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Franchise Focus

Roller Blade Warriors

franchisebannerMV5BMjI0MjE1NTgzMl5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwOTI4NTYyMQ@@._V1_UX182_CR0,0,182,268_AL_Roller Blade Warriors start out promising enough, with the familiar nuns on horseback, engaging in sword fights using their trusted katanas (an upgrade from the butterfly knives of the previous film). It’s overdubbed by a David Carradine clone, but soon plunges us into the same incomprehensible post-apocalyptic imagery. It’s factories juxtaposed with tuxedos and human sacrifice. A monster lurches out of the smoke and it looks like the hand puppet from the first roller blade has grown up. The monster can only be appeased though, by feeding him a real woman – and in this bleak future, those are in short supply.

There are actually some clever innovations this time round. The nuns ride a jury rigged bike with wind sales, and we see roving bands of gangs, such as the one that’s feeding the monster and it gives us a greater look at the broken down society (Something that was images.jpgmissing in the previous film). Both the dialogue and sound have improved as well. We’ve moved past the awful dubbing, and while the dialogue remains ridiculous, it’s not quite as over the top. They’ve gotten rid of most of the kings English, though it still seeps in from time to time. What is still over the top though, is the score. For this entry they decided on a bouncy, goofy, Benny Hill sort of background music that gives this a really strange feel. They frequently switch over 2 to chord synth cues, but that goofy music comes in so often that it just breaks me out of the film and reminds me how ridiculous (Indeed there are frequent slap fights that remind me of the three stooges) this all is.

The girl in the nuns charge is kidnapped to be delivered to the monster in the stacks, and adventure ensues.

Everything about this production has improved, which is really cool to see. Director Donald Jackson has got some resources this time around and grown as a filmmaker making this film index.jpgalmost passable despite being ludicrous… but pretty well suited for late night cable and direct to video.

A third direct sequel to this film was planned, but ultimately scrapped. Still you can’t keep a good man down, and Jackson would be teaming up with Zen filmmaker Scott Shaw to create a whole series of spinoff sequels set in this same universe.

More on that next time


The Roller Blade Franchise


vlcsnap-2018-12-04-10h05m19s033You may remember me doing an article last year on a film called “Roller Blade”. It was the surprise feature screened at the Cedar Lee and it seared my eyes out of their sockets with it’s absurdity.

I had to know more. I needed to understand how such a thing could be made in the first place, much less spawn sequels.

Yes, sequels. Roller Blade ended with a title card promising a sequel which I was assured existed. That was it, I had to know more. A quick check of IMDB showed that not only was there a sequel, there were several…but it gets confusing from there on out and it’s hard to tell what is what. We’ll get to that in a moment, but first let’s do a quick recap of the lunacy that is Roller Blade. (for a more in depth review, hit the previous article on the subject here;


In a post apocalyptic future a group of nuns in red and blue KKK robes do battle in the wastelands wearing roller skates and carrying butterfly knives. Led by Mother Speed and occasionally assisted by Marshall Goodman, they struggle against the gangs of punks on skateboards (because roller skates would be too establishment I suppose) and the minions of El Santo’s evil twin and his demonic hand puppet who live in the acid factory.

There. You’re caught up.

So what happened to RB2 : Holy Roller? I can’t be sure. Donald Jackson, the director and guiding force behind all the Roller Blade films,  passed away back in 2003 so he’s unavailable for comment, but some interviews do remain. He was known as the Ed wood of the video age, and watching his films it’s easy to tell why.  Roller Blade, made on 16mm film for about $5000 was absolutely a success. Jackson had been working for Roger Corman’s New World Pictures at the time in various capacities. They had acquired his movie “I like to Hurt people”, a wrestling documentary for fifty thousand dollars which financed his way to Hollywood. He parlayed that relationship into other work for New World, operating cameras. While he was making contacts with folks like Fred Olen Ray (Who’s son and girlfriend would both end up in Roller Blade) and James Cameron, “I Like to Hurt People” had made New World half a million dollars. Through these kind of contacts he managed to convince New World to pick the film up for distribution. When they came to him asking if he had anything else in the works, he quickly cut together a three minuet trailer to screen for the execs. They watched it in silence and then stared at Jackson, his heart lodged in his throat. Mentally the execs did their calculations. Finally one announced that they could probably move 10,000 units which would turn a profit. This occurred at a time when the video market was just beginning to take off. Roller Blade was hyped by New World as, “The First Straight to Video Feature Film”. They took out full color ads in Billboard magazine and advertised the movie in Variety – all common for a theatrical film, but at the time completely unheard of promotion for a video release. Roller Blade made them over one million dollars. New World was still a player in 1989 when the next film was made, but MV5BMjI0MjE1NTgzMl5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwOTI4NTYyMQ@@._V1_UX182_CR0,0,182,268_AL_they weren’t a part of it. While they did fund Jackson’s next film “Hell Comes to Frogtown”, the experience was marked by constant creative differences between Jackson and the studio.

