4 Shots from 4 Brian De Palma Films: The Phantom of Paradise, Carrie, Dressed to Kill, Blow Out


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 lets the visuals do the talking.

Today, we honor the one and only Brian De Palma!

4 Shots From 4 Brian De Palma Films

Phantom of Paradise (1974, dir by Brian De Palma)

Carrie (1976, dir by Brian De Palma)

Dressed To Kill (1980, dir by Brian De Palma)

Blow Out (1981, dir by Brian De Palma)

Horror Film Review: Final Destination 2 (dir by David R. Ellis)


After I rewatched Final Destination, I watched it’s sequel, 2003’s Final Destination 2.

Final Destination 2 is not only one of the best horror sequels ever made but it’s also the film that, even more than the first installment of the series, established what we consider to be a typical Final Destination film.  The characters are far more eccentric and the deaths are far more elaborate.  Death itself shows a sense of humor that wasn’t present in the first Final Destination film.  If you manage to escape Death the first time, Death isn’t just going to track you down.  It’s going to play without and have some fun before it finally fills its quota.

Final Destination 2 opens with Kimberly Corman (AJ Cook) having a vision of a crash on the interstate.  She’s so freaked out by her vision that she blocks the entrance ramp.  This may save the life of everyone stalled behind her but it also ends up killing all of her friends when a truck smashes into her SUV.  Fortunately, Kimberly survives because she had gotten out of the vehicle to talk to a policeman named Thomas Burke (Michael Landes).

So, the bad news is that all of Kimberly’s friends are dead.

The good news is that Kimberly has a whole new group of friends, all of the people who were supposed to die on that highway but who are now alive and on Death’s do-over list as a result of Kimberly’s actions.

Along with Kimberly and Thomas, Death now has to take care of lottery winner Evan Lewis (David Paetaku), stoner Rory (Jonathan Cherry), neurotic chainsmoker Kat (Keegan Tracy Connor), teacher Eugene Dix (T.C. Carson), and Nora (Lynda Boyd) and her son, Tim (James Kirk).  It turns out that Death is not only after them because they didn’t die on the highway but also because they all have a connection to the deaths that occurred in the first Final Destination.  It’s actually a pretty clever idea and it also provides an excuse for Clear Rivers (Ali Larter) to return from the first film and act as a sort of death guru.

Needless to say, the deaths are elaborate.  In fact, they’re so elaborate that Final Destination 2 occasionally feels like a satirical take on the first film.  It’s not just that Nora loses her head in an elevator accident.  It’s that there just happens to be an old man carrying a box full of claws on the elevator.  In another scene, Rory looks inside a closet and sees hundreds of things that could possibly kill him, my favorite being the bowling ball that just happens to be precariously balanced on the top shelf.  When Clear Rivers returns, she doesn’t just explain how death works.  She also gives them a list of safety precautions that make her sound like an overly protective parent, looking at her son or daughter’s apartment and freaking out over how many appliances have been plugged into one outlet.

Final Destination 2 is a clever film with an appropriately dark and macabre sense of humor.  On the one hand, all of the characters are well-written and the cast is so likable that you don’t want to see any of them die.  On the other hand, Death is so inventive that it’s hard not to want to see what it has up its sleeve.  And, like the first film, the sequel works because it gets at a universal truth.  You can avoid death but can never truly escape it.

Horror Film Review: Final Destination (dir by James Wong)


I was recently rewatching the 2000 film, Final Destination, and a few things occurred to me.

Number one, no one ever really thanks Devon Sawa for getting them off that plane before it explodes.  Final Destination opens with a group of high school students boarding a plane so that they can go on their senior class trip to Paris.  (I wish I had gone to their high school.  Our senior class trip was to …. well, we didn’t get one.)  When Alex Browning (Devon Sawa) has a vision of the plane exploding, he freaks out and he, his teacher, and a few other students are kicked off the plane.  Needless to say, everyone’s pretty upset with Alex but then, just a few minutes after taking off, the plane does explode.  Alex was right.  He saved everyone’s lives.

