12 Rounds

12 Rounds

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Today’s flick is 12 Rounds, an action feature starring professional wresting icon John Cena.

12 Rounds was written by one Daniel Kunka, who has no other listed credits on IMDb to his name. The film was directed by Renny Harlin, and action-oriented filmmaker who has been behind films like Driven, Deep Blue Sea, Mindhunters, Cliffhanger, Die Hard 2, Cutthroat Island, The Adventures of Ford Fairlane, and The Legend of Hercules.

The cinematographer for 12 Rounds was David Boyd, who has spent most of his career directing and shooting acclaimed television shows like The Walking Dead, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Deadwood, Firefly, and Friday Night Lights.

The editor for the movie was Brian Berdan, who also cut the action movies Crank, Grosse Pointe Blank, Natural Born Killers, and the supernatural thriller The Mothman Prophecies.

The producers on 12 Rounds were Becki Cross Trujillo (Daredevil, UHF), Mark Gordon (Speed, Speed 2, A Simple Plan), and Michael Lake (Fortress).

The musical score for 12 Rounds was composed by Trevor Rabin, who has provided music for movies like Con Air, The 6th Day, Jack Frost, Enemy of the State, Deep Blue Sea, Armageddon, Kangaroo Jack, Torque, and National Treasure.

The makeup effects for 12 Rounds were provided by a team made up of Nikki Brown (Looper, Jonah Hex), Samantha M. Capps (Pitch Perfect), Betty Hamnac (The Mist, Ray), Stacy Kelly (Dracula 2000), Donita Miller (American Horror Story), Paige Reeves (Jurassic World, Trumbo), and Donna Spahn (Hard Target, Dracula 2000).

The special effects unit for the movie included Conrad V. Brink Jr. (Oz, The Sopranos), Jeff Brink (Winter’s Tale, Cop Out, Men In Black II), Charlie Simunik (Men In Black 3, I Am Legend), Durk Tyndall (Transporter 2, Dante’s Peak), Mitch Toles (Pirates of the Caribbean), Neil Stockstill (The Mist), Edward Joubert (Jonah Hex, Killer Joe), Shane Gross (W., Men In Black 3), Joe Catalanotto (Green Lantern), and Phillip Beck (Bored To Death, 30 Rock).

The visual effects work for 12 Rounds was done by the companies Pixel Magic (21 Jump Street, After Earth, Torque, Daredevil) and Frantic Films (Across The Universe, The Core, Swordfish, The Italian Job).

The cast of 12 Rounds includes John Cena (The Marine), Aiden Gillen (Game of Thrones, The Dark Knight Rises, The Wire), Ashley Scott (Walking Tall), Steve Harris (Minority Report), and Brian White (The Cabin In The Woods).

The plot of 12 Rounds is summarized on IMDb as follows:

Detective Danny Fisher discovers his girlfriend has been kidnapped by a ex-con tied to Fisher’s past, and he’ll have to successfully complete 12 challenges in order to secure her safe release.

12rounds2John Cena performed all of his own driving stunts for the movie, which he learned how to do while preparing for his role by shadowing officers with the New Orleans Police Department.

One of the things that sticks out most about 12 rounds is the colorful setting of New Orleans, LA. In fact, the movie almost feels like a tourism advertisement with intermittent explosions. Interestingly, Renny Harlin actually altered the original screenplay in order to move the setting to New Orleans from the original backdrop of Chicago.

The production budget for 12 Rounds was $22 million, on which it grossed just over $18 million in its theatrical release, meaning that it lost a good deal of money. It didn’t fare much better with reviews:12 Rounds currently holds a 5.6 user rating on IMDb, alongside Rotten Tomatoes aggregate scores of 29% from critics and 45% from audiences. In spite of all of this, 12 Rounds has spawned two sequels: 2013’s 12 Rounds 2: Reloaded and 2015’s 12 Rounds 3: Lockdown.

First off, John Cena is surprisingly far from the worst actor out there: he’s pretty decent in his role here if you ask me, given he mostly just needs to be a tough guy cop. However, I absolutely love Aiden Gillen, who was then just popping onto people’s radars for his memorable stint on the back half of The Wire. Now, he’s mostly known for Game of Thrones and his brief appearance in The Dark Knight Rises, which both have him in antagonist or criminal roles. It might be silly to say, but I think 12 Rounds solidified him as a legitimate option for a villain, and he is definitely the stand-out performance in the movie.