“After Roller Blade made them a million dollars I didn’t have to even show a trailer for the next film. I only had to say one word; ‘Frogtown’. They said okay and gave me a million and a half dollars.”

The increased budget and addition of star power  was given in exchange for a great deal of Jackson’s creative control, and by the end, he never wanted to work with them again. He would later talk about the experience in interviews;

“I am a very hands on Director. The downfall of the relationship all stared at one point, the first day of shooting, when they had an art director creating one of the sets. When he finished, I checked it out and it all look 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. He complained to the powers at New World and they had a talk with me. 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.”

To complicate matters further, New World was beginning to run into financial difficulties and after striking 2000 prints of “Hell Comes to Frogtown”, the film still ended up going direct to video. When it came time to return to the Roller Blade series, Jackson was on his own. The concept of Holy Roller (More a place holder title than anything) no longer appealed to him. The concept had moved on and would now become Roller Blade Warriors.

The good news is Roller Blade Warriors was actually a better film than Roller Blade. It looks like there was enough money to invest in something better than a consumer grade camera and someone learned how to use a boom mic. There’s not really a lot of information on this film though, and Jackson doesn’t speak a lot about it in interviews – it’s always much more about his later movies, the ones that were index.jpgmore experimental.  He explains the move from knives to swords as part of his affection for Kurosawa  films.

“This was very intentional. Sergio Leone and Akira Kurosawa are two of my biggest influences. As we filmed the entire movie in a very spacious outdoor environment, I was allowed to pay tribute to these two directors and add my own style to the mix.”

An example of that style involves a story about how half way through Roller Blade Warriors, Jackson ripped up the script and winged it through the rest of production, foreshadowing his future film methods. Nevertheless, it’s possibly the best entry in the series. Roller Blade Warriors was successful enough to get a Roller Blade 3 green lit.

It’s at this point that things begin to get weird. Jackson hooked up with actor/musician/academic Scott Shaw during the preproduction of Roller Blade 3. The production was already in chaos, with one of Jackson’s crew interfering, staging a coup and stealing the investor. Eventually the production fell apart. However Shaw was still on board and Jackson was able to secure $30,000 for the two of them to create a pair of sidequels, set in the same universe but more far removed from Mother Speed and her convent.  In imagesinterviews he made it clear that was the intent from the beginning.

“What Scott Shaw and I did with Roller Blade Seven (and the Return of the Roller Blade Seven, filmed at the same time). Though the movie was based on the same premise, it was time to take the concept to the next level — which we did.”

That next level would be what Scott Shaw would dub “Zen Film making. A method of making film without scripts. You came up with a concept, ran the camera and filmed what ever happened next. Shaw recalls the moment he coined the term –

“We were in the office, discussing the results of the previous weeks endeavor. Don was fuming as he often did. Blaming others, as he almost always did. We decide that we needed to let go of all the structure and throw all of the plans that we had for the film out the window and just go out there and film. It was then and there that I came up with the title, Zen Filmmaking. “Let’s just be Zen. This is Zen. This is Zen Filmmaking.”

Sometimes there would be some guidance needed. words and phrases would be drawn from one of Shaw’s books Essence and Time, to keep the vision consistent.

“Whenever someone wanted some dialogue to memorize we would give them the two indexbooks by Scott… These books were made up of Spiritual Aphorism. So, this really kept the film focused on the spiritual essence of life — which is really what I wanted.”

In addition to the new film making style, there would also be technical advances –

“We also invented a new type of cinematography, in association with this film, known as, “The Roller-cam.” This is where we had a masterful skater film many scenes while skating around the actors using my Bolex. This gives the film a very spiritual sense of nonstop movement.”

