Horror

A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors

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1987

New Line Cinema/Heron Communications/Smart Egg Pictures

Directed by Chuck Russell

Produced by Robert Shaye

Screenplay by Wes Craven, Bruce Wagner, Frank Darabont and Chuck Russell

Story by Wes Craven and Bruce Wagner

Ask any fan of the “A Nightmare on Elm Street” series which is their favorite movie out of all of them. I think I am safe in saying that they’ll answer with A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 3: DREAM WARRIORS. Hell, I know people who don’t like the series and you couldn’t pay them to watch any other movie in the series but they’ve seen and they like A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 3: DREAM WARRIORS. It’s the “Wrath of Khan” of the series in that it’s the one just about everybody agrees is the best of the sequels and it’s the one everybody will claim as their favorite. No other Freddy Krueger movie would have such popularity with critics and audiences alike until “New Nightmare” came along years later.

And the reason for the popularity and the success is easy to understand when you take into account the talent involved. You’ve got Wes Craven returning to the series to write the screenplay with Frank Darabont who after this went on to write the screenplay for the remake of “The Blob” and after that wrote and directed “The Shawshank Redemption” “The Green Mile” and “The Mist” Chuck Russell also helped write the screenplay for this and went on to direct “The Blob” “The Mask” “Eraser” and “The Scorpion King”

Then in front of the camera you’ve got Heather Langenkamp returning to the series. Joining her you’ve got Patricia Arquette and Larry Fishburne who even this early in their careers turn in crackerjack performances. Add to that Craig Wasson who had proved himself as an actor to watch in movies such as “The Boys In Company C” “Ghost Story” and “Body Double” as well as an exceptionally strong supporting cast of young actors led by the wonderful Jennifer Rubin and yeah, it’s no surprise at all why A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 3: DREAM WARRIORS is as good as it is.

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Dr. Neil Gordon (Craig Wasson) works in a special wing of the psychiatric hospital Westin Hills where he treats adolescents who share the same phobia about falling asleep and dreaming, claiming that there is somebody in their dreams trying to kill them. The patients are: Joey (Rodney Eastman) who has been so traumatized by his dreams that now he refuses to speak. Kincaid (Ken Sagoes) a tough kid with serious attitude issues and anger management difficulties. Taryn (Jennifer Rubin) who is not only fighting her dreams but her drug addiction. Will (Ira Heiden) who was so terrified of his dreams he tried to commit suicide. The attempt failed but left him a cripple. Jennifer (Penelope Sudrow) is an aspiring actress whose arms are covered in cigarette burns as that’s her chosen method of fighting off sleep and Philip Bradley Gregg) a sleepwalker.  Dr. Gordon is assisted in caring for these kids with the capable help of Dr. Sims (Priscilla Pointer) and the orderly Max (Larry Fishburne) They’re joined by Kristen (Patricia Arquette) who also tried to commit suicide and nobody will listen to her story that it actually was Freddy Krueger who made her try to kill herself.

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Nobody until Nancy Thompson (Heather Langenkamp) comes to the hospital. Now a dream therapist herself, Nancy discovers that Kristen has a psychic ability to bring people into her own dreams and Nancy realizes that this may be a way to finally destroy Freddy. Especially when in a shared group dream induced by hypnosis, each member of the group discovers they have what amounts to a superpower while in the dream world. After the frightening deaths of two of the group, the survivors decide to, in the words of Kincaid himself: “go kick that motherfucker’s ass all over dreamland.” It’s a brutal and vicious battle to finally destroy Freddy Krueger not only in the dream world but in the real world as well as while Nancy and the kids are fighting Freddy on one front, Nancy’s father (John Saxon) and Neil Gordon in the real world have to find Freddy’s bones and properly bury them in order to truly be rid of him for good. It’s a battle not all of them will survive.

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There’s so many good things about DREAM WARRIORS I could easily go on for another fifteen or twenty thousand words describing them. We get the hideous origin of Freddy Krueger; “the bastard son of a hundred maniacs” The dream imagery in this one is especially memorable. There’s the scene everybody remembers where Philip is manipulated by Freddy like a puppet by means of his own blood veins which Freddy has stripped out of his body. There’s the scene where the kids discover their dream powers. The scene where an ordinary room transforms into a blast furnace with the kids trapped inside. The snake monster with Freddy’s head that tries to swallow Kristen alive.

