Thursday, May 31, 2012

So, They are remaking "Leprechaun"

Finally, a remake that won't make anyone upset.

Come on, how could anyone get upset over that being remade?

Monday, May 28, 2012

Thou Shalt Not Kill...Except (1985)

It's Memorial Day. How are you spending it? Me? Well, I'm finishing up David Morrell's "First Blood" and reviewing a movie called "Thou Shalt Not Kill...Except." Done with a budget of $20,000, many of the people behind "The Evil Dead" were involved, and the best way to describe it would be "Marines vs. A Manson Like Religious Cult."

Injured during the Vietnam war, Sgt. Jack Stryker (Brian Schulz) has come home. Getting together with an old flame (Cheryl Hausen) and having fun with his old war buddies (Robert Rickman, John Manfredi and Timothy Patrick Quill), it seems like things are going to be fine. That is, until a cult leader (Sam Raimi) and his brethren start to cause havoc, even kidnapping and torturing Stryker's girl. No, Jack and his buddies have to take out the cult and put an end to the leader's reign of murder.

Based on a Super 8 movie called "Stryker's War" starring Bruce Campbell (who also helped write the movie, and whose legs have a cameo since his face couldn't be shown due to SAG restrictions), "Thou Shalt Not Kill...Except" does have it's share of flaws-namely the fact that it kind of drags during the second act. However, what it does offer is tons of energy, enthusiasm, splatter and a warped sense of humor. Part of this is thanks to Raimi's performance, which is out there to say the least. He glowers, delivers one liners ("Don't you ever touch the sacrificial fluids...okie dokie?"), and chews scenery with pure abandon. The rest of the cast doesn't hold up to snuff, but considering that few of them were experienced, that's okay.

A good way to explain what the movie is like is that it is a movie that, when it gets going, is just plain great to watch. The third act in particular is awesome, with all kinds of gore gags (some of the "splatstick" variety), action, bent humor and all around mayhem ensuing. This is a movie made as a labor of love by people who clearly love 70's exploitation movies, and as a tribute, it works really well, and at times feels like the real deal. Also, it only occasionally shows it's budget (especially in the Vietnam scenes), as director Josh Becker works great within his budgetary restraints, and manages to pull off more entertainment than some larger budget movies. Add a fitting conclusion and a great score by "Evil Dead" composer Joseph LoDuca, and you've got good times ahead.

In the end, this is not a perfect movie. However, it doesn't need to be, and part of that adds to the charm. This is a warts and all, real independent movie, and for fans of action and exploitation movies, is a must see.

Rating: 7.5/10

Thursday, May 24, 2012

On Second Viewing: After Sundown (2006)

Like it or not, those of us that review movies sometimes end up revisiting ones that we didn't care for when we first saw them. Call it a form of masochism, call it dedication to your craft, or you can call it a momentary lapse in judgement. Sometimes, we find ourselves enjoying said movies upon second viewing, while other times...not so much. Without further adieu, let's take a look at a movie I previously reviewed.

Sometimes, horror likes to take an "Everything but the Kitchen Sink" approach when it comes to making movies. Sometimes it's not enough to just be a slasher movie-sometimes you have to throw in ghosts and possession. Sometimes it's not enough to simply be a monster movie-sometimes directors feel the need to add a serial killer to the equation. In the case of Christopher Abram and Michael W. Brown's "After Sundown", it's not enough to be a vampire movie-they felt like their movie needed zombies too.

In the 1800's, Molly Porter (Natalie Jones), along with her newborn child and husband Thomas Jenkins (director Abrams) have been killed in the old west. Cut to 2006, in which they are dug up, and the stakes placed in their hearts are removed, leading them to rise and unleash revenge on the town, and in the process look for their child-which is in the possession of Shannon (Susanna Gibb) and Mikey (Reese Rios.) The two vampires also have the ability to bring the dead back to life as zombies, and they use this to take over the town.

