Friday, October 31, 2014

A Ghoul Versus Hellraiser

"Happy Halloween!  Hopefully you have some delicious candy to snack on to help ease the pain of enduring Hellraiser..."

Clive Barker is one of the founding fathers of modern horror, helping to shape it through nearly every medium possible including books, movies, art, comics, and even video games. One of his short stories, “The Forbidden” was the foundation of one of my all time favourite horror movies Candyman, which starred one of the heroes of this blog: Mr. Tony Todd.

However he is best known for creating the Hellraiser franchise, which was also based off another story of his “The Hellbound Heart”. Despite featuring one of the all time iconic horror movie villains in the form of the terrifying looking Pinhead, this franchise has always kind of been the red-headed stepchild of the genre. It's the lowest grossing series out of any major horror franchise, but to be fair only four of the NINE movies in the series were released theatrically. Wait, nine movies? They've made nine of these things? Bloody hell, what have I gotten myself into?

Saturday, October 25, 2014

A Ghoul Versus Saw VII: The Final Chapter In 3D (Part 2)

Click here for Part 1!

A flashback from the last movie plays, as we see the aforementioned envelope was indeed placed into Gordon's office. More flashbacks follow, showing Gordon becoming Jigsaw's disciple after surviving his test just like Amanda did. This all fits perfectly and fixes various plotholes such as “how the hell could a civil engineer perform such advanced surgery?!” that has been hovering around these movies since the second one.

What's REALLY fascinating about this reveal has nothing to do with the movie whatsoever. January 18th, 2009 YouTube user Toberoon uploaded a video called “Dr. Gordon is alive!” where he posited a theory that Gordon survived the events of the first movie and became Jigsaw's apprentice. One of his biggest pieces of evidence was the opening Billy tape from Saw II, which showed a cloaked “Jigsaw” limping towards Michael's unconscious body to implant a key in his eye. Remember in Saw II when I asked you to remember that? This is why.
Toberoon turned out to be 100% correct, as the movie even shows him doing the surgery on Michael. Keep in mind, this was uploaded before even Saw VI came out with its spoilery envelope scene, so this video is some kind of amazing. Many people have speculated the producers of Saw viewed this video, smacked themselves on the forehead, and changed their plans to copy it because it makes so much damn sense. Now I doubt this, as the limping man HAD to always have been intended to be Gordon but still... it does make one wonder.

A Ghoul Versus Saw VII: The Final Chapter In 3D (Part 1)

Previously on Saw VI...

Jill Tuck finally showed her true colours, as we learn she's been fully aware of everything her ex-husband has been up to the entire time. She hasn't been helping him, but hasn't been trying to stop him either. She got her hands bloody this time around, turning the tables on the maniacal Mark Hoffman and put him in a trap she thought inescapable. Unfortunately for her though it was, and now he likely has bloody vengeance on his mind to go along with the remains of his face.

Here we are, at long long LONG last, the conclusion to the Saw saga. Six films later, six films after the first chapter gave the horror genre a much needed kick in its arse but then caught a NASTY case of sequelitis... four times over. Saw VI got things back on track with a refreshing blast of originality, but unfortunately no one really saw it because A) Saw V was an abomination that drove everyone away and B) there was a new arse kicker in town in the form of Paranormal Activity.

Director of VI, Kevin Greutert, sprang at the chance to direct the sequel to this young and fresh upstart, but at the last second Lionsgate was all “Aww, HELL NO dawg!” and used a clause in his contract to make him return for Saw VII, or Saw 3D as it was called at this point. Greutert was NOT pleased about this, leading to a memorable blog rant where he wrote:

I just had the task of telling my 83 year old mother that no, I’m not going to be allowed to direct the movie we were all so excited about when my family last got together, and that I’m being forced to leave town before getting a chance to see her again. Yes, I’ll be filming people getting tortured YET AGAIN. So we’ll have to put off me making a film she can actually watch for another year. I’m not making this shit up.”.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

A Ghoul Versus Saw VI (Part 2)

Click here for Part 1!

