Wednesday, 31 October 2018

Review: The Puppet Masters (1994)

Stars: Donald Sutherland, Julie Warner

Budget: Unknown

Directed By: Stuart Orme

An invasion of the body snatchers type romp penned by sci-fi author Robert A. Heinlein.

Donald Sutherland stars as Andrew Nivens a secret government agent. As always from a member of the Sutherland family there is brilliant acting on offer from the older member here. Effects are half decent and seem to mostly be practical and realistic, the alien parasites seem believable for the most part. It is however only comparable to invasion in that it's alien in origin and controls it's host.
These are just plain parasitic aliens that latch onto you and control your mind and body rather than replicating you replacing.
Eric Thal also stars as Nivens son and also secret agent Sam, also a pretty decent actor in his own right and works well with Donald. Though I'd rank him as second rate Keanu reeves, quite wooden. Julie Warner also stars as a NASA biologist Mary Sefton, who is the counterpart to Sutherland's gruff character.

As with a lot of authors works things get lost in rewrites and adaptation, the puppet masters is no stranger to that. With two writers one who wanted to stick to the book as much as possible and one told to adapt it to make a sellable story. The movie does start with a strong beginning where the aliens believably spread. When the group goes to check out the area they find out that aliens have indeed landed, they are slimy slug like creatures that resemble sting rays.
Latching onto a hosts back they take over your nervous system and control you like a puppet. This is hard to see at first but they are quick to anger especially when suspicion is pointed their way.
This is where it tends to break down and lose integrity, it has no agenda or message and just breaks down in mostly action.

After many people are infected they find some among the puppets who are still human. This inevitably leads to a way to beat them. I won't as usual spoil the ending as this is a half decent film, but if you haven't seen any of the invasion of the body snatchers films 50s, 70s, or 90s. Or even the thing, if you haven't then there's something wrong. Then go watch them first (yes I know there's another invasion film with Nicole Kidman but this is better than that one). If THN gave half stars we'd give this two and half. Unfortunately we don't and thanks to a lackluster second half where only some decent acting shines we give this film 2 out 5 but recommend a watch if you can (it's pretty rare).

Review: Army of Darkness (1992)

Stars: Bruce Campbell, Embeth Davidtz

Budget: $11.6 million

Directed By: Sam Raimi

The 3rd film in the franchise and by far my favorite if only for the amount of one liners that I have learned from the hallowed chin himself Bruce Campbell.

But no it doesn't end there as this had some of the most iconic scenes and one liners of the series too!
From evil mini Ash's to an evil doppelganger of the hero born from one of the mini Ash's To give me some sugar baby.
After a small recap and a slightly different beginning to the ending of the second film this film starts as it means to continue, totally epic!

Sucked into the time vortex meant to remove the evil from his time Ash is transported to a medieval time. Just in time to see Henry the Red and some of his men being captured by Arthur.
Despite clearly not looking like anything from their time, even his chainsaw hand and olds mobile crashing in with him, Arthur disbelieves the wise mans words that Ash could be the savior they need. Chained up he and Henry's men are forced by whips to walk to Arthur's castle.
Once there a woman named Sheila asks about her brother, he has unfortunately been killed by Henry's men. Seeing red she takes her anger out on the unlucky Ash, scratching him and pulling his hair. One by one the men are thrown into a pit where a deadite kills them (one tries to escape only to be crossbow bolted in the back by Arthur).

It quickly come around to Ash's turn, where he does his best to tell Arthur he doesn't even know Henry. Sheila throws a rock striking Ash in the head sending him stumbling and falling into the hole.
Holding his own against 2 deadites for a while the wise man throws Ash his chainsaw hand and our hero takes them both out with ease, much to the chagrin of Sheila and Arthur. Especially since he frees Henry's men in the process, Primitive screwheads.

Being treated like hero the wise man tells Ash that he can return to his own time, also save them, if he retrieves the Necronomic ex-mortis. Slightly against the idea Ash is swayed when Another deadite attacks and he starts to fall in love with Sheila. Gimme some sugar baby.
Creating a robotic hand from an armored glove to aid him Ash sets off to retrieve the book from an ancient graveyard. Along the way he is attacked by the speeding forest demon and finds refuge inside an old windmill. Inside a mirror holding reflection smashes releasing many tiny evil Ash's, they all terrorize him one or two getting killed in the process. That is until they knock Ash down and one of the little guys finds his way into Ash's stomach, despite everything the little fellow grows out of Ash into a full size evil version.
Goody little two shoes, goody little two shoes.
Until Ash point blanks his face with his trusty walnut stock cobalt blue steel double 12ga barrel shotgun. dismembering the clone and burying it the head warns him that he'll never reach the Necronomicon and will die trying.

