The TSL’s Horror Grindhouse: The First Power (dir by Robert Reskinoff)


In this 1990 horror film, Lou Diamond Phillips plays Russell Logan, a Los Angeles police detective who specializes in capturing and sometimes killing serial killers.  (“So far,” a news reporter breathlessly tells us, “Detective Logan has captured or killed three serial killers!”)  His latest triumph is the capture of Patrick Channing (Jeff Kober), also known as the Pentagram Killer because he carves a pentagram on his victims.

Logan captures Channing thanks to a tip from a psychic named Tess (Tracy Griffith).  Tess specifically made Logan promise her that he wouldn’t push for Channing to get the death penalty.  However, after Logan captures him, he goes back on his word and Channing is sentenced to die in the gas chamber.  To be honest, I wasn’t aware that detectives had the power to decide whether or not to go for the death penalty when it comes to prosecuting murder cases.  As far as I’ve known, that’s always been the job of the district attorney’s office.  Maybe they do things differently out in California….

Anyway, Channing smiles when he’s sentenced to death and then he smiles again when he’s executed.  Logan shrugs all of that off but suddenly, the pentagram murders start up again.  The murderer is killing people in the exact same way that Channing did and he also appears to be targeting the people who were involved in Channing’s capture.  Meanwhile, Tess is running around angry because she specifically told Logan not to allow Channing to be executed.

Hmmmm …. have you figured out what’s going on, yet?

Of course you have!  That’s because you’ve seen a horror movie before.  From the minute that Channing was sentenced to die, you probably knew that Channing would eventually come back from the dead and start murdering people all over again.  It turns out that, by executing Channing, the state of California has granted him the first power, i.e. resurrection.  By committing more murders, Channing is hoping to unlock all of the other powers.  Those powers include the power to appear and disappear at will, possess other people, jump off of roof tops, and mockingly laugh at anyone who tries to stop him.

Apparently, Detective Logan is not a fan of horror movies because it takes him a while to figure all of this out.  (We should keep in mind that he’s a cop so his job is to be skeptical of claims of people returning from the dead.)  But once he starts hearing Channing’s disembodied voice and getting attacked by possessed priests and homeless women, he really has no other option but to accept the truth and work with Tess to try to end Channing’s reign of terror.

The First Power is one of those horror films that’s extremely predictable but effective nonetheless.  Lou Diamond Phillips manages to maintain a straight face, regardless of how outlandish this film gets and Jeff Kober seems to be having a blast as the flamboyantly evil Patrick Channing.  Channing jumps off of rooftops and through windows with a graceful aplomb and the film actually has some fun with the idea of Channing skipping from body to body.  The First Power is often dumb but always entertaining.

Bats (1999, directed by Louis Morneau)


A scientist (Bob Gunton!) has genetically engineered the local population of bats in order to make them super intelligent and aggressive.  Though he says that he just wanted to make sure that the bats never went extinct, the ultimate result of his experiment is that the bats are now killing all of the citizens of a small town in Texas.  With the National Guard threatening to blow up the town, it’s up to Sheriff Emmett Kimsey (Lou Diamond Phillips!), Dr. Alexandra McCabe (Dina Meyer!), and assistant Jimmy Sands (Leon, so cool that he only needs one name!) to figure out how destroy the bats without destroying everyone’s home.

Now, this is how you make a killer bat movie!  There’s a lot of stupid things about Bats but it’s still a thousand times better than Nightwing.  I liked the idea of superintelligent bats more than the idea of just angry bats.  The bats are too clever for the humans, often seeing straight though their plans.  Nightwing took itself very seriously.  Bats does not and is therefore, better in every regard.  The bats are always on the attack, the good guys are always running from one place to another, and the National Guard just wants to blow everything up.  It’s a fun B-move, with the B standings for Bats.

You have to love that cast, too.  Any movie with Lou Diamond Phillips and Leon is going to be cooler than any movie without them.  I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that the two of them hunt bats in their spare time because they really seemed to know what they were doing.  Dina Meyer was obviously cast more because she looks like Dina Meyer than because she’s really a credible scientist but she still handles all the bat talk without embarrassing herself.  Bob Gunton is a great bad guy, as always.

Bats is dumb, silly, and terrifically entertaining.

Cinemax Friday: Boulevard (1994, directed by Penelope Buitenhuis)


Having been knocked up by her abusive boyfriend, Jennefer (Kari Wuhrer) gives up her baby for adoption and then promptly gets the Hell out of town.  She runs away to the hard streets of Toronto, where she meets and moves in with a prostitute, the worldly Ola (Rae Dawn Chong).  Ola shows Jennefer how to survive in the big city and the two of them bond over how terrible their circumstances are, eventually becoming lovers.  Eventually, in order to make ends meet, Jennefer becomes a prostitute herself.  However, this means dealing with Ola’s sadistic pimp, Hassan (Lou Diamond Phillips), who is the type of creep who likes to practice his golf swing in between beating people to death.  Detective McLaren (Lance Henriksen) wants to take Hassan down but Jennefer knows better than to work with the cops.  Meanwhile, Hassan is growing more unstable and dangerous and Jennefer’s ex-boyfriend, J-Rod (Joel Bissonette), has shown up in town.

