Archive for Grim Reaper

The Frighteners

Posted in Comedy, Horror, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , on December 17, 2013 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

In 1990, architect Frank Bannister loses his wife Debra in a car accident. He gives up his profession, letting his unfinished “dream house” sit incomplete for years. Following the accident, Frank gains the power to see ghosts and befriends three: Cyrus, a 1970s gangster, Stuart, a 1950s nerd, and the Judge, a gunslinger from the Old West. The ghosts haunt houses in the area to accumulate work for Frank’s ghostbusting business; Frank then “exorcises” the houses for a fee. Most locals see him as a con man.

Frank cons local health nut Ray Lynskey and his wife Lucy, a physician. Ray dies of a heart attack not long after. An encounter with his ghost leads Frank to discover that an entity representing himself as the Grim Reaper is killing people and marking numbers on their foreheads that only the psychic can see. Frank’s wife Debra had a similar number when she was found.

Because Frank can see the numbers ahead of time, he can foretell the murders, but this puts him under suspicion with the police, even Sheriff Walt Perry, who is usually patient with Frank. He calls in FBI agent Milton Dammers. Highly paranoid, obsessive and disturbed from years of undercover work, Dammers is convinced that Frank is psychically responsible for the killings. Frank is captured and detained after the town’s newspaper editor-in-chief Magda Rees-Jones is killed – she has previously publishing articles attacking him. During the confusion of the arrest, the Judge “dies” when he tries to protect Frank from the Reaper.

Lucy investigates the murders and becomes a target of the Grim Reaper. She is attacked while visiting Frank in jail, but they escape with the help of Cyrus and Stuart, who are both dissolved in the process. Frank wants to commit suicide to stop the Grim Reaper. Lucy helps Frank have a near-death experience by putting him into hypothermia and using barbiturates to stop his heart. Dammers abducts Lucy revealing that he had been a victim of Charles Manson and his “Family” in 1969.

In his ghostly form, Frank confronts the Grim Reaper and discovers that he is the ghost of Johnny Bartlett, a psychiatric hospital orderly who killed 12 people about 32 years earlier, before being captured, convicted, and executed. Patricia Bradley, then a teenager, was accused as his accomplice, although she escaped the death penalty due to her underage status. Lucy resuscitates Frank and they visit Patricia. Unknown to them, Patricia is still in love with Bartlett and on friendly, homicidal terms with Bartlett’s ghost. Lucy and Frank trap Bartlett’s spirit in his urn, which Patricia has kept. The pair make for the chapel of the now-abandoned psychiatric hospital hoping to send Bartlett’s ghost to Hell.

Patricia and Dammers chase them through the ruins. Dammers throws the ashes away, releasing Bartlett’s ghost again before Patricia kills him. Bartlett’s ghost and Patricia hunt down Frank and Lucy. Frank realizes that Bartlett’s ghost, with Patricia’s help, was responsible for his wife’s death and the number on her brow.

Out of bullets, Patricia strangles Frank to death, but Frank in spirit form rips Patricia’s spirit from her body, forcing Bartlett to follow them. Bartlett grabs Patricia’s ghost, while Frank makes it to Heaven, where he is reunited with Cyrus and Stuart along with his wife Debra. Bartlett and Patricia’s spirits claim they will now go back to claim more lives, but the portal to Heaven quickly changes to a demonic looking appearance, and they are both dragged to Hell. Frank learns it is not yet his time and is sent back to his body, as Debra’s spirit tells him to “be happy.”

Frank and Lucy fall in love. Lucy is now able to see ghosts as well. Frank later begins demolishing the unfinished dream house and building a life with Lucy while the ghost of Dammers is riding around in the sheriff’s car.

REVIEW:

A couple of years ago, AMC was showing The Frighteners as part of some scary marathon they were having at a time that wasn’t Halloween. I can’t remember what else was shown, but I know that Fright Night was shown either before or after this. I didn’t get the chance to watch for whatever reason, but I did say I was going to eventually get to it and, well, you get the picture.

What is this about?

