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Review: Gremlins

The Bluray Shelf Xmas Special

gremlins bluray 001

How could something so sweet and cute get a 15 certificate?

This is a popular Xmas film but has a dark streak of humour  that may be a little too grown-up for younger members of the audience even if Gizmo looks like a sweet kiddie friendly ball of fluff. I loved this film the first time I saw it with its Looney Tunes inspired comedy from Joe Dante and I even seem to be one of the few who also enjoyed the even more comedic Gremlins 2

An inventor Randall Peltzer (Hoyt Axton) goes to Chinatown in some city to get his teenage son Billy a Christmas present. A  young Chinese boy promises him that he’ll find something at his grandfather’s junk shop. Randall uses the opportunity to try to sell the owner one of his inventions, a clumsy brick with multiple gadgets that doesn’t really work. Randall hears a strange singing and goes to the back of the shop and in a box he sees a strange creature called a mogwai and Randall wants to buy him offering the owner $200 but he refuses saying that the mogwai is not for sale. The owner’s grandson tells him to wait outside and he brings him the creature and takes the money.

He tells Randall three important rules for caring for a mogwai: bright light hurts him and sunlight kills him, don’t let him get wet or have any contact with water and finally don’t feed him after midnight. As soon I heard them it was obvious that breaking these rules was going to be an important part of this story.

Billy Peltzer (Zach Galligan) is at home trying to get his car to start so he can get to work at the local bank. He turns up late with his dog and settles down with the dog under his counter. The local nasty rich woman Mrs Deagle ()Polly Holliday comes storming down to the bank, rudely knocking people aside. In the bank she barges right through the queue at Billy’s counter dumping the snowman head on the counter. She’s there because Billy’s dog broke the rest of the snowman. She wants Billy to have to dog put down or she threatens to kill it herself. The dog reacts by freeing itself and jumping on the counter and knocking the head off and it smashes on the floor. This gets Billy in trouble with the manager Mr Corben (Edward Andrews) and his slimy kiss-ass assistant Gerald Hopkins (Judge Reinhold) sticks in a few nasty remarks for good measure.

Billy goes home where his mother (Frances Lee McCain) is preparing dinner and she asks Billy to crack her some eggs. Randall has an invention for doing this but when Billy tries using it he just ends up with a bowl of broken eggs. It is typical of Randall’s inventions that they cause a mess that takes longer to clean up than any time that could possibly be saved if they ever manage to work. Randall comes home and he gets greeted warmly by his wife are Billy When he gives the mogwai to Billy he is delighted and we get our first sight of him and he I’m sure that even if you haven’t seen the film I’m sure you know what the mogwai look like. He’s got great big eyes and is covered in soft hair and it has a huge pair of leathery ears and Peltzer says he calls him Gizmo and Gizmo seems to like that name and repeats it.

Gizmo settles in to his new home though there are a couple of incidents with bright lights that unsettle him. Gizmo really enjoys watching television and he really gets into an old film featuring racing drivers. This does become relevant later. Next day the neighbour’s kid Pete (Corey Feldman) comes round to deliver a Christmas tree for his father. Billy is in the kitchen trying to get orange juice out of one of his father’s inventions but that just leads to Billy and the kitchen covered bits of orange.

After he’s cleaned himself off he takes Pete up to his room to show him Gizmo and Pete is impressed. Gizmo likes showing off but when they move him over to a desk next to the window Pete knocks a jar of water over Gizmo who squeals in agony. His flesh looks like it’s boiling and then five little balls of fur pop off his back. Within minutes the balls swell and uncurl and Billy realises he has five more mogwai on his hands. Pete asks if he can have one but when he reaches his hand out to the five squabbling mogwai one of them tries to bite him and he loses interest. Billy is fascinated but from the look on Gizmo’s disaster is just around the corner. Years before CGI and motion capture they really do an amazing job getting expression from the Gizmo puppet.

