Category Archives: 51-60%

From the Archive – The Peacemaker (1997)

Image

“This is not a test”

Directed by Mimi Leder
Starring George Clooney and Nicole Kidman

When a Russian general steals ten nuclear warheads, a US nuclear smuggling adviser (Kidman) and an Army Intelligence officer (Clooney) must retrieve them, running roughshod over the silly old Russians in order to do so. Then they must track down the Serbian diplomat who plans to blow up the UN building during a peace summit as a warning against international interference in the former Yugoslavia.

What’s wrong with it?

The Peacemaker is actually a rather unpleasant film, in part because it offers crassly simplistic answers to difficult questions. The fact that Clooney’s gun-ho antics not only override Kidman’s caution but also almost invariably prove to be the right thing to do is symptomatic of the basic problem, which is that the film is glossing over the very complex and scary issue of stolen nuclear weapons. The important issue raised by the terrorist’s motive – he blames the enforced creation of Yugoslavia post-WWII for the current troubles, and not without cause – are breezed over by the fact that he ends up a mad-eyed whack-job trying to nuke Manhattan. The fact that Clooney is willing to order a sniper to shoot through a five-year-old to stop him is not dwelt upon.

Only once is there any implication that this problem goes beyond running around and hitting people, when Clooney’s jovial Russian contact is shot, but after a few minutes confusion – in his line, such things would not normally be done – Clooney is up for invading Russia. Moreover, no-one seems to bat an eyelid at the detonation and irradiation of a large part of the Ukraine; the threat of fallout is mentioned, but not even a ‘poor sods’ is uttered in memory of the locals.

Were this a James Bond film this all might be acceptable, but it isn’t. The film aspires to a more serious level, and by so doing exacerbates its own offences. The cack-handed romantic sub-plot – which boils down to nothing more than the fact that Clooney and Kidman are both attractive – likewise serves only to trivialise the proceedings.

It’s also not a good sign that I can’t remember the name of a single character in this film. The contact might have been Vasiliy or Vladimir or Viktor and I think the General was Alexander something.

What’s right with it?

Well, this is the real problem. Extensive thought the film’s flaws are, they aren’t really that bad by the standards of the Bad Movie Marathon. However, this film has fewer redeeming features than almost any other movie ever to gain a  theatrical release. The best that can be said about it is that it is professionally made, but nothing about it shines. Not a goddamn thing.

How bad is it really?

The Peacemaker is a tedious and petty little film, in which the might of America abuses the sovereignty and dignity of all and sundry to save the world for democracy. It’s really, really no damn good.

Best bit?

See above re. nothing shines.

What’s up with…?

  • The spetnaz night vision goggles? I mean, presumably the idea is to give you an advantage by letting you see the enemy in the dark, but he can see you too because your eyes are glowing red.
  • A US Army Colonel smashing and shooting up Vienna with no repercussions?
  • The militant Serbian piano teacher?

Ratings:

Production values – Solid, professional work, but nothing ground-breaking or spectacular, even when the Ukraine is getting nuked. 3

Dialogue and performances Dull dialogue and phoned-in performances down the line. No one seems very interested in what they’re doing here and I just can’t blame them. 13

Plot and execution – Trite, lazy, ham-fisted and uninvolving. There’s a desperate man carrying a nuke around New York in a backpack, and I can’t seem to care. 15

Randomness – More-or-less under control, save for the extreme swiftness with which the leads criss-cross the world and change their clothes. That and the utter lack of consequences for their blatant disregard of other peoples’ sovereignty. 8

Waste of potential – A stolen-nuke action thriller should really be more action-packed – one raid, one car chase, one fight and one foot chase is pretty lame – and more thrilling than this offering. Moreover, the utter lack of good points in this film means that I just have to give it maximum points here. 20

Overall 59%

From the Archive – End of Days (1999)

Days

 

“Prepare for the end.”

Directed by Peter Hyams
Starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, Gabriel Byrne, Robin Tunney and Kevin Pollack

A girl born under the sign of the Occulus Dei (Eye of God) is prophesied to be the chosen bride of Satan, mother of the antichrist, blah, blah, blah. While the Vatican debates whether to try and save her or kill her, the international Satanic conspiracy are all over this business like ugly on an iguana, setting one of their own as the midwife and consecrating the kid to the Dark One within minutes of birth.

Twenty-some years on, on the eve of the millennium, young Christine York (Tunney) is plagued by visions, and a Wall Street broker (Byrne) gets possessed by an invisible angel and goes strange. Now the devil incarnate, he goes forth to gather his minions, get laid and claim his bride in the hour before midnight on New Year’s Eve.

Enter Jericho Caine (Schwarzenegger), suicidal but still-mighty ex-cop turned bodyguard and his sidekick, Chicago (Pollack). Hired to protect the broker, Caine’s day goes weird when a priest named Thomas Aquinas takes a shot at his principal. Pursuing the case for no reason whatsoever – especially since the principal has already gone missing – and hampering police investigation in the meanwhile, Caine tracks down Christine and saves her from a pack of Renegade Vatican Masonic Ninja Jesuits.

There follows a series of Satanic shenanigans in which Caine repeatedly refuses to accept that his puny mortal weapons have no effect on the Devil. He resists the temptation to hand over the girl in exchange for his murdered family’s restoration, but is suckered when his detonated buddy appears miraculously unscathed and thus gets himself crucified.

Recovering very quickly, Caine takes out a temple full of Satanists with heavy weapons, blows up the Devil’s host body and faces his true form down in a church. The Devil possesses Caine, but by asking God to give him strength Caine is able to throw himself on the incredibly sharp sword held by a statue of St Michael just at the storke of midnight. As he dies, he sees his family beckon to him.

Aww.

What’s wrong with it?

End of Days’ main problem is its sheer, unutterable stupidity. The plot hinges on everybody, from the Pope to the head Satanist to Jericho Caine being a big dummy. The Vatican, despite vast funds and an international organisation, are way behind in this game. The Satanists, despite years of preparation and a massive head start, can’t complete the relatively simple assignment of getting one girl to the right place at the right time. Even the Devil, despite having all the moves, can’t score.

I guess part of the Satanists’ problem is that they’re too busy being gratuitously evil – seducing children, corrupting justice and generally doing the metaphysical equivalent of pissing in the font – to have any really good contingency plans, such as say escape tunnels. It’s also never explained why – for example – since they’ve been raising Christine throughout her period of moral education, they didn’t just teach her that she was the predestined bride of Satan and Queen of the World. Even if she had to be some kind of innocent, you’d think they could have worked it so Satan rescued her from the Renegade Vatican Masonic Ninja Jesuits, after which he’d be in like Flynn.

Oh, and the whole 666=1999 was a hoot.

What’s right with it?

