Machete is two things an exploitation flick should never be…overly talky and overly preachy. Co-writer and co-director Robert Rodriguez seems to be more focused on bludgeoning us with his views on illegal immigration and the treatment of those migrant workers, than with delivering the promise of the trailer from Grindhouse, from which this exploitation flick homage grew. The conspiracy plot is too involved for this type of movie and too much time is spent on it rather than delivering the action that this type of film should feature. There are some cool action scenes and blood does flow often, but not enough to get us through the endless dialog sequences. Also curious is why he hired all the eye candy than does very little with them. There is only one sex scene and it seems chopped short. This is exploitation, why hire actresses who won’t disrobe? Also curious is why Rodriguez films the pre-credits scene in the dirty, broken film “grindhouse” style, then abandons it after the credits. It is nice to see, after decades of supporting roles, Danny Trejo get the center spotlight as ex Mexican Federal Isador “Machete” Cortez, but, to be honest, he doesn’t generate the charisma to be a leading man…at least not here.
The original Machete trailer during Rodriguez and Tarantino’s Grindhouse was fun, but maybe it should have stayed a trailer. Flick was co-written by Alvaro Rodriguez and co-directed by Ethan Maniquis and also stars Robert DeNiro, Don Johnson, Jessica Alba and Steven Seagal. There was a sequel, Machete Kills and talk of a third film Machete Kills Again, that has yet to materialize.
Second direct Predator sequel finds an assorted group of mercenaries, gangsters and killers (Adrian Brody, Danny Trejo and Alice Braga to name a few) kidnapped from Earth and dropped on a remote planet. There the group are hunted for sport by a group of familiar looking alien creatures.
Directed by Nimród Antal from a script by Alex Litvak and Michael Finch, flick gets a lot right, far more than those AVP movies, but also falters in a few places that keep it from being the great movie Predator fans were hoping for. Returning to the jungle is fine, as is sending in another collection of badasses to challenge the hunting skills of the title creatures. The first half of the film is good, as is the cast and characters. It’s the middle of the film where the trouble begins, when the film slows down for the scenes with Laurence Fishburn. These sequences serve only for exposition and really aren’t needed. It stops the film dead. The flick starts to pick up speed again, but only to deliver a climax far too derivative of the original and far too open ended to really satisfy. It works fine enough to an extent, but we’ve seen it all before. So far, Predators is the best of the sequels, up to this point and a step in the right direction for those who haven’t tired of this series. There is a lot of action and an interesting plot element that there is more than one type of Predator and they don’t all get along. Entertaining if you don’t expect something that measures up too close to the Arnie original.
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While this flick is 95% action movie…and a bloody one at that…there is a bit of a horror film element that seems to exist to set up an even more interesting sequel/further adventure…and it kinda works.
The Night Crew has four hardened bounty hunters, Wade (Luke Blade 2 Goss), Ronnie (Paul Sloan), Crenshaw (Bokeem Woodbine) and Rose (Luciana Faulhaber) going deep inside Mexico to recover fugitive Mae (Chasty Girlhouse Ballesteros) and bring her back to the states for a big payoff. Unknown to them, Mae is also wanted by a powerful drug cartel and the four and their quarry find themselves surrounded by an army of vicious killers who want the girl back and them all dead. Adding to the already desperate situation, is that Mae is more than she appears…as is the drug lord (Danny Trejo) who hunts her.
Low budget action flick is actually a very satisfying bullet and blood-fest with an interesting supernatural twist thrown in by writer and star Paul Sloan and co-writer/director Christian Sesma. This ‘element’ not only adds something a little different to the story, but sets up an even more interesting direction if there is a sequel…and hopefully there is. The movie is competently directed by Sesma and while some of the elements are very traditional to testosterone fueled flicks like this, they are stylishly presented and Sesma does serve up a lot of intense and bloody action on his moderate budget. Add in some very pretty ladies in Faulhaber and Ballesteros and you have a fun and entertaining B-movie action flick with a touch of horror movie thrown in. The movie is not perfect. There are some plot holes and lapses in logic, but you watch a flick like this for the action and on a low budget level it delivers. The horror movie elements not only add something interesting to the characters involved, but Sesma and Sloan work it so it sets up a potentially more interesting and entertaining direction as well, if we see more of some of these characters. It’s just enough of a twist to give the more traditional action elements an off-beat angle and an air of mystery and that helps give this enough of a boost to lift it out of the routine. Sometimes entertainment is all you are craving and this flick does serve some up without trying to be more than it is.
