Saturday, December 19, 2015

Franchise Review: Leprechaun [5] in the Hood (2000)

Rap it out with me, folks: "Lep in the hood, come to do no good/Lep in the hood, come to do no good/Lep in the hood, Come. To. Do. No. Good!" I was actually pretty excited to be reacquainted with Leprechaun 5 recently, because my memories of it were once again sketchy, and the title alone practically guarantees a good time. I definitely got something a little unexpected with this sequel, which actually endeared me to it a lot more.

The movie starts out in the obvious 1970s (afros and platforms for the win!) as Ice-T and a crony follow a map to the leprechaun's gold, but the only thing Ice-T wants is the magical flute. Years later, Ice-T has the leprechaun imprisoned in his statue state, and a group of wanna-be rappers accidentally unleash the terror when they break into his office and remove his necklace. Pot-smoking and rapping hijinks ensue.

Truthfully, I kinda dug this installment quite a bit, because of the cool character choices and despite the stylistic flaws. For one, I loved our three main guys - Postmaster P, Stray Bullet, and Butch. They are so completely lovable, guys, and I liked the little twist that they put on their characters by making them rappers who want to put out a positive message, and that they are not serious gangsters. They're good guys and they're smart guys, and they have cute relationships with the other people in their neighborhood, like Miss Fontaine the transvestite and Chow the pawn shop owner. Ice-T is the former pimp turned hip-hop producer Mack Daddy and he plays that role just it sounds. It kind of sucked because I turned on a Law and Order: SVU marathon right after watching Leprechaun 5, and I've always loved Ice-T on that show, but I don't think I can ever watch it the same way again.

A cool thing that they did with the story here again with this movie was to introduce something new so that the whole movie would not just be the leprechaun chasing after these guys because they stole his gold. The flute that Mack Daddy stole in the beginning is a magical flute that hypnotizes people and makes them think the person with the flute is more talented than they really are or something. It's obviously helped him with his success, and the boys discover its power too. Really, they are so cute: All the boys want is to get their rap career off the ground and win this contest in Las Vegas. So anyway, you have both Mack Daddy and the leprechaun coming after them for the flute, and all the moral quandaries and selfishness and bullshit that they have to go through is kind of the incentive for the whole movie.

I think what surprised me the most was how freaking serious Leprechaun 5 gets at times. The tone is often completely different from what you would think it would be from a movie about the leprechaun dealing with pimps and rappers. The dialogue goes along with the campy nature of the movie, with more "fuck"s than I could count, and some of the situations, but there is something off about the whole way the movie presents itself. I think it's really the music and the editing that throws things off. There are some odd editing choices in parts where scenes just kind of end or fade out at weird times, like they didn't know how to finish the scene or something. The movie is really slow, and probably would have played out a lot better if it was tighter and faster. Adding to the serious tone, Warwick Davis is actually pretty freaky sometimes. A couple of times, he would give these facial expressions that were way more sinister than he's been before.

But of course, this wouldn't be a Leprechaun movie if there wasn't some crazy shit in it. The kills are pretty meh, but I was happy to see the leprechaun continue his obsession with fingers by ripping off one of Mack Daddy's fingers to take his gold ring. There was only one really good kill where the leprechaun blows a big hole through a guy's body. As for the weird stuff, they include the whole thing with Miss Fontaine, who is the only person in the series who sees the leprechaun and her first impression is to... want to fuck him? Whuh? There's a funny rap performance in a church where Coolio randomly walks in; there's the zombie flygirls with glowing green eyes; and there's the part where Post and Butch have to dress in drag in order to infiltrate the leprechaun's pad (which is also a weirdly serious scene). All this stuff is funny, but again, it would have played out a lot more effectively if the tone of the movie had been in the right place.

So this was a different experience than I thought I was going to get with Leprechaun in the Hood, but I don't know - it worked for me on some level. The movie is totally scatterbrained tonally, but I really like the main characters and that gets a big plus.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

I gots me a Twitter account...

In an effort to continue being perpetually late to every new trend in the world, I finally broke down the other day and signed up on Twitter. Mostly I just did it because I was getting a little annoyed with being left out on stuff that people only do on Twitter, and I'd be over in the corner grumble-grumbling, saying "But I don't have a Twitter account and I don't WANT one!" So now I have one and I feel more a part of things.

I also like to talk to my peeps in the horror world and just in the few days that I've had the account, I've already had little exchanges with two different filmmakers that I like and that is just freaking weird and awesome at the same time.

Anyway, if any of you peeps want to chill with me on Twitter, pretty much all variations of The Girl Who Loves Horror handle was taken so I just had to go with my name -- @micheleneggen, but my name still appears at GirlWhoLovesHorror so I got the blog worked in there some way! Tweet away, horror fiends!

Monday, November 9, 2015

Franchise Review: Leprechaun 4: In Space (1997)

Well, I mean... It's all pretty much right there in the title, guys. The leprechaun. In space. Not exactly my idea of a very logical step in this particular franchise, but maybe they just figured, Fuck it! Let's do it! And actually, I'm kind of glad. Because if I wasn't doing these reviews, I might not have ever bothered with Leprechaun 4: In Space, and then I would never have been introduced to its brand of cheesy. And cheese is like one of my favorite things ever.

The leprechaun is back and this time he has kidnapped the beautiful Princess Zarina, so that he may wed her and usurp her father as king of her home planet. However, a small group of Marines have been sent to destroy the leprechaun (thinking he is some kind of alien). They are joined by their commander, the elusive Dr. Mittenhand; his plucky assistant, and a pretty biologist tagging along to collect any alien samples they come across. Things are about to get crazy on this boat.

Okay, first off - don't ask me how or why the leprechaun is in space. Don't ask me how he has managed to come back in any of these movies thus far after being destroyed in the previous one because the only explanation they come up with to answer that is that he is "eternal." I guess after he gets blown up at the end of these movies, he just, like... re-materializes somewhere else? Sure, let's go with that. Anyway, he's in space now. He still cares about his gold, but now it seems like he wants a little power, too, because he wants to be king of some ridiculous made-up planet. He's not into this marriage for love, that's for sure.