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Director Renny Harlin has a bit of a mixed track record when it comes to his filmography. Personally, I enjoy “guilty pleasure” movies like Deep Blue Sea, Mindhunters, and Cliffhanger, but he’s also capable of some real clunkers, like Cutthroat Island and the unbearable Andrew Dice Clay vehicle, The Adventures of Ford Fairlane. Luckily, 12 Rounds very much falls into the first category: a fun, absent-minded action movie that makes up for a lack of sophistication with a plethora of explosions.

In general, I think 12 Rounds is an entertaining b-rate action movie: it certainly isn’t a Hollywood spectacular, which I found made it a little more charming. The preposterous scenario that drives the plot keeps the pace moving steadily, and allows for the instigation of some top-flight action movie shenanigans. If you ask me, it is totally worth checking out for bad movie fans, and for action movie fans in general.

For more thoughts on 12 Rounds, I highly recommend checking out The Flop House Podcast, whose coverage of the movie is one of their best episodes to date.

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Kingdom of the Spiders

Kingdom of the Spiders

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Today’s feature is Kingdom of the Spiders, a sci-fi b-movie classic starring William Shatner.

The screenplay for Kingdom of the Spiders was written by Alan Caillou (The Man From U.N.C.L.E., Evel Knievel) and Richard Robinson (Piranha), with story credit going to producer Jeffrey Sneller and costumer Stephen Lodge.

Kingdom of the Spiders was directed by John Cardos, whose other credits include similar b-movies like The Day Time Ended, Night Shadows, Act of Piracy, and Gor II.

The cinematographer for the film was John Arthur Morrill, who shot the post-apocalyptic cult classic A Boy And His Dog and John Cardos’s later film, The Day Time Ended.

Kingdom of the Spiders had two credited editors: Steven Zaillian, who later found success writing movies like American Gangster, Gangs of New York, Moneyball, and Schindler’s List, and Igo Kantor, who was a music editor on The Monkees, Faster Pussycat, Kill! Kill!, Beyond The Valley of the Dolls, and The Kentucky Fried Movie.

kingdomspiders2The effects work for Kingdom of the Spiders was done by a team that included Kathy Agron (Dallas), Ve Neill (Death to Smoochy, Laserblast), Greg Auer (Carrie, The Hills Have Eyes), and Cy Didjurgis (Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Star Trek: The Motion Picture).

The cast of the movie is led by William Shatner (American Psycho 2, Visiting Hours, Star Trek), along with his then wife and frequent co-star, Marcy Lafferty, along with bit players like Hoke Howell (Grand Theft Auto, Humanoids From The Deep) and Woody Strode (Spartacus, The Quick And The Dead).

kingdomspiders3The plot of Kingdom of the Spiders is summarized on IMDb as follows:

Investigating the mysterious deaths of a number of farm animals, vet Rack Hansen discovers that his town lies in the path of hoards of migrating tarantulas. Before he can take action, the streets are overrun by killer spiders, trapping a small group of towns folk in a remote hotel.

Reportedly, the production budget allotted $50,000 to the acquisition of live spiders, which were bought at $10 each. In addition to these actual spiders, optical illusions were used to give the impression of there being even more of them on screen during some sequences, including the crew painting spiders directly onto walls of local buildings.

The spiders themselves proved to be huge problems for the production: not only did they not cooperate easily on screen (preferring to run and hide from the actors than feign attacks), but it took significant maintenance just to keep the animals alive throughout filming. Unfortunately, many of the spiders didn’t survive, due to the fluctuating environmental conditions of the filming location. More controversially, however, is that a number of sequences that made it into the final cut of the movie included the outright killing the animals, as opposed to the use of mock-ups.

The budget for Kingdom of the Spiders was so low that the score had to be made up almost entirely of previously recorded stock music, mostly picked up from television series like The Twilight Zone and The Fugitive.

Kingdom of the Spiders currently holds a 5.9 user rating on IMDb, along with Rotten Tomatoes scores of  44% from critics and 38% from audiences. Regardless of the negative reception, the movie made a significant profit on its low budget: roughly $17 million in grosses on a budget of $1 million.

Reports of a planned sequel to Kingdom of the Spiders have swirled since the late 1980s, when William Shatner himself announced that the b-movie outfit Cannon Films would produce Kingdom of the Spiders 2 with him in the director’s role. However, the fall of Cannon in the early 1990s put an end to this attempt.

