Grindhouse jollies aplenty in this Shaw Brothers kung fu classic, a kind of coming-of-age revenge tale with blitzkrieg bursts of action, but it’s also a masterclass in patience and payoff in storytelling.
If you’ve seen any of Takashi Miike’s more whacked-out films, but especially the Dead or Alive series and The Happiness of the Katakuris, you’ll have some clue of what to expect from this demented yakuza/martial-arts/fantasy mashup. I wish it were half an hour shorter, and that I had some more context for the very local humour, but the latter at least is on me.
“Why would someone have a box of clowns?” Good question. Here’s another one: how does someone make a film that’s so noisy yet so devoid of threat or tension? It’s quite the achievement, actually, Gil Kenan’s remake. It’s one that misses completely what made Tobe Hooper’s classic work as it tries to pass itself off as a variant of Insidious while somehow ignoring what worked in that one, too. At least it has an above-average cast, despite them having little to work with for the bulk of the film. And it ends better than you think it’s going to, once Jared Harris’ Oirish-accented reality TV ghost hunter enters the fray. Better than ‘absolutely awful’ is still pretty bad, though.
The fourth cinematic outing for the helium-voiced singing rodents and easily the worst of the bunch, playing like it was shot over a long weekend, and written just as hastily. There is nothing of value here, unless hateful characters, dated musical numbers (the centrepiece is a chipmunk-ified rendition of ‘Uptown Funk’ that I’m sure will go down swimmingly a couple of years let alone a decade from now) and false advertising (there is really no road trip to speak of) are your bag. Jason Lee is particularly off-form with his resigned delivery and general air of wishing he were somewhere, anywhere else. Hope the cheque was a big one, bro.