In Space, There's No Air to Suck:
HORROR SEQUELS... IN SPACE!
part one ~ theatrical releases:
james isaac, 2001
~ by JOHN CRIBBS ~
By the late 60's, outer space was all the rage. It was the final frontier, an infinite extention of unimaginable possibilities for the future. By the late 70's, everybody was bored with it...so, they had to spice space up a little by sending a few celebrities into orbit. I think the first case of an earthbound big shot lending his high profile to the cause of making that unpopular cosmic vacuum interesting again (as opposed to characters we first meet in space or aliens from other planets like Han Solo) was James Bond, in a little classic called Moonraker. This is the film that invented the preposition "...in space!" and the mutually beneficial arrangement that made astronomy temporarily exciting while also creating off-world adventures for the central figure of a potentially stale film series.* (This also apparently used to work in reverse, hence Star Trek IV being set...on earth!)**
But really, Bond didn't utilize his new venue in any innovative way. Despite the poster's claim that "outer space now belongs to 007," he doesn't even launch into the void until the movie's last half hour or so. And once he's there he does pretty much the same crap he gets up to in every outing: uses his Q-appointed gadget to get out of tight spots, unleashes his dangerous charm to get the girl out of her tight pants and takes out the bad guy with a waggish quip (actually, Michael Lonsdale's dispatched baddie gets two, so I guess the real advantage of metagalactic intrigue is limitless space puns). Even the anatomically-identifiable villainous sidekick is recycled from the previous movie. Sure Bond gets to bed the chick in zero gravity, but even then it's the same old horizontal position - nothing creative about it at all. Why bother sending a noted cinematic daredevil/lothario to the heavens for what turns out to be such a standard mission(ary)?
The same could be asked of those pioneering studio heads who decided to pack up their fading horror franchises and ship them into space. Once the novelty of seeing their respective monster among the stars has quickly dissipated, you realize you're looking at the same menu in a slightly fancier restaurant (or at least one with a pseudo-classy facade, like a Fuddruckers). Case in point: the tenth and final film of the original Friday the 13th franchise, which after churning out nearly a movie a year finally started petering out and moved from Paramount to New Line, ostensibly to set up the Freddy v.s. Jason vehicle. That didn't happen right away, so to keep the series alive they tried another "ok seriously guys, this is the last one ever so make sure you buy a ticket because you will never get another opportunity to waste money on this artless series again!" entry. The Jason Goes to Hell gambit was only semi-successful and, with the Freddy cross-over stuck in development hell for another decade, the decision was made to relaunch the series...into outer space!
The concept for Jason X - if you can call it that - was pitched by Todd Farmer, these days the reigning king of glossy schlock along with partner Patrick Lussier (My Bloody Valentine 3-D, Drive Angry 3-D). Jason Voorhees (having assumedly escaped from hell and back in his original body) is captured and brought to the Crystal Lake Research Facility (built on the site of the old camp or just the same name? Either way, what a coincidence!) where they intend to study his ability to regenerate tissue, kind of a previously unspoken thing in the series. Shockingly enough, Jason doesn't cotton to the whole guinea pig stint and hacks his way through a team of government types only to find himself cryogenically frozen for 4 1/2 centuries, something nobody thought to try in Parts 2 through 9. Jason and a female would-be victim, played by TekWar veteran Lexa Doig - she becomes a sexier version of Crazy Ralph, essentially letting the ignorant crew know they're all doooooomed - are thawed aboard the interstellar ship Grendel with the help of nanotechnology called "ants" - apparently, our best and brightest were able to capitalize on the tissue regeneration without Jason's help (maybe they managed to catch Michael Myers?) Yet despite being raised in a reality where regenerating tissue is as casual a procedure as getting a belly button piercing, none of the crew of the Grendel are prepared for Jason's infamous unkillability and are methodically eviscerated one after another with various sharp implements found on the space ship. Replace "space ship" with cabin, RV or cruise ship and we're talking the same deal as you'd expect from any Friday the 13th set on terra firma.
Now folks who like this movie (I've checked the internet, they exist) seem to have bought into the "original" idea of sending Jason Voorhees to space and use its alleged outrageousness as an argument that the film is "in on the joke," or however you want to term it. One of the most unconvincing pitches I've ever heard in defense of a movie is, "No no no - see, you think this sounds like a stupid idea. Well the filmmakers know it's a stupid idea. And that's why it's good." Doesn't hold much water for me. Now, if the argument was, "You think this sounds like a stupid idea, but it's not and the filmmakers clearly believe that," then I might be onboard. A good example is Ronny Yu with Bride of Chucky and Freddy vs Jason; both of those films have a clear awareness of their inherent ridiculousness but also commit to their ideas without winking at the audience every five seconds. I'm not saying that's the case here, but it's certainly the only stance the film's advocates seem to take. If that's all it has to recommend it, I just don't think Todd Farmer succeeds in creating the right balance by satirizing the Friday the 13th series while also delivering an entertaining movie that works on its own.
The one scene that does balance these two opposing directives is when Jason is passing through a Holodeck-type room and a computer nerd distracts him by simulating the man's old Crystal Lake stomping ground along with two frolicking, nubile camp counselors who giggle, share a joint and joyously chime that they "love premarital sex!" That's the only part I remembered from seeing Jason X in the theater X years ago: it's memorable for its bold declaration of what irks Jason that plays more like a classic Simpsons joke than a smug Scream/Cabin in the Woods dissertation on the formula of "horror" (read: slasher) movies. Jason being revived by the sounds of space sex earlier in the movie isn't quite as funny, mainly because it's distracting futuristic nipple-pinching sex - I understand that young Todd Farmer was still developing his cheesy/sleazy, escalatingly "out there" circus act best exemplified by the sex tape/midget/naked truck stop chick scene that was the only memorable thing about My Bloody Valentine, but here it detracts from the central joke. Moreso, "knowing" scenes like these don't explain why the space marines still wordlessly agree to split up and wander around in dark shadows...why the fleeing victims constantly underestimate and turn their back on a hulking, homicidal monster they know can't be killed...why the first seemingly successful attempt to put Jason down for good fails and he rises yet again. These clichés, so often mistaken for some kind of preconceived formula, are simply the character of a series of films that have no actual agenda beyond their body count.
Not to mention that, if Jason Voorhees ever had a motive behind his seemingly random murder streak, it's completely lost by placing him hundreds of years and millions of light years away from Camp Crystal Lake. The hologram scene (and an epilogue that suggests he's stumbled upon a new killing ground) makes it easy to forget that Jason's priorities have been seriously compromised by his relocation to space. Unless hapless retarded kids are being sucked out of airlocks due to the incompetence of sexed-up space camp counselors, what's he even doing anymore? Stay true to your roots, J.V. (Besides, doesn't he realize the fried, blurry nutso from Sunshine's already staked a claim on indisciminate deep space slaughter?)
