Friday the 13th Part III; or Friday Harder, This Time It’s Personal

Hello and Hallo-welcome to Sequel Sunday, where we revisit some franchises that maybe we should never have returned to. You join your bloggers, Andy and Lilly, in life-like 3D, having developed a new dimension in horror reviewing.

Today’s Film Offering: Friday the 13th Part III

220px-Friday_the_13th_Part_III_(1982)_theatrical_poster.jpgLilly: Turns out, in this sequel to Friday the 13th, it doesn’t matter if you go to Camp Crystal Lake at all, because Jason will take his show on the road and come to you! In Friday the 13th Part III, a group of young people are just trying to have fun at their friend’s old family home, located on Crystal Lake–well, okay, so Jason doesn’t go that far, but he was pretty badly beaten up, so give the guy a break.

The film kicks off with a couple of shop owners getting Jason’d pretty quickly, so we know what’s coming (oh right, it’s a Friday the 13th film!), and their murders are done with moments of ‘whoooaaa’ 3D, with knives thrusting and laundry blowing (whoooooa–wait, why is she hanging things out at night, surely sunlight is the key to this–whooooaaa watch out, it’s JASON).

Andy: You love this crap, don’t you?

Lilly: I DO AND WHY DON’T YOU

Anyway, our return to Crystal Lake is shared by the new batch of Jason-bait, headed by Chris Higgins, whose family owns the ridiculously sized home on Crystal Lake (but then, the real estate there is likely cheap what with all the murdering and tragic accidents). She brings along her pregnant friend and the pregnant friend’s boyfriend, their incredibly hateable friend, Shelley (he’s a prankster!) who is set up on a date with Vera, who is clearly not into her date, blind or not, plus two stoners who…I don’t know, I just knew I’d miss them when they were gone.

Andy: Oh yeah, those guys!

Lilly: Who? Oh right, the stoners. Right.

So, they get to Crystal Lake (after running into an old man who literally is the smartest in the film, yelling about how they should turn back) and meet up with Chris’ boyfriend because Friday the 13th is all about making single people feel bad–even that awful shop keeper guy had a girlfriend/wife! Gosh.

The film then becomes a will they/won’t they story, ‘they’ being Jason, and the will or won’t being whether he will kill every teen he comes across, or just a few. Spoiler–this is Friday the 13th, what do you think!

We also learn that Chris has a secret reason to have come out to the incredibly nice house with her friends–she had been attacked there years earlier so thought ‘why not go back there?’ and then continued that train of thought to ‘with my pregnant friend and a few others I sort of know’ because why not! Why not bring those people to a place where you were attacked.

Andy: They’re about at the intellectual level of a mold spore. So, normal Friday the 13th victims, then.

Lilly: You can probably guess how this film goes–magnificently, you’re right! There are amazing kills (tie between Andy, the pregnant girl’s boyfriend, and Rick, the boyfriend of Chris’, deaths for my favourites) and some horribly cheesy 3D shots where things are thrust towards the camera for 3D fun. Plus, you must know by now I love cheesy horror, and well. This is that and then some.

Andy: Yeah, this is the point in the series where we’ve officially left the heady uplands of “good” and dived into the occasionally boggy vale of “so-bad-it’s-good”. The entertainment factor for this one is purely in the realm of watching inventive ways of impaling teenagers, and if you’re not on board by now, this one won’t change your mind. It’s also the first movie Jason actually gains his iconic hockey mask, so it has that going for it as well.

Other than that, it’s a Friday the 13th movie. Were you expecting anything else?

Lilly: A 3D Friday the 13th movie, excuse you. It’s fun, is what it is. Is it art? No. Is it deep? Nope. Would I watch it again? Yes, yep, always and forever, yes. Give me those cardboard 3D glasses right now, let’s do this.

And we didn’t even get into the weird biker gang subplot! There is so much to enjoy! Go, watch, and let us know what you think!

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The Conjuring 2; or Ed and Lorraine Warren Are Our OTP

Hello and Hallo-welcome to another edition of Sequel Sunday, where we look at the next chapters of horror stories. You join your bloggers, Andy and Lilly, who found one person who believed in them, so they married them.

Today’s Film Offering: The Conjuring 2

MV5BZjU5OWVlN2EtODNlYy00MjhhLWI0MDUtMTA3MmQ5MGMwYTZmXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNjE5MTM4MzY@._V1_UY1200_CR90,0,630,1200_AL_Lilly: In The Conjuring 2, we join Ed and Lorraine Warren, paranormal adventurers, as they are brought into the story of the Enfield Haunting, a ‘real’ case of a series of events in Enfield, London, that terrorized a family, specifically a young girl named Janet. Maybe they can solve this one, even if in reality, Ed and Lorraine were barely present during the Enfield happenings, but whatever, Ed, grab your guitar and charm the ghosts away!

Andy: The real case is actually kinda interesting, as the two guys on the scene still maintain there was something going on, but everyone else thinks it was hogwash. Also fun diversion: We tried ghost hunting here at Hallowfest precisely once. We downloaded an app to pick up voices.

…After the first two it picked up were “BLOOD HERE” and “NO PRIEST” it stopped being fun and we turned it off.

Lilly: Yeeep. Anyway. in what was a media circus of the time, this film touches on the very real possibility that young Janet is what is behind all the events happening in the Hodgson home, but merrily tosses aside the possibility pretty early on by bringing all the kids into the ghostly mix, with some pretty blatant otherwordly goings-on decidedly placing the Enfield Haunting heavily into the realm of the supernatural. Grey area? Unless you’re talking about the greying flesh of the undead, there is no grey here!

