Film Review: Ghoulies IV (1994)

Also known as: Ghoulies 4 (Germany)
Release Date: August 17th, 1994
Directed by: Jim Wynorski
Written by: Mark Sevi
Based on: characters by Luca Bercovici, Jefery Levy
Music by: Chuck Cirino
Cast: Peter Liapis, Barbara Alyn Woods, Stacie Randall, Raquel Krelle, Bobby Di Cicco, Tony Cox, Arturo Gil

Cinetel Films, 84 Minutes

Review:

“[after shooting an armed robber] Clean up on aisle 4.” – Jonathan Graves

Ghoulies IV isn’t really a Ghoulies movie if you take into account that there aren’t any actual Ghoulies in the picture.

Instead, we get two troll characters that don’t really have much to do with the overall plot and pretty much just crack bad jokes and break the fourth wall. It’s like Deadpool stole their whole shtick.

Now this is related directly to the first film because the main character is the same. However, Jonathan Graves (again, played by Peter Liapis) is no longer some twenty-something warlock. He is now a detective for some strange reason. He also tries to act like Sly Stallone’s Cobra character but is really unconvincing.

Graves’ ex-occultist girlfriend from Hell comes back to steal some magic gem from his necklace. She’s trying to resurrect some dime store Satan guy and nothing is really ever that clear in this movie. It’s crazy shenanigans, has no Ghoulies and is pretty boring, overall.

This is the worst of the Ghoulies films by a landslide. All of the other ones had things that made them enjoyable and entertaining. This one lacks all of that but it also isn’t so horrible that it’s unwatchable. But you don’t need to see it, even if you like the first three movies.

Rating: 4/10
Pairs well with: The other three Ghoulies films, the Munchies films, Hobgoblins and Sorority Babes In the Slimeball Bowl-O-Rama.

Film Review: Interview with the Vampire (1994)

Also known as: Interview with the Vampire: The Vampire Chronicles (full title)
Release Date: November 9th, 1994 (Westwood premiere)
Directed by: Neil Jordan
Written by: Anne Rice
Based on: Interview with the Vampire by Anne Rice
Music by: Elliot Goldenthal
Cast: Tom Cruise, Brad Pitt, Kirsten Dunst, Antonio Banderas, Christian Slater, Stephen Rea

Geffen Pictures, Warner Bros., 122 Minutes

Review:

“The world changes, we do not, there lies the irony that finally kills us.” – Armand

In the ’90s and early ’00s, I watched this film a lot. But I had seen it so many times that I actually haven’t seen it now for at least a decade. But that time off from it made me appreciate it even more.

This is the best vampire motion picture of the 1990s. It is pretty damn close to being a masterpiece. It is a beautiful adaptation of a book that really has become a literary classic, at this point. And it’s great to see that Anne Rice penned this script, as no one knows these characters better than she does.

There are a few minute changes from the book. The stuff with Louis’ wife was omitted and the character of Armand has a different appearance from the literary version. However, these minor alterations don’t matter within the context of this film. Had it actually gotten sequels (and it should have) the Armand thing might of been a bit problematic but I’m still okay with Antonio Banderas in the role for this one-off outing.

Anyway, Neil Jordan did a superb job directing this. He had just come off of The Crying Game, a film that earned him two Academy Award nominations for direction and script, and also had some experience with supernatural gore after his work on the barely remembered film The Company of Wolves. Both of those experiences would serve him well in this film, which had supernatural gore and also tapped into very light homo-eroticism between a few characters.

One thing that really stands out is the film’s score by Elliot Goldenthal. It has the makings of a great classical composition mixed with some very powerful and energetic flourishes that help accentuate the scenes in ways that a less capable score wouldn’t have been able to accomplish. The music also flows with the picture, it’s not distracting or in the way, it just exists to set the tone appropriately and really, that’s all a film score needs to do. But the craftsmanship of these classical tunes is what sets this film apart and gives it such a grandiose feel. There are just few scores that can make this sort of emotional and narrative impact in modern film.

The acting in this is also possibly the best you will see in any vampire movie. Tom Cruise, at first glance, just doesn’t seem to fit the role of Lestat but he was absolute perfection and this is still my favorite performance of his. This was also where I first noticed Brad Pitt. This is where his career was really born, in my opinion, as this was a turning point for him and his exceptional abilities. I could use those same words for Kirsten Dunst and Antonio Banderas, as well. Both of them made such an impact in this that it really helped to set them off towards bigger and better things going forward.

Something else that stands out is the special effects handled by Stan Winston and his team. Most notably, the scene where Lestat is withering away to a corpse on the floor. That moment was masterfully crafted and has held up exceptionally well. It looks better than the vast majority of CGI effects that would have been used to achieve this today. Also, the amazing looking ash remains of Claudia and Madeleine were made by Winston and based off of photographs of victims from Hiroshima.

