So here’s an interesting one : more or less a one-man production helmed by writer/director/cinematographer/editor/star Josh Criss, 2012’s Leaving D.C. is the working definition of a “bare-bones” production. Lower than low-budget, lower than micro-budget, we’ve straight-up landed in “no-budget” territory here, a truly homemade effort shot on a now-outdated camcorder by a guy with only a rudimentary working knowledge of what he was doing — but bound and determined, for whatever reason, to make himself a movie anyway. And he took it all the way to Amazon Prime. Not bad for what probably was a few days’ work, am I right?
Here’s the most impressive part about the entire enterprise, though : it’s actually pretty good. And not just by “vanity project” standards, but by any standards.
Criss plays Mark Klein, a guy who’s gotten fed up with the big-city rat race in our nation’s capitol (hence the title) and…
The Twilight Zone wasn’t the only televised horror anthology show to air in the late 50s and early 60s! There was also a show called One Step Beyond, which ran for three seasons. It was hosted by a man named John Newland and each episode was supposedly based on an event that may have actually occurred … an event that defied rational explanation!
The episode features one of the icons of horror cinema, the one and only Christopher Lee! Lee plays a German soldier who, during World War I, enlists a local psychic to discover whether or not his lover is being faithful to him. When he discovers that she isn’t, he uses the psychic’s powers to get revenge. Afterward, when he wants to confess to his crime, he runs into a problem. No one believes him because he was over 800 miles away when the crime occurred.
To be honest, the main reason to watch this episode is to see Christopher Lee but isn’t that reason enough? Lee was one of the great gentlemen of horror and his performance in this episode helps to show why.
Before I say anything else about 1974’s The House on Skull Mountain, I just want to say how much I love the film’s poster. Seriously, that poster is everything that you could hope for from an exploitation film print ad. Everything about it, from the lightning to the giant skull to the mansion to the unfortunate person plunging to her doom is pure perfection. I especially like the question at the bottom of the poster: “Which of these five will come down alive?”
And, to be honest, it’s actually a fairly honest poster. The majority of the film really does take place in a house on a mountain that has features that look like a skull. Of course, the skull in the movie is not quite as prominent as the one in the poster. The house actually does look a lot like the one on the poster. There’s also a lot of lightning in the movie. It’s the same basic lightning stock footage that has appeared in almost every film ever produced by Roger Corman. In The House on Skull Mountain, it’s used as a transitional device. “Is that scene over?” you might find yourself wondering. Well, don’t worry. The lightning stock footage will let you know.
One reason that I’m focusing on the poster is because the film itself is kind of anemic. In the movie, the house on top of Skull Mountains belongs to Pauline Christophe, a direct descendant of the first king of Haiti. Upon her death, Pauline’s four great granchildren are invited to hear the reading of her will. None of the four have ever met Pauline or each other. Phillippe (Mike Evans) is an alcoholic who says stuff like, “Baby, what’s the scene?” Harriet (Xernona Clayton) is fragile and nervous and it certainly doesn’t help her nerves when she briefly sees a hooded skeleton sitting a few rows in front of her on her flight to Atlanta. Lorena (Janee Michelle) drives too fast but is otherwise responsible and mature. And then there’s Dr. Andrew Cunningham (Victor French), who shows up late and turns out to be white.
“You’re the wrong color!” Phillippe snaps at him.
Andrew shrugs and says that he’ll explain it all later. He does eventually tell a story about being abandoned on the front steps of an orphanage but the dialogue is so awkwardly-written and delivered that I’m not sure if he is being serious or if he is poking fun at Phillippe’s shock.
Because Andrew showed up late, the four of them have to stay in the house for a week until Pauline’s lawyer returns to read the will. Keeping them company is the butler, Thomas (Jean Durand), and Loutte (Ella Woods) the maid.
And that’s not all! It also appears that there is a robed skeleton wandering around the house as well! Add to that, the relatives start having visions. One falls down an elevator shaft. Another has a heart attack after someone stabs doll with a pin. Could all of this have something to do with the fact that Pauline and her servants were all dedicated practitioners of voodoo?
