Tag Archives: Horror

BLOG: YTC Episode XXXIII: Snap!

Follow me on Twitter: @You_Total_Cult.

The YTC podcast can be found at http://www.chrisandphilpresent.co.uk/blogs/youtotalcult/

FINAL.2.2

I can’t speak for the rest of the world, but here in the United Kingdom, people with ginger hair tend to get picked on. I have seen this first hand via my own red-headed friends being insulted due to their locks. Of course this is a hate crime with no justification. The fact I *may* have mocked them myself- just a little bit- was always with love and sensitivity hidden inside of the barbed comments… Honest.

 

Mocking the ginger-haired people is not only discriminatory, but it is also downright foolish. For one thing Red hair seems to be associated with Viking and the Celtic genes- neither of whom are known for their social niceties.

In addition, a large source of modern red-heads seems to be the Scots and the Irish, and both of these nationalities have particular cultural reputations for being hard drinking hell raisers. Then of course you get the odd rock star like Josh Homme. Whether you dig his music or not, he’s around 65t 5 and looks like he knows his way around a bar fight.

Queen of the Stone Age indeed!

Tougher than all of these dangerous gingers though would be the character of Ginger. You know, as in ‘Ginger the werewolf’!

SEGUE!!!!

Long time readers (both of ‘em) will know my perchance for a good werewolf fable. My reasons for liking the furry beasts can be found in a previous entry.

One Lupine movie that I have been meaning to revisit again is the low budget Canadian flick, Ginger Snaps.

Taking a less supernatural route than say An American Werewolf In London, The Wolfman or Curse Of The Werewolf, Ginger Snaps treats the Werewolf curse as more like Hepatitis, an infection of the blood that can come from various means.

Uh… Not that I’d know, or anything.

 

Ginger Snaps takes this scientific concept of Lycanthrapy and mixes it with the sexualisation of teenagers. The film is not only about Werewolves, but also a coming-of-age story about a 15 year old girl, Ginger and her 14 year old sister, Brigitte.

Ginger Snaps opens with a dead dog scene, complete with a blood smeared child, a screaming parent and Dutch-Camera Angles. As the camera pushes past the canine corpse, it goes into the darkness of the kennel, and… we’re off!

What follows is a fantastic introductory sequence for the two main characters of the film, Ginger and Brigitte. These two sisters share wonderfully over-the-top teen angst talk to frame the whole film. This is the kind of conversations that are completely heartfelt from an insulated, teen perspective but that will also one day be looked back on through older, gritted teeth at their inane earnestness.

 

Sisters doing it for themselves

Here is some sample dialogue form Ginger and Brigitte from this opening. The sisters are alluding to a suicide pact in lieu of being tired of being misunderstood.

Ginger: Suicide is like… the ultimate ‘fuck you’! …”Out by sixteen or dead on the scene, but together forever”. C’mon! “Together forever…”

Brigitte: “…United against life as we know it”.

 Through just this dialogue, the two sisters are presented as archetype teens that are believable. Their simultaneous mix of sincerity and naivety is horrifyingly spot-on. This brief character set up then leads into the fabulous (yeah, I used that word) credits sequence. These credits present numerous fake suicides staged by the Sisters.

Teens always leave a mess in the bathroom

Ultimately these staged deaths are revealed to be a part of an art project at school, dismissed with their mothers angry line “I told you girls; No more deaths in the house!”

Given the earlier conversation between the two sisters, these credits suggest a much darker scenario has taken place. In effect, not only do the opening credits present a unique title sequence for Ginger Snaps, but they also set up the world of the protagonists, and thus the film, for the audience. Ginger and Brigitte live in a world that is in equal parts playful, misunderstood, creative, morbid and black humoured. Which is a pretty ideal place to be for a horror film audience!

The girls art piece proves to be unpopular with their teacher, and the girls retreat to their PE class. They play Field Hockey, presented as a literal battlefield for the teenage girls of the school.

