Reviewed by Debi Moore
Starring Kim Basinger, Lukas Haas, Jamie Starr, Leonard Wu, Luis Chávez, Craig Sheffer
Written and directed by Susan Montford
Distributed by Anchor Bay Entertainment
When he put up DC’s first news story about While She Was Out the other day, Butane mused about why we hadn’t covered it before considering it was coming out in a few weeks. He jokingly said it was because we’re lazy. I say regardless of why, it’s a good thing we kept our distance. This one should have been released around Thanksgiving instead of Christmas because it is indeed a turkey! Aw, look; I gave away the ending of my review already, which is exactly what the creative geniuses behind While She Was Out do by way of its elaborate setup of Kim Basinger’s character, the well-to-do but rather vacant Della, who happens to be married to your typical Lifetime-esque sleazy and abusive Kenneth (a sadly underutilized Sheffer).
It’s Christmas Eve, and Della needs more wrapping paper. After a tediously uninspiring 15 minutes or so of Kenneth yelling, Della cowering, and their two children (boy and girl, twins of course) looking sufficiently pathetic so that the viewers know they both have years of therapy ahead, she takes off to do her last-minute shopping. At first I wasn’t sure if she was actually going to the mall or running away from home, but eventually she does pull into a parking lot, where she gets extremely aggravated by one particular car that’s taking up two spaces. She writes a note, leaves it on the windshield, and goes on her merry way. Certainly you know what happens when she’s ready to leave. The recipient of her message is none too pleased to have been so insulted. And he isn’t alone. No, Chuckie (Haas) — yes, that’s really his name — is accompanied by his Asian friend Vingh (Wu), his Latino amigo Tomás (Chávez), and his Black homeboy Huey (Starr). A lone security guard tries to intervene, but hot-tempered Chuckie makes quick work of him. A silly car chase ensues, ending up with the bad guys following Della around an under construction housing development. The poor woman has no chance against these United Thugs of Benetton!
At least that’s what you’d think, but Della is no ordinary desperate housewife. She’s been taking a Mechanics class along with her weekly Pilates so she knows what it takes to fight off gangstas like these: a fully loaded Toolbox of Terror™! Della goes from timid victim to ninja in a flash — wielding a lug wrench like a seasoned pro with no remorse. Even so, Basinger is mostly believable and at times sympathetic despite her lack of any firm and clear direction. Our gang-bangers on the other hand? All four actors are painful to watch, particularly Haas. I can appreciate his wanting to try the tough guy role on for size, but the emphasis he places on every single swear word that leaves his mouth is rivaled only by Lindsey Lohan in I Know Who Killed Me. I’d love to make a taped loop of her “fuck” and his “cunt” for those days when I really need a laugh.
And laugh I did — many times and out loud — thanks to While She Was Out‘s horrendous script. I’m tempted to track down the short story by Edward Bryant on which it’s based. I cannot imagine it was anything like what I saw. Not only does our band of idiots spout such ridiculous notions as smelling Della’s blood, sense when one of their group has been killed, and use totally out of character college-level vocabulary, but (I’m not kidding) at one point two of them actually debate whether or not Della is wearing Chanel No. 5 perfume. They go from Keystone Criminals who are easily thwarted by wrenches and tree branches to expert trackers. (Kate from “Lost” better watch her back!) There’s even one point when Chuckie drops his bad guy persona and turns philosopher. At least he’s talking instead of yelling “Della!” over and over a la Brando’s “Stella!” But by far the most peculiar scene is when everything stops for a Goth music interlude of Vingh and Tomás paying “tribute” to their fallen compadre. I literally had no idea what was going on and thought two new people had been introduced into the storyline. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case; the audience and I were stuck with the same cast until the very end.
And what about that ending I alluded to earlier? During ten tense minutes right before the climax, I had a feeling that maybe writer/director Susan Montford was going to surprise us and take things over the edge into some really dark and twisted territory … but nope; it wasn’t meant to be. Things predictably wrap up just as they started: slower than molasses and duller than dust. If it sounds like I’m being unduly harsh, it’s only because someone obviously dropped a major ball with While She Was Out. You’ve got Guillermo del Toro as one of your producers; seasoned vets handling the cinematography, editing, and music; an Oscar-winning leading lady; and a co-star who has proven he knows how to handle himself in front of the camera. You don’t need to resort to clichés. With a concept like this, all you need is authentic dialogue and a plausible situation. Montford helped produce Shoot ‘Em Up; she should know better.
On the plus side the building site setting is fairly original, the kills are well executed, and Basinger still looks pretty fabulous. But that does not a good movie make. Is it a so-bad-it’s-good movie though? One that ranks up there with those cherished guilty pleasures we ridicule around our friends but pop into the DVD player when in need of a chuckle or two? By damn, it just might be! Let me finish changing the oil and rotating the tires, and I’ll get back to you.