“The way these character developed is the essence of Zen Filmmaking. We never had any plans for any of these character. In fact, just the opposite. We gave the people a little guidance and they did the rest.”

index3.jpgFor instance, “The costume for the character Fukasai Ninja was just something our art director, Mark Richardson had lying around. He tuned it up a little bit to better fit the movie — so an actor could roller skate in it. And, bam, the character became a big part of the film.”

Shaw for his part has contended that he was ill used in the making of these films, never taking a salary because of the low budget, but increasingly asked to do more and more including casting, production and music.

“Don suggested I go and set up the fights. I figured I had some time so I was first working with the girl and her opponent. Maybe ten minutes into the session Don walks up, “Okay, let’s shoot.” But…Here’s the thing, Don didn’t even care that the people weren’t ready. All he cared about was getting something/anything on film. So, all of those one-on-one fights you see in the film were choreographed on the spot. I told them do this or do that, and that was that.”

index2Shaw claims this caused a break with Jackson (which is odd considering IMDB still shows them making movies together untill Johnson’s death) and he claims, Don said on the way to his deathbed, “I really want to apologize for what happen to you on Roller Blade Seven.”. When he passed, Jackson turned over all his film rights to Shaw.

The next part is where things get tricky, because the bad feelings and politics didn’t end with that. There was interest in another entry, but both films were so highly stylized and non-linear that there was difficulty finding funding or distribution. This is when the the executive producer, Tanya York decided to take things into her own hands, editing both movies into one feature and re-releasing it under the name “Legend of the Roller Blade Seven”.  It makes a certain amount of sense. Both RB7 and the Return are short films, clocking in under 90 minuets and incorporating a lot of re-used footage. However, the re-edit was in violation of York’s contract and alienated both Jackson and Shaw. Shaw took the film index.jpgback and re-edited it himself, releasing it again under the title “Hawk, Warrior of the Wheelzone”. To make things more confusing, Shaw offers Lite versions of the films, unseen scene versions and his own Zen documentary on Roller Blade 3, the movie that never was. (Shaw by the way, seems somewhat disconnected from the reality of what things actually cost, offering each of these films for $25 on DVD – plus shipping. You can also get his autograph for a mere $125 on Band Camp)

For our purposes, We’ll be watching and reviewing only the “official” films and not Tanya York ‘s remix. This isn’t Blade Runner, and apocryphal mix tapes just muddy the waters further.

Stay tuned.

Quotes taken from the documentary “Donald G. Jackson : Confessions”, “The Roller Blade Seven: The Story of the Production” by Scott Shaw, originally published on and “Donald G. Jackson; The Final Interview” Originally published in Trash Times, Issue #13


Bunnyman Vengance

franchisebannerindexEven as the film opens, I see a difference in quality. Bunnyman is well lit and the suit seems almost more ragged – something it’s needed this entire time. It’s a familiar opening with the Bunnyman luring prey in, but the setting seems creepier this time around. He’s taken up residence with a group of local haunters at thier attraction. The sight of Bunnyman flanked by his two skull faced companions in the misty night is beautiful.

This film seems more introspective, with repeated flashes to Bunnyman’s childhood – and the things that made him what he is.

I’m confused though. It takes a while to learn why the haunters are letting Bunnyman out to kill, or what their angle is. Best I can tell is they are trying to create vlcsnap-2018-10-10-16h40m57s255a local urban legend – a real one – that they can exploit for their haunt…but they seem a little bloodthirsty too – a far cry from EVERY haunter I’ve ever met (and there have been a LOT). To be fair though, that moment a patron gives Bunnyman attitude in the haunt (“so what? You going to cut my fingers off?” She laughs – and then he does just that) had to be cathartic to every haunt actor out there.

Still the haunted house itself provides the most atmospheric set pieces of all the Bunnyman films. Filled with fog and competently lit for the first time in the series, I actually feel creeped out by the character as he starts to fall into madness.


Some dodgy CGI aside, I feel like this time around, someone has tried to make an honest go of this series. I dig it.  Vengeance is probably the strongest film in this franchise (man, I still can’t believe this is actually a franchise!).


Bunnyman Massacre

franchisebannerimages2100 minuets? Oh man, someone is optimistic. There’s no WAY this shot on video film should be 100 minuets.

