Starring William H. Macy, Jacqueline McKenzie
Directed by Rob Bowman
Written by April Smith
Okay… okay… so I’ve been accused by some of being a King purist, disliking any adaptation that deviates at all from its source material just for the sake of the differences. A lot of the time I do dislike changes made to works of King’s that are arbitrary and pointless, mainly because they add nothing to the story. Stuff like changing Bev’s married name from Bev Rogan to Bev Grogan in the miniseries version of IT… When changes are made, if they are done with respect for the written work, I don’t mind them. I love Shawshank Redemption, and Darabont took quite a few liberties with that story.
My point is, as a writer, I may be prickly about messing with someone’s work, but if it improves the story, I can sort of see the point. Granted, I get pricklier the more I liked the original work, and I really liked “Umney’s Last Case,” which appears in the titular tome Nightmares & Dreamscapes.
Clyde Umney, played here by William H. Macy, whom I’ve always enjoyed, is a private investigator in 1940-something LA. Clyde is cut from the same cloth as guys like Sam Spade. He gets all the dames and fights all the bad guys. Every day is an adventure, a case waiting to be solved. At the very beginning of the story — and the episode — Clyde thinks that the day is so perfect it ought to have the registered trademark symbol stamped on it somewhere. And that’s what his whole life is like.
But as he heads to his office, things start to sour. George and Gloria Demmick, his noisy neighbors, and their yapping mutt, Buster, are curiously silent. Then, when he gets to his building, Vernon the elevator operator announces he’s retiring. This sets Umney off; he tells Vernon he’s not allowed to go anywhere, that he’s supposed to be operating the elevator, well… forever. Now, by this point teleplay scribe April Smith has taken several liberties… big ones… with the story. But I was still with her.
The opening sequence, which lays on the atmosphere with an extremely heavy hand, made me chuckle. Nonetheless, I was willing to give it a fair shot. So when Clyde enters his office and finds his secretary has left, leaving him only a nasty letter, I hardly even noticed that she cut out the scene with the painters… or the way she made the revelation that the building’s owner, Sam Landry, was coming sound so expositional on Vernon’s lips as opposed to the natural dialogue in the story. I still thought it was going to be okay.
Sure, it felt like we’d rushed through a whole lot in a short period of time. I was surprised we’d reached the point in the story where Umney and Landry meet face-to-face already. We still had almost half an hour left. I was a bit befuddled, wondering how they were going to pull it off with the rest of the remaining time. Unfortunately, I found out.
Apparently, April Smith saw King’s original short story as just a rough suggestion of what the episode should be about. Because I’m not talking about small deviations. This wasn’t changing Bev Rogan to Bev Grogan. This goes from Bev Rogan to Nanny, the Incredible Dancing Goat.
I am not a fan of reviews that spoil endings and give things away. I avoid doing that as much as possible when I write a review. But I have to do it here… because hopefully I’ll be able to save at least one person from watching this episode.
Once Clyde’s world starts slipping further and further down the scale of normal, he meets up with Samuel D. Landry – owner of the Fulwider building… and creator of the world. That’s right. Like a lot of King’s characters, Landry is a writer, and he’s written Clyde and Clyde’s whole world as part of his successful series of mystery novels. And he’s decided he doesn’t like his life anymore, he wants Clyde’s. Clyde’s life is perfect. Ms. Smith managed to get that part right, at least.
But while King has Landry’s life truly tragic (his son cracked his head, got a blood transfusion, and contracted AIDS, dying in horrible agony, after which his wife committed suicide while he retreated into the safety of his writing… oh, and then he got the shingles), Smith minimalizes everything. His son drowned during a pool party while all the parents were idiotically ignoring the children and watching a basketball game, and now Landry and his wife can’t communicate. Yeah, she wishes Umney were there because he’d know what to say and do and not just retreat into his make-believe world. So, Sam decides to give her what she wants… and get himself out of the hotseat at the same time!
