John Carpenter

October 27, 2016

Millennial Horror – 2002 Halloween: Resurrection

Halloween: Resurrection – Sad

SAD

Suffice to say, the “Halloween” franchise has had it’s ups-and-downs. While the 1978 classic is universally revered and beloved for it’s villain and perfection of the “slasher” genre in horror, from “Halloween 2” onward, the luster faded quickly. Personally, I love the “Halloween” franchise despite the degeneration in quality over the years, but nothing could have prepared me for what I would see in the “final” installment of the canon story-line (I’m not counting the Rob Zombie versions). “Halloween: Resurrection” is that special kind of film that will surely leave you wondering, “what in the actual f*ck….”

The easy way to review this film is that while some people might think it’s funny, it’s incredibly cringe-worthy, and the final EPIC fight between Michael Myers and Busta Rhymes (yes, Busta Rhymes) is just sad, sad, and sad. In it’s own way, its now a punching bag for how bad acting and horror had become in 2002.

The only interesting thing about this film is the fate of Jamie Lee Curtis’ Laurie Strode, which is ballsy, but not all that surprising as the series had grown so stale that something drastic had to be done, is the lead thoroughly buried enough for you?

That’s all that can really be said about “Halloween: Resurrection.” It’s just that bad that actually thinking about it just make me want to stop thinking about it….I mean this film was so bad where it was at this point where the decision was made to go through with an entire remake/reboot/re-hash, whatever you want to call it.

The cast is a laughable group of stereotypes that we’ve all seen in numerous other “teen-centric” fare, but Tyra Banks and Busta Rhymes, the zeitgeist at the time, like I’ve said before, put a rapper and/or a model in a horror film, boom, Marketing 101. The film will suck, but at least that first week at the box office will be gangbusters.

You might think, “Wow, Matt loves horror…why is he ripping this movie apart?” Well, just let the clip(s) below marinate and I’ll get back to you on the next review….

October 15, 2015

The Horror Time Capsule – 1993: Body Bags

BODY BAGS: UN-FILLING

91 mins | Horror/Sci-Fi anthology | 1993

HBO had Tales from the Crypt, Showtime had nothing. But that all changed on August 8th 1993, Body Bags an anthology TV movie aired on Showtime…and that was it.

A star studded of a cast came together to make an extremely un-filling 91 minutes. Tales from the Crypt had the Crypt Keeper hosting its episodes, Body Bags had “The Coroner” played fantastically by the great John Carpenter. Yes I know I’m comparing apples and oranges, TV show with TV movie but clearly this is what Showtime had in mind. They had the power to do something unique but instead came up short.

The three best things are John Carpenter playing The Coroner, who is the most entertaining piece in this puzzle of a film. The second is the first story, “The Gas Station” which is a solid story that sets you up to be disappointed. The third is the cast, a balls to the wall of this guy and that comes up short. I liked this cast alot. It’s a shame they didn’t make more, it would of been fun to see where it goes with others making special appearances.

“The Morgue”
John Carpenter as The Coroner
Tom Arnold as Morgue Worker #1
Tobe Hooper as Morgue Worker #2

Is the glue that holds everything together. The Coroner is the Crypt Keeper here hosting the stories in a flat out entertaining performance by John Carpenter.

“The Gas Station”
Robert Carradine as Bill
Alex Datcher as Anne
Wes Craven as Pasty Faced Man
Sam Raimi as Dead Bill
David Naughton as Pete
Lucy Boryer as Peggy
George Buck Flower as Stranger
Molly Cheek as Divorcee
Only story that makes me feel like I didn’t waste my time. The others aren’t horrible but the this one just works. It’s a simple slasher, which paired with guests set the bar way too high. Seeing the likes of Craven, Raimi and Carradine peeked my interest. But I guess its just too good for this film, because sadly the others don’t come any close to “The Gas Station”.

“Hair”
Stacy Keach as Richard Coberts
David Warner as Dr. Lock
Sheena Easton as Megan
Dan Blom as Dennis
Gregory Nicotero as Man with Beautiful Hair
Kim Alexis as Woman with Beautiful Hair
Deborah Harry as The Nurse

Stacy Keach plays a guy who isn’t happy with his thinning hair. Sheena Easton says no and she loves him anyway. But it’s just too depressing 🙁 …He tries a few comical treatments but nothing helps. I’m pretty sure this whole story was suppose to be the funny one then again it was the 90’s. And let me say its very 90’s, very very 90’s.

He see a commercial and decides to try it. “Dr. Lock” played by David Warner (Titanic, Tron, The Omen) is the doc that can help. He asks Stacy what kind of hair he’d like using a 90’s computer generated program, you know how that looks without me saying anymore. Keach picks the Stallion. Yep it is its name, long black hair (see picture). And the whole things was done over night, without surgery! Sounds to good to be true hun? Well it is… And when you find out why, it feels like a copout. When its revealed I could hear myself say, “Really?!” I didn’t care much for it but I did like it more then the “Eye”. “Hair” was so bad yet I honestly think I liked this story about a guys hair more then the guy and his eye.

“Eye”
Mark Hamill as Brent Matthews
Twiggy as Cathy Matthews
John Agar as Dr. Lang
Roger Corman as Dr. Bregman
Charles Napier as Baseball Team Manager
Eddie Velez as Baseball Player


Were “Hair” was about hair I bet you can’t figure out what “Eye” is about?…NOPE

Your wrong it is about…

A eye. Let that settle in a bit. We have a film that is made up of three stories. Two are about something on your body. Not much to pick from apparently. “The Gas Station” stands out for its pacing and the fact its different then the others. “Hair” and “Eye” are about two guys getting transplants. And its goes wrong, like it feels like they didn’t try. “The Gas Station” isn’t a perfect film, but the “Eye” and “Hair” come off like they ran out of ideas and gave it to their 8 year old son to write. When you have three films it should feel like three and not two.

