Film Review: Angel Heart (1987)

Release Date: March 6th, 1987
Directed by: Alan Parker
Written by: Alan Parker
Based on: Falling Angel by William Hjortsberg
Music by: Trevor Jones
Cast: Mickey Rourke, Robert De Niro, Lisa Bonet, Charlotte Rampling

Union, Winkast Film Productions, Carolco Pictures, 113 Minutes

Review:

“They say there’s enough religion in the world to make men hate each other, but not enough to make them love.” – Louis Cyphre

I wanted to kickoff my Halloween movie season with something that many consider iconic but that I hadn’t seen, at least in its entirety. I chose Angel Heart, as it isn’t just horror but it’s also neo-noir and stars two elite talents in Mickey Rourke and Robert De Niro.

While I’ve seen segments of this motion picture, over the years, it’s rarely ever been on television and out of the thousands of movies I’ve come to own, this wasn’t one of them.

I really dug this movie tonally and aesthetically. It’s also tremendously well acted from the two leads, as well as Lisa Bonet and Charlotte Rampling, both of whom carry themselves fantastically alongside two real heavyweights.

This movie is just so dark and brooding that you feel it in your gut. It’s hard to describe but it reminds me of the feelings I get whenever I revisit The Serpent and the Rainbow. Well done voodoo movies just hit me on a guttural level, I guess. Maybe that’s because I live in southern Florida and have grown up around many Caribbean people, who have effected me over the years.

My only real issue is that sometimes it feels slow or uneventful. I think that the payoff, albeit predictable, is still satisfying and it helps bring everything together.

I actually don’t want to spoil too much about the plot but a private investigator is hired by a mysterious man in New York City. This man is looking for a lost pop singer named Johnny Favorite. The investigation leads the P.I. to New Orleans and the surrounding bayou a.k.a. voodoo country.

While there, and as the story progresses, things get increasingly more fucked up and weird. Eventually, this guy is in really deep and he starts to lose his mind, as bodies start piling up.

The art direction and cinematography in this film are incredible. While I think that was made easier by using the timeless architecture and locations in New Orleans, that doesn’t discount how well that city was captured on film and maximized to its fullest effect.

With that, this movie feels kind of timeless. Sure, it happens in a specific location and era but something about this film feels like it exists in its own special place and time. When you get to the ending, it may actually get you theorizing on why exactly this is.

Angel Heart is an incredibly unique experience and unlike just about anything I can think of. While I can’t call it great, it’s worth checking out at least once, because of that uniqueness. This picture won’t be everyone’s cup of tea but there’s really only one way for a person to find out.

Rating: 7.5/10

Film Review: Jigsaw (2017)

Also known as: Saw 8, Saw VIII, Saw: Legacy (working titles)
Release Date: October 25th, 2017 (Moscow premiere)
Directed by: The Spierig Brothers
Written by: Josh Stolberg, Peter Goldfinger
Music by: Charlie Clouser
Cast: Tobin Bell, Matt Passmore, Callum Keith Rennie, Clé Bennett, Hannah Emily Anderson, Laura Vandervoort, Mandela Van Peebles

Serendipity Productions, Burg Koules Hoffman Productions, Twisted Pictures, 92 Minutes

Review:

“The truth will set you free.” – Jigsaw

Well, after the terrible weekend where I forced myself through all of the original Saw sequels, I really didn’t want to have to jump into the more modern sequels at all… but there’s only two of them, so I figured I’d just power through them each in sperate sessions. Luckily, this film at least provided me with something that was a wee bit of a step up from those last several.

Granted, I say “wee bit” because this isn’t a particularly good movie but it stood out when compared to all the sequels after the third Saw.

As I’ve stated before, I like Tobin Bell as Jigsaw and I was glad that they found a way to actually have him in this, alive and as well as he could be, as the cancer hadn’t beat him yet.

With his presence, though, it left you wondering if him surviving cancer was some sort of clever Jigsaw trick all along. The big reveal in this chapter, as there’s always a big reveal in Saw movies, is that half of the plot takes place before the first Saw while the other half of the story is a sequel. So my worry of there being some type of stupid supernatural element thrown in was eased once the reveal happens.

