Thursday, June 30, 2011


Year: 1987
Director: Clive Barker
Writer: Clive Barker
Genre: Horror

I first saw Hellraiser when I was a young teenager so I barely remembered anything about it. Within the last few weeks I decided this would be the next series I tackle for my blog. Interestingly, the first few titles streaming on Netflix expire at the start of July so I figured there was no time to waste. More interestingly, the third film isn't streaming while the rest of the series is. Perhaps it's a licensing issue.

So, back to Hellraiser. I like the move fairly well enough. It starts off with a couple who are moving into a new house. Things are looking okay until the husband cuts his hand on a nail jutting out of a frame and bleeds all over the house. Unfortunately for him, one of the rooms contains an unholy being inside which sucks up his blood and basically reanimates itself. It's pretty disgusting but also very cool.

The husband has a daughter as well, who tries to be accepted by the mother but still feels very nervous around her. Like in many movies, she becomes a snoop later on and gets herself mixed up in a very unfortunate situation. Oh, and did I mention that the being that feeds off blood in the house is the husband's brother who the wife had an affair with in his livelier days? Yep.

The story is all kinds of convoluted but not so much so that you get thrown off. When I was younger I remeber feeling like the movie went crazy once the cenobites were introduced. For the unfamiliar, the most famous cenobite is Pinhead and they're basically demons/angels from another world. Anyway, it's still a pretty wild ride but I certainly feel I could appreciate it this time around. It's basically a sadomasochistic rock-style horror film, if that makes any sense.

If for no other reason, horror fans should view it as this is a "classic". For me, it felt similar to how Phantasm does so if you enjoy that film you might want to give it a look.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Ranking the Puppet Master Series

The Puppet Master franchise is one I have overlooked a very long time. Despite having a love/hate relationship with doll and dummy films I figured this one seemed a little too goofy for my tastes. For better or for worse, one day I decided to just watch them all anyway. Now that I've completed watching 9 films in the series it is time to rank them based on my personal preference.
  1. Puppet Master III: Toulon's Revenge
  2. Curse of the Puppet Master
  3. Puppet Master vs Demonic Toys
  4. Retro Puppet Master
  5. Puppet Master
  6. Puppet Master II
  7. Puppet Master 5: The Final Chapter
  8. Puppet Master 4
  9. Puppet Master: The Legacy
So there is everything ranked from best to worst. Toulon's Revenge is a pretty nice film all by itself if you ever care to dip into the world of living puppets. As for Puppet Master: The Legacy, nobody should watch that one ever. Honestly, from 6-9 they're all pretty dull films. Even the original isn't the most exciting thing out there! Either way, I'm glad I spent time with the movies although I doubt I'll go back anytime soon. 

Actually, there is one newer film in the series which I have yet to watch. That film is Puppet Master: Axis of Evil and came out in 2010. I'm honestly worried to watch it because I can only expect it's horrendous beyond anything else. After that though I think the series is going to be left to die. 

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Women in Boxes

Year: 2008
Director: Phil Noyes, Harry Pallenberg
Writer: Blaire Baron
Genre: Documentary

The only reason I really chose to watch this today was due to the fact that it will be removed from Netflix streaming at the start of July. In fact, a couple of my queued items are disappearing that day so I figured I'd give them a watch before then. So if you're so inclined to watch this film and have Netflix then you'd better hurry up.

The documentary focuses on various women who have been magician's assistants at various points in time. Footage is shown of their respective acts and some of the tricks that they discuss in the interviews. There is one magician's secret revealed in the entire documentary but that is because it is very old and nobody ever uses the method anymore. It's the secret to the first "sawing women in half" trick and, personally, I never knew it so that was neat.

What I also found so interesting was that these assistants really are intensely important in shows. They do a ton of work and in fact maybe more than the magicians themselves in most cases. Magicians just have to present and move and wave but the women have to curl up in a box or get themselves in precarious situations. The tricks themselves are dangerous even if they aren't in the outright ways. For example, a woman getting sawed in half never has the danger of actually getting sawed in half but many tricks still are dangerous. In fact, one woman talked about a trick where swords were stuck through a box and that apparently the "trick" thing was set backwards so she did actually get sliced with a sword. It's scary stuff!

In fact, it's when those stories of injury came up that I wished the entire documentary could possibly be about that. It really interested me to realize just how dangerous it is, even though we all usually expect the female performers are in no actual harm. But then the documentary went on to talk about the sexist nature of magician performances and stuff. I also found that really interesting because, again, I never viewed them in that manner. It's weird to think about. Magic acts sprung up with the women being in distress for what reason? It seems because nobody would care to see a man in peril, but to see a woman being "mutilated" on stage is something else entirely. Weird, weird, weird.

The documentary isn't the most exciting thing out there, but it caught my attention. I'm interested in magic acts very much though so that might be part of it. I liked it and that's all there is to it.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Queer Film Blogathon is On

Hey folks!

I just wanted to let you all know that today a Queer Film Blogathon is on and being hosted over at the Garbo Laughs blog. What it is basically is a day, today, where lots of writers are putting out reviews, assessments, essays, and whatever else about films with LGBT (lesbian, gay, bi, transgender) content. Because of the fact that "LGBT" is not everyone's favorite acronym and can be extended in so many ways, the host of the blog is preferring to call it "queer" which is meant to encompass everything. So there you go.

