Film Review: Beastmaster II: Through the Portal of Time (1991)

Release Date: June 8th, 1991 (Japan)
Directed by: Sylvio Tabet
Written by: Jim Wynorski, R.J. Robertson, Sylvio Tabet, Ken Hauser, Doug Miles
Based on: The Beast Master by Andre Norton, characters by Don Coscarelli, Paul Pepperman
Music by: Robert Folk
Cast: Marc Singer, Kari Wuhrer, Sarah Douglas, Wings Hauser, James Avery, Robert Z’Dar, Michael Berryman

Les Films 21, Republic Pictures, New Line Cinema, 107 Minutes

Review:

“He who defies Arklon, shall be destroyed… by Arklon!” – Arklon

This is such a shitty movie but it is a wonderfully entertaining shitty movie.

Where the original Beastmaster is truly a sword and sorcery classic, this film is pretty much just a “fish out of water” comedy with some sword and sorcery elements.

I’m not sure what the filmmakers were thinking with this. It wasn’t like they rushed out a sloppy sequel because this came nine years after the original. But it is very cheaply made and it completely lacks the superior craftsmanship of the previous film’s director, Don Coscarelli.

What saves this film, at least in my eyes, is the over the top performances of its cast. Marc Singer is dry when compared to his cast mates but he’s still enjoyable as Dar and I’ll always be a fan of his version of the character.

However, Singer is pretty much overshadowed by the energetic cuteness of Kari Wuhrer in one of her earliest film performances. He’s also usurped by the charismatic Wings Hauser, as his evil brother Arklon. Plus, you have Sarah Douglas as a sorceress and she’s always fantastic. But the real scene stealer is James Avery, who isn’t in this as much as the other actors but you’re always locked on him when we walks on screen. Avery is used as comedic relief and he’s a master of that but I can’t discount the fact that this entire movie really is comedy.

This lacks the edge and darkness of its predecessor and if I’m being honest, I would have preferred a proper sequel. However, I still like this strange movie for all of its batshittery. It’s a very smudged up gem but it’s still a gem. But you also have to be the right sort of film fan for this movie to click for you. The average person isn’t going to find much value in the picture and that’s fine. All this shit is subjective, anyway.

Beastmaster II already had its work cut out for it, as the first film casts a big shadow. But all things considered, this is bizarre and unique enough to justify its existence and at least it wasn’t just a rehash of the previous movie.

Rating: 5/10
Pairs well with: other sword and sorcery movies of the time, most notably the Conan films. It’s also fun to watch with the other films within its own series.

Film Review: Batman: Gotham by Gaslight (2018)

Release Date: January 12th, 2018 (Newseum premiere)
Directed by: Sam Liu
Written by: Jim Krieg
Based on: Gotham by Gaslight by Brian Augustyn, Mike Mignola
Music by: Frederik Wiedmann
Cast: Bruce Greenwood, Jennifer Carpenter, Anthony Head, Tara Strong, Bruce Timm, Kari Wuhrer

DC Entertainment, Warner Bros., 78 Minutes

Review:

“[faces the Ripper] Well, I won’t beg. And I won’t get hysterical. I won’t give you the satisfaction. Know this: I forgive you.” – Sister Leslie

I was a big fan of the old Gotham by Gaslight story, which came out when I was just really getting into Batman circa 1989. It was also the first Elseworlds Tale, which has become a big imprint under the DC Comics banner. Strangely, although this shares the title, the time frame and the villain, it is it’s own story and not an animated adaptation of the famous comic.

At first, I was caught off guard by the alterations and didn’t think I’d like the film but by the time it got to the end, I was digging it.

Reinventions aren’t necessarily a bad thing, sometimes they work quite well and with this film version of Gotham by Gaslight, it was cool going into familiar but really under explored territory in the DC mythos and seeing someone else give their own take on it. Had that take been bad, I’m sure I wouldn’t feel the same but the end result and the story were really good.

