Darkman (1990)

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I am Darkman obsessed. I collect anything I can on Darkman, so it’s quite strange that it’s taken me so long to actually do a review, but here it is. Dr. Peyton Westlake (Liam Neeson) is a brilliant scientist. He is working on a synthetic skin which will be used to help burn victims in covering their scars. However the skin only lasts 99mins before disintegrating. Peyton discovers that it’s the skins exposure to light that causes it to disintegrate. As he gets closer to a solution, a vicious gang, led by the evil Robert Durant (Larry Drake), break into Peyton’s lab looking for a memo that Peyton’s girlfriend Julie (Frances McDormand) has come into possession of. They trash the lab and leave Peyton for dead. When the lab explodes in a ball of flames, Peyton is thrown from the building but left horribly scarred.

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Julie, believing Peyton to be dead, grieves and tries to move on with her life. Peyton however is deep in a coma at hospital. All of his nerve endings have been completely destroyed meaning he feels no pain and his strength has increased. Peyton escapes from the hospital eager for revenge. He takes on the mantle of Darkman and one by one, tracks down those responsible for his condition. Using the synthetic skin he created, Peyton takes on the faces of those he is seeking to destroy, working his way through the gang until he reaches Durant.

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Peyton reaches out to Julie to let her know he is still alive, however when Durant realises Julie’s relationship to Peyton/Darkman, he uses that as a way of luring Darkman out of hiding. I love this film. Directed by Sam Raimi it really is great fun. The reason Raimi made this movie was actually because he couldn’t get the rights to The Shadow. So he decided to do a hero of his own, someone who fights for those that can’t protect themselves. I for one am glad he did.

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Liam Neeson is brilliant as Darkman. Yes he does tend to overact in places, but I find that just adds to the cheesy comic book feel of the movie. Frances McDormand however is sadly miscast as Julie. There is zero chemistry between her and Peyton, and it’s almost like she doesn’t even want to be there. Larry Drake is brilliant as the cackling villain Durant, with a few strange habits of his own. Also watch out for a blink and you’ll miss it cameo from Bruce Campbell at the end.

4/5

JM

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Bubba Ho-Tep (2002)

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In terms of ‘cult movies’, you don’t get more cult than Don Coscarelli’s  horror comedy ‘Bubba Ho-Tep’. Based on a short story by Joe R. Lansdale, this movie plays with the ‘what if’ scenario of Elvis and if he is still alive. Here we have an aging Elvis Presley (Bruce Campbell, who is now living in a retirement home under the name Sebastian Haff. Sebastian claims that he is in fact the real Elvis, and that many years ago he swapped places with an Elvis impersonator as he was growing weary of the celebrity lifestyle and wanted a break. However before he could swap back places with the impersonator, the impersonator died.

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Now Elvis is living out his days in a retirement home, worrying about a possibly cancerous growth he has on his “pecker”. He spends his days perving at the nurses and visitors, all while dreaming of his old life and what could have been had he not switched places. Elvis also spends most of his spare time with an ageing black gentleman called Jack (Ossie Davis) who believes he is in fact the real JFK who was dyed black and had his brain replaced with a bag of sand. All very odd, but enjoyably so.

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Their ‘tranquillity’ is interrupted with the appearance of an ancient Egyptian mummy, who is stalking the halls sucking the souls of those who are close to death. At first Elvis doesn’t believe it, but when he sees the mummy for himself, he knows that he and Jack need to spring to action. Leading to a final battle between good and evil. The story is brilliantly told. It’s full of great comic timing, chills and a poignancy that I found quite un-expecting. It deals with longing and folks looking for a chance at redemption. Even if all of those around them have forgotten, they want to prove to themselves they still have something to offer.

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Bruce Campbell is awesome in the role of Elvis/Sebastian. He really does show that he has some decent acting chops. Ossie Davis as Jack/JFK has some brilliant lines to deliver, which he does so with relish. The effects are a bit cheesy, but on a moderate budget they are good enough. Don Coscarelli has always, for me anyway, been a great director. He manages to expertly balance his ambition with whatever budget he has, resulting in some very entertaining fare. I did hear a rumour of a sequel, but apparently there were problems between Bruce Campbell and Don Coscarelli which is sad. I for one would love to see Bubba Nosferatu. Apparently Ron Perlman was being lined up to take the Elvis role, but how true that is I don’t know. Also if anyone is wondering why there are no actual Elvis songs in the movie, it’s because the cost of using even one song would have sucked the budget dry. This is well worth a watch if you haven’t seen it. Very entertaining stuff.

4/5

JM

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