Monday, December 31, 2012

REVIEW: Jack Frost (1997)

Man, I just haven’t felt very inspired lately. I don’t even know what it is. It’s just…is this all there is to my work here? Have I hit a wall? All I do every week is the same damn stuff with the same damn old jokes. I need to switch things up on this blog before I get so stagnant the dust starts to settle. But since I can’t just sit around and muse for 1000+ words about my own lack of a…muse…I might as well review something anyway while I have your present attention. So what’s it gonna be, Magical Reviewing Lottery?

Director: Michael Cooney
Starring: Scott McDonald, Stephen Mendel

Aw, what? Seriously, this crap? I meant to review this shit years ago, but I couldn’t find it, and I guess that was just the heavens’ way to make damn sure I didn’t lose any more of my brain cells than I had to. Jesus. This is seriously the bottom of the barrel. Not even really the worst out there so much as the most brainless, half-assed nonsense you could possibly create. No effort went into this. No thought. Nothing but pure spite for the love of the creation of good art. Ugh…and I wonder why I’m losing inspiration…

Anyway, whatever, so this is Jack Frost, the killer snowman movie. I guess it starts out with something so stupid I feel embarrassed for even writing it…some kind of “comedic” bedtime story told to a little girl about a serial killer named Jack Frost. Except I should have put “little girl” in quotes, too, because it sounds more like a creepy pedophile trying to imitate a little girl.

See, and I don’t even get why I keep making these crass references anyway; always trying to undermine the movie by being as low as the movie itself, as crude and rude, or even worse sometimes, than the pedestrian material I keep on slagging. And why? It just makes me look bad. I’m above these movies. I know what good writing is and yet I constantly lower myself to the same level as the garbage I claim to make fun of. It’s not good, people. It’s not good!

Oh, so what, the characters in this actually live in a town called “Snowmonton”? I guess it must be next to the Hell Township from Santa’s Slay…we are introduced to our serial killer for the movie, none other than Jack Frost himself. I guess you’re kind of destined to be a serial killer with eyes like these:

Kinda the gene pool's fault on that one.

He kills a security guard in the back of the truck somehow, because, I dunno, they got the security guards from the local mall or something. The two idiots in the front say that Jack Frost is lucky to die because that way he doesn’t have to drive back through the snowstorm. So it must be divine grace that allows their vehicle to flip over like a carnival ride and send them to their icy deaths outside, so they don’t have to make that damn drive home. Darwinian natural selection, folks.

Jack Frost, however, was destined for other paths…he crashes into a truck of genetic materials conveniently driving the same way, and his DNA merges with the snow to create the stupidest thing possible. Somehow I gather this movie wasn't made by scientific geniuses…I dunno why that impulse is so strong though.

Every movie should have a CGI cartoon to explain its plot. If the Godfather had a pastel-colored animation explaining the structural set-up of the mafia families, it would have been improved tenfold. If Casablanca had a claymation sequence explaining the war outside, I bet it would have been a masterpiece.

I mean, really, that’s so stupid you could see it from space. That stupid CGI cartoon…why am I even bothering? This is like…making fun of a mentally handicapped kid. There was no higher thought put into this at all. Me sitting here and bashing on this is about as useful as a blind person getting a job as a traffic coordinator. Not to be prejudiced against the blind, but that’s seriously what my review is like so far!

Then we see a sheriff named Sam Tiler remembering how he caught and apprehended Jack Frost in the horrible act of being parked on the side of the road. Jack was so mad that he started screaming at the top of his lungs about revenge against Tiler and the rest of the town. Because he got caught for murdering people. How dare they want him in jail…and then we see the best winter effects ever…oh, screw it, sarcasm is so passé.

Yeah, pretty sure you need more than just a little pile of snow to make that many snowmen...but hey, with this movie, maybe we're all being duped and the "snowmen" really ARE just supposed to be made out of Styrofoam. Nobody could possibly expect us to believe they look that fake.

Look at that shit. It’s like the middle of summer; how are we supposed to believe this takes place in the middle of wintertime up north? Half the time they have big snowmen built and then nothing but bare brown soil and grass all around them. The scenery conveniently switches between that and actual snowy ground outside when it’s not supposed to be much time passing at all between scenes…it’s just a mess. Suspension of disbelief is fine and dandy, but why would you even want to believe any of this? Like the snowman itself...

That's not a serial killer slasher, that's a Ronald McDonald character reject. Try harder.

Holy hell is that fake looking. I mean that looks like a bad Styrofoam costume. Even five year olds wouldn't believe that. Speaking of little kids, Sheriff Tiler’s son is a little jackass who messes around too much with food in the kitchen with no supervision. I’ve made enough jokes about bad parenting and gone on enough rants. There don’t need to be any more.