As for our Marines, they are your typical rag-tag group of hot dudes and one chick (there's always just ONE chick), under the rule of a Platoon-style sergeant known as just Sergeant. I started calling him Metal Head just because of the obvious fact that half of his head is covered by a steel plate, and found it absolutely hilarious when I saw that the actor is actually credited as "Metal Head." What's also absolutely hilarious are his cross-dressing scenes later in the movie. You might want to watch the movie just for that. That and Mittenspider, but we'll get to that. Anyway, the only other recognizable face to me (besides Warwick Davis, of course - always a sport for returning!) was Jessica Collins as Dr. Tina, the scientist who also ends up being really hot and brave and kicks a lot of ass. And NO, I don't know her from The Young and the Restless. I know her from Nip/Tuck.

Oh man, so much craziness to mention. How about when the leprechaun gets blown up (as usual) at the beginning of the film? Of course that's not the end of him, because one of the Marines pisses on his body, and something seriously wicked happens because when the Marine is hooking up with the female Marine, he starts to have problems with his junk, and that problem is the full-grown leprechaun emerging out of his body... out of his junk. Kinda reminds me of the birth of Venus - only I'm not really sure which is the weirder story out of those two. For the climax, the leprechaun gets to be a big boy when one of those super-techy futuristic laser beam machines causes him to grow exponentially. But then all he does is fumble around the cargo bay for awhile instead of really taking advantage of the situation, so that was kind of disappointing. What wasn't disappointing was seeing the leprechaun with a light saber, albeit briefly, or seeing Harold (the pervy lab assistant) getting his head smushed flat with a silver serving tray. Almost had one of those moments where soda came flying out of my nose on that one.

So Dr. Mittenhand gets his own paragraph. This guy is awesome. At first I just liked him because he had a hilarious accent with hilarious acting to match, but then he got way more awesome when it was revealed that he is part cyborg, in a way. He's literally only a head and shoulders and one arm, with liquids and other unseen stuff keeping the rest of him alive and functioning. When Mittenhand (second best name ever, by the way, behind Bugenhagen) finds out that Princess Zarina's DNA has powers of rejuvenation he of course decides to try it on himself. But the leprechaun decides to play and adds a spider and a scorpion to the DNA, then injects into Mittenhand. He then becomes... the Mittenspider! Just imagine a much larger version of the Brundlefly and with more legs and the scorpion tail with these nasty little white sacs all over it. Did not see that development coming, but it definitely made the movie a lot more interesting than I was expecting it to be.

It all ends (sorry for all the spoilers, but that's kind of what I do) with the giant leprechaun getting sucked out into space and exploding again and then the giant leprechaun's hand flips off our remaining survivors through the space ship window. Leprechaun 4: In Space is crazy, silly, and weird, and I really wouldn't have it any other way. Can't wait to go into da hood with the next two movies!

Friday, October 30, 2015

Some More Stuff I've Been Writing at Wicked Horror

Back in January, I shared with you guys some of the articles I have written over at the other site I write for, Wicked Horror, and because it's been almost a year since I've done that, I thought it was time for round two! So if any of these articles strike your fancy, please head over to Wicked Horror and let me know what you think!

First up, my feature titled Noteworthy Heroines of Horror has definitely grown. This feature allows me to spotlight some of my favorite female characters in horror films, who are not really the typical "final girls" that you see pop up in people's top ten lists or whatever, as the description explains. They are just ones that seem to be somewhat underappreciated and this is my chance to say why they are the best! Among these fabulous females are...

Jessie, from Wrong Turn
Rhonda, from Tremors
Lisa, from Red Eye
Erin, from You're Next
Sara, from House on Haunted Hill
Selena, from 28 Days Later
Stretch, from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2
Sam, from Eight Legged Freaks
Sarah, from The Descent
Mary, from American Mary
Buffy, from Buffy, the Vampire Slayer
Marybeth, from the Hatchet series
Donna, from Cujo

More to come with that feature!

I also got to do two amazing interviews with equally amazing people for WH. The first one was with Camden Toy, whose name I did not know before but definitely do now! He played several villains on the greatest TV show of all time, Buffy the Vampire Slayer! So it was definitely an honor to talk to him. Read the interview below to find all about what it was like playing one of the Gentlemen, the Gnarl demon, the Ubervamp, and the Prince of Lies!

Exclusive Interview with Camden Toy: A Buffy Retrospective

And I've shared this one before, but in case you missed it, I also interviewed director Adam Green from the Hatchet series, Frozen, and Holliston! This one was truly amazing because as I've also shared before, Adam has been a big inspiration to me lately.

Exclusive Interview: Adam Green Talks Horrified! and the Return of Holliston

I also delved into some controversial topics with these two pieces for WH...

In Defense of Rape-Revenge Films - What?! A girl can "like" these movies? Yes, they can and here's why I do.

The Misidentification of Misogyny in Horror Films

Then there were these other fun articles on some topics that are of great interest to me.

Why Hannibal and Bates Motel Work So Well - Two great television shows with similar premises. I look at why they have been so successful when they maybe shouldn't be on paper. I also did recaps for each episode of season three of Hannibal!
And OHMIGOD I just realized that I never finished the second season of Bates Motel. CRAP!

Six Great Horror Filmmaking Duos - Pretty self-explanatory.

Why I Stopped Using the Phrase "Guilty Pleasure" - A very important idea for horror fans, I think! STOP CALLING MOVIES "GUILTY PLEASURES"!!!

And just in time for this fabulous Halloween season, I (and all the other writers at WH) made a list of my top five favorite films to watch during the holiday. They are really just my top five favorite horror films of all time, but I think Halloween is a great time to catch up on the favorites. Of course, I also watch stuff like Halloween, Trick 'r Treat, Hocus Pocus, etc.

Michele's Top 5 Films to Watch on Halloween

But I'm definitely not done with Wicked Horror! Right now I'm in the middle of reviewing the latest batch of After Dark Horrorfest's 8 Films to Die For (which is back after five years!), and the first two reviews of those are up!

