Tuesday, April 16, 2013
Quick Review: The Man With the Iron Fists
Review: I was very excited when this movie came out. It looked like it was right up my alley with it's over the top kung-fu action that was promised in the trailer. I meant to see it right away but didn't get around to it until now via redbox.
Well I think I raised my expectations a little too high. From what I could tell this was going to be an insane, over the top, non-stop action flick based around grindhouse era kung fu. I was partially right. The beginning opened with a bang. It is a huge, bloody fight with some great organic effects for the most part. Sadly this was one of the most exciting parts of the movie. Once this was done there was surprisingly little action for a movie billed as an action movie. Now one cannot expect these to literally be non-stop action ala Crank. But I felt that a bit too much story was shoved down your throat. It felt more like a Chinese historical period piece at times, actually, but with some urban attitude from RZA.
Now I wouldn't consider the story bad, just a bit lost. I like these Chinese war stories of battling kingdoms and clan, I think they're exciting and they take me into a different culture that I'm not used to (makes me wonder why I've never gotten into the Romance of the Three Kingdoms games), in other words it's not WWII from an American perspective AGAIN! But I think the main problem was that RZA may have been trying a little too hard in his writing. It states on the movie's IMDB trivia page that he and Eli Roth worked on this story over the course of two years. That on top of hearing the rough cut of the movie was 4 hours long and at one time considered to be two movies means there's a lot of information missing. I even watched the extended cut so I can only wonder how butchered the original, theatrical version was. If you're gonna have story in an action movie that's okay, just make it more engaging and less crammed, that will make the action sequences even more satisfying cause they are fighting for something you actually care about.
Which of course brings me to the action sequences. The scene in the beginning and at the end were pretty balls to the wall amazing in their stunts. Blood and guts everywhere with awesome choreography and use of many types of blades and other weapons. But the problem is that a lot of the best material was either at the start of the movie or the end of the movie. There were a few things here and there in-between but it was very brief. And again it's not a big deal if a movie like this doesn't have a ton of action as long as the little of it is effective, but the way this was advertised gave off a bit of an unrealistic expectation. A little like Immortals a couple years back. Both this and that should have been more awesome than they were, but they depended too much focus of little elements that make up the movie as a whole.
Then the last thing I wanted to talk about were the performances, which weren't really there. Everything felt bland and forced. Probably one of the better performances was from Russell Crowe but I felt he was just acting like himself throughout anyway. Not to mention his character felt really out of place and didn't belong. Also, I felt it was very narcissistic for RZA to play the lead role as the blacksmith. He should have put more of a focus on his directing and to get someone who can carry a fight scene better. Watching him fighting was... really awkward. It was just... so... I can't quite put my finger on it but it felt weird. Everyone else was pretty much forgettable with the exception of Lucy Liu who is typically pretty awesome at what she does. Definitely not an acting power house here.
I was just really disappointed with something that should have been better. In the end it should have been longer to flesh out it's rushed and un-identifiable story. And the idea of making it two movies would have been pretty sweet and could have been another Kill Bill type scenario, but with a new ip from a director who doesn't exactly have a lot of credit as a director doesn't give a lot of hope in the business for it to be released that way. Hence why Kill Bill DID get to do that right off the bat and this didn't.
It certainly wasn't all bad. Like I did say earlier there was some pretty amazing fight sequences here. Also a lot of the ideas with the characters and the story were really neat. The contrast of elements between the man made of brass and the man with the iron fists for example. Also how he got to the point of iron fists isn't what I was expecting, but in a good way. Then lastly the story of how RZA got to China by fleeing the slave driven south in early America was also really cool. I did enjoy that. It's just a shame these elements weren't fleshed out more or given better attention to make it all a better movie as a whole.
In the end it's another case of somewhat false advertising. That and trying to cram too much movie into too little time, even in the extended cut. That may not even be RZA's fault though, that could be Universal talking. However what was put out there was not as good as it could have been potentially. I could talk more on it but it would just be more repetitious than anything. Maybe I need to see it again to appreciate what it is instead of harping on why it wasn't what I wanted it to be. But forcing myself to like it won't make me like it any more. Maybe again eventually down the line when I'm up to it. Until then I'll just live with the disappointment I had for what this could have been.
