January 21, 2020

TERMINATOR: DARK FATE: Back to the Chase

Starring Linda Hamilton, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Mackenzie Davis, Natalia Reyes, Gabriel Luna, Diego Boneta. Directed by Tim Miller. (128 min)

Review by Tiger the Terrible😸

While the world may not have needed another Terminator movie, this one cuts to the chase, so to speak, reverting back to what made the first two films undisputed classics.

Gone is most of the convoluted plot baggage that muddied Terminator Salvation and Terminator Genisys. Those films aren’t without merit, but both seemed forget what really drove Terminators 1 & 2 (and even the underappreciated Terminator 3) was the thrill of the chase. We were given a crash course in time travel – just enough to accept the premise without scrutinizing it too hard – before pummeling us into submission. I haven’t met many people who cared much about the franchise’s temporal logistics anyway.

Terminator: Dark Fate ignores the last three films altogether, which is ironic since it essentially cops the “Judgment Day is inevitable” assertion of Terminator 3. Only this time it isn’t Skynet sending terminators back in time to dispatch the Connors. Now it’s a computer network called Legion and the  target is Dani (Natalia Reyes), a feisty young assembly line worker in Mexico. It’s never effectively explained how Legion evolves to threaten all humankind, nor does it really matter. Once the Rev-9 terminator (Gabriel Luna) arrives in the present day, it’s up to mechanically-enhanced super-soldier Grace (Maclenzie Davis) to keep Dani alive for whatever purpose she serves in the future (revealed late in the film, though the viewer will have figured it out long before).

Of course, the big drawing card (or at-least it should have been) is the welcome return of Linda Hamilton as Sarah Connor. Ever since preventing Judgment Day decades earlier, she’s been hunting terminators, though Grace has never heard of her, Skynet or John Connor (unceremoniously killed by a terminator in the very first scene). In fact, Sarah and Grace have an amusingly antagonistic relationship throughout most of the film. Still, she sees a lot of herself in Dani. Playing Sarah as a grizzled, cynical and bitter warrior, Hamilton is clearly having a lot of fun.

"Yes...I am a lumberjack. But I am not okay."
It just occurred to me I haven’t yet even mentioned Arnold Schwarzenegger. That’s probably because he doesn’t show up for at-least an hour, his existence & motivations are sort-of contrived and – narratively speaking – he’s the least essential character in the film. But hey, it’s not a Terminator movie without Arnold, even if he’s often regulated to being comic relief.

Like the original Terminator, there are no concurrent timelines, no altering the future to save the world. It’s all about the simplicity of the chase, with exciting action sequences and large-scale destruction (though nothing as groundbreaking as T2), relenting just long enough for occasional story or character exposition. None of it ends up being really necessary, but it sure is a lot of fun.

FEATURETTES - “A Legend Reforged” (behind-the-scenes, interviews with cast, director Tim Miller & producer James Cameron); “World Builders” (sort-of an extension of the first featurette, with more emphasis of action scenes); “Dam Busters: The Final Showdown” (this one focuses on the epic scale climax); “VFX: The Dragonfly”