There was also a pretty solid red herring in the movie, when you had to start guessing who might be pulling some of the strings, as you assume there is some sort of copycat Jigsaw or another unknown apprentice.

However, this, like it’s several predecessors, is nowhere near as clever as the original film. Additionally, the dual storylines that take place at different times is kind of confusing and a bit of a bloated clusterfuck.

One big positive, is that the people playing Jigsaw’s game in this are a lot less annoying than the groups in previous films. I thought Laura Vandervoort was pretty good and likable in this. Well, until her dark secret comes out.

As Saw sequels go, however, I felt like I wasted my time with a movie that’s just unpleasant, often times shrill and has very few redeeming qualities other than enjoying the pivotal scenes with Jigsaw in them.

Rating: 5/10

Film Review: Strange Brew (1983)

Also known as: The Adventures of Bob & Doug McKenzie: Strange Brew (complete title)
Release Date: August 19th, 1983 (Canada)
Directed by: Rick Moranis, Dave Thomas
Written by: Rick Moranis, Dave Thomas, Steve De Jarnatt
Based on: Bob and Doug McKenzie by Rick Moranis, Dave Thomas
Music by: Charles Fox
Cast: Rick Moranis, Dave Thomas, Paul Dooley, Max von Sydow, Lynne Griffin, Angus MacInnes, Mel Blanc (voice)

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 90 Minutes

Review:

“The power of the force has stopped you, you hosers.” – Doug McKenzie

I used to love the SCTV skits of Bob and Doug McKenzie when I’d see them replayed as a kid, primarily during the earliest days of Comedy Central. I had only seen this movie once, around early high school age but it’s eluded me ever since, despite its cult following.

So while I didn’t go into this fully blind, I had forgotten enough about the film’s plot and details to see it with fairly fresh eyes.

It’s still a funny picture and it really gives Bob and Doug more room to breathe and more time to pull off some elaborate and hilarious gags.

I’ve always liked the camaraderie between Rick Moranis and Dave Thomas and frankly, this is really the peak of their history together. However, I wish this had spawned sequels as it was titled in a way that seemed like they wanted to do more. And while there was almost a sequel in the late ’90s, we never really got to see these characters again.

Beyond the starring duo, this movie somehow landed legendary actor Max von Sydow, as its villain. I really enjoyed him in this, as he’s also pretty good at comedy and I got to see this iconic actor really ham it up with two of Canada’s finest comedians ever.

The plot is zany but ultimately it’s just about two drunk losers trying to save a brewery for a cute heiress whose uncle wants it for nefarious reasons.

Strange Brew is a strange, goofy and amusing picture starring two guys that everyone should love. I don’t consider it to be a classic on the level of some of the other films Moranis would work in but it’s still cool seeing his earliest work along with his and Dave Thomas’ writing and directing being on full display.

Rating: 6.5/10

Film Review: Rock & Rule (1983)

Also known as: Ring of Power, Drats (working titles), Fantasia de Rock (Brazil)
Release Date: April 15th, 1983 (Boston premiere)
Directed by: Clive A. Smith
Written by: John Halfpenny, Peter Sauder, Patrick Loubert
Music by: Patricia Cullen, various
Cast: Don Francks, Susan Roman, Paul Le Mat, Catherine O’Hara, Debbie Harry (singing voice), Lou Reed (singing voice)

Nelvana, Anaguel Films, Canada Trust, Famous Players, United Artists, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 77 Minutes

Review:

“She can sing, or she can scream. But she still pissed me off.” – Mok

While I’d get my mum to rent me adult animated features all the time when I was a kid because she thought they were just cartoons, this is one that I never got to see.

I’m not sure what I would’ve thought about it, as a kid, but seeing it for the first time, as an adult, it’s kind of drab.

Granted, I really liked the music. The bands and musicians that the movie featured were cool and the general concept was interesting too but the story was slow and drab and I just never felt all that invested in it.

Additionally, I liked the character design but the animation came off a bit clunky in places.

