Tag Archives: films

B Movie Glory- Darkman III: Die Darkman Die


Sam Raimi made comic book cinema history with his gritty Darkman, which was solid entertainment, but the real dark and demented side of the franchise came through on the two sequels, which tossed aside stalwart leading man Liam Neeson as the titular antihero and went for offbeat, edgy character actor Arnold Vosloo (Imhotep in Stephen Sommer’s The Mummy) as the doomed Dr. Peyton Westlake, a once brilliant and handsome scientist reduced to a disfigured, monstrous vigilante known as The Darkman. Raimi’s film played it with a mix of straight and subversive, going for the underdog hero approach, while the third sequel, which is my favourite, is literally called Darkman III: Die Darkman Die, because someone at the studio boardroom table had too much caffeine and brainstormed the shit out of that abrasively hilarious title. Dr. Westlake is still doing his research on synthetic skin and skulking out there in the night pilfering supplies from random warehouses, one of which he’ll wish he didn’t mess with. Enter tyrannical, psychopathic drug lord Peter Rooker, played with moustache twirling, freaky panache by Jeff Fahey. Said warehouse belonged to him, and now he’s zeroed in on Darkman and his super strength abilities, shrewdly trying to pirate them for his organization’s nefarious deeds. The two wage a bloody war, with both of their families as collateral damage in between, an exploitation palooza of trashy, effects oriented fun. The first two films housed the villain Durant, embodied by inherently weird looking actor Larry Drake, who left big shoes to fill. Fahey seems to know this and plays up every campy aspect of this scumbag, his greased back hair lit perfectly, every mannerism an over-pronounced, garish villainous flourish to be savoured. I think the very concept of Darkman suits the tasteless excess of these two sequels better than it does Raimi’s upright origin story, as classic as it is. I actually prefer the B Movie Glory approach to the material, and this third one is schlock incarnate. 

-Nate Hill

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Mike Flanagan’s Oculus


What scares you most in the horror genre? Masked killers in isolated settings? Booby trapped razor wire rooms? Demon possession? Werewolves? Ghosts? Those are all well and good, but nothing messes my shit up more than psychological uncertainty, the feeling that anything you see might not be real, and the layers of your perception are gradually being fucked with in a subtle way. Such are the terrors that Mike Flanagan’s Oculus traffics in, a film that takes postmodern horror expectations and strangles the life out of them in favour of something far more effective. You’ll read surface level summaries claiming this to be about a haunted mirror. It…is. Sort of. And it isn’t. Then it is again, and before you know it you have no idea what’s real and feel like leaving the television and hiding in a back room for fear of an incoming dissociative episode (true story). See, the haunted mirror is just the suggestive tip of a very dense psychological iceberg, a starting point to a narrative that’s disturbing in ways that few big budget horror films understand. When an idyllic American family moves into a perfect new house, life seems peachy. Following the arrival of an ornate antique mirror, things take a darker turn. The loving patriarch (Rory Cochrane, exuding natural charisma) turns fiercely psychotic, preying on his doting wife (Katee Sackoff) and terrorizing his son (Garrett Ryan) and daughter (Annalise Basso, terrific in a performance of true hurt and horror). The mirror seems to indeed be the source, but no clear correlation is ever established by the film, only heavy suggestion gnawed at by the notion that the parents may just be irreparably sick in the head, an idea just as, if not more scary than a sentient looking glass. After brutal tragedy, we flash forward a decade or so, the parents are gone and once again the daughter, now played by a dynamite Karen Gillan, tries to get to the source of what happened by locking herself, her brother (Brenton Thwaites, the only weak leak in an otherwise excellent acting ensemble) and that dang pesky mirror in their old house to destroy it. Bring on a panic inducing haunted house of the unconventional variety, one where something, either the mirror or inherited mental illness, plays endless nasty tricks of the mind on both of them until the viewer feels uncomfortable in their own thoughts, the fabric of internal reality ready to disintegrate into shards. Their plight is carefully interspersed (big kudos to Flanagan, serving as his own editor) with flashbacks to the harrowing ordeal they went through as children, as the loving parental unit collapses into madness before their eyes. Listen for a hair raising, subversive score by The Newton Brothers that just adds to the queasy cauldron of unease that this film is. It’s more brilliant than any widely released horror film has any right to be these days, a huge step in the right direction for the genre and a waking nightmare for anyone whose worst fear is losing their mind. 
-Nate Hill

