Postmortem: ‘The Happening’

  • Part 1: It’s All About The Benjamins

I imagine that M. Night Shyamalan, coming off the blockbuster success of 1999′s “The Sixth Sense,” thought that he literally ruled the world.  That movie, on a $40 million budget, earned almost $673 million dollars.

His followup,  2000′s “Unbreakable,” cost $75 million to produce, almost doubled the cost of his first film and earned just over $248 million dollars.  While not as wildly successful as “The Sixth Sense,” it was still quite profitable.

His third film, “Signs” was cheaper to produce than “Unbreakable,” at $72 million, but earned over $408 million dollars.

His forth film, 2004′s “The Village” cost $60 million to produce, and earned almost $257 million dollars, but cracks had begun to appear in his armor.  “The Village,” while profitable, had the lowest rating on Rottentomatoes.com rating of any of his prior films, at 43 percent.

Most critics believe that it was little more than an extended Twilight Zone episode, though that’s not quite fair to “The Twilight Zone,” which was significantly better.

His next film was his first flop.  “Lady in the Water,” which cost $70 million to produce, earned only $72 million worldwide.  The studio that released all his films prior to this one, Disney, declined to do so for ‘Water.’   Shyamalan then took the movie to Warner Bros., who in hindsight probably wished he hadn’t because–while it earned back its production costs–wasn’t profitable.

His next film, 2008′s “The Happening” had a remarkably low Rottentomatoes score of 17 percent, which one might understandably equate with box-office disaster, but not in this particular case because  it earned over $163 million dollars.

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‘Phantasm: Ravager’ Trailer

Phantasm: Ravager posterDon Coscarelli’s Phantasm series is very interesting, though not necessarily for good reasons.

The original film that started it all is pretty amazing, but the more sequels that Coscarelli did, the more apparent it became that that he was running out of ideas.

Which is why the latest film, “Phantasm: Ravager” is so interesting.  This time around it’s being helmed not by Coscarelli, but David Hartman, who worked with him on “Bubba Ho-Tep” and “John Dies At The End.”

While I assume that Don Coscarelli is writing, it will be a good thing for someone new to direct.

Besides, if Coscarelli not directing, he’d be free to handle other projects (hopefully Marvel’s Doctor Strange).

Postmortem: ‘AVP’


Welcome to “Postmortem,” a feature that goes behind the scenes of some of your favorite films, and asks:  What the heck went wrong?!

Paul W.S. Anderson (the Resident Evil films,  “Soldier,” Event Horizon,” “Pompeii”), if you’ve ever seen him in a interview, like the one above, appears very knowledgable about the films he chooses to direct.  So knowledgeable, in fact, that he makes his film, “AVP” sound like a natural progression in the Alien franchise.

Yet when you actually watch the movie, it quickly becomes apparent that something went wrong somewhere along the way.

One of the (many) things that bothered me about “AVP” was that it took place in Antartica, which actually makes sense if you listen to Anderson’s explanation.  He said, essentially, that many regions of the world that are cold now weren’t always that way, and the region where the Predators trained their hunters was originally tropical.

I get it, but considering that the first two Predator films spent a whole bunch of time establishing that the Predators were drawn to hot climates and conflict, why place the pyramid in a place that’s cold?

Primarily Anderson said that he wanted to evoke the desolate look of the first film–which took place in space.  I get that too, though the implication is that you couldn’t do the same thing in ahotter climate, which isn’t the case.

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‘Contracted’ Review

Contracted

“Irrelevant Details Mar What Could Have Been A Been An Excellent Example Of The ‘Body Horror’ Genre.”

Eric England‘s “Contracted” isn’t a bad movie by any stretch.  It looks good, is well-acted, and competently shot.

It’s also damned irritating.

“Contracted” is in the vein of David Cronenberg‘s ‘Body Horror’ films, such as “Scanners,” “Videodrome” and “The Brood” though not as imaginative.  Things revolve around Samantha, who happens to be a lesbian.

I mention her sexual preference because the film does often enough, though I have always been of the opinion that if you have to spend all your time talking about being gay, you’re probably not.   In any case, it’s not particularly relevant to the character.  It’s kind of weird in that I don’t necessarily expect Samantha to walk around like she’s auditioning for “The L Word, though I did expect the character being gay to somehow matter.

And I know I am not speaking from experience, but I would hope that being a lesbian is not defined by a hatred for men.