“Eye” is about a baseball player with an annoying accent. His wife played by Twiggy losses her American accent a few times and that too becomes annoying. Mark Hamill here is somewhat a joy to watch. The thing is he has always been but here I feel he was wasted. When he gets into a bad car accident in which his right eye is destroyed. He ends up losing it but receives one from a donor. The donor ends up being a serial killer who killed woman and had sex with them. This eye begins to take over the good old southern wholesome baseball player who was making his way to the top.

And thats it. Still feel hungry for more don’t you? Yeah thats how I felt.

“The Gas Station” = Solid

“Hair” = Short

Should of been left out. Or give us more. I didn’t mind the story but there could of been more, the story came up short for me on creativity.

“Eye” = Weak

Like the “Hair” I think it should of been left out. What would of been cool if they connected it to “The Gas Station” and its serial killer. Maybe that was his eye, sure it sounds like Im doing a copout but at least it’s something.

Because what we got in the end was very un-filling.

Kinda felt this way after the film but The Gas Station saved me

February 2, 2015

The Guest

The Guest – Homage

HOMAGE

If anyone knows our site you know we have an unhealthy proclivity for the 1980s. It’s what made us the animals we are today. Ultra-violence, one-liners, and many many more hyphenated phrases came from this glorious decade of excess. What’s even better is that the people who are our age are now directing films and a lot of them have the same sensibilities as we do….what a wonderful world we live in. This brings me to “The Guest” another effort from Adam Wingard who has also worked on “V/H/S” “The ABCs of Death” and “You’re Next.” However, “The Guest” is his strongest effort so far and is a true homage to the 80s thrillers of yesteryear.

The film starts with a shot of a man running from something and, BOOM, title card. You already know this film is going to be good. Next, we meet The Peterson family who have recently lost a member of their family, Caleb, to war. There comes a knock at the door and enter David, the good-looking ex-soldier friend of Caleb who has been tasked with helping the family anyway possible. Rounding out the family, outside of the grieving mother Laura is Spencer, the father, daughter Anna, and bullied son Luke. Upon David’s arrival in town things slowly start happening that both benefit the Peterson family and make them very uncomfortable. As tension reaches a boiling point, both the Petersons and their town will never be the same. Going any further with the story would be a disservice.

I’ll preface before I continue. Yes, there is a story in this film, and it’s rather weak and limited, but that doesn’t mean it’s not fun. So, “The Guest,” yeah, this movie is awesome. It’s an incredible, earnest throwback to anything made by John Carpenter, namely “Assault in Precinct 13” and the unstoppable force theme of “Halloween.” There are also dashes of “Fear” and “Drive.” What makes the film work, however, is the slow burn of “Guest.” You have a feeling right off the bat that something isn’t quite right with David and just when you think there is a logical explanation, the film takes a turn that isn’t quite expected, and that’s where some people might turn away and write the film off. However, if you know anything about thrillers in the 80s and early 90s, this was par for the course. You expected something ridiculous to happen, and eventually it does, with blood-soaked glee (hey, another hyphenated word).

On to more gloating about this film….the soundtrack. Again, if you love John Carpenter or anything other synth-forward (hyphenated again) 80s soundtrack, again, this is the film for you. I’ll be the first to say that while I love the “Halloween” soundtrack, my favorite Carpenter score is by and far, “Christine.” It’s pulse-pounding, driving, literally, and incredibly unrelenting, very much like the soundtrack for “Guest.” While there are some cheesy bits thrown in, the work by Steve Moore is impeccably 80s and it works with the tone of the film.

If I was to criticize anything from the film, it would be the thin plot, or lack there of a plot. This film is strictly for people well versed in 80s cinema, the pacing, and the style. Adam Wingard is obviously well-versed in what he thinks people wants to see in a throwback piece like this, and while some people might knock the film for that, and I understand, that doesn’t make them right.

After singing the praises of “The Guest” nearly this entire review, is it worth the praise. Well, duh, of course it is. It’s a great throwback film with a style all it’s own and it’s super entertaining. Is it zany and lacks sense, of course it does, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Fun Fact: In the original screenplay, the story took place in Korea and it had far more action, including a car chase that was 50 pages long.  

October 3, 2014

Yet Another 31 Nights of Halloween: Halloween (1978) Redux

MAGIC

 Halloween – Magic

Kicking off this year’s edition of the “31 Nights of Halloween” I only felt it appropriate to re-review a film that we reviewed a long time ago, and really needs no introduction. It’s the 1978 touchstone for horror; John Carpenter’s “Halloween.” This will also mark the first in a series of reviews all about the “Halloween” franchise, even the abysmal “Halloween: Resurrection.” So away we go from Smith’s Grove to Haddonfield.

“Halloween” starts with the murder of a young girl named Judith Myers by her 6-year old brother, Michael. After being institutionalized for 15 years under the watchful eye of Dr. Samuel Loomis, Michael is able to escape the Smith’s Grove Sanitarium and Loomis knows there is only one place where he can be headed; the scene of his original crime in Haddonfield, Illinois.

