Archive for the 'Review by Angela Englert' Category

Apr

Comments Off on Hellraiser

On May 19, 2015, Clive Barker unleashes the long-awaited The Scarlet Gospels on the world. It’s being billed as the last Hellraiser novel and Clive is spoiling us all by letting us know the Hell Priest Pinhead is getting deader than usual, for reals, forever, run up the curtain and joined the choir invisible.
At this point, I go fully Brainy Smurf and point out there has only been one Hellraiser novel, which was a novella called “The Hellbound Heart.” Although, yeah, Pinhead and his S&M monster sect, the Cenobites, were briefly mentioned in his novel Weaveworld as “the Surgeons.”
Really Pinhead and his homies were fleshed out in the movies, of which there are nine. Same number as levels of hell. Coincidence? We’ll see. In celebration/fearful expectation of The Scarlet Gospels, I’m going to watch all nine of these bad boys and review them all here. Assuming I’m not scrawling crosses on the wall in my own excrement by the time I get to “Hellraiser: Deader.”

The 80s gave us so many great monsters – Pumpkinhead, Chucky, the Leprechaun, Michael Myers, the Tall Man, Angela from “Sleepaway Camp” AND Angela from “Night of the Demons” – but Pinhead stands proudly in the winners circle of the greatest monsters of the Reagan years with his arms slung around Freddy and Jason, probably keeping them from going for round 2 against each other. His image is familiar to everyone. He has been on the Simpsons. Your mom knows Pinhead, and for once, that’s not a reflection on your mom. Although time, and so freaking many sequels, clouds the memory, and even if you are a fan, “Hellraiser” might not be entirely the movie you think you saw.
First off, in the novella that spawned it and the first movie, Pinhead and the Cenobites aren’t the Big Bads here, not really. It’s kind of like the first Friday the 13th and Jason’s mom. The real bad guy here is Frank Cotton, a smoldering bad boy hunk and sociopathic hedonist looking for the ultimate in transcendental sexytimes. And so he comes by the box, that iconic Rubik’s Cube of the damned, and retires to his dead mother’s house in London, fingering the box’s faces until the CGI kicks in. The prize inside, however, while not safe for work, is not so much sexytimes as total evisceration, courtesy of the Cenobites. But hey, he asked for it.
If he’s eviscerated, how is he the Big Bad, Angela? OK, fun story. Some indefinite time later, Frank’s brother Larry shows up with his frosty, semi-detached wife Julia in tow. Larry has a great new job in England and intends to reclaim the old homestead, also setting the stage for a fresh start with the pissy missus.
They tour the old house and find lots of Buddy Christ-grade religious iconography, presumably his mom’s, a kitchen given over to maggots, and some of Frank’s things, but no Frank. Not even pieces. The Cenobites love their work.
Larry dismisses it as his ne’er do well, and inexplicably more gorgeous, brother making a smooth criminal exit, but Julia, who was so icy towards her husband, suddenly gets her motor runnin’ and agrees to stay.
On moving day, in a really beautifully-done sequence – have I told you I love this movie? – Julia obsesses over Frank’s picture, and we get flashback mushy stuff as she gets all het up about how he seduced her before her wedding. While she’s, ahem, remembering, Larry and nondescript friends heft the marriage bed upstairs. In the process, Larry accidentally rips his hand open on a nail, and he goes to Julia for help, bleeding all over the floor of Frank’s room. The room Frank was eviscerated in. The floorboards suck the blood up like Karo syrup on a Brawny towel and Frank’s body begins to reconstitute itself underneath the floorboards. It is all very gelatinous and extensively foleyed.
Cut to a dinner party. Larry’s daughter Kirsty is there, and she is about horror movie heroine age and so beautiful. You guys, she is the proto Noxzema girl. Kirsty flirts with one of her Dad’s younger friends, who’s supposed to be British, but speaks with an American accent, and that troubles me at night sometimes. There’s booze and raucous cheer. Except —
Kirsty doesn’t like her stepmother Julia, and while the hostilities aren’t open, Julia is too distracted fantasizing about Frank to be a bitch. She leaves the party to go sniff around in Frank’s things and surprise! Her lover is back, sort of. Some of him. Larry’s blood was enough to bring Frank back to Slim Goodbody suit status, but he needs more. A lot more. Also skin. And he insists Julia help him.
Julia is torn between many competing emotions like so much chain-hooked body, and my God, Clare Higgins deserves an Oscar. Frank is a disgusting monster. But he is also Frank (who is a disgusting monster anyway, but she’s lust-blind to that.) And Frank is a terrifying monster, which both makes him intimidating and something to go screaming to your insignificant other about. And Clare gets all of this across beautifully with wild looks and halted breaths and trembling.
So, Julia consents to help Frank, and the way she’s going to help Frank is by luring men back to the house to bludgeon with a hammer and let Frank suck dry. She starts out very nervous, terrified really, of the men, of herself, and of course, of the thing sucking the marrow out of the guy she just whacked, good old Frankie-poo.
Meanwhile Noxzema Girl Kirsty has troubling dreams with more symbolism than an 80s Heart video, and she begins to worry about her dad. She also has a run in with a really weird guy in the pet shop she’s now working at, and while it’s probably par for the course in New York or L.A. or New Orleans, in England, I gather cricket-eating hobos staring hungrily at you is more of an event.
Kirsty eventually stumbles upon Julia and Frank’s white doughy Englishman abatement service and, after Frank leers at her real good, manages to steal the box and get out. She really does some prime horror movie heroineing here. But then she passes out, and wakes up in a hospital from dreams of a red blooming flower. Mm-hmm.
When a doctor tries to interrogate her, Kirsty insists she remembers nothing. She’s left to recuperate, with the puzzle box as a spur to her memory. So she does what everyone does when they’re left alone with the box and starts feeling it up to reveal its secrets. First, she manages to open a gateway to a fun slobbering, snapping thing that defies physics when it flies and has a stinger for a tail, but after she escapes, she meets the Cenobites. And the only thing the Cenobites want more than to play with Kirsty is to get Frank back.
As gory as it can be, the meat of this movie isn’t effects; it’s Julia turning into a monster for the sake of her love of Frank and it’s Frank being an inhuman bastard who has a 50/50 shot at sticking a knife or his penis in you, and even then probably not where you’d expect. It’s Larry’s marriage turning to ash in front of his hapless, loser eyes and it’s Kirsty being unable to save her father from his own mistakes. The Cenobites are hella memorable, but in this movie, they’re more of a force of nature being invoked by some terribly human appetites.

