Category Archives: LBoM: Retrospectives

Good And Bad Die Hard Rip-Offs

When it was released in 1988 (happy 30th), Die Hard was a revelation in action films. It took a lot of the clichés most other action films were guilty of overusing and turned them on their head. Die Hard blew film-goers away and can still hold it’s own against other actions films released now. It became as massive success and went in to spawn a huge franchise in it’s own right, not just with movies – the sixth of which (called McClane) is in production as I write this. But there were Die Hard games, comic books and all sorts of memorabilia. And I’ve been celebrating three decades of Die Hard all this year with numerous articles covering the film. 

Die Hard Art

Credit to Chris Weston over at Xombiedirge.com for this amazing fan-art.

The staggering success of Die Hard gave birth to an often used motif in action cinema, the Die Hard rip-off. For years and still even today, whenever an action film is released that features a usually lone hero going up against bad guys and normally in a confined setting, it gets lumbered with the “Die Hard on/in/at a…” label. So in no particular order or preference, here are some good and bad Die Hard rip-offs. 

Skyscraper – (A.K.A Die Hard In A Skyscraper)

Skyscraper

No, not the recent Dwayne Johnson flick of the same name, this is the 1996 Skyscraper  that took the idea of Die Hard and set it in a skyscraper… like Die Hard. Implementing the now often overused idea of the gender swap and making the hero and heroine. Starring cough “actress” Anna Nicole Smith and swapping the human and everyday main with a heart characteristics of John McClane with big tits.

Anna Nicole Smith plays Carrie Wink, a helicopter pilot who finds herself caught up in a plot involving terrorists and something to do with electronic devices… I’m not 100% sure what the plot is about to be honest or of there really is one. I’m pretty sure this film only exists to show-off Ms Smith’s breasts, at least they are the only two things I remember about the film anyway.

This is bad, this is really, really bad. But I guess Anna Nicole Smith was nice to look at.

Sudden Death – (A.K.A Die Hard At A Sports Stadium)

Sudden Death

This Jean-Claude Van Damme starring flick came out in 1995 and has “The Muscles From Brussels” taking on bad guys till Sudden Death. Released when Van Damme as at the top of his game and making a name for himself as a bankable action hero.

Set in a hockey arena, Van Damme plays fire marshal Darren McCord (its almost McClane) who attends a big hockey game with his son and daughter. While at the game, a group of terrorists arrive and hold various V.I.Ps  hostage in a luxury suite. McCord steps up to save the day and the lives of his children as the terrorists plan on blowing up the stadium when the hockey game ends unless their demands are met. 

To be honest, this one is half decent. I do love some JCVD and while this is far from his best, it’s also far from his worst. Plus you get to see JCVD kick a penguin.

Passenger 57 – (A.K.A Die Hard On A Plane)

Passenger 57

From 1992 comes this high octane and cliché ridden (such as using phrases like “high octane” to describe and action film set on a plane) picture with Wesley Snipes. At the time Snipes wasn’t really known for action flicks but soon became an action star after this one… a bit like Bruce Willis with Die Hard really. 

John McClane… sorry, John Cutter played by Snipes is a retired United States Secret Service agent who now teaches self defence to flight attendants. While struggling to come to terms with the death of his wife during a botched robbery, Cutter is offered a new job as the vice president of a new anti-terrorism unit. Cutter is the 57th passenger on a flight to Los Angeles (where was Die Hard set again?) to attend a meeting regarding his new job. Oh and on the same flight is psychopathic terrorist Charles Rane being escorted by two FBI agents. Shortly after take off, things go wrong when Rane and his cohorts take control of the plane leaving Cutter to save the day.

Snipes is a good action star and this was his first proper stab at the genre. The plot is very predicable but it’s a good film overall. Always bet on the one that isn’t red.

Air Force One – (A.K.A Die Hard On A Plane)

Air Force One

Yes even the Die Hard rip-off begin to rip-off the rip-offs eventually. This one is from 1997 and stars the legend that is Harrison Ford. An impressive all star cast join Ford in this high octane (sorry) action flick set in on the most famous plane in the world.

So Ford plays U.S. President James Marshall (J.M, John McClane?) who after attending a diplomatic dinner in Moscow, boards Air Force One to return to America. Only for Russian terrorists posing as the press to seize control of the plane and take hostages. Marshall is rushed to an escape pod for his own safety… only he never leaves and stays on-board to save the lives of his wife and child along with the other hostages.

So you’ve got Harrison Ford, a legendary action hero – going up against Gary Oldman, a legendary bad guy. Ford mumbles his way through the film as Oldman chews the scenery like he’s not eaten in a month… and it’s glorious.

Con Air – (A.K.A Die Hard On A Plane)

Con Air

Okay so now the rip-offs are ripping off the rip-offs that are ripping off the rip-offs… I think. Also from 1997 comes this other high octane (last one I promise) plane based action film. With Nicolas Cage in the main role.

Cage is Cameron Poe, an Army Ranger who’s honourably discharged after killing a man who tired to attack his pregnant wife. Poe serves ten years in prison but is paroled two years early. He has to take his final trip home to reunite with his wife and see his daughter for the first time, as a prisoner aboard The Jailbird – a flying prison transport along with several other prisoners being transported to other jails. Of of course the bad guys take control of the plane leaving Poe to clean up the mess.

Of all the Die Hard on a plane rip-offs (there’s a lot of them), this is my favourite. Cage is brilliant as the hero with a heart plus you have John Malkovich playing the main villain. 

Under Siege – (A.K.A Die Hard On A Boat)

Under Siege

“I’m just a cook”, Steven Seagal liked to tell people back in 1992 as he continually punched people in the face on board a Navy battleship in Under Siege. At least it made a change from a plane right?

So Seagal plays Casey Ryback, he’s just a cook (honest) on board the USS Missouri. A musical band land on the battleship to entertain the troops… only they turn out to be a band of mercenaries who take control of the ship. As it turns out, Ryback is a little more than just the cook (he lied) as he’s a highly trained and experienced Navy SEAL who specialises in anti-terrorism tactics. So of course he kills the bad guys, gets the girl and saves the day. Not bad for a cook.

Perhaps one of the most famous rip-offs when people knew who Steven Seagal was. Again an enjoyable romp, nowt too special but fun… just avoid the terrible sequel.

No Contest – (A.K.A Die Hard At A Beauty Pageant)

No Contest

Yeah you read that right. Just think of all the locales already mentioned and where one could set a Die Hard rip-off… would you think a beauty contest would work? This one is from 1995 and stars very soft porn actress Shannon Tweed… she’s married to Gene Simmons you know?

Yeah this is as bad as it sounds. Tweed plays kick-boxer/actress Sharon Bell who while at A Miss Galaxy beauty pageant, fends off a gang who take hostages. The gang demand diamonds as a ransom or they’ll… zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz… Sorry dozed off for a while there. Oh errrrr, Robert (“Agent Johnson, no the other one”) Davi from Die Hard is in it.

This is fucking atrocious, I mean – this is Die Hard 4 & 5 levels of bad. Even worse, they made a sequel… don’t look it up.

Icebreaker – (A.K.A Die Hard At A Ski Resort)

Icebreaker.png

It’s time to hit the piste as Sean Astin plays Matt Foster – the cough “hero”. Released in 2000 a year before people would finally recognise Sean Austin as a Hobbit.

So everything is going great at the Killington ski resort. Foster, one of the resort’s Ski Patrol is seen as a bum by his soon to be father-in-law. Enter terrorist Carl Greig who takes control of the ski resort/. The plot has something to do with radio active material stolen from Russia or something. I really lost interest in this one, can’t really remember the plot if I’m honest. But whatever happened in the plot, Foster gets the chance to impress his fiancé’s father when he saves the day.

Dull film with a bland plot. Still, Bruce Campbell plays the main bad guy and that’s the only good thing about the film.

Speed – (A.K.A Die Hard On A Bus)

Speed

Very few of these Die Hard rip-offs are any good. Some of them are terrible, most of them are okay and a handful of them are fantastic. Speed is definitely one of the greats. Released in 1994 when the Die Hard rip-off still felt fresh and starring John Wick, sorry Keanu Reeves.

Reeves plays Jack Traven a young SWAT officer who finds himself trapped on a bus armed with a bomb after he thwarted a previous attempt to extort money via the use of a bomb by madman Howard Payne. When the bus hits 50 MPH, the bomb is armed and if it drops below 50, it blows up killing all on board. Pop quiz, hotshot. What do you do? Traven teams up with plucky bus driver, Annie to save the hostages on board the bus as well as themselves.

The chemistry between Keanu Reeves’ Jack Traven and Sandra Bullock as Annie is wonderful. The action is exiting and well directed. Plus you have legendary Dennis Hopper playing the mad bomber. When it comes to Die Hard rip-off, they don’t get better than this… the sequel though?

Command Performance – (A.K.A Die Hard At A Live Gig)

Command Performace

From 2009 comes this written by, directed by and starring Dolph Lundgren flick. The film is said to be (very loosely) based on a true story where Madonna performed a special live gig for Vladimir Putin… only with a large sprinkling of fantasy.

So the Russian President asks pop sensation Venus (Madonna/Venus, get it?) to perform an exclusive gig as his daughters are big fans. Lundgren plays Joe, an ex-biker, turned drummer who has to save the day when terrorists turn up at the concert and take the President, along with others as hostages. Joe teams up with young Russian agent Mikhail Kapista to kill the bad guys and save the hostages.

Dolph Lundgren is a drummer in real life and I’m pretty sure the only reason this film exists is so Lundgren can show people he can really drum… and do it well too. Just a shame the film isn’t as good as his drumming. This is one of those very mundane Die Hard rip-offs. It’s not terrible, its far from great – it just kind of is.


 

Well there you have it, a few good, and more than a few bad Die Hard rip-offs. Trust me, there’s a lot more out there – I’ve only just touched on a handful of the more famous ones as well as highlight some of the not so famous ones… Die Hard at a beauty pageant, seriously?

Die Hard Art Feet

More stunning fan-art from Chris Weston at Xombiedirge.com

Next up in my celebration of 30 years of Die Hard, I’m tackling the big one, a subject I’ve avoided for a long time. It’s December so it just seems right that I offer my own opinion on that yearly debate and eternal question that is, is Die Hard a Christmas movie?

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40 Years Of Halloween: Part II

Today is Halloween and I’m back with the second part to my Halloween retrospective. After several years of terrible, terrible sequels, will things get any better?

Halloween H20: 20 Years Later

Halloween H20 20 Years Later

So here we are celebrating the 40th anniversary of the original Halloween film with a film that was released to celebrate the 20th anniversary. (Ohh, we’re half way there
Oh-oh, livin’ on a prayer!) Released in 1998 and directed by Steve Miner (known for his work on the Friday the 13th franchise). This ones sees the return of Laurie Strode who was killed off in Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers and the first film in the continual story of Michael Myers without Dr. Loomis.

So the film begins with Marion Chambers (Nancy Stephens) who was the assistant of Dr. Loomis from Halloween and Halloween II. She finds her home has been broken into. Marion discovers the file on Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) has gone. The missing file held info on the presumed dead Laurie and her new identity of Keri Tate. Michael soon turns up, kills Marion and escapes with the file.

Now living in California Laurie Strode/Keri Tate is the headmistress of Hillcrest Academy, a private boarding school. She has moved on with her life after faking her death via a car accident to put her history behind her. Still haunted by the events of 1978, Laurie/Keri finds it hard to adjust to her new life fearing her brother Michael could return… and he does. Most of the students and teachers of Hillcrest Academy have gone on an overnight field trip to Yosemite National Park leaving only a skeleton staff at the school. However, a few of the students stayed on at the school to have a secret Halloween party in the school’s basement.

Of course the inevitable happens as Michael Myers arrives at the school to hunt down his sister… again. Michael sets about thinning out the student population and eventually comes face to face with his sister for the first time in twenty years. Laurie soon finds herself fighting for her life once more as well as trying to protect her teenage son.

My View

So this one kind of confuses me a little. Its said to be a sequel that ignores anything from Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers to Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers and is a direct sequel to Halloween II – which is fine, I have no problem with them doing that. There is no mention of Laurie’s daughter, Jamie from the previous three films which of course there shouldn’t be if the events of the other films didn’t happen in this timeline… but they do point out that the car crash that supposedly killed Laurie in Halloween 4 was faked. So there is continuity with the previous films. But if the previous films never happened, then why make that connection?

Well turns out that there was a direct connection. The original script was written with a scene where a student in one of Laurie/Keri’s classes does a report on the “Haddonfield Murders” and even goes into detail about Jamie Lloyd, Laurie’s daughter from the previous films. The report also details how Laurie “died” in a car accident and how Michael Myers eventually tracked down his niece and killed her. At this point, a clearly shocked Laurie/Keri leaves the classroom and throws up. Its also worth noting that John Carpenter was even set to return as director as Jamie Lee Curtis wanted to reunite, but when he asked for a $10 million directors fee (after believing he was cheated out of royalties), he walked when a deal could not be made.

Halloween H20 20 Years Later Laurie

Anyway, this was released during the resurgence of the slasher film in the 90s thanks to Wes Craven’s Scream (1996). The difference is though that Scream was self-aware, it was making fun of the genre while also paying respects to it. Halloween H20: 20 Years Later just is not that clever and comes across as another bog-standard slasher flick. Don’t get me wrong, its not a bad film at all and definitely one of the better sequels in the franchise but its also nothing special.

Its great to see Jamie Lee Curtis back in the role that made her famous two decades previously and you know what? I’ll even go so far as to say the story idea is a good one too, but overall the film just needed “something”. The previously mentioned Scream had that “something”, that hook to pull you in. Halloween H20: 20 Years Later is just very one note, very mundane and lacks punch. Its predictable, its a bit bland and really offers nothing new. Michael Myers turns up and kills teenagers… that’s about it. Its all very 90s with predictable jump scare after predictable jump scare. The last 10 minutes or so is pretty good though.

As I said, Jamie Lee Curtis is brilliant well worth watching. Plus she has the best scene in the film and one for a horror nerd such as myself to enjoy that is full of trivia. Jamie shares some screen time with her real-life mother Janet Leigh. Of course Janet famously played Marion Crane in Psycho. The character Janet is playing this film is called Norma, which was the name of Norman Bates mother from Psycho, plus the car Janet has in the scene is the exact same car she had in Psycho and even has the same license plate. Then (if you listen carefully) you’ll hear a few bars of the Psycho music play in the background.

“He sat in a sanitarium for 15 years, waiting for me. Then… one rainy night, he decides to go… Trick or Treating”

– Laurie Strode

Halloween: Resurrection

Halloween Resurrection Title

Released in 2002 from director, Rick Rosenthal who also directed Halloween II. This one picks up a few years after the previous film with Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) now a patient at Grace Andersen Sanitarium after accidentally killing paramedic at the end of the previous film whom she believed was her killer brother, Michael Myers.

Acting in a catatonic state, Laurie is secretly readying herself for the return of Micheal. On Halloween night 2001, Michael breaches the security at the sanitarium and gets to Laurie. She lures him into a trap on the roof and is moments away from killing her brother (again) when he gets the better of her. Michael stabs Laurie and drops her off the roof – finally completing his mission of over twenty years. Yes, Laurie Strode is now dead.

The next year and some university students win a contest to appear on an internet reality show called Dangertainment and is set to be filmed in Michael Myers’ childhood home. The show is directed by directed by Freddie Harris (Busta Rhymes). Of course Michael turns up and systematically kills the students while everything is being broadcast on the internet.

My View

This is bad, this is Halloween 46 level of bad. So lets get the only good thing about the film out of the way first. Jamie Lee Curtis back as Laurie Strode for the final time (in this continuity anyway). Yeah she’s good. Its only a small cameo role in the opening but at least it is the opening so once she’s gone you can switch the film off and watch something else instead. Jamie only agreed to do this film as long as they finally killed Laurie off as she didn’t want to appear in any more Halloween film after this… yeah, about that…

Even then, her death is not 100% definite as while she is stabbed and dropped of a roof, you don’t actually see her die on screen. She just disappears into a tree during the fall. The writing of this film is god awful and you can tell that from the terrible way they retcon the ending of the last film to suit this one. It turns out that Laurie didn’t kill Micheal at all and he swapped places with a random paramedic. You know you’re in for a bad time with this when the continuity is so damn bad that the recap at the start of this shows Laurie and Michael (not really him) drive off in an ambulance that looks nothing like the one from the end of Halloween H20: 20 Years Later, its not even close. Let this lack of detail be a warning for just how lazy and incompetent the rest of the film will be.

Halloween Resurrection Michael Myers

Stupid characters doing stupid things being killed by a stupid killer. The film is stupid. I mean, there a scene were one of the students throws black pepper in Micheal’s eyes to stop him… and it works too. This is the same Micheal Myers who has been shot multiple times, blown up, stabbed in the eyes and still kept going – but black pepper is his weakness? Halloween H20: 20 Years Later was hardly a great film, it was watchable with some okay moments and a pretty good ending. This film does away with all of that, the retconing of the good ending of the previous film is an insult and the finale to this with Busta Rhymes getting into a fistfight with Micheal Myers while saying “mother fucka” a lot is embarrassing.

There was an idea to make a sequel to this with Laurie Strode’s son from Halloween H20: 20 Years Later seeking out Micheal for revenge over killing his mother. But as this film flopped hard, the producers quickly abandoned that idea and decided to go a different route…

“You’ve heard of the tunnel. The one we all go through sooner or later. At the end, there’s a door. And waiting for you on the other side of that door is either Heaven or Hell. This that door.”

