Ronny Yu’s Bride Of Chucky

Ronny Yu’s Bride Of Chucky is the point where the franchise deliberately goes off the rails and reinvents itself into something demented, meta, and completely inspired. Chucky gets a new look here, I mean you can’t really kill the little bastard but his visceral encounter with the wind fan in part 3 has left him quite a sight, all metal stitches, stark patches of sewn on hair and jagged scars adorning his plastic visage. He’s brought back to life by trailer park dwelling mega-psycho ditzy maven Tiffany (Jennifer Tilly), an aggressive groupie and former girlfriend of Charles Lee Ray’s, resurrecting him with more voodoo and, once it’s apparent that these two had a more troubling, dysfunctional relationship than Harley Quinn and The Joker, eventually trapped in a female bride doll of her own, bonded to Chucky in kinky rubber wedlock complete with a hilariously sincere sex scene. They hit the road looking to find a secret amulet in Ray’s grave that can give them both human bodies, piggybacking in the van of a teenage runaway couple (Katherine Heigl & Nick Stabile) escaping the girl’s nasty army colonel daddy (the late John Ritter). The plot is framework for one hell of a bunch of kills, jokes, bickering, heavy metal soundtrack choices and dark humour, this is by and far the best film in the canon for me, and Tilly is a big part of why it works so well, she’s the wild card element that turns a well established slasher formula into something that transcends its own blueprint and becomes just… wild. Director Ronny Yu also helmed the awesome Freddy Vs. Jason, another slasher reworking for two legendary franchises that has the same loopy, infectiously fun meta energy, metal music and inventive, vivid flesh and blood opening credit graphic design. The kills are unbelievable and one cheekily references another beloved slasher icon, the gore is cartoonish yet still ruthless and the overall vibe is one of utter devilish revelry. Such a fun time and the harbinger of a new, crazier, bloodier era in the series.

-Nate Hill

Castille Landon’s Fear Of Rain

Schizophrenia is a delicate subject to tackle in cinema; if you get too sensationalistic and thriller oriented you lose the honesty of the affliction, but if you get too bleak and oppressive with realism you’ll chase your audience away. I’m pleased to report that Castile Landon’s Fear Of Rain is a beautiful, haunting, truthful and compassionate portrait of the illness that incorporates a fragile character study, emotionally affecting family dynamics and an almost unbearably suspenseful thriller narrative for not only one of the most powerful films this year, but one of the most intelligent and thoughtful depictions of this unfortunate condition in cinema thus far. Madison Iseman is Rain, a teenage girl who has been struggling with schizophrenia her entire life. It affects her high school life, day to day routine and relationship with her loving parents (Katherine Heigl & Harry Connick Jr) who do everything they can to help her. She wants to get better but feels frustrated by the fact that the meds she takes dull her creative edge, as she’s an enormously talented painter. Things get impossibly complicated when she meets and makes friends with a boy (Israel Broussard) from out of town who she isn’t even sure is real and starts to suspect her neighbour/high school teacher (Eugenie Bondurant) of kidnapping and holding a little girl captive in her house. Are all these things realities of her life or densely spun facets of her own delusional mind spilling out into her outward mental state? The film could have easily gone for cheap thrills, cloying teen romance and a sanitized, glossed over depiction of schizophrenia but there’s a brutal honesty and careful balancing act between all these elements that feels genuine. Iseman is raw and potent, finding the desperate notes, the inevitable clarity and the instances where Rain skirts the dangerous line of hopelessness and losing her mind forever. Heigl and Connick Jr are excellent as the parents, finding all the right beats individually and as a unit. Director Landon seamlessly weaves the thriller aspects into the psychological themes for a story that has twists that feel earned, performances that feel human, a third act that will toss your nerves into a bundle and some visually striking, almost fairytale-like cinematography that gets downright dreamy to illustrate Rain’s kaleidoscopic mental state and draw you into her journey. Great film, and important because it goes a long way in educating and erasing stigmas around schizophrenia.

