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Night Court 2023

A while back we talked about the truly perplexing reboot of Mad About You… available only if you were using a specific cable carrier. I watched the whole thing, and while did kind of like Abbey Quinn as Paul Riser’s daughter, the reboot all around was disappointing. Jamie had turned from a quirky but high maintenance girl to a completely unlikable virago. And Paul Riser, as he always did, was just kind of going with the flow.

And you know, that’s the thing about sitcoms and sitcom revivals. If you’re fortunate enough to have a sitcom that actually gets an ending,And you know, that’s the thing about sitcoms and sitcom revivals. If you’re fortunate enough to have a sitcom that actually gets an ending, There are certain things that you are going to try and do with that ending. You wanna make sure everybody knows that the characters go on, but that they’re in a good place. You want to feel not only like this chapter of their life is wrapped up neatly, but that they’re gonna be OK going forward. You want them in a good place. The problem is, when you bring them back, you immediately have to create some drama and some tension, and that means taking them out of that good place and putting them back into conflict. Ultimately, most of these reboots like Mad About You just make me sad.

Night Court Didn’t make me sad. It made me angry.

Let me take a moment here to establish some of my bonafides. You seem, Night Court is very possibly my favorite sitcom of all time. not just growing up, not just doesn’t adult, but for all time. All 9 seasons… even the early ones with the cast shake ups. Harry Anderson in particular was someone I connected with. He is not the reason that I wear hats, but hes very likely one of the reasons that I still wear them… He’s not the reason that I learned the magic. But he certainly kept my interest in it longer than I would have had it… and contributed to me going back to it when I was in college. He had a sort of dark humor and a love of old things and Halloween and the macabre. It’s just a character that affected me deeply. Not just him though, the show itself. The outrageous slapstick comedy really appealed to me. I’ve always been drawn to outrageous and witty comedy. Fast talking, clever dialog, that sets up absurdity without sinking into the scatological. Night Court was perfect for this. It was more cartoonish and outrageous than a lot of its contemporaries like Cheers Or Wings or even Seinfeld. And yet, it managed an interesting trick. We would go from this outrageous comedy and then drive right into some drama in the middle of the second act. Some people used to criticize it as getting Preachy. Those people have obviously never watched an episode of modern star trek. If it was heavy handed at all, It was due to time constraints. We had to get our laughs, get into the serious stuff and get out in 24 minutes. Nevertheless, I never felt bashed over the head with THE MESSAGE the way that I do in a lot of modern entertainment. It was probably there, but it was just usually a heart warming note. One or two lines. It’s a tear jerking moment. An instant where we got to be serious and talk some real talk instead of just constant gags. It’s a tough balance to pull off, and yet Night Court managed it week after week. It never sacrificed the humor, and it never sacrificed the drama. All of this is what made it such a great show, it’s why it’s so fondly remembered.

The Night Court reboot is nothing like its predecessor. It’s not just that it’s totally diffrent, it’s absolutely missing all of it’s heart. And you know, even that might be tolerable if it wasn’t just so poorly done. It’s not just a bad reboot, it’s not even a good sitcom.

I don’t know who John Larroquette is playing, but it’s not Dan Fielding. Of course, there’s no way you can get away with and oversexed greedy white man character like this in modern entertainment, but this neutered version is just utterly unrecognizable. We discovered him in semi-retirement after his wife died, as a processor, sneaking around and Hitting people with subpoenas or lawsuits that they’ve been dodging. Perfect work for the grumpy old curmudgeon. But that’s not Dan. Dan being married in the 1st place seems utterly absurd to me (Unless she was a sugar mama – and he speaks too tenderly about her for that to be the case). And him showing up in a mediocre apartment, doing a crummy job, Remember what I said about wanting wanting to feel like a character is gonna be alright? They didn’t do a great job of that at the end of that court, but even so, this unravels any hope that you would feel for that.And by placing him in the defense slot,We robbed him of the mean spirited, colorful descriptions he would have for the defendants. We lose a lot of his attitude and Snark. The truth is, the Dan Fielding I imagine as an older man, he would be like Hugh Hefner. Even on the television show Dan was chasing women well into his mid to late fifties, I could see him still doing it at 70, just with less success. Perhaps even with a certain amount of perplextion at why it doesn’t work anymore. The wit would still be razor sharp, an insult artist on the order of Don Rickels. A couple decades worth of schmoozing and scamming and hustling, Dan would have money. money and style. Dan always wore the best suits and had perfectly coiffed hair. He never looked like a plaid hobo. Indeed, while John Larroquette is giving this performance in Night Court 2023 his all, I get the impression that he just doesn’t know how to play Dan now. He doesn’t understand what to do with this neutered version of the character… because it’s not the same person.

I think you could forgive a lot of that though if we had a great supporting cast. And that was the thing about Night Court. Every person there was a character, every person there was a Talent. I followed Harry Anderson from Night Court over to Dave’s world. the only reason that I even know who Dave Barry is! I followed John Larroquette a cat over to his own show, and then over to McBride. I would make sure I had a front row seat any time one of the cast would show up on another show, Charles Robinson had some really great cameos here and there on shows like House, Fresh Prince and NCIS.

Unfortunately, for the most part, these characters are all cardboard cut outs. Melissa Rauch, who was arguably one of my favorite characters on the big Bang theory, is just flat and boring in this serious. Even setting aside the obligatory the woman has to be in charge trope because, modern day politics. Even setting it aside, she’s just not good in the role. They’ve tacked on the conceit that she’s Harry Stone’s daughter, but it doesn’t mean anything. She doesn’t act like him or feel like him or seem related to him in any way other than using it as an excuse to mention his name at least once per episode. There aren’t photos of Harry Anderson around (unless you squint at the wall outside the courtroom with the list of judges), but they sure do feel the need to invoke Harry Stone as as often as possible to remind you that this is still supposed to be Night Court. I haven’t forgotten. In fact, they’ve recreated the sets in spectacular fashion. It’s dead on… just a few old years older. I feel like I’m walking right back into my childhood home, feel the problem is it’s filled with strangers.

Lucretia, the comedian playing the bailiff Gurgs (I thought it was “Gert” And that would have made more sense), is trying. She’s doing a smart thing, and that she’s trying to combine both the characters of Bull and Roz into one composite. The problem is that can’t work. You need one person to be the goofball and one person to be the straight man. It’s roles that Richard Moll and Marsha Warfield fell into easily, with Marcia generally being the heavy, Though it wasn’t unusual to see those roles flip from time to time to time to give her a chance to have some good gags herself. I think they’re doing poor Lucretia a disservice by not giving her somebody to bounce off against. Perhaps an older, more experienced bailiff who could be the straight man to her funny, silly antics.

