Friday, November 16, 2018

Worth Mentioning - No One Breaks Out Alone

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.

Bone-crunching violence, a Thanksgiving slasher recommendation, an action star team-up, and a trilogy of terror.


The martial arts action thriller The Night Comes for Us kicks off with an inciting incident so common, the only surprising thing about it is the fact that it has been done yet again. This is one of those movies where the professional killer employed to pull off another hit falters and puts their own life in jeopardy when they can't bring themselves to murder the latest innocent person in their crosshairs. In this case, the professional is Triad assassin Ito (Joe Taslim), and after he and his associates massacre the residents of a village for messing in Triad business he can't kill a little girl named Reina (Asha Kenyeri Bermudez). Instead, he goes on the run with her... and the Triad organization sends an army of hired killers after them.

The set-up may be way too familiar, but this isn't the sort of movie that needed to aim for mind-blowing originality. It has other ways to blow your mind. That set-up merely serves as an excuse for a relentless onslaught of action sequences. As Ito tries to get the little girl to safety with the help of three friends from his past, the film's primary focus is on the brutal physical confrontations, knife fights, and shootouts they have to endure on the way to freedom. Ito has done very bad things, but the fact that he didn't kill Reina lets us know he isn't as bad as these other bad guys, so we have permission to root for him during the mayhem that ensues.

If you're a fan of martial arts action films in general and of 2011's The Raid: Redemption in particular, this film is an absolute must-see. It feels very much in the same vein as The Raid, which makes sense since writer/director Timo Tjahjanto is close friends with The Raid writer/director Gareth Evans (they even co-directed the V/H/S/2 segment Safe Haven) and a few of this film's cast members were in either The Raid or The Raid 2, including Taslim; Julie Estelle (she was The Raid 2's "Hammer Girl"); Zack Lee, who really stands out in this film as Ito's off-kilter pal Bobby; and The Raid and The Raid 2 lead Iko Uwais, who plays a former friend of Ito's who now stands to benefit greatly from his elimination.

Anyone who has Iko Uwais on their trail better be a badass, and luckily Ito can certainly hold his own in a fight. We see evidence of this in a steady stream of hard-hitting fight scenes brought to the screen through incredible stunt work and choreography. The performers are pros, and their characters are reduced to a bloody mess, whether being beaten to a pulp, blasted into a fine pink spray with bullets, or hacked up with bladed weapons. While there is an abundance of fights, there's a nice variety to them; one fight might be about unarmed characters being outnumbered by armed attackers, another might be in the close quarters of a vehicle, the next might be a one-on-one slugfest.

The Night Comes for Us boasts one of the most disgusting fight scenes I've ever seen, one that takes place in a meat locker. Cleavers, hooks, and a saw are put to use as the combatants knock each other around in a room with hanging slabs of meat and cow parts scattered about, human blood mixing with animal blood. It's all very unsanitary.

This film could have skated by on non-stop action, and it rarely stops to take a break for anything else, but Tjahjanto did make sure to include just enough emotional content that you're able to connect with the characters for reasons other than their scrapping abilities. There are heartwarming moments with Reina here and there, we don't want to see Ito or his buddies get hurt, and the film digs into the history between Ito and Uwais's character Arian a bit. Like The Raid, this is a simple film, but there's something to grasp on to beyond the action.

Mostly, though, it is a gloriously violent bloodbath, and I had a hell of a good time watching it. The Night Comes for Us is available for viewing through the Netflix streaming service, and I'm going to be rewatching it on there with some regularity.

The review of The Night Comes for Us originally appeared on


When you're picking what horror movies to watch to coincide with major holidays, one holiday that comes up a bit short is Thanksgiving, especially with Eli Roth dragging his heels on turning his Grindhouse faux trailer for a slasher called Thanksgiving. While there are some horror movies that place on the fourth Thursday in November, most of them aren't so great, so odds are you'll end up opting for something that just happens to have a horrific family dinner in it. Like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, which is set in August.

There is a Thanksgiving slasher that was mostly overlooked for 30 years, though, and I think it's time for this movie to step up and be recognizing as the best horror movie set on Thanksgiving. This year is even the perfect time to catch up on it, because it's set in 1984, when Thanksgiving fell on November 22nd, just as it does in 2018.

The opening sequence takes place in 1974, when young twin brothers Todd and Terry were taken along when their mother Maddy (Louise Lasser) went on a date to see The House That Cried Murder (a.k.a. The Bride) at a drive-in theatre in Jacksonville, Florida. While mom and her boyfriend were making out, Terry decided to grab a hatchet and go attack a couple that were having sex in a nearby vehicle. When Todd saw what his twin brother did, he went catatonic. So Terry framed him for the murder.

