I gotta admit I was surprised by this one. Uncork’d Entertainment are usually the best distributors of indie horror movies (in my opinion). Mainly because they only seem to be involved in the best movies. But this one must’ve got through the net somehow.
There are a few good things about the The Last Exorcist, but a whole lot of bad. So much so, that I genuinely don’t know where to start. I guess the beginning is the best bet.
The entire storyline from start to finish was so farfetched that I just couldn’t get on board. A lone bomber blows himself up in a place that just happens to have every single person trained in exorcisms present. I mean, okay, I’ll try roll with it. But then to have our main character try to save her sister by first of all becoming a priest (which I’m sure goes against the Christian faith). Then, perform an exorcism. Neither of which she has any experience of. All the while, Danny Trejo’s character (who is already a priest and seems to know his exorcism stuff quite well) guides her. Really? Then to end up with a martial arts fight scene involving the random dude who keeps popping up everywhere? By that time I was literally shouting at the TV. Where the hell did she learn Kung Fu?!
The acting was hit and miss. Ivens is becoming more active on the horror scene, recently appearing in Coven (check out our review here). Her role in The Last Exorcist was even more prominent and she did a fairly good job. Similarly, Rachele Brooke Smith did a pretty good job too. There were a few up and down moments but to be honest I’d put that down to the script. Some of the dialogue was cringey as hell and if I did a shot every time they called each other ‘sister’ I wouldn’t be alive writing this! Trejo did an exceptional job in his role. Swapping his macho, action man style for the divine, man of God approach. And it worked! Yet, some of the acting from the supporting cast was atrocious. I’m just gonna leave it there on that note.
So let’s talk about some of the action scenes. I’ve already mentioned how gobsmacked I was when the movie turned into Enter the Dragon at the end. So we won’t say anything else on that matter. But there were some parts which worked well and others which didn’t. A stabbing scene was painful to watch and I don’t mean due to the graphic nature. It was reminiscent of a sloth trying to crack a walnut. There was no ferocity, no drive and, despite the character being possessed, just looked like a tentative actor scared of hurting her co-star.
Later, an altercation in a bar worked pretty well. Irvine successfully portrayed a character with debilitating mental health and it was a pretty effective scene. So it’s not all doom and gloom. The movie did have its good points. It’s just a shame that these are overshadowed by the greater number of negatives.
The storyline confused the hell out of me. Yes, every exorcist being killed at once did put me on the backfoot. But, there was never any real explanation about… anything. I get that the two were orphaned after their crazy mother killed the father and then killed herself. No idea how they ended up in the care of the church and under the guide of a priest (is that a thing?) I have no idea who the random bad guy is that keeps popping up, and I have no idea what the ending is trying to imply.
I mean I could try watching it again to see if it makes sense the second time round. But, honestly, I can’t bring myself to do it any time soon.
Overall, the acting wasn’t bad from the three I’ve mentioned but there was some terrible performances from supporting cast. Storyline was confusing as hell (no pun intended) and it just felt rushed and incomplete. I think if writer/director Bain went back to the drawing board with this one, tightened the storyline, recast some of the lesser parts and did it again, it would be a lot better.
Check out the trailer here
The Last Exorcist is available on DVD and Digital on October 13th from Uncork’d Entertainment.
I’ve often reflected how the influence of Art is a key component missing from Modern Horror. The Xenomorph we all know and fear came from the painted nightmares of Swedish surrealist H.R. Giger, the Screamer is said to have influenced the Ghostface Killer mask. For a further rundown of art’s musings over the genre, I would highly recommend 2017’s Tableaux Vivants for a look at 60 such portraits and the films they inspired.
In the summer of 2020, The Medium video game appears to correct that oversight with the recent trailer dropping, adapting Polish painter, Zdzislaw Beksinski’s frightening paintings. In the same season of the same year is when The Cell celebrates 20 years (8/17/2020). This film appeared to feature as many artistic influences as possible into its near two hour runtime.
