Posts Tagged ‘R. Lee Ermey’

The Frighteners – 8

January 18, 2015 Leave a comment

Director – Peter Jackson

Cast – Michael J. Fox, Trini Alvarado, Peter Dobson, John Astin, Jeffrey Combs, Dee Wallace, Jake Busey, Chi McBride, Jim Fyfe, Troy Evans, Julianna McCarthy, R. Lee Ermey, Elizabeth Hawthorne

Release Year – 1996

Reviewed by John of the Dead

Horror consumes my life, but even then I have not seen every major horror film there is. The Frighteners is the most recent notable effort to be remove from such a list, and it was as good as I expected it to be. Michael J. Fox stars as Frank Bannister, a man who attained a unique ability to speak to the dead after the sudden death of his wife. Frank does not use his abilities lightly though, and has since become a con man who employs spirits to haunt unsuspecting / potential “customers” and leave them no choice but to call him to remove the “evil” presence. However, when a real demonic spirit invades the town and starts killing at will, Frank becomes the only hope in saving the living from the dead.

The story kicks off right away and gives you the impression that this is going to be a really scary movie, then you realize you are being fooled just like Frank’s “haunted” customers. It is then that you realize this flick is going to be more “fun” than scary, which I expected because over the years I never heard this film referred to as scary. The first act is highly comedic, with fun characters and consistent jokes for you to enjoy. These jokes come from both Frank Bannister as well as his restless undead companions, each with their own unique personality. Nearly all of the main characters was colorful in their own right, with FBI Special Agent Milton Dammers taking the cake as the most outlandish. He was written superbly awesome, in the weirdest of ways, and left me laughing in my seat on several occassions. During the second act the kills begin to hit the screen, with a Grim Reaper-esque being delivering death via squeezing the life out of his victim’s heart. Frank’s unique abilities allow him to see, in sequential order, who the demon’s next victim will be, but only moments before they are to be taken from this world. This gives him little time to save the person’s life, or even convince them that they are in danger, which of course increases the conflict and tension. A fair amount of kills are written into the film and paced at just the right times, but don’t expect much when it comes to gore. There is ONE kill that will leave gorehounds happy, which was added when the filmmakers realized they were going to be tagged with an R-rating with or without the kill. When the third act hits we are provided a unique development where Frank goes through a drastic measure to make himself closer to the demon. This was done because he was powerless beforehand, but now he can fight. Jackson and his longtime co-writer Fran Walsh include constant developments over what is going on behind the killings, and while not overly shocking I did find the revelations towards the end of the film enjoyable.

Jackson’s direction is as good as his writing, although if you are expecting this to be like his previous horror flicks, Bad Taste and Dead Alive, you are in for a rude surprise. He sets the fun tone early on with great performances from Michael J. Fox and his ghastly companions, however horror legend Jeffrey Combes steals the show as Milton Dammers. It was incredible to see Combes deliver such an odd yet wonderfully executed performance unlike any you have seen in his filmography. Several other notables provide supporting roles, like R. Lee Ermy, Jake Busey, and another horror legend – Dee Wallace. Jackson’s horror was good, and while not scary it definitely kept me entertained. I enjoyed the look of the antagonist and the kill sequences, while tame on the surface (heart attack via a squeezed heart) were executed in strong fashion. Sadly, the antagonist and everything that has to do with him comes via CGI effects, which naturally lessens the severity. The CGI was not terrible, but it was not good either. With Jurassic Park debuting a few years earlier it is obvious that good technology was out there, but it was not in The Frighteners. Thankfully, there is so much more going on in the film that you learn to forgive it for the CGI blasphemy. Just look at Peter Jackson’s works since then, his Hobbit trilogies are nothing without computer-generated imagery.

Overall, The Frighteners is a great 90s film that provides a fun story with great execution from one of the genre’s masters who has sadly refrained from returning. You won’t find many scares here, but this is a flick that you can enjoy with a group of friends.

