Take Two: Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore/Men Don’t Leave

I will always love horror. It’s as ingrained in me as the blue in my eyes. In spite of that, I also love a good drama, and here are two of my very favorites, Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore, Martin Scorsese’s first Hollywood movie, and Men Don’t Leave, Paul Brickman’s follow up to Risky Business. Both movies are very similar in many ways, yet tell their own story and are completely their own.

Both feature a woman in their mid 30’s suddenly widowed and left with debt and kids. While Alice only has 11 year old Tommy, Beth has two sons, 9 year old Matthew and 17 year old Chris. First we’ll take a look at Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore.

I’ve always had a fondness for this movie. It was one of those films that the early years of HBO and Showtime played nonstop or so it seemed. Much of that fondness was because Alfred Lutter who plays Tommy, reminded me of my best friend growing up, Chris. He denied the resemblance, and probably still does to this day, but it was there in my eyes, and that’s all that mattered.

I watched it recently for the first time in about 40 years, and I have to say I was curious if my feelings for it had changed. They hadn’t. If anything they grew stronger, and I still say it is Scorsese’s best movie, and certainly his most underrated.

Released in   1974, and starring Ellen Burstyn (who won an academy award for the role), ADLHA is a bit of an anomaly for Scorsese. It came right after Mean Streets and was unlike anything he’d done, or would do for many years. Burstyn was filming The Exorcist when she got the script, and after calling Francis Ford Coppola, had Warner Brothers hire Scorsese to direct. It’s unmistakably a Scorsese film, with many of the same camera moves he’d hone and perfect in future movies. It also lacked the polish of say Raging Bull or Goodfellas, but that works in its favor.

Alice starts off in, Monterey, CA with her as a little girl. We hear her sing, rather unevenly at that, and her promise to be a singer. We jump 27 years to the present where she now resides in Socorro NM. From the first few moments we see the family, we know these characters. Don, the short tempered, emotionally stunted husband; Alice the unhappy, put upon but dutiful wife, and Tommy the precocious smart ass of a kid who doesn’t get along with his father.

Though the beginning of their relationship is never mentioned, it has all the earmarks of High School sweethearts who had an unplanned kid, and were forced to get married. When Alice cries herself to sleep one night because of her husband’s lack of communication, we feel her pain. We share the sorrow, and neediness when she grabs him after he begrudgingly holds her.

It doesn’t take long before the husband is killed in an accident (he was a truck driver for Coca-Cola, as all he wears in the movie is their uniform). Alice devastated, and out of money, not that she ever had much to begin with,  decides to sell everything, pack up the kid and go back to Monterey to become a singer again. Why? Because when you think of a singing career, you think of Monterey, CA. Right?

Tommy reminds her that his twelfth birthday is coming up, and Alice promises him they’ll get to Monterey in time to celebrate it. Fate has other plans and her car breaks down in Phoenix, AZ. Broke, without a car and living in a cheap motel, Alice starts looking for work and talks her way into a singing gig at a piano bar. Now, if the movie has one flaw, it’s that Alice really can’t sing. Certainly not the torch song standards she prefers, yet everyone thinks she’s fantastic.

That includes Ben, a suave, young man bent on bedding Alice. After she relents, and they start a relationship, she gets a visit from Ben’s wife, letting Alice know he was not only married but had a child as well. As they sit talking, Ben breaks in, starts beating on his wife and literally kicks her out the door while she’s on her hands and knees. He then threatens Alice, which is enough for her to pack everything and escape. She lands in Tucson and gets a job as a waitress at Mel’s diner. There she befriends the tough as a marshmallow owner/cook Mel, and two waitresses, the acerbic, take no shit Flo, and the dumb as a doorknob Vera. Alice and Flo don’t get on at first, and Alice grows to hate the job.

Things change when she meets the handsome stranger, David, a rancher who comes in for breakfast every day. At first Alice rejects his advances, so he gets Tommy on his side by taking him out to the ranch for some horseback riding. Alice finally relents and they begin dating.

Tommy meanwhile becomes friends with Audrey, a young girl well on her way to doing jail time as an adult. She talks Tommy into stealing, drinking ripple, and generally being a juvenile delinquent. In spite of that, his mother is oblivious to his behavior, and when David finally disciplines him (on his birthday no less), Alice goes ballistic and breaks up with him.

Realizing he may have been right, Alice confides in Flo, and the wizened waitress gives the crying mother some advice. When Tommy gets picked up by the police with Audrey for being drunk, Alice comes to her senses somewhat, and she and David make up and Alice decides to stay in Tucson, because she can be a singer everywhere.

