Clowning Around

Killer Klowns from Outer Space already sounds like an April Fools joke, but it’s a very real movie that I couldn’t make up if I tried. It’s a true old fashioned B movie that delivers what it promises. It’s goofy in a so bad it’s good kind of way. Killer Klowns from Outer Space features clown themed aliens rampaging a small town. Leaving a small group of over-the-top locals to stop the invasion. Klowns use every clown trick in the book.

Their spaceship is a big top circus tent, they use cotton candy ray guns, balloon animal hunting dogs, a compressed popcorn gun, living shadow puppets, and acid throwing pies. Since the Chiodo Brothers are more known for their special effects work, each klown has a funky design that will probably scare people with a fear of clowns. They all have distinct names, but none of them are able to talk. Just disturbing warped alien laughter.

As a PG-13 horror movie, Killer Klowns from Outer Space does get away with light blood and even a comedic decapitation. Although most of the town is killed or cocooned, almost every hero survives in the end. A sequel was talked about for a long time, but Killer Klowns from Outer Space is a rare horror movie with no follow ups to its name. So it remains a stand alone cult film. Killer Klowns from Outer Space is creepy and colorful at the same time.

Killer Klowns from Outer Space

Killer klowns from outer space

The Future Unleashed Everything

The Cloverfield Paradox is a paradox in and of itself. I could accept the vastly different 10 Cloverfield Lane as part of the franchise, because it was done so well. The Cloverfield Paradox on the other hand, is too convoluted, too confusing, and too overblown. Cloverfield worked as a found footage movie with a lesser known cast and 10 Cloverfield Lane worked as a confined thriller with a smaller respectable cast. The Cloverfield Paradox takes the opposite approach with a bigger cast of relatively well known stars set on a space station.

The international crew of Cloverfield Station consists of: Gugu Mbatha-Raw as a British officer who left her husband back on Earth, David Oyelowo as the American commander, Daniel Brรผhl as the untrustworthy German physicists, John Ortiz as the Brazilian doctor, Chris O’Dowd as an unfunny Irish engineer comic relief, Aksel Hennie as the untrusting Russian engineer, and Zhang Ziyi as an engineer who only speaks Chinese. Their mission is to activate a particle accelerator called the Shepard in order to end an energy crisis. Earth is shown sporadically, but most of the attention is in space. A lot of bizarre things happen when the Shepard sends the crew to a parallel universe.

That’s when Elizabeth Debicki comes in as a secretly evil Australian engineer. It’s not scary, just very random when people come out of the walls and severed arms move on their own. The Cloverfield connection is so loose that it practically felt like what Prometheus did to the Alien universe. J. J. Abrams once again connected it to a totally unrelated script called God Particle. The only clever thing about the movie was its marketing campaign. A Super Bowl trailer revealed the title and the fact that it would premiere on Netflix immediately after the game. Aside from that, The Cloverfield Paradox may have irreversibly affected the future of the sci-fi franchise.

The Cloverfield Paradox

Crew of the Cloverfield Station

Preceded by: 10 Cloverfield Lane

How Long Have We Been on this Rock?

The Lighthouse be a salty sea yarn that isn’t for everyone. Following the equally polarizing The Witch, Robert Eggers chose a tale of two lighthouse keepers from the 1890’s. Such a unique premise was inspired by the likes of Edgar Allan Poe and true stories where actual wickies went mad. I have no interest in lighthouses, but The Lighthouse is told in stark black & white and a claustrophobic square aspect ratio. The Lighthouse is so artsy-fartsy, it can only be the work of A24.

Like The Witch, I had trouble understanding the old timey dialogue and monologues through thick accents. I feel the aim is to make ye as insane as incoming wickies Ephraim Winslow and Thomas Wake. They must share lighthouse duties alone for an entire month. Robert Pattinson already made a leap towards bizzare indie films, but The Lighthouse officially shed his Twilight image. Willem Dafoe was always an underappreciated actor who deserved an Oscar nod for his portrayal of a crusty drunk sea captain with a farting problem.

I think The lighthouse is meant to be funny, but there’s elements of horror, psychological thriller, and even survival as a dark and stormy night approaches. There’s homoerotic subtext and parallels to mythology that I didn’t fully understand. The Lighthouse is also very surreal with non-stop hallucinations, angry seagulls, visions of naked mermaids, and deaths that may or may not be real. The Lighthouse leaves more questions than answers.

The Lighthouse

Ephraim Winslow (left) and Thomas Wake (right) stand at the lighthouse

Say My Name

Candyman (2021) is a pale reflection of the legend. I feel like I’m missing something, because I really don’t get why it’s so highly rated. The “Say My Name” trailer is complete false advertisement. Just like Halloween (2018), Candyman (2021) is a requel that ignores the events of Farewell to the Flesh and Day of the Dead. Although a fourth movie was intended (including a crossover with Leprechaun), nothing happened for over 2 decades. So Jordan Peele revived it as part of his ever growing array of black horror films. Except Nia DaCosta is the director. Since the movie is more black, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II stars as a grown up baby Anthony from the first movie.

