Supposed last installment of this popular Asylum/SYFY series finds hero Fin (Ian Ziering) traveling back in time to destroy the first Sharknado and thus ending them for good. This leads Fin, April (Tara Reid), Nova (Cassie Scerbo) and a host of guest appearances and return characters battling Sharknados through a variety of time periods.
Franchise director Anthony C. Ferrante returns to helm this final chapter though the script is from Scotty Mullen, without series writer Thunder Levin. It’s still about as ridiculous as one would expect from a series that has prided itself on being as ridiculous as possible. To criticize it for it’s absurdity would be absurd in itself as, at this point, you should know what you’re getting into. Taken for what it is, it’s a fun ride through time and and the cast still find a way to keep a straight face while the CGI FX seem to actually be getting worse. It is a fitting finale to a series that continually upped the lunacy ante, while at the same time also knows when to call it quits. Now that Fin has put down his chainsaw, hopefully we get a Nova (Cassie Scerbo) spin-off!
The original Pitch Perfect was a pleasantly surprising diversion with a sassy, sarcastic attitude, likable characters and energetic musical numbers, as directed by Jason Moore. The sequel, again written by Kay Cannon, is now directed by star Elizabeth Banks in her directorial debut and it shows. The movie is just short of an outright mess. The story takes place three years later and The Barden Bellas have ruled collegiate A Cappella all this time, even getting to perform for The President. It’s at that performance that they fall from grace, as Fat Amy’s (Rebel Wilson) wardrobe malfunction causes them to become a national embarrassment and they are removed from collegiate competition. Somehow, though, they can restore their reputation and standing, if they can take the international title away from German uber group Das Sound Machine. Unfortunately, the film wastes two thirds on a bunch of subplots, none of which lead to the main story, such as Beca’s (Anna Kendrick) interning at a record label and a new recruit’s (Hailee Steinfeld) quest to sing her own material. It takes up most of the film with these subplots amounting to not much and it’s only in the last 15 minutes where we get back to the plot and then that’s over with two quick and unimpressive musical numbers…and to a predictable conclusion. Gone is the sassy wit of the first film, replaced by numerous and unfunny vulgar bits with the editing giving the film a very choppy and all-over-the-place feel. Beca and Jesse (Skylar Astin), whose romantic story was one of the cuter aspects of the last movie, are separated for almost the entire film and instead we get Fat Amy’s boring attempts to woo a reluctant Bumper Allen (Adam Devine). Add to that, an overall lack of energy and creativeness to the film’s music numbers and you have a very disappointing sequel to a very surprisingly charming movie.
WHAT WE DO IN THE SHADOWS (2014)
Fun found footage comedy tells the story of a documentary being made about a group of vampire roommates, Viago (Taika Waititi), Deacon (Jonathan Brugh), Vladislav (Jemaine Clement) and ancient Petyr (Ben Fransham), who live in a flat in Wellington, New Zealand. While they eagerly await the much revered event, The Unholy Masquerade, their world is thrown asunder when Petyr creates a new vampire, Nick (Cori Gonzalez-Macuer) who refuses to play by the rules. Not every joke or bit works in this New Zealand horror comedy, but there are some very funny moments and a lot of very clever uses of the time-honored vampire tropes. Co-written and co-directed by stars Jemaine Clement and Taika Waititi, the two have a lot of fun sending up all kinds of vampire films and Real World style reality shows by cleverly combining the two. They play it straight but not without continually winking at the audience and while it never gets laugh-out-loud funny, there are plenty of giggles to be had, as well as, some amusingly gruesome moments, too. A fun vampire flick/reality show mash-up.
SHARKNADO 3: OH HELL NO! (2015)
Director Anthony C. Ferrante and writer Thunder Levin return for a third entry in this delightfully off-the-charts series. This entry opens with Fin (Ian Ziering) receiving a medal of honor from and then saving the president as another sharknado hits Washington, D.C. Fin discovers there are more shark storms forming and they are poised to combine into a massive sharkicane. With friend Nova (Cassie Scerbo) returning to his side as a shark killing battle-babe, Fin races to Orlando, Florida to save his wife and daughter (Tara Reid, Ryan Newman) from the greatest Sharknado of them all! Third flick is filled with all the lunacy one might expect at this point with as many cameos from media personalities as there are sharks. The action is the usual over-the-top fun, but what makes this one standout a bit, is a scene stealing Cassie Scerbo as the waitress turned bad-ass shark killer, Nova. Not only is she decked out in black leather, but comes with an armored RV/”Bat Cave” from which she conducts her fish kills. The sassy Scerbo is a blast to watch and it’s time for the character to branch off in her own series of flicks, instead of remaining a sidekick. Overall, this is silly fun and maintains an exuberance for it’s ridiculousness. Also stars David Hasselhoff as Fin’s astronaut dad…can you say sharks in space?
