Feature: The 5 Cult TV Shows That Deserve A Reboot

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Originally published on Cultastic on 21/05/17 and on Flickering Myth on 26/05/17. 

Despite something of a critical bollocking, Dwayne Johnson’s tongue-in-cheek Baywatchreboot is set to take on a huge portion of the summer box office takings.

And considering that it’s very much following in the footsteps of similar cult TV reboot success stories like 21 Jump Street, it proves that there’s definitely a market for all those other giants of the small screen, quietly waiting in the wings, ready to take that final big leap into blockbuster territory. In fact, there’s so many of these already in active development, that this feature got more and more difficult to research as it went along, with all of the best ideas seemingly already snatched up.

So, from that other well-known Hasselhoff project, to some straight-up risky bids, here’s a collection of potential big money reboots that we could see happening just about any day now.

Knight Rider

Chances are, some executive somewhere is literally reading a script for a Hollywood reboot of this classic Hoff vehicle as we speak. There’s already been numerous follow-ons, from a post-apocalyptic mid-90s TV movie (set in the far-off dystopia of 2010), to the short-lived 2008 mini-series of the same name, but we’re still yet to see an update that does the cheesy 80s detective drama justice. And in a post-Baywatch movie world, why the hell not.

To those still somehow unaware of its set-up, Knight Rider saw a pre-beach body Hoff tackling the forces of evil alongside a hyper-intelligent (and practically indestructible) robot car called K.I.T.T., that, aside from pretty much doing most of the criminal-catching legwork, could speak and sling a one-liner faster than any able-bodied action hero could ever muster too.

If that’s not a great set-up for another self-mocking comedy right there, I don’t know what is. You could even cast Dwayne Johnson again and set up a whole Hasselhoff-centric cinematic universe. With the right script and voice talent, it could be the next big thing. 

Cagney & Lacey

On a totally different, much more progressive note – Cagney & Lacey is the ultimate reboot-waiting-to-happen. With plans already in place for a female-lead Jump Street spin-off, and news hitting even just this week of an apparent Rihanna/Lupita Nyong’o buddy movie, female-focussed cop dramas are inches away from becoming all the rage. So why not give a nod to the 80s TV show that arguably got the ball running all those years ago?

All it takes is the right pairing and a slightly more driven plot than the likes of the otherwise hugely successful The Heat, and we could be onto another winner. It will probably have to beat those other rival projects past the post though, so a quick development is key.

Xena: Warrior Princess

Because there’s only so many buddy cop-comedies the market can manage, why not give new life to a totally different beloved female icon of the 90s instead? No, not Buffy (one exceptional case of a cult TV reboot being a terrible idea). Originally a spin-off of the Sam Raimi-produced, live-action Hercules series, Xena: Warrior Princess developed a totally insane cult following of its own, running for 6 Emmy-award-winning seasons and even earning its star, Lucy Lawless, one of the most memorable Simpsons cameos to date.

Especially with Wonder Woman set to open the door for a totally new breed of female warrior, a Xena movie could be a clever move for a studio looking to find their own way into the new-look swords-and-sandals trend. The lacklustre performance of the last several Hercules movies probably won’t do it any good, but considering just how much the original show totally outshone its male counterpart, there’s nothing stopping the Hollywood movie equivalent doing the exact same.

Airwolf

Albeit a bit of a bold choice, one 80s TV “classic” that could benefit massively from even just a mid-budget movie update, is the bonkers sci-fi drama Airwolf. Starring Rick & Morty fan favourite Jan-Michael Vincent in the midst of his short-lived heyday, it’s very broadly about an expert pilot’s adventures with his ultra-advanced black ops helicopter, pulling off some of the most insane and unusual aerial manoeuvres and dogfights imaginable.

There’s no ignoring the fact that t’s super silly and there’d need to be a lot retooling to the old-school cheesy plotting, but the very basic central idea definitely has a lot of potential.

Fringe

And finally, an extremely recent piece of cult TV; Fringe was always so much bigger than the dwindling platform Fox gave it on the small-screen. Even though it only ended a handful of years ago in 2013, there’s so much room to give it a second-life (and hopefully an even more impressive run) at the movies.

