[31 Days of Horror Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan] Day 12 – Tales from the Crypt presents Ritual (2002)

Director: Avi Nesher
Cast: Jennifer Grey, Craig Sheffer, Daniel Lapaine, Tim Curry
Screenplay: Rob Cohen, Avi Nesher
99 mins. Rated R for violence, language and some sexuality.

I bet there are quite a few people out there, even among fans of Tales from the Crypt, who were unaware that there was a third feature film in the series. Were you one of them? We’ll get into all that and more today as we discuss Ritual!

Dr. Alice Dodgson (Jennifer Grey, Dirty Dancing, Bittersweet Symphony) has just had her medical license revoked following the death of one of her patients. Unable to get work anywhere in the United States, she instead packs up and moves to Jamaica to take on caring for a young man the locals believe to be cursed. As Alice begins to peel back the layers of the situation, she discovers a sinister plot to use voodoo to kill the man, and she must find out why quickly in order to save him.

Originally, Universal Pictures planned on a trilogy of Tales from the Crypt films, starting with Demon Knight and Bordello of Blood. After the financial failure of the latter, Universal scrapped these plans, and some years later, Ritual, which wasn’t initially planned to be a Tales from the Crypt feature, became one. Bookends featuring the Cryptkeeper (voiced once again by John Kassir) was shot and added to the finished film, and voila! You have yourself another Tales from the Crypt film.

Sadly, the film doesn’t bolster a whole lot of confidence in the viewer almost immediately after beginning. This is some of the most lackluster shoehorning of a franchise I’ve seen in a long time, and I’ve watched most of the Hellraiser sequels. The bookends with Cryptkeeper are so disappointing. He’s surrounded by scantily-clad women, perhaps in the hopes that we wouldn’t notice how terrible the puppetry is (we noticed). This is clearly not the same Cryptkeeper seen in the HBO series. That version was a full animatronic puppet that looked incredible and really gave a flavor to every appearance. This one is a hard plastic puppet with “deadlocks” that just sits there. It’s almost like you can hear a dispirited John Kassir from the soundbooth being forced at gunpoint to do the terrible line readings he’s been given. I know, I know, you are probably wondering why I’m going off about a bookend that really has no bearing on the finished film. Well, there are two reasons for that:

  • I spend money on this thing thinking it was going to be a classic Tales from the Crypt movie, complete with iconic Cryptkeeper!
  • This is the same bullshit that dropped Cats significantly in my scoring, because the filmmakers knew they were creating a subpar product and didn’t care.

Now, onto Ritual itself. The biggest problem with forcing this into being a third Tales from the Crypt film is that you expect that same kind of Crypt flavor in the storytelling. You expect something from this brand to be fun, goofy, perhaps a little mean-spirited in the name of satire, and overall, entertaining. That’s the way Demon Knight and Bordello of Blood were. Even The Frighteners, which almost ended up being retrofitted into a Tales from the Crypt film, had that flavor and style. Ritual is just a little paint-by-the-numbers (it is a very loose remake of the classic I Walked with a Zombie), and it does nothing interesting with the material. Perhaps its biggest sin is that it is…boring. I’ve seen Ritual a few times, and I struggle to get through it with each viewing. Not, each viewing does get a little less bad, but at the end of watching it, I struggle to even remember anything of value about the movie-watching experience. It’s a deeply forgettable and boring movie, something that no Tales from the Crypt film should have in its DNA.

The cast is fine with what they have. You can see Jennifer Grey and Tim Curry (Congo, The Rocky Horror Picture Show) in particularly really committing to the material. It’s just that they have nothing to do. Even Craig Sheffer (A River Runs Through It, Palmer) can usually give a memorable genre performance (on a side note, Craig Sheffer also appeared in Hellraiser: Inferno, a movie that was retrofitted into being a Hellraiser movie, and you have to wonder if he ever knows what the movie he is in will end up being).

Ritual is forgettable, boring, and a disservice to fans of this franchise, who should be able to have trust in something bearing the name of Tales from the Crypt. The movie is not the worst thing to have to sit through, but fans deserve much better, and a boring movie is oftentimes worse than a flat-out bad one. Shame. Shame indeed.

2/5
-Kyle A. Goethe

For my review of Ernest R. Dickerson’s Tales from the Crypt presents Demon Knight, click here.
For my review of Gilbert Adler’s Tales from the Crypt presents Bordello of Blood, click here.