The district attorney Olivia, played by India de Beaufort, is actually fairly good. She reminds me a great deal of the defense attorney Liz Williams (played by Paula Kelly) from the first season. She also had a sort of hard edge to her, competence with the ability to make you laugh. The problem is, she’s not nearly as funny as Larroquette was in that role, and she is not given much to do. Like the others she’s a caricature. And no one’s more a character than our poor court clerk… hes practically a nonentity.

It’s all just bad. I watched 3 episodes of this backed back, and I laughed a grand total of two times. You can make all the excuses you want about it being their 1st season, and trying to work out the kinks and the chemistry of the new cast. But the thing is, even the 1st season of Night Court (with a very different cast) was fun. It was good. It hit the ground running with some interesting relationships. Believe me, I’m very familiar with the 1st season. Not only was it always included in the reruns (so those episodes would come up a couple times a year), but it was one of the few seasons of the show to actually get A DVD release that was sold at retail. Everything else got print on demand if It got a release it all. There was a while there where the show wasn’t rerunning anywhere I could get it, and that box set that was my only copy. So when I say that season one is still good, and better than this, It’s not just the rose colored glasses of nostalgia. Even more frustrating, is that this should have been good. The formula was already set. You had at least one of the original characters coming  Back. Richard Moll and Marsha Warfield are also both still alive, I would have loved to have seen Warfield return to the role, but now as a much older woman, giving us the dynamic that we used to get from Selma or Flo… the bailiffs that proceeded her. I’d like to have seen Dan fielding show up AS DAN FIELDING. Let’s get crazy and offensive, and dare To risk the ire of the woke. Don’t just make Melissa Rauch a squeaky voice do gooder, give her some flaws, some obsessions and some goofiness (seriously. You’ve cast an actress who made her name playing a quirky, nerdy character. You put her in a role previously occupied by a quirky, nerdy character. And she’s going OUT OF HER WAY TO NOT PLAY IT QUIRKY OR NERDY to break away from that typecasting. This is so self defeating it hurts). You could have done this. You could have made this work.   Instead, we’re getting reheated leftovers. A vanity project vehicle for Rauch, and a bitter disappointment. I’m sorry Night Court. You deserved better. Rest in peace.

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Sleepaway Camp 2 : Unhappy Campers

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Sleepaway Camp franchise

I’ve long heard Hellraiser fans lament the fact that in Hellraiser 3, the character of Pinhead kind of got changed from a surreal judge and turned into a flat-out slasher. Moreover, they always talk about how Freddy gets more jokey in the Nightmare on Elm Street sequels, and how the whole series starts to get watered down.

I shake my head and tell them “You ain’t seen nothing yet.”

sleepaway-camp-iiSleepaway Camp 2 has very little to do thematically or aesthetically with the original. There’s no mystery or intrigue going on here, this is a straight up slasher film designed to maximize boobs and blood. It’s a perfectly predictable formula and barely feels like it’s got any connection to the previous film at all. Even Felssa Rose is absent from the title role. It was such a different reading of the character, that when she auditioned it didn’t quite work for producers. Just as well, as shed been planning to attend college around that time anyhow.

Counselors from camp Rolling Hills telling scary stories around the fireplace, but one of them comes up says you know I know the story about this one girl from the camp about 60 miles from here… And begins to tell the story of Angela Baker. Good recap in 30 seconds of that film, which sets us up nicely in the mythology and continuity. The story ends with Angela being released, advance of this film.
Of course it’s easy to tell where she’s going to come in, she’s already in sconce at camp Rolling Hills as a counselor, with a habit of “sending bad campers home.” Like any good slasher, we get our first  kill within the first five minutes.

imagesAngela’s portrayed as a stuffy, prissy counselor, the sort of one who is obsessed with rules and wants nothing more than to just exist here in the camp. She explaines away her first victem’s disappearance as happy to send her home because she was behaving inappropriate, trying to seduce every boy in the camp!

It’s mostly older campers that we’re seeing here, 18-year-olds who are old enough to provide the requisite nudity and keep the censors from getting too uptight about having too many dead children in the film.

She attracts the attention of one of the other counselors, a bigger guy with a glorious images1golden mullet who is trying to get to know her, but she’s mysteriously distant! Over at the pool, teenagers are on the make, while in the woods, Angela secretly stalks looking for evil doers. She finds a couple of girls getting drunk and stoned, and we definitely know who’s going to get “sent home” next. Pam Springsteen is definitely trying something here, delivering straight faced and campy lines as she torches the bad girl alive. It’s definitely her and take on the character in an attempt to emulate the one-liners you see from other cinematic killers of the era such as Freddy Kruger, but it does come up a little goofy.

index11That night, Angela is off to a camp counseler meeting, we have to get some camp shenanigans in with a panty raid and the boys generally terrorizing the girls in a fun and flirty way. Angela comes back and is furious, putting on the wicked witch of the west attitude. She insists, she’s just trying to keep everyone safe, because she knows what happens at Camp when things get… out of hand. The girls of course decide to take revenge and raid the boys cabin. It’s actually a fun case of turnabout, but only angers Angela further. Time to send another camper home! This is why you should never flash the boys at summer camp.

The next morning at breakfast, Golden Mullet mentions that there’s some things that have gone missing. Things like 50 feet of rope, an electric drill, and the battery to his car. It’s a great bit of atmosphere, played for laughs but setting up where Angela’s getting the materials for her murders. Outside, one of the other counselors seeks out Angela for advice, because she’s shy and Angela used to be shy… but now you can’t get her to shut up. It’s clunky but a nice backhanded connection to the original film.

Soon enough though, we’re back to camp shenanigans to pad out the time between murders, this time arts and crafts. Of course the boys are painting a hockey mask… indexAlthough to be fair it’s more like the mask from Bloody Murder than it is Friday the 13th. It comes into play later on that evening, as the boys use that and an homemade Freddy glove to prank the girls at a campfire, but guess who gets a hold of that Freddy glove? Once Angela dispatches the first boy with his own glove, she turns her attentions to our faux Jason. This time she shows up wearing the other boys face as a mask and wielding a chainsaw! It may be the high point of the film, a great homage to the other horror classics of the time and clocking in right about halfway through. It also justifies the image they use for the movie poster… though curiously enough, that’s not actually ammo Springsteen she was unavailable that day so they used an entirely different model named Connie Craig.