Andy: Having said that, though, the movie does go to some lengths to ground the movie in the real world. Belief in the supernatural and fictionalisation of the story aside, this feels like it could have happened. It doesn’t feel fantastical.

Lilly: The Warrens, who, after only one film, seem to be ‘too old for this shit’ and looking to retire from the cases due to Lorraine’s visions of Ed’s death (a good reason to pack it in), are called in by the church to check in overseas and see if they ought to get involved. The church reasons that they cannot help people if their street cred is bad, which is legit, so the Warrens go to Enfield to try and help not only their church friends, but the family, because damn it, that’s what Warrens do!

The Conjuring 2 is a good follow up to its predecessor, rolling out new monsters (a demon nun AND a crooked man!) with the same charm of the first film, mainly resting on the shoulders of the two leads, Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson. The Warren’s are pure #relationshipgoals, from my favourite scene featuring Ed painting to them separately telling Janet how damn happy they are to have found each other. It’s odd, but in a world of horror films featuring sexy teens having sex and hot female survivors hooking up with hot male survivors, it’s nice to see a couple who clearly sits and crochets together as much as saves the day, all while having major love and admiration for each other. I believed it when Ed said he trusted Lorraine, and not just because the film said they were husband and wife so they ought to. Someone put the effort into making sure that, even with them being over the top at time (Elvis serenades, I’m dying), Ed and Lorraine were real.

Andy: Fun activity – notice every time Ed demonstrates proficiency at a skill. Between this movie and its predecessor, he’s a painter, plumber, guitarist and singer, and mechanic, in addition to an accomplished demonologist, medium and agent for the Vatican. He’s like a superhero.

Lilly: As far as the story went, it all depends on what you were looking for. When I heard it was going to be about the Enfield Haunting, I was pretty damned intrigued, but if I went in expecting it to be the story of, well, anything real I’d have been a bit confused–and if you are feeling like you wanted that, why not check out the 2015 miniseries, The Enfield Haunting, a really well done adaptation of the story that was a bit more grounded in reality–but as a general rule, horror claiming to be ‘based on a true story’ is going to be two streets over, one street down, and well around the corner from anything nearing the truth of the situation it is based on, and we all know that.

Andy: If anything, this’ll make you want to look at the real case, so I count it as a win. I like this movie. It’s a good entryway into these sorts of movies, what with Super-Ed making us all feel safe and it’s all nicely shot. The only criticism I have of it is that it’s a little long. We have the wrap-up of the previous movie’s cliffhanger, Life At Home with the Warrens, the haunting before they get there, the haunting AFTER they get there, and several more twists and turns after that. It’s … ponderous, and about 45 minutes longer than most movies we review.

Lilly: Which, if that was 45 minutes of Ed doing random hobbies of his, from, I don’t know, shoeing horses to flying a two seater plane and hand sewing hot air balloons, I’d be down for it, but it does seem like the story of Ed and Lorraine winding down in their paranormal shenanigans was mushed into the story of Enfield pretty awkwardly. I’d rather a third film of them retiring and doing one last gig, but this started with that to then turn into ‘or IS IT’ and I’m not really sure I liked the weird turn in tone. Cutting the film down for time might have helped avoid that.

That said, The Conjuring 2 gets a big thumbs up from me. If I’m honest, I’d watch those Warren kids get up to anything, so my bias definitely shows, but even if you forgot them (how!), this is a solid ghostly mystery of a family being menaced, and we’re on board. There are some neat transition shots, some awesome makeup effects, and whoever styled Patrick Wilson and all his dad sweaters, well, I salute you. Plus, you know it is an enjoyable film to have Andy still like it even though it uses The Clash’s London Calling when showing London–it’s a pet peeve of his which often leads to long rages, and this time, it was allowed!

Of course, we’d love to hear from you, readers! What did you think? Did you enjoy the second Warren Family Fun Adventure, or was the first enough for you? What is your favourite thing Ed Warren gets up to? Have you checked out the Annabelle spin-offs, or will you check out the spin-off the nun of this film is reportedly getting? Let us know, on Twitter, in the comments, or on Facebook!

Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge; or Freddy Wishes He Had Jesse’s Girl

Hello and Hallo-welcome to the second of our Sequel Sundays, where we sit down and sit through the second, third, and sometimes fourth go-rounds for horror franchises. You join your bloggers, Andy and Lilly, as they question their sanity and wonder why they keep waking up, covered in blood.

Today’s Film Offering: Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge.

maxresdefaultLilly: One, two, Freddy’s coming for you again, and this time, he’s not going to do all the dirty work himself! Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge tells the story of Jesse, who is the teenage son of the family who moved into a specific house on Elm Street that you might remember from the first film. Lots of hosing down must have happened prior to that open house, I’m just saying.

Andy: And I’m just saying I wanted to do Dream Warriors.

Lilly: Quiet, you.

Anyway, Jesse has issues not only with Freddy haunting him in his dreams, trying to convince him to take up the glove in his name and terrorize the neighbourhood, but the young man also faces the worst horror of all: unpacking his room. I’m here to tell you, readers, never have I related more to a horror film.