I also don’t like leaving reviews that are incredibly short but I don’t know what else to say about this film. It’s not terrible but it’s also not terribly engaging and falls flat in just about every way.

I still can’t call this a bad animated film but I also can’t consider it a good one, either.

Rating: 5/10
Pairs well with: other adult animated features of the ’70s and ’80s.

Film Review: Things (1989)

Release Date: September, 1989
Directed by: Andrew Jordan
Written by: Andrew Jordan, Barry J. Gillis
Music by: Jack Procher
Cast: Barry J. Gillis, Amber Lynn, Bruce Roach, Doug Bunston, Jan W. Pachul, Patricia Sadler

Exosphere Motion Pictures, Left Field Productions, 83 Minutes

Review:

“Next time I bring you with me I’m leaving you at home.” – Don Drake

Every time that I think I may have discovered the worst film ever made, something else falls out of the sewer pipes and right into my lap. This time, it came courtesy of Joe Bob Briggs on his show The Last Drive-In.

Those of you who have been around Talking Pulp for awhile, probably know about my lifelong respect and admiration for Joe Bob Briggs. Hell, years back, I wrote a piece called Joe Bob Briggs – A Texan of Exquisite Taste and a Man Who Influenced a Generation.

So this epic betrayal really hit me like a kangaroo punch to the gonads. Sure, my good friend Joe Bob has shown me some really shitty movies over the decades I’ve been watching his various shows on various networks but nothing was even close to being quite this bad.

This was shown on what Joe Bob was calling “VHS Night” and it was paired with Sledgehammer, another VHS horror relic that was filmed on video, as opposed to traditional film. As rough as that film was to get through, this one really elevated Sledgehammer and by comparison, made it look like the Citizen Kane of primitive video horror.

Nothing in this film makes sense, the characters aren’t likable or relatable and everything that could go wrong from a production standpoint… did!

Well, at least the movie featured porn star Amber Lynn. However, even that was handled abysmally bad, as she stays fully clothed in all her scenes and just reads fake news reports off of a cue card that makes her look away from the camera and off to the side.

Normally, I’d be happy to see these guys use practical effects but even the creatures in this movie were terrible. They were basically large plastic ants with sharp teeth glued to their poorly crafted mouths.

Even with the added commentary of Joe Bob, Darcy and special guest Chris Jericho, this movie was incredibly hard to get through.

In the end, I’ve now seen it and I never have to watch it again.

As for Joe Bob, this whole ordeal reminds me of the time my Uncle Denny told me he had WrestleMania tickets but instead, took me to some outlaw wrestling mud show in what I can only assume was the same violent, fantastical, redneck Florida town where Two Thousand Maniacs! took place.

Rating: 0/10
Pairs well with: other horror films shot on video. Also, dental surgery without painkillers.

Film Review: We Summon the Darkness (2019)

Release Date: February 28th, 2019 (Mammoth Film Festival – US)
Directed by: Marc Meyers
Written by: Alan Trezza
Music by: Timothy Williams
Cast: Alexandra Daddario, Keean Johnson, Maddie Hasson, Logan Miller, Amy Forsyth, Austin Swift, Johnny Knoxville

Common Enemy, thefyzz, Magna Entertainment, Saban Films, 91 Minutes

Review:

I grew up in the ’80s and I’ve always been nostalgic about that decade (and the early ’90s, as well). However, Hollywood has kind of ruined that, as they continue to tap ’80s nostalgia, again and again, because they don’t have original ideas and want to piggyback off of the success of the phenomenon that was the first season of Stranger Things, which is now five years-old.

We Summon the Darkness sets itself in 1988 rural Indiana, which is also the state where Stranger Things takes place. However, once you watch the film, it could’ve taken place in any time and didn’t need to be an “eighties” flick. Heavy metal still exists, as do crazy, religious fanatics. But whatever.

The film is also predictable as hell and pretty damn disappointing. I actually like Alexandra Daddario and not just because she’s fucking gorgeous. However, she’s insufferable in this and that’s not because she’s the main villain. Something about the performance is just off-putting where it should actually be really sexy and cool in the same way that hot horror villainesses of the past were sexy and cool.

