Every Wednesday and Friday
Every Wednesday and Friday
Sometimes, I almost forget that Donald Jackson made some fairly legit films. “Hell Comes to Frogtown” is one that even I’ve heard of, though I’ve never seen it before. Still, of Jackson’s filmography, it’s the one that is probably the most recognizable. It’s postapocalyptic, which is right in Jackson’s wheelhouse and looks like it was even filmed in some of the same places he’d use for his Roller Blade series (that’s not surprising. Jackson LOVES his five or so stock locations).
Mutants have kidnapped fertile women, and Rowdy Roddy Piper as Sam Hell ride a shockingly pink truck straight into Frogtown to go and rescue them… and also possibly impregnate them. The role was originally written for a friend of Jacksons, but New World pictures decided that the film need some star power and offered it to Tim Tomperson. I can’t help but wonder how it will be different with him in it. When he passed, New World decided to go with Piper because of Jackson’s previous association with the world of wrestling in his documentary “I Like To Hurt People”. It’s bold casting, considering this is before “They Live” and Piper was an unproven quantity, but he’s actually pretty delightful in this film. I’ve always had a kind of low opinion of him, I’m not into wrestling and I don’t enjoy “They Live” but the way he chews the scenery and goes off on rants here is incredibly amusing. Even more amusing is the high-tech chastity belt they’ve strapped on him to ensure his cooperation. He’s a good pick for the role, his own inherent absurdity matching the lunacy of the film and its premise. Tomperson usually plays characters more straight and I can’t imagine him pulling this off with quite as much fun as paper did.
It’s the bizarre sort of film where women wear camouflage lingerie and fight frogs after all. A world where hot lady frogs throw themselves at Piper, much to his extreme discomfort (Even if she is wearing a bag over her head).
I don’t believe rowdy Roddy Piper for a moment when he says “I’m not just a machine you can turn on and off whenever you want to!” It seems somewhat out of character for him to be so reluctant to knock these refugees up. And yet, he rises to the occasion when it’s time for him to be serious and touching.
“The war was a long time ago,” she tells him. Piper turns and looks at her sadly.
“Not for me…”
I totally buy it.
They make their way into the Frogtown, an abandoned factory complex with Piper’s handler Spangle posing as his prisoner. They are greeted by a sign “Welcome to Frogtown! If you lived here, you’d be home by now! “. Jackson would use this joke again in “The Roller Blade Seven”, with a similar sign in the wheel zone. It wasn’t funny then either.
Inside the bar, we get our first look at the frogs. A go-go dancer struts her stuff on the table as other mutants drink. The make up reminds me a great deal of the lizards from “V”. Piper seeks out somebody to barter with, and encounters a frog in a fez. He’s totally playing Sydney Greenstreet’s Signor Ferrari character from Casablanca, only he’s a frog. Fez Frog serves Piper slightly radioactive beer and kicks off negotiations. There is something slightly disturbing about watching a giant bull frog ask if pipers slave woman can dance, before handing her over to another mutant frog with an eyepatch. It’s these little touches that really sell the characters, and I’m not sure if they’re really meant to be comical or not. The comparison to Casablanca comes into even sharper focus when the deal is busted by the head frog who tells him he’s shut down till further notice!
Everything was going so well until Piper and his handler get captured. Then you find yourself all tied up with a mutant frog holding a chainsaw coming at you.
The good news is, the chainsaw managed to accidentally get piper’s high-tech chastity belt off without hurting him. The bad news is, the belt exploded while the frog was examining it. Actually, I guess that’s good news too… except it didn’t kill him, the detonation just sort of pissed him off. Still, that green blooded such and such doesn’t know who he is dealing with! Piper leas into action, quickly dispatching the frog, then rushing off to save Spangle from the king frog with two wangs.
It’s fun direct to video sort of action, with just enough humor to land jokes and keep things light without turning the film into an out and out comedy. The whole thing has almost a Troma feel to it in its independence. Frogtown makes all the absurdity in it do exactly what it supposed to do… It amuses. It’s fun.
Daniel Jackson always resented the tight rein New World pictures kept in this, but I’m not so sure he should. This is arguably his best film, he seems to do much worse than his own. Despite having a co-director and a co-writer, it’s still distinctly Jackson, with the setting, the fixiation on samurai swords, and the general weirdness of everything. I have to wonder if he’s not better when he has somebody to reign in his wilder ideas. I also for the life of me can’t imagine how he could make a film like this on his future budgets. After all, there’s two sequels that follow this movie. I guess we’ll find out!
Oh crap….is that a MIMIC????
Every Wednesday and Friday
Every Wednesday and Friday
“The meek will inherit the earth!”
“Not without a good lawyer.”
