SLASHER MONTH: Bruiser (2000)

For all the times that George Romero did so much with so little, there are just as many times that he did so little with so much.

I mean, Peter Stormare is in this. And, strangely, The Misfits, so if you ever needed a point to connect Jerry Only to Kevin Bacon, this film will help. I mean, Tom Atkins is in this movie and I still struggled to remain awake.

I feel like I should honestly go back and watch this again, but so much of Romero’s post-Creepshow output leaves me incredibly cold. There’s definitely an Argento-like line between the films that work and the ones that should. There are some great ideas here — a man driven insane by corporate America has a face that turns blank white — but that’s it. There’s no real ending, there’s no real reason and no something extra to it. It’s perfunctory and if I never saw the credits, I’d have no idea Romero touched it.

There’s also an incredibly bad cover of Take On Me over the end credits and I just shook my head and it compounded the sad sense of loss that this movie instilled in me. Also, this was the first Romero movie not shot in Pittsburgh, but hey — plenty of local pro wrestlers are in it. So there’s that.

I just always got the feeling that Romero could do better and at some point, he just thought that he couldn’t. There’s absolutely no comparison between this and Martin. I mean, it’s certainly better than There’s Always Vanilla, but his Calgon commercials were more gripping than that film.

It’s probably super unfair for me to wish for greatness every time. I mean, the gulf between Dracula 3D and Tenebre is incalculable, too.

Who knows? Maybe you’ll like it better. It’s on Tubi.

 

Almost Blue (2000)

Yes, they were still making giallo in 2000 in Italy, as this Alex Infascelli-directed (he also made the giallo The Vanity Syrum and the great S Is for Stanley, a documentary about the relationship between Kubrick and his driver Emilio D’Alessandro) film tells the story of a serial killer called the Iguana, a serial killer who is constantly changing his appearance.

It helped that Sergio Donati was in the writing team of this, as he worked on The Weekend MurdersSlap the Monster on Page One and, yes, Orca. Actually, he has a really deep screenwriting career and I enjoyed the fact that this movie had some of the feel of the past while moving toward the future.

Much like Taking Lives — made four years later — the story is really about who the Iguana is at any time. Female profiler Grazia Negro (Lorenza Indovina) must work with a blind hacker (Claudio Santamaria) to discover who the killer — who takes his victim’s body jewelry and mutilates himself with it — is before he becomes someone new.

This may be very Seven in look, but hey — I’m just happy people remember the giallo. Almost Blue was based on the book by Carlo Lucarelli, who would go on to be one of the writers on Argento’s 2001 movie Sleepless.

The Dead Hate the Living! (2000)

Back in the magical days of the Kennywood Hollywood Video, a place that I dream of today, I’d always see this VHS box and it was kind of intimidating, which is a feat for a movie made in 2000. As a result, I never watched it until now.

Written and directed by Dave Parker, it starts with a scientist named Eibon — hello Lucio — recording a message to tell history that he has brought the dead back to life and now he plans on becoming one of them, which is poetic and all, but if you’re going to die just to come back to life, what are you living for? Doesn’t that sound like the lyrics from a Creed song?

Then a zombie solves this for him by breaking in and chowing down.

The movie shifts to a film crew breaking into the hospital — actually the leftover set from End of Days — where Eibon did his experiments and even using his corpse to make their horror movie, which seems like the kind of thing that would never happen, except you know, all the real skeletons in just about every movie ever.

By the end of this, Eibon has become a lord of the zombies and it turns out that they come from an entirely different dimension that two of the survivors end up in because, you know, that’s what would happen to Ash. Or Liza Merril and Dr. John McCabe.

If you’re not ready for the cavalcade of references — Fulci is name dropped more times than you can count on a severed hand — you may enjoy this. I mean, the bad guy even tells his zombie henchmen to “Make them die slowly.”

That said, this is a pretty decent film if not wholly original, but that’s just fine. I mean, every rollercoaster is based on another rollercoaster. Parker would go on to make The Hills Run RedThe Dead RebornIt Watches and the “Sweet Tooth” chapter in Tales of Halloween, as well as write, edit and even act in plenty more horror films.

On the Full Moon anthology The Dead Reborn, they repurposed this movie as “Zombie Apocalypse”  and it deserves way better than to be chopped down by 66% and made to fit into this sham.

