Documentary Review: Bloodsucking Cinema (2007)

Release Date: October 26th, 2007
Directed by: Barry Gray
Written by: Barry Gray
Music by: Don MacDonald
Cast: Uwe Boll, John Carpenter, David S. Goyer, Corey Haim, John Landis, Kristanna Loken, Leonard Maltin, Cheech Marin, Greg Nicotero, Joel Schumacher, Stephen Sommers, Stuart Townsend, Stan Winston, Len Wiseman, Marv Wolfman

Insight Film Studios, Vamp Productions, 56 Minutes

Review:

This has been in my Starz queue for a long ass time, so I figured I’d give it a watch to clear out some of the stuff that’s been there for too long.

Overall, this was a pretty boring documentary with a lot of talking head interviews edited together pretty sloppily.

There didn’t seem to be a clear direction or objective about this short documentary other than having a bunch of actors and directors talking about vampire films they’ve been apart of.

Frankly, this felt random as hell and features a slew of films that no one cared about when they came out and certainly don’t care about now. While they talk about some solid films like Lost Boys, From Dusk Till Dawn and Vampires, they also spend a lot of time talking about shit movies like Van Helsing, BloodRayne and Queen of the Damned.

I wouldn’t call this informative or entertaining. It’s a pointless, shitty production that only barely scratches the surface on the history of vampire cinema and would rather showcase Uwe Boll and Stephen Sommers rambling about their atrocious movies.

Rating: 3.5/10
Pairs well with: sniffing hobo farts.

 

Film Review: Vampires (1998)

Also known as: John Carpenter’s Vampires (complete title), Vampire$ (working title)
Release Date: April 15th, 1998 (France)
Directed by: John Carpenter
Written by: Don Jakoby
Based on: Vampire$ by John Steakley
Music by: John Carpenter
Cast: James Woods, Daniel Baldwin, Sheryl Lee, Thomas Ian Griffith, Maximilian Schell, Tim Guinee, Mark Boone Junior, Gregory Sierra, Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa

JVC Entertainment Networks, Film Office, Storm King Productions, Largo Entertainment, Spooky Tooth Productions, Columbia Pictures, 108 Minutes

Review:

“Can I ask ya somethin, Padre? When I was kickin your ass back there… you get a little wood?” – Jack Crow

James Woods is cooler than any of us could ever be. And frankly, this may be the coolest he’s ever been. I mean, shit, he’s a vampire slaying, foul mouthed, badass, ready to burn down hordes of undead bloodsuckers.

Then you have Daniel Baldwin, who is always very convincing as an overweight piece of shit that isn’t afraid to punch his way through problems.

Both of these guys inject so much testosterone into this picture that it truly is cinematic Viagra.

Now I’m not saying they’re good people or even heroic. But that’s what makes this movie so badass and chock full of the best ’90s action movie cliches.

This also features Thomas Ian Griffith as the big evil vampire that they have to kill. Griffith was born to play this part, even if he’s given better performances elsewhere – The Karate Kid, Part III is still my favorite thing he’s ever done. But he is absolutely convincing, has the right build and physical presence and is able to terrify the audience. I remember people in the theater being in absolute awe during the scene where Griffith crashes the vampire hunters’ motel party, ripping everyone and everything to shreds.

What I really enjoy about this movie, is that it is a vampire movie with a real hard edge to it. In the ’90s, vampires were still scary and this does a good job of tapping into that while reminding you how cool vampires can be when used as legitimate monsters. This, along with Blade and From Dusk Till Dawn used these mythological terrors in the way that God intended.

This isn’t John Carpenter at his finest but it’s the second best movie he did in the ’90s after In the Mouth of Madness. It’s tough as shit, blue collar as fuck and it shows you that being a vampire slayer means that you’re probably going to die a very early death instead of just being a cool teenage girl that talks like all her dialogue is written by a balding middle aged guy pretending to be a teenage girl.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: Robert Rodriguez’s From Dusk Till Dawn and John Carpenter’s ’90s movies.

