10.14.2017

Arrow Video's Children of the Corn Blu Ray Review


Children of the Corn was one of my very first introductions to the world of Stephen King. It was a film that I fondly remember playing over and over again on cable back in the mid to late 80's, and it was a film that I saw so frequently that I now know the entire film by heart, line for line. In fact, my brother, sister and myself would hilariously recite many of the more memorable and catchy lines of dialogue throughout our life. It helps that I was roughly about 8 when this came out, so basically the prime age to absorb horror on a visceral level once this hit home video and cable a year or two later.

There's a reason why Children of the Corn has remained one of the more memorable Stephen King adaptations all these years later. Because it's actually pretty good. While not one of the best, it's certainly earned it's status as one of the better film adaptations when you consider the vast majority of them are shit. It's a modest film from a budget standpoint, but that doesn't keep it from being an engaging and oftentimes terrifying thriller/horror film. I mean, the idea of a town full of kids killing every single adult is indeed terrifying, but it's the film's overall structure - from it's tight script, direction, dark, brooding tone, incredible casting and most of all, Jonathan Elias' now iconic score (easily one of the most identifiable scores in the history of cinema whether you like the film or not), all create a strongly structured film that kickstarted a franchise and continues to this day to be one of the most iconic horror films in the last 3 decades. And that theme song. Oh that theme song will stay stuck in your head for days and days after.

One of Arrow Video's most recent releases is this exceptionally packaged 2K restoration that comes packed to the gills with extra content that will take you days to sift through. If you are a fan of this film or of Arrow Video's releases in general, then this Blu-Ray upgrade should be a no-brainer. But if you were still debating whether the film's 1080p upgrade or it's Special Features content are with the investment, I decided to dig into all of that for you, to help you better make that decision. So let's dig in.

"And A Child Shall Lead Them"

The Specs:
- Original Theatrical Trailer
- Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Gary Pullin
- Return to Gatlin: A look back at the iconic filming locations in Iowa with host John Sullivan
- Cut from the Cornfield: An interview with actor Rich Kleinberg on the infamous "lost" Blue Man Scene
- Disciples of the Crow: A 1983 short film adaptation of Stephen King's story
- Storyboard Gallery
- Stephen King on a Shoestring: An interview with producer Donald P. Borchers
- Welcome to Gatlin: The Sights & Sounds of Children of the Corn - interviews with production designer Craig Steams and composer Jonathan Elias
- ...And a Child Shall Lead Them: a brand new interview with actors Julie Maddalena and John Philbin
- Field of Nightmares: A brand new interview with screenwriter George Goldsmith
- Harvesting Horror: A retrospective documentary featuring interviews with director Fritz Kiersch, and actors John Franklin and Courtney Gains
- It was the Eighties!: An interview with Linda Hamilton
- Audio commentary with director Fritz Kiersch, producer Terrence Kirby and actors John Franklin and Courtney Gains
- Brand new audio commentary with horror journalist Justin Beahm and Children of the Corn historian John Sullivan
- Optional English subtitles
- Original stereo and 5.1 DTS-HD MA audio options
- Brand new 2K restoration from the original camera negative
- High Definition Blu ray (1080p) presentation



That is a lot of extra content if you ask me, and well worth the price of this Blu-Ray alone. You'll spend more time digging through all those extra's than you will watching the film, which is always a plus and personally one of the main reasons why I ever buy Blu-Rays to begin with; the extra content. And Arrow Video's release does not disappoint. Let's start with the film itself. Arrow Video's new 2K restoration from the original camera negative is simply gorgeous. The film has never looked more vibrant than it does here. Whereas most previous releases never did much to restore the original film's lush color scheme, here it's on full display in glorious HD. And that was always a problem with every previous release of CotC. It was always so gloomy with a faint gray haze/filter, with much of it's original luster gone. But here the colors pop, and you see for the first time how the film is awash in saturated greens, reds, yellows, and even down to Malachai's orange hair, to an eerie effect. There is a slight graininess present throughout, but that's entirely expected considering it was shot on film in 1983/1984. The slight grain only adds to the film's visual presentation in a positive way. It "looks" like film, rather than digital, and by restoring it from it's original camera negative, CotC looks stunningly clear and impressive - the best possible version you're ever going to get.

Of all the many interviews located on this release, the most enjoyable by far is "Harvesting Horror", an immersive retrospective clocking in at a fun 35 minutes. Director Fritz Kiersh is front and center as he explains in detail the entire history and process of making his first big screen feature film for New World Pictures, offering bits of fascinating information that really surprised me, such as the film being on such a tight budget that it's technically a low-budget film. And it's because of the tight budget, they were forced to get creative in a number of different area's to make the most of what they had. You'll finally understand, in detail, why the ending was never all that impressive or exciting, mainly in it's use of mediocre special effects. One of the funniest bits of behind-the-scenes info is in regards to the crew misjudging the ever-changing seasons, and not taking into account that the corn stocks, a huge element to the entire film, begin to turn brown, forcing the crew to spray paint most of them green. You also learn through all the various interviews (all separate elements) from the stars and production that Sam Raimi was considered to direct at one point, and that a positive or negative quote from King himself on the cover of your film, at the time, could make or break it. There was so much fascinating stuff to absorb and I won't spoil it all for you here, but rest assured, it's a helluva fun time to dig through.

Linda Hamilton had not yet starred in The Terminator (that would be later the same year), so she was relatively new to films having stuck to television work up until this point, but her solo interview "It Was The Eighties!", offers insight into the casting of her very first starring role, and her experience working on a relatively low-budget film that would go on to endure for decades in this enjoyable 13 minute interview.

The plethora of other interviews were also excellent and if you love behind-the-scenes stories, these are a must watch. For example, I had no idea that this was composer Jonathan Elias' first film, and arguably his most recognized. But it's information like this that keeps so much of these extra's engaging and worth digging into, most notably whenever director Fritz Kiersch was discussing anything related to the film. He just has this very endearing way of getting so much information and the history of it's production across in a very easy matter-of-fact manner. I always liked his work on this. I always felt he did such a good job by trying to go Hitchcock with a lot of the suspenseful elements, by utilizing creative camerawork and techniques a la Psycho and even Jaws. Kiersch would go on to direct a few more films following the success of this with cult classics such as Tuff Turf, Gor, Winner Takes All and the ultra hard to find The Stranger.

Arrow Video has done it again with yet another outstanding release. The upgrade is superior in every way to any other version out there, and the insane amount of extra content make this a must-buy for your collection. Release on October 3rd, you can purchase this on any number of online retailers (we all tend to stick to our favorites), or you can purchase it directly from Arrow Video HERE.

Until next time, robotGEEK out...

If you have a new film or Blu Ray release you would like me to review, please feel free to contact me at jasonisageek@yahoo.com for all media inquiries. 

