Mediocre: Devil in the Flesh 2

Devil in the Flesh 2 (A.K.A. Teacher’s Pet) (2000)

Directed by Marcus Spiegel
Written by Richard Brandes
Produced by Betsy Mackey, Richard Brandes, Alicia Reilly Larson, Robert E. Baruc, Marc Forby
Starring Jodi Lyn O’Keefe, Jsu Garcia, Katherine Kendall, Jeanette Brox, Christiana Frank, Todd Robert Anderson, Bill Gratton, Sarah Lancaster, Rel Hunt, Todd McKee, Alex McArthur, Wendy Worthington

Synopsis

Within a week, a pretty mental patient and aspiring poet (O’Keefe) murders a sadistically perverted nurse (Worthington) and the psychiatrist (McArthur) with whom she was obsessed, escapes from her psychiatric hospital, assumes the identity of a rich, dead collegian (Lancaster) who she resembles, flouts and outfoxes her dorm’s dictatorial, prematurely frumpy housemother (Frank), befriends and beautifies her nerdy roommate (Brox), seduces a studly professor (Garcia) of creative writing, undermines his unlikable fiancée (Kendall), and excels in his class by penning passionate poetry. Can the local sheriff (Gratton) and his dimwitted deputy and son (Anderson) apprehend this overachiever?

Script

With his former co-producer Kurt Anderson and a quartet of screenwriters, producer/second assistant director/author Brandes is credited for the previous picture‘s story. He reputedly wrote this goofier, glossier subsequence alone as camp invested with improved, precipitate plotting and snappier dialogue.

Direction & cinematography

Only a few ostentatiously skillful close-ups (some of which are in deep focus) draw attention to Spiegel’s otherwise ordinary oversight and M. David Mullen’s toasty photography.

Histrionics

Brandes reserved all of his best insults, retorts, witticisms and felonies for strutting, orally contorting O’Keefe, who hits her marks a step over the top with hysterically hammy panache. While Rose McGowan played a high school senior as a blithe vicenarian slow to slay, O’Keefe’s bouncy, butcherly bedlamite seems like a freshman of high school, not college. Among others, remarkably handsome Garcia and gawky Brox (a poor girl’s Clea DuVall) are fair foils who embody their archetypes as palatably as their castmates. Alex McArthur’s cameo corresponds to his unwilling objet du désir in the first movie.

Score

For a quarter-century, Steve Gurevitch’s music has primarily supplied tonal emphasis, as here. Some of his programmed percussion occupies.

Highlights

O’Keefe nails all of her rejoinders as amusively as she seethes spitting demented invective. Moments after this lovely, lovelorn lunatic screams, “Where the hell is my Prince Charming?!,” Lancaster’s spoiled brat accidentally kills herself with priceless inelegance.

Flaws

Not two minutes prior to her untimely demise, Lancaster spies coitus between disgusting hicks. Evidently superhuman hearing empowers O’Keefe to surveil her unwitting inamorato.

Conclusion

Its sex, criminalities, and gallows humor outshines that of this melodrama’s predecessor, and it was destined, sanitized, and almost too good for telecast via Lifetime.

Mediocre: Home Invasion

Home Invasion (2012)

Directed by Doug Campbell
Written by Michal Shipman, Ken Sanders, Christine Conradt, Doug Campbell
Produced by David Japka, Robert Ballo, Ken Sanders, Douglas Howell, Tosca Musk, Christine Conradt, Timothy O. Johnson
Starring Lisa Sheridan, Haylie Duff, Jason Brooks, C. Thomas Howell, Kyla Dang, Al Sapienza, Barbara Niven, Taymour Ghazi, Jason Stuart

Synopsis

In the commission of a botched burglary, a career criminal (Ghazi) is greased by the restaurateur (Sheridan) whose home he’s invaded. His partner (Howell) is afterward walloped and left for dead in the wild by the deceased’s girlfriend (Duff), who then locates her burglarious beau’s killer, joins her support group, and exacts revenge by assault, arson, contamination of pine nut salad dressing, and swimming lessons for her target’s lubberly foster daughter (Dang).

