An '80s sweetheart goes bad, aliens invade, footage is found, and vampires take control.
Malicious may just be a low budget take on Fatal Attraction for the video market, but there is a noteworthy element that makes it stand out from the crowd of female stalker films: the fact that this particular film stars America's 1980s teenage sweetheart Molly Ringwald, playing against type and doing a hell of a job at it, as its female stalker.
Ringwald plays Melissa Nelson, a med student who falls fast and hard for her school's star baseball player, Patrick McGaw as Doug Gordon. Doug is also going to med school, planning to fall back on being a sports physician if a career as a professional ball player doesn't pan out. Even though he has been dating his girlfriend Laura (Sarah Lassez) for three years, he allows Melissa to seduce him after they meet at a party while Laura is out of town. Melissa then becomes Doug's tutor, and he definitely can't blame alcohol when they slept together a second time.
When Laura returns, Doug decides he wants to stay with her and put the fling with Melissa behind him... To say that Melissa doesn't take this well would be putting it lightly. Doug has no idea just how insane this woman he has gotten involved with is, but she soon makes it quite clear. It's a "If I can't have him, no one will" scenario, and Melissa employs some jaw-dropping tactics in a mission to destroy Doug's life.
Unfortunately, director Ian Corson and screenwriter George Saunders allow the movie to go off the rails as it nears its conclusion, asking the viewer to make some leaps in logic that will likely leave you scratching your head, but for the most part this is a very effective and involving thriller. The fact that it works at all, however, is entirely due to Ringwald's performance. That girl who had you rooting for her a decade earlier in movies like Sixteen Candles and Pretty in Pink here proves that she is also capable of making you fear her if she wants you to. Melissa is one off-balance individual.
I had grown up watching the lovable version of Ringwald in films, so watching her play such a psycho made quite an impression on me when I first saw Malicious. Elements of this film stuck with me for over twenty years before I recently rewatched it. I may have enjoyed it a bit less in 2016 than I did in 1995, but still think it's worth checking out if you get the chance, especially if you're a fan of Ringwald.
INDEPENDENCE DAY (1996)
I didn't go to the theatre with my maternal grandmother very often, off the top of my head I can only really remember going to the movies with her twice, but one of the movies I somehow got her to take me to was Independence Day... which was certainly not something she would have chosen to watch on her own, but she saw it because I was interested in it. Independence Day was a huge deal in 1996, promising destruction on a massive scale that would be brought to the screen with state of the art special effects. Movies were reaching a whole new level with this. That's a level they play on quite frequently these days, which is why the newly released "twenty years later" sequel didn't seem like such a big deal when it was coming out, but in '96 it was definitely something to take note of.
Directed by Roland Emmerich from a screenplay he wrote with Dean Devlin, the film that was called ID4 in marketing materials begins with a massive alien mothership entering Earth's orbit and dispatching three dozen huge ships that take position over locations around the world. Soon those ships are destroying entire cities, including New York City, Los Angeles, and Washington D.C., with energy blasts that send out a widening circle of flame.
When fighter jets go to confront these ships, smaller aircraft start pouring out of them, engaging our military forces in aerial dogfights. These alien aircraft are nearly impossible to destroy, as they're shielded by force fields.
Although these aliens have come to use up the Earth's resources and move on, just like they have done to many planets before, humans may just have a fighting chance thanks to the determination of a small group of survivors that includes Bill Pullman as U.S. President Thomas J. Whitmore, Will Smith as fighter pilot Captain Steven Hiller, Jeff Goldblum as satellite technician David Levinson, and Randy Quaid as crop duster Russell Casse, who claims to have been abducted by aliens ten years earlier.
Even after that first theatrical viewing, I had my issues with Independence Day, and it's never been a movie I was a big fan of. One issue is that the film's sense of humor grates on me, I don't really find its jokes amusing, and it has quite a lot of jokes, many of them delivered in an extremely annoying way by Hiller. Smith doesn't seem to be acting in this film, his character is not actually living within the scenes, he's just motormouthing dumb lines.