-Nate Hill

B Movie Glory: Zyzzyx Road

They say that what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas but occasionally it spills violently out onto the surrounding interstates, in this case obscure dust-bowl backroad Zyzzyx Road in this patchy, bizarre, uneven yet mildly entertaining low budget chiller that has nothing to boast except stars Katherine Heigl and Tom Sizemore and a tad of notoriety in being the only theatrically released film on record to land a staggering 30$ at the box office. It stars a dude called Leo Grillo as a philandering accountant who romances a young stripper (Heigl) and heads out into the desert to dump the body of her volatile boyfriend (Sizemore), who is in the trunk and they are both assuming is dead. Cue a bunch of stumbling around in terribly lit Mojave locales, messy, jittery editing and storytelling that almost, *almost* comes close to something of note but is just too cheap and shabby to hold interest. Heigl has quite a few buried curios in her early career before she sunk into the glossy, sanitized romcom groove and she does okay here. Grillo I’ve never heard of and isn’t much of an actor but a bit of light research tells me he’s an advocate for animal rights and has founded the largest rescue centre for stray dogs in North America so he gets a free pass in my book, keep up the good work sir. Sizemore is unusually calm and serene here in a role that could have easily allowed him to deliver one of his patented bananas, super wild takes. He’s good in anything no matter how lowbrow the material is, and as far as this one is concerned, well.. I’ve certainly seen him in many better films, but I’ve also seen him in some worse ones too. The film would have been better with more money because there is something to this script, a twisty psychological shocker with demon elements, mind bending qualities and some nice dark turns but they just didn’t have the budget or focus to make this thing feel like anything other than a dreary, dusty B flick, which it is to its bones.

-Nate Hill

Under Siege 2: Dark Territory

Steven Seagal made one of his best flicks with Under Siege, but does the sequel live up to the first one? Well for me it outdoes it, Under Siege 2: Under Siege Again is an improvement and a slam bang action flick. Jokes aside this one’s called Dark Territory, it’s set on a luxury train instead of an ocean liner but Seagal’s navy seal turned gourmet chef Casey Ryback has lost none of his deadly talent with guns, knives, fists and kitchen utensils.

This time Casey is looking forward to a nice relaxing train vacation with his young niece, played by Katherine Heigl before she went all chick flick on us. Relaxation isn’t in the cards though, because soon a squadron of evil mercenaries hijacks the train for nefarious purposes. They’re led by computer guru Eric Bogosian, a no less wacky but way nerdier baddie than Tommy Lee Jones and Gary Busey the first time round. The guy wants to hack into US satellites (much harder to trace him from a moving target like say… a train!) and hold the government ransom but really he just wants to blow shit up and monologue, and trust me this fucking guy can talk. He starred in Oliver Stone’s Talk Radio where all he did was jabber on and we get the same kind of performance here, just a motor mouthed hedgehog aboard a speeding locomotive. He’s back up by a literal army of mercs led by Twin Peaks’s Everett McGill in full psycho badass mode, taking doses of pepper spray to the eyes without flinching and terrorizing Heigl without restraint. His backup are a colourful gallery including Patrick Kilpatrick, Breaking Bad’s Jonathan Banks, Nils Allen Stewart and the legendary Peter Greene.

Elsewhere, the military’s top dog (Kurtwood ‘Red Forman’ Smith) tries to neutralize the whole thing along with Tom Breaker (once again played by the great Nick Mancuso) who’s some sort of super spy double agent but I was never really clear on him. Morris Chestnut also provides help as a porter who sort of becomes Seagal’s sidekick and Heigl’s love interest. There’s a lot going on here but the interest lies in Seagal beating, kicking, punching, stabbing and shooting his way through this gauntlet of a train. The action is spectacular, as are the stunts and pyrotechnics, and there’s an explosion to rival the one in The Fugitive. You’ve got to take a Seagal flick for what it is, I mean they’re not in the realm of classy action fare of anything, but if you get the right one you’ll have a shit ton of fun. This was the first one I ever saw, watched it with my dad at way too young an age, it remains my favourite of his career and for what it is, it’s a blast.

-Nate Hill