Paganini Horror

Horror movies are always accused of having too much sex and violence, but never, too much sax and violins. Enter Paganini Horror, a Faustian bargain basement effort, built around, of all things, a mysterious piece of sheet music and a Bon Jovi rip-off band.

A female rock band, to whom we’re introduced to in the first 10 minutes of the flick via a studio rehearsal, and a bizarre fusion of “You Give Love a Bad Name” and “Livin’ on a Prayer,” can’t seem to impress their manager for what should be obvious reasons. The manager figures they’re creatively bankrupt – which may in turn bankrupt her – so she implores that they come up with a hit song.

As luck would have it, the band’s producer manages to solicit a smash and to do so in the unlikeliest of places, an abandoned castle. And it’s not through some networking meet up with Max Martin or Elton John. Rather, it’s a piece by infamous soul-exchanging Italian composer/violinist, Niccolo Paganini (or Nicolo, as it’s infamously misspelled in this flick). The producer brings the piece, “Le Streghe” (The Witches) for the band to record, and sure enough, when one makes a deal with the devil…This is especially the case in the very ugly music business, which has generated so many deals with the devil, musicians need orthopedic wrist braces.

Soon, a mysterious figure in a cloak emerges, and starts laying waste to everyone in the band or associated with it, skewering them with the knife-end of a modified violin. Good times, right?

Even better, Donald Pleasence (Loomis, from Halloween) is a devilish figure to whom we’re introduced lolling about in a gondola beneath the Bridge of Sighs. This flick makes great use of the “Queen of the Adriatic,” the floating city of Venice. And it’s a hilarious good time.

*** (out of 5)

Exit Wounds

Despite having a Polish director and a star, Steven Seagal, who was granted Russian citizenship a few years back, Exit Wounds practically counts as Canadian.

The 2001 action effort is filmed in Toronto, Hamilton and Calgary, has Jill Hennessy, and has exterior shots of the country’s national broadcaster, the CBC, and also prominent visuals of three iconic brands including favorite quick service resto, Tim Hortons. The icing on the cake? A brief discussion of the “greatest” athletes of all time, including, appropriately enough, a Canadian advocating on behalf of Wayne Gretzky, aka, The Great One.

And Exit Wounds, is good, if not great. Still, the flick represents the last, best, real movie Seagal ever made, before being banished to Euro purgatory – and not for being #meToo’ed, but for eating his way out of mainstream releases and for, by all accounts, being a pompous self-mythologizing ass-hat.

In this one, he’s a rogue cop instead of an ex-special forces op, displaying the acting range of, um…a child’s walkie-talkie if you’re familiar with his career.

Because he uses unorthodox means to save the life of the VP, and risking his own in the process, instead of some kind of medal for heroism, he’s banished to the red-headed stepchildren of Detroit police precincts, the 15th, which despite having commemorative cufflinks, is full of corrupt bad apples.

There, he has to suss out who he can trust, and to do so by being his usual Squinty McGee self. Tom Arnold, a chattering AM television personality, helps Seagal’s character gain intel about a heroin syndicate, with ties deep behind the Thin Blue Line.

But thin Seagal ain’t. This is a point of demarcation for our man Seagal, after which he never refused seconds and started to drape himself in ponchos to cover his exploding girth.

Regardless, he kicks a lot of ass here, including wiping out a multi-ethnic gang that was breaking into his ride, making unibrows black and blue and battering a bunch of ‘roided up bouncers too for good measure.

*** (out of 5)