Category Archives: Reviews

Review: Poet: An Intimate discussion with Wade Radford

Disclaimer: I am in this documentary briefly, and also friends with the subject. In spite of that, what follows is an objective look at the film, and only my opinion.

One of the very first things I found out about Wade Radford was that he was a poet.This didn’t surprise me as his movie Twink (the film that brought us in touch) was nothing if not poetic at times. The first book of poems of his that I read was “Tough Blows of A Sleepless Universe” and I was, if not blown away, then at least suitably impressed. As further volumes of his work came out, the stronger and tighter his poems became. I suppose the culmination for me, was being asked to write a forward to his collection, “Ideations of Six Feet Under” . For me that volume is perhaps my favorite because it truly captured his honesty, anger and amazing amount of talent.

So, it was also no surprise when he told me that he was going to be making a documentary about his poetry. I was excited by this, as a movie by Wade is always a cause for celebration. The fact it was his first movie  in a couple of years, with long time collaborator and friend Jason Impey was all the better. I was equally humbled when asked to contribute to the film as a talking head (so to speak). I filmed my bits sent them off, and was able to watch the final product this past week.

In short it’s everything you might expect. And more. And less as well. In addition to my contribution we also hear from Jason, punk legend Honey Bane, and film producer Thomas Lee Bottom (who also funded this project). For the record, Honey Bane contributed one of the most beautiful songs I’ve heard in a very long time, using one of Wade’s poems for the lyrics.  The sparse musical arrangement suits this song very well, and Honey’s vocals are nothing short of amazing. This song needs to be a single and played everywhere, it’s that good.

Interspersed with the interviews are pieces where Wade ruminates on, well pretty much everything. These parts are less about the poetry, and moreo about what goes into them. It’s not every day you get to see the inner workings of a poet. During these clips we’re taken to places that have significance to him, and he explains why they have meaning. The camera work during these interludes is at times breathtaking, as much as what Wade discusses is heartbreaking.

We also see Wade reading several of his poems throughout, and as wonderful as they are, and as powerfully read (if a bit over theatrical at times), it interrupts the flow of the movie.

The interview segments are what you would expect from a documentary and all who participate have great things to say and some keen insights at times. We’re all friends of Wade’s and it may come off as a mutual admiration society, but this is about the poetry, not necessarily the person. This isn’t about digging up the dirt, but peeling back the layers to see what makes the heart of his work beat with such unrepentant ferocity.

At a full two hour running time, it does drag a bit in spots, and while I think it would have been perfect at 90 minutes, I’m not sure what I would end up cutting, because it all seems important enough to keep in. And as I alluded to earlier the poetry readings do tend to slow it down, but they are also worth the time they take.

Some may see Poet as a vanity project, a product of equal parts ego and hubris, and for some they would be right. For Wade however, he is open, honest, humble, and most of all doesn’t take himself seriously. His wit and charm is very evident, and the readings are a testament to his talent.

As I watched Poet, I couldn’t help but think I wish I had half his ability, and that’s about the highest compliment I can pay anyone. Poet shows why that  praise is warranted.

Poet: An Intimate Discussion With Wade Radford is available to rent or purchase on Vimeo. https://vimeo.com/ondemand/poetwaderadford

 

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Hellraiser: Judgment Get the Hell Out of Here

Anyone who knows me, even if just from the podcast, knows my favorite horror movie is Hellraiser. To be fair it’s one of my favorite movies period, and has been since I first saw it one sunny September day in 1987. It’s difficult to believe that was 3 decades ago, as the memory is still as fresh as if I had seen it only yesterday. I’d gone with a friend who was not fond of horror movies to say the least, and finally walked out after Frank’s classic, “Jesus wept,” line. I’m not sure he ever forgave me for dragging him along, but I couldn’t have been happier.

Everything about the movie appealed to me, and Clive Barker cemented himself alongside Stephen King as one of my idols. The idea of the Cenobites, their reason for existence, and Frank’s obsession with extremes was something that resonated with me, and has never been very far from my thoughts. With the advent of VHS players, Hellraiser became the movie to which I judged future friendships. If someone was able to sit through it, or even better, like it, I knew they’d be a keeper. It’s a test I still use to this day and has served me well.