– Deleted line from “Hell Comes to Frogtown”
“Hell comes to Frogtown” is probably the most recognizable film Donald G. Jackson ever made. But it has a long history that goes all the way back to Jackson’t previous film, Roller Blade.
There is a section in L. A. they actually call Frogtown. It seems that back in the 1940s this part of the city was overrun by hordes of Frogs, an event that inspired its name. One of the actors in Roller Blade lived in this area, and Don was on his way up to see him. It was the actor, who’s name was Sam Mann, who came up with the title, Hell Comes to Frogtown. The name intrigued Jackson, and he tucked it away in the back of his mind.
“Crazy titles were getting the be the big thing. You could actually sell a movie on the strength of the title”
The title “Hell Comes to Frog town certainly fit in with the weirdness of other films like “Attack of the Killer Tomatoes” or “Killer Klowns from Outer Space”. It had potential, but was no time to start planning another film though He still had “Roller Blade” to complete as well as his night job to do. Jackson had worked with both Dennis and Bob Skotak (Who would soon become famous for their visual effects work on films like “Aliens”, “The Abyss”, “Terminator 2” and “Escape from New York”) back when they were still in Jackson’s native Michigan. Bob was the first to reach Hollywood (and had actually been the one responsible for hiring James Cameron in to New World). Dennis followed shortly after and Jackson had leveraged these connections to get his current gig at New World Pictures. It was at this night job for New World pictures that Jackson met Randall Frakes. The twilight shift pretty much consisted of the two men and no one else.
“We worked the midnight shift, setting up effects shots for the Skotak brothers to shoot during the day. During that time, Don and I bonded, and he talked about the kind of movies he loved and wanted to make.” Both were fans of old serials like “Flash Gordon”, “Captian Video” and “The undersea Kingdom”. These films would be huge influences on “Hell Comes to Frogtown”. There in the gloom of the FX studio, Frakes and Jackson let their imaginations run wild. “Working night shift, had time while babysiting the computer cameras doing visual effects to come up with all these bizarre concepts, come up an idea for a screenplay about murders happening in a special effects facility”
Meanwhile, Jackson was just about to wrap on “Roller Blade” when he received what he considered to be an omen.
“I was shooting the very last shot of the movie, I turned around and someone a gang memeber or somebody had spray painted on a brick wall the name “Frogtown” and I turned to the actors I was working with and said “That’s a sign. That’s our next movie; Frogtown”.”
He headed back to the studio but made a wrong turn and got lost, eventually finding himself in strange area, overgrown and full of graffiti on the walls. It’s featured in “The Running man” and “Alien Nation”. Jackson dubbed it “Grand Graffiti train station” and flagged down one of the homeless people squatting there. He convinced the bum to take him on a tour to showcase all the points of interest, and that’s where the world of Frogtown started to coalesce in Jackson’s mind.
Back at New World, the accountants were tallying up the profit on Jackson’s direct to video “Roller Blade”. With revenue topping one million dollars, New World decided to call Jackson back in t osee what else he had to offer. Jackson had one word for them. “Frogtown”. New World didn’t even blink. They set him up with a 150,000 budget and assigned the film to home video.
With the movie now greenlit, it was time for Jackson to call Frakes. During those late night FX sessions, Frakes had constantly tried to stress to Jackson the importance of scripting when it came to story. Jackson was ready to make him put his money where his mouth was. They met at a Mexican restaurant where Jackson bought them enchiladas and pitched his idea to Frakes. He had a page full of notes and ideas about a place called Frogtown and a dystopian future where the main character was the only fertile male on the planet, battling mutant people who looked like frogs. Looking down ant the page of ideas, Frakes was transfixed.
“I looked at it and the whole movie—from beginning to end, pretty much the way the first draft was written—just started playing in my head. I looked at the one-pager in a sorta trance for about 15 minutes.”
Frakes broke out of the trance when Jackson pointed out his enchilada’s were getting cold. Jackson was in a hurry to have a script to show to New World. Frakes rose to the challenge and declared he could have a full script delivered to Jackson in a week. Jackson was skeptical, but willing to gamble. He offered Frakes a five hundred dollar bonus if he made the deadline. Frakes accepted the deal, and began work on the script. Jackson followed him home and watched over his shoulder as he pounded out the screenplay on his battered old typewriter.
“It was pure stream of consciousness stuff—something I’ve never been able to repeat—and it resulted in a script 120 pages long.”
Not confident that the script alone would truly capture his vision, Jackson commissioned a comic adaption to illustrate the look and feel of his world, pulling from the rich underground comic scene he was so fond of. Max Hell stemmed from Spain Rodriguez’s “Trashman” while the frogs were inspired by a combination of Vaughn Bode’s Junkwaffle soldiers and Kevin Eastman’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (Jackson would later work with both Eastman and his wife Julie Strain in his independent film days). He started binding the seven page comic in with the script, making it an eye catching point of interest.
