Mortuary (2005)

Tobe Hooper’s last US-produced film before his death in 2017 (he also worked on the film Djinn in Emirati in 2013), Mortuary tells the story of the Doyle family, who have moved to Santa Loraina, California to start over again after the death of their father. Now, his wife Leslie (Denise Crosby) and children Jonathan (Dan Byrd, who was in the remake of The Hills Have Eyes) and Jamie are trying to start over again. Leslie is to be the town’s new mortician, taking up in the antiquated Fowler Mortuary. Things, as they say, don’t work out well.

Jonathan gets a job at Rita’s Diner, where he meets Cal (Bug Hall, who was Alfalfa in the 1994 remake of The Little Rascals) and his girlfriends Tina and Sara. The trip abuse him as he works there, telling him the story of Bobby Fowler, an abused and deformed boy who once lived in the mortuary. Luckily, our hero also makes friends with Liz and Grady, who make his life a bit more bearable. Rita, the diner owner, spends most of the film telling us that she used to do a lot of drugs. Actually, a lot of this movie is about doing drugs in a small town, as that’s what Liz, Grady and Jonathan are doing when the Sherriff shows up, looking to stop more “graveyard babies” from being born.

Cal, Tina and Sara decide to spray graffiti all over the cemetery, but Bobby Fowler rises up and attacks them. He also infects the sheriff, leading everyone to have high levels of rage and throw up black goo. Even Jonathan’s mom is soon under the spell of the goo, which can make zombies, and then she serves them a dinner of it.

From then on out, our heroes are beset by the black goo and those infected by it. There are jump scares aplenty and lots of salt being thrown at zombies, which is a weakness they’ve never had until this film.

None of it really adds up. I don’t mean that in a charming way like some of the stranger movies that we cover. This just feels like a horror movie going through the motions, with CGI puddles of black goo swallowing up people and random moments of gore. I wish that it had more joy, because I really love Tobe Hooper. This was like going to see a friend’s band and then wondering the entire time what you can say to be a supportive friend without being a complete jerk about how bad they sucked.

Mortuary is available as part of the MVD Marquee Collection. The new blu ray also includes audio commentary and a behind the scenes feature with Hooper. Despite the film not being great, the quality of this release is top notch.

DISCLAIMER: We were sent this film by MVD, but that was no impact on our review.

War of the Worlds (2005)

I’d like to welcome Tommy Zimmer as a contributor to our site. He’s a writer whose work has appeared online and in print. His work covers a variety of topics, including politics, economics, health and wellness, consumer electronics, and the entertainment industry. Here, he’ll be covering several films and we’re happy to have him on board.

Tom Cruise is the quintessential movie star. Nobody can do what he does in film. He’s a movie star and has a pretty good following of people who like him. Only he can save us from the alien apocalypse. He seeks to save us from the aliens within ourselves. These are things he allegedly believes. While many of us may not believe what he does, it does not mean he is not one of the great movie stars still. Most of his films, except for The Mummy, have received rave reviews and people have spent money to see him in them. It’s something that continues to happen again and again, especially in War of the Worlds. His most recent film, Mission Impossible: Fallout, blew critics and audiences alike out of the water. Going back to 2005, Cruise was just beginning to deal with the fallout of his Scientology beliefs.

However, he was on top of the world, married to Katie Holmes, and having the time of his life. If audiences ever wondered what it would be like to imagine Cruise as a father to Dakota Fanning and Justin Chatwin, who played his daughter and son respectively, they got their answer here. Cruise portrays Ray Ferrier, a dockworker, who gets caught up in aliens invading. This is nothing new, right? It’s something we’ve seen again and again in movies, especially in some of Cruise’s later work such as Edge of Tomorrow and Oblivion.

Cruise’s Ferrier is our eyes and ears throughout the entire narrative. He is someone who is divorced and does not want to deal with the responsibility of being a parent. His kids aren’t even that happy to see him. It’s easy to see why when he does not want to be a father. Yet, that all changes when the aliens invade and change their lives forever. He has to protect his children from them and seek safe shelter as best he can. One of the best scenes in the film is with Cruise and Tim Robbins. It’s interesting to see the latter portray a deranged person when he is well-known for his portrayal of Andy Dufresne in The Shawshank Redemption, who was the complete opposite.

Robbins shows his range here and does well in his scenes with Cruise. The consummate caring father, Cruise, will not let Robbins do anything to himself or his family. They end up escaping at the proper time. It’s quite startling to see some of the scenes Cruise and Steven Spielberg, the director create in this film. To see humanity at its worst while a father attempts to protect his children can lead one to be disturbed by these scenes. At the same time, Cruise proves why he is the father of the year in this film. No other person could be both awesome as a father protecting his kids and going up against the aliens. In this film, he accomplishes both.

While others may like previous versions of the film, those adaptations of H.G. Wells’ story did not have Tom Cruise. He brings an authenticity to the struggle of earth against the aliens. He is a true hero and we all recognize him for that. He alters the course of the events in the movie. By his actions, his children are saved and reunited with their mother and stepfather. The relationship between father and children is saved because of their commitment to one another as a family. They survive the events of the movie. If we ever get a sequel, it would be interesting to see Cruise go up against the aliens once more.

Was it mentioned that Morgan Freeman does the narration in the beginning and end of the film? If that’s not enough to get you excited about this film, there may be nothing else. But, if you have the chance, check this movie out. It will leave you a proud earthling forever more.

