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The Box Set Project

Prime Evil

boxghindexI get the strangest feeling I’ve seen this before – or maybe that’s just some thing in the whole Crown International Pictures style? There’ve been a LOT of Satanic Cult films here…not that I’m complaining!

From IMDB : “A coven of devil-worshiping monks living in New York City search for victims for their sacrificial ceremonies.”

Like most of these movies, it’s a simple concept, drawn out to entertain a feature length. While we get some interesting kills along the way, infused with a hefty dose of Catholic iconography and mysticism, you can tell they pretty much spent the bulk of their budget at teh very beginning of the movie and the very end with glimpses of the demon they serve and some well done gore shots that close the film. It’s forgettable fun, and I can see myself revisiting this in the future.

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Madmen of Mandoras

boxghmv5bmdg1m2fmnjktmjhjzi00yzkzlwe4zgutmta5zjcxota5ntrlxkeyxkfqcgdeqxvymtq2mjqyndc-_v1_ux182_cr00182268_al_I think these guys are trying to pull a fast one on me! I’ve seen this movie before haven’t I? This is obviously “They Saved Hitler’s Brain”!

Well… not exactly. But we’ll get to that in a moment.

From IMDB : “At the end of World War II, Nazi officials spirited the living head of Adolf Hitler out of Germany to a hiding place in the South American country of Mandoras, in order to revive the Third Reich at a later date. By the 1960s these men believed the time had come, so they kidnap a top scientist in order to force him to help keep Hitler alive. Several intelligence agencies find out about the plot and send agents to stop it.”

mv5bmjm3mdqzotkxml5bml5banbnxkftztgwnjc0ntgwmze-_v1_Here’s the thing, I HAVE seen They Saved hitler’s Brain…but that’s actually a longer movie. Extra footage was shot so they could release it under that name. THIS film; Madmen of Mandoras, is actually the original. There’s less to see here, and quite frankly, that’s a blessing. See, the extra footage was shot over a decade later- and it shows. Radically diffrent haristyles of the late sixties as opposed to the early 50’s, diffrent clothing fasions, diffrent cars – there’s no attempt made to hide the extra footage being fro ma diffrent era.

It’s baffling as well – this wierd detective kind of story that’s been grafted on to the movie clashes with the mad scientist intrigue. The styles are jarring against each other and it dosen’t help that the new “B” storyline is terrible. I have to say, the ending with the head melting is actually a little gorier and I do like it better, but that’s all that I like better.

Do youself a favor and stick with Madmen rather than They Saved – the shorter running time combined with the purity of the B film is far more satisfying.


The Crow : Wicked Prayer

boxmwicked_prayer_posterFor years I have been told that the Crow Wicked Prayer is the absolute bottom of the barrel. It’s the worst of all of the crow sequels. For that reason I’ve never actively sought it out, I haven’t exactly avoided it but I never gone out of my way to find the film either. If I would catch the start of the film and cable, I probably would’ve watched it all the way through or at least grabbed the VCR to record it and watch later. As it is, I’m only now getting around to it – the fact that it was included in this set was one of my reasons for buying. It’s  a convenient way to finely encounter this film.

The big problem with any of the crow sequels is that they are… Well, sequels that in their sequels to the sort of film that is impossible the follow-up that it wasn’t designed to be a franchise.with his graphic novel, James O’Barr managed to elevate both the revenge movie and the superhero story, fusing them into 13615076_1222796694431418_7220889427768388005_nsomething that was extremely appealing to comic fans and to open minded literary types. When the story went to film, the director managed to keep the soul of the story while stylizing a look and managed to turn it into a genuine success, a box office phenomenon on that appealed not only to the comic book faithful but that was also embraced by mainstream audiences bringing entirely new fan base. The original didn’t chase after fashion or pop culture, but rather inspired it. It didn’t seek popular music but rather popularized the music that was in The film – there are very few soundtracks I can think of that are quite as influential as the Crow. So the problem comes when trying to make a sequel to it – just distilling the elements that worked while holding onto the heart and soul of the film. A sequel is generally going to manage to get one of these parts right but fails in the others.

