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Night of the Demons 2

Posted by Josh Samford On January - 11 - 2009

The Plot: Angela and the demons of Hullhouse may have been put on hold temporarily at the end of the original Night of the Demons, but that hasn’t stopped her spirit from haunting the house and devouring anyone who wanders by. In the time just after the events of the original film, Angela’s sister Mouse has been sent off to a very strict catholic school where she, like her sister, doesn’t really fit in. However Mouse isn’t quite as outgoing, and becomes the butt of everyone’s jokes. One joke goes a little too far when one of these supposed “friends” ends up forcing Mouse into their car and taking her to another Halloween party at Hullhouse. Now the evil spirits are about to be riled up once again, and these kids are up for the (last) night of their lives.

The Review: Well, Angela is back once again in the series that just couldn’t stay dead. The brilliantly titled Night of the Demons 2 takes up the mantle where the last film left off, in terms of story and direction as well. Once again, we’re not talking about a horror film that defied the rules here – Night of the Demons 2 simply plays by them, and how much you’re bound to enjoy the film is based generally off how big a horror geek you tend to be. Horror geeks are a more forgiving lot than the average film goer. We deal in convention and were raised on all the cliches of the genre, so when it comes to flicks like Night of the Demons 2 – the only things one can really judge the film on are the few original moments it introduces and whether or not at the end of its running time you are entertained. With Night 2, well, one is left simply feeling ‘meh’.

Much the same as the first film, we’re dealt a variety of cliche characters we’ve all seen in various other slashers and supernatural horrors before a million times including the jocks, the idiotic boyfriend, the leather jacket wrapped bad boy, the mousy girl with dark premonitions about the future, the cheerleader blonde and of course the geek. Everything is cut and dry in the world of Night of the Demons, and this second continuation of the series doesn’t look to stray too far off the beaten path. As you can tell by the plot synopsis, the twenty minute introduction at the catholic school kind of sets the film up to wander down conventionally the same path as the first of the series, but thankfully things do take on a different twist as the kids actually get to leave Hullhouse and instead are locked away at the school with Angela and her cronies unleashed with devastating fury.

The character of Mouse, sister to Angela, is an interesting addition to the series even though I suspect most would find her annoying. She’s a little whiny, a little cute and at the very least more interesting than the majority of characters. Letting the kids actually leave Hullhouse was what really saved the film though. While the film built up and with the kids actually arriving there with much of the same set-up going on, such as the painting of pentagrams on the wall and a satanic ritual set to take place, but when the kids actually escape from the outside wall it at least gave the film some sort of unexpected drama. Not enough to make this sequal better than the first, but enough to actually warrant seeing it in my opinion. One of the better holdovers from the first however is the use of great physical FX, including one of the most amazing breast shots of all time. Well you see, these aren’t just ordinary boobies, we’re talking boobies that through the genius of latex FX work – turn into hands before your very eyes and reach out and grab some hapless victim. That, my friends, is the glory of low budget horror pre-CGI.

The addition of comedy within the series is a bit of a mixed bag here. The first film really played out like your average horror of the time would, with maybe some light humor sprinkled throughout but nothing that distracted from the scenes that were supposed to be “scary”. This sequel however wants to take the series into a more “horror-comedy” direction, but unfortunately due to the way it is all put together the horror-comedy only seems to come into play during the very last half of the film due to Angela, as a physical entity, being introduced so late in the movie. Her character takes on a VERY Freddy Krueger-ish style of reeling off one-liners and ripping out the occasional pun or bit of physical comedy. There’s a lot of Evil Dead style camerawork (also present in the first film, but taken to a different degree here) and even what could only be a reference to those films in a scene showing a nun gathering her armor like Ash in the second Evil Dead when he crafted his chainsaw arm. So, the comedy is both good and bad but I suppose is more welcome than it is a distraction, even if I don’t agree with the use of one-liners before a kill within the horror genre.

