One day, I came upon a shattered glass jar and four baby turtles…The little ones were crawling into a strange glowing ooze from a broken canister nearby. I gathered them up in an old coffee can and when I awoke the next morning, I received a shock. For they had doubled in size. I, too, was growing.
If you’ve been following me you’ve read this already, but for the new readers I’m giving a little background as to why I choose a TMNT film. If you have seen it already, feel free to skip ahead
So this is our third installment of four reviews of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles’ films.
So I know those of you who haven’t been following me, and have stumbled upon this post are probably really confused. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles? As a horror film? NO WAY.
I know you are all saying to yourselves, hey this is a superhero movie, not a horror film. Au contraire, you see the turtles are radioactively enhanced to be larger; agile, smarter, etc. In fact the only thing that separates them from other radioactively changed creatures: such as the ants in Them, the giant spider in the Tarantula, or even Godzilla. They choosing to use their abilities for good and be superheroes doesn’t change the fact of how they were made.
This Post We Are Switching Things UP!!
So I started Horrorfest V with the 2014 live action film, and worked backwards to the 2007 animated version. The former had a Frankenstein-like quality and the latter had monsters. Instead of doing Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III (1993) when they travel back in time to Japan, I’ve decided we are going to the film that started it all.
The 1990 version. This version doesn’t have as many horror elements as the others, but mutated creatures are still mutated creatures. And that counts!
So shall we wait any further? Or
So I was a gigantic fan of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movies, especially the first two. My sister, friends, and I used to always act out the films or create our own stories.
The film tried to stay true to the comic series, rather than the TV show; from backstories, to lighting, to introductions, etc.
The craziest thing for me to wrap my head around was how no one wanted to make it. It was supposed to be done in the ’80s before the TV show, but financing always fell through. In fact, it was done by a new company and is one of the most productive independent films ever made.
And almost everyone, from writers, producers, Judith Hoag (April O’Neil), Jim Hensen, etc; complained that this film was too dark and too violent. That’s just crazy to me.
They were a tremendous part of my childhood and I can’t wait to share it with you. So no use waiting around anymore:
So the film begins with April O’Neil giving a report for Channel 3 news about the recent crime wave that has been occurring in New York City. Everything from purse snatching, to breaking & entering, etc. But the strangest thing? No one even seems to get a view of them. They are like a blink of an eye, a ninja.
April O’Neil: But whoever is behind these crimes, one thing is certain, these are much than just a series of random isolated incidents. Crimes without criminals? An invisible gang at work? Who are we gonna call? Unfortunately the police are the only ones to combat what some are already dubbing the silent crime wave. But perhaps the most disturbing silence is that coming from city hall. April O’Neill, Channel 3 Eyewitness News.
While April’s reporting is good for her viewers, it doesn’t make her any friends in city hall or the police station.
One night when April is heading home, she is walking past an alley when she sees some teenagers stealing from a van. They chase after her and pin her to the ground when the lights go out.
Never a good sign.
We hear some buttkicking, and when the lights come back on, the guys are tied up and April is fine.
But there is no one there? Who did this?
April finds a sai and takes it before the police can see it. She is being watched by a figure who realizes that he left his sai behind.
We then head down to the sewers and get our first look at the brothers and their father/instructor, Splinter:
And when I first saw them as a kid I was amazed at how lifelike and incredible they look. That’s what’s wrong with a lot of CGI, it just doesn’t feel real, it doesn’t take space or have weight. These felt real, they were just incredible.
The turtles took multiple people doing the face, body, and voice; and were created by Jim Henson. They were the most advanced he had ever worked with; made out of fiberglass and foam rubber latex. They took 18 weeks to make. Incredible.
Splinter had three puppeteers; one for the face, one for the arms, and the puppet himself.
So the four boys: Leonardo, Michelangelo, Donatello, and Raphael; return home to tell their master what happened.
Leonardo: We have had our first battle, Master Splinter! They were many, but we kicked… but we fought well.
Splinter: Were you seen?
Splinter: In this, you must never lapse. Even those who would be our allies, would not understand. Our domain is the shadow; stray from it reluctantly, for when you do, you must strike hard and fade away, without a trace.
Raphael: I lost a sai!
Splinter: Then, it is gone.
Raphael: But I can get it back! I can get it back…
Splinter: Raphael!… Let it go.
Done with work, time for a reward. And you know what the TMNT’s favorite thing to have is Pizza.
Raphael is upset and heads out to a movie, dressed up in a trench coat and hat. Donatello and Michelangelo wait for their delivery.
