Friday, November 17, 2017

Worth Mentioning - Look Who's Stalking

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.

Chucky, troubled youths, and monster hunters.

CHILD'S PLAY 3 (1991)

Iconic horror characters are never as dead as they may seem, not even when their franchises have "Final" installments - and no Chucky movie has ever claimed to be the last Chucky movie. Sure, the killer doll was nothing but a pile of melted plastic on the floor of the Good Guys doll factory at the end of Child's Play 2, but he can come back from that. As it turns out, that's quite a simple thing for him to recover from. All it takes is for someone to decide the factory needs to be re-opened and cleaned up. During the cleaning process, the pile of plastic that was Chucky is picked up by a crane claw that punctures the plastic, and even though years have passed that Chucky plastic still bleeds. The bleeding plastic is carried over a vat of melted plastic that will be used to create a new line of Good Guys, and there you go. The first doll off the assembly line is Chucky in a brand new body.

Ten years have passed since the events of the first Child's Play, and Chucky (again voiced by Brad Dourif) is quickly able to learn that his two-time target Andy Barclay, now a teenager played by Justin Whalin, never has been returned to the care of his mother, who was deemed crazy for her stories about a killer doll terrorizing her and her son. Andy is now enrolled in a military school, and Chucky decides to swing by and give him a visit.

Although Chucky is clever enough to somehow box and wrap himself up inside a package that is sent to the school, he apparently wasn't thinking too clearly otherwise when he sent himself through the postal service. It isn't until he arrives at Kent Military Academy that he realizes he doesn't need to try to possess Andy anymore. The rules of the voodoo serial killer Charles Lee Ray used to transfer his soul into the body of a Good Guy doll stated that he could only transfer his soul from the doll into the body of the first person he revealed his true identity to. That was Andy. But now Chucky has a new body, so he can reveal his identity to somebody else. He has his pick of who he wants to possess. But instead of choosing one of the adults who work at the school or even one of the older students, Chucky chooses the young Ronald Tyler (Jeremy Sylvers). Tyler is certainly an easy mark, he's so excited to get his hands on one of the new "Good Guys of the '90s". He's not so happy about Chucky's swearing habit, though.

So we have a new location, an older Andy, but still just another movie about Chucky trying again and again to perform the ritual required to transfer his soul into a child body.

It isn't surprising that Child's Play 3 would be a bit of rehash, since it was an incredibly rushed production. Directed by Jack Bender, best known these days for directing 39 episodes of Lost, from a screenplay by franchise creator Don Mancini, this film was released less than ten months after Child's Play 2 hit theatres.

I didn't recall it being such a short time between sequels, but I do remember when Child's Play 3 was coming out, and I was just as hyped for it as I had been for part 2 when it was on the way. I didn't see any of the first three films in the theatre, but I would stare at the poster art for Child's Play 3 on the theatre listings page in the newspaper. I was so enamored by that simple image of Chucky's face that I even cut the picture and listings out of the newspaper... I thought that clipping was long lost, but it was recently found among my stuff while my childhood home was being cleaned out.

I remember the first time I ever watched this movie, too. It was when it had just been released on home video, and I watched it at my sister's house, rented on laserdisc. We never had a laserdisc player in my house, so I was somewhat fascinated by my sister's. Child's Play 3 may have been the only laserdisc I had a chance to watch back then.

Chucky kills time waiting to get his opportunity to possess Tyler by killing people around the school, causing the deaths of several adults but not so many students. It isn't until he manipulates the school's war games exercise, swapping the paint-splattering blanks in the students' guns with live ammunition, that any students other than Tyler or Andy are truly in danger.

A lot of this sequel has a "been there, done that" feel to it, but the military school setting does make it standout from the other installments in the franchise, and it has some memorable characters. Andy befriends a kid named Harold Aubrey Whitehurst (Dean Jacobson); finds a love interest in Kristin De Silva (Perry Reeves), who is actually much tougher than he is; and has to deal with overzealous lieutenant colonel Brett C. Shelton (Travis Fine), who thinks he's the next R. Lee Ermey but is really just a bully with some authority. I could really connect with the Shelton aspect of the film when I first watched it, because at that time my friends and I were dealing with a school bully of our own who looked a lot like Travis Fine.

Another memorable character is Andrew Robinson as the school barber, a guy who gets way too much pleasure out of cutting hair.