This turns Landry himself into at best, an incredibly naïve and inept father and husband and at worst, a neglectful and petty little man. And Mrs. Landry is changed from a mother who lost her son to a terrible disease, her husband to his own world, and her self to despair into a shallow, petty schoolgirl with a crush on her superhero when Umney materializes in her pool. She goes shopping for new clothes for their “second honeymoon.” Oh, and then there’s the addition of the sexy young pool girl (aka Umney’s secretary, whom we’re supposed to believe Landry had some sort of secret lust for) whom Clyde chases around the pool, thus unraveling Mrs. Landry’s dream world and sending her swan-diving off a building. No, I’m not kidding.
At this point bumbling Landry, who has proved he’s just as inept and retarded in Umney’s world as his own, realizes what he’s done. Meanwhile Umney, with sex kitten pool girl by his side of course, tries to teach himself how to write in order to get back to his life and get his revenge.
Now, some of these changes I can understand… changing the way the son died, for instance… contracting AIDS from a blood transfusion is pretty unheard of in this day and age. But making the shift from a death that was completely random, a terrible accident, to one that was sort of an accident, but a completely avoidable one, was a very poor choice. It would have made more sense if the boy had caught some other uncommon but horrible disease. As it is, during the scene where the son drowns, I was staring in disbelief as a room full of adults completely ignores a pool full of young children – going so far as to have the sliding glass door between them completely closed so the pesky kids don’t splash any water onto the nice furniture. I don’t even have kids, and that just seemed like a stupid idea.
Now, I know some people are going to argue , “But, Morgan, sometimes when you adapt for the screen, certain changes must be made…” I know, I know. But look… she cut out Peoria! Peoria, who King’s version of Landry says is the whole key to him getting into Umney’s world and works vice-versa once Clyde is stranded in Sam’s miserable existence.
I could go on all night, really, about how much this adaptation deviated and how poorly the deviations served the story. It seems pretty clear that Ms. Smith didn’t feel it at all necessary to even remain faithful to the core message of the story but instead believed she had something eminently more important to convey. At least Rob Bowman, the director of both this episode and the upcoming “The Fifth Quarter,” made this trash look good. And the actors turned out a good performance.
But even William H. Macy couldn’t turn Smith’s sow’s ear into a silk purse. Which is sad. Because the installment had so much else going for it. Trust me… skip it. Read the story. It’s ten times better. Ten times ten times better. In fact, I’m look forward to drinking this adaptation out of my memory.
2 out of 5
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Through the Cracks – Trick or Treat (1986) Review
Starring Marc Price, Tony Fields, Lisa Orgolini, Glen Morgan, Gene Simmons, and Ozzy Osbourne
Directed by Charles Martin Smith
I have been a horror fan for more than half of my life at this point. Meaning I have seen most of the quality horror offerings under the sun. But that said, every once in awhile a classic sneaks past so we wanted to create this “Through the Cracks” review section for such films.
Case in point, I had never seen the Halloween horror flick Trick or Treat until last night. I know, right? How the hell did that happen? But these things do happen and so for everyone that has seen the flick a million times, this will be a review of the movie from a super horror fan that – at the age of 33 – is seeing Trick or Treat for the very first time.
Now let’s get to it.
First off you have to love the movie’s plot. Mixing horror and heavy metal seems like a given, yet preciously few films Frankenstein these two great tastes together.
Like many of you out there, I am a big metal fan as well as a big horror fan. The two seem to go together like chocolate and peanut butter. Or Jason and horny campers.
I dig bands like Black Sabbath, Judas Priest, and even those hair metal bands (Dokken forever!) and I’m well aware of the legends surrounding playing these records backward.
Off the top of my head, the only other flick that combines the two to this degree is the (relatively) recent horror-comedy Deathgasm. I say more horror-metal flicks! Or should we call it Metal-Horror? Yeah, that’s a much more metal title.
It only makes sense that someone, somewhere would take the idea of “What if Ozzy Osbourne really was evil and came back from the dead (you know, if he had passed away during his heyday) to torment a loner fan?” Great premise for a movie!