Once in the graveyard Ash spots three books which the wise man said nothing about, trying to retrieve each one (though as a little nitpick here he doesn't try to recite the 'magic' words until the last one) they each do something to him. One flies about attacking him where as the other is like a small black-hole sucking him in temporarily, the last being the proper book.
Having been told the recite the words Klaatu Barada Nicto else he would release all evil onto the world Ash has a hard time remembering the last word. after a number of tries he settles with just coughing to cover the recital of the last word. Of course this doesn't work and evil does indeed pop forth. Skeletons rise from the grave, his evil clone escapes piecing himself back together and leads the army against the living.

Returning with the book the wise man can see there's a problem and Ash confesses to not saying the words properly. Arthur tells them to keep his word and send Ash back to his time after Ash refuses to help them. However a flying deadite comes and kidnaps Sheila, this forces Ash to once again become heroic. He teaches the people to use explosives, advanced fighting techniques and converts his car into a steam powered killing machine with a giant rotary blade on the front.
They even send word to Henry the red for help but does he show up?
That will be answered if you watch the film yourself as i'm not spoiling another scene especially the kick ass last fight scene of this film. For me at least this film is the pinnacle of the series and by far my favorite of the three 5 out of 5 stars!

Review: Bride of Chucky (1998)

Related imageStars: Brad Douriff, Jennifer Tilly

Budget: $25million

Directed By: Ronny Yu

After a 7 year hiatus he's back, the psycho doll with the bad mouth, this time he's got a friend in the shape of Tiffany his equally psychotic ex-girlfriend.
Gone is all tension by this stage its just gore, blood and shock horror in this sequel. Each death tries to out do the last and comedy is heavily added to increase tongue in cheek humor.

It is though a direct sequel to part 3, despite seven years in real time this takes place only a few months after the end of part 3. Tiffany, as stated, Is played by the the beautiful Jennifer Tilly, both is person and voice. Why voice? We'll get into that later.

There's no Andy Barclay in this movie, he won't return to the series for a while. This did reasonably well in the cinema doubling it's budget, which warranted a sequel In Seed of Chucky.

So Tiffany who is a murderous seductress (no wonder her and Charles got along so well) seduces a police officer to steal Chucky's remains for her. After killing the officer she stitches Chucky's remains back together (after his mutilation in the fan in 3) and attempts to see if his soul still inhabits the doll. Using the voodoo incantation Charles learnt her too she tries to bring him back from death.
It doesn't seem to work at first that is until Tiffany's current lover (played by the late Alexis Arquette) a soppy goth guy stops over and fornicates over her.

Chucky suddenly springs to life and ends up killing the poor terrified guy, much to Tiffany's glee. She's happy and also deluded over Charles, you see before he died all those years back her left a diamond ring with her. She's held it in her head that he always intended to marry her before he died.
This is the reason she went out of her way to find him and resurrect him.
Chucky wastes no time in bursting her bubble and telling her it was just a stolen ring. Which causes them to break out into a big argument, upset Tiffany ends up throwing Chucky in a playpen and locking him in there. She throws in a doll with a wedding dress in there to mock him as she goes off for a bath.

Chucky of course escapes from his makeshift prison and ends up killing Tiffany by dropping a plugged in TV into her bathtub while she's in there. As further punishment he transfers Tiffany's soul into the bride doll so she knows what he feels like.
Now Apparently Charles was buried with an amulet that can allow them to transfer their souls into anyone they want. Both have their eyes placed on Tiffany's next-door neighbor Jesse and his girlfriend. Jesse is eager to get away with his girlfriend Jade too, so when he gets a message from Tiffany to transport her two dolls to a collector in New Jersey for some money he jumps on the offer.

Just before they leave Jesse proposes to Jade, though unknown to him her overprotective police officer uncle has planted some drugs on Jesse. Tiffany and Chucky discover this and in an effort to stop him sabotaging their plans kill him with and elaborate airbag and nail set up.
While they are on their way to the destination they are pulled over by officer Norton who find the weed in their car. Chucky however causes Nortons car to explode when he goes back to it to report the crime. This causes both Jesse and Jade to start doubting each other (great relationship hey?) thinking that the other was the cause of the explosion (even though they both flee).

Even though they are worried about the other one they still go through with getting married when they stop over in hotel/chapel combo for the night. Jades uncle seems to miraculously still be alive, albeit with nails jammed in his face and tries to escape, only to this time properly be killed by Chucky. When some con artists fleece Jesse and Jade of their money Tiffany takes revenge on them in probably one of the films most iconic kills. She throws a champagne bottle up at the mirrored ceiling above their bed, this rains down razor sharp shards of glass onto the couple slicing them to bits. Impressing Chucky incredibly with her creativity he proposes to Tiffany and they have weird doll sex.