Outside, the kid, whose name is Ryan, gets in a fight with some bullies who just come by and screw with him outside his own house. They try to make him snowboard (…), but somehow their leader ends up getting his head cut off. Everyone treats this like it’s just an everyday occurrence, like it’s just a kid with a paper cut. The father of the decapitated kid tries to play off like it was Ryan who killed his son, because I guess this neighborhood has a big history of little kids decapitating their school playmates. The logical conclusion, clearly.

While the town is reeling over that as well as the mysterious murder of some old fart on the outskirts of town that Jack Frost killed, Jack Frost goes and kills a family in the true Yuletide spirit:

Such taste, such class! The Christmas spirit is strong with this movie.

Why is he even doing this at all? I guess he just needs a vehicle for awful puns. After every kill he says some horrible joke that sounds like it came from the bowels of the 1950s. “I only axed you for a smoke!” after killing someone with an ax, for instance…Jesus, these jokes are bad. If you really want to see the worst this movie has, though, look no further than…

Yup. A snowman carrot rape scene. You know what? I’m not even gonna bother. It's tasteless beyond belief, as unfunny as cancer and without any kind of value or reason to exist. Next scene.

There are these two “FBI agents,” note the quotes, who basically are just there to add the illusion that this movie has a story. Every character in this movie is in love with the phrase “Oh shit” as their sole exclamation of shock and awe. Kinda takes the actual shock and awe out of the equation, don’t you think? It’s like this movie was written by idiotic stoned teenagers who watched too many Bill and Ted movies in their parents’ basement.

Jack Frost kills some more people by turning from snow into water, which I guess is one of his genetically altered superpowers…they all end up at the police station where it’s revealed that the two “FBI agents” are actually from some kind of secret science lab or something where the chemicals that made Jack what he is came from. So they’re basically on a PR mission to save their asses. Nice. The attempts at making an actual story out of this – some crap about genetic melding of snow with DNA – are laughable because they could have easily used the miniscule thought that went into this to create something with, I dunno, ACTUAL MERIT AND STORYTELLING WORTH.

"This is only the second or third time we've had a mutant serial killer created by our chemicals...our bad..."

See, and that’s another thing I keep falling back on like mad, that I have to stop. That damn over-use of caps lock to prove a point. I like to accentuate words in these reviews to make them more entertaining and to show how I feel about certain things. But I just have been doing this caps lock shit way, way too much. And it’s sucking me dry.

Sigh…so where were we? There’s a scene where one of the secret agent guys starts shooting his gun at Jack when he’s melted into water…next!

"I'm the top marksman in my class! Water, you better watch out! I'm coming to get you!" God what a friggin idiotic idea...

They eventually blow up the police station and think they’ve killed Jack, but because this movie is resilient to actually pleasing its audience by ending, it continues to drag on. So, then what? They try to kill him in a furnace? Surely that must be the end, right? No, because we still have more bad jokes to puke out and, hey, I still have to make gross bodily fluid references because I guess I have nothing else to fall back on.

But man. This movie is seriously insipid. How many fake-outs do we have to have before it just gets old? Are the makers of this nonsense really contributing anything to the artistic side of film or the comedic side by continuing like this? I’m seriously asking here. It’s beyond simply bad writing and into straight up bizarre, mean spirited and cruel torture on the viewers. Just end it already! You’re doing absolutely nothing worth watching!

Is that supposed to be the real wall? I wouldn't be surprised if they really didn't have the budget to make a wall and then forgot about it later and burst through it like a Wile E. Coyote cartoon.

…yeah, I guess addressing the film like it’s another person I’m talking to in conversation never really worked that well, huh? Those damn movies never listen to me anyway.

After lots more horrendous “comedy,” we finally find out the real way to kill this stupid snowman after all – Anti-Freeze. Lots and lots of Anti-Freeze. They find out because apparently Ryan made Sheriff Tiler some nasty looking goop with Anti-Freeze in it because “he didn’t want him to get cold.” Wow. You could’ve almost killed your father there, you little brat. I think we’ll see this kid on an episode of Darwin Awards someday for something so horrific I don’t even want to imagine. But in this one oddly specific, overly coincidental occurrence…he saves the day. And provides us with the lovely factoid that snowmen can bleed:

Is it an abstract painting? No, but it is proof that even with snowmen, Troma-style gore still has a place.

This movie shouldn’t have had a killer snowman in it. Without that garbage, it would have been a dark story about a little kid who killed his father by messing around in the kitchen with stuff that belongs in a garage. But with it? It’s total wastoid, burnout crap with no value to anyone, and the fact that it has a “cult following,” according to Wikipedia makes me very sad for humanity. But as I am not in the business now of overly exaggerating everything into a life-or-death manner, I’ll just shrug it off and continue being better than the kind of people who would make low-brow, mean spirited trash like this.

As for my own dilemma, I just don’t know what the future holds from this point out. I feel like my reviews have become stagnant. It’s becoming more and more of a strain to write them and I just don’t feel like they’re as good anymore. I still want to do these reviews, sure; but not at the expense of credibility. I’m not as excited about the material I’m reviewing or as interested in actually making new jokes and evaluating things in a meaningful manner. So I think I’ll stop trying so hard and…wait for inspiration to come to me, rather than chasing it futilely. Peace out.