I can’t say the same about the sequels. Even Hellraiser II, which some prefer to the original never had the profound effect of the original, and while I enjoyed 3 and 4-everything after that was nearly as painful as the implements hanging from Pinhead’s belt.  Even 3 and 4 weren’t especially great, but they were entertaining, and at least attempted to do something different, or expand the world that Barker had created.

When the rumblings of yet another sequel started rearing its head a couple of years ago (not to mention the remake which has fortunately not come to fruition yet), the news was greeted with an eye roll and shoulder shrug. Yet every time I read something about it, I have to say my interest was piqued more and more. Even when Doug Bradley said he wouldn’t be playing Pinhead, I still had hope.

And now after several postponements and some time in limbo, Hellraiser: Judgment will be available on VOD Feb 13. The short answer to the question of whether I like it or not is, “Well, it doesn’t suck!”  And while it’s probably the best of the direct to obscurity sequels, it’s not exactly a good movie.

 

The first 10 minutes or so is spent expanding the mythos that Barker began all those years ago, and it is easily the best part of the entire movie. We follow what turns out to be a pedophile to an abandoned house where he is strapped into a wheelchair. A tube winds itself from the victim to a typewriter, where The Auditor types his sins with blood flowing from the tube onto pages made from flesh.

Once completed The Assessor comes in, seasons the paper with tears of children and eats the paper, then vomits it into a funnel. The vomit then makes its way into a trough where The Jury, 3 women with their faces stripped away plunge their hands into the mess and deliver a verdict.

When that’s completed the pedophile is then strapped to a table where The Cleaners come in, lick his entire body then pour their spit into his mouth to cleanse the inside. The final step is when the Butcher makes his appearance, an obese dark Angel who carries The Surgeon on his back who filets the victim and strips his skin off.

The whole process is so fascinating; I really wish there had been more, as I was mesmerized and sickened by the process. Sadly, the rest of the movie doesn’t live up to this beginning, as we then get treated to a substandard serial killer/cops on the trail flick. Pinhead and the gang are relegated to the beginning and end with just a couple of quick scenes in between. Paul T. Taylor is a fantastic Pinhead however, and makes you realize a Hellraiser movie can succeed without Doug Bradley. This incarnation really hearkens back to the original movie. Pinhead here is all business, and scary as hell. His black eyes and calm, almost bored demeanor are a highlight for sure.

Director Gary J. Tunnicliffe also plays The Auditor and is also a highlight, and as I said, wish there had been more of him and his level of Hell in the film (he’s not a Cenobite, but another aspect of Hell). Heather Langenkamp, of Nightmare on Elm Street fame has a sneeze and you’ll miss it cameo, and I have to believe there’s a lot more of her on the editing room floor than in the movie.

This brings us to the “detectives” working on the case; a pair of brothers, played by Damon Carney and Randy Wayne, as well as a female detective assigned to the case, played by Alexandra Harris. These characters are easily the weakest link in the movie. You never believe they’re actually brothers. Let alone detectives, and in spite of solid performances, the script really lets them down. Harris does a fine job as well, but feels like she was thrown in there just to spice things up.

The biggest problem the movie has is the small budget. There are so many cool ideas that could have been explored but had to be cut because there simply wasn’t room in the budget for them.  The “detective’s” office looked more like a closet with some furniture thrown into it, and the finale takes place in an empty warehouse. I don’t blame the director for these choices, as you work with what you have, but still I can’t help but wonder what this movie could have been had they had a decent budget.

While I would have a hard time recommending buying the DVD/BluRay, I don’t think people will mind spending a few bucks to stream it. There are far worse movies out there, but in terms of Hellraiser sequels, you’ll find none that are much better. I just hope we get a proper sequel one day with more than a $1.98 budget, this franchise deserves more.

3/5 Pins

One Last Night at Camp Blood: Jason X

And here we arrive at the final proper entry in the F13 series. I decided not to include Freddie VS Jason or the F13 remake because they weren’t direct sequels. For those interested however, I thought F VS J was a lot of fun with some great over the top gore, and the F13 remake was awful, and shit all over the original. And if nothing else, all the sequels have made me appreciate the original F13 all the more (Kevin Bacon’s penis aside).