– Laurie Strode

Halloween

Halloween 2007

So the last film all but killed the franchise off, plans to make more sequels were scrapped in favor of a remake. Enter director Rob Zombie to get this film released in 2007. The baisc plot is the same as the original flick, but this one mixes in a little Halloween II as well. Young Michael Myers kills his older sister Judith and is sent to Smith’s Grove Sanitarium where he becomes a patient of Dr. Loomis (Malcolm McDowell).

Fifteen year later, Micheal escapes the sanitarium and makes is way back to his old home in Haddonfield to continue his killing spree. Dr. Loomis teams up with  Sheriff Brackett (Brad Dourif) to try to track Micheal down. Along the way, Loomis learns that Laurie Strode (Scout Taylor-Compton) is really the sister of Micheal and soon works out that she will be is next victim.

My View

I said in the first part about the original film that I’m not a huge fan. I like the film, I think its damn good… but I just don’t love it. So get ready with the pitchforks Halloween fans because I think this remake is a better film than the original. Yeah I said it. Not that the film doesn’t have its problems, it does. Some of the dialogue is a joke with every other word being “fuck”, a lot of the redneck characters grate at times and at a little under two hours it can be a long film for what it is. But that said, there’s a hell of a lot of great stuff in the film too.

You’ve got amazing actors such as Malcolm McDowell who is the perfect replacement for Donald Pleasence as Dr. Loomis. Honestly, he’s brilliant in the role. Then you have Brad Dourif, Dee Wallace, William Forsythe and Ken Foree. There is a great cast here. I  love how this is really a film of two parts. The first part telling the history and backstory of the young Michael Myers (Daeg Faerch) and just why he turns put the way he does. Then the second half is pretty much where the remake kicks off proper with grown up Michael killing teenagers.

Halloween 2007Michael

The film can be tense at times with some genuine scares, something not seen in a Halloween film since Halloween III: Season of the Witch back in 1982. Where as the original was mostly bloodless, this one turns up the gore factor to eleven… but its a Rob Zombie film so what where you expecting? The picture is clearly made by someone who loves and respects the original but still wanting to do their own thing with it. Its a good film, its a good remake and for me, its better than the original as this version has a story that extends to more then just killer killing teenagers.

“Inside every one us, there exists a dark side. Most people rise above it, but some are consumed by it. Until there is nothing left, but pure evil.”

– Dr. Loomis

Halloween II

Halloween II 2009 Title

Rob Zombie’s Halloween remake was panned by critics, yet it still pulled in an impressive $80 million worldwide on a $15 million budget. Success meant sequel and Rob Zombie returned to continue his vision in 2009. Pretty much all the cast from the first film returned and this one picks up directly where the last film left off. After killing Micheal Myers, a shocked Laurie Strode (Scout Taylor-Compton) is found covered and blood wandering around the streets by Sheriff Brackett (Brad Dourif) and she is taken to hospital. Michael’s body is put in the back of an ambulance and taken to the hospital, only he’s not really dead. He wakes up as the ambulance crashes into a cow.

The film jumps ahead two years and Laurie is now living with Sheriff Brackett and his family. Laurie begins to have nightmares of Michael and the events of the first film. Meanwhile Dr. Loomis (Malcolm McDowell) writes a book based on the events and his experiences of the previous film. Micheal Myers has been in hiding and having visions of his dead mother and his younger self who tell him to bring Laurie home. So he heads back to Haddonfield.

My View

I really enjoyed the first film (and I mean Rob Zombie’s first Halloween film), but this? What a fucking mess. Its trying to be clever, psychological, cerebral and it fails at all three. I’m pretty sure the only reason the idea of this film came about was because Michael’s mom is played by Rob Zombie’s wife, Sheri Moon Zombie. As he always puts her in his movies and as she died in the first one, I’m sure the thought process was ‘Need to get the missus in the film, but she died in the first one… make her a ghost. Problem solved’. Then the film was written around the idea of Michael’s mom’s ghost.

Honestly, the whole film makes little sense. The plot is nonsensical, the story is pathetic. Its just all over the place with no clear direction. How did Rob Zombie mess this up so badly when he nailed it first time around? Its a real shame as the film gets off to a great start, the opening and scenes in the hospital are really well done. Its just a shame it all goes very wrong very quickly after that.

Halloween II 2009 Michael

The good bits? Obviously the performances from both Malcolm McDowell and Brad Dourif and that’s about it really. Oh the soundtrack is pretty great too. Other than that, best to avoid this one. I didn’t like it when I first saw it back then, I like it even less after re-watching it for this retrospective. I’m not damning the film for doing something different, I like different, that’s why Halloween III: Season of the Witch is my favourite in the franchise, because its different. But this, this is just pretentiously silly and stupid.

For almost a decade, that was it, no more Halloween. Until…

“Hey, world! Guess what. I’m Michael Myers’ sister! I’m so fucked!”

– Laurie Strode

Halloween

Halloween 2018

Okay so this is the third film in the franchise to be simply called Halloween. The 1978 original, the 2007 remake and now this. Directed by David Gordon Green and sees the return of Jamie Lee Curtis as Laurie Strode. Set forty years after the original and ignores every film in the franchise except the original flick. So really this is Halloween II but a different Halloween II to the 1981 sequel and 2009 Halloween II sequel of the remake. Phew.

So Michael Myers has been locked away in the Smith’s Grove Sanitarium since he was stopped at the end of the first film and captured. Dr. Loomis dies years ago and so Dr. Ranbir Sartain (Haluk Bilginer) has taken over as Michael’s doctor. Two true-crime podcasters turn up at the sanitarium to interview Michael armed with his original mask form forty years before. They fail to get anything out if him despite mentioning the very person who stood up to him and survived his killing spree four decades ago, Laurie Strode.

Still desperate to get a story, the podcasters go to interview Laurie herself. This is when we learn of her PTSD, failed marriages and that she has a daughter and granddaughter. The family is strained and the relationship between mother, daughter and granddaughter broke down several years earlier. Laurie is given the chance to speak to Michael before he is transferred to a maximum security prison, which Laurie declines.

Dr. Sartain accompanies Michael Myers as he is transferred along with several other prisoners. Only for the bus carrying the inmates to crash, Michael escapes, tracks down those annoying podcasters, kills them and gets his mask back before heading back to Haddonfield and to Laurie. Meanwhile, Laurie learns about the crash and finds herself fighting for not only her own life but also those of her daughter and granddaughter. But Laurie hasn’t been sitting quietly knitting for the last forty years, she’s been preparing for Michael’s return.

My View

Okay so to be completely honest, I’ve not yet seen the new film. Since becoming a father last year, my cinema visits have been cut back to pretty much none. I managed to go see Bohemian Rhapsody a few days ago and that was my first time in a cinema since I watched Logan in March 2017 over a year earlier. So as I’ve not seen the film, I can’t really offer a view of it can I? I was hoping to squeeze in a viewing before doing this retrospective but it didn’t work out.

Still, while managing to avoid spoilers, I have read a few reviews and the feedback has been largely positive. The film sounds pretty damn good and Jamie Lee Curtis has been getting a lot of positive praise too. I’ll most probably have to wait until the home release before I do get to watch Halloween. At least they got John Carpenter to return for this one. Even if only as composer, executive producer, and creative consultant. He’s been directly involved in the franchise for the first time since 1982. I’m looking forward to this one if/when I eventually get to see it.

“Michael Myers killed 5 people. And he’s a human being, we need to understand. I’m twice divorced, and I’m a basket case.”

– Laurie Strode


 

Well there you have it, the entire Halloween franchise. forty years of films that are mostly terrible. I have a great deal of respect for the original even if I’m not its biggest fan. I fucking love Halloween III: Season of the Witch and think Rob Zombie’s remake was fantastic… but that’s about it for the whole series. A total of eleven films and only three that I think are truly worth watching. The new film does look and sound great, but as I’ve not yet seen it, I can’t really pass judgement – that will have to wait for later.

As an overall franchise, Halloween has many more disappointments than worthy pictures. Pretty much all horror franchises get tiresome fairly quickly with bad sequel after bad sequel and in that respect, Halloween is not one of the worst offenders. Even the absolute worst of the films still have some redeeming quality be it Donald Pleasence as Dr. Loomis, Jamie Lee Curtis returning several times or even the opening 10-15 minutes of the god-awful Rob Zombie’s Halloween II. Its a decent franchise, I just wished they had gone the anthology idea route after Halloween III: Season of the Witch as we could have had a great variety of Halloween based flicks for the last few decades instead of the same old crap of Michael Myers killing teenagers.

 

HAPPY HALLOWEEN!

40 Years Of Halloween: Part I

Yup, its that time of year again. Its getting colder, the nights are drawing in, the clocks have gone back,the leaves are turning golden brown and falling from the trees and October is coming to an end. Halloween is just around the corner once more, so its time to watch some scary flicks. But what to write about this year? Well, it has been 40 years this year since one of the most influential horror films ever was released and right here for my 2018 Halloween celebrations, I’m going to take a look at the film that changed horror cinema forever…

The Bees

Directed by Alfredo Zacarías in 1978, starring John Saxon and John Carradine. The Bees was a Mexican horror film about killer South American bees that have been imported to the U.S. where they wreak havoc. Yeah I don’t know why I’m even attempting to fool you either. You’ve read the title, you’ve seen the main image of the iconic Michael Myers. You know what this is all about. Halloween.

40 years ago this year and John Carpenter unleashed his now immortal and influential slasher picture, Halloween. It may not have been the first slasher horror film, but its the one that the sub-genre is held up to and the template many, many films would follow for four decades. Halloween changed cinema forever and its importance can not be overstated. Right here I’m going to take a look at every film in the franchise from the original up to the latest in the series. I’ll do a quick synopsis of each film and then offer my own views and opinions for each one. To paraphrase Dr. Loomis…

“I’ve been writing this article for fifteen days, sitting in a room, staring at my laptop, not seeing the laptop, looking past the laptop, looking at this night. Inhumanly patient, waiting for some secret, silent alarm to trigger me off. Death has come to this little blog. Now, you can either ignore it, or you can help me by reading and sharing it.”

Halloween

Halloween Title

Released in 1978 (happy 40th Halloween) from legendary writer/director John Carpenter. Halloween tells the story of Michael Myers. Beginning in 1963 when Myers was only six years old, dressed as a clown for Halloween. Michael grabs a kitchen knife and stabs his older sister, Judith to death. No rhyme or reason, he just murders his own sister with no remorse or explanation. Michael is then institutionalised in the Warren County’s Smith’s Grove Sanitarium.

Fifteen years pass and on the 30th of October, 1978. The now adult Michael Myers escapes the sanitarium, returns to his home town of Haddonfield to continue building his body count. Enter the shy and retiring Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) and her school friends who are preparing to celebrate Halloween.

Meanwhile, Dr. Loomis (Donald Pleasence) who is Michael’s psychiatrist, tries to track the deranged murderer down before he can kill again. Loomis attempts to get help from the local police, but they find his story a little unbelievable… until the bodies begin to show up. Laurie babysits one of his neighbours kids watching scary movies, carving pumpkins and the like. Michael sets about killing her friends one by one until Laurie is the only one left. All leading to a classic showdown between unstoppable killer and scared babysitter.

My View

Halloween is an undisputed classic and I’ll happily argue against anyone that states other wise. John Carpenter is a genius for not just his minimalist writing, masterful direction but also THAT music score. Yup, the music of Halloween is just as much of a character as Michael Myers himself.

I respect Halloween, I fucking adore John Carpenter as an artist. He’s one of my favourite writer/directors ever. And yet, I’m not a huge fan of the film. Yeah this all sounds a little contradictory right now eh? Yes I think the film is a classic, yes I have the up most respect for it and yes I like the film… but I just don’t love it. Of the big three hitters of the classic slasher film genre, those three being Halloween, Friday the 13th and A Nightmare on Elm Street, of those iconic trilogy of horror films – Halloween is my least favourite. Its just a tad boring. I don’t mind a slow paced film and this is slow paced. What John Carpenter does with the time in the film is commendable. There are times when its tense and suspenseful sure and the atmosphere created is still some of the best in any horror film even today. But overall, I feel the film unnecessarily drags on as if there is just not enough story for a full feature film. Perhaps this would have been better as a shorter 40-50 minute piece over a feature?

Halloween Laurie.jpg

Yeah I know what I’m doing here. I’m saying that the all time classic Halloween is not all that classic. But hey, that’s how I feel. When it comes to John Carpenter films, I’d just rather watch They Live, Escape From New York, The ThingBig Trouble in Little China and even the massively overlooked In the Mouth of Madness. Quite honestly, Halloween would struggle to make it into my list of truly great Carpenter classics. And as I previously said, I’d even choose other horror films over this one too.

Again, I respect Halloween, it is a classic but its just not an all time classic for me and I feel that John Carpenter made several other films that are far superior. Still with all that said, I’m more than happy to sit down and watch Halloween. I just did to do this whole retrospective and I have a lot more films to get through.

“You’ve got to believe me, Officer, he is coming to Haddonfield…Because I know him! I’m his doctor! You must be ready for him…If you don’t, it’s your funeral.”

– Dr. Loomis

Halloween II

Halloween II

This 1981 sequel saw the return of a lot of the cast and crew from the first film, sadly no John Carpenter in the director’s chair. Taking on the main role this time around is Rick Rosenthal. Though Carpenter did come up with the story and pen the screenplay, plus he was a producer on the film too. Picking up directly after the events of the first flick, Michael Myers is alive and well while Laurie Strode is taken to Haddonfield Memorial Hospital after her ordeal at the end of the previous film.

Dr. Loomis continues his search for Michael in Haddonfield until the governor orders Loomis to go back to the Smith’s Grove Sanitarium. While on route back to the sanitarium, Loomis learns that Laurie Strode is the younger sister of Michael Myers and realises that Michael is heading to the hospital where Laurie is to kill her.

At the hospital, Michael has already begun pilling up the bodies in his search for his sister. Loomis turns up just in time to save Laurie as everything ends with a bang finally putting an end to Michael’s murderous ways.

My View

John Carpenter himself has said that he didn’t want to make any sequel to the film as this interview with Deadline points out.

I didn’t think there was any more story, and I didn’t want to do it again. All of my ideas were for the first Halloween, there shouldn’t have been any more! However, I couldn’t stop them from making sequels. So my agents said, ‘Why don’t you become an executive producer and you can share the revenue?’ But I had to write the second movie, and every night I sat there and wrote with a six pack of beer trying to get through this thing. And I didn’t do a very good job, but that was it. I couldn’t do any more.

– John Carpenter

Carpenter has never made any secret about the fact that he really didn’t want to make this movie, that’s why he refused to return as director. But seeing as the studio were going to make the film with or without him, he thought he may as well write it and earn some cash regardless. The film is a bit of a mess and clearly hastily thrown together just to cash in on the massive success of the first film. It lacks the spark Carpenter brought to the table with the first film. Its not as atmospheric, not as scary, not as moody. Watch the two films back to back (as I just have) and you can really see a decline in the quality of direction. Where as the first film used atmosphere and suspense to great effect, this sequel negates all of that for a higher body count and more gory deaths. I don’t mean to rag on Rick Rosenthal but he’s clearly no John Carpenter. Oh and the wig they put on Jamie Lee Curtis (she cut her hair for another role) is terrible…

Halloween II Laurie

The plot is stupid, the characters are dull and the dialogue is terrible. Carpenter has admitted that he was drunk while writing this film and it shows too. Yet despite all of the troubles behind the scenes and the problems on screen, overall this is not a terrible film. Yeah its hokey, yeah its cheesy but for a sequel to a slasher film, its still watchable. Its nowhere near as good as the first film, not even close but its not a terrible sequel either. We’ll get plenty of those later.

I kind of like Halloween II. Its a stupid flick yeah, but its a good stupid flick.

“He was my patient for fifteen years. He became an obsession with me until I realized that there was nothing within him, neither conscious nor reason that was… even remotely human.”

– Dr. Loomis

Halloween III: Season of the Witch

Halloween III Title

So this is a major departure over the previous two films. Directed by Tommy Lee Wallace and released in 1982. Where as the first two films followed the story of Michael Myers, this sequel has nothing to do with him at all. Its a whole new story about Dr. Dan Challis (Tom Atkins) who turns detective when a patient is murdered on his ward while clutching a strange Halloween mask while ranting about people dying when he was admitted to the hospital.

The daughter of the victim, Ellie Grimbridge (Stacey Nelkin) joins Dan Challis in his investigation which leads them to a small town called Santa Mira where the Halloween mask originally came from. The masks are made by Silver Shamrock Novelties, a toy manufacturing company headed up by Conal Cochran (Dan O’Herlihy).

As Dan and Ellie dig deeper into their investigation, they soon learn that Silver Shamrock and Conal Cochran may not be as sweet and innocent as they first appear to be and a strange plot involving Stonehenge and the killing of children emerges.

My View

Okay so maybe a little backstory first. Halloween II was meant to be the end of Michael Myers, they killed him off, they killed him off good. But there was a problem, that problem was the fact that the Halloween name was a major draw to the box office, it made money and lots of it too. The studio wanted more Halloween films but they didn’t have Michael Myers anymore cos he dead. John Carpenter was approached and asked if he would return to the franchise, he declined so the studio offered him a fuck load of money. Carpenter agreed to come back as a producer but only if the film is not a direct sequel to the previous one. So the the idea came about to turn the Halloween films into an anthology thing with a new film every year, only the stories would be separate and that each subsequent film from this point on would be a new story and new characters. Halloween III: Season of the Witch was set to be the start of a whole new franchise concept… only that’s not how it all worked out.

