• New “DEVIL” clip

    Originally posted on 2010-09-03 21:19:49 by Samuel Zimmerman

    A brand new clip from DEVIL popped up today, hit the jump to find out what bit her..

    The film, produced by M. Night Shyamalan and directed by John Erick and Drew Dowdle (QUARANTINE) sees a group of strangers trapped in an elevator- only one of them just may be the as evil as they come. Check out FANGORIA #297 (on sale this month) for our preview of the film and keep an eye out for an exclusive interview with star Bokeem Woodbine right here on FANGORIA.com.

    DEVIL hits theaters September 17. 

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  • New “ATOMIC BRAIN INVASION” pics, premiere details

    Originally posted on 2010-09-03 20:28:28 by

    The ATOMIC BRAIN INVASION is getting closer! And New England director Richard Griffin sent along a few exclusive new photos from his sci-fi/horror/drive-in homage, to go with info on the movie’s world premiere next weekend.

    Written by Griffin and Guy Benoit and produced by Ted Marr, ATOMIC BRAIN INVASION is set in the village of New Shoreham, where evil cerebrum creatures arrive to kidnap Elvis Presley (Brandon Luis Aponte), who’s in town for a concert. Can a group of local teens (Sarah Nicklin, David Lavallee, Jr., Daniel Lee White, Colin Carlton and Michael Reed) and the local grease monkey (Rich Tretheway) stop them? Find out when the flick premieres next Friday-Saturday, September 10-11 at Foxboro, MA’s Orpheum Theater Foxboro (1 School Street), with screenings at 7 p.m. and 9 p.m. both days. Griffin and his cast and crew will be on hand to introduce the shows. Watch the ATOMIC BRAIN trailer below the photos; for more info on this and other productions of Griffin and Marr’s Scorpio Film Releasing, check out the company’s official website, and see ATOMIC BRAIN INVASION’s Facebook page here.

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  • Ridley Scott talks “ALIEN” prequels

    Originally posted on 2010-09-03 20:23:10 by Samuel Zimmerman

    Everyone is anxious to see just what Ridley Scott will do with his return to the ALIEN franchise, so while not terribly detailed, this batch of quotes is pretty interesting, especially since it looks like he’s trying to best James Cameron’s sequel. Hit the jump for what he had to say..

    Scott spoke to The Independent about his entire career, and this excerpt towards the end is what deals directly with the upcoming ALIEN films:

    “The anticipation for his next project is building to fever pitch: it will be a two-part prequel to Alien, shot in 3D. Scott was never asked to make a sequel to ALIEN; that honour went to James Cameron, before a further two sequels and two ALIEN VS PREDATOR spin-offs milked the franchise dry. But with the Lost co-creator Damon Lindleof polishing the first prequel’s script, you can sense the competitor in Scott, desperate to put his stamp back on the film series that launched him. ‘Jim’s raised the bar and I’ve got to jump to it,’ he says, in a friendly jibe at Cameron. ‘He’s not going to get away with it.’

    “Set 30 years before the 1979 original, so with no room for Sigourney Weaver’s Ripley, the prequels will explore the origins of the deadly aliens. ‘The film will be really tough, really nasty,’ he notes. ‘It’s the dark side of the moon. We are talking about gods and engineers. Engineers of space. And were the aliens designed as a form of biological warfare? Or biology that would go in and clean up a planet?’ 

    I love Ridley Scott as a filmmaker and when he’s at the top of his game, it’s incredible. I also can’t see a reason he would want to cheaply return to ALIEN, it’s not as if he’s in a crappy position right now, so let’s hope he’s going at this with tenacity and actually makes some good films. 

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  • Vote for “PIRANHA 3D” sequel victims!

    Originally posted on 2010-09-03 20:00:27 by

    Dimension Films’ announcement that there would be a sequel to PIRANHA 3D came before the movie took a dive at the box office, but apparently the company is still intent on making it. And it’ll be interactive in ways that go beyond the 3-D visuals.