In terms of "originality," the only idea Jason X has is to borrow extensively from Aliens (Xenomorphriday the 13th?) Of course, every "monster on a dark space ship/station" or "creature(s) in a dark subway" (if we're dealing with a Split Second or a Mimic) is derivative of the first two Alien films, but I'd forgotten just how unapologetically Farmer (who also appears as a crew member named Dallas, just to acknowledge that he knows he's a ripoff artist) models the basic components of Jason X off Cameron's movie. Let's just do the role call of Grendel crew members: we got an android whose body ends up getting totaled leaving her active but with only part of her body, a female lead who's tangled with this threat before and ultimately toughens/arms up, co-ed space soldiers led by a cool black sergeant and even a Paul Reiser surrogate who wants to sell frozen Jason on eBay (like if instead of a John Wayne Gacy painting you were auctioning John Wayne Gacy's frozen corpse). Seriously, they are one snotty-nosed kid away from a full set; of course, since this is a Friday the 13th movie, the kids stay out of the picture - it would have been funny if they had a Corey Feldman-type tyke running around there. In what could be construed as an homage but I choose to consider an offensive straight lift from Aliens, the ship's pilot turns around expecting somebody else only to have Jason splatter his blood across the screen/equipment, resulting in a crash.
It's a shame the space soldiers, who have no discernible function on the ship besides being dispatched by Jason, turn out to be Colonial Marine knock-offs; the first time we meet guys with guns on the Grendel, it turns out to be two nerds playing laser tag against simulated monsters on the Holodeck. That would have been a funny idea, to have a bunch of kids with access to future weapon technology but no discipline to utilize them properly. To make them unaccountably incompetent versions of the Aliens team, who can't even stay together as a unit for some reason, is evidence to the movie's complete indifference towards bringing sympathetic characters to the series for a change (at least the sergeant's cool - he's played by Peter Mensah, the guy Gerard Butler kicks into the pit while shouting "This - is - Sparta!" in 300).
The reason I give Jason X enough credit to be disappointing in any way is that it does have some funny ideas in regards to its future-space setting. It's revealed that hockey was outlawed in 2024 - that's like 10 years from now, bad news Canada! (No word on whether rollerball or death race or quintet has replaced it as the new popular pasttime.) Instead of wanting to be a real boy, the female android wants nipples that don't fall off. One guy, sizing up the carnage in Jason's wake, casually states, "Course I seen worse," referring to something called the Microsoft Conflict: "We were beating each other with our own severed limbs." When the reconstructive "ants" heal a decimated Jason, turning him into what the credits refer to as Uber-Jason (I prefer to think of him as Jason X-treme), it's the first time in the series his resurrection is really satisfactorily explained within the narrative - much better than the vague "Lightning brought him back!" of Jason Lives, for example.
And how does the setting effect Jason's frolicsome massacring? By their own hackneyed nature, slasher movies are generally immune to criticism and customarily measured by how many "good kills" they feature - by those simple standards, Jason X doesn't do anything too imaginative. Farmer gets his one outrageous death out of the way early, having Jason dunk his first victim headfirst into what appears to be a sink filled with liquid nitrogen and shattering her frozen face on a table. From that point on there's not much that befalls the space horndogs that hadn't occurred in the series previously - slit throats, machete fu, a drill impalement complete with "screw" pun - or would be considered unexpected given the environment, like a girl who's blown out through a hull breach following a "this sucks" clunker. There is some subtle commentary on the relentlessness of Jason's homicidal nature: he manages to hack off a dude's arm just by falling over while still frozen and effortlessly destroys an entire space station (the "Solaris Research Station" - Tarkovsky in-joke?) just by offing the pilot. But this isn't Sword of Doom - Jason's just a hick with a hacksaw, and it seems to me that if modern freezing technology was the solution to stopping his killing spree, there's no reason any number of future/space instruments couldn't put him down for good. Said technology ends up working for him, once he becomes Jason X-treme, yet again begging the question "so what does it matter if he's in space if he's unstoppable no matter what the time and place?"
In the movie's favor, at least it only takes 15 minutes to get to space. The Friday the 13th series is famous for its unreliable titles: I remember thinking how cool it would be to see Voorhees going up against demons and fire goblins and satan hisself in Jason Goes to Hell, only to be subjected to the same old earthly locations. He never even made it to Manhattan, spending most of the movie on a cruise ship and ending up in an unconvincing Vancouver-doubling-for-New York. Going back even further, the Final Chapter turned out to be only 4 of 10 (arguably 12) chapters, A New Beginning was immediately retconned and led to nowhere but a genuine new beginning, and do any of them actually take place on Friday the 13th? But there ya go, even with no title guarantee, the man's in space. So, uh, good work on that guys. They may have left "space" out of the title because it's presented as something of a twist within the movie: that Jason wakes up in space is revealed as if it's a surprise for the audience. This is after a title sequence that makes you think we're in the bowels of hell when it's just the bowels of Jason, floating around in the big guy's insides. Jason X producers, keepin' you on your toes.
The pre-space sequence is notable for a cameo by David Cronenberg, underrated as an onscreen presence for roles like his memorable performance in Clive Barker's very unmemorable Nightbreed. Here he's the flashy government suit who it's later revealed has put the captured killer through a series of death-tests via electrocution, gas and firing squad (funny to think of Jason being led before a formal firing squad like it was the end of Paths of Glory or something). Even though Cronenberg-the-actor has experience freezing people (he left Nicole Kidman in a frozen lake at the end of To Die For) he doesn't get to freeze Jason, finding himself skewered midriff by a steel javelin, thus becoming the first official celebrity to be killed by Jason (Kevin Bacon and Crispin Glover don't count - they weren't famous yet, and besides Bacon was killed by Mrs. Voorhees, get it straight ya smelly geek!) Not many people remember that Cronenberg directed an episode of the Canadian-produced, Voorhees-less "Friday the 13th" series, which starred Cronenberg regular Robert A. Silverman, who also has a cameo-like appearance in Jason X.
Cronenberg appears courtesy of director James Isaac, who worked on visual and creature effects for The Fly, Naked Lunch and eXistenZ. Assumedly hired due to his background in sequels, having directed House III (although that didn't have anything to do with the other House movies other than taking place largely in a house; it was ultimately retitled The Horror Show), run second unit on Children of the Corn V and serving as effects supervisor on Look Who's Talking Too, Isaac isn't a terrible director but he's not exactly visionary. Todd Farmer offers a few cute ideas, as discussed, but Isaac could have done so much more with the look of the film and the characters to capitalize on the fact that this is supposed to be set almost half a century in the future...and in space. As presented, it's the same bright doorways and dark shadows Jason Voorhees appeared in and out of on campgrounds on earth.