And the turtles enjoy their favorite snack:
Raphael goes to see Critters which he hates and stumbles upon some thugs who snatch a ladies purse. There he meets Casey Jones, sports vigilante.
Casey grew up watching all kinds of cop shows and decided to become a vigilante. I thought he was one of the coolest, apart from the turtles, and one of my favorite characters.
If he existed.
So he and Raphael fight about who’s right about how to treat the thugs. When Casey knocks Raphael into a garbage can, he takes off and Raphael heads off for home.
The next day, April goes to the police to report what happened, but the chief isn’t much help as he hates the way she showed him on TV. Well maybe you should stop acting so much like bumbling fool and do your job.
She then goes to the subway to go home when she is approached by the gang, the Foot. They warn her about her mouth and start to attack her, knocking her out, but are stopped by Raphael who has been following April in hopes to get her sai back. When he finishes the Foot off and sees a knocked out April, there is only one thing he can do. Bring her back to his home.
I know bad idea, but what else can he do. It’s not like he can drop her off at a hospital or something, and its not like he can leave her there.
Leonardo: [Raphael has brought an unconscious April O’Neil into the sewer] Are you crazy?
Raphael: Yeah, Leo, I’m crazy, OK? A loony, OK?
Donatello: But why?
Raphael: Why? Why, oh I don’t know, ’cause I wanted to redecorate. You know, a couple of throw pillows, a TV news reporter, what do ya think?
And when she wakes up, she has the appropiate response to seeing four, life-size talking turtles and a rat.
But they are able to calm her down and get her to listen to their story.
Can we take a moment and pause to talk about Splinter. Now in real life I hate rats. I think they are disgusting and ugly.
I hated the new version of Splinter too as he was horrifying, fake looking, and mean. But this Splinter is perfect, he is friendly, kind, cuddly, adorable.
Sorry for that tangent, let’s get back to the film.
The turtles take April home, and she invites them in for their favorite thing:
April O’Neil: I’d like to invite you all in but I really don’t have anything to offer you guys except for some… frozen pizza.
Michaelangelo: [springs up from the manhole like a jack-in-the-box] Let’s go for it!
Donatello: You said the magic word.
April O’Neil: You guys eat pizza?
Michaelangelo, Donatello: Doesn’t everybody?
April O’Neil: Um, yeah… alright.
Leonardo: [from below] Hey, did she say pizza?
When the turtles return home, they find their home burglarized and Splinter gone!
With nowhere else to turn they stay with April in her apartment over and old antique shop.
Meanwhile, April’s boss Charles’ son Danny has just been released from jail for stealing. The Chief has promised to keep it off the record if he can keep April off his back.
Charles goes to talk with April, who is housing 4 giant turtles
Charles tries to talk to April but she doesn’t really listen and she plans to continue with her story.
Meanwhile, Danny takes off when his dad tries to talk to him about stealing and heads to a secret teen hideout. It like a gang, at first everything seems fun with skateboarding, video games, etc.; but turns darker as they are expected to steal and eventually the best of the best are chosen to join the Foot clan. The hideout is run by the second-in-command, Tatsu; while the leader is Shredder.
Shredder used to terrify me as a child. He hardly says anything but he has those cold, cruel eyes, and that steely voice. Frightening.
I’m getting shivers
I think the scariest thing about him too is how little he cares for anyone else. He practically kills a guy in here and has done some sick, crazy things in the past. He is a complete psychopath that cares about achieving his goals; and if you get in the way…well he is called Shredder for a reason.
So back at the apartment, the turtles are watching April’s newscast. Afterwards Leonardo and Raphael argue about what to do next, Raphael thinking they should find the Foot and get some answers, Leonardo think they should wait until April picks up on something. Leo says some horrible things about how they don’t need him and Raphael goes upstairs to the roof to workout his frustration.
The foot has tracked them down and approach the house as April arrives home. Downstairs April shows off the antiques, while Raphael gets pummeled. He comes falling through the roof and the fights escalate, until Casey shows up to lend a hand.
The hockey mask wearing and weapon wielding type of guy you want to see.
“Casey Jones: [to the Foot soldiers of Raph] You guys mind telling me what you’re doing to my little green pal over there, hm? [sees April] Oh, who is the babe?
Leonardo: Who the heck is that?
Michaelangelo: Wayne Gretzky on steroids?”
The building catches fire and the turtles and April escape in a secret tunnel. As they exit the building, Casey is the last one out and hears a message left by April’s boss:
As they leave we spot Danny watching the building fro afar, he is the one who betrayed them.
