Film Review: Hello Mary Lou: Prom Night II (1987)

Also known as: Prom Night 2 (shortened title), The Haunting of Hamilton High (Germany)
Release Date: May 11th, 1987 (Cannes)
Directed by: Bruce Pittman
Written by: Ron Oliver
Music by: Paul Zaza
Cast: Michael Ironside, Wendy Lyon, Justin Louis, Lisa Schrage, Richard Monette

Simcom Limited, Allarcom Limited, British Columbia Television, Norstar Releasing, Alliance Atlantis, The Samuel Goldwyn Company, 97 Minutes

Review:

“It’s not who you come with, it’s who takes you home.” – Mary Lou Maloney

Surprisingly, I had never seen this movie before. But thanks to it being featured on The Last Drive-In with Joe Bob Briggs, I finally got to check it out. I also had no idea that this wasn’t an actual sequel to the first film and was it’s own thing that only took the Prom Night title after it was filmed. I guess that was to market it better.

Originally titled The Haunting of Hamilton High, this cheap Canadian horror film stands out well on its own and maybe would’ve had more of a cult following had it stuck to that original title. And even though its premise borrows quite heavily from Carrie, it’s different enough to not just be a simple ripoff of that film.

Also, like Carrie, the girl with the magical powers that ruins the prom is an innocent victim. However, she is played up here as evil because I guess sluts are bad. But before she died, she was simply horny and cheating on her boyfriend. Now her boyfriend burns her alive but it was an accident. But the adult version of him, played by Michael Ironside, is pretty much a target when Mary Lou comes back from the dead 30 years later.

So with magic and the undead involved, this isn’t a straight up slasher like its predecessor in name only. This is one of those supernatural slashers, where the evil presence possesses other people and also uses a sort of telekinetic power. Or she just attacks as an invisible ghost, it’s hard to say which one it is for sure when she murders the pregnant teen by hanging her. But later on, she does telekinetically explode neon signs, which impale a girl.

While this is not a great movie, it doesn’t need to be. It does its job, it entertains and it leaves horny teenagers in its wake. What more do you want with an ’80s horror picture? Sure, it could have gored it up a bit more but it’s not completely lacking in that regard.

Also, Michael Ironside is a fucking bawse!

Rating: 6.5/10
Pairs well with: Carrie and all its sequels/reboots, as well as the other Prom Night movies even if they are unrelated.

Film Review: Ginger Snaps (2000)

Also known as: Transformare (Romania)
Release Date: August 1st, 2000 (München Fantasy Filmfest)
Directed by: John Fawcett
Written by: Karen Walton, John Fawcett
Music by: Mike Shields
Cast: Emily Perkins, Katharine Isabelle, Kris Lemche, Mimi Rogers, Lucy Lawless (voice)

Motion International, 108 Minutes

Review:

“It feels so… good, Brigitte. It’s like touching yourself. You know every move… right on the fucking dot. And after, you see fucking fireworks. Supernovas. I’m a goddamn force of nature. I feel like I could do just about anything.” – Ginger

I remember liking this film when I saw it way back in 2000. I think I watched it again once or twice a year or so after but I haven’t seen it since then, almost twenty years ago now.

Sadly, this doesn’t hold up very well and I’m not sure what I liked about it back in the day, other than I was crushing hard on Katharine Isabelle. Well, until she started transforming and got weird cat eyes and wolf titties.

The two main characters here are insufferable. It really starts to grate on you about three minutes into the movie. They’re both overly goth-y and obsessed with death like total cliche dark ’90s teens. Now I loved goth chicks around the time that this film came out (and still do) but this is written in a way that is pure cringe and just really fucking awful. It is to goth chicks what The Big Bang Theory is to nerds.

Additionally, no one in this film is likable or has any redeeming qualities except for the pot dealing cool kid who is just trying to help. The mother, played by Mimi Rogers was sweet but by the end of the film, she kind of throws it all away in a weak moment, trying to desperately cling on to her shitty, ungrateful, bitchy daughters.

A lot of people absolutely love this film though and many consider it a classic. I don’t get it, really. The whole werewolf thing is a metaphor for puberty and it’s done in a heavy handed, obvious and predictable way. There is nothing in the film that is surprising or that will catch you off guard.

