Monday, May 24, 2010

A trio of movies recut and recycled

Urban Evil: A Trilogy of Fear (2005)
Starring: Darrow Igus, Larry Bates Sarah Scott Davis and Rhonda Claerbaut ("Demonic Tunes); Russell Richardson, Jennia Watson, Freda Payne and Bill Davis ("The Killing One" segment); and Shani Pride, Ted Lyde, Kyle Walker and Austin Priester ("Hidden Evil" segment)
Directors: Ted Nicolaou ("Demonic Tunes", "The Killing Kind") and James Black ("Hidden Evil")
Producers: JR Bookwalter and Charles Band
Rating: Three of Ten Stars

Some anthology films are written and planned as such, like "Asylum" and "Tales from the Grave 2: Happy Holidays". Others are created by packaging sperately-produced short films with host sections or other framing sequences, such as the "Goregoyles" films from producer Alexandre Michaud. Still others come about when producers re-edit films that were unfinished due to loss of funding or that they couldn't find distribution for and that are packaged together in an efffort to get some return on investment and/or get them to the public. The third kind consists of already-released films that are abbreivated through editing, retitled, and packaged together under a single main title.

An example of the third kind of anthology film is "Urban Evil: A Trilogy of Fear" from the Charles Band-helmed Different Worlds. It consists of three African-American themed horror flicks that Band had previously released under his well-known Full Moon label. "The Horrible Dr. Bones" (2000) is retitled "Demonic Tunes", "Ragdoll" (1999) becomes "The Killing Kind", and "The Vault" (2000) becomes 'Hidden Evil".

Out of the three movies that were condensed to make up "Urban Evil", only "The Horrible Dr. Bones" makes the transition with any sort of effectivenes. The other two feel like what they are--the butchered remains of longer movies, and It'll be obvious to even the most inattentive viewer that there's something missing in both of them. "The Killing One" comes off the worst of the two, with murder and mayhem happening off-screen and the viewers merely getting some tantalizing hints about what might been included.

In "Demonic Tunes", the Urban Protectors, an up-and-coming rap band is chosen for stardom by super-DJ and "community organizer" Doctor Bones (Igus) to be the lead act on his new record label. Unfortunately for the band, and the world, Doctor Bones is a near-immortal voodoo sorcerer with grand plans for merging zombie-creation rituals with music and mass-media.

There are very few signs that this is a longer version of an abridged film which might hint that "The Horrible Doctor Bones" is not worth seeking out. I imagine that the full-length version is heavilly padded with bargain basement rap and pop performances--given that it's about a band and it takes place partially at a talent show and a concert--and that there is probably a subplot that was easily exciszed, because one might think that this film was always intended to be this length. (There's also the fact that Darrow Igus portrays the only interesting character in the entire movie. Although "Demonic Tunes" isn't all that good, Doctor Bones has enough flare as played by Igus that we can add him to the list of Cool Horror Movie Bad Guys.)

Next up, we're treated to "The Killing Kind", where a young club owner (Richardson) uses voodoo magic to call forth an evil spirit to avenge an assault on his grandmother. You know things are going to end up badly when he offers the demon "anything he wants" to perform the task.

Unlike "Demonic Tunes", this film did not fare well during its transformation. Although it's got good acting and the plus of a very attractive leading lady in Jennia Watson and the Charles Band-trademark killer doll, watching the film is not a satisfying experience because time and again you have the sense that you left the room for a minute and came back to find that you'd missed something really cool. (We get to see two muders done by the doll, but references seem to imply there are at least two that we don't get to see. We also get to see Jennia Watson's bare back, but the sense is that we may have gotten to see a lot more if this had been a complete movie. That may not be the case, but the impression is there and that's all that's needed to lend an even more incomplete feeling that is projected by "The Killing Kind."

The best thing I can say about "The Killing Kind" is that it gives you enough to decide if "Ragdoll" might be worth seeing. (Speaking of which,

Rounding out the trilogy promised by the sub-title, we have "Hidden Evil", a tale of a well-meaning inner-city teacher (Ted Lyde) takes a small group of high schoolers to an old school that is about to be torn down in the hopes of finding and saving historical artifacts perhaps dating as far back as when the school served as a transfer terminal for slaves being brought in from Africa. They end up releasing an angry spirit that's been trapped there for over 150 yeas.

Like "The Killing Kind", this film feels mained and butchered, as we lose all the scenes that build tension, we are obviously skipping huge chunks of the story--how did two of the characters get from the second floor to being lost in the basement?--and the characters make discoveries that they refer to but we never quite get to understand what those are. However, unlike with "The Killing Kind", what is here seems like a highlight reel and not a very good one at that. We probably ARE getting everything that's worth seeing in this film in the 25 or so minutes that's included, and it doesn't look like the rest is worth going out of your way for.

With one film that boiled down decently and two others that didn't, "Urban Evil: A Trilogy of Fear" is one anthology film you can safely ignore, even if you love the format like I do. This is one recycling effort that does nothing to improve life on planet Earth.

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