Little Monsters (2019)

One from the to watch pile…

Little Monsters (2019)

Film: I never used to be a fan of horror comedies because I didn’t like the juxtaposition of laughs with horror. Actually, I still don’t really believe that the horror/comedy exists: horror/ comedies are just comedies with monsters and or gore in them.

Having said that, some of my favourite movies are horror comedies. Movies like Shaun of the Dead, Return of the Living Dead and Re-animator hit this amazing balance between the ridiculousness of the situation, humans ability to laugh in the face of danger and blood and gore.

Unfortunately a lot of horror/ comedies fail because they can’t hit that balance; The Spierig Brothers’ Undead was one of those for me. It had a few funny lines, but essentially it fell flat as either horror or comedy.

This film, Little Monsters, is a winner though. Written and directed by Australian actor/ director Abe Forsythe who previously gave us the Ned Kelly comedy Ned (2003) and Down Under (2016), Little Monsters tell of Dave (Alexander England), a washed up worker who is constantly at war with his girlfriend until they finally decide to call it quits.

With nowhere to go, he moves in with his sister, Tess (Kat Stewart) and her son, Felix (Diesel La Torraca) where he proves to be not the best influence on the boy, especially when he discovers that Felix’s teacher is the stunning Miss Caroline (Lupita Nyong’o), and volunteers to chaperone the children in his class on an excursion to Pleasant Valley, which has a petting zoo and mini golf, but also, for a limited time, the 5 times Nickelodeon kids award winning entertainer, Teddy McGiggle (Josh Gad).

What starts as a delightful excursion becomes a nightmare as the American Army base next door has a breakout of zombies who find their way onto the theme park grounds. Very soon, Miss Caroline, Dave, Teddy and Miss Caroline’s class find themselves holed up in the souvenir shop, surrounded by the undead, with seemingly no way out!

Will they all survive?

I admit to have blind bought this Bluray for two reasons, the first is you just have to put the word ‘zombie’ on anything and immediately I’m interested. The other is Lupita Nyong’o. For me she was about the only thing I liked about the Black Panther movie (well, her and Shuri), and she shows some amazing skill playing both Adelaide and Red in the Jordan Peele science fiction/ horror movie Us.

After watching it though, I also have to take my hat off to Josh Gad, who plays Teddy with a gleeful delight at first before revealing his deplorable true colours, and make for a hilarious ‘jerk’ character. That’s not to take away from Alexander England either: Dave is one of the most irredeemable characters prime for redemption ever seen in a comedy.

The type of zombie that appears in the film is the slow, non-tool using type, but part of the script suggests that there are lots of types as one of the American Army guys asks ‘Fast ones or slow ones’ which was a nice truce in the war between running and walking zombies.

The best thing about this film though is how damned funny it is. It starts like a stoner comedy and switches so easily to a horror comedy/ romantic comedy that you barely notice where the change is… and that’s not to cast shade on the imbues either: they look amazing, considering most of the budget must have been spent just on the international cast members!

I really can’t recommend this film enough. It’s been a long time since I laughed out loud at a co edgy, let alone a horror/ comedy!

Score: *****

Format: Little Zombies is presented in an absolutely perfect 2.35:1 image, and a cracking DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1.

Score: *****

Extras: Nothing.

Score: 0

WISIA: There is so much happening in this film, and it’s so bloody funny, it deserves multiple watches!

It Chapter 2 (2019)

One from the to watch pile…

It Chapter 2 (2019)

Film: I’ve never EVER been a fan of Stephen King’s books… now that’s not to say I don’t like his ideas, I’m just not a fan of the way he writes. I prefer Richard Laymon, Shaun Hutson and James Herbert for my horror books. Anyway, I’ve always been a fan of the adaptations of King’s books; I guess the summarising of one of his tomes makes his stories easier to swallow.

I did enjoy the first version of It (you know, the one with Tim Curry as Pennywise) and I admit I only watched it initially as a curio to see John-Boy Walton (Richard Thomas) in something other than The Waltons or Battle Beyond the Stars, and I found it to be a fun story.

I did attempt the book and gave up.

Anyway, I loved the first part of the ‘do-over’ of King’s novel. I thought it was well cast, and entertaining… did that echo into the sequel/ chapter 2?

Let’s get to the story first.

It’s 27 years after the events of the first film, and the Loser’s Club has long since disbanded, with all the members spread out, far away from each other, the memories of what happened that summer with Pennywise, the demonic clown (Bill Skarsgård) long faded… but not to one member.

Mike Hanlon (Isaiah Mustafa) has stayed in the town of Derry, remembering what happened, and when the evil starts creeping back into the town, he contacts all the Losers, Bev (Jessica Chastain), Bill (James McAvoy), Ben (Jay Ryan), Ritchie (Bill Hader), Eddie (James Ransone) and Stan (Andy Bean) and asks them to return and help him fight the threat of Pennywise again.