Next day Billy takes one of the new mogwai to the Pete’s science teacher Roy Hanson (Glynn Turman) at the local high school and shows what happens when he puts a drop of water on its back creating another little mogwai. Hanson keeps the new mogwai so he can run some tests and Billy takes the other one home. Unlike Gizmo the other mogwai are badly behaved and very mischievous and seem to be led by one with tuft of hair that Billy has named Stripe. That night Billy finds the family dog strung up in Xmas lights on the front porch.He is certain it was Mrs Deagle but from the smirking the face of one of the mogwai they almost certainly did it.

Billy talks to his father about what happened and he starts thinking about perhaps selling off mogwai as pets. Randall has to leave to go to a mad inventors’ convention so he won’t be with home on Christmas Eve. Billy goes out on an errand and he passes the bar where Kate Beringer (Phoebe Cates) his co-worker at the bank works in the evening. She’s seeing the last drunk out of the bar before it closes and it’s Billy’s neighbour Mr Futterman (Dick Miller) who operates a snowplough. Kate talks him out of trying to drive the plough while drunk and he ominously warns them about Gremlins. Billy walks Kate home and he learns that Kate doesn’t like Christmas. Kate does agree to go on a date with Billy later in the week.

At the school Hanson is working very late and he takes a blood sample from the mogwai which he has put in a cage and is very unhappy with him. Billy gets home and settles down to watch Invasion of the Bodysnatchers with Gizmo. The other mogwai are in a box complaining noisily about being hungry so Billy checks the time on his clock and since it’s before midnight he fetches them some chicken which they devour with disgusting haste. Back at the school Hanson goes home leaving half a sandwich next to the cage.

When the morning of Christmas Eve comes and the five mogwai in the box and the one at the school have turned into large green slimy pods. Billy works out that they must have all eaten after midnight except for Gizmo and finds out that his clock was unplugged, almost certainly by one of the mogwai. Hanson reckons this is a pupal stage and that the mogwai are undergoing a metamorphosis. They don’t have any idea what they’re changing into but then they don’t know that they are in a film called Gremlins.

Billy goes to the school and discovers Hanson has been killed by the gremlin in his classroom that has now hatched out of its pupa. The gremlin is not the cute little bundle of mischief it was before the pupal stage. Now it’s a nasty slimy looking malevolent little demon intent on causing chaos.Billy chases it through the school and it takes quite a bit property damage before Billy gives up. He realises that if the gremlins at school is awake so are the ones at home so he calls his mother to warn her.

This is a bit late because Mrs Peltzer has already got her hands full with gremlins in her kitchen. She manages to kill one in the Peltzer orange peeler and juicer then kills a second one with a kitchen knife and gets a third in the microwave. She is attacked by fouth hiding in the Xmas tree but Billy gets home in time to rescue her.  That only leaves Stripe who makes a run for it. After making sure his mother is safe with a doctor neighbour Billy goes back to the house and finds Gizmo stuck in the laundry chute where the gremlins had thrown him. They go off after Stripe who has run off the YMCA. Just as they catch up with him he jumps into the swimming pool. This spells deep shit as Stripe produces hundreds more gremlins so Billy and Gizmo get to hell out of there.

Mr Futterman is at home with his wife trying to watch TV but he can’t get reception because half a dozen gremlins are swinging from his antenna. He goes out to check the antenna and gets chased by the gremlins who are now driving his snow plough. They smash the plough into his house destroying it.

Billy tries to explain the problem to the police but they don’t take him seriously even when he shows them Gizmo who is just too cute and charming to believe the others are a threat. Just then loads of calls come in with reports of chaos all over town. They tell Billy to go home while they drive out to see what’s going on. They don’t notice a gremlin cutting their brake line which quickly takes them out of action.

There is chaos all over town and one group pay a little visit to Mrs Deagle where they try a bit of carol singing. Mrs Deagle hates carol singers but then she hates anything that involves people doing things they enjoy. She has a bucket of cold water ready to throw over them but she gets a bit of a shock when sees five little monsters croaking out a crude impersonation of carol singing.She runs back inside but one of the gremlins screws around with power supply to her stair lift and when she sits down and switches it on it shoots her through a window handfuls her head first in the snow, killing her

At the bar the gremlins are like a really noisy bunch of jocks on a Saturday night and she forced to run about mad to keep the nasty little monsters satisfied with booze to stop them attacking her. We get lots of little scenes of the gremlins doing all sorts of things like a gremlins in an overcoat flashing Kate and a group of gremlins are playing poker with one dressed up as a woman.She is finally rescued by Billy when the gremlins flee from the light from Billy’s headlights. Kate notices the reaction and uses the flash on her camera to get out of the bar.

