Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Erotic Nights of the Living Dead

Erotic Nights of the Living Dead (1980)
Dir. Joe D’Amato

Written by George Eastman
“starring” Laura Gemser, George Eastman

This poster almost makes it look like a real movie. Don't be fooled.

“This film is slightly better than Porno Holocaust, but only slightly” -- The Void

“One of the worst if not the worst Italian zombie movie ever made" -- D. Kay, Zombie Movies: The Ultimate Guide

“The gore and porn parts are okay I guess, except in the porn department these really are much nicer looking women than usual.” -- reviewer, IMDB

I mean, George Romero’s NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD is obviously a stark, nightmarish classic which redefined an entire genre and created an enduring world cinematic icon in its stumbling, cannibalistic reanimated corpses. I watch it at least once a year on average, and last year even reviewed a lovingly animated version. But I think we all knew that despite it’s obvious strengths, something was missing. Something fundamental, something that nagged at us and flittered about the edges of our consciousness, intangible but persistent. I know it nagged Romero and co-writer John Russo; they spent the next 40 years making sequels and spinoffs, but never quite managed to figure it out. Neither could the legion of knockoffs, parodies, cash grabs, unofficial sequels and remakes that lurched after them.

Until now. It took him nearly a decade and almost 30 films of practice, but in 1980 it suddenly struck Italian pornograteur Aristide Massaccessi --aka Joe D’Amato, aka Raf de Pama, aka Alexander Borsky aka David Hills, aka Anna Bergman -- exactly what he had to add to take Romero’s formula and finally bring it to its final glorious evolution.

“Of course!” He said to himself, slapping his forehead. “Porno!”

As a lifelong practitioner of the pornographic arts, Massaccessi --better known by his more American-sounding working name, Joe D’Amato -- had been preparing for this moment since he first stepped behind a camera in 1969. After briefly working as a cameraman and eventually a director on some Italian B-movies (including two starring Klaus Kinski, no shit!) he quickly found his true calling: Z-movies. Be they knockoffs of popular American films, splatter flicks, mondo fauxumentaries, exploitation films or good old fashion porno, you can be sure our boy was there behind the camera (although not necessarily using his real name; by the time ENotLD came out in 1980 he already had a list of aliases that would make an international drug kingpin blush. He even once shot a movie using the name of Ingmar Bergman’s daughter to lend a touch of class to one of his more vanilla pornographic endeavours, true story). Prolific as a teenage hooker at a Vatican sex therapy retreat, D’Amato already had more than 30 films’ worth of experience under his belt before he finally got around to tackling the subject of a zombie porno.  

Actually I think this is the title that appears on-screen, but obvious "Erotic" is a much better word so we're sticking with that.

That experience must have paid off, because of the 9 films he made which came out in 1980 (PORNO HOLOCAUST didn’t come out for another year even though it was filmed at the same time) EROTIC NIGHTS has to be in the top five. Maybe even in the top three. Although that one SASSO NERO he made about the guy who heads to the tropics to spend some quality time with his genitals before they’re removed due to a deadly disease sounds pretty good, haven’t seen that one. And of course ANTHROPOPHAGUS came out that year, and that was the closest he ever came to making something which resembled a real film. Not good, of course, but sort of in some ways kind of like a real film, in the sense that Pinnocchio is more like a real boy than, say, a pile of camel puke. And SEXY EROTIC LOVE sounds very nice, almost like maybe an EAT DRINK MAN WOMAN arty sex film kind of thing. So obviously D’Amato had enough going on in 1980 to give some stiff competition to ENotLD. But anyway, it’s easily in the top half.

What this film is, is that there’s some guys who go to an island, and there are some ghosts or zombies and also a cat. Only, they don’t get to the island for almost a whole hour, instead they hang out in hotel rooms and have sex with various people. Or in one memorable slice-of-life type moment, a friendly bottle of sparkling white wine* (more on that later). Unfortunately none of the people are zombies, so your dreams of discovering whether or not you can be aroused by consensual necrophilia will go unresolved for now.

As near as I can tell, the plot involves Mark Shannon (real name Manlio Certosino, which I choose to believe is literally translated as “Certified: Manly”) as mustachioed rich guy douchebag John Wilson, who I think wants to build a hotel or some crap on a tropical island which I believe is named “Cat Island,” which makes sense because as I mentioned before there is a cat there, on the island. Wilson hangs out at his hotel, and eventually hires local skipper Larry O’Hara (noted Anthropophagus George Eastman, who also wrote the film) to shuttle him out there so he can take a few pictures of the land, check out the cat, whatever. You would think it would take about 40 seconds of screentime to establish this, but instead it takes almost an hour because they have to establish certain key plot points, for instance that the two male protagonists enjoy having sex with women. Actually I’m not sure if that is even established in the case of Eastman’s character, because although we frequently find women --overcome by his Han-Solo-by-way-of-Chewbacca animal magnetism -- stripping naked and writhing about on top of him, he never does take off any of his clothes, and that includes both his pants and shoes. I’m not sure if this is some sort of metaphor for frustrated male id, or if it just means George Eastman is so fucking manly he can successfully have penetrative, satisfying sexual encounters through the zipped fly of his skinny jeans, but either way it seems kind of odd, particularly when you remember that Eastman wrote the script. Ok so you’re not an exhibitionist, no problem, but why insert yourself into a bunch of sex scenes if you’re not going to... you know... insert yourself? Seems weird.

Fortunately, despite Eastman coming off as conservative as a Mitt Romney stag party, plenty of other people in the cast pick up the exhibitionist slack. In fact for much of what might generously be called the first act, the camera loving focuses all it’s attention on Mark Shannon’s admittedly noteworthy genitals as they’re subjected to various stimuli. It’s kind of weird that he gets so much lovin’ because he’s established early on as an asshole and pretty much comes across as the movie’s main villain. I mean, who wants to watch the arrogant douchebag enjoy a long series of resplendently varied sex scenes with numerous proficient Italian hookers and eventually the woman who just happens to be in the next hotel room over (hey, does that make her the girl next door?) Maybe D’Amato feels like even if we don’t like the guy we can still respect his talent enough to enjoy watching him work, sort of a porno Hans Gruber. But this approach probably worked better when the film was projected in grainy filmstock in a shady downtown theater, because in your home in full color widescreen DVD remastered glory, you can’t help but notice the worrisome scabrous nodules which adorn his sex organ like tiny plane silhouettes on the side of a fighter jet. What I’m saying is although the proportions of this fellow’s johnson might justify the big screen treatment, the quality doesn’t necessarily bear that value proposition out. Or to put it another way, it’s hard to enjoy the sex scenes because the dude’s got big weird warts on his doodle and it’s impossible not to notice.

