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The Strangers: Prey at Night (Review)


Westley Smith

The Strangers: Prey at Night finally arrived in theaters a decade after the original film.

Not a lot has changed since the first movie and The Strangers: Prey at Night pretty much follows the same formula set up in the first film.

Cindy and Mike (Christina Hicks and Martin Henderson) along with their son, Luke, (Lewis Pullman) are taking their daughter, Kinsey (Bailee Madison) to a boarding school, after several incidences with her behavior has landed her in hot water. While heading to their destination, they plan to spend the night at Cindy’s uncle's place at Gatlan Lake, a small community of trailers that during the fall becomes completely vacant, except for the owners. But little does the family know that the Strangers have already made Gatlan Lake their next hunting ground.

Leading up to the family arriving at Gatlan is the normal character development we’ve seen in most horror movies of this kind. In this case, character development is put on the back burner for more suspense and tension. There really isn't much time given to the characters or their motives other than to establish the basic fundamentals for the plot to unfold and to get the ball going and for the blood to start flowing.

This is the films biggest problem.  With little to no character development, leaves the viewer unable to become invested in these people, and when the tension is amped up, and their lives are on the line, you don’t really feel all that invested in their safety because the characters are so flat and generic.

That isn’t to say the film is bad just because of the weak characters. It is a rather well-crafted horror/thriller that had plenty in the bag when it came to the scares and suspense. The setting in the community was fun, expanding the idea of the first film of just two people locked inside of a house to a deserted community filled with multiple trailers, playgrounds, and cars to trap and terrorize their victims.

Johannes Roberts direction was creepy and stylish, crafting several nail biting scenes that were as unnerving as they were bloody. One can tell his love for the slasher flicks of the 1970s and 1980s, using shots (techniques that are rarely used now days) from movies of that era, giving the film a retro throwback vibe. He keeps the tension high, the atmosphere dark and dreary, while supplying some fantastic jump scares in the process.

Speaking of retro. The soundtrack by Adrian Johnston is worthy of noting, with a stylish synth score that paired well with the Roberts style of filmmaking.

The film never feels slow or boring, and at a runtime of just one hour and twenty-five minutes, you get what you paid for: to see the Stranger stalk, hunt, prey, and murder their victims.

The Strangers: Prey at Night is a worthy successor to the original, even if the characters were a little underdeveloped, but it’s still a fun, stylish horror/thriller that should please most fans of the genre.

8 out of 10 Stars

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Death Wish 2018 (Review)


Frank Ford

The remake to the 1974 Charles Bronson film, Death Wish, hit theaters this past weekend starring Bruce Willis and helmed by horror director Eli Roth – stepping far away from his horror roots with this modernization of the Bronson classic.

As with most remakes there are several questions to be asked: is the remake necessary; is there something different to be said; does it need to be updated for a modern audience?

Majority of films that get remade do not meet the above guidelines; most are remade because of a brand that a studio can cash in on – A Nightmare on Elm St, Halloween, and Friday the 13th. This is a quick and easy way for the studios to make money with an already built-in fan base and hopefully get a few of the younger generation into the seats with a lazy retelling of a classic movie.

But the best remakes are the ones that not only pay homage to the original but add something new to the films. John Carpenter’s The Thing maybe the best example of this - though at the time of its release, The Thing was a bomb and took years for people to discover its brilliance.

So these same questions need to be applied to Death Wish: is the remake necessary; is there something different to be said; does it need to be updated for a modern audience?

The answer is: Yes.

But does the 2018 Death Wish do this successfullly? Yes and no.

There is enough updated in Death Wish from is ‘74 counterpart that it feels fresh and new for modern audiences, while at the same time throwing a call-back to the original film when it’s needed – epically the ending. But the modernization is only technology, and not ideology; there are no looming moral question about gangs, gun violence, murders, or the repercussions of Kersey’s actions if he’s caught – this is a story that is set morally in a different era.

A lot has changed in the United States since the 1974. Culturally, racially, and politically we are in a different world some forty-four years later; even if snippets of the past seem to be coming back. The 1974 film is a movie made of its time – a rough around the edges, grindhouse-style film with Bronson at his gnarled best getting revenge on the punks of 1970s NYC. It is a tale of a man pushed to the breaking point, where he takes the law into his own hands and dishes his own brand of punishment.

Death Wish 2018 is pretty much the exact same story just set in modern times. And though the two movies share the main character of Paul Kersey, and a vigilante plot, little else is the same.

This time around Bruce Willis plays Paul Kersey, a respected Chicago surgeon who takes it upon himself to find his wife’s murderers and clean up the streets of Chicago, where crime seems to be at an unprecedented all-time high. Paul Kersey, at first, is a soft-spoken, caring doctor who’s willing to save every life, including gang-bangers and thugs because that’s his duty as a doctor. He’s a man devoted to his wife Lucy (Elizabeth Shue), his daughter, Jordan, (Camila Moore) and his out of work, broke brother, Frank (Vincent D’Onofrio). But when his life is forever changed with Lucy’s brutal murder, Kersey flips from soft-spoken nice guy to stone-cold killer and he does so with such ease that it’s scary – almost like the Kersey character had some dark monster living inside of him all along, just clamoring to be set free.

Death Wish 2018 isn’t as heavy handed with its message of vigilantism as the ‘74 film was, but at the same time, it still asks the question should someone take the law into their own hands, when the system fails. It’s shown several times in the film how bogged down the police are with unsolved crimes in the city the size of Chicago, and that another murder is just another name added to a wall. Kersey does everything by the book before he takes the law into his own hands: talking to the police, following up with them, giving them any and all information that would help them find his wife’s killers.

As stated above, the social commentary of the original Death Wish is not as present in the 2018 film. Death Wish 2018 is meant to entertain, and be a fun Bruce Willis/Eli Roth escapism revenge action film with a touch of social commentary about gun violence, gangs, and vigilantism to make you aware, but not to pound a political message down your throat. The film makes no effort to hide what it is trying to be, or what it is trying not to be – and it is definitely not trying to be politically correct.

Willis is cast well in this role, even if he is wooden and phoning it in at times. But in the scenes when he decides he wants to act, he’s actually pretty good and you can see his range as an actor shining through. Vincent D’Onofrio is the stand-out in the film, and an actor no matter what film or TV project he’s in, always give it one-hundred percent. It’s too bad that he wasn’t in the film more, and wasn’t given an opportunity to flex his acting chops more.

Being a first-time director of an action-thriller, Eli Roth handles the material well, and gives ample screen time for the characters to develop and story to unfold, before kicking the film into high gear with well-crafted suspense, action, and shootouts set pieces. He also gives us a very nasty torture scene that will have you squirming in your seat. If Roth continues with action/thrillers, he has a big career in the genre as he showed skill crafting the film.

