Podcast: Season 7 Ep 15: John Carpenter’s In The Mouth of Madness

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“Do you read Sutter Cane?”

This episode looks at John Carpenter’s In The Mouth of Madness starring Sam Neill, a film that was considered a box office failure but went on to receive cult status.

Does it deserve high praise?

The Surgeons team dissect and discuss the movie to find out. Check out our thoughts in the ep below.

Retrospective: The Mummy’s Tomb (1942)

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Yes this movie is reaped in formula and shuffles along a predicable path to its mortal conclusion, and yet it boasts some strong choices for a third instalment. Namely it’s decision to kill off its lead protagonists from the previous film, The Mummy’s Hand.

Bold in that it’s something you may not necessarily identify with a film from the 1940s, and in doing so, Universal Pictures once more indicates how readily it is to move away from the old and make way for the new despite only a two year gap between both movies.

The film like it’s predecessor delivers an exposition in the form of a flashback so that audiences can be brought up to speed with the franchise narrative. This tale is told from the perspective of Steve Banning (Dick Foran), the hero from The Mummy’s Hand, albeit now an elderly Gent who speaks to his sister, his son John (John Hubbard) and his son’s long term girlfriend Isobel (Elysse Knox). Essentially potential victims in the mix. At the same time we see another passing of the baton with Andoheb (George Zucco) guiding his protege Mehemet Bey (Turhan Bey) to reek revenge by restoring Kharis to destroy Banning and his family.

Stepping into the bandaged shoes that were once worn by horror legend Boris Karloff and Tom Tyler comes another legend in horror, Lon Chaney Jr, who had made a name for himself playing the tragic character Larry Talbot in The Wolf Man.

From here on in the film plays with a paint by numbers tale as Kharis is sent to enact revenge and killing off people one by one, starting with the first shock death of Steve Banning. Director Harold Young does a great job of amping up the tension as we the audience can see that Banning’s time is up and fate slowly wields it’s deathly hands around his throat.

In addition the demise of Babe Hanson (Wallace Ford) returns to add to the mythology and serves as a spanner in Bey’s plan and so has to be dispatched in, by the forties standards, gruesome fashion.

The storyline does try to throw in an added element with Bey falling for Isobel and his stunting his trajectory but for the most part it trudges along and delivers an all too predictable ending and underusing Chaney Jr serving as the prototype monster which is a shame.

Saul Muerte

Movie review: The Last Wave (1977)

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Peter Weir is one of the most accomplished directors not just in Australia, but also on the global scene.
Many would know his name in relation to his involvement in the Australian New Wave cinema movement or his high profile American films, such as Witness, Dead Poets Society, or The Truman Show, but back in 1977, sandwiched between Picnic At Hanging Rock and Gallipoli he released a forgotten gem.
The Last Wave is arguably the boldest movie that Weir directed with its apocalyptic tale spun through an Indigenous Australia’s connection with nature and the land, infused with both the positive and negative relationship of the ‘white’ settlers. 

Ever litre of sweat, blood, and tears oozes onto the screen with harmonious energy, rippling through every crevice of the narrative, to explode in a maelstrom of emotion and torment. 

At its heart, the film is deeply grounded in reality and over the course of the story, the emotional weight of our dream-like state breaks through from the human core to reveal an unstoppable force and an ambiguous ending – a message to the viewer of how we’ve lost our souls in an ethereal state, far removed from our ancestral beings.
It’s opening scene is a stark metaphor for this overview, as the familiar barren and dry Australian landscape is suddenly the victim of nature’s wrath as an unforeseen storm descends upon a small remote town, unleashing torrential rain and hail upon a school playing field.

From here, the story unfolds through the gaze of Sydney lawyer, David Burton (Richard Chamberlain), hired to defend four Indigenous Australians accused of murder, following the mysterious death of an Aboriginal man outside a pub.
In accepting the case, Burton finds himself in a world, removed from his own, opening up a parallel existence that he is inadvertently connected to through his dreams.
It is through this alternant state that pulls Burtons professional and personal life apart, and once caught in the rip, he has no option but to give in to the power of water, confront the kurdaitcha tribal elder and be spat back out into the world to confront the remnants of his life in the face of devastation.
Has he awoken, or will he be engulfed with the impending doom, to be washed away with the gulf of humanity?