B Movie Glory: The Insatiable

The Insatiable, like droves of other vampire flicks, attempts to cover new ground and build on established formulas to create something memorable, and despite having the direct to video stigma working against it’s notoriety, works pretty well for the most part. Sean Patrick Flanery plays a timid fellow who, after being targeted by a sexy, devilish bloodsucker (Charlotte Ayana), seeks help anywhere he can, broadcasting his predicament via HAM radio (maybe not the most effective outlet) to anyone who will listen. It just so happens that there is a grizzled old vamp hunter out there played by Michael Biehn, a jaded hardass who’s just waiting for signs of these creatures. Ayana likes to play with her prey, and taunts both of them throughout the film in some amusing cat and mouse games, forcing Flanery to great lengths of survival including building one hell of a cage in his basement to trap the bitch. The material is treated mostly head on with just a smidge of smirking deadpan, especially in the sly ending. Biehn is awesome as the cranky, high strung vamp slayer, really having fun in the role. A fun, if slight little flick. 

-Nate Hill

Christophe Gan’s Brotherhood Of The Wolf


Films don’t often come as ambitious, stylish or slightly overstuffed as Christophe Gans’s Brotherhood Of The Wolf, an ultra violent, primal period piece with roots in an obscure cryptozoological myth from 18th century France, and packing enough leather clad, blood dripping kinetic creativity to fuel a whole franchise. Less is more being the one thing Gans could have benefited from in order to truly make his film a classic, as there’s a few bits here and there that bog it down, but for the most part it’s a fearsome genre flick with class and bite. A monster is terrorizing rural France, mauling people and earning the dreaded moniker ‘Beast of Gevaudan’ (this was apparently a real thing back then, as Wikipedia will enthusiastically inform you). Soon roguish nomad huntsman Fronsac (Samuel Le Bihan) and his deadly native warrior sidekick Mani (martial arts guru Mark Dacascos) bluster into to town, ruffling a few feathers and setting their sights on taking the beast down for good. That’s the jumping point from which the story explores more ideas than it almost has time for, even in a two and a half hour span. Decadent French opulence, corruption in the ranks, feral forest dwelling cults, kinky brothel escapades, Matrix style action choreography, slasher elements, you name it and they’ve got it here. Most of it works, a few bits drag and land with a clunk. Much of the film is a darkly primeval wonder to behold, with striking imagery, highly disturbing gore and a sense of danger that hangs in the air like the most over this doomed portion of the European countryside. French superstar Vincent Cassel plays a mysterious nobleman, and Monica Bellucci is his secret harbouring, seductive sister as well, whose collective presence adds to the WTF factor later in the third act when the plot gets all out mental. The early scenes in the threatening village are terrific, as is an eventual confrontation deep in the forests where the monster’s origin (you’ll do a double take) is laid out, and one jarringly violent showdown takes place, with Dacascos taking more bodily trauma than most could imagine, and taking it like a champ. He also doles it out too, his extensive training strangely looking more at home when it’s out of place in a period horror piece than his usual super-cop shtick, especially in a rain soaked combat scene involving wooden poles and broken ribs. It works wonders as a creature flick, it’s solid as an actioner and the beautiful Sleepy Hollow-esque cinematography services both exceedingly well. Could have left a few of the languishing aristocratic and whorehouse sequences on the editing room floor, but it doesn’t hurt the film too much, and nothing can take away the mystic visual splendour and gnarly edge it has in the horror department. Truly one of a kind. 