Script

Shipman’s and Sanders’s story is formulaically fabricated to sequentially press every relevant button in the psyches of the alcoholic housewives, careerists, and cashiers of dollar stores addicted to Lifetime’s crime dramas. It’s a notch above most of its type simply because it’s less silly, notwithstanding the spoken surplusage of Conradt’s and Campbell’s screenplay. Naturally, this is all but a fantasy: intraracial crime committed by white Americans rarely involves breaking and entering.

Direction

Probably the most successful director in the stable of Johnson/Shadowland, Campbell heads this as procedurally as he has his hits in series such as …at 17 and Stalked By My Doctor. Expect nothing approaching experimentation or innovation from his workmanlike manner, and he’ll never disappoint you.

Histrionics

More often the victim than villainess in televised and direct-to-video productions, pouty Duff can twist her smile sweet to sinful at the drop of a hat, but she’s too cute to convince as a verisimilitudinous vehicle of vengeance. Good old C. Thomas chews his scenery as spicily as ever in his limited time onscreen, which is a treat for some nostalgists, who might notice that he’s at least 10 years too old for his role. He’s almost as entertaining when Stuart’s fruity chef peckishly reproves his crew. Everyone else is as unremarkably able as their director. Sheridan bears a striking similitude to Margot Kidder in her youth, but she hasn’t her personality, or personality disorders.

Score

This reviewer is all but sure that most or all of Michael Burns’s and Steve Gurevitch’s percussion, pianism and syntheszised synthpads are algorithmically generated.

Highlights

Spoiler: C. Thomas’s hapless lout resorts to squatting, survivalism, and subsistence on dog food through the first and second acts, yet he’s smoked straightaway early in the third by Duff’s schemer. A quick, requisite catfight between Sheridan and Duff precedes a sanguinary ending.

Flaws

Fulsome flashbacks and moronically explanatory dialogue are provided for viewers whose attention spans are so deficient, they could almost be diagnosed with anterograde amnesia. After trekking through miles of wilderness, C. Thomas’s pristinely white sneakers are clearly brand-new.

Conclusion

Neither will these trespasses view themselves, nor those boxes of plonk drink themselves. Enjoy, ladies.

Execrable: Contamination

Contamination (A.K.A. Alien Contamination) (1980)

Directed by Luigi Cozzi
Written by Luigi Cozzi, Erich Tomek
Produced by Claudio Mancini, Ugo Valenti, Karl Spiehs
Starring Louise Marleau, Marino Masé, Ian McCulloch, Siegfried Rauch, Gisela Hahn, Carlo De Mejo, Carlo Monni, Mike Morris, Brigitte Wagner

Synopsis

Intercepted en route to New York City, a freighter contains a crew of corses, and gooey, thermoreactive eggs filled with bacterial silicon that induces the internal explosion of any organism it splatters. They’re tracked by the colonel (Marleau) of a clandestine governmental agency to a Colombian coffee plantation and exporter, where she’s headed with a police detective (Masé) and former astronaut (McCulloch) to exterminate their source.

Script

Apparently enthralled by Alien, Cozzi (ill-)conceived his first draft of this script as a sequel to the classic horror, then revised it in accordance with budgetary limitations. This schlocky, successful ride on those long coattails is less irksome for its derivation than his insufferably immature trio, who are as emotionally incontinent as addled adolescents.

Direction

Besides some excessive close-ups and zooms thereto, Cozzi’s direction is fair. He’s credited once again under his preposterous pseudonym, Lewis Coates.

Cinematography

Giuseppe Pinori’s photography is similarly satisfactory.

Editing

Perhaps once or twice a smidge too sudden, neither can any other complaint be lodged against Nino Baragli’s theatrical cut.

Histrionics

As simply scripted, everyone plays their puerile parts broadly or blandly, but only the leads rankle. Late Masé’s spunk is gratingly unfunny, McCulloch’s querulousness miffingly melodramatic. Marleau has all the allure and presence of a dead fish; Cozzi wrote her part for luscious Caroline Munro, which is why everyone’s so taken with this frump.

Score

Some quirky riffs by Goblin are expectedly catchy, though hardly their best work.

Highlights

Opening aerial shots of NYC focusing on the Chrysler Building, World Trade Towers and Statue of Liberty are directly arresting. In slow motion, fulminations of eggs, then polluted people entertain. A climactic confrontation with the picture’s final boss, a massive, slimy, cyclopic extraterrestrial, and his thrall (Rauch) is gruesomely goofy to behold.