Am I lecturing to anyone who genuinely needs to hear it? People do seem to buy into the movie (by itself, it's managed to spawn a series of five(!) young adult novels and a comic book) and the filmmakers, especially noted hack Sean S. Cunningham, are quite self-congratulatory over their amazing idea to send their monster to space, even though the three other sequels we're writing about in this article came out first, all within 10 years of each other. I guess this one has the distinction of sending the most popular horror icon to the stars and at least attempting to shake up a very played series, for which Farmer was given a small boost to the big time: he and director partner Lussier are now attached to a reboot of Hellraiser. Speaking of which...
alan smithee, 1996
~ by CHRISTOPHER FUNDERBURG ~
If Hellraiser: Bloodline (please, no "Hellraiser 4" thank you very much, this is a classy film) is known at all, it is known as "Hellraiser in Space." The Hellraiser films might be the most successful franchise of all time with no actual fans. Sure, Pinhead and his cohorts look pretty cool, but I don't personally know anyone who has seen all nine, count 'em nine, Hellraiser films, much less dabbled in enthusiastic revisitations of them. Even a series generally acknowledged to be pretty crummy like Friday the 13th has scores of fans who sit through every last one of them repeatedly just for the dumb fun it - I've never heard of anyone doing the same with the these omnipresent but unloved things.
This is likely because while they are plenty dumb, the Hellraiser films are no fun whatsoever. Five seconds of Pinhead's pretentious intoning about new dimensions of suffering is more than enough to make you forgive the most egregious Freddy Kruger pun. Pinhead's easily the most humorless and boring of any of the 80's horror icons and if it weren't for his memorable make-up effects he would never show up in any role call alongside dudes like Freddy, Chucky and Jason - he'd be relegated to the also-ran's section with Pumpkinhead and Horace Pinker. That's the thing of it: Pinhead's iconic stature belies the fact that it's tough to imagine anyone enjoying the series in which he's featured.
Because it is off-model from the slash-and-kill template of 80's horror, the plot of Hellraiser is only dimly remembered: it's one of Cliver Barker's standard-issue "overheated-harlequin romances splattered with viscera," a particularly cheesy example of Barker's enthusiasm for stubbly men shirtless under their leather jackets, a creepy story burdened with the most silly and self-serious (silly because it is so self-serious) variety of leather-daddy/BDSM philosophy.
The plot is simple: a woman needs fresh blood to bring her zombified lover back to life - or rather, since he has already escaped from Hell and returned to the world of the living as a grotesque skinless corpse-creature, he needs blood sacrifices to be fully fleshed back to stubbly, shirtless sexiness. It's not a terrible idea for a movie and there are things to recommend it, but it's mainly a wheel-spinning slog that would have been better suited to a short story. Which it originally was. If you haven't seen the film, you might be surprised to hear that Pinhead has almost nothing to do with it - he and his retardedly named "Cenobite" cohorts merely show up at the end to drag the fugitive lover back to the Hell from whence he escaped.
This whole series is just... oof. Can we talk about the word "Cenobite," for example? There's no reason they shouldn't be called demons or devils or any of the other words that already exist to describe horrific creatures from the bowels of Hell. There's just no need to make up a new word for them, especially one that sounds like something off the appetizer menu at Pizza Hut. At times, the use of the word "Cenobite" (which they don't shy away from) clouded the issue for me as to whether or not it was Hell we were talking about people being dragged to and escaping from, or merely some other weird dimension - but no, wait, it's Hellraiser. "Hell" is right there in the title. Case closed. I guess. The puzzlebox pops open and seems to allow a kind of Hell on Earth, but the rules are extremely vague, so it's never clear exactly what's at stake.
And I didn't mention the puzzlebox yet, did I? Well, that cool-looking little box is probably another reason for the film's enduring notoriety, but as a plot device it's totally unnecessary, confusing and cheesy: solve its puzzle and Cenobites will shoot fish-hooks into you and pull you to Hell/pull your skin off/lecture you about the truth and beauty of pain. The box is another piece of solemn mythology-building that doesn't work very well in a series plagued by solemn mythology-building that doesn't work very well. The box doesn't even set up sequels because why would anyone open the puzzlebox? Why would it exist? The possible answers to those questions are all dumb. So of course the Hollywood sequel machine set out to answer them.
Sadly, because it has the woefully idiotic premise of "Hellraiser in Space," Hellraiser: Bloodline (which you almost certainly haven't seen nor know anything about) is the most readily identifiable of the sequels. The funny thing about film known only for being "Hellraiser in Space" is that it isn't really "Hellraiser in Space," it's actually the profound and epic tale of good versus evil across generations and centuries, from colonial France to the totally 90's to - gasp - space! It's a film more or less divided into three equal sections, only the final of which concerns Pinhead in orbit.
That's right: three tales of Pinhead and his archrivals, the toymakin' L'Merchant clan; it's sort of a Pinhead-themed "horror omnibus" film, or a Hellraiser: Cloud Atlas (only less racist and arguably less cheesy). The (idiotic) idea goes that the L'Merchants are preternaturally predisposed to making toys, specifically they are driven by some mysterious internal obsession to make the puzzleboxes that act as a doorway between this world and Hell (home of the Cenobites and their pet dogs/wall-crawling sausage creatures).
By making the story epic, I suppose the filmmakers believed they were giving it more weight, but the bitternes, longing and intimate pain of the original film are its strongest elements - Bloodline's concept undercuts the only things that have ever worked about the series. In Bloodline, there's still an emphasis on romance and the relationship between pain and pleasure and all that noise, but now it's being delivered by a very young Adam Scott in a powdered wig. His role is a double-dealing disciple of de Sade (or rather, a goofy de Sade stand-in) and, again, the film has a pretentiousness that's tough to believe something described as "Hellraiser in space" would ever have the nerve to muster.
But it could be worse (so it is) than this nonsense being spouted off by Adam Scott, it could be spouted off by a tv-grade actor with a shaven head on an underfunded space-ship set so barren of props and dressing that they might as well not have bothered. By attempting to make the story more expansive and mythic in scope, the filmmakers only succeed in making it small and weightless. Not in terms of special effects: there are no weightlessness effects in Hellraiser: Bloodline. Space, as it is portrayed by the film, consists of a single unconvincing CGI space station, a big empty room, a special futro Pinhead-detention tank and some desks. Also some hanging chains, just in case they need a bunch of chains on their space station. In that case, they'll have 'em. Hanging around. The chains.***
This movie is easy to make fun of and all that, but I think it at least has an answer to the question John brought up: "why the fuck did anyone think it would be a good idea to send this horror icon to space?" It's an epic story spanning generations, so heading up to space makes sense after beginning in Colonial France and taking a detour to a world of grey blazers over white t-shirts in the 90's. The idea isn't "Wouldn't Pinhead in space be cool? I bet he doesn't even need air to breathe, I bet we could do something with that!" but rather an idea about the timelessness of evil, the eternal presence of pain, darkness and leather shirts. That's fairly reasonable. But I'm just not sure the director of the Crypt Keeper-starring "Crypt Jam" music video was the man for the job. You all know who I'm talking about, folks: Hellraiser: Bloodline is directed by the one and only Alan Smithee.