Despite being despised and mocked as ‘the weirdos’ in their year, Ginger is also starting to become noticed by some of the boys. One of the local jocks, Jason, begins to hit on her. Despite Brigitte knocking Jason for even trying it on with Ginger, Ginger is obviously just a little bit flattered by her first brush with being desirable.

For reasons linked to their bullying, by the evening the girls end up out alone in a woodland. Ginger has just begun to experience menstruation, which rather unluckily for her attracts a giant Wolf. Pff, always the way. Attacked, Ginger is bitten but the two sisters manage to run away from the beast. As the sisters come across an intersection, a local drug dealer, Sam, accidentally runs over the pursuing Wolf I his van, killing it.

“This one comes witha free calender”

And so begins Ginger Snaps study of Ginger as she goes through a difficult physical transformation- no, not becoming a werewolf. Puberty.

The fact that Ginger’s first period led to their attack is the very first link between womanhood and werewolf-ism. In fact throughout the whole movie both Ginger and Brigitte refer to periods as ‘the Curse’. The fact the Wolf was defeated by a speeding van, rather than a silver bullet, also presents the beasts as dangerous but not necesarilly supernatural.

The remainder of Ginger Snaps is a fun mixture of these two aspects, sexualisation and science. Without breaking down the entire movie, as Ginger becomes more animalistic in her daily life she becomes ferocious and sexual. Brigitte, feeling even more alone, withdraws into a world of research with the drug dealer Sam. Together the seek a cure for Werewolf effects via botany.

It is the journey of both characters that allow the film to show the progression of female teens in society. Ginger worries about her looks and reputation (“I can’t have a hairy chest!”) as she begins to embrace her control of men via her looks. Brigitte is dismissed as childlike by Ginger for focusing on books and for net yet having started her own menstrual cycle.

Although both sisters are going down opposite routes in life, they are presented as being equally limited within their own social structure as to ow they are viewed by the rest of the world. As Ginger says;

Ginger:“A girl can only be a slut, a bitch, a tease, or the virgin next door.”

(Sponsorship welcomed!)

Ginger, aside from a few murders here and there, has only really acted like Jason and the jocks so far as her classmates know. Yet she is now burdened with a slutty reputation. Brigitte has done nothing but work hard with Sam, and she is gaining her own reputation somewhere between being a tease and a virgin. Ginger Snaps shows not only the difficulties of women changing physically, but also the emotional toll of new peer groups/judgements caused by how they react to hitting puberty.

Even ignoring sex as a Wereolf-conceit, the Werewolf infection also allows Ginger to express feelings of frustration and powerlessness ripe at a teen age.

Ginger:“I get this ache… And I, I thought it was for sex, but it’s to tear everything to fucking pieces.“

 

Maybe she’s born with it… maybe it’s Maybeleine

Comparing Ginger’s now very present anger and strength to the early scene in the bedroom is quite interesting. Whereas the girls formerly discussed suicide as a form of protest, they have now moved on. They have both grown up enough to go beyond such theatrical melodrama. Ginger is now taking her anger out on the world, but Brigitte is finding a inner will for survival through independence.

The clarim that this is a completely female-centric film is furthered throughout the film by the girls mother completely dismissing her husband. Everything she says or does is ‘for her girls’ and she insists that all men ‘only want one thing’.

In fact all of the male characters are fairly sidelined. The character of Sam is prominent throughout the narrative, but the motive for his attempts to help are questionable, and his effectiveness virtually non-existent. When both Sam and Brigitte square up against an enraged Ginger in Wolf form, Brigitte is the quick thinker who keeps them alive. Sam is…. dead meat, so to speak.

Smoke ’em if you got ’em

Meanwhile Jason, the jock who went after Ginger, has contacted a form of STD from her when she essentially raped him. The men on display are either untrustworthy or at least ineffective.

We’ve al peed blood, right guys…? Right?!?!

