Film Review: Exterminator 2 (1984)

Also known as: Dominator (Italy)
Release Date: September 4th, 1984 (UK)
Directed by: Mark Buntzman
Written by: Mark Buntzman, William Sachs
Based on: characters by James Glickenhaus
Music by: David Spear
Cast: Robert Ginty, Deborah Geffner, Frankie Faison, Mario Van Peebles, Reggie Rock Bythewood, Kenny Marino, Irwin Keyes, Arye Gross

Cannon Films, 89 Minutes

Review:

“You want to clean out the streets? I am the streets!” – X

It could be possible that I’m the only person that likes this movie more than its predecessor but I thought it took the concept of the original, upped the ante quite a bit, gave us a much better villain and it truly felt like a Cannon Group movie because it was.

I love that Cannon secured the rights to make this sequel and while I don’t know whether that deal was just to make one film, I really think this could’ve been a franchise that ran on for several installments like Cannon’s Ninja trilogy, Missing In Action films or American Ninja series.

Robert Ginty is so enjoyable in this role and I really enjoyed how this one was more of a buddy movie with Frankie Faison by his side. They had good chemistry, felt like real buds and I’ve been a fan of Faison since first seeing him as the landlord in Coming to America when I was a kid.

The evil scumbag gang in this movie is led by a very young Mario Van Peebles. In some regard, it draws parallels to his villain role in the third Highlander movie but I like him in this much better. He looks great, intimidating and he took the role seriously enough to come across as a real bastard. His final showdown with the hero, while mired down by clunky editing, was a great cat and mouse game between a cold-blooded killer with an Uzi and a vigilante hero with a fucking flamethrower! This final showdown always stuck out in my mind as one of the best when I was a kid.

I also like the villain’s look and the whole gang’s vibe. I liked how they painted red “X”s on their victims and that whole psychotic aesthetic. They sort of felt like a mix between a gang from The Warriors and the sadistic serial killer cult from Cobra.

This is just a balls out, badass action flick that further reinforces why Cannon Films was so damn good and why they excelled in the best decade for action movies.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: its predecessor, as well as other ’70s and ’80s vigilante flicks.

Film Review: The Exterminator (1980)

Release Date: July 21st, 1980 (UK)
Directed by: James Glickenhaus
Written by: James Glickenhaus
Music by: Joe Renzetti
Cast: Robert Ginty, Samantha Eggar, Christopher George, Steve James, George Cheung, Irwin Keyes, Ned Eisenberg

Interstar, 104 Minutes (Director’s Cut), 101 Minutes (original cut)

Review:

“Hey man, whatcha doing? Come on man, don’t fuck around! Hey! Hey! Don’t do that! Come on, man. Whatcha doing that for? Stop!” – Chicken Pimp

Before he was one of the world’s most prolific Ferrari aficionados, James Glickenhaus was a film director. While his movies might not have connected with most people, I’ve always liked his work. I hadn’t seen any of his pictures in awhile, though, so I figured I’d watch the one that immediately comes to mind when I think of his films: The Exterminator.

This movie is a simple vigilante story. It also plays like a Punisher movie if the Punisher was actually allowed to get uber hardcore and get revenge in a balls out, unrelenting ’70s/’80s action film sort of way. Plus, the vigilante here really likes using a flamethrower, which just adds an extra level of extremism to his brand of street justice.

The film essentially starts out as a war movie as we see our would-be hero and his buddy getting tortured by sadistic captors during Vietnam. They escape and make it back to New York City. There, the friend is paralyzed after trying to stop some piece of shit thugs. So the would-be hero decides to make the scumfucks of the NYC slums pay for their scumfuckery.

The Exterminator is action packed and gritty as hell. However, it wasn’t as hard as I remembered it being even though some baddies are turned extra crispy. I feel like this really should’ve gone full on exploitation, grindhouse style and maybe it’d be a bigger cult classic than it is.

I like the action and the story isn’t bogged down by unnecessary plot filler. This just gets to the point once it gets going and it doesn’t let up until the final frame.

I dug revisiting this a lot and I especially loved how enjoyable Robert Ginty was as The Exterminator.

My only real complaint is that the vigilante hero didn’t look as cool as he does on the poster. He should’ve wore that badass black leather outfit.

Rating: 6.5/10
Pairs well with: its sequel, as well as other ’70s and ’80s vigilante flicks.

