Archive for wes craven

Transmissions to Earth: DEADLY FRIEND (1986)

Posted in 1980s Horror, 2013, Cyborgs, Family Secrets, LL Soares Reviews, Medical Experiments!, Morgue Hijinks, ROBOTS!, Trasmissions to Earth, Twist Endings, Wes Craven Movies with tags , , , , , , on May 30, 2013 by knifefighter

TRANSMISSIONS TO EARTH Presents:

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DEADLY FRIEND (1986)
Review by L.L. Soares
Deadly-Friend-movie-poster

It’s no secret that I’m not much of a fan of the SCREAM movies by director Wes Craven and writer Kevin Williamson. And I think their collaboration, CURSED (2005), is even worse. But I wasn’t always down of Craven’s films. There was a time when I was actually a fan. Just not lately.

He started out his career with one of the most intense and disturbing horror flicks ever made, LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT (1972), which remains one of my favorite horror films ever. This one had a real edge to it that made it one of the high points of 1970s horror. And after that, Craven made some other solid movies, like the original THE HILLS HAVE EYES (1977) and the first A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET (1984), which isn’t perfect, but was, as we now know, influential as hell. It gave the world Freddy Krueger.

But once Craven drifted into the mid-to-late 1980s and the 90s, his output wasn’t that impressive. This was the time of movies like SHOCKER (1989), THE PEOPLE UNDER THE STAIRS (1991), and NEW NIGHTMARE (1994), which a lot of people thought reinvigorated the Freddy series, but which I didn’t care for, and then, of course SCREAM (1996) and its sequels.

I can’t say all of his output from this period was awful. I am a big fan of his 1988 voodoo movie THE SERPENT AND THE RAINBOW. But for the most part, I just stopped being that interested in what Wes Craven was putting out anymore.

Somehow, I completely missed DEADLY FRIEND (1986), when it first came out. And rediscovering it now, so many years later, I find that it is pretty dated, especially since its plot has a lot to do with computers and robotics. And yet, it has a kind of creative spark and charm to it that is lacking in most of his later films.

Based on the novel “Friend” by Diana Henstell, DEADLY FRIEND is the story of computer nerd Paul Conway (Matthew Labyorteaux, probably most famous before this as Albert Ingalls on the TV series LITTLE HOUSE ON THE PRARIE), who moves into a new neighborhood with his single mom, Jeannie (Anne Twomey). Even though he’s the age when he should be in high school, Paul is a genius who has skipped a bunch of grades and has just enrolled in the local Polytechnic Institute. And he has already built his first robot, a clunky, goofy bucket of bolts named BB, which he claims has the power to learn. He even calls it an “A.I.” which is pretty amazing, since he’s a kid who built a robot in his basement, and major experts in the field of computer science have not figured out how to give a computerized brain the ability to think on its own.

But hey, that just goes to show you how smart Paul is. Not only has he built a fully functioning robot – which is an achievement on its own – but his can think!

Loveable robot "BB" is fun, playful, and he has a fully functioning mind!

Loveable robot “BB” is fun, playful, and has a fully functioning brain!

Right away, moving into their new house, Paul makes a friend: the local paper boy Tom Toomey (Michael Sharrett), who sees the robot and asks what it is. So much for computer nerds not being social. Paul and Tom hit it off right away, and Tom tells Paul all about the neighborhood he’s just moved into. Other local highlights include the spooky, gated house of the reclusive Elvira Parker (Anne Ramsey, who also played Mama in THROW MAMA FROM THE TRAIN, 1987) who clearly doesn’t want any visitors, and Samantha Pringle (Kristy Swanson, also in FERRIS BUELLER’S DAY OFF, 1986), who goes by Sam, and who lives next door to Paul with her drunken, abusive father, Harry (Richard Marcus).

So Paul seems to fit in right off the bat. Not only does he immediately find a buddy, but he gets the pretty girl, too. Sam comes over with a housewarming gift of store-bought donuts (explaining that her father wouldn’t let her bake something), and you just know where that’s headed. Paul spends a lot of time with Tom and Sam, but it’s clearly Sam he’s most interested in, and who can blame him. She is the original BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER (1992) after all. And Sam seems more than eager to spend a lot of time hanging out at Paul’s house, since it gets her away from her creepy dad, who’s always drinking and shouting, and who comes into her room late at night (we never really see him do anything to her, and she tells him to get out when she wakes to find him hovering over her bed, but, well…).

Then things start to go bad. It begins on Halloween night when they get BB to open the gate to Mrs. Parker’s house, so they can play a prank on her. She comes out with a shotgun and blasts poor BB to kingdom come. So much for Paul’s revolutionary robot. Maybe he should take better care of his toys! Especially if they are scientific marvels!

Then, during an especially drunken binge, Harry Pringle berates Sam for sneaking out of the house on Thanksgiving (imagine that! She would rather have a normal Thanksgiving dinner with Paul and his mom than cower in her room while Daddy drinks and shouts at the television!). He slaps her, and she falls down the stairs, hitting her head against a wall, and dies. Harry tells the police that she tripped.

Paul can’t accept that she’s dead. So when she is taken off of life support, he sneaks into the hospital and performs some quick surgery on her corpse, imbedding the memory chip from good old BB into her brain. He and Tom take her away and put her in the shed behind Tom’s house.

Sam comes back to “life,” but at first she’s little more than a zombie, with big circles around her eyes and limited responsiveness. She has to learn to sit up, stand, and walk around, all over again. Then she sees her father through the shed’s window and learns something new – the desire for revenge. It’s not long before people start turning up dead, starting with dear old Dad and moving on to that cranky old bitch, Mrs. Parker (the scene where Sam kills Elvira Parker by throwing a basketball at her head, and squashing it like a melon, has become a classic). The police are baffled as to who is doing these things, and Tom threatens to go to the cops (he can’t live with the knowledge anymore), but it’s not long after that that the secret is out, and the police are tracking down the resurrected Sam in a parking lot.

You can tell she's the evil reanimated Sam because of the dark circles around her eyes.

You can tell she’s the evil reanimated Sam because of the dark circles around her eyes… oh and the stiff robotic movements!

There’s a lot about this movie that is pretty goofy, from the robot BB in the beginning (it’s so cutesy-looking, it looks like a refugee from the movie SHORT CIRCUIT, 1986) to the fact that Sam’s abusive father, Harry, seems more quirky than scary. He almost seems like a comic relief character until you realize exactly what he’s doing to his daughter when the lights are off. Imagine how much more effective this movie could have been if his character was played by an actor who could actually make him as serious and disturbing as he should have been?  You think that maybe the filmmakers here were too uncomfortable to show Harry for what he really was – and then you realize – this is the guy who directed LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT!!

The science in this movie is pretty laughable, and the computer talk is outdated and just plain silly at this point. But somehow, the movie is still very watchable. The acting, for the most part, is pretty good in this one. Matthew Labyorteaux is goofy but likable as Paul, and he’s believable as some boy genius who’s emotionally stunted. Anne Towmey is equally likable as Paul’s mom, and Michael Sharrett is fine as Tom Toomey.

The real reason to see this one, though, for me anyway, is Kristy Swanson. I’ve always liked her, and her character Sam is extremely likable here, with an awkwardness that comes from constantly hiding family secrets from the outside world. When Paul first meets Sam, he notices a bruise on her arm, which immediately defines her for us, and I was actually bummed out that Sam and Paul never really get to go “all the way” before Sam’s untimely death. Their relationship maintains a kind of odd innocence throughout.

I just wish that the rest of the movie was up to the performances. The script by Bruce Joel Rubin (who also wrote the incredibly sentimental GHOST, and the much more interesting JACOB’S LADDER, both from 1990) is lighter and a bit sillier than it should have been. A little bit darker, and more serious, take on this this subject matter would have helped this become a much more substantial movie. And the light touch Wes Craven uses with the direction doesn’t help. You can tell that this was made during the same decade as THE GOONIES, 1986, and E.T. THE EXTRA-TERRESTRIAL). By this point in time, too, you could already tell that Craven was much more interested in making easily-accessible commercial films than the hard-edged movies of his youth (that harder edge would have actually made DEADLY FRIEND much more effective).