The sight of chains freaked me out upon watching my first Hellraiser movie, so the sexual perversion of their use in this film did little to alleviate such apprehension, especially as they pulled so tightly to suspend human flesh in the air. Despite a previous scene showing the villain having drowned his victim, this was the true introduction to his villainy – the former showed what he did, that latter why he did it. Even re-watching this film so many years later, I had to look away from the screen, recoiling from such a grisly display.
Typically, in Horror or any film that assumes a particular aesthetic, it is color that makes the impression to set mood. Instead, the use of white in this film, from the K9 to the bleached state of the victims is used to ghoulishly haunting effect.
I remember critics remarking that because of Vince Vaughn’s comedic history they couldn’t take him seriously in this role and relegated his involvement to stunt casting. I take the opposite stance since, for me, every role after this film simply serves as a reminder that he starred in The Cell. I’ve always felt that comedy actors do well in dramas – see Robin Williams in “Good Will Hunting” – and I thought that Vaughn did a serviceable job in this film, never distracting from either tone or plot.
I was happy that they just dove into the mechanics behind entering one’s mind as an accepted reality, that they didn’t get bogged down in techno babble or exposition of the technology. There is a time and place for the virtual journey into the cerebral frontier, such as The Matrix or a good adaptation of the Lawnmower Man, but for the Cell, I’m happy that they focused more on the story and not so much the science. The suits do look like Twizzlers, but it was made by Eioka Ishioka (who passed away in 2012), the same costume designer as Vlad Tepes’ suit from Bram Stoker’s Dracula. I do like that the two participators are suspended in the air while their minds are linked. It’s an eerie callback to the killer’s suspension from chains for sexual release. Also, it does give the technology that space age feel as though they are in a weightless environment.
Since the 90’s, special effects have been criticized as dominating films to the point Stephen King is quoted as remarking that “story supports effects instead of effects supporting story”. Similarly, an argument can be made that at times The Cell becomes too indulgent with its usage of famous art that serve no plot function, e.g. the Horse Split, the Three Women of Odd Nerdrum’s Dawn painting, Mother Theresa and her Hallmark card, etc. As the director is quoted as saying “The thing about this film is it’s an opera, and there is no such thing as a subtle opera.” I don’t believe that the script was penned as an excuse to pack in as much gallery portraits as possible or is an hour and fifty minutes of a music video. I just wish the director would’ve used each art piece he seeks influence from to develop the story or the character. The imagery doesn’t always portray the killer’s psychology or the psychologist’s therapeutic technique. If he wasn’t going to utilize subtlety, he should have implored restraint. He later added “Anyway, I missed the whole plot, just been talking visual all along, ah, where are we?”
Once in the killer’s mind, his depiction as the master of his domain is a hauntingly accurate depiction considering the previous scenes of suspension rings in the back of his body, which unwittingly foreshadowed to the audience his royal appearance to come. Even the name, King Stargher, is a daunting title for a movie monster. When rising and descending from his throne, the violet robes receding from the walls and tracing along the room is hypnotically unnerving.
As tiresome as the “we’re still in the dreamworld” trope can become (The Matrix, DS9 Season 7 episode 23 “Extreme Measures”), this film not only flips it when the psychologist realizes that she’s “already in”, but does so in a cleverly visual way.
Court Jester/Vatican Clown
It is interesting to think that a single actor would assume many distinct monstrous characters. Unlike a Freddy Kreuger or a Pennywise that turn into manifestations of their victims’ fears, the figures that Stargher assumes are all avatars of his own warped psyche, his own inner turmoil. Vincent D’Onofrio really does put in his all with this role. He’s soft spoken and understated when he needs to be and malicious and heartless when the scene demands it. Along with the visuals of the film, D’Onofrio’s performance is worth the price of admission. It’s a shame that his acting as well as the movie’s stunning artistry are what have gone overlooked all these years. Speaking of…
One invalid criticism that has been levied against the film is its attempts to persuade the audience to sympathize with the killer. My intention with the following statement is neither to flaunt my Horror insight nor to divide the lines between fans within Horror and those without. Having said that, even as an adolescent seeing this movie in theaters, I at no point felt remorse for the serial murderer and I chalk up this long-held misconception to a bad read on the film.