Giving it a second viewing, I did find myself liking "After Sundown" by at least half a point more. The actors are shockingly good for a micro-budget (about $80,000) vehicle, and while the characters aren't great, they at least feel like real people instead of the usual stereotypes you get in movies like this. It also have a few striking visuals (the image of the dead walking in the cemetery is worthy of an Italian zombie movie), some cheap but fun gore (though the kills aren't anything special) and compared to Brown and Abram's previous movie "The Fanglys", it's a much better directed movie.

Unfortunately, as far as genre juggling is concerned, the movie really doesn't work. It wants to be a vampire movie and a zombie movie, but the two concepts just don't work together. In fact, we aren't given any reason as to why the vampires need an army of zombies when they could have just made a whole army of vampires. The whole thing makes no sense whatsoever, and just left me scratching my head. It also wants to be a Gothic horror tale and a tongue-in-cheek blend of horror and comedy, but that doesn't blend either. Most of the Gothic imagery isn't anything you haven't seen before, and none of the comedy is funny. Granted, it's rarely annoying, but it never clicks. Add a weak conclusion and moments that feel like padding, and you have what could best be described as a movie that could've been alright, but isn't.

As a whole, I can't really recommend "After Sundown" except to people who want to see movies that have lots of potential but in the end don't meet it. Or for hardcore fans who want to see every zombie movie on DVD.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Dead Hooker in a Trunk (2009)

The first time I heard about "Dead Hooker in a Trunk" was on a website (I don't remember which one) talking about how it was an exploitation throwback made on a micro-budget. My initial reaction to that was "Yawn, been done before." Then I found out that it was made by twin sisters from Canada, and that it got a rave review from none other than Eli Roth. Needless to say, my interest went from zilch to "Sure, why not?" So, how does the end result play out?

Four friends-Geek (Jen Soska), Badass, (Sylvia Soska) Junkie (Rikki Gagne) and Goody Two Shoes (C.J. Wallis) have a bit of a problem-there's well, a dead hooker in a trunk (You know it's a hooker because she's dead-a dead call girl is a hooker. Come on, "Archer" taught me that), with drugs to boot. Well, it turns out that disposing of said body, and finding out who killed her and left her there will be a bit difficult, as a triad, a serial killer, a pimp and police are all on their tail.

I will give the Soska sisters credit for some things. Mostly for the fact that they took an almost nonexistent budget (this cost about $2,500) and making it look like it cost about $100,000 dollars more. It really is an independent production-the cast did there own stunts, edited, did effects work, wrote and directed-you name it, they did it. The movie also forgoes CG blood for real latex, innards and fake blood, which is always welcome, and looks quite good.

Unfortunately, the end result is something of a mixed bag. There's a few funny moments, but most of the humor is more miss than hit, with the character of Goody Two Shoes (Seriously, you couldn't give anyone names?) in particular got on my nerves. Then there's the characters. Sure, the cast is mostly good, but there's nobody here to root for, as they are all either bland stereotypes with little in the way of development or back story. Oh, and if you are looking for an exploitation throwback, then you'll be disappointed. If anything, this is more of a to the likes of Tarantino and Rodriguez, but only offers what they do so well sporadically. It's a lot of hero worship and love for things like the whole Neo-Grindhouse thing, but that's about it.

At the end of the day, this isn't a total waste of time. You can tell that it's a labor of love for everyone involved, and the Soska sisters show some promise, so I'm interested in what a few more years of experience will do for them. Still, it's a hit and miss affair, and is nothing to rush out for.

Rating: 5/10

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Decendents (2008)

Part of the problem I have with most of today's zombie movies is the fact that they don't try anything new. I've seen so many "Zombie breakout occurs" and "Life in the zombie apocalypse" movies that I feel as if I've seen them all. I haven't (that's borderline impossible) but dammit, it oftentimes feels like it. So, that's why it's interesting to see a movie like "Descendents" (in know way related to the George Clooney movie, and is the first horror movie from Chile), which actually does try something differently, even if the end product doesn't quite work out.

