Category Archives: Uncategorized

Humanoids from the Deep 1980

While on Christmas break, I found myself perusing the archives and found some guilty pleasures that should bring a smile to any genre fan’s face.  Not the best example H-town has to offer, but certainly some of the best times I’ve had spent in front of a television. For what they are, they do the job. 

Motel Hell  1980

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 The least known and recognized is first on the list. A vastly underrated gem that needs rediscovered. This sick, twisted little bugger was played constantly on HBO late night rotations back in the day around 1981 or so is when I saw it and it always struck me how clever it was able to slip in some decent jokes along with the macabre setting.  Even as a kid, I got most of the jokes and knew it was working on slightly altered wavelength. Released right at the zenith of the slasher/maniacs on the loose flicks in 1980, it unleashed sometime terribly original and in need of a good laugh.  We don’t laugh outright at the material, but we do get a near constant smirk at the wit and occasional irony; this film as dark as it’s trappings suggest, could have been a brilliant parody of horror films, but the actors take their jobs very serious and walk that fine line that moves closer to just satire, (yes, there is a difference). This is as close to parody as horror needs to get, it walks that razor thin line. What they do here is brilliance done with affection and tact with their tongues buried deep in their cheeks. B movie western star, Rory Calhoun, one of my Dad’s favorites, chews the scenery as if it were loaded with strawberry bubblegum, he not only enjoys his role, but he injects it and becomes Farmer Vincent who makes his Famous Fritters in the back of his Motel business that doubles as the family farm cultivating their secret ingredient that everyone constantly asks him about. Helping him run “the farm” is his younger sister Ida, played by wacko zeal Nancy Parsons, who would gain iconic fame a few years later as Coach Beulah Ballbreaker in the “Porky’s” series. Sporting pigtails, but appearing about age 45, she seems stuck in an arrested development, disinterested in social norms, dedicated only to her older brother’s passions. Both actors bring a surprising amount of professionalism that might otherwise be weighed down in campy, over-the-top evil or Johnny Depp-like “quirkiness.” Both characters at first are strangely likable; the film finds the right stylistic note for its central characters, who are simple, cheerful, smiling, earnest, and resourceful… cannibals.

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This film couldn’t be done today or it would go bad at least two ways. The first being it would be dark, depressing with the washed out sepia-toned look, drop-frame editing, Directed like a TOOL music video with young nubiles looking to get high and or laid and then knocked off every 4 minutes after the 30 minute mark, overloaded with gore porn, paper-thin forgettable characters, performances and as dull as a silent fart.  The other way is it would be campy feel, over-the-top, loaded with stupid jokes or at least none with any style or irony whatsoever. The performances would be self-aware, wink-wink, grinning from ear to ear morphing into a bad SNL sketch that wouldn’t be able to find the balance.

On top of the jokes, MH provides several ghoulish moments; like the field loaded with victims, throats slashed to keep them quiet as they squirm making a croaking noise, who are fattened up before they are lead off to the slaughterhouse. It also has a social conscious as well, poking at the industrialized food production and over population. Vincent having no qualms at all that people are his secret ingredients. Calhoun plays up his ego and God complex as food provider that has a great pay-off near the end with the dueling chainsaws and Vince going creepy wearing a Pig’s head. “There are too many people in the world and not enough food. Now this takes care of both problems at the same time.” His final line in the film is classic. The movie proves horror doesn’t always have to be scaring the shit out of you or gross you out with torture porn, but it does have to keep you engaged with a brain and Motel Hell does it with style, wit and plenty of well-placed humor and we need more, much more of that today.