Flaws

Who can fathom the measure of Marleau’s colonel?! She’s sanctioned to command strike forces domestically, but not abroad. The stipulations by which she performs her mission furnish incentive, but make no sense. Her hunt for the alien scourge is intrepid until she’s locked in a bathroom with one of its eggs, whereupon she panics like a halfwit rather than forcing open its visibly flimsy door. In one inexplicable scene, Masé avows his enduring affection and yearning for Marleau, but they’ve known each other for three days. When he finally stops whining and seizes the day, McCulloch’s hero is a relief from his annoying allies.

Conclusion

It’s not scary in the slightest, but this Italo-German production is too irritating to view without an expert riff.

Instead, watch Lily C.A.T..

Execrable: Desecrated

Desecrated (2015)

Directed by Rob Garcia
Written by Cecil Chambers
Produced by Cecil Chambers, E. Dylan Costa, Chris Nassif, John Atterberry, John Boggs
Starring Gonzalo Menendez, Haylie Duff, Gib Gerard, Paul James, Heather Sossaman, Michael Ironside, Wilmer Calderon, Vera Rosada, Jack Rain, Kayla Shaughnessy, Mary LeGault

Synopsis

Six dumb collegianers (Duff, Gerard, James, Sossaman, Calderon, Rosada) cavort at an isolated summer house during spring break, and by trespassing on his home aggravate its domineering groundskeeper (Menendez), an insane ex-Marine who deviously dispatches them with a purpose and a plan.

Script

Little occurs in this story until its third act, and its ratio of discussion to action is proximately 10:1, which might be excusable if that predominant class wasn’t brainless banter and iterated confusion. Co-producer Chambers recycles devices established in classic thrillers sans a spark of suspense.

Direction

Fortunately, a good script wasn’t squandered on Garcia’s sloppy, amateurish direction.

Cinematography

Whether accomplished DP and FX specialist Bruce Logan contributed to this flick for charity or necessity is unknown to this reviewer, but his splendent (days for) nights are almost as artificially unattractive as scenes darkened by drab tinctures, for which he’s responsible as its DI colorist.

Editing

Neither am I aware if co-producer E. Dylan Costa, Robert A. Ferretti, or both were ripped on stimulants when they feverishly butchered Garcia’s footage, or if they did so to conceal even more of its shortcomings. Their ASL is 2 seconds.

Histrionics

Overlooking one fluffed line, the lesser Duff sister is a passable leading lady. Menendez treats his villainy with brio, as would reliable old Ironside were he accorded a meatier part. As one of those raunchy, obnoxious stoners who infest fraternities and later middle management, Calderon’s portentously pestilent. Everyone else verbally treads water until dead.

Score

Joe Faraci’s chintzy score is redolent of those heard in features broadcast from Lifetime’s limitless landfill.

Highlights

Some mild amusement’s to be had when Menendez upbraids and menaces these vexing vacationers. Scenery’s satisfyingly nibbled by Ironside in the role of Duff’s dad, who isn’t evil enough to provide sufficient grist for the grizzled Canadian’s mill.

Flaws

Even including its superfluous backstory, this half-hour of plot makes a mingy 70+ minutes. Thirty-one minutes after Menendez’s outdoorsman informs James’s pseudo-nerd that he hosts hikes and hunts, the latter discovers this from online advertisements and testimonials. Only Menendez and Ironside don’t play certifiable clots.

Conclusion

This offal insults one’s intelligence as much as studio-grade chum. If you can view it freely, mellow Ironside’s worth watching during his 10 minutes onscreen, shot to satisfy financiers unfamiliar with Duff.

Instead, watch Deliverance or Cabin Fever.

Mediocre: Creep 2

Creep 2 (2017)

Directed by Patrick Brice
Written by Patrick Brice, Mark Duplass
Produced by Carolyn Craddock, Jason Blum, Josh Braun, Christopher Donlon, Mark Duplass, Mel Eslyn
Starring Mark Duplass, Desiree Akhavan

Synopsis

Another day, another night, another hire, another murder….right? Her serial exposing the lonely men behind craigslist personals is an unmitigated flop on YouTube, so a frustrated, exploitative videographer (Akhavan) leaps at the opportunity to interview an oddball (Duplass) mired in a midlife crisis, who professes to be a serial killer. He’s thus far her only riveting subject; unlike his anterior victims, she’s unflinching and provocative. Who’s luring who?