Jesse isn’t alone in his battle against the familiar boogeyman from the basement–he’s joined by his Meryl Streep look-a-like friend, Lisa, and his frenemy, Grady. Lisa pushes Jesse to try and get help for his sleep/murdering issues, and Grady wears no shirt and makes eyes at Jesse, which is also helpful, I’m sure. Frankly, for a film which tries to convince me Jesse and Lisa could be an item (including a scene at a pool party that is both poorly timed and ultimately creepy), I’m happy to ship Grady and Jesse any day, any time. They had more romantic chemistry–Lisa came off as Jesse’s nurse at times, making sure he was eating right and getting enough sleep. Meanwhile, Grady was getting shirtless all the time, sweating heavily, and drinking three cartons of milk at once to impress Jesse (I assume that is why he had so much milk, anyway, or was that a metaphor for how thirsty he was?)

Andy: Meanwhile Freddy … doesn’t actually do that much. He kills what, three people on screen? And there’s nothing anywhere near as spectacular as the first movie’s Depp Fountain – and when you take out spectacular deaths from a slasher movie, you’re left with characters, and these guys are not the most compelling bunch of cardboard cutouts.

Then again, it is fun to see them take a franchise completely in a new direction in only the second sequel, even if it doesn’t quite work. Freddy as a corrupting influence as opposed to a straight killer could work, even if it doesn’t here.

I mean they also take the franchise in another new direction. A really gay one.

Lilly: Suuuuuper gay. There was a leather bar with drag queens. Why? Who knows. I mean, I’m always pro leather bar with queens scenes, but why! Also, the deaths featured male nudity at varying levels. So, if we see Freddy as a metaphor for Jesse’s inner urges…well. The only step outside that box is during the aforementioned awkward pool party scene. And what does Jesse do when that weird sexuality flails its grey tongued head? Why, run to (shirtless) Grady’s house! To his bedroom! To stay the night! And there is nothing wrong with this strange, strange metaphor, but…why? It wasn’t something that carried on in the series (I’d love that, please and thank you) so it just seemed like a momentary glimpse into ‘What if…’ in the Freddy universe where Freddy wasn’t a monster but rather some sort of vessel for self exploration.

Andy: If you think we’re exaggerating, after running into Grady’s room he yells “He’s inside of me! He’s going to take me again!” It’s not even subtext at this point, it’s just text.

Lilly: And the tagline. Readers. Come on. The man of your dreams is back! So. Come on. Readers.

Andy: Anyway, I’m afraid I can’t recommend this one. As a horror movie it basically fails, being neither scary nor compelling, and as an exploration of a fairly serious issue at the time, it is just too funny. It’s so ridiculous that you can’t tell if it’s intentional or not.

Plus, you know a horror movie has misstepped badly when in a late scene a swimming pool begins to heat up and bubble, but slowly enough that everyone gets out safely. You’re a slasher movie from the 80s: BOIL THOSE KIDS ALIVE.

Man, I hope that doesn’t ever get taken out of context.

Lilly: I’m going to take it out of context all the damn time, now.

It really isn’t a great film, sorry, readers. It was boring or ridiculously hilarious–there is a scene where a bird goes homicidal and it is hysterical. And I am not sure if I mean funny or like it drives you to hysteria. I was disappointed, even with all the silly fashion moments (how big can Jesse’s shirts get before he is just wearing a tarp?) and OTP shipping between Grady and Jesse (seriously just make out already, gosh). Oh, and the pacing was weird–we didn’t really get the same sort of ‘Oh, he only comes when you are asleep!’ realization, just Jesse taking pep pills and drinking coke madly, or any sort of hint at Freddy’s background, just that he worked in a boiler room once. What’s happening? Why! Where! How! Watch out, bird!

So that’s a no from us. No, Nightmare on Elm Street 2. Just no.

Dawn of the Dead; or We Ain’t Up Here Doing Traffic Reports

Hello and Hallo-welcome to the first of our Sequel Sundays, where we discover if there’s anything more horrifying than paying to see the same movie twice! You join your bloggers, Andy and Lilly, who are walking the earth. They’re not dead or anything, they just felt like it.

Today’s Film Offering: Dawn of the Dead220px-Dawn_of_the_dead

Andy: Oh MAN, this is so EXCITING that we’re FINALLY reviewi–wait, why do I have a tranquilizer dart in my neck all of a sudden?

Lilly: You were getting overexcited. Had to take it down a notch.

Andy: Wait, won’t this knock me out for several hours?

Lilly: Probably.

Andy: …How long do I have?

Lilly: Well, I kinda put an extra zero on your body weight when I was calculating the dose, so I’d say about 3 minutes. I’m not taking any chances with you and Romero.

Andy: Right.

Anyway, 1978s Dawn of the Dead is George A. Romero’s sequel to the classic Night of the Living Dead, which we will review later this week, and between the two of them, form essentially the entire basis of the modern zombie movie. There had been zombies before, of course, but these two movies, and the increasingly diminishing sequels really codified the zombie apocalypse. The Walking Dead, Resident Evil, World War Z – all of them owe a huge debt to these two movies, the Iliad and Odyssey of the shambling undead.

Lilly: Did … did you just compare these movies to Homer’s 3,000 year old epics?

Andy: Maybe. Let’s look at this one in more detail.

Dawn of the Dead, as a title, implies the corollary: the Twilight of the Living, and the end of the world is demonstrated in two harrowing scenes. The first is a chaotic newsroom, as the bosses fret about ratings while the underlings fret about the much more serious question of whether the aid stations on the screen are still ‘operational’. The fact that we don’t see any of these aid stations makes the whole thing way worse.