In a word, the usual suspects. Byrne and Pollack are the real top billers here, but the supporting cast is wonderfully sincere and even Arnie comes off well. The acting here is really very good, so it’s just a shame the script is so very, very stupid.

The effects are also pretty good, with the highlight being the Devil as a floaty, invisible angel and the nadir the Devil as unconvincing horn-ed beasty.

And did we mention: Renegade Vatican Masonic Ninja Jesuits?

How bad is it really?

Well, to be fair this was one of the real gems of the pre- and immediately post-millennial boom of ‘Book of Revelations’ Y2K movies. Now, in part this is because all the rest were so appalling, but End of Days rattles on at a cracking pace, never seems to take itself too seriously, and besides; where else can you see Miriam Margolyes beating the tar out of Schwarzenegger?

Best bit?

The clergy explain to Jericho that in dreams numbers often appear upside down and back to front, so that the Number of the Beast, 666, actually refers to the year of his release; 1999.

Apparently numbers in dreams also miss off the ‘1’.

Alternatively the Renegade Vatican Masonic Ninja Jesuits busting into Christine’s house to kill her and insisting on giving her the Last Rites first.

What’s up with…?

  • Everyone being so mind-bogglingly stupid?
  • Caine killing himself? The devil’s time is up. Even if he got control of Caine’s body, he couldn’t get his pants off in the time left before New Year’s Day.
  • Caine seeing his murdered family waiting for him, wrapped in heavenly light, as he dies? Since the film clearly shows that the Catholics were right, isn’t Caine going to hell as a suicide? Is this saying that he has once more failed as a father and will also be missing his daughter’s school play in the afterlife?
  • The Renegade Vatican Masonic Ninja Jesuits? Masonic Order of the Vatican Knights? Do these people know what Freemasonry is? Are they high?
  • No-one – not one – paying the least attention to the fact that the dead, tongueless, sniper-cum-seer priest is called Thomas Aquinus? Why is he called that anyway? Did they not know there was a famous one?

Ratings:

Production values – Top-notch, with the exception of the crappy devil at the end there. Almost scrapes in very low indeed, but there’s just that element of naffness which can’t be ignored.6

Dialogue and performances – A number of rather talented people – and Rod Steiger – give it their all in this movie, acting their little hearts out, bless their cotton socks. Even Arnie can be seen – once or twice – to emote. Sadly, the script isn’t quite up to this standard, but it’s better than your standard action flick fare, and at least Arnie doesn’t dispatch Satan with a corny kiss-off line. “Hey Satan; go to Hell!” 9

Plot and execution – Oof. What gives here? The plot is a flimsy tissue held together by coincidence and rank stupidity on the part of pretty much all concerned. Still, the direction maintains a certain pace. 14

Randomness – Remember how I said the plot is held together by coincidence? Well, there’s your randomness. Plus, if Renegade Vatican Masonic Ninja Jesuits aren’t random, I don’t know what is. 16

Waste of potential – As noted, one of the very best apocalyptic action thrillers of its time. If only they’d given it a little thought. 7

Overall 52%

From the Archive – Valentine (2001)

Valentine

 

“Love hurts”

Directed by Jamie Blanks
Starring David Boreanaz, Denise Richards, and a bunch of pretty young things you’ve never heard of

A group of friends – Kate, Paige (Richards), Dorothy, Lily and Shelley – all blow off the class nerd at a Valentine’s Day dance in 6th grade. Well, all except Kate who says she might dance with him later, and Dorothy, who makes out with him then accuses him of attacking her.

Ah, high school; breeding ground of the psycho. Especially as we later learn that Dorothy’s lie saw the nerd sent to reform school, juvenile hall and so forth.

Flash forward ten years, and Shelley blows off a dud of a date – just the first in a long line of obnoxious male characters – and heads off for some last minute autopsy revision before her med school finals. She finds a poison pen valentine, and gets her throat slashed by a killer with a nose bleed.

We then follow the four surviving girls, as they pass by a succession of men who are all either sleazy or pathetic or just plain vile. In fact, the only half-way decent guy is Kate’s recovering alcoholic honey, Adam (Boreanaz). Lily dies not long after – shot through the heart with a bow and arrow – but the rest sadly last rather longer. Also going in the ground are Dorothy’s boyfriend – a con man after her money – Kate’s slimeball neighbour, an unfortunate maid, the con-man’s last victim and a lecherous cop.

The last three buy it in the Valentine’s Party dénouement – where Dorothy waxes bitter about her boyfriend dumping her and the fat girl not having a date, again – as does Paige (buys it, that is; not waxes bitter). The lights go out, there’s a lot of tensy-tensy creeping about in the dark. Adam has a drink and gets all creepy stalker and Kate belts him with a bottle.

Then the killer attacks Kate but is shot dead by Adam, and turns out to be Dorothy the bitter fat chick.

Except that as Adam swears he’s always loved Kate, and would never let anything happen to her, his nose starts to bleed.

What’s wrong with it?

Valentine is basically a dull, dull movie, about dull, dull people. And they’re not nice or likeable dull people either. I mean, at the end we discover that Adam is a psychotic killer who’s bumped off all his enemies and got the girl, and it’s hard not to think: “Well, more power to him!” His victims – with the exception of Shelley, whom we hardly see, and the luckless maid – are all, frankly, scum. The men are all, without exception, more unpleasant than send-you-a-scary-valentine-slash-you-with-a-big-knife Adam, and the girls… well, they’re all either spiteful or vapid or in Kate’s case so entirely drippy that you can’t give a rat’s ass what happens to them.

Actually, to be fair to Kate, she shot up in my estimation after she kneed creepy Adam in the bollocks, slugged him with a Champagne bottle then went straight for the firearms.

Back to Adam, he’s also quite a catch, psychosis aside. Having caught the creepy neighbour going through Kate’s underwear and battered him to death with the iron, he not only cleans the place up like new, he also winds the cord of the iron and sets it neatly back on the ironing board. Now there’s not many guys would be that thoughtful about the house.

Also, the stalk and slash scenes are minimal stalk and for the most part single slash. The most elaborate death is the old ‘electrical appliance in the hot-tub’ ploy.

What’s right with it?

Well, there’s a fair amount of decent eye candy on display, although it does rather favour the guys in the audience – there’s more of David Boreanaz on display in the average 42 minute Angel episode than here.

Oh, and Denise Richards plays a vapid slut and gets brutally slain, which is always good value.

How bad is it really?

Almost criminally dull, really. Not actively bad, just a little nonsensical. It’s not at the Mean Guns, monkeys on crack level of randomness, but it never really take the trouble to explain itself.

Best bit?

Really not one.

What’s up with…?

