Thursday, October 18, 2018

Only now does it occur to me... HELLRAISER V: INFERNO

Only now does it occur to me... I can't believe I'm saying this––after the CD-ROM Cenobite-madness in part III and the Alan Smithee/poor man's James Cameron antics of part IV––that HELLRAISER V is... dare I say it... not... so bad. Written as an original horror script by Paul Harris Boardman and director Scott Derrickson, Dimension Films ordered it to be revamped and shoehorned into the HELLRAISER saga.

In a nutshell, HELLRAISER V: INFERNO is a hardboiled detective story that takes an immediate (shallow?) dive into JACOB'S LADDER territory.

For a straight-to-DVD title, the caliber of visual storytelling is strong, the scares are occasionally effective (if incredibly derivative), and it builds a disorienting, distinctly L.A. atmosphere that almost feels like discount David Lynch slumming in the Barker-verse. A lot of the scenes have that stilted, surreal quality common in Lynch's work, and there's even a nefarious, advice-dispensing cowboy played by LOST HIGHWAY's Michael Shamus Wiles who prefigures the one in MULHOLLAND DR.

Wiles brings that Lynchian intonation...

...and yes, that is also a Cenobite cowboy in the background.

Flickering fluorescent lighting? Check.

Whatever this is? Check.

Shades of THE SHINING, as well.

It stars NIGHTBREED's Craig Sheffer (which lends it a little Clive Barker-esque continuity), as a "bad lieutenant" having a bad week with little support from his partner, lesser Turturro sibling Nick.

There's also an unusually soulful performance from a beardy James Remar (THE WARRIORS, 48 HRS.) who sorta looks like Fisher Stevens here.

We'll always have RENT-A-COP.

I mean, maybe my judgment is clouded by the memory of HELLRAISER IN SPACE, but there are some nearly subtle things at play here––a sort of Egoyan-style chiaroscuro and interest in mass media alienation,

one-liners like "I'll send you some candy at Christmas!" or "Are you gonna frisk me or fuck me?," and finally, in a wondrously head-scratching moment, a martial arts assault perpetrated by (non-Cenobite) Japanese cowboys who look like they should be in a hair metal band.

Obviously the best part.

You have to respect that. Also, despite being on the poster, Pinhead probably has about two minutes of screen-time, but I always thought he was best in small, effective doses. In the end, HELLRAISER V doesn't stick it's landing––it delivers a "twist," apparent from the outset, in an awkward, unnecessarily three-tiered denouement––but in terms of atmosphere and general competence, it's so far beyond its immediate predecessors that I have to give it a respectful head nod (but no slow clap).

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Only now does it occur to me... CREATURE

Only now does it occur to me... that out of all the ALIEN rip-offs (including GALAXY OF TERROR, CONTAMINATION, BIOHAZARD, STAR CRYSTAL, FORBIDDEN WORLD, etc.), William Malone's CREATURE (1985), is the only one that contains a rabid, lecherous performance by Klaus Kinski.

Let's back it up for a moment, shall we? While CREATURE contains homages to THE THING, PLANET OF THE VAMPIRES, and other sci-fi horror flicks, make no mistake that this is a straight-up ALIEN knock-off––and apparently one considered good enough by James Cameron that he hired a few of the FX team to work with a larger budget on ALIENS.


In addition to Kinski, it stars Lyman Ward (Ferris's dad from FERRIS BUELLER'S DAY OFF), who struggles to stay awake throughout

and Diane Salinger ("Simone" from PEE WEE'S BIG ADVENTURE) who battles the Creature with an arsenal that includes a variety of laser guns and razor-sharp cheekbones.

The score is almost exactly the same as Jerry Goldsmith's from ALIEN, down to the fluttery trumpets and foreboding strings. The sound effects are actually cribbed from STAR WARS––throughout, we hear an onslaught of TIE fighter cannons and other STAR WARS blaster effects which are usually not accompanied by appropriate imagery (i.e., laser noises are used for "ambient spaceship" background).

There's a fair amount of low 'budge charm and redonkulous gore, but on the quality index it's somewhere between a Troma movie and Full Moon Picture. I do really appreciate that despite having claws and teeth and acid and killer parasites, sometimes the Creature settles on old-fashioned strangling to dispose of its victims.

Anyway, back to Klaus Kinski––who plays an interloping creepy German astronaut whose old shipmates were eaten by the Creature.

Somewhere, there are horror stories (as of yet unheard?) of Kinski's behavior on this set. There must be. Klaus is often dubbed (but not always), as I have to imagine he didn't stick around (or wasn't allowed to return) for reshoots and ADR. He abruptly transitions into a space zombie at one point, likely because he was ejected or escaped from the set and they needed to replace him with a guy in a Kinski monster mask.

Or maybe he was a complete pleasure to work with and all of these were measured artistic decisions. Ya never know.