The second is an assault on an apartment building by armed police, and true chaos reigns as cops fight against the doomed occupants, zombies, and their increasingly deranged colleagues.

In the end, the two threads come together, as two of the cops, a helicopter pilot and his girlfriend from the newsroom all take off – literally, in a helicopter – to take their chances in the big, wide world. The quartet eventually find an abandoned shopping mall, and after a few tense scenes sealing off the entrances, begin life in a consumer’s paradise. They have access to all the stores, all the goods and food they could need, and they are safe. For now at least.

The quartet make for an interesting bunch. Ken Foree, the calm, moral centre of the movie, is by far the best as ex-cop Peter, and he carries most of the film on sheer charisma alone. He has the least connection to the other three, joining last in the planned escape, and he’s the most clear-headed.

Lilly: And most quoted by Andy, I’m here to share with you, readers.

Andy: The other cop Roger, played by Scott Reiniger, is a bit more hotheaded, but the two have an easy and excellent chemistry.

Stephen, or “Flyboy” is less engaging, but still an interesting character. He lacks the gung-ho easiness of the two cops, and seems to be threatened by it. (In one hilarious scene, he keeps missing shots, and Roger keeps coming in and doing it in one. You can read so much into this) He has one identifiable, useful skill, but when his girlfriend sensibly suggests he teach her how to fly as well, he seems put out rather than seeing the practical side. It’s the zombie apocalypse, David Emge. Get your ego out of the way.

And rounding them out is, of course, Francine. Less useless than Barbara, at least, poor Gaylen Ross has been written as the character constantly telling the others not to do things, usually the things we want them to be doing. I mean, she’s probably right, but still, she comes off as a nag and the vocal delivery really doesn’t help.

I suppose the final character is the mall itself. Pit stop, refuge, battlefield or deserted monument to excess, it’s a fascinating place and a fascinating idea. How quickly would you get bored if you had access to anything you need at any time. You’d be alive, sure, but would you really be living?

Lilly: See, and while Andy tumbled down the philosophical rabbit hole of the scenario, I stood rather firmly on the ground above, shouting ‘YES’. They have literally found the best option for a stronghold outside of a literal fortress. I had no feelings of ‘man, that would suck after a while’ because what, planning how to live past stores running out isn’t interesting enough for you?

Also, I’d like to put in a defense for Francine, because she has a ‘use’ and is used for it–SPOILER–she has a bun in the oven and no matter how great Peter is, he isn’t popping out a baby and a possible future for the human race any time soon. Don’t get me wrong–I think women in horror should be used as more than sex objects or vessels in horror but in this scenario, Francine should be given a medal because not only is she trying to learn how to fly a helicopter while building a nest in the mall for their rag tag bunch, but she is doing it while pregnant. I already have moments when watching horror films, and Andy can attest to this, where I will wonder out loud ‘man, and imagine if any of those women were also on their period–their days must just really be sucking right now’. Oh, and on top of pregnant, she also is dealing with some losses. So. I’d nag, too, if I thought I’d have to deal with the fallout of whatever nonsense the guys were coming up with while carrying a child and dealing with the undead uprising.

Andy: A final note is on Tom Savini’s amazing effects work. All practical, all gruesome, although the blood is a seriously odd colour, this is some of his best work.

Lilly: Okay, so now that Andy has wound down, I have some points!

First off, I had literally no attachment to anyone in the film save Peter. And even then, it is because it seemed like most energy was put into writing him and the others were just afterthoughts. And if I’m supposed to feel tension when the zombies attack, I kind of need to care that someone might die. On a basic level of ‘humans should survive to make more humans’, sure, but I didn’t care if it was these specific humans or the motorbike gang or anything.

Second, I wasn’t a fan of the makeup of the zombies–the practical effects were great and the bright blood I actually enjoyed, but the zombies being grey and blue was off-putting to me. It’s hard to explain, but in a movie where you are trying to show the fact that the world is shifting and the dead are taking over, it seems like the zombies being a full on different colour than the living had that whole ‘they are us but not’ element tossed aside. Not comparing films, but comparing scenes, if the old man in the graveyard of Night of the Living Dead was grey/blue, no one would be cracking jokes about him, they’d be asking if he needed a hospital. You can spot the undead far easier, and it takes the element of ‘wait, you’re not–(insert scream and flesh tearing)’ out of the film and out of my worries. No one is going to be surprised zombied when the person approaching them looks that monstrous.

That all said, I did like the setting as a place to hole-up during a zombie outbreak. It is somewhere I’d want to be–properly barricaded, anyway. And they did a pretty good job with that, so if it wasn’t for unwanted attention from other survivors, it could have been great. Which, ps, I loved–I love a good ‘the monsters are US’ trope in a monster movie.

I liked this film. I’d recommend this film. It reminds me more of modern zombie films than Night does, so I’d even suggest it over Night if a person came to me with a love for something like The Walking Dead as their jumping off point. So, with all that said – Andy …

Andy: Why are the walls melting? And wh… *thud*

Lilly: … Andy is out, so I’ll wrap us up.

Go, watch, and enjoy!

Halloween III: Season of the Witch; or Happy Happy Halloween, Halloween, Halloween

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Hello and Hallo-welcome to our last edition of Sequel Sunday this Hallowfest, where we see if films can make it through the tricky world of sequels. You join your reviewers, Andy and Lilly, as they pop on their Silver Shamrock masks and settle down in front of the television, reading for a special surprise to be revealed on Halloween.