Rating: 8/10

…Additional Stills…

Jeffrey Combs


The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning – 7

Director – Jonathan Liebesman

Cast – Jordana Brewster, Taylor Handley, Diora Baird, Matt Bomer, R. Lee Ermey, Andrew Bryniarski, Lee Tergesen, Terrence Evans, Kathy Lamkin, Marietta Marich, L.A. Calkins

Release Year – 2006

Reviewed by John of the Dead

I remember seeing the predecessor(in release date, not story) to this film, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre remake, back in theaters when it debuted, but I never really put much effort or emphasis on giving this one a watch.  I did enjoy the remake, but for some reason a prequel seemed like a dumb and cliché idea to me.  Well my curiosity got the best of me and thanks to a friend who had this one lying around his living room I gave it a watch and found it to really be much better, and MUCH gorier than I expected it to be.

In this film we follow Chrissie(Jordana Brewster; The Faculty), her boyfriend Eric(Matt Bomer), his brother Dean(Taylor Handley), and Dean’s girlfriend Bailey(Diora Bird) as they enjoy one last road trip before Eric and Dean are sent to fight in the Vietnam War.  During the trip they suffer a horrible crash due to an encounter with a biker, and instead of receiving aid from the proper authorities…they receive “aid” from Sheriff Hoyt(R. Lee Ermey).  Sheriff Hoyt takes Eric, Dean, and Bailey to his home where they meet his relatives, and “Leatherface”(Andrew Bryniarski) himself.  It is now up to Chrissie, who was thrown far from the car crash, to rescue her friends in an area where help is nowhere to be found, and cannibalism is on the menu.

Fans of the first TCM remake are sure to enjoy this one as it follows the same gritty look and tone, and also offers clearly the most gore of all the TCM films combined.  I was very surprised to see that this intense film was directed by Jonathan Liebesman, who just so happens to be the same man who directed the very poor film Darkness Falls.  How on Earth this guy acquired this gig after giving us Darkness Falls is beyond me, but for this film’s sake the producers made the right decision with Jonathan Liebesman.

Liebesman’s direction is what really makes this flick worthwhile because he gives us so many things to marvel at on-screen.  His cinematography, camera angles, and lighting are top notch, and his gutsy moves involving the trauma we see on screen are what really impressed me.  I really could not believe just how tense and gory this film was.  Liebesman did not shy away at all from showing us what “went down” onscreen, and I found much appreciation in this given the type of film that this is.  While is not as exploitation as the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre is, it still follows the same formula and that warrants this film to be as gutsy as it needs to be, and it was.

Story-wise this was not quite what I expected it to be, but it got the job done nonetheless.  From the way this flick was marketed it seemed it was going to really focus on Leatherface and how he came to be, and while we were in fact shown the origin of Leatherface this flick really was not about Leatherface.  In fact, this film is more about the traveling protagonists, and Sheriff Hoyt more than it is about Leatherface.  Personally, I was disappointed because I really wanted to see much more Leatherface action than we were given.  By that I do not simply mean Leatherface killing and doing what he is known to do, but seeing him outside of the mask and seeing him develop into the insatiable killer that he is.  Nonetheless, it was fun to see Sheriff Hoyt toy with the traveling “outsiders” thanks to R. Lee Ermy’s epic performance, which is pretty much expected when he appears on screen.  I swear, it seems every different role that R. Lee Ermy takes on is a role that he was born to play, and that is a testament to just how solid his performance is.  His character was well written, and in all honesty I feel that he was the real star of the film, and not those credited before him thanks to how the film’s writer, Sheldon Turner, portrayed him to be.  The rest of the film is the usual formula for these types of flicks, and involves our protagonists trying to escape the home while dealing with the evils that are going on inside of it, which included some pretty excellent and tough to watch scenes thanks to both great writing and superb direction.

Overall, this is a positive addition to the TCM family of films that thanks to superb direction and positive writing turns out to be one of the more horrific films of the past decade.  Leibesman’s gutsy direction will leave you with scenes that you will never forget, and watching Leatherface do his “thing” proves that his character has what it takes to stand the test of time.

Rating: 7/10

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