As I stated earlier, with flicks like this it all comes down to just how much new content there is and how much of the same old-same old is on display. For my buck, I thought Night of the Demons was a lesser film than the original in most respects. It took the tongue in cheek comedy of the first film and completely ran with it in a very hit or miss direction; but thankfully didn’t ruin the film with inept schtick. The gore and violence were actually a step up I found and think that in the end the best compliment you can give it is that it’s a very imaginitive sequel that opens up the borders that the original film set upon itself by limiting the number of sets. It simply feels more like a horror-comedy-adventure though, and it takes away some of the power that the film had. Ultimately, these films are as formulaic and by the books as you would expect but there’s a certain amount of fun that can be derived from pure genre fans. I don’t think most will see it and have their minds blown, but there’s a good time to be had if you’re up for it. It recieves the same rating as the original, a three out of five. Not a very high rating, but there’s entertainment value here if nothing else.

My Name Is Bruce

Posted by Josh Samford On December - 11 - 2008
The Plot: After a group of teenagers partying around a cemetery accidentally break the chains that have held Guan Di, an ancient Chinese spirit and protector of Tofu, he is let loose and takes aim at any mortal beings remotely close to his graveyard. The surviving teen, who is also a major Horror movie fan, only knows one person to call: Bruce Campbell. The horror hero of the Evil Dead series, who is in all actuality a very bitter b-movie actor fed up with his particular role in the universe. When the teen shows up at Bruce’s trailer, he’s a little drunk but knows better than to run away with one of his crazed fans – however, he isn’t smart or sober enough to see the kidnapping that is coming his way. When he awakens from the trunk of the teenagers car, he comes to the conclusion that this must all be the birthday present that his manager had talked about just days before. So Campbell decides to roll with the punches, that is until he discovers that *gulp* Guan Di is actually real!

The Review: If you’ve been living under a rock for the past two decades, or if you’re just “too cool” for all of this cult cinema geeky madness – let me explain something to you. Bruce Campbell is the greatest American actor who has every been. Robert DeNiro? Wow, what did he do, get punched alot in Raging Bull? Did he ever lop the head off a rushing deadite or tell a woman plain face “give me some sugar, baby!”? He simply couldn’t. Don’t even get me started on Brando and how he would fair against the Evil Dead. If you haven’t got the point yet, Bruce Campbell’s fans can be a bit rabid. The reason for this is his portrayal of the character Ash in the Evil Dead trilogy, a series that may go down as one of the most important and beloved of the entire horror genre. What was once a cult phenomena with only an army of simple horror geeks at its disposal has turned into a legion of many due mainly to the fact that if a person is introduced to the Evil Dead films – nine times out of ten, they will love it just as much as you do. With films like that it’s hard to imagine how they became “cult” hits in the first place, but Army of Darkness in my opinion is that one piece of cinematic excellence that can build bridges between just about everybody. How could anyone dislike such a film?

My Name Is Bruce is an examination of that love and devotion that BC fans commonly have for their idol. Although written in a world that closely resembles our own, the character of Bruce Campbell is a much different version of who the true Campbell appears to be. Instead of the jovial and entertaining fellow who takes out so much time with his loyal fans and is continually cracking wise with them – he portrays himself here as a slobbering drunk, disillusioned by his own career and eaten alive by his own bitter attitude. This is where the heart of the film lies however, in crafting this ‘character’ version of Bruce Campbell – we are given a character who is in some ways similar to the character of Ash; but a much more down to earth and horrifyingly cowardice take on such a role. Where Ash was simply out for himself and looking after his own well being ahead of everyone else, the character of Bruce Campbell is without mincing words: a coward. A yellow bellied, chicken. His initial reaction to Guan Di is hilarious and all telling about this character, as he runs head-first into the woods trying to escape the monster after finding the villagers weren’t lying. The Campbell character becomes endearing based upon just how cowardly/shallow/self absorbed he is, and how far Bruce is able to take the role. One simply wonders where this character came from, and if he could be based on anything real.

