Triskaidekafiles

Triskaidekafiles is a love letter to cheesy cinema from the 80s and 90s, with the occasional dip into other eras.  if you're a fan of MST3K, Elvira, Joe Bob Briggs, or just bad horror movies in general, Trisk is the place for you.

Talisman (1998)

TALISMAN

WRITER: Benjamin Carr

DIRECTOR: David DeCoteau as Victoria Sloan

STARRING: Billy Parish as Elias

    Walter Jones as Jacob

    Jason Adelman as Burke

    Ilinca Goia as Lilia

QUICK CUT: Just an average boarding school for boys in the middle of nowhere Europe, until it is suddenly besieged by some dude with glowing eyes ripping out hearts.  Well, that's one way to ruin your test scores.

THE MORGUE

    Elias - A smart, curious boy, with the only goal in life to be to find his sister.  He's been sent to the school for no particular reason, and he is only there to learn...OR IS HE?

Lilia - The daughter of the Gornek School's headmistress, who wanders around aimlessly, waters plants, and gets harassed by the students.  She's not harbouring any particular secrets, and is just there to help take care of things...OR IS SHE??

Jacob - The sole student at the school who befriends Elias, and an admitted substance abuser and stoner.  He is exactly what he seems...OR IS HE...no wait, he actually is.

Burke - The requisite school bully, and his only purpose is to be a jerk in the plot and canon fodder.  He also likes to make everyone take their shirts off like it's a Twilight film.

Ms. Greynitz - Lilia's mother, the school's headmistress, and also the owner of the building since it is also her home.  She's very hard-headed, and doesn't take any crap.  And will lock the students in their rooms at night.

Dr. Jarod - A teacher of theology and seemingly the only teacher in the entire school.  I know we're joining our story while the school is on break, but still.  He may know more about what's going on at the school than anyone else.

 That is sexist! What about the taliswomen??

That is sexist! What about the taliswomen??

THE GUTS: And so in accordance with prophecy, and the calendar, it has come to be that on this day, a full moon would appear on a Friday the 13th, for the last time in almost 40 years.  And so on this day, in accordance with prophecy, it came to pass that a Full Moon movie would appear and be reviewed on this Friday the 13th.

...This is gonna hurt, isn't it?

We kick off this special occasion with a boy running around the grounds of the school for boys he's been sent to, with the improbable name of Gornek.  I will only accept this name if the school has issues with vampires tearing out students' throats, justifying it.

The kid finds the school's dungeon (What?  Yours didn't have one??) with a locked vault.  Before he can get into any games straight out of Waxwork 2, he is attacked and his heart ripped out.  Well, that's gore, but not in the neck.

 Next time, try Visine!

Next time, try Visine!

After the credits roll, we see a car drop another kid off and he runs aaaaaaaall the way down this school's long driveway.  Seriously, you couldn't have brought the poor guy ANY closer?  It's raining, for Corman's sake!

Inside, Elias immediately runs into another student who gives us the infodump that the school is where American parents traveling Europe drop off their troublemaking kids.  He also tells us that he's in there because he likes to experiment with drugs.

Well, I guess that would explain Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers as a bad drug trip.

 Yes, that is the Black Ranger. Yes, I make lots of jokes. Yes, brace yourselves.

Yes, that is the Black Ranger. Yes, I make lots of jokes. Yes, brace yourselves.

Jacob finishes giving Elias the brief on the place just in time for our requisite bully to show up and give us a display of a hallmark of any David DeCouteau film; a bunch of guys giving off a major homoerotic subtext vibe.  What should be a moment of tension and scares from a powerful threat, instead feels like they're going to make out any second.

Which, hey!  I got no problem with!  But you can sense a DeCoteau film from five miles out, s'all I'm sayin'.

But just to make it not all gay, there IS a girl wandering the school grounds, but only because she's the daughter of the headmistress.  Whew!  At least we can have one male/female love interest storyline here!

While Elias sleeps, we get a flashback SOMEhow to his parents wandering around a graveyard until they find their uncle's grave.  While there, they dig up the largest, gaudiest necklace ever; the titular talisman of our tale.

 From Flava Flav's ancestor in the 1500s.

From Flava Flav's ancestor in the 1500s.

They dump out a bunch of magical herbs and spices onto the gravesite, and before you can say KFC chicken bowl, the little demon on the necklace vanishes and Elias wakes up.