Jenkins arrives at Jill's apartment thanks to a note from Hoffman, Jill not pleased to see the reporter. Jenkins hands her a letter that was taken from the plant where Jigsaw died, which I think is supposed to be Amanda's letter from Saw III but it looks a lot bigger so I'm not sure. Jill shuts the door in her face, Jenkins returning to the elevator and becoming the next to fall to Pig Mask. I'm guessing her crime is going to be putting her recyclables in with her regular garbage.

Easton makes his way through whatever building he's is, using a key he found to remove one of his explosive shackles. Under one of them he finds “The party” tattooed on his arm, which begins a flashback of a party he hosted for Jill's clinic back in happier times. He gets into a conversation with John, getting a lecture about the power a person can unleash when their life is on the line, the will to live. Yes movie, WE GET IT.

A Ghoul Versus Saw VI (Part 1)

Previously on Saw V...


Oh alright, FINE, if you insist. Ultra-memorable and fleshed out hero Paul Strahm- no wait, Phillip? Patrick, it was Patrick right? Ah, PETER Strahm died in the garbage compactor from Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope. Hoffman successfully framed him for being Jigsaw, while a bunch of nameless characters tried to recreate the plot from Saw II.

Like MANY people, Saw V was the final straw for me and I jumped ship. Saw VI limped into theaters greeted by sparse audiences, as this was the first movie in the series to not be a runaway success. Oh sure, it still made nearly $60 million dollars worldwide but this is nearly HALF of what the previous lowest grossing movie in the series (to no one's surprise, Saw V) made. There is no better example of what pissing off your audience can do than that.

You could see the writing was on the wall for the series at this point, as it was soundly beaten out of box office dollars by what you can easily call the next Saw-like phenomenon: Paranormal Activity, which was in its second week of release. Rest assured, the Paranormal Activity franchise is in my review stack because HOLY SHIT there is some stuff to say about that one.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

A Ghoul Versus Saw V (Part 2)

Click here for Part 1!

Brit, who is going to be our Voice of Reason, tries to calm everyone down and get them to brainstorm a way out of this. They pretty much ignore her and go back to bickering, Mallick finally getting pissed off and making a run for the keys. This activates the 60-second timer, everyone making a haphazard run for their keys and freeing themselves. Everyone except Ashley, who soon becomes the latest member of the Marie Antoinette Reenactment Society. The door to the room pops open at the conclusion of this, everyone leaving before the nail bombs go off. Brit has the bright idea of taking all five keys with her, just in case.

Hoffman leaves his base, trying to call Strahm but learning Erickson is now handling things. What? The omniscient Hoffman doesn't know something?! What madness be this? We find Strahm is currently busy researching Hoffman, pulling his files on the Jigsaw case. We learn one of the Jigsaw victims was a man named Seth Baxter, a name that should sound familiar to you. He killed his girlfriend Angelina Acomb in a domestic dispute, Angelina revealed to be Hoffman's sister. Putting two and two together, Strahm heads to the building where Seth was killed. He finds the eye hole, which smoothly transitions to a flashback of Hoffman watching his sister's killer die. Apparently Strahm was WATCHING the flashback, because at the end he concludes out loud that he now has Hoffman.

A Ghoul Versus Saw V (Part 1)

Previously on Saw IV...

Rhargh, do not make me recap all that again! Let's just say Detective Mark Hoffman is the new Jigsaw but his deceased master still intends to test him from beyond the grave. Also, FBI Agent Peter Strahm is the fourth straight lead to end a Saw movie locked in a room full of dead bodies.

As horror movie franchises continue along their bloody ways, you understandably begin get diminishing returns on quality. When the crux of your stories is thinking up different ways for dumbasses to get killed, eventually you're going to start running low on ideas. Let's take a quick look at some other iconic movies to see how they dealt with the fifth chapter of their stories.