The cast all work well in the context of the material. The underrated Goss is solid, as usual, as is his hard-nosed team of Sloan, Woodbine and sexy Luciana Faulhaber. The beautiful and exotic looking Ballesteros gives Mae the mystery and sensuality the character needs and she can be a badass, too, when she needs to be. The villains are appropriately slimy and vicious and Danny Trejo is…well, Danny Trejo…as the cartel king with an even darker aspect to his personality. There is also an amusing cameo by Jason Mews as a security guard who gets caught in the middle of a bullet-riddled bloodbath.
Is The Night Crew a classic…no. Is it an entertaining B-Movie with an intriguing horror element thrown in?…for sure! I liked this flick. It gives us a lot of intense action and spattering blood on a small budget. We get some tough guy anti-heroes and vicious villains and a couple of gorgeous ladies who can kick-ass, too. It won’t win any awards, but it will entertain you on a B-movie level and director Christian Sesma knows his material and delivers it in a no-nonsense way, yet not without a bit of style. A solid B-movie action flick made for a night on the couch and a few of your favorite brews. Also stars Don Swayze and there might be an uncredited cameo by cult favorite director Robert Rodriguez, but the camera never focused on the familiar looking bartender to tell for sure!
A new Godzilla poster has been revealed and while I’m sure Godzilla’s size has been exaggerated for the sake of dramatic impact… not sure why this is even an issue on the internet but, apparently it is… the poster is still very cool and achieves the desired effect…
MACHETE KILLS (2013)
While I was not a fan of the first Machete film, which played exactly like what it was, a faux movie trailer dragged painfully out to feature length, at least this second installment, which has Machete (Danny Trejo) avenging his lover’s death and chasing down a crazed Mexican revolutionary (Demián Bichir) with a nuclear missile aimed at Washington D.C., is so goofy that it makes you grin in spite of how stupid and sloppy it all is… and I’ve always felt Rodriguez was and is a very sloppy filmmaker despite all his years making movies. And the heavy political commentary once again gets in the way of the entertainment and I’m sorry but, I don’t agree with the film’s philosophy that it’s America’s job to fix Mexico’s woes… we can’t even fix our own. A mildly amusing film from an overrated filmmaker whose Machete films would be better off if he kept his politics in his pants and stuck to the fun. Also stars Mel Gibson as the pontificating villain, Voz, Amber Heard, Sofia Vergara and Charlie Sheen billed under his real name of Carlos Estevez as the president of the U.S. Still cool to see fan favorite Danny Trejo get a starring role.
With the Holidays here what better way to show some cheer then by featuring a couple of Rob Zombie movies…and holiday themed Rob Zombie movies at that…OK, the holiday is Halloween, but since it’s Halloween all year round at MonsterZero NJ’s, these flicks are appropriate…in my twisted little mind anyway! I know Zombie’s Halloween features have caused a lot of controversy and evoked some strong feelings both pro and con, but that’s far better in my mind than indifference. So, what did I think of them? Read on…
Both reviews are of the director’s cuts…
ROB ZOMBIE’S HALLOWEEN (2007)
(Click on the highlighted links to go to corresponding previous features here at MonsterZero NJ’s Movie Madhouse!)
There are things I like about Rob Zombie’s remake and things I don’t. As far as the things I didn’t like, Zombie’s biggest mistake is de-mystifying Michael Myers. Carpenter’s original had an average little boy from an average family, savagely murdering his older sister for no apparent reason on Halloween night. Zombie makes him the product of a broken white trash home with a stripper mother (Sheri Moon Zombie) who has a taste for loser boyfriends (William Forsythe). Giving Myers a reason for his violent behavior takes away the mystique the character had. Zombie’s Myers is a damaged young boy (Daeg Faerch) who tortures small animals and graduates to killing people and is sent to an asylum where he silently grows into a homicidal man (Tyler Mane). Carpenter’s Myers was pure evil, the young boy stopped existing and grew into a vessel for an unexplained evil force and it was random and thus spookier. The original Myers became a supernatural being, where Zombie’s Myers is all too human. Another mistake is spending almost an hour examining Myers youth and incarceration at the mental hospital before he is set loose to return home to find his little sister, now a teenager with the adopted name of Laurie Strode (Scout Taylor-Compton). Carpenter got things rolling within a few minutes in the original and his flick focuses on the stalking of Laurie and gets the scares started early. And Laurie Strode is a random victim in Carpenter’s flick, the convention that she was related to Michael wasn’t added till the original’s sequel Halloween II. Finally, the casting of genre legend Malcolm McDowell, as Dr. Loomis, doesn’t work for me. I love McDowell, but his portrayal is a bit off. He didn’t quite seem to fit the role. He also botches a couple of the classic lines, and these lines are important to the mythos. Patrick Stewart would have made a far better Loomis, not that he would have done such a film.