Dealing with some of the densest and most exciting alternate-reality science-fiction, it not only had all the right characters, but all the right writers too, spearheaded by Hollywood hero J.J. Abrams and his then Bad Robot cohorts Alex Kurtzman (who directed the new Mummy) and Roberto Orci (who wrote Star Trek its sequel, and The Amazing Spider-Man 2).

Hell, if a big-money movie follow-up seems like too weird an idea so soon, Abrams and his team could even just chop and change the show’s best bits and muddle them into their growing Cloverfield universe somewhere instead. Either way, it would be great to see more of Fringe, no matter the capacity. 

Film Review: Pirates of the Caribbean: Salazar’s Revenge

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Originally published on Cultastic on 22/05/17.

2-stars

We were promised zombie sharks. There were very few zombie sharks.

Depending on where in the world you live, this latest in a long line of hugely expensive movies, seemingly created for the sole purpose of showcasing Johnny Depp’s incredible ability to wear a revolving wardrobe of different costumes, but still essentially deliver the same boring performance, has a totally different title. The American (and in many ways, “official”) naming is the quietly menacing Dead Men Tell No Tales, an old-timey motto spoken by a borderline-heinous number of actual cast members throughout the film. Some other territories get the decidedly plain Pirates of the Caribbean 5, and everyone else is stuck with the headscratchingly awful Salazar’s Revenge.

So who, I hear you ask, is this mysterious Salazar? Why is he swearing revenge, and who, might we add, is he swearing revenge on? Why are Europeans apparently incapable of understanding a simple, inoffensive phrase that is spoken throughout the film anyway? The collective answer to all of the above pretty perfectly encapsulates everything wrong with this latest Pirates effort.

It’s jumbled, over-stuffed, at times barely-sensical, and ultimately feels like it’s yet another made-by-committee affair. Each and every creative decision has been calculated through some bizarre market-lead algorithm designed to do little more than sell toys and rocket it closer and closer to that all-important billion-dollar mark.

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You’d never guess that the film in question is, for example, directed by critically acclaimed Norwegian adventurer pair Joachim Rønning and Espen Sandberg. Or that it features one of the acting world’s finest living performers, Javier Bardem, still at the very tip top of his game. Not to mention one of the industry’s brightest young heroines Kaya Scodelario totally nailing her first big commercial break, despite fighting toe-to-toe throughout with some of the most screen-hungry talent Hollywood has to offer.

You’d never guess, because so much of the film is so utterly buried in stodgy storytelling, cheap jokes and totally uninspired action set-pieces, that it’s genuinely difficult to cherry-pick the few exceptions from the otherwise screamingly average movie Disney have delivered here.

In fact, so much of Salazar’s Revenge is spent trying to make the Pirates franchise relevant again that anything and everything that’s even remotely unique about it as a whole is lost in a hail of awful, awful, awful Captain Jack sketches. Sketches that essentially amount to little more than Johnny Depp marching around in full pirate regalia, drunkenly pointing to things and grinning at his own lame, poor-taste jokes. A character that was once a novelty has quickly become the series’ apparent only selling point, despite being a totally worn-out and now, largely unfunny, property in himself. And whilst Disney have seemingly tried to widen the cast list with yet another forcibly romantic boy-girl pairing, it’s of course Jack that still ends up with 95% of the screen-time, despite having very little overall purpose.

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But ultimately, this is nothing new. We could rant about the overpriced and under-thought studio summer blockbusters until the cows come home; there’s so many now it’s not even a surprise when yet another once-promising franchise like Pirates seemingly tanks itself all over again. The important take away here is that this could very, very easily be a totally different story.

There’s so much genuine ingenuity at play here under the surface: from Bardem’s deliciously spitting villain, to yes, those god-damn beautiful flesh-eating zombie sharks, that Salazar’s Revenge could’ve 100% been the series’ grand-return to originality and quality. Finally a bad guy to rival Bill Nighy’s legendary Davy Jones, and enough underlying neat ideas to keep audiences guessing for a change. So why bury it all under a metric tonne of pointlessly familiar, overly-pandering bullshit and suffocate the creativity?

