Cinematic Void January Giallo 2023: Knife + Heart (2018)

EDITOR’S NOTE: Cinematic Void will be playing a 35mm print of this movie on Friday, Jan. 27 at 7:30 PM at The Little Theatre in Rochester, NY. For more information, visit Cinematic Void or purchase tickets here

Knife + Heart is a true anomaly when it comes to giallo. It’s from France, a country more given to the fantastique film than the giallo — though there are movies like The Night CallerWithout Apparent Motive and The Night Under the Throat. And its victims aren’t gorgeous women, but the actors of the gay porn industry, changing the psychosexual dynamics of the form.

Instead of featuring the sounds of a band like Goblin or a score by the likes of Morricone or Orlandi, Knife + Heart has music by Anthony Gonzalez of M83 who is director Yann Gonzalez’s brother.

A young man is killed by a masked man whose very sex conceals his murder weapon to open the film. Then, we meet Anne (Vanessa Paradis), an adult film director who has recently been abandoned by her girlfriend and editor Lois. The man killed in the opening was the star of several of her films; now she must find an actor to take his place. That leads her to Nans, who despite identifying as a straight man agrees to be in her movie.

The new film — Homocidal — will be her version of the murders, which continue targeting members of her cast. The police either can’t — or won’t — help. But the movie gets finished and as the group celebrates its completion with a picnic, the killer strikes again, just as Anne pretty much assaults Lois in an attempt to get her back.

The true killer is a man whose father caught him making love to another man. He killed his lover and castrated his son, who was also burned in a fire before being brought back from the dead by a blind crow — the fact that this movie isn’t called Call of the Blind Crow speaks to its non-Italian origins — and seeing one of Anne’s movies brought his memories back.

This being a giallo, there’s also a bird expert with a disfigured hand that looks like he has, quite literally, chicken fingers. Plus, the entire end of the movie is explained via voiceover. The fact that so much of this movie is given to style over substance means that it lives up to the movies that inspired it.

While the murders are in your face, the sex is nearly hidden from view. And Anne is an intriguing protagonist — drunken and bitter instead of the normal virginal giallo and slasher ingenues that save the day. She instead brings the killer closer with each scene that she directs.

WATCH THE SERIES: The Purge Part 2

The First Purge (2018): The first Purge, that is, the original 2013 film, wasn’t all that great. Yet each sequel has done the exact opposite of tradition by being better than the film that inspired it. 2016’s The Purge: Election Year ended the 12-hour evening of lawlessness, so where do you go from here? A prequel. Can it live up to where the series has gone over three films?

While this entry is written and produced by James DeMonaco, this is the first time he has not directed one of the films, handing those duties over to Gerard McMurray.

Ever wondered how The Purge came to be? Well, to push the crime rate below 1% for the rest of the year and restore the economy, the New Founding Fathers of America (NFFA) decided to test Dr. May Updale’s (Marisa Tomei, slumming it here John Cassavetes style) theory that a one night venting of aggression would do wonders for people’s state of mind.

However, the test doesn’t happen in the suburbs, but instead in the marginalized, low income, black and Latino neighborhood of Staten Island. Despite $5,000 being given to each Purger (you gotta spend money to make money, I guess) and more money offered for each kill, people decide that they wanna party more than they wanna kill. And that’s when the NFFA takes matters into its own hands, sending in mercenary death squads to get the job done.

Can protestor Nya and her brother Isaiah survive the night and the attention of the maniacal drug addict Skeletor (the best part of the film, as he owns the screen from the second he first appears)? Will drug lord Dmitri rise up and defend the neighborhood that he’s pillaged? Will white people wear Klan hoods and Nazi outfits and burn churches to the ground?

Do I even need to answer these questions?

That said — I was entertained by this movie, which is both simultaneously wish fulfillment and dire warning. It’s also so many movies in one, combining a slasher film with a running movie with a dystopian/post-apocalyptic film, then adding a side of gritty urban drama, a crime movie and finally, an action shoot ’em up. It works if you don’t think too much about how The Purge could ever become true. Actually, screw that. Over the past two years, I totally see how it could not only happen, but be endorsed by the American people.

This movie isn’t going to be escapism from the slowly darkening world outside the theater. It’s junk food, sugar-filled candy that conceals a center that we’re all finding harder and harder to swallow. If only the world’s problems were so easily solved within 12 hours that could unite us all by violence, which in these films, seems to solve everything. The real world is much messier, much more depressing and much more oppressive.

