I know that Uwe Boll has this terrible reputation both behind the camera as a director and in real life and to be fair he has made some ten-ton duds while adapting various video games, but he has also made some films that I have to say are really damn good genre exercises with impassioned sociopolitical undercurrents that he very clearly cares about. He did one about the Sudanese genocide in Darfur which was excellent but so fucking raw and intense in its depictions of those atrocities it gave me a panic attack and I couldn’t finish it, but I’ll review that one day. His more recent film Assault On Wall Street, however, couldn’t be a more timely, relevant or infuriatingly emblazoned piece when you consider how the tides of economic inequality have reached the breaching point on the shores of civility and infrastructural disproportion. Dominic Purcell plays a working class guy in NYC (very recognizably shot in VanCity tho) who has a titanic run of bad luck: his wife (Erin Karpluk) is diagnosed with a terminal illness, he’s laid off from his armoured truck job and the looming financial collapse causes him to lose everything (and I mean *everything*) in the space of a few weeks. He fights desperately, using first the system as best he can and when every avenue of established order fails him, he goes rogue and quite literally takes up arms and holds a bunch of wealthy Wall Street pricks hostage in their building with a gun after killing the corrupt hedge fund advisor (Barclay Hope) who betrayed him. It’s a very startling turn of events and it comes across in several ways simultaneously: a tragic, genuinely heartbreaking downward spiral that feels immediate, a lurid, stylistically heightened tale of pulpy vigilantism and a straightforward siege thriller. Boll doesn’t always juggle all these elements together in a way that feels cohesive or believable, but just enough to have them coexist in the same narrative and work for me as a viewer. Purcell is terrific, he often gets thrown these stoic tough guys after his star making turn on Prison Break but they trust him with an albeit equally tough but strikingly vulnerable and sad individual here who you can relate to and root for later on, if you can reconcile his extreme actions (I definitely could) in the face of utter negligence from his fellow human beings in greater positions of power. The cast is exceptional and includes the late John Heard as an abrasive, morally deficient Wall Street kingpin, Keith David, Edward Furlong and Michael Paré as Purcell’s compassionate coworkers and Eric Roberts himself as a slimy lawyer he hires who doesn’t help anyone much at all. This isn’t a perfect film and at times feels over the top and ‘arch’, but I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t a believable, cathartic and rousing experience; all of us middle class peeps at one time have most likely felt as betrayed, slighted or mistreated by the system as Purcell’s character does here, and his violent call to arms might not necessarily be something to aspire to or even condone, but it’s as scathing an indictment and act of defiance against the strong arm of corrupt, anarchic capitalism as can be expected. Very effective film.
Everyone has their career peak, and unfortunately for Edward Furlong it was right out of the gate with James Cameron’s Terminator 2. After that it was a long slow slump of B movies leading up until the present, one of which is the dingy cave set horror flick Intermedio, which is mostly trash save for a few artistic flourishes in ghost design, and a spooky villain performance from genre icon Steve Railsback. Furlong leads a hopeless troupe of American tourists who attempt to smuggle drugs back to the states through a complex underground catacomb, and fall prey to many tortured souls who have become vengeful phantasms down there. It’s dark, noisy, dimly lit and cluttered, with Railsback providing class and creep factor, but beyond that it’s not much. The obligatory scream queens are played by Cerina Vincent and Amber Benson, who have enough presence to get by alright. I did enjoy some of the ghostly special effects though, trippy apparitions that almost look like cave paintings come to life. This is nothing more than an extended X Files style gig, with a few notes that land, but mostly gets swept away in the dust. That title is neat though hey, representing an ancient word for the space between the world of the living and that of the dead. If only the film could have been that effectively mystic.
Pet Cemetery II never gets much love or accolades, and while the first isn’t a bad effort, the sequel kind of blows it out of the water by being just bonkers crazy in general. Edward ‘John Connor’ Furlong plays an unfortunate youngster who stumbles into the same macabre Indian burial ground, causing all manner of havoc in his small town. The real asset the film has is actor Clancy Brown, a huge talent who has an utter ball as Sheriff Gus Gilbert, a nasty prick who gets much worse when some ghostly entity takes up residence inside him and stirs shit up. Imagine the farmer with the alien in him from the first Men In Black only more scarily rambunctious and you’ll have some idea. Brown’s performance is a deranged opus of physical comedy and hyped up lunacy. “ Why did you dig up my mom’s body?” asks his bewildered stepson (Jason McGuire) “Because I wanted to fuck her!!” growls Clancy in retort. Such is the demented level of dark comedy that gets served up alongside the gore, which in itself is plentiful as well. It’s a sequel and as such isn’t based on a Stephen King book like the first, but it still manages to finds a writing groove and gruesome set pieces, including a spectacularly ooey gooey third act. Cool stuff.