The comedy can be hit or miss at times. There are bits where it seems Bruce is simply taking his schtick to the extreme – but these are always saved by the genuinely hilarious moments that are brilliantly played. I can’t go into it, but I nearly woke those in my house up with laughter during the concluding minutes of the film. Really funny stuff and if you weren’t a fan up until then, chances are it’ll prove to be the saving grace of the picture. Though I know not everyone will be as entertained with My Name is Bruce as I was. Truly, it is the definition of a “fan’s film”. From the Evil Dead references such as Ellen Sandweiss making a return once again as a character named “Cheryl”, Dan Hicks from Evil Dead II making a reference to his own character, Timothy Quill from Army of Darkness doing the same as well as playing Hicks’ life partner and a great bit demonstrating Bruce’s being direct opposite to Ash in terms of firearm knowledge. It doesn’t hurt not being able to spot these things but I won’t lie and say it isn’t a good portion of the fun. After all is said and done, I think My Name is Bruce stands firm by itself without these references – but really becomes something much stronger and entertaining with them.

My Name Is Bruce is definitely an Evil Dead fan’s wet dream, and it shows that Bruce even as he grows older in age still has all the qualities that have endeared him to fans the world over. I can’t promise everyone is going to be able to enjoy it like the geeks will. It is far from a perfect film, the shtick is bound to rub some in the audience wrong and at times it seems like Bruce is simply let loose with no restraint – but what can you expect from everyone’s favorite ham leading and directing himself? If you’re reading this and you’re familiar with Evil Dead 2/Army of Darkness, you’ll know one way or another whether this film intrigues you. Chances are it does, and what can I say, I loved it just as much as any geek could. Check it out.

Night of the Demons

Posted by Josh Samford On December - 3 - 2008
[imdb]0093624[/imdb] The Plot: On Halloween night, a group of teenagers are about to make the worst decision of their lives. When Angela, the “weird” girl at school throws a Halloween party, some of the kids figure who better to spend the holiday with other than the weirdest goth chick at school? The party is to take place at a mansion, supposedly haunted, just a few minutes drive into the woods. Once there, and after some rigorous partying, Angela has the idea of going through a little incantation – and this my friends, is where bad things start happening. Soon enough a demonic curse is let loose upon this hapless group of teenagers and those who are lucky will die – those who aren’t will be replaced by a demonic being.

The Review: Ahh, the 1980’s. Who could ever forget them? Truthfully, I’m of the opinion that right now we’re pretty much reliving them. Pop music dominates the charts again, bad hairstyles are in vogue and the level of materialism that our society is experiencing is even beyond that of the eighties. Horror is even having a resurgence, so not all bad things are coming about! With all of this said though, there was something special and unique about the eighties. Something that brought us some truly immortal b-movies, such as the classic I present to you today: Night of the Demons. A film that featured the only box at the video store that actually scared me off as a child. The sight of that demon girl on the front cover and her devilish smile, even as a fan of Jason and Freddy at the time my own fear of that supernatural element was still just a bit too much for me to conquer at that young age. So here I am, probably sixteen or so years later – and I have stared down my own fears! Yeah, not too impressive for a twenty-something who has seen pretty much every horror great out there and a large portion of the very worst. Still, I am happy to report that Night of the Demons is about everything you could expect from a eighties possession horror!… which is to say, not a whole lot.

Night of the Demons works as a combination of The Evil Dead, Demons and Night of the Living Dead. It’s the same old scenario, youthful teenagers head out to a remote and spooky place (in this film, a haunted mansion, in others possibly a graveyard or morgue) and before long someone is going through a satanic ritual and demons are harvesting the souls of the living. This is about as standard as a group of teenagers converging on a location all to slowly be picked off one by one by a masked killer. So, yeah, if you’re as late to the game as I was – Night of the Demons isn’t going to blow your socks off with its originality or its fresh look on the genre. Still, we know the set up, we know what to expect – but how does it deliver? Well, not too bad. You come into films like these looking for a few things. Nostalgia is one, although not the greatest reason to look back on films like these. Everything is so very late-eighties to the point that it hurts. There are all the walking cliches one would expect, the tough guy with the New York sounding accent – the heft fellow that no one really likes and generally pushes them around. The leading woman, her boyfriend, his buddy the comic relief. All the favorites are here and it reminds you of that time when no one seemed to mind that they had already seen all of this done a million times. That or audiences were simply too blind to realize it. Now our audiences guffaw over ridiculously self-aware characters who all but know that they’re in a cheesy horror film, so what can you say, the times they change but people don’t.