The images in this review are copyright of their original owners.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

A Christmas Story (1983) Tribute

This movie really doesn’t need an introduction, but I am giving it one anyway. A Christmas Story is director Bob Clark’s triumph. A pure tale of nostalgia that everyone can’t help but love, and I’ve never really seen anyone say otherwise. And it’s odd because this is, essentially, a film without a story or conflict. It’s like watching a scrapbook of old family memories, and surprisingly, comes out as one of the best Christmas movies you’ll ever see. Am I a few days late on this, now that Christmas is over? No, because Christmas is never over on Cinema Freaks!

Director: Bob Clark
Starring: Peter Billingsly, Darren McGavin

The first main selling point is Bob Clark’s directing. He does a great job of making this movie flow easy and smooth, and no matter what the subject matter, be it writing a paper in school or walking home and defending oneself from bullies, everything is given weight and gravity. Everything seems important, because to a little kid like main character Ralphie (Peter Billingsly), it is important – it’s life or death stuff. This is not a Christmas movie because it has Santa and snow and snowmen in it than a Christmas movie because it deals with family and memories, and Christmas is largely a time for memories that a family holds dear for years to come. There are so many humorous twists and turns here, from the infamous “leg lamp” debacle that the father is up in arms over...

to the infamous “Ovaltine decoder ring” tragedy... well as the mother’s “wash your mouth out with soap” thing (the scene where Ralphie envisions a future where he goes blind because of this is priceless):

And they just keep on coming. Everything in this movie is imbued with the greatest sense of whimsical wonder and off-the-wall energy, bouncing from topic to topic with little coherence because that’s the way a kid’s mind would really work, in a nonlinear fashion with little coherency. And it is wonderful. The whole thing is tied together with Ralphie's attempts at getting this toy rifle, which everyone keeps telling him "you'll shoot your eye out," and thus refusing him. If only they'd just give in and let him live out his fantasies of being the last old school gunslinger! Even Santa Claus doesn't give him what he wants.

The second selling point that makes this so good is Jean Shepherd’s voice-overs as adult Ralphie looking back on everything years later, and without this, even Clark’s direction wouldn’t be as spotlessly perfect for this. Shepherd’s voice is old and hoary but he is full of verve and excitement too, remembering times when the world seemed bright and colorful. We never see anything about where Ralphie is now as an adult, because it isn’t particularly important. He’s well-off enough to sit down and tell this story for us, and that’s all that matters. Everything is focused on the childhood, the looking-back, the nostalgia. Shepherd moves the movie forward and keeps us as excited as he is – he sounds interested, so we are interested. The kooky fantasies and daydreams are just icing on the cake, and they're all really vivid and funny in just how oddball they are. But every kid had these fantasies, or ones like them, and so they're instantly relatable and likable too.

Of course, this wouldn’t be as good either without the strength of the actors. Darren McGavin as the Old Man is brilliantly over the top and zany, the perfect overly exuberant dad who tries too hard and Melinda Dillon as the overly exuberant mom that worries too much are both a ton of fun and play off each other really well. Though I wouldn’t bet on their children growing up overly sane with how caustic they constantly are. But at least they’re not the kind of parents who would dress their son up in a pink bunny outfit…

Oh, well, I recall my statement. Seriously, how is that a good gift for a nine year old boy? Whoever sent that must’ve been high.

Peter Billingsly as Ralphie is also great, and has to carry many of the scenes by himself, which is tough for a kid – and he does a very good job, becoming at once likable and also having the typical kid stuff like selfishness and a short-sighted scope of the world…he hasn’t grown out of them yet and the movie is touchingly realistic for all that. The scene where he finally beats up the bully who’s been tormenting him all movie long is one of the best in the film. He beats the shit out of him and then breaks down crying. A touching and emotional moment.

And that’s what it really comes down to with A Christmas Story. It’s not a movie you can stick in one genre because it’s full of every genre, from comedy to tragedy and everything in between, because life can’t be pigeonholed into one genre. This is a film that covers all of it, from the good to the bad to the awkward; the touching and the zany; the wild and exuberant and the quiet and mellow. Christmastime is a time for family and memories that end up being something one cherishes, even the most cringe-worthy moments, because in the end it all ends up OK. A Christmas Story is like watching a family photo album come to life, and you get a lot more out of it than you would from a photo album with great direction, great characters, great performances…this is just an all-around stellar Christmas movie.

I don’t really have much to add with this, as it’s a classic and everything about it has pretty much already been said. There isn’t anything I can say that people don’t already know about it, but I’m posting this anyway as a tribute to one of the best feel-good movies around, and a true Christmas classic. I may not get to watch a ton of Christmas movies every year, but this one is always one I throw on. If you haven’t seen it, you’re missing out, and if you have, then you’ll be nodding your head in agreement with every paragraph of this. A Christmas Story is the kind of thing I’d be proud to find under my tree every year.

