Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Three Films Make A Post: The Meating Place for DISMEMBERS ONLY!

Kick Ass 2 (2013): Despite my general loathing for the works of Mark Millar (with some exceptions) I actually thought the first Kick Ass was a pretty successful mixture of sledgehammer satire, American toilet humour, and more actual human warmth than you'd expect given the source material's boring cynicism. Alas, someone must have drugged director Matthew Vaughn before he made the sequel or something, because this one's just a pale imitation of the first one, with at best two or three good moments. The rest of the film feels worn out, as if nobody involved had actually understood what worked in the first film, and now proceeded to copy the most obvious parts of it in the most obvious ways while suffering from a horrible hangover.

On the plus side, Millar-typical self-congratulatory cynicism still doesn't make an appearance; very much in the minus side, it's replaced with a treacly sentimentality that isn't made more interesting by jokes about vomiting.

Witchboard (1986): Just because I never liked his Night of the Demons all that much, i tend to underestimate Kevin (S.) Tenney quite unfairly. In truth, Tenney is probably one of the unsung heroes of 80s/90s horror, a guy who added a degree of subtlety to the expected excesses while also being rather good at the excesses themselves. Witchboard doesn't come down on the side of the excesses much anyway but gives Tenney opportunity to show off his skill on a more suspense than gore-based set-up. He also adds somewhat complex characterization (even of the kind that doesn't always feel the need to explain everything to the last detail) to a mix that wouldn't necessarily need it, earning actual audience interest in what happens to the characters.

There is also some choice silly dialogue, and a bit of 80s horror cheese to enjoy, so really, there's little here that doesn't provide a fun time. Plus, from today's perspective, I can't help but see the film as a main influence on Paranormal Activity, just made with verve.

Witchboard 2 (1993): Seven years later, Tenney's own sequel to the film is still a really fun and interesting effort, though the crazier parts of the original have been toned down a bit in favour of a kind of supernatural murder mystery. Tenney's still pretty good at that whole "suspense" stuff, and his script rather cleverly plays with some of the expectations built by the first film, as well as with the audience's knowledge of noirish mystery tropes. Even better, the characters are still more interesting than usual in this type of 90s horror, the film tends to show rather more complex relationships than typical in this context, and then there's the never stated but quite obviously implied fact that the ouija board's evil interest actually helps the film's heroine Ami Dolenz to become an independent person. Which, really, is all and more than one can expect from a 90s horror sequel.

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