Posts Tagged ‘tony todd’

dead-of-the-nite_full

I’ll watch anything with Tony Todd in it. Even if he’s just got a few lines, you know they’ll be delivered with a soul-shaking, baritone, horrific gusto. He never half-asses it, our guy Tony, but let’s be honest: particularly in recent years, a number of the low-budget productions he’s been involved with have indeed been half-assed.

Which brings us to our latest “Halloween On Hulu” offering, a 2013-filmed UK number I found in their “horror and suspense” section last night called Dead Of The Nite. And I’m sorry, but this flick is just straight-up atrocious on pretty much every level.

dead-of-the-nite-tony-todd-cop

Welcome to another “found footage” paranormal story! A crew of purportedly intrepid “ghost hunters” are off to investigate the infamous Jericho Manor, which has a standard-issue “haunted history,” and once they arrive to roll cameras for their internet “live feed” show, they’re informed by the caretaker (played by Todd) that they’ll have to be, of course, locked in for the night, because that’s how these things work. They say that’s cool with them and then they proceed to get spooked out of their wits by clanging doors and the sound of footsteps and — you know the drill,  by the time it’s all over only the camera survives.

The one slight “difference” that writer/director S.J. Evans offers up in this dull shaky-cam extravaganza is that instead of “real” ghosts and goblins, there’s a very human, flesh-and-blood killer at work here, but that doesn’t make things any more interesting — and while some of the kills are reasonably effective, his ultra-low budget (20,000 pounds according to IMDB) more or less guarantees that they all end up looking both phony and stupid. The wretched acting by more or less everyone involved doesn’t help matters, either, and “stars” like Paul Fox and Cicely Tennant hopefully still have their day jobs to fall back on , because they’re never going to make it on either screen or stage.

dead-of-the-nite-found-footage

Sadly, that list of bad performances also includes Todd’s, who proves my opening statement to be a lie by half-assing it all they way here. He’s clearly “mailing it in,” as the saying goes,  and probably showed up for one day’s filming, took his check, and high-tailed it back to the US. I honestly felt embarrassed for the guy, and that’s pretty bizarre considering that he should be the embarrassed one. But whatever. We all have out off-days, I suppose, and this is definitely Tony at his lowest and most listless. I never thought I’d say this, but he’s just plain fucking terrible in this film — but at least he’s in plentiful company, because everyone else, both in front of and behind the camera, sucks just as much. The whole thing comes off as a student project undertaken by some particularly bad students who had just enough money to hire a slumming genre star for an afternoon.

So yeah — skip this one. I said at the outset that I’d watch anything with Tony Todd in it, but I didn’t foresee that he would ever be in anything as wretched and irredeemable as Dead Of The Nite. As they say in this film’s country of origin, this is pure, unmitigated shite.

Just as it wouldn’t really feel like Halloween without reviewing at least one of the films in John Carpenter and Debra Hill’s venerable Halloween slasher series, the season wouldn’t feel complete without reviewing a zombie flick of some sort or other as well, and this year I’ve chosen to revisit one of my personal favorites — 1990’s remake of George Romero’s seminal “walking dead” film, Night Of The Living Dead, written  (and overseen to one degree or another) by Romero himself and directed by former special effects wizard and all-around horror legend in his own right Tom Savini.

Am I going to attempt to argue here that this version is in any way, shape, or form better than the original? Of course not, that would be an absurd proposition, but it’s certainly stands head and shoulders above the bumper-crop of horror remakes that followed in its wake (and continues unabated to this day), stands as a damn fine film in its own right, and is a special treat for those of us who are devotees of the first movie in that it remains absolutely true to its roots while simultaneously being unafraid to toy with our expectations almost from the get-go.

I assume the basic plot needs no real recap here — besieged folks hole up in a farmhouse while the dead return to life and start to attack and feast upon the living — so let me just jump right into the meat of things and talk about why I think the changes Romero and Savini made here work , since that’s the subject that gets most horror fans worked up anyway. First off, Patricia Tallman’s iteration of Barbara is certainly no deranged or shellshocked “shrinking violet”-type here — anything but, and that marks a welcome departure since even by 1990 that sort of portrayal of your lead female character was going to seem hopelessly out of date. Instead, she’s more akin to Sigourney Weaver’s Ripley character from the Alien series and isn’t just unafraid to mix it up and “get her hands dirty,” so to speak, but welcomes the chance to do so. It’s a stark contrast to what we knew about the story — our thought we know — and Tallman pulls it off remarkably well.