    According to an item in today’s New York Post, there will be an on-line contest in which fans can vote on which celebrity they’d like to see devoured or otherwise dispatched in PIRANHA 3D II. This is apparently in response to favorable audience reaction to the graphic demise of Jerry O’Connell’s sleazy video-producer character (his most valued organ gets eaten in your face), whose persona is close enough to that of GIRLS GONE WILD impresario Joe Francis that Francis threatened to sic his legal piranhas on the producers. Apparently, Dimension expects lots of votes for assorted castmembers from JERSEY SHORE and the REAL HOUSEWIVES shows. Sounds like the makings of a bloody Situation! We’ll keep you posted on where you’ll be able to vote.

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  • Terrifyingly Gnarly: Wes Craven, Week 2: “CHILLER”

    Originally posted on 2010-09-03 19:30:02 by Samuel Zimmerman

    Quite recently, a blog went up on FANGORIA taking a handful of legendary horror directors to task for essentially riding the waves of their legacy and failing to continuously and contemporarily put out excellent work. No doubt, it’s an interesting theory worth debating and investigating. However, in my eyes, its author made one fatal mistake (and no, it wasn’t that confrontational opening line—although that was slightly devoid of taste). Nick sought to claim that Wes Craven neither is, nor ever was, great. I’m under the belief that no matter how you feel about many of his films, that’s simply a falsehood. So with seven weeks until the filmmaker’s latest, MY SOUL TO TAKE, hits theaters, I’ve decided to look at one of his movies a week (excluding the landmarks like LAST HOUSE, NIGHTMARE and SCREAM) to showcase that even during misfires and his lesser praised works, Craven displays talent, chops and incredible imagination (see last week’s entry). Read on for week two: my examination of his made-for-television CHILLER.

    I had taken a bit of a gamble on this week’s piece, choosing a film I was wholly unfamiliar with in Craven’s oeuvre. I hoped it wouldn’t be one I came out hating on the other side, failing to see the positives of his contribution to, especially considering it’s a film made specifically for television and one he isn’t credited with writing. CHILLER is another probe of the potential horrors of our own technological and scientific progression as a society and especially how that may interfere with the natural or spiritual course of things. In the film, wealthy company man Miles Creighton (THE WARRIORS’ Michael Beck) is the victim of a terrible accident. and due to the lack of sufficient medical procedures at the time, is unable to be revived. Miles’ mother, sick with grief, opts to cryogenically freeze her son until a time when medicine has caught up to his ailment. Ten years later, when a malfunction causes Miles’ chamber to thaw out, Doctors Stricklin and Collier are successfully able to return the man to the land of the living, albeit as we come to find out, without his soul.

    I’ve owned a very low-quality pan and scan version of the film for many years now, so when it was time to actually see CHILLER, it was initially hard to settle into the film. Through no fault of the filmmakers, it was visually dark, the audio was often muddled and the colors were certainly not as they were meant to be. When revisiting something of a more ridiculous nature, all of these qualities can add to the fun, but CHILLER is a bit of a serious and subdued thriller, which makes the traits of a god-awful transfer more of a hindrance. Beck’s creepfest of a performance amongst other strong points, though, helps one look past the home video release’s detriments.

    Miles quickly returns to and reassumes his position as the head of the family company, however, his conscience and moral standings seem to have stayed in the frozen chamber. He reneges on the company’s longstanding charitable donations, kills his dog  (who, of course, very much senses something’s wrong with the undead Miles from the beginning), fires and murders his father’s best friend who had kept the business afloat and profitable, and physically and sexually assaults one of his employees.

    While it’s obvious Craven was working within the confines of television (limited budget, what he could and couldn’t show), you could see why he’d be taken with J.D. Feigelson’s script, namely its keeping in line with Craven’s interest in some sort of social commentary and indictment of rich, upper class, suburban living. One doesn’t have to dig incredibly deep to see the subtext of a man with no soul running a faceless, corporate entity, shunning family and loved ones, refuting god and the church, all in favor of selfish and sadistic desires. Almost every negative aspect of a greed-laden mid-‘80s yuppie/privileged child is addressed in the film. Doing anything in favor of a profit? Check. Backstabbing and betraying those who’ve stood by you? Check. Offering a female employee a higher paying and more powerful position, but only after violently and sexually demeaning her, plus treating her like an object? Check.