Make no mistake regarding the content of the film though, this is all delivered fairly smoothly. Ginger Snaps is not some dry biology study. First and foremost a quick-witted horror-comedy.

Despite its clever appropriation of Werewolf’s as a metaphor for female puberty, it is still an piece of entertainment designed for horror fans- not just feminist theorists. The sharp dialogue alone is proof enough of this. To my mind, Ginger Snaps true success is that is a film largely made by women, about women but for everyone.

Oh, and one final note. Ginger Snaps features a TERRIBLE looking Werewolf. The film was low budget, and it is nearly 15years old. So that is kind of understandable, but really it is craptacular. Even so, as with many special effects these days it is still more engaging to watch this awful prop wobble on camera than any form of CGI. This is of course an old argument in film circles, but it’s still a point worth repeating; there is just no substitute for charm. Particularly in horror comedies.

Hungry like the wolf

Anyhoo, that’s enough about Ginger and Brigitte. Unless I choose to write about the undervalued sequel of course… meh,maybe. But probably not the so-so prequel.

Next Time I’ll be writing about Rooby Rooby Roo.

Thanks for reading,

MJ

BLOG:YTC EpisodeXXX: I Love (Bloodied) Lucy!

FINAL.2.2Hold onto your hats, coz’ from out of nowhere comes a bonus edition of the You Total Cult blog!

Having found myself with a spare hour, and having recently Freddy in Space’s blog, (http://www.freddyinspace.com/2013/08/the-30-question-horror-lover-challenge.html) I found John Squires over at F.I.S. had tackled a Horror Quiz.

In the spirit of a recent blogger who lost a book deal, I’m re-cycling other people’s ideas as my own. Unlike that mystery blogger- who frankly does not deserve to be named as they clearly want attention for nothing- I am citing my sources. (In addition, also unlike that mysterious blogger, I wouldn’t get involved romantically with a Quentin Tarrantino since I’m too lazy to get a pedicure). According to John’s blog, he obtained the quiz via Facebook courtesy of a link from Twitter’s @LiZZYizTWIZTid.

So, until You Total Cult’s next proper blog entry, here is my take on @LiZZYizTWIZTid‘s Horror Love Challenge!

 