With Death Wish, Willis and Roth are not looking to make anything more than a satisfying revenge movie, like those of the 70s or 80s. And let’s face it, if you’re going out to see Death Wish 2018, you’re going to see Bruce Willis dish out some justice on those who wronged him. The film sides with Kersey in the end, and that his actions were justified, as did the original Death Wish. But that is the point to the Kersey character arc and Death Wish itself; he begins to feel what he’s doing is justified, even if it’s wrong in the viewers eyes. Kersey is not a hero; he’s the anti-hero and you’re not supposed to like what he does during the film, nor are you supposed to want to be him.

8 out of 10 Stars.

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Hellraiser: Judgment (Reveiw)

Frank Ford

To Hellraiser fans around the world nothing is more heartbreaking than seeing their beloved Cenobites fall victim to endless bad sequels that do nothing to expand the Hellraiser mythos, but rather fall back on old horror movie tropes and clichés while rehashing the same stories over and over.

Most fans will agree that the first two Hellraiser films are horror classics; both fresh and innovative at the time, changing the cinematic landscape of horror and give us some of the best kills, blood, and gore of the 80s, and launching Pinhead and the Cenobites into household names. Not only that, but the films pair well together. One can view those films individually or watch them back to back. Hellraiser and Hellbound: Hellraiser 2 are connected within the same universe, with similar tone and feel – mostly thanks to Clive Barker and crew returning from the first movie to shoot the second.

Hellraiser 3: Hell on Earth took a different approach. The tone was vastly different, and instead of telling a tale of tortured souls, it quickly turned into a body count movie once the box was opened – to some, this was the last good Hellraiser movie.

After Dimension Films bought of the franchise rights (and has had them since) they produced their first Hellraiser film – Hellraiser: Bloodline. Most fans will agree Hellraiser took a turn for the worse starting with Hellraiser: Bloodline in 1996 (Bloodline is also the last Hellraiser film to play in theaters).

After the failure of Hellraiser: Bloodline at the box office in the Spring of 1996, the following six films were released onto Dimensions direct to video market, starting with Hellraiser: Inferno, (directed by a then unknown Scott Derrickson, Dr. Strange, Sinister, and The Exorcism of Emily Rose). Not only was Inferno the first Hellraiser film released on video, it was also the start of Dimension trying to save money by not writing new script for the Hellraiser films, but rather, reworking an existing script and tailoring the Hellraiser universe into the films – a trend that would continue up until Hellraiser: Hellworld.

But the biggest blow to the series would come when Doug Bradley left the role of Pinhead, after feeling the script for Hellraiser: Revelations wasn’t finished, and that his pay for the film was small. In 2011 Dimension Films realized they were about to lose the rights to the Hellraiser films, they quickly rushed Hellraiser: Revelations into production with just $350,000 budget; prepping for the film was three weeks (including casting a new Pinhead, Stephan Smith Collins) and shooting took place in eleven days – though this time they were working from a script that was written to be a Hellraiser film.

By now, most know the real horror that is Hellraiser: Revelations, so there is no need to go into it here.

That brings us to the newest film: Hellraiser: Judgement.

And most want to know: is Hellraiser: Judgement even worth the time to watch?

Simply put: Yes.

The film follows the Auditor (Tunnicliffe) as he tells head Cenobite Pinhead (now played by Paul T. Taylor) that the Lament Configuration (the box) is outdated, and if they want to collect new souls, they need to find another way – which The Auditor soon sets out to do by finding murderers, rapists & pedophiles and other individuals who have sinned. These people are then interviewed by The Auditor, where they are questioned about their sins and logged on paper by a typewriter that uses the victims own blood as ink. After a trial process, first going to The Assessor (John Gulager, Feast, Piranha 3DD) and then to the jury for final verdict. Once found guilty, the victims are sent to be cleaned and then to the Surgeon.

At the same time this is going on, Detective brothers Sean and David Carter are hunting down a serial killer that is leaving victims around the city, leaving a religious quote from the Bible at the murder scenes. While at the latest crime scene, they are informed by Detective Christine Egerton that she has been assigned to help them solve the case, and may or may not be there to spy on them. Soon the killer they are hunting, and the world of the Cenobites, begin to cross paths that will lead the three of them into Hell’s open arms.

Hellraiser: Judgement is quite different than the previous films, almost rebooting the series without really going that far – it still fits in the Hellraiser universe and as a sequel, but the film is its own thing. At the same time Judgement is trying to expand the Hellraiser mythos, something that hasn’t been done since Hellbound.

Directed by make-up effects artist, Gary J. Tunnicliffe, who also plays The Auditor, set out to make a gruesome, world-expanding, Hellraiser film, and for the most part succeeds with what he was given to work with – just $350,000. The script, also by Tunnicliffe, is decent and builds upon the world already established in Hellraiser, while at the same time adding things not seen before, like The Auditor and The Assessor, and even a gateway where Angels and Demons interact.

The film looks dark, dirty and nasty, like it was soaked in piss, with a nasty yellowish/brown lighting pallet that leaves one feeling like one needs a bath after watching it. The tone of the film is just as nasty as it’s lighting, with depraved characters, topless faceless women, nude female “cleaners”, the dirty, fat Butcher, and the leather-clad Surgeon that looks like something straight out of a bondage film. Gore, depravity, and nudity are abound in this instalment.

The Cenobites are twisted mutilated bodies, souls that have been bound and tortured in Hell and are now doing the Hell Priest’s (Pinhead) bidding – look for another famous Cenobite to make his return in the film as well.

The acting in the film is decent. The leads do their jobs to the best of their ability and fully commit to the film. The stand out performance might be Tunnicliffe himself as the Auditor. The scenes where he’s interviewing characters are fascinating to watch as the dialog unfolds and you begin to discover what he’s up to.

Paul T. Taylor as Pinhead was also well cast in the film. He looks similar to Doug Bradley in size and facial features, pulling off Pinhead’s prowess – you can quickly forget that you’re not watching Doug Bradley, but another actor play the Hell Priest as they feel they are one in the same at times. Not only does he have a similar look to Doug Bradley, he played Pinhead very similar to the way Bradley played Pinhead – stoic, unflinching, menacing, with a speech pattern that was almost identical to Bradley’s performance. If another Hellraiser is made, and Paul T. Taylor returns, he could possibly be the new face of the series going forward.

There are times where the low budget does show, especially when there should be a room filled with cops but only the three main leads are in the room – though they do explain most of this away but it still shows. Tunnicliffe uses a lot of close-ups to hide the fact that there isn’t high production behind the camera, but makes it work none-the-less to tell the story, which is mostly inside dimly lit rooms.

The effects in the film are done very well, with plenty of blood, body parts, and Cenobites to fill up the 81 min run time, and Tunnicliffe, handles these parts easily and knows how to shoot them since his background is in F/X. Now, after seeing the film, this was where most of the budget probably went.