I liked DEADLY FRIEND much more than I expected to, and I recommend that fans of 80s movies seek this one out, but I’m also disappointed that it wasn’t handled better. It just seems like a missed opportunity, which happened a lot in Wes Craven movies around this time (which makes THE SERPENT AND THE RAINBOW all the more fascinating, because it stands out so much from his other films of this period).

Oh, this one also has a “shock ending” which was pretty typical of horror movies from the 1980s. I almost hate to spoil it here, but it’s so damn silly, I have to mention it. After poor Sam dies a second time, Paul goes to find her in the morgue. He pulls out the drawer she’s in and looks down at her, and she grabs him. But it is then revealed that an evil version of the robot BB is underneath her skin and pops out.

Evil BB makes a shocking appearance at the end...

Evil BB makes a shocking appearance at the end…

What the hell?? There is absolutely no logical reason for this ending. I would say it was a crazy dream, but there is nothing to show us Paul is dreaming. How would imbedding a microchip into a corpse’s skull transform it into a complete robot underneath its human skin? This has to be one of the stupidest endings of all time.

But it sure did make me laugh out loud.

© Copyright 2013 by L.L. Soares

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Friday Night Knife Fights: TWILIGHT vs. SAW vs. SCREAM! – Part 1

Posted in 2011, Friday Night Knife Fights, Garbage, Horror, Psychos, Sequels, Serial Killer flicks, Slasher Movies, Vampires, Wes Craven Movies with tags , , , , , , , , on May 20, 2011 by knifefighter

FRIDAY NIGHT KNIFE FIGHTS- Free-for-all Cage Match
TWILIGHT vs. SAW vs. SCREAM:   Which one of the three is the WORST series?
By Michael Arruda and L.L.  Soares

(BELL RINGS)

MICHAEL ARRUDA:  Welcome to another edition of FRIDAY NIGHT KNIFE FIGHTSTonight we have a special Free-for-all Cage Match.

L.L. SOARES:  You mean we get to be in a cage, and I get to clobber you to a pulp?

MA:  No, it means rather than having two subjects battling it out, tonight we have three.  TWILIGHT vs. SAW vs. SCREAM:  Which one of the three is the WORST series?

LS:  Damn!

MA: What? You don’t like this topic?

LS:  No.  I just wanted to bash your brains in.

MA:  Oh well.   You’ll just have to settle for trying to do it in the figurative sense, although be prepared to have your figurative brains spread all over this arena.  (smiles)

LS:  This means war.

MA:  Then, let’s have at it.  TWILIGHT vs. SAW vs. SCREAM.   Which one of these series is the absolute worst?

(LS hands MA a club, and he’s holding a large pick-axe.)

MA:  What are we doing with these?

LS:  I just have to do this to get this out of my system.  Feel free to join me.  (Dumps a heap of film canisters at their feet, and he begins to smash them to smithereens with his pick-axe.)

MA:  Are those what I think they are?

LS:  Yep.  TWILIGHT, SCREAM, and SAW.

MA:  I think I will join you.  (They smash the film canisters into tiny bits and pieces.)  That felt good.

LS:  Too bad we have to talk about these clunkers now.  Can’t we just tell people the films stink and go home?

MA: No, we have a bout to decide.  We have to determine which one of these three series is the worst.  To that end, here’s the first question for tonight.

Which one of these series is doing more harm to the horror film industry right now?

LS:  All three franchises are guilty of putting out crappy product that makes the genre looks lame. But I don’t think the SCREAM movies are important enough to have much bearing anymore, and the SAW movies are supposedly finished.

MA:  I hope so!

LS:  The TWILIGHT movies don’t really count, because they have their own niche audience that has nothing to do with horror fans.

MA:  You can say that again.  I always thought TWILIGHT fans were young teenage girls, but at least in my neck of the woods—.

LS:  And you mean that literally, because you do live in the woods!

MA:  I don’t live in the woods!  Sure, I live in a rural community, but it’s not the woods!  Anyway, as I was saying, when I’ve seen these movies, the theaters have been packed with adult women, many of them middle-aged, and—even stranger— adult couples, as if these movies are good date movies.  Very strange that the teen girls have been outnumbered.

I don’t think any of these movies are truly doing harm to the horror film industry, either.  I don’t give these films that much credit or power.

I think SAW gives horror a bad name because it’s the kind of movie that people who aren’t horror fans point to when they complain about all that’s wrong with horror, and in this case, I’d have to agree with them.  I know a lot of horror people who also think the SAW movies are pretty bad.

TWILIGHT,  I think , is mostly laughable. The true fans like these movies because they love the books, but the rest of us see them for what they are: pretty boring love stories masquerading as vampire tales.  They are the most boring films I’ve seen in many years.

I know in the past you’ve pointed to SCREAM as a franchise that has hurt horror, saying that SCREAM led to a bunch of weak horror movies that had teens for characters and were played for laughs, and you’re not the only person I’ve heard say this.  I just don’t think SCREAM was ever that influential, and as far as having teens for characters, horror movies have had teens as main characters going back to films like HALLOWEEN (1978) and way, way back to the 1950s with films like I WAS A TEENAGE WEREWOLF (1957) and I WAS A TEENAGE FRANKENSTEIN (1957).

But you’re right about there not being a whole lot of good horror movies during SCREAM’s heyday, but I think this is more a coincidence than a result of SCREAM’s influence.

LS: Well, I guess you’re entitled to your opinion. Even if it’s wrong.

MA:  So, of these three series, which one do you think is the best?

LS:  SAW is better than the other two because at least it tries to be interesting in creating different, elaborate ways to kill people.

MA:  And I completely disagree!

LS:  So what? You already had your say.

That said, the SAW movies are repetitious and predictable as well. Even though Jigsaw is dead, his disciples keep things going (and with flashbacks, it’s like Jigsaw never left). So it’s pretty much the same thing every movie. Basically, the SAW movies are just as bad in their own way— except they don’t annoy me as much as the SCREAM or the TWILIGHT movies.

MA:  If I had to pick one I think is better than the others, I’d go with SCREAM.

(LS screams)

MA:  SCREAM is better than the other two because I liked the first SCREAM movie better than any of the movies in the other two series.  I actually liked the first SCREAM a lot.  I thought it was clever, funny, and scary.  The series just gradually went downhill from there

I didn’t like any of the SAW movies, and it goes without saying, I didn’t like any of the TWILIGHT movies either.

Moving onto our next question, if you were allowed to improve one of these franchise, which one would you like to improve, and just how would you improve it?

LS:  The way to improve these movies is to simply stop making them.

(A gargantuan cheer erupts from the audience, and suddenly LS is receiving a standing ovation.  Even MA stands to give him a hand.)

MA:  I couldn’t have said it better myself.

LS: Thank you, thank you.

(Audience continues to cheer as camera pans away.)

–END PART 1—-

COMING NEXT FRIDAY NIGHT:  THE CONCLUSION OF FRIDAY NIGHT KNIFE FIGHTS- Free-for-all Cage Match
TWILIGHT vs. SAW vs. SCREAM:   Which one of the three is the WORST series?

SCREAM 4

Posted in 2011, Cinema Knife Fights, Horror, Psycho killer, Sequels, Slasher Movies with tags , , , , , , , , , on April 18, 2011 by knifefighter

CINEMA KNIFE FIGHT: SCREAM 4 (2011)
By Michael Arruda and L.L. Soares

 

(The scene: a BIG living room. MICHAEL ARRUDA and L.L. SOARES are each sitting on separate couches in front of big-screen TVs, watching horror movies and eating popcorn. They are each watching separate movies. MA is watching THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN (1957), and LS is watching ANDY WARHOL’S DRACULA (1974). The phone sitting on a table between them rings. LS answers.)

LS: Hello?

SINISTER VOICE ON PHONE: Hello, Sidney.

LS: Sidney? You have the wrong number, moron. Learn how to dial a phone.

VOICE: Do you like scary movies?

LS: Yeah, so? (turns to MA) I think it’s someone trying to send us a screener.

MA: Cool.

VOICE: What’s your favorite scary movie?

LS (To MA): I take that back. This idiot thinks he’s the SCREAM guy – that Ghostface jerk. (to VOICE on phone) Get a real job, loser! Your scary voice sucks!

VOICE: I asked you a question! What’s your favorite scary movie?

LS: Well, it’s not friggin SCREAM 4, I can tell you that much!

