Monthly Archives: August 2001

War of the Rats, David L. Robbins

Bantam, 1999, 474 pages, C$9.99 mmpb, ISBN 0-553-58135-X

For all the horror and the suffering that came out of the period, World War Two is an inexhaustible source of great stories. Manhattan Project, Pearl Harbour, D-Day… The battle of Stalingrad, while less known in North America, stands as an equally fascinating event, a principal nexus of the Nazi’s Russian campaign and a turning point for, indeed, the whole war.

Numbers can only tell you so much: Both armies lost 1,109,000 men in that battle. The city’s population was reduced from 500,000 to 1,500 civilians, “Of the million and a quarter invading soldiers who rode across the Russian steppe to the gates of Stalingrad in August of 1942, fewer than thirty thousand ever returned to their homeland.” [P. 470]

But, as Stalin said, a million death is a statistic but a single death is a tragedy. In War of the Rats, David L. Robbins has found a way to humanize the conflict by focusing on that most personal of military killers, the sniper.

While no soldier is alike, snipers are a special breed themselves. While they carry a powerful scope rifle, their most efficient weapons are stealth and patience. They will burrow in an innocuous spot, patiently wait -sometime for hours- for their target to make a mistake, and then they will take a shot. One bullet, one kill. While they might take a shot from more than half a kilometer away, there’s no real distance between them and their target. While soldiers often have the luxury of convincing themselves that it’s always the guy to their sides who fired the lethal shot, snipers have no such comfort; each killing is theirs.

This sniper mystique is one of the many elements that come together successfully in War of the Rats. Based on real events, this novel is about the duel between a Russian and a German sniper in the ruins of Stalingrad during the fall of 1942. When the Germans become concerned about a Russian sniper hailed as a hero -Vasily Zaitsev-, they decide to take measures and send in their best shooter to track him down. It’s not the only story in the book, which uses this simple conflict as a springboard to describe the battle of Stalingrad, as well as a romantic affair between Zaitsev and an American-born (!) woman he trains as a sniper.

The historical authenticity of War of the Rats is deeply impressive, convincingly representing the atrocious conditions of the battles and doing its best to put us in the soldiers’ frame of mind during it all. Robbins has conducted good research (there’s a complete bibliography at the end of the book), and the results are there for us to enjoy. Zaitsev and Thorvald’s duel comes to symbolize the test of will between the two nations fighting over Stalingrad.

War of the Rats‘s principal flaws are its occasional lengths, which trade off energy for mood. The book is never snappy or flashy, but it does succeed admirably at building psychological suspense. It’s impressive to see what Robbins can do with a conflict in which both parties spend most of their time immobile, peering through a rifle scope.

This is a docu-novel that should immensely please war buffs and thriller readers to no end. Historically accurate yet no less exciting for it, psychologically claustrophobic and filled with suspense, this is a novel unlike any you’ve read before. Worth a detour.

(One last note: There is a recent film called ENEMY AT THE GATES, which also tells Zaitsev’s story though presumably not based explicitly on War of the Rats. Given the choice, see the film before reading the book. Not only will you be surprised at the differences between the film and the book -oh, those screenwriters!-, but the images of the film will help to ease you in the novel’s atmosphere. Though note that the German sniper Thorvalds looked nothing like Ed Harris.)

Invisible Monsters, Chuck Palahniuk

Norton, 1999, 297 pages, C$18.99 tpb, ISBN 0-393-31929-6

The third novel of an author is in many ways the most revealing of his future career. Not only does no-one knows what to expect of your first, but you also have all the time in the world to polish it. If it’s successful, not only will everyone will expect something of your second, but you’ll also be expected it to deliver it in short notice. Most authors have enough material discarded from their first book to inspire a second one. But the third, ah, that’s when the author’s career takes off, with the expectation of a steady level of quality and the time restraints it implies.

It’s also the novel that shows if the author is a one-note hack.

Chuck Palahniuk certainly made an impression with his debut novel Fight Club, a blisteringly angry manifesto for the Gen-X generation. Beginning as the narrator has a gun in his mouth, it certainly established Palahniuk’s fascination for self-destruction. His second novel, Survivor, wasn’t much different, presented as the last recording of a man about to crash a plane in the Australian outback.