And yet, no one ever says, “Thank you, Alex!”  Instead, everyone is still like, “Hey, that’s the weirdo that ruined our trip to Paris!”  No, the plane exploding is what ruined your trip to Paris.  Alex saved your life!  Poor Alex.  And yet, it kind of makes sense.  In the face of inexplicable tragedy, people need someone to blame and Alex is a convenient scapegoat.

That scapegoating continues once the survivors of the flight start to mysteriously die.  No one wants Alex near them, even though Alex has managed to figure out that Death is stalking them because they messed up its plans by getting off of that plane.  Then again, Alex doesn’t always come across as if he’s the most stable person in the world.  Gaunt and hallow-eyed, Sawa portrays Alex as someone who haunted by survivor’s guilt even before it became obvious that he and his former friends were being targeted.  Sawa, it should be said, gives a remarkably good performance in Final Destination.

Another thing that occurred to me as I rewatched Final Destination is that, in this film, Death doesn’t have much of a sense of humor.  The Final Destination sequels are notorious for their elaborate and often ironic death scenes, the majority of which seem to indicate that Death might be a little bit too clever and precocious for its own good.  However, in the first Final Destination, Death is a lot more direct and, in some ways, a lot more sadistic.  Terry Chaney (Amanda Detmer) steps out in the street and gets run over by a bus.  Goofy Billy Hitchcock (Seann William Scott — why two n’s Seann!?) makes the mistake of standing too close to the railroad tracks and he loses the top half of his head.  Death really only get creative when it comes to taking out Todd Waggner (Chad E. Donella) and Ms. Lewton (Kristen Cloke) and, even then, it’s methods are nowhere near as elaborate as they would eventually become.

The final thing that I noticed is that Final Destination holds up really well.  It’s hard to remember now but, when Final Destination first came out, a lot of critics dismissed it as just being a slasher film with a slightly clever twist.  But actually, that twist is far more than just “slightly” clever and the film really does a lot more with the idea than it’s often given credit for.  Final Destination is a film full of thrills and chills — I still freak out at some of those death scenes — but it’s also a film that always makes me think about mortality.  Has our destiny already been written?  Can we defeat death?  Or are we just pawns with our fates predetermined?  In the end, that’s what makes Final Destination so effective.  We all know that we can’t escape death, both in real life and in the movies.  The one thing that everyone has in common is that death is eventually going to come for all of us.  It’s the one enemy that we can’t defeat or laugh away.  Instead, all we can do is try to hold it off for a while.  Final Destination taps into the fears that we all have.

The plot is clever.  The script is frequently witty.  I liked the fact the characters were all named after horror movie icons.  Plus, you got Tony Todd dominating the entire film with just a brief role.  Final Destination is a classic.

Horror on the Lens: Manos: The Hands of Fate (dir by Harold P. Warren)


torgo

I should start things off with a confession.  This is actually not the first time that I’ve shared Manos: The Hands of Fate here on the Shattered Lens.  I previously shared it on both October 8th of 2013 and October 15th of 2015 and, both times, I even used the exact same picture of Torgo.

However, Manos proved to be such a popular choice that I simply had to post it again.  As I pointed out two years ago, Manos has a reputation for being one of the worst films ever made.  And, honestly, who am I to disagree?  However, it’s also a film that is so bad that it simply has to be seen.

By the way, everyone who watches Manos ends up making fun of Torgo, who was played by John Reynolds.  What they may not know is that Reynolds committed suicide shortly after filming on Manos wrapped.  So, as tempting at it may be to ridicule poor Mr. Reynolds’s performance, save your barbs for Torgo and leave John Reynolds alone.

And be sure to enjoy Manos: The Hands of Fate!