Elsewhere, a couple of campers are getting it on, so it’s time for Angela to go back to work! Sadly, the chainsaw is out of gas and Angela looks so annoyed as her prey gets away.

As we roll into the third act, Golden Mullet starts noticing too many people missing, and for her part, Angela is beginning to spiral out of control, killing one girl just because she talks too much, and another to protect her cover. The dormitory is almost empty, just index121Angela and one other girl now, our final girl who figures out Angela’s secret as she remembers the folk tales from the opening of the film.

Angela gets fired because she is “sending too many people home”. Meanwhile, final girl and her boyfriend discover Angela’s secret cache… ashed she’s been storing her victims in… remember this is a slasher, and we’ve got to hit the tropes! Soon enough, our final girl will then get captured, escape, find a knife and fight for her life! But first, here comes Golden Mullet to the rescue, just in time! Just in time for a face full of battery acid that is…

When our final girl falls down a cliff, Angela just assumes she’s dead and it’s back to the camp to kill everybody else. But as night falls, the final girl wakes up in time to make it to the road and try and hitch a ride away from this nightmare. Just her luck, the first car to come along is Angela, making her escape from the cam! Cut to black and an appropriate 1988 rock song.

This is as fun as any 80’s slasher. It’s creative kills with buckets of blood and a general sense of fun to it. Even though it never quite feels like it’s part of the Sleepaway Camp story, they still try their best to connect back to it and remind us that Angela is the same person as that little girl from 1980. Pamela Springsteen does her best to make the rle her own, a wise move knowing that as soon as Sleepaway Camp two wrapped, she be headed right over to Sleepaway Camp three, shot back to back.


Marry Me

Yeah, I know. Some regular readers to this blog will be spitting out their morning coffee in shock. What on Earth am I doing reviewing a Jennifer Lopez movie? Even more importantly, What am I doing liking it!? Well sometimes over the weekend, the wife gets a hold of the TV. What can you do? Welcome as she threw on one of her ubiquitous rom com… a wedding one no less, And rather than head back to the library for a game of pool, I decided to watch it with her.

One of the first things that caught my eye was some of the talent. Owen Wilson can be really good when hes given the right roles. The trick is to let him lean into the earnest average guy thing he does so well, without letting him tip over into the awe shucks so naive it’s stupid persona that he too frequently find himself in. Sarah Silverman was right there on screen with him as well. Like Wilson, she’s hit or miss for me. I enjoy her when she’s playing somebody who’s a genuinely bad person that you still want to be around. As long as it’s not trying to normalize or justify her behavior, the baby voice saying horrible things schtick actually works well. I’m not nearly as familiar with John Bradley, but hes playing a Nick Frost type, so I’m pretty well drawn in. As long as we ignore the fact that it’s directed by the same person who did She Hulk, we’ll be fine.

Jennifer Lopez is about to get married to Bastion… a Latino singer, one of those guys straight out of the early 2000s Ricky Martin mold. But just before she goes on for their wedding concert, she discovers he’s been cheating on her and picks a random person out of the audience to marry insted… that would be Owen Wilson, carrying a sign that his lesbian best friend unloaded on him while she swooned. We get a nice fish out of water story for both Lopez and Wilson, the superstar singer, and the simple math teacher. Lopez is basically playing herself, and we get a lot of music through this film. That’s actually a really good thing… playing into her strengths and actually giving me some new appreciation for her talent. The chemistry between Lopez and Wilson builds and there’s plenty of fun moments, Definitely enough charm and laughter to keep the guys who are going to see this with their girlfriends engaged.

At the end of the day, it’s well done, fun and a little bit heartwarming with some genuinely good music. I couldn’t be more surprised at how much I liked it. It’s not the sort of thing that I’m going to run out and get A DVD of…. indeed, I can’t really see us ever watching it again. But for a nice date night movie, you could do worse.


Hack!

indexFormer Wonder Years star (and current Hallmark/Lifetime movie darling) Danica McKellar stars in Hack as a bookworm who just kind of fades in to the background of her local college. It makes her perfect as an envoy for a pair of psychopathic fans who use her to lure a class of film students out of their private island under the guise of  an extra credit project. Once there, the film students, who are all pretty much horror stereotypes are slaughtered one by one until we come up to an ending that will leave you shaking your head.

In a lot of ways, hack is a very meta film. However it doesn’t wear it’s heart on its sleeve, and it still manages to take it self seriously enough that you never feel like it’s about to develop into parody… though it skirts the edge and comes danger close a few times.

In the end, Hack is a great celebration of horror tropes and more than a little bit of bloody fun.


The House That Would Not Die

boxhhindexI had my suspicions about The House That Would Not Die from the word go considering it’s a Aaron Spelling production, and I feel a twinge of apprehension as I realize this is a television movie. Still Barbara Stanwyck is a good sign, and she’s playing opposite Kitty Winn as her niece Sarah . This young actress would go on to have parts in not only The Exorcist, but The Omen and The Exorcist 2 as well! It’s enough of a pedegree for me, so I hunker down and prepare to soldier through.

The film opens with us flying us through an old house with all the furniture covered while eerie music plays in the background. Through the window we can see the new owners pull up in a car, but it feels like you’re being watched.

The next door neighbor shows up and everybody seems astonished when they meet him. He seems friendly enough, and yet his obsession with the house is a little strange… Not to mention insisting they join him for dinner next-door that night.

All the neighborhood shows up and insists that they should have a seance in the new house. This, amid strange dreams and the purchase of a weird old painting from the junk shop that jumped off the wall and into the fire, start to ease us away from the whle soap opera feel the film and into some slightly more suspenseful elements. It’s still has all of the burnt soft camera lenses that we’re so used to from CBS TV movies in the 70s, as well index2as the powder blue tones of Paul Lynds television home.

Barbara Stanwyck‘s in for a good bit of abuse in this movie, getting attacked not only by the next-door neighbor, but also her niece as the spirits of the house possess both of them. As the film progresses, Sarah slips deeper and deeper into her possession, speaking in a different voice and acting strangely. The possessions gone far enough that even once they clean the house, Sarah still carries spirits with her, and the family must resort to an exorcism if they are ever to live in peace again. What happens though, if the exorcism fails? Ghosts in the house forever battle against each other through their human agents?