1 1/2 out of 5
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Victor Crowley Blu-ray Review – Killer Special Features Make This a Must-Own
Directed by Adam Green
Distributed by Dark Sky Films
Like many of you horror fans out there, I was surprised as hell when Adam Green announced that there was not only going to be the fourth entry in his famed Hatchet series but that the movie had already been filmed and was going to be screening across the country.
Of course, I wanted to get to one of those screenings as soon as possible, but unfortunately, there were no events in my neck of the woods here in Gainesville, Fl., and so I had to bide my time and await the Blu-ray.
Then a few days ago, the Blu-ray for Victor Crowley landed on my doorstep and I jumped right into watching the film. Short story, I loved it. But we’ll get into all of that more in-depth below. For now, let’s do a quick rundown on the film for those two or three horror fans out there who aren’t familiar with the film and its premise.
Victor Crowley is the fourth entry in the Hatchet series, a franchise that follows the tale of a deformed man that accidentally met the wrong end of his father’s hatchet long ago and now roams the Louisiana swamp each night as a “Repeater”, aka a ghost that doesn’t know it is dead and thus cannot be killed. Ever. Well, maybe not ever. After all, Victor was supposedly killed at the end of Hatchet III by a combination of Danielle Harris, his father’s ashes, and a grenade launcher. Dead to rights, right? Not so much.
In this fourth entry/reboot, a group of indie horror filmmakers, lead by the adorable Katie Booth, accidentally resurrect Crowley just as the original trilogy’s lone survivor (Parry Shen) is visiting the swamp one final time in the name of cold hard cash. Long story short, Shen’s plane crashes with his agent (Felissa Rose), his ex-wife (Krystal Joy Brown), and her film crew in tow. Some survive the initial crash, some don’t. As you can imagine, the lucky ones died first.
Victor Crowley is a true return to form for Adam Green, who sat out of the director’s chair on the third film. As always, Green doesn’t shy away from the over-the-top comedy and gore the franchise is well known for. The blood rages and the sight-gags hit fast and unexpectedly. And, speaking of the sight-gags, there’s evidently a shot in this Blu-ray version of the film that was cut from the “Unrated” version released on VOD. The shot is one I won’t spoil here, but for the sake of viewing Green’s initial vision alone, the Blu-ray for Victor Crowley is really the only way to own this film. Don’t get me wrong, there are (many) more reasons to shell out the cash for this Blu-ray, but I’ll get into those soon.
Back to the film itself, what makes this fourth entry in the series one of the very best Hatchet films (if not THE best) is Adam Green’s honesty. Not only does he conquer a few demons with the ex-wife subplot, but he gives us a truly tragic moment via Tiffany Shepis’ character that had me in stunned silence. Her death is not an easy kill to pull off in a notoriously over-the-top slasher series, but it earned mucho respect from this guy.
Basically, if you loved the original trilogy, you will love this one as well. If you mildly enjoyed the other films, this one will surely make you a fan. Slow clap, Adam Green.
Let it be known that I’m a massive fan of fly-on-the-wall filmmaking documentaries. Like many of you out there, I find film production to be utterly fascinating and thus have grown a little tired of the typical making-of featurettes we get on Blu-rays. You know the ones. The director talks about his vision for the film, the cast say how much fun they had on-set with the other actors and crew, and we get cutaways to people dancing and trying to kiss the behind-the-scenes camera – all usually set to upbeat music.
While I’ll take what I can get, these kinds of behind-the-scenes features have grown to be little more than tiresome and superficial. But no worries here my friends as Adam Green has pulled out all the BS and given us a full-length, 90-minute behind-the-scenes feature called “Fly on the Wall” that shows it how it really is on the set.
Highlights include new Hatchet D.P. Jan-Michael Losada, who took over for Will Barratt this time around, who is little less than a f*cking hilarious rockstar, a front row seat to the making of Felissa Rose’s death scene, a creepy-cool train ghost story prank by Green, a clever impromptu song via Krystal Joy Brown (Sabrina), and a fun bit towards the end where Green and the SFX crew create the “gore inserts” in (basically) the backyard after filming. Good times all around.
The documentary then ends with the Facebook Live video of Adam Green announcing Victor Crowley‘s surprise premiere at that Hatchet 10th Anniversary screening. A great way to end a killer making-of documentary making his disc a must-own for this special feature alone.
But wait, it gets better. On top of the film itself and the above-mentioned “Fly on the Wall” documentary, the disc features an extensive interview with Adam Green called “Raising the Dead… Again.” This interview is basically Green going over the same speech he gave to the crowd at the surprise unveiling shown at the end of the “Fly on the Wall” doc, but that said, it’s great to hear Green tells his inspiring story to us directly.
So while this feature treads water all of us have been through below (especially fans of Green’s podcast The Movie Crypt), Green is always so charming and brutally honest that we never get tired of him telling us the truth about the ins-and-outs of crafting horror films in this day and age. Again, good stuff.
Additionally, the disc also boasts two audio commentaries, one with Adam Green and actors Parry Shen, Laura Ortiz, and Dave Sheridan, and another “technical” commentary with Adam Green, cinematographer Jan-Michael Losada, editor Matt Latham, and make-up effects artist Robert Pendergraft.