Tunnicliffe’s direction on the film is decent and he handles the subject matter affably, while at the same time steering the ship of the Hellraiser franchise in the right direction. If Tunnicliffe returns to direct another Hellraiser movie, and Paul T. Taylor is back as Pinhead, it will be interesting to see where they take the series.

Also make sure to watch the post credit sequence.

7/10 Stars

Victor Crowley – Blu-Ray Review

Victor Crowley (Blu-Ray Review)


Westley Smith

Victor Crowley returned to slash his way through screens last year with the surprise unveiling by director Adam Green on Tuesday, August 22, 2017, at a sold-out show at the Arclight Cinema in Hollywood. Guests thought they were there to see a 10th Anniversary showing of Hatchet, only to find out they were, in fact, about to see a new movie.

Since Victor Crowley’s premiere on August 22nd the film has been hitting the festival circuits and theaters before landing on Blu-Ray February 6th 2018, with rave reviews and numerous awards from fright festivals in tow.

Victor Crowley marks the fourth movie in the Hatchet franchise, which started in 2007. Filmed under the fake name “Arwen’s Fancy Dinner” and later “Arwen’s Revenge” to keep the production a secret to the rest of the world, who by now, had thought Victor Crowley, and the Hatchet series, was buried in the swamps. But, like Crowley’s slasher brethren, Jason Voorhees, Michael Myers, and Freddy Krueger, you can only keep a good killer down for so long before they find a way of coming back from their graves.

The film follows Andrew (Parry Shen, Hatchet 1-3) the only survivor from the grizzly Crowley murders. Andrew has written a book about his harrowing ordeal, and the fallout that happened after the murders, including him being the prime suspect in the killing spree. Andrew, along with his publicist, Kathleen (Felissa Rose, Sleepaway Camp) are back in New Orleans to promote his book, I Survived. While at a signing, Andrew is approached by three filmmakers: Director Chloe (Katie Booth), her boyfriend/actor, Alex (Chase Williamson, John Dies at the End, Beyond the Gates) and make-up artist, Rose (Laura Ortiz The Hills Have Eyes ’07, Holliston) to see if they can get him to participate in their “fake trailer” about the Crowley murders. But in a twist of fate, Kathleen tells Andrew they just landed a deal of a lifetime – a “true crime” series wants to interview him at the scene of the murders and are offering one million dollars for the interview. Reluctantly, Andrew agrees and boards a plane only to realize that he is going to be interviewed by his ex-wife (Krystal Joy Brown) and her crew consisting of Casey (Tiffany Shepis), and Austin (Impractical Jokers’ Brian Quinn). But when the plane crashes in the swamp, and Victor Crowley is resurrected, (no spoilers on how that happens) once again played by the imposing Kane Hodder (Friday the 13th 7,8,9,10, Hatchet 1-3) things really get bloody

SIDE NOTE: the line “played by the imposing Kane Hodder” is taken right from the back of the VHS for Friday the 13th: Part 8: Jason Takes Manhattan.

Like with all previous Hatchet films, they are throwbacks to 1980s slasher films. Victor Crowley sticks with this formula: bloody, funny, and scary; with enough plot and thrills to keep the movie going forward at a steady pace.

Green’s writing is planted firmly in cheek; he knows exactly what he’s making and knows when to make the audience laugh, afraid, or even emotional at times. His characters (in the Hatchet films) have never been the overly serious trope, and they are not meant to be – they are fodder for Crowley’s hands. What he does, instead, is create quirky characters that are likeable and funny - characters that you know are going to do something dumb that gets them killed, but you don’t really want to see them die because he adds just enough subtext to make them relatable. He pulls this off in Victor Crowley better than he had in previous Hatchet films, with turns in characters that one won’t see coming. He also casts these roles very well, using a mix of horror veterans, comedians, and new comers and sometimes himself or his buddy, fellow director Joe Lynch (Wrong Turn 2, Mayhem) to give these films something fresh, as well as a wink to the fans – look for other horror veterans to show up thoughout the film too.

Green’s direction is spot-on with a lean 83 min runtime; the film never feels that it outstays its welcome and gives enough character development, plot, scares, tension, and bloody gore that most fans should be happy with the end result.

As always, Kane Hodder is great as Victor Crowley: mean, menacing, big, ugly, and scary. He brings so much life to Crowley with just his movements and grunts that it’s hard not to be terrified when Hodder/Crowley is on screen, smashing his way through something or about to rip a character limb from limb.

There were several standouts performances in the film: Felissa Rose was fantastic as the Long Island accented publicist; she had several scenes in the film that were hilarious. Parry Shen held the film together as Andrew; he did a great job conveying the tortured emotions and feelings of the character, while at the same time being the voice of reason when everything turns and Crowley comes looking for blood. Laura Ortiz, who at first looks to be the snarky sidekick friend, ends up making a drastic character turn that is not foresaw - a hard thing for any actress to pull off.

The biggest surprise though was Brian Quinn. The Impractical Jokers star was great in his role as Austin, and he could act! His character is likeable, funny, and caring. Quinn pulled this off effortlessly, like he’d been acting his entire life.

The Blu-Ray comes with the following:

Cast Commentary with writer/director Adam Green, Actors Parry Shen, Laura Ortiz and Dave Sheridan

Technical Commentary with writer/director Adam Green, Cinematographer Jan-Michael Losada, Editor Matt Latham, and Make-Up FX Artist Robert Pendergraft

Behind the Scenes Featurette – which is a must watch if you’re a fan of how movies are made; it’s a very in-depth look at the making of Victor Crowley and shows Green and crew in the mix of the process of bringing the film together.

Raising the Dead…Again: An Interview with Adam Green – this may be the most powerful, emotional interview ever put on a Blu-Ray. Fans of Adam Green’s NEED to watch this. Words written here would not do the interview justice, and it is better left if the viewer watches the segment and listens to what Adam has to say.

Victor Crowley is a welcome addition to the Hatchet series, and one can only hope that there are several more Hatchet films in the years to come…

10 out of 10 Stars.

Insidious: The Last Key – A Mysteriously, Scary Old-Fashioned Ghost Stroy


Westley Smith

Insidious: The Last Key is the fourth chapter in the franchise and the second prequel before the events of the first film. After Insidious: Chapter 3 (the first prequel), we were left wondering where Leigh Whannell was going to take Elise (Lin Shaye), Specs (Leigh Whannell), and Tucker (Angus Sampson) as they were last seen walking off together to form their little ghost hunting group; it was never made clear how close we were to the events of the first film.

Now normally I would say that prequels can be a bad idea. Most of the time no one really wants to know the backstory of our heroes or villains because it takes away the mystery of these characters and over explains events that were better spoken and not shown.