It’s an uncharacteristically upbeat ending for Scorsese, but then so is the idea of his making a feminist movie. ADLHA was released at the height of the women’s movement, and it not only became a box office success, but earned star Ellen Burstyn an Oscar. Diane Ladd (who would later go on to star in the sitcom Alice, though not as Flo), also earned a best supporting actress nomination. Harvey Keitel as the viuolent Ben lights up the screen with his smile and snake’s eyes. Throw in a great performance by Kris Kristofferson as David, and Alfredd Lutter as Tommy and you have all the ingredients for a classic movie.

The best movies remain timeless, no matter when they were made. Alice is certainly one of these, and its message is as potent and relevant today as it was in 1974. For a young director like Scorsese, who was 32 when he filmed it, Alice shows a confidence and maturity missing in many films from director’s with twice his experience (for the time). His use of music is as exemplary as always, as is the camera work. The fact that I still think about this movie decades later is a testament to its power and longevity.

While it took Paul Brickman 7 years to make another movie after Risky Business, it proved that he was a force to be reckoned with, in spite of the sophomore effort’s mixed reviews. Men Don’t Leave was filmed in 1988 but not released until 1990. Like Alice, it also is a product of its time, perhaps not quite as timeless, but no less powerful.

John McCauley is a contractor with a loving wife and two boys, 17 year old Chris, and 9 year old Matt. They live in Maryland in a posh neighborhood, and are as much upper middle class as Alice and her Coca Cola driver husband were lower middle class. As the movie opens the youngest son is narrating over scenes of him running home. He has a little house in the backyard where his brother helps him install a doorbell. There’s brief scenes of the family together, Mom and Dad together and the brothers together. It’s a close knit and loving family, also the very opposite of what Alice had.

As in ADLHA, the father dies very early on, though the police come to tell Beth, as opposed to the phone call Alice gets. While Alice loved her husband on some level, Beth is still in love with hers, and his death cuts deeper, especially for the boys, in particular the oldest, Chris. They all have ways of trying to cope, with Beth simply trying to keep the household going. Chris responds to the death with anger and frustration, while young Matthew bottles everything up.

When Beth learns about the massive amount of debt her husband left, she does what Alice did and starts selling things including the truck that had been promised to Chris. Beth gets a job as a cashier but it still isn’t enough, and she makes the decision to sell the house and move to Baltimore. And though she’s not forced tro live in a rundown motel, she does move into a rundown apartment with no air conditioning and windows that are stuck shut.

This is where ADLHA and MDL diverge a bit, though we still see some similarities. Beth gets a menial job making and delivering gourmet sandwiches, and ends up meeting a musician on one of her deliveries. Chris meets a single X-Ray Tech in her 20’s who falls for him, and Matt is friends with Winston, another 9 year old who steals VCR’s (again, the stealing theme).

Chris’ attitude towards Charles is predictably angry and resentful, and maybe a tad jealous as well. His mother’s relationship only serves to throw him into the arms of his now girlfriend, who seems to be a bit of a creeper *a fact not lost on Beth who asks her at one point, “Couldn’t you find a 10 year old?”)

Matt maintains his stoicism, and though he knows stealing the VCR’s is wrong, he is only doing it to earn enough money to buy back the house he grew up in. To that end, he and Winston invest in scratch lottery tickets, each for their own purposes.

As things go, Life starts to unravel for Beth. She loses her job, Chris moves in with Jody, she stops talking to Charles, and Matt is as detached as ever. She falls into a depression and ends up in bed for 5 days, not bothering to cook, clean, bathe, or do much of anything. Chris gets Jody to try and help his mother, and with great resistance, Beth relents and allows herself to be helped.

Matt however has a breakdown of his own, after Winston gets a winning lottery ticket and doesn’t share it with him as they had agreed. Matt runs away, and much like Alice where we see her searching for a missing Tommy, we see Beth, Charles and Chris searching for Matt.

A phone call from the new owners of their house lets them know he is there and in his old fort. They race to the house, where tears are shed, monologues are given, and love is dispensed. The last scene is of the family, plus Jody and Charles going boating together, along with more voice over from Matt.

It’s a manufactured happy ending for a slick, over produced Hollywood production. It treats depression as something you just snap out of by a clean apartment, clean clothes and a cup of tea. And for its faults, I still love this movie. Jessica Lange as Beth was really coming into her own then, enough to make us all forget her horrible turn in 1976’s King Kong.

MDL is Chris O’Donnell’s debut, and it’s easy to see why he catapulted into stardom, as his acting here is nothing short of phenomenal. The same is true for Charlie Korsmo who plays his little brother. Both are amazing and very believable. Arliss Howard as Charles has the most thankless roll, and the most forgettable. He does his best, but Charles comes across as so bland, you really don’t get invested in him.