So off-base is this “critical analysis” that it can’t even be regarded as a Jekyll & Hyde dynamic. The villain is not split down the middle between binary good and evil, where both halves are at war over his soul, or the repressed impulses of his Dark Passenger are manifesting in a heartless butcher. If there is any distinction, it is between who the antagonist was when a victim as a boy and what the man became as an adult victimizer. If anything it is the good that is repressed, not the evil. Furthermore, along with using the film’s plot to force Alice down the rabbit hole of the Mad Hatter’s mind, this film does address the nature of evil. When referring to Stargher, even Jennifer Lopez’s character remarks “The Dominant side is still this horrible thing”. The Vince Vaughn detective states “I believe a child can experience 100 times worse the abuse than what Gish (a different killer) went through, and still grow up to be somebody that would never, ever, ever hurt another living being.” Thus, these serve as acknowledgement that the abducted criminal is firmly in the driver’s seat to the point of its reference as a “thing” and a condemnation of what the killer has become, respectively.
Along with exploring the psychology of the killer, the film does not qualify the villain’s innocence, it questions it.
The critics probably missed that pesky detail that would’ve debunked their headline before they pressed a single word of their denunciation.
These same professional critics wouldn’t give a second’s hesitation towards throwing Horror under the bus and condemning Scary Movies for inspiring violence if it meant their jobs were on the line, yet they would balk at the notion that continued mental trauma and physical abuse can cause psychopathic behavior.
There are classics and icons worth praising for their plot and performances, respectively, and then there are some Scary Films that Horror Fans view with the understanding of their heavy material and without your typical fanfare because they’re a hard watch. I can see where people would be fans of Hannibal Lecter not because they or the film glamorizes cannibalism, but because of Anthony Hopkins’ acting chops (excuse the pun). Conversely, John Doe, the serial killer of Se7en, has and will likely never enjoy such admiration because of the cold purity of his calculated evil. The 2 decade critique of The Cell’s villain portrayal is a dark cloud that has unjustly hung over its head.
The motif of “the eyes of a killer” was something applauded in Rob Zombie’s Halloween 2, yet ridiculed in The Cell 9 years prior?
This film’s premise and the fact that it wasn’t fully effectively executed makes it primed for a remake. Hollywood needs to be issued a Cease and Desist order of such wholesale dependence on Remakes in general, let alone in the Horror genre. When you consider that so many remakes can’t outdo the original and even tarnish the films they attempt to emulate, why not fix the problems of a film that went wrong and take the credit when you get it right?
Wishmaster is a movie that has become a cult classic amongst horror fans everywhere. Not only is it violent, gory and rife with horror cameos, but the movie also gave birth to a new horror icon; The Djinn. Andrew Divoff’s spectacular portrayal brought the character to life. As a result, Wishmaster spawned a further three movies, with Divoff reprising his role in the second.
An ancient hidden opal is found by Alexandra, a gemologist. Unknowingly, she releases an evil djinn from within, who wishes to take over the world but is restricted until his owner makes three wishes.
Did you know?
A Pazuzu statue, a personification of the demonic figure which possessed Linda Blair‘s character in The Exorcist series, also appeared. This can be seen in Beaumont’s collection room and on display during the party scene where it attacks some of the guests. However, it is not formally referenced.
Many crew members, including Director Robert Kurtzman (man killed by piano), had small roles in the film, sometimes appearing in different scenes as different characters.