Review: 8 Films to Die For - Murder in the Dark
Review: 8 Films to Die For - The Wicked Within

So if you're even the least bit curious about what other kind of shenanigans I get up to outside of the reviews I do on here, please check out any of the articles above. I know I'm a shameless self-promoter but, hey, somebody's got to do it! And I'm actually very proud of pretty much all of these pieces, and when you're proud of something, you want to share it.

In closing...

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Short and Sweet: Over My Dead Body

I'm really intrigued by the influx of sorts lately of rom-zom-coms. Though the zom-com has worked for years in many different movies, adding romance actually seems like a natural progression, if only because it adds to comedy element. A cute example of this is a short film sent to me by producer Alrik Bursell called "Over My Dead Body," from filmmaker Timothy Plain.

In it, a woman is home waiting for her blind date to arrive for dinner, and she's not so thrilled about the fact that he's a zombie. With one location, two great actors, and a simple, but really well-written script, this short definitely works. The comedic timing is on point from both leads, and the conversation they have works well as an awkward first date conversation... and an awkward you're-a-zombie-and-I-don't-know-how-to-deal-with-that conversation. Really funny and cute. The tone also works well at being comedic and sort of serious at the same time, which was nice to see. There's a bit of a lull in the last minute or so, but then the final shot brings it all back and had me laughing again. Take six minutes and watch "Over My Dead Body" for yourself right now!

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Franchise Review: Leprechaun 3 (1995)

The leprechaun in Vegas, baby! Two sequels in and we're still having a great time with the green guy and his whacky exploits. To show that direct-to-video doesn't really mean squat, I liked this entry a lot more than the previous one, and it's maybe even a bit more fun than the first film. But that one still has the pogo stick death, so it can't be dethroned just yet. Anyway, let's see what kind of trouble a leprechaun can cause in Sin City.

A pawn shop owner buys a statue of the leprechaun and tries to take his gold. But by removing the protective medallion from his neck, he brings the leprechaun back to life to continue his quest of protecting his gold from greedy humans. Meanwhile, young Scott is traveling through Vegas when he meets beautiful magician's assistant Tammy, and the two of them get tangled up with the devious and relentless leprechaun.

When you look at how things play out in Leprechaun 3, the plot is full of all these different characters coming in and out of each other's storylines and scenes and changing things around at just the last second. But surprisingly, director Brian Trenchard-Smith (who would also direct the next entry in the series) and the editing make everything all work out and make sense. The movie then becomes a fun series of comedic mishaps and run-ins with the leprechaun, while still providing the audience with more information that adds to the mythology of the leprechaun. However, they do go against one established rule: in the previous films, if a mortal got a hold of the leprechaun's gold, he or she was given three wishes. In this movie, the mortal gets one wish for every piece of gold that he or she was able to take.

This setup, though not in line with the story's continuity, actually works really well for Leprechaun 3, especially because it is set in Las Vegas. Scott and Tammy have their adorable meet-cute at the beginning of the film, and they are the nice, good people in the movie that we are supposed to be rooting for. Everybody else is a greedy, sleazy fuck. These people include the lecherous Mitch; the desperate Loretta; and the deluded Fazio. Of course the best characters ever are Arthur, the guy Mitch owes money to, and Tony, Arthur's muscle. Oh wow, these guys were hilarious. Let me just say that at one point, they have an entire conversation about underwear

Leprechaun 3 actually seems to be making some societal comments, if that doesn't seem weird. The people who take the leprechaun's gold are seen as more of the enemies than the leprechaun is. So then there is a lot to say about the greed of humans, again enhanced by the fact that the movie is set in Vegas, where greed and excess is rampant. Strangely, there are also some jabs at the health care industry. This comes up when Mitch ask Arthur what he wants, and Arthur says jokingly that he wants everyone in America to have health insurance. It comes up again when Tammy takes Scott to the hospital and the weirdo doctor and nurse ask him the most "important" questions - Do you have health insurance? Then they find out how much money he has and order a bunch of useless tests. I don't know what any of this has to do with Leprechaun, but it was interesting.
Something else that I've noticed about all the movies so far in regards to the death scenes is that they are very minimal, save for one. All of the kills are generally bloodless and tame, very comedic usually. But then there's that one scene that just comes completely out of nowhere and is more graphic than all of the other deaths put together. In the first one, it was the leprechaun melting and getting blown up at the end; then in part 2, it was the leprechaun exploding at the end. Now though, the exciting thing doesn't happen to the leprechaun, but rather to poor Caroline Williams. She wishes to be young and sexy and beautiful again, which she does get to enjoy for a little while. But the leprechaun is mad that she doesn't have his coin, so he makes her lips, breasts, and butt get bigger and bigger until finally, she is the one that explodes and it is hilarious. Fazio's death comes close in the extreme department when he is sawed in half on stage at his own magic show, but really... nothing beats an explosion.

I know I say this all the time, but there's a bunch of other stuff that I could've mentioned about Leprechaun 3 - dude, Scott starts turning into a leprechaun! - but I can't have this go on forever. Everything about it is just so much fun, and the movie is so self-aware that I really couldn't help but love it. It is directed well, when the plot might have been a mess in less capable hands. I love Caroline Williams, I love Arthur and Tony, and I kind of really love this movie. It absolutely fits in with the series and it's a good time. Three cherries for this one!

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Franchise Review: Leprechaun 2 (1994)

Leprechaun 2 is the next in what I'm guessing will be a long line of weird movies in this franchise. But I think I knew that before I signed myself up to do this so I have no one to blame but myself. The movie is a bit erratic and again odd, but it's still kinda fun. However, it's also one of those movies where once is enough and you really don't need to see it again.

A thousand years ago, the nasty little leprechaun was thwarted out of getting his bride by his slave William O'Day. But the green guy put a curse on O'Day that in another thousand years he would wed someone in his bloodline. So now he's back in present day Los Angeles, seeking out young Bridget to take for his wife, and she and her boyfriend Cody - who stole one of the leprechaun's gold coins - must figure out a way to save both of themselves.

