The Midnight Meat Train (2008)

Midnight Meat

Directed by Ryûhei Kitamura [Other horror films: Down to Hell (1997), Versus (2000), Alive (2002), Aragami (2003), Gojira: Fainaru uôzu (2004), No One Lives (2012), Downrange (2017), Nightmare Cinema (2018, segment ‘Mashit’)]

It’s been quite some time since I’ve last seen this, probably somewhere around five or six years. From what I recall, I liked it, and upon seeing it again, I think it, by-and-large, holds up.

Based off a short story written by Clive Barker, the plot is decently interesting and captivating. Bradley Cooper made for a solid main character, and both Vinnie Jones and Roger Bart (who I recognized, after a few scenes, from Hostel: Part II), not to mention Leslie Bibb, made good secondary characters. The lore behind the going-ons was interesting also, though I hear that the original story went a little more in depth.

The special effects were mostly solid, and the heavy gore welcome. Some really brutal killings where in this film, and they were quite enjoyable. The epic fight at the end, too, was pretty fun. But it’s in this realm where my main issues with the movie come from, being the use of CGI more than a few times. Some of the killings just looked rather blah due to the CGI use, and while it’s always nice to see more gore, when it’s tainted with CGI, it sticks out pretty noticeably.

Other than that, though, I think the movie’s pretty good. The ending is generally pretty fun, and while at times I do think the pacing could have been tightened up, The Midnight Meat Train is a more-modern film that I think many horror fans would get a kick out of.

8/10

Death Machine (1994)

Death Machine

Directed by Stephen Norrington [Other horror films: Blade (1998)]

Generally speaking, Death Machine is both a well-made and moderately fun movie. My main question is, did it really need to be two hours long?

The story was good, the gore, when it popped up, was solid also. However, since the movie goes more an action route than it does horror, there’s not as many gory scenes as I would have liked to see, especially considering how dangerous and sharp Dourif’s Warbeast looks.

Brad Dourif was, of course, the stand-out here. His character was wacky, yet quite deadly and amoral, and I have to admit, his portrayal here reminds me a lot of Heath Ledger’s Joker. Dourif was just fun in every scene he was in, and his voice was always a pleasure to hear. The two others who really stood out to me were the main actress Ely Pouget and William Hootkins. Pouget does a solid job as the lead character, and Hootkins, though he didn’t have that much screen-time, had a good presence.

There were aspects of this film that didn’t do much for me. The battle suit was a bit too science-fiction for me, and I could have done without all of the fighting sequences. In a related note, this movie runs for just over two hours, and I really think that was ill-conceived. The movie can be fun, but at two hours a pop, who would take the time to rewatch it? I know I probably wouldn’t.

Death Machine is a decently solid piece of 90’s cinema, despite it being more an action science-fiction flick than a horror (make no mistake, though, there are many horror aspects within). But the length strikes me as rather uncalled for (the movie never feels as epic, for lack of a better word, as the length might lead you to believe), and there were a bit too many fight scenes. As it is, it’s a fine movie, just nothing overly special, despite Dourif’s strong personality.

7/10

Hellraiser: Bloodline (1996)

Hellraiser Bloodline

Directed by Kevin Yagher [Other horror films: N/A]

Quite possibly better put-together than the third movie, certainly with more ambitious ideas, my problem with Bloodline has always been that it just feels rather soulless.

Cenobites vs. the Merchant family during three different time periods (late 1700’s France, 1990’s New York City, and futuristic space time) didn’t enthrall me. None of the three ages did much to interest me at all. Part of this is possibly because it seems wholly removed from the previous attempts.

And it brings far more questions than it even gets close to answering, such as why Angelique became a Cenobite after the New York sequence, and why exactly didn’t the finale in New York finish up the Cenobite problem. None of these are really answered, and sadly, that’s not all they brought forth without explanation.

Aside from Pinhead, Angelique, and the Siamese Twins, there’s no additional Cenobites in the film, unless you count the Chatterer-based dog, which utterly sucked every time it was on-screen. Doug Bradley did well as Pinhead, again had some good lines (“Do I look like someone who cares what God thinks?”), but Angelique and the Twins bored me to death.