Many instances of the film pay homage to the series The Twilight Zone (1959). For instance, the character’s name Beaumont (Charles Beaumont was a frequent writer of the show). The Djinn’s line “Going my way?” when he stops Alexandra in the car is a reference to season one, episode sixteen, “The Hitch-Hiker”, where a mysterious man continually plagues a female driver with the line “I believe you’re going, my way”. The scene with the shop assistant wishing for eternal beauty is transformed into a mannequin echoes season one, episode thirty-four, “The After Hours”, where a female shopper is revealed to be one of the store’s mannequins made human.
A veiled reference to the Cthulhu Mythos can be heard in the incantation used to imprison the Djinn; the words “Nib Shuggurath”, a spoonerism of Shub-Niggurath
At the end of the credits, The Djinn’s distinctive voice growls “Careful what you wish for.”
The following horror movie veterans all appeared in Wishmaster
The Dead Ones – For four outcast teens, summer detention means being assigned to clean their high school after a horrific incident. But they are not alone; a macabre gang wearing guises of The Four Horsemen Of The Apocalypse – Famine, Pestilence, War and Death – has locked them inside and is hunting them through the school’s ravaged hallways. As the four students battle to survive, each must confront the supernatural echoes of past traumas they have struggled to forget…and may be condemned to relive.
The storyline was great. It was a good idea and although confusing at the beginning, does get better as it progresses. Soon after The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse show up (which is right at the beginning) their identity becomes pretty clear. Whether their unveiling was meant to be a big dramatic twist at the end, I’m not sure, but the ending DOES have a cool turn of events.
The acting was pretty good too. Mouse (Harper), lives up to her namesake. Timid, non-confrontational and just trying to get through their ordeal without issue, she still proves to be a significant character throughout. Scottie (Wilson) plays the tough guy. He’s hot-headed, but able to use logic when required. Louis (Garza) is the polar opposite. Wild and impulsive, he acts first, thinks later. Yet, he does share Scottie’s short temper which becomes more problematic as the movie progresses. Emily (Foster) is a tiny bit cuckoo and no longer taking her meds. This becomes evident from the outset with her erratic behaviour.
All four play their roles well and, despite the odd eyebrow-raising dialogue choice, are pretty convincing. Clare Kramer, who many will recognise from Buffy, plays the teacher overseeing the students.
There were some continuity errors throughout. The pic above, showing the poor student losing control of her bladder, is a prime example. The scene after this shows her with dry trousers, then again with sodden trousers but wet patches in different places. You might argue I’m being pedantic but I don’t sit there looking out for these errors. It was just too brazen to ignore. Better editing would have identified/remedied this but it’s not something I’d class as a major flaw.
There were some great effects throughout this movie that deserve a mention. Certain injuries and ailments looked real enough and for a low budget flick that’s pretty commendable. There’s also guts, gore and a whole load of firepower which, as you can guess, can produce some pretty nasty-looking injuries. However, in the same breath, there was just way too much CGI for my taste. Call me old fashioned, but I much prefer props and makeup over computer generated stuff, especially when the CGI is painfully obvious. For instance, the ghosts that frequently appear. Their movement and actions are creepy as hell. But, the excessive CGI just curtails the scare factor and takes away the immersiveness of the movie.
The prospect of a school shooting might seem a bit close to the bone for some. However, Director/Writer Kasten has provided the following statement;
“This is my sixth and most personal film: a ghost story about a school shooting. It doesn’t shy away from violence, either emotional or physical. It’s explicit, but not exploitative; instead it takes risks and invites discussion. I was warned that a movie about a school shooting might engender unavoidable reaction, but I’ve always believed it’s important for genre films – despite their often-graphic intensity – to be relevant. I shot The Dead Ones in my hometown of Baltimore where I knew I could capture the gritty quality I wanted. To cast the local teens, I worked closely with Pat Moran, who produced John Waters’ early films and went on to win multiple Emmys as a casting director.
