Film Review: Into the Night (1985)

Release Date: February 22nd, 1985
Directed by: John Landis
Written by: Ron Koslow
Music by: Ira Newborn
Cast: Jeff Goldblum, Michelle Pfeiffer, Richard Farnsworth, Irene Papas, Kathryn Harrold, Dan Aykroyd, Bruce McGill, David Bowie, Vera Miles, Clu Gulager, Art Evans, John Hostetter, Jack Arnold, Rick Baker, Paul Bartel, David Cronenberg, Jonathan Demme, Amy Heckerling, Jim Henson, Lawrence Kasdan, Paul Mazursky, Carl Perkins, Dedee Pfeiffer, Don Siegel, Jake Steinfeld, Roger Vadim

Universal Pictures, 115 Minutes

Review:

“[to Diana] I need you to appease Shaheen. She will demand blood; yours will do.” – Monsieur Melville

After recently watching Martin Scorsese’s After Hours, I couldn’t help but want to revisit a similar film from the same year by John Landis.

However, after revisiting this, it’s not all that similar other than it’s a “yuppie in peril” story. Also, the girl makes it to the end of this film and it’s more of an actual love story while also being more lighthearted and action heavy. The two films certainly have some parallels but this one is more accessible and probably more fun for most filmgoers.

Personally, I don’t like this as much as After Hours but it’s still a movie that I enjoy quite a bit.

It’s hard not to enjoy a film with Jeff Goldblum and Michele Pfeiffer as its stars, though. Both of them are great in this and I liked their chemistry and kind of wished they were paired up in more movies.

Beyond the two leads, we have a film full of lots of great talent, as well as more than a dozen cameos with other filmmakers and behind the camera legends in small, bit parts. Hell, even this film’s director, John Landis, plays a roll throughout the film as one of the four thugs in pursuit of the main characters.

I really liked David Bowie in this, though. He steals the scenes he’s in and it made me wish that his role was bigger.

The story sees a man, after catching his wife cheating, stumble upon a woman running away from some dudes with guns in an airport parking garage. They speed off together and we’re sent on an action adventure romp through Los Angeles, as they try to figure out how to get her out of trouble and survive all the trouble that’s coming for them.

There are so many great characters in this and every sequence in the film is pretty damn memorable because of that.

It’s strange to me that this isn’t considered one of Landis’ top films but it was also the first film of his to come out after the tragedy that happened on the set of Twilight Zone: The Movie. I think that because of that, this wasn’t promoted as well as it should have been and the public already had a bad taste in their mouths and probably, rightfully so.

However, looking at this as its own thing, separate from the grim reality of an unrelated picture, this is a solid comedy that did just about everything right.

Rating: 8.25/10
Pairs well with: After Hours and other “yuppie in peril” movies.

Film Review: Videodrome (1983)

Release Date: February 4th, 1983
Directed by: David Cronenberg
Written by: David Cronenberg
Music by: Howard Shore
Cast: James Woods, Sonja Smits, Deborah Harry, Peter Dvorsky, Les Carlson, Jack Creley, Lynne Gorman

Filmplan International, Guardian Trust Company, Canadian Film Development Corporation, Universal Pictures, 87 Minutes, 89 Minutes (uncut)

Review:

“The battle for the mind of North America will be fought in the video arena: the Videodrome. The television screen is the retina of the mind’s eye. Therefore, the television screen is part of the physical structure of the brain. Therefore, whatever appears on the television screen emerges as raw experience for those who watch it. Therefore, television is reality, and reality is less than television.” – Brian O’Blivion

Some movies can be batshit crazy but then there are a select few that go beyond that. Videodrome is one of these films, as it is a complete and absolute mindfuck.

This is also a David Cronenberg film from his early days, so intense, disturbing body horror should be expected and in that regard, this movie does not disappoint and it boasts some incredible special effects even though the film had a fairly scant budget.

Overall, this and The Fly are just about tied for being my favorite Cronenberg film. However, this one takes a slight edge, simply because its contents have stuck with me more over the years. At an early age, it penetrated my psyche and it’s roamed around in my head ever since. Maybe I have one of those Videodrome caused brain tumors and it’s just been growing very slowly for decades?

