Monday, 27 July 2009

Ticker (2001)

This is the kind of film where pretty much
everyone wears leather jackets exclusively.

Chronologically in Seagal's filmography, Ticker is a Direct-to-Video sandwiched between a couple of theatrical releases so it represents a fairly interesting period in his career. It's interesting for a couple of other reasons too. Firstly, Seagal doesn't play the main character, he's just one of an impressive B-movie cast including Dennis Hopper, Tom Sizemore and Kevin Gage. Secondly, he does very little fighting, instead spending most of the film providing spiritual guidance to Tom Sizemore. Good for him, Sizemore could probably use some spiritual advice.

Seagal plays Glass, a former Department of Defense employee now in charge of the bomb squad for the San Francisco PD. He leads a pack of wacky bomb experts: one guy (played by Kevin Gage) always wears a Hawaiian shirt and backwards baseball cap, another is a girl with crazy multi-coloured hair, so you know... Hollywood wacky. The film begins with Seagal in the basement of a Senator's mansion, trying to defuse a bomb while the cops engage in a tense stand-off outside. Inside the mansion a bunch of terrorists are blasting all the guests and catering staff with machine guns in footage clearly edited in from a different film. Seagal is unable to defuse the bomb in time and the mansion goes up in a series of impressive fiery explosions cribbed from other films.

From here on in we spend most of our time with Tom Sizemore, playing Detective Nettles (because he stings everything he touches and he makes good soup). He has a mysterious past and everyone is a complete asshole to him, so I figured he must have busted a fellow cop or fucked up a hostage situation or something. It's nothing like that, turns out his wife and kid were killed by a car bomb. The flashback is pretty funny too, during the slow-motion walk to the doomed car they turn around and wave multiple times, salute him, give each other a high-five etc. Even if you knew it was the last time you'd ever see them, you'd still be like "Jeez, get in the car already". His dead family doesn't really explain why all his co-workers are such dicks but I guess when you're played by Tom Sizemore you shouldn't be surprised when everyone treats you a like a sleazy scumbag.

When Nettles first meets Seagal he is given a wildly sarcastic speech about their jobs and is confused by their bomb squad lingo (apparently they don't defuse bombs but "treat" "devices"), but eventually Seagal takes him under his wing. This gives Seagal a chance to dispense some of his patented spiritual advice, like "you've got to get beyond hope and fear and learn the nature of your own mind" and "love is eternal, and that's a long time." He also employs Mr Miyagi style abstract teaching methods in bomb disposal, such as showing Nettles how to fix his watch. "You've just made you first ticker" he says proudly, which is probably overselling things but is no doubt good for Nettles' self esteem.

Dennis Hopper plays the villain, a mad bomber named Alex Swan. Like the guy he played in Speed except here he wears more leather jackets. He's the kind of power-mad guy who refers to his bombs as works of art and makes so many references to Michelangelo and the Sistine Chapel that you'd wish he'd take an art studies course just so he could come up with a second reference. He is supposed to be Irish, judging from the lilting folk music that kicks in every time a bomb goes off, but his accent is pretty terrible and mostly absent. Maybe if he slipped into a proper Irish accent he'd flip out like he did while shooting Mad Dog Morgan. Irish accents are Dennis Hopper's red kryponite. Anyway, you can't expect method acting from a guy who's only around for a day of shooting.

Rapper Nas plays Nettles' partner Fuzzy. He's a pretty lousy actor but thankfully he isn't in the film for very long, despite his top billing. In the first act he suffers a protracted, cliche-ridden death scene, complete with Nettles shaking him and shouting "Don't you die on me!" He dies (spoiler) but before he does he tells Nettles to "let go of his demons". Pretty nice of him to use his final breath to play Dr Phil for Nettles. Jaime Pressly (from My Name is Earl) plays Claire, Alex's lover. Her husband was supposedly offed because he blew the whistle on a company that was building housing over a toxic waste dump. Now she wants revenge against... the city? I don't know. For most of the film she is in custody while Alex sets off a series of bombs until they agree to let her go, but once she escapes it becomes clear that she has a larger role in things than they thought.

Anyway, the big plan is that they are planning on blowing up the new City Hall building during the gala opening (a Halloween party with thumping techno, not really what I was expecting actually). When they storm the building there's a rooftop gunfight apparently spliced in from the Dolph Lundgren vehicle The Peacekeeper. Seagal does some unimpressive aikido in a hallway (his only fight scene in the film) although he does break an arm or two and throw someone through a window, thus fulfilling the minimum requirements for any Seagal fight scene. In the end he has to talk Nettles through defusing a bomb and he starts by giving a rambling incoherent speech about "getting beyond fear". Defusing the bomb turns out to be surprisingly easy, especially since Seagal's advice is pretty much "pick a wire and hope for the best".

This film was directed by notorious hack Albert Pyun (Cyborg and about a million Nemesis films) and although it doesn't contain cyborgs, Ticker has all of his other hallmarks. Lots of recycled footage, a story that is as confusing as it is boring and brief and uninteresting fight scenes. Apparently it was shot in about two weeks and it shows. Headlining actors were only available for few days of shooting apiece so they very rarely share screen time, leading to a disjointed screenplay that works hard to keep actors as far apart as possible. It was nice to see Seagal in a "wise sensei" role, but even he couldn't defuse this bomb.

Friday, 24 July 2009

Drag Me To Hell (2009)

Sometimes it really sucks to be a movie lover in Australia. There's a seemingly arbitrary delay between a movie being released in the US and here, sometimes months. Occasionally it works out in your favour, like when a big budget movie is so massively hyped that for the first few weeks people have Stockholm Syndrome and give rave reviews. By the time it comes out here the backlash is in full swing and you can go to the movie with accordingly lowered expectations. In the case of Drag Me To Hell, on the other hand, it got rave reviews by pretty much everyone whose opinion I could give two shits about, so I've been looking forward to it for a long time.

You see, like most nerds I'm a big fan of Evil Dead. I pop it in my DVD player a few times year and it's creativity still blows me away. I liked the Spider-Man movies a lot, but where's the Sam Raimi that strapped a camera to his van and drove through the woods in Evil Dead? Where's the Sam Raimi who used so many dolly-zooms in The Quick and the Dead the Alfred Hitchcock would have rolled his eyes and said "Jeez, enough already"? There are still flashes of the old Raimi (the Doc Ock surgery scene in Spiderman 2, for instance) but it would be fair to assume that his horror muscles had atrophied after a decade of family friendly blockbusters. Well, turns out he didn't go anywhere, the magic was inside you all along etc and he's back in top form with Drag Me To Hell.