So it’s no surprise to find ourselves in familiar territory again at the beginning of Invisible Monsters, as the narrator flashbacks from a scene involving a burning house and people getting shot with an automatic rifle. Rewind a few months, and the plight of the narrator becomes more apparent: An ex-fashion model, she’s been disfigured by a rifle shot across the jaw. Unable to speak, stuck in a relationship with a sexually conflicted vice cop, at the mercy of a clothes-stealing best friend, she quickly succumbs to the peculiar charms of a pre-op transsexual also looking for her true identity.

If you think the above paragraph is weird, well, you really have no idea. The narrative hops in time like a mad rabbit, character all have multiple identities, self-destruction is pushed to new limits, twists and turns abound, and nothing is quite as it seems.

The twists and turns of the novel are so extreme that they quickly acquire a quality of our own. Don’t be surprised to whoop and cheer at every outrageous revelation and ask for even more. Remember: No one is what it seems!

All throughout, Palahniuk keeps up his usual verve and ironic narration. While our protagonist’s voice doesn’t quite fit with her personality, it’s not too much of an intrusion, as if it’s all-too-clear that this is Palahniuk’s narrating as a fashion model and not the fashion model herself. Give me irony. Flash. Give me quotable quotes. Flash. Give me a bookload of fun. Flash.

As usual, there are several priceless moments scattered over the novel. One Christmas gift unwrapping turns into a nightmare for our narrator as her parents give her boxes after boxes of condoms, overcompensating for the plight of their AIDS-afflicted son. In another instance, we’re treated to a clinical description of the steps required in order to rebuild the narrator’s jaw —no small wonder our stomachs churn, as we understand why the narrator would rather stay that way.

But what about Palahniuk’s future career, and all that good stuff mentioned in the introduction? It’s obvious that Palahniuk isn’t moving too far away from his usual themes of self-destruction and nick-of-time redemption. It’s also clear that stylistically, he’s sticking to what he knows best. While the shtick is still vastly entertaining, it’s also beginning to show its signs of excessive use. Only Palahniuk knows what his next book holds, but let’s just hope that it will allow him to stretch a few conceptual muscles.

Lagrange Five, Mack Reynolds

Bantam, 1979, 227 pages, C$1.95 mmpb, ISBN 0-553-12806-X

It might be an artifact of growing up, becoming more cynical or watching too much of the evening news, but as I grow older, it seems to me as if Science-Fiction is all too often becoming a nostalgic refuge for the simplistic techno-fantasies of a more naive time.

Not all science-fiction, mind you, and almost none of the stuff I really want to read. Such luminaries as Bruce Sterling or Greg Egan have proven themselves to be aware of the complexities of our world, and the effects of changing society on our dreams for a better tomorrow.

In fact, because we’re so close to “our” contemporary SF, it’s often difficult to say what’s being naive for lack of perspective. But take a look a SF twenty years after publication and, oh boy, do you get perspective vertigo. While Mack Reynolds’ Lagrange Five isn’t offensive in its retrograde social values as, say, Martin Caidin’s 1984 novel Killer Station (which comes to mind only because I recently read it and it’s truly atrociously falsely feminist), it’s a novel that is showing some substantial cracks.

The most visible of those comes from the setting. As you may infer, Reynold’s novel takes place on an O’Neill-type space habitat located in Lagrange Five. That notion was most popular around 1980, but has now proved -with a few year’s worth of hindsight- to be highly problematical. The building costs are unimaginable, the ecosystematic challenges complex (thanks to a few year’s worth of experience in trying to build artificial environments since then)… and perhaps most unsettling, the human aspects are more worrisome than ever. Will humans accept being stuck in an artificial habitat? How do you protect such a fragile habitat against attack or accidents? How do you finance it?

In Reynolds’ view, few of those are problems, and those that are (claustrophobia) are more like plot devices than real issues. At the heart of Lagrange Five is a thriller, but it’s a thriller of such simplicity that it almost seems a distraction from the habitat so lovingly described.

As usual with potboiler SF, there is an assumption that smart people never do wrong. Lagrange Five is an idyllic place to live, where several communities provide cultural diversity and people can choose which type of urban setting attracts them the most. Oh, and everyone on Lagrange Five is hyper-intelligent, because they won’t allow anyone with a lower IQ to immigrate. (Even thinking of myself as an intellectual elitist, this notion disturbs me somewhat. At least Reynolds handwaves something about Emotional Quotients.)