Anyway of all the films that bear the Halloween name, this is my all time favourite. Yeah I just said that Halloween III: Season of the Witch is my favourite of the whole franchise. The film was slated when it was originally released and the fans hated it. No Michael Myers, no ticket sales and the film bombed. Due to the poor critical response and commercial failure the film ended up being, the idea to continue the whole anthology idea was scrapped and Michael Myers would be brought back for all future Halloween film form this point onward.

Halloween III Masks

As I said, I love this one and the reasons I do love it is for all the reasons most people hate it. Its not about Michael Myers and I applaud the film for that as I was bored of him anyway. The plot is a more than a little stupid if you stop and think about it… so don’t think about it. Its a stupid film, a very stupid film but its also thoroughly entertaining. I never felt bored watching this one as I have with the previous two in palaces. Its just a damn shame the general public only wanted more of the same and more Michael Myers as I’d loved to have seen what this franchise could have become if it did turn into an anthology series.

There are some genuinely terrifying scenes in this one coupled with some stunning effects work. I mean, the scene with that woman at the motel messing around with the microchip found in the badge on the mask, or the bit where the kid wears the mask and Conal Cochran reveals his nefarious (and asinine) plan –  pretty shocking stuff. Dan O’Herlihy as the main antagonist is brilliant, he’s charming but slimy, warm but twisted all at the same time. Tom Atkins playing the lead role hold the film together nicely and he has an awesome moustache too. The film has an eerie and unnerving feel about it especially when we get to Santa Mira and the Silver Shamrock factory. As I said, the plot is silly, but its a good silly and a bloody entertaining film from start to finish.

Halloween III TV Mask

There’s also an interesting social commentary in regards to consumerism running through the film, but people don’t want subtle and clever satire, they just want to see Michael Myers slowly walking after stupid teenagers cos that’s much more interesting…

Its a damn shame this picture flopped as it did because the idea of expanding the franchise into an anthology series was great. Each year a new Halloween film with a new story? The idea was limitless, but people just wanted to see the same thing over and over instead. People are stupid. Halloween III: Season of the Witch is dark, moody, atmospheric and had some great scares in it too. Just judge it on the film it is and not the film Michael Myers fans wanted it to be. Oh and also be on the look out for a few Halloween cameos too inducing, Nancy Loomis who played Annie, Laurie’s friend in the first film, Jamie Lee Curtis has a voice cameo and yes even Michael Myers himself appears.

“Halloween… the festival of Samhain! The last great one took place three thousand years ago, when the hills ran red with the blood of animals and children.”

– Conal Cochran

Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers

Halloween 4 The Return of Michael Myers Title

Directed by Dwight H. Little in 1988. This one sees the return of Michael Myers (now there’s a title) after the box office bomb that was the previous flick. So Michael has been in a coma for a decade (which makes no sense) following the events of Halloween II. As he is being taken to his old haunt of Smith’s Grove Sanitarium, he wakes up. The now conscious Michael overhears that his sister, Laurie was killed in a car accident but had a daughter, Jamie Lloyd (Danielle Harris). Michael Myers now has a new target and heads back to Haddonfield in search of his niece.

When Dr. Loomis, who also survived the explosion from Halloween II (also doesn’t make sense) learns Michael has woken and gone to Haddonfield, he quickly follows. Jamie is living with foster family. The elder daughter of the family is left to babysit Jamie and that is when Michael turns up with Dr. Loomis not far behind him.

My View

You know, just writing that synopsis up there just made me realise how pointless do so it is from this point on. See, pretty much all the Halloween films from now forward all follow the same basic plot. Everyone thinks Michael Myers is dead, turns out he’s not. Michael goes out looking for victims and Dr. Loomis follows. There you go, that’s pretty much all the films covered from this point onward.

This is not a good film and it still annoys me they dropped the anthology idea for this crap. Its just bland, predictable and lifeless. The only real saving grace is Donald Pleasence returning as Dr. Loomis. In fact he’s the only reason to watch any of the films in the franchise he was in from this point. Pleasence is just too damn good for a film this poor. They even almost tempted John Carpenter to return with this film. He was originally on board to write and direct. In fact Carpenter wrote a treatment to be turned into a script. His idea centered around a more psychological concept based on the idea of what effects the events of the first two films had on the residents of Haddonfield. It sounded pretty interesting and would’ve been a more cerebral flick. But the idea was rejected in favour of a standard slasher movie and so John Carpenter sold the rights to the franchise and walked from the project. This is the first film in the franchise that didn’t involve Carpenter in some way after serving as writer, director and producer from the first film to the third and it shows. You know things are bad when they mess up the iconic mask…

Halloween 4 The Return of Michael Myers Michael Mask

Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers is a lazy and poor imitation of the first film and follows many of the exact same beats. Michael escapes and steals a mechanic’s overalls, Dr. Loomis spends a lot of time with the sheriff, the daughter of the sheriff is one of Michael’s victims, Michael kills and eats a dog, there’s a bullying subplot, etc. Honestly, this is a remake of the original with many of the same scenes repeated beat for beat. It even copies some of the dialogue directly form the original film too. And they dropped John Carpenter’s original more clever idea for this?

I read this film took eleven days to write and seeing as its a blatant rip-off of the first one, that seems like about ten days too many. Just watch the first film, its like this one only far, far better and the ending is not as stupid either.

“We’re not talking about any ordinary prisoner, Hoffman! We are talking about evil on two legs.”

– Dr. Loomis

Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers

Halloween 5 The Revenge of Michael Myers Title

Yes he’s back (again). Released in 1989 and directed by Dominique Othenin-Girard. Not only is Michael Myers back but so are Donald Pleasence and Danielle Harris reprising their respective roles from the previous film. This one picks up a year after the events of the last one. So this time, Michael falls into a coma (again) after the ending of the last film. He is found by a hermit and nursed back to health. After killing the hermit, Michael returns to Haddonfield to kill his niece Jamie (again), who has been committed to a children’s hospital.

Of course Dr. Loomis turns up (again) to try and stop Michael Myers (again). Some strange man in back keeps popping up. There’s some telepathic link crap thrown in between Michael and Jamie because everybody knows that uncles and nieces are telepathically linked right? So Jamie begins to have visions of Michael and his murders and Loomis uses this link to lure Michael to his demise… of being locked up in prison. Yes Michael Myers is arrested in the film.

My View

Well at least this works as direct sequel to the previous film and doesn’t just rip-off the original… though it also retcons a few things along the way. If I was asked to choose the worst film out of this one and Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers, that would be next to impossible as they’re both equally shit. Both badly written, both unoriginal, both boring. Yeah Donald Pleasence is on top form again and the only real reason to watch the film too.

Its not scary, its not tense. Its a typical 80s slasher flick with very little effort put into it. The ending is stupid, Michael Myers arrested? Yeah cos after being shot multiple times, blown up, dropped down a mine shaft not to mention all the other damage he has received over the course of the films, I’m sure a pair of handcuffs will stop him. Also, why is is allowed to keep his mask while locked away?

Halloween 5 The Revenge of Michael Myers Title Michael

It bad, its really bad. But you’d better get used to that because the age of good Halloween films is long over and things are not likely to improve soon either. Also, why is it called The Revenge of Michael Myers? What revenge, he’s the bad guy, he’s the one going around killing innocent babysitters. Is he getting revenge on Jamie because she’s done nothing wrong other than be his niece? I don’t know.

“I prayed that he would burn in Hell, but in my heart I knew that Hell would not have him.”

– Dr. Loomis

Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers

Halloween The Curse of Michael Myers

This one took a while to come out as the last film damaged the franchise so much, it was left dormant for six years until 1995 when Michael Myers was finally brought back. Directed by Joe Chappelle, this film marks the final film appearance of Donald Pleasence before his death in 1995. The niece of Michael Myers, Jamie Lloyd (J. C. Brandy) is now grown up and gives birth to her first child. She is held captive by a strange cult known as Thorn and her child is taken away by the mysterious man in back from the previous flick who is the leader of the cult.

They do some kind of ritual to the baby before a nurse grabs it, gives it back to Jamie  and helps them escape the cult. As Jamie and baby escape, Michael turns up and kills the nurse. Jamie runs for her life only she is chased by uncle Michael. She does get away and calls a radio station to warn them that Michael Myers is back but they don’t believe her. The now retired Dr. Loomis hears Jamie’s call to the radio station and quickly heads to Haddonfield. Michael eventually tracks down Jamie and kills her, only to discover the baby is gone.

Meanwhile in Haddonfield, Tommy Doyle (Paul Rudd) who was the little boy being babysat by Laurie in the first film, finds Jamie’s baby and take it into his care can calls him Steven. Tommy meets up with Dr. Loomis and they team up to take care of Michael  once and for all while trying to save baby Steven.

My View

Okay so this is just a complete mess of a film. My synopsis my seem a little all over the place, but that is only because that film is all over the place. The story is bat-shit insane and the editing is horrendous with all these quick jump cuts and flashing images making scenes extremely hard to watch. Honestly, watching this film gave me a headache. I don’t really know what is going on. The story is nonsensical, I think Michael Myers is part of this Thorn cult and he’s the father of his won niece’s baby… or something. I have no idea what the aim or point of the Thorn cult is, they just do bad things as far as I can tell. Nor do I know why Michael is part of it, he just is.

Halloween The Curse of Michael Myers Loomis.jpg

You know, people have said that Rob Zombie ruined the Halloween franchise with his remake (I’ll get to that later). No, no he didn’t. The franchise has been ruined from Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers and this film is just another twist of the knife. I have problems with the last two films – they’re not very good… but at the very least they were semi-competent films. This, this picture is a car crash of terrible story, awful acting and vomit enduing editing.

Of course it goes without saying that Donald Pleasence is once more the only saving grace of the film and its a sad note that this was his final film as he died before it was released. But there is a kick in the balls to the whole Donald Pleasence thing. See he originally had a bigger role in the movie, only the studio decided to cut him out of most of it. How about that for paying respects to a recently deceased legendary actor? But I’ll get onto all of that next…

Honestly, I given the legend that is Donald Pleasence much more respect in this article by using his character’s quotes from the previous films than this film does in its entirety.

“I knew what he was, but I never knew why.”

– Dr. Loomis

Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers: The Producer’s Cut

Halloween The Curse of Michael Myers The Producers Cut

Okay so I don’t think I really need to do a synopsis of this one as its the same film, only a different cut. Yes there are some changes between the theatrical cut and this version and I’ll cover those in my view. But by and large, the plot is pretty much the same between both films.

So lets crack on with the story of the butchering of Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers.

My View

The story goes that this version of the film was tested for an audience and they hated it. So the film was cut, re-edited as well as having to go through some re-shoots. The final result was the complete mess that is Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers. But do you happen to know why they audience hated this cut of the film? Because the test audience was full of 14 year olds and of course 14 year olds know all about making a good film right? So yeah, the studio fucked up the film because some spotty teenagers didn’t like it.

Well I’m more than happy to say that this cut of the film is better then the released theatrical cut, but to be honest its still got a good film – just a better one. As I said, the plot is still pretty much the same but I’ll take a look at a few of the differences here.

I guess the first difference should be the title, see the film was originally called Halloween 6: The Origin of Michael Myers as this teaser trailer shows.

The biggest differences worth noting are the fact that Jamie doesn’t die… well at least not in the same way as as in the theatrical cut. Her death comes later in this cut and you know what? I actually makes sense within the plot. There’s more detail on the whole Thorn cult and explains what they are. Then editing is much better and gone are all the jump cuts and flashing images, it now looks like a film.

The opening narration in the theatrical cut was provided by Paul Rudd’s Tommy Doyle character, even though he had not been introduced to the film yet. In this version, its Dr. Loomis covering the backstory – which make so much more sense. The overall style and atmosphere of the film is also much better and there’s actually some pretty tense scenes.

As for Donald Pleasence? He has a hell of a lot more screen time, more scenes and more dialogue that fills in backstory and even covers plot holes that exist in the theatrical cut due to his part being edited down. Then there’s the ending. The theatrical cut’s ending make no sense. Dr. Loomis says he has business to take care of and the film then cuts to Michael Myers’ mask with Loomis screaming in the background. The ending here actually wraps things up and resolves the whole Thorn cult thing too. Its still not a great ending, but it makes coherent sense at least.

Halloween The Curse of Michael Myers The Producer's Cut Loomis.jpg

The film just has better pacing despite it being longer than the other version. There’s more story, more suspense and more atmosphere. In every way, this cut is far, far superior and why the studio decided to cut the shit out of it I do not know. As I said, I can’t say that this is a good film but it most definitely is better. If you really want to watch Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers then get hold of the producers cut. You’ll thank me for it later.

This is a fitting tribute to Donald Pleasence and shows respect to a masterful actor who dedicated seventeen years of his life playing the character of Dr. Loomis. A man who died before his final film was released and had his part massively cut in the theatrical version and was disrespected for all he had done. This film is bad, but at least you can watch Donald Pleasence acting and acting well.

“I feel great! I had surgery, plastic surgery. Skin grafts. It cost a fortune, but at least I don’t frighten people anymore.”

– Dr. Loomis

Halloween The Curse of Michael Myers The Producers Cut Michael


 

I think I’ll split this one up into two parts and seeing as the next film marks an anniversary, this seems like a good place to take a break. See you in Part II.

The Karate Kid Saga…All Of It

This year saw the release of a spin-off TV show based on the classic coming of age, underdog story that is The Karate Kid. An old friend of mine asked if I was going to review the show but at that point, I hadn’t seen it…now I have. But before I get to the show, I thought it would be a good idea to do a quick history on what The Karate Kid was. The idea was to just quickly recap the first film, highlight the sequels and move onto the TV show – that was the initial idea anyway. However, I got a little carried away and ended up re-watching all the films in the franchise…all of them. So thought I’d do a retrospective of everything The Karate Kid instead from the first film to the TV show and everything in between.

I’ll quickly go though the plots of each film before I offer my own view and opinions. Its time to sweep the leg on the whole franchise.

The Karate Kid

Released in 1984 from director John G. Avildsen. The Karate Kid tells the story of Daniel LaRusso (Ralph Macchio) who moves from New Jersey to Los Angeles with his mother. The mother and son move into an apartment where they meet the handyman Kesuke Miyagi (Pat Morita).

The Karate Kid Fly Scene

At school, Daniel befriends Ali Mills (Elisabeth Shue), a pretty cheerleader who has some excess baggage in the shape of her ex-boyfriend Johnny Lawrence (William Zabka). Johnny is studying a form of karate called Cobra Kai under the rather vicious sensei, John Kreese (Martin Kove). Johnny’s jealousy kicks in when he sees the new kid Daniel and his ex Ali together. Johnny and his Cobra Kai gang berate, torment and even beat up Daniel. Fortunately handyman Mr Miyagi is close by as Daniel is getting beat up and steps in to stop the fight by taking on the gang single-handed.

Impressed by Mr Miyagi’s karate skills, Daniel asks the handyman to train him but Miyagi (initially) refuses. Instead he suggests they try to make peace with the Cobra Kai dojo. When sensei John Kreese declines the peace offer, Mr Miyagi suggests that Daniel should take part in the All Valley Karate Championships where he can fight against Johnny and the other members of the Cobra Kai dojo. An agreement is made where the bullying of Daniel will stop while Miyagi trains him for the tournament.

And so begins some of the most memorable scenes of the 80s with Daniel-san’s karate training. Wax on, wax off. Paint the fence and so on. The training eventually brings Daniel and Miyagi closer as they become friends as well as teacher and student. As Daniel learns about karate, Miyagi also teaches him about life in general and these life lessons help Daniel to get closer to Ali…much to Johnny’s anger.

The Karate Kid Crane Kick

The karate tournament kicks off and Daniel makes it through to the semi-finals. But this is where Cobra Kai’s sensei John orders one of his students to injure Daniel with an illegal move to take him out of the competition. The Cobra Kai student is disqualified and Daniel’s injury takes him out of the fight too. Just as Johnny is about to be declared the winner by default, Daniel makes his return to the tournament with thanks to Mr Miyagi’s healing hands and goes on to win despite some underhanded tactics from Cobra Kai.

My View

I haven’t seen this film for years and years. I’ll be honest with you, I never was much a fan of it back then as I always saw it as a poor man’s Rocky, its basically the same plot as Rocky too. You have an underdog who finds an older mentor to train him up for a big fight no one thinks he can win…oh and the hero also finds love along the way too. Plus there is the fact that both The Karate Kid and Rocky were directed by the same man, John G. Avildsen. I should’ve included this in my déjà vu article from a while back.

Despite me not really being a fan and not watching the film for probably decades now…I have to admit I really enjoyed watching it for this retrospective. People change as do their tastes and though I still do see it as a poor man’s Rocky – I found watching the film now really enjoyable. There are some great performances here, the relationship between Daniel and Miyagi is brilliantly realised/acted by Ralph Macchio and Pat Morita respectively. There’s a real father/son thing going on as Daniel has no father and Miyagi lost his wife and son during childbirth. There is a real kinship between the two and it comes across beautifully on screen.

The Karate Kid Fight Agreement

Yeah the plot is a bit dry and predictable (not as good as Rocky either), but the tension created between Daniel and Johnny enjoyable none the less. Which brings me to the film’s villains. William Zabka’s Johnny is a fantastic antagonist and played well making his anger and vitriol toward Daniel very clear…though its also clear he is just a puppet being controlled by the complete asshole John Kreese played to awesome effect by Martin Kove. This factor kind of makes you slightly sympathise with Johnny to a point as deep down he seems like a decent guy who is just being led astray by sensei John.