Geek News: Little Shop of Horrors Director's Cut To Return To The Big Screen This Halloween

That's right. This coming Halloween Cinemark Theaters will be screening Frank Oz's 80's musical masterpiece Little Shop of Horrors courtesy of Fathom Events. But wait! That's not even the best part. Not only is it coming back to theaters for 2 nights only (Oct. 29 & 31), but it will be the legendary Director's Cut, featuring the balls-to-the-wall epic ending that see's an army of Audrey 2's descending upon the city and literally obliterating it in what can only be described as one of the best practical effects sequences ever produced. It's bleak, dark and violent for sure, but it's also epicly badass. And really, that long-lost ending is reason enough to revisit this on the big screen.

Of course, it also helps that the film in general is one of the best musicals ever made. And this is coming from someone who doesn't generally enjoy them. But there has always been something very special about this one. The songs are actually good, every single one of them, and damnit if they weren't catchy as hell either. The spot-on casting was brilliant, and I just love the "backlot" feel to the entire film. It all looks and feels so very much like it was filmed on a studio lot, and it was, but that's also part of what makes it so special and charming. It's an intentional homage to the type of film that was so popular in the 50's and 60's, which is where LSoH is set. The look of this film plays a hugely important role in it's success as a film and Oz and his production team did a phenomenal job.



We all remember the theatrical ending right? Seymour saves Audrey and they live happily ever after having killed Audrey 2 with an electrical shock that resulted in it's explosion. Pretty straight-forward and corny, which is what the studio wanted. Well the original ending was much darker. Audrey 2 produced rapidly, eventually growing an army of plants who would grow to mammoth size proportions. They unleashed onto an unsuspecting city obliterating it to shreds. The U.S. Army infiltrates the city and a large scale attack is delivered. This final act in the film is insanely awesome. The impressive model-work and practical effects STILL blow my mind today and when you see it, you get pissed off that we weren't given this far better ending in the first place. I can't even imagine how incredible that large-scale city-wide chaos and destruction will look on a huge screen, but I'm certainly going to find out.

Check your local theater listings or go to Cinemark or Fandango for showtimes and theater screenings in your area. 


10.13.2017

90's Action Attack!: Passenger 57

Passenger 57 came out at the crux of the "Die Hard on a..." boom in the 90's. Speed, Die Hard 2, Skyscraper, Under Siege and it's sequel, No Contest and Passenger 57; all films that capitalized on the huge success of a single film that literally created a new sub-genre of action film. And though there were countless "terrorist" themed action movies before such as The Delta Force or Invasion USA for example, it really wasn't until Die Hard in 1988 that really turned the action genre on it's head. What soon followed was a barrage of copy-cat's that offered the same premise, just in different locations such as a boat (Under Siege), bus (Speed) and plane (Turbulence, Air Force One) rather than an office building. And then there were the flat-out shameless ripoffs like Skyscraper and No Contest. I have to admit though, I do still love those two quite a bit, but for completely different reasons other than being an action film.

While some of these types of films are better than others, Passenger 57 is one of the better ones. It's a serviceable terrorist/action film that takes all the standard tropes associated with this new genre and doesn't bring anything new to the table, but puts it all together rather well and effortlessly. As you can estimate by it's title, Passenger 57 takes place on a plane. Well, about a third of it actually takes place on a plane to be more accurate. But that's okay, because the change of scenery does wonders for the overall structure, in that it never gets boring or feels stale. The constant shift in location (hospital, plane, carnival, landing strip, then plane again) keeps the film visually and narratively interesting while keeping you, the viewer, on your toes.

This was Wesley Snipes first starring role in an action picture. While he had been a star in his own right well before this film in comedies, dramas and thrillers, this was the first time he was the main star of any film, let alone an action one. So it's safe to say Passenger 57 kickstarted his long and lustrous action career. Though he would continue to dip into more dramas, thrillers and a few comedies, it was really in the action genre where he flourished, even more so when he took on the role of Blade, the immortal vampire in 1998. But really, what better way to begin your action career than with this fairly by-numbers, yet highly entertaining exercise.

What kind of surprised me was how good this ended up being, and how for some reason it never received the type of status or hype as other "Die Hard style" action films did, like Under Siege for example. It has everything you'd want; action, fights, explosions, a kickass English villain, a killer roster of character actors (Tom Sizemore!), and a hip, fun vibe with plenty of style to burn. That's another area I found surprising. Passenger 57 is directed by Kevin Hooks, who up until this point had previously only worked in television, with the exception of the urban comedy Strictly Business the year before, yet did such a fantastic job handling a big budget action film his first time out. In fact, he does a much better job than most current action directors working today, which surprises me that Hooks didn't really make it big as an action director. Sure he did Fled and Black Dog later, but they just didn't seem really up to par with what he could do as a solid director in this genre. Yet at the same time, it seems to be a trend with these directors. They knock it out of the park with a solid film, but then sort of fade into obscurity. It happens to nearly all of them; Jan De Bont, Renny Harlin, Andrew Davis, Dwight H. Little, Geoff Murphy and most certainly Kevin Hooks.



You won't find anything groundbreaking in here, but it sure was a helluva good time from start to finish. Wesley Snipes shines, even impressing us with some kickass stuntwork, while resident bad guy Bruce Payne again delivers yet another fantastic villain. Seriously, the guy is underrated as hell. For me personally, if I see his name in the credits, it's almost a guarantee I'll have a good time. The films constantly shifting locations keep the film moving along at a breakneck pace, while simultaneously ramping up the tension, suspense and thrills as the film progresses to a satisfying climax. Really, you just can't go wrong with Passenger 57. More people need to be aware of this little gem.

10.12.2017

Sleepwalkers Film Review; An Awkward, Absurd, Guilty Pleasure



Stephen King's Sleepwalkers is such a bizarre film all around. In fact, it may very well be one of the strangest in his catalog. I literally hadn't seen it since it was first released back in 1991, which I did revisit on home video a few times after, but for arguments sake, let's say it's been a good 25 years really since I've seen it. So I didn't really know what to expect going in, as my memory of it was fuzzy. I remembered it was directed by Mick Garris (Psycho IV, Critters 2), who as I recall mainly stuck to television work, and that it was about a mother and son who were secretly these cat-like people who could transform themselves to look human. And that's really all I remembered. It already sounds silly, but I know it has a solid reputation so I figured maybe there was something I wasn't remembering correctly? Maybe there's a reason why it has remained one of the stronger King films out there? So let's dig in.

"They feast on your fear - and it's dinner time"

Sleepwalkers was a lot sillier and more goofy than I remember. While there were some elements about it that made me think it would be headed in that direction, I don't think I was really prepared for just how far it was going to go. But don't get me wrong. I enjoyed it. In fact, I enjoyed it more than I thought I would. But nearly everything about this film threw me off right from the get-go, beginning with it's tone. Is it meant to be serious? I think so. But it surely won't come across that way. There were so many things about this that left me wondering "what the fuck?", including the incestuous relationship between the mother and son. But at the same time it's all played straight, without a hint of self-awareness happening anywhere. So I have to assume Sleepwalkers is meant to be a serious horror film, even though everything about it leads you to believe otherwise. On the surface that is.



