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Bad Movie Tuesday: City Cops (1989), Cynthia Rothrock and Michiko Nishiwaki have one decent fight in this crappy Hong Kong police flick.

October 3, 2017

MY CALL:  Overall, this feels more like a cheap police movie than a martial arts movie.  The humor never seems to work, and the non-martial arts action is terrible.  Just fast-forward to Rothrock-Michiko fight in the end.  MOVIES LIKE City Cops:  Well, don’t watch Outside the Law (2002) or Night Vision (1997) unless you’re looking for proper Bad Movie Tuesday material.  Not Rothrock’s best work.  Instead, I’d turn to China O’Brien (1990) or better yet, Yes, Madam (1985).

Also released as Fight to Win and Miao tan shuang long, this is the quintessential Bad Movie Tuesday, complete with bad English dubbing and a paper-thin storyline. Things that don’t seem to matter constantly transpire and little ever makes any sense. We have tape recordings with damning evidence (e.g., Hard to Kill), haphazard gun fights, laughable dialogue, stolen diamonds, over-used sound effects every time someone swings a pocket knife, dirty cops, and a lot of misogyny.

Inspector Cindy (Cynthia Rothrock;  China O’Brien, Night Vision, Outside the Law, Undefeatable) is an American FBI agent working with local law enforcement in Hong Kong.  Why…?  Does it matter?  Not really.  I can’t even explain any of the three titles of this movie.

The first 35 minutes are devastatingly boring. The highlight is a completely lame bar fight that squanders Rothrock’s skills.  I’m assuming none of the stuntmen could handle basic choreography.  Thankfully the fights (and her opposition) get much better the deeper we venture into the running time.  I fear little in her filmography will measure up to her outstanding work in Yes, Madam (1985), but at least this is serviceable (in brief parts).  The sai-swordplay is good and there are some occasional decent acrobatics.

Fight Scene SIDEBAR: I’m not saying Rothrock isn’t impressive in this movie—probably not worthy of the Queen of Martial Arts moniker.  I’m just saying if she had the luxury of enjoying Tony Jaa (Ong-Bak), Iko Uwais (The Raid: Redemption) or Michael Jai White (Undisputed 2) as her opposition, she could show her full ability.  I’ve seen the same situation arise in Scott Adkins’ movies, in which he can only look as talented (or as unimpressive) as his worst stuntman (e.g., Hard Target 2).  For example, Rothrock has kicked someone like 10,000 times—so when she kicks someone the kick looks good.  But an actor that hasn’t “been kicked” too often looks like a stuntman school dropout in this movie.

We find a bunch of discount store bad guys—one has a cigarette immediately after finishing his sword practice in his office, another wears a bandana with a suit while conducting a cash briefcase transaction, others are dime-a-dozen goons that never seem to have guns when they need them.

Overall, this feels more like a police/crime action movie that happens to have some martial arts rather than a martial arts movie.  The martial arts are most satisfying during the big fight finale when Cindy faces Michiko (Michiko Nishiwaki; stunt woman).  Here the choreography captures the technique and grandeur of proper Kung Fu theater (or, close enough for this movie).

This was actually marketed as an action/crime comedy, but the humor never seems to hit—not even when you can tell it’s trying to be really clever.  Likewise, the non-martial arts action is terrible (in one scene I’m pretty sure a guy fired four times and five bad guys dropped).  The only reason to watch this is for the Rothrock-Michiko fight.  If you don’t watch this (for mockery) with friends, I’d suggest just fast-forwarding to that.

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John’s Horror Corner: Friday the 13th (1980), before the days of Jason Voorhees.

October 2, 2017

MY CALL:  Forever a classic.  Yet I am hesitant to recommend this low budget slasher to anyone who didn’t grow up in this era.  It’s no longer exciting to me, but it holds a special significance.  MORE MOVIES LIKE Friday the 13thFor more classic ‘early modern’ slashers one should venture A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984), Sleepaway Camp (1983), The Burning (1981) and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974).

The young counselor staff are stalked and murdered one by one by a mysterious killer while preparing to reopen Camp Crystal Lake which, decades earlier, was the site of a child’s drowning—Jason Voorhees.  Among our summer staff of victims are Alice (Adrienne King; Friday the 13th Part 2, The Butterfly Room), Jack (Kevin Bacon; Hollow Man, Tremors) and Brenda (Laurie Bartram; The House of Seven Corpses).

