[31 Days of Horror Part VI: Jason Lives] Day 5 – Schizoid (1980)

Director: David Paulsen

Cast: Klaus Kinski, Donna Wilkes, Marianna Hill, Craig Wasson, Christopher Lloyd, Flo Gerrish, Joe Regalbuto, Richard Herd

Screenplay: David Paulsen

89 mins. Rated R.

 

Writer/director David Paulsen (Savage Weekend) was told to have a have a screenplay ready within a month that could use Klaus Kinski (Nosferatu the Vampyre, Aguirre, the Wrath of God) and be done for under a million dollars. After having seen it, this perfectly sums up Schizoid.

Advice columnist Julie (Marianna Hill, High Plains Drifter, Coma Girl: The State of Grace) has been receiving creepy notes from a stalker while members of her therapy group are being picked off one by one. As the bodies pile up, Julie begins to see cracks in everyone around her, so who is the assailant, and is she next?

Schizoid is terribly uninteresting. When you have a film featuring Klaus Kinski, one thing it shouldn’t be is uninteresting. Kinski is batshit crazy, so the film should be so much wilder than expected. In fact, the only real win of the film is that Paulsen succeeds pretty well at making everyone suspect in the film. Then there’s the main issue that no one in the film is written likable enough, including Julie, to make me root for any of them.

I would say that there are no truly strong performances in the film outside of an interesting early and somewhat unseen appearance from Christopher Lloyd (Back to the Future, Boundaries). Kinski just seems bored and working for the paycheck (he was contracted to do the film, and it’s obvious he’s not feeling it).

Sadly, Schizoid just doesn’t work. There’s not much to really appreciate about the film, but most of the film is mostly forgettable. Just having seen it a few days back, I can’t really cling to anything strong. This is one to absolutely skip. You can do better.

 

-Kyle A. Goethe

[Early Review] Welcome to Marwen (2018)

Director: Robert Zemeckis

Cast: Steve Carell, Leslie Mann, Diane Kruger, Merritt Wever, Janelle Monae, Eiza Gonzalez, Gwendoline Christie, Leslie Zemeckis, Neil Jackson

Screenplay: Caroline Thompson, Robert Zemeckis

116 mins. Rated PG-13 for sequences of fantasy violence, some disturbing images, brief suggestive content, thematic material and language.

 

I look forward to every film Robert Zemeckis (Back to the Future, Allied) makes. The man is always a captivating storyteller who brims with ambition and pushes the boundaries with every time he steps behind a camera. Ever since I saw the first trailer for Welcome to Marwen, I felt that this was another chance he had to push himself further. The struggle for the film, based on true events, is that it can’t seem to translate to the big screen in a wholly appealing and accessible way.

Mark Hogancamp (Steve Carell, Beautiful Boy, TV’s The Office) is struggling. He’s a man with a secret that makes some people not like him. When he is beaten within an inch of his life by some scumbags, he is unable to cope with his memory loss, his physical and emotional pain, his anxiety, and his depression. So he creates a world, Marwen, where he imagines himself as World War II Captain Mark “Hoagie” Hogancamp and all the women in his life as kick-ass soldiers, it helps. Enter new next-door neighbor Nicol (Leslie Mann, Knocked Up, Blockers), an attractive and friendly human who takes to Mark well and finds him to be a really interesting person. When Mark designs a figure in Marwen after Nicol, he finds that she helps him to be the person he needs to be to defeat his demons.

When Welcome to Marwen works, it works really well. When the film misses the mark, it misses it hard, so let’s unwrap this thing, firstly Steve Carell. Carell is becoming such a prolific and nuanced actor and he excites me with every new project he signs on for. Marwen is no different. His portrayal of Hogancamp is really incredible, and he accesses portions of anxiety and depression very nicely. His performance really highlights that sometimes, anxiety and depression manifest themselves in different ways.