Out of the multiple attempts at The Crow sequels, Wicked Prayer is the most legendarily awful. You’d think that after two rainy, urban set, near identical efforts that a switch up to the New Mexico desert for an Aztec, satanic theme might just be grand, but nope, they dicked it up royally. Even with a cast as cool as they were able to lasso into this mess they couldn’t make it work. The Eric Draven avatar here is a trailer trash troublemaker named Jimmy Corvo, played by Edward ‘John Connor’ Furlong, who hasn’t exactly brushed up his acting skills since his iconic turn in T2. Corvo is in love with Lilly (Emmanuelle Chriqui), the daughter of a local chief (Danny Trejo lol) who despises him. Also running around is Luc Crash (David ‘Angel’ Boreanaz), an occultist whacko who wishes to use his body as a vessel for Satan and… rule New Mexico I guess? Joined by his psychotic little hoe girlfriend (Tara Reid) and four thug henchman aptly named after the horsemen of the apocalypse, he needs a couple human sacrifices, and who better than young lovers Jimmy and Lilly? Furlong is resurrected via that good ol’ blackbird, of course, and sports the worst makeup job since.. I don’t know since what to be honest, it’s an equally horrendous and hilarious look. He goes looking for vengeance against Crash and his ilk, and all sorts of silly supernatural nonsense ensues, yada yada. You’d think that such a concept would have been great, but everything is handled so poorly, the budget seems lower than the filmmaker’s standards of quality, and Dimension should be ashamed to have to slap their classy label on this roadkill of a four-quel. As if all that wasn’t enough wasted talent, Dennis Hopper shows up arbitrarily as a jive talking, white 70 year old pimp who has absolutely nothing to do with the story, and whose dialogue as well as delivery will have your eardrums bleeding out in minutes. Please, please avoid this at all cost.
Animal Factory is a prison set film directed by actor Steve Buscemi and based on a novel and subsequent screenplay by Edward Bunker, a real life ex convict, who played Mr. Brown in Reservoir Dogs. If that sounds like an irresistible team up to make this type of thing work, you’re thinking right. And I haven’t even mentioned the epic cast yet. It’s a scrappy little film that almost takes stage play form, as we watch a plethora of raggedy and very diverse inmates navigate the difficult, tragic and often touching life of incarceration. Edward Furlong (before he ballooned out) plays a young man barely out of his teens, locked away for marijuana possession, essentially a victim of the extremely harsh system they got down there in ‘Murica. He’s a sitting duck on the inside, but receives kindness and mentorship from veteran con Earl Copen (Willem Dafoe, excellent). It’s all done in an almost Robert Altman style way; characters jump in and out, events trundle by in centrifugal motion with little regard for one solid narrative, instead choosing to arbitrarily shift focus from prisoner to prisoner, whilst periodically checking back in on Furlong, who is the closest thing to a main protagonist. The cast is wonderful: Danny Trejo shows up (another guy who has done time in real life), Tom Arnold plays a pervert sicko who preys on Furlong, and Mickey Rourke is an absolute standout as Jan The Actress, a transvestite cell mate with a peppy life lesson or two for young Furlong. Watch for Bunker himself, Seymour Cassel, Mark Boone Jr., Chris Bauer, Buscemi as a parole board member and John Heard as Furlong’s father. Bunker no doubt based much of the story on his actual prison experience, and the dedicated authenticity shines through in every aspect of the film. Buscemi is no doubt an actor’s director (being one himself), and he lets every player have their moment to shine, while always contributing to the story as a whole as well. Prison films don’t get much better than this. Not to be missed.
Dark Reel is severely damaged goods no matter how you look at it. It sucks because there’s some good ideas trying their best to flourish beneath a mountain of sludge, but nothing of any value can breech the surface of this purely shitty B movie with scant traces of a decent outing. It starts off with a black and white prologue that looks like the only part of the film that wasn’t shot with an etch-a-sketch. Scarlett, a young aspiring actress, is lured into a dark abandoned set warehouse under the pretence of an audition, and brutally murdered. Fast forward about six decades, where a young groupie (Edward Furlong, looking like a sack of shit warmed over) wins a walk on role in a sickeningly trashy B movie monstrosity, starring a legendary scream queen (Tiffany Shepis, also a legendary scream queen in real life). It’s not long before so,done with ties to the murder in the prologue starts skulking around the set after hours and hacking people to pieces in ways that are as tasteless as they are cheap looking. The film has one redeeming quality, if you are a fan: Lance Henriksen. He plays Connor Pritchett, schlock movie producer and general whacko. Lance seriously plays the part like he has no idea what the script is, making up verbal diarrhea on the fly, undergoing titanic mood swings and displaying the coherency of someone with serious issues. It’s fun to watch him crash and burn, and even in the most awful poop material like this, he still shines, as batshit crazy as he is. There’s also a cop played by Tony Todd who acts just as unstable as Lance, and Todd rides the wave of his awfully written dialogue and poor direction like a sheepish pro. This is literally one of the worst movies I’ve ever seen, and the funny thing is that it didn’t have to be. The premise itself is great, and even on the couch change budget it was stuck with, they could have at least tried. But no, they threw in the bloody towel and instead of a gem or even an admirable failure we get this monumental piece of festering garbage instead. I had to keep myself occupied in any scenes without Henriksen by hitting half speed fast forward so the characters sound like chipmunks. It says a lot about a flick when you have to do that. Avoid at any cost.