Saturday, February 26, 2011

Drive Angry-2011

You have to love the retro poster.
Directed by: Patrick Lussier
Screenplay by Todd Farmer and Patrick Lussier

The Plot:   Nicholas Cage is John Milton, a thief who drives out of Hell to rescue his granddaughter.  Along the way he gets help from Piper (Amber Heard) an out of work waitress. 

My Thoughts:  This is the perfect marriage of a car chase movie and a horror film.  It's a definite throwback to the Drive-In and Grindhouse days of the 70's.  The action is fast, bloody and without remorse.  Most of the effects on this looked to be more practical than CGI and this really helps the movie keep it's gritty feel. 

John Milton is not happy.
Cage does a great job at playing Milton.  You feel sympathy for him, but he's not a squeaky clean hero.  He's tarnished, but trying to make amends.

Yes, I'd let her pick me up.
Heard is great as the "take no shit" waitress that helps Cage out.  She's far from a victim and manages to do almost as much damage as Cage in the movie.
William Fichtner as Hells Accountant.
Sent to retrieve Milton, the accountant casually manages to steal the show.  He's hilariously funny and coldly menacing all in the same scene.  

Shoot for their tires, and by tires I mean head.

Making his second appearance in a Farmer/Lussier film is horror legend Tom Atkins.  Atkins shows up wearing the greatest T-Shirt ever, and proves he can still kick ass.
Also making a second onscreen appearance is screenwriter Todd Farmer, once again as Frank the trucker. I don't think it's a coincidence that the characters end up in the same situation either.  

"Drive Angry" is a fun fast paced film, that grindhouse fans are sure to enjoy.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Urban Legend-1998

There are a lot of famous faces on this poster.

Director: Jamie Blanks
Writer: Silvio Horta 

The Plot:  A college student is surrounded by deaths that seem to recreations of popular Urban Legends.  

My Thoughts: This movie had the misfortune to come out about a year after "Scream".  The timing caused many people to view it as a "Scream" rip-off.  I didn't think this was the case at all.  I saw this as a slasher film that just tried to set itself apart from others in the genre.  This was really a mystery/slasher film, which I thought worked well. 

As a sound sleeper this one always freaked me out.

At the time this movie was released there weren't whole websites devoted to debunking all the various Urban Legends.  Now when you hear a story that sounds far fetched, a 30 second search can verify it.  Back in 1998, the internet wasn't as widely used as it is now.  The only scene in the movie where people even use the net, has them using dial up.  They got a lot of mileage out people having heard of these stories in their own life. I knew people who had actually heard a lot of these legends and had believed them.   It allowed you to know what was coming next, and it built dread waiting for it.  
One lesson I learned from horror movies, always check the back seat!

 "Urban Legend" certainly had an A-list cast, even if we didn't know it yet in 1998
Alicia Witt as Natalie Simon

Witt played a smart lead that didn't fall into the typical slasher girl mold. She generally made smart choices, and reacted in a realistic way to events.  She never stripped off and had sex while the ax murderer was known to be outside.  

This is not to say that there weren't plenty of stereotypes in the movie.  
Tara Reid played the slutty blond, not for the last time.   

 Long before all her surgery nightmares and public meltdowns Tara Reid  pulled off a decent performance.  At the time I thought she might make a career out of horror films. 

Joshua Jackson and Michael Rosenbaum are the "typical" frat guys. 

 I'm pretty sure Joshua Jackson was looking to do anything that would separate him from his "Dawson's Creek" role, although there was a brief reference to it.  After all his years on "Smallville" it's hard to remember a time when Michael Rosenbaum had hair. 

Probably not her favorite role in a horror film.
"Urban Legend" is also notable as it marked Danielle Harris returning to horror films for the first time since 1989's "Halloween V".  It always struck me odd she did this and then stayed away from horror till the "Halloween" remake.

Jared Leto,  college journalist on a mission.
 Jared Leto played Paul Gardner, the college reporter that Natalie turns to for help.  Like most of the people in the movie he was also a suspect in the murders.  He was one of the ones you thought so unlikely to have done it, they might actually make him the killer.

Robert Englund Professor Wexler.
In reality the most unlikely/likely suspect had to be Robert Englund.  It's always good to see him in roles besides Freddy.

It was a shame that writer Silvio Horta never did another horror flick.  He's had great success with "Ugly Betty" and I'm glad, but wish he would have done some more horror. 

"Urban Legend" is in many ways the last of the mystery/slasher films.  "Scream" has kept going, but very few new ones have come out.  The rise of the so-called "torture porn"  thinned them out.  It's shame, I miss them.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

The Resurrected-1991

Directed by Dan O'Bannon
Screenplay by Brent Friedman, based on "The Curious Case of Charles Dexter Ward" by H.P. Lovecraft

I found this in the $3 bin at Wal-Mart last Halloween and decided to give it a try.  It was definitely worth more than that, and I think it is way under appreciated.

The Story: It stars John Tery as Detective John March, who is hired by Claire Ward (Jane Sibbert) to find out what has happened to her husband Charles (Chris Sarandon).  Charles was perfectly normal until a few months ago when found some papers from one of his ancestors Joseph Curwen.
He began to behave more and more erratically and the neighbors complained of the smell coming from the lab in his coach-house.  The police eventually raid his lab after several boxes of human remains are shipped there.  Charles leaves his wife and will have no contact with her.  Not knowing what to do she turns to March for help.

My Thoughts: This is very old school horror movie.  I think it's important to mention the sets and costumes. I've always been a fan of practical effects and not green screen.  You had a feeling of claustrophobia with the characters as they descended into the ancient catacombs.  Flashbacks showing Curwen in the 1700's were very well done, with the characters in excellent period costumes.  Some lower budget horror flicks will skimp on this sort of thing, but the costumes and sets gave it the feel of a historical drama.

This is why I don't go hiking.
The effects are mostly practical make-up effects and generally hold up well.  There are a few moments of claymation and flashing lights that practically scream "it's the 1980's", but they were not overly distracting from the story.
Reason #1 why you don't explore old catacombs.
 The cast are all first rate and are recognizable from other TV shows and movies.  John Tery later played Jack's father Christian Shepard on "Lost".  Jane Sibbert played Ross's ex-wife Carol on "Friends".  Robert Romanus is March's partner and despite dozens of TV and movie roles is still best know as Mike Damone in "Fast Times at Ridgemont High". Chris Sarandon is excellent as Charles Ward/Joesph Curwen but is very underused.  His screen time is very limited and that's a shame.

Doesn't a widow defeat the purpose of a padded cell? 
The movie is not without it's flaws. At one point March has a bizarre nightmare that looks like an 80's metal video, and no explanation for that is ever given.  The characters also suffer from horror movie stupidity from time to time.  They never remember to take extra batteries for the flashlight or take a spare.  When exploring ancient ruins that might be cursed, everyone is armed, it's just common sense. 

O'Bannon only directed one other movie besides this one, "The Return of the Living Dead".  He did a good job creating a memorable atmospheric horror film here. It's a shame he didn't direct more, he certainly wrote several classics.  Screenwriter Brent Friedman also quite a few genre credits to his name, and I am a huge fan of his "Dark Skies" TV series.

A horror flick well worth checking out!