Boulevard is an interesting film.  It’s undeniably sleazy and exploitative, with the camera lingering over every sex scene and act of violence.  At the same time, it’s also a film with a conscience.  It’s on the side of the girls on the boulevard and it makes clear that every man who claims to be on their side, with the exception of McLaren, is actually a dangerous pervert.  Jennefer and Ola can only depend on each other.  Kari Wuhrer was rarely cast for her acting ability but she gives a surprisingly good performance in Boulevard and she’s matched every step of the way by Rae Dawn Chong.  Lou Diamond Phillips appears to be having fun getting to play a villainous role.  In fact, he has too much fun and goes so overboard that he sometimes takes you out of the reality of the situation.  Far better is Lance Henriksen, whose seen-it-all persona is used to good effect in Boulevard.

Boulevard is a sleazy film with a heart.

Friends With Benefits: Demon Wind (1990, directed by Charles Phillip Moore)


Stupid Cory (Eric Larson) has a surprisingly large number of friends and, one weekend, he drags them all out to a burned-out farmhouse.  It used to belong to Cory’s grandparents and Cory hopes to learn why they died.  As soon as they all arrive, a thick fog rolls in and, quicker than you can say Evil Dead, the farmhouse is under siege by monsters that are definitely not Deadites and all of Cory’s friends turn into demons who spits up pancake batter whenever they die.  it turns out that the demons travel on the wind and there’s nothing this demon wind can’t do.

That’s Demon Wind, which is one of the more forgettable straight-to-video horror films to come out of the 90s.  It has a cult following because it was released with one of those 3-D covers that led to a lot of people renting it but the movie itself is a drag with bad acting, bad dialogue, and not enough gore or nudity to really qualify as even a guilty pleasure.  I did like that Cory’s friends were all given one weird personality quirk to help us keep them apart.  There’s a jock with a brainwashed girlfriend and a nerd and two karate guys who dress up like magicians and do magic tricks.  I also liked that even the nerd could get a hot girlfriend.  Though that happens all the time today, that was a bold move for 1990!  When Cory starts to run low on friends, more of them drive up from out of nowhere.  Those are some loyal friends!  Too bad Cory gets everyone killed for no good reason.

Keep an eye out for Lou Diamond Phillips, who was married to the film’s assistant director and who has a cameo as one of the demons.

Horror on TV: The Twilight Zone 1.9 “The Pool Guy” (dir by Paul Shapiro and Brad Turner)


For tonight’s excursion into the world of televised horror, we have an episode from the 2002 revival of The Twilight Zone.

In The Pool Guy, Richie (Lou Diamond Philips) is a pool cleaner with a problem.  While his clients appear to believe that Richie is living a glamorous life straight out of a bad suburban melodrama, Richie actually feels as if his life is going nowhere.  He’s never even gotten seduced by a bored housewife!  Maybe Richie just isn’t a very good pool guy…

However, Richie has another problem, on top of all that.  A man keeps mysteriously appearing and telling him to “Wake up!” before then shooting him.  Immediately after getting shot, Richie wakes up somewhere else, just to once again be approached by the same man.

What is going on and why is Richie being charged $12,000 for the experience!?

Over the years, there have been quite a few attempts to revive The Twilight Zone and the results have always been mixed.  The 2002 revival featured Forest Whitaker as the host and was canceled after just one season.  That said, The Pool Guy is actually pretty good.  Philips gives a good performance and the episode’s central mystery is an intriguing one.

This episode originally aired on October 16th, 2002!

Enjoy!

 

2016 in Review: The Best of Lifetime


Today, I continue my look back at the year 2016 with the best of Lifetime!  Below, you’ll find my nominations for the best Lifetime films and performances of 2016!  Winners are starred and listed in bold!

