Thursday, December 8, 2011

Trash Pile Hate Notes: Remakes

There are certain things, as a movie fan, that really piss me off about the way Hollywood ru(i)ns their industry. The tossing away of the professions of special effects, matte painters and stop-motion animators is so depressing. With the surge in computer technology, largely in part to 'Terminator 2' and 'Jurassic Park', everyone found out how easier it is create anything out of some computer code. Honestly though, am I the only one that can still tell that it's CGI? Give me painted backgrounds, latex gore and blood gushing squibs! Now bullet shots are CGI? What? To save time? Give me a fucking break.

Besides my hatred of technology, the thing that has been pissing me off for the past decade or so are Remakes, Reboots, Premakes or any other silly fucking name that producers try to brand their film. Look, there was already an original, and you're crushing the impact that those films can have the first time you see them. It's poor writing, and poor decision making, regardless of how much money your take on the plot rakes in. Let us start for instance, with 'The Evil Dead' remake.

Now while 'The Evil Dead' has limitations in part to the size of the budget. Sam Raimi, Rob Tapert, Bruce Campbell and a whole slew of other people used their talent to create the suspense in that film. The way that the camera careens through the forest, and through the swamp. 'The Evil Dead' is one the best examples in a Horror film where what you don't see is scarier. With today's technology they'll show what is roaming through the woods after one of the kids reads the Necronomicon, and unless they pull a 'Jaws' and not show it until the end, then it's going to get over used and no longer scary. The same can be said for when the rest of the cast starts turning into demons. Odds are they'll do over-the-top CGI transformations and take away from subtle changes that can happen just from over applying some blush. The remake isn't even out, but based on the trends of the past few years, it'll be all style and no substance. Like the 'Nightmare on Elm Street' remake from last year.

'Nightmare on Elm Street' was a film that revitalized the Slasher sub-genre in the mid '80s with adding a supernatural twist into the mix. It too, like 'The Evil Dead', was shot on a shoestring budget. It compensates for it's short budget with a strong script with great characters, and even greater scares. The remake from last year tried too hard to look stunning without utilizing it's premise to the fullest abilities. The dream sequences didn't have the same tension, and they could have used the micro-nap a lot more. Instead they padded the film with the same boring characters from every other Horror film released that year. The film looked great, and Jackie Earl Haley did his best as Freddy, but the film lacked the heart of the original. It's best that the film not try to look so pretty, and be a quick, old-fashioned atmosphere driven scare ride.

I could go on for more time you would care to hear me rant, but there are many other souless examples that Hollywood has excreted out in the past ten years. 'The Thing', 'The Wicker Man', 'Black Christmas', 'Friday the 13th', 'Mirrors', and dozens more are just some of the atrocious retellings of some great American and Foreign Horror. The thing is that there are times when remakes and reboots work, and work well. The best way to execute a proper retelling of a story is to put your personal touch on the piece. With John Carpenter's remake of the 1954 Sci-Fi Classic 'The Thing from Another World!' he went back to the original story by John Campbell. The monster in the '54 version was a plant type monster portaryed by James (Gunsmoke) Arness. Carpenter's version in '82 was the style that the monster assimilated itself to whoever it comes in contact with. I highly enjoy each version for different reasons, but Carpenter's version has so much tension and fear within the cast that you believe everything they're going through. Then the special effects. I could go on for hours, but hands down best ever. Ever.

Maybe these are all just rantings of a crazed movie fan, but I feel that if you're going to try and retell a story do it with heart. Have a strong conviction to the source material, but try to find any way to make it your own. Zack Snyder did it with 'Dawn of the Dead' in '04. Chuck Russell did it with 'The Blob' in '88, and Tom Savini did it in 1990 with 'Night of the Living Dead'. Leave films like 'Suspiria', 'Escape from New York', 'The Monster Squad', 'American Psycho', 'Scanners', 'Creature from the Black Lagoon', 'Child's Play', 'Poltergeist', 'Silent Night, Deadly Night', 'They Live', and probably thousands more alone. Has your creativity dried up Hollywood, or are you too scared to take chances any more? Stop spending your $250 million (pre-marketing) on a 'Battleship' and 'John Carter' movie, and fund 500 $1 million dollar movies. You'll thank me when you get better returns for 2012.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Prayer of the Rollerboys (1990)

Post-apocalyptic movies offer the chance for a writer to really differentiate themselves from other films on the market. Your film can be immediately after shit hits the fan, or you can have it be a few years later when society has fallen into turmoil. My personal favorite film in this genre is John Carpenter's classic 'Escape from New York'. It's one of the director's best works, and solidified Kurt Russell as one bad ass action hero.

The star power that was Corey Haim was dropping faster than living Beatle members, but that didn't stop him from continuing to work. 'Prayer of the Rollerboys' was a film that I found in a local flea market for $2.00. I had never heard of the film before, but shit, look at that cover. A flying V of white trench coat wearing gang members, and starring Corey Haim? Sold.

In a not too distant future America is in debt to many foreign countries, and has been invaded and taken over. The poor and homeless are forced into camps, and the rest scrape by to live and eat. Griffin (Corey Haim) has moved from somewhere back to California with his little brother Miltie. Griffin makes his living by delivering pizzas, but one night destroys the delivery van while freeing a person locked inside a burning house. Turns out that the person was a member of the notorious Rollerboys, a racist gang who distributes the terrifying drug, Mist.

While rollerblading in a garage the Rollerboys come visit Griffin and Miltie. Turns out that the gang leader Gary Lee (Christopher Collet) used to be neighbors with Griffin until their parents were taken away, and put into camps. Now Gary runs the most violent gang on the west coast, and is looking to recruit Griffin up into his gang. The Rollerboys are planning something called "The Day of the Rope" and the cops want to figure out what is going on. Griffin gets roped (hah) into being an undercover agent to discover what is going on with "The Day of the Rope", and stop the Rollerboys once and for all.