THE POOP SCOOP: Movie of the Week Edition

FROZEN 2 on Digital 2/11 and Blu-ray & 4K UHD on 2/25
In Frozen 2, the answer to why Elsa was born with magical powers is calling her and threatening her kingdom. Together with Anna, Kristoff, Olaf and Sven, she sets out on a dangerous but remarkable journey. In Frozen, Elsa feared her powers were too much for the world. Now she must hope they are enough. From the Academy Award-winning team—directors Jennifer Lee and Chris Buck, producer Peter Del Vecho and songwriters Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez—Frozen 2 features the voices of Idina Menzel, Kristen Bell, Jonathan Groff and Josh Gad.  Bonus features include deleted scenes, deleted songs, Easter eggs, outtakes and a sing-along version with lyrics to the film’s forever-infectious songs. Go behind-the-scenes to hear personal, making-of stories from the cast and crew. Fans who bring the film home early on Digital will receive two exclusive extras: an interview with songwriters Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez, who won an Oscar for Best Original Song (“Let It Go,” 2014) and wrote seven original songs for “Frozen 2,” and a deleted song titled “Unmeltable Me.”
UNCUT GEMS on Digital 2/25 and Blu-ray & DVD 3/10
Adam Sandler gives “a mythologically great performance” (Robbie Collin, The Telegraph) in a critically-acclaimed thriller co-written and directed by brothers Josh and Benny Safdie (writers and directors of Good Time). The film played at both the Telluride Film Festival and the Toronto International Film Festival to rave reviews and is Certified Fresh on Rotten Tomatoes. Uncut Gems stars Golden Globe nominee Adam Sandler (2003, Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture – Comedy or Musical, Punch-Drunk Love), LaKeith Stanfield, Kevin Garnett, Idina Menzel, Eric Bogosian, and Academy Award nominee Judd Hirsch (1981, Best Actor in a Supporting Role, Ordinary People). Executive produced by Martin Scorsese.

Remember the "ABC MOVIE OF THE WEEK?"
Well, we do...
In PRAY FOR THE WILDCATS, a power-mad tycoon (Andy Griffith) challenges three advertising executives to a motorcycle trip down Mexico's Baja Peninsula, a weekend getaway that turns into a nightmare of desert warfare. For the trio (William Shatner, Robert Reed and Marjoe Gortner), the initial lure is a multi- million-dollar account, but a sudden terrifying incident along the ride reveals their unpredictable client's real intentions: to test just how far the men will go to save their careers and their families. As the action intensifies, so do the fascinating character dynamics, driving this engrossing thriller to its startling climax. Wonderfully directed by Robert Michael Lewis and co-starring Angie Dickinson, Janet Margolin and Lorraine Gary. 

In SUPERDOME, the star players for the Cougars, gathered in New Orleans for the big game, are preoccupied with some serious off-the-field issues. Dave Walecki's (Ken Howard, 1776) marriage to his wife Nancy (Susan Howard, TV's Dallas) is falling apart, while Jim McCauley (Tom Selleck, An Innocent Man) is involved in a shady deal with a management firm that could destroy his career. But that's nothing compared to the real drama. There's an assassin killing off many of the team's personnel (as well as their chances of winning)! David Janssen (S.O.S. Titanic) stars as the team manager, who races against time to identify the killer before it's too late. This made-for-television thriller was directed by veteran filmmaker Jerry Jameson (Airport '77, Raise the Titanic) and co-stars Edie Adams (The Oscar), Donna Mills (Play Misty for Me), Van Johnson (23 Paces to Baker Street), Vonetta McGee (The Eiger Sanction), Jane Wyatt (Pitfall), Robin Mattson (Return to Macon County), M. Emmet Walsh (Blood Simple) and NFL legends Bubba Smith (Police Academy) and Dick Butkus (TV's Blue Thunder).

January 20, 2020

BRITT-MARIE WAS HERE: One Little Victory

Starring Pernilla August, Peter Haber, Anders Mossling, Lancelot Ncube, Malin Levanon, Olle Sarri, Mahmut Suvakci. Directed by Tuva Novotny. (97 min)

Review by Fluffy the Fearless😸

Since the tragic death of her more free-spirited sister when they were children, Britt-Marie’s (Pernilla August) entire life has been fueled by routine. She makes daily to-do lists, does the shopping, cleans the house and cooks for her husband of 40 years, Kent (Peter Haber). It’s not-so-much a loving relationship as it is a comforting one. Being reliable, efficient and organized is how she defines happiness.

Then life throws her a curveball. Britt-Marie learns Kent has been having an affair and subsequently leaves him. But starting over at 63 is daunting, especially since she hasn’t worked an actual job since getting married. The only thing available is temporary position at a rundown rec center in the small town of Borg. She’s also expected to coach the youth soccer team, despite her lowly opinion of the game – likely because Kent appeared to care more about soccer than his own marriage. The community, of course, is dumbfounded by all this.

