Posts made in August 2017

In Memoriam: Tobe Hooper

By
Westley Smith

As I sit here, preparing to write this article on Tobe Hooper, I find myself watching one of the director’s critical and commercial flops, the Cannon Film’s produced Lifeforce on VHS. You may be asking yourself: Why on earth would you watch Lifeforce on VHS, especially after Shout! Factory put out such a stellar Blu-Ray just a few years back?

The answer is simple: Nostalgia.

After seeing all of the social media post over the weekend of the late Tobe Hooper; pictures of him on the set of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, TCM2, Invaders From Mars, and the aforementioned Lifeforce, it reminded me of a time in all of our lives where men like Tobe Hooper, Wes Craven, and George Romero were raining kings of horror – all alive and well; producing horror movie after horror movie (some good, some not so good, and some that just took some time to find their audience). At that time, we were not thinking about the inevitable day when one of our favorite directors would succumb to the very thing that almost all of their movies were about – death.

So for me, a trip back to the 1980s – a time when video stores ruled, VHS players were in every household, and the world of adulthood had yet to fall on me – seemed right, seemed somehow…fitting for today as we all mourn the loss of Tobe Hooper.

Hooper was born in Austin, Texas on January 25, 1943. Before becoming a director, Hooper spend much of the 1960s as a professor and an assistant cameraman for documentaries. His first feature film was Eggshells in 1969 – Kim Hinkle was in the film, who would later go on to co-write The Texas Chainsaw Massacre with Hooper. The film was about a group of hippies who move into an old house in the woods, only to discover that there is a supernatural force controlling them. Eggshells is a product of the 1960s (a movie about love and piece) more than a horror movie. As of this writing, it appears that Eggshells has never been released on any format.

Hooper would follow Eggshells up with the Ed Gein inspired The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.

With The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Tobe Hooper earned horror stardom. There has been enough spoken and written about the film over the years, including a book by Gunnar Hansen (who played Leatherface) called Chainsaw Confidential, that I’m not even going to write much on the film – what else could I add at this point that hasn’t already been said.
After The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Hooper would go onto direct another “true crime” inspired movie called Eaten Alive.

This time the film was based loosely on the story of Joe Ball (also known as the Bluebeard from South Texas or the Alligator Man) from Elmendorf, Texas, sometime after Prohibition ended; who owned a bar with an alligator pit serving as an entertainment attraction. Several murders of women ensued and Joe Ball was suspected, but it was never proven that the flesh found in the pit was human. However, Joe Ball committed suicide at his bar on September 24, 1938 when he was about to be arrested by the police in connection with the murders.

Eaten Alive (aka Death Trap) starred Neville Brand as the murderous Judd, who owns a hotel and kills his victims in fits of rage, and then feeds them to his pet alligator that lives in the swap next to the hotel. Much like TCM, Eaten Alive feels cheap, dirty and raw and it is the closest that Hooper would ever come to repeating the style of TCM. Judd’s motel looks sleazy and grimy, with prostitutes hanging around and backwoods hick Buck (Robert ‘My name is Buck and I like to Fuck’ Englund) with an obsession for anal sex rounding out some of Judd’s unsuspecting victims. Mostly filmed on set with a relatively low budget, the film was plagued with behind-the-scenes conflict, including Neville Brands alcoholic benders and temper towards women, and production problems that eventually caused Hooper to leave the movie before it was finished, though he is credited at the films sole director.

In 1979 Hooper would be back behind the camera directing The Dark, though he was quickly replaced by John “Bud” Cardos (Kingdom of the Spiders). Thankfully, Hooper would go onto what many consider the best adaptation of a Stephen King novel.

That movie: ‘Salem’s Lot’

While the mini-series to Stephen King’s IT has gathered steam in recent years as horrifying audiences both young and old with mix results; Salem’s Lot did it first with positive reviews from almost anyone who’s seen it. The film is heavily atmospheric, downright terrifying (the vampire boy floating by the window has scared countless people) with likeable, well-developed characters and Hooper’s tight direction to the source material has cemented Salem’s Lot as one of the director’s best films. Salem’s Lot would also be Hooper’s first foray into television, a medium he would later find success in in the latter part of his career.