VOICE: I’m going to rip out your guts and use them for wind chimes!

LS (yawns): Whatever. Is that all you’ve got?

VOICE: Are you scared?

LS: Not particularly. Should I be?

VOICE: Yes, you should be. I’m right outside your front door.

LS: (lights up) Really? You’re not lying to me, are you? That’s the best news I’ve heard all night!

(LS grabs an aluminum baseball bat from the closet and hands MA a golf club. They run to the front door, open it, and find the SCREAM Killer standing there holding a knife. LS whacks him hard across the head making a large THUNK! sound as he stumbles backwards, knocked senseless. MA and LS chase him onto the front lawn and pummel him with their weapons until he is bloody and no longer moving. They don’t even bother to look beneath the mask.)

(MA & LS return to living room, gasping for breath.)

MA: That was— violent.

LS: And that folks, (points to lifeless SCREAM Killer on ground) says it all. We can all go home now.

MA: Actually, we should give SCREAM 4 a proper review.

LS: Do we have to? Does it even deserve one?

MA: Yep. I’ll start it, if that makes things any better.

LS: Better you than me.

MA: SCREAM 4 (2011) is the latest installment in the SCREAM franchise, coming to us after a long lull in the series, 11 years to be exact—.

LS: Not long enough, if you ask me.

MA: —as SCREAM 3 was released back in 2000. Now, I liked the original SCREAM (1996) a lot. The sequels? Not so much. SCREAM 4 is no different.

The story takes place 10 years after the events of the previous SCREAM movie (which would be SCREAM 3 for those of you mathematically challenged!).

Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell) the heroine of all four SCREAM movies, is on a book tour with her new book, a true life tale about the steps she’s taken to get her life back. Gee, that sounds like a bestseller!

On this book tour, she returns to her home town to promote the book on the eve of the anniversary of the original murders. You’d think a person who’d suffered like she had would want to be as far away from this stuff as humanly possible, but then again, realism isn’t part of the SCREAM formula.

LS: God, you can say that again!

MA: Dewey Riley (David Arquette), the likeable small town police officer from all three previous movies, is now the sheriff, and he’s now married to Gale Weathers (Courtney Cox) who’s traded her big city TV news journalist life for small town life, something she hasn’t quite adjusted to. So, the Big 3 from the SCREAM series are all back and primed for the newest installment. I actually like these characters. Too bad they couldn’t appear in a better movie.

LS: You like these characters? I think I’m going to have to give you an IQ test. These characters actually kind of suck.

MA: You’re certainly entitled to your opinion, as misguided as it is!

LS: I guess I kind of like Neve Campbell, but I’m not sure why. I never felt she was a good actress. And you’d think after all this time, she would have gotten better. No such luck. In SCREAM 4, she really seems to be going through the motions. Sidney has hardly any personality and there’s nothing about her that really stands out. Let’s face it, Sidney Prescott might just be the most bland “heroine” in the history of horror movies. And that’s saying a lot, when a lot of her competition are one-dimensional bimbos.

MA: She’s not a bimbo, so that’s something! Seriously, though, she’s as good as Jamie Lee Curtis in the HALLOWEEN movies. I’d put Sigourney Weaver in the ALIEN franchise above them both.

LS: Dewey Riley is a complete idiot. If there’s something likable about him, it’s the same way a fawning dog is likable.

MA: Hey, people like dogs.

LS: Not for sheriff. (taps forehead) There’s nothing upstairs. Courtney Cox as Gale Weathers is actually the best of the bunch – at least she actually has a personality, even if it’s an annoying, bad one.

MA (laughing): Of course! She’s my least my favorite of the three!

LS: It doesn’t bother me that she’s unlikable – what bothers me is that she is a one-note character. All she cares about is “me me me” and getting the spotlight. While there are lots of people just like her in real life, it doesn’t mean I want to root for her.

I actually want to root for the killers in this one (and you can tell, early on, that there’s more than one). Except for one thing. The killers are even more unlikable, stupid, and annoying. Just hearing that stupid Ghostface voice on the phone (in the movie- there’s even an iPhone app the characters can use to make their voice sound that way) makes me cringe. I hate that stupid voice so much that I almost want to drive to Roger Jackson’s house (the guy who is “The Voice”) and egg it.

MA: So, anyway, back to the plot: as you would expect, just as Sidney is beginning her book tour, a new series of copycat murders takes place, and suddenly the town is in panic mode all over again. The victims are local teens, and so there’s a whole new set of teen characters involved who get to exchange humorous and “hip” references to modern horror movies. One of the teens is Sidney’s cousin Jill (Emma Roberts) and like Sidney, she becomes a prime target of the killer.

LS: You’d think Sidney would stay away from Woodsboro like the plague.

MA: The rest of the movie plays out as you would expect. Dewey and his deputies try to catch the killer, and of course, they’re always two steps behind and way too late to arrive at a scene to make any real difference, while Sidney and the teen characters continually receive spooky phone calls just before getting attacked by the knife-wielding maniac wearing the signature SCREAM mask.

LS: Poor Edvard Munch!

MA: And, of course, there’s the usual mystery of wondering, just who the killer is. To me, this has always been a glaring weakness of the SCREAM movies, and that is, the killer is someone different in each film, so the SCREAM movies lack a central villain. There’s no main bad guy who we love to hate. It’s just the same costume, which just doesn’t have the same effect.

LS: At least that keeps you guessing. Anyone can be the killer! Isn’t that suspenseful? (Yawns) Wait, who am I kidding? The story is so lame that it doesn’t add any suspense at all. Who cares who the killer is?

Do we really have to keep reviewing this stupid movie?

MA: Gotta finish what we started, yes!

As I was saying, SCREAM 4 is just more of the same. Sure, it tries to “one up” the previous movies by being hip and creative, but really, it doesn’t give us anything we haven’t seen before. It tries to do this with a supposedly creative opening, but it didn’t work for me.

LS: Yeah, the “creative opening.” That’s a laugh. I’ll tell you what it is, because I don’t care about spoilers for this crap. You sit there, an opening scene begins. Then it turns out to be a fake (it’s the opening to a movie). Then another opening begins. Same thing. We get this “fake beginning” crap until it reaches number four. Because this is SCREAM 4, get it? The thing is, these fake beginnings are better than all of the rest of the movie, especially the one with Anna Paquin and Kristen Bell – two blonde hotties from better movies and TV shows – and that one even ends with a great line about talking during movies. That was the best line in THE WHOLE DAMN MOVIE.

But the multiple beginnings only worked for me in that they delayed the actual movie from starting – which was a good thing. But you’re right, it’s an irritating idea.

MA: The worst part of the SCREAM movies—and this one, too—is the “hip” dialogue about horror movies. In the original SCREAM, I liked this. It was fresh and new, and it made me laugh. I liked having characters in a horror movie who knew a lot about horror movies. However, as the series went on, this kind of banter became less realistic. The first time it worked because the characters didn’t really know or fully understand what was happening to them. It made sense that they’d talk in a lighthearted way. But after all these killings, you’d think they’d start to take things a little more seriously.

LS: That’s an easy mystery to solve. Why is the dialogue so self-aware and pretentious? Because Kevin Williamson wrote the script. This is the same guy who gave us the first two SCREAM movies, as well as maybe the worst werewolf film ever made, CURSED (2005, also directed by Wes Craven) and the TV show DAWSON’S CREEK (which surprisingly launched the careers of such famous people as Katie “Mrs. Tom Cruise” Holmes and Michelle “Legitimate Actress” Williams). One thing about Williamson’s scripts is that THEY NEVER SOUND LIKE REAL KIDS. Even kids who are film geeks don’t sound this affected and snooty. And in these movies, every damn kid who goes to the high school is some kind of super-knowledgeable film nerd. YEAH RIGHT! Even in the supposedly “clever” first movie (mistakenly perceived as “clever” only because it was something different at the time), the dialogue came off as pretentious and irritating. Over the years, Williamson’s style has only gotten worse, which means that he hasn’t grown at all as a writer. Pretty sad. This dude should listen to real people talk once in a while and LEARN HOW TO WRITE REALISTIC DIALOGUE. Because his writing is friggin lame. Does Williamson even know any real teenagers? Because they all seem to talk in one voice – HIS.