So far I managed to put one review in for the blogathon - my Desperate Living review. Even though I won't probably watch any more films today with LGBT content, I've been really exited by the whole idea of the blogathon. In the future, if I come across this sort of content in future films I'd like to explore it in my reviews. As part of the community myself, I feel a sense of pride in sharing these depictions with others, even if they aren't the nicest things ever.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Make-Out With Violence

Year: 2008
Director: Deagol Brothers
Writer: Cody DeVos, Deagol Brothers
Genre: Horror: Black comedy

I like to think I'm not shallow but when it comes to movie choices I often prefer names that grab me to simple one word things like "Demons" or "Blood". However, in the case of this strangely named film I in fact pushed myself away from it. The name conjured up some sort of bikini-girl-running-from-masked-murder sameness that I've not been in the mood for for a while. Either way, out of random selection I chose to finally sit down with the movie. It was much better than I expected.

The basic premise is that there are a group of three brothers (2 older, 1 younger) and the two older ones have crushes on these two best friend girls. It's a perfectly suburban love story until one day that one the girls, Wendy, disappears. Eventually searches are called off and a funeral is held for her because she's presumed dead. A bit after that, the youngest brother runs around and discovers her body in the woods. Also, apparently she did die but she's still living. Undead, you know.

From then on it gets really interesting because the brother who adored her, Patrick, can't live without her it seems. Despite the fact that she's practically a living doll (with a taste for flesh) he takes care of her in their friend's house who is away for the summer. The other brothers are in on it too but certainly don't want to let anyone else know hat is going on.

I'm surprised by how much I liked this movie. It played out so well and I felt really sorry for Patrick's struggle. It made me put myself in his place. If somehow there were some zombie version of someone I loved deeply out there, wouldn't I want to try and keep them? Probably not, but I could see why someone would go so far. It's sadly striking and even more so since Patrick never actually dated her and just adored her so very much.

It's not just Patrick's story though as the other brothers still serve integral roles and have relationships with other characters throughout. The second older brother, Carol, in particular was an interestingly awkward guy. The youngest serves as the narrator and his stark stating of facts is humorous at times. Overall, quite the enjoyable film. If I had to pair it with something I'd say watch it alongside Zombie Honeymoon.


Year: 1989
Director: Milos Forman
Writer: Milos Forman, Jean-Claude Carriere
Genre: Drama: Romance

First off, Valmont is yet another adaptation of the book Les Liasions Dangereueses. This was the last of the various adaptations for me to watch and now I've seen them all! Well, unless there's some sort of made-for TV version. Unfortunately, I only reviewed one of the others: Dangerous Liaisons

In regards to what Valmont brings to the table it shows a different side of title character Valmont then all the other adaptations. For the most part, we are always the stranger looking in on this very selfish man who wants every woman possible. Somehow, this film managed to make viewers empathize with him and see that he's not bad at all, simply misguided. What's most strange is how as opposed to those other films, it seems much more like a Shakespearian comedy than a devilishly cruel one. The other films were good at being darkly comedic but this just felt bubbly in comparison even though the same exact storyline was playing out. I honestly couldn't tell you how they manged it, but it worked well.

I enjoyed the movie wholeheartedly especially since it wasn't the same old thing. However, I wouldn't go so far as to say I like it more than the other adaptations. Personally, Dangerous Liaisons still remains at the top of my list. Even Cruel Intentions, which is of a much more Hollywood variety is a little higher up than this. Possibly. I'd need to watch it again.

What was most strange about this version of the story is that there was never any outright stating that Valmont  and his sister were the ones engaged in their cruel plan. I'm not sure if the character was just revoked of her sister status so it wouldn't be incestuous or if they really were siblings but you are just supposed to know from the base material. I don't know but it struck me as odd that it was never explicitly declared like in the other versions. It's easy enough to slip in "my dear sister" so why didn't they do it? Or maybe they did and I wasn't paying attention, but none of the other characters seemed to comment on it either. The closest I recall hearing though was when the character said "he's almost like a brother" or something like that. Obviously, it seemed to be hinting to the idea that he IS her brother, but still an obtuse way of going about sharing information.

Beyond that, the film was pretty solid and entertaining. I'm happy this version was Keanu Reeves free. Nothing against him, but his portrayal of the music teacher in Dangerous Liaisons was basically like everything else he did in the 90s - lifeless.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Desperate Living

Year: 1977
Director: John Waters
Writer: John Waters
Genre: Comedy, Crime

This post was written for the Queer Film Blogathon over at Garbo Laughs!

When choosing to watch Desperate Living I had no idea what to expect. A John Waters film is always something out of the ordinary though hence my choosing it. I've seen a few of his works, but none have ever surpassed my first - Pink Flamingos. While this movie didn't pass it up in pure shock, it nearly did and in fact pushed the envelope a lot further.

The entire film is ridiculous. After a woman kills her husband with the aid of her maid (who smothers him to death by sitting on his face) the two race away from the crime scene. They run to the criminal town of Mortville where murderers, rapists, and more live together in apparent peace and harmony. It's a slum, but it's better than jail. Well, maybe not quite as there is a crazy queen who enforces inane rules upon the townsfolk for no good reason.