By the time the 1980s rolled around, Hooper was looking for work, and his next movie was not one he originally intended to direct. Convinced over a forty-eight hour period to helm the film, he took the job to direct The Funhouse.

The Funhouse was a direct result of the 1980s slasher craze, which Hooper himself helped create. With films like Halloween, Friday the 13th, Hell Night, The Prowler, My Bloody Valentine, and Prom Night cutting up the screen, The Funhouse puts a unique spin on these films, setting the murders in a funhouse, and committed by a mutated killer with a taste for human blood.

In 1982, Hooper would again have a huge hit with the Steven Spielberg produced Poltergeist. Though it has been rumored that Hooper had very little to do on the film, and was more of a ‘ghost director’ for Spielberg who was working on E.T. at the same time and could not contractually direct two movies at once, so Tobe was hired to “act” as director. But I do think that Hooper had more influence on the film than what he’s given credit for in recent years. For people who say Poltergeist has more of a Spielberg vibe to it than Hooper’s normal flare, well, that is because Spielberg did write the script and was serving as producer – he’s going to have influence on the film. There have been interviews with the cast and crew that say Hooper was the sole director of the film, others say Spielberg. I do believe it is safe to say, at this point, that both of them deserve director credits. None-the-less, their paring created one of the best horror movies of the 1980s.

Following the success of Poltergeist, Hooper would direct Billy Idol’s Dancing with Myself video.

In 1985 he would sign a three picture deal with Cannon Films: Lifeforce, Invaders from Mars, and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: Part 2 would fill up his time for the next several years. Yet none of these films would make a killing at the box office, most of them actually flopped upon release. Lifeforce was heavily edited by Cannon’s producers. Invaders from Mars (a re-make; yes it was happening in the 80s too) was just bad (can’t sugarcoat that), and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: Part 2 was so drastically different from the first TCM that it didn’t scare up audiences, leaving both dismal critical reviews and lackluster box office appeal.

Now, years later, Lifeforce and especially The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: Part 2 have gained a huge cult following and have found their success. Invaders from Mars has mostly been forgotten, though it did get a Shout! Factory Blu-ray a few years back, so it does have its fans.

Hooper would follow up TCM 2 with a few years directing TV, including the Spielberg produced Amazing Stories, The Equalizer, and even the first Freddy’s Nightmares episode called ‘No more Mr. Nice Guy”. The episode told the backstory of Freddy Krueger and starred Robert Englund as Freddy Krueger.

He returned to films with the 1990 mess Spontaneous Combustion starring Brad Dourif that not many people have seen or even know about.

For most of the 1990s, Hooper directed TV, only doing two features in that time (both starring Robert Englund) Night Terrors and another King adaptation, The Mangler – neither are good and nowhere near the quality of TCM or Salem’s Lot – Night Terrors is especially awful. In 1993 he would co-direct with John Carpenter a segment in the TV movie Body Bags called “Eye”, starring Mark Hamill. He would not direct another feature movie until 2000 when Crocodile hit the direct-to-video market.

In 2004 he returned to films with the remake of The Toolbox Murders with a degree of success and quickly followed it up with Mortuary in 2005. In that time, Hooper would also direct two episodes for the Masters of Horror series: The Damned Thing and Dance with the Dead – again starring Robert Englund.

In 2009 he directed Density Express Redux – little is known about this film and on IMDB there isn’t even a review.

Hooper’s final film, Djinn, would come in 2013 and wouldn’t even make a dent on the horror radar.

Over Hooper’s career he had seen both extreme highs and lows. Some say that he only has a few good films in his cannon; others praise him much higher, right up there with John Carpenter, Wes Craven, and George Romero. Though his films have a varying degree of skill: some are bad, some are good, some are awful, and some are outstanding, he will still go down in cinema as a masterful story teller, director, and the father of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.

On August 26, 2017 Tobe Hooper passed away at the age of 74.

R.I.P. Tobe Hooper.