Tuesday, April 9, 2013
Review: Evil Dead
Version I Watched: Only one available right now, went to see it in theatres.
History: This is something that was in the works for quite some time. An idea of a remake was going on for years but it was somewhat abandoned around 2009 because it wasn't really going anywhere. However two years later Bruce Campbell himself confirmed that it was up and running. This is the first not to be directed by Sam Raimi. Instead it was written and directed by Fede Alvarez with Diablo Cody working on revisions of the script. While seen mostly as a remake there is some ambiguity about it's connection to the original based on comments from the director. It has already spawned theories about it actually being Evil Dead 4. Bruce Campbell was offered to have a cameo but he declined. Just this last weekend for it's opening it brought in $26 million dollars which is pretty good since the budget for this was approx. $17 million. It has been receiving some mixed reviews but mostly positive. A sequel is already in the works.
Personal History: Seen the movie this is based on quite a few times. But I saw this the Saturday after it opened so I can't say I have any history with this. This was my first (but far from last) viewing.
Review: I told myself just before I sat down to write this that I was going to try my best to not make comparisons to the original. And while I'm not going to make direct comparisons, there were some things in that realm that I wanted to talk about. Kinda hard to not think of the old version when a remake of a classic like The Evil Dead comes around.
Going into this I wouldn't say I had high expectations. With almost every movie I wouldn't say I have high expectations, mostly because I can feel out whether I'll like something or not without knowing a whole lot about it. However I was fiercely pumped to see this one. This is the type of pumped I get only every once in a while for something. Maybe only once or twice a year to be completely honest. But to keep my excitement high I didn't want to risk having things potentially jaded or spoiled for me. All I ever saw for this remake before buying my ticket was the awesome poster (with a tagline that raises your expectations quite a bit, a lot like the Saw V poster) and a few screenshots. A buddy of mine told me to watch the red band trailer, but I honestly don't watch trailers anymore unless it's for something I'm unfamiliar with and need something to tell me if I'll like it or not. So I didn't know what to expect outside of new visions of old tricks from the original movie.
Speaking of trailers, I was surprised to see that there were none before my screening. It didn't even have the "Welcome to our theatre" video play before the show. Not sure why, maybe they had a schedule or something. In a way it made the experience more unique. Also the location of the screen I saw it on. Depending on the size of the theatre you usually go to you may not know what I mean but bear with me. Some of the bigger theatres tend to have varying sizes in screens and seats. Lots of times in the main lobby there will be a larger screen in a room with many more seats, usually reserved for the big blockbusters when they first come out. Then sometimes you'll have screens at the end of a long hallway with a slightly smaller screen and less seats where sometimes older movies will play because the concern of having enough seats isn't as present. Now I'm not sure why Evil Dead was playing on one of these smaller screens but it was at the showing I went to. In a way I appreciate this more along with the lack of trailers because of the experience I feel it should have. With horror it makes more sense to watch it in an out of the way and isolated area instead of on the big main screen where everyone is crunching on their popcorn and playing with their phones while the 15 year old girls who snuck in are screaming every five minutes because of a jump scare. You know what I mean? No? Well, fuck it, let's move onto the actual review.
Over the past couple days I've been revisiting some older horror movies, and by older I mean the late 70s. One night I watched Dawn of the Dead and the next night I watched Zombie (or Zombi 2, or Zombie Flesh Eaters, or whatever the hell it's called in your region). Certainly a different perspective and style of horror than kids these days are used to. And while Dawn of the Dead drops you right into the action and keeps things exciting, Zombie on the other hand is pretty slow in the beginning. The first zombie shows up quickly but the rest of the zombies take quite a while to get there. There are tons of examples from many eras of horror where it just takes way too long to get to the horror. And I don't mean get's to the blood and guts. I'm talking about the 30+ minutes of partying in movies like Wolf Creek and Hostel (and those are more recent examples) before it gets to anything resembling a sense of terror in the tone. So when Evil Dead starts off with a possession and ritual it was clear that they weren't intending on burying the lead. After that all that needed to be done was to establish the characters and the reason they're at the cabin and BOOM off and running. One thing I was glad to not be disappointed in is what would come over the next hour plus.
