Hetero White Male Boone has been having bad dreams, getting calls from psychiatrist David Cronenberg, who is secretly giving his patients hallucinogens. Then a bagface knifes some kid’s parents. Boone’s girlfriend Lori does karaoke at a club. Crazy Boone goes to hospital, where he meets a cheery longhair who scalps himself. All this leads Boone to Midian, underground dwelling of monsters, whose prophet he will become, to the consternation of their gill-cheeked leader Doug Bradley. But there’s trouble before Boone can take his place as prophecised hero, because either he or Cronenberg (who works nights as the psychotic bagface murderer) leads the humans to the monster pit, and a redneck army destroys the pit, driving the monsters away.

Barker creates a fantastic bunch of characters (everyone except Boone) but maybe it’s best he stopped directing. The newly restored director’s cut doesn’t change how creaky and graceless everything is. Everyone talks like they’re in a movie, one guy even screams “nooooooo!” But I hadn’t seen this since the VHS days, was worth revisiting. Maybe I’ll see if I can find the comics.

Cinematographer Robin Vidgeon had shot the first two Hellraiser movies with Clive. Whole companies are credited with the foul crimes committed against movies: “20th Century Fox drastically cut this film at the last minute prior to its theatrical release,” and everywhere it’s Fox this and Fox that. I’d like to see the individuals listed more often, IMDB credits for specific studio execs who sunk the movies.

First time I’ve watched this in HD.

Larry: Andrew Robinson, a regular on Deep Space Nine, formerly a soap opera star, bad guy in Dirty Harry, also in Pumpkinhead 2 and Child’s Play 3

Julia: Clare Higgins, apparently I missed her in season 3 of Downton Abbey

Kirsty: Ashley Laurence returned in three sequels, including Hellseeker which I don’t remember too well, also in a Lovecraft movie called Lurking Fear with Jeffrey Combs

Frank: Sean Chapman was in Barker’s Transmutations, and much later a Charisma Carpenter movie called Psychosis

Besides playing Pinhead, Doug Bradley has been in Pumpkinhead 3 and Proteus, and appeared in Nightbreed with two other cenobites.

Clive always claims to have a bunch of movies in development, but nothing has come out since the burst of originals in 2006-2009: Dread, Book of Blood, Midnight Meat Train and two (not great) Masters of Horror episodes.

“I was born to murder the world.”

Watched for about the fifth time whilst trying to think of something to write about Johnny Guitar. It’s not a great movie, mostly because of pacing problems and dull dialogue scenes, but it’s better than most. Barker shoots plenty of shirtless men in S&M-inspired gear and he’s full of neat visual ideas, but needed about twice the budget (not likely for a Scott Bakula-starring horror) to pull it off. I still enjoyed it significantly more than Capra’s Meet John Doe, which I half-watched with Katy, the poorly-encoded soundtrack burbling out endless long speeches. Detective Scott Bakula was yet to achieve his post-American Beauty comeback, Magician Swann (Kevin J. O’Connor) would play Dr. Mindbender in the G.I. Joe movie, the girl went on to play Jean Grey in the X-Men movies, and evil baddie Daniel von Bargen is best known for having a cheesy line in The Postman.

Stephen (dreamboat Jackson Rathbone from M. Night’s Last Airbender and the Twilight series) is a black haired film student who meets Quaid (edgy dude who studies fear). Stephen’s editor is a vegetarian girl, and I remember what happens to her from the short story. Abby is a girl with a dark goth birthmark all over her face and body – I liked her best.

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The ol’ “kid upstairs watches his family get killed by a maniac below” bit. Didn’t I see the same scene in Giallo last week? Everyone in this movie has tattoos and listens to teen hard-rock. It’s like the vision of underground youth culture put forth by 8mm or Blair Witch 2. Whoops, there’s my favorite M83 song over a clubbing/sex/film editing montage so I guess I’m guilty too. They hang up their fear-study flyers (on red paper, of course) among gratuitous ads for the new Dresden Dolls album.