Annabelle: Creation: Movie Review

By
Westley Smith

A few months ago The Crimson Screen reviewed the trailer to Annabelle: Creation and were not overly impressed with what we saw, not to mention confused on how this film related to the 2014 film Annabelle and The Conjuring. As noted in that article: it’s a real head scratcher.

To say that Annabelle had overstayed her welcome may have been a fair assessment. The first film, directed by John R. Leonetti (Wish Upon) wasn’t horrible, and it did have a few moments that were scary: The scene where Annabelle sits up and the demon is behind her, holding her, and the basement scene were both particularly well done. But there was WAAAAY too much padding in between the scares, with an overly predictable plot and stiff characters, and the way Annabelle (the doll) became cursed by a demon seem…well…odd – a drop of blood falls onto the doll and it’s suddenly cursed by a demon.

Okay…? It made no sense?

I know that Annabelle is pretty disliked around the horror community and people have voiced their opinion on the film openly on social media, being far less kind than I was above about the film. I think the point to Annabelle: Creation was a way of righting the wrongs made on the first Annabelle film without rebooting, resetting – whatever you want to call it – the Annabelle storyline.
So do they succeed?

YES!

The story follows a doll maker, (Anthony LaPaglia) and his wife (Miranda Otto), after losing their daughter in a horrific car accident. Twelve years after their daughter’s death, they welcome in a nun (Stephanie Sigman) and several children into their lavish, but out in the middle of nowhere, home. But what seems to be the ideal place for these kids, soon turns into a nightmare when Annabelle is unlocked.

The film was directed by David F. Sandberg (Lights Out) and produced by James Wan (Saw, The Conjuring). This time, Annabelle was handle right. The thing is: Annabelle – the doll – isn’t really that scary. She, unlike say Chucky from Child’s Play, doesn’t do anything; it’s what’s lurking inside of her that is scary, the demon, so everything around the doll needs to be scary, more-so than the doll itself.

That’s how this film is built. The tension is so tight with a slow burn story that by the end you are riveted to the screen, unable to take your eyes off what is happening.

There were several times in the film where I found myself gripping the seat in terror – there is a really effective jump scare that is nothing (and I mean that, nothing) but the way the tension is built around the scene I damn near came out of my skin. Seriously I did. And this is how Annabelle: Creation is, you find yourself jumping at just about everything, including small noises and creeks because the tension is so thick you can cut it with a knife at times. There were several times I heard people gasping at just noises.

The cinematography is fantastic in the film and Sandberg really knows how to use the camera to provoke fear with very effective use of low lighting, shadows and spots of pitch blackness where the demon lurks; it leaves so much to your imagination about what’s in the darkness that you can’t help but become frightened. There were times in the film where people started laughing, not because the scene was funny, but because they were so scared they had to release their fear, laughing was the only way. It was great!

I also really enjoyed the religious symbolism throughout the film. If you keep your eyes open you’ll see there are a lot of crucifixes in the movie, both upright and upside down, and that at times, sunlight casts crosses on the walls. This little added detail really helped the mood of the film and the battle of good vs evil.

All the actors in the film do a wonderful job, especially the two young leads (Talitha Bateman and Lulu Wilson) who have to endure most of the demons torment. The always wonderful Anthony LaPaglia was convincing in his roll of heartbroken father and caretaker of Miranda Otto’s creepy, but mysterious, Ester Mullins who’s locked herself away in her bedroom for unknown reasons.

Also keep an eye out for some Easter Eggs in the film that are going to be expanded upon further as this Conjuring Universe begins to build. There is one scene in the film (that is an Easter Egg) but done so masterfully, and extremely creepy, that it sends chills running right up your back. Oh, and stick around after the credits, there is a post credit scene…

Like I said above, Annabelle: Creation is a slow burn movie, and has the feel of a much older haunted house movie, like The Changeling, and it doesn’t rely on cheap jump scares with a loud noise to scare you; in fact there are very few traditional jump scares in the film, rather relying on tone, mood, setting, really well done sound design (maybe the best I’ve ever heard) and one really scary demon to frighten the bejesus out of you. Annabelle: Creation takes its times to get to the scares, letting the plot, characters, and mystery unfold slowly while the tension builds and builds into the final climax of the film when all hell breaks loose.

