Posts Tagged ‘danielle harris’

STAKE LAND has got some teeth! Sharp, pointy ones!

April 23, 2011

There are two kinds of vampire movies made today. There’s the kind where the vamps want to kill you (VAMPIRES, 30 DAYS OF NIGHT) and there’s the kind where they want to kiss you (INTERVIEW WITH A VAMPIRE, TWILIGHT). Let’s face it folks, vampires are just a lot more interesting when they’re trying to suck the blood out of your neck, not when they’re getting all weepy and sparkly and sexy on your ass. I like my vamps cold-blooded and looking for a fresh kill, not a life partner. That’s why I thoroughly enjoyed the new independent horror flick, STAKE LAND so darn much. The vampires in this very entertaining little post-apocalyptic horror flick are more like the zombies in a Romero movie. They’d much rather suck an infant child dry for a snack than try to hold your hand and ask you to prom.

STAKE LAND takes place in a hellish vision of America where almost every living soul has either been eaten by or turned into a blood-sucking vampire from a mysterious, unexplained plague. Here we meet the veteran vamp slayer, Mister (played with bad assed charm by co-writer Nick Damici) and his teenage apprentice, Martin (Connor Paolo), who was rescued by the elder when he lost his entire family in a vamp attack shortly after the epidemic first began. Together they roam the barren, desolate country side in a beat up old Ford muscle car, looking for survivors to take with them to the rumored “New Eden”, that’s located somewhere across the Canadian border. Along the way they put together a surrogate “family” of survivors that include: a nun aptly named Sister (Kelly McGillis) and a young pregnant mother named Belle (played by modern day scream Queen and total cutie pie, Danielle Harris).

But the road to Eden is paved with many dangers, sometimes the least of which being the undead. There are clans of human cannibals who’ve run out of food and don’t mind feasting on fellow survivors. Then there’s this gosh darned cult of homicidal Christians that suck almost as bad as the vamps do. They get their fundamental kicks by dropping captured blood-suckers out of their helicopters and into the campgrounds of those whom they’ve determined to be sinners. Christ on a cracker! You’ve got to love a vampire movie where the biggest threat is a bunch of crazed tea baggers on a religious crusade!

Director Jim Mickle does a nice job of channeling the sensibilities of old school horror filmmakers like John Carpenter and George Romero, and much like a Romero zombie film, STAKE LAND’s strength comes from its strong social commentary. It points a wooden stake at religious fundamentalism almost as often as it does at the killer vamps and THIS is what elevates it into something much more original and interesting than other films of this type. Even in a world overrun with vampires, mankind is still the most frightening thing to deal with.

STAKE LAND is an original horror movie that is being released by IFC Films and it is NOT a remake or a sequel. It mixes a little of THE ROAD with I AM LEGEND and ZOMBIELAND and creates something new, interesting and frightening that should be seen and supported by fans of the genre everywhere. There are a lot of great action sequences, some terrific scares, tons of great gore, solid acting performances, a very smart script and some beautiful cinematography that sets a perfectly bleak tone with images of grim looking landscapes that are filled with overcast skies, dead forests and murky blue hues. The film was made with a lot of love and hard work that shows from beginning to end. Go see it, suckers!

Rob Zombie’s Halloween II: More of the same crap…

August 28, 2009

halloween_2_pumpkin_poster

This review contains spoilers.

I went to a midnight show of the new HALLOWEEN II remake/sequel with some friends in Hollywood, last night. I walked into it with an open mind, even though I really wasn’t pleased at all with Rob Zombie’s “re-interpretation” of the first film. The movie had a lot of problems, but my main issue was the “idea” of making the audience feel sympathy for a young Michael Myers. By trying to show him in a “real” manner, everything that’s cool about the character was destroyed. The reason Michael Myers is so fucking scary is because we DON’T know or understand his motivations. He is a FORCE of pure evil that keeps growing larger and more unstoppable. In John Carpenter’s original HALLOWEEN we are never given any explanation other than that he is inhuman and must be stopped. Like the shark in JAWS, Michael Myers is a monster that just keeps moving. An emotionless creature that hides his face behind a mask that reflects his lack of humanity and who can only express himself by murdering young people who engage in pre-marital sex and drug use. Michael Myers was THE personification of puritanical rage against a changing time.

In the original 1981 sequel to HALLOWEEN, Michael was given the added motivation that he was attempting to finish off his long lost “sister”, Laurie Strode. This plot twist has provided all future HALLOWEEN sequels, including these two remakes, with the mythology behind Michael Myers. He just wants to bump off the rest of his family like the efficient little masked maniac that he is.

In Rob Zombie’s 2007 remake he screws it all up royally, by spending the first half of the movie with a young, white trash Michael Myers and introducing the sister thing right away. I guess he was trying to give some sort of real-life motivation to the reason why Michael kills, so that he can reunite his fucked up family. Once again, I really don’t want to feel sympathy for the guy killing everyone. That’s just me.

He also fucked up the great character of Sam Loomis, by making him an opportunistic sleaze that is around for comic relief more than anything else. The original Loomis character was the obsessively protective force of good and a great “Captain Ahab” to Michael’s “White Whale”. Zombie ruined this element too.

I also hated the way he made his remake take place in the same grimy, white trash universe that his previous two films, HOUSE OF 1000 CORPSES and THE DEVIL’S REJECTS took place in. HIS is a Haddonfield full of rednecks who obsessively drop “F” bombs and who are as over-sexed as a motorcycle gang O.D.ing on Crack and Viagra. This “slumming” of the original Haddonfield took away from the ANYTOWN U.S.A feeling the first one had and made it a place where I could really care less who gets killed. Fuck ’em all.

"What's my motivation, little boy?"

"What's my motivation, little boy?"

Halloween2_07

The new hobo/8 Mile look.