MA: Really, would people in these deadly situations, knowing there’s a REAL killer after them, continue to talk about horror movies? I don’t think so. Would two police officers, watching the home of a teen girl who is a target, following several extremely gruesome murders, be making jokes about horror movies and discussing what happens to cops in horror movies? Maybe, but I’d like these guys much better if they were truly focused on protecting the teen girls they’re supposed to be protecting.

The dialogue simply loses realism, and as a result the movie does too.

LS: LOSES realism? Never had any.

And you just know that Craven and Williamson have some axes to grind. There are plenty of diatribes that come out of characters’ mouths about how bad remakes and reboots and sequels are. Except that this is another lame sequel!

I think it’s funny that early on a character complains about the SAW movies and “torture porn.” Like this movie is so superior to stuff like that. The truth is, I’d rather watch SAW 92 than another SCREAM movie. Sure, the SAW films are lame too, but at least I don’t have to listen to dumb-ass dialogue from self-aware teens.

MA: Now, I actually like the three central SCREAM characters, and they were just as likeable in SCREAM 4, if not more so. I’ve always enjoyed Neve Campbell’s performances as Sidney Prescott, going back to the original SCREAM, where she was more than just a “scream queen.” She fought back against the killer, and she was quite good at it. It was fun to see her here as an adult trying to move on with her life. Unfortunately for her and for us, she’s stuck in these SCREAM movies.

LS: Maybe she deserves to be stuck in movies like this. I’ve never really seen a strong performance by her. She always seems half-asleep. And as for “scream queens” – I can name a bunch of supposedly “B-Movie” actresses who could act circles around Campbell.

MA: I disagree. I think she’s pretty good.

David Arquette’s performances as the somewhat slow and offbeat Dewey Riley have always been enjoyable, as at the very least, Dewey is a likeable guy. I found him less goofy in this one, and that was a good thing.

LS: He’s the comic relief in these movies, and not even particularly good comic relief. I think he’s pretty insignificant in these films.

MA: Believe it or not, when he made his first appearance in SCREAM 4, some folks in the audience started chanting “Dewey, Dewey!” So, he’s got his fans.

The least likeable of the original three, Gale Weathers (Courtney Cox) is actually much less annoying here in SCREAM 4. In the past, her “professional” journalistic antics were irritating, but here, as she’s trying to adjust to small town life, she’s softened somewhat.

LS: As I said before, Cox is the only one of the three with acting chops, and she’s given nothing to work with in these movies. The fact that she’s any good at all is a testament to her talent. Because the SCREAM movies are not a showcase for great acting.

MA: All three- Campbell, Arquette, and Cox— give very good performances.

(LS laughs hysterically)

MA: The rest of the cast are OK. Emma Roberts as Sidney’s cousin Jill turns in a decent enough performance, but isn’t allowed to turn it up a notch until the end of the movie, when she’s actually even better.

LS: I actually liked Roberts a lot. I thought she was much better than the three “star” actors you mentioned. I was actually impressed by her performance, even if it does get laughable by the end.

MA: Marley Shelton was fun as the quirky Deputy Hicks, as was Rory Culkin— yet another Culkin brother— as one of the teens, Charlie, who runs “Cinema Club,” a high school organization devoted to horror movies. I also liked Alison Brie in a small role as publicist Rebecca Walters.

LS: I liked these supporting characters, too. But how could you leave out the number one best performance in the whole movie?? Hayden Pannettiere as Kirby Reed. She’s a friend of Jill’s, and she’s a teenage film nerd’s wet dream. She’s hot, she’s a rabid horror movie fan, and she’s smart. Way too smart for this movie. She spews the same kind of bad movie buff dialogue, but in her case, she makes it work somehow.

MA: I didn’t mention her because I found her annoying, as in the type of “hot” that gets you burned.

LS: Your loss. Of course, Williamson has to make her dumb later on because the tough girl can’t actually survive to the end – even if she’s the only character who could believably get out of this mess. I was shocked that Pannettiere, who played the cheerleader in the lame TV show HEROES (okay, the first season was good, but after that, it was all downhill) was the absolute best thing here, but she is. I’ve become a fan. Unfortunately, she’s completely wasted in this movie. Give Hayden her own starring role in something better!

MA: The knife/stabbing scenes are as violent as expected, with some bordering on poor taste – do I really need to see guts on the floor?…

LS: Yeah, you do. But it doesn’t improve the movie one iota.

MA: No, I don’t, and I would have preferred effort spent on making the movie scary, because as it is now, it’s not.

Director Wes Craven, who’s supposed to be a major horror guy, doesn’t really do anything creative with the horror scenes here. SCREAM 4 is better than Craven’s last two horror efforts, MY SOUL TO TAKE (2010) and CURSED (2005), but that’s not saying much.

LS: I’ll add something to that. After CURSED and MY SOUL TO TAKE, and now this movie, it is official, folks. Let’s say it all together – Wes Craven is a HACK! And I don’t mean what a knife does in a horror movie context either. So much for the glory days when he made movies like LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT (1972) and THE HILLS HAVE EYES (1977). He was a film pioneer once. But that Wes Craven doesn’t exist anymore. Now it’s “let’s throw my poop on the screen and see what sticks so I can earn a paycheck” time! It’s not a question of whether or not he’s lost his mojo anymore. He hasn’t seen it in decades.

MA: Another drawback of not having the same killer in each movie, is we never get to fully understand why the killer is being so violent. These are violent, vicious knife attacks, usually indicative of people with a personal agenda, but we never find out the “who” and the “why” until the end of these flicks, and so the killer’s actions always make little sense because we don’t understand where he is coming from.

Moreover, the revelation is usually disappointing, a forced solution, usually the last person we’re supposed to expect. This worked in the first movie because it was different, but again, as this series goes on, it’s simply more of the same.

LS: The revelation of the killer’s identity actually isn’t too bad in this one compared to the previous two sequels. But, yeah, the motives for killing in these movies is pretty weak. It’s complete by-the-numbers junk.

MA: Actually, SCREAM 4 had a chance to redeem itself. After the revelation of the killer’s identity, had this new killer been allowed to get away with the crimes, this character would have had the opportunity to go on and take this franchise in a brand new direction. It would have been a bold and unique turn of events, but since this movie is the fourth film in a franchise, it’s not looking to be bold and unique. Too bad.

LS: If that had happened, and the killer had finally won in this one, I would have given it a much better review. But no such luck. Gotta stick with the rules, you know. Can’t do anything too risky with a HORROR MOVIE, which by definition should push the friggin boundaries!!

MA: SCREAM 4 is not the movie that’s going to break Wes Craven out of his slump. It’s not awful, but it never rises above sequel status, as Craven doesn’t do anything creative or memorable to make this one rise above the rest.

LS: Slump? It’s too long for it to be a slump anymore. The man just used up any talent he has, and has none left.

MA: Kevin Williamson’ screenplay is simply a retread of the rest of the series.

LS: Another guy only interested in a paycheck. But it’s only sad in Craven’s case – because there was a time when he was a major player in the genre. Williamson is a “never was.”

MA: If you like SCREAM 1, 2, and 3, chances are you’ll like this one too. It’s more of the same. It’s just getting tiring, and with each subsequent movie, it gets less and less effective.

I give it two knives.

LS: You know, I didn’t want to see this movie at all, but now I’m glad I did. I finally got to release all my anger about this franchise, and it feels good. The original SCREAM was a pretentious movie that thought it was way more clever than it was – simply by having characters say things people in the audience were saying for years and feeding it back to them – and, of course, Williamson’s script did it in the most self-aware and annoying way possible. It should have stopped at one movie. The sequels have been abysmal.

But the thing is, I liked SCREAM 4 better than I thought I would.
First off, compared to MY SOUL TO TAKE, this new movie is a work of genius. MY SOUL TO TAKE was easily one of the worst movies of Craven’s career, and he was smart to release it before this one, to take some of the heat off and make this one look better.

Secondly, there were two performances I really liked in SCREAM 4. One was Emma Roberts, who is pretty good when they let her wild side out. The other is the even better Hayden Pennettiere, who is great in this movie, even though the role gives her almost nothing to work with. Neither actress has to give credit to the script or the direction – because they transcend the lame-ass limitations they have to work with.