The collision of notorious post-production meddlers Miramax/Dimension films, a special effects artist in one of his first big-time directing jobs and a sequel for a film in no way asking for a sequel seems like the perfect mess for the famous, now-retired phony directing credit to appear on. It's almost like they solved the eternal Alan Smithee puzzle and summoned him! Surprise, surprise: director Kevin Yagher complained of post-production meddling and, mainly known as the designer of the Chucky doll**** and Freddy Kruger's make-up, lacked the clout to demand the studio's respect for his vision of Cenobites and L'Merchants locked in an eternal struggle over toy puzzleboxes. He took his name off the film and went back to focusing on effects work with the occasional writing and producing credit popping up, most notably on Tim Burton's Sleepy Hollow.
Yagher's sad tale made me wonder if Hellraiser: Bloodline was even originally intended to feature Pinhead, Splity-Skull, Skeleton-Dog and the rest of the Cenobite gang. It felt like maybe Yagher's (or someone else's) ambitious script about evil throughout history had been repurposed and Pinhead inserted in the rewrites, like that poor sucker who had his dream project somewhere along the conveyor belt in the sausage factory ground up from a sexy political thriller into Johnathon Schaech's 8MM 2.***** Who knows? Without proof, I'm not positing that some masterpiece got ruined - if such a thing happened at all, most likely, some piece of shit got taken and made into an even bigger piece of shit.
The essential problem with Hellraiser in general, and especially with sending it to space, is that the rules of its world are so vague that it never feels like there's anything at stake. If I'm understanding things correctly (and I make no defiant claims that I am), the Cenobites appear to be undefeatable pain-loving demons from an inscrutable netherworld - why would I get excited to see our heroes running down hallways to get away from them? The Cenobites can appear anywhere and have time/space warping abilities, so who cares? I mean, what precisely are the stakes suppoed to be when they're pitted against the requisite Aliens-aping space marines? Oh good - they shot Pinhead! They really blasted him! Oh no, it didn't work - they should get on their space shuttle and fly away! Because the Cenobites won't be able to effortlessly jump through space and time? Maybe a space-grenade would work.
The rules are just so vague: does opening the doorway to Hell mean that the Cenobites can live on Earth or only that souls can escape hell? Or that the Cenobites can take a short space/time-warping jaunt to our world in order to catch escaped souls? If the idea is that there's some risk of them staying on Earth? If so, what do they want to be on Earth for? Don't they just want to live in darkness and torture people with dry monologues about the nature of suffering? The sequels all but drop the "fresh blood to become revitalized" angle that was the original's narrative force, which means that there's just nothing to hang your hat on here. Why is anybody doing anything is this movie? The filmmakers don't seem to know, despite the proponderous of speechifying on the subject of wicked desire.
If the filmmakers think an epic story about the bloodline of toymakers locked in a struggle with leather-bondage demons will get its hooks in the audience without a clear story, then they've severely miscalculated. Look, we all know that the film is a shameless money-grab and that Dimension Films runs neck and neck with Cannon as the most shameless production company in history, so I can't exactly feign surprise at the lack of quality control displayed here in regards to the Hellraiser brand. Some of the key parties involved pretty clearly made this movie without any thought in their head beyond "we should make another Hellraiser movie." It's a bad idea made with a stupidity implicit that those involved don't care if it's a bad idea. All things considered, the historical segment with its heaving bosoms, ripped bodices and demon-loving effete aristocrats is a way cheesier thing to behold than space Pinhead. Congrats, everyone - you've accomplished a truly impressive feat if "Cenobites... in space!" isn't the worst element of your movie.
I dread 15 years from now when I have to hear kids getting nostalgic for Dimension's shit factory the way I'm always having Cannon's bonehead joyless, mercenary garbage shoved in my face these days. Bloodline has all the potential to be those kids' Gymkata - an obviously moronic idea made by people who don't give a shit.
* While John McClane hasn't been launched up there (yet), last year's Lockout is as close as a "Die Hard in space" as you can get, although it was also half "Escape from New York in space."
** The Star Trek and Friday the 13th's have a lot in common when you think about it. Both had 10 films in their original line-up that ran between 1979 and 2002 (the first Friday came one year after the first Trek, the last one bowed the year before the final Trek.) They kept the roman numeral thing going as long as possible before switching to just subtitles. And both series have been "rebooted" by talentless hacks! (Granted, not a big shake-up for the Fridays.) And here's a random memory for you: the very film I reference above, Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, was the first Trek movie I saw in the theater. The first image to come on screen was a man with his back to the camera. "Must be Captain Kirk," my 8-year-old self thought. Then the guy turns around and - it's Jason! I was fooled by a preview for Jason Takes Manhattan. Jason X, incidentally, was the only one of the original Friday the 13th movies I saw in the theater (Jason Goes to Hell was the only R-rated movie I was denied entrance to in high school).
*** I understand that Alien features a room full of hanging chains. If you need me to explain to you the difference between Alien's hanging chains and Bloodline's, please send me an e-mail and I will reply in a prompt and courteous fashion. (email@example.com)
**** I might be inadvertently stepping into controversial waters here: the Internet Movie Database's bio of him reads, "Beginning with such characters as Freddy Krueger in A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy's Revenge (1985) and Chucky in the Child's Play films, Kevin Yagher has established himself as one of the top make-up effects artists by developing and creating life-like creatures, aliens, animals and humans with meticulous detail." But just last night I watched the hugely enjoyable Curse of Chucky, which has an opening credit reading "Chucky Doll created by David Kirschner." Unlike Yagher, Kirschner is not a special effects artist - he's a journeyman producer who has worked on everything from the venerable Child's Play series to the Curious George t.v. show and movies. My guess is Kirschner doodled a Chucky concept that Yagher made a reality and that, as a businessman, Kirschner made damn sure he controlled to rights to the Chucky image and its attendant licensing revenue.
***** Which, in a wonderful gesture of "who gives a fuck"-itude is about a vhs tape and not an 8mm film strip at all. It's original title was something like Beyond the Velvet Veil.
part two ~ direct to video:
rupert harvey, 1992
~ by JOHN CRIBBS ~
The Critters may have technically won the 90's Horror Franchise Space Race, their celestial adventure having been released (direct to video) four years before those delicious cenobites invaded the heavens with their signature brand of nipple-pinching, flesh-tearing, monologuing sadomachism. But technically the Critters came from space in the first place, so is it cheating to include Critters 4 in this group of movies that sent their monsters into orbit? Wouldn't that be like if Bachman-Turner Overdrive headlined a gig in Canada under the banner "You Ain't Seen Nothin' Yet: B.T.O. Conquers the Great North?" Yeah but... they came from there. Maybe I'm more picky than the casual fan, but for me that knowledge would spoil the thrill of seeing 70-year-old Fred Turner, Randy Bachman and Mitchell Overdrive take care of business.
