Pet Sematary (1989)

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From one King to another. Upon finding this in a local Big W for $5, my first thoughts were “Is it in widescreen?” and “Is it in 5.1?” to which both of those questions were answered in the affirmative. But surely, a film starring Fred Gwynne (Herman Munster) with a feature song by The Ramones (as well as a cameo by Stephen King himself) can’t be too bad, right?

The Creeds have just moved into a new house in the countryside. Their house is perfect, except for two things: the trucks that drive noisily on the road outside, and the mysterious cemetary in the woods behind the house labelled “Pet Sematary”…

I like Stephen King’s work, but I don’t understand, well, what happened: King wrote and published Pet Sematary in 1983, and six years later he sat down to write the screenplay for a movie based on his book. There isn’t anything wrong with the story, dialogue, it’s that scenes, especially earlier on, jump, and some things happen without reason.

The acting, with the exception of Gwynne, is quite poor, laughable in a few situations. Dale Midkiff seems to be in a haze throughout the film, Denise Crosby is actually good, but tries her best with the material she’s been given and ends up looking like she doesn’t know where to go. The kids, are of course, kids, although Miko Hughes, especially later on in the film, is creepy. The direction by Mary Lambert, a female director hovering around horror films should be noted, however she just ended up with a B-grade, at times non-sensical muddle of a movie.

The concept, of having more time with those who have passed on, is of course universal, and something everyone can relate to on one level or another. However, the supernatural aspects surrounding the concept seem half-baked, and we never really get into the head of Louis Creed, the main character played by Midkiff. It is obvious chunks of the book were sliced out to make the book into a movie, however in doing that, the film has actually suffered. Instead of taking the book, and moulding the story into a suitable story for the screen, King has edited the book and given the edit to the actors and crew, at least, is seems like that. Believe you me, I don’t like criticising King but I thought he did a poor job of constructing a screenplay. Add to that middle-of-the-road acting, and a zombie cat (it’s not as awesome as it sounds), Pet Sematary is a poor excuse for a book adaptation, and a poor excuse for a horror movie in general. In fact, it might just be the goofiest horror movie I’ve seen yet. Two skulls.

Audio:
For a cheap DVD, the 5.1 track was quite good. Obviously, the roar of trucks driving past were quite loud, and the laughing of Gage, the son during one of the final sequences, comes out of the rear speakers giving a frightening jolt to the viewer. For a twenty-one year old film, it sounded quite impressive. Three-and-a-half skulls.

Video:
Alas, the video aspect is not as impressive as the audio aspect of the disc. Yes, I understand it’s an old film but my qualms lie with the encoding of the film. Many times I noticed blocking artefacts, taking me out of the film. The rest of the picture was fine, but slightly blurry. It did the job, but it wasn’t the best picture I’ve seen on DVD. Two stars.

Features.
No features are provided on the disc besides subtitles. No skulls.

Overall:
With Pet Sematary, Stephen King proves that while playing a priest at a funeral may be awesome, he should probably stick to writing novels. However, his screenplay is not the only problem. Riddled with mediocre, sometimes laughable acting, and odd horror and cheap non-frightening scares, Pet Sematary is a poor film, but may entertain yourself and some of your friends with it’s B-grade atmosphere. Two skulls.

The Lost Boys 2: The Tribe (2008)

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While many people wanted a sequel to The Lost Boys when that original film was released, as well as producer Richard Donner and director Joel Schumacher thinking up ideas such as vampire politicians and “Lost Girls”, it seemed most fans cried foul when The Lost Boys 2: The Tribe was announced, and cried even more foul when the trailer was released, and then lambasted it when it was released on DVD and Blu-Ray. They were right and wrong, but let me get to why that is.

This sequel takes us to the shady surf city of Luna Bay, California, where vampire surfers quickly dispatch anyone who crosses their path. Into this dark world arrive moody Chris Emerson and his shy sister, Nicole. Having lost their parents in a car accident, the siblings move in with their eccentric aunt Jillian and become new prey for the local surfers. When Nicole unwittingly drinks the blood of a vampire, Chris must locate and destroy the gang’s head vampire before his sister’s transformation is complete.

The problem this sequel has is that it’s grittier and more serious than its predecessor, and loses the fun and innocence the original film had and uses the mythology set up in the first film to make generic horror movie. Where there was hardly any blood in the first film, whereas it’s an absolute bloodbath in this film. It’s an absolute step away from the tone of the original film, which is why many cried foul, but it’s also a decent direct-to-video film if you have an open mind.