That said, if you want to see a Nazi in neon gleaming latex get shot with a rocket, it’s pretty much the best pick you’ll find this summer.

The. Forever Purge (2021): Directed by Everardo Gout and written by series creator James DeMonaco, this is yet another example of “the last Purge” before they announce another sequel. That said, this series has gone from middling to decent to actual pretty good to middling all over again, so I was happy that this pushes the Purge in a new direction: once the killing starts, it won’t stop. Sure, the series has gotten pretty heavy handed, but if the last few years have taught us anything, it’s that the Purge is closer than ever before.

These films always get laughed at for the way they handle social issues and then they make over $52.8 million worldwide over its $18 million budget.

Eight years after Charlene Roan’s presidential election — The Purge: Election Year — the New Founding Fathers of America have regained control of the U.S. government and have re-instituted the Purge. Racism has gotten out of control and this years Purge seems like it will cause more damage than anyone can imagine.

I mean, you can totally see how they tore this from the headlines. That’s kind of why I have a soft spot for these movies, which feel like the last gasp of the exploitation movies that we love that would stare a cynical eye on what was really happening and figure out how to make some money off   of it.

Despite all of the film’s main characters surviving the Purge, the next day the killing continues thanks to a faction called the Forever Purgers, who have decided to turn the tables on the rich and show them what it feels like to be undervalued.

It’s easy to be snide and think these films are a waste of time, but for some reason, I’ve found something to enjoy in every film after the first one. I’m really looking forward to Frank Grillo’s character Leo Barnes coming back in the next film, as his journey between The Purge: Anarchy and The Purge: Election Year made for a great story.

The Purge TV series: Lasting two seasons — the first takes place in 2027 and the second season between 2036 and 2037 — the first season was all about what goes into the Purge before it happens, seen from the perspective of several characters as an anthology series. Season two starts as an annual Purge night ends and multiple arcs show why different characters were involved and how the Purge changed their lives.

The Man Who Killed Hitler and Then the Bigfoot (2018)

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: A.C. Nicholas, who has a sketchy background and hails from parts unknown in Western Pennsylvania, was once a drive-in theater projectionist and disk jockey, Currently, in addition to being a writer, editor, podcaster, and voice-over artist, he contributes to Drive-In Asylum. His first article, “Grindhouse Memories Across the U.S.A.,” was published in issue #23. He’s also written “I Was a Teenage Drive-in Projectionist” and “Emanuelle in Disney World and Other Weird Tales of a Trash Film Lover” for upcoming issues.

Unlike the Louis Armstrong song featured in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, “We Have All the Time in the World,” I’ve been thinking about how little time we really have in this life. I’ve been around long enough to have lived in a generation with no cable TV, pay TV, VHS, DVDs, or streaming, where we watched genre films in grindhouses, at midnight screenings, and on broadcast TV shows such as The CBS Late Movie and Pittsburgh’s Chiller Theater. Few of those films featured senior citizens, and if they did, the older timer was usually a psycho-lunatic, like Neville Brand in Eatea Alive. Today, however, things have turned, and it’s in vogue to feature senior citizens in genre films—and to show them having sex. See X from director Ti West, for example.

Until the film I’m about to review here, the best exploitation film featuring the elderly—and how shabbily society treats them—was Bubba Ho-Tep, Don Coscarelli’s imaginative, funny, and ultimately sad, meditation on what it’s like to grow old. (George Romero’s elder-abuse public service film, The Amusement Park, was years away from rediscovery.) I think though, The Man Who Killed Hitler and Then the Bigfoot, equals, if not betters, Coscarelli’s cult gem, which had Elvis and JFK, at the end of their lives, fighting a reanimated mummy.

Reading the title of writer/co-producer/director Robert D. Krzykowski’s film, going in, I didn’t know what to expect. You have “killed,” “Hitler,” and “Bigfoot.” Gotta be trashy exploitation, right? But it’s The Man Who Killed Hitler and Then the Bigfoot, with the pretentious-sounding definite article “the” before Bigfoot, raising a parallel to Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ. Is it a hybrid high- and low-brow film? I’m happy to report that it is—and strides both the arthouse and grindhouse perfectly.