By the way, sorry, Grandma, if you’re reading this, I really should have mentioned before now that this is probably not one of the reviews you should read if you’re just a well-meaning relative who wants to see what I’m up to these days. Please disregard this review and read the one on NIGHTS OF CABIRIA instead, thanks. Definitely don’t read the upcoming section about the champagne bottle stripper, I’m serious, you don’t want to know I watched that.

So anyway. Since you brought it up, while our intrepid land developer is showering and rolling around on the bed with various upstanding young ladies, the skipper is holed up in an otherwise empty strip bar, watching with bemused curiosity as an impressively-endowed dancer plies him with her art. Since we know Eastman’s not into taking his pants off, it seems a little tedius at first to watch the entire stripshow, especially since it has to follow a hardcore coke-fueled exotic hotel three-way. But this lady is not to be outdone by a couple hygiene-conscious tag-team hooker amateurs. She has a trick up her, uh, well, not sleeve, exactly. After what seems like an eternity of halfhearted swaying, she ups the ante by grabbing an unopened bottle of what appears to be some variety of sparkling white wine. Champagne bottles have long been second only to fireworks and trains entering tunnels in the annals of orgasm metaphors, so no surprise when she sets it down, crouches over it and gingerly gives it a few obligatory humps. But anyone can have sex with an unopened champagne bottle. And it’s not like she has a wine key or anything, so I don’t see where this could... oh dear merciful god, is she really...? She grasps the, and then. And then it froths out, and... I can’t do this. Suffice to say if this was not done with special effects it involved the world’s worst yeast infection and a kegel strength that borders on threatening. Most worrisomely of all, the cork never reappears. As far as I can tell, she just absorbed it, like some kind of bottle-opening stripper amoeba.  

By this time if you’re an astute viewer you’ll notice that although the “Erotic Nights” part of the title is obviously meant to be taken literally, the “of the Living Dead” part doesn’t really seem to be backed up by the facts. It’s true, there is a scene about 20 minutes in where a gentleman whom we’ve never seen before and will never see again is bitten by a disheveled youth who may or may not be a zombie, but it’s over in only a few seconds and hardly seems worth mentioning in the title. It sort of seems like a better title might be “EROTIC NIGHTS OF THE CHEAP MOTEL ROOM” for much of the runtime, but remember, this is a Joe D’Amato movie, and the guy knows how to let something build gradually. So in-between the porn, there are short scenes which do not exactly further the plot, but seem to possibly be laying the groundwork for some kind of plot which might come along later, if the zombies ever do show.

Well, never underestimate Joe D’Amato’s wild, borderline-suicidal disregard for consistent tone, because like EMANUELLE IN AMERICA before it, this one sort of gradually shifts from a fairly dull porno to a halfway-acceptable something else, not quite not a porno but more of a thin pastiche of horror movie patched together with softcore sex scenes. It never exactly stops being a porno, but after the first half the sex scenes gradually get tamer until it eventually just sort of forgets about them. This is a good thing on one hand, because I’m not sure we could stand looking at that dude’s warthog-faced member much more before giving up on sex forever and committing to reproducing by asexual budding. But on the other hand it’s a bad thing, because after more than an hour being lulled into a false sense of security by Hitchcock-esque long take zoom shots of half-interested fellatio, we now have to deal with the vestigial evidence of a plot.

Turns out Cat island is the home of an elderly dude with an alarming growth on his head (what is it with this movie and unsightly growths? Is this a metaphorical theme I’m just now picking up on?) and his attractive companion (daughter?) Laura “Emanuelle” Gemser, who is possibly a were-cat, or something. They offer our intrepid heroes some vague warnings about something, and stand about on the beach looking concerned while that douchebag Wilson takes photos of them from about a foot away. Tourists, jesus. Then Laura Gemser keeps turning up places and taking her clothes off and making out with people on or near the beach, including that girl from the next hotel room over who I forgot to mention comes with them for some reason and a fully-clothed George Eastman and his magical sex-proof jean. Then there are a bunch of context-free reaction shots of a cat. And then, zombies. Or ghosts, or something.

Judging from their clothes, I think they're zombies of an orange-jumpsuited army killed by James Bond on his way to the supervillain's hideout. Island lair, it makes sense.

The ghouls in question first show up to just kind of stand around on the beach wearing mysterious peach shaws in the balmy day-for-night gloom. Honestly given how little anyone except the champagne stripper seems to be trying here, the zombies are better than you might expect; actually they kind of remind me of those zombies from SHOCK WAVES in their desire to stand around intimidatingly, except they’re not Nazis and they’re in a movie which probably couldn’t even afford John Carradine, let alone Peter Cushing. Anyway, against all odds it actually does sort of evoke a creepy atmosphere, which then sort of stumbles --without seeming to really mean to-- into one or two legitimately respectable zombie sequences. I’m serious, this lumbering clusterfuck of repetitive and unappealing cheapie sex scenes actually ends with a decently memorable zombie setpiece where our heroes encounter a horde of ragged undead and even indulge in a few goopy practical effects. Hey, living dead! The title checks out!

This movie may or may not have something to say about colonialist ambitions and the ultimately alienating voyeurism of Western hegemony. I almost hate to bring this up, but if you’re the sort of person who’s into that kind of thing, there’s bunch of odd things here just begging you to analyze them. That douchebag Wilson is in town to buy up a tropical paradise (which is already inhabited by the natives, of course) and turn it into some skeezy motel and golf course. And what does he do while he’s waiting to ravage this island paradise? Stays inside a motel room and get serviced by two hookers and a promiscuous nearby gold digger. He spends basically the whole movie making sure that he’s kept in completely impersonal sexual pleasure by anonymous hangers-on who he can control because of his wealth. When the natives (who he’s about to displace with his hotel) try to warn him about the danger, he barely even bothers to ignore them -- even though they appear as flesh and blood, they might as well be ghosts to him. Heck, the island might as well be uninhabited for all the interest he has in anyone there; all he sees is a resource to exploit that he has the inconvenience of having to actually look at for a few days. He represents the rapacious forces of colonialism, imperiously sweeping in to take whatever can be bought, conquered or stolen to increase his power and his hedonistic pleasure.

Yeah, they actually lit a stuntman on fire for this movie.

