2001 Maniacs: Field of Screams Worst Film Ever

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I do realise that  branding 2001 Maniacs: Field of Screams as the worst film ever leaves me open to all kinds of arguments. I will take the chance of having other people’s candidates for that “honour” thrown in my face, but, it is worth the risk.  It is very seldom that I find a film that I cannot watch all the way through. The follow up to the first campy horror film 2001 Maniacs with Robert Englund and Lin Shayne and the second in a planned trilogy, is worse than abysmal.

I would go so far as to say that it is execrable. Which is the nicest way I can think to put it.

The film was made on a budget of half a million and it looks like a lot less than that was actually spent on the making of this tragic waste of celluloid.

The first thing you notice when watching the film is the sound. The dialogue of each and every character, with the possible exception of Bill Mosley, sounds dubbed…by someone else. At times the actors lips don’t even match their spouted dialogue.  Even Mosley, of whom I am a huge fan, sounds like he has “looped” his lines after the fact.

Badly.

The plot, such as it is, deals with the Civil War dead who occupy Pleasant Valley having to take their show on the road. Their source of yankee souls to take has dried up so they decide to have a travelling road show of southern inhospitality to collect the ration of northern victims required to allow them to shuffle off to hell or wherever Civil War ghouls go.

Lin Shayne

Mired in with this plot “twist” is the introduction of Rome Sheraton, no points awarded for guessing who she is supposed to be, and her sister Tina Sheraton. The two parties meet up in Iowa and together they drag the film even further into the barnyard muck that passes as a film.

I noticed that if you look up the film in Wikipedia, the link to an interview by Bill Mosley gives you an Error 404. Presumably he was so appalled by the finished product that he had it taken down. For the man who so effortlessly scared the crap out of audiences as much as he amused in House of a 1000 Corpses and the follow-on film The Devil’s Rejects he must be embarrassed to be associated with such dross.

As I mentioned above, I literally could not finish watching the film. It was so bad, I began to suspect that most of the actors and all of the crew were meth addicts or half-wits who had never made a film before.

I try to never outrightly pan a film, I usually try to find some redeeming qualities. Unfortunately 2001 Maniacs: Field of Screams have none. At one point in the film, Bill Mosley as Mayor George W. Buckman (get it?) gets an obligatory close-up, one of several, and the “scar” over his missing eye  has been so inexpertly applied that it is coming off and looks as fake and as hokey as the rest of the film.

I’ve reviewed abysmal student films that were better than this drivel.

My final verdict?

Avoid at all costs. Getting poked in the eye with a sharp stick would be less painful than attempting to sit through this film. It would probably also be more entertaining.

I’ll finish this with a heartfelt plea to Bill Mosley, “Please, Please! Do not participate in  films like this anymore!”

Michael Smithfieldofscreams

United Kingdom

24 August, 2013

Revolver (2005): Guy Richie’s Ode to Kabbalah

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With nothing better to do, I finally decided to bite the bullet and watch Revolver last night. The film was universally panned by almost every critic worldwide, except for Mark R Leeper who stated that the film would have a “narrow” audience. (Wikipedia)

You can say that again.

As the film finished on a black screen being serenaded by a piano, I gazed at the screen and said, “What the fudge was that?”

You know a film is esoteric to the extreme when you have to look the damn thing up after you’ve watched it, to try and figure out what the hell went on for 110 minutes.

And since I only know what Wikipedia told me about Kaballah (I mean apart from the fact that Ritchie’s then wife Madonna was heavily into the religion) I still don’t know what the hell was going on in the film.

Directed and co-written by Guy Ritchie with the marvellously talented Luc Beeson, Revolver is an exercise in frustration, hidden meanings (at least hidden from me) and strange character interludes with the camera a la schizophrenia.

Jason Startham stars as Jake Green; wide boy and games player extraordinary. He gets out of prison and goes to confront his old boss Dorothy Macha (Ray Liotta) about getting the money that Macha owes him. On his way out of Dorothy’s casino, a very large man stops Green and says, you’re in a lot of trouble, call me. He also hands Green a card with the words, take the elevator on it. (Green has a phobia about lifts)

Ray Liotta is feeling blue...
Ray Liotta is feeling blue…

Green doesn’t look at the card and takes the stairs, collapsing the second he starts down. He wakes up and is told he has three days to live. The big man and his partner then decide to help Jake by taking all his money and making him deliver it to various people around town. They also start seriously messing with Macha taking his money and his drugs that he is supposed to deliver to the menacing and never-seen Mr Gold.

I watched this film confused from the first scene and kept watching hoping that it would all be made clear to me by the end. The only thing that became clear to me was that the “hit man” hired by Macha, resplendent in his glasses and natty suit, was Mark Strong who played Big Frank D’Amico in Kick Ass. I spent at least half of the movie trying to figure out why he looked so familiar.

 

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Even after reading about how the characters and the numbers and the colours were representative of the “teachings” of Kabbalah, my comprehension of this film is still zero.