That's my biggest problem with the movie, but it also suffers from having too many characters. The ones I listed are the main players, but unfortunately they're surrounded people who also take up time, some of whom I forgot even existed between my last viewing of ID4 in the '90s and my most recent viewing at the end of June. At least Judd Hirsch is kind of fun as his side character, David's father Julius.
The aliens themselves are creepy and grotesque, the most intriguing aspect of them being the fact that they're telepathic. That's how we find out their objective, when they speak through an unlucky Area 51 scientist played by Brent Spiner and then mentally communicate with Whitmore.
I don't enjoy Independence Day all that much, but it provides some entertaining spectacle and I will always appreciate that my grandma took me to see it that day in 1996.
V/H/S is a collision of a type of horror film I really like to see, a horror anthology, and something I've been done with since the days of The Blair Witch Project, the found footage aesthetic.
The wrap around segment, which is called Tape 56 and directed by Adam Wingard, centers on a group of young hoodlums who get paid to do things like record themselves exposing the breasts of random women on the street and then spend their downtime busting up buildings and committing various other crimes. The anthology set-up begins when they're hired by some mysterious person, we never find out who, to break into a house and retrieve a specific VHS tape. In the house, they discover a corpse in a room full of televisions, VCRs, and VHS. They start checking the tapes, and the stories we see play out are contained on these tapes, even though it makes zero sense that some of these things would have been transferred to VHS.
The first story is Amateur Night, directed by David Bruckner. If Tape 56 hasn't given you enough time with characters who are detestable scumbags, Amateur Night has some more for you. This segment is shot through a spy cam hidden in the glasses of a young man who is going out on the town with his buddies, who want him to shoot an amateur porno with whatever unsuspecting girl he might hook up with that night. From there, the majority of the segment is just moments from their night spent in a bar, and this time spent with these douches and creeps seems to stretch on forever.
Thankfully, the girl the guy picks up is the segment's one saving grace; Hannah Fierman as the peculiar Lily, who just keeps telling him "I like you." The guys take Lily and another girl back to their hotel room, where things start to get interesting now that they're focused on Lily. Lily is not your average girl, and the twist with her is so effective that she has since received her own feature spin-off called Siren. Siren hasn't been released yet as of this writing, but I like Lily, so I really hope the story built around her there is more tolerable than Amateur Night.
Director Ti West's segment Second Honeymoon is up next, and I start to realize why the anthology and found footage styles are a poor mixture. Anthology segments are so short that they should get right to the point in the telling of their story, but found footage things tend to drag their feet by starting off with the documentation of day-to-day dullness. Within the first 45 minutes of the film, we've had long stretches of three different groups of people (counting the Tape 56 set-up) doing nothing of interest.
When Second Honeymoon does reveal its point, however, it hits like a punch to the gut.
The characters in director Glenn McQuaid's Tuesday the 17th segment are empty-headed but a step up from some of the others we've seen before them. They head out into the woods for a segment that draws inspiration from Friday the 13th, so it wins some extra points from me for that. Soon a supernatural slasher whose presence causes their camera to glitch is knocking them off one-by-one with a machete, but one of them seems to know more about what's going on than her companions do.
At one point, the next Friday the 13th was being developed as a found footage movie that would have been directed by Amateur Night's David Bruckner. Tuesday the 17th does drive home to me that found footage would not have been a good thing for Friday the 13th, but I do like the fact that they worked a backwoods slasher into this anthology.
Joe Swanberg, who had an acting role in Second Honeymoon, directed the segment that makes the least sense to have been transferred to VHS. Called The Sick Thing That Happened to Emily When She Was Younger, this segment is shot entirely through the webcam of the Emily of the title, played by Helen Rogers. Someone put her web chats onto VHS. Okay.
Emily has a strange bump on her arm and suspects that her apartment might be haunted, and her segment of the film is a highlight because the characters aren't as grating as those in most of the other segments and the mystery is intriguing.