Meanwhile we meet Laurie Strode and her friends Annie and Linda, just three girls looking to hook-up, smoke weed, and have a good time on Halloween, well, at least Annie and Linda are. Laurie is more the straight arrow type, looking forward to babysitting Tommy Doyle, watching “The Thing” and carving jack-o-lanterns. However, a dark presence has invaded the small town of Haddonfield and is looking to kill horny, weed smoking, babysitting teens.

As day turns into night, Dr. Loomis warns the local Sheriff, Leigh Brackett, that evil is coming to his little town and officers need to be on alert looking for Myers. Ever the skeptic, Brackett agrees to Loomis’ demands, but tells him he’s got until tonight to track down Myers.

Needless to say, Myers murder spree goes off without a hitch, victims including Annie and Linda, not to mention a dog, a horny boyfriend, and some stranger while on the road to Haddonfield. With only Laurie remaining, she is able to fight him off with a knitting needle, a wire hanger, and finally Michael’s own knife. But you can’t keep a good “unstoppable force” down as Michael moves in to finish off Laurie. However, putting the pieces together with the help of some screaming kids, Dr. Loomis comes to the rescue and empties his revolver into the chest of Michael and the nightmare is finally over as Myers falls over the balcony to his death.

As Loomis comforts Laurie and tells her that Michael was the boogeyman, the doctor leans over the balcony to observe his kill, but is shocked to see that Myers is gone, nowhere to be found.

There isn’t much to say about “Halloween” that hasn’t been said before; it’s one of the best proto-slasher films ever made, outside of possibly “Texas Chainsaw Massacre.” The different between Michael Myers and Leatherface, however, is where Leatherface is a hulking caricature of serial killers like Ed Gein, Myers is simply the silent force that cannot be stopped and there is no rhyme or reason. That makes the film so much scarier; you can’t rationalize with something that you can’t understand.

What makes “Halloween” stand apart from the rest of the crop of slasher fare that exploded in the 1980s was the sense of dread and the play on the fear of Halloween itself. This is more apparent in “Halloween 2” but you can still see how Halloween affects the town. The streets are empty, people lock themselves in the house, they don’t open doors, and it’s way easier to scare people, as Loomis does to a group of kids playing around the old Myers house. It’s interesting to see moments of levity in a horror film. It’s also interesting to look back at “Halloween” after seeing it the numerous sequels, that perhaps Haddonfield has always been that type of town that has harbored the terrible secret of the Myers murders and it’s legacy. Despite the fact that “Halloween” and “Halloween 2” are supposed to be standalone films and the Myers arc is supposed to end, it makes a little more sense why the streets are empty in Haddonfield after dark and people are reluctant to open the doors to screams of terror, or at least that is the way that I look at it.

Getting away from the subtext of “Halloween” and more into the actual substance, there are numerous things that I simply love about this film. The biggest, and most long-lasting effect “Halloween” has made on the public, is the music, which for my money is nearly as recognizable as the “Star Wars” theme, “Jaws” theme, or any other soundtrack theme ever. It still can raise the hair on the back of your neck, and just hearing the opening piano notes, people will automatically say “Oh, Michael Myers.” And while “Halloween” is a great film on it’s own, it wouldn’t be half the film it is without John Carpenter’s score.

The characters and actors are top notch as well. I’m not a child of the 70s, shoot, I’m barely a child of the 80s, but if I was to venture a guess, I would assume that Annie, Laurie, and Linda, are pretty typical kids of the 1970s. The talk about guys, do drugs, and get into trouble. My one gripe would be the overuse of the word “Totally” by Linda. If my count is correct, I heard “Totally” 13 times; probably close to the amount of screen time Linda gets, so you get a “Totally” a minute. There is also a lot of name dropping in this film, which I guess is a thing. The most famous of them all is Ben Tramer, who has a pseudo-important role in the sequel. These, again, are just minor quibbles.

The last thing that really stands up is the actual creation and depiction of Michael Myers. Pure and simple, there is no rhyme or reason behind Myers, he just is. In later sequels it’s explained, sort of, that he worships Samhain and his reason for killing is that he is the curse of his family name, so he mist kill all members of his family? That stuff is just weird, but if you just take the first film into account, the fact that there really isn’t a reason for the murder of his sister and the senseless murder of everyone else, is pretty scary. Even in our daily lives, we constantly search for the what if’s and why’s when something awful happens. From mass shootings, to serial killings, to everything in-between, we want to know why. In the case of Michael Myers, there is no why, the only explanation is that he is pure evil, which when you think about a doctor saying that (Loomis) is pretty silly, but it’s also understandable. Sometimes there is no reason for bad things that happen, which is both frustrating, and terribly frightening.

For a film being close to 40 years old, “Halloween” has aged very well. The scares are timeless, the music adds to the never-ending sense of dread, and the characters are still pretty relatable. You can go into the film deeper and talk about how it either exploits women, empowers women, or is a morality tale that punishes the evil people who do drugs and have sex out of wedlock, but that’s for another review, and I’m looking at this from a pure horror film aspect, and the film still plays very well. While there might be scarier films out there, “Halloween” for my money, can still scare someone who hasn’t seen it and is a milestone for not only horror, but film in general.

Fun Fact: It took John Carpenter four days to complete the score for “Halloween.”

September 6, 2014

Slaughter Film Presents: Action Movie Time Machine – They Live

SUBVERSIVE

ACTION MOVIE TIME MACHINE
“They Live”

Continuing the John Carpenter retrospective that I kicked off a few weeks ago, I’ve decided to discuss my favorite Carpenter film, as well as one of my favorite films of all time “They Live“. I hope you like movies with social commentary, because this flick has so much commentary it’s falling out of it’s ass. And you don’t even need special sun glasses to see it.