  • The killer’s tool kit? He seems able to transport the widest array of killing devices without being spotted. A bow and arrow at an art exhibition? A drill by the hot-tub? This isn’t even an array of essentially portable knives here.
  • Kate claims she knows Adam’s parents, but the nerd’s folks are supposed to be dead?
  • Dorothy’s repeated whining about being the ‘fat one’? Okay; I get that she’s ‘movie fat’, but still; it’s a bugbear.

Ratings

Production values – Some understated death scenes, and nothing that screams ‘phoney’. In general the sound and vision is good, even if the content and soundtrack are not. 6

Dialogue and performances – Pretty lame and uninspired. There is nary a memorable quote in the film except for the young Paige ‘ironically’ foreshadowing her hot tub electrocution by saying she’d rather be boiled alive than dance with Jeremy the nerd. 18

Plot and execution – The plot has its holes, but fewer than it could have. It’s a little unclear how Adam manages to dress Dorothy up as the killer and throw her down the stairs on top of Kate without being seen, but otherwise most things add up. The direction however is lacklustre. The film generates little or no suspense, and even the ersatz heroine fails to conjure much audience sympathy. 14

Randomness – Another field in which Valentine scores quite well. Having accepted that there is a psycho killing people because he was victimised at school, everything else more or less fits. 6

Waste of Potential – While some people yearn for the good old days when a girl could be chased screaming through her house for the capital crime of having sex, and no one in the audience would think to ask why she didn’t just call the cops at some stage, I myself am a fan of the more self-conscious horror film. I think that the standard slasher played out; that’s why the irony comes about. What I’m trying to say is that this is an old-fashioned slasher, with little irony to its name, and thus was never going to be the catch of the day, but that by denying us our knowing asides – especially given this is the ‘breakout’ film for an actor with David Boreanaz’ self-deprecating comedic instincts – a great seam of potential is left untapped. 12

Overall 56%

From the Archive – Vampire Circus (1971)

vampire_circus_poster_1

 

“Human fangs ripping throats – no sawdust can soak up the torrent of blood!”

Directed by Robert Young
Starring Adrienne Corri and Laurence Payne

In 19th-century Serbia, the vampire Count Mittenhaus preys on the children of his peasants, lured to him by the village schoolmaster’s wife, Anna. But the schoolmaster finds out, and after a brief debate on the feudal implications of marching on the count’s castle with pitchforks and torches, they do exactly that. After a nasty brawl in which the villagers roundly prove their incompetence (one going so far as to stake the Count in the groin – ouchy, but not good enough) he gets the traditional stake to the heart, his castle is set on fire, and his accomplice is beaten with sticks and thrown into the castle to burn. With his last breath, the Count promises that his killers and their children will all die, and he will rise again, instructing Anna to find his cousin Emil with the Circus of Nights, who will know what to do.

Fifteen years later, it seems as though the curse has struck, as a plague sweeps through the town. The doctor rides to the capital for help, running the roadblocks set up by paranoid neighbouring villages, just as a mysterious circus arrives in town.

So much for plot. There then follows a series of circus acts which should probably have sent any self-respecting, plague-stricken, superstitious 19th century villagers into a blood-crazed rampage of carnage and stake burning – including a sort of interpretative dance number, a panther that turns into a man, and two acrobats who turn into just pain bats. But no, not a hair on their heads is harmed until after the burgomaster’s daughter has been seduced, two small boys exsanguinated, and a family mutilated by the rampaging panther.

After that, the interpretative dancers show up dead, the schoolmaster’s daughter is kidnapped by the circus leader (Corri, playing the girl’s own long-absent mother, natch) and her father and rather effete boyfriend must race to the rescue before one of the vampires remembers to pull the stake out and the Count rises again.

What’s wrong with it?

This is another early 70s Hammer in the vein (drum roll; cymbal crash) of Lust for a Vampire, and suffers from most of the same problems (although not, thank god, from the Strange Love). The heroes and heroines are all such a bunch of drips that you’d root for the villains if only they were much better. As it is, Emil spends his whole time swanning around in a puffy red shirt and tight black pants that make him look like a waiter in a particularly naff tapas bar, and with a perpetually stoned look on his face. You can’t even hate him, because his victims are all so mind-numbingly stupid that its hard to really give a damn.

What’s right with it?

Well, it has more of a plot than many, although it gets a little lost in the later phases. As with most Hammer horrors, some of the victims and vampires are pretty to look at, if only you could get around how damned vapid they all are.

How bad is it really?

It’s certainly better than Lust or Zoltan, and watched with friends can be quite a laugh. Just don’t expect too much.

Best bit?

Without question, the dénouement, where the floppy-fringed hero wards off the revitalised Count by using a crossbow as a crucifix, then puts the bow over his head and fires it, decapitating the Count with the bow string. Adaptation; improvisation.

Better than killing Dracula by tricking him into crawling through a hawthorn bush anyway.

What’s up with?

  • The fact that – under her magical disguise – Anna hasn’t aged a day, despite not being a vampire (she clearly isn’t as she has to remove the daughter’s crucifix)?
  • Anna and Emil feeding the blood to the Count by pouring it on his chest, and without ever once thinking to pull out the stake? Plainly, Emil is something of the family idiot; hence the perpetual look of bemusement no doubt.
  • The twin-sympathetic-pain-I-die-as-you-stake-my-sister shtick?
  • The Count’s cousin being a bloody circus performer? Is he some bastard scion of the family? And are all this family vampires?
  • More weird camera shots? This time, victim cam.

Ratings

Production values – Well, the jump-cut man-into-panther and tumbler-into-badly superimposed bat are almost forgivable for the time, but they go and ruin it all with two things. Firstly, a very slickly done cut from Emil’s boots to the panther’s feet as he goes upstairs to maul a bunch of boarding students by way of a distraction, thus showing they could have done better; and secondly, the stuffed panther attack, as a family are mauled to death by an obvious stuffed toy. 14

Dialogue and performances – A fairly drippy ensemble, without a decent ham among them. The dialogue is largely forgettable, but not wincingly bad. 16

Plot and execution – Uneven to say the least. What starts off as a pretty sturdy revenge and resurrection deal becomes mired in the carnival of bizarreness, and ends in a stock bloodbath. 12

Randomness – The interpretative dance routine is pretty random, even if we aren’t supposed to accept it as a 19th century Serbian original. Other than that, it’s mostly strange, but valid. 8

Waste of Potential – Aside from the fraying of plot and atmosphere towards the end of the film, the material is pretty much given its due. 5

Overall 55%

Dungeons & Dragons: The Book of Vile Darkness (2012)

Vile Darkness Poster

Directed by Gerry Lively
Starring Jack Derges and Eleanor Gecks

We open with the last of the Knights of the New Sun, an ironically old and defunct holy order who once threw down an evil sorcerer (the opening narration tells us so; with animation) and were the guardians of peace for centuries, but are now an irrelevance in an age when every small town has a curtain wall and a magically-shielded trove of enchanted treasures. Newly anointed knight Grayson takes his vows of duty and chastity, like his father and grandfather before him, but the mystical light show fails to happen, as it has failed to happen for decades, and he is feeling a little blue when the order are attacked by barbarians and wiped out, save for Grayson – who is left for dead – and his father, who is captured.

