Friday, 17 March 2017

The Rocky Horror Picture Show: Let's Do the Time Warp Again

"The Rocky Horror Picture Show: Let's Do the Time Warp Again" (2016, Kenny Ortega, Fox 21 Television Studios, Ode Sound & Visuals, The Jackal Group) is the tribute to Richard O'Brien's 1975 cult masterpiece homage to sci-fi cinema, The Rocky Horror Picture Show.

The bulk of the movie is a scene for scene remake of the original but there's additional wrap-around scenes involving a cinema full of Rocky Horror movie-goers and we get some screen time from The Usherette (Ivy Levan) who was present only in the stage production of the original and not present in the 1975 film. She's a good addition, looking pretty awesome in her kick ass outfit, and keeping the rabble of cinema goers in check... Kind of. The wrap-around plot also brings in some of the traditional audience participation aspects which surround live viewings and stage productions of the cult classic.

We follow Brad Majors (Ryan McCartan) and his new fiancé, Janet Weiss (Victoria Justice), on a road trip which leads them to the castle of Dr. Frank-N-Furter (Laverne Cox) when their car breaks down. Upon admission to the castle by the handyman, Riff Raff (Reeve Carney), they discover that the inhabitants of this home are not normal. From Magenta the maid (Christina Milian) to Columbia the groupie (Annaleigh Ashford), everyone is a touch insane and Frank is not keen to let the couple leave. But when they do leave, will they ever feel the same?

As well as the audience wrap-around, which I appreciated, the film does have some good points. Victoria Justice's rendition of Janet is very close to Susan Sarandon's original film version. Her singing style is absolutely pitch perfect. Reeve Carney's rendition of Riff Raff is also very similar to Richard O'Brien's vision - except for that wig! Adam Lambert also does a really good job of playing Eddie, and although his part is short, it was a good few scenes. Ben Vereen also updates the character of Dr. Everett von Scott.

Our title character, Rocky (Staz Nair), looks amazing in his little gold boxers, and Laverne Cox gives an excellent portrayal of Frank-N-Furter with a sexual flare that is both very different to Tim Curry's iconic rendition and also similar in its power. My only main bicker with this character is that I feel that not having stockings and suspenders on kind of takes away from Frank's style.

Having Tim Curry himself play the narrator was also very moving.

Now to the flaws; Mr. Director, Ortega, is from High School Musical fame and you can tell. This feels like a shiny penny of a production and it kind of robs some of the soul away that the original and the stage productions enjoy. It's overly produced and the costumes look like costumes, not what the characters happen to be wearing. Magenta's outfit in particular looked way too pristine. However, I liked her hair!

Having all the songs the same is, of course, a must for Rocky. It's all about the music! But I feel like updating the story to modern day might have been a good twist making this remake seem a little more worthwhile.

All in all, it's not a terrible movie, but it feels like a shiny TV homage more than an update of the classic. I doubt there will be many die hard fans of this version in years to come and it might slink into obscurity.

[Image: Fox Television Studios, et al]

Tuesday, 14 March 2017

What ever happened to Baby Jane?

"What ever happened to Baby Jane?" (1962, Robert Aldrich, Seven Arts Productions, Warner Bros. Pictures) is a psychological horror film about two ageing actress sisters. The film is based on a 1960 novel of the same name by Henry Farrell and stars the famously feuding Bette Davis and Joan Crawford.

To be honest my sudden compulsion to re-watch this famous flick was inspired by the first part of the episodic docudrama "Feud: Bette and Joan" (2017) starring Susan Sarandon and Jessica Lange, which is very entertaining and definitely worth watching!

"Baby" Jane Hudson (Bette Davis) is an ex-child star who, after casting a shadow over her sister's childhood due to her booming stage career, later found that her own adult acting career was then overshadowed by her elder sister, Blanche (Joan Crawford). Having turned to drink to drown her sorrows, Jane is suspected to have caused the car accident which paralysed Blanche.

Years later, it is evident that Jane's mental state is not good, and as sole carer for Blanche she has the power to hold her captive, away from the world. All attempts from outsiders to intervene are halted by an angry and devious Jane and eventually drive her to becoming more and more erratic and dangerous in her attempts to live out her delusional plan of becoming America's sweetheart once again.

