Remake, reboot, or whatever you want to call it, of the classic 1988 Child’s Play upgrades (or downgrades?) Chucky from a doll possessed by the spirit of a serial killer to a doll with a sabotaged A.I. As such, it actually isn’t a bad flick, as we find single mom Karen Barclay (Aubrey Plaza) wanting to get her son Andy (Gabriel Bateman) a new Buddi doll for his birthday. When a defective one is returned to the store she works at, she takes it home for him. The needy doll dubs itself Chucky (voiced by Mark Hamill) and soon starts to exhibit unusual behavior. This behavior soon escalates into cursing, violence and then murder, in protection of his pal Andy. When Andy tries to get rid of him, Chucky becomes a vengeful little Buddi, a friend till the end…which may come soon for Andy and anyone close to him.
Lars Klevberg directs well from a script by David Katzenberg and despite being unnecessary, as the two recent, old school Chucky movies were really good, it is an effective and entertaining horror. Making Chucky a doll with an Alexa-like A.I. is less spooky on one level, but creepy on another, as Chucky can control any item made by his home company, The Kaslan Corporation, such as lights, smart phones, televisions, cars and other toys. Mark Hamill is a solid successor to Brad Dourif and makes Chucky his own. The actor gives him a personality and is quite scary when Chucky starts to unravel due to a vengeful factory employee turning off his safety features. Gabriel Bateman is good as Andy and is likable. The added caveat of him being hearing impaired, doesn’t really affect the story much and just gives an excuse for him to be a bit of a loner. Plaza is fine as mom, Karen, though seems a bit too young to have a thirteen-year-old son. There is a throwaway line about her getting knocked-up at her sweet sixteen party to explain it, but not sure what the point in casting her was other than being the subject of hot mom lines. The flick has a lot of gore, when it gets going and things do move quickly during the 90-minute running time. It’s got some good suspense and has some fun with its carnage. While Don Mancini’s killer doll will always remain the classic horror icon, this retread is actually a bloody good time when given a chance and taken on its own merits.
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Body Bags is a made for TV anthology the was produced, partially directed, and hosted by the great John Carpenter for Showtime in 1993. It’s an anthology of three unrelated stories linked by a morgue set framing segment with a creepy attendant (John Carpenter) relating the stories behind his latest corpses.
The first story is directed by Carpenter and is the best. The Gas Station is set in Haddonefield and finds a pretty night shift gas station attendant (Alex Datcher) on her first night of duty with a serial killer on the loose. It’s a spooky and suspenseful segment with Robert Carradine and David Naughton also starring and fun cameo appearances by the likes of Wes Craven and Sam Raimi along with Carpenter regulars Buck Flower and Peter Jason.
Second story is also directed by Carpenter and is sadly the weakest. The satirical Hair tells the story of vain middle aged Richard (Stacy Keach), who is frantic over his thinning hair. His sexy girlfriend Megan (Sheena Easton) doesn’t mind, but Richard is desperate. He turns to a TV pitchman, Dr. Lock (David Warner) who claims he can regrow lost hair with a revolutionary new process. Richard goes for it, but to his horror finds out you must be careful what you wish for, as his new hair seems to have a life of it’s own. Segment is well done, but more humorous and silly than scary. The segment also stars legendary singer Deborah Harry as a sexy nurse.
Third and final segment rebounds a bit with Tobe Hooper’s Eye. This segment finds minor league baseball player and expectant father Brent (Mark Hamill) loosing one of his eyes in a car accident. His career potentially over, he turns to a Dr. Lang (John Agar) who claims he has a new eye transplanting procedure that he’d like to try on Brent. His sight is restored, but while on recovery he starts to have strange visions and his behavior begins to change. Soon he finds out that his eye belonged to a serial killer and that killer might still somehow be possessing his eyes new owner. It has some very effective moments, a good performance by Hamill and some decent gore. Segment also stars singer/actress Twiggy as Brent’s wife and the legendary Roger Corman as Brent’s original doctor.
The three stories and wraparound were written by Billy Brown and Dan Angel and they could have used a bit more inventiveness, especially with the story similarities within the last two tales. Nonetheless they are all entertaining and with such guidance as Hooper and Carpenter, make for an entertaining enough 90 minutes. Carpenter seems to be having a blast playing the morgue attendant and his first segment shows he still has that magic. Originally this was intended to be a series, but for whatever reasons, it never happened beyond this initial flick.
