Vern's Reviews
on the Films of Cinema
Tuesday, November 20th, 2018 | 38 Comments

When last we heard from director Steve McQueen U.K., his movie 12 YEARS A SLAVE had won best picture. Five years later he finally has a followup, and it’s a violent, artfully crafted heist movie. Now you’re earning that name, my friend.

It’s credited as “based on ‘Widows’ by Lynda La Plante,” which seems to refer to the 1983 ITV mini-series, though there’s also a book version that says “SOON TO BE A MAJOR MOTION PICTURE” on the cover, and I have found no definitive answer as to which La Plante wrote first. Anyway, McQueen adapted whatever it was he adapted with Gillian Flynn of GONE GIRL (both book and movie) fame.

Liam Neeson (THE DEAD POOL), Jon Bernthal (THE ACCOUNTANT), Manuel Garcia-Rulfo (SICARIO: DAY OF THE SOLDADO) and Coburn Goss (MAN OF STEEL) star as a Chicago-based crew of highly skilled, even highlier armed and armoured robber motherfuckers in the vein of HEAT or L.A. TAKEDOWN or DEN OF THIEVES or POINT BREAK or POINT BREAK REMAKE. And by “star” I mean for a couple minutes at the very beginning we see a tiny bit of their heist intercut with them saying goodbye to their wives beforehand and then they get blown up. You barely even see that last guy’s face. Because this is not about dudes like that. It’s about their loved ones who have to clean up their mess. (read the rest of this shit…)

Monday, November 19th, 2018 | 27 Comments

>I really dug WHIPLASH and LA LA LAND so I was gonna see any new movie from director Damien Chazzelle. When I saw the trailer for FIRST MAN, his new one starring Ryan Gosling (FRANKENSTEIN AND ME) as Neil Armstrong, it looked like it was shot in an unorthodox way, but I still wondered why we would need another astronaut history moon movie. Haven’t we seen every variation of this? Clean cut, crew-cut, cut-from-a-different-cloth heroes like they don’t make anymore. Courage and adventure and boy scouts and all that. Is there anything new to say about it?

Well, it is in fact a totally different take. In fact, I don’t see anyone saying this, but it seems to me like kind of a subversion or at least a deconstruction of that ideal of heroism.

Sure, you also have all the stuff about what a preposterous feat it was to figure out you can shoot some guys on a fuckin rocket, have them get out and walk around on the moon, and then come back and land on earth safely. I mean, how the fuck? The filmatism really concentrates on rockets as rickety, iffy propositions. We’re crammed in there with him in the test flights, or with the crew on the real launches. Always claustrophobic. We hear all the roaring, vibrating, clattering, rattling and mysterious straining metal groans from somewhere in the machine. The dials and buttons click and look so impossibly low-tech today. Even when they were the state of the art they couldn’t have felt all that safe. (read the rest of this shit…)

Thursday, November 15th, 2018 | 35 Comments
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Tuesday, November 13th, 2018 | 69 Comments

I write alot about how horror movies allow you to face down evil vicariously through their heroines and heroes. But there are also some that mess with you by making you follow the perspective of the killer – movies like PEEPING TOM, MANIAC (and its remake), DON’T GO IN THE HOUSE and HENRY: PORTRAIT OF A SERIAL KILLER come to mind.

The 1983 Austrian film ANGST is a masterwork of this type. It’ll fuck you up. To give you an idea, the Blu-Ray comes with an intro from Gaspar Noe, who says it is one of the films that influenced him most. I think that goes for both the bleak subject matter and the inventive camerawork by cinematographer (also writer and editor) Zbigniew Rybczynski. The movie follows a killer as he’s released from prison and then immediately starts killing again. He doesn’t even try to find a place to live or anything. He does stop off at a coffee shop, but it’s for stalking purposes more than for coffee. He’s played by Erwin Leder (DAS BOOT), but the first person narration is read by Robert Hunger-Buhler (Noe prefers the French dub). (read the rest of this shit…)

A STAR IS BORN, from director Bradley Cooper, is a very good adaptation of the trailer that played before every single movie I saw in a theater for the last three months. I saw that trailer so many times I would try to act it out and could sing the two songs (one with correct lyrics, even). I would get just those song fragments stuck in my head for days. So it’s exciting to discover that they have second verses.

