Hellraiser (1987)

hellrai

A man who’s made a deal with the devil gets buyer’s remorse and escapes from hell. Now he’s depending on his ex-lover to bring him human snacks to regain his strength and skip town before his demonic tormentors find out he’s gone.

This is another movie that’s supposed to be a classic. Everyone knows this movie. It’s the one with the guy in the black dress with nails hammered into his face. Yea, that guy’s scary! SPOILER: he only has like 5 minutes of screen time. So that’s a bummer because the scrubs who fill the voids between pinhead appearances aren’t nearly as cool.

The movie begins with a man who solves a mystical Rubik’s cube he bought in China Town. Except instead of earning the awe and respect of his peers, he gets ripped apart by fish hooks in sadomasochist hell. Somehow the guy escapes the “cenobites” – the demons who poke and prod him in the underworld – and holds up beneath the floor boards in the attic of his flop house. Also he’s no longer a person, but a withered tomato husk. More on that later.

husktomatohanging-500
For future reference. 

The guy’s half brother and his wife move in to the house, where they find the dead guy’s flesh light in the attic. “Ew, gross!” says the half brother. “Ooh la la,” thinks his wife, as she conjures up memories of the secret affair she had with her brother in law. To say this guy has been cuckolded would be quite the understatement. Not only does his wife have the hots for his his brother, but she bangs every barfly in town while not giving her actual husband so much as an Eskimo kiss. Because his life isn’t quite sad enough he also has to endure constant passes being made at both his wife and daughter by just about everyone, including the moving crew and his own dinner guests.

dead
also…he dies

So this guy lets the moving men drink his beer after working up a thirst hitting on his wife and daughter. Then they need his help moving a fucking mattress up the stairs because in addition to being assholes they are also the worst moving men in the world. While pushing it through a doorway the guy shreds his hand on a loose nail. The blood splish splashes through the floorboards onto his his brother-in-hiding begin. Bitching stop motion effects capture his unholy transformation from beef jerky to man:

According to horror movie logic, a few drops of blood can turn a dusty cobweb into a fully functioning muscular skeletal system, but it requires eviscerating two additional whole humans just to add taste buds thereafter. Eventually he’s all set except for the dermis, which his half brother unhappily provides. Now he’s ready to hit the town!

hellraiser_torn apart
Mothers, lock up your daughters

Well, not quite. Remember that niece of his? Well she solved the puzzle box too! But she’s got a bargaining chip to save her from a play date in the stock yards of hell: him. Apparently Cerberus was taking a nap the day he escaped because the cenobites were none the wiser to his absence. Understandably sheepish, the demons agree to keep her north of Hades provided she leads them to her uncle.

uZBig2W
Of course you can trust us!

There is a horror movie theorem that states that the haunt in a house isn’t leaving unless it takes the house with them. Seriously, how many movies involve a house being blown to shit when whatever source that pervades it is expelled? Hellraiser fits squarely into this category. Rafters are inexplicably crashing down, the walls are blowing up, and everything is catching on fire. And amidst the confusion the niece figures out she can zap these horny creeps back to their sex dungeons by fiddling around with the puzzle box and pointing it at them. Good thing all these explosions are distracting us, otherwise that might not make a whole lot of sense!

Overall:

malort
I
t will tear your soul apart!

Malort is the stuff of legend, and it tastes like putrid death. And yes, you can count me among those who imbibe from time to time. Truly, the lines between pleasure and pain are never as blurred as in a bottle of Malort.

 

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Children of the Corn (1984)

children_of_the_corn_poster_01 About:

A road-tripping couple winds up in a town populated by creepy kids with sinister biblical names who worship corn demons.

Review:

I bought this movie at a yard sale for a buck when I was a kid, and I’ve held on to it all this time so that one day I could review it in a blog entry no one would read.  As far as film adaptations of Stephen King stories go this one is high up on the list.  That could be just an indictment of movies based on Stephen King stories (it is), but Children of the Corn is actually a pretty good movie in its own right. The movie begins 3 years before the present day.  Church is getting out and the townspeople are off to the local diner for a lazy Sunday brunch.  The eggs are barely poached before a group of surly kids pull out their cleavers and start hacking up the grown-ups!

School’s out forever!!!

Fast-forward to the present day.  A couple – the lady who plays Sarah Connor in the Terminator movies and her henpecked husband – are hopelessly attempting to navigate the Nebraska outlands when they run over an Amish kid.  Shit!  Better drop this little guy off on the doorstep of the nearest constable.  Luckily they are a couple miles outside a town called Gatlin.

joseph We’re definitely not making it to Omaha before dinner.

The town is abandoned of course, save for a religious cult of children brandishing sharp and pointy farm tools.  They don’t take too kindly to outsiders, especially those who are well-past the sacrificing age of 19.  Note: avoid Nebraska at all costs.

Children of the Corn is based on a short story of the same title by Stephen King.  There aren’t a lot of differences between the two except the story is much more gruesome and in the end the bad guys win.  The Shining notwithstanding, it has been my experience that movies based off of Stephen King stories are more often misses than they are hits.  Despite the horrible child acting and cringe-worthy special effects, Children of the Corn is one of the hits, mostly because the subject itself is just so darn eerie.  And the movie itself is pretty much just the short story on screen; it did not take a whole lot of creative vision to transform an already very spooky and well-articulated tale into the film.  But let’s instead talk more about the stuff that sucked.

outlandurr“OUTLANDURRR!”