The war games sequence comes along around climax time and is rather dark and twisted, but if you're getting tired of the military school stuff by that point, don't worry - the film is about to switch settings again. The climax actually takes place at a carnival not far from the military school, where Chucky, Andy, Tyler, and De Silva have their final confrontation in a haunted funhouse dark ride. Complete with a giant, scythe-swinging Grim Reaper. This is a hell of a funhouse to be found in a traveling carnival, but it looks cool despite how unrealistic it may be.

Child's Play 3 isn't terrible, but there are definitely signs of franchise fatigue on display in it. It's sub-par compared to what came before, and it's no surprise the series went dormant for seven years after this one.


If I knew nothing about Super Dark Times other than its title, it's a movie I would pass by without giving much consideration. Super Dark Times, that just sounds to me like something cutesy that would have annoying dialogue that tries too hard to sound hip and modern. By judging the film by its title, I'd be judging it all wrong, and by opting not to watch it I would have missed out on one of the best movies of the year.

This film isn't trying to be hip and modern; in fact, the story it's telling isn't even a modern one. It's set in 1995. In this era when internet access was still rare and you had to call your friends on landlines, the small town teens at the heart of the story are, when we're first introduced to them, living through what could more accurately be called "super dork times". While best friends Zach (Owen Campbell) and Josh (Charlie Tahan) hang out with their buddies Daryl (Max Talisman) and Charlie (Sawyer Barth), they do stuff that most viewers can probably relate to, especially if they were, like me, also teens in the '90s. They put the scrambled porn channel on the TV, discuss girls they go to school with, debate the merits of Silver Surfer and The Punisher, talk about "that scene" in True Lies, and get up to random shenanigans while aimlessly wandering around town.

One dull afternoon, the kids get their hands on a samurai sword, and of course they decide to play around with it. I know my friends and I definitely would have played with a samurai sword if we had one. I know this because we did have access to a machete, and we hacked some stuff up with that thing, without giving any thought to the possibility that one of us could get seriously injured by one simple accident with that sharp blade. An accident like the one that occurs in Super Dark Times.

As I watched the film play out, I had a feeling of dread for the entire first act. Although I was enjoying watching the kids have experiences that I could relate to, I also knew things were going to go terribly wrong. This is a thriller, after all. Something awful was coming, someone was going to get hurt, and I didn't want it to happen. I didn't want anything bad to happen to these kids, and I was worried about which one might get the worst of it. I was concerned for the group of four, as well as for Allison (Elizabeth Cappuccino), the girl Zach and Josh both like.

Bad things happen. Things get dark. Behaving like teenagers do, the kids do have an accident with that samurai sword, and their world gradually falls apart from that moment on. The rest of the film is largely carried on the shoulders of Zach, as we watch him try to deal with what has happened, living in a state of fear, paranoia, and regret. He's upset over what has happened, he's afraid he and his friends are going to get in trouble, he's plagued by nightmares.

With the film being so focused on Zach, we get to see a good deal of his home life with his single mother Karen (Amy Hargreaves). Karen is a great, loving mom, and Hargreaves does a fantastic job in the role. It was interesting for me to see Hargreaves in a parent role; since I'm not up on Homeland or 13 Reasons Why, I'm primarily familiar with the actress from when she played the teenage love interest in the horror movie Brainscan, which came out the year before this film is set in.

My feeling of dread dispersed during the middle stretch of the film, but it came back strong toward the end, as eventually things get even worse for these characters that I had imagined or anticipated. This movie was quite a rollercoaster viewing experience for me. I found it to be somewhat reminiscent of River's Edge, although these characters are much more down-to-earth than the people in that movie were.

Super Dark Times marks the feature directorial debut of Kevin Phillips, and for a first film this is pretty incredible. It's going to be interesting to see where Phillips goes from here, because he knocked it out of the park his first time at bat. He was aided by cinematographer Eli Born, who captured some beautiful imagery. I love the look of this movie and of the small town it's set in. Over top of this imagery plays the score composed by Ben Frost, and while I wasn't so enamored with the sounds Frost puts over the most intense moments, overall I did like his music.

Phillips also assembled a great cast to bring the characters to life. There wasn't a bad moment with any of them. Each of the actors fully inhabited their roles and made their characters feel like real people who I quickly grew to care about. These characters and scenarios were quite well written by Ben Collins and Luke Piotrowski, who previously co-wrote the V/H/S spin-off SiREN, a much different sort of movie.

Captivating, emotionally involving, thrilling, disturbing, and real, this film is a stunning achievement for everyone involved.