Salazar’s Revenge isn’t broadly offensive, it’s just very uninspiring to watch and offers absolutely no new spark for an otherwise totally decrepit billion-dollar franchise. Well, either that or it’s great and we’re just bitter because there’s barely any zombie sharks in it. You decide.

Pirates of the Caribbean: Salazar’s Revenge is out in the UK this Friday.

Feature: The 5 Weirdest Monster Movies Ever

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Originally published on Flickering Myth on 16/05/17 and on Cultastic on 28/05/17. 

With the Godzilla/King Kong universe getting a sudden resurgence, and Cloverfield taking things into franchise territory at long last, the monster movie is suddenly in something of an unexpected heyday as far as Hollywood is concerned.

Whether they’re human size or intergalactically huge, monsters of all shapes and origins are popping up all over the place, even recently, in an indie dramedy starring Anne Hathaway.

A coming-of-age style drama about a down-and-out party girl returning to her hometown (with added Kaiju), Nacho Vigalondo’s Colossal finally takes its UK bow this week, taking the title of one of the weirdest monster placements in movie history. So we thought it only appropriate to round-up some similarly strange creature-features, from alcohol-fearing tentacle beasts, to a killer whale with a deadly vengeance.

Orca (1977)

Somewhat riding the wave of success that followed Steven Spielberg’s Jaws in the second half of the 1970s, Michael Anderson followed his seminal sci-fi classic Logan’s Run with this bizarre sea-set revenge story. Richard Harris stars as a sea-captain/hunter who quickly finds himself on the shit-list of the ocean’s other deadliest predator, following an unfortunate incident involving murder and said killer whale’s family. The thriller that follows is an unsurprisingly campy bloodbath that sees the orca in question tearing its way through everyone Harris’s captain has ever loved, known or even just spoken to, following every spectacular murder with a celebratory series of mocking flips/calls that stand as pretty much the ocean-creature equivalent to a well-meaning middle finger.

In many ways, it’s the anti-Blackfish, ending on one of the most unusual man vs. monster face-offs ever. Not quite what you’d expect from what started as a Jaws clone, Orca is infinitely more fun than a lot of the Spielberg-focussed sequels too.

Spring (2014)

Taking the whole monster movie spirit in a similar direction to the likes of Colossal, Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead strip back a lot of the horror usually associated with the genre and focus more on a romance instead. A romance between a young American man ditching all of his stateside problems for a trip to Italy, and a beautiful local woman who’s secretly an immortal sea creature that frequently transforms into a tentacle-laden beast.

It’s a total rollercoaster of emotions, that’s far sweeter and understandably more sensitive than the usual creature-feature fare, with a hefty dose of creativity powering the whole thing along too. Still weird though. Very, very weird.

Matango (1963)

Following the stark raving success of quintessential monster hit Godzilla, the Japanese Kaiju king himself, Ishirô Honda, followed it up with a series of similarly silly sci-fi movies about everything from flying walruses, to intergalactic jellyfish.

The most bonkers of the lot though was arguably Matango, a shipwreck drama about a group of deserted islanders that find themselves taken over by an evil race of gigantic living… mushrooms. Taking the classic 60s “men in rubber suits” approach, it’s 100% as ridiculous as it sounds, and 100% as enjoyable too.

Grabbers (2012)

Tormented’s Jon Wright followed up his horror obsession with another darkly comic and mega gory hit, this time about bloodsucking aliens feeding on a rural Irish town with a penchant for drinking. Noticing that the monsters in question (faceless, tentacle-covered blobs) take a heavy disliking to the amount of booze in their prey’s blood, the heroes of the film start fighting the ongoing invasion the only way they know how: by getting as drunk as humanly possible.

Whilst it still holds on to quite a few of the expected genre mishaps, Grabbers is very much a unique stab at a standard formula and only ends up better, the weirder it gets.

Pterodactyl Woman From Beverly Hills (1997)

Last, and in many ways least, despite having the greatest title of the lot, this late-90s Troma comedy casts Vacation’s Beverly D’Angelo as the Beverly Hills woman of the title, who quickly finds herself cursed with turning into an ancient pterodactyl after her husband pisses off a shaman. Hilarity supposedly ensues, and although it comes from The Beast Within’s Philippe Mora, this one’s far from Troma’s best work.

