Bad Movie Night: Hard to Die

Hard to Die VHS cover scan courtesy of BFMovies.blogspot.coom
As I mercilessly pour over countless bad films in the hopes of finding that one diamond in the rough, I've discovered that for every 1 good bad movie, there are a good 10 just plain awful ones. And I have to be honest, it gets discouraging after repeated viewings of lame bad movies with no entertainment value or redeeming quality. But, every once in a while a gem is discovered in the sea of this specific little niche, and Hard to Die AKA Sorority House Massacre 3 is one of those films.

Directed with gusto by Jim Wynorski (Chopping Mall), back when he was at the top of his game (80's through the early 90's) so to speak, Hard to Die is a bad movie fans wet dream. It really is. It possesses everything you could possibly want in a bad film, and it's all amped up to 11 on the entertainment scale. What we have here is 5 women dressed in lingerie, stuck in a high rise building with a killer. We have tons of unnecessary gratuitous nudity, bad acting, tons of machine gun action by the lingerie wearing females, cheese, action, horror; the works! And let me tell you, it's all entertaining as hell in an epicly cheesy way.

I'm surprised that I never heard of this film until recently, considering it was released in 1990. Even more surprising is the fact that though you'd never know by it's title and cover art, this is supposed to be the 3rd film in the Sorority House Massacre series. But when the entire film takes place inside of a high rise building rather than a Sorority House, the producers decided to change the name. And I don't know about you, but that cover and title do nothing to tell you what the film is actually about, instead giving us the false idea that this was a low-budget actioner, when in reality, it's a pretty badass action/horror film drenched in 80's cheese (yes I know it was released in 1990). And on the So Bad It's Good scale, this one exceeds the highest mark on that particular scale, making it easily one of the best Bad Movie Night additions I've come across so far.

Before I go any further, please allow me to clear a few things up concerning this VHS cover. First of all, the two images of the females in leather on the left and on the spine are not in this film. I have no idea where they got those images from. Secondly, disregard that cover completely as it makes it look like something completely different, and that is a paint-by-numbers low-budget action film. This is anything but that. And lastly, that whole "It's the female version of Die Hard" quote by none other than Joe Bob Briggs. This is "NOT" a female version of Die Hard. Not by a long shot. So there, just forget all that dodgy marketing. It's ridiculous. And believe me when I tell you that Hard to Die will exceed your expectations of gratuitous T & A action/horror, and won't be the same lame paint-by-numbers droll we've seen countless times. No sir. This is Bad Move material at it's finest!

What was interesting was that even though they got rid of the SHM affiliation in the title, they have a huge flashback sequence that goes back to the first SHM film, giving us that odd connection to the trilogy after all, which seems totally random and out of nowhere. But, even though this takes place in an entirely different place, the character of Orville Ketchum is the driving force behind this film, who also just happens to be the person they suspected was the killer in one of the previous films. It's a little complicated because they reference a lot of what goes on in Part 2, yet they show scenes from Part 1, so I don't know. Regardless, you don't have to have actually seen either of the first two films as the whole flashback sequence lays it all out for you. Orville Ketchum is now working as a janitor in the high rise office building and when bad things start happening, the lingerie employees immediately suspect Orville as the culprit, and go about trying to survive long enough to see daylight.

There is so much about Hard to Die that defies logic or explanation, that I often wondered what was done on purpose and what was a happy accident. But, even if some of the silliness or cheesiness may have been on purpose, it's done in such a way that you more than likely won't be able to tell. It's silly, cheesy, tongue-in-cheek, and quite ridiculous, but in the best possible way. The amount of absurd in this film goes to epic levels, and by the end, you'll have a gleaming smile clear across your face.

Jim Wynorski, under the alias Arch Stanton, directs with a frenetic and stylish energy, reminiscent of his excellent work on Chopping Mall, that it more than likely will leave you a little bummed that he doesn't churn out classic's like this anymore. This is the sort of film I had been hoping to come across for a long while now. The kind of film I was hoping Murder Weapon would be. It took a while, and a lot of duds, but I'm happy to report that Hard to Die is easily one of the best, most enjoyable bad movies out there.

