DISMEMBERCEMBER: Calvaire (2004)

Directed by Fabrice Du Welz, who wrote it with Romain Protat, this is the story of Marc Stevens (Laurent Lucas), a struggling singer who lives in his van as he performs soft rock for nursing home residents. As he drives toward a Christmas concert, his van breaks down and he’s helped by former stand-up comedian and innkeeper Mr. Bartel (Jackie Berroyer), yet if there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s never break down in the European countryside, particuarly in the kind of town where the locals gather to watch a boy lose his virginity to a pig and the only sign of women are the naked selfies a fan (Brigitte Lahaie!) gave to our protagonist.

Gloria, Bartel’s wife, left him years ago but not before destroying him, sleeping with every man in town, an event that has seemed to decimate everyone in her wake. Marc must now pay for her sins, his van burned, his head shaved and his body wearing one of her old dresses, now on the run from everyone as they chase him through a muddy cemetery and treat him as if he were a dog.

This has a horrifying scene where Bartel screams at the bar in town and says that his wife has come back and no one can have her while men play strange waltz music out of synch and then everyone starts to dance with each other. There’s also a speech about the meaning of the season ended with a bullet through the head and the first time I’ve seen a quicksand death in a movie for a long time.

The director says that there are only two characters in the film, Marc and Bartel, and everyone else is just another version of Bartel. That makes more sense after you watch this. Just you know, maybe save your Christmas viewing after the family has said good night.

Cruel Intentions 3 (2004)

Despite the name, Cruel Intentions 3 has nothing to do with the original film, much less the sequel that was reedited from the canceled series. Instead, it has Kristina Anapau as Cassidy Merteuil, the cousin of the first movie’s Kathryn, who was played by Sarah Michelle Gellar. She’s caught up in the sexual schemes of roommates Jason Argyle (Kerr Smith) and Patrick Bates (Nathan Wetherington), which include revenge porn and sexual assault because…look, I don’t know. It seems like the rich think they can — and do — get away with everything.

The turnaround is that she wanted it and had pre-roofied herself and had been working with Jason to make their own bets. See, I saved you the time in your life that I have wasted.

This was directed by Scott Ziehl, who also made the direct-to-video Roadhouse 2, and written by Rhett Reese, who rose above this to make ZombielandDeadpool and G.I. Joe: Retaliation.

This is an absolutely dreadful movie and when I die, I will do so lamenting the time I wasted watching it and so many other direct-to-video sequels.

You can watch this on Tubi.

The Day After Tomorrow (2004)

Roland Emmerich is German for dumb movie, in case you don’t feel like looking that up on Google, and he based this movie on the book The Coming Global Superstorm by Art Bell and Whitley Strieber, two of the carniest people in the history of carnies and therefore, part of me loves this.

The world may fall to bits, CGI wolves may stalk the icy streets, but NOAA paleoclimatologist Jack Hall (Dennis Quaid), his wife Dr. Lucy Hall (Sela Ward) and son Sam (Jake Gyllenhaal) are going to survive, right? Otherwise, everyone else is fair game.

Much like every disaster movie, Jack tries to warn Vice President Raymond Becker (Kenneth Walsh) to listen but it’s too late once that superstorm starts freezing everything in mere moments. Tokyo is hit with hail, the British royal family is stranded and Los Angeles is destroyed by tornadoes.

America has to move into Mexico, who at first closed their border, which is pretty funny. That said, it’s cool that a movie was made about climate change even if the science isn’t right. It’s something we should be talking about and working on, but you know, it’s not convenient and people would have to change how they do business and why should they care, right?

This movie has a 6.4 on IMDB. That’s the real problem.

SYNAPSE BLU RAY REVIEW: Satan’s Little Helper (2004)

Dougie is obsessed with a video game in which he plays Satan’s helper. So when he meets a serial killer in a Satan mask, well, why shouldn’t he believe that he can really help the Lord of the Flies in this world? After all, his sister Jenna picked her new boyfriend Alex over him for Halloween. Also: Amanda Plummer is his mom, so you may understand why he’s a little strange.

Jeff Lieberman is perhaps better known for SquirmBlue Sunshine and Just Before Dawn. Yet this is a really fun movie that more people should be watching, a silly — but never dumb — dark film that somehow has Bob Dylan and Joe Walsh on the soundtrack despite a low budget. The ideas and situations are directly opposite of how original this is. And Satan’s mask? Perfect.

The Synapse blu ray of Satan’s Little Helper has a commentary track by Lieberman, a behind the scenes feature, a making of, a tour of filming locations and a trailer. You can get it from MVD.