This is also the movie where Freddy starts with the one-liners and for the first time we see him actually psychologically manipulating, terrorizing and torturing his victims in their dreams before killing them. Whereas in the first two movies he just went about the business of killing with the single-mindedness of the shark from “Jaws” in DREAM WARRIORS we see that the game of cat-and-mouse is just as important to him as the actual kill.

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The acting in this one is just perfect and I really can’t say honestly that there’s a bad performance in this one. The standouts for me include Larry Fishburne, of course, who makes the relatively minor character of Max memorable in every scene he’s in. Nan Martin as Sister Mary Helena/Amanda Krueger who has a chilling, riveting scene where she describes the circumstances of Freddy’s birth. And of course there’s Jennifer Rubin who besides being nuclear hot also makes every scene she’s in snap, crackle and pop with the characterization of Taryn as a living exposed nerve ending. The crew of young actors are all quite good as well and never overplay their scenes or for a minute do anything less than convince you of the reality of their situation.

Can you tell how much I like this movie? And I really do. Unlike “Freddy’s Revenge” which moseyed along and took its time to get where it’s going, DREAM WARRIORS fast-steps like a man late for work. It moves with a purpose and confidence that none of the other movies that came after it would have until we come to “New Nightmare” Make no mistake about it, when it comes to the sequels; A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 3: DREAM WARRIORS is the true jewel in the crown. Enjoy.

96 Minutes

Rated R

The House Of The Devil

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2009

Glass Eye Pix/MPI Media Group

Written and Directed by Ti West

Produced by Josh Braun, Derek Curl, Roger Kass and Peter Phok

I’ve only seen three of his movies but that’s enough. Ti West is now one of my favorite directors and he definitely is my current favorite director of horror movies. People had been telling me for years that I needed to see THE HOUSE OF THE DEVIL but I just never got around to seeing it. And at this same time last year, I found “The Innkeepers” on Netflix. I must have watched that movie once a day for the next three or four days. And this October I resolved to watch THE HOUSE OF THE DEVIL at last. I did. And now I see why people were telling me to see it and that it was Ti West’s best movie. I’m still not sure about that. I still think that “The Innkeepers” is his best movie but damn if THE HOUSE OF THE DEVIL doesn’t come thisclose.

College student Samantha Hughes (Jocelin Donahue) is desperate to get out of her dorm room which is pretty much used as a whorehouse by her slutty roommate. She finds a new apartment and her friendly landlady (Dee Wallace) is more than willing to waive a lot of the standard landlord/tenant business if Samantha can come up with $300 cash over the weekend. Luckily Samantha happens onto a babysitting job. It’s at a remote house some distance from the college. So far in fact that Samantha needs the help of her best girlfriend Megan (Greta Gerwig) who drives her out to the house.

Upon meeting Mr. and Mrs. Ullman (Tom Noonan and Mary Woronov) Samantha discovers that they misrepresented the job. It’s not a baby Samantha will be looking after but Mr. Ullman’s invalid mother. Mr. Ullman assures Samantha that the job entails her mostly just being in the house and keeping his mother company. Megan urges Samantha to leave but when Mr. Ullman puts $400 dollars on the table, Samantha relents. Megan leaves, promising to come back and pick up Samantha later. Let’s just say that the simple babysitting job is not so simple and that Megan does not pick Samantha up and leave it at that for now.

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Why do I love THE HOUSE OF THE DEVIL so much? Okay, here’s the first reason: Ti West set out to make a movie that’s a homage to horror films of the 1970’s and 1980’s and he did it so well that halfway through I was half convinced that this was somehow a lost movie from that era he had found and slapped his name on it. He achieved that 1970’s/80’s flavor by recreating the style of movies made then by not only using only the equipment and film that would be available to filmmakers then but also using the stylistic methods used by directors of low budget slasher/horror films of that error. Ti West is one of a very few directors working today who truly understands what a grindhouse film is and make no mistake about it, THE HOUSE OF THE DEVIL is very much a grindhouse film.

