Friday, September 20, 2019

Worth Mentioning - Squeak Me a Story

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.

Rejects, witches, grief, and crocodiles.

3 FROM HELL (2019)

Although I get some entertainment out of watching writer/director Rob Zombie's House of 1000 Corpses and think the sequel The Devil's Rejects is awesome, I wasn't very enthusiastic when I heard that he was making a third film in the series. I felt that the ending of The Devil's Rejects wrapped things up perfectly, and I was concerned that this was just an act of desperation. I know Zombie wants to branch out into doing other sorts of movies, like a Groucho Marx biopic and a sports drama about the "Broad Street Bullies" era of the hockey team the Philadelphia Flyers, but hasn't been able to get those projects off the ground. So he resurrects fan favorite characters for a project he knows he can get funding for, 3 from Hell. But regardless of the reason behind 3 From Hell's existence, this thankfully isn't just a slapdash "greatest hits" compilation, which is what Zombie's previous movie 31 felt like. There is indication that care and effort was put into this one to make sure there wouldn't be a steep drop in quality after the heights of The Devil's Rejects.

The movie has to put some effort into explaining how Otis B. Drifwood (Bill Moseley), Baby Firefly (Sheri Moon Zombie), and Captain Spaulding (Sid Haig) can possibly be alive after appearing to be shot to death at the end of the previous film. Through faux documentary and news report footage we learn that they were each shot twenty times but overcame a million to one odds to survive and get locked up in prison. Ten years pass, moving the story from 1978 to 1988, but don't expect 3 from Hell to be part of the current '80s nostalgia trend, as there's really nothing in here to shine a light on the decade it's set in.

It may seem ridiculous that Otis, Baby, and Spaulding all survived, but I can go along with it, although it might have been more acceptable if at least one of them had died. Spaulding is given so little to do - he is not one of the titular 3 from Hell - that he could have easily been left in the grave. I was actually shocked at how Spaulding was handled here, but Zombie took this approach because he just wanted a chance to shoot a little more footage of Haig as the character, which is an understandable motivation. He had intended for Spaulding to have a lot more screen time, but had to rewrite the script when Haig ran into some health issues.

Of course, once the movie has established that the rejects are alive and in prison, it has to start working toward getting them out of prison, and the person who arranges bloody early releases for Otis and Baby is Winslow Foxworth Coltrane, a.k.a. "The Midnight Wolfman". Their half-brother we had never heard about before. This character is played by Zombie's 31 star Richard Brake (who also played a Michael Myers victim in Zombie's Halloween II), and he fits right into the franchise even if he is a bit of a deus ex machina. He's a homicidal maniac just like his siblings, but I didn't find him to be as interesting as they are, or as interesting as Captain Spaulding. There are times when Otis and Baby talk about how it's "just the two of us" now, even though Foxy is standing in the room with them saying he's up for anything, and that's kind of how I viewed the character as well. Otis and Baby are the focus, and Foxy is also there. He's just along for the ride, talking about his goal of getting into the porn industry and including the word "motherf*cker" in most of his sentences.

Otis gets out of jail fairly early in the movie, after we see him doing some hard labor alongside Danny Trejo as returning Devil's Rejects character Rondo. Trejo only makes a cameo, but his appearance plays into events that take place in the film's second half. It takes much longer for Baby to get out of prison, with almost half the movie going by before she gets sprung. It's during this time that we begin to see why Sheri Moon Zombie, who got third billing in the previous films, has ascended to top billing here. Once one of the more presentable members of her bloodthirsty family, Baby has gone off the deep end during her time in jail, now daydreaming about becoming Snow White and having visions of a cat-headed ballerina dancing in the snow - a vision reminiscent of the madness on display in Zombie's Halloween II. When even Otis has to comment that "she has gotten wacky", you know this is a different, crazier, more dangerous Baby than we're used to. Moon Zombie does a fine job of playing this new twist on her character and there are some fun moments during the women's prison movie section of 3 from Hell, especially when Baby is sharing scenes with Dee Wallace as a guard named Greta, but during my first viewing of this film that stretch of the movie started to feel interminable. I just wanted the story to get out of prison already and into the world. I'll probably be able to go with the flow more during future viewings.

