Also known as: Super Mario Brothers: The Movie (original script title) Release Date: May 28th, 1993 Directed by: Rocky Morton, Annabel Jankel Written by: Parker Bennett, Terry Runte, Ed Solomon Based on:Mario by Nintendo Music by: Alan Silvestri Cast: Bob Hoskins, John Leguizamo, Dennis Hopper, Samantha Mathis, Fisher Stevens, Fiona Shaw, Richard Edson, Mojo Nixon, Dana Kaminski, Lance Henriksen, Frank Welker (voice), Dan Castellaneta (narrator)
“[bathing in mud] Do you know what I love about mud? It’s clean and it’s dirty at the same time.” – King Koopa
Super Mario Bros. was one film in a string of a few that helped to build the reputation that video game movies suck. Looking at the picture in comparison to the video game series it’s based on, I get it. And frankly, it irked the shit out of me when I saw it in 1993.
However, seeing it with pretty fresh eyes nearly three decades later, I have a very different view of the film now. Especially, when I just look at it as its own weird body of work apart from the video game franchise.
Removing the source material from the equation, I can still see why this would be viewed as a bad film by most but for me, a lover of really weird shit, everyone in this cast and late ’80s/early ’90s cyberpunk shit, this is kind of a feast of awesomeness!
Additionally, the Alan Silvestri score is great, lively, playful and boisterous. It reminds me of his score to Honey, I Shrunk the Kids, which was, honestly, what really set the magnificent tone for that movie. Here, Silvestri’s work is just as effective and man, I miss scores like this.
This movie also feels like a time capsule into the heart of the ’90s. It embraces the wonky tropes of the decade and it completely misses the mark it should’ve been aiming for. Although, in retrospect, I really like that this just did whatever the hell it wanted to and provided the world with something so damn bizarre and zany.
I really liked the bond between Mario and Luigi, even if trying believe that Hoskins and Leguizamo are supposed to be real brothers is maybe the most unbelievable thing in the film. That kind of doesn’t matter, though, as nothing in this needs to make any sort of logical sense. It’s actually cooler that it doesn’t. Now that’s something I’d typically be highly critical of but this movie with its flaws is still so much fun and overly ridiculous that it adds to its charm.
I guess Dennis Hopper was miserable working on this due to behind the scenes clusterfucks and severe delays but honestly, it probably worked to the movie’s benefit, as he truly comes off as an insufferable prick and it just makes his character that much more sinister and entertaining to watch.
Additionally, I really liked Samantha Mathis in this, as she played Princess Daisy, the apple of Luigi’s eye. Her and Leguizamo had nice, believable chemistry and she really was a highpoint of the picture. In fact, her final scene where she returns as a gun toting badass really made me wish a sequel had been made.
That being said, I actually wouldn’t be opposed to having more things made from this version of the Super Mario IP. I get it, it was a bomb and most people hated it but it’s also unique and kind of special in its own odd way. Plus, it’s developed a good cult following over the years and I think many people are like me, where seeing this decades later really allows you to separate from what it should of been and wasn’t to seeing it as its own cool thing.
Rating: 5.75/10 Pairs well with: the other few ’90s movies based on video games, as well as other early ’90s cyberpunk films.
Also known as: Dog Day (worldwide English informal short title) Release Date: September 19th, 1975 (Spain – San Sebastian Film Festival) Directed by: Sidney Lumet Written by: Frank Pierson, Thomas Moore Based on:The Boys In the Bank by P. F. Kluge Cast: Al Pacino, John Cazale, James Broderick, Charles Durning, Lance Henriksen, Chris Sarandon, Penelope Allen, Sully Boyar, Susan Peretz, Carol Kane, Dominic Chianese
Artists Entertainment Complex, Warner Bros., 125 Minutes, 131 Minutes (1975 cut)
“Look, Mom, I’m a fuck-up and I’m an outcast and that’s it. You come near me, you’re gonna get it – you’re gonna get fucked over and fucked out!” – Sonny
I’ve probably seen this movie a half dozen times but it’s been a few decades. I always saw this on cable, so it was always the “safe for TV” version and having now watched this again, I realized that I had never seen the beginning of the film, as I never knew there was initially a third bank robber that bolted in the opening sequence of the movie.
