[31 Days of Horror Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan] Day 5 – [Happy 20th Birthday!] Joy Ride (2001)

Director: John Dahl
Cast: Steve Zahn, Paul Walker, Leelee Sobieski
Screenplay: Clay Turner, J.J. Abrams
97 mins. Rated R for violence/terror and language.

It’s odd that a film like Joy Ride took four years from start to finish. Directed by John Dahl (The Last Seduction, TV’s Dexter), Joy Ride went through so many permutations that you could essentially put together a different movie from just the deleted scenes and alternate endings. This little B-movie slice of Americana thriller is one that doesn’t get talked about too much anymore, and while it had two sequels, it’s just not discussed as a short little piece of tense genre enjoyment. I probably haven’t watched Joy Ride since just after it came out, so I figured now is the best time to look back on this film, give it a rewatch, and see if there’s something worth remembering.

Lewis (Paul Walker, The Fast and the Furious, Running Scared) is a college freshman who has just discovered that his childhood crush Venna (Leelee Sobieski, Never Been Kissed, Amerikali Kiz) is newly single, and he’s embarking on a cross-country trip to pick her up during summer break on the hope to get a little closer. On the way, he’s been tasked with retrieving his deadbeat brother Fuller (Steve Zahn, War for the Planet of the Apes, TV’s The White Lotus), who’s just been released from prison. Fuller and Lewis don’t have the best relationship, and the two find themselves bonding over a silly prank played over the car’s CB radio to a voice known as Rusty Nail, but Rusty Nail doesn’t like being pranked, and he’s out to get vengeance as the two brothers and Venna try to evade him on the open roads.

Rarely is the standout performance of a film just a disembodied voice on a CB radio, but Ted Levine, in an uncredited role, is a nasty and tense and incredible as Rusty Nail. The entire film hinges on his ability to do more with less, and it’s clear that he’s the right choice for role, having been brought aboard the production rather late. We don’t get much to go on with him, as a character, but that’s maybe the best thing for someone like Rusty Nail. Because we, and also our cast of youths, are unable to discern just who this villainous voice is, we have a small-but-impactful bit of whodunnit that ties in nicely with this riff on Duel and The Hitcher.

As far as our group of youths, they are serviceable enough. While Lewis doesn’t have a lot of character development outside of “somewhat horny college kid who makes bad mistake,” Walker infuses him with charisma, which is part of what made him such a special performer. He was always able to add a likability. On the other side of things, Steve Zahn’s Fuller is just kind of an asshole. Zahn is putting everything he can into his performance, but the writing just makes him so unlikable. As the film goes on, you kind of want him to suffer for his actions, making it hard to empathize with his being put into danger. Again, Zahn is capable of adding some likability, but the character is just written too poorly. As for Sobieski, I couldn’t honestly tell you anything interesting about her character, as she’s mostly stock characterized and not all that interesting a character.

The film’s greatest strength has to come from the tension. It’s a flawed movie but it does have a high amount of engagement where I was geniunely concerned about how Lewis was going to thwart Rusty Nail. Again, a lot of tension comes from Levine, but it should be noted that director John Dahl does a solid job of ratcheting up the tension often enough to keep the whole movie entertaining, which makes up for a number of its faults.

And the film does indeed have faults. As with the characterization of both Fuller and Venna being underwhelming, there’s also a significant amount of logic gaps and inconsistencies revolving around Rusty Nail. There are a number of plot points that require Rusty Nail to have a far better understanding of things he should know nothing about. At times, he seems all-powerful and omniscient, and it makes one question the realism that we as audience members have been asked to accept. It also feels like the film ties up a little quickly. There are a number of plot threads that I would’ve liked to see fully resolved instead of just assumed. I’m well aware of the number of alternate scenes and endings that led to Joy Ride’s four-year production, and that’s likely where a lot of this is resolved. Hey, at least they changed the name from Squelch to Joy Ride, right?

Joy Ride is thankfully quite an entertaining little B-movie that has some early 2000s grindhouse-y flavor. I found myself quite enjoying this little action thriller and I’ll probably revisit the film again, not it likely won’t take another twenty years. Hopefully, by then, they’ll have released a special edition of the film that randomizes the ending we got with one of several that were filmed and left unused, a la Clue. If not, I’m content enough with the film we got. It’s a fun little time-killer.

