Child’s Play (1988, Tom Holland)

First off, the baddie is known as The Strangler, but he has a getaway driver – what strangler has accomplices? He’s also a powerful satanist, and when cornered by a cop in a poorly staged toy-store shootout, he pours his soul into little Chucky, which our boy Andy’s mom buys from a “peddler” in a back alley (I dunno why I find it funny that they use the word peddler so many times).

Chucky kills mom’s friend the babysitter first, which is investigated by the guy who shot The Strangler – he’s the only cop in town, and doesn’t do a useful thing in the whole movie. Then Chucky takes Andy on some adventures into the city, first to blow up the house of his getaway driver (who escaped from police! the police not coming off great in this film) then to his voodoo guru’s house. Chucky rightly points out that gurus shouldn’t tell their clients where their own voodoo doll is hidden, then kills the doll after getting the vital info that he can only soul-transfer into the first person to whom he revealed his identity, so, Andy. Standoff ensues, finally mom and Andy and the fuckup cops killing the hell out of the killer doll. I’d forgotten how great Chucky looks in these – some real attention paid to the effects.

Holland directed Fright Night, and a Whoopi Goldberg action-comedy that I’ve somehow never heard of, even though in the late 80’s I definitely tried to watch all the Whoopi Goldberg action-comedies. Writer/creator Don Mancini has stayed involved in the whole series. Andy’s mom is Catherine Hicks (whale scientist of Star Trek IV). Brad Dourif, undistinctive as the human killer but next-level as the doll’s voice, has been in a ton of things, always best when he’s playing crazy. The cop had just played the evil prince in Princess Bride, was later the voice of Jack Skellington. Poor Andy would mainly keep playing Andy.

Dourif opens a locked door the way you do in movies: by firing a glancing shot a couple inches from the deadbolt:

Andy’s mom checks out the Mighty Damballa:


Child’s Play 2 (1990, John Lafia)

Chucky’s skull is salvaged by toy company, a great idea! The Mike Pence-like boss wants the thing investigated as part of a relaunch of the doll line, and it’s not a great sign when a chintzy electrocution effect throws a company engineer through the window. Andy’s mom is off recovering in an institution, so the kid is set up with a foster family: two bickering parents and a cool motorcycle chick, while Chucky slaughters the company flunky who took him home (hey, finally some strangling from The Strangler).

Since everyone loves a mass murdering doll, the movie is trying harder to be funny and quippy… Chucky complaining about “women drivers” while the chick is trying to shake him of her car is a low, but foster-home manager dying on a photocopier is cute. This is the one with the memorable ending back in the toy factory, where Andy and the chick kill Chucky in six different ways.

Chucky fashions himself a Terminator 2 knife-hand:

Lafia was a writer on part one, also directed an Ally Sheedy dog horror. Grace Zabriskie (appearing in Twin Peaks at the time) played the foster-home manager. Walkabout star Jenny Agutter is foster mom, Beef from Phantom of the Paradise is foster dad. The motorcycle chick is Christine Elisa, who was in Body Snatchers with Meg Tilly, sister of Bride of Chucky star Jennifer Tilly.

Great scene: three people here know this is a hostage situation, Grace is oblivious:


Child’s Play 3 (1991, Jack Bender)

Years later, we’ve reached the limits of young Andy as an actor, so he’s recast as a teen in military school. At the toy company, Mike Pence is back, arguing with an Ebert-type that the dolls should be rebooted again, and this time the resurrected Chucky kills the boss himself.

Stop putting police and military shit into my killer doll movies. Hardly anything of interest here, the military school providing new friends and enemies for Andy before Chucky leads them off-campus to a carnival. It’s jokier than ever, and goes against its own mythology in a desperate attempt to keep going. Chucky kills a garbage man, the barber, replaces their paintballs with live ammo before a war-game, then waves a gun around inside the carnival haunted house until he’s dropped into a giant fan.

The barber!

Bender would later direct a significant chunk of Lost episodes, and a couple of well-regarded Stephen King TV series. Very happy to see Kirsty’s dad Andrew Robinson making the most of the barber role – he would later be a regular on Deep Space Nine. New Andy is Justin Whalin, soon to be a TV star on Lois and Clark.

Sorry other actors, I only care about the barber:

Part one was the masterpiece that I remembered, and part two… well, it’s a sequel, it’s fine. Maybe losing Stuart Gordon (who was filming Robot Jox instead) was a real problem, or maybe it’s just sequelitis, or I should relax, since this is still quite good.

Dan has no self-respect, is still palling around with the clearly mad Herbert, who is doing gruesome experiments in an unsupervised warzone before returning to the hospital of part one, where he claims he’s doing important work but mostly fucks around reanimating whimsically-joined body parts.

