Stash House (2012)

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Directed by: Eduardo Rodriguez

The fact that I paid money to watch this film makes me a fool. ‘Stash House’ is abysmal. Yeah, I know the DVD cost me only one English pound, and on my trip to Poundland I was also able to pick up a toothbrush, a pack of folders and a bottle of Palmolive shaving gel. Those three items at least will prove to be useful, and more importantly value for money.

‘Stash House’ is a drab thriller starring Dolph Lundgren. But it doesn’t start out that way; it starts off all dramatic, as a twitchy guy loads a gun. He gets out of his car, walks into a church and staggers up the aisle as a gospel choir sings an uplifting hymn. The man, by this point sweating buckets, staggers into the confession booth. He seeks forgiveness for his sins, but before the Reverend can connect with the man, the man turns the gun to his own head and pulls the trigger. A spray of crimson desecrates a giant wooden crucifix.

A sweet American couple named Emma and David are introduced as love’s young dream. Emma is a vet who cures fluffy bunnies and adorable kittens. David earns his money doing something boring that requires him to wear a suit and provides him a lifetime gym membership. He also has a subscription to Men’s Health and spends more time in the bathroom than Emma does.

David, being a romantic buys them his and hers mountain bikes, he then takes Emma to a house that has a splendid high tech security system. He opens the gate using a modified USB stick and takes Emma for a guided tour. He informs her that it is their little love nest, and he’s got a brilliant deal on the property. Emma gives him a look that says “How come? Did someone die here?”

Close. David stumbles upon millions of dollars’ worth of heroin whilst rummaging around. He stands back, stunned. This is a stash house. There’s also an old man trapped in the basement. I won’t acknowledge the old man because he’s pointless and contributes nothing to the plot.

A bloke called Ray, who at first I think is a cop, but then appears to be either a security guard or a neighbourhood watch patrolman, stops by and welcomes the couple to the area. Their ditzy blonde friend also stops by with a crap house warming gift that Emma is too polite to say that she hates.

At night, after the discovery of the smack stash, the couple decide to leave the house but then Ray pops up again and reveals himself to be an angry bad guy armed with a pistol fitted with a silencer. Dave manages to disarm Ray by pushing the new mountain bikes off of the roof rack onto him. The couple run back into the house. Emma seals them inside the house by accidentally backing into a light switch. Ray gets pissed off and fires a gun several times at a bullet proof window, not realising after the first couple of shots that he is firing at a bullet proof window. Ray spends most of the film shooting, generally missing his intended target and then yelling out in frustration.

Dolph Lundgren arrives and tells the irate Ray that they must keep the couple alive, because the film needs to be stretched out to an hour and a half, and killing them twenty five minutes in would lead to very dire consequences.

After Dolph joins the house warming proceedings the film becomes tedious, as the couple become rather resourceful and ballsy, coping wonderfully well with the stress that comes when dealing with two armed men who just might be Special Forces trained. We learn that David got the house on the cheap because he knew the last owner was involved in drugs, and was the twitchy man who blew his brains out in church. Everything then gets a bit hide and seek as the couple niftily evade their intruders.

Dolph Lundgren has always been dull, one of the worst action heroes from the glory years of Arnie, Sly and co. You could argue he really only excelled in ‘Rocky IV’, when he played a Russian boxer with no personality. Unfortunately he can’t play a sinister villain with no personality, because villains in thrillers require a little pizazz.

When you actors are blander then a carpet sample board, and the director fails to create the necessary nail biting tension, then you know a thriller is destined to fail. ‘Stash House’ must only be purchased if it is intended as a gift for someone you detest immeasurably.

– RJW
2/10

Stash House on IMDB
Buy Stash House [DVD]

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Staunton Hill (2009)

I actually feel a little bad reviewing this. Were it not for the director’s famous father and the fact it was packaged in a box set with two of the father’s films, I’d have never seen it. Judging by the lack of comments about it on IMDB and Rotten Tomatoes, no-one else has bothered to watch it either so you’re going to have to go out of your way to see the thing. But I saw it, and I have a journalistic duty to you, dear reader.

