Black Fears (Horror Noire, 2019)

Horror_Noir_PosterWhen you think of horror, it can often seem like people of color don’t exist. The Universal classics were devoid of black people. And even when they were present, they were violent savages (1933’s King Kong).

But Horror Noire looks deeper into the presence of the black community in horror films.  It is not really hard to find black horror fans today. And really, horror has a long history of popularity in the black community…but often with very different lessons.

The film opens by noting the most famous horror film of them all is a film a lot of white people do not often cite as a horror film.  But you can see why Birth of a Nation is truly horrific in its story and racist portrayals of black men.

Through interviews with writers, directors and many actors the decades of horror are explored.  Early on the documentary explores forgotten films from the 40’s such as Son of Ingagi by Spencer Williams (most remembered as Andy from Amos & Andy).

There is a heavy look at the 70’s with regard to films that came out during the height of blaxploitation films. While films like Blackenstein do not fare well, Blacula and Ganja and Hess transcend the genre.

There is a terrific statement in the film:

“We’ve always loved horror. It’s just that horror, unfortunately, hasn’t always loved us.”

The insights from actors in regards to their roles is key. Kelly Jo Minter, Ken Sagoes and Miguel A. Nùñez Jr all bristle at the notion that their roles were incidental. Of course, they were aware that in many cases they were the only people on the set of color…but as Sagoes notes, he was happy to have a check.

Horror Noire is a worthwhile documentary that I found fascinating and educational. I highly recommend sitting down for it.

As an aside…Jordan Peele…while you are changing the face of horror…please do not forget about Keith David, Ken Foree and Tony Todd.

Unfinished Business (TheProphecy 5: Forsaken, 2005)

Prophecy_5_ForsakenKari Wurher returns as American Allison, who is apparently a grad student, (Wurher is nearly fifty, so…progress?) is the protector of the Lexicon.  The Mysterious Stark has hired Dylan to kill Allison because heaven does not want the new information in the Lexicon to reach human eyes.

Dylan ends up helping Allison attempt to avoid death…and she also enlists the help of Satan again.

So…um, this film did not interest me much at all. There is suddenly a rule where Angels do not kill people. On the other hand, they revive the “Almost Dead Human forced to do an angel’s bidding” deal with the character of Dylan. Stark is nicely ominous, which is no surprise as he is played by Tony Todd.

But that is pretty much the only thing that stands out to me about this film. It faded from my memory pretty quickly and left about the same impression as it’s predecessor. Both films feel more like attempts to simply make a quick buck. Just as before, this lacks any of the deeper dialog of the first three films.

I had not seen the second two films until this year, and I cannot say they were necessary…granted, few films are “necessary”, but plenty are unnecessary but good or at least entertaining.  These last two sequels are neither.

Party Time! (Hell Fest, 2018)

Hellfest_PosterHell Fest is the story of some college friends who go to one of those Horror Theme Parks and find themselves stalked by a serial killer. This has been done before, but this film plays it straight. This is not a tongue in cheek thriller.

Natalie arrives to visit her best friend Brooke, who informs her they have tickets for Hell Fest, a massive and extremely popular haunted theme park.

Shortly after arriving, they cross paths with the film’s serial killer. Wearing a mask (that is revealed to be a common mask for employees to be wearing in certain sections of the park) he appears to pick victims by watching for those who behave jaded. If you make a big deal about how not scary he is… well, Natalie and her friends are there when he claims a victim.  And then he chases our six leads, dispatching them one by one and not being caught, because the rest of the attendees are assuming it is all part of the show.

There are some genuinely tense moments and even one of the better cell phone scares I have seen in horror recently.  At the same time, the film is not self aware at all. I mean, it clearly was made by people who understand slashers, but it follows the formula almost to the point of being a bit slow.

The film lacks the enjoyment of horror that the whole premise seems to need…it simply treats itself to seriously.

Seriously though, if I never have to hear the line about how Halloween is the one time of year it is okay for all women to dress slutty again, I will be so thankful.

Oh yeah…and filmmakers? Stop treating Tony Todd like a promotional prop. He is a great actor and deserves to be more than a movie’s “horror cred”.

Manimal Part 3 (Beastmaster III: The Eye of Braxus, 1996)

beastmaster_iii_poster.jpgSo, this movie picks up with Dar continuing on his casually nomadic life.  The evil Lord Agon is trying to gain the power of the demon Braxus.  He is living off the life force of his community and needs the Eye of Braxus to complete the process and gain power and immortality.

Dar runs into a family seeking King Tal and conveniently for them, Tal is Dar’s brother. He brings the family to see his brother.  Eventually, soldiers for Agon attack.  They kidnap Tal in their attempt to get the Eye of Braxus.

Dar and Tal’s personal guard Seth (who was in the original film) set out to save Tal. Along the way, they team up with the beautiful blonde Shada and the sorceress Morgana.