Though Leslie Mann does great work as Nicol, I really don’t like where they take her character, especially with where she ends up. The ending of Nicol’s arc is really odd and it kind of thuds the movie. It feels like there isn’t anything for her character to do in the latter half of the film, but there’s a better way to wrap up her character.

The rest of the women of Marwen all have nice performance work, but I didn’t get the chance to connect with many of them. Gwendoline Christie (Star Wars: The Force Awakens, The Darkest Minds) plays Anna, Mark’s social worker. She gets one scene, but we are asked to connect with her action-figure avatar. Janelle Monae (Hidden Figures, Moonlight) plays Julie, his physical therapist, and it seems on the surface that we will get some time with her, but she barely plays a role outside of, again, her action-figure avatar. Eiza Gonzalez (Baby Driver, TV’s From Dusk Till Dawn) is Caralala, a co-worker of Mark’s at a local pub and grill, and she gets more screentime than the rest, but she isn’t a fully-realized character.

It’s too bad that we don’t have much characterization with the women of Marwen because the sequences in Marwen are really interesting and layered. Again, some of it works and some of it doesn’t. The visual palate of the Marwen stuff is great. I was worried that these figures wouldn’t get the emotion and look right and the audience would be stranded with this fake-looking character that’s supposed to look fake and real. It’s an odd problem to have. Thankfully, I never stepped out of the film during these sequences outside of a really odd Back to the Future reference that crashes and burns near the end of the film.

The Marwen sequences struggle with the characterization because we don’t get to know these people in real life and therefore cannot see the portions of their Marwen personas that belong to them and the portions that belong to Mark. Each time the Nazis show up, we get a lot of gunfire but no character. I was forced to relay all the characters through Mark’s spectrum.

Welcome to Marwen is hit-and-miss. The fantasy scenes are really interesting and kind of feel like a more-improved attempt at Sucker Punch, where the fantasy is important and has stakes on the film, but the film’s screenplay skips some important moments and includes some really strange stuff. The villain of Marwen, personified by a witch named Deja (Diane Kruger, Inglourious Basterds, In the Fade) really felt out of place. I wanted to like the movie so bad, and I did enjoy myself more than most, but it’s frustrating when it stumbles. It is Carell’s intense performance that kept me going and invested throughout, and he deserves more recognition than he gets.

 

3/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

For my review of Robert Zemeckis’s Back to the Future, click here.

 

For more Almighty Goatman,

[31 Days of Horror 3] Day 4 – Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter (1984)

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Director: Joseph Zito

Cast: Erich Anderson, Judie Aronson, Peter Barton, Kimberly Beck, Corey Feldman, Crispin Glover, Alan Hayes, Barbara Howard, Laurence Monoson, Joan Freeman, Camila More, Carey More

Screenplay: Barney Cohen

91 mins. Rated R.

 

Ah, The Final Chapter. Never what it truly means. Hell, Jason Voorhees had two film touted as the Final Something. You just can’t keep a slasher down.

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In Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter, the bloodbath from the previous installment has ended, and as Jason Voorhees’ body is dropped off at the morgue, the staff quickly discovers that the killer has not yet died. Now, Jason is up and going, determined to seek further vengeance over the death of his mother. His reign of terror has been going on for days (technically this movie takes place from Sunday the 15th to Tuesday the 17th, but hey, who’s counting), and the body count continues to rise as Jason makes his way back home to Camp Crystal Lake.

This fourth entry is the Friday the 13th franchise is where the series hits its comfortable stride. The producers know the formula, and they aren’t ready to change it. Friday the 13th Part III was supposed to end the franchise, but fans clamored for more and so Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter was created to be a true finale. Tom Savini was even brought in to kill the franchise he helped create. Paramount also wanted a finale as they felt the series tarnished their good name. Director Joseph Zito (Missing in Action, The Prowler) was brought in to helm the Final Chapter.