There is also a black superiority subplot, handled with maybe a touch more class than we’d expect from a hard-SF story. Lagrange Five‘s resolution is as unashamedly didactic as the rest of the novel, which spends as much time demonstrating how much of a cool idea it is than to advance the mechanics of the plot.

And yet, I enjoyed it. The plot advances by fits and spurts, but the details are always interesting. Our averagely-intelligent protagonist easily gets the smart girl, and it’s all really sweet. Reading about a well-adjusted artificial community might be so déclassé, but it’s unarguably more fun than having to suffer through another angst-ridden post-cyberpunk novel.

So should we conclude that nostalgia has its place? Maybe. After all, if SF can all things to all people, it probably allows some room for everything, including uncompromising optimism in the best retro fashion.

Gravity, Tess Gerritsen

Pocket, 1999, 385 pages, C$10.99 mmpb, ISBN 0-671-01677-6

By now, you should know the rant: Some will argue that after decades of publishing fiction tightly segregated in marketing categories, enough is enough. Critics demand cross-fertilization! Authors are rebelling against the straightjackets of genres! Readers are picking books blindfolded! Everywhere, the crowd chants “Fusion! Down with genres! Mix’em up!”

Uh-huh.

I don’t think so, but that doesn’t preclude the odd good cross-over book from time to time. Tess Gerritsen’s Gravity is one such book, a medical thriller with one interesting twist… it’s set on the International Space Station.

Interestingly enough, you’d expect this crossover between medical thriller and science-fiction to be penned by an author previously associated with SF—if only because authors in other genres are usually reluctant to do research on space technology and associated material. But not so with Gravity and Tess Gerritsen, whose best-known previous novels are unarguably medical thrillers. (She also has nine romantic thrillers to her credit, but is now exclusively “marketed” as a medical thriller writer) Gerritsen has obviously done her research, and the space station segments are lovingly detailed with exactitude to rival the best and most obsessive hard-SF writers. (And, though it’s considerably incorrect to dwell on such details, her photo on the back jacket shows that she’s a real hottie. Ahem.)

The result of Gerritsen’s work is unusually invigorating, attacking a familiar SF premise with an abundance of hard-edged details that are real now.

And what a lovely premise it is: After a slight accident with one of the ISS’s biological experiment, doctor Emma Watson—newly sent up as mission medical specialist after an accident that befalls her predecessor—is helpless to prevent the contamination of her colleagues with a mysterious and deadly disease. After NASA decides to quarantine the station rather than bring back the virulent plague to Earth, well, it’s up to her to find a solution…

The real fun of Gravity isn’t in the premise, nor the overall story or conclusion: It’s in seeing the gradual tightening of the screws taking place in the first two-thirds of the book, where the claustrophobia of the ISS multiplies the creep factor of the disease tenfold, and all the possible options to save our protagonist are gradually stripped away.

This tension culminates with a memorable shuttle landing halfway through, and the revelation of the nature of the sickness killing off the ISS astronauts. After that, well, things are somewhat obvious. Paradoxally, tension falls as possible paths for survival are reduced to exactly one. It’s a small letdown, but not one serious enough to sink the book… though it definitely strips it of any superlative mention.

All the way through, Gerritsen manages to deliver an excellent mix of limpid writing and convincing details. It’s not easy to juggle both astronautic and medical jargon at the same time, but here she achieves both with an admirable deftness. (“Combines the tension of ER and APOLLO 13” raves the New York Post on the back cover. Amen.)

Gerritsen even goes back to her romantic literary origins by including a strong “estrangered couple” relationship in the mix. Have I mentioned the expression “genre fusion” in my introduction?

While it climaxes before impact and recycles elements that will be familiar to avid genre readers, Tess Gerritsen’s Gravity remains a wonderfully unusual thriller. Impressive research, good use of telling details and an exceptional initial heightening of tension should be enough to make you pick it up if you’re in the mood for this type of novel. I’m definitely curious about Gerritsen’s other novels now.