Script

The first video was a microbudgeted marvel: cunningly contrived, well-acted, disquieting and hilarious with disregard to any distinction between horror and comedy, and possibly the only good movie that Blumhouse has ever produced. Brice and Duplass are deservedly praised for developing this sequel from a variant perspective that generates a few instances of silent and suggested suspense, and almost as many laughs, but this time the scares are stingy. Choice characterizations can’t sustain a script that loses momentum during the movie’s final fifteen minutes.

Direction

As before, all shots are either stationary or hand-held by the spontaneous stars, to whom Brice’s direction is largely overshadowed and subordinated.

Cinematography

Akhavan and Brice keep glare or shade from spoiling any shots.

Editing

Concatenating and condensing cuts are as adroitly effectuated by Christopher Donlon here as in the preceding pic.

Histrionics

Tensions and a commoving congeniality between its headliners form the nucleus of this production, interplayed by Duplass and Akhavan in outstanding, unnerving verisimilitude. Ever a comedic actor, Duplass inhabits his self-obsessed, homicidal lunatic with the ebullient enticement, dread despondence and manic outbursts that made his character unforgettable. Not merely a foil behind the camera, Akhavan renders her documentarian manqué’s desperation, ambition, doubt and fear just as believably, and with teeth — this could just as well be titled Creeps.

Score

Spanning not five minutes, two percussive, synthesized tracks by Julian Wass are as listenable as anything he’s recorded for the Duplass brothers’ other projects.

Highlights

Nearly half of the runtime consists of Duplass’s spoken exposition; this wouldn’t work, but his locution of these monologues mesmerize, as does the contrast of his wolfish insinuations and effusive ingratiation. Akhavan counters him with a tough skepticism that’s never inordinately bitchy or self-conscious.

Flaws

First blood spilt during an otherwise fun prologue is observably digital. After an hour of discussion and misdirection, a protracted, uninspired anticlimax at Donlon’s only bad splice fordoes the story, and isn’t redeemed by a clever end.

Conclusion

Nobody reasonably expected this to match its predecessor (which loses much of its power after it’s first seen), but Brice and Duplass couldn’t land that last punch, or replicate the affright that made it great. As a result, this is that most disappointing of mediocrities that falls short of the considerable talent invested. Remakes, ripoffs and unimaginative franchises for bottom-feeders are Blumhouse’s lifeblood, but we expect more from these two. Feel free to blame Jason Blum.

Execrable: Raw Nerve

Raw Nerve (1991)

Directed by David A. Prior
Written by David A. Prior, Lawrence L. Simeone, Jason Coleman
Produced by Ruta K. Aras, Robert Willoughby, David Winters, Marc Winters
Starring Ted Prior, Sandahl Bergman, Jan-Michael Vincent, Glenn Ford, Randall ‘Tex’ Cobb, Traci Lords, Red West, Graham Timbes, Jerry Douglas Simms, Yvonne Stancil, Doris Hearn, Trevor Hale, Brian J. Scott, Jim Aycock, Donna Willard, Mary Willard

Synopsis

Bankings of dirt tracks aren’t easily navigated by a troubled stock-car racer (Prior) while he sustains lancinate headaches that accompany presumably clairvoyant visions of a serial killer’s murders. His slovenly uncle and mechanic (Cobb), and a news reporter (Bergman) whose bed he shares afford him more credence than a police detective (Vincent) and his superordinate captain (Ford).

Script

Their story’s derivative of a couple classics, but Prior’s, Simeone’s, and Coleman’s comedy inadvertently resides in its dialogue. Lines like, “We’re leaving the country, and I’ll explain on the plane, OK?” are funnier than their cockamamie chaff.

Direction

Few oeuvres reflect quantity over quality as that of the extraordinarily fertile Prior, whose clumsy composition persisted through his career. Half of his shots appear to be set by a director possessing a fraction of his experience.

Cinematography

So many B-pics from the mid-’80s through the early ’90s are lensed in the barely blurred mode of DP Andrew Parke.