Eventually Baby does get out of prison, and dives right into the sort of shenanigans you expect her and her brothers to get up to. While there was a shift in tone and style between House of 1000 Corpses and The Devil's Rejects, this time around Zombie chose to stick with what worked on The Devil's Rejects... and if you examine things too closely, you might notice that 3 from Hell mirrors The Devil's Rejects in a lot of ways. An extended sequence of people being tormented in the home of Warden Virgil Harper (Jeff Daniel Phillips) is much like the extended sequence of people being tormented at the Kahiki Palms motel in The Devil's Rejects. Otis, Baby, and Foxy kill and banter while on a road trip just like Otis, Baby, and Spaulding did. In The Devil's Rejects they seek shelter at Ken Foree's brothel and party with prostitutes, here they seek shelter in a small town in Mexico and party with prostitutes. And just like in The Devil's Rejects, they have a vengeful relative of one of their victims coming after them. The presentation is different, but the film follows a familiar path.

There's a lot of The Devil's Rejects in 3 from Hell, but the film also features some nice nods to memorable moments from House of 1000 Corpses. One of the best comes when Baby befriends a fellow named Sebastian, who feels like he's a horrible monster just because he's a little person and wears an eyepatch. Baby says Sebastian has "the same vibe" as Tiny, her brother who was also in a couple scenes of The Devil's Rejects but had most of his screen time in House of 1000 Corpses. Sebastian is played by Pancho Moler, an actor who was my favorite thing about 31 and in this film makes Sebastian the only character I really cared about. He's one of the better people in the film, and he takes a strong liking to Baby. I was concerned about his well-being when things fall apart.

I wasn't concerned for Otis and Baby. Not that I ever was - I was rooting against them for the entirety of The Devil's Rejects, I wasn't one of the viewers that was won over by them. But at this point they might as well be considered immortal. I couldn't see Zombie going through the trouble of resurrecting them and spending a large chunk of movie working on getting them out of prison just to kill them off by the end. So when 3 from Hell shifts into a climactic action sequence that goes on for roughly 20 minutes and features a gang of heavily armed men wearing luchador masks going after Otis, Baby, and Foxy, I was pretty sure that Otis and Baby were going to be okay. And I didn't care whether Foxy would die or not.

Yes, it's true, 3 from Hell does gift us with the sight of a gang of bloodthirsty luchadors, and I can't be too negative about a movie that does that. I had some serious doubts about this project from the beginning, I was hoping that Zombie wouldn't ruin the ending of what I think is his best movie by making a disappointing follow-up. While I do still wish the ending of The Devil's Rejects had been the end for these characters, I did find 3 from Hell to be a decent sequel. I enjoyed watching it and will be watching it again.

Now hopefully someone will give Zombie the funding he needs to branch out and do something different with his next movies.

The review of 3 from Hell originally appeared on


I was just the right age for the Disney release Hocus Pocus when it came out in the summer of 1993, although I didn't go see it on the big screen. That summer was all about the age-inappropriate Jason Goes to Hell for me. I did catch Hocus Pocus when it was released on VHS, and liked it enough to watch it a couple more times once it reached cable. But it was no big deal. Not to me personally, and not to the movie-going public in general. There were things about the movie that made an impression on me - I remembered the three witches flying around on their brooms, still think this is the best Sarah Jessica Parker has ever been, and Vinessa Shaw will always be "that girl from Hocus Pocus" to me, but as years went by I never felt the urge to watch it.

