Thursday, December 8, 2016

On DVD/Blu-ray: YOGA HOSERS (2016); ELIMINATORS (2016); and SIREN (2016)

(US - 2016)

Kevin Smith's 2014 man-surgically-transformed-into-walrus horror film TUSK was the result of Smith talking about a prank classified ad on his podcast and his listeners tweeting "#WalrusYes" if they wanted to see a movie about it. The TUSK spinoff YOGA HOSERS (the second of Smith's planned "True North" trilogy), released on just 140 screens, has an even more flimsy foundation, a horror comedy built around two minor characters: the Colleens, eye-rolling, can't even BFFs who work at the Canadian maple syrup convenience store chain Eh-2-Zed. Smith conceived YOGA HOSERS as a movie for his daughter Harley Quinn Smith (as Colleen McKenzie) and her friend Lily-Rose Depp (as Colleen Collette), and flat-out told the crowd attending its Sundance 2016 premiere that he wasn't making movies for audiences anymore. Mission accomplished. Possibly the worst horror comedy since 1987's BLOOD DINER, YOGA HOSERS is an unwatchable Kevin Smith home movie that manages to go 88 minutes without a single humorous moment, with the once-relevant and respected writer-director having no clue how teenage girls talk and pretty much relying on punchlines about Canadian accents that wouldn't have made it past the first read-through of the STRANGE BREW script 33 years ago. Did he think just having the Colleens repeatedly say "Soo-ree boot that!" would suffice?  He haplessly tries to turn things like "yoga hoser" and "This is so basic" into the new "snoochie boochies," and by the time Jason Mewes shows up as a cop (!), it's pretty clear that Smith has turned into an embarrassing dad trying too hard to be cool around his daughter and her friends. Even Colleen McKenzie shouting Dante-from-CLERKS' oft-invoked "I'm not even supposed to be here today!" only serves as a depressing reminder of what Smith used to be. Other things Smith found funny enough to include in YOGA HOSERS: every character getting a hash-tagged "InstaCam" intro accompanied by '80s video game music; Justin Long as a yoga instructor named "Yogi Bayer," who says things like "Yoga Fett, soo-ree not soo-ree!"; everyone talking about hockey and snacking on "Pucky Charms"; the Colleens singing Styx's "Babe" and making Colleen Collette's dad (Tony Hale) cry like a baby as his girlfriend (Natasha Lyonne) refers to her cleavage as a "bouncy-house"; SNL's Sasheer Zamata as their no-nonsense principal Principal Invincible; Stan Lee as a 9-1-1 operator who answers "9-1-1, eh!"; a villain who speaks in Al Pacino, Sylvester Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Adam West impressions; and Lily-Rose's dad Johnny Depp, under a ton of makeup, looking like a syphilitic Kurt Vonnegut and with a bizarre French-Swedish hybrid accent, reprising his not-even-remotely beloved Guy LaPointe private eye character from TUSK.

What happened to Kevin Smith? It takes a good half hour for some semblance of a plot to form, and it seems at times like it's trying to go for a YA version of Don Coscarelli's JOHN DIES AT THE END sort-of thing, minus the ambition, creativity, and comedy. The Colleens, after getting some info from LaPointe, are targeted by Satanists working with the reanimated Andronicus Arcane (Ralph Garman), a cryogenically frozen Canadian Nazi stirred awake by the sounds of GlamThrax, the Colleens' band with 35-year-old drummer Ichabod (Adam Brody), a character named as such for the sole purpose of calling him "Dickabod" immediately after his introduction. Arcane is a protege of evil Adrian Arcand (Haley Joel Osment in flashbacks), the leader of the Canadian Nazi party in WWII whose "La Solution Finale" involved putting Canadian Jews on ships in Hudson Bay and deliberately sinking them. Integral to Arcane's nonsensical scheme are the Bratzis, 12-inch-tall PUPPET MASTER-looking Nazis made of bratwurst and with concentrated sauerkraut for blood. The Bratzis attack by burrowing up the asses of their victims and out the mouth, when they exclaim things like "Wunderbar!" and "Das Boot!" The Bratzis are played via prosthetics and CGI trickery by Kevin Smith himself, and I'm done here. (PG-13, 88 mins)