A fascinating study on the feelings that lost popularity and fame can have, and on the breakdown in the mind of someone who cannot move on with their lives. Jane's father drove her to stardom, but didn't provide her with any sense of longevity; her career would always end when she grew older. Her jealousy of Blanche is the exact reflection of Blanche's own feelings of jealousy and resentment which she had as the 'unfamous' child.

Both sisters are fabulously portrayed with relish by Davis and Crawford, helped along by their own off-screen dislike for one another. Jane's spiralling mental state and heart-breaking delusion are almost difficult to watch. A particularly chilling scene where she is singing in the mirror and then catches a glimpse of her aged face is really aweing. Blanche's quiet desperation and helplessness builds the sense of dread to match the madness of her sister.

The film enjoys a tense and exciting ending with some revelations and last pieces of both character puzzles falling into place. A genuine classic that will continue to be discovered by new audiences as time goes on.

[Image: Warner Bros. Pictures]

Sunday, 12 March 2017

The Night Watchmen

"The Night Watchmen" (2017, Mitchell Altieri, Contender Films, Indie Entertainment, Studio BOH) is about a vampire outbreak in an office block all started by the miss-delivered corpse of a famous clown....

Ken (Ken Arnold), Jiggetts (Kevin Jiggetts) and Luca (Dan DeLuca) are night security guards for a large office block. They are joined by a new rookie (Max Gray Wilbur) for his first day on the job.

Aside from oogling Karen (Kara Luiz) on the monitors and consistently forgetting to acknowledge Penny (Diona Reasonover), the guys' job seems to pretty much consist of playing cards and eating. That is, until they receive the unusual delivery of a coffin by mistake containing a deceased, famous clown. Unfortunately, the dead clown doesn't stay that way for long and swiftly fills the building with a horde of ferocious vampires!

An epic battle ensues, but can our unlikely heroes actually save the day?

A fun film with a so-bad-it's-good vibe that really hits the mark. The banter between the characters, who were surprisingly well-rounded considering the genre, is entertaining and the action is gory, silly and well paced. The film is a perfect party movie, not overstaying its welcome and containing angry, zombie-esque vampire clowns.

Definitely worth a shot.

[Image: Contender Films, et al]

Tuesday, 28 February 2017

Ghost Ship (2002)

"Ghost Ship" (2002, Steve Beck, Dark Castle Entertainment, Village Roadshow Pictures, Warner Bros.) is a film about a haunted cruise liner.

The opening scene to this film is a really fun bit of carnage. I had seen a short clip of it on You Tube that essentially drove me to hunt down this film. The scene might be a little against the laws of physics, but it's fun regardless.

We follow a salvage crew (Gabriel Byrne, Julianna Marguilles, Isaiah Washington, Ron Eldard, Karl Urban and Alex Dimitriades) on their tug boat as they hunt down a bounty that was brought to their attention by a stranger in a bar (Desmond Harrington). When they come across the abandoned cruise liner in international waters they think their dreams have been answered, especially when they go aboard and find everything left as it was. By maritime law that would mean that it is rightfully theirs. However, they are unnerved to find that there are no traces of people left on board. They find out that the cruise liner disappeared in the 60's and there were no survivors.... Deciding it might be best to leave, the team attempt to escape, but a presence on the ship has other plans for them,,,

A very early 2000s film with a soundtrack seemingly composed entirely of Mudvayne (not a complaint but it felt very odd with the setting). The action is hokey with all the usual haunted house tropes and, aside from the initial scene, the film doesn't offer anything new to the genre. It's difficult to set a period horror in a ballroom without accidentally ripping off The Shining. And Ghost Ship also doesn't manage to avoid this, with several overly reminiscent scenes. But it's not awful. It's silly and a bit predictable, but the characters are more rounded than I anticipated and sometimes a bit of the familiar isn't a negative.

Frankly, I've seen much worse films. At least this one had a few fun scenes and a plot that kept moving. It's not a groundbreaking piece of cinema, but it's definitely a film I would have added to my high school horror collection back in the day.

[Image: Dark Castle Entertainment]

Monday, 20 February 2017

Shut In

"Shut In" (2016, Farren Blackburn, Transfilm International, Lava Bear Films, Canal+, Ocs, Cine+, Europa Corp) is a psychological thriller.