Film Review: Death Wish 4: The Crackdown (1987)

Also known as: Death Wish IV (working title)
Release Date: November 6th, 1987
Directed by: J. Lee Thompson
Written by: Gail Morgan Hickman
Based on: characters by Brian Garfield
Music by: John Bisharat, Paul McCallum, Valentine McCallum
Cast: Charles Bronson, Kay Lenz, John P. Ryan, Perry Lopez, Soon-Tek Oh, George Dickerson, Dana Barron, Danny Trejo, Tim Russ, Hector Mercado, Irwin Keyes

The Cannon Group, 99 Minutes

Review:

“Who the fuck are you?” – Rapist, “Death!” – Paul Kersey

As I said in early Death Wish reviews, the film series starts to fall off after the third movie. However, this installment was actually better than what I remembered. Maybe that’s because I hadn’t seen this one in a really long time and because I am a Cannon Films junkie that just needs unapologetic, high octane, violent, ’80s action pumped into my veins on a regular basis.

That being said, Charles Bronson still brings his fucking A game in this one.

Now the plot is kind of a disjointed mess with a swerve as to who the real villain is and while I like that in the noir films of the ’40s and ’50s, it isn’t done in a very clever way. It’s also kind of predictable and you see it coming once the guy who is presented as the big bad is killed with about a half hour to spare.

But all that means is that you get a final showdown between Charles f’n Bronson and John P. Ryan, another man’s man and old school action film badass. In fact, Ryan has a fate that is very similar to the baddie of Death Wish 3.

Now out of the first four films, this one is the weakest. I definitely remember the fifth being the worst, despite boasting the talents of Michael Parks, as its villain. But this was still a satisfying movie that gives you just about everything you want in a Death Wish or Cannon Films motion picture. But nothing could have followed the last twenty minutes of the third film, which is the best balls out action sequence of the 1980s and maybe of all-time.

Death Wish 4: The Crackdown still shines though. Plus, not only does it feature Bronson and Ryan but it also gives us a young Danny Trejo, Tim Russ before he was Tuvok on Star Trek: Voyager, Soon-Tek Oh as a dirty cop and Hector Mercado as a drug dealing shithead.

Sure, the film could have been better with a more fluid narrative but do you really care that much about that stuff when watching a Chuck Bronson murder festival? I don’t. I just want to see the scum of the Earth meet violent ends. In Death Wish 4, like its predecessors, that’s exactly what you get.

Rating: 6.75/10
Pairs well with: the other Death Wish movies and the Dirty Harry film series.

Film Review: House of 1000 Corpses (2003)

Release Date: April 11th, 2003
Directed by: Rob Zombie
Written by: Rob Zombie
Music by: Rob Zombie, Scott Humphrey
Cast: Sid Haig, Bill Moseley, Sheri Moon, Karen Black, Rainn Wilson, Chris Hardwick, Erin Daniels, Jennifer Jostyn, Matthew McGrory, Dennis Fimple, Robert Allen Mukes, Tom Towles, Walton Goggins, Harrison Young, Irwin Keyes, Michael J. Pollard

Spectacle Entertainment Group, Universal Pictures, Lions Gate Films, 88 Minutes

Review:

“Goddamn, motherfucker got blood all over my best clown suit.” – Captain Spaulding

House of 1000 Corpses was a movie that was highly anticipated before it came out, as everyone wanted to see what Rob Zombie could do as a legit film director. I remember there being delays and it felt as if this was never going to come out and when it did, it didn’t show up in my town and was sort of sparsely released unless you happened to live in a big city. I had to wait for the DVD to drop, six months later.

For the most part, Zombie did not disappoint with his debut and while it was a strong homage to films in the vein of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre franchise, it was still very much a part of Rob Zombie in style.

Although, it mostly feels like a really long music video littered with gore and deplorable actions. Not that that is a bad thing but it sort of limits the film’s audience and narrative, as the film’s style is put in front of everything else.

House of 1000 Corpses works for what it is, even if some of the stuff is really outlandish. This style wouldn’t work as well for Zombie going forward, as all of his films after his second one are pretty awful. His overemphasis on highlighting white trash and gross shit really wears thin after The Devil’s Rejects, the only sequel to this picture.

In fact, I grew to dislike Zombie’s work so much that I hadn’t sat down and watched this movie in years. I’m glad I revisited it but I see more flaws in it now than I initially did a decade and a half ago. But it is cool seeing this ensemble cast of a lot of talented people, many of which are horror icons, playing off of each other.

Also, Zombie’s wife, who he casts in every film, hadn’t grown tiresome and grating yet. After The Devil’s Rejects she would become as unwelcome on the screen as her husband as a director.

