Film Review: Psycho IV: The Beginning (1990)

Release Date: November 10th, 1990
Directed by: Mick Garris
Written by: Joseph Stefano
Based on: characters by Robert Bloch
Music by: Graeme Revell, Bernard Herrmann (original themes)
Cast: Anthony Perkins, Henry Thomas, Olivia Hussey, C. C. H. Pounder, Warren Frost, John Landis, Kurt Paul, Sharen Camille

Smart Money Productions, Universal Pictures, NBC, Showtime, 96 Minutes

Review:

“All that faith and no potatoes.” – Norman Bates

For being a made-for-TV movie and the third sequel in a series, Psycho IV isn’t half bad. Hell, I even like it a bit more than the third film, even if it is missing Jeff Fahey, who killed it in that picture.

The cast in this one is really well-rounded though between the returning Anthony Perkins, as well as Henry Thomas, Olivia Hussey and C. C. H. Pounder. Honestly, this is a really well acted picture that saw its main players give it their all with really solid and compelling results.

The picture starts with Norman Bates being cured but we’ve seen that in the two previous pictures until events pushed him over the edge and back towards his serial killing slasher self.

What’s different and unique about this picture is it involves Norman calling a radio show discussing boys who have murdered their mothers. He uses the name “Ed” while on the air but he talks through his past, primarily his early years, in an effort to fight off his killer tendencies from returning.

With that, this film serves as both a sequel and a prequel. It takes place after Psycho III but it spends a great deal of time flashing back to his life before the events of the original Psycho. It delves into his bizarre relationship with his mother and how it shaped him into the man he became.

Henry Thomas, most famous for playing Elliot in E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, shows that he was a good actor and he creates a young Norman that is sympathetic yet disturbed.

However, his performance is enhanced by the talent of Olivia Hussey, who plays his mother Norma Bates. The film examines the sexual tension between mother and son and it’s really the plot of this movie that gave birth to the concept that became the Bates Motel television series. And honestly, I prefer this version of a Psycho prequel.

Adult Norman, still played by Perkins, who really committed his life to this role and who always delivers an A-plus performance, shared most of his scenes with the always good C. C. H. Pounder. While the scenes they share are over the phone, as both act out their scenes in different rooms separate from each other, the two had perfect chemistry and their discussions are emotional and believable.

But giving credit where credit is due, a lot of this also probably has to do with the quality of the editing and the overall film direction. These two actors were on completely different sets, probably filming on completely different days but their combined efforts worked and it carries the picture at its most important parts.

What’s fantastic to me, is that I never expected much from Psycho sequels. The first one is perfection and anything else, I thought, would diminish it. But I was wrong. While none of the sequels are as good as the original Hitchcock film, each is still good in their own way and every chapter feels like it enhances the larger story that is Norman Bates’ complete life.

I hope that Anthony Perkins was pleased with the end result of all these films.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: The other Psycho films.

Film Review: Honey, I Blew Up the Kid (1992)

Also known as: Big Baby, Honey, I Blew Up the Baby (working titles)
Release Date: July 17th, 1992
Directed by: Randal Kleiser
Written by: Garry Goodrow, Thom Eberhardt, Peter Elbling
Based on: characters by Stuart Gordon, Brian Yuzna, Ed Naha
Music by: Bruce Broughton
Cast: Rick Moranis, Marcia Strassman, Robert Oliveri, Amy O’Neill (cameo), Lloyd Bridges, John Shea, Keri Russell, Gregory Sierra, Julia Sweeney, Ron Canada

Touchwood Pacific Partners 1, Walt Disney Pictures, Buena Vista Pictures, 89 Minutes

Review:

“There’s one thing every little kid knows. Daddies mean fun; mommies mean business.” – Diane

This is a bad sequel. In fact, it’s a horrendous sequel.

And that sucks because Rick Moranis is a Canadian national treasure.

The reason this film is terrible is because it completely lacks the most important element of its predecessor: Honey, I Shrunk the Kids. That element is adventure.

Honey, I Blew Up the Kid is just a goofy comedy where a giant toddler descends upon downtown Las Vegas and brings no real kaiju level terror. He just picks up random things and plays with them like an actual f’n toddler.

The previous film saw four kids get shrunk to a size smaller than ants and then saw them have to make it across their backyard, fending off giant bees, fighting giant scorpions, surviving a lawn mower and dealing with a half dozen other threats to their lives.

This film dealt with babysitting a giant toddler that just ends up escaping anyway. None of this is fun, funny or all that entertaining. The jokes are weak, the gags are lame and the only giant props in the film are the random pieces of crap the toddler has in his front pocket.

There’s honestly not a whole lot to say about this movie. It’s bad on just about every level and it shouldn’t exist.

Rating: 2.75/10
Pairs well with: I guess the other Honey, I Re-Sized A Family Member movies.