3.5/5
-Kyle A. Goethe

[Stephen King Day] The Mangler (1995)

Director: Tobe Hooper

Cast: Robert Englund, Ted Levine, Daniel Matmor

Screenplay: Tobe Hooper, Stephen David Brooks, Harry Alan Towers

106 mins. Rated R for gory horror violence and language.

 

I always had a fondness for the adaptation of Stephen King’s The Mangler, a strange film about a possessed laundry-folding machine, so I took a chance to revisit the film this year in honor of Stephen King’s birthday. In hindsight, I wish I had kept this one buried in my memory.

The laundry press at Gartley’s Blue Ribbon Laundry service has been acting funky. First of all, a woman named Sherry, niece to owner Bill Gartley (Robert Englund, A Nightmare on Elm Street, Nightworld: Door of Hell), cuts her finger on a lever, and later that same day, the machine goes haywire and traps Mrs. Frawley, an older worker, in its safety shield, dragging her through the machine, crushing her body in the process. John Hunton (Ted Levine, The Silence of the Lambs, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom) and his brother-in-law Mark (Daniel Matmor, Hit It, A Dark Truth) are on the case, investigating the accident, but what they discover is more horrifying than any normal work-related problem. The laundry press is possessed by a demon, and it’s out for more blood.

The Mangler is not a good movie, and at 106 minutes, it’s quite a slog of a movie. This was one difficult sit-through that I did not remember or expect. I recall more recently reading the short story from King, and the added mythology and plot in this adaptation don’t add much of merit to the film. In fact, having really liked King’s story, which, like so many, offered an EC comics or Twilight Zone-style to them, would have made a great movie in the right hands, but it seems now that Tobe Hooper (The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Poltergeist) was not the right person for this job. There’s so many strange changes made to the story that benefit neither the adaptation nor the overall feeling and tone of the movie.

Robert Englund is horribly miscast, appearing almost like a version of Freddy Krueger that had survived to old age. He brings a nose-twisting grossness and annoyance to Gartley, but then you have Levine, who struggles with some of the more cringe-worthy dialogue here (he starts swearing at a possessed ice box as one point in an absurdly laughable moment taking itself too seriously).

There are several times in the film that something interesting comes up, and it almost seems that Hooper is righting the ship, only for it to devolve into a wholly unlikable mess. I really liked the setting mostly being placed at the Blue Ribbon Laundry, and I think the setting is hyper-unclean in a way that I would have been able to believe. I really like the production design and the overall look of the laundry press. I even kind of the dug the finale, though it has aged very poorly, but even after all that, the film sort of limbers on past the point of my minor enjoyment.

The Mangler was advertised as the product of King, Hooper, and Englund, three horror geniuses, but I doubt anyone involved in this film would have been happy to have their name associated in such a way, especially King, who wrote a solid if somewhat absurd short story but had no hand in the film. This is one of those adaptations I would caution even King fans to shy away from. You have better things to be doing…like the laundry, for example.

 

1.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

For my review of Tobe Hooper’s Eaten Alive, click here.

For my review of Tobe Hooper’s Salem’s Lot, click here.

For my review of Tobe Hooper’s Poltergeist, click here.

For my review of Tobe Hooper and John Carpenter’s Body Bags, click here.

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom (2018)

Director: J.A. Bayona

Cast: Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard, Rafe Spall, Toby Jones, Ted Levine, BD Wong, Jeff Goldblum

Screenplay: Derek Connolly, Colin Trevorrow

128 mins. Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of science-fiction violence and peril.

 

I think a lot of people would say, when Jurassic World came out back in 2015, that it was the best film in the series since the original. That may be true. What’s also true is that it was the safest choice to make by following very closely the trajectory of the original film. That’s not really the case with Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom.

Fallen Kingdom picks up some time after the events of Jurassic World. The park is closed and deserted. Dinosaurs roam free. But people haven’t forgotten about Isla Nublar. There are groups of dinosaur rights activists, one of which is led by Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard, The Help, Gold) who are trying to protect these precious species. When Claire is given the opportunity to work with a team on the island to save these creatures from certain destruction at the hands of the island’s no-longer-dormant volcano, which is set to erupt, she goes to Owen Grady (Chris Pratt, Guardians of the Galaxy, The Lego Movie) for help. With a team assembled, they head back to the island in hopes of saving these creatures, but there’s a much more nefarious reason for this expedition.