We start off with newsreel type imagery flickering under credits and then shift to a schoolbus on a desert road. The bunnyman comes out of nowhere with a chainsaw and shotgun and goes to work on the kids. The blood flying up to hit the camera is obviously ment to be dramatic and styalized, but it just comes off as annoying and sloppy. The title comes up as blood hits a traffic sign (this one is a nice touch).

indexWe immediately shift to a cornfield where the bunny man is stalking campers, Friday the 13th style (Who camps in a cornfield anyhow?). Yet for all the killing (beautifully done for a micro budget production) it’s a while before we get anything resembling a story….good thing it’s 100 minuets huh?

Bunnyman has obviously found a new family, and we get vague references to the previous film as he comes home, then shift to exteriors of the town the film takes place in. Almost a ghost town (Someone had access to an old west set or amusement park or something…) that an unsuspecting family drives through.

Oh look. Beef Jerky.

Almost half an hour in we get a troup of college girls hiking through the woods and imagesthe Bunnyman is sent out. Time for things to really begin. The problem is, it then goes on to focus on the pervy redneck t hat has adopted Bunnyman and we get a very diffrent kind of movie for the next thirty to forty minuets – as if they just kind of grafted two disparate films together.

Much like the first one, this film really wants to be Texas Chainsaw in an Easter Bunny suit. However, where homages like House of a Thousand Corpses really succeeds in paying tribute, this merely imitates in the basest ways, and the schizophrenic nature of the spliced films only works to it’s detriment. Yet they manage to throw a level of blood and gore that keeps me entertained even as I roll my eyes. I’m so conflicted, I just don’t know what to make of this stuff.






bannerpdindexBunnyman starts with a low res shot on video bit featuring a girl running from the house and getting murdered. It’s very reminiscent of Texas chainsaw massacre actually, fortunately it’s just the appetizer and the rest of the film is done with a higher quality video. It opens with a girl stuck in a refrigerator and once again, running from something – it’s a weird enough opening to grab your attention and steel you for what comes next

We get some kids on a road trip, who managed to anger the large truck behind them. It’s not a promising beginning and I feel like I’ve seen this before too many times already.

The truck driver begins to stalk them, and action made all the more ominous by the brief glimpse we see of the fur covered hand inside the trucks cab. By the way, the girl we saw running earlier? She is in the back of the truck and about to be chained to a tree.

Eventually the images2kids are run off the road and the Bunnyman continues on to his evil deeds. We’re treated to some excellent gore. It’s our first glimpse of the bunny man, and he won’t be back though until the 50 minute mark.

The kids travel on foot, looking for help, and as the night wears on, things get dire and ominous. It’s a slow strech – not a slow burn, just a middle section that drags. However, when the Bunnyman shows back up and the stalking begins things ramp right back up.

I kind of wonder if there just wasn’t enough in this movie for a full feature. Seriously, imagesthis may have been better off as just a short. The suit is too stark, though it provides a surreal image on occasion and that helps. Still, the film feels weak, and I’d kind of like to see it redone with more care and gore.

Wait, what? What do you mean they made two more of theses things?



Roller Blade

Movie banner10367582_872180892826335_755174026719423114_nIt’s that time of year again, when Cleveland Cinemas smacks us about the head with the celluloid equivalent of a brick wrapped around a slice of lemon. I’m a fan of bad movies, a regular attendee at Cinema Wasteland, and a member in good standing of Cinemageddon. Yet somehow, David Huffman still consistently pulls out the most bizarre movie gems that were never on my radar.

imagesThis year, the Cedar Lee theater screened “Roller Blade”… a film that makes “Shredder Orpheus” look like “Gone with the Wind”. Don’t be deceived, there are no actual rollerblades in this film, 1986 was a little early for that. What we do have are roller skates, and butterfly knives tucked in by the heels – thus categorizing them as “roller” blades.

Set in the dystopian post apocalyptic near future that was so popular in the 80s, we’re introduced vlcsnap-2018-12-04-09h59m17s667to our three main factions. For starters, there’s the madman at the acid plant (or is he a puppet? Or is he just wearing a puppet? It took me most of the film to finally come to the conclusion that Santos evil twin was somehow kind of conjoined to an evil mutant. It kind of looks like somebody glued up an old Boglin head onto a baby doll and then spray painted the whole thing brown). On the other side there is a convent full of Nuns in KKK robes – but colored red and blue to make things more confusing. They’re called the Cosmic Order of Roller Blade, and led by Mother Speed. They ally with the local Marshall… Though I can’t tell who was actually in charge. Sometimes he seems to have authority over them, and other times they seem to be vlcsnap-2018-12-04-09h54m46s860calling the shots (After doing some research, it appears he was meant to be there protecting their monastery). There are also homeless people on roller skates pushing shopping carts, and punks who demonstrate how anti-establishment they are by riding skateboards instead of roller skates.

