Video Game Review: Crime Fighters (Arcade)

Yes, yes, I know… I’ve been playing the shit out of arcade side scrolling beat’em ups. But I just got MAME a few weeks ago and I’m trying to relive the best that my favorite video game genre has to offer. Well, it was my favorite genre when I was eleven but whatever.

I had some pretty fond memories of playing Crime Fighters as a kid. I even remember being disappointed when my primary local arcade got rid of the machine. It was a dark, dark day.

But now, almost thirty years since that broken heart, I can play this game whenever the hell I want.

For beat’em ups, this one is pretty standard. You move with the screen, you smash foes with your fists and feet and you get to play with weapons the baddies drop after you knock them out.

What’s unique about this game, though, is that it has a bit of slapstick humor thrown into it. I always thought that was amusing as a kid and frankly, I completely forgot about it until playing through this again.

Another factor that sets this apart from similar games is that the bosses are all pretty cool and homages to awesome characters of the time. There is a guy that looks like Freddy Krueger, one that looks like Jason Voorhees, a chainsaw dude, a punk dude, an Ivan Drago looking guy and others I’m sure I’m forgetting.

If you dig this genre, you’ll dig this game. Especially, if you’re a fan of retro gaming, as well as ’80s horror.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: other side scrolling beat’em ups of the era.

Film Review: Event Horizon (1997)

Also known as: The Stars My Destination (working title)
Release Date: August 15th, 1997
Directed by: Paul W. S. Anderson
Written by: Philip Eisner
Music by: Michael Kamen
Cast: Laurence Fishburne, Sam Neill, Kathleen Quinlan, Joely Richardson, Richard T. Jones, Jason Issacs, Sean Pertwee, Jack Noseworthy, Noah Huntley, Peter Marinker

Golar Productions, Impact Pictures, Paramount Pictures, 96 Minutes, 130 Minutes (rough cut)

Review:

“I’m telling you it was his voice I heard, he was calling to me. A young bosun named Eddie Corrick. We served on the Goliath together. When the O2 tanks ruptured, four of us made it to the lifeboat but Corrick was still on board the Goliath when the fire broke out.” – Miller

This is hands down my favorite film directed by Paul W. S. Anderson.

In fact, I love it so much that it bothers me that there was once a 130 minute rough cut of the film that none of us will ever be able to see because they didn’t really archive deleted scenes and alternate takes like they started to do a few years later when DVD extras became a thing.

What’s really sad about that is that this was a film that was whittled down by the producers into a quick, palatable 96 minutes because I guess horror or sci-fi movies can’t be longer than that. I feel cheated not being able to see Anderson’s full vision.

However, this is still a solid, sci-fi thriller with sick and disturbing twists that made this the most frightening space movie of its time. I can’t say that it’s as good as the first two Alien movies but it exceeds all of the sequels after the first two pictures.

This is also imaginative and just fucking cool.

The story follows a space crew as they travel to the orbit of Neptune to see what happened to another crew that went missing. Once there, they discover a pretty horrific truth. The missing crew’s ship jumped through a different dimension and thus, brought back what can only be described as Hell in space.

For those who have never seen this movie but are familiar with the Dead Space video game series, you’ll see a lot of stylistic similarities. Funny enough, every time I watch this movie, I want to go back and play those games.

In lots of ways, this is a terrifying film. It’s visuals are intense and it’s some of the best work Anderson has ever done. The movie is a total mindfuck but what does kind of suck is that you’re left with so many questions and you want to know more. Unfortunately, there will probably never be a sequel. I mean, it’s been 22 years since this came out.

Apart from Anderson being on his A game, this movie is truly carried by the performances of its great cast. There are ton of people in this, most of whom have gone on to have bigger careers after this picture. But they were all very capable and convincing actors in this film. I’ve always loved Sean Pertwee, Jason Issacs and Jack Noteworthy and seeing them get to work alongside Laurence Fishburne and Sam Neill is excellent.

Event Horizon is such an underrated film. It came and went in theaters pretty quickly and it did okay on video but I feel like it came out in the wrong era and was lost in the shuffle of all the other horror movies from its time.

Rating: 8.75/10
Pairs well with: Danny Boyle’s Sunshine, as well as Pandorum and 2017’s Life.

Book Review: Famous Monsters – Ack-ives, Vol. 2: The House of Hammer

I’ve been a Hammer Films aficionado since I was a wee little lad. Growing up, my granmum always had AMC and other old movie stations on. As the sun went down, often times there’d be some solid old school horror, whether it was the Universal Monsters stuff, Vincent Price movies or the Hammer films, which almost always starred Christopher Lee or Peter Cushing and usually the two of them together.