The real highlights of this film is the amazing work of Sid Haig, who isn’t in it enough, and the role played by Bill Moseley, which is really a retread of his more famous character Chop Top from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2.

Rating: 7/10

Film Review: The ‘Friday the 13th’ Film Series, Part I – The Original Trilogy (1980-1982)

Friday the 13th was a cultural phenomenon when I was growing up. While I have always been a bigger fan of Freddy Krueger, I still loved these films, which followed Jason Voorhees, as he murdered sexually active teens that got too close to Crystal Lake.

This is one of the most successful film franchises in cinema history, despite being panned by critics. There have been a total of twelve films between sequels and a remake, as well as an entry that saw Jason fight Freddy of A Nightmare On Elm Street fame. There was even a television show that didn’t directly tie into the movies but was inspired by their tone and spirit.

It is rumored that there is a new films and a television show currently in development. Although things seem to be at the very early stages.

In this review, I am going to cover the first three films. The second review will cover what I call The Tommy Jarvis Trilogy as Parts IV, V and VI focus on the character of Tommy Jarvis and his three film battle with the masked killer. Part three will cover Parts VII, VIII, Jason Goes to Hell and Jason X – the films featuring Kane Hodder as Jason. I will review Freddy vs. Jason and the 2009 remake at a later date.

Friday the 13th (1980):

Release Date: May 9th, 1980
Directed by: Sean S. Cunningham
Written by: Victor Miller
Music by: Harry Manfredini
Cast: Betsy Palmer, Adrienne King, Harry Crosby, Laurie Bartram, Mark Nelson, Jeannine Taylor, Robbi Morgan, Kevin Bacon, Irwin Keyes

Paramount Pictures, 95 Minutes

Review:

The first film was created to cash-in on the success of its slasher predecessor Halloween. It was also the first film of its type to be distributed by a major studio – Paramount Pictures. The studio heads were geniuses taking a risk like that because it turned into a massive franchise. Well, they sold the rights to New Line Cinema years later but someone definitely got a huge bonus.

The first film sets the tone for all the others. It even features a young Kevin Bacon.

What makes the first film so unique, is that people have come to associate these films with Jason as the killer. However, in the original film, Jason was not the killer. I thought this was pretty much common knowledge until my girlfriend watched it with me and was shocked at the reveal. While she had seen many of these films, the first movie was not one of them and it was cool to see someone effected by the reveal for the first time.

This seems to be considered the best film, despite Jason only being in it for a few seconds. It’s a good slasher movie but I don’t feel that it is the best, as the films evolve and develop over time.

It still plays well today, and it is still effective despite aspects of it coming off as cheesy. The practical effects still look better than modern CGI blood splatter and gore but I constantly beat a dead horse with that point in my reviews of older horror movies.

The atmosphere of this film is great. It has a similar environmental vibe to Wes Craven’s Last House On the Left but it is lighter in tone, with comedic elements being sprinkled in. It certainly doesn’t make you as uncomfortable as Last House On the Left. Oddly enough, Sean S. Cunningham, who directed and produced this film, worked with Craven on Last House. He wanted to distance himself from that film and wanted to create something a bit more approachable and fun. He succeeded.

Rating: 7/10

Friday the 13th, Part II (1981):

Release Date: April 30th, 1981
Directed by: Steve Miner, Sean S. Cunningham (additional scenes)
Written by: Ron Kurz, Phil Scuderi
Based on: characters by Victor Miller
Music by: Harry Manfredini
Cast: Amy Steel, John Furey, Adrienne King, Betsy Palmer, Stuart Charno

Paramount Pictures, 87 Minutes

Review:

The second film picks up with Jason looking for revenge. Revenge for what? Well, watch the first film, if you don’t know.

Jason is finally the killer and introduced as a menacing hulk for the first time. Although he doesn’t have the hockey mask yet and walks around with a potato sack over his head. While that is bizarre, there is still something scary about it and about his one eye – peering through a small tear in the sack.

Another group of teens show up at Crystal Lake and the body count starts to rise.

This isn’t as strong of a film as a few of the later installments but it does set the course for the franchise. It becomes the template to follow, even more so than the first part. There is more violence, more boobies and the most important element: Jason!

The only real negative about this chapter, is that they kill off Crazy Ralph. That dude should have been in every Friday the 13th movie.