The respect that Weir pays towards Indigenous Australian culture is its strength and appeal.
Casting Indigenous Australians in their respective roles, among them David Gulpilil as Chris, one of the accused, forced to give up some of his tribal secrets. Gulpilil’s performance is deeply engaging and one of the key reasons that the film is so grounded in reality, serving as a conduit for the audience to connect with the culture and in a way that leaves us questioning our own wake of life.
What does it mean to be tribal?
How can we separate our way of life and re engage with the world? Questions that are so pertinent today more than ever and casts The Last Wave at the forefront of must watch movies. 

Thanks to Umbrella Entertainment, this has become possible and remastered on Blu-ray, DVD and VOD. Its Blu-Ray release boasts some insightful featurettes with Richard Chamberlain, Producer Jim McElroy and  Director of Photography Russell Boyd that are incredibly engaging and further support just how integral this movie is in cinematic history and why it deserves your time.

  • Saul Muerte

Retrospective: The Mystery of Marie Roget (1942)

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Based on a short Edgar Allan Poe story and often touted as a sequel to The Murders in the Rue Morgue, Universal would produce this film noir mystery during the early forties. Directed by Phil Rosen, a man who would end up with over 140 films to his credits as a director. 

Patric Knowles (The Strange Case of Doctor Rx) returns once again for the production giant cutting a fine figure as an amateur sleuth, Paul Dupin.
Dupin is hired for his medical know-how to identify a female corpse that has been found, her face mutilated beyond recognition.
There are suspicions that it may be the infamous Marie Roget, a notorious musical comedy star who has been missing for the past 10 days.
This all falls south, however, as Marie suddenly reappears, without a thought nor care for those worried about her absence and throwing further mystery around the identity of the corpse.

A lot of this film is convoluted and shrouded in confusion, a mask that it relies upon to hide the obvious killer from the audience, especially as it never clearly labels any other notable suspects into the mix. 

There is a subtle sub plot beneath the surface insinuating a possible romantic interest between Dupin and Marie’s sister Camille, but this is often swept aside by the need to amp up the thriller aspect.

It is only when Marie disappears again, quickly followed by another disfigured corpse that things begin to get more sinister and with a modern filmmaker’s gaze could really switch things in an incredibly dark direction, but the forties were a very different era.

Knowles feels more in his comfort zone this time around carrying a weight of confidence in his methods that leaves one thinking at least someone knows where the plot line is going.

The film has a lot of premise, but unfortunately it all gets lost in creating an atmosphere embedded once again between a murder mystery, and screwball comedy that it never quite hits the mark in either of these areas. 

It does still have a decent underlining, which feels like it warrants another look today as a remake with the right director attached. 

  • Saul Muerte

Movie review: The Babysitter: Killer Queen

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It’s the sequel we never knew we wanted.

Back in 2017, Director McG (Charlie’s Angels) released The Babysitter with its distinctive 80s vibe, injecting a buttload of energy into a mediocre storyline with a pretty decent cast. Chief among them, was said babysitter, Bee played by Samara Weaving who has since gone on to killer success, notably last year’s Ready Or Not. Unfortunately her presence in the film is minimal and its noted as the film struggles to have the same kind of appeal that Weaving brought to the screen.

This time around the cult members have been resurrected including Bella Thorne returns as cheerleader Alison, Max (Robbie Amell) and John (Andrew Bachelor), given another chance to spill the blood of virginal Cole (Judah Lewis). 

Despite only two years passing since we last saw Cole, he’s certainly grown up now and attending high school, but still carries the social awkwardness and is heavily reliant on the medication that his parents insist that he takes. Unfortunately for Cole, his misfit demeanor is not the only thing that ails him. Having survived his ordeal as against the demonic cult, no one believes his tale, subject him further down the ranks of ridicule. The only person who believes him is his friend Melanie played once again by Emily Alyn Lind (Doctor Sleep) and thank God, as she is probably this film’s saving grace. Lind has grown in confidence on screen and it shows, commanding every scene that she is in.

