Directed by David Twohy
Distributed by Universal Studios Home Entertainment
When we last left Richard B. Riddick, he had just been set atop a throne that made him one of the more powerful men in existence. The intriguing antihero of Pitch Black, a convicted murderer who couldn’t give a damn about the universe, now found himself in charge of it. Of course, he also found himself at the mercy of the studio that had bankrolled that film (The Chronicles of Riddick), a shoulda-been blockbuster that tanked at the box office and helped to cool the career of the actor tasked with bringing Riddick to life.
Cut to nine years later, and we finally have another follow-up featuring the space-faring badass, played again with icy cool by Vin Diesel. But was it worth the near decade wait for this latest installment?
The film begins as a direct sequel to Chronicles, picking up with Riddick acting as Lord Marshall to the Necromongers (the powerful, Gothy warriors who served as the villains of the last piece). The power and pampering that come with being king do their part to make Riddick soft, allowing his nemesis Vaako (a briefly returning Urban) the opportunity to betray Riddick and leave him stranded on a planet seemingly devoid of life – save for any number of dangerous alien species ready to make Riddick their next meal.
The following forty minutes are fantastic, as Riddick takes center stage in this tale, nursing himself back to health and finding various ways to survive and adapt to his environment – even going so far as to adopt an alien jackal-pooch as a companion. It’s just a boy and his dog for the first act of the film, traversing the dangerous planet and taking out all manner of creepy alien creatures in their way. It’s a blast to watch and easily might’ve sustained an entire feature if franchise spearheader David Twohy only had more confidence in his protagonist.
Instead, Riddick eventually uses a homing beacon to call down a pack of mercs in the hopes of commandeering one of their ships and making it off the planet. When two different sets of bounty hunters arrive on the planet, the groups must form an uneasy alliance with each other in order to track down their prey, even as a larger, much more monstrous threat looms in the distance for every human on the planet.
If that final bit sounded like Pitch Black, that’s only because it plays out very much like Pitch Black. Like or hate Chronicles, I applauded Twohy’s ability to stray from his initial entry and create a wholly different tale for his lead character to romp around in. Unfortunately, while this newest effort starts off strong, Twohy seems to lose faith in the story he’s telling in favor of retreading previous events (right down to revealing one of the mercs as a relative of a Pitch Black character – a revelation that makes little sense when considering the age of both men involved). By the time the end credits roll, Riddick has made little progress as a character – ending the film very much in the same place he started out.
Still, for all that, the movie is quite a lot of fun. Diesel seems to have settled comfortably into the character, the mercs are portrayed by solid actors, and the action setpieces are quite good. In addition, the creature designs are all very cool (particularly the alien jackals and the film’s major alien threat).
Unfortunately, the visual effects are a mixed bag. Curiously, most of the creature stuff is solid (the jackals are occasionally a bit dodgy, but they’re mostly a convincing enough creation), while the backdrops look fake and flat more often than not (a couple of sequences involving jet bikes riding against the horizon are astonishingly bad for a studio movie of this scope). But again, if you enjoy the character and the world that’s been created over the course of this franchise, you’ll likely be able to forgive this film’s faults in favor of enjoying what it does get right.
Universal has brought Riddick to disc with a machete-sharp image and thunderous 5.1 DTS audio track. In addition to providing both the theatrical version and the unrated director’s cut of the film, there is also a decent selection of featurettes to be found. Included on the Blu-ray are: “The Twohy Touch,” a look at the filmmaker’s directorial technique; “Riddickian Tech,” which is concerned with both the technology found in the film’s story and the craftsmen and effects employed to bring them to the screen; “Vin’s Riddick,” which has the actor discussing his most iconic role; “Meet the Mercs,” an intro to the various characters sharing the screen with Riddick and the actors who portray them; “The World of Riddick,” which focuses on the various elements needed to create the film’s isolated planet and all the creatures that populate it; and “Riddick: Blindsided,” a Flash animation version of the film’s first act flashback sequence which finds Riddick betrayed by the Necromonger characters under his rule. This final feature is interesting, in that it features a major fight scene not included in the final version of the film. Overall, a decent package for a decent film.
As for the aforementioned director’s cut additions… the new cut adds around eight minutes of footage to the flick’s 119-minute theatrical runtime. Gorehounds will be pleased with some added gore and splatter here and there, but the real meat of these add-ins is found at the film’s beginning and ending. We don’t want to spoil it for you so let’s just say Riddick’s time spent with the Necromongers is more fleshed out than it was in theatres. Overall this is a far better cut of the flick, and you Karl Urban fans out there will be happy to hear that he gets a bit more screen time.
If you’ve never been a fan of the franchise, Riddick will not likely win you over. But if you dug either of the previous installments, chances are you’ll find enough to enjoy with this most recent adventure. If you wind up giving Riddick a shot, here’s hoping you enjoy.
…and here’s hoping we don’t have to wait another decade before the next sequel arrives.
The Twohy Touch
Meet the Mercs
The World of Riddick
3 out of 5
3 out of 5
American Psycho Meets Creep – Strawberry Flavored Plastic Review
Starring Aidan Bristow, Nicholas Urda, Andres Montejo
Directed by Colin Bemis
Recently I wrote up an article here on Dread Central which was basically an open letter to anyone who was listening called “I Miss Found Footage.” Well, it seems like someone WAS listening, as I was then sent the link to an all-new found footage film called Strawberry Flavored Plastic from first-time writer-director Colin Bemis.
The film follows the “still-at-large crimes of Noel, a repentant, classy and charming serial killer loose in the suburbs of New York.” Basically, you could think of the flick as American Psycho meets Mark Duplass and Partick Brice’s Creep. That, or you could think of it as “Man Bites Dog in color!” However you choose to label Colin Bemis’ psychological thriller, just make sure you check out the film once it hits in the future.