Shun liu ni liu [Time And Tide] (2000)

(In theaters, August 2001) My expectations were probably set a touch too high for this film. I should have been happy just to see a recent Hong Kong actioneer on a big theater screen. What I got was fine enough to keep me interested, though not overwhelmingly impressive. It’s as if the movie works extra-hard not to make us care about the pathetic protagonist and the lesbian policewoman (!) he accidentally sleeps with (!) and makes pregnant (!!!). It’s when watching things like that that you really start bitching about the sad state of screenwriting around the globe. The storytelling is so chaotic that you’ll understand what’s going on maybe five minutes later. There are a few action scenes, but nothing truly new or exceptional; just people shooting at each other. Fortunately, we eventually get the exceptional apartment fight (with a wonderful canyon-like urban environment, used to maximum effect), a good airport sequence and an over-the-top scene mixing gunfights and childbirth that relegates Hard-Boiled‘s finale to the rank of amateur in attempted audience manipulation. (Waah! One life begins! Bang! One life ends!) I give it a solidly mixed review.

Rush Hour 2 (2001)

(In theaters, August 2001) While I didn’t love the first Rush Hour film, I liked it a lot: The mixture of Jackie Chan action, Chris Tucker’s loudmouth antics and general sense of fun (not to mention the racial diversity of the film) made it one the little surprises of 1998. I was looking forward to the sequel; Brett Ratner know how to deliver and it was hard to see where he’d fail. And yet, for a while, it looked as if he would: The Hong Kong section of Rush Hour is, generally, a notable flop: The screenwriter doesn’t do anything interesting with the Tucker-out-of-his-element premise, makes him talk way too much (in dangerous situations where you start to wonder how he ever survived up to this point) and even adopts a slightly patronizing tone. There are a few good action sequences, but that’s it. Then, happily, the film moves back to the United States and improves sharply. (It might or might not be a coincidence if we get a lingerie shot of Latino beauty Roselyn Sanchez at approximately this moment. On a similar register, Ziyi Zhang is menacing and adorable in the henchwoman role.) The film then keeps on getting better and better until the Las Vegas climax, by which time a middling film is rescued by a greatly enjoyable conclusion. But, at times, it was a close thing.

Rules Of Engagement (2000)

(On VHS, August 2001) Egawd. If you’re going to make a thriller, at least make sure that there are a few thrills in it. If you’re going to make a drama, make sure there’s drama in it. Heck, if you’re going to make a movie, make sure there’s something in it that might interest me. Rules Of Engagement throws a little bit of this (a Vietnam prologue that might seem incredibly important, but really isn’t and might have been taken care of with one of two extra lines of dialogue), a little bit of that (like a big action scene that is not interesting. At all.), some more of this (ooh! Government conspiracy!) and some more of that (Rrrr… Courtorrom drama). That the film withholds crucial information isn’t even a cheat; it becomes only a pale irritant when you don’t care at all about what’s happening. Oh, and the cathartic shot of the little girl holding a gun… got a huge laugh from the three Sauvé siblings, assorted with cries of disbelief at the blatant manipulation. Even if Tommy Lee Jones, Samuel L. Jackson and Guy Pearce all do a good job, they just can’t save this borefest. Checking the credits, it’s no surprise to find that this is an original story by James Webb, author of one of my least favorite military thrillers of the nineties, Something to Die For. Now he strikes again, this time on movies. Gawd, viewers, just go watch something else, okay?

Repossessed (1990)

(In French, On TV, August 2001) Well, add another sad case to the group of failed “parody” comedies of the nineties. Apart from the two Hot Shots!, almost nothing came close to the rollicking humor of the classic Airplane!-style movies of the eighties. This one is a little more painful to watch than most, given the low production values, a terribly unfunny Leslie Nielsen (at the beginning of his bad self-parodying phase) and the whorish presence of Linda Blair. Yes, she’s “re-possessed” by the devil. Cue green vomit gag. Hey, a few jokes work, but the average is just so very, very low. Oh, and the awful musical segment… argh. The film runs on far too long, drawing an interminable conclusion at a point where everything should happily work toward a snappy ending. Not worth the bother, unless you’re particularly bored.

Apaches, Lorenzo Carvaterra

Ballantine, 1997, 368 pages, C$8.99 mmpb, ISBN 0-345-42251-1

What is a “structural problem” in the context of a book review? What is “structure”, anyway? Is it easily identifiable? Are you even interested? And why am I asking these questions at the beginning of my review of Lorenzo Carvaterra’s Apaches?

