This throwback to John Carpenter/Clive Barker horror films is completely insane, horribly acted, and totally great for anybody who likes their horror served up with a side of cheese. A brash policeman (Aaron Poole) picks up a stranger on the side of the road and takes him to a sparsely populated hospital (shades of Carpenter’s Halloween 2). While there, a possessed nurse (shades of Carpenter’s Prince of Darkness) murders a patient, then promptly turns into a messed up monster (shades of Carpenter’s The Thing) while the hospital is besieged by a zombie-like throng of people dressed in white cloaks (shades of Carpenter’s Assault on Precinct 13). Shortly thereafter, the head doctor dies, but comes back, promptly skins himself, and unleashes a world down below filled with mutants (shades of Barker’s Hellraiser). That’s just some of the homages, and they all come together to make little or no sense. Still, the style of the movie, which features schlocky special effects, and both over- and under- acting, makes the whole mess work in an effective horror revival sort of way. If you hate horror films full of blood and puss where skinless doctors are bellowing devilish incantations, this one isn’t for you. If you are a fan of the recent Stranger Things and the Carpenter fare of old, this one will satisfy you. (Available for download on iTunes and Amazon.com during a limited theatrical release.)
2 Ghost in the ShellGhost in the Shell, a groundbreaking, subversive 1995 piece of Japanese anime, gets a live-action redo with Scarlett Johansson sporting a formfitting flesh suit and a bunch of plot enhancers aimed at making the story more humanistic and straightforward. The results are always good to look at, but the puffed-up plot and safe PG-13 rating keep the film far away from being an upgrade on the original. It’s a largely boring, misguided affair. Johansson can’t be faulted for the film’s failures. She could’ve been a solid choice to play Major, a human brain inside a synthetic cyborg’s body policing the streets of a futuristic dystopia that makes the Blade Runner landscapes look like Lincoln, Nebraska, in comparison. As she has proven in Lucy and playing Black Widow, Johansson is a capable action hero. She also fares well as somebody placed in an artificial body, as she did in Under the Skin. She does a good job of appearing slightly lost, but centered, a character who is in that body somewhere, but isn’t entirely whole. Most importantly, she can play a robot without seeming robotic. She gives Major some decent dimensions. Unfortunately, Major also has a new plotline that involves her past life, a mystery that overwhelms the action and turns the film into a bit of a melodramatic exercise. There are themes from the original anime and subsequent TV series that are expanded upon—perhaps too much—and it slows the film down.