The performances in this film aren’t anything special, but the film has pretty decent production values. The sales of the disc obviously helped make the film’s budget back to warrant a third film, entitled Lost Boys: The Thirst which I’ll be looking forward to. Call me generous but I didn’t think this was that bad, it just wasn’t The Lost Boys we know and love. Three skulls.

Audio:
The audio is pretty pumping on the disc, however there is only one track in English. No TrueHD or PCM, just English Dolby Digital 5.1. I didn’t notice much sound coming from the rear speakers. When music was played, however, it sounded pretty sweet. Three skulls.

Video:
Much to my surprise, The Lost Boys 2: The Tribe is a lot more grainy compared to its predecessor. Especially in darker scenes and on darker colours of walls clothes. The grain adds to the gritty feeling the film-makers were obviously going with this sequel, but the image itself is crisp, however the colours are a bit dull, again obviously being intentional for the feel of the film. Three-and-a-half skulls.

Features:
Only a few features are presented for The Lost Boys 2: The Tribe, and all are pretty short, and not really worth it besides the alternate endings. Two-and-a-half skulls.

  • Lost Boys: The Tribe: Action Junkies is a very short featurette about the stunts in the film.
  • Edgar Frog’s Guide to Coming Back Alive is a short featurette with Corey Feldman in character as Edgar Frog teaching the audience what methods and weapons to use against a vampire.
  • Alternate Endings are interesting – they are both pretty much the same, with slight variations in the editing and lines, and obviously setting up the third film.
  • Cry Little Sister Remix Video – the less said about this the better. It completely rapes the original song.
  • Downfall, Hell is Full, It’s Over Now music videos by Yeah Whatever – not my cup of tea, and with these music videos and tone of the film it’s obvious the makers were targeting a goth/supernatural audience for the film.

Overall:
A giant step away from the charms that made the original film so much fun and so enjoyable turns this sequel into a generic horror movie complete with gore galore as well as the obligatory boob shots and lesbian kissing shots. It’s an alright movie, but the original is far better. Let’s hope the third film, entitled The Thirst improves upon this sequel and goes back to its roots. Three skulls.

A Nightmare on Elm Street Part 2: Freddy’s Revenge

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From the truly cool opening title cards that would fit more with Terminator than they would with Freddy Krueger, everything goes downhill in this truly below sub-par sequel that’s confusing, unmemorable, and laughable.

It’s been five years since the events of A Nightmare on Elm Street, and a new family has moved into the house that the famous Nancy Thompson (the heroine in the first film) use to live in, and things start out peachy-keen…then spiral out of control.

I usually enter the world of a horror movie sequel with a open mind, honest, because they usually all suck, some more than others. But A Nightmare on Elm Street Part 2: Freddy’s Revenge is an all-new level of sucktastic, but has four things going for it: the very awesome artwork (to your left), a horribly corny title that’s so-bad-it’s-freakin’-awesome (Freddy’s Revenge), the aforementioned Terminator-esque opening titles, and Robert Englund.

To be honest, Freddy’s not my favourite horror movie icon (I hesitate to call him a slasher movie icon), but I like the concept of a demonic sandman killing teenagers in their dreams, leading to the idea of no escape. It is, at least was, refreshing when it first came out, and there was an element of fear, of fright, embedded in the concept that you couldn’t do anything but be glued to your seat, even in this day and age. It was also something different, which is also a good thing. This, however, is titled Freddy’s Revenge. Wasn’t the first film the spawn of his revenge, killing the teenagers of the parents that killed him?

I haven’t seen the sequels, and if I have, I don’t remember them, but this first foray in to the fabled Land of the Sequels proves to be a redundant foray, giving a confusing and badly-written story, disappointing and predictable climax as well as some hokey acting (which, really, is to be expected).

Robert Englund, you have to give the man credit, has kept up appearances through the first film up until Freddy VS Jason (2003), so that’s some damn good commitment. But even what he brings to the table seems lost in this story.