After a lengthy introductions in the first act, the action starts with a blonde in spandex stabbing a dude on the sidewalk because he was foolish enough to go outside without roller skates. She is apparently doing a job for the mutant in the acid plant -work for hire mercenary stuff. When she demands batteries for her walkman he tells her to go vlcsnap-2018-12-04-10h02m52s261infiltrate the convent so that she can steal their crystal McGuffin. It’s not clear what it does other then turning the Nun’s butterfly knives into magic healing wands, but they suggest that humanity will end if it falls into the wrong hands. The blonde lets herself get roughed up by the punks so that she can prey upon the mercy of the nuns and steal their power crystal. In the meantime the acid mutant and Santos evil twin kidnap the marshall’s son because, reasons.

The third act explodes in a climatic battle where Santo’s evil twin uses the crystal to power a sled on wheels across the chasm in an attempt to escape to “Meccho” while the nun and the Marshall look on. They realize the crystal wasn’t that important, and salvation is actually in the human heart.vlcsnap-2018-12-04-10h01m21s801


vlcsnap-2018-12-04-09h59m32s692Don’t let that semi-coherent description fool you. This thing is all over the place. I was encouraged to see the New World logo come up in the beginning. Corman films are usually bad, but fun. Nowhere however, does Corman’s name show up here (Fred Olen Ray’s does though. I assume they abducted his kid to get this thing made). I find myself wondering if they just distributed the movie rather than actually producing it. I suppose it may have been filmed on some of their leftover sets, but it lack the professional panache that you get as a bare minimum from a Corman studio flick. I think that’s a professional grade vlcsnap-2018-12-04-09h56m28s884camera shooting this – the state of consumer electronics in 1986 would have this looking more like Chester Turner’s “Black Devil Doll from Hell” or “Tales frm the Quaddead Zone” filmed around the same time. But they must have spent too much money on the camera because they obviously couldn’t afford sound equipment. This entire thing is sloppily overdubbed – and they knew it when they were filming. Every other shot outside the studio sets involves characters talking into large walkie talkies, strategically placed in front of their mouth so you can’t see their lips move in contrast to the dub. Two exposition scenes have been zoomed into and cropped just above the actors mouths. Entire conversations occur vlcsnap-2018-12-04-10h00m56s931without seeing any lips move. Occasionally grunts are inserted to cover long shots with mouths working. Even the mutant hand puppet can’t synch his mouth with the lines he speaks.

The dialogue that is used doesn’t help any. There was a moment when shopping cart guy dies for the first time (Yes, I said “First”, as in multiple times) and the overdub gets really hollow as he says “Ow! (not the sound, he says the word)What did I do to deserve this?”. In other scenes, the King James English comes off a particularly distracting. “Hold! Skate not from this place! Word has come that little Chris has been taken!” At one point I turned to Johnny Crayfish next to me and asked “I’m really hearing this right? This is the ACTUAL dialogue they chose and not just a parody right?” He shrugged and shook his head.

vlcsnap-2018-12-04-09h58m21s723After 88 minuets, the credits rolled. The final title card reads “Watch for Roller Blade 2 : Holy Thunder”

You’re kidding, right?

I turned to the back of the theater where the film programmer was standing, bewilderment on my face .
“Does that actually exist?”
He nodded. My buddy Mark spun around and shouted “DOUBLE FEATURE!”.
“Not tonight,” Dave wisely declined this demand. “I can’t believe you guys all stayed through the entire credits!”

I discovered that in fact, not only does a sequel exist – there’s actually FIVE movies in this series (Six if you count the remixed and re-released version of The Roller Blade Seven. Seven if you count the documentary on the unmade Roller Blade 3).


I need to know more. Expect a new Franchise Focus coming next year.