And Trick or Treat delivers on the promise of this premise in spades. Sammi Curr is an epic hybrid of the best of the best metal frontmen and his resurrection via speaker is one of the great horror birthing scenes I have seen in all my years.
Add to that the film feels like a lost entry in the Nightmare on Elm Street franchise. More specifically the film feels like it would fit snugly in between two of my favorite entries in that series, Dream Warriors and The Dream Master.
This movie is 80’s as all f*ck and I loved every minute of it.
And speaking of how this film brought other minor classics to the forefront of my brain, let’s talk about the film’s central villain, Sammi Curr. This guy looks like he could share an epic horror band with the likes of Mary Lou from Hello Mary Lou: Prom Night II and the Drill Killer rocker from Slumber Party Massacre Part II.
Picture that band for a moment and tell me they aren’t currently playing the most epic set in Hell as we speak. I say let’s see an Avengers-style series of films based on these minor horror icons sharing the stage and touring the country’s high school proms!
In the end Trick or Treat has more than it’s fair share of issues. Sammi Curr doesn’t enter the film until much too late and is dispatched way too easily. Water? Really? That’s it?
That said, the film is still a blast as director Charles Martin Smith keeps the movie rocking like an 80’s music video with highlights being Sammi’s rock show massacre at the prom and his final assault on our hero teens in the family bathroom.
Rockstar lighting for days.
Even though the film has issues (zero blood, a rushed ending) none of that mattered much to this horror hound as the film was filled to the brim with striking horror/metal imagery and a killer soundtrack via Fastway and composer Christopher Young.
Plus you’ve got to love the cameos by Gene Simmons (boy, his character just dropped right out of the movie, huh?) and Ozzy Osbourne as a mad-as-hell Preacher that isn’t going to take any more of this devil music. P.S. Watch for the post-credits tag.
More than a few of my closest horror buddies have this film placed high on their annual Halloween must-watch lists. And after (finally) viewing the film for myself, I think I just may have to add the film to mine as well. Preferably on VHS.
Trick or Treat is an 80’s horror classic. If you dig films like Popcorn, and if you put the film off like I did, remedy that tonight and slap a copy in the old VHS/DVD player.
Just don’t play it backward… God knows what could happen.
All said and done, I enjoyed the hell out of my first viewing of Trick or Treat. But what do YOU think of the film? Make sure to hit us up and let us know below or on social media!
Now bring on Trick or Treat 2: The Prom Band from Hell, featuring Sammi Curr, Mary Lou Maloney, and Atanas Ilitch’s Driller Killer from Slumber Party Massacre Part II!
Charles Martin Smith’s Trick or Treat is a sure-fire Halloween treat for fans of 80’s horror flicks, as well as fans of heavy metal music.
AHS: Cult Review – Clowns, Cults, Politics, and Peters
Starring Evan Peters, Sarah Paulson, Billie Lourd, Cheyenne Jackson, Frances Conroy, Mare Winningham, and Allison Pill
Created by Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk
** NO SPOILERS **
It’s here. We’ve reached the end. The newest season of “American Horror Story” has ended and now we are here to provide you guys with our season review of AHS: Cult.
To start things off let me say I’m not the world’s biggest fan of “American Horror Story”. It breaks down like this: I enjoyed the absolute hell out of the first season of the series (“Murder House”), couldn’t get through “Asylum” (I know, I know, I’ve tried), dug “Coven” for what it was, really enjoyed “Freak Show”, and again I couldn’t get into “Hotel” or “Roanoke”.
That’s the story of me and “American Horror Story”. Plain And simple. But what did I think of the new seventh season of the notorious horror anthology series? Let’s find out.
Back when the seventh season of AHS was first announced (then going by the title “AHS: Election”) I was immediately intrigued by the new season because I heard it would not include any supernatural elements. Like the fourth season, “Freak Show”.
Now I’m a fan of ghosts and weird creature-men with drills for d*cks, don’t get me wrong. But the series has thus far relied almost exclusively on horrors of the supernatural variety (other than “Freak Show”) so this major change of pace was again welcomed by this guy.
