Maniac Cop 3: Badge of Silence (1992)

Directed by William Lustig [Other horror films: Maniac (1980), Maniac Cop (1988), Maniac Cop 2 (1990), Uncle Sam (1996)]

I didn’t love the second Maniac Cop, but I did think it was a bit above average. Unfortunately, but not unsurprisingly, this sequel doesn’t fare nearly as well, and I generally didn’t care for it whatsoever.

It’s not like the movie’s awful or even that much worse in quality from the second, but I didn’t care much for the route the story took, what with a corrupt cop (Robert Z’Dar, our titular maniac cop) trying to protect an injured corrupt cop (Gretchen Baker) while another corrupt cop (Robert Davi, returning in his role from the second film) does other stuff.

The beginning of the film mentions that Cordell’s character was ‘framed’ and sent to prison. I won’t deny that whatever crime he was thrown into prison for might have been a frame-up, but I will point out that Cordell should have gone to prison anyway, as he absolutely partook in police brutality, the same as Baker’s character, it seems. And on that note, Baker had every right to shoot when she did, but she was using an illegal weapon and illegal ammunition (yet she’s still cleared in the mind of her corrupt cop peer, Davi’s character), so Baker’s character also should have gone to prison had her outcome in the film been better.

My point is that there’s no likable characters in the film. Even the one with potential, a doctor (played by Caitlin Dulany), then falls in love with a cop who just literally tortured her patient minutes before. Again, jail time would be nice.

I don’t like cops, and I don’t respect cops, but this hasn’t really hurt my feelings on the first two movies (though from the beginning, I scoffed when Cordell is called ‘sympathetic’, as he’s not at all). Here, though, it grated on me because there’s not one likable character in the bunch, and their behavior appears to have zero consequence (the video that was uncovered that would have ‘cleared’ Baker’s character, again, still showed multiple illegal actions), but that’s par for the course as far as the corrupt institution of the police force goes.

Throughout the film, there are some okay kills, mostly with firearms, but a solid stabbing is thrown in. As it was, the ending rubbed me the wrong way, also, mainly because I absolutely refuse to believe that someone on fire could drive a car for twenty minutes without 1) melting the seat, 2) causing the gas lines to malfunction, 3) effect the engine, or 4) screwing up the steering wheel. Did it look cool? For the first minute or so, but then it just keeps going. And using the burning arm to light a cigarette, eliciting laughs from his new love? Ugh, kill me now.

Despite all of this, I wouldn’t even be averse to watching this again, as there were some decent scenes, but it’s definitely nowhere near as good as the first movie, and doesn’t much come close to touching the second. It’s not terrible, but it’s not good, and I wouldn’t really go out of my way to recommend this unless you’re already a fan of the series, in which case you’re like to be disappointed anyway.

5.5/10

This is one of the films covered on Fight Evil’s podcast. Listen below as Chucky (@ChuckyFE) and I discuss this one.

Candyman (1992)

Candy

Directed by Bernard Rose [Other horror films: Paperhouse (1988), Snuff-Movie (2005), sxtape (2013), Frankenstein (2015)]

While not a particularly disjointed movie, this early 1990’s classic does at times a disorienting, if not somewhat dreamy, feel to it.

And this works to Candyman’s credit, as the movie certainly feels a bit deeper than the preceding decade of horror. Atmospheric, yet definitely gory, Candyman’s the type of film that I think has a decent amount of appeal.

Based off a short story by Clive Barker, the plot is decently interesting (and feels a more well-rounded look into myths than Urban Legend did six years later), and takes some interesting turns (such as a one month time-lapse toward the end). Really, I think this helped the audience feel as disoriented as the main character was, while also allowing sympathy.

Speaking of which, Virginia Madsen does a fantastic job as Helen. Throughout the film, she was a joy to watch. Xander Berkeley (who has a couple hundred roles on IMDb, and I know best from his appearance on The X-Files) had a good screen presence also, and I rather liked his calm demeanor (along with his emotional scene at the end). And of course, Tony Todd does a great job as the Candyman, and his voice was just creepily well-done.

The movie is certainly not without it’s downsides. Not enough explanation of exactly what Candyman’s angle is really given. We’re left to make assumptions, which is fine, especially for a more fantasy blend of horror, but it’s still a bit annoying. And while I sort of liked the enclosed feeling the movie had (it kept it’s core characters and expanded on few others), a wider scope of sorts might have been nice.

Still, the movie was a fun fantasy-horror mix (on a side note, director Bernard Rose also directed Paperhouse, from 1988, a very dark fantasy/light horror mix, which I loved), and the gore it possesses should be enough to engage fans of more straight-forward slashers. The ending sequences (with the bonfire, the funeral, and the aftermath) worked extraordinarily well together, as rarely I’ve seen horror that ended with real feeling.

Questions still come to mind about what exactly Candyman’s goal was, but overall, this Clive Barker adaptation is very much worth seeing. The calming Candyman theme is enjoyable, the movie’s atmospheric feel is great, so this really stands out as a highlight of 90’s horror no matter how many time you’ve seen it.

8.5/10

Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth (1992)

Hellraiser III

Directed by Anthony Hickox [Other horror films: Waxwork (1988), Sundown: The Vampire in Retreat (1989), Waxwork II: Lost in Time (1992), Warlock: The Armageddon (1993), Full Eclipse (1993), Knife Edge (2009)]

A hard movie to speak about, the biggest problem with this flick is that even though it tries to follow the first two Hellraiser movies, Hell on Earth feels entirely different in tone.

The story is fine. Nothing special, nothing terrible. The subplot with Elliot Spencer and Joey wasn’t really all that intriguing, in my opinion. The movie just felt off, and despite connections to the previous films (including a brief scene with Kirsty), it didn’t real feel all that related.