It was really great seeing this in full and the way it was meant to be seen without cable television censors getting in the way of the art. Being that this is a Sidney Lumet film, it deserves to be seen as the director intended, as he was a true motion picture maestro.
Seeing this now also made me appreciate how good John Cazale was and it makes me wonder how great his career could have been had cancer not taken his life in 1978. In fact, this was the last film of his that he lived to see released theatrically. But it’s crazy to think about what iconic roles after his death he may have had a shot at playing or what mediocre movies he could’ve elevated had he been cast in place of others.
Additionally, this shows how incredible Al Pacino was in an era where he was still growing as an actor but already displayed the chops that would earn him legendary status.
The rest of the cast is pretty damn perfect too from the cop to the federal agents to the bank teller with the least amount of lines. Lumet did a spectacular job in getting the most out of his cast: utilizing their strengths and personalities to maximum effect.
The majority of the film takes place in one location but this moves at such a brisk pace that it doesn’t bog things down, which can happen fairly easy in pictures without the talent that this one had.
Plus, the cinematography was solid, the musical score was perfect and the film just had the right sort of tone. It felt like real, gritty, ’70s New York City without coming off as edgy or dark like Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver. Granted, this was a film that had its fair share of violence and perilous, unfortunate situations but even knowing the outcome could never be good for the main characters, you still didn’t give up hope or fall into a sense of despair.
Dog Day Afternoon is a motion picture that deserves its status as one of the best films of its decade. It also boasts some of the best performances by just about all the key actors involved.
Rating: 9/10 Pairs well with: other crime films of the 1970s, especially those starring Al Pacino.
Release Date: November 19th, 1993 Directed by: John Lafia Written by: John Lafia Music by: Joel Goldsmith Cast: Ally Sheedy, Lance Henriksen, Frederic Lehne, Robert Costanzo, John Cassini, J.D. Daniels, William Sanderson, Frank Welker (voice)
Roven-Cavallo Entertainment, New Line Cinema, 87 Minutes
“When you think of guard dogs, you first think of German Shepherds: they are smart, lethal… but not good enough. Now we developed the new Emax3000. They are totally obsolete.” – Doctor Jarret
This used to be one of those late night guilty pleasures of mine, as it used to be a film that you’d find on cable at like three in the morning. When I used to be a night shift security guard, this was in constant rotation. Granted, I haven’t really seen it since then, so I figured I’d revisit it, as I noticed it was streaming on Starz.
Man’s Best Friend is far from great but it’s that sort of ’90s horror/sci-fi cheese that I love. Plus, it has Lance Henriksen in it as an evil scientist, so that automatically gives it a few extra points in the cool category.
The story is about a reporter/activist that breaks into an animal lab to expose whatever weird experiments may be going on there. She discovers a big dog that takes a liking to her and she decides to keep him as a pet. Shortly after that, Max, the dog, stops a potential rapist/purse thief and the woman feels a real bond with the dog.
As the audience, we discover that the dog is a total, murderous bastard well before the woman does. Henriksen’s Dr. Jarret is also on the hunt for the dog, as he knows what kind of murderous rampage that will most likely ensue.
If I’m being honest, this is a pretty dumb and predictable movie but that also doesn’t mean it’s not enjoyable. I actually still like it quite a bit and it’s just solid, mindless schlock starring a really cool dog.
Additionally, it doesn’t need to employ too many special effects but when it does, they all work pretty well and I can’t really shit on the film in that regard.
Rating: 6/10 Pairs well with: other sci-fi horror from the early ’90s, as well as the 1979 comedy with a similar premise, C.H.O.M.P.S.