There's just something about it. Maybe it's in the early 90's setting, or maybe it's Mick Garris' direction, but Sleepwalkers really looked, felt and played out like a cheesy early 90's Made-for-TV horror film, which is fitting since Garris would continue to work on Stephen King films for the remainder of his career directing a total of 6 (to date) King adaptations as TV Movies and Mini-Series, most famously The Stand 2 years later. It's clear Mick Garris is having a grande old time here, because I doubt any other director would have infused the film or King's script with so much life and energy. There's a playfulness here, and while unexpected, really becomes endearing.

King had just written and released one of his biggest hits to date with Pet Sematary 3 years earlier in 1989, which makes this film's overall tone so bizarre. Whereas Pet Sematary is a dark, brooding and cold horror film, Sleepwalkers goes in the complete opposite direction with it's high energy, bright saturated colors and fun vibe. Coupled with it's bizarre subject matter and Made-for-TV aesthetic/quality, I was really scratching my head for most of the film, often asking myself "what were they thinking?".




But here's the thing. About halfway through I just decided to stop trying to figure it out and just let it roll. While I may have been initially thrown off by it's cheesy and downright strange vibe, once I allowed myself to just enjoy the ride, I was having a great time with it. And that was only the tip of the iceberg. It got weirder, stranger and really dove head-on into the ridiculous as it went along, culminating into an absurd finale that played on every cliche it could think of, yet effortlessly throws it all together in a satisfyingly campy way. And it's all done with a straight face, rather than with a wink of the eye, which made it even better.

The cameos. Oh the wonderful cameos. Seriously, I thought I was watching a John Landis film (who's tendency to fill his films with tons of cameos has become legendary), who also makes a cameo himself in this. But right off the top of my head I spotted Mark Hamill, Joe Dante, John Landis, Clive Barker, Tobe Hooper and Stephen King himself. And then there's the one and only Ron Perlman, here in either an extended cameo or just a very small minor part, who by the way doesn't show up until the very end of the film, yet leaves such a strong impression in his limited screen time. It's a shame too, because he's arguably one of the most memorable characters in the film and he just comes across as wasted in this. Despite wishing Perlman had a bigger part, these little bits of stunt casting just really made it all the more fun for me.



The film is not great by any stretch of the imagination, but it's so entertainingly peculiar that I was wholeheartedly invested after the first act. There are a LOT of things wrong with this film in general, but if I had any one single complaint, it would be that we don't really get any kind of backstory to the 2 main villains in the mother and son. We get little bits and pieces of what they are, but nothing is ever really explained or fleshed out. They're ancient cat-like people with superhuman strength that need to feed on human souls and can somehow transform themselves to look human, and also transform their vehicles into anything they want. Oh, and the mother and son constantly have sex with each other. Okay? That's all we're really told, and while a bit fascinating, it's also incredibly frustrating that there's no history, rhyme or reason for any of that.

While I ultimately really enjoyed Sleepwalkers for it's campy/absurd/silly vibe, it was a bumpy road getting there. I think I was initially thrown off by it's tone. I'm sitting there watching a film that was written by Stephen King himself, yet it was unlike anything I had seen from him before and didn't feel like a typical King film. But that's also one of it's biggest strengths and why it set's itself apart from the rest of the flood of periodically good, but mostly bad Stephen King adaptations. Make no mistake. Sleepwalkers is a bad film. But it sure is fun; a guilty pleasure if there ever was one. If there's anything Sleepwalkers really hit home, it was reminding me that I had such a huge crush on Madchen Amick back in the 90's.


How to watch it:
If you want to watch it for FREE in HD, it's currently streaming on Crackle, which is a FREE movie app found on most streaming devices like XBOX, Roku and Playstation. I use it through my XBOX 360 that's hooked up to my living room TV. But hurry, as they might take it off by the end of this month. It's also available on a bare-bones Blu Ray from 2012 for roughly under $15. And honestly, if you're going to grab a physical copy of this, Blu Ray is the way to go, because for all it's faults, it's ultimately a very visual film full of color that transcends any logical or narrative issues it may have. 

10.11.2017

Revisiting The Last Starfighter (1984)

I was 8 years old when this film hit theaters in the summer of 1984. I didn't get to see it in theaters unfortunately, but I sure remember watching it an innumerable amount of times throughout my young life in the 80's. Yet as an adult in my 40's now, I haven't seen it in well over 20 years at least. I'm not really sure why exactly either. Life just happens and I tend to forget about certain movies. But here we are, 33 years after it's initial release, and the universe was begging me to revisit this one at just the right time. On a lazy Sunday afternoon, I popped in the 2009 25th Anniversary Blu Ray (Blu Ray review coming soon) for some nostalgic viewing. So let's dig in.

Though 3 decades have gone by, The Last Starfighter has not lost a single bit of it's charm. To say I loved this would be an understatement. I adored it. I was beaming a smile from ear to ear like a little kid the entire time. Every single frame was damn near a perfect example of retro 80's nostalgia by way of Spielberg, mixed with Joe Dante and the very special magic touch that Nick Castle brings to the table. It's wholesome, charming fun to the highest degree, never missing a beat and giving you exactly what you want in a family-friendly sci-fi adventure film. And that's the thing that really surprised me the most. It is PG, and there's no blood, no cursing, no real violence, yet it succeeds on every level despite of that. It's one of the best examples of a film being so damn good and near perfect, with all the right elements coming together at just the right time that literally anyone, from any walk of life, can sit through this and have a blast doing so because it's just that good.

From it's very first frame, The Last Starfighter reminds you just how great and simple films used to be with a strong story and expert filmmaking. Nick Castle, who had previously played The Shape/Michael Myers in the original Halloween and co-wrote Escape From New York, seems like the most unlikely of candidates for this type of material, yet what he did was give us one of the best films in this genre in any decade. One thing you'll notice is that it looks and feels very much like an early Spielberg film, similar to his work in E.T.. Whether that was intentional or not, Castle delivers the goods full-throttle and the results speak for themselves.

What is it about this film that makes it so.....magical? I couldn't tell you. I've thought about it for endless hours and I just can't figure it out. It's just one of those rare examples of all the right talent and all the right elements coming together perfectly. Everything just flows together so effortlessly; the set design, the direction, the score by Craig Safan, the whimsical script, the makeup effects and the strong cast. And let me talk a bit about the cast. Lance Guest, who had previously appeared in Halloween II as Jimmy the medic, knocks it out of the park here as Alex. He exudes a Jimmy Stewart-style charm that is really hard to beat. The casting of the lead easily could have turned the film into something else, but Guest confidently carries the film squarely on his idealistic shoulders. He might not have gone onto bigger and better things (does Jaws: The Revenge count?), but he certainly helped make The Last Starfighter as great as it was. Though the film had so many outstanding qualities all around, his performance as Alex, the day-dreaming gamer who longs to leave his small rural RV Park community to explore the world, seals the deal. He's the wholesome "everyman". Nothing in particular makes him stand out, yet he exudes such a raw tenderness that makes it just the right bit of spot-on casting that makes this film far better than it needed to be. Try imagining someone else, like Eric Stoltz for example. It just wouldn't have worked.


