Death Becomes Her

NIGHTMARE CINEMA: A REVIEW

NIGHTMARE CINEMA: A REVIEW

We don’t get very many all-star horror anthologies these days, in terms of the talent either in front of or behind the camera.  A lot of that might be owed to the fact that we’ve lost quite a few of our icons in the past few years: see https://bigsurlandtrust.org/care/vega-sildenafil-50-mg/20/ my favourite transport car essay for class 1 college essay example how to write a formal proposal for a research paper essay town village https://ramapoforchildren.org/youth/resume-flashget/47/ literature review dividend policy malaysia https://climbingguidesinstitute.org/4306-childrens-written-persuasive-essays/ source business case studies website for essays in english gratis viagra probe buy zoology thesis animal abuse essay narrative essay already written phd online https://caberfaepeaks.com/school/help-with-us-history-homework/27/ http://www.trinitypr.edu/admission/buy-speeches-online/53/ essays on the book to kill a mockingbird source link coca cola philippines case study pdf https://soils.wisc.edu/wp-content/uploads/index.php?apr=teach-creative-writing essay library english https://www.upaya.org/teaching/undergraduate-thesis-topic/21/ https://www.upaya.org/teaching/do-my-dissertation-for-me/21/ m tech it thesis topics https://www.newburghministry.org/spring/best-best-essay-writers-sites-gb/20/ cheap indian viagra follow url viagra stroke pay someone to do your assignment review Romero, Craven, Hooper, Cohen, and besides the beloved Sid Haig, too many great actors to review without things getting painful.  So as a few new opportunities to review these collections arise, how is the sub-genre faring thus far? Let’s take one of the more recently buzzed-about examples and see…

NIGHTMARE CINEMA is the work of a rotating “tag team” of directorial talent, spearheaded by MASTERS OF HORROR creator/showrunner Mick Garris (also director of several Stephen King adaptations, including his celebrated mini-series rendering of King’s beloved epic, THE STAND). The guest helmers include Alejandro Brugues (JUAN OF THE DEAD), Joe Dante (who should require no introduction, but hey: if you haven’t already seen GREMLINS, THE HOWLING or the original PIRANHA about a dozen times each, what the hell are you doing here???), Japanese gore-master Ryuhei Kitamura (VERSUS, NO ONE LIVES and the film version of Clive Barker’s MIDNIGHT MEAT TRAIN), and David Slade (the unsettling HARD CANDY, 30 DAYS OF NIGHT and the controversial “Bandersnatch” episode of BLACK MIRROR.)

The wraparound story features a mysterious character known as “The Projectionist” in a creeptastic old grindhouse that the subjects of the tales find themselves irresistibly drawn to.  As they’re seated inside, the lights go down and the “movie” begins, not only do they discover that they’re the ‘stars’ of their own shows, but the climaxes reveal what their fates actually were. (Spoiler alert: nobody in this flick “lives happily ever after.” Usually.)

It’s a great format to present the stories in, as done in the old-school Hammer and Amicus traditions, and also as in those collections, the quality of the stories vary from one to the other.

In “The Thing In The Woods”, the opener that kicks things off, a group of friends finds themselves in a “FRIDAY THE 13TH slasher scenario, with each person dying horribly one-by-one at the hands of a masked killer called “The Welder”. But there is what I thought was a very clever twist mid-tale that turns the entire crazed killer trope on its head, as the tried-and-true convention becomes something else entirely. Director Brugues shows a great twisted sense of humor with this one, not unlike the tone James Gunn struck in his loving tribute to genre horror, SLITHER, which makes me curious to see JUAN OF THE DEAD, the movie that put him on the map.

Next, seasoned vet Dante puts a new spin on an old classic in “Mirari,” featuring classic movie and TV legend Richard Chamberlain. He is the ‘Dr. Mirari’ of the title; a renowned plastic surgeon charged with helping improve the looks of a disfigured young lady, whose fiancée is helping her in this endeavor, thanks to the generosity of her well-heeled mother-in-law-to-be. If you’re at all familiar with the original TWILIGHT ZONE, there’s an episode this segment draws from, called “Eye Of The Beholder.” However, it takes the premise of that story into a direction that only dyed-in-the-wool horror buffs will probably see coming.

If you’re familiar with his work at all, you know Kitamura for three things: lots of action, a dark and twisted perspective on the world and the ‘human condition’, and blood…lots and lots of blood.  And with “Mashit”, he doesn’t disappoint, in this gore-dripping saga of a priest and a nun at a Catholic boarding school, who must deal with a demonic threat that will engulf and destroy them and the kids, if they fail in their mission to vanquish it. Kitamura gives his usual bloodletting a bit of a Fulci-esque kind of twist, with the inclusion of religious iconography, so the episode does have that bit of giallo horror flavor going for it.