Kyle’s Top Ten Worst Films of 2019

2019 has ended. It has, and we have to deal with it. There were amazing movies, and there were stinky movies. We can’t hide that. I was blessed in that there were fewer awful films and quite a few just disappointing films, so the year didn’t hurt me like I have been before.

Just a few notes while we get things going here:

  • I didn’t see every film in 2019. That means I didn’t see all the bad movies in 2019. This is just a list of the lowest ranking movies I saw.
  • This is my personal list. You may have liked some of these. I just didn’t. It’s a beautiful thing, isn’t it?
  • I still have not seen The Emoji Movie from 2017. Sticking it out.

Alright, let’s just get it going…

 

10. Cats

To be honest, I didn’t hate Cats. It actually hurt me quite badly to put in on the list because I didn’t want to get on the hate bandwagon, but there’s one thing that forced my hand. The reason Cats is on this list is because the studio felt it was “okay” to release this movie with unfinished visual effects. Sure, they decided to “fix” them by sending out an updated version only two days later, but by this point, they had basically screwed over the fans that showed up opening night. So not a great move. I caught the film with the unfinished visual effects and it kept taking me out of the movie, spoiling the insanity that I was mildly enjoying.

 

9. The Secret Life of Pets 2

This sequel just should not have happened. The first film wasn’t all that great, but this sequel ended up completely ruining their characters, making none of the pets nor humans very enjoyable to watch. If the worst sin is being boring, The Secret Life of Pets 2 is guilty as well. It was nice to see Harrison Ford show up, but I’m certain that someone just put a mic on him and recorded, and he was likely not even aware that he was voicing the dog. The worst part of it all is that this was supposed to be about the Secret Life of Pets, and neither this film nor its predecessor utilize this idea.

 

8. Jexi

I just wish this film wasn’t marketed as a comedy. I hate when a marketing campaign doesn’t understand the film its marketing. Oh wait, this was supposed to be a comedy? Seriously? Well, I must have missed something because I don’t remember laughing at all. Jexi was a terribly unfunny movie filled with really poor attempts at jokes. Her was a better and funnier version of this story and Jexi just seems both lazy and a little too late to work at all. Now that I know it was a comedy, I’m even more broken up by the experience.

 

7. Child’s Play

I hate that this movie exists. Don’t get me wrong, I actually was fairly won over by the marketing campaign, which was brilliant at poking fun at the release date they shared with Toy Story 4. Yeah, I was actually pretty excited to see it after all that, but I hate the disrespect that MGM was showing to the creators of the franchise. The whole backstory is rather convoluted, but suffice it to say that the main franchise is still going on and has new installments on the way. Still, I went to see it, and it was bad. Outside of Mark Hamill, nothing worked in this poorly constructed film.

 

6. Rent Live

Rent Live aired earlier this year, and I’ll be honest in saying that I don’t really care for Rent as a musical. But I really didn’t like this version of Rent, done live as a sort-of concert experience on a square stage visible from all sides. None of it really worked, I was with Rent fans that seemed disappointed, and overall, I was just incredibly bored throughout the whole affair. I just wanted it to end. It’s one of the worst versions of this musical I’ve yet to see, and I hope I never have to sit through that one again.

 

5. Overcomer

You all know that I don’t try to hate on religious cinema. There are religious movies that I love and adore, but some of these movies are so schmaltzy and without any reality. Overcomer is one of those movies. I just don’t find any of these characters interesting or layered enough to maintain energy for 90-some minutes. Overcomer was just kind of boring, and I didn’t connect to the narrative or really anything.

 

4. The Dirt

You know, I was very excited for this Motley Crue biopic coming off Bohemian Rhapsody and with the excitement of the incoming Rocketman. This film, from the director of the Jackass films, was just not good at all. The focus was placed on the debauchery of the band and not on creating realistic characters or anything worth watching. It’s exactly what you would expect the director of the Jackass films would do with a Motley Crue biopic. There were two small elements/scenes that worked, but it was too much ugh and not enough good.

 

3. Five Feet Apart

I was given the book for Five Feet Apart upon entering the press screening, and I decided to read it after seeing the incredibly disappointing film. The book wasn’t all that good either. I just felt like this movie didn’t offer anything worthwhile on its premise, which I initially found intriguing. The film could’ve put something interesting into its premise and before long it devolved into a typical cliche teen romance flick. Once it got there, I was over it and I never got back in.

