RETURN OF HHMC, PART 5
excuse note: Due to this bullshit closing out last October, the final two RETURN OF HHMCs didn't make it up. Rather than post them last November, I decided to hold them off till this year, so they'll make a nice appetizer for my third annual Halloween Horror Movie Challenge. October is upon us, so get psyched assholes!!]
John Carpenter’s Vampires
John Carpenter is like the cinematic equivalent of Metallica: he’s got a couple of classics (and at least one or two arguable masterpieces) under his belt, but the rest of his output ranges from so-so to Lars Ulrich. Vampires is thoroughly mediocre, but I like it perhaps more than I should. Much of the reason is because of James Woods, who carries this movie practically single-handedly. He’s so good here, however, that it only seems to amplify the rest of the movie’s shortcomings. Woods plays the foul-mouthed leader of a team of Vatican-sponsored vampire slayers, who finds himself up against a “master vampire,” who’s trying to recover an ancient relic that will allow him to walk in daylight. This is especially a problem considering that the vampire mythology is largely simplified here – crosses and garlic don’t work, which leaves sunlight or a good ol’ staking as your only options of killing one. There’s two main problems with this movie: first, after a pretty cool introductory scene, nearly all of Woods’ team is wiped out. I realize he’s the star of the show, but the idea of a team of vampire hunters seemed more fun than watching one or two guys chasing one. Second, the supposed “master vampire” – excuse the pun here – sucks. He’s supposed to be one of the most powerful vampires ever, but he never really seems menacing, even when disemboweling people. But I dig the movie’s southwest-sorta flavor; Carpenter has always stated that his first love was westerns, and this seems like his attempt at bringing some of that into the horror realm. And Woods, like I said, elevates it greatly. Check it out for a decent waste of time, but avoid the in-name-only DTV sequel starring Jon Bon Jovi, which is about as enjoyable as slamming your dick in a car door. 3/5
- Have a drink every time James Woods says “Padre.”
Hobo with a Shotgun
Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Terantino’s Grindhouse collaboration made it acceptable to release cheesy ’70s exploitation-esque horror and action movies under the cover of being an “homage” (if not entirely ironic), and following Rodriguez’s own Machete, Hobo with a Shotgun is the second of the faux-trailers that accompanied Grindhouse in theaters to be made into a full feature (though its original trailer only screened in Canada after winning a contest, and has been entirely recast here). Rutger Hauer is the titular hobo of the title, who buys said shotgun from a pawn shop and proceeds to clean up the streets one bloody shotgun blast at a time. Eventually, that is – though Hobo with a Shotgun runs a scant 80 minutes or so, even that is apparently too long to sustain such a simple premise, and so it seems like an eternity (actually about 35 minutes) before the shotgun rampage begins. There’s plenty of lulls in the action where we have to sit through some truly horrid “acting” and “plot” (perhaps intentional given the genre, but no less boring), and while the Troma-like gore is expectedly over-the-top, the novelty of it gets old rather quickly. This is the type of movie that’s practically made to be watched without sound while pounding cheap beers in a dive bar somewhere. So uh, try to make that happen. 1.5/5
- Just keep drinking.
Frozen is another flick based around an extremely simple premise, this time being three college students who get stranded high up on a ski lift when the resort shuts down for the weekend. How this actually happens isn’t quite as far-fetched as it sounds, and director Adam Green displays a knack for more subtle horror after his gleefully over-the-top Hatchet. Subtle, that is, until the extreme frostbite, compound fractures and wolf attacks all come into play. The wolves suffer from some poor CGI in places, and their over-aggressive behavior seems forced only so that the movie could have a tangible villain (I suppose just seeing people freeze to death isn’t cinematic enough). I put this one on out of boredom and didn’t know what to expect, which is probably why I enjoyed it as much as I did. To borrow one of Peter Travers’ overused catchphrases, Frozen will sneak up and floor you. 3/5
- Have a drink whenever the ski lift chair makes a creaking sound, and when you spot Kane Hodder’s cameo.