America’s wonderfully grizzled character actor Sam Elliott, with a look and voice for the ages, in a performance for the ages, is Calvin Barr, a World War II veteran who lives by himself in a small town. He has his dog and a mysterious trunk under his bed. He leads a simple, reclusive life. About the only person he regularly talks to is his brother, Ed, the town barber, in a nice performance by comedian Larry Miller. Calvin’s life is winding down until the day two government agents, one from the U.S.A, played by Ron Livingston (credited as “Flag Pin”) the other, a Canadian, played by Rizwan Manji (billed as “Maple Leaf”), knock on his door. They know about Calvin’s hidden past. During the war, he had killed Adolph Hitler during a secret mission, a mission which is classified, so no one will ever know that Calvin is a hero.

Flag Pin and Maple Leaf implore Calvin to go on another dangerous mission. You see, Bigfoot in the Canadian Pacific Northwest is sick with a virus that could potentially wipe out mankind. (Man, this movie was sure prescient about the pandemic! Calvin’s immune to the disease (don’t ask for the particulars, just go with the flow), so they want him to kill the Bigfoot and save the world.

And, thus, we get to the heart of this beautiful film. What is your legacy? Are you a hero if no one ever knows of your heroic actions? What is the price of being a hero? (You can guess that there’s a sad flashback about a lost wartime love.) And finally, can you find meaningful closure to your life while up against the Grim Reaper? The film asks you to ponder these questions, and by the end, you’ll be thinking about them for a long time. I know I have.

But lest you think the film is what Joe Bob Briggs would describe as a “lobster,” a pretentious arthouse film, let me assure you it delivers with some highly entertaining, gory exploitation action featuring the horribly diseased Bigfoot. As I said, it straddles that line between art and exploitation perfectly.

I loved The Man Who Killed Hitler and Then the Bigfoot. It’s a film that’s so conceptually weird that it couldn’t possibly be good. But it is, just like Bubba Ho-Tep. As an aside, you’ll note that brilliant indie writer/director John Sayles and legendary special effects artist Douglas Trumbull are credited as executive producers, with Trumbull doing the special effects. They obviously had faith in Robert D. Krzykowski’s vision, and when you see the film, you will too. I hope he creates more oddball gems in the future. His first feature is amazing, a cult film waiting to be discovered.

DISMEMBERCEMBER: The Legend of the Christmas Witch (2018)

EDITOR’S NOTE: This was originally on the site on December 23, 2019.

During the day Paola is an ordinary primary school teacher, but at night, she turns into…The Christmas Witch, a magical creature who brings gifts to the good kids.

That said, what is a Christmas Witch? Well, she doesn’t even come on Christmas! In Italian folklore, Befana is an old woman who delivers gifts throughout Italy on Little Christmas, which is called Epiphany Eve (the night of January 5), the night before the Catholic Church celebrates the manifestation of the divinity.

Some suggest that Befana is descended from the Sabine/Roman goddess named Strenia. Regardless, each year, she visits all the children of Italy to fill their socks with candy and presents if they are good, or a lump of coal,  dark candy or a stick (if they live in Sicily) if they are bad. She also will sweep the house, which is symbolic of sweeping away the problems of last year.

So wait…why are we covering this on our site? Stay tuned after the trailer.

So why did we watch it?

The director is Michele Soavi.

You read that right. The same man who made Cemetery ManStagefrightLa Secta and The Church.

This is his first theatrical film since 2008’s Blood of the Losers.

Yes, let that sink in. The dude in the metal mask from Demons made a Christmas movie for kids.

Don’t worry — it’s pretty crazy, even if his visual style is a bit muted here.

The plot concerns Paola being kidnapped by Mr. Johnny, a cruel toymaker who got his childhood ruined by the Witch and is now seeking revenge. Six brave kids all learn the teacher’s secret and work together to save Christmas from commercialism.

So yeah. Merry Christmas early, everyone. You may have wanted something filled with gore and all manner of insanity like a rabbit that learns how to use a TV remote, but hey, you can’t pick what’s under your tree. Just enjoy this one, which you can find for free on Tubi and Amazon Prime.


EDITOR’S NOTE: The Cauldron release of this film comes with a CD soundtrack with music by Luciano Onetti, behind the scenes footage and a trailer. You can get it from MVD.

Thirty years after his father The Great Dante was killed during a magic trick gone wrong, Lorenzo is now being accused of a series of murders that all have magical themes as he struggles to present the biggest show of his career.