I gave MY SOUL TO TAKE no knives. Because it didn’t deserve any. In comparison, I have to give SCREAM 4 something to differentiate the level of quality. And for Roberts and Pennettiere only, I give SCREAM 4one little tiny knife.

Otherwise, this movie is a complete waste of time, money, and effort.

MA: Hey, did you notice we didn’t have any jokes in this one, after the beginning of the column?

LS: That’s because the whole fact that we had to review this one was a joke.

Now let’s get back to watching some REAL movies.

(They go back to their couches. We hear snippets of dialogue from the movies on the TV screens and it almost sounds as if the two movies are talking to each other)

PETER CUSHING as BARON FRANKENSTEIN: My creature will be born with a lifetime of knowledge!

UDO KIER as DRACULA: You mean, you’re not a wirgin?

LS: Now this is more like it!

-END-

© Copyright 2011 by Michael Arruda and L.L. Soares

Michael Arruda gives SCREAM 42 knives


L.L. Soares gives SCREAM 41 teeny tiny knife


Friday Night Knife Fights – December 2010 – Part 2

Posted in 2010, Friday Night Knife Fights, M. Night Shyamalan Movies, Wes Craven Movies with tags , , , , , , on December 31, 2010 by knifefighter

FRIDAY NIGHT KNIFE FIGHTS: DECEMBER 2010
PART 2
With Michael Arruda, L.L. Soares, and Colleen Wanglund

This month’s debate:
WES CRAVEN VS. M. NIGHT SHYAMALAN: WHO’S THE WORSE DIRECTOR?

MICHAEL ARRUDA: Welcome back to FRIDAY NIGHT KNIFE FIGHTS.

Last Friday, LL, Colleen Wanglund, and I were discussing WES CRAVEN vs. M. NIGHT SHYAMALAN, and we were attempting to answer the question, which of these two directors is in the worst slump?  Tonight we conclude the debate.

Of the two, which one do you want to see get back fastest to making good horror movies again?  And if you were this person’s agent, what advice would you give him to help resurrect his career?

COLLEEN WANGLUND: I’d really like to see Wes Craven right the wrongs he’s done, because, again, he’s made some really great movies and still has the potential to get back to making good movies.

The advice I’d give him is to stop taking scripts for crap like CURSED (2005) and MY SOUL TO TAKE (2010) and to STOP WITH THE SEQUELS ALREADY!!  Maybe if Wes went independent he’d do a better job.

LL SOARES: I think I consider them both lost causes at this point. If I was Craven’s agent, the first thing I’d tell him is to stop working with people like Kevin Williamson. Williams might have given Craven some hits, but he’s also been responsible for some of his worst films. Secondly, to get back to his roots and try to recapture the edge of his early work. Seeing how many of his early films have been remade lately, there’s definitely a market for more edgy horror.

As for Shyamalan, I’d tell him to hire a decent writer and stick to just directing. His scripts have been getting increasingly awful over time. And annoyingly preachy. No one likes to be preached to (the movie DEVIL (2010), which he only wrote the script for, was guilty of this as well). Since writing seems to be Shyamalan’s Achilles’ heel, it seems rather silly that he’s started a project called THE NIGHT CHRONICLES where other directors direct scripts he’s written. Hopefully the poor reception DEVIL received will kill the project before it continues.

MA:  I want to see Shyamalan get back to making good horror movies again, since I liked his work better in the first place.  If he could make other movies with the precision and care he seemed to show when he made THE SIXTH SENSE (1999), he’d be enjoying a helluva career right now.  Just because THE SIXTH SENSE had a knockout twist ending, he seemed to believe that was why the film was good, and suddenly all his movies had to have twist endings.  The problem is, THE SIXTH SENSE’s twist ending belonged in that movie.  It was an integral part of the story.  It wasn’t tacked on as an afterthought in the mistaken belief that “my movies need twist endings.”

If he were making quality horror movies, the horror genre would be stronger for it.

If I were his agent, what advice would I give him?

There would be three things.  First, like I just said, I’d advise him to ditch the twist endings.  That’s not why THE SIXTH SENSE was such a good movie.  It was such a good movie because he did such a good job with the entire package.

I agree with LL that Shyamalan shouldn’t write his own movies, that he’s a much better director than a writer.  So, that would be my second piece of advice.  Let someone else write the screenplay.

And my third piece of advice would be to get off his high horse and get out of the limelight for a while.  He should stop advertising his movies with his name in front of the title, as in “M Night Shyamalan’s DEVIL” or whatever.  It’s too presumptuous.  It’s so bad movie audiences are laughing at his name.

Instead, he should just direct his movies to the best of his ability— and don’t hype that it’s HIS movie—and then, if it does well, people will give him credit.  Right now, the last thing he needs is movie audiences knowing in advance that he’s behind the camera.  This information might actually keep people away from the theater.  Ultimately, if the movie is good, people are going to like it regardless of who made it, so if he makes a good movie, it’s not like people aren’t going to like it because he made it.

Moving on to our next question, right now, which one of the two is doing more damage to the horror industry?

LS:  Craven is doing another SCREAM movie soon. So I’d say him.

MA:  You really give SCREAM (1996) too much credit.  Come on, it didn’t ruin horror.  That being said, the world doesn’t need another SCREAM movie.

LS:  The first SCREAM movie thought it was so damn clever by pointing out all the clichés of the genre (which everyone who’s a fan of horror ALREADY KNEW).  SCREAM made horror a joke. Ironically, one of the movies that let people take horror seriously again was Shyamalan’s SIXTH SENSE.

MA:  I don’t understand why you say that, why you think SCREAM made horror a joke.  It was a horror movie with a sense of humor.  What’s the difference between SCREAM and ZOMBIELAND (2009)?  Did ZOMBIELAND make horror a joke?

LS:  You don’t understand my comment. ZOMBIELAND was a horror film with a sense of humor, and it worked. There’s nothing wrong with humor in a horror movie. SCREAM pretty much ridiculed the horror genre – the laugh was on us. The way to make better horror films is not to make the genre a laughing stock – but rather to stop making crap and make good movies. Which is why THE SIXTH SENSE was one of the films that lifted horror out of the funk that it settled into post-SCREAM.

The SCREAM movies also started a trend where almost every horror movie for a few years had to star kids (who looked like models) and no adults, which was abysmal. Shymalan never hurt the genre as a whole. He just made a lot of stinky movies.

CW:  The most damage?  It’s hard to say.  Shyamalan is still wet behind the ears and should maybe actually WATCH some horror movies to get a better understanding of the genre.  He seems to have at least made an attempt to make suspenseful films, but they fall apart with some really bad endings.

Wes Craven has been around longer and did at one time know what he was doing.  You know, maybe Craven is doing more damage because he’s helping Hollywood to churn out the lousy cookie-cutter crap they call horror movies.

MA:  I don’t think either one is damaging the horror industry.  I don’t give either one of these guys that much power.  The industry is full of talented people working in it right now.

That being said, I think Shyamalan’s movies get more press, but he’s starting to become a joke these days, so if he keeps this up, eventually people are just going to quit watching his films.  It’s not like people go to the movies these days to see one of his movies expecting it’s going to be a classic.  People know now that the guy’s not producing quality stuff.

I don’t think Wes Craven is even in the mix anymore.  Among today’s moviegoers, I don’t hear his name mentioned at all.

LS: Oh yeah? If the new SCREAM sequel is a big hit, that will change.

MA: These guys are both in slumps, but I don’t think they’re hurting the industry.

Alright folks, it’s decision time.  Time to pick a winner.  WES CRAVEN vs. M. NIGHT SHYAMALAN –which of these two directors wins today’s booby prize for worst director?

CW:  I give the booby prize to Wes Craven because he really has fallen farther from grace in the last two decades.  I think he’s gotten lazy and very sloppy.

MA:  I’d have to go with Shyamalan.  It’s almost as if his troubles are in his head, as if he’s lost his way.  He reminds me of a baseball player who’s a lifetime .300 hitter but is stuck in an awful hitting slump and can’t bat .200 to save his life.  His mechanics are all there, but he can’t buy a hit.  He just has to stick with it and work through it.

I think with time, Shyamalan will come around and make good quality movies again.

I think Craven is just old.  No, seriously, based upon his recent movies, I’d have to guess that he doesn’t even care anymore.  His films look like they were made by someone just going through the motions.