 

Slade gets what’s probably the most disturbingly mind-bending story of the bunch, “This Way To Egress”. At the office of a therapist she’s visiting, a woman finds that one of two things is happening: the therapy obviously isn’t working, as her grip on reality continues to slip into chaos, and she watches the people and the very walls of the building around her rot and decay. Or: she’s somehow begun to see that nothing in the world is as it seems, and she’s being driven mad by the realization of what lies underneath the veil.

The final story, “Dead”, pretty much gives itself away in the title. A young piano prodigy is the sole survivor of a carjacking-gone-wrong that results in the death of his parents. His own near-death brush leaves him open to seeing and communicating with the spirits of those who have passed over, in the hospital where he ends up. It’s a weird and unsettling ‘gift’ straight out of similar stories like GHOST, and just like in that movie, not only are some ghosts not ‘Casper-friendly’, but there are specific ones who have an agenda for the boy…and it’s not a good one. Director Garris uses this last story to bring the entire film full circle.

Let’s talk quality first. As the stories go, it’s my opinion that Brugues’ episode is the most clever, with its Eighties direct-to-video throwback vibe and darkly funny ending; “Egress” is the most imaginative, with its nods to Lovecraft, David Cronenberg and SILENT HILL (both the movie and the games).  You’re never quite sure what’s going to happen next, or what horrible oozing visual you’re going to be subjected to at any given time, which shouldn’t bother a “hardened” horror vet like myself…and yet it does, thanks especially to the strong psychological horror bent of the story, a stunning performance by Elizabeth Reaser, and makeup/visual effects that are far above in their quality what appears in the other episodes. So for me, “Egress” definitely takes the top spot, with “The Thing…” coming in a close second.

It’s no surprise at all that Kitamura’s vignette is the one that will satisfy gorehounds the most. Once upon a time, it was considered an almost unbreakable taboo to put kids in any kind of dire peril in any film let alone a horror film, and this is a convention he takes a mad glee in slashing through (literally), as the demon known as “Mashit” wreaks unholy havoc upon the school and all who live – and die there. I want to avoid as many spoilers as possible, but the bottom line of the tale is this: even the secrets you think you can keep from yourself will be revealed sooner or later, and the outcome is never good.

However, where “Mashit” fails is the under-development of the characters. It’s not a good sign when you aren’t really rooting for anyone, and it’s worse still when the “heroes” are members of the clergy…and you still don’t care all that much what happens to them.  I suppose this may have been intentional, considering the turn the story takes as it nears its gruesome climax.  Where that is unsuccessful, though, “Dead” manages to instill nothing but empathy in the audience, thanks in huge part to the performances of newcomer Faly Rakotohavana as Riley, the child prodigy, and Annabeth Gish as his late mom, Charity.  Lexy Panterra also gives a great supporting turn as Riley’s smart-assed next-door “roommate”, Casey. The chemistry between the actors, and Garris’s touch as a director with ensembles is what elevates it to third place over “Mashit.”

Surprisingly, Dante’s “Mirari” is the one that comes in last. An episode that wouldn’t be at all out of place as an episode of HBO’s TALES FROM THE CRYPT, though it boasts a reliable performance from Chamberlain, it still plays as somewhat derivative. The same could be said of “Dead” as well, but it’s the handling of the stories that determine their effectiveness. Even with the clever twist at the end, Dante can’t avoid the curse of “been there, seen that” in this particular story, while the emotional heft of “Dead” is the main thing it has going for it, helping it overcome the familiarity “hump.”

And speaking of that, since CINEMA is intentionally paying homage to past horror anthologies, the music clearly reflects this, provided by several different composers. Kyle Newmaster tips his hat to John Harrison’s great theme for the immortal CREEPSHOW with a very familiar-sounding riff on it, followed by some good Marco Beltrami-type flourishes in the score for “Woods.” Fan favorite Richard Band does his thing on “Dead” and really has a lot of fun with “Mirari” as he “mirrors” some leit-motifs of his own, cribbing from Alan Silvestri’s wonderful DEATH BECOMES HER score.  Composer J.G. Thirlwell goes for creepy Trent Reznor/Atticus Ross-like discordance and ambiance on “Egress”, while Aldo Shllaku goes full-on Simon Boswell/Claudio Simonetti/GOBLIN with the score for “Mashit”, which does help with its gonzo giallo touches. (And by the way – the sound design on “Egress” really ramps up the skeevy feel of the visual effects, so kudos to that team.)