For the first part of the film it seems like the housewife and her maid would be the main characters, but as the story progresses they fade from the main view as others take the stage. It is a couple that replaces these two. The couple are Mole and Muffy. They've lived in Mortville for a long time and inadvertently become heroes as time passes. What's most interesting about these heroes is how unlikely they are and Mole in particular.

Muffy is an obvious sex kitten and yet only has eyes for her precious Mole. Mole, too, is only interested in Muffy and seems to take relatively good care of her. What's most interesting though is that early into the introduction of Mole's character, he plainly states "I'm a man trapped in a woman's body!". Normally, a trans character would be pushed into a supporting role not straight out into protagonist status, but here he is. Even in this case, typically his "trans" status wouldn't be played off of very much. In Desperate Living, it isn't focused upon but still sees some exposure during the film.

There's a part in the movie where Mole decides he needs to have a "sex change" to please Muffy. After getting new bottom organs, he returns home to surprise her. Muffy is horrified and comes to tell him she was so happy with his body before. But even now, she would continue to love every last bit of it just the same as before (although Mole cuts the new member off as he didn't actually desire it for himself to begin with). Muffy stitches him back up and the story continues. I find it so incredible that this would be in a film from the 70s without trying to be exploitative. Muffy and Mole's relationship is portrayed so honestly. Even though Mole isn't equipped exactly the way he expects to be, Muffy loves him no bit less. Even though the characters themselves are eccentric beyond belief, they still are portrayed very humanly in regards to their emotions.

What also interested me was how everyone else interacted with Mole. Apparently, most everyone he was friends with knew, but nobody cared a bit either way. Mole was a female-bodied he and it was readily acknowledged. The other characters treated him as male, but also never batted an eye even when discussing female things with him (ex: Mole having an abortion). Despite being criminals, the cast was pretty down to earth and open about his situation. His transgender status was never brought up in an insulting fashion where in many other instances it probably could have been.

Mole is a murder. Mole is grimy and skinny and loudmouthed. Mole's character is so many things that the focus is not his trans-ness. Even in more modern film, it seems rare where a trans character will be painted in a well-rounded fashion. If it was possible in the 70s then I'm sure it's possible now... I just need to find those "now" movies.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Troll 2

Year: 1990
Director: Claudio Fragasso
Writer: Claudio Fragasso, Rossella Drudi
Genre: Horror, Fantasy

Troll 2 is the worst movie ever made. It isn't, but that's the award it held for some time unofficially via IMDB's bottom 100 films list. It's easy to be a bad film, but to fail so spectacularly that everything becomes hilarious is rare to find. It's because of this "so bad it's good" quality that this is one of the greatest movie treats I've had in a long time.

For a long time, I'd heard many great things about Troll 2. Because of that, I avoided it nearly constantly. I didn't wish to find that the movie wasn't nearly as good as everyone had built it up to be. Before watching it, I'd seen the documentary (Best Worst Movie) as well as seen a small clip ("They're eating her! Then they're going to eat me! Oh my goooooooooooooood!"). Between those two things, I really had no urge to see the film any time soon. Out of sheer boredom and attempt to please a guest, I decided to watch it finally. Everything everyone has ever said about the movie is true.

Every second is horrible. The story is held together well enough that it ins't incomprehensible, even if it is silly as hell. The script is awkward at many points and characters talk in unnatural ways. This is attributed to the scriptwriter and director who apparently was much less of an English speaker than he is now. The characters are your typical American family doing a sort of house exchange with countryfolk for a vacation. Of course, things go terribly wrong when goblins (not trolls!) in the town want to eat the happy family.

The movie is full of terrible and equally memorable moments. There's a bit involving corn that made me bust out laughing and so many other unintended gags. Certain characters seem legitimately crazy. A kid pees on his family's welcome dinner. This is the kind of movie to watch with friends. Alongside Final Flesh, I've yet to see anything wackier.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Chasing Amy

Year: 1997
Director: Kevin Smith
Writer: Kevin Smith
Genre: Romantic comedy

I feel really strange classifying Chasing Amy as a "romantic comedy". Sure, the plot focuses around romance and has many very funny pieces of dialogue... but does that mean it has to be pushed into the romcom world? In comparison to all the other doofy and vapid romcoms out there I really feel like this takes the lead. Typically I hate this genre but there are times it works well.

Chasing Amy follows a pretty simple, if modern, premise. Guy meets girl, guy falls in love with girl, girl turns out to be lesbian, guy tries to get with her anyway. I've never quite been a fan of movies where full-fledged lesbian characters end up getting with and loving men for any reason. It almost always feels like such a cop out. At the very least, the movie seemed to put in some very useful conversations that addressed my anger. However, the lesbian character still found herself in a heterosexual relationship at a point. I must say though that I was especially interested to see how the film portrayed this realization with her group of lesbian friends. She got ostracized which is how I've seen things handled in the LGBT community from time to time.

I still didn't quite like how much she seemed to love the straight sex. I guess that just makes her a fuller character though since she had a rich sexual background which took on all forms. It may very well be true that for some people they will every once in a while like someone of the opposite or same sex when they usually don't. That may continue on to the sexual realm. Basically, despite taking a path that I usually despise, I can forgive Chasing Amy for doing it.