Most of the acting wasn’t that great. Our main character, played by Terry Farrell, was okay. At times, she certainly didn’t do that well, but she was consistently better than Kevin Bernhardt’s J.P., a pale intimation of the original movie’s Frank. I really did like Paula Marshall as Terri, and throughout the film, she had sort of a Shawnee Smith feel to her, which was definitely appreciated. In fact, I think some of the best scenes of the movie are those with Farrell and Marshall, who did decently well together.

Doug Bradley, of course, did well as Pinhead, but although he occasionally had some interesting insights to shine a light upon, he spoke significantly more in this movie as opposed to the previous ones, which sort of dampens his effects. He had some solid lines (the whole mocking Jesus scene was quality, as was the “limited imagination” line), but smaller doses are what the doctor ordered when concerning his dialogue.

The makeup in the movie was serviceable, but the special effects, many of which were done in early CGI, just looked damn awful. And speaking of awful, every single one of those new Cenobite designs were a kick in the face to the horrific simplicity of the original’s Butterball and Chatterer. The CD Cenobite was bad, yes, but every single design (from the fire-breathing Cenobite to Pistonhead to Camerahead) was an ocular assault. They just looked shitty.

The movie was also far too corny, with some really bad lines in there. The acting often didn’t help with this, truth be told. I’m not sure if all of it was intentional, but even so, it just didn’t do much for me.

If you’re a fan of the first two Hellraiser movies, as I am, this one will come as a bit of a shock. Certainly it’s the black sheep of the first four movies (even if it is probably a bit better than the fourth). This has only been the second time I’ve seen it, but I can see why I forgot much of it. Hell on Earth has an odd vibe, and while it’s not really a terrible movie, the first two are very much superior.

As Camerahead said, that’s a wrap.

6/10

Mikey (1992)

Mikey

Directed by Dennis Dimster [Other horror films: N/A]

This is a moderately interesting little movie, if not potentially somewhat forgettable.

Staring Brian Bonsall (who was on Family Ties for three years), Mikey’s a story of a psychotic kid, though without the flair of The Bad Seed or the religious nature of The Omen. Just a kid who gets off on killing people.

It’s a simple affair, and Bonsall does his role pretty well. Generally speaking, most of the main cast does also. Mikey’s adoptive mother, played by Mimi Craven (who had a small appearance in the original A Nightmare on Elm Street), is memorable in her role. Whit Hertford (Jacob from the fifth A Nightmare on Elm Street and also having a minor scene in Jurassic Park) was pretty decent as a neighbor of Mikey’s (though really, he never goes anywhere).

Lyman Ward (who, funnily enough, had a small role in Freddy’s Revenge as Ron’s father) was pretty fun as a school psychologist, though I wish he had gotten more scenes. Quite attractive in her role, Josie Bissett played Hertford’s sister pretty well, though again, like Ward, I wish they did a little more with her in the movie.

The unsurprising standout, though, is Ashley Laurence, who is most well-known for her role of Kirsty from the first two Hellraisers (well, and Hellseeker, but let’s not talk about that). Mikey comes across as a lower-budget flick, so how they got Laurence, I don’t know, but she shines in every scene, and her interactions with Ward were always enjoyable.

The thing that stands out most about Mikey, Laurence aside, is the low-budget feel the movie has. At times, it reminds me of The Stepfather, in that it occasionally feels much like a television movie. While there’s not really a ton of gore (the most common form of execution is electrocution), there’s a few solid scenes of individuals beaten with hammers and bats, or shot with arrows. For the most part, though, they don’t really stand out one way or the other.

One small last thing, the setting of this film, being Arizona, was sort of interesting. While most of the time you couldn’t tell one way or the other, a few of the shots that showed the moderate sparse locality just felt interesting. For one reason or another, though it made zero difference insofar as the plot’s concerned, it stood out to me.

Mikey’s occasionally slow throughout the film, but with as many interesting actors and actresses as there are, I was never quite bored. The final twenty minutes were pretty fun (as was the entirely expected last minute scene), but I wouldn’t quite say the movie was entirely worth watching. Having seen it twice, I personally find it a decent flick, but it’s one of those movies where it’s not quite good, but has some charm to it. I would probably put Mikey somewhere marginally above average, but if you go in looking for The Omen, or even The Good Son, you probably won’t be happy.

7.5/10

Ghostwatch (1992)

Ghostwatch

Directed by Lesley Manning [Other horror films: N/A]

This British entry to ghost films is immensely creative and enjoyable. First airing on BBC1 on Halloween, 1992, Ghostwatch is shown as a “live” television special about examining the supernatural, hosted by long-time broadcaster Michael Parkinson.

Throughout the event, he speaks to callers, guests who both believe and disbelieve in the supernatural, and learns about the supposedly supernatural happenings at a house in northern London, a live investigation (led by real UK television personality Sarah Greene). Even now, in 2017, it’s an immersive experience, unlike almost any other movie I’ve seen. It feels real, in short.

And I can only imagine, back during the Halloween of 1992, it felt real to the viewers too. Such was the furor and fright of the reactions that BBC actually placed a ten-year ban on the program before it could be aired again. And the film still holds up today.

When I first saw it, during one of the October Challenges of year’s past, I rather loved it, and it stood out easily. Luckily, a re-watch doesn’t dull the immersive sense of the film. A movie I totally recommend, and one of the highlights of the 1990’s. Lastly, kudos to Michael Parkinson – he did immensely well here, and I see why his own program lasted as long as it did. He has both a soothing voice and fantastic presence.

8.5/10