Hollow Man 2 (2006)

Hollow Man 2 (2006)

There’s more to terror than meets the eye

An experiment to create invisible soldiers goes wrong when the subject, Michael Griffin, quickly begins to deteriorate both physically and mentally. He escapes and goes looking for a buffer – a serum designed to slow down his death and stop him from rotting. His search leads him to scientist Maggie Dalton but she is given police protection for her own safety after Griffin kills one of her fellow team members. On the run from the invisible man, Dalton and Detective Frank Turner must battle an enemy that they can’t see.

 

Hollow Man was a decent time waster, ably lead by the always-reliable Kevin Bacon, helmed by the great Paul Verhoeven and containing some decent special effects. But sequel-worthy? I don’t think so. What bothers me with sequels like this is that the originals were pretty big budget films filled with top drawer effects and an A-list cast so what hope do these straight-to-DVD films have of recreating the same feel with a lower budget, worse special effects and bargain basement actors? Not much is the correct answer!

Perhaps I’m being too harsh on Hollow Man II. It’s not exactly Malibu Shark Attack or Ghoulies IV and I didn’t feel bored or roll my eyes in disgust whilst watching it. But there are some major problems with the film and it’s just a total waste of the invisible man idea. He’s not even the main character in this one which is a bit of a bummer as the film focuses more on the detective and female scientist (hence the reason why his name is presented as ‘and Christian Slater’ on the front cover). Even this is a tiresome retread of many sci-fi films with the military creating some form of weapon (man or monster) and it is accidentally freed to cause chaos. So the military attempts to stop it and cover everything up. Yadda yadda ya…..you’ve seen it before.

There’s little in the way of back story to this invisible man. In the original, Bacon’s character at least had plenty of human scenes to let us get to know the character. Here the guy is already a complete psycho to begin with so his degeneration into a killing machine doesn’t exactly take a big leap of the imagination…..and he’s already invisible too! So bang goes the money shot of the transformation scene! Christian Slater steps into the role of the doomed invisible man this time and at least Bacon had some screen time in human form in the original. Slater hardly appears at all here and it’s mainly just voiceover work he does. The rest of the cast is filled up with plenty of unknowns whose sole job is to pretend that they are acting in front of an invisible man. Since he hardly appears in flesh form, it’s a no-brainer that most of his ‘screen time’ is taken up with characters talking to spaces where he’s supposed to be. His voice isn’t even that imposing either so I don’t know why he was cast. The special effects aren’t particularly great but there are not an awful lot of them. At least the finale has two invisible men fighting each other in the rain so it’s easy to see where the majority of the cash was spent.

One of the problems with both of the Hollow Man films is that neither really delved into much depth about what everyday people like you or I would do if we were invisible. There are so many ethical and philosophical angles to this dilemma but the films aren’t sophisticated or intelligent enough to deal with this angle. Yes there is a dark side to everyone and so we’d do the silly, juvenile things like spy on people we fancied, maybe have some fun by playing tricks on unsuspecting strangers, etc. but what about putting it to good use? Going undercover and solving crimes maybe? Helping out businesses by acting as a lab rat for security systems? Neither film really touches upon this subject, instead letting the invisible men just run with revenge plots to get even with people who want to shut down their experiments or use it for military purposes.

Being invisible would be a lot of red-blooded males’ fantasies even if they wouldn’t like to admit it. So if this film wasn’t going to be all serious and question the morality of being invisible, then why not take it to the other extreme and go all gratuitous? Horror films shouldn’t find violence, sex and gore as essentials but many a crap b-movie has salvaged itself by featuring boobs and bloods. At least you know the director acknowledges what some horror fans want to see! There are some token kills from the invisible man (at some points this does resemble a slasher film) and there’s even a token breast shot but it’s just wasted because the rest of the film is just filled with recycled garbage full of the usual sci-fi clichés of a man-made weapon going on the loose.

 

Hollow Man II is a feeble sequel with no fresh slant or ideas on the invisible man story. It’s content to churn out the same stuff we’ve already seen and we’ve already disliked. Being invisible should never be this dull.

 

 ★★★★☆☆☆☆☆☆ 

 

 

Hellgate (1990)

Hellgate (1990)

Beyond the darkness terror lives forever.

A deserted mining town has become a shrine to the daughter of its only resident, Lucas. His daughter, Jessie, was brutally murdered years earlier and he became obsessed with her. Finding a powerful crystal which has the ability to bring the dead back to life, Lucas resurrected her and now uses her to lure people to their deaths in the town.

 

Hellgate is a film that’s so terrible that you’d really want to cry if you should waste your time watching it. It’s just so mind-numbingly shocking from start to finish and there’s not a shred of evidence on display to suggest that anyone had a clue what they were doing. Its silly 80s nonsense on the grandest scale with ‘everything but the kitchen sink’ thrown in for good measure. You can’t take it as a horror. You can’t take it as a comedy, despite my best efforts to laugh at everything stupid. It’s goofy and silly but unintentionally so and that’s a bad sign.