There were some unique and clever approaches to the plot and how the story handled itself this time around. This version of the story revolves around five friends, one of which is a recovering dope addict and her friends hope to help cure her while they're away at this cabin. One thing you may not notice unless your told is this. The characters names are David, Eric, Mia, Olivia, and Natalie... in other words... D.E.M.O.N. Although that's more of an Easter egg than anything else. Basically Mia is David's sister and she is the drug addict (and most of the bad stuff happens to her as you'll be able to predict easily). Now what I liked about this approach is not only did it get away from the cliche of a bunch of teens going away for the weekend to party, but also it brought something of a medical approach to it. Olivia is a registered nurse. So when shit starts to go down and Mia starts acting strange there is naturally a medical explanation for her behavior. She is, after all, going through an insanely tough withdrawal. It wouldn't be odd for her to have freak outs and do crazy shit. So of course you'll have plenty of freak out moments almost literally screaming at the screen from their ignorance. It's expected for this genre. There would be no horror genre if it weren't for bad decisions. Outside of those three peeps Eric is the dickwad who reads the book that brings the demon out. And then Natalie is David's girlfriend but she barely has a presence outside of a big scene later in the movie. Feels like she's there to serve as a blonde to look at and then a potential kill.
Now what I REALLY liked about this approach was the new approach to the book of the dead. I haven't watched the original in some time but I remember that after the stupid kids read from the book it brought forth the demon and then all hell broke loose. Pretty simple. In this one on the other hand it expanded on the book of the dead, presenting a ritual that lasted throughout the entire movie. This is previewed in the beginning when a ritual is done to cleanse the soul of another demon possessed girl (by burning her to death). So over time we're presented with new drawings from the book to expand on why Mia is doing the things she's doing. It's a part of the ritual that gives the demon more power over their host. Although some of it is a bit bizarre and frankly quite convenient if you ask me. I'm also thinking of when the book was originally written an eternity ago. I wonder how it was originally used because it feels like this ritual is self inflicting. But I can see how it could be done against someone by force. Now I'm diving too far into something that has no bearing on the story at hand. Basically once the initial possession happens Mia has lost control of herself. The demon pretty much takes over right away with little to no control from Mia herself.
Which brings me to something that some of you readers may be wondering. This is going to sound sadistic but I bet you're wondering if the infamous tree rape scene is in this version of the story. Well... yes. It was of course approached a bit differently because of the new interpretation. Basically Mia slips and falls into a big pile of spiky tree branches that grab her arms and legs, holding her tight. Then a bizarre, horrific looking woman appears in front of her and a long black vine comes dripping out of her mouth. The black vine slithers it's way up Mia's skirt, basically getting the demon in via rape. It felt more intense than the original rape I remember, making it a bit more unsettling.
Then for the last bits of new interpretations was the way the demon traveled from person to person. It didn't just simply jump. It traveled more like the plague in a zombie story. Not long after Mia gets full blown possessed she tackles Olivia and vomits a fire hose's worth of blood all over her. This caused the demon "disease" to spread via a bacteria approach. Similar things happen at different points of the film. When I thought about it initially it did seem odd since this involves a being from the other side. But it does make more sense since there's already worldly limitations to the demon's power and abilities based on the ritual that goes along with it. At the early point of the ritual it would seem odd for the demon to be so overpowered already. None the less it was a new way to meld two types of horror elements together making for a nice blend. I was a fan of it. Better than just having the demon jump from person to person. Something like that always seems to make the demon seem so powerful only doesn't choose to use their power when they could.