Seen in this light, Eastman’s skipper character takes on an interesting color, too. We see that he’s made a little niche for himself renting his boat (which also appears to be his home) to rich foreigners and their trophy wives, who he lusts after. Although he doesn’t necessarily respect the stunted masculinity of these men, it’s clear that he envies their lifestyle and their power to control (particularly women), and there’s an uncomfortable tension between his own masculine power and the servile role he plays to these other males, who compensate for their lack of physical prowess with status symbols of their virility (frequently represented by the many, many women we see have sex here). Little wonder, then, that his own encounters with women mime the sex act, but never reach climax. He gets to mimic the pleasures of being a rich colonialist, but he’s separated from their conquests through the medium of his working-man’s jeans, which he can never remove. Or maybe he’s just a really, really big advocate of safe sex, I don’t know, what am I, psychic?

While Wilson’s capitalist projects seem to offer him a path upwards, he’s ultimately denied the pleasure which their power allows and is rejected from that world. On the other hand, he gets to watch the champagne stripper --another person rejected by the power structure, and perhaps even representative of the natives-- produce her own pleasure, and in the case of the champagne literally absorb that pleasure into her body. He can only watch, however -- be it the native’s easy ability to create and absorb natural pleasure (represented by their appreciation of their beautiful homeland) or Wilson’s didactic drive to hedonistic control, the skipper is bound to be a voyeur rather than a participant. He’s trapped between the two worlds, at first desiring the false gratification of colonialist hegemony which is forever denied to him, and then gradually coming to understand the corrosive effects of that hubis, when the zombies (the ancestral specter of the dead, rising to protect their home) start coming after them.

I couldn't find any other images from this movie that don't have explicit nudity in them, so here's a picture that comes  up when you search "happy kitty" instead. 

Of course, that’s all pretty simple, obvious symbolism, and it wouldn’t be a Joe D’Amato film without an additional meta-level commentary on the whole proceedings. In EMANUELLE IN AMERICA, it was the final encroachment on the fourth wall at the end, as her journey through the world of filmed sex turns on its head and we see that she, in fact, is the one being filmed. Here, it begins with a short sequence at the beginning where George Eastman, apparently in a mental hospital, has frantic animalistic sex** with a nurse in a hallway as some psycho watches and jerks off. It’s just one scene and then we cut to the main “plot,” and more than two hours later you’d be forgiven if you assumed the movie had just forgotten about it like the handful of other unrelated scenes which pop up from time to time. But no, at the end of the film --after Eastman and that random chick have escaped the zombies-- we return to this scene, and find orderlies pulling the two lovebirds apart as Eastman freaks out, apparently insane.

This brings up several possibilities. Is the whole thing a weird sexual fantasy in the mind of a guy who was already insane? Perhaps a comment on the fetishization of power dynamics signified by the implied class conflict of the film’s narrative? Or is this intended to suggest that the experience itself drove them insane? The authorities, perhaps, have found Wilson’s gnawed-on body and assume Eastman and that other chick are responsible -- placing the blame on the working class instead of the inexorable forces that Wilson’s hubris have unleashed against him. Or, maybe the simple tension of the false capitalist paradigm*** against the fading native naturalism just causes the guy to snap, and the whole zombie experience itself genuinely is a product of his broken mind.

Anyway, a lot to think about. This film’s pretty shitty, but it’s got titties and a few zombies, I dunno man check it out if it sounds good.

*I don’t remember the vintage, but I’m not gonna risk assuming it was actually from the Champagne region of France.

**Again with his pants on, but at least they’re sweat pants here instead on jeans, I can borderline see  that working.

***Pro tip: If you want to talk like a jackass, you’re going to want to throw the word “paradigm” in there.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

The Subtlety Guide to Shit You Should Have Seen in the Year of Our Lord, 2012


Well hey, 2012 was a funny year for me as far as movies go. I was kind of ambivalent about the year until I started writing about it, truth be told. Just felt like it had been kind of minor. As I catalogued all the movies I saw this year, though, I realized that I wasn’t entirely correct; 2012 was, I think, sort of a minor year, but it was a year of minor pleasures. Seriously, I can hardly think of another year which competes with it for a surplus of great genre movies which were well made and fun but somehow don’t quite take that last step into true greatness. I really liked and respected a bunch of these without quite loving them the way I really wanted to. In fact, before I saw ZERO DARK THIRTY right at press time, I thought 2012 might honestly be a year without a true classic. But, Kathryn Bigelow took me there, got the job done, and now I can feel satisfied looking back on the embarrassing bounty of genuinely awesome, smart, exhilarating, and memorable films which preceded it. Any year that gives us Nick Cave singing a roots version of “White Light, White Heat,” Joseph Gordon Levitt wearing Bruce Willis’ face, John Goodman playing John Chambers, Mel Gibson making the plunge to DTV, and no fewer than two excellent movies about Honest Abe Lincoln (one of which, I’m not going to say which one, involves Vampires) is all right with me. 2012, you’ve done your country proud.

Of course, as always, there are a whole bunch that I didn’t get to see, but as with last year, you can check my progress over the year. So, not considered in this favorites list (but with a reasonable potential to be good): Chronicle, Rampart, Footnote, Salmon Fishing in the Yemen, Lockout, Chimpanzee, Marley, Kumare, Seeking a Friend for the End of the World, Brave, Ted, Amazing Spider Man, The Imposter, Iron Sky, the Campaign, ParaNorman, Compliance, Robot and Frank, Premium Rush, Hotel Transylvania, Silver Linings Playbook, Seven Psychopaths, Holy Motors, Cloud Atlas, Flight, Wreck-it Ralph, Life of Pi, Red Tails, Killing them Softly, Hyde Park on Hudson, This is 40, Chico and Rita, Extraterrestrial, Antiviral, Keyhole, Loneliest Planet,Turin Horse, Red Hook Summer, Life Without Principle, Once upon a Time In Anatolia, The Road, Letter from the Big Man (will I ever be able to see it? it sounds like "The Loneliest Planet with Bigfoot" which is pretty much the film I was born to watch, but it doesn't even have a DVD release date yet).

Oh yeah, somehow I managed to see none of the several apparently pretty great animated films from 2012. What the fuck, Subtlety. I may have to do a separate post about them somewhere down the line as penance. But for now, enjoy my world-famous TOP TEN TWELVE in no particular order!

The Top Ten Twelve!

