Anime show and that’s fine just the way it is.
Every Wednesday and Friday
It’s a quick and efficient recap that gets us directly into the film and moves us to this installments atrocity. Paul Kersey is the most unlucky man ever with the same kind of assault happening to his housekeeper in Chicago that happened in New York. After his daughter is kidnapped and dies, the decent into violence is swift, and it almost feels like we race through the first act.
It feels good though. We see him prep and there’s the hat….that knit cap I was completely missing in the first film. It’s a new city and a different gun, but Bronson slips back into the role of vigilante easily and it fits him like a glove.
Hang on. Is that Lawrence Fishbourne??? OMG it is! The pink sunglasses threw me off. (And I remember that mayor or commissioner guy from an episode of the Twilight zone) I mean there’s been volumes written about Jeff Goldbulm in the first one, but I don’t think I actually knew about Fishbourne in this one! It’s very strange to see him dance. It’s also strange to see his brains come out his nose when he gets shot in the face.
I was surprised to see Vincent Gardenia as the cop from the last film show up here (even more surprised to see him buy it in the beginning of the third act). It didn’t seem like the sort of sequel that really requires all of the old cast show up for an encore – after all, it’s a diffrent actress playing the daughter and no other alumni show up.
At times, LA feels like the wrong setting for this. Not as grimy as New York. Even when they find sufficiently seedy areas for action, it’s slicker than I remember with bigger guns and smoother action. Indeed, it makes for almost a textbook sequel. Bigger and louder than the first. More action, more bullets and everything I could ask from a Death Wish film.
Except he asks the girlfriend to marry him at the end. What’s he doing? He just signed that poor woman’s death warrant! Run Jill Ireland! RUN!
Every Wednesday and Friday
For years now, once or twice a year, there have been a couple of houses in Amherst (near Lorain, Ohio) that would do a massive comic book garage sale. There were a block or so away from each other and as time passed, it became an event.
This year they decided to try and take ti to the next level.
LoCo is a mini-comic con, right in my backyard (So to speak) featuring several local vendors, artists and a charity raffle. It feels like just a bit more than a flea market, with a nice fun atmosphere. Heroes United were there to do costumed photos with kids with thier green screen. It was a small building, but the show drew interest and constant foot traffic bringing in people of all ages interested in what they had to offer.
It was a great first year and I hope to see them set up many more times in the years to come.
I trudged back to my car in my monkey feet and bathrobe, head still in my hands. A woman yelled out “Looks like a rough night. You just getting up?”. Her companion shook his head.”Look at him. He’s not getting up. He’s STILL up!”
That’s about right for Wasteland. Late night parties. Early morning ones to – I was actually one my way out after a breakfast party in the snuggle dungeon when I was spotted. Around the corner, my friends Rhonda and Chriss were playing Choking Hazard with a young woman named Brooke. They had thrown out the rules and just kept throwing down cards until they had transformed the Cyanide and Happiness game from a comic strip into almost an animation.
Back inside, Gunga Jim handed out tiny hands before screeing I Eat Your Skin; the bottom half of the traditional bill with this years featured reunion for I Drink Your Blood. Jim’s commentary made I Eat Your Skin almost tolerable, and I realized I’d never actually seen I Drink Your Blood. It’s extremely seventies and while i knew the two movies weren’t related, I never knew HOW different they were. This was the right way to see it though, with an audience.
The cast was having fun meeting the fans, many of which had never done a conention before. This isn’t unusal. Wasteland tries to draw people that other cons overlook. While I waited in line, I helped Mink Stole (One of John Water’s troupe) figure out the camera on her phone.
Tracy the Gorilla was a big hit. Wasteland isn’t really a cosplay show, but when I put together the gorilla ghostbuster, I figured I’d be able to get away with it a couple of horror cons as well as events like ConCoction. It may be the novelty made him more popular at Wasteland. I’ve never taken as many photos with people at this show before.
It’ll be another six months before we go back (though they are starting up the movie nights this August, so yay), and it can’t come soon enough.
Every Wednesday and Friday
The fact that the lights opens with credit in a font that I recognize dismays me a little bit. It’s still keeping with the backwood theme of this set, a dead cow in the grass, and woodland countryside all around with mountains in the distance. The heavy metal music that plays over the post credits baseball game seems out of place though.