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Second of all, Ti West knows how to sell us the sizzle as well as the steak. He’s not afraid of letting us getting to know his characters before he does horrible things to them. I’ve spoken to people who complain that there are long stretches of his movies where nothing happens. Actually there is a lot happening. It’s called Characterization. Unlike most horror movies where the victims pretty much have signs on them proclaiming what type of character they are and in what order they’re going to get killed, in a Ti West movie there are actual characters that I grew to care about. By the time all hell starts to break loose, I was truly invested in Samantha and really wanted to know what was going to happen to her. And Ti West honestly knows how to use suspense to make a scene pay off. There’s one scene in particular that made me jump and I haven’t jumped while watching a horror movie since 2012’s “The Cabin In The Woods”

The acting in this movie is top notch. Usually in a movie set during the 1980’s actors feel the need to over compensate but Jocelin Donahue and Greta Gerwig look, act and feel like 1980’s girls in a 1980’s world. They’re wonderfully relaxed and comfortable with the hair, the clothes and the slang. And as for Tom Noonan and Mary Woronov…well, they were there, fer cryin’ out loud. So they well know how to play this material. And for a long time fan of Mr. Noonan and Ms. Woronov as I am, I knew that when they showed up in the movie things were going to go south pretty damn fast.

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So should you see THE HOUSE OF THE DEVIL? Absolutely Yes. If you haven’t yet put together your Halloween movie watching list yet, put this at the top of your list. Along with Ti West’s other movies “The Innkeepers” and “The Sacrament.” “The Sacrament” is the weakest of the three but still well worth watching. But by all means, watch and enjoy THE HOUSE OF THE DEVIL.

Rated R

95 minutes

 

The Purge: Anarchy

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2014

Universal Pictures

Written and Directed by James DeMonaco

Produced by Jason Blum, Andrew Form, Bradley Fuller, Sebastien Lemercier and Michael Bay

In the interest of full disclosure I should be upfront and say that I had no interest at all in seeing THE PURGE: ANARCHY. I had seen “The Purge” at home about two months ago and thought it one of the most brain dead movies I’d seen in quite a while. Don’t look for a review of it here as I quite honestly wasn’t in the mood that day to rack up wordage on a movie I disliked. But if you do want to read an excellent review of it then I highly recommend you check out Mark Bousquet’s review of “The Purge”

So why did I go see the sequel of a movie that I didn’t like? The theater is why. Patricia and I used to go to a theater on Linden Boulevard here in Brooklyn. But we’ve switched to the Broadway Multiplex Cinema in Hicksville, out in Long Island. Why go all the way out there to go to the movies you ask?

Two-person wide motorized La-Z-Boy leather recliners. That’s why.

We have so fallen in love with the seats in this theater we ended up going to see THE PURGE: ANARCHY even though neither one of us were exactly eager about seeing it. And yeah, I found it just as brain dead as the first one. But I was comfortable as hell while seeing it.

For those of you who didn’t see the first movie (give praise for that) here’s the background. The United States is now administrated by The New Founding Fathers of America who have established The Purge, a 12 hour period taking place annually on March 21/22 from 7PM to 7AM. During this period all crime is legal. Citizens can rob, rape and kill with no fear of legal reprisal whatsoever. The New Founding Fathers insist that The Purge is necessary to give citizens a chance to release their negative and destructive urges. But it’s actually a form of population control as the poor and homeless are usually the victims of The Purge. The rich are rich enough to wait out The Purge in safety in homes that are more like fortified bunkers.

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Diner waitress Eva Sanchez (Carmen Ejogo) hurries home to barricade herself in her apartment along with her daughter Cali (Zoe Soul) and terminally ill father (John Beasley) Married couple Shane (Zach Gilford) and Liz (Kiele Sanchez) stop at a market to get some groceries before heading to the house of Shane’s sister to spend the night. Police Sergeant Leo Barnes quietly assembles an arsenal of guns and assault rifles before strapping on his body armor and climbing into his armor plated car. He plans on a very special Purge.