He’s an artist living with his girlfriend Brianna played by Teyonah Parris. Vanessa Williams briefly returns as Anthony’s estranged mother when he’s slowly consumed by the Candyman legend. Despite a 1 hour & 31 minute runtime, Candyman (2021) feels endless and takes a long time to get to any kills. Kills are bloody, but not nearly as icky with no gross bee imagery. The tone is all over the place with an overly comedic gay couple, badly written victims, and high school mean girls with no bearing on the plot. Even though Candyman is a black slasher villain, the franchise was never exclusively black focused. Which is why there’s no reason to connect it to the original.

Candyman (2021) spends a lot more time harping on police brutality, gentrification, racism, and other social problems. More time is spent on another version of Candyman who lived in Cabrini-Green and handed out candy to children before he was killed by the police. It’s practically a remake, but I guess Peele wanted to have his candy and eat it too. Stories of Helen Lyle are brought up, but all flashbacks are shown in visually unique shadow puppets. Tony Todd doesn’t appear until the very end. Without him, Candyman (2021) doesn’t hold a hook to the original.

4. Candyman (2021)

Candyman holds out candy

Preceded by: Candyman (1992)

The Man in the Mirror

Candyman: Day of the Dead is dead on arrival. Any amount of dignity the franchise had is long gone in this direct-to-video third installment. Although it’s a direct follow up to Farewell to the Flesh, Candyman’s origin is reshot to be at night instead of day. Now Candyman’s legend springs up around Day of the Dead instead of Mardi Gras and takes place in Los Angeles for no good reason. There’s way more emphasis on Mexican culture instead of black culture. The final girl is of course the third blonde in a row.

Since the movie takes place in the distant future of 2020, Annie’s daughter has grown into Donna D’Errico. Despite the almost constant nudity, the former Playboy playmate never gets fully naked. Her acting is unsurprisingly terrible just like everyone else in the movie. Not even Tony Todd can save it. Caroline once again makes the brainless decision to invoke Candyman and has to deal with the bloody aftermath. There’s also a racist cop that she has to deal with.

Just as annoying are Caroline’s constant nightmares that remind me this is a late 90’s movie. Dead of the Dead is now your run of the mill gorefest. Bees continue to ravage people and his hook is always in use. It was already icky before, but Candyman continues to seduce one of his descendants. Only this time it’s his paintings that kill him instead of a mirror. Even though they once again go for a cheap fake out. There was supposed to be a fourth Candyman set in New England, but Candyman: Day of the Dead practically killed the legend.

3. Candyman 3 Day of the Dead

Candyman arrives

Preceded by: Candyman: Farewell to the Flesh

Sweets to the Sweet

Candyman: Farewell to the Flesh removes all mystery from the legend. Even though he’s a horror movie slasher, I never knew Candyman had sequels. Apparently Bill Condon was the director and more recognizable actors like Bill Nunn and horror legend Veronica Cartwright are it. Farewell to the Flesh is an icky sounding title that has something to do with Mardi Gras. The sequel inexplicably takes place in New Orleans despite Candyman’s strong ties to Chicago. His lynch mob origin story loses its impact when you see it clumsily depicted on screen.

His name is revealed to be Daniel Robitaille, he got the name Candyman from the honey that was smeared on him, and they even reveal why he’s summoned through a mirror. Aside from a less reserved Tony Todd, the only returning actor is Michael Culkin as the naysaying professor from the first movie. When he’s brutally murdered, another blonde final girl takes Helen’s place. Despite New Orleans having strong emphasis on black culture, Farewell to the Flesh is still predominantly white.

TV actress Kelly Rowan plays inner city school teacher Annie. She tries to clear her brothers name after several Candyman victims are linked to him. Like Helen, Annie foolishly summons Candyman and deals with the repercussions just like the original. The sequel doubles down on the unnecessary gore and gross imagery involving bees. Annie is later revealed to have close ties with Candyman, but I’m not sure I accept it as canon. There were several ideas for Candyman 2, but Candyman: Farewell to the Flesh should’ve been left on the cutting room floor like all the rest.

2. Candyman Farewell to the Flesh

Candyman crumbles

Preceded by: Candyman & Followed by: Candyman: Day of the Dead

Be My Victim

Candyman feels like a genuine urban legend. Like most urban legends, I never knew the whole story. My parents never encouraged me to watch Candyman, because it was too icky. I agree, but I’ve already seen the likes of Freddy Krueger, Jason Voorhees, and Michael Myers. Candyman intrigued me since he’s the most iconic African American horror movie slasher ever created. His original short story titled “The Forbidden” was the biggest stand out in a book by Clive Barker. Director Bernard Rose developed Candyman into something of a modern day Bloody Mary. Just say his name 5 times in a mirror and he’ll claim his next victim.

Candyman stands out for his long fur coat, bloody hook hand, and gruesomely exposed chest containing a hive of bees. Horror legend Tony Todd is a dignified menace who speaks in booming whispers. He was so dedicated that he endured several bee stings. Despite the strong emphasis on black culture, the final girl is married grad student Helen Lyle played by the caucasian Virginia Madsen. She researches the murders and graffiti linked to the urban legend with her friend. While also looking into the Cabrini-Green housing projects for a majority of the film.

