James Wan’s Malignant

James Wan has some balls, I’ll say that much. He’s pioneered various chambers of the horror genre several times over in his career so far with game changers like Saw, Insidious and The Conjuring, quickly becoming a household name with the talent, innovation and passion to back it up. If his newest film Malignant is going to have any kind of the same ripple effect then buckle the fuck up because this is one wild, demented, bonkers, stir crazy oddity and the best time I’ve had with a horror this year. This will be one of those reviews where I will mention almost nothing plot related because it’s just too much tantalizing fun unwinding this ball of yarn for yourself with fresh eyes. The film focuses on a woman (Annabelle Wallis) who begins to have terrifying waking nightmares where she observes a shadowy figure committing heinous acts of murder. The rest I’ll leave be, just see this thing and experience its WTF, nonsensical yet balls-out wonderful third act that truly transcends the boundaries of coherency, decency and convention for something so weird you’ll laugh, cry and shit your pants in unison. Wan is clearly well versed and a fan of many sub-genres and in this we see sly, loving nods to many other artists, most notably Dario Argento and 70’s Italian horror, so if some of the acting comes across as campy or silly just know that was most assuredly his intention and simply bask in the nostalgia. Some of the gore is real and some is CGI and while CGI blood is never ideal in my books the melding is done pretty well here, and it’s understandable that given a story with this much movement, commotion and visual kinetic madness it would have been tough as hell to do all the effects in a practical fashion. To cement the retro vibes we also get a showstopper of an original score composed by Wan’s go to guy Joseph Bishara that’s resplendent with shrieks, howls and heart-pounding synth chords that, for me at least, heavily echoed Goblin’s iconic electronic work in Argento’s films. Wan has worked in PG-13 realms quite a bit and been incredibly successful at making effective horror within those constraints, but he’s gone full R rated here, about as far as you can go into R rated territory in fact, for a no holds barred, rip snortin, unbelievable gong show of blood, violence, mayhem, schlock and a third act twist that’s so beyond anything rational or sane that I’m not even sure it makes sense but I loved every minute of and deeply admire the sheer audacity of. One of my personal favourites of the year so far.

-Nate Hill

James Wan’s Dead Silence

Ventriloquist dummies are creepy no matter what and immediately give horror material an extra boost, however in the case of James Wan’s Dead Silence it’s the ventriloquist herself that ends up being more terrifying, a ghostly presence called Mary Shaw who was once a woman that was barren and instead of having real kids, just made freaky dolls. She’s got a nasty vendetta against the townsfolk of Raven’s Fair, Ontario, relating to an incident from the collective past that has her return time and time again with her dolls to haunt them. Ryan Qwanten is a bit of a soup cracker as the lead, a thirty-something who once escaped the town and is called back by the mysterious forces at Shaw’s command, while the acting slack is picked up by other reliable faces including Bob Gunton, Amber Valletta and Donnie Wahlberg as one sarcastic detective who has no time for this hocus-pocus horseshit until it comes looking for him. Silver screen star Judith Roberts is incredibly effective as Shaw herself, a physically imposing, spectral presence and one hell of a resourceful, spiteful and dangerous otherworldly antagonist. There’s a few scenes where she stalks her prey that verge on that special nirvana of horror territory that actually has your hair standing on end and has you checking the closets later that night. The film is somewhat advertised as an evil doll flick and really that’s just the overall premise, most of the time it’s Shaw herself doing the hauntings, scares and killings and damn does she ever do a great job. Wan directs with sweeping, gothic stylish flair and has a sense of scope and spatial dynamics, Charlie Clouser composes a thunderingly melodic haunted house symphony of a score and the atmosphere hanging over this thing permeates everything. Also, I don’t think any film has ever had the balls to try and pull of a twist ending this… unflinchingly audacious and knowingly hilarious. It’s a bold, bold move but it somehow just works and adds to the charm, eliciting the prestigious slow clap reaction from me. Great film.