      1.  SCARIEST KID CHARACTER IN A HORROR MOVIE- Esther form Orphan. Sure there are far scarier films featuring killer kids, but towards the end of the movie Esther’s antics involve making sexual moves towards her adopted father. This sexualisation of a small girl just gives her such a creepier aspect overall to any other child in a horror film that I can think of. (NB:If you’ve seen the film then you know all is not as it seems, but even so it’s a freaky concept)
      2. BEST SEX SCENE MURDER- As I recall, Delamore Dellamorte involves sex, impressively heaving bosoms and zombies getting shot all during the same sex scene. And if I remembering wrong and this sex scene never happened then I don’t apologise as it proves my brain is a wondrous place.
      3. CREEPIEST DEAD BODY- John Carpenter’s The Thing features a torched corpse that was roasted as it was mid-way through changing up its many different types of DNA. So. Damn. Creepy.
      4. A HORROR MUSICAL YOU ENJOY- There’s really only 1 option and it involves a shameless plug. http://www.chrisandphilpresent.co.uk/blogs/hollyweird/hollyweird-episode-xxiii-between-a-rocky-and-a-horror-place/
      5. FUNNIEST HORROR MOVIE CHARACTER- Whoa, this is tough. Obviously Evil Dead’s Ash, Big Trouble In Little China’s Jack Burton or Braindead’s Lionel are all hilarious. But in an act of balance, I’ll actually pick Leslie Vernon, the killer from Behind The Mask: The Rise Of Leslie Vernon. Frankly, Ash, Burton and Lionel are too evenly matched. Besides which Vernon’s comedic charisma carries the entire film which is harder to pull of when he’s aiming to slaughter people, rather than save the day.
      6. FAVORITE WOMAN IN THE WORLD OF HORROR?- If only there were a women who had written definitive books on Zombies and Cult movies… oh wait, my girlfriend has!! Seriously though, she’s uber-smart and a tough cookie, so she could easily survive a Slasher Franchise. Plus we even met a Horror Festival!
      7. A HORROR YOU’D BE IN- Let me paint you a quick picture. A few months back I was in Japan. At many restaurants you have to remove your shoes, stow them away and proceed in your socks. At one such place, I was putting my size 12 Dr marten’s back on post-meal and I was met by a squealing waitress. She kept pointing and exclaiming “BIGFOOT-OU! BIGFOOT-OU!”. So I ‘d best be in a Sasquatch movie.
      8. FAVORITE ALIEN-RELATED HORROR MOVIE- John Carpenter’s The Thing is the best straight up alien horror that I know of, Predator is the most action packed alien-film and Killer Klowns From Outer Space is the most fun. So it depends if I’m in the mood for terror, machismo or popcorn.
      9. BEST HORROR TV SERIES- Gravity Falls, which is basically Eerie Indiana in an animated form but somehow even better! I’m also giving a shout out to American Gothic, an often forgotten TV show brought forth by Sam Raimi and one episode even cameos Bruce Campbell.
      10. A SERIAL KILLER YOU HATE- Yeeeeeah, this is too tasteless to answer as they’re all scum. So I’ll change it to ‘A Fictional Horror Film Serial Killer You Hate’ which goes to The Leprechaun. Because he has yet to get a decent kill even across 6 films. Keep chasin’ the dream lil’ buddy.
      11. MOST DITZY CHARACTER- Any human in Prometheus. They’re all morons with zero character-logic to them.
      12. FAVORITE HORROR MOVIE FROM THE PAST YEAR- It’s a Marmite choice, but I liked Resolution.
      13. BEST IMPALEMENT- Phantasm features a flying, spiked sphere ramming into a dude’s cranium- and just when it can’t get any worse a drill starts to burrow on into his forehead. It’s certainly creative.
      14. KILLER WHO HAS THE BEST WEAPON- Although it’s a one-off stabbing, Sleepwalkers has a cop get gets stabbed to death by a corn on the cob. How could I not pick it?!?!
      15. A HORROR LOVE-STORY- Every Slasher film concerns the love between a maniac and their blade…
      16. BEST THROAT SLICING- The Undertaker when he’s calling for the Tombstone.
      17. FAVOURTE SEQUEL TO A HORROR- To my mind Evil Dead 2 just may be the greatest film of all time.
      18. BEST HORROR MOVIE IN THE WOODS- See above.
      19. AN ACTOR YOU ENJOY WATCHING GET MURDERED- Paul Reiser in Aliens. Damn yuppies!!!
      20. MOST ATTRACTIVE HORROR MOVIE KILLER- Katharine Isabelle in American Mary- Grrrrr!
      21. BEST FAMILY IN HORROR- Aw, I’ll just name check the horror community as a whole! We’re all one big happy family! No, wait that’s a bit twee for this quiz. Matt Cordell and Turkell in Maniac Cop 2 seem like the horror equivalent of the film Step-Brothers. I’ll give them a shout out just so that Maniac Cop 2 gets a mention in here.
      22. WORST RECENT HORROR MOVIE YOU’VE SEEN- There are so many I can’t pick. I guess Texas Chainsaw 3D as it’s too lazily written to even work out a year to set the film in.
      23. FAVOURITE 1970’S HORROR- I don’t want to keep referring to a particular film beginning with P, so the absolute classic that is Romero’s Dawn Of The Dead.
      24. FAVORITE HORROR THEME SONG- Oddly enough I was whistling the Cannibal Holocaust theme earlier today. So that’s my answer for today.
      25. BEST VERSIO OF JASON VORHEES- Screw it, I’ll risk Kane Hodder’s ire and go with the Jason from Freddy vs Jason. Dude was a decaying bulldozer, which to me seemed a bit more threatening than a mentally handicapped guy in a boiler suit and some protective sports gear. In fact come to think of it, why does Jason wear a safety mask? Pfff- pansy!
      26. A HORROR MOVIE YOU CAN’T WAIT TO SEE- Whatever it is, I can wait.
      27. BEST BEHEADING- Adam Buxton in Hot Fuzz. Admittedly it’s more of a squishing, but the body ends up headless in a spectacular fashion.
      28. MOST RIGHTEOUS KILLER (FOR GOOD)- Shaun (Of The Dead) uses a cricket bat and hides out in a pub. That’s as righteous as an Englishman can get.
      29. FAVORITE B-MOVIE HORROR- Almost all horror films start out as B-Movies, so I can’t even begin to pick.
      30. HORROR WITH AN ENDING YOU DIDN’T EXPECT TO HAPPEN- Puppet Master 6: Retro Puppet Master. Yep, that’s my pick and here’s why. This terrible film had the lone ‘selling point’ of explaining the origins of some of the killer toys. After a horrendously dull film, the character recounting the tale still has not cleared up the toys origins and he ends by pretty much saying “Oh, I got distracted! I’ll tell you another time”. I never expected Puppet Master 6to be good, but when the one thing you are expecting from the entire concept is ignored that’s pretty unexpected!