Beastmaster III was actually part of the Universal Television Network of the mid 1990’s.  But coming a year after Hercules and Xena, this film feels wholly sub-par.

Braxus, the big monster is pretty much Power Ranger levels in appearance.  It looks…well, pretty terrible. It almost looks like it is an extra outfit from the comedy show Dinosaurs.

This is really too bad because the film’s cast includes Tony Todd and David Warner, both terrific character actors.  Overall, this feels like a bad imitation of the Hercules and Xena model and nowhere near campy enough to work.

In the End Pt 5 (Final Destination 5, 2011)

final_destination_5_posterSo, The Final Destination was not the end.  Final Destination 5 tells us the story of Sam who is on his way to to a work retreat.  He has a vision of the bridge collapsing and almost everyone on their bus dying.  So he gets off the bus and a lot of his co-workers follow, as they are nearing the end of the bridge, the collapse starts.

What follows is the same basic plot of all the films.  Sam figures out the patterns, a few of the characters try and prevent the inevitable.  The film brings back Tony Todd, who shows up to be cryptic, but introduces a new concept.  If you kill a person who was not supposed to die for a long time, you get their years.  The film is the first where the characters do not rely on stories about flight 180 t fill in the blanks.


The deaths are pretty elaborate and the characters are mostly sympathetic in this film, making their demise less of a comeuppance.  As usual there are a couple especially memorable deaths, one involving eye laser surgery gone horribly wrong and one gymnastics themed death.

The film is a bit better than the previous two installments and it has a really good twist ending.

In the End Pt Two (Final Destination, 2003)

final_destination_2_posterThe first film was successful enough for the studio to produce a sequel.  They hired second unit director David Ellis (who would go on to direct a later installment in the franchise and Snakes on a Plane).

Kimberly and her friends are going on a road trip.  While waiting to get on the highway, Kimberly has a vision of a massive and horrific traffic accident.  When she blocks  the exit ramp,  people start getting upset and a state trooper starts to talk with her…in the midst of their discussion, the accident occurs.

In this film, everyone is aware of Flight 180 from the first film, allowing the characters to quickly come together and try and figure out how to beat the system.  There is some question for the audience on how much these deaths occur because of the characters interference (one character likely would not have died had the characters not called her on the phone and freaked her out).  The film brings back Clear, who has had herself committed, because a padded room is as safe as it can get (or so goes her logic).  Clear is the last survivor, Alex apparently dying between films.  She helps Kimberly and they visit Bludworth the mortician (Tony Todd).  He gives them some mumbo jumbo about new life severing the design of death.

The film culminates in an orgy of Rube Goldberg styled deaths.  Everything leads to someones death, until there are only a few survivors.  And this is what the franchise becomes from here on out.  Just how ridiculously elaborate can the deaths be?

The film has a twist towards the end tying back to the first film.  But the revelation does not really add anything to the story, other than, “Oh wow, they were connected to the original film!”  The film starts the trend of expanding the cast to allow for more death and mayhem.  Also, just like the first film, the last names of the characters are famous names of horror.

In the End Pt One (Final Destination, 2000)

final_destination_posterWelcome the the Final Destination Franchise, where a bunch of white people and one black guy try and escape the clutches of death.  This is both a joke and a fact.  There is one (sometimes two-one is almost always a police officer/FBI guy) black guy per movie.

Anyways, the film tells the story of Alex and his classmates who are going on a class trip to France.  While sitting on the plane, Alex has a terrifying vision of the plane exploding mid-flight.  He starts to notice all sorts of things occurring just as they did in the vision.  Panicking, Alex starts to yell that they need to get off the plane.  He and a few other students are dragged from the flight.  Angered  by being removed, tough guy Carter starts a fight with Alex, only to be ended by the plane exploding.

This leads to Alex being a figure of fear and revulsion.  His classmates are frightened over what he knows and how he would know it.  The night after the funeral, Alex’s friend Todd dies in mysterious circumstances, and Alex starts to see real patterns.  The only person to believe him at first is Clear (last name Rivers, 0i).  But as more people from the flight die shocking deaths, the others come around and try and find a way to cheat death.

The premise of the film is a pretty clever one, though it seems like they were not fully sure the nature of the situation.  Is death sentient?  Todd’s death has the most intense lead up of the film, where Todd is clipping nose hairs (which leads you to think he might get impaled) , then plugs in a radio, the whole time water from a toilet leak creeps towards him.  After he is dead, the water seeps back to the toilet, as if covering it’s tracks.  This is really the only time it seems freakishly supernatural.  Otherwise the deaths are elaborate but plausible as chance.

The film features Tony Todd in a brief appearance as a mortician who explains the movies plot fr the characters.  One gets the sense that Todd’s character was meant to be a bigger role.