I can't believe that I hadn't seen this movie when I was younger. This is the exact type of movie you would find on HBO, Cinemax or Showtime after midnight. Where to start with 'Prayer of the Rollerboys'? Well, the look of the film is halfway decent for a film of its type with desolate gray skies, and the city destroyed. While watching the film for a second time I noted how I felt like I had seen the plot in other movies. Griffin bargains the safety of his brother to become an undercover Rollerboy, and Patricia Arquette is there to be the other set of undercover eyes. Been there, done that. That's not to say I didn't enjoy it, but come on, give me something new.

The film isn't really anything special, but it does have some fun moments. Christopher Collet is a pretty good villain, but it's weird to see him as any other character than Paul in 'Sleepaway Camp'. The film looks more expensive than it probably should with impressive cast of extras, and good location shooting. The real downsides of the film are that of the supporting cast. There is only one member of the Rollerboys (besides Christopher Collet) that is a halfway decent actor, and that's Mark Pellegrino of 'Lost' and 'Supernatural'. Every other actor is there to pad or eat the scenery. Then there's the music, which is generic synth drums with distorted guitar chords over it. Think 'Lethal Weapon', but shittier and by Godsmack. So, just shittier I guess.

'Prayer of the Rollerboys' is not going to be remembered for showing Haim's remarkable acting ability, but it's an interesting take on the post-apocalyptic genre. It's interesting to see how the premise of this film relates to some similar trends in our times. The country being in debt, and subsequently being purchased by foreign countries is starting to sound more true. I really hope that this isn't what we're in for though because I sure as fuck can't rollerblade.

'Prayer of the Rollerboys' is available on DVD from United American Video, and VHS from Academy Pictures.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

The Abomination (1986)

One of the best/worst things to come out of the VHS boom of the 1980's was the advent of movies Shot on Video (SOV). Independent filmmakers with access to a camcorder would churn out all sorts of genre fare that studios wouldn't produce. It's pretty shitty when you think about it, but you have to go out on your own if you want to make your film. The sad universal truth is that most studios wouldn't touch these movies "with a ten meter cattle prod", to quote Ray Stantz.

SOV Horror movies might be god awful, but that's not to say there isn't a charm to them. While the script and direction are often deplorable, the cinema style of Ed Wood comes to mind. Believing in your story, regardless of what little talent you have. Such is the case with the film 'The Abomination'. I had been exposed to SOV movies for some time now as I had viewed 'Redneck Zombies' and 'Dead Next Door' many times in my youth, but this was a title that hadn't come across my radar. Then I saw copies of the VHS selling on eBay for around or over $100, and wanted to know why the hell this movie was so sought after? Was it some sort of lost gem of the SOV horror genre? Then I got a DVD-r at a Horror convention. Then I found out why they named it.

The film starts out showing all the violent moments that you're going to witness during the opening credits. I guess this was so that we wouldn't have to sit through this awful film. After about 4 minutes of repeated scenes we are thrown into the world of Cody Lee, who is having a lot of problems with his mother. Apparently the doctors say she has a tumor in her lung, and it is inoperable, but she hasn't given up hope. She turns to Brother Frogg, a televangelist who promises to heal those who send in their social security checks. After she places her hand on the TV set during a prayer, she violently coughs up a bloody chunk the size of a biscuit. Saying hallelujah she throws the disgusting heap in the trash, but only to have it grow in size.

Cody comes home after driving around with his friends, for what appears to be 5 hours and goes to bed. The tumor then springs to life, and climbs its way into Cody's sleeping mouth. Cody then starts feeling strange, and discovers that the tumor is some type of monster who devours humans whole. As the tumor starts to multiply Cody must feed the beasts, and let the abomination take over the world!

The one thing that you have to really admire about these independent productions is that they have original stories. That tends to be the only thing to really admire as the acting, direction, script and almost everything else is offensive. It sounds like that they couldn't record any audio while they were filming, so they decided to record the audio in someone's shower. It's louder than a Manowar concert, and the mix is just terrible. It's this that really makes the dialogue hysterical. No actor, a term I use loosely, could act their way out of a paper bag, let alone carry a film. Then, there is the notion that Cody is talking to a psychiatrist at some point during the film, but then it's never revealed who he's talking to, if anyone. Then there is a 4-minute run time of a biblical quote about the abomination. It starts to really cause a migraine after the first minute.

For those of us who just want to see the gore in the movie, well, I'd honestly say find a way to watch the film for that alone. The effects are memorable in their creativity, but overall the film is a fucking shit show. Running all over the place in terms of pacing, acting and direction. The editing choices are mind boggling, but if you're in the mood for one awful fucking movie, then seek out 'The Abomination'.

'The Abomination' is available on VHS from Donna Michelle Productions, but good fucking luck trying to find it. eBay is the best option, but, like I said you're going to have to pay for it. It's best to find a site that distributes DVD-r versions of OOP movies, and shell out $10 instead of $100. Even then, it's probably not worth it unless you're dying to see it.

Rating: 1 1/2 out of 5 Trash Bags

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Slugs (1988)

If there's one thing to learn from Steven Spielberg's 'Jaws' it's that producers love to steal ideas. The amount of giant killer animal, and nature takes revenge films that came out after the summer of '75 is absurd. There are some stellar examples of films that understood what their "stories" were, and tried to make the best of it.

As is the case with any sub-genre you're often left with more bad than good. For every 'Orca' there's 'Up From the Depths' and 'Claws'. For every 'Birds' there's 'Frogs' and 'Day of the Animal'. It's a viscous shit cycle, but man do I love me some shitty movies. If you're thinking that the movie 'Slugs' can't really be about giant killer slugs, well, you're right. These are just your ordinary garden slugs, but with one exception; they crave human flesh!

In a small town, like every other horror film, a couple goes out on a boat in the middle of a lake. Suddenly the boy gets pulled into the water by an unseen force. The girl laughs as she thinks it's a prank, but little does she know that her boyfriend is being devoured alive by toxic slugs! She screams as a blood pool floats to the surface.

