You're Next

Director: Adam Wingard (2011)
Starring: Sharni Vinson, Nicholas Tucci, AJ Bowen
Find it: IMDB

A promise; a threat; a great title. You're Next is that most immediate of horror films, the home invasion thriller. It's also maybe slightly ironic in a way I can't quite work out, in that You're Next wasn't 'next' to get released - it was sat on a shelf for two years after its completion. An inexplicable decision, since it's really rather good.

A family of bickering posh people meet and their parents' grand county home to celebrate a wedding anniversary. Felix (Bowen) is the once-chubby middle son, bringing student Erin (Vinson) home to meet the parents. The name of the game is awkward familial interaction, although it doesn't take long for the tale to take on a more (physically) vicious edge. As the family gather for dinner, a gang of nasty masked psychopaths begin firing crossbow bolts through the window, murdering neighbours and picking off the siblings and their lovers one by one. They haven't, however, counted on one of their victims having something of the Bear Grylls about her. Even better, the family mater is played by Barbara Crampton, from off've some of the greatest horror films of all time.

Inventive, gleefully violent and a lot of fun, You're Next was most definitely worth the wait. Both the killers and the family are well-drawn, if rarely sympathetic. It's not quite as clever and unpredictable as it thinks it is (I saw several plot and character beats coming from quite early on) but it's a refreshing change that it tries. It's like Cabin in the Woods, shorn of (most of) the abiding smugness. It also has its killers wearing animal masks, which I have a strange thing for, in my horror films.

And in the bedroom. Oo-la-la.
(I have no idea what is going on here).
While it may not be the superlative horror film you're going to hear it is over the next year or so, You're Next is delightfully smart, nasty and subversive. You're Next should most definitely be, well, Next on your shopping list, Netflix queue or whatever (predictable joke).


Director: Nicolas Lopez (2013)
Starring: Eli Roth, Lorenza Izzo, Andrea Osvart
Find it: IMDB

From Psycho through to From Dusk Till Dawn and Hostel, the two-act story is something of a staple in horror films. Starting out as one thing (crime drama/crude sex comedy) and abruptly changing genre halfway through can be a very effective technique. See all of those films I just mentioned (except for Hostel) as your example. Add The Cottage to that list too, then go and watch The Cottage again. Where Hostel fails is in that its first half is intolerable and ugly, filled with characters you hate and an odd reliance on casual homophobia. It may make the second half switch feel more satisfying, but you're still left with a film full of assholes.

Aftershock follows the two-act template to a tee. Obviously, there's not really much way of foreshadowing such an event as an earthquake, so the first real sign of any horror in the film is when the club our pretty young idiots are dancing away in suddenly collapses on their heads. As the city around them crumbles to bits, the survivors take to the streets, where they are beset by more falling buildings, tsunami warnings and gang rape teams. Because society is only ever an earthquake away from certain gang rape.

A stupendously gory and violent natural disaster film, Aftershock is impressively nasty, once it finally gets going. Using practical effects and prosthetics instead of CGI, it looks and feels authentic. Even Eli Roth, playing the character 'Gringo' isn't too annoying. I still wish he'd stop acting forever, but it's his best performance to date. What does become boring, however, is how quickly the film descends into a battle between pretty girls vs rapists. The earthquake itself is nasty enough without having to resort to that.

True story (mild braggartry included) folks: I was lucky enough to speak with actress Lorenza Izzo and director Nicolas Lopez (Eli Roth, too) and Aftershock does none of them (except for maybe Roth) justice. It fails to capture Lopez's hilarious wit, or that bit when Izzo speaks, and you suddenly fall in love with her. Aftershock is a good disaster exploitation film, but not one that registers too highly on the horror movie Richter scale. Kudos, too, for spoiling it all by putting the ending in the trailer. Well done, guys.

Child's Play 3

Director: Jack Bender (1991)
Starring: Justin Whalin, Perry Reeves, Brad Dourif
Find it: IMDB

Not long ago, I revisited Rob Zombie's Halloween films, and was jolly surprised to find that the opinions of my 21-year-old self weren't quite as reliable as I believed them to be. To be frank, 21-year-old Porkhead was kind of a ballbag. Well, he was the sort of dude who'd call his blog 'Porkhead's Horror Review Hole'. What do you expect? In eager anticipation of the latest Child's Play reboot/sequel, I found myself watching all of the old Chucky films. Which, in turn, led me to revisit Child's Play 3, and my old review thereof.