Harbinger SIDEBAR: One of the more celebrated horror tropes has been the harbinger—the warning sign (person, symbol, legend or otherwise) suggesting you turn back now. We’ve seen inbred hillbilly attendants of near-abandoned gas stations, twitchy hitchhikers, or crazy old town criers up and down the genre saying things like “you don’t want to go down there” or “not since all those murders” or, in the case of this movie, a “death curse; you’re all doomed.”  Well, this classic has two back-to-back harbingers who garner an awful lot of screen time.  Apparently, after a 1957 drowning there were two murders in 1958 resulting in closing the camp.  So, I guess whatever teenagers take this summer job deserve to die for ignoring all the warnings.

Throughout the film we’re left to wonder just who the killer truly is.  We catch glimpses of the killer’s hand and shirt, appearing to be that of a totally normal person—no monstrous hands, tattered blood-stained garments or over-sized build.  So, when a tightly wound sheriff (Ron Millkie; A Return to Salem’s Lot) or one of our looney harbingers (Walt Gorney; Friday the 13th Part 2 & VII) or Mrs. Voorhees (Betsy Palmer; Friday the 13th Part 2) shows up at camp, our guard is up.

As someone who grew up on this franchise, I continue to enjoy it for what it meant at the time and my own nostalgia.  First-time viewers won’t be so impressed as the pacing is quite slow by today’s standards and the third-act confrontation (basically a long cat-and-mouse skirmish with the killer) probably won’t feel exciting compared to the fast-paced shock value so often found in modern horror.

With a humble estimated budget of $550K, director Sean S. Cunningham (DeepStar Six) brought us an iconic summer revenge slasher.  We often enjoy the killer’s POV, but the kills almost entirely occur off-camera.  Being early in the new wave of slashers, the death scenes aren’t yet overly clever. Some implied stabbings, a slit throat, an arrow through the neck (Kevin Bacon), an axe-impaled head, and a rather classic decapitation. Reminiscent of Halloween (1978), one counselor is found pin-cushioned against a door.

For older horror fans this will forever be a classic.  For younger fans…I really have no idea and am hesitant to recommend this to anyone who didn’t grow up in this era.  It’s no longer exciting to me, but it holds a special significance.

John’s Horror Corner: Gerald’s Game (2017), Mike Flanagan and Stephen King join forces for this psychological thriller.

October 1, 2017

MY CALL:  Interesting and inventive, but more a “should see” than a “must see” for fans of King and Flanagan, whose horror-crafting styles are clearly present. I enjoyed this odd film.  MORE MOVIES LIKE Gerald’s GameHmmm… maybe Creep (2014) or What Lies Beneath (2000), as neither turn out to be as we expect.

When Jesse (Carla Gugino; The Unborn, Sucker Punch) and Gerald (Bruce Greenwood; Disturbing Behavior, Below) head out to their quiet lake house trying to spice up their marriage, things don’t go entirely according to plan.  Jessie is left in a most precarious position when her husband suddenly dies, leaving her handcuffed to the bed…alone…with not a neighbor within earshot.

Based on a Stephen King story, this intriguing film feels a lot like a one-act play complete with narratives, flashbacks and asides.  Everything revolves around Jessie’s fear of dying, or is it her desperate fight to survive…or is it to overcome her guilt?  Things tend to get hazy and frantic when one is faced with death, a hungry feral dog, deliriously dehydration, and your dead husband is just a few feet away.

Director Mike Flanagan (Oculus, Absentia, Hush, Ouija: Origin of Evil) is no stranger to trippy psychological horror, and this little thriller is just that.  Jessie hallucinates guilt trips, narrates her actions (to herself), and manifests boogeymen.

As we witness Jessie’s desperation, we viewers feel all the moral-testing torments swirling about her psyche.  And while it touches on many uneasy psychoanalytical aspects of relationships (from control to sexual abuse), this piece is just as interesting as it is uncomfortably engaging.  We build up to visuals and concepts that test our stomach, our sensibilities and our nerves.  Watch out for some cringing scenes (and quite gory out of nowhere) worthy of a Saw film, others reminiscent of the most horrifying creepypasta (a la Insidious).

