Movie Recommendation of the Week #6

assault on precinct 13 poster

assault on precinct 13 poster

Assault on Precinct 13

For some reason a lot of people seem to think that Halloween was John Carpenter’s first movie. It was actually his 3rd feature length film and it wasn’t even his first great film.

Assault on Precinct 13 was John Carpenter’s 2nd feature film and it came out in 1976, two years before Halloween in 1978.

The movie’s title is actually a big misconception. The assault doesn’t take place on Precinct 13, nor is there a Precinct 13 anywhere in the movie. The precinct in the movie is actually Precinct 9, District 13. John Carpenter’s original title was “The Anderson Alamo”, he later changed it to “The Siege”, but the movie distributors changed the title when they released it to “Assault on Precinct 13”, because they thought it sounded cool, and they were just not bothered to check their details.

Reasons to watch:

John Carpenter is in great form – Even though this isn’t a horror movie, it has Carpenter’s signature dark and foreboding style. It’s an action thriller (idealized as a western) that has a horror like atmosphere that works surprisingly well.

Great action – While there may not be a ton of action, what is there is great. The effects are fantastic. This is back in the 70’s so we have all the glorious assaultsquibs that sadly aren’t as prevalent in more modern films. The action is well shot, well performed, and is very intense.

Good characters – The acting is very good and the characters are very well rounded. The character development is done surprisingly well.

It seems like the kind of movie where you wouldn’t care about the characters, but John Carpenter did a great job as writer/director making the characters napoleon wilsonlikable and relate-able. They are believable in the situation and the good guys are fun to root for.

One character in particular is just so damn cool. Partially because of the excellent writing and partially because of the fantastic performance given by Darwin Joston. That character is Napoleon Wilson. This character is so Goddamn cool, he has to be on a list of coolest movie characters, but I feel he often goes overlooked.

It’s an overlooked classic – Assault on Precinct 13 is one of John Carpenter’s best films and it really is a classic.

Macabre Month of Horror movie review #16 Manhunt

manhunt Macabre Month of Horror video review

manhuntManhunt came out in 2003 for the PS2. It was a highly controversial game that got banned in a number of countries. The game is considered highly controversial due to its brutally violent style, but the violence is not totally unwarranted. It’s easy to say that the violence is the whole point of the game, but it can also be thought of as a comment on modern society.

The story of the game has a convict, James Earl Cash (which is an awesome name if I’ve ever heard one) who was supposed to be executed, but instead was put into a snuff film directed by the deranged Lionel Starkweather who is expertly voice acted by Brian Cox. Brian Cox played Hannibal Lecter in Manhunter (Manhunt and Manhunter are completely unrelated) so now everytime I play Manhunt I can’t shake the feeling that it’s Hannibal Lecter telling me to kill all these people. Lecter just set up this big elaborate snuff film for a laugh.

Starkweather talks to you throughout the game over an earpiece. He orchestrates the whole ordeal and encourages you to kill people in the most violent way possible for the sake of his snuff film. That says something about society, the fact that there is an audience for these films who are getting off to all the violence. The game is hinting at our own society that we all have a violent nature and just need to unleash it. The executions in the game have 3 tiers. each successive tier being more brutal, bloody, and violent. The higher the tier the harder it is to pull off. Think about it, Players are rewarded with gorier kills, and it’s strangely compelling to get the most violent kill possible. A quick tap of the button results in a quick, not so gory kill, but take your time and charge it up and you get to the gory stuff. The game makes you work for it. There’s something profound to be had there.

manhunt bagLet me just say right now: Violent video games do NOT create violent people. If a guy goes out a kills someone after playing a game, he didn’t do it because of the game (or movie, two sides of the same coin) he would’ve done it anyway. If anything, violent games and movies provide an outlet to let your rage into, possibly acting as a violence impediment. I like to compare Manhunt to the final scene of Scarface. Try watching the end of “Scarface” when you’re angry. Watching Tony Montana go berserk and massacre all those f*cking cockaroaches while screaming and swearing is like watching all your inner rage melt onto the screen. The same idea can be applied to Manhunt. It’s a good stress reliever, if you’re angry go choke out a manhunt character with a plastic bag and break their neck, then you’ll feel all better.

The music is good in Manhunt. It’s subtle but effective. Right from the very opening the music sounds like it could have been composed by John Carpenter or maybe even Clint Mansell (only in the first scene for Mansell).

The game has heavy elements of stealth and some action aspects, but retains it’s grounding in horror. A realistic, dark and dirty, horror. It works because murders like this could actually happen, not on such a scale but I digress. It effectively creates a sense of dread. A fear of what’s ahead. The graphics are dark, dirty, and outdated, but that doesn’t hurt the game, in fact it works to make you perhaps even more uncomfortable. It can be absolutely terrifying getting chased by a baseball bat toting white trash psycho through a junkyard.