And then there's the legendary Dan O'Herlihy (Halloween III, Robocop) as Grig, Alex's starship co-pilot. Man, just what an amazing talent O'Herlihy was. Even under a pile of latex and makeup, his voice, laugh and mannerisms really brought so much to the character of Grig that could easily have been forgettable. And that voice. You instantly recognize it as The Old Man from Robocop, which makes it odd in this scenario because he's a good guy here, something I'm just not used to seeing him be. He's just fantastic and easily one of the many highlights in this exceptional cast.

I think one of it's most charming elements is it's heavy use of CGI, which was in it's infancy here. In fact, this is the first film to utilize complete CGI sequences, sometimes integrated into live action shots. Though Tron did it a few years earlier, this was the first time done in such a specific way. Created by the CRAY X-MP supercomputer, while groundbreaking at the time, the CGI effects are severely dated today, but that's also part of it's charm. I love that they look like they could have been made on a home computer today. And I have to give them credit, because even by today's standards, a lot of it really works and looks great. But just being designed and executed back in '83/'84 automatically gives them a retro look. Aesthetically, they're some of the best designed ships, stations and battles ever produced, even if they were still years away from being perfectly rendered. Hell, even Centauri's car was epic. I loved that car! I wanted that car. Watching it again recently only made that desire more real. That car is legitimately one of the best science fiction vehicles ever designed for a film, from the inside out. And it flies too! I'm shocked it doesn't get more love than Doc's DeLorean from Back to the Future. It might not travel through time, but it can fly and is a helluva slicker looking machine. But that's just me.

One thing that isn't discussed nearly as often as it should is how visual this film is. Nick Castle had only directed one film before this, yet does a phenomenal job with the imagery. Each shot is so impressive and stimulating on an aesthetic level in it's framing and structure. Of most of the things that surprised me in this, that's the area that floored me. A lot of the look to this film also goes to production designer Ron Cobb, who has worked in various capacities as a Concept Artist and Designer on classics like the first Star Wars, Alien, The Abyss and Total Recall. His designs of all the space-age elements in the film, from Centauri's car to the space station, all lend the film a gorgeously retro futuristic environment that plays a pivotal role in it's ultimate long-lasting cult status. It's a shame the "look" of The Last Starfighter is never brought up. I feel it plays just as important a role in it's success as other areas.

It sounds corny saying it out loud, but there's really no other way to describe the experience of either watching this for the very first time or revisiting it after so many years other than it's just a magical good time. Few films hit the mark the way this one does and few films can carry on an enduring legacy with one single film. I'm so glad they never decided to remake this. It's perfect just the way it is, with it's outdated CGI effects and all. I wouldn't change a thing about this and I hope nobody ever tries.

10.10.2017

Blade Runner 2049; A Modern Day Sci-Fi Masterpiece


Ridley Scott's original Blade Runner has remained in my Top 5 of All-Time Favorite Films list for as long as I can remember. In fact, I was lucky enough to get the chance to see it almost 2 years ago on the big screen for the first time in my 41 years courtesy of Cinemark's Classic Series. It was hands-down one of the best film experiences of my life. When they announced they would be doing a sequel 3 decades later, I was a bit reluctant to get excited initially. But then I heard Denis Villanueve (Prisoners, Enemy) was directing and well....I was sold. Of any current film director working, I felt he was hands-down the most perfect choice for the job. This past weekend saw the release of this sequel 35 years in the making, and while the film itself has been receiving rave reviews from both critics and filmgoers alike, particularly for it's visual brilliance, the film is having a tough time at the box office. And honestly, I'm not surprised. It's a very niche type of film, and much like with the original film, I can't see the average moviegoers really getting sucked into this universe. It's beginning to look like it will be suffering the same fate as the first one, in that it will find it's legs and audience when it hits the home video market. But let's talk about the film itself.

For me personally, Blade Runner 2049 couldn't have been better even if it tried. It was a brilliant and satisfactory follow-up to a film that was ahead of it's time. What director Denis Villanueve and screenwriters Hampton Fancher (Blade Runner) and Michael Green (Logan) have done is created a sequel that doesn't try to upstage the first one or try to be better. Instead, it plays on the originals themes, narrative and tone quite expertly to deliver an experience that is the perfect companion to a film that continues to blow us away 35 years later.



One of the things that just blew me away was the special effects. I know, sounds like something silly to say today but that's exactly my point. Even today, with all the new technology we have, it still looks cheap and still looks like CGI. In Blade Runner 2049, there was not a single second where I thought that any special effect wasn't practical. It all looked so real and organic. I couldn't tell if actual model-work was utilized or not because that's how good everything looked. The city, the flying vehicles, the giant vast landscapes all look and feel very organic and tangible. Director Denis Villanueve, who had only barely scratched the surface of working with special effects in his previous film Arrival, here does such an incredible job handling the effects aspect of each shot that my brain is still trying to process everything I saw. He's done a far superior job than 99% of those who have worked with effects all of their career, yet it seems so effortless and natural for Denis. And let's not forget his frequent collaborator, Cinematographer Roger Deakins, here delivering arguably his best work behind the camera. Every single frame of film is aesthetically, visually and hypnotically stunning, making Blade Runner 2049 a breathtaking visual spectacle unlike anything I've ever seen.

Having finally seen it, I can certainly understand why it's not making the big box office numbers. The slow-burn sci-fi film doesn't seem to be a popular one. It very much plays out like the first one did, so if you weren't necessarily a fan of Ridley Scott's cult classic, then you more than likely won't be much of a fan of this one either. But it takes a very specific type of attention span and interest to really appreciate what this film is doing, something that took years and decades for people to appreciate with the original which was released in 1982, yet didn't find it's cult status and audience for a very long, long time. Personally, I loved it. I loved it to death. It was everything I had hoped for and more. It was a very methodical and meticulous film with every single frame a work of art. It hits you on a visceral level in a way that is becoming too far and few between these days.



I did have one single complaint though, and a very minor one really. I'm sure most of you have learned that Villanueve replaced his frequent composer Johann Johannsson with Hans Zimmer, seemingly at the last minute. I will say, I'm not the biggest fan of Zimmer, especially his work on Nolan's Batman trilogy, but I have to admit, he didn't disappoint me too much here. He plays a little bit with Vangelis' original theme by expanding and updating it. Did I love it? No, and I probably won't be seeking out the soundtrack because of it, but it was a serviceable job and he kept true to the original vibe and tone, while making it his own. I wish there had been more synth honestly. While there was a bit sprinkled throughout, it wasn't nearly enough for my taste. And Zimmer's blaring horns are ever so present.....again.