Fallen Kingdom got a lot of hate this year for a film that performed so well at the box office. I got married the week it was released so I didn’t actually catch it until it hit home video. This means I was able to temper my expectations, which were high considering that it was directed by J.A. Bayona (The Impossible, A Monster Calls), a highly-skilled director with a particularly good eye for horror.

What’s great about the choice of Bayona as director is what he brings to the second half of the film. I won’t delve into spoilery territories but there are elements to the back half that are reminiscent of a horror film. And this is really a film of two halves.

The first half of Fallen Kingdom boils down to a standard sequel to Jurassic World. In fact, it’s a plot point hinted at since the original Jurassic Park novel by Michael Crichton that a dormant volcano lies at the center of the island. The second half of the film is ballsy and ambitious. Does the second half work? Some of it did for me. I’ve heard criticisms about the final moments of the film and yes, I agree, they are infuriating for how they play out, but I get it given the character development we’ve seen from these people over the course of two films.

The biggest issue that rises up from me is some of the timing inconsistencies in the film. The opening literally has characters talking about a dinosaur that should be dead by now that are not, and then there are moments brought up later on that do not confirm this timeline. Even co-screenwriter Colin Trevorrow’s answer to the mystery of how much time has passed makes it seem like he really didn’t put much thought or care into the decision of setting the film at a specific distance from Jurassic World.

I think that Fallen Kingdom puts the characters from Jurassic World to better use in a more interesting narrative. Claire is more accessible and, in a lot of ways, this is more her movie whereas the previous film is more Owen-centric.

Overall, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom is a really ambitious installment of the franchise, and while I don’t think it really works as well as it should, I found myself engaged with the plot of both halves of the film, and I’m shocked that it was allowed to be made at all. If you haven’t seen this one yet, don’t listen to the naysayers and give it a go. I enjoyed it more than I expected to, and it makes me very excited for where the series will go next.

 

3.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

For my review of Steven Spielberg’s Jurassic Park, click here.

For my review of Colin Trevorrow’s Jurassic World, click here.

 

For more Almighty Goatman,

31 Days of Horror Part II: Day 5 [Oscar Madness Monday] – The Silence of the Lambs (1991)

thesilenceofthelambs1991a

Director: Jonathan Demme

Cast: Jodie Foster, Anthony Hopkins, Scott Glenn, Ted Levine

Screenplay: Ted Tally

118 mins. Rated R.

  • Academy Award Winner: Best Picture
  • Academy Award Winner: Best Actor in a Leading Role [Anthony Hopkins]
  • Academy Award Winner: Best Actress in a Leading Role [Jodie Foster]
  • Academy Award Winner: Best Director
  • Academy Award Winner: Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material Previously Published or Produced

iMDB Top 250: #23 (as of 10/5/2015)

 

This year, I wanted to ensure that I presented you with top-tier fear and what better way to do that than merge Oscar Madness Monday with the 31 Days of Horror and present Jonathan Demme’s 1991 masterpiece The Silence of the Lambs.

Anthony Hopkins as Dr. Hannibal “The Cannibal” Lecter in the 1991 film “Silence of the Lambs.” Photo Courtesy: MGM Home Entertainment

Clarice Starling (Jodie Foster, Elysium, Carnage) has been tasked with completing a psychological profile on the infamous serial killer Dr. Hannibal Lecter (Anthony Hopkins, Thor, Noah) and, without her knowledge, discover his possible connection to the new killer nicknamed “Buffalo Bill” in the process. Clarice is naïve and accepts the responsibility, unwittingly placing herself within a game of wits and murders with the two serial killers. Dr. Lecter develops a wanting to help Starling, and Clarice as well as Jack Crawford (Scott Glenn, The Bourne Ultimatum, Sucker Punch) take the opportunity to hunt the elusive Buffalo Bill before he claims his newest victim.