Editing

Tony Malanowski’s acceptable assembly of Prior’s reels is almost better than they deserve.

Histrionics

Prior plods hunkily through yet another of his big brother’s many movies by hitting his marks, but only unveils his inner Corey Feldman during his last 10 minutes onscreen. Bleached, leggy venereal vector Lords gifts his sister with a flirtatious feistiness absent in her future overacting, but she hasn’t the mannish magnetism of sinewy Bergman, who’s an auntly agreeable love interest. That plentitude of personality somewhat compensates for stiff Vincent’s permanent reliance on his screen presence. He’s best cast as a menacing miscreant, so canine Cobb copes erratically with a misfitting role. Ford is top-billed for seniority and celebrity, and brings a cozily gruff gravitas to his penultimate performance that’s pleasing, if misplaced.

Score

His orchestrations forebode with greater resonance than tracks that Greg Turner sounded with a Yamaha DX7.

Highlights

A decent car chase through Mobile concludes with the spectacular crash of a pickup truck from the top story of a parking garage, the legality of which would be unfeasible in most other American cities.

Flaws

Most of his cast can’t act, and Prior directs as Korean women drive. Junkers striving in a motor rally during the first act are plainly proceeding at approximately 35 mph, probably because Prior didn’t know how to film them at a competitive velocity. If you enjoy schlock of this strain, you won’t mind. RiffTrax is no stranger to Prior’s features, and may well tackle this; every tenth shot could qualify as one of MST3K’s stingers.

Conclusion

This is recommended only for fans of its whilom A- and B-listers, or armchair riffers acquainted with Prior’s violent filmography.

Instead, watch Eyes of Laura Mars.

Execrable: The Children

The Children (1980)

Directed by Max Kalmanowicz
Written by Carlton J. Albright, Edward Terry
Produced by Carlton J. Albright, Max Kalmanowicz, Edward Terry
Starring Gil Rogers, Martin Shakar, Gale Garnett, Shannon Bolin, Joy Glaccum, Tracy Griswold, Jessie Abrams, Jeptha Evans, Clara Evans, Sarah Albright, Nathanael Albright, Julie Carrier, Michelle La Mothe, Edward Terry, Peter Maloney, Rita Montone, John P. Codiglia, Martin Brennan, June Berry, Suzanne Barnes

Synopsis

Symptoms suffered by schoolchildren (Evans siblings, Albright siblings, Carrier) who’ve been zombified by radioactive smoke fumed from a nuclear power plant include lethargy, periorbital dark circles, blackened fingernails, homicidomania, and a deadly touch. When these juvenile undead terrorize a tidy town in New England’s countryside, a sociable sheriff (Rogers) and a whiny wimp (Shakar) trace a trail of scorched corpses.

Script

As in so many other B-movies, the heroes of Albright’s and Terry’s dragging story could twig and resolve their disaster if they’d average IQs. They don’t, so 40 minutes of plot is extended to 93 that are largely dilatory, containing scant surprises and no suspense.

Direction

Kalmanowicz helmed this with slightly more skill than that observed in the usual fodder for double bills at drive-ins.

Cinematography

Some scenes are dingily defaced due to substandard stock or storage, but Barry Abrams’s photography is otherwise as vibrantly attractive here as it was coterminously in Friday the 13th.

Editing

Perhaps Nikki Wessling wasn’t judicious to apply a magnifying glass and paper guillotine in lieu of a flatbed editor.

Histrionics

Rogers is likably wild-eyed in his authoritatively folksy lead role. As hammy Shakar’s gaumless, expectant wife, Garnett voices her idiocy with lumpen intonation. Glaccum, La Mothe and Montone are easy on the eyes, but only flirt and die horribly. Neither is much comic relief rendered by goatish, deputized local yokels played by co-producer and co-screenwriter Terry, and Maloney, a prolifically versatile ancillary who wasn’t above slumming in low-budget fluff between prominent roles in classics like A Little Romance, Breaking Away, and The Thing. Those titular kids (two of whom are the offspring of producer/screenwriter Albright) seemed to be enjoying themselves. Brennan reportedly dealt copious cocaine to the cast and crew, which clarifies his fruitily catty connection to Montone’s heedless hussy, and quite a lot else.