Then in recent years people started going totally nuts for me, not just fans who had seen it back in the day like I did but also new viewers who were introduced to it through annual airings on family-themed TV stations. It wasn't until this resurgence that I realized its horror pedigree, the fact that the story was created by Child's Play franchise producer David Kirschner (who considered this to be a "baby's first horror movie" type of project) and the screenplay co-written by Mick Garris (director of Critters 2, Sleepwalkers, Quicksilver Highway, and many other horror films.) Garris was the first writer on the film, then ten more worked on the script and left little to no impact. It was when Neil Cuthbert did a comedic pass on Garris's draft that the movie got the green light to go into production.

The atmosphere of the movie isn't much darker than the average Disney Channel TV movie, but it certainly deals with some dark subject matter. Within the first 12 minutes we've seen a trio of witches, the Sanderson sisters (Parker, Bette Midler, and Kathy Najimy), rejuvenate themselves by absorbing the life force of a little girl, then turn the girl's brother into an immortal black cat so he'll live forever with the guilt of not being able to save his sister. The villagers avenge the dead girl by lynching the Sandersons, but they cast a spell before they're hanged: if a virgin lights a specific candle during a full moon on Halloween night in their hometown of Salem, Massachusetts, they will be resurrected.

Like the Necronomicon in the Evil Dead franchise, the witches' spellbook is bound in human flesh, and this book even has a living eyeball in its cover. There are said to be the bones of 100 children contained within the stone wall around their property. Later we'll be introduced to a character named Billy Butcherson (Doug Jones), who was dating one of the witches and was murdered by her when he started to stray with one of her sisters. She poisoned him and sewed his mouth shut with a dull needle so he'd keep her secrets forever. As the film goes on, Billy will rise from his grave as a rotting zombie who loses she pieces along the way. So Hocus Pocus does have some twisted stuff in it.

It takes 300 years, but the Sandersons are resurrected when skeptical, virginal new-kid-in-town Max (Omri Katz) lights that candle during a full moon on Halloween night in Salem. The witches set out to absorb the life forces of every child in town, and only Max, his crush Allison (Shaw), and his 8-year-old sister Dani (Thora Birch) have a shot at stopping them, with the assistance of a 300-year-old talking cat.

Directed by Kenny Ortega, Hocus Pocus has some great Halloween visuals. Since the action all takes place on Halloween, there are lit jack-o-lanterns and holiday decorations all over the place, characters attend costume parties, dead leaves fall from the trees. It's great to look at if you have Halloween spirit, and it features some fun performances. I can definitely see why fans feel the urge to watch it every year, it's a solid way to celebrate the holiday... But despite the references to horrific things and the dead kid in the opening minutes, it is very much a children's film, in a way that doesn't appeal to me very much. I get tired of the Sandersons' goofy antics well before the movie is over. I love Halloween, but this isn't going to be an annual must-watch for me personally.


After directing I'm Just F*cking With You, the April Fool's Day entry in Hulu and Blumhouse's Into the Dark series of monthly holiday / notable date-themed movies, Adam Mason returned to take the helm of the Father's Day entry, They Come Knocking - and it's pretty impressive that Mason made two movies in this series that are so different from each other. I'm Just F*cking With You was flashy and insane, while They Come Knocking is a very downbeat movie that replaces the colorful neon lighting of Mason's previous movie with bright days and dark nights in the desert.

Written by Shane and Carey Van Dyke, They Come Knocking stars Clayne Crawford of the Lethal Weapon TV show as Nathan, a man who is mourning the death of his wife Valerie (Robyn Lively) and has taken their two young daughters, Claire (Josephine Langford) and Maggie (Lia McHugh), on the same road trip he and Valerie were on when he proposed to her. Nathan's plan is to leave Valerie's ashes in the spot in the desert where the proposal happened.

The first 28 minutes of They Come Knocking are excellent, as it lets us get to know the three core characters and digs into the pain they're all feeling. They stop to spend the night in the desert, and are woken up in the night by the sound of knocking at their camper door. There are small, strange looking children outside, creeping around and asking to be let in. The family considers opening the door for them, but ultimately these kids are just too weird. One of them threatens, "We'll make you come out eventually." Nathan replies, "That's not gonna happen."

