APRIL MOVIE THON DAY 29: Watch the series: Friday (1995, 2000, 2002)

Ice Cube and DJ Pooh felt that movies only showed the dark side of the urban experience. Cube had the vision of making a “hood classic” that would be rewatched over and over again and based much of the script — only the third he had written — on his life. They got New Line interested in the film — the studio had made House Party — and Cube hired video direct F. Gary Grey.

His only worry? Doing comedy when up until then, he was considered a dangerous thug.

Grey said, “Ice Cube was the toughest man in America, and when you take someone (who) delivers hard-hitting social issues in hardcore gangsta rap, and who has a hardcore view on politics, you would never think comedy.”

Friday (1995): Craig Jones (Ice Cube) just got fired on his day off (this actually happened to one of Cube’s cousins), giving him the entire Friday to spend with his best friend, Smokey (Chris Tucker, a comedian whose first audition didn’t go well but who trained, came back and won the part). They smoke Smokey’s stash — $200 worth of weed — and if they can’t pay Big Worm (Faizon Love) by 10 p.m., they’re dead.

The episodic movie finds Craig and Smokey trying to get that money, whether through borrowing, begging or stealing. They also run into Deebo (Tiny Lister Jr.), a gigantic maniac who forces Smokey to break into a house, after which he steals the money that Smokey has ripped off.

Friday seems like a modern day take on Cheech and Chong in the best of ways, while keeping more focus. It also has time for plenty of great cameos, like the sadly long gone Bernie Mac as a preacher, John Witherspoon as Craig’s father, Regina King as his sister and DJ Pooh as Red.

Shot in Grey’s actual home block in the homes of his friends, you can even see some members of the neighborhood show up that refused to move from the spot they were in. Grey just filmed around them as well as he could. Additionally, the cast and crew not to wear anything red during filming, as 126th Street between Halldale and Normandie was Crips territory.

Friday made more than eight times what it cost to make. Ice Cube and DJ Pooh had the right idea.

Next Friday (2000): Written by Ice Cube and directed by Steve Carr, who also worked with Cube on Are We There Yet?Next Friday made $60 million off an $11 million budget, defying critics who hated the films — again, much lilke Cheech and Chong.

When Deebo escapes from prison to get revenge on Craig, Craig’s father Willie moves him to Rancho Cucamonga to live with his uncle Elroy (Don D.C. Curry), who has just won the lottery, and cousin Day-Day (Mike Epps). Day-Day makes a decent replacement for Smoky, as Chris Tucker didn’t come back for the second movie as he became a born again Christian.

Beyond dealing with the threat of an escaped Deebo, now Craig and Day-Day must avoid baby mamas, a gang called the Jokers and try to keep Day-Day’s record store job. While the move to the suburbs offers some fun joke, Tucker’s prescence is definitely missed. Then again, I find myself loving that Ice Cube is so loveable in these films, particularly after albums like “AmeriKKKa’s Most Wanted” in which he unleashed venomous hatred on nearly every ethnicity and human being within the reach of his booming voice.

Friday After Next (2002): Written by Ice Cube and directed by Marcus Raboy, the third Friday movie again was rejected by critics and embraced by the audience that it was made for. It starts on Christmas Eve as a thief breaks into the home of Craig (Cube) and Day-Day (Mike Epps), stealing everything they’ve bought for their family and friends. Also — the rent is due and if they don’t get it soon, their landlady is going to unleash her just released from jail son Damon (Terry Crews) on them and in a violently loving fashion, if you get what I’m saying.

The setting in this sequel moves from the suburbs to a strip mall, a place where their fathers — Willie (John Witherspoon) and Elroy (Don D.C. Curry) — have started a BBQ place so good you’ll slap your mother. It’s also where Money Mike (Katt Williams) and his main girl Donna (K.D. Aubert) have started the store Pimps and Hoes.

Obviously, by the third movie you’re just hoping for more hangout time with the leads and less expecting a groundbreaking effort. That said, this is a goofball bit of harmless fun, a good holiday movie to throw on if you’re sick of the same films every December and makes me hope that we get one more of these movies.