And the way they tied Annabelle: Creation to Annabelle was brilliant, and may just save that film from being looked at as unfavorably as it was when first viewed. I know I now look at the first Annabelle differently after seeing Annabelle: Creation and I think others will too.

10 out of 10 Stars

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Warlock: 3 Film Collection: Vestron Blu-Ray Review

By
Frank Ford

Since the re-launch of the Vestron Label, bringing a catalog of films (now owned by Lionsgate) to Collector’s Edition Blu-Ray, has been a trip down memory lane to a time when VHS ruled the world and mom and pop video stores were on every corner.

Gone now are those days of old, but the films live on, long after the video stores have closed and VHS has become obsolete – except to some who still collect VHS. To see these films coming back around, and given the Blu-Ray treatment, to be enjoyed by this generation (a generation who missed out on the VHS craze and stores) is a wonderful experience, and Vestron is doing a fantastic job rescuing these more obscure films from falling into the abyss.

Vestron’s latest releasing: Warlock: 3 Film Set Collector’s Edition is the eleventh releasing from the studio that began with Chopping Mall and Blood Diner last September. To say these releasing’s have been a huge success may be an understatement; people are screaming for more, the next announcement from Lionsgate, anticipating what the next film in the series is going to be – at this time there has been no announcement on the next films in the Collector’s Edition Series.

But for the time being, we are going to have to make do with their latest releasing, Warlock.

Let’s dive into the films and Blu-Ray, shall we.

WARLOCK: A Brief History

The first Warlock film was directed by Steve Miner (Friday the 13th: Parts 2&3, Halloween: H20, and House) written by David Twohy (Pitch Black, Riddick, and Below) and was originally to be distributed by New World Pictures – founded by Roger Corman – in 1988 on an estimated budget of seven million dollars.
But that was not to be.

New World Pictures filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy prior to Warlock’s releasing, only after the film’s trailer had played in theaters and on TV, causing the release of the film to fall into the unknown at the time.

Would anyone ever see Warlock or would it be lost forever, buried in a vault somewhere?

The fan buzz around Warlock in the late 80s was huge, and people were question where the film was, and, what happened that it was no longer getting a release. No one, at that time, knew Warlock’s fate. Some thought Warlock would be dumped onto the home video market (director Steve Miner thought that’s what actually happened for years), but thankfully Trimark Pictures acquired the rights to the film and instead of putting Warlock out on home video, they decided to released it theatrically where it would go onto gross over nine million dollars in just its theatrical run.

But much like the black magic powers the Warlock possess in the film, the movie seemed to proses its own magical powers when it hit VHS. VHS was the saving grace for Warlock; it was one of those rare movies that wouldn’t stay on the shelf as it was repeatedly rented out over and over, quickly making a lot of money and gaining a huge cult following in the process.

PLOT:

In 1691 Boston, a warlock is being tried and sentenced to death for his crimes of practicing black magic. He escapes, magically, to future 1989 Los Angeles where he begins searching for parts of the Devil’s Bible that has been scattered across the US. Trailed by a witch hunter from the warlocks own time and a woman he’s put a curse on, they must stop him before he can collect all the pages and find the true name of God, which he can use to destroy the world.

REVIEW:

First off, the upgraded Blu-Ray looks fantastic! To be perfectly honest, I had only ever seen Warlock (and including its sequels) on VHS. I had, just in the past year, revisited all of them, unknowing at the time that Vestron was going to be releasing this edition. I knew what the picture looked like on VHS, so I was excited to watch them on Blu-Ray for the first time. WOW! I was blown away. It was like I was watching Warlock for the first time again; seeing things crisper and brighter than I ever had before, with detail that was so sharp it nearly hurt my eyes.

The first film in the three film series is loaded with extra features that are sure to please any fan of the movie.

“Satan’s Son” and interview with actor Julian Sands: is great fun, with the actor discussing how he became involved in the film, how he viewed the warlock character, and what it was like working on the film, as well as the sequels and why he was not involved in the third film – which I will go into a little bit later.

