Railroad Jack the Industrial Revolution Circus Reaper

Watching movies so you don’t have to! Jack the Reaper is currently available on instant Netflix.

Jack the Reaper

 

Jack the Reaper (2011) – Rated R

The reaper, Railroad Jack, has no mercy when it comes to torturing and slaughtering anyone who meets his eye. When a group of teens sets out on a school field trip to learn about the industrial revolution, Jack has a different plan in mind for them.

One Line Review: Interesting elements don’t mesh and make a mess.

Jack the Reaper is a remarkably disjointed movie. The killer is continually called Railroad Jack, not Jack the Reaper as the movie is titled. While the killer is Railroad Jack, neither trains nor railroads figure in the movie (except in a brief aside). Instead a carnival is the centerpiece of the movie. So why wouldn’t you make your killer relate to the carnival?

I really get tired of the old cliche that characters in horror movies have never seen a horror movie. Here they split up at every opportunity even after they are being killed off and, in spite of their vehicle breaking down in the middle of nowhere, are not particularly interested in rescue once they discover an abandoned but fully operational carnival nearby.

Jack the Reaper has a few good ideas, which it has ripped off from much better movies. I won’t say which to avoid spoilers. It also has a cameo appearance by Tony Todd, which is always welcome but certainly not enough to save the movie.

My guess is that writer Kimberly Seilhamer wrote a horror movie script and then director Kimberly Seilhamer found a way to film inexpensively at a carnival and rewrote it. The carnage is not well handled and little to no suspense is involved.

The big mystery is how a bargain basement horror movie like this not only got Tony Todd on board but also Oscar-nominated actress Sally Kirkland (Anna, 1987). Douglas Tait, who had small parts in star Trek and Thor also appears here.

Candyman- Shocktober is here!

Candyman is currently available on instant Netflix and Amazon Prime.

Candyman (1992) – Rated R

“While researching urban myths, grad student Helen Lyle (Virginia Madsen) learns about the Candyman (Tony Todd), a hook-handed creature who’s said to haunt a Chicago housing project. In this creepy film based on a Clive Barker story, the Candyman is made flesh by other people’s belief in him. Not surprisingly, Lyle manages to summon him. Soon, the Candyman has committed a series of murders, and the cops are holding Lyle responsible.”

“They will say that I have shed innocent blood…what’s blood for if not for shedding.”

Candyman covers the topic of urban myths far better than the later Urban Legend series of movies ever did – it even throws in a shot of razor blade candy. Clive Barker’s short story, The Forbidden forms the basis for this movie adapted and directed by Bernard Rose. Rose takes Barker’s fanciful tale and grounds it in reality. The opening credits play out over scenes of urban highways and a haunting theme from Philip Glass.

The notorious Cabrini-Green housing project is actually filmed for the movie (exterior shots) as are gang members from the area. The graffiti and the projects are characters in and of themselves. Bernard Rose does well showing how the Lyles live versus life in the projects while still keeping the horror story as the focus.

Virginia Madsen, so good (and nominated for as Oscar) in Sideways, is very engaging as urban legend researcher Helen Lyle. Xander (24) Berkeley is solid as her long suffering husband Trevor Lyle. They both handle a good range of emotions from complacence to fear, anger, and jealousy. Vanessa Williams is also good as the angry but vulnerable Anne-Marie McCoy.

Tony Todd is marvelous as the eponymous Candyman even though it is very much a supporting role. He is very scary, has a nice presence and a wonderful deep voice but is also a wee bit sympathetic. By the way he really did have bees in his mouth – that is true dedication to one’s craft. Candyman’s backstory and motivation could have been better expressed – they are expounded upon more in the sequels.

Unfortunately some of Helen’s early decisions, such as venturing unprotected into Cabrini-Green dressed in upscale clothing, seem brain-dead even for someone with a sheltered life. Her climbing through a hole into a an abandoned and heavily graffitied room is a wonderful visual though.