Somehow, I never saw a single one of these movies before, but I must confess, they made a nice break this week, a breezy bit of fun and light laughs in the midst of dark times.

MILL CREEK BLU RAY RELEASE: The Skulls, The Skulls II and The Skulls III (2000, 2002, 2004)

The Skulls* (2000): Sure, it’s set in Yale, but that’s Toronto, but otherwise, this is about the Skulls and Bones Society but they’re called the Skulls. Far be it from me to say it’s disinformation, but writer John Pogue (U.S. MarshallsRollerball and the just finished under the radar reimagining of Eraser; he also made Quarantine 2: Terminal and Deep Blue Sea 3) went to Yale, so either he knows something or he just lucked into three movies out of this idea.

Lucas John “Luke” McNamara  (Joshua Jackson) grew up an orphan on the wrong side of the tracks but he still made into Yale on a rowing scholarship which is totally a thing. His only friends are his girlfriend Chloe (Leslie Bibb) and his friend Will (Hill Harper), yet he’s still invited to join one of Yale’s secret societies, the titular Skulls, and made a soulmate with Caleb Mandrake (Paul Walker), a legacy whose father Judge Litten Mandrake (Craig T. Nelson) is still very involved in Skulls business, along with Senator Ames Levritt (William Petersen) and provost Martin Lombard (Christopher McDonald, who is, always, Shooter McGavin).

As you can imagine, the Skulls are so connected that they run the cops, the courts, the government, pretty much anywhere rich people are. They kill Will when he gets too close to exposing their secrets and is killed, which pits Skull brother against Skull brother, Skull father against Skull son and Skull boyfriend against non-Skull girlfriend.

Director Rob Cohen didn’t go to Yale, but he did go to Harvard and Amherst. He followed this movie up with The Fast and the Furious and XXX, so maybe he did have something to do with that whole secret society making its members wealthy thing. Then again, he followed those up with Stealth and The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor, so maybe he wasn’t in all that tight.

Also, if you ever saw the 1970 TV movie The Brotherhood of the Bell, you may have already seen this movie.

*You can read our original review of this movie here.

The Skulls II (2002): Joe Chappelle is well-regarded for episodes of CSI: NYCSI: Miami and The Wire, but he made this back in 2002, a direct-to-video sequel to the original movie.

Star Robin Dunne, who plays Ryan Sommers, seems to take over for Joshua Jackson in direct-to-video sequels, what with him showing up in Cruel Intentions 2 (and yes, I own it; I am a self-professed sequel lover). He and his best friend Jeff (Christopher Ralph, who was in the Animorphs series) get picked for the Skulls; Jeff is super down, Ryan less so as his older brother Greg (James Gallanders) was a member and it’ll take time away from his demanding girlfriend Ali (Ashley Tesoro).

Ryan and Jeff are punished when a prank goes wrong and end up cleaning the attic of the Skulls’ headquarters, which gives them the perfect view to see senior Skull member Matt “Hutch” Hutchison (Aaron Ashmore) and field hockey team captain Diana Rollins (Margot Gagnon) partying on the roof and that party ends with her falling to her death. But is it real? Or just another part of the initiation?

Ryan’s research ends up taking him to the parents of Will Beckford from the first film who reveal how the Skulls killed their son. Then, his brother is fired from his lawyer job (do the Skulls own The Firm?) and Ali accuses him of assaulting her. Luckily, he can trust Kelly (Lindy Booth) and the two of them — along with Greg — work to undermine the secret society.

This movie may have been Michele Colucci-Zieger’s only writing credit, but her co-writer Hans Rodionoff wrote the two Lost Boys sequels (I have no idea how I haven’t gotten to those yet) and Deep Blue Sea 2.

The Skulls 3 (2004): Taylor Brooks (Clare Kramer, Glory from Buffy the Vampire Slayer) is a legacy of the Skulls, as her father Martin (Karl Pruner) and dead brother were both members. Now, she wants to challenge the group and be the first female member, which is a great hook for the story as it’s literally an old boy’s club.