In pursuit of the barbarians, Grayson gets help from a friendly prostitute, as you do when you’re a paladin. She hooks him up with a magic item seller – a contact that is no doubt of immense use to a small-town whore – who sells him some black armour and a jaggedy sword so that he can disguise himself as a badass. The prostitute – judging by the credits she might be called Carlotta, but names are elusive things in this film, and none of the actors are recognisable enough to narrow it down – then points him towards Akordia, a ruthless witch who is recruiting sell-swords in the service of the barbarians’ master, Shathrax the Mind Flayer.

He does not make the best showing at first, given that the posse of evil bastards are unconvinced by Grayson’s manly swagger. However, by killing one of her existing goons, Grayson wins a place on team evil, alongside Seith the Libertarian Assassin, Bezz the Vermin Lord, and Vimak the enormous black guy with the immense sexual appetite (I think someone slipped and fell on a stereotype). In the hopes of being led to his father he goes with them on their mission for Shathrax, despite knowing that he may have to betray his vows to maintain his cover.

This Fearsome Five head out, slay a dragon, massacre a small town and generally behave badly. Sure, they occasionally stop to discuss philosophy (Seith believes that poor people just exist as somewhere to keep his knives), ambition (Vimak was exiled for being weak and wants to go back and kill everyone who knows about it, although apparently he mostly wants to sleep with a huge number of women simultaneously), to kill each other (even Grayson murders Vimak and lets Seith die), or just to afflict people with bug plagues for the sheer, unadulterated hell of it (Bezz the Vermin Lord digs insects; go figure), but mostly it’s just one bad deed after another. Finally, with most of them dead of friendly fire, they retrieve the cover of the long-lost Book of Vile Darkness from its keeper.

Said keeper, by the way, is a ‘slaymate’; an undead child betrayed and abandoned by her guardians and now subsisting on cruelty and hate. It is very, very creepy. Being allergic to all touchy-feely feels, the Slaymate reveals that Akordia is in love with Grayson after (spoilers) he betrays one of his vows when they have creepy, Red Sonya-ish ‘you saved my life so I must do you’ suddenly-submissive-Amazon, post-dragon slaying sex, which is a phrase almost as uncomfortable to say as the scene of Akordia being all ‘the witchy law says you may ravish me as you desire’ is to watch.

Finally, we reach the castle of Shathrax, who turns out to be a guy with his mouth sewn shut who speaks through two women he keeps on chains, which is creepy, but so not a Mind Flayer. Grayson rescues his father, and when they are cornered his defiant hope kindles his paladin amulet into life (bizarrely in response to his declaring himself a blackguard, which in D&D is an anti-paladin rather than a bounder and a cad). Shock, horror! This turns out to be a trap, as the villains need ‘liquid pain’ extracted from a true knight using a machine clearly knocked off from Count Rugen’s design in The Princess Bride to ink the new Book of Vile Darkness, but Akordia betrays the dark lord for love and light returns.

The end.

What’s wrong with it?

So, another Dungeons & Dragons movie; more mock heroics and dodgy dragons, and perhaps another chance to see Bruce Payne in purple lipstick chewing on the scenery.

Right?

Well… not exactly.

The third D&D movie takes its title and setting from the game line’s controversial Evil Bastard’s Manual, released amid much sound and fury as a ‘mature readers only’ product from the pen of Monte ‘Monte Cook’s World of Darkness’ Cook, introducing rules for sex, drugs and rock and roll (well, drugs and bad magic rituals at least) and making Tracy ‘All thieves must be evil unless they are racially inclined to kleptomania’ Hickman cry.

What’s right with it?

It has a few decent moments, and some effort clearly went into it, and the evil adventuring party are not only properly evil, there is also a clear division between the Chaotic, Neutral and Lawful Evil members which shows proper commitment to the material.

How bad is it really?

The Book of Vile Darkness is… bad, but not as bad as the first D&D movie and for different reasons. The attempt at grimdark is partially successful, but Grayson is painfully bland and Akordia not much better and the less said about the awkward stab at sexing up the franchise the better. Seith, Bezz and Vimak are the stars here, since they are clearly having fun, especially Bezz, whose presence seems to be as a reminder that not all evil is Lawful Evil. There are also some nice moments, and even some half-decent dialogue.

All in all, however, if you’re not siting up into the wee small hours waiting for your laundry to finish, there are probably better choices available.

Best bit?

Having murdered the giant Vimak, and needing to make it look as if he ran off with the treasure, Grayson stuffs the corpse into a bag of holding.

What’s up with…?

  • The Paladin in disguise? Honestly, it’s amazing that this works at all, given how incredibly bland and wet our hero is. If you picture a cross between Johnny Depp and Karl Urban, with all the manly passion and charisma of Justin Beiber, you’re about there.
  • The Knights’ vow of chastity. Grayson is at least a third generation knight, but they forswear the pleasures of the flesh. I pity their wives; I really do.
  • The Witch law that you have to get nekkid for a guy who saves your life? Oh, yes; they were trying to sex things up some.

Ratings

Production values – Mediocre, at best. The dragon is pretty clearly CGI and nothing is better than you would see on a TV series; and not a good TV series either. I’m talking the level of Lexx or Cleopatra 2525. Buffy the Vampire Slayer looked this good in the 90s, and today even nuWho would be embarrassed. 15

Dialogue and performances – Mostly pretty lame, although some of the support is good. Bezz the Vermin Lord is an enthusiastic treat, and clearly would have been Bruce Payne if they could have afforded him. The dialogue has a few corkers, but is mostly nothing to write home about, either for good or for ill. 13

Plot and execution – The plot is coherent, at least, and the direction and fight choreography passes the first test of being better than I could have managed. 12

Randomness –  – Pretty well in hand, for the most part, although the fact that a small mountain town has a towering wall, a magical vault and a massive, exotic brothel seemed a little out of left-field. 8

Waste of potential  – Pretty much all it could have been, with what it had to work with. 5

Overall 53%

From the Archive – Krull (1983)

Krull

 

“A world light years beyond your imagination.”

Directed by Peter Yates
Starring Ken Marshall, Lysette Anthony, Freddie Jones and Francesca Annis, plus just about every British character actor who went on to make the Hollywood second-string or higher in the next twenty years.

Historical note: This was the first film to be titled (or rather, subtitled) Dungeons & Dragons, despite a complete absence of dragons and precious few dungeons.