Interview with a Vampire is a perfect storm. It’s a film where everything, at every level, went right for the production. While there are some other good vampire films from the 1990s, this one takes the cake for me. It’s stellar from start to finish and it’s still an incredibly satisfying experience even after seeing it well over a dozen times.

Rating: 9.75/10
Pairs well with: Bram Stoker’s DraculaNear Dark and The Lost Boys.

Film Review: Stargate (1994)

Release Date: October 28th, 1994
Directed by: Roland Emmerich
Written by: Roland Emmerich, Dean Devlin
Music by: David Arnold
Cast: Kurt Russell, James Spader, Jaye Davidson, Viveca Lindfors, Erick Avari, John Diehl, French Stewart, Richard Kind, Djimon Hounsou

Centropolis Film Productions, Carolco Pictures, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 121 Minutes

Review:

“Give my regards to King Tut, asshole.” – Colonel Jonathan “Jack” O’Neil

This is the first time that I have watched Stargate since the movie theater in 1994. I was a sophomore in high school when it came out and while I wasn’t blown away by it, at the time, I still thought it was a fun blockbuster that probably should have been a summer movie.

I think that other people had a much stronger impression of it than I did, as it would go on to spawn three sequel television series: Stargate SG-1Stargate Atlantis and Stargate Universe, as well as two other movies related to the TV shows: Stargate: The Ark of Truth and Stargate: Continuum. Not to mention a web series, an animated series and lots of books and comics.

Because of how big this franchise has gotten and because I do enjoy Roland Emmerich’s work before 1998’s Godzilla, I figured I’d give this a watch again with the possibility of me finally giving the television shows a shot in the near future (assuming I can stream them for free somewhere).

Stargate was really enjoyable. While it does feel a bit dated, it’s a solid ’90s sci-fi action flick. It had a decent story that was interesting and really set the stage for something that needed to be much larger than this self-contained film. I guess it’s a good thing for the hardcore fans of this movie that it was expanded out into other forms of media.

Kurt Russell is a true man’s man and James Spader is always great to watch. Seeing them come together and having a big contrast in personalities here was a lot of fun. Spader didn’t play his typical role and was pretty much just a very brave scientist that often times jumped into the water without checking for sharks. Russell usually had to pull Spader’s ass out of trouble but it was a treat to watch.

I loved how this gives a sci-fi explanation for ancient Egyptian culture and the Egyptian styled aliens were just badass. The backstory was pretty simple but awesome and I really liked how this was just a simple tale with a lot of emphasis on action.

Emmerich did a great job of writing this alongside Dean Devlin. But his eye for style and his execution of action, while he sat behind the camera, was terrific. I really wish that Emmerich’s mojo didn’t get sucked out of him after Independence Day.

I also really enjoyed the film’s score. It was heavy handed but in the right way and frankly, I miss powerful scores like this in my blockbusters.

This is just a rollercoaster ride of a bunch of guys having fun in an alien desert, fighting stylish aliens with cool technology. What’s not to love? There’s even a bit of a love story but I was too captivated by the testosterone and the Egyptians with lasers to care about that.

Rating: 7.75/10
Pairs well with: Independence DayThe Mummy and the various Stargate TV shows and related films.

Film Review: The Fantastic Four (1994)

Release Date: Officially unreleased, once screened on May 31st, 1994
Directed by: Oley Sassone
Written by: Craig J. Nevius, Kevin Rock
Based on: Fantastic Four by Stan Lee, Jack Kirby
Music by: David Wurst, Eric Wurst
Cast: Alex Hyde-White, Jay Underwood, Rebecca Staab, Michael Bailey Smith, Kat Green, Joseph Culp

Marvel, Constantin Film Production, New Horizons, 90 Minutes

Review:

“What kind of thing have I turned into?” – The Thing

I’ve seen clips of this for years, I enjoyed the documentary on it but never have I seen the movie in its entirety until now.

Man, is this bad. I mean, really f’n bad. Roger Corman, whose cheesiness and low budget mastery I have enjoyed for decades, really took things to an incredibly new low with this in 1994.

But then again, if you watch the documentary on this film, it was made to hold onto the trademark and wasn’t really intended for actual release.

This film was rushed. It was made half assed. But that was mainly due to the producers and not the actors and crew who weren’t clued in to the reality of this production and the intentions of the people pulling the strings.

On the positive side, this surprisingly feels closer to the spirit of the source material than the three big budget Fantastic Four movies that came after it. It takes a few liberties with the origin but isn’t as drastic of a change as the most modern reboot. And fuck, I loved Doctor Doom in this more than the other films because he literally looked like the comic book Doom I grew up with and was just as hammy but in a great way and not an unintentional, terrible way like the Julian McMahon and Toby Kebbell versions.