Kate gets in Billy’s car and meets Gizmo who gives her a bit of a scare. They drive around looking for gremlins but after the chaos from earlier it has gone very quiet. They find out that because have all gone to the movies and are all sitting watching Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and loving it. This there chance to get all in one go so Billy and Kate fill the place with gas and blow it up

Unfortunately Stripe wasn’t in the cinema since he had gone to get candy in the shop across the street. They need to stop him getting to water and sending them back to square one. Billy goes after Stripe while Kate and Gizmo go to shop’s control room to try to turn on the lights. This doesn’t go well and Kate manages to switch on everything except the lights, including a fountain in the garden centre. Stripe is really giving Billy a hard time using sports equipment and tools from the hardware section to try to kill him.

I think this an excellent comedy horror and it has one those them catchy themes tunes by Jerry Goldsmith that stick around as an ear worm for days after watching it. There is something very appealing about taking all the standard tropes of the small town Xmas celebration and ripping it to shreds with hundreds of rude violent little monsters and I think its a nice antidote to typical Xmas specials. The montage of scenes of the gremlins parodying the pop culture of the time may have dated the film but I think the humour still mostly works. and there are some genuinely scary scenes like the one in cinema with the shadows of the gremilns  cast on the screen as they come to attack Billy, Kate and Gizmo en masse.

Rating 8.0/10

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Posted by on December 28, 2013 in Entertainment, Film

 

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Review: Wishmaster

One From The Vaults

Wishmaster DVD 001There wasn’t a lot of supernatural horror in the 90s so this short series of films seemed like they came from a different age where cameras stayed put and editing did not interfere with seeing what is happening. This was a period when CGI still wasn’t good enough so effects were still mainly physical with puppets, wires and stop motion. It isn’t particularly scary but it great to see the creative work done in the effects and there is some humour. It’s a good movie for spotting familiar faces from the horror genre playing supporting roles and is a lot of fun.

The film opens with an introduction to the Djinn (Andrew Divoff) in ancient Arabia, one of a race of powerful magical creatures who are bound to use their powers only to fulfil the desires of others. The Djinn’s has unleashed his powers to trick a King into making a third wish that would free the Djinn, allow him to free the other Djinn and conquer the Earth but the King ‘s magician manages to trap the Djinn inside a gemstone.

The magical gemstone rediscovered in the present after a tragic accident at a dock while unloading a statue of a Zoroastrian deity Ahura Mazda  for a wealthy art collector Raymond Beaumont (Robert Englund) whose assistant (Ted Raimi) gets crushed to death when the statue falls off the crane lifting onto the dock because the crane operator (Joseph Pilato) was drunk. One of the dock workers spots the gem in the rubble and grabs it.

A pawnbroker who bought it from the dock worker takes it to an auction house to get valued. The boss Nick Merritt (Chris Lemmon) gives it to his expert Alexandra Amberson (Tammy Lauren) to be valued. When Alexandra examines the stone she sees a strange flaw in the gem that gives her a vision of a monstrous creature. Alexandra takes the gem to the local university to get examined by her close friend Tony Crane (Josh Aickman) who is a physicist with a big laser.

Tony puts the gem into the laser and starts it. The gem explodes seriously injuring Tony and freeing the Djinn. It is still small and weak and needs to get Tony to make a wish to give him power so he offers to free Tony from his pain. When Tony agrees the Djinn kills him, meeting the literal meaning of the wish but not the intent. There is only malice in the Djinn and he will make sure to twist any wish to cause harm. Alexandra got a vision of Tony dying and saw the Djinn now full size with demonic face and tentacles. There is a link between Alexandra and the Djinn and whenever he grants a wish she gets a vision of it.