A stupid, awful, violent little movie. Makes sense that the vegetarian-trapped-in-room-with-rotting-meat scene from the short story would make it to the movie intact. There’s nothing horror movies enjoy more these days than a psychological (yet gruesome) torture chamber. This also shared a hint of the ending of Martyrs, the torturer gaining enlightenment by staring into the dying eyes of his victim, but that movie somehow seemed both far more violent and less gratuitous. Stephen ends up killing everyone, gets away, ho-hum.

The writer/director has his hands on most Barker-related movies of the recent past and near future, including Midnight Meat Train, Book of Blood, something called The Plague and the upcoming Hellraiser remake.

“The dead have highways…”

It’s the only line I remember from the (very) short story, so of course it’s spoken five or six times in this 90-minute movie. I watched this in hi-def, only perhaps the third feature I’ve watched at home in HD (hello, The Fall and Night of the Creeps), and the first where I’ve sat close enough to the screen to notice how awesome it is. Actually sometimes I forget, it’s not that HD is awesome, it’s that SD is terrible and it has been hanging around far too long. Down with the tyranny of standard-definition… we welcome our new masters! I’d love to welcome them further but I can’t afford blu-ray or a nice TV – this $200 widescreen computer monitor will have to do for the next few years.

Oh, right, the movie… so as we’ve discussed I am a sucker for movies based on Clive Barker stories. I’ll watch any old shit as long as his name is attached (except the made-for-TV shit and Underworld/Transmutations). Therefore, Book of Blood, based on the titular story which served as an introduction to his anthology, and another I don’t remember called “On Jerusalem Street.” This was halfway decent, not as much a waste of time as Midnight Meat Train, maybe even worth watching. That’d be the first Barker-related movie to hit the high mark of “worth watching” in nine years, so this is a big deal.

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The plot doesn’t sound so great: mystical whiz-kid Simon (TV’s Jonas Armstrong) is taking some college course in supernatural hoo-ha (lucky bastards – all my courses were about operating systems and design fallacies and thermodynamics and Thomas Kuhn) taught by over-serious Mary (Sophie Ward of the Crispin Glover Crime and Punishment – yes, there is such a thing and I must see it), who hangs around haunted houses in the evenings with tech guy Clive Russell (supposedly in Spaced and Neverwhere, but I don’t remember him). They find a house that is seriously badass haunted and they pay Simon to sleep there while they monitor the goings-on. Sure enough, he is haunted as hell, but they fail to record it because Simon’s actually faking the whole thing, jamming their signals and scrawling on the walls because his parents didn’t pay him enough attention.

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The action stops for an hour or two while each character recites his or her traumatic back story. There’s the same scene of a guy with big headphones and a shotgun mic walking around a haunted house as in Spooked. I love that.

Finally the actual ghosts have had enough of this, haul Simon to the CG-riffic GHOST REALM and take turns carving their stories into his skin. Simon escapes back into the framing story – have I mentioned there is a framing story? – in which a dude is stalking Simon at a restaurant. The dude captures him, listens to his story (that’d be the bulk of our movie), kills Simon and removes his skin, then drowns when his cabin fills with Evil Dead amounts of blood and the door won’t open (funny how the doors never open). Who hired the dude to skin Simon? Could it be Mary, the only other character in the movie? Yes!

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From the director of Versus and Godzilla: Final Wars, two movies I didn’t like at all. Guess I should’ve looked that up before I rented it, but I’m a sucker for anything Clive Barker-related, so it probably wouldn’t have stopped me. Barker’s elliptical story has been handily adapted into a full-length movie by the writer/director of Insanitarium, a little-seen horror starring Peter Stormare. Add a hundred producers and the cinematographer of Soul Plane and you’ve got yourself a movie.

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Bradley Cooper (Jennifer Connelly’s cheaty husband in He’s Not All That Into You and an enthusiastic drama counselor in Wet Hot American Summer) plays a dullard photographer who wants to get deeper, go further into the depths of the city to get the most real, unflinching photographs anyone has seen, to the frustation of girlfriend Leslie Bibb (who was she in Iron Man?). They have a good-looking friend (Roger Bart of Hostel II) and they know a couple of other undeveloped characters, so much the better since a horror flick needs bodies. Oh and Bradley’s photo guru is Brooke Shields, whose name you hear a lot though she’s hardly been in anything I’ve heard of.