We finally get the movie started about 10 minutes in, with a group of twenty somethings on their way to the woods to see the meteor shower. By the time the Jehovah’s Witnesses arrive, I’ve got a pretty good idea of what kind of film this is. It’s a lightly cracked redneck killing intruders in his woods. (or more specifically, anyone who knocks on his door). There’s some clumsily interjected lore about mysterious lights that might drive someone mad but it’s not well explained.
This film is full of weird filler, Like our characters pulling off the side of the road to pet ponies or swim in the creek with soft music overdubbed. It’s weird because a movie like this that’s under 90 minutes shouldn’t actually need filler material. It’s a clumsy attempt to build empathy with our group, but it comes off more as a bunch of cheesy 80’s montages.
At 54 minutes in, things finally start to happen – it’s still slow, but at least the story progresses. I make a point to slog it through to the third act of most horror movies because even if nothing else happens to the entire film, the third act usually picks up. Not so much here. The movie dosen’t really get too much of a climax until the last 10 minutes as our protagonists are slowly dispatched one by one.
There are some decent kills in concepts at play here, but ultimately “The Lights” fails to satisfy. More world building and more competent character development would’ve gone a long way towards salvaging this film.
Every Wednesday and Friday
I’m a fan of Shazam of old. The Superman archetype always appealed to me and he was one of the few characters that had more improvements than missteps in DC’s New 52 reboot. That’s what this film is based off of, but there’s so many easter eggs scattered through this thing that you can very much see it respects the history it comes from (The Rock of Eternity has to be seen to be believed. It’s EXACTLY as I always pictured it).
The film opens with our villian’s backstory, and I’m delighted to see John Glover once again playing a supervillian’s father. It’s just enough to give us a glimpse of what Billy has in store for him while setting up Doctor Sivana’s grudge against the wizard Shazam. Still, the film gets us to Billy Batson quickly enough. He’s not quite as squeaky clean as old fans may be used to, but his edge comes off as roguish and charming rather than gritty. Billy’s superhero obsessed foster brother Freddy Freeman is actually the best version of the character I’ve ever seen and steals every scene he’s in. The chemistry between Billy, Freddy, Mary and the other foster kids is well done and the laughs come often. It’s not the comedy formula we’ve come to expect from Marvel, this is definitely it’s own thing and still dishes up some dark and terrifying monsters just to remind you this is a DC film, but they’ve remembered to bring the fun as well. There’s heart, action, and great pacing. Clocking in at two hours and twelve minuets, I never looked down at my watch once and was genuinely shocked to see how fast the film goes.
If I have any quibbles, it’s that the character of Doctor Sivana is misused. Instead of being an evil genius Lex Luthor type, they power him up into a demonic fisticuffs adversary. It’s enough to make me wonder if this role had actually been written for Black Adam and had to be reworked when Dwayne Johnson couldn’t accommodate the shooting schedule. It’s okay. This villian is visually interesting, with good motive and storytelling as well as being a genuine threat. It’s not the Sivana I know and love, but I dig him for what it is.
The movie is just great. It’s my favorite superhero film in a long time and it feels good to finally see DC hit one out of the park. Go see this. Seriously.
Shazam opens on April 5th, and I’ll be heading back that day…and this time I’m bringing my family with me.
One of the things that I ‘m always struck by in Parker’s work is how he evolves and grows as a filmmaker. The Hills Run Red is the kind of film I almost expect him to make when not bound by the house style of Full Moon. There’s horror and thriller mixed together in this, with a grittier take than the sort of thing we’d seen before with him.
The Hills Run Red is the story of a young filmmaker trying to research and document the making and existence of a notorious cult film by the same name. To this end he tracks down the director’s daughter who is the only surviving cast member (shades of Manos!) and together with his small crew, they make the pilgrimage to where the movie was born.
There’s still buckets of blood and a masked killer in this film, but it’s far more layered than The Dead Hate the Living. It’s not as straightforward a story, and it’s not really until you get to the end that you realize just how much misdirection there’s been here.
Mixing obsession, degradation while it twists the heroe’s journey archtype, the Hills Run Red may just be Parker’s best work.