The film is very smart at its portrayal of characters and situations. Some of it is a bit ham-fisted near the end but mostly it all plays out perfectly. It doesn't get your typical romcom ending either, which is probably my favorite part of the whole experience. For those looking for a smarter romantic comedy this is one to watch.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Puppet Master vs Demonic Toys

Year: 2004
Director: Ted Nicolaou
Writer: C. Courtney Joyner
Genre: Horror: Evil Toys

By this point the series seems to have lost its "horror" tinge. It's all just a joke and this is readily made apparent in this crossover film. Apparently, Demonic Toys is a series all its own which ripped off Puppet Master. Because of that, it makes sense that this battle would have to take place at some point.

The two worlds mesh perfectly and it makes sense why the toys are there. The toy company was spying on this toy maker, who is Andre's great great nephew or something. They've got the blood in them though which means both he and his daughter are able to bring things to life. As a matter of fact, despite an other film taking the toys out of the original house and family, they are once again brought into family hands for this film. Whatever.

While this film really brings nothing great to the story, it does make for an entertaining watch. If nothing else, it's kind of hilarious to see the main character flirt awkwardly with a cop as he tries to convince her he's not crazy. It's also interesting to see the head of a huge toy company introduce virgin girls to her dungeonesque "playroom".

There's no real point to the story but it entertains for a good hour and a half. If you're interested in burning some brain cells I'd almost recommend it. It could be a good double feature alongside Jack Frost (not the family film) for the holidays.

PS: Corey Feldman plays the dad character. I was overjoyed.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Puppet Master: The Legacy

Year: 2003
Director: Charles Band
Writer: C. Courtney Joyner
Genre: Horror: Evil Dolls

This installment of Puppet Master is not even a movie. Well, it is 70 minutes long which I guess counts as a film but it's nothing but a recap of the previous 7 films. The recap isn't even that great as it mostly focuses on the death scenes from each film.

There's also some sort o reason for the recap. Some Lara Croft-ish woman has come to find how to kill the puppets. I'm not sure why but that's the plot device. She ambushes this man who was the little boy apprentice to Andre in the 3rd film. She learns from him of the past and they both somehow know the entire detailed death history of the puppet victims.

It's boring. It's not even a good way to know what happened if you're too lazy to watch the first 7 films. Basically, either watch them or don't watch any at all but avoid The Legacy at all costs.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Retro Puppet Master

Year: 1999
Director: David DeCoteau
Writer: Charles Band, Benjamin Carr
Genre: Horror: Evil Dolls

After the last film, I was expecting this to be Puppet Master 6.5 or something. However, instead of picking up on the obvious cliffhanger of the last film it went in a totally different direction. This version takes us further back to Andre's story. Instead of being in Nazi Germany though this is back when he was a young man and was learning about the puppets from someone else.

Whoever the teacher was he of course got the secrets in Egypt and taught them to his one apprentice - Andre. Back at this point the puppets were different too, although they were mostly analogous to the ones in the rest of the series. What I'm curious about is what happened to these original puppets because they were never shown getting completely destroyed or anything. Unless I was too busy eating my sandwich when it happened.

So anyway, somehow they once again managed to make a Puppet Master movie interesting. In a way, it feels like an Indiana Jones adventure which is pretty awesome considering the goofy subject matter. In fact, it is right up there as one of my favorites of the series. For the 7th film in a series to do that is excellent indeed. I can only expect though that the rest of the films are not nearly as exciting.

There's not much I can say about the movie otherwise... The set pieces and outfits were nice. The acting was a little stilted and funny in the beginning but after a while it goes away. I kind of wish the puppets were more active, but it was also nice to see the story play out with more human interaction.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Curse of the Puppet Master

Year: 1998
Director: David DeCoteau
Writer: Benjamin Carr
Genre: Horror: Evil Dolls

So here were are after the supposed end of Puppet Master. As I predicted, the story has been restarted in a way with new characters. The puppets are still the same though, and unfortunately Leech Girl is back. At the very least though, she had absolutely no use in the film other than to look scary at a few points so thank goodness.

As or the movie itself, I'm not sure where it's supposed to take place in the timeline. The characters apparently got the puppets at auction some years ago but it doesn't make sense that the last owners would have sold them. That is, unless they died or something. It couldn't come before the last two Puppet Masters because the puppets were still in their Bodega Bay Inn home at that point and not shipped across country and back due to auctions. Really then, I can only assume this film is supposed to happen 20 years after the last two or something of the sort. I doubt it really matters.

So you've got a man and his daughter who operate a puppet show and have various other novelties. The father invites a young gas station attendant to work for him as he apparently is really good at whittling. He wants the young man to build a new puppet for him that lives. Of course, the father has to say something ominous and predictable like "you have to put your soul into it...". Seeing nothing wrong with this picture, the guy happily takes on the job.