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Best Picture
Bad Sister, produced by Robert Ballo, Timothy O. Johnson, Rukmani Jones, Ken Sanders
The Cheerleader Murders, produced by Sharon Bordas, Arthur Edmonds III, Hannah Pillemer, Fernando Szew, Jennifer Westin
Girl in the Box, produced by Stephen Kemp, Charles Tremayne, Thomas Vencelides
Inspired to Kill, produced by Johnson Chan, Michael Fiefer, Douglas Howell, Stephanie Rennie, Vincet Reppert, Nathan Schwab, Tammana Shah, Shawn Tira
Manson’s Lost Girls, produced by Nancy Bennett, Kyle A. Clark, Lawrence Ducceschi, Joan Harrison, Jonathan Koch, Stephen Kronish, Steven Michaels, Lina Wong
Mommy’s Little Girl, produced by Tom Berry, Steve Boisvert, Neil Bregman, Cinthia Burke, Christine Conradt, Curtis Crawford, Pierre David, Donald M. Osborne, Andrew E. Pecs
*A Mother’s Escape, produced by Sharon Bordas, Lori Bell Leahy, Michael Leahy, Kristofer McNeeley, Fernando Szew
My Sweet Audrina, produced by Dan Angel, David Calvert-Jones, Harvey Kahn, Kane Lee, Tom Mazza, Mike Rohl, Jane Startz
The Night Stalker, produced by Matthew R. Brady, Patrick G. Ingram, Michel Rangel, Alisa Tager
The Wrong Car, produced by Mark Donadio, Miriam Marcus, Molly Martin, Michael O’Neil

Best Director
Doug Campbell for Bad Sister
Megan Griffiths for The Night Stalker
*Blair Hayes for A Mother’s Escape
David Jackson for The Cheerleader Murders
Leslie Libman for Manson’s Lost Girls
Mike Rohl for My Sweet Audrina

Best Actress
*Tara Buck in A Mother’s Escape
India Eisley in My Sweet Audrina
MacKenzie Mauzy in Manson’s Lost Girls
Alyshia Ochse in Bad Sister
Karissa Lee Staples in Inspired To Kill
Addison Timlin in Girl in the Box

Best Actor
Zane Holtz in Girl in the Box
Lou Diamond Phillips in The Night Stalker
*Eric Roberts in Stalked By My Doctor: The Return
Antonio Sabato, Jr in Inspired To Kill
Jason-Shane Scott in The Wrong Roommate
Jeff Ward in Manson’s Lost Girls

Best Supporting Actress
*Toni Atkins in My Sweet Audrina
Eden Brolin in Manson’s Lost Girls
Zoe De Grande Maison in Pregnant at 17
Beth Grant in A Mother’s Escape
Ryan Newman in Bad Sister
Zelda Williams in Girl in the Box

Best Supporting Actor
Blake Berris in Wrong Swipe
Rogan Christopher in Pregnant at 17
*Rhett Kidd in The Wrong Car
Christian Madsen in Manson’s Lost Girls
William McNamara in The Wrong Roommate
James Tupper in My Sweet Audrina

Best Screenplay
Bad Sister, Barbara Kymlicka
*The Cheerleader Murders, Matt Young
Girl in the Box, Stephen Kemp
Mommy’s Little Girl, Christine Conradt
A Mother’s Escape, Mike Bencivenga, Blair Hayes, Kristofer McNeeley
My Sweet Audrina, Scarlett Lacey

Best Cinematography
The Cheerleader Murders, Denis Maloney
Mommy’s Little Girl, Bill St. John
*A Mother’s Escape, Samuel Calvin
My Sweet Audrina, James Liston
The Night Stalker, Quyen Tran
The Wrong Car, Terrence Hayes

Best Costuming
Girl in the Box, Barb Cardoso, Tania Pedro
Manson’s Lost Girls, Dorothy Amos
*My Sweet Audrina, Farnaz Khaki-Sadigh
The Night Stalker, Rebecca Luke
The Red Dress, Sophie Pace
Toni Braxton: Unbreak My Heart, Mary McLeod

Best Editing
The Cheerleader Murders, Eric Potter
Girl in the Box, Julian Hart
Manson’s Lost Girls, Josh Hegard
*A Mother’s Escape, Travis Graalman
My Sweet Audrina, Charles Robichaud
The Night Stalker, Celia Beasley

Best Makeup and Hairstyling
Girl in the Box, Claudia Breckenridge, Jen Fisher, Oriana Rossi, Alex Rotundo, Collette Tolen
Killing Mommy, Cinthia Burke, Christie Capustinsky, Kevin Crawley, Kirsten Fairfield, Margaret Harding-Crawley, Corey J. Stone
*Manson’s Lost Girls, Jenni Brown Greenberg, Randi Mavestrand, Kelly Muldoon, Natalie Thimm
A Mother’s Escape, Jenny Hausam, Toni Mario
My Sweet Audrina, Alannah Bilodeau
Toni Braxton: Unbreak My Heart, Tara Hadden-Watts, Alexandra Holmes

Best Original Score
911 Nightmare, David Findlay
*The Cheerleader Murders, Cladue Foisy
Inspired To Kill, Brandon Jarrett
A Mother’s Escape, Todd Haberman
My Sweet Audrina, Graeme Coleman
The Wrong Car, Ed Grenga

