on 12 April 2014
Bewilderingly this four film set hasn't a review yet, a fact I may not find any weirder than the inclusion of a thriller among them, making it actually 3 horror favourites, or more accurately, 2 favourites, 2 space fillers. The first disc in the set contains:
'Wolfen'-one of three killer werewolf movies released in 1981 and kick-starting the best decade for horror explosively, yet a contrary voice howls its disapproval over it using the werewolf moniker, and a considered and valid view, considering there is not one bestial metamorphosis in it, setting it quite apart from its same-year brethren, nonetheless its emphasis on what is revealed as shape-shifting invites clear similarities with spoken explanations in 'The Howling', yet it was a focal point of such creativity and individuality in 80's horror cinema than a film based in the same subgenre as others released around it would often be so different. One of the first things you notice with many 80's horrors is how strong the performances are, with Albert Finneys's doughty, world-weary and sarcastic detective being paired with Diane Venora's laid-back criminal psychologist, both exuding a pleasing relaxed camaraderie, which reminds me of the same year's Robert Foster and Robin Riker pairing in the almost as excellent 'Alligator'. In fact 'Wolfen' is such an exquisitely partitioned piece, it seems to somehow divide viewers excepting the more usual 'Wolf-Man' guise with an updated look and feel, but with perfect pacing, prime performances and a multi-angled story that suggests humans are more the aggressors, more the beast than whatever they perceive the beast to be, which comes up again three years later in the equally brilliant 'The Company Of Wolves', 'Wolfen' is a film full of brilliance, and also holds at the heart something of the excellent, and much lost and lamented animal attack horror movement of the 70's, and 'Wolfen' can also be counted amongst these, albeit with a human twist, but that's 80's horror all over, unlike today's stuff, it works on a multitude of levels, In fact, the lack of werewolf beast-dom belies a film at once deliriously happy to rip out throats, sever off limbs and strike you fearfully rigid whenever it needs. Another high-plus is the uniquely POV in-camera employed to put yourself in a prowling and loping wolf's place, it works to perfection, being utterly recognisably itself; a technique not unlike thermography, and get this, something gleefully seized upon for the 'Predator' series, which remains sadly more well-known. The wolf action in the film is beautiful, you get more than in say, 'The Day Of The Animals', yet that's only a small part of the many faucets of what make it great. The setting itself clearly mirrors the long story of desecrating Native Indian land, which then is left to urban decay, all actually shot in reality, though a church was built and then burned down for the film's usage. The final payoff is excellent, poetic, and lends itself well to the development of an understanding between Finney's detective and the Native Indian 'pack' leader, played with threatening zeal by Edward James Olmos of updated 'Battlestar Galactica' fame. Gregory Hines, taken too early in 2003, also gives strong support as a coroner, and it's nice to know him for something more deserving of his talents than the atrociously unfunny 1986 "comedy" 'Running Scared', whose best feature is the Kim Wilde song 'Say You Really Want Me' on the soundtrack. WOLFEN ***** (10/10)-excellent, unmissable, best of the four, with another coming a close second...
'Body Snatchers', released in 1993 and third adaption of Jack Finney's novel, and the one deviating the furthest from it, not necessarily a bad thing either, performs competently without being necessarily outstanding in any way, aside from in the effects department, with some truly creepy and nose-wrinkling body-tearing as the clones fight to get out of the people trying to stay them in. The film's biggest problem is its downright boring look, shot in a way that smacks literally of a TV movie, and some of the supporting performances seem on auto-pilot, others more comatose, and even with Meg Tilly, I sometimes wonder if a pod person replica of her wasn't hired instead. Terry Kinney as the husband does better, and it's always always nice to see the generally ignored Gabrielle Anwar, and ex 'The Lost Boys' vampire Billy Worth does well enough as a decent soldier, and the now well-known Forest Whitaker even pops up in a small role. Basically the film has the look of a so-called zombie movie, only more pleasing in accurate terms as they mindless enslaved drones have more in common with actual zombies, then the ongoing frustrating Hollywood warped ideal of cannibalism and disease integration will ever mean, and some scenes do transcend the unfortunate banality of sameness with some zeal, like the escaping helicopter scene, involving a young boy being thrown out by a main character, only in execution it looked as rubbish as what happened to Brad Renfro in Argento's woefully average 'Trauma'. Earlier, it almost chills the spine to see the podsters communicate with each other when they find escaping free-thinking people by opening their mouths and screaming like a steaming kettle up at the sky, alerting any others near, and the attacking of the pod-being aliens as they assault the main characters quite early in the film (especially when Anwar's Marti is in the bath) is generally unnerving and exciting, even moreso if you're not sure you've lost them or if they fight it off later.