Images copyright of their original owners.

Friday, December 21, 2012

REVIEW: Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale (2010)

For all the people who really want a Christmas movie about an evil Santa Claus…well, you could go watch Santa’s Slay. But since I talked about that last year, this year I’m diving into Rare Exports, a Finnish horror comedy about a small mining town that comes across the real live Santa Claus buried under a mountain and then tries to pawn him off for money to the corporate bigwigs. It’s…well, let’s just take a look.

Director: Jalmari Helander
Starring: Onni Tommila, Jorma Tommila

We start off with two dumb kids who are the product of such good parenting that they can sneak into a dangerous mining operation where they could be killed at any moment by large, sharp and unpredictable equipment. But it’s OK, because the miners don’t even notice – they’re too busy listening to some fat white businessman talk about how they’re about to uncover something amazing.

"Allow me to take all the credit for your hard work!"

We don’t know what it is yet. But this little kid, named Pietari, has an idea of what it might be as he looks through his old fairy tale books and concludes that it must be Santa Claus. But not the bright and happy Coca Cola Santa Claus of American commercialism; no – this is the evil children-slaughtering Santa Claus of old, buried under the ice because a bunch of villagers tricked him out onto it and then buried him in rocks, creating the mountain that they’re all standing on.

Okay…where the hell do I even start?

For one, what, a little kid solves this whole thing in a matter of one night while a team of grown men are still confused? I guess there is something to be said for Occam’s Razor – the simplest answer is the right answer. And in this case, the simplest answer is…if there’s a mysterious thing underground, it must be Santa Claus. Indeed.

Those footprints look pretty small for the huge creature this movie is saying Santa is., don't they? 

Two, so if this Santa was so bad, how did he get tricked so easily by a bunch of villagers? Seems like the big bad children-murdering fear-monger isn’t so smart. Why should we even be afraid of this guy anyway?

All that brawn and muscle and horns and he's a great big idiot who gets fooled by a stupid trick by some rustic village folk. Wow.

Well, either way, it’s apparently Santa Claus, as foretold by a little Finnish child who dresses like he should be riding a short bus. He tells his best friend Jusso about this, but Jusso doesn’t believe him, probably because Jusso is actually sane. Meanwhile, Pietari’s father and another guy from the village find a mysterious naked old man unconscious and assume he’s one of the miners from up on the mountain. They come to the conclusion that they’ve captured Santa Claus. They’re about to kill him when Pietari spots them…

"Aw, man, daddy's killing someone in the garage again...I feel a lifetime's worth of psychiatry sessions coming from this..."

And then he runs away to the cops! The father is so concerned that he just stands there and waits around for, I dunno, the new world to rise up after Armageddon I guess, before actually going after him at a very stately, relaxed pace that is more like the walk of someone who just had too many Hot Wings at TGI Fridays. Pietari ends up at Jusso’s house where he goes upstairs to find his friend and instead finds…

Because this creepy voodoo doll placed in the bed of a small child doesn’t denote kidnapping or ANY kind of wrongdoing, the adults, INCLUDING THE FRIGGIN POLICE, just shrug it off as a prank. No way somebody could have snuck into his room and taken him away against his will, right? HAS to be a stupid prank! Hell, when I was his age, I put a creepy voodoo doll in my bed so I could sneak out undetected ALL THE TIME! It’s just what kids do!

After that, the villagers go back to the creepy naked Santa they kidnapped and start harassing him for information, shouting at him in several different languages. When he doesn’t respond…they keep on shouting…they truly are geniuses that way…and then they decide to ransom him to the big rich corporate guys who wanted him in the first place. Because every good Christmas movie was always missing a hostage ransom scene orchestrated by the good guys!

They go to get their money, of course bringing the little kid with them because THAT’S the right thing to do. When they try to bargain with the rich guy, they find out that DUN DUN DUN…they don’t really have Santa at all; just one of his elves! Before they have a chance to ruminate on this huge plot twist, they get attacked by…

The greatest Christmas image ever.

Yup. Naked old white men running in the snow. I can’t even make this shit up. But hey, at least this movie gave the geriatrics at the old folks’ home something to do on a rainy day. There is that. “Hey, want to come star in our Christmas-ized version of The Thing with way less atmosphere and scares?” “Sounds awesome!”

After the bourgeois white men are all dead, the main characters go into this warehouse conveniently right next to the spot where they were all meeting, and find out that the elves have been kidnapping children all throughout the village, stuffing them in bags and are waiting to feed them to the giant horned Santa trapped in the ice. They’re trying to defrost the ice with a bunch of stolen ovens, heat generators and even hairdryers. Yes, hairdryers – the elves have stolen hairdryers to try and defrost a mountain-sized block of ice encasing their fallen leader. That’s…so stupid I can’t even put it into words.