Elias gets dressed and gets ready to go for a walk, revealing he somehow has a skeleton key to let them out of their locked rooms.  The Black Ranger gives him some advice of which rooms not to go in, and we'll see how long he follows that.

The first thing Elias does is stop and watch Burke and the others do pushups in their underwear and speak softly to each other.  Remember what I said about DeCoteau?

Next, Jacob runs into Lilia in a classroom, and yay!  A nice, typical male/female romance!

The budding lovebirds share their mutual nightmares, and then the headmistress pounds around down the hall looking for Lilia.  And we get the added creepiness that she likes to make her daughter do stuff.  And things.

So Elias hides very poorly while the family reunite and head back to whatever creepy things they do in European castles at 2 in the morning.

 And a good night to you too, Mister Storm! Yes, I see you right there next to the door!

And a good night to you too, Mister Storm! Yes, I see you right there next to the door!

On a side note, with a guy named Elias Storm, I am waiting for Doctor Doom to show up any second now.

Some of Burke's goons say goodbye for the semester and start to leave.  But they get distracted when they hear moaning down in the dungeon.  When they investigate, they find Lilia wearing the talisman and acting all trance-slyvanian.

I guess these are the things she was told to do every night?  Sit in the dungeon and moan?

Just as they reach the girl, the bald dude shows up and rips their hearts out as well, adding some more kindling to the body count.  Which is what you get for roam-anian the halls.

 Their hearts were aflame with desire.

Their hearts were aflame with desire.

Later, Jacob and Elias are wandering around, and Elias takes his only friend into the classroom he was hanging out in earlier.

We get a very pointless diversion of Elias blathering about how when you wet down a chalkboard, the last thing that was on it will reappear, almost like magic.

Okay, fine, that's all good in theory, and sure, but it's not like the chalk magically reappears in perfect detail.  At least, not in the way this movie shows you.

 Not to mention, not a single student drew any pensies anywhere on that?

Not to mention, not a single student drew any pensies anywhere on that?

That also causes another flashback to the disappearing demon from the talisman with Elias's parents, but that's little more than "Hey!  It disappeared!"  Yes, thank you, we noticed the FIRST time.

Our boys grab breakfast and Burke makes bedroom flirty eyes at them, and flicks some of his bread and gruel at the pair.

After the food fight is stopped before Elias stabs someone, he introduces himself to the much talked about so far, Dr. Jarod.  A bit late to introduce more characters, but at least he had mentions earlier.

He shows Jarod a sketch of the sleeping gargoyle, and asks about it and his great uncle Stefan.  Well, it turns out Stefan was trying to use the artifact to bring about the end of the world with the help of the angel of darkness!  Seems like a nice guy!

I do love them trying to make the symbol out as some great mysterious thing, a symbol of TRUE magic, and not one they put on playing cards or tv for the masses to see.  Nooo, they just put it in cheesy Full Moon movies.  That's where the REAL magic is!

 Are his eyebrows trying to fly off and escape the movie?

Are his eyebrows trying to fly off and escape the movie?

After that encounter, Elias wanders around and finds his own way down to the dungeon.  Miraculously, he doesn't follow in everyone else's footsteps and lose his heart.

Instead, he grabs a chain and pulls a Longshot, as it triggers flashbacks to the cemetary again, and he sees the bald dude wandering around.

The guy wanders around aimlessly and just stares menacingly at the kids in the car.  I swear, Elias has the most pointlessly boring yet scary flashbacks ever.

 Uncle Fester out for his morning stroll.

Uncle Fester out for his morning stroll.

Meanwhile, Burke visits Ms. Greynitz's office to discuss his food fight.  She also says she's leaving for some time, and leaving him in charge, because Jarod is useless.  Umm, you called this kid to your office for being a pain in the ass and to be punished.  And you put HIM in charge.

What could go wrong?

The two lovebirds meet somewhere in the dank cobwebbed halls, and Elias continues to flirt badly with her, asking about where she's from, when her birthday is.  It is all terribly awkward, even for teens.

Especially when she tries to kiss him and he freaks out.  Geeze, that's not gonna further the romantic subplot any!

Which eventually leads to another late night walk by Elias, while Burke and his remaining goon go looking for Lilia.  Yep, leave the guy who wants to harass your daughter in charge!

 Brain Guy, nooo!

Brain Guy, nooo!