20 minutes in it announces itself to be slapstick horror, with a three-person train massacre filmed in the hammiest way possible with all From Dusk Till Dawn 2 POV shots. I didn’t think it would stoop to that. Then it straightens up and goes serious suspense for a while – can’t figure out what it wants. Maybe the slapstick thing would’ve worked if they’d stuck with it. Clashes with Barker’s style, but I’m sure Vinnie Jones would’ve been game.

Clearly game for anything:
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Oh, so Vinnie is “Mahogany,” butcher by day, filler of train cars with murdered naked bodies for subterranean mutants to eat by night. They pull the thing where Bradley finds out, fights Vinnie and wins, but now has to replace Vinnie as the purveyor of bodies for mutants under the guidance of he sinister magic conductor. Neither as good as I’d hoped nor as bad as I’d feared.

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Another Clive Barker story that was either badly adapted or bad to begin with. And another story about writers’ creations coming to life. This is all writers think about.

At first it seemed like it was headed exactly in the direction of “dreams in the witch-house” but it took a far more boring turn. The episode seems like the creation of a repressed network-TV writer… it exists just so dude can yell “shit” and “fuck” and we can show a naked girl on TV.

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Star actor Christopher Lloyd has little to do. Barker vet actor Tony Todd (candyman!) plays the beast. Whole thing is just terrible. Oh, our main guy turns into book pages and blows away at the end… he was a fictional creation, just part of the story all along!!!

Season 2 overall kinda sucked. Maybe my expectations were just high because s1 was half good, but it seemed like this one’s hit-to-miss was much lower.

I am not making this screen shot up:
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Don’t know why I saved this one for last… guess being based on a Clive Barker story made it seem like a safe bet. Might be my least-favorite episode in the series, though. I mean, “dance of the dead” was awful, but it had its apocalyptic rain scene to recommend it, and Robert Englund I guess. This one’s got mediocre actors speaking awful period dialogue in service of an awful script, and McNaughton (Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer and Wild Things) doesn’t seem to be trying too hard, treating this as the low-budget TV episode it is, instead of aiming for something better like nearly every other director did. At least he got Jon Polito.

Dude pesters old woman necromancer to raise his beloved wife from the dead, she tells him the horrible story of Ernst Haeckel, a science student who once pestered necromancer Jon Polito. Ernst spends the night at an old man’s house. The man discloses that he keeps his young, beautiful wife by paying off Polito to reanimate her dead lover some nights so she can have a graveyard orgy. Ernst fouls everything up, the old man dies, Polito gets the high hat, and back in the “present day” the old woman reveals herself to be that young woman and she’s learned the necromancy art herself and has undead sex with Haeckel, yuck!

A slog to get through, mostly because of the dialogue… if Clive is smart he’ll want nothing to do with this one. Ohhhh, I see that George Romero was supposed to direct, but dropped out due to scheduling problems. Probably either his upcoming Stephen King movie or his upcoming zombie mockumentary. Between those two and this MoH episode, it’s hard to say which is the worst idea for Romero.

The high hat, the fake mustache:
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The nudity:
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Another angle on that:
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The gang’s all here:
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So the final Masters Of Horror Season One evaluation:

GREAT:
Cigarette Burns (Carpenter)
Homecoming (Dante)

GOOD:
Incident On and Off a Mountain Road (Coscarelli)
Dreams in the Witch-House (Gordon)
Deer Woman (Landis)
Fair-Haired Child (Malone)
Sick Girl (McKee)
Pick Me Up (Cohen)
Imprint (Miike)

OKAY:
Jenifer (Argento)
Chocolate (Garris)

BAD:
Dance of the Dead (Hooper)
Haeckel’s Tale (McNaughton)

A nice ratio, better than most X-Files seasons. On to season 2!