Film Review: The Dead Talk Back (1957/1993)

Release Date: 1993
Directed by: Merle S. Gould
Written by: Merle S. Gould
Music by: Don Cheek, George Rhoden, Van Phillips (uncredited)
Cast: Aldo Farnese, Scott Douglas, Laura Brock, Earl Sands, Myron Natwick, Kyle Stanton, Sammy Ray

Headliner Productions, 65 Minutes

Review:

“Tellin’ them innocent kids stories about the dead and their hauntings! That’s the work of the devil. You’ll pay for it. The Devil! That man is the Devil Himself!” – Christy Mattling, “Oh shut up, you potentate of righteousness!” – Renee Coliveil

The Dead Talk Back was a lost film; shot in 1957, it never saw the light of day. Nearly four decades later, however, it was discovered in a warehouse and then found a video release in 1993 by Sinister Cinema. A year later, it was ripped to shreds courtesy of Mystery Science Theater 3000.

At the start of this picture, I was taken aback by the really bad opening titles. But once the film cut to the first scene and the fourth wall was broken by the paranormal scientist guy explaining what we were about to see and the “science” behind the dead’s ability to speak to us, I was sort of captivated.

The opening was so bizarre that it was intriguing. It wasn’t something that you really see from the era in which this was made and it showed me that this schlock-y filmmaker was possibly ahead of his time or that he was so bad he broke the rules of the medium without realizing he was doing so. I think it might be a little bit of both because as hammy as it was, it still aroused my curiosity in a way that was positively effective to the narrative of the movie.

Beyond that, however, everything really does sort of turn to shit.

This paranormal scientist lives in a house with a bunch of roommates. One of the girls is then killed by a crossbow, which is pretty brutal and over the top for 1957. Anyway, the paranormal scientist is pretty sure that one of his housemates murdered her. The police also believe this so they hire the scientist to conduct a paranormal investigation.

The scientist interviews his housemates in an effort to draw out clues or a confession. He can’t really talk to the dead yet so he makes it appear that he can, hoping that the experience will cause the killer to crack under the pressure.

The killer is discovered and then the scientist admits to his ruse but says that he will eventually find a way to communicate with the deceased.

I actually like the concept and thought that the plot was interesting, however, it was unfortunately executed poorly and the film is mostly drab and boring despite a few neat highlights.

It keeps you a bit on edge, thinking that something paranormal may actually happen but I like that it doesn’t and that this is realistic in that way, as opposed to going for a cheap, predictable thrill. I’d like to think that this was an intentional subversion of expectations but I think it had more to do with the limitations of the production.

The Dead Talk Back is mostly a bad movie. But it was still engaging in parts and quite unique.

Rating: 3.75/10
Pairs well with: other crime/mystery movies shown on MST3K.

Film Review: L.A. Confidential (1997)

Release Date: May 14th, 1997 (Cannes)
Directed by: Curtis Hanson
Written by: Brian Helgeland, Curtis Hanson
Based on: L.A. Confidential by James Ellroy
Music by: Jerry Goldsmith
Cast: Kevin Spacey, Russell Crowe, Guy Pearce, James Cromwell, David Strathairn, Kim Basinger, Danny DeVito, Ron Rifkin, Graham Beckel, Matt McCoy, Simon Baker

Regency Enterprises, The Wolper Organization, Warner Bros., 138 Minutes

Review:

“Go back to Jersey, sonny. This is the City of the Angels, and you haven’t got any wings.” – Capt. Dudley Smith

I’ve seen parts of L.A. Confidential over the years and I knew enough about the story before even watching it but yes, this is my first viewing of the film in its entirety.

While that may seem odd for a fan of film-noir, I didn’t become a true lover of noir fiction until I got past my teen years. Sure, I always liked crime movies but the noir aesthetic didn’t truly penetrate my psyche until my late 20s and really didn’t make me do a deep dive into the cinematic style until my mid-30s.

Now L.A. Confidential is a modern neo-noir that takes its narrative and stylistic cues from classic film-noir but it has this pristine razzle dazzle about it and that’s not simply because of the star power. It’s visual allure is just breathtaking and while other films in the ’90s tried to encapsulate the noir look, albeit in color, there is just something fantastical about how this comes off on screen.

On one hand, the movie feels like a dark fairytale of a time long gone and a world that doesn’t exist in the same way. On the other hand, there is a gritty realness to it that makes the darker parts of humanity come across as genuine and frightening.

That being said, this is still great because of its star power on top of the film’s visual look. You really have a solid cast between Guy Pearce, Russell Crowe, Kevin Spacey, James Cromwell, Kim Basinger and Danny DeVito. Everyone does a perfect job with the script and the story.