Today’s film offering: Halloween III: Season of the Witch

Andy: Time to settle in for another Horror History lesson!

The original Halloween, coming out in 1978 was always intended to be the first in a series of movies – but they were going to all be standalone stories with different plots and characters – all set around Halloween. And so, in 1982, Season of the Witch came out, completely unrelated to Michael Myers or Laurie or Haddonfield.

There was a tiny problem though, and that problem was called Halloween II.

Trouble is, the first movie had been so mind blowingly successful, and creative executives so pathologically averse to risk, that it was inevitable that the white-faced boiler-suited asylum escapee would be back – and as a result, the Halloween franchise is now indelibly linked to Mr. Myers et al. Halloween IV: The Return of Michael Myers banged the final nail into that coffin, and as a result Season of the Witch is one of the weirdest curios around – a member of a franchise which, well, isn’t.

So what is it about? Well, the story (penned by Nigel Kneale who also penned Quatermass be still my beating heart) concerns a slightly shady company in the business of selling children Halloween masks, and a grand conspiracy to do with ancient witchcraft…

Lilly: Where’s Michael Myer’s, again?

No, but seriously, why did this film have to find itself in the Halloween franchise? A tale with genuinely spooky elements and creepy conspiracies and scary stuff, Season of the Witch could have been a contender, yet it got the short end of the stick as to which franchise it was randomly plopped into. I mean, if it had been thrown into the Sleepaway Camp franchise, who knows how popular it could have been! Who knows!

As a person who is generally creeped out by children in masks, this film takes that fear and just rubs your (non masked) face in it, and does so with a jingle that will stay in your mind forever. I mean, just forever. When I think of the word ‘Halloween’, I think of two songs: ’This is Halloween’ from The Nightmare Before Christmas and the stupid Silver Shamrock commercial jingle. I mean. Effective advertising, but still. Wait. Was this film actually about how advertising can infect your very soul? Wait. Ooooh. Oh, you got me, Halloween III. I see you.

Andy: Ooo deep themes about advertising’s effects on the population. Me like.

Lilly: All joking aside, I enjoyed this film. Not as much as Halloween (a sigh of relief can be heard throughout the land, I know) of course, but it’s not a slasher film, so do you compare them beyond my personal preference? It’s a film about black magic, so maybe you’d be better off comparing it to other films of that ilk, if you must, but if you just look at it as a horror film, straight up, it’s not that bad. It’s got some decent acting, it’s got some spooky plot points, and hey, it scared me.

Andy: Yeah, it’s sort of like a really, really well made TV movie – like those Stephen King adaptations that get churned out every few years, but better. It’s never going to make any top ten lists, for instance, and it’s not the first movie from 1982 I’d recommend (The Thing, obviously), but it has a charm all of its own. Definitely one to file under the ‘cult classic’ category.

Lilly: So, why not give this black sheep of the Halloween family a try? Go, watch, and enjoy!

An American Werewolf in Paris; or Reports of My Lycanthropy Have Been Greatly Exaggerated

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Hello and Hallo-welcome to another Sequel Sunday, where we take a second look at second (and third) films! You join your reviewers, Andy and Lilly, as they pack their bags and brush up on their handy foreign phrases (‘êtes-vous un loup-garou?’ for instance).

Today’s film offering: An American Werewolf in Paris

Andy: Good Lord, there was a lot of crappy movies in the late nineties. We’re probably the only generation that can add the phrase “Thank God” to the end of “They don’t make ‘em like they used to.”

An American Werewolf in London was a fantastic example of something lots of movies try and very few are completely successful at – it was a loving pastiche of its genre, as well as being a very effective member of it. Paris is … less successful. It’s a lot less witty, has fewer likeable characters and a more incoherent plot. It also has literally no connection to the previous film other than the title.

Still, we musn’t be mean to the little darling, I mean, London is one of the greatest werewolf movies ever made, and we didn’t give Alien 3 as much schtick for not being Alien.

Lilly: Actually I liked Alien 3 more than Alien…

Andy: I, uh, well. We’re all entitled to our opinions, I guess.

So, An American Werewolf in Paris concerns three teenage lads on a trip to Paris who discover a secret party for wolfmeat young go getters like them and are respectively devoured, captured by an evil – coven? pack?

Lilly: Pack. They’re like dogs or, hey, wolves, so pack. Or gaggle, because hilarious. Gaggle of werewolves!

Andy: …Pack of werewolves who seem to think that eugenics is a fun and useful idea in modern society and bitten but rescued by the beautiful but mysterious Serafine, herself a werewolf but not associated with the werewolves who are also Nazis.

Lilly: Yeah, #notallwerewolves.

Paris is not a film about the torturous adjusting to the monster inside so much as a ‘Yes, they are also Nazi-like, keep up!’ action thriller type film. There is little subtlety, and what actual exploration there is of the lycanthropy of this film is thrown into maybe five minutes of movie science-ing (which, for those of you just tuning in, I hate). The film seems more concerned with really making the point that not all werewolves are dangerous if they take precautions and take their medication–man, so many metaphors there. So many. Can we have a reboot of werewolf films as a thing? We can all apologize for 2010’s The Wolfman and just embrace all the things being a werewolf can symbolize. Come on!

