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Masters of Terror Vol. 4

Halloween Resurrection

index.jpgI’ve never completely understood all the hate that Halloween resurrection gets. Admittedly, this is not up to the quality of the original, but that’s not really what I’m expecting from a late series sequel to a slasher franchise.

It could be because Jamie Lee Curtis is so prominently featured on the cover and that fans were expecting her to be a central component to the film– in all fairness that is a bit of bait and switch. Her prologue in this movie is really nothing more then A dire epilogue to H20 and dispatching her at the beginning (A demand she had written into her contract) surely left a bad taste in certain peoples mouths– much like the way the survivors from Aliens were treated in Alien three.

Nevertheless the idea of turning the Myers house into a bizarre reality television competition, it was actually timely and clever – a twist that we haven’t seen before… OMIGOD IS THAT KATEE SACKHOFF??? Seriously. I love Katee Sackoff  – in everything but BSG. indexI’d totally fogotten aboyt Tyra banks here too. She’s cringeworthy here and there, but her real job is to be cute as the producer of the show. Busta Rhymes also seems wierd casting, but again, we forget how huge this dude was at that moment – he literally had 15 minutes of fame and then vanished from the scene. And you know what? He’s better than he gets credit for.

It’s a paper thin plot with the main characters set up with body cams and exploring the Myers house, but as Michael arrives and starts to slash his way through the hapless contestants, I’m actually quite well entertained – it’s a better entry then some of the late series sequels, most notably my first Halloween film, number six with the curse of Michael Myers (I know that’s a little bar to clear, but when you’re this deep into the series it’s really the way you should be measuring it). Myers kind of lacks motivation outside of his territory being invaded (and that’s more a Jason Vorhees trope. Perhaps someone got them confused) but the third act twist of someone watching the webcast being able to communicate with the final girl inside to help her is actually pretty clever. The whole thing might have been better served as a stand alone or in another franchise (this would make a dynamite Scream sequel). Honestly, this greatest sin is being largely generic and out of place (almost like a fan film or a TV episode) and ultimately forgettable.

But forgettable isn’t the same as BAD.

At the end of the day, you’re either a fan of this or you’re not. It ‘s almost more of a sidequel and perhaps should be held to a different standard. It really doesn’t belong in this continuity (specifically the timeline that skips 2-6, and picks up at H20) I don’t think anything I’m gonna say is gonna change your mind, but if you’ve never seen it – I do encourage you to check it out. It’s a fun watch once you turn your brain off, and having it on DVD is a great reason to grab the set.


Roman

indexRoman starts with a guy welding at steel mill then coming home, lighting up a cigarette and watching for the girl next door at his window. It’s awkward and creepy with a very indie feel to it, setting the tone for what’s to come.

Roman doesn’t have a television, so his room is set up around that window – his chair and table facing it where he can stay here and watch for the girl next door come out. It’s unnerving and we see how awkward he is, and for the life of me I can’t imagine how they’re going to squeeze 90 minutes out of this.

He dreams of her, dancing nude and backlit against random sets of images – in working, eating, flowers and sparks.

The guys at work make fun of him for not having a television, so he draws one on the wall and pretends to watch it – the girls voice coming from it.

index2Everything changes when he meets a real woman, as he hangs out on the top of his apartment building roof drinking beer – he is surprisingly articulate for such an introvert, but awkward as it is, it’s a charming interaction and now she knows him. A co-worker gives him an old black-and-white TV and he talks the girl over for drinks. This could almost be a romance, at this point… Which is how you know everything is about to go wrong.

Now, he has a secret – and when the next girl comes knocking at his door, it becomes a problem, fueled by his awkwardness and inability to know how to act with other people. (and you know, for being such a social misfit, he sure does attract the cutest women).

indexThere is a lot to love here, from the chilli dogs at the cemetery, to the porn loving superintendent to the beers and holding hands with the severed palm. The movies strangely engrossing and I couldn’t take my eyes off of it. Even being crazy, I really want things to work out for Roman – the closest thing I can compare it to is Adam Green’s Spiral, A similarly awkward head trip with a gawky dude and a cute girl and a dark twist.