Friday The 13th Part 5: A New Beginning: like the title says, this was an attempt to reboot the dying franchise with a new villain and a new atmosphere of psychological horror its previous slasher tendencies. It didn't work, and Jason was quickly brought back for the next movie.

A Nightmare On Elm Street 5: The Dream Child: a pseudo reboot of sorts, this was meant to return the series to its darker roots with the added concept of bringing Freddy into the real world. Again, it didn't work because the tone was all over the place and ended up being the second lowest grossing film of the series.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

A Ghoul Versus Saw IV (Part 2)

Click here for Part 1!

Following this clue to a map in the classroom, Rigg finds a box with his next destination: go home. Only the “G” in “go” is written in a specialized font that matches the same lettering used in one of Jigsaw's properties, the Gideon Meatpacking Plant.  Hmm, you think the second the police got his name they would have started searching all the properties registered to his name.  You know, just in case he might have had a hidden base there or something.  A quick montage of the various traps used in the movie shows them branded with the telltale letter. Instead of helping Morgan, Rigg simply hands her Jigsaw's key and tells her she has to save herself. He leaves, pulling the fire alarm on his way out.

This draws Strahm and team, constantly one step behind it seems. Perez gets a call where she learns all of tonight's victims were all represented by Art Blank at one point of their lives, who also JUST HAPPENS to be Jill's lawyer. Wow, there are a lot of elements in play right now. It's gonna take a HELL of a montage to tie all this together smoothly. The reveals keep coming though as Perez finds out Jill also owns the school, leading to her and Strahm searching the rest of it.

In an office they find a Billy puppet with a note and a tape player on his- and you know what? How come they never tried tracing the guy who's buying thirty million tape players in the city? This film was made in 2007, when digital recorders were long since the norm so this outdated technology would be bound to stand out when it's being sold by the pallet load, wouldn't you think? Anyway, Perez reaches out and hits play like the genius she is. Good thing that doll wasn't a pressure sensitive explosive or anything! I love how all these highly trained professionals can't grasp the concept of securing a crime scene first.

A Ghoul Versus Saw IV (Part 1)

Previously on Saw III...

Jigsaw? Dead. Amanda? Dead. Kerry? Dead. YIKES! The film makers do know another trilogy was planned after this, right? Did they miss that memo?

After seeing Saw III in 2006, I said they'd need a HELL of a strong sequel to make me come back. Sure, I would have eventually seen the next movie regardless but it sure wouldn't have been on opening night with my hard earned money in hand. Right off the bat they announced the movie would center around Lyriq Bent's underutilized character Daniel Rigg, so just like that I was all in. And I'll admit to being intrigued about where the story was going to go next, seeing as how the majority of the cast was saddled with that whole “We are totally dead” business.

Director of the last two films Darren Lynn Bousman said he was done with the series but upon reading the script was convinced to come back one last time. He said the film's huge plot twist surprised him, something he didn't think was possible after two years of guiding the franchise. The script came from four different scripts floating around Lionsgate, the original idea coming from writer Thomas Fenton, who had mostly served in Hollywood as a behind the scenes player.

The actual script was written by the team of Patrick Melton and Marcus Dunstan, who had made a name for themselves with the horror comedy Feast. They obviously impressed their bosses with their writing, as they would go on to pen the rest of the movies in the series. Having some fairly big shoes to fill after following the guys that transformed the genre forever, let's see what kind of approach the new team brought with A Ghoul Versus Saw IV!

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

A Ghoul Versus Saw III (Part 2)

Click here for Part 1!

The judge pleads for his life, busting out the old chestnut of “don't become a killer like the guy you're after!”. This gets through to Jeff so he goes over to the incinerator and reluctantly pushes the button. Heartbroken, he watches his son's favourite toys burn away in what I'll admit is a very well done scene. The key pops out, Jeff using it to save the judge from the vat of never ending horrors. You think that was gross though? You ain't seen nothing yet, as the next scene is Lynn performing GRAPHIC brain surgery on Jigsaw.

