It’s another week’s worth of horror, fantasy, and science fiction film reviews at Cinefantastique’s Black Hole Ultra-Lounge Podcast. In episode 5:4.2, Steve Biodrowski exorcises HERE COMES THE DEVIL, a Video on Demand opus from writer-director Adrián García Bogliano; Dan Persons stakes Dario Argento’s DRACULA, the Italian filmmaker’s eccentric variation on Bram Stokers immortal vampire; and Lawrence French recalls THE COMEDY OF TERRORS, the Gothic-themed spoof starring Vincent Price, Peter Lorre, Basil Rathbone, and Boris Karloff.
Also included is the usual rundown of the week’s home video reviews, including FRANKENSTEIN CREATED WOMAN (1967) and DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE (1922). And don’t forget: after all the reviews are done, stick around for the “after-show” – in which the recording software continues to capture the musings of the three podcasters as they try to figure out whether the giant praying mantis in Argento’s DRACULA is related to the bee in Universal Pictures’ classic black-and-white version of DRACULA (1931).
If you’re a card-carrying soldier in the self-proclaimed “Hatchet Army,” you already know whether you want to see this movie; in fact, you probably already have seen this move. But if you never enlisted, or if you took an honorable discharge after HATCHET II, you may be sitting on the sidelines and wondering whether to take another tour of duty around the swamp haunted by Victor Crowley (Kane Hodder). Well, as someone who defected because of the disappointing sequel,* I can say it’s time to rejoin the ranks. HATCHET III is almost as much gleefully gory fun as the original – a comedy-horror hybrid that elicits screams of laughter and disgust in equal measure, sometimes simultaneously.
Like HATCHET II (2010), HATCHET III is pitched to the fans who discovered the franchise with the original HATCHET (2006) – a came-out-of-nowhere sleeper hit on the festival circuit that never reached the wider audience it deserved. The problem with HATCHET II is that writer-director Adam Green over-enthusiastically pandered to the gore-hounds who loved the unrated mayhem the first time around; in the process, the delightfully tongue-in-cheek tone of the original degraded into dispiriting camp. HATCHET III ditches the camp and resurrects the clever comedy, adding numerous nods and winks that will only be recognized by those who have seen the previous films.**
Though directed this time by B.J. McConnell (Green is back as writer and producer), HATCHET III picks up seamlessly from its predecessor, with Marybeth (Danielle Harris) punching Victor Crowley’s ticket and marching into the local police station with his scalp. Unfortunately, Crowley is no mere madman but some kind of eternally resurrecting monster, who is soon decimating the crews sent to tag the bodies leftover from the previous films. A local reporter (Caroline Williams), who destroyed her reputation by hyping the legend of Victor Crowley legend, knows a way to end the curse (which has nothing to do with the method in HATCHET II – but who’s keeping track?) Reluctantly, Marybeth agrees to help; her family connection with one of the men responsible for Crowley’s death – and thus his afterlife – makes her the only one who return Crowley to the peace of the grave.
Unlike the previous sequel, HATCHET III avoids getting bogged down in back story, and script doesn’t waste a lot of time getting another crowd of victims into the swamp. Once all the fish are in the barrel, director McDonnell keeps the action popping like a series of burst blood vessels as Crowley dissects his victims in a series of imaginatively gruesome ways.
If that sounds a little too hardcore for viewers with little thirst for movie blood, take note: the copious carnage is too outrageous to be regarded seriously; the aesthetic of violence is almost diametrically opposed to that of the recent V/H/S 2, whose crimson splatter paints a picture far more grim and depressing. Achieved with old-fashioned prosthetics and geysers of red-tinted water, the kills in HATCHET III are scary fun in a popcorn-movie kind of way that seems almost quaint in this era of torture porn and mumblegore.
At times, the script is a little too lackadaisical in its “only a movie” approach. Green’s script cannot decide whether local law enforcement is a police department or a sheriff’s department (there is a difference), and the question of jurisdictional authority is ignored when a SWAT team (led by Derek Mears as Hawes) shows up and takes over.
We’re simply not supposed to care, because we all know the real reason for the SWAT team’s presence is to shoe-horn Mears into the movie. The actor played Jason Voorhees in the recent remake of FRIDAY THE 13TH (200) – a role that Hodder played several times in the 1990s – and you can bet that HATCHET III will serve up a scene in which the two former Jasons go mano-a-mano. Unfortunately, the result turns out to be an even bigger anticlimax than the confrontation between Hodder and former Leatherface R.A. Mihailoff in HATCHER II.