The fights are okay, but seem very stiff in their choreography overall. The final tournament builds to a tense showdown and even though its pretty damn obvious who will win, it still provides some great entertainment regardless. And yes, that crane kick is bloody stupid. Plus there is that very 80s soundtrack with songs from the likes of Survivor (who also did music on the Rocky films), Bananarama, Baxter Robertson and Commuter to name a few. I can’t really talk about the great soundtrack and not mention its most famous song – Joe Esposito’s You’re the Best…which interestingly enough was originally written for Rocky III but Sylvester Stallone rejected the song in favor of Eye of the Tiger by Survivor who did appear on The Karate Kid soundtrack. Is that enough Rocky/The Karate Kid connections yet? Okay, one more. The score for this film was by Bill Conti who also scored Rocky.

Anyway, I need to move on, more films to cover yet. But yeah – I really enjoyed watching The Karate Kid for this retrospective, far more than I thought I would as I never really liked it growing up.

The Karate Kid Part II

Directed by John G. Avildsen once more, this first sequel was released in 1986. The film sees both  Ralph Macchio and Pat Morita return in their respective roles from the first film. Only the location is switched from America to Japan where Mr Miyagi must face his past.

The Karate Kid II

The film picks up right where the previous one finished, with the end of the All Valley Karate Tournament. Daniel is the champ and John Kreese is both angry and embarrassed his Cobra Kai students lost. In the parking lot, John angrily attacks his losing student Johnny Lawrence. This is when Miyagi steps in and confronts sensei John. Without throwing a punch or kick, Mr Miyagi passively stops John and makes a fool of him in front of his students when instead of delivering a deadly blow, Miyagi tweaks John’s nose.

The story then jumps ahead in time six months when Miyagi gets a letter from home in Okinawa telling him his father is dying. He sets out to return to his home village and Daniel agrees to tag along for support. Mr Miyagi tells Daniel why he left Okinawa to begin with. Many years ago when Miyagi was still young, he fell in love with a girl called Yukie and she had been arranged to marry Sato who was Miyagi’s best friend at the time and also the son of the richest man in the village. When Sato learned of Miyagi’s feelings toward his future wife, he challenged him to a fight. But this was not ordinary fight, this was a fight to the death. Torn between his feelings toward his best friend, the girl he loved and the idea of fighting to death – Miyagi left Japan for America.

Soon after arriving in Okinawa, Sato appears and re-challenges Miyagi to that fight from years ago which Miyagi refuses and heads to his home village. Miyagi and Daniel are greeted by Yukie who reveals she never married Sato due to her feelings for Miyagi. They also learn that Sato has become a rich industrialist who has destroyed the village fishing population which the locals relied on for income and that Sato now owns the land the village is on, the locals are forced to rent their homes from Sato. Soon after and Miyagi’s father dies, this is when Sato once more challenges Miyagi to their fight and give him three days of mourning before they fight to the death. Sato says he will destroy the village if Miyagi refuses to fight. So they strike a deal, the fight will go ahead only no matter what the outcome is, Sato will sign over the land the village is on to the villagers.

Meanwhile Daniel crosses paths with Chozen who is Sato’s nephew and just as evil and corrupt too. Chozen accuses Daniel of insulting his honor when Daniel-san accidentally uncovers corruption in Chozen’s business. The two have several confrontations as the film progresses. The day of the big fight comes around only it is interrupted by a typhoon which causes severe devastation. Sato becomes trapped when his dojo is destroyed by the typhoon. Both Miyagi and Daniel rush to save him showing Sato respect and honor. Daniel then tries to save a young girl trapped in a bell tower and Sato orders he nephew to help only Chozen refuses. This disrespect causes Sato to disown his nephew who disappears in anger.

The Karate Kid II Fight

The next day and Sato arrives at the typhoon destroyed village with his bulldozers, only he’s not there to cause trouble as he offers to help rebuild what he can. Miyagi and Sato finally make their peace after all these years and the fight to the death is cancelled. Yukie’s niece, Kumiko asks Sato if he will host an upcoming festival for the village which he accepts. Its while Kumiko is performing a dance at the festival when the vengeful Chozen reappears takes Kumiko hostage and demands to fight Daniel. This is the big final fight of the film and of course Daniel wins. With Chozen on his last legs, Daniel repeats the tweaking of the nose Miyagi did at the start of the film.

My View

Well, there is more to the plot in this sequel that the original…but that is not necessarily a good thing. It just feels a little too convoluted and unnecessary overall. There’s a lot going on with subplots inside subplots wrapped up in the main plot. You have Miyagi’s relationship and history with Sato. Sato’s relationship with his nephew. Miyagi’s relationship and history with Yukie. Then Yukie’s relationship with her niece. Daniel’s relationship with Kumiko as well as his rivalry with Chozen…and of course the continuing friendship between Miyagi and Daniel all going on at the same time. That’s before I get into the whole angle of Sato’s corrupt business, his wanting to destroy the village and so on…

The first film had a simple, bare bones plot about a kid being bullied but it worked. This sequel is a mess of multiple plots and subplots. Its not that the film is confusing in any way, its just largely asinine and inane. There can be a such a thing as too much story and this film proves that.

The acting seems to be a step backward from the first flick too, not that the acting in the original was Oscar worthy or anything, but it was more than good enough for the film it was in. Here, the performances just seem bland and tepid. The chemistry that worked so well between Ralph Macchio and Pat Morita with that father/son relationship just is not there this time around which is a shame because Pat Morita’s performance as Miyagi is probably the best thing about the whole film. Its interesting and rather engrossing to learn more about Mr Miyagi’s origins and past – in fact I’d even go so far as to say the film probably would have been much better without the titular Karate Kid of Daniel and instead focused solely on Miyagi, I think a Mr Miyagi solo film could’ve worked.

The Karate Kid II Drum

I don’t know how they managed it but the fight scenes feel more stiff and sluggish than the first film too. The villains lack any kind of punch or impact and come across as badly written pantomime bad guys. There is another 80s soundtrack to enjoy though this time with the likes of Carly Simon, Dennis DeYoung and Peter Cetera with the film’s most famous song, Glory of Love.

All being said The Karate Kid Part II isn’t a terrible film at all, but it is woefully disappointing and largely superfluous.

The Karate Kid Part III

Managing to squeeze itself in just as the 80s was on the way out, John G. Avildsen is back as director for the third time as this sequel hit cinemas in 1989. Not only do Ralph Macchio and Pat Morita return but so too does Martin Kove as sensei John Kreese of the Cobra Kai dojo from the first film. This time its all about bonsai trees…seriously.

The Karate Kid III Bonsia

Okay so John Kreese has been left broke and desperate after losing his students at the Cobra Kai dojo due to the fallout from the tournament from the first film. He turns to his old friend Terry Silver (Thomas Ian Griffith) who co-founded the Cobra Kai with John years earlier. Terry vows to get revenge on Miyagi and Daniel and plans to re-establish the Cobra Kai dojo before sending John on vacation to rest up.

Meanwhile Mr Miyagi and Daniel return to America from Japan to find that the apartment complex Miyagi worked at and where Daniel lived is being torn down, leaving Miyagi with no job and Daniel homeless…and if you were wondering, its also revealed that Daniel’s mother returned to New Jersey leaving her son alone and homeless. Daniel spends his college funds to buy a rundown shop which he uses to realise Miyagi’s dream of owning a bonsai shop.

Terry Silver hires an up and coming fighter to go up against Daniel at the All Valley Karate Tournament but soon learns that Daniel has no intention of defending his title. Despite several attempts to get Daniel to change his mind over the tournament, he continues to refuse to participate which annoys Terry and his protege fighter Mike Barnes. Terry tires to manipulate Daniel by telling him that John Kreese died of a heart attack after his failure at the Cobra Kai dojo when he lost his students following the events of the first film and Terry begs forgiveness for John’s previous behavior.

When Mr Miyagi and Daniel return to the bonsai shop they find all the stock has gone to be replaced with an application for the All Valley Karate Tournament. To help replace the missing bonsai, Daniel attempts to retrieve a very rare tree that Miyagi brought back from Okinawa and planted part way down a cliff. He tries to climb down the cliff only for Mike Barnes and a few henchmen to retract the climbing rope leaving Daniel stranded on the cliff side, giving him no option other than to sign up for the tournament. Now back at the top of the cliff and after Daniel has singed the application, Mike breaks the rare bonsai. Daniel returns to the shop with the broken tree which Miyagi sets about fixing, he also refuses to train Daniel for the All Valley Karate Tournament.

The Karate Kid III Terry

This is when Terry Silver steps in and suggests that he train Daniel for the competition instead…only he trains him at the Cobra Kai dojo using very brutal and violent techniques. Terry pushes Daniel beyond the limit as he becomes increasingly more distanced form Miyagi as Terry continues to poison Daniel’s mind. It is when Daniel gets involved in a fight at a nightclub that he realises just how aggressive he has become and nothing like the person Mr Miyagi taught him to be. Ashamed, Daniel goes back to Miyagi and apologises. Daniel then goes to tell Terry that he will not be taking part in the All Valley Karate Tournament after all and this is when Terry reveals his master plan of revenge and to ruin Daniel as he brings out both Daniel’s main aggressor Mike Barnes and the not really dead John Kreese. Mike beats the crap out of Daniel and this is where Mr Miyagi intervenes and finally agrees to train Daniel for the tournament.

Its the big day and both Mike Barnes and Daniel reach the finals and Daniel takes a beating leading him to want to concede. Miyagi urges Daniel to continue and go on to win while the Cobra Kai are given a lifetime ban on competing on future tournaments due to their actions.

My View

I really have little to say about this one, its pretty damn terrible. Nothing more than a lazy re-hash of the original with none of its charm or personality. Where as the previous sequel was such a departure form the original that it made very little sense, this one is an horrific mish-mash of the first two films that is spat out with little to no effort. The plot is basically the same as the first flick with the tournament, bullies and all. But then there are those pointless subplots and unimportant story tangents from the second film that just don’t need to be there.

The Karate Kid III Terry Silver

If the film has one saving grace, then it has to be the performance of Thomas Ian Griffith playing the manipulative yet charming bad guy Terry Silver. He’s utterly brilliant and believable in the role as well as being one of those villains you just love to hate. Its a shame as the idea of turning Daniel against Miyagi is an interesting angle to explore, they just did a really shit job of it in the film. It needed less bonsai and more Thomas Ian Griffith.

Time to move on, it can’t get any worse…can it?

The Next Karate Kid

Its abandon ship time for the fourth film in the franchise from 1994 This is the first film in the series not to have John G. Avildsen directing or Ralph Macchio as Daniel, hell even the writer of the first three films Robert Mark Kamen didn’t want anything to do with this one. Instead we have Christopher Cain directing with a then unknown and future Oscar winner Hilary Swank playing The Next Karate Kid. The only returning cast member is Pat Morita as Mr Miyagi.

So this time around Miyagi goes to Boston to accept a commendation for Japanese-American soldiers and his efforts during World War II. While there, Miyagi meets up with Louisa Pierce who is the widow of Miyagi’s commanding officer during the war. As they catch up on old times, Louisa’s granddaughter, Julie (Hilary Swank) makes her appearance. Julie is a troubled teenager with anger issues after the death of her parents in a car crash. This has led to a fragmented relationship between Julie and her grandmother.

Mr Miyagi suggests that Louisa goes to Los Angeles and stay at his house for a break while he says in Boston and takes care of Julie. At school Julie makes friends with a security guard, Eric McGowen who is trying to get into a shady school security fraternity called The Alpha Elite which is led by the self-styled Colonel Dugan. The Alpha Elite are strict and ruthless as they enforce the schools rules using physical force and Ned Randall is one their most aggressive member who continually harasses and hits on Julie unbeknownst to Eric.

The Next Karate Kid

Julie is almost hit by a car and only saved by her relaxes and karate training that she tells Miyagi she learned from her father before he died who in turn learned from his father who was a student of Mr Miyagi many years ago. Julie sneaks into school at night to look after an injured hawk she found. Its during one of her night time skirmishes when she is found and chased through the school by members of The Alpha Elite. Ned manages to get hold of Julie only for her to escape but she is arrested by the police and suspended from school for two weeks by Colonel Dugan. Mr Miyagi uses this time to further teach Julie karate and how her to control her anger.

When she returns to school, Julie discovers that the hawk is now fully healed and lets it go in the wild. Its also prom time at school and Julie goes with Eric which angers Ned. After the prom, Eric drives Julie home and kisses her, unbeknownst to them Ned followed them and saw the kiss. In a fit of rage and jealousy, Ned smashes Eric’s car with a baseball bat and challenges Eric to a fight. However, its not a fair fight as Colonel Dugan and The Alpha Elite all turn up, set fire to Eric’s car and beat the living shit out of him only for Eric to be saved by Miyagi and Julie.

Julie challenges Ned to a fight while Miyagi takes on Colonel Dugan. Of course they win and The Alpha Elite are left disappointed in their leader. The end.

My View

Okay so this is tough as its hard to chose which film is the worst out of this and The Karate Kid Part III. I mean, they are both fucking terrible films, absolutely God awful. I guess even though the third film was terrible, it still had that one redeeming factor of Thomas Ian Griffith playing the villain to perfection…this film has nothing.

Here’s a still from a film called The Karate Dog

Karate Dog

I’ve used this because it has to be a better film than The Next Karate Kid, plus Pat Morita is in it so there’s that connection.

I had little to say about the third film and I have even less to say about this one, its just such a non-film I fail to understand why it even exists. I even think Pat Morita even gave up on the franchise at this point despite agreeing to be in the film as even his performance is below par. If you want to see down right damn fine actress Hilary Swank before she became a respected Oscar winner in a terrible film then this is the film for you.

I’m done with this one.

The Karate Kid

No I’ve not accidentally covered the first film again, this is the remake from 2010 directed by Harald Zwart. Of course there are no returning characters from the originals here with it being a remake. Instead we have all new characters with Dre Parker (Jaden Smith) and Mr Han (Jackie Chan). With the basic premise being the same as the original only with a shift in location from America to China.

The Karate Kid 2010

So Dre and his mother Shelly (Taraji P. Henson) move from Detroit to Beijing after Shelly gets a new job. While out enjoying the sights of Beijing, Dre meets Meiying (Wenwen Han), a young violinist and the two develop a friendship. Enter Cheng (Zhenwei Wang) a young kung fu (yes kung fu, not karate) student who takes a disliking to Dre and his attraction to Meiying. So the fighting and bullying begins both in and out of school as Cheng continually hassles Dre. During one particular fight when Cheng and his cohorts corner Dre and beat the crap out of him, a maintenance man, Mr Han steps in and defends Dre. The gang turn their attention to Mr Han who ends up taking them all on revealing himself to be a bit of a kung fu (not karate) expert himself.

Han then tends to Dre’s injuries and points out that the boys are not the bad ones, its their teacher who is. Dre asks Han to teach him kung fu (still no karate) which Han refuses to do. But Mr Han suggests they talk to Cheng’s teacher, Master Li (Yu Rongguang), at the Fighting Dragon dojo to make peace. Of course (just like the original) this does not work out as planned and the inevitable martial arts tournament is suggested where Dre can take on Cheng and the rest of the students of the Fighting Dragon dojo instead.

So Mr Han ends up teaching Dre kung fu (not karate) and trains him for the up coming tournament. Dre’s relationship with Meiying continues as the two get increasing closer. Dre suggests that they skip school for a day of fun which leads to Meiying almost being late for an important violin audition. Meiying’s parents see Dre as a bad influence on their daughter and forbid them from seeing each other. One night, Dre goes to Mr Han’s home to find him drunk and smashing up his prized, classic car he had been working on. Han tells Dre this is sort of a tradition with him and that every year he fixes up the same car and every year she smashes it as a way to vent his anger over an accident Han had years ago when he crashed the same car killing his wife and ten year old son. Dre promises to try harder in his training and take it more seriously out of respect for Han and everything he had lost.

The two grow closer and Dre works harder than ever before in his training. Han even helps Dre write a letter to Meiying’s father in Chinese as a way of an apology for his previous behavior. The apology is accepted and Dre is told that Meiying will be at the tournament to offer support.

The Karate Kid 2010 Dre

So its fight day and (just like the original) Dre advances to the semi-finals, there’s some illegal moves, broken leg and so on. Dre and Cheng go up against each other and Dre does some flip kick that’s even sillier than the crane kick form the original. Dre wins, Cheng has a new found respect for him and an ends well.

My View

Okay so here goes a bold statement that will probably incite anger…I much prefer this remake over the original. I mentioned at the start how I wasn’t much a fan of the original anyway but enjoyed watching it for this retrospective – so that could play a bit part in why I prefer this version. I don’t know, the remake just feels a lot more “authentic” over the original. In the original, they hired American actors do the stiff martial arts, in this they hired martial artists to do some acting and the difference on screen is night and day. There are some great action sequences and fights in this one and moving the location to China adds to that previously mentioned authenticity. This feels and looks like a genuine martial arts film where as the original feels and looks like an American TV movie.

The acting is far superior in this version too, though I really, really do not like Jaden Smith at all and in this, he’s barely passable as an actor. But having the living legend that is Jackie Chan playing the mentor figure is genus and I found him far more believable and engaging as Mr Han than Pat Morita’s Mr Miyagi in the original…and I love Mr Miyagi as hes the only consistently good thing in the original films, except that awful fourth film.

The Karate Kid 2010 Mr Han

There are a lot of beats repeated directly from the original in this, yes the basic plot is the same, yes the bullies are back and yes its all boils down to a tournament that offers no surprises, you know Dre will win and earn the respect of his enemies. But its overall better written and presented.