In the future, man has pretty much destroyed mother earth, and in the process polluted the air with a virus that turns people into flesh hungry zombies. There are survivors though. Among them is Camille (Camille Lynch), a nine year old girl who along with other children, seems to be immune from the virus, and therefore zombie proof. There's still danger however in the military, whom seem to be as intent in killing the kids as they are the living dead.

As I said, the film does deserve a few kudos for trying something differently. Here, that something is making a child the main character. Apart from "28 Weeks Later", there haven't been any zombie movies done from the point of view of a kid, and to see a movie try to do that is a pretty unique spin on the zombie movie. Also, for a movie done with a tiny budget (about $60,000), the cinematography and most of the effects look great.

That's where the good parts end though. While it's refreshing to see a different spin on the apocalyptic zombie tale, much of the movie feels like yet another part of that genre. The zombies are your typical running infected, the military is up to no good, and all the modern traits (fast and slow editing motion, hyper editing) that you find in your typical contemporary zombie movie. Also, while you feel for Camille, she doesn't have much dialogue outside of constant narration, making her ordeal a bit uneven. Add to a bad twist ending and the fact that the DVD doesn't come with it's original native language makes for a not so worthwhile viewing experience.

It's a shame too, because I kind of wanted to like this movie more. It mostly looks good for such a low budget film, and it has such a novel concept that you want it to succeed. Chalk it up as a noble failure.

Rating: 3.5/10

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

C.H.U.D. (1984) and C.H.U.D. II - Bud of Chud (1989)

One of the reasons the 80's holds such a place in the hearts of horror fans is because it was a time with all kinds of charming little B-Movies. Films like "Motel Hell", "Night of the Creeps", the remake of "The Blob" and "Waxwork" have since remained cult favorites for good reason-they offered scares, laughs and/or a lot of heart that some feel is missing from today's genre films. "C.H.U.D." is one of those movies, a film that managed to win over the hearts of cult movie buffs with it's mix of grotesque monsters, nice sense of humor, effective atmosphere and strong performances. It's sequel "Bud of Chud" however, shouldn't have been made.

"C.H.U.D." deals with a series of strange murders that are going on in the streets of New York. Police Captain Bosch (Chris Curry) is at a loss for words as to who or what is committing these crimes. Soup Kitchen cook A.J. "The Reverend" Shepherd (Daniel Stern) seems to know an awful lot about whatever it is in the sewer systems. Photojournalist George Cooper (John Heard) is dealing with issues like his pregnant girlfriend, and has been tasked to help find out what's going on. Long story short, the murders are being committed by what is known as "Cannibalistic Humanoid Underground Dwellers", or C.H.U.D.s, and the government might have something to do with them...

Though it has some flaws (a few unresolved plot points, the story revolving around the girlfriend kinda drags it down at times), "C.H.U.D." is a fun little creature feature that benefits largely from some strong performances, especially from Stern, who makes for a likable guy who seems to care more about the city's homeless than most do. The creature effects are also great, all done via rubber suits, make-up effects, puppetry and anamatronics. There's even some fine atmosphere as well, mostly aided by the grimy streets of 80's era New York, a few choice moments of suspense and a strong electronic score from David A. Hughes (from Orchestral Maneuvers in the Dark.) Oh, and look for an amusing cameo from a pre-stardom John Goodman as a doomed policeman.

While "C.H.U.D." was a creature feature with moments of humor, "C.H.U.D. II - Bud of Chud" goes the full horror/comedy route-and gets damn near everything wrong. Here, a group of teens break into a a secret government science lab only to discover that-dun dun dun!-something rotten is going on! Anyways, they steal a corpse, but it turns out that it's a zombie like creature called a C.H.U.D. whose name happens to be Bud (groan), which soon gets loose and starts to infect others.