On the plus side, Zombie does have a nice visual style and things do get intense once he finally let’s Myers loose on the peaceful town of Haddonfield. Zombie’s Myers has a savageness that the original Myers lost after being dragged through numerous sequels, and the havoc he raises is some of the best action the character has seen since the original. Tyler Mane does make an imposing Myers and his Myers is filled with rage whereas Carpenter’s Myers was more methodical. Aside from my feelings on the casting of McDowell, the rest of the cast are fine. Sheri Moon Zombie shows some nice depth as a mother helplessly watching her son become a monster. She generates some real pain in her eyes, and it makes her very sympathetic. Scout-Compton is a spunky and cute heroine and plays Laurie as a typical modern teenager, but also gives her part the needed intensity when HE comes home, and she’s forced to save her babysitting charges and fight for her life. Zombie also peppers the film with familiar faces. We get Halloween sequel veteran Danielle Harris (Halloween 4 & 5) returning to the series now fully grown to play Annie Brackett and she plays a typical feisty teen girl with boys on the brain and genre vet Brad Dourif is cast as her father, Sheriff Brackett who is conflicted as to whether to believe Loomis’ warnings or not. We get cameos by the likes of Dee Wallace as Laurie’s mother, Ken Foree as Joe Grizzly, a trucker who unfortunately provides Myers with his trademark coveralls, Sid Haig as a cemetary caretaker, Danny Trejo as a hospital orderly who takes pity on Michael and Richard Lynch as Michael’s school principal. There is also a nice re-imagining of Carpenter’s score by Tyler Bates which adds some spooky atmosphere especially in the second half when Myers is finally unleashed, and Phil Parmet’s cinematography captures Zombie’s visuals very well.
The scenes in Haddonfield are really what worked for me as they should have. Zombie shows he can produce some suspense and scares and he cranks it up here. Too bad he chose to focus a good deal of the running time on Michael’s youth and incarceration which is less interesting as we know where it all leads, as this is a remake after all. As for the climax, without giving away any details, Zombie chooses to end his remake with a blunt shock ending where John Carpenter crafted an opening ending that left us with a feeling of dread even after the film was long over. It’s not a bad ending and does have resonance but doesn’t have the bone chilling effect of the original.
I stand by my opinion that Zombie has a great horror film in him but, he needs to concentrate on using his distinct visuals more often and moving past his fascination with the 70’s grind house style filmmaking and the white trash characters that inhabited a lot of those films. There is nothing wrong with paying homage to your influences, but Zombie has covered that ground in his first three films now and I think he is capable of his own style.
The lowdown: better than pretty much all of the sequels after Halloween III (which, as you may know, I like a lot!), but a far cry from John Carpenter’s original masterpiece. I at least give Zombie the credit for trying to do his own thing instead of a stale shot for shot remake.
WARNING: If you haven’t seen Zombie’s Halloween remake, there are some points of discussion in the sequel review which may contain spoilers for the first film…
This is the film of the two Zombie Halloweens that gets the most flak, but to be all honest, I’ve come to like this one because it’s more of a Rob Zombie film featuring Carpenter’s characters. He’s free from the confines of a remake and doing his own thing. The results can be mixed, but it is still better than any of the post Halloween III sequels. This film takes place immediately after the last with Laurie Strode (Scout Taylor-Compton) and Annie Brackett (Danielle Harris) in the hospital being frantically worked on and Myers being hauled off to the morgue. But when an accident wrecks the morgue transport, the resilient Michael Myers rises from his slab and walks off after murdering the surviving van occupant. He disappears and the story picks up two years later with a traumatized Laurie living with Annie and her father (Brad Dourif) while Laurie is trying to deal with the approach of Halloween and the fact that Myers’ body was never found. Of course, it’s no secret to the audience that Michael is on his way back to Haddonfield to finish what he started and leaving a trail of bodies in his wake.