Like most television movies, it’s competent but not scary. It’s very much a product of its time, and have some interesting ideas, but ultimately fails to satisfy me. It seems like a very strange inclusion with the set, totally very different, while thematically some more. If you’re a fan of TV movies, you may enjoy this, otherwise I’d say skip this one.


Dark Haul

Sinister looking monks and a cursed birth… Dark Haul really kicks things off the right way doesn’t it?

The action starts immediately as A daemonic beast burst out of the pregnant woman and attacks everyone present. But it’s not just one creature she’s having birth to… There’s another baby still alive in the womb. Something less demonic… As long as you don’t look at the tail. Those two children are immortal, with the baby girl still retaining some connection to her winged demonic looking brother… Over nearly 3 centuries.

We shift to modern day with a SWAT team after something sinister, and a young woman running through a factory to try and escape it. Apparently the creature is broken free from prison and the team is there to contain it. It’s fast, moving in the shadows and sliding through the building with minimal noise. Of course because this is a sci-fi movie, the creature is a bad CGI creation. It’s best left in the shadows.

The sister it seems, is also prisoner of this group, and has managed to escape in the confusion. Perhaps prisoner is too strong a word. While she’s held by them, she’s acting more as a collaborator, trying to control her brother.

The plan now is to move the whole operation, her and the beast in the priests that and present it to a sacred land in Pennsylvania where they hope to better control them. A cage covered in mystic symbols is loaded into a semi truck and they had off.
A stop for fuel turns disastrous when a series of seeming accidents caused the gas station to explode spectacularly. Everyone gets away safe, but the truck blows the fuel pump which leads to another stop. The chaos is making the beast stronger. As the strength grows, he can make people see things. These hallucinations or what it used to manipulate people, and the order has decided it may be too dangerous to live now. It’s computer-generated Skull like face glares, lunging side to side in its mobile prison.It’s created enough confusion for his sister to release him.

Final showdown is in a cabin in the woods, where they’ll either contain him, kill him, or lose it… And condemn the entire human race.

For a syfy movie, this isn’t bad. But make no mistake… This is the first sci-fi movie and contains all the elements you’d expect. A pretty girl, foggy blue lights, and a bad CG monster that only appears briefly, with the bulk of the running time filled by people talking about the monster rather than fighting it. The biggest problem here is that you never know who to root for. They do their best to make the beast and his sister sympathetic, Trying to get you on their side with her tales of woe, slavery and captivity.
On the other hand, the heroes of the piece are absolute jerks, and they go out of their way to make you dislike the leader of the military. There’s no one here to actually root for, and even having watched it, I don’t know who the hero this piece is.this is one of those where if it came on television, you don’t need to automatically turn it off. But if you’re expecting anything more than a generic sci-fi TV film, you’ll be disappointed.

 


Charismata

Charismata begins with a couple of cops pulling up to a particular bloody murder scene. There’s an occult sigal on the wall, and the British accents are heavier than a ton of bricks. Also, these guys have obviously seen Silence of the Lambs, in a drawing some influence from it.

All they know back at the home office is that the murder bears similarities… In particular one where the same sign was drawn on the wall. It’s a bad case and a bad day for a rookie detective, and I’ll leave it to get worse when victim number three pops up.

It plays out like a typical police procedural, with a couple of side trips to the doctor for a detective… She’s got a weak stomach and no time to renew her prescription. She’s having bad dreams even as they finger their person of interest, and set up a stakeout. It’s a bum steer though, as the next victim pops up, even as they cut their suspect under surveillance.

The dreams keep coming, and get progressively more intense. Or are they just dreams? The lights in her apartment keep blowing, and she’s obsessed with the exonerated suspect, Michael Sweet.

Even after one of the other suspects confesses and kills himself, she still having visions of Sweet, and they’re getting more and more frequent. He’s following her in her dreams in her life in her mirror in her television… And she’s certain he’s still the murderer.

Here’s the thing, this is not a horror movie. This is more of a lifetime television style Law and Order police procedural. It’s got some occult background dressing, and a heaping helping of am I going crazy injected directly into it. But despite some of the blood and paranoia, this belongs far more in the crime drama section of the library rather than the horror section. It’s not bad at all, but you do have to know what you’re getting into, at Lear until the ending, which will weird you out just a little bit and feels tacked on – but it’s too much asking me to wade through 90 minutes of police procedural just to get six minutes of supernatural horror.

 

 

Catholics and/or Exorcism

85% of the cast is under 25

Cover misrepresents the movie

Stock DVD cover (Distributor’s similar House style)

Trippy Mind games

Thriller pretending to be horror/ghost story


Creepers.

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Tomatoes are watching you poop.

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Dance macabre

o_dance-macabre-dvd-90s-gory-horror-movie-0135I’m going to flat out say this – dance macabre may be Graydon Clark’s greatest film. Robert England as the centrepiece here is magnificent obviously, but the Russian setting and the ballet and the atmosphere… It all works so well. It’s a magnificent spectacle overlaid on an inspired mystery. This is not horror.  This is not adventure, it’s not even mystery. It’s a thriller. It’s one of those rare moments where Clark has everything working – all the engines are firing on all cylinders and it just comes together beautifully.

The story is about an American Dancer who arrives at the Russian ballet school (with her father twisting her arm all the way) to study ballet. It’s the first time they’ve opened the doors to outsiders in ages…. Possibly ever. All around her though, people begin to die – until the schools closes and she remains the only student, with an obsessed instructor hellbent on getting her an audition. Its brilliant drama, highly atmospheric and engauging the whole way through.

There’s talk that this was originally meant to be a sequel to Englund’s Phantom of the opera. I’m not sure of the truth or baseness of this tale, but I can certainly see where someone might get that idea. It’s not just Phantom that I see influences from though, I get glimpses of Susperia her as well. It all melds together to create a supremely satisfying package. Seriously, Clark has no better films on this.


Intruders

Anna’s brother has died of pancreatic cancer, leaving her their family home. After being his caretaker for so long, she is not quite sure what to do with her life anymore and can’t bring herself to leave the house… Perhaps ever.