I think the thing that really drags this film through the mud the most is the dialogue. It’s ’90s edgy teen angst to the nth degree and it is just as much cringe as it is derivative and exhausting.

Also, the movie starts out fairly strong but then it drags and drags and is pretty boring. The big finale is way too long by at least ten minutes. Plus, by that point, you don’t care about anyone in the film.

For something trying so hard to convince its audience that it is edgy and cool, it did so with the strength and steadiness of a nursing home handjob.

Rating: 4.5/10
Pairs well with: its sequels: Ginger Snaps 2: Unleashed and Ginger Snaps Back: The Beginning.

Film Review: Career Opportunities (1991)

Also known as: One Wild Night (working title)
Release Date: March 29th, 1991
Directed by: Bryan Gordon
Written by: John Hughes
Music by: Thomas Newman
Cast: Frank Whaley, Jennifer Connelly, Dermot Mulroney, Kieran Mulroney, Barry Corbin, William Forsythe, John Candy (uncredited)

Hughes Entertainment, Universal Pictures, 83 Minutes

Review:

“[to himself] She’s so beautiful. And I’m the town liar.” – Jim Dodge

This film probably gets a worse rap than it should. If you are comparing it to John Hughes’ top films, yeah, it falls short. But it is still a fun and amusing coming of age comedy that still has the John Hughes spirit worked into its script.

Maybe some of the problems with this is that Hughes didn’t direct the movie and that it rehashed a lot of ideas that he already addressed in better ways with previous films like The Breakfast Club and Sixteen Candles but those ideas are still worth exploring in a fresher way with characters that are a bit older.

I liked Frank Whaley and I know that even he had reservations about his own performance and being cast in the role but I think he did a good job and he was certainly likable in this, despite being the “town liar”. Really, he’s just a chronic embellisher and storyteller.

Jennifer Connelly also did a good job and her performance and line delivery were actually better than what the script called for. But I think the thing that worked well for this picture was that she had really good, natural chemistry with Whaley.

I also liked all the smaller characters in the film like the cameos by John Candy and William Forsythe, as well as the scenes with the always entertaining Barry Corbin. Dermot and Kieran Mulroney were also enjoyable as the bumbling bandits that come in at the end of the film.

If I’m being honest, some of my love for this movie could be due to nostalgia. As a kid, this movie was cool because what kid didn’t want to be locked in a Target all night with the entire store as a playground? Plus, I was crushing hard on Jennifer Connelly and frankly, that’s a crush that never really died, as she still catches my attention in almost every film she’s in.

For the time, the soundtrack is also solid. It features a lot of pop hits but it’s that weird era where music was transitioning from the ’80s into the ’90s and being middle school age when this movie came out, meant that a lot of the music worked for me and the time.

While I wouldn’t put this in the upper echelon of Hughes’ work, it’s still a fun, energetic and entertaining movie. Hughes actually requested to have his name taken off of the film, as he didn’t like the finished product, but I still think this is a better picture than most people give it credit for.

Career Opportunities achieved what it set out to do. It was made to be a lighthearted coming of age comedy that served as escapism for an hour and a half. Okay, maybe it fell just slight of that running time but it was good escapism for a twelve year-old in 1991. And I still revisit it every half decade or so.

Rating: 6.5/10
Pairs well with: other coming of age John Hughes comedies: Ferris Bueller’s Day OffWeird ScienceSixteen CandlesThe Breakfast ClubPretty In PinkSome Kind of Wonderful, etc.

Film Review: Deathgasm (2015)

Also known as: Heavy Metal Apocalypse (US video box title)
Release Date: March 14th, 2015 (SXSW)
Directed by: Jason Lei Howden
Written by: Jason Lei Howden
Music by: Chris van de Geer, Joost Langeveld, various
Cast: Milo Cawthorne, James Blake, Kimberley Crossman, Sam Berkley, Daniel Cresswell

Metalheads, MPI Media Group, New Zealand Film Commission, Timpson Films, Dark Sky Films, 86 Minutes

Review:

“My Uncle Albert was balls-deep into Jesus. He thought Ricky Martin was heavy. He heard me cranking some Disemboweled Corpse and he hasn’t slept for days.” – Brodie

There aren’t enough heavy metal horror movies, which is a shame as the style of both of these great art forms seem like a perfect pairing. This is one of the few that aren’t terrible but at the same time, this isn’t fantastic either.