So this was definitely an interesting new place to take the Leprechaun story. I will say that it was a really good idea for the writer to give the leprechaun a different mission this time around rather than just getting his gold back, which we just saw in the first film. It's icky to think about, especially the mentions of the "wedding night" and making little leprechaun babies, but I guess everybody needs love. The setting in Los Angeles is cool, too, but they don't really take much advantage of it - definitely not in a Jason Takes Manhattan way, which might have actually been fun. Instead, we get random settings at a bar, a go-kart place, and the leprechaun's home inside a tree.

One thing that's cool to see when you're watching the movie now is all the different little cameos that pop up in the film. In one of the first scenes, Clint Howard and Kimmy Robertson (whose name I did not know until now, but whose face I've seen everywhere) play a couple of tourists; Tommy Cox of Bad Santa shows up at the bar; and perhaps most hilariously, Michael McDonald from MadTV as the guy in the espresso bar. Our main cast is a couple of unknowns who are mostly pretty good, but then again, this is Leprechaun 2 so don't look to be particularly wowed by any of the performances or anything. Shevonne Durkin is pretty cute at Bridget, and Charlie Heath as Cody is the perfect boyfriend who would do anything to save the sweet girl of his dreams. Warwick Davis returns and he's of course just as glorious as ever.

Cody's story is that he is in business with his alcoholic uncle Morty and the two of them run a sham tourist attraction called Darkside Tours. They travel to various death houses in LA, one of them being the remains of Harry Houdini's place, where the leprechaun has made his home inside the tree. Cody and Morty are therefore very good at conning and tricking people, just like the leprechaun is, so this makes for a good setup for some trickery that happens as the plot moves along. One of these tricks is getting the leprechaun drunk, because apparently they can't hold their liquor, so that's a funny and weird scene, especially with all the other little people at the bar celebrating St. Patty's Day cheering the leprechaun on, chanting "One of us, one of us!" Bit creepy. Other than that, most of the movie is just a long cat-and-mouse chase where the leprechaun shows up, the characters get away, they get to a new place, and the leprechaun shows up again. Once everybody else is dead, it's just Cody and Bridget in his treehouse where they run around for a while and keep getting lost. It's not terribly exciting.

Though there's nothing as awesome as the pogo stick death, Leprechaun 2 has its killing moments here and there that you won't find in many other horror films. After Morty gets him drunk at the bar, the leprechaun heads to a coffee shop to sober up, and McDonald is very rude and annoying so of course he has to die. He gets his hands impaled to the table and then dies by getting a blast of steam from the espresso machine in his face. Death by espresso machine! This is why I love horror movies. Other interesting moments are the guy who gets his finger ripped off so the leprechaun can take his gold ring ("Finger lickin' good!"); when Morty makes the fatal mistake of wishing that he had the leprechaun's gold and the pot grows inside his stomach; and the leprechaun's own death at the end when he is stabbed by wrought iron (the only thing that can hurt him) and then freaking explodes. Movies should always end with somebody exploding, I say. The guy who puts his face into the spinning blades of a lawnmower would have been cool too if they had shown any of it.

Leprechaun 2 is a movie that's fun for the moment, but it's not the best kind of sequel there is. There's nothing particular memorable about any part of it - the characters, the kills, the plot. It's not hard to see why Leprechaun 2 was the last movie of the series to be released theatrically (thanks, Wiki) but they obviously continued on with more films, so bring 'em on!

Sunday, October 11, 2015

I'm in a Zine!

A little while ago, I was contacted by this nice guy named Richard about contributing to his fanzine, The Fang of Joy (I'll need to ask him what that means sometime).

It's a zine all about Eurohorror and giallo films, and I was pretty much given carte blanche to write about whatever I wanted having to do with that topic. I'm definitely no expert (yet) when it comes to giallo, but there have been some specific movies that I've seen that stick out in my mind so I decided to focus on one of those. The topic of my article is Dario Argento's The Bird with the Crystal Plumage, which I would argue any day is his best film - or at least just my favorite.

And look at the contributor list for this issue of Fang of Joy!

Fellow blog buddies Alec Pridgen and James Gracey also have articles here, though I admit to not having read them yet. I'm sure they kick ass.
So anyway, if you want your own copy of this fanzine, follow the link on Richard's blog Cinema Somnambulist HERE! Only $8.75 an issue!

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Franchise Review: Leprechaun (1993)

It's franchise time again, fiends, and as previously mentioned, this time I'm delving into the wacky world of the Leprechaun series. It'll be full of bad puns, over-the-top silliness, and some famous actors and rappers. I bet you can't wait! Like Hellraiser, I know the first Leprechaun pretty well, but am iffy on my memory on some of the others, so this will again be like watching them all for the first time, but that's the fun of franchise reviews. Of course we're going to start at the beginning with the film that started it all, Leprechaun from 1993.

After a leprechaun comes after him for taking his gold, Dan O'Grady traps him in a crate in his basement, seemingly forever. But ten years later, JD and his daughter Tory move into his house and the creature is unleashed. Now Tory and locals Nathan, Alex, and Ozzie must find a way to stop the leprechaun before he kills them all for his gold.

Oh, Leprechaun. Leprechaun, Leprechaun, Leprechaun. Such an odd little duck in the horror world. The long and short of it is that I actually enjoy the first Leprechaun movie. It's quick and fun, it's punny and silly. There's nothing more to it than what they present to you on the screen, and you can just watch it and have a good time seeing Warwick Davis biting people and saying the most campy and ridiculous lines ever. Some of the plot points leave a little to be desired, as do some of those lines of dialogue, but this is about what you would expect to get if someone told you that you were going to watch a movie about a killer leprechaun.

First up in the talking points is of course Warwick Davis as the leprechaun, and there probably would be no movie, and no franchise, without him in the titular role. The heavy makeup effects on him and the fact that the director for some reason decided to show him in shadow for a good portion of the movie may have hindered that part of his performance, but the voice and other physical things he does more than make up for it. Davis makes the character funny and therefore pretty likable in that regard. Though he's never really scary at all because of this, you can still believe it and enjoy it when he starts killing people. It always seems obvious when an actor is having fun with a character, and that especially helps with a movie like this. One of my favorite moments in the movie is this great reaction shot that Davis gives when he looks at himself in a mirror.