Tape 56 comes to a shrug of an ending before the final segment, 10/31/98, commences. Being set in 1998, this is the one that makes the most sense to have ended up on VHS, since VHS was actually still a viable format at the time. I was even attempting to make movies on VHS in '98 - 2000.
Made by a quartet of directors (Matt Bettinelli-Olpin, Tyler Gillett, Justin Martinez, and Chad Villella) working under the name Radio Silence, 10/31/98 follows a quartet of friends as they head out to a costume party on Halloween and instead end up in an actual haunted house inhabited by cultists.
V/H/S is a very mixed bag overall, it doesn't start out well, but they picked the perfect story to end things with, as the quality, action, and intensity of 10/31/98 takes the film out on a high note. While my opinion of V/H/S in general isn't overwhelmingly positive, it does have some bright spots.
The following review originally appeared on ArrowintheHead.com
The character we follow through the crumbling remains of civilization is Johnny Strong as the mysterious Rourke, a ripped and tatted taciturn badass from New York who has made his way down to Texas, taking out as many vampires (or "things" as they're referred to here) as he could along the way through the combined use of sunlight and firepower. I was previously most familiar with Strong from his role in The Fast and the Furious, and even though I was never very fond of his character or performance in that movie, I was instantly rooting for him as Rourke. As it turns out, the guy is good at playing the antihero.
Just like in most of the best zombie films, other humans can be just as much of a threat, if not more so, than the human-devouring creatures. While the vampires own the night, marauders are the danger during the day, and the plot kicks off when Rourke rescues Sam (Chelsea Edmundson) from the clutches of some gun-toting scumbags, earning himself an invite to Dallas, where a group of survivors headed up by police officer Frank Hill (Lance Henriksen) reside within an old police station.
Henriksen is the main draw among the group and does a great job playing a leader who has been hardened by the loss of a son. Also making a strong impression are Louis Mandylor as his surviving son and Edmundson as Sam, the character who bonds with Rourke the most and has a plan to get her group out of Dallas.
The vampires have been stepping up their attacks in Dallas since the arrival of a new alpha vampire, so Sam's escape plan needs to be carried out soon. To facilitate the plan, Rourke suggests taking the fight to the vampires, a mission he will gladly lead because he has a personal vendetta against this alpha.
Daylight's End moves along at a fast clip, there's never too long between some kind of action beat, but in between the action it still finds time to serve its characters. The actors are given a chance to shine through their characters' dramatic storylines, and then it's time for them to kick some ass. The entire second half of the film is an extended battle that is essentially Aliens with vampires.
This is a very entertaining and cool horror/action movie, but it did seem to milk the suspense too much sometimes. Scenes of weapon-wielding characters walking through dangerous environments waiting for something to lunge out at them are stretched out too long for my taste, sometimes threatening to make my attention wander. I felt like these could have been cut down a bit, and the film would benefit from having a shorter running time than its 105 minutes, which seemed excessive despite how quickly the story moved along.
I also found the vampires themselves to be a bit underwhelming. As refreshing as the idea of a vampire apocalypse is at a time when the market is being flooded with zombie apocalypse films, there's really not much that sets these creatures apart from zombies. For the most part, they really are just running zombies that happen to burn up when sunlight hits them. As the film goes on, some viewers may even forget that these things have vampire characteristics.
Quibbles aside, Daylight's End is an exceptionally well made film. The budget was relatively low, but that isn't felt in the film, which appears to play out on an epic scale, with its convincing shots of deserted disaster areas and abundance of action and gunfire. Kaufman knows action, that's the genre he has primarily been working in up to this point, and he used that knowledge to make the action sequences in this film as cool and thrilling as possible. Aiding in this endeavor is the score composed by star Strong, which features synth awesomeness and at times takes on a sound reminiscent of Alan Silvestri.
If you like post-apocalyptic tales and/or seeing horror mixed with machine guns and explosions, I recommend scoping out Daylight's End.