Blending humor and horror, director Peter Jackson’s outlandish tale centers on shady psychic detective Frank Bannister (Michael J. Fox), who uses his ability to communicate with the dead to boost his business. But when a sinister spirit is unleashed and members of the community are mysteriously killed, the P.I. — with the help of a comely widow (Trini Alvarado) — must use his powers to get to the bottom of the supernatural slayings.

What did I like?

Balance. Horror comedies seem to be the type of films that everyone either love or hate, depending on if they swing toward the horror or comedy side of thing more. In this case, I believe we have a good balance between the two genres in this film, thanks to some good performances from the cast and decent direction from those on the other side of the camera.

Question. As the paranoid FBI agent, Jeffrey Combs is great. He actually reminds me of some shifty gangster turned stool pigeon from those old gangster movies, but that may be because of the hair. I wonder if he used this character as a basis for his voicing of The Question in Justice League Unlimited years later, because they have very similar timbres, except Questions isn’t insane…at least not in the same way.

Plot. I’m a little shaky as to my opinion on the plot, but if it gives an excuse to have a bunch of ghosts running around, then you can’t really complain, I suppose. The way the film climaxes is pretty nice. As a matter of fact that whole final sequence in the asylum (when did asylums become so scary, btw?) is a big payoff with all the shooting, stabbing, falling elevators, decaying floors and whatnot.

What didn’t I like?

Length. Can this be? Peter Jackson directed a film that was under 3 hrs? Even better, it doesn’t have that stretched out, padded feeling. Or does it? For me, at nearly 2 hrs, I felt this was a bit too long. Cut out a good 15-30 minutes and this would have been just fine, but that didn’t happen and we get this. I suppose it could be worse, though.

Newspaper. There seems to be some animosity between Michael J. Fox’s character and the editor of the local paper. At a couple of points in the film, I thought she was going to have something to do with the murders, or at least come back as a ghost the way the husband did earlier in the film.

Effects. For 1996, these aren’t exactly bad effects, but the Grim Reaper stuff still seemed rather cheap. Maybe I’m looking at it through modern eyes, but that whole computer grease look didn’t work, especially since a few years earlier liquid metal was done so convincingly in Terminator 2: Judgement Day, a technique that still stands up here in 2013, so there’s no excuse!

Now that I’ve watched both, I can say without a doubt that this was a heavy influence on Paranorman. With a title like The Frighteners, the movie poster, and the way a good 60% of this flick play out, one would think is it some truly scary film, but it isn’t. As a matter of fact, this is one of those Halloween party films you put in while your guests are arriving, so that you can warm up before the scary “main event” films. That being said, for what it is, this isn’t a bad film at all. I just feel it needs a little work to be better. Does that mean I don’t like it? Of course not! As a matter of fact, I actually recommend it, so give it a go, eh?

3 1/2 out of 5 stars

Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey

Posted in Comedy, Movie Reviews, Sci-Fi/Fantasy with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 22, 2009 by Mystery Man

PLOT:

The movie opens in the future, where Chuck De Nomolos (Joss Ackland) steals a time traveling phone booth, and then sends robotic duplicates of Bill (Alex Winter) and Ted (Keanu Reeves) back to the past to prevent their band Wyld Stallyns from winning the Fourth Annual San DimasBattle of the Bands, and thus removing their influence on history. Rufus (George Carlin) attempts to stop De Nomolos’ plan but ends up lost in time. In the present, Bill and Ted struggle with their band Wyld Stallyns; while former 15th-century princesses and current fiancées Elizabeth (Annette Azcuy) and Joanna (Sarah Trigger) have become skilled on their instruments, Bill and Ted are still inept. De Nomolos’ clones capture Bill and Ted, and kill the pair by throwing them over a cliff, then take over their lives, including ruining their relationships with the princesses.

The real Bill and Ted find themselves facing Death (William Sadler), the Grim Reaper, who challenges them to a game for their souls. They realize they have no chance of defeating him, and instead give Death a “melvin” and flee. Bill and Ted try to find someone that can help them in their ethereal state, first by possessing Ted’s father, Captain Logan (Hal Landon Jr.) — “I totally possessed my Dad!” — and another police officer, and then by trying to call out at a séance held by Ted’s stepmother Missy (Amy Stock-Poynton). However, at the séance, they are mistaken for evil spirits and cast down into Hell. The two are sentenced by Satan (voiced by Frank Welker) and forced to live their own personal versions of Hell. The two realize their only means of escape is to play the Reaper in a game for their souls.