Not only do prequels tend to explain backstory of characters and villains we don’t really want, but prequels have a bad habit of creating plot holes in the timeline that does not match up with the events of the first film, leaving the audience scratching their heads trying to figure it out like a jigsaw puzzle and how it all fits together.

Insidious: The Last Key does not fall into this trap. Writer Leigh Whannell gives us a well thought-out prequel and an equally impressive haunted house film that works as a great mystery too.

The first three Insidious films follow a similar pattern: a family is in trouble, a house is haunted by spirits and demons, and Elise (or another paranormal investigator) is called in to solve the haunting. This time Whannell flips everything on its head, and instead of Elise investigating someone else’s haunting, she’s really investigating her own and its connection to her past.

With this change in the formula, it allows Whannell to dive further (no pun intended) into Elise’s backstory, while at the same time giving the character such depth and emotional weight that one can’t help but empathize at her tragic upbringing at the hands of an abusive father (Josh Stewart) who doesn’t want young Elise to develop her ‘gift’ because he is afraid of it – or so the film would have you believe.

This was a prequel done right. Not only did it tell a new story, it shed light into a characters past that we did not know about, while at the same time, expanding the Insidious universe.

Director Adam Robitel takes over as director on this film from Whannell (who helmed Insidious Part 3) and James Wan (who helmed Insidious 1 & 2). If you do not know Adam Robitel’s work, I highly suggest seeking out The Taking of Debra Logan. Robitel does a wonderful job of creating tight, atmospheric tension without relying on jump scares to shock the audience. Instead, he allows the tension of the story to build, the mystery to unfold, slowly drawing us in to this world. The few jump scares that are in the movie (and there are not a lot) are very well timed and effective, aided by the build up to them.

What makes Insidious: The Last Key stand out from the rest of the sequels is the mystery element of the film, and a pretty clever twist that one will not see coming. Yet with the added mystery to the movie it may turn some viewers off because it does not put the focus onto the ghosts and demons right away, or even on The Further. To say the movie drags as the mystery unfolds would be unfair; to say it slows down as things are discovered would be a better assessment to the film. That is what makes Insidious: The Last Key a lot of fun to watch. You find yourself so absorbed in the mystery, that you forget, at times, that you are watching a haunted house movie, so when the scares do happen they are jolting.

All good ghost stories are not about the haunting itself. The story is always more interesting when you know the lore around the ghost story, the mystery of what happened to that person that caused them to haunt a building, an abandon asylum or hospital, or a battlefield like Gettysburg. Sometimes the human story is more frightening or emotional than their ghost story, and this is what Insidious: The Last Key does perfectly by adding in the mystery surrounding Elise’s past.

Lin Shaye as Elise is fantastic and her portrayal of the character as a broken woman, is as emotional as it is sympathetic. Shaye brings so much depth to the character with just her eyes, so much heart with her warm voice that it is not hard to feel both safe and empathetic for that character. Elise has had a lot of real-life demons: she lost the love of her life, she struggles with a “gift” she does not want, and grew up with an abusive father. But at the same time she is not a woe-is-me character. Elise faces her inner demons and meets her challenges head on, even when they terrify her.  Shays’ character, in this day and age where women are playing stronger resilient female roles, should be examined as one of the strong architype women characters. Not all strong female characters have to lift buildings or blow stuff up. Some are strong in other ways and that’s what makes Elise (and Shaye) feel so human and relatable.

Specs and Tucker (Leigh Whannell and Angus Sampson) provide the comic relief, just as they have in the previous films. Their presence in the films is welcoming and their friendly banter and comradery really shines, giving all the films some levity. Their jokes have always been well timed and on point – again showing strength to Whannell as not only a good horror/mystery writer, but a good comedian writer as well.

If there is one thing to dislike about the film it was that a key plot point was not addressed fully and could have been handled better in the end. Needless to stay even with this very small gripe, Insidious: The Last Key is a welcome addition to the franchise. And if you are a fan of the series, go and check this one out in a dark theater with some popcorn and friends – you’ll have a blast!

9 out of 10 Stars.

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It: Movie Review

Westley Smith

The new adaptation to Stephen King’s IT wasn’t quite what I was expecting. I knew things were going to be changed and updated for today’s standards, but I can honestly say that I was hoping for a little more and walked away not as impressed as everyone else seems to be with the film.

Understand that this is just my opinion on the film. If you have a different opinion and loved every moment of IT, that’s great! I, on the other hand, did not.

Though the film looks good, is shot well, and competently directed by Andres Muschietti (Mama) I think where the film falls apart is the script and lack of character development.

What I love about King’s IT novel is that each character is built so well that they don’t even seem like characters on the page. The amount of detail that King puts into all his characters is nothing but astounding (he may be considered the master of horror, but he excels with character development; something he’s overlooked for).

In the IT movie a lot of that rich character development has been dropped to keep the movie moving. What we are left with was nothing more than a surface level characterization of better characters. Even the bullies in the IT novel were giving life and backstory, here they are nothing more than movie bullies that we’ve seen hundreds of times before.
What’s pushed on us instead of character development is the kids FEARS and how Pennywise can manipulate them and use it against the kids to fear him: taking the form of a leper, or a scary painting, or Bill’s dead brother George.

That brings me to why Pennywise scares children. In the book he has a reason for scaring them before he kills them, in the movie it’s never explained; he just does it.

I felt a lot of times the movie fell back onto too many modern day horror movie cliché like spitting up, stopping when your name is called (which happened more than once and it annoyed me), and stupid jump scares that really were not all that effective with exception to one.

I will give credit where credit is due though. The young cast of actors were great in their roles and they all played well off each other, giving their lack of substance in character development to work with. I was delighted to see them shine none-the-less.

Bill Skarsgård was decent as Pennywise (much different from Tim Curry portrayal of the character). He was subdued and scary (at times) and was kept more in the background rather than the focal point of the movie; there were other monsters that Pennywise took the form of so you didn’t see him in the clown form all that much.

Really I could nit-pick this movie apart on things that I did not like, from use of characters, to changes in places, settings, character arches, but it would just become a bore for you to read and not fun for anyone.

So instead of saying anything else on the film, I’m going to stop right here and leave it at that.

4 out of 10 Stars.

In Memoriam: Tobe Hooper

Westley Smith

As I sit here, preparing to write this article on Tobe Hooper, I find myself watching one of the director’s critical and commercial flops, the Cannon Film’s produced Lifeforce on VHS. You may be asking yourself: Why on earth would you watch Lifeforce on VHS, especially after Shout! Factory put out such a stellar Blu-Ray just a few years back?

The answer is simple: Nostalgia.

After seeing all of the social media post over the weekend of the late Tobe Hooper; pictures of him on the set of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, TCM2, Invaders From Mars, and the aforementioned Lifeforce, it reminded me of a time in all of our lives where men like Tobe Hooper, Wes Craven, and George Romero were raining kings of horror – all alive and well; producing horror movie after horror movie (some good, some not so good, and some that just took some time to find their audience). At that time, we were not thinking about the inevitable day when one of our favorite directors would succumb to the very thing that almost all of their movies were about – death.