However, during her brothers funeral a couple of thieves decide it’s a perfect opportunity to rob the house. Little do they know that Anna is still there. She hides, but they find her and begin to interrogate her. We discover that she hasn’t left the house in 10 years. No where to go. An attempt to drag her outside kicks her agoraphobia into overdrive, and eventually she escapes into the house. This is when they find she’s more than capable of defending herself.

Stabbing is one thing, but trapping the guys in a strange panic room downstairs while she makes tea takes on a whole new level of creepy. There’s more going on here than meets the eye and it goes beyond just a case of the tables have turned.

I don’t really want to go any further because this film has an intresting twist and goes into some uncomfortable places, but it’s worth a watch. It’s smarter than just another horror slasher, even if it’s held back a bit by it’s budget. Intruders is absolutely worth a watch.


Haunting of Winchester House

boxhh41maVWogqWL._SY445_.jpgIf the asylum logo showing up wasn’t bad enough, the film is made by Mark Atkins which feels a little bit too close to Peter Atkins – as if the author himself is perpetuating the Mockbuster feel. In this frame of mind then, it’s no wonder that I find the opening scene of the UPS driver delivering a parcel to feel very much homage to Spider Baby.

The house itself is achieved in an interesting manner, it’s obviously a matte or possibly a CG model. But more often than not however it’s quite convincing. Still, the thought of family (even if they are just care takers or something) is just casually moving in and out of the Winchester mansion seems a little ridiculous.

They arrived to find the house unlocked and surprisingly furnished, not to mention painted bright colors. They were originally meant to be lodging in the caretaker wing But a note left on the kitchen table states that it’s uninhabitable so they get to live in the main house.

We get foreshadowing almost immediately. A photograph from the 19th century of old images1.jpginhabitants, a mysterious little girl stalking the family’s daughter and a doomsayer who shows up at the house asking what the family is doing there. They let him know they’re just passing through, staying for a couple of months while elsewhere, the daughter follows a creepy ghost  girl into the cellar. The doors slam behind them giving her a good shock, though no harm done. From the cellar she brings up a chalkboard that was obviously once used by one of the people in the old photograph – a deaf man. It’s enough to spark the further curiosity and the dad decides to go for a walk and explore the mansion further.

Back in the house, the little ghost girl creeps on the daughter while the other ghosts draw closer and closer to the father. The daughters intentions are a natural, almost as if she is asked – before the ghosts take her away altogether, vanishing into the house.

images.jpgTogether, the mother and father find hundreds of newspaper clippings in briefly give us the story of the window Winchester. It’s brief though because we have to move along to the next nightmare. Mother dreams of dead, malformed babies while ghosts haunt the daughter. I’ve got to admit, the fact that they’re going so heavy on the spooky visitations and character affects this early on in the movie is impressive. By the time we’re 20 minutes in we’ve already seen some ghosts and things ramp up to some pretty scary levels before you even hit the 40 minute mark!

We get a non-stop hunting and even a certain degree of hopelessness when the police arrive around half way point. Not only are they unable to hear the family within the house, but they find themselves attacked outside the house and unable to render any aid whatsoever.

There are plenty of greasepaint ghosts here but there’s also a fair amount of grotesque latex cases as well – way more than I would’ve expected from a low-budget asylum flick. The ghosts are everywhere, they provide the house and the filmmaker understands lighting – he knows enough to keep these make-up jobs in the gloom and in the shadows. He understands blocking and finds the most effective angles to have to shoot these ghosts from, arranged to create the maximum tension.

I always say that I try to make it to the third act of a horror movie because that’s when the action really gets moving, but this film is all third act action with a brilliant variety of beans and a constant dire threat to our main characters. Just when you think you’re about to get a lull in the action, they throw a creepy ghost in a rocking chair at you or a shape in the shadows emerging.

They managed to get a phone call out to the neighbor – he is a paranormal investigator and he shows up at the house to explain the rules and help get them through the night and solve the mystery of the house. It’s a weird place for this exposition, we usually get this kind of thing closer to the beginning, not in the last 30 minutes. He explains there is poltergeist activity going on here, probably stemming from a hidden object. There are various ghosts in various stages of death, and those different ghosts are dangerous in different ways.

81JvVEaNr2L._SL1500_Now with some direction, the activity begins again, and they begin to search for their lost daughter (actually I didn’t entirely notice that the house had abducted her) and a way to expel the spirits. There’s multiple twists along the way and an ending that I probably should’ve seen coming, but really didn’t.

While the questing aspect at the end isn’t as intense and some of the ending is over the top, the siege section in the second act of this film makes it a genuinely good horror film and one of the best asylum productions I have ever seen. It’s amazing what a skilled filmmaker can do with such a production. I don’t even care that it’s one of their mockbusters (released at a time to capitalize on the release of the film Winchester) this one is a definite high recommend.

 

 

Moving to a new house

Bad CGI

Ghost Children (Bonus for white dress)

Ghost watching from a window

something walks by in the background

Copyright free name that sounds like another franchise (Amityville, Ouija, ect)

Mockbuster

Cover misrepresents the movie

Stock DVD cover (Distributor’s similar House style)


Beneath

Dollar

indexBeneath was a dollar store purchase, lost in a stack of other dollar store purchases. With a stack of much more interesting looking and recognizable films. I had sort of dismissed it as just another film with a cool logo in the stack, but probably nothing special considering the MTV branding on the cover. It’s always nice however, to be pleasantly proven wrong.

Beneath manages to mix ghost story and thriller together brilliantly. I spent most of this film about a young woman looking for her sister, killed in a car crash, wondering if I was watching a ghost story or a stalker story. As she explores an old mansion and digs into the mystery of the young woman’s death and burial, I never quite thought that she was going crazy, but was never entirely certain where the story was going.

Beneath this beautifully filmed and gorgeous in its atmosphere. It manages to give you that sort of creepy atmosphere you’d expect from a Gothic ghost story or an Agatha Christie murder mystery. The plot as well thought out and well acted, and much to my surprise I’ve got nothing but praise for this film. This one’s definitely a movie you want to grab if you still see it littering the shelves of your local Walmart or dollar tree.

 

85% of the cast is under 25
Moving to a new house
Trippy Mind games

Piranha (1972)

DollarindexI can’t even tell you how excited I was to find Piranha at the dollar tree. I mean, I’d scored Piranha 2 DD at one earlier as well and figured I’d be heading home to do a nice Roger Corman marathon right?

That’s odd, I didn’t know that William Smith was in this… But the dates right isn’t it? And there’s a Piranha right there on the cover!

