Posts Tagged ‘danielle harris’

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It occurs to me that I’m kind of late to the party with this one, since Hatchet III actually came out last year, but whatever — I’ve reviewed the first two films in Adam Green’s self-proclaimed “old-school slasher” series, and it’s high time I reviewed this one, as well, even if, by all rights, I probably should have seen it sooner than I did (which was just last night, for the record).

It also worth noting that, unlike my usually way-too-verbose ramblings, my reviews of Hatchet and Hatchet II were actually quite short, and there’s probably no reason to break that streak here — after all, you  pretty much know what you’re getting into with these flicks, and even though creator Green has passed on the directing chores this time to long-time camera operator BJ McDonnell, he still wrote the script and he’s on hand (in whatever capacity) as an executive producer, so things aren’t gonna be that much different.

Which, I guess, is both good and bad. It’s good in terms of continuity (the story here picks up at the exact moment the last film left off) and style (it feels for all intents and purposes like Green may as well have directed this one himself), but it’s bad news if you want something a little bit different or challenging (which, admittedly, most fans of the series probably don’t). The blood, guts, innards, entrails, and other various viscera all fly more freely than ever in Hatchet III, to be sure, and since that pretty much represents the raison d’etre of what Green and his cohorts are trying to accomplish here, ya gotta say — job well done on that score. But is it just me, or is all of this starting to get more than just a little bit stale?

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Danielle Harris is back as full-time “final girl” Marybeth, and she’s given plenty of opportunity to do what she does best — you love Danielle Harris, love Danielle Harris, we all love Danielle Harris — and it’s nice to see some familiar genre faces turn up (look for Zach Galligan as the sheriff leading a doomed expedition into the swamps to track down Crowley and Sid Haig in a memorably OTT cameo) for the party, but some of the “second generation” (nice-speak for “nepotism”) casting decisions are questionable at best, like Robert Diago DoQui (son of legendary blaxploitation stalwart Robert DoQui) as a personality-free deputy and Cody Blue Snider (son of Twisted Sister’s Dee Snider) as a typically annoying twenty-something, but no real matter — when the time comes for them to meet their end, they  all do it in style, and we all know that nodoby dispatches his victims better than Kane Hooder (even if he never gets to show his face in any of his most memorable roles). So yeah — for what it sets out to do, this flick does it as well as you’d hope and/or expect.

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Dark Sky Films has done a nice job with the Blu-Ray (and, I’m assuming, the DVD) release, as well —- picture and sound are both flawless, as you’d figure from a new production, and the disc is loaded with extras including a couple of “making-of” featurettes, the trailer (of course), and two feature-length commentaries, one with the cast and one with the crew, that are both pretty fun to listen to. The shoot for this one sounds like it was positively grueling, but all in all everyone’s spirits seem high as they observe their handiwork. Again, job well done here.

So what, you rightly ask, is the problem, exactly? Good question — and not necessarily the easisest one to answer, but I get the feeling that Hatchet is a franchise in serious danger of jumping the shark. We’ve got some “voodoo curse” elements thrown into the mix here that have always lurked in the background, I guess, but become more prominent “crutch factors” this time out; the laughs are a little flatter; the “old school” vibe is not nearly as novel as it once was — lots of little things, I guess. But the most prominent death spiral that Green and Co. have gotten themselves into is one of their own making, and is the toughest one to pull out of : simply put, they’re always having to top themselves.

Think about it : every single one of Victor Crowley’s murders is more bloody, spectacular, tasteless, and physically and scientifically impossible than the previous one. And when you run up the body count as high as ol’ Vic does, that means you’ve gotta find some new way to pull out all the stops about 15 or 20 times in each film. It’s worked so far, but it’s starting to wear pretty thin, and any horror series that has devolved to the point where the only reason you’re watching it is to see just how fucking crazy and outlandish the next killing will be is one that’s starting to run on fumes. Everybody is still giving it their all here, that much is obvious, but it seems like they’ve pushed the whole concept about as far as it can possibly go, and maybe even a bit further. There’s no shame in quitting while you’re still at least marginally ahead, is there? Don’t get me wrong — I had a good time watching Hatchet III. It was pretty much exactly what I was expecting it to be, and that’s just fine. But I think it’s time to let Victor Crowley take a much-deserved rest for a good half-decade or so. He’s a fun, memorable, absolutely over-the-top character, and I’d hate to see him overstay his welcome.

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Then again — most of the ’80s slashers he’s based on did just that, so maybe continuing to milk this cash cow to the point where all it’s got left is a few runny dribbles is part of that whole “old school” thing they’re going for. To be followed, of course, by the inevitable “re-imagining” of the series. The Hatchet fracshise might be starting to feel a bit threadbare, but who knows? Maybe it’s only just begun.