And finally, the glue that binds this all together: the wraparound sequences. Handled by Garris in addition to the “Dead” episode, they feature Mickey Rourke, having a blast as “The Projectionist.” As with any classic anthology, you need a strong premise to hold it all together, and barring that, a narrator like “The Crypt-Keeper” or “The Creep” with a strong enough presence to keep viewers engaged. Rourke’s performance – which for me is one of the best he’s given in a while – has been debatable among fans to say the least, but I find less fault in his acting, or Garris’s direction, than I do in the scripting of the “binder.”

It’s pretty obvious what purpose The Projectionist serves, but I would’ve liked to have seen the ultimate fates of the doomed characters made more clear. And the gorier their demises, the better, even with what happens in the climax of each tale. But as the disclaimer always states, this is just how things resonated with me…Your ‘mileage’ may vary.

I don’t think a NIGHTMARE CINEMA series would be all that bad an idea. It was fun enough that a weekly two-story installment (similar to Shudder’s CREEPSHOW revival) would be something I’d welcome into my schedule, if they decided to go with it.  Overall, I give CINEMA three-and-a-half out of five stars!

Posted by Samuel Glass in Categories, GORE OR EXTREME HORROR, MONSTERS AND CREATURES, MOVIE REVIEWS, PARANORMAL, REVIEWS, SATANIC/DEMONIC, SCI-FI HORROR, 0 comments

HELLABRATION DELUXE! Thirty-One Days of SHOCKTOBER: Day THIRTEEN – 10/13/18

10/13 – 1999: THE SIXTH SENSE

How in the wide, wide world of sports could it be possible to make and break your career right out of the gate, with your first smash box office hit? Ask extremely controversial director M. NIGHT SHYAMALAN, because that’s exactly what happened with THE SIXTH SENSE, one of the best paranormal ‘mind-fuck’ chillers ever made. And there had been some really good ones that came before, and that followed it. But none had quite the same impact that this did, only the third film he’d made.

BRUCE WILLIS, whose last big film the year before, THE FIFTH ELEMENT, didn’t exactly set multiplex box offices aflame (although now it’s a beloved sci-fi cult classic) stars here as Dr. Malcolm Crowe, a disillusioned child psychologist. Tragically attacked by one of his former charges, who then commits suicide, Malcolm considers himself a failure, and is looking for redemption from the horrific debacle.

His potential chance comes in the form of Cole Sear, the role that defined the career of HALEY JOEL OSMENT, although he’d done some films and TV before, including a small role in FOREST GUMP. As the famous line goes, Cole sees “dead people”, who don’t seem to know they’re dead, and worst of all – they all want to talk to him, though he has no idea why he has this connection to the spirit world.

It’s Malcolm who finally seems to be the most helpful adult that Cole can confide in, as he advises him to listen when the spirits communicate with him, to see what it is that they want. And as it turns out, they want many different things. Perhaps the second most stunning sequence in the film is Cole’s encounter with the ghost of a young girl named Kyra Collins, (future star of “THE O.C.” MISCHA BARTON), whose untimely death via a mysterious illness, turns out to be a lot more than her family knew about.

Shyamalan’s greatest gift isn’t just the cleverness of the storytelling. He has real empathy for all of his characters, even the unlikable ones, and therefore you become equally invested in them.  So much so, that until you’ve seen this multiple times, you don’t realize how he’s setting you up for one of the most stunning ‘reveals’, not just in horror film history, but film in general.  And that’s how he also managed to make and then break himself all at once. Not unlike ORSON WELLES did with CITIZEN KANE, Shyamalan made one of the most audacious debuts to come from a fledgling director up to that time period, and in the films that followed, audiences expected every “Shyamalan twist” to be just as gasp-inducing as the first time. But he soon discovered that the hardest act to follow was himself.

Willis gives one of the best performances of his career outside his usual forays into action blockbusters, (DEATH BECOMES HER has the other great turn). HALEY JOEL OSMENT seemed destined for super-stardom, as one of the least saccharine, real little kids ever to break into cinema. OLIVIA WILLIAMS has what amounts to a cameo as Malcolm’s wife, Anna, but what she does is effective and vitally important to the story, and she’s perfect for it. DONNIE WAHLBERG as the distraught former patient, whose horrendous act of violence sets the plot in motion, shows where the acting chops in that family really are.