The puppets seem to quite like the arrangement and are generally well-behaved through most of the movie. Only during the climax do they really get back to old form. Strangely, the acting of the puppets is even more wooden than it has ever been before. They were barely animated at all and were rarely shot in full (so that hands could manipulate them from the lower half in shots). It's really weird that the production values would shoot down so much from the last film to now. I suppose Full Moon began to tire of their star series and may have been working on other projects. I'll have to look into them more to see what else they had going on at the same time.

Overall, this film was actually a lot better than I thought it'd be. There is one glaring issue though and that is the end of a film. If you thought The Blair Witch Project had a sudden ending try this one on for size. It cuts off immediately in the middle of a climactic scene! It's as if you were watching something on TV to have it cut off for a test of the emergency broadcast system. Except, apparently, this is the way they wanted it to end. I'm not sure if the next film will be a continuation of this one, but it sure looks like that's what they wanted to do.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Puppet Master 5: The Final Chapter

Year: 1994
Director: Jeff Burr
Writer: Steven E. Carr, Jo Duffy
Genre: Horror: Evil Dolls

So here we are at the supposed "final chapter". Obviously it isn't though as there are 5 more films to go. I guess Full Moon believed this was the end though, or at least the end of this storyline. I'm not really sure but maybe things will become clearer once I watch the 6th film.

Puppet Master 5 is better than 4 because more things happen. It feels once more like a movie even if the "horror" tag is getting lesser and lesser as time goes on. Once again, some ancient Egyptian evil is sending out a little demonic child to take care of things here on regular Earth. This is a super demonic baby though as there's only one of it and it manages to be a definite threat all on its own.

For the regular team of puppets, they're still all good. Interestingly, it seems like between this and the last film they got rid of the female puppet. I'm not sure why, since they seemed so happy to use her in the previous films. In fact, she was an important character for the 3rd. Either way, I'm glad they got rid of her because she was a disturbing and annoying creature... She'd moan and choke as leeches slowly squirmed out of her gaping mouth. Yuck.

So, this time around the science kid is convicted of murdering people from the last film. Obviously he didn't but how do you prove to the police that small demonic monsters did it? And that puppets helped you? So the bulk of the film focuses around a small squad of people investigating and attempting to steal the puppets - to learn about their technology. Things don't go as planned. It's an okay movie but nothing to write home about.


Year: 1991
Director: Patrick Rand
Writer: Patrick Rand
Genre: Horror: Werewolves, Black comedy

I came into watching this movie like it was going to be another Rabid Grannies. That film is basically a big gross-out horror comedy. While great fun, I didn't think the world really needed two films like that. As it turned out though, this is nothing like the aforementioned film. It is instead a sort of horror-based black comedy.

The story starts out with a nice older woman who has a room out for rent. A blind man comes by and ends up taking the room. Things were pretty much doomed from the start though as the man is a vampire and preys on the dear lady. As it turns out, she has a son who's married and has a child on the way. This son happens to deal very closely with the local police and once realizing what his mom's become must figure out how to go against the law to keep her alive. That, along with making sure she doesn't prey on him or his wife.

It's got all the makings of a more modern werewolf story which there are not enough of out there. The fact that it's someone mother though just pulls you in further. The son trying to protect her and himself is interesting to see play out. Non-horror fans in particular seem drawn to the story.

Overally, this was a big surprise of a movie to me. Never would I have expected a movie with a silly cover and a boring title would end up being one of the best films I've seen in a while. Sure, it's dated and silly at times but that doesn't hurt it. The story that is told is wholly enthralling and most everyone owes it a viewing.


Year: 1988
Director: Jan Svankmajer
Writer: Jan Svankmajer
Genre: Fantasy

The story of how I became a Svankmajer fan is one that happened fully on chance. It came from reading some random thread on SomethingAwful and seeing someone with the strangest animated avatar. Someone asked them what on earth it was. The answer was it was the baby in the film Little Otik. As the image intrigued me so damn much, I went ahead and got a copy of the film and watched it straight away. It was great. It was a sort of fairy tale gone dark and weird (in a much different and "realer" way than Tim Burton's modern stuff). So, that's my backstory.

I didn't even know he made an adaptation of Alice in Wonderland until more recently. Obviously, it interested me but finally just got around to seeing it shortly ago. While it does contain his signature eccentricity, it doesn't come together as an all-together great piece. Firstly, the film draws on much too long and is very dull in many parts.

There was some definite charm and moments where I laughed out of sheer amazement, but these moments were few and far between. The story is about the same as the original from what I recall, but of course played out a bit odder. The caterpillar character for example is a sock with holes in it which he fills with marble eyes. he sits upon a wooden knob and hides in a desk drawer while sleeping. It's odd stuff.

What is most interesting is to see how what is now basically classified as a "children's story" can still be so warped. In the introductory monologue Alice states that this is a movie for children "perhaps?". All I know is it would be a rather horrific movie for a child. The visuals are much stranger than any Disney film and the animation technique of Svankmajer always borders on creepy. It might be worth a watch for Alice in Wonderland buffs, but otherwise you're not missing much.


Year: 1991
Director: Mark Herrier
Writer: Mitchell Smith, Alan Ormsby
Genre: Horror: Slasher

After inputting some 200 movie ratings on Netflix (mostly devoted to horror films) the site began recommending things to me. One film in particular, Popcorn, stood out but for all the wrong reasons. Now, I know they say don't judge a book by its cover but this movie looked atrocious. The name too seemed undeniably odd and cheesy. I would have simply avoided it like the plague if I didn't decide to look at a few reviews which called it a kind of precursor to Scream. That, along with the movie's tagline which is: "Buy a bag... Leave in a box."