Pre-Production began. Frakes and Jackson were planning to shoot as much of the film as possible on hand-held cameras, giving them a greater freedom of movement. Creature Effects artist Steve Wang, fresh off “Predator” and “The Monster Squad” was brought in to design the frogs. Jackson wanted something catchy, visually interesting. Something he could build a franchise that could be spun off into toys, cartoons, comics and merchandising. Wang drew up the designs in half an hour. Meanwhile, Wang was introducing Jackson to eastern Kung-Fu films and suggesting gags for wirework in Frogtown. Jackson was eager to try it all out.
Elsewhere, the comic adorned screenplay for “Frogtown” managed to catch the eye of Robert Rehme, an established producer with a special flair for action films, and also the president of the Academy Awards. He passed it on to his wife to read and see what she thought of it. The next day she reported back that it was a uproarious send-up of Mad Max and the Planet of the Apes, only they’re frogs! Bolstered by this review, Rehme pulled the script from Home video and transferred it to the theatrical department, causing an uproar. The Video department was keeping New World Alive at the time and everyone knew it, causing a rivalry between the different sections of the company. Rheme pulling “Frogtown” was just the latest slap in the face.
It was however, looking like good news for Jackson and Frakes. Now a theatrical feature, New World increased the budget to 1.5 million dollars and made it a low budget SAG production. Star power was on the table with names like Tim Thomperson and even Jay Leno being tossed around. New World locked both Frakes and Jackson into a pay-or-play deal meaning that even if the film fell through, they would still get paid. Their end would be nearly one hundred thousand dollars. The deal, which sounded like a dream come true, would soon become a nightmare for both men.
“Signing that deal—because it was pay-or-play—meant that we didn’t really have any contractual power and could be fired on a whim if they felt like it. So we lost creative control at that point”
The first signs that Jackson and Frakes were no longer in control came in casting the lead. New World wanted Roddy Piper for Sam Hell. It was a logical choice because of Jackson’s previous association with rofessional wrestling, and piper was quickly becoming one of the biggest stars in the WWF. Piper however, didn’t feel he was getting the recognition he deserved.
“At WrestleMania 2, the entire audience just started chanting my name. Hogan got all sideways. I heard, “Oh, we’ll take care of Piper,” meaning “We’re going to try to downplay his product.” Well, I went and did a movie. So, that stuck harshly with Vince. It stuck in his craw and then Hogan and Vince did “No Holds Barred”. ”
Piper would meet with Jackson telling him “I want to do this part so bad Don, I’ll do it for free!”
Back in reproduction, the studio also nixed the opening stunt Frakes and Jackson had planned with stuntman who had designed a motorcycle that could do a flip and roll and always end up back upright. They planned on featuring this in the opening action scenes where the government forces captured Sam. New World decided that even with the newly ex-anded budget, such a stunt was too expensive and proposed instead an on-screen graphic, a WANTED poster for Sam Hell, overlayed with giant red letters reading “Captured.”. Frakes mentioned this problem to Jim Cameron. He was furious. Cameron went to New world and offered to give the production $100,000 to film the opening chase. New World wasn’t sure to do with this offer. They decided to play it safe and declined to take Cameron as an investor, even after he proposed to put his name (by that time a big box-office draw) on the film as a producer.
Soon the studio was questioning every move. Jackson, not used to such interference started to get edgy. Trouble reared it’s head during his very first day on set.
“They had an art director creating one of the sets. When he finished, I checked it out and it all looked too clean and pretty to be a part of the film. I told him about it, but he didn’t listen. He had all the arrogance of an art director and felt he had to answer to no one. So, when he stormed off of the set, I got a few can of spray paint and went and spray painted graffiti on the wall of the set. When he came back, he freaked out.“11.
Elsewhere, Frakes wasn’t being nearly as subtle in hiding his outrage. The main villian, a frog called “Commander Tody” (named after Commander Cody of the rocketman serials) had been designed with four arms. The plan was to slowly reveal this during the bar sequence. One arm moves as game piece. Another lifts a cup to his mouth. Another reaches out to shake hands, ect. The arms ahd been built and the puppeteers were practicing when a New World executive came to Frakes and suggested the arms would be too expensive to build and operate. (For some reason, even though the overall budget on the film had increased by a factor of ten, Steve Wang’s budget for creture effects had remained exactly the same). Frakes tried to appeal to logic, pointing out that the arms had already been constructed and the puppeteers were hired, keeping this from being an actual cost cutting measure. The exec was determined to have his way. Frakes leapt up on a table, and began to jump up and down as he screamed at the executive about how incompetent he was and what a ridiculous idea this was. The exec left, and headed over to another art of the studio. In an attempt to turn the tables on Frakes, he actually sought out Jim Cameron and posed the question to him, “We don’t really need four arms on this character do we?” Cameron looked at him incredulously. “The more arms the better!” he replied. New World stood by it’s people. The extra arms for Commander Tody were discarded.