Pretty much a sequel in name only, "Bud of Chud" turns out to be a rather anemic film that changes the mythology of the first movie (C.H.U.D.s are now some kind of mutated zombie/vampire hybrid ala "Mutant") and thinks that pratfalls, idiotic characters and sub "Police Academy" humor is what the audience wants. I can understand the appeal of this movie, but I just found it all to be grating. None of the characters are remotely likable or interesting (Bud in particualr is annoying), it plays it too safe (it all plays out like a PG rated zombie movie-meaning nothing you want from a zombie movie is in this) and even the presence of lovable character and TV actors like Norman Fell, Robert Englund, Bianca Jagger and Robert Vaughn can't save it. To be fair, they all do good work, and I will admit that I got a few chuckles out of it, but most of it is pretty bad.

As a whole, fans of monster movies and 80's horror will find a lot to like about "C.H.U.D.", as it has enough going for it to make for a fun viewing. It's sequel however-well, if you find the "Police Academy" movies to be too sophisticated, than you'll probably enjoy this.


C.H.U.D.: 7/10
C.H.U.D. II - Bud of Chud: 3/10

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Tales From the Crypt: Demon Knight (1995)

When it came to TV, "Tales From the Crypt" became something of a pop culture institution in the 90's. Based on the controversial EC Comics series, it spawned toys, late night jokes and even a Saturday morning cartoon. While it may not have been as important or good as later HBO shows like "The Larry Sanders Show", "The Sopranos" or "The Wire", it was important for horror.

Why? Well for one thing, the fact that big time producers like Robert Zemeckis and Joel Silver were behind it, and got big Hollywood talent to act (Demi Moore) or direct (Michael J. Fox and Arnold Schwarzenegger for example) helped. Plus, it proved that horror television could be done outside of the world of broadcast television and basic cable, and could be done in an "R-rated" style. So, with it's success came movies, which came out on the right time, as horror was slowly becoming fashionable again. The first one was "Demon Knight". which was also the best of the three movies made*, and was Spike Lee vet Ernest Dickerson's first directorial effort within the horror genre**.

Brayker (William Sadler) is on the run from The Collector (Billy Zane), who wants what Brayker has: the last of the Seven Keys-an ancient relic containing the blood of prior owners that dates back to the time of Christ. Brayker tries to take refuge at small hotel in the middle of nowhere, only to have The Collector find him. Oh yeah, I forgot to mention that Mr. Collector is actually a powerful demon, and when he takes the place hostage, Brayker and those in the hotel (including CCH Pounder, Jada-Pinkett Smith, Thomas-Haden Church and Dick Miller) must band together to stop hell from literally breaking loose.

The main reason to watch "Demon Knight" is Billy Zane. Here, he delivers one of the best performances the history of 90's horror, playing the part with a quirky blend of comical deadpan delivery and Satanic menace that thankfully never goes into full scenery-chewing mode. The rest of the cast does fine work too, but this is Zane's show to steal. There's also some choice moments of gore, humor that goes from puns (thankfully, only one or two are real groaners, and they come from The Crypt Keeper) to genuinely great one-liners ("You look absolutely beautiful. I know that sounds like a line-Lord knows I've used it before...") and even some genuine suspense along the way.

Then there's the direction from Dickerson. While he's worked in horror before (he did cinematography for "Fright House" and "Def By Temptation"), it really helps that you can tell from the onset that he's a big fan of horror, as he keeps the laughs, scares and blood flowing while showing some clear respect both for the show and the comics that spawned it. Even the nods to other horror movies-from "Phantasm" and "The Evil Dead" to even Italian horror (there's some very Mario Bava and Dario Argento influences camera work and color schemes, and Collector's demon army looks a lot like the beasts from Lamberto Bava's "Demons") are a lot of fun, and great to spot as well.

If your a fan of the TV show, or if you want a horror/comedy hybrid done right, then "Demon Knight" is right up your alley. If you ask me, it'd make a fun double bill with something like "Demons."