Bousman shows this with medical level details of realism as I long for the days of Wan's restraint and off camera gore. The shit we've been subjected to so far even makes the last movie look tame, but sadly Bousman hadn't even hit his stride yet. I LOVE bloody horror movies but only when there's a point to it. Here, it's just gratuitous for the sake of being gratuitous because THAT'S what horror is all about, right? RIGHT?! This wasn't even some poor victim getting eviscerated, it was just to be a gross as humanly possible.

A Ghoul Versus Saw III (Part 1)

Previously on Saw II...

Just pretend the first Saw never happened and the rest of this gets much, much easier to process. Jigsaw upped his game to Batman-levels of mind games, anticipation, and resources, as his efforts went city wide. We also learn he has an apprentice in the form of Amanda Young, the first survivor of his traps, who is being groomed to take over when he succumbs to his rapidly growing cancer. His latest target, Detective Eric Matthews, failed his test about as hard as possible and is now trapped in the iconic bathroom to slowly die.

After Saw II, filmmakers Darren Lynn Bousman, James Wan, and Leigh Whannell were ready to wash their hands of the franchise and finally move on with their lives. But then a very sad thing happened: Gregg Hoffman, one of the producers behind the series, unexpectedly passed away at the very young age of 42. The three agreed to make one last final movie in his name, so production was begun right away.

The marketing for the film basically boiled down to “It's Halloween, time for another Saw movie! Come on, what else are you going to go see?”. That's good and all because I am literally the target audience for that mind set, but it's just so devoid of any kind of creativity whatsoever. If you need further proof of this, Lionsgate didn't even bother to screen the film for critics which is NEVER a good sign. The studio knows it's not a good movie, so there's no point in everyone else telling them it sucks.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

A Ghoul Versus Saw II (Part 2)

Click here for Part 1!

Xavier returns to the safe room, trying in vain to open the safe until he notices a number tattooed on the back of Gus' head. Jigsaw's clue from the first tape plays in his mind, as the proverbial light bulb goes off over his thick skull. He kills Jonas and gets the number off his neck, taking off after the rest of the survivors.

They're across the house, Laura finally finding the X Jigsaw mentioned way back when on a picture frame. Addison looks behind it to find a picture of Matthews and Daniel, confronting him over this but Laura has the courtesy to break up the tension by dying. Now THAT'S how you change an awkward subject! Addison decides she can't trust anyone and takes off on her own. Xavier gets the number off Obi's remains while Amanda discovers Jonas' body and drags Daniel to safety.

I can't help but wonder what the point of this little plot was, as Jigsaw said when they found 'X' it'd help them all realize why they're there. Sure, Matthews arrested all of them but how it THAT going to help? All it's going to do is make them turn on Daniel and probably try to kill him, which is VIOLENTLY counterproductive to Jigsaw's master plan. I guess since Jigsaw can anticipate everyone's decisions in perfect detail he knew by the time it was discovered most of them would be dead and it wouldn't matter, but still it seems like an odd thing to leave hanging out there.

A Ghoul Versus Saw II (Part 1)

Previously on Saw...

In which we met psychopathic serial killer Jigsaw, a man dying of cancer who kidnaps people and puts them into horrific traps they have to solve to survive. The traps usually involve physical disfigurement to survive, the catch that surviving this trap will make you appreciate life and change your wicked ways. At the end of the film Jigsaw gets away scot free, as we get the impression he's not quite done yet with his twisted crusade to make the world a better place.

The first Saw was the definition of a smash hit, made for almost nothing and turning a huge profit while getting very positive reaction from critics and fans alike. Its distributor, Lionsgate Films, knew they had something very special on their hands and wanted to create a new franchise based off yearly sequels releasing every Halloween.