Before we get into whether sending aliens back to space falls under the umbrella of the "late horror series space gimmick," let's address a more pertinent question: which ones are the Critters again? Of all the Gremlins clones churned out in the late 80's and early 90's, were they the ones who came out of the toilet? Didn't they go native and develop a craving for pizza and beer? Do they have the ability to speak, and if so did they at one point use the word "Bitchin'"? Are they played by midgets or hand puppets? The Munchies* also came from space, didn't they? Do the Critters have anything to do with the Ghoulies or the Hobgoblins or the Trolls or any other Charles Band band of Gremlins-biting tiny demonic toys, killer dolls or Central European subspecies?
Even Charlie, the eccentric Critter exterminator and star of all 3 of the previous movies, has trouble explaining them to a new character in Part 4, attempting to compare them to piranha before conceding, "Well, they don't really look like a piranha. But they're hungry like a piranha." (The kid he's talking to cops to a vague knowledge of what a piranha is - "Some kind of fish, right?" - because it's the future and there aren't many fish found in space.) So, the creatures of this particular franchise come from space and are often hungry; also they hatch from slimy eggs, like another certain cinematic space beast... oh, and apparently they're called Crites or Krites, so is it actually pronounced "Krite-rs?" (After finishing my yummy cenobites I can always go for a bowl of crunchy Kriters.) This is all that someone largely unfamiliar with Critters 1 thru 3, such as myself, learns about the Critters - I'm not calling them Krites, it sounds like some kind of racial slur - for the first 35 minutes of the movie: even though it takes only six minutes to get to space (from Kansas), the title troublemakers sit out for the first third of the film.
In the meantime, we're audience to the antics of the bickering space crew of an unnamed salvage ship floating around "somewhere in the Saturan Quadrant" in the year 2045. Despite being just over a half century into the future, man has apparently forged his way into space and gotten comfortable; there's already talk of an "old" Intergalacic Council that was dissolved and... wait, are these crewmembers even humans? I mean, do they come from Earth? It's bad enough I don't know much about the Critters, I should at least feel confident as to the origin of these rocket jockeys I'm supposed to be rooting for, right? One of the characters pines for a return to Earth, stating he knows people there, but when Charlie asks him, "Are you an alien?" he responses, "No - do I look like one?" Well, what do aliens look like in the Critters universe? Are they all tiny furballs or are they humanoid, like in Star Trek? It's never really established one way or another.
Wherever they hail from, like in Alien the crew is made up of space money whores who agree to transport a mystery pod, which contains the last two Critters eggs, to an old abandoned space station in exchange for a couple space bucks. The cautionary fretter is Brad Dourif as Al Bert (yeah, that's the way it appears in the credits - throughout the movie people just call him "Albert" like it's his first name...if this is some kind of weird future name separation thing, I don't get it). So we sort of got a "Chucky vs Critters" thing going, although I don't think Dourif even once crosses paths with a Critter the entire movie. He mainly just sits around as images from the computer screen reflect over his face. Kind of a letdown - Dourif should be the one playing the eccentric exterminator, a role he already nailed in Graveyard Shift (he would end up back in space in Alien: Resurrection a few years later, which is either a step up or a step down depending on your point of view). The greedy half of the group is made up of Dogme 95's own Anders Hove (on loan from the Subspecies series) as the captain and Eric DaRe (Twin Peaks alum/Vincent D'onofrio from Full Metal Jacket clone) as a shifty dude who tries to steal some space drugs. Then there's some obnoxious kid - not Leo DiCaprio, he was in Part 3, although this guy has the same River Phoenix-style bangs - who I can't believe the filmmakers didn't put in there to be horribly killed to satisfy the audience.
Now as we all know from Jason X (a.k.a. Jason Part 10) hockey's been outlawed for twenty years, so these guys have nothing to do for entertainment except get on each other's nerves and gather together to watch Angela Bassett take a shower (Butt Double alert!) It's hard to say if the 5-time Image Award winner was still paying her dues at this point: the movie came out a month before Malcolm X (a.k.a. Malcolm Part 10) and only a year prior to her Oscar nomination for What's Love Got to Do With It, and she certainly didn't stray from pure crap in the ensuing years - not even pure crap set in space. But you can tell she's prepping for greater things: for example, at one point she gets punched in the face by Terrence Mann, clearly rehearsing for her upcoming performance as Tina Turner.
Terrence Mann, now there's another dude you'd think would be under the impression that he's too classy for Critters: after all, he originated the role of Rum Tum Tugger in the Broadway debut of Cats (anybody see it?) Yet apparently he was the hero of the first 3 movies, one of two interstellar bounty hunters who makes it his mission to annihilate all the Critters. Weirdly enough, in Part 4 he becomes the greedy corporate villain - that's like Loomis teaming up with Michael Myers! (Or joining the Cult of Thorn? Something along those lines.) Charlie, the other character from the previous films, is the Ripley stand-in: having climbed into the Critter egg pod at the behest of Mann's hologram, he wakes up after 53 years of hyper-stasis (it was 57 years in Aliens, so this is totally different). This also draws an interesting comparison to Jason X, in which the present day hero(ine) also wakes up in the future alongside the monster, albeit after a much longer nap, and gets to feed exposition to the future folk. (Charlie ends up in a Freddy Kruger shirt, New Line giving itself a little nod I suppose. Critters 4 director Rupert Harvey produced a bevvy of New Line movies including Nightmare on Elm St 5: The Dream Child.)
Seeing as how I'm unfamiliar with the first 3 movies, I can't rightly attest to whether this one meets the Critterion of the Crittercally-acclaimed series but I can say this: I do not like this Charle character one bit. It's as if a supporting character from a Stephen King book was promoted to leading man status - just imagine Donnie Wahlberg's cancer-retard/alien mind librarian from Dreamcatcher as the main character. The opening of the movie, set in a basement in Kansas, posits the ol' ethical question of whether wiping the Critters out of existence is ok or not, which would make for some compelling sci fi except that Don Keith Opper, the guy who plays Charlie, is no Tom Baker in Genesis of the Daleks. The score ends up fairly even, with two lead Critters killing two lead characters (both assholes) before getting taken out, so I guess the moral question is answered by a resounding shrug. Wipe 'em out, let them roll around and eat bad people - whatever works. Whereas Voorhees took out an entire space station without even trying: that's a threat that clearly should have been terminated in the womb.
