Showing posts with label Vengeful Revenants. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Vengeful Revenants. Show all posts

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Hatchet (2006): or, Blood and Gore and Little More

October Horror Movie Challenge, Day 15!
A group of stupid tourists in New Orleans for Mardis Gras stupidly take a haunted swamp tour from a stupid tour guide and end up stupidly stuck in the swamp being killed off by a hulking, bloodthirsty killer ghost.

Okay, maybe that's a little harsh. I'll try again.

Mopey emo kid Ben (Joel David Moore, whom I was shocked to learn has NOT played Shaggy in a live-action Scooby-Doo flick...yet) and his pal Marcus (Deon Richmond) go to Mardis Gras to help Ben get over being dumped by his long-term girlfriend. Uninterested in boobs and booze--I hate him already--Ben convinces Marcus instead to go on a Haunted Swamp Tour, headed by the Ragin' Asian Cajun Shawn (Parry Shen). Also along for the ride: a would-be pornographer and his two bickering, boob-baring starlets, a stereotypical retired couple from the Midwest, and a silent, brooding local girl with a hidden agenda.

Of course they get stranded in the swamp and are soon under attack by Victor Crowley (Kane Hodder), a hulking, vengeful revenant who kills any and everybody trespassing in his swamp, in extremely gory and bloody ways. Can our hapless tourists survive a night in the swamp, on the run from gators, snakes, and an unkillable, bloodthirsty ghost?

When Hatchet came out in 2006, it got a lot of hype from the horror community, and its easy to see why. In addition to some truly spectacular, gut-wrenching gore and a villain who looks like a mashup of Jason (part 2 era), Madman Marz, and the Freak from Funhouse, it also boasted cameos by such 80s and 90s horror icons as Hodder, Robert Englund, and Tony Todd. (Todd in particular has a hilarious bit part as a bitter former tour guide in the French Quarter.)

I guess I'm just an old fogey, but I couldn't get into this one. While I enjoyed the creature design and the inventive, extremely gory FX (and appreciated even more that they were all practical FX, no CG), I found those scenes consistently undercut by the extremely broad, lowest-common-denominator "comedy" that comprised pretty much all of the plot. The characters are not developed past their one-dimensional sketches--Brian is only ever mopey and heartbroken, Marcus is only ever a wisecracking sidekick, and the Boob girls are only ever ditzy porn stars. Sure, it's nice to see girls baring their boobs and shouting "Woo!" but even that gets old when it's the entirety of a character's personality.

Also, I understand that the movie is meant an homage to the slashers of the 80s, but it felt really by the numbers to me. "Here's the part where they go off the beaten path and get stranded. Here's the part where they learn the truth about the legend. Here's the part where people get killed. Here's the part where they stop running and fight back." There was no tweaking of the formula, which would be fine, except there were also no engaging characters to keep me interested. Writer/Director
Adam Green seemed to keep a hard line drawn between the comedy sections and horror sections of the movie, and as a result I felt detached from both.

I know a lot of people loved this, and Green's personal story is a very inspirational one (look it up) so I don't begrudge him his success. And the practical gore scenes really are something to see, a nice present for fans of the genre starved by the malnutritive properties of CG gore. Maybe it's my age, or my steady diet of 70s exploitation and Italian wackiness, but this just didn't do it for me. I found Hatchet okay, but just okay. 1.5 thumbs.



Saturday, October 1, 2011

Dark Night of the Scarecrow (1981): or, That's the Last Straw

October Horror Movie Challenge, Day 1!

A thirty-six year old, mentally challenged behemoth of a man named Bubba (Larry Drake, typecast again) draws the ire of his small, rural town's postmaster Otis P. Hazelrigg (the legendary Charles Durning) for being a bit too friendly with sweet little Marylee (Tonya Crowe). When the girl is attacked by a vicious dog and Bubba comes to her rescue, the sight of the gigantic toddler with the bloodied body of the innocent in his arms drives the letter carrier into a frenzy--he quickly recruits alcoholic farmer Harless Hooker (Lane Smith), grease-monkey and Cooter Davenport impersonator Skeeter Norris (Robert F. Lyons), and morbidly obese hypertension-sufferer Philby (Claude "No Relation to James" Earl Jones) to form the world's sweatiest posse and wreak retarded vengeance before the cops can come in and muck things up. Bubba displays a little creativity by concealing himself from the lynch mob in a well-crafted scarecrow costume, but the men aren't fooled and execute the poor slob just before learning that the girl is okay and the dog has been rightly convicted. Incredibly the men get off scot-free on the charge of galoot-icide, but soon an ominous wind blows in from the cornfield at night, bringing with in supernatural vengeance and barley-scented DEATH.

Rightly hailed as one of the best made-for-TV horror movies of the Big Network Era, Dark Night of the Scarecrow is a beautifully shot, expertly paced thriller many genuinely creepy scenes and even some surprisingly effective emotional moments. Director Frank De Felitta does a great job with J.D. Feigelson's story, displaying a deft hand for suspense and never letting the proceedings drag. He's aided by an absolutely stellar cast--character actors Jones and Lyons are fantastic as the basically decent but tragically misguided stooges of Hazelrigg, and Lane Smith hits all the right notes as the slimiest of crew. (Lyons in particular impresses by seeming to channel character-acting god Elisha Cook Jr. to great effect, especially in one of the great "losing his shit" scenes in TV movie history.) Most importantly, we get Charles Durning at his Durning-est, playing the postmaster as an angry little man with delusions of grandeur (note the prominent Patton photos in his sad boardinghouse bedroom), taking out his frustrations on hapless ogre Drake. There's really not a bad performance in the movie--A-level stuff, all the way across the board.

There's more than a touch of MADNESS to savor here too, as we get strict observance of the Chekhov rule ("If you show a wood-chipper in act one..."), amber waves of PAIN, impromptu exhumation, a gas stove explosion powerful enough to split the atom, and even an obvious but wonderfully done homage to the "flowers" scene from James Whale's Frankenstein (1931). And the post-comeuppance coda has a nice little ghostly chill in it as well, wrapping everything up with a satisfying shiver.

A great way to start my October Horror Movie challenge, Dark Night of the Scarecrow gets a solid 2.5 thumbs up. Made-for-TV fans and horror lovers in general should seek it out for their Halloween viewing posthaste!

"If I only had a brain. Yours, I mean. On the end of a pitchfork."


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