TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: ESCAPE FROM L.A. (1996)

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ESCAPE FROM L.A. (1996)

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It took 15 years, but in 1996 John Carpenter finally brought Snake Plissken back for another escape. This flick takes place in 2013 and finds Plissken (Kurt Russell) being caught gunfighting in Thailand and brought to the West Coast to be deposited in the lawless island of L.A. A massive earthquake, predicted by the United States’ right wing religious president (Cliff Robertson), has separated L.A. from the mainland and now any immoral or criminal individuals are deposited in this no man’s land. Meanwhile, the president’s daughter, Utopia (A.J. Langer) has rebelled and fled to L.A. into the arms of Peruvian terrorist Cuervo Jones (Georges Corraface) with a doomsday weapon. Like in New York, Plissken is offered his freedom and a pardon of all his crimes, if he infiltrates L.A., kills Cuervo and Utopia and returns the weapon to the U.S. president.

Escape from L.A. was a box office and critical disappointment back in 1996, but with a lot of John Carpenter’s lesser films, it grows on one and now, viewed all these years later, is an entertaining watch finally finding it’s fan base. Carpenter directed from a script by he, producer Debra Hill and star Kurt Russell. It’s lighter in tone and more colorful than Plissken’s apocalyptic first adventure and the characters are a bit more cartoonish than those Snake met in NYC. The budget is almost 4x as much, though bargain basement CGI FX make it look a lot cheaper than it’s 1981 predecessor. The story is a thin remake of the first film and is a bit more politically preachy, with it’s religious right president and police state where even smoking and red meat are criminal offenses. Thankfully Snake is still Snake and he’s cool as ice, even when surfing a tsunami alongside Peter Fonda. The action is somewhat bigger than in EFNY, though a weak villain and too many disposable characters lessen the film’s overall impact. The flick follows the 1981 original’s template too closely to really resonate as a new adventure, but there is a lot of entertainment in watching Carpenter poke fun at politics and Hollywood, no more evident than the Surgeon General of Beverly Hills (Bruce Campbell) segment. It is a flawed movie, but with a little added nostalgia, at over two decades old, it can be fun…and at least we get to see Russell back in action as Snake, one more time.

Carpenter always assembles a good cast. Russell steps into Snake Plissken seamlessly and despite the outlaw being 15 years older, it seems like just yesterday, he was escaping New York City. Russell plays him very seriously despite the film’s lighter tone and Snake is ever the badass up until and including the very last shot. A classic character used far too sparsely. The only disappointment in the cast is Corraface as Cuervo Jones. The actor tries hard, but doesn’t have the presence or ferocity to make him a strong villain worthy of taking on Snake. He’s weak. Issac Hayes’ Duke of New York seemed far more deadly and dangerous. Langer is fine as the ditzy Utopia, though the character is too light to fit in a Plissken adventure. Same could be said of Buscemi’s ‘Map To The Stars’ Eddie. He’s a jokey substitute for Borgnine’s Cabbie and another character that feels out of place. Keach is good as Malloy who would be the Bob Hauk character, as is Robertson slimy as the religious zealot president. Michelle Forbes, Valeria Golino, the great Pam Grier and Peter Fonda are all fine in their supporting roles, as is Bruce Campbell a hoot as the Surgeon General of Beverly Hills. A good cast for the most part.

Overall, this was a bit disappointing when seen opening day 1996, especially to those of us who had been waiting 15 years for Carpenter to unleash Snake Plissken again. Decades later, now that the disappointment has abated and nostalgia has set in, it’s doesn’t seem so bad. Sure, it’s a bit too much of a remake to feel like a completely new adventure, but Russell is still awesome as Snake and at least we have two adventures to watch instead of just the one. There is a lot of action, aside from some sly political commentary and showbiz satire and some of it is more relevant now than back in the day. Not one of Carpenter’s best, but like many of his lesser titles, one that has actually aged better than expected…except for the awful CGI. Where was James Cameron and the New World Pictures FX crew and their model work when you needed them.

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 3 (out of 4) Snake Plisskens.

 

 

 

 

 

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MONSTERZERO NJ’S 12 HORROR FLICKS FOR THE HALLOWEEN SEASON DIRECTED BY WOMEN!