The plot is extremely confusing. In fact, too confusing to even try and go through as it hurts my brain just trying to work it all out. None of the characters in the film have a clue what is going on so what chance we have of piecing everything together I just don’t know. It’s as if the writers just watched a load of other films, thought that certain scenes would work well and decided to write them all into a script. As a result, there are no rules in Hellgate. So what causes instant death in one scene will then be pointless in the next. What happens to one character when they do something doesn’t happen the same way again when somebody else does it. It’s so hard to sit through because it’s bland and boring as well as confusing. Too much of it seems to be pointless as if the script was only half finished – the zombies wander around the ghost town of Hellgate doing little but make faces at the camera and there are a few characters in the film who seem geared up to do something worthwhile towards the finale but just end up being killed off before they have a chance to do anything.

The special effects look really dated and typically 80s. Expect lots of bright, multi-coloured beams of light when the crystal is used and lots of dry ice to blanket the town in fog. There’s just no atmosphere or tension at all and the effects just make the film look like some cheap 80s music video at times. The gore is tame and the body count is low. Lest we forget the mutated goldfish and killer turtle that both pop up later in the film or even the cheesy rubber bat that makes an appearance. Yes, despite going out of date back in the 1930s with Bela Lugosi and Dracula, the bat-on-a-string prop makes an appearance here.

Abigail Wolcott is the pick of the cast which is saying something as she’s a pretty terrible actress and delivers her lines like she’s reading them for the first time. But she only had to act with her chest and accomplished that quite well – the people concerned knew this and had her shed her clothes quite a lot. There’s a dude who looks like Gomez Addams, some pointless bikers and a 40 year old guy playing a college hero. Casting isn’t one of the film’s strengths. In fact there aren’t many strengths to be found at all here. There aren’t too many times when I really regret watching a film. Some films are at least watchable in a “so bad it’s good” way but Hellgate isn’t. It’s almost unwatchable and thankfully has been almost been forgotten about. It’s no surprise to see that most of the cast and crew haven’t had anything called a career both before and after this. If this were my only entry onto a film CV, I’d forget I ever wanted to be in the business and take up welding instead.

 

Hellgate isn’t just bad, it’s on the same ‘utterly terrible’ plane of existence as the likes of Troll and Raging Sharks. It’s not a film you can even watch if you’re curious about how awful it is. Just forget it ever existed.

 

 ★☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆ 

 

 

Beneath Still Waters (2005)

Beneath Still Waters (2005)

Fear is rising.

In 1965 in Northern Spain, a new dam is to be built which will flood the small town of Marinbad forever. Two young boys cross over the security barriers to play in the abandoned town for one last time, inadvertently releasing a horrible evil force that was trapped there and doomed to be submerged underwater forever. Forty years later and Desbaria, the new town built to replace the old one, is celebrating the anniversary of the damn when weird things start to happen in the water. People are going missing. The dam is beginning to leak. It seems that the evil force beneath the water has resurfaced.

 

Beneath Still Waters is an absolute train wreck of a film. I honestly don’t know where to start. Some have good intentions but end up paying the price for their budgets or lack of originality. Some are just designed to fail from the start. Some, like this, just have the best of both worlds. It’s got a pretty decent budget by the looks of things and clearly has good intentions. But it looks as though they had five directors each doing their own thing before banding it all together at the end. Brian Yuzna, the director credited with this fiasco, must have been coked to the gills or stone drunk when he oversaw it.

Beneath Still Waters starts well – the opening is decent enough with the two boys playing in a semi-submerged town only to come across a bunch of people chained in a basement in a house. Then one of them stupidly sets the big scary-looking guy free and he shows him his thanks by ripping his head in two and eating him. Kudos to the filmmakers as you rarely see kids being harmed in horror films, let alone being brutalised like that. Unfortunately it’s at this point where the film just goes off in about ten different directions.

Not just content with the original story of the devil-worshipping cult being submerged underwater, we then get throat-ripping zombies appearing. We’ve got a dude who looks like The Tall Man from the Phantasm series barking orders to his minions and using magic powers. We’ve got black goo which attacks people like The Blob. We’ve got horribly deformed demonic creatures dragging people into the water. We’ve got ghosts warning about what is going to happen next. I mean how much can you cram in? It would have been good to have someone or something explain the connection to all of these occurrences. Someone thought “I’ve got a cool zombie scene to film” and they went ahead with it purely because it would cool to have it in the film.