“The Romero Collection” is the box, and I bought it to get hold of the seemingly-not-available-anywhere-else “Season Of The Witch”, as well as “The Crazies”, which is a great film. It’s billed as “Romero’s Staunton Hill”, and the word Cameron – as I’ve not revealed it yet, this is a film by Cameron Romero, son of George – is written in very small letters. The box tells me that it’s about a group of young people hitch-hiking to an anti-war rally in Washington who get stranded in a remote farmhouse…

Notice who the only positive review was from?

Notice who the only positive review was from?

Now, two films I’ve seen recently have exposed the garbage of this genre, and will hopefully force other filmmakers to up their game. “Tucker and Dale vs. Evil” and “Cabin In The Woods” are both clever and brilliant and use the “rules” established by a million groups of kids getting slaughtered to do something new and interesting. Now, “Staunton Hill” is made before both of them, so let’s look at it as the death of an old way of making cheap-ass horror films.

For some reason, this film is set in 1969. I kept thinking, maybe they’re going to do something interesting with the idea, like having some reference made to Dad’s “Night Of The Living Dead”, which was made in 1968, or have the film be some virtual reality experiment that people from the future are doing. The second option would at least explain the stilted dialogue in the beginning, where people go “groovy” and other such 60s buzzwords. Other than that, there is absolutely no reason why the film is set in 1969, they could just as easily have been going to an Occupy Wall Street rally and at least that way you wouldn’t have to dress sets and use old cars.

Nobody really looks like they’re from the 1960s, either. The clothes are sort-of okay, but there’s just an air around everyone that makes them look a bit wrong. Also, the two main actresses in the film have perfectly flat, toned stomachs in the way that lots of 21st century wannabe Hollywood acresses have, but very few hippie protestors in the late 60s did. In fact, I shall provide you, the skeptical reader, with visual evidence.

Yes, we're all definitely from the 1960s

Yes, we’re all definitely from the 1960s

I suppose I ought to talk about the film a bit. Group of protestors, stranded while hitch-hiking, find a farmhouse, which has creepy family 101 in it – large, strong, mentally disabled man, hugely fat mother, creepy Grandma. What happens in it? And what about the guy who initially gave our hikers a lift? What’s his deal?

I won’t spoil the “twist”, such as it is, but this film is rotten. Nothing really happens until way after the film’s halfway point (about 48 minutes into a film that is, minus credits, 75 minutes long), and while the gore is certainly extremely gory, there’s not a particularly large amount of it and the rest of the film isn’t worth sitting through to get to it. Also, the main cast are so utterly incompetent and display such disappointing survival instincts that the deaths, when they do come, elicit little more than a shrug of the shoulders.

So, let us say farewell to standard kids-get-off-the-beaten-track-and-get-murdered films. Please stop doing them, filmmakers, unless you’ve got a really good idea for one.

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Staunton Hill on IMDB
Buy Staunton Hill [DVD] [2009]

The Browning Version (1951)

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Directed by: Anthony Asquith

The voluntary organisation that I do some work for has been running a campaign to try to get men between the ages of thirty-five and fifty-five to open up and talk about their feelings. To encourage them that rather than wallow in the past, and seek solace in bottles of hard liquor they should instead find some support, and enjoy journey down the home straight before they encounter the long white tunnel. It is during that twenty year period where all kinds of things go wrong, these middle-aged men become emasculated, they lose their mojo, and the steady decline begins. Though Viagra and hair replacement treatments may temporarily solve some problems, a great deal of personal issues are stored and stewed over, before the irreparable cracks begin to show.

‘The Browning Version’ is about a man on the decline, in fact this man is quite literally on his way out. Michael Redgrave plays Crocker-Harris, a classics teacher who lectures at a posh boy’s school. During an assembly the headmaster announces to the gathered spotty mass that Crocker-Harris is leaving the school because of health reasons at the end of the term. The Lower Fifth boys are jubilant that the stuffy teacher they cruelly refer to as ‘The Crock’ is departing. Crocker-Harris realises in his final few days at the school that everyone hates him, well almost everyone.

It is Crocker-Harris’ relationship with Taplow, a smug little swot, that leads to the pivotal and poignant ending of the film, which I won’t spoil, but let’s just say there’s a good old-fashioned monologue. Taplow gives Crocker-Harris Robert Browning’s translation of the story of Agamemnon, which provides the title of this film, and the parting gift provokes an unexpected reaction.