I suppose there were better ways to end the franchise than launch Jason into space, but when you get to the tenth entry, good ideas are hard to come by. That said, Jason X is far more entertaining than it has any right to be. Please, don’t mistake entertaining for good, as that would be a mistake-but in comparison to Jason Goes to Hell, this is a Fellini quality film. After all, David Cronenberg makes a cameo in it, so that counts for something (to me anyway). And as I should have said from the very beginning of this series, These are my opinions only. If you like what I didn’t, that’s great! Movies are subjective and all I can do is give my reaction to them. Many times they seem contradictory, but that’s part of being human. Anyway, let’s lift off!

It’s 2008, and there’s two things that may surprise you. The U.S. Government has captured Jason and holding him in a dank, damp cellar, at a compound in Crystal Lake. Why there would be a government installation there is anyone’s guess, but David Cronenberg is the head of it, so it’s all cool. Scientist Rown wants tofreeze dry Jason, however Cronenberg and company have other plans to study him and adapt his cell regeneration if possible. When they enter the area Jason is kept, they discover Jason has gotten loose and killed the guard on duty. Pretty soon, everyone but Rowan is dead.

She leads him on a chase and eventually traps him in a cryofreezing unit. Before she can escape, Jason punctures the until and manages to stab her, so they’re both frozen like some Birdseye veggies.

Almost 450 years later 3 students and their professor are on an expedition to the Crystal Lake building. Despite the fact no one lives on earth any longer, it having become too polluted, they still do some excavation. They find Rowan and Jason, and are excited by the find. After they bring them back to their ship they begin the process of thawing out and reviving Rowan (Jason being a lost cause they surmise). She’s brought back using nanotechnology, and also has her wounds healed as well. Jason is left in the morgue where he’s about to undergo an autopsy.

This leads up to the first kill on the ship, and probably the best of them all. Mr. V comes to life and sticks the techs head in some cryo freeze unit until her entire head is frozen, and then wham! Smashed against the counter. How Jason knows what it is and what it does though, is anyone’s guess. Apparently he’s not as stupid as we assume (fair to say, Jason’s smarter than most of the screenwriters).

There’s a minor subplot about the professor not wanting Jason dead because he’d be worth a lot of money, and he needs that dough. A security team is sent out to neutralize him, and as it goes, they’re all killed save the leader who shows up later at a most convenient time.

 

The more Rowan warns about Jason’s danger the less people seem to listen and the more chances they take. Even as they’re picked off one by one, no one really listens to Rowan. In space no one sees you do stupid things. The Android with the ragtag bunch of survivors gets retrofitted with some kickass power and that’s exactly what she does, kicks Jason ass. Then she does what I’ve finally waited for someone to do in every sequel-shoot him in the legs. Cut them off, kneecap him, something to at least slow him down.

They leave the Jason chunks where they are, and somehow the nano bugs come and not only put Jason back together but make the parts of him missing, metal-so he’s indestructible. The uber Jason while a ridiculous concept looks bad ass, so it’s only natural he die in a bad ass way, hurtling towards the earth and burning up on entry, only for the remains to land by, you guessed it, Crystal Lake.

Look, I’m not going to pretend Jason X is anything great, as it’s not. In fact, it’s pretty ridiculous, however it has one thing going for it the previous two didn’t: truth in advertising. We barely saw any of Manhattan and none of Hell. 95% of the movie is actually in space. Side note, simply being able to get a job that allows you to go to space doesn’t mean you’re smart enough to not get killed. Jason has always been an equal opportunity killer. Jason X doesn’t pretend to be anything other than what it is, a goofy roller coaster ride that doesn’t take itself seriously. It’s a good looking film, with some-not all-better than average acting, and a self referential script. If anything, it reminds me of the straight to VHS scifi movies I saw in the 80’s.

Why do I like this and not Jason Goes to Hell? Because X respects the source material, while Hell really shit all over it. You can take a franchise in different directions without retconning it the way Hell did. Yes the whole government installation and Jason being captured is ridiculous, as is his being made into an uber predator; but I was able to buy that more than anything in the previous film.

Jason X gets 6.5 machetes from me. Half a machete taken away for sending him to space.

 

And there we go, all ten movies in the F13 series. I was surprised by some, disappointed by others, and found some scary. All in all it’s one of the more consistent franchises of horror. Nothing ever came close to the first movie in terms of scares or surprise, though I think 2 came the closest. I also think it’s the one series that gets the least respect. Sure everyone loves Jason-the character, but the movies still have a less than positive reputation. Even 37 years after the original they get no respect. And maybe, just maybe, that’s the way it’s supposed to be.

