Friday, January 18, 2019

Worth Mentioning - The A-Holes and the Dead

We watch several movies a week. Every Friday, we'll talk a little about some of the movies we watched that we felt were Worth Mentioning.

Howell gets revenge, a trilogy is completed, eyes are covered, and family friendly entertainment baffles.

KID (1990)

The 1990 film Kid is one I caught a glimpse of on television sometime in the early '90s. I'm not even sure I saw the whole thing, but I saw enough of it to know that it starred C. Thomas Howell as a mysterious young woman who drifts into a small town in the southwest and befriends a teenage brother and sister - Sarah Trigger as his potential love interest Kate and Brian Austin Green as her music-loving brother Louie. The one scene that then stuck in my head for over twenty-five years was one in which Howell's character, the "Kid" of the title, tells Louie that if he were to wrap his fist with duct tape before punching a man the punch could be powerful enough to break the man's skull. I don't know why I've remembered that, but it's always been in my mind, surfacing now and then to remind me that I needed to watch Kid again sometime.

Unfortunately, Kid has never gotten an updated home video release since the days of VHS and laserdisc, but I still managed to get another viewing in recently - this time definitely of the entire film.

Directed by John Mark Robinson from a screenplay by Leslie Bohem, Kid is a story of revenge. Years earlier, Howell's character witnessed the murder of his parents in this small town, killed by a group of hunting buddies for daring to have a hippie style in their presence. Now the Kid is back to avenge their murder, and he's not deterred by the fact that the killers are high-ranking citizens, including the county sheriff, who are played by intimidating actors like R. Lee Ermey and Dale Dye.

The Kid is somewhat sidetracked by his friendship with Kate and Louie, and he also has to deal with the violent antics of the sheriff's dimwitted sons (played by Michael Bowen and Damon Martin), but he does manage to carry out some effective acts of vengeance.

Kid is pretty straightforward and predictable, but it tells its simple story in a thoroughly enjoyable way. It's a solid entry in Howell's filmography that really needs a new release; it's worth seeing, and should be a lot easier to get a hold of so more people can see it. While not on the level of The Hitcher, it would make a pretty good companion for that film in a double feature, with its desert setting and Howell in the lead.


Sixteen years ago, writer/director Stevan Mena made his feature debut with the throwback slasher Malevolence, a film that was basically what you would get if you dropped Friday the 13th Part 2,  Halloween, and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre into a blender, with a dash of Reservoir Dogs. Mena delves further into the world he started building all those years ago with the sequel Malevolence 3: Killer, a film which hits the ground running, literally. Although years have passed in our reality, in movie time it's only been seconds, and slasher Martin Bristol is first seen running away from his slaughterhouse stomping grounds, escaping into the surrounding countryside as police close in on his lair after the events of the first Malevolence.

If you're wondering how part 1 could lead directly into part 3, it's because Malevolence 2: Bereavement was a prequel that took us back to Bristol's childhood. A silent young boy with a condition that makes it so he is unable to feel pain, Bristol was abducted by serial killer Graham Sutter and forced to watch and take part in the murders of the women Sutter would bring back to his home and the adjacent abandoned slaughterhouse. When Sutter died, Bristol remained in the slaughterhouse and continued killing people like he was taught to do. Now he's loose - and he immediately starts killing more people.

In Malevolence, Bristol wore a pillow case over his head as he stalked his prey, bringing to mind the Jason Voorhees of Friday the 13th Part 2 (and the Phantom Killer of The Town That Dreaded Sundown). He left that pillow case behind at the Texas Chainsaw Massacre-esque setting of the slaughterhouse, and with those influences pushed aside Malevolence 3 plunges fully into Halloween territory as Bristol fixates on and stalks a new group of people who are in the wrong place at the wrong time: college student Ellie (Katie Gibson), her housmates Lynn (Alli Caudle) and Tara (Kelsey Deanne), and their young neighbor Victoria (Victoria Mena). Bristol watches them, waiting to strike, occasionally killing their friends and neighbors along the way.

Bristol spends so much time lurking around these characters, and Mena spends so much time building the tension, that the majority of Malevolence 3's 89 minute running time is taken up by what is basically one extended stalk and slash sequence. The approach Bristol takes to watching Ellie and her cohorts and then picking them off is very much like the approach Michael Myers took to stalking Laurie Strode and killing her friends in the original Halloween. The presence of young Victoria in here increases that Halloween throwback feel even more, as her interactions with Ellie bring to mind babysitter Laurie's interactions with the kids she was watching.

There's even a Dr. Loomis type of character in the form of FBI agent Perkins (Kevin McKelvy), who is investigating Bristol's crimes and trying to track the slasher down. Casting Adrienne Barbeau in the small role of Bristol's grandmother is also a major John Carpenter connection to have.

Unlike Michael Myers, Bristol spends this film stalking around with his face showing. That could have been a risky choice, since Jay Cohen reprises the role he first played fifteen years ago, but Mena shoots his scenes in such a way that it's not so obvious that time has passed... and it helps that the years have somehow had very little effect on Cohen's appearance. I certainly couldn't pull off trying to look exactly the same as I did fifteen years ago.