As well as the above events happening, we also have a mayor who refuses to believe anything is happening because he doesn’t want his festival ruined (oh boy, I thought that old chestnut only came out during ‘monster on the loose’ flicks). We’ve got a spooky-looking caretaker who finds a bottle of scotch just floating around and starts drinking from it (like you do). There’s an amazingly hot chick who goes skinny dipping, only to come across her dead boyfriend and they proceed to have sex before he kills her. And there’s a massive orgy at the festival when the townspeople become possessed and start having sex with each other (and also having sex with cakes, lots of cakes). Added to all of this is the fact that the film is bloody. People get ripped apart constantly. They cut their own legs off. The make-up effects of the zombies and demons and stuff (whatever hell else wasn’t CGI) is top notch. But it’s just complete mayhem.

The cast are all pretty good actors in their own native language I am pretty sure. But apart from Michael McKell, it’s obvious that English isn’t their first language. So they talk as if they’re following one of those ‘learn to speak English in ten weeks’ tapes. I’ve seen some lame attempts at speaking English. Heck, I can cope with a few of the cast speaking like robots but when 99% of the cast talk in this manner, it’s just horrible. They unwittingly kill any emotions in their voices. They are devoid of any expressive speaking. I honestly can’t believe how annoying and ear-splitting it is to hear them reciting their lines. It pains me to hear them butcher the English language in that manner.

Their understanding of the script isn’t in question though, given how the script manages to twist, turn, reverse, fast forward and double take so many times. Maybe the script writer was the same guy who did the special effects. As I’ve already touched on, the physical make-up effects are top drawer. It’s the ropey CGI that leaves a lot to be desired. And I mean a lot. But like the rest of the film, one minute there’s something decent and the next it’s just organised chaos and sub-standard quality. I’m exhausted now and I probably haven’t even covered half of the things I wanted to.

 

Beneath Still Waters is just mayhem personified. Words can’t describe how chaotic this film really is. I don’t even know whether I should give it ten out of then or zero out of ten for it’s ‘against the rules’ behaviour. It’s totally and utterly bonkers. Madness or masterpiece? I can’t decide. You’ll have to see for yourself and decide.

 

 ★★★★☆☆☆☆☆☆ 

 

 

Trailer Park of Terror (2008)

Trailer Park of Terror (2008)

Fear Has A New Home!

Six trouble high school students and their youth ministries pastor are on their way back from an outdoor retreat in the mountains when their bus crashes during a storm. Stranded in the middle of nowhere, the group seeks refuge at a seemingly abandoned trailer park. However this trailer park is home to a group of redneck zombies led by Norma, a buxom blonde who struck a deal with the Devil when her lover boy was killed by jealous suitors in the park.

 

With a title like Trailer Park of Terror, it doesn’t take a genius to realise that it’s not going to be the prettiest, tactful and thought-provoking film out there. You’re going to get sleaze, filth and as much stereotyping as you can shake a stick at. Combine Two Thousand Maniacs! with John Waters’ legendary filthy classic Pink Flamingos and throw in Rob Zombie’s penchant for white trash cinema and you’ve got some idea of what to expect. With a morbid sense of humour, a ‘middle finger approach’ to taste and more depraved cruelty than any man is fit to watch in ninety-one minutes, Trailer Park of Terror means well and plays well for the most part.

The film opens with the back story about Norma and how the zombies came to be which is all well and good given that she spends her first few minutes wearing just a bra. I’m not American so don’t exactly get the whole ‘redneck’ thing but the way the films portray them as backwoods, inbred, retarded and perverted is just a little too clichéd now. I’m sure they’re mostly nice people really but you wouldn’t think it should you ever watch a horror film. Then the film switches to the present day to give us our band of travelling zombie chow in their bus. The characters are (surprise, surprise) of the stock variety and are so one-dimensional that labelling them as token slut, token goth and token asshole is actually quite demeaning to the word token. Their obligatory opening words are all filled with sarcastic barbs, designed to give us an immediate insight into their minds and one-line summaries of their character so that our pre-conceived notions of stereotypes come into effect. Smart work, Mr Writer – let the audience do the hard work so that you don’t have to.

The film knows that characters aren’t going to matter too much later on and these scenes are kept mercifully brief but the problem is that the redneck zombies don’t appear until the half-way point so you had better get sitting comfortably. When they do finally appear, the zombies look as good as they have any right to be. Some of them clearly are just wearing masks but the make-up jobs on a few of them look top drawer. They’ve all got a nice 80s-vibe to them akin to the likes of Night of the Demons and Return of the Living Dead. They’ve got a lot of cheesy one-liners too and the actors in the make-up all ham it up to immense levels. The pot-smoking country music-loving zombie is the funniest of the group, belting out a few musical numbers from the top of his trailer. It’s all silly and jokey but it’s clearly just padding out the running time a little more in between attacks. And it really gets on your nerves after the first couple of songs!