Also known as: AVP (promotional abbreviation), Alien Vs. Predator (short title) Release Date: August 12th, 2004 (Puerto Rico & Thailand) Directed by: Paul W.S. Anderson Written by: Paul W.S. Anderson, Dan O’Bannon, Ronald Shusett Based on: characters by Dan O’Bannon & Ronald Shusett and Jim Thomas & John Thomas Music by: Harald Kloser Cast: Sanaa Lathan, Raoul Bova, Lance Henriksen, Ewen Bremner, Tommy Flanagan
Davis Entertainment, Brandywine Productions, 20th Century Fox, 101 Minutes, 103 Minutes (extended cut), 109 Minutes (Unrated Version)
“I think this is a manhood ritual. The humaniod ones, they’ve been sent here to prove that they’re worthy to become adults.” – Sebastian de Rosa
I haven’t seen AVP: Alien Vs. Predator since it was in theaters. From what I remember of it, it was a massive disappointment and didn’t live up to the best either franchise had to offer.
Well, it was at least better than Alien: Resurrection but it didn’t come close to being as awesome as Alien 1 & 2 or the original Predator. Hell, Alien 3 and Predator 2 both kick this in the balls too.
But now having some distance, fourteen years to be exact, this wasn’t as bad as my memory of it and I at least found the experience of revisiting it, a bit amusing.
At the end of the day, this gives you exactly what the title implies. It gives you alien xenomorphs fighting against the Predators. Strip away everything else and a grudge match between these two alien species is still a main event worth having. I just wish that the story around it was better and fit the already established mythologies better.
Yes, there is a team of humans in this and frankly, you should already know that they are just meat to be ripped through, trapped in a war between two vicious species that don’t give a crap about collateral damage.
I didn’t care about any of the people in this film but it was neat seeing Lance Henriksen return to the franchise to play Weyland of the Weyland Corporation from the Alien films. Obviously, his appearance as that character was to show you that the android Bishop was modeled after his visage. Plus, I’ve always enjoyed Henriksen, so seeing him bring his level of gravitas to another action sci-fi film was cool. His demise in this was even cooler.
The problem with the film is that the action was lackluster, so it didn’t really make up for the bland story or bland characters. It was nice seeing Ewen Bremner and Tommy Flanagan pop up in this but they were just there to be eaten, really.
AVP is just a film that had so much potential. The comics were typically pretty good and so were the games that they did before (and after) this. This could have taken the best bits of those stories and turned them into a worthwhile movie. But we got this instead.
But hey, at least it’s better than its sequel.
Rating: 6/10 Pairs well with: The other films from the Alien and Predator franchises.
Release Date: May 19th, 1992 (Century City premiere) Directed by: David Fincher Written by: Vincent Ward, David Giller, Walter Hill, Larry Ferguson Based on: Charcaters created by Dan O’Bannon, Ronald Shusett Music by: Elliot Goldenthal Cast: Sigourney Weaver, Charles S. Dutton, Charles Dance, Paul McGann, Brian Glover, Ralph Brown, Danny Webb, Christopher John Fields, Holt McCallany, Lance Henriksen
“[to the Alien] You’ve been in my life so long, I can’t remember anything else.” – Ripley
Alien was such an incredible movie that it was damn near impossible to follow up while hitting that same level of grandeur and artistry. Aliens happened to achieve this, however. Many people even debate which of the two films is better. So when a third Alien film came along, it couldn’t capture lightning in a bottle for a third time could it?
It didn’t. But that doesn’t mean that the film isn’t good. It is still one hell of a ride and it certainly isn’t short on terror and dread.
Also, this was the directorial debut of David Fincher, a young man who got his start as an assistant cameraman and a matte photography assistant on films like Return of the Jedi, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom and The NeverEnding Story.
On paper, this probably looked like it was setup to fail. However, the young Fincher made it work and helped establish his own style enough to whittle out a pretty prolific Hollywood career for himself. He followed this movie up with Se7en, The Game, Fight Club and since the turn of the millennium he’s done Panic Room, Zodiac, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, The Social Network, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and Gone Girl. Without Alien³, those other films either wouldn’t have existed or they would have been adapted by people with a very different visual style.