Fast-forward one year to 1989 and we find ourselves staring headlong at Halloween 5 : The Revenge Of Michael Myers, a flick as uninspiring as its title is uninspired.

I’ll give director Dominique Othenin-Girard and his screenwriters credit for trying to expand the whole Myers mythos into new directions here, but the whole thing’s just so flipping absurd that no amount of suspension of disbelief can carry you through it with a straight face.

First off, we’ve got the prospect of Michael (this time portrayed by one Donald L. Shanks, as if it matters all that much) surviving a hail of gunfire followed by a plunge down a mineshaft. Okay, only a little rougher than some of his previous “deaths,” I suppose, but add to that the fact that when he comes back one year later on Halloween night (of course) to take another crack at killing his niece Jamie (again played by Danielle Harris, who’s really asked to carry a lot of this film since her friends start buying the far rather quickly, and truth be told she does a very admirable job) we find that she has developed full-blown psychic powers that clue her into where and when her murderous uncle is going to strike next! Not that it saves her friends or his other victims, of course, ‘cuz where would the fun be in that?

Anyway, the whole setup’s absurd, Donald Pleasence’s Dr. Loomis feels like he’s being shoehorned into the script just because, hell, he’s gotta be there ,right?, and Othenin-Girard proves himself to be a director who doesn’t exactly excel at the basics of mood and tension, both of which are absolute musts in any slasher film.

While the “Divimax” DVD release from Anchor Bay of Halloween 5 is every bit as nicely-put-together as the one they did for the previous installment (see our last review for semi-full DVD specifications), it’s really a matter of trying to make a silk purse from a sow’s ear. The movie itself just doesn’t warrant all that special a treatment, sad as it makes this Halloween series junkie to utter those very-nearly-blasphemous words.

Look, I won’t kid you folks out there in blog-reader-land — when Halloween 5 : The Revenge Of Michael Myers plays on AMC this week, I’m sure I’ll watch it at least once (well, okay, probably only once) but that just proves what a sucker for any Michael Myers flick I am. Assuming that you don’t share this affliction and are, instead, a viewer of taste and discernment who values their free time and spends it wisely, there’s really nothing I can honestly come up with to recommend this film to you. the tried-and-true phrase “for completists only” is absolutely as spot-on a description of this flick as one can find, so if you are one, then hell, tune in, of course (I will be, so you don’t have to feel like too much of a hopeless sucker), but if you’re not, then yeah, it certainly won’t be too hard at all for you to find something better to do with your time.

It wouldn’t be a proper Halloween horror movie round-up around these parts if he didn’t review at least one film from the venerable slasher series named after this, our favorite holiday, so today here at TFG we’re going to take a (relatively quick, since you pretty much know the drill with these flicks) look at not one, but two Michael Myers flicks that are both available on DVD from Anchor Bay in special “Divimax” editions that are really good and loaded with extras like multiple commentary tracks with cast and crew, very well-done making-of featurettes, trailers, outtakes, and fantastic widescreen digital transfers that look like a million bucks and are accompanied by terrific 5.1 sound mixes. If shelling out four or five bucks is too rich for your blood, though — and in this economy who could blame you? — both are also playing intermittently from now through October 31st on AMC. So without any further ado, let’s set the wayback machine to 1988 and first examine  director Dwight H. Little’s Halloween 4 : The Return Of Michael Myers.

Set ten years after Mike’s intial rampage, part 4 finds our favorite masked slasher being transferred from one mental institution to another, but not before he overhears a careless conversation about his sister, Laurie Strode, having a daughter who ‘s being raised by another family back in the old Myers stomping grounds of Haddonfield, Illinois. Sensing this is too good an opportunity for mayhem to pass up, Michael predictably makes his escape while being transferred and sets out for home, where his niece, Jamie Lloyd (Danielle Harris, who would go on to play a significant role both in this series and in Rob Zombie’s Halloween films, where she played Laurie’s best friend, Annie) finds herself tormented by strange dreams about a silent masked killer who she somehow feels inexplicably connected to — can the venerable Dr. Sam Loomis (Donald Pleasence, of course — in full scenery-chewing mode, I might add) stop his most infamous patient before he snaps off the last branch of his family tree for good?

All in all, the best thing about the fourth installment in this series is that Michael (played by George P. Wilbur in this one, if you must know) is back and doing what he does best. I’m not one of those people who has nothing good to say about Halloween III : Season Of The Witch — in fact I think it’s a solidly fun and interesting little horror movie — but by 1988 it was time for that blank-featured mask to make its return. Of course, by this point Michael’s pretty much a superhuman force of evil who can’t be killed no matter what, and Pleasence’s Loomis has flipped out to the point where his single-minded obsession to kill Myers has made him almost as dangerous as the serial-slasher himself, but by and large this pretty much follows the original John Carpenter formula to the letter. There’s really nothing new here and after a more-than-five-year absence from the screen maybe some actual innovation in this series could have been hoped for, but hell, it was just so good to see this series get itself back on the traditional slasher track (a track the first Halloween film more or less created, it should be pointed out) that the lack of anything particularly new or interesting didn’t really bug me or any of the other Myers-starved fans out there at the time.