Best Production Design
Bad Sister, Lia Burton, Danielle Lee
Girl in the Box, Andrew Berry, Jere Sallee
*Manson’s Lost Girls, Cynthia E. Hill, Linda Spheeris
A Mother’s Escape, Zackary Steven Graham
My Sweet Audrina, Tink, Janessa Hitsman
Toni Braxton: Unbreak My Heart, James Robbins, Courtney Stockstad, Amanda Christmas

Best Sound
*Center Stage: On Pointe
The Cheerleader Murders
Honeymoon from Hell
I Have Your Children
Inspired to Kill
Toni Braxton: Unreak My Heart

Best Visual Effects
Final Destiny
*Flashback
House of Darkness
The Inherited
Little Girl’s Secret
The Watcher

Congratulations to all the nominees and thank you for keeping us entertained in 2016!

Want to see my picks for the best of Lifetime in 2015?  Click here!

And if you want to see my picks from 2014, click here!

Tomorrow, I’ll continue my look back at 2016 with the 16 worst films of the year!

Previous Entries In The Best of 2016:

  1. TFG’s 2016 Comics Year In Review : Top Tens, Worsts, And Everything In Between
  2. Anime of the Year: 2016
  3. 25 Best, Worst, and Gems I Saw In 2016
  4. 2016 in Review: The Best of SyFy

Cleaning Out The DVR, Again #33: The Night Stalker (dir by Megan Griffiths)


(Lisa is currently in the process of trying to clean out her DVR by watching and reviewing all 40 of the movies that she recorded from the start of March to the end of June.  She’s trying to get it all done by the end of July 11th!  Will she make it!?  Keep visiting the site to find out!)

Nightstalker

The next film on my DVR was The Night Stalker.  Though I recorded the film off of Lifetime on June 12th, the film actually made its premiere 8 days earlier when it played at the Seattle International Film Festival.

The Night Stalker tells a story about the real-life serial killer Richard Ramirez.  Ramirez was a drifter and a self-declared Satanist who, in the 1980s, went on a murder spree in Los Angeles and San Francisco.  He was eventually captured, not by the police but by a group of citizens who saw his picture in a newspaper.  Ramirez spent the rest of his life of California’s death row, where he died in 2013.  Despite spending the majority of his life condemned to death, Ramirez was never executed.  Instead, he died of lymphoma.

Of the thousands of serial killers who have haunted America’s nightmares over the past few decades, Ramirez was infamous for both the savagery of his crimes and the fact that he never showed any remorse.  The famous footage of him smirking in the courtroom and shouting, “Hail Satan!” has shown up in a countless number of “World’s Most Evil” cable documentaries.  Ramirez is also infamous for being better-looking than the average serial killer.  From the minute he was arrested to the day of his eventual death, Ramirez had admirers and groupies.

It’s a disturbing story and, for the most part, The Night Stalker does it justice, using Ramirez to tell an intense story about a man without a soul.  This is a seriously dark and disturbing little movies, with the scenes of Ramirez’s abusive childhood and subsequent crimes achieving a nightmarish intensity in a way that you would rarely expect to see on Lifetime.

The film itself deals with a lawyer named Kit (played by Bellamy Young) who interviews Ramirez (Lou Diamond Phillips) during the final days of his life.  Kit is hoping that she can get Ramirez to confess to committing a murder in Texas and help to get a condemned man off of death row.  However, Kit has another reason for wanting to talk to Ramirez.  She was a teenager (played, in flashbacks by Chelle Sherrill) during Ramirez’s crime spree.  (The young Ramirez is played by Benjamin Barrett.)  While Ramirez was murdering the people in her neighborhood, Kit was dealing with her abusive stepfather and her passive mother.  As a result of her childhood, Kit is impulsive and often self-destructive and she hopes that by understanding Ramirez, she can maybe somehow understand how own childhood.

(In many ways, Kit stands in for many of the women who, for various reasons, became obsessed with Ramirez after his arrest and imprisonment.)

As for Ramirez — well, he’s a manipulative asshole.  That’s actually the best that you can say about him.  The film portrays the details of Ramirez’s own abusive childhood but, to its credit, the film never tries to turn Ramirez into a sympathetic character.  The performances of Lou Diamond Phillips and Benjamin Barrett both come together to create a chilling portrait of a man who is literally empty on the inside.

It’s not a perfect film, by any means.  The scenes set in Texas feature a few notably dodgy accents and, occasionally, the film comes close to turning into a Silence of the Lambs rip-off.  But, for the part, this is a thoroughly disturbing and, at times, frightening portrait of life at its worse.  The Night Stalker is a deeply creepy portrait of an all too real evil.  Watch it but be aware that it may lead to nightmares.