The Violent Blue blog***Comics, Horror and Pop Culture***Updates Tuesday through Friday (and occasionally at random)

Franchise Focus

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?

Advertisements

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


Prom Night 2

I remember the ads for prom night 2 – this particular poster was plastered everywhere, I believe it was even in some of my comic books back in the day. One of the things that makes Prom Night 2 a much stronger film is that it’s its own thing – you have the recognition of the name with the classic film but it really has an individual sense of identity and is a quintessentially 80s slasher film.

This is a slow burn, a gradual possession flick with a very stereotypical blonde, innocent, catholic final girl at its core. We get some slimy greasy FX towards the end, although the gore is actually surprisingly subdued here.

Still, it’s not really the same kind of film that the original wires – it’s not the 70s gritty cult classic type. That’s okay, because it’s more of an 80s slasher classic type and honestly it still stands that test of time – as well as standing on its own as an individual film. The only thing holding this film back from true cult status, is the lack of a truly charismatic villain. Mary Lou Maloney is adequate, but she lacks the panache of the Freddie or Jason or even a Night of the Demons Angela. Still, this movie is definitely a recommend – it’s a good time and a nice fun slasher that belongs in your collection


Focus on Prom Night

franchisebannerFor the next few weeks we are going to be focusing on the Prom Night franchise. I chose this one because I’ve actually only seen one of these films – and it’s the second one. That may seem like a strange place to begin, but prom night two was released in the late 80s and targeted firmly at my generation, whether they knew the source material or not! It’s the one I remember commercials for, it’s the one that I think at first. The Prom Night series is particularly important because it solidifies Jamie Lee Curtis has a scream queen; perhaps even the first modern scream queen (One could arguably contest that the earliest scream queen was in fact, her mother Janet Leigh). That original prom night film is one of those cult classics that I feel guilty for not having seen – it’s one of those I certainly should have, and I don’t have any excuse. Back in the UHF days, channel 43 played it every Halloween. The thing is, I was too busy watching Nightmare on Elm Street to bother with  A slasher about a prom queen. Time I rectified that.

Looking over IMDb, I noticed there is are actually five of these! I never would’ve guessed that. A direct to video part three doesn’t surprise me, but I’ve never even heard of part four. The poster for the remake hung in my library for a short while, and I’m particularly interested in seeing how that one stacks up.

Here’s the thing though, we’re going to approach this one just a little differently. I’m saving the original, which I’ve never seen, for last. I want to watch all the sequels first, with only the reputation of the original to judge them against, and then will conclude by saying if that original film lives up to its own reputation, and it’s progeny.

So join me for exploration of the prom night films – I suspect this is going to be an interesting ride


Black Cobra 4?

franchisebannerRight from the start you can tell Black Cobra four is going to be bad. It’s weird and grainy and the sound feels awkward– the music sounds like it comes from a 1940s film, despite being filmed in 1991.

I use the term “filmed” loosely by the way, considering this film was patched together from outtakes and redubbed clips from previous films with a little bit of new footage added. Williamson himself didn’t even know this movie existed until somebody confronted him about it at the grocery store – he didn’t shoot any new footage for it.

His Detective Malone has always been a bit of a one note character as it is – very standard action cop but in this overdubbed patch job, he feels even less developed than ever before. Because of all the useded footage, he ends up not having a lot of dialogue – and those long stretches of silence, add a far more brooding feel to him. It’s out of character, and we end up completely losing all of the charm that makes Fred Williamson a star. Williamson’s Detective Malone ends up entering a scene from the side, then vanishing for long stretches – almost disconnected… Like Bella Lugosi in plan nine from outer space.

The villain and the gang from the first movie are back (though now, there Islamic terrorists screaming “Allah is with us! “) kidnapping a brilliant computer programmer help them make better weapons. I suppose I should be relieved to see the return of the studded black leather, but really I’ve been enjoying the sequels a lot more than the original and this feels like a step backwards – a desperate step. At least they’re not so rapey in this film. The dialogue is clumsy, the music is canned, The dubbing is awful, and everything here is just a misfire.