One of the big problems in city of angels is that the villains are all just a little bit too freaky. The crow wisely kept the eccentric villain down to one – the big bad, where as all the minions were very ordinary, if scummy looking, guys. In city of angels every villain was a hyper realistic comic book looking freak – and when you populate a film with a bunch of people in funny costumes, it  immediately erodes the suspension of disbelief. I like salvation better, because it tries to get back to basics – not nearly as many strange looking people running around. The crooked cops storyline though in the end it was a downer– it doesn’t help my sympathy with the Leads. Still it was all a step in the right direction

Wicked Prayer actually works better then as the previous sequels and I love the Southwest setting, it actually feels like the mysticism of the crow. You can see that somebody really put their heart and soul into this, they really wanted to do something different, something original. The motif of the four Horsemen of the Apocalypse is a fascinating twist, but it’s under used – I would’ve liked to have seen more depth to this. Without real exploring, it almost feels like a label slapped on at the last minute. This time the bad guys are Satanic coven led by a charismatic leader who is swaying them by promising revenge against the men trying to close the mines where their families make their living. There is a surprising amount of Star power in this film as well. Edward Furlong, Tara Ried, and David Boreanaz are all in the ensemble – but Dennis Hopper also makes a cameo, actually a fairly significant supporting character and possibly my favorite part of the plot. Even Tito Ortiz and Danny Trejo get in on the action. The idea of using a Satanic cult – once again it’s a great idea although in some ways it feels underused.  It’s really a set up to empower our big bad at the very end of the film, but I would like to see more… David Boreanaz is arguably the weakest part of this bill. I don’t know what he’s doing here… He can give a much better performance than this, but he insists on being happy and goofy through the whole thing. I don’t understand why he’s playing this for comedy, it drags the whole thing down and undermines the very serious performances that everybody else is trying to give.   Tara Ried – this poor girl gets a lot of criticism, rightly so, She’s one of those same characters in every role she gets. Here you can see in her performance that she is trying really hard – and there’s moments when the role is just a little bit beyond her, but with a little bit more time to frame and push and edit it a little better she could’ve pulled this role off. She’s not miscast, which is the common criticism here. I think people were expecting her to be a carbon copy of Bai Ling’s role in the original – I don’t think that’s her purpose here all. I do think she is playing a bit of a dark sexpot, with momentary flashes of power. It’s a good role for her, and a good chance to scratch, but again she is undermined by Boreanaz’s poor choices.

Edward Furlong is an interesting choice for this. I’m not a fan, I’ve never seen the brilliance in his performance that everybody else seems to have admired – not even in his T2 role.  At times I almost feel like he looks too young for the part that but honestly that’s not the real problem here, the biggest issue facing his character is that the character has such a chip on his shoulder from the word go- it makes it very hard to sympathize with him. indeed, I think the producers realized that it was hard for the audience to connect with him, and they spent a lot of time playing getting-to-know-you. We do not see the appearance of the Crow in full make-up until nearly half way through this film – and that’s way too long to wait got in the Crow. Edward is a sort of angel with the dirty face. We never get an impression that he is anything but in all honestly a generally good guy. In fact killing seems unusual for him – a step too far. He’s got a troubled past, with an assault on his record, everybody in the town hates him and he’s ostracized – the only friend he’s got the lead person who cares for him at all is the girlfriend. I suppose setting him up as an outsider it’s not a bad thing, but he resents it – almost to the end. Perhaps we were supposed to side with him, but really it does not endear him to me. Still, as the Crow Furlong actually works. I didn’t think it would, but the more you look at it the more it becomes comfortable. I love the Indian feathers on the costume and those kind of touches to it – the fact that he drives around in a hearse though, is perhaps just a little bit too on the nose. It’s a symptom of the film trying a little bit too hard to be relevant to pop culture. Really, that seems to be the motive between a lot of this casting with people like David Boreanaz , Tara Reid, and Tito Ortiz. Let’s get young and hip and relevant – and I don’t think their presence there really manages to for fill that purpose.

