Tag Archives: Nicol Williamson

Spawn 1997

With the impending release of a new Spawn film next year that will be written and directed by original comic book artist Todd McFarlane (!), it’s time to take a look back at the eclectic 1997 version. It’s a mixed bag that’s mostly filled with stuff I love, in particular a real nasty comedic edge brought to the table by John Leguizamo’s profane, obese, horrific hell clown The Violator, who lets face it, kind of steals the show. I read that every actor under the sun was considered for the lead role, from Denzel to Samuel L. Jackson to Tony Todd, but I feel like they really lucked out with martial arts legend Michael Jai White, whose sinewy presence lends itself to the dark character and practically radiates pent up rage. Spawn was once Al Simmons, a government assassin who was royally fucked over by the evil mercenary Wynn (Martin Sheen, trying his darnedest to shake the good ol’ Hollywood boy image) and sent to the fiery pit of hell, only to be resurrected as a half demon antihero with more whacked out powers than Beetlejuice and a serious hankering for revenge. That’s this movie anyways, I’m not sure how faithful it is to the comics. Guided by a pseudo Van Helsing looking mentor dude (Nicol Williamson in his final screen role) and pining for the wife (Teresa Randle) he widowed, he embarks on a bloody odyssey to… well to kill Martin Sheen and anyone who gets in his way doing it. Oh yeah, and Leguizamo’s demon clown follows him around making horrifically dark jokes (“I’ve been around since before you were soup in your momma’s crotch) and chewing more scenery than the actor has in the rest of his collective career, which is some fucking achievement. It’s funny because this film simultaneously contains some of the best and worst special effects of the 90’s; Spawn looks, feels and sounds terrific, with tactility and tangibility that should be admired, swooshing reptilian cape, glowing eyes and all manner of slice n’ dice weaponry. However, when we see him visit the devil in hell, the CGI used to bring old Satan to life look absolutely abysmal, like a Starfox final boss they forgot to completely render. I suppose they didn’t have enough budget to make everything slick, but honestly they should have just cut those scenes completely rather than have that embarrassment parade across the screen. Still, it’s hardly a blight on the movie and if anything is part of its scrappy charm, I’ve just been accused of being too much of a critical Pollyanna lately, so I have to throw in the occasional jab at a film I love just for credibilities sake in this snooty community of cinema we live in. Overall this version of Spawn is a blast of beautiful special effects, horrific imagery, vivid performances and Leguizamo mugging the camera like an aggressive dog. I’ve read that he was in that fat suit for so many takes one time that he actually had to deliberately piss himself, which I’m sure only added to the manic energy he has, like how’s that for method acting. I’m not sure what McFarlane has planned for his new one (Jamie Foxx has landed the lead), but I’d advise him to retain the bite and ferocity this one has, as well as its dark humour, weird dream logic and practical effects vs CGI. I’m sure he knows what he’s doing though, it’s not like he’s the original creator of the whole comics series or anything.

-Nate Hill

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The Excorcist III: A Review by Nate Hill

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William Peter Blatty’s The Excorcist III is my favourite in the series, and if that leaves some people aghast with disbelief, I’ll still hold my stance. Don’t get me wrong, the first film is a classic of atmospheric dread, the sequel is a psychedelic oddity that’s also very underrated, but there’s something about this one that just sat better with me than any of the others, including the two prequels with Stellen Skarsgard. This one deviates from the pattern as well as lifts the focus from Linda Blair’s character, paving a cool new story for itself and breaking new ground. It’s also got one of the single most terrifying moments I’ve ever seen on film, orchestrated perfectly enough to give a good dose of goosebumps to the strongest of spines. The immortal and always excellent George C. Scott plays Kinderman, a police lieutenant who is on the trail of a bloodthirsty serial murderer nicknamed The Gemini Killer. The killer himself has actually been long deceased, but uncanny similarities in the current crimes have freaked the police right out, and so he follows the clues to a foreboding psychiatric facility. It soon becomes clear that there’s something very mysterious going on, and something very wrong with the patients. Skittish Dr. Temple (Scott Wilson) seems to know what’s going on, but also seems not to, or to be too scared to divulge anything. A terrifying patient named James Venuman (Brad Dourif is so scary you’ll want to hide behind the couch) seems to contain something malevolent inside him, his ravings making eerie sense to the detective. There’s a few surprise cameos from veterans of the franchise, as well as work from Ed Flanders, Nicol Williamson and, believe it or not, an appearance from Fabio, of all people. The atmosphere is so thick you could choke on it, the dread hanging in the air like clammy mist, helped in part by the disturbing choice of location, Dourif’s sheer ghoul act and cinematographer Gerry Fisher’s camera, which lurks along walls and corridors and turns the facility into a haunted house, and our nerves into a jittering mess. Underrated as both a standalone fright flick and as an entry in the Excorcist series. Top notch creepfest.