For me the third act was equal parts insanely neat and, well, just insane.  Some notions of credibility and catharsis were tested in the last 25 minutes, but not in such a way that things fell apart or harmed my enjoyment of this odd film (a Netflix original).  Fans of King and Flanagan will see many of their staples, whether they be favorite actors, story-telling styles or recurring literary themes.  But I won’t call this a “must see” for fans of either horrorsmith; rather a “should see.”  It’s interesting and inventive.

John’s Horror Corner: Saw 3D: The Final Chapter (2010), bravo, Jigsaw! The game is won and your puzzle is complete!

September 29, 2017

MY CALL:  Some weren’t fans of this intended franchise closer and, you know what, I don’t see the problem.  I thought this was a delight.  Great kills and characters, old favorites and some solid closure to a franchise spanning 7 films in as many years.  MORE MOVIES LIKE Saw:  Well, the story makes the most sense if you see Saw (2004), Saw II (2005), Saw III (2006), Saw IV (2007), Saw V (2008) and Saw VI (2009) in order, then this (part VII), and finally Jigsaw (2017; part VIII). Other torture porn for gory thrill-seekers would include Hostel I-II (2005, 2007; but not part III), Martyrs (2008; not the remake), The Human Centipede films (2009, 2011, 2015), the I Spit on Your Grave series (1978 original, 2010-2015), and even the Final Destination films (2000-2011; but skip part 4).

The “where are we now” SIDEBAR:  In Saw VI (2009) we learned that Kramer (Tobin Bell; Boogeyman 2-3, Saw I-VII) recruited his wife Jill’s interest and involvement because of his success rehabilitating Amanda (Shawnee Smith; The Blob, Saw I-III/VI, The Grudge 3).  Contrary to how things appeared in part IV, we learn that Kramer, Hoffman and Amanda were all working together the whole time, making a lot more sense of how such elaborate measures were accomplished.  But not only that, as of part V we discover that Jill (Betsy Russell; Cheerleader Camp, Chain Letter, Saw III-VII) was involved the whole time, too! MIND BLOWN!  An FBI agent, an ex-tweaker zealot, a mad scientist engineer and a medical doctor sure do form an efficient torture team—just imagine the science and street savvy, and the access to legal and medical records.  After discovering that Hoffman (Costas Mandylor; Saw IV-VII, The Horde) double-crossed Amanda, Kramer instructed Jill (in his will) to kill him.  She thought she did, but Hoffman is a survivor!

So now with Hoffman seeking revenge, Jill turns to Detective Gibson (Chad Donella; Final Destination, The X-Files).  The saga continues as Hoffman pursues Jill, Gibson pursues Hoffman, and a new game begins…

Bobby (Sean Patrick Flanery; The Devil’s Carnival, The Evil Within, Dexter) masquerades TV talk shows as a Jigsaw survivor only to become the star victim in the latest game, the victims of which are everyone who was connected to his lies that brought him fame.  I bet he’s regretting that book deal now!

There was a notable drop in death trap quality in parts IV-V that thankfully rebounded in part VI. Well, things are continuing to resume their former glory as these deaths are a joy. The lover’s triangle resulted in a buzz-saw dumping a duplicitous girl’s guts to the floor; the steam-powered blade go-kart made an exploding flesh piñata out of a human body; the tooth-pulling scene hurt like…well, pulling teeth; the oven-roasted spouse was wild; and the superglue car trap was an immense tough-to-watch pleasure. I reeled as the victim tore off his own skin and cackled as his friend’s arms and jaw were torn asunder! But my favorite had to be the fish-hooked key trap. OMFG, in now seven Saw films no trap has made me reel and wince and yell at the screen this much since part III’s needle pit!

The best story contributions (so far) to the original seem to come from parts III, IV and VI.  This franchise has always been special by not only continuing a story, but by adding to the previous movies’ stories, building the franchise into a super-elaborate yet satisfyingly followable super-plot (hence the clever movie poster for this film). Well, part VII is no exception.  Remember Gordon (Cary Elwes; Saw I/VII, Hellgate)—yeah, that’s right, the doctor who sawed off his own foot (in part I) and crawled off presumably dying of blood loss?  Well…he lived!

The most iconic device in the entire franchise has been the jawbreaker (Amanda’s test; part I).  The machination reappeared in part VI, but Hoffman survived—jamming the trap.  But in this sequel, we finally get to see it work.  It’s strangely cathartic after all this time seeing it rip a jaw open in a millisecond.  Not only that, but this sequel yet again revisits the most iconic location: the bathroom from Saw (2004).  How fitting that these fondest franchise memories find honoraria in this sequel closing a run of 7 films in 7 consecutive years (2004-2010).  I’m left to wonder…will any of these characters, places and traps find encores in Jigsaw (part VIII)?