Town Health Inspector Mike Brady is apparently also the town sheriff, as he goes out to every emergency situation in the entire town. People are dying left and right all in bizarre fashion, and there are always slimy slugs at the scene. Mike takes a live slug to his friend, who happens to be a chemist, or biologist type scientist. Apparently these slugs have been feeding off of toxic chemicals and now have developed an insatiable taste for warm flesh! I could go on, but I highly doubt a movie about killer, man-eating slugs needs much of a plot.

Like many other films on this website, this was a VHS cover I had seen in every video store in the early '90s. I mean shit, look at that cover. That guy has had the rest of him devoured by slugs, and he's still screaming as they devour the rest of his face. That has "Rent Me" plastered all over it. The first time I got around to seeing this film I was shocked to find out that it was a Spanish/American production, and with that, some hysterical dubbing. The acting in this film, regardless of the performer's nationality, is bottom of the barrel. Some real cringe inducing dialogue allows for some real unintentional hilarity.

If you've seen director Juan Piquer's 'Pieces', then you should know the gore factor is at 11. The situations where the characters die are fucking priceless. There's a couple having sex, and then the girl falls off the bed to be eaten alive by the titular slugs. Then the guy falls to his death. We also see a guy whose digested some slug to have a collection of blood worms spew from his eyes while his face melts off. It's one of those times you know if they remade this film that all these effects would be CGI, and that makes me a sad panda. The highlight of the film though is when Mike has to kill all of the slugs, and blows them up in the methane filled sewer beneath the city. Then the town proceeds to blow up killing dozens of unnamed citizens in the explosion.

'Slugs' is one of the pinnacles of bad movies. The dialogue, acting and premise are fucking awful. I mean seriously? Killer slugs? However, if you're like me you live for these ridiculous violent horror movies you'll probably find a lot to enjoy in 'Slugs'.

'Slugs' available on DVD from Image Entertainment.

Rating: 3 1/2 out of 5 Trash Bags


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Friday, November 11, 2011

C.H.U.D. (1984)

I've only been to New York City once in my life , but if movies have taught me anything it's that NYC is far and away the most dangerous city in the world. Monster and alien attacks, terrorists, serial killers. To quote The Ramones, "New York City really has it all."

If such hideous events unfold on the surface of the Big Apple, then what terrors lay beneath the asphalt? 'C.H.U.D.' is a film that gets better with each viewing. While it's not the most gorgeous looking film, or even the most well constructed it features a solid cast, and reaches into the fear of genetic mutation.

A woman walks her dog down a dark street at night. Right off the bat you know something is going to go wrong. While walking past a manhole she drops her purse, and BAM! A monster claw comes out of the sewer to drag her and the little dog to the hell below.

George Cooper (John Heard; aka the dad from 'Home Alone') is a former fashion photographer in New York who happens to also live with his beautiful model girlfriend, Lauren Daniels (Kim Greist). George has grown tired of the fashion world, and has started writing his own articles; one about a society of homeless living under the streets. The award goes onto heavy acclaim, and George gets constant pressure from his agent for new material. George tells him to fuck off.

Captain Bosch (Christopher Curry) leads a precinct in New York City where a large number of missing persons have been reported. One of these reports comes from A.J. "The Reverend" Shepherd (Daniel Stern; aka Marv from 'Home Alone'), who runs the local homeless shelter. Apparently a lot of the "under-grounders" have not been showing up as of late. Then A.J. drops the bomb.

A test done by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission has been going on down in the sewers; stirring up his customers. It normally runs 2 weeks, but A.J. says it's been going on for 4, and still going on. That's when A.J. shows Bosch some "lost" equipment from the tests; a work boot and a Geiger Counter. Bosch and A.J. travel down to the spot in the sewer where A.J. found the equipment. They happen to turn on the Geiger Counter, and that's when the thing goes off the charts. Then a monstrous roar is heard. It's the C.H.U.D.'s!

So, dedicated reader, I bet you're asking yourself "Hey, Chris? What in the world does C.H.U.D. stand for anyways?" Well, it just so happens that the acronym has two meanings! The first, which is what the movie means is 'Cannibalistic Humanoid Underground Dwellers.' However, turns out the government has been dumping chemicals under the city for years; 'Contamination Hazard Urban Disposal.'

Being a monster movie the costumes are pretty outlandish with glowing eyes, slimy razor claws and necks that get erections! Apparently this wasn't the original design, which was supposed to be much more zombie like. I enjoy the design as it sets the film apart from other movies of the time. With that, the film features some fantastic gore effects from the creature mayhem. Decapitations, disemboweling, limbs severed. Fun for the whole family!

The dialogue and acting are both fantastic. Actors Christopher Curry and Daniel Stern took a turn at re-writing the script and really fleshed out the story. This is a Monster/Sci-Fi movie after all, so obviously my using of the phrase "fantastic" is up to reader discretion. The supporting cast is full of actors you've seen in many other places, and with bigger roles. The best supporting role in the film is that of John Goodman playing a cop who gets slaughtered in a diner. Side note; all three leads have played roles in the 'Home Alone' franchise. John Heard and Daniel Stern in parts 1 and 2, and Christopher Curry in Part 3. 'C.H.U.D.' starts futures people.

'C.H.U.D', to me, is like a fine wine that you have a rather large bottle of. You enjoy it every now and then, appreciating how well aspects of it have aged. For the first time I watched the film with the commentary featuring Daniel Stern, John Heard, Christopher Curry, Director Douglas Cheek and Writer Shepard Abbott. Easily one of the best commentaries you'll find on a movie, it features a cast and crew who are also friends. It's insightful, but it's also fucking hysterical.

'C.H.U.D.' is a B-Movie masterpiece with an original story, a wonderful cast and brutal special effects. With actual locations, and detailed sets that allow the film to offer a real world feel. It is currently available on DVD from Anchor Bay.