Crocker-Harris has a host of problems, his wife is promiscuous and puts herself about, getting rather close to several male faculty members, including the science teacher Mr Hunter, who is everything that Crocker-Harris isn’t. The school boys adore Hunter, because he makes learning fun. Then there’s Crocker-Harris’ replacement who teaches human nature, a modern alternative subject to the classics. Crocker-Harris is not just leaving, the subject he is, or should I say was most passionate about is getting removed from the curriculum.

Adapted from Terence Rattigan’s play ‘The Browning Version’ contains unforgettable dialogue, and even a scene which features cricket. Yes, the greatest sport on earth is showcased in glorious black and white. As Fletcher, one of the school’s finest pupils and an FEC (Future England Captain) scores another classy century in what is to be his final game. As Crocker-Harris leaves seemingly with his head down in a defeated fashion, Fletcher’s time at the school ends in glory.

Although Redgrave undoubtedly shines as Crocker-Harris, the supporting roles of Jean Kent as Millie Crocker-Harris and Nigel Patrick as Mr Hunter create wonderful tension. The trio feature in some unforgettable scenes that feel alive, similarly to what might occur on stage, and this was testament to Anthony Asquith’s steady direction, which isn’t at all flashy or overblown, yet challenges the definition of what it is to be theatrical.

Many lessons can be learnt from ‘The Browning Version’ for aspiring directors and actors, both in terms of how to successfully adapt a play, and in the case of Michael Redgrave, how to portray a character who realises that his life is slipping away from him.

– RJW
8/10

The Browning Version on IMDB
Buy The Browning Version [1951] [DVD]

Diggstown (1993)

The history of con-man films has a number of classics – “The Sting”, “The Hustler”, “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels” and “The Grifters”, among others. Whenever anyone mentions films on this topic, they get brought up, which is good because they’re all great. But, I think “Diggstown” deserves to be mentioned right up there with the greatest con films, heck, the greatest crime films, ever made.

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We start with Gabriel Caine (James Woods) in prison, helping another man escape (and making $10,000 in the process) while watching his friend Wolf and the vicious Menoso Torres having a brawl in the main prison area. The information is parcelled out to us in well-shaped increments, and it’s eventually revealed that Caine, his friend on the outside Fitz (Oliver Platt), retired boxer Honey Roy Palmer (Louis Gossett Jr.), Wolf and a few others have got a plan to commit a con in Diggstown, home of former heavyweight boxer Charles Macum Diggs.

Platt does the initial setting up of the con, then Woods comes in and starts upping the ante, ensnaring the guy who basically owns the town, John Gillon (Bruce Dern). Caine is being bankrolled by the mafia, so a few of their guys get involved too, and all these people circle each other, while Caine and Fitz keep executing their plan – the plan, to make the braggart’s bet that Honey Roy Palmer could beat any ten of the town’s men in a day, using insulting the town’s hero Diggs to get everyone’s blood boiling.

Gillon isn’t just a normal baddie – he effectively stole the town out from under its inhabitants, so there’s many reasons for him to be taken down. But to tell much more would be to spoil the absolutely wonderful way this film unfolds.

I think “Diggstown” (maybe known to us in the UK as “Midnight Sting”, because for once we’re too stupid to watch a film named after a place) is both clever and hilarious. Platt and Woods have great dialogue, which you may well remember from every buddy-cop movie of the time, and it doesn’t go down the typical route and give the star a love interest (the main woman – actually, the only woman – in the cast is Heather Graham as Wolf’s sister, and while she has an important role to play, it’s pretty small).

It’s also one of the best-paced films I can think of. It’s only 97 minutes long, and every scene is worthwhile because they can’t afford to pad it out, with all the plot that has to be put in. Nothing is wasted, and if you’re not grinning from ear to ear at the end, well…I don’t know. Maybe you just don’t like it. Maybe you’re an idiot. Maybe your father was killed in an elaborate scam played on an evil small town magnate.

Diggstown

It’s nice to finally get to review a genuine, legitimate classic for the ISCFC. I hope someone who reads this goes out and sees it, and I hope you enjoy it.

Diggstown on IMDB
Buy Diggstown aka Midnight Sting [DVD] [1993]

The Condemned (2007)

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Professional Wrestling was a massive part of my childhood. It began with watching the WWF back in the early nineties, the Hulk Hogan’s, Macho Man Randy Savage’s and Ultimate Warrior’s of this world, these larger than life roid riddled personalities. Some kids read comics to get a superhero fix. I watched Summerslam and Wrestlemania.