I don’t know if it’s as good as an adaptation of the 1937 film starring Janet Gaynor and Fredric March, or the 1954 one starring Judy Garland and James Mason, or the 1976 one starring Barbra Streisand and Kris Kristofferson, or the 1998 made-for-cable one starring Brandy and Casper Van Dien, because I haven’t seen any of them and made up the last one. I have to assume it’s closest to the ’76 because actor Bradley Cooper (THE MIDNIGHT MEAT TRAIN) definitely seems to be channeling Kristofferson’s rugged country poet vibe. I even contemplated whether or not he should be allowed to play Whistler if they ever do a new BLADE. Then I realized that really the voice he’s doing is Sam Elliott, so I was delighted when the actual Sam Elliott (ROAD HOUSE) showed up, playing his older brother/road manager. I wondered if that was awkward between the two actors, and then I found a Good Morning America interview where Elliott says Cooper (THE MIDNIGHT MEAT TRAIN) warned him “this is gonna be a little weird” before playing him a tape of the voice he was working on. “And it was a little weird.”

What if Elliott hadn’t been available? If they ended up casting, like, Don Johnson or Willem Dafoe or somebody, would they have to imitate Sam Elliott too? (read the rest of this shit…)


Thursday, November 8th, 2018 | 48 Comments

I’d like to end this not-as-rockin-as-I’d-hoped Slasher Search Rocks! mini-series with an extreme obscurity I never could’ve seen if not for the maniacs at Bleeding Skull! Video, who for some reason love shot-on-VHS movies. Though “never distributed properly on home video” (the director just sold it through ads in the back of heavy metal magazines), Bleeding Skull! gave HEAVY METAL MASSACRE (1989) a limited edition 250 copy, VHS only re-release in 2016.

This is the mostly-filler-about-a-killer story of an unnamed (as far as I noticed) loner who looks like he could be in Poison with his long, bleach blond, meticulously teased hair and studded bracelets and what not. He goes to one small brick wall bar where he picks up big-haired leather-jacket-wearing women. He sometimes uses the promise of cocaine, but very few words, and when he does talk it’s more of a working joe kinda voice than I expected to come out from behind that makeup.

He brings them to his place, which is one small room full of posters, but it supposedly connects to a series of industrial hallways and garages where he takes them to handcuff them up and then hit them with a sledge hammer.

Despite the overall ickiness of it it’s not very graphic at all – not much in the way of FX. (read the rest of this shit…)

Another one from the Vern Vault: I have written about STONE COLD many times, but this was the only time I thought to title it STRICTLY BOZNESS. Originally posted October 15, 2015 on One Perfect Shot.

STRICTLY BOZNESS: THE FIERY MAJESTY OF ‘STONE COLD’

There is a certain type of action movie I love where it’s more important to be awesome than grounded; where the knowing use of cliches, absurd physics and extreme exaggeration are part of the agreement between the film and the audience. These are movies that are almost impossible to truly make fun of, because their ridiculousness is not a drawback, even when it’s an accident. They make you laugh but you’d be lying if you said you were only enjoying them ironically. Classics of this type include Schwarzenegger’s COMMANDO, Van Damme’s HARD TARGET and Seagal’s HARD TO KILL. (read the rest of this shit…)

Tuesday, November 6th, 2018 | 37 Comments

Spike Lee’s BLACKkKLANSMAN is out on video today. Back when I saw it in the theater it made me curious about the 1966 movie of the almost same title. THE BLACK KLANSMAN was also released as I CROSSED THE COLOR LINE, and it’s from exploitation director/mustache aficionado Ted V. Mikels (THE ASTRO-ZOMBIES, THE CORPSE GRINDERS, BLOOD ORGY OF THE SHE-DEVILS, THE DOLL SQUAD, ANGEL OF VENGEANCE, APARTHEID SLAVE: WOMEN’S JUSTICE, PARANORMAL EXTREMES: TEXT MESSAGES FROM THE DEAD, etc.)

