Review : Victor Crowley (2017)

Victor Crowley came out as a total surprise last year. The film, which marks Adam Green’s return to the franchise he created, was announced shortly before its release. The fourth installment in the Hatchet franchise takes place ten years after the events of the previous films.

Andrew Yong, the sole survivor of the Crowley massacre, is promoting the book he wrote about the event. He is also accused by many of being the actual killer. His agent, played by Felissa Rose, manages to get him a deal he cannot refuse : an interview being held in the swamp and for which he’d be paid a ridiculous amount of money (a million dollars). They arrive (or rather crash) in Victor Crowley’s territory at the same time as an amateur film crew making a documentary on the bayou monster. Of course, Crowley is brought back from the dead to do what he does best : butcher everybody.

I enjoy the first three Hatchet films. The sequels never matched the quality of the first entry but they were well made and entertaining. The same cannot be said about Victor Crowley as this new one is both poorly written and poorly executed.

The characters are all annoying, cringe-worthy and stupid and the actors portraying them give poor performances. Now, characters in slashers are known to make dumb decisions but these characters take it to the next level and their stupidity is hardly believable. The most off-putting aspect is the humor which is both forced and rarely smile-inducing. All jokes fall flat and the delivery of the lines makes the result even more terrible. The comedy in the previous Hatchet films was far better.

The opening scene of the film, while being one of the rare somewhat funny scenes, doesn’t fit with the rest of the film at all. It also makes no sense with the established timeline. Another element which makes no sense is the way they bring back Victor Crowley : an incantation repeated countless times via a youtube video… what a lack of creativity !

Furthermore, the movie takes place in a single location. Now, I love contained horror films but in this instance, it doesn’t work for several reasons : the characters trapped in the crashed plane does not add anything to the storytelling and only provides limitations to both characters and story ; the red lighting is not artistic whatsoever but simply bad and slightly annoying ; it creates long and boring conversations (and with mediocre writing, the result almost put me to sleep) and finally, it is an absolute shameful waste of a great setting : why not use the awesome swamp ?!

Victor Crowley also has another big issue : its pace. I never expected a Hatchet film to be so boring ! And to make matters worse, the gore (which is the main appeal of the Hatchet films) isn’t even very good. The effects are still practical, which is definitely a good thing, but the kills are mostly uninspired.

Though it was great to see Kane Hodder reprise his role as Victor Crowley, the film was overall a disappointment. Hopefully, we’ll see a new and better installment in years to come.


Review : Phenomena (1985)

Phenomena, released in 1985, was directed by Dario Argento. I must start this review by stating that I am not very familiar with Dario Argento and his body of work. In fact, Phenomena is the first Argento film I have ever watched. Unfortunately, Phenomena doesn’t entice me to watch more of his films, or at least, not in the very near future.

Jennifer (Jennifer Connelly) is the daughter of a famous actor. Her father sends her to a boarding school in Switzerland to offer her the best education possible while he is away working. Jennifer is not an ordinary girl : she has a telepathic connection with insects. Furthermore, there is a killer on the loose targeting the boarding school students. Did I mention we also get to meet an entomologist with a monkey nurse ? Feeling confused ? You should because the plot of this film is a mess.

From what I have read, Argento’s films are often praised for their score. At times, the music becomes an essential component of the unsettling atmosphere in Phenomena, especially when the music suddenly stops thus increasing the tension greatly. Unfortunately, the use of music in the film is extremely odd and the songs never seem right with the scenes they are paired with. Jennifer Connelly is slowly walking in the woods…with heavy metal blasting at full volume. The songs are always inappropriate and it becomes distracting and quite annoying.

I found most of the dialogs poorly written and poorly delivered. Jennifer Connelly gives a stiff and wooden performance and the rest of the cast doesn’t shine either. Donald Pleasance unfortunately isn’t in the film much and his character isn’t given much to do anyway. My favourite character (and the one who gives the best performance) is the monkey. I am not comparing him to the human actors of course, but given how difficult it must be to work with animals on set, his performance is incredible.

For a film featuring a killer targeting students of a boarding school, I never felt a sense of menace. It is almost as if the killings are a tertiary subplot. Phenomena lingers too much and made me lose interest in the plot rapidly to the point where I wasn’t what the film’s main focus was supposed to be. Phenomena doesn’t know what kind of film it’s trying to be : a thriller, a slasher or a supernatural mystery. The result is a bit of a mess.

The final act feels like a completely different movie. The killer is a character we have met earlier in the film but the reveal is a cheat as there were no clues pointing to the killer’s identity. And the killer’s motivation ? A huge WTF moment that comes out of nowhere and makes little sense. But I guess it doesn’t matter because I lost interest long before the third act began. The ending was also weird and is quite a disappointment. I will not spoil which character saves the day but it was definitely the final blow and got a final “WTF” out of me.

I clearly did not enjoy my first entry into Dario Argento’s filmography. The film is a mess, most of it makes little sense, the use of music is atrocious and the performances are not very good. I cannot say it’s a horrible movie, because it’s not and there is indeed good cinematography and a good atmosphere. Ultimately, and though I will wait to watch a few more of his films to have a definite opinion, I think Argento’s work isn’t for me.

Review : Maniac Cop (1988)

Maniac Cop is a slasher directed by William Lustig (director of the original Maniac eight years earlier). The film stars Bruce Campbell, Laurene Landon and Tom *motherfucking* Atkins.

The story takes place in New York City where a maniac dressed in a police uniform is killing innocent people. Jack, a police officer, is arrested after his wife is found dead, leaving behind a journal in which she expresses her fear that Jack might be the maniac cop. It is up to him and a fellow officer to catch the real killer to put an end to the rampage and clear his name.

Maniac Cop has a simple yet great premise. Unfortunately, the film abandons ideas as soon as they are introduced. The result is an entertaining slasher but not a memorable one. The film’s cult status might be largely due to Bruce Campbell’s and Tom Atkins’ fans because Maniac Cop is pretty tamed for a 80’s slasher. It is not particularly bloody and the murders are not graphic. Furthermore, our main villain is not nearly scary enough (if more efforts had been put into the make-up, the film would have benefited greatly and been scarier).

Though the film never takes full advantage of its promising story, it is never boring. There is enough intrigue and the characters are likable enough to keep you wanting to get to the bottom of it. Don’t expect any fascinating pay-off because this is not what Maniac Cop has to offer.

In the end, Maniac Cop is more of a cop drama than a proper horror movie. It uses New York City as a playground and a reassuring figure (police officers) as an antagonist. The film is well-made, simple with a certain charm to it and definitely deserves your attention.