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John’s Horror Corner: Pumpkinhead III: Ashes to Ashes (2006), a bad creature feature sequel doing no service to the legacy of Ed Harley.

September 18, 2019

MY CALL: I’m sure you weren’t expecting much, but this was just plain terrible. MORE MOVIES LIKE Pumpkinhead: Ashes to Ashes: Pumpkinhead (1988) and Pumpkinhead II: Blood Wings (1993) were both much better.

Remember the hillbilly kid from Pumpkinhead (1988) who took an angry bereft father to Haggis the swamp witch? Now all grown up, Bunt is haunted by the ghost of Ed Harley (Lance Henriksen; PumpkinheadHarbinger DownAliens, AVPThe Pit and the Pendulum). And with good reason! Bunt and his siblings/cousins work for the criminal mortician Doc Fraser (Doug Bradley; Hellraiser I-VIII, Wrong Turn 5, Proteus, Nightbreed) illegally harvesting organs for profit. Seeking revenge for their lost loved ones, several locals make a pact with the hag to conjure revenge.

Director Jeff Burr (Puppet Master 4-5, Pumpkinhead II: Blood Wings, Leatherface: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre III) waited a respectable five years before sequeling Stan Winston’s (Pumpkinhead) original classic. And while Burr’s sequel was nothing amazing, it was an enjoyably decent B-movie creature feature. Now another 13 years later and deep in the era of video-released crap, director Jake West’s (Doghouse, Feral) third franchise installment feels exemplary of everything wrong with cheap throwaway sequels.

Never before has Pumpkinhead looked so cheaply rubber suited as in the opening scene—more akin to your neighbor’s awesome Halloween costume than simply subpar creature effects in a real movie. And the CGI portion of the Pumpkinhead summoning-transformation was terrible. However, the monster suit we see post-summoning thankfully looks much better than the opening scene and more in league with part II (but still worst of the three).

The very same can be said for Haggis (Lynne Verrall; Pumpkinhead: Blood Feud), whose make-up and swamp hut set design likewise worsen with each subsequent movie. Even Haggis’ lines and the brokering of the curse are watered down unrecognizably. With some drawn blood from the bereft locals, Haggis resurrects Ed Harley himself who then immediately transforms into the demon Pumpkinhead. So based on the in-movie references (and things not referenced), this sequel seems to clearly follow Pumpkinhead (1988) and completely ignore Pumpkinhead II: Blood Wings (1993). Which is just fine—because even though part II was much better than this, it took some annoyingly inconsistent liberties with the rules of the curse.

The writing (largely exposition dumps), direction and performances were very amateur (except for maybe Bradley, who felt comfortable even if hammed-up as Doc). Pumpkinhead has certainly seen better days, and this demon’s death scenes are pathetic. Pumpkinhead crushes someone’s head and it takes all day with the probably cool stuff happening off-camera. Another death scene is a crappy CGI silhouette of the action with after-the-fact impalement gore. Oh, and the CGI is shameless—we suffer through Pumpkinhead climbing up a church and it looks like 90s Aliens videogame graphic. More horrible CGI depicts a tail stab through the chest (yet more Aliens influence) and a finger stab through the chest. Just awful. There was really nothing redeemable in this movie.

Even the manifestations of the curse (i.e., linked fates) was presented poorly. And this film relies far too much on what was the big finale reveal of part 1 (i.e., that the fate of the conjurers of the curse was linked to Pumpkinhead’s fate). This was exploited so much it cheapened its meaning. But, then again, when this movie’s finale includes blowing up a meth lab as its big “gee-wow” I guess there are bigger flaws to consider.

In the end Haggis returns a body (not Ed but Ellie with the star necklace) to the pumpkin patch so that the curse may be conjured in the next cursed sequel of a franchise fallen so far from its original grace. Not recommended.

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The MFF Podcast #217: Ladyhawke, Rutger Hauer, and Terrible Castle Guards

September 17, 2019

You can download the pod on Apple PodcastsStitcherTune In,  Podbean, or Spreaker.

If you get a chance please make sure to review, rate and share. You are awesome!

The MFF podcast is back, and this week we’re talking about the 1985 fantasy film Ladyhawke. Directed by Richard Donner (Superman: The Movie, The Goonies, Lethal Weapon), Ladyhawke is an old-fashioned fantasy film that relies on practical effects, beautifully designed sets and a cheeky Matthew Broderick to tell a charming love story involving Rutger Hauer, Michelle Pfeiffer – and a wolf and a hawk. In this episode, you will hear us talk about Rutger Hauer being awesome, terrible castle guards and sword fights that look exhausting. Enjoy!