This whole thing has a kinda, sorta giallo structure in that we see the cops trying to solve the case as we arrive in the middle of the story and see flashbacks. Her boyfriend Ethan (Shaun Sipos) also tried to join and was just plain embarrassed that a woman would try to join, so she decides that she totally has to join and I’m all for it.

This is the only full length film that J. Miles Dale has directed, but he’s produced several of Guillermo del Toro’s projects. Written by Joe Johnson, who also scribed Don’t Hang Up, this has one major advantage and it’s Barry Bostwick as the evil elder Skull that puts the whole plot in motion just to advance the military-industrial complex, so they’ve moved on from killing JFK to intimidating high school girls and their absentee fathers.

That said, I liked this way more than I should have. But traditionally I am easy on later sequels of movies I didn’t like so much in the first place, kind of like the kid brothers of bullies that beat me up. We have something in common, as we’ve both had to deal with the older sibling in similar, if different ways, so there’s some kinship. Or when I should beat them up, I realize that the circle of violence — or dunking on bad movies — can stop with me and I can try to find something to like.

You can get all three of The Skulls movies on one blu ray from Mill Creek. While there aren’t any extras, you do get every movie for a low price and can have them in one set, saving you room on your overflowing shelves. Am I speaking to myself? Because trust me, I spent an hour or more today just trying to rearrange things. You can get this from Deep Discount.

JESS FRANCO MONTH: Incubus (2002)

How many times can Jess Franco make a movie? Well, this time, he’s taken Lorna the Exorcist in the midst of his video era, so if you saw that, you already know the twist and I can spoil it. And if you didn’t, maybe go watch that.

Johan (Carsten Frank) is a successful artist whose surreal work has made him rich, but that’s all because of Lorna (Fata Morgana, Vampire Junction), a mystery woman that he made a deal with back when they had a BDSM relationship twenty years ago. You know how it goes, right?

One night, when she had Johan at the literal edge of orgasm, she made him promise his daughter to her, like some kind of carnal Rumpelstiltskin, a fact that his wife Rosa (Lina Romay) has no idea about and that his adult daughter Lucy (Carina Palmer, The Profane Exhibit) is about to discover for herself.

Let me tell you, these One Shot Franco films are dangerous territory. They’ll make you wish for the quality of his 70s films, which often make you pine for the quality of his 60s films. Maybe even his 80s and 90s films. But yet I made this infernal plan to watch as many of his movies all in one month and you know, I can still find things to love here, like the weird masks and that moment that happens in all his later movies where he just decides to stop telling a story and concentrate on long synth songs that have women rub all over each other in slow motion, as he rubs his hands together and says, “You’ve come back for more, hmm?”

Man, Franco sure got some mileage out of that Daniel Brown music from The Perverse Countess.

JESS FRANCO MONTH: Killer Barbys vs. Dracula (2002)

The Killer Barbies — remember when they did Killer Barbys with Franco? — play Tivoli World, which was the largest theme park in Costa del Sol, a Wild West-themed place that sadly closed due to the coronavirus in 2020.

They’re soon met by two Russians — Irina (Lina Romay) and Ivan — who have brought the dead body of Dracula for the theme park. But after hearing the band play — and look, let’s be honest, if you were a vampire and Silvia Superstar was performing in front of your coffin, you’d rise from the grave too — Dracula is back and the park’s owners call in Dr. Seward, a vampire killer, as the undead lord of the manor of Carpathia starts killing everyone.

You know, I kind of like the music of the Barbys and they even play that song “Candy” that Iggy Pop and Kate Pearson did. It’s all pretty silly. That said, it’s a lot of fun. Carmen Montes from Snakewoman does some dancing and Katja Bienert from Linda and Eugenie (Historia de una perversión) is in this too, which makes me super happy. In fact, let’s just all live in this world, where there’s amusement park rides, silly horror pop and goofy Dracula running around.