It all starts when a young black man in Turnerville, Alabama, fed up with the bullshit, decides to exercise his right to go into a still-segregated coffee shop and order some coffee. The white customers stare, then insult him, then all get up and storm out. That night the Klan – led by one of the guys who was in the restaurant – murder him, then firebomb a black church, killing a little girl. She was the daughter of Jerry Ellsworth, a singer in L.A. He’s introduced showing up late to his job at the club because, he claims, he was out heroically helping people during the riots (not pictured). (read the rest of this shit…)

Monday, November 5th, 2018 | 68 Comments

SUSPIRI… uh…

Luca Guadagnino’s SUSPIRIA (2018) is technically a remake of Dario Argento’s SUSPIRIA (1977), because it’s about an American named Susie Bannion going to a dance academy in Germany in 1977 where other students are turning up dead and weird shit is happening because it’s run by a coven of witches led by Mother Suspiriorum, The Mother of Sighs. But don’t expect to see any of the things you think of when you think of SUSPIRIA, like the colorful lighting, the maggots dropping from the ceiling or that room full of razor wire. Guadagnino (CALL ME BY YOUR NAME) doesn’t use the same look or any specific scenes or story points, he just plays with the basic idea. Now there’s more intra-coven political stuff going on, as well as news coverage of Baader-Meinhof bombings and the hijacking of Lufthansa Flight 181 by the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, and a subplot about an old therapist looking for a patient who disappeared after telling him the school was run by witches, and also his wife (played by o.g. Susie Bannion Jessica Harper) disappeared during the war and he keeps thinking about her, and…

I mean it’s 52 minutes longer than the original so there’s alot more stuff going on. It bills itself as “Six Acts and an Epilogue in a Divided Berlin” (spoiler: actually should be Six Acts, an Epilogue, and a Brief, Uneventful Tag Near the End of the Credits). I appreciated the act breaks. (read the rest of this shit…)

Thursday, November 1st, 2018 | 229 Comments

FROM THE VERN VAULT: Don’t worry friends, I’m not about to start doing reruns all the time, but there are two pieces that were written for One.Perfect.Shot that disappeared after they were bought out by Film School Rejects. Prompted by Rumsey Taylor I located them on Internet Archive and I’m reposting them for posterity.

Maybe I’m full of it but it seems to me this piece from October 26th, 2015 was a little ahead of the curve. At the time I knew of no one else who considered CANDYMAN the best horror movie of the ’90s and I didn’t think people talked enough about its exploration of the legacy of slavery in America. I’m proud of this as well as my 2005 take on the movie. (It’s not dangerous until I review it five times, is it?)

‘CANDYMAN’ AND THE RACIAL DIVIDE: WHY ONE OF THE BEST HORROR FILMS OF THE 90S IS EVEN MORE RELEVANT TODAY

“These stories are modern oral folklore. They are the un-self-conscious reflection of the fears of urban society.” –urban legends lecture by Professor Lyle (Xander Berkeley)

“What if a person had this thing done to him and what if he had the opportunity to come back and say, ‘Watch out!’ to the world that created this person and the conditions?” –Tony Todd to Fangoria Magazine, March 1995

American horror movies have played off of all manner of primal and societal fears: tensions between social classes, the invasion of the sanctity of the home, the dangers of trespassing in forbidden places. But leave it to a couple of British artists – writer/director Bernard Rose and executive producer/short story author Clive Barker – to explicitly tie those themes to the racial atrocities of our history, creating a truly American horror story. (read the rest of this shit…)