Frakes’ outburst on the table did far less damage though than the memo he circulated the next day, calling out the exec for poor decision making, and New Worlds short-sighted move in backing up the administrative decision. Jackson was called into the head offices the next day and informed that Frakes was no longer on the project and that if he tried to come back on set he’d be arrested. Jackson assured the suits that he understood. He did. The next day he would start sneaking Frakes in through the back entrances instead of the front gate where they had his picture posted.
New World was also hedging their bets at this point and assigned a co-director to the project. A veteran sound editor for the last five years named R.J. Kizer. Jackson was insulted that New World was assigning someone with less directorial experience than him to be the lead director on the film. Kizer for his part wasn’t thrilled either. He’d shot some of the US footage for “Godzilla 1985” but this would be his first full feature and he didn’t quite get the strange tone of this weird little movie. He worked slow. Jackson continued to work fast.
Rowdy Roddy piper was also working fast to get u to speed with his acting coach. Frakes had expressed some trepidation when he was cast. Piper’s skills were unpolished and he had a tendancy to mumble. However, he rose to the occasion and filled the heroe’s shoes well. His coach pushed him further, actually filling his shorts with metal shards to make him uncomfortable when wearing the film’s high tech “chastity belt”. When you see him squirm and scratch, it’s for real. So is the fear on iper’s face later in the film when faced with a Frog weilding a chainsaw. The saw was Jackson’s homage to “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre”, and it was real. The studio was not pleased.
Jackson had already circumvented New World’s restrictions by building the “Frog Tank” for the climax of the film himself. As the money for “Roller Blade” had come in, Jackson had poured it into rebuilding a ‘62 Plymouth on a truck chassie, then spray painted it cameo colors. The vehicle would be used in several more films, including the second Frogtown movie. It even appeared at one point in an L.L. Cool J video. They were shooting at Vasquez Rocks and Indian Dunes (the last movie to be filmed at the Indian Dunes movie ranch by the way, before it was plowed under for a new housing development) away from Kizer. Unfortunately, the Frog Tank, which had performed perfectly in rehearsals, chose that moment to break down. It had to be kicked into neutral and pushed into every scene filmed, coasting past the camera. Jackson and Frakes struggled to get the ideal shots to make it look good. At one point, they needed a POV shot of a dead frog warrior, plunging off a cliff. A stunt person took the first jump into a mass of cardboard boxes, then they tossed an empty suit off the ledge and filmed it crashing into the ground. Finally, they achieved an overhead shot by Jackson bracing himself then grabbing Frakes’ ankles and dangling him over the cliff with the camera.
Finally, the studio had enough of Jackson’s renegade film tactics.
“I am a very hands on Director,” Jackson once said. “They told me, “Everybody has their job on a studio film. Yours is to direct the actors.” So, that was the beginning of the end.”.” Jackson too, would find himself fired and banned from the lot, though, once New World started to run into financial problems they invited Jackson back to consult on the edit. By the time it was ready for music, New World was in bankruptcy. The score was recorded in October of 1986, at Amigo Studios in North Hollywood, CA, with non-union musicians. In a final ironic twist, despite striking 2000 prints of “Hell Comes to Frogtown” for distribution in theaters nationwide, the movie still ended up going direct to home video.
R.J. Kizer would go on to direct only one more feature; 1992’s “Death Ring” starring Billy Drago as well as Steve McQueen’s son Chad and Patrick Swayze’s brother Don. He would spend the rest of his career back in the sound department. The creature effects in “Hell Comes to Frogtown” would catch the eye of Hollywood and Steve Wang would go on to be a much in-demand creator, providing creature effects for films such as A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child, Godzilla, Bicentennial Man, Reign of Fire, They, Darkness Falls, Underworld, Blade: Trinity, Underworld: Evolution and Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem as well as directing the Guyver movies and several episodes of Kamen Rider. Randall Frakes would go on to be a successful screenwriter, getting regular work on video games, TV movies and small indie projects. He’d team up with Jackson again for “Kill, Kill, Overkill” (aka “Twisted Fate”) and the first sequel to “Roller Blade”
Every Wednesday and Friday
Considering the movie starts off with a girl tied up next to a tool kit, I get a definite torture porn vibe from this film and was afraid that’s what I’d gotten myself into. It’s not. It really is a slasher, just like it’s predecessors. However, I’m glad to see the killer in a Santa suit and when he grabs the axe it almost gives me chills.
