Vern's Reviews
on the Films of Cinema
Wednesday, October 31st, 2018 | 21 Comments
I think this was the cover art when I first fell in love with THE TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE

Happy Halloween, everybody! As is sometimes my tradition, I have managed to do a write-up of one of my all time favorite movies that I haven’t done an official piece on. In 2016 I finally got the balls to do THE THING, and in 2017 I did INFERNO. I guess when I did DAWN OF THE DEAD it was a month after Halloween, but that’s the type of review I’m going for here.

One Halloween I just compared the Fresh Prince unofficial Freddy Krueger song to the official Fat Boys one. You can only do that once though I think.

These reviews of the classics are intimidating because there’s such a risk of saying the same shit that’s already been said, but I’m tired of linking to my Ain’t It Cool News review of a DVD release every time I mention it, which is inconvenient when I seem to compare half the movies I watch to THE TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE. I remember I even compared the Kathryn Bigelow racism drama DETROIT to it. Incidentally, even though I’ve been thinking about HALLOWEEN movies all month the world is feeling more TEXAS CHAIN SAW to me these days.

In other words, be warned: this is one of the ones where I relate the movie to the politics of today, so if you hate that, please don’t read, and go have a happy Halloween. If not, please do read, then have a happy Halloween.

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THE TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE. One of the greatest horror movies since they started makin’ ’em. Not sure if I’ve mentioned that before, but it’s true.

It’s a movie that has grown on me and with me. When I first saw it I was probly 13 and I thought it was dumb. Just some crappy footage of a dude chasing people around in the dark. I was a Freddy guy. Saw it again in my twenties and it became pretty much my favorite movie. Back then it was VHS (not sure if it was even letterboxed) and I really believed that the raw quality of the footage was part of its magic. That it felt like a documentary, one made by crazy people.

After believing that for years I got that remastered edition that Dark Sky Films released, the one in the steel case (which I took these screengrabs from). It looked so much cleaner I wasn’t sure if I should accept it at first. Now I watch the way-more-pristine-than-that Blu-Ray and I love the movie even more as the controlled, artful craftsmanship it had always secretly been. For the moment, forget “drive-in” or “grindhouse” and think “great American film of the ’70s,” even if it’s all of those things. (read the rest of this shit…)

Tuesday, October 30th, 2018 | 12 Comments

a.k.a.
ROSSO SANGUE
HORRIBLE
ZOMBI 6: MONSTER HUNTER (!?)

ABSURD is a pretty standard Italian take on a HALLOWEEN-ish slasher plot – outrageous gore, decent Goblin-esque prog-rock score by Carlo Maria Cordio (PIECES, MIAMI COPS, CURSE II: THE BITE, TROLL 2), thin characters, lots of boring scenes of people standing around dryly talking about what’s going on, crazy ending.

It begins with two men running: a priest (Edmund Purdom, the dean in PIECES) and a bearded Ron Silver looking guy in jeans and a manly belt buckle (George Eastman, EROTIC NIGHTS OF THE LIVING DEAD, STAGEFRIGHT). The bearded guy climbs over a tall wrought iron fence and shows up on some rich people’s doorstep with a big glob of intestines dripping out of a belly wound. (read the rest of this shit…)

Monday, October 29th, 2018 | 4 Comments

SLUMBER PARTY MASSACRE III is less crazy than part II, and has less going on thematically, but to me it was a little more fun to watch this time through. I don’t think this one is connected by any characters, though the killer has a backstory that I didn’t quite follow, so maybe there’s something there.

Like the other two SLUMBER PARTY MASSACREs, this is directed by a woman, Sally Mattison this time. This was her only time directing – she was a casting director and associate producer for Concorde, including for BLOODFIST and SILK 2. Screenwriter Catherine Cyran (credited as “Bruce Carson”) also wrote BLOODFIST II, FUTURE KICK and HONEY 3: DARE TO DANCE. As a director she’s responsible for three sequels in the THE PRINCE & ME franchise, among other things. (read the rest of this shit…)

A new publication called Drugstore Culture recruited me to write some stuff for them, so over the past month or so I rewatched the entire HALLOWEEN series (including the two Rob Zombie ones) and wrote about it as a whole.