It’s not just the dialogue, it’s the delivery – Fred’s side kick in this movie never shares the screen with him – although he does telephone him at one point. We only have the sidekick’s  side of the telephone conversation because of course, Fred didn’t actually film this movie. We have the detective wander in the room again when he hears a blender or a TV go on, and the dramatic acceptance when the witness offers him a milkshake. It makes for a rough viewing. By the halfway point, I was ready to give up but stuck around because sometimes the third act will make all the difference.

It didn’t, but at least it was least talky so I could use the fast foreword more often. We have our  rescue missions that thematically should be run by the hero… But again, Fred Williamson isn’t an actually here! at 12 minutes to go, I was just watching the clock. Even for mediocre low-budget action series like this, I wanted better for it.

Shockingly, it may just be that this entry didn’t completely kill the series! IMDb reports a new production, the Black Cobra Returns in preproduction right now! We’ll see if this actually happens, I think I might just be down for that!


Black Cobra 3

franchisebannerBlack Cobra 3 starts off with a very ramboesque action sequence in what I can only assume to be the Manila jungles. I’m searching my mind try to remember any mention in the previous Black Cobra movies at any Vietnam experience or military training. Because really at this point I just don’t understand where this series is going. The whole globetrotting cop thing doesn’t quite fit – but that does appear to be the idea. I almost wonder if this started off life as a completely different movie (or script) and was rebranded because somebody had Fred Williamson.

Malone is in the Philippines at the request of an old one buddies son – an interpool agent in an investigation. I kind of find myself missing Nicolas Hammond here – our new young sidekick is fine but it feels very much like a seems like a missed opportunity to create some semblance of continuity from these movies.

It ends up being a very by the numbers action film. In a way it seems to be confused as to what kind of film it wants to be.The middle section is very much a martial arts kind of action film – with Fred employing his fists and feet. However once we get to the third act we are back in full and Rambo territory with M-16 and guns over the place. Fred let’s fly his share of bullets as well, and it’s dumb fun with big guns, full ammo belts and a secret installation deep in the jungle to do battle at.

Altogether, it’s every bit as fun as the second one , Perhaps even more so with an increased scope-though it doesn’t play pass the watch test


Black Cobra 2

franchisebannerI’m going to admit, I like this one better than the first one… Action films frequently work this way – where the character gets a little bit more established and the pace of the film just runs better in the second instalment.

In this film, Williamson’s character is transferred to a special mission in the Philippines. As silly as that sounds, it actually helps the movie establish it’s own identity and distinguish Williamson character as more than just a generic action hero

He’s still a bit of a loose cannon, with a  style that is deemed too reckless by his partner – this time around played by Nicholas Hammond, of both the Sound of Music and the Spider-Man television show. There is chemistry there though, and the buddy cop format is a good match.

In retrospect, this may well be my favourite instalment of the Black Cobra series… The format is running on all cylinders, and Fred Williamson is at his best here.


Focus on Black Cobra

franchisebannerI spent some time last year exploring Blaxploitation cinema… While my intent was really to just catch up on the shaft films, I stumbled onto the black Cobra movies… I’m a big fan of Fred Williams in in general, and this seemed like it might be a fun series.

The point of the title is that this is supposed to be a rip-off of Sylvester Stallone’s “Cobra” I wouldn’t know, as I’ve never actually seen the film, but from what I can see it’s a standard, by the numbers action film – with Williamson as the loose cannon cop. There is nothing special here, but it’s great fun to watch Williamson chomp his cigar and blast his way through the film. The occasional martial arts seem weird, I suppose somewhere in the back of my mind I knew he had training but it feels in incongruent as his character takes out the drug ring…

Standard for the time, but I still enjoy it. I’m not sure how this thing warranted a sequel, much less two!

Maybe it’s time to check them out.