"Fine. I'm taking my ball and going home."
Plotwise, Britt-Marie was Here isn’t exactly brimming with surprises. It follows a narrative pattern similar to many American sports comedies: A reluctant coach forced to guide a scruffy bunch of underdogs, finding purpose and self-respect along the way. This one is more bittersweet in tone, but generates a lot of the same warm fuzzies. Much of that is due to the performances, especially August in the titular role. Despite appearing joyless throughout most of the film, Britt-Marie is an likably-engaging character. Stubborn, vulnerable and always uncertain of her decisions, she’s easy to empathize with. Surrounding her is a variety of interesting secondary characters, such as potential love-interest, Sven (Anders Mossling), who’s nearly as insecure as Britt-Marie.

A charming spin on a familiar premise, Britt-Marie was Here is an understated, congenial little gem. A film without massive highs or lows, the personal victories are small, but no less important to its characters and just as enjoyable for the viewer.


January 19, 2020


The hours that must have been spent on that tagline.
Starring Jackie Chan, Zhong Chuxi, Ethan Juan, Lin Peng, Austin Lin. Directed by Jia Yan (aka Vash). (109 min)

Review by Stinky the Destroyer😼

Though isn’t shown anywhere on the cover or in the opening credit sequence, The Knight of Shadows apparently carries the subtitle, Between Yin and Yang, which might also describe this review of the film itself….

First, the “yin” (the negative): 
The film may feature Jackie Chan, but a far cry from the Chan we’ve grown to know and love. Where he was once his own special effect, here he’s literally surrounded by CGI almost the entire time. Nor does he display the personality or formidable physical skills we’re used to seeing. Granted, age catches up with all of us and I don’t expect him to be leaping across rooftops anymore, but that was never all he had going for him. Chan is a charming comic actor, but really, his role as a demon hunter could have been played by anybody.

The writing is sometimes terrible. Characters often explain their predicaments as they are happening, as if the audience is too dumb to figure it out on their own. Likewise, they announce their actions before actually doing them, sort of like those old Saturday morning superhero cartoons from the ‘70s.

Some of Chan’s animated assistants are horrid creations, namely “Gassy,” who paralyzes demons with his farts. It’s a blatant and stupid attempt to pander to the kiddie crowd with bathroom humor. And yes, he announces in-advance when he’s planning to use his power, because the very word fart is apparently very funny.

Jackie gets hammered.
Now the “yang” (the positive):

On the other hand, the story itself isn’t bad. Chan plays Pu Songling, who vanquishes demons by using his trusty yin & yang brush, which traps them in a book. Once there, they are unable to reincarnate, banished to a nether world. One particularly hungry demon, Xiaoqian (Zhong Chuxi), feeds on young girls’ souls to stay alive, while her ex-lover and former demon himself, Caichen (Ethan Juan), pleads for Pu to help return her to human form. After a woefully shaky start, this turns into a pretty engaging story.

Though I think most would agree Chan is underused, the rest of the cast is pretty decent. Juan and Chuxi make an aesthetically appealing set of doomed lovers, while Lin Bo-hong has a few amusing moments as a bumbling lawman-turned-apprentice.

Visually, there’s a lot of imagination at work. The production design is suitably lush, vibrant and colorful, enhancing the whimsical setting. The extensive CGI gives most scenes an artificial quality, but at the same time, that’s part of what makes it interesting to look at. The climax, where the major characters clash in the demon world, is a dizzying spectacle that might be a little over-the-top, but is certainly entertaining.

Ultimately, The Knight of Shadows is far-removed from vintage Jackie Chan. Some characters and narrative elements are almost distressingly bad, particularly during the first act. But if one’s able to slog through the lame slapstick and fart gags, the rest of the film has some moments that might be worth the effort. Yin and yang indeed.