-Nate Hill

The King has risen: A Joyous Appraisal of AQUAMAN

Now the dude in the video above isn’t singing about the movie I caught today (and I’m not denying the fact that that is a damn tasty burger he has there) but his song along in the words of the film’s charismatic lead: “That was awesome,” is kinda how I feel right now.  Yes folks, despite any negative press you’ve heard, read, whatever – Aquaman is a feast – a thrilling adventure that really transported me. Not merely into the sumptuous and glorious undersea kingdoms created by the filmmakers involved – but back to the fun, exuberant times I ‘used’ to have at the movies – before the dark clouds engulfed us, trapping us in the forgotten seas where the dark creatures of the trench started forcing us to feed on one franchise after the next. Dark, moody, brooding, shit. That is not the joy I remember in that magnificent dark place we call the cinema – where worlds merge and the magnitude of the movie-maker’s vision takes me into it’s care, placing me, willingly, under it’s spell.

What a spell indeed, let me tell you. James Wan had me when I read his response to a question regarding the tone of Aquaman: “I’m a film fan, I’m a product of the 1980s and 1990s, and a lot of people have said that  Aquaman has a very 1980s quality to it. Especially the high-fantasy of the 1980s, like Flash Gordon and Krull.”


Flash Gordon meets Krull! Vibrant, fantastical, magical world building on a big canvas. I don’t chiefly give to much of a fiddler’s fart about the MCU or the DCEU and their never ending cavalcade of chicanery, but, when I read Wan’s response to that question I was, hands down, not missing this picture. And it’s become a common phrase of late – “see it on the biggest screen possible” – but, meh, they’re right. Aquaman is a big picture, so that’s the best advice I can give.


The cast are wonderful in their parts, and I get the feeling they understand the kind of ride they’re crafting. The exposition is fluid like the oceans that dominate the movie. You feel carried along on a current if excitement and wonder as the story advances. But, one the best parts truly, in terms of constructing this film which Wan did so masterfully, is that he simply shunned the Marvel formula of tying it together with all that has come before – a line of dialogue sorted that out. It’s a freeing maneuver that allows this exciting director to do what he does best, which is to flex is visual muscles and take us into a world that makes anything James Cameron has done thus far seem a little flaccid. The production design, the gliding camera, the effortless action. Oh my God – I love it.


Momoa brings a grand juxtaposition of the boy unwilling to take up his trident, mixed with a guy just playin’ it cool. His nonchalant approach is great, and I caught myself smiling at his delivery more than once. He is supported by strong players all. Patrick Wilson’s power-mad dictator, Dolph Lundgren on his seahorse (sorry, sea dragon). Willem Dafoe, always dependable, Nicole Kidman, getting better with age (love that fish suit), Amber Heard, feisty-sexy, badass Black Manta and hell, his dad is Jake ‘the Muss’ for Christ’s sake – and he can drink Fishman under the table.

It’s a whale of a tale I tell you lads, a whale of a tale that’s true. ‘Bout the flappin’ fish and a mother’s love – stoppin’ a deep sea war with the shores above. I’d swear by my tattoo if I had one but put simply – scintillating, sensational, spectacular. Home might be calling, but they’ll need to leave a message ’cause I’ll be out . . . watching Aquaman . . . again. GO SEE IT NOW!

As always, dig your movies . . .


That Dude in the Audience.