Prom Night

franchisebannerI’m pretty sure the prom night is one of those movies that would’ve been a heavy rotation on the UHF channels during Halloween, but somehow I never managed to catch it. I realize it is considered a classic, though I’ve never quite understood how it could spawn such diverse and bizarre sequels. The first hurdle for me to tackle is dealing with Leslie Nielsen in a straight role. I know he has a long career as a heavy before the Naked Gun, but man, I’m so used to him being goofy and funny and it’s always a little jarring when I see him in something like Day of the Animals where he’s playing obnoxious tough guy. It’s no different here. His role is minimal, but still he’s dead serious and feel out of place to me – of course that admittedly that would not of been the case at the time.

Jamie Lee Curtis is a pleasant surprise here… I’ve never been real enamored of her as a scream queen – her performance in Halloween as always left me a little cold, and it’s amazing to see what a year so will do – she gives a much more nuanced and layered performance here, and I actually believe the character far more this time around.

Still, it’s a slow movie. Obviously somebody here was trying to make horror MOVIE, as opposed to a HORROR movie. There is more care given here, with some false starts, misleads and rivalries. There is characterization here that we’re not used to seeing in the typical slasher where they use stereotypes to connect you to characters instead of storytelling. But man does it drag. You’d think attempting to create atmosphere is going to be as simple as a few obscene phone calls – presumably made by the killer to set the tone. We don’t really get to any mayhem until about an hour in – although once the killing starts it’s fast and furious. I think in the future I’d be inclined to start this right of the third act and just watch that.

The thing is, this isn’t really a proper slasher. I’d absolutely consider this a Giallo. We have black gloves, a mystery murderer, and overly violent and bloody kills. It’s got a couple of the slasher tropes – the victim discovering the cash of murdered bodies for instance, but for the most part it really does feel like one of those Italian murder mysteries… and sadly, I don’t dig those.

It’s the set pieces – the head rolling onto the dance floor, with emotional reveal at the end that really marks this as a cult classic. I’m glad I finally hit it, though I doubt I’ll be back.

Prom Night 2008

franchisebannerI have to admit – it’s nice that this one is back to focusing on prom night itself.The preparation and just the anticipation, it’s really what this series should all be about. Nothing stylised like number four was, it’s very much a back to basics type of movie – it probably would’ve actually been a lot more at home in the late 90s during the Scream and I know what you did last summer phase. Plot wise, that’s really all you need to know – we have a knife wielding killer stalking kids at a prom. It’s no more high concept than that. Still, in there it’s returning to its roots and this may actually be a purer sequel then any of the others that came before. That’s not the simply a statement of quality, but of intent and tone.
I’ve seen The final girl’s shrink before on television, and she’s just a little bit too familiar for me to be comfortable. Then again in 2009 she probably was a little bit less well-known… I’m not sure.

Is it wrong that I like the pop music that bops around this film? I know it’s common and repackaged, but it feels fun – and I think if you have no real conception of the original, that this would be a very fun time. Of course that’s the big difference between remakes in 2007 as opposed to remakes in say, 1980 (read the thing, or the fly) The original film  is readily available, and it renders the remake somewhat unnecessary.

I dig the detective here – He reminds me a lot of Jesse L Martin, who played detectives on both the flash and law and order. It’s a good solid performance and the proper feel to the stereotypical copper role. At the end of the day, I find myself rooting for him far more than any of our teenage protagonists – he may just be the most interesting character in the film. Looking at him – I thought he looked awful lot like Idris Alba… Wait a minute that IS Idris Alba! What is he doing slumming it in this movie?? I wonder if they realized how lucky they were to have that kind of performance! Truth is, I can’t really fault a lot of performances in this film/ They’re fresh faces, with a trendy modern look. It’s keeps it from being a timeless movie, but it’s a remake… It’s not meant to be timeless. It’s meant to appeal to a younger audience.

I think that may be the problem with this movie – it was made and designed for younger audience, but with a name like prom night that’s really only going to attract those of us that are horror hounds, and we don’t like it when you remake one of our classics. In addition, it commits the preventable sin of being mediocre. It’s not bad, but it plays on predictable tropes and familiar beats… it’s the sort of thing we would forgive in a no name generic horror release, but to give us a remake with nothing particular original is to invite criticism.