It does however, stand as easily the weirdest plot on the list and is home to some of the strangest monster-related moments possibly in any film ever. The sub-Buffy season 1, half-woman, half-pterodactyl rubber suit must be seen to be believed.

Film Review: Immigration Game

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Originally published on Flickering Myth on 03/05/17 and on Cultastic on 04/05/17.

3-stars1

It’s no secret that free-for-all Battle Royale-style horror movies are all the rage at the moment.

From Kinji Fukasaku’s cult original, through its sequel, three Purge movies (plus its upcoming TV adaptation) and even the young-adult-aimed answer/blockbuster waste of time The Hunger Games, the base formula for Krystof Zlatnik’s low-rent thriller is nothing even remotely new. And whilst he does dress it up somewhat with some eye-gougingly current political subtext, the reality is, we’ve seen it all before, and done a whole lot better than this.

Immigration Game has a lot going for it: a confident, likeable lead, a relatively clever (if a little on-the-nose) update of a tried-and-tested formula. Zlatnik finds some neat ways of stretching every penny with a few unconventional filming methods, that leak all the way back into the very plotting itself (reality TV finally, at long last, has its uses). The major problem here is just that it really can’t compete in scale, very obviously replicating elements of those that came before it, but with a much cheaper and less impressive approach.

Zlatnik certainly has a penchant for violence, and the fight sequences, although largely uninspired in their choreography, come off as gritty and brutal enough, building well and ending with a real and genuinely fierce gut-punch of a finale. But rather frustratingly, it’s only when the leads are throwing punches and dodging pipe wrenches that they’re actually even the tiniest bit convincing; a problem not necessarily with the acting talent, but instead with Zlatnik’s own writing.

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Landwehr’s lead Joe is easy enough to get on with, but his supporting cast don’t seem to have nearly enough to do, reduced to pattering about, repeating the same lines and motivations over and over until the very end of the final act.

Which, when it comes, really hits like a freight train. Immigration Game certainly has its sweet moments, and definitely has the capacity to be both triumphant and hopeful in equal measure. It’s based around a very real problem, not just in Germany, but the world over too, and early on, there’s just enough teased to make the politics work without the film becoming too preachy. But as the action-heavy plot kicks into gear, so much of this is lost that, by the frankly twisted ending, it’s not about immigration anymore at all.

The way in which Zlatnik eventually ties everything together isn’t exactly flawed on a narrative level, it’s just exceedingly pessimistic for a film that started out on such a different note. He doesn’t quite deliver what you’d expect given both the title and the overall set-up, tossing a lot of the bigger ideas around throughout and dropping all but the least convincing one at the final hurdle.

Fans of the more extreme and darker side of horror will likely find a lot to get excited about here, even if its only really got one foot in the genre to begin with. Immigration Game doesn’t quite go in the direction you’d expect, and while that can be in many ways commended, it’s also incredibly jarring to sit through, and ultimately very divisive in the long run.

It’s certainly a lot more than just a cheap Euro-themed take on The Purge; there is some real personality here and there. But between an unwarranted, nasty ending, and its director’s apparent inability to settle on a consistent theme, it doesn’t stand out quite as much as it could.

Immigration Game was screened as part of SCI-FI LONDON 2017. 

Film Review: Domain

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Originally published on Flickering Myth on 30/04/17 and on Cultastic on 02/05/17.

4-stars

Low-rent sci-fi can usually go one of two ways: smart and subtle, pinned to a manageable concept, or washed out by cheap, schlocky special effects. Luckily, bare-bones single-location thriller Domain opts for the former, running off a clever (if not entirely original) plot, with a fresh set of characters and a thoroughly involving central idea.

Rather than wasting his limited resources on another unnecessarily loud outbreak thriller about people hunting for food and murdering each other in desperation, director Nathaniel Atcheson has opted for something a little more close to home: humanity’s innate desire to be social. And for the most part, it opens up plenty of exciting new doors.

The entire film moves almost entirely through conversation, driving narrative with the interactions the core seven share either directly, or behind each others’ backs. It’s a post-apocalyptic world we haven’t quite seen before, but one which is no doubt a lot more likely than some of the more expansive ideas that have hit mainstream media. Survival for once, isn’t about food, or water, or finding protection from renegade cannibals or forest-dwelling monsters; in Domain the only way the characters can live on and remain in anyway hopeful, is by communicating.