Yes I guess I’d better mention it. There was a lot of backlash over the title of the film seeing as there is no karate in the film and instead features kung fu, but still called The Karate Kid. My retort is, does it really matter? When watching a film are you invested more in the plot and characters you are watching or the title? Enjoy the flick ignore the title.

Now before I get into the new TV show, I just want to quickly cover the other TV show…Oh yes there was another one.

The Karate Kid

This one was an animated TV show that only lasted one season in 1989. None of the original cast return. Daniel and Mr Miyagi are voiced by Joey Dedio and Robert Ito respectively. Very loosely based on the film franchise…very loosely indeed.

While the show retains the characters of Daniel and Mr Miyagi, that’s about the only connection to the film. The series has pretty much nothing to do with karate, kids, tournaments or karate kids in tournaments. Instead it goes for an action/adventure kind of thing that has Daniel and Miyagi trying to recover a stolen miniature shrine with magic powers that takes them on an adventure around the world.

The Karate Kid Animated

There were only ever thirteen episodes made and they all followed the same basic formula. Mr Miyagi would find some info on where the mysterious shrine was for that particular episode, Daniel and and new character Taki would have to go to wherever the shrine was last seen, defeat the bad guys who were also after it, obtain the shrine only to have it escape their grasp somehow meaning they would have to repeat the whole process next episode. It was standard kids Saturday morning cartoon stuff.

My View

You know what, this show was actually pretty good fun. Yeah it has nothing to do with the franchise its based on I admit, but these kind of shows were everywhere back then (there as an animated version of Police Academy for example). So for one of these animated shows based of an existing and popular film franchise, this ain’t half bad.

Yeah its a bit formulaic and one episode is hard to distinguish for the last but overall it was a decent action/adventure show aimed at kids. If you can find it, check it out.

Just to throw in a bit of random trivia and link everything together. James Avery lent his voice to this animated show and he also appeared as Uncle Phil in The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air which starred Will Smith. Will also produced the remake of The Karate Kid which starred his son Jaden Smith. How that for a little six degrees of separation? By the way, Six Degrees of Separation is an early film for Will Smith who was in The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air which also featured James Avery who lent his voice…

And now finally, the reason I began writing this article…

Cobra Kai

This show works as a direct sequel to the movies and offers plenty of in-jokes and references for the hardened fan to spot. Bringing back Ralph Macchio as Daniel LaRusso and even his old rival William Zabka as Johnny Lawrence who hadn’t been part of the franchise since his short cameo at the start of the first sequel in 1986. Sadly no Mr Miyagi as Pat Morita died back in 2005. The show aired in 2018 exclusively on YouTube as part of their YouTube Premium streaming subscription service.

Cobra Kai

The show tells the story of both Daniel and Johnny thirty plus years after the events of the films. Daniel is now a family man with a daughter and owns a very successful car dealership. While Johnny is less successful, a bit of a down and out guy who decides to re-open the Cobra Kai dojo in an attempt to redeem himself using the same brutal methods he was taught while he was a student there. The dojo begins to attract some questionable students including Johnny’s star pupil Miguel Diaz (Xolo Maridueña) who Johnny slowly changes from mild mannered kid to aggressive karate student.

Meanwhile, Johnny’s estranged son, Robby Keene (Tanner Buchanan) starts work at Daniel’s car dealership where Daniel teaches Robby the life lessons he learned from Mr Miyagi. Caught in the middle of all of this is Daniel’s daughter, Samantha (Mary Mouser) who finds herself torn between the love for her father and loyalty toward her friends. Over the course of the series Daniel and Johnny butt heads, reignite old rivalries and are haunted by the ghosts of their past.

My View

I have to be honest and tell you that I’ve not seen all of the episodes yet, but I am over halfway through the ten so far and will watch the rest after I’ve finished this (long) article. But up to this point, I’m loving the show. I think its a brilliant and refreshing series and while it offers a new spin on the whole The Karate Kid franchise, it still has one foot firmly in the 80s and reminds you it all takes place in the same universe as the films without it being overbearing. Perhaps one of the best bits of the first episode is when Daniel and Johnny meet for the first time in decades and address a major plot-hole in the first film involving that stupid crane kick which given the rules for the tournament, was illegal and Daniel should’ve been disqualified. There are plenty of these little throwbacks and references just to let you know the writers are respecting the films but still doing their own thing too. Even Cobra Kai‘s lifetime ban from the third film is addressed, the writers really did their homework for this show.

I’m not a big fan of T.V. shows, I just find they drag on endlessly. How the hell anyone can sit there and watch Game of Thrones without falling asleep I have no idea. But Cobra Kai is different, the episodes are short coming in at around 23-25 mins each. This makes them fast paced, snappy and more importantly –  entertaining. There are jokes as well as more serious and emotional elements, of course there’s plenty of fighting too. Its a nice little concoction of elements that all work together to make a refreshing and delightful series. Plus the show does something I mentioned about the first film and how Johnny is generally a good guy, just mislead/treated. This show delves into his past a little and shows why he is the asshole he became.

Cobra Kai Daniel and Johnny

I think the reason the show is called Cobra Kai and not The Karate Kid is because its more of an ensemble affair with multiple characters and stories intertwining instead of focusing on one particular character like the movies did. The cast are great and the kids are the paint that create the main picture while Daniel and Johnny’s history is the canvas where the main story unfolds but is just as important. Everything just works so damn well. Oh yeah, it has an awesome soundtrack too.

The show has been renewed for a second season which will air next year with ten more episodes. I’m really looking forward to it.


Well there you go, The Karate Kid franchise covered in its entirety (except for the video games). Its a bit of a mixed bag when it comes to quality and as I said at the very start, I was never a big fan of the first movie. But I have thoroughly enjoyed going through the franchise and ending on the high note that is Cobra Kai. I just hope you have enjoyed reading (especially you Mike).

Cobra Kai Daniel and Johnny Fight

Now I just need to finish up the last few episodes of Cobra Kai and wait for the second season…no mercy!

Hellraiser: Judgment…Finally!

At the end of my Hellraiser retrospective from last Halloween, I mentioned how a tenth film in the franchise – Hellraiser: Judgment had been completed but not yet released. Well now the flick has finally been released. But the big question is, what is worth the wait?

Well seeing as I covered every film in the franchise from start to end, I guess I have to sit thought this one as well, even if just for the sake of completion. What demons (aside from Americans not being able to spell ‘judgement’ correctly) does this film hold. Is it on par with the first two films, is it a worthy sequel…or am I about to return to the depths of hell that was Hellraiser: Revelations?

Well I can’t put this off any longer so here it is.

Hellraiser: Judgment

Pinhead

From writer/director/actor Gary J. Tunnicliffe comes the tenth film in the Hellraiser movie series. Tunnicliffe is a bit of a Hellraiser veteran as he started out as a make-up artist on Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth through to Hellraiser: Hellworld – so he’s been a part of the franchise for many, many years. This flick marks his first time sitting in the director’s chair but not his first writing credit in the series as he wrote the previous film Hellraiser: Revelations. So with so such a deep pedigree within Hellraiser – he must know what he’s doing right?

Okay so its synopsis time. The film starts in Hell with Pinhead (Paul T Taylor) and The Auditor (Gary J. Tunnicliffe) discussing how they can update and evolve their soul harvesting methods. Technology on Earth has evolved over the last few decades or so and humans are no longer interested in solving the puzzle boxes that open gateways to Hell.

Meanwhile on Earth, two brothers Sean (Damon Carney) and David Carter (Randy Wayne) who are detectives are investigating a series of brutal murders based on the Ten Commandments by a killer known as “The Preceptor”. They are joined by Detective Christine Egerton (Alexandra Harris) and they discover links to a known criminal, Karl Watkins (Jeff Fenter) who has gone missing. While they go searching Watkins’ last known location, Sean falls unconscious and wakes in Hell to be saved by the angel Jophiel (Helena Grace Donald). Sean escapes Hell but not before taking the infamous puzzle box with him. But the Cenobites are not going to let Sean escape quite so easily.

My View

This film follows the same tradition of the last few Hellraiser sequels, that its one of those ‘straight to DVD’ pictures. So who this “The Preceptor”, the person going around killing people? Well its meant to be kept secret until an ‘unexpected’ reveal…but if you have an IQ over 4 than you’ll work it out pretty quickly – lets just say that Sean is depicted as being a detective with numerous problems…

The Auditor

Gary J. Tunnicliffe needs to stick to make-up effects – he’s amazing at those and this film does feature some truly stunning visuals as he was also the make-up effects designer for this one. There are some impressively disgusting moments that do feel very, very Hellraiser and I can not sing the praises of this film in that regard enough. But…he just can’t write or direct. The last flick, Hellraiser: Revelations was also written by Tunnicliffe and it is fucking terrible. The plot was bland and the characters were flat, just as they are here too. This is such a ‘meh’ film that I just can’t get either annoyed or excited about it.

I think the idea behind this one was to reboot the franchise and try to start anew, they even left it open for a sequel with one of those annoyingly popular posts credits scenes – but it fails on every level (aside from the effects work). I really enjoyed Paul T Taylor as the new Pinhead – he’s no Doug Bradley sure, but he’s certainly a hell of a lot better than Stephan Smith Collins from Hellraiser: Revelations. And that’s about it for anything good about this one. Its not the worst of the Hellraiser flick, not even close – but I can’t say its any good either. It’s Hellraiser: Hellworld quality, its a film that just exists when it doesn’t need to.

Pinhead: “Obsolete. Irrelevant in an age when desire has become amplified but where lust can be sated electronically. We need something more than just a wooden box.”


The franchise has two options from this point. Either just let it die (please no more sequels), its been on its last legs for decades now and needs to be put down. Or just let Clive Barker back in. He wanted to remake his original a few years back but the studio didn’t think that was a good idea – but green-lit all the terrible sequels since then?

This film was bad and I feel a little depressed after going through the whole franchise. But I do have one big reason to celebrate…I have no more Hellraiser films to watch and my Hellraiser retrospective is complete!

Tear Apart

Black Mirror – Every Episode Reviewed

I don’t usually cover TV shows on this blog, but I’m making an exception for this one because this show is amazing.

I guess that first I should quickly go over exactly what the show is about for anyone not in the know. Black Mirror is an anthology TV series from writer, presenter and producer – Charlie Brooker. Brooker is one of the finest acerbic, satirical writers we have here in England, his pessimistic style is second to none as he always manages to find the worst of any situation and make miserable poetry from the most dreary of topics with his use of very, very dark humour. So don’t expect happy, unicorns riding rainbows stories here – these tales are bleak, depressing and extremely downbeat.

Charlie Brooker

Black Mirror started out on the British Channel 4 for 2 seasons before being snapped up by Netflix for the 3rd and latest 4th season. As I mentioned before, its an anthology show with each story being self contained – however all the stories follow a theme and that is one of technology, the stories often show how impressive and useful technology can go very badly wrong . Brooker uses things like Facebook, Twitter, The Internet and other modern revelations to tell often bleak and disturbing yarns with twists and stings in the tail covering the pitfalls of modern technology and trends. Think Tales From The Crypt but with technology instead of horror. Most episodes are an hour long or more – with the odd exception of many of the earlier ones which run at around 45 minutes. The first and second season only contain 3 episodes each and then there was a Christmas special too. But the episode count was upped to 6 per season when Netflix brought the show from season 3 onward, bringing the total episodes to 19. While each story is self contained, from season 3 onward – Brooker started to include nods, references and Easter eggs in episodes that relate to others, meaning that all the stories (while separate) take place in one shared universe.

I’m a big fan of Charlie Brooker and I had heard a lot about this show before but never actually got around to watching it. Then season 4 aired – so I thought I would put the effort in to watch every episode from start to finish… and I have to say I thought it was sheer brilliance with every single episode being good to utter genius – not a single dud in the lot. Having just finished every episode (several more than once) including the newest season 4. I thought I would go through each and every episode with a brief synopsis before offering my view on all of them.

Now be warned, this is a show worth going into blind. I will try to avoid any major spoilers and not give away any of the endings. But as I’m covering every episode, endings will be mentioned/referenced… some mild spoilers could pop up. If you don’t want anything spoilt at all, just go watch Black Mirror now and then come back and read this article later.

Season 1 (2011)

The National Anthem

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British Prime Minister, Michael Callow (Rory Kinnear) is woken up in the night by a phone-call from the Home Secretary Alex Cairns (Lindsay Duncan). Callow is told that much loved member of the Royal Family – Princess Susannah (Lydia Wilson) has been kidnapped and being held for ransom. But the kidnapper does not want money…they want something very different and if Prime Minister Callow does not comply, then Princess Susannah will be killed. With the entire British nation as well as a big chunk of the rest of the world following the story and watching online – will Callow give into the kidnapper’s demands or will he let the Princess die?

My View

A great introduction to the twisted and yet beautiful mind of Charlie Brooker – if you have never experienced his genius writing before, then you can’t go far wrong with this story. Its perverted, twisted and ‘as black as night’ funny. The ransom Callow has to pay is beyond anything you could probably think up. The twist at the end is as jet black funny as it is disturbing when all is revealed and you realise just what Callow has done…stay tuned during the credits to get the final punch in the gut. This episode sets the downbeat standard that the other episodes will follow.

Fifteen Million Merits

Fifteen Million Merits

Set in the future where people are required to cycle on exercise bikes in order to power their living quarters and earn currency called ‘merits’ which are used to buy food, goods, entertainment, etc. This one tells the story of Bing (Daniel Kaluuya) who inherited fifteen million merits from his dead brother. Bing meets Abi Khan (Jessica Brown Findlay) and the two strike up a friendship. Abi is a keen singer and when Bing overhears her talent, he suggests that she tries out for the talent show – Hot Shot. Only problem is that the entrance fee is fifteen million merits – which Abi does not have…but Bing does. So he buys and gifts Abi an entrance ticket giving away his entire fortune so she can bring her dreams to life. Only things do not work out exactly as planned and Bing is left merit-less unable to buy the most basic of essentials…for now.

My View

I love the setting of the tale – a near future with technological advancements yet still being restricted. The visual style is sublime and the story pokes fun at talent shows like The X-Factor and its ilk – there’s even a Simon Cowell parody thrown in too. The twist in this one was unexpected and really caught me off guard, it felt like being hit in the face with a sledgehammer. The acting is top-notch and the juxtaposition between the flowering romance between Bing and Abi compared to what happens after the talent show audition is emotionally draining as is what happens to Bing by the time the end credits roll.

The Entire History of You

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Set in a future where many people have had a groundbreaking technology called ‘grains’ implanted behind their ear. This ‘grain’ allows you to record anything the person sees or hears and then play it back anytime they want so they can relive memories from the past in vivid detail. Liam Foxwell (Toby Kebbell) is a young lawyer who just had an appraisal at work that he felt went particularly badly. He begins to replay the memory so he can see where he went wrong.  His wife Ffion (Jodie Whittaker) tries to get Liam’s mind off his failure by taking him to a dinner party where he begins to notice that his wife seems to be particularly fond of one guest – Jonas (Tom Cullen). Liam and Ffion return home but he becomes obsessed that something more than just friendship is going on between his wife and Jonas. Maybe her own ‘grain’ will reveal the truth?

My View

Just as a quick side-note: this is the only episode in the entire series so far that was not written by or based on a story Charlie Brooker. This one was written by Jesse Armstrong (Peep Show, The Thick of It). But don’t let a change in writer fool you as this is just as dark and disturbing as anything Brooker has written. Relationships are pushed to breaking point and beyond as Liam’s obsession gets out of hand. In keeping with Black Mirror tradition – the ending is unsettling and grim. The last few ending scenes are difficult to watch and while the direction the story goes in is easy to predict – it still packs a punch regardless.

Just thought I’d throw this tit-bit in too. Robert Downey. Jr actually optioned this episode to be turned in to a big Hollywood movie by his own production company – Team Downey. But as of writing, the film has yet to be made.

Season 2 (2013)

Be Right Back

Be Right Back

Young couple – Martha (Hayley Atwell) and Ash (Domhnall Gleeson) move into their new home in the countryside. While Ash is returning the van he hired for the move, he crashes and dies. Soon after and Martha discovers that she is pregnant, worrying about raising a child alone and desperately missing her partner, Martha tries out a new online service that uses the deceased’s online profile and communications to create a virtual Ash that she can talk to via a chat-bot. The more information of Ash it has, the more accurate the bot can be. So Martha begins to upload photos and videos of Ash so the bot can mimic his look and voice. The virtual Ash tells Martha about an experimental technology that allows the artificial persona to be uploaded to a blank, synthetic body – creating an android that looks and acts almost just like the real Ash before he died. But will the relationship work out and what kind of a father will the android be?

My View

This one has a really interesting concept behind it. I mean, if you could bring a loved one back via autonomation using their personal profiles as a basis…would you? Its a very melancholy yarn that breaks the heart a little by the end. A dramatic, sci-fi parable about grief and love which given the technology used, doesn’t seem that far-fetched. The brilliant performances by the two leads adds a lot of depth and believability to this haunting story. Well worth a watch.

White Bear

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Waking up in an unknown house and suffering from amnesia a young woman (Lenora Crichlow) sets out to try and find out who and where she is. The only clue she has is a strange symbol being broadcast on the TV screens in the house. As she heads outside, she notices people just standing around specifically watching her, filming and taking photos with no one willing to help. She starts to get little flashbacks to a toddler, her daughter possibly? She is hunted by a shotgun wielding man wearing a mask with that same symbol from the house. As she runs for help, she meets Jem (Tuppence Middleton) who explains that the symbol began appearing on TV, computer and phone screens, turning most people into passive voyeurs and others into killers. Jem has a plan to reach the transmitter at White Bear to destroy it to stop the broadcasting of the symbol and she takes the amnesia sufferer with her. Along the way the amnesia girl starts to get more and more flashbacks of her daughter, partner/husband, locales and even the name ‘White Bear’ seems to be familiar to her too…but why?