Prison of the Dead (2000)

Victoria Sloane, I see right through you. I know that you’re Dave DeCoteau. You can’t fool me!

Rich twentysomething teenager Kristof St. Pierce has been cut off from his family because he loves the occult and Calvin, who probably led him into this lifestyle of the supernatural. Anyways, Kristof, Michele, Allie and Rory have all gathered for the aforementioned Calvin’s funeral, but of course he’s faked his death — it was Kristof’s idea — to lure them to the Hawthorne Funeral Home, built atop the old Blood Prison, in the hopes that they can all be amateur ghost chasers again. Three other way too old to be high schoolers named Bill, Jeff and Kat are also here, hoping to scare the gang because Kristof slept with Bill’s girlfriend, which is probably something that Calvin will be upset about. Drama! Undead drama!

Blood Prison was a secret jail built by Puritan extremists just so they could go all Mark of the Devil on any heretics and even after burning up witches fell out of favor, they kept doing it. It turns out that Kristof‘s father recently bought the Hawthorne and set up a contest — he hates the paranormal — to prove the existence of the Talon Key, which was used to lock up the three executioners of Blood Prison, as the Puritans were sickened by what they found inside the place.

So rich daddy’s rich son is using this opportunity to win the million dollar prize and validate himself in the eyes of his father. That means a Ouija board gets used, Allie gets possessed and Sickle, Mace, and Scythe — the executioners have names that really get at the heart of their personalities — rise and start killing everyone.

This whole movie came up when DeCoteau was “essentially the only staff director for Charles Band”, where the expectation was that he was to just keep making movie after movie. This movie started with the title Creepies, was shot on the sets of Highlander: Endgame and had a Eurotrash influence, or so DeCoteau claims. And yes, that is the music from Netherworld.

This also appears as “Crypt of the Undead” in the Full Moon remix anthology Horrific and as “Undead Sentence” in The Dead Reborn. Yes, somehow, I watched this movie three times in a week.

You can watch this on Tubi.

Killjoy (2000)

There have been five Killjoy movies. How about that? I mean, who knew?

This poor nerd named Michael just wanted to ask out his friend Jada, who has a gangster boyfriend named Lorenzo, which leads to him getting beaten down, then later shot and killed. Before he died, Michael had been trying to animate a doll named Killjoy.

A year later and Jada has left Lorenzo for another gang member named Jamal yet has never dealt with Michael’s death. And now, Killjoy is real, living inside an ice cream truck and killing off all the members of the gang.

Somehow, Killjoy has merged with Michael’s spirit in order to kill more people and gain power. I mean, he has enough power to get shot multiple times and spit bullets out of his mouth, so there’s that. Only Jada — who loved Michael — can kill this demon by finding the doll and killing it. Yet Killjoy has an entire army of the dead who answer his commands.

You have to love a movie that ends with a guy going under the covers to go down on the film’s heroine and reveals that he’s really a murderous clown.

Ángel Vargas played Killjoy in this first effort, but he declined the sequel Killjoy 2: Deliverance from Evil. Trent Haaga took over the role and would play the part in Killjoy 3, Killjoy Goes to Hell and Killjoy’s Psycho Circus.

Mom’s Got a Date with a Vampire (2000)

Say what you will about my love of live action Disney movies — not to mention Disney Channel movies — but I defy you to not enjoy a movie in which Robert Carradine shows up as a vampire hunter named Malachi Van Helsing.

The vampire in this movie, Dimitri Denatos, is played by The Right Honourable and The Lord Charles Shaughnessy George Patrick Shaughnessy, who is the 5th Baron Shaughnessy. He was also Maxwell on The Nanny, just in case you think this movie is getting too fancy. He wants to find a human woman to fall in love with — hey The Lost Boys — and the children of Caroline Rhea’s character all come together to save her.

It’s a goofy little vampire film that would probably be a good entry point if you have young kids who want to start watching things that are a little scarier. Or start them off with Cannibal Ferox and explain to their teachers that it’s also called Make Them Die Slowly.

 

Up Up and Away (2000)

One of the joys of Disne+ is discovering things that you never knew existed. Did you ever know that Robert Townsend — yes, the man who made Hollywood Shuffle — directed and starred in a superhero movie two decades before the recent Marvel movie boom and The Incredibles?