I'm not the sort to leave things be. I'm too laid-back to be a perfectionist, but I expect I'll always be revising these reviews, fixing grammatical errors, re-evaluating old opinions and adding in a new favourite swear word or two here and there. And, in the case of Child's Play 3, I'll be fucking horrified by what I find. "This reviewer is one hell of a troller," says one commenter, below. He's not wrong, although I was 21, so maybe cut me a little slack. I take umbrage with the word 'butthurt' too. Mostly because it's a stupid word, but also because I've never really given enough of a shit about the Child's Play franchise to get 'butthurt' about it. I'd venture so far as to say that the only 'butthurt' one is the one angry enough to call the reviewer 'butthurt' in the first place. Which, in turn, got me 'butthurt' enough to issue this rebutt(hurt)al. What the fuck does 'butthurt' even mean, anyway?     

Ho, on to the review, and my re-evaluation therein. As with my revisited review of Halloween, only a few sentences of my original text remain. Certainly not that whole paragraph where I repeatedly referred to Justin Whalin as 'Jimmy fucking Olsen', or the bit where I called Chucky's plan 'retarded'. Christ, 21-year-old me was the sort of reviewer who used the word 'retarded' in his writing. I shudder. At least it's not 'shit feast' though. And I did manage to keep the animal ball-sucking references to a minimum.

Anyhow, in Child's Play 3, we find that little Andy Barclay has grown up to be Jimmy Olsen from Lois & Clark, the crap Superman TV series.  Obviously the director decided that he didn’t really care whether we root for poor Andy anymore (not that I ever did), because everyone hates that particular Jimmy Olsen. As such, the biggest problem with Child’s Play 3 is that there aren’t enough scenes with Chucky beating up Jimmy Olsen. Bouncing from foster home to foster home, Andy has been transferred to military school, where they hope to iron out his doll-traumatised tendencies. Apparently he’s become a tearaway now, but it’s hard to buy Jimmy Olsen as anything other than a whiny brat, traumatised by a ginger doll.

Despite a military academy being an awful place for a tiny serial killer to hide, Chucky sets about trying to steal the body of Tyler, another child they just happen to have hanging around the school. And so Chucky kills a few insignificant bit players before trying to carry out his stupid plan and kill Andy, while he's at it. To be fair, Jimmy Olsen does have a face that tends to invite being murdered.

Repetitive and predictable, Child's Play 3 isn't a great sequel. Its setting is uninspired, the story a little dull. However, it does have the Cardassian chap from Deep Space Nine in it, playing a sadistic barber (really) who appears to have nothing better to do than shave children's dolls (also really). Dourif's voice work is as skeezy as ever, and the Chucky animatronics are pretty great, in a creepy, dodgy kind of way. My original review was a lot longer here, with me whining about the child actors (no change there then) and making far more references to Chucky's hair colour than was at all necessary. 

Gingers do have souls, and Chucky wants to put his in your body. 

Ultimately, and despite any whining otherwise, Child's Play 3 is far from the worst instalment of the series. We have Seed of Chucky to thank for that, which is about as enjoyable as, uh, fuck it, I can’t think of anything even nearly as agonising as watching Seed. Except for reading my old reviews.

Child's Play 2

Director: John Lafia (1990)
Starring: Alex Vincent, Jenny Agutter, Gerrit Graham
Find it: IMDB

As is bound to happen when you go around telling people that a possessed children's toy tried to kill you, Mother Barclay is immediately committed following the events of Child's Play. Andy (Vincent) is put into care, sent to live with Jenny Agutter and her husband for the duration. You would have thought that ensuring that the kid is sent to a Good Guy free household would be top of the social services' priority, but apparently not: the Simpsons just so happen to have a Good Guy of their very own just chilling in a cupboard. This gives the recently resurrected (again) Chucky the perfect way to infiltrate the house.

Which is a shame, because that spells curtains for Jenny Agutter, and I really like Jenny Agutter. It was her performance in Logan's Run which was instrumental in my first noticing girls (that and Catwoman in Batman Returns and, um, Wendy in Disney's Peter Pan). Jenny Agutter abuse aside, Child's Play 2 is a great slasher sequel. Andy remains the worst thing about the series, but he is sidelined enough by the rebellious Kyle (Christine Elise, looking as though she's escaped from a Nightmare on Elm Street sequel) to be less annoying than he was in the first. While still being quite annoying.

The plan remains much the same as the first - Chucky wants Andy's body, and won't rest until he's taken it. His being constantly distracted by a compulsion to kill everyone around the kid gets in the way though - if he was to just get it over and done with, nice and quickly, the film would be about half as long. Brain of a plastic doll, too.

