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.

Film Review: Bone Tomahawk (2015)

Release Date: October 1st, 2015 (Austin Fantastic Fest)
Directed by: S. Craig Zahler
Written by: S. Craig Zahler
Music by: Jeff Herriott, S. Craig Zahler
Cast: Kurt Russell, Patrick Wilson, Matthew Fox, Richard Jenkins, Lili Simmons, David Arquette, Sid Haig, Sean Young, Michael Pare

Caliber Media Company, Realmbuilders Productions, The Jokers Films, 132 Minutes

Review:

“Say goodbye to my wife. I’ll say hello to yours.” – Sheriff Franklin Hunt

*Written in 2016.

From the moment I saw the Bone Tomahawk trailer, I thought it looked really interesting and I was a bit hyped to see it. Plus, it starred Kurt Russell.

The film is a western with horror mixed in, which makes it a pretty unique package. A sheriff and a posse head off into the wilderness to find a woman who was taken by Indians. The catch is, these aren’t normal Indians, they are cannibalistic and bizarre. Think The Hills Have Eyes meets The Searchers.

Kurt Russell is fine enough in the role but it isn’t a great or special performance. He looks to be enjoying himself but he isn’t doing anything exceptional. He certainly doesn’t project the magic he had in Tombstone or the more recent The Hateful Eight. The film also stars Patrick Wilson and Matthew Fox with brief appearances from Sid Haig and David Arquette.

Overall, the film was underwhelming. There wasn’t a whole lot of terror and dread, even once the proverbial shit hit the proverbial fan. The action was mediocre, the acting was average and the plot wasn’t anything spectacular. In fact, it was fairly boring.

The uniqueness of the film’s plot was spoiled by the trailer and the movie itself didn’t do much to expand on it. It also played it safe. With the subject matter and the intensity of the trailer, the movie just didn’t have the balls I was expecting it to.

Now I don’t think the movie should have been a gore festival but it was pretty uneventful and the horror element wasn’t remotely scary. There was just a lot of cannibal Indians grunting and walking around making weird noises because they have whistles in their throats. And the whole whistle throat thing was probably employed to make them seem supernatural and scary but it was kind of goofy.

Bone Tomahawk is okay enough for a single viewing on a rainy day but it isn’t a classic by any means. It has its fans out there but it will most likely fade into obscurity fairly quickly.

Rating: 6/10
Pairs well with: Ravenous, Four of the Apocalypse and The Burrowers.

Film Review: Streets of Fire (1984)

Release Date: June 1st, 1984
Directed by: Walter Hill
Written by: Walter Hill, Larry Gross
Music by: Ry Cooder
Cast: Michael Paré, Diane Lane, Rick Moranis, Amy Madigan, Willem Dafoe, Deborah Van Valkenburgh, E.G. Daily, Richard Lawson, Bill Paxton, Lee Ving, Stoney Jackson, Robert Townsend, Grand Bush, Mykelti Williamson, Ed Begley Jr., John Dennis Johnston, Lynne Thigpen, Peter Jason

Universal Pictures, 93 Minutes

Review:

“Well, it looks like I finally found someone who likes to play as rough as I do.” – Raven Shaddock

I have always looked at 1984’s Streets of Fire as a sort of spiritual successor to 1979’s The Warriors. They share the same director, some of the same themes, some of the same acting talent and take place in a vivid and surreal fantasy version of urban America.

While music often times drove the narrative and the action of The Warriors it takes over Streets of Fire and propels this picture forward as a perfect balance between the action and musical genres. Granted, this isn’t a traditional musical, it is mostly a string of live performances setting the tone, as the action flows around it. It is a movie full of energy and it is incredibly kinetic.

The film also has a neo-noir look, which was becoming popular in the 80s thanks to films like Blade Runner and slew of independent movies employing the visual style. While made in the 80s, the picture mostly looks like an homage to the 1950s and the rockabilly scene of that decade. The movie is a hybrid of 1950s and 1980s culture but the 50s were on a comeback in the 80s and this film really embraces that.

Streets of Fire also crosses over into the biker gang genre of film and Willem Dafoe’s Raven Shaddock seems to channel his character Vance from his debut film The Loveless, a biker gang picture that was also Kathryn Bigelow’s directorial debut.

The film also stars Michael Paré, Diane Lane, Rick Moranis and Amy Madigan.

Paré was a good hero and it is unfortunate that he didn’t do a whole lot after this movie. His acting was a bit better than average, at this point in his career, but he had a presence and just epitomized cool. Diane Lane was beautiful and did great with the musical numbers, even if it wasn’t her voice. Rick Moranis was incredibly unlikable but even then, who doesn’t like Moranis? This film was Amy Madigan’s coolest role and second only to her part in Field of Dreams. I wish she would have got more roles like her character McCoy.

There are a lot of cameos by up and coming actors, as well as Walter Hill regulars. We get to see a young Bill Paxton, as well as Ed Begley Jr., Deborah Van Valkenburgh, Lynne Thigpen, Lee Ving of the punk band Fear, as well as small roles played by Stoney Jackson and Robert Townsend, who were members of the band The Sorels.

For the most part, the acting is not exceptional and the script is often times cheesy and bare bones but for this picture, it works. This is exactly what it markets itself as, “A rock & roll fable.”

The film is exciting and fast paced and never has much downtime. Sure, the plot might not be as developed as many would like but this isn’t that sort of movie. It is a roller coaster ride of bad ass tunes and bad ass characters where two manly men duel in a fairly original fashion. Plus, Dafoe’s presence adds so much to the picture, despite his lack of experience when this was made.

Streets of Fire was a true throwback when it came out and it still fits that mold, over thirty years after its release. It doesn’t need to be set in a defined space and time. It is imaginative and well executed and it has gone on to become a cult favorite among film aficionados.