 Humanoids From the Deep 1980

A classic from the grindhouse days of Producer/schlock-meister Roger Corman’s New World Pictures.  This is one B movie that has earned its grimy reputation; I adore it simply because it knows what it is, makes no invention, no pretense; it’s pure, utter exploitation and wallows in its sleaze like a pig in mud!

imagesCAU0KMFR Taking its cues from better, serious pictures of the previous decade, something evil is happening in the Pacific Northwest sleepy fishing village of Noyo. Fish-like humanoid creatures, spawned by mutant DNA, begin rising from the ocean looking to mate with the local women. Scientist Susan Drake (Ann Turkel) along with local fisherman Jim Hill (Doug McClure, The Land That Time Forgot) seeks to investigate the cause of this invasion of creatures from the ocean floor. But when the annual Salmon Festival begins, some unwanted guests are about to crash the festivities. It’s never really explained why the fish mutants want to mate with human women, why not other fish mutant females? But if you are watching a movie with “Humanoids” in the title and ask such questions, you need to check your snooty pretense at the door. Complaining about science in a movie like this is akin to the drooling retards who complain about the science in “Star Wars,” – WHO CARES?!

 The three leads are some genre favorites, Doug McClure known for his early tv westerns, but later in genre stuff like, “The Land that Time Forgot and its sequel, The People that Time Forgot, At the Earth’s Core and a lesser known, but a favorite of mine, “Warlords of Atlantis“; is his usual square-jawed hero persona as Jim Hill, a boring guy with a boring name. Ann Turkel is Dr. Susan Drake, who is investigating these strange murders. Not well known outside genre films, (junk like, 99 and 44/100% Dead) Turkel does her best, although she speaks some very bad science. In one of his final film roles before his tragic death, (he was killed on the set of Twilight Zone: The Movie), Vic Morrow plays Hank Slattery, the town bastard; the type of role he had been great at and became typecast in since the early 70’s. All do a decent job, even when things go into idiot mode, but normal actors are not the reason we care, we want to see nudity, violence, destruction and gore and we get it- plenty of it!

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 A wonderful schlocky mash-up between “Creature from the Black Lagoon” and “JAWS,” this glorious dung heap knows the real stars of the show are the mutants themselves; some impressive suit work headed by the legendary Rob Bottin, who was just getting his start and would set the world ablaze with iconic imagery two years later for John Carpenter’s masterpiece, “The Thing.” The creatures and their enormous bald-brainy heads are an original creation, just as cool as the xenophobe from ALIEN. Although, I’m not a fan of their elongated arms, the suits are impressive as they are full of great detail and craftsmanship, never looking like a rubber “suit” especially at the end during the raid on the Salmon festival, when the mutants come out at night and inflict monster Fu.

imagesCARQ940ZAnother surprising aspect is the look of the film, surprisingly competent and handsome for a movie of such a high sleaze factor. Composer James Horner, working with Corman here and a year later in “Battle Beyond the Stars,” and a year after that in “Star Trek II: Wrath of Khan,” delivers a chilling, effective score that surprisingly doesn’t rip anything off…

For a film that’s nearly 34 years old and coming from a low-budget, the gore is inspiring, the make-up is flawless; one great effect after another. It’s almost as good as all the gratuitous nudity, a revelation for a an impressionable 8 year-old, watching this for the first time going out of my mind. Not just for the mammary surprise, but the gore too- such extensive and realistic lengths; it’s hard to not get the urge to spew.