Curious Dr. Graves (Mel Stewart of Shirley Clarke’s Cool World) awakens the evil psychic head of Dr. Hill. As before, emotionally fragile Dan tries to have a love life (Fabiana Udenio of the second Austin Powers) and West accidentally kills someone (this time a cop!) whom he has to resurrect to get out of trouble. And sure as shit, they go the full Frankenstein, making a Bride out of stolen body parts, causing a love-triangle problem for Dan, who chooses life, so the new creature tears her own heart out.

World of Tomorrow Episode Three: The Absent Destinations of David Prime (2020, Don Hertzfeldt)

Hertzfeldt comes up with his biggest horror yet: embedded-HUD popup ads. A future Emily backup clone contacts a past David and sends him on a disfiguring journey to retrieve secret messages about the clandestine between-time assassinations of various Davids by other Davids. It’s twisty! And excellent, and full of more wonderful quotes, and I’ll be watching these forever.


Stump the Guesser (2020, Maddin/Johnson/Johnson)

The Odenkirk-looking Guesser (The Editor from The Editor) is renowned for his abilities, but when he runs out of guessing milk, things go bad and his guessing license is revoked. But during this time he falls in love with his long-lost sister, spends some time scientifically disproving theories of heredity in order to marry her, but things go badly at the end when he has to guess which door she’s behind. Some fun leaps of logic and distorted visuals here, but I wasn’t feeling it as much as other Maddin films.


Accounting for some other things watched recently… The Mads from MST3K have been doing monthly live shows. I checked out Glen or Glenda, a movie that’s so busy explaining itself that it never gets to the movie, and told Neil:

That was… really fun. That’s the most I’ve enjoyed a MST3K-related thing since the end of the sci-fi channel years. I don’t know if it’s because of their obvious affection for the material, or if I’m just in the right mood. I’d never seen the feature either – shame on me, after digging the Tim Burton version for 25 years now (oh you just tried to watch it, is it cringey now? Is it Johnny Depp’s fault?) and the Mads nailed it in their intro when they said this movie has everything, but it also has nothing.

Next was The Tingler, which I already just barely remember (also explainy, features Vincent Price)… then the truly baffling, tensionless version of The Most Dangerous Game called Walk The Dark Street. I think the guy from The Rifleman played the baddie. Then some shorts I should track and name, but am not gonna.


Hannah Gadsby’s Douglas is her stand-up comedy special to follow Nanette, which was the special to end stand-up comedy, and yet she pulls off the follow-up by creating another perfectly-constructed show and this time being breathtakingly funny. That sounds like a cliche, but I had to pause the show to catch my breath.

And Katy and I watched something called Australia: Land of Parrots, which is everything you’d dream it would be, and I should just play it on a loop.

Since I already watched one movie this week where Anya Taylor-Joy costars with a guy with multiple-personality delusions. Security supplies dude Bruce is joined by his son Joseph (Spencer Clark, same actor as in Unbreakable when he was 12! Now with black Hellraiser eyes). Bruce catches up with Horde who has kidnapped some cheerleaders, and the cops take them both to the same facility where Mr. Glass is being held.

Sarah Paulson (Fassbender’s slaveowner wife in 12 Years a Slave) is a phony-sounding psych specializing in delusions of grandeur, and will spend the rest of the movie trying to talk these men out of the idea that they’re heroes or villains, saying Bruce just has a brain cloud. This is the Glen or Glenda of superhero movies, overexplaining all its ideas – I flipped off the TV more often than I usually do. The movie ends with its own clip reel getting released as a viral video, thanks to some hacker code quickly written (complete with comments, lol) by Glass. It’s the super-serious parts of X-Men movies without the fun parts. At least I appreciate that M. Night ends the story on a note of needless police brutality.

Some sequelly repetition here to be sure, but adding the mad doctor and the puzzle girl, then sending Kirsty and the resurrected Julia through the labyrinth with them, all great ideas. Overall made by people in sympathy with the spirit of the original, though that wouldn’t last through many more sequels. Too many flashbacks to the first movie, but in fairness you could never follow it without them. A powerful movie, never truly scary because you don’t quite buy it, but no acting missteps either. Leviathan, Lord of the Labyrinth should’ve played a bigger part in later movies, instead of continuing to obsess over Pinhead’s human origins.

Skinless Julia:

Stolen Skin:

Barker wrote the story, and screenwriter Peter “Martin” Atkins would write the next two, then Wishmaster, before turning to novels. Randel went on to make the haunted-clock Amityville sequel, the famously bad Fist of the North Star, and most recently a kids movie about a telepathic dog.