The Reaper brings them out of Hell, and lets them decide which game to play. The pair select several games, including Battleship, Clue, electric football, and Twister, each time winning and requiring the Reaper to insist on a rematch. Eventually the Reaper acquiesces and lets the pair command him. Bill and Ted realize that the only way to face their robotic counterparts and get to the Battle of the Bands is to find the smartest being alive to build them a more powerful set of robots. The Reaper takes them to Heaven and introduces him to Station (also voiced by Frank Welker), an alien that is able to split itself into two smaller versions of itself. The group returns to present-day Earth, and gather the necessary parts for Station at the local hardware store. As they race to the Battle of the Bands, Station completes powerful robotic versions of Bill and Ted. Station’s robots are able to defeat De Nomolos’ clones before Wyld Stallyns are due to take the stage. De Nomolosarrives from the future in the time machine, intent on defeating the band himself over a worldwide television broadcast, but Bill and Ted are able to get the upper hand with their friends’ help. Rufus, who was able to return to the future and then travel to the present, helps to secure De Nomolos while encouraging Bill and Ted to get on stage and play.

As Bill and Ted reunite withtheir fiancées and prepare to play, they realize that their musical skills still are lacking, and the four of them disappear briefly in the time machine, reappearing moments later but aged several months; during their time, they have not only learned how to skillfully play their instruments but both couples have married and born a child. Wyld Stallyns, joined by both the Reaper and Station, play their world-changing music to a global television audience thanks to De Nomolos’ interference. During the end credits, fictional newspaper and magazine articles describe the worldwide impact of the Stallyns’ music towards the Utopian future.

REVIEW:

If ever there was a reason to despise sequels, this is it. Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey is an insult to its predecessor, Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure. While the first film may have been cheesy 80s fun, this one is nothing but a string of bad comic scenarios that attempt to form a story and fail.

The principle characters return from the first film, which is a good thing, but Rufus is nothing more than a glorified cameo and the “Princess babes”, who you would think would have more screentime, are doing what princesses seem to do best, which is get captured.

Death, played by William Sadler is actually the best character in the film. He starts off as  your typical Grim Reaper, but as the film progresses and the audience gets to know him, he becomes, dare I say it, human.

The evil robot version of Bill & Ted are just unfathomable and a major reason this film doesn’t work. You could very well say they are a metaphor for how bad this film is compared to the first.

Normally, a villain has something to do with the plot, unless of course they are Emperor Palpatine or Galactus. De Nomolos is nowhere near either of those, and its not really clear what his motives are for causing all this ruckus. All we know is that he taught Rufus. I guess teachers can be great villains, but this guy is no one of them.

Station is pretty cool, especially when they become one and start building stuff at light speed, but they seem kinda forced in there to add som sort of special creature to the mix. For what reason, I don’t know, though.

The scenes in heaven and hell were pretty cool. I happened to think the heaven scene was reminiscent of their visit to the future in the previous film.

Now, don’t get me wrong, you should see this once. It’s not as bad as I seem to be making it sound, but it isn’t that great, either. The filmmakers behind this apparently did this to capitalize on Keanu’s ever growing popularity (at the time) and to make some cash, an didn’t take the time to write a good story. The result is this sub par film that didn’t need to be made. There was a Saturday morning cartoon of Bill & Ted. This could have been an episode.

2 1/2 out of 5 stars

Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life

Posted in Comedy, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 1, 2009 by Mystery Man

PLOT:

The film is divided into chapters, though the chapters themselves often contain several more-or-less unconnected sketches.