The two main problems with Paris were that, as Andy mentioned, I didn’t really like anyone involved and the film didn’t really grab me. I mean, for starters, screw you, Andy (from the film, main character was called Andy, to be clear), maybe she doesn’t want your help, that poor sad French woman, but that is her business. What she chooses to do with her body is her business! Even in a film where the once a month her body turns on her schtick is in play! Second of all, the guys were going around, illegally jumping off buildings for fun, and that just rubs me the wrong way. Then there was the throw backs to London like the dead bothering the living after being killed by a werewolf that only served to remind me of a better film. Then there was the fact that it felt like a made for tv movie with the low quality it had, but a tv movie made for a channel that showed breasts.

Andy: Yeah, it’s just not very good.

Lilly: There you have it, ladies and gents. Our first non-go, watch enjoy of the year! Don’t bother. Just. Watch another werewolf film. Go watch Ginger Snaps or Teen Wolf. Or, actually, watch An American Werewolf in London because that is an enjoyable, interesting film to enjoy!

Jaws 2; or Why is Anyone Still Swimming in the Ocean?

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Hello and Hallo-welcome to another edition of Sequel Sundays, where the story continues when sometimes, it ought to have ended! You join your reviewers, Andy and Lilly, as they put on their water wings and wade out into the peaceful, blood-soaked waters of Amity Island.

Today’s film offering: Jaws 2

Lilly: Welcome back to Amity Island, Jaws lovers! Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water because you forgot the grisly shark deaths from a few years ago–nope, this island is a magnet for big murder sharks so just stop swimming at the beach already! Jaws 2 takes place a few years after the events of Jaws, and the Amity Island tourist bureau clearly had been working hard, because everyone seemed to have forgotten about the messy shark deaths, including that of a little boy. I mean, sure, there had never been deaths of that multitude at Amity beaches before, but whatever, stop being so ridiculous about it, Brody!

And oh yes, we are joined by Jaws survivor/final guy (though not really since Hooper makes it), Police Chief Martin Brody! After the traumatising events of the first film, the poor man stuck around to attempt once more to get that peace and quiet he had hoped for in this post in the middle of nowhere tourist country. Not that he enjoys the water any more than before, and in fact, seems to openly despise it. If Jaws was the story of a shark menacing an island of people, Jaws 2 is the story of the ghost of that shark tormenting one of the residents while a real shark gets up to murdery mischief, the town council thinking it all a case of the Brody who cried shark.

Andy: Except of course there is an actual shark running around out there, with the gimmick that this time it’s had half its face burned off due to an incident early in the film involving a woman basically setting herself on fire with a gas can. This is worth watching in a so-bad-it’s-good kind of way – gone are the measured cadences of Spielberg’s attacks. Instead we have … this.

Lilly: The film is taken a step further when Brody’s son, now grown up into the teenage rebellion stage where we all went out into waters where a shark had attacked us and killed a man in front of us to spite our father, right? Parents just don’t understand! Mike decides to take some friends (and his little brother) out on boats to hang out, because why not! It’s not like there is a recent case of a murder shark around these parts, right? Wait. Opposite.

Andy: Yeah, there’s a definite skew towards the younger folks here. Gone are the three middle-aged men out re-enacting Moby Dick; instead we have a group of teenagers trapped on a sort-of floating raft of their boats. It seems kinda harsh to say the latter group is less well-characterised than the former – Quint, Hooper and Brody being three of the most fully realised characters in, well, anything – but they aren’t really characterised at all, so when some of them inevitably get sharked, it’s more like the shark is a slasher villain than the strange, existential threat of the first.

Lilly: Jaws 2 is a film which not only continues the story of Amity Island, but explores what happens to characters after the horror film is over. Another shark is introduced, but this shark seems so much worse due to not just the upped ante of a sequel but also because Brody’s clear PTSD ramps up the tension, so scenes where even the audience knows it isn’t a shark but in Brody’s imagination are proven to be scary because we see Brody suffering in a way that is almost too real. Brody is a very real character in this film.

Andy: He is. He’s probably the only one, though. Even returning characters, like his wife and sons or the town mayor (wait, how did he get re-elected?) don’t really move past their characterisations in the first movie.

Lilly: Then we also see the horror of a town that lives off tourism. What do you do in the position of the town council of Amity Island, where you’ve clearly got a shark problem but you also don’t want to drive away money that will help your people survive through a long winter? Well, in Jaws 2, maybe the council goes too far with their denial and treatment of the shark issue as nothing, but seriously, it’s a scary thought. How do you risk the town’s tourist money without definite proof that it will save lives? A blurry photo of a shark from a site of a known shark attack of the past doesn’t really cut it when livelihoods are at risk. Shark attack politics! I love it!

Andy: Despite what you might have heard it’s not horrible, but it’s not very good either. It’s not that it doesn’t measure up to the first one – almost nothing does – it’s like it’s on a completely different scale. And this is coming from the guy who defended Alien 3 at length a few weeks ago – if my love for that and my ambivalence for this is any kind of scale to judge whether you should see this by, then use it.

Lilly: I definitely recommend it if you like monster shark films–if you are watching Sharknado, you should definitely give this a try. While you get all the fun of a monster shark, attacking sexy teens and doing general menacing, you also get a little peek into the mind of someone who survived such a thing, and see how sometimes, no matter what you do to save your town, it still doesn’t beat out small town politics for levels of horror. Go, watch, enjoy!