The game’s fighting mechanics are intentionally ineffective. If you try to go up against 2 guys you’ll almost certainly die. If you go up against just one guy there’s still a pretty good chance you’re not walking away from it. This forces you to stick to the shadows and stalk your enemies. Getting spottedmanhunt baddie sends you in a mad dash for safety, and sometimes that safety isn’t there. The brilliant banter and raving from the enemies makes for a harrowing experience. Each gang has their own personality and they are well designed and have a lot of detail. The game is made by Rockstar and they always put in a lot of effort.

There are some twisted moments in the story of Manhunt. A particular level has you roaming around a zoo, when you find out that your family has been kidnapped by the psychos and each have been tied to a cross, ready to be executed. If you get spotted, they kill your family. That is a tremendous motivation to do well and *SPOILER ALERT* They die anyway later on. That is dark and twisted and gives you a real reason to hate Starkweather if you didn’t already. *END SPOILER*

You can hide bodies, but I always preferred to leave them out for their buddies to find as an intimidation tactic.

The gameplay is very good. The dark and intense atmosphere is fun to roam through and they change up the locations often enough to stop things from getting stale. The enemies despicable personality makes killing them a treat. It can be real gratifying to bash their heads in, especially the white trash bigots. Caving their heads in with a metal manhunt gunbaseball bat is extremely satisfying. Late in the game guns are introduced. They use a lock on system which is terrible in most games, but it actually works really well in Manhunt.

Towards the end of the game you run into Pigsy: a mentally retarded man in a pig mask who escapes from Starkweathers attic and wreaks havoc with a chainsaw. The build up to you having to fight pigsy is intense. You really dread having to come face to face with him and when you finally do… woah baby

The boss fight against Pigsy is one of the most absolutely terrifying segments in any video games ever made. Top ten at least. Probably top five. It’s intense. Try him on hardcore mode and you’ll be quivering in the dark afraid to move.

You fight pigsy in this apartment type place with the walls all caved in. It creates a labyrinth for you to run around in. You hear his chainsaw approaching and can’t tell which direction it’s coming from, if you do get spotted by Pigsy, it results in a horrifying dash for safety that is very hard to escape from. His terrifying squeal and the putter of his chainsaw chase you down the empty halls, you hope you can outrun him and find a shadow to hide in. This boss fight is incredible. It’s truly terrifying.

Manhunt is a very good game. It’s actually one of my favorites on the PS2. I like it so much that I actually bought the sequel on release day. Manhunt 2 is the only game I have ever purchased on release day.

Manhunt 2 keeps the horror flowing strong. It introduces some new aspects to the horror. There are two major ones. The first being that your character begins the game by escaping from a mental institution in a pretty horrific sequence. Your character being completely insane leads to some interesting moments regarding the pickman project and whatnot. It also leads to a very cliche plot twist, but i thought the story was rather interesting.

The 2nd development is that they have ramped up the sexuality, adding an entirely new dimension to the psychological horror elements. It gets a bit excessive actually. Gone is the social commentary from the first game, which I missed. The second Manhunt was a very good game as well. The locations play a bigger part in the second game.

In the first manhunt the locations aside from a couple served only as a different place for you to slaughter people. The second manhunt integrates the locations in the story better. This creates some stand out and memorable levels, as well as a more diverse level selection. The second manhunt has some rather stupid moments but I still think it is a terrific game.

manhunt 2Manhunt 2 furthers the gameplay mechanics and style of the first game rather than the story. Manhunt 2 was even more controversial and banned in ever more countries.

The first two spoken words in the game are actually “Holy f*ck!” The game was threatened with an AO rating and was almost banned in America which resulted in heavy censorship of the game. Rockstar had to put a bunch of weird filters over the executions, which make them harder to see, but you can still make out what’s happening for the most part. The Wii version was hit the hardest by the censorship.

I hold the Manhunt series close to my heart, I really love these games and I hope that Rockstar will make a Manhunt 3. They didn’t move on it at all during the PS3 age, but maybe for the PS4, some high-def slaughtering maybe?

 

Macabre Month of Horror 2013 movie review #10 ‘The Ward’

the ward

the wardThe Ward AKA the most disappointing movie I’ve ever seen. John Carpenter was one of the top tier masters of horror. His first movie in 9 years was “The Ward”. Wow a movie so good that a master of horror comes out of retirement to make. I wish that were the case.

THIS IS NOT SO MUCH OF A REVIEW AS IT IS A WARNING

John Carpenter in 2001

I watched “The Ward” last year on Halloween. I figured, hey a John Carpenter movie I haven’t seen, this ought to be good for Halloween. I was mistaken. I bottled up my rage at the movie for an entire year before finally writing this review, and really I’m not angry, just disappointed and shocked that John Carpenter would make a film this terrible.

While the original “Halloween” may not have been the first slasher film, it was right there to lay the framework. It was one of the most highly influential films ever made, and pretty much defined the slasher subgenre.