Definitions first: I’d argue that “structure” is the way the story is put together. It’s neither the premise nor the writing. It’s akin to plotting, but not quite, as you can tell a same story in many ways. Structure is how the author makes a transition from the overall story he’s trying to tell to the mechanics of how to tell it. For instance, the premise might be “farmboy takes over as king”, structure might be “farmboy learns about the world, makes friends, raises an army, attacks the castle and kills the king” while plotting might be the various general events that fill in the structure: “he makes friends by paying them beers and triumphing at a snooker contest”.

Structural problems arise when, for a reason or another, something prevents the story from being told in a satisfying fashion. This, obviously, is all in the reviewer’s mind. But consider: the movie PEARL HARBOUR puts its most impressive sequence -the attack on Pearl Harbour- right in the middle of the film, padding it on each side by an hour of miscellaneous stuff. Wouldn’t it have made more sense to put it at the very end of the film, during which all the conflicts are resolved at the highest moment of dramatic tension? Or, more interestingly, begin the film with the attack and end it after the battle of Midway, when Americans win a sizeable victory over Japanese forces? That is a structural problem.

On a straight paragraph-to-paragraph level, Lorenzo Carvaterra’s Apaches is a pretty good read. Heck, even in chapter-to-chapter, it’s sufficiently interesting. He writes clear prose, adequate characters and isn’t afraid to be truly nasty when depicting evil characters. (Two stomach-turning words will suffice: Dead babies) In fact, rip out the first half of Apaches, and you have a fair thriller.

The structural problem comes up when you consider the first half of the book. Not the first chapter, mind you, an effectively heart-wrenching depiction of a kidnapping. But right after, as “Book one” of Apaches (chapter 1-6, P.7-132) introduces, chapter after chapter, the six main protagonists of the novel. While the chapter-stories are interesting, they’re either too long or to concentrated at the start of the novel at a point where the reader is justifiably asking himself why he should read on.

There are ways of handling the same material more carefully. In Icon, Frederick Forsyth introduces his main protagonist in the story only midway through. However, the first half of the book interleaves the main plot and the protagonist’s personal history in such a fashion that the protagonist’s backstory is completed just as he enters the stage. That’s good structure and that’s what should have been done here, introducing one character at a time along with their backstories.

Okay, I’ll admit it; it’s not such a big problem. You can get past it and enjoy Apaches as what it is, a story of hurt ex-cops banding together to rid the world of an evil criminal, shoot’em-up style.

A word of caution, though: Apaches is one mean book. Each of the protagonists has a violent tale to tell. The villains are truly completely evil. Even our heroes, once they get their mandate to get rid of the scums, are uncomfortably closer to vigilante justice than to law and order. Apaches does some mileage out of an examination of the line between good and bad, righteousness and revenge. Almost by definition it can’t be a pleasant tale. The high body count doesn’t really help.

But in the end, chances are that you won’t be able to shake off the feeling that somehow, this could have been an easier, a more powerful tale. That’s when abstract notions such as “structural problems” suddenly become compelling.

Rat Race (2001)

(In theaters, August 2001) The premise isn’t fresh (strangers in a contest to find a huge amount of money; think Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World.) but it’s fresher than most recent so-called “comedies” in recent memory. The end result isn’t totally satisfying, but it’s a pleasant diversion. You might be attracted to the film for its cast, but in the end, it’s two near-unknowns (Brecklin Meyer and Amy Smart) who will keep your interest, as John Cleese and Whoopie Goldberg simply go by the numbers and Rowan Atkinson grates nearly every time he’s on screen. (I still can’t say anything even remotely nasty about Seth Green, though.) Not every plot thread is equally funny, but they all have their moments. The gags are good an plentiful, but what’s most interesting about them is the intricate build-up of outrageousness, often sustained throughout several minutes as a funny situation steadily gets funnier. That Hitler gag… oh my… (The bets placed by the bored millionaires are also a steady hoot) The conclusion has the problem you’d expect, as the script tries semi-successfully to find a way to make everyone win. Much like the viewers, who’ll enjoy it equally, but not completely.