Now time for some bad news. This is a very hard film to find. It's original VHS and DVD release goes for big money on the secondhand market, so you more than likely won't pay any less than $50 for either the VHS or DVD. It sometimes becomes available on YouTube intermittently, or you can find a rip online for under $10 from various sites. Which ever way you get it, trust me when I say that it'll be worth it. It's just fucking awesome.


Review: The Guardian

Directed by: William Friedkin
Category: Horror

It has been a good long while since I was this impressed with a solid horror film. The closest one I can think of, in the adult horror genre anyway, would be the excellent and highly underrated Exorcist III. But this was a film I had known about since it first hit theaters back in 1990 (The BEST year in film), yet somehow I never saw it. I also knew it was directed by William Friedkin, so I'm even more surprised I didn't try harder to find it, considering how much I love him as a filmmaker. But alas, when it popped up on my radar again recently, I finally decided to see if I can get my hands on it. Easier said than done.

The Guardian is not an easy film to come by apparently, and even harder to watch it in it's proper aspect ratio, which is a big deal for me with certain kinds of films. Released on Laserdisc, DVD and VHS, there are only two ways to see it in Widescreen. Anchor Bay's now long OOP DVD has it available in both Full Frame and Widescreen, but it's not cheap, as is the case with most OOP DVD's. These days that DVD goes for anywhere from $50 - $200 on the secondhand market. Then I learned that Anchor Bay also released this in Widescreen on VHS, in one of their special Collector's Edition Clamshell packaging. I nearly flipped when I discovered this, as I still collect VHS and there's no way I'm paying crazy online prices for an OOP DVD for a movie I'm not sure is even any good. So yea, that only brought up a new problem. This VHS Collector's Edition is also insanely hard to come by. Geez! So I found a new VHS seller on Instagram by the name of @NeonCityVideo, and they had it! I couldn't believe it. While I was at it, I snagged some other tapes I've been after, and all at incredible prices. So yea, I'm quite happy with my purchases. This past Sunday afternoon I threw this tape in the 'ol VHS player and what followed was one of the best horror experiences I can remember having in a long while.

When Phil and Kate move to a new city, after Phil takes a new job, they discover they're expecting. When the baby arrives, they decide to hire a live-in nanny to care for their new baby. Camilla seems too good to be true; the perfect nanny. Soon though, they discover that Camilla has her own agenda, and she may not be the person they thought she was. 

Anchor Bay's Collectors Edition VHS in Widescreen

The Guardian exceeded my expectations in the best possible way. The best way I can describe it is that it's a classy horror film; the kind that they don't make anymore. That specific little sub-genre that films like Candyman, The Exorcist 1 & 3, and Psycho II fall under. It's exceedingly rare - what with nothing but Japanese ghost horror remakes, and jump-scare over-CGI laden lame horror films - that it's damn refreshing when something original comes out, that's made in such a way not to insult our intelligence like so many cheaply and quickly made horror films these days. This has a strong beginning, middle, and end, and quite frankly displays some of William Friedkin's best work. This is Friedkin firing on all cylinders.

I remember checking out the trailer, and thinking that I wasn't all that impressed with what that trailer provided. It looked a lot more of a drama, and not much style or substance. Yet, something told me to seek it out anyway, and boy am I glad I did. After having finally seen it, I'm kind of dumbfounded as to why it's not more widely accepted or known in the horror community as a classic. It's got everything that makes these films so great, and all the right ingredients. Friedkin directs with such a keen eye for style and structure, that everything flowed perfectly. Never once did I find the film to be too slow, nor too short. It's as long as it needs to be, and gets everything right.

Though you'd never guess it going in, this film displays some truly impressive practical effects work, oftentimes adding that extra bit of awesome to an already intense sequence. But the few gore sequences scattered throughout the film can't prepare you for the films stunningly impressive climax, one that you'll surely be thinking about for days after. I commend Friedkin and his team for not going the CGI route, and for not skimping on the gore, when it so easily could have been the other way around.

If you can ever get your hands on this, I highly recommend it. Though attaining a DVD will be hard, if you ever find it streaming on some site, or if you ever come across the Widescreen VHS, grab it! Trust me when I tell you that it's worth the effort. Here's to hoping that this gets a nice Blu-ray release some day in the future.