Performances are mostly good, but variable. Galligan turns out to be a capable character actor, and it’s nice to see Williams (of THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE 2) on screen again, but some of the comic relief supporting players are stiff (every horror film needs its Private Hudson, but not every actor can pull it off like Bill Paxton in ALIENS).
As for the returning cast: Playing his third character in three films, Parry Shen regains some of the humor he lost in Part 2. With no more of the previous films’ flashbacks, Hodder’s dual role (as Victor Crowley and Victor’s grieving father) has been reduced to one; fortunately, no one can project aggressive body language through layers of makeup better than Hodder. As returning heroine Marybeth, Harris is a bit one-note, but the script gives her only one note to play (essentially, “f-ck you!”). At least Green avoids inserting the ostentatiously “dramatic” scenes from HATCHET II, which pushed Harris and Hodder beyond the limits of what they could achieve within the context of a genre film (no amount of emoting can sell emotions in a film that achieves coitus interruptus by means of decapitation).
HATCHET III manages to deliver another rousing finale that at least seems to break with tradition by offering an apparently definitive death for its mon-star. But that’s the nice thing about the film: along with the expected genre elements, there are a few surprises, too – a “dead meat” character who survives, a death that takes place mostly off-screen (leaving the violence if not the outcome in our imagination). The film may not win many new converts to the Hatchet Army, but it should bring back any troops who went AWOL.
[rating=3] On the CFQ Review Scale of zero to five stars, a moderate recommendation
Note: HATCHET III is currently in limited theatrical engagements around the country. The film is simultaneously available via Video on Demand. Click here to rent it now. FOOTNOTES:
*As far as I’m concerned, HATCHET II is a dishonorable discharge – of putrescent decay.
**In case your memory is a little fuzzy, here is a sampler of inside jokes in HATCHER III:
After playing victims in the first two films, Parry Shen appears as yet a third character, who objects to a crime-scene co-worker’s suggestion that he resembles one of the bodies (“All Asians look alike to you!). Meanwhile, we in the audience wonder whether Shen will go zero-for-three in the survival department.
A brief, hysterical cameo by David Joel Moore finally ties up the loose end of what happens to Ben after the abrupt ending of HATCHET.
In a truly great meta-moment, the local sheriff dismisses an account of the events of the first two film for being illogical, incredible, and inconsistent, while a local drunk (played by screenwriter Green, with a look of dismay) listens from an adjoining cell. The sequence is even funnier when you note that the sheriff is played by Zach Galligan, who appeared GREMLINS and GREMLINS 2; in the later, his character’s attempt to explain the events of the former met with similar ridicule from skeptical listeners.
HATCHET III (Dark Sky Films: theatrical and Video on Demand release on June 14, 2013). Written by Adam Green. Directed by B.J. McDonnell. Cast: Danielle Harris, Kane Hodder, Zach Galligan, Caroline Williams, Cody Blue Snider, Derek Mears, Robert Diago DoQui, Parry Shen, Sid Haig.
Dark Sky Films gives limited theatrical exposure, concurrent with a Video on Demand, to this sequel from Ariescope. Adam Green, creator of the franchise, is back as writer-producer, but this time he has handed the directorial reigns over to BJ McDonell. The cast includes Danielle Harris (HALLOWEEN 4 and 5) as Marybeth and Kane Hodder (Jason in FRIDAY THE 13TH VII, etc) as Victor Crowley, along with Zach Galligan (GREMLINS), Caroline Williams (THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE 2), and Derek Mears (Jason in the remake of FRIDAY THE 13TH).
HATCHET III makes its premiere in Hollywood at the Egyptian Theatre on June 11, with cast and crew in attendance. Theatrical engagements being on June 14 in New York, Los Angeles, Denver, Columbus, and Kansas City.
E! Online brought some details about the planned BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER feature film from Warner Brothers and Atlas Entertainment. This project is going ahead without Joss Whedon or Sarah Michelle Gellar.
DARK KNIGHT producer Charles Roven is quoted as saying:
“There is an active fan base eagerly awaiting this character’s return to the big screen. Details of the film are being kept under wraps, but I can say while this is not your high-school Buffy, she’ll be just as witty, tough, and sexy as we all remember her to be.”
According to Warner Brothers, Roven, Steve Alexander (GET SMART), Doug Davison and Roy Lee (HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON) will be producing the new BUFFY feature film,and Whit Anderson, an actress (credited as Whitney Anderson) said to be a Buffy fan, will write the screenplay.