Recently, it seems like Jennifer Aniston has accepted that she was really in this movie. I watched a few clips of interviews where people have brought it up and she laughs about it now, as she should. Aniston plays Tory, the vapid, useless Beverly Hills girl who resents having to come to this dirty house in the middle of nowhere and only decides to stay because the house painter guy, Nathan, is a babe. She also rocks the LA Gear sneakers like nobody's business. Nathan's younger brother Alex is best friends with man-child Ozzie... and I don't really know how I feel about that character. The actor is good, but it almost feels a little wrong, doesn't it? Still, Ozzie fills the requisite role of the character that nobody believes through most of the movie - though he and the editing do nothing to sell the fact that a person could "accidentally" swallow an entire gold coin.

The kills are pretty basic, but there are definitely some interesting things to note here. The leprechaun doesn't have a weapon of any kind in the movie, and there are only a few on-screen kills, the first of which is when he pushes an old woman down the stairs. Meh. Mostly, the leprechaun is just a dirty fighter, and he scratches and bites people a lot. He also plucks out eyeballs and somehow kills O'Grady in the rest home. Now that I think about it, they really should have had a scene of O'Grady and the leprechaun facing each other again, instead of just showing his dying scene. The scene of the leprechaun chasing the cop through the woods is bit long and weird, and he doesn't even kill him right away so that's boring. Of course, the holy of holy deaths in Leprechaun is my favorite memory of watching the film as a younger me - the POGO STICK DEATH. If there is anything to look forward to in this movie, it is the leprechaun killing the owner of the collectibles shop by bouncing up and down on his chest on a freaking pogo stick. The movie gets serious awesome points just for that. Other quick things to mention: there are some great effects at the end when the leprechaun melts after eating a four-leaf clover (with Alex saying "Fuck you, lucky charms" to enhance the moment) and then gets blown up in the well, AND there's a Nightmare on Elm Street rip-off effects shot when the leprechaun's little hand comes out of the telephone.

Leprechaun is a quirky, campy movie that doesn't need to try to be more than it is. Watch it to enjoy the bad puns and the bad 90s fashions, and to see funny little shots of Davis as the leprechaun on a tricycle, a pogo stick, roller skates, a wheelchair, a skateboard, a toy car, and a soapbox derby car. Seriously, the little guy knows how to get around. The movie is pure comedy and ridiculousness, and I don't think I would have it any other way. I am terrified of the prospect of the "in tha hood" movies, but I will still get through it for you guys.

However, it may take me longer than I thought it would to get through the Leprechaun movies, because though I own the first three movies on a DVD set, I had all the others saved up in my Netflix queue, and just as I going to start the franchise - they all went off Netflix Instant. Grrrr.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Movie Review: Creepy Crawlers (2000)

What a seriously surprisingly fun movie! I picked up Creepy Crawlers (aka They Nest), a TV movie from 2000, at my convention over two years ago because it was cheap and looked cool. But t's just been sitting on my shelf ever since then. I finally decided to pop it in tonight, and wish I had done so much sooner! I didn't know anything about the movie before, so I was, again, surprised to see in the opening credits that the movie was directed by Ellory Elkayem, whom you should all know and love from Eight Legged Freaks.

After having some problems at work because of his alcoholism caused by a divorce, Dr. Ben Cahill takes a forced vacation at his second home on a small island in Maine. He's not welcomed by some of the locals, especially when a few of them wind up mysteriously dead. It turns out that a massive hoard of rare cockroaches have taken over the island, made all the more deadly by the way they nest inside their hosts.

Creepy Crawlers is most definitely Elkayem's warm-up or practice film to do before Eight Legged Freaks was released two years later. The quirky, fun-spirited tone of Eight Legged Freaks is completely present in Creepy Crawlers, and it is heightened mostly by the acting and music. The situation still feels real and dangerous, and there are some really great gross-out and hilariously shocking moments here. The story moves fast, although it does go a little too fast at the end, when the climax comes too quickly and is not quite as satisfying as it should have been.

Thomas Calabro (of Melrose Place fame) as Cahill is more goofy than sincere in his role, but it works perfectly in the movie, especially when he's up against the resident, "all-outsiders-suck," islanders. Instead of acting all somber and depressed like you'd think a divorcee would, Cahill is actually refreshingly okay with his situation and just seems to be trying to make the best of it. He's quite charming and likable, as is Nell, the requisite unencumbered hot island girl with whom Cahill could have a chance. They don't push the issue too hard, though, which I really liked.

As a sidestory to the cockroach problem, there is also something going on with one particular man on the island, Jack Wald, who is angry with Cahill for buying his family home that was taken by the bank. He in turn has some friends that are behind him, and cause some extra shenanigans with Cahill, the sheriff, and Nell when they obviously have more pressing matters at hand. Instead of feeling out-of-place, though, this actually does add some extra conflict to the plot which otherwise might have been too easy to get out of - just get off the island.

The effects are pretty great! Like I said before, there are some good gross-out moments, like the cockroaches in the chicken, when Cahill gets a roach on his fork while having dinner with Nell. Of course there are some computer-animated roaches in there, but it's to be expected and it looks fine, especially when they have to have a whole hoard of them in the barn sequence or when they are crawling all over people. Possibly the most surprising moment comes when the roaches attack Sheriff Hobbs, in a pure "The fuck?!" scene. The effects of the roaches as they burrow inside people are okay, but I would have really like to see a scene where they full-on burst out of the host, like we assume we do based on all the dead animals bodies lying around, but maybe that would have been too much for TV. Also, look forward to a great cockroach vs. hamster chase sequence.

Creepy Crawlers (I think the official title is actually They Nest but Creepy Crawlers is the DVD I got) is a wonderful little animals run amok movie with a great personality. The climax has a great setup, but it needed just a bit more tension to make it really explosive and satisfying. Otherwise, really fun movie! I loved it!

