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Review: The Serpent and the Rainbow

When people think of zombies the modern zombies from various horror films get brought up and people discuss whether the dead can run or just shamble or even if crazy sick people can be classified as zombies. This Wes Craven film takes his story of zombies back to the source and mixes myth and fiction with smatterings of truth to create an exciting thriller where you believe the protagonist is in real peril in a country on the brink of revolution.

Dr. Dennis Allan (Bill Pullman) is a medical researcher who is skilled at tracking down useful drugs from the medicine men of remote tribes. A couple of associates at a pharmaceutical company Schoonbacher (Michael Gough) and Andrew Cassedy (Paul Guilfoyle) show him evidence of a man in Haiti who was recorded as dead and buried but is currently walking around. They realise that there is a drug behind these stories with valuable potential uses and they want Dennis to track it down for them.

In Haiti Dennis meets up with psychiatrist Dr. Marielle Duchamp (Cathy Tyson). The vicious Tonton Macoutes secret police and Haitian army patrol the streets and they watch Dennis going into her hospital. Marielle shows Dennis a patient who has been made in to zombie but she has lost her mind and stares at them with a horrifying expression on her face. Marielle has lost track of Christophe, the man Dennis has come to see but she assures him that Christophe can talk and remembers his life.

Marielle takes him to see a friend of hers, a  Voodoo priest Lucien Celine (Paul Winfield) who runs a night club with voodoo rituals for entertainment. Lucien is friendly but not happy about giving them any information. Lucien asks Marielle if she will be taking part in the rituals and she says no but she gets a drug blown in her face on her way out and is soon dancing erotically, possessed by the voodoo goddess Erzulie. Then a dangerous looking man comes into the club, Dargent Peytraud (Zakes Mokae), head of the Tonton Macoutes and practitioner in dark evil Voodoo. He is responsible for many disappearances and enemies of the state being turned into zombies and people are gripped in fear that they may lose not just just their lives but their souls to this man. Peytraud starts tapping on his glass and one of the dancers gets possessed by something crazy and murderous and attacks them. No-one gets harmed and Peytraud is seen slinking off.

Next day Marielle takes Dennis out to Christophe’s village where his sister tells them he has been seen hanging out in a cemetery. They find Christophe who is frightened and traumatized by his experience. He believes Peytraud has captured his soul and he sends it into people’s nightmares. They manage to calm him down and ask him how he was poisoned and he tells them that someone blew powder in his face. He was fully aware of everything while he was getting buried.

Dennis and Marielle go back to Lucien and tell what Christophe said. Thery need someone who can make the zombie powder and Lucien gives them a name. They find Louis Mozart (Brent Jennings) running a cock-fight at his bar and he is cagey and suspicious but Dennis doesn’t back down. He wants the powder that makes zombies and he wants a demonstration that it works. Mozart feeds some of the powder to a young goat which collapses apparently lifeless within minutes. Dennis examines the goat and secretly marks it. He tells Mozart he’ll be back the next day to see the goat resurrected.

Marielle takes Dennis to a pilgrimage involving a procession of a statue of the Virgin Mary to a large cavern with a sacred lake. She explains that Voodoo incorporates other religions and Mary is worshipped as a form of the Voodoo goddess Erzulie. Dennis and Marielle have grown closer and they make love in a small cave above the celebration

On the way back to his hotel Dennis gets picked up by Peytraud who wants to know he’s doing in Haiti. Dennis claims he’s on holiday but Peytraud doesn’t believe him and warns him leave. The police station he was taken to echoes to the sound of people screaming in pain and its clear Dennis is in a lot of danger.

The following day they go back to see Mozart and he shows them a healthy active young goat but Dennis checks and sees no sign of the cut he made and he knows it’s not the same goat. He takes the full jar of powder, tips into his drink and downs it in one and leaves telling Mozart he knows he’s a fraud. This is a performance and just as he guessed Mozart follows him out and promises to make the real powder for him but he demands Dennis help him make it which suits him just fine. He takes them to a cemetery to dig up a body that he will need and tells them to come back the next night

Dennis and Marielle go back to Marielle’s house and Dennis gets grabbed by the Tonton Macoutes and taken to be interrogated by Peytraud. Dennis tells him everything but Peytraud really just wants to hurt him and this involves Dennis’s scrotum, a very large nail and a big hammer. Afterwards they dump him outside Marielle’s house. She nurses him back to health but fortunately no major damage was done by Peytraud.

Still in pain Dennis goes to Mozart with Marielle and the three of them slowly over a few days prepare the powder from many ingredients in a process involving a combination of chemistry, cookery and magical ritual. Once they have finished Mozart puts the jar of yellow powder in grave to stay for a day.