So for me, a trip back to the 1980s – a time when video stores ruled, VHS players were in every household, and the world of adulthood had yet to fall on me – seemed right, seemed somehow…fitting for today as we all mourn the loss of Tobe Hooper.

Hooper was born in Austin, Texas on January 25, 1943. Before becoming a director, Hooper spend much of the 1960s as a professor and an assistant cameraman for documentaries. His first feature film was Eggshells in 1969 – Kim Hinkle was in the film, who would later go on to co-write The Texas Chainsaw Massacre with Hooper. The film was about a group of hippies who move into an old house in the woods, only to discover that there is a supernatural force controlling them. Eggshells is a product of the 1960s (a movie about love and piece) more than a horror movie. As of this writing, it appears that Eggshells has never been released on any format.

Hooper would follow Eggshells up with the Ed Gein inspired The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.

With The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Tobe Hooper earned horror stardom. There has been enough spoken and written about the film over the years, including a book by Gunnar Hansen (who played Leatherface) called Chainsaw Confidential, that I’m not even going to write much on the film – what else could I add at this point that hasn’t already been said.
After The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Hooper would go onto direct another “true crime” inspired movie called Eaten Alive.

This time the film was based loosely on the story of Joe Ball (also known as the Bluebeard from South Texas or the Alligator Man) from Elmendorf, Texas, sometime after Prohibition ended; who owned a bar with an alligator pit serving as an entertainment attraction. Several murders of women ensued and Joe Ball was suspected, but it was never proven that the flesh found in the pit was human. However, Joe Ball committed suicide at his bar on September 24, 1938 when he was about to be arrested by the police in connection with the murders.

Eaten Alive (aka Death Trap) starred Neville Brand as the murderous Judd, who owns a hotel and kills his victims in fits of rage, and then feeds them to his pet alligator that lives in the swap next to the hotel. Much like TCM, Eaten Alive feels cheap, dirty and raw and it is the closest that Hooper would ever come to repeating the style of TCM. Judd’s motel looks sleazy and grimy, with prostitutes hanging around and backwoods hick Buck (Robert ‘My name is Buck and I like to Fuck’ Englund) with an obsession for anal sex rounding out some of Judd’s unsuspecting victims. Mostly filmed on set with a relatively low budget, the film was plagued with behind-the-scenes conflict, including Neville Brands alcoholic benders and temper towards women, and production problems that eventually caused Hooper to leave the movie before it was finished, though he is credited at the films sole director.

In 1979 Hooper would be back behind the camera directing The Dark, though he was quickly replaced by John “Bud” Cardos (Kingdom of the Spiders). Thankfully, Hooper would go onto what many consider the best adaptation of a Stephen King novel.

That movie: ‘Salem’s Lot’

While the mini-series to Stephen King’s IT has gathered steam in recent years as horrifying audiences both young and old with mix results; Salem’s Lot did it first with positive reviews from almost anyone who’s seen it. The film is heavily atmospheric, downright terrifying (the vampire boy floating by the window has scared countless people) with likeable, well-developed characters and Hooper’s tight direction to the source material has cemented Salem’s Lot as one of the director’s best films. Salem’s Lot would also be Hooper’s first foray into television, a medium he would later find success in in the latter part of his career.

By the time the 1980s rolled around, Hooper was looking for work, and his next movie was not one he originally intended to direct. Convinced over a forty-eight hour period to helm the film, he took the job to direct The Funhouse.

The Funhouse was a direct result of the 1980s slasher craze, which Hooper himself helped create. With films like Halloween, Friday the 13th, Hell Night, The Prowler, My Bloody Valentine, and Prom Night cutting up the screen, The Funhouse puts a unique spin on these films, setting the murders in a funhouse, and committed by a mutated killer with a taste for human blood.

In 1982, Hooper would again have a huge hit with the Steven Spielberg produced Poltergeist. Though it has been rumored that Hooper had very little to do on the film, and was more of a ‘ghost director’ for Spielberg who was working on E.T. at the same time and could not contractually direct two movies at once, so Tobe was hired to “act” as director. But I do think that Hooper had more influence on the film than what he’s given credit for in recent years. For people who say Poltergeist has more of a Spielberg vibe to it than Hooper’s normal flare, well, that is because Spielberg did write the script and was serving as producer – he’s going to have influence on the film. There have been interviews with the cast and crew that say Hooper was the sole director of the film, others say Spielberg. I do believe it is safe to say, at this point, that both of them deserve director credits. None-the-less, their paring created one of the best horror movies of the 1980s.

Following the success of Poltergeist, Hooper would direct Billy Idol’s Dancing with Myself video.

In 1985 he would sign a three picture deal with Cannon Films: Lifeforce, Invaders from Mars, and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: Part 2 would fill up his time for the next several years. Yet none of these films would make a killing at the box office, most of them actually flopped upon release. Lifeforce was heavily edited by Cannon’s producers. Invaders from Mars (a re-make; yes it was happening in the 80s too) was just bad (can’t sugarcoat that), and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: Part 2 was so drastically different from the first TCM that it didn’t scare up audiences, leaving both dismal critical reviews and lackluster box office appeal.

Now, years later, Lifeforce and especially The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: Part 2 have gained a huge cult following and have found their success. Invaders from Mars has mostly been forgotten, though it did get a Shout! Factory Blu-ray a few years back, so it does have its fans.

Hooper would follow up TCM 2 with a few years directing TV, including the Spielberg produced Amazing Stories, The Equalizer, and even the first Freddy’s Nightmares episode called ‘No more Mr. Nice Guy”. The episode told the backstory of Freddy Krueger and starred Robert Englund as Freddy Krueger.

He returned to films with the 1990 mess Spontaneous Combustion starring Brad Dourif that not many people have seen or even know about.

For most of the 1990s, Hooper directed TV, only doing two features in that time (both starring Robert Englund) Night Terrors and another King adaptation, The Mangler – neither are good and nowhere near the quality of TCM or Salem’s Lot – Night Terrors is especially awful. In 1993 he would co-direct with John Carpenter a segment in the TV movie Body Bags called “Eye”, starring Mark Hamill. He would not direct another feature movie until 2000 when Crocodile hit the direct-to-video market.

In 2004 he returned to films with the remake of The Toolbox Murders with a degree of success and quickly followed it up with Mortuary in 2005. In that time, Hooper would also direct two episodes for the Masters of Horror series: The Damned Thing and Dance with the Dead – again starring Robert Englund.

In 2009 he directed Density Express Redux – little is known about this film and on IMDB there isn’t even a review.

Hooper’s final film, Djinn, would come in 2013 and wouldn’t even make a dent on the horror radar.