It seems my interest was not misplaced because it turned out to be a fun film. The production values are strangely awful though as the film quality makes it look like a movie out of the early 80s and not 1991. That's easily forgiven though since the characters are fresh and believable people. The antagonist borders on extremely cliched territory, but the rest of the film supports his appearance.

Basically the story is about a group of teens (?) in their school's film club who need to raise money to keep afloat. They decide to run a horror movie marathon at an old movie theater. So, they get to work prettying the place up and preparing to show three b-horror films from the 50s. What they don't know however is that a mysterious fourth film is in the building and is the harbinger of death.

It plays out kind of Phantom of the Opera-ish but there's nothing wrong with a solid story like that. The modernization is crisp and doesn't feel like a tired story and still is a different beast. Mostly, I loved the film-centric banter that goes on between the characters from time to time. Movies about people who love movies are always excellent in my book. If you're in the mood for something similar, I'd suggest Demons (1985) or Fade to Black (1980).

Thursday, June 16, 2011


Year: 1988
Director: Anthony Hickox
Writer: Anthony Hickox
Genre: Horror, Fantasy

Let me start off by saying that Waxwork is not a shining example of creative horror filmmaking. However, it still tries something a little bit different and it's better for it.

The basic premise is that a waxworks has suddenly shown up in a small town. A group of teens are invited to come to a private showing at midnight (always with these midnight celebrations). Of course they all go but teens start disappearing one by one. Without the police to turn to, the remaining teens take it upon themselves to figure out what happened.

The creative bit is that the man who owns the waxwork is not the one holding a knife and killing people. He lets his wax scenes do the work for him. The viewers are drawn in to examine the figures but find themselves walking into the scenes depicted and playing them out. Of course, all the scenes depict some scene where death is imminent.

It plays out pretty interestingly even if the climax turns silly. Of note though, it's very worth sticking around to see a man in a wheechair decked out to look like a battle tank. Also, Marquis de Sade is in a horror movie. That's gotta entice some viewers out there.

Meet the Hollowheads

Year: 1989
Director: Thomas R. Burman
Writer: Thomas R. Burman, Lisa Morton
Genre: Comedy

I don't know who decided to make this movie but I'm so glad they did. Honestly, in the first five minutes I was left laughing and being supremely confounded by what was going on. It takes a lot for movies to do that to me, and probably for most people. Meet the Hollowheads is just extremely strange.

It feels like a sitcom. It feels like a sitcom taking place in the future. Unlike many pieces on the subject of the "future" this movie takes things in a very strange route. Instead of focusing on flying cars or robots it talks a lot about pipes. There are also really creepy skinless pets and intestine-looking creatures who apparently help around the house. I don't even know anymore. Basically, the movie was perfectly complacent in its whacked out world and never acknowledged how wild it all was.

The characters were interesting and mostly it was a regular family drama. It gets a little extreme near the end but somehow it fits. There's really no way to express how un-ready I was for the movie, but hopefully it makes sense. The last time I was so pleasantly caught off guard was with TerrorVision. In fact, the films have a very similar vibe about them (whacked out 80s sitcom vibe).

What's unfortunate about this film is that I've never seen it in stores. Apparently most people want to hide it from existence. At least, they wish to hide it from me because I looked for months to no avail. However, it's up streaming on Netflix which just makes me scratch my head. How do they pick candidates for streaming? Anyway, Meet the Hollowheads is a movie to watch with friends on a Friday night.

Bonus quote: "When are kids gonna learn to just say no to butt polish?"

PS: Apparently before the movie came out it was going to be called Life on the Edge. Personally, I feel like that conveys something a bit more grand than the finished feature. Regardless, I think the title card for it looks really neat.

Puppet Master 4

Year: 1993
Director: Jeff Burr
Writer: Douglas Aarniokoski, Stephen E. Carr
Genre: Horror: Evil Dolls

After the surprisingly good time I had with the last movie I wasn't sure what to expect here. Unfortunately, Puppet Master 4 falls back into 80s horror tropes for the most part and doesn't cover much new territory. Basically, this is fresh start back to the modern world.

Ancient Egyptian mystical beings are still alive and worry that our modern society is about to discover how to reanimate life. Because of this, they send out their demonic children to take out scientists involved in the project. For no good reason other than setting up the plot, the brains behind the scientific endeavor lives at the Bodega Bay Inn. This Inn is where all the events of the first and second film took place. The puppets are, of course, all still in there and ready to come to life when needed.

So for whatever reason the scientists visit their friend at the Inn. An evil Egyptian demon thing gets delivered to their house and everyone flips out, but not before bringing the puppets to life. Unlike the other films, the puppets do not rely on their initial kill instinct. Instead, they play a rousing game of laser tag. The tagline of this film is "when bad puppets turn good" and that's pretty much exactly what it is. Why they "turn good" is never really disclosed but apparently it's because their dead master crowns the geeky scientist kid the new Puppet Master.