This is also the film that started to really show the insanity behind the scenes. Actress Judie Aronson (Weird Science, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang) was supposed to have a long scene in the cold water, and as Zito kept demanding takes, it was clear she was developing hypothermia. Ted White, who played Jason, actually had to threaten to quit before Zito came to his senses. Then there’s Crispin Glover (Back to the Future, Alice in Wonderland). Damn, this dude is insane. He hadn’t quite gone off the rails at this point in his career but legends from the set arose about his unhinged mental state. That being said, his portrayal of Jimmy is one of the more interesting characters from a Friday the 13th entry. Laurence Monoson (The Last American Virgin, Starship Troopers 2: Hero of the Federation), who plays Jimmy’s asshole friend Ted, had a scene smoking pot, but as Monoson had never done so, he thought the night of his big scene would be the perfect time to partake. Lots of insanity from the Friday the 13th set helped to mold an interesting if messy entry.

But about the film itself, Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter is indeed messy. It doesn’t have the same kind of tone that the previous entries had, which would be fine if the film actually had a tone to begin with. It feels like Zito is collecting a check because that’s all he’s doing here. This film just feels like a whole lot of ideas crammed into a movie. For one thing, the character Rob (Erich Anderson, Unfaithful, I Married Who?) is supposed to have been Sandra’s brother from Friday the 13th Part 2. You may remember her as the girl who gets kabob-ed by Jason while with her boyfriend Jeff. Well, Rob is there to exact revenge or find his sister, I’m not entirely sure of his full motivation. But Part 2 took place two days prior. He’s made a lot of ground and learned a lot in two days. Rob shouldn’t be as capable as he is. This is just one of the many problems with the film. I feel like there were good intentions all around, but The Final Chapter is just really weird.

The best thing to come out of this film, though: Tommy Jarvis (Corey Feldman, Stand By Me, Lost Boys: The Thirst). Tommy Jarvis is an accidentally successful character played nicely by Feldman. The fact that he kept coming back to face Jason is one of the most enjoyable elements of the franchise.

This screenshot was taken from http://www.tepg.se owned by Krister Nielsen (info@wonderworks.se)

As I said before, I really enjoy watching Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter. It’s a lot of fun. The formula works and there’s no reason to change it. It just isn’t anything new. Even slapping the tag The Final Chapter on it doesn’t really do anything, and the franchise wouldn’t even skip a beat in order to drop the next film, Friday the 13th V: A New Beginning, the next year. If your a fan of Jason, you’ll find a lot to love here. If not, this probably won’t convince you.

 

2.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

For my review of Sean S. Cunningham’s Friday the 13th, click here.

For my review of Wes Craven’s A Nightmare on Elm Street, click here.

For my review of Steve Miner’s Friday the 13th Part 2, click here.

For my review of Steve Miner’s Friday the 13th Part III, click here.

[Happy 30th Birthday!] April Fool’s Day (1986)

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Director: Fred Walton

Cast: Deborah Foreman, Griffin O’Neal, Clayton Rohner, Jay Baker, Deborah Goodrich, Ken Olandt, Leah King Pinsent, Amy Steel, Thomas F. Wilson

Screenplay: Danilo Bach

89 mins. Rated R.

 

Of all the interesting holiday-themed horror films to spring up from the success of films like Halloween, April Fool’s Day is probably the most interesting idea. It’s a film idea that, even on the surface, shouldn’t work very well, but this film created its cult following from its smart plotting and playful attitude. It’s only a question of whether or not it holds up after three decades.

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Eight friends of the heiress Muffy St. John (Deborah Foreman, Valley Girl, Lobster Men from Mars) gather for a weekend at her secluded island cabin to celebrate the last year of college. When secrets start to be uncovered from each of their pasts, a cold-blooded killer begins to do away with each of them in turn, but as April Fool’s Day is upon them, the gang can’t tell who’s pranking who, and who’s killing who.

April Fool’s Day may not be the most illustrious of horror films, but it is damn fun all the same. The campiness of pranks (though many involve murder strangely) combined with the horror aspects create a silly but altogether enjoyable film.