Dennis and Marielle return to her beach house to rest. When Dennis wakes up the body of Christophe’s sister is in the bed next to him instead of Marielle, her head severed. Several Tonton Macoutes burst in and photograph him next to the body. They grab him and Marielle take them to Peytraud who tells him he’s getting sent out of Haiti. If Dennis comes come back he’ll be tried for murder and executed. They him put on a plane in cuffs, freeing him only at the last minute. Fortunately Mozart gets on the plane and gives him the powder before getting off on a baggage truck.

Back in the US they examine the powder and they are excited by the potential. Dennis can’t get in touch with Marielle and he can still sense Peytraud’s evil influence even there. Dennis flies back to Haiti where Lucien grabs him and takes him into hiding. Peytraud uses magic to kill Lucien and one of his men blows zombie powder in Dennis’s face. He passes out in the street and is taken to hospital where he is pronounced dead but is really paralysed and helpless. He has to lie there while Peytraud gloats over him. They put him in a coffin with tarantula, just for the extra touch of evil, and then bury him.

Hours later he starts to recover in dark coffin and he screams out for help. Then he hears someone digging up the soil. It is Christophe and very soon Dennis is free. As he staggers through the streets to Peytraud’s dungeon, revolution actually breaks out. The ruling family have fled the country and the people have taken to the streets to the cry of Liberte.

Whether due to effects of the zombie powder or because of Peytraud’s magic the dungeon seems to be full of evil traps hampering Dennis’s progress down through the prison. Peytraud has the upper hand at first but Dennis’s spirit guide possesses him giving him the power to fight Peytraud and send him crashing into his soul jars, releasing some very vengeful spirits who attack and burn him.

They leave the dungeon and go through Peytraud’s torture room where Dennis has a vision of Peytraud attacking him but Peytraud gets thrown into his own chair and his bollocks pierced by a nail before he and his chair get dragged down to hell. Marielle drags Dennis out of his fantasy and the film ends to the sound of happy people revolting in the streets.

I know when I first saw this film I was expecting a full out horror but this is more of a political thriller mixed with elements of witchcraft horror. It certainly isn’t a zombie film but it could be said to have the most real life portrayal of zombies. I liked the political angle of the film too where the zombie powder is used to turn rebels into shambling warnings of the state’s power. The film has a great cast especially Zakes Mokae who gave Peytraud a real nasty edge. I thought the film did better with the political thriller side and felt the magic showdown weakened the ending a little bit even if it was left ambiguous enough to be open to rational interpretation. Overall a very good film and one reminds that zombies have a history much older than Night of the Living Dead.

Rating 8.5/10

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Posted by on August 6, 2012 in Entertainment, Film

 

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Review: My Soul to Take

I have read people claiming this is a terrible film and one of the worst films ever made so when I watched this it was with low expectations. While this not a brilliant film I thought it was entertaining with an interesting concept and characters that were likable and fairly engaging. Director Wes Craven is perhaps suffering from a reaction to his films based on higher expectations than those by which most other B-movie horror is judged.

The small town of Riverton is being terrorised by a serial killer call the ‘Riverton Ripper’. A TV news programme has an expert talking about what they know and he says the killer has multiple personality disorder and probably doesn’t know who he is as he lives his normal everyday life. Abel Plenkov is watching the TV as he works on building a rocking horse for the child his wife is pregnant with. Security camera footage shown on-screen reveals the weapon used by the Ripper. To his shock Abel finds the same knife in his hand and his hand is showing some skill at opening and closing the knife. A voice in his head then demands his cooperation or his family will be killed. It turns out that Abel is possessed by multiple personalities and one of them is the Ripper. Abel refuses to cooperate and discovers his wife has been killed by the Ripper. The Ripper then goes after his young daughter but the police arrive and shoot him. They have to take him down several times and as he struggles on the way to the hospital the ambulance he is in crashes and burns. Meanwhile the police discover that the baby is still alive inside his dead mother. Someone makes mention of the miracle of seven children all being born on that night in that small town.

Sixteen years later those seven children and all their friends from school are gathered for an annual ritual at the burned out wreckage of the ambulance. One of the seven must face someone in a scary costume that is supposed to represent Abel Plenkov who local legends says is still alive and will one year come back for the seven . This year it’s the turn of Adam, normally called Bug (Max Thieriot) to drive Abel Plenkov back and keep them safe. Even though it’s clearly just a costume Bug freaks out but before he wets his pants a police siren interrupts them and everybody starts running away, including the guy in the costume.

Jay (Jeremy Chu) an Asian student and one of the seven is making his way home alone and as he crosses a bridge a figure wearing the Ripper costume chases him and kills him on the bridge then tosses his body into the river below. It really isn’t a very scary scene and it is all over so quickly so there was no real build-up of tension. This first death scene is unfortunately the standard of the subsequent death scenes as the Ripper goes after each of the seven.