E! asked Joss Whedon for his reactions, and he replied in humorous fashion.
“… My thoughts on the announcement of Buffy the cinema film. This is a sad, sad reflection on our times, when people must feed off the carcasses of beloved stories from their youths—just because they can’t think of an original idea of their own, like I did with my AVENGERS idea that I made up myself.
Obviously I have strong, mixed emotions about something like this. My first reaction upon hearing who was writing it was, “Whit Stillman AND Wes Anderson? This is gonna be the most sardonically adorable movie EVER.”
Apparently. I was misinformed. Then I thought, “I’ll make a mint! This is worth more than all my TOY STORY residuals combined!” Apparently, I am seldom informed of anything. And possibly a little slow. But seriously, are vampires even popular any more?
I always hoped that Buffy would live on even after my death. But, you know, AFTER. I don’t love the idea of my creation in other hands, but I’m also well aware that many more hands than mine went into making that show what it was. And there is no legal grounds for doing anything other than sighing audibly. I can’t wish people who are passionate about my little myth ill.
I can, however, take this time to announce that I’m making a Batman movie. Because there’s a franchise that truly needs updating. So look for The Dark Knight Rises Way Earlier Than That Other One And Also More Cheaply And In Toronto, rebooting into a theater near you.
Leave me to my pain!
Sincerely, Joss Whedon “
The re-boot film is apparently based on the original 1992 BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER, starring Kristy Swanson as a rather less intelligent-seeming cheerleader-turned-Slayer. Joss Whedon also wrote that film, but doesn’t hold the rights.
Cinematical reports that Dan Akroyd is currently at work on the script for GHOSTBUSTERS 3. Bill Murray had mentioned in an interview earlier this year that he had little faith in the script submitted by YEAR ONE writers Gene Stupnitsky and Lee Eisenberg (writer/producers on the TV hit, THE OFFICE), due to what he’d heard about the quality of that feature.
Aykroyd defending Stupitsky and Eisenberg’s draft:
“I think he was concerned that the writing on GHOSTBUSTERS 3 by these guys would not be up to standard, but I can tell you firsthand, I’m working on the script now and those two—Stupnitsky and Eisenberg—wrote Bill the comic role of a lifetime, and the new Ghostbusters and the old are all well represented in it…we have a strong first draft that Harold (Ramis) and I will take back, and I’m very excited about working on it.”
Since Akroyd and Harold Ramis wrote the script to the 1984 original and the `89 sequel, this could be a good sign. Talking about why the project is still viable and how his character (Dr. Raymond Stantz) relates to the new film, he had the following to say.
“Look, Hollywood is in love with any kind of nostalgia that can prove itself to be commercial—but it has to evolve. Now, my character’s eyesight is shot, I got a bad knee, a bad hip. I can’t drive that Caddy anymore or lift that Psychotron Accelerator anymore—it’s too heavy. We need young legs, new minds, new Ghostbusters; so I’m in essence passing the torch to the new regime, and you know what? That’s totally okay with me.”
According to Deadline.com, NBC has signed a deal for ZOMBIES Vs. VAMPIRES, described as a “fun buddy cop procedural”.
One of the cops will secretly be a vampire, and his/her partner are both assigned to a unit that handles zombie crimes. You see, being a zombie is just a condition that can be controlled with the proper medication, and those afflicted can be part of normal society if they stay on their meds.
The project comes from Austin Winsberg, who created and produced the John Stamos starring sitcom JAKE IN PROGRESS. Warner Brothers Television and McG’s Wonderland Productions are developing the show. Winsberg, McG and Peter Johnson will serve as executive producers.
Sounds more like something for SyFy or maybe The CW — but what do I know? There was a movie called VAMPIRES Vs. ZOMBIES (aka Carmilla, the Lesbian Vampire 2004). I’ve heard that was unintentionally funny, but I hasten to say that I’m sure there’s no relation. Photo: Night of the Living Dead
In an interview at GQ, actor Bill Murray gives an explanation of why there’s been no real movement on the long-promised GHOSTBUSTERS 3.
“It’s all a bunch of crock. It’s a crock. There was a story—and I gotta be careful here, I don’t want to hurt someone’s feelings. When I hurt someone’s feelings, I really want to hurt them. [laughs] Harold Ramis said, Oh, I’ve got these guys, they write on THE OFFICE, and they’re really funny. They’re going to write the next GHOSTBUSTERS. And they had just written this movie that he had directed… YEAR ONE.