More dirt on these Critters: they're kind of like a Magwai/Gremlin hybrid, fuzzy and big-eyed like Furbies but with sharp teeth they use to eat people. Yeah they eat people, which does not endear them to me: I prefer my man-eating monsters to be gigantic and preferably animated by Ray Harryhausen (or played by Janine Lindemulder). You'd think it was impossible for these tiny things to take down a healthy human being unless they had the advantage of sheer numbers with which to overwhelm the victim, but in the case of this movie there are only two of them. Usually sequels up the number of monsters - more gremlins, more aliens. Apparently they couldn't even afford four critters for Critters 4.
They're apparently intelligent, reprogramming the ship's computer to set a course for Earth, and communicative among each other, even occasionally subtitled (whether this is the only pretentious Critters entry with subtitles or not I couldn't say). Charlie claims that they "love ducts," but there's little evidence of them strategically hiding or traveling via ducts or vents (maybe he meant they love ducks?) They just roll around like hedgehogs (lotta Critters POV shots in this movie), making it even more ridiculous that victims can't simply kick them away or merely close a few doors, maybe open a few hatches, to keep them out.
"Well ok," Mr. New Line producer chimes in. "What if these ravenous porcupines were BIGGER?" The idea is suggested prior to the Critters' first appearance when the crew happens upon an old educational video in which space scientist Anne Ramsay - sadly not the Throw Mama from the Train star or the sister of Bruce Ramsay, star of Hellraiser: Bloodline - lays out the station's plans to experiment with some kind of stupendous future ray that genetically enhances biological lifeforms. The subjects are poodle-sized alien insects Ramsay identifies as "Cythloids." This seems to be setting up one of two eventualities: either the Critters will run afoul of these giant Cythloids resulting in a creature-on-creature battle royale, or the Critters will use the ray to turn themselves into giants. Yet neither of these expectations pay off, exactly. The Cythloids are never mentioned again, and the one Critter who discovers the ray uses it to make himself a little bit bigger - but not much. Not to any real advantage, that is. He roughly goes from the size of a volleyball to the size of a basketball.
If the budget wasn't there to make the underachieving Critter the size of a corridor, they probably should have just cut the idea of resizing it out of the script. But the film's real budgetary problem are the sets: the benefit of having your actors run around on grungy, dark space stations is lots of shadows and big equipment that doesn't have to do anything but sit there as set decoration. The problem is that nothing distinguishes Critters 4's space station from the crew's ship, except the female voice of a comically backwards computer on the station.** But since I tend to associate computer voices with ships (and specifically female computer voices with the ships from Supernova and the Futurama episode "Locket and Rocket"), I kept forgetting they were supposed to be running around on a space station as opposed to the ship, or vice versa. At one point, Charlie is shooting at a Critter while everyone is shouting at him to stop. I had no idea what their problem was until things calmed down and it turned out they're now in the ship's cockpit, not the station's computer room, which has been sufficiently damaged by the gunfire. The only room that looks any different from any other is a waste compartment where Charlie and the kid wind up after sliding down a chute and getting trapped inside a'la Star Wars.
Come to think of it, the cargo bay set is unique in its own way. It's set apart by... hanging chains! That's right, Critters pointlessly ripped off the Alien hanging chains before Hellraiser could. (The back-stabbing captain uses it to hoist the unconscious kid after he tries to foil his plot. Then Charlie almost instantly gets the kid down, there was absolutely no point in him to be hoisted anywhere for any reason.)
Despite the hanging chains, Critters 4 is at least not as apparent an Aliens clone as Jason X - kudos to the writers (parts 3 & 4 were co-written by horror author David J. Schow, who distinguished himself with such works as the enjoyable short story collection Seeing Red yet has also been involved in some dubious Texas Chainsaw sequels/remakes) for not having any goddamn space soldiers as lead characters. Space soldiers do appear at the end but are evil, look more like stormtroopers and all die without a line of dialogue.
Weirdly enough, the Alien connection in Critters 4 stems from its notable similarities to Alien 3, *** which had only come out in theaters five months earlier. Both films feature fewer monsters than the previous movie, open with the series' main character and title monster being salvaged from space together, are structured around the good guys awaiting rescue while trying not to get picked off one at a time, and end with a showdown between them and mute government troops led by a sinister smooth talker who was a good guy the last time we saw him in the series, resulting in one of the main characters being shot to death. Stranger still, Critters 4 shares Alien 3's somber tone - I was under the impression that the Critters movies were regarded as horror-comedies. But even scenes that seem conceived to be comedic such as Charlie shooting up the cockpit of the ship come off like Arthur Miller in Space: poor prehistoric dullard Charlie can't understand why no one is happy he killed himself a Critter, not understanding that he's doomed the entire crew - he's lost the respect of his new space friends. Was there a concern that the Critters' typical face-eating hijinxs wouldn't play off-Earth? Keep in mind, this was a still a few years before the space-comedy concept was proven by Space Jam.
Even the tagline/subtitle appears to be under the impression that this should be a comedy: "They're invading your space!" But the film itself is pun-free until the very end, when the obnoxious kid freezes the Final Critter (the one whose proportions have multiplied from pomelo to watermelon) with nitroglycerin and wryly quips, "Chill out, asshole!" Sorry Schwarzenegger - turns out you didn't originate that one.
Critters 4 differs from the other three movies discussed in this article in one significant way: it's the last one of the series.**** No more Critters! The series ends in space. I suppose it's appropriate, since it started there, but it's interesting that the producers considered this to be the farthest the franchise could possibly stretch. And so many unanswered questions remain: what about the Critters' homeworld? Are they the dominant species on their planet? No interest in crossing over with another Gremlins cash-in series, like Critters vs Munchies? Sending their proud series to space was a conscious move on the filmmakers' part: this wasn't a random gimmick like Leprechaun or an essential reboot a'la Jason X, it picked up right where Part 3 left off, with Charlie and the Critter eggs being shot into space. With all that preparation, it's too bad they couldn't think of anything different for the Critters to do besides roll around a space station, chat in subtitles and grow slightly bigger.
LEPRECHAUN 4: IN SPACE
brian trenchard-smith, 1997
~ by CHRISTOPHER FUNDERBURG ~
The pressing, if implicit, question with all of these films is why is this serial killer/Cenobite/Critter/Irish pun impresario in space? The sharpest measure of Leprechaun 4: In Space's overall "who gives a fuck"-ery is that it answers that essential question with "Who gives a fuck?" When the movie begins, Warwick Davis's surprisingly enduring gold-obsessed murderous midget fairytale creature is already there in space, just hanging around. Well, not outer space precisely, but in a cave on some generic red-haze/lightning clouds planet. He's got an alien space princess (a.k.a. some normal actress slathered in glitter bodypaint) chained up in the cave with him.
Despite her initial shrieking terror, he proposes marriage to her because he wants to be a king and she accepts because her father (the king) apparently wasted a fortune on noble causes - it's a fine deal for all involved. I guess she loves gold as much as he does? Their nuptual negotiations are interrupted by a gaggle of space marines that have been sent to the barren planet to investigate... something something, mines, profit, semper fi, crawling through air ducts - have we mentioned Aliens yet? This is a set-up where no one involved gives a shit. This movie is the kind of moronic nothing that can only be conceived of and executed by a gaggle of hacks who nevertheless think they're too good to be making a straight-to-video Leprechaun movie.