Film Review: Christine (1983)

Also known as: John Carpenter’s Christine (complete title)
Release Date: December 9th, 1983
Directed by: John Carpenter
Written by: Bill Phillips
Based on: Christine by Stephen King
Music by: John Carpenter, Alan Howarth
Cast: Keith Gordon, John Stockwell, Alexandra Paul, Robert Prosky, Harry Dean Stanton, William Ostrander

Delphi Premier Productions, Polar Film, Columbia Pictures, 110 Minutes

Review:

“Whoa, whoa. You better watch what you say about my car. She’s real sensitive.” – Arnie Cunningham

I gew up in a time when John Carpenter was king. I was a big fan but somehow I always forget that this is in his oeuvre because I associate it more with the slew of Stephen King adaptations from the time.

That being said, it is still very Carpenter but it is also very much King. I guess it’s a pretty good marriage between two of the top horror icons of that era. And frankly, I still love this film even though I hadn’t seen it in quite awhile and forgot how much I enjoy it.

This still plays very well and is a great film in regards to how it builds up suspense.

I was also really impressed with the special effects, especially in regards to the scene where the car repairs itself in front of Keith Gordon’s Arnie. Man, that sequence is spectacular and considering that it was all done with practical effects in a time when CGI was still very primitive, makes me respect how perfectly they pulled it off behind the scenes.

Keith Gordon carries the film with his performance and he does a fantastic job transitioning from the weakling nerd that he is in the beginning to a kid driven by his obsession for his car and finally, as a character that is completely possessed by evil.

The performances by the other two leads, John Stockwell and Alexandra Paul, were also good. It’s the famous character actors that give this film a bit more seasoning though, as both Harry Dean Stanton and Robert Prosky deliver some really good scenes in the film.

I really liked John Carpenter’s score but his music always had a certain presence that accented the frights in his films. This score is no different and his use of audible effects seemed more refined than what he did in Halloween. Not to take anything away from his audio trickery in Halloween but I think that he really found his groove with it here. And while it may go unnoticed by most people who watch this film, it’s these little flourishes that sets Carpenter apart from the pack and gives his films more of an edge.

This is a good coming of age story that doesn’t have a happy ending for everyone. It’s creepy but it’s effective. And I’ve always loved that there really isn’t an explanation in regards to the car being possessed by evil. It’s a machine that just has to kill.

Rating: 7.75/10
Pairs well with: other Stephen King films of the ’70s and ’80s: Maximum OverdriveSalem’s LotCarrieSilver Bullet, etc.

Film Review: Halloween (2018)

Release Date: September 8th, 2018 (Toronto International Film Festival)
Directed by: David Gordon Green
Written by: Jeff Fradley, Danny McBride, David Gordon Green
Based on: characters by John Carpenter, Debra Hill
Music by: John Carpenter, Cody Carpenter, Daniel Davies
Cast: Jamie Lee Curtis, Judy Greer, Andi Matichak, Will Patton, Toby Huss, Virginia Gardner, Nick Castle

Miramax, Blumhouse Productions, Trancas International Films, Rough House Pictures, Universal Pictures, 105 Minutes

Review:

“There’s a reason we’re supposed to be afraid of this night.” – Hawkins

Well, the highly anticipated Halloween is here.

This film is a direct sequel to the first movie and thus, ignores everything that came after the original film. So no hospital movie, no Michael hunting little Jamie, no Paul Rudd fighting a weirdo cult, no LL Cool J as a poor security guard and no Busta Rhymes karate moves. Most importantly though, none of that white trash Rob Zombie crap. Although, I did like Malcolm McDowell.

I guess the coolest thing about this isn’t bringing back Jamie Lee Curtis and John Carpenter (in some capacity), it’s actually getting Nick Castle back to play the Shape, as he was the original Michael Myers. Side note: did you know that the Shape a.k.a. Michael Myers directed The Last Starfighter?

Anyway, jumping right in, I thought that the first half hour or so of the movie was slow. All of that could have been condensed down to ten minutes, really. This is a slasher film and doesn’t need to give us giant spoonfuls of exposition. Just give us the quick rundown of where the story is and go for it.

After that first half hour, things really pick up but I felt that the middle act of the picture almost went too fast. Michael starts killing and he kills a lot. However, once you get to the big finale at the Strode house in the woods, it slows to a crawl again.

I get that this final act was an attempt at building tension, which it does do well, but as Laurie carefully moved through her house looking for Michael, I was just sitting in my chair thinking, “Hurry it up, already.” I mean, if she was so prepared for Michael coming for her, she should of lived in a one room cabin and not a maze full of mannequins and junk store trinkets.

