Film Review: Venom (2005)

Also known as: Backwater, The Reaper (working titles)
Release Date: September 16th, 2005
Directed by: Jim Gillespie
Written by: Flint Dille, John Zuur Platten, Brandon Boyce
Music by: James L. Venable, John Debney
Cast: Agnes Bruckner, Jonathan Jackson, Laura Ramsey, D.J. Cotrona, Meagan Good, Bijou Phillips, Method Man

Outerbanks Entertainment, Collision Entertainment, Miramax Films, Dimension Films, 85 Minutes

Review:

“It’s a milking ceremony. It’s an old Haitian ritual. The Mambo is saving the man’s soul, clensing him of evil. It’s his last rites. The snakes are charmed by the Mamboto suck out the man’s evil, so that his soul may pass on.” – Cece

Man, this was shit.

And it wasn’t the good sort of shit. It was just stinky, funky, boring shit.

Venom is a slasher film that takes place in the Louisiana bayou. It has elements of voodoo in it too, as this film’s slasher is a victim of cursed ghost snakes that possess it and control it. Ghost snakes brought to life by shoddy CGI, mind you. I guess going to the pet store at the mall and buying a couple pythons for a hundred bucks a pop would have killed the budget. The entire CGI for this film probably cost about eight dollars.

Anyway, we get a group of teens and each one fits a predetermined role that anyone who has watched a slasher film knows exactly who’s who. Immediately, you know the girl who will survive and pretty much know the general order in which these kids will get picked off.

The villain is this scared up gas station worker with a big ass tow truck. He’s normal in the beginning but he crashes into some old voodoo lady, tries to save her but ultimately gets bitten by her cartoon voodoo snakes and becomes a swamp zombie. Seriously, he looks like a shirtless, maskless Jason Voorhees covered in mud like Dutch from Predator. Oh, and the cartoon voodoo snakes often times peek through the holes in his decaying body.

Everything about this film was predictable. Slasher films, however, aren’t known for being well-written affairs but at least the good ones tried to do something unique. I guess the voodoo twist is supposed to be unique but we’ve already had voodoo elements brought into slasher pictures; Child’s Play, Candyman and Maniac Cop III immediately come to mind.

Agnes Bruckner was the final girl in this and I thought she was carving out a nice scream queen career for herself as she did this and The Woods around the same time. The Woods is a better film, by the way, and it had Bruce Campbell in it. I can’t recall anything else Bruckner’s done but I remember seeing her in this and thinking, she might be the ’00s horror hero icon.

Method Man from Wu-Tang is in this too but just barely. I feel bad that he got roped into this when he could have done something better with his time like recording another follow up to Tical.

Probably the biggest reason why this movie sucks is that it has absolutely no balls. None. Every big kill happens just after the camera turns away. Sometimes we get to see the aftermath of a kill but the gore is minimal and this just feels like it was edited for television. Fuck this movie and its lack of anything truly horrifying.

Eh. I’m done. I hate this piece of crap. Granted, it’s not the worst horror movie of its decade but I’d rather get a tick in my urethra than ever watch this again.

Rating: 4.25/10
Pairs well with: Other mediocre or bad ’00s horror films: Stay AliveBlack X-MasProm NightValentineSorority Row, See No Evil, etc.

Comic Review: Fatale – Book Five: Curse the Demon

Published: September 24th, 2014
Written by: Ed Brubaker
Art by: Sean Phillips, Bettie Breitweiser

Image Comics, 137 Pages

Review:

I was an immediate fan of Fatale when I read the first book and then that love just solidified as I read the second and third. I didn’t like the fourth story, however, and it took some of the wind out of the sails. By that point, I wasn’t sure how all of this would come together and end.

This book was a step up from the fourth but it wasn’t a satisfying conclusion. I felt like there was a lot of build up with several story arcs from different periods throughout time but now that this has wrapped up, a lot of it seemed pointless.