    But not only does Craven touch on the practices of such a person, but the environment that enables them. Miles’ mother, Marion (Beatrice Straight of POLTERGEIST) is a woman full of denial and blinded by her perfect son returning to her. In fact, it seems everyone else can sense something is wrong with the boy—most prominently, Stacey (POPCORN and THE STEPFATHER’s lovely Jill Schoelen) who had become sort of an adopted daughter to Marion after Miles’ death, but didn’t necessarily grow up in the exclusive lifestyle. And when Reverend Penny (a nice appearance from GOODFELLAS’ Paul Sorvino) tries to intervene, Miles literally runs him and his spirituality over.

    Aside from what’s underneath, however, does CHILLER work as a film? Yes and no. It’s not incredible in any sense, and I definitely won’t look back on it as fondly as THE PEOPLE UNDER THE STAIRS, but it’s solid at times, most often thanks to the eerie atmosphere Craven creates around Miles. The character is almost a supernatural precursor to Patrick Bateman and the director’s photography of him (specifically by the fire, watching, ready to pounce on Stacey) coupled with Beck’s acting is highly effective. The supporting cast all put in strong work as well, except for Straight who at times comes off a bit too melodramatic and almost a caricature of a wealthy mother. But then again, that might’ve been what she was going for. CHILLER doesn’t and didn’t break any new ground, and the scares are better when they’re subtle and performance-based rather than the often telegraphed “jump” shocks, but its synthy score and high points definitely make it worthy of discovery. I just hope there’ll be an opportunity for a better looking CHILLER than what’s available on the market now.

    You can read the blog that incited my seven week response right here, as well as check out my initial idea and drop me suggestions for what Craven films you’d like to see me tackle here.

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  • Tom Savini is now a “SADIST”; new trailer

    Originally posted on 2010-09-03 19:07:12 by

    Back here, we first gave you the news about SWINE, an independent horror feature starring Tom Savini that marks the feature debut of short filmmaker/Fango scribe Jeremiah Kipp. The movie has since been retitled THE SADIST and its first trailer is on-line; you can see it after the jump.

    Scripted by producers Frank Wihbey and Joe Pisani with Pedro Ondrush, THE SADIST stars Savini as a combat veteran with serious psychological damage who stalks campers and hunters in the woods. Wihbey also co-stars alongside Mackenzie Christine Hawkins, Miguel Lopez, Jerry Murdock, Santo Fazio, Zoe Daelman Chlanda, Carl Burrows and Tom Reid; THE BLOOD SHED’s Alan Rowe Kelly served as line producer, with VINDICATION’s Dominick Sivilli as cinematographer and THE ROOST’s Daniel J. Mazikowski on the makeup FX. We’ll bring you more on THE SADIST in the near future.


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  • Exclusive pics, comments: “BUNYAN”

    Originally posted on 2010-09-03 18:21:16 by


    A lot of big guys with axes have stalked through horror movies over the years, but the biggest yet may be the titular menace in BUNYAN, a Kinetic Filmworks production directed by filmmaker/FX artist Gary Jones. He gave us a bit of info on the movie, and producer Jeff Miller supplied us with a couple of exclusive pics.

    BUNYAN, which recently wrapped its main shoot in the Los Angeles area, is a horrific takeoff on the legend of Paul Bunyan, who in this scenario is a malevolent, 15-foot-tall human monster that terrorizes a boot camp for first-time offenders in Minnesota. Scripted by Jones, Miller and Jason Ancona, it stars Joe Estevez, Thomas Downey from Jones’ JOLLY ROGER: MASSACRE AT CUTTER’S COVE, Tim Lovelace from Jones’ MOSQUITO, Amber Connor, Jesse Kove, Kristina Kopf (first photo), Cliff Williams, Victoria Ramos, Jill Evyn (taking a stunt fall in the second photo) and Ryan Hooks. More cast will be added for additional filming to take place this fall. The FX were created by Robert Kurtzman’s Creature Corps, with additional contributions by Acme Effects, DEADGIRL’s Jim Ojala and Michael Kallio.

    “I’m really excited about BUNYAN,” Jones tells Fango, “and I must say I have the good fortune to be working with this really talented and cool, cool cast and crew. A lot of my films have been giant-creature features, and I’ve kind of been labeled as the MOSQUITO and SPIDERS and CROCODILE 2 guy. BUNYAN is my first giant humanoid monster movie, and of course—I must quote my old buddy Ron Asheton here—‘He’s big, man, really big!’ Bunyan does a lot of killing and causes plenty of destruction along the way, but is a monster you still have just a little bit of sympathy for—like King Kong.