A soft reboot, Silent Night is slick and filtered and modern with a cool twist on the Santa killer appearance – a clear plastic mask with a beard glued on. Not as over the top as the zombie Santa killer of the fan films, but still creepily effective, enhancing an explosive first kill. We swing over to Malcolm McDowell as a police chief on the phone with a local cop as she does the crossword. We get some squabbling between the cops, the usual getting to know you routine as Christmas comes to the small town, right out of a Hallmark movie. This particular remake was inspired not only by Silent night Deadly Night, but also by the real-life Covina Holiday Massacre which took place on Christmas Eve in 2008.As such, it’s not Billy or Ricky who are the killers, but rather a spurned lover from an urban legend (we get the backstory around fifty minuets in – I kind of needed it sooner).
Donald Logue plays the worst Santa ever, plying his trade on a street corner and for a moment I thought I was in a Bad Santa movie. But 21 minuets in, we get a homage to the catatonic grandfather in the original and it’s twice as terrifying.
The violence itself begins slowly, but just as I was beginning to despair, a leg comes off and out comes the wood chipper. Also, apparently a flamethrower beats a gun. Good to know. It’s gratifying to see an homage to the Linnea Quigley kill from the original (the one involving a set of deer horns) later on. While this film tries to be it’s own entity, it is very aware of the legacy it continues. It’s the simple things like the Santa killer RUNNING full tilt at his victim. We’re so used to seeing these traditional characters like Jason or Michael just walk, relentlessly (and some how still catch up with you) and when we see something like the familiar Santa killer racing towards you, it somehow feels innovative.
The film itself is light on story, and is honestly the vapid slasher that everyone thinks the originals are. Rather than being about the killer and his trauma, this movie spends its time focusing more on the detective and her insecurities. It’s suggested that her father once had to take down an evil Santa himself, and we get a reference to a previous Santa killer four years prior in another town, but they never come out and say if it’s the killers from the original, preferring to maintain a nebulous, peripheral connection to the source material.
Overall, it’s a good, bloody slasher that can hold it’s head high amoungst other holiday themed horror and while not enough to reignite the franchise, still serves to round it out nicely.
Carjack is similar in theme to the Charlie Sheen movie The Chase, but with a much lower budget and more talking rather than action. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, Jackson seems more interested on what’s going on in people’s heads rather than trying to piece together a high speed action flick that he couldn’t possibly pull off on his meager budget.
The idea was born from a new report Jackson recalls. “Tanya York by accidently caught me one day, whoever was going to give her a ride to the new office didn’t show up, so I was here cleaning out the office and I gave her a ride and we heard the news on the radio and they’re talking about a carjacking. And she said wow what a great idea for a movie. And I said yeah, let’s do a carjack movie!” Because this is the post-studio era though, the budgets were lower. “She said what would it cost? Shot on film or shot on video? I said shot of film? About fifty thousand dollars. Shot on video, about ten thousand. So she gave me seven thousand dollars. I put five thousand in my pocket, I spent twenty five hundred on the movie, the movie made seventy five thousand dollars.”
For a direct to video movie, it was obviously acclaimed. The credits actually open with “Winner at Winnetka film festival”. However, Jackson still wasn’t using his real name on it. “I did it under the name Maximo T. Bird, because I didn’t want to get a reputation for making video movies. I wanted to keep my name for the 35mm films I was making.”
The original is out of print, but Scott Shaw offers a version on his website. I noted that in this re-released version, Scott Shaw has rejiggered the credits to add his name as producer, and pasted in the redone title logo “Jacked”. Still, once we get out of these white on black opening credits into a sort of washed out video and I know I’m in the right place.
Jill Kelly comes down the stairs and heads to her car, and is immediately tied up and tossed in the back seat, The long-haired carjacker, played by frequent co-writer and Jackson bit player shaggy Mark Williams, taking off with her in tow.
She pleads for her life, but he tells her that he is in charge and he’s taking her somewhere nice.
“Nice car, I wonder how fast it will go before I blow out the engine…”
He’s chatty for a carjacker, pontificating about the spirit of cooperation and learning to be more flexible. He spits out a threat about a quick attitude readjustment which seems awfully rapey.
The girl reveals that she was on her way to an audition, and that she is an actress who is trying to be a singer. Our carjacker finds this amusing. He’s even more amused when she reveals that her day job is as a phone sex operator. The carjacker challenges her – “go-ahead, turn me on.” and then forces her to demonstrate.
The conversation goes back and forth, occasionally punctuated by exterior shots of the car driving. There is enough movement back and forth to keep things visually interesting.
“Do you have a boyfriend?”
“Well you’ve got one now!”
He tells her he’s taking for someplace nice, like a nude resort – where she can get a nice tan! Every word out of his mouth he was slimy and tinged with threat.
Deep in the woods, the car rules to stop and the carjacker looks over his shoulder in a grimace announcing “We’re here.”