It’s Kathy Bates as Beth’s boss and Joan Cusack as Chris’ girlfriend who steal the show. Every time they’re onscreen is magic. I’d love to have seen more of Bates, but what we do get is deliciously bitchy. Cusack, as pleasant as she seems to be, still comes across as a creeper, and you never feel entirely comfortable with her character. You get the feeling if they had sex offenders lists then, her name would be on it.

As I said, MDL is not a perfect movie. It feels too manufactured and not nearly as honest, emotionally as Alice. And ADLHA has a far more organic, natural feel, which better characters and a far more believable ending. The difference is night and day when comparing the scene of Alice and Flo in the bathroom, and Beth and Jody in Beth’s kitchen. Alice makes you feel like you’re eavesdropping, while Men makes you aware that this isn’t how real people talk, but you still go with it.

I’m not sure why I have the attachment to Men Don’t Leave, other than it was released a year after my own father died, and I could relate to a lot of the feelings I saw onscreen. I was 24 then, but still felt like the 9 year old Matt at times.

Regardless, and if for nothing else, Men Don’t Leave is well worth watching for the performances alone. Watch it on a double bill with Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore, and compare them the way I have, then ask yourself, which one am I? The answer may surprise you.

Specter of Love

My last review was for Wade Radford’s movie, Necrophiliac, and now he’s back with a very different love story. Switching mediums for this project, Wade jumps into fiction writing. While he’s done this before, it’s certainly not what the UK based indie artist is known for. And he’s definitely not known for love stories mixed in with ghostly musings.

 

All the Way to Mundesley Bay is a quick read, as is befitting a novella, but there’s so much to chew on and digest, that you speed through it at your own peril. This is a story to be savored, like a morning cup of coffee as you sit on a porch watching the sun rise. It’s a respite from the hectic, 24 hour news cycle bombarding us with half truths and reality TV.

Mundesley Bay tells the deceptively simple story of two young men, Tom and JD who are meeting for the first time at a small cottage by the sea. We are privy to their innermost thoughts, fears, desires and hopes. Also inhabiting the cottage is a ghost who has been there for 500+ years. We learn about him throughout the book, as well as his family, other ghosts, and his own fears as well.

That’s all you need to know for the setup, and even that may be too much. When Wade told me about the book, prior to his writing, I didn’t know what to expect, other than it would be interesting, and I looked forward to seeing him work outside his comfort zone. What I wasn’t prepared for was the steep philosophical meditations on life, death, love, and what happens after we die.

Those are all topics that we can relate to, especially those of us closer to the end of the line than the beginning. I was truly moved to tears several times while reading this potent piece. I found myself thinking about some of the ideas long after I finished reading. And while JD and Tom are presented as the main characters, it is the ghost I became enraptured with. It was the ghost I wanted to know more about and wished above all he had a happy ending. In fact it is his love story that is the heart of the story, and not the burgeoning romance between the boys.

JD and Tom may seem like characters from Radford’s other works like Sex, Lies, and Depravity, they are still wholly original and well developed. These are real people painted as such, and you believe in them, and root for them, even as red flags are thrown up. It’s a fine line Radford crosses and he does so with the maturity of writers twice his age. In fact, my first thought after reading Mundesley Bay was, “I wish I’d written this.”

It’s always difficult reviewing work by someone who is a close and dear friend, as the reader is likely to assume it’s all bullshit. In this case it’s not. I genuinely love this little book, and I urge everyone to grab a copy in ebook or paperback. It’s an antidote to the negativity we face within ourselves and the outer world.. All the Way to Mundesely Bay deserves to be read, and it deserves to be read now. You’ll thank me for it later.

You can pick up your copy at Amazon.com

Romance is Dead

The Lustful Dead gives new meaning to the phrase, “a dead fuck.” While LD has been available in the U.S. since its release, Europe, and specifically the U.K haven’t been so lucky, and it has become quite hard to get a copy.

On the 15th of November, 2019 that all changes when the rest of the world is finally able to see Wade Radford’s darkest film. For those who aren’t familiar with Wade or his work, it’s simply to be said, you have to experience it for yourself. Mere words don’t do justice to his creations (his solo work as well as collaborations with Jason Impey), seeing is believing.

While I’ve written extensively about all of his movies in my upcoming book about Wade’s work, I’ve also said many, many times it is my favorite film of his, and I think one of, if not, the best performance of his career so far.