But the one to really watch here is TONI COLLETTE, as single mom Lynn Sear. I would go as far as to put her performance right up there with ELLEN BURSTYN’S in THE EXORCIST. As a mother desperately trying to understand what’s going on with her kid, and feeling nearly powerless to help, she neither overplays or underplays it, hitting the sweet spot particularly in a scene that is a tear-jerker: when she truly comes to believe in her son’s abilities, as he reveals something to her that he couldn’t have possibly known about otherwise. (Everyone who’s seen it remembers that scene.) In fact, watching it back again, it comes as no surprise that THE SIXTH SENSE was nominated for – you got it – SIX Oscars, including nods for Osment, Collette and of course for Shyamalan’s directing.

After a rough period of diminishing returns on his features, that seemingly began with LADY IN THE WATER, going rapidly downhill from there, “Night” has made a considerable comeback with THE VISIT, SPLIT, and the soon-to-be-released GLASS. (I wonder if that one holds any interest for me? Hmmm…)  But THE SIXTH SENSE is that one that every director wishes they had in their arsenal, but also fears…because it’s that ‘lightning-in-a-bottle’ that you can only really capture once, and never again.

POST-MORTEM SCRYPT: This was the same year that also gave us RAVENOUS, AUDITION, THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT, STIR OF ECHOES, SLEEPY HOLLOW, and existenZ.

Posted by Samuel Glass in EDITORIALS, FAMILY HORROR, FEATURED CONTENT, HALLOWEEN, OPINION, PARANORMAL, THRILLER, TRIBUTE, 0 comments
MOVIE REVIEW: The Rejuvenator (aka Rejuvenatrix) (1988)

MOVIE REVIEW: The Rejuvenator (aka Rejuvenatrix) (1988)

The Rejuvenator (1988) / Fair use doctrine.Oh, brother. If you love “So Bad It’s Good” movies (or ‘SoBIG’s’, as I usually refer to them), you gotta love the drive-in ‘classic’ and direct-to-video “disasterpieces” from the mid-to-late Seventies, definitely the Eighties, and even some entries from the Nineties and beyond. So, if you’ve never seen 1988’s The Rejuvenator (aka Rejuvenatrix), set your “phasers” on “to be STUNNED!” This is a SoBIG trash wallow at its very finest; a mishmash of all the best aspects of films that actually have gone on to become classics in their own right.

If Death Becomes Her, Sunset Boulevard and David Cronenberg’s remake of The Fly were involved in some kind of horrific car crash, the result, pulled from the tangled, mangled mess of wreckage, would be this little gem. A no-name cast, the community theater-level acting, and some surprisingly good practical effects (for this micro-micro budget), make this a good/bad movie lover’s glistening wet dream.

The Rejuvenator (1988) / Fair use doctrine.The Rejuvenator begins with your garden-variety, B-movie mad scientist, Dr. Gregory Ashton, (John McKay) is doing some, shall we say, unorthodox work in the field of gerontology and biology. Not that he’s actually studying elderly people, but he IS trying to find a way to retard or even reverse the aging process. And naturally, as the movie begins, he’s not having the best of luck in refining said process, as a deformed lab animal kills other test subjects before meeting its own sticky, gooey demise.

The Rejuvenator (1988) / Fair use doctrine.

Ashton’s research is being funded mostly by the vain, petulant, grandiose fading Hollywood actress Ruth Warren (Jessica Dublin), whose agenda for supporting his work is – what else? – to make herself younger again, so she can make her ‘huge big-screen comeback,’ and show the rest of the dime-a-dozen starlets and ingenues how it’s done. It’s not helping matters any that Ashton is constantly being spied upon by his sleazy, unctuous colleague, Dr. Germaine (Marcus Powell), superior sneer and upper-crusty accent included.

The Rejuvenator (1988) / Fair use doctrine.The good doctor and his benefactress aren’t without their own unrequited admirers, though. Ashton is assisted in his research by Dr. Stella Stone (Katell Pleven), a woman who is actually smart and beautiful…not the usual direction that kind of role takes in this kind of picture. Ruth’s not-so-secret admirer is her manservant, Wilhelm, (James Hogue, obviously filling the Erich von Stroheim role from Sunset Boulevard), a former ‘paramour’ from her halcyon days, who is now content to wait on her, hand-and-foot if that allows him to continue to be close to her. (Yes, I see you rolling your eyes, but it’s that kind of movie!)

The Rejuvenator (1988) / Fair use doctrine.

Threatened with losing his funding if he doesn’t come across with the goods, and soon, the harried Dr. Ashton has no choice, but to do what just about all ‘mad-doctors’ do in his situation: he complies. He injects Ruth with the serum he has “almost” perfected, and after the required flurry of surprisingly good low-budget makeup effects, (provided by Ed French, Dan Frye, and Bruce S. Fuller), Ruth magically is converted into…ANOTHER ACTRESS!

