Reviewed by The Foywonder
Starring Chad Matthews, Collin Brock, Makinna Ridgway, Amol Shah, Alma Saraci
Directed by Nick Everhart
I got an e-mail about a month ago from the director of 666: The Beast telling me about how he was brought on at the last minute to slap a film together and then offered to send me a screener stating he’d read some of my past reviews and was interested in getting some constructive feedback. That DVD never arrived. I don’t know if he forgot, never got around to doing so, or if someone at The Asylum’s office saw my name on the mailing list and said, “Oh, no! Not that guy!” If that third theory was the case I don’t think this review is going to do much to help.
666: The Beast is The Asylum’s sorta-sequel to last year’s 666: The Child, a cheesy Omen rip-off released to leech off of the big screen Omen remake that littered multiplex screens last 6/6/06. This follow-up is really its own beast (pun intended) outside of a few vague references to the previous film. I’ve been told that it was originally intended to be released under The Asylum’s new faith-based film wing (something I didn’t even know they had) but decided to toss in a little blood and nudity at the last minute to make the film more mainstream. Once again, this is another Asylum release with “UNRATED DIRECTOR’S CUT” slapped onto the top of the box even though the film’s contents would barely muster an R-rating as is.
The political arena that these adult antichrist films are typically centered around has been replaced with the politics of the corporate arena this time. Donald, the young son of Satan, is now a grown man working as junior vice president at some prestigious multinational corporation. The boy sure grew up fast in a year, didn’t he? He’s also developed amnesia. Donald doesn’t remember any of what went down in the previous film (i.e. everyone he killed) and or that he is, in fact, the antichrist. That whole bit about him having “666” on his tongue from previous film has also seemingly been scrapped. Donald’s happily married, his pregnant wife is due to give birth shortly, and he’s rapidly rising up the corporate ladder unaware of what his true legacy is to be.
All won’t be well for long because his Satanist boss and a goth chick seductress will help unclog Donald’s memory. Faster than you can say “Haven’t I seen this movie countless times before?”, Ian Ziering look-a-like Donald and his receding hairline of the damned is back doing what antichrists in movies like this do. Somehow setting up deals for Pakistan to take over the Israeli diamond trade will bring about world wars and tribulation that Donald the Antichrist will spearhead.
Meanwhile, a youngish priest who investigates occultist shenanigans for the Vatican seeks to assist Donald’s very pregnant wife; her own sister has fallen victim to some occultist shenanigans. Remember Charlize Theron’s character in The Devil’s Advocate? Kind of a similar scenario here, only she’s great with child – a child destined to be the second coming of Christ. Yep, Jesus Christ is set to be reborn and his daddy is the antichrist. Figure that one out, folks.
I don’t think it will come as any great shock to hear the finale is set inside a church where Donald’s wife is in labor as her husband comes calling to kill their child and anyone else who gets in his way, such as the Vatican investigator and the Mighty Morphin’ Jesuit Rangers – their acting so bad I’m convinced that they had to have been crew members who got pulled on camera – there to add to the body count. At least there’s finally some action occurring in this film and I must confess watching the clunky staging of this final conflict was mildly amusing.
To call 666: The Beast dead on arrival would be a gross understatement. There’s nothing wrong with the writing or the direction; every problem can be traced back to the plot being a snoozer. There’s very little going on and absolutely no suspense to any of it aside from a few failed scares not generated by a creepy old bag lady who pops up on the street to hiss menacingly at Donald’s wife every now and then. There are, however, endless amounts of speechifying. We get business talk, religious gobbledygook talk, and occasional family squabbling. Bland actors reciting banal dialogue does not make for a good time. At least 666: The Child had some B-movie camp to it. 666: The Beast is just a colossal bore.
I think the bigger problem with a movie like this is that the antichrist subgenre is even staler than that of the slasher movie genre. There’s really only so many ways that one can make a movie about the antichrist coming into prominence and pretty much all of those ways have already been done to death – no exception here. The only real twist to the proceedings is the (rather improbable) revelation that the Antichrist’s wife is set to give birth to the messiah. Other than that… I’ll put it this way. When you got scantily clad goth chicks conducting topless rituals and brandishing sacrificial daggers and drawing pentagrams on the floor, that’s when you know the well of ideas is empty.