I guess I can take some comfort in knowing that most of the world’s critics didn’t like the film either, but not too much. I don’t as a rule trust many critics, although there are a few that I do listen to. So I can only shrug in bewilderment and wonder what in the hell was Guy Ritchie thinking?

Obviously as a gesture to his (then) wife Madonna aka Madge in the UK, he decided to make an “Ode to Kabbalah” since she was a little obsessed with the religion.

I will say this for Ritchie and his film, I could not stop watching it. Not because it was that good, but because I kept hoping to figure out what was going on.

It is on Netflix in the UK at the moment, but don’t go out of your way to watch it. Unless you understand Kabbalah intimately you’ll get lost. If you don’t? I guess it’s just me, then.

I think I had the exact same expression on my face (sans lollipop) while watching this film.
I think I had the exact same expression on my face (sans lollipop) while watching this film.

 

A Simple Plan by Scott Smith: Not so Simple

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A Simple Plan is Scott Smith’s first book. It caused a lot of fuss when it hit the book stands and after reading it, I can see why. I’ve actually reversed into this debut novel of Smith’s because I read The Ruins first and fell in love with his story telling abilities based on that novel.

The book has been called “A compulsive thriller which also happens to be a beautifully written and original work of art” Robert Harris. I believe him. It’s such an accurate description of Smith’s writing style and of the story itself that the publishers have pasted it across the front of the paperback version of the book.

If you look at the Wikipedia plot description, it is a bit too simple, straightforward and a little misleading. From Wikipedia: Three men find an airplane crashed in a forest. The pilot is dead and the cockpit contains a gym bag with $4.4 million in one-hundred-dollar notes. They decide to keep the money, dividing it equally, but their plans go wrong when others come close to discovering their secret, resulting in multiple murders.

Now that description would catch my interest, but it is not what the book is really about.

Hank Mitchell lives in a rural area of America. He is married and his wife Sarah is expecting their first baby. His brother Jacob, a behemoth of a man, is one of life’s under achievers. Jacob’s best friend is drunken wastrel Lou. Lou doesn’t like Hank and the feeling is mutual.

Hank and Jacob’s parents commit suicide when the farm that their father owned got into financial difficulties. The two brothers have little in common and don’t even like each other very much. Hank is an accountant and the only bright spark in his life is his pregnant wife.

Hank, Jacob and Lou make an uneasy trio of men thrown together by familial ties, circumstance and financial similarities. Hank, despite being the only employed member of this little group is basically easily led and taken advantage of. He is not strong enough morally or physically to make a stand for himself.

Then one snowy morning all three men are in a pickup truck when Jacob’s dog (a male named Mary Beth) jumps out of the truck to chase a fox. Both fox and dog disappear into the woods and the men go to find Mary Beth. Once in the woods they find a small crashed aircraft. They also find a dead pilot and duffel bag stuffed with money.

Hank takes control of the situation and decides that if they hold onto the money for six months it will then be safe for them to split the cash and no one will be the wiser. With explicit instructions to not tell anyone about what they’ve found, Hank becomes the “keeper” of the money.

Stress, dire financial situations, lack of secrecy and trust all begin to take their toll on the three men and as events snowball out of control, things turn murderous.

This story had me gripped from the first page. Smith paints a brilliant picture of small town life and the people who inhabit it. His painting of the three (four counting Sarah) main characters made them so real and complete I felt badly for them when things got so out of hand.

Hank was the main protagonist and it doesn’t take long to see that he really is not up to the task at hand. Sarah becomes a big player in the action by first acting as his sounding board and then later taking a more active role in events.

This tale of greed, fear and mass murder was made into a film in 1998 by Sam Raimi, starring Bill Paxton, Billy Bob Thornton, and Bridget Fonda, if it is one-quarter as good as the book, I have to see it.

This was a brilliant book. A real 5 out of 5 stars for originality and for characters that leapt off the page at you, they seemed so real. If you don’t read any thing else this year, read this book.

While the title may be A Simple Plan, the story itself is not so simple.

Author Scott Smith.
Author Scott Smith.

RIP James Herbert (8 April 1943 – 20 March 2013): Ash to Ashes

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My good friend John Mountain over at Written in Blood was kind enough to “inadvertently” inform me of author James Herbert‘s death. I’d been “out of sync” with real life matters and in so doing had missed the news of Herbert’s untimely death on Wednesday the 20th of March this year.

He will be greatly missed.

James Herbert was initially an art director for an advertising agency (courtesy of Wikipedia) before becoming a full-time writer. A writer who designed his own book covers and did all his own publicity. He was also a writer who used to “scare the pants” off me and his other faithful readers.

With his novel The Rats and the subsequent sequels to it, Lair and Domain, he gave me an almost pathological fear of English rats. His vermin villains were bigger and smarter than your average British rat and in 2008 when I visited my daughter in her first apartment at Uni and saw a rat as big as a small dog, it wasn’t ringing the council that first sprang to my mind, it was James Herbert and his über scary rats.

Stephen King once said of Herbert that he was the type author who “grabbed his reader’s lapels and screamed into their faces [sic]” and his early books did just that. Who can forget the images that his scenes of horror evoked?