And that’s the thing, Fincher has a unique style. Some love it, some don’t. Regardless of how you feel about it, the Fincher visual style is on full display in Alien³. In a way, it’s kind of impressive because Fincher had his own stylistic stamp out the gate. One could argue that he is an auteur. I wouldn’t quite call him that but you could argue for it and maybe in another decade he will be able to achieve that status.
In this chapter in the franchise, we see Ripley’s escape ship crash land on a prison planet. It picks up from the ending of Aliens, as Ripley, Newt, Hicks and Bishop are still floating in space, asleep. When Ripley comes to, she realizes that everyone else died and soon after that, she comes to discover that an alien xenomorph stowed away on the ship. The rest of the film is about Ripley and the male prisoners trying to kill the alien that wants everyone for lunch. There is one catch, however… Ripley’s body is playing host to an alien queen. It’s almost Shakespearean in how the aliens get the last laugh in regards to Ripley’s fate.
One really cool thing about this film that actually blew my 13 year-old mind was that I saw the xenomorph emerge from a dog as it’s incubator/host. The alien took on characteristics of that animal, making it different and unique. My mind started exploding with ideas as to what would happen if the alien egg was incubating in other creatures. I guess toy makers got a similar idea because in the ’90s, there were a slew of Alien toys featuring all sorts of weird hybrid xenomorphs. My cousin had a really cool xenomorph rhino action figure.
The special effects in this film looked really good for 1992. However, now that this thing has been remastered in modern HD, it’s a mixed bag. Some of the shots that once worked don’t look so hot now but they’re not terrible, they’re just really noticeable. But one of the things I really loved about this picture was the first-person POV used for the xenomorph when hunting prisoners. These sequences are still really cool and it almost feels like a nod to first-person shooter games, which were just becoming the rage in this era. It’s also very similar to playing as an alien in the Alien Vs. Predator games.
Alien³ is not the grand spectacle that Alien and Aliens were. It is still a solid followup and helps enrich the mythos instead of bastardizing it like the fourth Alien film did.
Rating: 7.5/10 Pairs well with: The first two Alien movies.
Release Date: November 16th, 1977 Directed by: Steven Spielberg Written by: Steven Spielberg Music by: John Williams Cast: Richard Dreyfuss, Teri Garr, Melinda Dillon, François Truffaut, Bob Balaban, Lance Henriksen, Carl Weathers
Columbia Pictures, 135 Minutes, 137 Minutes (Director’s Cut)
“I guess you’ve noticed something a little strange with Dad. It’s okay, though. I’m still Dad.” – Roy Neary
So I went to a special 40th anniversary screening of Close Encounters of the Third Kind and the movie theater really shit the bed, as I couldn’t watch it, they were out of most food and the place was a ghost town other than employees who had no idea what this movie was. I ended up going home to stream it instead.
I hadn’t seen this picture in a really long time but I had fond memories of it as a kid, even though it wasn’t on the level of E.T. and Jaws in the early Spielberg years. The special effects were cool and the use of matte paintings for vast expanses still looks magical and taps into the otherworldlyness of the picture.
However, revisiting it all these years later, it just isn’t something that I have as much love for as Spielberg’s other early works. Looking back, I never rented this movie as much as his other films and I really never thought about it until reflecting on it while watching it. Ultimately, it just doesn’t resonate in the same way or at least not as strongly. Also, compared to his other work, it is fairly dull.
The acting is pretty good and you do care about the characters to an extent but some of the things that happen are either nonsensical or kind of horrible when put into perspective. While it is a cool looking movie about wonder and excitement and the possibility of extraterrestrial life, the main character basically goes crazy, scaring away his wife and kids and then abandons them to go away with the aliens and all the while, we’re supposed to feel his amazement and relish in this man’s opportunity to see the stars. Plus, the aliens abduct a child but that’s cool because he comes back seemingly normal. They must be a truly evolved species, stealing kids and other people and then just throwing them back when it suits them.
