HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: STAKE LAND II (2016)

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STAKE LAND II (2016)

(Remember, clicking the highlighted links brings you to other reviews and articles here at The Movie Madhouse!)

Sequel to the Jim Mickle’s 2010 vampire epic, Stake Land, takes place ten years later with Martin (a returning Connor Paolo) living in New Eden with Peggy (again Bonnie Dennison) and raising a young daughter. One night, The Brotherhood lays siege to this sanctuary lead by The Mother (Kristina Hughes), a vampire who commands an army of Berzerkers. The village is massacred with Peggy and their daughter brutally killed. Now the surviving Martin returns to the desolate wasteland of the United States to find Mister (Nick Damici reprising his role) to exact revenge…and that’s exactly what Mother is counting on.

Jim Mickle sits this sequel out for the most part, appearing only as a producer. His star and co-writer on the original, Nick Damici, returns to script and the directorial reigns are turned over to Dan Berk and Robert Olsen…sadly with mixed results. Damici’s story works fairly well in reuniting Mister and Martin with some interesting developments having transpired between films. With the human population devastated, the vampires have grown desperate for food and will now risk coming out in the sunlight to pursue a meal, even if it means burning up. Some of the humans have turned to barbarity and resort to cannibalism and staging gladiatorial battles between strangers…which is where Martin finds Mister. The character of Mother is also interesting, though a bit underused as Damici’s story focuses on Martin and Mister and the groups of humanity they encounter. We do find out a little about Mister’s background, a past he shares with Mother. On the downside, Berk and Olsen are a bit pedestrian in their direction and thus it lacks the first film’s intensity and atmosphere. The action and drama are all a bit by-the-numbers and this doesn’t help as the film needs a fresh touch, being the second time around for what was a different take on the traditional vampire tale in the original. It comes across as more of a TV movie which, having premiered on SYFY, it kinda is…and it shows.

At least the cast all do well, especially the returnees. Paolo gives us a far more mature and able Martin, now more of a grizzled warrior than the naive boy we met in the first installment. Damici is solid once again as Mister. He gives the vampire hunter a bit more inner pain accumulated over the last decade and the fact the character is sidelined with injury for part of the flick is disappointing, as it’s great to see him back. Damici reminds one of Charles Bronson, at times, with the grizzled tough guy roles he often plays. Hughes is creepy as Mother. She has a presence and it’s unfortunate she’s a bit underdeveloped. Rounding out is Laura Abramsen, who is fine as Mister’s mute, feral woman companion and A.C. Peterson and veteran actor Steven Williams are entertaining as two leaders of an armed outpost who join Mister in standing against Mother. Sadly Bonnie Dennison’s part is far too short to really count as more than a cameo.

Overall this is an OK sequel to, in my opinion, one of the best horror films of 2010. The returning characters were fun to see again and were well played by the returning stars. Actor/writer Nick Damici had a worthy enough story and some interesting developments, but the film lacked Jim Mickle’s touch behind the camera. The direction was by-the-numbers and while entertaining, the film lacked the intensity and atmosphere of it’s predecessor and appeared to be working with a smaller scale and budget. Worth a watch if you are a fan of the original film, but if you haven’t seen Stake Land, seek that out first.

-MonsterZero NJ

2 and 1/2 stakes.

stake-land2_rating

 

 

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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: JASON GOES TO HELL: THE FINAL FRIDAY (1993)

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JASON GOES TO HELL: THE FINAL FRIDAY (1993)

NOTE: As stated at the end of my Part 8 review, Horror You Might Have Missed will cover the rest of my Friday The 13th retrospective as the series would pick up in the 90s and 2000s under New Line CInema who bought the rights after Takes Manhattan. I consider anything after 1990 as more current and doesn’t fall under my nostalgia classification. -MZNJ

New Line Cinema bought the rights to the Friday The 13th series after Paramount gave up after the awful Friday The 13th Part 8: Jason Takes Manhattan and I’m not sure what their intentions were, as this is subtitled The Final Friday yet, it’s goofy climax implies we may not have seen the last of Mr. Voorhees quite yet…though they all sort of imply that anyway. Whatever their game plan, New Line’s attempt at continuing or giving closure to the warn-out series, delivered an awful mess that clearly stands as the worst of this series and not only succeeds in being even more awful than Takes Manhattan, but completely rips off the 80s cult classic The Hidden as well.