Boxing began to render Wrestling obsolete for me as a teenager, my interest waned, but then ECW came along. It was like being around when Punk rock first broke through into the mainstream. This was wrestling with an edge, and though everything was still worked and choreographed, there was a dangerous hint of realism. The likes of Sabu, New Jack and the Sandman pushed things to the limit. People really got hurt.

The genesis of the ‘Stone Cold’ persona began in ECW, before Steve Austin joined the rebellious organisation he was a generic blonde wrestler with a sculpted physique. He had no personality to set him apart from the crowd. Whilst in ECW Austin woke up to what was going on around him, and by the time he joined the WWF, he shaved his head and became a bad ass. Incorporating Sandman’s boozy wildness and amping the violence up to eleven, people began to wake up to Austin’s gimmick.

Essentially Stone Cold was a heel, a bad guy who was not supposed to be liked. In wrestling terms a heel would never ‘get over’ as a fan favourite, but Austin changed that. The crowd began to cheer for Austin, and he somehow became the most popular wrestler in the company, bucking a business trend pioneered by Hulk Hogan and Bret Hart before him. When Austin feuded with Vince McMahon, the boss of the WWE, the crowd vicariously lived through Austin as he stunned his way through the entire corporation.

Neck injuries derailed Austin’s wrestling career, so he decided to move to the movie business. Luckily the WWE had created their own film production company WWE Studios and inevitably they used their ‘talent’ to star in the films they produce. In ‘The Condemned’ Austin stars alongside Vinnie Jones and erm… the woman who played Dee in ‘Neighbours’.

‘The Condemned’ is a satirical comment on reality television and the dark nature of the World Wide Web. An ambitious television producer stages an online reality show on a remote island. Ten of the most dangerous incarcerated people on earth are assembled together and must fight to the death in order earn their freedom and a nice cash prize. The film is somewhat like ‘Battle Royale’, in that all of the contestants are fitted with explosive devices which means they have no choice but to partake in the game.

Predictably there is the bloke with a secret past who has been screwed over and wants to get home to his beloved (Austin), there is the ex-army psycho (Jones), token Asian Martial Arts guy, and a big dumb lump who dies a terrible death. The real bad guy of the piece is the maniacal television producer who wants to push the boundaries to the limit in order to get ratings.

The film’s biggest weakness is Austin, as an action hero he’s awfully stiff (might be something to do with the multiple surgeries he’s had) and has little charisma, he is unable to convince us that he has a heart, a vulnerable side. He had to, and I say this in wrestling terms, dig deep and play the face, the humble good guy, but really if there was any character type that he was born to play then it would be an anti-hero role.

The moral compass of the film is all over the place. Given that Austin is left on an island with nine other supposedly evil and deranged characters, it appears that almost half of the prisoners aren’t really that bad as people, you almost feel some compassion for them. Yeah I know that even a psychopath can play nice and show a different more pleasant side to them, I mean Ted Bundy was seen as a handsome charmer, but the contestants were supposedly cherry picked because they will kill unrepentantly and are scum of the earth.

Then there’s the violence against women. Inevitably in a mixed gender game of death you’re likely going to see women get killed, so this shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise and could be brutal. However there is one attempted rape scene and another implied rape scene which leads to a female blowing herself up. Unpleasant and unsavoury, nonetheless such acts are used to underline just how low the reality producer is willing to go. Despite this, I can’t quite help feeling there is something about the prolonged nature of both scenes that just isn’t right, and it leaves you wondering what purpose they truly serve.

WWE studios has been a dubious venture in terms of the quality of output although not quite a financial disaster on the ill-fated XFL venture (Vince McMahon’s attempt to take on the NFL). When you consider the history of professional wrestlers moving into films, and we can think back to Hulk Hogan’s performances in ‘Suburban Commando’ and ‘Mr. Nanny’, it really is only Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson who has managed to display an ability to act, which is odd given that acting should be a strong part of the repertoire of a Professional Wrestler.