My View

Just have to get this out of the way, this is one of the best episodes of the entire series. The ending is fucking brilliant and while as dark as other twist endings – its also unbelievably satisfying and I guarantee you’ll crack a wry smile of satisfaction once the whole picture has been revealed. Everything comes together perfectly, the acting is great, the story is compelling, the pacing is sublime and the ending is a pure genius. A fantastic episode and one worth repeat viewings so you can pick up on all the well placed and subtle hints peppered throughout the plot.

The Waldo Moment

The Waldo Moment

Struggling comedian Jamie Salter (Daniel Rigby) plays the part of a satirical animated blue bear called Waldo on a late-night, topical comedy show. Waldo becomes a huge sensation with the British public, so much so that he is even given his very own show. Despite the success of the Waldo character, his creator Jamie is depressed and feels that his life is unsatisfactory. When Jamie/Waldo crosses paths with Conservative candidate Liam Monroe (Tobias Menzies) things start to get heated as their rivalry grows. Waldo, producer Jack Napier (Jason Flemyng) suggests that Waldo should run against real politicians in an upcoming by-election. During the campaign Jamie meets Gwendolyn Harris (Chloe Pirrie), Labour candidate who, despite having no chance of winning, is entering the by-election to further her own political career. Jamie and Gwendolyn start a relationship which quickly goes awry and the rivalry between Jamie/Waldo and Liam Monroe reaches boiling point while Jaime’s life begins to fall apart and he loses control of his creation.

My View 

You know how I said in the introduction that there is not a single dud episode in the entire series? I still stand by that, but this one comes close – not because its a bad episode as its not, but more due to the fact that other episodes have been so damn great that this one just does not live up to the rest. Its a good episode but one that I feel Brooker mis-wrote, which is strange given that fact he is an amazing political satirist and this topic is right up his street. The story just lacks any real punch or depth and the ending is rather bland. The episode has some great moments – such as the late-night, topical comedy show that Waldo gets his big break on as I feel the presenter is very Brooker-esque and it seems he was making fun of himself a little. But overall, its just a ‘good’ episode that ultimately misses the mark.

Christmas Special (2014)

White Christmas

White Christmas

Matt Trent (Jon Hamm) and Joe Potter (Rafe Spall) are two lonely guys stuck in a remote house on Christmas. The two have hardly spoken in to each other in five years. Joe seems reluctant to talk about anything, so Matt decides to open up and tell Joe about himself. This takes us to the first flashback where it is revealed that Matt works as a dating coach using the ever present ‘Z-Eye’ technology, an augmented reality device that grants access to the Internet and allows Matt to see and hear what his clients witness and provide instructions to them in real time. Matt tells a story of one of his clients before revealing that the dating coach is just something he does on the side. Matt then tells Joe about his real job – which is told in another flashback. Matt’s real job has him coaching artificial intelligence inside small sized computer chips known as ‘cookies’ to help make the lives of humans easier around the house. At this point, back in the remote house, Joe begins to open up to Matt and he tells his own story about his failed relationship with Beth (Janet Montgomery) via yet another flashback.

My View

The strange thing about this episode is that I began to watch Black Mirror for the first time over the festive period and just be sheer coincidence – I watched this episode on Christmas Eve. And I have to say that this will now become a Christmas tradition to watch this episode every year around the same time. This is an utterly brilliant story and one that is well written and told. I suppose you could look a this as an anthology story within an anthology as there are really four stories contained in this one episode – the three flashbacks and the ‘current’ events, its also one of the longer episodes with a 74 minute run-time as well as the final episode before the switch to Netflix. The four stories all seem separate at first but by the time Joe finally reveals more about his past and confides in Matt, all the strands come together beautifully and you finally see the big picture. The ending is well written and in true Black Mirror fashion…pretty bleak and downbeat too. An absolute cracker of a tale and one of those that you can really enjoy repeat viewings of as you’ll notice the subtle, well placed clues second, third, forth time around as to what is going on.

Also worth noting that this is the episode where Brooker began inserting the nods and references to previous episodes and where the whole shared universe really began. So its worth keeping an eye out for those along the way as there are several to spot. And keep your eyes peeled for even more references in other episodes from this point on.

Season 3 (2016)

Nosedive

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Using a combination of eye implants and mobile devices – society has the ability to share and rate everyday activities on a scale of 1 to 5 stars. One’s rating can have an affect on their socioeconomic status. Lacie Pound (Bryce Dallas Howard) holds a 4.2 overall rating but needs a 4.5 to get a discount on her dream apartment. She tires hard to improve her rating by being overtly nice to any and everyone she meets so they rate her higher but her pleasant persona does little to help. Lacie takes a photograph of Mr. Rags, a teddy bear that she and childhood friend, Naomi (Alice Eve) made together when they were children. Naomi is a very successful socialite and very highly rated. Touched by the fond memories of Mr. Rags, Naomi asks Lacie to be maid of honour at her up and coming wedding. Lacie agrees as she thinks this could massively help her increase her rating. She writes a speech and everything – but it is when Lacie heads off to the wedding that things start to go wrong.

My View

This was the first show after the switch to Netflix and you can really tell the difference. The increase in budget shows on screen, the style is much brighter, the colours more vivid and the overall production is far more impressive. But don’t think that means the stories themselves are going soft. This is a great little story and one that pokes fun at all the people who are desperate for ‘likes and shares’ on social media platforms today. It a well observed and written satire that hits all the right buttons. The ending is quite different to others and I may even say that this one has some what of a happy ending…’happy’ for Black Mirror anyway. I really enjoyed this one – but that is probably as I detest all that attention seeking ‘like me’ on social media.

Playtest

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Cooper (Wyatt Russell – son of Kurt) leaves home to travel the world. The final leg of his tour sees him end up in London where he meets a tech journalist, Sonja (Hannah John-Kamen). Cooper’s mother calls him several times but he never answers the phone, purposely ignoring her. During his stay in London, Cooper finds his bank account has been hacked and all his money has gone. Now penniless and stuck in England, he turns to Sonja for help who shows him an app called Oddjobs which offers short term employment. SaitoGemu, a video game development company famed for their horror games are looking for people to playtest their latest software, which Cooper signs up for. At the company, Cooper meets Katie (Wunmi Mosaku), who asks him to try out a piece of their new technology – a kind of augmented reality device that can blur the lines between real life and video games. This was just an introduction to the main event and Katie takes Cooper to meet Shou (Ken Yamamura) who created the company and the advanced technology for their games. Cooper is then invited to take part in horror game where he is taken to a real mansion and left alone to face whatever horrors the mansion holds.

My View

I didn’t know who it was that played Cooper in this while I was watching it but found him very familiar and charming. Afterwards, I did some research and discovered that he was the son of Kurt Russell. Knowing that, you can really see a resemblance in both their looks and mannerisms. This one is a great tale and particularly great fun if you’re an avid gamer like myself as its full of nods and references to famous games – one so subtlety well done its easy to miss at first but explains a lot of what is going on. There are some genuine scares in this one as Cooper is stuck in the mansion and begins to question his own sanity. The ending is a belter and one that will frustrate as well as entertain. This is what Black Mirror does best with its dark and twisted storytelling – one of the great episodes and highlights of the show.

Shut Up and Dance

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While trying to clear his laptop of malware, teenager Kenny (Alex Lawther) downloads a purported anti-malware tool called Shrive. Once his laptop is clear of viruses, he decides to ‘enjoy himself’ over some adult entertainment – not knowing that the Shrive tool he used actually allows an unseen hacker to record Kenny through his laptop camera. The hacker then emails Kenny and says that they will send the video of him doing the ‘five knuckle shuffle’ to all his friends and family unless he does as the hacker asks. Kenny is sent on a chase around the city which evetually leas him to meet Hector (Jerome Flynn). It is revealed that Hector is also being blackmailed by the same hacker over him cheating on his wife with a prostitute. Both Kenny and Hector are sent on a very specific task by the hacker and if they fail, then the hacker will release the information they hold over both of them.

My View

This is a heart-pounding episode, its tense, thrilling and blisters along right up to the massive punch in the face ending. Brooker’s writing and storytelling are brilliant here as the story moves along and keeps you guessing what is going on right up to the beautifully brutal twist end. Its a simple tale, but told incredibly well with great performances. Its not preachy, it doesn’t try to get some kind of message across. Its just good ole’ plain Black Mirror storytelling with one of the best endings in the series and one you will want to watch again.

San Junipero

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A nervous and shy young woman, Yorkie (Mackenzie Davis), discovers the beach-side party town of San Junipero. Its 1987, the time of big shoulder pads and even bigger hair. In San Junipero anything goes as long as its fun. Yorkie meets Kelly (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) who is a party girl through and through – the complete antithesis to the sheltered and bashful Yorkie. The two strike up a friendship as Kelly teaches Yorkie to loosen up and enjoy herself. Their friendship blossoms into romance and Yorkie and Kelly have sex, but when Yorkie tries to find Kelly later – she is nowhere to be found. As Yorkie searches for Kelly, the truth is slowly revealed.

My View

Many people consider this to be the best episode of the whole series. Its not my personal favourite but its right up there. I wrote the synopsis of this one quite short as the twist doesn’t really come at the end, but more so a little over halfway through and I didn’t want to spoil too much. This really is a wonderful piece of storytelling and I can understand why so many think of it as the best episode so far. Its well designed and the soundtrack is more than just a great reminder of the 80s as the songs have been very specifically chosen to give some subtle clues along the way, so keep them ears open. The midway reveal is a very poignant one and the overall story and end in really quite heartbreaking but heartwarming at the same time. But even with the mid-twist in this one, there is still an ending that will leave you emotionally drained. Yet another wonderful episode and one that offers a great change of pace and a very bitter-sweet conclusion.

Men Against Fire

Men Against Fire

‘Stripe’ Koinange (Malachi Kirby) and ‘Hunter’ Raiman (Madeline Brewer) are soldiers working for an unknown military organisation. There mission is to eliminate mutated humans called ‘roaches’ in Denmark. The soldiers have a neural implant called ‘MASS’ that enhances the processing of their senses and provides useful data via augmented reality. Lead by Medina (Sarah Snook) the team search and interrogate a small farming village they suspect are harbouring these so called roaches. Stripe discovers a whole hidden nest of roaches, humanoid like creatures with pale skin and razor sharp teeth. He and Hunter open fire killing them all. Stripe notices one of the roaches was holding a strange LED device and as he examines it, it flashes him in the eyes. The device disrupts his MASS interface which causes glitches. Sent out on another mission to hunt roaches, the MASS implant get worse and worse as Stripe begins to experience further glitches he sees things other soldiers can not, including what these roach creatures truly are.

My View

This one is one of the lesser episodes for me. You can pretty much see the twist coming early on and the story is pretty bland for Black Mirror. There is that trademark final gut-twist epilogue that leaves you on a downer which is probably the best part of the whole thing. Its not a terrible tale, but it certainly lacks a lot of what other episodes have.

Hated in the Nation

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Karin Parke (Kelly Macdonald) is a Chief Inspector investigating the gruesome murder  of Jo Powers (Elizabeth Berrington) along with trainee Detective Constable Blue Coulson (Faye Marsay). Jo was a journalist who had been receiving online death threats prior to her murder. Her husband claims that Jo cut her own throat with a broken wine bottle and injured him in the process as he tired to stop her, a story the police find hard to believe and suspect the husband of being the murderer. The next day and a rapper named Tusk (Charles Babalola) is also found dead after becoming a target of online hate too. The two deaths are linked to an online social media hashtag ‘game’ called ‘Game of Consequences’ where the public vote who should die next by simply leaving #DeathTo (name of victim here) on Twitter. Further investigation reveals that both deaths were caused by small, robotic bees or Autonomous Drone Insects (ADIs). These ADIs are a creation a company called Granular who use the ADIs to counteract the falling bee population. Are Granular and their ADIs really responsible for these deaths, can Karin and Blue get to the next victim of the #DeathTo game before its too late?

My View

This is the longest episode so far coming in at just under 90 minutes – its pretty much movie length. This is a great one, a nice detective thriller that brilliantly uses those annoying hashtag things people set up in a vein attempt to become popular. A compelling watch with wonderfully observed satire dished up in that unique way only Charlie Brooker can do. The ending features not only a great twist but also a devastating climax, but even before you get to the end you have a hell of a lot of story that is captivating and engrossing throughout. One of the many highlights of the series with great acting from start to finish.

Season 4 (2017)

USS Callister

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Robert Daly (Jesse Plemons) is the Chief Technical Officer and co-founder of Callister Inc. A company known for making a massively multiplayer online game called ‘Infinity’ which uses neural interfaces to play the game in a simulated reality. His co-workers dislike him and he’s treated with no respect. New employee, Nanette Cole (Cristin Milioti) is impressed with the game coding and she learns that Robert is a big fan of an old sci-fi TV show called ‘Space Fleet’. After work, Robert returns home and logs onto play a game of Infinity that is modded to incorporate elements of his favourite show Space Fleet. In the game Robert is the Captain of a spaceship, the USS Callister and members of his crew are represented by digital versions of his co-workers. As Captain, he is admired, respected and feared – the complete opposite to his real work-life. Robert often uses the game to take out the frustrations of his work life on the in-game avatars of his work colleagues. The next day at work, Robert take a shining to new employee Nanette – he swipes a disposed cup of coffee that she drank from and uses the DNA on it to upload a version of her into his modded game. Nanette wakes up inside Infinity confused and not knowing where she is. She finds her work/crew mates and they disclose everything about them and her being digital clones of their real selves and how Robert in the game is a tyrant who takes out his real world frustrations on the digital versions of his work colleagues. When Nanette refuses to cooperate with the overbearing Captain and his demands, she comes up with a plan to overthrow him, escape the game, free herself and the rest of the crew.

My View

The production on this one is brilliant, a wonderful pastiche of Star Trek wrapped around a story about a cyberbully. There is a real and genuine story being told here and the episode has a real dark tone to it, but then its also littered with funny one liners and visual jokes too. Robert Daly is a disgusting villain when in the game world but then you feel real sympathy for him being looked down on in the real world. Its an interesting dichotomy and one that works fantastically well in this yarn. An excellent start to the new season with great comic moments engulfed in a bleak and dark tale. The ending is also classic Black Mirror gloom with a little silver lining snuck in.

Arkangel

Arkangel

3 year old Sara Sambrell (Aniya Hodge) goes missing while chasing after a cat in a park. After a search, she is found safe and well near some train tracks. Her mother, Marie (Rosemarie DeWitt) agrees to participate in a free trial for something called ‘Arkangel’ – a chip that when placed inside the child’s brain that allows the parents to track them as well as monitor their health, detect the child’s stress levels, enable the parents to see whatever the child sees though a tablet and then censor anything out that the child should not be seeing. Years later and 9 year old Sara is known as ‘the walking snitch’ among her classmates at school because of her chip. A troublesome older schoolmate known as ‘Trick’ (Nicky Torchia) tries to introduce Sara to violent videos on the internet, but as she can not see them due to the chip, he instead explains violence to her as well as what blood is. Back at home and Sara tires to draw a violent picture using her own blood that she draws from her own finger. Marie sees this through her tablet and tries to intervene, but Sara lashes out and hits her mom. Marie becomes concerned over her daughters mental health due to the chip and seeks help from a doctor who tells her that the Arkangel chip can not be removed, but that she should turn the tablet off and never use the Arkangel system again. Marie does so and lets Sara out in the world for the first time without restraint on what she can see. While at school Trick shows Sara violence and sexual videos for the first time.  Now 15 and Sara (Brenna Harding) grows up without Arkangel protecting her. Her personality changes due to the influence of old school friend Trick (Owen Teague). The relationship between mother and daughter begins to break down as Marie starts to distrust Sara and contemplates reactivating the tablet and the Arkangel system to see exactly what her grown up daughter is now getting up to…but will she like what she sees?

My View

As a quick side note, this episode was directed by Jodie Foster (yes THAT Jodie Foster) and is the first episode of the show directed by a woman. A marvellous tale about trust, paranoia and overbearing parenting. The acting is solid throughout and the story asks an interesting ethical quandary about controlling our kids. While the moral of the story is quite obvious, its still well handled and told, complete with an ending that will not really shock or surprise but will still leave a lasting effect filled with bitter irony.

Crocodile

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While driving home from a night out at a club, Rob (Andrew Gower) hits and kills a cyclist. He convinces his passenger Mia (Andrea Riseborough) to help him cover up his crime by throwing the dead body and bike into a lake. Fifteen years later and Mia is married, has a son as well as a successful career. She goes on a business trip where Rob tracks her down at her hotel and shows Mia a news article about the dead cyclist and how the wife of the cyclist believes her husband is still alive and is actively looking for him. Rob suggests writing an anonymous letter explaining what happened fifteen years back, but Mia believes that the letter could be traced and tires to talk Rob out of it. They argue and Mia ends up killing Rob to keep him quiet and not risk her happy life. Shorty after, outside of her hotel, there is an accident where a self-driving pizza delivery truck hits a pedestrian which Mia witnesses. When the man who was hit by the truck contacts his insurance company, they send investigator Shazia (Kiran Sonia Sawar) to establish exactly how the accident happened. Shazia uses a device known as a ‘Recaller’ to scan a claimant’s memories. The memory reveals that Mia witnessed the accident and Shazia is hopeful that Mia’s testimony will allow her to prove the accident was the pizza truck’s fault so she can pursue a lucrative negligence suit against the owners of the truck. However its when Shazia tries to get information from Mia with the Recaller device when things start to unravel and Mia is forced to protect her family and successful life.