The performances across the board were fantastic by everyone involved, including Jared Leto, who people love to crap on. I loved what he did with the role that very easily could have been by-the-numbers. But the real standout has to be Sylvia Hoeks, who plays Luv, a new-model replicant and assistant to Wallace (Leto). She stole every single scene she was in with her brutal ruthlessness and cunning. It's performances like hers that tend to get overlooked, but here she delivers a helluva performance, easily making her the standout in the cast. There were also some great surprises too. I won't spoil them for you here, but rest assured, Blade Runner 2049 had a number of tricks up it's sleeve that caught me off guard.



I won't bore you anymore with other details, because I can go on and on really. If you haven't already seen it, I hope you do very soon, because chances are it won't last very long in the theaters if it keeps doing numbers the way it has. It is a film that MUST be seen in a theater to truly immerse yourself in that world. I feel incredibly lucky and fortunate to have been able to see this in IMAX (my very first experience). It was sensory overload and I loved every single second of it.

10.07.2017

Vestron Video's Warlock Collector's Series Blu Ray Review

Back in early 2016 when Vestron Video announced they would be releasing some of their better known cult horror classics on Blu Ray for the very first time, remastered and with a plethora of special features, none of us knew just how big this could possibly get. Starting with the Jim Wynorski classic Chopping Mall (a personal favorite of mine), they've been rolling out classic after classic and there doesn't seem to be any sign of them slowing down. With one of their latest releases, I was excited because not only was it Warlock, but it was all 3 Warlock films to date. And it was an excuse for me to finally revisit some of these that I hadn't seen in well over a decade. So let's dig in.

Warlock

This 2-Disc Blu Ray set comes packed to the gills with an insane amount of content. Starting with the transfer's themselves, they're excellent. While not a big fan of the first film in general, I can't deny that the HD transfer isn't incredible. The images are sharp, the blacks are strong and I noticed zero grain in any frame. It really is the absolute best transfer of this particular film anywhere, and if you're a fan of this entry, or even just a casual fan like myself, you owe it to yourself to grab this.

Special Features:

- NEW commentary from director/producer Steve Miner
- NEW isolated score selections/audio interview with author Jeff Bond
- NEW interviews: "Satan's Son" with Julian Sands, "The Devil's Work" with director Steve Miner, "Effects of Evil" with makeup effects creators Carl Fullerton and Neal Martz
- Behind the Scenes footage
- Vintage interviews with cast and crew
- Vintage Featurette with effects artists Carl Fullerton and Neal Martz
- Theatrical Trailer, TV Spots and Home Video Trailers
- Still Gallery 

I think I had more fun digging into the special features more than I did the film, but that's just me. Warlock, as a film, has so much potential but never really satisfied me the way I had hoped. It's a solid film though, with some great things going for it. It just didn't hit all the right notes for me. You can check out my full Warlock Film Review HERE. But the extras were certainly fun to dig through. Miner isn't the most interesting fella to listen to, and certainly doesn't come across as someone who's got a foot in the horror genre with multiple franchises, but he did give some good info on the production, most interestingly when he discusses his disapproval with the flying effects. I also found it amusing that Lori Singer isn't interviewed, but when she's brought up and discussed, everyone is very kind in their description of her. It felt a bit too forced if you ask me, basically saying how difficult her role must have been under all that makeup. Rumor has it she was difficult, but I guess we'll never know. Still, you have a healthy dose of extras to dive into and Vestron really went all out with this one.

Warlock: The Armageddon

I loved this one so much. It took a sharp 180 turn into camp/cheese with a self-aware attitude and I loved it. It was entertaining, gory, cheesy and most importantly, fun - something the first one was sorely missing. Director Anthony Hickox put the pedal to the metal here and gives the film so much style and energy by way of a dark comic book. It's everything I hoped the first film would be, but better. Is it perfect? No. But it sure is a helluva good time. The HD transfer here is excellent. There were only 2 moments, mainly in the beginning and at night, where I noticed some very slight graininess in the blacks, but they were extremely brief and the rest of the film is devoid of any of those issues. And being that most of the film takes place during the day, the crystal clear image brings the film to a much higher level of awesome. Until now even the DVD release was only marginally better than the VHS release, so this new 1080p presentation is leaps and bounds better than anything we've gotten up until this point. 

Special Features:

- Audio commentary by director Anthony Hickox
- Vintage "Making Of" featurette
- Vintage behind-the-scenes footage
- Extended interview segments with director Anthony Hickox, Julian Sands and Paula Marshall
- Theatrical Trailer, TV Spots and Still Gallery

I highly recommend listening to the commentary by Hickox. The guy's a hoot and I just love his insight into the production of this and where his head was at at the time. Very fun, and very informative if you love that kind of stuff. The vintage stuff was also fun to look at. Even then, you see such a difference in Julian Sands. You can tell he was just having a grande old time resurrecting his most famous role.

Warlock III

I'll be completely honest and say that sadly, all the upgrades are wasted on this particular entry in the franchise. Sure it's clear and sharp, but it's a low-budget film that wasn't all that pretty to look at to begin with, so it's not really all that better in 1080p HD. But that's just me. If you love Bruce Payne or Ashley Laurence, then maybe this is worth a visit, but be warned, it's more of a haunted house or ghost story than anything else. It also works as a time capsule into the late 90's, and for that alone, it's worth a watch. 

Special Features:

- Behind the scenes footage
- Vintage interviews with cast and crew
- Trailer, video sales promo and still gallery

Ultimately this is a no-brainer. For the price it goes for, it's definitely a wise investment just for the large number of Special Features alone. The films themselves get the best transfer's they've ever received, and the sheer entertainment value alone of the first 2 films makes this a Must-Buy. The first film comes on the first disc with that films special features, while the second and third films are on the second disc along with their extras. The packaging is rounded out with newly commissioned artwork and a collectors slipcase.

This was released in July of this year, and can be picked up at any number of online retailers for roughly around $25. That's a steal! Grab it while you still can. 

If you would like me to review a film or blu ray release, please feel free to contact me at jasonisageek@yahoo.com. 

90's Thriller Throwback: Narrow Margin


























1990
Directed by: Peter Hyams
Category: Thriller

If there's one thing I really love, it's a good thriller. I've learned this past year that a solid thriller is one of my absolute favorite types of films and always puts me in a good mood. And let me tell you, I've discovered some really great gems this past year alone. Shoot to Kill, F/X and F/X 2, Year of the Dragon, Out of Bounds and Desperate Hours to name a few, and all quite excellent in this genre. But there's another reason I wanted to see this one in particular, and that is that it comes from writer/director Peter Hyams, whom I absolutely love as a filmmaker, and who's decades long history of films I'm still discovering. Hyams was on fire during the 80's and 90's, delivering some of the best films in the thriller, action, comedy and sci-fi genre's. I mean, just look at films like 2010, Running Scared, Outland, Stay Tuned, Sudden Death and Timecop! The man delivers quality like no one else can, so when I realized this was a thriller of his that I hadn't yet gotten to, I was pretty excited. I immediately snatched up a Laserdisc on eBay for cheap. Let's dig in.