The terrible Beast arrives on the world of Krull in his big, flying rock, and unleashes his army of inhuman Slayers upon the population. To unite two kingdoms against the Beast, Prince Colwyn (Marshall, sporting a dodgy beard), and Princess Lyssa (Anthony) are to be married. Luckily, they fall in love, but unluckily the Slayers crash the wedding, abducting the princess and slaughtering all and sundry. Saved by the wise man, Ymyr (Jones), Colwyn climbs a mountain to find the Glaive, and ancient symbol and a powerful weapon, then sets out in pursuit of the Beast.

Trust me. It makes no more sense than this in the film.

Gathering a ragtag band of British character actors (including Liam Neeson, Alun Armstrong, Robbie Coltrane and Bernard Bresslaw as a cyclops), Colwyn tries to find out where the Beast’s teleporting fortress will be at the next sunrise. A seer is killed before he can help them, and so Ymyr must sacrifice himself to learn the secret from old flame, the Widow of the Web (Annis). Dodging Slayers and Changelings (shapeshifting assassins), Colwyn’s band travel by fire (or should it be shire) horse to the fortress, where Colwyn and Lyssa destroy the Beast with the power of their love; the Glaive proving rather less butch than advertised.

What’s wrong with it?

Well, it was made in the 80s, so for starters, there’s the hair. Also however, Marshall is a turgid hero, the whole premise is immensely silly, and the dialogue is rather trite. It also has too much material, such that it all seems rushed. The fact that the Cyclops race was tricked by the Beast and given the curse of knowing the time of their death is introduced in one sentence, crops up in a second, and is defied in a final, brief scene.

What’s right with it?

Some of those ideas are quite good, and – hairstyling aside – the production values are fairly high. The Slayers are also genuinely creepy, or at least were when I was twelve. It’s also fun seeing all those British character actors as an outlaw band.

How bad is it really?

Not as bad as all that, but really rather dated.

Best Bit

The opening credits; they really are rather flash.

What’s up with…?

  • The little bug-things that skitter out of the dead Slayers and bury themselves?
  • The ancient and powerful glaive actually sucking somewhat?

Ratings

Production Values – Pretty good for the time, although terribly, terribly dated now. 6

Dialogue and Performances – This film is a major offender in the field of ‘this is fantasy, so everything must be stilted and pretentious’. The dialogue is self-important drivel, even the conversation. The support playing, by the gang of outlaw character actors, is pretty solid, but the leads are fairly bloodless. 14

Plot and Execution – The majority of the plot involves the hero trying to find his way to the magically teleporting Fortress of the Beast, itself basically an excuse for the film to be more than just a hike across hostile country. The film is sometimes jumpy and confusing, and there is a feeling that there is more going on than you see in the film; and not in a good way. In addition, Krull is never entirely sure whether it’s a fantasy or a sci-fi movie. 15

Randomness – Within a fantasy context, there isn’t too much randomness, but by any other lights it’s all over the place. The flying horses just happening to be in the right place; allies and enemies popping up out of nowhere; the Beast shmoozing with the Princess for no readily apparent reason. 10

Waste of Potential – With a better lead and a little more work, Krull could have been a pretty decent film. as it is, it’s just a bit of a mess. Also, in retrospect, I think it was better than Dungeons & Dragons8

Overall 53%

From the Archive – Dungeons and Dragons (2001)

D&D

“This is no game”

Running against standard practice, this film was reviewed twice, first by Simon Drake, then by myself, in a review largely rebutting both the harsher and the more generous points involved.

Directed by Courtney Solomon
Starring Jeremy Irons, Justin Whalin, Zoe McLellan and Bruce Payne

Review by Simon Drake

Evil mage Profion (Irons, notching up an almost unchecked level of ham) plots to overthrow the Empire of Izmar run by Savina (Thora Birch) by stealing a magical sceptre that can control Gold Dragons

Knowing the Profion will bring death and destruction to Izmar, Savina sets out to find the legendary Rod of Savrille – which controls Red Dragons – before Profion.

Enter two thieves, buffed Hero Ridley (Whalin) and wisecracking sidekick Snails (Marlon Wayans) to find the rod, with help from Savina’s expert tracker Elf, Norda (Kristen Wilson) and Ginger Dwarf Elwood (Lee Arenberg). With Profion’s men lead by mincing baddie Damodar (Payne) at every turn, Ridley’s band battle their way through mazes, deserted castles and (yup!) dungeons to get to the rod before Profion.

What’s wrong with it?

Man alive, it is poor. The opening scene involving a Dragon in a dungeon had promise and some decent effects. Then the Dragon budget was obviously used up, as they then don’t appear for over an hour.

The Plot makes no sense, leaping from one subplot to another with reckless abandon. The acting is appalling. The Izmar counsel scenes ripped of Phantom Menace. And an ending that, despite outstaying it’s welcome by about 90 minutes leaves you thinking “huh” and “Is that it?”

Even cameos by stalwart Tom Baker in a pair of Dr Spock ears and Richard O’Brien does little to haul this soggy mess out of the swamp of crapness.

Thora Birch, clearly a wise head on her young shoulders, disappears for half of the movie. Then shows up riding a Dragon for the finale (and wearing what looks like a fire-guard on her head)

What’s right with it?

To be fair the Dragons are pretty cool, when they eventually show up. And the Finale has a sky full kicking crap out of each other. There are some nice cityscapes of Izmar. But that’s about it really.

How bad is it really?

Terrible…It doesn’t even have the clunky endearing quality of say ‘Krull’ or ‘Labyrinth’. It’s just shite.

Best Bit

The fairly surprising death of the quipping black sidekick (normally immortal in Hollywood films) Snails. Although I assume this is because Marlon Wayans wanted to appear in the superb Requiem for a Dream instead.

Or the uber camp henchman Damodar (Pantomimed by a bald Bruce Payne) sashaying around in Black Leather S&M gear. There’s a wonderful scene where he has his brains sucked out (or in, I forget which) by Jeremy Irons for some reason. His grimacing at the camera whilst fighting with an obviously CGI Brain eating snake is hysterical.

Plus when he and equally camp Richard O’Brien have a staredown…I was half expecting handbags and slapping. It was like a Right Said Fred music video…With Monsters.

What’s up with…?