One problem though: Saw's creators, James Wan and Leigh Whannell, had moved on to a different movie and were no longer available to helm a sequel. With less than a year from their targeted release date of Saw II and no one really having any idea what to do, fate handed Lionsgate a gift in the form of writer/director Darren Lynn Bousman and his script for a movie called The Desperate.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

A Ghoul Versus Saw (Part 2)

Click here for Part 1!

Gordon tells Adam about his family, throwing his wallet over so he can see pictures of them. Adam finds a picture of Alison and Diana tied up, along with a message from Jigsaw saying “X marks the spot. Sometimes you see more with your eyes shut”. Adam hides this from Gordon and throws the wallet back. Flashback footage shows Gordon leaving his house after a fight with his wife, things only growing worse for her as the mystery figure from earlier breaks into the house, tying up her and Diana.
The man is revealed to be Zep, who peeks out the window for some reason. Apparently it was so he could be spotted by Tapp, who is holed up in a building across the street watching Gordon's house. We see something has happened to Tapp in the five months since first learning about Jigsaw, as he has gone a bit off the deep end and seems to live in a Room Full Of Crazy (complete with tons of newspaper clippings about Jigsaw pinned to the walls) while obsessively spying on Gordon.

We go back to the night of Gordon being questioned, with Tapp returning him to the hospital after Amanda was done speaking. Tapp obviously believes Gordon is still involved somehow, dropping a vague threat and driving off. Tapp goes back to his office to analyze the recording Jigsaw left for Amanda, identifying some of the graffiti on a wall to an abandoned mannequin factory in the city. Sing wants to get a warrant but Tapp dismisses this, because they don't need no stinking warrants!

A Ghoul Versus Saw (Part 1)

I want to play a game. And like most games, it's going to go on WAY too long.”

Now that the snooze-fest Transformers: Age Of Extinction is out of the way, we now return to our regularly scheduled programming. Originally for the month of October I had planned to do a collection of widely varied horror flicks covering every category, BUT that changed when I got my hands on the entire Saw collection on blu-ray. Seven movies that completely transformed the modern horror genre, although the big question is was that a good thing or a bad thing?

Up until the first Saw movie in 2004, the mainstream horror genre had been kind of spinning its wheels as the trend at the time was a heavy infusion of sci-fi and/or action, leaving us with “classics” such as Dreamcatcher, Feardotcom, Ghost Ship, Resident Evil, Ghosts of Mars, Thir13een Ghosts, and Hollow Man. On the franchise side you had Friday The 13th and the Halloween series steamrolling their way towards a reboot with disappointing outings, while the only new franchise to launch was Final Destination, which, while being very entertaining, is BARELY horror.

Sure, some gems did sneak out during these dark times like 28 Days Later, the American remake of The Ring, and the WAY BETTER than it had any right to be reboot of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, but for years it was just crushing letdown after crushing letdown. Saw changed ALL of this, bringing horror back to its low budget roots with a film that was harshly violent with very sharp elements of suspense and intrigue to it.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

A Ghoul Versus Transformers: Age Of Extinction (Part 2)

Click here for Part 1!

Optimus and Galvatron start duking it out, giving us another taste of the Autobot leader's legendary wisdom: “YOU DIE!”. Oh Optimus, you so crazy... and homicidal. Shit starts getting real when Lockdown's ship MAGICALLY APPEARS OUT OF NOWHERE and fires rockets into Optimus. Seriously, that ship HAS to have teleportation abilities because I question how no one would have noticed a thing that big landing nearby. Lockdown emerges as slow motiony as his frame will allow, upping the slow motion shots in this movie to probably DOUBLE the entire original trilogy. He takes out Optimus with a volley of cannon blasts, announcing he has been sent by Optimus' creators to return him to where he was created. His... creators? But I thought the AllSpark- on second thought, I'll just let this play out because I KNOW there's more coming.

Lockdown deploys a giant net to not only catch Optimus, but the car he's resting his head on. This is important because Tessa is hiding in the car despite having multiple chances to leave. She's not the brightest explosion in the Michael Bay pyrotechnics pack, is she? Lockdown hauls them into his ship and takes off, leaving us to wonder how the net got underneath Optimus and the car to scoop them up? Why the hell wouldn't Lockdown's ship have a freaking tractor beam anyway?!