Some weren’t fans of this intended franchise closer and, you know what, I don’t see the problem.  I thought this was a delight.  Great kills, characters that mattered, revisiting old favorites and bringing closure to a spiderweb of plots spanning seven films.  Bravo, Jigsaw.  The game is won and your puzzle is complete.

John’s Horror Corner: Saw VI (2009), Jigsaw fights the insurance industry from the grave in this redeeming sequel!

September 27, 2017

MY CALL:  This was a redeeming sequel, making up for the writing, character and death scene shortcomings of parts IV-V.  We’ve returned to the standard expected by Saw fans and the plot expansion was tremendously satisfying.  MORE MOVIES LIKE Saw:  Well, after Saw (2004), Saw II (2005), Saw III (2006), Saw IV (2007) and Saw V (2008) there are sequels up to part VIII, Jigsaw (2017). Other torture porn for gory thrill-seekers would include Hostel I-II (2005, 2007; but not part III), Martyrs (2008; not the remake), The Human Centipede films (2009, 2011, 2015), the I Spit on Your Grave series (1978 original, 2010-2015), and even the Final Destination films (2000-2011; but skip part 4).

The “where are we now” SIDEBAR:  Remember back when we learned that Amanda (Shawnee Smith; The Blob, Saw I-III/VI, The Grudge 3) was Jigsaw’s (Tobin Bell; Boogeyman 2-3, Saw I-VII) apprentice since the beginning? Well, apparently, Hoffman (Costas Mandylor; Saw IV-VII, The Horde) was his other apprentice—perhaps unbeknownst to Amanda (who died in part III).  We left off (in part V) as Agent Strahm (Scott Patterson; Saw IV-VI) was being crushed to death with his blood oozing over Detective Hoffman’s escape chamber.

I must admit, after loving parts I-III, IV and V felt a bit lazy on the death trap scenes and writing (for me).  But thankfully part VI starts out strong with two victims racing (against each other) to cut off their “pound of flesh” to save their own life and watch the other die.  I really savored the frantic nature of it all.  And, as an added bonus, we see the sloppy gore that remains of Agent Strahm.  Deliciously messy!

Our victims in this redeeming sequel are all connected to an insurance company oozing with slimy scams to screw over ill policy holders.  There’s something oddly satisfying in that—seeing the insurance company get their grisly comeuppance.  Our star victim is William (Peter Outerbridge; Silent Hill: Revelation, Land of the Dead, Mission to Mars), an executive behind some shady dealings who must run an obstacle course of death spanning much painful sacrifice as he decides who among other victims live or die.  The flashbacks explaining his connection to Kramer are great, and bring a new level of justification to the “game” that befalls William.

Like parts IV-V, some of the death traps were unimpressive—but some were decent, and that was a nice rebound.  The breath-vice trap was meh, the barbed wire hangman trap was morally compelling but just meh as a death scene, likewise I was unimpressed by the mechanism itself but enjoyed the mean-spirited mass hysteria of the merry-go-round roulette scene, the boiler room steam maze was exciting, and the acid death is a gooey wonder!  We even have a surprise reappearance of the reverse bear trap jawbreaker (Amanda’s test; part I).

There’s a lot going on in this sequel, and it manages to follow all ties through to a satisfying end. I was actually surprised that the same writing team was behind this (which I enjoyed) and parts IV-V (which I didn’t).  I really cared about these characters (a lot), victims and villains alike—even though ones I didn’t like in part V.  So, yes, credit is due.  There are many surprises, many reveals.  Agent Perez (Athena Karkanis; Saw IV, The Barrens) is alive and Agent Erickson (Mark Rolston; Saw V, Aliens, RoboCop 2) finds clues implicating “a new killer” behind the Jigsaw murders!

We also continue to find new bold revelations that are tactfully reverse-engineered to befit the story of the entire franchise.  This sequel continues to enrich the franchise with Kramer’s complicated history with his wife Jill (Betsy Russell; Cheerleader Camp, Chain Letter, Saw III-VII) and the mysterious box she was willed in part V.  Contrary to how things appeared in part IV (as if Amanda perhaps didn’t know about Hoffman), we learn that Kramer, Hoffman and Amanda were all working together the whole time, making a lot more sense of how such elaborate measures were accomplished.