But, as sturdy as said backbone is, it’s obviously not enough to power an entire film alone. Conversation needs direction, and much of Atcheson’s words surround mystery; not, as you might expect, the mystery of the brazenly retro-futuristic, non-government support agency who built the bunkers in question though. Nor the mystery of the very thing that put them underground in the first place: an outbreak of an entirely fictional type of flu that goes oddly uncontested.

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Atcheson builds his own riddles that, although have some grounding in the post-apocalyptic setting (particularly in the tell-all final act), are for the most part, instead a reflection of the relationships between the main group.

And this is where the majority of Domain’s main creativity comes from, letting the quietly ingenious production design slink into the background rather than tell the core story. Everything from the layout of the bunkers to their 70s-esque off-brown colouring has very clearly been carefully planned and helps to mirror the isolation of the plot’s main tension a great deal. But Atcheson is clever not to ever dwell on the setting alone.

We start several years down the line, in the middle of the film’s inciting incident; there’s little in the way of world set-up, and even less in terms of character introductions. Atcheson leaves us to simply fit the pieces together ourselves and while it’s certainly a risk (one that very few bigger, studio movies take), here it works wonderfully, helping the world of Domain and its inhabitants themselves feel very much lived-in.

There are certainly some bumps along the way though. Clear favouritism among the characters’ shared screen-time means one or two barely get past being one-dimensional plot devices, and the reveal-driven finale that ties all of their thoughts and fears together, is little more than a jerry-rigged exposition dump.

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Eagled-eyed (and eared) film fans will likely guess the ending quick enough, and certain character motivations aren’t quite as subtle as Atcheson seems to think, but for a single-location thriller, Domain never teeters towards boring, and above-all, there’s a very understated sense of scope here. Even after the last twist is dealt, Domain leaves plenty of moral questions ticking and always leads with some sense of hope at every corner.

Far from the usually bleak survival dramas that pad out a great deal of the outbreak genre, Atcheson’s film is just different enough to be involving, with a script that holds back just enough to remain thrilling, and that never lets its tiny budget effect the core drama.

As far as low-rent, high-concept sci-fi goes, Domain is about as well-balanced as it comes, fighting past some obvious set-backs to drive home a small, yet refreshing take on post-apocalyptic survival.

Domain was screened as part of SCI-FI-LONDON 2017. 

Feature: Phantasm: A Beginner’s Guide

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Originally published on Flickering Myth on 23/04/17 and on Cultastic on 07/05/17.

One of cult fandom’s most dearly loved horror franchises has finally been given the blu-ray upgrade it deserves this year, off the back of not just a brand new sequel, but also a J.J. Abrams-backed 4K restoration of the original.

Spanning five movies, countless casting back and forths, and nearly 40 years of production woes and seriously devoted fan conventions, the Phantasm series has finally, at long last, pulled to a close.

And whilst it might not be quite as expansive (or as widely known) as a lot of the genre’s other heavy-hitters like Friday the 13th, Halloween or A Nightmare on Elm Street, Don Coscarelli’s Phantasm movies hold a special place in horror lore, as not just one of the only long-running franchises to be consistently owned and controlled by the same person, but also as one of the most devoted to its own bonkers storylines.

So without much further ado, here’s a who’s-who of the exceptionally twisted Phantasm-verse, film-by-film, to keep any and all beginners in the loop as to what’s essential, what’s watchable and ultimately, what the hell is actually going on.

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Phantasm (1979)

The whole thing started in the late 1970s with an ultra low-budget horror (somewhere in the region of $300,000) based on a script Coscarelli had scrounged together from a mixture of Ray Bradbury’s novel Something Wicked This Way Comes and a bizarre dream Coscarelli himself had about a giant, flying silver ball that killed people. The result is a seriously mixed-up, though genuinely unsettling nightmarish horror about two brothers, Mike and Jody, and their friend/local ice cream man Reggie, investigating a series of mysterious deaths in sleepy middle-American suburbia, that remains even to this day, frighteningly original.