Rating: 5 out of 5 Trash Bags

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Revenge of the Teenage Vixens from Outer Space (1985)

The mystique of watching movies after midnight was hugely appealing to me in my youth. Of course everyone raves about Cinemax, but my tastes were left to those stations who showed B-movies ranging from the 1950's to the 1990's. In the early '90s stations like USA, and TNT would have late night horror shows on weekend nights. This is how I would see films like 'The Toxic Avenger', 'Return of the Living Dead', 'The Gate' and many other Horror and Cult movies.

It took me a long time to track down 'Revenge of the Teenage Vixens from Outer Space', but I am happy I was able to get a VHS copy of it. As I've said many times before the appeal of watching these films on tape really adds to the charm. One evening in my childhood I remember seeing portions of this movie after my parents had gone to sleep. Like a sore thumb the images of "aliens" zapping teenagers into vegetables was awe-inspiring. I mean shit, even at 26 the concept is still pretty fantastic.

Our story unfolds in the sleepy little town of Mayfield. The school kids all hang out at your a-typical lover's lane, and talk about their lives. Suddenly, like out of a cliche, comes 4 sexy women. It appears these aren't your normal exchange students. In fact, these are horny Vixens from outer space!

There is an issue on their planet however. They have no men, and the only way they can reproduce is by fingering plants. It's pretty gross. During the airing of Elvis Presley on the Ed Sullivan show in 1956 we got the top half of his waist, and the vixen's planet got the lower half. Stealing the boys from all their girlfriends, the Vixen's sexual appetites are not quenched, and begin turning all those in the stand in their way into giant pickles, tomatoes, corn, and even squash!

The film clocks around 72 minutes. They setup the plot right off the bat, and go for broke with horrible dialogue, and even worse effects. This is hilarity in the style of Ed Wood, and it's really that bad. The worst part of the 'Revenge of the Teenage Vixens from Outer Space' is that it's really trying to be a parody, but it fails to see that it's become what it wanted to be. It's got awful effects where a man's face starts to bubble, turn orange, and then BAM! He's a fucking carrot.

The editing is awful, but that's what you get for a movie that was made over the course of 4 years. Started in 1981 you can see characters with different hair styles, different heights and even higher voices. The style of hair for some of these actors is just the worst. The female lead, whose name doesn't matter, has Davy Jones bangs and shockingly can't pull it off. It just takes your eyes away from the slight mustache I suppose.

You can tear apart movies like this all you want, but at the end of the day they're just hysterical. Films like 'Plan 9 from Outer Space' would probably not have been as prevalent if it were made by someone less delusional than Ed Wood. It's topical because the guy made well marketed shit, and loved doing it. The charm you find in an Ed Wood film is very present in 'Revenge of the Teenage Vixens from Outer Space'. It's not good, but damned if it ain't funny.

'Revenge of the Teenage Vixens from Outer Space' is available on VHS from Continental Video, and DVD from Sovereign Pictures.

Rating: 3 out of 5 Trash Bags

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Trash Pile Top 10: Giant Monster Movies

My hero growing up was Godzilla. The first movie I vividly remember watching was 'King Kong vs. Godzilla'. From there my tastes spread to the monsters at Universal with 'Creature From the Black Lagoon', 'Dracula', 'Frankenstein', and 'The Wolf Man'. However, I was a bigger fan of Universal's other Monster films like 'Tarantula', 'The Deadly Mantis' or 'The Land Unknown'.

Through my father, who introduced me to this crap, I learned about the Big-Bug movies of the '50s, and about Kaiju films from Japan. Seeing giant sized creatures attacking buildings, destroying cities or the off chance of saving humanity can make for a fun movie. Recent efforts like 'Cloverfield' show that films with giant monsters can still sell.

Films featuring giant animals and mutated dinosaurs tend to not have the best reputation in terms of quality. Both Godzilla and Gamera have been mocked on 'Mystery Science Theater 3000', and many studios will shell out a quick rip-off flick if they think it could make a dollar. Looking at you Asylum.

These are the best examples, to me, of giant monsters in the movies. Some are as big as buildings, but all are bigger than any real life counterpart.

10. Rodan (1956)

'Rodan' is a film that gets a little over looked nowadays in comparison to its other Japanese counterparts. 'Rodan' was a big hit over here in the states a few years after it's initial '56 release, albeit edited to all hell, and a young George Takei doing voice work. *Spoiler Alert* The ending is one of the most tragic in giant monster films. One of the two Rodan falls to its death inside an erupting volcano, and the other, not wanting to live without its mate, dives to its death. Romance.

9. Eight Legged Freaks (2002)

Jason and I were two of possibly 20 lucky winners to see 'Eight Legged Freaks' at an advanced screening sponsored by WAAF in Boston back in 2002. The film wasn't a big success in theaters, but it's a great ride with a loving respect for the films of the '50s while still being relevant. Good supporting cast (a young Scarlett Johansson), and solid effects allow for the film to move past "so bad it's good" to just "good"

8. Tremors (1990)

Much like 'Eight Legged Freaks', 'Tremors' is a film that knows its base and its audience. Taking a great setting like the Nevada desert, and adding a subterranean menace all adds up to a real fun time. The cast being rounded out by Kevin Bacon, Fred Ward, Michael Gross, and the always awesome Victor Wong is great. The special effects are practical, and leads to great reactions by the cast. The script adds humor to the terror, and that is why 'Tremors' still works to this day.

7. Tarantula (1955)

One of the films that got me hooked on the genre, 'Tarantula' features effects that were unusual for the time. Many crews were working with Stop-Motion Animation, Suitmation (Rubber Suits), but 'Tarantula' used real footage of real animals. What really makes the story of 'Tarantula' a compelling one is that the monsters creation was meant for good, not evil. Like most of director Jack Arnold's films, he portrays the monster in a sympathetic light. The creature is just doing what it would normally do, we humans on the other hand are the true monsters.

6. Alligator (1980)

A lot of the time films based on urban legends are fucking awful. Thankfully, the story of an alligator flushed down the sewers, and growing to 30 ft. long by eating lab animals is fantastic. Great acting by Robert Forrester, the alligator effects are awesome, and the film is the first of two films on this list to show a child being eaten on screen. Doesn't happen too often as people are easily offended. Pussies.