Anyway, the plot of the film follows a television producer who is always on the hunt for fucked up content to air on his cable channel. This was made during the early days of cable and like the early days of the Internet, shit was like the Wild West. This also takes place in Canada, so I’m not sure what restrictions they had, as they weren’t under the rule of the FCC like cable channels in the United States.

On his quest to find fucked up content, the exec is introduced to a show called Videodrome. The show is devoid of plot and doesn’t seem to have much purpose other than being torture porn for some sickos that want to watch captive people go through horrific physical pain.

We do find out that there is a big conspiracy afoot and that the creators behind the show have a sinister agenda. It is up to this exec to try and stop them but his exposure to the show creates strange changes in his mind and body. It’s hard to decipher what is real and what is a hallucination and ultimately, it is never really clear and it makes the movie one hell of a crazy ride.

The linchpin that holds all of this together is James Woods, who plays the exec. His performance is convincing, authentic and so believable that you don’t find yourself questioning the insane developments within the film. You just go along with him on his personal, unique trip through sensory hell.

Cronenberg did a stupendous job in creating a world that feels both foreign and familiar. But beyond that, the mastery of the special effects he employed and dreamed up is uncanny and impressive. The melting, morphing television scene is still one of the greatest effects sequences I’ve ever seen on film. Even knowing as much as I do about practical effects, it’s a moment that still baffles me and I almost don’t want to know the magic trick.

Videodrome is a classic and a real gem of its era. It achieved cult status and deservedly so. However, I feel like it’s now being lost to the sands of time, as younger generations don’t seem to care about anything predating the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

The world is currently in a sad state in regards to mainstream art and this film just reminds me of a time when filmmakers overcame challenges, didn’t give a fuck about the censors or the Hollywood system and just made whatever the fuck they wanted to make.

Videodrome makes me yearn for a long overdue filmmaking renaissance.

Rating: 9.25/10
Pairs well with: other David Cronenberg films of the ’70s and ’80s.

Film Review: Rabid (1977)

Also known as: Rage (alternate title)
Release Date: April 8th, 1977
Directed by: David Cronenberg
Written by: David Cronenberg
Music by: Ivan Reitman (music supervisor)
Cast: Marilyn Chambers, Frank Moore, Joe Silver, Howard Ryshpan

Cinepix Film Properties, New World Pictures, 91 Minutes

Review:

“Potato man loves ketchup man.” – Murray Cypher

David Cronenberg has made some of the most disturbing films of the last half century. Well, really of all-time, as there weren’t anything like his films before he found his groove and started cranking out disturbing body horror movies quite frequently.

Rabid is only Cronenberg’s second film and while he hadn’t quite found his groove or style by this point, he was very close to it and nearly everything after this picture is regarded as a horror classic of its time.

Like his other films of the ’70s and ’80s (and several after) this definitely fits into the body horror subgenre. Also, this is kind of like a zombie movie even though the monsters aren’t technically zombies. It’s like how people say, “28 Days Later isn’t zombies it’s people with a virus.” Whatever, all this shit is zombies. If you want to be that fucking technical than none of this shit is zombies unless the monsters are being controlled by voodoo or Bela Lugosi.

Anyway, Marilyn Chambers, the first porn star that anyone cared about, is in a motorcycle accident and burned severely. She is then given this experimental treatment. That treatment turns her into this sex vampire thing where she throws herself at people and a penis looking appendage comes out of her armpit to drink the blood of whoever she’s latched onto. Her condition spreads and pretty much all of Montreal goes under martial law due to these zombie like people that are trying to spread this virus.

Overall, this is a pretty good and entertaining movie. It’s not exceptional and it isn’t Cronenberg at his best but it showed him growing as an artist and a storyteller. His style is apparent even if it hasn’t fully flourished by this point.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: Other early works by Cronenberg: Shivers, The Brood, Scanners, Videodrome.

Ranking the Films of David Cronenberg

*Written in 2014.