The year is 1988. George H. W. Bush has just taken office as the President of the United States. The drug crack makes it’s presence known in cities across the country. “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” debuts, teaching children everywhere that genetic mutations are awesome when they are taught ninjutsu and pro wrestler Roddy Piper saves the world from aliens in “They Live”.

THE SKINNY
They Live” is about a drifter, Roddy Piper, who has just found his way into town. He is originally from Denver Colorado, but due to some economic drought, the drifter, who isn’t named in the film, is forced to migrate from city to city in search of work. By the way, it is only in the credits that the drifter is given a name, John Nada.

In this new town, John acquires a construction job where he meets Frank, Keith David. Frank gives John a heads up by helping him find a place to stay, which happens to be a hobo-shanty town on the outskirts of the city. Here John meets a few other friendly faces, including a prophetic street preacher and Gilbert, Peter Jason, the manager of a soup kitchen.

While between working and getting to know Frank, John begins to notice something strange about the near by church that has been working with Gilbert and the soup kitchen. John can hear the church choir practicing until two in the morning. Hmm, that’s strange. Soon after, John pokes around the church and discovers that church has been playing a recording of a choir. In fact there is no choir at all. Then he witnesses Gilbert and the street preacher loading the church vehicle with dozens of unmarked cardboard boxes. Is this church brewing up meth and selling it to the community? I wish. But the truth is that they are manufacturing special sunglasses.

While John’s curiosity continues to grow, he and the residents of the shanty town become annoyed with a strange television broadcast that cuts in overtop their regularly scheduled programming. This broadcast is of a man speaking directly into the camera, exclaiming that the oppressive elite are polluting the Earth’s air and water. “They are turning our atmosphere into their atmosphere.” He also carries on about increasing racial injustice and growing poverty levels… Ya know, it’s like listening to the news.

Anyhow, late one night John and Frank are woken by the sound of helicopters. The church as well as the shanty town are being raided by an army of police. The shanty town residence flee while their homes are bulldozed.

The next morning, John returns to investigate and discovers an abandoned box of sunglasses left in the church. As he travels through the city, looking for a new place to stay, he tries on a pair of the glasses to see what all the fuss is about. Aliens! God damn aliens, that’s what! With these special glasses, Hoffman lenses they’re called, John can see through all the electronically educed subliminal messages that read “consume”, “conform“, “reproduce” ,“do not question authority”, ect. But the kicker is, not all humans are human. Some are gross faced aliens.

John has unknowingly discovered an alien plot to dominate Earth, using humans as slaves to carry out their agenda. Whatever that happens to be. John continues to romp around town, insulting the aliens and even picking a fight with a few. He later tries to convince Frank that there are aliens among us. Frank reacts how any sane person would, by fist fighting John. This scene is one that lives in action movie infamy. This street fight combines boxing moves, professional wrestling and some down home dirty pool dick kickin’, which lasts about six minutes. Thar might not sound like much, but it’s choreographed how a real life street fight might unfold. It isn’t fast paced but it does look real.

Long story short, John and Frank beat the living hell out of each other before John manages to get a pair of the Hoffman frames onto Frank, and he sees everything. The Duo track down Gilbert, who is secretly a part of the alien resistance and they learn that the local television station is being occupied by the aliens who are using it to broadcast the subliminal signal.

John and Frank are left with no other choice. They must break in, guns a blazing’ and destroy the transition tower. In doing so John and Frank accidentally use alien technology to teleport themselves into the basement levels of the television station, which doubles as the alien base. From here they make their way up to the roof — floor by floor — blowing away alien security guards.

Long story short, Frank falls heroically as he fights the alien hordes and John manages to reach the roof, not before being shot himself. In true bad-ass fashion John whispers “fuck it” as he fires his gun into the transmission tower, ending the signal. In a last act of defiance, he flips the on looking alien security the bird as he dies. The remaining few moments of the film are the humans waking from their subliminal slumber. The End.

THE VERDICT
On the surface, “They Live” is a sci-fi/action film, in a similar vein as “Total Recall“. It has bad-ass action starring Roddy Piper. A man who couldn’t be a more perfect Carpenter “unlikely hero“, who spews countless one liners thru the duration of the film. “I‘m here to chew bubble gum and kick ass… and I‘m all outta bubble gum”, is a line I’ve heard quoted nearly as much as Schwarzenegger‘s “Get to the Chapa!”.

The machismo is multiplied when John teams up with Frank. Not only does their relationship make for some great entertainment (the back alley street fight), but their personalities are reflections of how many American felt about the economy and social inequality in the late ‘80. These sentiments seem pretty relevant even today.

Frank is bitter about major manufacturers laying off people when they need work the most. John is suffering from the same problems but is more optimistic about it. He is more willing to be patient and allow opportunity to come his way. And by opportunity, I mean aliens. These two points of view are another example of Carpenter’s skill of sharing a message in a film without it seeming preachy. He voices his opinion about a real life struggling middle class through the opinions of John and Frank, both of which aren’t the soul of the film.

Where this film really starts to standout is in it’s thought provoking sci-fi plot. The concept of an alien oppressor controlling, or at least manipulating the motivations of humans isn’t exactly original but is carried out in a more direct and vocal way. Carpenter uses the preying aliens to comment on the superficial and selfish shortcomings of American, if not all humans. The aliens subliminally coerce humans into consuming, reproducing, and not questioning authority so “we” become docile and are more easily manipulated. These subliminal messages are delivered through television, radio and print media in the same way Apple makes consumers think that their lives will be better if you all own the newest iPhone, or that women will seem less attractive if they aren’t wearing this seasons hottest fashion trends… Hmmm, I’m starting to understand why “American Idol” has such a loyal viewership.