Belatedly, Here’s The Trailer for Mank


With all of the excitement of Halloween and horrorthon, it can sometimes be hard to keep up.  For instance, Mank is one of the films that I’m really looking forward to seeing this year and yet somehow, the release of the first trailer went straight over my head.

So, belatedly, here it is:

Now, I will admit that I have one huge concern.  From what I’ve heard, this film is based on Pauline Kael’s claim that Herman Mankiewicz deserved more credit for Citizen Kane than Orson Welles.  That’s an argument that’s been widely discredited.  (It’s also why Welles included a barely disguised version of Kael in The Other Side of the Wind.)  As someone who is pro-Welles to the point of being a snob about it, I’m not sure how I’m going to react to a perhaps less than charitable portrayal of him.

As well, if this was a theatrical release, I would probably make fun of the film for having such a terrible title.  Fortunately, Netflix exists.  That said, I get the feeling that — if the script had been written by anyone other than the director’s father — the title would have been the first thing to change.  Those of who love movies know who Herman Mankiewicz was but I can guarantee you that the rest of the world is going to say, “What’s a Mank and why should I care?”

That said, I love Gary Oldman and I love the look of the trailer.  Plus, it’s directed by David Fincher!  I hated what he did to The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo but still, Fincher’s one of most interesting directors around.

I’m looking forward to seeing Mank in November.

Here’s The Trailer for Porno!


My friend Jason says this is a great film so I’ll share the trailer, despite the fact that YouTube is probably going to start recommending some crazy stuff to me now.

The film is apparently about some theater employees who watch a cursed pornographic movie and then have to deal with a succubus.  These things happen.  One the one hand, moving to video from film did adversely effect the quality of the films being released by the adult film industry.  At the same time, it also led to less supernatural curses.  Everything has a price.

Anyway, here’s the trailer.  Google’s recommending porn to me now.

Here’s The Trailer for News of the World!


Earlier this year, I think almost everyone in America was thrown into a moment of panic when it was announced that Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson had been diagnosed with COVID-19.  Not only did it show us that anyone could get the disease but it also forced to consider the fact that Tom Hanks is just as mortal as the rest of us.  At that moment, we stopped taking Tom Hanks for granted.

Fortunately, both Tom and Rita recovered from the Coronavirus.  When the previously unheralded Greyhound premiered on AppleTV+, it was an unexpected hit and many observes assumed that it was all due to people suddenly remembering just how much they loved Tom Hanks.  This December, Hanks has another movie coming out and there’s some speculation that his role in News of the World could lead to Hanks picking up another Oscar nomination.

In News of the World, Hanks stars as a Civil War veteran who has been tasked with delivering a girl back to her aunt and uncle.  The catch is that the girl doesn’t want to return back home.  News of the World reunites Hanks with his Captain Phillips director, Paul Greengrass.  Captain Phillips featured what was perhaps Tom Hanks’s best performance to date.  Strangely enough, Hanks did not receive an Oscar nomination for that performance.  At the time, it was felt that the Academy was guilty of taking Hanks for granted.  If this year has taught us anything, it’s that you should never take anyone or their talent for granted.

Here’s the first trailer for News of the World, which will be released in December:

(Canadian) Guilty Pleasure No. 49: Heavenly Bodies (dir by Lawrence Dane)


“She’s reaching the top …. with everything she’s got!”

That’s the tag line of the 1984 Canadian film, Heavenly Bodies.  It’s a perfectly vapid tagline for an entertainingly vapid movie.  It was on TCM last night and I just finished watching it.  It takes a lot to get me out of my horror film habit in October but how could I resist a movie about Canadian gym rivalries?

Now, even though this isn’t a horror film, it is a Canadian film from the 80s which means that it features a lot of performers who will be familiar to fans of old school slasher films.  For instance, the film stars Cynthia Dale, who was also in the original My Bloody Valentine.  Cynthia plays Samantha, an administrative assistant who quits her job and opens up her own independent gym, Heavenly Bodies.  Samantha is an aerobic dance instructor, perhaps the best in all of Ontario.  Samantha is also a single mother but there’s no better way to find a lover than to teach him aerobics.

