Quantcast Trilogy Pics - 3 Movies You Should Watch Tonight: MAY 2007 - DEAD MEN WALKING

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MAY 2007 - DEAD MEN WALKING

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May. 2007 Trilogy Pics:

Trilogy Pics:

Wow. Long time since I wrote a trilogy pic. Sorry for the absence.

Dead Men Walking

Fairly frequently during the 80's and early 90's you'd see a slew of movies with almost the same plot come out at the same time. There was the body-switch trend (Vice Versa, Like Father Like Son, 18 Again), there was the school/academy trend (Police Academy, Stewardess School, Hamburger: The Movie), the shitty dance movie (Lamba!, The Forbidden Dance). Kind of like what happened last year when “The Illusionist” and “The Prestige” opened within weeks of each other. The horror genre's own contribution to this peculiar phenomenon was the host of “Executed Killer Comes Back To Haunt The Cop Who Stopped Him” movies. Goddamn the devil was busy makin' deals on Death Row from 89'-'90. There were quite of few of these made, but we're going to focus on the just three of the better know films of this type: “Wes Craven's Shocker”, “The Horror Show”, and “The First Power”.

Shocker:

Horace Pinker (great name, best part of the movie) is a serial murdering TV repairman. Make a mental note of that “TV repairman” part, it's important. He ends up killing the family of Lt. Don Parker, who has been investigating the case. Parker's son Jonathan has this psychic connection (in his dreams) to the killer and helps his father locate him. He's sentenced to die, but sells his soul so he can come back and (Ding, ding, ding! 80's horror gimmick alert!) haunt and kill people through their TV sets. He takes over their bodies and continues his murderous spree until Jonathan can find a way to stop him.

This was one of those terribly obvious attempts to breakout another “Freddy Krueger”-like character. This is also part of Wes Craven's post “Nightmare on Elm Street” period, and they weren't exactly the salad days of creativity for him. Poor Wes, after “Nightmare on Elm Street”, he was hired to write and direct several of these obvious, and very cheap, franchise start-up wannabes (“Deadly Friend”, “Chiller”). The film is purely by-the-numbers and you get the sense throughout that Wes' heart just wasn't in this one. I write this a lot, but “Shocker” plays out like they skipped over the first few films in a franchise and started right off with “Shocker IV”.

“Shocker” isn't all bad news. Horace Pinker probably would have made a great horror villain if Wes took the time to develop him a bit more instead of making a big joke. He's played fairlywell by Mitch Peleggi and Jonathan is played by Peter Berg, who has gone on to make a name for himself as a director. There's also some value in “Shocker” as an example of the end of the 80's horror boom. Oh, and Ted Raimi has a small part. You can't hate a movie that's got Ted Raimi.

The Horror Show:

Lt. McCarthy catches “Meat Cleaver Max”, a serial killer, and stands as a witness when he is executed in the electric chair. Now it seems that Max is back, still killing, and haunting his—whoa, sound familiar? Instead of being gimmicky and haunting TV's, Max's spirit is gimmicky and invades McCarthy's house and dreams.

“The Horror Show” was actually released a few months before “Shocker” (it was also released outside the US as “House III”, it is unrelated). It's actually not that much better a film than “Shocker”, but it's is a probably a lot scarier, and much darker. The late Brion James, in one of his few leading roles, plays Max, and unlike “Horace Pinker”, he's actually menacing. It's said this was one of his favorite roles. Lt. McCarthy is played by Lance Henricksen, who is great as the tormented cop. What makes this one different and a little bit better than “Shocker”, even though it's essentially the same movie, is there was a much better attempt to take the premise and the horror seriously. It's not really played much for laughs. The first time I saw “The Horror Show” I remember my father commented, “Now...that was a scary movie”, it's probably the only time the man ever said that. Nearly 20 years later, it's not that effective on me, but look for this to pop up on cable sometime, otherwise it's really hard to find.

The First Power:

Rounding out the “Executed Killer” films is 1990's “The First Power” and if it wasn't the last the last of these films to come out within a year, I'm sure it would have gotten a little more respect from critics. It was the best performing of all three of these films at the box-office, but that was probably due to the still twinkling star power of Lou Diamond Phillips. He will be playing the part of our tormented homicide detective tonight. Of the three movies in this month trilogy this is my favorite and probably the best one.

The story by now is familar: A very nasty killer, Patrick Channing, is stopped by LAPD Officer Russell Logan and executed in the gas chamber (see, different already), but it seems that Patrick is back and he's taking over bodies, and killing again.

“The First Power” succeeds in getting a few things right the others didn't. First, it's played as a straight horror film. We got the dead guy coming back, but he's a much more violent, frightening character than our other two villains. The film doesn't attempt to explain too much about how Patrick came back, but we know he was a Satanist and made some deal. There's no cheesy FX sequence showing his spirit moving around. I liked that about “The First Power”. Also, the police procedural aspect of the film is played out much better than in “Shocker”. It's darker, it's nastier, and it's all works as a horror film. You can catch this one easily on DVD. -mike c.

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