Sad to say but the House on Skull Mountain is pretty dull. The film does provide a brief history lesson concerning how Haiti was the only nation to be formed as a result of a slave rebellion and how the real-life Henri Christophe went from being a slave to a king but the film doesn’t really do much with the information. It’s tempting to look for some sort of subtext in the film’s plot but it’s really just not there. Much like Andrew being the only white member of a historically important black family, the history of Haiti and the actual origins of Haitian voodoo are elements that are brought up and then quickly abandoned. There is one good and lengthy voodoo ceremony but otherwise, the whole film is almost all filler. When it’s not showing us the same lighting stock footage, it’s showing us Andrew and Lorena wandering around Atlanta.
Before I start, if you haven’t watched the first two Bunnyman movies, do yourself a favor and go watch them now…don’t worry about reading this review…just go down that rabbit hole now, I’ll be here when you get back.
(For those of you that are impatient, Bunnyman trilogy is about a man who dresses like a Bunny and likes to hunt Easter eggs…(FFS…watch the damn movies!!)
Let’s talk about the technical stuff while everybody catches up!
Writer-director: Carl Lindbergh,
Diana Prince (Puppet Master: Axis Termination),
Debby Gerber (“Glee”)
Marshal Hilton (The Bunnyman Massacre)
Now on to the VENGEANCE! and I mean let the fur fly!
The man known as Bunnyman returns home to find his family running a haunted house attraction. The family welcomes him home, but soon realizes you cannot domesticate a wild animal. Death and mayhem ensue as the family turns on one another to fulfill their bloodlust…
If you haven’t already guessed, I am a huge fan of the Bunnyman movies. And when I got this screener I couldn’t watch fast enough. In this final chapter, all …umm Rabbies break lose and vengeance is regained! And I mean regained with a VENGEANCE!
Would I recommend this movie?
Nothing will stop you from watching the final chapter. Watch it as soon as you can escape your bloody burrow…or I will be gunning for your rabbit skin!
Bunnyman: Vengeance will be available on VOD thru Uncorked Entertainment on October 20,2017….
Following the death of her husband, Susan Gordon (Karen Black) relocates to Los Angeles with her teenage daughter, Megan (Rainbow Harvest). An angry goth girl who always wears black and bears a superficial resemblance to Winona Ryder in Beetlejuice, Megan struggles to fit in at her new school and quickly attracts the unwanted attention of the school’s main mean girl, Charlene Kane (Charlie Spradling). Fortunately, Megan has an old and haunted mirror in her room that can not only bring her rotting father back to life but which Megan can also use to kill all of her tormentors.
Of the many rip-offs of Carrie, Mirror Mirror is one of the best and I am surprised that it is not better known. The plot, with a teenage girl using paranormal powers to get revenge on all of the bullies at her school, may be familiar but Mirror Mirror is better executed than most of the other films of its ilk. The script is full of snappy dialogue and, despite the low budget, the special effects are effectively grisly. There’s a scene that does for garbage disposals what Jaws did for the water. One thing that sets Mirror Mirror apart from similar films is that Megan is sometimes not a very sympathetic character. Unlike Carrie, who was scared of her powers and only used them once she was pushed over the edge, Megan is initially very enthusiastic about using the mirror to get revenge for every slight, real and perceived.
The cast also does a good job, with Karen Black giving one of her least restrained performances. Keep an eye out for Yvonne DeCarlo playing a realtor and William Sanderson as Susan’s strange new boyfriend. The best performance comes from Rainbow Harvest, a talented actress who appeared in a handful of movies in the 80s and 90s and then appears to have vanished from the face of the Earth. Believe it or not, Rainbow Harvest was her real name.
Ex-carnival and sideshow performer Tod Browning had combined his love for the macabre and carny life in films before in two silent films with the great Lon Chaney Sr (THE UNHOLY THREE, THE UNKNOWN), but with FREAKS Browning took things to a whole new level. The cast is populated with genuine “abnormalities of nature”, legless and armless wonders, bearded ladies and skeletal men, a crawling human torso and microcephalic pinheads, parading across the screen to shock and frighten the audience. Yet it’s not the “freaks” that are the monsters in this movie, but two specimens of human physical perfection, their healthy bodies hosting malice and murder.