I used to videotape every Hammer film that came on television and I had a solid collection. As I got older, I ended up getting just about everything I could on DVD, completing the Dracula, Frankenstein and Mummy film series. Not to mention everything in-between.

So I had to pick this up when I saw it in my local comic book shop.

This reads like a book but is in a magazine format. But it’s pretty thick and has a slew of good articles about the history of Hammer studios and all the great movies they put out.

It delves into their big franchises, which were the UK’s darker and more serious takes on the franchises originally created by Universal, most of which came from famous works of literature like Bram Stoker’s Dracula and Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein.

Hammer didn’t just stop there, though. They did other vampire movies, mummy movies, zombie movies, werewolf movies and just about everything else under the sun that could be tailored into a good horror story.

Famous Monsters did a fine job of painting the picture of who the creators behind Hammer were and why their work was so essential to the evolution of horror.

This is definitely worth checking out and it is plastered with lots of great photos from the film themselves, as well as behind the scenes stuff.

Rating: 8.5/10
Pairs well with: other classic horror magazines.

Video Game Review: Splatterhouse (TurboGrafx-16)

Splatterhouse was one of those games I used to see in all the gaming magazines of the late ’80s. However, no one I knew had a TurboGrafx-16, so I never got to play it.

Anyway, the game was always highly touted but I think that was because of the gore factor, as video games didn’t have a lot of blood and splatter back then.

Having played it now, it was fun enough but nothing fantastic.

The TurboGrafx-16 runs and plays really smooth but I thought the controls were a bit wonky.

Also, the main character feels a bit large and chunky compared to what was the norm at the time. This feels like it’s scaled for a handheld console even though it wasn’t. Although, it probably looked good on the handheld Turbo Express.

I thought that the level design was pretty mediocre and while some of it looks cool, it’s just repetitive side scrolling fare. Plus, many obstacles were hard to avoid, especially while being overwhelmed by other enemies. Also, since this doesn’t play arcade style, where one can just continue off from where they die, it makes advancing difficult without a lot of experience.

Frankly, I don’t want to play this long enough to get that experienced.

Additionally, the boss battles I did play were confusing and disorienting. It wasn’t clear what you were supposed to do in some cases.

If I can get my hands on the sequels, I’ll check them out and give them a playthrough too. Maybe they improved on some of this game’s faults.

Rating: 6/10
Pairs well with: the sequels in this series, as well as other TurboGrafx-16 games and arcade beat’em ups.

Film Review: House (1985)

Also known as: House: Ding Dong, You’re Dead (video title)
Release Date: December 6th, 1985 (Victoria, Texas premiere)
Directed by: Steve Miner
Written by: Ethan Wiley, Fred Dekker
Music by: Harry Manfredini
Cast: William Katt, George Wendt, Richard Moll, Kay Lenz

New World Pictures, 93 Minutes

Review:

“Hey, it’s great to have a new neighbor. Woman lived here before you was nuts. Biggest bitch under the sun. Just a senile old hag really. Wouldn’t be surprised if someone just got fed up and offed her. Know what I mean?” – Harold, “She was my aunt.” – Roger, “Heart of gold though. Just uh, a saint really. And uh such a beautiful woman, for her age.” – Harold

I never liked this movie. In fact, I remember not being alone in that based off of what other people said about both House films when I was a kid. But in the last few years, I’ve heard people talk it up like it’s a classic or a hidden gem. Being that I hadn’t watched it since the mid-’80s, I wondered if I had missed something as a kid. Was it maybe too adult for my eight year-old sensibilities?

The short answer is “no”.

I still think that this is a pretty bad movie. The main reason is because it is dreadfully dull.

This is like a family friendly horror movie of the worst caliber. It’s like a terrible episode of Amazing Stories and then it’s even worse than that.

The story doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, it’s really just a total fucking mess and it is hard to care about any of the characters because you can’t take any of this seriously enough to connect to anything.

Sure, this has some good comedic actors with William Katt, George Wendt and Richard Moll. Their talents are mostly wasted though. Katt is a wee bit charming but he’s too goofy and thus, it’s hard to sympathize with his turmoil. Wendt has some funny lines but he’s not in the film all that much and he’s sort of just on the sidelines. Moll wasn’t used in a comedic way at all and it’s such a departure from the Moll audiences would have been used to due to his time on Night Court. In fact, I wonder why the cast him in the first place.

