Scream Queens: Chainsaw OTT Fun Continues (Review)

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The pilot of Scream Queens last week started off the over the top (OTT) fun with Ariana Grande’s character, Chanel #2,  tweeting about being murdered by the Red Devil.  Something that Denise Hemphill brings up later in the second episode and then the scene follows up with a gag about Instagram and an obviously dead Chanel #2 posting to the social network.

Chainsaw, the second episode of the Ryan Murphy, Ian Brennan, Brad Falchuk project,  is apparently Brennan’s baby, written and directed by, and he has obviously channelled his inner Wayans’ and Zucker’s into this installment. The first look at the series, in the pilot, contained a lot of Scary Movie type humor, but now the show has shifted into overdrive with its clear homage to all things Animal House as well as the more comical side of every sorority house slasher ever made.

Emma Roberts continues to slay her role as Chanel #1, aka Chanel Oberlin (“Hello Idiot Hookers”) who manages to make every insult that comes from her mouth hysterically funny. The actress can literally deliver the goods with each gem that spills from her vitriolic lips. The makeover prelude with Lea Michele is brilliant.

Speaking of Lea Michele…the whole makeover scene is her baby. While Roberts starts off as the lead, Michele as the new Chanel #6 steals the entire set piece. Looking beyond stunning after coming down the stairs, one of the girls tells the pledge how great she looks. Hester (Michele) replies that she is in agony without her brace but it is worth it; all delivered between gritted teeth shaped into a smile. Brilliant.

In this installment, Denise Hemphil (Niecy Nash) continues to play the female version of Marlon Wayans’ character in Scary Movie, without the drug intake. Her lines throughout the series thus far are funny but one winces while laughing wondering when the PC police are going to strike.

Abigail Breslin has completely left her Little Miss Sunshine and Zombieland days behind her. The scene between Chanel #5 (Breslin) and Roberts is eyeopening and also requires a bit of wincing. Realizing that the young lady who is boasting of being “Eiffel Towered” is the same one who competes in the talent  contest in “Sunshine” is a little disturbing…but still so funny.

There are so many sexual innuendos that one can easily lose count. One of the best has to be the Chanel #3 (Billie Lourd) line, “Cause munching box is what killed Michael Douglas…” (Note, Douglas is not dead for those who may have just panicked a little.) Later #3 comes out with a line that has nothing to do with sex but is still memorable. Discussing her family lineage she says to Sam (Jeanna Han) “You know Swenson? Swenson the frozen dinners, like Swanson’s for poor people…”

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Chad in The Warriors, A Clockwork Orange, West Side Story, boy band scene…

There are so many comic moments that it is hard to keep track. The whole The Warriors thing with Chad and his frat boys carrying bats and calling out the Red Devil but looking like A Clockwork Orange with their cricket whites on. Grace’s dad showing the film analysis class the Tobe Hooper 1974 original classic The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and his strange rambling summation of the film’s ending after.

Also the completely random but, oh so funny, battle between Coney the new mascot and the Red Devil after Aaron Cohen’s off screen monologue about how great it is being Coney and how he is never taking the costume off.

Back to Cody’s baseball bat carrying friends and their moment in the street against the two killers…Was that a riff on the 1975 Monty Python and the Holy Grail?  The “Come back and fight scene?” Answers in the comments please, or on a post card if you are over a certain age…

Scream Queens not only takes on all things from the slasher genre and makes over the top fun of it but also includes as many pop culture references as possible. Even the cast are culturally relevant. Ariana Grande,  Jamie Lee Curtis, and KeKe Palmer (one of the busiest young performers in the business apparently) are an example of the awareness of the casting directors and the show’s producers.

*Sidenote* How many folks instantly hear that YouTube kid’s song (Jenna Rose “My Jeans.”) when they see Palmer on screen? You know the one, “KeKe Palmer is wearing my jeans.” Never heard of the actress till that song…

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Wes, Grace’s dad, presents the best movie ever…

Back to the show, Curtis is still knocking it out of the park even when the dialogue and the action enter and  then go beyond ridiculous. The whole white noise gag bordered on idiocy yet both actresses managed to play it straight which made it work…after a fashion. A little too OTT chaps…just saying.

The show is still working though. The bit of almost Airplane! dialogue between Grace and ZayDay (Palmer) at the start :

“You want to put syrup on chips? You can’t be serious, right?”

“Yes, I’m serious.”

“You’re insane.”