The one things that really stuck out for me was the animation. I wasn’t super keen on the character designs but when we got to those high octane action parts, this film really came alive. The big finale, which features a vacant World’s Fair setting and a massive burning Ferris wheel was spectacular. Also, the scenes where Batman was riding through the streets of Gotham on a steam powered motorcycle, looked fantastic.

Ultimately, this film didn’t blow my socks off but it was worth a watch. The animated DC stuff has been really good the last few years, especially the Batman movies. This one is a bit better than their recent average and it was a welcome change to just having another straight up, modern Batman adaptation.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: Other Batman animated films.

Film Review: The ‘Hellraiser’ Film Series, Part II (2000-2011)

Hellraiser: Inferno (2000):

Release Date: October 3rd, 2000
Directed by: Scott Derrickson
Written by: Paul Harris Boardman, Scott Derrickson
Based on: characters by Clive Barker
Music by: Walter Werzowa
Cast: Doug Bradley, Craig Sheffer, Nicholas Turturro, James Remar

Dimension Films, Miramax Films, 99 Minutes

Review:

“Ah, the eternal refrain of humanity. Pleading ignorance, begging for mercy. “Please, help me. I don’t understand.”” – Pinhead

This film starts the direct-to-video trend in the Hellraiser series. Not putting this in the theater was probably a good call.

This film was boring as hell. There were some cool creepy moments but nothing was as shocking and visually intense as the previous films in this series. The Cenobites were generic and Pinhead was barely in the film. Actually, Pinhead was in the film but for some stupid reason he was parading around wearing the face of Dexter Morgan’s dad. Then the big lame reveal, haha! you’re therapist was Pinhead in disguise the whole time like a ghoul from a Scooby-Doo episode!

The psychology of this film makes no sense and it is uncharacteristic of everything that came before it. It’s a pretty fucking awful movie.

Oh yeah, and Nick Turturro is in it. He’s the chubby little brother of the really talented John Turturro.

Rating: 2/10

Hellraiser: Hellseeker (2002):

Release Date: October 15th, 2002
Directed by: Rick Bota
Written by: Carl V. Dupre, Tim Day
Based on: characters by Clive Barker
Music by: Stephen Edwards
Cast: Doug Bradley, Ashley Laurence, Dean Winters, William S. Taylor

Dimension Films, Miramax Films, 89 Minutes

Review:

“Wherever there is hate, violence, depravity… a door will always be found.” – Pinhead

Somehow, the awful fifth film didn’t kill the idea of making a sixth installment. I’m cool with that though because this film was far superior than the previous one.

Also, Hellseeker brings back Kirsty for the first time since Hellbound: Hellraiser II (not counting her small cameo in part III) and gives closure to her character. I guess, in a way, this is the final chapter and what can be referred to as the “Kirsty Trilogy”.

This movie had a much better story than its predecessor and even though it felt somewhat predictable and straightforward, the end leaves you surprised.

Hellseeker also feels a lot more like a Hellraiser film than Inferno did and it brings the franchise full circle. Truthfully, it could’ve ended here and been a fine series, even though Inferno was complete crap.

They decided to crank out two more though.

Rating: 6/10

Hellraiser: Deader (2005):

Release Date: June 7th, 2005
Directed by: Rick Bota
Written by: Neal Marshall Stevens, Tim Day
Based on: characters by Clive Barker
Music by: Henning Lohner
Cast: Doug Bradley, Kari Wuhrer, Paul Rhys, Simon Kunz

Dimension Films, Miramax Films, 89 Minutes

Review:

“When you attempted to live beyond death, you entered into my domain.” – Pinhead

I like Kari Wuhrer, so I was glad to see her in this film. I don’t know why, but I’ve crushed hard on her for years. Okay, I admit, I know why.

She isn’t what I would call a stellar actress but she is better than average and really nice to look at. She has a good on-screen presence and is able to carry a film, especially when surrounded by less talented people.

Deader was another sequel with a very interesting story. As a film, all its own, I enjoy this one. As a Hellraiser film, it feels like it has gotten away from the essence of the series. In fact, each film after the second one, gets further and further away.