The Silence of the Lambs is one of three films in the history of the Oscars to win the Big Five, and deservedly so. This film is staggering and cold. When my girlfriend and I were revisiting it, we couldn’t stop developing shivers and chills before the most disturbed sequences occurred, as though we were prepping for them. It didn’t help, as large sections of the plot are unnerving and difficult to view. In that, however, we get some excellent performances from a seasoned and respectable cast including Jodie Foster, a cold and untrusting Clarice who wishes to further her career by proving her worth, and Anthony Hopkins owns the role originally performed by Brian Cox in Michael Mann’s Manhunter. Lastly, the work by Ted Levine (Shutter Island, Little Boy) as the unhinged killer is absolutely unsettling in all its madness.

The film is a slow burn, but at no point was I bored. The pacing set up by director Jonathan Demme (Philadelphia, Ricki and the Flash) and screenwriter Ted Tally (All the Pretty Horses, The Juror) slithers through this dark and sad landscape of disorder, landing on a finale that is pulse-pounding to the very core.

The Silence of the Lambs (1991) Blu-ray Screenshot

The Silence of the Lambs is one of those films that lands on many lists of Best Films Ever Made, and it should be. Just about every aspect of the production was critiqued and perfected by the veteran cast and crew, resulting in one of the most unforgettable movie experiences you will ever have. See it.

 

4.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

For more 31 Days of Horror, click here.

The Fast and the Furious (2001)

thefastandthefurious2001a

Director: Rob Cohen

Cast: Paul Walker, Vin Diesel, Michelle Rodriguez, Jordana Brewster, Rick Yune, Chad Lindberg, Johnny Strong, Ted Levine

Screenplay: Gary Scott Thompson, Erik Bergquist, David Ayer

106 mins. Rated PG-13 for violence, sexual content and language.

 

This year, we see the release of Furious 7, the latest in the series of title-jumping action car movies. Most people see the series as essential one long chase scene, but people forget how much these films have evolved in fourteen years. Let’s look back at the original film today.

thefastandthefurious2001b

When Brian Spilner (Paul Walker, Brick Mansions, Hours) falls for Mia (Jordana Brewster, TV’s Dallas, Annapolis), the sister to the ferocious street racer Dominic (Vin Diesel, Guardians of the Galaxy, Riddick), he enters a world that he may not be able to survive within. What Dom and Mia don’t know, however, is that Brian Spilner is actually Brian O’Connor, undercover cop chasing a lead that some street racers are involved in some major electronics theft. As Brian conceals his true identity, he finds himself getting closer to the Toretto “family” of outcasts and possible outlaws.

There is a term that doesn’t get tossed around much for this film but it really deserves to be mentioned. That term is “Grindhouse.” The Fast and the Furious is fairly Grindhousian in nature. The underground “society” of racers is over-the-top in many ways as a sexier, more dangerous version of the truth. This is an exploitation piece at the most explosive level. There aren’t many films with the budget of The Fast and the Furious that it doesn’t often get associated with this genre, but it is true.

Can Rob Cohen direct the pic? Better than a lot of his other attempts. If you’ve seen The Boy Next Door, I’m sure you can see his low points. I like his stylistic choice as he tries to visual show speed on film, something he really wanted to convey with the picture.

The film is made on the shaky relationship between Brian and Mia, a gorgeous girl who exists in a dangerous world. Diesel’s Toretto is good enough to pass here, but comes off as a one-note antihero. I enjoyed Michelle Rodriguez (Avatar, InAPPropriate Comedy) as Letty, Dom’s girlfriend who might just wear the pants in the relationship. We also get a great turn from character actor Ted Levine (TV’s Monk, Little Boy) as Sergeant Tanner, Brian’s supervising officer.

thefastandthefurious2001c

The Fast and the Furious is a fun, albeit flawed, action spectacle that tries a lot of new things (even if some of them don’t work). You can put the story pieces together a lot faster than I would have liked, but once this film became a franchise, that was going to happen anyway. The script polishing by David Ayer helped this film a lot, but it is far from a masterpiece and far from the best in this series.

 

3/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

For my review of Philip G. Atwell’s Turbo Charged Prelude, click here.

For my review of John Singleton’s 2 Fast 2 Furious, click here.

For my review of Vin Diesel’s Los Bandoleros, click here.

For my review of Justin Lin’s Fast & Furious, click here.

For my review of James Wan’s Furious 7, click here.

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