VIDEO GAME WEEK: Alone in the Dark (2005)

Every movie is someone’s favorite movie. That’s why I don’t call these reviews. They’re me exploring films, trying to figure out how they happened and what they are about. How do I do that about this film without feeling like I’m kicking a limbless child?

Edward Carnby (Christian Slater, Heathers) is an occult detective and the star of the video games that you may or may not have played. As a child, he was subject to some intense experiments as he grew up in an orphanage where Sister Clara raised him. As a result, he has a sixth sense and has increased strength and agility. He also used to work for Bureau 713, which protects the world from the paranormal.

We learn about Bureau 713 from a long scroll in the beginning that is also read to us. It goes on way longer than it needs to. And then it goes on some more. It may still be running as you read this.

He’s also investigating the disappearance of the Abkani, who worshipped demons from another dimension, demons who are coming back to ours. His girlfriend Aline (Tara Reid, American Pie) is the curator of a museum which happens to have artifacts from the Abkani. There are also some paramilitary guys who are legitimately wearing paintball armor led by Commander Burke (Stephen Dorff, Blade).

The writer of the film, Blair Erickson, summed up the changes Uwe Boll made to the script: “Thankfully Dr. Boll was able to hire his loyal team of hacks to crank out something much better than our crappy story and add in all sorts of terrifying horror movie essentials like opening gateways to alternate dimensions, bimbo blonde archaeologists, sex scenes, mad scientists, slimy dog monsters, special army forces designed to battle slimy CG dog monsters, Tara Reid,  Matrix slow-motion gun battles, and car chases. Oh yeah, and a ten-minute opening backstory scroll read aloud to the illiterate audience, the only people able to successfully miss all the negative reviews. I mean hell, Boll knows that’s where the real scares lie.” 

Yes, the bad guys look like aliens and basically tear everyone to pieces, other than Slater and Reid. That is — if you get that far. This is a film packed with continuity gaffes, appearances by camera people and even Reid being unable to say the word Newfoundland. For a film set in California, Canadian signage appears throughout. When Agent Cheung’s dead body is found, she visibly moves before the scene ends. And perhaps most amazingly, the creatures in the film? Their main weakness is light. Yet they show up in broad daylight to attack the two main characters at the end of the film.

I know Uwe Boll likes to punch critics, but I can handle it. Seriously, if you love a video game, there’s the worry that this man has made a movie of it. I’d do an entire week of his films on this site, but I don’t even know if I have that kind of guts.

VIDEO GAME WEEK: Doom (2005)

Andrzej Bartkowiak has been the cinematographer on three films that were nominated for Best Picture Academy Awards: The Verdict, Terms of Endearment and Prizzi’s Honor.  But he may be better known for his films that combined hip-hop and action, like Cradle 2 the GraveExit Wounds and Romeo Must Die. He’s also been behind two video game films: Doom and Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li.

That said, Time selected this as one of the top 10 worst video game movies, along with House of the DeadWing CommanderIn the Name of the KingHitmanBloodRayneResident Evil: ApocalypseDouble DragonStreet Fighter and Super Mario Brothers. Trust me — it’s not that bad. And films like this (and a few others on the list) don’t belong in the same wastebin as Uwe Boll films.

After a Mars research station is attacked, Dr. Todd Carmack sends a distress call that is answered by a team of Marines, led by Asher “Sarge” Mahonin (Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson). John “Reaper” Grimm (Karl Urban, Dredd) and his sister, Dr. Samantha (Rosamund Pike, star of Becca’s go to DVD, Gone Girl) are there to retrieve critical info before the base is destroyed. We learn that they were born on Mars and their parents were killed here. All that remained after their accident were skeletons of genetically enhanced humans.

Of course, all hell breaks loose — literally. Demonic monsters attack, The Rock ends up being the bad guy, innocent people get killed, a long first-person sequence happens and there’s plenty of action. Seriously, the movie is short on story and long on special effects and gore. It’s like an Alien movie without the xenomorphs, I guess. Or much excitement. It’s competently made, but an hour after it was over and I started writing this, all I could remember that I enjoyed was that the Rock played against his usual character and that Karl Urban got to be the hero.

CHRISTMAS CINEMA: Santa’s Slay (2005)

If you ever wanted to watch a movie where Bill Goldberg hits Chris Kattan with the same sidekick that ended Bret Hart’s career, good news. I have found the movie for you.

Yep, the Mason family — including James Caan, Rebecca Gayheart, Fran Drescher and Kattan — are all fighting during Christmas dinner, but Santa arrives in time to kill them all. And that’s just the start.

Santa is really Satan’s son — the son of a virgin birth like Jesus — who used December 25th as the “Day of Slaying” until an angel defeated him in a curling match and he was forced to deliver gifts for 1,000 years.

Now, it’s 2005 and Santa is ready to get some revenge.

This film was directed by David Steiman, who was a production assistant for Brett Ratner. It’s a slick-looking film, one that ended up way better than I thought it would be.

It has some interesting picks as stars, like SCTV’s Dave Thomas playing a perverted pastor and Robert Culp playing the hero’s grandfather (who ends up being the curling playing angel who defeated Satan’s son). Plus, you know, Bill Goldberg as Santa, which gives him the chance to use his “Who’s next?” catchphrase after the credits.

There are much better Santa as killer movies you can watch this holiday season. And we’ve covered so many of them over the last few days. But if you want to be a completist — and if you’re a wrestling fan and want to see Vince Russo die in a strip club massacre — then go ahead and watch this.