Lustful Dead is very simple, a filmmaker Joe Newton, interviews Haydn Reef, a self-proclaimed necrophiliac. The first half of the film is very reminiscent of Radford’s seminal work about pornography, Twink, simply an interview. Yet Haydn delights in teasing Newton as he explains very casually how he finds corpses and what he does with them.

Radford’s performance is chilling as he goes into explicit detail while petting his cat so lovingly. We truly are put in the director’s shoes in not quite believing Haydn, yet being repulsed by his actions. Those feelings get complicated as Haydn is nothing if not charismatic and you can’t help but liking him.

As the conversation goes on and grows more intense, Haydn shows the filmmaker around his flat on a tour he’ll never forget. You’ll have to watch it to see what happens. All I’ll say is that corpse in the bedroom isn’t just for show.

While you’re more apt to find Impey behind the camera, instead of in front, he does a fine job as the filmmaker in way, way, way over his head. His talent behind the camera is on display here as well, and he truly seems to be in his element.

As I mentioned earlier I think this is Radford’s best performance. With his short hair, and imposing demeanor, he truly unsettles the viewer at the same time you want to fuck him. A fine balancing act that few can do successfully. Anyone familiar with Radford’s Boys Behind Bars trilogy knows he pulls no punches, and erases any line conventional cinema may draw in the sand. And even as outrageous as they are, they’re nothing compared to what he gets up to in LD.

All that would be enough, but the fact all the dialog was improvised is a testament to his creativity as well as his acting.

To be completely open, Radford has been a close friend of mine for over five years, but that doesn’t mean I like everything he’s done. I don’t. And when that happens I’ll tell him.

However, when he makes something I like, and in this case love, I’ll shout it from the rooftops, and in this case Lustful Dead is one of the best indie horror movies of the last few years. It manages to be a bit of everything, but most of all, thought provoking. You’ll be thinking about it long after the final frame has faded to black.

Pre-order here

Black Wake: A Long Awaited Review

It’s always difficult reviewing a movie, book, music, etc of a friend or an acquaintance. You truly hope it doesn’t suck as much for your sake as theirs. After all, who likes to tell people that matter their work is subpar. With Black Wake, I’ve become friends with the director, Jeremiah Kipp through his appearances on the podcast, as well as through Facebook.  Jerry Janda the writer, has become someone I admire greatly, and we’ve done our own podcast as well. He was the first person to read my book Life in Amber, and I actually read an early version of the script for Black Wake before it even went into production. I’m Facebook friends with several of the actors in the movie, not to mention my cohort on  Imaginarium Todd Staruch has a cameo, as does Tom Ryan, the Faces director.

Fortunately, I don’t have to worry as Black Wake is a fun little movie, that has ideas far bigger than the budget allowed, and does the best it can, which is  actually quite a bit. It’s hard to categorize Black Wake. It’s found footage, but doesn’t always feel that way. It’s part sci-fi with definite horrific elements. It’s kind of a zombie movie but not really. There are traces of The Thing, but only fleeting glimpses. It’s definitely steeped in Lovecraft (including an homage to the man himself when someone is drawing him in a mural on the wall).  Mostly, Black Wake is its own thing. Rather than simply copying the tropes mentioned, BW uses them as a starting point, and in Kipp’s sure hand, mixes them into something familiar, but uncomfortable.

Most of the movie is seen through the eyes of two government agents who are following a woman around, for unknown reasons, and we also see substantial parts from her point of view. It’s to Kipp’s and Janda’s credit, that they’re able to keep things close to the vest and keep you wondering what the hell is going on. While it can be a bit confusing at times if you don’t pay attention, information is repeated enough that you quickly get back on track.

Nana Gouvea plays the woman being tracked, and she does a great job going from someone who is seemingly rational to utter batshit crazy by the end of the film. It’s a role that could have easily been overplayed, but Nouvea’s Dr. Moreira is very restrained, and pitch perfect. Two of my other favorite performances were by Kelly Rae LeGault as the “specimen”, and Johnny Beauchamp as the homeless man who is the catalyst for everything that transpires. LeGault is fun to watch, combining creepy and appealing. Her scene where she runs into a car full of bros is one of BW’s strongest scenes, due to her performance. Beauchamp’s character is a far cry from Angelique in Penny Dreadful and shows exactly the range of emotion he can portray. When pieces fall into place, his character is truly heartbreaking.

There are several other names in blink and you’ll miss them roles including Tom Sizemore, Eric Roberts, Vincent Pastore, and Chuck Zito among others. They all bring a legitimacy and believability to the movie that might otherwise not be there.