It wouldn't be a HALLOWEEN movie without a "Weird" Al cameo. What the fuck!?

It wouldn't be a HALLOWEEN movie without a "Weird" Al cameo. What the fuck!?

I really did go into H2 with a clear mind, hoping that it would be good and that it would make up for the last one. I was thinking that maybe Rob Zombie was trapped in a box on the first film and now he was going to break free with the sequel. I was optimistic. Truthfully, I did like it more than his first one, but it really isn’t that much better and it’s basically more of the same crap without the “origin”. But that doesn’t mean we’re done with the “young” Michael Myers story, because the film opens with a flashback of him telling his mom (Sheri Moon Zombie returning because only her husband will cast her in anything) that he dreams of a “White Horse”, which according to the movie represents “pure” rage and more BULLSHIT motivation for his character.

There is a “hospital” sequence in the opening that seems like a nod to the original sequel and picks up right where the last film ended. It’s an effectively scary sequence and it gave me hope that this thing might not be so bad after all. Unfortunately, it turns out to be a Laurie Strode “survivor” nightmare and we find ourselves a year later and still in Haddonfield, Illinois, where Michael Myers’ body has never been found and Laurie (Scout Taylor-Compton) now lives with her surviving friend Annie (cutie Danielle Harris returns for her fourth HALLOWEEN outing) and her father, Sheriff Brackett (Brad Dourif). But it’s Halloween again and you know what that means. Laurie is dealing with the past, by hanging out with a new group of girls who call each other “bitches” and “fuckholes” and only want to party and get laid.

Meanwhile, Sam Loomis (another awkward Malcom McDowell performance) has survived his skull-crushing from the previous movie and has become even more famous with his new tell-all Michael Myers book. This is the most tragic victim of Zombie’s HALLOWEEN, the character of SAM LOOMIS. In Carpenter’s original, Donald Pleasance created something truly iconic with his performance. His obsessed, gun toting psychiatrist made a perfect counter to the unstoppable Boogieman. He was like a “Van Helsing” to Michael’s “Dracula”, but in H2 he’s nothing more than comic relief. He even has a scene with ‘Weird” Al Yankovic, where they appear on a local Haddonfield talk show together. I don’t know what’s dumber, the “Weird” Al cameo or that a small mid-western town has it’s own talk show, but it was all profoundly STUPID and not even remotely amusing. Also, the script is so poorly written, we are expected to swallow the notion that Loomis’ new book and tour begin on the day of Halloween and are kicking off in the small town of Haddonfield. What a shitty publicist!

Zombie also turns Michael Myers into a hooded hobo with a Grizzly Adams beard, who’s been walking around the mid-west for a year, I guess to recover from the bullet in the head he got in the last movie. He’s come back to Haddonfield to reunite with his sister and bring the family back together, so they can all live in peace with a “white horse” in Heaven. You see, he and Laurie keep having these INGMAR BERGMAN style hallucinations that feature Sheri Moon Zombie in Kabuki makeup and white robes. BIG FUCKING YAWN!

Rob Zombie has a gruesome visual style that at times can be really effective. The best moments in H2 are when Michael kills. He moves now like a vicious animal who grunts and screams behind the cracked mask while he attacks his victims. He stabs, hacks, beats, kicks and crushes into mulch, everything that gets in his way and this is where the direction and visual style are the most confident.

The rest of H2 is like a better shot version of HALLOWEEN 6. It’s ultimately the writing that totally sucks and derails the whole thing! Zombie just isn’t a very good writer. His words worked well in his first two films (especially DEVIL’S REJECTS), because they were white trash horror movies. But when he writes this style into the HALLOWEEN world it just takes me right out of it. I grew up in the suburbs of Chicago, Illinois and the reason I always connected sooooo much to the original was that it was a horror movie that seemed to take place on my turf! Even though most of it was shot in West Hollywood, Haddonfield, Illinois looked and felt like the suburbs. It’s hard to believe now, but back then, horror movies didn’t take place in the safe environment of the ‘burbs that often and I think this had a lot to do with the first film’s power and success.

In Rob Zombie’s HALLOWEEN I and II, Haddonfield is a redneck sewer where mental hospital guards rape patients and ambulance attendants talk about fucking corpses. It’s a town where people call each other suckholes, cuntfucks, and fucktards a lot. Actually it’s a town where the word FUCK is used more commonly than any other word in the english language. There’s even a scene in HALLOWEEN II where a helpless victim screams the word about a hundred times, over and over again. I don’t know if this was a conscious nod to his own “style” or what, but all I gotta say is, FUCK YOU ROB ZOMBIE! Learn how to write a good script man! Here’s an idea, direct someone else’s script for a change! And no more remakes!! What the fuck is this I hear now about you doing a remake of THE BLOB?! The fucking BLOB has already been remade you douchebag! And what the fuck is this I’m reading about it not looking like a BLOB?! What the fuck are you talking about?! And stop casting your talentless wife in all your goddamned movies! She can’t act and most importantly, IT MAKES YOU LOOK LIKE A BITCH!! And how about challenging yourself and doing a movie where nobody says the word fuck at all. And no more of these insipidly juvenile character names like UNCLE MEAT and places like RED HOT PUSSY LIQUORS for awhile. FUCK!

Sorry, I had to get all that off my chest. Please don’t see HALLOWEEN II this weekend. Netflix the original HALLOWEEN I and II instead. Then throw HALLOWEEN 4: THE RETURN OF MICHAEL MYERS on after, because it’s cheesy as hell, but still a lot of fun (as well as being the first appearance of a 10 year old DANIELLE HARRIS as Laurie Strode’s daughter Jamie). And please Rob Zombie do something original and dare I say, a little smarter next time. I truly do like the way he makes a horror movie look and feel at times.