David Cronenberg is an insanely visual director who has a penchant for body horror. Since the first time I saw The Fly remake in the ’80s, I was hooked on Cronenberg’s style, as disturbing as it seemed to my little kid mind at the time. Here I have ranked his full-length feature films:

1. Videodrome
2. The Fly
3. Naked Lunch
4. Eastern Promises
5. Scanners
6. A History of Violence
7. The Brood
8. A Dangerous Method
9. Crash
10. The Dead Zone
11. Maps to the Stars
12. Dead Ringers
13. Spider
14. M. Butterfly
15. They Came From Within (also known as Shivers)
16. Rabid
17. Fast Company
18. Cosmopolis
19. eXistenZ
20. Crimes of the Future
21. Stereo

Film Review: ‘The Fly’ Remake Film Series (1986-1989)

This weekend I had some free time, I decided to spend it re-watching the ’80s remakes of The Fly film series. While I love the originals, the remakes are much darker, a lot less cheesy (well, mostly) and pretty terrifying. Let me get into each film on its own.

The Fly (1986):

Release Date: August 15th, 1986
Directed by: David Cronenberg
Written by: Charles Edward Pogue, David Cronenberg
Based on: The Fly by George Langelaan
Music by: Howard Shore
Cast: Jeff Goldblum, Geena Davis, John Getz

Brooksfilms, SLM Production Group, 20th Century Fox, 96 Minutes

Review:

“Yeah, I build bodies. I take them apart, and put them back together again.” – Seth Brundle

Let me start by saying that 1986’s The Fly is my favorite Jeff Goldblum film after his small part in Life Aquatic.. and his big roles in the Jurassic Park and Independence Day films. It is also my second favorite film directed by David Cronenberg: Videodrome being the first.

The film succeeds in every way, in that it creates a sense of dread unlike almost anything else seen at the time, other than other Cronenberg films.

Cronenberg was the master of “body horror” – frightening films that toy with the viewers mind by showing disturbing and grotesque changes happening to the human body. He succeeded with this formula in Videodrome, Scanners and The Brood but this film really ups the ante and brings his series of bodily horror films full circle.

The special effects are amazing for being done on a pretty modest budget but then again, this was the magic of practical effects in the 1980s: before studios relied too heavily on CGI, regardless if its quality.

The acting is great and the dynamic between Geena Davis and Jeff Goldblum transcends the screen, which may be due to the fact that they were on the verge of getting married in real life, which they did, after this film. It is this dynamic that really makes this film and Jeff Goldblum owns the role of tragic scientist Seth Brundle.

The story, the action and the whole visual feel of this film makes it nearly perfect. It is a real treat for a special effects junkie and is one of the greatest horror films of its era, if not all-time. There is little to nothing in the modern era’s horror genre that can come close to matching this film.

Rating: 9/10

The Fly II (1989):

Release Date: February 10th, 1989
Directed by: Chris Walas
Written by: Mick Garris, Jim Wheat, Ken Wheat, Frank Darabont
Based on: The Fly by George Langelaan
Music by: Christopher Young
Cast: Eric Stoltz, Daphne Zuniga, Lee Richardson, Harley Cross, John Getz

Brooksfilms, 20th Century Fox, 105 Minutes

Review:

“You can finish your Father’s work. You’re just as brilliant as he was, perhaps even more so.” – Anton Bartok

This film gets a pretty bad rap.

No, it isn’t as good as the film it followed but for the time and as its own thing, it is still pretty good.

Eric Stoltz and Daphne Zuniga might not have had the chemistry of Goldblum and Davis but they had a nice relationship that was believable and they were still characters you cared about it.

Additionally, this film wasn’t just a rehash of the original. There were some new interesting elements that made this stand on its own.

To start, Stoltz was the son of Brundle, who at five-years-old, had grown to the size of someone in their early twenties. He was infected with the fly DNA of his father and was thus, raised in seclusion by the evil corporation that funded his father’s projects in the first film.

One thing leads to another, Stoltz becomes the new fly creature and chaos ensues.

The Fly gets a lot more screen time in this film and the special effects are still pretty outstanding and practical. The scene of the security guard’s face melting off as he screams is still stellar by today’s standards. The creature effects are well done and the horrific look of the final monster in the film is still stomach-churning, 25-plus years later.