James Wan’s Saw

As much as the Saw franchise has become a screaming mad runaway train from which there is no escape or slowing down (I think they just rolled out the eighth one? Fucking Christ), sometimes I need to remind myself that the first is in fact an excellent horror film and worthy of the mythic status it has earned these days. Written by and starring Leigh Whannell who has recently branched out to direct this year’s awesome genre bender Upgrade, it’s directed by James Who has gone on to become a superstar in the genre, but it’s a bit ironic because with this he basically pioneered a whole new tributary of gore-centric horror, yet went on to do fright flicks that notoriously toned down the carnage in favour of real scares. In a dark, damp room, a doctor (Cary Elwes) and a smart ass (Whannell) are held prisoner, chained to radiators. They are informed by unseen serial killer Jigsaw that they must either chop off a limb with the rusty hacksaw laying about, or die in captivity. A corpse lies near them as well as several other tools and riddles, both of the men have secrets that will come to light and play a part in the unfolding horrors to come. Elsewhere, a weary police detective (Danny Glover) follows the trail of clues and tries to hunt down the elusive Jigsaw killer. It’s all a wickedly paced mechanization that moves along like one of Jigsaw’s jagged, gruesome traps until it reaches that final staggering revelation that has since become legend. Others along for the ride include Lost’s Michael Emerson, Tobin Bell, Monica Potter and Shawnee Smith as the now infamous Amanda. The key to all this, and something that they forgot when churning out those ridiculous sequels, is that less is more. This was a low budget shocker that largely relied on one location, and the looming threat of grisly violence rather than wanton gore every other minute. I suppose every successful idea gets saturated by money and excess once the ball gets rolling but holy fuck did they ever let these Saw films get out of control. The first two are like being at a bar with a few of your friends having casual drinks, then three and four roll in as those crazy friends of friends who order way too many shots and start breaking stuff, by the time five and six show up everyone is dancing and throwing up all over the bar and you forgot how you even got there, and the seventh (in 3D no less, because that’s what we needed) is the anguished hangover the next morning and by then you just want it to stoooopppp. At least that’s how I felt watching the them. I’d just as soon stick to this one, it’s a dark, surprisingly thoughtful chiller with a strong story and one of the best yuck moments in the genre. People forget how measured and restrained it is compared to the un-contained wildfire that those sequels smothered it with.

-Nate Hill

The Return of The Return of Swamp Thing: An Interview with Jim Wynorski by Kent Hill



Jim Wynorski is the man I want to be when I grow up. He is a sharp, prolific, terrific guy that doesn’t suffer fools and makes movies ’cause that’s what he loves – and that’s what he does best.

He has made over one hundred films, directed my beloved Deathstalker 2, and even written a foreword for my tribute/homage DS2 book Sword Dude 2 . He is a top bloke, as we say Down Under, and it had been a while since we last spoke ( for our chat on Deathstalker 2 click here: https://podcastingthemsoftly.com/2016/11/15/is-that-your-first-name-or-your-last-name-remembering-deathstalker-2-with-jim-wynorski-by-kent-hill/ ), so when I heard about the glorious reissue of Jim’s The Return of Swamp Thing I took a chance and phoned up this perpetually active filmmaker to see if he could spare the time to talk about the release.


Thanks to my much improved recording setup, this time there is no transcription. This time you get to hear the man himself, and listen in as I touch base and hopefully convince a couple of you to check out the fantastic re-release of the awesomeness that is Wynorski’s  take on the comic that he loves.

The ever candid Jim always has surprises for me when we talk. Sadly some of the cool news he tells me I can’t share – it’s a for-my-ears-only kinda deal – but fear not, he does deliver many a splendid anecdote.

(GET THE DVD https://www.amazon.com/Return-Swamp-2-Disc-Special-Blu-ray/dp/B0791TR1S5 AND THE SOUNDTRACK https://www.amazon.com/Return-Original-Motion-Picture-Soundtrack/dp/B07FHLZZFQ/ref=sr_1_2?s=movies-tv&ie=UTF8&qid=1533815456&sr=8-2&keywords=RETURN+OF+SWAMP+THING+SOUNDTRACK&dpID=61ZcXsCkJ1L&preST=_SX342_QL70_&dpSrc=srch)

Long before Marvel and DC dominated the popular consciousness, Jim Wynorski was directing a DC movie. Before we see the proposed, rehashed series spearheaded by Aquaman’s Jamie Wan, take a trip back to the sweaty swamp and see Dick Durockthe original and still the best – rise from the murky depths and fight evil mutants, seduce Heather Locklear and give the thumbs up. The return of The Return of Swamp Thing




“God wants you on the floor.” : Remembering Hoosiers with Angelo Pizzo by Kent Hill


It’s hard not to be romantic about the sports film. From classics like The Natural and Bull Durham to more modern efforts like The Blind Side and Moneyball. They range across all genres and all sports. Football (Rudy, Any Given Sunday), Golf (Tin Cup, The Legend of Bagger Vance), of course, Baseball (Field of Dreams, For Love of the Game) and in the case of Hoosiers, Basketball (Blue Chips, He Got Game). But Hoosiers, and I happen to share this sentiment, is one of the finer examples of the sports genre and is, for my money, the best basketball film ever made.