The fact that many people are terrified of spiders means that Kingdom of the Spiders didn’t have to do a whole lot of work to scare a significant number of audience members. Personally, though, I found the tarantulas in the movie kind of cute, and incredibly far from menacing. It just seemed clear to me that the production was trying really hard to make these tiny fluff-balls intimidating, and the result is way more like Frogs or Night of the Lepus than Jaws or Willard. Beyond the obvious ethical issues of using actual spiders for this movie, I also think it was a bad decision for exactly the reason mentioned above: tarantulas are way more terrifying in people’s heads than they are in reality. If the movie could have put together some sort of Ed Wood-style spider costume or some goofy looking puppets (a la The Killer Shrews), the result wouldn’t have been great, but the larger-than-life effect would almost certainly been better than the fluffy reality of tarantulas.

William Shatner, who is often subject to criticism for his acting style, is in top form in Kingdom of the Spiders if you ask me. He seems to be in his element as a pseudo-cowboy, where he relies on his natural charm to enhance his dialogue and interact with the other cast members. I’m sure there are plenty who would disagree, but I think he is the sole saving grace of this movie, and makes it watchable through his powers alone, for better or worse.

Kingdom of the Spiders is a solid creature feature b-movie, and is far from the worst of the bunch out there. The behind the scenes trivia and the presence of Shatner make it more notable than it might have been otherwise. However, the screenplay is far more dramatic than other films like this, focusing a lot on tense inter-personal relationships, so it may just have stood out in the genre no matter what.

For bad movie fans, Kingdom of the Spider is worth your time to check out. It isn’t quite hilariously terrible, but it is a solid little b-movie with enough up-sides to enjoy.

Leprechaun 4: In Space

Leprechaun 4: In Space

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Today’s feature is yet another entry into the infamously goofy Leprechaun franchise: Leprechaun 4: In Space.

The screenplay for Leprechaun 4 was written by Dennis A. Pratt, who most notably also penned the screenplay for Kickboxer 3.

The director on Leprechaun 4 was Brian Trenchard-Smith, whose other movies include The Omega Code 2, Night of the Demons 2, BMX Bandits, and the previous entry into the franchise, Leprechaun 3.

The cinematographer on the film was David Lewis, who also shot UHF, The Hills Have Eyes Part II, Night of the Demons, Leprechaun 3, Chairman of the Board, and numerous episodes of Pee-Wee’s Playhouse.

The editor for Leprechaun 4 was Daniel Duncan, whose horror movies include Witchboard, Leprechaun 3, Night of the Demons, Poseidon Rex, and the remake of I Spit On Your Grave.

The team of producers for the film included Mark Amin (Evolver, Leprechaun, The Dentist, Leprechaun 3, Leprechaun 2, Chairman of the Board, The Dentist 2), David Robert Cobb (Rover Dangerfield), Jeff Geoffray (Night of the Demons, Wishmaster 3, Leprechaun 3), Andrew Hersh (Return of the Living Dead III, Philadelphia Experiment II), Walter Josten (Wishmaster 4, Leprechaun 3), and Jonathon Komack Martin (R.I.P.D.).

The makeup effects for Leprechaun 4 were done by a team made up of Damon Charles (Striptease, Hellraiser: Bloodline), Clayton Martinez (Wild Wild West, Leprechaun 3), Darren Perks (Die Hard Dracula, Theodore Rex, Children of the Corn III, Spawn, Kull The Conqueror), and Marlene Stoller (Wishmaster, Leprechaun 3).

The special effects unit for the film included the likes of Roger Winiger (Invasion U.S.A.), Hal Miles (Leviathan, 976-EVIL, Howard The Duck, The Garbage Pail Kids Movie), Al Magliochetti (Waterworld, RoboCop 3, Larry the Cable Guy: Health Inspector), Dana Klaren (The Island of Doctor Moreau), Marilyn Dozer-Chaney (Congo), Charles Cooley (Iron Man, DinoCroc), Frank Ceglia (Critters, The Lawnmower Man, Leprechaun 3, Surf Ninjas), and Gabe Bartalos (Dolls, From Beyond, Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2, Leprechaun, Leprechaun In The Hood, Frankenhooker).

The visual effects on the movie were done by Giac Belli (Candyman 3), Nadja Bonacina (Bee Movie, Frozen), Brian Jennings (The Faculty, Lawnmower Man 2, Super Mario Bros., Mortal Kombat), Paul Kulikowski (The Core, Con Air), Daniel Miller (Sucker Punch, Mortal Kombat), George Oliver (Eragon, Spawn), and Craig Seitz (Mortal Kombat, Lawnmower Man 2).