He comes to the back door with a pistol pulling out the girl and dragging her out into the secluded path. The camera follows them shakily; it’s obviously not a steadicam but rather a handheld video camera being operated as best as possible on the uneven ground. The carjacker forces her to the ground and a shot rings out – he returns to the car alone. At about twelve minutes in, it seems like an excellent way to kick off the film and a great introduction to our villain.
Except, he’s not our villain. This isn’t actually part of our film. It’s almost as if Jackson went out and shot a short as proof of concept and grafted it onto the beginning to hit feature length.
We cut to what I can only assume is a flashback of Jill and her friend Steve sailing a small motor boat. Steve is played by Kelly’s husband, the porn actor Cal Jammer in what appears to his only role outside the adult film industry. They quibble and scrap, it’s obviously a strained relationship. Steve keeps complaining that she’s just like Bobbie, her best friend and his wife.
“Why are you so mean?” the girl asks. Steve turns on her, angrily.
“I’m not mean, I just run the ship, give the orders and do you know why?”
“Because somebody has to!”
He finally gives up in pissy exasperation and accuses the girl of ruining the entire day, then turns the boat to head back to dock.
The sound mix is uneven during the scene, but the background music gives it a beautifully intense and wistful atmosphere.
Elsewhere, Bobbie is attending a pool party. Her friends sit at a table under an umbrella, chatting behind Bobbie’s back about Steve and how he’s a rough customer, who tends to beat her up. They’re all in bathing suits, and Bobbie is changing, but when she comes out, there are visible bruises on her thigh. The other girls notice and in embarrassment, she rushes to leave. Heading out and jumping in her jeep, Bobbie heads off to pick up Steve. She’s delayed when she stops for fuel – and this infuriates him. Bobbie is visibly terrified of him as he unloads about his day, and suspiciously questions her about the pool party. He is controlling, refusing to let her get a job and insisting that her job is to take care of him. Finally, it’s too much… when they arrive at their home, she stops at the curb just long enough for him to get out and then guns the engine, dashing away in the Jeep.
Jackson manages some remarkable overhead shots of the cars, from his vantage point on his favorite bridge. Ahead Bobbie notes a begger with the sign that says please help – and she stops to give him money, but at that moment he pulls a gun and shot her into the passenger seat, taking off with her in the car.
She tries to bluff her way out of the situation with the usual pleas of “I have children”, “It’s my husband‘s car”, but the carjacker, a man named Ernie, isn’t buying it.
“Needs an oil change,” Ernie notes from the sound of the engine.
“I don’t know about that,” She replies. “My husband takes care of that.”
“Well not lately.”
He promises if she is patient he’ll let her go, Notes that she’s got plenty of fuel, that’s good.
Bobbie tries to challenge the carjacker asking how she knows if that gun is even real. He tells her that it’s a 357 Magnum, but she keeps asking if it’s actually his gun. It feels almost like the line was repeated from multiple takes, and it starts to get annoying – it’s obviously annoying to the carjacker as well because he suddenly asks what time it is.
“4:15,” Bobbie informs him.
“That’s good! Now let’s see how long you can keep quiet!”
She only makes it 15 minutes and the carjacker declares that he has won his own bet, because he has never met a woman who could keep quiet for an entire hour! Music builds up in the background, it’s a keyboard trying to create tension – but this isn’t John Carpenter, and it ends up being clunky and overpowering.
The carjacker takes her out to a barren area just outside the freeway and then lets her out of the car, but quickly thinks better of it once she starts to sprint and chases her with a gun. It’s a sequence that might make more sense if somebody had included a line about going to the bathroom or something – as it is, when she cries “I did the wrong thing didn’t I?” I’m confused as to what thing she was expected to do or why he let her out of the Jeep in the first place. In any event, Ernie the carjacker doesn’t trust her anymore and now he forces her to drive while he keeps his gun carefully trained on her.
She tries to calm him down with soothing tones and questions about the destination. For now, he’ll be content with some food. He takes her cash and they pull in to a supermarket. They bicker back-and-forth like an old married couple about what to buy; she wants natural food where as he is only interested in quick energy – water versus Pepsi, fruit versus cookies. His exuberant surprise over discovering a bottle of Pepsi Clear dates this film even more than Bobbie’s spiral perm.
The Jeep makes its way into the desert, surrounded by rocks and sand and cactus. They pull to a stop and hike through the wilderness, shopping bags held tight, then eat sitting on a log. It feels more like a teenage picnic then the kidnapping.
“You’re not such a bad guy after all,” Bobbie says matter of factly. “Have you ever done this before?”
“Eat an apple?”
“No, kidnapped someone!”
“That’s not what I’m doing,” Ernie replies. “I’m just trying to get out of town… And you’re helping me.”
“Can I have my apple back?”