Anthony C. Ferrante has made a big splash with his manic shark/disaster flick series Sharknado (review here), but it was his freshman feature, the 2005 Boo, that first got my attention. I’ve decided to look back at the horror flick that got Ferrante his start, now that his delirious shark filled flicks have become a household word…even to Deadpool!
Boo takes place on Halloween night as two young couples, Jessie (Trish Coren) and her cheating boyfriend Kevin (Jilon VanOver) with bad girl Marie (Nicole Rayburn) and the nice guy she’s leading on, Freddy (Josh Holt), are planning to spend a spooky night at the abandoned and supposedly haunted, Santa Mira Hospital. The ominous building was closed down many years ago when a fire broke out in the 3rd floor psychiatric ward and many died. Unknown to all but Kevin, their friend Emmett (Happy Mahaney) has entered the structure first to rig a few surprises, but he finds out the hard way that faux scares are not needed here. The stories are true and the place is haunted by quite a few spirits including deranged pedophile, Jacob (M. Steven Felty) who seeks a human body to posses and escape his eternal torment. Also entering the structure is Allan (Michael Samluk) who is searching for his sister Meg (Rachel Melvin) who disappeared a few days earlier and is rumored to have gone in there with friends. Allan enlists the aid of Arlo (Dig Wayne), a cop who was Allan’s deceased father’s partner, to help search. It’s no secret to say that their stories will collide and that they are all in for a rough night.
As you can tell from the plot description, one of the things that holds this fun little horror back is a plot that is a bit too busy at times. For at least half of the movie there are two separate story-lines going on before the two groups meet and this is more distracting than helpful, as the going back and forth breaks up any built tension. Writer/director Ferrante shows a lot of promise with his Halloween set horror and he gives us quite a few spooky scenes. He has a really nice visual style that gives the film added atmosphere and makes good use of his creepy location. He is also a young filmmaker with a lot of ideas and tries to pour a lot of them into his first film. Sometimes less is more, as Boo would have been better served with a more streamlined story. One group of six instead of two groups with their own story-lines would have gotten this tale from A to B equally well without a lot of story baggage. Wayne’s cop character is totally unnecessary, as is giving him a background as an ex-actor from a series of Dolemite style movies. He and his backstory do nothing to serve the plot. Pretty Jessie is also psychic and it seems this only serves to give the film the exposition needed on the hospital’s past and the identity of the spirits they are dealing with. It does work, but is also a bit of an obvious plot contrivance. As said, Ferrante has a lot of ideas here, some work… such as the backstory involving the evil Jacob and the valiant nurse (horror icon Dee Wallace) who gives her life to insure he never escapes…and some don’t…such as a silly sequence where Jessie tries to convince Jacob that the peace of death is better then living again. It goes nowhere and falls flat.
There is still plenty to like here and I can appreciate a first time filmmaker being a little over eager to show us what he’s got. An overload of ideas actually worked in Sharknado‘s favor, but not as well here. The film does have plenty of spooky scenes to equalize the silly, some really good, but not overused gore and despite some bad dialog, cheesy CGI and mediocre acting, the film does have a sense of fun that’s not unintentional. Ferrante seems to really enjoy telling his horror tale and this does come through as you watch.
For all it’s flaws I still think Boo is fun and it’s director is having a good time bringing his tale to life. Go in not expecting a classic and Boo can be an entertaining viewing. Ferrante also earned film geek points for naming two characters Russell and Carpenter.
Ferrante and Dee Wallace would work together again in Hansel And Gretel (review here) in 2013 and then hit his stride with his ridiculous but fun Sharknadoflicks which became an annual event until ushering in a final chapter in 2018.
Asylum flick is actually amusing if you cut it some slack. Updating of the classic fairy tale has twenty-something brother and sister, Hansel (Brent Lydic) and Gretel (Stephanie Greco) being held in the secluded house of witch and sweet shop/cafe owner, Lilith (Dee Wallace). Of course Lilith and her two brutish sons kidnap people for Lilith’s meat pies and she sees Hansel, and a few others in her dungeon/kitchen, as her next dish and Gretel as a potential protegé. Obviously the siblings don’t agree with these plans and gruesome hi-jinx ensue.
Directed by Anthony C. Ferrante, who showed a lot of potential in his feature debut Boo, H&G is kinda gory fun and despite it’s deep down silliness, Ferrante takes it seriously enough and is able to give it some tension and suspense. He has a nice visual style on a low budget, as he did with Boo and Headless Horseman, and being a make-up effects guy as well, gets good use out of his gore FX people. His cast are all adequate with Wallace having an over the top blast as the sinister Lilith. Add to that frequent Carpenter collaborator Alan Howarth doing the score and you’ve got an entertaining little horror that doesn’t try to be anything more then it is. I still feel someday Ferrante might hit us with a really great horror flick. We’ll see.