 


Children of the Corn : Runaway

franchisebanner

MV5BM2I1ZjJjNDMtODExMy00YmM4LWJiYjctODc2NjAzYzVjNGNlXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyOTE2MTYxOQ@@._V1_UY268_CR2,0,182,268_AL_I’ve got to admit, this one feels different.

It starts off with a documentary feel, grainy black-and-white footage that catches us up on the mythology this film builds on – not necessarily the mythology of the series, just the history specific to this film.

You can tell by the cinematography the John Gulager is taking this seriously – it’s shot like a drama, without trendy flair or slick editing. We have an outcast in the middle of nowhere, the titular runaway who’s having visions, some washed out flashbacks, a few of which are walking daydreams. We get some acceptable gore in these shots, and it’s enough to make me wonder what’s going on, keeping us off-balance and freaked out, though not enough to really build up a sense of dread. This time around our small town doesn’t feel like a back lot set – it feels dusty and lived in. It’s underused though.  The town is just backdrop for the story instead of giving Children-of-the-Corn-Genesisoff that sort of alien, isolated creepy factor that drives so many of these films. Our heroine brings a Sarah Connor kind of vibe, wandering as she does with her teenage son. As she starts to make good at the local garage, the Corn children begin thier murderous work.

I dig this one, and it’s safe to say that it’s one of the good entries with a reasonably original premise and solid film making. I do however miss the religious horror aspect – it’s mentioned in passing, but doesn’t really affect the film (until perhaps the last thrity seconds) and its loss is keenly felt. That said, the ending does set us up for a very MV5BNzA2ZGI4MDktNTA5ZS00ZGMyLWExNTEtYjhhOGNjMWQxNDY3XkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyMjUzMjAxNTI@._V1_religious horror kind of sequel. I wouldn’t however, count on Dimension coming through with that – there’s no continuity or guiding vision with these films, though if John Gulager were so inclined to pick up the reins and guide things in a direction, this is certainly a good place to kick that off.

All in all, it’s cleverly made, with one twist that is fairly obvious, but a second one thrown in towards the end that I completely didn’t see coming. It comes off as more a spin-off then a proper sequel, and that may be the best thing for this franchise.


Children of the Corn : Genesis

franchisebanner*sigh*. Dimension Extreme. The sight of that logo on the DVD for Children of the Corn : Genesis bodes poorly for this entry. Dimension extreme is basically where they dump throwaway movies that they are making just to retain a license – and within the first five minutes that certainly seems to be the case here. (note to our future filmmakers – to make a children of the corn film… You need more than just kids and some pieces of corn . After watching nine of these, it’s obvious that this is something you guys don’t understand).

After the thoughtfull remake in 2009 this one seems to snap right back to the “anything goes” slasher mode – just throw some corn or country sacks in there and it’ll be fine! I’m pretty sure if I’d been following these as they were being made (rather than just me marathoning the whole lot of them) that I would be pissed at getting this entry next. At least it’s only 80 minutes – and some of that has got to be credits!

Okay, let’s do this.

Billy Drago is looking OLD in this one. He appears to be acting either in a studio backlot or very possibly just somebody’s backyard. This frustrates me – especially when the last film reminded us just how well these films work but only when they’ve got the backdrop of a small town. Drago’s gravitas is undermined by all the beautiful young people acting around him in this film – once again, to clean and too pretty for the subject matter.

About 30 minutes in somebody mistakes this for being a Hellraiser film – which isn’t terribly surprisingly since we’ve about abandoned anything really recognizable as children of the corn already anyhow.

We have an attractive couple, straight off the set of the latest CW show, land in the middle of corn children country, and slasher hijinks ensue. Occasionally unseen supernatural forces move things and we get a few brief bad dreams.

It’s possibly the weakest of the entire series and miserable way to end it – with a whimper, not even a yawn. Skip this one, and will hope that the next one dimension (the extreme imprint is gone now) release will be better. After all, it’s almost license renewal time.