It’s surprisingly tense, psychological, and reminded of Child’s Play with a strong emphasis on Chicago. Music by Philip Glass makes it feel more opretic. Even Candyman’s tragic origin as the artistic son of a former slave who was lynched after falling for a white woman is more nuanced than most 90’s horror movies. They kind of sacrifice a subtle tone for overly gory kills. Helen is made to look insane and I wasn’t crazy about a baby being put in harm’s way. Candyman is defeated, but Helen pays a terrible price. Candyman will be remembered whether I want to or not.

1. Candyman

Candyman presents himself

Followed by: Candyman: Farewell to the Flesh

Life’s a Witch

The Craft: Legacy isn’t as charming as it thinks it is. The original Craft gained a less than ironic cult following. As a Christian, I wouldn’t consider myself among them. Not that the original wasn’t well crafted for the kind of magical story it was trying to tell. So the idea of a remake sounded pointless for something that only came out in 1996. At least I thought it was a remake. Blumhouse only wants to make horror movies that are still connected to the original.

When the first trailer dropped out of nowhere, several scenes from the original were recreated. Specifically the “Light as a feather, stiff as a board” levitation and “We are the weirdos, mister” comeback. Until the trailer shows a clearly superimposed photo of original witch Nancy Downs. Fairuza Balk does play a part, but it’s clearly sequel bait. Since it was 2020, Legacy streamed exclusively on Amazon Prime with very little warning. If the original was a time capsule of the 90’s, then Legacy is a time capsule of the 2020’s (and not in a good way).

Director Zoe Lister-Jones fills it with everything annoying about modern teenagers. It doesn’t help that this coven of witches are obvious clones of the original. The lead outcast Lily is just another new kid in town. The difference is her stepfather and three stepbrothers who not so surprisingly end up being evil. The witches also cast a spell on a bully in order to make him more sensitive. The young cast feels very generic with David Duchovny and Michelle Monaghan being the only actors I recognized. The Craft: Legacy is only for weirdos.

The Craft Legacy

The sisterhood

Preceded by: The Craft

The Zombie War

World War Z is what happens when a zombie outbreak reaches a global scale. Zombie media was practically inescapable in the 2010’s. So I wasn’t exactly surprised when World War Z became the highest grossing zombie movie of all time. It’s both rated PG-13 and feels more like an action movie. I liked the movie alright, but I am curious to read the 2006 book World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War. Apparently, World War Z is one of the most unfaithful book to movie adaptations of all time.

The book reads more like a United Nations report with interviews from survivors of the zombie war. While the movie doesn’t lose its geopolitical commentary, it’s not as overt as originally intended. Though there are still plenty of uncomfortable parallels to the modern day pandemic. Zombies seem to appear out of nowhere, but some countries already knew. These zombies are fast, resourceful, and multiple by the thousands. Box-office draw Brad Pitt is thrown into the action as a former UN agent with a family to protect.

With his wife and daughters safely in military custody, Gerry Lane stumbles from country to country searching for answers and a possible cure. The most intense set pieces are a horde of zombies scaling a wall in Jerusalem and an outbreak happening on a plane. It’s almost enough to make up for the anticlimactic ending. Although it is unique to have illness be the cure, several rewrites and production problems couldn’t pull it off. World War Z is more brainless action than intelligent thriller.

World War Z

Zombies scale a wall

Murder Barbie

Freaky is too freaky for its own good. I never paid close attention to Blumhouse Productions before I saw Happy Death Day in theaters. I was so obsessed with Happy Death Day and its equally entertaining sequel Happy Death Day 2U that I would see anything from director Christopher Landon. The then titled Freaky Friday the 13th sounded promising with another high concept horror comedy spin on a popular movie gimmick. Much like time loops, I think it’s hard to go wrong with a good old fashioned body swap. The title was appropriately shortened to Freaky, but I started to have doubts after seeing the first trailer.

Critics and audiences seemed to enjoy it, so Freaky became the second movie I saw in theaters post-shutdown. A decision I regret, because I kind of hated the movie. Kathryn Newton as meek teenager Millie and Vince Vaughn as masked serial killer the Blissfield Butcher are the only saving grace. They swap bodies through a mystical dagger, but I feel like Vaughn is trying a lot harder as an awkward teenage girl. Newton’s performance is a little too subtle as the dead-eyed serial killer.

Unlike Happy Death Day, Freaky is R rated, reliant on meta humor, and PC to the point of feeling artificial. Millie’s friends call attention to the fact that they’re black and gay in a horror movie. Since her dad died, she lives with her alcoholic mother and police officer sister. Millie’s crush has no problem kissing her in a serial killer’s body and every other male character is either over-the-top evil or an idiot. Due to the R rating, kills are excessively gory and not in an entertaining way. Freaky squanders a fun concept and forced me to wait on a third Happy Death Day at the same time.

Freaky

The Blissfield Butcher in Millie’s body