The film opens with a sideshow barker drawing a crowd to a horror hidden in a box, victim of what happens when you dishonor the code of the freaks – “offend one and you offend them all”. A flashback introduces us to the members of this dark carnival…
Today’s horror scene that I love comes from 1935’s Bride of Frankenstein!
In this scene, directed by James Whale, the Monster (Boris Karloff) meets his first friend, a blind hermit played by O.P. Heggie. It’s a scene that features Karloff at his best and it’s still touching, even if it is kind of hard to watch it without thinking about Peter Boyle accidentally burning down Gene Hackman’s shack in Young Frankenstein.
Jeff and I are currently on a little road trip but we’re not going to let something like that prevent us from seeing the latest bad movies.
For instance, last night, we saw the remake of Flatliners at the AMC 8 in Ardmore, Oklahoma. Ardmore is a lovely little town. When I was six years old, my family briefly lived in Ardmore and I can still remember this deserted barn that was sitting right at the edge of our property. My older sisters all told me that it was haunted and I can still remember sneaking over to the window in the middle of the night and staring at that dilapidated barn, searching for ghosts. Even though I was only six at the time, it’s still an incredibly vivid memory and I still have dreams about that barn. That’s the power of a good scare and that is exactly what’s missing from Flatliners. This is seriously one of the most forgettable films that I’ve ever seen.
I did get a little excited when I discovered that the film co-starred Nina Dobrev. Most people know her as Elena from The Vampire Diaries but, for me, she’ll always be Mia Jones on Degrassi. (Mia was not only a high school student and a star on the spirit squad. She was also: a single mother, a model, a drug addict, and J.T.’s girlfriend during the show’s sixth season.) She’s one of many Canadians in the cast of Flatliners. There’s also Ellen Page and Kiefer Sutherland.
That’s right, Kiefer Sutherland returns in the new version of Flatliners. But don’t get too excited. He’s not playing the same character. If he had been playing the same character, this film would have been a lot more interesting and he could have told the new cast, “Your sins have returned in physical form … and they’re pissed off!” Instead, he’s just playing a clueless doctor with really weird hair. I think we’re just supposed to be impressed by the fact that he agreed to appear in the remake and I guess I would be if the first one was some sort of award-winning classic or something. It’s not like the original Flatliners is the defining role of Kiefer Sutherland’s career. Now, if they had gotten Oliver Platt to come back…
ANYWAY, it’s pretty much the same story all over again, just told with a lot less visual flair. (Say what you will about Joel Schumacher as a director, he understood that the first Flatliners needed a lot of neon.) This time, it’s Ellen Page who convinces her friends to let her die and then revive her after two minutes. The remake does add an interesting wrinkle in that, when Page returns from being dead, she is now suddenly super smart and has total recall. At the very least, this explains why all the rest of her friends are then so eager to try it out for themselves. Even though it feels like a Limitless knock off, it’s still an interesting idea and I think that if the entire film had been about the students obsessively killing themselves and coming back, all in an effort to achieve some sort of Godhood, it would have made for an intriguing movie.
But that whole angle kind of gets abandoned. Soon, it’s time for everyone’s sins to start showing up. That means that Ellen page has to deal with her dead sister. Nina Dobrev has to deal with a dead patient. Another doctor has to deal with a girl she bullied. The movie tries to make you wonder whether or not they’re just having hallucinations but why would a hallucination feel the need to sneak around a room while its target isn’t looking?
Plus, I have to wonder: there are real people out there who have been clinically dead, just to have been brought back to life. Some of them have reported seeing the bright light and all the rest. If you follow this movie’s logic, are they all now secretly smart and being chased around by their past sins? If that’s the case then I’m looking forward to the sequel to Heaven Is For Real.
It’s a forgettable movie. The first Flatliners had its own stupid charm but the remake just falls flat.
“Our sins have come back in a physical form … and they’re pissed!”
That one line pretty much sums up the original 1990 version of Flatliners. It’s a good line in that it’s one that you remember and it’s a line that you can use in almost any situation.