Slowly, Ernie the carjacker draws Bobbie out and gets her to confide in him. She tells him about how she can’t do anything, how she wants to be a teacher but the Husband won’t allow it and how unhappy she is. She wistfully reminisces about how she misses her sorority days doing ‘shrooms, weed, and ecstasy.
Ernie and Bobbie find a couple magic mushrooms out there in the wilderness and they eat them together. They get giggly and Bobbie declares that she wants to go to Vegas. Mushrooms spin in the camera and the two of them are shot silhouetted like lovers with strobing circle dissolves coming in and out and lights blinking, flashing over their faces. Ernie talks about doing mushrooms in prison.
“The walls would talk to me in the bars would melt. We would laugh all night long and play tricks on the guards.” The ramblings almost get spiritual – it’s a foreshadowing of a lot of the mysticism that Jackson will inject into his films later on. The trip starts to go bad as they wonder if they ate the right mushrooms – surely they didn’t eat the deadly once did they? They couldn’t have! They’re tripping out aren’t they?
We cut to a cheap hotel – the ‘shroom trip has worn off and the tables have turned. Bobbie stands with a gun pointed at Ernie. He tells her it’s useless. The gun is not loaded.
“I took you because you wanted to be taken. You can trust me”
Bobbie is falling out of love mode and back in to victim mode and there is resignation as she walks off camera to change clothes. She makes him closes eyes when she changes and when he opens them she is holding a small Walther pistol pointed at him, one that she assures him is loaded.
He tries to play to her sympathies, explaining he just needed to get out of town – he’d broken parole and the cops are looking for him. Ernie is adamant; he can’t go back to prison. Bobbie doesn’t care, she’s tired of men hurting her and no one is ever going to hurt her again!
Ernie gets the pistol away from her and talks her down. She succumbs to her Stockholm syndrome and heads to the bathroom to change. He tells her she is beautiful, and they start softening again. He lays on the bed reading Gideon Bible, and even gives her back her gun. She asks why he was in jail and he tells her the story of getting talked into a robbery- he drove the getaway car. The two of them drown their misery is in a bottle of wine.
They talk about compromise, high roads and low roads and trying to find the middle ground. Ernie shakes head because he doesn’t think it’s supposed to be this way, the Bobbie reassures him that that’s just life. They almost kiss, but she takes the bottle instead. They decide to trust each other and go to sleep for the night, her in the bed and him in the chair. Bobbie tosses and turns, and opened her eyes to watch him sleep… She props herself up on a pillow and ask him if he’s asleep. He replied that he isn’t and she asks if he’d be more comfortable in the bed. Ernie cautions her that if he were to get to bed she might find out that he’s like all the other guys cause trouble in our life. He ends the conversation by asking what time it is.
“It’s 2 am.”
“Good,” He replies. “Now let’s see how long you can keep quiet.” With that, he falls asleep in the chair.
Ernie wakes and notices Bobbie’s bruises, then suggests they should kill her husband for being abusive, but she changes the subject by pulling him in for a kiss. The sun rises over the motel and the Jeep pulls away, getting back on the road.
Bobbie is in good spirits, happy to be out of the tiny hotel room – such a change from the big bedroom she is used to at home. It wasn’t much different to Ernie though, who lives in an old mobile home. Bobbie teases him playfully about never looking back, and it angers him – he’s not looking to build a life with her even though she already has their future planned out in her head. Ernie puts Bobbie out of the Jeep on the side of the road and drives off.
He only makes it a few feet down the road when the Jeep is stopped and Mark Williams, the carjacker from the beginning of the film (Have to connect that opening sequence somehow!), gets him out of the car and shoots him. Bobbie witnesses it, terrified. Now it’s her turn. She stops a passing motorist (a cameo by Donald Jackson) pulls her gun and carjacks his vehicle. The fuel doesn’t last long though, and she finds herself stranded by the side of the road. She closes her eyes for a moment imagining the drive back home. Husband Steve has already moved on to one of Bobbie’s friends, but not for long. She drives her carjacked vehicle back and catches them in the act with her gun, blowing off Steve‘s head before pumping another bullet into her friends heart.
Bobbie crumples on to the couch, becoming aware of what she’s done. She turns the gun over and over in her hands, then closes her eyes.
When she opens them again she’s back at the car she’s stolen, still out of gas, still stranded. In the distance, police sirens ring out.