Ten years later, the institutionalized Todd (Mark Soper) has come out of catatonia and remembers what happened that night at the drive-in. He knows that Terry (also Soper), who has gone on to lead the life of a popular, athletic teenager, is a murderer. To prove his innocence, Todd escapes from the mental hospital on Thanksgiving and heads to where his mother and brother live, in the Shadow Woods Apartments complex.

The escape of Todd isn't the only big news Terry's family has for him this holiday. Maddy has also gotten engaged to her boyfriend, and it's clear that Terry doesn't like the idea of his mom getting married. So while Todd makes his way around Shadow Woods (which, as the name implies, sits right on the edge of a woods, allowing for some hacking and slashing to take place among the trees) with his psychiatrist Dr. Berman (Marianne Kanter) on his trail, Terry decides the time is right for him to commit some more murders.

Terry racks up a decent body count over the course of the film, picking off people (most of whom had been his friends) at random around the apartment complex. There were some great gore effects created to bring these kills to the screen. There are some great gross sights, like a hand being cut off and still wiggling on the floor, a woman still screaming for help after she has been cut in half, a severed head strung up like a decoration, etc. I don't know how this slasher fell into obscurity when it delivers kills like this.

And rest assured, this movie doesn't just end the Thanksgiving connection by saying that it's Thanksgiving. There is a ruined Thanksgiving dinner in the film, the emotional destruction of a piece of pumpkin pie (which is even sadder than any of the deaths), and a line Terry repeatedly says about blood: "It's not cranberry sauce." It all builds up to the ultimate family feud, as this story can't end until Todd confronts the murderous brother who has stolen 10 years of his life.

Arrow Video gave Blood Rage a Blu-ray release within the last few years, and it's also available to watch through Amazon Prime. I highly recommend that slasher fans give it a viewing this Thanksgiving - and on future Thanksgivings.


Escape Plan is a movie that either would have seemed a lot cooler if it was made about twenty-five years earlier than it was, or maybe it would have been more disappointing if it had been released in the late 1980s... Either way, the major draw of the film is an idea that had been discussed since the '80s, the idea of having action stars Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger share the screen in a team-up adventure. This project just probably isn't the sort of film most fans imagined they would get once Stallone and Schwarzenegger finally did make a movie that centered on the idea of them joining forces.

I'd say fans were expecting something more like the Expendables movies, if Schwarzenegger had a bigger role in those. Rambo and John "Commando" Matrix blasting their way through an army of enemies side-by-side. Instead, when we got the Stallone-Schwarzenegger movie, it's about their characters sitting in cells and trying to figure out how to escape from a prison. Shockingly, their brains are more important than their brawn in this one.

Several of Stallone's characters have gotten arrested and/or locked away over the course of his career, and this time around the fellow who gets incarcerated in Ray Breslin, who literally breaks out of prisons for a living. With his pal Lester Clark (Vincent D'Onofrio), Breslin runs a company called B&C Security, which is hired by the Federal Bureau of Prisons to test the integrity of maximum security facilities. Breslin is given an alias and cover story, enters the prison as if he's just another convict, and then tries to find a way out. He used to be a prosecutor, but switched professions after a convicted defendant escaped from prison and killed his family. Now he works to make sure that nightmarish scenario can't happen to anyone else.

Breslin is dropped into a whole new nightmarish scenario with Clark betrays him and drops him into a hi-tech prototype prison called The Tomb that's privately funded, off the grid, and meant to house people who have committed crimes so despicable that it's safer for the world that they just disappear, no trials or convictions necessary. It doesn't take Breslin long to realize that this isn't a regular job. The tracker his associates Abigail (Amy Ryan) and Hush (Curtis "50 Cent" Jackson) implanted in his arm is removed, the warden isn't who he was told it would be, and his attempt to use his "evacuation code" to be released fails. He's stuck here, in an unknown location, at the mercy of an unscrupulous warden named Hobbes (Jim Caviezel) and his masked guards. Hobbes has a unique approach to running his prison and punishing the criminals within it, but he does run the place by a book: the book Breslin has written about how to keep a prison as secure as possible.

Breslin's only chance to get out of here is a fellow prisoner named Emil Rottmayer (Schwarzenegger), who's a pretty nice guy for someone who would be put in such a terrible place. Rottmayer is there because he's associated with a modern day Robin Hood that the banks are worried is going to be too successful in his mission to rob from the rich and give to the poor. Because you can't have Breslin teaming up with a serial killer or something.