Jesus Christ Vampire Hunter (2001)

(In theaters, August 2001) As an Ottawa-born cinephile, I have a duty to be indulgent about any hometown product. And there’s a lot to be indulgent about with this nano-budget film (think Blair Witch Project, except even lower) shot on 16mm film. Blurry image, atrocious looping, unpolished editing, bad acting… it just goes on. Cheap to the point where the title graphics look better than the rest of the film. The sound is especially bad in a movie theater, though home viewers won’t have to struggle as much to hear what’s being said on-screen. If you look past the flaws, however, there’s a lot to like in Jesus Christ Vampire Hunter. The weird sense of humor is the film’s biggest selling point, from the premise implied in the title, to the opening MacGuffin (someone’s killing all the lesbians in the Ottawa area! Edge festival threatened!) to the use of Mexican wrestler Santos as a main character—along with an unexplainably amusing sexual harassment joke involving his assistant. But beyond that, look even closer and you’ll find some compelling fight choreography (!) with an imagination rivaling Jackie Chan’s usual antics. The musical numbers are also pretty enjoyable (“It’s okay/it’s all right/Everybody gets laid tonight”) despite the lousy sound, and even feature local-area bands. Storywise, it holds together as well as other kung-fu films, even though the end Jesus/Doctor battle is somewhat too tasteless to my liking. I’m still not sure if I’d recommend the film to anyone else, but I had some fun watching it, Ottawa scenery or not.

Jay And Silent Bob Strike Back (2001)

(In theaters, August 2001) Non-Kevin Smith-fans probably shouldn’t even bother watching this fifth film in the Viewaskew Universe. Not only do it feature cameo bits from nearly everyone in the first four Smith films, but it also plays heavily upon the elements that made the series so endearing to fans and repulsive to others. A Road Trip film at heart, Jay And Silent Bob Strike Back is easily of the funniest films of the year, boldly skewering Internet fandom, Smith’s own films, Planet Of The Apes, homophobic rhetoric and a laundry list of element to numerous to contemplate here. Harsh language, off-color gags, simple stupidity and a lot of pantomime: it’s all there and more. There are annoyances beyond the usual Smith quirks, though: The film slows down considerably whenever there’s a monkey on-screen (a usual sign of creative bankruptcy, if you ask me) and that also includes Will Ferrell, completely unlikable here. There’s also an annoyance related to the Silent Bob character: In Smith’s first films, Silent Bob was silent because he didn’t need to talk; Jay handled the talking. He wasn’t this buffoon-like character gesticulating madly or overreacting at every gag. But, never mind that, Smith fans will love this final send-off to their beloved characters. Be sure to stay for the credits (always interesting to read) as in the charming post-credit clip, God herself closes the book on the Viewaskew Universe.

Ghosts Of Mars (2001)

(In theaters, August 2001) You know, it might be heresy to say so, but aside from 1995’s In The Mouth Of Madness (the finest Lovecraft story ever filmed), I don’t think I’ve ever truly enjoyed all of a John Carpenter film. While his B-movies sensibilities make him a fan favorite, they’re also an impediment to technical polish and sophisticated entertainment. Ghosts Of Mars is a step down from even the lackluster Vampires: While the opening credit sequence and the final minute are all quite good, what’s in between barely registers on the interest scale. Did we truly need another zombie story, especially if it’s brought forth so -you’ll excuse the pun- lifelessly? There is nary a chill in the vision of KISS-like undead rampaging through a Martian town. Heck, there isn’t even a chuckle to be found in this wasteland. I tried to care, I really did… but in the end, this ugly, boring, meaningless film simply refuses to be liked. Repeat after me: Waste. Of. Time.

Child’s Play (1988)

(On VHS, August 2001) Cheap B-grade horror film that is nevertheless not quite as cookie-cutter as you might think. After all, when dealing with a killer doll animated by the spirit of a serial murderer… well… all preconceptions are off. Effective -but slightly longuish- introduction. There is a lull in the middle third, as it just takes the expected inordinate amount of time for everyone to realize that, yes, there is a killer doll on the loose. The climax is one of those ultra-extended one, where the doll gets shot, chopped, burned and still comes back for one more go at it. Not actively bad, as far as those type of films go.

Child’s Play 2 (1990)

(On VHS, August 2001) Killer doll Chucky (now familiar enough to be his own catchphrase) is back, after an opening sequence in which all the sacred commandments of horror movie sequels are upheld: The doll is cleaned, refurbished, repainted and… well… obviously escapes. The setup isn’t as clean nor as fun as the first one, though the general quality of the film is higher. The deaths are also more inventive in that quasi-pornographic way I loathe to enjoy. Hey, if you liked the first film, you might as well also look at that one…