Review: T-Force

Directed by: Richard Pepin
Category: Action

Director Richard Pepin is quickly becoming one of my all-time favorite action directors. With just the two films I've seen of his already, he reminds me of an Albert Pyun on his best day. The Albert Pyun who gave us action cult classics like Cyborg and Nemesis. A low-budget action director who's firing on all cylinders, who's able to give us what we want. What is that exactly? For die-hard action fans, that's just nonstop insane over-the-top action and stunts, not to mention a seemingly endless supply of explosions at any given moment. After being blown away by the insanely "better than you expect it to be" Hologram Man, I set out to find as many of his other DTV efforts as I could, in the hopes that Hologram Man wasn't a fluke. Guess what? It wasn't. First up, T-Force.

So, the most promising one, The Silencers, has been ordered and on it's way. But I then learned that T-Force was available on YouTube, and chose this as my Saturday night film, and let me tell you, T-Force did not disappoint. Just like with Hologram Man, the action starts right from the beginning and does not let up. Immediately you're treated to something that can only be described as a mish-mash of Die Hard and the Terminator, and that's just in the first 20 minutes! Then they throw in elements of Cyborg, Blade Runner and even some Under Siege for good measure. But it's all done in the best possible way. Much like I had during Hologram Man, I had a smile across my face the entire time.

When a group of cybernaught police officer's, known as T-Force, revolt and go rogue, Lt. Jack Floyd teams up with the sole remaining Cybernaught who's on the right side of the law to track them down and bring them to justice. 

I really can't praise this film enough in terms of entertainment value. T-Force has everything you could possibly want in an action film. Director Richard Pepin executes these enormous action sequences with such precision, that I find it shocking that he never made it as an action director in big budget studio films. He's like the Craig R. Baxely of the 90's, after Baxely stopped directing action films after his triple trifecta with Action Jackson, I Come in Peace, and Stone Cold. He must have a pyrotechnics expert always by his side because the amount of explosions in the two films I've already seen are nuts! How they were able to pull most of this off blows my mind. Not only in terms of the insane amount of pyrotechnics work, but even going into the stuntwork.

There is nothing new or inventive in this film, or with any of his films as I'm sure I will discover. Yet, I didn't expect there to be. It's a direct-to-video film marketed to the action genre, with some sci-fi elements thrown in. We don't go into these kinds of films expecting them to change the genre, or reinvent the wheel, so when I see reviews from others basically saying things like "It is what it is, no more no less", or "It does it's job", it drives me nuts. Just what did you go in expecting exactly? Personally, I want good action, well choreographed sequences, gun battles, practical effects work, stunts, and a whole lot of explosions. Maybe even some cheese factor, just for that little bit of extra awesome. On all these fronts, T-Force delivers and then some. Not only that, the hodge-podge of other well known action films only made the experience better! But wait, they don't stop there! They also decide to throw in the mis-matched cop/buddy scenario, to great effect. I honestly couldn't have asked for anything more and I loved the shit out of this film. Every single minute of it.

Despite what most of the negative reviews have to say about this, this is exactly the type of film that delivers if you're in the mood for cheesy, low-budget well-made action with tons of action and explosions. It really doesn't get any better than this. I think the fact that it steals so many elements from so many big name Hollywood action films, sometimes specific scenes and sequences (you'll know which ones I'm referring to) altogether, only adds to it's cheesy charm. While low-budget technically, it doesn't take away from anything, so don't let it. It's a balls-to-the-wall thrill ride with enough charm, action, explosions, fights, shootouts, and a mind-numbing thrill-a-second pace that easily makes this one of the most enjoyable action films I've seen in a long time.


Review: The Executioner Part 2

Image courtesy of TrashFilmGuru.wordpress.com

Directed by: James Bryan
Category: Grindhouse/Exploitation

I'm all for Grindhouse films. I love that shit. But even I have a threshold, and this film really pushed my limits of how bad a film I can endure before I just completely give up on it. First things first though. I had heard about this a few times, and I can't remember where I read it, but someone said it was crazy and all that jazz, which got me excited. Only once I started watching it and saw the credits did I realize it was written and directed by none other than James Bryan, of Don't go in the Woods fame. If you've done any kind of research on the guy, you will come to learn that most people are not fans of his type of guerrilla-style filmmaking. While I personally have never seen any of his films, I hoped for the best, thinking that maybe Grindhouse would be more his calling. Nope. Not by a long shot.