Through a complicated series of horrifying events these five people find themselves thrown together, trying to survive the night. They lose the car and are forced to take to the streets, avoiding hordes of bloodthirsty Purgers. During the course of the night they learn that The Founding Fathers have been sending out their own death squads to increase the body count by killing off the lower classes. And if that weren’t enough, the Big Rich have been hiring their own squads to kidnap people and bring them to secure locations where the Big Rich play The Most Dangerous Game. They hunt people, Purging in complete safety as they have weapons and their prey doesn’t.

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When it got to this part in the movie where our five heroes are on the run on foot I realized that the writer/director wanted so bad for this to be a John Carpenter movie as the situation was one that sort of reminded me of Carpenter’s classic “Assault On Precinct 13” turned on its head. But THE PURGE: ANARCHY is so determined to be So Serious and Say Something Profound About America it’s really not that much fun or that interesting to watch. The movie could use a whole heap of social satire ala the original “Death Race 2000” or “The Running Man”

It also doesn’t help that the characters are so thin that I really couldn’t get interested in what happened to them. There’s an attempt to generate some sympathy for the married couple who have agreed to separate but since I don’t know these people, why should I care if they separate or not? And I really can’t get with a movie that wastes the extraordinary talent of Michael K. Williams. He plays Carmelo, leader of an army of resistance fighters determined to bring down The New Founding Fathers and end The Purge. But for most of the movie we see him ranting and raving on a TV screen and he doesn’t show up in the flesh until near the end of the movie when it’s far too late for him to save it.

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And maybe it’s just me but I simply can’t buy that on a night where any and all crime is allowed, everybody turns into a homicidal maniac bent only on slaughtering everybody in sight. Me, I’m either robbing a bank or looting a Costco, a Wal-Mart or a Target. None of this is shown, except for the super of Eva’s building who has rape on the brain. Apparently everybody in America waits for this one night just so they can go blood simple.

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So should you see THE PURGE: ANARCHY? If you liked the first movie then you most likely have already seen this one. But if you haven’t, stay away from it and wait for it to show up on Netflix. It’s not even worth matinee prices.

Unless of course, your theater has two-person wide motorized La-Z-Boy leather recliners.

103 minutes

Rated R

Danger Word

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2013

Dark Dream Productions/Little Light Productions

Directed by Luchina Fisher

Produced by Zainab Ali

Co-Produced by Allo Greer and Alma Greerr

Executive Producers: Steven Barnes, Tananarive Due and Luchina Fisher

Written by Steven Barnes and Tananarive Due based on their short story “Danger Word”

It kind of tickles me to no end that back in the 1950’s, 1960’s and even well into the 1970’s we pretty much took it as a granted that the world was going to end in a nuclear catastrophe of one kind or another. Either by accident or a deliberate act of war. Now, in the year 2014 that doesn’t bother us any longer. Now we’re all fairly certain we’re going to have a Zombie Apocalypse and that’s going to be our end. And thanks to movies such as the George Romero “Dead” series, “28 Days Later” “28 Weeks Later” “Shaun of The Dead” “Zombieland” “Pontypool” “World War Z” and the hugely successful TV show “The Walking Dead” we’re all properly prepared for it. You’ve got a frightening number of folks who are even hoping it comes as they’ve turned their basements into survival bunkers. But as DANGER WORD teaches us, survival in the Zombie Apocalypse comes down to something as simple as being prepared to do what you have to do. And even that may not be enough.

Grandpa Joe (Frankie Faison) and his 13 year old granddaughter Kendra (Saoirse Scott) are living in a cabin in upstate New York. Grandpa Joe is teaching Kendra the skills and more importantly, the mindset she is going to need in this new world. Some of the lessons are heartbreaking. But necessary. And Kendra is forced to put those lessons to the test when a routine visit to the nearest trading post to get her a birthday present goes horrifyingly wrong.

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You wouldn’t think that a movie could build atmosphere, characterization and plot and a rising sense of horror in just 20 minutes but DANGER WORD pulls it off. And a large part of that is due to Frankie Faison and Saoirse Scott. They effectively and wonderfully create a loving bond between their characters that we understand and take into our hearts almost immediately. And they do with without forcing it on us or overstating the obvious.

