Thursday, December 9, 2010

Something Rank (#16-15)

4 Monsters, 36 Movies, Infinite Blog Posts

Previous entries:
(#36-33) (#32-29) (#28-25)
(#24-21) (#20-17)

(#16) Halloween 4:
The Return of Michael Myers (1988)

Michael's back, keeping the blood in his bloodline by trying to off his adorable niece. Little Jamie (Danielle Harris) finds herself with a family reunion just in time for the holiday season. Even if Jamie never really knew her mother Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) after her offscreen "death," there's a certain kinship that comes with watching everyone you love be violently slaughtered. Jamie is a Myers after all and homicide is just part of the gene pool.

Poor Jamie...
The only photos of her mother are production stills.

Haddonfield, Illinois's own pride and joy experiences yet another homecoming as the series reverts to its old ways after that detour into Druid territory with Halloween III. This sequel's primary goal is to capture some of Carpenter's mood and menace, and while it offers little new, it embraces and expands the legacy with at least some awareness of suspense. Donald Pleasence is back as Dr. Sam Loomis and he's all but given up on any of his other patients at this point. Their well-beings pale in comparison with trying to thwart unstoppable monster Michael Myers. Jamie's his latest target, but her childhood may mirror Michael's more than anyone could have anticipated. Donning a mask and something pointy, Jamie carves her own holiday horrors out of her adopted family in a finale as fitting as it is practically forgotten by the follow-up film.

The Face of Fear:

Killer Looks:

Michael seems to have bought stock in William Shatner's pale face knock-off costume company. They're in endless supply. If you've burnt one, you've burnt them all.

My Thoughts Exactly...

(#15) Friday the 13th:
The Final Chapter

The Friday franchise is more or less a machine -- sometimes well-oiled, sometimes creaky, and sometimes operated by a drunk without a manual. Part IV is running pretty smoothly. The careless cast fills the need for dirty deeds, nudity and needlessly graphic mutilation. Beyond that it's one of the entries to better embrace the lakeside surroundings, take pride in its body count, and just generally fare better with the obvious slice-and-dice formula. Stormy nights give way to the sacrificial slaughter of sex-starved youth that have sought Camp Crystal Lake for relief of their hormones and possibly smores. It takes the essential elements and executes them well, while executing its cast in consistently gruesome ways (thanks to gore-guru Tom Savini). To anyone critiquing the film's lack of suspense and complete void of substance? "Random roadside hippy chick who dies while eating a banana" has this to say:

Considering it's the fourth film in a franchise of twelve, it seems dubious to credit it as "The Final Chapter," but then it does pull out all the stops. Several people - and dogs - are propelled through second-story windows in slow motion, Crispin Glover dances just as you'd expect Crispin Glover to dance, and little Corey Feldman says pervy things like, "Some pack of patootsies, huh?" Not revelatory and yet not to be scoffed at either.

Faces of Fear:

Killer Looks:

1) Mama's Boy Unmasked

2) Jason Voorhees: an artist's rendering
3) Corey Feldman: a bald kid who might be crazy

My Thoughts Exactly...

Up Next: #14-13

Freddy meets Zsa Zsa Gabor!
And the slutty one from Just the Ten of Us!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Something Rank (#20-17)

All I can say in response to the delay of this countdown...

Four franchise fiends,
36 fantastic (to middling) films.

Previous entries:
(#36-33) (#32-29)
(#28-25) (#24-21)

(#20) A Nightmare on Elm Street 5:
The Dream Child

"It's a boy!" --Freddy Krueger

Freddy's reborn and born again -- product of his mother, a sister to the Church, after being gang raped by the criminally insane. When exactly did he get that job as small town custodial staff? Anyhow, Springwood survivor Alice has a pregnancy scare, seeing as her offspring might be born with razor claws and a Christmas sweater.

The film kicks into high gear with sex, a splashy shower scene, and the inmate gang bang that led to Freddy's immaculately sinful birth. The nightmares are amongst the dreamiest and vast in scale for the series, with expansive production design and practical effects. It's all to the aid of a magically deranged dreamscape in which Freddy calls people "Bitch" a lot. Among the spectacle there's Freddy's mad mutation of man into machine, a mother hassling her daughter to eat so much that it kills her, a comic artist left in comic shreds, and Freddy's emergence through Alice's face. Much like the miracle of birth it's equal parts charmed and absolutely grotesque.

Killer Looks:

Like Father Like Son

Abortion to Archvillain

Tetsuo to Top Chef

My Thoughts Exactly...