Now if I had to describe this movie in one word it would be wet. It seems like it almost every scene something looks or feels moist. In the opening scene alone there is a very thick fog. Then it seems like in half the scenes it is raining outside. Because of this the characters are running around without grabbing a towel to dry off and they all just look wet. Then the cabin is old and damp because it's seen much better days. A bunch of the wood that makes the cabin is falling apart because of the moisture over the years. This is on top of all the blood that is shooting everywhere constantly which adds another element to wetness to it. Not an actual complaint, but it was a similar effect to wanting to go home and shave after seeing the piss colored beard Markie Mark and George Clooney have in The Perfect Storm. Although I will say there was one part in particular that I appreciated the rain. But that's in the last scene and I don't want to spoil that. Did not see it coming, though. And it did add an element of insanity to the movie as a whole. It certainly made it look good.
And speaking of looking good, the effects in this were incredible. I was excited more than anything else knowing there was going to be as many organic effects as possible. Online there are claims that computers were only used for touch ups but I highly doubt that. The opening scene when a possessed girl is burned alive does not look very natural. It looks very computery. Everything else on the other hand looked great. Just about everything was done with props or really well done makeup. I'm specifically thinking of the scenes with dismemberings. It all looks amazing. They are not clean cuts, either. You see bone, veins, everything. It's all a rough looking thing for them to do and it is heightened by the effects used. It's all very cringe worthy and honestly looks about as real as it can be (in a stylized way for a horror movie of this type).
I can say for sure that I adored this movie. Sadly horror tends to be a genre that has a greater rarity of actual quality over other genres. It's way easier to name, let's say, five awesome comedies in any given year than it is to name five awesome horror movies in any given year. I feel lucky that a few years ago we got the incredible Paranormal Activity, and then a few years later came Cabin in the Woods, but other than that there wasn't a whole lot to write home about. This was easily not only one of the better horror movies in recent memory but also one of the better horror remakes. It can be somewhat compared to when Dawn of the Dead was remade. A horror classic got a modern redo, and you know what, it was surprisingly awesome. And this is another case. It had a lot of the elements of the original but adapted for a modern audience. Also it was a lot more serious than the original. But the original was unintentionally hilarious at parts so it's good that it didn't have that present. But best of all it was no holds barred. The filmmakers weren't afraid to take it to the level it needed to go to. It wasn't tainted, it wasn't watered down, it was full blown hardcore hard R horror. It was gore-tastic! This one is really not for the faint of heart. There is stabbing, slicing, beating, the use of an electric turkey carver and a chainsaw, there's fire, boiling hot water, and enough dismembering to keep the prosthetic limbs business going for quite some time. Guts and gore everywhere. What a ride!
One thing I couldn't help thinking about during all this gore was perspective. The original movie was pretty intense for it's time. It was released without a rating but in recent years it was formally given a rating of NC-17. It had a ton of violence and of course the infamous tree rape scene. There have been multiple versions released with different cuts, usually depending what region you find it in (in the states the most common version is uncut so don't worry). Lastly it was one of many horror titles to make the UK's video nasty list in the early 80s. Keeping that in mind, this interpretation of the story did initially get rated NC-17 causing for some cuts to achieve an R (which means an unrated DVD is on the way!), but the amount of blood and violence overall is easily far more intense than the original movie yet this is only an R. Matter of perspective of course. Just a bit bizarre. A modern perspective will do that I guess.
And speaking of modernizing, sadly there were elements of it being modernized that didn't work out so well for it. The main problem I'm talking about is the cinematography and the editing. I was disappointed to see but shouldn't have been disappointed when the more intense scenes had the MTV/Michael Bay look to them. This was first present in the scene when Olivia is attacking Eric just after she was possessed. There were so many closeups, shaky cams, and quick cuts that they may as well have been in a butcher's kitchen throwing wet and bloody meat around while the camera was zoomed in as far as it would go. I know this has been done in recent years to make things more exciting, but instead it makes it more confusing. Also it doesn't make it scarier. It just makes it messier. It would have been way more unsettling to set it pulled farther back. Seeing each strike as it actually happens in real time instead of going from one angle to another to another to another really quickly. Not much else to say on this subject. If you've seen just about any movie that has action in it over the last few years you already know what I'm talking about.