Less obvious, but equally as notweworthy in its own right, are the subtle changes the Candyman himsef, Tony Todd, makes in his portrayal of Ben. With Tallman’s Barbara picking up a good deal of the slack as far as the action is concerned, he’s not called upon to be the “hero,” in a the traditional sense, in the same way that Duane Jones was in the original film, yet he is every bit the “glue guy” who holds the group together and functions as both its collective clear head and its conscience, leading by example in a group of strong-willed, industrious people who could all lay claim to the mantle of “unofficial leader” in their own right if they so chose. He’s steady, grounded, and carries on Jones’ legacy with distinction, even while being less a “man of action”-type than his esteemed predecessor in the role.

And while the Harry Cooper of 1990 is still largely an asshole, thanks to a nice turn from Tom Towles in the part he’s a more multi-faceted and all-too-human asshole than he was in the original script.

There are changes I don’t particularly care for — I would have loved for this film to be in black-and white, for instance, and I’m ambivalent about the re-worked ending (I don’t absolutely despise it as some purists do, but I have a certain amount of sympathy for their viewpoint), but on the whole I think Savini does a really nice job of contemporizing a story that didn’t necessarily need it, but was bound to get it anyway given the first film’s — ahem! — “copyright-free” status that insured that somebody, somewhere was going to remake the thing (as others have, unfortunately, since). In short, given that Night Of The Living Dead was essentially guaranteed to be remade, we should all be grateful that the remake that ended up happening first was this solidly-done, respectful, and professional — and that it didn’t just content itself with those things  but was willing and able to successfully update many of the key concepts, characters, and themes carried over from the original, as well. I can’t think of many horror remakes of more recent vintage that have managed to both remain true to their origins while subverting audience preconceptions at the same time; it’s definitely a tricky balancing act to pull off, but Savini and company were more than up to the task.

Adam Green's "Hatchet II" Movie Poster

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.

"Hatchet" Movie Poster

“Old School American Horror.”

Shit, that sounds good, doesn’t it? That’s what writer-director  Adam Green’s 2006 indie-horror mini-sensation Hatchet (which has now spawned a sequel that came and went in ultra-limited theatrical release pretty fast, but should be available on DVD in the hopefully-not-too-distant future) promises, and I’m pleased to say that it delivers.

Need some evidence? How about cameos from cult horror icons Robert Englund (as a backwoods redneck), Tony Todd (as a French Quarter witch doctor/tour guide), and Richard Riehle (as a loudmouth tourist/soon-to-be-victim)?

Not enough for ya? How about most people’s favorite Jason, Kane Hodder, as the slasher (or hatcheter) himself, Victor Crowley?

Shit, how about that name — Victor Crowley, that’s got “iconic horror character” written all of it, doesn’t it?

Shit, I can see you’re still not convinced.

How about a healthy serving of bare boobs (not all of which are that great)? How about a simple-ass plot about a dumped-and-heartbroken college schmuck name Ben (Joel Moore) who goes down to Mardi Gras to forget his troubles but can’t get his mind off his ex so he heads out on a guided “haunted bayou” tour with a buddy and ends up hearing about the Crowley legend — the story of a horribly deformed young boy who was protected by his father until the locals came to kill him and Victor’s dad, while trying to save him, accidentally puts a hatchet through his skull — only to find that the legend is real, Victor survived, and now he’s hunting down and killing anybody who comes into his neck of the woods (or, in this case, swamp)?

Still not enough? Dear God you people are tough to please.

Okay, how about awesome effects by none other than John Carl Buechler himself, who also puts in a cameo in the film?

How about a huge body count and gruesome-as-hell deaths?

How about a totally insane non-ending of an ending that rips off both the original Friday the 13th and the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre at the same time?

How about I shut the fuck and you see Hatchet for yourself and come back here later and tell me about how right I was?

Now that sounds like a plan! Hatchet is available in an unrated director’s cut on DVD from Anchor Bay and features a flawless anamorphic widescreen transfer, a terrific 5.1 surround audio mix, and a great commentary by writer-director Green and co-producer Scott Altomare that’s well worth a listen, among assorted other extras. It clocks in at right around 90 minutes just like you’d expect, and while it does nothing — and I do mean nothing — new, that’s sorta the point.

Hatchet isn’t about breaking new ground, defying convention, subverting audience expectations, redefining the slasher genre for a new generation of fans, or any of that shit. Hell, it’s not even trying to be particularly scary, and its tongue is planted firmly in its cheek pretty much the whole way through. It’s more funny than it is frightening, but it never loses sight of what it’s trying to achieve and retains an attitude of playful respect toward all the horror conventions it’s aping throughout.

Simply put,  this flick  is about one thing, and one thing only — delivering the goods. And damn if it doesn’t do that in spades.

Hatchet is the kind of movie that could only be made by hard-core 70s and 80s horror fans, and it’s only made for hard-core 70s and 80s horror fans. If you love Michael, Jason, Leatherface, and Freddy, rest assured you’re gonna love Victor Crowley and Hatchet — and it’s gonna love you right back.