Before they can do anything TOO nasty, the angel of darkness shows up to rip out even more hearts.  At least he's found something he's good at and made a career out of it.

And that's when Ms. Greynitz walks in to enjoy the show, and Burke's screams finally draw Elias to come running.  The headmistress slams the door shut on Elias's face before he can do anything.

But...but...she just stopped the plot dead in its tracks...

 Your library books are overdue...

Your library books are overdue...

After trying to convince the Roommate Ranger of what's going on (And failing miserably), it's time for a gigantic infodump as Elias Exposition visits Dr. Jarod again.

He whips out a letter telling him his long lost sister is at the school, and this is important because of their blood relation to Stefan, and there's rituals and magic and blood and stuff.  I dunno, it's all a little bland and generic.

We get some wandering around the school and bumping into a few people, then it's back to Elias and Jarod talking about the plot some more in the library.  Which, they cleaned the blood up nicely...

And gasp!  Jarod reveals that he did some research, and LILIA IS ELIAS'S SISTER!!

...Wait.  Ew.  They pulled a Luke and Leia.  And they did it knowingly, in the same movie.  And that also destroys the only hetero relationship in this movie.

 Most people would welcome this waking them up at night.

Most people would welcome this waking them up at night.

That night, Lilia shows up in the Jacob's room and asks him to show her how warm he can make her.  ...It's morphin' time?

Meanwhile, the Hardly Boys are still in the library and find a secret passage.  Not by looking for it, but because the door creaks open from a tiny breeze.  A tiny breeze of plot convenience if ever there was one.

Back with Jacob, the Black Angel has appeared, and before we get a fight between Black Ranger and Black Angel, faster than you can say It's morphenomenal, the Black Ranger shows his true colour is actually yellow, and runs away.

 You scared another one away, Zordon!

You scared another one away, Zordon!

Jarod and Elias find where the Black Angel is hiding all the bodies, and decide it's time to call the cops.  Also, Elias should find Jacob and run, because they're the last two sacrifices needed for the Black Angel to open the gates to Hell, summon forth his dark armies of demonic hordes, and end the world on the last night of the millennium!

So, no pressure!

Jarod proves to be utterly ineffectual when the instant he's alone, Greynitz clocks him over the head with a candlestick and gouges out his eyes.  But at least Elias finds Jacob before the Black Angel does!

 Go go, shirtless Ranger!

Go go, shirtless Ranger!

Or...maybe not.  The Black Angel took out his namesake from behind, and before he can say anything, he spits up blood and falls over dead, leaving his heart behind.  Where's your teenagers with attitude now??

At least the black guy died last/almost last, right?

Before he can kill Elias, the Angel decides to give him an expository flashback to fill in the gaps of the boy's memory from when his parents died and he lost his sister.  Well, isn't he helpful!

 Would you like to try some? They are fresh from the oven!

Would you like to try some? They are fresh from the oven!

Of course, if you guessed that the Angel killed their parents, Lilia was possessed by the demon and its talisman, and then disappeared...well then, you would find that flashback just as useless as I did.

So, Elias wakes up and finds he has been prepared for the Final Sacrifice.  But no, there is no preparing for that movie.  He might be better off being killed rather than watching the adventures of Rowsdower and Troy.

But before Elias can be ended, the movie surprises me just a little when the Black Angel kills Greynitz.  I guess blood is thicker than adoption.

Lilia, or Elizabeth as she's properly known as, cuts her brother free, and admits she's known all along, this was always the plan, and she just wanted her brother to be there at the end of the world, and that's why she sent him the letter.  Aww.

And then she kisses him again.  Because evil.  Awww...ewwww

So we get a lot of mumbo jumbo plotty stuff about how the two were chosen to be the queen of air and fire, and the earth king, which makes me wonder about water.  And all this talk about avatars has me thinking I'm in the wrong franchise again.

Oh, and Lilia also calls her brother 'my husband to be' just to add to the evil creepiness.

 Who the fuck gets married on Halloween anyhow??

Who the fuck gets married on Halloween anyhow??

Elias just kinda stands there and watches his sister-bride start to chant and make the gaping holes in his fellow students' chests smoke up.

Hey, dude?  Aren't you supposed to be the hero?  You gonna do something?  Or are we just gonna accept the end of the world?  I'm down for that ending if we're gonna go there...