The musical score for Leprechaun 4 was provided by Dennis Michael Tenney, who also did the music for Night of the Demons, Pinocchio’s Revenge, Witchboard, Night of the Demons III, and Leprechaun 3, among many others.

The plot of Leprechaun 4: In Space unsurprisingly follows the eponymous Leprechaun on a journey into space. It is summarized on IMDb as follows:

Our deadly leprechaun is in space to woo a beautiful princess who is impressed with his gold and desires to separate him from it.

Leprechaun  4, in spite of having much of the same crew of Leprechaun 3, is a bit of an outlier in the franchise on the whole. The Leprechaun essentially takes on the role of a generic alien menace, and behaves somewhat differently than he does in other entries in the franchise. For instance, his dialogue includes no forced rhyming, which is considered a staple of the character. The setting is also much more focused on science fiction, which is a big change from the standard slasher setup of the other movies.

Leprechaun 4: In Space went straight to video on a budget of just over $1.5 million. In spite of this limited distribution, it has gained quite the reputation as one of the worst horror sequels of all time, and its concept is often mocked. Currently, the movie holds a 3.3 user rating on IMDb, along with Rotten Tomatoes scores of 0% from critics and 21% from audiences.

leprechaunspace2The Leprechaun franchise isn’t one particularly known for quality, to say the least. It has never been a serious horror series, and was always quick to jump the shark into outlandish situations. While Leprechaun 3 is certainly the gateway into that realm with the introduction of a were-leprechaun and the exotic setting location of Las Vegas, Leprechaun 4 is where the series famously went off the rails, never to return. Personally, I would rather deal with a horror series taking a risk with the setting than deal with one that just repeats the exact same movie from sequel to sequel. While this is a gimmicky way to keep a franchise from getting stale, and almost always results in something campy, at least the results are rarely boring.

Leprechaun 4 is, at its heart, essentially a television sci-fi movie with the Leprechaun thrown in, as opposed to a Leprechaun movie with sci-fi elements added, which I found kind of interesting. It doesn’t look or feel like the previous Leprechaun movies, and if it weren’t for Warwick Davis’s banter, I would have tagged this as something like Dracula 3000 or a Starship Troopers sequel as opposed to a Leprechaun sequel.

Unfortunately, that is just about the only positive thing to say about Leprechaun 4. This might be the most cartoon-y entry into the entire franchise, which is saying quite a lot, given Leprechaun 5 has a Leprechaun rap number. The characters are a little too shallow and unrealistic, which might have been done in a jab at the tropes of the genre, but is annoying to watch regardless of the intention. There are also some really terrible effects, like when the Leprechaun is hit with a magic growing ray that causes him to inflate to a monstrous size. The writing is also as lazy and crass as ever, with jokes that include mocking a soldier for cross-dressing and the Leprechaun somehow enchanting a condom to kill a man. There is even the groan-inducing inclusion of nudity, with the half-assed plot excuse being that in this future society, women showing their breasts condemns the viewers to death. It isn’t exactly feminist cinema, I guess you could say.

Personally, I’m not a huge fan of Leprechaun 4. I think Leprechaun 3 is the most fun entry in the franchise, and Leprechaun 5 is far more of an outlandish and bafflingly terrible viewing experience. Leprechaun 4 is kind of just the bridge between them, and is mostly memorable for the concept alone. It is still far better than the absolute garbage pile that is Leprechaun 2, but I’ll leave that open for another day.

If you like crass sex comedy in your bad movie watching, then I think you are far more likely to enjoy Leprechaun 4, which has plenty of it to go around. Even if you don’t, I think Leprechaun 4 is worth checking out once for bad movie fans, just because it is sort of a staple of the pseudo-genre.

Starcrash

Starcrash

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Today’s feature is one of the most infamous among the multitude of Star Wars knockoffs: 1978’s Starcrash.

Starcrash was co-written and directed by Luigi Cozzi, who is most famous for his b-level Hercules films starring Lou Ferrigno, as well as his bizarre 1977 colorized, re-imagined version of Godzilla. His co-writers for Starcrash were producer Nat Wachsberger and one R.A. Dillon, who has no other listed IMDb credits.

Starcrash interestingly had two credited cinematographers: Paul Beeson, who worked as a second unit director of photography on movies like Willow, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Never Say Never Again, Ishtar, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, and Roberto D’Ettorre Piazzoli, who shot Tentacles and Piranha Part Two: The Spawning.