LS:  I’d say it’s a tie. They both are pretty awful at this point in their careers. And I dread seeing either of their movies. I wish they’d both go away.

MA:  A tie?  Interesting.

That gives us one vote for each, plus a tie, which puts us at 1 ½ for Craven and 1 ½ for Shyamalan.  Fittingly enough, tonight’s bout ends in a draw.  Both these guys are in a funk, and it seems these days neither one can make a good movie to save his life.

Therefore, tonight we award two booby prizes to both these directors.

On that note, go out and see a movie directed by someone else!

Well, folks, that all we have time for tonight.

LS:  Thanks, Colleen, for joining us.

CW:  It was a pleasure, guys.

MA:  This has been the last FRIDAY NIGHT KNIFE FIGHTS for 2010. Good night everybody!

—END—

Friday Night Knife Fights: WES CRAVEN vs. M. NIGHT SHYAMALAN

Posted in 2010, 70s Horror, Aliens, Friday Night Knife Fights, Horror, M. Night Shyamalan Movies, Wes Craven Movies with tags , , , , , , , , on December 24, 2010 by knifefighter

FRIDAY NIGHT KNIFE FIGHTS
With Michael Arruda, L.L. Soares, and Colleen Wanglund

WES CRAVEN VS. M. NIGHT SHYAMALAN – Part 1

****

MICHAEL ARRUDA: Welcome to this month’s FRIDAY NIGHT KNIFE FIGHTS. Tonight, LL and I are joined by the Geisha of Gore herself, Colleen Wanglund. Welcome, Colleen.

COLLEEN WANGLUND: Happy to be here.

MA:  And how are you doing tonight, LL?

L.L. SOARES: I’ve been better. I mean, we’re going to be talking about Wes Craven and M. Night Shyamalan tonight. How good can I be?

MA:  That’s right, tonight on FRIDAY NIGHT KNIFE FIGHTS it’s WES CRAVEN vs. M. NIGHT SHYAMALAN. We’ll be answering the question, which of these two directors is in the worst slump right now?  Let’s get started. First of all, do you agree that these two directors are in a slump?

CW:  Absolutely!

Both of these directors are in a huge slump. Wes Craven actually used to make really good movies….back in the 70s and 80s. And M. Night Shyamalan was touted as a potential movie-making genius with so much promise.

MA:  How quickly fates change!

LS:  Both directors have had periods in their careers where they were doing some terrific work. Neither has done anything of value for at least the last ten years. So yeah, they are definitely in a slump. They’re both awful examples of horror directors.

MA:  I agree. I don’t see how anyone can argue otherwise, unless of course you’re a die-hard fan of Shyamalan and think all his movies have been great. I’m sure Dan Keohane would argue this if he were here.

LS:  You hear that Dan?  You’d better be here next time!

MA:  Nothing like pressuring the guy!

LS:  He can handle it. I thought he’d jump at the chance to defend his hero, M. Night. I’m surprised he didn’t show up for this one.

MA:  Maybe he was afraid he’d be outnumbered.

CW:  Which he would have been.

MA:  Okay, so, who has fallen further from grace?  In other words, which one was making movies at a higher level when he lost his way and got his head stuck in a toilet?

LS:    I guess I’d have to go with Wes Craven, because his early films were fantastic. I think LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT (1972) and THE HILLS HAVE EYES (1977) were like these iconic, influential classics. Even people who don’t like them have to admit how they left indelible marks on the genre.

MA:  I don’t like those movies, and I don’t have to admit that they were influential. I think they’re minor movies. They didn’t do anything to shape the horror industry, except maybe give people the false perception that horror movies are mindless violent trash, which is not a good thing. I don’t want people thinking horror movies are mindless violent trash.

LS:  As usual, you have no idea what you’re talking about. You claim to be a horror guy, but you’re such a wimp you can’t appreciate anything with any kind of real edge to it.

MA:  THE EXORCIST (1973), HALLOWEEN (1978), ALIEN (1979)–these movies don’t have an edge?  They do, plus guess what?  They actually were made well!

CW:  Sorry, but I have to agree with LL here. LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT (1972) and THE HILLS HAVE EYES are horror classics. I also loved SWAMP THING (1982), THE SERPENT AND THE RAINBOW (1988) and A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET (1984).

LS: SERPENT AND THE RAINBOW is actually really good. It might be the last good movie Craven has made.

CW: I think Craven started to lose his way with the ELM STREET sequels. If there’s one thing I hate more than a remake, it’s a sequel. Although there was also the absolutely awful THE PEOPLE UNDER THE STAIRS (1991).

LS: Oh God, you’re right. THE PEOPLE UNDER THE STAIRS is horrendous!

But, as for Craven’s career, you could tell as soon as he started getting big he really wanted to have a commercial/mainstream career, and he abandoned his more edgy sensibilities early on.

MA:  I didn’t like any of these movies, except for the first A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET. The last movie that Craven made that I liked was SCREAM (1996).

LS:  Yet another example of your lack of taste. SCREAM was crap.

MA:  I have to cut you off here, because we have to move on to Shyamalan.

LS:  Fine.  I’ll come back to SCREAM later, because I’ve got more to say about this smug little piece of —.

MA:  I’m sure you do.  Anyway, moving on to Shyamalan, the last movie that he made that I liked was SIGNS (2002), so in my book Craven’s been in the longer slump.

LS: You must be sniffing glue again. SIGNS was horrible. It’s illogical, badly written, and not scary. It’s a movie about aliens so stupid they invade Earth – a planet that’s like 80% water – and guess what their only weakness is? Yep. Water! I think these must be the stupidest aliens in film history. Since we’re mostly water, too, what the hell were they planning to do with us once they took over? Dumb, dumb, dumb.

MA: Yes, but it works!  It is scary, and I totally bought into the emotional plight of Mel Gibson’s character.  That being said, you’re dead on about the aliens.

Still, I enjoyed SIGNS and THE SIXTH SENSE (1999) better than anything Craven has ever made. I guess I’m not much of a Craven fan.

So, in my estimation, Shyamalan has fallen further from grace since THE SIXTH SENSE is a classic of the genre, and SIGNS, while flawed, captivated me much more than anything in Craven’s canon of work.

LS:  I thought Shyamalan’s best films were THE SIXTH SENSE and UNBREAKABLE (2000). I really liked both of them. However, I don’t think either one was as important as Craven’s early films. So I say Craven has fallen further.

CW:  It’s tough to answer this one. Shyamalan made one great movie in THE SIXTH SENSE and seemed to fall off from there. It was as if he believed the hype, that he probably couldn’t make a bad movie (but keep in mind his idol is Stephen Spielberg who is another iffy one for me).

So, I don’t know which one has fallen further. They both have fallen pretty far.

LS: I think that Craven has made better films than Shymalan. But Craven’s worst films are also worse than Shymalan’s worst.

MA:  Hold that thought, because that’s my next question.  Which of the two has made the worst movies of late?  Whose recent movies have you disliked more?

CW:  Of late?

In my opinion, Shyamalan hasn’t made a good movie since THE SIXTH SENSE (1999). And Craven hasn’t made a good movie since THE EIGHTIES!  I thought he was starting to mend his ways with SCREAM (1996) but then he just HAD to go and do sequels again.

MA:  So, you liked SCREAM?

CW:  Yeah, I liked the first one.

MA:  At least I’m not the only one here who liked that movie.

LS: I think you’re both high!

CW:  I have to say I probably dislike Wes Craven’s movies more because he’s been making movies longer and really should know better.

LS:  I think they’ve both been pretty awful. They both had career highs and they both have wallowed in the sewer for awhile now.

MA:  Wes Craven’s MY SOUL TO TAKE (2010) and CURSED (2005) were horrible. In fact, a friend of mine actually walked out of MY SOUL TO TAKE.

LS: I wish that friend was me. I had to sit through the whole thing and review it. Talk about torture porn! It was TORTURE sitting through that movie!

MA: Shyamalan’s recent movies haven’t been any better. Consider DEVIL (2010)— I know he only wrote this one, but I still count it as one of his movies—, THE HAPPENING (2008) , and the worst of the worst:  THE VILLAGE (2004).

LS: THE VILLAGE is a work of genius compared to THE HAPPENING and SIGNS. At least it started out really good.

