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The Black Guardian
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Subj: Re: Halloween 2019 Roundup #2: The Devil and a Grab-Bag
Posted: Sun Oct 20, 2019 at 07:55:52 am EDT (Viewed 152 times)
Reply Subj: Halloween 2019 Roundup #2: The Devil and a Grab-Bag
Posted: Tue Oct 15, 2019 at 12:42:42 pm EDT (Viewed 218 times)

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The folks at Red Letter Media just did a deep dive into The Exorcist which got me to watch that movie again, but it's not on topic for this board so I won't go any further except to say it got me in the mood for some biblical horror and/or devil fare. I should really watch Exorcist III someday since it's the only installment of that franchise I haven't seen, and I've heard it's the only good sequel (and on-topic here). But I started with:





Prince of Darkness (1987) Trailer

An old priest dies. It turns out he was a member (perhaps the last) of a secret order called the Brotherhood of Sleep which is so powerful it can issue orders to the Vatican. An unnamed priest played by Donald Pleasence (called Father Loomis in the closed captions) is called in to see what he was guarding and finds a big vial of swirling green liquid in a secret chamber under an historic church. He invites a professor of quantum physics named Birack (Victor Wong) who brings his college class along to study it.

They find some ancient books written in a variety of languages that take several experts to decipher. The green stuff is also sending out signals (radio?) and the group concludes that it's sentient. Carbon dating says the lid on the vial is 7 million years old and can only be opened from the inside. Birack had explained that in quantum physics every particle has an opposite particle. The scriptures seem to be telling them that there in an Anti-God who walked the Earth in ancient times, and if there's a real God he lives in an opposite universe. Anti-God birthed Satan and placed him in the green vial for some reason. Jesus was a spaceman from the mirror universe who came to warn us of Satan's coming but humans couldn't understand the science at the time. We had to wait until science caught up. This is my limited understanding of the proceedings.

In the meantime, the vial unscrews and green goo starts collecting on the ceiling. It shoots a blast of liquid into the mouth of anyone nearby and soon they are zombie followers of evil. The church is also surrounded by legions of homeless also under the thrall preventing the science team from leaving. The lead homeless man is played by Alice Cooper who also recorded the titular song from this movie and he shows one escapee a cool trick with a bicycle.

To make matters worse, as the round-the-clock science project marches on, team members fall asleep and keep having the same dream. It looks like a news broadcast from the outside of the church showing a dark figure emerging, while a voice says it is sending this message from the future to warn them all.

Things get tense as the team tries to hole up in a safe room away from the possessed. Walter (Dennis Dun) ends up in a flimsy closet in the room with the possessed. They don't try to get him because they are busy with a ritual to summon the dark one, and as he tells the others through the wall what is happening they try to dig him out. In the most tense sequence, the possessed start trying to get through the closet door while he is trying to tunnel out.

I liked this movie as a kid, and I think I liked it more now. Maybe I understood it more. It's dripping with atmosphere, from the location to the droning score. There is a real sense of dread present. They try to tie science into religion and prophecy in a neat way.

I'm really not sure what to make of the ending. It's intentionally ambiguous I think. Sometimes that bothers me. This time, it doesn't.

Writer/Director John Carpenter called this the second part of his thematic "apocalypse trilogy" that began with The Thing and ends with In The Mouth Of Madness.





The Prophecy (1995) Watch Trailer

This biblical horror/thriller came out in the wake of Pulp Fiction and not only does it share three actors with that film (Christopher Walken, Eric Stoltz and Amanda Plummer) it gives me a bit of that same vibe.

Elias Koteas plays a seminary student who almost becomes a priest but gives up that goal because "some people lose their faith because they aren't shown enough, some lose it because they see too much." Now it's years later and he's a police detective trying to get to the bottom of a mystery involving a corpse born without eyes or genitals. His background tells him it might be an earthbound angel.

Eric Stoltz plays Simon, a similar angel on Earth who befriends a little girl in a small town school to the discomfort of her teacher, Virgina Madsen. Also tracking the girl is Archangel Gabriel (Walken) who drags along his unwilling sidekick Adam Goldberg.

The unlikely plot is that is a second war in Heaven is brewing (the first being the one which cast Satan down to the lake of fire). This war is led by Gabriel to overthrow God but a prophecy says it's the soul of a brutal human military leader who will win the war for him. The man has just died and now Gabriel is here to collect the soul. Simon beat him to it, and stashed the General's soul in the little girl. Gabriel makes short work of Simon and now it's up to the detective and schoolteacher to save the child.

When I say it's got that Pulp Fiction vibe I mean there's a lot of unsavory business peppered with sarcastic, quippy and sometimes banal dialogue. Gabriel drags around Adam Goldberg and later Amanda Plummer as unwilling helpers: humans who have died but he resurrects them on their deathbed after they have glimpsed their final reward and makes them come back, promising a final death if they do his bidding. They both complain a lot. They sit around diners and comment on the locals in between checking items off their to-do lists.

Koteas finds a cave where he glimpses the coming war in Heaven in the way only a 90s movie can, with some kinda dodgy but passable CGI and compositing. He and Madsen take the girl to an Indian Reservation as their last hiding spot.