Unfortunately the rest of the acting is hit or miss. The two actors playing the Google Glass wearing government agents are a weak point. Their lack of emotion is one thing, but they also come across as automatons, and aren’t really believable in their roles. Uneven performances aside, there are some issues with the story that keep it from being all it could have been. It wants to tell a story about mind parasites but doesn’t trust itself enough, so it becomes a pseudo-zombie flick which dumbs it down a bit.

The effects are great as is most of the CGI. The blood you see is mostly a black ink which keeps things from being as graphic as they could have been. There’s also a completely gratuitous sex scene/kill scene that adds absolutely nothing to the story except a few minutes padding. Which brings up my biggest annoyance: the running time. Billed at 90 minutes, it’s actually closer to 78, as the last 12 minutes are the credits intermixed with bloopers/cut footage. I don’t mind that necessarily, but here it feels like it’s hiding how short it is.

Beyond all that, BW is really a good time, and a great way to spend part of a Friday night. BW is creepy, effective, and in spite of its limitations, lots of fun.

Review: Poet: An Intimate discussion with Wade Radford

Disclaimer: I am in this documentary briefly, and also friends with the subject. In spite of that, what follows is an objective look at the film, and only my opinion.

One of the very first things I found out about Wade Radford was that he was a poet.This didn’t surprise me as his movie Twink (the film that brought us in touch) was nothing if not poetic at times. The first book of poems of his that I read was “Tough Blows of A Sleepless Universe” and I was, if not blown away, then at least suitably impressed. As further volumes of his work came out, the stronger and tighter his poems became. I suppose the culmination for me, was being asked to write a forward to his collection, “Ideations of Six Feet Under” . For me that volume is perhaps my favorite because it truly captured his honesty, anger and amazing amount of talent.

So, it was also no surprise when he told me that he was going to be making a documentary about his poetry. I was excited by this, as a movie by Wade is always a cause for celebration. The fact it was his first movie  in a couple of years, with long time collaborator and friend Jason Impey was all the better. I was equally humbled when asked to contribute to the film as a talking head (so to speak). I filmed my bits sent them off, and was able to watch the final product this past week.

In short it’s everything you might expect. And more. And less as well. In addition to my contribution we also hear from Jason, punk legend Honey Bane, and film producer Thomas Lee Bottom (who also funded this project). For the record, Honey Bane contributed one of the most beautiful songs I’ve heard in a very long time, using one of Wade’s poems for the lyrics.  The sparse musical arrangement suits this song very well, and Honey’s vocals are nothing short of amazing. This song needs to be a single and played everywhere, it’s that good.

Interspersed with the interviews are pieces where Wade ruminates on, well pretty much everything. These parts are less about the poetry, and moreo about what goes into them. It’s not every day you get to see the inner workings of a poet. During these clips we’re taken to places that have significance to him, and he explains why they have meaning. The camera work during these interludes is at times breathtaking, as much as what Wade discusses is heartbreaking.

We also see Wade reading several of his poems throughout, and as wonderful as they are, and as powerfully read (if a bit over theatrical at times), it interrupts the flow of the movie.

The interview segments are what you would expect from a documentary and all who participate have great things to say and some keen insights at times. We’re all friends of Wade’s and it may come off as a mutual admiration society, but this is about the poetry, not necessarily the person. This isn’t about digging up the dirt, but peeling back the layers to see what makes the heart of his work beat with such unrepentant ferocity.

At a full two hour running time, it does drag a bit in spots, and while I think it would have been perfect at 90 minutes, I’m not sure what I would end up cutting, because it all seems important enough to keep in. And as I alluded to earlier the poetry readings do tend to slow it down, but they are also worth the time they take.

Some may see Poet as a vanity project, a product of equal parts ego and hubris, and for some they would be right. For Wade however, he is open, honest, humble, and most of all doesn’t take himself seriously. His wit and charm is very evident, and the readings are a testament to his talent.

As I watched Poet, I couldn’t help but think I wish I had half his ability, and that’s about the highest compliment I can pay anyone. Poet shows why that  praise is warranted.

Poet: An Intimate Discussion With Wade Radford is available to rent or purchase on Vimeo. https://vimeo.com/ondemand/poetwaderadford

 

Hellraiser: Judgment Get the Hell Out of Here

Anyone who knows me, even if just from the podcast, knows my favorite horror movie is Hellraiser. To be fair it’s one of my favorite movies period, and has been since I first saw it one sunny September day in 1987. It’s difficult to believe that was 3 decades ago, as the memory is still as fresh as if I had seen it only yesterday. I’d gone with a friend who was not fond of horror movies to say the least, and finally walked out after Frank’s classic, “Jesus wept,” line. I’m not sure he ever forgave me for dragging him along, but I couldn’t have been happier.