The fight scenes and choreography are great. The director has a tendency to throw in a slo-mo shot here and there in a lot of these fights, I’m not sure if this is covering up something or if it’s just an attempt at an artistic flair. It doesn’t really do anything for the look of the film, but it doesn’t attract trouble either – I suppose it’s as much as we can ask for. Despite a rather slow first half, once I get into the second half of this film – it really does start to feel like Crow, and actually possibly more so than the other sequels. I’m really enjoying this film and I’m not sure that it deserves the vitriol that’s been heaped on it. I can absolutely see myself revisiting this film, and I wish that it had occurred earlier in the cycle. If this had been the first sequel to this series, I think it would be held in high regard. I may be starting at halfway through the film though – the origin story does take a little bit too long, but that’s a common problem in superhero films and it seems it’s produces were just following the trend of the day. I like Wicked Prayer. In my opinion this actually maybe the strongest of the sequels, not the weakest – and definitely worth the two dollars that I plunked down for this box set. The next time it’s on sci-fi, grab a bowl of popcorn give this one a chance.


They

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From IMDB : “A psychology student finds all her childhood fears and phobias becoming real after a traumatic event. ”

They was one of the reasons I picked up this box set in the first place. It seems like a good opportunity to consolidate my DVD collection a bit. I have seen this film before, it’s probably one of the biggest profile releases on this set! Still, I understand why it was collected here. They has gotten a lot of flak over the years, people seem to really, really hate this film – and I don’t understand why. Is it the “Wes Craven presents” conceit? A backlash or a disappointment that it’s not up to the quality of other Craven films? Objectively speaking, let’s face it – Craven’s involvement in this film was probably limited to cashing a check.

It’s a strong story to me, I remember the commercials being intriguing but I simply never made it out to the theatre in time. Sitting at home watching it on my television, the film scared me. It genuinely frightened me.  It immediately sets the tone for this film and the kind of things that were going to start seeing here. It’s got the look and feel of a lot of films from this era, things like Jeepers Creepers and Darkness Falls. The fact that they never really show you the monster is brilliant – you see enough of it to know that there is something there, something exists in that space and is stalking you but man, the fact that we never get a good full-fledged reveal makes it far creepier than anything – whatever these things are just thoroughly creeps me out.

Of the films in this volume, this may well be the scariest and if I wern’t reviewing it for this column, it would almost certainly be a “in defence of “. I love this movie and if you haven’t caught They, it’s really worth a second look. It’s one that seems to have gathered more appreciation of a time, although it’ll never be a classic it certainly deserves to be more than just a footnote in an eight pack of horror movies.


Children of the Corn 3 : Urban Harvest

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This right here may be where the Children of the Corn series goes off the rails. Still, it’s inclusion in this box set was one of the selling points for me – it was one of these films I didn’t have on DVD….and I can’t imagine why I’d need any special features so it was worth the two dollar price of admission, and serves as both a box set project entry and a franchise focus review!

From IMDB : “Two brothers, formerly of the murderous children’s cult of Gatlin Nebraska, are taken to Chicago by an unwitting couple.”

I mentioned in my review of CotC2 that the real threat with these movies is just HOW MANY of these creepy kids there are. It’s like a zombie movie…individually, you can handle this stuff, but with a dozen or two of these little creepers advancing out of the cornfields and in your direction, clutching sharp and hideous farming implements….that’s some scary stuff right there.

This one kind of chucks all of that in exchange for a story about couple of country kids in the city.

Seriously, this is basically Breaking Amish gone horribly wrong. The fish out of water concept was already stale when we left the 80’s and it was downright rotten by the time we got to this film- it was 1995 and a lot of franchises were really running out of steam (it was just a bad time for horror, and dimension was particularly bad to it’s franchises…). We get an interesting juxtaposition between the brothers, one who wants to assimilate as opposed to the younger one who is fastidious in his devotion to he who walks behind the sheathes. We toss in a completely out-of-place bit of corporate intrigue mixed with ma

 

gic corn seeds…It climaxes  bizarrely, a cornfield in the suburbs, and a giant rubber monster (at least it’s not CGI) rampaging and wreaking vengeance on the community. This is one of those where you get all the best parts in the trailer – watch this and save yourself the ordeal of watching this full film. Here’s hoping part four will be better.