A district attorney unwittingly becomes a target after he tries to pursuade a witness to a mafia execution to testify. They soon find themselves fleeing on a train with hitmen hot on their trail.

I loved Narrow Margin. I loved it to death. To be quite honest, it's a very simple premise and it's a very simple story. It's nothing we haven't already seen before, but Peter Hyams, who is one of the few in Hollywood that also works as their own Cinematographer, infuses the film with so much style, character and tension that it's a thrill-a-minute ride that never lets up the entertainment factor. And that right there is a true testament to Hyams' gift as a filmmaker. He can take a perfectly standard genre, filled with all the standard tropes, and make it a helluva fun ride simply by working his magic.

Gene Hackman is so good at being bad in films that I often forget just how great of an actor he really is. Here, he plays the straight-laced D.A. who ultimately puts his own life on the line to protect his witness, played by the lovely Ann Archer. And it's not just by running away. No sir. Robert Caulfield (Hackman) continuously thrusts himself head-on into danger, sometimes foolishly, to always get the upper hand. And it's in these moments that impressed me the most for several reasons. Hackman has never been much of an action star, but if this film is any indication, he can certainly hold his own. I suppose seeing him as a slimy villain in so many drama's, thrillers, and comic book films, I can easily forget that he can also be an intimidating badass when need be, and he certainly does that here. He was great. But that also plays into Hyams' ability to write strong character development. Even though Caulfield can be an ass, you root for him because he's on the right side of justice and will literally put his life on the line for what he believes.

Let's talk about the "look" of Narrow Margin. I will go on record and say that Peter Hyams is hands-down one of the most visually impressive directors ever. Each film he touched was infused with so much clean style, so much genuine craftsmanship and love for imagery that I still to this day have never loved a director more than I do him. Well maybe John Carpenter. But the things Hyams does with his camera setups, compositions and framing is breathtaking. And with this film in particular, his use of light and shadow is simply stunning. The fact that he does all the camerawork and setups himself just blows my mind. On the surface, there's nothing flashy about them, at least not to the average moviegoer, yet they're so impressive from a technical standpoint. It's all in his composition and framing.....and they're damn near perfect. If you ever take the time to watch this, or any of Hyam's other films, I urge you to please pay attention to his incredible camerawork. It's all him, from the idea to the execution.

From a structure and technical standpoint, Narrow Margin is fantastic. Most of the film takes place on a train, and it's in these moments that you assume how limited the environment can be and how could they possibly make it interesting? Yet they do. There's no lazy filmmaking anywhere, even in the moments where there very easily could have been. The final act, culminating in a number of death-defying stunts on top of a speeding train, will simply blow you away. With the exception of maybe 2 scenes utilizing a green screen, 95% of them are done practically. That's really Gene Hackman walking on a moving train, fighting with a guy, and hanging on for dear life. I still don't know how they pulled some of that off. I watch it and I'm floored. They would "never" attempt that today. Never. It would be a painfully obvious and dull CGI mess. Just look at The Wolverine and Mission Impossible. But what Narrow Margin was able to pull off just literally blows my mind. If there's anything this film will be remembered for, it will surely be that. But that's just one of many great things about this little gem that will surprise you. You just need to give it a chance.

Narrow Margin doesn't break new ground, but it's not trying to either. It takes a very simple basic premise and does incredible things with it. It's a classy thriller that knows exactly what to do within it's formula and make's the most out of every single detail and frame of film. Peter Hyams, working as it's writer, director and cinematographer delivers some of the most thrilling work I've ever seen in this genre. Check it out! I can't recommend it highly enough.


10.06.2017

New To Crackle: October Edition

I love Crackle. It's a movie app I only recently discovered on my XBOX for the first time months ago, and I have to say that I've really, really enjoyed it. While they don't offer a whole lot of options every month, there always seems to be some new gems that pop up that I've been meaning to get to eventually, as well as films that have been high on my "Want/Watch List" for months. So they really just make it too easy for me. And the best part is that they're FREE. You just have to endure commercials. So let's get started.

Exorcist III

Hands down my all-time favorite film in the series. Original Exorcist author William Peter Blatty writes and directs this third entry in the franchise and took the formula and put a detective thriller spin to it, giving us easily one of the most intense detective thrillers ever made. I think that sharp shift in tone from the first 2 films really threw some people off and might explain why it's not nearly as popular as it should be. While I was surprised to discover this myself firsthand, it didn't deter my enjoyment of it. In fact, I loved it even more. It's one of the most highly underrated films I can think of and begs to be discovered. Watch that "nurse" scene and tell me it didn't scare the crap out of you.

Sleepwalkers

Stephen King's last feature film screenwriting credit is also one of his strangest films in my opinion. That doesn't mean it's bad, in fact it's quite the opposite. When I revisited this recently thanks to Crackle, I was surprised at how bizarre and just plain silly a lot of this was. I hadn't seen it in years but I didn't remember it being this unintentionally goofy. But the film manages to charm you and as the film progresses, and becomes more and more bizarre, it also becomes a lot of fun culminating in a big climax befitting the material. Director Mick Garris (Critters 2, Psycho IV) also throws in a ton of cameos. So much in fact that you'd swear it was a John Landis film, who also makes an appearance in here. Overall it's a ton of fun and sometimes that's all we need.

Hudson Hawk

Bruce Willis was at the height of his stardom and popularity when this came out. While it's clear that he's having a blast here, I personally can't stand it. It's just too much. Too goofy, too silly and too outrageous for me to enjoy. The worst part is that none of the funny bits ever land, instead making me cringe. But I know I'm in the minority on this because I know people do in fact love it, and love it for all the reasons I do not. I feel this exists in the same universe as The Adventures of Ford Fairlane, only I would revisit Ford Fairlane any day before I ever revisit this one. I just love FF to death. Fun fact: They were both made a year apart and both produced by Joel Silver.

Jodorowsky's Dune

I know Jodorowsky isn't for everyone, but while I do admit that his films are hit or miss for me, the ones I do enjoy I enjoy quite a lot. This documentary spills the beans from the man himself on what his version of Dune would have been like. And let me tell you, just based on everything he says in here, and all the notes and concept art alone, Dune would have been one of the most batshit crazy science fiction epics ever made. And that's putting it lightly. The insane amount of amazing talent he had lined up, combined with his naturally bizarre sensibilities would have produced something unlike anything we'd ever seen. But alas, his vision was just too big, too different and would more than likely had bankrupt the studio. But we can dream.

Driven

I'm not gonna lie. This is probably going to be awful. At least, that's the reputation it has. But I'm hoping for spectacularly cheesy awful and if that's the case, then I will love it. I remember this being a big flop for both Renny Harlin and Stallone, even though Stallone wrote it. This was the beginning of the end for Harlin as a big budget studio director and it's really a shame, because the guy put out some real quality work up until this point. I keep hoping he'll get his big break again, but his style has changed so much since the good ol' days of Die Hard 2, The Adventures of Ford Fairlane and Cliffhanger that I doubt he can pull it off again. Here's to hoping....

Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation

Oh boy. Where do I even start with this one? Original TCM writer Kim Henkel returns to the franchise as both writer and director for this ill-fated reboot hoping to somewhat reinvent the franchise and head it into a different direction and it was a disaster. I even remember the trailers and thinking how terrible it looked...even as a kid. When I finally saw it last year it was worse than I expected. It's truly a bizarre and totally uneven film that makes zero sense and tried shamelessly to capitalize on the success of pre-fame Renee Zellwegger and Mathew McConaughey once they hit it big. It's a film they both do not ever discuss and for good reason.

Seems Like Old Times

I can't even begin to tell you how much I just love this movie. It was one of those that would play on HBO back in the 80's on what seemed like repeat because I saw it so many times and know it line for line. And that's not the reason why I love it. I love it because it's genuinely hilarious in such a way that you never get to see anymore. Chevy Chase, Goldie Hawn and Charles Grodin all do such fantastic work here, and the supporting cast is just as excellent with a who's who of notable character actors turning in great performances. It's just one of those magical films that hits all the right notes and cracks me up every single time. Chase is in top form, delivering easily one of his best performances to date.

Striking Distance

I wish I could say I remember this but I don't. But that doesn't mean it's not any good. In fact, Rowdy Herrington is a pretty solid director. Having already delivered one hell of an 80's classic with Roadhouse, as well as the boxing drama Gladiator, which I do remember, Herrington always delivers a solid good time, so I'm hoping this should will follow suite. I also recently just saw an episode of Tales From The Crypt titled "Korman's Kalamity" from 1990 that he directed and it was easily one of the best episodes I've ever seen from that series. Willis was also still in top form here, having just appeared in Last Boy Scout and Death Becomes Her and following this up with Pulp Fiction.



I should also point out that I'm still not sure how long Crackle keeps their new releases available. From what I've noticed, they change every month so if there's a title in this list that you want to see, I highly suggest you watch it before the month is up. You can watch them online directly from your computer by going to Crackle.com or through their app on most streaming devices.

New To Blu Ray: Arrow Film's The Ghoul Blu Ray Review

Arrow Film's new Blu Ray release comes to us courtesy of executive producer Ben Wheatley, who's fast become one of my new favorite writer/directors with films like Free Fire, A Field in England and Kill List already under his belt. Wheatley executive produces first time writer/director Gareth Tunley's first feature and it's a doozy of a film in British Cinema; a psychological thriller in the same vein as films like Lost Highway and Nolan's The Following. While not specifically mentioned, it also plays a bit into the Folk Horror genre, which was a pleasant surprise as that's my wife's favorite area in that genre. Let's dig in.

Chris (Tom Meetan) is a homicide detective who's called to investigate an unusual murder in a home. 2 people, a husband and wife, are shot dead in a home by an intruder. What rattles the brains of the detectives and sets the films course in motion is the fact that both victims weren't fazed after being shot multiple times by the assailant, instead continuing to walk calmly towards their intruder as he unloads an entire clip of bullets into them, only finally falling to their deaths "after" the intruder has left. What follows is a fascinating glimpse into the mind of a detective as he tries to unravel the mystery of the homeowners, while also questioning his own sanity.

I quite enjoyed this little thriller. It constantly kept me guessing what was really happening and I had to continually question my own perception of the events. The film is filled with strong performances, a tight script and solid direction from first timer Gareth Tunley. The film's bleak and dark tone reminded me a lot of The Fall and the AMC/Netflix series The Killing. So if you're a fan of those, then you'll most certainly enjoy this.

One of the things I found quite surprising as I dove into the "Making of" found in the Special Features is that everyone involved - the writer/director and nearly all of the cast comes from a comedy background. I never would have guessed, because they do such outstanding work with the dark tone and dramatic elements, especially the lead, Tom Meetan, who to my surprise is really a comedian.

The Blu Ray presentation is impressive with a stunningly clear 1080p HD presentation. The English audio is an original uncompressed 5.1 audio with English subtitles and a filmmakers commentary. There is no shortage of good Special Features either. The "Making Of" documentary is informative and engaging, and "The Baron", a 2013 short film from the director is also included. The trailer and some more interviews round out the list of extras. 

The Ghoul is a strong debut from a filmmaker we should all keep an eye on. You can order your copy directly from Arrow Films HERE.

If you would like me to review your film or blu ray release, you can contact me at jasonisageek@yahoo.com.

10.05.2017

Digging Into The Warlock Series

I'll admit that when it was originally announced that these films would be getting the Blu Ray treatment via Vestron Video (Blu Ray Review coming soon), I was both a bit apprehensive and excited. Apprehensive because I was never a fan of Warlock to begin with, but excited that Vestron Video would be handling this release because they've been knocking it out of the park lately. And I also took it as an excuse to revisit these because honestly, it's been well over a decade or two since I've seen the first two. And if I'm to be completely honest, I had no idea there was even a third. But I love Bruce Payne as a villain, so I was more than happy to get to dive into this last chapter along with the first 2. So let's dig in.

Warlock (1989)

What I remember the most about this was when the trailers began hitting the theaters during the previews, I remember that on the surface, it looked kind of cool. But even back then, just being something around 13 years old, I remember feeling that I just wasn't excited about it because Steve Miner was directing, and even then, I had recognized that he was not a strong director, and I was not a fan. Even though he'd had his hand in a few other franchises previously having directed Friday the 13th Part 2 & Part 3 as well as the first House, I always felt he was a very stale filmmaker. Sure he's competent, and can certainly put a film together well, but there's just no energy in any of it. But time does tend to change my mind about films so I went into this enthusiastically and hopeful.

Overall, Warlock was a solid good time. Unfortunately I didn't love it, and my feelings about Miner's inability to give any film he directs any kind of life still ring true. Warlock is a competently made film, with some great performances from Julian Sands and Richard E. Grant, but it always felt like it was missing something. Maybe even some tighter editing could have done the job? I'm not sure, but it has enough good things going on to help you forget about the things that don't work. But let's talk about those for a second. For starters, Lori Singer was just awful. If it wasn't for her annoying as hell performance I might have enjoyed it a bit more. It could very well be the bad dialogue she had to deliver, or the direction she took from Miner in how to play the "late 80's valley girl" character, but my word I just didn't like her and any second she was on screen was an endurance test. Rumors are that she was a nightmare to work with, especially since most of her screen-time is under heavy makeup, where she was subjected to long uncomfortable makeup sessions. Though some of the cast and crew were kind in their remarks (on the Blu Ray Special Features) about their experiences working with her, but you get the sense they weren't being completely honest, or being too nice. The bad effects were expected, but I wasn't prepared for just how bad some of them would actually be, especially the flying stuff. Steve Miner has gone on record saying he himself was also unhappy with how the flying effects worked out and I can certainly understand.