Star Lucky McKey would go on to make some of modern horrors more disturbing thrillers such as May and The Woman. This is an interesting project to watch with him, especially seeing him as an actor instead of a director. It’s definitely a high recommend, with an ending I did not see coming, and makes this box set with the purchase price just for this film alone.


Paranormal Entity

index.jpgWithout even looking at the credits, I knew that with a name like paranormal entity this would bean Asylum film. It opens with the 911 call “they’re all dead! My sister is dead! “, before switching to a handheld camera. We get the premise that they were advised to set up cameras in the house to capture the activity, and then cut back to a black screen that gives us a Blair witch type description; This footage was down in their attic a year later, et cetera, et cetera

Back to the handhelds as the narrator introduces us to where the cameras are supposedly placed in the house. It’s a kind of smart idea to give us an idea of what the space looks like and feels like, before we plunged too far into this story. They tried to inject some creepiness right away by introducing us to the slightly catatonic mother – staring at an old stuffed animal. We get a placard telling us that it’s “night one” and start watching footage that has been tinted green to look like nightvision. We go back and forth between this and and daytime footage of annoyed characters who don’t seem too pleased to see the camera. They talk about who they think might be in the house… or might be haunting it, and slowly e to things start to happen – a glass breaks, the television turns on, and a cross falls off the wall – at this point you can tell it’s going to be a slow burner. We get a peek inside the diary, with a plea for God to help the writer. They also sneak in what is meant to be a creepy sketch along with the question “why am I seeing this?”.

Sleepwalking begins at night three around 25 minutes in – and ominous message is written onto a glass coffee table. Around the same time, the wife starts talking about her feelings that something is there – something in the room with her when she goes to sleep, something pressing down on her and trapping her.

As we go further into the film, it stumbles into the typical pitfalls of a found footage haunting film – phenomena and that largely unseen or unremarkable, sounds in darkness that come off as stagehands banging on the walls of screen or actors simply screaming because it’s in the script. Even when they come up with a clever idea like footprints on the ceiling (and ultimately, where they come from), it’s undermined by immediately transitioning over to the mundane stuff like doors slamming and televisions turning on. They fail to reinforce those things with even creepier images . Moreover, the shaky cam work is haphazard and unfocused – even found footage works better when you storyboard and plan your shots. Someone had the beginnings of an idea here, and there are a couple of fun moments – such as  when the mother and wife run off and discover the ghost indexhas followed them, or when we get the revelation of where the footprints come from, there’s even one haunting that where the hits come fast and loud enough to keep you off balance, but not enough for a complete movie – There is a good way of making these kind of films, but this isn’t it.

This film maybe okay if you’re in the mood to do a found footage marathon with a bunch of different indie films or burning through a box set collection like this, but it certainly wouldn’t be the centerpiece and isn’t worth going out of your way for.


Live Animals

index.jpgLive animals starts with the radio report of a missing girl in a rural area as a rancher picks up the feed for his animals. We shift to young people at a bonfire, somebody cloaked in darkness taking photos of them from the car. As the couples break apart from the group to go get busy, we see hands grabbing equipment – a gun, drug darts and needles – and a creepy rubber mask… Oh I’m so happy! These kind of movies are always more interesting when we have a creepy masked killer rather than just some dude walking around with an axe or something! The night atmosphere is beautifully lit, dark with just enough light to make out characters and details but will be enough to create dread. Despite the gun, the killer has the rough and deliberate movement that you see in Jason Vorhees. His murderous rampage makes for a surprisingly long opening sequence, eating up well over 15 minutes at the beginning of this 84 minute film.

index.jpgThings don’t let up though, we had back to the psycho’s place to find people chained up in the stable. He announces that they are all his property now, and that just like a horse, they need to be… broken. We spent the next 20 minutes watching them be tortured and abused, and then a car pulls up to the stable; A prospective buyer. The unlucky girl chosen, is created up in a wooden box and shipped out.