U fortunately for them, in the 27 years that Pennywise has been dormant, he dreamt of nothing bu them, and fortunately for him, Hanlon has accidentally delivered them to him and his evil shenanigans…

I was so excited for this film. Honestly, I can’t tell you how much, and that excitement grew the more I heard of the cast who we being employed: Chastain, McAvoy, Heder… I couldn’t believe the names that were being suggested. Well, I could: the first film had been such a success I’m sure any actor would have loved to have had their name attached to its sequel.

The cast are mostly fine, though one of the problems of the script is that the old friends quickly return to their young personas, and whilst I understand that the objective was to make the adult the evolutions of the child actors, what really happened was that they just emulated them. I’m not sure if the removal of the maturity of some of the characters was deliberate, but it was annoying, and having adults act like children didn’t sit well at all, especially the bickering between them.

The first film had, even with some of its over the top scenes like the leprous hobo, still somewhat of a subtlety to the nature of the scares that Pennywise provided. All the horror of the first film are thrown out the window and the horror and fear is forced upon you over and over to the point that it becomes boring. Again, if it was a script decision to increase those scares because the adults would be harder to frighten, it wasn’t telegraphed well enough. Much like Freddy Kruger in later Nightmare on Elm Street films, Pennywise and his ghouls and ghosts feels overexposed somewhat in this film.

If I’m going to be really picky, there is a cameo by Steven King which lasts far too long and the movie really slows down to play it out.

Overall, the highs of the first film were not present in this sequel, and this movie was mediocre at best, which is so surprising considering it was basically made by the exact same people. The irony here is that one of the characters, who is a writer, is constantly concerned that his stories don’t end well.

I have no doubt with the success of it the studio is already thinking of The Conjuring-styled prequels showing Pennywise haunting earlier times in a cash-grab: no doubt we shall eventually be subjected to Pennywise: Origin, but I hope not.

Score: **

Format: This film was reviewed on the Australia release Bluray which is presented in an impeccable 2.39:1 image and a matching Dolby Atmos True-HD.

Score: *****

Extras: There’s a whole disc of extras!

The Summers of IT Chapter One: You’ll Float Too looks at the casting of the kids and Pennywise, and the making of the first film.

The Summers of IT Chapter Two: IT Ends reflects the casting of the adults and the continuation of the portrayal of Pennywise.

Pennywise Lives Again looks deeper at Bill Skarsgård’s portrayal of Pennywise and discusses his thought son the success of the character.

This Meeting of the Losers’ Club Has Officially Begun looks at the meeting of the child actors and their adult counterparts.

Finding the Deadlights sees Stephen King talk about the nature of fear and then monster under the bed’.

Some of the interview footage is repeated from one extra to another which is somewhat disappointing. I’m constantly surprised that these extras are made into these stupid ten minute bites instead of a decent 40 minute documentary.

Score: ****

WISIA: Pennywise and I are done, I’m afraid. Divorce proceedings to follow quickly.

R.I.P. Julie Strain

The To Watch Pile is extraordinarily saddened to hear of the passing of nerd and geek icon/ sex symbol Julie Strain.

Julie Strain was Penthouse Pet of the Year in 1993, and then quickly became a star in many of Any Sidaris’ action films, did many ‘sexy’ adult films and even had a full animated film ‘Heavy Metal 2000’ based around the character created in her image by Kevin Eastman and Simon Bisley! She could also be seen in some bigger films, like Double Impact with Jean-Claude Van Damme and Kuffs with Christian Slater. For me, I love her performance as the creature in H. P. Lovecraft’s Unnameable 2, and I even had a model kit as a young member of it, and still to this day have several action figures of her both as Vampirella and FAKK 2.

She was also well known for her glamour images and was also a photographer. She could be seen and conventions dressed as all sorts of characters, including TWP fav, Vampirella.

Sadly, Strain passed away after a three year fight with dementia on the 13th January 2020.

St. Agatha (2018)

One from the to watch pile…

St. Agatha (2018)

Film: Darren Lynn Bousman first fame to horror fans attention when he directed the first three sequels to the Leigh Whannel/ James Wan film ‘Saw’. He also surprised people with the unusual Repo: A Genetic Opera and a remake of Mother’s Day and The Barrens.

This is Bousman’s 2018 effort and is a bizarre mix of horror and crime who’s unusually confused state may be due to the fact that it has four writers… but is it good?

St. Agatha takes place in the 50s and tells of Mary (Sabrina Kern), a young con-woman who has been kicked out of home as she is responsible for the death of her brother as she was ‘with’ her conman boyfriend, Jimmy (Justin Miles), an episode of fornication which has resulted in her falling pregnant.

When a con goes wrong, they end up with no money, and to stop herself from being a drag on Jimmy’s capacity to earn money with his cons, Mary decides to move into a convent run by an oppressive Mother Superior (Cathryn Hennessy) who runs her convent with an iron fist and will take no objection to her cruel methods of control.