Instead of vampires, aliens, and witches this season relied on terrors of the mind. Psychological fears and anxieties. The horrors man does to man. Deep issues.
Oh, and clowns. Like a lot of clowns.
But just because this new season didn’t include anything supernatural, that doesn’t mean the 11-episode season wasn’t filled with twisted visuals and horrifically disturbing acts. No, sir. This season boasted some showstoppers including S&M, gimps, and a house of horrors that wouldn’t be out of place in a Rob Zombie flick. It was all good.
But let’s backtrack a bit here.
Allow me to rundown the season’s plot for those who may be unaware. “AHS: Cult” tells the tale of a world post-election night. The literal dawn of Trump’s America. In one corner we have Sarah Paulson’s soccer mom, trying to fight through life with a series of crippling phobias (including clowns, holes, blood, and being a good person).
And in the other corner, we have Evan Peter’s angry, white (blue-haired) male, looking to seize Trump’s new position of power to bring about the end of… Actually, I want this to be a spoiler-free season review, so I’m just going to say the dude’s got big plans.
Like Manson-size plans. Let’s leave it at that.
With these two characters established, the new season then proceeds to send them spiraling into a collision course of political sabotage, intrigue, and clown-based nope, nope, nope-ing that can only end with one – or both – of them dead as Dillinger.
Overall “AHS: Cult” belonged end-to-end to Mr. Evan Peters. The young actor has continued to show his striking range from season to season of Ryan Murphy’s horror show and this season was no different. Peters’ turn as not only Kai, the blue-haired leader of the titular cult, but as infamous leaders such as David Koresh, Jim Jones, and Charles Manson – to name a few – owed this season.
I can only hope he doesn’t pull a Jessica Lange and opt-out of more AHS next year.
Speaking of top performances, “AHS: Cult ” showcases some other chilling and memorable turns with Alison Pill’s strangely vulnerable, put-upon wife character being the best next to Peters in my eyes. This actress needs to be in more films/TV!
Along with Pill, actress Billie Lourd killed it time and time again. The “Scream Queens” breakout star and Carrie Fisher spawn was yet again a highlight in her second Ryan Murphy series. Bet she has the starring role in next season. Mark my words.
Add to that, the season also boasts a handful of fun cameos, including John Carroll Lynch’s return as Twisty the Clown, Emma Roberts as a bitchy reporter that will do anything to end up on top, and Lena Dunham as SCUM Manifesto writer Valerie Solanas. The cameo cast killed it and I wish they would have been present for more episodes. What are you gonna do?
On the sour side of the season, I didn’t dig Sarah Paulson’s character. At all. But I’m sure that was the point. Right? I’m still not sure. But, boy, I wouldn’t even want to be stuck in line behind her at a Starbucks for three minutes, let alone spend the better part of this season’s 11-hours with her and her whiny bullshite. Urgh.
That said, she pulled it out by the finale. That’s all I’ll say.
In the end, I enjoyed this season as much as – if not more – than any other of the series. “Murder House” will still no doubt go on as my favorite season of the series, but “AHS: Cult” will rank third after season one and “Freak Show”.
While I was on the fence about the season after three episodes, the show ended up ditching Paulson’s character (and/or shifting her arch) after a lull so the episodes picked up quickly. Whenever the season turned its focus back towards Peters (in whichever incarnation he was playing at the time) the show got better and better. Every time.
Not a bad way to spend my Tuesday night for the past 11 weeks.
Bring on season 12.
The seventh season of Ryan Murphy’s American Horror Story was Evan Peters’ show all the way through. The young actor pulled out all the stops time and time again to make what may have been a lackluster supernatural-free season a winner.
The Axiom Review – A Stylish and Clever Slice of Independent Horror
Starring Hattie Smith, Zac Titus, Nicole Dambro
Directed by Nicholas Woods
The Axiom is an ambitious, well directed, impressively acted and stunningly shot independent horror film that has just a few, teensy little flaws holding it back from greatness (and therefore will have to settle for just being really, really good, instead).