A Vietnam vet, with nightmares of the Vietnam War, has taken it upon himself to rid the city of violence, by using........violence. 

The Executioner Part 2 was so gawd-awful on every single level that I could not find one single redeeming quality. Nothing works, and everything looks and feels like some 13 year old kid went out with a Super 8 camera and gathered a bunch of friends together and shot a film on the whim. That's exactly what it looks like. Nothing is entertaining, even on a sub-par level. The action is terribly shot, choreographed and edited. The acting is atrocious. The violence is lame, even by low-budget standards. The dubbing is laughable. All of this, combined with the zero budget make for an excruciatingly painful experience that not even usually cool Chris Mitchum (Final Score) can save. Yes, he costars in this as the police commissioner completely unaware that his best Vietnam bud is actually the masked vigilante known as The Executioner. *Facepalm

One of the most obvious signs of its zero budget is the constant use of the same exact stock footage explosion used in every single sequence that involves the vigilante dispersing some vengeance with a hand grenade. After the second time you're thinking "alright, that's enough". Also painfully obvious is the use of shitty lighting equipment to enhance certain scenes that look like they shot it in a dark alley as the sun was going down. You can actually tell that the lighting guy is holding a crappy light, and waving it in front of their faces to add just that extra bit of light sorely missing from virtually every single frame of film.

I liked the story, as simple as it is. And I liked the stupidly awful, yet kind of amusing lines of angry dialogue the executioner spouts whenever he's ready to off someone, but even that doesn't save this mess. The acting is so bad in this, that it's actually annoying. Every time the two teenage girls would open their mouths, I wanted to shut the sound off. I would be shocked to learn if anyone in this ever acted in anything ever again. Yet, surprisingly, the main guy who plays the vigilante, actually wasn't so bad. Go figure.

Just in case you were wondering, there actually is no Executioner Part 1. Somehow thinking this was clever marketing, they deliriously thought that they could cash in on The Exterminator vigilante series starring Robert Ginty, of which Part 1 came out in 1980 and Part 2 came out the same year this one did. So yea, don't bother looking it up. There is no Executioner 1.

The Executioner Part 2 contains all the things that make these types of films so great and certified classics, yet somehow, this particular one fails so miserably at all that on every conceivable level, leaving you numb from the painful experience you just had. It never goes far enough to satisfy in any department, be it the nudity, the sleaze, the violence, the badness, and worst of all, the entertainment. This poster is the coolest thing about this film Skip it!!


Bad Movie Night: Soultaker

Directed by: Michael Rissi
Category: ???

This was a film I'd known about for years, having come across it many, many times browsing VHS tapes from various sites. The cool cover art always stuck out to me, as well as the glowing reviews by no-named critics plastered all over the front. But I never took the time to actually track my own copy down. Then a friend who participates in our Bad Movie Nights wanted to screen it for our group, as it was a film he quite enjoyed for it's awfulness. Since I had been wanting to see it anyway, and also knowing Mystery Science Theater did a very popular episode of this, I was game. What followed was one of the most excruciating film experiences I've ever had.

Soultaker is bad, and not in a so bad it's good kind of way. It's just flat out terrible. I'm still not entirely sure what the premise was supposed to be, or even what genre this was supposed to fall under, but I can assure you, none of that matters, because you'll be bored to tears by this shockingly bland and uninteresting piece of celluloid.

At times giving us hints of sci-fi, and other times touches of horror, the only real genre I think that would define this would be drama, because a whole lot of nothing happens for such a drastically long time that you find yourself looking at the clock hoping that more time has gone by than you think, just so the experience can be over and done with. 

I'm not even going to bother with much more than that, as any attempt at actually trying to watch this movie is an exercise in futility. Trust me, you've got better ways to spend an hour and a half than with this mess. While the whole point of watching Bad Movies on Bad Movie Night is to laugh, yell and hurl insults at the tv screen, which we love to do, this was the rare exception, because there was nothing to make fun of. It's soulless, boring, and below mediocre in the worst way possible. I think my friend said it perfectly when the film was over. When the film was over, my buddy leans over and says "Dude, that was just absolutely terrible". I couldn't have said it better myself. 