5. THEM! (1954)

'THEM!' is well known from being the first "Big-Bug" film of the '50s. The film was a reaction to the development of the nuclear age, and man does it show. It's a well done film with a murder mystery opening, and a monster movie finish. It really sets the movie apart from any others in its genre. The special effects were very advanced for the time, and that was one reason 'THEM!' was a success for Warner Brothers.

4. King Kong (1933)

While 'The Lost World' in 1925 might have been the first film to utilize stop-motion animation for it's beasts, it wasn't until 'King Kong' in 1933 that it was shown what could really be done with the art. The film is easily one of the finest examples of early American film, and still holds up well today with great acting, phenomenal effects by Willis O'Brien and a fantastic score all add up to a great piece of classic film-making.

3. The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms (1953)

It was hard to pick only one Ray Harryhausen film to put on this list, but man, this is easily his best work. In what would set the bar for 1950's Science-Fiction, 'The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms' really sells its creature. Utilizing a short story by Ray Bradbury, the film took inspiration from the Atomic Age, and awoke the beast with a nuclear blast. It's a concept that was used over and over again throughout the next decade or so. Harryhausen is the master of stop-motion animation, and this film proves it.

2. Jaws (1975)

'Jaws' was the first real blockbuster in the truest sense of the definition. The shark is massive, but is so well shot that you aren't sure just how big it is for the first 3/4 of the film. Spielberg took what could have been camp like a lot of films of the past 25 years, but made something truly shocking. Every giant animal movie after 1975 owes huge credit to everything that was accomplished with 'Jaws'.

1. Gojira (1954)

For over 50 years Godzilla has been a staple of pop culture. Appearing in films, comics, music and anything else he can stomp on. Countless foes have tried to stop him. Countries have tried to destroy him. While not every film in the Godzilla catalog is fantastic, there are some shining examples that are great for a casual Kaiju fan. The original is a good one to start out with, but I do suggest seeing both the Japanese original cut, and the bastardized American version. Each offer something different while using the same basic story. From there I suggest 'Godzilla vs. Biollante' (1985), 'GMK: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack' (2001), and 'Godzilla vs. Destroyah' (1995)

Honorable mentions: The Valley of Gwangi, Mosquito, The Great Alligator, Orca, Empire of the Ants, Spasms, Mothra, It Came from the Beneath Sea.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Curse of the Blue Lights (1988)

One of the main goals of starting this blog was to put films, however horrible they may be, in front of new viewers. A lot of the films I enjoy are fucking awful, but it's nice to finally explain why I find entertainment in such shitty productions. Although I might find some macabre enjoyment out of almost any film, it doesn't mean I like everything.

'Curse of the Blue Lights' was a film I had only read about through DVD-R distributor Stumpy Disks. The title interested me in the thought of promising zombies, ghouls, monsters, and presumably some type of sword fight. I found this tape while I was digging through a vendor at a local flea market. Along with about a dozen or so other tapes I ventured home having, what I at least hoped to be, a new Cult film to love. This was like taking home a diseased puppy.

The film starts in the town of Dudley, where a farmer is harvesting wheat. Seeing something in the distance the farmer exits the tractor, and finds a rotting animal in the middle of the field. Suddenly, a nearby scarecrow springs to life and starts attacking the man; then starts spewing what looks to be creamed corn. The battle drags on between the animated scarecrow, and the elderly farmer. And it keeps going. After about two minutes of the farmer struggling on the ground the scarecrow lifts a shovel, and slams into the face. Or abdomen, it's off-screen so we just have to assume it was brutal; even with the "Original Uncensored Version" plastered on the cover.

At the Dudley High School, Paul and Ken wait to pick up Ken's girlfriend, Sandy. Paul's license plate is 1M2CUL. Ugh. It's Friday, and the group are trying to figure out what to do tonight. Apparently Paul and his quasi-girlfriend Alice aren't moving as fast as he'd like as they only neck. Apparently the film is set in the '50s. Most people tend to go to Blue Lights which is like the lover's lane, but wait. If the movie is called 'Curse of the Blue Lights', and they're going to Blue Lights? Oh. My. God. Apparently the Blue Lights are the ghosts of dead passengers, or some other supernatural phenomena. No one knows anything in this fucking movie.

While driving over their lines, the gang heads to Blue Lights describing the history of the area. Apparently some train conductor hung the wrong colored light, and was "creamed" by a train. The dialogue is very Scooby-Doo. Suddenly out of fucking nowhere a horse drawn carriage crosses the road, and stops the gang dead in their tracks. The carriage houses the diabolical Loath. Loath (who looks strangely like Dr. Caligari) is searching the area of Dudley for a creature that will bring the dark ages back to mankind. Loathe sends his ghouls (the credits listed them as "The Ghouls", so you know they're stage caliber actors) to look for what is known as The Muldoon Man. And no, it's not the bad-ass guy from 'Jurassic Park'.

Back at the Blue Lights, everything is getting hot and heavy until the school rich kid, Max, shows up in his classic muscle car. In what was sure to be the best drag race since 'Grease' the group is distracted by the Blue Lights, which are now over on the other side of the river. While searching the riverbed the gang discovers The Muldoon Man buried in the dirt, and learn that the dreaded Loathe needs the flesh and blood of the living to resurrect the beast. Looks like the gang has a real mystery on their hands.

That's what I love and hate about VHS covers. The covers look fucking awesome; showcasing the best scenes to reel you in. Then you watch the piece of shit, and need to cleanse the pallet with bleach. 'Curse of the Blue Lights' was written, edited, shot and directed by John Henry Johnson, who has three films under his belt, and I'm sure they're just as bad as this. I've heard that this film has H.P. Lovecraft influence, and I can see it. I just wish the writing wasn't a rip-off of a rejected Scooby-Doo Script. It's obvious that Johnson used whoever he could find not giving a shit about the quality of acting, just to read their lines. Oh, and then there is the witch who is credited as "The Witch". She's like if Yoda fucked Bela Lugosi, and had a super obnoxious baby.