Really though, the entire movie felt like a drawn-out episode of a TV show. Not even a good TV show either. It was dull, goofy, and didn't add anything to the world of Puppet Master. Well, aside from granting us a new, and much less fearsome master.

By the Way... I Have Netflix Now

After lusting after Netflix for years and years I finally have it. Well, currently I just started up the one month trial but I intend to stick with it after that. I kind of wish I could get two DVDs out at a time at the base price, but one isn't so bad. Considering how there are a great deal of streaming titles, I think that makes up for it.

I'm really hoping that Netflix will help get me back into peak movie-watching form. What is "peak movie-watching form" to me? Well, a few years ago I tried to watch a movie every day. Either that, or watch 7 movies a week somehow even if that meant doubling up on one day to fix it. While I'm much more able to watch a couple movies a day than I used to be, I still go through movie droughts. Hopefully having Netflix will keep that drought from coming again. There's just so much to watch!

While I know this blog doesn't get much readership that's not what matters anyway. The main point of this site is for me to remember what I've watched and when I watched it (for new films anyway). In the future any movies I watch thanks to Netflix will get the "Netflix" tag. I'm also considering adding numerical ratings to my posts... However, I generally hate them. Possibly I will go with the Netflix style of rating, where things are marked: loved, liked, didn't like, hated. I think that makes the most sense.

I've heard that Netflix may put you as lower priority to get movies on your queue if you are a constant Netflix user. That makes some degree of sense, but seems unfair to us movie freaks! Well, if it happens I'll just watch even more streaming movies. I am determined to make the most use of this service ever.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The Apple

Year: 1980
Director: Menahem Golan
Writer: Menahem Golan
Genre: Musical: Romance

Usually I'm a fan of strange musicals and movies in general. Usually I will pop in movies with an aggregate 2 stars on IMDB and love them. Many times I have sat down to watch marathons of movies described as "so bad they're good". I chose to watch The Apple because it seemed to be perfectly golden and ridiculous for my tastes. I was completely wrong.

It is glamorous. In fact, it seems like the outfits for the Ballet 2000 team were touched up with more sparkles after filming. The movie attempts to be highly futuristic, at least in the outfits department. People are dressed up in gaudy, flamboyant fashion. The clothes aren't all together THAT outlandish though and mostly seem to rely on a future where everyone has really big shoulder pads.

The characters themselves aren't all that interesting. Even for a musical, things seem to happen much too quickly and the songs focus on mundane aspects of the story. All of this could be forgiven if at least the music was good. None of the songs really managed to catch my interest. It's really a shame because even in the worst musicals there's usually at least that one tune you'll be left humming later on. Some of the actors can't sing either, which doesn't help things.

Back to the story, it has the absolute worst ending anyone could ask for. It comes out of nowhere and is the funniest and most obvious example of deus ex machina I've ever seen on film. I'll admit the ending made me laugh but alongside the rest of the movie even it seemed out of place.

I was severely disappointed by The Apple. The best thing about it was that Catherine Mary Stewart had the lead female role (I loved her in Night of the Comet). Barring that though, there's really no reason to watch it. Go check out Showgirls instead for glitzy Hollywood film done so terribly it's a roller coaster of fun.

Puppet Master III: Toulon's Revenge

Year: 1991
Director: David DeCoteau
Writer: C. Courtney Joyner, Charles Band
Genre: Horror: Evil Dolls

Somehow within the same year of the release of the 2nd film, Puppet Master III: Toulon's Revenge also came out. Usually this spells doom for any series in question, but this was not the case at all here. In fact, it seems the 3rd film is the most ingenious and professional of them all thus far.

Puppet Master III takes us back to when Andre Toulon was alive and performing puppet shows with his special puppets. There is a bit of plot inconsistency between it and the first, because in the first movie Toulon would have committed suicide before the 40s. For this film however, Toulon is alive during World War II and in Nazi Germany - only to presumably commit suicide after the events of this film.

This film manages to clear up a lot of confusing points that arose in the first two films. It also manages to make you care very much for the character of Toulon which was never the case before. It shows him as a regular person and not the maniacal freak he would apparently become after his initial death. It also shows the how and why of the puppets which still manages to leave a bit up to "ancient Egyptian magic". The idea that the puppets can live because they were infused with human desire to live is interesting, and a slight take off of how the dolls in Dolls operated. However, it seems rather creepy and more in line with "voodoo magic" that once the spirit is infused into the puppet that it basically becomes psychopathic.

Something really surprising about this film is that it was cocky enough to attempt to pull off a good-looking Nazi Germany set and set pieces. It works very well though. It's almost shocking to me that Full Moon had the money for such high production values. Overall, this was a very solid production and I'm not sure if the remaining features will be able to reach these same heights.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Puppet Master II

Year: 1991
Director: Dave Allen
Writer: Charles Band, David Pabian, David Schmoeller
Genre: Horror: Evil Dolls

The second of 10 films in a series and so far things are working out. This appears to be a direct sequel to Puppet Master although it seems a very odd premise. After the events of the first film, the puppets attempt to resurrect their old Puppet Master, Andre Toulon, the way he brought them to life.