Then there were some story and style directions they took that I was not a fan of as well. One of these things was the cliches throughout the story. I realize this was based on an 80s slasher flick but if other parts can be updated then why not update the plot? So many stupid horror cliches are present here, such as being withing reach of ending everything but one little thing happens that causes the hero to not go through with the kill. But ironically on top of this some of those stupid choices were done forcibly for the purpose of the proposed story moving forward. There were so many times when someone could have ended it all without an issue but then nothing that happened after it would be able to happen. It does take me out of it because it felt more like the story was going in the direction it think it needs to go instead of how it should go. Granted I loved what happened at the end of the movie, I just wish they had a better route of getting there.
Also, could there be just one demon possession movie these days where the demon isn't a variation of what the demon sounded like in The Exorcist? C'mon, be more original than the deep raspy voice, it's not even scary anymore.
All in all this was an awesome flick despite the downsides. It was very intense, very violent, and a good homage to the original it was based on. A good way to give a modern perspective on it is that it's a more serious toned Cabin in the Woods but without the secret society and giant gods threatening to destroy earth. I highly recommend this one for horror fans. But keep in mind it is far from being for everyone. With how much gore is in this it'll be mostly appealing to those who can stomach this. I can imagine quite a few people having trouble getting through it because of it's insanely intense violence. So approach with caution. But otherwise if you can take it then I say go for it. And if it helps this movie has no sex and surprisingly very little swearing. Just something I noticed. In the end it's well worth your money. And when you do go you can think over how this could potentially be a loose sequel and that it could be the same cabin as in the original story. You can hypothesize with all the other fans on how it's connected.
Thursday, April 4, 2013
Version I Watched: Recently upgraded from the VHS edition I've had for years to a blu-ray copy. Picked it up for a good deal paired with The Crew, another comedic mobster movie.
History: With a budget of $10 Million it was able to earn back triple that at just over $30 Million worldwide. It was met with mostly negative reception upon it's released. The movie's original, full title is Jane Austen's Mafia! It's kept in the title card at the beginning of the movie but for the most part it's been removed from the movie's home video box art. This was, strangely enough, because of confusion and the audience just not getting the joke. While this is technically Llyod Bridge's last movie, the movie he made just before this one (Meeting Daddy) was released two years later.
Personal History: I have seen this one a lot. Not as many times as other titles like this one (Naked Gun for example), but one I appreciate and still laugh at.
Review: The age of a good spoof comedy is pretty much behind us. Either that or we're waiting for a new advent of quality in the spoofs that come up. There was something special that happened to comedic films between the late 70s and early 90s. These comedies came out that were not just a parody but took their comedy in a completely different direction than comedies that came before. And I think the best way to describe it is "realism." Most comedies, while not realistic in every sense, are still grounded in reality. The spoofs I'm referencing that were made famous by Jim Abrahams, the Zucker Brothers, and Mel Brooks are hilarious not just because they deliver their jokes straight faced but also because they sacrifice realism for a gut bursting laugh. Let me go even farther into what I mean. I mean jokes like in Airplane II when a character says, "You're putting those people up there in Jeopardy!" And cut to a shot in the plane and the passengers are literally playing Jeopardy. No attention brought to it before or after, it's just there for the sake of a joke. These are some of my favorite types of movies but there hasn't been a good one in years. The last one that came close was one of the earlier Scary Movies and even looking back on those they are not as good as I remember. Somewhere in the 90s was when this type of movie lost it's charm. There were still some good ones released but you could tell it was on it's way out. One of them was Wrongfully Accused, and another was Mafia.