If the acting and script were better, then this would have been a halfway decent movie. The story is an interesting one with the resurrection of an ancient God-like beast, who brings the death of mankind. Loathe and his band of ghouls collect the teens, and feed them to the beast by melting them with lye. The setup of a lover's lane type of location is typical, but if done correctly could lead to good satire. Yeah, not so much here.

While the acting is dreadful, and the story just 'eh' I bet you're wondering about the special effects. We'll, they're just average from the creative team involved. Mark Sisson was behind two of the lesser 'Nightmare on Elm Street' sequels; 'Dream Master' and 'Dream Child'. Though while the special effects in those films are pretty good, here we just get your run of the mill zombie make-up, and the aforementioned melting of bodies. The film just doesn't really pack the punch of the "Original Uncensored Version" that the box would imply.

'Curse of the Blue Lights' means well, and in spots shows some shimmer of a good concept, but stale and dated dialogue along with some of the worst acting I've ever seen damage the film far too much to even be remotely worth recommending.

*EDIT* After long thoughts on this movie, I have decreed this the worst movie I have ever seen. I have changed the rating to 0 because Curse of the Blue Lights is painful. Beyond painful.

'Curse of the Blue Lights' is available on VHS from Magnum Home Entertainment, but is out of print. Copies range from $5 to $12.

Rating: 0 out of 5 Trash Bags

There is no known trailer for 'Curse of the Blue Lights', so just imagine a group of teens sneaking around a cemetery looking for clues.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Galaxy of Terror (1981)

The blending of Science-Fiction and Horror is one of my favorite genres in film. Often times the results are horrendous, but the films have a charm about them. The way the cast interacts with the special effects, the way the director uses his crew to get the most atmosphere out of a shot. There are times when the films work fantastically; 'The Thing' (1982), 'Event Horizon'(1997), 'The Blob' (1988), and of course 'Alien' (1979) have proven to be very well executed genre films.

The movies mentioned above though have a thread in common; budgets. They can pull off fantastic effects which will dazzle the audience. Low budget features, like those from Roger Corman, try a little bit harder to get your video dollars. 'Galaxy of Terror' was a film I've only heard bits and pieces of over the years. I knew it had a decent cast, and the infamous worm scene was well discussed, but other than that the film was foreign to me.

The film opens with on a blue planet, with blue lettering for the credits. You can't read who's in it without glasses, so you know that it's not the most important. Some random person is killed by an unseen force aboard what is apparently a spaceship. It all happens so randomly and quickly it's hard to gauge what's going on. We're then thrust into what is apparently a Galactic conference of some sort with a witch, and some guy whose head looks like a lava lamp. Lava Lamp Head is apparently known as the Planet Master and rules over the fates of those in the Galaxy. Apparently he requests a team sent to the blue planet, Morganthus.

A team including Freddy Krueger (Robert Englund), Mr. Hand (Ray Walston), Captain Spalding (Sid Haig), and other body-bags enter the spaceship blasting off to the planet Morganthus. Their mission is the look for any survivors of a previous excursion, but there seems to be some devious characters aboard the vessel. The Commander is a little old for a field mission, and there's a cook. Apparently, machines normally make the food on spaceships, so a human doing it is tipping some of the crew towards interference from a government figure.

The crew is pulled down to the planet by an unknown force. Once the team lands a party is sent out to look for the missing crew members. On the crashed ship the crew finds that the missing parties are horribly butchered. Apparently when bodies of dead people are found in this future they're destroyed with a blaster because every body except one explodes when shot. A crew member lags behind after samples are collected, and soon has his head ripped back by some sort of cricket looking thing. From here the crew investigates the barren planet, but it appears that Morganthus is hiding more below it's surface.

The basic premise of 'Galaxy of Terror' is that your fears become real, and can kill you. Apparently the planet is some sort of testing ground for a new Planet Master. I really doubt I spoiled this film for you with that, but I felt that you should know exactly what's going on because even at the end of the film it's still kind of unclear. The film was beyond entertaining, and was filled with memorable moments. There's a scene where a man's severed arm throws a blade to kill him; a scene where a mammoth worm rapes and kills a woman, and not one but TWO Robert Englunds for your dollar.

The acting is what you tend to get from a late '70s, early '80s Roger Corman fare. It's cheesy, but there are actors who really like their material. Sid Haig ('House of 1,000 Corpses') asked to have almost all of his lines removed, and played the role mute except for one line. Robert Englund is just as awesome as ever, but his character's fate is never resolved; he just sort of stops being discussed about 15-minutes from the end. Then there is the always fantastic Ray Walston who most will recognize as the strict Mr. Hand from 'Fast Times at Ridgemont High'.

The look of the film is like most 'Alien' clones, but to be honest that works for me. It's all about how you film the corridor scenes to build the atmosphere. You need to feel trapped along with the characters to really showcase the fear, and thankfully the scenes here are filled with dread. Then there is the fact that a young James Cameron worked on 'Galaxy of Terror' as Production Designer and Second Unit Director. It seems that the suits were so impressed with his knack for low-cost solutions that it helped his career to what we know today.

The negative aspects of 'Galaxy of Terror' involve the fact that you're never really sure what the fuck is going on, and then the ending just sort of happens. It really takes the awesome down a huge amount as you're left scratching your head bloody and raw. There are a lot of 'Alien' clones on the market, but I found 'Galaxy of Terror' to be pretty well executed for a low-budget feature. The actors seem to enjoy their roles, and the set design and effects bring the film above your typical cheap cult films.

'Galaxy of Terror' is currently available on DVD and Blu-Ray from the Shout! Factory.