Rating: 8/10

*This wasn't supposed to be the first "Tales From the Crypt" movie. There were also hopes for a zombie-themed movie called "Dead Easy" and a movie called "Body Count." Instead we got "Bordello of Blood", which starred Dennis Miller, Angie Everheart and Cory Feldman, but it came out when people stopped caring about the show, so it bombed. Also, it wasn't a very good movie. The third movie, "Ritual", went straight to video

**Dickerson went on to direct the Snoop Dogg horror vehicle "Bones", the "Master of Horrors" episode "The V Word", the "Fear Itself" episode "Something Will Bite", and episodes of "Dexter" and "The Walking Dead."

Friday, May 11, 2012

Nazis at the Center of the Earth (2012)

Every now and then, a movie comes out that changes the way we look at cinema, and changes the face of the art form.

Let it be known that The Asylum will never make that movie.

Everyone knows who The Asylum is. They are that studio that makes "mockbuster" movies like "Transmorphers" and the upcoming "Abe Lincoln vs. Zombies." They also have made more giant animal movies than you can shake a stick at-from "Mega-Piranha" to "Two-Headed Shark Attack." In short, they've made the kinds of movies you see regularly on something like SyFy or in your local Redbox. Their movies are never good (oh sure, they distributed a few worthwhile titles in the past, but they've never made a good movie.) Hell, oftentimes they are outright painful to watch. Yet sometimes, they will put out something out there that no matter how bad it is, you watch with either your mouth agape or laughing hysterically-often in the same viewing. That my friends, is what "Nazis at the Center of the Earth" is.

In Antarctica, a team of scientists and students have made a discovery when they hit some metal whilst drilling. What two of their colleges (one played by Dominique Swain) go missing, the rest of the team searches for them-only to be abducted by a group of Nazis. But these aren't your regular goose-stepping fascists, no siree Bob. These are Nazi Zombies, and they are lead by the not dead at all Dr. Josef Mengele (Christopher Karl Johnson.) Yes, that one. The Butcher of Auschwitz. The Angel of Death Slayer did a song about. And one of the scientists, Dr. Adrian Reistad (Jake Busey) betrays them, and has been working for Mengele the whole time.Then again, Busey has been evil before, as the existence of "The Frightners" and the UPN sitcom "Shasta McNasty" are all the proof we'll need.

None So Vile

So far, this sounds like standard stuff, and for a while it is. It's also darker than the usual Asylum movie, with gang rape, people being skinned alive, and Nazi experiments all going all.

Then at the 56:39 second mark, the movie goes insane. Not to spoil too much, let's just say that there's a large robot with the head of a certain dictator attached to it, and it gets even crazier from then on.

At that point, it's nearly impossible to rate the movie. Outside of Johnson, nobody here seems all that committed (Busey in particular seems embarrassed to be there), and at the end of the day, there's nothing going on here regarding the plot that makes any sense, and the usual Asylum flaws (terrible CGI, poor direction) are abundant. However, the whole thing kind of deserves kudos for trying to throw in so many things into a blender and trying to make something out of it, even if the end result isn't good and is barely coherent to boot. Plus, once the movie went insane, I couldn't believe what it was that I was watching. It's like an updated version of so many exploitation genres and cliches thrown together in a way that's more dumbfounding than it is good.

In the end, there is no justifiable rating for this movie. None of it is really good, but the end result is so bizarre and dare I say, different than most of what floods the straight-to-video market. Whether or not that deserves praise is completely up to you.

Rating: I Don't Know

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Night Wolf (2010)

At this point, everyone knows about "The Hunger Games", and how it made a whole lot of money and may have turned Lionsgate into a big time player for a change. Well, I'm not here to talk about that. I'm here to talk about "Night Wolf", a recent acquisition that on the DVD cover, boasts that it's from a producer of the classic werewolf movie "Dog Soldiers." Which is funny, because this feels nothing like that movie and everything like a waste of time.

Sarah Tyler (Isabella Calthorpe) and her friends (one of whom is played by Tom Felton, whose best known for playing Draco in the "Harry Potter" movies) decide it would be a good idea to go to a country house and smoke some pot and talk about (and have) sex. Of course, there's something in the countryside-a hairless werewolf creature-that starts to pick them off, leading them to fight for their lives...well, kind of. They mostly just bicker and argue a lot.