 A fine slab of cheese and the gratuitously high mammary count doesn’t hurt, to be sure, particularly since these are the old-fashioned kind unseen in this Silicon Age. It also shares an odd noteworthy distinction as one of the few entries in the sub-genre known as “Rape horror,” “Galaxy of Terror” followed a year later with a similar scene only it was rape by a giant maggot; a year after that, “The Beast Within” had rape from giant Secada humanoid-  Roger Corman produced the first two flick, who must have been a weird kinky fetish at the time.. Enormously ironic considering the movie was Directed by a woman, Barbara Peters, who claims the gore and rape scenes were added after she left the project by second unit director James Sbardellati. Sure, honey, sure…the rape scene is not all that horrifying anyway so I’m not sure why she dumped this like yesterday’s garbage. it’s a bit impossible to connect to a rubber suited mutant trying to mount a heavy-chested beauty, its more comical than menacing, but ultimately genius as we are talking about it all these years later. I’m certainly not advocating this sub-genre, but in the context of both films, it’s strangely effective and a lot easier to handle than say in something more serious and realistic. Although Ridley Scott’s superb, “Alien,” came before, it’s “rape scene” was very subtle and far more restrained and tastefully done, as well as something like that can be done. Strangely enough, it would not be made today with the same memorable impact for two reasons; CG effects in horror look like video game garbage and nudity is not nearly as prevalent today, (very odd!) as it was in those days. It’s very sad how technology can do anything in movies today except for the most part, make them memorable. Horror movies are in a weird phase now where anything is off limits, really, yet no one seems to take advantage of that. Not sure why or how practical effects lost out, but they are superior in every way, having a perceptible look and feel that ugly CG cannot match.

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Humanoids from the Deep is a fast-paced and peppy camp classic that should please horror and sleaze fans with its graphic gore, copious female nudity, and sardonic humor. It may very well be genre trash, and the snooty negative nimrods may cast their clueless aspersions thus, but it’s my kind of trash and I love it long time. The film is not without flashes of humor; a young couple are in a tent on the bench ready to get down. In a strange method of foreplay, the guy has a ventriloquist doll dirty talking to the young woman. The creatures attack, going for the young beauty, then a strange thing occurs- the dummy, unconnected to the guy’s hand does a double-take all by itself as the creatures attack the female and ravage the male. It’s very funny in a bent sort of way.

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 A remake was produced for and aired on Showtime in 1996, during the horror resurgence, for some strange reason, the violence and nudity was toned down producing a very lazy, forgettable turd; I guess people only wanted story- YEAH right! Avoid it.

Amityville II: The Possession 1982

 This strangely good entry in what should never have been a franchise, is a helluva lot better than it deserves to be; this sequel/prequel takes on the similarities of real life story of the Defoe’s who were murdered by the eldest son in November 1974. The REAL horror story has yet to be told accurately and completely, if it was, Hollywood would be ashamed of itself for every humoring George and Kathy Lutz. Despite this being a lame sequel, this works slightly better than the predecessor despite the flashes of absurdity and the eventual aping of “The Exorcist” in the film’s final act. The sequel, for legal reasons was unable to tell the true story of the Defeos, but the film goes through the bullet points of the tradgedy. Instead of Defoes, its Montellis. Burt Young would have made a great Ronald Defeo Sr. (Paulie from Rocky series) the loud-mouth, bully father who beats his wife and kids, just as the real Defoe was notorious for, but the clothes, music, hair styles and cars clearly show it’s set in the (then) present of 1982… 

George and Kathy Lutz continued to try and make money from their idiotic lies, but their idea for this movie was dumped in favor of what we see. They of course sued and lost.  Names are changed, but the beats are there, but unlike the first film, the creep factor is turned up to 11 and makes for one spooky watch. For all the BS that proceeded and follow, this film KNOWS how to create a scary mood.

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The film follows one spooky element instead of several seen in the first. The singular entity haunts the Montelli family, concentrating on the eldest son who goes berserk one night and guns them all down. Even though it feels a bit exploitative, it helps the film in the long run. The sequence leading up to the son’s possession is one of the most inventive of any horror film of the time or of recent memory and it’s a shame it was stuck in such an uninspired franchise. Director Damiano Damiani working from the screenplay by Tommy Lee Wallace, based on the novel Murder in Amityville by the parapsychologist Hans Holzer, takes the creepy milieu and employs inventive camera work, using POV shots as the evil presence There are times when Damiano never knows when over-the-top is enough as the camera does a 180 vertical roll over a character’s head and then another horizontal 180 roll to right itself and come face to face with him; in another shot,  Sonny Montelli, (Jack Magner) lies on a bed pinned down by the demon while the camera wildly zooms up and down on him like the cameraman was jumping up and down on a trampoline, it sounds absurd, but is highly effective and no it’s not shaky cam like that crap they would use today- the scenes that follow Sonny chasing his family down, especially his little brother and sister with a high-powered rifle is horrifying in every way possible- extremely uncomfortable that will leave anyone shaken. I made the mistake of watching it alone in the middle of the night- bad idea. Didn’t sleep at all!