Still, it’s an enjoyable watch and most of the characters are likable and have good chemistry. The film also has some funny lines sprinkled throughout and the girl is super hot, which is important in metal and horror.

The downside to this New Zealand movie though, is that it borrows so heavily from its influences that it’s a bit too blatant. While many directors do this sort of thing (Zombie and Tarantino), it’s just never been a creative choice that plays to the strength of filmmaking. Homages are cool and a hat tip to your influences is nice but I prefer films that stand on their own and can be their own thing. This is sort of just a mish mash of its influences with the gore turned up to 11 (but not quite a 12 like Dead-Alive). At least when Tarantino does the same sort of thing, he still creates a film that has enough of its own identity. Rob Zombie, not so much.

But as far as the borrowing being too blatant, as I stated last paragraph, it might not be noticeable at all to younger film fans that haven’t watched 1986’s Trick or Treat a half dozen times. And maybe the writer/director Jason Lei Howden was banking on that. But old school horror fans will probably notice.

Anyway, I don’t want to sound like I’m shitting on the movie but it is worth a watch, once. Well, maybe a second time if you really liked it but I don’t see anyone calling Deathgasm a modern horror classic. That being said, it is still a better horror movie at its core than what is the norm for the genre over the past decade or two.

I didn’t have much urge to watch this and it actually floated around in my Netflix queue for a really long time until the service pulled it down after more than a year. But since this was featured on Joe Bob Brigg’s The Last Drive-In, I figured now was as good of a time as any to check it out.

Rating: 5.75/10
Pairs well with: 1986’s Trick or TreatThe Gate, The Gate II: TrespassersBrainscan and Rock ‘n’ Roll Nightmare.

Film Review: Society (1989)

Also known as: The Shunting (original script title)
Release Date: May 13th, 1989 (Cannes)
Directed by: Brian Yuzna
Written by: Woody Keith, Rick Fry
Music by: Mark Ryder, Phil Davies
Cast: Billy Warlock, Devin DeVasquez, Evan Richards, Ben Meyerson

Wild Street Pictures, 99 Minutes

Review:

“Is it really that boring being rich? I guess you’re just naturally fucked up.” – Sergeant Burt

Do you like feeling disgusted? Do you like being uncomfortable? Do you sometimes wish that you could replace your butthole with your face? If you answered “yes” to any or all of these questions, you’ll probably really dig Brian Yuzna’s Society.

In the same vein as Yuzna’s other body horror films, this one really pushes some boundaries but it does so with the element of sex thrown in. For many, this will be a challenging film to sit through. For fans of Yuzna’s other pictures, this is just a quaint Saturday afternoon with a bucket of popcorn in your lap.

The film is made as a sort of critique on high society, specifically the super rich and their super rich culture, detached from the reality that 99 percent of the people on Earth live. It follows a high school kid from a super rich family with super rich friends and all the baggage that comes with that stuff. Add in that this also comes with a hearty helping of ’80s Hollywood teen yuppie shenanigans and the setup to this picture isn’t too dissimilar from the standard ’80s teen comedy.

However, as the film rolls on, really weird things happen. I don’t want to spoil any plot details but this ends with a pretty insane finale that features the most bizarre orgy you will probably ever see. In fact, if you’ve seen an orgy more bizarre than this, no one needs to know about it.

For ’80s horror fans that love practical effects, this film is absolutely fucking impressive. Yuzna takes his horror effects experience from Re-Animator and From Beyond and then sexualizes it. But he doesn’t just sexualize it, he ups the ante in unfathomable ways, which have to be seen to be believed.

Now I’m not trying to over hype the insanity but I’ve seen hundreds, if not thousands, of horror movies and there is nothing quite like this.