This is the third film in the Onetti Brothers’ Giallo Trilogy, following Francesca and Sonno Profundo. For all the reviewers that bring up their Argento style, the true maniacs, the ones who put on their gloves while watching a giallo, the people like, well, me and you — we realize that their influences go beyond the touchstones every critic uses. For all of those that love Martino as much as Argento, good news. This feels like one of his films that was lost in time.

I caught the YouTube premiere of the film, which is missing most of the gore and nudity, which would be the selling point for many a fan of these films. But for the other parts of the form, such as the soundtrack, the plot that goes everywhere and nowhere at the same time, even the look of the color and film, this is a true piece of giallo in a time when I wondered if all the gold has truly been mined.

That said, you can look forward to people decrying its dubbing, acting and plot. Those people have never seen anything beyond Suspiria and have declared themselves experts. Screw it. I hope these Argentinian madmen keep making movies. I’ll pour them a whole bottle of J&B if I ever get the chance to meet them.

PS: I realize that the example I picked isn’t even a giallo. Those of you that have read copy and pasted reviews of movies that reference this genre will, I hope, get the joke.

SLASHER MONTH: Puppet Master: The Littlest Reich (2018)

EDITOR’S NOTE: This was originally on the site on August 20, 2018.

Despite being direct to video releases (yes, some have had limited releases in theaters and the first was considered for theatrical release), the Puppet Master series is one that’s packed with content. Produced by Full Moon Features, the series started in 1989 with Puppet Master, which has been followed by ten sequels/prequels, a non-canon crossover with the characters of Demonic Toys, two comic book mini-series, an ongoing comic book series, toys and now, this reboot.

Opening in Postville, Texas, where that “old guy” comes into a bar where he’s been frequently upsetting the female customers. That “old guy” is Andre Toulon, the inventor of the puppets who this movie is all about and he’s played by Udo Kier, of all people. After bothering the bartender and her girlfriend, he leaves into the night, upset as they embrace and kiss.

Later that night, the girls leave the bar and discuss their future. After hearing a noise, one of them is attacked. Soon, we see Toulon lying in a basement, telling the puppets to come to him. This scene felt really disjointed — setting up the murder but not showing it actually happening. Everything jumps forward to the police investigating the crime scene, with both girls dead and small footprints running away from the car.

The police rush — with no backup or warrant — to the Toulon house, where we see Andre rise painfully and pull down a concrete pillar. They enter the house and we hear gunfire as the title card appears.

Note: the producers have stated that this film takes place in a parallel universe, which is why Andre Toulon is an evil Nazi instead of battling against the Third Reich.

Dallas, Texas. Today. Edgar (Thomas Lennon, The State, Reno 9-11 and a character actor who has shown up in plenty of films way below his talent level) is recovering from a divorce and has retreated to his childhood home to heal. There, he discovers a mint condition Blade doll in his dead brother’s room and decides to sell it at a convention that celebrates the Toulon Murders for a big profit. Joining him on the way are Markowitz (Nelson Franklin, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World) and Ashley.

They sign up for a tour of the Toulon house, led by Carol Doreski (Barbara Crampton, Re-AnimatorChopping Mall, We Are Still Here), the officer who raided the mansion thirty years ago. She explains the backstory of how Toulon began creating the puppets and where everything went wrong.

Once Toulon escaped World War 2 — his wife committed suicide at sea — he settled in this small Texas town. On the night the police were called in, they found a house of horrors, including a soundproof room where Jewish women were tortured. There are also books in the house on all manner of subjects like astrology, numerology, demonology and more, as well as books that came directly from Adolf Eichmann, the creator of the Final Solution.

Finally, Doreski shows the tour group where Toulon was shot as she finishes the tour at the mausoleum where his body lies in rest. There are rods inside the building that some feel have occult significance, but that no one can really explain.

When Edgar and Ashley — now a couple who make out at every opportunity — come back to their hotel room, his Blade doll is missing and the front desk answers back in French, saying “Remain in the shadows.” If you think things are going to get normal from here on out, well, things are only going the other way. Soon, Torch appears and makes the first two gory kills. In a world of CGI, it’s nice to see some practical effects here! The burn effects are really well done.

This isn’t a film that skimps on nudity, either. We cut right from those brutal kills to a couple in the throes of passion — including breasts against the window ala Catholic High School Girls in Trouble from The Kentucky Fried Movie. Blade soon gets involved, slicing them to ribbons, including a Pet Semetary style ankle shredding.

