Review Bites Video Vices

Review Bites: Black Widow, The Call, a snake woman and more…

The Call wants so desperately to be the new Nightmare on Elm Street. The filmmakers even use some of the music from Wes Craven’s masterpiece and cast Nancy’s teacher (Lin Shaye) in one of the starring roles. The jumbled pieces just don’t blend together well for a strong finish and payoff. Tobin Bell is the brash and cagey Edward Cranston who simply towers over the entire cast as a grieving husband who wants to honour his wife’s dying wish. Edith (scream queen Shaye) was entangled in a bitter feud with several local teens (played by Erin Sanders, Chester Rushing, Mike Manning and Sloane Morgan Siegel). Rushing is the new kid on the block who just wants to fit in and gets caught up in the shenanigans. Edward makes an offer the majority of the teens could have refused and that is just one gaping plot holes among many. Timothy Woodward Jr.’s wonderful work behind the camera and the strong performances of everyone involved are brought crashing down by a story that just didn’t rise above or even to the same level as its inspiration.

The filmmakers had one job and they failed at it. They couldn’t even get the title of their movie right. A madusa is not a hissing woman wearing Dollar Store vampire teeth and oatmeal on her face. A madusa has real snakes for hair and has one very important trait: They turn people to stone. Better titles would have been: Attack of The Pancake Batter Faced Snake Woman, Snakenhooker or perhaps more appropriately Fangs for Nothing. The “madusa” (Megan Purvis as Carly) is a prostitute living in a trailer park with other prostitutes. Naturally the trailer park hookers are lorded over by a sleazy pimp and are used, abused by equally sleazy ‘Johns’ so we get a lot of predictable ‘woe is me’ banter and profuse, inane self-reflection. Carly is bitten by a client’s snake and gains superhuman strength and pointy fangs but only when she is getting busy with a client or gets pissed off. Madusa is more Prostitutes on the Prairie than it is a horror film.

Seventies horror kingpin Dan Curtis (Dark Shadows, The Night Strangler, Trilogy of Terror) shot this supernatural tale which has been met with mixed reviews. Some consider it a classic while others think it is a tad bit hokey. It is a bit of both, to be honest. The Rolf family consisting of horror and thriller greats  Karen Black, Oliver Reed and Bette Davis rent an old mansion for the summer and just like in Stephen King’s The Shining, they discover that the house is a living, breathing thing that is manipulating and corrupting them. Well, everyone except the young son Davey (Lee H. Montgomery) who is either always in danger, getting into trouble or being as irritating as possible until he gathers up the gumption to whack his dad in the face with his diving mask for trying to drown him. The late great Burgess Meredith and Eileen Heckart are the creepy brother and sister act who are gleefully happy that they have found new short-term occupants. The twists and turns are very predictable but the final death and what leads up to it will probably still shock viewers today.

They should have made and released this movie years and years ago. They also shouldn’t have killed off her character but that’s modern Marvel’s self-destructive business plan. Instead of adding to, enhancing the past like the creators before them did, they try to erase and replace. Endgame is proving to be more than a movie title. Decent spy/action story centered around the most dysfunctional family, perhaps ever. The fight scenes reminded me of Captain America: Civil War and The Bourne Identity, the humour is really cutting and terse, David Harbour and Florence Pugh are exceptional to the point of burying Scarlett Johansson. The only thing that pissed me off was what they did with Taskmaster, typical modern Marvel, see above.

One of the films that turned Jamie Lee Curtis into a bonafied scream queen. This often forgotten and clever Canadian slasher film was directed by Roger Spottiswoode who would go on to lens such big Hollywood films such as 007 in Tomorrow Never Dies, Air America and Turner & Hooch. Much like the film Curtis shot right before this one – the Canadian slasher film Prom Night – a tragic event from the past comes back to haunt the witnesses, perpetrators years later. This time the unique setting is a party aboard a moving train. That aspect did cause a lot of headaches for the filmmakers though. There aren’t a whole lot of grisly kills or gory special effects but the slasher whodunit mystery and the twist at the end make up for that. A great little horror gem.

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