So the fun of this movie isn't getting to watch Stallone and Schwarzenegger mow down villains in a glorious extended bloodbath, the fun is getting to watch these two interact with each other and bounce dialogue back and forth. It is pretty entertaining, and eventually the characters do rack up a bit of a body count, but I'm still left wishing for something that's like the fourth Rambo crossed with Commando. I'm talking baddies getting limbs hacked off, bladed weapons embedded in their skulls, and being obliterated by gunfire. Even if that were to happen in Expendables 4, it wouldn't be as cool because it's not just Stallone and Schwarzenegger, it's them and a dozen other people.

I was disappointed with Escape Plan the first time I saw it because it wasn't what I was hoping a Stallone and Schwarzenegger collaboration would be, but after putting aside expectations and "what if" thoughts I can say that this is a solid film. Director Mikael Hafstrom did a fine job bringing the idea to the screen and writers Miles Chapman and Jason Keller crafted a good script, although Keller didn't take credit on it for some reason - yet he accepted credit as executive producer on A Good Day to Die Hard.


In 1975, director Dan Curtis and writer Richard Matheson teamed up for a TV movie horror anthology Trilogy of Terror, which starred actress Karen Black as four different characters in three different stories. The fact that Trilogy of Terror is still well known and highly regarded today has a lot to do with the third story, in which Black's character is relentlessly pursued by a maniacal, possessed Zuni Fetish Doll. That creepy little thing, which is called He Who Kills, captured imaginations, freaked people out, and the segment it was in was even deemed too intense to air in Brazil. When my sister saw me watching Trilogy of Terror at her house, she immediately remembered the Zuni Fetish Doll as something she saw "when she was a little kid" (she would have been 4 when the movie first aired) and could still recall details about that segment of the movie more than forty years later.

Twenty years after making Trilogy of Terror, Curtis made a sequel to the anthology - and of course he brought He Who Kills back for one of the segments.

The actress taking on multiple roles this time was Lysette Anthony. In the first segment, which would have felt right at home as an episode of Tales from the Crypt, Anthony plays the trophy wife of a horrendous-but-wealthy old man who has discovered that she's having an affair. When her boyfriend kills the husband, he's buried in a section of a cemetery that the caretaker has warned is infested with monstrous rats. Only after the burial do the wife and her boyfriend realize that the man had the secret of how to access his fortune hidden in the watch that's still on his body...

Unlike the first film, this film wasn't entirely based on Matheson stories. In fact, the first segment is based on a story by Henry Kuttner and the He Who Kills segment was written by Curtis and William F. Nolan. The middle segment, though, was written by Matheson - nineteen years earlier, for a different Curtis anthology called Dead of Night. Dead of Night is a decent movie itself, featuring segments about a time travelling classic car (which was kind of out of place, because it's not a horror story), Patrick Macnee dealing with vampiric activity (my favorite of the bunch), and a woman who uses magic to bring her dead son back from the grave.

Dead of Night's third segment is the one Curtis decided to refilm for Trilogy II for some reason, casting Anthony as the woman who resurrects her son to find out that she should have just let him be. It's a very creepy concept, so I can sort of understand why Curtis would want to delve into it twice. In the process he shortened it a bit and greatly enhanced the lightning flashes that illuminate the dark house the living dead kid runs around in. In the end, I think I prefer the version that's in Dead of Night, largely because I like the kid's acting performance better there, but the Trilogy of Terror II version is good.

Once we exit remake territory, we find the main event in sequel territory. The return of He Who Kills. Although more than twenty years had passed between films, the story of this segment picks up right after the ending of the He Who Kills segment of the first film and finds the police taking the Zuni fetish doll from the apartment of Karen Black's character to be examined in the laboratory of a Dr. Simpson (Anthony again). While in Simpson's care, the killer doll rises again.

This He Who Kills segment isn't nearly as good as the first time around, and I was disappointed that Curtis copied some major moments from the previous movie. He was really in the mood to repeat himself when he made this one. Still, it's cool to see the creepy little doll in action again. Especially when it manages to use a bow and arrow on somebody. I would watch a whole movie just based around He Who Kills, it doesn't have to only show up in one-third of an anthology film. I'm kind of shocked that doll hasn't gotten its own movie yet. It fits right in with the likes of Chucky and the Puppet Master puppets, but it's even more intense.

Trilogy of Terror, Dead of Night, and Trilogy of Terror II are all worth checking out in their entirety, even if the He Who Kills chapter of the first Trilogy overshadows everything else.

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