I saw this notorious drama on a heavily censored VHS rental years ago and decided it was one of the more disturbing serial killer movies I’d seen. Of course over the years it’s shock value has diluted. These days the boundaries of what is allowed to be seen on screen has been pushed to a much harder degree than what would have been banned back in the eighties. That being said, this movie still has the power to disturb.
Michael Rooker (Guardians of the Galaxy, The Walking Dead) plays sociopath and killer Henry – loosely based on real-life serial killer Henry Lee Lucas who kills at random and without motive, drifting from town to town. After befriending Otis (Tom Towles) and moving into his run-down apartment they are soon joined by Otis’ younger sister Becky and their simple dynamic is complicated once Henry begins involving Otis in his murderous ‘hobby’.
Directed my John McNaughton (Wild Things) with a cold, semi-documentary style this is a movie that doesn’t offer explanation or back story but simply explores a week in the life of a killer. Rooker is unnervingly convincing, aided well by his co-stars and McNaughton’s ominous, matter-of-fact tone. It doesn’t offer answers and is all that more powerful for it, offering some still-to-this-day shocking scenes (the home invasion). The acting isn’t Silence of the Lambs Oscar stuff by a long stretch and some scenes are quite amateurish, not helped by a low budget and filmed-on-the-fly locations. Yet it manages to pack a punch even all these years later.
I picked up the recent Arrow Video 4K Blu-Ray release. The picture quality, a new restoration supervised by the director is very grainy but close-up detail is good. The soundtrack is offered in its original 2.0 stereo and a new 5.1 DTS HD Master Audio option. Dialogue is mostly clear apart from one segment based under a bridge, which was very echoey. Extras consist of interviews, which are from a number of years back, censorship featurettes covering both American and British censor history, making of, deleted scenes and photo galleries. The limited edition set also comes with a poster, booklet and a separate booklet showing the original storyboards. Three director commentaries, one of which is brand new rounds off the presentation. Impressive stuff.
The first movie was my favourite of 2014, so the prospect of a sequel was very exciting. This time around we find the unorthodox gang of heroes causing strife with a race of beings after Rocket the Raccoon (voiced by Bradley Cooper) gets a little light-fingered with some batteries. However following a space battle that could cause the guardian’s lives to end abruptly, a mysterious stranger saves the day. Turns out Star Lord (Chris Pratt) has a Dad who just so happens to be a pretty powerful guy himself, played with charismatic flair by the ever dependable Kurt Russell.
This fills in a few gaps left over from the last movie, especially the question surrounding Chris Pratt’s father and it was great being back in the company of these very likable characters again. The dialogue is especially sharp throughout, something that was a highlight of the last movie and the jokes & references come thick and fast to make this a ton of fun. Pratt’s character constantly makes quips about eighties pop-culture such as TV shows like Cheers and characters such as Skelator and Pac-Man, and makes him a very relatable and refreshing presence in this sort of movie. I was also glad to see that, despite the trailers, Baby Groot isn’t over-used but damn is he cute and very funny every second he’s on screen.
The soundtrack, another highlight last time around isn’t quite as memorable (apart from a great use of Mister Blue Sky by ELO) and a left-over side plot involving sisters Nebula (Karen Gillen) and Morgana (Zoe Saldana) felt unnecessary. I also did not get much out of the gold-painted race that turn up at the beginning and chase after our heroes. That being said Michael Rooker’s Yondu was again a joy and I’ve always liked the actor and we get some great moments with him here. The same can be said for scene-stealing Dave Bautista as Drax. Action generally is top-notch but the plot didn’t grab me as much or feel as layered this time, with the whole Kurt Russell’s planet sequence stopping the movie dead at one stage.
As it stands though this was a solid sequel and I can’t wait to see what comes next. The Guardians of the Galaxy will return!
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