Over Hooper’s career he had seen both extreme highs and lows. Some say that he only has a few good films in his cannon; others praise him much higher, right up there with John Carpenter, Wes Craven, and George Romero. Though his films have a varying degree of skill: some are bad, some are good, some are awful, and some are outstanding, he will still go down in cinema as a masterful story teller, director, and the father of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.

On August 26, 2017 Tobe Hooper passed away at the age of 74.

R.I.P. Tobe Hooper.

Annabelle: Creation: Movie Review

Westley Smith

A few months ago The Crimson Screen reviewed the trailer to Annabelle: Creation and were not overly impressed with what we saw, not to mention confused on how this film related to the 2014 film Annabelle and The Conjuring. As noted in that article: it’s a real head scratcher.

To say that Annabelle had overstayed her welcome may have been a fair assessment. The first film, directed by John R. Leonetti (Wish Upon) wasn’t horrible, and it did have a few moments that were scary: The scene where Annabelle sits up and the demon is behind her, holding her, and the basement scene were both particularly well done. But there was WAAAAY too much padding in between the scares, with an overly predictable plot and stiff characters, and the way Annabelle (the doll) became cursed by a demon seem…well…odd – a drop of blood falls onto the doll and it’s suddenly cursed by a demon.

Okay…? It made no sense?

I know that Annabelle is pretty disliked around the horror community and people have voiced their opinion on the film openly on social media, being far less kind than I was above about the film. I think the point to Annabelle: Creation was a way of righting the wrongs made on the first Annabelle film without rebooting, resetting – whatever you want to call it – the Annabelle storyline.
So do they succeed?


The story follows a doll maker, (Anthony LaPaglia) and his wife (Miranda Otto), after losing their daughter in a horrific car accident. Twelve years after their daughter’s death, they welcome in a nun (Stephanie Sigman) and several children into their lavish, but out in the middle of nowhere, home. But what seems to be the ideal place for these kids, soon turns into a nightmare when Annabelle is unlocked.

The film was directed by David F. Sandberg (Lights Out) and produced by James Wan (Saw, The Conjuring). This time, Annabelle was handle right. The thing is: Annabelle – the doll – isn’t really that scary. She, unlike say Chucky from Child’s Play, doesn’t do anything; it’s what’s lurking inside of her that is scary, the demon, so everything around the doll needs to be scary, more-so than the doll itself.

That’s how this film is built. The tension is so tight with a slow burn story that by the end you are riveted to the screen, unable to take your eyes off what is happening.

There were several times in the film where I found myself gripping the seat in terror – there is a really effective jump scare that is nothing (and I mean that, nothing) but the way the tension is built around the scene I damn near came out of my skin. Seriously I did. And this is how Annabelle: Creation is, you find yourself jumping at just about everything, including small noises and creeks because the tension is so thick you can cut it with a knife at times. There were several times I heard people gasping at just noises.

The cinematography is fantastic in the film and Sandberg really knows how to use the camera to provoke fear with very effective use of low lighting, shadows and spots of pitch blackness where the demon lurks; it leaves so much to your imagination about what’s in the darkness that you can’t help but become frightened. There were times in the film where people started laughing, not because the scene was funny, but because they were so scared they had to release their fear, laughing was the only way. It was great!

I also really enjoyed the religious symbolism throughout the film. If you keep your eyes open you’ll see there are a lot of crucifixes in the movie, both upright and upside down, and that at times, sunlight casts crosses on the walls. This little added detail really helped the mood of the film and the battle of good vs evil.

All the actors in the film do a wonderful job, especially the two young leads (Talitha Bateman and Lulu Wilson) who have to endure most of the demons torment. The always wonderful Anthony LaPaglia was convincing in his roll of heartbroken father and caretaker of Miranda Otto’s creepy, but mysterious, Ester Mullins who’s locked herself away in her bedroom for unknown reasons.

Also keep an eye out for some Easter Eggs in the film that are going to be expanded upon further as this Conjuring Universe begins to build. There is one scene in the film (that is an Easter Egg) but done so masterfully, and extremely creepy, that it sends chills running right up your back. Oh, and stick around after the credits, there is a post credit scene…

Like I said above, Annabelle: Creation is a slow burn movie, and has the feel of a much older haunted house movie, like The Changeling, and it doesn’t rely on cheap jump scares with a loud noise to scare you; in fact there are very few traditional jump scares in the film, rather relying on tone, mood, setting, really well done sound design (maybe the best I’ve ever heard) and one really scary demon to frighten the bejesus out of you. Annabelle: Creation takes its times to get to the scares, letting the plot, characters, and mystery unfold slowly while the tension builds and builds into the final climax of the film when all hell breaks loose.

And the way they tied Annabelle: Creation to Annabelle was brilliant, and may just save that film from being looked at as unfavorably as it was when first viewed. I know I now look at the first Annabelle differently after seeing Annabelle: Creation and I think others will too.

10 out of 10 Stars

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Warlock: 3 Film Collection: Vestron Blu-Ray Review

Frank Ford

Since the re-launch of the Vestron Label, bringing a catalog of films (now owned by Lionsgate) to Collector’s Edition Blu-Ray, has been a trip down memory lane to a time when VHS ruled the world and mom and pop video stores were on every corner.

Gone now are those days of old, but the films live on, long after the video stores have closed and VHS has become obsolete – except to some who still collect VHS. To see these films coming back around, and given the Blu-Ray treatment, to be enjoyed by this generation (a generation who missed out on the VHS craze and stores) is a wonderful experience, and Vestron is doing a fantastic job rescuing these more obscure films from falling into the abyss.

Vestron’s latest releasing: Warlock: 3 Film Set Collector’s Edition is the eleventh releasing from the studio that began with Chopping Mall and Blood Diner last September. To say these releasing’s have been a huge success may be an understatement; people are screaming for more, the next announcement from Lionsgate, anticipating what the next film in the series is going to be – at this time there has been no announcement on the next films in the Collector’s Edition Series.

But for the time being, we are going to have to make do with their latest releasing, Warlock.

Let’s dive into the films and Blu-Ray, shall we.

WARLOCK: A Brief History

The first Warlock film was directed by Steve Miner (Friday the 13th: Parts 2&3, Halloween: H20, and House) written by David Twohy (Pitch Black, Riddick, and Below) and was originally to be distributed by New World Pictures – founded by Roger Corman – in 1988 on an estimated budget of seven million dollars.
But that was not to be.

New World Pictures filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy prior to Warlock’s releasing, only after the film’s trailer had played in theaters and on TV, causing the release of the film to fall into the unknown at the time.

Would anyone ever see Warlock or would it be lost forever, buried in a vault somewhere?