I like the character of Josephine and her strange powers. But I don’t feel like the backstory behind it all was thoroughly examined enough. This series presents a lot of questions but doesn’t do much in giving you the answers you want. Kind of like the television show Lost.

What attracted me to this was the fact that it was written by Ed Brubaker and had elements of classic film-noir, as well as Lovecraftian horror. If that combination doesn’t sound interesting on its own, then we can’t be friends.

The mystery is never really solved or unraveled in any sort of satisfactory way. I feel like this was just to show the wreckage caused by Josephine, mostly unintentionally, and didn’t have much else to offer other than really great art and cool visuals.

I don’t know, maybe I missed something but by the time I closed the final book, I felt empty.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: The other volumes in the Fatale series. Also, B. Clay Moore’s Hawaiian Dick series, as both share a lot of similarities with noir and the supernatural.

Film Review: The Craft (1996)

Release Date: April 26th, 1996 (Hollywood premiere)
Directed by: Andrew Fleming
Written by: Andrew Fleming, Peter Filardi
Music by: Graeme Revell
Cast: Fairuza Balk, Robin Tunney, Neve Campbell, Rachel True, Skeet Ulrich, Cliff DeYoung, Christine Taylor, Breckin Meyer

Columbia Pictures, 101 Minutes

Review:

“Girls watch out for the weirdos.” – Driver, “We are the weirdos, mister.” – Nancy

Man, I hadn’t seen this in a long time but I used to take a copy home to watch a lot when I worked at a video store in the ’90s. I’ve also seen it on television a bunch of times. But I came across it on my Starz app and thought, “Hmm… I haven’t seen that in ages.” So I decided to fire it up.

The Craft is about four teenage girls that dabble in witchcraft, which was pretty normal for some high school girls when this came out. I went to a few schools and there was always some sort of neo-pagan clique hanging about. I don’t know if that’s still the case because if I hung out around high schools now, I’d get arrested.

These girls take their dabbling to all new levels and their magic starts to work pretty effectively. The jerk guy at school obsesses over one girl, the racist mean girl starts losing her hair, the burnt girl gets healed and becomes a slut, the psycho girl just starts magic murdering people and ocean life. It all culminates in the psycho girl embracing her psycho tendencies and getting into a magic cat fight with the only rational character in the entire group.

The movie is cheesy but it’s the right kind of cheese and now it’s well aged and has a thick layer of nostalgia around the edges. Point being, this was still enjoyable and I was pretty tuned in from start to finish.

The four main actresses all did a good job and Fairuza Balk owned her character’s insanity and gave one of the most memorable performances of her career. In fact, she still kind of frightens me because of this movie.

I thought Robin Tunney also gave one of her best performances, as she was the one beacon of light in the evil witchcraft storm. She had a good presence and was still able to offset some of Balk’s over the top antics and keep things mostly grounded.

The Craft has its hardcore fans. Or, at least, it used to. I don’t hear people talking about it much these days. I was never a hardcore fan but I always thought it was a solid way to spend 101 minutes of my time.

Rating: 6.25/10
Pairs well with: Other ’90s teen horror movies: Idle HandsScream and The Faculty.

Comic Review: Fatale – Book Four: Pray For Rain

Published: February 25th, 2014
Written by: Ed Brubaker
Art by: Sean Phillips, Bettie Breitweiser

Image Comics, 144 Pages

Review:

I have really enjoyed Ed Brubaker’s Fatale series. However, this was the low point of the series for me. Although, I still haven’t read Book Five.

It’s not that I didn’t like this story, I did, but it was lacking when compared to the books that came before it. Especially, the first two story arcs that were pretty incredible.

Maybe it’s that this has lost the film-noir touch that really made me fall in love with the first two stories. It’s not that this is completely different, tonally. It’s just that this one takes place in the 1990s, sees Josephine shacking up with a bank robbing grunge band and overall, just doesn’t seem to fit cohesively with the other stories. But maybe Book Five will somehow tie all these stories together in an amazing way. I still don’t know how this will all come together in the end.