 

Bye for now and thanks for reading. Next time I really will be back with some bits and bobs from behind the scenes at Frightfest. Probably.

-MJ

 

BLOG YTC_:Hollyweird: Episode XXVI: Hollyweird 2, Electric Boogaloo

Follow me on Twitter: @You_Total_Cult.

In the short term, the YTC podcast can currently be found at http://www.chrisandphilpresent.co.uk/blogs/youtotalcult/

BLOG PIC

The blog below was under an older name of Hollyweird. I have kept the numbering the same so that I could keep track of my posts, but this is where it all begin back in the heyday of 2012…

—————————————————

Poss final blog photo dream framev9.5There is an old saying that bad things come in 3’s. Well this logic seems perfectly applicable in cinematic terms. In fact, ‘3’ may even be too generous. Bad films often come in pairs too. The more any successful film is continued through sequels (or the dreaded word… ‘franchised’) then the more likely it is for the follow ups to turn out poorly.

Most sequels are indeed a big number 2.
Most sequels are indeed a big number 2.

This is simply the law of diminishing returns; what was once fresh and fun becomes stale and predictable. Sequels of any number (or even that dreaded term again… ‘franchises’) are by their nature a paradoxical nightmare. The idea is to have all the familiar elements whilst also innovating in some way. So you have to try and do something the same yet also different- and all without screwing up in any major way involving the usual pitfalls of the casting, writing, direction or catering. (I may be guessing that last one).

Of course good sequels can certainly be made. Ignoring a series of films that were always intended to be a part of trilogies, you can still get cinematic gems from entirely unplanned extensions. These unexpected follow ups can, on occasion, seem to be universally praised.

(Psst…. Don’t spread it around but yes, I do have a heart. I love this series.)

Follow ups such as Indiana Jones & the Last Crusade, Before Sunset, Evil Dead II, Clerks II or

Follow ups such as Indiana Jones & the Last Crusade, Before Sunset, Evil Dead II, The Godfather Part II, Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior are generally considered either as good as their first films or possibly even better than the originals.

There are even more successful sequels of course, but frankly there are so many considerably bad sequels to films than good sequels. In fact I am not even going to put forth any names of bad sequels. You can all think of some yourselves. That is how easy it is. It will take you seconds and make you curse the wasted hours of your life wasted on them all.

Is this the worst sequel ever?? Well no I have actually seen something worse...
Is this the worst sequel ever?? Well no I have actually seen something worse…

Of course any list of sequels under either category is completely subjective. Purely in terms of my thinking, films listed as ‘bad’ sequels are films that I, critics and frineds alike all generally agree to be painful attempts to capture lightening in a bottle twice.