Overall, live animals is standard torture porn fair, a little on the light side when it comes to gore (with the exception of a couple of scenes towards the very end). I suppose I indexshould be grateful that the rapey parts are merely suggested, but all in all the films a drag and I’m not digging this one. I ended up watching the last third of this on fast forward because there’s not really enough dialogue to make a difference. Indeed, I almost wonder if this was a case of the filmmakers having a location –  the stable – and then because they have a location they build a story around it . I almost wonder if this would’ve been better off as a short, there doesn’t feel like there’s enough for to really be a full feature. In any event, it really doesn’t work for me – even with the attempt at a slight twist ending . It may be the first real misfire in this set. Not a big recommend.


Puppet Master

index.jpgYou know, that first puppet master film really is something special… From the moment we start with the dissonant carnival music and the close-up shots of the puppet faces, there is something inherently spooky about everything. Richard Band knew what he was doing when he scored this and Charles Band was really about to find his destiny.

Toulon, The creator of the puppets, is a great character – honest and multi layered.  There is also the brilliance of starting the film out from puppet Blade’s perspective – the lower angle chattering as the bad guys arrive at the scenic hotel. It’s quite bold of this low-budget production to start things off with the introduction being a period piece before moving the modern day – yet again is this a sense of scope and a lush atmosphere that the film alone may have lacked otherwise.

As the group of sensitives attend the funeral of their fellow psychic in this very hotel, they encounter the murderous puppets – the story is as simple as that. But simple works, indexand through it Charles Band has crafted his most enduring creation. In this first installment, more care is given to the puppets – both in personality and in animation… Indeed, in later installments We get a lot less stop motion and more close-ups, with clips from this film used repeatedly. Still, it’s great as a standalone or part of the series – and it’s another one where the opportunity to get this on DVD was worth the three dollar price of this collection!


The Prophecy 2

index.jpgOkay, Jennifer Beals and Britney Murphy. This looks like it just might be an interesting cast – and then I see Glenn Danzig listed as one of the angels – and now I feel fear.

The Prophecy 2 is an interesting follow-up to what was a fairly mediocre movie made particularly interesting by the inclusion of Christopher Walken. In general I’m a fan of Christian mysticism, however, the Prophecy never seemed franchise worthy to me though, so I never followed it up and as a result, don’t know what we’re going to see with two – other than the fact that Walken is here, and joined by Eric Roberts and Glenn Danzig – somewhat bizarre choices.

We begin the film with a shot of someone writing ancient texts dissolving into clouds dissolving into the city and getting us into the modern day setting. Then a person crashes down into Jennifer Beals car window, it definitely wakes me up and gets my attention.

Elsewhere, all monastery, dies in a room covered in papers in writing. It feels very non-Sequitur, is. I cut to a man in a black coat that rests into birds before the city concrete splits reminders for them. I read below emerges from underneath the concrete and between flashes of blood, hands reach out, clawing at the dirt and a muddy body street and read it self out before the concrete back together again. Face risers and we recognize Christopher Walken is back.

Because it’s a  sequel, they don’t waste any time with world building. A priest discovers the prophecy and is driven mad, then a dark angel open the gateway to hell to bring us index2.jpgthe fallen archangel back – and this is all before we even hit the nine minute mark.

Back at the hospital, Beals visits the man who crashed into her windshield, and sits with him in his hospital room as an angel watches on across the street. The man is getting better, and regaining his humor, entertaining children by jumping up and bouncing on the edges of the beds. He wants her home, and because pulling into somebody’s windshield is kind of like a first date, she probably takes him upstairs and gets knocked up.

Back of the monastery, Christopher Walken pays a visit to the monks, it’s a site that receives visions, and walking is sure they’ve seen the person that he is here to get. Seems uncooperative, but fire cleanses all.