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Movie Review: Night of the Living Dead 3D (2006)

How can things go so wrong? I actually had some pretty high hopes for Night of the Living Dead 3D - the original is of course a seminal and wonderful film, and the remake from 1990 is equally great. So I picked up NOTLD3D at my last convention for a pretty cheap price (which I am now very grateful for) thinking that it couldn't be all that bad. I mean, it has Sid Haig in it, right? Welp, while Sid rocks the house like he always does, he's pretty much the only good thing about the movie.

NOTLD3D tells the classic story from the original film, and it has elements of both a reimagining and a meta-type horror film. Barb and her brother Johnny arrive at the Shady Rest Cemetery to attend their aunt's funeral, but are instead attacked by the living dead. Johnny escapes, and Barb is saved by a man named Ben, who takes her to the nearby house of some friends. The group holes up for night as they fight off the group of flesh-eating zombies.

I'm not the biggest fan of 3D in the first place. Sure, it's cool to look at for a while, but the novelty usually wears off pretty quickly once my eyes start to hurt and I can't see things as well. But, the DVD came with the glasses and I figured that if this was how the movie was supposed to be seen, then that's how I should see it. There are a couple of cool shots here and there that tripped me out, but for the most part, the 3D is unnecessary, like it always seems to be for me. I just can't get into it. I've tried and it hasn't worked. So there's that, unfortunately.

When talking about the story, again I have to ask - how could they have gotten things so wrong? The story is a simple one that has worked two times before and really doesn't need all that much tweaking. And for the most part, at least in the beginning, they don't really make any drastic changes for this version. Those come later when the explanation for the dead returning to life is completely different, and completely doesn't make any sense. Still, I really liked the not-subtle-at-all homages to the first film, which begin right off the bat when the original is playing on a television and the title credit turns into the title credit for this movie. If you're expecting to hear Johnny's famous line, it comes in the form of a text. Later on, when Barb gets to the farmhouse and starts talking about the dead coming back to life, she walks in on the family actually watching Night of the Living Dead on television. Of course, there's no acknowledgement about the fact that the characters have the same names as the people in the movie or that they are in the exact same situation, but I really didn't expect that anyway.

What I did expect, though, was at least some decent acting. Everyone in this movie just seems so uninterested and bored in what they are doing. While hearing a bunch of people shrieking and cursing during stressful scenes is admittedly not a lot of fun either, I see now that it is equally bad to have people acting way too calmly. How many times do these stoners just languish around while there is something serious going on? Or have perfectly normal and calm conversations at a time when nobody, least of all the audience, gives a fuck? When Karen goes missing, her father is barely able to puke out enough emotion for us to believe it. One of the greatest characters in horror ever, Ben, has been replaced by a motorcycle-riding loser who isn't nearly as authoritative or brave as Duane Jones or Tony Todd made him. On the flip side, Barb is more of a heroine, but not by much, and there is nothing interesting or endearing about her character. I really couldn't believe how wooden and boring everyone was, and their poor acting completely ruined any scene that had any potential to be exciting or scary.

Sid Haig is the biggest selling point of the movie, and while I enjoyed him like always, he's not a good enough reason to put yourself through this movie. He's the crazy mortician who has a problem with burning up dead bodies in his daddy's crematorium, so he's just been storing them for the past two years. Somehow, that translates into said bodies reanimating themselves. Don't ask me how. The makeup effects are okay, but I really hated the cartoony or comic booky look of the zombies. Tovar's father was the worst, all green and way too fleshy. There are not nearly enough good zombie kills, and I was severely disappointed in the gore factor for this movie. Maybe the best and stupidest part is when Barb lights Tovar's father on fire. Just because fire is cool.

With only ten minutes or so left to go on this movie, my scratched DVD started skipping around a bit so I didn't get to see all of the climax, but I got most of it. It wasn't any better than the rest of the movie. It's almost unwatchable and more than forgettable, not nearly on par with the original or the remake.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Which Franchise Is Next?

I think that doing all these franchise reviews is becoming my "thing." It has been fun, painful, and at times really, really weird, but still cool to be discovering all these movies that I might not have bothered with before. Search around this blog and you'll see what it was like to watch all the Howling movies, how terrible Wishmaster got with each new entry, how unassumingly awesome Puppet Master could be, and, most recently, how some of the Hellraiser sequels really aren't all that bad. Except Revelations.

There are many more franchises to tackle in the future. So what will my next one be? Here's a hint...


 Coming soon!

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Movie Review: 100 Bloody Acres (2012)

You'd think I would have learned by now not to completely underestimate some of these random movies that I find through Netflix. They go in the queue, and they sit there for months before I give them a chance because I've never heard anything about them. Then I finally watch them, and sometimes they are totally amazing! Case in point is this Australian horror comedy, 100 Bloody Acres, which was written and directed by Colin and Cameron Cairnes.

Reg and Lindsay are the Morgan Brothers, who run a small organic fertilizer business in South Australia. They've found out that using humans in their fertilizer makes for a better quality product, which means bad news for the three stranded motorists that Reg happens upon while trying to make a delivery to their most important customer.

It seems like you can usually tell in the first 10 or 15 minutes of a movie like this, and 100 Bloody Acres has a great hook right in the first scene. Reg pulls over when he sees a crashed van by the side of the road and - because the audience already knows what he is up to from the description of the film - decides to throw the dead driver into the back of his box truck. A great hook moment in this scene is when Reg gives up on trying to drag the body all the way to his truck and instead hops in and backs it up closer to the body. It's something small, but it let me know that this was going to be a very smart comedy, and the kind that I particularly enjoy watching.

These first few scenes also set up a great dynamic between our three travelers who are on their way to a music festival - Sophie, Wes, and James. Sophie and Wes are first seen making out while James is off trying to fix the car, but when they're all together again, it's clear that Sophie and James are the real couple and Wes is the man on the side. James is also secretly planning on proposing to Sophie. This little love triangle is not necessarily that important to the plot, but later on it does provide us with some of those great this-is-not-the-time-to-be-talking-about-this moments between the characters.