January 15, 2020

Getting Cagey in PRIMAL

PRIMAL (2019)
Starring Nicholas Cage, Famke Janssen, Kevin Durand, Michael Imperioli, Lamonica Garret. Directed by Nicholas Powell. (97 min)

Review by Tiger the Terrible😸

National treasure Nicholas Cage squares-off against a deadly jungle cat and a vicious assassin on-board a cargo ship. Man, I don’t see how anyone could pass that up. It’s a concept as wonderfully bonkers as Samuel L. Jackson battling Snakes on a Plane. Primal doesn’t milk its premise to the campy heights of that kitschy classic, but it’s a lot more fun than the average Nick Cage Movie of the Week.

Cage plays Frank Walsh, a grizzled, grumpy game hunter who traps wild animals to sell to zoos. His latest haul includes birds, angry monkeys, poisonous snakes and – his biggest prize – a rare white jaguar. Sharing the boat ride home, however, is rogue assassin Richard Loffler (Kevin Durand), who’s been captured by U.S. forces and being returned in chains to stand trial for his crimes. Naturally, he manages to escape and frees all the animals. So now it’s man vs. man and man vs. nature, with Loffler and the cat picking off the supporting cast one by one.

Primal has less actual animal action than I hoped. Not that the conflict involving Loffler isn’t enjoyable. Durand does a decent job playing your standard over-confident bad guy, but watching nature get even is a lot more entertaining, especially in an unusual setting. Still, the beasties manage to get-in their licks here and there. Those scenes are the goofiest, therefore the liveliest, even if the CGI-rendered jaguar is laughably unconvincing.

"I thought I paid this."
Cage attacks his role with his inimitable brand of gusto, tongue planted firmly in-cheek, which is always enjoyable. Less vital is Famke Janssen as Ellen Taylor. She plays a Navy doctor tasked with monitoring Loffler’s health, but mostly exists to bicker with Cage and place herself in peril. The remaining cast – including Michael Imperioli – are essentially cannon fodder (or cat food).

Well made on a relatively limited budget, Primal won’t win any Oscars, but it’s hardly Razzie-worthy, either. Fast-paced and enjoyably silly, this features Nick Cage in prime any-role-to-pay-off-my-debts mode. And that isn’t always a bad thing, especially once he breaks-out his trusty blowgun.

FEATURETTE - The Making of Primal

January 14, 2020

THE HOUSE BY THE CEMETERY 3-Disc Limited Edition: Lucio Does Lovecraft (sort of)

Starring Catriona MacColl, Paolo Malco, Ania Pieroni, Giovanni Prezza, Silvia Collatina, Dagmar Lassander. Directed by Lucio Fulci. (86 min)

Review by Josey, the Sudden Cat😾

Some films are deserving of reassessment. I once wrote a pretty scathing review of The House By the Cemetery for another website, mostly attacking Lucio Fulci himself over his penchant for using audacity and gore to mask a perceived lack of directorial skill. I still think he’s overpraised in horror circles and doesn’t deserved to be mentioned alongside such Italian masters as Bava and Argento, but have to admit I kind-of enjoyed it this time around, for reasons other than the violence that endeared him to gorehounds.

The third and final chapter in Fulci’s tenuously-linked “Gates of Hell” trilogy, The House By the Cemetery is less ambiguous than The Beyond, not as over-the-top as City of the Living Dead, but arguably better-crafted than both.

Why I don't go to Supercuts.
The film still has some of the usual issues typical of Fulci...lapses in logic, questionable performances, some atrocious dubbing and shallow characters. From a story standpoint, however, this is also his most accomplished effort since Zombie, a Lovecraftian tale trimmed of the isolated set-pieces created to amp-up the gore but don’t really advance the narrative.