  • The Crimson Permanent Assurance, a lengthy introductory film directed by Terry Gilliam. In a satire on globalization, elderly office clerks rebel against their cold, efficient corporate masters at ‘The Permanent Assurance Company’, commandeer their building and turn it into a pirate ship, raiding financial districts in numerous big cities – before falling off the edge of the world.
  • The film proper opens with the six Pythons playing animated fish in a tank, who engage in a brief philosophical conversation. The opening credits then roll.
  • “Part I: The Miracle Of Birth”, comes in two parts. The first involves a woman in labour who is ignored by doctors (Cleese and Chapman), nurses, and eventually the hospital’s administrator (Palin) as they drag in more and more elaborate equipment, including their pride and joy, “the machine that goes PING!”. The second part, subtitled “The Third World”, is set in Yorkshire. It depicts a Roman Catholic couple (Palin and Jones as husband and wife), who can no longer afford to feed their 63 children, a number that has arisen because their religion forbids birth control. They are forced to sell their many offspring for medical experiments. The skit culminates in the musical number “Every Sperm is Sacred”. This satire on the Catholic Church’s attitudes toward contraception and masturbation is followed by one on Protestants: Chapman plays the husband of the household next door, who lectures his wife on their church’s tolerance toward having intercourse for fun, although his frustrated spouse (Idle) points out that they never do.
  • “Part II: Growth And Learning” features a group of public schoolboys attending an Anglican church service (conducted by Palin), which commences with an invented and obscure reading from the Old Testament, followed by a hymn entitled “Oh Lord, Please Don’t Burn Us”. In a subsequent class, they watch in boredom as their teacher (Cleese) gives a sex education lesson, by physically demonstrating techniques with his wife (played by Patricia Quinn). Later, we see a rugby match of students vs. teachers, the ending of which overtly segues into a battlefield in the middle of a war.
  • In “Part III: Fighting Each Other”, a First World War officer (Jones) attempting to rally his men to find cover during an attack is hindered by their insistence on celebrating his birthday, complete with presents and cake. This leads into a lecture on the positive qualities of the military, and a drill sergeant (Palin) trying to lead his men marching up and down the square. There follows a long sketch set during the 1879 Anglo-Zulu War in Natal, in which a decimating attack by Zulus is dismissed in lieu of a far more pressing matter: One of the officers (Idle) has had his leg stolen during the night. The military doctor (Chapman) hypothesizes that a tiger might be the perpetrator (despite the African setting). To recover the leg, a hunting party is formed, which later encounters two suspicious men dressed as two halves of a tiger suit, who attempt to assert their innocence in the matter through a succession of increasingly feeble excuses as to why they are dressed as a tiger.
  • “The Middle Of The Film” is extremely surreal. Introduced by Gilliam dressed as a black man, the viewer is invited to play (by Palin, in drag) “Find The Fish”. A drag queen (Chapman), a gangly playboy (Jones), and an elephant-headed butler challenge the audience. (This scene was shot in the operations floor at the former Battersea Power Station, Wandsworth, with a slight attempt at making it resemble a living room). The elephant-headed butler is a creature from Gilliam’s earlier film Time Bandits. After this, the fish in the tank briefly return, praising the previous scene and commenting on the film so far.
  • “Part IV: Middle Age” features a middle-aged American couple taking a vacation to a bizarre resort (including Gilliam dressed in drag, and an authentic medieval dungeon with Hawaiian music). Having nothing to talk about, they order a conversation about the “meaning of life”. Being apparently quite intellectually uncurious, they send it back, complaining “this conversation isn’t very good.”
  • In “Part V: Live Organ Transplants”, two paramedics arrive at the doorstep of a card-carrying organ donor, Mr. Brown (Gilliam, supposedly as a Jewish Rastafarian with a Hitler moustache), to claim his liver. Still being alive, he initially refuses. Not to be deterred, the paramedics burst through the door and brutally disembowel him, removing the organ “under condition of death”. Mrs. Brown (Jones) goes to make a cup of tea for one of the paramedics, who asks her if she’d consider donating her liver. She is unsure. To convince her, the paramedic introduces her to the man in a pink suit (Idle) who lives inside her fridge to sing her a song about the wonders of the universe, resulting in her realizing the futility of her existence and agreeing to the request. This is followed by an attempt by the “Crimson Permanent Assurance” to take over the film proper, which is dealt with by dropping a large skyscraper on the Assurance building.
  • Part VI: The Autumn Years”, is also split into two stages. The first is introduced with a Noel Coward-esque fop (Idle) performing the song “Isn’t It Awfully Nice to Have a Penis?”. Following this, Mr. Creosote, an impossibly fat man (Jones), waddles into a decorous restaurant, swears at the French waiter (Cleese), and vomits copiously, into buckets if available. After making room, he eats an enormous meal, and finally, despite protestations that he is now full, he is persuaded to eat one last “waffer”-thin mint, whereupon he explodes, showering the restaurant with human entrails. Many of the other patrons are so disgusted and horrified that they themselves throw up. After this comes the second stage of this part, “Part VI-B”, which contains two philosophical monologues. The first is delivered by a cleaning lady (Jones), entirely in rhyme, culminating with “I feel that life’s a game, you sometimes win or lose / And though I may be down right now, at least I don’t work for Jews”. Her reward for this offensive comment is to have one of the buckets of vomit dumped on her head by the waiter, who then offers a profuse apology for her racism. The second is delivered by another French waiter (Idle), who leads the camera on a long walk through the streets to the house where he grew up, and delivers his personal philosophy: “The world is a beautiful place. You must try and make everyone happy, and bring peace and content with you everywhere you go. And so I became a waiter… well, it’s not much of a philosophy I know, but well… fuck you, I can live my own life in my own way if I want to – fuck off.”
  • “Part VII: Death” opens with a funeral setup. After this, we see Arthur Charles Herbert Runcie MacAdam Jarrett (Chapman), a criminal convicted of making gratuitous sexist jokes in a film, killed in a manner of his choosing: He is chased off a cliff by topless women in brightly-colored crash helmets. A brief animation of suicidal leaves falling off a tree leads into “Social Death”, in which a group of people at an isolated country house are visited by the Grim Reaper (Cleese), who knocks on the door. Not knowing who he is, the dinner guests spend a lot of time arguing with him before finally being persuaded to shuffle off their mortal coils. ‘Heaven’ turns out to be the resort from Part IV. When they enter, all of the characters from the film who have died throughout its course (the Roman-Catholic children, the topless women, the liver-less Brown couple, Mr. Creosote, etc.) are already seated, and all are then serenaded by a Tony Bennett-like lounge singer (Chapman) with the monumentally cheesy song “Christmas In Heaven”, a parody of Las Vegas-style shows, complete with women wearing plastic breasts in Santa Claus outfits and a gleaming-toothed lounge singer (played by Graham Chapman) telling all those present that in Heaven, it’s Christmas every day, forever. (According to the DVD commentary, the women were supposed to be topless but the female costume designer, who was against the original idea in principle, convinced the Pythons that fake, uniformly sized breasts would be funnier than the disparately sized, natural breasts of the dancers.)
  • “The End Of The Film”, in which the female character from “The Middle of the Film” (Palin) concludes the matter by reading out ‘the meaning of life’ (introducing it by saying “It’s nothing very special really”):
“Try and be nice to people, avoid eating fat, read a good book every now and then, get some walking in, and try and live together in peace and harmony with people of all creeds and nations.”

