Friday, November 26, 2021

Worth Mentioning - It'll Knock You Out Cold

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.

The Warrens, Bruce Campbell, and a re-used script.


When it was announced that The Conjuring and The Conjuring 2 director James Wan wouldn't be directing the third film, The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It, and would instead be handing the helm over to The Curse of La Llorona director Michael Chaves, it made me nervous about the new sequel. I thought both of the Conjuring movies were great, the first one especially, and that La Llorona was of significantly lower quality, so I wasn't sure Chaves could match up to what Wan had done. When The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It was finally released, almost a year later than intended because of the pandemic, I was glad to find that Chaves had done very well with it - and actually delivered a film that I enjoyed even more than The Conjuring 2.

Wan stayed on board as produced and also crafted the story with The Conjuring 2 co-writer David Leslie Johnson-McGoldrick, drawing inspiration from a case that real life paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren (played in these films by Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga) worked in 1981. They made this entry in the series stand out by doing something a little different with it. They didn't want to make a haunted house movie that would culminate in an exorcism like they had done on the first two movies, so they found a Warren case that started with an exorcism and then got crazier from there.

The film begins with the exorcism of a possessed young boy named David Glatzel (Julian Hilliard), and during the exorcism Arne Cheyenne Johnson (Ruairi O'Connor), the boyfriend of David's sister Debbie (Sarah Catherine Hook), goads the demon inside the boy into leaving the kid and entering his body instead, just like what happens at the end of The Exorcist. David is saved and at first Arne appears to be normal... but soon after he breaks down and stabs a man to death. Arne is arrested and put on trial, and since Ed and Lorraine know what happened they encourage Arne to plead "not guilty by reason of possession". Now they need to prove Arne was possessed - and to do so, they need to get to the root of David's possession. The investigation involves the discovery of an item called a "witch's totem", talk of Satanism, a reference to a cult we heard of in the Conjuring spin-off Annabelle, and a mysterious woman known as The Occultist (Eugenie Bondurant).

I enjoyed this different approach to a Conjuring movie, and watching Ed and Lorraine investigate this mystery made me think that the Warrens could really sustain a TV series where we watch them investigate paranormal events on a weekly basis. I was interested the whole time I was watching them dig up clues... and really, I'd be interested in watching Ed and Lorraine do anything as long as they're played by Wilson and Farmiga. The chemistry the actors have with each other and the love their characters have for each other has been my favorite thing about the Conjuring movies from the start, the supernatural events that occur around them are just a bonus.

When a movie builds up to a moment where the power of Ed and Lorraine's love is vital to their survival and then follows that up with a Van Morrison needle-drop, of course I'm going to be enjoying myself.

Wilson and Farmiga have said they'll keep playing Ed and Lorraine as long as they keep being asked back to do it, and I'd gladly watch them continue to play these characters for many years to come.


Much like The Blob and the The Lonesome Death of Jordy Verrill segment of Creepshow, director Casey Tebo‘s Black Friday starts with a meteor falling from the sky. In this case, it doesn’t release a carnivorous gelatin or turn people into living Chia pets, it basically turns them into zombies and mutates them into hideous creatures from there – creatures that were brought to the screen through some cool-looking makeup effects.

A glimpse of a news report tells us that multiple meteors have fallen and caused people to get sick, but the employees at a We Love Toys toy store don’t have time to worry about all that. It’s Thanksgiving evening and they’ve clocked in to work the night shift leading into Black Friday, with the frenzied shoppers lining up outside. Almost immediately after the doors are opened to let those shoppers start streaming in, things inside the store go to hell because there’s “meteor shit” (as Jordy Verrill would call it) inside the store and the shoppers start getting infected.

The concept of store employees battling alien-zombie-creature shoppers is a great one, cooked up by screenwriter Andy Greskoviak, and the hype builds when you see that some of these employees are played by the likes of Devon Sawa, Michael Jai White, Ivana Baquero… and best of all, the legendary Bruce Campbell as the store manager. That’s right, this movie puts the stars of The Evil Dead, Bubba Ho-tep, Idle Hands, Final Destination, Spawn, Black Dynamite, and Pan’s Labyrinth together, then unleashes monsters on them. But I’m pretty sure the movie that most genre fans imagine in their heads when they hear the set-up and the cast list is more exciting than Black Friday actually turns out to be.