The story is simple, leaving more screen time for scary shit. Christine (Alison Lohman) is a loan officer at a bank, and in order to prove herself for a promotion she turns down a loan extension to an old gypsy woman. The old woman even gets down on her knees and begs, but Christine totally disses her. Later that day the old woman attacks her in the parking garage (according to Hollywood parking garages are the most dangerous place on Earth) and places a gypsy curse on her so that for three days a powerful demon will torment her and then drag her to, well, I guess you know where. As far as gypsy curses go it's pretty bad, way worse than that weak-ass crybaby curse in Angel. You may have to act emo for all eternity, dude, but at least old gypsies don't vomit maggots into your mouth.

I don't know if it's the lingering vestiges of Catholicism or what, but horror films involving powerful demons and demonic possession really creep me out. There's a lot of scenes of this demon making creepy noises, throwing shit around and rattling her windows. Just fucking with her. There's also a great seance scene where Christine seeks the help of a powerful medium. Of course things go tits up and all hell breaks loose (not a pun). There's all this scary stuff happening when all of a sudden the sacrificial goat starts talking and calls Christine a "who-o-o-o-ore". The whole cinema burst out laughing. That's campy good fun and pure Raimi.

Justin Long plays her level-headed and skeptical boyfriend. Raimi could have easily cast two perfectly glamorous Hollywood actors, but instead he cast two actors who look like people you might see or talk to in real life, which I like. He's from a really rich family and his folks aren't happy about him dating a "farm girl", so when they have dinner at their fancy mansion the demon fucks up her attempts to impress them. Man, what an asshole. There's also a spirit medium called Rham Jas (Dileep Rao) who helps her out. They're pretty lucky because they just pick a random place and walk in off the street and it turns out he's the most knowledgeable, Jung-quoting spirit medium ever and not a flaky con-artist. He still charges them $60 for a fortune reading, though, pretty pricey.

I've heard complaints that the movie is just a string of jump-scares and that's probably fair, but they are expertly crafted jump-scares. Raimi knows how to build tension until you just can't bear it anymore, so that even when you know it's coming you still jump out of your seat. There's lots of gross-out moments and they put Christine into some really squirm-inducing situations where she has to do some pretty fucked up shit (both morally and physically) in order to survive. So you've got your scares, you've got your gross-outs and you've got your comedy. Pretty much everything you need.

The movie was rated MA-15 here but in the US they got away with a PG-13. Fucked if I know how, because some crazy shit happens in this movie. There's not a lot of blood and gore (well, there is some blood but not in the context you'd expect) but I think they manage to get every other gross bodily fluid onto the screen. If you think this movie is fine for your kids but that a few boobs are going to scar them for life, I don't know what to say to you.

I wasn't going to say anything about this film because by now everybody has seen it, discussed it, bought the Burger King tie-in meal and moved onto other things, but I just had to say something because this is the most fun horror film I've seen in a long time and it hasn't done particularly well at the box office. Normally I don't pay any attention to that kind of thing, but Saw V has grossed almost double what this film has. Saw V, people! Anyways, go see this film. I doubt it would stack up to repeat viewings, but it's a hell of a ride while it lasts (also not a pun).

Tuesday, 21 July 2009

Cobra Mission (aka Operation Nam) (1986)

A fine example of the foreign policy that has
made America beloved around the world

The 1980s brought us a slew of revisionist Vietnam war flicks, painting our veterans as brave heroes fighting a war that the cowardly government just wouldn't let them win. Fabrizio De Angelis (as Larry Ludman) made a whole bunch of them, most notably the Thunder Warrior trilogy starring Mark Gregory (yes, Trash from Bronx Warriors!) as a disgruntled Native American/Vietnam vet. Kind of like Billy Jack meets Rambo only less awesome. Cobra Mission, also known as under the bizarrely generic title Operation Nam, is one of De Angelis' vetspoitation films, but it doesn't take the direction you might think.

When our hero Roger (Chris Connelly from Strike Commando) is introduced he is sitting on the couch playing video games, late for his own daughter's wedding, so immediately I knew that this is a guy I can relate to. Then during the wedding reception he loudly reminisces with his two Vietnam vet buddies Richard (Oliver Tobias) and James (John Steiner) about the "big, free-swinging titties" at Vietnamese whorehouses. If that's garden party conversation I'd love to hear his wedding speech, but unfortunately when his daughter complains about their behaviour they skip out on her wedding and hit the local watering hole. Naturally, one of them punches out an old man after he starts sass-talking about Vietnam vets. Ladies and gentlemen, our heroes!

Still, it's understandable that they'd be a little grouchy. Despite the best efforts of Sly Stallone, Chuck Norris and Gene Hackman, it seems there are still a few missing POWs back in-country, ten years after the fact. With the government turning it's back on them, our trio of disgruntled vets decide they might as well be the ones to bring our boys home. Screw military support, intelligence, equipment or a plan of any kind. Those are for pussies. However, before they get back to the jungle and fight toe-to-toe with Charlie, they've got to pad the run time by busting out a parade of Italian B-movie regulars.

Firstly they decide to talk it over with their former CO Major Morris. Instead they find Colonel Mortimer (Gordon Mitchell from Endgame, playing pretty much the same guy) who reveals that Major Morris has been drummed out of the armed forces because of his obsession with the missing POWs. When they get to Morris' house we discover that he is none other than famed B-movie director Enzo G. Castellari. When they mention the POWs he pulls out a bunch of maps and charts, but I was more interested in the sweet tiger painting on the wall of his swinging pad. Stylin'!

Next they hit the Veteran's hospital to pick up Mark (Manfred Lehmann), the fourth member of their crew. He says that he's only pretending to be crazy so he can avoid taxes, get free meals and bone hot nurses. If you can get past the confinement and electroshock therapy, I guess it's a pretty sweet deal. You might doubt the veracity of his claim since he jumps at the chance to get back in action, but I guess this is one of those Catch 22's that everybody is always talking about.

Next stop, Thailand! Firstly they visit their former war buddy, who is the owner/dealer (he should learn to delegate) at a local casino. He doesn't come with them but he lets them win some cash to finance their mission. Then they meet up with Ennio Girolami (Bronx Warriors 2) playing an asshole who takes money from distraught parents of MIA soldiers, in this case Luciano Pigozzi (Yor: The Hunter From the Future), under the false pretense of mounting a rescue mission. Roger rightly calls him a "suckfish" who'd "fuck [his] mother for a dollar", beats the crap out of him and takes the money. I'm not sure if he returns it to the parents, but since he's mounting a rescue mission of his own you could argue that he's earned it.

Finally they meet up with Donald Pleasance, appearing as a French priest, who spends his time wandering around looking completely stoned, babbling about how they are doing God's work by slaughtering the Viet Cong. After he gives them a bunch of guns and helps guide them along the river and into the heart of darkness (tense stand-off with a Viet Cong riverboat ending in a bloody massacre? Check!) their mission has officially begun! Although "mission" probably isn't the right word as it implies some sort of planning or strategy. Basically their plan is to just wander around South-East Asia until they bump into somebody who knows something about the secret POW camps.