ARGO: Although my enjoyment may have been heightened by the fact that I didn’t know the outcome of this (somewhat) true story, I maintain that Ben Affleck --of all fool people-- directed and starred in the best one of the best, movies this year, a perfectly built entertainment machine of drama, humor, and riveting tension. Not a minute of screen time is wasted, but the movie has a nice steady build to a nail-biting climax. Impressive enough by itself, but you also have to appreciate it’s ability to tell this particular story in a nuanced enough way that it doesn’t come across as jingoistic; little touches like Carter’s speech and the historical context at the beginning give nuance without becoming pedantic. Details like these (particularly the would-feel-rote-in-any-other-movie family subplot) demonstrate just how good Affleck is at getting mileage from small things, as well as the big setpieces.

LINCOLN: Surprisingly not the by-the-numbers stuffy historical biography we all sort of expected; instead, it’s a lively and immensely entertaining portrait of Lincoln the politician: a crafty and colorful statesman who realizes that to do the right thing sometimes you’ve got to take some shady paths. Especially in politics. Daniel Day Lewis is incredible, of course, but you’ve also got a cast of virtually everyone awesome ever, with special props going to Tommy Lee Jones and James Spader. It does have an unfortunate tendency to get occasionally sidetracked with Lincoln’s family and personal life, which is not bad in itself but weakens the gripping central narrative somewhat and dulls what could have been a classic ending. Still, a surprisingly rousing effort from Spielberg, with individual scenes of immense power and consummate filmmaking.

HEADHUNTERS: Just a lean, nasty, appealingly overbuilt thrill machine from Norway. Finds the exact perfect tone and lays it on relentlessly. See my full review here.

THE MASTER: Frankly, anyone who doesn’t have this rich, mysterious, frustrating, scary, sad, and funny tale on their best-of list confuses the hell out of me. Acting simply doesn’t get any better than you’ll see from Phoenix, Hoffman, and Adams here, and although PTA’s direction is decidedly less flashy than his work in THERE WILL BE BLOOD, he effortlessly evokes the strange corners of this decidedly peculiar story which wasn’t really what anyone was expecting. It’s not really about Scientology at all, but instead about the profoundly troubled people at the film’s center. What exactly we’re intended to make of them is never explicitly clear, but as far as I’m concerned that’s one of the things that makes it so compelling. In a year as filled with great straightforward entertainment like ARGO,THE RAID, HEADHUNTERs and so forth, it’s nice to have something this well-made that doesn’t give up it’s secrets quite as easily.

THE RAID: REDEMPTION Pure adrenaline on a level you seldom get to experience at the movies. Brutal, surprising, and with a laser-like focus on kicking ass. Tiny touches of humanity ensure that it’s not the wall-to-wall mind-numbing violence it was made out to be, but you still gotta love a film this unafraid to take its action aspirations to the next level. It’s ambitious, unique and remarkable, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it spawns its own genre of wannabes.

BERNIE: Richard Linklater can basically do no wrong, but you never know quite what to expect with him other than something awesome. Here, he gently massages the story of the murder of an obnoxious old Texan woman into something weird and surprising. Jack Black’s performance as the sweet, somewhat effete murderer is one of his best, and it contributes to the film’s skewed perspective that clearly seems to sympathize with a guy who shot an old lady and hid her carcass in a freezer. Why? I have no idea. Linklater’s use of real interviews with the locals (who also sometimes play themselves in the fictionalized version) skews things even further as the lines between fiction and reality, fact and opinion, blur. Owen Gleiberman of Entertainment Weekly calls it a “deviously droll light-comic tabloid docudrama.” How many words is he willing to use to try to find a category for something which so steadfastly resists any labels? Whatever you call it, the end result is wryly funny, sad, and deeply odd.

CABIN IN THE WOODS: Probably the single most thoroughly FUN film I saw all year, funny and energetic enough to put a big sloppy grin on the face of geeks everywhere for a long, long time. I have some problems with the middle (when it intermittently tries to be a real horror film) but it builds to an ending which forgives all sins.

KILLER JOE: William Friedkin’s misery-porn masterpiece about a bunch of selfish, pathetic, murderous idiot rednecks in Texas. Comedy as pitch black as it’s heart, and yet weirdly poignant. Matthew McConaughey gets the showy psycho role here, but Thomas Hayden Church almost steals the show as the beer-swilling know-nothing father. For some reason, it’s more fun and compelling than it has any right to be.

TALL MAN: Punishing, expertly crafted, and surprising horror movie that has the balls to ask truly horrific questions rather than just threatening you with bodily harm. Constantly surprising and challenging, it has an incredibly tendency to slip away just as you think you’re getting a handle on it. But it’s more than conceptually interesting, because it also contains some of the best-directed sequences of the whole year. Read the full review here.

ZERO DARK THIRTY: Well, shit. Turns out this is the best movie of the year, probably. Kathryn Bigelow turns the 12-year hunt for Osama Bin Laden into a morally ambiguous, exhausting, epic CIA procedural. Jessica Chastain makes magic out of her opaque, obsessed spook character, with a performance rich in human details but also provocatively mysterious and difficult to read. It’s a perfect performance to build this particular film around, because Bigelow offers no clear commentary on the horrors she depicts -- just a clinical, haunted interest in the details. It all culminates in the amazing, disturbing, insanely tense final raid you’ve already heard about, but the film isn’t just a prelude to that: it’s about the whole messy, sick process and all the hundreds of people involved in it, from the sharp-suited bureaucrats to the gun-toting grunts. It’s a tough film, but a profoundly engrossing one that serves up a grueling, intense, and meticulously textured experience.  

Lucky # 11:
LAWLESS: Got booted from the list at the last minute after I saw ZERO DARK THIRTY, but I loved the shit out of this film and couldn’t bring myself to kick it into the runner-ups pool. Not very well structured, but makes up for it with fantastic characters (particularly Tom Hardy’s awesomely monosyllabic Forrest), an unusual setting, great music, and a handful of phenomenal scenes. Read the full review here.

Lucky # 12 : KILLING THEM SOFTLY: A movie as lousy as it is brilliant, this crime drama from TAOJJBTCRF director Andrew Dominick squanders the potential of it’s fantastic performances and direction on a muddled political metaphor, which somehow manages to be both too overbearing and too oblique at the same time. It’s frustrating, but on the other hand the artistry on display here is too masterful to ignore. Stunning scenes abound, even if they don’t add up to the classic they should.

Honorable Mention!

SEARCHING FOR SUGAR MAN: Overly manipulative, glossy documentary can’t drag down it’s fascinating subject, whose fantastic music and enthralling personality make it impossible to resist.