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While we watch numerous horror classics during the spooky season, from the likes of Carpenter, Cronenberg and Hooper, let’s not forget the contributions made by the ladies who have broken boundaries in a male dominated genre. More female directors are making their voices known than ever before, but there have also been some pioneers who broke down walls long before today’s female talents got behind the camera! So, here are 12 female directed horrors perfect to add to your Halloween playlist!

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(Click on the titles below the movie poster gallery to get to our reviews!)

 

Click on the titles here to go to the review page for the corresponding movie!

  1. HUMANOIDS FROM THE DEEP
  2. THE SLUMBER PARTY MASSACRE
  3. SORORITY HOUSE MASSACRE
  4. PET SEMETARY
  5. AMERICAN PSYCHO
  6. NEAR DARK
  7. DANCE OF THE DAMNED
  8. AMERICAN MARY
  9. SEE NO EVIL 2
  10. THE BABADOOK
  11. HONEYMOON
  12. TALES OF HALLOWEEN

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And who could talk women in horror without evoking the name of the late Debra Hill, who produced (and frequently co-wrote) a number of John Carpenter’s classic films, including horrors such as Halloween (and a number of it’s sequels), The Fog and produced David Cronenberg’s The Dead Zone. A true pioneer producer/writer in the horror genre! We lost Debra to cancer in 2005, but she has left a legacy of film that will live on!

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Debra Hill 1950-2005

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Also, head over HERE to read how legendary producer Roger Corman was instrumental at giving women filmmakers a voice in horror at a time when it was practically unheard of!…

FROM FINAL GIRLS TO FILMMAKERS: HOW ROGER CORMAN HELPED GIVE WOMEN A VOICE IN HORROR!

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An erotic thriller directed by Kat Shea for Roger Corman.

-MonsterZero NJ

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FROM FINAL GIRLS TO FILMMAKERS: HOW ROGER CORMAN HELPED GIVE WOMEN A VOICE IN HORROR!

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FROM FINAL GIRLS TO FILMMAKERS: HOW ROGER CORMAN HELPED GIVE WOMEN A VOICE IN HORROR!

(Just click on the movie titles to go to our full length reviews!)

Catching up with some Corman produced 80s horror, I came to realize just how ahead of his time legendary producer Roger Corman was in giving women a voice in horror as filmmakers and not just final girls!…

Roger Corman is legendary for his exploitation flicks and while some may debate the involvement of women in those films as objects of T&A elements and/or final girls in his horror flicks, they may not be aware that Corman was also boundary breaking in giving women opportunities as filmmakers behind the camera, which, especially in the horror genre and at the time…the 80s…was practically unheard of.

Today women have been showing their voice in the horror genre behind the cameras more than ever. With the starkly original works of the Soska Sisters and their American Mary or See No Evil 2, taking the horror world by storm…along with filmmakers like Jennifer (The Babadook) Kent and Leigh (Honeymoon) Janiak…that voice is louder than ever. The boundaries are starting to come down finally in a very male dominated genre and it’s a blessing to horror movie fans to be getting the works and perspectives of a whole new generation of female filmmakers, previously unheard from…but as these talents tear down the walls, is it possible there were already cracks there from an earlier time?

Three decades before this refreshing opening of doors, those doors were unlocked partially by a man that some may unfairly claim made his money exploiting women in movies, Roger Corman. During the 80s, women were just starting to make waves as filmmakers, let alone in the horror genre and Roger Corman not only produced numerous horror flicks with women writing and/or directing, but gave start to the careers of some renown producers too, like Gale Anne Hurd and his own wife, Julie Corman as well!