Behind the camera were a few X-Files alum and they try and work their magic here.  The death sequences range from shocking to elaborate.  Overall, I find a lot to like with this film.  While the franchise is more of a guilty pleasure for me, this first film is one I found quite enjoyable.

Tooth Decay (Candyman 3: Day of the Dead, 1999)

candyman_3_posterCandyman picks up a couple of decades after the second film, where we meet Annie’s grown daughter Caroline (Baywatch actress Donna D’Errico) living in Los Angeles.  She is running an art gallery and allowing her friend to do a theme around her great, great grandfather.  She is frustrated that he chooses to focus on the legend of Candyman.

During the show, Caroline calls out to Candyman Five times, apparently, causing him to return into the picture.  She starts seeing visions of him, and he tells her she must believe.  While upset with her friend, she decides to visit him…inter-cut with her entering his apartment are visions of Candyman killing him and his girlfriend.

And so, Candyman starts offing Caroline’s friends, causing her to look like the prime suspect.  This has been an ongoing theme in the films, people keep suspecting the lead woman.  And it does not help matters that Candyman kills one of the cops.

All the films are kind of vague on Candyman’s rules.  While he has to be called by saying his name five times while looking in a mirror, he seems to get around and kill a lot of people who never called his name.  The film also establishes things like…bees can smash through windows.

The film reminds us of the backstory…with flashbacks that are in contradiction to the flashbacks of the previous film’s flashbacks.  In Farewell to the Flesh, he is stripped of his shirt, in this film he is fully clothed.  More noticeable, in the last film it all occurs in daylight, here he is killed at night.  The brief shots here have less of an impact than the ones created for Farewell to the Flesh.

This is not a particularly good film.  The script has D’Errico spending a tremendous (and ridiculous) amount of time screaming. And most of the acting is not particularly good, save for Tony Todd (as is expected).  In fact, the thing that really hurts this film is that anytime Tony Todd is not on the screen?  The film gets incredibly boring.

Not remotely entertaining, it is no surprise this film killed the franchise.



Family Values (Candyman 2: Farewell to the Flesh, 1995)

candyman__2_posterBill Condon (God’s and Monsters, Mr. Holmes, the upcoming Beauty & The Beast) took over the franchise with Farewell to the Flesh.  The setting moves from  Chicago to New Orleans just before Mardi Gras, and focuses on a young teacher Annie and her family.  Her father died the year before in what appeared to be a Candyman Murder.  Her brother gets in trouble when he threatens an author who wrote a book on Candyman and said author is gutted.

This film focuses heavily on the backstory of the Candyman as Annie starts to discover that her family has a deep connection to him.  Annie unwittingly calls him forth and he comes and speaks to her, killing those nearby.  He also seems to start influencing the children of her class.

There are some interesting ideas at play here, but  it does not always make a lot of sense.  Why exactly is the Candyman trying to kill his descendants?  Why is he seeking to destroy himself?  Does he not want his family line to continue?

Todd, as with the first film gives a dependable performance, imbuing the Candyman with a dark threatening and yet tragic nature.  But the film never comes together, and has a tendency to feel all over the place. While not a terrible sequel, it is not as good a follow up as one would hope.

Hooked (Candyman, 1992)

candyman_posterBased on a short story by Clive Barker called the Forbidden, Candyman is a film about urban legends.  Helen Lyle (Virginia Madsen) is a grad student who is doing a thesis on urban legends.  She discovers a legend within the tenements of Cabrini-Green of the Candyman.  Borrowing from the famous Bloody Mary, the belief is that if you look in a mirror and say his name five times, Candyman appears behind you and guts you with his hook.

As Helen becomes more obsessed with delving into the heart of the Candyman myth, she starts to miss signs that other parts of her life are falling apart…especially her marriage.  Her husband has an ongoing affair with one of his students.  Candyman seems drawn to Helen, and commits murders to frame her.

Candyman is a pretty unique film, as it focuses on black urban communities (as did Wes Craven’s The People Under the Stairs a year earlier).  The short story was set in England, but director Bernard Rose (Immortal Beloved) felt setting it in America would be a better and more appropriate choice.    And the setting of Cabrini-Green was a masterful choice.

The film is highly effective.  The backstory of the Candyman makes him and effective and tragic monster.  The son of a slave, the Candyman had grown to prominence as an artist.  He was renowned for his portraits.  He fell in love with and had a child with a white woman.  A mob chased him down, severed his hand, covering him in honey and replacing his hand with a hook.  As he is dying, he is covered in bees…ultimately dying from the stings.  This creates a powerful visual, as the Candyman is often covered in bees.

Much of what makes this film work is Tony Todd.  Todd plays the character as charmingly regal, yet very menacing.  Eddie Murphy had been considered for the role, but thankfully he was out of the price range.  Because Tony Todd makes the character work in a way few actors could have.  The film is definitely a gorefest, so the squeamish may wish to avoid the film.

Candyman adds to the pantheon of great monsters and is a solid fright film.

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