It’s not as though the movie didn’t have potential, especially with such an ambitious story, layered such as it is. There are a few solid performances, such as the aforementioned Bradley, Bruce Ramsay, and Kim Myers (Lisa from the second A Nightmare on Elm Street), but does anyone really stand out? Not quite. Possibly because, like I said, the final product didn’t have much soul.

There was a troubled production behind this film, and the director himself rather disowned it and left before filming was finished, so as to why it occasionally feels as some topics are left untouched on, this strikes me as being the most likely reason.

Regardless, the movie, as it is, isn’t worth much. Many of the death scenes were rather ehh (and that mirror scene was atrocious), and the special effects were, shall we say, not really worth mentioning in a positive light.

I didn’t care much for the third movie. However, if I were asked to choose only the third or fourth to watch again in the future, without much hesitation, despite the ambitions this movie possessed, I’d go with the third. I’ve seen Bloodline something like four times now, and it’s disappointed me for hopefully the last time. Might be worth a watch should you be a Hellraiser fan, but it didn’t do it for me.

5/10

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

Seed of Chucky (2004)

Seed of Chucky

Directed by Don Mancini [Other horror films: Curse of Chucky (2013), Cult of Chucky (2017)]

Perhaps it was just my mood, but I found this film wholly unjustifiable. To be honest, though, my mood aside, I cannot imagine a situation in which I could ever find this movie acceptable.

Bride of Chucky damaged the series by creating a more light-hearted experience, but there was still plenty of elements to moderately enjoy. Seed of Chucky has virtually nothing.

Two of the deaths in the film were okay (a disembowelment and a flamethrower kill). A few of the lines made me chuckle (such as the jab at Tilly’s voice). Hannah Spearritt was cute (though her character was extraordinarily idiotic).

But as far as positives go, that’s it.

The biggest problem for me is that I just didn’t like the story at all. It’s such a stupid concept. Toward the end, it felt rushed, and the epilogue was just terrible, but the bigger issue is there wasn’t a single thing about the plot that I thought was good or worth seeing. Not a single thing.

The addition of Glen/Glenda was misguided (just as shooting oneself in the face is misguided). I don’t know if I can even expand on that. It was just a stupid idea, and it’s a damn shame that the series fell to this level.

It may be worth mentioning that unlike the first four films in this series, I’ve never seen this one before, for exactly the reason that I thought it sounded idiotic. I did try, at the beginning, to go in with an open mind. But when the opening sequence is revealed as a dream, and Glen/Glenda wakes up and had a British accent, I was done.

A God-awful experience, perhaps one of the worst sequels to an otherwise decently solid series that I could possibly imagine. Leprechaun: Back 2 tha Hood was better and more entertaining than this shit. The rating is for the two solid kills, the few humorous lines the movie possessed, and Spearritt.

2/10

If you want to hear me spew hate on this, check out our review from Fight Evil’s podcast, episode #33, as Chucky (@ChuckyFE) and I discuss this one.

The Lesson (2015)

The Lesson

Directed by Ruth Platt [Other horror films: N/A]

The United Kingdom has brought us this interesting, if not muddled, tale a few years back, though to little fanfare. The Lesson, though I rather liked it, seems the type of movie to divide those who see it – some will be bothered by the seemingly meandering first thirty minutes, while others may take issue with the last six minutes of the film as being unnecessary. Others still may not find the gore and torture to their tastes.

The centerpiece of the film was the lesson these two young men were forced to sit through, and overall, I actually thought much of what the insane teacher had to say was interesting. Of course, I’d be less fond of his intellectual discourse if he kept coming after me with a nail gun, and my best friend was bleeding to death beside me due to blunt-force trauma. Still, the focus of the film, being the teacher’s ramblings on how much of the youth have zero respect for learning, is an interesting one, and not altogether incorrect.