  • Damodar’s Aqua Blue lipstick…No one mentions it. It serves no purpose other than to make him look like some gay icon (He’s no Kylie Minogue…But he gets close)
  • Jeremy Irons. First he starts out with evil looking red leather armour. Then within half an hour, spends the rest of the film wearing a Noel Coward esque smoking jacket and screaming about “My Destiny!” while his head bulges with some alarming looking veins. Causing obvious amusement to Bruce Payne. Couldn’t the Director see he was grinning from ear to ear during Profion’s final shouty speech? Although watching the film, I’d be surprised if the Director could see at all!
  • Richard O’Brien as ‘the Leader of the Thief guild of Antius’ who challenges Ridley to “Finish the maze…Win the prize”. Ridley, who goes against type of every Crystal Maze contestant by not only succeeding, but doing it without standing for a full minute with his mouth open saying “I can’t see the crystal.” Bearing in mind this is a maze that “No one has ever survived” it looked remarkably easy.
  • The Purple three eyed monster who speaks in a cod Cockney accent walking amongst the peasant villagers, trying to blend in – he’s supposed to be a spy!

Ratings

Production values: Vary dramatically. Some great looking cityscapes, decent dragons, and magic spell ‘zappy’ effects. But mostly lame “Filmed in Romania” castles and muddy peasant villages (full of tanned surfer looking dudes and rubbery looking Orks). 10

Dialogue and performances: Weak at best. I don’t think a single person acquits themselves well (apart from Bruce Payne, but that’s for all the wrong reasons) and that includes the script writers (Topper Lilian and Carroll Cartwright…Who apparently have moved to Mexico) 17

Plot and Execution: God-awful. Limp direction. Lumpy script (presumably written in Crayon). Incomprehensible. 19

Randomness: All over the show. Characters show up and disappear without explanation (Tom Baker, Purple Cockney Monster, and Thora Birch). The film doesn’t even show the heroes – or villains for the matter – travelling anywhere, defeating the point of a so-called epic quest. Suddenly someone is doing something for some reason. Then it cuts to somewhere else and the same person is doing something completely different. Plot exposition is usually mumbled by some old mystic…Or shouted by Jeremy Irons. 15

Waste of Potential: Huge. This could have been great fun, and had a spattering of moments of promise. But sadly the fish were biting, but no one could be bothered to reel them in. 15

Overall – 76%

Review by The Prophet

Evil and overacting mage Profion (Jeremy ‘Jezzer’ Irons, hamming for the home team) plans nefariously to seize control of the Empire of Izmer when the young, idealistic Empress Sahrmmrfuhrmm (Thora Birch, apparently attempting to balance things out by not acting at all) decides to enfranchise the commoners and abandon the ages-old magical autocracy.

Dashing, mage-hating thief Ridley (Whalin), and his sidekick Snails (Marlon Wayans, as the worst thief in history) tumble on the plot when an attempt to rob the magic school lands them in cahoots with apprentice mage Marina (McLellan), and it’s off into the wilds to rescue the Rod of Savrille.

Add in a dwarf, for no good reason (then edit out the scene where he tells us his name), and an elven tracker sent first to capture, then to aid our heroes. Spice with some rescues, and Dr Who turning up as the elven clergy, then serve with a dollop of climactic dragon battle and a big side order of ham.

What’s wrong with it?

Well, it’s a Dungeons & Dragons movie made by a director who a) loves the game, and b) doesn’t quite realise what changes need to be made to make a good game into a good film. It also bears several hallmarks of first-time directing (and, frankly, first time GMing) including low levels of coherence padded with moments of blink-and-you’ll-miss-it exposition. It doesn’t help that – as the DVD version shows – two key scenes were cut or never completed, and the bollocks final scene was apparently thrown in because the original was too downbeat. As a result, many parts of the film make no sense.

We also run the gamut of bad acting in this film: There’s ham (Jez), there’s camp (Richard O’Brien) and there’s wood (Thora ‘So Aptly-named’ Birch).

And Marlon Wayans’s whining quickly gets tedious.

What’s right with it?

If you don’t set out to hate it, and watch it with a song in your heart, D&D is an hour and a quarter of solid, cheesy entertainment; like a big piece of mild cheddar. Much of the ham and camp is pretty amusing, some of the acting is even fairly serviceable, a lot of the effects are fairly sweet, and the characters – if not exactly well-rounded and profound – are at least fairly likeable (well, the ones who have a character).

How bad is it really?

Not that bad. It’s never going to be a classic, and for my money is a better bet than Krull (although note that I give Krull a better rating). I used to say I prefered it to Labyrinth, but I think I may be mellowing on Labyrinth, but never on D&D.

Best Bit

Profion: I must have that Rod of Savrille. With its power, I shall be invincible.
Damodar (standing a foot behind him the whole time): What is your will?

What’s up with…?

  • Ah yes; the lipstick. Shehaaaah!
  • The Jez and Thora show? Come on guys; we know you can act. We’ve seen it!
  • Tom Baker showing up as the elven clergy to basically give Obi-Wan’s force speech? Weird.
  • The editing? The final version omits not only Ridley’s dream about the dragon hatching, but also the scene in the scroll, aka “the scene that explains everything”. It turns out Ridley hates mages as much as he does because they wiped his father’s mind when he designed a flying carriage without being of proper mage blood, and that he gets to pass through the force field because he was the first to decipher the scroll. It might have helped to know this. We also get the original ending as a deleted scene on the DVD, where Ridley just puts the ruby on Snails’s cairn and walks away. Makes much more sense.

Ratings

Production Values – Fairly swish, especially from a first time director. Some very nice dragons. Less sure about some of the costumes though, in particular all of the costumes the elves wear. 6

Dialogue and Performances – All over the shop. The script runs from the perfectly decent to the utterly ludicrous, while the acting plumbs the depths of planksville and hamborough alike, and spends a fair amount of time camping. Thora! We’ve seen you act! Jeremy! We’ve seen you not overact! Bruce…Oh, well, we don’t expect anything from you. 12

Plot and Execution – Amateurish, but less dynamically bollocks than the likes of Sanctuary and Highlander…well, any of them really. 15

Randomness – Due to crazed editing, there is rather a lot of this. For starters, the Empress (and as one 11th Hour reviewer pointed out, not calling her The Childlike Empress is purely a formality) is an essentially passive character, who should have the decency to wait around and get rescued. Having her do a bunch of stuff at the end just makes things complicated. And the end is weird as all get out. 12

Waste of Potential – One can not help but wonder what might have been with a better director to handle the ideas, budget and rampant actors. 15

Overall – 60%

From the Archive – Highlander III: The Sorcerer (1994)

“This time it’s for eternity.”

Directed by Andrew Morahan.
Starring Christopher Lambert and Mario van Peebles

Brief Synopsis

After four centuries trapped in a cave, the evil immortal Kane (‘Super’ Mario van Peebles) – who apparently makes the Kurgan look like a pussycat – is freed by development construction. Will they never learn?

This awakening reactivates Connor’s full powers, although we learn that he survived a fatal car wreck in the highlands which dispatched the love interest of the original film, and he and Kane kill one of the latter’s hapless hench-immortals apiece, before convening for the ultimate showdown, in which Connor wins the prize again. The twist is that, in addition to his mastery of the sword, Kane also possesses the power of illusion, stolen from Connor’s second mentor, the sorcerer Nakano, along with his head and his Quickening.

