The Game of Death (1978)

The Game of Death [死亡遊戲] (1978)

Starring Tong Lung, Bruce Lee, Gig Young, Dean Jagger, Colleen Camp, Hugh O’Brian, Mel Novak, Roy Chiao, Robert Wall, Dan Inosanto, Kareem Abdul Jabbar, Billy McGill, Sammo Hung, Yuen Biao, Casanova Wong, Ji Han-Jae, James Tin Chuen

Directed by Robert Clouse

Expectations: Not much.


The Game of Death is a tricky film to review, but I’m sure it won’t be nearly as painful as actually watching the movie. The actual Bruce Lee footage is as great as it ever was, but everything that leads up to it is pretty sub-standard. The Robert Clouse-directed stuff is most of the movie, too — only 10 minutes or so are from Bruce Lee’s shoot — and there’s just no way around the fact that it’s boring. Even with Sammo Hung choreographing the fights, and Yuen Biao doing a lot of acrobatic double work for “Bruce,” the fights are largely uninspired and average compared to the best the Hong Kong industry was producing in 1978. For instance, Sammo made the absolutely incredible Wing Chun movie Warriors Two later the same year, and the quality gap between these two films is about as wide as the Grand Canyon.

Perhaps the difference lies in Robert Clouse’s direction; there is certainly no palpable passion in any of his material. The shift in tone and quality is jarring when Bruce finally shows up in the final 10 minutes with every bit of charisma he ever had. Bruce Lee was always passionate about his martial philosophy, and he focused on presenting it through his films — particularly The Way of the Dragon and the unfinished Game of Death. Care could have been taken to preserve this spirit, and present a version of Game of Death that was as much a celebration of Bruce Lee as it was an attempt to salvage the unfinished footage. Instead, it was decided to ditch Bruce’s vision for a cliched and rather dumb plot that just sort of stumbles its way towards the electric Lee footage.

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The Brotherhood VI: Initiation (2009)

Starring Aaron Jaeger, Tyson Breech, Bryan McMullin, Sasha Formoso, Burke Carter, Dominick Monteleone, James Preston, Josh Yeo, Austen Dean Jesse, Jeremy Ray Simpson, Rebecca Zoe Leigh, Arthur Roberts

Directed by David DeCoteau

Expectations: Fingers crossed it’s one of the good Brotherhoods.

On the general scale:

On the B-movie scale:


The Brotherhood VI: Initiation is the (so far) final entry in David DeCoteau’s Brotherhood series, and he really pulled out all the stops. The heartbeat is on the soundtrack, there’s a lumberjack killer, and nearly the entire cast spends most of the movie in their underwear! The film doesn’t take place in one of his trademark thunderstorms, but DeCoteau makes up for this by hosing down his underwear-clad actors, all in the name of fraternity initiation. Do real fraternities do these sorts of homoerotic initiations? They do in the DeCoteau-verse!

Depending on your tolerance for DeCoteau films, this either sounds like a good time or your worst nightmare. My love of DeCoteau’s unique brand of filmmaking is well documented here, so, of course, I thoroughly enjoyed myself. It definitely isn’t a movie I’d want to explain to someone who walked in and saw everyone getting hosed down in their underwear, but it has a charm and a feel unique to horror movies. I will always value unique expression to cookie-cutter, corporate filmmaking, no matter what the state of undress the main characters are in. Besides, most reviewers wouldn’t bat an eye if the cast was female, so I don’t feel like it should matter.

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Witchouse (1999)

Starring Matt Raftery, Monica Serene Garnich, Brooke Mueller, Ashley McKinney Taylor, Dave Oren Ward, Ryan Scott Greene, Marissa Tait, Dane Northcutt, Kimberly Pullis, Jason Faunt, Ariauna Albright

Directed by David DeCoteau

Expectations: I feel like this is going to be rough.