Dude looks totally natural with a hawk and sword.

If you are a fan of the podcast make sure to send in some random listener questions so we can do our best to not answer them correctly. We thank you for listening and hope you enjoy the pod!

You can download the pod on Apple PodcastsStitcherTune In,  Podbean,or Spreaker.

If you get a chance please make sure to review, rate and share. You are awesome!

John’s Horror Corner: Friday the 13th (2009), a remake/requel love letter to the early 80s featuring brutally familiar death scenes.

September 16, 2019

 

MY CALL: This remake gets a lot of flack but, you know what? I like it! I like it a lot. In fact, loaded with familiar scenes and kills, it’s a blast that serves as a death scene love letter to the early installments of the franchise. MORE MOVIES LIKE Friday the 13th: Lovers of this film may not appreciate the early Friday the 13th (1980) and Friday the 13th Part 2 (1981), and I’d only suggest part III (1982) for the sake of story completists. But part IV: The Final Chapter (1984), part V: A New Beginning (1985), part VI: Jason Lives (1986) and part VII: The New Blood (1988) were all quite redeeming—with part VII starting a campier off-the-wall trend.  So part VII and part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan (1989) get a bit more silly, Jason Goes to Hell (1993) is outright bonkerstastic entertaining mayhem, and finally Jason X (2001) in drunk with lunacy. For a detailed (and fun) podcast discussion about this film check out The MFF Podcast #196: Jason X and the Friday the 13th Remake and then, to go back to some older installments, perhaps The MFF Podcast #182: Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter and Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday.

Franchise Timeline SIDEBAR: So much as we’ve seen in the Halloween (e.g., 2018 and H20) and Critters (e.g., Critters Attack! and A New Binge) franchises, this film actually presents an alternate timeline. Because, sure, it’s popularly understood to be a remake/reimagining of Friday the 13th (1980). But really, it’s more of a direct sequel to Friday the 13th (1980) that ignores the other eleven Jason Voorhees movies (i.e., 9 sequels and Freddy vs Jason) and shares many revealing elements of Friday the 13th Part 2 (1981)… or one could call it a reimagining of the sum of Friday the 13th films using the end of 1980’s original as backstory—as we learn during an opening scene campfire story. So, with that said, this is not the undead/deadites Jason of many sequels.

Venturing to the long-abandoned Camp Crystal Lake to harvest (i.e., steal) the marijuana harvest of a grow-operation, some unlucky hikers encounter a sack-masked killer. Wrapping a girl in a sleeping bag and hanging it over a fire—this Jason is just plain mean, which should come as no surprise with director Marcus Nispel (The Texas Chainsaw Massacre). Not to mention the visceral machete-through-the-floorboards scene, the cruel flesh-stripping bear trap, and the machete cleaving halfway through a dude’s head! All of which honor some of our favorite death scenes in the franchise!

Then we meet our next batch of victims heading out to a preppie rich college guy’s family vacation house by the lake—near Camp Crystal Lake! And unlike most slasher victim fare, these characters are fun to watch on screen as they are loaded with rich stoner and shallow and hyper-sexualized dialogue. They are almost caricatures of standard victim tropes…

Meet the victims: Whitney (Amanda Righetti; Return to the House on Haunted Hill, Colony), Richie (Ben Feldman; Cloverfield, As Above So Below), Amanda (America Olivo; Bitch Slap, Neighbor, Maniac), Wade (Jonathan Sadowski; Chernobyl Diaries), Clay (Jared Padalecki; Supernatural, House of Wax, Cry Wolf), Jenna (Danielle Panabaker; Piranha 3DD, Girls Against Boys, The Ward, The Crazies), Trent (Travis Van Winkle; Asylum, Transformers), Chewie (Aaron Yoo; Demonic, Disturbia, A Nightmare on Elm Street), Bree (Julianna Guill; The Apparition, Altitude, Mine Games), Lawrence (Arlen Escarpeta; Final Destination 5), Mike (Nick Mennell; Halloween), Nolan (Ryan Hansen) and Chelsea (Willa Ford).