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The film’s budget was modest at the time and makes use of their gadgets and tricks. Lighting is used to great effect to show Sonny getting possessed and to show him talking as the demon and to show the Demon’s presence, we don’t get flashy, ugly CG creations, just simple techniques. Very simple, but creative and effective. The evil spirit casts a spell over the family as they slowly begin to turn on each other; a screaming melodrama becomes an uncomfortable exploitation flick. The brother seduces his sister, the parents beat and scream at each other while the little kids get slapped around, it’s not always easy to watch, but for some strange reason it works and has more oomph than ghost stories from the lying Lutzes.  MIA actors Diane Franklin and Jack Magner, her seen in several other cult 80’s flicks (The Last American Virgin, Better Off Dead), and him all but disappeared after Amithyville II-  as the seduced sister and the seducer brother- both do admirable work of not making it too disgusting and ultimately sad. Of course, Lalo Schifrin delivers another great creepy score. Avoid all the sequels that followed.

 

 

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Fall TV is Here!

It’s that time of year when the networks roll out the next big hit. While CBS & NBC continue to show hatred for humanity through its popagation of terrible unfunny sitcoms, FOX and ABC have offered up some potentially interesting genre fare that I hope get better with time.

 FOXSleepy Hollow

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After Ichabod Crane “dies” during a mission for General George Washington in 1781, he awakens in 2013 Sleepy Hollow, New York. But so does the Headless Horseman, whose head Ichabod chopped off before his perceived death. The horseman begins his nightly killing spree, and Ichabod must partner with Lt. Abbie Mills to stop the impending doom of humanity and the coming of the four horsemen of the Apocalypse.  Crane’s time traveling ability is explained away by having been under a spell. Little bits of the whys and hows have been revealed, but not everything, which is fine since only two episodes have aired.

THE GOOD– The photography is some of the best you will see on television right now, it feels and looks like a movie. Produced by the creators of the also late, great “Fringe.” The New England spooky goth vibe is vivid and palpable and gives the show more reasonance than it probably has earned. The biblical allusions and the feel of dread is executed flawlessly. One of the best images from the series so far was the headless horseman firing a machine gun.

THE BAD -Tom Mison as Crane, Nicole Beharie as Abbie Mills are both excellent, can’t fault the actors for any problems the material gives them, yet that’s the problem. Paper thin characters and motivations were all over the second episode. Things moved too fast, there were no character moments and they just followed as the script dictated. I like how Crane reacted to modern technology and his rage against high taxation was very funny as was his questions about being a slave, but there is not enough of that. Mills is a dead weight at this point, a nothing personality wise, she needs to stop being JUST a crime solver, relate more to Crane. I think in order for this continue on, there needs to be a Skully/Mulder dynamic, not romance, but a real connection for these two to make us believe the unbelievable. A connection that puts them down as friends on a mission and contrived bickering doesn’t cut it. Play up Crane’s fish-out-water, they all think he’s nuts, let that go for a while, but make Crane adept at crime solving, he can be an eccentric, but don’t make him an idiot or buffoon. The biggest complaint is that the show is too plot-centric. Very true. It has too much plot; all that action, conducted by characters without character-feels tedious. Mostly and disappointingly so, it feels like the very awful, Law & Order from that aspect; dry and very mechanical, no emotion and detached. Still, I’m rooting for it, let’s hope we see some improvement.