And speaking of homosexuality, a film that does a much better job of dealing with it is Paul Etheredge-Ouzt’s 2004 horror movie “Hellbent,” which revolves around some gay guys attending a carnival in LA.  It’s an interesting movie, though I mention it because the characters being gay is an essential part of the story, and helps to define them as people.

While attending a friend’s party Samantha gets drunk, then roofied by some guy, who they takes her to his car and has sex with her. I don’t know if it’s rape or not, because Samantha–though drunk–seems complicit in what’s happened to her.

Or maybe we’re watching a commentary by director Eric England on the malleability of sexual mores, or even a dislike of women–straight or gay–but it doesn’t exactly help to clarify matters.  

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‘Rosemary’s Baby’ Reboot

Yeah, I get tired when I watch Polanski's "Rosemary's Baby," too.

Yeah, I get tired when I watch Polanski’s “Rosemary’s Baby,” too.

This is going to sound like sacrilege, but I have to say it:  I never liked Roman Polanski’s “Rosemary’s Baby.”  There, my secret is out.  It’s treated like some sort of classic of slow-burn horror by most people who have seen it, but from what I could tell, it’s just slow.  In some ways the hype that surrounds it is like that that typically accompanies Stanley Kubrick’s “2001: A Space Odyssey,” which is a gorgeous movie, with some great practical special effects by Brian Johnson–the movie, in a visually sense, led directly to Gerry Anderson’s “Space: 1999″–but my God, is it boring!

And long, Oh, so long.

And I understand that there’s very little in the way of atmosphere in space, which is why all that noise those fighters were making in the ‘Star Wars’ films, among others, is utter nonsense, but Kubrick’s film aimed for realism, and it found it, making space travel seem ordinary and mundane.

“Rosemary’s Baby” did the same thing for Satanic cults and Satan:  Made them both sort of dull and uninteresting.  In fact, I like to think that William Friedkin’s 1973 film, “The Exorcist,” was as bizarre as it was as a counterweight to the mundane nature of Polanski’s 1968 film.

And as much vitriol is felt for Sam O’Steen‘s “Look What Happened To Rosemary’s Baby” (Admittedly, it’s pretty bad), it’s at least an visually interesting and somewhat engaging film, unlike Polanski’s.

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‘Wishmaster 3: Beyond The Gates Of Hell’ Review

Wishmaster 3

“I Have Used 500 Words What Could Have Taken Significantly Less:  “Wishmaster 3″ Is A Pretty Mediocre Movie.”

Do you recall “Hellraiser: Revelations?” A movie that was little more than a cynical ploy by Dimension to keep the rights to the franchise by issuing a sub-par sequel?

I wasn’t aware of this being done before, till I saw “Wishmaster 3: Beyond The Gates Of Hell” a movie that had absolutely nothing to do with the gates to anywhere, never mind Hell.

Like ‘Revelations,’ the cash spigot, while not yet exhausted, has been reduced to a dribble.  Though that does not quite explain why most of the budget appears to have gone into creating  those improbable types of car crashes that are normally not acceptable outside an episode of “The A-Team.”

Wishmaster 1 and 2, despite being like an unholy union between “A Nightmare On Elm Street” and “Hellraiser” had their charms.

‘Wishmaster 3,” not so much.

The first Wishmaster was directed by Robert Kurtzman, who is renown for his effects work and “The Walking Dead” on AMC.  The second in the series was done by Jack Shoulder, who did “A Nightmare On Elm Street 2: Freddie’s Revenge,” which managed to divide fans of the franchise, as well as “The Hidden,” which is all sorts of awesome.

While “Wishmaster 3:  Beyond The Gates Of Hell” was directed by Chris Angel.

Who’s Chris Angel?  He’s a magician an an illusionist, and while, despite having directed Wishmaster 3 and 4, he’s not a director.

Be Captivated By My Powers!

Be Captivated By My Powers (And If That Doesn’t Work, Check Out The Abs)

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‘Skinwalker Ranch’ Trailer

Inspired By True EventsWhen I first saw the title, ‘Skinwalker Ranch,’ I assumed that it was somehow related to porn. It’s not, though after learning that’s it’s “Inspired By True Events” I almost wished that it were.

Because whenever a movie is “Inspired By True Events,” and that film is science fiction or horror, it generally means that the filmmakers have taken a strange incident, blown it way out of proportion and based a movie around it.  So an admittedly mysterious happening, like cattle mutilation, and strange lights suddenly become a harbinger of alien invasion.

I enjoy science fiction, and I enjoy horror, but when there’s an attempt to make something that clearly exists only in the imagination real, it gets irritating.