“They Live” tricks the viewers into looking closely at their lives and makes them question who exactly is in control the way the aliens are in the movie. Is it politicians, the rich, corporations, banks, or something else? I could talk about this for days. I just love this concept as well as this movie. But I’m pre-disposed to shake my fist at the authority, so maybe “They Live” isn’t for everyone and I’m the only one wearing the sunglasses.

It might not be about terrorists or drug lords or returning P.O.W.s from Nam, or any other such typical ‘80s fair, but “They Live” is as smart and subversive as it is a quintessential ‘80s action movie.

I’m Cory Carr and this concludes our ride on the “Action Movie Time Machine”. And remember, they live we sleep!

For more from Cory, check out his website slaughterfilm.com, where he and his good friend Forest Taylor record weekly podcasts, reviewing the films that are legendary, even in Hell!

August 30, 2014

Slaughter Film Presents: Action Movie Time Machine – Escape From New York

ACTION MOVIE TIME MACHINE 
“Escape From New York”

                                                CLASSIC BAD-ASSERY

Welcome back to another trek on the “Action Movie Time Machine”. Last time we met, we visited some of John Carpenter’s earlier work, “Assault on Precinct 13“. This time we are going to witness Kurt Russell in one of his most bad ass roles, as Snake Plisskin. Talk about “Expendables” eligibility. It would be a shame if Sylvester Stallone over looks Russell for “Expendables 4: Return of the R Rating”.

The year is 1981. IBM had just released the first personal computer capable of running Microsoft’s Disc Operating System (DOS). MTV hits the airwaves, debuting with “Video Killed the Radio Star”. U.S. President Ronald Reagan signs the top secret directive authorizing the CIA to recruit and support Contra rebels in Nicaragua. While all this was happening, Snake Plisskin is sent to Manhattan to rescue the President in “Escape From New York”.

THE SKINNY
The year in 1997, and United States is a war torn police state. With all the crime and violence of this futuristic America, extreme measures had to be taken. New York’s Manhattan Island has been transformed into THE high security prison of the nation. Just think of Alcatraz, but on steroids. There are no cells and no guards. The prisoners are free to roam the city streets and do whatever is necessary to survive. And once you go in, there is no coming back out. The bridges are mined and the waters are patrolled and protected by the National Police Force, a para-military like group responsible for keeping convicts from escaping, by any means necessary.

This is all fine and well until a member of the “National Liberation Front”, a terrorist organization, takes over Air Force One and crash lands the plane on the prison island. The idea being that the president, if he survives, will now have to get by as the convicts do within the confines of the prison that he unlawfully created.

It is at this time that Hauk, Chief of National Police played by Lee Van Cleef, brings in the recently arrested Snake Plisskin, Kurt Russell. Snake is a former military hero who has become tired of his leaders sending him on suicide missions that he always manages to narrowly escapes. He goes AWOL and becomes a criminal. Robbing the national reserve is what gets him caught.

Fearing that the President may be harmed if there is a military rescue mission, Hauk decides to send in a loan wolf. It becomes Snakes’ mission to sneak onto the island, locate and rescue the President, Donald Pleasence, as well as the documents and cassette tape that the President has with him. Then return all of the above to Hauk. If he does, Hauk will erase Snake’s criminal record forever. If he doesn’t, he will die.

In prep for the mission, a doctor injects two micro-explosive charges into Snake’s arteries. If he isn’t back with the president in under twenty three hours, the charges will blow, rupturing Snake’s arteries and he will internally bleed to death.

Snake uses a glider to enter the island, which he lands on the roof of one of the World Trade Towers. He begins to search the city for the President and it isn’t long before he begins to realize just how fucked this place is. The city is littered with murderers and rapists, there are crazy cannibal hobos who live in the sewer who come up at night to feed, and the locals are less than pleasant to out of town motorists such as our boy Snake.

Things get tense when the cannibalistic sewer dwellers try to have Snake for dinner, but fortunately for him Cabbie, Ernest Borgnine, shows up in his taxi armed to the teeth with molotovs. Snake questions Cabbie and learns that the President is alive and has been captures by The Duke of New York, Isaac Hayes. The Duke is the supreme ruler of the prison island and is planning to use the President as leverage as he makes his way across the bridge and into the free United States.

Through the help of Cabbie, “The Brain”, the Duke’s nerdy adviser, and Maggie, The Brain’s concubine, Snake manages to get inside The Duke’s compound and is thrown into a one-on-one in a gladiatorial battle to the death against pro-wrestler Ox Baker. This offers up a good distraction, as everyone would is eager to watch the legendary Snake Plisskin take on The Duke’s undefeated monster bruiser. This distraction affords The Brain and Maggie a chance to help the President escape.

After burying a nail covered bat in the back of Baker’s head, Snake catches up with The Brain, Maggie, the President and Cabbie, and together they make it to the Brooklyn Bridge. The only thing that stands between them and the free states are the countless mines that litter the bridge. To make matters worse, The Duke and his men arrive to foil their prison break and get out themselves.

As the clock ticks away, they fall one by one. Either by the hands of the other group or by the mines. Finally Snake, The Duke and the President find the wall that blocks the far end of the bridge. Beaten and exhausted, Snake engages the final boss and it seems like a losing battle. Just when hope seems lost, the President of all people, blows The Duke away. Way to pull your own weight Mr. President.