Blade 2; or Ice Skating Up Hill A Second Time

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Hello and Hallo-welcome to another edition of Sequel Sundays, where we give second (and third) films second chances. You join your reviewers, Andy and Lilly, as they get their sunglasses and suit up in leather for an adventure with a certain hunter.

Today’s film offering: Blade II

Lilly: For those of you who only know Wesley Snipes from his brilliant role of Noxeema Jackson in To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything, Julie Newmar (which was the case for me), the Blade films are based off comics starring vampire hunting Blade, a human with vampire traits (or a “daywalker”) that hunts vampires. The first film features Blade storming about the place, making life difficult for any vampires that think they can get one by him.

Andy: It helps that the vampires in the Blade universe are ridiculously vulnerable to just about everything.

Lilly: Some mother effers are always trying to ice skate uphill, or so the ever-wise vampire hating Blade quoted in the first film, and the second film carries on in the same vein. After getting rid of a vampire that had been pesky to the vampire higher ups, Blade is asked to step in by the monarchy (of the vampire world) to help with a pest control problem.

Andy: Of course, in the first film, it appeared like the vampires were ruled by a council of Elders, which raises interesting questions about who is actually in charge of vampires. Also, can you have a nation without any land? Genuine question.

Lilly: Anyway, we end up with Blade hunting a super vampire with a super vampire disease that infects those bitten and turns them into Reapers, or vampires wrapped around a parasite that needs blood (and will feed off the host if it can’t get it from an outside source).  Why not! He joins a team of vampires who have been training for This Day by training to hunt him–fun!

Andy: The scene where they break into his base to get him to join them has some of the most hilariously bad CGI I have ever seen (seriously guys, just green screen or something. Never, ever do this) but it’s made up for by Blade’s introduction to the team. He’s not much of an inspirational leader, but the way he gets a bunch of bloodthirsty psychos who hate his guts to follow his orders is really, really funny.

Lilly: Blade II was directed by Guillermo del Toro, and boy does it ever show. Whimsically gross death scenes and vampire biology that comes to be the focus of his Strain series, you see touches of del Toro from the creature design to the fact that Ron Perlmen is in it. And let’s talk about those creatures! Unique Reapers with a design more like a parasitic organism than any vampires going today, and the actual vampires are like 90s rave wet dreams in leather with fierce gold eyes. The characters of Blade II are creative right down to the fact that the vampire Lord has blue blood. Ha! Get it?

Andy: AND he looks like the vampire from Cronos, which is kinda cool.

Lilly: As vampire films go, this is a lot in line with the Underworld series, wherein they are action films that feature vampires. Blade II has vampire politics (purebloods and half breeds, etc.), a sub-plot of power struggles within the rank of a unit, and then you suddenly find yourself in a conspiracy plot to boot. Then there is all the stuff with Whistler, an old ally Blade was hunting at the beginning of the film who needs to have one eye on him at all times in case the torture he underwent left him a bit undependable. It’s engaging, and treated like a serious thriller, not just a CGI fest with vampires that has a bit of plot.

Andy: Oh yes. It’s almost like this is a dry run for the other big del Toro superhero Hellboy. There’s a real style to the whole thing that makes it cool, bt a very different kind of cool from the first film.

There are, however, some problems.

Lilly: Surprise!

Andy: The bad CGI I’ve already mentioned – this is not a problem that really goes away at any point, as many fight scenes feature this ‘enhancement’.

Lilly: An ‘enhancement’ which has CGI Blade moving a bit like the guests at your park in Roller Coaster Tycoon when you pick them up, all weird movement and limbs not quite swaying right.

Andy: Another is that while the fight scenes are fun, there are a few moments where you just think to yourself “Wait a minute – did he just suplex that guy?” Wrestling moves are purposely designed to be big, flashy and not actually crippling. When you’re supposedly fighting for your life, a different approach may be in order.

Lilly: I smelt what Blade was cookin’, is all I’m saying.

Andy: However, it is fun, and a worthy companion to the first film and an interesting alleyway of Guillermo del Toro’s career.

Lilly: Absolutely. I’d give it a chance if you are into horror action films, though watching Blade first is definitely needed. Unlike some sequels, there are a good few tie-ins in this one that could stand the background information. So, watch both! Heck, throw in Blade: Trinity and have yourself an evening in with Wesley. Why not. Enjoy!

 

Alien 3 Assembly Cut; Or This is Rumor Control, Here are the Facts!

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Hello and Hallo-welcome to our first Sunday review, where we’ve decided to give second chances to second (and third and fourth) films in franchises–it’s Sequel Sundays! You join your reviewers, Andy and Lilly, who have lived to see themselves through to the third installation in the Hallowfest series, but who knows if this year will be their last?

Today’s film offering: Alien 3 (Assembly Cut)

Lilly: I want to go on record here that I will never stop calling this film Alien Cubed. Ever. Just getting that out right away. Proceed.

Andy: Probably sporting the most troubled production, well, ever, and a director who has officially disowned it, this film is not likely to be on too many people’s radars. Which is a shame, because the Assembly Cut is really rather good.

After the end of Aliens, where it seemed the threat had been ended through a big explosion and fisticuffs with a walking forklift, it seemed that our intrepid survivors were headed home. Alas, it was not to be, and after a pretty brutal crash landing we are left with two dead, a smashed up android and Ripley, who’s getting pretty tired of this shit. Oh, and a facehugger, which attaches itself to the nearest ox.