And that’s before actually seeing the movie.

That being said, the trailer looks pretty decent.  The CGI seems well-blended with the rest of the movie (it doesn’t hurt that a lot seems to happen at night, which is more forgiving as far as CGI goes, than the day).  The movie gets bonus points for starring Jon Gries, whom I recall from “The Pretender” and more recently, a few episodes of “Supernatural.”

By the way, a ‘skinwalker‘ is a person, generally a male, from Native American legend that had the ability to turn to animals, among other powers.  They were also usually evil, and had to commit heinous acts to get their power.

‘Wishmaster’ and ‘Wishmaster 2′

As I repeat often enough, remakes are evil (except when they’re not).  Recently I watched “Wishmaster” and “Wishmaster 2″ on Netflix, and got to thinking…

I decided to deal with both movies at the same time because, despite one being a sequel, they’re essentially the same film.  Sure, you have differences in casting and the quality of special effects the second time around (they’re marginally better, though not as inventive) but the story, like the song, remains the same.

Which is:  An evil djinn (jinn.  Islamic Mythology, any of a class of spirits, lower than the angels, capable of appearing in human and animal forms and influencing humankind for either good or evil) is attempting to force the person who frees him from his prison to make three wishes, which would enable him to free his brethren from the Limbo-like dimension that holds them, and rule the world.

Though, unlike with the Dictionary.com definition, there’s no doubt where this particular djinn’s loyalties lie.

And to my dismay, I soon discover that, instead of taking what could have been a rich mythology and building upon it, the Wishmaster comes off like a Middle-Eastern ‘Freddy’ (which is interesting, since Robert Englund, plays ‘Raymond Beaumont’ in the first film), a schtick gets old really fast.  That being said, the concept of an evil djinn trying to free others like him in an attempt to depose humanity as the dominant species on the planet is actually pretty interesting and predates either “Underworld” (vampires and werewolves versus humans) or “Legion” and “The Prophesy” (Humans versus angels).

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‘Bad Milo!’ Review

Bad Milo!

“”Bad Milo!” Is Disgustingly Hilarious!”

(Spoilers follow)

Imagine E.T., if instead of outer space, he came from inner space.

And by “inner” I mean your ass.

“Bad Milo!” is a film directed by Jacob Vaughan, and Executive Produced the Duplass Brothers (Jay and Mark).  Mark Duplass acts as well, and probably is most well-known as Pete Eckhart, from “The League.”

“Bad Milo!” is the story of Duncan (Ken Marino, who also played Donny “The Seed” Sedowsky on “The League”), a milquetoast who’s grown to accept how badly everyone treats him.  The problem is that his Id, his ego, isn’t quite so accepting.

His frustration, his anger manifest themselves as Milo, a horrific little monster (that’s actually pretty cute at times) that began life as a polyp somewhere on Duncan’s rectum.

Yep.  Milo is an ass monster.

Milo also happens to be the size of a small child, which makes the fact that Duncan has to crap him out every time he appears quite possibly one of the most painful experiences a person could have.

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‘Haunter’ Review

Haunter

“I thought I told you to mind your own business.  You are a Busy Betty.  And I don’t like Busy Betties.”

–The Pale Man

There’s a memorable scene in the first ‘Matrix’ film where Morpheus gives Neo the choice of taking the blue pill, which would mean that he could return to his everyday “life” free of the uncertainty that has become plagued him of late.

Or he could take the blue pill, and have the thin veneer that hides the true nature of reality removed, to finally exist the the world of the real.

It’s a choice Lisa (Abigail Breslin) is denied as she’s thrust into a battle with a demonic entity in Vincenzo Natali’s “Haunter,” the followup to “Splice.”  While that latter film revolved around the dangers of genetic engineering, his latest is somewhat smaller, and plays like a more sinister version of Harold Ramis’ “Groundhog Day” as Lisa–for reasons unknown to her–ends up repeating the same ordinary day over and over again, a fact that her parents and little brother seem oblivious to.

What most surprised me about “Haunter” is how it harkens back to more family-friendly scare films.  And speaking of scares, they’re present, though primarily atmospheric, and there’s no gore to speak of.

Though the movie has an ace up it’s sleeve:  Stephen McHattie (“Pontypool,” XIII: The Series” among many others) who’s ability to look sinister with seemingly no effort at all is so potent that it’s almost a superpower.

Natali has a tendency in this film to telegraph its themes more often than I would like–you’ll know what I mean when you see it–but that’s just a small distraction in what is a very smart, engaging horror thriller.