 


6 Degrees of Helter skelter

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From IMDB : “”The Six Degrees of Helter Skelter” walks in the footsteps of the Manson Family, visiting over 40 locations related to the infamous Tate/LaBianca murders, and tying together the dozens of odd connections between Charles Manson and the Hollywood elite. Entertainingly led by famous Hollywood historian Scott Michaels (E!’s 20 Most Horrifying Hollywood Murders, Dearly Departed: Vol. 1, FindADeath.com), this epic documentary employs never-before-seen autopsy reports (analyzed with the help of the Los Angeles Department of the Coroner), dozens of rare photographs, original Manson Family music recordings, and modern-day visits to the locations where the action went down, in the most complete retelling of the Manson Murders ever put on film. ”

This documentary is a fascinating exploration of the Manson family murders. It’s hosted by someone who obviously loves the material and is completely enthralled by the exploration. This guy knows more about the Manson family then anyone I have ever encountered – and I happen to know some people totally obsessed with serial killers… Seriously this guy put them to shame!

He doesn’t just retell the story, he investigates it – taking us to the places where the murders happened, tracing the ground that the family took and showing us how Charles Manson build up this following, how he sank into his delusions and gives a really clear picture of how we finally got to this horrific act.  I learned more about these murderers and this case than I’ve ever known, and I discovered from this brilliant documentary more  than any books that I’ve read. I didn’t expect to like this so much, I didn’t expect to learn so much – I threw this one on as a whim, almost wondering what it was doing in a box set like this, but looking back, it fits perfectly – this is real life horror and possibly my favourite film out of this entire set (It seems like I keep saying that!) This documentary alone is worth the price of admission and I am going to be revisiting this one again and again.


The Ritual

boxmheaderThe cover for this one is misleading – and that’s really a shame! The creepy little girl over the blue washed out background is a great image but its got nothing to do with the story (though I’d sure like to see the story that image actually does represents!)

The film is about a nurse arriving in Jamaica to take care of a rich man’s younger brother – as voodoo swirls on around them. It’s a genuinely good thriller, and feels very more than a little reminiscent of the Serpent and the Rainbow done it would make a perfect double feature with that film. It’s still fairly simplistic story, greed and betrayal, with voodoo thrown in as the method of vengeance for betrayal instead of more traditional methods like a gun or knife. It’s surprisingly packed with stars -we got Jennifer grey front and center here, although it’s after the plastic surgery so she’s a little bit harder to recognize. Tim Curry is around a great deal.  A lot more than you would expect – I thought it’d be a cameo but no, he’s really one of the supporting players enjoying chewing the scenery in the way that only he knows how.

The other very weird thing about this, is it this is the tales from the crypt film. That took me completely by surprise, and there is no trace of it in the poster art on the box set.  I know if you read the description on the back you’ll see the name in kind of FinePrint. I completely missed that. Seriously, I simply didn’t realise there WAS a third Tales from the Ccrypt movie! I’m a big fan of the Demon Knight, and an even bigger fan of Bordello of Blood – which felt like a good companion piece to John carpenters vampires that but this? I never knew this existed! It was a pleasant surprise, although honestly, the film doesn’t need the tales from the crypt pedigree – It stands on it’s own as a good movie. Still, I hope that it’s got a few more eyes on it during international release becasue of the that. It deserves it

This is genuinely one of the better films of the bunch, and I would kind of like to see this going together in a marathon with something like Serpant and the Rainbow and perhaps even Hatchet two – where Tony Todd is playing a voodoo master. This is definitely one I’m going to have to come back and revisit – soon hopefully.


Mortuary again?

boxmmv5bmtq1mdu3nzy2ov5bml5banbnxkftztcwntuznzizmq-_v1_uy268_cr50182268_al_I knew this was familiar, but I figured I had seen it on Netflix. Not so! This was part of the “Dead Walking” set. So, what are my thoughts on this second viewing?

The context helps, being part of the Zombie collection. Mortuary is an interesting take on the zombie  story, particularly with the focus on transmission here and the use of plants as one of the monsters. Denise Crosby’s involvement always gave this a bit of a Pet Semetary vibe – though it may be more than that.  I think it also has to do with the color palette and the nature of hallowed ground being corrupted.