Bad Movie Night: Hollywood Cop

VHS cover courtesy of ComeuppanceReviews.com

Directed by: Amir Shervan
Category: Action

Iranian born filmmaker Amir Shervan made a number of extremely low-budget action films throughout the 80's and early 90's, most notably the highly entertaining classic Samurai Cop; a film so bad, so ridiculous, and so hilarious that it's deservedly gone down in history as one of the best and most enjoyable Bad Movies ever made. Trust me, it really is that good. So after falling in love with Samurai Cop I set out to see if any of his other films were anywhere near as entertaining in a bad way as Samurai Cop was.

My first attempt was with his 1990 effort Killing American Style, starring the ever ridiculous Harold Diamond of Hard Ticket to Hawaii fame and the always enjoyable Robert Z'Dar. I didn't really care too much for it as it didn't contain enough "Bad" in it to overcome the stale straight-forward environment created within the film. It was all very bland and not nearly as funny as I was hoping for for my taste. A bad movie for certain, but not nearly enjoyable enough to screen for a group for Bad Movie Night.

Hollywood Cop was realistically my next search project, as every single one of Shervan's other films are near impossible to find. Easily available on DVD for less than a cup of coffee, the VHS of Hollywood Cop is harder to come by. Maybe it has something to do with that kickass cover? It probably does. I ended up getting the DVD since it was insanely cheap. I threw it in one lazy afternoon and hoped for the best, because I'm always on the hunt for Bad Movie Night material.

Turkey AKA Hollywood Cop (David Goss), decides to help a woman who's young son has been kidnapped by drug dealers when his father takes off with 6 million of their dollars. 

Hollywood Cop didn't disappoint. While nowhere near the level of absurd, bad or hilarious as Samurai Cop, it succeeds in all the area's where Killing American Style failed. Less charming than Samurai Cop, Hollywood Cop benefits from a helluva performance by someone named David Goss. This guy. I loved him. His delivery is right on par with the level of funny/bad/awesome that Matt Hannon displays in the epicly awesome Samurai Cop. While the film itself is silly and terribly insane, it's David Goss's lead performance that seals the deal on this one. It's a sad and crying shame he didn't make more films, as this along with only a handful of others are his only acting efforts. But man, he's pretty epic in this and it's because of him that Hollywood Cop succeeds as well as it does.

We've also got the always reliable Cameron Mitchell along for the ride as the police captain who likes to bust Turkey's chops any time he can and has a seemingly endless supply of curse words. Lincoln Kilpatrick is awesome as the sidekick, yet somehow you feel sorry for him in this. You sense that he deserves much better than this, but here he is, doing a much better job than the rest of the cast. But hey, at least he gets to oil wrestle with two bikini clad women in his underwear before ripping their tops off.

Here's the weird thing that I just can't wrap my brain around. Both Hollywood Cop (1987) and Killing American Style (1990) came out before Samurai Cop in 1991. Yet, anyone could easily make the mistake that Samurai Cop was made before these other films because their surprisingly made much more competent. It's hard to see how that's possible, but it's true. Even though Samurai Cop was one of Shervan's last films, it looks insanely more amateurish than any of his other films. Some would say that perhaps this was on purpose, but I highly doubt it. But that makes it all the more more confusing to me. Either he half-assed his way through Samurai Cop, or everything we see in there was what he actually intended. Who knows?

Not on par with the incredible Samurai Cop, nor as entertaining, it's worth a watch and a much better experience with a group of friends. The middle lags a little, but overall a great addition to Bad Movie Night.


Review: Double Target

Double Target Japan VHS Cover courtesy of SerialKillerCalender.com

Directed by: Bruno Mattei
Category: Action

I'm about as big a fan of Bruno Mattei as the next guy. Or, the next guy who loves 80's Low-Budget Exploitation films I should say. There's no doubt Mattei has created some truly memorable films when he reigned supreme in the 80's, with standouts like Strike Commando and Robowar being some of them. But with as many as 5 films being made a year, you have to expect that not all of them are going to be winners, and sadly, Double Target falls under that category.