Score

Equally synthesized and orchestral, Harry Manfredini’s score isn’t as memorable as that composed concurrently (again!) for Friday the 13th, and encompasses his perennial plagiarization of Bernard Herrmann’s music (specifically, themes and cues from Psycho.)

Highlights

In the third act, several malevolent tykes are shot at point blank range and dismembered. That’s the most you can expect from this movie: minors assaulted with firearms and killed with an o-wakizashi.

Flaws

Until and after the abovementioned child abuse occurs, this is boring and unfunny. An unspeakably lame, final “shock” can be foreseen at least an hour in advance.

Conclusion

Death and pablum are easy. Craft and parenting are hard.

Mediocre: Harlequin: Another Woman

Harlequin: Another Woman (1994)

Directed by Alan Smythe
Written by Margot Dalton, Jim Henshaw, Lee Langley, Lyle Slack
Produced by Ian McDougall, Jean Desormeaux, Jim Henshaw, Caird Urquhart
Starring Justine Bateman, Peter Outerbridge, Amy Stewart, Jackie Richardson, Kenneth Welsh, James Purcell, Elizabeth Lennie, Diana Belshaw, Meg Hogarth

Synopsis

Retrograde amnesia comes of concussion inflicted by thuggish muggers to suppress the memories and clear the choler of a rancorous restaurateur (Bateman), whose re-emergent geniality affords her an opportunity to rectify spoiled kinships with her handsome husband (Outerbridge) and teenage sister-in-law (Stewart). However, she’s stalked by a greasy acquaintance (Purcell) who in murderous malice targets her marriage.

Script

Dalton’s drama is typical of Harlquin’s formulaic fare, and translates well to these 92 minutes. Cozily romantic locales and circumstances, and the divulgence of a tragic secret, supplement her slightly skimpy story.

Direction

The professionally undistinguished direction of (pseudonymous?) Smythe is as unsurprising as unobjectionable.

Cinematography

Excepting some dreamt cutbacks uglified by selective decolorization in post-production, the bland warmth of Michael Storey’s photography becomes Smythe’s adequate composition.

Editing

Withal, Pia Di Ciaula cut this to a measured pace in an accordingly conventional manner.

Histrionics

Ordinarily obnoxiously oafish in Family Ties and dreck like The Night We Never Met, Bateman actually radiates a hesitant amenity as the amiable amnesiac, despite her plodding gait. Outerbridge has buttoned-down charm to spare, which largely offsets the leads’ lack of steam. Among the satisfactorily subsidiary players, Welsh is avuncularly appealing as Bateman’s suave psychiatrist.

Score

Emotive, synthesized strings, smooth jazz and portentous tones are all comprised to be liminally heard in David Blamires’s score.

Highlights

Her gradual recovery, recollections, reconciliations, and romance in Bateman’s severally palatial and rustic houses are ingratiating.

Flaws

Amatorian scenes of Bateman’s and Outerbridge’s spouses set early in their relationship star a couple who bear no resemblance to them. Two assaults are presented in blurrily unsightly slow motion.

Conclusion

Anyone familiar with Harlequin’s lightweight novels or televised features knows what to expect from any of either: lovers live happily ever after, but their trip is more important than its inevitable destination. Mike Nichols’s and J.J. Abrams’s situationally similar, unbearably saccharine Regarding Henry was produced on a tenfold budget a few years prior, but it’s laughably inferior to this modest trifle.