First of all: For fans of Mr. Felton-don't bother. He's barely in the movie, and quickly becomes werewolf chow. There, I just saved you money. It's not like you'll miss his character anyway, or care about anyone else for that matter. That's because there's nothing going on here characterization wise. Apart from the fact that Sarah just came back from America, you know nothing about these kids other than the fact that they like to drink, follow that old Nate Dogg motto "Smoke Weed Everyday", and yell at each other. I couldn't wait for the wolf to start taking people out.

So, does that part work out? No, it does not. The majority of the kills are done via the monster's POV, and that POV is "really fast and mostly in red, thus making it hard to tell what the hell is going on." The gore we do get is rarely that interesting, the direction by Jonathan Glendening is lacking, the plot is barebones, and there's no reason to care. As for suspense-well, there is one effective moment revolving around a gun, but everything else is extremely by the numbers. Even the twist nearing the end is lame, and does nothing for what little plot there is.

If you want to see a good werewolf movie from the producer of "Dog Soldiers"...then just go watch that movie. You'll be much more entertained than you will by this piece of crap.

Rating: 2/10

Saturday, May 5, 2012

When Franchises Jumped the Shark/Went Insane

Franchises. Most genre's (action, comedy, even drama) have them. However, for ever "A New Hope", there's "The Phantom Menace", and as horror fans know, that's no exception within that genre. So let's take a look at when horror franchises either jumped the shark or went totally off their rockers.

Jaws: I'm going to skip the obvious pun and mention that while the prior sequels weren't good, "Jaws: The Revenge" both went insane and sucked hard. On paper, the idea of a shark roaring, Michael Cain working simply for a paycheck and a shark with the basic concept of revenge is amusing. In execution however, it's mostly just bad, and in the end killed off the possibility of any more sequels. It didn't however, kill off shark movies, which we still get to this day.

George Romero's "Dead" Series: It had a good run, but by the time "Diary of the Dead" came out, something happened: George Romero's horror with a social conscience had started to run dry. It was at least better than "Survival of the Dead", which featured bad jokes and managed to do nothing to further advance the series or say anything interesting.

Friday the 13th: After "The Final Chapter" made a bunch of money, a sequel was made-even though the last film was supposed to be just that-the last entry. What viewers got instead was a guy pretending to be Jason Voorhees, and lots of really bad moments. While "Jason Lives" restored faith, we then got an okay sequel, a bad one, and then "Jason Goes to Hell", which serves as the worst entry in the series, in which people are possessed by Jason. Then there was "Jason X", which was an improvement, but also gave us Jason in space as a killer cyborg. Not a terrible movie ("We love premarital sex!"), but the premise itself is rather bizarre.

A Nightmare on Elm Street: "Freddy's Dead: The Final Chapter" more resembles a really bad sitcom turned full length movie than it does a horror movie, with pointless cameos (Roseanne Barr and Tom Arnold), a bad attempt at providing back story, and Freddy being reduced to a prancing clown. The remake is nearly as bad, with "Freddy is a child molester" being ramped up to the point of it being gross, and more plot holes, lapses in logic and bad directorial decisions than you can count.

Halloween: By the time "The Curse of Michael Myers" came around, we were introduced to the Cult of Thorn, and Michael having something to do with a cult to me at least was insulting, as he didn't need that kind of thing. Then there was "Halloween: Resurrection", in which Busta Rhymes beats up Michael, and Michael kills his sister Laurie, which essentially destroys the entire point of the series. Then Rob Zombie remade it and did a sequel, which in turn gave us laughable moments (the use of the Nazareth song "Love Hurts"), obnoxious symbolism and white trash stereotypes.