Fans of the films that influenced Mena are likely to get a good deal of entertainment out of this one, as it's a very simple but solid entry in the slasher sub-genre that has an obvious respect for its predecessors. Some viewers may put the film down for not shaking things up or trying to do something new with the slasher concept, but that's sort of the point with this kind of movie - sometimes we want to see things done exactly how they were done back in the day, and Malevolence 3 does it just like it was done in the late '70s through the '80s. This is a relentless return to the stalk 'n slash glory days. Adding to its nostalgia-inducing effectiveness is the score composed by Mena, which isn't far off from an old school Halloween and/or Friday the 13th score.

Malevolence 3 can be seen as even more of a commendable effort when you take into account the story of its production; the fact that Mena had to do extensive reshoots after actor Scott Decker (who still appears in some scenes as FBI agent Roland) tragically passed away when filming was only 75% complete. The film had to be reworked and recut on a budget that Mena has said was "zero", but he pulled it off. The finished product doesn't feel like it was compromised, and the only truly noticeable reshoot moments come when actress Katie Gibson's hair suddenly becomes much longer in the middle of a sequence.

What happened during production was very sad, and I'm glad Mena was able to find a way to complete the movie and get it out into the world to serve as a tribute to the memory of Scott Decker. While it does that, it also gives slasher fans a fun new movie to enjoy.

The review of Malevolence 3 originally appeared on

BIRD BOX (2018)

Bird Box sounds like a cash-in on A Quiet Place, as they're both stories about a family trying to survive in a post-apocalyptic world after strange creatures have wiped out most of the population. In A Quiet Place the characters had to deal with monsters that hunted by sound, while in Bird Box the characters have to go around blindfolded because the monsters here are creatures that can make you go crazy and commit suicide if you catch a glimpse of them. But it's a coincidence that Bird Box came out later in the same year that A Quiet Place was released. It has been in development for years, an adaptation of a novel by Josh Malerman that was published in 2014.

Sandra Bullock plays Malorie, a woman stranded in a world overrun by monsters and the insane, desperately making a blindfolded trip down a river in an attempt to get her two young children to safety. Harrowing moments from their two day journey down the river are intercut with flashbacks to the beginning of the apocalypse, five years earlier, when Malorie was pregnant with one of the children. As society descends into chaos, Malorie finds shelter in a house packed with fellow survivors played by the likes of John Malkovich, BD Wong, Trevante Rhodes, Rosa Salazar, and more.

Malorie's time with the other survivors in that house plays similarly to any number of zombie apocalypse movies - the characters are trapped inside, bickering with each other, while monsters lurk outside. They have to figure out how to deal with each other, they have to figure out how to make supply runs... and it's like a ticking bomb, because we know Malorie is eventually going to be taking a trip down a river without any of the other people from this house, so something is obviously going to go terribly wrong.

It's a familiar scenario, the only difference is the threat, but I found this to be an engaging and entertaining version of the apocalypse. I was always interested in what was going on and eager to see how things were going to turn out. Some viewers may be disappointed that the monsters are kept offscreen for the duration, but I agree with this choice. It wasn't always what director Susanne Bier and screenwriter Eric Heisserer had in mind, there was some consideration given to showing the creatures, but I think keeping them hidden is the only way to go. If any character who lays eyes on these things is going to lose their mind and die, that's not something that should be revealed to the viewer, because the visual is never going to live up to the idea... And the viewer isn't going to lose their mind no matter what the thing is, so that's cheating. Why should we get a pass like that when the characters can't?


Although I was born in the '80s and grew up watching the films of that decade, I largely missed out on director Joe Dante's 1985 film Explorers. I would catch bits and pieces of it here and there on cable over the years, but I'm not sure I ever saw the full movie until this year... and I was left with the feeling that I would have liked it more if I had watched it when I was a kid. Watching it as a thirty-something, its issues stood out to me more than they would have before.

Explorers was the first produced screenplay for writer Eric Luke, and his script had apparently been bouncing around the Hollywood system for a while before it was finally rushed into production with Dante at the helm. According to Dante, the script didn't have much of a third act, so he and Luke had to slap one together during production. That's not surprising to hear, because the third act of the finished film came off as being quite underwhelming and pointless to me.

The story centers on a young boy named Ben (Ethan Hawke) and his pals Wolfgang (River Phoenix), the tech expert, and Darren (Jason Presson), the cool kid with a complicated family life. Guided by dreams Ben has of flying over a circuit board, the kids build a spacecraft out of an old carnival ride and - protected by a force field - launch themselves into space for a meeting with a pair of aliens... But all these aliens do is hang out with them and bounce around pop culture references. It was around the time that the film focused on an alien lip syncing to Little Richard's "All Around the World" that I began to wonder why any of this was happening at all.

Explorers was a box office flop that gained a cult following on home video, and I don't think it failed at the box office just because it opened against the Live Aid concert. There's not a lot of substance to latch onto in this movie. Still, I can see why it gained a following, because it's quirky and entertaining enough to appeal to a decent-sized audience. Kids would probably enjoy watching Ben and his cohorts figuring out how to get their homemade spaceship to work, and the aliens can be amusing.

I'm not sure why executives today are interested in bringing the Explorers property back with either a remake or a television series, but it's a fun oddity to look back on.

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