All three of these guys are very likable, despite the minor flaws in their morals. James is the sweet, puppy-dog boyfriend, who is countered by the arguably hotter and cooler Wes. Wes seems like he's supposed to be the cocky asshole but he is in fact incredibly likable just because of how funny he is, especially when on acid. Sophie is a great female character that I always like to see because she is not the traditionally super-sexy or hot horror girl. Again, despite the fact that she is cheating on her sweet boyfriend, she has a great personality, and seems genuinely nice when making conversation with Reg in the truck. She also handles herself well as the movie gets even more crazy, while the boys make silly - and funny - little mistakes.

Reg is both like the hero and the villain, and the one that audiences will probably end up loving the most. He's a cute small town farm boy with a heart of gold, looking for acceptance from his domineering older brother with anger issues. The brother dynamic is also interesting to watch and it kind of makes me curious to learn more, seeing as how the film was written and directed by a pair of brothers. Reg is brilliantly played by Damon Harriman. His acting and the writing make you accept both sides of the character - where he is definitely complicit in the crimes with Lindsay (yet you still love him while he's doing it), but you really see the moral journey that he takes. Angus Sampson as Lindsay, who genre fans will recognize as Tucker from the Insidious films, is the perfect kind of quiet-crazy because you really have no idea what he is going to do in any situation.

And really, the whole movie is like that. There are a lot of things that happen in the plot that are just completely out of nowhere and unexpected, and while some of these elements drag the story down a little bit, it's still a joy to watch and be surprised and entertained at every turn. There's a whole thing with the brothers' Auntie Nance that I can't get into because you just have to see it for yourself, plus a weird little bit of side action when Lindsay is chasing a hopped-up-on-acid Wes through a small, closed-down roadside attraction. Right after this, there's a scene that didn't really need to be included but is still great to watch because it involves a small appearance by John Jarratt.

If it's buckets of blood that you want, then 100 Bloody Acres has that as well. I mean, you'd be disappointed if it didn't, based on the title, right? Not every frame is drenched in blood, but there are plenty of individual gags that are just the right amount of graphic and awesome, while providing situational comedy at the same time. There are great moments that include a huge barrel of blood and gore, and of course the grinding machine that the brothers use to make their blood and bone fertilizer.

100 Bloody Acres is definitely my kind of film. It perfectly brings together the kind of smart, subtle humor that I find the most appealing, with the kind of crazy bloody gags that appease the true gorehound in me. There is a Tucker and Dale vs. Evil element to the Morgan brothers' relationship and to the story overall, so if you dug that movie, you'll probably dig 100 Bloody Acres as well. Don't let this little gem of a film pass you by!

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Franchise Review: Hellraiser [IX]: Revelations (2011)

Hey, I did it! I made it through the Hellraiser franchise, and for the most part, it was pretty awesome. There were definitely some surprises along the way in this journey and I found some cool movies. This final installment, Hellraiser: Revelations, was most certainly NOT one of them. Damn, what a sad and sucky way to end the series. Except for the remake, which is probably coming.

Steven and Nico are two douchebag teenagers who run away from their perfect white picket fence lives to go be assholes in Tijuana. Their families don't know what happened to them until Steven shows up again one night at his parents' house while Nico's parents are visiting. Some dumb stuff happens and the new Pinhead sucks. That's all the description you need.

I know I said I was going to try to be a lot more positive about things from now on... but Hellraiser: Revelations is making that so hard. Actually, I can give the film a little bit of props for one thing. Some elements of the plot do resemble that of the first film - Nico is sought after by the Cenobites, he comes back by way of blood, there's some murders, and there's some skin-stealing. The movie is intercut between scenes of what happened to the boys in the Mexico and the present day situation with the parents and Steven's sister, so it does make for a nice revelation at the end. However, everything else about the presentation of this movie is pretty abysmal.

The script is just not good. I was getting annoyed just in the first couple of minutes when the boys - filming their little endeavor to Mexico with a camcorder like all douchebags seem to do - mention bow-legged hookers and knob-gobbling in their conversation. Great. The inaction by the parents, four adults who are just completely powerless without a phone or a car, also becomes a problem later on. There's the weird sexual tension that the sister Emma brings (especially a VERY awkward kissing scene), there's the guy who stands there like a moron while his friend is being attacked, there's the same guy who survives way too long after being shot in the gut, there's the way that the only thing the women know how to do is scream... Gah, this poor movie doesn't have a chance in hell of anybody taking it seriously or liking it.

The thing that I was the most worried about before starting Revelations was the fact that Doug Bradley chose not come back, and from the pictures I saw, the new Pinhead just looked wrong. Really, that was the least of mine and this movie's problems, but it still didn't help things in the least. The new Pinhead, played by Stephan Smith Collins, really threw me off simply because of his look. He has a way different face and body shape than Bradley, making him look more like a linebacker or something. He does do a good job at matching his voice and cadence of speech, I'll give the actor that. But the lines he is given to perform often sound so completely overdone and pretentious that he becomes, again, annoying rather than menacing.

Hellraiser: Revelations is a blessedly short hour and ten minutes long. They pack a lot of shit into that tiny runtime, but that's all it ever ends up being. With such a quick script and turnaround time for the movie being released, they obviously didn't put the effort in that this series deserved. Shame.

See you later, Hellraiser! Time to tackle another franchise!

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Book Review: "Darkness Rising" by Brian Moreland

To any horror fan out there who says that there are no more original stories to be told: I know of a couple horror authors that will make you eat those words and choke on them. One of them is the incredibly original and unique Brian Moreland. I've now had the pleasure of reading several works by this great author and he is truly one of the best kept secrets in the horror world because of the amazingly original stories he comes up with and the unexpected surprises that appear in each one.

His latest novella is "Darkness Rising," and it was released by Samhain Publishing on September 1st (you can get the Kindle e-book version HERE). It is the story of Marty Weaver, a tortured and troubled soul who found a way to deal with his abusive and tragic past through the power of poetry, and through the friendship he develops with a girl that he falls in love with, Jennifer. But when Marty is visiting the lake that has great significance in his life, he runs afoul of three killers whose actions set in motion a series of events that bring back the horrible events from his childhood and set Marty on a path of revenge.