It helps to have genre favorites like Amy Steel (TV’s All My Children, Friday the 13th Part 2), Thomas F. Wilson (Back to the Future, The Spongebob Movie: Sponge Out of Water) and Ken Olandt (Leprechaun, Power Play) involved as well.

Again, I should point out, this movie wasn’t going to win any awards, but as far as enjoyable film experiences, I just can’t really fault this one. Sure, the characters are mostly stiff and flat, but the dialogue keeps the tension and tone regular. Sure, director Fred Walton (When a Stranger Calls, The Stepford Husbands) isn’t a good director, but he nails it on this particular project.

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April Fool’s Day is a great film to show your friends. It is a great movie-night movie. It is a fun experience best shared with others. Having your group take guesses at just what’s going on is the most fun, and I think that’s what it’s all been about, right?

 

3.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

31 Days of Horror Part II: Day 22 – Clue (1985)

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Director: Jonathan Lynn

Cast: Eileen Brennan, Tim Curry, Madeline Kahn, Christopher Lloyd, Michael McKean, Martin Mull, Lesley Ann Warren

Screenplay: Jonathan Lynn

94 mins. Rated PG for violence.

 

Everyone out there is discussing the possible upcoming video game boom. I’m just over here thinking about the board game boom.

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Clue is the story of six people, a butler, a maid, a cook and a man named Boddy. Mr. Boddy has gathered Mrs. Peacock (Eileen Brennan, The Sting, Murder by Death), Mrs. White (Madeline Kahn, Young Frankenstein, Blazing Saddles), Professor Plum (Christopher Lloyd, Back to the Future, A Million Ways to Die in the West), Mr. Green (Michael McKean, TV’s Better Call Saul, This is Spinal Tap), Colonel Mustard (Martin Mull, TV’s Dads, Mrs. Doubtfire), and Miss Scarlet (Lesley Ann Warren, Secretary, Jobs) together to discuss something. Before he gets the chance to do so, he is murdered by one of the attendees in the room. Now, these conveniently placed people, each with a motive for murdering Mr. Boddy, each with a weapon of choice, have to discover who is the killer? Was it Professor Plum in the billiard room with the revolver? Was is Miss Scarlet with the rope in the kitchen? And what about Wadsworth (Tim Curry, The Rocky Horror Picture Show, Burke and Hare), the butler? Is he involved?

My favorite aspect of this film is that writer/director Jonathan Lynn (Nuns on the Run) found interesting  yet convoluted ways to make the board game adaptation actually work. Things like the corny names and the motives, the general campiness of the game/plot, all of it really works well. He even found a way to work in multiple endings (depending on your home video release, you may have a version with all three endings sewn together or one that randomly picks an ending; both are great options).

Now, the decision to cast comic actors who can handle drama seals the deal here. What a terrific cast! Mel Brooks could have directed this film, that’s how impressive our players are. Add to that an impressive direction from Lynn and you have the reason why Clue is such a masterfully beloved cult classic.

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Clue is a classic, even if you present me with a less-than-stellar Rotten Tomatoes score. It’s a classic and I don’t care what you say. See this film and then, hell, play the game. It makes for a fun evening.

 

4/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

For more 31 Days of Horror, click here.

[Happy 30th Birthday!] [Top 250 Friday] #51: Back to the Future (1985)

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Director: Robert Zemeckis

Cast: Michael J. Fox, Christopher Lloyd, Lea Thompson, Crispin Glover

Screenplay: Robert Zemeckis, Bob Gale

116 mins. Rated PG.

  • Academy Award Winner: Best Effects, Sound Effects Editing
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Writing, Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Sound
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Music, Original Song “The Power of Love”

iMDB Top 250: #44 (as of 03/04/2016)

 

Director Robert Zemeckis (Cast Away, Flight) is one of my all-time favorite directors. Back to the Future is one of my all-time favorite films. I could watch it as well as both sequels over and over again until the end of time, but when I was really young, it was just the third film that I was addicted to. I must’ve watched our old VHS tape a thousand times. I ruined that tape. It wasn’t until my teen years that I understood and fell in love with the original film.

Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox, TV’s Family Ties, Annie) is a slacker, a young man addicted to a dream of musical stardom. Those around him attribute his failings on his strange friendship with Dr. Emmett Brown (Christopher Lloyd, Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, Sin City: A Dame to Kill For), an equally floundering individual who has potential but hasn’t invented anything of significance. But when Doc invited Marty to see his ultimate new experiment, a time machine in the body of a DeLorean, Marty ends up on an adventure through time as he tries to avoid creating a paradox while also trying to get back to the future!

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Zemeckis turned an incredible screenplay with Bob Gale into an incredibly crafted film about more than just time travel. The true path of the film centers on Marty’s inability to connect to his parents, Lorraine (Lea Thompson, TV’s Caroline in the City, Left Behind) and George (Crispin Glover, Alice in Wonderland, Open Season 3), until he meets them as teenagers in 1955. His completed film is perfect in every way, but it took some time to actually get there.

Michael J. Fox so well embodies a 1980s teenage like Marty McFly that it’s almost impossible to see the character played by anyone. His performance is perfect casting, but his hiring didn’t happen smoothly. Fox had to pass on the role due to his heightened role on Family Ties, so Zemeckis hired actor Eric Stoltz. Stoltz was a method actor and did his best with the role, but he just wasn’t working out actor several weeks of trying. By that time, Fox’s commitment to Family Ties had been able to free him up, so he replaced Stoltz and the rest is history. Apparently, other future big names like Johnny Depp also tested for the role, but he wasn’t very memorable.

There were other problems with the cast. Crispin Glover hadn’t been as infamous a performer as he was later known for. The actor, who famously went…how do I put it…batshit as his career derailed into minutiae, got so nervous while performing some lines that he had to mouth the lines and fix them in post-production. His performance as George McFly, a loser who doesn’t think himself worthy of his future wife’s love.

The rest of the cast worked perfectly. Christopher Lloyd gives the best performance of his career as Doc, Lea Thompson as Marty’s mother who unknowingly has the hots for him in 1955, and of course Thomas F. Wilson as the legendary bully Biff, who improvised many of his most famous lines like “make like a tree and get out of here.”

Perhaps the most well-known character in the film is the time machine itself. It is so wonderfully 80s that it helped define an entire generation of moviegoers. They used three DeLoreans in production (ironically more DeLoreans than were actually sold).

The set design in the film is very important. The production needed to find dual sets that displayed how things change between 1955 and 1985, yet also how things stay the same. In fact, they used actual set pieces from the 1959 original pilot for The Twilight Zone to emulate 1955 Hill Valley.

The score from Alan Silvestri is so grandiose and well-complementing with Huey Lewis and the News’ Oscar-nominated songs that it turns what could be construed as a relatively simple coming-of-age story into a cosmic cool tale of sci-fi that raises the stakes of the adventure. Huey Lewis himself cameos early in the film as the judge of Marty’s band. In fact, music plays such a big part in placing scenes within a particular time period as well as the characters. In fact, when Marty is performing “Johnny B. Goode” later in the film, he emulates the best current musicians like The Who (kicking over the speaker), AC/DC (playing on his back on the floor), Chuck Berry (hopping on one leg across the stage), and Jimi Hendrix/Eddie Van Halen (with the emphasized guitar solo).

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Back to the Future is a classic film that has ages so perfectly. The film is virtually flawless and each time I watch it, I discover something new (it took me so long to catch the Twin Pines Mall reference that Marty butterfly-effects after traveling to 1955). It helped launch one of the most recognizable and beloved franchises in film history and remains a film that other filmmakers only aspire to reach. I recommend it to teens today who haven’t seen it as a part of popular culture. Hell, I recommend it to everyone.

 

5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

Hot Tube Time Machine (2010)

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Director: Steve Pink

Cast: John Cusack, Rob Corddry, Craig Robinson, Clark Duke, Crispin Glover, Lizzy Caplan, Chevy Chase

Screenplay: Josh Heald, Sean Anders, John Morris

101 mins. Rated R for strong crude and sexual content, nudity, drug use and pervasive language.