Heavenly Bodies was also directed by a veteran of Canadian exploitation, Lawrence Dane.  Remember Happy Birthday To Me?  He plays the father in that movie.  I’d love to know the story of what led to Lawrence Dane not only directing but apparently also helping to write the script for a movie about an independent health club.  I mean, to go from working with David Cronenberg and winning Genie Awards to directing Heavenly Bodies seems like quite a career trajectory.  As a sidenote, how much more interesting would Heavenly Bodies be if it had been directed David Cronenberg?  I imagine that all the leg cramps would be a bit more graphic.

Samantha is selected to host her own exercise show on Canadian TV and a bigger Canadian gym decides that the only way to deal with this upstart is to destroy Heavenly Bodies by buying out their lease …. or something.  To be honest, I really couldn’t follow half the plot of Heavenly Bodies.  I just know that there was a lot of dancing and lot of exercising and a lot of shots of Samantha walking around Toronto.  The film came out a year after Flashdance and all of the scenes of Samantha walking around the city are basically filmed in exactly the same way as the shots of Jennifer Beals walking around Pittsburgh.  (There’s even a scene where Samantha stands in front of a poster for Flashdance, trying to convince people to join her gym.)  Whereas you kind of admired the way that Jennifer Beals handled herself on the dangerous streets of Pittsburgh, you never really worry about Samantha because …. well, it’s Toronto.  As I watched the film, I started to think about the fact that Canada consistently sends its best actors to the U.S. while those of us in the States consistently send our bad movies up north.  I’m not sure if that’s really a fair trade.

Anyway, the two gyms decide to settle their differences with an exercise marathon that is televised on Canadian TV.  (I’m going to assume that the film takes place in-between hockey seasons.)  Basically, the exercise marathon is one of those things where you have two teams and everyone just keeps exercising until they drop.  The last person standing is the winner and their gym gets …. I don’t know, bragging rights?  I mean, I’m not even how they were able to convince anyone to put an exercise marathon on TV.  I guess it was an 80s thing.

Can you guess who wins the exercise marathon?

Listen, Heavenly Bodies is technically a bad movie but I still like it because there’s a lot of dancing and everyone in the cast is so enthusiastic about whatever it is that they think they’re doing.  There’s something to be said for enthusiasm.  Add to that, the exercise marathon just has to be seen to believed.  This is a film of the 80s and its Canadian to boot so how can it not be a guilty pleasure of sorts?

Previous Guilty Pleasures

  1. Half-Baked
  2. Save The Last Dance
  3. Every Rose Has Its Thorns
  4. The Jeremy Kyle Show
  5. Invasion USA
  6. The Golden Child
  7. Final Destination 2
  8. Paparazzi
  9. The Principal
  10. The Substitute
  11. Terror In The Family
  12. Pandorum
  13. Lambada
  14. Fear
  15. Cocktail
  16. Keep Off The Grass
  17. Girls, Girls, Girls
  18. Class
  19. Tart
  20. King Kong vs. Godzilla
  21. Hawk the Slayer
  22. Battle Beyond the Stars
  23. Meridian
  24. Walk of Shame
  25. From Justin To Kelly
  26. Project Greenlight
  27. Sex Decoy: Love Stings
  28. Swimfan
  29. On the Line
  30. Wolfen
  31. Hail Caesar!
  32. It’s So Cold In The D
  33. In the Mix
  34. Healed By Grace
  35. Valley of the Dolls
  36. The Legend of Billie Jean
  37. Death Wish
  38. Shipping Wars
  39. Ghost Whisperer
  40. Parking Wars
  41. The Dead Are After Me
  42. Harper’s Island
  43. The Resurrection of Gavin Stone
  44. Paranormal State
  45. Utopia
  46. Bar Rescue
  47. The Powers of Matthew Star
  48. Spiker

 

Horror Film Review: Special Effects (dir by Larry Cohen)


In this rather odd horror film from 1984, dumb-as-mud Keefe Wateran (Brad Rijn) travels from Dallas to New York City, hoping to bring his wife back home.  Andrea (Zoe Tamerlis, the star of Abel Ferrara’s Ms. 45) abandoned both Keefe and their son because she wants to be a star.  When the film opens, she’s posing topless in a replica of the Oval Office.  Keefe is not too happy when he discovers that his wife is apparently appearing in politically-themed nude photo shoots.