To sum up, it's just above a time-waster, and was generally critically favoured (yet compare this rather bemusing attitude with the one than 'Bad Moon' met with a mere three years later), but I've no rush to see it again, though will at some point. Some critics have stated this is the best version yet, a bravery born of individual thought I'm not even sure existed, but does beggar belief why it can't be used to more exacting effect with films that truly deserve it. This compares unfavourably with 'The Faculty'-that super-slick, smart, highly intelligent, exciting and personable 1998 horror high-point from Scream scripter Kevin Williamson and Robert Rodriguez they'll never ever top; a standard most would fail by, truly, but subject matter so exclusively similar, it had to be compared. 'Body Snatchers' does not look cinematic at all, a shame when the subject matter so clearly is. Nonetheless there is a certain creepiness to the approach that almost topples a result still looking like too many other things to be truly effective in its potential. A pity, but worth seeing, worth a damn sight more than the horrible 'The Crazies' rehash starring Timothy Olyphant, and a second viewing may improve it slightly, but if it never rises above its less than enthralling presentation, it still manages between 6.5 and 7/10 = *** (6.5/10).
'Coma' is the 1978 effort from director Michael Crichton, who also wrote the screenplay, based on Robin Cook's novel, featuring Michael Douglas and Genevieve Bujold (uniquely for a woman, and a non-US one, billed before him) as a rather antagonistic doctor couple working in the same hospital, who become further at loggerheads when she notices one too many healthy young patients, including a friend of hers (a tiny cameo by Lois Chiles, who had starring roles in both 'Death On The Nile' and Bond film 'Moonraker' around it, and for 80's fans Tom 'Magnum' Selleck is in even briefer) becoming brain dead from routine ops. Turns out a catalogue of healthy patients have all been coma-induced and poisoned deliberately in the same operating room and removed to a remote facility, whereupon she eventually goes to sub-Bondian stunt extremes in order to expose a potentially rife black market for illegal organ donation from said healthy people direct from both the hospital to it. Such antics stretch credibility uncomfortably-half the time I was waiting for a helicopter to plunge through the roof to pick her up, and her brave yet searingly easy methods of gleaming more and more truths makes you wonder why nobody has done it before, or wasn't anybody else interested? The film itself, is not without interest, I watched it quickly again in an effort to make it work, and it strikes better a second time, and it's one of the better things the 'Jurassic Park' novelist has ever done. The ending is surprisingly pat and conveniently levelled off, adding slight dissatisfaction to the rather predictable unveiling of the evil mastermind. Not an amazing film at all, but does all right, and I presume its presence on this box-set is the body snatching similarity, but this is entirely in a thriller context, not a horror one. COMA***(6.5-7/10).
Finally, while pig ignorance (or wolf ignorance) isn't fun, I'm most thankful to my horror retainer who brought to me the title:
'Bad Moon', the most disgracefully and horrifically mistreated horror film of the 90's, it's very nature should have pushed it into small but decent box-office hyper-drive, and as only one of three truly authentic werewolf movies from such a relatively horror-free decade compared to before (I entirely discount 'Metal Beast' as a bad joke), it absolutely demands fair treatment, or more to the point, reappraisal, which it still hasn't got, but I would encourage-no implore, all of you out there to fix this. If this was an 80's film (and it really feels like one-and that's s-u-c-h a good thing, believe me) it wouldn't be down-held in such flagrant disregard. What's there to even hate, hell what's there to even yawn or clack a tongue over? Based on the novel 'Thor' by Wayne Smith, and whilst leaving out enough segments which I really don't feel harmed it at all, we have a truly original looking werewolf film, that, whilst doing without 'Wolfen's' POV, and even 'An American Werewolf In Paris's' POV (which in itself truly has 'Wolfen' to thank it for), tells much of the film from the dog's point of view. A beautifully gentle yet tough German Shepherd who dotes on owner Mariel Hemingway and her ten year old son fears the presence of Ms Hemingway's lawyer brother, his sensitive nose tells him he's no normal human being, how could he be, after an oddly exotic opening when he's literally attacked during sex with a girlfriend by a werewolf, whom he promptly manages to kill, yet cannot save him from becoming bestial himself. Instead of the 'Silver Bullet' approach of a mysteriously hidden culprit needing to be exposed for the viewer's delight, this takes the brave bite of assuming we know the obvious, and focuses more on Michael Pare's struggle to fight his murderous urges, thus keeping his sister and nephew safe, but with each day that passes, and each moon that glows bright, it becomes progressively harder.