Have you gotten a phone call from an unknown caller? “Our sins have come back in physical form … and they’re pissed!”
Have you and your boyfriend recently been driving across Texas and suddenly noticed that a car has been following you all the way from Lake Dallas to the border of Oklahoma. “Our sins have come back in physical form … and they’re pissed!”
Have you ever had a stranger fail to hold a door open for you? There’s only one possible reason for that rudeness. “Our sins have come back in physical form .. and they’re pissed!”
And don’t even get me started on people who leave negative comments under my reviews. We all know what’s going on with that! “Our sins have come back in physical form … and they’re pissed!”
It’s a line that is both oddly memorable and also deeply stupid. The same description can be applied to Flatliners. It’s a film about a group of medical students (played by Julia Roberts, William Baldwin, Oliver Platt, and Kevin Bacon) who help Kiefer Sutherland investigate whether or not there’s actually an afterlife. Sutherland believes that there is but he needs an atheist to be a part of the group, that’s where Kevin Bacon comes in. And he needs a potential love interest and a Baldwin brother to be a member of the group as well, that’s why Julia Roberts and William Baldwin are there. And, of course, someone has to provide comedic relief whenever things start to get too dark. Say hello to Oliver Platt! Anyway, Sutherland’s plan is to die for a minute or two and then have his fellow medical students bring him back to life. It sounds like kind of a dumb idea but everyone agrees to it.
Anyway, it turns out that the afterlife looks a lot like an overproduced student film, full of weird camera angles, tinted lighting and disembodied voices. When Sutherland dies, he sees a boy that he used to bully. Julia Roberts sees her father, who committed suicide when she was younger. Kevin Bacon sees a little girl that he used to bully. (There are a lot of bullies in this movie.) William Baldwin, a sex addict who is chronically unfaithful to his fiancée, sees hundreds of women, all saying, “But you said you loved me.” Oliver Platt never actually gets to die and therefore, he sees nothing. He does make a joke about how his vision would probably involve an angry babysitter. I laughed.
What happens next? “Our sins have come back in physical form … and they’re pissed!”
Flatliners has an intriguing premise but oh my God, is it ever a silly film. It’s not really a spoiler to tell you that all of these returned sins want the characters to either atone for their mistakes or make peace with their past. For Kevin Bacon, this means tracking down the girl that he used to bully and allowing her to bully him. For Julia Roberts, it means getting an apology from her Dad and understanding that he was addicted to heroin. For William Baldwin, it means making peace with never being as well-known as either Alec or Steven. As for Kiefer … well, things are a bit more complicated for Kiefer Sutherland.
Flatliners starts out as a horror film but then it turns into a squishy movie about letting go of bitterness and learning how to forgive oneself. It’s kind of annoying that the film couldn’t just stick to being scary because the first half of the film does have some effectively tense moments. However, it all gets lost as the film’s plot sinks into sentimental, New Age-y quicksand.
Flatliners was directed by Joel Schumacher, who generally does well with shallow films that 1) don’t really mean anything and 2) don’t involve super heroes. And really, the only film that I can think of that’s more shallow than the original Flatliners is the remake. (But we’ll talk about that later…) Schumacher’s direction here is not particularly bad — everyone looks good and the film is never boring. It’s a very, very pretty film and one that doesn’t add up to much.
I would suggest watching it with your sins, especially after they take physical form. Maybe they’ll be a little less pissed off afterward.
4 Shots From 4 Films is just what it says it is, 4 shots from 4 of our favorite films. As opposed to the reviews and recaps that we usually post, 4 Shots From 4 Films is all about letting the visuals do the talking.
This October, I am going to be using our 4 Shots From 4 Films feature to pay tribute to some of my favorite horror directors, in alphabetical order! That’s right, we’re going from Argento to Zombie in one month!
Bob Clark may be best remembered for directing the holiday classic, A Christmas Story, but he started out his career as a horror filmmaker. Before he spread Christmas cheer with A Christmas Story, he spread Christmas fear with Black Christmas.
4 Shots From 4 Films
Children Shouldn’t Play With Dead Things (1972, dir by Bob Clark)