The fact that this sequel never really feels like a “Halloween” film works both for and against it. It’s more of a Rob Zombie film and here he is not afraid to take Myers’ mask off or get inside his head for some beautifully visualized hallucination sequences of Michael’s dead mother (Sheri Moon Zombie). Tyler Bates also forgoes the traditional Halloween music for the most part and his score is quite good despite not imbuing the Halloween sound and flavor like all the other movies. Zombie gives his sequel a more methodical pace and while the film never really gets scary, there are some real brutal and intense moments such as Myers’ reuniting with Annie. There are some savagely violent scenes here that are very effective, but by the end of the film, you do feel a bit bludgeoned with all the brutality. McDowell returns as Loomis who is now a pompous bestselling author writing books about Myers and profiting from the horrible experience that left many dead. I didn’t like Dr. Loomis being portrayed as an egotistical asshole. Just didn’t work. The character was always representative of the good fighting the evil and now he is a douche who is willing to sell everyone out to make a buck and himself famous. It also makes his last minute change of heart near the climax hard to swallow. Ironically since McDowell is freed of the confines of the tradition portrayal of the Loomis character, I accepted him better in this incarnation of the role despite not liking the direction the character is taken.
There is a lot of other things to like here, too, though, unless you are a Halloween traditionalist and just can’t forgive Zombie for taking his own direction with things. There are some really twisted and bizarre dream sequences that have beautiful and surreal visuals that really impressed me and cinematographer Brandon Trost captures them well as with the look of the rest of the film. Much like the final act of Zombie’s House of 1000 Corpses, it is when Zombie takes his camera into these surreal sequences that his films really come to life and sadly, he doesn’t do it often enough, thought I really liked what he did here and how these sequences got into both Myers’ and Laurie’s heads. I liked the sequences of Myers hallucinating that he sees his dead mother and his younger self (Chase Wright Vanek here as Faerch had outgrown the part), egging him on to kill. And the same for Laurie Strode’s nightmares. Great stuff. And I really liked the WTF ending. He really went outside the comfort zone of this series and in terms of traditional Halloween lore and it was daring. The Kubrick-esque final shot gives the appropriate chills the remake’s end lacked.
He gets some really good performances out of his cast again. Compton is good, but I do prefer her as the sweeter Laurie then the foul mouth tattooed traumatized girl here…though the progression is understandable and she does come across as a very messed up teen, mixing psychological damage with teen angst. Danielle Harris shows that she has grown into a really good actress as Annie, who was far more seriously hurt by Michael and yet is handling it a lot better than Laurie. She’s both friend and mother to Strode while soldiering on with her own life. A strong young woman and it makes her confrontation with Myers all the more powerful. And last, but not least, genre favorite Brad Dourif gives what might be the performance of his long career. Yes, he is that good and thankfully Zombie gives him a lot of good material and scenes to show it in. I loved him in this. Again, we also get some cameos by genre vets and Zombie favorites like Margot Kidder as Laurie’s psychiatrist, Howard Hessman as Laurie’s record store/cafe owner boss and Daniel Roebuck as a delightfully sleazy strip club owner.
While it’s not a great movie, I do like it for what it is, and the risks Zombie took here with characters that are quite endeared to horror fans. Ironically, Zombie has been criticized and chastised for taking these risks, while equally so for not taking enough risks in the previous film. Sometimes you just can’t please fans when it comes to poking around an established classic. I hope someday Rob Zombie makes an original film that finally lives up to the potential he constantly shows. This film showed a progression from Halloween, and I think we are seeing him move away from grind house and more toward Zombie. While many horror fans would disagree, I like this flick and recommend it as long as you have an open mind as to how classic characters are utilized and aren’t offended because someone took an established franchise and thought outside the box with it.
After directing his own horror influenced music videos, rocker Rob Zombie finally directed his first feature film, House Of 1000 Corpses in 2003. Zombie’s first film is, no surprise, a horror film that is a throwback to the grind-house/drive-in style horror flicks of the 70s like the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre and the 1980 Mother’s Day. It tells the gruesome tale of four friends, Denise (Erin Daniels), Jerry (Chris Hardwick), Bill (Rainn Wilson) and Mary (Jennifer Jostyn) who happen upon a roadside freak show run by redneck clown Captain Spaulding (Sid Haig)…who we already have witnessed slaughter a couple of would be robbers. They go on his ‘murder ride’ which features a local serial killer named Dr. Satan. Soon the inquisitive teens are off investigating this local urban legend which, through some circumstances that are far from happenstance, leads them to the Firefly house. Inside they become prisoners of the disturbed and twisted Mother (Karen Black), Baby (Sheri Moon Zombie), Otis (Bill Moseley), R.J. (Robert Mukes), Grandpa (Dennis Fimple) and Tiny (Matthew McGrory) who treat them to a nightmare of murder and torment, all on Halloween night.