Now, I use the term sports film very loosely. Yes all of the aforementioned contain the listed sports as part of their narratives. But, the games are not really what lies at the heart of these tales. The true centerpiece are themes like redemption, romance, the search for self, the search for acceptance – all these things within the characters either as player, coach, fan etc.


So why do I think Hoosiers is the best example of this genre? Well, it’s simple. Hoosiers has all of these working within it. Comedy, romance, drama, redemption, the search for self, the search for acceptance. Okay, so it doesn’t have a crazed Bobby De Niro terrorizing any of the players to feed his grossly misguided obsession and distorted view of the world – but that doesn’t mean that it lacks thrilling, intense and impactful moments that keep you watching and ultimately cheering for the underdog, the little team that could. One could argue that this is a key ingredient in these kinds of films. A down-on-his-luck former golf pro, a disgruntled former player trying to manage a failing team, a boxer with all the odds stacked against him or a basketball team from a town in the middle on nowhere that couldn’t possibly take on the big schools and win.

Then there are the characters – all looking for second chances. Hackman’s coach, Hopper’s alcoholic father, Hershey’s teacher. They all have something to prove, something to gain from the victories the home team are accumulating. And, they are all masterful turns by each of the three principals. Indeed from all concerned with the production. None more so than that of first-time screenwriter and my guest Angelo Pizzo.

The man who was headed for a career in politics eventually ended up going to film school. After graduating, and spending sometime working in the arena of television, Angelo felt the need, at last, to make a film about a subject he was passionate about – basketball. And, being unable to find writer for the project . . . well . . . he decided to have a crack at it himself.

This wonderful film, under marvelous direction, David Anspaugh, from a great script with a stellar cast and punctuated by a phenomenal Jerry Goldsmith score is a small miracle that has, not unlike the team portrayed in its story, taken on the giants and carved out its place in cinema history.

If you haven’t seen Hoosiers, I urge you to do so. Don’t get caught watchin’ the paint dry…

James Wan’s Death Sentence: A Review by Nate Hill 

Charles Bronson ain’t got nothing on the level of grit seen in this revenge story. James Wan’s Death Sentence is obviously inspired by the endless Death Wish films, which by their end had gone from classy exploitation (sounds like an oxymoron, but trust me, it’s a thing) to lazy spoofs. This one goes back to the gritty roots, as well as udating the setting to our present time and laying on the gloomy, oppresively violent atmosphere so thick you’ll want a shower and some cartoons after. Kevin Bacon is Nick Hume, a mild mannered advertisement executive living an idyllic life with his wife (Kelly Preston) and two young sons. All that changes one night when one of his boys is murdered in cold blood by some punk in the midst of a gas station robbery. The thug gets released on a technicality, and Nick gets shafted of both justice and peace of mine right at the start of his grieving process. Making one of those penultimate crossroad decisions that alter both his life and the fate of the film’s narrative, he takes it upon himself to murder the perpetrator in a grisly display of vigilante justice. Only problem is, that ain’t where it stops. The murderer has a brother who makes him seem like tweety bird, a terrifying urban scumbag named Joe Darley (Garrett Hedlund) who puts Nick and his family directly in the crosshairs of revenge. Nick is forced to become a one man army to protect his family and eradicate the evil that has entered hiss life once and for all, assisted by a wicked arsenal of nasty weapons provided by sleazeball arms dealer Bones Darley (John Goodman). If you look up ‘scene stealer’ in the dictionary you’ll find a picture of Goodman’s jolly visage grinning back at you. No matter who he plays, he’s the life of the party, and his Bones is a fast talking gutter-snipe who jacks up every scene he’s in with scuzzy dialogue. He plays an integral part in Nick’s brutal and often disturbing quest for justice, a hard R urban bloodbath that pulls no punches and aims to shock. Bacon often plays morally questionable pricks, walking a fine line between upright heroes and corrupt nasties. In one character arc he gets to traverse that whole spectrum here, a regular guy who is pushed to criminal extremes until he’s barely recognizable, even to himself. Intense stuff that heads down a dark alley of human unpleasantness.