Everything about the movie appealed to me, and Clive Barker cemented himself alongside Stephen King as one of my idols. The idea of the Cenobites, their reason for existence, and Frank’s obsession with extremes was something that resonated with me, and has never been very far from my thoughts. With the advent of VHS players, Hellraiser became the movie to which I judged future friendships. If someone was able to sit through it, or even better, like it, I knew they’d be a keeper. It’s a test I still use to this day and has served me well.

I can’t say the same about the sequels. Even Hellraiser II, which some prefer to the original never had the profound effect of the original, and while I enjoyed 3 and 4-everything after that was nearly as painful as the implements hanging from Pinhead’s belt.  Even 3 and 4 weren’t especially great, but they were entertaining, and at least attempted to do something different, or expand the world that Barker had created.

When the rumblings of yet another sequel started rearing its head a couple of years ago (not to mention the remake which has fortunately not come to fruition yet), the news was greeted with an eye roll and shoulder shrug. Yet every time I read something about it, I have to say my interest was piqued more and more. Even when Doug Bradley said he wouldn’t be playing Pinhead, I still had hope.

And now after several postponements and some time in limbo, Hellraiser: Judgment will be available on VOD Feb 13. The short answer to the question of whether I like it or not is, “Well, it doesn’t suck!”  And while it’s probably the best of the direct to obscurity sequels, it’s not exactly a good movie.

 

The first 10 minutes or so is spent expanding the mythos that Barker began all those years ago, and it is easily the best part of the entire movie. We follow what turns out to be a pedophile to an abandoned house where he is strapped into a wheelchair. A tube winds itself from the victim to a typewriter, where The Auditor types his sins with blood flowing from the tube onto pages made from flesh.

Once completed The Assessor comes in, seasons the paper with tears of children and eats the paper, then vomits it into a funnel. The vomit then makes its way into a trough where The Jury, 3 women with their faces stripped away plunge their hands into the mess and deliver a verdict.

When that’s completed the pedophile is then strapped to a table where The Cleaners come in, lick his entire body then pour their spit into his mouth to cleanse the inside. The final step is when the Butcher makes his appearance, an obese dark Angel who carries The Surgeon on his back who filets the victim and strips his skin off.

The whole process is so fascinating; I really wish there had been more, as I was mesmerized and sickened by the process. Sadly, the rest of the movie doesn’t live up to this beginning, as we then get treated to a substandard serial killer/cops on the trail flick. Pinhead and the gang are relegated to the beginning and end with just a couple of quick scenes in between. Paul T. Taylor is a fantastic Pinhead however, and makes you realize a Hellraiser movie can succeed without Doug Bradley. This incarnation really hearkens back to the original movie. Pinhead here is all business, and scary as hell. His black eyes and calm, almost bored demeanor are a highlight for sure.

Director Gary J. Tunnicliffe also plays The Auditor and is also a highlight, and as I said, wish there had been more of him and his level of Hell in the film (he’s not a Cenobite, but another aspect of Hell). Heather Langenkamp, of Nightmare on Elm Street fame has a sneeze and you’ll miss it cameo, and I have to believe there’s a lot more of her on the editing room floor than in the movie.

This brings us to the “detectives” working on the case; a pair of brothers, played by Damon Carney and Randy Wayne, as well as a female detective assigned to the case, played by Alexandra Harris. These characters are easily the weakest link in the movie. You never believe they’re actually brothers. Let alone detectives, and in spite of solid performances, the script really lets them down. Harris does a fine job as well, but feels like she was thrown in there just to spice things up.

The biggest problem the movie has is the small budget. There are so many cool ideas that could have been explored but had to be cut because there simply wasn’t room in the budget for them.  The “detective’s” office looked more like a closet with some furniture thrown into it, and the finale takes place in an empty warehouse. I don’t blame the director for these choices, as you work with what you have, but still I can’t help but wonder what this movie could have been had they had a decent budget.

While I would have a hard time recommending buying the DVD/BluRay, I don’t think people will mind spending a few bucks to stream it. There are far worse movies out there, but in terms of Hellraiser sequels, you’ll find none that are much better. I just hope we get a proper sequel one day with more than a $1.98 budget, this franchise deserves more.

3/5 Pins

One Last Night at Camp Blood: Jason X

And here we arrive at the final proper entry in the F13 series. I decided not to include Freddie VS Jason or the F13 remake because they weren’t direct sequels. For those interested however, I thought F VS J was a lot of fun with some great over the top gore, and the F13 remake was awful, and shit all over the original. And if nothing else, all the sequels have made me appreciate the original F13 all the more (Kevin Bacon’s penis aside).