My View

This one is bleak – very, very, very bleak – even for a Black Mirror episode. It was filmed in Iceland and looks gorgeous using the wonderful snowy, Icelandic landscapes to great effect. The performance of Mia by Andrea Riseborough is utterly brilliant as the hardened business woman just trying to protect her family and life. The story is pretty violent with numerous deaths along the way and gets quite tense a few times too. Everything wraps up nicely as the chain of seemingly unrelated events all come together via the use of people’s memories and leads up to a chilling but deserving finale. Not one of the pure genius episodes, but still a good solid one with a satisfying resolve.

Hang the DJ

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Frank (Joe Cole) uses an artificial intelligence program called the ‘System’ and a dating app called ‘Coach’ to find a date. He is paired up with Amy (Georgina Campbell) who is also using Coach. The System which runs the Coach app pre-selects everything from where they go on their date, what they eat and even how long the relationship will last. When Frank and Amy check Coach to see how long they will be together, they are told only twelve hours. After the meal, they are taken to a pre-selected location where they spend the night together and after the twelve hours are up, they part ways. Both Frank and Amy begin to question Coach and the System as to how it manages and selects the parings of couples. Coach states that is has users go on numerous dates until their perfect mach is found while it collects data of the two people to evetually match them with their ultimate life-partner on what its known as a ‘paring day’ with a 99.8% accuracy. Later, Amy is assigned a new partner lasting nine months – Lenny (George Blagden) and Frank is assigned Nicola (Gwyneth Keyworth) for one year. A paring day celebration for a new couple is held, Frank and Amy attend with their previously chosen respective partners and they reconnect with each other once more. When their pre-chosen relationships evetually expire, Frank and Amy are once again paired up with each other by Coach, both of them agree to not check how long the relationship will last this time around. The couple really do get on and there is a genuine shared attraction there…but how will their second time around work out, has the System and Coach got it right this time?

My View

An interesting take on online dating and dating apps with great satirical undertones running through it. This is Black Mirror’s take on a glossy ‘rom-com’, its a love story done really well with a twist…and for Black Mirror, not a necessarily downbeat, depressing twist either. The acting of the two main leads is really good and this helps to emotionally affect the story. There’s also some amazing visual symbolism worth keeping an eye out for. Even though its not too hard to second guess where the episode is going and what the twist will be, it still manages to leave a lasting impression and even a smile on your face.

Metalhead

Metalhead

Three petty thieves – Bella (Maxine Peake), Tony (Clint Dyer), and Clarke (Jake Davies) break into a disused and seemingly unguarded warehouse. While Clarke is preoccupied trying to steal a van to aid their getaway – Bella and Tony enter the warehouse looking for a specific box. The box is said to contain an object that will help one of their own called Jack and it must be important if the trio are willing to risk their lives to get it. Tony finds the box, but it is being guarded by a robotic dog-like machine. The machine kills Tony and also shoots electronic trackers that embed themselves in Bella’s skin. She runs out of the warehouse without the box and escapes in a car while Clarke uses the van. The guard dog robot chases them down, kills Clarke leaving only Bella alive. She then faces a nightmare as this robotic dog-like machine chases her through a post-apocalyptic wilderness with the intent of killing Bella…but all for what? Bella must fight to survive using only her wits, guile and whatever she managed to scavenge in this desolate land.

My View

This is the shortest of all the episodes coming it at around 40 minutes…but don’t let that put you off. Its also shot stylishly in black & white which sets it apart from any other episode in the series. I suppose if I were to boil this down to basics, this is a horror/slasher movie style tale. You ever seen The Terminator? Replace the T-800 with a robotic dog and Sarah Conner with Bella and you get the general idea. Its fast paced (most of the characters get killed off in the first few minutes) and tense chase story where the female is continually being perused by a killer robot. The machine itself packs quite a few surprises, so much so that you’re never sure of exactly what it will do next or what it is capable of with its many gadgets and weapons. There’s even a few light comedic moments that ease the more tense aspects of this story. The ending is a real downer that tops off a superbly written and directed episode.

Black Museum

Black Museum.jpg

While out driving, Nish’s (Letitia Wright) electric car runs out of power, while waiting for it to be recharged – she accidentally discovers and enters the Black Museum. Inside she meets the proprietor, Rolo Haynes (Douglas Hodge) who takes her on a tour of the museum and tells her stories connected to several of the artefacts he has collected over the years. The first tale is of Rolo’s earlier life – he used to be a neurological research recruiter. He has in his possession a neurological implant that allows the user to feel the sensations of others. Rolo persuades Dr. Peter Dawson (Daniel Lapaine) to try out the implant which would mean he can diagnose his patients with much more accuracy, leading to a higher cure rate and save many, many lives. However, Dr. Dawson starts to misuse the implant for his own benefit and things start to backfire. The second story has Rolo convincing Jack (Aldis Hodge) to transfer the consciousness of his comatose wife Carrie (Alexandra Roach) into his brain. The idea being that Carrie will feel the sensations Jack feels and that will help her feel alive once morw. When he hugs their son, she feels the benefit, etc. While her consciousness will be in Jack’s brain, her body will be euthanized and her organs donated for medial use. But the downside is that Jack no longer has any privacy with his comatose wife’s conciseness always there and their relationship breaks down. Jack evetually meets Emily (Yasha Jackson) and starts a new relationship – much to the annoyance of Carrie’s consciousness. But with no body to put Carrie into, what can Jack do? The third yarn is one of convicted murderer Clayton Leigh (Babs Olusanmokun). Rolo convinces Clayton to sign over all the rights to his post-death consciousness when he is still on death row. After his execution, Clayton is turned into a hologram and used as a sadistic attraction in the museum. Meanwhile, back at the Black Museum. The truth as to exactly who Nish is gets revealed  and her trip to the Black Museum was not by entirely an accident…

My View

Very much like the previous Christmas special episode, White Christmas, this is another anthology episode with four interconnecting stories. The three flashbacks with Rolo talking about his past life before he opened the Black Museum and the current tale involving Nish visiting the museum. Big pre-warning for this particular episode – this one is chock full of nods, references and even spoilers from previous episodes. So my advice would be to watch this one last, not only so you can have fun spotting the references – but also to avoid any of the spoilers. All of the stories work well and the way everything comes together at the end is sublime. The final twist is a belter and a great way to end the season.


So there you have it, every episode of Black Mirror covered and reviewed…and without major spoilers too. If you are a fan of these anthology style shows then I strongly suggest this one. Its really is wonderful with brilliant writing and numerous episodes worth watching more than once. They are often bleak and depressing tales, but now and again the show offers a few sliver linings along the way. The only real downside is how long we’ll have to wait for another season.

Black Mirror Face.jpg

My Personal Picks

Okay, so for a while I thought about putting all 19 episodes in a ‘top 19’ ranking order from worst to best…but then I quickly realised I think there are several episodes that I would easily put at number 1. Its not so simple to pick apart an entire show where even the lesser episodes are still worth a watch and the better ones are nothing short of genius.

Instead I thought I’d just offer a list of 10 episodes I think you should check out if you don’t feel like trawling through all 19. Not in any particular order, no ‘top 10’, no worst to best or best to worst. Just 10 solid, well made and entertaining episodes you should most definitely watch and why.

  1.  The National Anthem. The first episode and I think its a great introduction to the world of Black Mirror.
  2.  White Bear. This would definitely make it as one of my top 1 episodes. The final twist is my favourite of the entire series.
  3.  Playtest. As an avid gamer, I loved this one. Not only is it a great tale but its also full of gaming references.
  4.  Metalhead. Sheer brilliance. This one is simple but really effective. I looks beautiful and offers a stunning story.
  5.  Shut Up and Dance. This is another one that would hit my number 1 spot. Its a well paced episode with a huge middle finger of an ending.
  6.  Hated in the Nation. This almost movie length episode is a thrilling cop drama with a plot and end that will drop your jaw.
  7.  Arkangel. This one stuck a particular cord with me as I became a father to a girl myself a few months back. I really related to this one and the moral questions it raised.
  8. White Christmas. The first anthology episode is well written and acted. Everything tied together nicely and the ending is justified and dark.
  9.  San Junipero. Often cited as the best episode of the series. Not for me but its still a fantastic yarn with a heartwarming/breaking ending.
  10.  Black Museum. While I didn’t enjoy this one as much as the other anthology episode – its still a cracker and well worth watching…last.

 

What Is Your Pleasure Sir?: A Hellraiser Retrospective

Well its that time of year again. Get the jack-o’-lanterns carved, dress up as a recognisable horror icon… or just dress up as anything not connected to the celebrations at all, stock up on candy to give to annoying beggars… sorry I mean trick or treaters. And best of all, lock yourself away in front of the TV in a darkened room and watch some horror movies because… its Halloween season!

Halloween

I wasn’t sure what to do this Halloween, I suppose a profile on Harvey Weinstein could have worked as that would’ve been scary enough. The twisted sick fucker.

After last year’s humongous, seven part An Incomplete History of Horror bonanza write up. I thought I’d dial things back a little this time around and instead of covering dozens and dozens and dozens of movies, over a century of horror films – this year, I’ll just do ten. Also seeing as its the 30th anniversary since the release of the original Hellraiser this year too – seems like a great time to do a Hellraiser retrospective.

Can you believe they’ve made ten of these things? I stopped watching after number three. But I have recently put myself through the extreme torture of the other films and watched all of them over the last week or so just to write this article for you lucky folks. I hope you appreciate the abuse I’ve had to endure. Jesus wept – being ripped apart by rusty hooks on chains would’ve been less painful. There will be mild spoilers ahead, but I will try to avoid any major plot points. Also – this is gonna be a long one.

There’s a lot to cover with ten films in total. So I’ll just be doing a brief synopsis of each flick dotted with a few other details and I’ll offer my own views/opinions on each of the films. Well let’s not waste anymore time, so…

Shall we begin

Hellraiser

Hellraiser frank

From the twisted and yet strangely alluring and sedcutive mind of Clive Barker comes this tale of love, passion, betrayal and rat skinning. Hellraiser was written and directed by Barker, based on his novella The Hellbound Heart and released in 1987… happy 30th Hellraiser.

So the film starts with a guy called Frank Cotton (Sean Chapman) who purchases a mysterious puzzle box (A.K.A: The Lament Configuration) from an even more mysterious seller. Frank retreats to his family home and opens the box in an unused room on the top floor – the puzzle box is said to give the solver unknown pleasures… only these ‘pleasures’ turn out to be rusty hooks attached to chains which end up quite literally tearing Frank apart. So Frank is dead before the film really gets started.

Cut to sometime later and Frank’s brother, Larry (Andrew Robinson) moves into the house with his new wife – Julia (Clare Higgins). Its shown in flashbacks that Frank and Julia had themselves a cheeky little affair shortly before Larry and Julia were wed… there’s history there. As Larry is moving their belongings into the house, he cuts his hand and heads up to the same room where Frank was killed and also where Julia is reminiscing about her torrid affair with her husband’s brother. The blood drops from Larry’s wound kick-starts a series of events that leads to the re-birth of Frank and brings with it something much, much worse… Cenobites. These are creatures from hell or as the leader himself describes themselves: “Demons to some, angels to others.”

The slowly regenerating Frank recruits his ex-lover Julia to get him more blood so he can be fully free form his hellish torture and the Cenobites. But the leader of the Cenobites wants Frank back and he enters a bargain with Larry’s daughter, Kirsty (Ashley Laurence) to take Frank back to hell at all costs.

My View

This film was awesome back in 87 but 30 year later? Yeah, its still awesome. There is a weird ‘timeless’ feel to the picture that, at the same time, comes across as very fresh too. Yeah it has some of that ’80s cheese’, but its also reminiscent of some kind of haunted house film from the 1940s but made for today. Hellraiser was a bold and visceral flick that still packs a punch now and features one of the greatest practical effects I’ve seen in a horror film.

Frank Cotton rebirth

The re-birth of Frank is right up there with the likes of the werewolf transformation scene from An American Werewolf in London or THAT dog scene from Carpenter’s The Thing. Its grotesquely gorgeous to look at and brilliantly shot with wonderful music from Christopher Young paying in the background. The film never shies away from what it is… a bloody, brilliant mess. Yet it still has a great story under all of that blood and gore, an almost Edgar Allen Poe-esque twisted tale blended with a Shakespearean love story – topped off with sublime gothic overtones.

Barker’s direction is beautiful to behold, even at its most goriest. There’s a marvellous scene where Kirsty experiences a rather twisted and yet astonishing nightmare complete with terrifying ambient sound effects that I feel is mesmerising in its direction. The fact Barker chose to shoot in a real house over a set means he restricted himself in terms of camerawork – and yet that just adds to the claustrophobic atmosphere, as he had to use tight camera shots and subtle/slight camera moves to tell his story. This is an antiquated haunted house flick in the same vein as House On Haunted Hill (1959) or The Uninvited (1944) but with an 80s twist.

There are so many great and iconic images in this film from skinless Frank smoking to Julia’s transformation into blood-splattered murderess and of course – the main man himself… Lead Cenobite.

Pinhead

The Cenobites themselves are almost regal in their appearance and mannerisms, especially the main dude. Before the sequels, before he became a horror icon – Pinhead was credited as ‘Lead Cenobite’ and played by Doug Bradley- who would go on to play Pinhead in almost every Hellraiser flick from this point onward. He has some amazing lines in this film, speaking of which….

Lead Cenobite: “We’ll tear your soul apart!”

Hellbound: Hellraiser II

Julia HellraiserII

The sequel was given the green-light before the first film was even released and  Hellbound: Hellraiser II hit theatres in 1988. Back were some of the cast and crew including Clare Higgins, Ashley Laurence and of course Doug Bradley. Clive Barker was gone as director, but he did write the story and serve as producer. Now in the director’s chair was Tony Randel.

Opening up with a flashback showing a glimpse of the origins of Pinhead himself – the film quickly jumps forward in time to and picks up directly where the last film left off. Kirsty has been admitted to a psychiatric hospital following the events of the previous flick. She tells anyone who will listen about the puzzle box, the Cenobites and dead uncle Frank coming back to life – but no one believes her… no one except Kyle MacRae (William Hope) the assistant of Dr Channard (Kenneth Cranham) who runs the hospital Kirsty is being kept in.

It is later revealed that Dr Channard is in fact a follower of the puzzle box himself and has the mattress that Julia died on (from the first film) brought to him. Dr Channard also has one of his more insane patients brought to him, hands the patient a razor – which he uses to cut himself spilling blood onto the mattress which brings back Julia from the Cenobites grasp.

With the help of another patient – Tiffany (Imogen Boorman), Kirsty sets out to stop Dr Channard and Julia which takes them into a Labyrinth of Hell overseen by its God called: Leviathan.

My View

Hellbound: Hellraiser II is a wonderful film to look at, the set designs are stunning and the work put into the hellish labyrinth is marvellous and very atmospheric:

Hellraiser II Labyrinth

The story picks up right after the first flick and even comes equipped with its very own recap to get you up to speed. Overall, its a solid sequel… but it lacks that distinctive Clive Barker feel that it definitely would have had if he’d directed it. The story is a bit bland and the characters lack any real depth. Its a sequel that I feel it was rushed out and needed a little more time to be fully cooked and it comes across as a less coherent film than the first. Still there are some great moments in this picture such as seeing Dr Channard turned into a Cenobite… which looks painful.

Hellraiser II Channard.jpg

We get a glimpse of who Pinhead was before he opened the box and it offers an interesting insight without spoiling too much (the sequels will do that). A good sequel and well worth checking out – but just not as great as the original.

Julia Cotton: “They’ve changed the rules of the fairy tale. I’m no longer just the wicked stepmother. Now I’m the evil queen.”

Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth

Hellraiser III

Well here we go, from this point on the films get bad… very, very bad. Doug Bradley returns as Pinhead and that’s about it. Everyone else is gone including Clive Barker (though according to rumour, he did return to do some ‘patchwork’ during post production). Released in 1992 and directed by Anthony Hickox, Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth is the exact point where this franchise became a franchise and the beating of the dead horse began.

Opening with a much more detailed backstory as to just who Pinhead was before opening the box. We are introduced Captain Elliot Spencer (Doug Bradley) who we see open the puzzle box and become Pinhead during World War I.

Jumping forward to present time (well, 1992), some nightclub owner called J. P. Monroe (Kevin Bernhardt) buys a unique piece of art, it just so happens this piece contains the soul of Pinhead. After being bitten by a rat, J. P. spills his blood onto the art and this awakens Pinhead – but does not release him, he needs more blood to be fully free. J. P. agrees to help Pinhead by bringing him another victim.

Meanwhile, reporter Joey Summerskill (Terry Farrell) gets visions of Captain Elliot Spencer who is trapped in some kind of limbo. So Joey and ghost Elliot team up to take down Pinhead.

My View

I don’t like it – lets move on…

Of course I’m going to rip this one apart more so than Larry/Frank at the end of the first film. To be honest, this is not a terrible film – its just a terrible Hellraiser film. The wonderful, regal and enigmatic Pinhead from the first two flicks is gone and has been replaced with Freddy Krueger… pretty much. Pinhead is now this wise-cracking slasher villain spouting one liners and badly written ‘humour’. That glorious Clive Barker imaginative and creative world has been destroyed and replaced with 1990’s North Carolina. There are new Cenobites introduced and they are shit – such as that CD face one that shoots CDs at people… cos you know, 90s!