Melanie persuades a downbeat Cole to join her and her friends for a weekend away at the lake, which at first he is reluctant to do, but when it appears that his parents are hellbent on sending him to a psychiatric school, he swiftly changes his mind.

Here the film takes a slight detour from its predecessor. Instead of being holed up at home, Cole has to pit his wits against the cult members, (who have had a few additions along the way) out in the open.

Speaking of comparisons, some of the problem that this sequel offers is that it continues to deliver the same notes from the first film only a little bit more amped up. Also, some of the characters just come across as annoying. Having said that, the film still ticks along at a steady pace and while it does so manages to entertain.

The Prognosis:

Like most sequels, this film never quite matches the energy that the first film laid out, but let’s face it, neither film was setting the bar high. 

What Killer Queen does deliver is pure popcorn. If you give in to its sins, and accept it for what it is, strangely, it comes across as a fun and enjoyable little flick.

  • Saul Muerte

Movie review: Becky

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For some, this movie will be hard to get past the casting of Kevin James as its lead villain, a man synonymous with lukewarm comedy, but given that fellow comedian, Simon Pegg had been initially touted the role for, one can start to see that the filmmakers never intended this film to be an out and out horror/thriller and would have their tongues firmly planted in the black comedy buccal. The fact that Community’s Joel McHale is also attached to the film only supports this notion further.

There are the subtle comparisons to Wes Craven’s Last House On The Left with its home invasion at the hands of some escaped convicts, but perhaps the better differentiation is that of Home Alone with the DIY skills wretched up to some gloriously gory and macabre moments.

The premise of the film rests solely on the darkly disturbing Becky, a character that relies on the strength of the performance from Lulu Wilson (Ouija: Origin of Evil, Annabelle: Creation, House On Haunted Hill), who’s calibre of movies alone should tell you that she’s no stranger to mayhem and dread. Wilson owns this film and appears to relish her turn as bratty, teenager with a broken heart, and flipping to ‘seriously don’t fuck with me’ menace. I’ll admit that I had my reservations, especially for a time when the film appeared balanced on her grief and pain from the loss of her mother. So easily it could have walked the path of predictability, but the killer switch comes from that ‘eye for an eye’ moment in the film when everything turns on its head and you believe her inner rage and turmoil as it is ejected to the surface. 

From there on in, you’re along for the ride and just want her anarchy to reign supreme.

The premise of the film has Becky going away with her estranged Dad (McHale) to her old family lake house retreat, only to be welcomed by her Dad’s fiance, Kayla (Amanda Brugel – Jason X) and her son, Ty. Let’s just say that Becky isn’t a fan of the suggested idea of a blended family, but that’s the least of her troubles when escaped prisoner and Neo-Nazi (as if to make James’ role more intimidating), Dominick and his crew come knocking for some hidden trophy.
There are some great moments towards the beginning of the movie where the captured images portray Lulu’s life in juxtaposition to the life of an inmate, suggesting her imprisonment from the world around her. It is this wall that she has placed around her to protect her or isolate her from everything that will be torn down, bit only in the wake of some devastating ordeal.

It’s the anarchic moments that truly lift this film from revenge flick doldrums however, as directors Jonathan Milott and Cary Murnion amp up the special effects and bring home the gore, and with it unleashing Becky’s zealot for death and destruction, serving as an outlet for her inner rage. Peppered with Nima Fakhrara’s kicking score, these moments are a mix of camp and gross out horror, the pick of the bunch going to a certain outboard motor. 

The Prognosis:

Don’t necessarily judge the book from its cover.

Becky may appear to be your usual revenge home invasion flick but its pulse is beating pure mayhem and delight that will suit fans of gore.

Kevin James may not fit the bill as the film’s villain, but this is Lulu Wilson’s movie and she owns her titular role as the teenager on the brink of rage and turmoil.
When she is unleashed, there is no holding back.

  • Saul Muerte

Retrospective: The Strange Case of Doctor Rx

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The Strange Case of Doctor Rx is a curious oddity indeed as Universal once again struggles to fire a hit outside of the ‘classic’ monster films that they had become synonymous with. Described as a B Movie murder mystery horror, this film crunches and clunks its way through numerous genre changes in gear that it never really hits its stride. Some elements lay sway to the screwball comedies of the era, but freezes more than sizzles with its dialogue. 