The legless dog stumping towards the letterbox in The Dark; the harsh headmaster who has his genitals cut off in The Fog; and as mentioned above, the rats in The Rats.

But his horror story skills evolved over the years, just as his novels evolved. He could tell a damned fine fantasy horror story and stories that, although steeped in the horror verse, were more sophisticated and complex than his earlier works. He had made the transition from the “pulps” to the slick world of mainstream horror fiction.  I have read every book published by James Herbert and loved them all.

But my favourite books of Herbert’s dealt with David Ash. The guilt-ridden paranormal investigator who fought an internal battle against his own psychic abilities. The man who was haunted by first his own sister and later by an entire family of ghosts in Haunted; then an entire village in The Ghosts of Sleath  and finally with the ghosts (?) in an exclusive madhouse in Ash; his last book published just before his untimely death.

Years ago, I had the pleasure of seeing James Herbert on late-night telly. He has come on some program not to plug his latest book, but because he a was a rock fan who was actually touting his favourite bands next tour. He wore a heavy metal t-shirt and his hair was long and he seemed like one helluva nice guy.

I remember thinking, ‘That’s James Herbert??’ The guy who has managed to scare the hell out of me in almost all his books? I was shocked at just how nice the chap seemed. Herbert, who was awarded an OBE  in 2010, was an author who never really quite believed his success and never really felt comfortable with the praise and adulation that his books brought about.

I am, rather sadly, reading the last book of Herbert’s (Ash) and while reading it I can’t help but ponder a world without James Herbert. His books sold over 42 million copies worldwide (Wikipedia) and he has been a personal favourite of mine ever since I first picked up one of his books (The Fog – 1975) in 1982 from a USAF base bookstore.

Apart from my heartfelt sympathy for his family (his wife and three daughters) and close friends I’d like to express my own fond farewell. “So long mate, I say mate because in my mind I feel that anyone who can so consistently entertain and scare the bejeezus out of me is a friend.  You certainly brought more than your fair share of talent to the party. You will be missed by me and millions of other people around the world. Rest in peace mate.”

RIP James Herbert (8 April 1943 – 20 March 2013).
RIP James Herbert (8 April 1943 – 20 March 2013).

The Corridor (2010): Canadian Chill at its Finest

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The Corridor is Evan Kelly‘s first feature film, although he has a good list of films that he has been assistant director on and he directed a short filmQuality Viewing in 2002. Despite the fact that it appears he’s not done anything recently I expect great things from this director.

Amazingly this film was so low-key that it doesn’t even have a Wikipedia entry. *Surely this more than anything else shows how the world has moved into the internet verse of informative websites.*   There is not a whole lot of information on IMDb either. The only information that one can glean from this site is that is was shot in 2010 and not released until 2012.

Due to the lack of budget and box office information, I am guessing that the film was released straight to DVD. After watching it I could only ask why? Was the film so outside the box that the production company or the producers could not figure out how to market the film? What ever the reason, it is ridiculous that this film is so unknown.

The guys still don't quite trust Tyler.
The guys still don’t quite trust Tyler.

The Cast:

Stephen Chambers
Tyler Crawley
James Gilbert
Everett Manette
David Patrick Flemming
Chris Comeau
Matthew Amyotte
Robert ‘Bobcat’ Comeau
Glen Matthews
Jim ‘Huggs’ Huggan
Mary-Colin Chisholm
Pauline Crawley

*Courtesy of IMDb.*

The Plot:

The film starts with a “freaked out” Tyler hiding in a hallway closet. He is looking at an apparently dead woman on the floor in front of him outside the closet. His roommates come into the hallway and when they find the body, Tyler comes out of hiding waving a knife and  slashes one friend on the face and stabs another through the hand. An unspecified time later, all of the men get together to scatter the woman’s ashes (her name was Pauline and she was Tyler’s mother) at a cabin deep in the woods.

The corridor...
The corridor…

The Device:

A corridor that “magically” appears in the forest when Tyler scatters Pauline’s ashes. As he is alone when this happens and he suffers from schizophrenia and is on “heavy” medication he doesn’t think it is real. He talks his friends into investigating this phenomenon and they  all get affected by this corridor.

The Twist:

The one who survives to the end of the movie isn’t who you think it will be.

The Verdict:

This film was complex and very intertwined. If you didn’t pay attention, you would miss something. However, it is clever and well constructed. There is not a lot of blood and gore so if you’re expecting a tribute to Takashi Miike you’ll be disappointed. But if you like films that are thoughtful, slow-burning, and different; this film is for you. I was genuinely surprised at the ending and after watching it I put in on my list of favourites

The Score:

This is a chilly 4 stars out of 5. It would have gotten a full 5 but there are bits in the film that are confusing. But the entire premise and the way that Evans presents it drives the score up. I really don’t know why they waited 2 years to release this film, but I’m glad that they finally did.

*I’m still playing around with the format here. Thanks.*

Tyler "freaking out."
Tyler “freaking out.”