Do you angel purchase on the edge of the bed come and watch his feels sleep… And goes back to importance. That. It’s around this time though, that Glenn Danzig shows up and attacks him, mid air. Our boy prevails, but now is on the hunt.

Walkin for his part is looking for Jennifer Beals since she’s pregnant with an angel baby- A somewhat confusing situation. Angel babies grow faster than regular ones and in just a few days, the doctor informs her that she’s in her second trimester.  She searches for answers while Walkin searches for her to prevent her nephilim from being born. He grabs a suicidal Britney Murphy for a sidekick (He needs help because he can’t drive a car or navigate DOS on the computer – can you blame him?), keeping her from being able to die (a trick we saw in the previous film as well). She’s weepy and you can tell that we’ve got a very talky fifty two minutes ahead of us.

In the meantime, Beals visits the corner, to view the body that she suspects is her angel baby daddy, now a stiff, thanks to Walken. The main purpose of this scene though, is for Kenny Banya to make his appearance and explain the plot… describing the angels that he had here in the mortuary for years ago.

Her next stop is the monastery of visions where the teacher continues information dump, this time updating us on angelic script and angels in the second war in heaven, for anybody who missed the first film. It’s here that we first find out about the

In the meantime, Beals visits the corner, to view the body that she suspects is her angel baby daddy, now a stiff, thanks to walk in. The main purpose though is for Kenny Banya to make his appearance and explain the plot… Describing the angels that he had here in the mortuary for years ago.

Her next stop is the monastery of visions where the teacher continues information dump, this time updating us on angelic script and angels in the second war in heaven, for anybody who missed the first film. It’s here that we first find out about the nephilim .

Back in the city, Brittany Murphy hacks computer and gets Jennifer Beals address for Walken, allowing him to arrive there before her.

“You have no idea trouble you got there,”  he tells Beals as he puts his hand on her belly. “Nothing personal, just business.”

Her angel baby daddy, not dead after all, crashes through the window to rescue her but Walkin stakes him, and then runs out to Brittany Murphy, waiting behind the wheel of the car to race after Beals. It’s amusing to note that they’re driving the same kind of car that Sam Raimi refers to as “the classic” in the Evil Dead films, just a different color. Our Angelic hero spirits her away to the monastery, hoping she’ll be safer there, as he attempts to get her to the archangel Michael and real protection.

Walken finds them  of course, but bills in the angel manage to escape while Walkin blunders into a crowd of cops all who all blow him away. He’s not gonna stay dead long though, and revives while the police are questioning Murphy. He collects her and heads out on his way, revealing to us where the final showdown will be held… Eden.

It’s no longer a garden, but rather in industrial hellscape which opens its gate up to Beals and her angel. They navigate through the steamy maze of pies and hot metal until they finally come across the Archangel Michael… This time played by Eric Roberts.

It’s fairly epic to see Walken and Roberts face off across the rusty gate beneath a tumultuous cloudy sky with the occasional angel soaring through it. As Walken gains entrance, it’s time for angelic melees as he sends Murphy to assassinate Beals, but pretty shortly, will all discover just how hard it is to kill the mother of a nephilim .

If you’re a fan of this series, it may be a worthwhile entry, but it doesn’t stand on its own for me (which makes it out of place in the Masters of Terror box set I got it in) and ultimately I found it a little slow, predictable, and boring… This one is probably a pass.


The Nurse

index.jpgCan I just say, I’m really excited to see Lisa Zane in The Nurse – it’s the only name I recognize, but I actually kind of dig her from not only Freddy’s dead but also her appearance on the Human Target. She’s front and center as we begin with an emergency situation in a hospital.

After suffering a family tragedy, she pays a visit to the man she holds responsible – unfortunately he’s already in a coma and there’s not too much she can do… Or is there?