They hit up the nearest village, heroically issuing death threats and bravely shaking them down for supplies, and pretty soon they stumble across a POW being menaced by Viet Cong soldiers. They follow them back to camp and wait for the right time to strike, but unfortunately one of the officers reminds Richard of a guy who gave him a bareass naked whipping back when he was a POW, so he goes nuts and starts shooting everybody. Luckily these Viet Cong are pretty dumb so everything turns out okay. Roger stands outside a doorway and mows down dozens of troops as they rush outside like lemmings, while Mark pitches a grenade into a bunker window and shouts "You've got mail!". I believe a couple of straw huts explode, too. The POWs are reluctant to follow them for some reason, but eventually they all pile into a truck escape. James turns out to be the hero of the day, blowing up a (model) helicopter with his M16 and then, when faced with a roadblock, loading up the truck with live grenades and barrel rolling to safety, blowing them sky high. Then he flips them the bird, giving us the little something extra that Italian productions are known for.

Back at the village Roger chats to one of the POWs, who expresses a regret that he's never been to the big apple. Roger says that he'll "Take you to New York, introduce you to a couple of girls and fuck your brains out." I think he'd probably prefer the girls for that, but thanks for the offer, Rog. Meanwhile, Mark hits on a Vietnamese girl by comparing her to girl who was killed in a bombing run during the war. He really needs to work on his pick-up lines. She takes off her top (good), exposing her hideously scarred chest (bad), and shouts "American napalm!" before shooting him dead. Not sure if she's supposed to be the same girl Mark was talking about, but if so she's aged remarkably well, at least until Richard rushes in and shoots her.

Their journey back along the river is fraught with the usual gun violence, explosions, stabbings and profanity ("If you don't talk I'll cut your nuts off, fucker!"), all topped off with a delicious frosting of casual racism. A couple of POWs are killed, and eventually they are forced back onto land and ambushed by dozens of Viet Cong soldiers, tanks etc. Even with action movie physics on their side they are fucked, but luckily Colonel Mortimer shows up in a chopper to save them. He reveals that the government knew about the POWs the entire time, they've been kept there as part of a peace agreement. Roger and company can leave, but the POWs have to stay. It's a surprising bummer of an ending, with the sole surviving POW kneeling on the ground in despair as the helicopter flies away and dozens of Viet Cong close in. As someone sadly intones, "Forget it, man. It's Vietnam." making it the most ballsy and inappropriate Chinatown reference of all time.

But the nihilism doesn't end there! Following this scene are some title cards explaining the grim fates of our surviving heroes. Roger dies in an auto accident, James dies in a helicopter crash and Richard ends up in a drugged-out coma at a Veteran's mental hospital. Presumably a puppy was kicked and a kitten was put in a microwave too. Featuring brutal violence, racism, unlikable protagonists, suprisingly anti-American politics and unrelenting nihilism, Cobra Mission is the perfect film to pull out at your next 4th of July family barbecue. God Bless, America!

The Shepherd: Border Patrol (2007)

This is for Street Fighter, asshole!

Not too long ago I saw Undisputed 2: Last Man Standing, a Direct-to-Video sequel for a might-as-well-have-been-Direct-to-Video Wesley Snipes action vehicle. I didn't have high expectations but it really surprised me with it's talented cast and solid action choreography. The director was a dude named Isaac Florentine and he brought an old-school sensibility to the action that is rare in modern action films and even rarer in Direct-to-Video. It was a throwback to Bloodsport style death-arena films, lots of shirtless musclemen and flashy spinning kicks, with solid choreography and editing that amped up the action rather than obscure it. Michael Jai White is a great leading man (strangely enough he doesn't play Wesley Snipes' character but instead the villain, played by Ving Rhames in the first film) and Florentine's frequent collaborator Scott Adkins impresses as the villain Yuri Boyka.

That film really made me sit up and take notice of Florentine, and The Shepherd: Border Patrol was his contribution to Van Damme's recent string of Direct-to-Video action films. I was a little worried because usually the effort involved in these kinds of films begins and ends with the acquisition of a "washed-up" action star, but when I saw a Special Forces commando take out a terrorist with a ricockulous spinning kick in the opening scene, I knew I was on to a winner.

Hollywood usually doesn't think twice about casting, say, an Austrian bodybuilder as a small-town North Carolina sheriff or a Scotsman as a Russian sub commander, but for some reason in Jean Claude Van Damme's films they always throw in some dialogue to explain his Francophone accent, which is usually anything except that he's from Belgium. Although my favourite is the one in Knock Off (he's an orphan in Hong Kong raised by French nuns) they usually fall into three categories:

a) He's from Quebec (Death Warrant, Nowhere to Run)
b) He's from New Orleans/Cajun (Hard Target, Universal Soldier)
c) His parents were French (Bloodsport, Double Impact)

Here they could have gotten away without an explanation because Van Damme barely speaks at all, but instead they go with option b). Thankfully he doesn't attempt a Cajun accent, so no hilarious "Why are you named Chance?" "My momma took won" type exchanges here.

Van Damme plays Jack Robideaux, a New Orleans cop sent to help out the New Mexico border patrol. Bulgaria is standing in for New Mexico and Mexico Classic, but some Mariachi music and dusty floors do little to convince. It looks fucking cold. Van Damme mysteriously carries around a caged rabbit (also named Jack) everywhere he goes and feeds it baby carrots, kind of one-upping Clive Owen's carrot-munching character from Shoot 'Em Up. The outside of the cage is covered in an American flag, for added patriotism. Naturally some bar toughs start making fun of him which results in some broken tables, chairs and tibulas.

Jack (the man, not the rabbit) is assigned to Captain Ramona Garcia (Natalie Robb) and given a wisecracking black partner Billy Pawnell (Gary McDonald). It's their job to hand out heaping handfuls of exposition like Halloween candy, save his ass during a climatic shootout and possibly betray him to the enemy at some point. It should also be noted that the border guard uniform makes Van Damme look really stocky and weird, so they have a gag where a cop spills coffee on him, necessitating a change back into his civvies.

Well, it turns out that the Special Forces unit we saw in the beginning of the film have gone rogue, and they are using their skills to kill drug kingpins and take over their smuggling operations. Because of their experiences in Afghanistan they strap explosive collars and suicide bomber vests to the drug couriers. I'm not really sure how that would work exactly, but it's a pretty good "Oh shit!" moment when Van Damme tackles a border-jumper and discovers he's strapped with a couple kilos of C4. I felt pretty sorry for the guy, especially when the bomb squad guy accidentally arms the bomb and then turns and runs for his life. That's a shit-your-pants moment right there.