Maybe this is due to Daddario also being a producer on the movie and she felt like she had to try a lot harder. And really, her performance feels like one of an actor trying way too hard.

The rest of the cast is just okay. No one really stands out but I did enjoy Maddie Hasson’s character, as the sidekick killer that always had to pee. I thought her performance was more natural, less forced and she brought some good comedic timing in at points.

Everyone else is totally forgettable except for Johnny Knoxville, whose role is minor but is still really effective. In fact, there’s one scene where he really has to act and he does fine with it.

As far as the plot, the film follows three females that lure three metal heads to their country mansion after a concert. They then drug the dudes, tie them to chairs and try to murder them in the same fashion as a Satanic cult. They actually aren’t a Satanic cult but they are trying to use the Satanic panic of the time to lure people towards their Jesus cult… or something. I don’t know, the whole premise is kind of retarded.

We Summon the Darkness is just dull and unimpressive and it’s also derivative as hell while believing itself to be cool, edgy and unique.

Rating: 5/10
Pairs well with: other horror films about cults, killer families or weird small towns.

Film Review: Those Who Wish Me Dead (2021)

Release Date: May 5th, 2021 (South Korea)
Directed by: Taylor Sheridan
Written by: Michael Koryta, Charles Leavitt, Taylor Sheridan
Based on: Those Who Wish Me Dead by Michael Koryta
Music by: Brian Tyler
Cast: Angelina Jolie, Finn Little, Nicholas Hoult, Aidan Gillen, Jake Weber, Medina Senghore, Jon Bernthal, Tyler Perry

BRON Studios, Creative Wealth Media Finance, Film Rites, Warner Bros., 100 Minutes

Review:

“I hate this fucking place.” – Jack, “It hates you back.” – Allison

This is the fourth or fifth movie to be released simultaneously in theaters and on the HBO Max streaming service. I decided to watch it on HBO Max, as I probably wouldn’t have seen it in theaters, anyway.

The trailer looked good enough and I’ve mostly liked Taylor Sheridan’s writing and narrative style in films like Hell Or High Water and the Sicario pictures. He hasn’t directed anything I’ve seen yet, so this is my first experience seeing what he can do helming his own picture.

This stars Angelina Jolie, who is believable when she plays tough women. And in this, Sheridan goes against what seems to be the Hollywood trend these days, as he doesn’t make her some invincible Mary Sue. No, she goes through absolute hell in this film and severely gets her ass kicked by scumbag assassins. However, like the Ellen Ripleys and Sarah Connors of motion picture history, her maternal instinct kicks in and she does everything she possibly can do to help a young kid survive the terror that’s coming.

Additionally, Jolie’s character has some serious demons in her past that she needs to exorcize and when shit hits the fan in this picture, she rises to the occasion and does the right thing.

The film also stars Jon Bernthal, Nicolas Hoult and Aidan Gillen. All of these guys were good in this but the movie really let Jolie shine on her own, as the focal point and hero trying to save the kid from assassins and a massive forest fire.

The action sequences were pretty decent and the killers were damn believable and cold as hell. Jolie really shines, though, and the kid was pretty good and didn’t annoy the crap out of me.

Honestly, though, this is a pretty forgettable movie. It’s competently made and the story works but I don’t know if Sheridan, as a director, has everything clicking on all cylinders yet. That certainly doesn’t mean he won’t and this is still a better picture than most directors’ earliest efforts.

Rating: 6.75/10
Pairs well with: other action films of recent years.

Film Review: Class of 1984 (1982)

Release Date: May 19th, 1982 (Cannes)
Directed by: Mark Lester
Written by: Tom Holland, Mark Lester, John Saxton
Music by: Lalo Schifrin
Cast: Perry King, Merrie Lynn Ross, Timothy Van Patten, Lisa Langlois, Stefan Arngrim, Michael Fox, Roddy McDowall

Guerilla High Productions, 98 Minutes

Review:

“Life… is pain. Pain… is everything. You… you will learn!” – Peter Stegman

What’s odd about my history with this film is that there isn’t any. Yes, I’ve known about it since it was fairly current but for whatever reason, I never got around to watching it, even though I knew it’s something I’d probably dig quite a bit.