The Super Dark Times review originally appeared on


Greydon Clark's directorial debut The Bad Bunch had a rough ride to distribution, with reshoots being done to turn the anti-establishment drama into a blaxploitation thriller so it could get a proper release. It worked out, though, and the film was a success, so producer Mardi Rustam soon brought the script for another project, a horror movie, to Clark. Clark performed a complete rewrite of the script with the intention of directing the movie himself, but Rustam's investors - and Clark casts some doubt on whether or not these investors existed - insisted that it be directed by Ray Danton, a veteran actor who was getting into directing through low budget horror movies.

Clark did land a role as a police officer in the movie, which starts off with a lot of telling and not showing. Through dialogue we learn that Arnold James Masters (Jim Hutton) has been wrongly imprisoned for murder - he got into an argument with a doctor who refused the operate on his mother, who had cancer, so when that doctor turned up dead Masters took the blame. Neglected by her nurse, his mother passed away while Masters was in jail, and it was months before anyone told him.

In prison, Masters meets an odd fellow named Emilio (Stack Pierce), who admits to the murder he committed and implies that he's able to commit another in the outside world while still behind bars. He also pledges to help Masters get revenge after he dies. And when Emilio dies, things do start to get very strange.

The doctor's real killer confesses, getting Masters released from prison. Then people involved with his tragedy begin to die one-by-one. The arresting officer. The court-appointed psychiatrist. The negligent nurse, who we find using her body to tease a bed-ridden, terminally old man. They're all killed by some kind of invisible force, which can cause them to lose control of their car or make the water in their shower scalding hot. They can't see what they're being attacked by, but Masters' face appears in reflections.

My favorite kill scene involved a butcher played by Neville Brand of Eaten Alive, who has a superfluous interaction with a customer played by Della Reese.

The title gives away that the power of the mind is to blame for these strange murders. Emilio had mastered astral projection, and when he died he passed the ability over to Masters. Today you could just toss out a quick line about astral projection to explain it, but 1975 the makers of Psychic Killer felt that they should show the audience an expert giving a lengthy lesson on it all, complete with a slide show and pictures of auras.

Psychic Killer is a typical B-movie of its era in that it has a decent concept but didn't have much of a budget to bring its ideas to the screen, so it fills out its running time with a lot of dialogue. The astral projection class and the fact that Emilio and Masters talk about their back stories rather than the film showing us any of that stuff are the most egregious examples.

It's an okay movie, but its effectiveness is hindered by the overly chatty execution.


I can imagine Eric Kripke being a bit nervous when the 1998 slasher Urban Legend was coming out, because it was a dream of his to craft a genre project that would deal with urban legends. A few years later, the writer got his chance to pitch such a project to The WB. The pitch was for an anthology show in which a reporter would travel the country investigating the validity of urban legends. A "monster of the week" show with no deeper mythology. The network wasn't interested in the reporter idea, but became more interested when Kripke changed the leads to a pair of brothers on a road trip... and that change also led to him building a back story for and mythology around those two characters.

The characters at the lead of the series that would be titled Supernatural are Sam and Dean Winchester, played by Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles, respectively. As presented in the first season of the show, the mythology built around them goes back 22 years, to November 2, 1983, when Sam was just six months old (and Dean was four years old). That night, a shadowy figure appeared beside Sam's crib in their Lawrence, Kansas home and ended up killing his mother Mary in a very strange way - the Winchesters' father John (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) saw Mary's contorted body being held to the ceiling by some kind of invisible force... and then she spontaneously burst into flames.

John comes to realize that Mary was killed by a powerful demon, and he dedicates his life to tracking down that demon, destroying any kind of supernatural being that crosses his path along the way. John became what is called a "hunter", one of several operating out there, taking on the monsters in the shadows. Loyal son Dean followed his father into that lifestyle without question, but Sam always had issues with it. Dean is satisfied killing monsters with dad. Sam wants a normal life and an education.

Jump ahead to Halloween 2005 and Sam is a college student, dating a girl named Jessica (Adrianne Palicki) and preparing to enter law school, having distanced himself from his family. Then Dean shows up to let him know that their dad has gone missing while on a "hunting trip", and the brothers hit the road in Dean's 1967 Chevy Impala in hopes of finding him.