Not that The House By the Cemetery isn’t violent. There’s still plenty of brutal bloodletting – most of it pretty well done – but relatively restrained by Fulci’s sickly standards. Especially memorable is the murder which opens the film, where a young woman is knifed through the back of the head, ending with the tip of the blade protruding from her mouth. While still gleefully gratuitous, these scenes actually serve the narrative, not vise-versa. Even if you took Fulci’s bag o’ tricks away from him, there’s still a fairly engaging story here. At the very least, there’s enough substance between the gore scenes to maintain interest.

The Adventures of Snotman.
The emphasis on atmosphere helps immensely. For the most part, the film features impressive cinematography and haunting imagery, both of which are enhanced by a moody score from Walter Rizzati, whose sonic palate is more varied than Fulci’s usual collaborator, Fabio Frizzi.

Speaking of which, that score is one of many bonus features included in this beautifully-packaged 3-disc set. Like recent similar 4K restorations from Blue Underground, The House By the Cemetery is accompanied by extensive supplemental material, both new and carried-over from previous releases (outlined below). From a technical standpoint, the movie has never looked or sounded better. As the third Fulci film to get such royal treatment in less than two years, it’s a must-own for his fans.

While I wouldn’t go as far as to say The House By the Cemetery is a great film, it approaches good more often than my original review suggested. It still suffers from some of the trappings that have torpedoed most Lucio Fulci films, but a decent story and suitably moody tone go a long way in glossing over the rough spots, including child character Bob’s daffy dubbing (which I’m glad they retained, because it’s hilarious).

NEW: “HOUSE QUAKE” - An amusing, if somewhat rambling, interview with co-writer Giogio Mariuzzo.
NEW: CATRIONA MACCOLL Q&A – Filmed in 2014, this is an entertaining interview with the film’s star before a live audience. She has quite a few amusing anecdotes about her work in Fulci’s films.
NEW: “CALLING DR. FREUDSTEIN” - As with Blue Underground’s recent Zombie re-issue, Fulci biographer Stephen Thrower discusses the director and the film’s history.
NEW: AUDIO COMMENTARY – By author Troy Howarth.
NEW: SUPPLEMENTARY BOOKLET – Includes photos, promotional art, cart, crew & CD credits and a lengthy essay by Michael Gingold.
NEW: CD SOUNDTRACK – Walter Rizzati’s atmospheric score (31 tracks).
"MEET THE BOYLES” - Interviews with actors Catriona MacColl & Paolo Malco.
"CHILDREN OF THE NIGHT” - Interviews with actors Giovanni Frezza & Silvia Collatina. Amusingly, Frezza begins by apologizing for the famously shitty dub of his voice in the film.
"TALES OF LAURA GITTLESON” - Interview with actor Dagmar Lassander.
"MY TIME WITH TERROR” - Interview with actor Carlo De Mejo.
"A HAUNTED HOUSE STORY” - Interviews with co-writers Dardano Sacchetti & Elisa Briganti.
"TO BUILD A BETTER DEATH TRAP” - Interviews with cinematographer Sergio Salavati, make-up effects artist Marizio Trani, effects artist Gino De Rossi and actor Giovanni De Nava (you know...Snotman).
IMAGE GALLERIES – Chock full of international promo materials