ABCAgents of S.H.I.E.L.D

agents-of-shield-tv-show It was a no-brainer that ABC/Disney would capitalize on the monster success of The Avengers. It was inevitable that Marvel’s vast universe would come to television to be rightly and properly explored. Clark Gregg returns as Agent Phil Colson, revived from the dead  after his encounter with Loki from The Battle of New York in this direct sequel to “The Avengers.” Colson has assembled a group of select characters with different personalities to seek out others with super human abilities and hope they play on the good side.

THE GOOD – Pilot episodes are always a bit shaky, this one seems to have most of the kinks worked out. It had a Smallville vibe to it; FX were impressive and the characters mostly nailed it. The supporting cast is great despite their dynamics still being formed. Nothing terribly groundbreaking here, other than it’s the most pure fun you will have on television today.

THE BAD– I hate to rag on the show, but I’m not a big fan of the newly created characters when Marvel has close to 4,000 to choose from. Michael Peterson is created for the series which makes no sense. Maybe he will be revealed to be Luke Cage or some one known. Let’s hope this is not a usual thing, they need to dig deep in the archives and pull out some of the best of the goodies and the baddies. Stay away from the usual show-hogs, Cap, Iron Man, Thor etc… For my money, I’d like to see, She-Hulk, Jessica Drew as Spider-Woman, Luke Cage, Iron Fist and perhaps re-introduce Daredevil… I’m sure they will do their own thing, but to keep the universe interesting we need some old familiar faces.

 

 

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Death Wish 1974

 

” Nothing to do but cut and run, huh? What else? What about the old American social custom of self-defense? If the police don’t defend us, maybe we ought to do it ourselves.” 

– Paul Kersey

 As a kid growing up in the Midwest I came to fear New York through the movies; some of my earliest movie memories were of the Big Apple depicted as a cesspool of hooligans, muggers, rapists and murderers.
 One of the best American films of the 70s, Death Wish belongs with and (possbly begat) Taxi Driver, Sudden Death, The Exterminator, and  as mad, sad, urban fever dreams, sharing a same sensibility, one both distinctly New York (paranoia, sense of irony, knowledge of neighborhoods, subway lines, history and general way of city life) and male. Anti-hero myths, “Movie” movies masquerading as social commentary (unlike, say Norma Rae or Serpico). Creating quite a stir upon its release in 1974; crime in the big cities was at an all-time high and the public was all but fed up. Liberal policies of the 1960’s were failing soon crime became the politicians bullet points.
  A terror realized so fully on screen that “Death Wish” became a huge hit as it struck a chord with those in fear and those fearful of what could happen, wondering if public would do the same as the film’s protagonist, Paul Kersey (Charles Bronson).
   The single unluckiest guy in the world until John McClain comes along, Kersey started off his middle age with happy marriage and beautiful married daughter. One day, a group of drug-crazed hoods (Jeff Goldblum) break into his apartment while he’s gone beating and killing his wife Joanna (Hope Lange) and brutally raping his married daughter, leaving her comatose. When the police are unable to find the culprits, Kersey arms himself and begins patrolling the streets, killing muggers and thieves as he encounters them. While his obsessive search for street justice sickens him at first, in time Kersey begins to enjoy it and becomes a hunted man himself, as Police Detective Frank Ochoa (Vincent Gardenia) tries to find the man who is doing the police’s job for them, and a bit too well.
  This definitely is a movie that will force the viewer to pick sides as it relishes in its violence and as an exploitation story, it does it very well. The liberal outrage is nothing new and just shows how tired and clichéd it was in those days as it is now.
 Director Michael Winner, a friend and longtime collaborator with Bronson, plays up the seediness, the abject filth of New York; he shows the garbage, the abandoned buildings, and the general uneasiness to be the innocent mouse being stalked by the urban cats. He also gets an excellent performance out of Bronson as he makes the city the main bad guy against Kersey who is at first disgusted and overwhelmed at his vigilante actions, but slowly embraces his fate as the publicity catches fire and forces the police to leave him alone.  Despite its liberal trappings, sympathy lies with Bronson’s performance, tough, conflicted; it’s easy to see why he became a superstar stateside, his simple strength shines through. He doesn’t quip like Dirty Harry or mow them down like Rambo, he’s mild-mannered and at constant odds with himself and his liberal leanings.  Bronson is in top form as he copes with his fated existence; a man of few emotions, but emotions still as the violence is never excessive and stays within logical boundaries, unlike the sequels, that just remade the formula.
A 70’s class act that dares to ask the viewers, what would you do in the same situation. Bronson’s image became even more popular as one of the most recognized stars of the last half of the 20th century.