The question is why would they do this? The climax of the first film was of the puppets turning against Andre as he showed his true, vile colors. After the treatment he gave them it seems crazy they would go dig his body up and bring him back to life so he could continue with his plans. But, the puppets went and did it anyway.

The new cast of characters aren't nearly as creative as before, but at least they all have some sort of life infused into them. The lead of the first was a horribly droll man. The effects are about on the same level as the first and the puppets seem a little less deadly. I say this because unimportant characters are able to kill them which is rather unheard of. But, at the very least there is a new puppet in the ranks who is pretty neat.

For the climax of this film, we are once again shown the puppets are a bit more autonomous then they seem. Still, the reasons for what they did this entire film are unclear. I've heard that later movies clear up the confusion so I hope that is the case. I'd like to get into the story more but it seems it is put together in an unorthodox (or simply unskilled) manner.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Puppet Master

Year: 1989
Director: David Schmoeller
Writer: Charles Band, Kenneth J. Hall, David Schmoeller
Genre: Horror: Evil Dolls

Apparently, this movie is meant to play off the popularity of Child's Play as well as take from the ideas presented in Dolls. Now, Dolls is a much better film than I had ever though it would be, and of course Child's Play is a personal favorite of mine so I was expecting this movie to be better than what IMDB was saying. Generally I ignore IMDB anyway since their 2-5 star films can end up being some of my personal favorites ever. Anyways, I like movies about toys and things coming to life so this was right on the money, or so I thought.

The movie is actually pretty dull. There's a few interesting things here and there but overall the story isn't giving us much new to think over. There's a "Puppet Master" from the 1920s or 30s and he commits suicide before the police can find him. I'm not sure what they were after him for, aside from his use of ancient Egyptian magic to bring life into inanimate objects (puppets!). How would they have even discovered him? Either way, after the little history lesson you're brought up to the current day where a man has just passed away...

For some reason the people who are there for his funeral are all physics of some kind. As expected, the dead man isn't quite dead either and is using puppets to kill off those psychics. Why? Well, there is a reason but most of the movie is left without one making it seem like an awkward slasher film. I did appreciate that the puppets are not purely evil though, although they are still quite fond of killing.

The movie isn't that great but it's a cult hit with certain people. This also happens to be the first film I've seen from Full Moon Pictures. I think that's pretty cool in and of itself since I've been a fan of their wacky trailers for years. After I'm done with this series (if I can bear it) I'm thinking of hitting up some other horror movie series' like Hellraiser, Silent Night Deadly Night, and Child's Play since I only ever saw the first. I'm hoping these damn Puppet Master films get better and not worse, or else I might not make it through.

Notes on a Scandal

Year: 2006
Director: Richard Eyre
Writer: Patrick Marber
Genre: Drama

The 2000s seemed to be big years for movies about teacher-student relationships. Of course, now that I say that I can't think of one, but it felt like there were a lot of movies on the subject matter coming out. I guess part of that had to do with the rise of news discussion about the real-life issues. Anyways, this is one of those movies.

But somehow, it isn't. The premise of the movie initially seems to be about a "perfect" young woman who teaches and inadvertently gets involved with one of her students. She finds herself supremely confused about the whole matter and comes to her older, wiser teacher friend for all kinds of support - and hopes she will keep the secret.

However, at some point the film changes completely enough so that the whole student-teacher relationship isn't even the focus of the film. It struck me as hugely weird that while in most films that plot point would be the focal point entirely that Notes on a Scandal does not take it as such. Sure, it's a big deal, but the real issues are buried underneath the surface and slowly come up until the end where the movie doesn't feel at all like it did at the start.

I really like that the film took the route it did. I wasn't expecting it at all. Maybe it's being overplayed, but it felt like a very large shift and one that no other films depicting the subject matter do. It was really quite something and I think I'd like to watch it again.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Dangerous Liaisons

Year: 1988
Director: Stephen Frears
Writer: Christopher Hampton, Choderlos de Laclos (novel)
Genre: Drama: Romance

Dangerous Liasions is an adaptation of a play, which is in turn an adaptation of a novel: Les Liasions Dangereueses. I've never read the book or seen the play but I'm pretty sure the film uses 100% of the sentences from it. The way each character talks is very elaborate and play-ish, although thankfully understandable.

There was another adaptation of the play/novel in the form of another film called Cruel Intentions. I did something I usually find unspeakable, which was to watch a more recent adaptation first. It came out in 1999. However, it was such a wholly different film (placed in the modern era) that these two films are wholly separate even if they have the same exact base.

While I very much enjoyed Cruel Intentions when I watched it after viewing Dangerous Liaisons I've com to find I prefer this version even more. Unlike the more recent adaptation, it feels much less like a Hollywood movie and like an ornate play. It's able to draw you in despite sometimes confounding ways of speech and that is quite the accomplishment. I'm not sure how a modern movie-going audience would take such a film if it came out tomorrow, but there is definitely an audience to like it.  

I really like this movie. The incestuous themes aren't as outwardly nasty as they are in Cruel Intentions, but that huge plot point is still very much alive here. It's played in a more Victorian fashion though, which makes it easier to distance oneself from it. Either way, it's a fine film. I'd love to watch it again and even side by side with other adaptations to see who really captures the spirit best. Finally, I'll need to read the book.
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