Some of the most daredevil action ever filmed, with the all-time flimsiest setup (the cops say drug smuggling is out of hand, requiring some kind of “super cop,” so Jackie Chan is called in). Maggie is left behind to be annoying alone, while Jackie springs a criminal from prison to gain his trust, then Michelle Yeoh pretends to be Jackie’s sister and saves their asses when they get busted while undercover. It’s a 1992 action movie, which means there are bazookas, and really too many things get blown up. But damn, Yeoh jumps a motorcycle onto a moving train.
Evangelion 2.0: You Can (Not) Advance (2009, Hideaki Anno)
Carrying on where we left off from 1.11, and the wikis confirm that the stuff I didn’t remember from the series (suicidally British pilot Mari) is new to the movies. Doubling down on the Christianity stuff and the teen nudity. Asuka jumpkicks an angel to death, then when her robot becomes possessed, the bosses remote-pilot Shinji’s eva and beat the hell out of her. Some good action, slowed down by a couple of lame pop songs – and it’s fun that the subtitles only translated song lyrics in the final scene instead of the dialogue that might’ve explained what is happening.
Glass Onion (2022, Rian Johnson)
There’s a literal glass onion, and the Mona Lisa, and a revolutionary new source of fuel, and they all explode at the end. Good 2-part structure (and 2-part Monae), nice how it starts over zoom chats then wriggles out of covid restrictions using movie-logic. Katy’s first time at Movieland.
Final Destination 3 (2006, James Wong)
The Roller Coaster Sequel. After the big funhouse setpiece, M.E. Winstead (the girl with hair like this) and her late bestie’s bf Kevin (a guy from The Ring Two Remake) survive, along with two goths (I’m about to see him in Ginger Snaps, she was in a Queen Latifah movie), a jock (Texas Battle of Wrong Turn 2), and two girls named Ashley who will soon die in cranked-up tanning beds, leading to a great edit to their coffins. Winstead figures out the pattern just quickly enough to find each person moments before their deaths, while being stalked by a goth, until something happens, I forget what, and they all think they’ve escaped, until a haha coda on an NYC train.
Our heroes, too late to save the jock:
Little sister Julie in front of a Carolyn Mark poster:
Very funny and enjoyable movie, obviously a must-see motion picture, but it loses something – part one was original, and part two carried a previous character forward and developed the idea, but then this is just part one again, almost a remake, the previous movies only existing diegetically in a web search jumbled in with 9/11 conspiracy theories.
Hellraiser (2022, David Bruckner)
The latest reboot is a Hulu Original from Serbia – not promising, but we only get one Hellraiser movie every five or six years now, so better give it a shot. Does a good job following current trends: it’s too long (the longest Hellraiser by far), the dialogue gets buried under bassy music/fx, it’s got trans representation, gay characters quoting Lord Byron, and young people with trauma.
New box, new rules – box has six configurations, solver has to make six sacrifices then can choose from six rewards. Playboy art dealer (not that one) has box in prologue, prays to Leviathan and disappears. Years later, drug addict’s new bf, secretly working for art dealer, leads her to box. Conveniently for the box’s rule of sixes, we’ve got nearly that many characters: addict, her bf, her brother, his bf, their weirdly loyal roommate. Brother goes first, the movie showing us glimpses of demons and shifting walls then vanishing the kids offscreen, then we get a freebie sacrifice by visiting the art dealer’s box-supplier in hospital, then goes the roommate, then another freebie as she stabs a cenobite (!). Perhaps I lost count, but the traitor goes to hell, the man hiding in the walls ascends and is flayed into a rad cenobite, and the addict chooses life and walks away.
From the director of Night House and writers of Super Dark Times. Lead girl is from one-take horror Let’s Scare Julie, the brother is from a couple TV movies where he plays guys who are too powerfully handsome, his bf from a Scooby Doo spinoff prequel, her bf an American Animal, the art dealer from Elektra, the roommate is Ciaran Hinds’ daughter, original box-deliverer was in the latest Blade Runner, and head hell-priest cenobite from Neon Demon.
Charles Bramesco on twitter:
There’s no belief in pleasure here, Barker’s conflicted psychosexual overtones replaced by the deadening, simply opposed evils of drugs. Instead of a perverse negotiation of desires, everything is motivated by the logistics of getting poked by a box. And for the love of god (a malevolent giant rhombus, as we all know), will someone turn on a fucking light and let me get a good look at the clearly labored-over cenobite designs.
This needed to be way hornier. Hellraiser movies work better when they’re about getting a bit carried away with your kink than when they’re about some monkey’s paw thing, or owning the cenobites with facts and logic.
Bride of Chucky (1998, Ronny Yu)
Campy from the opening scene, a police evidence locker with Freddy/Jason/Michael artifacts in view. Humor isn’t always what we want from horror sequels, but this murderer-possessed-doll franchise had worn itself thin by part three. Creator Don Mancini didn’t even bring on new writers (not credited ones, anyway), just a director (Ronny of The Bride with White Hair) and actor (Jenny Tilly of Bound) who could bring this thing over the edge. There’s more visual interest over the opening credits than in entire Branagh movie (good music, too).
Tilly is the pre-doll Chucky’s badass girl, who is friends with fake-goth Alexis Arquette (a Patricia/Rosanna sibling) and neighbors with a young dude named Jesse, who is dating Katherine Heigl (whose cop dad is John Ritter), also friends with Nickelodeon kid David. This provides a steady stream of dupes and victims as the central story progresses: Tilly and Chucky’s reunion, betrayal, her death by electrocution watching Bride of Frankenstein in the tub (yes this is the third in my Frankenstein triple feature) and ensuing dollification.