The Djinn is hanging out in an alley when an old drunken vagrant (George ‘Buck’ Flower) gets chased away by a pharmacist (Reggie Bannister) from the front of store. The vagrant is mumbling curses to himself and the Djinn interrupts him to ask if he’s serious. He asks the vagrant to really think about what he wants to happen and then make a wish. The cost will be the vagrant’s soul which he doesn’t really believe so he wishes the pharmacist would get cancer and die. The Djinn grants his wish and leaves the vagrant confused.

The Djinn’s next stop is the hospital morgue when he tries to steal the face from a corpse. He gets interrupted by a medical student who is terrified by the sight of the Djinn. The Djinn offers to take away the terrible sight and the student agrees resulting in hi swish being granted by having his eyes taken away. The Djinn finishes cutting off the face and puts it on his own. He morphs into the human form of the dead man and now can move around unnoticed though Alexandra knows what he looks like thanks her psychic link with the Djinn. This link works both ways and the Djinn knows who Alexandra is and is now looking for her but Alexandra doesn’t know why.

Alexandra tries to find out what the gem is and where it came from, paying a visit to Beaumont to find out something about the statue and he gives a contact at the university, an anthropology professor Wendy Derleth (Jenny O’Hara) for information on the gem and the statue it was in and learns about the Djinn and what legends say. That’s where she learns that she awoke the Djinn so she is psychically tied to him because he needs her to make three wishes and release him and the other Djinn to rule over the Earth.

The first thing the Djinn does in his quest for Alexandra is to get himself a new suit and while there he grants the wish of a salesperson for eternal beauty by turning her into a showroom mannequin. Next he visits the police station to try to get Alexandra’s address from the cop who investigated Tony’s death but the cop refuses. When a creepy murderer gets brought in the cop expresses a wish to be able to get the sleazoid on a murder charge with plenty of witnesses. The Djinn grants his wish and in the chaos which ensues he manages to get Alexandra’s workplace from the cop’s desk file.

The Djinn gets to the auctioneers but it’s closed though Merritt is still in his office looking at things he’s bought. There’s a large security guard (Kane Hodder) in the Djinn’s way but he manages to trick the guard into making a wish and goes through him literally. Merritt is a greedy creep but he still doesn’t hand Alexandra’s address to a weird stranger even when Djinn gives him a small fortune in gold and gems. He does get a lead on where she is coaching a girls basketball team and pays her a little visit where he meets Alexandra’s younger sister Shannon (Wendy Benson-Landes). The Djinn borrows Shannon’s mobile phone and finds out Alexandra was trying to talk to Wendy.

The Djinn uses the gem to take all the souls he’s earned so far, killing those who got wishes granted. Alexandra gets a call from Wendy and goes to see her but Wendy is acting strange, offering her things while ridiculing the idea that if the Djinn is real she would have any hope of outwitting him. Wendy reveals that she is the Djinn and the real Wendy is dead. This is the big confrontation and Alexandra decides to use a wish to get to know what the Djinn is. He transports into a nightmare realm seemingly inside the gem where the souls the Djinn captured are bound in torment. Now Alexandra is trapped while the Djinn is free to act outside the gem and to convince her to make her three wishes and free him the Djinn is going after Shannon.

Shannon is at a fancy party thrown by Beaumont that was originally meant celebrate acquiring the Ahura Mazda statue but Beaumont held the party despite the accident. Alexandra wishes herself back out of the gem and rushes to Beaumont’s party. The Djinn has a bit of trouble with a door steward (Tony Todd) that gets sorted by another fatal wish. The Djinn gets chatting with Beaumont just as Alexandra arrives. Beaumont wants his party’s fame to go down in history which is music to the Djinn’s ears. The Djinn launches his magic to bring death to the party guests and soon there is panic with screams and the pain of the dying.

Alexandra loses sight of Shannon in the mad rush out of the building so goes looking for her. The Djinn awakens several aggressive statues to chase after her and tells her that she can wish away all this suffering. Still Alexandra refuses because the Djinn is so much worse than a few dead rich people. The Djinn gets much more personal by trapping Shannon in a painting then setting the house in painting on fire.