GET THE GRINGO: Mel Gibson goes for broke in this sleazy, nasty little Mexican crime story which unfairly got the Direct-to-Video brushoff. It does look cheap, but Gibson’s charisma is as strong as ever (which is to say, slightly stronger than a medium-sized atom bomb), the setup is surprisingly unique, and it’s flush with great action moments and unexpected twists.

WOMAN IN BLACK: Daniel Radcliffe nicely transitions away from wizarding in this tiny miracle of a ghost story, which successfully weds classic Hammer gothy atmosphere with a more modern, aggressive horror approach.

JOHN CARTER: The most unfairly maligned film this year, a breathless space fantasy yarn with giddy delights to spare. If anything, it’s problem is that it’s overstuffed with sci-fi goodies. But who’s gonna complain about that?!

SOUND OF MY VOICE: Spare, quietly tense cult drama slowly puts you right where it wants you. Actress Brit Marling again demonstrates her considerable powers of charisma and imagination, and although the film’s ambitions are limited it’s aim is precise. (read the whole review here)

MEN IN BLACK 3: Who would have guessed that the unasked for, unnecessary 3rd sequel to an almost 20-year-old film with a disastrous behind-the-scenes clusterfuck backstory would come within a hair of my top 10? A long shot, but maybe that’s what makes this surprisingly heartfelt and clever sci-fi story so endearing. Josh Brolin’s dead-on impersonation of Tommy Lee Jones is alone worth the price of admission, but unexpectedly there’s quite a bit of charm throughout.

HAYWIRE: Perhaps overly pleased-with-itself actioner from Steven Soderbergh, but you can’t argue with it’s results. Some of the year’s best action sequences hands-down, with a stellar cast and a particularly unique protagonist in Gina Carano.

GOON: Unexpectedly moving sports tale which features a likeable Sean William Scott (?!). A few missteps, but overall an impressively well-made film with a big heart and a few belly laughs.

THE AVENGERS: Forget the predictable CG mayhem, this one is all about the joy of listening to Joss Whedon’s quippy dialogue shaped into a high art by the likes of Robert Downey Jr, Chris Hemsworth, Tom Hiddleson, Chris Evans, and particularly Mark Ruffalo, who finally manages a Bruce Banner we can all agree on. Whedon gets these characters, and his expert management of their relationship is a good reminder that comics are better soap operas than action movies. And I mean that as a high compliment.   

MOONRISE KINGDOM: Wes Anderson’s take on a childhood adventure is still cloyingly precious, but made tolerable thanks to hugely ingratiating performances by his two young leads. The astounding cast of adults are stranded without much to do, but Anderson’s technical prowess is not to be denied, nor are the hard-won charms of this film. (read the full review here)

BEASTS OF THE SOUTHERN WILD: Unique and sporadically powerful, this film features great performances and a deeply textured world but gets lost in an unnecessarily busy narrative structure. The film’s disinterest in making any kind of commentary on its button-pushing scenario ultimately works against it.

LOOPER: Nifty sci-fi idea eventually buckles under it’s ever-building complexity, but still wins you over with it’s imagination, excellent performances, fun setpieces, and heart-on-it’s-sleeve drama.

DJANGO UNCHAINED: Another winner from Tarantino, though sabotaged slightly by a overly complicated structure which never builds to anything. Still a fun, occasionally deeply affecting romp with fantastic performances to spare.

THE GREY: Grim, committed love letter to manliness comes in the form of a survival (or not) tale set in the bleak Alaskan wilderness. Neeson and the cast of mostly unknowns are all fantastic, and the film’s desperate atmosphere has the ability to chill bones. Unfortunately, like it’s protagonists it never seems to quite figure out where it’s going. Deeply compelling along the way, though.

THE HOBBIT PART 1 OF 3: Jackson’s ludicrously bloated take on this simple tale will either be a joy if you’re interested in a sprawling travelogue of Middle Earth, or a grinding bore if you’re interested in focused storytelling. A fantastic cast helps matters considerably.

MAN WITH THE IRON FISTS: RZA’s hip-hop kung fu dream project feels slight and fragmented, but it’s colorful enough to stay fun, with some great gimmicks and damn fine beats.

DREDD 3D: Sci-Fi remake of THE RAID (see? I told you it’d spawn it’s own genre of imitators) is all grit and grime, and that’s a good thing. Features some gorgeous use of 3D, stunning images, and great production work.

THE DARK KNIGHT RISES: Overstuffed, ponderous, but well-intentioned and highly watchable attempt to make classy pulp. (see the full review here)

ABRAHAM LINCOLN: VAMPIRE HUNTER: Spectacularly silly tale told in the only possible way: dead serious. Timur Bekmambetov continues to impress with endearingly over-the-top action set pieces, and the fight in the middle of a horse stampede is one for the ages.

COSMOPOLIS: Maybe David Cronenberg’s strangest film, which puts it in the rankings of the strangest mainstream films of all time. Depending on your mood, either provocative and challenging or pretentious and opaque. Talky and episodic tale is possibly a commentary on hypercapitalism gone amok, or maybe something else. Whatever the case, you do get to see Robert Pattinson get a colonoscopy... ladies.

SKYFALL: Without question the most beautiful Bond film ever made, thanks to the assured direction of Sam Mendes and the stunning photography of Roger Deakins. The 23rd Bond does best when it’s playing a classed-up take on the outrageous hijinks of the Roger-Moore era (using a komodo dragon as a stepladder, using a train as a projectile weapon) and worst when it turns into a pseudo-intellectual drama. Still a fun time, and features a truly bizarre villainous turn by Javier Bardem.

SINISTER: Pretty dumb but occasionally legitimately chilling horror schlock is elevated exponentially by a terrific Ethan Hawke performance. (read the full review here)

PROMETHEUS: Ponderous, pretentious, nonsensical ALIEN prequel asks one big question in a bunch of obvious and not-so-obvious ways. Hubris enough for ten films, but not enough brains for one. Still, strange and bold enough to be worth your time, with a few transcendent moments. (read the full review here)

SAVAGES: Ollie Stone’s gleefully misanthropic tale of the drug trade. Just as kinetic and profane as you’d expect, with great performances from Salma Hayek and Benicio Del Toro and possibly just a few more brains than are immediately evident. (read the full review here)

V/ H / S: Kinda lazy but occasionally inspired anthology of found-footage clusterfucks, with special credit for giving Ti West another showcase. Also features easily my favorite vampire in a long, long time. (read the full review here)

JIRO DREAMS OF SUSHI: Westerner’s perspective on the fetishistic focus of one particular Japanese sushi chef is limited in scope but by turns fascinating, inspiring, and a little sad. I appreciate that the film doesn’t shy away from the darker aspects of obsession, but ultimately the whole thing feels just a touch superficial. Does succeed in making you really, really want to eat some fucking sushi, possibly at the expense of family and loved ones.