Rating: 3 1/2 out of 5 Trash Bags

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Evan Chimes In: The Intruder

Hello again, people of the internet. The next movie I'm going to be watching is 'The Intruder' starring William Shatner. I know absolutely nothing about this one. I've never heard of it and didn't want to be told much about it before watching it. From reading the back of the case, it seems that good old Capt. Kirk (caveat; I've never seen Star Trek or any of the movies. I can't recall seeing anything else that Shatner has been in, so this may very well be my very first Shatner experience. Let's hope I don't get Shat upon.) is a white supremacist that comes to a southern town on the eve of integration, and chaos ensues. Let's have at it...

Adam Cramer (Shatner), arrives in some small southern town the night before the integration of black children into the white schools. Shatner immediately begins campaigning against the integration and holds a rally the night after the first day of black children going to the white school. This first rally is a Ku Klux Klan-esque style rally. After the first rally a black family traveling in a car on their way home is stopped by a mob of white people. Tom McDaniel (Frank Maxwell) steps in and stops the violence before it starts.

Later that night there is a full on Klan rally with hoods and a cross burning. The Klan guys throw dynamite into the black church and the preacher stumbles out and dies in one of the black children's arms. While this is happening Shatner is banging the wife of the guy in the room next door.

The next day Tom McDaniel walks the black children to school. When he returns to his car, there is a group of white people from the town that want an explanation why he is a N-lover. Tom, in so many words, tells the people to fuck off. They beat the shit out of him and put him in the hospital.

Shatner goes back to his room and finds Sam Griffin (Leo Gordon) waiting for him. Sam is the guy in the room next door whose wife Shatner banged. Sam tells Shatner that his wife has skipped out on him. Sam eventually lets Shatner know that he knows the truth by pulling a gun on him. blah blah blah, long story short he doesn't shoot him.

Shatner puts the moves on Tom's daughter, Ella McDaniel (Beverly Lunsford), and hatches a plot to say Joey Greene (Charles Barnes), the kid that held the black preacher when he died, tried to rape her. The next day at school, Ella asks Joey to help her with some boxes in a storage room, when he is taking the boxes off a shelf she starts screaming.

The mob gathers outside the school once they hear of the "rape" and demand that Joey come out to them. Joey walks outside and is eventually grabbed and tied to a swing outside the school. Shit is about to get real when Sam Griffin shows up with Ella McDaniel and gets her to confess that she made the rape story up, and that Shatner told her to do it.

In the end Shatner ends up disgraced.

I don't know how to feel about this one. The message was clear: White people are terrible. I enjoyed the movie, but this seems to be the seed that Hollywood planted which eventually flourished into the "shit on white people" movies of the more recent past. 'Crash' comes to mind. I fucking hated that movie. I don't know much about movies and movie history, but I contend that 'Crash' is the single worst movie to ever win an Oscar for Best Picture. If there was any possibility that if 'The Intruder' was never made, then I would not have had to sit through 112 minutes of pure, unadulterated, six-miles-over-the-top, shit that was 'Crash' then I'm fine with that trade-off.

Shatner's acting was superb. His character, Adam Cramer, is easily one of the most diabolical, sinister, manipulative antagonists I've ever come across. The movie is worth seeing, even if just for Shatner's portrayal of his character.

The real thing I took away from this movie is that when it comes to making white people look bad, Spike Lee ain't got shit on Roger Corman.

'The Intruder' is available on DVD from New Horizons Pictures.

Overall Rating: 7 / 10
(I should mention that I'm an extremely hard grader, you'll never see me give a 10.)

THE INTRUDER: Movie Trailer. Watch more top selected videos about: Movie Trailers, Frank Maxwell

Monday, August 22, 2011

The Beyond (1981)

While 'Cannibal Holocaust' might have been one of the first movies to get me interested in Gore, Lucio Fulci was the one who showed me the beauty in the carnage. The Italian director is known for his surrealistic films, and brutal violence. The first film I saw by Fulci was 'Gates of Hell' which was when I was searching out any zombie related film. From there I saw 'Zombi 2', and then I found what many consider to be his masterpiece, 'The Beyond'.

One of the best things about 'The Beyond' is that it combines elements from so many different genres. Part haunted house flick, half zombie gore; 'The Beyond' offers something for almost any horror fan. For this viewing of Fulci's 'The Beyond' Jason and I were able to catch a 35mm print at The Coolidge Corner Theater. This was a film that I was very excited to cross off my list of movies to see on the big screen.

In 1927 Louisiana a lynch mob descends on the Seven Doors Hotel. A painter by the name of Schweik works on his macabre creation, inspired by the mystic book Eibon, in his hotel room, number 36. The mob enters the building, and breaks into Schweik's room; assaulting him in the face with a metal chain, and accusing him of being a warlock. The mob then drags him down into the basement where they nail his wrists to the wall, and pour quicklime on his face.

Present Day (1981) a woman by the name of Liza (Catrina MacColl) has inherited the hotel, and is fixing it up to re-open. Unfortunately, the house was built on one of the Seven Doors to Hell, and her renovations have awoken Satan himself. When construction workers start dying horrible deaths, a mysterious blind woman named Emily (Cinzia Monreale) warns Liza to abandon the hotel. Doctor John McCabe (David Warbeck)tells Liza that there's nothing to worry about, and to continue renovations. However when the body of Schweik shows up in the basement, John starts seeing the symbols of Eibon. Soon the forces of Hell spew forth the dead, and John and Liza must fight to stay alive.

The first thing that I enjoyed about the film was of course the special effects. Italian genre films from the late '70s and '80s have some of the best gore effects in cinema history. Germano Natali has done some great effects for films like 'Suspiria', and 'Deep Red' but 'The Beyond' has some of the best violence of all time. We see heads exploding, spiders devouring a face, eyes gouges, and the aforementioned death of Schweik. For those gore-hounds looking to wet their appetite look no further than 'The Beyond'.

The score by Fabio Frizzi is one of my favorites of all time. The choir and piano main theme is very atmospheric, and the score helps elevate the direction of cinematographer Sergio Salvati. Salvati has done all of Fulci's big horror titles, but I really think that his best work is with 'The Beyond'. The scenes down the flooded basement ooze with dread, and with the score by Frizzi, the direction of Lucio Fulci really shines through. Though, while able to raise your fears through the use of camera trickery and brilliant composers, he orchestrates the violence to shock and gross you out. This technique allows for you never to get settled in what you're watching, and should keep you glued to what's happening.