I suppose there were better ways to end the franchise than launch Jason into space, but when you get to the tenth entry, good ideas are hard to come by. That said, Jason X is far more entertaining than it has any right to be. Please, don’t mistake entertaining for good, as that would be a mistake-but in comparison to Jason Goes to Hell, this is a Fellini quality film. After all, David Cronenberg makes a cameo in it, so that counts for something (to me anyway). And as I should have said from the very beginning of this series, These are my opinions only. If you like what I didn’t, that’s great! Movies are subjective and all I can do is give my reaction to them. Many times they seem contradictory, but that’s part of being human. Anyway, let’s lift off!

It’s 2008, and there’s two things that may surprise you. The U.S. Government has captured Jason and holding him in a dank, damp cellar, at a compound in Crystal Lake. Why there would be a government installation there is anyone’s guess, but David Cronenberg is the head of it, so it’s all cool. Scientist Rown wants tofreeze dry Jason, however Cronenberg and company have other plans to study him and adapt his cell regeneration if possible. When they enter the area Jason is kept, they discover Jason has gotten loose and killed the guard on duty. Pretty soon, everyone but Rowan is dead.

She leads him on a chase and eventually traps him in a cryofreezing unit. Before she can escape, Jason punctures the until and manages to stab her, so they’re both frozen like some Birdseye veggies.

Almost 450 years later 3 students and their professor are on an expedition to the Crystal Lake building. Despite the fact no one lives on earth any longer, it having become too polluted, they still do some excavation. They find Rowan and Jason, and are excited by the find. After they bring them back to their ship they begin the process of thawing out and reviving Rowan (Jason being a lost cause they surmise). She’s brought back using nanotechnology, and also has her wounds healed as well. Jason is left in the morgue where he’s about to undergo an autopsy.

This leads up to the first kill on the ship, and probably the best of them all. Mr. V comes to life and sticks the techs head in some cryo freeze unit until her entire head is frozen, and then wham! Smashed against the counter. How Jason knows what it is and what it does though, is anyone’s guess. Apparently he’s not as stupid as we assume (fair to say, Jason’s smarter than most of the screenwriters).

There’s a minor subplot about the professor not wanting Jason dead because he’d be worth a lot of money, and he needs that dough. A security team is sent out to neutralize him, and as it goes, they’re all killed save the leader who shows up later at a most convenient time.

 

The more Rowan warns about Jason’s danger the less people seem to listen and the more chances they take. Even as they’re picked off one by one, no one really listens to Rowan. In space no one sees you do stupid things. The Android with the ragtag bunch of survivors gets retrofitted with some kickass power and that’s exactly what she does, kicks Jason ass. Then she does what I’ve finally waited for someone to do in every sequel-shoot him in the legs. Cut them off, kneecap him, something to at least slow him down.

They leave the Jason chunks where they are, and somehow the nano bugs come and not only put Jason back together but make the parts of him missing, metal-so he’s indestructible. The uber Jason while a ridiculous concept looks bad ass, so it’s only natural he die in a bad ass way, hurtling towards the earth and burning up on entry, only for the remains to land by, you guessed it, Crystal Lake.

Look, I’m not going to pretend Jason X is anything great, as it’s not. In fact, it’s pretty ridiculous, however it has one thing going for it the previous two didn’t: truth in advertising. We barely saw any of Manhattan and none of Hell. 95% of the movie is actually in space. Side note, simply being able to get a job that allows you to go to space doesn’t mean you’re smart enough to not get killed. Jason has always been an equal opportunity killer. Jason X doesn’t pretend to be anything other than what it is, a goofy roller coaster ride that doesn’t take itself seriously. It’s a good looking film, with some-not all-better than average acting, and a self referential script. If anything, it reminds me of the straight to VHS scifi movies I saw in the 80’s.

Why do I like this and not Jason Goes to Hell? Because X respects the source material, while Hell really shit all over it. You can take a franchise in different directions without retconning it the way Hell did. Yes the whole government installation and Jason being captured is ridiculous, as is his being made into an uber predator; but I was able to buy that more than anything in the previous film.

Jason X gets 6.5 machetes from me. Half a machete taken away for sending him to space.

 

And there we go, all ten movies in the F13 series. I was surprised by some, disappointed by others, and found some scary. All in all it’s one of the more consistent franchises of horror. Nothing ever came close to the first movie in terms of scares or surprise, though I think 2 came the closest. I also think it’s the one series that gets the least respect. Sure everyone loves Jason-the character, but the movies still have a less than positive reputation. Even 37 years after the original they get no respect. And maybe, just maybe, that’s the way it’s supposed to be.