It turns out that Abel Plenkov suffered from multiple personality disorder but someone’s granny apparently used to say that it’s not multiple personalities but multiple souls and since that is just crazy that means since it’s a horror film it’s true. So when Abel died all his souls were reincarnated in the seven children born that night and one of them is the reincarnation of the Ripper.

Just want add a bit about some the other characters I haven’t mentioned. Penelope (Zena Grey) the fundamental Christian was a pretty strong character good at using just enough crazy to undermine the school bully Brandon (Nick Lashaway) with what she knows about him. Brandon is the muscle for Fang (Emily Meade) the heartless manipulative Queen Bee of the school and Bug’s big sister. Alex is Bug’s best friend and main target for punishment beatings from Brandon under orders from Fang. Bug fancies pretty blonde Brittany (Paulina Olszynski) but she’s under strict orders from Fang to keep away from him. Oh yeah and incidentally there’s another character Jerome (Denzel Whitaker) a blind black kid who gets about 20 minutes screen time. He’s one of the seven so you can take a guess at his odds of seeing it to end of the film.

A reincarnated killer is hardly the most original of concepts but I thought this film carried it off quite well for most of the film but it seemed there a bit too much rushing about in the climax and I don’t think it was very clear about what had happened. I liked the cast especially Max Theriot who is pretty good as Bug. The killings were a bit bland and for some reason CGI blood was used. The story mainly relies on the whodunit aspect of trying to figure out who the Ripper is rather than lingering on the students’ deaths and features a few false leads and twists before the not very surprising reveal at the end

Overall it is an engaging enough film and if you can forget about the legend of director Wes Craven you may also find this film is not as bad as reviewers have said.

Rating 6.5/10

 
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Posted by on January 29, 2012 in Entertainment, Film

 

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Review: Nightmare on Elm Street 3 – Dream Warriors

A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors

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When they made the sequel to the original Nightmare on Elm Street their first attempt took the story a different direction with Freddy’s Revenge, a film that had a much more sexual overtone. It is certainly one of the of the lowest rated of the films though there really isn’t much in it. When they went for another sequel they ignored their first attempt and went to a film that stuck much closer to that of the original’s character with Nightmare on Elm Street 3 – Dream Warriors.  Robert Englund is not only back in role of Freddy Kreuger this time with wicked sense of humour, Heather Langenkamp is back as Nancy Thompson and John Saxon returns as her father.

All the surviving kids on Elm street have ended up in a psychiatric hospital, the others have all died in a series of “suicides” The sheer lack of interst by anyone outside of the hospital is astonishing and the poor standard of interest by the psychiatrists is criminally incompetent.

Kristen Parker (Patricia Arquette) gets admitted to the hospital after she dreams of Freddy Kreuger and he cuts her wrists. Kirsten does not quietly and puts up a bit of a struggle especially when Dr Gordon (Craig Wasson) tries to give her a sedative. She calms down when new intern Nancy Thompson completes the Freddy rhyme chanted by the ghostly children in her dreams. Nancy learns that Kirsten has the ability to bring people into her dreams when Kirsten pulls her into her nightmare to help rescue her from Freddy that night.

At a group therapy session we quickly see they way things work here, were the patients suffering from fear of their own dreams and are all afraid of going to sleep and the psychiatrist in charge Dr Sim tells them their fears are just some sort of fear of sex sub-Freudian gobbledygook and are just rubbish and unimportant. Remember that bit where I mentioned the spate of suicides? She about as useful as an ignorant relative. Compared to her Gordon is Dr Nice and Nancy is the only rational voice in the room but we only know that because we know Freddy is real and dangerous so while Dr Gordon’s scepticism is rational Dr Sim is just a brick wall of stupid

The first kid to die is Philip (Bradley Gregg), whose hobby is making marionettes, and his death is very effectively done with Freddy slicing out the boy’s veins in his arms and legs and using them take the boy to a high tower and then cuts his strings/veins and lets him fall to his death. All this is watched by all the other kids who are screaming at him to try to wake him up. Of course the doctors don’t listen to them and simply claims it just accident while sleepwalking, which since that’s why he was admitted to the hospital in the first place amounts an admission of negligence.