    “We are using every old and new special effects technique to bring BUNYAN to life,” he continues. “There are going to be some big surprises for the audience, so stay tuned, horror fans! You won’t be sorry.” You can see more pics and find more info at Kinetic’s official website.

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  • Fango Flashback: “COUNT YORGA, VAMPIRE”

    Originally posted on 2010-09-03 17:50:04 by Tony Timpone

    I’m a sucker for seeing vintage frights on the big screen, and if you’re a New Yorker, it has been a cinematic feast in the Big Apple these last few weeks. The Film Forum recently concluded its 3-D fest and then directly segued into a gimmick-laden William Castle salute (ending this Monday), while Lincoln Center has a bunch of cool screenings coming, starting with Ridley Scott’s ALIEN on Monday (see item here). Meanwhile, over at the Brooklyn Academy of Music’s repertory house, the ongoing Bela Lugosi’s Dead, Vampires Live Forever festival (see item here) will be running till September 30. That’s where I caught 1970’s COUNT YORGA, VAMPIRE on the big screen for the first time last week, and dug every grindhouse minute of it.

    Just like today’s modern vampire craze with TWILIGHT and TRUE BLOOD, ’70s audiences had no shortage of bloodsuckers, with DARK SHADOWS and THE NIGHT STALKER staking out the boob tube and Christopher Lee’s Dracula putting a bite on drive-ins. Legend has it that COUNT YORGA, VAMPIRE—about a cultured Romanian blood-drainer who settles in modern-day LA—started out as a softcore movie before star Robert Quarry convinced the producers to take a legit approach to the material. Smart move. Reportedly shot for a meager $64,000 (with Quarry only earning $1,200 for his lead role!), the film became a hit after American International Pictures acquired it for release in 1970. Plotwise, writer/director Bob Kelljan closely follows the template set by Tod Browning’s 1931 DRACULA, with the aristocratic Yorga settling into his new mansion while preying on two romantic couples. A blood doctor (Roger Perry), suspecting a supernatural menace afoot, matches wits with Yorga—not unlike the verbal dueling of Bela Lugosi and Edward Van Sloan in DRACULA. And there’s also a mute henchman named Brudah (Edward Walsh) serving as the Renfield substitute, and a climax where the good guys sneak into the villain’s lair to put a stop to the bloodshed.

    The unflappable Quarry sets COUNT YORGA, VAMPIRE (originally lensed as THE LOVES OF COUNT IORGA, the onscreen title on the BAM print) apart from other typical fanged fare from the period. The guy exudes a commanding screen presence, has a great air about him, but can also launch into Lee-style animal ferocity when his back gets pushed up against the wall. The California-born, classically trained actor wisely plays the role straight and sans accent, and seems to relish his verbal sparring with Perry and company, with the Count almost too proud to hide his true nature. This vampire, alas, also has a romantic streak, and keeps a harem of turned lasses in his basement. Both COUNT YORGA, VAMPIRE and, even more, its year-later sequel THE RETURN OF COUNT YORGA emphasize the vampire’s equal needs for love and blood, angles further explored in 1992’s BRAM STOKER’S DRACULA (also playing BAM) and THE TWILIGHT SAGA, to name a few. Oh, the eternal loneliness… The film’s best shock scene finds the bitten (and smitten) Erica (Judy Lang) discovered gorily feasting on an eviscerated cat by her startled friends.

    Symptomatic of its budget, not a whole lot happens in COUNT YORGA, VAMPIRE. There’s a lot of talk between the protagonists, plus a long travelogue scene with two of our heroes wandering the sunny streets of Los Angeles (fun for nostalgia/time-capsule reasons, though). Yorga’s eventual demise comes a little too abruptly, and the film’s surprise ending probably worked much better 40 years ago than it does today.

