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Blu-Ray Pick of the Week: Victor Crowley

“A Bad Moms Christmas” and “Suburbicon” are also new to Blu-Ray this week. 

I can’t believe I’m writing this review. With all of the new releases this week, including some major ones, and in spite of the fact that “Victor Crowley” is a sequel/reboot to the “Hatchet” trilogy, I have to give credit where credit is due. This movie resonates with me the most and is the one I have the fondest memories of watching. For that, it earns the top spot as my pick of the week.

“Victor Crowley” stars Parry Shen as Andrew. Shen has been in all three of the previous “Hatchet” movies, playing different characters. For this movie he reprises his role from “Hatchet III,” in which he was one of the lucky few survivors to make it out of Louisiana’s Honey Island swamp alive and escape a painful and bloody death at the hands of deformed serial killer Victor Crowley.



While “Hatchet III” was released in 2013, “Victor Crowley” takes place ten years after the events of “Hatchet III.” Andrew is a low-level celebrity for surviving the massacre and he has a new book coming out. The twist is that a lot of people, including ex-wife Sabrina (Krystal Joy Brown), don’t believe Andrew’s story about a legendary maniac named Victor Crowley killing everyone and they think Andrew has something to do with it. Seeking to prove his innocence, and after some coercion by his agent Kathleen (Felissa Rose, best known to horror movie fans as Angela in “Sleepaway Camp”), Andrew, Sabrina, and Kathleen get on a plane with a television show crew to head into to the swamp and shoot a retrospective.

Little do they all know that a wannabe indie film maker named Chloe (Katie Booth) is also headed into the swamp, via boat, with her own crew to make a low budget slasher movie based on the Victor Crowley legend. When a member of her crew named Rose (Laura Ortiz) inadvertently streams the correct online video of the voodoo incantation to resurrect Victor Crowley, all hell breaks loose. The plane with Andrew and company crashes into the swamp. Chloe and her crew see the crash and race to the rescue. Pretty soon, most of them are trapped inside the crashed plane with the murderous and angry Victor Crowley (Kane Hodder) on the prowl, killing anyone he can.

This is a classic siege set up for a thriller, in which very different personalities are trapped together in a confined space while an ominous threat lurks outside. Movies like “Night of the Living Dead” and “The Mist,” among many others, use this basic premise. The characters bicker and argue, then are forced to find a way to put their differences aside if they want to survive. This happens to a degree in “Victor Crowley,” but never really comes to full fruition since writer/director Adam Green allows irrational characters to make stupid mistakes that get them killed. The close quarters also lead to one of the dialogue highlights in the movie, in which Rose very assertively, observantly, and hilariously tells the bickering Sabrina and Andrew what she really thinks of each of them.


This is how “Victor Crowley” won me over. The somber seriousness (or, semi-seriousness) of the previous entries is put aside for a much more fun tone. The movie reminded of the early work of director Peter Jackson (specifically “Dead Alive”) in that it has all of the requisites for a straightforward gore-fest, but instead goes for subversive genre bending. The results are extremely entertaining.

This is a tough balancing act too, because too much in the fun/funny direction and the movie becomes too goofy. “Victor Crowley” hits it just right. You get to know the characters just enough to care if they live or die, but not any more than necessary. Television crew member Casey (Tiffany Shepis) gets trapped under some plane chairs and is under threat of drowning due to swamp water pouring in. She makes a startling revelation that adds to the suspense of her plight. On the other hand, the deceitful and unscrupulous Kathleen acts like a panicky idiot, leading her to deservedly get killed in one of the freshest, funniest, and most creative ways I have ever seen in any slasher movie.

The subversion even extends to certain tried and true tropes. The cool one liner before finishing the villain trope and the badass girl trope are both turned on their heads with very funny results. To be sure, “Victor Crowley” isn’t a comedy—but it isn’t a straight up slasher movie either. It is the perfect balance between the two, and above all, it never for one second fails to be anything but engaging and entertaining. That’s a feat in and of itself for any movie in any genre. After four of these movies, it seems that Adam Green has found his groove. Rent it.

Also New This Week

A Bad Moms Christmas

The bad moms—Amy (Mila Kunis), Kiki (Kristen Bell), and Carla (Kathryn Hahn)--are back. This time their own moms—Ruth (Christine Baranski), Sandy (Cheryl Hines), and Isis (Susan Sarandon)—drop in on each of them to cause havoc at Christmas.