Also, the Cenobites aren’t clearly Satan-based demons here, despite the title. The Lead Cenobite (Pinhead to you) announces them as “angels to some; demons to others.” That was on the posters, and it’s pretty damn apt. They get to be both in this movie, and while there’s an oblique acknowledgment of hell, it’s arguable whether it refers to a literal Judeo-Christian hell. I’m making that point, because later films are going to go backsies on some of this. But as far as we know in the first movie, they’re just supernaturally-endowed swingers from another dimension.
This is a film Clive Barker made after seeing other filmmakers butcher material from a couple of his other short stories, and he basically said, [bleep], I’m going to do this my way, and it’s going to be awesome. And then he said, oh, [bleep], I don’t know what I’m doing. But he was wrong about that. It’s a tight script and he directs the hell out of it, including some really clever shots and setups. All the actors give it everything they’ve got. There are no limits. So decades later, it’s still scary and there’s not much like it; Phantasm probably is the only series I can think of with a similar feel. I do still have eight movies to go in my Hellraiser-a-thon, but I feel pretty safe saying if there’s one Hellraiser you should see, it’s this one.

roadside attractions

  • Piercing fetishes
  • Extreme maggot wrangling
  • American-dubbed British people because U.S. market
  • Chains of love
  • Guys getting hammered
  • Lots of ectoplasm. At least, I hope it’s ectoplasm.
  • Cannibalizing action
  • Full backal nudity
totals

10

blood

BLOOD

Everything that is inside eventually comes outside in this movie.

0

blood

BREASTS


…Except boobs. No boobs. If you don’t look away in time, you may see Frank’s junk though.

10

beast

BEASTS Big slobbering stinger-equipped monster, big flying pterodactyl-like monster, skinless Uncle Frank, and Cenobites for the win.

9 OVERALL Even with some dated SFX, the movie holds up and is still scary, provocative, and – why not say it? – artistically fulfilling. Check it the hell out.
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Watch the trailer to “Hellraiser”

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Mar

Comments Off on Baffled


Leonard Nimoy is so not Spock in “Baffled,” a movie that probably should have a spoiler tag on its opening credits. And it does have opening credits. That’s because “Baffled” was actually a failed TV pilot, and why it failed, I’ll never know. A paranormal mystery show starring Leonard Nimoy paired with a smart blonde and medium-high sexual tension? Nothing on TV in the 70s was as good as that, not even when they were drunk on “Match Game.” Plus the opening theme is just so rockin’.

Nimoy’s star turn here is as Tom Kovack, a charismatic Indy race car driver who discovers he has psychic visions when one abruptly sends him skidding into a near-fatal accident on the track. The vision itself just consists of tracking shots of an imposing English estate, slo-mo Vera Miles screaming, a hay wagon, a girl walking down stairs, and a woman’s voice repeating, “It’s Wyndham in Devon, dear.” Sadly, Peter Cushing is not in his pit crew.

The next day, Tom reluctantly tells a TV interviewer about his vision, because they didn’t know about pre-interviews in the 1970s the same way they didn’t know about colors other than brown and orange. Rare book dealer and out-of-his-league blonde Michelle Brent catches the interview on telly and is intrigued. Destined to be the Mulder to his Scully, the Giles to his Buffy, and the Diane to his Sam, she visits Tom and suggests that they go fight the forces of Vague Menace from his vision together. Skeptical Tom refuses the call to adventure, although not before trying to hit on her a couple times, so he’s still clearly Not Spock.