I must extend my appreciation to director Kevin Greutert (Saw VI-VII, Jackals).  Across the board, this was a reinvigorating installment to the franchise.  The writing, direction and deaths were all stepped back up to the standard expected by Saw fans and the plot expansion was tremendously satisfying.  I haven’t said this since parts I-III, but I can’t wait to see what happens in part VII!!!!!

John’s Horror Corner: The Girl with All the Gifts (2016), a great modern zombie movie deeply exploring the Devil’s advocacy of morality.

September 26, 2017

MY CALL:  A fine contribution to the zombie subgenre!  Very pleased with this scientific approach to zombiism and the film’s ability to capture humanity and the Devil’s advocacy of morality.  MORE MOVIES LIKE The Girl with All the Gifts:  Well, above all others see The Returned (2013)—it tackles morality outstandingly.  Then go for 28 Days Later (2002), Children of Men (2006; not a zombie film), and maybe even World War Z (2013) and the TV series The Walking Dead (2010-present). Also sticking an emotional vein for the zombie genre was Train to Busan (2016).

Director Colm McCarthy (Peaky Blinders) doesn’t have a long filmography, but he has balls and wit—the balls to take risks and the wit to make it work. It may not be so uncommon to find new dystopian future and/or zombie movies nowadays, but the good ones are far and few between.  I’d say McCarthy’s risks paid off to our benefit here…

Introduced to a bleak world in the early stages of zombiegeddon, we find daily activities beleaguered by draconian military procedure aimed at the securing, incarceration and control of… children?  But why, one must wonder.  Warm-souled preteens are strapped down and wheeled to their seemingly routine classroom lessons at gunpoint, tended with more caution than if Hannibal Lecter himself was transported.  We know something, some otherwise normative axiom, has been quite violated in this future—and the violation clearly resides under the veil of innocence.

A school teacher to these young threats, Helen (Gemma Arterton; Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters, The Voices, Byzantium) serves as our voice of compassion.  She feels for the humanity that clearly resides in them—or so she would contest.  But opposite Helen, Dr. Caldwell (Glenn Close; Fatal Instinct, Mars Attacks!) would posit these kids’ sympathetic behavior as putatively adaptive.  We are left to wonder who is right.  Or, possibly, could both correct?  I’m sure Physicist Erwin Schrödinger would be most elated by the cinematic analogy of his packaged feline paradox.

Mediating both counterpoints is Sgt Parks (Paddy Considine; Hot Fuzz, The World’s End) and his men, who adopt a “typical” military approach to the threat. And to give that threat a name, we focus on the kind-hearted Melanie (Sennia Nanua).

The most successful modern zombie movies need more than rotting animated corpses.  The zombie genre thrives on sociology, its degeneration and humanity alike.  Inevitably viewers will compare this to World War Z (2013) or The Walking Dead (2010-present) due to scenes of scrambling zombie hordes (or herds).  But that aggregating behavior predates such work and goes back to the root of all: Romero’s trilogy.  Instead, I’d compare this to the trials of TWD’s characters struggling with morality, or the empathy of the “turn” championed in The Returned (2013).

Reflecting on sympathy for the infected, consider Roger (Dawn of the Dead), afforded every minute by his fellow mall-marooned survivors to live out his humanity before his turn; or Bub (Day of the Dead), given so much compassion for the echoes of humanity hidden beneath his flesh-eating surface; or any other character altruistically ending themselves (to keep others safe) or conversely fearfully begging for every last minute after being doomed by a zombie’s bite even to the point of hiding it (a dangerous denial putting all others at risk).  Dealing with thatthe infection (not the zombie)—is this film’s focus and strength.

This film digs deep and manages to garner something zombie movie fans (or film fans) haven’t quite seen before, or at least does something you may find familiar in a novel manner.  While I thought many aspects of the third act were executed suboptimally (in my opinion anyway), I was largely pleased with the overall product.  It took some interesting turns that go against our troped up expectations for the genre, and it does so with a less predictable moral grounding.  Very pleased with this one!

John’s Horror Corner: Saw V (2008), just okay—I miss Leigh Whannell and characters that matter.