The goofy sense of fun and mischievousness that the film toys with is brutally cast aside during the scenes of cruelty and torture. These zombies don’t just want to get your brains, they want to chop off your arms, smash through your spinal column and turn you into beef jerky. The beef jerky scene alone is nasty, as one unlucky teenager is slowly peeled before being dunked into a bathtub of boiling oil. The scene feels like it goes on forever, such is the nauseating way the victim is slowly toyed with. They could have just dunked him into the oil but no, this is a 2008 horror film so that means excess is the key and torture is necessary. The ‘less is more’ strategy of yesteryear has been replaced by ‘show everything and string it out for as long you can.’ With the film being as hokey and cheesy as it had been up until this point, this scene seems a little out of place. But that seems like an overriding problem with the film. It’s played too over-the-top for anything to be taken seriously so when there’s an effective moment, it’s all lost in the goofiness.

 

Trailer Park of Terror is daft, silly and extremely cheesy which is fun at times and pretty cringe-worthy in others. Whether you like this or not will really depend on your mood. It’s that type of film. Just make sure you have a good wash afterwards as this film will make you feel dirty!

 

 ★★★★★☆☆☆☆☆ 

 

 

Hills Have Eyes II, The (2007)

The Hills Have Eyes II (2007)

The Lucky ones die fast

A squad of National Guard are sent into the New Mexico desert on a supply mission to a team that is installing a new system into an abandoned facility. When they get there, they find no sign of the team until a distress call is received from the hills. Making their way up the hills, the soldiers are attacked by a group of mutants and equipment is damaged and stolen. With no way of getting back down the hill, the remaining soldiers must find their way through an old mine to get back to base.

 

The 2006 remake of The Hills Have Eyes certainly surprised me as being a brutal, gory and relentless ride which, in many ways, bettered the original. And just like the revamped The Texas Chainsaw Massacre remake in 2003 saw a sequel, Alexandre Aja’s slick remake has spawned a sequel for whatever cash-related reason. Out went Aja, the man responsible for the disturbing and savage nature of the original, and out with him went that brutal and unforgiving edge – you got the sense that anything went in his film and there would be no prisoners, no matter how sick or depraved it was going to be. In its place comes a totally out-of-place comic tone, more mutants you can shake a stick at, more characters to get killed and more gore. Say goodbye to everything that made the remake such a great ride.

The problems with The Hills Have Eyes II are evident from the start and that lies with the characters. For starters, I don’t want to see a bunch of soldiers being chewed up, decapitated and hacked to pieces because surely they should be trained enough to deal with this sort of thing better than anyone (I know you don’t get mutant-fighting training anywhere but at least they practice combat regularly as opposed to say, me who has never done anything like that and wouldn’t stand a chance against the mutants). I like seeing ordinary people put into extraordinary situations and seeing how they cope with it. So by throwing the best prepared humans into that situation and watch them suffer doesn’t really hit the same nerve.

Secondly, if you’re going to give me soldiers, then at least make an effort to humanise them and characterise them a little. Names are for tombstones in films like this and it’s funny how you won’t remember 90% of the names by the middle of the film, let alone the end. Instead just sit back and call them their token names: hotshot, black guy, coward, hot chick, etc. It borders spoof at times with the silliness of the characters. Do you remember a little film called Aliens back in the 80s? That involved a bunch of bad ass soldiers taking on acid-spitting aliens. But James Cameron never once let the characters descend into caricatures. He humanised them, gave each one personality traits and made the audience care about them, even the ones who didn’t survive too long. Here they’re just going through the motions of the generic “macho bullshit” that soldiers are portrayed as having in the movies.

They also do some of the most ludicrous things I’ve seen in a horror film and as such, plot developments can be seen way ahead of time. Thinking of climbing down a mountain using a rope? Good idea but stand around dithering for ages and you’re going to be in for it! I can’t really comment on the actors involved because some of them may suck, some of them may have talent – it’s just impossible to see through the awful script. And when you consider who wrote this – WES CRAVEN no less, it’s a complete travesty.

Now I’ve had a rant over the script and characters, where else to begin? Well the fact that the film descends into a pointless sequence of chases around the dark, abandoned mine is a start. The Descent showed how you could breathe a little life back into a setting as over-used as this with its sense of claustrophobia and constantly lurking danger. No such atmosphere or skill here, just annoying characters stumbling around the dark looking for an exit or looking to be killed. How about the silly comic tone that the film has? In one moment, a mutant pulls an arm of one of the guys and waves it back at him. Mildly amusing when you see it but totally out of place here. The gore stakes have been ramped up but without the savage tone, without the brutality and without the violence of the original, it’s all wasted.

 

The Hills Have Eyes II is a pointless, stupid exercise in gore. It’s a total rush job and it smacks of pandering to the modern horror fans who only watch these films to be shocked with blood and gore. Does anyone know how to create a story any more? Or build up suspense? Even former genre icons like Wes Craven seem to have lost their way.

 

 ★★★★☆☆☆☆☆☆ 

 

 

Wrong Turn 3: Left for Dead (2009)

Wrong Turn 3: Left for Dead (2009)

What You Don’t See Will Kill You

A group of dangerous criminals are transported through a remote rural backwoods area in order to avoid a potential jail-break attempt by one of the inmates’ gangs. But the bus is soon forced off the road by a truck and soon the criminals and guards start to be picked off one-by-one by inbred mutants who have been living in the mountains.