SLASHER MONTH: Skinned Deep (2004)

The Surgeon General (Kurt Carley) is really the coolest looking slasher I’ve seen in so long. Also: this movie is absolutely deranged, but what else should I expect from Gabriel Bartalos, who also made Saint Bernard which is somehow even stranger than this. I also love any movie that has Warwick Davis play a character named Plates that throws plates at people and just screams.

The whole Rockwell family gets killed by the strange family of old people and mutants, which also includes Brain, a kid with a gigantic brain. Well, Tina lives, but they wall her into a room covered with newspapers and try to turn her into a killer. They succeed but then things go down an even deeper rabbit hole, if that’s possible. I mean, a headless god beneath the gigantic trailer park? An entire town of killers? A gang of bikers called the Ancient Ones?

This movie made me happy to no end, a film that destroys bodies and looks gorgeous all the way. This is so filled with production design gone insane in the very best of ways.

This is the movie Rob Zombie has been trying to make.

You can get this from Severin or watch it on Tubi.

SLASHER MONTH: Puppet Master vs. Demonic Toys (2004)

Directed by Ted Nicolaou and written by C. Courtney Joyner, this made-for-TV movie comes after Dollman vs. Demonic Toys and Puppet Master: The Legacy.

Robert Toulon (Corey Feldman) is the great-grandnephew of André Toulon. He and his daughter Alexandra (Danielle Keaton) now have the puppets and bring them to life on Christmas Eve, which leads to Erica Sharpe (Vanessa Angel) unleashing the Demonic Toys, who have been going crazy in the hope of getting to kill someone. There’s also a demon called Bael because you know, why not?

This is pretty much the Puppet Master Holiday Special. Blade, Pinhead, Jester and Six Shooter going against Baby Oopsy Daisy, Jack Attack and Grizzly Teddy. I’ve read that it’s not an official film but it’s fun. Sure, it’s a throwaway, but I’m all for puppet on toy mayhem. This is supposed to take place before Puppet Master 2 which is why Tunneler and Leech Woman aren’t in it.

Erica Sharpe was going to be played by Traci Lords and Toulon by Fred Willard and let me tell you, I wish that’s the movie we got. The idea of these two franchises fighting is a great one, but as always, Full Moon didn’t have the money to make this as huge as it could have been.

2022 Scarecrow Psychotronic Challenge Day 9: Tomb of the Werewolf (2004)

9. FULL MOON FEVER: Since the “heavenly body” is out tonight, a lycanthrope story seems just right.

Richard Daninsky (Jay Richardson) is the latest in the line of the Daninsky family, a bloodline that also includes noted werewolf Waldemar (Paul Naschy). He’s just inherited a castle filled with hidden treasure, so he brings a reality show into the home and you guessed it, Elizabeth Bathory (Michele Bauer!) shows up to pull the silver dagger out of Waldemar’s body just in time for him to be unleashed on a bevy of sex scene having individuals — and couples — like Evan Stone, Monique Alexander, Beverly Lynn, Jacy Andrews, Stephanie Bentley and Danielle Petty.

Directed and written by Fred Olen Ray, this was made at the same time as Countess Dracula’s Orgy of Blood, also shot in America and starring Naschy.

Re-released as The Unliving, this was shot by Gary Graver. And come on, if you have to make a softcore horror movie and could get Naschy in it, wouldn’t you? But still, it’s a Cinemax-style sex movie with long scenes with no genitals and people dry humping while Paul Naschy is in full makeup, just waiting to go on and do his werewolf thing. His wife was in the hospital sick in America while they made this, he barely spoke the language and he had to be confronted by all this U.S.A. softcore and how disconcerting is that? And it’s his last werewolf movie? I mean, that’s either jubilant that he went out in a movie with so much balling or sad and it’s late on a Saturday and I’ve taken too many edibles so I think it makes me wistful.

I am all for Michelle Bauer being Bathory and doing a Black Sabbath opening. More of that.

THE IMPORTANT CINEMA CLUB’S SUPER SCARY MOVIE CHALLENGE 7: Night Watch (2004)

7. An Action Film That’s Secretly A Horror FIlm.

Russian-Kazakh Timur Bekmambetov started as a production designer before making Peshavar Waltz and a remake of The Arena for Roger Corman. He may be best-known in the U.S. for his movies WantedAbraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter and his Screenlife movies UnfriendedSearching and Profile. He’s also the owner of Walt Disney’s Los Angeles mansion.

