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PIRANHA 3DD  (2012)

Sequel to Alexandre Aja’s Piranha 3D (which is in itself a remake) is not as fun as it’s predecessor, nor is it quite as bad as it’s made out to be. The story, this time, has the prehistoric piranha traveling from the decimated Lake Victoria through an underground river to a sleazy water theme park to continue their feeding.

The problem with this sequel is, director John Gulager seems to take the material a little too seriously despite a script that replaces Piranha 3D‘s wit for blatantly stupid. And stupid would be fine if director Gulager took the ball and ran with it like Alexandre Aja did. The budget for this installment is smaller and thus the film’s scale and carnage lesser, but still, look how fun the low budget 1978 original was without the budget and bloodshed of the 2010 remake. Joe Dante knew to play it serious to a point, but all the while letting the cast and audience in on the fun. When you open a film with Gary Busey and a dead cow that farts piranha eggs, there’s no point in pretending you’re directing Jaws. The gore effects are fine although the CGI is even weaker than it’s predecessor, but despite it’s faults, there is still some entertainment to be had, such as MZNJ Halloween Hottie Katrina Bowden, reciting one of the best lines in the film involving a baby piranha and a certain part of her anatomy.

Gulager’s cast is fine, though only David Hasselhoff seems to really be in on the joke. The rest of the cast, including pretty lead Danielle Panabaker, try really hard to give they proceedings some weight, but probably should have just embraced the goofy material and had a good time. The cameos from some of the survivors from the last entry are fun and there are some funny bits, most involving The Hoff.

It could have been a lot better, but Piranha 3DD did pass the time and I actually feel that with a better script that was more clever than crude, John Gulager might actually have delivered a decent B-movie. An OK time waster when watched in the right frame of mind, but far short of the deliriously fun remake that precedes it.

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 2 and 1/2 (out of 4) carnivorous critters










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FRIDAY THE 13th (2009)

Remake…reboot…re-imagining…whatever you classify this 2009 attempt to breath new life into this time-warn series, Marcus Nispel’s Friday The 13th is basically just more of the same with a bigger budget and glossier look. It’s basically just another Friday The 13th movie that, once it briefly replays the series’ origins in it’s first few minutes, cuts to modern day and just becomes another entry in the series. As such it isn’t all that bad, it’s just that it gives us very little that we haven’t seen before. The film opens on Friday The 13th 1980 with a re-enactment of the final moments of the original film with a pretty and imperiled camp counselor taking the head off crazed Mrs. Voorhees (Nana Visitor) in self defense. We then cut to modern day where a group of campers, some of whom are looking for a nearby marijuana crop, enter the woods surrounding Crystal Lake near the old camp where the 1980 murders took place. Of course, the story of the massacre of the camp counselors by crazy Mrs. Voorhees and her subsequent death, is told around the campfire along with the tale of son, Jason who witnessed his mother’s beheading and now stalks the woods looking for revenge. Before you can say ‘sharp objects’, a mysterious figure wearing a bag over his head is slaughtering the campers one by one in gruesome fashion. Six weeks later a group of attractive young twenty-somethings are heading up to a house on Crystal Lake while Clay (Jared Padalecki) roams the town with fliers looking for his missing sister Whitney (Amanda Righetti), who was among the previous group whose fate we saw moments earlier. Meeting at a general store Clay bonds with pretty Jenna (Danielle Panabaker), but earns the ire of the party house owner Trent (Travis Van Winkle). The group has also caught the attention of another individual, one whose has made this area his home and deals harshly with anyone who intrudes on his turf. While Jenna and Clay roam the ruins of Camp Crystal Lake looking for clues of Whitney’s whereabouts, a hulking killer in a hockey mask…and we do see him obtain this…starts to decimate the young party-ers in blood soaked ways. Will any of these unsuspecting young people survive the wrath of this very real and very lethal local urban legend?