There are some good things happening here though, like Richard E. Grant, who was just excellent in the role. I'm used to seeing him as a wiry or annoying villain, but seeing him here play the tough guy lead as the Warlock Hunter, quite effortlessly, really surprised the hell out of me. I also liked the set design in the last act of the film, which takes place in a cemetery. They use a matte painting backdrop of a city skyline and man I love how that looks. You see it, and you know it's not real, but still looks more real than any CGI city background these days. It also adds so much character to the scene. Anthony Hickox did the same thing with the sequel and I just love that look so much.

Overall this film feels too safe, too stale and too plain. It always feels like it's missing "something". What that something is, I couldn't tell you. Perhaps some tighter editing, more style in the camerawork, or maybe a bit more life into the script. It's always just a few steps away from being awesome, but as it stands, it's just good.
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Warlock: The Armageddon (1993)

Whatever issues I had with the first film take a complete 180 turn with this insanely fun sequel. Waxwork writer and director Anthony Hickox (Waxwork 1 & 2, Hellraiser III) helms this sequel and gives the franchise a tremendous boost of life and energy. I've always loved Hickox' early work. He's always been a criminally underrated director who gives his films so much energy with his inspired frenetic camerawork, and doesn't get the proper respect or credit he deserves for being one of the more visually talented directors in genre films back in the day.

Whereas the first film took a dead-serious approach, this time around everyone is clearly having a great time, especially Julian Sands as the Warlock. He's taken the role he made famous years before and amps the sinister energy to 11, delivering a bewitchingly fun performance. Hickox, to his credit, also infuses the movie with a much-needed energy sorely missing from the first film. Warlock: The Armageddon comes off more like a dark comic book than a horror film. It carries a self-aware tongue-in-cheek humor that oftentimes strays into camp and corny unintentionally, but never too far where it becomes dumb. Anthony Hickox' gimmicky camerawork only serves to better the film, and it works. There are moments clearly inspired by Evil Dead era Sam Raimi, with creative and sometimes downright brilliant camera setups done in only the slickest way that Hickox can achieve. If you want to see more of his brilliant work behind the camera, I urge you to check out Full Eclipse, another film he directed this very same year, and Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth, which he directed the year before. And that's another thing about this one. Aside from working again with the gorgeous Paula Marshall, Warlock: The Armageddon looked and felt very much like Hellraiser III in more ways than one. Now whether you enjoyed that entry will probably determine whether you might potentially enjoy this. While I admit that a lot of Hellraiser fans were a bit turned off by the third entry's cheese factor, I personally enjoyed it. He carries over a lot of the same aesthetic into this film, and while some could argue that it comes off as cheesy, I say it spun the franchise on it's head and brought it into the 90's in an unconventionally entertaining way.


One of the strongest elements of this film, aside from Hickox' brilliantly fun shots, is the effects department, this time courtesy of Bob Keen (Hellraiser 2). Compared to the first one, this film is much more gory with a healthy dose of practical effects. Of course, there are also some badly rendered CGI circa 1993, but really, that's to be expected. Whatever the film is lacking in computer generated effects more than makes up for in it's strong use of practical physical effects and Bob Keen and company did a helluva job in that department.

I really loved the casting here. Paula Marshall is always great, and Chris Young (The Great Outdoors) was an interesting choice, but it's really in the supporting cast that gives the film a boost of legitimacy. Led by Lethal Weapon regular Steve Kahan, who's appeared in virtually every single Richard Donner (he is his cousin after all) film, as well as some notable action films of the 80's and 90's, the trio of Druids, including R.G. Armstrong and Charles Hallahan, the trio of old-timers deliver a strong supporting cast that's better than it has any right being. These 3 legends, here playing modern day Druids, act as sort of the backbone to the Warlock mythology. Even though some of the lines they deliver are a bit corny, they sure do it with class.

For my personal taste, Warlock: The Armageddon was a blast from start to finish. It was just the kind of comic book style energy that the series needed to breathe some new life into it. Director Anthony Hickox, here in his prime, delivers some of his best camerawork next to Full Eclipse, infusing the film with an over-the-top sensibility that mostly works, while also making it a much more fun experience.

_____________________________________________

Warlock III: The End of Innocence (1999)

As I mentioned before, I wasn't even aware that there was a third entry in the franchise, so this came as somewhat of a pleasant surprise for me. Add to that the fact that Bruce Payne was taking over the role of the Warlock made it all the more intriguing to me. Then I discovered it starred Ashley Laurence (Hellraiser 1 & 2). SOLD!

Where the second film took a 180 turn into camp, while also making it more fun, gory and a whole lot of new energy, this last sequel takes yet another 180 turn, only in the complete opposite direction, and what we're left with is a very small film, one that tries to go back to basics. The problem is that they went so far back to basics that it's downright dull.

Warlock III has some decent things going for it, like the casting of Bruce Payne and Ashley Laurence. Payne is always a hoot as the villain, even with his limited screen time here, but Ashley Laurence just keeps getting hotter the older she gets and steals every scene she's in with her beauty. Eric Freiser's (his one and only directing credit) direction is pretty solid to be honest. I found some of his shots and setups to be competent and sometimes inventive, but the film just can't shake it's low-budget aesthetic. But still, even with big limitations, Freiser surprised me on more than a few occasions with some nifty camerawork.


And that's pretty much where the positives end and the negatives begin. Let's start with the location. Most of the film takes place inside a large old house, making the film look and feel more like a ghost or haunted house story rather than about a Warlock who's trying to retrieve.....aw hell. I don't even remember. I was bored. And that's one of the film's biggest issues. It's sloooooow and nothing happens for a good hour. Then when it does pick up the pace in the last act, it's not nearly enough. There are no badass kills, and what surprised me the most is that there is practically zero Warlock magic happening. He instead turns to manipulation to get things done, which is not what you expect from a film called Warlock.

One of the things I found amusing was that whenever his victims are trying to outrun him, he never runs, instead choosing to calmly walk like Michael Myers and Jason, which I found amusing. And the film really suffers from some bad editing and absolutely dreadful music. Released on video in 1999, that late 90's grunge scene is painfully splattered all over this film, from the actresses makeup, to everyone's clothes, to the terrible grunge/rock music. It screams the worst that that era had to offer and makes the film feel painfully dated. Sure, the first one was late 80's, and the second was early 90's, but they don't kick you in the face with it the way this one does. And lastly, I don't know why the subtitle of "The End of Innocence" is even there. It means nothing, and plays no part into the film at all. Plus it just sounds tacky.


While not the worst film or sequel I've ever seen, it's easily the worst in this series. I couldn't even tell you if this Warlock is the same Warlock from the previous two films, because it's never mentioned. In reality, it works more as a haunted house film more than anything, but would be enjoyable just for it's hardcore 90's grunge vibe for sheer sentimental value.