Two Long Nights at Camp Blood: Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday

This may be the shortest essay of the bunch, because the more I think about this piece of shit movie, the angrier I get that I wasted 88 minutes of my life having to watch it again. Very few movies get me that angry, because I usually stop watching and go onto something else. I was tempted to here, but wouldn’t have felt right, writing about it.

My good bud and cohost of Mad As Hell, Kyle Fulton and I talked about the F13 remake a few years back. He liked it, I thought it was awful. Everything I disliked about the remake I disliked about Jason Goes to Hell. With a script co written by Jay Huguely (who had a string of hits under the name Cledus Maggard and his Citizen’s Band in the mid 70’s), and directed by 23 year old Adam Marcus, Jason Goes to Hell is not only the worst movie in the franchise, but one of the worst movies ever made. Were it not for one sequence set in a diner about ¾ of the way through the movie, I’d have nothing positive to say about it. Alright, let’s do this.

If you remember, in the last movie, Jason Takes Manhattan, Jason is killed by toxic waste and turned back into a little boy. Jason Goes to Hell ignores that, and just about every other piece of canon and marches to the beat of its own drum. Meaning, they made crap up as they went along. WE open up with a woman heading to a cabin in the woods. Needless to say Jason pops up, and chases her around. At one point they get to an open area and all these flood lights pop on, and a SWAT team is there and shoots him about a million times and then blows him up for good measure. His head and heart remain intact if not where they should actually be located.

He’s taken to the morgue where there’s security, in case he rises up I suppose or someone tries to steal his remains. As the medical examiner is doing his job, he starts to examine the heart which not only starts beating, but hypnotizes him into taking a bite out of it like MacGruff took one out of crime. This somehow transfers Jason’s soul into the coroner who goes on to kill his assistant and the two security guards.

Not surprisingly, he heads back to Crystal Lake, kills three people he finds there, and it’s then we’re introduced to a Jason hunter, named Creighton Duke-I call him asshole for short. It’s through him we find out that Jason has a half sister, and only someone related to him by blood can kill him permanently. Now it’s bad enough New Blood added the supernatural aspect to him, but now we have him as a body thief not to mention the family aspect. Excuse my French, but fuck that. Look, I’m not a stickler about lore. Anyone who listens to Imaginarium knows that. However, when you change everything so much that it barely resembles what it is supposed to be-then we have a problem. This reimagining is pointless and serves only to tell the story that the writers want to and fitting Jason into it somehow.

Most of the rest of the movie is spent with Jason hopping from body to body as he tracks down his sister and her daughter so he can be reborn. Oh and the way he switches bodies, is he [ukes what looks like a bloody turd into someone’s mouth.  Considering what a shit pile the movie is, there’s no surprise that’s what they chose to use as the vehicle for the body jumping.

Earlier said there was only one thing to recommend about the movie, and I take that back. There are three, the diner scene, the end credits, and seeing Leslie Jordan out of his element. So let’s talk about that diner scene. Leading up to the final confrontation everyone who hasn’t been killed yet seems to end up there. Jason flits through a couple of bodies in the movies only truly somewhat scary scene. It’s filmed in partial dark, with lots of blues, and it actually works in creating some atmosphere. Sadly Leslie gets his head dunked in a fryer, but it’s always a lot of fun to see him on screen.

Now, the ending. Or should I say the final shot. This ridiculousness gets wrapped up, Jason apparently is sent to Hell, though we never even see the Devil’s playground, which is even more disappointing than sapending only 30 minutes in NYC when he goes to Manhattan. We do see these twisted arm tentacle things popping up out of the ground dragging him into a pit, so I suppose technically we’ve seen some of Hell’s minions. Once Jason is gone, and before the relief of those end credits, we see his mask laying in the dirt, and then they rip off Carrie’s end scene and have an arm shoot up and drag the mask under-and it’s Freddie Krueger!

 

Bullshit. As I said at the beginning, I never feel truly angry by a movie, I mean it’s only a movie, but the utter lack of care in this installment makes me want to punt kittens. And you know how much I love cats. Yes they were setting up the Freddie vs Jason movie but that would be a decade later, meaning we’d have to have one more sequel for me to sit through, where Jason goes to outer space.

I feel sorry for Kane Hodder. Here he is, one of the best actors to play Jason, yet he’s saddled with some of the weakest entries in the series. But hey, a paycheck is a paycheck, right?

Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday gets half a machete from me. The diner scene saved it from getting 0.