The Fly II is not the great film that The Fly is and it fails when compared to it. As its own film, it is still a mark above the standard horror fare of the day, despite the 4.9 on IMdB and the 27 percent on Rotten Tomatoes.

Rating: 6.25/10

Film Review: The ‘Friday the 13th’ Film Series, Part III – The Kane Hodder Years (1988-2001)

Friday the 13th, Part VII – The New Blood (1988):

Release Date: May 13th, 1988
Directed by: John Carl Buechler
Written by: Manuel Fidello, Daryl Haney
Based on: characters by Victor Miller
Music by: Harry Manfredini, Fred Mollin
Cast: Lar Park Lincoln, Kevin Blair, Susan Blu, Terry Kiser, Susan Jennifer Sullivan, Elizabeth Kaitan, Jon Renfield, Jeff Bennett, Heidi Kozak, Diana Barrows, Larry Cox, Craig Thomas, Diane Almeida, Kane Hodder

Paramount Pictures, 88 Minutes

Review:

Hey, it’s Bernie from Weekend At Bernie’s and he’s alive! Well, not for long – it is a Jason movie.

This film also features Jason Voorhees going against Jean Grey from the X-Men. Actually, it is some girl named Tina but she has telekinetic and psychic powers and thus, spends a lot of time confusing Jason with cheap parlor tricks. I have a theory that she has no powers and was a con artist that rigged her house with lots of Hollywood strings. In any event, it gives this film an interesting dynamic that we haven’t seen in this series before.

The New Blood is important, in that it is the first film to feature Kane Hodder in the role of Jason. He is the only guy to play the role more than once. In fact, he played him over the course of four films and is the most recognized Jason actor and pretty much the overall fan favorite. I definitely think he had the best presence and mannerisms and brought the role to the next level, even though C.J. Graham did a pretty phenomenal job in Jason Lives (the installment before this one).

Jason also looks the absolute best in this film. He still looked pretty good in the next film but this is definitely my favorite Jason, as far as overall appearance. The fact that you can see his spine and ribs through the back of his tattered jumpsuit is pretty damned cool, as he was fish food in a lake for like ten years leading into being set free at the beginning of this movie.

The problem with this film, is that it was butchered by the censors and the MPAA. There is less gore, not because it was filmed that way but because it was edited down a lot. The fluidity of certain scenes and certain cuts are horrible.

Despite those issues, this is still a better-than-decent Friday the 13th chapter. It is also the best of the four Kane Hodder films.

Rating: 7/10

Friday the 13th, Part VIII – Jason Takes Manhattan (1989):

Release Date: July 28th, 1989
Directed by: Rob Hedden
Written by: Rob Hedden
Based on: characters by Victor Miller
Music by: Fred Mollin
Cast: Jensen Daggett, Todd Caldecott, Peter Mark Richman, Kane Hodder, Kelly Hu

Paramount Pictures, 100 Minutes

Review:

Jason Takes Manhattan is a really misleading title. Jason is only in Manhattan for less than a third of the film and he’s pretty much just in the alleyways and the sewer other than a quick chase scene in Times Square. This film should really be called Jason On A Boat because it is primarily Jason on a boat, killing some teens.

There are a few good kills, like a sauna rock through a stomach and a boxer having his head knocked off by a Jason uppercut. That’s about it though. This takes Jason out of his normal element but it isn’t a wanted change and it is executed with absolutely no imagination. This is just a very boring film.

The ending is retarded level bizarre. It makes no sense and I’m not sure why the City of New York flushes their sewers with toxic waste every night at midnight and how hanging out on a ladder above the rampaging toxic river didn’t asphyxiate and cause severe brain damage in our heroes. And somehow, toxic waste melts Jason down to a crying little boy.

The film is also visually inconsistent with previous installments. The child Jason looks nothing like Jason has looked in the past at that age. The tone of the film is just strange and it feels more like an old Sci-Fi Channel slasher knockoff film than a chapter in a storied franchise.