Hellraiser: While "Hellraiser III" threatened to jump the shark with it's goofy Cenobites and bad puns, "Hellraiser: Bloodline" gave us the Cenobites in space (though it at least gave us explanations for the device) and was done by two directors-and the end result was given the infamous "Alan Smithee" pseudonym. The eighth film "Hellworld" introduced Pinhead and the gang to the world wide web, and if you've seen "Halloween: Resurrection", you know how that works out. Oh, and "Revelations" didn't even bother to bring Doug Bradley back as Pinhead.

Scream: I'm a big fan of "Scream", and the second one, while not as good, still has some choice moments. The third one however, sees the joke being stretched to it's limit-and oh God, that awful soundtrack with the likes of Creed, Dope and Coal Chamber! The fourth one was better, but at the same time, it had a conclusion I didn't care for and ultimately felt dated.

Leprechaun: To be honest, this series never did jump the shark. They were movies that came in a time in which horror wasn't as profitable and weren't any good to begin with. By the time "Leprechaun IV" came out, he went to space, though the movie is almost worth watching for the titular creature jumping out of a man's penis and a woman who loves to take her clothes off. Then there's the "Leprechaun in the Hood", which was a punchline before it came out.

Sadly, we never got something like "Next Friday the 13th." Come on, the idea of Ice Cube fighting Jason is awesome.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

The Scorpion King 2: Rise of a Warrior (2008)

Sometimes, against my better judgement (hah!), I find myself enjoying a movie that I probably shouldn't, to the point were I feel that even saying it's a "guilty pleasure" isn't a particularly good excuse. Case in point: "The Scorpion King 2: Rise of a Warrior", which is a prequel to a prequel that was also a spin-off. It's also more fun than that "Mummy" movie it's attached to ("Tomb of the Dragon Emperor") that came out that same year.

When his father Ashur (Peter Butler) is killed by the ruthless Sargon (MMA superstar Randy Couture), Mathayus (Michael Copon) is sent to a harsh training camp (is their any other kind?) Years later, Sargon has seized the throne, and when Mathayus refuses loyalty, the warrior becomes a wanted man. Fortunately for our hero, he is aided by the likes of tough tom-girl Layla (Karen David), mostly silent warrior Fong (Tom Wu), Greek scribe and warrior Ari (Simon Quarterman.) Together with a band of warriors, they must travel the pits of the underworld and back to put an end to Sargon's reign.

First, the bad: The movie does tend to drag a bit at times, and it has some serious plot hole problems. For example, Mathayus' brother dies here, but if you've seen the first one, you know that shouldn't be-his brother dies in that one. Was there a second brother we didn't know about or something? Then there's Sargon himself. To me, he just didn't feel like a very threatening nemesis, and it particularly doesn't help that Couture himself is an awful actor. Seriously, every time he has to deliver dialogue, I wished he'd keep his mouth shut.

Thankfully, Copon actually does an alright job as our here-he's not great mind you, but he does deliver a better than it has any right to be performance. In fact, most of the cast is surprisingly competent, which is refreshing. This is also probably because I saw the third one before this one, but at least Russel Mulachy (whose credits include "Highlander" and the underrated Ozploitation flick "Razorback") is a better director than Roel Reine. Granted, this isn't his best work, but he does know how to give the audience some fun set-pieces, and that he certainly does. From an angry Minotaur to Fulci inspired zombies, the action is pretty easy on the eyes and pulpy in a dumb but fun way.

Speaking of which, that's a good way to describe this movie-stupid as hell but sorta fun. If anything, it mostly feels like an updated version of the kind of cheesy but fun Sword n' Sorcery movies from the 80's-you know, stuff like "The Sword and the Sorcerer" and "Deathstalker", and best of all, it embraces it's genre roots. Oh, and the score by Klaus Badelt is also pretty good for a straight-to-video sequel.

By the time it was over, I didn't feel any desire to rave about this movie, as it's pretty light entertainment. However, it's not too bad for a straight to video sequel, and would make for a fine double bill with the Sword n' Sorcery cheese fest of your choosing. In short: It's what the next movie should have been like.

Rating: 6/10

Classic Poster Art: The Sword and the Sorcerer (1982)