MA: It may have started out well, but where it went afterwards was abysmal.

THE VILLAGE actually annoyed the hell out of me. I was really into it and really enjoying it, and then Shyamalan goes and ruins it with an idiotic revelation half way through the film which absolutely killed any and all suspense the movie had taken so much care to build up. So, I was already outraged long before the film’s ridiculous unnecessary twist ending.

LS: Frankly, the fact that THE VILLAGE annoyed you so much makes me like it more than I originally did. If it irritated you that much, it can’t be all bad.

MA: I think you secretly wrote the screenplay.

Whose recent movies have I disliked more?  Hands down, Shyamalan’s.

—-END PART 1—

(TO BE CONCLUDED NEXT FRIDAY)

MY SOUL TO TAKE

Posted in 2010, 3-D, Cinema Knife Fights, Slasher Movies with tags , , , , , , , on October 11, 2010 by knifefighter

CINEMA KNIFE FIGHT: MY SOUL TO TAKE (2010)
by Michael Arruda and L.L. Soares

(THE SCENE: a covered railroad bridge nestled snugly in the New England woods, hidden partially by an eerie fog. Close-up reveals MICHAEL ARRUDA and L.L.SOARES on bridge peering over the edge at the water below.)

LS (with a rock in his hand): I’m telling you, even from this angle, you can still skip a rock (fires rock off bridge).

(From below a hideous scream rings out.)

MA: Yeah, if you skip it off a guy’s head, like you just did. Isn’t that cheating?

LS: Nope. Anything in the water is fair game. Your turn.

MA: I dunno. I don’t think now’s the best time, not when there’s a cub scout troop practicing swimming drills down there.

LS: Wimp.

(From behind them comes the sound of heavy footsteps. They turn around to see a huge, hulking figure running towards them on the bridge.)

HUGE FIGURE: I am the Ripper!

MA: Didn’t someone say in the movie, MY SOUL TO TAKE, that the best way to get rid of this guy was to spit in the water?

LS: A better idea would be to spit in this creep’s face!

MA: Actually, an even better idea would be— (lifts rock, and he and LS hurl rocks at charging Ripper, hitting him directly in the head, knocking him out cold.)

LS: Some villain!

(LS goes over and proceeds to kick the unconscious villain repeatedly)

MA: Aren’t you overdoing it a little?

LS: NO! I don’t remember being this angry leaving a movie theater in a long time. This guy deserves it.

MA:  Well, actually I was thinking that if the guy you’re kicking had been in the movie more, I might have liked it more.  So, maybe you ought to stop.

LS:  Yeah, I’ll stop.  TOMORROW! (keeps kicking)

MA:  Nothing like kicking a serial killer when he’s down.  Anyway, we’re here today to review MY SOUL TO TAKE (2010), the new Wes Craven horror movie.

MY SOUL TO TAKE is about a group of seven 16 year-olds who live in fear, or at least they say they do, of the ghost of the Riverton Ripper, a serial killer who was apprehended and presumably died on the night they were all born. The Ripper had multiple personalities, and on the night he was caught and allegedly killed, the personalities or souls supposedly jumped ship and hid inside the bodies of the seven babies born that night. That’s the legend that the teens, for some reason, celebrate each year.

LS: Where did this whole concept come from anyway? That they have to celebrate the Ripper’s death? That they have to create some kind of elaborate “purging” ritual? And they’ve been doing this for years It’s just bizarre.

MA: You said it.  I didn’t get this at all.  And it’s talked about so matter-of-factly, as if it’s homecoming weekend or something.

When these teens start dying one by one, the “mystery” which ensues is who exactly is doing the killing? Is it one of the teens possessed by the ghost of the Ripper? Is it simply the ghost of the Ripper himself? Or is it the actual Ripper, still alive all these years later, since his body was never found?

Does anyone really care? I know I didn’t.

LS: That makes two of us.

MA: MY SOUL TO TAKE has a lot of problems, but the biggest by far is I didn’t buy its story for one second. Let’s start with the basic premise of the Ripper, and how his personalities supposedly entered the teens when they were newborns. For this to be true, then the Ripper would have to be dead, for how else would a soul leave a body if it weren’t dead? Yet, the film also hints that the Ripper might not be dead, since his body was never found. Since these two storylines can’t both be true, it makes it very difficult to believe either one. It comes off as fake drama.

LS: Fake? That’s being charitable. It comes off as just plain dumb.

MA: I also didn’t buy the teens’ obsession with this thing. They perform a ritual year after year by the river where the Ripper supposedly drowned, to keep his spirit dead, but why? The film doesn’t show us why they’re so upset by all this to the point of obsession. The Ripper was killed the night they were born—Okay, sure—but they didn’t live through what he did. Is the town so obsessed with the killings that it has spilled over onto these kids? It’s something the movie doesn’t really show us. I just didn’t buy it.

LS: There’s also a some stuff about California condors and Native American mythology that just seemed hokey in the context of this movie.

MA: The teens were largely forgettable and came off like a bunch of walking hip clichés. The lead, Bug (Max Thieriot) wasn’t bad, and he actually grew on me as the movie went on. I found him creepier and creepier, as we began to see sides of him that indicated he just might be the one who’s doing the killing. Thieriot’s performance isn’t bad either. Actually, none of the performers were that bad in this one.

LS: I think you’re being charitable again. Most of the performances here are walking clichés. You can’t blame the actors for the most part – they do what they can with underwritten, lame characters. But Thieriot, in particular, is very grating. And he gets more so as we learn more about him. Bug’s entire life is a series of twists and turns he’s not aware of. From whether or not he was hospitalized in the past, to who his sister is, to who he himself really is. Every revelation is supposed to be a surprise, but instead it just made me dislike this character more. And the scenes where he goes into a strange kind of trance and imitates things other people have said (imitating their voices and mannerisms as well) was completely annoying. I think I actually hated this character.

MA: To me, the bigger problem, sadly, was the screenplay by Wes Craven.

The characters and story seemed to me to be a lame attempt at being hip, an attempt to recapture the cleverness of SCREAM (1996) and A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET (1984), but in this case it just doesn’t work, because the story is not believable.

LS: This might be the worst script Craven has written so far. And it shows the influence of frequent Craven collaborator Kevin Williamson (SCREAM, CURSED), whose work I can’t stand. But Craven has done an amazing feat here, he’s written a script that makes Williamson look good in comparison.

MA: I don’t know. CURSED (2005) was pretty bad.

LS: You’re right.

MA: But back to MY SOUL TO TAKE.  The characters here weren’t believable at all.  We have the ultra-religious girl Penelope (Zena Gray) who is so cliché I felt insulted. You know, you can be religious without acting the way she acts in this one, like she’s from Venus or something.

LS: Poor Penelope! You know, if any Christian groups ever feel the need to protest a movie—they should be going after flicks like this one. MY SOUL TO TAKE presents us with a religious character who is so stereotypical, badly acted and over-the-top, that it’s insulting even to those who aren’t the target. She just seems nuts. She talks only in a kind of badly written “bible-speak” and seems to be some kind of attempt at satire on Craven’s part. Instead, she comes off as a very irritating and unlikable character. When the Ripper finally kills her off, it’s a relief, and yet you wish it had happened sooner.

MA: Then there’s Fang (Emily Meade), a goth girl who seems to run the entire school, bullying and controlling everyone around her like Michael Corleone’s granddaughter. When she first appears in the movie, she comes out of nowhere. She’s nowhere to be found in this story, and all of a sudden, bang! She’s a major player, and then, also out of nowhere, she turns out to be Bug’s sister! If this movie went on any longer, Darth Vader would have shown up to announce that he’s their father!

(DARTH VADER appears on bridge.)

DARTH VADER:  Listen guys, I am NOT their father.

MA:  That’s good to hear.

DARTH VADER:  Join me on the dark side?

LS:  Hey, buddy, we’re already there.

DARTH VADER:  Really?  Then, I guess I’ll be moving on.

MA:  If you hurry, you’ll catch Yoda.  He crossed this bridge a little while ago.

DARTH VADER:  I shall crush the rebellion!

YODA(from other side of bridge):  Idiot, you are, and your mama, crush I shall!

DARTH VADER: Why you little…(races towards end of bridge in pursuit.)