Alexandra takes some deep breaths then thinking about what she learned about everything that happened she makes her wish; that the crane driver who dropped the statue hadn’t been drunk that morning. The Djinn thinks he’s won and grants the wish, not realising until it’s too late that it undoes everything that he did and he gets sucked back into the gem and sealed inside the statue.

This is a really fun film and I really liker the imaginative ways the effects team have brought the Djinn’s magic to life without modern CGI. The story isn’t very original but then it is based on the a lot of the myths of those who have dealings with malicious wish granting creatures. The Djinn is a very useful creature for allowing the creative freedom to whatever the film-makers want with in whatever budget they have. The main character is probably the weakest part of the film and though Tammy Lauren does okay with the role the character is just a bit bland and forgettable. Andrew Divoff is just great as the Djinn and his human disguise and the parts with him are certainly the more interesting parts of the film. Unfortunately he only appeared in one of the sequels.

Rating 7.5/10

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Posted by on December 20, 2013 in Entertainment, Film

 

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Review: Red Mist

The DVD Pile

Red Mist DVD 001This film has the alternative title Freakdog which actually is a bit more relevant to the plot than the meaningless UK title. This is another supernatural vengeance thriller that doesn’t really do anything new with the story

A group of medical students like to party hard after work at the hospital. They are a bunch of typical students and include Sean (Martin Compston) who is an arrogant nasty little prick, the stuck up goth girl Harriet (Katie McGrath), Kim (Sarah Carter) the abrasive one, the Asian student Yoshimi (Christina Chong), the undeveloped extra Steve (Michael Jibson), and finally Jake (Alex Wyndham) and Catherine (Arielle Kebbel) who are a couple. Kenny (Andrew Lee Potts) the socially awkward janitor at the hospital womes into the bar and wants to talk to Catherine and the others make fun of him and want him to just go away. Before Kenny leaves he reveals that he knows they are taking drugs stolen from the pharmacy. Their hospital has a zero tolerance policy toward drug abuse and their medical careers would be over before they had even started if he grasses them up.

Their plan is to get him back into the bar and give him booze and drugs so he wouldn’t be able to grass them in. Catherine hadn’t liked them bullying Kenny but she agrees to get him back into the bar. They feed Kenny a dangerous combination of drugs and alcohol until he has an epileptic seizure and ends up in a coma. Catherine wants them to come clean and take him to hospital but Sean convinces the others that they need to cover up their involvement so they dump Kenny on the road outside the hospital.

Kenny is admitted to the coma ward and he has no family so the hospital are monitoring his brain for any signs of life and if they don’t see any sign of recovery his life support will get switched off. By an amazing coincidence the doctor in charge of the students has developed a new drug that may be able to help activate the brain in patients like Kenny but it hasn’t been approved for human trials yet. He told the students about the drug at the start of the film so Catherine forges the signature of Doctor Harris (Stephen Dillane), who is in charge of the coma ward, and gives a dose to Kenny. The immediate reaction is Kenny’s heart rhythm getting erratic before having a heart attack and Catherine has to use one of those electric shock heart machines. After he is stabilised Catherine leaves before she gets caught and misses the brain scan going crazy.

In the hospital garage Catherine goes to her car and one of the other medical students Yoshimi is getting in her own car when she’s attacked and killed by the hospital security guard. Catherine tried to help but got thrown off by the guard and knocked out.

Next night when Catherine hears about Kenny’s brain scan she decides to give him another dose and this time there’s no emergency but she sees the brain scan respond. In another part of the hospital the nasty selfish prick student Sean gets murdered by a nurse that he’d been having sex with just the night before.

Catherine starts to figure that Kenny is killing them off by possessing people and after he’s finished they have no memory of what they have done. The only sign someone is possessed is a nosebleed. Catherine is just going to stop dosing Kenny with the drug but unfortunately Doctor Harris knows what Catherine has done and senses a medical breakthrough. He’s going to continue Kenny’s treatment meaning the rest of the students getting murdered one by one and only Catherine knows what’s going on.