For geeks like me, well, he’s known for this movie, a Russian horror superhero action movie based on the 1998 novel The Night Watch by Sergei Lukyanenko. The concept — the armies of light and dark ended a battle when the two leaders, Geser and Zavulon, called a truce and each side commissioned a quasi-police force to ensure it was kept with the Light called the Night Watch and the Dark the Day Watch — gets out of the way quickly so Bekmambetov can do what he loves: absolutely berserk action that goes way too far in the best of ways.

Anton Gorodetsky (Konstantin Khabensky) is a member of the Night Watch. He got there when he was caught paying a witch to cast a spell to bring back his wife at the cost of her unborn child which was not his. He was able to see the Watch members who came to stop this and is one of the Others and he must stop a prophecy that claims that the world will soon end when the Light and the Dark go to war for the final time.

There are six books in the series, but after the sequel Day Watch, Bekmambetov decided to not finish the planned trilogy. Lukyanenko’s books are very anti-Ukrainian and none of that is in the movie. This was controversial as an underground nonconformist intellectual movement named Padonki said that it was too Hollywood and had no ideas. They called it Night Shame.

What is a shame is that this movie was a big deal in 2004 and no one talks about it today. I mean, it has possessed baby dolls used as soldiers! Cars flip all over the place! Watch it!

SLASHER MONTH: Seed of Chucky (2004)

Don Mancini has written every Child’s Play except for the reboot. He also directed this one in which we meet Glen, the good guy — literally — doll son of Chucky and Tiffany. He’s found a living working as a dummy for an abusive ventriloquist, but when he sees a preview of Jennifer Tilly’s new horror film Chucky Goes Psycho and sees Chucky and Tiffany rebuilt from their original remains, he realizes who he really is. He uses the Heart of Damballa to bring them both back to life. The killing starts almost from the first second they are awake.

This is a strange world that is Hollywood but a bit removed from our own, a reality in which Jennifer Tilly attempts to seduce Redman as he prepares to make a movie about the Virgin Mary, where John Waters plays a paparazzi who gets killed with acid (unlike Dawn Davenport, he does not survive), where Glen has an evil twin who can possess him and why wouldn’t she be called Glenda?

Universal Pictures, which produced the previous three films, wanted a more conventional slasher film. They rejected the script with the note “This is too gay.” 2004 was not all that long ago. It was finalldistributeded by Rogue Pictures.

WATCH THE SERIES: Predator

With the release of Prey, it’s time to break down all of the Predator movies in one place and try and figure out why I love this franchise so much when I outright hate at least one of these movies.

The inspiration for the film came from a joke that after Rocky IV, Stallone had run out of opponents on Earth. If they made another film, he’d have to fight an alien. Jim and John Thomas were inspired by that and wrote Hunter, which became Predator. One could argue that they had seen Without Warning, which is nearly the same idea, with an alien — armed with futuristic weaponry and also played by Kevin Peter Hall — on Earth to hunt humans.

Predator (1987): As Little Richard’s “Long Tall Sally” blares, helicopters carrying Dutch (Arnold Schwarzenegger), Poncho (Richard Chaves), Billy (Sonny Landham), Mac (Bill Duke), Hawkins (Shane Black), Blain (Jesse Ventura) and Dillon (Carl Weathers) lands in Central America to free a foreign cabinet minister and his aide.

On their way to the target, Dutch discovers a destroyed helicopter and three skinned bodies of a failed rescue attempt. After Dutch’s team decimates the enemy, including some Soviet officers, they learn that it was all a set-up by Dillon to get information from the enemy. Only one is left alive — Anna (Elpidia Carrillo) — so the team takes her to the extraction zone.

And this is where Predator flips the script.

Written by Jim and John Thomas (Mission to MarsExecutive Decision) and directed by John McTiernan (Die Hard, Last Action Hero), this film starts as a testosterone-laced ode to American firepower and then becomes a slasher, as the team is followed by an invisible, nearly-unstoppable alien hunter (Kevin Peter Hall) who has come from space just for the sport of hunting these soldiers.

There are so many stories about how JCVD was once the Predator. Why that ended is up for debate. Maybe it’s because Van Damme was only 5’9″. Or it could have been because all Jean Claude did was complain about the suit being so hot that he kept passing out. Or maybe the original design just didn’t work. The Stan Winston redesign? It’s as iconic as the xenomorphs of Alien, which the Predator would get to battling soon enough.

Predator 2 (1989): The beauty of Predator is that it starts as a war movie and suddenly becomes a slasher before you even realize it. It subverts the macho tropes of Arnold movies by inserting a killing machine that is tougher, better armed and just plain unstoppable. And that killer? He’s just here for sport.