They don't explain very well what the limits of an earthbound angel are. They can't be killed, but can be slowed down, I guess? At one point Gabriel is knocked out by an explosion that doesn't knock out the detective. But as the police are hauling Gabriel away in cuffs he opens his eyes and winks at Koteas, indicating that he's playing possum? Why not just grab the girl then? I suspect it's to give Walken another chance to chew the scene as he escapes from the local lockup.

Ultimately there wouldn't be much the heroes could do on their own but summon another angel to help even the odds, and the movie ends with a final showdown.

I remember seeing this movie on cable and liking it in the 90s, but it's a little thin. Walken is mostly the reason to watch but you might be better served watching him in True Romance or Suicide Kings.

It must have done well enough by some yardstick, it got 2 direct-to-video sequels with Walken, and then 2 more with Kari Wuhrer.



My next movie is a bit of a departure from the previous theme of biblical horror, being a wacky comedy. But it does deal with ghosts, the Grim Reaper, Heaven and Hell, which is why I thought of it.



Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey (1991) Trailer

This is the sequel to Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure, a wacky ‘80s comedy whose reputation only seemed to increase as time went on. In that one, a pair of good-natured nitwits are handed a time machine in the shape of a phone booth by a man from the future so they can travel through world history in order to research a high school history report. The future is riding on their success, because if they flunk high school their garage band will be broken up so Ted can be sent to military school. That will be disastrous because in the future the music of their band will save the entire human race, align the planets, and bring peace to all sentient beings in the universe "somehow." They managed to squeeze by and graduate.

You’d think it would be smooth sailing from here, but the future is still unfolding. Rufus (George Carlin), the man who helped Bill & Ted pass high school is now a 26th-century schoolteacher who teaches a class in "acoustical reverberation" and uses the time machine to summon musicians from the past to give lessons. Class is suddenly interrupted by DeNomolos (Joss Ackland), Rufus’ "old gym teacher" who snatches the time machine to alter history. He hates Bill & Ted and wants history rewritten in his own image instead of a "ridiculous, insipid band." He creates robotic dopplegangers of Bill & Ted and sends them back in time in the phone booth to kill Bill & Ted and take their place in history. For some reason, he has programmed Evil Bill & Ted with the same dopey valley-boy personalities so they are equally ridiculous and insipid.

In the present, Bill & Ted have a long to-do list, starting with competing in the Battle of the Bands which they hope will begin their band’s success story. Unfortunately they haven’t bothered to actually learn how to play their instruments yet. They also want to marry the medieval princesses they snatched from history in the first movie, but feel they can’t until they can earn a living with their music. When Evil Bill & Ted show up, the present day versions assume that they are seeing their future selves coming back to help solve their problems. Instead, the robots drive them out to the desert and throw them off a cliff.

Yes, Bill & Ted are dead. Now ghostly grey and white, they see the Grim Reaper appear in front of them to take them off to the land of the dead. Being a comedy, they can simply give him a wedgie and run for it. The creators said this movie was loosely based on The Seventh Seal, but I don’t think Death would have been outsmarted so easily in that movie. Bill & Ted try possessing Ted’s police detective father and his coworker. "It worked in Exorcist I and III" Bill notes. They can’t get the police force to believe that Bill & Ted have been murdered by robots from the future. Next they try stepmom Missy who is in the middle of a séance coincidentally. It works better than expected when Bill & Ted’s ghosts start hovering in the air over the séance group. Missy gets scared and starts chanting from her reference book "The Riddance of Evil" and winds up sending the boys to Hell.

They land on a rock floating over a fiery pit in what must be a heavy metal lover’s dream. They are brought before Satan, or at least a giant red horned demon who drops them down a chute where they must confront their own personal Hell. Ted is chased by a demonic Easter Bunny while Bill runs from his gross old grandmother who just wants a kiss. They summon the Reaper to a personal challenge as a last-ditch effort to postpone Hell.

It’s somewhat late in the movie for the Reaper (William Sadler) to suddenly become important. After besting him a series of board games, Bill & Ted have the Reaper at their disposal to guide them through the afterlife. He takes them to Heaven where they can find the greatest scientist of all time to help them “create good robot usses” to battle the evil ones. The scientist is actually a pair of hairy Martian dwarves collectively referred to as "Station." I think the movie was trying to get this word to catch on, as several characters use "station" as a declaration replacing "awesome."

They all return to life and Earth, with the Reaper dropping any pretense of gravitas and now becoming another wacky character in the stable of nitwits. Station cobbles together Good Robot Bill & Ted out of household appliances and they meet the evil versions at the Battle of the Bands so all plot lines can be wrapped up simultaneously. Rufus and DeNomolos show up and suddenly the entire world is watching the outcome.

This movie was a lot of fun when I was a kid, it might be an overlooked sequel to some. I really dug the heavy metal soundtrack and listened to it quite often. The visual style of Hell and Heaven were very cool, I think they drew inspiration from some album covers. The thing about Bill & Ted is that what they lack in brains, they make up for in goodwill, positivity and enthusiasm.