This was about on par with Hellseeker in quality and a big step above that crapfest Inferno. Still, these direct-to-video sequels feel like low-budget cash cows, missing the imagination and heart of the earlier theatrically released features.

Rating: 5/10

Hellraiser: Hellworld (2005):

Release Date: September 6th, 2005
Directed by: Rick Bota
Written by: Carl V. Dupre
Based on: characters by Clive Barker
Music by: Lars Anderson
Cast: Doug Bradley, Lance Henriksen, Katheryn Winnick, Christopher Jacot, Khary Payton, Henry Cavill

Dimension Films, Miramax Films, 95 Minutes

Review:

“You still don’t understand, do you? There is no way out for you, Chelsea. Oh, what wonders we have to show you.” – Pinhead

At last, we have reached the final film in the original series. We have also reached the one film that feels the least like a Hellraiser movie.

This film follows some gamers who get invited to a mansion for a party, which turns into a crazy billionaire scheming to get revenge for the death of his son for some reason.

I’m not even sure if Pinhead actually showed up. I mean, he was in the movie but then it was revealed that all that stuff was hallucinations or whatever stupid asshole plot faux pas they threw up on the wall.

This just wasn’t a Hellraiser film. It didn’t matter that Doug Bradley appeared in full Pinhead makeup, it was just a pointless film that made little-to-no sense.

However, it was still mildly entertaining, which puts this film above Inferno as well.

Also, the newish Superman, Henry Cavill plays a douchebag in this movie. He also screams like a complete pansy.

Rating: 3/10

Hellraiser: Revelations (2011):

Release Date: March 18th, 2011
Directed by: Victor Garcia
Written by: Gary J. Tunnicliffe
Based on: characters by Clive Barker
Music by: Frederik Wiedman
Cast: Steven Brand, Nick Eversman, Tracey Fairaway, Sebastien Roberts, Devon Sorvari, Sanny Van Heteren, Daniel Buran, Jay Gillespie, Stephen Smith Collins

Dimension Extreme, 75 Minutes

Review:

“You have a darkness that rivals my own, Nico. It will be a very special pleasure to rip you apart.” – Pinhead

Due to the fact that Dimension Films was on the cusp of losing the rights to Hellraiser, they had to produce a film and quick. The result, was this piece of complete fucking shit.

This is a remake or a reboot or a reimagining or whatever they want to call it. I call it a giant genital wart that has permanently afflicted the legacy of this franchise.

I don’t blame Doug Bradley for deciding not to return to the series as Pinhead. Instead, we’ve got some new actor in the Pinhead role. The new Pinhead, looks nothing like the real Pinhead. Could they have at least gotten an actor that somewhat resembles Doug Bradley? Also, the actor can’t talk like Doug Bradley, so he was dubbed over with another actor’s voice who also doesn’t sound like Doug Bradley.

The script was deplorable and I can’t believe that some of the dialogue actually made it on the page, let alone in the final cut of the film. The acting was painful and not pleasurable Hellraiser pain but more like stomach cancer with an ulcer while eating a gallon of ice cream pain. The film was 75 minutes, which is nothing but it still seemed like it was an hour and fifteen minutes too long.

The plot made no sense within the realm of the Hellraiser mythos. It’s like some horribly bad fan fiction was mixed up with an actual script and they filmed it on accident. Some of the film was also “found footage” style, which is a gimmick that not only has run its course, but it really never took off to begin with. Hollywood just likes the shit because it’s cheap. It isn’t edgy, original or effective.

This film is a 75 minute demo reel of how not to make a film. It is so bad, it makes Inferno look as critically acclaimed as Das Boot. I hope that when they make a new Hellraiser film, which they eventually will, that this is ignored and they at the very least do something similar to Hellseeker or Deader because at least those served a purpose and were enjoyable for a Hellraiser fan.

I’d also like to add that all of the sequels after Bloodline were written as scripts for other horror movies that were picked up by Dimension Films and retrofitted to make them Hellraiser movies. This film however, was the first original script written for Hellraiser since Bloodline. So how bad is this movie, when it is worse than the four previous that didn’t even start as Hellraiser films?

Rating: 0.5/10