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“Scream 4” (2011)


It’s  been 15 years since Director Wes Craven and screenwriter Kevin Williamson, reinvented the horror genre with 1996’s “Scream.” Quick-witted, perceptive, funny, and even scary, the first of three films rewrote the rules and flushed out the fatuous elements that killed the slasher film up to that time. For all the good it did by, it sent horror films down and even more annoying trail, the one of Self-awareness.  A box-office smash, it revitalized the genre it so lovingly picked on and created a sub-genre, the self-aware horror film using meta-humor, the first of its kind, as its characters were aware of other classic horror films like “Halloween,” “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” and the rules that followed.  What a mistake.

Picking up a decade later, the film returns to Woodsboro, with Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell) promoting her new book about her life while re-connecting with her Aunt Kate (Mary McDonnell) and Cousin Jill (Emma Roberts). Just as she arrives in town, two high school students are murdered in a grisly fashion coinciding with the 15th anniversary of the original Woodsboro murders. Becoming a suspect when evidence is found in her rental car, Sherriff Dewey Riley (David Arquette) and former reporter, now wife Gale Weathers Riley (Courtney Cox) quickly discover that a new set of murders is occurring just like the originals. The trio team up once again team up to stop the murders, but not before having, to learn from a new generation the “new rules” of surviving horror films.

My, oh my how things have changed. Where a movie as the original “Scream” was so badly needed the sequel proves to be ultimately unnecessary and awash in irony as the characters do several stupid things that the first film avoided and so deftly satirized.

The film is certainly a step up from “Scream 3,” but only a mere step (although saved by the sole performance from Parker Posey) which had Sid on the sidelines and had more family revelations than an episode of “Days of Our Lives,” yet part 4 licks the commode and has too many moron moments that cannot be overlooked.

Many times characters are afflicted with what Roger Ebert coined, “Idiot plot” device, whereas only an idiot would act as the people do in a situation like this. At one point Sidney’s book tour manager is trapped in a parking garage inside her car while Ghostface lurks outside, she knows this, yet makes a mad dash for the elevator, and of course is killed. Another instance has Sidney entering a house, after witnessing her neighbor murdered by Ghostface, without ANY WEAPONS OR CELL PHONE. D’oh!

The film’s sense of humor is on the down low; hardly any good jokes emerge outside of the opening sequence and the slamming of the SAW movies. Most of the humor, what little there is, comes from throwaway characters, specifically the two Deputies played by Adam Brody and Anthony Anderson whose character is named, Anthony Perkins, but their moments are few and fleeting.

The performances of the main three are relegated to a single emotion; Sidney appears BORED, Gale is BITTER and Dewey is STUPID as the rest of the supporting cast come and go without making a significant impact. The chemistry felt by the main trio is long since gone, for one thing, for most of the movie they are separated, but when they are together, it’s more plot-oriented than character development and any nostalgia felt by the fans has dissipated. The rest is fairly pedestrian and predictable, especially the identity of the killer and their motivations. The films only good scare is Hayden Panettiere’s, Kirby Reed in the movie, hairdo, a cross between Cheryl Ladd in “Millennium” and talk show moron crank Rachel Maddow!