“The Devil’s Work” with Director Steve Miner: is also a must watch if you are a fan of Warlock. Miner goes into how he became attached to the project, what it was like casting, shooting, editing, scoring, and releasing the film when New World filed for Bankruptcy. In the interview, Miner doesn’t hold back when talking about the film, his feelings about the final product, and some of the stuff he does and doesn’t like about the film.

“Effects of Evil” with Make-Up Effects Creators Carl Fullerton and Neal Martz: is a fun little segment where the two effects guys talk about working with the actors, creating effects, and go into great detail on the lost scene (that was reworked) that involved a woman’s nipples turning into the eyes of Satan. The segment is well worth your time.
The commentary with Director Steve Miner and a moderator is fun to listen to with an insightful look into the film and what it was like shooting some of the scenes, as well as Miner having no knowledge of the film ever played in a theater - which was shocking to hear that the film’s director didn’t even know Warlocks fate at the time of its release.
The rest of the disc is filled with Vintage behind the scenes footage, interviews, TV and theatrical trailers, as well as a still gallery that shows some of the aforementioned deleted nipple scene.

WARLOCK SPECIAL FEATURES (Disc 1)
• BRAND NEW Audio Commentary with Director Steve Miner
• Isolated Score Selections/Audio Interview with Author Jeff Bond
• All NEW Interviews
• “Satan’s Son” with Actor Julian Sands
• “The Devil’s Work” with Director Steve Miner
• “Effects of Evil” with Make-up Effects Creators Carl Fullerton and Neal Martz
• Behind-the-Scenes Footage
• Interview Segments with Cast and Crew
• Featurette with Make-Up Effects Creators Carl Fullerton and Neal Martz
• Vintage Featurette with Visual Effects Supervisors
• Theatrical Trailer
• Video Trailer
• TV Spots
• Still Gallery

Warlock: The Armageddon: A Brief History

After the success of Warlock, and the rights now fully in Trimarks pocket, a sequel was inevitable. Released under Trimarks horror/schlock banner, Vidmark, on September 24th 1993, Warlock: The Armageddon opened to dismal reviews and a poor box office return.

This time directing duties had been turned over to Anthony Hickox (Waxwork, Waxwork 2: Lost in Time, Hellraiser 3: Hell on Earth).

Warlock: The Armageddon, is a lot different from the first one; the stories are not connected and only share the title. Where the first film there are little pockets of humor, a fish out of water story at times to break the tension, this one is played dead serious with a dread filled tone of doom and dismay. It’s a mean and nasty film, filled with blood and gore, violence and death. Warlock: The Armageddon feels every bit of a 1990s Vidmark movie, right down to the way it’s lit and shot.

Though Hickox does bring a lot of his normal flair to the film, and the skill behind and in front of the camera is there (Sands is particularly great in this one and is loving every moment), Warlock: The Armageddon falls into that 1990s sequel trap where everything the second time around had to be bigger, bloodier, nastier than the first.

PLOT:

An order of Druids train their children to battle an evil Warlock determined to unleash Satan upon the world by bringing a collection of six mystic rune stones together.

REVIEW:

Much as I’ve stated with the first disc, the picture on Warlock: The Armageddon looks amazing. The upgrade to Blu-Ray is well worth the price to add to your collection of Vestron’s Collector’s Series.

The extra features are minimal with only Anthony Hickox commentary on the film. It’s a fun listen, and he talks about some of the things he doesn’t like about the movie, especially the love story between the kids and the lack of the warlock being in the film. He also says that this is one of his least favorite films that he’s made. I can’t say I agree with Hickox, as I do really like Warlock: The Armageddon for its mean and downright nasty tone; there is something about this film that gets under your skin the way the first one didn’t. Also, the way Sands plays the warlock in this movie is scary; he’s much meaner, darker, and more sinister than before.

The vintage making of featurette with behind-the-scenes footage that was pulled from an old VHS (yes, it does show) and the vintage interviews with Actors Julian Sands and Paula Marshall, and Director, Anthony Hickox are both fun to watch and listen to them talk about the film as it was being made.