It’s odd, I’m not used to seeing Zane as the villain, but as she goes all stalkery, she inhabits the role with relish. She plays  unhinged very well – it shouldn’t be a surprise, we saw her start to break down her sanity a bit in Freddy’s dead, but here she is able to really let it all hang out, devilish and brilliant.

indexAfter murdering the man’s nurse, she cozies up to the son and gets herself hired on as his personal caregiver. Once there, she plots the death of his entire family – a way to torture him before she dispatches him herself.

It makes for an interesting and suspenseful film, but ends up being a little overblown – the whole thing feels like a TV movie of the week. It’s certainly not the movie that the box cover would lead you to believe it is, but it’s a great entry for Lisa Zane’s acting real. It’s kind of exactly the movie that belongs in a set like this, and is fine as part of this collection though I wouldn’t seek it out on its own.


Dracula 3

lussierindex.jpgWe’ve got a trifecta on this entry – a Box Set category, a Director’s Spotlight, AND a franchise focus!

I like Patrick Lussier, and I’m pleased to see Roy Schneider, Gary Tunicliffe and Rutger However, but that stupid Gothic font worries me. I know that Dimension shot a bunch of these in Romania back to back, along with a couple of Prophecy and Hellraiser films. On the other hand, I rather like a lot of the productions Dimension has done this way so let’s see what we’re in for. Jason Scott Lee is the lead in this film, and that’s not a bad thing either… He was excellent as Bruce Lee in Dragon, I remember really digging that as a teenager when I saw it in the theatre. He is also of course, the voice of David, Nani’s boyfriend in Lilo and stitch.

images3.jpgAs I’ve mentioned before, Dracula 2000 is actually one of my all-time favorite vampire movies, but it was also one of those movies that I never thought should have been turned into a franchise. It stands alone really well and doesn’t lend itself all that well to further installments, however this isn’t a direct sequel anyhow. It’s more in the spirit and style of 2000, attaching itself as a sort of alternate universe sidequel film much the way Fulchi’s Zombie attaches to Dawn of the Dead as a sequel. Despite saying West Craven presents, Craven have nothing to do with this film.

We start off with vampire action in what looks like an abandoned subway and it’s good stuff – modern and slick and cool. They’re taking a cue from John Carpenters Vampires with cool vampire weapons and a militant priest. The fact that Lussier directed all three of these Dracula movies helps create a uniform feel. In addition to some modern sensibilities, he still manages to infuse the film with at least a touch of Christian images2.jpgmysticism, possibly the reason our protagonist is a priest.

After despatching the two bloodsuckers he returns home for more support

Roy Scheider is just phoning in his role as the Cardinal of the order, but even that’s enough to elevate this film a bit. We get sweeping dramatic shots of the train heading to Bucharest and the now-defunct priest continuing his journey and his mission to rescue his beloved Julia and destroy the vampire plague. It’s an occupied country, and the soldiers and equipment create a tense atmosphere. They take full advantage of the Gothic and stone look of Romania in crafting their film – it’s an effective use of limited resources.

This film has an interesting origin for Dracula as well, establishing a terminology – they’re correct that the name Dracula is not a proper name but rather an honorific – and aspirational one to be one of the dragons, the priest tells us he’s had many names over the years and has existed for a long time under many guises – it’s actually a really well images4.jpgdone recap.

The further they get into the city, especially at night the more abandoned things get, unfortunately instead of coming off as creepy, it just shows the lack of budget. A handful of extras wandering around in the background may have actually helped (but they may have needed to save those for later scene in Dracula’s feeding pit). Nevertheless the blue fog and eerie lighting provides a perfectly creepy horror movie setting for them to kill vampires in.

Like John Carpenter’s Vampires, what we get here is basically a horror tinged action movie with some interesting looking bad guys. The stilts vampire has to be seen to be believed. It’s a film that I think is actually strong enough to stand on its own without the name Dracula, and I almost wish they had, but they needed the brand recognition and I’ll admit I probably wouldn’t have found it without that myself so I completely understand. Dracula 3 : Legacy is full of action, intrigue, infections and has a genuinely well thought out story. Much to my surprise, it’s one to recommend