The little kid suddenly picks up a gun and starts commanding the adults to gather explosives so they can destroy Santa. Yup…just out of nowhere, he suddenly becomes John McClane as a Finnish boy. If the adults were the ones orchestrating this whole thing, sure, it’d be retarded too, but when the 8 YEAR OLD BOY is the one leading them all? C’mon. But it works out somehow, they save all the kids and Pietari is the new action hero for Finland. Happy day!

The makers of the Die Hard series will be knocking on this kid's door any day now.

But wait! There’s more! Apparently afterwards, they kidnap the elves and train them to be Santa Clauses themselves, and ship them all around the world, cooped up in wooden boxes no less, to make money. Gee, doesn’t that remind you of another shameful chapter of human history?

Eh. Could just be a coincidence.

But yeah, that’s the end of this whole thing, and wasn’t it just perfectly lame? The characters are all either dull or stupid, the plot is just a rip off of The Thing, the humor isn’t that great and it’s just not that impressive of a movie. The idea is interesting but the execution just isn’t very stirring. And seriously, we never even see the Santa Claus in this movie! The big monster that the whole movie builds up to, is never shown on screen! What kind of bullshit is that? I guess I’ll just assume he looks like Bill Goldberg.

Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 14, 2012

REVIEW: Poltergeist III (1988)

Wow, three films in and I am tired of these things. It took six Hellraiser films to make me want to blow my brains out or at least the brains of the filmmakers, but it only took three Poltergeist films!

Director: Gary Sherman
Starring: Heather O'Rourke and the Holy Asshole Choir

This is just shit. I mean the first half hour is just completely unwatchable, with horrible acting, annoying characters and boring pacing to boot. Apparently after the second movie, Carol Anne got sent away to live with her aunt and uncle, who spend the first ten minutes or so of this movie engaging in boring, stilted conversational dialogue. They joke and laugh a lot, but really, while watching these scenes, the audience is having about as much fun as they would be if the movie just looped a picture of a funeral over top.

Can't you just feel the soullessness seeping out of every pore?

In addition to sending Carol Anne to live with her aunt and uncle for no reason, the parents, being colossal jackasses, sent her to a psychiatrist who is under the delusion that she somehow hypnotized everyone in the last two films to convince them of the strange supernatural things that supposedly happened. At first it seems OK I guess, but when he keeps going back to “blame everything on Carol Anne’s manipulative hypnotizing” over and over again throughout the movie, it’s just ridiculous!

We get lots of long, long scenes of this asshole, whose name is Dr. Seaton, just gloating about how clever he is for taking on Carol Anne’s case and trying to help her. Yes, you truly are a badass for bullying and villainizing a little girl, you reprehensible piece of trash. God this character is shit. He makes the dad from the last one look like a saint in comparison! What does he even think? That Carol Anne is like the feminine version of Damien from the Omen, in control of everything behind the scenes, just terrorizing people for the fun of it? WHAT EVIDENCE OF THAT IS THERE? EVER? AT ANY POINT?

"I'm a snooty bastard with low self esteem and no identity outside of my degree, so I just bully and victimize everyone too helpless to do anything about it! Hur hur..."

If that wasn’t annoying enough, we also get a bunch of scenes with Carol Anne riding in the car with her cousin and this other family. It wouldn’t be so bad if the demon-spawn of hell in the form of a bratty little girl whose voice makes Urkel’s look like a choir of angels wasn’t sitting in the front seat:

My God, it's the most horrific daemon these films have ever produced! Call the Ghostbusters! Call in the paranormal researchers! CALL EVERYBODY!

This girl has to be the worst character ever made since…that annoying psychiatrist I just mentioned a paragraph and a half ago! She’s totally insufferable! Everything she says is antagonistic to the extreme and her scratchy, annoying voice will make you want to strangle her with a nine-iron. I know that doesn’t seem possible, but trust me, listening to this girl’s voice will make you think of inventive ways to use a nine iron to cause her death. It’s one of those types of voices.

Finally, we get something that isn’t ear-rapingly annoying or mind-rapingly stupid when cousin Donna wants to go to this party and tells her friend on the phone that Carol Anne isn’t really part of her family and is a little brat…oh, I lied; that IS annoying and stupid! Then when she gets off the phone she tells Carol Anne she didn’t mean it. What a stupid bitch. I hate her already. Carol Anne tells her to go ahead and sneak out and go to the party anyway, which she does with just a little bit of prodding.

So then we get a bunch of boring, tired and dated horror movie clichés as Donna and a bunch of her mullet-sporting brain-dead idiot friends go traipsing around the hotel. They put an ungodly amount of effort into breaking into the pool for some reason – some really convoluted plan involving looping security tapes, hiding from cameras on the ceiling and all sorts of nonsense that might as well be a James Bond movie – yeah, there’s a Skyfall sequel for ya; attack of the dumbass Poltergeist side characters. Real engaging, movie. This movie spends as much time on THIS subplot as it does on the whole “lead me into the liiiiiiiight” shit that the other movies have. That’s backwards! It’s like if a Friday the 13th movie decided to focus more on kids partying than on the actual killi…okay, it’s actually kinda normal for 80s horror movies. Shut up.