One of the the best parts of the film is where the bad guys dress up as priests and try to smuggle drugs across the border in a customised bus full of nuns. Who knows where they got all the nuns from or where the nuns think they are going, but when a border guard notices a gang tattoo on one of the priests and gets suspicious, the bad guys push a button and mounted machine guns pop out of hidden compartments! This turns into a chase scene as the bus escapes back into Mexico. The police don't give a fuck either, they start blasting away and a bunch of nuns get caught in the crossfire. It's a great piece of action movie goofiness but there are two missed opportunities. Firstly, they never show a nun firing a machine gun and secondly, the bus doesn't explode.

Van Damme gets captured and taken to the drug smuggler's fancy mansion in Mexico and it turns out that one of the cops is working for the bad guys. Obviously it's either the captain or his partner, but I won't spoil it by telling you which. They also kill a minor character who we saw for maybe five seconds and it's pretty weird because they go to all of this trouble to kidnap this guy and smuggle him across the border, just so they could toss him into an electrified swimming pool as a demonstration of how serious they are. Van Damme escapes in time for a showdown with the second-in-command, played by Scott Adkins. This is probably the best fight in the film, Scott Adkins was awesome in Undisputed 2 and he's awesome here too. Afterward Van Damme fights the main villain Meyers (Stephen Lord) and it can't help but seem anti-climatic in comparison.

There are a few references throughout the film to Van Damme's traumatic past (bad dreams, insomnia etc) and it turns out to be part of a minor plot twist. You see, Van Damme's daughter died from a drug overdose and his transfer to border patrol was part of his one-man crusade of revenge against the drug dealers. The bad guys ask him, quite reasonably, why he goes all the way to New Mexico to single them out for extermination but they don't really get a satisfactory answer. Not sure if he'd already murdered his way up the food chain and these guys were next in line, but that sounds pretty cool so I'm going to go with that.

Then there's issue of the mysterious rabbit, the one that people have been asking about the entire movie. Did the rabbit had save his life by taking a bullet meant for him? Did it rescue him from kidnappers by chewing through some duct tape? Did it belong to his defeated arch-nemesis and he now looks after it as part of an honour-bound pact between worthy adversaries? Well no, actually, it used to belong to his daughter. She named it Jack because she thought it was funny. Cool story, bro! Glad you cleared that up.

The best part of this film is the one-two punch of director Isaac Florentine and Scott Adkins. Maybe the action/talk ratio isn't as high as I would like, but the fight scenes are well staged and shot. I really think Scott Adkins is leading man material, and luckily Florentine is giving him the lead role in his contribution to the long-overdue Renaissance of ninja films, creatively titled Ninja. He's also playing the lead in Undisputed 3, continuing the tradition of having the villain of the previous film become the lead and find redemption in the next film. I hope that it becomes the theme of the franchise, it gives you a warm fuzzy feeling you know?

So as far as Direct-to-Video Van Damme goes, this is one of the best ones, although fans of sheep and/or shepherding should be warned that this film does not contain sheep, goats or bovidae of any kind.

Sunday, 19 July 2009

Death Raiders (1984)

Some of Karamat's men demonstrate their highly ineffective
"standing out in the open and waiting to get shot" strategy

When you are the leader of rebel militia with aims to take over the country, you really need to consider your sartorial choices. Take Karamat in this film, for instance, who wears a bright red Gilligan-style cloth hat. Good news for me, because the DVD was apparently sourced from a fifth generation VHS dub that somebody accidentally put through the washing machine and his hat made for really handy visual landmark. Bad news for him, because nobody is going to take a guy in a hat like that seriously. I mean, could you imagine Barack Obama showing up for a press conference in a Gilligan hat? He'd be laughed out of the Oval Office.

It may be because of this that he and his rebel soldiers kidnap the provincial Governor of... wherever this is supposed to be, and his two hot daughters. They hope to use the hostages to overthrow the government somehow. The army agrees that it is too dangerous to allow an air or artillery strike. Their only option is to re-form the Death Raiders, a group of highly-trained commandos that are so skilled they can kill a dozen enemies with a single burst of machine gun fire, even when they aren't aiming anywhere near them.

With only a few days until the mission, it's time for the Seven Samurai style scene where the leader of the Death Raiders gathers up all of his former comrades. The first guy is busy macking on some tough guy's girl at the disco. The tough guy invites him onto the dance floor and when he reluctantly accepts the two men engage in an awesome disco dancing contest that sees our hero Bump n' Hustle his way to victory! Nah, I'm just kidding, actually he kicks the tough guy's ass and mops the floor with all of his goons. When they find the second guy he is busy defusing a delicate hostage situation with a largely superfluous slow-motion John Woo leap. Boom! Headshot!

The third guy is far more difficult to recruit. He's turned to the bottle and frequently bursts into impromptu drunken boxing fight scenes in the street. In a normal war film his heavy drinking would be an admirable trait or at worst a lovable quirk, but here his fighting brothers are quite concerned with his alcohol abuse and stage an intervention. It's kind of weird. He reveals that his girlfriend has been forced into working at a nearby whorehouse, so his brothers put into action a rescue which spirals out into an entertaining bar room brawl.

While all of this is going on we are subjected to the far less entertaining antics of Karamat and his family. You see, Karamat's son doesn't agree with his father's methods and defies him at every turn. This is fine, the problem lies in the fact that he is a whiny bitch. All he ever does is make proud, defiant speeches to his father and get his ass whupped. Or make proud, defiant speeches while getting his ass whupped. The most proactive he ever gets is sneaking the prisoners some food and helping them to escape, but even then the prisoners are recovered the next morning and he gets slapped silly by his father in front of a crowd of onlookers. He's so useless that his mother has to curry favour with one of Karamat's men just so Karamat doesn't beat him to death.

Once the Death Raiders are assembled they are air-dropped into the jungle and conduct a stealthy assault on the rebel village. Lots of throat slitting and fist fights, you know the drill. While they are working their way to the cave where the prisoners are being held, Karamat's wife and son are staging a rescue mission of their own. Eventually the two rescue teams all meet up and make their way back to the rendevous point. Karamat's men are in hot pursuit and a violent gun battle ensues. Luckily for them, Karamat's men's strategy consists primarily of lying prone out in the open, making then easy targets. Eventually Karamat catches a stray bullet and the film ends abruptly. I guess they forgot to film the epilogue.

This being a Filipino war film there's a lot of attempted rape and there's a weird scene where a dozen of Karamat's men wade into the water and get into a fight over who is going to rape the Governor's daughter. I guess it's being played for laughs? Far more successful at drawing laughs are the atrocious dubbing, terrible dialogue and the cartoony, Jackie Chan style physical comedy that peppers the fight scenes. At a brisk 80 minutes, this is a lean and reasonably efficient delivery vehicle for explosions and fighting, but I was disappointed with the lack of nudity and gratuitous profanity that similar Italian productions have left me accustomed to.