– RJW
2/10

The Condemned on IMDB
Buy The Condemned [DVD]

Birdemic 2: The Resurrection (2013)

“You asked for it” says the promotional material for this film, and that simple sentence is right on both levels. The original “Birdemic”, as screamingly awful a film as has ever been released, became a cause celebre of the bad film elite – Rifftrax did it, How Did This Get Made? did it, and Tim and Eric hosted a series of midnight showings of it. So, after deciding that playing along with the joke was better than being laughed at all the time, director James Nguyen decided to make a sequel and cash in.

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This, of course, causes a problem for the reviewer who wants to write something other than “it’s hilariously bad!” Is the poor stuff in this film – and boy, is it crammed full of poor stuff – merely the work of a director who’s learned nothing, or is every awful bit of sound, every bargain-basement special effect, every rotten performance, the careful result of someone aiming to make a bad film?

I hope you’ll be able to guess what I thought from this review, but here goes. We start with a 5 minute walking scene, where Bill, who looks quite a lot like the hero of the first film is just strolling through downtown Los Angeles. Those criticisms of the first film for having travelling scenes seemingly set in real time clearly didn’t get through to Nguyen, unless it’s a “screw you, I love these scenes!”. So the guy flirts with the waitress in the crappy bar he’s in, and we think these two young lovers may be the stars of part 2…but then Rod and Nathalie from part 1 walk in. Turns out Bill is a director, who made a great independent film before being sucked in by Hollywood and making a bad one, then getting cast out by the system. He tells Rod and Natalie that there have been great films about the film industry made inside the Hollywood system, but none made by independents. This isn’t true, of course, there have been literally thousands of indie films made about it, so I’m already confused.

Whitney Moore (as Natalie), the sole half-decent actor in both the first film and this, allows her real feelings to wander across her face occasionally during the scene. When she looked disgustedly at Rod, I was right with her there.

Rod made a ton of money with stock options and setting up a renewable energy company in B1, so he agrees to fund Bill’s unique vision to the tune of $1 million. Bill finds an actress on the street and begs her to come for an audition, and then Bill and Rod go to get some funding for their independent film from a couple of money men. It’s at this moment that I started getting a bit annoyed. There are a lot of scenes throughout this that are effectively cover versions of scenes from B1, and despite what I said before it appears that he’s trying to make the first film again, only better.

Criticism: the newsreader in B1 is a tiny face at the bottom of the TV and talks garbage
Sequel: it looks like an actual news broadcast

Criticism: the “we all made millions of dollars from stock options” scene goes on an insanely long time
Sequel: celebrating getting funding for their film still goes on a tiny bit longer than is strictly necessary

Criticism: when they’re dancing in a nightclub, they’re the only people there
Sequel: they must have put out a twitter call for people to come and be extras, because when they’re dancing (in roughly the same way, to exactly the same singer from B1) they’re surrounded by grinning hipsters.

And so on, throughout. There’s still rotten stilted dialogue used for exposition where it’s really not needed, godawful special effects and character motivation that makes no sense whatsoever…but I’m getting ahead of myself!

If you think I’m being a bit over the top about the similarities between the two, then I’ll give you a few examples. They meet a bird-scientist on a bridge in part 1, who stops the film for a few minutes to talk about global warming. While at the LaBrea Tar Pits in part 2, they meet the same scientist, also stood on a bridge, who stops the film again to talk about global warming. Huh? There’s a sex scene in a hotel again; the “tree-hugger” from the first film has relocated to wherever the hell they are, and they again run into him and his new wife and get a lecture about the environment and about how iPads are better for it than books, which is rubbish (books aren’t made using Chinese slave labour and metals that need to be mined, ruining the local environment – the only difference is Apple’s PR has fooled idiots like him).

You’ll be pleased to know that the actual bird attacks don’t start til the halfway point of the film (again), and this time we get some extras. A couple of cavemen from the LaBrea tar pits come out along with all the birds when the (acid?) rain falls and does its environmental damage…and when that same rain falls on a graveyard, we get…zombies. It was at that point that I stopped even trying to pretend to take the film seriously. I did try for a bit, honestly!

So, what have we got? A film which is remarkably similar to the first, with the burgeoning relationship between Rod and Natalie replaced with the making of the entirely unique film. People still make jaw-droppingly dumb decisions in the face of danger (if you’re in a car, and it’s safe, stay in it! Stop getting out every time you see some idiot on the street!) Minor throat cuts remain instantly fatal, birds still explode and guns still have infinite bullets. Oh, and birds from B2 are every bit as easily distracted as those from part 1, attacking people and then just sodding off for no reason other than the director wanted to stop making the film.