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Mystery Science Theater 3000 was created by Joel Hodgson and originally ran for ten seasons from 1988 till 1999 and was a beloved show for movie geeks everywhere, as it playfully skewered some of the worst cult classics and B-movies of all kinds. The format had a working stiff (originally series creator Joel Hodgson and then Mike Nelson) being kidnapped to a satellite in space and forced to watch some of the worst films ever made. The subject and a group of robots would then comment on these films as the series’ villains observed and routinely tried to make things miserable for our heroes. Fans have missed the show since it’s cancellation and were overjoyed to find out that Netflix was reviving it.
Premiering on Netflix streaming this April, the new series follows the same plot with newcomer Jonah (comedian Jonah Ray) being the newest test subject under the watchful evil eye of Kinga Forrester (Felicia Day), daughter of original series villain Dr. Clayton Forrester and Max (Patton Oswalt), otherwise known as The TV Son of TV’s Frank, offspring of original series villain TV’s Frank. There are fourteen new episodes featuring fourteen bad movies to which our hero, along with robots Gypsy, Tom Servo, Crow and Cam-bot, watch and mock while Kinga and Max do their best to make Jonah crazy…all with mostly hilarious results.
The revived series certainly is a welcome return and, for the most part, can be as funny as the original show. As with all the other seasons, there are some strong and hilarious episodes and some which are just OK. The key here is the movies have to provide the crew with something to work with. The funniest episodes of the new season, such as premiere episode Reptilicus, Time Travelers, Starcrash, The Land That Time Forgot and the season finale At The Earth’s Core all provide material that is ripe for commentary and the writers certainly take the ball and run with it. Then there are movies which are just bad, like Cry Wilderness, the first hour of Beast From Hollow Mountain, Wizards of the Lost Kingdom and Carnival Magic, which are so bad that Jonah and the boys struggle through them to keep the comments coming and funny. If the movie they’re watching is boring, there isn’t much the crew can do. Thankfully, the episodes that do work…and more do than don’t…hilariously make up for the few where laughs and fun are scarce. As with the previous seasons, there are movie geek references galore, such as Kinga’s house band looking delightfully like Infra-Man’s skull soldiers and meta references to previous episodes.
The cast are all having a blast and it shows. Jonah Ray is a suitable replacement for the earlier Joel and Mike. He’s a likable lug and fits the part well. Felicia Day is having a blast as Kinga, a cross between Cruella Deville and Veruca Salt. Day knows how to ad camp in just the right amounts and to dial up just enough villainy so Kinga stays a fun bad girl, like her predecessors and doesn’t tip over into unlikable. Patton Oswalt is equally successful as the bumbling Max…who has a crush on Kinga, which she obviously ignores…and is not quite such a bad guy as his boss lady…though he is trying. The robots’ voice actors all do a good job with instilling them with personality, although they are the same characters from the original show, so they don’t have to work as hard to establish themselves like out new leads. There are also cameos from original series characters and actors and some amusing appearances from famous faces such as Mark Hamill and Jerry Seinfeld.
Overall, this is a very happy return for a personal favorite show. The new cast and characters are likable and fit in with the show’s established style and the old format still works and works well when given material ripe for the picking-on. There are a few yawn inducing episodes, when the movie itself is dull and not even funny in the wrong way, but when the movie is the right kind of bad, the episodes measure up to some of the previous series best on equal footing. Welcome back MST3K!…and when can we expect season 12???
(Rating the show by episode instead of the usual overall rating)
Reptilicus – 3 and 1/2 stars
Cry Wilderness – 2 and 1/2 stars
Time Travelers – 3 and 1/2 stars
Avalanche – 2 and 1/2 stars
The Beast of Hollow Mountain – 3 stars…the last 1/2 hour was very funny
Starcrash – 3 and 1/2 stars
The Land That Time Forgot – 3 and 1/2 stars
The Loves Of Hercules – 3 stars
Yongary – 3 and 1/2 stars
Wizards of the Lost Kingdom – 2 and 1/2 stars
Wizards of the Lost Kingdom II – 3 stars
Carnival Magic – 2 and 1/2 stars
The Christmas That Almost Wasn’t – 2 and 1/2 stars