With the President rescued and Snake’s micro-explosives are deactivated, Snake commits one final act of rebellion. Remember that cassette tape that was so important? Well, on it was an explanation of how to create nuclear fusion that the President was going to share with the world. A gesture that would end the war. Our ol’ pal Snake had other ideas. He switched the tape with one he found in Cabbie’s taxi. As the President speaks live via satellite to the entire world, swing music can be heard instead of the recipe for cheap nuclear power. Please allow me to “slow clap” for Snake as the credits begin to roll.

THE VERDICT
Movies like “Escape From New York” really became defining of the ’80s. So many films from the era were dark, dirty, violent and bleak. I love ’em! Crime was on the rise, people thought Satanic cults were sacrificing babies and there was the ever present threat of total and complete annihilation brought on by soviet nukes. It was a good time for movies, and for thrash metal.

One of the strengths of this film, is also one of it’s weaknesses. This strength/weakness is Snake’s twenty four hour time limit. Every time I watch this movie, I distract myself from it by wondering what the rest of the United States is like. It’s mentioned that the country is at war, but with who? What about other criminal factions within in island? How involved is the “National Liberation Front”?, ect… I feel that these ideas would have been explored if the story were allowed to unfold more organically. But instead, it is forced along by the deadline. This is fine, but I just wish there was more. So many things are referenced or off handily mentioned. There is a whole world here and I want to learn about it.

In “Escape From New York”, we see another one of Carpenter’s unlikely heroes facing unimaginable odds of carrying out a plan of which he is thrust into. Snake is a strong silent type, who again, manages to be relatable. An “everyman” who appeals to it’s male viewers, and even maybe a little to it’s female viewers. After all, Snake is pretty dreamy. I think every guy who watches “Escape From New York” deep down thinks of himself as Snake. Minus the eye patch.

I love how Carpenter adds elements to his characters personality or back story that hints at a deeper point. Rarely is there blatant subtext in his films. Subtext is there, but it’s more of an attitude than a message. We see this with Snake’s distrust of the government and the military. Being a former military man himself, he known how far shit rolls down hill. But there is no grand speech or parody of any real world events. Just Snake being really pissed off at the powers that be, with his cynical anti-establishment view.

I’ve always appreciated this. Carpenter’s films aren’t preachy, and because of it his viewers, whatever their personal beliefs, are free to take in the material and interpret it their own way. This sort of thing really gives his work legs and is just one example of what a great story teller John Carpenter really is.

In conclusion, I highly recommend “Escape From New York”, as it is a work of classic bad-assery. Snake is great, the story is great, the effects and miniatures are great, the atmosphere is great, and even the soundtrack is great, again. Hmm, I wonder why that is.

I’m Cory Carr and this concludes our ride on the “Action Movie Time Machine”. Until next time, Semper Fi!
For more from Cory, check out his website Slaughterfilm.com, where he and his good friend Forest Taylor record weekly podcasts, reviewing the films that are legendary, even in Hell!

August 23, 2014

Slaughter Film Presents: Action Movie Time Machine: Assault on Precinct 13

SIMPLE


As promised, this weeks “Action Movie Time Machine” destination will be to that of quality! After the blunder that is “Assassins”, I had to think hard and ask myself “How can I make things right?”. Well I’ve figured out a way. I’m retro-fitting the Time Machine with my big guns. We’re taking on some of the greatest action films of all time. The films of John Carpenter!
The year was 1976. David Berkowitz earned the names “Son of Sam“ and “.44 Killer“ for attacking and killing a series of men and women. The “Laverne & Shirley” spin-off from “Happy Days” and “Bionic Woman” both debuts on ABC. The U.S. preformed nuclear tests in the Nevada desert…again…for some reason, and there was an “Assault on Precinct 13”.
THE SKINNY
The film begins with a police crackdown on gang crime. As they are investigating the disappearance of several crates of stolen automatic weapons which are in the possession of a deadly gang. Their investigation leads them to a run-in with six armed gang members who are brought to their untimely end.

Once word reaches the rest of the gang, their four Warlord leaders decide to exact their revenge on the good people of Los Angeles, as well as the LAPD.
While this plan is set in motion, Lieutenant Ethan Bishop, Austin Stoker, has just been transferred to a new department. On the first day he is assigned to watch over Precinct 13 on it’s final day of business. The precinct has been consolidated with another and all the files and personnel are being sent across town. He just has to make sure everything goes smoothly. It’s worth mentioning that Bishop and the other staff are expecting the phone and electricity to be shut off at any moment. I have a sneaking suspicion this might be important later. Call me crazy.
Meanwhile, Napoleon Wilson, Darwin Joston, is a hardened criminal who is being transferred to a maximum security prison with two other practitioners of the illegal arts. On the long buss ride, one of the men becomes violently ill and the guards make a stop at the closest precinct, Precinct 13, to have a doctor look him over.

As the day burns on the Warlords and their gang unpack their newly acquired automatic weapons and begin crusin’ the city looking for hapless victims. Who do they set their sights on first? An ice cream truck driver and the little girl he was selling ice cream too. These are some bad dudes! The girls father retaliates, hunting down one of the gang members. But soon he becomes the hunted. Exhausted and out of breath, the man falls on the steps of Precinct 13, where he takes refuge.
The gang is now out for blood. They want the man responsible for killing one of their brother and now hove the entire building surrounded.
Bishop, Napoleon & Leigh, another officer played by Laurie Zimmer, now must defend the girl’s father as well as themselves from the countless gang members as they try to infiltrate the building. The three must learn to trust each other as they fend off wave after wave of attacks without being able to phone or radio for help. Ya know, cause the phone and electricity got shut off.