Turns out, this is not the 1978 Roger Corman schlock monster fest that I was expecting, but rather a Grindhouse B feature from a few years prior, and released in 1972. Another audience might have been disappointed, fits right into my wheelhouse, and I was ready to sit down and dig in.

index2The film opens with credits over a twitching piranha that somebody pulled out of the water. This is about all you’re going to see of the killer fish. Because the films title doesn’t an actually refer to the animals, but rather an evil rogue hunter in the jungles of Venezuela; William Smith’s character.

We have wildlife photographer Terry and her brother Art braving the jungle for a photo shoot, complete with guide Jim Pendrake. They get friendly with local hunter Caribe, Who joins the crew, causing this quiet and his rest with his recklessness. Ultimately, he takes a shine imagesto Terry and eventually the film transitions into a bit of a siege as Caribe begins to hunt and kill them out there in the wild.

It’s not a bad feeling, it’s exactly the sort of thing that I expect to see at a disreputable driving as a late night feature, entertaining particularly because of a young William Smith but not necessarily notable for much else.


Sleepaway Camp

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Sleepaway Camp franchise

Agphantom-creative-sleepaway-campes ago, back in the early days of this blog, I did a quick pass at the Sleepaway Camp films. It was a brief seven hundred word overview of four movies in one post which really doesn’t do this series justice. I think it’s long past time for a genuine franchis focus on Sleepaway Camp.

Sleepaway camp used to be one of those films, where even in the horror community only people who were really in the know understood what you were talking about. 25 years later, it started to slowly rise in visibility, notably with the release of the DVD box set. It’s notoriety… or should I say infamy, was only increased by the fact that the box that had to be recalled when the Red Cross objected to the cover art featuring its logo. It really started to gain respect as a beloved horror classic though, once the cast, most notably Felissa Rose  (and to a lesser extent Jonathan Tiersten) started to hit the convention circuit hard. Felissa is a regular now, and I can count on running into 65663806_2559373164107091_7337680539765178368_n_2559373157440425her once or twice every year.  Tiersten was slower to embrace con culture, but these days, even he has started doing more and more shows.

The film opens on an idyllic summer day as a couple of kids squabble on a boat with their father. Little do they know the tragedy is about to strike when a couple of teenagers doing some motor boating and waterskiing get too close and clobber the dad one of the tykes. We fast forward eight years later when Angela, the survivor has been sent off to live with her curious Aunt Martha and cousin Ricky.  There’s definitely something off about Aunt Martha, but you could easily just write it off as the actress chewing the scenery in a grindhouse movie. It doesn’t matter though because the kids are on their way away from home and off to camp Arawak, home of possibly the most pervy cook ever and a hunky counselor who not only  wears the shortest shorts possible and has a penchant for half belly shirts. Stuff like this just images1screams the 80s.

Ricky greets old friends, and introduce them to Angela, who doesn’t really talk and is painfully shy. Ricky’s girlfriend from last year, Judy has gotten a little top-heavy since the previous summer and in addition to growing a bust, she also seems to have grown some significant attitude. The cabin counselor Meg (that’s M-E-G!) isn’t much better. She and the other girls resent any compassion showed upon the introverted Angela.

I’m a short 16 minutes into the movie, Ricky have to rush in and save Angela from the tender attentions of the pervert cook. And yet, mere minutes later, the cook ends up scaleded – somehow just having accidentally toppled a large pot of boiling water all over himself. If you’re here for the gore, this is as good as it gets. There’s a few other latex effects, but this one is by far the best.

We’re not sure exactly who it is that murdered the cook though, all you see are a pair of index1diminutive hands and the killer is left a mystery. It’s here where I really I feel like this film defines itself more as a giallo than a slasher. Things have gotten going, and we’re going to spend the next hour trying to figure out who the killer is, that is if we can draw our eyes away from the hunky counselors pecs, bulging from a shirt two sizes too small for him. The camp owner on the other hand, chomps on his cigar and asks the head chef to try and hush it up. He knew what the cook was, and this is probably all for the best.

We cut over to some juvenile camp shenanigans, to try and keep the atmosphere up. It’s dumb, but gets you right into the spirit of things before we head out to the softball game and then over to the Canteen to hang out.

The more we see of Ricky, the more the kid seems to be on a short fuse, and gets awfully mad when someone picks on Angela. Mad, even violent. Meanwhile, Ricky’s buddy Paul is getting friendly with Angela. Not necessarily trying to make time yet, just trying to help indexout a buddy sister. On the other side of the building, Judy enjoys the attention of the boys, but something about Angela just irritates her and she resolves to take it out on her later.

Out in the dark, the counselors are up to their own shenanigans, the stoners getting baked under the pier, the boys trying to entice the girls in the skinny-dipping in the lake, and a couple rowing out into the middle of nowhere, for the boy to prank his date.
Out of nowhere, a dark head pops up from the water, seizing his scalp and pushing it under. When daylight breaks, they’ll discover another dead body. The camp owner chews his early morning cigar, in denial and terrified of bad publicity. The hunky counselor is not quite so sure though, he remembers the boy being a good swimmer.
Elsewhere, Angela and Paul watch the other girls play volleyball, and Judy makes sure to get her in trouble. Meanwhile, Paul’s trying to steal a kiss.

index2We get into more campground shenanigans, with Judy playing up the mean girl bit to a hilt. Gossiping and teasing and even flirting with Angela’s new boyfriend Paul. Ricky goes off on a few more tantrums as well… It’s amazing amount of energy and profanity coming from such a small package! (Tiersten recalls part of his audition was to cuss out the producers, and he’s fairly certain that’s what got him the role)

Meanwhile, the bodies keep piling up, as one camper suffers death from bees! Dumping an active beehive into a bathroom stall is actually clever and innovative, but it’s threatening to shut down the camp. Word is getting out among the campers that there’s a killer on the loose, and The counselors decide to combine the remaining campers and work on the buddy system.