Well, I never went to see YEAR ONE, but people who did, including other Ghostbusters, said it was one of the worst things they had ever seen in their lives. So that dream just vaporized. That was gone.
But it’s the studio that really wants this thing. It’s a franchise. It’s a franchise, and they made a whole lot of money on Ghostbusters.”
Murray also confirmed his ghostly appearance in the proposed film:
“Well, I hadn’t wanted to do the movie. They kept asking, and I kept saying no. So once upon a time I said, just joking: “If you kill me off in the first reel, then fine, I’ll do it.” And then supposedly they came up with an idea where they kill me off and I was a ghost in the movie. Kinda clever, really.”
Read the entire wide-ranging interview at the link above.
It’s always possible that GHOSTBUSTERS 3 will materialize someday, but at the moment, it doesn’t look like that will be anytime soon.
Dear God in heaven, what have I done to myself?! I just threw away two precious hours of life watching a “horror comedy” (at least they tell me it is so) called TRANSYLMANIA. I feel like…well, doing what three dopey characters do ad nauseum during one particular obnoxious, uh, vomit scene. I also wanna take a shower. And if you’re older than ten and smarter than two, I’d be willing to bet dollars to doughnuts that you would feel just about the same.
TRANSYLMANIA’S DVD back sheet – and I’m referring to the newly released “unrated” version – states that the childish schlock fest clocks in at ninety-seven minutes, but the trusty ole DVD player rang it up at one hour and thirty-two minutes. No matter, I suppose, because regardless of the actual time count, the movie felt as if it would never end.
Before dumping any further, however, let me point out that TRANSYLMANIA did have its pluses. I can tell you that most of its cast did what it could with what was available and did so earnestly. I don’t know if I’da had the cojones to do some of the mind-numbing tricks a few were asked to do. I use the word ‘tricks’ because it felt as if some of those poor folks were doing little more than whoring themselves, especially those who had to take off most of their clothes and prance around for no other genuine reason than to titillate the more sophomoric (can I change that to freshmoric?) in the audience. The directors (the Hillenbrand brothers, who are best known for National Lampoon’s DORM DAZE and DORM DAZE 2) would tell us no, there was a ritualistic reason for what they were doing, yada-yada-yada. Bull crap! The movie is a frat boy mentality production if ever there was one, and if anything else was truly the intent, you blew it, kids.
Oh, wait, I’m sorry, I was supposed to be pointing out the film’s more positive moments. Uh, where was I? Oh, yeah, the actors. Eh, that’s about all I can say there. The directors, however, go out of their way to praise their actors, especially two of them (Oren Skoog and Jennifer Lyons), who have to play two different characters each. The director’s audio commentary emphasizes Skoog and Lyons’ strong talent in changing so many details of posture, voice/accent, facial expressions, and movement in general. I say, “Hey, that’s what actors are paid to do.” It should be part of their training. Any actor who can’t rise to such challenges to an affective degree ain’t worth their salt.
Oh, jeez, there I go again, dumping in the middle of pointing out pluses. Think positive. Thiiiiink positive. All right, let’s see, what else? They actually shot the film on location; that was kind of cool.
Okay, I can also state that there was some pretty decent cinematography by Viorel Sergovici. In fact, Mr. Sergovici probably brought more to the production than most. Several shots had a lighting scheme that you could certainly tell took thought and work. Once in a while there was a nicely framed shot as well, evoking memories of more entertaining (horror) films from the past.
Oh, and the editor, Dave O’Brien, didn’t allow shots to linger on too long for the most part. He cut things in a manner that kept the momentum of a given scene bouncing along. The girls were light on the eyes too, but that there be about it, ladies and gents.
Let’s get to the plot. It can be wrapped up simply by saying a group of college kids go to Romania for a semester of…education…and wind up fighting vampires. I can just hear the pitch now: “It’ll be great! It’s ANIMAL HOUSE meets YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN meets VAN HELSING! It can’t fail!”
Speaking of YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN, there’s one particularly obvious and irritating riff (or homage, as the directors would put it) on that brilliant Mel Brooks movie. Anyone who remembers the film will recall how the horses would whinny every time a character mentioned the name of the spooky castle servant Frau Blucher. It was a wonderful joke that Brooks and team built as the film went on. In TRANSYLMANIA, the Hillenbrands decided they’d do the same thing, but this time the horses…well, fart whenever someone mentions the name of the university these kids are going to attend. And it’s handled as nothing more than a silly throw away joke – not that it deserved to be handled any other way.