A Ghoul Versus Transformers: Age Of Extinction (Part 1)

Previously on Transformers: Dark of the Moon...

Wait, what? The new movie is out already?! Dammit... alright, I'll play. The original leader of the Autobots, Sentinel Prime, was secretly in cahoots with Megatron to save their race from dying so they cooked up an extremely convoluted plan to- rhaaargh!  This is futile, as virtually EVERYONE from the original trilogy is gone and this new movie skips ahead five years to really put some distance from the last one. Honestly, they should have just rebooted the series instead of trying to build off three movies of some of the repulsive garbage ever recorded by a camera outside of whatever E! TV is currently airing.

It's the first October on A Ghoul Versus..., which SHOULD mean I review awesomely bad horror movies but unfortunately I “lucked” into a copy of Michael Bay's latest middle finger to competent movie making: Age of Extinction. Morbid curiosity won out over the stack of horror movies I've been stockpiling, so let's once again reluctantly return to the world of Bayformers, the land that intelligence forgot. A disturbing world where the heroes solve their problems by committing graphic murder, women don't know what clothes are, and- actually, that's about it. Grab your gun that looks like a sword and is human sized for some reason, get a bunch of snacks because this movie is sadly almost three hours long, and get ready for A Ghoul Versus Transformers: Age Of Extinction!

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

A Ghoul Versus Star Trek: Into Darkness (Part 2)

Click here for Part 1!

To set up a drinking game for this movie, Shippus Interuptus happens AGAIN as Sulu hails Kirk with news a ship is approaching them fast. Kirk worries it's the Klingons, but Khan tells him he knows EXACTLY who it is. Kirk runs to the bridge in time to witness the Star Destroyer from Star Wars arrive- oh wait, my bad. It's the most ominous looking Federation ship in the history of ever, made of dark metal and probably the size of a small moon.

Admiral Marcus hails Kirk, dropping all pretense at being friendly the instant Kirk calls Khan by name. Marcus asks for Khan back, Kirk agreeing but it's all a front. After Marcus ends the call, Kirk orders the ship to warp to Earth against Chekov's advice, as the ship's core is still unstable from the leak. They take off anyway, Marcus able to follow them in his advanced prototype ship. Carol runs to the bridge and begs Kirk to let her talk to her father, as he won't destroy the Enterprise with her on board. This comes on the heels of Marcus opening fire on the Enterprise, blasting holes into it and sucking dozens of the crew into space to their death.

A Ghoul Versus Star Trek: Into Darkness (Part 1)

Previously on Star Trek...

JJ Abrams, Alex Kurtzman, and Roberto Orci helmed one of the best reboots in recent times and made Star Trek relevant again in the process. Five year later it still boggles my mind how spot on they nailed almost everything, making the new series an alternate reality that's free to tell its own stories without pissing off millions of hardcore fans. If they don't like it, no worries, they can just ignore it because it's not part of the decades long continuity. Game, set, match.

Enter Into Darkness. Right off the bat, the series continued Abrams' home run streak as he signed the RABIDLY beloved Benedict Cumberbatch to play the film's main villain. Most of the movie's details were kept in secret as it sailed towards its release date of May 16, 2013, although it was painfully obvious to long term fans it was going to be a retelling of the also rabidly beloved Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.

And then the movie came out. Critically and financially it was a success, scoring an 87% on Rotten Tomatoes and grossing nearly half a billion dollars on its way to become the highest grossing Star Trek movie of all time. However, among hardcore fans and Trekkies it became a movie that split the fan base. Although split may be the wrong term, as it seems to have gained far more negative reactions than positive ones. Being the Spoiler-Phobe that I am I've never read WHY so many fans didn't like this movie, but I can certainly understand why they don't like Roberto Orci.