On the general scale:

On the B-movie scale:


Witchouse is just like any number of Full Moon movies. It’s directed by David DeCoteau, it’s relatively short, and it carries a lighter tone than your average horror film. Where the conflict arises is that DeCoteau’s style has really settled into my heart over the course of writing about all these Full Moon films. Witchouse isn’t a great example of a DeCoteau film — it actually feels like his heart wasn’t in this one (even if his trademark “heartbeat on the soundtrack” is 🙂 — but regardless, I had a very fun time watching it.

Elizabeth (Ashley McKinney Taylor) lives in the Gothic mansion her family has inhabited for hundreds of years, and she’s throwing a party for her old school friends. The first couple to arrive, Bob & Margaret, find the mansion deserted, though. Like all good horror movie characters, they decide to check out the basement and fornicate, and wouldn’t you know it, they’re savagely murdered by a shadowy figure. And now, the party can begin…

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The Brotherhood V: Alumni (2009)

Starring Brett Novek, Arthur Napiontek, Preston Davis, Maria Aceves, Nathan Parsons, Oskar Rodriguez, Lindsey Landers

Directed by David DeCoteau

Expectations: Hopeful. I like most of this series.

On the general scale:

On the B-movie scale:


After the high quality of The Brotherhood IV, I came into The Brotherhood V: Alumni with hope for another great Brotherhood film. There were four years between entries… maybe that time was spent looking for a story worthy of the renowned Brotherhood name! My hopes quickly fell when I saw the locker-lined hallway of a high school, though. In this moment, director David DeCoteau certainly inspired horror within me, but not the horror intended! 🙂 The Brotherhood V: Alumni is more like The Brotherhood III, although thankfully it’s more entertaining than that bottom-of-the-barrel film. That isn’t apparent in the film’s intro, though, where a nerdy teenager on prom night is stalked through the impossibly blue, locker-lined halls by perhaps the least urgent stalking killer in film history. The nerd is tracked into the girls’ locker room, where he undresses, showers, and is ultimately murdered. The sound of a heartbeat plays the entire time, like a meditation mantra pulling you down into a state of sweet oblivion. This all plays about as slowly as is humanly possible, taking up the first 15 minutes of the movie.

It is here that we meet the brotherhood of this film, a completely down-to-earth group without a shred of the supernatural to be found. They bond over their shared promise to never speak of what happened on prom night in the girls’ locker room, not from any altruistic ideal, but because their prank on the nerd kid went wrong and someone stole the video tape that recorded it for posterity. One year later, the friends all receive a blue envelope containing an invitation to a school reunion, or to a one-year prom reunion or something. I don’t remember exactly, and it doesn’t really matter. What matters is that they have been called back to the school, and whoever called them there is terrorizing them with the threat of releasing the tape.

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Mini-Review: The Werewolf Reborn! (1998)

Starring Robin Atkin Downes, Ashley Tesoro, Len Lesser, Bogdan Cambera, Lucia Maier

Directed by Jeff Burr

Expectations: Low.

On the general scale:

On the B-movie scale:


The Werewolf Reborn! is the second of two Moonbeam films under the Filmonsters! banner, and while Frankenstein Reborn! was bad but kinda fun, this one is just atrocious. Very little of note happens in the movie, but at least it has the decency to be quick about it. The Werewolf Reborn! runs 43 1/2 minutes without credits and my sanity is eternally grateful. To imagine this movie twice as long, at “normal” movie length, is to imagine a horrific cinematic nightmare. Not exactly the usual way to strike fear in the hearts of the audience! 😛 There are definitely worse movies out there, although at the moment The Werewolf Reborn is the torchbearer in my brain, and it’ll probably remain the benchmark for some months to come.