Execrable: Tales of Halloween

Tales of Halloween (2015)
Directed by Dave Parker; Darren Lynn Bousman; Adam Gierasch; Axelle Carolyn; Lucky McKee; Paul Solet; Andrew Kasch, John Skipp; Mike Mendez; Ryan Schifrin; Neil Marshall
Written by Dave Parker; Clint Sears; Greg Commons; Axelle Carolyn; Lucky McKee; Molly Millions; Andrew Kasch, John Skipp; Mike Mendez, Dave Parker; Ryan Schifrin; Neil Marshall
Produced by Axelle Carolyn, Mike Mendez, Shaked Berenson, Patrick Ewald, Sarah Gorski, Charles Arthur Berg; Mike De Trana, Jace Anderson; Tada Chae, Michael Arter; Vanessa Menendez
Starring Adrienne Barbeau; Cameron Easton, Daniel DiMaggio, Austin Falk, Madison Iseman, Hunter Smit; Barry Bostwick, Marcus Eckert, Christophe Zajac-Denek; Casey Ruggieri, Trent Haaga, John F. Beach, Tiffany Shepis, Mia Page, Marnie McKendry, Clay Keller, Kennedy Fuselier, Sage Stewart, Bianca Rose Miller; Keir Gilchrist, Gracie Gillam, Booboo Stewart, Noah Segan; Alex Essoe, Lin Shaye; Pollyanna McIntosh, Marc Senter; Dana Gould, James Duval, Elissa Dowling; Nick Principe, Amanda Moyer, Jennifer Wenger; Sam Witwer, Jose Pablo Cantillo, Ben Woolf, John Landis; Kristina Klebe, Pat Healy
It’s a fait accompli, so any ordinance dictating that 80% of all motion pictures produced in Los Angeles county must be idiotically infantile and scored to the hacked hilt would meet with sweeping, immediate compliance and probable applause for its foregone success by Ellay’s dim and demented Board of Supervisors. Of course, such a rescript betrays a self-awareness that would forefend the unsatirical majority of those prescribed movies, as this omnibus of ten edgily adolescent chapters about a gluttonous revenant (Easton/Smit), mayhem instigated by a cartoonishly dapper demon (Bostwick), trick-or-treaters (Page, McKendry, Keller, Fuselier, Stewart, Miller) who wreak bloody vengeance on two married couples (Ruggieri, Haaga, Beach, Shepis), revenge realized by the conjuration of a timorous victim (Gilchrist), a single woman (Essoe) stalked by a story’s spirit, the psychotic downward spiral of a wretchedly childless couple (McIntosh, Senter), altercating Halloween decorators (Gould, Duval) who come to blows over their clashing bedizenments, one hulking, rural serial killer (Principe) confronted by a tiny extraterrestrial, abductors (Witwer, Cantillo) who struggle to ransom the seeming son (Woolf) of a wealthy industrialist (Landis), and a police detective (Klebe) who pursues a sentient, rampaging jack-o’-lantern. All of these demonstrate Hollywood’s inability to tickle or terrify, now that it’s overrun by unimaginative drug addicts straining to rekindle but a spark of the magic plied by American wizards like Romero, Carpenter, Raimi, et al. before their output in the ’90s declined, anticipating this dreck. For this, an embarrassment of obvious references to genre classics, lovable Barbeau’s mellow narration and cameos by Barbara Crampton, Stuart Gordon, Felissa Rose, John Landis, John Savage and Joe Dante are more dispiriting than diverting. This is almost unwatchable in toto, an example of what happens when gruesomeness and frivolity are accorded anteriority, absent substance.

Instead, watch Trilogy of Terror or V/H/S.

Mediocre: Sex Doll

Sex Doll (2016)
Written and directed by Sylvie Verheyde
Produced by Bruno Berthemy, Bertrand Faivre, Soledad Gatti-Pascual, Rachel Dargavel
Starring Hafsia Herzi, Ash Stymest, Karole Rocher, Lindsay Karamoh, Myriam Djeljeli, Paul Hamy, Ira Max, Jeremy Bennett, Simon Killick
Not by chance do the paths of an experienced Franco-Algerian call girl (Herzi) and an obscure oddball (Stymest) dedicated to rescuing cocottes from their profession cross often in London, before her madam (Rocher) sends her and a budding bawd (Max) to a manse for a weekend when they’re to entertain wealthy clients (Bennett, Killick). Verheyde’s direction is compositionally satisfactory, but her mushy meliorist’s misconception of human nature — if not prostitution — is as inaccurate (though more naif) as the wholly transactional perspective of the neoliberal. Worse, its influence on her dialogue redounds to mortifying moments of outright ostentation during a few critical conversations. Ick! A current fixture of flat, footling French flicks, lushly photogenic Herzi seems less sultrily seductive than snoozily sulky, but she’s as creditable as most of her co-stars, bar scrawny Stymest, an unbearably stiff ham whose asinine tattoos and face render his self-styled savior more halfwit than hero. If the characters of this tedious Anglo-French production were as compelling as Verheyde’s developmental aspirations, she might’ve overcome her deadly pomposity.

Instead, watch The Chosen Ones.