Along the way, there’s also a romantic plotline with an archaeologist who uncannily resembles Connor’s French Revolution love, and Kane kidnaps Connor’s adopted son to use as live bait. At one point they fight on holy ground, and Connor’s sword explodes.

What’s wrong with it?

The Sorcerer is essentially a rehash of the original with some extra special effects, only this time it isn’t novel and different. It’s woefully short on swordfights, and ‘Super’ Mario just lacks the camp malevolence of Clancy ‘Kurgan’ Brown. Its attempts to rationalise its own existence in the wake of the events of the original are – if less crazed than II’s – still fairly stretched. Far more of the film is set in daylight, and the colouration is better than in the original, which actually ends up detracting from the overall atmosphere.

What’s right with it?

There’s some nifty SFX, and the love interest is of a slightly higher calibre than in the original (largely because there’s a small child to do the screaming incompetence).

How bad is it really?

Unlike II, this film is at least watchable. That said, it’s still pretty abominable.

Best bit (if such there is)?

Even the swordfights are pretty dull in this one. It says a lot about the overall quality of the film that the best moment is probably ‘Super’ Mario proving that Kane is out of touch by trying to eat a condom. And no, it’s not one of those things you had to be there for; that’s really all there is to it.

What’s up with…?

  • This whole power of illusion thing in the first place? Fair’s fair though; at least this time there actually is a new kind of magic.
  • Hench immortals? Why would anyone do it? You know that you’re going to end up dead.
  • The exploding sword? OK, I buy that it’s supposed to be some sort of resistance to immortals duelling on holy ground, but since Kane attacked, why does his katana remain intact? Moreover, why doesn’t he even try to finish MacLeod off while he’s unarmed?

Ratings:

Production values – Pretty good; in fact, almost too good. The whole thing is so well-shot it actually loses the gritty atmosphere of the original because of it. 6

Dialogue and performances – So-so. The dialogue is fairly uninspired, the acting is vaguely competent. Nothing outstandingly bad, but nothing more than workmanlike really. 10

Plot – At best, the plot is patchy. In places, the film feels more like a series of vignettes than a coherent narrative, and the flashbacks to the French Revolution – indeed the entire romantic subplot – feels tacked on, and rather pointless. 14

Randomness – While it has nothing on II, much in The Sorcerer goes unexplained. The exploding sword, Kane’s hibernation, the henchlings, the reincarnated lover. 10

Waste of Potential – Less shameless than the second film, as this does not abuse the mighty Sean, but even for a Super Mario van Peebles/Christopher Lambert film, this is pretty slack. 12

Overall: 52%

From the Archive – Lost in Time: Waxwork II (1992)

Image

Directed by Anthony Hickox
Starring Zach Galligan, Monika Schnarre, Alexander Godunov and Bruce Campbell

A sequel to 1988’s campy schlock-horror romp Waxwork, in which the usual crowd of stupid beautiful teenagers suffer a series of gruesome fates at the hands of the exhibits in a waxworks museum. Waxwork’s shtick was making the exhibits doorways into other worlds, allowing the various teen victims to be drawn into scenes homaging various horror genres and settings, before finally being gorily despatched

In the sequel, Mark Loftmore and Sarah Brightman (not the singer), after escaping from the burning ruin of the museum, are pursued by a disembodied hand, which proceeds to murder Sarah’s stepfather before being shoved down the waste disposal, leaving Sarah facing a murder charge. In an attempt to prove her outlandish story, Mark and Sarah go to the house of the now deceased Sir Wilfred, an ageing, wheelchair-bound warrior-against-evil (played briefly but gleefully by Patrick Macnee), who died helping them destroy the Waxworks, in search of evidence. Here they learn that Sir Wilfred has left Mark his collection of strange artefacts, collected by himself and Mark’s grandfather in their ‘adventures through the supernatural’.

One of these artefacts (kept alongside the hockey mask from Friday the 13th, the Nazi crate containing the Ark of the Covenant and others) is a Cartagrian Time-Door Opener, a kind of stylish wood and brass compass which opens a swirly door in a mirror. Mark and Sarah go through the portal to search for more tangible evidence, and thus begins the first main thread of the movie, in which Mark and Sarah travel through a series of short homages: Frankenstein, Legend of Hell House and Alien form the basis of the three episodes, but references to other movies find their way in. Through these travels, Mark finds himself remaining aware of who he is, a la Sam Beckett in Quantum Leap, but Sarah is sucked into various characters, forgetting who she really is when not around Mark.

After these episodes, the second main strand comes in; an elongated segment set in a pseudo-medieval England where the vile and decadent Scarabis (played by evil ballet dancer Alexander Godunov) torments his people while planning to take over the kingdom by abducting and replacing King Arthur through black magic. Mark is thrown in a dungeon, where Sir Wilfred finds him in the form of a post-modern raven (‘this was the only way they’d let me appear in this one’) and tells him that he and Sarah have stumbled into Cartagra – ‘God’s Nintendo game’ – where good and evil time warriors take on different roles to fight in battles for the fate of the real world.

Needless to say, the raven frees Mark and he thwarts the dastardly plan, engaging in a final duel in which the time-door opener becomes activated, allowing Mark and Scarabis to pass through time as they fight. In the course of the duel, they encounter Jack the Ripper (and feed him to Nosferatu), Mr Hyde, Godzilla and a horde of zombies in a shopping mall (a la Dawn of the Dead). Finally they come back to where they started, and Scarabis is killed by one of his own creations, proving that sophisticated irony and gratuitous head-being-pulled-off gore are not mutually exclusive. Sarah goes home with a hand taken from one of the zombies while Mark remains in Cartagra to be a time warrior. Once found innocent she receives a package from Ye Olde courier company containing a time-door opener, and an invitation to join Mark in Cartagra.

What’s Wrong With It?

Lost in Time is an Anthony Hickox movie, and suffers from all of his usual failings. The plot is ludicrous, the dialogue garbled, and the performances more full of ham than a pig farm. There is an excess of egregious and almost cartoonish gore (more people have their heads torn from their shoulders in the course of this movie than – probably – in all other movies in history combined), and Hickox is a little overfond of the ‘fountain of blood’ effect. If you don’t like gore, the movie can do nothing for you.

What’s Right With It?

Well, it’s fun in a gory kind of way, it has absolutely no pretensions and the cast seem to have their tongues firmly in cheek, especially Bruce Campbell in the Hell House section. It also shows a remarkable degree of invention, and comes up with an almost original premise, which could easily have been wasted on a too-serious TV movie.

How Bad is it Really?