The performances tend to be pretty standard for the genre, with few standouts. There’s Linnea Quigley, as beautiful as she ever has been and showing off a lot of her fantastic physique. Aside from Quigley, well, the girls are pretty (especially Jill Terashita, yowza!) and the guys are all party dudes looking for a good time. There’s not a lot of room for growth here. Still, the second and possibly most important thing that people come back to these films for; the violence, it’s very well done here. Although not a constant gore fest, there’s a decent amount of violence to be had and the latex demons created for the film are all top notch. Although not as scary as when I was a little kid, the demons really are very well made. I suppose at the end of the day what made the film stand out for me though, would be the conclusion – which although isn’t anything particularly earth shattering – who survives, who doesn’t and who turns their back on the side of good did turn out to be a bit surprising.

Night of the Demons really isn’t a great film, or a classic of the genre that if you miss you’re going to regret – but still, for those of us who saw that video cover featuring a demonic Angela staring at us with sharpened teeth, it’s definitely worth the watch. The film goes through peaks that break free from the monotony of the average, but overall it just is what it is. Another horror from the eighties with some decent blood, great FX and a few breast shots. Definitely a fun time waster but far from an essential.

New Centurions, The

Posted by Josh Samford On November - 7 - 2008

The Plot: Roy Fehler (Stacy Keach) is a rookie on the police force who has set himself up so that he can work the streets at night for money in order to raise his family, and then go to classes for law school during the day. After his first night on the job though, right alongside Kilvinski (George C. Scott) he finds his home. Kilvinski shows him how dangerous it can be to be a police officer, but also how good and honest it can be when done with some compassion. Roy finds himself falling in love with the streets, and finding himself at odds with law school as well as his wife who starts to feel a seperation between the two of them. Will the badge drive Roy away from everything he used to love dearly, or will he find a center peace and resolve?

The Review: If there are two draws that will generally grab my interest; the first has to be crime cinema. Not necessarily from the point of the criminal either, police officers on the beat, detectives hunting down mad men or generally anything pertaining to that sort of thing. I suppose in some fashion we’re all intrigued with those who would oppose the law, and those who are sworn to protect it. The other thing I mentioned that pretty much guarantees my interest comes from any film featuring George C. Scott. I’ve already reviewed Hardcore here on the site, and aim to someday put The Excorcist III here amongst other works of his. There’s just something about the man, his gravelly voice and his ability to deliver lines with such earnest conviction. I don’t believe American cinema has ever seen another actor quite like him.

Although Scott doesn’t take the main role here in The New Centurions, his supporting role is felt throughout the entire film and his character’s passion pushes the film into being something other than the ordinary. The New Centurions shows police officers in a different kind of light, they are portrayed as fully human here and the men who step behind the badge are shown as being fiercely devoted. Not surprising, the film’s author Joseph Wambaugh did serve as a police officer before becoming an acclaimed novelist and found his career focused on that same devotion to the law and the police force, with his most popular books being therough examinations about the job of protection such as in this film. Dealing mostly with “the job” and how these men do their best to deal with it, as well as the strain it has on their lives. Much of the drama within The New Centurions deals with the wonderful Stacy Keach and his character Roy, who finds himself at odds with his wife who can’t understand his passion and devotion for the job. A devotion that may end up getting him killed, and has drawn him away from what could have been a very financially successful career as an attorney.

The cast only needs to be mentioned by name, when you see George C. Scott and Stacy Keach as the two stars – you know that performances are going to be top notch. Stacy Keach is the real shining star here as the subdued Roy, as she shows at first a true love for the work of a police officer – and slowly moves away from his predestined goals and into a new area he never expected to go into. The whole film is a blank portrait that Keach is able to paint upon with his performance as a man of confusion who slowly learns his own truth. It really makes you stop and wonder what ever happened to Keach, and at what point did the Hollywood machine decide he was not capable of carrying a leading role and was a more suitable character actor? Perhaps it was his cocaine arrest in the eighties, and then his surgence in television movies/shows. Keach however cemented his status as one of the best American actors with films such as this and The Ninth Configuration, it’s just a shame he hasn’t had as much room in his career as of late to flex those talents.

