HORROR IN SPACE
Written by Eddie Generous
Space, where horror franchises go to die… a saying I've heard enough, but one that doesn't exactly ring true. Space might be where a franchise reaches for the bottom, but enough times there's redemption, or maybe just reboot, but not exactly death.
Bad as horrors boldly going where no monster has gone before can be, they can usually get worse. There are four major Earthbound horror franchises that blasted off, but only one of these four movies did I find absolutely horrible.
Now for a peek into my rating system, or really lack of a system, more of a vibe. For the very top possible, as a marker, I'll start with one not amidst the four in question: Alien. This is a perfect melding of horror and space. The acting, the direction, the production, the set, it has a cat, perfect. That's my top for reference space and horror has never gotten along as well before or since:
Alien: - watch it unfailing every year, at minimum, until you die.
And before revisiting the four flicks meeting my ill-informed and untrained critic's eye, the bottom was muddy. I tried to think of bad a sci-fi horror and what came to mind was always in the middle, redeemable points to counteract the clunkers.
No longer, the bottom dwells here.
First on the list: Critters 4, 1992. This one makes the most sense from a logic standpoint. The crites are from space, so being in space again is like taking the whales out of the aquarium and popping them back into the ocean. The production values are dated, but reasonable, nothing about them is embarrassing. The cast is recognizable almost all the way through, featuring THE Angela Bassett (Black Panther), as well as Brad Dourif (in about one-third of movies made since 1970-something), Anne Ramsey (know her to see her), and Eric DaRe (captain ponytail on Twin Peaks). In the scheme of Critters movies, number four isn't the worst, that's undeniably part three (despite being Leonardo DiCaprio's debut film).
Critters 4 goes to some new places, but mostly it's the same idea and Charlie is the ever goofy nimrod who saves the day. There are some painful moments, but most are illogical-horror-mainstay points (Why isn't he moving? No, don't go in there!).
As far as space goes, there's a long way down from Critters 4.
- sure there are better movies, but I like legless rats and spaceships, sue me.
Hellraiser: Bloodline, 1996, cheated some when it came to visiting space. This film takes place in three periods, eighteenth century France, 1996 America, and future space. As far as the story goes, it's fine; I mean Pinhead has one trick and standing around deep talking gets old pretty quickly. Of course, this one isn't so much about him as it is his beautiful demon princess sidekick who is in a relationship with a conjurer (Adam Scott, dude from Parks and Recreation) until she sets her sights elsewhere. The first Hellraiser is good, the second is good too, after that, they mingle together like Children of the Corn movies in various stages of why-am-I-even-bothering?
This series never fell into parody, but there's also no real growth, same old stuff, over and over, no thrills, just hooks and blood… Oh what sights-YAWN.
This one is watchable, not bad, but it's a topic that's long overcooked. Still, in a pinch, it's fine. Bonus points for having Kim Meyers in the movie (she starred in the second A Nightmare on Elm Street). Everybody likes to see what old pals are up to.
- hey look, there's a Hellraiser movie on TV, might as well watch it.
Next up, we reach Leprechaun 4, 1996. Picture all the elements you can imagine in a perfect movie, got them? Okay, throw them away and imagine quite possibly the worst movie ever made.
The Leprechaun series starts off strong, even for a parody horror, loaded with bad jokes and goofy kills. The first, the second, and even the third in the series are absolutely watchable. The third installment is where the parody of the monstrous, limerick singing, gold hungry, little person, dives headfirst into the shit heap. The first three are done with something at least approaching effort. Leprechaun 4 has zero original material, stealing from the Alien, Star Wars, and even Critters franchises in such a way that is embarrassing, on top of simple rehashing of former gags. The CGI is 1980s access cable bad. The set design is painful. The cherry, or rather cherries, of this barf-inducing film is the most gratuitous boob-shot in the history of boob-shots; the worst ever porno flicks approach revealing breasts with more tact (probably).
This really isn't any mark on Warwick Davis, or even the good guys Miguel A. Núñez Jr. and Jessica Collins (though the rest of the acting was pretty horrid… then again, there is nothing to work with), it has to rest on the writing, direction, and production. It's not even good as cheese. It's plain horrible. It is so bad I can't believe it wasn't filmed in Winnipeg. It might be the worst movie I've ever seen.
- let's watch the neighbor kid's bris video with multiple angles and extreme close-ups instead.
Finally, we arrive at Jason X, the tenth part to the Friday the 13th series. This movie is the butt of so many comments, but most are patently unfair. There are at least two worse Friday movies (Jason Goes to Hell and Part 5: A New Beginning). Jason X isn't great as a straight on horror flick, but it's cheesy in the right ways, I mean Mechajason, high-tech kills, and everyone in the future dressing like AC Slater… Fun. The director understood enough to poke holes at the series itself, and for one particular scene where Jason finds himself in VR land, slamming topless babes in sleeping bags against one another, the movie is kind of great. It's a fleeting feeling, but it's there.
Jason X does steal ideas (strangely, major plot points appear to come straight from Critters 4) and rehashes like crazy, but it's the growth that counts with this series. Something new is happening, so for that, it passes my watchable grade.
- wait, is this a Friday the 13th movie, and why does…? Ah who cares, bring on the blood.
I'm no authority on good and bad movies, not even on horror movies, more of a student discovering what I like and dislike, but I do know absolute trash from fun trash. Three out of four ain't bad, but if you still hate space yet love slashers, then do I have the book for you… SPLISH, SLASH, TAKIN' A BLOODBATH is out on March 6th (stories by Mark Allan Gunnells, Renee Miller, and me). We took the 18 stories included and went where the best slashers go, but stopped short of taking it to space.
HorrorTalk would like to thank Eddie for sharing this great list with us! Be sure to pick up Splish, Slash, Takin' a Bloodbath by clicking one of the links below.
Eddie Generous is a coauthor of the slasher collection Splish, Slash, Takin' a Bloodbath (written with Mark Allan Gunnells and Renee Miller) as well as of Dead is Dead, but Not Always (available this spring from Hellbound Books), he runs Unnerving and Unnerving Magazine, and he lives on the Pacific Coast of British Columbia with his wife and their cat overlords.
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