It is, of course, directed by Brian Trenchard-Smith, whose name should be Brian I'm-too-good-for-this-shit-Smith. That is not to say that Trenchard-Smith is too good to be directing the second worst Leprechaun film,***** only that Trenchard-Smith's modus operandi and claim to (non)fame is that he always thinks he's too good for shit, whether it be space leprechauns, Australian werewolves, Most Dangerous Game rip-off's or any number of dubious b-movie concepts to which a talented director would have felt a professional obligation to bring whatever panache and inventiveness they could muster. The only thing Trenchard-Smith wants you, dear audience, to know or feel when watching one of his movies is that he's too good for this shit, that he understands what a stupid fucking idea for a movie putting a leprechaun in space is. His main method for conveying this to an audience is by being "campy." Even with the most talented of filmmakers (and Trenchard-Smith surely must be in the running for least talented of all time), that's a tricky proposition.
A thumbnail glance at how "camp" and "cult" cinema function is this: both types have undeniably bad/embarrasing elements - "camp" fans love the artwork for its obvious glaring flaws (The Room, Birdemic) while "cult" fans love the artwork in spite of its obvious glaring flaws (The Evil Dead, Ong Bak). Those hip to the cult of Jeeja Yanin's Chocolate love its mind-blowing martial arts sequences but wouldn't be sad to see its plot reworked to literally anything other than the cringe-inducing tale of a developmentally-disabled teenager acting as an enforcer collecting debts on behalf of her cancer-striken, former-prostitute mother. By contrast, the only way to care about Sharknado is to revel in its apparent stupidity - if you take away the stupidity, its appeal vanishes. When any filmmaker attempts to manufacture "camp," what they are trying to do is intentionally make their movie terrible. The track record of intentionally terrible films being embraced by audiences is weak because the condencesion and self-importance endemic to manufactured camp has a tendency to waft over the film like a fart, noisy and stink.
Trenchard-Smith's movies always seem to be rolling their eyes at you and saying "well of course I'm not trying to be any good." But what manufactured camp ends up really being most of the time (and especially in the case of Trenchard-Smith) is painfully unfunny comedy. For example, in Leprechaun 4 the space princess gets her hand sliced off in the initial shoot-out with space marines. A marine rushes to her body and says, "Give me a hand over here!" One of the other marines tosses him the severed hand. Har, har. Or how about the "hilarious" character of Dr. Mittenhand, a Dr. Strangelove parody who speaks with an exaggerated Colonel Klink accent? At one point, he barks orders at the marines and ends his jeremiad with a garbled "...because I so say!" Then he pauses, makes an exaggeratedly embarrassed face and then mumbles, "Say so." Oh man, too funny! Just kidding - I, Brian Trenchard-Smith, know that this horseshit is unfunny garbage. It's called camp and it's totally outrageous! Don't tell me you thought this leprechaun-in-space movie would actually be any good - that's on you, my friend, not me.
The nadir of this "this is funny - no ha, ha I'm kidding this isn't supposed to be funny, it's supposed to be terrible and therefore it's good" posturing comes in a scene where the hardass marine sargeant is hypnotized by the leprechaun into dressing up in drag and doing a musical number before pulling out nunchuckas and fighting our heroes all the while still clad in a blonde wig and a shimmering mini-dress. He gets into an argument with himself, switching wildly between his cooing drag persona and his hardass military shtick - it's all played for maximum goofiness just in case you didn't get the message. So bad it's good, amirite, fellas?
Then he's killed and revealed to be a robot. And the leprechaun gets sucked out of the cargo bay and exploded in the void of space. Did I mention this, like Jason X and Hellraiser: Bloodline, is yet another Aliens rip-off? The marines even use those hand-held beeping motion-detector gadgets at one point. And don't worry, there are chains hanging from the ceiling. Wouldn't be a spaceship without chains hanging from the ceiling, we all know that. Maybe even more puzzling than why these franchises went to space is why so many of them decided to ape Aliens to such a shameless degree. I understand that Aliens is considered the ne plus ultra of genre sequels, the follow-up that expanded and even arguably improved upon the legendary original, but I don't think the argument that "Aliens is a great film therefore we will imitate Aliens" flies, because these films are not aspiring to greatness. In fact, adding space marines or air duct chases and certainly hanging chains all but ensures that the fourth Leprechaun, Hellraiser and Critters films will be terrible. Brian Trenchard-Smith knows this. I'm not sure if Kevin Yagher does.
Aside from the spaciness of the fourth one, the Leprechaun series has always been a problematic series, if only because the leprechaun doesn't fit the Freddy/Jason/Chucky mold. Sequels to those films are easy: just have their hero-villains go kill more people. Not only do the Leprechaun movies share the Hellraiser series' problem of figuring out why people keep stumbling upon the gold/opening the puzzlebox,*** *** they share the problem of their antagonist's invincibility and the hazy rules of their universes. The leprechaun is magic: in the opening cave shoot-out, he jumps on a grenade to save the princess and gets blown to pieces. But he instantly is revealed to still be alive. So you can't kill him? And then one of the marines pisses on his corpse, which causes him to magically fly up the dude's urine stream and, I guess, live his in dick for a couple hours before that guy starts making out with the hot, tough lady space marine. The leprechaun then emerges from the marine's swelling crotch (so hilarious!) and says, "Always use a prophylactic!"
What I am supposed to be thinking when he gets into two seperate shootouts where he's using a little machine gun and dodging bullets? He's magic, for fuck's sake - he made handcuffs appear on a guy's wrists earlier and survived being blown up twice. Am I supposed to be hoping he gets shot? Too powerful villains aren't scary and they make it unclear what you're supposed to be rooting for to happen. When he gets hit by a shrink-ray set to reverse and becomes 20 feet tall, it just doesn't matter - couldn't he make himself 20 feet tall if he wanted to? He's blowing up flashlights and emerging out of crotches on the reg. I'm pretty sure he could supersize himself if he put his ambiguous psychic powers to it.
The original Leprechaun film came as part of an early 90's wave of fairy-tale inspired horror films like Rumplestiltskin, Pinocchio's Revenge, Jack Frost and even stuff like the evil genie flick The Wishmaster. It's not a bad idea to repurpose those stories for a modern setting, but it's just another way that Leprechaun doesn't really lend itself to further cinematic investigation. There's probably juuuust enough of a concept there for the tale of the "Hey, it's Enrico Polotzo!" guy playing a tubby man-child helping Jennifer Aniston seperate Warwick Davis from his beloved pot of gold. There is not enough of an idea there for a sequel, unless you just repeat the idea - which, hey man, no worries, Final Destination has gotten a slew of excellent films out of its repetitions. It's a venerable horror-movie tradition: clever variations on the same basic structure.