WARLOCK: The Armageddon: SPECIAL FEATURES (Disc 2)

• NEW Audio Commentary with Director Anthony Hickox
• Vintage Making-of Featurette Behind-the-Scenes Footage
• Extended Vintage Interview Segments with Actor Julian Sands, Director Anthony Hickox, and Actress Paula Marshall
• Theatrical Trailer
• TV Spots
• Still Gallery

Warlock lll: The End of Innocence: A Brief History

After the failure of Warlock: The Armageddon, Warlock lll was released on October 12th 1999 direct-to-video. Julian Sands did not return this time to play the warlock; he felt the script, the production, and everyone involved seemed to be lacking the know-how of bring the film together. Though Sands passed on the third Warlock film, he is still very much open to the idea of returning to the roll that made him famous.

Warlock duties this time went to Bruce Payne (Drop Zone) and Ashley Laurence (Hellraiser) was cast as the female lead.

What Sands says in his interview “Satan’s Son” about Warlock lll is not far from the truth: Warlock lll feels cheap – which is was with only a two million dollar budget. The plot is slow. Payne isn’t scary as the warlock, nor very menacing, and he’s rather a bore to watch in the film. Though there are a few spots in the film that do build some tension and scares, especially when Kris (Ashley Laurence) first gets to the house, they are few and far between, and the runtime is extended with endless amounts of dialog that’s just a snooze-fest to sit through. And the ending is rather anticlimactic to say the least.

PLOT:

A college student unexpectedly finds that she has inherited a derelict house. Accompanied by a group of friends, she goes to clear it of heir-looms before the structure is demolished. Almost immediately, she and her friends are targeted by a powerful warlock who is interested in her bloodline.

REVIEW:

Much like Warlock: The Armageddon the extra features a minimal. This time there is no director’s commentary, only a vintage making of segment, and vintage interviews with cast and crew. Trailer and Video Sales promo. And a still gallery.

There really isn’t much to talk about here…

WARLOCK lll: The End of Innocents: SPECIAL FEATURES (Disc 2)

• Behind-the-Scenes Footage
• Vintage Interview Segments with Cast and Crew
• Trailer
• Video Sales Promo
• Still Gallery

Final Thoughts:

Warlock: 3 Film Collection is a must have for any lover of the films, or even if you’re just collecting the Vestron Collector’s Series. This collection will not disappoint. Though I would have liked more special features on Warlock: The Armageddon, (I really don’t care about Warlock lll – I know that’s mean to say, but it is what it is) but most of my questions about that film were answered by Sands in his “Satan’s Son” interview of the first disc.

This collection is well worth your hard earned money. So continue to support physical media and pick up a copy before they are all sold out.

9 out of 10 Stars.

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The Dark Tower: Movie Review

By
Westley Smith

The process of adapting Stephen King’s magnum opus in to a film has been a long, drawn out process, going though countless directors, writers (re-writes) stars (at one point Russell Crow was attached to star as Roland) studios, and even a planned TV series crossover that would tie in to a three film trilogy – which may or may not be moving forward at this time.

The problem is that King’s Dark Tower books are not easily adapted for the screen – maybe more so than any of his other works. There are a total of eight books coming in at 4,250 pages. Trying to adapt all of that material would be insane (by any filmmaker) and not to mention tiring for your average movie goer or TV watcher.

The decision was made (and King liked the idea as well) to make the movie adaptation for The Dark Tower as a sequel to the book series, while Roland is on the second journey of his quest – so in an essence, The Dark Tower film is its own thing, and only using the source material loosely. This also allowed the book adaptation to be opened to a wider movie going audience unfamiliar with the source material.

To some of the hardcore Dark Tower fans out there, this is a major letdown (or a slap in the face for sticking with 4,250 pages of reading) to just take the easy way out and make the movie its own thing.

I disagree.

As I stated above, adapting Stephen King is not easy – even some of his smaller works have been adapted into movies and they still are not as good as the books/stories. King is a very prolific writer. His books, though dealing with horror, monsters, and inner demons of characters are very literary tails. His style of story-telling is more akin to older story-tellers than for modern audiences and even movie adaptations. You have to invest your time, energy, and patients with a King novel as he takes you on a journey through the story.