Everything about episode two screams comedy. Dean Munsch’s  “Take back the night” speech and (disregarding the comedic Barfman and kelp in ice cream gag) Lea Michele’s character Hester’s rapt look while listening to the dean. Michele pretty much owned this installment on the sorority sister side. Watch that scene and you will see why.

The taser in the “nuts” gag, the chainsaw under ZayDay’s bed, the frat boy street battle…Chainsaw shoved comedy up front and slipped the horror under the bed with Williams’s granny’s protection present.

Charisma Carpenter (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel) and Roger Bart (Desperate Housewives, The Producers) as Ariana Grande’s Chanel #2’s parents worked brilliantly for obvious reasons.

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Roger Bart and Charisma Carpenter…

All in all,  Scream Queens still manages to deliver in the comedy stakes even if horror took a reluctant backseat in Chainsaw. The show airs Tuesdays on FOX. Tune in to learn the latest slang words for sexual acts and non pc humor and to laugh uncontrollably.

 

Ghostquake: Haunted High (2012) TV Movie Rubbish

One of the “advantages” of living overseas is the ability to watch made for TV movies that are disguised as normal feature films. It is probably my own fault. I have a list of things I watch for: favourite directors, favourite actors, and whether the film is a horror film or not.

I am a sucker for horror films. The only other genre that comes close on my favourite’s list is westerns. But with westerns I am cynical and leery of new ones. Ever since the 1970’s when westerns became a gaunt shell of their former glory (mainly the introduction of the psychological element spelt the death knell of the western) I look at them with a jaundiced eye that wants to be surprised and pleased with what Hollywood has to offer.

Sometimes I get lucky; the Coen brothers and True Grit, their modern western No Country for Old Men and their noir western Blood Simple. Clint Eastwood and his film Unforgiven, or the cross genre film Cowboys and Aliens. All good and not a bit of dross anywhere, but, I do not take on face value anything that Hollywood trots out as a western as being good. Not, at least, until I’ve researched it…a lot.

But horror films are different. I invariably see a horror film and I’ll decide, like some overgrown wide-eyed Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm, that this film is going to be good. “Look at who is in it,” or “Wow look who directed it,” or “That trailer is awesome.” And just like that, I walk into the world of the crap film all innocence and fresh-faced gormlessness.

Of course, these imported made for TV films are doubly disguised. At least in the US, you know from the get-go that it is a TV film. The real giveaway is that it is on TV and it is a “new” film. I don’t know if they have the quaint Movie of the Week anymore, but I’m sure there must be a modern equivalent.

I saw the title of this movie, Ghostquake and saw that one of my old favourites Danny Trejo was in it and that lovely alumni from Buffy and Angel Charisma Carpenter was in it as well, and I thought, “Well this must be pretty good, I mean, look who is in it.” And just like that, I paid a grand total of 3 pounds sterling for the film. New mind you not used or “pre-viewed” but new from Tesco’s; where most films go for between 10 and 20 pounds.

Danny Trejo one of the few times he’s not locked in the janitor’s closet.

I know what you are thinking, “Surely, the fact that it was only 3 pounds should have tipped you off.” But in my defence, I will state for the record that I have found some great films for mere pennies, thank you.

But not often and very rarely, okay?

A great clue as to how dreadful this film is can be gleaned by the fact it has taken me over 500 words to get around to talking about the thing.

Believe me when I tell you it is more than dreadful, it is almost beyond description. But in my attempt to save anyone else from the horror (pun intended) that is Ghostquake (or Haunted High as it was called on its television premiere, presumably on the Sy Fy channel) I will gamely try to discuss the film.

The film takes place in the fictional high school of Halloman. It is a preppy type “school uniform” school and it is haunted by the apparition of the old principal who was the leader of a satanic cult who killed students. His grandson is now attending the school and his presence combined with some cursed gold coins has caused his grandfather (and his evil sidekick, a demonic ex-student with a horrible complexion and very sharp teeth) to manifest and start killing the hapless students who are in the school after hours.

I had a good idea that this was a disguised made for TV film when I realised that there were no lingering shots of the dead students. There was not even a lot of gore. I knew for sure, when I started inadvertently putting in commercial breaks.

The level of acting (if you could even classify what most of the “actors” did as acting) was execrable and apart from Danny Trejo, who has a certain level of believability in most of what he does, the only other actor who even came close to “acting” was Charisma Carpenter.

Oh look! It’s Charisma Carpenter, now don’t blink or you’ll miss..Ah ya blinked.

Unfortunately Mademoiselle Carpenter was in the film for exactly one minute and thirty-two seconds. I know, because I timed it…twice. After meeting her maker by being half swallowed by a portion of the floor that looked suspiciously like that marshmallow stuff that comes in jars she never appears again, except as another name in the end credits.