The fan buzz around Warlock in the late 80s was huge, and people were question where the film was, and, what happened that it was no longer getting a release. No one, at that time, knew Warlock’s fate. Some thought Warlock would be dumped onto the home video market (director Steve Miner thought that’s what actually happened for years), but thankfully Trimark Pictures acquired the rights to the film and instead of putting Warlock out on home video, they decided to released it theatrically where it would go onto gross over nine million dollars in just its theatrical run.

But much like the black magic powers the Warlock possess in the film, the movie seemed to proses its own magical powers when it hit VHS. VHS was the saving grace for Warlock; it was one of those rare movies that wouldn’t stay on the shelf as it was repeatedly rented out over and over, quickly making a lot of money and gaining a huge cult following in the process.


In 1691 Boston, a warlock is being tried and sentenced to death for his crimes of practicing black magic. He escapes, magically, to future 1989 Los Angeles where he begins searching for parts of the Devil’s Bible that has been scattered across the US. Trailed by a witch hunter from the warlocks own time and a woman he’s put a curse on, they must stop him before he can collect all the pages and find the true name of God, which he can use to destroy the world.


First off, the upgraded Blu-Ray looks fantastic! To be perfectly honest, I had only ever seen Warlock (and including its sequels) on VHS. I had, just in the past year, revisited all of them, unknowing at the time that Vestron was going to be releasing this edition. I knew what the picture looked like on VHS, so I was excited to watch them on Blu-Ray for the first time. WOW! I was blown away. It was like I was watching Warlock for the first time again; seeing things crisper and brighter than I ever had before, with detail that was so sharp it nearly hurt my eyes.

The first film in the three film series is loaded with extra features that are sure to please any fan of the movie.

“Satan’s Son” and interview with actor Julian Sands: is great fun, with the actor discussing how he became involved in the film, how he viewed the warlock character, and what it was like working on the film, as well as the sequels and why he was not involved in the third film – which I will go into a little bit later.

“The Devil’s Work” with Director Steve Miner: is also a must watch if you are a fan of Warlock. Miner goes into how he became attached to the project, what it was like casting, shooting, editing, scoring, and releasing the film when New World filed for Bankruptcy. In the interview, Miner doesn’t hold back when talking about the film, his feelings about the final product, and some of the stuff he does and doesn’t like about the film.

“Effects of Evil” with Make-Up Effects Creators Carl Fullerton and Neal Martz: is a fun little segment where the two effects guys talk about working with the actors, creating effects, and go into great detail on the lost scene (that was reworked) that involved a woman’s nipples turning into the eyes of Satan. The segment is well worth your time.
The commentary with Director Steve Miner and a moderator is fun to listen to with an insightful look into the film and what it was like shooting some of the scenes, as well as Miner having no knowledge of the film ever played in a theater - which was shocking to hear that the film’s director didn’t even know Warlocks fate at the time of its release.
The rest of the disc is filled with Vintage behind the scenes footage, interviews, TV and theatrical trailers, as well as a still gallery that shows some of the aforementioned deleted nipple scene.

• BRAND NEW Audio Commentary with Director Steve Miner
• Isolated Score Selections/Audio Interview with Author Jeff Bond
• All NEW Interviews
• “Satan’s Son” with Actor Julian Sands
• “The Devil’s Work” with Director Steve Miner
• “Effects of Evil” with Make-up Effects Creators Carl Fullerton and Neal Martz
• Behind-the-Scenes Footage
• Interview Segments with Cast and Crew
• Featurette with Make-Up Effects Creators Carl Fullerton and Neal Martz
• Vintage Featurette with Visual Effects Supervisors
• Theatrical Trailer
• Video Trailer
• TV Spots
• Still Gallery

Warlock: The Armageddon: A Brief History

After the success of Warlock, and the rights now fully in Trimarks pocket, a sequel was inevitable. Released under Trimarks horror/schlock banner, Vidmark, on September 24th 1993, Warlock: The Armageddon opened to dismal reviews and a poor box office return.

This time directing duties had been turned over to Anthony Hickox (Waxwork, Waxwork 2: Lost in Time, Hellraiser 3: Hell on Earth).

Warlock: The Armageddon, is a lot different from the first one; the stories are not connected and only share the title. Where the first film there are little pockets of humor, a fish out of water story at times to break the tension, this one is played dead serious with a dread filled tone of doom and dismay. It’s a mean and nasty film, filled with blood and gore, violence and death. Warlock: The Armageddon feels every bit of a 1990s Vidmark movie, right down to the way it’s lit and shot.

Though Hickox does bring a lot of his normal flair to the film, and the skill behind and in front of the camera is there (Sands is particularly great in this one and is loving every moment), Warlock: The Armageddon falls into that 1990s sequel trap where everything the second time around had to be bigger, bloodier, nastier than the first.


An order of Druids train their children to battle an evil Warlock determined to unleash Satan upon the world by bringing a collection of six mystic rune stones together.


Much as I’ve stated with the first disc, the picture on Warlock: The Armageddon looks amazing. The upgrade to Blu-Ray is well worth the price to add to your collection of Vestron’s Collector’s Series.

The extra features are minimal with only Anthony Hickox commentary on the film. It’s a fun listen, and he talks about some of the things he doesn’t like about the movie, especially the love story between the kids and the lack of the warlock being in the film. He also says that this is one of his least favorite films that he’s made. I can’t say I agree with Hickox, as I do really like Warlock: The Armageddon for its mean and downright nasty tone; there is something about this film that gets under your skin the way the first one didn’t. Also, the way Sands plays the warlock in this movie is scary; he’s much meaner, darker, and more sinister than before.

The vintage making of featurette with behind-the-scenes footage that was pulled from an old VHS (yes, it does show) and the vintage interviews with Actors Julian Sands and Paula Marshall, and Director, Anthony Hickox are both fun to watch and listen to them talk about the film as it was being made.

WARLOCK: The Armageddon: SPECIAL FEATURES (Disc 2)

• NEW Audio Commentary with Director Anthony Hickox
• Vintage Making-of Featurette Behind-the-Scenes Footage
• Extended Vintage Interview Segments with Actor Julian Sands, Director Anthony Hickox, and Actress Paula Marshall
• Theatrical Trailer
• TV Spots
• Still Gallery

Warlock lll: The End of Innocence: A Brief History

After the failure of Warlock: The Armageddon, Warlock lll was released on October 12th 1999 direct-to-video. Julian Sands did not return this time to play the warlock; he felt the script, the production, and everyone involved seemed to be lacking the know-how of bring the film together. Though Sands passed on the third Warlock film, he is still very much open to the idea of returning to the roll that made him famous.

Warlock duties this time went to Bruce Payne (Drop Zone) and Ashley Laurence (Hellraiser) was cast as the female lead.