The editor for the film was Sergio Montanari, who most notably cut the spaghetti western classic Django and Luigi Cozzi’s later films Hercules and The Adventures of Hercules II.

starcrash2The musical score for Starcrash was composed by John Barry, a five-time Academy Award winner (and one-time Golden Raspberry winner) whose credits included Howard The Duck, The Living Daylights, Out Of Africa, Dances With Wolves, A View To A Kill, Octopussy, Thunderball, Goldfinger, Game of Death, Diamonds Are Forever, and many others.

The effects team for the movie included Giancarlo De Leonardis (The Last Shark, Troll) Armando Valcauda (Hercules, The Adventures of Hercules II), Germano Natali (The Gaul, Devil Fish, Suspiria), and Ron Hays (Can’t Stop The Music, Demon Seed, Grease).

The cast of Starcrash is made up of David Hasselhoff (Kung Fury, Knight Rider, Baywatch, Baywatch Nights), Marjoe Gortner (American Ninja 3, Earthquake, The Food of the Gods), Caroline Munro (Maniac, Slaughter High, Dracula A.D. 1972), Christopher Plummer (Dracula 2000, Alexander, Wolf, 12 Monkeys, The Sound of Music), Robert Tessier (The Deep, The Sword And The Sorcerer), and Joe Spinell (Rocky, Rocky II, Sorcerer, Night Shift, Vigilante, Maniac, Cruising).

starcrash1The plot of Starcrash is summarized on IMDb as follows:

An outlaw smuggler and her alien companion are recruited by the Emperor of the Galaxy to rescue his son and destroy a secret weapon by the evil Count Zarth Arn.

Almost all of the actors had their dialogue dubbed over for the English-language release by different people, due to the production not being able to afford to fly the whole cast out to record their lines.

A number of sequences in the movie feature David Hasselhoff’s character donning a mask: apparently, this is because he wasn’t able to film that day, and a production assistant was standing in for him.

Famed and prolific Italian composer Ennio Morricone reportedly turned down an offer to score Starcrash, which led to John Barry taking the job.

Christopher Plummer went on record about his experience shooting on Starcrash (which reportedly only took him a single day) with The A.V. Club:

Starcrash. Oh, my God…I mean, how can you play the Emperor Of The Universe? What a wonderful part to play. [Laughs.] It puts God in a very dicey moment, doesn’t it? He’s very insecure, God, when the Emperor’s around.

Starcrash has a pseudo-sequel in the form of 1981’s Escape from Galaxy III, which, in true Italian fashion, re-uses numerous effects shots from Starcrash, and was occasionally marketed as Starcrash II.

Starcrash currently holds an IMDb user rating of 4.0, along with Rotten Tomatoes aggregate scores of 33% from critics and 40% from audiences. I wasn’t able to dig up solid gross or budget numbers, but it was clearly crafted in an attempt to mimic Star Wars on as thing a budget as possible. This technique wound up paving the path for the later b-movie Battle Beyond The Stars, which hybridized The Magnificent Seven/Seven Samurai and Star Wars on a Starcrash budget.

starcrash4Starcrash, honestly, is one of my favorite b-movies of all time. It is easy to write off as just a Star Wars knock-off, but there is a peculiar charm to this movie that is missing from a lot of similar productions. The effects and sets, while cheap, are pretty decent for what the team was working with budget-wise, and the use of stop-motion adversaries is a great throwback to earlier adventure movies. The performances are also memorable, like Marjoe’s pseudo-Jedi, the southern-fried Robot Cop, and Christopher Plummer’s Emperor of the Universe, equipped with the ultimate deux ex power to “halt the flow of time.”

Starcrash could easily have been a sleazy and soulless attempt to leech off of the success of a Hollywood franchise.  Instead, this movie is a charming, honestly-crafted, and even imaginativly frugal take on a 1970s space opera. What it lacks in sensible writing, fight choreography, and coherence, it makes up for in gumption, overacting, and pure fun. Having watched a fair share of Italian knock-offs, I can confidently say that Starcrash didn’t need to try as hard as it did, and it stands out from the pack of its peers because of it. For example, I would watch this countless times before going back to Devil Fish or The Last Shark again.

For bad movie fans, Starcrash might as well be mandatory viewing, and I would go so far as to say the same to any dedicated Star Wars fans out there as well. Starcrash actually holds an interesting place in the history of Star Wars, as one of the few stop-gaps between A New Hope in 1977 and The Empire Strikes Back in 1980. As fans enter the waiting game once again for a new Star Wars feature, Starcrash is on the menu once again, and is deserving of a watch.