(US/UK - 2016)

Arriving not long after the entertaining sequel-but-actually-remake HARD TARGET 2, ELIMINATORS--not a remake of the 1986 Empire Pictures cult favorite--is the latest Scott Adkins actioner, casting him as Martin Parker, an American widower living in London with his young daughter Carly (Lily Ann Harland-Stubbs). Martin leads a quiet life and works a boring job as a parking garage security guard, but his mysterious past is out in the open after a home invasion leads to him killing the intruders and being placed under arrest with his face all over TV. This catches the attention of Charles Cooper (James Cosmo), a powerful arms dealer who knows Martin's true identity: he's really Thomas McKenzie, an FBI agent who infiltrated Cooper's operation and was eventually placed in witness protection and shipped off to London. Cooper heads to London and hires Bishop (WWE star Wade Barrett), the most dangerous hit man in Europe, to find Martin/McKenzie and take him out. A Universal/WWE production shot in the UK and with a plot that makes it a sort-of B-action version of A HISTORY OF VIOLENCE, ELIMINATORS looks a lot more polished and big-screen-ready than most of Adkins' work for Millennium/NuImage, though director James Nunn (who previously worked with Adkins on the dismal GREEN STREET HOOLIGANS: UNDERGROUND) doesn't quite have the skills that an Isaac Florentine would've brought to the proceedings. After an engaging opening act, ELIMINATORS bogs down into one predictable plot development and contrivance after another, and for being Europe's most lethal hired assassin, Bishop sure seems to screw things up a lot and prove not very adept at getting the job done. It's pretty dumb and offers nothing new, but it's entertaining enough on a slow night as far as by-the-numbers Redbox and Netflix-ready action movies go. Adkins brings his A-game to this and once again shows he's ready for bigger things, and while he's been getting supporting roles in high-profile projects like DOCTOR STRANGE, it's really time for Hollywood to realize that its next big action star has been busting his ass in B-movies for at least a decade now. (R, 94 mins)

(US - 2016)

A feature-length expansion/spinoff of the "Amateur Night" segment of the 2012 horror anthology V/H/S, SIREN isn't always successful but proves to be more engaging than its overrated source film and its two sequels. "Amateur Night" dealt with three dudebros whose plan to get a hooker and shoot an amateur porn video in their hotel room backfires when the woman turns out to be a demonic, monstrous succubus. SIREN thankfully jettisons V/H/S's found-footage angle and has four guys on a wild bachelor party weekend for Jonah (JOHN DIES AT THE END's Chase Williamson), which leads them to a private strip club/sex dungeon in the middle-of-nowhere at the mansion of wealthy Mr. Nyx (Justin Welborn). Nyx is a collector of things supernatural, with many seductive non-human freaks imprisoned as sex workers and staying in their human form for his adventurous customers with disposable income. Of course, among his girls are "Amateur Night"'s nympho demon Lily (Hannah Fierman reprises her role). While Jonah's douchebag brother Mac (Michael Aaron Milligan) and his more laid-back buddies Rand (Hayes Mercure) and Elliott (Randy McDowell) party and fall victim to drinks laced with hallucinogenic leeches, Lily takes a shine to Jonah, who decides to be a hero and break her out of what he assumes is some kind of sexual slavery/human trafficking operation. A grateful Lily repays the favor by declaring Jonah hers with a chirpy "I like you" even as she shapeshifts, sprouts wings and lets loose a long tail that she uses for some unpleasant ass-play on the groom-to-be in a memorably twisted sex scene. Even at a brief 83 minutes, SIREN still doesn't have quite enough to justify its expansion to its own movie, but it gets a lot from Fierman going all in with an admirably fearless performance. Director/co-writer Gregg Bishop finds his voice late in the game as SIREN becomes increasingly demented and starts to take on a vintage Full Moon quality, suddenly bearing a strong resemblance to the kind of quietly unsettling horror film someone like Stuart Gordon would've made in the 1990s, like CASTLE FREAK. Not a start-to-finish winner, but SIREN gets better as it goes on, and ends up being a not-bad little horror sleeper. (Unrated, 83 mins)

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