Before the torture, we get thirty minutes of our two main characters hanging out, talking about what they want to do in the future, robbing stores, disrespecting teachers’ vehicles, and smoking weed. In a way, I think the beginning really humanizes the characters – we get many a scene of the small things that make us human, such as being unsure as to what the future will bring, or the feeling of being trapped in one place, with no real prospects of leaving. Couple that with some pretty decent music throughout, and the horror portions aside, you have a rather moving drama film.

Personally, I thought most of the film worked well together, though I’ve heard others say that the movie didn’t know what it wanted to be. I disagree – I think the movie knew what it was going for, and it worked out pretty well. A few elements leave a bit to be desired, such as the subplot of one of the characters’ flashbacks of his mother, or a somewhat out-of-place romantic portion, and a scene near the end which was unrealistic, but overall, I think The Lesson worked out well.

The torture, though simplistic and lacking in variety (biggest change was when the teacher went from using a hammer and nail to using a nail gun), came across as pretty brutal, and some thumbs even got cut off in the process. It really was a bloodbath toward the end. What also should be mentioned is the final six minutes – it tacked an epilogue of sorts, and that’s something I’ve not really seen often in horror films. For that reason, it felt slightly out of place, but at the same time, came across as refreshing. The Lesson is not at all your typical horror film, but I enjoyed it quite a bit. If you want something different, this UK flick may be worth checking out.

8/10

Hellbound: Hellraiser II (1988)

hellraiser-ii-e1558485223431.jpg

Directed by Tony Randel [Other horror films: Children of the Night (1991), Amityville: It’s About Time (1992), Ticks (1993), Rattled (1996)]

As much as I enjoy this sequel, there’s no denying it lacks a bit of cohesiveness. Maybe a lot.

Immediately following the first movie, the first thirty minutes or so are decently fine (though I’ve never been a big Julia fan). But after a certain point, the movie takes a moderately odd turn once Kirsty (Ashley Laurence) and Tiffany (Imogen Boorman) enter the labyrinth. It feels a lot more disjointed, and some of the things that occur, I just don’t get (for instance, why does Channard immediately become the most powerful Cenobite there? – seems a bad idea, truth be told).

Which isn’t to say that Hellbound isn’t an enjoyable movie – it is. The special effects are fantastic, as are the multiple set pieces (the labyrinth, overall, looks damn cool). Some great ideas (though not fully developed) and badass lines (“We have an eternity to know your flesh,” not to mention, “Your suffering will be legendary, even in Hell”). It’s a fun, occasionally mindless, 80’s horror flick, so what’s not to love?

Elements feel, as I mentioned, underdeveloped. The whole idea that Cenobites were once humans themselves doesn’t really seem to mean much, and Channard’s power level seems off the charts, which seems a bad design for a newly-created Cenobite. What exactly Leviathan is, from my understanding, is never made clear, nor is what happens near the end (all you had to do was mess around with the puzzle more, and you destroy hell?). And then at the end, the pole popping up from the bed showing the tormented faces of Pinhead, Channard, Julia, etc, means what, exactly?

Visually-speaking, this movie is fantastic. Story-wise, it’s okay near the beginning (though not using Kirsty’s boyfriend from the first film certainly seems a noticeable weakness). Kenneth Cranham can be a little campy as his portrayal of Channard, and William Hope’s Kyle doesn’t really seem to have a point, but overall, most of the actors and actresses did fine. It’s just the lack of coherent plot that pulls it down a bit.

Common consensus, at least from my view, puts this movie around being just as good as the first one, and by-and-large, I don’t think that’s wrong. The first movie had a more streamlined plot, but I did like the almost epic feel this one had, or at least was aiming for. Despite my concerns, it’s still a solid movie. Just not as solid as the first.

7.5/10

Child’s Play 3 (1991)

Child's Play 3

Directed by Jack Bender [Other horror films: The Midnight Hour (1985)]

If Child’s Play 3 has any real drawback, it would be that it lacks some of the spirit of the first two flicks, along with possessing some occasionally shoddy acting. To be honest, though, again, I was moderately surprised by just how solid this movie was upon rewatch.