You kind of don’t care about these details when you’re a kid but as an adult, the film leaves me with more questions than answers. I’m not just going to accept that they are some space travelling further evolved beings and that they can just do whatever they want. Fuck these aliens, they’re assholes. And we’re America, we don’t trust our neighbor.
And who’s to say that these returned people aren’t implanted with a chip that will make them wipe out humanity so that the aliens can steal our limestone to build an amusement park on their homeworld? Our government doesn’t even like our neighbors from the south moving in and they’re just going to be like, “Aw, fuck it… these guys are cool. Besides, we can’t build a wall around the sky.”
In all seriousness, Close Encounters is a pretty good flick with great effects and yes, it does bring out your inner wonder. However, it doesn’t hold up as well as the other Spielberg classics. That’s okay, though. This was a precursor to E.T. and if making this film helped to make E.T. a better picture, it served a noble purpose. I mean, E.T. is pretty close to perfect.
I was a senior in high school when the first Scream came out. It was huge, especially due to kids my age. Well, mostly kids who were never really into horror or girls who were too terrified to watch something actually scary. This isn’t me taking shots at the film, it is just the reality of it.
Scream changed the horror genre forever. The problem, is that it essentially ruined it. I’ll explain more as I go on but let me get to my thoughts on each film.
Release Date: December 18th, 1996 (Los Angeles premiere) Directed by: Wes Craven Written by: Kevin Williamson Music by: Marco Beltrami Cast: David Arquette, Neve Campbell, Courteney Cox, Matthew Lillard, Rose McGowan, Skeet Ulrich, Drew Barrymore, W. Earl Brown
Woods Entertainment, Dimension Films, 111 Minutes
“What’s your favorite scary movie?” – Ghostface
I didn’t like this film the first time I saw it when it came out. I thought it was cheesy, not scary and full of too many recognizable stars. Although, everyone else in the theater seemed to be terrified when Drew Barrymore got murdered in the beginning. But then, the audience for Scream is not the real horror fan audience. At least not by 70s, 80s and 90s standards.
The problem with having recognizable stars in horror, as well as a decent budget, is that it feels less real and authentic. It is similar to the use of bad CGI for blood splatter and monster effects in horror now. It separates you from the film by constantly reminding you that you are watching a production. I’m going to feel more for some girl I’ve never seen before, who I have only witnessed going through the horror on screen, than I will some girl that was whiny and moody on Party of Five for several years before this movie came out. Or a cast member of Friends who I would’ve loved to see killed off, yet somehow she survived to be in all four films.
Ghostface, the slasher in these films, is not scary. Maybe he was to the teen audience of 1996 but being a teen at that time, I thought he was shit. The mask is goofy, the cloak looks like it was stolen from the Spencer’s Halloween display and the wavy knife looked like something gimmicky that came with a 80s G.I. Joe toy.
The film was too polished, and just looked too Hollywood. Craven, before this, had been known for his grittiness.
The slasher genre and horror, in general, were pretty much ruined when the characters started discussing the rules of slasher films. The film parodied the genre it was in and put on blast the unspoken rules of horror. Maybe perceived as smart and cool at the time, and maybe it was just Craven’s way of saying “fuck you” to his competition, this approach killed horror going forward. Yes, Wes Craven, a guy who modernized horror in the 70s and 80s, killed it in the 90s.
Due to its success, Scream went on to kill horror even further. It was mimicked by every studio, horror was now free of sex, gore was minimal, it became PG-13 to pull in more teens, known stars were cast, budgets swelled and the rest is history.
Today, I don’t hate Scream. Even with how it altered everything, it is better than the modern horror films we’re stuck with. While Scream was the start of something bad, year after year, that bad has gotten worse. And that wasn’t Craven’s intention. I think he was really just focused on an idea and a concept. That concept ended up bringing an end to his own career, other than pumping out Scream sequels that got worse as time went on.