For more thoughts on Starcrash, you can check out just about any bad movie guru out there. Personally, I advise checking out R. L. Shaffer’s review on IGN, the video reviews by Brandon Tenold, Kyle Anderson, and Diamanda Hagan, and the podcast episode from the Bad Movie Fiends.

Christmas Evil

Christmas Evil

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Merry Christmas, all! Today’s feature is appropriately a well-suited cult classic: Christmas Evil.

The writer and director on Christmas Evil was a man named Lewis Jackson. It was one of only a small handful of credits to his name, and is by far his most notable and well-remembered work.

The cinematographer for the film was Ricardo Aronovich, an Argentinian who also shot 1982’s Missing, 1971’s Murmur of the Heart, and 1977’s Providence, among many others.

christmasevil4One of the credited editors on Christmas Evil was Corky O’Hara, who also cut another 1980 cult classic: The Exterminator.

The special effects for the film were provided by Alex Fernbach (Black Caesar) and Tom Brumberger (Santa and The Ice Cream Bunny, Mo’ Better Blues), with stunt work by Jery Hewitt (C.H.U.D., The Stuff, Hackers, The Ladykillers).

christmasevil1The production design for Christmas Evil was done by Lorenzo Mans, whose only other design credit was for the lauded 1981 slasher The Prowler, which was directed by Joseph Zito.

The plot of Christmas Evil is summarized on IMDb as follows:

A psycho in a Santa suit gets to decide who’s been naughty and who’s been nice.

Christmas Evil was initially created under the alternate title of You Better Watch Out, which still appears on the title card on many copies of the movie. However, the title was changed for ease of marketing, and now the movie is much better known as Christmas Evil, to Lewis Jackson’s chagrin.

Though it is certainly a cult classic, Christmas Evil is far overshadowed by the later (and similarly-themed) film, Silent Night, Deadly Night, which also features a killer in a Santa suit. However, this is primarily due to public outrage surrounding the release and marketing of Silent Night, Deadly Night, which the lower-profile Christmas Evil didn’t receive. Still, it is impossible not to consider Christmas Evil to be a forerunner of the Silent Night, Deadly Night franchise.

The noted shock filmmaker and advocate John Waters recorded a commentary track for a DVD release of Christmas Evil, in which he revealed that the film is a holiday staple in his household.

Christmas Evil currently holds a 5.0 user rating on IMDb, along with a Rotten Tomatoes audience score of 36%. However, its critics’ score on Rotten Tomatoes is squarely in the ‘fresh’ spectrum at 80%, on the backs of some retrospective reviews that note the depth of the central performance.

christmasevil3Honestly, I definitely see where those positive reviews are coming from. There is something that I find weirdly impressive about Brandon Maggart’s lead performance in Christmas Evil. His contribution single-handedly elevates a movie that I am pretty confident would have otherwise been totally forgotten. I’m not sure if it qualifies as a ‘good’ performance, but it is sure as hell a memorable one. His physical acting and deliveries create a palpably disturbed character which is impossible to look away from, particularly in his more over-the-top moments.

On top of the lead performance, I also kind of adore the surreal ending to the movie, in which the lead character drives his sleigh (a decorated van) off a road and into the night sky, taking off like a proper Santa Claus.

Overall, I think that Christmas Evil is a great b-movie, and is deserving of its cult status as a holiday favorite. If you ask me, I would even take it over the more popular Silent Night, Deadly Night, which is a little more run-of-the-mill as a themed slasher movie. There is a surprising amount of depth and passion in this killer Santa movie that sets it apart, and makes it an easy recommend for b-movie fans and horror fans alike. I might even go so far as to

For some other reviews of Christmas Evil, I recommend heading over to YouTube and checking out the features from Dark Corners of This Sick World and Doctor Wolfula.

Black Christmas (2006)

Black Christmas (2006)

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Today’s feature is the 2006 remake of the classic horror movie Black Christmas.

Black Christmas was written, produced, and directed by Glen Morgan, who also directed the remake of Willard in 2003, wrote Final Destination, and wrote and produced a number of episodes of The X-Files.

The cinematographer for the movie was Robert McLachlan, who shot Final Destination, Final Destination 3, The One, Wes Craven’s Cursed, and a handful of episodes of Game of Thrones.

The editor on Black Christmas was Chris G. Willingham, who also cut Dragonball: Evolution, Final Destination 3, and numerous episodes of television series like Grimm, 24, The X-Files, The A-Team, and 21 Jump Street.