Trejo made out a bit better as he made until the last reel, coming back as a ghostly avenger to drag the demon ex-principal to the hell that awaits all bad actors. Sadly he could not drag the rest of the cast with him.

I could spend another 1000 words talking about continuity lapses and sound problems (the main one being that the entire film sounded “looped”) and plot holes that were big enough to fly a Boeing 767 through. Not to mention the dreadful combination of over acting and wooden acting.

Most “bad” horror films have the slim redemption of at least being so bad that they are funny. I have seen quite a few of those and, oddly, they become favourites; almost as revered as the really good horror films. Ghostquake did not even come close to the “it’s so bad, it’s good” category.

In fact, I felt strongly like going to Tesco’s and demanding my 3 pounds back.

Final verdict: Avoid at all costs and if you see it, drive a stake though the packaging and burn it.

A rose under any other title would still stink like…NOT a rose.

The Expendables (2010) Tattooed Tough Guys Getting Ready for # 2

The Expendables (2010 film)
The Expendables (2010 film) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

With The Expendables 2  opening across the UK in August this year, with bigger roles for Bruce Willis and Arnold Schwarzenegger, and with the news that The Expendables 3 will soon start filming, I’ve decided to take another look at the film that started it all.

The Expendables was directed by Sylvester Stallone who also co-wrote the screenplay with  Dave Callaham.

The hook or draw, if you prefer, was the presence in one film of a lot of tough guy actors from the 80’s and 90’s, famous for playing action-type heroes or bigger than life characters.

The list was long. Sylvester Stallone, Jet Li, Dolph Lundgren, Eric Roberts, Mickey Rourke, as well as relative newcomers  Jason StathamRandy Couture, Steve Austin,  Terry Crews and of course Arnold and Bruce (in uncredited cameos).

The token females were Charisma Carpenter (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel), in what has got to be the worlds shortest cameo, as Stratham’s wishy-washy girlfriend and Giselle Itié is the “love interest” for Stallone’s character.

Stallone and his buddies are mercenaries who, at the start of the film, are rescuing hostages from some Somali pirates.  It is a short scene, designed to show us, the audience, how the group dynamic works and who is really in charge. It also shows us that Dolph Lundgren’s character is not playing with a full deck.

In rapid succession we find that: Gunnar Jensen (Lundgren) is off the team, Lee Christmas (Statham) finds out his girlfriend, now isn’t, and Barney Ross (Stallone) is unhappy with the way his life is going. We also get to meet Tool (Mickey Rourke) the groups tattooist. *on a side note – what a cool name for a character…Tool, just had to mention it.*

English: Mickey Rourke at the 2009 Tribeca Fil...

The guys get hired by Mr Church (Willis) and Ross finds out that his only competition for the job, Trench (Arnie) doesn’t want the job. The group vote on whether to accept the job and Ross and Christmas decide a fact finding mission is in order.This is not a film with great depth or hidden meanings What it does, it does very well. It is an “old fashioned” buddy/action/blockbuster film.

The Expendables is a great big ‘romp’ of a film. It features enough explosions and gunfire to start and win a war in most third world countries. It never at any time takes itself too seriously and it gives us bad guys (Eric Roberts as the supreme bad-ass we love to hate)  who are really bad and his underlings are easy to despise.

Of course the cast list gives us enough bulging muscle that everyone appears to have been vaccinated with steroids at birth. At no time in the film do you ever need to ask, “Where’s the beef?”

But like I said, it is ‘old-fashioned’ the bad guys wear metaphorical black hats, and the good guys with their metaphorical white hats ride in to save the day.

The one disappointment for me was that we didn’t get to see a lot of Jet Li. I am a huge fan, but to be honest, I was not really surprised to see how little he got to do. Hollywood has never really known what to do with Li and it carries over into this film.

I also missed seeing some of the other “80’s and 90’s action men” but that appears to be taken care of in the cast list of The Expendables 2.  The second ‘Expendables’ (in what is apparently becoming a series) will include Jean-Claude Van Damme  , as well as  Chuck Norris.

Charisma Carpenter is coming back for the ride and we can only hope she gets a little more screen time in this one.

Charisma Carpenter at Fan Expo 2007

One thing has been bothering me about the upcoming The Expendables 2. With Chuck Norris on your team surely you don’t need anyone else. Although, he could be batting for the other side, in which case I don’t think Team ‘Expendable’  have enough men.

Deutsch: Chuck Norris