In a scene that is reminiscent of “300”, the survivors hideout in a store room located at the end of a long corridor, causing the gang to bottleneck as they attack. But you see this is just part of their plan. At the end of the hall, behind the attacking gang, is a tank of acetylene. Once the gang fills the hall Napoleon holds them off while Bishop takes a shot at the tank, which he hits blowing up the gang.
While Leigh is being treated for a gunshot wound to the arm, Bishop walks Napoleon out of the building as friends. The End.
THE VERDICT
John Carpenter is a huge fan of director Howard Hawks. Growing up, he fell in love with  such Hawks films as “The Thing From Another World”, and “Rio Bravo”. These films each shared a common element. A rag-tag group of men fighting against impossible odds to survive. I can’t say that Carpenter is solely responsible for “Assault on Precinct 13”, as it is a re-imagining of “Rio Bravo”, a film about a sheriff, a drunk, a cripple and teen gunfighter who defend the local jail from waves of attackers trying to free a captured criminal.

Carpenter’s love for this type of story involving the “every day” hero is present in much of his work (“Escape from New York, They Live and Big Trouble in Little China”), and has become something that is equally enjoyable for his fans as it was for him watching the film so Hawks. The heroes seem relatable and familiar  — like people you may know — which allow them to be rooted for and 

empathized with all the more.


Speaking of which, the relationship Napoleon and Bishop have. Early on neither trusts the other, but when shit starts to hit the wall they realize that they are going to have to learn to trust each other if they are going to survive the night. Of course by the end of the film, their career choices aside, Napoleon and Bishop accept each other as equals. Classic action movie man-code!
Another thing concerning the Napoleon/Bishop relationship. Race never factors into it. I know I mentioned race during my “Passenger 57” review and how it could have made the film more interesting. But “Assault” is the opposite. Race is never mentioned once. Not by Napoleon — a white guy. Or Bishop — a black dude. Not to or about each other, and not to or about the attacking gang. The police officer and the career criminal have enough to overcome between each other and the swarms of bad guys.
I only mention this because it seem like the type of thing that could have easily found it’s way into this ‘70s film. I think ninety nine out of one hundred other writers/directors would have jumped at the opportunity to weave their own personal message into the movie, regardless whether or not it was a good decision. The film didn’t need it and I feel thankful that it was left out. The same could be said about any feminist message — Leigh is one bad-ass chick!
Again, “Assault” is about a small group fighting for their lives and earning each others respect by the end of it. Adding anything to that could have complicated and perhaps ruined the simple and effective story. It would have come off preachy and acted as a backhanded compliment to the characters and the audience watching. The strength of this films story is it’s simplicity.
In Carpenter’s modernization, he added to the “Rio Bravo” story the escalating violence that was present in the urban areas during the ‘70s. Typically brought on by political, social and economic reasons, in “Assault on Precinct 13” the attackers seem to attack for no other reason than because they are bad guys and that‘s what bad guys do.
I compare the gang in this movie to the crime you might hear about on your local news. The news caster always describes the crime — what was robbed or who was stabbed, ect. — but rarely is the perpetrator ever seen, or do they speak for themselves. It’s like all the “bad things” are some sort of entity that lurks in the shadows and acts without motive or reason.
I think the attackers, who are virtually faceless in this film (the police too), are tremendously effective in this way. They don’t seem to have any particular motivation, personality, voice, or purpose other than to kill. In some ways they are like Michael Myers as the boogieman. They seem to represent crime and violence in a general way without themselves being any one specific criminal.
I have just a few final comments. The first being about John Carpenter’s score. Again he managed to compose music that is as moody and functional as it is pleasant to listen too. Check it out for yourself here. Also, I don’t think this film was every any direct inspiration for a video game, but it should be. I would play the shit out of an sixteen bit “Assault” game.
Without movies like “Assault on Precinct 13”, there would be no “Predator” and there would be no “Aliens”. “Assault” might seem tame by the standards set in the ‘80s, but “Assault” is the roots of those films and I highly recommend checking it out.

I’m Cory Carr and this concludes our ride on the “Action Movie Time Machine”. Until next time, Semper Fi!
For more from Cory, check out his website slaughterfilm.com, where he and his good friend Forest Taylor record weekly pod casts, reviewing the films that are legendary, even in Hell!
October 25, 2012

31 Nights of Halloween, Halloween (1978)

Halloween (1978) – Classic

Thinking about the history of horror films there have been five distinct eras that I can think of; The early 1900s brought us the classic monsters like Dracula and Frankenstein.  Post World War II films brought us atomic age monsters that ranged from giant ants to komodo dragons.  The Vietnam War introduced zombies and class war horror.  The late 1970s started the slasher trend, and most recently (from about 1999 to now) we’ve had an epidemic of remakes, torture porn, and found footage.  While I appreciate all eras for what they’ve done for the genre, the most lasting of impressions on me were the 1970s and 80s slasher genre, and the cornerstone of that era was John Carpenter’s 1978 classic “Halloween.”

For my money, if you re-released “Halloween” right now, it would still bank, which theaters are actually doing this year.  It’s a simple concept; a young boy, named Michael Myers, brutally murders his sister on Halloween night and is locked away in a sanitarium.  On one fateful Halloween Eve, during a routine prison transfer, Myers escapes Smith’s Grove Warren County Sanitarium.  Myers’ doctor, Sam Loomis (sound familiar) pushes the panic alarm as he fears that Myers will be heading back to his hometown, Haddonfield, also the scene of his original crime.  We meet three teenagers, including a very young Jamie Lee Curtis, who plays Laurie Strode, looking forward to a fun Halloween night, which of course turns into “The Night He Comes Home.”  I’ll try not to give too much away, but considering “Halloween” is 35 years old, it might be time for you to get off your ass and finally watch the most influential horror movie in the past 50 years.