This movie hilariously embraces its franchise tropes and, like clumsily shotgunning a beer, spills these tropes all over itself deliberately. Character dialogue openly discusses sex in the woods in blatant language, America Oliva teases her boyfriend by rubbing her bare breasts with baby oil for God’s sake behind the back of their mutual (humorously oblivious) friend at the campfire as her beau mimes thrusting motions, a general abundance of sex scenes (with amusing dialogue), topless water-skiing, a sultry dance and then sex scene with Julianna Guill (with some epic commentary from her partner). Oh, right, and all this death was predicated by twentysomethings with the goal of theft, drinking, sex and drug use. However, I will note that Jason’s behavior is quite askew from our expectations. For example, he kidnaps one victim—which is far more typical of Leatherface than Jason.

Like an homage to the entire franchise, we span several movies (1980-1988) worth of Crystal Lake killers, masks and iconic kills. Jason Voorhees (Derek Mears; Dead Snow 2, Hatchet III, Cursed, The Hills Have Eyes II) is as hulking a menace as ever, and he uses whatever he can to kill these fun-loving vacationers—including arrows (part 3, 1982), creative use of sleeping bags (part 7, 1988), the through-the-throat stab (part 1, 1980), a gloriously fun and unexpected through-the-deck stab (with bonus boobs), hefty ax-throwing, and of course his favorite machete! In addition to familiar death scenes, some iconic moments you may recall from older franchise installments include the through-the-broken-glass grab (part 2, 1981), Jason’s hanging (part 3, 1982), dumping Jason in the lake (part 6, 1986), the discovery of his mom’s head (part 2, 1981), and the finale jump-out-of-the-lake grab the final girl (parts 1 & 4)!

REMAKE/REIMAGINING SIDEBAR: For more horror remakes, I strongly favor the following: Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978), An American Werewolf in London (1981), The Thing (1982; yes, this was a remake), The Fly (1986), The Mummy (1999; adventure genre), The Ring (2002), The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2003), The Hills Have Eyes (2006), Friday the 13th (2009), Let Me In (2010), Evil Dead (2013), Carrie (2013), The Town That Dreaded Sundown (2014), It (2017) and Suspiria (2018). Those to avoid include The Thing (2011; a prequel/remake), Poltergeist (2015), Cabin Fever (2016), A Nightmare on Elm Street (2010), Night of the Demons (2009), Body Snatchers (1993; the second remake), The Invasion (2007; the third remake), War of the Worlds (2005) and The Mummy (2017; total adventure-style reboot-imagining). I’m on the fence about An American Werewolf in Paris (1997), Halloween (2007), It’s Alive (2009), My Bloody Valentine (2009), Fright Night (2011), Maniac (2012) and Pet Sematary (2019), which range from bad to so-so (as remakes in my opinion) but still are entertaining movies on their own.

Despite being much raunchier than necessary, I really enjoyed this much needed defibrillation of Jason Voorhees with the last film being 2003’s Freddy vs Jason. This remake gets a lot of flack but, you know what? I like it! I like it a lot. In fact, loaded with familiar scenes and kills, it’s a blast that serves as a death scene love letter to the early installments of the franchise.

John’s Horror Corner: Maniac (1980), a sick, brutal, ultra-violent (for its time) slasher movie with an in-depth look into its killer.

September 15, 2019

MY CALL: Perhaps the most brutal slasher movie at the time of its release (in 1980), this was also the most exploratory portrait of a killer to date as well (perhaps in honor of Psycho’s Norman Bates). Very gory, uncomfortable, depraved and ambitious. MORE MOVIES LIKE Maniac: For more brutal slashers of the early 80s go for The Prowler (1981), My Bloody Valentine (1981), Happy Birthday to Me (1981), The Burning (1981), The Funhouse (1981), Pieces (1982), The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 (1986) and, of course, the remake of Maniac (2012).

Frank (Joe Spinell; Starcrash, The Last Horror Film) isn’t like most of our 1974-1980 era slashers. We see his face from the beginning, we know exactly who he is, we see some of his personal struggles, and we focus on him and not his victims. Frank suffers night terrors, his body is littered with scars from abuse, and he sleeps with mannequins donning the bloody scalps of his victims. Yup, he’s a troubled guy. And he actually seems even more distressed after killing.

With Tom Savini (From Dusk till Dawn, Dawn of the Dead, Machete Kills) involved, you know you’re in for a bloody treat. Whether slitting a throat, garroting with razorwire, or scalpeling one’s forehead before slowly peeling off her scalp, great care is taken for the audience to see everything happening on-screen.

With three kills in just the first 20 minutes, it’s ambitiously gory for its time, with a lot of bloody chunks to be enjoyed. We even see a crazy gunshot death scene result in an exploding head (really, it’s like a small animal was microwaved).