And the thing is, you feel like you should feel sorry for Keefe, seeing as how his wife abandoned not only him but also their child.  But Keefe is just such a self-righteous know-it-all that you really can’t blame Andrea for leaving him.  As soon he starts going on and on about how she’s abandoned her family just to be a tramp in New York, you’re pretty much automatically on Andrea’s side.

Unfortunately, when Andrea turns up dead at Coney Island, the police automatically suspect that Keefe’s responsible.  When they show up to arrest Keefe for the murder, he’s only wearing his boxer shorts.  One of the detectives comments that, if he was going to commit murder, he would at least wear interesting underwear.  And, again, you may want to sympathize with Keefe but the detective has a point.  You need to dress for the job you want, not the one you have.  I have an entire drawer full of murder thongs, just in case I ever decide to go for a career change.

Keefe is bailed out of jail and provided a high-priced attorney by Christopher Neville (Eric Bogosian).  Neville is a big-time Hollywood director …. or, at least, he was until he directed a huge flop.  (Apparently, the film had over $30,000 worth of special effects, which I guess was a lot back in 1984.)  Neville, whom Andrea was supposed to have a meeting with on the night that she died, says that he’s fascinated by Keefe and Andrea’s story.  In fact, he wants to turn it into a movie and he wants to hire Keefe as a special consultant.

However, what we know (but what Keefe doesn’t know, though he’d be able to figure it out if he wasn’t such a total and complete freaking moron), is that Neville murdered Andrea!  He strangled her when she objected to him filming them while they were having sex.  Now, Neville wants to make a movie about the murder.  He even hires Elaine Bernstein (Zoe Tamerlis, again) to play Andrea in the film, despite the fact that Elaine has no acting experience.  What’s important is that Elaine looks like Andrea.  Neville also manages to manipulate the rather stupid Keefe into playing himself in the film.  Soon, Neville is suggesting that perhaps they need to film a scene of Keefe and Andrea having rough sex and maybe Keefe should choke her during the scene….

And it just gets stranger from there.  Special Effects is Hitchcock-style thriller from director Larry Cohen, one that’s got a bit more on its mind than just murder and a few heavy-handed jokes about the film industry.  Neville may be smooth and manipulative while Keefe may be loud and a bit on the dumb side but, ultimately, they’re both obsessed with turning Elaine into Andrea.  Neville wants to transform Elaine into the Andrea that he victimized while Keefe wants to turn Elaine into his idealized version of Andrea, the version that never wanted anything more than to be his wife and the mother of his children.  In the end, they’re both creeps.  (Admittedly, only one of them is murderer.)

Adding to the film’s strange tone are the three memorably eccentric lead performances.  All three of the actors do unexpected things with their characters.  Bogosian is wonderfully smug and smoothly manipulative as Neville while Brad Rijin goes all out in making Keefe one of the stupidest characters ever to appear in a leading role in a motion picture.  (He’s like Bruce Campbell, without the comedic timing.)  And finally, Zoe Tamerlis does a great job playing four different characters — Andrea, Neville’s version of Andrea, Keefe’s version of Andrea, and finally Esther.

Special Effects is an intriguing mix of thrills, horror, and satire with an undercurrent of anger.  One gets the feeling that Neville is a stand-in for many of the soulless directors who had the type of career that Cohen felt he deserved.  Track it down and check it out.