Meanwhile ‘good’ sequels are ones that I have personally enjoyed and that have generally entered the popular consensus as worthy follow ups.

In both instances rummaging around www.imdb.com or www.rottentomatoes.com, whilst hardly being factual proof, at least generally backs up what seems to count as the best known ‘good’ and ‘bad’ sequels.

 

Too true
Too true

Ignoring both the plethora of bad sequels and those rarer, but famous good sequels, what is left to be discussed are the underrated sequels.

‘Underrated’ sequels are films that I personally believe deserve a lot more credit than they seem to get. Once again this absent credit is solely based on many online opinions and throughout everyday discussions from years of being a film geek. But if this is the world that we live in then these are the opinions that count.

To my mind, underrated sequels are films that seem to have poorer reputations than is fair. So I am now going to name a few of these films and attempt to explain just why these flicks need to be given more credibility. There is no order to these selections but they all need a voice in their corner, dammit!

Anyhoo, all justification aside this is very much a case of “Good? Bad? I’m the guy with the blog”.

 

Ghostbusters 2

ghostb

When will we get a good Ghostbusters sequel?” ask so many people online that the news of Ghostbusters 3 never ends. In fact the answer is that we already have one.

Ghostbusters 2 is not as good as the first film. No way. But you know what? Neither are 99% of any movies. Ghostbusters is absolutely amazingly well crafted to be fun for all ages. It features cool ghosts, slightly scary baddies and constant quips. Well oddly enough, so does the sequel.

Ghostbusters 2 features a Spectral Nanny played by the lil’ fella’ from Ally McBeal and a painting that literally follows your gaze around a room. I’d say these just about compete with the Ghost Librarian and Gozer’s acrobatic flips from the first film for a sense of scares and eeriness.

Eve in Portrait form, Murray is the class clown

Bill Murray is still on hand to dish out the put down, as are the people of New York City. The line delivered by a Harbor (sic) Master at The Titanic’s arrival in Ghostbusters 2 easily matches any lines from the first film. Even the fun action of the Ballrooms scene in the first film is mirrored in Ghostbusters 2 by an equally captivating courtroom scene.

Whilst it is true that the unforgettable sight of the Stay Puft Mashmallow Man from the first movie cannot be beaten, a funk-based, bopping Statue of Liberty powered by the songs of Jackie Wilson’s ‘Higher & Higher’ sure deserves some praise in my world for coming as close as possible to upstaging ol’ Puff Daddy.

As a sequel, Ghostbusters 2 just plain deserves a little more respect. It may not be a stone cold classic but it’s fun. It does a really strong job of following up soehting that just was never going to be bettered. Frankly I wish more sequels were as good follow ups as this flick is. Heck, in Ghostbusters 2 bustin’ still makes me feel good.

 

SCREAM 2

Well for a movie that has its very own characters discuss how there are possibly no good sequels, I think Scream 2 does one hell of a job of putting that very notion to bed.

What made the original Scream so good? Primarily it was the original idea of mixing how jaded horror-film watching teens would react to being stalked by a real killer. But the aesthetics of the film were why it succeeded. The novel plot was combined with fun dialogue, and a fresh cast. Furthermore it was directed very tightly by horror legend, Wes Craven. Craven rings the tension when he needs to without the movie over staying its overly-precocious welcome.

Scream 2 does the same thing, but on an even bigger scale. You know, like good sequels often should do.

This is for leaving Sliders
This is for leaving Sliders

All of the original cast return in ways that make sense. The lead, Sydney, has moved onto College life. She has been traumatized by the original killings but is pushing on with her life. Once a copycat killer appears at the College, Sydney begins to lean on the other survivors of the first film for support- but not without judging them suspiciously too. Meanwhile new characters are brought in and handled just right- from Sydney’s new boyfriend to a pushy small time journalist to a creepy professor to a ex-con with a chip on his shoulder.