Scream 2 (1997):
Release Date: December 10th, 1997 (Hollywood premiere) Directed by: Wes Craven Written by: Kevin Williamson Music by: Marco Beltrami Cast: David Arquette, Neve Campbell, Courteney Cox, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Jamie Kennedy, Laurie Metcalf, Jerry O’Connell, Jada Pinkett, Liev Schreiber, Rebecca Gayheart, David Warner, Omar Epps, Portia de Rossi, Luke Wilson, Heather Graham, Tori Spelling, Joshua Jackson
Konrad Pictures, Craven-Maddalena Films, Dimension Films, 120 Minutes
Scream 2 was a step down from the original but I like that Liev Schreiber got to be a bigger character. I was also glad they killed off Jamie Kennedy. And Aunt Jackie from Roseanne is in it.
The problem with Scream 2, which is made more than obvious in the opening scene, is that it feels like it has to compensate for its lack of black actors in the first film. In fact, the first film really featured no black actors and was thus, accused of being another “whitewashed” slasher picture.
Some people have criticized Jada Pinkett’s monologue about race in slasher films but I enjoyed it. She wasn’t wrong. And at least Craven put it in there to address some of these issues that were brought up after the success of the original film. Although, it did feel like overcompensation.
The film isn’t as good as the first. The reveal of who the killer is this time, is pretty underwhelming. The formula ran it’s course in the first movie and we were stuck with a picture where we were treading the same water without any new scenery. The ending brings with it a twist but it is more of a head-scratcher than a shocking reveal. It also starts the trend of building up a bigger backstory that isn’t necessary.
Neve Campbell’s mom was a slut and her sluttiness is a key factor into why her daughter and her friends have to suffer. And in the third film, her legacy of sluttiness goes back even further.
Scream 3 (2000):
Release Date: February 3rd, 2000 (Westwood premiere) Directed by: Wes Craven Written by: Ehren Kruger Music by: Marco Beltrami Cast: David Arquette, Neve Campbell, Courteney Cox, Patrick Dempsey, Scott Foley, Lance Henriksen, Matt Keeslar, Jenny McCarthy, Emily Mortimer, Parker Posey, Deon Richmond, Patrick Warburton
Konrad Pictures, Craven-Maddalena Films, Dimension Films, 117 Minutes
The third film ended the trilogy. Well, it was supposed to be a trilogy, where the fourth film years later, was to be the start of a second trilogy. The second trilogy never happened, so we ended up with a single quadrilogy. But, at the time, this was treated as the third and final act.
This was also, by far, the worst movie in the series. It takes the parodying itself shtick to the max. It takes place mostly on a Hollywood set where it gives you a movie within the movie, which is a tactic that is more annoying than clever.
Scream 3 adds the awful Jenny McCarthy to the cast, the typically cool Patrick Dempsey and the indy sweetheart Parker Posey. I almost feel bad seeing Posey plying her trade in this shit picture.
The killer reveal is stupid. It fleshes out the backstory more than anyone needs in a slasher film and the bad guy’s motivations are recycled horror trope schlock. There is nothing imaginative or original about any of this.
This film also loses sight of its whole purpose. In trying to be a clever series in constantly referring to the rules of horror, this one breaks its own rules – or it just doesn’t truly understand them. Especially in regards to what they say about the final film in trilogies, Scream 3 proves that these films have no balls. This is obvious when characters establish that “all bets are off” and “no one is safe”, yet for the third consecutive film, every major character survives. Additionally, the horror gore factor it tries to sell in the film is minimal, the sex factor in horror that this film constantly makes reference to, is nonexistent and everyone who understands the rules, continues to make the same dumb mistakes.
And the sole black character is reduced to a caricature but at least they didn’t “whitewash” this one after meeting their quota in part two.