I haven’t even talked about the special effects (the scene of one of the actresses going for a swim in the ocean, and the ambulance that comes to help out afterwards, is an absolute masterpiece) and the gay subtext. But the question remains – how much of this truly rotten film, 80 minutes in which five minutes are taken up by a man walking to a meeting, is deliberate?

I don’t think it really matters, but I think this film was made because James Nguyen, by all accounts a very serious “green” believer, wanted to get right what he got wrong in the first film. I think he put in a few sops to the so-bad-it’s-good crowd (like the flashback to caveman times, and famous LA venue Cinefamily and the 2012 Birdemic-Fest appear on screen briefly) but there are too many scenes which are direct ripoffs of those from B1, just done with slighty better effects, and too many awful decisions that aren’t played for laughs, that all this film really is, is bad.

It’s not fun-bad, no matter what the advertising will tell you. It’s worse than B1 because he doesn’t have the excuse of being a first-timer with no money, and in the intervening time appears to have learned absolutely nothing. He’s again hired people who can’t act worth a damn (with the honourable exception of Whitney Moore and a few others)…but if he was trying to make a bad film that people could laugh at, he failed. The sense of utter futility pervades every frame, the pointlessness of doing a sequel to a film because idiots on the internet seized on it and made it famous…and just doing the same crap as before.

So you know who to shoot for being in this film

So you know who to shoot for being in this film

Birdemic 2: The Resurrection on IMDB

Idle Hands (1999)

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When you’re about my age (none of your business) you’ll have a memory of your younger days, when you had a shelf full of “sure thing” videos. When you had a group of friends over, and the Pinot Grigio was flowing freely, and you needed a film that wouldn’t challenge you too much, but was fun and entertaining. We’re talking “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off”, “The Terminator”, “Commando”, a few Jackie Chan films, maybe “The Story Of Ricky” if you were a bold bunch. You get the idea, and I’m sure you’ve all got your own personal choices. Anyway, “Idle Hands” was on that shelf for me, and it’s been an age since I saw it. I could have probably done a review from memory, but my good lady wife fancied watching it, so here we are!

Devon Sawa, most recently seen chewing the scenery as a bad-turned-good-turned-bad agent in “Nikita”, is Anton, a teenage stoner. Happy enough to sit around and watch TV, get high and do pretty much nothing else, a dropped notebook allows him to talk to his neighbour, played by Jessica Alba at her most ludicrously perfect, before some scumbag agent persuaded her to drop 20 lbs. He is supported in his endeavours by his friends Mick and Pnub, Seth Green and Elden Henson.
 
Anton doesn’t realise his parents are both dead, murdered in the film’s opening scene by an unseen force, but one which managed to write “I’m under the bed” in glow-in-the-dark paint on the ceiling. But when his hand starts trying to kill people around him…basically, it’s some sort of demonic possession which only affects really lazy people, and this brings in Debi LeCure, the wiccan hunter of this evil, and another neighbour, Randy, a slightly-gone-to-seed heavy metal fan who spends most of his day caring for his beautiful 4×4 and is the town’s expert on all things Dark, given he likes the music of the devil (a quite clever conceit for exceptionally lazy stoners such as the stars of this film).
 
There are very very few horror-comedies that manage to be both scary and funny. This isn’t one of them, and definitely falls on the comedy side of things. When Mick and Pnub come back from the dead as zombies, the stakes change from low to non-existent, and the actual deaths of characters are just brushed off as minor inconveniences. If you wonder what I’m going on about, wait til the end of the film and spend a few minutes just thinking of the actual real-life trouble that Anton will be in when the dust settles, and how remarkably calm everyone appears to be about it.
 
Which is one of the problems of being older. Film concepts and ideas that seemed fun as a miserable kid in my early 20s are significantly different when I’m a happily married man in my late 30s. When they’re wrecking Anton’s house, I kept going “someone’s going to have to clean that up”, then laughing at the pathetic wreck of my life. But it’s been an interesting lesson of how films don’t change, but our perceptions of them do.

