Piranha 3DD

I was a fan of Alexandre Aja’s Piranha 3D, which I thought had just the right sense of humor about it, while also featuring a generous helping of the grotesque gore that Aja practically specializes in. Though it technically had a very limited theatrical run, Piranha 3DD is still the cheap DTV sequel we all probably should have expected. Handed over to the guys responsible for the horror-comedy Feast, Piranha 3DD (shortened on DVD to Piranha DD, thus losing part of the joke) tries to be more outrageous than the first, but oddly ends up being less so. The premise (piranha make their way into an adult-themed water park) promises more than it can deliver. That’s chiefly due to a much smaller budget, which reduces the scope as well as the amount of onscreen carnage, and a script that conveniently delays the full piranha outbreak until the final 15 minutes. At least it has the good sense to briefly bring back Ving Rhames and Christopher Lloyd, preserving some continuity, and extended cameos by Gary Busey and David Hasselhoff help sweeten the deal. But otherwise there’s no denying the Sy-Fy movie vibe of it all – even if that was the intention here, the first one had some more bite to it.  2/5

  • Drink for every (onscreen) death, and whenever you see nudity. Finish your drink when you hear the Baywatch theme.

Fright Night (2011)

Proving that any ’70s and ’80s horror title with a modicum of success is bound to get remade someday, here comes Fright Night. Colin Farrell is now Jerry, the pesky vampire living next door to Charley, here played by Anton Yelchin, that likeable kid from Star Trek and Terminator: Salvation. It all plays out in similar fashion, although one curious change is in the character of Peter Vincent, who is now a phony Vegas magician instead of a washed-up monster movie television host. The change sorta seems logical as monster movie hosts are sadly a thing of the past, but at least it made more sense that way as to why a kid would seek out his expertise in vampires. Now it’s like, why would he track down some Vegas magician? But anyway, British actor David Tennant is enjoyable in the role, though its been reduced a bit this time around. As expected the finale gives way to some horrendous-looking CGI, proving that quality, practical creature effects are sadly a thing of the past too.  2.5/5

  • Drink every time Peter Vincent shows off one of his internet-purchased props. Finish your drink when McLovin loses his arm.

Halloween: H2O

A reboot before reboots became a thing, Halloween: H2O was an attempt to restore the franchise, after a trilogy of sequels that went from respectable (Halloween 4) to bad (Halloween 5) to mind-numbingly ridiculous (Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers). And it did it the only way it really could: by pretending those particular sequels never happened. It was a bold move at the time and a strange readjustment for fans who had stuck around through the past decade or so, but anything to get Jamie Lee Curtis back, right? Sadly John Carpenter (disinterested) and Donald Pleasance (deceased) would not be joining her, and though director Steve Miner offers some approximation of Carpenter’s slow-burn approach to the original, the script smacks of late ’90s post-Scream flavor, suggesting that perhaps the original Halloween wasn’t necessarily the biggest influence. And while the movie wisely takes its time in establishing its characters and building impending dread, it’s ultimately too short: by the time things really get going, we’re already speeding towards Curtis’ Ripley-like heroine finale, before H2O ultimately clocks in at a mere 80 minutes. I won’t bother discussing the minor controversies involving the score and the multiple masks used, because all complaints aside, this is still one of the more watchable entries in the series, and a decent end to the main Laurie Strode storyline that began with Halloween and continued with Halloween II. That is, if you choose to forget Halloween: Resurrection, as we all should.  3/5

  • Drink anytime Laurie has one of her hallucinations, and whenever someone says (or screams) “Michael.” Finish your drink when you spot Scream 2.

The Exorcist III

Written and directed by The Exorcist author William Peter Blatty, this was intended to be titled Legion, based on Blatty’s quasi-Exorcist sequel of the same name. Initially filmed without a hitch, “Legion” entered post-production hell, once the studio decided it oughta just be called The Exorcist III (for commercial reasons, of course) and subsequently butchered the final act with $4 million worth of special effects-ridden reshoots. If anything, the new title actually hurt the movie; even though 13 years had passed, moviegoers weren’t quick to forget the atrocity that was The Exorcist II. Though the movie abrasively changes tone and loses some of its punch during the climax, the first hour and change is almost uniformly excellent – it’s a slow-boiling horror mystery with some deeply creepy scenes, a couple of legitimate scares, and it’s also quite funny in places, thanks to Blatty’s wry, sardonic sense of humor. The connections to the original sometimes get confusing (George C. Scott and Ed Flanders are playing characters that were briefly in the original, but inhabited by different actors) and the antagonist is a thinly-veiled knockoff of the Zodiac killer. Still, this is clearly the second-best of the Exorcist series, and it’s head and shoulders over Exorcist II, which was so unbearably bad that it unfairly poisoned this movie the minute it was forced to share in the same title.  3.5/5

  • Drink every time you see a desecrated church statue, and when George C. Scott yells. Finish your drink when you spot the bizarre dream sequence cameos by Patrick Ewing and Fabio.

Final Destination 5

The only Final Destination flick that actually got under your skin a bit was the original, mainly because it was the only one that occasionally took itself seriously, and actually featured a couple of rather unsettling deaths. Because every subsequent sequel has followed the same narrative blueprint, they’ve compensated by making the deaths increasingly more inventive and over the top, and in some cases blatantly played for laughs. The franchise was quick to adopt 3D for 2009’s The Final Destination (#4; mind the confusing title), but that one was the first big dud of the series. And so Final Destination 5 tries to make up for it, right down to its shamelessly honest title, and for the most part it does. Like its predecessor, many of the 3D gags don’t survive the jump to the small screen (unless you happen to be watching on a 70″ 3D TV) and some of the deaths are neutered by 3D-friendly CGI blood & guts. But the movie boasts an encore appearance by Tony Todd, a couple of gruesome set pieces (try not to wince during the laser eye surgery sequence) and a finale that features a nifty callback to the events of the first movie. The credit sequences are a nice touch, too.  3/5

  • Drink every time somebody says the word “death.” Finish your drink when you hear AC/DC.

Straw Dogs (2011)

The past couple of years have been rife with revenge remakes, with Last House on the Left and I Spit On Your Grave also getting modern facelifts. Straw Dogs isn’t anything you haven’t seen before (quite literally, if you’ve seen the original with Dustin Hoffman) as it plays out under a big cloud of predictability. James Marsden and Kate Bosworth are the young city couple who temporarily move back to the countryside, only to find themselves menaced by the locals, including her jealous ex-boyfriend. The first hour is filled with one passive-aggressive awkward encounter after another, until the tension boils over into a violent, bloody showdown. This is where the movie finally earns its keep, though getting there can be a chore since we all know where things are headed. Special mention goes to James Woods, earning a paycheck as the crazy drunken football coach who isn’t afraid of taking a shotgun to the local sheriff.  2.5/5

  • Drink every time things get awkward. Finish your drink for the classic boiling water-to-the-face move.

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