    Director Kelljan went on to co-write and direct YORGA’s better-budgeted sequel and SCREAM, BLACULA SCREAM, as well as tons of ’70s TV action shows like CHARLIE’S ANGELS and STARSKY & HUTCH. Actor Michael Murphy, whose love-van-driving character suffers Yorga’s violent wrath, carved himself a nice Hollywood career after this exploitation debut, appearing in such diverse films as Woody Allen’s MANHATTAN, Tim Burton’s BATMAN RETURNS and Wes Craven’s SHOCKER. Quarry, alas, never emerged as the ’70s successor to Vincent Price, which AIP unsuccessfully groomed him for. Audience tastes changed, and by 1973, tuxedo-wearing monsters were just not as scary anymore when compared to devil-possessed 13-year-old girls.

    Watch for a Fango Flashback on THE RETURN OF COUNT YORGA next week, and check out the classic Quarry (who died in 2009) interview in Fango #64.

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  • Enter the “GARDEN OF HEDON” with “CLOWNS” director

    Originally posted on 2010-09-03 17:09:47 by

    Indie filmmaker Kevin Kangas, the man behind the FEAR OF CLOWNS movies, is moving forward with GARDEN OF HEDON, a freaky fright feature for which he’s raising the last part of his budget on-line. He gave Fango a few details about the project, as well as info on how you can be involved.

    GARDEN OF EDEN opens with a man waking up in a room next to the body of a dead woman, with no memory of how he got there or even any clue where he is. Trying to find help, he instead finds himself in the middle of a bizarre party rife with sex, drugs—and more murders. “GARDEN is an experimental little movie that’s going to be a cross between the good 10 minutes of EYES WIDE SHUT—the mansion masquerade—and a supernatural element,” Kangas tells us. “It’s sort of like a giallo mixed with the fantastique—but it will have some great gore and a new ‘monster’ that I guarantee everyone’s gonna love.”

    Like a growing a number of filmmakers recently, Kangas is seeking to amass a portion of his budget through crowd-source financing, offering a number of incentives (including credit) in exchange for the cash. You can see the details here. “Since the whole thing is an experiment—we’ll even be playing a PG-13 version of the entire movie in pieces on-line for free for a limited time shortly after the premiere—we thought we’d try this new crowd-funding way to get a little extra money to up the gore even more,” says Kangas, who plans to begin shooting GARDEN in November. You can see the movie’s teaser below and find out more about Kangas’ films at his official website.





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  • Horror Nights/Zombie film competition finalists on-line

    Originally posted on 2010-09-03 16:46:06 by Allan Dart

    Nearly 200 entries were submitted to this year’s Scary Film Competition sponsored by Universal’s Halloween Horror Nights, which gave moviemakers the chance to have their scariest shorts judged by a panel led by HALLOWEEN director/horror rocker Rob Zombie. Today it was announced that the entries have been whittled down to 10 finalists that have been posted on-line for public voting. Find out the details after the jump.

    You can check out the shorts and select your favorite at Halloween Horror Nights’ official website from September 3-17. Only one vote per person may be cast. The winning filmmaker will be rewarded with a premiere showing on Chiller, a posting on Syfy.com, a $1,000 cash prize and a trip for two to the opening night of Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Studios Hollywood.

    Prospective filmmakers were invited to submit films of 90 seconds to three minutes in length; the judging criteria included storytelling skill, originality and the degree of a “good scare.” The winner will be announced on September 17, and in addition to the prizes and broadcast, its creator will be honored in front of celebrities, studio executives and media at the Eyegore Awards ceremony, which will kick off the Halloween Horror Nights event. Click here to read more on Halloween Horror Nights and see a promo clip.

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  • Adam Green ready to go with “KILLER PIZZA”

    Originally posted on 2010-09-03 16:28:32 by Trevor Parker

    Fango recently spoke at length with writer/director Adam Green (pictured) about his upcoming HATCHET II, for a two-part magazine interview that begins in issue #297 (on sale this month). In the course of our chat, he also discussed his next project, an adaptation of Greg Taylor’s YA horror novel KILLER PIZZA.

    Green just began scripting the film—when he has found time between festival and promotional duties for his slasher sequel. “KILLER PIZZA is a dream project,” he says. “Now, I get called in for these bigger studio movies all the time, and that has always been a question for people, like, ‘Why do you keep making these smaller movies, why haven’t you done anything big yet?’ On the big ones, you really get put through such hell, and there hasn’t been anything I’ve believed in enough to go through all that. I’m very, very lucky that I have my own production company [ArieScope Pictures] and I can make my own movies. You know, I’m the son of a gym teacher from Boston, Massachusetts. My family was dirt poor and I had nothing, and now I have my own company and make my own movies?