That doesn’t stop Angela and Paul from sneaking out, Paul’s on the make now and trying to reach second base… But Angela suddenly has a strange flashback of her dad in bed with another dude, and jumps up to run away. She kind of blows it off just explaining that she wasn’t ready. Judy on the other hand sees this as her opportunity to try and cut in between them. She continues to flirt with Paul, and After one more counselor is dispatched, it’s time for Judy to get hers… assaulted mystery killer in the most heinous use of a hair curling iron ever seen in cinematic history. Seriously, it’s the least gory and bloody kill of the entire film and yet absolutely the most memorable.

imagesWe’re about to hit the ending here. It’s the absolute most shocking ending of any Grindhouse horror movie that I can imagine. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, then you need to stop right now and watch the movie, because that’s the thing. People don’t really talk about Sleepaway Camp. They talk about the ending. It’s that reveal at the end that sets this film apart from every other campground slasher out there, and makes it a unique film. It’s a sort of movie that stands alone with no real way to follow it up or create a sequel.

Of course, they did anyhow.


Hide!

toybox

Tom Servo probably has the right idea. There goes the neighborhood….

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Breakfast

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Krampus

imagesAfter a disastrously disappointing Christmas where are the family constantly argues and bickers, young boy decides he’s done with Christmas. Ripping up his letter to Santa, he turns his back on the holiday and in doing so summons the demon Krampus. At this point I was rubbing my hands together, onboard and eager to see him, but that doesn’t quite happen. In this movie Krampus has more similarities Santa in that Santa come to your house while you’re sleeping, and drops off gifts. Well, Krampus also come to your house while you’re sleeping, and brings things, but in his case they’re small monsters, designed to punish the wicked.

The movie is very much a siege film, with the family trying to survive the night, fighting against all of the Krampus’s minions. They’ve designed these to look and feel much like traditional Christmas toys, giving us an interesting, if grim sort of variety to the carnage.
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Ultimately I found myself a little bit disappointed perhaps more because this wasn’t what I expected. I was hoping fr a huge Pumpkinhead monster or big bad like what we got in Saint or many of  the other low budget movies that flood the market during the holiday season. Nevertheless, considering it’s a Blu-ray pick from the dollar store, it’s a nice addition to my collection and I’ll definitely be giving this another chance once December rolls around.


Alterscape

boxalterindexAlterscape is a sci-fi thriller about an Iraq war that with PSTD who seeks out an alternative therapy from scientists in the basement of a building with a computer that can alter your emotions. The experiment has side effects, darkening his personality and granting him weirdly undefined psychic abilities, sometimes telekinesis, and occasionally grievous bodily harm. It’s all a front to make him into a sort of super soldier weapon… I think. It’s quite muddy but that seems to be the gist of it.

Alterscape is one of those esoteric sci-fi forays, or at least it wants to be. It goes for the whole sort of head trip thing that we would get from films like The 13th Floor or the Twilight Zones “we can remember it for you wholesale”. The whole messing with the human experience harkens back to that. The problem is it fails to define a lot of its canon, so we’re never entirely sure it’s actually going on or why. It doesn’t help that they’ve bought the same cheap package of special effects vortices that I just watched in the Dean Koontz movie Hideaway. The basement office of the scientists imagesfeels cheap, with an old CRT computer screen and EL wire thrown about in the cramped space to give it a slightly high-tech feel.

I grabbed it off the shelf At dollar tree largely because it featured Michael Ironside, and this underrated actor can generally under elevate anything he’s in. However you can tell he was probably only on set for a day or two and even he can’t save the stinker. There’s a good idea in here somewhere, but I feel like they bit off more than they could chew, and had an interesting idea that really couldn’t sustain a full feature. This might’ve been better off as a short, but even then it’s a concept that needed to be more fully fleshed out before they put it on the screen.  Without a better execution the film ultimately Falls flat.


VFW

VFW brings the blood early just so you know they’re serious. There’s a new drug in town, causing fights creating problems, rising crime. Hooligans are starting to really hang out at the old abandoned theater… Maybe just a little bit too close to the VFW. But when the violence of the junkie club spills over into the VFW, the old guys there including legends like Martin Cove and Fred “the Hammer” Williamson find themselves in for the fight of their lives.

This is gonna be a short review, because quite frankly, this movie so good I’m just sitting here watching it and forgetting to comment. I’ve mentioned before, that’s how you can tell somethings really great.

Here’s the thing, I was hearing about VFW on the movie crypt a while back, and definitely hearing talk about it from my horror friends. This is one of those great, great movies that really live up to the hype, but at the same time… I feel like you gotta know what you’re going into. This is not a horror film. It’s a siege film, and I’d almost classify it more as action. It’s John carpenters Assault on Precinct 13… It appeals to the horror community because of the gore… And perhaps the punk nature of the villains… But mostly because of the gore. This thing lets the blood fly in all directions. There is a liberal mix of practical and CGI blood, but the cgi inserts are forgivable because of it’s balance. For my part, I’m just here to watch the Hammer pound. I love Fred Williamson, and watching him revel in the violence here, kind of makes me want to watch dusk till dawn next. It’s a sort of movie that genuinely makes you wish your hair was maybe a little bit more gray. Martin Cove has gained some notoriety these days from doing Cobra Kai, but for me… This is really one of his finest moments. It’s brilliant action, it’s violent and gory and glorious. Just go watch it. Don’t rely on me to talk about it… Just find it and watch it. I was fortunate enough to score this at the dollar tree, but this is in no way shape or form a dollar store movie. This is a classic, and it’s glorious.


Stalled!

Stalled really tries to establish an identity early on. We dive straight into the credits without a pre-credits kill, and they are interesting. Simple. White on black, but flickering, like a fluorescent light. With a gentleman dressed as a maintenance man standing timidly outside the women’s bathroom. Looks like he’s here to fix something… The speaker, which has been chewed by a rat. Of course he also has a toolbox full of cash, suggesting that he may not be exactly what he appears to be.

He gets sick and dashes for the stall, and while he’s vomiting, a couple of women (in sexy Christmas garb – that’s odd, nothing on the box suggested to me that this was a Christmas movie!) come in. He closes the door to hide so he doesn’t get caught in the ladies bathroom, but things go from bad to worse when one of the girls turns into a zombie and bites the other one. Back into the stall, as the rest of the nights zombified partygoers meander through, finding themselves into the bathroom.

He tried calling 911.

“ emergency services, ambulance fire or police?”

”I don’t know, who handles zombies?”

Unfortunately, the zombies have already taken over the police station, he’s stuck in the bathroom stall. Fortunately, it looks like he’s not alone there are people in neighboring stalls as well, that way we can have some dialogue. Things get really weird when his stallmate pops him some ecstasy… Including a techno dance number; once again proving my theory that if you’re faced with a zombie horde, all you have to do to survive is start dancing… And then dance along with you!