This is another forgettable film that is okay to watch but nothing about it really sticks in the mind. It’s another version of the tale of a victim of bullying taking vengeance on those who hurt him and there really is no depth to the characters.

Rating 5.5/10

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Posted by on December 7, 2013 in Entertainment, Film

 

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Review: Carrie (2013)

Cinema Review

Carrie 2013 DVD 001I wonder how much point there is giving a separate plot outline in the case of the is film since this remake sticks so close to Brian de Palma’s original film. Some remakes take the original story as a starting point for creating a different story and that can be a great success such as John Carpenter’s The Thing or David Cronenberg’s The Fly or total disasters such as Day of the Dead or the Wicker Man. Other remakes stick to the original story but update the setting and these tend to seem a bit pointless. Unfortunately this Carrie remake falls firmly in the “a bit pointless” category.

This version actually starts with Carrie’s birth and we see Margaret White (Julianne Moore) in labour and sure she is dying of cancer. When the pain goes away she finds she’s given birth to a baby girl and she is about to kill the baby with a pair of scissors out of guilt at her sin of fornication. Fortunately she doesn’t but then it would have been a very short film if she had. It is clear that Margaret White is manically religious and even though she should seek medical help her beliefs won’t allow her to.

Forward to Carrie (Chloe Grace Moretz) being just as crap at water volleyball as the original was at volleyball.  We get to shower scene which where Carrie has her first period and thinks she’s dying while the other girls pelt her with tampons and shout “plug it up”. Carrie is hysterical with fear and humiliation by the time the PE teacher Ms Desjardin (Judy Greer) arrives and puts a stop to it. Almost unnoticed in the chaos are clear signs of Carrie’s telekinetic power. Another update for modern times is that one of the girls Chris Hargensen (Portia Doubleday) films it on her mobile phone.

The headmaster and Desjardin talk to Carrie about what happened and assure her that nothing is wrong with her. When they tell Carrie that her mother is coming to collect her Carrie gets upset and lashes out with her nascent power breaking a water cooler. When Margaret arrives it’s clear that her religious mania has not diminished and Carrie has been on the receiving end of her very extreme views all of her life. To Margaret there is her God and herself and the rest of the world is of Satan, especially the school.

Desjardin punishes the whole class with strenuous exercises and let them know what she thinks of their stunt. Most of the class accept their punishment with resignation but Chris is a sociopath and refuses to accept that she did anything wrong. She tries to get her classmates to join in her selfish little rebellion but they refuse especially Sue Snell (Gabriella Wilde) who really regrets what they did to Carrie. That leaves Chris stomping of in a huff on her own vowing vengeance so Desjardin suspends her meaning she can’t go to the Prom.

Sue decides that she wants to do something for Carrie to make up for taking part in humiliating her so she talks her hunky jock boyfriend and really nice guy Tommy Ross (Ansel Elgort) to take Carrie to the Prom. Carrie is sceptical as is Ms Desjardin but Tommy and Sue is determined and eventually Carrie agrees.

Carrie is really looking forward to the Prom but there are two dark clouds on the horizon. Chris is plotting a way to get back at Carrie and convinces her violent older boyfriend Billy Nolan (Alex Russell) to help her out. Then there is the problem of Margaret White who won’t stop going on about sin and evil and trying to undermine Carrie’s confidence

I won’t talk about the last act at the Prom but if you’ve heard of the story you’re probably aware that everything comes together in a horrific combination of good intentions and petty vengeance resulting in the force of a lifetime of anger breaking free tragically.

The story is strong and this film certainly does a fair job bringing it to the screen and I have no problem with any of the performances of the cast. It does update the story so I guess this film is for anyone allergic to seeing it set in the 70s with 70s fashions but it really doesn’t do anything De Palma’s film didn’t do. For me the main problem it just didn’t make feel the emotions at play the way the original one did and that is most obvious when the film gets to the Prom scene.

Rating 7.0/10

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Posted by on December 3, 2013 in Entertainment, Film

 

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