September 25, 2017

MY CALL:  I was entertained, but I miss the quality of parts I-III. This was just “okay.”  The characters were lame and, despite being thoughtfully elaborated, the story was ill-executed to the point that I never really cared…and I wanted to care!  MORE MOVIES LIKE Saw:  Well, after Saw (2004), Saw II (2005), Saw III (2006) and Saw IV (2007) there are sequels up to part VIII, Jigsaw (2017). Other torture porn for gory thrill-seekers would include Hostel I-II (2005, 2007; but not part III), Martyrs (2008; not the remake), The Human Centipede films (2009, 2011, 2015), the I Spit on Your Grave series (1978 original, 2010-2015), and even the Final Destination films (2000-2011; but skip part 4).

The “where are we now” SIDEBAR:  Part IV was a bit confusing, so let’s review.  Late in part IV we learn that during the events of part III, John Kramer (Tobin Bell; Boogeyman 2-3, Saw I-VII) had recruited the apprenticeship of Detective Hoffman (Costas Mandylor; Saw IV-VII, The Horde), unbeknownst to Amanda (Shawnee Smith; The Blob, Saw I-III/VI, The Grudge 3).  So essentially, sometime during part III’s timeline, part IV’s timeline begins to parallel it (e.g., Detective Kerry’s death), and the two timelines actually end at the same time when Agent Strahm (Scott Patterson; Saw IV-VI) kills Jeff (Angus Macfadyen; Saw III) after Jeff kills Jigsaw and Hoffman locks Strahm in with the bodies and strolls off!

The autopsy that opened part IV actually occurred at the end of the timeline for parts III and IV, showing Detective Hoffman playing the tape (swallowed in part III) revealing that, despite Jigsaw’s death and the completion of Hoffman’s assigned tasks, that this was all “only the beginning.”  Now part V begins the very night that Hoffman trapped Strahm…

Picking up after Darren Lynn Bousman’s (Saw II-IV, The Devil’s Carnival, Mother’s Day) mid-franchise trilogy, director David Hackl (production designer on Saw II-IV) boldly continues this brutal franchise by opening with a classically-inspired pendulum death…which was conceptually basic yet satisfying in its sloppy, chunky delicious gore.  And, I’m sorry to say, this was the best death scene in the movie.

Much like part IV, I can tell that this sequel and its filmmakers are trying, and admirably so.  But somehow the execution just never hits the mark from parts I-III (when Leigh Whannell was writing).  We continue to find new bold revelations that are tactfully reverse-engineered to befit the story of the entire franchise, but I’m simply less impressed with the delivery than I am with ideas themselves.  However, let me take off my “critic’s hat” for just one moment and speak as a fan: yes, I’m glad they continue to make these movies.  There, I said it.  “Critic’s hat” back on— while enjoyed watching this the first time (in theaters years ago), this film’s rewatchability is low.

Somehow escaping Hoffman and Kramer’s machinations, Agent Strahm is one Hell of a survivor!  Not only that, but one Hell of an investigator since he readily senses Hoffman’s involvement and digs his heels deep into the case.  That’s the focal point of the film: Strahm vs Hoffman.  But every saw movie has two parallel stories; part of their charm.

As a series of flashbacks add flavor to Hoffman’s relationship with Kramer, we likewise presently follow a group of victims who, not surprisingly, serve as each other’s own worst enemy as often as ally while trying to survive one death trap “game” after another.  The group dynamic is vaguely similar to that of part II (the deadly funhouse of horrors when everyone turned on each other).  Part V’s traps strike me as uninspired (although somewhat elaborate) and not very exciting to witness.  Despite likewise uninspired traps, even part IV’s (the first noticeable drop in franchise quality) games were somewhat entertaining to watch as they gorily unfold.  Part V’s are less so.

People beat each other to death, get decapitated, succumb to improvised explosives, get crushed in enclosing walls, suffer electrocution, and buzz saw their own limbs…and you know what, none of those scenes were cool.  The kills felt comparable to a SyFy Channel movie-of-the-week, and the characters were accordingly poorly written such as to cultivate not a care in the world (on our part) that they survive.  By far the best death scene was the pendulum opener, and that should not be the case in a franchise once known for gut-punching endings.

Look, this flick is entertaining and the filmmakers are still ambitious (even if they fail to impress). But the only reason I can muster to watch this is because you just saw the mediocre part IV and intend to power through.  This can be your evening opener or a Sunday afternoon hangover movie, just don’t make it your main event of the evening.  We’ll catch up more when I review part VI next week…

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