Further references to Hellraiser (arguably, when John Ritter catches a car airbag full o’ nails) and Natural Born Killers. A couple of swingers die via the shattered ceiling mirror trick from A Very Long Engagement (but six years earlier and on a waterbed). One of the Hocus Pocus witches plays a hotel maid. “Kiss my shiny plastic butt” a year before Futurama premiered. The dolls die as usual: “We belong dead… goodbye darling, I’ll see you in hell.”
Hellraiser IV: Bloodline (1996, Yagher/Smithee)
Bald guy in outer space uses two Nintendo Power Gloves to make a robot unlock the hellbox (which opens via 1990’s computer graphics, not the best idea). Space soldiers come running in to stop him: we got the tough one, the smart one, the Black Guy Who Will Die First, and various others. But first, the movie wants to get very plotty, as Bald Guy narrates the hellbox backstory to explain his current actions.
France’s Greatest Magician and his murderous toadie Adam Scott commission the box from a toymaker, then summon Angelique, a sexy lady demon who must do their bidding for a century.
Toymaker in happier days:
In present-ish day she breaks free, kills Adam Scott and summons a Hell Priest to harmlessly kidnap(!) the toymaker’s descendant’s family, demanding something or other, I dunno, I started looking up the actors’ resumés at this point. The Polish Brothers are chatting about transsexual desire before getting cenobitten. Good use is made of the Hellbox Building that ends part 3.
Back in Space, the toymaker’s even-more-distant descendant has summoned hell into space, and the Black guy (of Warlock: The Armageddon) is killed immediately. Pat Skipper of one of the Halloween remakes gets beheaded through a mirror. Some dude gets absorbed by the Twins, in an effect unfortunately reminiscent of the Bradley/Pinhead morphing from the last movie. It is fun that the flesh-obsessed Pinhead gets tricked by a hologram while the toymaker wanders away in the middle of a villain spiel, then is supposedly obliterated when the spaceship folds into a cosmic hellbox. None of the subsequent sequels are set after the year 2127, so we can assume this worked.
An ambitious attempt, conceived by Barker and Atkins to expand and complete the series, but the overall effect of the acting/dialogue/lighting has more of a high-end Puppet Master feel, which is certainly not what you want. Adding insult, the following year would bring Event Horizon, a much improved space-hell movie. It’s playing the Plaza this week, and Hellraiser 4 isn’t playing anywhere.
The studio was being sold to Disney at the time, and the Halloween 6 team was brought in to re-edit, cutting out chunks of backstory including “Aristocratic Cenobites wearing white powdered wigs,” hence the director disowning the picture. I checked out the workprint version on Internet Archive looking for 1790’s aristocrat cenobites – no dice, but I did get to hear Valentina Vargas’s Angelique voice undubbed.
Vargas is from Fuller’s Street of No Return, the magician an alien in Ed Wood, and all three toymakers are Bruce Ramsay, costar of Malcolm McDowell in Island of the Dead. 1990’s Toymaker’s wife is Charlotte Chatton, who went straight from this to Titanic, and their kid would play Danny Torrance in The Shining remake the next year. Bald Guy’s interviewer was Emilio’s girl in Judgment Night. Before Smithee took over, the director was Kevin Yagher, who did makeup on all three Bill and Ted movies.
Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth (1992, Anthony Hickox)
Beginning of a long line of ill-reputed Hellraiser sequels and remakes, but I have a soft spot for this one, having watched it so many times on video as a teen. And compared to the stuff I’ve seen lately – The Mist, Books of Blood, Langoliers, this is shockingly well made (by the Waxwork guy). So, do I like this because I’ve seen it so much, or did I watch it so much because it’s actually good? Nostalgia, objectivity, always you wrestle inside me.
Fancy leather art collector buys the rotating pillar, which comes with an embedded hellbox and the hell priest himself. Failing young reporter Joey is ambulance-chasing with cameraman Doc when she witnesses a stray hellbox victim, picks up club girl Terri and starts investigating. Some promises and betrayals later, everyone’s a cenobite but Joey, who harnesses her dreams about her war-killed father to contact the pre-ceno Doug Bradley and summon him against his pinheaded self.
Tiny cameo by Ashley Laurence, who didn’t have a huge post-Hellraiser film career, appearing in a Warlock sequel that doesn’t even have Julian Sands in it. Lead girl is from Deep Space Nine, leather guy cowrote 3000 Miles to Graceland, Doc was involved in Phantom of the Paradise, and club girl Terri returned a year later in the director’s Warlock: The Armageddon, missing Ashley by one Warlock sequel. Sometimes I look up Barker online; he’s the Ween of authors, every year announcing new works that don’t materialize. I read his 2015 The Scarlet Gospels during a movie-sequel dry spell, now just killing time until the new HuluRaiser comes out.
Me trying to decide what the hell to listen to:
Tetsuo: The Bullet Man (2009, Shinya Tsukamoto)
“Dad, I’m worried about you. You need to get back into biotech research.” Gotta give it up to Shinya for making the same exact cyberpunk movie for the fifth time. Diminishing returns, but once again a guy finds himself hulking out, turning into a machine.
Desaturated greys and browns except for a few popping colors. It’s in English; the dialogue and the plot being spelled out more explicitly are both weaknesses. When the action comes it’s prolonged and incoherent. The soundtrack is more pounding than ever. The clean HD photography clashes with the jittery underground lo-fi intentions. I did not hate it.
Hulking-guy’s son is run over by Shinya. He learns he was born from an android replica of his dead mom… he gets blasted by a hitman, also shoots himself in the head and lives… tetsuos a few city blocks. I wrote “I think Shinya wanted to be a suicide cult leader,” but I don’t know if I meant the director himself or the character he’s playing.