The art is still great, the story is interesting but there really isn’t a single likable character in the entire book. Jo has amnesia and is pretty much just in the story to create tension and drama between a group of shitheads. There is also a murderous cop but he’s nowhere near as interesting as other antagonists in this series.

I don’t know, I was disappointed with this outing. Maybe Book Five will help this story make more sense but I feel as if it should still stand strong on its own outside of the larger context.

But for now, I feel my interest in this series slipping away.

Rating: 6.75/10
Pairs well with: The other volumes in the Fatale series. Also, B. Clay Moore’s Hawaiian Dick series, as both share a lot of similarities with noir and the supernatural.

Film Review: Idle Hands (1999)

Release Date: April 30th, 1999
Directed by: Rodman Flender
Written by: Terri Hughes, Ron Milbauer
Music by: Graeme Revell
Cast: Devon Sawa, Seth Green, Elden Henson, Vivica A. Fox, Jessica Alba, Jack Noseworthy, Robert Englund (voice), Fred Willard, Connie Ray, Kelly Monaco, The Offspring

Licht/Mueller Film Corporation, Team Todd, TriStar Pictures, Columbia Pictures, 92 Minutes

Review:

“There is evil out there, and I’m gonna kick its ass!” – Debi

Idle Hands is a bizarre and fun movie.

It follows a stoner and his buds. The main stoner, played by Devon Sawa, who was a hot commodity circa 1999, has a possessed hand. His hand murders his parents very violently while he is asleep. The rest of the film sees him trying to control his hand, as it yanks him around like a rag doll while looking for more people to murder.

This isn’t a film that did well when it came out and critics weren’t kind to it. It is sort of a niche movie that found its audience once it hit video stores. I remember that it developed a cult following pretty quickly and when I was in my early twenties, this was on the TV at a lot of parties. And rightfully so, as it is unique, cool and has a certain charm to it.

I have always been a fan of horror, especially when it has a comedy element to it. This film has the right balance between its scares and its laughs. It is also pretty gory, which was still fairly normal in 1999 before the ’00s brought tame PG-13 horror.

Seth Green has played a lot of good characters, the best of them always seeming to be an extension of himself. Here, he plays maybe his best character as one of the stoner buds. After he dies, early in the film, he is basically a zombie pothead with a bottle lodged into his forehead. The other stoner, who walks around holding his decapitated head, was played by Elden Henson, who modern audiences will probably recognize as Foggy Nelson from the Daredevil series on Netflix.

Jessica Alba is also in this, as the apple of the stoner’s eye, and she’s never been more adorable. Most guys my age fell in love with her in the TV show Dark Angel but it was Idle Hands that got me crushin’ on her hard.

I also love that Fred Willard is in this, albeit briefly, as the father of Sawa’s character. He meets his violent demise pretty quickly in the film but Willard is enjoyable in everything. Here, he is a straitlaced dad that’s sick of his stoner son being a useless coach potato with no ambition.

This movie has really good style. I love the set design, the characters’ looks and the score is actually pretty damn good.

I love the opening theme by Graeme Revell, as it truly sets the tone of the picture. The rest of the film is accented by Revell’s score mixed with a lot of notable ’90s rock. The Offspring even play the school dance, where they cover The Ramones “I Wanna Be Sedated”.

Idle Hands is just a good time if you are into horror comedies with a good amount of gross out moments.

Rating: 6.75/10
Pairs well with: Disturbing BehaviorThe FacultyCan’t Hardly WaitBrainscan and Final Destination.

Comic Review: Fatale – Book Three: West of Hell

Published: July 9th, 2013
Written by: Ed Brubaker
Art by: Sean Phillips, Dave Stewart, Bettie Breitweiser

Image Comics, 128 Pages

Review:

This third out of the five chapters in the Fatale series is really cool. It doesn’t follow the story arc style of the previous two books, which showcased Josephine and her power over a lead male character, as the forces of darkness closed in on them. Here, we see Josephine throughout history, not knowing what exactly she is, seemingly immortal with the power to easily enchant men.