I also thought that the score was pretty decent for a no budget, mid-’90s superhero flick. If you remember the era, Marvel had nothing but a string of atrocious movies up to this point. Even their television shows before this were shit, excluding The Incredible Hulk, but that show wasn’t as close to the source material as it should have been, let’s be honest.

The thing is, had the producers cared, this could have been a better picture and maybe have done well on the VHS market. It certainly would’ve bombed in the theater but it had imagination and the story isn’t terrible.

Okay, the jewel thief midget character was terrible and I’m not sure why they didn’t just make him Mole Man, as there were a lot of similarities but this movie could have been fine tuned into something at least palatable. It’s like they just ran with the first draft of the script and maybe that’s exactly what they did, as they had to rush this the hell out.

This isn’t unwatchable, if you are a fan of terrible f’n movies or want to see something that is certainly worthy of being riffed by Mystery Science Theater 3000 or RiffTrax. And honestly, I’d probably watch this again before touching any of the big budget Fantastic Four films.

Rating: 3.5/10
Pairs well with: I guess 2005’s Fantastic Four and its sequel Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer and the second reboot, 2015’s Fantastic Four. However, all these movies are terrible.

Film Review: Phantasm III: Lord of the Dead (1994)

Also known as: Phantasm III: The Third Power (Philippines)
Release Date: March, 1994 (Brussels International Festival of Fantasy Films)
Directed by: Don Coscarelli
Written by: Don Coscarelli
Music by: Fred Myrow, Christopher L. Stone
Cast: Reggie Bannister, Michael Baldwin, Bill Thornbury, Angus Scrimm, Gloria Lynne Henry, Kevin Connors, Cindy Ambuehl, Brooks Gardner, John Davis Chandler

Universal Studios, Anchor Bay, 91 Minutes

Review:

“It’s been nice knowing you boys, but this kickin’ zombie ass just ain’t my gig.” – Rocky

When Phantasm III came out, I wasn’t really even aware of it. It never hit any theaters near me and even though I read horror magazines and frequented video stores a lot, I must have just glossed over it. It wasn’t until five years later when I saw Phantasm IV on a shelf that I went, “Wait… when did they do a Phantasm III?” Anyway, I rented both of them that night.

Phantasm III: Lord of the Dead is the sort of film that is really enjoyable if you love the Phantasm series but it is probably hard to follow and just bizarre if you don’t already have familiarity with the franchise’s unique universe.

A girl I was dating a few years ago saw this chapter first, as she came over as I was just starting it one night. I told her we could start at the beginning with the first one but she didn’t care about that. In the end, she seemed lost and not really sure about what she watched. When I convinced her to watch all of them and she did, she then liked this film better, as she got the overall context of it.

And that’s the thing, I think that Don Coscarelli relied heavily on the audience of this chapter already having the knowledge of the first two. While that’s understandable, you might want to give a more in depth explanation of the backstory when your sequel comes out six years and fifteen years after its two predecessors. His reliance on filmgoers have prior knowledge only gets worse with each subsequent film after this one.

Still, that’s really my only gripe with this picture. Other than that, I think that this movie is a lot of fun and Reggie looked like he was having a damn good time making this one.

I liked that this chapter relied on the Lurkers more than the tiny dwarf minions. Yeah, they still appear too but the Tall Man’s army seemed more formidable in this movie. Plus, he had that reanimated gang that kept being a thorn in Reggie’s side throughout the story. They were a nice touch.

This also brings back Michael Baldwin in the role of Mike. He was replaced in the second film and even if that other actor was a bit more polished, he didn’t feel like Mike.

We also get to see Reggie team up with a badass little kid and a nunchuck wielding punk rock chick that probably has bigger stones than all the men in the film. Rocky was a cool character and I was sad that she didn’t go on to be in the fourth installment but she does resurface in the fifth (over twenty years later).

I like this film a lot and it certainly fleshes out the mysterious mythos even more. It’s only real downside is that it doesn’t stand well on its own, as a self-contained story.

Rating: 6.75/10
Pairs well with: The other Phantasm films.

Film Review: Brainscan (1994)

Release Date: April 22nd, 1994
Directed by: John Flynn
Written by: Brian Owens, Andrew Kevin Walker
Music by: George S. Clinton
Cast: Edward Furlong, Frank Langella, Amy Hargreaves, T. Ryder Smith

Admire Productions Ltd., Coral Productions, Triumph Films, 96 Minutes

Review:

“It doesn’t have to make sense. All these horror movies you watch… does ‘Death, Death, Death’ make sense? No. It’s not about sense. It’s about death, death, death.” – The Trickster

I remember the trailers for this when I was a young teen but I never had the urge to see this. Even when I worked at video stores, I didn’t have the desire to waste one of my free rentals on Brainscan.