28 Weeks Later initially starts during the same time frame as the original, where a married couple and a few others are holed up in a cottage trying to stay hidden and survive the onslaught of infected Brits (shiver!). Sure enough they come under attack, and in a moment of panic, Husband of the Year makes a narrow escape while his wife gets cornered. Then we jump to 28 weeks later where former Husband of the Year is now Father of the Year, welcoming his two kids (who were conveniently away when the first outbreak happened) into the quarantined section of London, and carefully changing a detail or two while recalling the story of their mother’s death. Though we’re told that the infected have largely died off from starvation, much of London is in ruins and littered with corpses. The story kicks into gear when these two little shits sneak out of the safe zone to travel back to their old house and collect belongings, where they discover their mother, alive and semi-coherent, hiding out in their house. After being examined by a medical officer (a pre-Bridesmaids/X-Men: First Class Rose Byrne), we’re told that while the mother is infected with the virus, she displays no symptoms, and thus potentially holds the key to a cure. Things quickly turn to shit though, when her husband kisses her and becomes a
Justin Bieber fan psychotic rage monster, and quickly infects a whole bunch of people. While not as creative as its predecessor, 28 Weeks Later is an okay sequel, with an undeniable mean streak; a couple of likable characters are treated to some especially gruesome deaths, and even a semi-happy ending is retconned with a quick, sequel-baiting tag at the end. It definitely has some pacing issues too – while sufficient time is spent building up the story, we’re already nearing the final act once the outbreak occurs. 2.5/5
- Drink whenever someone says “Code Red,” “lockdown,” or “District One.”
Shark Night 3D seemed primed to join Piranha 3D as a fun, over-the-top gory schlock-fest, perhaps with the latter’s occasional hints of self-aware humor. And with a title like Shark Night 3D and David R. Ellis (Final Destination 2, Snakes on a Plane) directing, why should I have expected anything else? Well fuck me, I guess. It became clear right from the PG-13 rating that this would be no Piranha 3D; instead, it’s mostly just another watered-down (pun) late-summer horror flick aimed squarely at teens. It’s about a bunch of college “kids” (played by actors ranging from their early 20s to their mid-30s) who vacation at a lake house, only to discover that the lake is populated by sharks after one of them emerges from the water a few pounds lighter. Of course now the movie has to find excuses for getting the rest of the characters back in the water, which is why human antagonists are introduced, who we’re later told put these massive sharks in the lake (don’t ask how they achieved that – it’s not even remotely explained). Their motive? To film the shark attacks via hidden camera and then launch their own reality TV show. Yeah. Anyway the sharks look moderately realistic for being largely CGI, at least when they’re not leaping out of the water and picking people off like missiles with fins. Which brings me to the deaths – the majority of which involve people being pulled underwater and maybe some blood trickling to the surface. And this is PG-13 folks, so no boobs here! 2/5
- Stop drinking whenever you see boobs.
When a Stranger Calls (1979)
When a Stranger Calls would have made an excellent short film or television episode; it’s bookended by two great sequences, but padded out by an hour-long middle section that’s nearly insufferable. The infamous opening scene has Jill (Carol Kane), babysitting a couple’s house when a strange voice keeps phoning her up and asking her if she’s checked on the sleeping children upstairs. She blows it off as a prank at first, but eventually calls the police, who inform her that the calls are coming from inside the house. We then find that this guy was upstairs the whole time, having killed the two kids in their sleep. Then the movie jumps forward several years, and we’re told the guy has escaped from the mental hospital. So far, so good. But then the movie makes a grave mistake: we see the guy, and practically follow his every move as he begins creeping around the city again. The plot jumps tracks as the former homicide detective-turned private investigator begins obsessively searching for him, and aside from a single chase sequence, it’s all boring as shit. More aggravatingly, it deflates all the creepy tension established by the first 20 minutes, when the stranger was an unseen, ominous presence rather than a crazy homeless dweeb. There’s a decent final act that brings Jill back into the picture, if you’re still awake by then. My advice: watch the first scene, then at the 23 minute mark, click here to skip unnecessary bullshit. 2/5
- Have a drink whenever someone makes or receives a call.
Fuck it – I’ve sat through enough questionable choices so I’m finishing this off right. Aliens is the rarest and best type of sequel – one that brings the character(s) back but otherwise gives us almost an entirely different experience. People like to call Aliens a sci-fi action movie (as opposed to the original’s hybrid of sci-fi and horror) and while that wouldn’t be invalid, it would be overlooking the fact that Aliens is still thoroughly scary as hell. There is no hope in sight for any of these people (something confirmed, rather controversially, in the eventual Alien³), and yet it’s still a fun ride to be on, due in no small part to its variety of colorful characters. However instead of ranting on and on about how great this fucker is, I thought I’d take a moment to talk about the Director’s Cut, which is something that has unsurprisingly divided many fans since its wide release. At best, I find it to be an interesting alternate version; though James Cameron introduces it on the DVD as being his preferred vision (having had to excise many scenes to keep the time shorter for its theatrical run), some scenes, while interesting, end up bloating the movie and robbing it of some suspense. Though I now know where I stand as far as which version I prefer, both are certainly worth watching. 4.5/5
- Drink every time Hudson complains about something.
Well that (belatedly) concludes last year’s Halloween Horror Movie Challenge. I’ll be back next week with the first installment of this year’s challenge. Thanks for reading.