Corman, under his New World Pictures banner, produced Humanoids From The Deep with Barabara Peeters at the helm in 1981 and a year later gave the directing reigns to Amy Holden Jones on the slasher Slumber Party Massacre, which was also written by Rita Mae Brown. While the 1983 Suburbia, was not a horror flick, Corman gave new filmmaker Penelope (Wayne’s World) Spheeris a chance, producing her unflinching vision of a group of outcast punk rockers. It is now considered a cult classic and she a very successful filmmaker. After selling New World and starting Concorde Pictures, this trend continued. Sorority House Massacre was written and directed by Carol Frank and between 1987 and 1990 there were second and third installments of the Slumber Party Massacre series, helmed by Deborah Brock and Sally Mattison respectively. Corman even gave one of his regular actresses a chance behind the camera. Kat Shea (Barbarian Queen) co-wrote and directed Stripped To Kill for Corman in 1987 after starring in a few of his productions and doing some second unit work and writing for the legendary producer. She made a few more films for Concorde and Corman afterwards, including the immensely underrated vampire romance Dance Of The Damned in 1987. Shea…then Shea-Rubin…went on to a prolific career as a writer/director after striking out on her own. I personally find her to be a highly underrated filmmaker, whose most well-know film is probably the sexy thriller Poison Ivy with Drew Barrymore.

Corman was not the only one shaking the boundaries that are now finally coming down. John Carpenter stood by the late Debra Hill as his producer and she produced a number of his most classic films with him, including the horror masterpiece Halloween and that was only the beginning for this now legendary producer. Kathryn Bigelow burst on the scene with the vampire classic Near Dark in 1987 as did Mary Lambert in 1989 with the Stephen King adaptation, Pet Semetery. Rachel Talalay killed Freddy Krueger in Freddy’s Dead in 1991 and if not for the vision of Mary Harron, we wouldn’t have the modern classic American Psycho, which also showed us what a relatively unknown Christian Bale could do in front of the camera. Corman was not solely responsible, but certainly led the way during the 80s giving women a voice in horror behind the camera as well as in front of it…long before today’s generation of female horror filmmakers are making their presence known.

So, we are finally getting to see women make a strong mark as filmmakers in the horror genre. Their emergence was a long time coming, but there were pioneers that paved the way. While Roger Corman was not the only producer to give female filmmakers a chance on the creative end of the horror genre…and there were a handful of female directed horrors before the 80s, too…he did do it at a time where it was practically unheard of and he did it often. Do today’s filmmakers like Jen and Sylvia Soska have Roger Corman to thank for putting cracks in the barriers that they are now tearing down with their unique and talented visions as women in horror?…I’ll let you decide that for yourselves!

-MonsterZero NJ

 

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BOOK REVIEW: ON SET WITH JOHN CARPENTER by Kim Gottlieb-Walker

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This is one book review, I definitely need no excuse to post. Not only is it a great chronicle of the making of some of the early classics of the legendary John Carpenter but, an amazing album of behind the scenes shots from some of my favorite films from my favorite filmmaker…

ON SET WITH JOHN CARPENTER by Kim Gottlieb-Walker

John Carpenter is perhaps my all time favorite filmmaker and, as my favorite of his works are those from the 70s and 80s, this book was an amazing trip down memory lane and an incredible glimpse behind the scenes at some of Carpenter’s early classics as told through the talented camera lens of Kim Gottlieb-Walker with some comments and anecdotes from Kim, John Carpenter and some of those involved. The photography is not only breathtaking but, captures a side of the productions of Halloween, The Fog, Escape From New York, the Carpenter produced Halloween II and Christine that we’ve never seen before. Gottlieb-Walker was hired by Carpenter and Debra Hill as his unit photographer and as such, she captured some wonderful behind the scenes shots of cast and crew from these classic films. Add the commentary and some delightful stories from the photographer, Carpenter himself and others such as Adrienne Barbeau, DOP Dean Cundey and many, many more, and this book becomes a trip back in time to a long-gone era and a side of these productions that we have only barely glimpsed previously. It chronicles the rise of a legendary director and some other now very established filmmakers, as well as, shares tales of some sadly gone talents such as Lee Van Cleef, Issac Hayes, Donald Pleasence and pioneer producer Debra Hill. As a Carpenter fan, or simply a fan of filmmaking, this is a must-have book with some simply amazing photos that will take us back to the days when a group of young filmmakers and actors were making their dreams… and some of our favorite films… a reality. A simply beautiful book and instantly one of the most cherished in my collection… and it doesn’t hurt either that the largest section of the book is dedicated to Escape From New York, my favorite Carpenter flick and one of my all-time favorite films. I. Love. This. Book!

4 stars!

four stars rating

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