Funded by donations from friends, family and strangers, DANGER WORD is an encouraging example to black filmmakers to show them that they don’t have to look to Hollywood to bring their stories to life, especially ones that feature People of Color in major roles. Although “The Waking Dead” deserves a round of applause for its black characters who are pivotal players in the drama, the history of black characters in zombie movies (or most horror movies for that matter) has been a woeful one. Which has always puzzled me to no end because I don’t know too many black people who aren’t fans of horror movies. You’d think that Hollywood would have long tapped into that the same way they did back in The Blaxploitation Era. In most horror movies the black characters are usually the first to die and even if they manage to last past the first 30 minutes of the movie, that’s because they’re the comic relief. Two notable exceptions are: “The People Under The Stairs” and “Anaconda” which to me is doubly remarkable because not only is the token brother (Ice Cube) still alive at the end of the movie but so is the token Latina (Jennifer Lopez)

But the underrepresentation of blacks in any genre of film is nothing new. We all know that. But films like DANGER WORD is yet another step in the right direction and everybody involved in the production of the film has produced an emotionally strong and satisfying short horror film that they can be proud of.

DANGER WORD can be seen online HERE

Tananarive Due

Dar Kush: The Home of Steven Barnes

 

Suddenly, Last Summer

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1959

Columbia Pictures

Directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz

Produced by Sam Spiegel

Screenplay by Gore Vidal and Tennessee Williams

Based on the play “Suddenly, Last Summer” by Tennessee Williams

Elizabeth Taylor is an actress who I’m just now finding who new levels of respect for. Oh, sure, I’ve seen “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf” “Cleopatra” “Butterfield 8” and “Cat On A Hot Tin Roof” but it wasn’t until this past summer when I watched “Reflections In A Golden Eye” and SUDDENLY, LAST SUMMER back-to-back that I realized that this chick really could act her well-shaped moneymaker off. You’ve probably read my review of “Reflections In A Golden Eye” so you know how twisted that movie is. Well, believe it or not, SUDDENLY, LAST SUMMER is even more twisted.  In fact, for my money, this movie qualifies as a full-blown, all out deep fried Southern Gothic Horror Movie that should be watched every Halloween.  Don’t believe me? Then what else would you call a movie whose major themes are insanity, lobotomies, implied incest, pedophilia, cannibalism and ritual murder/sacrifice? A movie that takes place mostly in an asylum?

Dr. John Cukrowicz (Montgomery Clift) is fed up with the poor working conditions at the state hospital and he’s ready to quit. But then a lucrative offer is dangled in front of him by the hospital’s alcoholic, sleazy administrator (Albert Dekker) This offer involves Dr. Cukrowicz meeting with the obscenely wealthy and eccentric Violet Venable (Katherine Hepburn). Violet Venable will finance a brand spanking new wing of the hospital with state of the art equipment if Dr. Cukrowicz will do a favor for her.  Seeing as how he’s a brilliant surgeon who is considered the leading pioneer in the field of lobotomy, Violet will come across with the filthy lucre if Dr. Cukrowicz will lobotomize her niece Catherine Holly (Elizabeth Taylor)

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Quite naturally, Dr. Cukrowicz wants to know why such a radical procedure has to be done. Especially after he meets the extraordinarily beautiful Catherine.  It’s his opinion that she has suffered from a severe emotional shock but she’s not lobotomy material.  But it cannot be denied that Catherine’s cousin Sebastian died under highly mysterious circumstances while he and Catherine were on vacation in Europe last summer. Circumstances so frightening that Catherine suffered a nervous breakdown and has blocked the memory of what really happened.

In fact, after having some really bizarre conversations with Violet, Catherine’s mother, Grace (Mercedes McCambridge) and Catherine’s brother George (Gary Raymond) Cukrowicz discovers that they all have reasons to want Catherine to be lobotomized so that the truth about Sebastian’s death can never be known.

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Why did Sebastian suddenly leave his mother behind last summer and take Catherine along with him on that fateful vacation?  During her talks with Cukrowicz, Catherine hints of a possible incestuous relationship between Violet and Sebastian and that Sebastian used his mother on previous vacations to procure underage boys for him to satisfy his pedophiliac lust.  A job that Catherine suggests Violet was a more than willing participant in. A job that Sebastian hoped Catherine would be willing to take over.