What Mary quickly realises though, is that the whole convent itself may be a con, and that there seems to be more going on with the wayward pregnant women that come for protection from the cruel world…

This film feels more like it should be some kind of made for TV period drama, but in Bousman’s hands, it becomes crueler, bloodier and more violent. There was certainly some strange visual decisions made. For example, there one scene where is a woman is forced to eat her own vomit, but there was a deliberate avoidance of actually visualising the act, and yet we get to see another scene where a nun chews food and spits it into another character’s mouth. I don’t understand why one of those things was seen to be over the top, and yet the other wasn’t.

The cast were pretty good, with Kern and Hennessy really holding the film together. The support cast of the other women staying in the convent were mainly pretty good, even though there was two choices where I initially couldn’t tell the difference between the two cast members.

Basically what I was hoping for with this film was something like Lucky McKee’s The Woods, but what I got was a washed out attempt at doing something like Pascal Laugier’s boring The Tall Man, but at least that had Jessica Biel and Stephen McHattie to make it appealing.

I could see what this film wanted to do, and hiring Bousman, whose Saw sequels are well-realised, was probably a great idea, but it just didn’t work. At all.

Score: *1/2

Format: This film was reviewed on the Australian release DVD from Eagle Entertainment and runs for about 98 minutes. The film is presented in a clean and clear 2.40:1 image with a decent Dolby Digital 5.1 audio.

Score: ***1/2

Extras: Nothing.

Score: 0

WISIA: Probably not.

Stephen King’s Children of the Corn (1984)

One from the re-watch pile…

Stephen King’s Children of the Corn (1984)

Film: If you’ve been reading this blog for the last few years, or read my reviews over the past 10 years, or even listened to my podcast, you may notice two things that I say over and over again.

1. My favourite movies mostly come from the 1980s

2. I am not a fan of Steven King’s writing.

The weird thing about these to things is that they do intersect: I really like all of the Stephen King novel based movies. It’s true. I’m a fan of the man’s ideas, but not of his execution. Do I feel bad about it? No. Would I watch any film based on a Stephen King novel at any time of the night or day? Yes.

I know that this wasn’t the first King translation I ever saw because I KNOW that I was taken to the cinemas to see The Shining by my parents at the ripe old age of 10 which launched both my fear of fathers and my love of breasts. This film, 1984’s Stephen King’s Children of the Corn (yes, that’s the official title) must have been very close to being the next one. I was watching a lot of horror in the early eighties so realistically it could have been this, or Cujo, or Carrie, but I can’t be sure.

What I can be sure of was that I definitely saw it when it first came out on VHS in Australia, and it probably made me a fan of the ‘abandoned town’ as a setting for horror films!

Anyway, the story of Stephen King’s Children of the Corn (SKCotC) begins with a mass murder in a small diner of all of the adults by the children of the town. One boy witnesses it and chooses to make an attempt to escape the town which is now being controlled by teenage religious zealots, led by Issac (John Franklin) and his thuggish sidekick Malachai (Courtney Gains).

Tragically he doesn’t escape, but he does make it to a highway where young lovers, Burt (Peter Horton) and Vicky (Linda Hamilton) come across his body, and this leads them to the town where they are terrorised by the children, and threatened to be sacrificed to something called ‘He Who Walks Behind The Rows’.

Will Burt and Vicky escape, or will they be sacrificed to… well, whatever ‘IT’ is…

This is as eighties as a film can get, but it has some amazing ideas and some truly threatening scenes. I remember when I first saw it I was reminded on the classic Star Trek series episode ‘Miri’ but that was probably just a teenage me associated two cool things together.

King’s story here was adapted by George Goldsmith (Blue Monkey) and its a solid thriller made real by the direction from Fritz Kiersch which visually tells of the desolation of remoteness of farmland and their communities, and just how easily one could drop off the map if not tended to appropriately. It’s also a fascinating look at the manipulation of religion by its leaders.

Score: ***1/2

Format: This film was reviewed with the 88 Films Slasher Collection Bluray, which was presented in 1.78:1 and with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 audio track, both of which were surprisingly good considering the age of the film.

Score: ****

Extras: There’s a couple of extras on this disc:

The original trailer for the title film, plus trailers for Don’t Go In The Woods, Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers, Live Like A Cop Die Like A Man, Mother’s Day, Slaughterhouse, Trancers and Splatter University.

The Life, Legacy and Legend of Donald P. Borchers is a fairly thorough, 90-odd minute documentary about the movie producer, Donald P. Borchers, who produced this film as well as Vamp, Tuff Turf and Angel. It’s really an interesting insight into the Hollywood machine as well as Borcher’s actual career.

Score: ***

WISIA: Its a Stephen King classic and demands to be watched more than once.