    “And they aren’t these big tentpole releases, they’re my movies and they’re how I want them to be,” he continues. “So when I get a call for the remake of… [Pause] I better watch what I say here, so let’s say I get a call for the remake of HATCHET, and they’re like, ‘But we don’t want Victor Crowley to be in it!’ That’s what you’re up against with these remakes. Yeah, I could do a $30-million movie with $50 million in ad support that’s going to open huge, but is it worth it to spend two years of my life going through so much shit when I can just go off and make FROZEN? Now I’m at a point in my life where money doesn’t dictate my choices, and I can do what my heart wants to do. Very few people get to live like that, so the idea of a big studio movie hasn’t been worth it.”

    Green got involved with KILLER PIZZA when GREMLINS’ Chris Columbus, who’s producing the film through his 1492 Pictures, sent him a copy of Taylor’s book, in which a teenager takes a summer job at the title eatery, which proves to be a front for a monster-fighting organization. “Chris and 1492 are producing [Green’s romantic comedy] GOD ONLY KNOWS, so for a couple of years now I’ve had a very good friendship with them. On everything I’ve done, they’ve been supportive and very much behind me. So with KILLER PIZZA, I was actually on my way to Pixar, because Pixar wanted to do a screening of FROZEN for their staff…”

    Wait a minute—Pixar, the company behind so many all-ages blockbusters, wanted to see Green’s intense and graphic cold-survival thriller? “Yeah; to date, it’s the weirdest thing that’s ever happened to me. I was at Sundance, and at the end of a FROZEN screening, all these people were coming up and handing me their business cards, and one guy said, ‘We’d love to have you come out to the company, show your movie and then talk about your character development and your dialogue. I really believe our employees could benefit.’ I looked at the card and it was f**king Pixar! I said, ‘Are you serious?’ and he was like, ‘Oh yeah, we’ll fly you in for the day.’ It was like every kid’s dream; I got to see animatics for CARS 2, the new short that’s playing with TOY STORY 3, everything. Then they showed FROZEN for their whole campus and I did a two-hour Q&A. The whole time I was just laughing and saying, ‘You guys are the greatest storytellers in the world, why the f**k do you care what I think?’

    “Anyway, it was on the flight back from San Francisco that I read KILLER PIZZA,” he continues, “and I thought it had all the heart of a GOONIES or a MONSTER SQUAD, like the Amblin movies I grew up loving. And Chris, between GREMLINS and GOONIES, he’s the guy for that stuff, and the fact that he wants to do something like that again on a big-studio level, and he picked me, it’s the most flattering thing. I mean, if I could talk about this with my 10-year-old self, I never would have believed it. So I went in and gave Chris my take on the book, which was very different from what was on the page. I took the basic story and changed everything to make it more cinematic, and they went for it.

    “So, we made the deal, I’m writing it and at this point it looks like I’ll be directing it—but only when I’m actually on set will I be able to say for sure. I’ve seen so many things just go away for the weirdest reasons. You just never know. But KILLER PIZZA is the one I’ve been holding out for, and I know I’m the right guy for it. And I’ve got the right support, because I’m making it with people who are my friends and who believe in me, and who are going to defend my vision. It’s by far the most exciting thing in my life right now—besides getting married, of course! And when people ask about a HATCHET III, I feel like I want to do this kind of stuff right now. If I can get to a point where I can do a KILLER PIZZA or a Disney movie, and in between I can get to do something I really love like HATCHET III, I’d like to do it that way. It has been very confusing for my agents and lawyers… That’s the other weird thing that happens when you become successful; all of a sudden you have people, which I think is hilarious. You go to these meetings, see everybody sitting there and think, ‘What the f**k do you even do?’ [laughs].”

    Check out the teaser trailer for HATCHET II, which opens October 1, here.

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  • “MACHETE” (Film Review)

    Originally posted on 2010-09-03 15:48:13 by

    I try not to let the circumstances under which I see movies affect my reviews of them, but I must say that having viewed Robert Rodriguez’s MACHETE in a screening room, it’s hard not to imagine that catching it in a packed house of enthusiastic fans would have enhanced the experience. Feel free to add a half-skull to the rating below if you plan to see it at a crowded late-night theatrical showing this weekend, perhaps enhanced by a Corona or tequila or two.