The ‘story’, if I can call it that, opens with a beautiful young woman (Julie Michaels) arriving alone at a remote cabin at Crystal Lake. Soon she is besieged by hockey mask wearing serial killer Jason Voorhees (Kane Hodder) and the chase is on. Jason follows her into the woods where he is ambushed and literally blown apart by a SWAT team…how many years did it take to come up with this plan? At the morgue, Jason’s shredded remains are being examined by a coroner (Richard Grant) who becomes mesmerized as Jason’s heart begins to beat by itself and, under some kind of trance, he proceeds to eat the heart and embark on a murder spree, including a fellow coroner and two security guards (one amusingly also played by Kane Hodder). We find out through bounty hunter Creighton Duke (Steven Williams)…a character that exists solely to provide exposition…that Jason wants to be reborn and he can only do that…or be destroyed for that matter…through another Voorhees. Where Duke gets his information while the rest of the world scratches it’s head over Jason’s invulnerability is anyone’s guess. Luckily this flick not only invents a half-sister, Diana (Erin Gray) for Jason, but a granddaughter, Jessica (Kari Keegan) and a baby great-granddaughter. Now Jason goes from body to body in the form of a slimy serpent-like creature trying to track his kin down and slaying everyone who gets in the way, in gruesome fashion…still with me?…So, now it’s up to Jessica’s super annoying baby daddy Steven (John D. LeMay) to try to save his ex and their offspring and destroy Jason’s heart so he may never rise again…unless the monster succeeds in being reborn first.

I really appreciate co-writer (with Dean Lorey and Jay Haguely) and director Adam Marcus trying to take this series in a different direction, but this barely coherent mess is hardly a good start. The story seems to be making things up as it goes along especially when it comes to Duke’s insightful and extensive information about Jason, which might have saved dozens of lives had he spoken up about 10 years earlier. Obviously the story adds facts and characters when it needs them to serve the plot, such as Jason’s heart only being able to be destroyed by another Voorhees…and a special dagger…though it never explains why there is so much supernatural hocus-pocus surrounding the suddenly plentiful Voorhees family, or where this special blade came from. As mentioned, the whole body to body ability of Jason in slimy serpent form is directly lifted out of New Line’s own classic The Hidden,which had an alien outlaw doing that in L.A. The tone of the film is all over the place with some sequences being dead serious or viciously gory one minute and then silly and downright goofy the next (such as the duo who own the diner). With it’s wandering tone, it’s hard to connect with the flick as it can’t make up it’s mind what it wants to be. The film then comes to a really silly climax that looks like it came right out of an episode of Charmed complete with cheesy TV level animation FX. When the surprise last scene comes, it’s the coolest thing in the flick, but at that point we are too dazed by the previous 90 minutes of nonsense that we can’t even enjoy the implications.

Except for TV vet Erin Gray, whose character has far too little screen time, the cast make very little impression with LeMay being super annoying as Steven…this dude needed a punch in the face…and Williams trying to act badass for a character that basically doesn’t do much else than talk and tell other people they have to handle things. Again, his bounty hunter exists totally for exposition purposes and despite his ‘too cool’ act, he is as useful as a steak is to a vegan. At least the gore FX people did a good job and escape this garbage with their reputations intact. Despite the return of Harry Manfredini, the films has zero Friday The 13th feel which isn’t helped by the fact that Jason appears for about 5 minutes in the beginning and then about just as long in the end. It’s an awful mess of a movie that’s last few seconds lends the only clue as to why New Line even bothered to purchase the rights in the first place…and they couldn’t even use the authentic laugh in the cameo. Awful crap and one of the lowest grossing of the series!

1  hockey mask.

friday 13 p8 rating

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