Well, I’ve finally seen it and it’s pretty entertaining and a damn cool flick.

This uses a popular formula from the ’80s and ’90s. It’s a story about an educator trying to do his job to the best of his ability while the school is infested with violent degenerates. This may be the first movie of its type but this simple plot became a widely used trope in action flicks, drama movies and even comedies.

In this one, we’ve got Perry King as the star. And man, he’s simply awesome, as he tries to be the teacher the school needs but quickly learns that he’s going to have to push back against these inhuman teens that are willing to kill, rape and do hard drugs just for quick thrills. I’ve always liked the hell out of Perry King but this may be my favorite role he’s ever played.

We also get Roddy McDowall and Michael J. Fox in this, which both surprised me and delighted me. McDowall is in so many damn films, some great, some awful, but he always adds something wonderful to whatever production he finds himself in. Yes, even the bad ones. In this, he actually gives two of his greatest single scene performances of his lengthy career. McDowall is just dynamite in this and your heart breaks for him, seeing what he has to go through just trying to do his job in a school full of monsters.

Michael J. Fox’s role isn’t too big and this movie was made before he’d become a big star on the television series Family Ties. Still, for a young actor with little experience in front of the camera, he does pretty good in this.

The primary antagonist in this is played by Timothy Van Patten. I like that they actually gave his character depth, instead of just making him some basic shithead. You come to learn that he has real talent and is the best pianist in the entire school. However, in spite of his gift, he still chooses to make the music teacher’s life a living hell until he gets what’s coming to him.

The supporting cast in this is also really good and all of the characters leave an impression on you, which is impressive for a film like this, which could’ve easily just been exploitative schlock.

Class of 1984 is a better movie that it probably should have been. I think that has a lot to do with the casting but I’ve also got to point out that this was written by Tom Holland, who would go on to direct Fright NightChild’s Play and be involved in some other cult classics.

Additionally, this was directed by Mark Lester, who would go on to make Commando, Firestarter, Showdown In Little Tokyo and a semi-sequel to this movie with a sci-fi twist, Class of 1999.

Rating: 7.75/10
Pairs well with: other teacher/principal versus the school movies.

Film Review: The Pit (1981)

Also known as: Teddy (alternative title)
Release Date: October 23rd, 1981
Directed by: Lew Lehman
Written by: Ian A. Stuart
Music by: Victor Davies
Cast: Sammy Snyders, Jeannie Elias, Sonja Smits

Amulet Pictures, 96 Minutes

Review:

“Abergail’s missing and so is Mrs. Oliphant, aren’t they? And Freddy and Christina… They don’t eat chocolate bars. You know what they eat?” – Jamie Benjamin

As cool, bizarre and completely ape shit as this movie is, I can’t believe I had never heard of it until this year. After stumbling upon the trailer, I had to track it down and watch it, immediately.

After seeing this, I have to wonder if those Ted movies ripped it off. They’re very different films, mind you, but both deal with a talking teddy bear. In this film, however, the bear talks to a kid and it’s more like mental voice projection than just straight up having a conversation.

Also, this is horror and the teddy bear coerces the kid to feed people to these trolls that live in a hole in the ground out in the woods. Yes, there is both a psychic talking teddy bear and a pit in the ground full of man-eating trolls. Why settle on one strange monster threat when you can have two strange monster threats?

Additionally, the kid in this is great. He plays creepy and weird really well but he’s also strangely likable and amusing. He’s also sexually frustrated, going through the early stages of puberty and I think that most males can relate to him. But honestly, he’s just a goof and everyone else in the movie, especially other kids, just continually fuck with him.

I though that the other core actors in this were good, which was impressive, as this still mostly unknown Canadian horror flick put together a competent, entertaining cast.

This is a surreal and wonderful film. It does move slow at times but it still keeps your attention because it’s so unique and original that it’s impossible not to be ensnared by it and glued to it.

Now that I know of its existence, I’m pretty sure this will be something I revisit every few years for the rest of my life.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: other fantasy horror of the era but this is so bonkers and original that it’s really hard to pair.