Fans of the first “Bad Moms” movie will also like “A Bad Moms Christmas.” The humor is pitched at the same level (it’s especially funny to hear spa worker Carla lament over the number of vaginas she has to wax) and most of the jokes land. There’s even a call back to the drunken moms gone wild montage of the first movie, this time involving a mall Santa and a stolen Christmas tree.

There’s a lot going on story-wise, with each of the bad moms having issues with their own moms, but writer/directors Jon Lucas and Scott Moore do a good job of balancing and blending the stories to keep things cohesive and coherent. It’s a joy to watch Sarandon, Baranski, and Hines on screen together, particularly in scenes where it’s just the three of them. As fun as the bad moms are, it’s their own moms who steal the show. Rent it.

Suburbicon

After a home invasion goes from bad to worse, new widower Gardener (Matt Damon) asks his deceased wife’s twin sister Maggie (Julianne Moore) to stay with him and help raise his son Nicky (Noah Jupe).

“Suburbicon” is set in a brand new suburban development in 1959. So of course, when a black family moves into the neighborhood, the seemingly good, decent, and hard-working folks of the town turn into violent, one note, head vein bulging racists who have nothing better to do than harass their new neighbors. This is a minor subplot to the main story of the movie, but it’s an off-putting one that does not give such a complex subject as race relations in late 1950s America the respect and attention that it needs and deserves. The fact that it’s a mere plot device that is put on the back burner and only trotted out when convenient makes its inclusion even more appalling.

Then there’s the main story—but whose story is it? For the most part, it seems to be Nicky’s story, but he’s just a ten year old boy and as such he is merely an observer and reactor to what’s happening. He does nothing to further the events of the story. That leaves other characters, like his father and his aunt, but they’re such appalling people that I rooted against them. The only decent character in the movie is Nicky’s loving and playful Uncle Mitch (Gary Basaraba), but there is too little of him in the movie and the direction taken with him is a shame. Ultimately, “Suburbicon” is a scattershot of events and characters in search of a story. They did not find one. Skip it.

Only the Brave

“Only the Brave” tells the story of the Granite Mountain Hotshots, an elite team of firefighters who battle wildfires around the area of Prescott, Arizona. Yes, as the movie teaches us, elite firefighters are literally called “Hotshots.”

It’s interesting to me how this movie, like many others of its ilk, all sound and feel the same even though they’re based on true stories. There’s the crusty but benign leader of the crew, Eric Marsh (Josh Brolin). He loves his wife Amanda (Jennifer Connelly) as much as he loves his crew, and he is dedicated to making them the best they can be. There’s down on his luck Brendan (Miles Teller), a former addict looking for a second chance. Brendan butts heads with crew member Christopher MacKenzie (Taylor Kitsch), who doesn’t trust Brendan and teases him a bit, but the two grow on each other and become not just team mates, but friends.

The rest of the crew is populated with rowdy young guys who work hard during the day and party hard at night. They can get a little rowdy at times, but that’s just letting off steam. When it comes to the business of fighting fires, they get serious, come together, and get the job done.

Basically, the characters are archetypical for this type of “real life hero” movie. I can’t help but wonder how many of the actual real world firefighting squads, or combat units, or oil rig teams, are truly populated by folks who fit these Hollywood molds so perfectly. My gut tells me that some creative license is taken. That’s fine, as long as it’s respectful and the story told is necessary and compelling. In the case of “Only the Brave, it’s all of those things. Rent it.

More New Releases: “Gotham by Gaslight,” interesting twist in which the Caped Crusader (voice of Bruce Greenwood) partners with Selina Kyle (voice of Jennifer Carpenter) to stop Jack the Ripper in late nineteenth century Gotham, but aside from the costumes and setting, there is not much new in this animated offering; and “LBJ,” Rob Reiner movie about President Lyndon Johnson’s struggles in taking over the presidency after the Kennedy assassination and in passing the Civil Rights Act, starring Woody Harrelson, Jennifer Jason Leigh, C. Thomas Howell, and Bill Pullman.

Andrew Hudak is a lifelong film lover. His column on Blu-Ray new releases appears every Tuesday. He lives in Connecticut.

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