The casting in all of the roles is excellent, which is no surprise as even these smaller roles are played by Jerry O’Connell, David Warner, Laurie Metcalfe, Tim Ophyliant, and Liev Shrieber. All the performances verge on melodrama just as they should do. By doing this the actors enable Scream 2 to be both silly and straight at the same time.

Sorry Dave- but you know you're creepy.
Sorry Dave- but you know you’re creepy.

Meanwhile Craven nails the tension aplomb. Two scenes really stand out that horror fans often seem to unfortunately forget about. The first involves Sydney being stuck in a Police Crusier with the killer, Ghostface. Sydney has managed to crash the car to stop herself being butchered, but thanks to the locked doors she has only one way out- she has to crawl over a possibly unconscious Ghostface. Craven knows when to cut and where to keep audiences guessing whether Ghostface is really passed out or just waiting to strike.

A second, excellent moment is when a fellow survivor, Gale is being pursued by Ghostface through the Media Department on campus. She is with an ex-lover, and fellow survivor from Scream, Dewey. As the two become separated Gale ends up locked outside of a soundproof booth. There she gets to watch as Dewey is being stalked by Ghostface but because of the thick glass she cannot warn him. As Dewey becomes another of Ghostfaces victims, Gale can do nothing but watch. Her screams are silent as his blood flows…

“I know you stole a French fry”

There are other memorable moments too. The beginning is set in a cinema and sets the tone for the entire movie, whilst a Greek Theatre production stands out for its representation of everything getting amped up to verge on the theatrical.

The original Scream is absolutely inventive and enjoyable. It features a unique villain and brutal murders. Yet the only truly tense moment is the opening scene with the surprise killing of Drew Barrymore. The other moments of the original film are all still a bit of fun, but they lack the palpable tension of the scenes in Scream 2.

Once more the good casting and fun dialogue give a zap of energy to this sequel, whilst the tense direction of creepy set pieces keeps the film on edge. All of this whilst the narrative is woven into the original films back story, yet is also moved forward by returning characters. Essentially then, this is a great sequel as it delivers more of the same without seeming a retread.

This is 'the end', beautiful friend
This is ‘the end’, beautiful friend

In fact the only reason Scream 2 really falls short of the original is due to its ending. The revelation of the killers is lame, and set up the rest of the series to get weaker and weaker. (In fact, compared to the next two films in the series, Scream 2 is practically The Empire Strikes Back). This weak ending does kill Scream 2 a little since it ends a fun trip on a dull note. But to focus purely on a poor last 5 minutes is to miss a great 115 minutes beforehand.

The Critical Consensus of Scream 2 seems to be that it is certainly good, but that it is nowhere near as good as the original Scream. I disagree. I think the script is as good as the original right up until the last few moments, but in fact the whole sequel actually has better directed set pieces that work on a much larger and scarier level.

 

BATMAN RETURNS

A purr-fectly good Sequel (Sorry!)

Considered far too dark and sexual at the time of the films release, Batman Returns remains one of the Caped Crusaders best appearances. This is when Tim Burton apparently had a pair of testicles and wanted to be a pusher of Hollywood boundaries, as opposed to the ‘emo lite’ he has now peddled for over a decade.

Michelle Pfiffer seems to have walked off of an S&M film being shot in a studio next door, whilst Danny DeVito’s Penguin is genuinely freaky, having wandered in from some form of The Cabinet Of Dr Caligari remake. Both actors really nail their roles in ways suitable for this world of Burton’s. They would never work in Schumacher’s camp films nor Nolan’s gritty films, but in this version of Gotham both villains are pitch perfect. They intrigue and scare like black devils against a snowy backdrop.

Good clean fun for the whole family!
Good clean fun for the whole family!

Rounding out this is Michael Keaton, to me possibly still the definitive Caped Crusader. His Batman is silent and deadly, but you know- not a fart. He doesn’t grimace or talk like Clint Eastwood having gut ache. Keaton plays Batman as a driven Psychotic, doing the bare minimum to protect the good and punish the bad. I actually think that Christian Bale is an ideal Bruce Wayne. Bale makes the character seem humane, scarred and a believable buffoon in public. Oddly I think Keaton over eggs all of these traits as Bruce Wayne. Combine Bale’s Bruce with Keaton’s Batman and you’d have quite the Batman.

