1998

October 28, 2015

The Horror Time Capsule – 1998: Dee Snider’s Strangeland

PROTO

Dee Snider’s Strangeland – Proto

The mid to late 90’s brought us a lot of trends; goth wear, Jnco jeans, rave gear, industrial music, so many trends to name, but there was also the rise of the tattoo and piercing sub-culture. It really wasn’t until the end of the 90s where tattoos and extreme piercing really started to become socially acceptable. So it made sense for genre films, namely horror, to take on genre trends, and nothing screams genre trends like “Dee Snider’s Strangeland,” a movie that was about about six years early for the “torture porn” genre, and you might even call it the “proto torture porn film.”

“Strangeland” is the tale of piercing, tattooing, industrial music, the internet, and catfishing. Captain Howdy, played by Snider himself, is a sadistic kidnapper who lures people from the internet to his house of horrors that includes extreme piercing and other forms of torture. After kidnapping a cop’s daughter, Howdy is arrested and sent sent away for rehabilitation.

Years later it is deemed that Captain Howdy, or as we know him now as Carlton Hendricks, has been cleared to re-enter society, but of course an angry mob led by Freddy Kruger (Robert Englund) doesn’t like it one bit leading to a lynching and the re-birth of Captain Howdy, now crazier than ever.

So, this film isn’t all that great, it’s pretty mundane and there isn’t much of a twist and it owes a lot of it’s story to “A Nightmare on Elm Street” but it does have some pretty fun makeup effects and Snider looks like he is having a lot of fun being a creep. One of the things that I find the most amusing, but also the most unnecessary is the scene where we all find out, as an audience, how the internet and chat rooms work. Of course, at the time, this was revolutionary since the internet was brand new, but it automatically renders this film pretty static in it’s technology.

One of the best parts of this film, especially if you’re a metal-head, is the soundtrack, which Snider, who is a bit of a metal god, handpicked himself, including a still unknown System of a Down with one of the better songs on the soundtrack, “Marmalade.”

Should one see “Strangeland?” Sure, why not, it’s not the best and it’s not the worst in late 90s horror and it’s an interesting little time capsule, especially if you want a tutorial on chat rooms.

No need to “hang around” check out these other goodies from 1998:

Apt Pupil
Bride of Chucky
The Dentist 2
The Faculty
Halloween H20
Psycho (1998)
Urban Legend

October 30, 2013

This is Halloween: The Faculty

The Faculty: Underrated

104mins/Horror/Sci-Fi/1998

It’s a film by Robert Rodriguez, that when I say that, a shit ton of people that never knew that pop up with seriously? That Robert Rodriguez? Yes that one. I know it doesn’t have that Rodriguez feel to it, but after a few viewings it starts to become clearer. The story is simple as dirt, teachers bodies become taken over by aliens and a few students stand up to take them down. The film has a Breakfast Club mixed into Invasion of the Body Snatchers vibe in it. And that there for me takes this film to a different level you don’t get very much anymore.

The film stars Josh Hartnett, Elijah Wood, Shawn Hatosy, Jordana Brewster, Clea DuVall, Laura Harris, Robert Patrick, Bebe Neuwirth, Piper Laurie, Famke Janssen, Usher Raymond, Salma Hayek, and Jon Stewart. If that isn’t an amazing cast I’d like you to prove me wrong.

Like Matt said in our upcoming podcast, The Faculty is an underrated film. This is something that I’ve said for years now. Since the film came out in 1998, I’ve heard nothing but hatred toward this film. Every time it came up people would downplay the entertainment value and said that is was just crap. I would always come to its defense with how enjoyable this film is.

Trust me, Give it a shot this Halloween!

November 6, 2012

Election Day Special: Bulworth

Bulworth – Gimmick

Now here’s a gimmick for you; take Warren Beatty, a poster child for White America, make him rap and booty dance with Halle Barry while dressed in mid-90s hip-hop fashions all the while on the run from a supposed assassination attempt.  Sound good?  Well, some of it is, while some of it comes off as a feeble attempt to address the fact that politicians are just put in place to give “we the people” a sense that we “voted” them into office while the truth is that they are in the pockets of interest groups and lobbyists.  That’s 1998’s “Bulworth” in a nutshell.