Addendum 1/23: THE IMPOSTER: Engrossing crime documentary is slicker than most Hollywood thrillers and even more outrageous. What seems to be a simple small-time crime drama slowly builds into twist after literally unbelievable twist. It's pitch-perfect story construction and ever-building suspense work like a charm all the way up to the very end, when the murky vaugaries of real life necessitate a slightly unsatisfying ending.

Addendum 8/23: LOCKOUT: Guy Pearce's hilariously snarky performance raises the level of this otherwise routine Snake Plisskin knockoff from "fun genre fare" to "can't miss." Luc Besson has a spotty record of making action movies, but this one hits all the sweet spots from it's unhinged villain to it's great gimmicky premise to --most importantly-- its copious ones liners.

Addendum 8/23: PARANORMAN and WRECK-IT RALPH: Two very, very strong animated features which feature lots of hard-earned laughs, great genre concepts, and genuine emotional notes. PARANORMAN won me over with it's moving final act which takes the horror concept seriously and finds some seriously compelling imagery, while WRECK-IT RALPH wowed me with it's clever, tightly structured storytelling and it's great meta-premise which might just be this generation's answer to WHO FRAMED ROGER RABBIT?

Addendum 9/20: RED HOOK SUMMER: Interesting small-scale coming-of-age urban dramedy from Spike Lee seems minor, even a bit amateurish at first (the kids at the center of the story can sound a little awkward, their dialogue a little tin-eared). But then an out-of-the-blue twist near the 2/3 mark suddenly seems to galvanize the whole production, and we see Spike Lee do some of his best filmmaking in years. Complex, rich, at times painful; exactly the kind of thing Lee does best.

Addendum 9/30: SEVEN PSYCHOPATHS: Complicated meta crime comedy suffers slightly in comparison to the ungodly excellent IN BRUGES; it's unwieldy, cluttered, maybe a little too postmodern to get properly involved in. But its relentless cleverness is slowly augmented by its genuine heart, and things gradually come together into something funny, sad, and deeply odd. Bonus points for Tom Waits and his pet bunny.

Addendum 12/17: THE ROAD: Nicely crafted Filipino horror film starts out scary and compelling enough, then uses a series of vignettes to probe deeper and deeper into the events that led up to the opening. If learning more makes things less superficially scary, it also deepens the horror and the complex feelings of betrayal and despair that underpin all great horror movies. Good performances and production work help, but the film's real strength is the boldness and cleverness of its complex multi-generational narrative. One of the most genuinely impressive new horror films I've seen in quite some time.

For films which did not come out in a technical sense in the year 2012, but opened too small for anyone to know about them before now. They deserve to be on some list, dammit!

THE INNKEEPERS (technically, 2011): Warm, funny co-worker comedy/ghost story from Ti West captures a delicate balance of humor, suspense, and honest humanity. Only problem is that the ghosts eventually have to show up! Full Review Here!

BEYOND THE BLACK RAINBOW (technically, 2010): Trippy, tense maybe sorta-tribute to 70's and 80s sci-fi production design is really it's own weird thing. Nightmarish and obtuse, with an inexorable undercurrent of paranoid claustrophobia. Tapers off at the end with an abrupt tonal and narrative shift, but what a joy getting there!

ABSENTIA (technically, 2011): Slow-burn, pathos-soaked tale of Lovecraftian dread finds genuine horror in the ambiguity of loss. And in giant evil bugs. One of the most affecting films I saw this year, and they did it on a budget that came from Kickstarter. Full Review Here!

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Hellraiser VIII: Hellworld

Hellraiser: Hellworld (2005)
Dir. Rick Bota
Written by Carl V. Dupre
Starring Kathryn Winnick, Christopher Jacot, Henry Cavill, Lance Henriksen, Doug Bradley

Evil does not go online, it's not the newest, and certainly not the most horrifying. Other than that, the cover checks out.

Boys and girls of Puzzlebox land, there’s no easy way to say this. We’ve been on this Hellraiser journey for some time now, and even though we haven’t talked about it much, we all know there’s a very good reason we’ve been suffering through the HELLSEEKERS and DEADERS and so on. That reason has a name. You know who I mean. I’ll give you a hint: if they were going to make a series of DTV HELLRAISER movies, you could basically assume he’d eventually be in one even if you hadn’t checked ahead. But not like this. Dear god, not like this.

The last time we saw the dream team of Lance Henriksen and Doug Bradley, they were dusting it up in the surprisingly decent PUMPKINHEAD 3: ASHES TO ASHES. Henriksen only had a small role in that one and Bradley was the primary antagonist, so it’s nice to know that here, a year earlier, their roles were reversed: now, Henriksen is the primary antagonist and gets a good bit of screen time, while Bradley is... well, you know who he’s playing, and given the trend these DTV HELLRAISERS are taking, you have a pretty good idea how little of him you’ll see.

Alas, the HELLBABIES spin-off never materialized.

Unfortunately, Bradley must have gotten the bigger half of the wishbone, because even with Henriksen in a slightly bigger role, HELLWORLD is a spectacularly, awe-inducingly idiotic piece of eye-glazing, mind-numbing unwatchable garbage. It makes me realize that even though the last three sequels were listless, lazy, convoluted retreads of each other, they weren’t really aggressively bad pieces of art. More like disappointing works of incompetence. But they had their moments, in general they weren’t outright embarrassing, they at least seems like they were trying to maintain their general low level of dignity. HELLWORLD isn’t like that. HELLWORLD is bad, bad, bad. Everything about it is garishly bad, unmistakably, conspicuously, glaringly, blatantly, brazenly, audaciously bad. The kind of bad you can’t ignore. The kind of bad that comes to your house and knocks on your door to give you the good news about Jesus just as you’re about to sit down and spend some quality time with some nun-themed pornography. Debt-ceiling debate bad. The kind of bad that’s so egregious and obvious that you can hardly believe it, let alone ignore it.