You heard me. The stunning ‘new edition’ of Ruth has renamed herself “Elizabeth” (Vivian Lanko, who pulls double-duty here as the “improved” Ruth and as The Thing She Turns Into), whose backstory is now “the young niece of Ruth Warren, who is taking care of her estate, while her aunt goes away on a very long retreat.”

If you’ve seen enough of these monstrosities, (yes, that pun IS intended), you know where this is headed. Being an Eighties film, there has to be enough satisfactory sex and violence, so the sex part comes in when Elizabeth shows Dr. Ashton her gratitude for the miracle he’s worked for her. Wait, don’t leave! There’s so much more…

All the while, in the background, Dr. Stone and Wilhelm skulk around, mooning after their respective objects of desire and imagining what it would be like to finally be with them romantically. (There’s a dream sequence involving all the principal characters that includes a ‘dance number’ you have to see to believe!)

But, back to the ‘youth’ serum. You might recall that I mentioned it was “almost perfected”? Well, it has some pretty disgusting side effects, including the desire to murder random people and remove their brains – Oh, didn’t I mention that? Ashton’s serum is synthesized from human brain tissue, and one of the problems is that the more serum is used, larger and larger doses become required as the body builds up a tolerance to it with each application.

What would an Eighties schlockfest like this be without the opportunity to mix even more sex and violence onscreen? When Elizabeth’s sexual appetites increase with her new youthfulness, she ‘graduates’ from Gregory, moving on to random strangers, and eventually going out on her own to prowl the nightlife, going into the most retro-tastic club you can imagine, where the hot, big-haired, heavy-metal all-girl band called The Poison Dolly’s are playing!

The tunes, which sound like the kind of stuff that The Runaways turned down, are sublimely terrible, and of course, the band is dressed so that not too many people are really paying much attention to the “music.” When the serum begins to wear off and Elizabeth resembles a putrid pumpkin more than Cinderella, this is where the aforementioned murder of some posh poseur happens outside the club…in a phone booth, no less! (Remember those?)

The Rejuvenator (1988) / Fair use doctrine.From here, it’s all pretty much by-the-numbers. Greg Ashton struggles, along with Stella, to try and artificially synthesize the formula in the lab successfully, so that brain tissue from cadavers will no longer be necessary. Meanwhile, the suspicious and jealous Dr. Germaine is closing in to shut down Ashton and his lab for good, snatching the research results for himself. And all the while, Elizabeth’s transformations grow more and more extreme, as does her need to hold onto her newly-found youth – at any cost.

Am I making this direct-to-video hoot sound better than it actually is? If so, my sincere apologies. But this IS entertaining enough that it wouldn’t surprise me if the MST3K/RiffTrax guys or Elvira have already worked their magic with it.

Brian Thomas Jones’ script (adapted from Simon Nuchtern’s original screenplay) and direction, rises above a first-year film school student’s initial project…but not that far above it. Just about all of the actors walk through this like it’s something to pad their resumes with, but not much else, although as the Dollar Store version of “Norma Desmond”, Lanko and Dublin seem to be having the most fun, playing the venial and selfish “Ruth/Elizabeth”. As funny as it plays when the “switch” occurs, Lanko’s not half-bad keeping the continuity going with the character.

It’s probably not even coincidental, the similarities between The Rejuvenator and another film that came out three years before it, Stuart Gordon’s celebrated Lovecraft adaptation, Re-Animator. For all we know, Re-Animator probably had the same level budget but better actors, a seasoned director at the helm, and the ridiculously gory effects of monster master John Carl Buechler.

At the end of the day, just like some of its counterparts, The Rejuvenator makes a great, fun, bad time-capsule worthy window into a crazy-ass decade, as well as a throwback to When DTV Low-Budget Movies Ruled The Earth. The makeup effects guys went on to establish some pretty impressive credentials, even if the cast and creative team did not. But for all the work that went into this, good, bad or indifferent, I feel perfectly fine in awarding it two-and-a-half out of five stars.

The Rejuvenator (1988) / Fair use doctrine.

Oh, and side note: like so many rarities that were only released originally on VHS tapes, I was “lucky” enough to stumble over The Rejuvenator, while surfing YouTube, where it’s one of their free movies. There are other places where you might be able to get it, but I strongly suggest that if you find yourself really jonesing to see this, get to YouTube now while it’s still available.

Posted by Samuel Glass in GORE OR EXTREME HORROR, MONSTERS AND CREATURES, MOVIE REVIEWS, REVIEWS, SCI-FI HORROR, VIDEOS, 0 comments