 

After two entertaining instalments, it was only a matter of time before the Wrong Turn series derailed and this is the culprit – a limp, by-the-numbers sequel. What could be worse than a group of stereotypical teenagers smoking pot and getting naked? Well it’s the group of stereotypical prisoners that are unleashed in this one. I mean seriously, how many films do we see where each group of convicts contains one complete psycho, one rapist, one weasel/little runt, one of the silent types and not to mention the guards, one of whom is usually a family man or dreams of a better life? Are American prisons that full of equal numbers of ethnic groups that each prisoner transfer contains Hispanics and white skinheads? And who thinks that having a horror film full of nasty, ruthless and depraved convicts is a good idea? We’re supposed to root for the people who fall victim to the mutants, not the other way around.

The script is all over the place and this is the film’s downfall. There’s actually a reasonable story in there waiting to come out with the cons killing the mutant’s kid and sticking his head on a pole as warning for him to back off. But the film does nothing with this vengeance story and it’s virtually dropped as soon as it happens. The mutant doesn’t seem to get any more angry or any more determined to kill them (after all, he was going to kill them all anyway) and apart from a stand-off with the head con later in the film, that’s it. The script also spends a lot of time establishing a couple of characters but then throws it all out of the window in the final scene which opens the door to another sequel. I think that says it all when the entire characterisation of the film is blown away just for the benefit of a ‘plot twist’ finale and sequel set up.

Too much of the film is spent with the cons bickering about the money that they find in an armoured truck in the woods (upside down and in the middle of nowhere no less – go figure that out) and it almost turns into a mini-episode from the second season of Prison Break. The group of characters then spend the rest of the film wandering around aimlessly in the dark, occasionally falling foul of another hillbilly trap before arguing with each other again. The dialogue is terrible and whoever wrote it obviously thought that a lot of swearing and profanity from Tamar Hassan’s psycho Chavez character would be a good idea. His performance is awful too and when he’s not struggling to disguise his thick British accent, he’s just shouting abuse at the top of his voice. The other actors don’t fair much better and it’s arguably the innate cackling and howling from ‘Three Fingers’ that makes for the best performance.

I will say that the film isn’t boring and at least manages to keep a steady pace. The CGI kills, as ridiculous as some of them may look, are actually quite inventive and there are a few decent practical effects including one of the cons stepping into a full-body barbed wire trap before being dragged off down the road. Unfortunately some of the novelty value is quickly eroded by the lousy CGI effects which follow the initial shock of seeing someone diced into three! The film needed more female characters (come on, this is a horror film after all and we need breasts – this film’s sole quota being filled in the first five minutes but worth the watch!) to put into peril.

The film needed less macho crap, less pointless arguing and more mutants. It’s as simple as that. This mutant has some uncanny ability to teleport anywhere in the woods at any time so he sits up in trees, appears from behind doors and can outrun a speeding truck and appear in the road a couple of miles further along from where the characters last saw him. A few more mutants would have alleviated that problem. The budget for this one looks to have been dramatically cut resulting in fewer mutants, more stupid CGI gore and some of the worst green screen effects work since the dawn of movie making. Take a look at the background in the driving scenes and it’s like something out of the 40s where some lousy rear projection is played whilst stagehands rock the prop vehicles from side to side.

 

Wrong Turn 3: Left for Dead isn’t the sequel I was hoping for and is such a disappointment after the last sequel. With annoying characters, some grade school script problems and a general sense of reducing the sum of its successful parts, the ‘franchise’ has certainly taken a wrong turn somewhere – let’s hope the next sequel finds the right route!

 

 ★★★★☆☆☆☆☆☆ 

 

 

Wrong Turn 2: Dead End (2007)

Wrong Turn 2: Dead End (2007)

In the Forest, Only They Can Hear You Scream.

Six contestants taking part in a survival reality TV show find themselves pitted against a family of hideously deformed and inbred cannibals in the woods in West Virginia.

 

A belated sequel to 2003′s Wrong Turn, you would be forgiven for thinking that this would be a straight rehash with more blood, guts and a bigger body count. That’s what horror sequels are supposed to do, right? Well if you think that Wrong Turn 2: Dead End is going to be any different, you’re wrong.

Sticking to the same formula of a bunch of pretty boys and hot chicks being stranded in the woods and hunted down one-at-a-time by a bunch of inbred cannibals, it surprisingly doesn’t seem stale at all. The original Wrong Turn is a particular favourite of mine from the last ten years of horror films, simply because it didn’t skimp on the visuals when someone was sliced and diced. It got nasty when it needed to and it was just a fun all-round watch (having Eliza Dushku in a glorious white top didn’t harm things either). This sequel sticks rigidly to the formula and ups the ante with some more gruesome kills – in fact some of the most entertaining kills I’ve seen for years (though the years have been sparse for creativity).

