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Mazes and Monsters (1982)
I think the age you come to this film affects your read on it.
Sure this film was poorly designed propaganda to seed fear into the hearts of parents. We all know that if kids play D&D it's certain suicides all 'round and the dungeon master is buying.
But, the year it was televised, Mazes and Monsters had a value beyond its accidental camp. It spoke to a group who rarely get spoken to. 'I Was a Teenage Roleplayer' could have been the alternative we role-players wouldn't have cared; we're used to a good bashing. Let the message be negative or satirizing, we were good with it just show us some hack and slash show us a sense of community around a table, ala That 70's show sans the nifty smoke.
Sure the dialog was more horrifying than 'The Gorvil' (Sigmund the Sea Monster on steroids, living only to make Hanks whimper), and sure it painted role-players as holding their own on the evolutionary ladder somewhere between monkeys and fudge, but at a time when network TV channels in the US almost never offered up anything out of formula (e.g. kitchen movies with women in peril), along came this quirky gem.
And as a kid, perhaps not the intended target audience, I found the ham handed ending quite poignant. At that tender age I lacked the sophistication to know good acting or writing from bad, yet I continue to see the conclusion as provocative and bold for the form and I wish this TV movie would come out on DVD rather than just VHS.
So, aside from the easy knocking, this guilty-pleasure-from-childhood movie moved me
and that's what they're supposed to do.
Exorcist: The Beginning (2004)
Indiana Jones and The Mummy Meet The Evil Dead (On Valium)
I think I need an exorcist to strike from my mind the pervasively wicked memory of this complete failure. Did it fail because it didn't live up to its namesake? Yes. Would it have failed as a lowly Lifetime Network kitchen movie? Yes even if Valerie Bertinelli took the lead in glitter pasties.
Allowing Renny Harlin to take the hallowed reins of such an impressive series (well 1 and 3 anyway) was as insensitive as casting Marky Mark in the unfaithful juvey comic book that was the remake of the Planet of the Apes. Renny doesn't 'do' English language, he does mindless action, he is a part of film internationalization. He makes films that the Japanese can watch even if no translation is provided. If he was still married to Geena Davis she would have had the female lead in this merciless piece of celluloid camel turd.
What's more, hack Bill Wisher's derivative story (make a game out of naming the famous movies he stole scenes and major elements from-fun for the whole family) is so full of holes it whistles in a stiff breeze. That would be fine if I was watching Toxic Avenger goes Hawaiian or some such, but The Exorcist series has pedigree and deserved better than a script with no driving force. Almost nothing happens. Worse, in the original film father Merrin had previously encountered the devil (Pazuzu, dark lord of evil flying critters, whatever) and was a haunted man Wisher drew the younger Merrin as being ALREADY haunted by his agonizingly never ending recollections of Nazis acting out a scene from Oscar winner Sophie's Choice, even before he'd encountered the devil in the first place, which kind of air balled the chance to show a character arc.
Warm lighting, epic music cueing nothing in particular, and cheap thrills similar to 'CJOOC' (cats jumping out of closets) are only made worse when poorly layered CGI hyenas the size of steroid fed timber wolves make an appearance like some out of place Ray Harryhausen creatures from 60's Sinbad films.
Before seeing this film I spoke with someone about William Friedkin's last minute decision to scrap the original Exorcist music theme in favor of Tubular Bells. That showed a subtle understanding for disparate elements aligning to create something unique and powerful. This 2004 filmic tragedy was weighed down by a score replete with typical Gregorian gravy, ambition less and formulaic to the end.