Tuesday, 14 July 2009

Kill Switch (2008)

I hope you like this stunt, because
you'll be seeing it a dozen times

Kill Switch is one of the most recent films to plop out of Seagal's Direct-to-Video sausage machine. In it he plays Jacob King, homicide detective with the Memphis Police Department. He's a tough cop who plays by his own rules etc, and he is so obsessed with his work he neglects his inexplicably hot, young girlfriend (who is also a cop). Because the film takes place in Memphis, Tennessee, Seagal gets to use his Southern voice (except when he uses a voice double), which sounds a lot like his ebonics voice except he says "lawd have mercy" a lot.

He also has frequent flashbacks to his traumatic childhood. We know it's traumatic because they use every disorienting editing trick they can think of... white flashes, skipped frames, creepy blue tints, switching up the film stock. I'm pretty sure they used every in-built feature on their editing software. You see, it seems that Seagal had a twin brother that was murdered at their childhood birthday party by some random psycho. Worst party ever. And don't expect the identity of the killer to play into the film in any way. It's what they like to call "characterisation" or more accurately "padding".

As the film opens the bomb squad are tending to a woman who has had a block of C4 implanted in her chest, and they've got to figure out which wire to cut before she explodes. It's like Die Hard in a woman! The culprit is a serial killer named Billy Joe Hill (Harry Heck, who played that singing assassin in The Punisher) who is watching from a nearby apartment building. Seagal kicks in the door and proceeds to beat the relevant information out of him, smashing him into walls, cupboards, pretty much every piece of balsa-wood furniture on the set. Seagal is smart enough to realise that when he tells them to cut the red wire he's lying, so he tells the Bomb Squad to cut the white wire instead and then tosses Billy Joe out of a third story window. Take that, due process!

Billy Joe survives, and eventually is let out of jail on a technicality (damn lefty judges) and continues his rampage, but he isn't the only villain. There's also a serial killer named Lazarus, who likes to carve astrological symbols in his victims and send Seagal cryptic messages. He also likes to walk around his fleabag apartment wearing nothing but a jockstrap, dress up like the Unabomber and scrawl mysterious writing on the walls. So, you know, he's like a greatest hits compilation of serial killer cliches. Also he beats a woman to death with a baby doll. Eventually Seagal manages to crack the code (they are simple substitution ciphers that Seagal should have been able to crack in about five minutes, let alone several library research montages) and tracks Lazarus down to a local rock club that plays shitty sub-Nickelback buttrock.

There's also a female FBI agent (and noted tight-shirt enthusiast) who is investigating the serial killings and Seagal himself, but she spends most of the time puking at crime scenes and being berated and belittled by Seagal and his friends. They are pretty rude to her, actually. I know there's that local cops/feds rivalry but let's keep it professional, guys. At one point Seagal's partner tells her a drawn-out anecdote (complete with flashback sequence) about a serial killer cannibal who they caught eating a clown. It's a long way to go for a really old joke, but I have to appreciate the ballsiness of dedicating an entire scene to such a minor gag.

Well, any Seagal film really comes down to the fight scenes and here they are pretty terrible. They are padded out mercilessly with lots of repeated footage and reversed shots. Typically Seagal will take down a bad guy in a few hits, here it takes a dozen or more and it's boring. Stunt doubles are used for everything, cut in with reaction shots from Seagal where he is clearly nowhere near the fight. Then there's the editing. Oh god, the editing. This film has some of the most obnoxious, quick-cut fight scenes I've ever seen. Seriously, this shit is worse than Michael Bay. Every single stunt is repeated three or four times with different angles and film speeds, and in the opening sequence when he throws Billy Joe through the window it replays about a dozen times! Not in a cool Jackie Chan "check this shit out" kind of way, more like somebody spilled a beer on the editing console. I thought my DVD player was fucked.

Although the fights are mostly unremarkable outside of the lousy editing, a few moments of brutality stick in my mind. The first is at a standard Seagalian bar fight where he curb stomps a guy on the edge of the bar until he spits out a mouthful of teeth and some information. Sure the guy seems to have all his teeth back a few moments later, but still, that's a little too Rodney King for my tastes (doesn't help that the dude is black either). The second is his big face off with the serial killer, where he tosses him into every shelf, table and pane of glass in the building before systematically breaking all his bones with a ball-peen hammer. And yeah, they shout "My teeth!" and "My arm!" respectively.

I'm not going to explain the plot because it's boring and doesn't make sense, but I really have to mention the ending. Through the entire film Seagal has been established as a well-known Memphis detective with a house, a girlfriend, a long-time partner etc. Well, after all the cases have been wrapped up, Seagal drives out into the country to a lovely villa and is greeted by a Russian woman and two children, apparently his wife and kids. He gives the two children presents and the woman leads him upstairs, strips naked and beckons him into their bedroom. The end. That is some David Lynch shit right there. So apparently he has a double life? Seriously, I don't know what the fuck.

The fucked-up ending, the voice doubles, the meandering plot, the padded fights, all of this really suggests some serious post-production shenanigans, Attack Force style. In fact there's one part where the FBI detective suggests that Seagal himself is responsible for the killings. The way this is so casually tossed off near the end of the film makes me wonder if this wasn't a very different film to start with. Apparently Seagal wrote the script so it would be interesting to see how it all started, but I guess we'll never know.

After Pistol Whipped and Urban/Renegade Justice I was excited to see what would come next but this film is a lazy cinematic abortion, easily a step back into Attack Force/Submerged territory. Like those films it has it's share of enjoyable WTF moments, but they don't come frequently enough to distinguish it from the rest of Seagal's Direct-to-Video flotsam.

Friday, 10 July 2009

Mannigan's Force (1988)

Don't you just love saying "Mannigan"?
Mannigan, Mannigan, Mannigan.

The place: the fictional Central American country of Cenagua (played by the Phillipines). The time: 1984 (played by 1988). In an opening scene familiar to most aficionados of war movies and/or gay porn, a group of hairy, muscular, armed men creep through the steamy jungle. The most hairy, muscular and armed of them all is Jack Mannigan (George Nichols). He and his force (ie Mannigan's Force) are helping a rebel group mount an attack on an enemy encampment and they must be really good because there's over a dozen of them crouching in open sight no more than 20 meters from the base and they aren't even spotted.

Mannigan leads the attack, leaping into the fray while screaming and blasting away with his huge, overcompensatory gun. The ensuing attack is full of bloody, Sam-Peckinpah-esque slow motion kills and burning bodies leaping out of exploding guard towers. I counted at least 90 kills, and most of them can be attributed to Mannigan himself, who mows down soldier after hapless soldier with an M16 in in each hand. This is strictly a shooting gallery style affair, with enemy soldiers completely forgetting they are armed as they run into a hail of gunfire. Lots of stunts, exploding huts and and bloody squibs. It's a good sequence.