Scream 4 (2011):
Release Date: April 11th, 2011 (TCL Chinese Theatre premiere) Directed by: Wes Craven Written by: Kevin Williamson Music by: Marco Beltrami Cast: David Arquette, Neve Campbell, Courteney Cox, Emma Roberts, Hayden Panettiere, Anthony Anderson, Alison Brie, Adam Brody, Rory Culkin, Marielle Jaffe, Erik Knudsen, Mary McDonnell, Marley Shelton, Nico Tortorella, Anna Paquin, Kristen Bell
Oh, there’s Emma Roberts! Why’s she in every thing horror-esque, lately? I don’t dislike her but I’m getting tired of seeing her play the same roles again and again. She’s actually okay and I’m certainly not as sick of her as I am of her Aunt Julia.
Anyway, here we go, years later. The main cast is still alive. Surprise, they live through the end because again, the Scream franchise has no balls.
There’s a bunch of false curveball beginnings to the film, all movies within the movie, which has gotten tiresome with the Scream series. I mean, fuck, has Wes Craven completely run out of ideas? Hire new writers, bro.
This film tries to establish the “new” rules of horror, as it takes place a decade after the previous film. Except, everyone knows that the new rules post-Scream are horrible and the genre has gotten awful.
The killers are predictable. More so than previous films, actually. The two killer formula has been used to death in this series and was only somewhat effective the first time around.
Also, from what I remember, no black people in this one. But there is the reference to gay people surviving horror movies and then a bad in-movie joke where a character being stabbed to death, claims he’s gay in hopes of getting a free pass. I’m not standing on a politically correct soapbox here but Craven isn’t doing himself any favors trying to branch out beyond his audience of straight white teens. I get the attempt at humor but it was juvenile and not that funny.
I’m getting tired of talking about these movies now.
In the end, this film sucks. Although it doesn’t suck as bad as Scream 3.
Release Date: October 14th, 1988 (limited) Directed by: Stan Winston Written by: Stan Winston, Richard C. Weinman, Gary Gerani, Mark Patrick Carducci Music by: Richard Stone Cast: Lance Henriksen, John D’Aquino, Kerry Remsen, Buck Flower
United Artists, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 86 Minutes
“When we get out of here, Joel’s going to be carrying his balls home in a knapsack.” – Tracy
In my preteen years, I discovered Pumpkinhead on the shelf of a video store. I noticed it was directed by Stan Winston, who did the special effects of several films I loved, and it starred Lance Henriksen, who was in a bunch of movies I loved. It was also a supernatural horror film in a similar vein to a slasher picture, so as far as I was concerned, it deserved my attention.
Pumpkinhead is a movie that I consider to be a classic. While it might not be as highly regarded by most people who have seen it, the cinematography and the monster are friggin’ amazing!
Sure, the acting is sub par but it also isn’t as awful as a typical low budget 80s horror film. Stan Winston, for a rookie effort behind the camera, did a great job of getting the most out of his actors. Plus, Lance Henriksen is talented enough to level out the playing field. Also, the witch is scary as hell in every way and she has a strong presence that is long lasting.
The real star of the film is the monster Pumpkinhead. He is a demon that rests in a pumpkin patch on a mound. He is called upon when someone wants violent and murderous revenge and doesn’t want to get their own hands dirty. In this case, Lance Henriksen wants to seek vengeance for his son who was killed in a drunken dirt bike accident. Maybe Henriksen shouldn’t have left the tiny tot alone with a bunch of rampaging teenage motorcycle maniacs outside of his store but lets just blame the teens.
The monster is seen in the intro to the film, which I feel was too early for a reveal. However, he really doesn’t show up in all of his glory until the second half of the movie. However, the slow build to his appearance is well handled and the first half of the film has a solid pace that doesn’t feel rushed or too drawn out.
When the monster does show up, he is an amazing sight to behold. Stan Winston made a literal Hell beast in every sense. Pumpkinhead is just cool and menacing and bad ass in a way that all monsters should be. For a more modern reference, he looks very similar to the deathclaws from the popular Fallout video game series.