But readily more disturbing than the death scenes is Frank’s own mind; how he talks to himself, how he talks to his mannequin companions, and what he sees in his victims. He’s so deeply disturbed he makes Norman Bates look like he has himself together. And like Norman Bates, Frank’s mom issues run deep!

This disturbing film may represent the most thorough psychological portrait of a serial killer at the time. But despite knowing our killer so well, we really don’t know much about his history or why he kills… or why he expresses a special interest in Anna (Caroline Munro; Demons 6, Don’t Open Till Christmas, Starcrash).

The decapitation at the end capped off an incredibly brutal finale and comeuppance for our killer. We see his head get straight up pulled from his body by his victims and it’s an awesomely bloody mess. Very impressive work from young director William Lustig (Maniac Cop 1-3, Uncle Sam)—and now I feel like I need to see Maniac Cop (1988), which I’ve essentially been procrastinating for 20 years.

John’s Horror Corner: Embodiment of Evil (2008; aka Encarnação do Demônio), the schlocky Brazilian horror movie that I can’t believe exists!

September 13, 2019

MY CALL: This was really, really, REALLY disappointing. I like boobs and blood as much as the next guy, and this film has a lot of both… still, I hated this drivel. MORE MOVIES LIKE Embodiment of Evil: I’ve got nothing. Just watch… something else.

Completing what I’ve read to be the third film of a trilogy, director José Mojica Marins (At Midnight I’ll Take Your Soul, This Night I Will Possess Your Corpse) introduces us to a film that feels every bit as out of place as its main character Coffin Joe.

Released from prison after serving a 40-year sentence, Coffin Joe (aka Zé do Caixão; José Mojica Marins) is dropped into the modern world like some exaggerated cartoon villain. His melodrama and ridiculous attire seem more appropriate for a Hammer Horror period

piece. Now free and sporting ridiculous fingernails so long I question how he’d even dress himself, he seeks a woman to bear his infernal son—which was apparently also his goal in the first two films of this trilogy. His limping hunchback servant Bruno (Rui Resende) welcomes him home to lead several leather-clad servants, sit upon his throne of bones and dwell in his basement sex dungeon.

Obviously, I can’t show most screen grabs from this film because they’re filled with not just gore, but boobs. But I did my best.

From here, it gets dirty. Like… really dirty. I had no idea what I was getting into with this film. I figured this would be a Brazilian take some Italian-style Satanic cult movie with a bunch of gory murders. Instead, this felt closer to an Indonesian snuff film crossed with some schlocky gorefest made with the skill of a subpar film student.

The moment they lay a naked woman down to offer to Joe, I knew what this reminded me of… the old Udo Kier schlock film Blood for Dracula (1974). This is every bit as hokey—but not nearly as good. Joe cuts off a slice of the woman’s butt cheek and feeds it to her. Yup, that’s the kind of film you’re watching. There’s quite a bit of nudity pandering to our lecherous Joe, including a blood-deluged sex scene, a topless crucifixion, very graphic penis-eating crotch cannibalism, and naked dancing witch rituals. Then, Joe is summoned to “blood Hell…” or perhaps it’s inside of a giant uterus. I really don’t know what’s going on here. The ruler of this under-realm is dressed like a dreadlock hairball and smiles goofily like he’s been vaping THC. Seriously, what am I even watching?

The torture scenes were pretty brutal. Poorly directed, but brutal still. The skin hanging and scalp-peeling might have made me wince. I almost thought this would go legit until Joe had his servants kidnapping women and throwing them into a “topless thong prison” like some kind of exploitation film of the 80s. We’re dipping nude women in blood, branding them, and flaying them. At one point a bloody naked woman emerges from the body of a large pig carcass-chrysalis like Luke in the tauntaun guts in The Empire Strikes Back (1980). Really? What is this movie? Why? Why was she sewn inside of a pig cadaver? A naked woman is strapped down and killed by having a rat put inside her… well, you can guess how they put it inside her! I feel like this movie could have been titled “Naked Brazilian Holocaust” and released in the early 80s. Despite the enthusiastic use of blood, it felt like totally phony attempts at death scenes. I often found myself simultaneously wowed (even laughing) by the nonsense on screen and still waiting for it all to end.

Special effects of Joe’s past victims are crude—perhaps the quality of a talented high school play. And the use of stock footage from the first two films of this awful trilogy seems every bit as lousy for its time as the current footage.

