Reviews Video Vices

Review Bites: The Menu, Scare Package 2, Bram Stoker’s Van Helsing, Christmas Bloody Christmas, Troll

Bram Stoker’s Van Helsing (2022)

Don’t get too excited. No, Francis Ford Coppola hasn’t made a sequel to his 1992 masterpiece. This is a low-budget venture has its heart in the right place in the sense that everyone puts in the work and shoots for the moon but Van Helsing has a stake driven through its heart by the baffling direction writer/director Steve Lawson decided to take.

The difference between this and Bram Stoker’s classic is there is no Dracula. Yup. You read correctly. Dracula is NOT in this movie. We have Van Helsing but his arch nemesis is nowhere to be found. For many, this will be a deal-breaker…and it should be. Who replaces Dracula then, you ask? Why it is his victim, Lucy Westenra played by Charlie Bond, who slowly but surely turns into a fanged night stalker. Not only is this film missing Dracula but what’s also absent is any gothic horror. Because Dracula is AWOL and Lucy is confined to her bed due to her illness, what we get is a plodding period drama as Arthur Holmwood (Tom Hendryk), John Seward (Joe Street) and Van Helsing (Mark Topping) argue incessantly in stuffy drawing rooms about Lucy’s treatment and Van Helsing’s methods while sipping brandy and smoking cigars. Brandy? Cigars? Sounds better than watching this movie.

Watch on: iTunes, GooglePlay.

The Menu (2022)

Crazy celebrity chef Julian Slowik (Ralph Fiennes) invites a group of patrons (victims) to his posh restaurant located on a island for a fancy, multi-course meal. What follows is a biting satire of those pompous, self-important foodies and their pretentious culture. Like cheese and fish though, sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t.

Anya Taylor-Joy is Margot Mills, a companion of Slowik fanboy Tyler (Nicholas Hoult) who accompanies him to the dinner but in all honesty, she would rather chow down on a hamburger, fries and a glass of wine. Slowik’s behaviour and his dishes become more and more bizarre until he finally reveals everyone’s imminent and gruesome fate.

While The Menu will definitely keep your attention as you wait to see what will happen next, the set-up is so over-the-top though that it stretches and bends reality with its muscle-head guards, unbreakable bullet-proof glass, no cell phone service, etc, which prevents the diners (hostages) from leaving and calling the cops on Slowik. Some viewers will be able to look past all the absurdities while others won’t.

Watch on: Theatres, digital.

Scare Package II: Rad Chad’s Revenge (2022)

Back in 2019, Aaron B. Koontz and Cameron Burns’ Scare Package was a sly prank on the horror genre. It was a refreshing anthology series that riffed on all of the genre’s tropes in clever and fun ways. The sequel, Rad Chad’s Revenge, offers much of the same fun but much of the enjoyment is ruined by the filmmakers’ constant need to push their repeatitive personal agendas over entertainment or blood-curdling good laughs.

The framing narrative this time is a spoof of the Saw series with a deceased horror guru and video store owner Rad Chad turning his funeral into a series of daunting, deadly escape rooms for the mourners in attendance.

Of the stories presented only two are fairly well done. The first, Welcome to the 90s, has several famous horror final girls and ‘Buffy’ (Steph Barkley) fending off Jason, Freddy, Xenomorph, Michael Myers, Leatherface stand-in: Tony the Killer (Joshua Miller). Although it is dragged down with a lot of ham-fisted, patronizing editorial commentary which it could have and should have done without, Welcome to the 90s is the best of the four stories. The second featurette, The Night He Came Back Again! Part VI: The Night She Came Back, is a sequel to The Night He Came Back Again! Part IV: The Final Kill in the original film with final girl Daisy (Chelsey Grant) making her return.

If you shut off Scare Package 2 after that one, you won’t have missed anything much. If do you venture further put on that football helmet or hard hat you have sitting around as the filmmakers continue to hammer home their agenda over and over again like Thor bludgeoning the ice giants with Mjölnir. That’s ultimately why what could have been a good follow-up just becomes as irritating as Love and Thunder. Okay, nothing in filmdom could be THAT annoying but Scare Package 2 gives it a run for its money.

Watch on: Shudder.

Christmas Bloody Christmas (2022)

This goes down like eggnog that is four week’s past its best before date. You have to sit through 40 minutes of some of the most inane dialogue by annoying characters that make Halloween End’s Corey palatable before any of the killing starts. The try-hard filmmakers throw out more music references than an episode of The Masked Singer. When the slaying by the robot/cyborg Santa finally begins the kills are pretty terrible, bloodless and boring. And the worst thing of all? The filmmakers can’t even fake snow properly…says this Canadian. Bah humbug.

Watch on: Shudder.

Troll (2022)

The makes of Troll borrowed liberally from every giant monster movie – especially all of those Godzilla films – that came before them but that isn’t a bad thing in this instance. A giant, grumpy mythological Troll is awoken by mankind’s carelessness. Angry troll rampages through the Norway gobbling up people, smashing buildings, swatting helicopters out of the sky, you know, all the traditional Kaiju things we know and love.

On his trail are paleontologist Nora Tidemann (Ine Marie Wilmann), soldier Captain Kristoffer Holm (Mads Sjøgård Pettersen) and one of the prime minister’s assistants, Andreas (Andreas Isaksen). Employing and examining both scientific principles and ancient legends, the trio attempts to find a way to stop Troll’s rampage before he reaches Oslo. Troll also astutely avoids one of the flaws or problems with every Kaiju film: How does something that big hide, rest before it resumes its attack? Troll is able to turn to stone, become a small mountain so he can literally hide in plain sight.

Although it may be a tad thin on story this is a monster movies so we don’t need really need or require much exposition or characterization. All we want is plenty of destruction and we get plenty of that.

Watch on: Netflix.

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