I’ve always liked Jensen Daggett though and this is her first film. That is about the only positive I can give.

This was the last film of the original series to be released by Paramount.

Rating: 5/10

Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday (1993):

Release Date: August 13th, 1993
Directed by: Adam Marcus
Written by: Jay Huguely, Dean Lorey, Adam Marcus
Based on: characters by Victor Miller
Music by: Harry Manfredini
Cast: John D. LeMay, Kari Keegan, Erin Gray, Allison Smith, Steve Culp, Steven Williams, Kane Hodder, Richard Gant

New Line Cinema, 88 Minutes

Review:

This is the worst film in the entire franchise. It is beyond horrible. Jason is barely in it and the monster is a demonic heart worm.

New Line Cinema acquired the rights to the Friday the 13th franchise and decided to reinvent it in their own way. Kane Hodder is back as Jason Voorhees but he is only in the opening sequence and the final battle, other than appearing in mirrors throughout the film when other people are possessed by his evil spirit.

By the way, that evil spirit travels from host to host via a worm crawling out of one mouth and into another. And Jason’s evil French kiss worm hatched from his heart. So I guess his heart is really some sort of egg. Well, the heart was eaten by a possessed guy in a morgue but that is how he got infected with the Jason worm and how this whole stupid process began.

The film also introduces a horrible concept that was abandoned after this film. Basically, now it is learned that Jason can only be killed with a magic knife wielded by a blood relative. So Jason is hunting down surviving family members because if he kills them, he can’t be killed. And somehow, all these people live around Crystal Lake and yet, he has never tried to hunt them down before, in any of the eight movies that predate this one!

The truth is, I completely ignore this film when it comes to the Friday the 13th mythos. The movie is absolute shit. It doesn’t exist except in some parallel universe. No, it doesn’t exist there either. Avoid it at all costs, unless you really want to torture yourself.

Jason also looks horrible. He looks like Krang from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cosplaying as Jason. Why does his noggin look like a big mutant brain with a hockey mask that is obviously too tight for his newly enormous head?

The only noteworthy thing about this movie, is that after Jason is dragged to Hell, the glove of Freddy Krueger (from the A Nightmare On Elm Street series) bursts out of the ground, grabs Jason’s hockey mask in the dirt and drags it down to Hell. This set up the eventual Freddy vs. Jason film that was in development hell for a decade.

Rating: 3/10

Jason X (2001):

Release Date: July 24th, 2001 (Germany)
Directed by: James Issac
Written by: Todd Farmer
Based on: characters by Victor Miller
Music by: Harry Manfredini
Cast: Lexa Doig, Lisa Ryder, Chuck Campbell, Jonathan Potts, Melyssa Ade, Melody Johnson, David Cronenberg, Peter Mensah, Kane Hodder

New Line Cinema, 92 Minutes

Review:

This is the last film in the regular series of movies unless you count Freddy vs. Jason in 2003. It is also the last film to star Kane Hodder as Jason.

So when horror franchises jump the shark, they usually go to space. Where most horror franchises go to space by the fourth film (see Critters, Hellraiser and Leprechaun), at least Jason didn’t have to leave Earth until the tenth installment of his series.

Jason X is a bad movie. It is a really bad movie. But it is a bad movie that is great in its awfulness. It is fun, it is ridiculous and the film doesn’t, at any time, try to take itself seriously. It knows it is bad but it is doing a damned good job of creating a good time.

After nine films full of killing teens at (or around) a summer camp, the new direction was refreshing. At least the scenery changed and at least it wasn’t a boring ghetto cruise ship on the way to a boring Manhattan sewer.

Jason is cryogenically frozen, wakes up 500 years in the future on a spaceship conducting a high school field trip and goes on a sci-fi killing spree. At one point, he is rebuilt by nanomachines into what fans call Uber Jason. Basically, he looks like a much angrier and deadly version of a Mighty Morphin Power Rangers villain.

If you try to take this film seriously, you will hate it. If you take it for what it is, an intentionally bad but awesome time, you will most likely enjoy it.

Rating: 6/10

*I will review Freddy vs. Jason and the 2009 Friday the 13th remake at a later date.