They drive out to a farmhouse in more rural New York, also left to April. Raphael remains motionless while Leonardo tries to help him. The rest try to concentrate on doing something, anything but all the questions constantly bombard them. What to do? Is Splinter okay? Is he alive? Will Raphael recover?
Back in the city, Shredder has the whole Foot searching for the turtles. Something about the way they fight is so familiar, reminds him of the past…he also has them searching for Danny as he too has disappeared.
On the farm, Raphael has reawaken!
Leonardo: [sees that Raphael is awake and rushes to him] Raph! You’re awake! How do you feel?
Raphael: What’s a guy gotta do… to get some food around here?
Leonardo: [stands up, ecstatic, and runs to bathroom door] Hey! Hey, he’s awake! He wants some food! Bring some food! [runs back to Raphael] You’re gonna be ok Raph… you’re gonna be ok!
Raphael: Yeah, yeah, alright Leo! Get a grip, will ya?
Leonardo: Listen, Raph…[helps Raphael to his feet]-about what I said before… y’know… about not needing you and all?
Raphael: Leo… don’t. [They hug]
Leonardo: Boy, we missed you.
Donatello: [he and April watch from the doorway] It’s a Kodak moment.
They let Raphael build up his strength, while Leo tries to contact Splinter through meditation. He feels him and has his brothers go off into the woods to join him. There they hear Splinter speak and are ready to head back to the city.
Let’s Do IT!
The turtles return home and find Danny hiding out there. They don’t know he was the one who lead Shredder to them, and warmly welcome him. Casey is claustrophobic, as decides to stay in the truck, above ground.
Even though Danny doesn’t like the Foot clan, once you are in a gang it is hard to get out. He returns and finds Splinter, hearing his story pre-turtles
Splinter: I too once had a family, Danny. Many years ago I lived in Japan: a pet of my master Yoshi, mimicking his movements from my cage and learning the mysterious art of Ninjitsu, for Yoshi was one of Japan’s finest shadow warriors. His only rival was a man named Oroko Saki, and they competed in all things, but in nothing more fiercely than for the love of a woman, Tang Shen. Shen’s love was only for my master and rather than see him fight Saki for her hand, she persuaded Yoshi to flee with me to America. But Saki vowed vengeance. I remember it well, as my master returned home to find his beloved Shen lying on the floor, and then he saw her killer. Saki wasted no words, and during the struggle, my cage was broken. I leapt to Saki’s face, biting and clawing, but he threw me to the floor and took one swipe with his Katana, slicing my ear. Then he was gone, and I was alone.
Danny: What became of this Oroku Saki?
Splinter: Nobody really knows… But you wear his symbol.
His psychopath levels have just increased a thousand percent.
Shredder appears and removes a drawing of the turtles done by April. He leaves to gather troops and sends Tatsu back to kill Splinter.
Danny heads back to help Splinter, and runs into Casey. They manage to get him out in time.
The Foot go out to fight Splinter, but are surprised by the turtles. Back in the hideout, Tatsu and Casey fight, with Casey defeating him. Afterwards, he talks to the group and asks if this is the kind of “family” they want.
Gang Leader: We have a loyalty to the Shredder.
Splinter: The Shredder uses you. He poisons your minds to obtains for that which he desires. He cares nothing for you or the people you hurt.
Gang Leader: We’re family.
Casey Jones: Family? Did you say family? You call this here and that…[points to Tatsu, who he just knocked out]…down there, family?
If only it was that easy in real life.
After the Turtles defeat a group of ninjas, they all step aside for Shredder.
Yes, Splinter is like the animal version of Mr. Miyagi. And he rocks!
But is the Shredder dead? Or is he like every other horror villain? they always come back.
April has her story, the police stop the gang, Casey has April and the turtles celebrate their family and victory!
Leonardo: We were awesome!
Raphael: Totally tubular, dude!
Donatello: Uh, mega…
Splinter:[Splinter clears his throat, the Turtles clam up] I have always liked… Cowabunga.
Leonardo, Michaelangelo, Raphael, Donatello: COWABUNGA!
Splinter: [laughs] I made a funny!
And there is only one way to end a turtle film, in SONG!
Well that’s the awesomeness of the turtles. It was perfect and I just:
Before we end, I have one more little Turtle delight for you:
To start Horrorfest V from the beginning, go to Who You Gonna Call?: Ghostbusters (1984)
For the previous post, go to A Murder Has Been Committed on Your Property: Death Comes to Pemberley, Episode One (2013)
For more Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, go to Every Three Thousand Years, the Stars Align. Unleashing an Army of Monsters: TMNT (2007)
For more Nostalgia Critic, go to Fanning All Over the Place