 

Okay, so John Cusack (Being John Malkovitch, Drive Hard) signed on to this film immediately after hearing the title, but then again, wouldn’t you?

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Hot Tub Time Machine tells the story of three friends who have grown apart. Adam (Cusack) has just become single and alone…again, Nick (Craig Robinson, This is the End, Get on Up) works at his dead-end job and dreams of being a famous musician, and Lou (Rob Corddry, TV’s Childrens Hospital, Muppets Most Wanted) is a drunk loser…still. But after a near-fatal accident, the three friends decide to relive their glory days at Kodiak Valley, they, along with Adam’s nephew Jacob (TV’s Greek, A Merry Friggin’ Christmas), come across a malfunctioning hot tub that sends them back in time to the 1980s where they have the chance to right their wrongs, or mess their entire future up.

First of all, the opening credits. This is how you open a film. It sets the tone with a goofy montage of people partying in hot tubs. Simple, yet perfect. The entire opening sets the stage for this film perfectly. You know exactly what you are getting into.

John Cusack is the perfect guy to carry this film. A staple of 80s pop culture himself, Cusack’s helpless romantic Adam thinks he can fix his broken relationship to his Great White Buffalo (long-lost love), but he can’t see his own strengths.

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Really, this film is nearly flawless as a piece of comedy gold. There are two jokes that fall flat at the beginning, but this film’s references to masterpieces  like Better Off Dead…, Back to the Future, and The Karate Kid come off great and feature a group of actors not fighting for themselves but servicing the group and the film, a hilarious screenplay from Josh Heald, Sean Anders, and John Morris added to the well-stylized direction of Steve Pink (Accepted, About Last Night) are what makes Hot Tub Time Machine near-perfection. If you haven’t seen it, see it. This just might be the Great White Buffalo you’ve been waiting for.

 

5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

31 Days of Horror: Day 20 – Children of the Corn (1984)

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Director: Fritz Kiersch

Cast: Peter Horton, Linda Hamilton, R.G. Armstrong, John Franklin, Courtney Gains

Screenplay: George Goldsmith

92 mins. Rated R.

 

I love Stephen King. I do. He has been one of the few authors in my lifetime that have inspired me to do what I do. I am currently reading his entire library of work chronologically, and I just find his writing fascinating. I was a big fan of the short story Children of the Corn from his collection Night Shift. It was terrifying at the core. The story, about a bunch of children in the town of Gatlin who turn on their parents and slaughter the adults of the town before forming their own society to serve the mythical deity He Who Walks Behind the Rows, is just so eerie and yet told in such a way that it becomes believable, which in turn makes it more horrifying. The film version is an inverse. It tells the story in such a way that it becomes wholly unrealistic and sometimes laughable.

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It stars Peter Horton (TV’s thirtysomething, The Baby-Sitters Club) as Burt and Linda Hamilton (Terminator 2: Judgment Day, Dante’s Peak) as his wife Vicky. Of the children performing, the only two who warrant any such fear are Isaac (John Franklin, The Addams Family, Python) and his servant Malachai (Courtney Gains, Back to the Future, Faster).

Horton’s portrayal of Burt is totally fallable and silly. He comes across as not even believing himself when he reads lines. Hamilton as well is given next to nothing in terms of character arc (her entire character stripped down to being Daphne in any episode of Scooby-Doo). The children cannot control their scenes and the film ultimately falls apart before any supernatural elements, like a rotoscoped demonic shade deity, enter the field. It is no wonder that director Fritz Kiersch and screenwriter George Goldsmith have gotten nothing back from Hollywood, but that’s what you get when you completely throw out the original script from the source material’s creator.

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It is disappointing to see such terrific source material mangled in such a way, but the film is just not all that good. Well, I guess when compared to the sequels…Oscar anyone?

 

2/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

For more 31 Days of Horror, click here.

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