All the patients are to be locked in their room at night because f’ck healthy and safety or fire regulations and shit like that. Max (Laurence Fishburne) the nice nurse lets himself be talked into letting Jennifer (Penelope Sudrow) stay up and watch TV because she wants to be an actress and needs to watch TV for research. Part of this research must involve watching late night talk shows for some reason. She nods off and sees Zsa Zsa Gabor getting slashed by Freddy. The TV breaks down and Jennifer gets up to hit it and Freddy grabs her and smashes her head into the TV set killing her. It is a pretty lame death scene and is over very quickly

At the funeral for Jennifer  Dr Gordon sees a strange nun he doesn’t know hanging around and he’d seen her earlier after Philips’s death but his time he talks to her and she warns him that the undead spirit must be laid to rest. Nancy sees him talking but doesn’t see the nun who disappeared when Gordon turned to talk to Nancy. Nancy then tells Gordon about her past with the same nightmare character as the kids

Dr Gordon and Nancy hold a group session with the kids and most significantly without Dr Sims. Nancy tells them that she knows about their dreams and especially Freddy and tells them that their dreams are as dangerous as they believe they are. She wants to use Kirsten’s ability to pull them into the same dream so that together they have chance of defeating Freddy. Dr Gordon then hypnotises them. At first they think it hasn’t worked and Joey (Rodney Eastman) wanders after getting the come-on from an attractive nurse. Then they discover they are in the dream world and Nancy asks them about what special skills they have in their dreams that can be real here. Nerdy wheelchair-bound Will (Ira Heiden) can walk and thinks he’s dweeby wizard, Kirsten thinks she’s an acrobat,  touchy hard-nut Kincaid ( Ken Sagoes) thinks he’s super strong and recovering junkie Taryn (Jennifer Rubin) thinks she’s a badass punk rocker with knives. They all have fun playing let’s pretend.

Meanwhile Joey, who is mute, is with the nurse who is of course Freddy. She kisses him and bites out his tongue and turns into Freddy and ties him spread eagle to the bed with tongues. The bed then falls away and Joey finds himself above a fiery pit. Back with the others the room changes and fire starts engulfing the room. They all panic and they are all found screaming hysterically and Joey is left in a coma still trapped in the dream with Freddy.

Dr Sim may be an idiot but from her perspective her next actions are understandable, she sacks Dr Gordon and Nancy. This gets Kristen so upset she ends up locked in a padded cell and given a sedative. Dr Gordon meets the nun again and she tells him more about Freddy. She tells Gordon that Freddy’s mother was just a young girl when she was trapped in a ward of dangerous patients where she was raped over and over. This leads to great description of Freddy as “the bastard son of a hundred maniacs,” The nun also tells Gordon that his spirit is not at rest because his remains are not interred on holy ground.

Nancy realises that the kids are all in a lot of danger that night, especially Kristen. Dr Gordon agrees to go to look for Nancy’s father, the only person still alive who knows where Freddy’s remains are hidden. Thompson is no longer a police officer but is a drunk working as a security guard. He shows no interest in helping Gordon but Gordon is persistent an eventually persuades Thompson to show him where the bones are. On the way he gets some holy water and steals a cross from a church.

At the hospital there is no way Max is letting Nancy see Kristen but he lets her see the others. She gathers them in the room where they had the first session and hypnotises them. It works and they all join Kristen dreaming in her cell. Just as they congratulating themselves Freddy strikes, tearing up the padding in the cel causing a confusing thick snow feathers and giving him the chance to split them up.

Taryn the junkie girl goes to an alley next to a bar and finds Freddy there but now his knives are hypodermic syringes and Freddy has a drug fix for her. Holes open up in her arm to accept Freddy’s needles.

Will finds himself facing an evil wheelchair. He turn into Dweebo the mighty wizard and blasts the evil wheelchair. Then Freddy appears and gets blasted by Will’s magic for about a second before he’s had enough and he slaughters the boy.

Nancy and Kristen have found each other and they also find Kincaid when he bursts through a wall. They come to a floating metal door that leads them into Freddy’s boiler room. There they find Joey and Nancy saves him before he falls. Freddy attacks them but he has to leave to take care of his bones

Dr Gordon and Thompson have recovered Freddy’s bones and have dug a hole to bury them. That’s when Freddy’s spirit possess the bones and attacks the two men fatally injuring Thompson and knocking Gordon out in the grave.

Back in the dream  the ghost of Thompson visits them to apologise for being a dick ans Nancy and Thompson hug it turns out to be Freddy in disguise who stabs Nancy.  When Freddy goes to kill Kirsten Nancy stabs him. Meanwhile Gordon has come round and manages to bless Freddy’s bones with holy water causing Freddy to burst apart.

This sequel was a moderate success and so it led to the series being continued with increasingly silly stories until the project finally went back to Wes Craven with New Nightmare, a film that returned to being scary and had much less of the cheesy puns and one-liners. I know it sounds like I was a bit harsh on the Dr SIm character but it really is very noticeable that she really it just a cardboard cut-out sceptical and obstructive authority figure and was holding an enormous idiot ball throughout the film. Despite that the film is a fun watch and has one really great death scene and some fantastic lines.

Rating 7/10

 
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Posted by on November 5, 2011 in Entertainment, Film

 

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