The movie is typical of Jackson’s post studio career – an interesting idea, with fair actors, shot on inexpensive cameras. Jackson was well aware of the stigma attached to shooting on video, and evasively sidestepped it. “When the buyers at the American film market asked ‘what did you shoot on?’, I said Fuji. Because it was fuji stock- it was fuji high 8 tape. But no one complained because it was lit properly. It was exposed properly, so I tricked them. I fooled them.” It actually makes me wish he’d done more crime films. Between this and Kill Kill Overkill, he’s got an interesting angle on it. The movie benefits from two stars with experience. Bobbie is portrayed by Deborah Flora in her first role. She’d go to soap opera work on St. Charles and Passions. Opposite her is Larry Kelsey (referred here as simply “Kelsey”, one name – just like Cher.) who had been kicking around Hollywood for a while taking small roles on television productions like Hunter and the Red Shoe Diaries, as well as being a veteran of several Jackson films like Return to Frogtown and Roller Blade Warriors.
I noticed that Randall Frakes is credited with the music for this movie – that’s a surprise because he was generally a writer on such productions (though Jackson was shifting more towards Williams around this time period), but in this case Jackson takes all the credit for story and script. The credit also has a curious inclusion of spirit guides and spirit friends that are given thanks to. This is something that I’ve never seen in any other Jackson film. It’s not the sort of thing he ever talked about in interviews, but it signals his burgeoning interest in the eastern philosophies that he would mix with his own Judeo Christian theology. The credits end with helpful hints about always locking your car door and never picking up strangers.
WHAT WILL YOU DO WHEN IT HAPPENS TO YOU???
Basically, when there’s nothing else, you go to a Jeff Harper show! And quite frankly, just as with Toyhio, I want to support the shows that actually dare to go on this year.
Like other Harper shows, there’s no programming, and in this case, only a smattering of vendors, but that didn’t stop me from finding the cosplayers and plundering teh fifty cent bins, scoring some great Green hornet and Deadpool titles!
Every Wednesday and Friday
Every Wednesday and Friday
The film we’re reviewing today is actually another fan film done for the Silent Night Deadly Night series, and should not be confused with the 1972 slasher by the same name. This fan made Silent Night Bloody Night is shockingly atmospheric, filmed at a beautiful location. It’s short on story though. Billy shows up (in a surprisingly accurate Santa suit by the way, with pockets and bells on the sleeves and everything!) within the first fifteen seconds, prowling the place with an axe. There’s a costume party going and he immediately begins stalking and killing those in need of punishment.
This particular fan film is done up by SAJO Productions, a youtube film producer that specializes in vs match ups like Jason Vorhees vs. Harry Warden, that sort of thing. The focus is to cut to the chase, and give us the good parts, and that’s what this really does. The production values are really good, it’s beautifully shot with actors that seem to know what they are doing. I almost wish the kids behind SNDN 6 had this kind of quality because while their story was really good, their quality was poor. This one is the exact opposite. It’s a great looking short, with no story to speak of. Still, that’s not actually my main beef with it. My biggest problem is the lack of blood. They went to the trouble of getting a good camera to record this and adding cool filters that make it look like 1980, They know how to frame a shot for maximum suspense, yet there’s a sad lack of the red stuff. The axe swings into people with great frequency, but the hits are all dry. Do these guys not know how to set up a squib or a blood pump? Did NO ONE have a spare severed hand laying around (I’ve got like, three in my basement alone)? The gore is the one thing they really need to up their game. If the kids from SNDN6 could bring the blood, I KNOW these guys should be able to.
There’s two of these by the way, with part two starting just as the first one leaves off (it’s pretty much one short all together). In fact, pretty much the first three minuets are just recap and credits. They do a bit better with the blood (not much, just a little bit – like cutting holes in the ugly sweter that’s just been axed) and Berenice Gillham really ought to stop pushing Santa down the stairs. It’s becoming a them and it just seems to piss him off.
It’s worth checking these out, as long as you do it with a kind of “Special Features” mindset. If you like the sort of killer Santa action we get from the first couple films, you’ll have fun with this.
Watch them here:
Every Wednesday and Friday
Reading the description or backwoods, it’s got me thinking this is probably going to be a knock off of “The Hills Have Eyes”. They waste no time getting into action with the generic couple abducted while on vacation. Unfortunately our backwards baddies don’t appear to be monsters, just a evil family.
I suspect I’m going to complain to the entire movie about them not being mutants.
Anyhow, a company sales team rents out the woods for a paintball match – one of those obnoxious team building exercises we occasionally hear about. The teams promptly get themselves raided and lost. While one team discovers the damage of the campsite, the other finds a derelict old house where they encounter our villainous backwoods family
Once everybody is captured, the real fight begins. There are elements of religious cult in here as well as some Saw influence. But it almost feels like they didn’t commit fully to Either. They really needed to choose one or the other – heighten the religious horror, heighten the hillbilly horror or focus on the torture. Still, the way they mash all of these elements together makes for a solid film, as long as it’s in a vacuum – that is, it’s good but only if you’ve never seen any other backwoods film. At the end of the day, there are way better options out there if you’re in the mood for hillbilly horror, but for a quick fix, this’ll do just fine.