Add in the film’s teaser and trailer, and Victor Crowley is a must-own on Blu-ray.
- Audio commentary with writer/director Adam Green and actors Parry Shen, Laura Ortiz, and Dave Sheridan
- Audio commentary with writer/director Adam Green, cinematographer Jan-Michael Losada, editor Matt Latham, and make-up effects artist Robert Pendergraft
- Raising the Dead… Again – Extensive interview with writer/director Adam Green
- Behind the Scenes – Hour-long making-of featurette
One of the best, if not THE best, entries in the Hatchet series, with special features that are in-depth and a blast (and considering all other versions of the film have been castrated for content), this Blu-ray is really the only way to own Adam Green’s Victor Crowley.
Who Goes There Podcast: Ep 152 – Cloverfield Paradox & The Ritual
Last week Netflix shocked the world by not only releasing a new trailer for Cloverfield Paradox during the Superbowl, but announcing the film would be available to stream right after the game. In a move no one saw coming, Netflix shook the film industry to it’s very core. A few days later, Netflix quietly released horror festival darling: The Ritual.
Hold on to your Higgs Boson, because this week we’ve got a double header for ya, and we’re not talking about that “world’s largest gummy worm” in your mom’s nightstand. Why was one film marketed during the biggest sporting event of the year, and why was one quietly snuck in like a pinky in your pooper? Tune in a find out!
Meet me at the waterfront after the social for the Who Goes There Podcast episode 152!
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The Who Goes There Podcast is available to subscribe to on iTunes right here. Not an iTunes user? You can listen on our Dread Central page. Can’t get enough? We also do that social media shit. You’ll find us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Twitch, and YouTube.
The Housemaid Review – Love Makes the Ghost Grow Stronger
Written and directed by Derek Nguyen
Vietnamese horror films are something of a rarity due largely to pressure from the country’s law enforcement agencies that have warned filmmakers to steer clear of the genre in recent years. The country’s exposure to the industry is limited, but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t a handful of filmmakers out there that are passionate and determined to get their art out into the world. IFC Midnight has stepped up to the plate to shepherd writer/director Derek Nguyen’s period ghost thriller The Housemaid in hopes of getting it in front of American horror fans.
Aside from a few moments that delve into soap opera territory, Nguyen’s film is full of well-crafted scares and some surprisingly memorable scenes that sneak up at just the right times. For history buffs there’s also a lot of material to sink your teeth into dealing with French Colonial rule and mistreatment of the Vietnamese during the 1950’s. Abuse that, if you’re not careful, could lead to a vengeful spirit seeking atonement.
Desperate and exhausted after walking for miles, an orphaned woman named Linh (Kate) seeks refuge and employment as a housemaid at a large rubber plantation in 1953 French Indochina. Once hired, she learns of the dark history surrounding the property and how her mere presence has awakened an accursed spirit that wanders the surrounding woods and dark corners of the estate. Injured in battle, French officer Sebastien Laurent (Richaud) returns to preside over the manor and, unexpectedly, begins a dangerous love affair with Linh that stirs up an even darker evil.
Told in flashbacks, the abuse of workers reveals a long history of mistreatment that enshrouds the surrounding land in darkness and despair, providing ripe ground for a sinister spirit that continues to grow stronger. Once it’s revealed that the ghost has a long history with Laurent before her death, the reasons she begins to kill become more and more obvious as the death toll piles up. Using the real life history of indentured servants during Colonial rule, The Housemaid becomes more than just a self-contained ghost story, adding a good deal of depth to a story that could have just centered around a love triangle among Laurent, Linh, and the specter of Laurent’s dead wife.
Powered by desire to avenge tortured workers of the past and the anger fueled by seeing her husband in the embrace of a peasant girl, the apparition is frightening and eerily beautiful as she stalks her victims. One scene in particular showing her wielding an axe is the most indelible image to take away from the film, and other moments like it are what make The Housemaid a standout. The twisted sense of romance found in a suffering spirit scorned in death is the heart of the story even if the romance between the two living lovers winds up having more screen time.
The melodrama and underwhelming love scenes between Linh and Laurent are the least effective part of The Housemaid, revealing some of Nguyen’s limitations in providing dialogue and character moments that make us connect with these two characters as much as we do when the ghost is lurking around the frame. What does help to save the story is a well kept secret revealing a connection with the housemaid and the apparition.
Honestly, if this was an American genre film, the limitations seen in The Housemaid might cause more criticism, but seeing an emerging artist and his team out of Vietnam turn out a solid product like this leads me to highlight the good and champion the effort in hopes of encouraging more filmmakers to carry the flag. Ironically, the film is set for a U.S. remake in the near future.
The Housemaid hits select theaters, VOD, and digital platforms TODAY, February 16th.
Using the real life history of indentured servants during Colonial rule, The Housemaid becomes more than just a self-contained ghost story, adding a good deal of depth to a story that could have just centered around a love triangle.
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