As I alluded to above, the film is basically a found footage version of American Psycho. But that said, the film sports a twist on the charming serial killer subgenre that I have yet to see play out in any of the above-mentioned classics. I’m not going to go into spoiler territory here, but I will say that the film introduces an element to the tale that spins it into much more of a character drama than a straight horror film. Not that there is anything wrong with that!
Truth be told, the film’s turn from serial killer flick into a layered character study might have been its kiss of death, but this slight genre switch is rendered a minor issue as the film’s central narcissistic antagonist is played by Aidan Bristow. Bristow is an actor you may not have heard of before this review, but you will hear his name more and more over the years to come, I promise. The guy gives (no pun intended) a killer performance as the film’s resident serial killer Noel Rose, and time after time surprised me with how chilling, charming, or downright vulnerable he chose to play any given scene.
Bristow’s performance is, in the end, the major element the film has going for it. But that said, as a fan of found footage, I was smiling ear to ear at first-time director Colin Bemis’ understanding of what makes a found footage suspense sequence work.
In Strawberry Flavored Plastic director Colin Bemis is confident and content to allow full emotional scenes to play out with the camera directed at nothing more than a character’s knees. Why is this so important? Because it keeps the reality of the film going. Too many found footage directors would focus on the actors’ faces during such emotional scenes – no matter how contrived the camera angle was. In this film, however, Bemis favors the reality that says, “If you were really in this emotional state and holding a camera, you would let it drop to your side.” I agree, and it is small touches like that which make the film feel authentic and thus – once the shite hits the fan – all the scarier.
On the dull side of the kitchen knife, the film does feel a bit long even given it’s short running time, and there doesn’t seem too much in the way of visceral horror to be found within. Again, graphic blood and gore aren’t a must in a fright flick, but a tad more of the old ultra-violence would have gone a long way in selling our main psychopath’s insanity and unpredictability. But all the same, the film does feature a rather shocking sequence where our main baddie performs a brutal home invasion/murder that puts this film firmly in the realm of horror. In fact, the particular POV home invasion scene I’m talking about holds about as much horror as you’ll ever wish to witness.
In the end, Colin Bemis’ Strawberry Flavored Plastic is a must-see for fans of found footage and serial killer studies such as American Pyscho, Creep, and Man Bites Dog. I recommend giving it a watch once it premieres. If only to be able to point to Aidan Bristow in the near future and tell all your friends that you watched (one of) his first movies.
Lead actor Aidan Bristow turns in a star-making performance in Colin Bemis’ Strawberry Flavored Plastic, a found footage film that plays out like Man Bites Dog in Color before introducing a new element to the charming-serial-killer subgenre and becoming more character study than a straight horror. Think American Psycho meets Creep.
Who Goes There Podcast: Ep 148 – Inside (2017 Remake)
We’ve all heard the old saying, “in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” Well, I’m here to tell you that’s only partially true. It seems there is a third certainty that had been omitted from the original quote, “It is certain, if you enjoy a movie, at some point someone will remake that movie.” Now is the time when one of my favorite movies gets reimagined, “for an American audience”.
In the late 2000’s an explosion of “French extreme” horror films was released. Martyrs and or High Tension can often be found on any number of lists of the “most fucked up horror movies ever”. Unfortunately, the vastly superior Inside is often forgotten (as well as Frontier(s), but that’s a whole ‘nother rant). Now, ten years after it’s initial release, Inside has been Americanized. Don’t worry, we watched it so you don’t have to. You’re welcome.
Mommy says you’re not dead. Is that true? It’s the Who Goes There Podcast episode 148!
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Totem Review – It’s Not Always A Bad Thing To Look Up From The Bottom Level, If You Like That View
Starring Kerris Dorsey, James Tupper, Ahna O’Reilly
Directed by Marcel Sarmiento
Following the untimely death of a family’s matriarchal figure, a young woman finds out that managing to hold all of the pieces in place becomes increasingly more difficult when otherworldly infiltrators make their presence felt. We’re going to have to work our way up this Totem, as
17 year old Kellie is the leading lady of the home following the passing of her mother Lexy, and with a needy father and tiny tot of a baby sister, she still keeps things in working order, regardless of the rather large hole that’s been left in the dynamic due to the death. Kellie’s dad after a while decides to ask his lady-friend to move in with the family, so that everyone can move onto a more peaceful existence…yeah, because those types of instances always seem to work seamlessly. As fate would have it, Kellie’s sense of pride is now taking a beating with the new woman in the mix, and her little sister’s new “visitor” is even more disturbed by this intruder – only question is, exactly who is this supernatural pal of sorts? Is it the spirit of their dead mother standing by to keep watch over the family, or is it something that’s found its way to this group, and has much more evil intentions at hand?
What works here is the context of something innately malicious that has found its way into the home – there are only a couple moments that come off as unsettling, but the notion of having to weave through more than half the film acting as a sullen-teen drama is rather painful. The presentation of the “broken family” is one that’s been done to death, and with better results overall, and that’s not to say that the movie is a complete loss, it just takes far too much weeding through at times stale performances and even more stagnant pacing to get to a moderately decent late-stage conclusion to the film. Under the direction of Marcel Sarmiento (Deadgirl), I’d truly hoped for something a bit more along the lines of a disturbing project such as that one, but the only thing disturbing was the time I’d invested in checking this one out. My best advice is to tune into the Lifetime channel if you want a sulky teen-melodrama with a tinge of horror, or you could simply jump into this one and work your way up…but it’s a LONG way to the top.
Sulky, moody, and ridden with teen-angst buried in the middle of a supernatural mystery – SOUNDS like a decent premise, doesn’t it?
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