Vinessa Shaw, the love interest from 1990s Halloween classic Hocus Pocus, is all grown up now and starring in her own features, as evidenced by this year’s Netflix release Clinical. Shaw stars as Dr. Jane Mathis, a psychiatrist who specialized in post-trauma therapy until two years ago, when teenage patient Nora (India Eisley) broke into her office around Christmastime and slashed Jane several times with the same piece of glass that she was using to slit her wrists, before attempting to slash her own throat.
I approached this sequel with a fair amount of trepidation. The first Kingsman was an anomaly in that it seemed to fly under most people’s radar (it was in its third week when I saw it, on a Thursday afternoon, and there was not another soul in the entire theater) but was successful enough via word of mouth (after all, there is a sequel now) that it became a bit of a cult film almost instantaneously. The press for the film has been overwhelmingly negative, and I had reservations about seeing how far a follow-up to one of my favorite films of 2015 could possibly stray into territory that garnered such negative feelings.
And frankly, I just don’t get it. This movie is awesome.
Recent previews of Hugh Jackman’s upcoming P.T. Barnum film, in which his wife will be played by Michelle Williams, bothered me in the pit of my stomach. The fact that actors age but their love interests are not allowed to is not news, but this is the first time that it’s happened between someone who I consider to be of “my generation” (Williams is six years older than I am, but she’ll always be Jen on Dawson’s Creek to me) and someone I consider to be of the generation that came before (Jackman is 12 years older than Williams and was, in my mind, an “adult” in the X-Men movies when Williams was still “my age” or thereabouts). Of course, this never really bothered me when I was a kid watching Dead Calm, in which leads Sam Neill and Nicole Kidman (playing his wife) are a staggering twenty years apart (Kidman even turned 20 during production!), likely because they were always from the “before” generation. Looking back now, it’s a little distracting, but that doesn’t make the film any less thrilling, creepy, and well-done.
Spider-Man: Homecoming is a delightful movie. Featuring baby-faced Brit Tom Holland reprising his role from Captain America: Civil Waras the eponymous arachno-person, the film has already met with widespread approval from most critics and fans. It’s not difficult to see why; even when playing an exasperatingly ebullient modern teenager complete with inappropriately timed self-videoing, Holland has a magnetic screen presence and brings a lot of charm to the role, not to mention that he actually looks like a teenager and not just Tobey Maguire in his late twenties wearing a backpack. This newfound verisimilitude when it comes to casting young people as young characters is reflected in the rest of the cast who portray Parker’s classmates, including Laura Harrier (27 but looks younger) as Peter’s love interest Liz, Jacob Batalon as his best friend and confidante Ned, Grand Budapest Hotel‘s Tony Revolori as bully Flash Thompson, and Disney debutante Zendaya as Michelle alongside others.
In Shock Value, author Jason Zinoman discusses the fact that The Exorcist was surprisingly popular with black audiences in 1973, so it was only natural that a blaxploitation follow up would appear relatively quickly. Appearing on screens for only a month in 1974, Abby, written and directed by William Girdler (who had previously scripted and helmed cult classics like Three on a Meathook and Asylum of Satan, and who would go on to direct Pam Grier in Sheba, Baby), raked in an astonishing four million dollars before attracting the attention of Warner Brothers. WB sued American International Pictures for copyright infringement and won, leading to virtually every extant copy of the film to be destroyed, with only the film negatives thought to still exist. Until a long-forgotten copy of the film was discovered at the bottom of a box of 35 mm trailer reels at the American Genre Film Archive, that is. It’s unclear what will happen with the film now and whether it will see a new home media release (a very low quality 16 mm print was converted for DVD release in 2004, but it’s just awful), but it definitely deserves one.
Six years after the release of Basket Case, Frank Henenlotter unleashed a new “boy and his monster” movie onto the world with Brain Damage, a film with a similar conceit to his first work but with even more disgusting special effects, a slicker production style, a new villainous creature, strong metaphorical subtext, and homoeroticism to spare. Though less well remembered than the cult classic that preceded it, Brain Damage is nonetheless a lot of fun, and may be objectively better than its predecessor.
In the annals of delightfully bad horror films, few can hold a candle to Frank Henenlotter’s 1982 freshman film Basket Case. Following the bloodthirsty trail of revenge left by a monstrous flesh sack and the (formerly conjoined) twin brother from whom he was untimely ripped, the film is weirdly disjointed but utterly charming, minus a tonally bizarre sexual assault that happens in the final moments. Continue reading “Basket Case (1982)”