Victorious, they head back to the rebel village. His men celebrate while Mannigan has a heart-to-heart with some local girl he's boning, saying he can't take her with him because he's a free bird and this bird you cannot chay-ay-ange. The next morning the enemy conducts a brutal counter-attack on the village. It's pretty hardcore, with women and little kids getting riddled with bullets in slow motion. Jeez. Mannigan's Force (and his girl) manage to escape the village and eventually find their way back to civilisation.

NOTE: Here's where you should probably turn off the film, because it seriously blows it's load in that opening sequence.

Some time later back in Cenagua, some enemy forces capture a military convoy and take some US hostages. While your standard group of international politicians/businessmen huddle in a briefing room, a guy demonstrates that Mannigan is a "karate expert, vietnam vet, mercenary, all rolled into one". He even includes some handy visual aids; slides of Mannigan posing in a karate uniform, army greens etc. They are all impressed by Mannigan's big muscles and agree that he is the man for the job, so they send a group of armed men to ambush him at home. You might consider that strange, figuring an official letter or polite phone call might be more appropriate, but tough guys like Mannigan and I, the only language we understand is violence. If the conversion doesn't start with a sweaty fist fight and a gunpoint confrontation, then we're just not going to take you seriously.

They offer Mannigan a million dollars, so he reluctantly agrees to the mission and puts out a coded newspaper ad to rally his force. All of his old buddies show up to lend a hand and there's a new guy too, a kung fu expert named Hang. Mannigan is unsure of him at first because he's one of the few men without any facial hair. Seriously, they are all sporting Magnum P.I. regulars. I would have called them Mannigan's Moustache Rangers.

Once they are back in-country they meet their local contact and formulate a plan of attack, but things aren't as simple as they seem. Turns out their chief employer is actually in league with the Cenaguan military forces, and he is using Mannigan's suicide mission as a decoy to placate his fellow colleagues while he trades arms and drugs with the Cenaguan General. Or something, I don't know. There were big chunks of dialogue that were in Spanish and the DVD didn't have any English subtitles (had burnt-in Japanese ones, though). I could tell that the Cenaguan General spoke Spanish phoenetically, which really isn't what you want in a military leader.

Mannigan meets up with his old girl (the only female character in the whole film I think), but she turns out to be a traitor working for the General. In 80s action films, one should maintain a healthy distrust of anything with a vagina. When they finally storm the base about a hundred of the General's soldiers appear out of hiding and I was all geared up for everyone to go out in a Wild Bunch style mass slaughter. Instead Mannigan's girl turns out to be a double agent for Mannigan's Force, taking the General hostage and helping them escape without a single shot fired. Total cinematic blueballs.

During the escape the General reveals that there aren't any hostages and that Mannigan's employer has double-crossed him, so Mannigan drives to the airstrip to confront his employer and plays a game of poorly-edited chicken with his jet. Mannigan barrel rolls to safety just in time to avoid the huge explosion, and then the film immediately ends. We don't find out how he manages to escape the General or his men. There isn't even a scene with Mannigan and his buds lounging by the pool after a job well done. Weak sauce.

The director is some dude named John Ryan Grace who left no corner uncut and spared every expense. The lighting is terrible and the acting is purely amateur hour, especially Mannigan who's displays of table-thumping anger are kind of embarassing. After the brilliant opening I thought I had discovered a lost gem of cheapie war films, but it's probably the worst case of premature ejaculation that I've ever seen. Nothing else in the film comes even a tenth of the way to matching that first action sequence. It's nice of them to put the best bits at the beginning so you don't have to fast forward, but I wish I'd known beforehand so I could have stopped watching about 15 minutes in.

Monday, 6 July 2009

Strike Commando (1987)


It's the final days of the Vietnam war. Public sentiment has turned against the government and the troops are weary and demoralised. In the fierce battle against Communism, the armed forces must turn to one man, the most highly-trained, unstoppable killing machine the American Army has ever produced... Reb Brown. Yes, the man who battled dinosaurs and robots in Yor: The Hunter From the Future, werewolves in Howling II and the Red Skull in Captain America is facing his most sneaky and dangerous foe yet... Charlie. But who to bring this epic tale of bravery, heroism and explosions to the silver screen? Clyde Anderson and Vincent Dawn? You can't fool me with your crazy pseudonyms, why it's none other than writer/director combo Claudio Fragasso and Bruno Mattei, bursting into the Vietnam-war genre with the force of an exploding straw hut.

The movie starts with the three-man Strike Commando team infiltrating a military base. Mattei shows his usual cultural sensitivity right off the bat by having the only black man on the unit talk about "stealing watermelons in Alabama" shortly before being shot. Of course the mission goes tits up and Colonel Radek (Christopher Connolly) activates the detonator early (according to the authentic Vietnam-War-era Casio digital wristwatch) despite the fact that their men are still on the base. Mike Ransom (Reb Brown) narrowly survives the explosion by leaping away in slow motion while screaming.

Ransom drifts down river until he is picked up by group of Vietnamese villagers in white-face (for some reason). Luciano Pigozzi (Pag from Yor) also appears as a French missionary, and he tells Ransom of two Russian commanders helping the Viet Cong, a bald muscleman named Jakoda and some woman who I'm not sure is even named. Ransom agrees take the villagers to a neighbouring village so they can be evacuated and along the way he befriends a native boy named Lao. Lao desperately wants to get to Disneyland and Ransom gives him a bizarre and highly inaccurate description, where popcorn and ice cream grow on trees and genies in magic lamps grant you wishes. Holy shit, that kid's going to be really disappointed when he finally gets there and finds nothing but rude German tourists, long lines and overpriced merchandise.

Ransom fights his way through enemy lines with knives, machine gun fire and a seemingly inexhaustible supply of hand grenades. Even Lao does his patriotic duty, slaughtering Viet Cong forces by the dozen. Does it end with Ransom running awkwardly through a rice paddy as mortars explode all around him? You'd better believe it! Once he's back in civilisation it's decided that they'll send him back behind enemy lines again to gather proof of Russian involvement, and Ransom is such a patriot he can't wait to get back out there and kill some Reds!

By the time he gets back to the villagers they've all been wiped out by Charlie but he arrives just in time to say goodbye to Lao. It's here that the film reaches it's emotional crescendo, with Ransom giving another tearful and nonsensical description of Disneyland, adding cotton candy mountains and swimming pools filled chocolate milk to the popcorn trees and wish-granting genies. Once the boy dies Ransom cradles him in his arms and screams the villain's name to the heavens... "Jakoodaaaa!!" There's your Oscar clip, right there.

Ransom heads to the enemy base for revenge and employs his usual tactic of spraying everything wildly with an M60 while screaming. Unfortunately it's a trap and Ransom is dumped in a bamboo cage with another POW and repeatedly tortured by Jakoda and his men. Reb Brown gets another opportunity to demonstrate his acting chops as yet another comrade-in-arms dies in his arms, and eventually they try to force him to broadcast anti-American propaganda over the radio (which for some reason they play over loudspeakers in American army bases). Our man Ransom is having none of it. He stages a brave escape and takes the female Russian commander hostage.