This is pretty different from my usual approach. I tried to dig non-judgmentally into the symbols of each chapter (even RESURRECTION!) to find deeper meaning we can apply to our current world or to things I’ve been going through in my life. I was surprised how much I found in III and 6, actually. It’s kind of a weird piece I think but perhaps obsessive in an unusual way, and hopefully some of you will like it.

By the way, I filed this before seeing the new one, so the bad news is I should’ve added a few lines about it, the good news is there are no spoilers for that particular one. Just ten other movies.

READ “THE SHAPE OF EVIL: CONFRONTING DARKNESS THROUGH THE ‘HALLOWEEN’ SERIES” ON DRUG STORE CULTURE

 

Friday, October 26th, 2018 | No Comments

TERROR ON TOUR is about a band called The Clowns, who wear makeup kind of like Kiss, as well as black leotards, red capes, afro wigs with two white stripes, and sometimes Phantom of the Opera type half-masks. This is important because someone is going around doing the murders and we don’t know if it’s a lookalike or a band member and which band member or which lookalike.

The movie contains “original music by The Names,” who I have determined to be the one from Rockford, Illinois, not the one from Brussels. And I believe they are playing the band in the movie, which is why (just like Easy Action as Solid Gold in BLOOD TRACKS) they don’t really do that much acting. Instead the story focuses on these two guys in the green room, roadies or something. One guy likes to put on makeup so he can trick groupies into thinking he’s in the band (approved by the band), and his main job seems to be buying drugs for the other guy.

The title is slightly misleading because although I guess they’re technically on tour we only see them in one town, one venue, where they’re playing shows on multiple nights and also having parties. The police are suspicious of the band and their shindigs even before they find a dead lady in the alley, yet they have no security and only a couple suit wearing cops including Lieutenant Lambert (John Green, DEMENTED) occasionally standing in a quiet part of the building looking at documents and stuff. (read the rest of this shit…)

Thursday, October 25th, 2018 | 13 Comments

SLUMBER PARTY MASSACRE II is a kinda cool, kinda odd, but kinda boring variation on the simple part 1. It follows Courtney, one of the first film’s survivors, but recast with Crystal Bernard (Wings). Her older sister Valerie is said to be in a sanitarium somewhere, just now beginning to speak again (after five years, if it’s in real time). Courtney convinces her mom (Jennifer Rhodes, THE TOWERING INFERNO) to let her spend a weekend with her friends at one’s dad’s new condo. But don’t tell Mom that boys will be there.

Much has been made of the first one being written and directed by women, and what that means in a slasher movie centered around a dude with a phallic drill murdering teenage girls in nighties. This one is written and directed by a different woman, Deborah Brock, and has a rare slasher movie occurrence of the female gaze in an opening dream sequence where Courtney pictures her crush Matt (Patrick Lowe, PRIMAL RAGE) shirtless, smiling, throwing a football, while she’s in a non-revealing nightgown. (read the rest of this shit…)

Wednesday, October 24th, 2018 | 4 Comments

HARD ROCK NIGHTMARE is an account of the tragic events that befall the up and coming rock ‘n roll band The Bad Boys when they stay at Jimmy’s grandma’s farm for the weekend. They “gotta get ready for the concert” so at first they practice in their garage with one girlfriend watching. But she accidentally bumps the garage door opener just as three other young female rock ‘n roll aficionados are walking down the sidewalk, so they stand and watch and swoon. But also it attracts a police car and they get shut down.

They’re kind of an unlikely band because there are two dudes with slicked back hair, leather jacket and jeans, others are standard long hair dudes, and a guy with a trenchcoat, and one guy is a Mike Mills looking nerd often wearing a Nike sweatshirt. Like they’re a couple different bands accidentally combined. I’m not sure if all their music is like this, but the song we hear is funny because the chorus is “It’s a nightmare!” but the lyrics are all about wanting to start a band and “work really hard.” The first line is “It started when I got my first guitar at the age of ten…” So the band and “a couple of hot babes” from the sidewalk head out to the farm. (read the rest of this shit…)

Tuesday, October 23rd, 2018 | 7 Comments

In HE NEVER DIED (2015), Henry Rollins (JOHNNY MNEMONIC) plays Jack, which is the guy mentioned in the title, the one who hasn’t experienced death so far. He’s an immortal who just lives a boring life in a dingy apartment, mostly sleeping, sometimes playing Bingo, paying his rent in cash from a box of hundreds he has under the bed. Cara (Kate Greenhouse, TERMINAL RUSH), a waitress at the diner he goes to every day, seems to like him, but I’m not sure why. He shows little emotion or enthusiasm and seems uninterested in understanding normal human social interactions.