The original tried to go for a more serious atmosphere more akin to one of the late 70s backwoods horror films like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Wrong Turn 2: Dead End goes for the jugular and becomes just a fun, light-hearted, no-brains hardcore splatter fest! The pacing is cranked up. There are more characters to dispose of (the good ol’ “sequels have a higher body count rule”) and the blood flows freely. One of the reasons the film works is because of the script. Not just your cut-and-rush job like most sequels, the writers actually spend a bit of time getting us used to the characters before all hell breaks loose. Granted the characters are all stock (the slut, the comic relief, token black guy, ex-army ranger, etc) but at least some of them are made out to be more than just things where axes and sharp objects should be inserted. Even the inbred cannibals are given some development – you realise towards the end of the film that they’re not just maniacs but actually a loving family who know no better than the life they have chosen.

It still doesn’t stop the brutality though and believe me, lovers of gore and splatter will find plenty to marvel here. I don’t really want to spoil the film for those who may be pondering a look but there are some hilarious deaths, some nasty ones and some of both. The film opens with a kick ass kill and it doesn’t let up from there right until the final showdown. Get the sick bags ready.

Out of the cast, you’ll no doubt recognise Erica Leerhsen from the remake of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre but that’s about it for the younger cast. It’s rapper-turned-spoken word maestro Henry Rollins who steal the show as the gung-ho presenter of the reality show who reverts to type when the threat of the cannibals hits home. Also of note is the gigantic Ken Kirzinger who plays the dad of the cannibal family – this is one big dude you don’t want to mess with.

On the flip side to all of this, if you’ve seen one backwoods horror you’ve pretty much seen them all. With recent remakes of The Hills Have Eyes and its terrible sequel as well as The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and its terrible prequel, the market is pretty crowded. Cannibals and mutants are a bit over-exposed at the moment so expect the same generic scenes of grunting dialogue, freakish lifestyles (what cannibal movie wouldn’t have a dinner scene?) and disgusting living quarters. Also despite the character development at the start, the dialogue is pretty annoying at best with the exception of some one-liners from Rollins. There are some irritating people in there you want hacked to pieces from the start and thankfully the film fulfils your wishes.

 

Wrong Turn 2: Dead End whips up an awesome mix of thrills and spills despite presenting us the same meal we horror fans have been gorging on for so long now. Director Joe Lynch has clearly made a film by horror fans for horror fans and one that doesn’t disappoint. Top sequel and I can’t wait for his next flick.

 

 ★★★★★★★☆☆☆ 

 

 

Screamers 2: The Hunting (2009)

Screamers 2: The Hunting (2009)

The Perfect Weapon Is Now The Ultimate Killing Machine

A distress signal is received from Sirius 6B, previously thought to have become a lost colony after the screamers wiped out the human population, and a team is sent to investigate and retrieve any survivors. The team only has a small window in which to conduct any rescue as a meteor storm is heading to destroy the planet. When they arrive, they find that the screamers have evolved into something much more sinister and much more deadly.

 

The current trend for random sequels to long-forgotten films continues with Screamers 2: The Hunting. The original Screamers is something of a minor cult classic featuring Peter Weller and a host of spherical killer machines. It didn’t do that well when it got released and has long been consigned to the vaults. I didn’t think it was that good in all honesty – there was a good film waiting to come out but it was too talky and dragged too much to be consistently entertaining. It had a decent enough plot to carry the film and was helped by a strong performance by Peter Weller. This is exactly the opposite – it’s a lot faster paced, has more action, more gore and is generally more exciting but features less talented actors, a half-assed story and as many clichés as you can shake a stick at.

Screamers 2: The Hunting sticks rigidly to the classic Aliens formula about a group of soldiers being sent to a remote planet where they’re all killed off. If you’ve seen one ‘group of people getting picked off by something deadly’ feature then you’ve seen them all unfortunately. You’ll know who is going to live and die – the token expendable black guy makes an appearance here! Two crew members decide to have sex for no other reason than to provide the film with its token love scene. There are characters that do silly things to further the plot. There are other characters that hide secrets from everyone else which is a tad annoying given that the secrets always make things worse at the wrong moment.

I’ll at least give the film credit for trying to stick as close to the original as possible in terms of continuation. This feels more like a proper follow-up which builds on the original as opposed to a shameless sequel that literally remakes the original with a lower budget. It has the same vibe as the original and uses similar settings and sets. Clearly we get the sense that this is still the same planet. The screamers, in their original form, look as unique and deadly as always. They whiz through the ground in packs to attack and then fly through the air, slicing and dicing their victims until they’ve been shredded to pieces.