But with all that being said, there isn’t much more to this film than it’s incredibly disturbing payoff. It builds suspense fairly decently but the film feels dragged out in parts. Maybe it works better if you don’t have an idea of what’s coming. But if you’re aware of what the story leads to, which will be ruined by the trailer or anyone talking about this film, then you kind of just want the movie to hurry up and get to the craziness.

I do like Society and its special effects are superb but it’s not in the top tier of Yuzna’s work. While it may be more shocking, which I know is saying a lot, it just lacks the story and the likable characters of his other films.

Lastly, how the fuck did this come out at Cannes?!

Rating: 7.25/10
Pairs well with: other Brian Yuzna films: Re-Animator and its sequels, From BeyondReturn of the Living Dead IIIDagon, etc.

Film Review: Black Hole (2007)

Release Date: 2007 (Internet)
Directed by: Rupert Sanders
Written by: Rupert Sanders, Milo Ross
Based on: Black Hole by Charles Burns
Cast: Chris Marquette, Whitney Able, Diane Gaeta, Noel Fisher, Nate Mooney

11 Minutes

Review:

This was a short film done by Rupert Sanders, who later directed Snow White and the Huntsman and the live action Ghost In the Shell. This was made as a sort of demo to show how he would adapt Charles Burns’ cult classic comic book, Black Hole.

Sanders released this on his website in 2007 but it didn’t even seem to pick up much steam or to be distributed around the web until 2010 or so. I didn’t know of its existence and I was a pretty big fan of the comic.

It’s not a very good adaptation and this only reflects a very small portion of what the story is. It crams a lot of things into a small space but it also does that so subtly that this feels more like a David Lynch mindfuck sequence than something with any sort of narrative or point.

The cinematography is school book Fincher, which everyone and their mother was employing at the time.

The body horror elements feel very Cronenberg and being that I already named three iconic directors, you can probably see that this sort of just borrows from several more accomplished talents and lacks a voice of its own.

I’m not try to shit on what Rupert Sanders did here but I’ve got to call it like I see it and as a fan of the original work, this doesn’t even hit the right notes, tonally or aesthetically.

All that being said, I don’t even know if I want a legitimate live action adaptation of this story. It works wonderful for the original medium that it was intended and I’m kind of sick of everything needing to be adapted into a live action film in order to somehow be legitimized within the framework modern culture.

I’d rather directors come up with new ideas for the medium of film. This is not a new idea nor is it a new approach to filmmaking. Everything here is borrowed and just because you have four really good ingredients, that doesn’t guarantee that you’re going to have a really good casserole.

Rating: 5.25/10
Pairs well with: late ’90s to early ’00s teen horror.

Film Review: I Was a Teenage Werewolf (1957)

Also known as: Blood of the Werewolf (working title), El monstruo adolescente (Argentina)
Release Date: June 19th, 1957
Directed by: Gene Fowler Jr.
Written by: Herman Cohen, Aben Kandel
Music by: Paul Dunlap
Cast: Michael Landon, Whit Bissell, Yvonne Lime

Sunset Productions, American International Pictures, 76 Minutes

Review:

“It’s not for man to interfere in the ways of God.” – Det. Sgt. Donovan

I saw this movie when it first aired on Mystery Science Theater 3000 back in the ’90s. I guess, at the time, I never realized that Michael Landon was the star of this. It’s kind of cool thinking of the star of Little House on the Prairie and Highway to Heaven as a teenage werewolf but it made revisiting this film a bit more enjoyable.

This is a bad movie but it’s also fairly amusing. I loved the cheesy ’50s teen dancing bits and this film felt like it had some heart, despite being made cheaply, quickly and without much concern about actual filmmaking craftsmanship.

For what this picture is, I actually liked the werewolf makeup and Landon looked like a legit snarling beast man.

I love werewolf pictures and this is far from the best of them but it is a better film than more contemporary werewolf pictures by B-level studios. Hell, when I think about it, there aren’t many werewolf films I care about in modern cinema.

This was a fun film and MST3K episode to revisit. It came with good riffs and it wasn’t a film that was so bad that it was a drudge to get through and could only be saved by the humorous flourishes of Mike and the ‘Bots.

Rating: 4.25/10
Pairs well with: I Was a Teenage Frankenstein and any low budget werewolf movie from the ’40s through ’50s.