Ransom fights his way to the extraction point, taking down half a dozen Viet Cong with every burst of machine gun fire or hand grenade. It's not all that surprising that by the end of it, when a Viet Cong leaps out of the bushes, he exclaims "Jesus! You scared the shit out of me" and clobbers him with his rifle butt, all with the tension and urgency of a man squashing a bug. Of course the Russian commander falls for his American charms, but their love doesn't last long. It turns out that Radek is a filthy Commie traitor (I think it's safe to assume that anyone named Colonel Radek is evil) and when the two of them reach the extraction point he orders the helicopter gunner to open fire on them both, killing her.

Ransom escapes and takes off his shirt so he can blow up a Viet Cong riverboat, crawling back to shore just in time for a shirtless, greased-up fistfight with Jakoda. Mattei pulls out all the stops... punches that miss their mark by almost a meter, nose pulling, multiple nut kicks and an incredible charging head-butt that leaves them both battered and bruised. Ransom ends the fight by punching Jakoda so hard he falls off a waterfall that is clearly nowhere near where they were fighting. Awesome!

By the time Ransom gets back to Saigon to face Radek it's the last days of the war and things are looking grim. He kicks in the door of the base and starts spraying the place with machine gun fire (while screaming), but it seems that the traitorous Colonek Radek has escaped and gone into hiding. Ransom vows to track him down if it's the last thing he does. Like he says, "Dirty dog's gotta pay!"

We now leap ahead to present day Manila, which is lucky because that was when/where the movie was being shot. It's seems the thirst for revenge has kept everyone looking as youthful as ever and he meets up with his former commander at a cock fight where he obtains information about Radek's whereabouts. With his M60 and his trusty hand grenades (I wonder how he got those through airport security) he busts into Radek's headquarters and aimlessly sprays machine gun fire as henchman after henchman leap into his hail of bullets. With a high-pitched scream of "Aaaaahh! Die! Die!" he blows Radek into pieces with his grenade launcher.

Just when you think Ransom's well-deserved rampage is over, Jakoda jumps out of the bushes with a new set of metal chompers. Ransom shoves a grenade in his mouth, and Jakoda shouts one last "Americaaaanskiii!!" as his torso is turned into a fine red mist. Ransom catches his set of metal teeth and quips "These Russian dentists make some pretty good dentures" if that can indeed be called a "quip". As he walks into the sunset he narrates a strangely colloquial disclaimer about how any resemblance to persons living or dead is "purely accidental... yeah, very accidental, like one in a million, maybe." Especially Rambo, I bet Mattei hadn't even seen it when he made this film. Purely a coincidence, guys.

Whether it's firing a machine gun in slow-motion while screaming, engaging in a fist-fight while screaming or leaping away from a fiery explosion while screaming, Reb Brown proves he has the chops to be leading man material, so long as it involves screaming. Mattei, meanwhile, checks all the Vietnam war movie cliche boxes and then some. Especially the one about firing a machine gun in slow motion while screaming. He checks the fuck out of that one. And the battle wasn't over either, because the next year he come back for a second tour of duty when he made (along with four other films) Strike Commando 2.

Sunday, 5 July 2009

Feast 2: Sloppy Seconds (2008)

Midget wrestlers and tattooed naked biker babes?
Oh, yeah. I'm there.

I liked Feast, a quirky 80s style creature feature that toyed around with genre conventions just enough to feel fresh while still delivering on the scares and gore. It was probably the only thing to come out of Project Greenlight that I could give two shits about. So a few years later John Gulager is back with his direct-to-video sequel Feast 2: Sloppy Seconds.

So, how to make a sequel where pretty much everyone is dead? Diane Goldner who played Harley Mom, the biker chick who suffered a grisly and protracted death in the first film, appears again here as Harley Mom's twin-sister Biker Queen. She rolls into town with a foursome of hot biker chicks, ready to dish out punishment to the guy who killed her sister, even if he did do it accidentally. The bartender (veteran character actor Clu Gulager from Return of the Living Dead among other things) had his throat cut in the first film but that doesn't stop him from appearing here too. I guess it helps when you're the director's wife and father, respectively.

Biker Queen straps the Bartender to her bike and rides into town to find her sister's killer, but I guess the actor who played him had to wash his hair the day they shot this film or something because he doesn't show up at all. Instead they meet up with a bunch of crazy characters including Slasher (Carl Anthony Payne), a used car salesman, Secrets (Hanna Putnam), a ditzy woman obsesssed with The Secret, Greg Swank (Tom Gulager, the director's brother, noticing a pattern?), her sleazy lover. In what is probably the best thing in the film, there's also a duo of midget wrestlers named Thunder and Lightning (and yeah, one of them wears a Lucha Libre mask) and their beloved grandma Maria.

Jenny Wade also returns as Honey Pie, the bitch who left them all to die in the first film. She has a pretty nasty fight with the Bartender that ends with him pulling a Mike Tyson (uh... by which I mean he bites her ear off) but she spends most of the film trapped in a supermarket and separated from the main group, making her appearance largely pointless.

Together the group comes up with one ridiculous escape plan after another, most of which revolve around getting to the jail, supposedly the safest place in town. The local meth-dealing Hobo (William Prael) however, has taken up residence there and refuses to let anyone in, even if he has to kill people in the process. In the end they construct a catapult using Biker Queen's bike (although how they got it onto the roof isn't explained) with the intention of launching one of the midgets onto the roof of the jail. Also this plan involves two of the biker babes stripping naked and standing around topless.

For a film with so many awesome hooks, it's a shame that it doesn't do more with them. Thunder and Lightning are criminally underused: They get into a brief grudge match but they don't pull a tag team on an alien monster or anything. There's also a tattooed biker babe with bright red hair and a belt buckle that says "Bad-Ass" who smashes skulls with twin hammers. I mean, there's an interesting character right there. And yet like the rest of the biker babes, she just stands there mute for the entire film, occasionally with her tits exposed. I didn't mind that last part, but I wish she'd had a more active role.

This is definitely a film that deliberately tries to push your buttons. There's an alien autopsy where every prod of an exposed organ results in the cast members being sprayed with vomit, feces and urine until they puke all over each other in disgust. The scene started out mildly amusing but then went on so long that it became tedious, then sublimely ridiculous. That isn't the only gross-out gag either. An old woman is sprayed with alien goo and slowly rots away. An alien fucks a cat. Surely, there is something here to disgust everyone.

This is one of those films where there is really nobody to root for. Everybody is a sociopath, willing to sacrifice anybody and everybody to save their own skin. The de-facto hero, Biker Queen, is first introduced blasting a dog multiple times with a shotgun. Sure he was holding a human hand (a tribute to Yojimbo I guess) but to him it was just a delicious snack that he found on the ground. Lay off him. And for a biker gang they sure don't have any brotherhood, they'll toss their injured comrades to the wolves for no reason at all. An old woman is used to test a catapult and there's a scene with a baby that... well, I won't say much about it except that it made my jaw hit the floor. I don't know, maybe it's just a stylistic thing but that kind of overly-cynical approach just rubs me the wrong way. Even Braindead had a sense of fun and likable characters.

