Movie Review Roundup - Terror X3

Movie Review Roundup - Terror X3
Boo blips
Updated: 10-08-2009

As is the usual at this time of year, I'm digging out from a deluge of DVDs and fighting for seating at the horror film fests. Seeing a lot of scary stuff is a super way to earn ones salary, I'm certainly not complaining… but I am compiling. Here are three movie reviews, each film more different from the next — Die-ner (Get It?), a zom-com; Red Velvet an art film masquerading as a slasher; and a re-reissue of The Stepfather from 1987.

Die-ner (Get It?)
The devil's deli sets the stage for a deranged drifter who murders a waitress and makes short work of a short order cook in just the first few minutes. Killer Ken (Josh Grote) can barely stash the bodies before his next potential victims walk in. Bickering couple Rob and Kathy (Parker Quinn, Liesel Kopp) have apparently decided a diner booth is almost as good as a therapist's sofa and off they go, hurling insults and one-upping each on who's the most unhappy.
The hash-slinger and the severed server don't stay down for long — zombified, and very hungry, they go after Ken and co., plus a couple of cops who show up… just in time for dinner. Die-ner (Get It?) is a very low budget zom-com, and it looks it. The performances are pretty shaky and the sound is hollow, but the score is good and so is the gore. In spite of its shortcomings the movie has heart (and brains, liver, entrails…) and is worth a look if you're a big fan of the subgenre.
Red Velvet
Red Velvet is also a cinema-on-the-cheap indie, but it doesn't look it. Shot by veteran DP Jim Dickson (director Bruce Dickson's dad) on Super 35 mm, this movie is not quite as visually masturbatory as it could have been — I would have liked even more crazy composition and torrents of tints — but still, it's got a delightful late 60s / early 70s art film vibe in its use of reds, greens, blues, yellows and purples. Which is completely at odds with the subject matter: a standard campfire horror tale, minus the campfire.
Henry Thomas plays misanthrope Aaron, a storyteller who can't resist trying to scare his sexy neighbor Linda (Kelli Garner) into thinking that perhaps the worst has befallen her sister and her friends, all of whom are staying at an isolated cabin for the weekend. But Linda likes it. She even helps him embellish his speculative tale of terror, by giving "the killer" (Lateef Crowder) a pink hammer for a weapon and adding in some man-on-man love scenes. Flicking back and forth between what's real and what's imagined, the worlds collide in the third act and brutal murder becomes an actuality.
Fans' twitter have been comparing Red Velvet to Argento's films, but personally I thought it had more of a Creepshow kind of tone. It's snarky and macabre. My only nitpick is that Garner's acting pales in comparison to Thomas's and since all their scenes are together it becomes painfully obvious pretty early on that she'll never be able to keep up with him (or the great dialogue she's given).
Stepfather, The
The Stepfather is kind of easy to forget, sort of simple to dismiss… and I think that's because it's not at all ostentatious. It just forges ahead, smart and subtle. Underestimated. Kind of like its villain, Jerry Blake (Terry O'Quinn). Jerry, based on real-life evildoer John List, is a nondescript family man who just wants a little peace… or he will leave everybody in pieces if things don't go his way. You see, Jerry just murdered his wife and kids, slipped away undetected, and is taking a second stab at domesticity when we meet him. He's just married the widow Susan (Shelley Hack), and taken her daughter Stephanie (Jill Schoelen) under his wing. Let's hope they don't do anything to upset him.
The Stepfather, newly re-released on DVD in high-def and looking even more glorious than it did on the big screen, is well worth a look regardless of whether you've seen it before. You either forgot just how intense it is, or you are in for a real treat. Either way, you should definitely check out this uncompromising R-rated version before the PG-13 remake (starring Dylan Walsh as the dotty daddy) comes out in theaters next week.
Extras on the DVD include a Fangoria-moderated commentary with director Joseph Rubin, who claims to not remember much because it was so long ago but still does an admirable job of recalling several little factoids and bits of trivia. Don't get me wrong — he's hardly the Guillermo del Toro of yak tracks, but I did learn a few things. The documentary featurette, The Stepfather Chronicles, covers the same ground, using interviews with Ruben, Schoelen, and screenwriter Donald E. Westlake. The original trailer is also fun to watch.
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Reviewed by Staci Layne Wilson
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