As far as the kills go, it was a mixed bag. Too many kills happen off screen, which I hate in a slasher film. Commit to the f’n bit and show it! Show it all! What’s more baffling is that the kills that they do show are pretty brutal. So why give us a mixture of violent kills and off screen kills? Were the filmmakers teetering on making this PG-13?

One thing about this movie that really got me into it though was the use of John Carpenter’s music. He did the score for this one and kept it very traditional and tapped into the themes of the original. However, as the film rolls on, those famous tunes start to evolve and Carpenter did some really neat stuff musically. I’ll probably buy this film’s score on vinyl if I come across it at my local record shop.

Another positive is the psychology of this film. I don’t mean to spoil anything but this starts out like a typical Halloween film once Michael gets free but eventually you come to see that the hunter is actually the hunted. Laurie Strode wanted him outside again so that she could finally kill him and finally close this long, dark chapter of her life. Laurie becomes a badass and spends decades preparing for this night in an effort to deal with her PTSD. It’s ruined her life, her marriages, her family and she just wants to put this MFer to bed, once and for all.

However, even though I prefer this movie to H2O, I preferred the other version of Laurie Strode better. Also, that film had that great iconic moment where Laurie and Michael come face to face through a small window. That really was a great moment and gave that film more meaning than it should have had. This new film didn’t have that sort of confrontation, which would’ve actually done more to build tension than Laurie slowly walking through a dark house with a shotgun. Having Laurie and Michael look into each others eyes is something that needed to happen, it froze me in my seat when I saw that in H2O. Nothing about this Halloween came close to having that effect on me.

In the end, I was really happy with the movie. It hits the right notes, most of the time. It was also a great homage to the original film and a few other horror classics. We haven’t had a good slasher film in quite awhile and this at least satisfied the part of me that’s been yearning for a real throwback to my favorite era and subgenre of horror.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: Halloween 1245 and 6.

Film Review: Ghosts of Mars (2001)

Also known as: John Carpenter’s Ghosts of Mars (complete title)
Release Date: August 24th, 2001
Directed by: John Carpenter
Written by: John Carpenter, Larry Sulkis
Music by: John Carpenter
Cast: Ice Cube, Natasha Henstridge, Jason Statham, Pam Grier, Clea DuVall, Joanna Cassidy, Robert Carradine, Wanda De Jesus, Peter Jason

Storm King Productions, Screen Gems, 98 Minutes

Review:

“…Friday night, the whole place should be packed. A whole twelve hours before sun up and there’s money to burn, whores to fuck and drugs to take.” – Melanie Ballard

Well, this was the only John Carpenter film I had never seen. That is, until now. I just remember that when it was coming out, I thought it looked terrible. My friends that did see it only confirmed my reservations about it and in fact, they were harsher on this film than I expected. So I never really wanted to give it a watch but hey, I review movies and this was on my Starz app, so I figured I’d torture myself for 98 minutes.

I wouldn’t quite say that it was torture though. It was stupid enough to entertain me but it didn’t do much to excite me. And it’s not like John Carpenter did anything wrong, it’s just that this proved that his style had become dated. Had this script been shot by him in the late ’80s, this could have been a film that was remembered more fondly because it would’ve fit that era better.

A big issue with it though, is its reliance on poorly shot and constructed miniatures, very confined sets and going the digital route in places where practical effects would’ve probably worked better. Also, it definitely lacks in the violence department, at least in what one should expect from a Carpenter film.

It’s also kind of a boring movie, for the most part. The villains are pretty shitty and this is really just a movie with space zombies that understand how to use primitive weapons. Also, the main villain just looked like any generic horror monster from the late ’90s that was trying to be a scarier version of Marilyn Manson but just ended up looking like a goth kid without a good Halloween costume.

The acting in this is terrible too. Ice Cube can do better but he really just plays himself and dialed it in. Natasha Henstridge was okay and at least believable in her role but she looked bored. Statham was pointless in this, as was Clea DuVall, who can deliver a good performance when given the right role.

This isn’t an unwatchable movie but I can’t recommend it. I think that most people will actually hate it, even though I found it okay enough to kill 98 minutes during a tropical depression.

Rating: 3.5/10
Pairs well with: Later John Carpenter films, as well as other films from the era that dealt with Mars: Red Planet and Mission to Mars.