Lilly: Quick note: since we’ll be looking at sequels of films on Sundays, there will be no apologies made for spoilers of the films that came before–I, for one, will not take responsibility for what order you watch the films in, but if you don’t want to be spoiled for the films that came before, don’t read a review of the film that came after!

Andy: Right. Unfortunately for Ripley, she’s crashed onto a prison planet filled with dangerous criminals, but it’s OK, because they’ve found God and have taken an oath of celibacy and quiet reflection, one that must be pretty easy to maintain on a planet where your choices for a good time are crazy Paul McGann or the nearest ox.

Lilly: Yeah, I’m pretty sure an oath of celibacy on a prison planet where there is no chance of sex for all the hereosexual menfolk isn’t an oath so much as a “shrug, guess we aren’t getting any” sort of movement. But I guess fine, whatever, pat on the back all ‘round, guys, for not having sex. Now, if you’ll pardon me, I have to go and fetch my eyes as they rolled clean out of my head there.

Andy: Still, things could be worse. I mean there could be an alien running aro… bugger. And Ripley now has to convince a skeptical superintendent, a kindly doctor and an apocalyptic religious leader that it’s going to start knocking off the brothers.

(As a side note, the scene where she tries to convince the super is one of my favourite scenes in any of the Alien movies, mainly for his incredulous description: “Let me see if I have this correct, Lieutenant – it’s an 8-foot creature of some kind with acid for blood, and it arrived on your spaceship. It kills on sight, and is generally unpleasant.”)

So why do I like this one so much? At the risk of getting all literary on a fairly lighthearted review blog, this one has such awesome themes. Alien has had entire books written on the psychosexual smorgasboard it presents–

Lilly: Ugh, ew.

Andy: –but one of the weaknesses of Aliens is a slightly overdone ‘Vietnam was a bad idea’ motif and ultimately a reaffirmation of the Reagan-era idea of the nuclear family. Blech.

Lilly: But at least there were less genitals worked into the set design. Ew, I say again.

Andy: Alien 3 though takes things in a very different direction. Most of the sexual themes and militarism are gone, and instead we are placed in a lead foundry apocalyptic nightmare with a doomsday cult who discover that the Devil isn’t merely a metaphysical threat to the soul, but an active threat that will grab you, eviscerate you, burn you. The Beast is Out There indeed. How cool is that?

Lilly: Well, there is still sexual themes–what with Ripley nearly getting raped and the celibacy oath being a plot point. Maybe, for the sake of my own sanity, I can accept that these elements were put in to really drive home the base nature of human beings–eat and screw–versus the instinct of kill, kill, kill the alien had. While the men were busy eyeing Ripley up, the alien was merrily carrying on with its menacing tasks of procreating via parasitic acts and killing stuff.

Meanwhile, can we talk about the design of the prison system in the future? Rehabilitation is clearly out the window, as they are obviously just removing all ability to commit crime and that’s it. Then it is labour for you! How is it that we have AI like Bishop walking around, but the criminal justice system seems to have gone backwards? It’s like they thought ‘Hey, a prison colony worked for Australia, sooo…’  So many questions. But you were talking about how cool it was?

Andy: It helps that so many of the cast are so charismatic. I’ve expressed my love for the Superintendent Andrews already – add to that a cheerfully foul mouthed Morse, brooding cult leader Dillon and a calm doctor played by Charles Dance of all people, and this is a wonderfully memorable group – and this is before we mention the poor crazy bastard whose response to the alien is to start worshipping it.

Lilly: I did enjoy the characters of this film far more than Aliens (save Bishop, who is my Alien franchise MVP, honestly)…

Andy: (And one of the very, very small number of reasons to watch Alien vs Predator.)

Lilly: …but that might come down to the fact that they weren’t all soldiers or a child. That, and one, as mentioned, was played by Charles Dance. And then there was the guy from Wayne’s World. I mean, it was a cast of ‘oh that guy!’s which I can get behind. On top of that, they also seemed to have stuff going on besides either the alien attack or being a soldier, like actual plot you could sink your teeth into, which I enjoyed.

However. Can we talk about the climax scene? The last attempt at ridding themselves of that turbulent alien down in the foundry? It lasted two days, or so it felt, and it was basically running, screaming, and everything was brown. I have a real problem in horror films (or action films, for that matter) when the attempt to make the energy the characters are feeling translate into the camera work, which leads to blurry nonsense and loud noises. We were already down to a few brothers (it’s not a spoiler to say some died, this is an Alien film, deal with it) that were harder to tell apart, and so it lead to not a few moments where I had to work out which one just survived that near miss, and if everything was going according to plan or not. And then, when it was finally over…it wasn’t over. There was another climax with a surprise guest to the prison colony. Just. Stop. Stop film. I’m done. I’d like to get off now, please. 

Andy: Even if Hicks and Newt will always hold a special place in your heart, you need to watch or rewatch this movie in it’s Assembly Cut form. You may not love it as much as I do, but I’m sure you’ll like it a lot more than you expect.

Lilly: As much as I like to pick holes in it, I actually really enjoyed this film, too. Moreso, even, than Alien. Gasp, I know! From the strangely adorable/hilarious xenomorph that is featured in it to the budding friendship/romance/whatever between Ripley and Charles Dance, I found myself happy to be horrified by this one. So even if it is going to be retconned the heck out of come the next film in the Alien series, give it a shot. You might be surprised.