We now interrupt your Poltergeist sequel to bring you a Ferris Bueller sequel.

We do get some vague supernatural garbage about Henry Kane trying to pull back Carol Anne to LEAD THEM INTO THE LIIIIIIGHT, and really, what is their fixation on Carol Anne for that anyway? If they’re all groping around in the dark for three movies, you’d think ANYONE ELSE IN THE WORLD would be good enough, even if they were half-assed conductors, but no, they’re still on Carol Anne and nobody else. Why? Can’t you find someone else compatible? Or are you just lazy and mean? It makes no sense. These ghosts aren’t malicious forces of darkness. They’re the spirit-world equivalent of fat-asses sitting on their couches and not changing the channel because they can’t find the remote.

But eventually, Carol Anne and Diane do get taken. Tangina arrives and tries to warn Dr. Seaton about what’s happening, but he just blows it off as Carol Anne’s tricks…yes because a little eight year old girl TOTALLY has the resources to get grown women to call her psychiatrist on the phone in the middle of the night, saying something is wrong. You’re a bona fide genius, man. Why do I get the idea this guy would ignore a house fire if it was someone he didn’t like inside?

Tangina teams up with the aunt and uncle only to find out that, apparently, the evil is inside the mirrors this time, as, I guess, the ghosts and evil spirits only show up in the mirror and not in real life…or something like that. It’s honestly kind of trippy and confusing. Tangina gets killed off by a demonic Carol Anne infected by Henry Kane. She falls over, turns into a wax sculpture zombie and then…this happens:

I always knew Tangina was just a big sack fulla bugs and nasty goop masquerading as a character.  This just confirms my suspicions.

Gross. I guess it is one of the scarier moments in the movie, though, just for how that girl screams when she comes up out of that dead body. Imagining what she went through down there is…well, probably way scarier than anything the bungholes who came up with this movie could think of. And there are a few other good, surreal moments created by the odd lighting and the eerie score, as the aunt and uncle wander around looking for a way to save Carol Anne from the spirit world. The film sometimes takes on a fairly avant-garde style that is interesting, and could have been arresting had the rest of it not been saddled with annoying as shit characters. Like the aunt!


Yes, apparently midway through the film the aunt decided to stop having any redeemable qualities in a human being, and now wants to leave Carol Anne in whatever hellish purgatory she’s in and just go home and have a glass of Chardonnay and watch Real Housewives or something. She doesn’t even care that a young innocent girl is in danger…she just doesn’t want to deal with it, because she’s a callous bitch! Who wrote this? Someone who hates children? God; it’s like a convention of horrible self-centered assholes in here!

So, if you can believe it, somehow the movie ends with the aunt, who has been bitching about how much she hates Carol Anne, the innocent eight year old girl who has never done harm to any living thing in her life, saving the day. Yes, the aunt is the one who stops Kane in the end – she is the big hero of the movie. They try to play it off like she’s learned some valuable lesson and realizes that Carol Anne does matter to her, but really it’s done incredibly poorly, with little transition or logic to it, and how much can you really respect someone like this anyway? Big whoop. You came to the realization that, when a young child is in the jaws of mortal peril, helping her isn’t such a bad idea. Should we give you a medal?

Oh...I guess you already have one...

This is such a piece of trash movie. I guess it has some pretty neat visual ideas, but the conceptual themes aren’t explained much at all, the characters are all annoying beyond belief and to top it off, the whole thing feels NOTHING like a Poltergeist film, borrowing more from generic supernatural 80s disposable garbage. What makes it so much worse is that Heather O’Rourke, who played Carol Anne in all three movies, died before they even finished this, and so this was her sad epitaph – and what a load that is! Who would want to be remembered by this half-assed slop? Just forget this existed and go watch the first two films, as even when they were bad, she at least did a good job in them and they were worth looking at. Unlike this. This can go to hell.

Now as a special testament to those who were lost in between each Poltergeist film...I present to you the mausoleum of the dearly departed.

RIP. You were all taken far too early, and your work on these films is appreciated.

Images copyright of their original owners. I do not own any of them.

Friday, December 7, 2012

REVIEW: Poltergeist II: The Other Side (1986)

After the first Poltergeist movie, they decided to take the incredibly unprecedented and strange path of making another one…such a thing has never been seen before…and this time, they couldn’t get Tobe Hooper or Steven Spielberg back for this one, so you know it’s gonna be good!

Director: Brian Gibson
Starring: JoBeth Williams, Heather O'Rourke

This one is full of over the top acting, racial intolerance and the ups and downs of drinking tequila with weird little worms in it! Sound fun? No? OK!