There's more gore, more swearing and more great voice work from Brad Dourif. It's as good a sequel as A Nightmare on Elm Street: Part 2 was to its own predecessor - good, but a tad derivative. Child's Play 2 is less gay than the former (although there is a scene in which kinky Chucky straps little Andy to a bed). Savour it, for Child's Play 2 is the last genuinely good Child's Play film. It's all downhill from here.

Child's Play

Director: Tom Holland (1988)
Starring: Brad Dourif, Catherine Hicks, Alex Vincent
Find it: IMDB

Well, if you will insist upon buying your children birthday presents from a tramp in an alleyway. A hard-up single mother (Hicks) buys her awful son (Vincent) the next big thing - a $100 doll, cutting corners by buying it from a bearded tramp who probably stole it or found it in a pool of blood. Any money Karen might have saved by buying Chucky cheap will ultimately end up going towards the cleaning bill, since the creepy little bastard wastes little time in trashing her house, trying to kill her son and making everyone bleed everywhere. Buying from tramps - it's a false economy. That's why I never buy The Big Issue.*

We all know the plot. After all, Child's Play is a minor classic by now. Still, even today, it's surprisingly effective, and the moment Brad Dourif starts doing his angry Chucky voice is still chilling. There's no hiding the ridiculousness of the premise, but by constantly having Chucky on the move, or stabbing something, the film always manages to stay just on the right side of camp. Chucky still has the power to scare. Well, he doesn't scare me, but I won't exactly laugh in your face if you confess a fear of the little one to me*.

The real villain of the piece is Andy Barclay, a selfish little shit who gets his mother's best friend (and eventually his mother... and everyone else) murdered thanks to his own greed. Child's Play is a great argument for not buying your children what they think they want when they ask for it. You'll get what you're given and like it. Terrible taste in toys, too. What, Batman or Star Wars action figures not good enough for you, asshole? Really, it's like Jingle All the Way, gone terribly wrong. Forget what I just said; you know who the real villain of the piece is? Consumerism. Child's Play is a damning indictment of our consumerist culture.

Child's Play has aged impressively. The numerous sequels and his popularity have dented Chucky's power somewhat, but this remains an admirably shocking, nasty old slasher film. Wanna play? Oh go on then, Chucky, you twisted my arm.

*Not true.

The Wolverine

Director: James Mangold (2013)
Starring: Hugh Jackman, Tao Okamoto, Rila Fukushima
Find it: IMDB

He's the best he is at what he does. Apart from films. He's not very good at those. Aside from his cameo in First Class, I've not really cared for (the) Wolverine since X-Men 2. There's only so many times you can stick a character with massive claws on his hands in a 12A film before I lose interest and start demanding he stab something. Thankfully, The Wolverine bypasses that particular criticism by being one of the most age inappropriate 12A films I've ever seen.  

Very little blood is shed, but necks are broken willy-nilly, Logan stabs a great many Yakuza, and there's the return of his new catchphrase. No, not 'bub', go fuck yourself. Obviously I couldn't care less about your children, but this should have been 15 rated by a mile. I look forward to a 12A Punisher film in which Frank Castle blasts the hell out of Jigsaw and his men in a manner which is incredibly violent yet suitable for all the family! Just like A Good Day to Die Hard and Taken 2. Thankfully, The Wolverine is far better than either of those films. While still being fairly flawed itself.

Recovering from the events of X-Men 3 (aren't we all) Wolverine is living in a cave, rocking the Old Man Logan look. His only friend a grumpy bear and a hallucinatory Jean Grey (hello again, Famke Janssen) Wolverine is dragged from retirement when an old acquaintance comes calling. No sooner is he off the plane in Japan than he's embroiled in all manner of Yakuza shenanigans and ninja conspiracy. It's like a seventies' Yakuza film, starring Wolverine. Which is no bad thing. It's a far cry from the Frank Miller comics the film was inspired by, but still a lot of fun. Not once does the ol' Canucklehead get down on his knees and scream "noooooo" at the sky (apart from in an iffy poster or two). True, his haircut is horrible and the final twist is predictable, but director James Mangold gets a lot more right than he does wrong. Jackman remains faultless as Wolverine - this might just be his best appearance as the character (First Class not withstanding) yet. And at last we have a Wolverine film which realises the potential of a lead character who can take all manner of abuse before falling down. Logan is exploded, shot, stabbed and filled up full of arrows throughout The Wolverine. There's even a couple of moments during the last act which genuinely made my knuckles ache with sympathy.

Inexplicable photo of the day

The Wolverine is a return to form for one of cinema's (and the comics') most overexposed characters. While it has its fair share of flaws (not the least that haircut) it does make Wolverine a figure to be reckoned with once more. This might just be his most impressive regeneration yet.