Truth is, it’s a very simple idea. A guy is stuck in the bathroom stall during a zombie apocalypse. They lean into that simple premise, and as a result, Stalled manages not just to be funny but I also have some heart. It manages to deliver more than enough blood and guts and brains to satisfy any zombie gore hand, while still giving us an actual story and some real laughs. It’s a brilliant mix and a good balance… What I’m saying, is a little silly film like this has no business being this good. It’s not necessarily the broad success of some thing like Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse or Zombieland or Shaun of the Dead… It’s a much smaller, simpler film but it works on that scale. A definite must watch. I don’t care if you can’t find this in the dollar store and have to go pay full price. You really ought to have this on your Christmas playlist.


Joker’s Poltergeist

Jokers Poltergeist is not a clown movie. It wants you to think that it is, but make no mistake, that Batman Joker wannabe on the cover? It doesn’t appear anywhere in the cell. We get mask figures with slightly similar features, but never a single antagonist like the film would lead you to believe.

When it says it’s based on true events, they are referring to the 2012 Aurora, Colorado shooting. Honestly, I didn’t clue into this until after I watched the film and hit some IMDb trivia. I’m not sure I would’ve bought it if I had known, that seems in bad taste…, Even to someone with as dark a sense of humor as me.

A young woman and her father are at their movie theater for opening night. It’s one of those grand old places, like the capital or the palace. But as the director , Eric Roberts, gives his introduction on screen, a madman… just a clown in a sea of clown costumes, open fire with a gun, killing the father and several other people.

A year later the daughter is set to reopen the theater, but she has to fight the city government to do so. She’s staying the night in the theater and is joined later by other survivors of the massacre, and that’s when things start to get weird. They’re haunted by figures in clown masks, similar to that of the murderer. The introduction with the director keeps popping on the screen, so does a message from her father (Martin Kove of Cobra Kai and the Karate Kid) and the entire night to vaults into a maelstrom of terror.

A big problem here, is resolution. I’m not entirely certain what happened. I’m not sure if she was crazy, or the boyfriend was crazy… I’m pretty sure the theater wasn’t actually haunted, which might’ve been a better story. I’m a sucker for movie theater films, and it’s exactly the sort of historic place that I love to go see movies at. It’s a fun ride, but ultimately, I don’t Harley get it. I’d like something a little more straightforward. It’s worth a try though, no I really wish it had been marketed much, much differently.

Fun extra, watch for the late Dustin Diamond, Screech from Saved by the Bell, lurking in the background. He’s in the film, but is almost entirely an extra….

 

 

85% of the cast is under 25

Cover misrepresents the movie

Mostly one location

Clowns

 

 


Digging up the Marrow

mv5bmjm3ndc3mjc1ml5bml5banbnxkftztgwmjm4mja5mze-_v1_sy999_cr00672999_al_Of all of his films, Digging up the Marrow maybe my favorite Adam Green feature. But there is a caveat, I’m a fan of the director….we’ll get that in the moment.

Digging Up The Marrow is a mockumentary done in a semi found footage style about a man chasing monsters. Real ones. Actually, more like deformed people with some spectacular deformities that have established an underground culture that is very rarely discover. The man, Dekker, has enlisted the help of a filmmaker – Adam Green himself – to document and uncover these creatures. Along the way we discover Adam is not the first film maker he’s tried to enlist, and that there is more to this story then he’s telling.

It’s a wonderful tale, creepy and suspenseful. There are twists here and there and it keeps you engaged the whole way through – but here’s the thing, because Adam chose to use himself and his studio as characters in the film, it really appeals to his fan base.  For those of us who have kind of gotten to know him through things like his podcast and Holliston and the shorts on his Ariescope website, we already have a connection to the character that he is playing. We walk into it with that affection and interest. This is not to say that the film is inaccessible to the casual viewer, however it is going to be more work for an outsider to develop that sympathy for the character than it is for the fans. Adam is a very sympathetic character indeed, and I think this is still going to work whether you know who he is or not. But it really does work so much better if you do already know him. For Adam Green fans, I think this is really is epitome – it is his masterpiece and is love letter to the fans. I’ve saved this for last for a reason – I want you to experience his other films, I want you to watch Holliston, and I want you to understand him as a filmmaker… And to some extent as a person. That’s what’s really going to make this film pop for you it’s what’s really going to make you care about it. It really is my favorite of all of his films, with the best monsters and creepiest creatures that you will see.

 


Critters vs Tomatoes

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Now this is a movie I’d totally watch.

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Hologram Man

boxalterindex5Look, I like John Amos, but even if I don’t know what he’s doing an action film like this… Of course his last billed so just because he’s on some variations of the cover might not mean anything. I’m a fan of Tiny Lister to though, and the title Hologram Man is nicely intriguing. Also doesn’t hurt that we start off with a fire fight between cops and guys in long coats in the middle of a field of burning cars.

Despite his prominence on some versions of the cover, Amos is killed by the 13 minute mark because this movie is really about his partner Decoda. Our villian is sentenced to some sort of digital incarceration and we flash forward about 10 years. It’s a nicely dystopian future and we have a domed city with lots of concept cars (like in Demolition Man) roaming the streets, and it’s all controlled by any of a corporation, The baddie up for parole. The hearings aren’t held in person, though you appear as a hologram… Hence the title. He takes this time to escape the holographic matrix as an autonomous hologram, complete with laser hands and a blue glow like index4Automan.

While Decoda trains in a goldeneye video game on the holodeck, William Sanderson from Blade Runner clones a new body out of weird shape changing rubber. It’s now up to Decoda to stop the seemingly unstoppable hologram man

Believe it or not, I actually really like this. It’s exactly the sort of movie that I would’ve rented as a teenager for sleepovers and watched in between Nintendo games at my buddy Mike‘s house. The action is good. It’s not over the top, But lots of entertaining bang bang. It’s awesome always fun to get a glimpse of the Japanese union Church from Prince imagesof Darkness as a set in another movie, not to mention watching the cops in black dyed uniforms left over from the visitors in The V mini series. The biggest problem is that there’s very little original here. Joe Lara as Decoda is doing his best impression of Lorenzo Lamas. Michael Nouri is trying very hard to be Chris Sarandon in the entire movie wishes it was Demolition Man. It’s built on tropes rather than a solid foundation story, but sometimes it’s enough for an entertaining rental