Extremely bad, but in quite a fun way if you don’t mind the gratuitous bloodshed.

Best Bit?

In the Hell House section, John Loftmore (Bruce Campbell) has been tied spread-eagle on a wooden frame, his chest cut open to the ribs and an eagle has been pecking at his innards. Despite this, he remains very together and stiff upper-lipped. Then the possessed Elenore (Sophie Ward) starts throwing things at Mark, who dodges each, only for them to hit John in the face or ribs. Elenore hefts a heavy sack, labelled ‘Bag ‘O Salt’.

John: Oh no.
Elenore throws, Mark dodges, and the salt goes all over John’s exposed ribs. He screams. Mark knocks out Elenore.
John: Water! Water.
Mark grabs a bottle and throws the contents over John’s chest, washing off the salt. John screams louder. Mark looks, and sees that the bottle is labelled ‘Vinegar’.
Mark: Sorry.
John: (tightly controlled) It’s alright. It’s going numb.

Also, in the credits, this happens:

What’s Up With…?

It’s frankly pointless to try to pick holes in an Anthony Hickox film. The whole thing is an exercise in the absurd and the unnecessary, so pointing out its logical inconsistencies is like complaining that, even if a mouse could lift a frying pan, the cat’s head wouldn’t go pan-shaped when he got hit with it.

Ratings:

Production Values – Not great, but on the other hand the movie does manage to create at least seven fairly distinct settings. Costume and set design is actually fairly impressive, although maybe they just stole whatever was on the nearby sets. The special effects aren’t all that special, and most of that budget seems to have gone on the gallons of fake blood. 12

Dialogue and performances – In places the dialogue is laughable, in others incomprehensible. The performances are well and truly overcooked. 14

Plot and execution – When all is said and done, the plot is really an excuse for the various sections, and the sections are merely excuses for a series of in-jokes, pastiches, homages and – of course – brutal decapitations. There are attempts to weld the whole thing into a coherent narrative, but only just. 16

Randomness – A number of characters are only named in the credits, including King Arthur and John Loftmore. Much of the film makes sense only with reference to other films. A lot seems like it might have been included only because it seemed like a good idea at the time. There is little consistent sense of mood, as the grimmest scenes may suddenly veer off into slapstick with the abandon of Hong Kong cinema. 14

Waste of Potential – Not really. It’s a shlocky gory comedy, and pretty good at it too. 0.

Overall: 56%

From the Archive – Hellbound (1993)

“Mess with this Chicago cop and there’s hell to pay.”

Directed by Aaron Norris
Starring Chuck Norris, Calvin Levels, and no one else of the slightest consequence.

Not Hellraiser II, but a film widely considered to be one of Chuck Norris’ worst. I’ll just let that sink in for a moment.

We open with a prophecy regarding the emissary of Satan, a demon named Prosatanus, which makes sense – he’s pro-Satan – but still sounds a whole lot too much like ‘prostate’ to be really frightening coming from anyone but your doctor. Apparently a shining knight under the banner of a lion will vanquish him and entomb him for the requisite thousand years. Sure enough, Richard the Lionheart shows up, does the entombing and rescues some random princeling, then breaks Prosatanus’ sceptre of plot into nine pieces.

Flash forward to the fifties, and two greedy tomb robbers remove the jewelled daggers holding the lid of Prosatanus’ sarcophagus. D’oh!

Flash forward again, and streetwise, wisecracking, pimp-hating cops Shatter (Norris) and Jackson (Levels) are exercising their own brand of rough justice on the mean streets of Chicago when Prosatanus kills a Rabbi and throws a prostitute out of a window onto their car; as you do. Prosatanus escapes despite being shot, and what with one thing and another the two cops are told to escort the Rabbi’s body back to Israel. The usual warnings from authority figures not to get involved are given and ignored.

Shatter and Jackson hook up with the requisite love interest – a pretty archaeologist whose boss turns out to be a demon – and the requisite cute street urchin.

Prosatanus gets his sceptre back and tries to sacrifice the love interest. He is introduced to a world of hurting via the sharp end of every Chuck Norris joke there is, and a mysterious bearded man gathers up the bits of sceptre to hide again.

What’s wrong with it?

The dialogue is poor. The acting is for the most part wooden, or at least bad. The plot is fairly minimal, without even a decent quota of fight scenes to pad it out. The demon is called Prostate, and just isn’t that scary. Chuck Norris’ character is almost a parody of himself in the extent of his world-weary, unflappable pragmatism.

What’s right with it?

Well, not much really. It has a few unintentional laughs, but not enough to make it a ‘so bad it’s good’ film. I suppose at least there isn’t any bad movie sex.

How bad is it really?

Not that terrible actually. Hellbound manages to scrape in as mediocre.

Best bit (if such there is)?

[Jackson examines the body of the murdered Rabbi]
Calvin Jackson (horrified): Oh shit! His heart’s gone!
[Shatter points to the floor beside Jackson]
Frank Shatter: No it isn’t. It’s right there…

What’s up with…?

  • When will the forces of good learn to seal the unspeakable evil into its coffin with regular iron nails? If the ritual seals weren’t always gold, they wouldn’t keep getting stolen by greedy and stupid thieves.
  • Why does evil always hire a cheap, stupid prostitute, and then kill her out of hand? If you were a creature of darkness, whose only goal was to recover your sceptre of power and sacrifice a child of royal blood to release Satan from Hell and usher in the coming apocalypse, would you jeopardise your situation by casually murdering people to get your rocks off?
  • When you divide up the artefact of ancient evil and scatter it across the known world to be hidden for all eternity, why keep a list of where all the bits are? It’s supposed to be hidden for all eternity; why would you ever need to know?
  • Why is there so little security in an Israeli police station when the heroes break in? Israel wasn’t noted for the laxity of its security officials the last time I checked.

Ratings:

Production values – pretty good really. Not much in the way of special effects, but the film is decently lit and framed, even if the direction is a little static. 7

Dialogue and Performance – The dialogue is pretty naff, but nothing exceptional. The performances are middling to appalling. The prostitute is the worst (I’m guessing the producer’s girlfriend or something), with all the acting skills of a plank, and not that really talented plank from the short film of the same name either. 17

Plot – Sparse, and only barely explained. Of particular note, streetwise Chicago cops apparently have no trouble processing the fact that they’re going up against nameless and ancient evil. 14

Randomness – Moderate. for the most part the film follows a constant – if contrived – flow of cause and effect. Who speaks English and how well seems to follow plot more than logic though, and the small street urchin with the perfect English moreover has an oddly comprehensive knowledge of local geography and holy sites. 10

Waste of Potential – Well, this was pretty much going to be bollocks, wasn’t it. The ancient evil could have been a little better thought out, but that’s about it. 7

Overall – 55%