I could stop the review right there, but watching “Bulworth” in my less politically enlightened days and watching it now proves to me that this film didn’t get the credit it deserved when it was released* and how it was a zeitgeist for politics not only in the Clinton-era, but in the Obama-era now.

As I prefaced, “Bulworth” is the story of California Democratic Senator, Jay Billington Bulworth, running for re-election in 1996 (which was also the year in which Bill Clinton was running for re-election against GOP candidate, Bob Dole).  In hope of keeping his seat, Sen. Bulworth has transitioned from a typically Liberal stance, to a more “back to traditional American values” Conservative stance.  Upset with his new political agenda, as well as his broken marriage, Bulworth takes a contract out on his life in hopes of his daughter inheriting a substantial life insurance policy, which is given to Bulworth by an insurance lobbyist .  Not fearing reprisal, Bulworth begins a newer “political agenda” where he takes off his filter and starts telling his supporters and critics what politicians really think about them.  From going to a black church and explaining that the African-American community doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of politics and telling the Jewish community that their Jewish paranoia is actually real, Bulworth lets it all hang out, including his tongue while dancing with Halle Barry in an after-hours hip-hip club.

Beatty, a known friend of the Democratic establishment, skewers politicians from the left and right, as well as the 24 hour media coverage of politics, which plays a major part in the overall plot.  He points out how struggling members of our society get swept under the rug and find other “elected officials,” case in point, Don Cheadle’s drug dealer character, L.D.

Speaking of Beatty and Cheadle, the acting is quite strong.  Some of the supporting roles include Sean Astin, Oliver Platt, Paul Sorvino, and Jack Warren, with Platt as a standout, playing a campaign manager caught between the preservation of his career and “loyalty” to his candidate.

The things that irked me, and this plays into the whole gimmick, is the pounding rap soundtrack throughout the film.  Trust me, I love gangsta rap as much as the next hip-hop head, but it was unnecessary in some scenes.  The other problem I had was the use of a “chorus” by way of two black girls who essentially become Bulworth’s hype girls.  Personally, I found it a little obnoxious, annoying and didn’t really understand its place besides maybe comic relief, which falls flat.

Overall, “Bulworth” is a good political satire that tackles some of the hard issues, and to be honest, there hasn’t been another movie that was combined both tongue-in-cheek humor with something thought provoking in the political comedy genre .  Yes, we all know that special interest groups and lobbyists run Washington (as much as we want to tell ourselves that they don’t) and the middle class is disappearing while America becomes a two-class system.  The one thing that does hold “Bulworth” back from being a great movie is that hip-hop gimmick.  It works at times, but it becomes a joke in and of itself, and almost becomes cringe-inducing once you see Beatty in a skully and baggy pants.  

*Yes, the movie received plenty of recognition from the Awards circuit (Academy and Golden Globes) but it wasn’t widely distributed and was able to make it’s production costs back in it’s theatrical run.

Fun Fact:  There are 111 uses or derivatives of the word “fuck” used in the film.  Clocking in at 108 minutes, that is more than one “fuck” per minute.  1.027 to be exact.

October 19, 2012

31 Nights of Halloween, Psycho (1960)

Psycho (1960) – Prodding

Slasher films have been around for a loooooong time, and have had plenty of ups and downs.  Take “Halloween” for instance, it pretty much invented “the formula.” Then you have “Friday the 13th” that perfected “the formula.” After that you had plenty of other slasher fodder, including any holiday being translated into slasher fare.  Let me illustrate.

I digress, I’ll continue this rant in another review, but it does bring me to a point; recent slasher films (and I use that term loosely) are awful.  There is nothing iconic about the sub-genre anymore.  Gone are the days of Michael Myers, Jason Vorhees, and Leatherface.  However, it does bring me to the most recent review on the “31 Nights of Halloween” and that is Alfred Hitchcock’s proto-slasher film, 1960’s “Psycho.”