Adventure is at telemarketer levels of persistence though and zings Tom with another vision, this time leaving him drenched in saltwater in the middle of his hotel room – a little something for the ladies. He follows up with Michelle and the two of them take a sabbatical from gainful employment and real lives to go Scooby it up at the manor house, also a vacation spot, Wyndham in Devon.

The manor house entertains several guests apart from our heroes, but the focus of mystery and the girls of Tom’s dreams, so to speak, are film star Andrea Glenn (“special guest star Vera Miles” ) and her daughter Jennifer. Andrea and Jennifer have arrived at Wyndham to meet with Andrea’s estranged husband and Jennifer’s dad, English actor Duncan Sanford. Now of all the things this movie presents as weird or uncanny, this is the only disturbing part to me, and it’s something we’re expected to just sort of roll with. The actress playing Jennifer is clearly old enough to drive, if not vote, but she’s playing a 12-year-old. That’s not the weird part. She’s also a 12-year-old who wears pigtails and carries around a stuffed animal and calls her mother “Mommy.” But that’s still not the weird part.

The weird part is this: Andrea has not seen Duncan in all that time, her daughter’s entire life, and Jennifer claims never to have met her – sigh – “Daddy.” I get that Andrea and Duncan are split up and she’s in America and he’s in England, but for a world-famous actress, hopping across the pond to visit the father of your child shouldn’t be that big a deal, should it? At least once? And if Duncan is such an ogre that he doesn’t want to meet his own daughter, why does Jennifer glowingly idealize him? She doesn’t even know what he looks like. How is that possible in the 20th century? And Andrea doesn’t seem to be protecting Jennifer from any other details of her rocky relationship with Duncan. Am I giving too much thought to this? Yes. Yes, I am. But it’s weird, right?

Then after all that, Duncan fails to show up to greet Andrea and Jennifer as planned anyway. Jerk.

As soon as he arrives, Tom of course recognizes Andrea and her daughter from his visions. He and Michelle then set about digging up information on them and the other guests, since the evil at Wyndham is still pretty ill-defined. All they’ve got is Tom’s vision of Andrea screaming. I mean, Andrea could have been screaming at anything – a spider, the minibar bill, a lunatic dressed as his mother with a butcher knife, anything. Could the vague menace be the groovy young newlyweds? Or maybe it’s the Italian guy? The standard issue English butler? And what’s up with the diffidently bitchy owner of the manor house, Mrs. Farraday? She’s de-aging like so much Cher. That’s not right.

Meanwhile, Jennifer secretly meets with her Dad, who insists Jennifer wear a gaudy medallion with a wolf’s head on it, but not tell her mother about it or him until he says so. So clearly nothing going on there.

Poor, stood-up Andrea tries to locate her husband, fails, and soon suffers the onset of Sudden Gothic Heroine Syndrome, with the usual hallucinations, gauzy nightgown-clad fleeing, and sudden, debilitating illnesses that keep you from grabbing your daughter and getting the hell out. Jennifer goes from Cindy on the Brady Bunch to the 70s equivalent of Miley twerking in the course of a couple days. Tom and Michelle Scooby hard, but the red herrings keep throwing up false positives for Tom’s untested psychic gifts. Plus they find themselves on the wrong side of the Vague Menace and have to save themselves over and over, although I do have to say having seen this, it’s less them saving themselves and more the Vague Menace not following through on its evil plans. You’ve got Michelle alone in the back of a truck and unconscious. Finish it! What, is this your first insidious Satanic plot?

The movie goes on, probably for about 15 minutes and 2 red herrings too long. It would have been a great TV episode though. I envision Roddy McDowall and Donald Pleasance as evil cultists in later episodes. Sadly, the only “Baffled” we got was this one, which is both too much and not enough, thanks to the meandering plot and extremely Vague Menace. It may still be worth your time with caveats: basically if you love Leonard Nimoy or you just want something on in the background to fall asleep to.

roadside attractions

  • A chase scene with no power steering
  • Wheelchair-based combat
  • Looking deep into Leonard Nimoy’s soulful brown eyes
  • Rear projection psychic projection
  • All the turtlenecks the 1970s had to offer
totals

0

blood

BLOOD

For all the foreboding, most violence stays offscreen and at Nancy Drew levels.

1

blood

BREASTS

There’s some dowager décolletage, but that’s less titillating than a 2-second glimpse of Nimoy’s treasure trail.

1

beast

BEASTS

No beasts to speak of, only surprisingly spry old ladies.

1.5 OVERALL But add 6 points if you have ever read Spock slashfic. 8 if you’ve written it.
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Watch the trailer to “Baffled”

trailers

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