-Nate Hill

Dario Argento’s Inferno 


Dario Argento’s Inferno is the most abstract, expressionistic and nearly incomprehensible entry in his Witch trilogy, like oil and blood smeared on canvas haphazardly to create something just this side of the conscious realm. The other two films, Suspiria and Mother Of Tears, each have their place in the story, with this one doing middle chapter duties, but really they all work better as standalone films more than anything cohesive. While the film clings loosely to the idea of two college students investigating separate Witch covens in both Rome and New York, that’s just the baseline for a petrifying, beautifully surreal mood piece full of thumping psychedelic music by Claudio Simonetti and Goblin, and episodic set pieces of bizarre dreamlike horror. Argento is the undeniable king of lighting and atmosphere, and although other areas of the work like story, dialogue and acting suffer, it’s easy to look past that and get swept up in his magnificent visions. Unearthly light and wind ripples over the hair of a gorgeously enchanting witch who holds a cat and and stares down one of the protagonists in a lecture hall. An eerie full moon possesses one man trying to drown a bag of cats, and a butcher knife wielding whacko. A woman descends underwater into a flooded derelict building and discovers a bloated corpse floating there in the film’s most harrowing scene. Argento’s films are less about the rhyme and reason, more about the feeling of it all than anything else, very much like dreams. Inferno is one of his very best, a feverish madhouse of light, colour, operatic violence and hypnotic music. 
-Nate Hill

B Movie Glory- Dracula III: Legacy 

Dimension films made a few Dracula sequels following their solid 2000 effort starring Gerard Butler, most of which are meh. Dracula III: Legacy, however, has the ace-in-the-hole asset of having legendary cult thespian Rutger Hauer in the titular vampire role, and that alone makes it noteworthy. Even though the guy doesn’t even show up until the third act, and isn’t around for long, he’s magnetic as the dark prince of bloodsuckers and not to be missed when rallying up the lengthy list of actors who have played the role. The film itself is grade A-cheese and hardly ever feels like a Dracula story, as well as being fairly incomprehensible in relation to the other handful of films in the franchise. I’ve got a weakness for Dimension horror films though, and they’re particularly slick brand of schlock. Jason London, who we all wistfully remember as Randall Pink Floyd in Richard Linklater’s Dazed & Confused, is some random vampire hunter, off trekking into the Eastern European alps with martial arts actor Jason Scott Lee to find the Vamp of all Vamps. They do find him, in the form of Hauer’s entertaining fiend skulking around a derelict castle and… that’s pretty much it. For Hauer fans, load up Final Cut Pro and edit a breezy short film with just his wicked good scenes. For fans of B Movie silliness, have a few beers first. Everyone else, keep on browsing the blockbuster shelf. Oh yeah, and Roy Scheider is in it too, and I’ve completely forgotten who he plays. 

-Nate Hill

Peter Hyam’s The Relic 


Peter Hyam’s The Relic takes a smaller horror idea that usually services a low budget production and gives it the expensive, near blockbuster treatment. The result is a pretty damn fine creature feature flick that holds up better than it has any right too. When you’ve got a director like Hyams at the wheel though (see End Of Days), who is a meticulous perfectionist and often serves as DoP in addition to directing, you’re going to get class and durability all the way. Relic takes an ages old concept and injects wild screaming life into it; When an ancient artifact is brought from the South American jungle and stored at the Chicago museum of anthropology, trouble is not far off, for as we know in movie land, any ancient relic most definitely has a supernatural curse on it. Before too long a gigantic angry lizard thing from olden times awakens, tears through the building like the stampede from Jumanji and starts eating everyone it sees. It’s up to heroic police detective Vincent D’Agosta (Tom Sizemore in a rare lead role) and professor Margo Green (Penelope Ann Miller, what ever happened to her?) to use their wits and survive long enough to defeat it. Linda Hunt, that sweet little munchkin, also has a nice role as the museum director. The film is just pure fun to watch, a solid popcorn banger that has the look and feel of an old school adventure film, or something by Stephen Sommers, albeit with a healthy helping of slimy gore. The creature is truly immense, and one feels the scope of it’s rampage as Hyam’s camera arcs through the vast hallways and mezzanines of the building, following the action in crisp, tactile strokes. Sort of a forgotten gem, but one that’s always fun to check out.
-Nate Hill