I find myself looking back at something I wrote in an article last year talking about the then impending release of 666: The Child:
“Now if I was working for The Asylum and their investors came to me and told me to come up with a plot for an Omen knock-off I’d come back with something a little more inventive, something like a famous Angelina Jolie-type actress that adopts one of those third-world orphans that are all the rage amongst Hollywood celebs only to learn the little tyke is the reborn human embodiment of Ahriman, the personification for absolute evil in the ancient religion Zoroastrianism believed by many scholars to have influenced the Judeo-Christian concept of Satan. Why does it always have to be the Antichrist in these movies? Wouldn’t one of these films where the kid turns out to be the Antibuddha or something a little different along those lines make for a refreshing change of pace?”
I think the same could apply to films about the adult antichrist. It’s just totally played out. You either have to make a really smart thriller out of the retread or you have to think outside of the box and come up with a new twist to put on tired material.
666: The Beast in a word: yawn.
1 out 5
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Todd And The Book Of Pure Evil: The End Of The End Review: A Heavy Metal Massacre In Cartoon Form
Starring Alex House, Bill Turnbull, Maggie Castle, Melanie Leishman, Chris Leavins, Jason Mewes
Directed by Richard Duhaney and Craig David Wallace
“Todd And The Book Of Pure Evil” – Canadian television’s greatest blend of Evil Dead, Superbad and Deathgasm? Yes. That answer is yes. For two face-melting seasons, Todd “protected” Crowley High from episodic villains who were bested by metal riffs, stoner logic and hormonal companionship. Musical interruptions showcased stage theatrics like Sondheim meets pubescent Steel Panther and high school tropes manifested into vile, teen-hungry beasts. It was like a coming-of-age story got stuck between Fangoria pages – all the awkwardness with 100x more guts.
That – for worse – was until Todd fell to a premature cancellation after Season 2’s clone-club cliffhanger. Indiegogo became the show’s only way to deliver a feature-length finale, except to reduce costs and ensure completion, the project would have to be in cartoon form. Todd And The Book Of Pure Evil: The End Of The End suggests an animated curtain call for this otherwise live-action production, and from a fan’s perspective, familiar maturation follies befall our favorite bloodsoaked friend group. But for new viewers? Start with the far-superior original show – you’ll be lost, underwhelmed and baffled otherwise.
Alex House retains his characterization of Todd Smith (in voice only). At this point, Todd has thwarted the book’s apocalyptic plan, Hannah (Melanie Leishman) has died, longtime crush Jenny (Maggie Castle) isn’t as horny for Todd anymore, and best friend Curtis (Bill Turnbull) has sworn Todd’s name to Hell (since Hannah was his girlfriend). Guidance Counselor Atticus Murphy Jr. (Chris Leavins) is now Janitor Atticus Murphy Jr. because Janitor Jimmy (Jason Mewes) is now Counselor Jimmy, yet Crowley High finds itself plagued by the same satanic uprisings despite these new changes. Why is evil still thriving! How is Hannah back in class! Who is the new “Pure Evil One” now that Todd has denied the book! Welcome to the end, friends – or is it a new beginning?
At just north of 80 minutes, structure runs a bit jagged. We’re used to Todd battling one baddie over a half-hour block – backstory given time to breathe – but in The End Of The End, two mini-boss cretins play
second fifth-fiddle to the film’s big-bad monster (well, monsters – but you’ll see). A double-dose of high school killers followed by a larger, more important battle with the gang’s fate hanging in the balance. Not a problem, it’s just that more length is spent singing songs about Todd’s non-functioning schlong and salvaging relationships from the S2 finale. Exposition (what little there is) chews into necessary aggression time – fans left ravenous for more versatile carnage, underwhelmed by the umpteenth cartoon erection gag. Did I mention there’s a lot of boner material, yet?