Two Long Nights at Camp Blood: Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday

This may be the shortest essay of the bunch, because the more I think about this piece of shit movie, the angrier I get that I wasted 88 minutes of my life having to watch it again. Very few movies get me that angry, because I usually stop watching and go onto something else. I was tempted to here, but wouldn’t have felt right, writing about it.

My good bud and cohost of Mad As Hell, Kyle Fulton and I talked about the F13 remake a few years back. He liked it, I thought it was awful. Everything I disliked about the remake I disliked about Jason Goes to Hell. With a script co written by Jay Huguely (who had a string of hits under the name Cledus Maggard and his Citizen’s Band in the mid 70’s), and directed by 23 year old Adam Marcus, Jason Goes to Hell is not only the worst movie in the franchise, but one of the worst movies ever made. Were it not for one sequence set in a diner about ¾ of the way through the movie, I’d have nothing positive to say about it. Alright, let’s do this.

If you remember, in the last movie, Jason Takes Manhattan, Jason is killed by toxic waste and turned back into a little boy. Jason Goes to Hell ignores that, and just about every other piece of canon and marches to the beat of its own drum. Meaning, they made crap up as they went along. WE open up with a woman heading to a cabin in the woods. Needless to say Jason pops up, and chases her around. At one point they get to an open area and all these flood lights pop on, and a SWAT team is there and shoots him about a million times and then blows him up for good measure. His head and heart remain intact if not where they should actually be located.

He’s taken to the morgue where there’s security, in case he rises up I suppose or someone tries to steal his remains. As the medical examiner is doing his job, he starts to examine the heart which not only starts beating, but hypnotizes him into taking a bite out of it like MacGruff took one out of crime. This somehow transfers Jason’s soul into the coroner who goes on to kill his assistant and the two security guards.

Not surprisingly, he heads back to Crystal Lake, kills three people he finds there, and it’s then we’re introduced to a Jason hunter, named Creighton Duke-I call him asshole for short. It’s through him we find out that Jason has a half sister, and only someone related to him by blood can kill him permanently. Now it’s bad enough New Blood added the supernatural aspect to him, but now we have him as a body thief not to mention the family aspect. Excuse my French, but fuck that. Look, I’m not a stickler about lore. Anyone who listens to Imaginarium knows that. However, when you change everything so much that it barely resembles what it is supposed to be-then we have a problem. This reimagining is pointless and serves only to tell the story that the writers want to and fitting Jason into it somehow.

Most of the rest of the movie is spent with Jason hopping from body to body as he tracks down his sister and her daughter so he can be reborn. Oh and the way he switches bodies, is he [ukes what looks like a bloody turd into someone’s mouth.  Considering what a shit pile the movie is, there’s no surprise that’s what they chose to use as the vehicle for the body jumping.

Earlier said there was only one thing to recommend about the movie, and I take that back. There are three, the diner scene, the end credits, and seeing Leslie Jordan out of his element. So let’s talk about that diner scene. Leading up to the final confrontation everyone who hasn’t been killed yet seems to end up there. Jason flits through a couple of bodies in the movies only truly somewhat scary scene. It’s filmed in partial dark, with lots of blues, and it actually works in creating some atmosphere. Sadly Leslie gets his head dunked in a fryer, but it’s always a lot of fun to see him on screen.

Now, the ending. Or should I say the final shot. This ridiculousness gets wrapped up, Jason apparently is sent to Hell, though we never even see the Devil’s playground, which is even more disappointing than sapending only 30 minutes in NYC when he goes to Manhattan. We do see these twisted arm tentacle things popping up out of the ground dragging him into a pit, so I suppose technically we’ve seen some of Hell’s minions. Once Jason is gone, and before the relief of those end credits, we see his mask laying in the dirt, and then they rip off Carrie’s end scene and have an arm shoot up and drag the mask under-and it’s Freddie Krueger!

 

Bullshit. As I said at the beginning, I never feel truly angry by a movie, I mean it’s only a movie, but the utter lack of care in this installment makes me want to punt kittens. And you know how much I love cats. Yes they were setting up the Freddie vs Jason movie but that would be a decade later, meaning we’d have to have one more sequel for me to sit through, where Jason goes to outer space.