This is the story of the time a young woman (Jordan Todosey, THE PACIFIER, Degrassi: The Next Generation) knocks on his door and runs off and then he gets a call from a long-ago ex who he hates who says that was his daughter and can he please find her and make sure she doesn’t drive home drunk, because that’s what she does. Around this same time he’s also getting threats from some gangsters for reasons he doesn’t understand, or seem that interested in understanding.

So it turns into a story about this gruff, seemingly heartless weirdo accidentally forming a bond with his young misfit daughter – a common format, I know, but one I’m always a sucker for. And then the gangsters notice there’s this person in his life, so the two things become intertwined. (read the rest of this shit…)

Monday, October 22nd, 2018 | 85 Comments

(Many SPOILERS in this review, I’m not gonna label all of them)

HALLOWEEN is the new HALLOWEEN in the HALLOWEEN series – the original HALLOWEEN series, not the remake, HALLOWEEN. HALLOWEEN takes place 40 years after HALLOWEEN and acts as if it is the only sequel ever made to HALLOWEEN. So really it could be called HALLOWEEN II, but maybe that would be confusing since there are already two movies called HALLOWEEN II: HALLOWEEN II and HALLOWEEN II.

Other than being produced by Blumhouse, this one’s not coming from any of the usual horror suspects. It’s the first horror movie, sequel or licensed property movie from director/co-writer David Gordon Green, who is best known in my opinion for writing the introduction to my book Seagalogy, but also directed GEORGE WASHINGTON, PINEAPPLE EXPRESS, JOE, STRONGER, etc. He wrote it with Jeff Fradley (Vice Principals) and Danny McBride, who he turned into an actor by having him play “Bust-Ass” in ALL THE REAL GIRLS fifteen years ago and continued with PINEAPPLE EXPRESS, YOUR HIGHNESS and Eastbound & Down. McBride is usually a comedy guy, but remember he also got killed by a faced xenomorphs in ALIEN: COVENANT. So he’s legit.

Since this is a return to the original series, with no dumbass Weinstein involvement, with Jamie Lee Curtis returning as Laurie Strode, and most surprisingly with John Carpenter executive producing and scoring for the first time since HALLOWEEN III: SEASON OF THE WITCH in 1982, there are some high hopes. If you’re not a fan of slasher sequels and want something that transcends them, you might be disappointed. For me, though, it’s a satisfying treat that revisits the series template and most important character with many scenes of great tension and without committing common franchise horror sins like obnoxious characters, overly polished look or intrusive rock ‘n roll soundtrack. (read the rest of this shit…)

Friday, October 19th, 2018 | 43 Comments

VENOM is the red-headed step child of 2018 comic book movies. It’s in the off-brand world of Spider-man supporting characters still controlled by Sony but not allowed into the official Marvel Cinematic Universe. It’s a character that was hugely popular with a certain type of dude twenty-some years ago, but not really in line with current tastes in super heroes, and arguably having lost some stature after being played by Topher Grace in the unpopular (though I liked it) SPIDER-MAN 3. And many have noted that the script – credited to the diverse trio of Jeff Pinkner (THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 2, THE DARK TOWER), Scott Rosenberg (DISTURBING BEHAVIOR, KANGAROO JACK) and Kelly Marcel (SAVING MR. BANKS, FIFTY SHADES OF GREY), based on the character by David Michelinie (made Tony Stark an alcoholic) and Todd McFarlane (SPAWN) – doesn’t seem that different from what it would’ve been if this was made in the late ’90s.

Let’s not get carried away though. The digital FX are like ten thousand times better than SPAWN’s, and you can’t call it a ’90s throwback if it’s not copping the style of THE CROW. This is filmed in normal locations and the end credit songs are by Eminem and Run the Jewels instead of, you know, Incubus or whoever it would’ve been. (read the rest of this shit…)