I was actually really excited about this one, as it sounds right up my alley. The trailer is also surprisingly badass. Yet, there's just nothing in here that's very exciting. There's a lot of action for sure, but most of it seems to be just going through the motions, and unlike some of his other films, there are no hilarious bad dialogue, cheese-factor, or any WTF? moments that make some of his other films more memorable; things we've come to expect from a Bruno Mattei film.

The film has some storyline involving suicide attacks and the government, but I couldn't tell you any specifics on that, as the main story revolves around Robert Ross (the ever wooden Miles O'Keeffe) as he infiltrates a concentration camp in the Philippines to rescue his long lost son, who's mother has died. That's really it. He somehow secures some help, goes after the kid, and fights the British forces who get in his way.

That's really all you could need I suppose, but nothing rarely ever happens that makes you go "Oohhh" or "Aahhh". Lots of exploding huts, lots of fistfights, lots of machine guns blazing, but it's all so very dull and uninspired. The sad thing is that a lot of it looks good, with Mattie seemingly paying close attention to style, yet there's no substance. All of it is just very mediocre in a very disappointing way. For example, there's a scene where our hero, Ross, runs towards a moving car, jumps on top of the moving car, and from there leaps onto a waiting helicopter hovering overhead. Sounds insane right? Yet, it's all done so fast without much thought to creativity, or better yet, thrills, that it all falls quite flat.

Worth a watch if you like action, but don't expect much in the way of actual entertainment. Nothing in Double Target will leave will a lasting impression.

Review: Salem's Lot (1979)

Directed by: Tobe Hooper
Category: Horror

I'm actually ashamed to admit it, but I'd never actually seen this until just a few weeks ago. Gasp! Not sure why really. It's just one of those that I always dismissed as a 70's horror film that I probably wouldn't be into. But as I've grown older, my tastes have certainly changed, and I felt now was the perfect time to see if I can appreciate some old school horror on a different level than what I'm normally used to.

Salem's Lot is awesome. Let me just get that out of the way. It's such a specific kind of horror film, the kind that people have a hard time doing correctly, that it easily makes for a cult classic, and deservedly so. Salem's Lot gets so much right in creating a Hammer Films Horror type of aesthetic. It's bloody brilliant. I will be honest and say that I had some deep reservations going in. I mean, this was Made-for-TV after all, and made in the 70's. So I knew it couldn't possibly live up to any realistic expectations as far as a horror films go. Boy was I wrong.

I'm not sure if it was on purpose, or just the sign of the times, but Tobe Hooper successfully creates such a Gothic and vintage horror environment, that it's hard not to be impressed. All I kept thinking of while I was watching this was how much it reminded me of an old Hammer Film from the 60's and 70's. Not only that, it's creepy as hell, emanating a slow-burn suspense that takes it's time in getting to where it needs to. Though the film lacks any real gore, and does take the slow approach, believe me when I tell you that it's well worth the investment in your time. The payoff is incredible, and everything about this film works on such a high level that you'll forget that despite it being a horror film, there is no actual gore. It doesn't matter. This film is classy on a supreme level and doesn't need blood and gore to sell anything.

Released in 1979 and directed by Tobe Hooper 5 years after his legendary Texas Chainsaw Massacre in '74 and 3 years before he hit it big with Poltergeist in '82, this is Tobe Hooper in top form. Not at all limited by the confines of a smaller budget and restrictions, he seems to take it as a challenge, and succeeds in surpassing your expectations on what you can do within the confines of television. Seriously, if I hadn't had already known this was a television production, I never would have known. His visual aesthetic has been something that I've always admired in the early part of his career with notable films like Poltergeist, Invaders from Mars and Lifeforce, and Salem's Lot is no exception. The constant Gothic undertones create such a pleasing, yet unsettling atmosphere, that when the mythical Kurt Barlow finally makes his appearance, it will give you nightmares.

Speaking of which, holy hell was the vampire just amazing in this. Taking deep and incredible inspiration from F.W. Murnau's classic Nosferatu, the vampire design and makeup works so effectively well that it literally gave me chills every time he was on screen. There are other practical effects work going on in here that put so much of what we see in films today to shame. The effects work in here just prove that a little can go a long way.