I mentioned the cinematography earlier and I have to bring it back up to point out the superb lighting in this movie. There are vivid lights and a good use of contrast. Visually it is effective and makes this movie feel otherworldly. Additionally, the film employs a strobe light effect when Pumpkinhead appears in a scene. While this could have turned out horribly, it just works here and it makes the feeling of dread feel more extreme.
Pumpkinhead is a damn good horror picture from a decade that gave us a lot of great movies in that genre. It is overshadowed by the more famous monsters and films of its era but it is much better than its lack of recognition would suggest.
The film also spawned three sequels. They weren’t as good but they do feature this amazing and scary monster.
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
“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.
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
“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.
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
“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.
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
“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.
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
“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?
Release Date: October 26th, 1984 Directed by: James Cameron Written by: James Cameron, Gale Anne Hurd Music by: Brad Fiedel Cast: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Michael Biehn, Linda Hamilton, Paul Winfield, Lance Henriksen, Earl Boen, Bill Paxton, Brian Thompson, Chino ‘Fats’ Williams
Hemdale Film Corporation, Pacific Western Productions, Cinema ’84, Orion Pictures, 107 Minutes
I got to watch this on the big screen. Okay, not in an actual theater but at a friend’s homemade theater with a twenty foot screen outside under the stars. He was testing his new projector, put up a giant sheet between the trees and decided that we’d watch The Terminator. I couldn’t argue with that.
I’m glad I got to see this thing huge, like it was originally intended by James Cameron, a man who used to make fantastic cinematic masterpieces until that pile of shit Titanic made more money than the GDP of all the EU countries combined.
Terminator 2: Judgment Day is also pretty much a masterpiece but nothing compares to this, the first film. While it isn’t technically considered a horror movie, it is. This is a bonafide slasher flick where the killer carries big ass guns instead of bladed objects.
Arnold Schwarzenegger plays the Terminator. If you don’t know, he is a killer cyborg from the future. He is essentially a clean cut Jason Voorhees that dresses like Rob Halford from Judas Priest. He’s got more guns than John Rambo in the sequels. He is a relentless killer, that will keep coming and coming until he murders his target or he is somehow destroyed. Good luck with that!
Linda Hamilton and Michael Biehn also star in this. Biehn, a favorite of Cameron, is great as the future hero sent back to protect Sarah Connor from the Terminator. Hamilton is her most famous character, the aforementioned Sarah Connor. She isn’t the bad ass heroine that she would be in Terminator 2 but she did a good job in this picture, evolving from the damsel in distress type to the powerful strong woman that was on the verge of raising future super bad ass John Connor, the man who would defeat the Terminators in 2029.
Seriously though, Linda Hamilton is so damn good as Sarah Connor that the best way to spot a crappy Terminator sequel is to see if Linda Hamilton isn’t in it. Her voice over cameo in the fourth film doesn’t count. She has to be in the film, as flesh and blood. She is only in the first two movies and for me, that is the story. I ignore everything after part two.
This movie is dark and it is balls to the wall bad ass. It gets going and it never slows down. Even when you think the heroes are safe for a minute… nope! Next thing you know, the Terminator is driving a car through a damn police station and shooting up dozens of cops. You blow up the Terminator in a gas truck… too bad, his skeleton will chase you! You blow up his skeleton… too bad, his head and arms will crawl after you!
This was some of James Cameron’s best work. For a low budget film in 1984, the special effects are pretty friggin’ stellar. This certainly redeems him from that Piranha II movie and it set the stage for his greatest picture Aliens in 1986. The Sarah Connor character was a good prototype for what Ellen Ripley would become in the Alien franchise. Then on the flip side, Ripley became the template for the more evolved Sarah Connor in Terminator 2.
The Terminator is incredible. I can’t imagine what it was like seeing this in the theater in 1984. It probably would have blew my mind but I was five years-old and my mum probably took me to something like Footloose, she liked dancing movies and I always got dragged along.