The opening sequence has several great “Stab” (the film within the film) jokes with funny cameos by Anna Paquin and Kristin Bell, but nothing compared to the intensity and cleverness of the first films offing of Drew Barrymore- that sequence employed a little bit of everything; from Hitchcock to Carpenter and was handled surprisingly well by Director Craven.

What the film does get right is its mercilessness in hammering the current craze of remaking horror films and the constant and welcomed pot shots at the endless SAW series. The societal sickness for the mediocre to be famous gets some airtime as the killer makes fun of the current crop of “reality” TV stars that are famous for doing absolutely nothing of worth or value. That along with the films motif as the killer rewrites everything and adheres to a new set of rules vastly different from what Randy the geek described in the first trilogy is what keeps the film afloat, but just barely treading water, gasping for breath, but sinking fast.

Despite the film having some salient points, it does not have much of a heart and even less of a brain. Sidney is as dumb as a post and really needs to enroll in the Witness Protection Program or stop coming back to Woodsboro. I would think after taking a decade off, the film would have tons to say, but sadly no, other than REMAKES SUCK, it’s weak plotting and dull acting.

I will give credit to the first trilogy; it at least had a story that did not repeat itself, at least not by reviving the killer as a zombie, ghost, or robot. We had three different killers with three different motivations and some decent secrecy in between. Three little mysteries that had a connection to Sidney’s mother, Maureen Prescott, part 3 did not turn out exactly good, but it at least had an ending. When Part 4 was first mentioned, we all were led to believe that it was a new trilogy with new motivations, but that is not the case. This film is a sequel to the others in just about every way. I just wish the film were clever and not desperate feeling like an easy money-grab.

Along with the missing humor, where is the celebration of the genre? If these films are to continue forward, I suggest they bring in some heavy guest stars, kids from the classics. How about some roles for Linda Blair, Jamie Lee Curtis, Jeffrey Combs, Tony Todd, Adrienne Barbeau, P.J. Soles, Barbra Crampton and especially the legendary Christopher Lee, let’s throw them a bone and let them know we love their contributions to an often slighted genre.

As the old saying goes, the road to hell is paved with good intentions….

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“The Hangover Part 2” (2011)

The worst type of sequels it seems has always been to comedies. Most them were released in the 1980’s, but the last fifteen years or so has been enormously replete with one alleged comedy sequel after another and as the years march on, the filmmakers never seem to learn their lesson. Did we really need, “Beverly Hills Cop III,” “Son of the Mask,” “Little Fockers,” and “Shrek Ever After“…

They always have to make a trip to the proverbial well one too many times and whatever lightning that was captured with the original, was a usually a colossal fizzle when the words Part 2 were attached. Take these (PLEASE!) as evidence: “The Sting II,” “Caddyshack 2,” “Be Cool,” (Get Shorty 2) “” Weekend at Bernie’s II,” “City Slickers 2,” “Analyze That,” “Blues Brothers 2000”, “Smokey and the Bandit Part 2″ and “Ghostbusters 2”– Ugh. Reason enough alone as to why 9/11 occurred…yeesh.

My initial reservations were correct; “The Hangover Part 2”, at least for me, has that, unfunny feeling of déjà vu all over again as the Wolf Pack, Alan, Phil, Stu and Doug, are back on the prowl, but unlike their Vegas adventure, this one is about as funny as Freddy Kruger giving a prostate exam, blades and all.

Taking the same premise; (Bachelor party in exotic location) this time Stew is getting hitched to his Taiwanese fiance, with the wedding in Bangkok. Just like before, once they are settled in, they head out for drinks. They wake up, confused; in pain and Stew wearing a tattoo and must figure out what exactly happened, find Stew’s future brother-in-law who is missing, (replacing Doug from the first film) with a deadline of making it to Stew’s wedding before its too late.