She calls Elias over, and they both hold the talisman so she can call forth Tyrael again to finish the ritual and end the world.  And yes, feel free to insert your own joke about the angel from the Diablo games here.  I've used up my quota of references on the Black Ranger.

 With this demon I thee wed.

With this demon I thee wed.

No wait, finally Elias grabs the knife on the altar and plunges it into his sister's chest.  That doesn't do a whole lot though, as she rises again, now possessed by the Black Angel, and not looking any better for it.

Elias isn't done though, and now that he's finally acting out, he keeps at it.  He slashes away at Lilia, spraying blood everywhere, and I hope he's doing some good.

But it does, she dies atop the altar, and that's pretty much the end of the movie, with Elias living happily ever after, because everyone else is dead.

 Do you kiss your brother with that mouth?! Oh wait, you DO.

Do you kiss your brother with that mouth?! Oh wait, you DO.

However, we can't end there, can we?    Because that would bring me joy.  Instead, we jump ahead nine years, and a new family looking to buy it cheap because of the pile of dead bodies in the basement.

And since evil has a way of not giving up, their little daughter picks up the talisman and her eyes start to glow.

Really?  No one picked that up in nine whole years?  Not a single cop?  Not a single surveyor?  Real estate agent?  Crow?  Dog?  Anything?  Nine whole years and it couldn't come up with a better new host?

AUTOPSY REPORT

Video: Ehh.  It's a typical low budget transfer from VHS, in all likelihood.  It looks okay though, and everything is visible enough.  I wish the scenery wasn't so grey on grey with everyone wearing black, though.

Audio: For a stereo track, it could be worse.  Everyone's audible enough.

Sound Bite:  "What can I say, torture AND a barbecue?  Sounds good to me!"  The Black Ranger knows how to par...wait, torture sounds good?!

Body Count: Can I just say I'm disappointed that this came as close as it could to 13 without actually hitting that number?

1 - Barely 90 seconds in and a kid is gutted like a fish.
2 & 3 - Another pair get their hearts ripped out.
4 - Another pal of Burke loses his heart.
5 - And their esteemed leader joins them shortly afterwards.
6 - I'm gonna say Jarod losing his eyes was death-worthy.
7 - Jacob is the next to lose his heart
8 & 9- Elias's parents die in a flashback to before the movie started, with the Black Vader crushing their hearts telepathically.
10 - Ms. Greynitz is a surprising heart-wrencher.
11 - Lilia gets slashed about 100 times in the face by her brother.

Best Corpse: I'll go with Jarod's death, since it is really the only one that stood out.

Blood Type - C: There's actually some good blood in this flick.  Every heartwrenching moment is accompanied with a ton of blood sprayed in the face of the victim.  And Jarod's eyes get nice and bloody.  But then they lost points for cheesy mid 90s CGI lens flares and effects.  And especially CGI fire.

Sex Appeal: This one is definitely for all the people looking for a little beefcake.

Drink Up! Every time someone loses a heart.

Movie Review: A classic case of a decent germ of an idea buried deep within a steaming pile.  The acting is almost downright laughable across the board.  I hope the stilted dialogue is more because of foreign actors struggling with English rather than actual ability in some cases.  The movie is competent enough.  And while I poke fun at DeCoteau for having a VERY particular style of movie, I do rather enjoy having the ONLY heterosexual relationship in the movie turn out to be between brother and sister.  And not only that, but they keep going with it AFTER the reveal, making the only hetero relationship being incestuous and part of the evil plot of Satan or whomever.  It's surprisingly subversive for the time it was made, and plays nicely with expectations.  Too bad it was stunningly obvious to anyone with eyes that Lilia was Elias's sister from word one.  It's really a mixed bag with okay ideas in a bland story, executed with minimal competence.  Two out of five burning hearts.

Entertainment Value: I had more fun with this than I expected, most of it thanks to the Black Ranger.  The story is entertaining enough in its badness, the acting is entertainingly bad in mostly the right ways, but it struggles to get out of the mediocrity it found itself in.  With a bigger budget and better production values, this could have hit some level of quality or entertainment it doesn't quite land on in the final product.  Still, it had some decent twists, and pushed some of the right buttons.  Being mericfully short is also a bonus.  Three out of five eye gouges.

And so we have survived this movie's attempts to open a portal into the netherworlds of bad movies, releasing untold celluloid torment upon the masses, and saved the people from eternal suffering.  But evil movies never die...

Wherever they may surface, Trisk will be there.