Hellraiser III Cenobites

Police cars explode as do church windows, the police are unbelievably stupid… well all characters are to be honest and the plot is pathetic. The mystique of Pinhead is obliterated by the Captain Elliot Spencer backstory that we didn’t need or want. This is a far cry from the simplicity and effectiveness of the first film.

The studio wanted to make a more mainstream horror flick and they did exactly that. It panders to that 90s horror crowd, it cashes in and sells out by trying to make Pinhead the next Jason or Freddy and he loses all of his priestly persona due to this. In fact there is a scene where Pinhead wreaks havoc in a nightclub and the scene is very reminiscent of the pool-party scene from A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge. The film is just a bog-standard, typical 90s slasher film, I suppose its worth watching if you like that kind of thing – but its just not Hellraiser. Almost forgot, Ashley Laurence has a small cameo as Kirsty.

Pistonhead Cenobite: “Relax, baby. This is better than sex.”

Hellraiser: Bloodline

Hellraiser Bloodline

This one is so bad that its directed by Alan Smithee and any self respecting film fan should know who he is…

Released in 1996 – this was the final film in the franchise to be released theatrically and also the last one that Clive Barker had any involvement in. What started out as an ambitious and interesting concept was ruined by studio interference.

Okay, so there are three different timelines going on in this flick. So we have a prequel set in the 19th century telling how the puzzle box was first created. Then there is a direct sequel set in the 90s that explains the Lament Configuration building seen at the end of the previous film, and finally – there is a future sequel in the 22nd century set on a space station.

Its 2127 when Dr. Paul Merchant (Bruce Ramsay) uses a robot to try and solve the puzzle box on board a space station: The Minos, that he created. The film then flashes back to France, 1796 where we see Dr. Merchant’s ancestor, Phillip LeMarchand (Bruce Ramsay again) as a famed toy maker who creates the puzzle box under commission for the aristocrat Duc de L’Isle (Mickey Cottrell). LeMarchand is unaware of just what the box is for as L’Isle wishes to use it to sacrifice a peasant girl to please the demon Angelique (Valentina Vargas). LeMarchand is told his bloodline is now cursed for helping to create the box and open a portal to hell before being killed.

In 1996 John Merchant (Bruce Ramsay yet again), a decedent of Phillip LeMarchand, has built a skyscraper inspired by the puzzle box. The demon Angelique travels to America and releases Pinhead from the box. The two team up to cause pain and suffering to millions and kill John Merchant who is working on an anti-puzzle box, The Elysium Configuration. Back in 2127 and it seems that the opening of the box has freed Pinhead and his cohorts… in space!

My View

This film could have been amazing. It held such promise with an idea thought up by Clive Barker that would been much more in-depth and thought out. However, the production company cut the budget, ordered director Kevin Yagher to film a new ending and alter certain scenes that changed characters and their motives (which is why he’s credited as Alan Smithee). 25 minutes were cut from the film for the sole reason to get to Pinhead quicker and it ended up becoming a hatchet job.

Hellraiser Bloodline Box

Its a damn shame too because this could have been a worthy Hellraiser sequel. There are some great moments in this one, the whole 1796 France portion telling the origins of the box are really well done and the Pinhead and Angelique relationship is fun to watch too. Yet one of the biggest problems of the film is Pinhead himself, there’s just too much of him as the production studio force him down your throat – Pinhead works best when used sparingly. Plus, save a few examples, a lot of his dialogue is just awful.

This one is very hit & miss, you can really tell that it suffers from studio interference and we can only wonder just how much better this film would have turned out if they just left Kevin Yagher to direct the film he and Clive Barker wanted to make.

Pinhead: “Hell is more ordered since your time, princess, and much less amusing.”

Hellraiser: Inferno

Hellraiser Inferno

Well this is it folks, the start of the ‘straight to DVD’ era of Hellraiser. There is also another thing the films have in common from this point onward too – none of them were written as Hellraiser films at all. What we have now is a slew of unused film scripts nobody wanted to make – spec-scripts that the production company just threw Pinhead into.

The first Hellraiser film of the new millennium as this one was released in 2000 and directed by Scott Derrickson.

So this one follows a corrupt detective, Joseph Thorne (Craig Schaeffer) with a penchant for drugs and prostitutes. Joseph is called out to a murder scene which seems ritualistic in its execution. At the murder scene, he finds the infamous puzzle box which he solves and then starts to experience strange hallucinations and visions. Joseph eventually links the murder to someone (or thing) known as ‘The Engineer’. He investigates more murders, of which the victims are his friends and associates and he is soon considered the number one suspect.

Believing he is being driven mad, Joseph seeks out the help of a psychiatrist who is not all he seems to be.

My View

If this was a straight up story about a psychologically troubled detective – it could have been a quite interesting psychological thriller. But the fact they shoehorned in Pinhead to make it a Hellraiser sequel is a major failing and as a Hellraiser sequel is how I have to look at it.

Hellraiser Inferno Girls

It has pretty much nothing to do with Hellraiser at all aside from a few tenuous links and references. There are a couple of interesting scenes – like the one above where Joseph is ‘caressed’ by two prostitute Cenobites and his decent into madness can be an entertaining journey at times. But as an overall film and Hellraiser sequel – its atrocious and insulting to the name. Pinhead is used VERY sparingly in this one, so much so that you can really tell he was just thrown in at the last minute. Remember when I said earlier that using Pinhead sparingly is a good thing? Well here he’s actually under-used in a blink and you’ll miss him appearance.

Tony Nenonen: “What’s an eight-letter word for ‘slaughterhouse’?”

Hellraiser: Hellseeker

Hellseeker Kirsty.jpg

Directed by Rick Bota and released in 2002. So this one has a nice surprise – Ashley Laurence is back as Kirsty. But is that enough to keep the most hardened Hellraiser fan happy?

Okay so this time around, Trevor Gooden (Dean Winters) survives a car crash that plunges into a river, but his wife Kirsty Cotton-Gooden (Ashley Laurence) is nowhere to be found when police divers recover the car. Is she dead and if so, where is her body? A month later and Trevor wakes up in hospital suffering a head injury that affects his memory and grasp on reality. He struggles to find out what happened to Kirsty as well as keep himself sane. Its not until Pinhead turns up and explains exactly what is going on that the truth comes out.

My View

Much like the previous film, Hellraiser: Inferno, this one is a waste of a good idea. While I’d say this flick is ‘better’ than the last one – it suffers from a lot of the same problems. This too could have been a good, stand-alone psychological thriller and quite honestly didn’t need to be a Hellraiser sequel at all. Having Ashley Laurence back as Kirsty was a great and welcome idea too. But I feel she was misused here – knowing the ending to this picture and remembering her character from the first two flicks, it makes no sense.

Hellseeker Trevor

I don’t want to spoil the ending here as its actually pretty good to be honest – even of it doesn’t make a lot of sense character-wise. Also the reunion of Kirsty and Pinhead should have been an epic meeting, yet it feels very flat and a wasted opportunity. The ending may be a decent one, but the journey getting there lacks punch and is rather tiresome.

Chief Surgeon: “You’re freaking me out. And I’m a coroner.”

Hellraiser: Deader

Hellraiser Deader

And here we are at number seven (I can’t believe I’ve made it this far). Rick Bota returns as director, the film was released in 2005 and was a continuation of the ‘straight to DVD’ formula.

Amy Klein (Kari Wuhrer) is a reporter sent to Bucharest by her boss after witnessing a video tape that seems to show a ritualistic murder by a supposed cult known as ‘The Deaders’ (we have a title people!). Amy finds the puzzle box and takes it home to open it… which (of course) unleashes Pinhead… or does it?

Amy eventually tracks down Winter LeMarchand (Paul Rhys) the leaded of ‘The Deaders’ and a decedent of the creator of the puzzle box (remember Hellraiser Bloodline?). Winter believes it is his birthright to own the box and everything that entails, including becoming the leader of the Cenobites. The film then becomes a battle between ‘The Deaders’ and the Cenobites… guess who wins?

My View

You know what? I’m willing to admit that the first 20 – 30 minutes or so of this one are actually pretty damn good. The scene were Amy finds the box is a particular highlight. You get a sense of not only that you are watching a good horror film, but that you are also watching a good Hellraiser film. Its moody, atmospheric and it all feels very Hellraiser-esque. Dare I say it? It even has a Clive Barkery style and tone. But sadly, the flick falls apart quite quickly after that.

Hellraiser Deader Chains

Unfortunately, this was another one of those non-Hellraiser scripts that was sitting on the shelf doing nothing, so the producers decided to throw in Pinhead and sell it as a Hellraiser sequel… and it shows. And again, I can’t help but think that this could have been a better stand alone flick if it had done its own thing. The ending is very ‘meh’ and you can really tell that Doug Bradley was starting to get more than a little bit bored of being Pinhead as his performance feels very phoned in. A great start, but the latter part of the film is dull and almost unwatchable.

Pinhead: “Dreams are fleeting. Only nightmares last forever!”

Hellraiser: Hellworld

Hellraiser Hellworld

Yes, Rick Bota is directing again for the third time and this one was released in 2005, same year as the last movie as they were shot back to back. So given the fact the last two films were directed by the same person and filmed together and the fact they were both released the same year – you’d think they would be connected plot-wise right? Nope!

So this one is about an online video game based on the Hellraiser franchise… seriously. It is set up that the movies exist in this films universe as fiction and the game within this movie, called Hellworld (we have another title folks), is spin-off/sequel to the fictional movies. So anyway, a teenager dies while playing the game and all his friends refuse to play the game ever again… until they are invited to a special Hellworld party held in a creepy old house.

This is when we are introduced to The Host (Lance Henriksen) who is – errrm… the host of this mass sex, drugs and shitty dance music party. As the party progresses, the teens end up being killed off one by one in unoriginal ways at the hands of The Host and Pinhead.

My View

This is pretty much considered the worst of the franchise and people who say this have never seen the next film…

Yeah this one is fucking terrible, a complete mess of a picture. There are a couple of plot twists thrown in, but if you have an IQ over two – then you’ll see them coming within the first five minutes. Is Pinhead real or not… ahhhhh, who fucking cares at this point? The other films in the franchise, even the bad ones had some redeeming qualities about them – this one does not. Okay, so Lance Henriksen is a joy to watch (when isn’t he?) and that’s about it.

Hellriaser Hellworld Pinhead.jpg

The plot is stupid, the characters are flat and instantly forgettable (I honestly do not remember any of their names), the acting is wooden and by now – its quite clear that Doug Bradley is only appearing in the film to pay the mortgage. You’ll be as bored watching the film as Doug was acting in it and this film marks his final time playing Pinhead. Oh yeah, Henry ‘Superman’ Cavill is in it too, so he has been in a film worse than Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.

Its not scary, its not atmospheric, it not entertaining, its not Hellraiser.

The Host: “Like a bad horror movie, isn’t it?”

Hellraiser: Revelations

Hellraiser Revelations.jpg

Holly fuck-balls, this is going to be a lot of fun to write up. Directed by Víctor García and released in 2011. This flick is a desperate attempt for the production company to hold onto the Hellraiser license… and it really shows too.

So this plot revolves around two teenagers (don’t remember their names, don’t give a shit either) who travel to Mexico, and they film themselves (lost footage film people) partying and so on. Yet the boys disappear. Their belongings are returned to their parents, including the footage they filmed.

Twelve months later, the families of the two missing teens gather for a dinner party. The contents of the footage the boys recorded is brought up and the film is shown in flashback via the found footage on exactly what happened to the teens when an unexpected visitor arrives.

My View

Okay, so before I get into what I think of the film, I just want to share a couple of Tweets with you from the main-man himself – Clive Barker in relation to this movie when it was marketed as ‘from the mind of Clive Barker’…

Clive Barker Tweets

Bearing in mind we are now nine films in and despite not having much to do with any of the sequels aside from some behind the scenes stuff and absolutely nothing to do with any of the films after Hellraiser: Bloodline, Clive Barker has never once spoken out about the quality of any of the sequels. This is the film that broke his silence.

I’m not sure where to start with this abomination of a movie. To be honest, I could write a stand alone article on just how terrible this one is and it would probably end up being longer than this entire (very long) retrospective. Hellraiser: Hellworld was bad, really, really bad – but this one is a whole new level of terrible. The acting feels like you are watching a day-time soap opera…and a bad one at that. The plot feels as if written by a sixteen year old with a mental age of a five year old. The dialogue makes your ears bleed and the film looks like it was shot on someone’s phone from the around 2009.

I’m going to try a little visual experiment here. So what you are about to see is a side by side comparison between the original Pinhead from the first film and the new Pinhead in this one… brace yourself…

Pinhead Comp

Sorry, but I can’t help but giggle when I see that. The original Pinhead had a mystique about him, his mannerisms were amazing, he had a screen presence whenever he appeared (even in the bad sequels) and his voice was commanding as he spouted some of the greatest lines in any horror film.

The new Pinhead however… just look at him. I think they spent about $10 on the make-up. Stephan Smith Collins who plays Pinhead in this one is no Doug Bradley. His acting is wooden and he’s about as intimidating as an ant’s fart. He looks like someone who turned up to a horror convention in a home-made costume. You know, Doug may not have given a shit in the latter sequels when he played Pinhead… but he was never this terrible.

Right here I just want to explain how I complied this whole retrospective. Over the course of nine days, I watched the Hellraiser films from the original up to Hellraiser: Hellworld. Sometimes I watched more than one film in a day, sometimes I only watched one. I would take a day off now and again in-between to look at my notes and write this article. After day nine, it was time to watch this film… and that in itself took three days. I could not watch this film in one sitting and had to split it up into three separate sessions over three days. I sat through Hellraiser: Hellworld in one sitting no problem and that was atrocious. Also, this film is only seventy five minutes long and I had to split it up into three parts over three days – just let that sink in for a while…

Hellraiser Revelations pinhead

I still giggle at that! You silly cosplayer.

So I need to move on as I think my rant against this film is going on longer than my love for the original. But I need to wrap up. Remember how I said the other sequels were made from spec-scripts and they just threw Pinhead on to make them Hellraiser films? Because of that, you can kind of excuse some of the shortcomings of the films. This one however was written from the start as a Hellraiser sequel and yet it somehow manages to have even less to do with the franchise than the others. You know, I found at least one thing worth watching of all the sequels in this franchise, whether that be a great scene, an interesting plot twist, an acting performance. There has always been something (no matter how small) that I’d say was worth watching the film for – not with Hellraiser: Revelations, this flick has nothing redeeming about it – NOTHING. Please do not waste you time with this one.

I thought I’d end up by sharing a couple of tit-bits I discovered in my research for this flick:

It’s budget was around $300, 000 (obviously only $300 of that was spent of the effects and make-up the rest on drugs for the writer and director) and took less than three weeks to film. Also, the film was only made so Dimension Films would not lose the Hellraiser license and who owns Dimension Films? The Weinstein Company as in Harvey Weinstein and only someone as sick and twisted as that fat-fuck could come up with a film this shit (yes, managed to bring everything full circle to my Harvey Weinstein jab at the start of this article).

Vagrant: “This will take you beyond the limits. Places you can’t even begin to imagine. Sensual pain.”

But its not over yet…

Hellraiser: Judgment

Hellraiser Judgment

So there’s yet another Hellraiser film (that’s ten for those counting), but I can’t offer my opinion on this one as its not been released… yet. But I can tell you what is known of the film so far.

The film revolves around three detectives who team up to track down a serial killer. As they investigate, they discover the killer has otherworldly connections. (I’m calling it right now, one of the detectives is the killer and has links to the Cenobites) And that’s about all is known about the plot. The film will feature horror icon Heather Langenkamp playing a landlady. There’s a new actor playing Pinhead too…

Paul T Taylor Pinhead

Introducing Paul T Taylor as the new Pinhead… well he doesn’t look as bad as the last one.

But will the film ever be released? It was originally announced as being released on 28th of March this year, but that obviously never happened. Then it was suggested that the delay was because they are trying for a theatrical release – Pinhead himself even made the following Facebook comment.

Hellraiser Judgment Tweet

Yet there has still not been any news on the film, not even a trailer. Its all gone very quiet on the Hellraiser: Judgment front. The film has been completed but nobody outside of the production has even seen a single frame of it. Are they really trying for a theatrical release – or is it just too bad to be seen by the public? Some people are being very optimistic about the flick, but I have my doubts and the biggest one is writer/director Gary J. Tunnicliffe. You may not recognise the name, but I do – he wrote the previous flick Hellraiser: Revelations and you know how I feel about that one.

Seeing as I’ve watched all the films up to this point, I guess I’ll have to watch this one too… if its ever released. It can’t be as bad as Hellraiser: Revelations can it?

Overall

In hell

So how do I feel about the franchise as a whole? I think its awful, one of the worst horror franchises ever made. Pinhead once said: “Your suffering will be legendary even in Hell!” And after watching the entire series over the course of almost two weeks – I now know what he meant. This franchise is the movie equivalent of Hell and the deeper you go, the worst it gets.

The first film is amazing, the second one is a damn good sequel… and then it all goes very, very wrong. A few minor highlights aside – the films from Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth onward are just not worth it. You know, if they were clever, they could do a really good meta film – kind of like Wes Craven’s New Nightmare. They could make out that the Hell that Pinhead and the Cenobites take people to is a non-stop, continual showing of the Hellraiser sequels with a double screening of Hellraiser: Revelations.

And just for a little bonus – a Hellraiser merchandise video promo that was found at the end of the original VHS release in 1988. Because, why not?

But I’m not done with my 30th anniversary of Hellraiser yet – as I’ve also taken a look a the unreleased Hellraiser NES game right here.