Divorced from its context, though, and viewed as, say, part of a day-long Halloween marathon, there’s nothing about this one that really stands out, either for good or for ill. It’s a by-the-numbers Myers massacre, which was good enough to make it seem really cool at the time, but just kind of relegates it to “solid enough, but honestly nothing all that special” status now. In short, I can’t find any compelling reason not  to like Halloween 4 : The Return Of Michael Myers, but there’s nothing going on here to make it stand out from the pack, either. It’s a perfectly serviceable, average installment in the Halloween franchise, which means it’s still better than most other slasher fare (though not all, by any means) and probably well worth your time to catch on AMC this week, if nothing else.

I almost included an “if there’s nothing else on” in that last sentence, but who are we kidding? It’s TV, of course there’s nothing else on.

Oh, and a last postscript before I forget — if you still don’t get some kind of little tingle up your spine when you first hear those piano keys tapping out the Halloween theme tune at the start of any of these films, you’re probably reading the wrong blog.

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It hasn’t been too terribly long since we took a look at the first Hatchet flick around here as part of our 2010 Halloween 12-pack, but as the sequel, Hatchet II (properly referred to, I guess, as Adam Green’s Hatchet II) just came out on DVD from Dark Sky Films (who also handles its — admittedly limited — theatrical run), and the second movie picks up exactly where the first one left off, we might as well jump right in and review it right it straight away.

So Marybeth (Danielle Harris) escapes the clutches of murderous deformed psycho Victor Crowley (Kane Hodder, everybody’s favorite Jason) and after finding no shelter with a backwoods survivalist (horror EFX legend and occasional director John Carl Buechler) high-tails it back to Reverend Zombie (the Candyman himself, Tony Todd)’s cut-rate French Quarter voodoo shop in the hopes that he’ll have a strong enough conscience to decide to go back and try to retrieve his boat, look for what’s left of his tour guide, and maybe even help her rid the world of the Crowley menace once and for all.

To her (and let’s admit it, our) surprise, the not-so-good Reverend agrees and after assembling a crew of local yokel quasi-fortune hunters to help him in his daring mission, it’s back to the swamp they all go. Marybeth just wants to find the remains of her family members and give them some semblance of a proper burial, but Reverend Zombie, of course, has slimy ulterior motives galore for agreeing to help our young damsel in distress out, and naturally, this being a sequel and all, along the way we’re made privy to some new wrinkles in the Victor Crowley origin story that give him a more firm connection to our intrepid heroine than we’d previously imagined (but no, she’s not his long-lost sister — thank God).

Yup, folks, this is old-school slasher-style horror amped up to the Nth degree again, with more blood, more guts, more kills, more thrills, and more laughs. It’s really not even a sequel so much as a direct continuation, and if you watched both Hatchet films back-to-back (as I admittedly ended up doing later), what you’ve basically got here in one solid three-hour-plus story. And your humble host has to say that it’s a pretty damn good one.

Writer-director Green knows he’s not mining any new ground here story-wise and the only way he can top himself is by going for the jugular more directly, so the violence is more spectacular (and spectacularly funny), the characters are more OTT, and the whole thing just takes on the atmosphere of a straight-up slasher party flick. As always, I’m more impressed by a movie that knows its limitations and just tries to do a damn good job of what it sets out to do than something that’s bury reaching for a goal that’s well beyond its grasp. Hatchet II doesn’t fuck around — it knows why you’re watching it and it sets out to serve you up a heaping helping of everything you love.

My only real beef with this movie, honestly, is that it was show on HD instead of good old fashioned 35mm, but that’s a small gripe — apart from that, everything here is spot-on and it more than fulfills its worthy mission of  bringing old-school horror to an appreciative audience of old-school horror fans. It’s not for everyone, of course, but if your idea of a good time is watching a guy get strangled by his own intestines or a young lady fuck (or getting fucked by, depending on how you look at these things) a dude who gets his head hacked off mid-coitus and she keeps bucking back on him anyway until she figures things out, this is is the movie for you.

Dark Sky does a nice job with the DVD, too — the picture and sound are great, as you’d expect from a new release like this, and it’s loaded with some nice extras including the theatrical trailer, a making-of featurette, and two full-length commentaries (one cast, one crew) that are both a lot of fun(my favorite part being where Green points out all his horror-director friends that he got to e extras or take on minor parts in group scenes,  just in case you might be a horror geek like myself who wonders what some of these people look like) if a little bit in-jokey at times.

Anyway, Hatchet II — it’s exactly what you think it is, on steroids. And that’s a very good thing indeed.