The producers on the movie included, outside of writer/director Glen Morgan, Marc Butan (The Road), original Black Christmas director Bob Clark (Baby Geniuses 2, Baby Geniuses, Rhinestone), noted businessman Mark Cuban, Ogden Gavanski (Tremors 5, Good Luck Chuck), Steven Hoban (Ginger Snaps), Kent Kubena (Turistas), Victor Solnicki (Scanners, Videodrome), Mike Upton (Leprechaun In The Hood), and James Wong (American Horror Story, The X-Files).

The makeup effects team for Black Christmas included Chris Devitt (The Fog, American Mary, Hollow Man II), Juliana Vit (Supernatural, Slither), Joann Fowler (Final Destination 5, X-Men 2), Geoff Redknap (Seventh Son, Sucker Punch), Fern Levin (The X-Files), Rob Miller (House of the Dead, Blade: Trinity), and Toby Lindala (The Man in the High Castle, Lake Placid, Nick Fury: Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D., The Core).

The special effects unit for the movie included the likes of Steve Collins (Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem, Pick Me Up), Rory Cutler (Baby Geniuses 2, The Fly II), Bleau Fortier (Horns, Far Cry), W. David McGuire (Blade: Trinity, Baby Geniuses 2), and Wayne Syzbunka (Marmaduke, The Black Cat, Pick Me Up, Dreams In The Witch House, Lake Placid).

The extensive visual effects work for Black Christmas was provided by a number of companies, including Spin West VFX (Land of the Dead, Diary of the Dead), Soho VFX (47 Ronin, Jonah Hex, Dragonball: Evolution), and iO Film (The Mist, Resident Evil: Extinction).

The music for the film was composed by Shirley Walker, who also provided music for movies like Final Destination, Final Destination 2, Final Destination 3, Ghoulies, and Escape From L.A.. Unfortunately, it would be her last film, as she died just before the movie’s release.

The cast of Black Christmas includes Katie Cassidy (Arrow, Taken), Michelle Trachtenberg (Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Gossip Girl), Mary Elizabeth Winstead (Scott Pilgrim vs. The World), Kristen Cloke (Final Destination), Andrea Martin (Wag The Dog), Crystal Lowe (Insomnia), and Oliver Hudson (Nashville).

blackxmas3The plot of Black Christmas is summarized on IMDb as follows:

An escaped maniac returns to his childhood home on Christmas Eve, which is now a sorority house, and begins to murder the sorority sisters one by one.

Andrea Martin, who plays the role of the house mother in the 2006 remake of Black Christmas, was also in the original Black Christmas in 1974 at the beginning of her career, and was cast due to her connection to that film.

Much like what happened with Silent Night, Deadly Night, Black Christmas faced significant public backlash for its content and holiday release. However, many people were upset about the film’s trailer for an unexpected reason: much of the footage used was not actually from the movie, and was shot specifically for advertising purposes. This left a bitter taste in many people’s mouths, particularly horror fans who were already uneasy about the idea of a remake of such a classic film.

Director/writer/producer Glen Morgan placed the blame for the failure of Black Christmas on the infamous Weinstein brothers, whose Dimension studio released the film. Apparently, Bob Weinstein in particular pressured for the movie to be more gory and violent, against Morgan’s wishes.

Black Christmas grossed just over $21 million in its lifetime theatrical run on a production budget of $9 million. While this was profitable, it didn’t come anywhere near its expectations, and it wasn’t helped by the abysmal critical reaction. Currently, the movie holds a 4.5 user rating on IMDb, along with Rotten Tomatoes scores of 38% from audiences and 14% from critics.

Black Christmas is, above all else, unremarkable. I’ve seen this movie a number of times over the years, but there is almost nothing I have retained from one viewing to the next, because there is just nothing in this movie that stands out. It is a run of the mill slasher flick that fancies itself a horror-comedy, but never quite figures out how to be funny. Worse still, the kills aren’t even anything to write home about, which is about the worst sin you can commit as a slasher movie. The characters are dull, the story is generic, and about the only thing the movie has going for it at the end of the day is gore, which isn’t nearly as impressive or effective as it could be.

Overall, this is a painfully generic movie that doesn’t even begin to live up to the reputation of its classic predecessor. Astoundingly, this is probably worse than any of the other Christmas-themed horror films I have seen, just because it is just so painfully forgettable. Sure, Elves might be terribly constructed, but it is certainly an unforgettable experience. Unless you are absolutely determined to sit through this movie, it isn’t much more than a waste of time. There are plenty of technically worse and more entertaining flicks out there that make for better holiday viewing if you ask me.