Marcus Nispel does a fairly good job of bringing some impact back to proceedings that we are all too familiar with, but it is that very familiarity that is the film’s Achilles Heel as well. He does create some suspense and tension and gives some strength back to the stalk and kill scenes, but aside from a few new twists such as Jason living in an underground lair beneath Camp Crystal Lake and keeping Whitney as a hostage as she bares a passing resemblance to his mother, the film is basically just another Friday The 13th movie and we know what to expect even if it’s done well…right down to the ‘shock’ ending. It looks good, Nispel’s movies always do. The gore is top notch and very plentiful and the movie moves quickly once it gets going. As for the last act when these films generally kick into gear, Nispel gives us one that is fairly intense with a lot of action and gore leading up to the expected showdown between Jason and whomever is left.

As for the cast… Derek Mears, as Jason gives, the iconic killer a presence and this goes a long way to make things work, as his Jason is imposing. Leads Panabaker and Padalecki work together very well as the strong willed heroine and determined hero, respectively. The rest of the characters may be stereotypical for this kind of movie, but the attractive young cast give all their characters a little life and personality, so they are not just generic victims even if some do not have a lot of screen time.

As this series as a whole goes, this re-whatever probably ranks among some of the better sequels when all is said and done. It’s lively, and returns the series to it’s more serious tone and makes Jason someone to be feared again. It may not have the classic aura of some of the original entries and if it was the first of it’s kind, it may be an enjoyable, but forgettable horror flick. When grouped in with the rest of this classic franchise, it’s an entertaining and slick enough entry that manages to return a bit of the old thunder to a familiar format…even if it’s basically more of the same and adds little new to a decades old formula.

3 hockey masks.

friday 13 original rating




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THE WARD (2010)

As a fan of John Carpenter, it was exciting to hear he was making a new flick after an almost 10 year absence from feature films. And while The Ward isn’t the major comeback and return to form fans hoped for, it’s also not really a bad movie either. The story takes place in 1966 and tells of a young woman, Kristen (Amber Heard) who’s thrown into a psychiatric ward after setting a house on fire only to find it haunted by the ghost of a previous patient…and one who has set it’s lethal sights on the ward’s remaining inhabitants. As Kristen tries to unravel the mystery of this spectral patient, Alice (Mika Boorem), her own secrets slowly become revealed as well.

Horror flick is held back mostly by a weak script. It has it’s clever moments, too, but, overall it could have been much stronger. The screenplay by Michael and Shawn Rasmussen is filled with plot holes and implausibilities…the girls in the ward seem to have access to rooms like the kitchen and dispensary which I doubt would occur in real life…and while the twist ending might explain that to some, I felt certain principles, such as the hospital’s policies, would remain the same. But, Carpenter is a master and even if it doesn’t seem like his heart is fully onboard here, he is still able to get some effectiveness out of what he has to work with. There are some very creepy scenes and the last act is very spooky and there is also some nice tension and suspense especially as the film moves towards it’s climax. His skill at framing shots hasn’t diminished, as the film looks great and he creates a lot of mood and atmosphere with his camera. Carpenter’s only flaw seems to be not drawing stronger performances from his cast. Star Amber Heard doesn’t have nearly the fire and intensity that she showed in Drive Angry and some of the other ladies like Danielle Panabaker and Lyndsay Fonseca, also seem to be coasting a bit as well. It also doesn’t help that some of the script’s dialog is weak, too. At least Carpenter got to work with some very lovely ladies for this flick after his long absence from the director’s chair. The performances do pick up a bit in the final act, as does the whole film in general, as it’s the part of the story that Carpenter was most able to do what he does best with and deliver the horror goods. There is also a spooky and atmospheric score by Mark Kilian and Yaron Orbach’s cinematography also helps in the atmosphere department. There is also some well executed gore, though it’s used sparingly.

For die hard fans The Ward may be a disappointment, somewhat, but, for the casual horror viewer it is a spooky enough Saturday night watch and a return to a more basic type of horror. It’s far from Carpenter’s best films but, doesn’t rank as his worst effort either and is fairly entertaining when all is said and done. Just don’t expect Halloween and you’ll probably enjoy it. Also stars Jared Harris as Dr. Stringer, Kristen’s therapist.

3 spooks!