WTF is happening now? Joe has been killed by the crazy nipple-electrocuting “revenge priest” (Milhem Cortaz)—yup, that’s a thing in this film. Of course, a young woman (who is apparently smitten by this fuzzy, taloned Hobbit of a necromancer) approaches his dead body, strips naked, and mounts him—mounts his dead body to give him his Hellchild. Go home, Movie! You’re drunk!

With so many Hellspawn films beginning with a Hellchild—The Omen (1976) films and Rosemary’s Baby (1968) among others—does this make Coffin Joe the worst of all Hellspawn progenitors since it took him three full movies across 40 years just to get someone pregnant? Worst villain ever. And one of the worst films ever as well.

John’s Horror Corner: Planet of the Vampires (1965; aka Terrore nello spazio), Mario Bava’s Italian space vampire movie that influenced many films to come.

September 12, 2019

MY CALL: A plot-heavy Sci-Horror mixture of pre-Romero smart zombies and Star Trek with some concepts so specifically duplicated but subsequent films that Bava’s powerful influence is undeniable. But it’s also from the 60s, so it may just feel sluggishly paced. MORE MOVIES LIKE Planet of the Vampires: Films that owe strong inspiration to Planet of the Vampires include Alien (1979), Lifeforce (1985), Creature (1985) and Event Horizon (1997) among others.

Director Mario Bava (Shock, Black Sabbath, A Bay of Blood) deviates from Giallo Italian horror expectations with this foray into Sci-Horror, which feels like a plotty mixture of a zombie movie and Star Trek.

“After landing on a mysterious planet, a team of astronauts begin to turn on each other, swayed by the uncertain influence of the planet and its strange inhabitants.” –IMDB

Responding to a strange, possibly man-made signal emitting from an uncharted gaseous planet in deep space, a crew of stylishly-leathered astronauts set course to investigate. As quickly as they land, many are stricken with violent space madness as crew members kill each other before ever setting foot off the ship! More strangeness ensues as bodies disappear and then emerge from space tombs as some form of undead.

Although they may have been great at the time, you won’t be impressed by the now half-century-old special effects. Even such basic techniques as the shaky camera space turbulence of Star Trek (1966-1969) eclipses depictions of high G-force stress on the crew. The Sci-Fi sets remind me of old episodes of Doctor Who (1963-1989) with an inflated budget and the monsters feel akin to a “less dead” Night of the Living Dead (1968).

 

Overall, I found more enjoyment (in such a dated film) than I expected—albeit slow-paced. I watched this purely in appreciation of how much influence this film had on the Sci-Horror subgenre. When viewed through today’s eyes, Bava’s film may appear to be no masterclass exercise in horror. However, it broke a lot of ground that would be heavily tilled by subsequent filmmakers.

Some concepts found here, and later made familiar by newer movies, include the investigation of the disappearance of a crew and indiscernible distress signals (Event Horizon), bringing an infected crew member back to the ship for examination (Alien, Lifeforce), the discovery of an alien spacecraft and the giant skeletal remains of a humanoid creature (e.g., space jockey), “infected” crew members attempt to sabotage the ship (e.g., Solaris, Sunshine), the threat of a “dying” sun (Sunshine), and using human form to try to save a dying extraterrestrial species (Lifeforce).

Some of these scenes and concepts have been so specifically duplicated, Bava’s influence is undeniable. So much as Halloween (1978), The Town That Dreaded Sundown (1976), The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974) and Black Christmas (1974) laid a foundation in the slasher subgenre to be troped upon, so has Planet of the Vampires for its subgenre. And for that, it should be commended!

The MFF Podcast #216: Near Dark, Westerns and Bill Paxton Being Awesome

September 11, 2019

You can download the pod on Apple PodcastsStitcherTune In,  Podbean, or Spreaker.

If you get a chance please make sure to review, rate and share. You are awesome!

The MFF podcast is back, and this week we’re talking about the 1988 vampire classic Near Dark. Directed by Kathryn Bigelow, this hybrid western/vampire/romance/thriller holds up beautifully because of Bigelow’s direction, fantastic Tangerine Dream score, and dedicated performances by Bill Paxton, Lance Henriksen, Jenette Goldstein, Jenny Wright and Adrian Pasdar. In this episode, you will hear us discuss explosive vampires, sweet leather jackets and bar brawls. If you are a fan of Near Dark, you will love this episode.

If you are a fan of the podcast make sure to send in some random listener questions so we can do our best to not answer them correctly. We thank you for listening and hope you enjoy the pod!

You can download the pod on Apple PodcastsStitcherTune In,  Podbean,or Spreaker.

If you get a chance please make sure to review, rate and share. You are awesome!

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