Jesse and Jades friend David meets them at the hotel, meanwhile a maid finds the two corpses of the con artists. David explains that both of them are suspects for all the murders that have happened since they've been on the run too, they finally believe each other, David almost does too.
That is until he finds Warrens corpse in their boot/trunk, Chucky and Tiffany break their rouse holding them all at gunpoint. David tries to get the attention of some police officers but it spread across the freeway by a big truck, horrified Jesse and Jade do what they want.
They make the two kid steal a mobile home and explain to them that they are going to use them as new vessels for their souls. Chucky takes being married very relaxed boasting about how great it is, especially as Tiffany is making him food. Noticing how dirty Chucky is Jesse remembers how Tiffany explained she wants the perfect man. He comments how lazy Chucky is and gets Jade to join in too, it seems to trick Tiffany into turning on Chucky.

The two end up fighting each other in the graveyard. I'll leave it there as that's near the end of the film and there's a few twists and turns at the end that are worth not having been spoiled. It's a great turn around on the series though a distant call from the horror of the first film. It's fun though and if you like the series definitely worth watching. THN awards Bride of Chucky 4 out of 5 stars.

Tuesday, 2 October 2018

Review: Piranhas (1995)

Image result for piranha movie 1995Stars: Mila Kunis, William Katt

Budget: Unknown

Directed By: Scott P. Levy

This is a Roger Corman remake of the 1978 version of Piranha, which itself was remade in 2010 with Piranha 3D.

When i first saw this film I did for a long time believe this to be the 'original version' of the film not knowing that this was indeed a remake of an even older movie. Strange as I'd also Piranha 2 before the 70's version and this thinking that, that was a sequel to this one!
I was however like 12 or 13 at the time and watching these on late night UK TV cable channels like sci-fi or bravo.
So i had recently gone back and watched the actual original version now. What I did notice and was actually confirmed through some further research is that this includes scenes from the original film for attacks and showing the piranha swimming around.

It follows basically the same story too, except in this instance I actually think the 1995 version is better in a lot of ways to the 78 version.
Namely actors and acting help this one run just a little smoother than the older one, quite possibly as with a lot of things this might just be because I seen this one first. This film also stars a young Mila Kunis in the role of the young daughter of the protagonist.

If you've read the original you'll know that two teens (Barbara and David in the remake) go to a disused military facility and thinking the big pool is just a cool place to have dip enter and get eaten by the ravenous modified fish. I mean even if it disused wouldn't you be scared of the stinky stagnant water that might hold untold chemical waste in it?
Well in this remake the same happens (with lots of 90's nudity) except instead of a debtor looking for them the teen girls uncle believing they she's run away, hires a private investigator to find her. Also played by female actor (Alexendra Paul) playing Maggie McNamara, yes that's the same first name of the 70's character too a nice touch there.
She goes snooping around and eventually stumbles upon Paul Grogan (exactly the same name as the 70's version) played by reasonably well known actor William Katt. They both find their way to the base and like the 70's version Maggie goes to drain the pool. A change here though as she's attacked by and fights off a female scientist this time, one Dr Leticia Baines (Darleen Carr) unfortunately too late once again and the killer fish are flushed out into a nearby river. Pretty much the same deaths happen on the river too.

Exactly the same thing happens they find bones at the bottom of the tank, Baines steals their vehicle but crashes due to passing out and they go back to Paul's. Later on Baines wakes up and tells them what idiots they've been releasing the deadly creations into the wild. Fearful for his daughter (Susie) this film cuts out a lot of chaff and Paul goes straight to the place to try and get the camp shut down.
They don't believe him and the owner, Randolph gets them arrested for causing commotion.
Like the original they escape custody and then go to warn people, however the piranha have already made their way to the camp and start attacking.
Susie (Kunis) sets out on a raft to save her friends she saves one but the other falls in and is killed by the fish. Maggie and Paul make it to the camp and Paul saves his daughter and some more kids. Randolph actually see's the carnage now and very sorrowful he didn't heed the warning.

Paul now knowing that Susie is safe takes him and Maggie up river to where he used to work, once again a factory that used to have toxic chemicals stored in it. As with the original Paul has to swim down to a submerged office to attempt to release these toxins into the water supply.
He asks Maggie to count to 200 and pull him back up as he goes diving down, Paul is attacked by the piranha as he's attempting to release the poison, he does manage it but the movie doesn't end there and I won't spoil anymore.
This version does however take a little more of a darker turn at the ending than the original does, so what do I think of it?
On recent reviewing of it , appreciate a lot of the military chaff cut from the original to this version while still keeping most of the story elements almost exactly the same, the 89 minutes of this version to the 70's 95 minutes feels more trimmed for the better too. with better acting overall too, the practical effects though are actually slightly worse!!!
Ass mentioned a few of the same piranha attacking scenes are pulled right from the original version, though Roger did have input on this version too. We have one more version to check out in the future before moving to sequels (of which this one did not receive a piranha 2).
THN awards Piranha 1995 a low 3 out of 5 stars with a recommendation to watch both this and the original and decide for yourself which is best!