Let’s start this postmortem with a general outline. There are many layers to the badness of HELLWORLD, but the first and maybe the most damning is also the most fundamental. They decided to make HELLRAISER meta. You know those movies like FAT ALBERT or THE BRADY BUNCH MOVIE or ENCHANTED where fictional character somehow come into the real world so we can see how hi-larious it is to watch them walk through the cynical world of modern man? Well, to that list you can now add HELLRAISER: HELLWORD. The movie inhabits a world where HELLRAISER: THE VIDEO GAME is a huge cultural phenomenon that our group of typical video game-playing co-ed attractive teenage 30-something protagonists are obsessed with. Everyone knows Pinhead, but they think of him as a campy video game mascot more than a supernatural S&M enthusiast/life coach so they’re always saying cheeky, postmodern things like, “what are you gonna do, rip off your face and become some franchise icon?” Good plan, HELLWORLD, make fun of the one character that gives your movie even a faint prayer of being watched by someone, somewhere. Oddly, although the entire cast is intimately familiar with the HELLRAISER VIDEO GAME (guess what? It’s called “Hellworld!” Now I’m just confused) they’re curiously silent on the subject of the HELLRAISER movie series. In what may be the film’s only vague concession to good taste, they elect not to invite you to compare this entry with the rest of the series. Suddenly not feeling so cocky, are we HELLWORLD?

I don't see how this could be a bad idea.
Now I know you’re starting to panic that this is going to involve our plucky crew of attractive misfits getting trapped in a video game virtual reality a la TRON. The idea of a game you can go "too deep" into combined with Bota's apparent desire to make everything scary in these movies some kind of weird dream, combined with the tagline ("evil goes online") written in MATRIX font... it seems like there's only one place this could be going. Don’t worry, it’s nowhere near that interesting. Instead, one of their number gets “too deep” in the game, and decides to off himself by taking a gasoline bath (seems like a real HELLRAISER fan would have used hooks, but maybe the video game is different). His friends (including pre-MAN OF STEEL Henry Cavill) are divided as to whether or not they blame themselves, but they’re shocked enough to abandon their addiction and go seek other entertainment elsewhere. It’s funny, because this Hellworld game and their apparent problems with going “too deep” play a central role in the plot, but we never really learn anything about what they were up to. We see a brief glimpse of the Hellraiser game, which looks like a combination of text-based adventure and that Windows 95 Maze screensaver (keep in mind that this movie was made in fucking 2005) but nothing to indicate what the game entails or exactly how one might get “too deep” into it, or what his friends could possibly have to feel responsible for. Actually, upon seeing what a shitty game it is it’s hard not to imagine that the kid woke up one day, realized he wasted his youth in a windowless basement playing a Doom knockoff while his peers were out in the world getting handjobs and drinking Boone’s Farm, and just decided life wasn’t worth living anymore.

Anyway, flash forward to two years later. The gang has broken up, everyone is moving on with their lives, no one is playing Hellworld much these days, but out of the blue they get an invite to attend a mysterious Hellraiser-themed party at a spooky mansion. So the gang reassembles -- the horny girl, the douchebag, the mopey guy, the blonde, and the black guy, back together at last! Their host turns out to be Lance Henriksen, sporting a flashy earring and, for the first time ever, a look of unmistakable shame in his eye. This guy did two Sasquatch movies in one year and still managed to keep his dignity, but HELLWORLD finally managed to embarrass him. The movie seems to be playing it like he’s a hip, eccentric rich guy, but since the movie’s idea of hipness is to have a 65-year-old man wearing a stud earring, this does not come off especially convincingly. At least they didn’t give him a pony tail, but I’m betting that was more an issue of affording a wig than wanting to avoid looking like jackasses. You can practically see Henriksen trying to sneak out of the camera’s line of sight. Obviously he’s always gonna give it his best shot, but jesus,a piece of shit with a bow on it is still a piece of shit. If Alec Guinness took this role he’d still come away with about as much class as a particularly disheveled Flava Flav impersonator.

Remember when I was Bishop? That was cool.

A movie this inept is virtually guaranteed to have an adorably circuitous plot, and Henriksen’s character gets the unenviable task of spouting the biggest pile of expository nonsense you’ve ever heard, all while trying to act casual like none of this will later turn out to be important. He invites our heroes into the bowels of his sprawling mansion, where he offers them drinks in a room filled with Hellraiser memorabilia. Henricksen mentions the building is “Lemarchand’s second greatest architectural marvel” and for a second you’re kind of excited thinking that they’re gonna reference that crazy building from part III and IV as the first. But no, he points to a giant spinning model of the puzzlebox, which is not, in my opinion, an architectural anything, let alone a marvel. And if adding a few pillars to a large-two-story house qualifies as a “marvel” I’m not sure it’s really worth bragging about, but Lance seems pretty into it. It seems like he’s kinda putting out feelers for a Hellraiser-themed 5-way, but these clueless kids don’t pick up on it and and eventually wander back to the party. There, a bunch of other aggressively attractive 30-something teenage video game enthusiasts (?) are dancing to techno, getting wasted, and fucking each other in every possible combination all over the antique furniture. Also for some reason everyone is OK with the idea that at this particular party everyone has to wear a creepy mask and must communicate with cell phones, haha, not that this will affect the plot in any way, not even sure why I mentioned it.

At some point, the naive teens wander apart and they start being killed and tormented in various mundane ways, and occasionally Pinhead shows up and stabs them or something. It is a testament to this film’s utter lack of imagination that Pinhead actually lowers himself to stabbing someone with a butcher knife here. It’s not even like he’s pressed for time or anything, it’s just that he doesn’t give a shit anymore, fuck it, let’s kill the guy and get outta here, the game’s gonna be on in a few hours. I mean, we know that when he gets creative things don’t always turn out so good (see his attempt at MacGyvering* up some new cenobites in HELLRAISER III) but this just looks like not even bothering to go through the motions. There is one kill I can’t believe it took them eight whole movies to come up with, where Pinhead finally (finally!) gets to skewer a guy with one of those giant loading hooks, a nice update on the traditional hooks scene in a movie which is generally lacking in hooks.

Yeah, it's called acting, you should really try it sometime.

Just like Part VII, this one also bills itself as “the newest, most horrific tale,” a real slap in the face to poor Part VII and also a laughably misleading promise as it is no longer the newest and not even in the top 7 most horrific. Fortunately, its incompetence is spectacular enough that it does provide a few amusing moments. At one point Future-Superman (who’s so over-the-top awful in this that he stands out amidst a decadent banquet of terrible acting) goes into a room with an eeeevil computer that lets him talk to his dead friend. But it’s a big bulky box computer and next to it there’s an eeeevil printer. Keep up with the times, Henriksen. (You’d think he’d be able to afford a flatscreen if he lives in a giant mansion like this, but maybe he blew all his cash on cell phones and masks). There's a fun bit where the dumbest character happily settles into a buzzsaw-laden murder chair and lets a sinister stranger strap her in, and seems genuinely puzzled by the subsequent downturn her night takes. I don't want to blame the victim here, but lady, that's on you. 