“Help my daughter”

Julia and Channard:

Poet horror lobotomist Dr. Channard is my dad’s age, was in Prospero’s Books and Hot Fuzz. Julia is in The House of Mirth which I also need to rewatch. Kirsty’s boyfriend Steve flakes off forever and is quickly forgotten, as Nurse Kyle becomes her sympathetic new guy: William Hope went from Aliens to this, then nothing, and twenty years later found his calling as a Thomas the Tank Engine regular. “Get them off me” guy was Oliver Smith – appropriately the same actor who played Skinless Frank.

Halfway through Jeannette, little Lise aged-up to older Jeanne Voisin, and now due to a casting snafu, she’s aged back down to Lise for the battles and trial. It’s Jeannette Redux for the battles – all conversations in the desert, Joan “sings” a song in voiceover, her horse dances to a drumbeat then all the horsemen dance around her in a choreographed pattern. Mostly notable here is Lord de Rais who looks 18 with lion-hair.

Why does the king (Rohmer actor Fabrice Luchini), who everyone respects, act like such a sleazy scumlord and wear a juicer-hat?

The start of the trial is all talk, but livened up by the actors, especially church master Nic l’Oiseleur (below, right), a Quinquin-caliber performer. The church is an infinitely more gaudy setting than the Passion or the Bresson, and all the non-Joan actors are more interesting than those in the other films – shot mostly in close-up but it’s a large echoey room so they’re all shouting. It’s maybe a more eccentric movie than the first, and for the better… not a big fan of the vocal songs, but the instrumental music is just great.

I thought I’d be a clever boy and watch the 2020 remake followed by the 1940 sequel and see which is better. Neither really holds a candle to the James Whale movie, but remake definitely has the edge over this clunky, cheapie sequel. As far as German directors who worked with their wives, directed versions of The Indian Tomb, and emigrated to the USA in 1933 go, I prefer Lang – who made his own sequel with the word “Return” in the title this same year. Fellow German Curt Siodmak (Robert’s idiot brother) was beginning his Hollywood writing career, having wowed his home country with classics like F.P. 1 Doesn’t Answer.

Nan Grey (a soft-voiced automaton) was supposed to marry a very young Vincent Price (a full decade before The Baron of Arizona), but he’s inconveniently on death row because he killed his brother… or DID he?? (he did not). Fortunately, Price is friends with another man with a dead brother – O.G. I.M.’s bro Frank (John Sutton would also appear in Return of The Fly). Frank, not a great scientist (he lets cigar-smoking cops into his chemical lab), turns Price invisible to spring him from prison, then hopes he’ll find a cure before Vince goes mad (the movie lets this drop, Vince never starts slipping). So this time the girl’s in on the plan and the invisible man’s a good guy – kinda anticlimactic as far as horror sequels go.

I.M. sits down for a nice meal with his girl and his brother’s killer:

Cedric Hardwicke (Hitchcock’s Suspicion) likes Nan and is sadly obvious about it, seems so glad to have Vince out of the way that you almost suspect him of having murdered the brother, ah, of course he did, as Vince learns after playfully tormenting a drunk whom Cedric confided in. Movie is extremely British, and plods along… the dialogue obvious, the invisibility effects good but some other filmmaking techniques lacking (they have animals “die” by freezing the picture, a non-barking dog is overdubbed by a very-barking dog). Vince kills the killer and I suppose nobody can prove it was him, then gets his body back.

Mouseover to watch a guinea pig get visible:
image

I’ve given up on the miniseries versions, if they’re even still making those, so I think I’m missing some important shots of amazing food. Besides this disappointing shortage of food footage, this is my fave of the Trip series so far… gets on with what we came to see, and saves the bulk of the wallowing for the end. I watched with subtitles while clattering about, assembling the shelves I hadn’t pieced together during Endgame, and was disappointed that all the Spanish – including names of dishes! – are subtitled “(speaking foreign language)”. The subtitlers never even figured out that this language was Spanish. Complaints aside, this movie had some choice exchanges:

Coogan on his new script: “It’s about a man looking for his daughter.”
Brydon: “This’ll be the follow-up to your film about a woman looking for her son … He should be looking for something else, you know, to avoid the comparisons. Maybe man looking for his car.”
C: “The thing is you can do man who’s lost his car. European filmmakers use huge, overbearing thematic metaphors all the time, so it could be a guy looking for his car, but actually he doesn’t realize… he’s looking for something much bigger than that.”
B: “A van.”
C: “Yeah, but the van of life.”

Hawkeye’s family disappears.

Dark Phoenix saves Iron Man from dying in space.

They kill tired-old-man Thanos.

Years later, a rat resurrects Ant Man.

Thor drinks a lotta Tropicalia.

They all get Ant-Manned – doesn’t this diminish the importance of actual Ant Man?

They visit previous movies through time, just like one of those 24-hour Marvel marathons at the Regal, tangling with Robert Redford, Tilda Swinton, Loki, their own selves, undead Thanos, and even Natalie Portman.

160 minutes, which is how long it took to reassemble our bookshelves.