Bronze Eagle (Townsend) is super strong and can fly. His wife, Warrior Woman (Alex Datcher), is just as strong and can outfight nearly anyone. Their children Silver Charge (Kasan Butcher) and Molly have all manner of powers. Even the grandparents in this family, like Steel Condor(Sherman Hemsley!) and Doris (Joan Pringle) are superheroes. The only one that isn’t is Scott (Michael J. Pagan), who may never get powers if he hits puberty before they manifest.

Writer Dan Berendsen was also the scribe for numerous episodes of Sabrina, the remake of The Initiation of Sarah and the movies for Hanna Montana and The Wizards of Waverly Place.

It’s not the best superhero movie you’ve seen, but the idea that aluminum foil is the kryptonite for our heroes is pretty funny. And I dig the eventual hero name that Scott gets, Warrior Eagle.

Phantom of the Megaplex (2000)

Taking inspiration from Gaston Leroux’s The Phantom of the Opera, this one’s all about a gigantic megaplex that has to deal with mysterious happenings on the night of the premiere of the film Midnight Mayhem.

That’s because when the original theater was demolished to build this 26-screen theater, the phantom stayed behind, now haunting this entire film. Perhaps the best part of this is Mickey Rooney as the Movie Mason, an elderly moviegoer whose family opened the original theater. He’s so old that he comes to the theater every day thinking that he works there.

After a career of directing Power Rangers and teen movies like Wish Upon a Star, in which Katherine Heigl and Danielle Harris switch bodies, he pretty much only makes Mormon-themed movies like Meet the Mormons and a TV series based on the Book of Mormon.

For fans of this site, the highlight of this movie is when you can see one of the megaplex screens showing a horror movie called Glimpses of Genevieve which is, of course, Alice, Sweet Alice. I love that one of the most nihilistic movies ever about growing up is in a innocuous Disney film about teens. Stranger still, that film’s director Alfred Sole was the production designer for the Disney films Halloweentown and Halloweentown High.

Leprechaun in the Hood (2000)

Yes, after going to space, the Leprechaun ended up in the hood for two whole movies. I can’t believe it myself and I somehow say through both of these affairs.

Mack Daddy O’Nasses (Ice-T) once found the leprechaun’s (Warwick Davis) room full of gold and lived to become a famous record producer as a result. When he refuses to sign some rapping friends named Postmaster P, Stray Bullet and Butch, they steal his magic flute and let the little guy loose.

So how do you beat a leprechaun in the hood? Oh, you know. Just smoke a joint laced with four-leaf clovers. Seriously, I am not making this up.

Also, Coolio is in this. I figured you should know.

Rob Spera, who directed this, also was behind Witchcraft.

When people say, “You really will watch anything,” here’s the proof.

JSA: Joint Security Area (2000)

In 2009, director Quentin Tarantino placed JSA amongst his top twenty films since 1992. Directed by Park Chan-wook, who also made Oldboy, this film tells the tale of a fatal shooting within the DMZ that exists between the borders of North and South Korea.

At one point the highest-grossing film in Korean history, JSA is the story of the fragile friendship that starts between four soldiers who are on opposite sides. Yet why did two of the North’s soldiers get killed and why are the stories so inconsistent? That’s what a neutral Swiss team of investigators wants to figure out.

Sergeant Lee Soo-hyeok (Lee Byung-hun, Storm Shadow in the G.I. Joe movies) is a South Korean soldier who has run back to his own country, rescued by his own troops and potentially guilty of shooting three North Korean soldiers, leaving two dead. He claims that he was kidnapped.

One of the dead, Jeong Woo-jin (Shin Ha-kyun, Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance) was shot eight times, which doesn’t seem like self-defense. And one of the other South Korean troops, Jeong Woo-jin (Shin Ha-kyun), suddenly tries to commit suicide.

The truth is that for some time, the men had all been friends. In fact, the surviving soldiers and Woo-jin were attempting to protect one another, something that had been happening since Kyeong-pil and Woo-jin saved Soo-hyeok from one of their land mines.

Yet can even the truth — once discovered — save anyone? This is a tense exploration of the divide that exists between people who are not all that different.

This is a tense watch and one that will anger you by the close. I have no idea how to save the world. All I know is to watch movies.

The Arrow Video release of this film is available from MVD.