It’s not like the actors have a lot to work with, (sample dialogue: “Whoooo! Let’s party!”) but the bad acting in this movie is of the more agreeably hammy, hilarious kind instead of the glum non-acting that defined HELLRAISER V-VII, so if you’re looking to get hammered and mercilessly mock a bunch of teenagers as they get slaughtered, this is clearly the superior choice out of the whole series. I mean, it’s just littered with stunning errors in judgement, and at least a few are egregious enough to elicit a laugh. At one point, a character actually says “game over!” knowing that they are in a movie with Lance Henriksen. I mean, why not invite people to compare your horror sequel to ALIENS? Oh, and I can’t think of too many movies which center around a community’s grief and guilt over a child’s suicide that end with hilarious hair-metal power ballads. Sample lyrics: “Look Who’s laughing now / look who’s standing tall.” Wait, not sample. That’s pretty much all of them. This song would sound like an outrageous parody if it played in AMERICA: WORLD POLICE, so what better to way to leave this chapter of the HELLRAISER saga?

Now would probably be a good time to mention that writer Carl Dupre (HELLRAISER VI: HELLSEEKER, DETROIT ROCK CITY) has a cameo as the bartender, a ballsy move in a movie this terrible, since now I’ll be able to pick him out of a crowd.

If you can make it to the end of the movie --and that’s a big if-- there’s a really wonderfully boneheaded twist ending which I’m about to SPOIL SPOIL SPOIL for you, since it’s really better you hear it from me first. Turns out that not only is Pinhead meta now, he’s imaginary. But wait, who’s been slashing up these teens then? See, what really happened is that Henriksen’s character drugged our heroes, buried them alive (with cell phones and air holes) and fed them a bunch of bullshit to make them hallucinate, and for some reason they all hallucinated the same thing, and in fact shared a hallucination wherein one person’s hallucinatory experience affected the others. And he would have gotten away with it, too, if it weren’t for you meddling kids. Since this makes no sense at all, I’m going to assume the original plan was to actually pull the trigger on the threatened TRON-style virtual reality gimmick, but for some reason they dropped that and instead did something even stupider and less sensical. Meaning you’re left with a movie which centers around an immersive video game it’s possible to go “too deep” into, and everyone is constantly talking about this game and how immersive it is, and also again, the tagline is "evil goes online"... but then it becomes about a drug trip. Anyway they’re saved when a mysterious phone call from their dead friend summons the cops, because you know, closure. 

I suggest a drinking game where you take a shot everytime the camera isn't looking directly at him and Henriksen gets this far away look in his eye, like he's thinking about the capriciousness of fate. Two drinks if he does this in a scene with Henry Cavill, whose performance here is so bad I think it actually made me dumber, and who will go on to be far, far wealthier and more famous than Henriksen.

So it was all in their heads, Pinhead is just a fictional character (although I guess Lemarchand is real?) Henriksen’s evil plot is thwarted, and the characters go back to being gorgeous 30-something teenage outcast video game enthusiasts, except for the ones who managed to get themselves killed while unconscious in a box. That wraps everything up pretty neatly, I’d say, except there’s one catch: Pinhead IS real, after all! He shows up at Lance Henriksen’s motel room in total defiance of all logic and reason, and chops him in half (although at least we can be grateful he didn’t try to teach him a lesson about how to be a nicer person again). And then he says, “how’s that for a wake up call?” and you can hear Freddy Krueger groan somewhere off-camera. And then, just because the movie refuses to end, Henriksen also shows up for no reason as a ghost to scare our surviving heroes. Cue power ballad.

Make no mistake, this movie is the very definition of unwatchable garbage, but in a weird kind of way I think it’s sort of good for the series, kind of the way a drug addict has to finally reach rock bottom before they can confront their addiction. Sometimes you wake up next to the frigid corpse of a teenage hooker in a burned-out basement in Tijuana, naked and hurting with not a penny to your name anywhere in the world, and suddenly you realize you can’t remember your son’s face anymore and don’t even know if he’s alive or dead after you abandoned him in that crack house somewhere in the Midwest. Sometimes you make and/or watch HELLRAISER VIII: HELLWORLD. Either way, the shame and horror of it all suddenly washes over you like a salty wave, you fall to you hands and knees and weep, begging for forgiveness from god, the universe, your fellow man. And then you get help.

Hey, Chatterer! And is that Cannard? Are they friends now?

This is about as far as Pinhead could have fallen. He’s been reduced to a postmodern joke, and then to something even worse, a generic disposable killer. His franchise has degenerated from a tense, mind-shattering exploration of the darker side of desire to a SyFy channel-quality teen slasher. Literally nothing that was once good about the franchise and the character remain in HELLWORLD. But maybe that’s for the best; after coasting on the pretty-bad-but-not-quite-disastrous run of V, VI, and VII, this one finally did it, it finally got bad enough that something had to give. It checked off a number of major things a horror franchise needs to accomplish: it made the inevitable plunge into postmodernism, starred Lance Henriksen, had an embarrassing attempt to incorporate then-current technological gimmicks, featured a terrible performance from a then-unknown who would go on to be a big star, and provided work for the DP of BARB WIRE. They already went to space in part IV, so that about covers it. And if it had to end like this, at least it’s in a DTV seventh sequel and not somewhere that kids might accidentally watch it.

I don’t know if it’s really better to burn than to fade away; I do know it would be better to burn this move and have it fade from our memories. But it’s here, and it marks the end. Yes, I know there’s a new one which has some other joker as Pinhead, but you know as well as I do that it doesn’t count. HELLWORLD embraced a new standard of shittiness, and it’s not surprising that they ran with it somewhere. But really, HELLWORLD provides the franchise with a good starting ground for something new. They can’t go home again, but maybe they can take this as an opportunity to go some of the crazy places that Parts I-IV were exploring. For a while Pascal Laugier (MARTYRS, TALL MAN) was attached to a remake; that didn’t work out, but if they get someone of his caliber I won’t complain, and it shows that they’re interested in making something legitimately good again, not just coasting on their beloved icon. And best of all, while we wait, Doug Bradley has more time to narrate those public-domain audiobooks that I love so much. So really, a desperate rationalization in disguise. I’m sorry, I meant to say, “so really, a blessing in disguise.” Twist ending!

*Wow, google docs recognizes “MacGyvering” as a real word, what an age we live it!

1: HELLRAISER (1987)