The special effects are pretty hokey, even for 1985. Although, I was impressed by some of the matte painting work.

In the end, I still think this movie sucks. I’ll probably watch the second one in order to review it but I’m not enthused about it.

Rating: 4.25/10
Pairs well with: its sequel and other films that Italy merged into a series of unrelated pictures called La Casa.

Comic Review: Preacher: Book One

Published: 1995-1996
Written by: Garth Ennis
Art by: Steve Dillon, Glenn Fabry (covers)

Vertigo Comics, 351 Pages

Review:

Over the years, I’ve read several different story arcs from the Preacher comic book series. But never have I started from the beginning and tried to read the series in its entirety.

I’ve only read the second story arc that makes up this first book. So getting into the earliest Preacher issues was a real treat.

This kicks things off with a bang and for fans of the television show, the beginning of the comic is vastly different, even if there are some similarities.

As dark as the show is, this is bleaker, meaner and has a harder edge than anything that they can put on television, especially in 2019 where everything is deemed “too offensive”.

In fact, this is ’90s comics at its peak. But this was also from an era were Vertigo wasn’t complete shit. Say what you will about ’90s comics, good or bad, but this is one of the titles that defines the best parts of that decade. Everything in the ’90s was “extreme” and this encapsulates that like no other comic except for maybe some bootleg and outlaw comics of the time.

But this doesn’t feel like it’s a gimmick that didn’t age well, it feels genuine and authentic. That’s probably why it has stood the test of time.

Garth Ennis was on his A game right out of the gate and his fantastic writing is greatly enhanced by Steve Dillon’s art on every page, as well as Glenn Fabry’s stupendous covers.

Preacher is a perfect storm of hardcore, extreme, edgy boi shit and I mean that complimentary. It’s a product of its time and the culture around it. While I’m sure that is off putting to some, like easily offended snowflakes in 2019, this is still a comic series with merit and a lot of emotional turmoil that the reader can relate to despite how dark this world is.

It also examines a lot of religious taboos and criticism in a creative and exploratory way. As someone that grew up in a really religious environment, some of this was uncomfortable for me to read the first time but in retrospect, it’s good that it challenges these ideals and asks what the point to it all is.

Preacher is not a comic series for everyone. I can see where it would push away certain sects on the right side and left side of the political spectrum. For those of us in the middle, who want some of the answers to life’s mysteries, it’s a cool exploration into that backed up by badass characters doing badass things and killing off scumbags that deserve it.

Rating: 9.5/10
Pairs well with: the other Preacher stuff, as well as ’90s Spawn and Garth Ennis’ run on Shadowman.

Film Review: Tremors 3: Back to Perfection (2001)

Release Date: October 2nd, 2001
Directed by: Brent Maddock
Written by: John Whelpley
Music by: Kevin Kiner
Cast: Michael Gross, Shawn Christian, Susan Chuang, Ariana Richards

Stampede Entertainment, Universal Pictures, 104 Minutes

Review:

“[Suggesting names for the flying monsters] Assblasters. How’s that?” – Jodi, “Sounds like a porno film.” – Jack

I wouldn’t call this film unwatchable but by this installment, the series is really out of gas. The only thing that salvaged it for me was Michael Gross.

This one follows the framework of the second film in that it has the Graboids evolve into another form. So where we had the Shriekers, we now have the Assblasters, which are basically Shriekers that are sleeker, have wings and can fly propelled by their flamethrower rocket blasting asses. Hence, the name.

The new monsters aren’t that creative and they just seem like an early ’00s edgy boi joke that didn’t age well.

The problem with these new monsters is that they still don’t pose the same level of threat as the original Graboids. Sure, they fly and they spray ass flames but that’s more comedic than threatening.

Now there are some Graboids. In fact, this introduces El Blanco, an albino Graboid, who would go on to be a protagonist through the rest of the films and television series. But they still feel lost in the big mess of a film that this is.

Plus, the CGI effects are really bad and where Tremors II felt like it had half the budget of Tremors, this feels like it had half the budget of Tremors II. It’s noticeably cheap.

The acting is pretty terrible and the only person that seems like they have chops is Gross. But Gross is a veteran, has created a good character within this mundane franchise and is really the only reason to revisit it whenever they decide to return to the Graboid well.

I’m not looking forward to watching the other sequels but the fourth film is a prequel and also has Billy Drago in it, so I’ll give it a shot.

Rating: 5/10
Pairs well with: the other Tremors movies.