We see where he worked, a factory (making…what? Not explained…), which is where the all-too-predictable and all-too-convenient climax happens, and there is so much here that isn’t really used properly. I could tell there was a story, I could understand what the film-makers were trying to say (sometimes), but this should have gone through some more drafts before filming began, because the execution of this story turns what Wes Craven brought, a truly original and frightening concept, into something confusing and hardly frightening (a few spontaneous combustions involving a toaster, which the family keep afterwards, and exploding birds? Come on…) But most of all, this sequel turns the refreshing story into something unnecessary.

I can’t really recommend this, not even to Krueger fans, but I’m sure all the die-hard fans have already seen it. It’s a silly and worthless sequel and even Robert Englund can’t really save it. Skip it, and go onto A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors, whose title is only slightly less corny than this film’s title. See? It’s already better.

One-and-a-half stars.

My Bloody Valentine (1981)

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Happy Valentines Day!

I had never heard of My Bloody Valentine until I had seen the trailer of the 3D remake, and even then, it wasn’t until a week prior to the film’s release did I actually see the original film, but it blew my socks off.

In the tight-knit mining town of Valentine’s Bluff, everyone is getting ready for its first Valentine’s Day dance in many, many years. However, a local loon, who is also the bartender, warns the teens about a legend, many years ago, where the sole survivor of a mine explosion came back after recovery and went on a ravenous rampage of revenge on the town of Valentine’s Bluff. The teens however, choose to disbelieve this legend, and it will be their undoing, as more and more people are turning up dead on the day where love should be all around…

When you view the original My Bloody Valentine, one thing immediately strikes you: this isn’t your by-the-books slasher movie; it has something, that famous je ne sais quoi that you can’t really put your finger on, no matter how much you try…until you watch the deleted footage.

This effective Canadian gem came out in at the height of the slasher boom of the early eighties, following in the path of the classic Halloween. However, out of all imitators, My Bloody Valentine stands out above all the rest, but, of course, it’s one of those that never grew into a never-ending franchise that has that one film that alludes to the ending of a slasher character, but perhaps that was for the best?

There’s hardly anything wrong with this, and I will go so far to say that if John Carpenter’s Halloween didn’t exist, George Mihalka would be a far better known name for his Valentine’s Day slasher masterpiece.

The Blu-Ray, released by Lionsgate (having bought DVD rights from Paramount) have released the film with the much-awaited deleted footage that has hardly seen the light of day, and while Lionsgate can toot their horn about the inclusion of the sought-after footage, it dramatically changes the way you watch the film, and it’s quite bizarre how a few more minutes of footage can morph the film into something completey different.

The footage, despite what people are saying, is crystal clear. It’s just old. The deleted footage has wear and tear of being mistreated or general storage and at first watching I loved it. It gave the film a true grindhouse kind of quality. However, watching the footage again, on its own, I think the film without the deleted footage works a lot better, whereas if you watch the film with the deleted footage integrated into it, not only does it look like a grindhouse movie, but it also feels like a grindhouse movie. The violence, make-up and gore is in true exploitation fashion, and did, in fact, remind me of the inferior Friday the 13th’s and their respective out-there and consistent, violent kills, effectively giving you two very different versions of the film.

Two other extras, besides a theatrical trailer for My Bloody Valentine and preview for other Lionsgate titles, are presented. First is Bloodlust: My Bloody Valentine and the Rise of the Slasher Film, gives a short and, at first, entertaining look at the slasher films post-Halloween, involving interviews from some cast and crew of this slasher classic, but then takes a right-turn into a full-blown advertisement for Lionsgate’s 3D remake, which I didn’t like – not one bit (it’s pathetic, really).  The second extra is called Bloodlines: An “Interactive” Horror Film History. It is, in fact, called that, but interactive is in inverted commas because it seems like it was taken from an early-90s webpage. There’s nothing interactive about it at all. It’s simply right arrow, left arrow, enter button. It’s a text history, and, whilst comprehensive, unless you’re sitting right up in front of your television, it should prove to be a difficult read.

Watch the original version first, without the deleted scenes, it’s a classic of the genre. Harry Warden is one of my favourite slashers, but Lionsgate haven’t treated him like they should have with a passable but could-have-been-better Blu-Ray presentation. Also, at the end of the day, when you pop the disc into your player, what version do you want to watch? The version that most of us have fallen in love with, that has that je ne sais quoi that most slashers don’t have, or the traditional, by-the-slasher-books version? Three-and-a-half for the whole thing. Too bad the film is tarnished by a sub-par Blu-Ray presentation.