These two mini “chapters” – “No Vest For The Wicked” (yarn demon)/”Zits Alors” (acid acne) – never come close to rivaling Hannah Williams’ doppelganger bombshell (“Songs About Boners”/”This Is The End Of The End Of the End”). Hannah [X]. Williams waking up in a room full of other Hannahs, emerging from some sleep-pod chamber; Todd’s gang facing off against this new “chosen one” in a way that erases “Sack Boy” and “Pizza Face” from memory. The End Of The End dashes dildoes-swinging into the show’s biggest mystery while dropping call-backs and bodies with equal speed – maybe too hastily for some.
Now, about the whole pivot to animation – a smooth rendering of Crowley High and all its mayhem, but never representative of Todd And The Book Of Pure Evil‘s very Ash Vs. Evil Dead vibe. All the practical death effects (gigantic man-eating cakes, zombie rockstars) are lost to one-dimensional drawings, notable chemistry between cast members replaced by edited recordings lacking signature wits. This isn’t Metalocalypse, where dismemberment and bloodshed are gruesome on levels that outshine even live-action horror flicks. There’s no denying some of the magic is missing without Chris Leavins’ “creepy uncle” overacting (a Will Forte breed) or the book’s living incarnations of evil. Todd And The Book Of Pure Evil: The End Of The End plays hooded minion to Todd And The Book Of Pure Evil’s dark ruler – less powerful, a bit duncier, but still part of the coolest cult around. Just try not to think about how much radness is missing inside hand-traced Crowley High?
It’s hard not to strike comparisons between “reality” and ‘toon, because as noted above, live actors are sorely missed in a plethora of situations. Be they musical numbers, heretic slayings, Todd and Curtis’ constant references to wanking, wangs or other pelvic nods (no, for real, like every other sentence) – human reactions no longer temper such aggressive, self-gratifying cocksmanship. It doesn’t help that songs never reach the memorable level of “Horny Like The Devil,” but the likes of House, Leishman, Turnbull and Castle were masters of selling schlock, shock and Satan’s asshole of situations. Instead, lines now land flat like – for example – Leavins’ lessened ability to turn pervy, stalkerish quips into hilarious underage stranger-dangers. Again, it’s not Metalocalypse – and without that kind of designer depth, a wall prevents inter-dimensional immersion into Todd’s extracurricular madness.
If this review sounds over-negative, fret not – it’s merely wishes of what could have been. None of this is to say Todd And The Book Of Pure Evil: The End Of The End should be skipped. When you’re already known for masterstrokes of ballbusting immaturity, metal-horned malevolence and vicious teen-angst creature vanquishing, expectations are going to be sky high. Directors Richard Duhaney and Craig David Wallace successfully service fans with a smile, ensuring that rivers of red scribbled blood spurt from decapitated school children just like we’re used to. It’s just, I mean – ugh, sorry, I just have to say it one more time. BY DIMEBAG’S BEARD, this would have been an epic live-action flick. As is? Still one fine-with-a-capital-F-YEAH return to Crowley High for the faithful who’ve been waiting some 5-or-so years in a Todd-less purgatory.
The Shape of Water Review: A Quirky Mix of Whimsy and Horror That Does Not Disappoint
Starring Sally Hawkins, Michael Shannon, Richard Jenkins, Michael Stulbarg, Doug Jones
Directed by Guillermo del Toro
“True Blood,” Beauty and the Beast, and Twilight aside, the notion of romantic love between humans and otherworldly creatures has been a popular theme throughout storytelling history. The ancient Greeks told tales of Leda and the swan, while stories of mermaids luring sailors to their lusty demise were met with wonder worldwide, stemming from Assyria c. 1000 BC. To this day, there’s Creature From the Black Lagoon fanfic that’s quite racy… for whatever reason, some people are fascinated by this fantasy taboo.
The new period film from co-writer/director Guillermo del Toro, The Shape of Water, dives right into the erotic motif with the tale of how Elisa (Sally Hawkins) and Amphibian Man (Doug Jones) fell in love. (While I personally could have done without the bestiality angle, I do applaud del Toro for having the balls to show what’s usually implied.) Having said that, The Shape of Water is about more than just interspecies passion.