However, I figured I’d give it a whirl now, as I don’t have any sort of nostalgic attachment to it, good or bad. And really, I’ll watch anything just to review it.

This came out at the tail end of Hollywood’s short lived Eddie Furlong experiment. Granted, I think the actor’s personal problems contributed to his sudden lack of work until he turned things around a bit with his role in American History X, four years later.

This is about a hardcore horror nerd who is given a game that will be the most immersive horror experience he could ever have. Well, it is. Little Eddie Furlong thinks he’s playing a game but he’s actually out murdering the crap out of people. The game’s host, The Trickster, who drops the “The” and only introduces himself as “Trickster”, leads Little Eddie Furlong into madness.

All this crazy stuff happens in the most mundane way possible and there really is no suspense or anything exciting in the entire picture. Granted, it does have some sort of grunge rock/heavy metal ’90s vibe that works. And The Trickster is actually interesting enough to keep you engaged in his scenes, even if he does look like a really bad ’90s cliche.

The real problem with this movie is that it is dark and fucked up but then it shows that it actually doesn’t have any balls and erases all the evil shit when it’s revealed that it was actually just a game all along. Or was it? They give you a little twist after the twist and this film has a sort of non-committal, non-ending that shows me that the filmmakers had no idea how to wrap the film up.

Brainscan is fine if you have 90 minutes to waste. But I certainly wouldn’t go out of my way to see it.

Rating: 5.5/10
Pairs well with: The Lawnmower Man and Arcade, which is a terrible movie but still fairly similar.

Film Review: Star Trek: Generations (1994)

Also known as: Star Trek VII, Star Trek: The Next Generation: The Movie (working titles)
Release Date: November 17th, 1994 (Hollywood premiere)
Directed by: David Carson
Written by: Ronald D. Moore, Brannon Braga, Rick Berman
Based on: Star Trek by Gene Roddenberry
Music by: Dennis McCarthy
Cast: Patrick Stewart, William Shatner, Malcolm McDowell, Jonathan Frakes, Brent Spiner, LeVar Burton, Michael Dorn, Gates McFadden, Marina Sirtis, Whoopi Goldberg, James Doohan, Walter Koenig, Alan Ruck

Paramount Pictures, 118 Minutes

Review:

“Good luck, Captain.” – Picard, “Call me Jim!” – Kirk

After the original series of Star Trek films came to a close and The Next Generation television show aired its final episode, it was natural to have the torch passed to Picard and his crew for a series of films. However, with Star Trek: Generations that passing of the torch was done quite literally.

This wasn’t the first time that the original Star Trek crossed over with The Next Generation, as Leonard Nimoy’s Spock crossed over in the two-part Unification story arc, James Doohan’s Scotty appeared in the show, as did DeForest Kelly’s Dr. McCoy. Also, Sarek had some notable moments in The Next Generation. This was, however, the first time that two captains from two different generations met on screen. Obviously, not counting the time travel episodes with one-off characters.

The highlight of this film is seeing James T. Kirk and Jean-Luc Picard come face to face and fighting alongside each other in an effort to stop a madman played by the great Malcolm McDowell.

This film sort of gets a bad rap with fans but I like it and it’s better than the worst films in the series: The Final Frontier and Insurrection.

I liked the plot, I loved the villain and seeing the Klingon sisters Lursa and B’Etor Duras come back and closeout their story was really cool. I always love it when secondary characters from the show get to return in the films in some way, even if it is just a small cameo. But here, the sisters got a real moment to shine and were a real thorn in the side of the heroes and instrumental in the events that destroyed the much beloved Enterprise-D.

The plot was kind of goofy but it worked for me. Soran, the madman wants to get back to this energy ribbon that sucks you in and makes you feel nothing but pure joy. Picard enters the ribbon, meets Kirk and pulls him out in an effort to defeat Soran. Yeah, it’s hokey and the fans probably just wanted to see both Enterprises with their famous crews working together in a grand space battle.

Sadly, most of the original crew didn’t want to return after they wrapped up their story in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country. So I guess this story was the backup plan. But it was still fine, at least with me, and it gave The Next Generation crew more time to shine and build up their own cinematic universe.

There is still joy in seeing Patrick Stewart and William Shatner share the screen together though. They are still the best captains in the Star Trek franchise and even if it wasn’t in the way that most people had hoped, their scenes were still fun and made me smile.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: The other Next Generation films: Star Trek: First ContactStar Trek: Insurrection and Star Trek: Nemesis.