If that doesn’t give you an idea as to where this movie is coming from, then I’m not sure what would. The Hillenbrands would say that what they were going for overall was a Molierean or Shakespearean farce. Excuse me? What? Um, maybe a viewer can see the kernels of the ideas from which they wanted to work – and from whence they ripped them off – and the thing is a farce, all right, but there it ends, folks.
Nonetheless, in commentaries, the co-directors more than once reference influences such as Shakespeare, SUNDAY IN THE PARK WITH GEORGE, Danny Kay, and even THE CABINET OF DR. CALIGARI. For younger filmmakers, they do know a bit about film and stage history, but in their commentary it’s almost as if they’re still smarting from the bashing TRANSYLMANIA received at the box-office, not to mention most reviewers, and are trying to prove that they do have some sort of artistic intellect and that there was purpose behind their pranks. Well, they may not be stupid, but their movie sure is. I will say that to listen to them speak sincerely about their influences and what they were attempting was rather fascinating, given the essence of what their project ultimately is.
It’s astounding to me, sometimes, how a picture like this gets green-lit when it’s so difficult for most scripts – good ones – to get anywhere in Hollywood. And it’s a bit baffling that a seasoned producer would look at such a project as this and say to him or herself, “I think we’ve got a solid foundation for a hit. Yes indeedy, folks’ll dig it, and we’ll pull in some capital bucks.”
Now, just in case I left any doubt in your mind as to whether I liked TRANSYLMANIA or not, let me be perfectly clear: hell no! And unless you have no decent sense of taste and are simply dying to see the return of some of the DORM DAZE characters, then those two plus precious hours you lose in watching this piece of !&$#@ after reading this ‘honest and objective’ review are your own damn fault.
Okey-dokey, in happy conclusion, I’ll tell you that the special features on the DVD – which is where this movie should’ve wound up from the start – include a commentary by the directors and actors that comes off like a bunch of pals laughing at things only they think are a hoot while they reminisce about what fun they had making their home movies. There is also an alternate opening and ending, deleted and extended scenes, all with commentary (just in case you didn’t already get your fill watching the movie), a gag-blooper reel that’s every bit as unentertaining as the film itself, a behind-the-scenes piece that’s little more than an extended trailer, and then there is an official trailer, and some previews for a few other movies.
Oh, but back to that gag reel for a moment – at one point actress Natalie Garza (who plays straight-laced Lia) is asked to look or turn her head right. She has to stop and think seriously, then ask herself which way is her right. Now, I don’t want to slam on Ms. Garza; after all, maybe she was debating between her right and stage right. Or maybe she’d been working fifteen hours with nary a break and was getting punchy. The point is that the moment of questioning seemed very apropos to me. I couldn’t help thinking that the only people who should get a bang out of this thing are those who can barely tell their left from their right. Hey, but no offense meant to the schlock lovers out there. Look, it’s not enough to be inspired by iconic films or entertainers, and then laugh at – and also try to justify – your own sense of cleverness over what you’ve just done. There is a reason why icons are what they are and crackpot entities like TRANSYLMANIA are what they are. No, it’s not enough to shout “I’m doing this with purpose, with thought! Hear me roar!” The makers of TRANSYLMANIA cobble together elements from this or that (even Busby Berkeley musicals for cryin’ out loud!) and think that it’ll make a great stew. But in the end it’s just glop. TRANSYLMANIA (Film Rock/Hill & Brand Entertainment/Full Circle Releasing/Sony Pictures: theatrical release, December 2010; DVD release April 2010; 97+ min.) Directed by David Hillenbrand and Scott Hillenbrand. Screenplay by Patrick Casey and Worm Miller. Produced by Radu Badica, Sanford Hampton, Viorel Sergovici (Romanian producer). Co-produced by Jenna Johnson and Kim Swartz. Production Design by Jack Cloud. Set Decoration by Karin L. McGaughey. Special Effects supervised by Jor Van Kline. Visual Effects supervised by Eran Barnea. Music Composed by Carlos Villalobos. Edited By Dave O’Brien. Cast: Oren Skoog, Worm Miller, Patrick Casey, Jennifer Lyons, Tony Denman, Patrick Cavanaugh, Paul H. Kim, David Steinberg, Natalie Garza, Nicole Garza, Musetta Vander, James DeBello, Irena A. Hoffman, Claudiu Trandafir, Radu Andrei Daniel, Simon Petric, Dorin Andone, Dorina Lazar, Desiree Malonga, Radita Rosu, Adriana Butoi, and Corneliu Jipa. MPAA Rating: R for crude and sexual content, nudity, drug use, language and some violence.