Silent Night

Silent Night

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Today’s feature is the 2012 remake of Silent Night, Deadly Night, which goes by the simplified title of Silent Night.

Silent Night was written and produced by Jayson Rothwell, who also penned screenplays for flicks like Second In Command, Malice In Wonderland, and Blessed.

The director for the movie was Steven C. Miller, whose other credits include Under The Bed, Automaton Transfusion, and The Aggression Scale.

The cinematographer on Silent Night was Joseph White, who has shot a variety of horror movies, including the cult favorite Repo! The Genetic Opera, Fear Clinic, 11-11-11, Shelter, and the 2010 remake of Mother’s Day.

The editor for the film was Seth Flaum, who has primarily spent his career cutting comedy features like Vegas Vacation, High School Musical, Juwanna Mann, The Great Outdoors, Grumpier Old Men, Fanboys, The Replacements, The Country Bears, and The Whole Ten Yards.

The team of producers for Silent Night included Joe Laurin (ATM), Richard Saperstein (Lost In Space, Hancock), Patrick Murray (Kill Me Three Times), Kevin Kasha (The Butterfly Effect 2, The Howling: Reborn), Adam Goldworm (The Black Cat, Pick Me Up, Dreams In The Witch House), Aaron L. Gilbert (Daydream Nation), James Gibb (Whiplash, Drive), Brian Witten (Mortal Kombat: Annihilation, Spawn, The Wedding Season), and Phyllis Laing (Heaven Is For Real, The Haunting In Connecticut).

The music for Silent Night was provided by Kevin Riepl, who has primarily worked on scoring high-profile video games like Gears of War and Unreal Championship.

The Silent Night makeup effects were provided in part by George Frangadakis (Sushi Girl), John Wrightson (The Dog Who Saved Christmas), Josh Wasylink (The Taking of Deborah Logan, V/H/S: Viral), Gregory Ramoundos (Dogma, Frankenhooker), Doug Morrow (Capote, Wrong Turn 4), Vincent J. Guastini (Thinner, Super Mario Bros., The Toxic Avenger Part III, The Langoliers), and Andrew Freeman (Battle Los Angeles, Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters).

The special effects unit for Silent Night included Evan Campbell (The Faculty, Elves, Spawn, Darkman II, Darkman III), Tim Freestone (Curse of Chucky, Home Alone: The Holiday Heist), James Kozier (White Noise, The Core), and Paul Noel (X-Men 2, X-Men: The Last Stand).

The visual effects work for the movie was done by a team that included Conrad Dueck (Swordfish, The Core), Michael Shand (Catwoman, Paycheck), Scott Purdy (88 Minutes, The Wicker Man), and Tyler Hawes (Superman Returns).

The cast of Silent Night includes Malcolm McDowell (Suing The Devil, Caligula, A Clockwork Orange, Class of 1999), Jaime King (Sin City, The Spirit), Ellen Wong (Scott Pilgrim vs. The World), and Donal Logue (Gotham, Terriers, Reindeer Games).

silentnight3The plot of Silent Night is summarized on IMDb as follows:

The police force of a remote Midwestern town search for a killer Santa Claus who is picking off citizens on Christmas Eve.

In spite of the title of the movie, Silent Night is far less inspired by the original Silent Night, Deadly Night than you might expect: the similarities essentially end with the common appearance of a killer dressed as Santa. The plot is more derived from the real life 2008 Covina massacre, in which a number of attendees at a Christmas party were murdered by a man dressed as Santa in a combined shooting and arson.

Silent Night received a very limited theatrical release, which didn’t reach a particularly wide audience. Those that did see it gave it a mixed reception: the film currently holds a 5.2 user rating on IMDb, along with Rotten Tomatoes scores of 64% from critics and 33% from audiences.

The biggest criticism I have of Silent Night is that it didn’t need to masquerade as a remake of Silent Night, Deadly Night: it really should have staked its claim as something entirely new, with the sole commonality of a killer Santa.

silentnight2The tone of the movie does have some significant issues, however. For the most part, Silent Night is a straight horror movie, though it borrows a number of elements from cop thrillers as well. The problem comes with the insertion of some inconsistent moments of humor in the screenplay, which aren’t enough to push the movie as a whole into horror-comedy territory, but are enough to not be negligible.

Overall, this is a totally watchable horror movie, though I might call it unremarkable. There are some amusing performances scattered throughout that keep it entertaining, and the gore effects are everything that you could want from this sort of movie. I wouldn’t recommend it strongly, but there are certainly worse ways to spend your time than watching this flick