The brothers' search for their father takes up the bulk of the season, with Sam being given even more reason to take part when Jessica is killed at the end of the pilot episode in the exact same way that Mary died. Something big is happening in the world of the supernatural, demonic activity is picking up in a major way and the demon that killed Mary has come back into the lives of the Winchesters after twenty-two years because it has some kind of plan for Sam... and other kids like him. Kids who were also born in 1983 and are starting to develop paranormal abilities - Sam starts having visions of the future, while another demon-targeted person the brothers encounter has become telekinetic.

While searching for John and trying to figure out what the demon wants, the brothers also take on regular hunting jobs, some of which John tips them off to by sending coordinates but most of which they come across by combing through police reports and obituaries. The season is packed with "monster of the week" episodes, as the Winchesters go up against such supernatural beings as a ghostly woman who kills cheating men; a wendigo (a creature that was once human but became a powerful immortal through cannibalism); all sorts of vengeful spirits, including the show's own variations on the Bloody Mary and hook-handed killer urban legends (one spirit is even fused with its truck, allowing for a "killer car" episode); a shapeshifter; deadly bugs; a pagan god in the form of a scarecrow; a Tulpa, a being that is brought into existence because people believe a made-up story on the internet; a witch-like creature called a shtriga; various demons; even vampires, which Sam and Dean didn't even think existed until they see them for themselves. Sunlight, crosses, and stakes to the heart don't work on Supernatural vampires, these things have to be beheaded.

A case of poltergeist activity even takes Sam and Dean back to their childhood home, where the spirit of their mother still resides.

It's fun to watch the brothers take these creatures on, although I did start to feel like there were a bit too many random monster episodes in this season. That was clearly something left over from Kripke's initial idea of the show simply being an anthology, and as episode after episode went by without returning characters other than Sam and Dean and without more knowledge being gained about the demon storyline I started to become desperate for mythology episodes. Thankfully the show started working on that more just in time... and then introduced a badass weapon, an antique Colt made for a hunter in 1835, when Halley's Comet was in the sky and battle was being fought at the Alamo. Thirteen bullets were made for this Colt, bullets which can kill anything. Even demons.

A bit of fun I got out of watching this season that some other viewers might not have gotten came from spotting several actors from the cast of Freddy vs. Jason, which was filmed in Vancouver, where Supernatural is also shot. From Brendan Fletcher, who seems to be the most prolific Canadian actor working today, to Ken Kirzinger, who played Jason Voorhees in Freddy vs. Jason and shows up on Supernatural as a member of a Texas Chainsaw Massacre-esque killer family, seeing FvsJ alums pop up was like playing "Where's Waldo?"

Another thing that makes Supernatural extremely fun to watch is the soundtrack. Kripke made sure that the musical choices were fitting for a series about characters driving around in a classic muscle car, and the first season features songs by the likes of the Allman Brothers, AC/DC, Foreigner, Rush, Black Sabbath, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Ratt, Billy Squier, Bad Company, The Rolling Stones, Iron Butterfly, Joe Walsh, Blind Faith, Blue Oyster Cult, Quiet Riot, Boston, Ozzy Osbourne, Bob Seger, Triumph, and of course Kansas, whose song "Carry On Wayward Song" has become the one most strongly associated with the show. There may have been others that slipped past me. There are no Led Zeppelin songs in there, but there are some good Zeppelin references, including a moment when Dean coaches a kid to say "Zeppelin rules" and another nod when he uses the name of Zeppelin's drummer John Bonham as one of his many aliases.

Supernatural is a show I've seen being talked about a lot over the years, but I never got around to watching it. At first I wasn't very curious, but as the show kept racking up seasons (it's now in its 13th season) I became more curious, especially because the blog's own Priscilla was a fan. It was Priscilla who finally got me to start watching the show, since she owns seasons on DVD and Blu-ray. And I have to say, I'm having a blast watching it. I almost wish I had been watching it from the start, but I think waiting twelve seasons before getting into it has worked out. Especially since season one ends with one of the most hellacious, out-of-nowhere cliffhangers I've ever seen. I'm glad I saw that with the knowledge that I could watch the first episode of season two right after. If the show had been cancelled after season one, that would have been quite a way to go out.

Padalecki and Ackles are great in the roles of Sam and Dean, they have a perfect chemistry and make the characters very likeable, spending time with these guys is enjoyable. Morgan also has a fantastic presence as John Winchester, a man who is willing to give up his own life to defeat the demon that shattered their family and to keep it from messing with their lives any more.

For fans of horror, monsters, classic rock, and captivating genre storytelling, I would highly recommend watching the first season of Supernatural.

Now I carry on into season two...


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