Mary (Naomi Watts) is a widowed child psychologist who lives and works in her secluded home with her 18 year old stepson, Stephen (Charlie Heaton), who has been left catatonic after the road accident that killed his father. During a snowstorm that renders them trapped in their home, Mary becomes concerned that she's either losing her mind, or that her home is haunted.

A slow burning film. The plot is pretty simple with a couple of twists and turns to try and flesh it out. The setting is effective, but the characters are a little rough and not entirely realistic, with the exception of our protagonist, Mary. Although, I find it difficult to believe a psychologist would miss some of the things that Mary misses...

On the whole, the film is pretty slow to get going and the premise is a little too 'out there' to give the slow build-up much of a payoff. Naomi Watts gives an excellent performance, essentially carrying the movie along, but the film has a hollow feeling that makes it feel a little... off.

[Image: Lava Bear Films, et al]


Sunday, 19 February 2017


"Rings" (2017, F. Javier Gutiérrez, Parkes/MacDonald, BenderSpink, Marci/Edelstein, Vertigo Entertainment, Waddieish Claretrap, Paramount Pictures) is the third movie in the American "The Ring" franchise.

Since the happenings of the first two films, Samara (Bonnie Morgan) has taken her haunting ways from the VHS world into the digital world with the help of Gabriel Brown (Johnny Galecki) and his AV club.

This is unfortunate for Julia (Matilda Lutz), who's boyfriend, Holt (Alex Roe), is in the AV Club. In her bid to save him from Samara's gruesome curse, she jumps down the rabbit hole of Samara's past, finding more than she anticipated...

A pretty typical horror sequel with some pretty typical horror sequel pitfalls:

Firstly, retreading old ground - why does every Ring movie have to focus on Samara's origin story? We've established that she will stop at nothing, why can't we just enjoy her brutal, endless pursuit of the curious without having to find her motivation?

Secondly, our ghoulish villainess sees so little screen time. One of the best things about "The Ring" is Samara, just as the best thing about the original Japanese version is Sadako. The unsettling movements she makes, the way she pursues her prey... Her overall aesthetic.... the hair. Both antagonists are the stuff of nightmares, and "Rings" barely makes use of her. Sometimes less is more, but it felt like Samara was barely chasing anyone after the first 30 minutes.

There are good points, too, however. There is one good entrance through a face-down TV, however, that I enjoyed. I like Johnny Galecki's morally questionable lecturer character, and the both Julia and Holt were actually pretty likeable.

Not a terrible film, just a little pointless.

[Image: Vertigo Entertainment, et al]


Friday, 17 February 2017

Twins of Evil

"Twins of Evil" (1971, John Hough, Rank Organisation, Universal Pictures, Hammer Film Productions) is actually the second sequel to "The Vampire Lovers" (1970) and the third film in the Karnstein trilogy, based loosely on "Carmilla" by J. Sheridan Le Fanu.

Identical twins, Maria and Frieda (former Playboy playmates, Mary and Madeleine Collinson respectively) arrive in Karnstein from Venice to live with their uncle, Gustav Weil (Peter Cushing), after the death of their parents. They are surprised to find that their uncle is a puritan witch hunter who leads a cult of fanatical witch finders who prey on the town's women, burning them in the name of god. Frieda in particular takes a severe dislike to Gustav and becomes fascinated by Count Karnstein (Damien Thomas), who enjoys a risque reputation.

Things become complicated, however, when Frieda becomes more entrenched into the darker side of Count Karnstein, much to her sister's horror.

 A schlocky film from Hammer with some well trodden, but no less fun. tropes and some opportunities for the leading ladies to show flaunt around in pretty period outfits. Although cheesy, the film is quite original and the plot spotlights evil from two different angles; the judgemental puritans, burning innocent people to sate their holy bloodlust and the unclean vampires with their own, more literal blood lust.

Peter Cushing plays the villain with a scary coldness that brings some ominous presence to the film. And Damien Thomas' villainous vampire is devious and horny, a scary mix.

Definitely a worthwhile entry from Hammer's latter films, and while flawed, a good bit of fun.

[Image: Hammer Film Productions]