Dr. Cukrowicz finally decides to use a combination of truth serum and hypnosis to unlock Catherine’s suppressed memories of what happened the day Sebastian died.  Cukrowicz assembles the family members in an almost Agatha Christie-like gathering where he puts together the clues he’s gotten from all of them and along with the frightening story that Catherine at last remembers and tells he is able to solve the mystery of what happened to Sebastian.

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SUDDENLY, LAST SUMMER to me qualifies as a Horror Movie because of not only the subject matter but halfway through the movie I wasn’t sure that I even wanted to know what had happened to Sebastian Venable. And trust me, when I finally did find out what happened to Sebastian, I wish I hadn’t.  His horrific fate is revealed in a tour de force scene described by Catherine that Shirley Jackson herself would be proud of.

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The acting in SUDDENLY, LAST SUMMER is absolutely first rate. After all, we’re talking about Elizabeth Taylor, Montgomery Clift and Katherine Hepburn here. The only one that let me down in this movie is Mercedes McCambridge.  But that’s only because I’ve seen her play kick-ass women in movies such as “Giant” “Johnny Guitar” and “All The King’s Men” and I really don’t like seeing her play such a wimpy character. But otherwise, you couldn’t wish for better.  Especially Elizabeth Taylor who demonstrates fully the range of her acting ability and more than holds her own in her scenes with Katherine Hepburn.

Take my advice and put SUDDENLY, LAST SUMMER on your list of movies to watch. For the first twenty minutes it may not seem like a horror movie but keep watching and by the time you get to the last twenty minutes, I think you’ll agree with me that it is.

114 Minutes

Jenny Ringo and The Cabaret From Hell

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2013

A Chris Regan Production

Directed by Chris Regan

Produced by Andrea Regan

Screenplay by Geraint D’Arcy

When we last left our heroine at the conclusion of “Jenny Ringo and The Monkey’s Paw” she was trapped in her own existential personal Hell, her reward/punishment for sacrificing herself to save her friend and flatmate Gavin (Lukas Habberton) from the curse of The Monkey’s Paw. When JENNY RINGO AND THE CABARET FROM HELL begins we see that Jenny Ringo (Rosie Duncan) is back in London, once again sharing a flat with her slacker/stoner BFF and none the worst for her harrowing experience. Which means of course that now I will have to unmercifully pester Chris Regan until he comes across with the story of how Jenny escaped from Hell as I’m sure it’ll be a doozy.

If you haven’t seen “Jenny Ringo and The Monkey’s Paw” yet, I strongly urge you to do so as it gives the background about Jenny’s magical powers (she’s a Wiccan) which she uses in this short film to switch bodies with Gavin. Not that she planned to, you see. But in order to get the money they need to pay their rent, Gavin (in Jenny’s body) has to get a job as a singer in a local cabaret. Naturally it turns out that the cabaret and it’s sinister MC (Andromeda Godfrey) are not what they seem and it’s up to Jenny and Gavin to sort things out.

Like the first Jenny Ringo adventure, this one is a goofy mix of horror and comedy with a pair of delightful leads. Rosie Duncan is again wonderful as Jenny. She’s not as sarcastic or as snarky in this one. Maybe’s Jenny’s sojourn in Hell has made her kinder and gentler. She’s still no less the take charge, no nonsense Jenny I fell in love with in the first film.

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Lukas Habberton is a bit off his game in the first half of the story when it seems to me that he’s trying too hard to “act” but he redeems himself in the second half when Gavin and Jenny have switched bodies. The both of them do some really fine work with their respective body languages that convinced me more than anything else that the characters had actually switched bodies. Andromeda Godfrey makes the most of the screen time she has to create a creepy and credible antagonist for our heroes.

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As in the first one, there’s a musical sequence and I liked this one better than the one in the previous film since it’s performed by Lukas Habberton and Rosie Duncan and it’s a musical sequence that isn’t dropped in just for the sake of having one but it’s tied into the story’s resolution. This film doesn’t look as polished as the production looks to have been done on a smaller budget than the first one but it’s just as much fun. The ending gives a hint of further adventures for Jenny and Gavin and I hope so. JENNY RINGO AND THE CABARET FROM HELL is a well-paced, fun and entertaining 30 minutes and while watching it I felt like I was catching up with a couple of friends. It’s well worth your time. Enjoy.