Needless to say this leads to plenty of gore and dismemberment – I’m actually quite pleased by the amount of blood on display here. The first part of the film continues along the same lines as the original with the soldiers and screamers doing battle numerous times, resulting in lots of fire fights and explosions. It’s all too routine for my liking. The new version of the screamers taking human form seems to be that good old chestnut of writers taking an easy (and cheaper) route by having their screen menace played by humans instead of costly special effects. The change between small spherical objects into tall humans seems a little far fetched and the film doesn’t do a good job of explaining the miraculous change in physics. The human screamers tend to stay in this form a lot of the time but when they do reveal themselves, at least the make-up effects are convincing enough. I believe there was little CGI, if any, used in these close-ups of the mandibles and mechanical jaws opening. The film shifts from action to more horror-orientated when the human screamers are revealed too which makes a nice change of pace.

Lance Henriksen is given a token cameo role here as the man who designed the screamers and is locked away in his little laboratory on the planet. He really needed a bigger role here and he really needed to appear a lot earlier in the film (it’s about an hour in when he makes his first appearance). He adds his usual screen presence but the words ‘phone-in’ comes to mind when I think of his performance. The character is simply there to explain the plot to the audience and provide the back story and answers to a lot of questions. Peter Weller made the first film but at least he was in the main role. Henriksen could have made this film if he’d have been given a more meaty part. Gina Holden acts with her looks (which are very good by the way) but fails to really get to grips with supposedly portraying a soldier

Greg Bryk plays the token slime ball character that makes things a lot worse for the soldiers by reactivating the screamers. It’s not worth really mentioning anyone else because you could edit footage of any secondary character from this type of movie with another film and still not be any the wiser. To be fair, no one gets a good chance to display any sort of talent as their characters are so poorly written and the dialogue is pretty banal. But at least give it a shot, guys! We like to see someone trying.

 

Screamers 2: The Hunting takes liberties with the likes of Aliens and The Terminator to conjure up a ‘best of’ feature, containing as much as the writers could get away with stealing and re-imagining. It’s not a bad sequel in all honesty and was entertaining enough for me not to keep clock watching. But we’ve been there and done it so many times that I feel like I’m repeating myself in these reviews.

 

 ★★★★★☆☆☆☆☆ 

 

 

Jigsaw (2002)

Jigsaw (2002)

Put him together…he’ll tear you apart!

A group of students are given their final project to complete. They are each given a body part of a broken mannequin and have to go home and decorate it as they like. Upon completion, the mannequin is to be re-assembled and see what it looks like with each part supposedly reflecting the personality of the different individuals. Unfortunately for them, the mannequin comes alive and sets about taking real body parts from its victims.

 

With an intriguing premise such as this, it’s a pity that Jigsaw is such a low budget waste of time. The film looks like it was shot on a camcorder by a bunch of mates at a friend’s house. You know the sort of film I mean: the type where a group of actors are featured who’ve clearly never been in front of a camera before in their lives (and judging by performances, never will be in front of one again). The type of films with really dodgy pictures and sound because they can’t afford decent equipment. The type of films with awesome front covers and thrilling plot synopses only for you to eventually find out that the film is nothing like what was promised. The type of films that just make you want to slap on The Evil Dead or Braindead to show low budget film makers how it’s done. The type of films that think talking is scary and that they can get away with being boring pieces of drivel simply by having a few kills crammed in to the last part of the film. Jigsaw is that type of film.

I’m not knocking the idea. It’s a solid concept but why bother trying to sell such a good idea if you know you’re not going to be able to back it up with money? It’s like the entire budget has been loaded into the finale and the script had to over-compensate in the rest of the film by keeping things as low key and uneventful as possible. Things eventually pick up when Jigsaw comes to life but this is about fifty minutes into the film. So that only leaves about nineteen minutes for it to kill and build itself a proper body. There’s some mild gore and a nasty death involving a circular saw but it’s too little, too late. They don’t even explain why it comes to life – not a hint, not a clue, nothing. No voodoo. No lightning. No blood sacrifice. It just gets up and starts killing.

The Jigsaw creature does have a rather unique look and it’s rather quirky and awkward movement adds to the chill factor it exhibits. The creature is well-designed and in all honesty, deserved a better film. Though it’s a bit of a creative cop-out to have the students decide to put a circular saw on one of his arms and a sawn-off shotgun on the other. Why not, you know, some proper arms? Oh wait, that wouldn’t be useful for when it comes to life and kills people because circular saws and shotguns are much more cool to use.

This leaves the opening fifty minutes for characters and dialogue. Lots of dialogue. We get lots of small talk, guys hitting on women, talking about childhood traumas and plenty of diabolical one-liners to name a few things. To say that it’s slow and uneventful would be too kind. The film populates its world with your typical teenage characters: the goth, the nerd, the bitch, etc. They would never hang around with each other in real life! I guess having a group of gloomy goths designing the mannequin would have come up with the same sort of theme. The acting is really bad all around and it’s no surprise to see that the majority of the cast have received little to no work since.