Angus Scrimm’s now iconic Tall Man is still very much an imposing presence throughout, a grave robbing undertaker with obnoxiously large hands and eyes as dark as sin, and Coscarelli’s off-the-wall, and often mind-bending editing choices (most likely a symptom of the lacklustre budget) really set Phantasm aside from any horror film of its generation. It’s pulled together with the same sort of fire and cheap/nasty work ethic that made the likes of The Evil Dead and its other low-rent, DIY cohorts such huge genre hits around the same time, so fans of Raimi and co. should definitely give it a look.

The plotting’s all over the place, there’s three too-many twists and the now legendary trio of A. Michael Baldwin, Bill Thornbury and Reggie Bannister were no-more talented in their younger years as they are today (as you’ll soon see, Bannister aside, they weren’t by any means born to act), but Phantasm is nevertheless a landmark of cheap genre cinema.

Verdict: If you only watch one of these, it almost goes without saying but, make it this original.

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Phantasm II (1988)

Almost ten years later, compelled by pressure from fans and a generous budget of $3 million from Universal Studios of all places, Coscarelli set about making a very, very different sequel. With mainstream studio backing came several new conditions, including an all-out ban on dream sequences and on Baldwin’s return, and so the resulting Phantasm II is about as accessible to a mainstream audience as the series gets.

Much more of an action picture than the original moody horror, Coscarelli’s 80s sequel is essentially just a fun buddy movie with some incredibly neat weapon upgrades (and featuring special effects courtesy of practical effects wizards Greg Nicotero and Robert Kurtzman no less). Reggie joins forces with the now much older (and recast) Mike to hunt down the Tall Man all over again, donning everything from quad-barrelled shotguns to homemade flamethrowers to dispatch an even wider array of ball-shaped weaponry (one even has lasers) and, as it goes, learn a whole lot more about the Tall Man’s background.

Even if you found Phantasm’s initial dreaminess a little hard to bear, this first sequel is actually still worth a spin, taking all of the most tangible and creative aspects of the original, and turning them well and truly up to eleven.

Verdict: There are a few mainstream-y additions crowbarred in, like a fairly limp romance element and the occasional overly serious exposition dump, but on the whole Phantasm II is a vastly different, but seriously fun follow-up that should, at the very least, wildly entertain (chainsaw fight, anyone?).

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Phantasm III: Lord of the Dead (1994)

And it’s around here that things take a little turn for the cult. Despite still coughing up a half decent, multi-million dollar budget, Lord of the Dead feels noticeably cheaper, and its straight-to-video fate  could only really be expected. There are a number of worthwhile series retcons, like the return of original leads Bill Thornbury and A. Michael Baldwin (yes, Mike gets recast again), and the rather hilariously handled abolishment of the second movie’s love story, but on the whole it’s around this point in the series that non-genre devotees and horror tourists are recommended to sit the rest out.

For everyone else, there’s just about enough here to keep things interesting though. Dodgy digital effects aside, there’s some decent new characters, Scrimm is still very much the height of creepy, and Coscarelli finds a neat way to marry the dreamy tones of the original with the action-heavy plot of the first sequel which makes Lord of the Dead feel a lot more connected to the overall Phantasm canon.

Verdict: Nowhere near the same league as the earlier efforts, but this threequel is entertaining enough.

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Phantasm IV: Oblivion (1998)

Coscarelli’s fourth dip in the series is about as TV Movie as they come, bouncing off of the third’s rather clever ending by attempting to replace a lot of that expensive entertaining action, with just a whole bunch of world-building instead. Back down to a shoestring budget, a lot of Oblivion’s main plot line is padded out with unused archive footage shot for the first movie (which originally clocked in at nearly 3 hours thanks to some additional subplots that were later cut), and whilst it’s a fairly resourceful way to widen the series’ backstory, it also makes the returning trio, now twenty years on from their first performances, look really quite old and dated in comparison.

A few of the more overzealous flashbacks can be distracting (they go as far back as the Civil War at one, totally baffling stage), and Oblivion really doesn’t have much of a plot of its own, beyond expanding on the original, which can make the whole thing feel a bit empty. But it does just so happen to feature one of the most darkly funny deaths of the whole franchise, meaning…

Verdict: For fans of what came before it, it’s a watchable 90 minutes, even if watchable is just about all it is.