The first thing you realize when watching The Axiom is that this is a beautiful film. Everything is framed and shot in a lush and stylish manner, but one which is always tonally appropriate for the scene.
The second thing you’ll notice, and keep noticing as the film plays out, is that the movie really struck gold with this cast. Not only is there a total lack of the sort of stilted and unnatural acting seen in countless other microbudget horror affairs, but the performances are genuinely fantastic across the board. The main characters are believably chill and relatably normal in the early scenes, and the acting remains just as impressive once things start getting a bit more… intense. It’s not often that an independent horror film has so many good performances that it makes it hard to pick the movie’s acting VIP, but that is undeniably the case here. Taylor Flowers delivers what is probably the showiest performance (and does it very well, indeed), but the entire cast really is quite good.
The central premise of the film is both interesting and original, and touches upon the real life fact (given some recent attention in the ‘Missing 411’ books and documentary) that a lot more people sure seem to go missing out in the woods than seems reasonable, while simultaneously weaving all sorts of folklore, fairy tales and urban legends into the mix. It’s also clever in the way that it very naturally reveals aspects to the relationships between characters that serve to later – or sometimes retroactively – explain some of the more questionable decisions they make or attitudes they display. While that may sound like screenwriting 101, it’s surprising how many films fail to do this. The Axiom rewards the viewer’s attention in other ways as well, with many aspects of the movie that initially feel odd or unnatural receiving reasonable explanations (within the context of the movie) by the end. It’s not quite as challenging (or as rewarding) in this regard as, say, something like Session 9, but it does add a nice layer of complexity to the storytelling.
The film’s score, by Leo Kaliski, is also quite good. There may be a moment here or there where the music hits an overly familiar beat, but overall it not only fits the movie’s tone, but does quite a bit to help set that tone as well.
The only thing that I don’t feel the movie quite pulls off – and I’m trying to be vague here, because I feel like the less you know going into this film, the better – is some of the makeup effects work. The gore stuff is very well executed, but some of the other stuff feels like it was crafted with the intention of shooting it in a more… stylized manner. Instead, filmed as it is here, the result is sometimes less than impressive and can fail to make the impact that the movie seems to be implying that it should. And while some of what the makeup effects lack in execution is made up for with the ingenuity and creativity of their design, it’s still a bit of a shame when they don’t quite pull them off because, aside from a few niggles that I have with the writing, the effects are the only aspect of the film that occasionally fails to live up to the high level of technical proficiency that The Axiom otherwise demonstrates.
- Man, the acting in this movie is really good. The dialogue may stumble once or twice, but these actors always sell it anyway.
- Give back Mia Sara’s DNA, Hattie Smith!
- If you’re going to put your female lead in shorts this small, I hope you’re not sensitive to viewers unleashing a nonstop parade of “Has anyone seen my pants / OH GOD WHERE ARE MY PANTS!” jokes.
- “You just pop this here ‘Blair Witch Stick Person / Anarchy sign’ sticker up on that there windshield of yours, and them park rangers? Well – heh heh – they won’t bother you none, no sir.” Hmmmmm…
- The film really is shot amazingly well – better than a lot of mainstream releases. Cinematographer Sten Olson has a real future ahead of him.
- As does writer / director Nicholas Woods, for that matter. Any director who can get this level of quality out of their cast and crew on their first ever film is someone to keep an eye on.
- “I’ll make a run for it and get help,” says the female lead, and I’m like “Yeah, let her go – she has no pants to weigh her down.”
- The gore effects in the movie are both realized and utilized very well.
- Welcome back to horror movies, “I’ll be right back” dialogue spoken unironically by and/or to ill-fated characters.
In the end, The Axiom is a solid and entertaining flick that manages to wring a level of quality and originality out of the somewhat tired “Don’t Go in the Woods” horror subgenre not seen since 2012’s Cabin in the Woods. The cinematography and acting are hugely impressive, it features a nice, unnerving score, the premise is original and captivating, and the whole thing moves at a nice pace that helps keep the film’s flaws from dragging it down.
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