THE POOP SCOOP: Oscar Contenders Edition

PARASITE Available Now on Digital, on Blu-ray and DVD 1/28
A volatile, symbiotic relationship between the uber-wealthy and the have-nots comes into full display in PARASITE, from Universal Pictures Home Entertainment and NEON. Proclaimed as “wickedly clever” (GQ) and “the definition of a must-see experience” (The Atlantic), PARASITE is a riveting, genre-bending thriller that combines masterful filmmaking with a fresh look at class discrimination, making it “a flat-out masterpiece” (Deadline). Hailed as “the best work yet from master filmmaker Bong Joon Ho (OkjaSnowpiercer)” (Awards Circuit), who directed and co-wrote the film alongside Han Jin Won (Okja), fans can now delve deep into the mind of Bong, and the symbolism behind PARASITE with an exclusive Q&A bonus feature with the acclaimed director. The captivating PARASITE has made history as the first Korean film to be nominated for an Oscar.  It has garnered six Oscar nominations including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Original Screenplay, Best International Film, Best Production Design and Best Editing, a 2020 SAG Award nomination for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture and was the winner of the 2020 Golden Globe for Best Foreign Film.  Additionally, the film has racked up over an astonishing 100 award nominations to date. 
FORD v FERRARI on Digital 1/28 and 4K, Blu-ray and DVD 2/11
Matt Damon and Golden Globe Nominee Christian Bale star in this “thunderously exciting” (Peter Travers, Rolling Stone) film based on the remarkable true story about Ford Motor Company’s attempt to create the world’s fastest car. American car designer Carroll Shelby (Damon) and the fearless British-born driver Ken Miles (Bale), together battled corporate interference and the laws of physics to build a revolutionary race car and take on Enzo Ferrari at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in France in 1966. Certified-Fresh on Rotten Tomatoes, critics and fans alike have raved about this epic underdog tale that will keep your heart pounding from start to finish. Add FORD V FERRARI to your digital collection on Movies Anywhere January 28 and buy it on 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray and DVD February 11 to add a piece of history to your film collection.

PAIN AND GLORY on Digital 1/14 and Blu-ray & DVD 1/21
PAIN AND GLORY tells of a series of re-encounters experienced by Salvador Mallo (Antonio Banderas), a film director in his physical decline. Some of them in the flesh, others remembered: his childhood in the 60s, when he emigrated with his parents to a village in Valencia in search of prosperity, the first desire, his first adult love in the Madrid of the 80s, the pain of the breakup of that love while it was still alive and intense, writing as the only therapy to forget the unforgettable, the early discovery of cinema, and the void, the infinite void that creates the incapacity to keep on making films.

January 12, 2020



BEVERLY HILLS COP (1984) Starring Eddie Murphy, Judge Reinhold, John Ashton, Ronny Cox, Lisa Eilbacher, Steven Berkoff. Directed by Martin Brest. (105 min)
BEVERLY HILLS COP II (1987) Starring Eddie Murphy, Judge Reinhold, John Ashton, Ronny Cox, Brigitte Nielsen, Jurgen Prochnow. Directed by Tony Scott. (102 min)
BEVERLY HILLS COP III (1994) Starring Eddie Murphy, Judge Reinhold, Hector Elizondo, Timothy Carhart, John Saxon, Alan Young. Directed by John Landis. (104 min)

Review by Tiger the Terrible😽

In a way, this new Blu-ray collection offers a fascinating chronicle of a cutting-edge comedian’s slow descent into mediocrity.

Some of you reading this are too young to remember when Eddie Murphy was not-only the biggest movie star in the world, but really damn funny. Much of that was due to 1984’s Beverly Hills Cop, where his effortless charisma and gift for improvisation elevated a standard cop thriller into a modern classic. Even today, it remains the quintessential Eddie Murphy movie (only Harold Faltermeyer’s archaic synth score really dates it).

But if you are of a certain age, you might concur that the Law of Diminishing Returns definitely applies to this franchise. Beverly Hills Cop II, while still enjoyable, lacks the freshness of the original. Most of the main cast returns and Murphy has his share of amusing moments, but he's a brand name by now, meeting audience expectations without ever really exceeding them. With Tony Scott directing, there’s an increased emphasis on big, loud action over clever comedy, so the film sometimes plays more like a music video or Lethal Weapon sequel. Still, it’s worth revisiting from time to time.

The less said about Beverly Hills Cop III, the better, its mediocrity typical of other films Murphy was making at the time and a strong candidate for one of the most pointless sequels ever made. The film is a complete misfire from top to bottom, starting with the fatal decision to hire John Landis as director. With his penchant for gratuitous cameos and in-jokes, he’s completely ill-suited to helm a franchise like this. Murphy sleepwalks through the film on autopilot, content to collect a paycheck without trying to give Axel Foley the same wise-ass charm that endeared him to us in the first place.  