I feel sorry for Kane Hodder. Here he is, one of the best actors to play Jason, yet he’s saddled with some of the weakest entries in the series. But hey, a paycheck is a paycheck, right?

Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday gets half a machete from me. The diner scene saved it from getting 0.

 

Four Long Nights at Camp Blood, Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood

Meet the new blood, same as the old blood. This was the installment that was supposed to have the Jason and Freddie Kreuger showdown, but as these things go, that didn’t happen until much later. Fifteen years later to be precise. The idea was then floated about  that it could be a Jason vs Carrie, which the producer’s liked. One producer in particular wanted this installment to be unlike any other of the sequels, and had even suggested Fellini direct it.

Well, Fellini didn’t pan out, so we got makeup effects wizard, John Carl Buechler. While not the strongest entry, it’s certainly not the worst, and will be remembered for several things: 1) Kane Hodder’s first appearance as Jason 2) Jason’s iconic look was cemented in this entry, and 3) death by sleeping bag. The second one can really be attributed to Kane Hodder as his mere presence onscreen is enough to make one shit their pants. He;s big, imposing, and more importantly, silent and seemingly everywhere.

Like other past sequels this one opens up with a montage of the previous movies to remind everyone of the Dickensian plot and characters.  After all it had been a whole two years since the last movie, and people had forgotten this masterpiece of cinema. Once that’s over, we see a little girl Tina, who is telekinetic, and kills her father in a fit of rage after he hit her mother. The dock collapses under him and he drowns.  By sheer coincidence it happens to be the same lake that Jason was left in, in the last movie.

We flash forward ten years or so, and Tina and her mother, plus her psychiatrist are going back to the house on the lake so Tina can confront her past and move on. She apparently has been in a mental hospital for the past decade. Her shrink, Dr. Crews is played by none other than the Weekend at Bernie’s corpse, Terry Kiser. In another coincidence he gets to play a corpse here as well, at least for a little while anyway. It becomes quite clear that the good doctor has no interest in treating Tina, he only cares about her abilities.

After a particularly tense session with him, Tina runs to the dock, and ends up raising Jason from the (un)dead. As far as reviving Jason goes, this is pretty original, in a check your brain at the door type way. Since Jason has never been one to waste time, he sets about killing people immediately. He comes across a couple lost on the woods. They’re on their way to the other house for a surprise birthday party. Surprise may be an understatement here, as Jason makes short work of both of them and then goes on the hunt for more.

Lucky for him there are plenty to choose from. We have the token minority, the geek, the bitch, the bookworm, the slut, and the stoner, to name just a few. One of the members, let’s say the bad boy who’s repented, takes an interest in Tina, and even when she freaks out because she sees a vision of someone being murdered, he still goes after her. As it turns out, Jason does murder the person she sees in her vision, the cousin of Nick, and the reason for the party. Jason also kills his girlfriend and another couple off gallivanting in the woods.

Tina has a row with her Doctor who threatens to commit her against the mother’s wishes, and she runs from the house. The mother and doctor go after her and run into Mr. V with yet another sharp bladed instrument. I’m not sure where he gets all of these things but the kills are far more entertaining for having them. The Doctor uses Tina’s mother as a shield and Jason kills her. He runs away but it’s not too long before he’s tracked down and dispatched with. Because the producer on this sequel wanted to class it up a bit, the kills are virtually bloodless. You don’t see a ton of gore, and most of the effects were left on the cutting room floor. While it doesn’t necessarily take away from the movie, it certainly seems to defeat the purpose. What this producer didn’t understand is the things she disliked are exactly what the audiences wanted to see. As a result the picture suffers for it, but not for lack of trying on Buechler’s part.

As one can imagine when dealing with a teen with telekinesis, there’s a showdown with Jason and it’s actually pretty good, if a bit cheesy. The special effects aren’t bad for the time, and it’s fun to watch. Jason of course gets blown up in the house, yet somehow manages to return intact, only to be dragged to the bottom of the lake by Tina’s father. If the movie has a weakness it’s this second ending with Jason returning and the father comes out of the lake. It’s silly, pointless and seems like a cheap trick.

Buechler does a commendable job on a script that really could have been far worse, and by rights it should have been worse, yet he lifted it up. While he’ll never be known as a classic director of the genre, he certainly can make an entertaining movie, and in the end that’s about all you can hope for.

I give Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood 6 machetes.