Dark Water (2002)

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jennifer Upton is an American (non-werewolf) writer/editor in London. She currently works as a freelance ghostwriter of personal memoirs and writes for several blogs on topics as diverse as film history, punk rock, women’s issues, and international politics. For links to her work, please visit https://www.jennuptonwriter.com or send her a Tweet @Jennxld

Yoshimi Matsubara (Japanese soap opera star Hitomi Kuroki) is involved in a bitter custody battle with her ex-husband over their 6-year-old daughter Ikuko (Rio Kanno.) While a decision is being made on the matter, Yoshimi and Ikuko move into a run-down apartment building and attempt to build a new life. At first, things seem fine save for the annoying leaky ceiling in the bedroom. As time passes, the leak gets worse and Ikuko starts talking to an imaginary friend named Mitsuko. 

It is soon revealed that Mitsuko (Mirei Oguchi) is the ghost of a missing child who used to live in the apartment upstairs. It appears she has returned to take Ikuko away from Yoshimi who tries to protect her daughter at all costs. 

Mother Yoshimi has some childhood abandonment issues of her own stemming from her own parents’ split. She wants nothing more than to be an excellent mother to Ikuko, and to keep them together. When the story of Mitsuko’s own maternal abandonment comes to light, Yoshimi realizes to her horror that it’s not Ikuko’s company, which Mitsuko desires, but her own. Ikuko is simply in the way. Yoshimi must choose between being Ikuko’s mother and Mitsuko’s. Her decision fulfills the needs of both children.

 Dark Water shares many characteristics of Hideo Nakata’s other hit film Ringu with a better screenplay. Mitsuko is given plenty of backstory within the two-hour running time. She is a tragic and potentially dangerous spirit who serves as a metaphor for Yoshimi’s own inner child. It took Nakata two films to accomplish the same depth of character with Ringu’s Sadako. Also, where Ringu ended on an anticlimactic note with the curse continuing, Dark Water has a satisfying, albeit melancholy, conclusion that takes place ten years after the events. It’s a very cathartic film and will probably have more of an emotional impact on viewers who come from divorced families. Nobody from the golden era of J-horror knows how to build quiet tension the way Nakata does. Through his skill as a director and the convincing performance of lead Hitomi Kuroki, something innocuous as a child’s book bag becomes ominous and terrifying. Sound effects and music play a big part in the chilling mood of the film and the scene where Mitsuko pounds on the inside of the water tank was as effective a use of them as any I’ve ever seen. 

Skip the bland American remake with Jennifer Connelly. Do yourself a favor and see the Arrow Video subtitled DVD instead. It’s an engaging and emotional thriller with a low body count and high intellect. For a dive down the creepy coincidence rabbit hole, watch Joe Berlinger’s Crime Scene: The Vanishing at The Cecil Hotel documentary after Dark Water. The similarities between Mitsuko’s death and the case of Elisa Lam are eerily similar.  

American Psycho 2 (2002)

Morgan J. Freeman is not Morgan Freeman. He directed this movie, then went on to produce Laguna Beach, 16 and Pregnant and Teen Mom.

But this movie…

I had no idea that there was a sequel to American Psycho, much less that the movie wasn’t originally intended to even be a sequel. It was a script titled The Girl Who Wouldn’t Die and it wasn’t until production began that the film’s script was altered with the incorporation of Patrick Bateman.

In fact, Bret Easton Ellis – the author of the book — claimed that Lions Gate wanted to include a serial killer subplot in their adaption of his book The Rules of Attraction and he turned them down, so this was the movie that resulted.

So yeah, remember that Patrick Bateman? The guy who we were left wondering is he or isn’t he a serial killer? Well, this movie forgets all that nonsense by starting with him on a date with lead character Rachael Newman’s (Mila Kunis) babysitter. While the 12-year-old is in the other room, Bateman kills her and dissects her. But Rachael turns the tables by stabbing him with an icepick.

Now, she’s nearly all grown up and studying criminology in the class of former FBI agent Professor Starkman. That’s part of her insanely obsessive path to becoming an agent herself. And he’s played by William Shatner and our protagonist is in love with him, so if the idea of a 71-year-old Kirk being pursued by a 19-year-old Jackie, well then this is the movie for you.

Kunis attempted to stop production of American Psycho III, saying in an interview, “Please — somebody stop this. Write a petition. When I did the second one, I didn’t know it would be American Psycho II. It was supposed to be a different project, and it was re-edited, but, ooh..”