The Shape of Water is a voluptuous, sumptuous, grand, and melodramatic Gothic fable at times (there’s even a lavish 1940s style dance routine!), but mostly it’s an exciting and gripping adventure, pitting the good guys against one very bad buy – played with mustache-twirling (minus the mustache), bug-eyed glee by Michael Shannon. Shannon is Strickland, a sinister and spiteful Cold War government operative who is put in charge of a mysterious monster captured in the Amazon and shipped to his Baltimore facility for study. When using cruel and abusive methods to crack the creature’s secrets doesn’t work, Strickland decides to cut him open to see what’s ticking inside.
Elisa, a lowly cleaning lady at the facility, has meanwhile grown fond of “the Asset,” as he’s called. She’s been spending time with him on the sly, not even telling her two best friends about her budding tenderness for the mute and isolated alien. She relates to him because not only is she lonesome, she’s unable to speak (an abusive childhood is alluded to – which includes water torture). Using sign language, she first tells out-of-work commercial illustrator Giles (Richard Jenkins), then her co-worker Zelda (Octavia Spencer), about the need to rescue her waterlogged Romeo from Strickland’s scalpel. Needless to say, it won’t be easy sneaking a classified government experiment out of the high security building.
The Shape of Water is vintage del Toro in terms of visuals and accoutrement. The set-pieces are stunning to say the least. Elisa and Giles live in cozy, cluttered, age-patinaed apartments above a timeworn Art Deco moving-pictures palace; Strickland’s teal Cadillac is a collection of curves and chrome; and the creature’s tank is a steampunk nightmare of iron, glass, and sturdy padlocks. DP Dan Laustsen (Crimson Peak) does justice to each and every detail. Costumes (Luis Sequeira) and Creature (Legacy Effects) are appropriately stunning. The velvety score by Alexandre Desplat (“Trollhunters”) is both subdued and stirring.
While the film is a fantasy-fueled feast for the senses, it’s really the actors who keep you caring about the players in such an unrealistic, too-pat story. Jones, entombed in iridescent latex and with GC eyes, still manages to emote and evoke sympathy as the misfit monster. Jenkins is endearingly morose as a closeted gay man surrounded by his beloved cats and bolstered by the belief his hand-painted artwork is still relevant in an ever-more technical world. Spencer is the comic relief as a sassy lady who’s hobbled by her station in life but leaps into action when the chips are down.
Del Toro cowrote the screenplay with Vanessa Taylor, whose credits in the television world are numerous – but she’s probably best-known for her work on “Game of Thrones” – which adds an interesting and feminine perspective. The story definitely feels more comic-book than anything, which is okay I guess, but I prefer del Toro’s deeper delves into history and character (The Devil’s Backbone is still my fave). But, for those who love del Toro’s quirky mix of whimsy and horror, you will not be disappointed.
The Shape of Water is a dreamlike, pulpy adult fairytale that dances on the surface of reality while remaining true to the auteur’s vision.
Secretions Short Film Review – Anyone For Some Blood and Guts a la Carte?
Starring Zia Electric, David Macrae, Chris Savva
Directed by Goran Spoljaric
Only a select few know the true horrors of one’s basement (hell, I’ve got one that floods regularly) – but in director Goran Spoljaric’s extremely “juicy” short film, Secretions – we see just what lives in a grimy cellar…and what it craves in order to sustain. Anyone have any sanitizer? We’re gonna need it for this one.
Alone and held captive in a dirty-subterranean room, a woman is literally fighting for her life, and due to her being chained at the ankle, it’s painfully obvious that she’s here for the long haul. On the first floor of this residence, a deal is being made, and it’s one that will either help or harm a hopeless addict.
It involves a little handy-work down in the basement, and although it might seem like a light job considering the circumstances…nothing is as easy as it initially looks – anyone for some blood and guts a la carte? The imprisoned woman contains something inside of her that is particularly satiating to the habituated, but it comes at a painful price, which begs the question: what would you risk to scratch an itch?
Spoljaric’s direction here focuses on the victim – and while you’ll probably be wondering exactly who that is during this quickie’s 11-minute duration, it doesn’t detract from its powerful display. Gritty, grimy and ultimately gruesome – these Secretions are the ones that simply cannot be washed off – maybe I’ll give a little turpentine a shot, as something’s got to get these damned stains out – YUCK.
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