It's a shame that this classic has never gotten a proper release. There's been countless VHS releases, as well as a Laserdisc and 1 DVD release, but none of them worth getting excited about. For starters, there's never been a widescreen release of this anywhere, and that's a damn shame. Visually stunning would be putting it lightly. This deserves to be seen in all it's glory, and yet here we are a whole 36 years later and STILL no decent release with a proper aspect ratio, special features to dig into, or even a cleaned up transfer. If any film is begging for a Blu-ray release, it's this one. Let's hope the universe moves in that direction and gives us the Salem's Lot release the film deserves.

Not easy to get your hands on as it's not streaming on any available site, with the bare-bones full frame dvd even going for ridiculous numbers, I chose to watch this on good ol' VHS and I'm glad I did. It gave the experience much more of a vintage feel, and I have to be honest, it just looked cool as hell, as if I was actually watching it for the first time as it premiered on TV back in 1979, with grainy picture quality and unforgiving full frame, making it easily one of the most enjoyable film experiences I've had in quite a long time.

I've never read the Stephen King book, but I certainly plan to as soon as I can. If you've never seen Tobe Hooper's original classic, I recommend you get on that pronto. Meanwhile, I'll debate whether I should bother tackling Larry Cohen's sequel, or the Made-for-TV remake starring Rob Lowe.


Review: Hero and the Terror

Poster image courtesy of MasterNorris.com

Directed by: William Tannen
Category: Action/Thriller

Hero and the Terror was a big surprise for a number of reason. First, it was better than I was expecting it to be. That's always a good thing. Secondly, it didn't play out the I was expecting either. But I'll get into that later. And most surprising to me was how well this film was made as a whole. Great aesthetic, cinematography, score, cast and performances all make for an excellent 80's Norris film. But wait, I'm getting ahead of myself.

This is a Norris film that always seems to slip through the cracks. Maybe that's because it's not the typical conventional Norris action flick. And I think that's what I noticed more than anything. While it starts off strong, it's midsection slows down dramatically, only to finish with a bang. I think this might have been what threw people off. Going in expecting a standard Chuck Norris action film ultimately ends up being something of a cop thriller/drama hybrid. It's commendable, but doesn't always succeed. Yet, it's because of the films other positive attributes that I found enough to like about this mixed bag of genre's.

Danny O'Brien (Norris) has captured the serial killer Simon Moon (Jack O'Holloran), also known as The Terror, and labeled a Hero by the media. When Moon escapes prison after 3 years locked up, O'Brien knows it's up to him to bring him down once again and stop his reign of terror.

Hero and the Terror came out right in the beginning of Norris's box office slump. Where just a few years before he was a box office star, his films were now beginning to go straight to video, with his brother Aaron directing the majority of these efforts. But here it had someone else in the directors chair in the form of William Tannen, and the film is 100 times better for it. The guy has style, and can executes a sequence well. When most Chuck Norris films had fallen into the same droll ho-hum execution under the direction of Aaron Norris, this was a refreshing change of pace. Tannen has a keen eye, and a knack for making this film look so much better than you'd expect. When a lot of nothing goes on for most of the midsection of the film, that goes a long way.

I'm not sure what genre this was supposed to fall under, because while it starts and ends as your typical 80's cop action thriller, HatT takes a serious detour for a good 45 minutes in the middle into drama territory with O'Brien (Norris) dealing with the fear of his girlfriend moving into his place, while also welcoming a child into the world at any minute. He's also haunted by his first experience with The Terror (Jack O'Halloran) and knows that he's the only one who can put a stop to his resumed reign of terror on innocent women. Why? I don't think that was ever brought up. I mean, I'm sure there was someone else up to the task, but O'Brien really felt like he was the only guy who could do the job. Good for him.

Another thing that raises this several levels above average is the exceptional score by David Frank. It seriously makes the film seem like it's much bigger than it actually is, and because of that, 10 times more awesome. Well done David. Well done.

Not one of his most exciting films, but definitely one of his better films, considering everything after this was going straight to video. A solid opening and a killer ending make up for the fact that there's very little actual action in this, as it tries to go for more of a thriller/drama vibe, in which case it only half-succeeds. Regardless, a definite highlight in Norris's career and a much better film overall than you expect it to be.