Rating: 6/10

Friday the 13th, Part III (1982):

Release Date: August 13th, 1982
Directed by: Steve Miner
Written by: Martin Kitrosser, Carol Watson, Petru Popescu
Based on: characters by Victor Miller, Ron Kurz
Music by: Harry Manfredini, Michael Zager
Cast: Dana Kimmell, Paul Kratka, Richard Brooker

Paramount Pictures, 95 Minutes

Review:

This was a 3D film. It is funny to watch because there are all these bizarre shots done that were made specifically for the 3D format. So when you watch them now, they look bizarre and out of place. But even if you didn’t know this was a 3D film, it is made pretty obvious with some of the gags and angles.

The most important thing about this movie, is that Jason finally gets his hockey mask! And even though it takes three films to get to completely familiar territory with this franchise, I do love the slow build over three movies. While it wasn’t necessarily intentional at the time, it now plays out really well. It also keeps the films from becoming too similar, up to this point.

Another group of teens show up because Jason likes killing a specific type of people and a senior citizens convention wouldn’t be as exciting.

Teens die, other people die, Jason fucks shit up and then we get our final battle of the heroine versus the monster. Not to give too much away but the final fight sees Jason take an axe to the head, which is how he got that iconic mark at the top of his mask.

This film is more comedic than its predecessors, especially in regards to the marijuana jokes and hippie characters that were obviously put in the film to appeal to the Cheech & Chong crowd at the time.

Rating: 6/10

Film Review: The Warriors (1979)

Release Date: February 9th, 1979
Directed by: Walter Hill
Written by: David Shaber, Walter Hill
Based on: The Warriors by Sol Yurick
Music by: Barry De Vorzon
Cast: Michael Beck, Deborah Van Valkenburgh, James Remar, Dorsey Wright, Brian Tyler, David Harris, Tom McKitterick, Marcelino Sanchez, Terry Michos, Roger Hill, David Patrick Kelly, Lynne Thigpen, Mercedes Ruehl, Paul Greco, Thomas G. Waites, Sonny Landham, Irwin Keyes

Paramount Pictures, 92 Minutes

Review:

The Warriors is a classic. Albeit, maybe not in the same sense as 2001: A Space Odyssey or The Good, The Bad and The Ugly but it is a classic nonetheless.

Few films have as much style and grit as The Warriors. Even fewer are able to generate the nostalgic kinship this film has with its long-time fans. It is a gem at the end of a great era of film – closing out the 1970s and making way for the 1980s.

I wasn’t even two months old when this film came out but I have had a strong bond with it since my preteen years. Maybe that leads me to showing a lot of favoritism to this film but considering the amount of movies I have seen over the course of my life, being that I’ve been an avid film buff since I was five or six, the fact that I still watch this twice a year says something about how great it is.

The Warriors follows a street gang in New York City as they have to fight through several gangs and several territories in an effort to get back home after being framed for murdering the biggest gang leader in the city. It almost plays like a 1980s arcade fighting game and I can bet that many of the game developers of the 80s borrowed a lot from this film. Each borough is a new stage, each stage comes with a new gang or a new challenge and eventually, they win by getting to the end – some safe and sound but with many casualties and fatalities along the way.

Instead of just being a somewhat accurate portrayal of 1970s New York City gangs, the film is more of a fantasy portrayal. All the gangs have unique looks and gimmicks which may seem cheesy at first but ultimately creates an environment that is just as scary as it is bizarre. Also, even with the 1970s fashion and hair, it is a timeless feeling film because it creates its own world and isn’t necessarily a representation of 1970s reality.

This is my favorite film by director Walter Hill and he’s done a lot of films I like, such as Hard Times, The Driver, Streets of Fire, The Long Riders, 48 Hrs., Brewster’s Millions, Red Heat and Trespass. This is also my favorite film featuring the talents of David Patrick Kelly, who plays the villainous Luther – a character which gave us one of the best ad-libs in cinema history with “Warriors, come out to play-ay!” He went on to star in a lot of roles that were all almost equally as awesome – Twin Peaks and The Crow being my other favorites. James Remar, most famous now for being Dexter Morgan’s ghost dad on Dexter, is just fantastic in this. I also enjoyed Deborah Van Valkenburgh who went on to be in the Ted Knight sitcom Too Close For Comfort.

The acting isn’t superb by any stretch of the imagination, other than Kelly, but it doesn’t matter. Besides, the acting is much better than the run of the mill B-movies of the era. While this can seemingly fall into that category, it stands on its own as a unique film and an interesting experience. The film never tires, even after all these years.

If I were ever to open a film school, The Warriors would be required viewing. It has style, it is a really cool concept that is perfectly executed and it is a fun movie. Although, if you are a male in America, I’m assuming you’ve seen it already.

Rating: 10/10