To really kick you below the belt, the film ends with a head-scratching non-ending. It doesn’t tie anything up at all. The final girl remains tied up on the floor as Jigsaw goes to kill the professor instead. Yet she was the one who added a limb to the creature, not the professor. The film ends with Jigsaw still alive. It’s almost as if there’s a reel of footage missing and no one noticed, presumably because no one ever watched the final cut. As ripped off as I felt whilst watching the film, the ending just violated me in ways I couldn’t imagine. What would an extra couple of minutes cost if they’d properly finished the story?

 

Jigsaw is just absolute rubbish. Put all of the pieces back inside the box and forget you ever attempted to piece this puzzle together.

 

 ★★☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆ 

 

 

Return of the Fly (1959)

Return of the Fly (1959)

Blood-curdling giant fly creature runs amuck!!!

Fifteen years after his father conducted a disastrous matter transportation experiment, Philippe Delambre attempts to create a similar device with the help of his assistant Alan Hinds. Alan has other motives and wants to sell the plans to the highest bidder. When Philippe finds out, Alan throws him into the device along with a fly, one of Philippe’s biggest fears after what happened to his father. Philippe rematerializes with the head and claw of a fly whilst the fly comes out with his head and hand. This time the creature has revenge on its mind.

 

Filmed in black and white as opposed to the lavish colour of the original, Return of the Fly is a far cry from the classic science fiction story that came before it. Now a watered-down cheap schlocky B-movie, Return of the Fly attempts more of the same with lesser production values and thus lesser results. We know where the film is heading and we know what is going to happen when human and fly are melded into one so any element of surprise is lost from the onset.

Return of the Fly leaves behind all of the ‘man losing his humanity’ character development of the original. Instead of being character-driven, this sequel opts for the more gratuitous monster-on-the-loose route, utilizing a series of then-grisly moments to lure the audience in and leaning towards cheap thrills instead of intelligent sci-fi.

I suppose you can’t be too hard on something like this. It’s old school. It’s rushed. It’s low budget. It’s the sort of throwaway sequel that the likes of The Sci-Fi Channel make nowadays so nothing much changes over the years. Return of the Fly contains little to get excited about, especially if you’ve seen the original. If you can buy the notion that Philippe shares the same fate as his father, then you’re off to a winner. Let’s face it, it’s a million-to-one accident which happens to the same family within the space of fifteen years – did they not think about making the machine fly-proof? Or did the writers not think about potentially changing the insect to a spider or something? Something to add a bit of originality to the story was needed but the film just rehashes more-or-less the same story as the original without the intelligence and without the drama and human connection. On the positive side, at least sets from the original were re-used and it adds a nice touch of continuity to proceedings. But after the brief nostalgia trip wears thin, the film ups the cheap thrills to compensate. Worst of all is when the police inspector is trapped in the machine with a guinea pig which ends in similar results to that of the fly. The little guinea pig is then squished underneath a big boot with a sickening squelching noise. This also means that the fly is shown a lot more than before, as the rule of sequels dictates.

In a silly move, the film dramatically increases the size of the fly’s head to ludicrous proportions. Explained in the film as a side effect of ‘gigantisim’ the head looks ridiculously over-sized and will cause spontaneous bouts of laughter as opposed to the desired shock-and-horror. The actor inside struggles to remain upright as the weight of the head would topple him if he made any sudden movement. He virtually walks around holding onto this papier-mâché head and desperately tries to act intimidating when there’s no doubt he can’t see what the hell is going on around him!

The short running time also means that the pace is a little too quick and events seem to be rushed and forced through. It’s eager to get to the transformation scenes and neglects to build its players up so that they can be knocked down. There’s little time for character development, a real pity considering Philippe is supposed to be the main focus of the film. How are the audience supposed to care for the character when he is transformed into the fly when we know as much about him as we do Alan and his cronies? Thankfully the thinly-written role suits Brett Halsey well. The hero of the piece can’t really handle the role so adding more depth and character to the part would have made things worse.

Vincent Price has more of a part to play here. No longer a supporting character like he was in the original, his role is fleshed out a little more, no doubt to give the film some credibility on the acting front since Price’s stock was rising considerably at the time. He didn’t do an awful lot in the first one except mope around with his raspy voice and unfortunately he does little more here. It’s hardly a challenging role and there’s no wonder Price was unhappy with the final script. It even lacks a decent finale although it would be near-impossible to top the original’s “help meeeee!” moment, surely one of the most iconic and memorable finales in history.

 

Return of the Fly has it’s moments but they’re too few and far between. Without the heart and soul of the original, this just becomes a generic 50s sci-fi flick with tacky special effects, weak characters and a criminal misuse of Vincent Price. Get out the fly spray because this is one insect you’ll want to eradicate before it has chance to ruin your day.

 

 ★★★★☆☆☆☆☆☆