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It’s beginning to sound like I didn’t enjoy this film, which is absolutely not the case. It’s not a classic, by any stretch, but it’s always fun and while the characters seem pretty broad at times (Mick and Pnub adapt remarkably well to being dead, for one thing) you can’t help but like them. Anyway, chances are if you’re a reader of this site then you’ll have seen this film and won’t need me wittering on about it. Relish the bright green-and-red classic horror lighting system, try not to sweat the details too much and you’ll have a great time.

Idle Hands on IMDB
Buy Idle Hands [DVD] [1999]

Party Monster (2003)

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Directed by: Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato

During my coffee break this morning I was reading about Bret Easton Ellis’ criticism of the “gatekeepers of politically correct gayness”. A great deal of his ire was directed towards, in his view, the imposing of a sanitized form of homosexuality from organizations such as GLAAD. Ellis likes to stoke the fire and several people have already fired back at the novelist in response, no doubt making Ellis cackle like a cartoon villain who’s just led its hapless victim into a trap. Likely now this will run and run for the next twenty four to forty eight hours until something else gets everybody’s knickers in a twist. I find such bickering to be hilarious given that personally speaking I place hardly any importance on sexuality. I’m of the opinion that if you meet someone who you connect with and find happiness, good luck to you. Who cares who you are fucking?

Yet at the same time there are several people who identify themselves as gay who are proudly part of a gay culture, a gay scene if you will. You could argue that ‘Party Monster’ is a movie about such as scene, following group of openly queer extroverts known as the Club Kids, who dabbled in drugs and kitschy decadence. Although the sexual content is oddly sanitized, there is an abundance of innuendos, but nowt else.

‘Party Monster’ is a film about the infamous party promoter Michael Alig, a scenester who came from a small town as an innocent boy, and after a few days in NYC turned into a devilish drug addicted cock sucker (and I use that term strictly in the sense that he was a unlikeable bastard) who ruled a certain previously stagnant section of New York after dark. The story is based on the Capote on Ketamine memoir of another man who was part of the scene, an eccentric fellow named James St. James.

Who were the Club Kids? The Club Kids were eccentrically dressed shock seekers. The kind of folk who courted as much attention as possible, they wanted to be seen. Everything else grew around the superficiality. Kids saw the bright lights and the colour and were instantly attracted to Alig and co. The scene was trashy hedonism, these kids didn’t have much money and often lived in squalor, every dollar was spent on drugs and crafting their look. Somehow the core members of the Club Kids went from curiosities to appearing on national talk shows and even touring America. Then inevitably it all came to an end.

The Club Kids presented that New York tacky kind of cool that has always bubbled in the underground; from the greasy unwashed at CBGB’s to the ghouls and freaks that hung around Warhol’s Factory. The one thing all of these groups, separated by time, had in common is that they looked interesting and dangerous, had that zoo quality, i.e. you’re quite happy to look at them but not prepared to enter the cage.

There are two very solid acting performances in ‘Party Monster’ from Seth Green as St. James and former child star Macauley Culkin as Michael Alig. Everything else stinks. The directors seem stuck between serious drama and the quirky shocks of a druggy tale like ‘Requiem for a Dream’. The supporting cast, just like the hangers on that latch onto Alig and St. James are hopeless deadbeat drags. There are some marvelous visual moments in ‘Party Monster’ such as when the Club Kids take over a Fast Food Outlet, but not enough to help us understand what the fuss was all about. There needed to be more grandiose, outrageous, over the top sequences. But did that only exist in the minds of those involved in the scene? Maybe this was an accurate portrayal after all. I don’t know, I wasn’t there.

Culkin who disappeared off the map after ‘Richie Rich’ returned to the big screen in ‘Party Monster’. I’d be interested in how this happened. What motivated him to make this decision? I guess when effectively in career terms you’re dead, you can go in any direction you wish. The shackles that come with wholesome fun for all the family type films were flung off. Why not make a movie alongside Marilyn Manson (who plays a transvestite called Christina)?

Alig is a nasty piece of work, and Culkin revels in the brat role, playing the mother’s boy from a small town that is able to use people for his own pleasure. The master manipulator, who convinces a club owner to promote a few nights, who turned the place into the hottest ticket in town, but then things quickly fell apart and like the last days of Rome everything and everyone got totally fucked up.

– RJW

Party Monster on IMDB
Buy Party Monster [2003] [DVD]