This is the shortest of the five books, as it collects four issues, as opposed to five. It is also very different in that it jumps around and tells different stories about Josephine throughout different times. This is really an origin story but you still don’t get all the details, just some necessary history.

The first issue in this collection sees her go to the home of a comic book writer who created stories that speak to Jo, as they reflect her experiences and what she sees in her dreams. Ultimately, she wants answers as to what she is. Then we go to the Dark Ages, see her burned at the stake and then taken in by a religious knight that tries to keep her out of the public eye by giving her a place to stay in his cabin in the woods. The third story takes place during the time of the Old West. The fourth and final chapter take place during World War II and sees Josephine in Romania dealing with occult Nazis.

Now I should clarify that the Josephine character goes by different names in different time periods and they could be different incarnations of the same woman or totally different women. We aren’t yet sure what she is and how this all works by this point but answers are certainly coming after this book. At least, one would assume. But all the characters are very much a version of Josephine.

I loved this book and I love this series. Ed Brubaker really wrote some marvelous stuff here. It’s just sad that I’m now more than halfway through the series’ entire run.

Rating: 9.25/10
Pairs well with: The other volumes in the Fatale series. Also, B. Clay Moore’s Hawaiian Dick series, as both share a lot of similarities with noir and the supernatural.

Film Review: Death Spa (1989)

Also known as: Witch Bitch (alternate title)
Release Date: December 1st, 1989 (Japan)
Directed by: Michael Fischa
Written by: James Bartruff, Mitch Paradise
Music by: Peter D. Kaye
Cast: William Bumiller, Brenda Bakke, Merritt Butrick, Robert Lipton, Karyn Parsons, Ken Foree

Maljack Productions, Shapiro-Glickenhaus Entertainment, 88 Minutes

Review:

Death Spa is a film that feels like it was made five years earlier than it actually was. It feels like something from 1984 and not 1989. I know that’s not a big passage of time and the ’80s are the ’80s but it had a sort of mid-’80s pizzazz to it, which was working its way out of cheap horror films by the time this came out and really, it didn’t hit the U.S. market until 1990.

It also feels like it was made by an Italian director on the cheap. It has the same sort of visual vibe as something by Lamberto Bava. It reminds me of his first two Demons movies in its aesthetic, even though it isn’t as gross as those films. This still has some killer gross out moments though, just nothing as utterly insane as Bava’s Demons pictures.

This is also notable for being the final film of Merritt Butrick, who most people will remember as Capt. Kirk’s son David from Star Trek‘s II and III. Weirdly, he is also named David in this. Additionally, this picture has a very small role for Karyn Parsons, who would be best known as Hillary Banks on the ’90s sitcom The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air and as Kid’s girlfriend in Class Act. We also get to see Ken Foree strut his stuff but this is no Dawn of the Dead.

Death Spa isn’t a classic, by any means, but it is strange and bizarre. It has a sort of endearing quality because of its uniqueness.

The threat in the film is this health spa that is haunted by what seems like ghosts living in the club’s high tech system. But then we learn about this dead sister character and she has some sort of witchy powers. I don’t know, it’s a mess and kind of confusing but I don’t watch pictures like this for any sort of coherent anything. Death Spa is really just a total mind fuck.

There are good gory bits like a chick being melted by some sort of acid stuff and a guy whose stomach area starts spraying blood because a workout machine crushes his arms or something. The physics and general anatomy rules that apply in the real world just don’t apply here. It’s very apparent that the filmmakers slept through school, probably flunked out and stole a camera and the keys to a gym to make this picture. The cast was probably just paid in cheap beer and Quaaludes.

Rating: 5.25/10
Pairs well with: Killer WorkoutChopping Mall and Hide and Go Shriek.