It’s astounding that this exists, that it has at least two well-known actors and that so few people are talking about it. Also, it has a cat get microwaved and despite how much I usually enjoy Kunis, I struggled through this one.

Hellraiser: Hellseeker (2002)

We’re at the sixth Hellraiser movie and this one bring back Kirsty Cotton and Clive Barker, who had some influence on the third act.

Trevor (Dean Winters, Mayhem from the insurance commercials) has been arrested for the potential murder of his wife — Kirsty Cotton (Ashley Laurence) — whose body can’t be found. He’s been cheating on her for some time and tricked her into reopening the Lament Configuration. Man, is there anyone positive in Kirsty’s life? PInhead, maybe?

This film follows a very similar plot to the movie that came before it, but doesn’t work as well.

Also, this would be the time in every review where Dimension/Miramax does something horrible to remind you just how evil they were. They placed the cast and crew under a gag order, not even allowing director Rick Bota to promote the film when Fangoria wanted to do a cover story. Laurence, however, ignored them and revealed that she was paid enough money from this movie to only be able to buy a refrigerator.

You can watch this on Tubi.

Vinyl Dolls (2002)

The Vinyl Dolls seem ready for the big time if they can just all get along. Sadly, right before their biggest shows ever, their lead singer quits. Then they meet FInola who is actress Tiffany Shepis, the entire reason to watch this, and such a great part of Delta Delta Die!Tales of HalloweenVictor Crowley and so many movies that she’s the best part of.

There’s some kind of plot here, but all the sex scenes get in the way. When I was a teenager, I would have said that there’s a plot that keeps getting in the way of the sex, so I feel like I’ve made some growth in my life. Also, Jezebelle Bond and Kelsey Hart are in this, and if you instantly know their names, you’ve done some personal growth of your own at one time of another in your life.

Director Buddy Beale made exactly this one movie. This was his shot, his dream project and this is what he gave us. A Cinemax ready movie made years after that was no longer a thing anyone wanted. Rock and roll?

Trancers 6 (2002)

If you can’t get Tim Thomerson, use stock footage or have him jump into the body of his daughter Josephine (Zette Sullivan). Oh Full Moon, you are as cheap as you are sometimes loveable. The Trancers are just as deadly, but you know, Jack’s a girl now. Or old footage. But mostly a lady.

We neglected to mention that there was another sequel which was to be part of the Full Moon anthology Pulse Pounders called Trancers: City of Lost Angels that was on the old Trancers DVD and shows up on the blu ray release. It has Thomerson and Helen Hunt teaming up as an old enemy of Jack’s named Edlin Shock escapes a maximum security facility and comes after our hero.

So yeah. Trancers 6. Did you ever accept a wedding invite and then break up with someone and the two of you still decide to go together but it feels like an obligation and while there are some alright parts, you just can’t wait to have it all be over? Yeah. It feels like that.

That said, Sullivan is pretty decent and had some coaching — so says IMDB so take that with a grain of Trancers — from Thomerson, who told her to act like Steve McQueen, only more pissed off.

You can watch this on Tubi.

Hell Asylum (2002)

Way back to two weeks ago — time has no meaning in a pandemic — we watched “Shallow Graves” in the Full Moon remix anthology The Dead Reborn.

So yeah — this is the full length cut and it’s all about a reality show called Chill Challenge that offers a million dollars to anyone who can survive a haunted house for one night. Has no one learned any lessons in the history of film?

Joe Estevez plays Stan the Investor who sets it all up. Brinke Stevens plays the ghost who is named Head Spectre in the credits. Women are named things like Paige Turner and Rainbow. I’m shocked that there aren’t black and white cans that just say beer in this what with all of the creativity that’s on display.

Somehow, this was called Prison of the Dead 2 as a working title and didn’t end up with that name. Come on, Full Moon. We depend on you for sequels and movies with small creatures that kill normal-sized people.

If you were demanded a version of Halloween: Resurrection that somehow sucked even more, this is your movie.

You can watch this on Tubi.