That is the plot’s narrative beats are lifted almost scene-for-scene from the first film, but replaced with the exotic setting; everything else is left up to the kids to be funny and they do not quite pull it off. The humor is in small bursts, but slowly evaporates as the plot focuses more on the inane action instead of jokes. Think of “Beverly Hills Cop II” when Eddie Murphy’s quips were traded in for violence and senseless action. It is the same deal here, except Eddie was funny and Cop II was a reasonably good flick. There is no funny here; they get in a wild car chase across the city, a speedboat that stops on land in similar to “Live and Let Die” and other dumb tangents that always have them on the run and hardly take time to comment, quip, or crack wise.

The most annoying aspect is that the film’s raunchiness is dialed up, but there is no memorable pay-offs. I am not a prude, I love my comedies raunchy, but they have to be funny first, if the dick joke is there to shock and not make me laugh, who gives a darn! I have a dick, seeing one on screen is not shocking or even funny by itself. Filmmakers need to learn the lesson of what makes comedies work; surprise. A dirty joke is only as good as the pay-off, otherwise, cut it. Yet the movie is full of gags like this. Set-up, awkward reactions from cast…..dead air. NO punch lines.

Stew at one point is violated by a Transsexual, well, ok, but where’s the punch line? If that is it, who really cares? Do we laugh at him for being violated? Do we laugh because he is too stupid too live or do we laugh because there is such a thing as a tranny? Where’s the joke? Getting butt-raped has only been funny in one movie, “Deliverance,” any other time it is creepy and used for cheap laughs, like here. That is the kind of lame gag a 13 y/o moron would find funny simply because its there, not because it lacks a legitimate punch line/pay-off.

With the exception of Zach Galafinakis as Alan, the rest of the cast is weak Ed Helms as Stew, who is consistently funny on “The Office” as Andy the Nard-Dawg, here is a simpering moron. He takes verbal abuse from his future father-in-law to the point you wish he would throw a drink in the old buzzards face and punch his lights out.

Brad Cooper as Phil, who has become famous for playing l likable douche bags is well, just a douche bag as his actions are still self-centered, but totally unfunny as he spends more time screaming than anything else and we wish his gunshot wound was to his forehead.

The sole reason to see the movie, if you must, is Zach Galifianakis. His Alan stole the first movie with his twisted logic and child-like comments, “its like masturbating on a plane. It’s not illegal, just frowned upon.” Part 2 opens with promise as we see a hint of Alan’s weirdo family that deserves its own movie! Jeffrey Tambor as Alan’s dad is great in his short bit talking to his son as if he’s a delicate 9y/o girl, calling him “Sweetie” and describing him as a “Stay-at-home-son,” and Alan’s mother talking to him in his room via speaker phone like some Howard Hughes recluse.

These bits were great, but all too fleeting. Alan is given more to do, but nothing of significance although his refusal to swear is still what makes him a great character as he at one point exclaims, “What the Crud?”

What was great about the first film was, besides being funny and generally unpredictable, was its chaotic nature; it was great writing and performances from actors that clicked. Here they seem to have rehearsed the life out of the material, jettisoned the fun, and replaced it with mean-spiritedness instead of channeling the first film’s maniacal frat boy party vibe. They took a pop culture catch phrase and pumped it to the bloody max, “What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas,” and squeezed out one of the best comedies in a long time. Part 2, never feels fresh, chaotic or original. Having a hangover in Bangkok is not familiar, but sleazy and gross and it shows that their antics in Part 2 is far worse than Vegas, we see a cut off finger, Stew’s gay sex with a prostitute (possibly giving him an STD, funny remember?), tattoo with a possibly dirty needle and Phil getting shot. This crap is not funny and just makes you squirm as you watch.

“The Hangover Part 2” is a big, fat dud. I cannot think of more meandering, useless contemporary comedy sequel that was built on such high hopes from the first film. Part 3 is promised; let us hope they give us less filth and more funny.

 

 

 

 


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