However, I think the glue that holds everything together so well is director Curtis Hanson. While not having a prolific name like Scorsese, Coppola or De Palma, he takes the crime fiction material and makes it work, incredibly well. He got the most out of his cast while having a great eye for mise-en-scène. The film boasts stupendous cinematography and shot framing.

The score by Jerry Goldsmith is also pretty close to perfect.

My only real complaint about the film comes in regards to its pacing. While mostly energetic, there are a few points in the film that drag a bit more than they need to. I didn’t find it to wreck the movie or even be much of a distraction, though.

The ’90s produced a lot of neo-noir motion pictures but L.A. Confidential certainly deserves its place in the upper echelon.

Rating: 8.75/10
Pairs well with: other ’90s neo-noir films: Heat, The Two Jakes, The Usual Suspects, Mulholland Falls, Seven, Red Rock West, Devil In a Blue Dress, Dick Tracy, etc.

Film Review: Bride of Chucky (1998)

Also known as: Child’s Play 4, Chucky, Chucky and His Bride (working titles)
Release Date: October 16th, 1998
Directed by: Ronny Yu
Written by: Don Mancini
Based on: characters by Don Mancini
Music by: Graeme Revell
Cast: Brad Dourif, Jennifer Tilly, Katherine Heigl, Nick Stabile, John Ritter, Alexis Arquette, Gordon Michael Woolvett, Kathy Najimy

David Kirschner Productions, Midwinter Productions Inc., Universal Pictures, 89 Minutes

Review:

“My mother always said love was supposed set you free. But that’s not true, Chucky. I’ve been a prisoner of my love for you for a very long time. Now it’s payback time.” – Tiffany

Initially, I didn’t know what to make of this movie when it came out in 1998.

Over time, I grew to love it though, as I mostly see it as a black comedy, which is how it’s really intended to be seen. It’s not so much a parody of the Child’s Play movies, as it is a true vehicle to just let Brad Dourif’s Chucky be unrestrained from trying to make a more serious slasher film.

Bride of Chucky goes beyond horror accented by comical one-liners and evolves the franchise into something more in-line with its star character’s personality. Overall, it’s less scary and less terrifying but it makes up for that in its coolness. And it really does get nuts in the best way possible.

Now with that being said, I don’t like it as much as the original three films but it is more energetic and more fun, overall. Without, I feel as if it has more replay value than most of the movies in the series.

I love the inclusion of Jennifer Tilly as Tiffany, Chuck’s actual bride who also becomes a killer doll. And of course, this leads to the sequel Seed of Chucky, which focuses on the offspring of the killer dolls. Most people seem to hate that movie but I kind of love it too for what it is but I’ll get into that when I review it, specifically.

Ronny Yu did a fine job of giving life and energy to Don Mancini’s script and frankly, I thought he was a wise choice. I also love his Freddy Vs. Jason, even though some people think it sucks. But fuck those people, as Yu understands how to turn these slasher franchises into something beyond the norm, which was kind of needed in the time that he made this film and FvJ.

The best part about this (and its sequel) is the chemistry between Tilly and Dourif. It’s f’n spectacular. Where I originally wasn’t keen on the concept before seeing the film, Tilly won me over almost immediately and proved she was a perfect choice for the role. And she has since become nearly as iconic as Chucky.

Bride of Chucky is an enthralling entry into a series that didn’t have much left in the tank. It reinvented what a Child’s Play movie could be and it left the door open for more, which allowed the Dourif era to flourish for three more films.

Despite my distaste for the 2019 Child’s Play reboot, I’m glad that the Dourif version of Chucky still isn’t dead, as there is a television show in-development, which will continue to build off of this movie and all the ones before and after it.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: all the Child’s Play movies except the 2019 reboot.

Film Review: Fatal Fury 2: The New Battle (1993)

Release Date: July 31st, 1993 (Japan)
Directed by: Kazuhiro Furuhashi
Based on: Fatal Fury: King of Fighters by SNK
Music by: Toshihiko Sahashi

Nihon Ad Systems (NAS), 75 Minutes

Review:

While the first movie didn’t age too well, I still wanted to watch the second one, as it bridges the gap between the first and third movies and because I remember the third one being exceptionally good for the time.

These films are based off of the fighting game series of the same name, a series that would eventually evolve into the popular King of Fighters franchise.

I would say that this chapter is a step up from the first one, as it is longer, has more story and also has more fighting and introduces fans to other beloved characters that didn’t fit in the first chapter.

The plot mostly follows the plot of the second game and introduces the villain Wolfgang Krauser, who appears to be a bigger badass than Geese Howard of the original game and film. It also brings in the matador villain Laurence Blood, as every big baddie needs a top henchman. Blood is to Krauser what Billy Kane was to Geese.

I think that the animation here is pretty consistent with the first film but it may be a hair bit better. Where I did notice improvement was in the action, especially the fighting scenes.