Say what you will about this movie, but it knows its audience. We find another convention goer watching some wrestling in his room (I recognize David Starr, which I wonder is intentional as he’s a Jewish pro wrestler). Man, I don’t want to spoil the kill that follows, but suffice to say I’ve never seen anyone urinate on a decapitated head before. Just wow. If you’re looking for the red stuff — and I guess the yellow stuff — this movie has you covered.

While Markowitz tries to get some action at the bar, Detective Brown (Michael Paré from Streets of Fire! This is the kind of casting I’d dream of if Italian exploitation movies were still being made!) shows up to investigate the missing Blade doll. Soon, he learns that everyone that brought a doll has lost them. And man do they pay. We don’t meet a single character really and get to know them, we just watch puppets decimate them. But hey — isn’t that why you’re watching this?

This movie totally needs a Joe Bob Briggs breakdown of the kills. Spinning robot fu. Intestine ripped out fu. Drill fu. Puppet abortion fu. Seriously, that last one is on the level of Joe D’Amato or Ruggero Deodato depravity.

The police make everyone leaves their rooms and gather in the lobby as multiple crime scenes appear. Can everyone survive the onslaught of Blade, Pinhead, Tunneler, Torch, Mechaniker, Happy Amphibian, Grasshüpfer, Mr. Pumper, Junior Fuhrer, Autogyro and Money Lender?

“Lots of terrible shit happens to people who don’t deserve it,” says a fan at the end of the film. “I don’t think things are fully resolved,” says our sole survivor as a TO BE CONTINUED comes up. Well, here’s to hoping!

Directed by Sonny Liguna and Tommy Wiklund (Animalistic) and written by S. Craig Zahler (Bone Tomahawk, Brawl in Cell Block 99) with credit given to Charles Band, there’s a major narrative shift that changes up this film from any that have come before. Where in the past, the puppets were created to battle the Nazis and have been taken over by whomever can command them, here they were explicitly by a Nazi to kill their enemies, like Jewish people, blacks, gay people and gypsies. Essentially, the characters that you want to cheer on are committing hate crimes. That’s a pretty big jump to make. Then again, if you see this is an exploitation film, you know that all bets are off. Creator Charles Band told Entertainment Weekly, “You’ve got to go back to what exploitation movies were 40-50 years ago. I mean, it’s hard today. There’s so much out there. We’re so jaded. I mean, television news, when something bad happens, it’s worse than most horror movies I’ve ever made: decapitations and terrorism. And, you know, what do you do to an audience that has seen it all, to get them talking? What [Cinestate] has done is gone full-on exploitation. They’ve got something going there, where there is going to be controversy.”

I’ve hinted at it before, but the Italian sleaze roots of this film run deep. So deep that Fabio Frizzi (The Beyond, Zombi, Manhattan Baby) did the score! And the role that Skeeta Jenkins plays totally feels made for Bobby Rhodes.

Band has stated that he still has plans to make his own Puppet Master movies and that Cinestate has plans to make a big budget version of Castle Freak next. Here’s hoping that movies like Trancers and Subspecies also get their shot!

Despite the changing of the series’ premise — I’ve never been a hardcore fan, so I got past this quickly — this movie is exactly what it should be. Quick, brutal and filled with the red stuff. Sure, we never find out what the hell is going on in that mausoleum. And we have no idea what happens next. But isn’t that the beauty of a fun exploitation movie? Shut your brain off and enjoy.

MVD DVD RELEASE: Checkered Ninja (2018)

Anders “Anden” (“The Duck”) Matthesen is a Danish stand-up comedian, actor and rapper who worked with Thorbjørn Christoffersen to turn his 2016 book into an animated movie. Yes, a ninja movie from Denmark!

The film begins in Thailand, where Danish businessman Philip Eberfrø is inspecting his new factory. One of the young boys laboring there accidentally uses his checkered scarf to make a ninja doll. A boss on the floor beats the boy until Phillip stops him and then grabs a weapon and beats the boy to death. As this happens, lightning strikes the building, guiding the spirit of Taiko Nakamura — based on a real-life bandit during the 16th century Azuchi–Momoyama period in Japan — to avenge that child’s death. That’s what Nakamura has been doing ever since he was betrayed and unable to save ten children. Giving up his own life, he can possess animals and objects to set the balance of justice.