You see, our protagonists have inherited a Mortuary and do not plan on doing anything with it until they run into some financial troubles and the mother (crosby) finds this is a very lucrative business.

It’s also the wrong place to be living when a zombie outbreak occurs. Seriously.

I don’t really want to talk too much about this one, because it’s actually really fun. Don’t go into it expecting to see any directorial flourishes from Tobe Hooper, I honestly don’t really see his hand in it. Nevertheless, it’s interesting, and the effect (with the exception of a bit of dodgy CGI at the end) are well done in visually intriguing. This has been on Netflix regularly and I wouldn’t be surprised if it hit SyFy from time to time. This one is definitely worth a watch. Heck, it was even worth the rewatch!


The Nameless

boxmmv5bmddkmwixzwqtnwewnc00ymriltlmztctnjk5nzk0zta3ntfixkeyxkfqcgdeqxvymta0mju0ng-_v1_ux182_cr00182268_al_The nameless is a study in not enough. It’s a  slow moving story and every element in it (many of which I like) are as underused as that the name is.

It is the story of a woman whose daughter is lost . The first have hour evolves just like any average episode of Law and order or CSI. Police discover the body, theres an investigation, Case closed.

Everything changes when the mother receives a phone call from what sounds like the deceased daughter and she begins to suspect that the body found was not the right one. The story progresses further with the revelation of a  further investigation from both the detective on the case and the reporter from the local tabloid rag. The story really doesn’t pick up though until we’re about halfway through the film – right around the 45 minute mark. It’s a struggle to get here.  Once we start getting into the idea of the cold and investigating the only non-member, things do you start to pick up – there’s an interesting narrative here, it’s just woefully under used. The idea of a cult is inserted at the last minuet… I’m sure it was fleshed out in the writers mind, and we’re told about it, but we see so very little of it – it falls woefully short of the excitement and interest that we get from say, the old 70s Hammer horror where the Satanic cults are in full diabolical display. It seems to me that they’re trying to go for more of the suspenseful atmosphere perhaps, but they don’t quite achieve it – the story just drags, and I feel as if I am watching any procedural cop show on television, just with a teensy bit more blood… Maybe not even that.

Towards the end we get a brief glimpse of one of the characters tortured. It’s the sort of thing that we appeal to the saw crowd, but again it’s just the clips… Not enough of it to be engaging in a torture porn  sort of format. The ending feels like it’s reaching – like it wants to be innovative, esoteric, but it really fails to deliver that I want away from this movie rather disappointing, not because of the bad film, but because I can see t he potential in it for a much better one. This isn’t even as good as the ones on late night TV – it’s perfectly at home in a bundle box set like this, but otherwise nothing to see here, move on…


The Hole

boxmindexDon’t let the cover art fool you, this is not Keira Knightley’s movie. She is a minor character at best here… Well perhaps a little more than that but she certainly not the star of the story!
From IMDB : “Four teenagers at a British private school secretly uncover and explore the depths of a sealed underground hole created decades ago as a possible bomb shelter.  ”

I’m glad that IMDB labels them as teenagers because I wasn’t certian- still not sure if that’s a high school ro a college….

In any event we have the predictable hook ups, booze, jealousy, all of this is standard fare, flashing back to the horrible events of the film. We got through the retelling of the story, and the main character gets out victoriously – it almost feels like the end of the descent that then I checked my watch, only half an hour had passed.  Surely this can’t be it! It wasn’t. The story is from several different perspectives, with the feel of the police procedural going on in the background. In many ways it feels like we’re retelling the story until we get it right – until we get to the truth. It’s an interesting tool but it kills rewatchability…not that I was going to be coming back to this any time soon.

I’m not totally certain that I would classify this as horror or  even suspense. I’m really not sure what it’s doing in this package – the story at its heart, is really more about the breakdown of society – admittedly in a microchasm like this but still, they kind of want to explore the same themes that we see in say, Ramiro zombie films. It’s about what people do to each other in desperate situations. There’s a twist here but you can see it coming 1,000,000 miles away and after a while the repetitive nature of the story makes you wish that they just get to the point already. It’s not a bad film , it does make you squirm a little bit, it makes you uneasy, but it’s not my kind of film that I think it’s time to move along…