As with Frankenstein Reborn, this film attempts to re-invent a horror classic for a younger audience. I don’t know what was wrong with kids just watching the original Universal films, but I guess some kids (and parents) might not want watch stuff in black and white. So enter Full Moon to create low-budget ’90s versions! In 2017, I’d be curious to see which one kids would rather watch; my money’s on the Universal versions, but it’s probably a toss-up depending on the person. Anyway… what this translates to is the coupling of the basic Wolf Man story with the well-used Moonbeam story of a kid sent off to live with a relative in another country. Frankenstein Reborn got a little more than this — it also had 60 whole minutes to work with! — but in The Werewolf Reborn that’s about it. The way the film handles the gypsies is a little different than the 1940s Wolf Man, but it’s nothing significant enough to set it apart. If the rest of the proposed Filmonster films were just going to be these relatively lazy productions of classic stories with teens shoehorned in, I guess I’m glad they stopped when they did.

I don’t really have anything else to say about The Werewolf Reborn. It’s one of the worst Moonbeam films I’ve seen, about as interesting as a bucket full of dust thrown in your face. It has a few moments of fun with the werewolf, but literally everything else had me clamoring for the film to end… and when it’s only 43 1/2 minutes long that really isn’t a good sign! Full Moon also combined the films in 2005 into Frankenstein & the Werewolf Reborn!, and I can only imagine the amount of fortitude and caffeine it would take to make it through both of them back to back.

Next time I get around to a Full Moon movie I’ll be watching The Vault! I hope whatever is locked up in that vault is better than the Werewolf’s rebirth! 😛 See ya then!

The Brotherhood III: Young Demons (2003)

Starring Kristopher Turner, Paul Andrich, Ellen Wieser, Julie Pedersen, Andrew Hrankowski, Landon McCormick, David Johnson, Matthew Epp, Carl Thiessen

Directed by David DeCoteau

Expectations: Moderate. I liked the first two.

On the general scale:

On the B-movie scale:


The Brotherhood III: Young Demons is a disappointment in every way, and I say that as a fan of David DeCoteau’s brand of B-Movie. Those looking for something along the lines of the first two Brotherhood films will find only a shred of similarity, and while I love originality and films that dare to take their own journey, The Brotherhood III: Young Demons isn’t forging any new paths. It is literally almost entirely composed of people wandering through darkened school corridors. There is a slight plot to facilitate the characters’ wanderings, but even that is far from fresh.

Lex (Kristopher Turner) runs “The Game” after hours at his school. The players dress up in medieval fantasy garb and hunt through the school for clues, while Lex monitors them on the security cameras and taunts/helps them over the intercom. But tonight’s game is slightly different, because Lex has been given an ancient book of Egyptian magic. It’s a fun premise for a horror film, changing up the traditional “trapped in a location” story line… the only problem is that I’ve seen this specific variation before in 1990’s Shakma.

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The Medallion (2003)

Starring Jackie Chan, Lee Evans, Claire Forlani, Julian Sands, Alex Bao, Johann Myers, John Rhys-Davies, Anthony Wong, Christy Chung, Scott Adkins, Tara Leniston, Lau Siu-Ming

Directed by Gordon Chan

Expectations: Moderate, but I’m excited cuz it’s Gordan Chan.

On the general scale:

On the B-movie scale:


The Medallion is an odd movie in just about every way. It’s definitely not a good movie, but I had a fun time watching it thanks to my love for the weird and wonderful world of B-Movies. This makes it something of a hard movie to rate, as I’d rather re-watch this movie than most of his US work leading up to it, but there’s no way that this movie is anywhere near as polished or well-made as those. These are the conundrums of my eclectic taste.

Jackie plays Eddie Yang, a Hong Kong police officer who finds himself pulled into the world of the supernatural when his target, Snakehead (Julian Sands), attempts to kidnap a boy from a local temple. The boy holds the power to reunite two halves of a sacred medallion that can give immortality and great power to those it is bestowed upon. It’s kind of a riff on The Golden Child, but beyond this basic premise of a kidnapped child of prophecy, The Medallion diverges significantly from anything resembling the classic Eddie Murphy film.

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