The main problem, as I alluded to, is that this flick lacks much of the magic of the first two. Why exactly that is, I’m not sure. It did, to a certain extent, feel a bit rushed, and while there was a kid in danger, being at a military academy, it’s hard to compare that to Andy being locked in a mental institution with Chucky coming after him. There were some tense scenes throughout, but nothing that much felt like the first two films.

As for the kid, Jeremy Sylvers, he did pretty well with his role, though not nearly as well as Vincent did. And the character Botnick, played by Andrew Robinson (who, interestingly enough, played Larry in Hellraiser) was a bit over-the-top, enough so to make his scenes feel rather ridiculous.

But plenty of other actors did quite well: Justin Whalin (Andy), Perrey Reeves (De Silva), Travis Fine (Shelton), Dean Jacobson (Whitehurst), Dakin Matthews (Cochrane), and Peter Haskell (Sullivan, the only familiar face from the last film) all did varying well with their roles, though somewhat problematically, none of them really stood out one way or the other.

The kills throughout the film were pretty damn good. Some slit throats, a good garbage truck crushing, slow motion bullet wound (during a fantastic war game sequence), Child’s Play 3 didn’t skimp out on gore. Even Chucky’s demise (at least, insofar as this movie goes) was beautifully bloody. And that heart attack scene? I’m still laughing at that. Related, I still get a kick out of the “Hide the Soul” game (originally brought up in the second film); I remember, even as a kid, how funny that was.

The whole ending sequence (from the war games to the carnival) was fantastically fun. The haunted house finale, while not as good as the final fight in the second film, was an absolute blast, which included heavy duty fans, swinging scythes, and a mountain of skulls. While this doesn’t possess the charm of the first two movies, Child’s Play 3 is still a very solid sequel and film, and any fan of the first two flicks would do well to check this one out.

8/10

This has been covered on Fight Evil’s podcast, episode #20. Listen to hear Chucky (@ChuckyFE) and myself discuss this one.

Hardware (1990)

Hardware

Directed by Richard Stanley [Other horror films: Dust Devil (1992), The Island of Dr. Moreau (1996, uncredited), The Theatre Bizarre (2011, segment ‘The Mother of Toads’), Color Out of Space (2019)]

I’ve seen this once before, but since I don’t even know how long ago that was, in many ways, this was virtually a new viewing.

Hardware is an interesting film. Partially, it’s an industrial nightmare, much like Tetsuo from a year earlier (though Tetsuo takes it to extremes Hardware doesn’t touch), and it’s at time’s artsy, but some real suspenseful action and horror sequences are thrown in also. It’s a gritty movie, and while it loses it’s enjoyment factor as it drags on, overall, it’s solid.

Set in one of the best post-apocalyptic Earth’s I’ve seen, Hardware is down and dirty, with a very mechanical, almost steam-punk, type vibe to it. The imagery and surroundings are really breath-taking, and certainly give the film a unique feel.

The acting isn’t always great, but two of the kills were on point. While it wasn’t often this movie voyaged into gory regions, when it did, it took no prisoners, and for those two scenes alone, any horror fan should give this flick a shot if they’ve not already.

As good as the deaths and atmosphere are, though, there are some glaring problems.

While the movie at first is going well, about ten minutes past the hour mark, you sort of want things to start wrapping up, but it’s not until twenty minutes later that they actually do. Part of this was, for me, because the first hour of the film is pretty enjoyable, but as it became increasingly experimental in flavor, I found myself not liking it as much the longer it went on. It just felt too long, and while the conclusion was satisfactory, it could have been 15 minutes shorter, at least, and still come out well.

When I first saw this flick, I probably didn’t like it. It’s not the type of movie a 14 or 15 year-kid would generally enjoy. And now, while I certainly find it an interesting ride, it’s still not amazing. It’s grittiness is well-done, but I didn’t enjoy Tetsuo that much, so this too was a mixed-bag. It’s a good movie with good gore, but as for a movie that I’d give repeated rewatches to? Nah, this ain’t it. Still worth at least one watch, though.

7.5/10