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Phantasm: Ravager (2016)

The fifth and apparently/hopefully final entry of the whole series was oddly enough wrapped up just last year, though it must be said that it’s above-and-beyond the weakest of the set. Pulled together from the leftovers of what was once a web series, and only co-written by Coscarelli himself (the main directing duties were handled by franchise fan and kids animation helmer David Hartman), Ravager suffers a lot from YouTube-level cinematography and some seriously dicey digital effects.

Everything from the blood, to the landscapes, to the menacing silver balls that stretch all the way back to the original, are all entirely CGI; the three leads struggle even more so and the finale-style, world-ending plot-line ends up as a real mishmash of broken realities, as Coscarelli and Hartman attempt to solve the mysteries of the Tall Man’s world-hopping once and for all, with little success.

Overall, Ravager just feels like a very ambitious fan film, and sadly due to his eventual death in January 2016, at the ripe old age of 89, Tall Man legend Angus Scrimm is barely a presence at all.

Verdict: If you made it this far, it’s probably worth rounding things out and giving it a watch, but it’s a real far cry from the original’s spookiness, or even any of the ultimate badassery that followed.

Final call: Phantasm is a definitive must-see and Phantasm II almost equally so, but Lord of the Dead and Oblivion are really just for die-hard series fans, and Ravager is barely even that.

Film Review: The Transfiguration

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Originally published on Cultastic on 18/04/17. 

5-stars

Michael O’Shea’s stunningly original debut is a rallying cry to low-budget genre devotees everywhere: a clever, understated and socially aware horror strung together on a nothing budget, to maximum effect.

The Transfiguration takes roughly 90% of its classic horror callbacks and direct on-screen references from vampire movies, and at the heart of its own central drama, it kind of is one. A troubled young outcast, at the very fringes of wider society, cast aside by a inescapable thirst for blood. Sound familiar? And yet, Michael O’Shea’s winning new take is something wholly and unfathomably different in almost every sense of the word.

Probably the single, most killer twist of the lot is that O’Shea’s lead isn’t some cape-wearing 19th-century aristocrat; or a black duffle-coat-laden day-walker; or a red-eyed, sparkly skinned emo kid that can run really fast. There’s no fancy Victorian imagery, no wooden stakes or cloves of garlic; Milo (Eric Ruffin) is a struggling inner-city kid, who obsesses over vampire movies, and soon finds himself gradually turning into one, more in the mental sense than the physical.

Through a blossoming romance with fellow orphan Sophie (Chloe Levine), he starts to uncover the boundaries between the harsh realities of the outside world, and his own self-built fantasy, opening up into much more of a morality play than an out-and-out horror. O’Shea questions the real-world implications of the vampire lore we’ve all grown up understanding, unravelling, above all else, what it means to take a life for real.

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And aside from a slightly heavy-handed (but entirely witty) takedown of the film’s most obvious relation – Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight – The Transfiguration is so beautifully built and signposted throughout, you’d be hard-pushed to notice any of its mainline doctrine. O’Shea knits in everything from genuine social and human drama, to seriously riveting moral discussion without any sense of sugar-coating or even so much as a feeling that we are ever being preached to.

Ruffin is about as understated as leads come, just as desperate to curl into the background of the movie as he is to tell Milo’s story, shunning sentimentality for something far, far more difficult: real, earnest and delicately strung emotion. It’s much less a hero’s journey as it is a carefully sculpted portrait of a young person at odds with their place in not just society but in the world itself too. And in caving in the walls of hard-nosed genre, and combining it with our own everyday reality, O’Shea makes The Transfiguration as much a commentary on fanaticism as fantasy itself.

It’s a hard movie to sell; too deep and patient for a balls-out genre crowd, but likewise too dark and grounded in the horror world to be taken purely on dramatic merit; The Transfiguration has an unquestionably bizarre mixture of influences and on paper, really shouldn’t work. But in packing his own sensitive script and direction with not just soulful performances but a real thirst for understanding the very inner-workings of something as ingrained as vampire lore, O’Shea delivers one of the most fascinating and conversation-worthy debuts of the year, hands down.

The Transfiguration is out in UK cinemas from Friday.