The heart of New Centurions is its consistant devotion to showing us a fact based reality of just what this job entails. We start with the new recruits who over time become hardened veterans, but all the way through we are shown that it’s just a job. Occasionally instances of action pop up, but most of the time we just see these officers having to break up prostitutes, seperate quarraling couples and stop cars for traffic violations. There’s no crazed lunatics on the loose killing the innocent or serial killing psychopaths targeting the police. The New Centurions is as by-the-books as the officers it portrays, but is a stronger film for it by giving us a factual and more realistic approach to this exciting occupation, and in the meantime we grow attached to these officers who go out there and put their lives on the line to do what they think is right. Is it possibly a utopian vision of law enforcement? Maybe. With no police officers being shown as power hungry or jerks toward the civillians they come in contact with. However, just because some of us have been treated pretty unfairly by some police officers before (I had two cops a few months ago pull me over, harrass me and insult me personally) doesn’t mean that by and large this is the way things are. Since then I have had to turn to several police officers who I now count as friends myself, so not having that element in the film is something I find easy to forgive.

The New Centurions takes on that seventies air of pessimism that was so alluring in cop/crime films of that era. Working as a slice of life portrayal of police officers on duty as they settle out into their new lives, it’s a side of the law viewers aren’t used to seeing and is simply a tremendous film full of great performances from some of the best American actors of that time and place. If you’re a fan of seventies filmmaking, police/crime films or if you’re like me and just obsessed with George C. Scott – you’ll want to see this. I give it a four out of five, and say I must find myself continually amazed with the film and the lack of people talking about it. Definitely check it out, you won’t be disappointed.

Hell Ride Review

Posted by Josh Samford On November - 1 - 2008

Well, Halloween Horrors are unfortunately all gone away. I know, a bummer. I didn’t get to as many reviews as I had originally hoped, but overall I think we picked up a few classics this time out. Hopefully everyone had a good time, and now I can post this review I have been sitting on for a month because I didn’t want to post it up with all of the Halloween festivities going on! Hell Ride! Maybe the most hated movie I’ve ever loved, take a trip to the IMDB to find out just what I mean. So be warned, I am apparently one of approximately nine people on this planet who really enjoyed this film apparently.

The Review: From the look of things, you’re about to read one of the few overtly positive reviews for Hell Ride out there. This is something that has come as a shock to me. After watching Hell Ride for the first time, I sprang up from my seat and hit the IMDB to learn as much about the film as I possibly could – only to stumble upon a wealth of anger from nearly ever user review I read. Where does this anger come from? Well, Hell Ride is a love it or hate it kind of film I suppose. Your enjoyment of the film is all relative to how forgiving a viewer you are as well as the circumstances involving your watching the film. I learned this the hard way when trying to watch the movie with my brother, who is far from a film geek himself. Hell Ride is a dialogue heavy film, and works in much the same style as Quentin Tarantino’s recent work – which is to say it is pretty over the top in that old “exploitation” film manner, but instead of scenes being punctuated with a line or two of “cool” dialogue like in the old days; every word out of every character’s mouth is either equally over the top and hip or an elongated monologue of hip dialogue. Around the time Pistolero’s spy girlfriend gives her monolauge to him about how he needs to, well, “eff” her (hey man, I try to keep it clean as a manner of professionalism) because he’ll never be able to get it up again once he hears the news – my brother had heard enough. He begged me to find something else to watch. His reason? The dialogue sounds like a theatrical play rather than something you would expect to hear real people say. This is a valid criticism, and unfortunately my brother wasn’t that eloquent with his opinion – but that was his point. He’s right in the fact that Hell Ride sounds nothing like anything you would hear in real life but I also think this is where the film is going to find its audience. Hell Ride is a movie’s movie and although it infuses some things from older exploitation classics, it is an entirely new and different kind of beast. A beast that owes a great debt to the vision of Tarantino and his Kill Bill films. My brother, who is far from a film expert of any sort even asked within the opening minutes of the film if it was actually directed by Tarantino – no doubt due to the black and white crisp photography of the opening as well as the witty banter between characters. It isn’t exactly a good thing when your film is so closely similar to another director’s particular style – but much like all of the shortcomings within Hell Ride your ability to forgive this will determine just how much you are able to enjoy the film.

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