An early scene show's a dog's invaluable nature of love and protection when a con-man tries a rather distasteful trick to gets his sublime deserts later, after we'd almost forgotten him. So many unique touches in 'Bad Moon' make it the standout late 90's horror the sillies don't know, like the dog Thor constantly pacing the grounds once Mariel's brother has moved in with them, and though he stays in a camper outside the house, the dog pees on the door as if to say "this is our and my territory, you are no longer family, just remember it, and go away before I hurt you" and hurt he can and in several stand-off scenes later, he proves just how deadly a dog can be. Meanwhile Pare's intention to chain himself to a tree at night to keep his sis and nephew safe is slowly getting buried under increasing rogue detachment. Several good jump sequences abound, and one concerning a bloodied photo is a real surprise. Effective use of music throughout is impressive, but equally so is the werewolf himself. Stupidly dissed and hissed at by people amazingly silent over the same year's appalling 'Vamp' rip-off 'From Dusk Till Dawn' with its deeply sub-standard 'Buffy' FX, this beast equally competes with the well-received 'Ginger Snaps' and 'Dog Soldiers' man-wolves, and the snarling anti-CGI gang over 'An American Werewolf In Paris' can't have it both ways can they? The make-up, body-suit, and facial expressions impress hugely, and Michael's Pare's werewolf lopes and feints and lunges with an old-world creepy ferocity that utterly engages and draws gasps of shock and pleasure. Quite frankly, you don't want him near you and the sense of danger skyrockets with each scene, to a sublime climax as awesome as any 80's werewolf managed. The scene of him self-chained to a tree and trying to get loose is pretty damn awesome.
Mariel Hemingway is more than competent, she is strong, vulnerable, emotive and deep in her love for her son, brother and dog, and rudely ignored by Hollywood for not having the look they require, but most films with her in don't usually deserve her, and Mason Gamble as her very blond son, appearing in 'Gattaca' a year later, is pleasant fun, and both display an obvious love for their dog, and gain my sympathy easily, but you do fret with feeling for and against the deep-voiced Michael Pare as he begins his descent into crazy. And it goes without saying the dog is great, but I is loving this werewolf too. Dy'a hear that 'Underworld'? And the final transformation is pretty super, showing an almost Goblin-like disfiguring of a face all puffing up, it just looks evil and impresses, and the effects/make-up far outdo 'Silver Bullet'-an excellent 80's film who's only slightly damp wiff came from a dodgy obvious suit in the last few moments. And there's none of those clean-cut painted CGI 'Underworld' flick a switch and werewolf suit on like 'X-Men' style paint-job. It looks painful, as it's supposed to. To sum up, 'Bad Moon's "bad, so bad, you know it ooh" in the Michael Jackson best sense of the world. Which is to say it's good, damned good, and it was all I hoped and more.
Whilst 'Wolfen', 'The Howling' and 'The Company Of Wolves' hold the 5 star throne for me, 'Bad Moon' runs with the classy runner-up second division group, and as such pack members include such brilliant fare as 'An American Werewolf In London', 'Silver Bullet', 'Werewolf' (from 1987), 'Ginger Snaps' and 'Dog Soldiers', and 'An American Werewolf In Paris' itself, which I'm also partial to, it's clearly on joint second place to an alpha. 'Wolf' is the only one just out of the loop on ****(8/10) but still really good.
BAD MOON ****(9/10) So not bad, it's good, just so very very good, what were you all thinking to be so stupid in '96, America?
I'm sorry to add that no extras exist for any film here, all we get on both the wolfsters is a pithy bit of info on 'Bad Moon's' two leads, and a slight but interesting summary on werewolf films through the ages on 'Wolfen', which deplorably ignores around six gems , whilst including two thing as tied to the werewolf genre as a skylark to a bicycle pump. Language selections on all but 'Wolfen' run to English and French only, whereas the so-named has Spanish, Portuguese, and Indonesian subtitles as well but the soundtrack, again, only French and English. And above all, don't buy if you don't have a region one player or a multi-regional. Nothing like stating the obvious, but I'd prefer to end on the less obvious "buy 'Bad Moon', it's bad, it's bad, you know it-oooh!" And for Michael Pare fans, he's even nastier in the excellent and also little-seen 2007 ghost horror film '100 Feet' starring Famke Janssen, Bobby Cannavale and Robert Pattinson lookalike Ed Westwick. Just when you thought ghost were dead to the world in an oblivion of fake exorcisms and weepy actors not knowing they've had a car crash in moribund dramas, here's a horror chiller from Eric Red, who both scripted and shot 'Bad Moon' here, to match it. Get both, I would, I have. Bad, you know, real bad. Just like not owning them, just like disliking them. 'Bad Moon' your time to shine soon. Ow-ooooo!