Knowing that John Carpenter had a large part in creating the slasher genre, and then he turns around and makes “The Ward”, one of the most cliché slasher films I’ve seen, it’s almost a sacrilegious experience. “The Ward” is a rip-off of the slasher genre, which is incredibly ironic since it’s directed by the man most responsible for the birth of the genre. I had so much respect for John Carpenter, and I honestly see “The Ward” as a disgrace.

the ward Laura LeighThe script while not being written by John Carpenter is absolutely terrible. The story is uninspired,unoriginal, full of clichés, and does not amount to anything worth committing to memory. The acting is all either unremarkable or quite bad. Actually no, there was actress that was quite good. I almost forgot about her. Laura Leigh did a good job with what she was given. Other than that, the acting is below par, even for a horror film. The movie has an extremely predictable twist, that is also incredible cliché. It’s another split personality movie, as if that hasn’t already been done to death.

“The Ward” abides by pretty much every slasher cliché there is, and doesn’t improve or innovate anything. If John Carpenter hadn’t directed it, there would be no audience for it. “The Ward” would be poorly received and then forgotten. As it still should be. I get the feeling John Carpenter didn’t try very hard with “The Ward”, or even have any passion. Which makes me wonder why he even made it. He didn’t do the music either as he often does, he said he was “too old”. Well maybe he’s too old to pick his scripts because “The Ward” is awful.

Not a good movie, but if you want to complete your John Carpenter collection or just want to see if it’s as bad as I say it is, you can buy it by clicking  “HERE”. It’s really not a horrible movie, it’s just tremendously disappointing that it came from John Carpenter, a master of horror. This is something I would expect from a straight to DVD first time director.

Macabre Month of Halloween Horror 2013 movie review #3 ~ ‘John Carpenter’s Vampires’

John carpenter's Vampires poster
John carpenter's Vampires poster
John carpenter’s Vampires poster

John Carpenter is a master of horror. Sometimes he fails to deliver but he will always be known as one of the greats. He brought us a wide range of classics such as Halloween, Escape From New York, and Assault on Precinct 13.

Vampires stars James Woods, Daniel Baldwin, and none other than Laura Palmer herself: Sheryl Lee. James Woods tries his hardest to be a BAMF and sometimes he doesn’t quite pull off the tough guy act.

james woods
James Woods

The role could have been better cast, Michael Biehn would be my pick for the role. James Woods really does give it his all though, too bad he’s always just bordering on BA when the character deserves better. While James Woods isn’t always believable as a tough guy, the character is still really cool.

Sheryl Lee doesn’t have a lot to do in the movie. She mostly just looks freaked out or possessed, and Daniel Baldwin is interchangeable with a number of other actors, so the cast is not the strong point of the movie.  The strong point is in John carpenter’s impeccable direction. I will say that the guy who plays the young priest is awesome. His transformation is well done and he is about the only actor that I would not recast if given the option.

John Carpenter was actually thinking about quitting directing before making this movie. He said that it “Stopped Being Fun” This movie changed his mind and he decided to keep directing. That’s pretty damn cool.

Vampires has the look, sound, tone, and feel of an 80’s horror film, when it’s actually from 1998. Only 2 films ago for John Carpenter. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It resembles the sorely missed lost style of classic horror films. John Carpenter composed the music for the film and it is perfectly suiting and creates a strong style for the film.

vampire cross

John Carpenter’s Vampires is very similar to From Dusk Till Dawn. Both are vampire films with a Spanish flair and location. Both take inspiration from the vampire lore while twisting it around and tweaking it, and both have wild action scenes, killing vampires with really great gore effects. This is a movie that is proud to be rated R. Blood, swearing, and pretty much anything that can get you rated R. Vampires wears it’s rating like a badge and jumps at the chance to throw a motherf*cker in your face.

Vampires had two sequels the 2nd of which starring Jon Bon Jovi of all people.

Vampires isn’t “Scary” in the slightest, but it doesn’t really try to be. Instead it strives for being a cool action movie. The movie knows what it is and it just exudes cool. In a world flooded with terrible vampire movies like the whole Twilight franchise, it’s nice to know that there are still some cool vampire films worth watching that you might not have seen yet. It’s not a slow movie by any means, its 108 minute run time breeze right by. It’s entertaining without overstaying it’s welcome.

They’re not gothic vampires and they’re not bitchy brooding vampires either, they’re hardcore balls to the wall vampires that will tear you apart without pausing for a moment to think about Kirsten Stewart.

It’s not great, but it’s a decent little flick. It’s a fun vampire film in the vain of From Dusk Till Dawn. Definitely worth checking out.

Currently John Carpenter’s Vampires is available for free on Crackle so check it out if you’rd interested and keep checking back all October long for a new horror review everyday with this years MACABRE MONTH OF HORROR.