So why do I love Predator 2 so much? Because it’s literally a grindhouse or Italian exploitation version of Predator. Instead of the jungle, we get a literal concrete jungle. Instead of Arnold, Jesse and Carl Weathers, we get character actors galore, like Danny Glover, Robert Davi, Gary Busey and Bill Paxton. It has the feel of RoboCop with a non-stop media barrage led by real-life junk TV icon Morton Downey, Jr. (“Zip it, pinhead!”), and a populace that is constantly armed and always looking for a chance to use it. It’s one of the few slices of the future where it feels like today — the technology is only nominally better and everything pretty much sucks for everyone. And holy shit, is it fucking hot.

The 1997 of this movie is really 2018, to be honest. Except LA is in the midst of a war between the Colombian and Jamaican drug cartels. It’s a perfect place for a Predator to hunt — and once that alien sees Lt. Harrigan (Glover) in action, it seems like it’s playing a game to capture the lawman as his ultimate prize. That’s when we meet Special Agent Peter Keyes (Busey), who is posing as a DEA agent, and new team member Detective Jerry Lambert (Paxton at his most manic).

There’s a scene where the Predator interrupts a voodoo ritual (the girlfriend screaming for her life is former Playboy Playmate turned porn star (that was a rare thing in the 1990s) Teri Weigel) and wipes out everyone, skinning them alive and taking pieces of them as trophies. One of the team, Danny (singer Rubén Blades) comes back to the crime scene, only to be killed by the camouflaged alien.

Harrigan starts tracking the killer, thinking he’s dealing with a human. He even consults King Willie (Calvin Lockhart, The Beast Must Die), the voodoo loving gang leader. That’s when we get that immortal line that Ice Cube sampled, “There’s no stopping what can’t be stopped. No killing what can’t be killed.” A short battle follows with an awesome two cut (literally) of Willie screaming and his severed head being carried away, continuing the scream.

Two massive action scenes follow: Lambert and team member Cantrell (María Conchita Alonso) battling a gang and the Predator on a train, then Keyes and his team battling the Predator in what they think is the perfect situation.

It comes down to Harrigan and the Predator battling one on one, from rooftop to buildings to a spacecraft. Harrigan overcomes the alien with its own weapons, then an army of other Predators appear (this made me stand up and cheer when I saw this 27 years ago in the theater) and one of them hands the cop an ancient gun as a trophy before they leave him behind. That gun is engraved “Raphael Adolini 1715,” a reference to the Dark Horse comic book story Predator: 1718, which was published in  A Decade of Dark Horse #1.

To be honest — a TON of this film is taken from Dark Horse’s Predator: Concrete Jungle. The first few issues feature  Detective Schaefer, the brother of Major Alan “Dutch” Schaefer, as he and his partner, Detective Rasche, fight a Predator in New York City. And the inclusion of the Alien skull was inspired by Dark Horse’s Aliens vs. Predator series.

I love that Lilyan Chauvin is in this as Dr. Irene Richards, the chief medical examiner and forensic pathologist of Los Angeles. How woke is Predator 2? The main cop is African American leading an ethnically diverse team when that diversity isn’t an issue at all? Then you have a woman in charge of all pathology? How ahead of its time is this movie?

Adam Baldwin from TV’s Firefly has a brief role as a member of Keyes’ team. Plus, Robert Davi plays a police captain, Kent McCord from TV’s Adam-12 is a cop, Steve Kahan (who played Glover’s boss in four Lethal Weapon films) plays a police sergeant and Elpidia Carrillo reprises her role as Anna Gonsalves from the original in a cameo.

If you read the book version, you learn even more: Keyes recalls memories of speaking with Dutch in a hospital, as he suffered from radiation sickness. However, the soldier escaped, never to be seen again. Arnold himself escaped, refusing to do this movie because of the script, and he was nearly replaced by Steven Seagal and Patrick Swayze!

Director Stephen Hopkins went on to direct The ReapingLost in SpaceThe Ghost and the Darkness and Judgement Night (he also directed A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child before this). He had to recut the film twenty times to get an R rating! I’d love to see the uncut version of this. Shout Factory, how about it?

One of my favorite things about the film is this outtake. Stick through it to see Danny Glover dance along with some Predators!

Also: Holy shit, Gary Busey. He is in character the entire time, discussing how they’re hunting the Predator while also talking about it as a film. If this doesn’t make you love him, nothing will.