If this doesn't make you smile then you have no soul
If this doesn’t make you smile then you have no soul

Also, at the end of the day the film involves penguins with missile launchers strapped to their backs, an insane Christopher Walken and it is possibly the bleakest Christmas Blockbuster of all time. Tell me theses reasons alone are not worth the world giving some more love to Batman Returns.

 

BOOK OF SHADOWS: BLAIR WITCH 2

Book_of_shadows_blair_witch_two_posterOK, this is actually only here for a very slight reason. The film- as a whole- is very poor. Yet the central conceit, which is established in just the first few minutes of Book Of Shadows, is actually surprisingly solid.

If we step back in time a little, the original film of The Blair Witch Project was the first major Found Footage horror film. Other films had used similar concepts, but The Blair Witch Project was a huge phenomenon. It remains the highest grossing Independent film of all time, making approximately $250 Million just at the Box Office, and in turn ousting Easy Rider to the top spot. For anyone involved around at the time, The Blair Witch Project really was inescapable. It was spoofed or referenced on almost any Television show of the time and became almost a shorthand in itself to feature someone crying through a confession on camera.

Part of the reason for this massive success of the first Blair Witch was that it was one of the first horror films to blur the line between reality and fiction via the Internet. Fake web pages helped sell the film as being based on real events. No obvious proof was on hand that this was a fictional film being presented to the world via the fledgling ‘viral advertising’. Now of course this would be much harder as the world has become far more internet savvy. But these were simpler times kiddies and the ruse worked wonders.

Ironically all of these actors careers have disappeared
Ironically all of these actors careers have disappeared

So once the original Blair Witch has come out, blown the world away and become a pop cultural phenomenon, just how does a studio go about following it up with a sequel?

If they attempted to keep palming off the original film as ‘real’ after revealing it to be a hoax then they would seem like idiots who were insulting their audience. In contrast though, if the film makers simply present the sequel as a standard ‘supernatural slasher’ type movie then they risk alienating the same audience.

Instead I would argue that they actually made a good move. instead Lionsgate took possibly the best route they could via acknowledging the whole concept of the first film as a hoax but then pushed on with the ‘real world’ affects of such a hit film in the sequel.

And so began two decades of cheap, crappy imitators. Sigh.
And so began two decades of cheap, crappy imitators. Sigh.

 

The sequel opens with a montage of real news reports about the success of the first film. The rest of the sequel is then based around characters who go on a ‘Blair Witch’ based tour. They go because they ‘saw’ the original film and want to see the related locations. Naturally they film much of their trip, which allows for the use of more camcorder footage mixed in with the normal camerawork. Inevitably of course then it turns out the Witch is real and the film quickly becomes a poor, generic horror film of the time complete with a nu-metal soundtrack and quick-cutting scenes.

 

This is what the Blair Witch looks like if you're actually curious
This is what the Blair Witch looks like if you’re actually curious

Book Of Shadows is not actually worth defending as a whole movie. But the clever way of incorporating the first, found footage type movie whilst simultaneously moving into a more traditional type of follow up does deserve a bit of praise. Book Of Shadows is clearly not a good film. But it is an underrated sequel that is often unfairly outright derided. At least it tried to be clever in recognition of the first film, which is something that many sequels do not even attempt.

There are of course many more sequels that need some more love. But I think this is enough for now to have hopefully given some praise to the many deserving. Besides, if I ever run out of ideas for this blog I can look at a few more underrated movie sequels in order to make a sequel to this very blog. I just hope that if that happens I can learn from the above examples to stay true to this original whilst moving on in bold new ways.

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Next time I’m looking at a very specific sequel that could have meant a world with less M & M’s in it. Seriously.

Thanks for reading,