But Leprechaun jettisons both the basic structure and clever variations. Maybe worse than the lack of logic is that almost all of Leprechaun 4's weirdest (and therefore best) ideas are borrowed from other movies. Freddy Krueger was famously brought back to life by a dog pissing on his corpse in A Nightmare on Elm Street 4, the late-sequel body-jumping capabilities of an established character were the only memorable part of Jason Goes to Hell,**** *** and the mad scientist playing around with re-spliced spider DNA to create a crazy creature more than slightly resembles that subplot of Gremlins 2.
Like Jason X, so much of it is blatantly imported from Aliens that even making leprechaun HUGE for the ending just feels like lazily rehashing the "oh shit, there's a giant alien queen!" climax of that film. What might make this all especially frustrating is that some of the effects work is genuinely great. Warwick Davis running around a set of miniatures for the giant midget sequence plays surprisingly slick, while the aforementioned scorpion/spider creature actually looks pretty darn cool. The film has a capable effects team that works wonders with the limited budget, a game cast (that includes an amusing Rebekah Carlton as the space princess and the perpetually-saddled-with-bad-parts-in-shitty-movies Miguel Nunez, Jr. as one of the marines) and a genuinely great character actor in Warwick Davis, who is legitimately too good for this shit. It's obnoxious that Trenchard-Smith displays the contempt for their work that he does with his direction.
I don't think there's any argument to be made that Leprechaun 4: In Space ever could had been good. That's not my point. My point is this: fuck Brian Trenchard-Smith. Fuck him right in his stupid ear. Even The Siege of Firebase Gloria is terrible. I've seen it. I've suffered through this guy's horseshit, so don't try to tell me otherwise.**** **** He can save that goofball noise for amateur hour. Leave the filmmaking to the long and awesome tradition of real directors who started out assigned fundamentally unworkable genre projects: Joe Dante (Piranha), James Cameron (Piranha 2: The Spawning), Jonathan Demme (Caged Heat), Martin Scorsese (Boxcar Bertha) and Steven Speilberg (Duel). Not all of those movies are good (or even "not terrible") but none of those directors treated them with haughtiness, none of them trivialized the work of their associates or spit on the very idea of the job they were hired to do. I wouldn't imagine that anyone could take a lesson or two from ponderous, ridiculous Hellraiser: Bloodline, but Trenchard-Smith could learn a lot of from Kevin Yagher and his film. Namely: there are some movies worth taking your name off of and you should never intentionally set out to make one of those films.
And maybe the most important lesson of all is this: don't send your horror villain to space. Just don't do it unless you have a really good idea (and ripping off Aliens is not a really good idea). Set the sequel at a summer camp, a foreboding warehouse or grandpa's old abandoned farm. Embrace the still-thriving bloodline of horror cinema. It's as eternal as a L'Merchant puzzlebox or a mysterious pot o' gold.
suggestions for horror franchises to send to space
Tremors Part Whatever: Graboids on a Metroid
Hostel IV: Full Spacial
Saturn's Ring (The Ring in Space)
Pitch Black 2 - What the hell happened here? Critters 2 scribe David Twohy came up with some decent flying Alien knock-offs, then the series became about Vin Diesel? Let's reverse engineer a proper sequel to Pitch Black (not the redubbed "The Chronicles of Riddick: Pitch Black") where the photosensitive hammerhead-bird things somehow make it to Earth during a full eclipse or something. Then they fight the Graboids.
~ OCTOBER, 2014 ~
* Actually, I remember Roger Corman's Munchies because it was directed by Joe Dante's editor on Twilight Zone, Explorers and Gremlins. She even enlisted actors from the Dante stable - Wendy Schaal, Paul Bartel and Gremlins 2's own Robert Picardo - to meet the Munchie threat. She never directed another movie, although she did cut Captain Ron. Also, Kevin McCarthy was in Ghoulies Go to College. Nadine Van der Velde was in both Critters and Munchies. Jim Wynorski directed the Munchies spin-off Munchie (reverse of Alien/Aliens) as well as Ghoulies IV. Very incestuous, this Gremlins-like little creature movie series family.
** I just have to mention the interesting career of the actress who voices the space station computer, Martine Beswick. I didn't recognize the name, but she's popped up in a lot of cool places. A former Miss Jamaica, she first got notice as one of the two hot-blooded feuding gypsies in From Russia with Love's very memorable gypsy cat fight scene (she also had a supporting role in Thunderball as Bond's sexy ally who takes a cyanide capsule before she can be rescued). She then took her cat fighting skills up against none other than a fur-bikini'd Raquel Welch in One Million Years B.C. She played the female "Hyde" in Hammer's Dr. Jekyll and Sister Hyde and the Queen of Evil in Oliver Stone's hilariously bad first movie Seizure. She was the lead actress in the Spaghetti Western classic A Bullet for the General and had a small part in Melvin and Howard. Most importantly, she was the waitress in the "Shit happens when you party naked" sequence of Miami Blues who disapproves of Alec Baldwin's Frederick Frenger, Jr. after he rudely informs her the circe salad with yogurt dressing is "lousy." Jewel Shepard interviewed her for her book Invasion of the B-Girls.
*** David Twohy, co-writer of Critters 2, was one of the many screenwriters hired to work on Alien 3 whose script was ultimately scrapped.
**** I guess Jason X was technically the last of the original Friday the 13th series, although it's hard to say: did the original series end with Part 4, the original attempt to kill Jason and the franchise? Or with Part 8, the final Paramont release? Did it end with Part 9, when Jason was sent to hell? And how are we supposed to view Freddy vs. Jason and the Platinum Dunes remake in regards to the continuity of the earlier films? The answer is, obviously, who cares - but since they're still making Jason movies I wouldn't personally count Jason X as the "last" one in any case.
***** Congrats, Leprechaun Back 2 Tha Hood - you're the worst! Just the absolute fucking worst.
*** *** The "Original Script for Piranha" syndrome seems inevitable here. To explain, before Joe Dante got ahold of that film, apparently the screenwriter would get all caught up in justifying why a couple would go into the piranha-infested river. Well, maybe a bear chased them in? And why is the bear chasing them? Probably there was a forest fire. But now we got to show what caused the forest fire. And so on. That's a stupid problem to have with a Piranha film - people getting in the river has many self-evident explanations. On the other hand, figuring out why people are fucking around with this bizarre puzzlebox and trying to court demon-torture or snooping around in the wilds looking for leprechaun gold actually do require some explanation. Explanation that will almost assuredly be as convoluted and bone-headed as a forest fire-induced bear chase.
**** *** Well, apart from the Freddy glove pulling the Jason mask down to hell.
**** **** The Man from Hong Kong is pretty ok, though. Just as they can't all be winners, they can't all be losers.