LS: Fang is another totally over-the-top character who just doesn’t seem real. There’s one scene where she punches Bug repeatedly, and it almost looks like a UFC brawl all of a sudden! I didn’t understand or beleive this character for a minute.

MA: And what’s with the names? Bug? Fang? Was the shooting title for this one ATTACK OF THE INSECT SNAKE PEOPLE?

The movie gets off to a bad start with an opening that plays like a tutorial on how not to make a good horror movie. It’s the old “you can’t kill me” routine we’ve seen so many times before it’s not funny. The Ripper is shot, stabbed, shot again, blown up, you name it. He should be deader than dead, but like the Energizer Bunny, he just keeps on going.

LS: What is he, Rasputin?!

The prologue scene was absolutely awful. The more things they do to this guy, the more likely he is to suddenly jump up and appear to be unhurt! At the end of the scene, when an ambulance crashes and the supposedly wounded Ripper somehow gets away (his body is nowhere to be found), I wanted to get up and leave the movie theater, and the story really hadn’t even started yet!

MA: There’s also no central villain here, and this certainly hurts the movie. When we see the Ripper, he’s cool-looking. He’s one creepy dude. But we hardly ever see him, and that’s because the movie is too busy making us wonder who the killer is. I mean, it might not be the Ripper at all. It could just be one of the teenagers in a costume. The result is we hardly ever see the Ripper, and when we do, we’re not even sure if he’s the real deal, which is too bad, because a strong villain would have helped this movie.

LS: When the kids have their purging ritual early on, a big part of it is that one of the chosen kids (whose birthday it also is) has to “defeat” the effigy of the Ripper – in this case a giant puppet. With its long hair, spooky face, and leather duster, it looks kind of formidable, but it’s just a puppet. When we see the Ripper in action later, he looks exactly like the hulking puppet. How is this the case? Did the person who created the puppet know exactly what the killer would look like 16 years later? Is it just a costume? Did the puppet come to life? Or is it just a visual from the killer’s perspective (this is how he sees himself?) This is just filmmaking at its worst.

MA: Nor is there much of a hero. The main hero, a police officer, does next to nothing in this movie, and the teens just aren’t defined enough to make them heroic.

LS: I thought Bug was supposed to be the hero – the one we were supposed to sympathize with – although I didn’t find him very sympathetic.

(SPIDER-MAN swings past them.)

SPIDER-MAN:  It makes no Spidey-sense for Bug to be the hero.  The only bug hero allowed in the movies is yours truly!

LS: Bug-off, Wallcrawler! (throws a rock at him as he swings by)

SPIDER-MAN: Sheesh, just trying to provide some levity. You look an awful lot like one of my villains, by the way.

LS:  As for Officer Paterson – the police detective you mentioned – he’s played by Frank Grillo, who played pretty much the same exact role in the recent ABC television series THE GATES. Where he was kind of interesting in the TV show, he’s completely wasted here. His character is not developed at all, and there’s really no point to him in the movie, except to be “the obsessed cop who won’t give up.” Grillo deserved better.

But so did the rest of the cast. I didn’t like one single character in this movie. They were all stereotypes from other teen horror films. Their dialogue and motivations weren’t believable. And the entire story is told in such a superficial, over-the-top way, that you don’t once find yourself being sucked into the story and believing any of it.

MA: The ending of this film, which I thought was horrible—as it’s a tidy neat little package all wrapped up with a pretty bow—tries to convince us that something heroic has happened, but it sure doesn’t feel that way.

LS You’re right, the ending was a complete cheat. I knew who the Ripper was going to be really early on, and I kept hoping I was wrong. But I wasn’t. Any chance for this movie to redeem itself at the end and surprise us was completely wasted.

MA: I did like the photography. I thought the movie looked very good. I loved the shots of the town (a fictional place called Riverton, Massachusetts), and it did look like it was shot in New England.

I liked the image of the railroad bridge in the fog and the scene early on, where one of the teens is attacked by the Ripper on this bridge, was my favorite scene in this movie by far. Sadly, it’s not a very long scene.

But that’s really all I liked. Nothing Craven did as a director in this one did much to scare me, and the writing, the story, I thought was way off. It just wasn’t honed in as much as it needed to be. Take the multiple souls inside the teens for example. There’s a lot that could be done with this. That’s a scary idea. Unfortunately, with the exception of Bug, we don’t really see this concept in action. Had the story concentrated on each teen and each soul inside that teen, then that would have been interesting.

LS: But that would have meant some actual character development.

MA: And, of course, the story couldn’t do this because one of the arguments it was making was the killer might still be alive, and all this soul stuff could be crap and untrue.

LS: MY SOUL TO TAKE was one of the few times where I left a movie theater actually in a foul mood. I felt like I’d been taken for a ride – a bad one at that – and that, on top of that, the driver stole my wallet. I hated the story (like you said, any potentially good ideas were squandered), the characters, the dialogue (which was often hilariously bad) and the directing. I will go so far as saying that, compared to MY SOUL TO TAKE, the TWILIGHT movies seem like art.

MA:  Wow!  You must have REALLY hated this movie!  Worse than TWILIGHT?  I dunno, I can’t really agree with you here.  The thing with the TWILIGHT movies is I’ve seen worse movies, but very few movies have ever done as good a job boring me to death as the TWILIGHT films. They were dull to the point of insanity.

LS:  I thought the trailer for this movie looked bad. I was wrong. The actual movie is ten times worse. This is Wes Craven at rock bottom, and I thought that had happened with CURSED, the awful werewolf movie he did with Kevin Williamson which DIDN’T HAVE ANY WEREWOLVES IN IT.

MY SOUL TO TAKE is downright cynical. It doesn’t treat any of its characters like real people, and it doesn’t presume that the audience has an ounce of intelligence. And we can’t blame Williamson this time, because Craven wrote the script for this one all by himself.

MA: I just didn’t buy MY SOUL TO TAKE. I give it 1 ½ knives. Unless you’re really bored with nothing to do, there’s no need to see this one. Oh yeah. I failed to mention it was in 3D. That should tell you how much of an impact the 3D had here.

LS: This movie was in 3D? Oh yeah. I remember paying an extra four bucks for glasses. However, not once did I feel I was watching a 3D movie. Even the silly old “something jumping out at you” trick wasn’t used here. The only thing you notice is once in a while there’s a bit more depth-perception. Even the 3D is a complete rip-off, because it’s obvious this was not meant to be a 3D movie. There’s a scene in the trailer where a hand lunges out at you – something you think would be an obvious 3D effect —and yet, in the actual movie, it wasn’t. Everything about this movie feels like a cheat.

I didn’t dislike MY SOUL TO TAKE. I despised it. And I’m not giving it any knives at all. In fact, the way I see it, Wes Craven owes me a whole set of knives for sitting through this garbage.

MA:  All right then, we’re finished.  Let’s get off this bridge before they decide to make a sequel.

LS:  If they make a sequel, I swear I’m tossing someone off this bridge.

MA: Remind me to be absent for that review.

(MA & LS walk off bridge and disappear into the fog.)

—END—

© Copyright 2010 by Michael Arruda and L.L. Soares

Michael Arruda gives MY SOUL TO TAKE 1 and a half knives

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L.L. Soares gives MY SOUL TO TAKE NO KNIVES!


MONSTRIOUS QUESTION OF THE MONTH – # 4 – L.L. Soares

Posted in 2010, Cannibals, Drive-in Movies, Monstrous Question of the Month with tags , , , , , on July 30, 2010 by knifefighter

(Monstrous Questions of the Month provided by Michael Arruda)

THE MONSTROUS QUESTION OF THE MONTH – JULY 2010

Excluding JAWS, what is your pick for the ultimate summer horror movie?

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RESPONSE # 4 – L.L. SOARES:

One movie that reminds me a lot of the summer is Wes Craven’s original THE HILLS HAVE EYES (1977). Not only is it about a family on vacation (presumably during the summer), but it takes place in the middle of a hot desert , where another family – this one made up of deranged cannibals who have been able to hide from civilization at large, while grabbing victims when they can – awaits.

Another reason is because I first saw it on a hot summer night at a drive-in theater, sitting on lawn chairs with some friends on the bed of a pick-up truck.

So the movie just says “summer” for me.

But I have to admit, JAWS remains the big daddy of summertime movies.

—END—