JENNY RINGO AND THE CABARET FROM HELL is available for viewing online at Vimeo for those who bounce on over to www.jennyringo.com and sign up on the mailing list.

Dark City: The Director’s Cut

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1998

New Line Cinema

Directed by Alex Proyas

Produced by Alex Proyas and Andrew Mason

Screenplay by Alex Proyas, David S. Goyer and Lem Dobbs

Based on a story by Alex Proyas

A man (Rufus Sewell) wakes up in a tub full of cold water. He’s a resident in a hotel but has no memory of checking in there, let alone living there for the past three weeks as the desk clerk insists. He gets a phone call from a man claiming to be his doctor (Kiefer Sutherland) who tells him he must leave the hotel as there are people looking for him. ‘People’ is somewhat of of an understatement. The Strangers look like walking corpses dressed all in black and have extraordinary psychokinetic powers. The man leaves and begins a search for his identity, pursued not only by The Strangers but by Police Inspector Bumstead (William Hurt) who suspects that the man is the maniac responsible for a string of horrifying murders.

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The man eventually discovers his name is John Murdoch and that he has powers of his own that enable him to evade The Strangers. Armed with these powers he sets out to discover the truth of his origins. Did he really murder six prostitutes? Is the sultry torch singer Emma Murdoch (Jennifer Connelly) truly his wife? Why is he tortured with memories of his youth living in the coastal town of Shell Beach and why is it nobody can remember how to get there? Why does everybody in this city of eternal night, this DARK CITY fall asleep at midnight? Why do The Strangers use their power to rearrange the very city itself and swap identities of the sleeping inhabitants?

If you’ve never seen DARK CITY I wouldn’t dream of spoiling the fun of you discovering the answers to those questions and many others. Because DARK CITY is just as much a neo-noir detective story as it is so many other genres. It’s also a horror movie. A live action graphic novel. A science fiction movie. A suspense thriller. In a way, it’s even a superhero hero. It’s so many different genres blended together and amazingly, they all work thanks to the utter brilliant screenplay and direction. I know people who go on and on and on about how great “The Crow” is but they can keep that movie. Just give me DARK CITY which for me is the best thing Proyas has directed so far.

The visual look and texture of this movie is just as unique as the story. The architecture of the Dark City itself looks European mixed with Art Deco and German Expressionism. It’s a look like no other city in a movie has ever has. It’s even more impressive when you find out that it was all constructed on a set. The production design alone is worth seeing the movie.

This is the first movie I ever saw Rufus Sewell in and right from there I said to myself I would have to keep an eye on this guy. He’s one of those actors who I just can’t take my eyes off when he’s on screen. He’s always doing something interesting with his eyes, his body or his hands. And he’s one of the few actors who I can actually see thinking. He’s flat out terrific in this movie. Kiefer Sutherland is equally terrific. People who only know him as Jack Bauer really need to watch DARK CITY to see just how good an actor he really is. William Hurt has a lot of good scenes as Inspector Bumstead. I liked his relationship with a uniformed policeman who admires Bumstead and who acts as his unofficial sidekick in police work. Bumstead has long had his own suspicions about the origins of the city as he reveals when he asks Emma Murdoch questions about her own memories. And as usual, I can’t say a bad word against Jennifer Connelly. Not only is she gorgeous as hell she’s an amazing actress as well.

Dark City

What else can I say? Not much else. Chances are most of you reading this have already seen DARK CITY and so you know what I’m talking about. As for those of you who haven’t. Please do yourself a favor and this weekend get yourself a Blu-Ray of DARK CITY. I’m advising you to get the Blu-Ray because not only does DARK CITY look astounding in Blu-Ray, it also has a commentary by Roger Ebert who was a major champion of this movie from Day One. ‘Visionary’ is a word thrown around far too often when describing movies but in the case of DARK CITY it’s more than well deserved. It’s one of the most imaginative and fascinating movies I’ve ever seen. It tells a great story and does it in a memorably thrilling and original way. Enjoy.

Rated R

100 Minutes