By 1984 the Star Wars movies had raised the bar for what we’d come to accept as convincing movie magic.  There is really no excuse for the special effects in this movie looking like a high-school audio-visual project.  The makeup and fake blood is fine, but some of the post-production editing really falls flat.  The scene where Isaac is sacrificed to ‘He Who Walks Behind the [Corn]Rows,’ should have been a cinch; at the very least it’s a death scene that could have been implied and left out all-together.  Instead we are treated to an awkward and confusing glimpse of him getting enveloped in a swarm of cartoon lava bugs.

lava Not the face! Anywhere but the face!

Anytime you cast a kid, you run the likely risk that they will ham it up worse than a cold-cut platter.  Professional actors spend their entire lives perfecting their craft.  When you film a child who’s only acting experience was in a K-Mart clothing commercial, bad things tend to follow.  Now multiply that ineffectiveness by the dozens of kids who appear in Children of the Corn and you’re in danger of a Phantom Menace-esque type of meltdown.

That’s actually too harsh – most of the “children” with speaking roles were actually adults when this was filmed, so it’s really not that bad.  The guy playing the leader of the children, Isaac, actually looks a lot like Mickey Rooney and even sounds like an old lady with emphysema.   Still, there are a few rug rats who’s delivery is so bad you’ll wish the protagonists had also run over them on their way into town.

Again, it seems unfair to pile on all the shit that was bad about this movie when overall I really like it a lot.  But I would be remiss if I did not mention the last scene, one which is so bad it truly boggles the mind as to how it ever made the final cut.  With Issac and the corn demon dead, leaving behind a town full of confused and emotionally traumatized children,  the adult couple decides that now is a good time to split.  Since their car has been turned into a giant planter for corn stalks, they decide to hoof it to the next town over – the one they should have gone to from the get-go.  Just before one final lame scare, they decide to take with them two of the cuter kids for a couple days…make that a couple weeks.  A month?  Ah fuck it, if a near death experience won’t save our marriage, maybe adopting a couple of kids will!

Overall: 7.5

homer
Boom!

I’ve seen this movie several times and I still love it.  Yes, there are some lame child actors and horrible special effects.  But since the story itself is so chilling and original those just seem like minor imperfections that don’t actually detract from the final product.  It is God’s will that you watch Children of the Corn this fall.

The Gate (1987)

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About:

A couple of kids unwittingly perform a rite which opens a gate to a demonic underworld in their backyard.  The freed demons are now attempting to create Hell on Earth, and it’s up to the boys to stop them.

Review:

I had pretty high hopes for this movie.  Any film that casts kids as the main characters probably can’t be taken too seriously, but the preview made it look like a fun little spinoff of The Goonies with a horror twist.  Such was not the case.

The Gate wasn’t horrible.  It started out ok, with these two bozo kids just screwing around in the back yard and unknowingly performing a step-by-step ritual that opens up the gate to Hell.  Hey, it could happen to anybody.  But after a while the story plateaus when one of the kids just sort of freaks out in a quasi-reality mindfuck for a while before the plot finally gets back on the rails and everything is wrapped up.

eye gif
Mind = fucked

The movie stars a young Stephen Dorff, before his acting career devolved into playing bit parts in Aerosmith music videos.  One night lightning knocks down the tree in his backyard, blowing his tree fort to shit and leaving a giant hole in the ground.  He and his buddy snoop around the crater and pull out a big ol’ geode.  Incidentally, his buddy looks exactly like John Clayton.

clayton gif

So these kids bust open the geode, which happens to be the first step in some mystical ritual to open up the gate to Demonland.  They then go on to do some other shit – bleed all over the hole, speak aloud the sacred text written on the back of a heavy metal record, and toss a dead dog in the hole – and the next thing you know they’ve got little demons running all over the place.  Nice going, twerps!

So metal!

A large portion of screen time is dedicated to the boys and Dorff’s sister running and hiding from the demons.  However, these little guys are each about the size of a football.  At one point one of the kids even falls in the hole in the back yard and is attacked by a group of them, but he comes out no worse for wear.  And yet it never occurs to the group to try and fight these little fuckers.

demons
Come get some!

Dorff’s buddy and his sister get captured by the demons and are supposedly sacrificed in order to complete the ritual.  Now that all the little peon demons did their job, it’s time for the head demon to come out and post up as the figure head of demonic intimidation.  This guy is a giant axolotl who comes crashing up through the floor of the house and is one demon you do not want to mess with.

axolotl
Raaaawwwrrr!!!

(SPOILERS AHEAD!) 

At this point things seem pretty hopeless for Dorff and the rest of humanity.  His dog is dead, his best friend and sister have being carried off by demons to be sacrificed, and there is a gigantic salamander coming up through his living room floor.  But if he’s going down, he’s going down swinging.  Our hero faces this menacing force and shoots a toy rocket literally into the belly of the beast.  And, wouldn’t you know, that was the chink in the armor all along.

Where are the neighbors during all of this?

Yayy! The demons are gone!  And guess what – Dorff’s buddy and his sister are back!  And not only that – that dead dog is back too!  Everything’s back to normal!  Well, not quite – they’ll still need to explain to their parents why there’s a giant hole in the living room floor.

Overall: 6

mallows

After writing about The Gate I’m going to change my tune.  At first I said it wasn’t the great. And while it is pretty stupid, it still is a lot of fun.  Thus I compare this movie to an innocuous marshmallow roast: it may not be anything close to an all-out bonfire, but it is fun, sweet, and at times gooey.  I also have to tip my hat to the special effects – there was a lot of stop-motion animation which I love, especially when compared to all the CGI pollution we see today.