 

2. Playmobil: The Movie

I heard terrible things about Playmobil, but I had no idea what I was getting into. I now know, but this movie hurt real bad. This was a bad ripoff of The Lego Movie and just like so many of the other ripoffs, this one doesn’t work because it isn’t about anything. When your movie begins with a musical number followed by the awkward death of parents, it just isn’t going to maintain much else. Playmobil was real dumb and real forgettable.

 

1. Walk. Ride. Rodeo.

This supposedly true story of a rodeo rider who gets paralyzed and continues to fight for her ability to ride once again is the stuff of Lifetime Movies nightmares. It’s on Netflix right now, and it’s not good. There just isn’t a single part of this movie that works. I just don’t even want to talk about it anymore. It’s my least-favorite film of 2019.

 

So there it is. These are my least-favorite films of the year.

Glad that’s over. Is there something I missed here? What did you think was the worst movie of the year? Let me know/Drop a comment down below!

 

-Kyle A. Goethe

Cats May Miss Award Deadlines

Christmas is a tough deadline to hit for major films looking to be under awards consideration. Films like Django Unchained and The Wolf of Wall Street both finished just in time to have screenings before the cutoff. This year, the contentious Cats adaptation from Tom Hooper may miss those award deadlines, which may spell a death knell for the film, which has received some criticism based purely on its first trailer’s reception.

Word from the studio is that the film will not be able to be screened until the middle December, after votes close for the New York Film Critics, the Golden Globes, and the SAG Award.

This has to be very disappointing for the studio and Hooper, who is fighting an uphill battle here. Hooper directed award favorites The King’s Speech and Les Miserables, and I have to assume that they expected to add Cats to that list.

Still, they will continue working their asses off to get it done as quick as possible, hoping to at least get screenings in before the cutoff of some award nominations. This won’t spell wins all around because a late start to awards campaign can be another battle altogether.

So where do you stand with Cats? Does it stand a chance against other films competing for those coveted nominations? Let me know/Drop a comment below!

 

-Kyle A. Goethe

[12 Days of Christmas] On the First Day… The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)

thenightmarebeforechristmas1993a

Director: Henry Selick

Cast: Chris Sarandon, Catherine O’Hara, Ed Ivory, Ken Page

Screenplay: Caroline Thompson

76 mins. Rated PG for some scary images.

  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Effects, Visual Effects

 

Welcome to the 12 Days of Christmas, a celebration of Christmas and winter-themed films of all shapes and sizes.

We begin this yuletide tradition with The Nightmare Before Christmas, Henry Selick’s feature film adaptation of Tim Burton’s original poem.

thenightmarebeforechristmas1993c

First off, before we start any of this thing up, I want to make a note. I refuse to call this film a Tim Burton film as Tim Burton really didn’t have all that much to do with the production. He was a producer and that is it. So no, I will be referring to this film, if in any capacity, as Henry Selick’s The Nightmare Before Christmas. But I digress…

After another successful holiday in Halloween Town, pumpkin king Jack Skellington (Chris Sarandon, The Princess Bride, Safe) is tired of the tradition. He wants to experience something new. He gets the chance when he comes across a mystical forest with a tree that transports him to Christmas Town where he falls in love with a new holiday, though he doesn’t quite understand it. Jack takes it upon himself to bring Christmas to Halloween Town, including impersonating Santa (Ed Ivory, Nine Months) and giving out gifts to the residents of his home world.

I have grown to love this movie. It has everything that a new and engaging film should have. It has a unique story idea that seems wholly goofy yet fully realized. It has an enchanting screenplay by Caroline Thompson (Edward Scissorhands, City of Ember) that makes the magic real. It has terrific voicework from leads Sarandon and Catherine O’Hara (Home Alone, A.C.O.D.) as well as secondary performers Glenn Shadix and Paul Reubens. Let’s not forget Ken Page (Dreamgirls, Cats) as the sadistic and demented Oogie Boogie. Henry Selick (Coraline, Monkeybone) understands the stop-motion medium and knows just what is enough.

The music here as well is catchy, simple, and engaging to even the musically-declined. Each song is more like a taste and doesn’t wear out its welcome, making the film tight and finely-tuned allowing for multiple viewings.

thenightmarebeforechristmas1993b

Now Jack’s story perhaps could have been trimmed a bit more and the secondary characters could have had a bit more to do, but as a completed work, The Nightmare Before Christmas has entombed (see what I did there?) itself as a Christmas classic and a Halloween classic, a feat damn near impossible to pull off.

 

4/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

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