Bernard Rose made so many good design decisions in Candyman. The narrative appropriately plays out over a fairly lengthy period of time. Other than a single brief reflection, we do not see the titular Candyman until forty minutes in. Wonderful shots by cinematographer Anthony B. Richmond really help lift this horror movie up to the level of art.

People Watch: Look for the ever-delightful Ted Raimi in a small role at the start of the film. Writer/director Bernard Rose has a cameo as Archie Walsh.

Sequel-itis: Candyman spawned two lesser sequels: The not bad Candyman 2: Farewell to the Flesh (1995) and the direct-to-DVD Candyman 3: Day of the Dead (1999). Both star Tony Todd as Daniel Robetaille/The Candyman. Tony Todd and Clive Barker are interested in doing a fourth film but I suspect a reboot is likely to happen.

Candyman

Whoops somehow missed posting yesterday so I’ll need to post 2 today. Clive Barker came out with the most marvelous horror short stories when I was growing up. They were quite outrageous for their time and were collected in the Books of Blood. Later he branched out into novels but I’ve always enjoyed his earlier edgier work more. He has several movie adaptations of his work of which Hellraiser is the best. Candyman is the only current film of his on instant Netflix.

Candyman

WATCH: Candyman (1992) – “While researching urban myths, grad student Helen Lyle (Virginia Madsen) learns about the Candyman (Tony Todd), a hook-handed creature who’s said to haunt a Chicago housing project. In this creepy film based on a Clive Barker story, the Candyman is made flesh by other people’s belief in him. Not surprisingly, Lyle manages to summon him. Soon, the Candyman has committed a series of murders, and the cops are holding Lyle responsible.”

Candyman covers the topic of urban myths far better than the later Urban Legend series of movies ever did. Clive Barker’s short story forms the basis for this movie adapted and directed by Bernard Rose. Rose takes Barker’s fanciful tale and grounds it in reality. The notorious Cabrini-Green housing project is actually filmed for the movie (exterior shots) as are gang members from the area. Tony Todd is marvelous as the eponymous Candyman even though it is very much a supporting role. By the way he really did have bees in his mouth. Bernard Rose does well showing how the Lyles live versus life in the projects while still keeping the horror story as the focus. The movie isn’t perfect – Candyman’s backstory and motivation could have been better expressed and some of Helen’s early decisions, such as venturing unprotected into Cabrini-Green dressed in upscale clothing, seem brain-dead even for someone with a sheltered life. Overall though this is a nice effective chiller.

People watchers: look for the ever-delightful Ted Raimi in a small role at the start of the film.

Final Destination

I still haven’t had a chance to catch The Final Destination in theaters (not a big loss as I prefer my home setup and 3D movies give me a wicked headache). I’m a big fan of the series – the first two were excellent stories with some quite creative kills and dark humor and the third film was a lot of fun although quite a step down in quality. The first film is currently available on instant Netflix.

Final Destination

WATCH: Final Destination (2000) – “As teen Alex (Devon Sawa), five classmates and their teacher board a plane for a school trip to Paris, Alex has a vision of doom and convinces his friends to deboard, saving their lives. But now, it seems Death feels cheated and is out to claim each survivor. Alex attempts to figure out Death’s grand design as, one by one, the others suffer horrific fates. Amanda Detmer, Ali Larter and Seann William Scott co-star in this smart, chilling thriller.”

Glen Morgan and James Wong, both writers and producers on the X-Files originally intended this as an X-Files episode. The script and filming are wonderful. There is an abundance of foreshadowing throughout the film – some obvious (John Denver tune before the plane crash) and others not so obvious (lots of shadows and reflections). The mostly young cast does a fine job though they aren’t called on to do much. The deaths range from startling to suspenseful to a couple that are so complex, I’d call them Goldbergian.

People watchers: look for Tony Todd in a small but wonderful role as Bludworth.