We start off with something very different from the first one…I don’t mean a long, wordless intro sequence that wears out its welcome; both movies have that. I mean this one starts out at the Grand Canyon with some Indians (oh, I’m sorry…Native Americans) smokin’ ancestral pot and talking about who knows what!

I say that because we don’t actually get a translation for what their dialogue is. So I’ll just substitute my own:

INDIAN #1: Hey, what do you think we’re gonna get out of this whole thing for these cameos?

INDIAN #2: I dunno, they spent all the money the studio gave them on the effects in the climax, plus additional crack and hookers.

INDIAN #1: And they didn’t even share? Damn them! Oh well, let’s just get back to smoking and ruminating on how much better our days were before we starred in Poltergeist II.

After that, we see Tangina Barrons, the midget psychic medium from the first film, back for more midget-ness as she is now an archaeologist in addition to being a spirit medium! She dabbles, you know? Spirit medium…archaeologist…these are all very important jobs for a woman to try out.

"I don't remember what I'm doing in this movie!"

After she wonders where the family from the first one is now, seeing as they are apparently in danger again, we switch scenes to them; speak of the devil indeed. Apparently they are now broke, the father sells vacuum cleaners door to door and the rest of the family just hangs out with Grandma, I guess. I’d tell you more about Grandma, but really she’s barely in the movie and doesn’t have much character. Next!

We see Diane taking Carol Anne and Robbie to the mall, where Carol Anne gets lost. Diane is such a good mother that she doesn’t notice Carol Anne is missing even though she and Robbie had to have walked several yards and even went inside a store not noticing that she wasn’t with them…ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!? This is beyond the rather sloppy parenting of the first film. This is a whole new level of asininely bad parenting! This mother should be put on trial! And what’s that? Carol Anne is talking to a tall, creepy stranger in black when they find her? Color me goddamned surprised!

Looks trustworthy to me!

This is actually the villain of the piece…Henry Kane. He’s corny, hammy and ridiculous, but also the best thing in this film by leagues and leagues. And it is not his time yet. We will get to him soon. Right now, though, we have the death of Grandma to deal with! Happy happy, fun fun. Everything is somber for about two minutes before Carol Anne comes outside and asks if she can be a ballerina…yup, one minute it’s “oh no, Grandma died!” and the next it’s “Mommy I want to be a ballerina!!” This kid isn’t exactly the sharpest crayon in the box, is she? To complete the defecation on the somber atmosphere, we get a goofy jump scare with skeleton hands grabbing at Diane’s feet and everything! Isn’t that just delightfully random and pointless? I think so.

Oh, there’s this whole thing where, all of the sudden, there’s psychic blood in the Grandmother’s family, which has been passed down to Carol Anne and also to Diane, though she doesn’t admit it. This whole plot is just convoluted and, with all the goofy shit going on here, it’s really not given that much attention. What is given attention is the fact that, rather than communicating through TVs this time, the ghosts get to Carol Anne by calling her on a plastic pink toy phone…

"Yes, Mr. President? Old Lady Cranshaw got stuck in a well again? AVENGERS ASSEMBLE!"

…yeah, well that’s retarded, but hey, at least they’re not racking up the phone bill, am I right?!

The family then meets Walter, an Indian guy sent by Tangina to protect them. Why didn’t Tangina herself just come? Because they wanted to shoehorn the guy from One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest into the movie somehow, so screw it; that’s what they did. This character is actually really entertaining, even though it’s basically a caricature of a bunch of jumbled Indian stereotypes from like the 50s. He’s cheerful, patient, kind and spouts never-ending diatribes on spirituality and the fate of mankind. And so the dad absolutely hates him, and spends a lot of time just chewing him out because he’s a mistrustful foreigner!

But when THIS GUY comes by the house and spouts all kind of crazy nonsense, basically veiled threats…they don’t react nearly as suspiciously. What the hell? So a basically well-meaning Samaritan who happens to be an Indian shows up, and you condemn him for no reason…but when a creepy guy in a black coat shows up and starts saying creepy shit, you’re just like “eh, you probably shouldn’t come in here; this is a family zone!”? That’s so backwards it’s almost forwards again!



= eh, he could be OK.

And really, the dad is an ASSHOLE in this! He’s way ruder and less considerate than he was in the first one! He constantly screams all the time, stomps around like the world owes him something and just generally doesn't seem to give a crap about anything besides when he can get his next drink. What the hell happened? Did he just drink a bottle of tequila with a worm in it that made him all evil now? Oh wait…that’s later on…

Right now, we have EVIL BRACES to contend with!

Yes, those are supposed to be braces. The kid was just brushing his teeth and then this happened...that escalated quickly...

That’s as strong an endorsement for better dental care as I’ve ever seen. I think this should be in a commercial for some dentist’s office…don’t stop flossing, or you have to get braces which will EAT YOU ALIVE if you’re bad! Put the fear of God into those little bastards. Teach them to eat junk food!