“Halloween” is what really kicked off the modern slasher genre in the early 1980s, and created the so-called “formula.” However, if you watch the movie now, it’s surprisingly tame, with very little blood, just a little bit of boob-age  and a relatively low body count.  The blood and gore is more implied than splashed all over the screen.  Take this for an example; “Halloween” was rated R in 1978, but a movie like “Tourist Trap” from 1979, a year after “Halloween” was only rated PG, and I find “Tourist Trap”, while very cheesy, extremely creepy, and at times, harrowing.  If “Halloween” was put out today the same way it was shot by John Carpenter 35 years ago, it wouldn’t be anymore then a PG-13 film.

Enough politics of course, and we’ll continue with this question; What’s so good about “Halloween?”  Damn near everything!  From the opening theme and titles, to the camera work, to the acting, which isn’t perfect, but when you have teenagers talking about bullshit it will have to do.  Everyone in the film is believable, with Sam Loomis, played by the late Donald Pleasence, the stand-out.  What I credit Pleasence for the most is that fact that he stuck around for four sequels, and while he got hammier and hammier, he always added a touch of class.

What makes this film a classic is what it inspired.  While I would credit both “Night of the Living Dead” and “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” with jump-starting the independent horror movie movement, “Halloween” made the most with what it didn’t have; money. For a movie made for less then $350,000 it looks great, has a good cast, and considering the fact that getting Pleasence to appear in the film was a decent part of the budget ($20,000) it doesn’t take away from the mood the film conveyed or compromise the quality.  “Halloween,” along with it’s predecessors proved that you didn’t need a ton of money to make a suspenseful and wildly entertaining film.

As far as Rob Zombie’s remake, or re-imagining, of “Halloween” in 2007 goes, while it’s not perfect, the more I think about it, its it’s own movie and can act as a stand alone film.  I almost take it as the “Henry:  Portrait of a Serial Killer” version of “Halloween.” What makes Michael Myers so scary is the fact that you really don’t know what drove him to kill his sister when he was a boy, or why he insists on always returning to Haddonfield to kill.  You find out later that he dabbles in the occult and celebrates Samhain, but in Zombie’s version he shows you Myers’ bad home environment and gives reason.  Once you do that the “magic” of Michael Myers is gone and he just becomes another John Wayne Gacy or Ted Bundy.  Once the mystery behind his actions are revealed he just becomes another serial murderer and it takes the luster off what you thought was just an unstoppable killing machine with no motive, which I find more frightening.

There really isn’t anything else to say about “Halloween” that hasn’t been said.  It’s a classic film, not just in the horror genre, but film in general.  It not only set a standard for the genre, but single-handedly created a sub-genre that is often duplicated, but never really reaches the standard of its predecessor.  It’s October people, pop “Halloween” into your DVD, Blu-Ray, VHS, Betamax, Laser Disc, or Reel-to-Reel and enjoy greatness.

Fun Fact:  An inside-out William Shatner mask was used for the iconic mask that the Michael Myers wore.

August 7, 2012

They Live

They Live: Brilliant

There will and always be a personal favorite list that any movie viewer has. A list that if you ever crashed landed on a desert island, which films who you like to have?

Today I share one of mine, They Live.

They Live is a fav of mine that always gets played over and over. I found this film years ago on TV one night. Back when VHS recorders where the shit. The station played a trailer for the film before they played it and it caught my eye. I jumped over to the remote and pressed record! I still own that copy, even though it is worn out it still gives it a special feeling effect DVD’s and Blu-rays can’t give you.

This film might not be a classic to everyone. It really only appels to a small group of people, in fact I find it hard to find people I know that have seen it. But to me this film is a classic. It gives you 93 minutes of pure joy.

I love this film! I even drove down just to see Roddy Piper when a Horror convention came to town. It was him at a desk next to Robert Englund and a few others. No one was at Piper’s desk, so I went up to him. Now I’ve met a few high profile people in my time but Roddy Piper was the best! Nicest guy I ever met (well expect for this guy). He was so happy, we talked and talked. He gave me a  autograph, They Live sunglasses with a piece of gum (if you watch this film you will know why) and asked me,  thats right ASKED ME to take a photo with him! One of the best moments of my life, thank you Roddy for that and the film. I just hope I get to met him again, possibly get to work with him on a film?…man that would be awesome!

I adore this film. Even more then the first time I saw it. When I first saw it the next day I called all my friends up to come over and watch it. It’s fun, different, a ton of action, thought provoking and entertaining. I recently watched a new high def transfer (which looks amazing and comes out this November on bluray). When I watched it the other day, I found it to touch on the world we now live in. It’s odd how close we are to this film now, with the whole obey thing. Sure it’s a bit goofy but a cult classic like this still lives up better then films of today.

Whats the film about?
They Live is about a drifter who discovers a pair of sunglasses the allow him to see that there are aliens living in our world. In fact they have taken over the Earth. They run our lives with TV and Billboards everyday. The film stars Roddy Piper, Keith David and Meg Foster. It’s directed by John Carpenter based on the short story Eight O’clock in the Morning by Ray Nelson.

Quick notes: Two actors from Back to the Future are in this film.
Longest fight scene…O and

I have come here to chew bubblegum and kick ass… and I’m all out of bubblegum.

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