(#19) Halloween III:
Season of the Witch

Michael Myers is swapped for Stonehenge after being charred in Haddonfield Memorial Hospital as the Halloween series takes to new, altogether ridiculous routes (though no more or less so than usual). This holiday "The Night HE Came Home" is now "The Night Nobody Comes Home," as children are turned to mush and snakes because of irritating promotional tie-ins. The Silver Shamrock corporation, with their singular masks and catchy jingle (think "It's a Small World After All" if it made you melt into roaches), have taken to massacring the spirit of a holiday as only Hallmark had before.

Tom Atkins, dependable horror hero, is on the case after a bizarre murder-suicide and is drawn into the mad world of murderous masks, Druid-fueled drivel and well-dressed androids. It's an excuse to cheat on his wife (a cameo by Nancy "Loomis" Kyes!) and save humanity from a dastardly plan for world domination. Like This is Spinal Tap or Troll 2, the brainwashed bayside town of Santa Mira is mystified by the great magic of Stonehenge, and just like those films, here it's laughable at best. Baffling and inane given the series departure, it's wacky inventiveness far surpasses many of the later attempts to plug Michael Myers into the signature mold. Even in its complete distance from Halloween lore, it still manages to feel like the partial product of John Carpenter. The pulsing techno score, the widescreen scope, the casting of Carpenter regulars, and even a special screening of the original holiday classic... It's a full-fledged sequel in spirit. Halloween III is its own unique oddity (it's nonsense) and a memorable break from the series' usual reign of terror. Besides, for those who see more trick than treat, Michael Myers will be back after these messages...

The Face of Fear:

Killer Looks:

The Silver Shamrock Corporation:
Banking on your child's
lack of creativity for over 30 years!

The Modern (hench)Man:

Conal Cochran:
Evil mastermind
and master of the evil slow clap

My Thoughts Exactly...

(#18) The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2003)

Michael Bay producing a glossy remake of the seminal scare classic with the star of 7th Heaven? Sounds like studio-sanctioned cannibalism!

What could easily have been the bizarre meld of rotted flesh and the sculpted abs of an Abercrombie & Fitch catalog actually fares better than it has any right to. Tobe Hooper's still scarring classic seems unlikely to translate to the studio system, but there's enough general sickness in its premise to ensure bits of grueling goodness. Besides, the entire Chainsaw franchise has basically been an entire series of pseudo-remakes, so it's to no fault when this film feels occassionally chainsaw-by-the-numbers. Leatherface never really progressed into a supervillain like Freddy or Jason, but has remained a misunderstood country bumpkin making meat out of the tenderized flesh of hapless tourists.

The remake toys with its taut scenario, replacing a visit to granddaddy's grave with smuggling pot over the border. It's inessential really when all roads lead to the slaughterhouse. Director Marcus Nispel's nightmare vision is a more typical view of backwoods brutality with its obese women and toothless toddlers in trailer homes, but with the aid of cinematographer Daniel Pearl (returning to Texas territory after the original), there's enough gristle and raw dread to excuse Jessica Biel rescuing an infant, or the presence of that kid from The Ring. Despite a few unnecessary additions to a story fueled by its simplicity, Leatherface is more-or-less a figure of fear once again. For a franchise makeover it feels mostly refreshed, especially considering it's pretty much just dressed up in dead skin.

Killer Looks:

1) The best slaughterhouse employee
is a noseless slaughterhouse employee

2) Leatherface in business attire /
3) Leatherface in Eric Balfour

My Thoughts Exactly...

(#17) Leatherface:
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre III

Viggo Mortensen's (sexy) history of violence stems way back to this oft-ignored entry in which two travelers' Texas detour mostly turns up roadkill (and Ken Foree). Director Jeff Burr's film feels the spirit of Tobe Hooper's manic sequel while filling the tasty formula for inbred brutality and black comedy. Action-packed and humorously sadistic, it's a recipe for righteous bloodshed and BBQ.

"The Saw is Family," but a suspiciously new family entirely. Leatherface must have been adopted by a new backwoods brood once the Sawyer clan's BBQ business went bankrupt due to their no longer existing after The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2. The new clan is more female-friendly than we're used to, with a gruesome granny and devious daughter, and Leatherface himself continues to (d)evolve. He's seen mastering the English language via a Speak & Spell and trading his meat-mallet for more maternal instincts.

Killer Looks:

The Mirror Has Four Faces

My Thoughts Exactly...

Up Next: #16-13

Jason wages war against a pervy, underage Corey Feldman!