What I've said before and will now say again about Brian Moreland is that he has an incredible talent for creating some of the most imaginative and inventive stories I've ever read. All of his books and short stories start off in a similar fashion as other horror tales, but by the end, he has taken the idea to a whole other level that you didn't think was possible. With Darkness Rising, he takes the complex concepts of ghosts, trapped souls, and Purgatory and puts it into a context that is very meaningful for the characters he has created. Without giving too much of the story away, Marty is brought back to life through the power of his words and the energy he has given to an entity or demon in the lake. This force latches onto that deep, dark area in Marty's mind that is filled with rage, and it causes him to do terrible things. But the side of Marty that is still healing is there as well, and there is a wonderful power struggle that goes on over the course of the story where he feels justified in his revenge on some people, but still has moral quandaries over it.

The relationship between Marty and Jennifer is one that is believable and based on a nice understanding and truth between the two of them. They don't spend a whole lot of time together in the story, and most of their relationship is viewed by the reader through Marty's eyes. We still get it, but it would have been more meaningful to have a more poignant scene between these two characters to make it really hit home. Some other characters in Moreland's story are the trio of masked killers - Tara, Zane, and Seth - who you are first led to believe are just sadistic psychos who like killing, but later learn that they are involved in something much more sick and twisted. Interestingly enough, the leader of them is the girl, Tara, and I loved this shift in the typical gender roles you see in horror. Girls have sick minds, too, that's for sure. The sideplot involving these three characters is no doubt disturbing and messed up, but it was interesting too, and I liked that they were given more a little bit more characterization beyond just being psychopaths. It definitely doesn't make you like them any more, because you definitely shouldn't, but it was a great touch to add to the story.

Another thing Moreland is very good at is keeping horror fans like me happy with the inventive sequences of gore and violence that he comes up with. If you don't think you can cringe and be just as affected by stuff you read in books as much as what you see in movies, give Darkness Rising a read. There is some great stuff involving razor blades that really got to me, as well as a horrific and descriptive scene where a character is dragged to his death behind a car that makes your stomach turn just to picture it. There is far more blood and gore packed into this story than I can talk about here, so I'll just have to leave you to experience it on your own.

Darkness Rising is another wonderful output from the very talented Brian Moreland. He continues to come up with stories with amazing fantastical elements that still have meaning and truth for the characters experiencing them. He is one of the most unique voices in the genre today and you should all get your hands on a copy of one of his books today!

Check out Brian Moreland at Samhain Publishing here, and check out some of my other reviews of this author's awesome work right here on this blog.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Franchise Review: Hellraiser [VIII]: Hellworld (2005)

It's been a very sad week over here at The Girl Who Loves Horror, and in the horror community in general. As you all know, we suffered the loss of one of horror's truly great directors, Wes Craven. He was always my favorite and I am incredibly sad that we won't get to see anymore work that he might have created. I have been honoring him this week in my own way, and still continue to do so, but for now, let's get back to the Hellraiser franchise with this eighth installment, Hellraiser: Hellworld.

In this film, Hellworld is a computer game about the Hellraiser world that a group of friends are addicted to playing. One of them got too deep into the game and committed suicide, for which the rest of them blame themselves. Two years later, they gather again to attend a Hellworld party at a remote mansion with other gamers. The party is put on by the Host, and as the friends explore what the house has to offer, it becomes apparent that Hellraiser might not just be a game after all.

You know, I actually had a partial, fairly positive review for this movie written out before I finished watching it. I had some thoughts that I didn't want to forget so I would pause it and jot some things down, kind of enjoying what the movie was doing and the approach it was taking. Then I got to the reveal at the end and that all went out the window. Once again, we have a Hellraiser movie that wasn't originally written to be a Hellraiser movie and was just adapted into the world, and not very well. The other times I felt that approach worked and they made for some good sequels, but here, I am not digging it.

So the plot goes meta here, where in the world of the movie, the Hellraiser films themselves don't actually exist but the legend or myth of Lemarchand and his box do. BUT THE MOVIE IS NOT REALLY ABOUT HELLRAISER. Or Pinhead, or anything really relating to the franchise at all. Spoiler pretty much right off the bat: the whole thing was a set-up by the dead friend Adam's father to get revenge on the other kids for losing his son. This is a huge disappointment because, like I said, I was actually accepting the whole self-aware aspect that Hellworld had going for it. At this point in the franchise's history, the audience knows what's going on, so here they give that knowledge to the characters and allow them to play around in the world, winking at the audience and saying, "Hey, we're doing something a little different here." But that difference ends up being kind of an insult to the franchise, taking advantage of its fantastical nature to give credence to this dumb story of an angry father and his use of some hallucinatory drug to mess with these kids. And really, that kind of makes me angry and makes me feel very, very cheated.

There were a few things that seemed very out of place and which should have tipped me off to the fact that we were being played with here. As one character, Chelsea, actually points out, nobody opened the box. There wasn't even a box at all (until the stupid ending), so how could all these hellish dream sequences be taking place? Another clue: the first murder isn't even committed by Pinhead or the other Cenobites, but by the Host, Lance Henriksen as Adam's father. The next death does actually involve Pinhead, but it's done by him actually taking a medical blade and decapitating a guy. Pinhead has most assuredly killed a bunch of people by now, but he's never actually physically done it himself, so this definitely made me question the movie a bit more. The filmmakers do plenty of things to trick you into thinking that this is still a Hellraiser movie because of all the odd events that happen and the lack of explanation for them. Something just always feels wrong, though.

You hope that this is just because they have some grand reveal in mind for the end, and while they do, it's not at all what you expect or want it to be. I'm just not buying it, and I don't think many other people did, either. Hellworld is sort of fun to begin with - even though it feels like the rock 'n' roll, music video-like installment in the franchise - and I have to say that the deaths were nice and well executed, although not as elaborate as what we have come to love from Hellraiser. But the ending really makes the whole thing fall apart and lose my respect. Watch it for Lance Henriksen being Lance Henriksen. Because you sure as hell won't get what you want in terms of Doug Bradley or Pinhead. Thumbs down, Hellworld, sorry.

Actually, you should also watch it to see a chick roundhouse kick Lance Henriksen in the face. I don't know where the fuck that came from, but it was hilarious.