You might think that I’m going to laud “Psycho”and say how great a film it is, well, it’s just okay.  While there are many redeeming aspects, namely the cinematography, music, and the balls Hitchcock had (spoiler alert, c’mon this is a 50 year old movie) to kill off his star, Janet Leigh, “Psycho”doesn’t hold up as well as some people think, and watching it again as an adult with more of a appreciation of the genre and film in general; it’s prodding.

Maybe I’m committing blasphemy (I must be, because there is nothing negative out there about this film).  I’ve besmirched the greatness that is Alfred Hitchcock, The Master of Suspense.  Sorry Alfie, no hard feelings I hope, but “Psycho”just seems antiquated in this day and age.  It’s almost a procedural serial killer/cop drama, which wouldn’t work for the genre today.

“Psycho,” based on Robert Bloch’s novel of the same name, and loosely on 1950’s serial killer, Ed Gein, is about Marion Crane (Janet Leigh), whose on the run with $40,000, and finds her way to the Bates Hotel, run by Norman Bates (Anthony Perkins) and his domineering mother.  Crane is soon murdered by what seems to be a woman while taking the most famous shower in cinema history.  Bates finds the body, and disposes of both it and Crane’s car.  Worried about her sister, Lila Crane (Vera Miles) hires private detective, Milton Aborgast (Martin Balsam), to track down her sister.  The P.I. meets a grisly fate at the hands of the same woman that murdered Marion.  Hearing nothing from their detective, Lila and Marion’s lover, Sam Loomis (John Gavin), take matters into their own hands and head to the Bates Hotel. Lila, while investigating the Bates’ residence, stumbles upon the basement revealing the skeletal remains of what seems to be Norman Bates’ mother, revealing the twist that Bates was actually acting as his mother, thus committing the murders of both Marion and Aborgast.

When you break the movie down that way it sounds great; simple, effective, and trendsetting.  No one had seen that level of violence from a mainstream film, especially one done by Hitchcock.  The problem with “Psycho” is the pacing.  The interactions between characters seems forced (granted, I’m looking at this from a 2012 perspective as opposed to the 1960s) and it takes a while to move the story along.  I understand that is the point of a suspense film, but “Psycho” comes off as more of a noir, and when you think about it in that sense, it’s an excellent study in noir film making.

What drives “Psycho” lies in the director and the composer.  Hitchcock brings an eeriness unlike any film before it and Bernard Herrmann’s score brings a sense of dread in every scene, and “the shower scene” speaks for itself.

The point I’m trying to get at is this; would “Psycho” make it in today’s horror market?  No, and the proof of that is the 1998 remake.  It’s the same exact movie, only with different actors and in color.  If it didn’t work then, it won’t work now.  You also have to take into account what movies studios are pitching; found footage films.  You might say, “Hey Matt, you just watched “V/H/S” and you said you liked it?!”  Yes, I did enjoy “V/H/S”, but when it comes to the horror genre that’s all you’re going to get.  That, and another “Final Destination” and something else that has something to do with demonic possession.  No matter how bad the film is, people will eat it up, and a relatively smart film like “Psycho” wouldn’t stand a chance.

“Psycho” is a film that you can call timeless in it’s direction, tone, and music, but the way the story is constructed and once the twist ending is out there is little replay value from a shock standpoint.  If you want an education in film study, sure, “Psycho” is great, but it’s a time capsule film what worked then, but doesn’t really work now.

Fun Fact:  John Carpenter named Donald Pleasence’s hero psychiatrist from the “Halloween” series after Sam Loomis from “Psycho.”

Welcome to the new home of SimplisticReviews.net - We're currently still working on the site. You might notice a few issues, please be patient with us. Thanks! (Store also in testing — no orders shall be fulfilled.)
Scroll to top