Now in the form of a stuffed ninja doll, Takamura hides on a Danish cargo ship and is found by a sailor named Stewart Stardust who gives him as a birthday present to his nephew Alex Stenstrøm. The ninja surprises Alex by coming to life and defending him from a bully, but he’s still there to take the life of Phillip.

This is an interesting coming-of-age tale, as the ninja and the teen must learn a lesson. The ninja is devoted to what he knows, fighting and death, while Alex sees another way out of issues. Of course, Alex can barely deal with his brother and being beaten up at school, so he has some things to learn as well.

I really liked this film, as it has a fun animation style and doesn’t take itself too seriously. I’m also surprised by how kids’ movies in other countries aren’t afraid to have violence, swearing and some PG-13  content. It didn’t ever go too far, but if you know those parents that overly worry about that kind of thing, well…maybe let their kids watch it at your house.

How big was this movie in Denmark? It sold a million tickets, making it the highest-grossing Danish film since Op pa fars hat in 1986 and three Robert awards for best children’s film, best adapted screenplay and best original song (“Skubber det sne”). It was even nominated for a Bodil Award for Best Danish Film.

Here’s hoping the sequel makes it way here too!

You can get the DVD of Checkered Ninja from MVD.

NORTH BEND FILM FEST: Black Dragon (2018)

Starring Matthew Del Negro (Scandal, The Sopranos) and with make-up/VFX from the teams behind Pirates of the Caribbean, Tron Legacy and Super 8, Black Dragon looks and feels way stronger than you’d expect from a festival short.

Colonel Palmer (Del Negro) is simultaneously suffering from the fact that his platoon has just wiped out a village of probably innocent people, as well as the loss of his son. When a girl named Chau (Celia Au) is brought before him, he soon learns that she can do more than raise the dead. She can conjure visions and show him the angel that has been watching over him, even if it’s the last thing that he wants to see.

I really wish this was a full-length film because there are so many ideas within the short time that director and co-writer (with Nathaniel Hendricks) Alex Thompson can get into the movie. The scene of the dead man rising off the operating table is harrowing and has more composition and built-up terror than so many movies I’ve seen lately. Well done.

I watched this at the North Bend Film Festival, which you can learn more about on their official site.


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.

Avengers of Justice: Farce Wars (2018)

I saw someone say the other day, “Where have all the farce movies like Scary Movie gone?” They never went away. They just got smaller. And this is one of them, a movie that dares cast Shawn Michaels as Incredible Master Yoga, who is like the Hulk and Yoda and really this movie kind of made me sad for people like Amy Smart (whose character is kind of in the Incredibles), Simon Rex (whose Dark Jokester is the Joker as Darth Vader and no, that does not make perfect sense) and Tim J. Smith, who openly complains in character that Lando Fury is whatever ethnic character he has to be for whatever scene he is in, from Nick Fury to Black Panther to Lando Calrissian.

I refuse to feel badly for the actor who plays SuperBat, Stephen Rannazzisi, a man who claimed that he went into stand-up to escape New York City after 9/11, claiming that he worked in the South Tower of the World Trade Center at Merrill Lynch on the 54th floor and nearly died. Not only was he never employed by Merrill Lynch, Merrill Lynch didn’t even have offices in the World Trade Center at that point. Kind of takes all the fun out of The League, huh?

Director Jarret Tarnol (Barrio TalesSee You in Valhalla) and writer Richard Dane Scott (My Dog the ChampionSparkle – A Unicorn Tale) have combined Marvel, DC and Star Wars into a cocktail that in no way goes down easy. The jokes are beyond easy: SuperBat is really Bruce Kent. There’s a bad guy named Lisp Luthor. There’s a naughty and nice side to the Farce. There’s also a character named Beaverine. Thorbacca? Ironing Man Tony Starch? Was anyone even trying?

One time, they brought a stand-up in for a work function and everyone thought they were hilarious except me. As the yuks went on forever, I added up how much this guy cost and how low we were being paid and I realized I’d rather have $1 more than lame jokes using the names of people I worked with. Worst of all, my time was wasted and time is the only finite resource we have. This movie wasted the time of so many people before it wasted my time. It is the worst of all things, entropy, ennui, a supervillain in and out of itself, a Beyonder-level threat to humor, an Anti-Monitor using Shadow Demons to erase your funny bone.

You should avoid this on Tubi.