Trying to flesh out The Dark Tower series into one movie (or even several) would be impossible to do. There is just too much to cover over the eight book series, a lot (even if they made all eight into movies) would have to be cut from the movie to save time.

The decision to make The Dark Tower movie a sequel instead was more of the way to go with this adaptation. And I think once you look at The Dark Tower movie that way, it helps elevate any preconception you may have of the film - remember in the books, Roland does create a time paradox that changes events.

The movie adaptation of The Dark Tower, follows Jake Chambers (Tom Taylor) as he begins to have nightmares of The Man in Black (Matthew McConaughey) and Roland Deschain (Idris Elba) and of The Dark Tower. He realizes that he’s being followed by The Man in Black’s goons – creatures that hide under human skin to disguise their true identity – because of his gift called ‘the shine’. Walter, also known as The Man in Black is collecting other kids with ‘the shine’ in hopes to bring down The Dark Tower, which holds the universe together, with the help of their gift.

The Dark Tower movie is not bad (as some would have you believe); it’s engaging enough that you can follow the story, the characters, and what’s going on and not become board or tied down with tedious amounts of detail that fill the novels – again this was made with the mindset of getting it to a wider audience and not just hardcore fans of the series. Here, the story is told pretty straight forward – a good vs evil tale.

The problem is that there just isn’t enough story to make one feel that what is happening on screen is really that big of a deal to the universe. The Man in Black’s goal ultimately is to bring down The Dark Tower, but you never learn why he wants to destroy it, and he never really feels that threatening to Roland because, unlike everyone else in the movie, he cannot control Roland – so the threat to Roland isn’t there and you know he’s going to win in the end.

The other thing is that we never get an idea of how big Mid-World is; we get snippets of dialog or images that suggest what it was, or is, but never a fully fleshed out realization of the world. The idea of jumping between worlds is never expanded upon – it’s just there as a plot device - nor are we ever given a clear explanation of what the creatures (The Man in Black’s goons) who are chasing after Jake and Roland are; there are a lot of plot holes. The scope of the film feels smaller than it should for this type of movie, unlike say Lord of The Rings. It all needed to be bigger, grander, the threat needed to be more sinister and not so easily stopped in the end. It’s a self-contained story that is wrapped up neatly at the end.

For fans of the books series there are plenty of hidden images pointing to The Crimson King and other Dark Tower lore, but again, it is never spoken of or mentioned in the movie and leaves you wondering what the The Crimson King is. I guess this is going to be addressed in future movies, if there are any.

There were a lot of Stephen King Easter eggs hidden in the movie though, and some of them are hard to spot, some are not. It’s fun to see that The Dark Tower was trying to say that all of King’s works (or at least a lot of them) are connected to this universe.

Both Idris Elba and Matthew McConaughey are excellent in their rolls. Idris Elba, in my opinion, captured the spirit of Roland perfectly and pulled off The Gunslinger without any flaws – he understood his dry wit, his callous, and that he had only one thing in mind: killing The Man in Black. And you could not have cast a better Man In Black when they cast Matthew McConaughey as Walter – I would love to see him play Randle Flagg in The Stand (yes, I know they are the same character). Though the threat to Roland is lacking, to the rest of the characters surrounding The Man in Black, McConaughey chews up the scenes in a devilish good way, and really sells himself as the ultimate bad guy who, at times, can climb under your skin.

For the general audience, who know nothing about The Dark Tower series (nor has any interest in reading the books) I’m sure they will enjoy this movie for what it is – a fun action/fantasy movie with a decent story, characters, and is well acted and aptly directed from a script that is lacking understanding of the source material.

For hardcore Dark Tower fans, they are going to hate this water-down version and would just rather go back and re-read all 4,250 pages of the books than put themselves through watching this movie again.

6 out of 10 Stars

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Slither Collector’s Editon: BLu-Ray Review

By
Frank Ford

Slither crawled its way onto a Collector’s Edition Blu-Ray today from Shout! Factory with an abundance of bonus content, new art work, and slipcover.