As our main location, we found a decommissioned public school that had been built in the 1930s. Working with young actors to elicit emotionally gruelling performances on an ambitious production with a limited budget was the best possible reminder of the challenges – and rewards – of being a genre filmmaker. Although it’s set in the aftermath of a high school shooting, my intention never was – or will be – to trivialize this real-life horror that increasingly plagues our world. Instead, I wanted to create a disturbing reflection of modern adolescence. The Dead Ones is a film with a message of hope for outsiders.”
— Jeremy Kasten
About the Director
Jeremy Kasten is an American film director, producer, screenwriter and editor, best known for his visceral, cerebral, and often psychedelic approach to modern horror. His 2001 directorial debut THE ATTIC EXPEDITIONS, starring Seth Green, Alice Cooper, and Ted Raimi, has been hailed by Dread Central as “one of the best mind-f#@k movies ever.” His 2007 neo-noir re-imagining of Herschell Gordon Lewis’ splatter classic THE WIZARD OF GORE starred Crispin Glover, Brad Dourif, and Jeffrey Combs was called “one of the most shocking, entertaining and best horror films of the year” by Film Arcade. Kasten has also contributed to the acclaimed horror anthology films THE THEATRE BIZARRE and THE PROFANE EXHIBIT. His other features include the 2005 zombie thriller ALL SOULS DAY: DIA DE LOS MUERTOS and the 2006 ‘vampirism as addiction’ shocker THE THIRST, which was called “the bloodiest vampire movie ever” (DVD Crypt).
In summary, I’d definitely recommend The Dead Ones. Whilst there are minor elements I wasn’t a fan of, the movie as a whole was pretty good. Great storyline, believable acting and a fair few nice effects. What more could you want? The only thing you need to be conscious of is the sensitive nature of its theme. Other than that, check it out!
Here’s the trailer.
The film will be available on DVD/Blu-ray and VOD/Digital on September 29, 2020 via Artsploitation Films.
What do you think of the The Dead Ones? Like the sound of it? Let us know on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or in the comments below!
Cassandra Peterson (born September 17, 1951) is an American actress, writer and singer. She is best known for her portrayal of the horror hostess character Elvira, Mistress of the Dark. Peterson gained fame on LA TV station KHJ-TV. Wearing a revealing, black, gothic gown, she was the host of Elvira’s Movie Macabre, a weekly B-movie presentation.
The Elvira character soon evolved from an obscure cult figure to a lucrative brand. She was associated with many products throughout the 80s and 90s including Halloween costumes, comic books and action figures. She even had a range of trading cards, as well as featuring on pinball machines, Halloween decor, perfume and dolls. Elvira has also appeared on the cover of Femme Fatales magazine five times. Her popularity reached its zenith with the release of the 1988 feature film Elvira: Mistress of the Dark.
90’s and beyond
After years of attempting to make a sequel to Elvira: Mistress of the Dark, Cassandra and her manager/husband, Mark Pierson, decided to finance a second movie. In November 2000, Peterson wrote and co-produced Elvira’s Haunted Hills. The movie, filmed in Romania, cost just under one million dollars. However, with little budget left for promotion, Cassandra and Mark screened the film at AIDS charity fund raisers across America. On July 5, 2002, Elvira’s Haunted Hills had its official premiere in Hollywood. Elvira arrived at the premiere in her Macabre Mobile. The film was later screened at the 2003 Cannes Film Festival.
She is currently working on the direct sequel to 1988’s Elvira: Mistress of the Dark, as well as an animated Elvira project.
Did you know?
Elvira was close friends with Vincent Price and is still good friends with Rob Zombie
She was scalded by boiling water when she was five years old. As a result, she underwent 17 skin grafting operations. Now, she covers some of her remaining scars (around neck and shoulders) with make-up or clothing.
Her favourite movies are Plan 9 from Outer Space (1957) and Attack of the Killer Tomatoes! (1978).