    On the other hand, it is entirely possible to judge a movie on it own merits sans a riled-up audience; I believe I even let out a whoop or two in that screening room during MACHETE’s knockout opening sequence. It introduces us to Mexican lawman Machete Cortez (Danny Trejo) as he infiltrates a drug den in a rundown rural town to rescue a kidnapping victim (a hot, naked kidnapping victim, of course). The result is a lengthy bout of imaginative, enthusiastically staged bloodshed that delivers on the promise of the MACHETE trailer that co-director (with Ethan Maniquis) and co-scripter (with his brother Alvaro) Rodriguez created for GRINDHOUSE. But what follows demonstrates that it’s a lot tougher to keep up that low-rent energy for the length of a feature than it is in the short form.

    Machete winds up almost, but not quite, killed by drug lord Torrez (Steven Seagal, who can’t act in Spanish either), who does dispatch our hero’s wife and child. Three years later, Machete is scrounging for day-labor work in Rodriguez’s home base of Austin, TX, where he’s observed by immigration agent Sartana (Jessica Alba) shortly before he’s approached by Booth (Jeff Fahey), who learns his rates for lawn care, house work and septic before offering him significantly more cash to carry out a hit. The target is Senator McLaughlin (Robert De Niro), who’s running for re-election on a platform of zero tolerance for immigrants (among other things, he advocates for the construction of an electrified fence along the border). McLaughlin also likes to deal with the situation a little more directly by going on human hunts with nasty good-ol’-boy militia leader Von (Don Johnson).

    It soon turns out that Booth isn’t exactly a man of his word, Torrez winds up involved in the action again…and that’s an awful lot of villains to cram into one exploitation script. (Not to mention at least two significant secondary baddies: a sniper played by a welcome Shea Whigham from SPLINTER, and a killer-for-hire with his own infomercial and 1-800 number, portrayed by the equally welcome Tom Savini.) Along the way, Machete hooks up with Sartana and starts converting her to his side, and also gets involved with Luz (Michelle Rodriguez), an underground revolutionary leader who operates out of a taco truck. What we have here, to quote Joe Bob Briggs, is a little too much plot getting in the way of the story, and what should have been a lean and mean under-90-minute actionfest gets distended to 105 via a lot of narrative huggermugger and speechifying about the plight of undocumented Mexicans—as if the audience won’t be on Machete’s side right from the start.

    That’s due to the authority and been-through-it-all tough-guy attitude Trejo brings to the role; it’s great to see him take a feature-film lead after decades of supporting parts, and a shame when the overstuffed supporting ensemble sometimes crowds him offscreen, at one point for what feels like most of a reel. It would be hard to find someone more convincing as a man of action, and MACHETE sparks to life when he takes out the gangs of thugs sent to do him in. A hospital scene, in particular, ends with him making his getaway via a hilariously sick visual joke. Also amusing is the way Machete winds up coupling with every woman he meets, James Bond-style—though the actual sex is largely kept offscreen. The one major exception is his swimming-pool threesome with Booth’s wife and daughter; the latter is played (except in that pool scene, where it appears a body double takes over) by Lindsay Lohan, who under her current atoning circumstances might now be regretting taking the part of a promiscuous, oft-drunk party girl.

    Making the strongest impressions among the supporting cast are Fahey (if anyone’s gonna get a Tarantino-style career boost from this film, it’s him), Michelle Rodriguez and Cheech Marin, who appears late in the game as Machete’s priest brother, who’s got a few secrets hidden in the back of his church. Electra and Elise Avellan, GRINDHOUSE’s Crazy Babysitter Twins, also turn up as sexy nurses, and everybody winds up converging for a big climactic shootout. After the solid action that has preceded it, though, this setpiece is a bit of a letdown; it’s more chaotic than exciting, and Machete’s final dustup with Torrez ends with a whimper instead of a bang. MACHETE needed a sharper blade in the editing room, and while it delivers the trashy, gory goods better than something like THE EXPENDABLES, it winds up being a little less than the sum of those parts—and yet another case of a movie that doesn’t quite live up to the promise of its trailer.

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