"My check has more zeroes!"
But for what it’s worth, this is the first time BHC II & III have ever been released on Blu-ray. They are unavailable separately, making this three-disc set essential for completists. Only the first film comes with supplemental material, most of it carried over from the 2011 release. However, a few new features are tossed in to encourage double-dipping, such as a couple of deleted scenes and some interviews from 1984. Additionally, the overall audio and video quality is definite improvement over the previous disc, a nice transfer that’s repeated for both sequels.

Watching these films back-to-back is an interesting experience and could be viewed as a microcosm of Eddie Murphy’s entire career during that era. The original Beverly Hills Cop is the only essential film in the collection, but the second isn’t without its merits. BHC III may be a cynically-assembled trainwreck and indicative of the overall drop in quality of his films, but makes a nifty coaster.

Beverly Hills Cop is the only film with any bonus features.
FEATURETTES -Beverly Hills Cop: The Phenomenon Begins” (retrospective doc); “A Glimpse Inside the Casting Process”; “The Music of Beverly Hills Cop
LOCATION MAP – An interactive feature in which production designer Angelo Graham talks about some of the various shooting locations.
AUDIO COMMENTARY – By director Martin Brest
2 DELETED SCENES – These are actually pretty interesting, though it’s understandable why they were removed.
BHC MIXTAPE ‘84 – Clips from the film where its hit songs are featured.


January 11, 2020

GIRL ON THE THIRD FLOOR and the Repair Job from Hell

Starring Phil Brooks (aka CM Punk), Trieste Kelly Dunn, Sarah Brooks, Elissa Dowling, Travis Delgado. Directed by Travis Stevens. (93 min)

Review by Josey, the Sudden Cat😼

For a while, I really empathized with Don Koch (Phil Brooks). Here’s a guy trying to get a fresh start by renovating the old suburban house he just purchased, so it’s all ready when his wife arrives. However, he ain’t much of a handyman. And I can relate. Hell, it takes me a half-dozen bent nails and a repeatedly-hammered thumb just to put up a picture which will inevitably end up hanging crooked. It’s therefore my philosophy that if something can’t be fixed with duct tape, it is irreparable.

Still, Don is persistent, even though he generally ends up making things worse. It seems as if the whole house is working against him. Which it is, of course, spitting slime, goo & occasional marbles from every pipe, crack and socket. It turns out Don bought an old whorehouse that happens to be haunted by its former occupants, so I can hazard a guess what the white goo is supposed to be.

But by then, my empathy for Don had dissipated. It turns out he’s kind of an asshole, taking a break to cheat on his pregnant wife with Sarah (Sarah Brooks), a mysterious woman who he shuns after their initial tryst. But she’s got a sinister agenda and it doesn’t take a slide rule to figure out she’s part of the house’s dark past, which tends to bring out the worst in those who are inherently awful people. And the more we learn about Don’s past, the more we’re convinced he deserves what’s coming to him, and probably why the narrative focus wisely shifts to his wife, Liz (Trieste Kelly Dunn), during the second half.

Extreme product placement.
But we don’t necessarily have to like a main character to be engaged in his predicament. While Girl on the Third Floor doesn’t offer too many surprises, it’s a fairly enjoyable entry in the haunted house subgenre, checking off the usual tropes with economic flare and throwing in a few enjoyably nasty scenes along the way (such as Don’s unfortunate encounter with a wayward marble). Phil Brooks (“CM Punk” to WWE/MMA fans) sort-of has the mannerisms of a young Bruce Campbell and does a decent job in his first feature film, suggesting a possible B-movie career if he ever decides to give up his day job.

Girl on the Third Floor doesn’t quite sustain its premise to the end, with a final act & denouement that descends into predictability. But until then, writer-director Travis Stevens has put together a fun little time killer, one that might also make those who don’t know a claw hammer from a toilet plunger feel better about themelves.

AUDIO COMMENTARY – By writer-director Travis Stevens