The first film had a limited budget, but it made the most of it. The setting was limited to a single location and the monsters appeared infrequently and usually in the dark. It looked good. Here they show the monsters a lot more and usually in the daytime, which is a mistake because they look pretty cheap and rubbery in the light. The budget constraints really show during the last half hour or so, which take place on the worst rooftop green screen this side of Tommy Wiseau's The Room. There's some of the dreaded digital blood sprays, but there's a lot of nice practical effects work too. The various kills that happen along the way, while gory and occasionally quite inventive, don't have a lot of impact because there's no tension or momentum behind them.

This sequel has the same self-aware tone of the first film (like in the first film, short vignettes introduce each character) but you get the feeling that Gulager is running low on ideas and just throwing every shock tactic and gross-out gag he can think of at the screen. One thing the first film did well was unfold in a way that was just unpredictable enough but still well structured and plotted. Here the plot lurches along in fits and starts, never quite sure where it's going. At the end it suddenly ramps up only to pull the rug out from under you by ending on a cliff hanger. You see, this film was shot back-to-back with Feast 3: Happy Ending, so you'll have to wait for that film before you find out what happened to the remaining cast members. Based on this film, I'm not sure I want to.

Friday, 3 July 2009

Friday the 13th (2009)

They got the mask right at least.

I'm not particularly fond of horror production company Platinum Dunes, and not just because it's run by Michael fucking Bay. My main issue is that if you're remake a classic horror film then I think you should have something interesting to say or at least try for better execution. Some of the recent horror remakes I've liked (eg The Hills Have Eyes, Dawn of the Dead) and I appreciated that Rob Zombie's Halloween was trying to do something new and different even if I thought it wasn't entirely successful. In the case of Platinum Dunes, however, I think the remake angle is purely a business decision. The original Texas Chainsaw Massacre is one of my favourite horror films of all time and the remake completely missed the appeal of the original while bringing nothing new to the table. For the folks at Platinum Dunes, Texas Chainsaw Massacre is just a brand name that they can slap onto any old product and sell a few more tickets during the opening weekend.

Despite all that, I tried to keep an open mind with Friday the 13th. I don't hold the film in as high a regard as some other classic horror films and let's face it, most of the sequels are fucking awful. Here they kind of mash together the first three Friday the 13th films. I've talked about how stupid the plot is once you consider the timeline of the first few films and the way they handle it here only calls attention to that fact. The film picks up with Pamela Voorhees facing off against the last of the camp counselors she blames for her son's death. Jason is still alive however, and witnesses his mother's decapitation. This sends Jason into a state of revenge-fueled insanity and now he stalks Camp Crystal Lake looking for victims.

This is all recounted in a campfire story later by an ill-fated teen early in the film and if I were there listening I'd call it some retarded, illogical bullshit. These campers are here looking for a mysterious, hidden marijuana crop. This got me wondering if Jason tends to this crop himself as a way to lure teens onto his campground. Does Jason like to kick back with a joint and giggle at Adult Swim? The questions are endless. Anyway, about thirty minutes into the film all but one of the campers was dead, so I was wondering if they were really going to drag this Final Girl chase out for an hour. Well, it turns out that this bunch of teens were just the entree, we haven't even got the main course yet.

Our main victims are a bunch of teenagers headed out to Crystal Lake for a holiday full of sex and drugs. The alpha male of the group is Trent, a rich dickbag who drives around in an enormous black SUV, the official car of the dickbag. He is a complete asshole to a guy named Clay who is out looking for his missing sister (she was in the original group of unhappy campers) and you pretty much can't wait to see him die. Most of the other kids think he's an asshole too and are just using him for his awesome holiday house and boat.

There's also a black guy who seems to be aware he's the only black person in the whole film and a stereotype-breaking Asian dude who likes sports, drinks and smokes a shitload of weed. Unfortunately nobody thought to bring any ethnic girls for them to bang (if either of them fucked a white girl it would break the space-time continuum) so they are shit out of luck. After drooling over one of the girls the Asian dude remarks that he has "better chance of fucking a penguin", whatever that is supposed to mean, and the black guy is reduced to jerking off to a magazine photo of a fully-clothed girl with his friends right next door. Poor dudes. There's also a few other nondescript teens plus a few hillbilly stereotypes and a local cop played by Travis Davis (this generation's John Saxon).

While these characters are busy meeting a grisly fate, Trent's girl ends up befriending Clay and eventually romance blossoms. Clay, buddy, if a girl is with a douchebag like Trent it's because she likes douchebags. As soon as you steal her away she's going to get bored and leave you for the first guy who treats her like garbage. It's not worth it, man. Trent, meanwhile, immediately bangs one of the other girls, during which he says stuff like "you got perfect nipple placement baby" and "your tits are stupendous". Who says romance is dead? Although to be fair they are pretty stupendous. You see, they managed to find a bunch of actresses who were willing to doff their tops for a few cheap thrills, and I didn't think they existed anymore. Good going, guys.

Traditionally Jason has been an insane killing machine, murdering anybody he sees, but here Jason is far more methodical. I remember reading an interview with the filmmakers where they were talking about a leaner, smarter, more territorial Jason and referencing movies like Rambo. I was getting pretty excited. Unfortunately they don't take it very far. He sets traps, climbs walls and it looks like he's even put those camp archery targets to good use, but most of the time he just appears behind people and chops them with a machete, just like usual. The kills aren't anything spectacular either.

They've also added a pretty silly twist. You see, it turns out that Jason has dug out all these tunnels beneath the campsite and he has been keeping Clay's missing sister there for over a month. I don't know, I can't imagine Jason spending years digging away with a shovel like in The Great Escape. He's got a bunch of tripwires and alarms set up around the place so he can find people easily and apparently he uses these tunnels to travel around the campsite but I must have fallen asleep during that part. This would have been a good idea if there were some harrowing chase sequences, but there really isn't much of that either.

In the end Clay's sister manages to distract Jason like the girl in Friday the 13th Part 2, long enough for them to kill him, and this is the dumbest part of all. He's suspended in the mouth of a wood chipper, and rather than giving him a shove they stab him in the chest until the wood chipper takes a bite out of his head and supposedly kills him. Then, instead of calling the cops or going Fargo on his ass, they take his body out of the wood chipper and put it in the river. That is some of the dumbest, most half-assed sequel-setting-up bullshit I've even and I've seen all the other Friday the 13th films. I'd have to rate this as a middling Friday the 13th sequel. It's more competently made than many of them, but it's also more boring with fewer laughs.