While that’s going on, Walter the Indian Chief was protecting Carol Anne, which the dad yells at him for, because apparently Walter has to be in five places at once or else he is a bad Indian. And really, how dare Walter stick his neck out and protect a scared, innocent little girl. Man, the dad is an ass in this. Can’t something just shut him up for good?

Later on, Tangina comes to the house and warns the family of Henry Kane, or rather, the creepy black-clad dude with teeth the size of the Mississippi River who’s been stalking them lately. She says he’s a dead cult leader who doesn’t know he’s dead, who once led a cult to an underground cave and killed them all because he’s so evil. And guess what was built over that grave site years later? That’s right – the house that the family lived in in the first movie! Don’t they just have the best luck in real estate? And hey, wait a minute. Wouldn’t a bunch of dead cult members prove an interesting subject for, oh I dunno, THE FRIGGIN’ POLICE? Why haven’t they sent, like, the FBI or some shit over to check this out? Why is it just one crazy midget lady and her Indian buddy digging through it? This makes no sense and I refuse to believe it!

So, yeah, apparently Kane’s modus operandi here is to get Carol Anne back so he can use her to open up the portal to the spirit world and let all the ghosts out. Just like in the first one. Meanwhile, the dad and Walter are out in the mountains getting in touch with the “Power of Smoke,” which apparently can repel Kane somehow.

It sure is convenient that these movies take place in driving range of these ancestral, spiritual holy Indian places so the characters can do things like this. Imagine if this stuff happened in, like, Chicago or something. Then they'd really be screwed!

But only if the dad does NOT get drunk…which he does a few scenes later literally in the very next scene. Yup, he can’t even see a damn nasty worm in his tequila; he’s so drunk. You worthless waste of a human being...

But wait! All is not lost! We do get some of the funniest scenes in the movie as the dad is possessed by Kane, and turns in an even more over the top performance than Kane himself does. He juts out his lower jaw, throws Diane around the room and shows his teeth as much as he can, and it’s all so incredibly, incredibly silly. I mean it’s just too much.

Luckily he remembers his love for his wife right before he’s about to rape her, and instead vomits up…well, whatever this shit is:

I have to hand it to Poltergeist II…it is constantly forcing me to re-evaluate my standards of oddness and come up with new ways to say “that’s some totally fucked up, weird-ass shit that has no place in the right and true harmony of nature.”

And in the next scene, they get attacked by garage tools, plus a kuh-RAAAAZY chainsaw!

Pfft, chainsaws that work by themselves? Next you'll be telling me they'll have portable phones, or computers you can carry around under your arm! Technology is just moving by so fast these days.

Really the only way they could top the weirdness in this movie so far would be to just say ‘screw it’ and go full-time green screen with the ‘spirit world’ in which they have to go to to rescue Carol Anne and Diane after they get kidnapped! And what follows is very, very trippy. As in “I’m pretty sure the editing room staff swallowed a bottle of potent painkillers before making this.”

They're trapped in the dimension of loopy green screens and Zero G test runs!

Y’know…I’m just out of jokes. I got nothing anymore. The movie is far too weird for me to even compare. It’s getting hard to even review these movies; they’re so strange and out of the blue. They’re just…collections of silly over the top horror movie randomness, like a Looney Tunes cartoon filtered through R. L. Stine’s study hall doodles. They eventually get out of the spirit realm because the dead grandmother comes back and makes sure nothing bad happens…how convenient.

Then the movie ends with Walter breaking out of the mental institution by smothering the dad with a pillow and then making a run for it…nah, actually it ends with him stealing the family car and driving off with it leaving them stranded there. Ha ha ha! What a contrived attempt at a comedic ending! It’s like building up an incredibly grandiose, complex joke and then ending with a fart joke you heard from the guy at the office who smells like the inside of your glove compartment. What a load.

This movie is confusing to review because on the one hand, it is totally god-awfully entertaining shlock, but on the other hand it just kind of sucks. While it does have its humorous scenes, the innocent Spielbergian charm of the original is completely lost. None of the characters are likable anymore; either they’re complete jackasses like the parents, or just forgettable like Carol Anne and the grandmother. The whole thing just feels dirty, unpleasant and perverted compared to the rather subtle and quiet charm that the original sometimes had with its character-building moments. This one tries to make up for not having Spielberg on board by amping up the goofy moments, but those just feel hollow and over-done, like they were just trying to be as cartoonish as possible without any actual scares. C’mon, a chainsaw flying around? A little worm that turns you into a bad Nicolas Cage impersonator? Get real.

The only aspect of this movie that really worked was Julian Beck as Henry Kane, who unfortunately passed away during filming, which is why he doesn’t appear all that much. It’s a shame because he could have been a great horror villain, but instead he was just wasted on this goofy-ass movie. All in all, this was the worst One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest sequel ever!

Images copyright of their original owners.