Archive for May 30th, 2008

A sequel to a remake. Oookay, if you say so.

This is one of those odd movies that’s not bad, but it’s not good, either. It’s just there. Existing. Being. It has no value, no worth, and no substance.

Return to House on Haunted Hill is so vastly different from its predecessor that it’s not even funny. At least House on Haunted Hill had Geoffrey Rush in it, who spiced things up and made them at least a little fun, as well as a nice role for Famke Janssen who played Rush’s deviously nasty wife.

Even when House on Haunted Hill screwed up, it at least tried. At least it had a purpose. This movie is like everyone slept straight through it – the scriptwriter, the actors, the director – you name it.

The basic premise of the movie focuses around the sister of Sara (the female survivor from the first) who is kidnapped by a mercenary type fellow searching for something hidden deep within the old insane asylum that he believes Ariel (the sister) can help him find.

Enlisting the unwilling aid of a college professor and his team, once they’re inside the house, Desmond refuses to believe the stories of hauntings surrounding the property — of course. He’s tracked down Ariel because her sister mailed her Dr. Vannacutt’s diary before committing suicide.

Now, here comes the ridiculously stupid plot point: The college professor and Desmond The Merc are both in pursuit of a famed idol of Baphomet. Here’s where we start to deviate blindly in places. All of a sudden, Baphomet is to blame for everything. The stupid idol is what corrupted the entire asylum. Those inmates not only were overthrowing the evil Doctor Vannacutt, they were also attempting to destroy the idol! (Here we’re told that no, the inmates weren’t insane, they were on the side of good and all.)

Then an entire history is given to Dr. Vannacutt that is wholeheartedly unrealistic. Vannacutt is described as being a nominee for the Nobel Prize (what?!) and basically being a total Boy Scout…until he came into contact with this mystical idol. Then he became the inhuman monster they’ve beat us over the head with. Here we deviate from the straight up, standard effective ghost story in the first and veer into uncharted waters — waters which ultimately are too deep for the filmmakers to handle. The story runs roughshod over the first, establishing entire lower floors of the house that never existed nor looked like anything from the first. In short, continuity from the first film, whether it’s the look of the sets or the general ideas, is sadly in short supply.

And yet, as we go exploring through Dr. Vannacutt’s now varied backstory, Jeffrey Combs is underutilized. Combs is far from a bad actor (he made Re-Animator, in my opinion and people who have seen The Frighteners can remember how effective Combs is at being a total creepy weirdo when he wants to be) so why he’s criminally underused is beyond me.

The crux of the problem with this movie is this: story is everything. When you have a shoddily crafted story that is technically executed in a good manner, it still isn’t good. The special effects were excellent for a virtually straight to DVD release, but I can’t think of a good example to offer up here because the plot is that damn bad.

To add insult to injury, there is nothing going on from the other side of the film, and by that I mean that it feels like there’s no feeling or emotion in this one. It feels like everyone just showed up for another day at the office, and that is the biggest insult you can deliver to a moviewatcher. If you’re not going to put some sort of feeling in it, or actually attempt to convey some sort of feeling to your viewer, why bother?

Even the killing scenes are filmed with an astounding nonchalance that’s almost insulting. Really. If I hadn’t sat down to watch it with the intent of reviewing it here, I would’ve shut it off.

No point to this one but profit, and a word to the people who felt that way about this one: You’ll have to make a better product than this to profit off of it. Good God.

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So, I have this thing I do in “real life” all the time.   I’ll be somewhere with a friend and I’ll be reminded of something and I will turn to said friend and say, “Hey, have you ever seen [insert movie here]?  Because this totally reminds me of that.”

Usually I’m met with a blank stare, not because my friends aren’t into movies, but because seldom few people I know are into movies like I’m into movies, so apparently I’ve seen more movies than most “normal” people.

However, I trust if you’re reading this, you’ll get this reference.   C.H.U.D., straight up, is not a good movie.  In fact, it really, really blows.   But it’s hard for me to take the CHUDs seriously when your creatures look like they’re the long lost cousin of Sloth from The Goonies.    Allow me to present the damning evidence:

Seriously, every time one of these things popped up on screen, I just mentally shouted, “Hey, you guyyyys!”

C.H.U.D. is the story of a corrupt set of officials that hide nuclear waste in the city’s subterranean sewer system.   Unfortunately for the wrongdoers, there’s a whole bunch of homeless people that have taken up residence in the sewer tunnels who, upon exposure to the waste, mutate into C.H.U.D.s:   Cannibalistic Humanoid Underground Dwellers.

The C.H.U.D.s begin to eat other homeless people before beginning to attack surface dwelling New Yorkers.

The script’s no good, the camera work’s not that great and the story itself is a variant of approximately 75,000 other horror/sci-fi movies.   But there is one moderately interesting thing about this movie — the cast.

I mean, after finishing this movie, my initial instinct was to think — goodness, Daniel Stern and John Heard were willingly involved in this movie?   What’s funnier is after watching Daniel Stern yuck it up in such classic, charming fare as Cabin Boy, his straight-laced, serious performance in C.H.U.D. of all movies as a tireless advocate for the homeless is surrealistic at best.    John flippin’ Heard?    What’s even weirder is that later on these two would both go on to be in Home Alone.

In a small cameo part is John Goodman.   Yes, John flippin’ Goodman was in C.H.U.D. for what felt like 46 seconds as an irritating cop in a diner.    This was the only thing that electrified me.   I was laying down, half-heartedly watching this piece of crap when all of a sudden, I bolted upright.  “Is that really John Goodman?    Jesus, that really IS John Goodman!”

When that is the only thing that piqued my interest, you’ve got a problem.   It’s an ill-conceived, poorly executed film that only still attracts viewers because of the well-known names in the film.   Even the beginning “initial death” in the first three minutes of the frame, which is intended to shock and thrill the viewer, fails miserably.

Close your eyes and imagine your version of what a film involving cannibalistic Morlocks would entail.   Chances are, it’s light years better than this movie, and it’s probably involving Sloth-like C.H.U.D.s running around screaming, “Hey, you guys!”

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