What Sands says in his interview “Satan’s Son” about Warlock lll is not far from the truth: Warlock lll feels cheap – which is was with only a two million dollar budget. The plot is slow. Payne isn’t scary as the warlock, nor very menacing, and he’s rather a bore to watch in the film. Though there are a few spots in the film that do build some tension and scares, especially when Kris (Ashley Laurence) first gets to the house, they are few and far between, and the runtime is extended with endless amounts of dialog that’s just a snooze-fest to sit through. And the ending is rather anticlimactic to say the least.


A college student unexpectedly finds that she has inherited a derelict house. Accompanied by a group of friends, she goes to clear it of heir-looms before the structure is demolished. Almost immediately, she and her friends are targeted by a powerful warlock who is interested in her bloodline.


Much like Warlock: The Armageddon the extra features a minimal. This time there is no director’s commentary, only a vintage making of segment, and vintage interviews with cast and crew. Trailer and Video Sales promo. And a still gallery.

There really isn’t much to talk about here…

WARLOCK lll: The End of Innocents: SPECIAL FEATURES (Disc 2)

• Behind-the-Scenes Footage
• Vintage Interview Segments with Cast and Crew
• Trailer
• Video Sales Promo
• Still Gallery

Final Thoughts:

Warlock: 3 Film Collection is a must have for any lover of the films, or even if you’re just collecting the Vestron Collector’s Series. This collection will not disappoint. Though I would have liked more special features on Warlock: The Armageddon, (I really don’t care about Warlock lll – I know that’s mean to say, but it is what it is) but most of my questions about that film were answered by Sands in his “Satan’s Son” interview of the first disc.

This collection is well worth your hard earned money. So continue to support physical media and pick up a copy before they are all sold out.

9 out of 10 Stars.

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The Dark Tower: Movie Review

Westley Smith

The process of adapting Stephen King’s magnum opus in to a film has been a long, drawn out process, going though countless directors, writers (re-writes) stars (at one point Russell Crow was attached to star as Roland) studios, and even a planned TV series crossover that would tie in to a three film trilogy – which may or may not be moving forward at this time.

The problem is that King’s Dark Tower books are not easily adapted for the screen – maybe more so than any of his other works. There are a total of eight books coming in at 4,250 pages. Trying to adapt all of that material would be insane (by any filmmaker) and not to mention tiring for your average movie goer or TV watcher.

The decision was made (and King liked the idea as well) to make the movie adaptation for The Dark Tower as a sequel to the book series, while Roland is on the second journey of his quest – so in an essence, The Dark Tower film is its own thing, and only using the source material loosely. This also allowed the book adaptation to be opened to a wider movie going audience unfamiliar with the source material.

To some of the hardcore Dark Tower fans out there, this is a major letdown (or a slap in the face for sticking with 4,250 pages of reading) to just take the easy way out and make the movie its own thing.

I disagree.

As I stated above, adapting Stephen King is not easy – even some of his smaller works have been adapted into movies and they still are not as good as the books/stories. King is a very prolific writer. His books, though dealing with horror, monsters, and inner demons of characters are very literary tails. His style of story-telling is more akin to older story-tellers than for modern audiences and even movie adaptations. You have to invest your time, energy, and patients with a King novel as he takes you on a journey through the story.

Trying to flesh out The Dark Tower series into one movie (or even several) would be impossible to do. There is just too much to cover over the eight book series, a lot (even if they made all eight into movies) would have to be cut from the movie to save time.

The decision to make The Dark Tower movie a sequel instead was more of the way to go with this adaptation. And I think once you look at The Dark Tower movie that way, it helps elevate any preconception you may have of the film - remember in the books, Roland does create a time paradox that changes events.

The movie adaptation of The Dark Tower, follows Jake Chambers (Tom Taylor) as he begins to have nightmares of The Man in Black (Matthew McConaughey) and Roland Deschain (Idris Elba) and of The Dark Tower. He realizes that he’s being followed by The Man in Black’s goons – creatures that hide under human skin to disguise their true identity – because of his gift called ‘the shine’. Walter, also known as The Man in Black is collecting other kids with ‘the shine’ in hopes to bring down The Dark Tower, which holds the universe together, with the help of their gift.

The Dark Tower movie is not bad (as some would have you believe); it’s engaging enough that you can follow the story, the characters, and what’s going on and not become board or tied down with tedious amounts of detail that fill the novels – again this was made with the mindset of getting it to a wider audience and not just hardcore fans of the series. Here, the story is told pretty straight forward – a good vs evil tale.

The problem is that there just isn’t enough story to make one feel that what is happening on screen is really that big of a deal to the universe. The Man in Black’s goal ultimately is to bring down The Dark Tower, but you never learn why he wants to destroy it, and he never really feels that threatening to Roland because, unlike everyone else in the movie, he cannot control Roland – so the threat to Roland isn’t there and you know he’s going to win in the end.

The other thing is that we never get an idea of how big Mid-World is; we get snippets of dialog or images that suggest what it was, or is, but never a fully fleshed out realization of the world. The idea of jumping between worlds is never expanded upon – it’s just there as a plot device - nor are we ever given a clear explanation of what the creatures (The Man in Black’s goons) who are chasing after Jake and Roland are; there are a lot of plot holes. The scope of the film feels smaller than it should for this type of movie, unlike say Lord of The Rings. It all needed to be bigger, grander, the threat needed to be more sinister and not so easily stopped in the end. It’s a self-contained story that is wrapped up neatly at the end.

For fans of the books series there are plenty of hidden images pointing to The Crimson King and other Dark Tower lore, but again, it is never spoken of or mentioned in the movie and leaves you wondering what the The Crimson King is. I guess this is going to be addressed in future movies, if there are any.

There were a lot of Stephen King Easter eggs hidden in the movie though, and some of them are hard to spot, some are not. It’s fun to see that The Dark Tower was trying to say that all of King’s works (or at least a lot of them) are connected to this universe.

Both Idris Elba and Matthew McConaughey are excellent in their rolls. Idris Elba, in my opinion, captured the spirit of Roland perfectly and pulled off The Gunslinger without any flaws – he understood his dry wit, his callous, and that he had only one thing in mind: killing The Man in Black. And you could not have cast a better Man In Black when they cast Matthew McConaughey as Walter – I would love to see him play Randle Flagg in The Stand (yes, I know they are the same character). Though the threat to Roland is lacking, to the rest of the characters surrounding The Man in Black, McConaughey chews up the scenes in a devilish good way, and really sells himself as the ultimate bad guy who, at times, can climb under your skin.

For the general audience, who know nothing about The Dark Tower series (nor has any interest in reading the books) I’m sure they will enjoy this movie for what it is – a fun action/fantasy movie with a decent story, characters, and is well acted and aptly directed from a script that is lacking understanding of the source material.

For hardcore Dark Tower fans, they are going to hate this water-down version and would just rather go back and re-read all 4,250 pages of the books than put themselves through watching this movie again.

6 out of 10 Stars

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