The Direct to Video Connoisseur
I'm a huge fan of action, horror, sci-fi, and comedy, especially of the Direct to Video variety. In this blog I review some of my favorites and not so favorites, and encourage people to comment and add to the discussion. If you click on an image, it will take you to that post's image page, which includes many more pics from the film and other goodies I couldn't fit in the actual review. For announcements and updates, don't forget to Follow us on Twitter and Like our Facebook page. If you're the director, producer, distributor, etc. of a low-budget feature length film and you'd like to send me a copy to review, you can contact me at dtvconnoisseur[at]yahoo.com. I'd love to check out what you got.
Friday, July 15, 2011
Midnight Movie: The Killer Cut (2008/2011)
This movie comes to us courtesy of the film's director, Jack Messitt, who sent me a copy of his Killer Cut for me to review, so I thank him for that. I haven't seen the original cut of the film, so I don't have a point of reference from which to compare the two, but according to him, if there's one I'm going to watch, this is the version. So without any further ado...
Midnight Movie is about a crazy man, Ted Radford (the baddie from Revenge of the Ninja), who is obsessed with the horror film he made back in the 70s. A psychologist examining him decides to show Ted his movie again, and all hell breaks loose, leading to a massacre at the mental hospital, and Ted missing. In the present, a cheap vintage movie theater has obtained a copy, and is giving it a midnight screening, prompting the investigating officer and the psychiatrist examining him to attend, hoping Ted will show up. Does he ever.
Okay, so the first 65 minutes or so, I'm thinking this is one of the best horror films I've seen in a long time. It had everything: a great roller coaster ride vibe, tension and sound effects that made me wish I was watching it in the theater, cool genre characters, funny jokes, and this really great interplay between the present and the 70s movie. But it's at the 65 minute mark, when it looks like the movie is over, that we're suddenly transported into this modern day torture porn, where the main heroine is strapped to a table and having her toes cut off. Whoa! Hey, hold the phone here! It was like the Patriots losing the Super Bowl a few years ago. They score a touchdown and go ahead, and I'm all excited, but my buddy's like "dude, there's still over a minute left", and then some scrub catches a football with his forehead and my dream is dead. It was the same thing here, I'm thinking the movie is ending, it was amazing, and it's as if that same friend were sitting next to me saying "dude, there's still almost 15 minutes left..."
So how then do we split the baby here? It's not hyperbole when I say that the first 65 minutes or so was some of the best horror I've seen in I don't know how long; but it's because horror has moved in this other direction-- the strapping a chick down and cutting off her toes direction-- that I find so little in modern horror that works for me. When the credits rolled with that SpikeTV UFC Fight Night metal band-style song, it was as if that first 65 minutes existed 15-20 years ago in another movie, and I had to remind myself how great that was in contrast to what I was seeing after. I just loved the way the bulk of the film dealt with the subject of horror movies and the whole "what if they're real?" phenomenon, the way we as kids were afraid to sleep after seeing Nightmare on Elm Street or go camping after Friday the 13th, and so to have it take such a left turn was disconcerting. It was almost like the best man toast that was so great-- until the best man mentions that guys' weekend in Vegas...
One of the things I loved about this was how well it played with the space of the old movie theater. The seats, the hallways, the basement, the bathroom, the projector room. I would've liked to see more of it actually, people's bodies dumped in the popcorn maker, or dropped from the balcony, or have their severed head stuffed in the toilet. But the essence of going to a smaller theater, the quaintness, the anti-consumerism/big budget Hollywood feel that we love about not going to the massive multiplex with stadium seating and 3D screens and $8 candy bars, was all there, and I appreciated that. Almost made me want to go to the movie theater again.
Another thing along those lines that really worked for me was the 70s-style horror movie that was shot and added into the film. The idea of the killer from a movie coming to life and killing everyone in the audience sounds like a very obvious place to go for writing a script, and something that could easily be mishandled and turned into a trite mess, but Midnight Movie did an excellent job with that aspect and actually went beyond to make it into something truly original and entertaining. It reminded me of how funny horror movies could be, but also how tense and scary, something that was a hallmark of the genre in the 80s and 90s, but isn't as common now.
The one DTV mainstay of sorts in the film was Arthur Roberts, who as I mentioned above played the main baddie in Revenge of the Ninja with Shô Kosugi. He's also done the David Bradley classic Hard Justice, and the Don "The Dragon" Wilson flick Capitol Conspiracy. Unfortunately he's gonzo after the first scene-- after he chews a chunk out of his wrist and writes some crazy crap in blood on the floor of the hospital. It's interesting that we had that over-the-top George Romero zombie-style gore there, then the bulk of the film is 80s/90s slasher style stuff, and then we wrap up with a little torture porn. You've probably figured out where my tastes lie when it comes to that stuff.
It's funny how the reviews here at the DTVC can dovetail in unexpected ways. The guy below is Daniel Bonjour. Doesn't ring a bell, does it? He played the annoying kid in yesterday's post, Project Shadowchaser II-- again, not an indictment on him, just an indictment on the roles kids have in action movies. He's grown up now, and gets to play the main heroine's boyfriend. There is a kid in this though, the main heroine's younger brother. Does my annoying kid rule apply to horror films? Pretty much. I can only think of two exceptions: Corey Feldman in Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter, and Danielle Harris in Halloween 4 and 5. I thought for a second this might be another exception, when it looked like the kid might have a part to play in the plot, but his contribution turned out to be a false resolution, leaving us back where we started. Overall, my pet peeve still stands: kids do more to hurt a film than help it; but I'll add the caveat here that the kid in this was closer to 50/50 hurt/help, as I'll get into below.
One of the things the horror film is most known for is the nude scene. A girl gets naked, and then she gets killed. This movie had a lot of women in it, all very attractive, but only one got naked, and in some ways that scene was used as a nostalgia or parody piece. Only the kid is in the theater for it, and he makes a special trip to sneak away to see it, very much like we all did at around his age, when we were too young to get porn, and there was no Internet for that kind of thing. As an adult it feels kind of perfunctory and gratuitous-- not that I'm complaining, just calling it like it is--, but this movie was able to capture that essence of twenty years ago, reminding me what the nude scene used to be to me, and that was really cool.
There was a lot of really cool about this movie, and for that reason, I'm going to recommend it. I personally thought the end hurt the overall quality, but until that point, I felt like the modern horror genre wasn't a complete lost cause, and that alone is pretty huge for me; and maybe you won't be as turned off by the toes cutting off either, it might just be my issue. I believe that the Killer Cut is not available from Netflix, only the original, so if you want to check out the Killer Cut you'll have to buy it, and I suggest you get it directly from the site, www.midnightmovie.com. The DVD has all kinds of extras, including the director's commentary, so you're getting a good amount for your money.
For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0981224/