You have to give it to Synapse films. With the decline of physical media, more studios are open to delivering movie buffs the classics, and the obscure titles. Let’s face it, until now, no other major label would have ever made the “Violent Shit” collection available for mass consumption. At the end of the day, this five movie collection of shot on video horror gore films from Germany are strictly a niche release, but they’re at least there for everyone to view. While the “Violent Shit” movies, in fact, complete shit, they are also important cinematic relics. Back in the eighties, when Germany enacted heavy censorship on all film releases, including horror movies, that were cut for mass consumption, a bunch of indie filmmakers got together and made their own gory, graphic, and obscenely splatterific horror movies.
Wes Craven’s survival horror film is a bit rough around the edges in terms of editing and acting, but that’s also why it’s so stark and creepy. It’s a gritty and grimy film much like “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” and its tone lends it something of a semi-documentary aesthetic. Everything, right down to the final shot feels so probable and possible of happening in this universe. It’s the destruction of the nuclear family by the ultimate clan of what society would normally deem the antithesis of the traditional family. Not to mention it’s the society cannibalizing one another right down to the very last man. I initially didn’t enjoy “The Hills Have Eyes” when I saw it a decade ago, but watching it again has allowed me to really enjoy what Craven intended and how soaked in dread and violence it is.
I’m old enough to remember that, despite being a goofy vehicle for the Brat Pack, that “Young Guns” was pretty popular and warranted its own follow up. Now shedding the whole gimmick aside, Geoff Murphy spends his movie following Billy the Kid, as he attempts to hide from the law and make a deal with a new Marshall who swears to release him and let him off without being hanged. Of course he turns his back on the deal, prompting Billy to flee with his gang and his two old friends Chavez and Doc, both of whom are re-introduced as having been caught and imprisoned. “Young Guns II” avoids the goofy opening sequence in favor of a campy shot of a very old Billy the Kid (Emilio Estevez in old man make up) who calls a lawyer to meet him in a neutral zone.
This is the story of The Regulators. No wait, this is the story of Billy the Kid. No this is the story of how Billy the Kid met Pat Garrett. Oh hell, it’s all of that and essentially a remake of “The Cowboys.” Rather than a small group of boys who avenge their mentor in a dramatic finale, this group of young men avenges their caretaker in the beginning and we’re stuck with them for the duration. And they do so in a very long and cheesy Western that jumps in and out of so many sub-plots that it becomes exhausting. Christopher Cain’s “Young Guns” is really only a film you’ll likely love if you were between 13 and 19 in 1988. It’s another attempt to tack the brat pack on to a movie genre, and it pretty much fails from the moment we’re introduced to various characters in a goofy opening credits sequence. Every character is essentially some kind of gimmicky contributor to the narrative, only delivering broad Western cliches.
As we all saw with Tarantino a few years ago, the idea of Will Smith in a Western isn’t a bad one. Smith has a modern look that’s not accessible for every film, but with the right director Smith could shine. It’s just too bad he straddled himself to Barry Sonnenfeld who casts Will in one of the most poorly conceived TV to movie adaptations of all time. “Wild Wild West” is worse than “Beverly Hillbillies” and “Charlie’s Angels” combined. What’s worse is that director Sonnenfeld has absolutely no idea how to utilize Smith in a Western setting. So by the time the movie has started, rather than rely on the pulpy martial arts theme from the original series, the movie just becomes a showcase for Will Smith to be Will Smith. Even in the old West, Smith is the wise cracking, shade wearing, cowboy who is a hit with the ladies.
“Teen Titans: The Judas Contract” is a sequel to “Justice League vs. Teen Titans” which was a sequel to “Batman: Bad Blood” so don’t worry, it all ties to Batman. Like pretty much everything DC Comics these days, it’s all about Batman, and “The Judas Contract” compensates for the lack of Batman by including both Robins. Not only do we get a look at Dick Grayson as Robin when he led the Titans, but we also go to modern times where Grayson is now Nightwing. Damian Wayne is Robin now, and is a member of the Teen Titans. So that Batman flavor DC banks on is still there, even if Batman never shows up. “The Judas Contract” is an adaptation of one of the most iconic comic book storylines of all time, as the Teen Titans confront a traitor in their midst. Sam Liu’s animated adaptation is weak and limp, and often times bereft of entertainment value. And I say that as someone who genuinely loves the character Nightwing.
Simon Wincer’s “The Phantom” just doesn’t get any respect, damn it, and I think it deserves a lot more than it receives from movie fans. Not only does director Wincer embrace the source material of the Phantom, but he casts someone like Billy Zane, who fits so well in to the mold of the Phantom, it’s eerie. I just wish more audiences appreciated the boldness of the pulp hero sub-genre for “The Phantom” to have caught on and perhaps spawn a movie series. The best we got in the nineties was a pretty awesome animated series that provided a futuristic spin on Lee Falk’s comic strip superhero. “The Phantom” is a sleek and breezy action film in the vein of “Indiana Jones” that finds Zane as Kit Walker.
This time around “V” embraces its science fiction roots more, allowing for a lot more looks in to the rebellion, and the inclusion of new corners of the visitors’ world and the rebels. Most of all, there’s the introduction of a Visitor/Human hybrid that becomes one of the larger symbols of the war, and is pushed back and forth between the resistance and people that think the visitors can stop the invasion and work with Earth. Months after the humans sent out the beacon for other alien species to help them take down the Visitors, nothing has happened and the humans are still trying to stop the Visitors and their plans. Now the Visitors are building new tactics, which includes armor that can deflect bullets, and a form of torture leader Diana has concocted that allows her to convert humans to the side of Visitors for programming.