Friday, October 2, 2015

Worth Mentioning - Reservoir Demons

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.

Cody starts celebrating SHOCKtober.


So many horrific things have occurred at the old mansion called Hull House, as documented in 1988's Night of the Demons and its 1994 sequel, that local police officers are regularly assigned to sit on the property and make sure nothing suspicious is going on.

The third installment in the series begins with a police officer named Larry reporting for duty at Hull House and almost immediately being lured into the place by the sound of laughter. Within the former funeral parlor, Larry finds Angela, who was once a teenage girl who threw an ill-advised Halloween party at Hull House and after the events of that night became Satan's favorite demon. Angela's demonic spirit stills resides in Hull House, as evil as ever, and she's preparing to celebrate Halloween. Larry doesn't get to celebrate. He doesn't even live past the opening title sequence.

Night of the Demons '88 director Kevin S. Tenney wasn't involved with the second film, but returned to the series to write the screenplay for part 3, coming up with a story that had those involved nicknaming the movie Reservoir Demons.

When teenage cheerleader Holly and her best friend Abbie have some car trouble on the way to their high school's Halloween dance, breaking down on the side of the road, they're given a ride by a group of peers from the wrong side of the tracks.

The others decide to stop by a convenience store to pick up some cigarettes and beer (with an ID stolen from an older brother) on their way to drop off Holly and Abbie at the high school, and in doing so ensure that the girls aren't going to make it to the dance and most of the group aren't going to survive the night. Misunderstandings, violent tempers, bad decisions, and the arrival of a couple police officers cause the situation to devolve into a shootout, during which one of the teens gets shot in the stomach.

On the run from the law, the teens decide, despite the fact that the wounded teen needs medical help and Abbie's insistence that the place is possessed, that the abandoned Hull House is the perfect place for a hideout. But once inside, they find that the place appears to be inhabited... And of course it is, by Angela.

The teens take Angela hostage, but she doesn't seem to mind so much. Being a powerful demon, she's not afraid of their guns, and is in fact always in control of the situation. She begins manipulating her captors, toying with them, they killing them and causing them to turn into monstrous demons themselves. One teen's Halloween demon mask becomes his new face; Abbie was made up like a cat for the dance and she becomes a cat-like creature; another teen has a snake hand puppet, it becomes an actual snake and bites her.

As the group is transformed one-by-one, Holly and a fellow survivor are forced to fight back against the forces of evil in an attempt to make it until dawn.

Night of the Demons III is a decent addition to the franchise with a promising set-up, although the execution of that set-up is subpar. The Reservoir Dogs-esque scenario never reaches its potential, and the movie as a whole looks very bland and quite cheap.

Tenney managed to capture a fantastic look and atmosphere on the first movie, but this time around director Jimmy Kaufman, who appears to have worked primarily in Canadian television, didn't fare nearly as well. There's no real style to this film at all.

The look of the movie completely put me off the first time I attempted to watch it in '97 and while I find it more tolerable now, part 3 still represents a steep decline in production quality for the series. It's worth checking out just to see Angela and the demons of Hull House mess more people up, but don't go into it with very high expectations like I did when it was first released.


A lot of positive word of mouth came out of the festival screenings of co-directors Kevin Kolsch and Dennis Widmyer's Starry Eyes, but I honestly didn't pay it much attention. It wasn't until the news hit that Kolsch and Widmyer were being considered to direct the next installment in the Texas Chainsaw Massacre franchise that I really started looking into what this Starry Eyes movie I kept hearing about was. If there was a chance these guys might get their hands on Leatherface, I needed to know who they were. Ultimately, however, that job went to a different directing duo (Inside's Alexandre Bustillo and Julien Maury) and I never ended up watching Starry Eyes, despite the fact that is has long been available to stream on Netflix.

What finally pushed me into watching the movie this week was the fact that it was featured on the Final Girl blog, home of the Final Girl Film Club, as part of the SHOCKtober 2015 festivities. The plan is for a different movie to be featured there every day this month, and my plan is to watch each of the movies that are featured. SHOCKtober started with Starry Eyes, so I watched it.

The film centers on a young actress named Sarah (Alexandra Essoe) who so desperately wants to break into the film business that she is willing to go through the intensely strange audition process for a horror movie called The Silver Scream.

The pentagram-wearing people she auditions for - including Marc Senter delivering a wonderfully douchey performance as The Assistant - seem pleased by the fact that she is so stressed that she throws hair-pulling tantrums. It is insinuated that Sarah might have to sleep with The Silver Scream's elderly producer (Louis Dezseran) to secure the job... and she decides maybe that wouldn't be so bad. The further she gets into the process, the more she deteriorates mentally and physically, and the more it appears that there might be something supernatural at work here.

As it turns out, Starry Eyes is a very solid horror film that I should have paid more attention to earlier. At times it was reminiscent of Contracted, and at other times it reminded me of Rosemary's Baby, as it deals with an ill young woman who has apparently run across an evil cult. It's also a unique take on the quest for fame and how far some are willing to go to see their face on a poster, their name on a marquee. It's smart, disturbing, and disgusting.

Essoe is fantastic as Sarah, and is surrounded by an excellent supporting cast that includes Noah Segan and Amanda Fuller.

Kolsch and Widmyer didn't get to direct Leatherface, but I'm sure they have a bright future of dark movies ahead of them.

ATM (2012)

Screenwriter Chris Sparling obviously has an interest in trapping his characters in confined spaces. In 2010, he wrote Buried, a film set entirely inside a coffin that a character played by Ryan Reynolds had been buried alive in. Somehow, Sparling and director Rodrigo Cortes were able to make that concept sustain a 95 minute long film. I found Buried to be a gripping thriller for much of its running time, but the ending killed it for me.

Two years after Buried, Sparling wrote ATM, a thriller that was the second of Final Girl's SHOCKtober picks. In this one, three characters - Brian Geraghty as David, Alice Eve as his crush Emily, and Josh Peck as his pal Corey - get trapped in an ATM booth around Christmastime by a mysterious killer wearing a parka straight out of Urban Legend. The bulk of the film takes place inside this booth as the trapped trio struggle to survive the night.

Despite having more characters to bounce off each other, ATM is not nearly as interesting as Buried was, partially because the three characters aren't that pleasant to spend time with. For the most part, I found this to be an aggravating, frustrating view experience. I was so put off by what was going on that I mentally checked out of the movie long before the end credits started to roll, taking the stance of "If this is how it's going to be, I just don't care."

I suspect that one of Sparling's primary objectives when writing a script is to anger and disappoint the audience. If that is the case, then I found ATM to be quite a success.

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