Mini Reviews (January 2004)
Lone Hero, Inner Senses, A Killing Spring, Vampire Sisters, Shock Waves, Murder in Greenwich
Lone Hero (January 4/04)
Lone Hero is one of those silly little movies that works thanks to some better-than-expected performances and an undeniably great premise. Sean Patrick Flanery stars as John, a cowboy with a wild west show in a small town with dreams of better things. When a passing motorcycle gang starts making trouble, John stands up to the leader (Lou Diamond Phillips) and has him arrested. This, not surprisingly, angers said leader, who calls in reinforcements. Though it doesn't take a genius to figure out where all this is going - gee, those gunslinging skills sure would come in handy during a shoot-out - the movie remains fun primarily because the actors imbue their characters with a palpable sense of enthusiasm. The great Robert Forster, playing a mysterious member of the troupe, steals every scene his in and proves once again that he's one of the most underappreciated actors out there. Former Headstones lead singer Hugh Dillon is also quite good as Phillips' head underling, while Phillips himself does a fantastic job of playing this incredibly evil character. The script (by director Ken Sanzel) is surprisingly intelligent, with several instances of clever dialogue and serious moments that don't feel awkward or out of place. It's not exactly ground breaking stuff, but Lone Star is tremendously entertaining - and in the realm of straight-to-video, that's really saying something.
Inner Senses (January 5/04)
There seems to be some kind of unwritten rule that says all Asian horror movies must sport an interminably slow pace. Inner Senses, which makes Gus Van Sant's Gerry look like a thrill ride, follows a young woman (played by Kar Yan Lam) that can see dead people. She seeks out a prominent psychiatrist (Leslie Cheung, in his final performance before committing suicide) to help her deal with this admittedly horrific problem, but instead winds up passing the ability on to him. It's a semi-decent premise that's completely squandered by director Chi-Leung Law, who takes far too much time in setting everything up; the film is essentially all build up with no pay off. And though there are a couple of decent scares in the first half hour, the remainder are of the "oh, it was just a sharp musical sting" variety. The movie also fails in resolving Lam's storyline (we never do find out why she's being haunted), though Cheung's is definitively concluded. Inner Senses is an all-around wasted opportunity, recommended for Asian horror completists only.
A Killing Spring (January 18/04)
A Killing Spring is the fifth installment in an ongoing series of Joanne Kilbourn mysteries produced for Canadian television, although no prior knowledge of the characters is necessary to enjoy this one. Kilbourn (played by Wendy Crewson) is a cop turned crime reporter who uses her skills as both a detective and journalist to identify solve mysteries. This time around, the Dean of Journalism has been found murdered - and the suspects are piling up. Kilbourn tackles the case, chasing down leads and interviewing witness - while at the same time, beginning a relationship with a handsome author. Though A Killing Spring is essentially entertaining throughout, albeit in a Law and Order sort of way, this kind of mystery is awfully played out. It almost feels like paint-by-numbers sleuthing, with a variety of suspects lined up and pivotal pieces of evidence popping up at just the right moment. Crewson does make for an engaging hero, though, and it's impossible not to get a kick out of watching former Home Improvement kid Zachary Ty Bryan acting like a punk. But, without getting into spoiler territory, the revelation of the killer's identity is something of a letdown; it turns out to be the least likely character, someone that wasn't even a suspect. Why the film bothered to introduce all these other possibilities in terms of possible murderers is bizarre, certainly, and it sort of takes all the fun out of guessing who the killer is.
Vampire Sisters is that rare straight-to-video horror flick with virtually no positive attributes. Everything about the movie is slipshod, from the "acting" to the dialogue to the direction; the film is a sinkhole of suckage. The story concerns three sisters (yes, they're vampires) that troll for victims online via their webpage (the creatively titled vampsisters.com). Users that pay for the service (which is apparently limited to ogling pictures of these women in skimpy clothing) are invited to meet the ladies in person, at which time the titular sisters feast on the hapless sap. Plotwise, that's about the extent of it. Vampire Sisters is endlessly repetitive, with the trio eating a victim and inviting another almost immediately afterwards (the dialogue is similarly idiotic - ie "Mmm, that was tasty. Aw, I'm hungry again!" etc, etc). There's a pointless subplot involving two cops (at least, I think they were cops) that go undercover as a kinky couple to infiltrate the sisters' lair; both these characters behave so moronically, it's hard to feel sorry for them when they inevitably become lunch. Admittedly, some of the gore is okay - the guy who receives a butcher knife to the forehead is probably the highlight - but it's too sparse to make the film worthwhile.
Common sense dictates that dead Nazis would make for the most vicious zombies, but as Shock Waves proves, that's just not so. These zombies drown the majority of their victims, a method of killing that just doesn't make sense considering that, traditionally, the undead enjoy feasting on the brains of the recently departed. The movie opens with a tiny ship running into engine troubles, forcing the crew and passengers to head for the nearest island - which just happens to be infested with those pesky Nazi zombies. Peter Cushing pops up as an exiled Nazi scientist who's been living with the undead warriors since the end of the war, and tries his hardest to inject some reality into this admittedly absurd situation (the laughable scar across his face probably doesn't help). Shock Waves is dull virtually from the word go, primarily because there's nothing threatening about these zombies (who don't even show up until the movie is halfway through). They just sort of pop up while someone happens to be in a swamp or swimming pool (or any nearby body of water, really), and drag them underneath. That's it. Not exactly terrifying stuff.
Murder in Greenwich (January 25/04)
It's fitting that Christopher Meloni (of Law and Order: SVU) plays the central character in Murder in Greenwich, as the film plays out like an episode of that venerable mystery series. Meloni stars as cop-turned-journalist Mark Fuhrman, whose latest case takes him to Greenwich - where a 20-year-old murder still lies unresolved. That's about the gist of it, which is part of the reason the movie doesn't really work. With so many similarly-themed shows on the air right now, there's something fairly routine about a simplistic murder/mystery like this one. But despite the fact that the case itself isn't all that interesting, the movie remains semi-watchable primarily due to the efforts of Meloni and co-star Robert Forster. Though Forster doesn't have much to do here, he nevertheless manages to create a character that's far more intriguing than the central storyline. Director Tom McLoughlin attempts to liven things up by employing a wide variety of film tricks that are more distracting than anything else, while the narration (provided by the victim, who talks directly into the camera no less) is wholly unnecessary.