There are some fun creature attack scenes and amusing lines, definitely, but I was a bit let down by the movie overall. It wasn’t as exciting or funny as I hoped it would be, and has too many scenes of miserable people talking about how miserable they are. Sawa’s character Ken is bummed about his divorce and not being able to have a proper Thanksgiving with his kids. His germophobic co-worker Chris (Ryan Lee of Super 8 and Goosebumps) hates his job and has a bad relationship with his father. Ken has more reason to be upset when he finds out Baquero’s character Marnie, much younger than him, isn’t as into their budding relationship as he is. These people are kind of a drag, focusing on this stuff when there are monsters in the vicinity.

Black Friday isn’t as cool as it could have been, so temper expectations – but setting aside its potential and taking it for what it is, it is a decent creature feature. White isn’t given all that much to do, but his nail-gun wielding character Archie is shown to be a badass on a couple occasions. There’s an elderly employee who has some hilarious moments. And one thing I absolutely loved about the movie was Bruce Campbell‘s character Jonathan. He is the opposite of Evil Dead hero Ash, which is how it should be. Campbell has formally retired from the role of Ash, and if I saw him acting like a capable monster killer in another movie it would just make me sad that he wasn’t playing Ash in a new Evil Dead sequel instead. Giving him the role of Jonathan here was perfect casting, and Campbell is really funny in the role.

Black Friday throws some monster action at you, provides some laughs, you get to hear a good score composed by Patrick Stump and get to see some nice special effects, then it lets you get on your way before it has taken up too much of your time: only 79 minutes go by before the end credits start rolling. It wasn’t everything I wanted it to be, but it’s fun enough for a viewing or two.

The review of Black Friday originally appeared on


Two years after writer/director Charles Philip Moore made the martial arts action movie Blackbelt with Don "The Dragon" Wilson, executive producer Roger Corman tasked him with remaking the movie, using his same script, but with a female lead this time... and the resulting film, Angel of Destruction, was on the cusp of being one of the coolest movies ever. That's because Charlie Spradling of Puppet Master II, Meridian, Bad Channels, Ski School, and License to Drive was cast in the Don "The Dragon" Wilson role. In this case, the character is Brit Alwood, who runs her own little missing persons agency in Hawaii (the movie was filmed in the Philippines). If Spradling had gotten to play Brit Alwood for the whole movie like "The Dragon" played his character for the entirety of Blackbelt, Angel of Destruction would be a favorite of mine. Unfortunately, she doesn't even make it to the 20 minute mark. Rumor is she was written out of the movie because she refused to perform a fight scene wearing nothing but a thong, so an actress was brought in who would do the scene as planned. As someone who has been a Spradling fan since seeing Puppet Master II as a little kid, I'd gladly trade the thong fight scene for the chance to see her carry this film. But it wasn't to be.

The actress who was willing to fight in nothing but a thong is Maria Ford, who was in Slumber Party Massacre III and has quite a cult following of her own. Her character is Brit's stepsister Jo. Musician Delilah (Jessica Mark) had asked Brit to be her bodyguard because she has a dangerous stalker; Jimmy Broome as mercenary / serial killer Robert Kell. So Kell killed Brit. To avenge her sister, Jo takes the job of being Delilah's bodyguard... And this movie continues to show its fascination with nudity through Delilah's performances. She has hit records to her name, she has been on the cover of Rolling Stone, she strips naked on stage while she sings, and she's topless in her music videos.

I'm not as big of a fan of Maria Ford as I am of Charlie Spradling and she's no Don "The Dragon" Wilson either, but she plays the role of Jo Alwood well and also does a fine job with the fight scenes, even when she's not wearing much. Just like Blackbelt gave "The Dragon" more people to fight than just the singer's stalker, Jo also has to contend with the fact that Delilah is backed by a mobster who tries to have her killed, so she has to fight some assassins along the way, as well as Kell's mercenary buddies. She doesn't have a romance with the singer like we saw in Blackbelt, even though Delilah is bisexual and shown with a woman. Instead, Jo hooks up with her stepsister's cop ex-boyfriend Aaron (Antonio Bacci) - and that storyline moves so fast, you can tell this was supposed to be Aaron and Brit reunited.

Angel of Destruction is a lesser movie than Blackbelt, cheaper and more exploitative... but it is a classic Corman move, telling a filmmaker to "make that movie for me again, but with a lower budget and more nudity". I have to admire that.

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