In case you haven't noticed up to this point this movie is specifically a spoof of The Godfather. It has jokes rooted from or referencing other titles as well but for the most part it's in with the Italian gangster movies. This is seen right off the bat with Jay Mohr doing his best Italian impersonation giving the opening narration just as he starts up a car that explodes. As the story continues it jumps between the past and the present in a way like The Godfather Part II. The movie opens with Vincenzo Cortino (Lloyd Bridges) as a child and coming to America. It's a great parody of the childhood scenes from the Godfather and it also makes me think of Johnny Dangerously, another fantastic gangster comedy flick. This section has one of my favorite, small, visual jokes. When Vincenzo tries to make it to the boat that will take him to America, and he eventually jumps in to swim after it, you'll see that the boat is named Il Pacino. Love it. This beginning portion does have it's hits and misses and I don't feel is as strong as the rest of the movie's jokes, but there still are some here that I adore and it does make for at least a good beginning. Abrahams even had a joke as a throwback to Airplane! at the immigration office, "The white zone is for white people only."
And that's what I love about these types of movies. The level of wackiness. They have a great combination of wacky humor but telling it with a straight face. Rarely in this do I feel someone is "trying" to be funny. And that's not just something that's strong with just these types of comedies but comedy in general. Think about some of the straight jokes told in this lesser spoof comedy and how much funnier they are than a supposedly wonderful Adam Sandler movie where he is making goofy noises and faces left and right. Not to mention that this movie also uses their making fun of as a jumping off point. Then they make a lot of their own jokes with certain references mixed in. Unlike stuff like Date Movie which is essentially 90 minutes of references and surprisingly next to no jokes. Take the scene when we're first introduced to the casino inside and out. We're given the usual games like blackjack, etc, but we're also given the joke ones. They had craps where the dice literally turned to crap when the player rolled craps. And then there's the Guess the Number game. "Sorry, I was thinking of 3." Groans all around.
I don't want to just make this a listing of the jokes I thought were funny. But outside of that I'm trying to think what all to talk about. Since this is a comedy (and a niche comedy at that) it's all so subjective. Normally these movies don't have the highest production quality, but that's easily forgiven if the filmmakers make you laugh. Then the performances tend to not be award worthy, passable at best, but that's again not a big deal as long as it makes you laugh. However I will say that I greatly enjoyed Lloyd Bridges performance. In a way during this era of comedies he could be seen in a similar manner as Leslie Neilson. After years of serious work they both decide in old age to get into comedies. What they then do is bring their dramatic experience to their performance and let the dialogue/story do the work. Lloyd Bridges was just as funny as he was in Hot Shots! and Airplane!. He brings that educated performance to something that is downright silly. It enhances the experience as a whole. Also as a side note, this was his final film and it was dedicated to him. Some may consider that a bummer that this was the last thing he did, I like to look at it as he went out laughing.
Now onto the bad. Like I said earlier this was when this type of comedy was on a downfall. This just didn't have what some of the earlier titles of the same nature had. Even the National Lampoon's attempt at spoofing Lethal Weapon was a stronger candidate as a whole and that was a weaker title in the midst of some of the classics from the 80s. The signs that this type of comedy was on it's way out is seen in bits and pieces here and there. In the past when next to all the comedy was done in a very "matter of fact" type way. Meaning it didn't feel the need to present it in a way that will stop the movie to focus on the joke (i.e. The red and white zone bit at the beginning of Airplane! Nobody is reacting to it and there's music in the background. It's all done very straight.) Sadly Mafia had a few instances of really "trying" to be funny and makes groaner references to other movies. Most obvious example is a Forrest Gump reference that is so forced it almost hurts. A similar feeling came from a Scarface joke where a man says the famous line, "Say hello to my little friend." and a midget comes out with a gun and starts firing. The forced jokes are more than just references but there were enough to make the audience cringe with how forced the jokes feel.
My next complaint is something I don't feel I should have an issue with but I do is the overall plot. Since The Godfather films were long and complicated and this one is making a parody of that plot there are elements of it here. However it tells a story in 80+ minutes instead of three, 3 hour movies. Since it jumps back and forth in time things can get surprisingly confusing. But it's not because the story is actually complicated, it just isn't presented very well. It winds up feeling more like a sketch movie with all the same characters and themes. I'm not looking for something artsy, just a bit more coherent. Other comedies like this had more straight forward plots than this one. Just one of those things I noticed more than ever on this most recent viewing.