Then the kids disappear, and my problems with the movie started when Nathan reacts to their absence not by jumping in his truck and driving his daughters out of this place, but by simply opening the door, taking a step outside and yelling "Hey!" to make sure the kids left. Of course the kids haven't really left, and take the opportunity to disable Nathan's truck so they can spend the rest of movie tormenting the family.

Apparently They Come Knocking was inspired by one of the newer urban legends out there, about supernatural "black-eyed kids". The movie doesn't do a very good job of explaining what these kids are all about; I didn't know if they were demons, changelings (they seem to want Maggie to join their ranks), vampires (they have to be invited into places), or what. If you're going to have any understanding of what goes on in this movie, you're going to have to keep in mind the words of a rhyme that appears on the screen at the very beginning. I didn't remember that rhyme by the time the story was wrapping up 80+ minutes later, so I didn't understand what I had just seen. Now I have a better idea of what it all means, but that doesn't make the majority of the movie more interesting to me.

Once Nathan makes that dumb move of just saying "Hey!" instead of trying to get the hell out of there, They Come Knocking just becomes a movie about people wandering around in the desert during the following day and night while the black-eyed kids make them see things that aren't really there.

They Come Knocking has a decent concept and a good cast, but the storytelling isn't that interesting or engaging to me. It's good for a viewing or two, but it's not a movie I would be able to return to very often. Now that I get what was going on, I wish it had been more enjoyable, because I like the basic idea a lot.


Released in 2012, the fourth film in the Lake Placid franchise was subtitled The Final Chapter. Like many other franchises, the Lake Placid series is still going on after its Final Chapter, but that subtitle was somewhat accurate. Although that chapter got a bit of an epilogue with the crossover Lake Placid vs. Anaconda, once we return to the Lake Placid solo films with Lake Placid: Legacy, things are different. For one thing, it's not even set at the "Lake Placid" from the previous movies.

Directed by Darrell Roodt and written by Jonathan Lloyd Walker, Matt Venables, and Jeremy Smith, Legacy is a standalone story about a group of law-breaking "eco warriors" who are about to put urban crusades behind them and go legit... after one more crazy adventure. A private donor is offering $100,000 to anyone who can infiltrate an area that has been off limits since there was some kind of toxic spill there a couple decades ago and find out what's really beyond the fence, on an island in the middle of a lake.

It's a Lake Placid movie, you know what's out there. This may not take place in Aroostook County, Maine or have anyone from the Bickerman family in it, but it's still about a giant mutant crocodile that proceeds to chomp on the characters one-by-one. The island was home to a research facility where scientists were splicing crocodile and dinosaur for the usual reasons - and this is the only connection this one has to the other Lake Placids: with a quick dialogue reference, it gives an origin for the Maine-based crocodiles. A veterinarian who worked at the facility took one of the crocodiles back home to Maine with him, and that's the one we saw in the first Lake Placid. So the mutant "crocodile creatures" from the sequels were the descendants of a dino-croc created at this facility.

Lake Placid: Legacy is fine as far as nature run amok movies of this type go. I wasn't all that interested in what was going on, but I was never overly impressed by the Lake Placid movies to begin with and I have certainly seen a lot worse than this. Though it runs a bit long at 93 minutes, it provides some mild entertainment with its story of a giant crocodile stalking and eating people.

The best thing about the movie is the presence of Joe Pantoliano as a scientist who has returned to the area to check on the crocodile he helped create. I saw Joey Pants in a slasher before (1983's The Final Terror), but this is the first time I ever saw him in a creature feature like this.

So now that there's another Lake Placid in existence, I want to see another Anaconda movie. There were an equal number of Lake Placid and Anaconda movies before Lake Placid vs. Anaconda was made, so it's only fair that another Anaconda get made every time another Lake Placid is released.

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