This may be the movie that helped me recognize William Sadler. He is kind of a chameleon, mostly known to me at the time for playing the evil Colonel Stuart in Die Hard 2, and playing a beer-swilling hick on Roseanne. I hadn’t caught on that those two were the same guy. In this movie he plays the Grim Reaper and also has a cameo at the end as a British man watching Bill & Ted on TV and that’s when I started to piece it together.





The Monster Squad (1987) Trailer

I was trying to make a tradition to watch this with the kids every year but I fell off for a few years. I saw it on Netlflix (or Amazon Prime?) the other night so I pulled it up, and my theme for this Roundup is officially toast.

In the 19th century I would guess, Van Helsing uses a magical amulet to open a portal to swallow up Dracula and his minions, but a smash cut to black doesn’t let us know if he succeeded or not.

In a present day average American town, Sean (Andre Gower) and his friends Patrick (Robby Kiger) and Horace (Brent Chalem) whom even his friends call “Fat Kid” grind through middle school but really only get excited about their monster club where they discuss movie monsters. In a very cheesy ‘80s scene, the ‘cool kid’ Rudy (Ryan Lambert) saves Horace from bullies, riding up on a Schwinn in a leather jacket, smoking a cigarette. Why he would want to hang out with a bunch of younger kids in their treehouse fort and talk about movie monsters is a mystery. Maybe he just likes to defy expectations. But when real monsters arrive in town, everyone is lucky this club exists.

Dracula (Duncan Regehr) is being flown in a coffin from somewhere in Europe to somewhere in America in a cargo plane, for some reason. He opens the cargo hatch dropping more coffins on this unsuspecting town and flies out after them. Sean’s father Del (Stephen Macht), a police detective, is called in to deal with both a madman (Jon Gries) claiming to be a werewolf and asking to be shot, and a museum official who claims one of his mummies must have gotten up and walked off by itself. This movie doesn’t make us wait long to summon the team that I always assumed was the Monster Squad of the title; Dracula arrives at a swamp along with the Mummy and Wolfman just in time to see the Gillman emerge from the water with the coffin of Frankenstein’s Monster (Tom Noonan). Drac carries a cane which luckily pulls apart to reveal a pair of jumper cables and a lightning rod he can use to awaken ol’ Frank.

The boys somehow come across Van Helsing’s diary, I’m not sure what kind of plot shenanigans occurred to pull that off, Sean’s Mom just says she found it. They get Scary German Guy (Leonardo Cimino), an old man from their neighborhood, to translate. He tells them about the magical amulet and the spell they must recite and how it can only happen at midnight on a full moon every one hundred years, which is tomorrow night of course.

In the meantime, Sean’s little sister Phoebe (Ashley Bank) befriends Frankenstein and brings him into the club. They fashion wooden stakes, silver bullets and find a virgin that is required to cast the spell. They try to convince the parents of what is happening and are not believed, of course, but in this case it doesn’t take long before Sean’s dad Del is face to face with Dracula who blows up his house and vows to kill his son. It all comes to a head in the town square where the kids, the monsters, the parents and the bullies all converge. A portal opens and stuff starts getting sucked in while Dracula and Frankenstein face off with each other.

This movie clips along at a pretty fast pace, which is good, but we almost don’t get enough time with the monsters for my liking. The Mummy is maybe the best movie Mummy I’ve seen and he is dealt with far too quickly. Likewise the Gillman which is a wonderful suit, probably better than the original Creature, is done away with far too easily.

Still, in a movie this crowded I guess if each character has one good scene that’s probably enough. The Mummy has one good scene, the Gillman’s is a little short, the Wolf Man gets a couple of memorable scenes as both man and wolf, from "somebody kill me!" to "Wolfman’s got nards!" Dracula and Frankenstein’s monster both get a few good scenes, although Frank’s friendship with the kids is rushed through in a montage. Almost all of the kids get something to do too. Add Scary German Guy and Det. Del, and even Del’s sarcastic partner, I suppose it’s enough that everyone gets a moment and the plot makes sense. Always leave them wanting more, I suppose.

The biggest pill to swallow in a movie this silly is the ending, even as a kid I never liked it. Partway through the movie a little kid named Eugene writes a note in crayon "Dear Army Guys, there are monsters here, send help" and the movie ends with the Army rolling up with a platoon and tanks and a General chewing a cigar, saying "what in Sam Hill’s going on here?" That was a bridge too far for me. Come on. But when he says "who’s in charge here?" it sets up Sean to deliver the final button: "We are. We’re the Monster Squad." Roll credits. That’s almost what you call too cool for school.

This is like the Avengers of horror movies. It's what Universal probably wanted to do with the Dark Universe. A tight script from Shane Black & Fred Dekker makes this a pretty fun ride.





Honestly, I don't even think the ending of Prince of Darkness is very ambiguous. Turns out, you can't stop the apocalypse, just change the way it plays out. The video from the future just got altered from what it was originally.

It's one of my favourite horror movies.

In the Mouth of Madness is extremely good, as well. I just favour the story of Prince of Darkness.

The Prophecy was the weakest of the three, imo... except for Christopher Walken, of course.

I wasn't very fond of Bogus Journey or Monster Squad.




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