Despite the bad I still recommend you check this one out. I can guarantee it's better than the more recent comedies of this style, like A Haunted House or Scary Movie 5. Not as strong of a spoof comedy as the Naked Gun movies or Airplane! But it's certainly a hell of a lot better a Godfather parody than The Godson was. What a joke of a comedy was that (pun slightly intended). Besides, with Mafia! you get to see a horse projectile vomit.
Tuesday, April 2, 2013
Review: The Burning
Version I Watched: Much older VHS copy. I think telling you it is in full screen goes without saying.
History: This was actually the first film produced by Bob and Harvey Weinstein who now run The Weinstein Company, as one would figure. The film did cause a bit of controversy when it was first released because of its violence. Depending on which version you get from what region it may or may not be slightly cut. Although if you pick it up in the states you're pretty safe with getting the uncut edition. However in the UK it's a different story because this was a part of the Video Nasty list back in the 80s (Working on a stand alone post for that subject). This was also an early piece of work for the famous makeup artist Tom Savini, as well as early work for the now famous Jason Alexander and Holly Hunter. The film was produced for $1.5 million and is now considered a classic and a bit of a cult hit.
Personal History: This is my first viewing. I have only read about this one before.
Review: This title was actually one of the first ones I intended to review way back when I first started this whole blog thing. Well, the draft has been collecting dust for too long so it's time I get cracking on this! I have been for a while putting aside and trying to watch all the movies I haven't watched since buying them. Whether I've seen the before or not I've been putting together a pile to go through. It makes it pretty clear that I buy more often than I actually have time to watch. Probably should slow down for a little while. Anyway, getting to the movie.
I think kids and teens in the early 80s were going to summer camp a lot. This is one of multiple slasher flicks that takes place at a summer camp along with Friday the 13th and Sleepaway Camp, both of which were made within a couple years of another. But the number one questions is, what sets this apart from the other summer camp slashers? Honestly not a whole lot. It should come as no surprise that I found this to be very by the numbers. Unsuspecting victim gets accidentally hurt, recovers, is out for revenge on those who did it, finds a group similar to the people who did it, starts taking them out one by one, a lone survivor finds the strength to defeat this evil, everyone goes home, but is it really the end? I basically told you everything that happened in that one sentence. But these types of movies usually aren't made to stand out. They're cheap thrills are a fun way to spend 90 minutes. It's the same reason sports fans buy the new version of Madden every year. It's essentially the same game only slightly changed, but it still provides hours of fun because sometimes more of the same is just fine.
I will say that one of the best parts of the movie was used up within the opening scene. What opens the story is a group of young guys in the middle of the night go off to play a prank on a man who they seem to hate. It's never made 100% clear to why they have a beef against him outside of that he appears to be a bit of a dweeb, but you can tell they are annoyed enough by him to play a prank on him for their own sick pleasure. Basically they go to his one person cabin, sneak into place and places right next to his bed a decaying skull with flames lit in the eye holes. The man freaks out naturally but then it lights the entire cabin on fire, including the man inside. He then bursts out completely engulfed in flames and then falls down a hill. It's a pretty brutal what appears to be death but the next scene takes place in the hospital. How he lived through that I don't know but you really need to set logic aside in movies like these. Now what made this one of the best parts is because the effect was amazing. Since this was the early 80s computer effects were far from the norm. So when the man bursts out of the cabin engulfed in flames you know it's real. Well, real in the sense that a man put on a special suit, lit himself on fire for real, and then acted out the damage. It looks incredible and is a perfect example of why organic effects look way better than computer. I love it so much I want to show you myself so here's a clip! (The part I'm talking about starts at 4:30).