It’s strange, now twelve years after its theatrical run, to see Slither getting some well-deserved love it was owed upon its initial releasing. But back in 2006, when Slither came to the big screen, it was a dismal release at the box office pulling in just over seven million dollars, only making back half of its fifteen million dollar budget. Though critics were nice to the film, as it was the best reviewed horror movie of 2006, this still wasn’t enough to make Slither a massive hit.

Penned by James Gunn (Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 1 & 2,) as a side project to sell while he was working to get his first directorial effort (Super) off the ground, Slither follows the story of a small town that is overcome by and alien lifeform, turning the residents into zombie-like hosts, and other mutated creatures.

Why this movie was not a hit back in 2006 is beyond any sci-fi/horror fan’s knowledge. It has just about everything a sci-fi/horror lover could want in a film. Good, likeable and unlikable characters. Gore. Comedy. A good story. Exciting, nail-biting sequences of action and tension. And even a few well-timed jump scares that really slither up your spine with frightful delight. And let’s not forget all of the Easter Eggs hidden throughout the film that call back to sci-fi/horror’s past – some of them you have to really listen or look for, others are in full view – R.J. MacReady’s Store comes to mind; R.J. MacReady is Kurt Russell’s character from John Carpenter’s The Thing (1981).

Thankfully Shout! Factory rescued this movie from falling into total obscurity and released it out in a Collector’s Edition Blu-Ray.

Though the additions to the Collector’s Edition are only three NEW features, (the rest are pulled from the old DVD release of the film) they are well done and exciting to watch.

The NEW interview with director James Gunn is entertaining and listening to his insight into how the film came about, what it was like to shoot the picture, writing, distribution, and ultimately the response of the film when it originally opened and how it’s changed over the years is a treat to anyone who really loves this film.
The second NEW interview is with Gregg Henry. The interview is slightly shorter, but well worth checking out and hearing his stories and time on the film.

But I think the highlight of the NEW bonus edition to the Collector’s Edition of Slither is the NEW commentary track with Actors Nathan Fillion, Michael Rooker, and Director James Gunn. This may be one of the funniest commentary’s I’ve ever had the pleasure of listening too; not only do these guys go into details on the making of the film, but one can tell they are three very good friends who love to get together and have a good time while talking about the movie, and while slinging shit at one another for fun – especially James Gunn to poor Michael Rooker. You can’t help but listen to this commentary and not laugh with them, smile as they are telling stories, and be truly invested (and enthralled) as they come along with us for the duration of the movie.

Check out the GAG REEL (also on the DVD) – you won’t stop laughing.

The updated picture to Blu-Ray looks fantastic in 1080p (much better than the old DVD transfer) and it was surprising to see, even with better picture quality, that most of the CGI effects still hold up very well today, as do all the practical effects - naturally.

The slipcover artwork really captures the feel of the film, while at the same time hankering back to the 1980s monster movies and the wonderful VHS artwork.

The Blu-Ray jacket sleeve is reversible, with the new artwork on one side and the original artwork on the other.

Slither is a worthy addition to Shout! Factory’s Collector’s Edition Line and one any fan of this film needs to pick up right away. And even if you already own Slither on DVD, I highly recommend picking it up on Blu-Ray as the picture and sound are far superior.

Bonus Features
• NEW Audio Commentary With Writer/Director James Gunn And Actors Nathan Fillion And Michael Rooker
• NEW The Genesis Of SLITHER – An Interview With Writer/Director James Gunn
• NEW The Other MacReady – An Interview With Actor Gregg Henry
• Audio Commentary With James Gunn And Nathan Fillion (From 2006)
• Deleted And Extended Scenes With Optional Commentary By James Gunn
• Visual Effects: Step By Step
• Slithery Set Tour With Actor Nathan Fillion
• The Sick Minds And Slimy Days Of SLITHER
• Brewing The Blood – How To Make Blood
• Bringing SLITHER's Creatures To Life
• Lloyd Kaufman's Video Diary
• Gag Reel
• Who Is Bill Pardy? Featurette
• Theatrical Trailer

10 out of 10 Stars.

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