With Patric Knowles handed a top billing role (following his support performance in The Wolf Man) as Private Investigator Jerry Church, hired to investigate a series of murders by someone who labels himself as Rx. What is bizarre about the narrative is that it picks up after five murders have already occured which feels like a missed opportunity to build up the suspense.

Church is indeed a hot shot investigator who is at odds with his desire to do what he does best and settle down with his new wife Kit (one of the original scream queens Anne Gwynne). He is ultimately drawn into the mystery however as we too are struggling to comprehend what is actually going on. 

The comedy moments aren’t enough either to lift the audience out of the confusion and fall flat, coming across as befuddling rather than bemusing. 

By the film’s conclusion the script somehow manages to side step a suitable conclusion with Church placed in a dire situation without showing how he is able to escape his plight. It then wrangles a conclusion that is just as perplexing as its premise, leaving me to wonder what I had just watched.

It’s one silver screen lining is the red herring element with the great Lionel Atwill lurking mysteriously in the shadows (Man-Made Monster, The Mad Doctor of Market Street). If only his presence was felt more strongly throughout the movie. It’s absence of mystery is heavily felt and with more work on the screenplay, Universal could have had a very different film on the hands. Missed opportunity.

  • Saul Muerte

Movie review: The New Mutants

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For a time it felt like this movie wasn’t ever going to materialise, shapeshifting more times than Mystique.
When news spread that director Josh Boone was intending to create Mutant horror film, this surgeon’s interests were piqued. Even with its YA moniker attached proved no obstacle for my expectations at the thought of a dark world to be explored. So it was with much disappointment that constant barriers were thrust in its way including the transition under the Disney umbrella with fears that it would soften the scare factor, the interest started to wane.
Despite this, I was still intent on seeing the final product, so when it finally surfaced this week, I propelled it to the top of my list and while it fell short in some areas, the end result is far from tragic with Boone serving up a decent film.

The concept follows Dani Moonstar (Psyche) played by Blu Hunt, a young Cheyenne girl whose village is attacked by an unknown entity. She awakens in a hospital under the guidance of Dr. Reyes, the only adult visible in the entire film. Joining Dani in the unit are a batch of young mutant misfits that promise to be a more credible group with super powers than The Dream Warriors could muster.
Making up the motley crew is Magik, a Russian with the power of teleportation, among other things, who serves as the needle in Dani’s back for most of the film and could seriously com across as two-dimensional, but thankfully Anya Taylor-Joy (The VVitch) manages to sharpen some further  points to her character adding much needed dexterity. 
Charlie Heaton (Stranger Things) is equally enjoyable on screen as Cannonball, a tortured soul with the power of jet propulsion. There are times that Heaton’s brooding presence appears to tap into James Dean’s aura with his performance, stealing the audience’s gaze with some subtle movements, which at times makes you wish he had more screen time.
Henry Zaga’s (Teen Wolf)  portrayal of Sunspot feels a little under cooked for a super hero who’s ability is to channel solar power, and as such feels the weaker of the group. If anything it’s Maisie Williams’ (Game of Thrones) performance of Wolfsbane, a mutant with lycanthrope abilities that outshines her counterparts with a beautiful blend of strength and vulnerability. She’s such a joy to watch and continues to deliver characters with so many layers and blends them with her own special touch.

All of this serves well for the narrative that forces this mismatched group together for a common cause when another unknown  entity appears to be attacking their weaknesses. It’s one nagging point for me however, is that by placing Dani as our central protagonist and surrounding her with mystery, she has very little to do other than to serve as our narrator until her ability is able to be unleashed.

The Prognosis:

With all the promise of a horror film tied into the Marvel universe, The New Mutants suffers under the shroud of its YA genre and fails to deliver anything truly fearful.

It does however, serve a semi-decent psychological movie, tapping into the mindset of troubled youths imprisoned in a world where they must discover themselves in order to survive.  

  • Saul Muerte