Unlike some of the other slashers out there this one doesn't rely on the supernatural, just the unlikely. The intensity of this man's injury did put him in the hospital for five years. Yet as soon as he gets out he's pretty agile and can be a serial killer with no problem at all. As a matter of fact he lets out his killer rage on what appears to be his first night out of the hospital. Our burnt boy picks himself up a hooker only to viciously kill her when he gets her alone. That, and then the set up and quick scenes at the hospital all happened over the course of ten minutes, maybe fifteen at best. What comes next is my biggest beef with slashers of this era. There isn't a single kill or sign of the killer for approx the next thirty to forty minutes. I just get so deathly bored by so many of these movies because there's way too much time spent on a group of teenagers we just wanna see killed anyway. I realize if they didn't do this then these movies would be half the length, and that's a bit underwhelming. So I guess I shouldn't complain since it does make me more grateful for the kills when they do happen.
One thing they did have that some of the other summer camp slashers didn't have, and this was a surprise to me, was kids. There were actually kids there and the camp was actually in session. Usually it's about the counselors getting the camp ready while they screw and drink the entire time. This time there's actually kids. Not that it makes much of a difference in the end anyway. Things still play out as you would expect them to.
One thing I'm always interested in is the weapon of choice for the killer. I like it when they're more creative with their kills instead of the traditional knife. Freddy's got that glove with the blades on the fingers, Leatherface uses a chainsaw, the puppets in Puppet Master have a whole arsenal of stuff, all adding creativity to different slashers. In The Burning the weapon of choice was certainly a unique one. He used a hedge trimmer. I actually kinda dug this. The variety of what can be done with it is a bit limited, but has enough creativity to make you wonder. For example it could just be a simple stab with the blade open or closed. Or as you may be looking for is body parts to be chopped off. One scene in particular was pretty vicious a little bit past the halfway point was when he massacred an entire group of kids on a small boat. He didn't just stab them all, though. He was cutting off fingers, blood was flying everywhere, it was pretty hardcore. It also is one of the reasons this was on the video nasty list in the UK. I don't know if what I watched was the uncut version. Since it's such an obscure VHS copy it's hard to say. Probably was uncut since it appears to be an American copy.
Otherwise the kills weren't too out of the ordinary. This was before Friday the 13th had it's seventh sequel when things were going really crazy. Back then the slashers still had a typical route to take so everything that happened I basically expected.
One thing I did like was that there was more of a sense of closure to this one than other slashers. At least I felt that way. How it all ends was ironic for the killer. Initially he is literally stabbed in the back and appears to be dead. But this is an 80s slasher so that's not going to be the end. As the two remaining survivors are leaving they are suddenly attacked by the killer for the obligatory one last scare tactic in these movies. The survivors retaliate immediately by first slamming an axe directly into his face and then they light him on fire. He is killed by the same way he was initially damaged. Some may see it as lazy or uncreative, I at least saw it as ironic.
But what felt so close ended on it was the fact that you don't see him twitch or move or anything after that. He seemed to be very mortal a man. There wasn't even a dream-like event where he comes back to life and attack ala the pull into the water at the end of Friday the 13th. It all ends with a campfire story of the legend of the killer. No real suggestion of a potential return. Just simply a story of how he still lurks in the woods. But it sounds more like he just went down in legend than anything. There was never a sequel so I like to think he was killed for good at the end for the sake of closure. We don't need to have all of our slasher killers live forever.
There's really not much else to say about this movie. A very typical, not very stand out horror from the early 80s. Not like a lot of the other ones are as notable. If it weren't for all the sequels I'm sure Friday the 13th would have easily fallen into obscurity. One thing that is fun about this title is that it was a first for a couple of now more popular actors. This was the first movie for both Jason Alexander and Holly Hunter. So that's fun. Otherwise it's hard for me to recommend this. It was fun for what it was, but I didn't feel it stood out in any major respect. Maybe it warrants a second viewing? I don't know. I just didn't find it to be anything too special. Pretty passable in the grand scheme of things. But still that opening with him being lit on fire does look incredible.
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