House is a faithful homage to the gritty, gory low budget horrors of the 70s and Zombie shows some real potential, but the film, while deviously entertaining to a degree, is never really scary, suspenseful or shocking enough to truly emulate the films it’s inspired by. The film also has a somewhat uneven tone as it plays it straight for the most part, but then can be borderline goofy at times. The humor doesn’t come across as disturbing as it should, as say in the dinner scene in Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Zombie gives us some interesting characters amongst the Firefly family, though the four teens are fairly generic and only heroine Daniels shows some spunk, and there are some shocking and brutal moments along with some quotable dialogue. It only starts to get really interesting when a hard nosed cop (Tom Towles) shows up looking for the kids and then shows us some twisted originality during the surreal final act when it turns into a sort of dark, nightmarish Alice in Wonderland. The ghoulish visuals here are Zombie’s strong point and while the whole film is visually interesting, it’s here that things get truly bizarre and grabs our attention, when the film takes the traumatized Erin into the underground lair of ‘guess who’. Then it’s over with a shock ending that’s not all that much of a shock. Still Corpses is a fun tribute to a type of exploitation horror they don’t make anymore, nothing groundbreaking though and I don’t think it was meant to be. What it does most is show Zombie’s potential and that he has a passion for this type of horror flick and the film really shines when Zombie forgets his influences and does his own thing.
The cast are fine with veterans like Black, Haig, Fimple and Towles standing out. Moseley is fine too as Otis, but gets some of the movie’s more stilted dialogue and Zombie’s wife does a nice job in her first feature as the sweet and twisted Baby. Erin Daniels is the only one of the four protagonists, sadly, that really shows a bit of spark in her performance.
Despite it’s flaws I like House as I like the type of films it pays homage to and while it could have been much better, it’s black heart is in the right place and it shows that Zombie might yet gives us something to really spill our popcorn over.
A solid 3 homicidal clowns!
THE DEVIL’S REJECTS (2005)
Rob Zombie’s sophomore film is technically a sequel to House of 1000 Corpses, but the further the film moves along, the less it has to do with that film, except for the three main characters, it’s opening sequence and a few references.
The story picks up with vengeful Sheriff John Quincey Wydell (Willaim Forsythe) laying siege to the Firefly house to avenge the murder of his brother Lt. George Wydell (Tom Towles), who the vicious clan killed in House Of 1000 Corpses. Mother (played here by Leslie Easterbrook) is captured, while Baby (Sheri Moon Zombie), Otis (Bill Moseley) and Spaulding (Sid Haig) make their escape. The film then takes us along for the gruesome ride as the three fugitives flee to a motel where they torment and murder some of the guests and occupants while the revenge crazed Wydell continues his manhunt to track them down.
Again a homage to exploitation flicks of the 70s, this time Zombie creates a savage crime thriller about three deranged murderers on the run from an equally deranged lawman and the group of innocents caught in the middle. This an unflinchingly violent tale that is straight out of a 70’s grind-house revenge flick, or sleazy biker movie. It can be very brutal, gruesome and quite disturbing at times. Gone is House’s goofy humor and uneven tone, Zombie maintains an intensity from the opening shoot-out to the climactic showdown and crafts a lean and mean movie of the kind they don’t make anymore. His expert use of classic 70’s music throughout, ads to the overall effect and atmosphere of the film. You may never listen to Freebird the same way again. One of the things I liked about the film is that it’s three main characters are horrible people who do horrible things, but when Wydell catches up to them, he has let revenge turn him into a far more horrible person and you begin to root for our homicidal trio. Zombie takes a few moments here and there to show what little humanity the three have left, at least in relation to their bond with each other, so when their paths finally collide with the deranged sheriff’s, we clearly see that Wydell has lost all his humanity in his quest to make them pay for his brother’s death, and it makes him the villain. Sure the film has flaws. Did we really need to sit through the torture and torment of the hotel guests for so long and the re-emergence of a Corpses character later on, is a bit jarring as we left that film behind in the first act. Zombie sometimes revels in the trashy nature of the characters a bit too much, but the director/musician also shows growth as a filmmaker and the film does gives us a rousing last act with a really cool shoot-out finale.
Again, not perfect, but Zombie continues to show he does know his source material and does have his own ideas about what to do with his influences. He is a director to watch whether you like his type of films or not. Also stars a who’s who of low budget film icons such as Ken Foree, Danny Trejo, P.J. Soles and Michael Berryman to name a few.