Film Review: Village of the Damned (1995)

Also known as: John Carpenter’s Village of the Damned (complete title)
Release Date: April 28th, 1995
Directed by: John Carpenter
Written by: David Himmelstein, John Carpenter (uncredited)
Based on: The Midwich Cuckoos by John Wyndham
Music by: John Carpenter, Dave Davies
Cast: Christopher Reeve, Kirstie Alley, Linda Kozlowski, Michael Paré, Meredith Salenger, Mark Hamill, Thomas Dekker, Lindsey Haun, Peter Jason

Alphaville Films, Universal Pictures, 99 Minutes

Review:

“Let’s cut to the chase here… it has become an interest to national science that we carefully research and monitor their developing powers. I ask for another year’s grant.” – Dr. Susan Verner

I loved Carpenter’s work in the ’70s, ’80s and some of the ’90s stuff. When this came out back in 1995, it didn’t resonate with me in the right way. It wasn’t terrible but I didn’t like it and didn’t have much urge to watch it again. But that was over twenty years ago, this was streaming on Starz and I felt like I’d give it a watch because I at least knew I wouldn’t hate it.

To my surprise, I like this more now, in 2018, than I did in 1995.

It’s just eerie as shit but creepy kids usually hit that note, even though creepy kid horror has been done to death at this point. I guess what kind of intrigued me about this picture, is that I didn’t remember why the creepy kids came to be so the mystery of that was fresh to me. However, it’s not fully explained in this and that’s fine. I like that this doesn’t spell everything out for you.

My biggest issue with it though, is that I came up with about a half dozen ways to take out these psychotic little shits. The movie made them come off as nearly invincible and too cunning to defeat. The easiest way to probably deal with them would to be to stealthily set the barn on fire and to have multiple people in the bushes picking them off when they ran out in the confusion. But you could also set traps, use grenades, flamethrowers, all sorts of awesome shit. They’re only a threat if they can focus on your mind and then take over your body. Don’t give them a second to even try, wipe them out.

Anyway, what I’m saying is that the kids are definitely creepy and powerful but beating them wouldn’t require one man walking into the lion’s den, trying to stall them with a conversation, having a mind battle and then letting a bomb with a timer (set way too long) eventually go off.

Other than all that, this is a fun movie. It’s a bit slow at times but it had more of a classic Hitchcock feel to it than standard Carpenter fair. And maybe that’s because this is a remake of an old school horror film from 1960. It sort of pulls you back to the narrative style of those pictures. Plus, the cinematography reminded me a lot of The Birds, especially the simple shots of the kids creepily walking around the small coastal town.

One thing I loved about this film was Kirstie Alley. She was kind of badass and has never been cooler than she was here. Also, this brought her together with Christopher Reeve (Superman), Mark Hamill (Luke Skywalker) and Michael Paré (Tom Cody from Streets of Fire). Being that Alley was once Saavik from the Star Trek films made this a fairly cool mix of talent. Also, the other female lead was Linda Kozlowski, who was in all those Crocodile Dundee movies.

Another question though, is why did these kids dress the same and have the same haircuts. Did they demand this look until their parents caved? Did these alien demon children really care about their appearance?

I admit, it makes them creepier but it’s strange when you think about it. “Mommy, I want boring grey dress and hair like Joey Lawrence from Gimme A Break!” “Oh, okay… but all those weirdo kids you like dress like that, already. Don’t you want to wear this cool Ren & Stimpy shirt and a Zubaz backpack? Show them lame asses some style?” “No, mommy! I squishes your brain! Dress me like church lady!”

Anyway. This is better than my memory of it. Still, nowhere near Carpenter’s best but definitely better than most of his work after this.

Rating: 6.5/10
Pairs well with: Other Carpenter films: In the Mouth of MadnessPrince of Darkness and The Fog.

Ranking the Films of John Carpenter

John Carpenter is a legend. Out of all the big name horror directors that existed when I was a kid, he was the one that legitimately made things that terrified me. He also made films that were mesmerizing and totally expanded my mind and what I thought about filmmaking.

1.  The Thing
2. Escape From New York
3. They Live
4. Starman
5. Big Trouble In Little China
6. Prince of Darkness
7. In the Mouth of Madness
8. Halloween
9. Assault on Precinct 13
10. The Fog
11. Dark Star
12. Christine
13. Village of the Damned
14. The Ward
15. Escape From L.A.
16. Vampires
17. Memoirs of An Invisible Man
18. Ghosts of Mars