Fatal Fury 2: The New Battle expands the story quite a bit and it helps to set the stage for the followup: Fatal Fury: The Motion Picture, which was the finale and the only one that saw theatrical release.

Rating: 6.5/10
Pairs well with: the two other Fatal Fury movies.

Film Review: Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991)

Also known as: T2 (promotional abbreviation)
Release Date: July 1st, 1991 (Century City premiere)
Directed by: James Cameron
Written by: James Cameron, William Wisher
Music by: Brad Fiedel
Cast: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Linda Hamilton, Edward Furlong, Robert Patrick, Joe Morton, Earl Boen, Jenette Goldstein, Xander Berkeley, Dean Norris, Mark Christopher Lawrence, Nikki Cox, Michael Biehn (cameo – Special Edition and Ultimate Cut)

Carolco Pictures, Pacific Western, Lightstorm Entertainment, Le Studsio Canal+ S.A., TriStar Pictures, 137 Minutes, 153 Minutes (Special Edition), 156 Minutes (Ultimate Cut)

Review:

“[narrating] The unknown future rolls toward us. I face it, for the first time, with a sense of hope. Because if a machine, a Terminator, can learn the value of human life, maybe we can too.” – Sarah Connor

When I was middle school aged, this film hit theaters. At the time, I thought it was just about the best movie ever made. At that age, it appealed to me more than the superior original but I think that’s because I was roughly the same age as John Connor and I was living vicariously through his experience in the film.

The thing is, this is still an utterly stupendous motion picture and one of the best that James Cameron has ever done. But, as an adult, I can’t put this over the masterpiece that is the original film.

Still, it is an incredible film and a great thing to experience, even for the 38th time watching it. Honestly, I may have seen it more than that as my VHS copy broke years ago.

It’s been a long time since I’ve revisited this classic, though. But this was the first time I watched the Special Edition, which added in new scenes and longer cuts. The most important of those is a scene where Michael Biehn returns as Kyle Reese in a dream Sarah Connor has while still locked up in the mental hospital.

There is also a cool scene that shows John defy his mother in order to spare the Terminator that is protecting them. It’s actually a good character building scene that probably should have been left in, as it shows John’s natural leader personality come through and it also amplifies Sarah’s paranoia about working with a Terminator.

The only other notable addition is a scene that shows Miles Dyson and his family. This probably should have been cut but it is nice to see him trying to balance his personal life and work life.

Everything in this movie still holds up today. While the special effects might not be as impressive in 2019, they don’t look bad and for the time, they were lightyears ahead of what anyone else was doing. And it was those great digital effects that made the villainous T-1000 exist and frankly, he is still one of the most terrifying villains in movie history. But I have to give credit to Robert Patrick for that, even if its the effects that allowed him to come into being.

All the practical effects are top notch too, from the opening sequence of the war from the future and all the makeup, prosthetic and animatronic work they had to do for Schwarzenegger’s Terminator in the second half of the film.

But getting back to the acting, it’s a mixed bag, really.

Linda Hamilton has never been better. Also, Schwarzenegger is pretty perfect but this version of the Terminator character is written in a way that doesn’t require much from him other than what is naturally present in his real personality. That’s not a knock against Arnold, as much as it is a nod of respect to James Cameron for giving us a more human cyborg that is trying to become something more than just a killing machine. The script and the dialogue written for Arnold enhance his strengths and don’t force him to have to deal with his weaknesses. Frankly, it enhances the overall experience.

Now Edward Furlong did okay, being that this is his first film but I felt like his performance could’ve been fine tuned more. When I was a kid, I didn’t give a shit, I thought he was cool. As an adult, I see some of the problems with his acting but at the same time, he’s far from terrible. Where it sometimes doesn’t work really isn’t his fault either. James Cameron should’ve just stepped in more and helped the kid. But then, I also don’t know how many takes were shot and its possible that these were just the best they could get and had to move on.

I mentioned that I like the first movie the best but this one does a much better job of world building and in that, this feels like the most complete and overall satisfying film in the franchise. Where the first film feels more like a sci-fi slasher movie with guns instead of knives, this feels more like something akin to the epic world building of Star Wars or The Lord of the Rings.

This film certainly has the most to offer in regards to the franchise as a whole. And since nothing after has really come close to its greatness, there isn’t much reason to watch the films that follow. Besides, they all start contradicting each other and this franchise has been rebooted three different times because it became a giant mess.

Eventually, I will get around to the other films just to review them. I already reviewed Terminator: Genisys when it came out back in 2015 but I haven’t revisited Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines or Terminator: Salvation since they were in theaters. Plus, I’ve still got to watch the TV show but I’ve heard that it’s actually pretty good.

Rating: 9.5/10
Pairs well with: the first Terminator film. Ignore the sequels after this one.