I would’ve been far more accepting of this actually had been billed as a sequel without a number rather than a remake… Call it prom night 2008 or something like that. In fact, I may just start doing that.
Of course now that I’m done with all this Sequals – it’s time for me to move on to the main event. You see, I’ve never seen the original – and it’s up next!

Prom Night 4

franchisebannerOkay, serious question – why did they keep making these movies? I mean, I find it difficult to believe that there was there a rabid audience clamoring for more prom night films every year in the way they were for Freddy and Jason movies. I have a very difficult time even imagining there are those remote groups of diehard devotees for this particular franchise the way there are with hellraiser and phantasm fans. I mean, there is no central figure or premise for someone to latch onto.  Prom Night 4 follows the established tradition of each film having basically nothing to do with the previous.  Indeed, in this film our group of protagonists don’t even make it to the prom. Their destination is a weekend alone at an old house – one that used to be a monastery.

This film is another straightforward story about a catholic priest turned avenging angel – slicing and dicing that which he considers “unholy “.  I’d bristle if the trope wasn’t so common.

Someone’s picked up those night of the Demons references again by the way – we have a swooping racing crane shot through abandon hallways. We have a slow push in to frame. Even that large cavernous living room they hunker down and feels much like the one we saw in Night of the Demons – perhaps it’s just a standard look. You could just as easily be Collinwood from Dark Shadows, but I really feel like this film makers are pulling cues from those films. This one feels just a tad more watered down – almost like a TV film, but with just enough edge to push into direct video territory. I miss the blood and gore of the previous movies, but it’s understandable – this movie was filmed during that period we were entering where the MPAA was seriously cracking down on blood in films – we’d have fairly dry horror for the next 10 years. I also miss the supernatural element, though I have to admit – it’s to their credit that they tried to get the series back to Its stalker/slasher roots. The flick is made particularly interesting by the inclusion of Nicole Debor as our final girl- I of course remember her best to ask the actress to replace Terry Farrell as Dax on the last season of Deep Space 9. My familiarity with the actress, actually makes me want to root for her more! There is a real punch the air moment with bug spray that I genuinely felt myself cheering for her. Nevertheless, she is still betraying the innocent and optimistic adorable kind of character she always does… It’s even present when I watch her in Cube. She’s definitely got a type.  I’m still trying to decide whether I think she’s cuter with long hair or short.

This film feels like a great missed opportunity.  Once again the whole prom night been is pushed to the background – almost making me wonder if the script wasn’t written first and then adapted into the franchise. But it seems to me like a great deal of catholic mysticism and religious horror could have been injected into this film making it far more interesting then The by the numbers slasher we end up with.

Unlike the second and third films, which are endlessly rewatchable, this one is utterly forgettable. AND LONG. One of the good things about the rest of these films is that the mercifully short – so whose idea was it to make this one two hours? Repeated sequels should definitely not be longer than Star Wars. I

There’s many films that would be improved by trying to stand on their own – but this is not one of them… Even without The prom night name, this would have absolutely been a forgotten VHS rental for me back in the day. One watch and never thought of again. You can probably skip this one, and It’s probably a good thing that the series ended here.

Or did it?

Prom Night 3

franchisebannerThe thing about prom night three, is that it feels like this director watched 1988’s Night of the Demons, and decided to do a version of it grafted onto the prom night series. Mary Lou is back but it’s a much less convoluted story – more of a very straightforward slasher rather than the slow possession that we got from the previous film. It’s a very stylized looking to me, but then again that’s what we come to expect – each entry in the series seems to have its own unique look and feel.

In Prom Night 3, Mary Lou is a ghost who is attached to a young man – trying to do things to help him. Helpful acts like murdering the guidance counselor or changing his GPA. I’m not entirely clear as to how this helps her, it doesn’t seem like her goal this time around is to return to life but rather merely a infatuation with this boy. Nevertheless, the bloodbath ensues and we get treated to some fun and inventive kills ask the story unfolds. If this movie wasn’t direct to video, it really should have been. In most ways it doesn’t feel like it continues the narrative  in any significant way. Indeed, the prom itself is clearly a minor component of this film – just a happenstance background for the final act .

That’s not to say it’s a bad film, I actually really liked it – I just don’t know what it’s doing using the name “prom night ” or “Mary Lou Maloney “. I’m definately inclined to pull this out again though in the future – particularly if I ever watch any of these films again, or even if I were to take another look at the Night of the Demons series… This would make a great number four