Rampage (1987)

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rampage

By request from Friends of the Blog, Jayne and Chris, I dug up this William Friedkin oddity and took it for a spin. Though it plays out like a Movie of the Week or an episode of a gritty police procedural/courtroom drama, Rampage is nonetheless darkly fascinating, and certainly qualifies as a “Horrific Flick.”

Meet smiling killer Charlie Reece (Alex McArthur, a poor man’s David Cassidy), the handsome, simmering maniac next door, who shares a dumpy house with his traumatized mom (Grace Zabriskie, from Twin Peaks and elsewhere). Charlie’s complicated madness springs from the notion that his blood has somehow been poisoned so he needs the blood and organs of other people to ensure his survival. That’s his story and he’s sticking to it.

After the troubled lad racks up a decent body count, it’s up to blow-dried prosecutor Anthony Fraser (Michael Biehn) to prove that Charlie was sufficiently in control of his faculties to premeditate his “rampage,” while defense attorney Albert Morse (Nicholas Campbell) angles for an insanity plea. Obviously, someone who would kill five people (plus a few cops during an escape attempt), drink their blood, and remove their spleens, must be a lunatic. Oh, and he’s a closet Nazi, to boot. Should he get life in prison, be exiled to a funny farm, or earn the death penalty?

The legal and ethical debate over Charlie’s mental health threatens to capsize the action, but writer-director Friedkin (The Exorcist, To Live and Die in L.A., and Sorcerer) keeps the kid in the picture, occasionally jumping us inside Charlie’s warped mind so we can revel in his ritualized bloodlust.

As it so happens, Rampage is based on a true story (surprise, surprise!) set in Stockton, California. Charlie Reece is the face of ordinary, homegrown evil; he doesn’t wear a mask or rise from the grave every 15 minutes. He’s just that weird kid from down the street. Gosh, I never thought he was capable of violence, officer.

Neverlake (2013)

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neverlake

There’s nothing wrong with a competently executed film, and Neverlake certainly qualifies. In terms of acting, setting, pace, tension, and professional camera work, I’ve got no complaints. The story itself springs from a well-chewed gothic template, namely, young girl in remote location discovers terrible family secrets and thus becomes imperiled. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t a few nits to pick.

Curious teen Jenny Brook (the improbably named Daisy Keeping) arrives in rural Tuscany to visit her estranged father (David Brandon), a taciturn doctor who shares a capacious (though austere) stone villa with his assistant Olga (Joy Tanner). Jenny’s mother is deceased (or—is she?). Anyway, she’s not around.

Since Dad is too busy studying Etruscan sacrificial rituals (Clue!) to show her around, Jenny takes to rambling though the woods to explore nearby Idols Lake (Clue!). Here she meets a motley assortment of disabled kids living in a dilapidated hospital who take to her instantly, except for the brooding Peter (Martin Kashirokov, who presumably has “The Russian Robert Pattinson” written on his business cards). He takes two whole scenes to warm up to their cute new friend.

Complaint Department: Dr. Brook, as played by David Brandon, can be pegged as the villain from the moment he materializes on camera. There are no other suspects. Stevie Wonder could very quickly tell you that Dr. Brook is a cold, scowling (mad) scientist who is obviously up to something nefarious—least of all, boinking his stern, Eastern Bloc assistant. The painful obviousness of this development somewhat diminishes the suspense that director Riccardo Paoletti, and writers Carlo Longo and Manuela Cacciamani were hoping to create.

Even so, Neverlake gets a lukewarm recommendation from where I’m sitting. It doesn’t take much to buy into the drama, and thankfully, despite a well-worn path, there are still some surprises lurking in these woods.

The Collector (2009)

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A good franchise is hard to find. When it comes to the contemporary horror film, how does one find the next Freddy or Jason or Leatherface? Is it Jigsaw that keeps ’em coming back or is it the cunning intricacy of his traps? Now that Rob Zombie has rebooted Michael Myers, do we have a deeper empathy for him because we’ve been privy to his bleak-ass childhood? Is Victor Crowley a ghost, a monster, or a waste of space? For that matter, what about The Collector?

Nutshell: Arkin (Josh Stewart) is an ex-con forced to ripoff a hot gem from the homeowner that’s employed him as a general contractor. See, he needs the money ASAP to square his wife’s debt with some gangsters. Not important, but it does reveal that the protagonist is basically a decent guy, despite his shady profession.

Coincidentally, the very house that Arkin is busting into has also been targeted by the title character, a mysterious (deformed?) masked man in black (Juan Fernandez). Instead of jewelry, the Collector prefers building clever booby traps, playing sadistic cat-and-mouse games with his captives, and then making off with a single survivor—presumably for more finely tuned abuse in his lair.

Director and co-writer Marcus Dunstan does create sufficient interest in his diabolical mastermind, who seems to be both a cool, calculating entomologist and a deranged, howling maniac. He walks with a curious gait, suggesting an injury or disability, but he’s also dexterous and deadly quick. There are quirks and inconsistencies to be found here, and they make me want to know who the Collector is and how he got to be this way.

I plan on watching the sequel (The Collection) soon, so we’ll see if we have a viable franchise on our hands or just a pair of movies with the same quirky killer.