She finishes by promising gratuitous pictures of penises “to annoy the censors and to hopefully spark some sort of controversy”.

  • Finally, the film ends with part of the title sequence from Flying Circus (itself rife with the aforementioned gratuitous phallic imagery) – together with a portion of the theme music; Sousa’s Liberty Bell – playing on a TV set drifting off into space, before the “Galaxy Song” plays over the end credits, ending in a letter of thanks to all the fish who participated in the film, and a wish for peace and a better future for fish everywhere.

REVIEW:

As mush as I love Monty Python and the Holy Grail, you would think that I would have seen more Monty Python films, however that is not the case, but after seeing this, I’m going to have to something about that.

This film is quite hilarious, though it doesn’t have a real plot, but rather a them that ties the pseudo-sketches together.

I was a bit confused and perplexed by the opening sequence, though, yet I enjoyed it. This film follows the same pattern. There is a lot of it that you have to think in order to enjoy, but its still quite pleasurable.

The best part was the restaurant scene near the end and the lady in the middle and end when she went on the rants. Being a Catholic, I also enjoyed the satire in “The Miracle of Birth”.

If you’re a fan of Monty Python or sketch comedy, then you’ll love this film. It is very funny and from my understanding, it is the Monty Python troupe on the top of their game.

4 1/2 out of 5 stars