The only negative criticism I could give this Horror Classic is that the English dubbing is just awful. I would love to see a subtitled release at some point, but that is more than likely on any of the DVD releases by Anchor Bay. By all means 'The Beyond' is not a film for everyone. While enjoyable by a Horror fan for the effects, and atmosphere it is pretty damned out there. A lot of the happenings you just have to accept as going on, as we're never really clued into what exactly the powers of Eibon can be. The best bet is to turn off your mind, and enjoy the surrealistic elements of the story and the fantastic gore effects on the screen.

'The Beyond' has a few releases with Anchor Bay, and the rights are currently held with Grindhouse Releasing.

A random trivia fact you probably don't care about!

Did you know that 'The Beyond' is one of Quentin Tarantino's favorite movies? So much in fact that he was one of the primary reasons for an unrated release of the film, and the 35mm print that tours the country!

Rating: 5 out of 5 Trash Bags


Wikipedia Page

Amazon Page

Necropolis (1987)

When Jason and I were walking through a video store, we find a label on a film proclaiming that:

"Warning: This film contains scenes of adult matter and/or graphic violence. No one under the age of 18 may view this film. No exceptions!!!!!"

You would think that it would be a violent, or hyper-sexed film. That warning just screams to rent the film if you're looking for a cheap thrill, or to fulfill your blood lust. That's the type of movie that you'd try to rent when you're 13. I've seen similar labels on films like 'Caligula', 'Toxic Avenger', and 'The Babysitters Club'.

It is pretty impossible to find a movie rental establishment in 2011. However there is one place that is independently owned, and still renting (!) VHS and DVD. Hollywood Express on Mass Ave in Cambridge, Ma has a collection of films ranging from obscure '80s STV (Straight-To-Video), or hard to find classics on VHS. Hollywood Express will be getting a good amount of money from me while I exploit their collection.

Looking for films that I missed during the VHS boom, I came across 'Necropolis' at the video store. This has been a title that has been on my radar for some time, but due to limited availability (only available on VHS) it has been hell tracking this title down. Then, when noting the warning label mentioned above I knew this was a film tailored towards my tastes. Turns out it was one of the worst movies I've seen in some time, but of course one of the funniest.

Old New York was once New Amsterdam. I'm not sure why they changed it; guess they liked it better that way. During the late 1600's a witch named Miss Eva is trying to secure the soul of a young virgin, who happens to be getting married at the precise moment of the Miss Eva's ceremony. It's never really mentioned why Miss Eva has chosen this woman for her soul, but I'm guessing her credit score was better. Or a virgin, better go with virgin. Miss Eva succeeds in killing the woman, but is apparently killed? I say apparently because suddenly the film jumps ahead 300 years, and now she has a motorcycle.

Miss Eva wants a ring that was used in the ceremony. We're not told what the ring is for. She just needs to find it. It has ended up in the hands of a local magic shop proprietor, but the ring has been sold. The shop keep won't say who, but Miss Eva uses his fear of going deaf to torture the answer out of him. She promises to spare his life, and when he gives up the buyer she kills him anyway. She is on the way to a local preacher, who just happens to be the slave from earlier in the film.

The preacher works to help teens get off of drugs, and that's exactly where Miss Eva goes; however there is not a transition scene from the magic shop. Actually, we never really heard the name of the buyer clearly from the shop owner. Now at the youth center Miss Eva tries to seduce the ring out the preacher, but she fails causing her to have a child-like tantrum in the men's bathroom. With that, she's off to another location with no explanation as to what the fuck is going on in this movie. She's now trying to find the couple, who were reincarnated like every other character in this fucking movie, and steal their soul for Satan!

This is one of the most incoherent movies I've ever seen. We go from scene to scene with no transition. After Miss Eva kills a suicide patient at the Rehabilitation Center, she just is suddenly on her motorcycle in the next scene. She wanted the keys to the preacher's safe, but we're to assume that she got it? Then, the male lead walks in front of the magic shop; looking in the window. Then, the next scene is him walking through a beaded curtain to the backroom. What the hell? Is he like Kitty Pride? He can just walk through walls?

The acting is beyond hysterical. Lines are melodramatically over-the-top, and there isn't one actor or actress that has worked through a paper bag. The male lead looks like Al Pacino and Scott Baio had a lovechild, but his fake tough-guy, don't believe in the supernatural, bad cop persona is just lovable. Then there's the witch, Miss Eva. Sure, they wanted to make her this leather-clad biker chick, but it just looks like she got out of an unsuccessful groupie run at the band Poison.

Of course I love bad movies, but this was a tough one. The best scene in the entire damned movie is when Miss Eva grows 6 breasts to feed her demon clan. It's so bizarre, so hysterical that it gives the movie something to remember it by. Other than that Jason and I found ourselves just laughing at the continuity errors, like when the suicidal patient kills himself, he is slumped over in the chair. However when the police come to investigate the scene he is face down on the desk. This is as close to bottom of the barrel as it gets, but it has that '80s charm. With practical effects, and cheesy dialogue the film is not so bad it's good, but so bad it's tolerable. Like babysitting Dennis the Menace.

'Necropolis' is currently only on VHS from Lighting Pictures. The rights are probably buried under Lions Gate Entertainment's back catalog. Perhaps for the best.

*UPDATE* - 'Necropolis' has been released by Full Moon on DVD. You can pick it up over at Amazon for $9.99

Rating: 2 out of 5 Trash Bags

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Trash Pile Top 10: Slasher Deaths

I can't speak for the masses, but there is one main reason I enjoy the Slasher sub-genre; the inventive new methods of disposing victims. There are really only seven to ten different plots in a Slasher film, so that will deter most viewers. The actors are in their late twenties to thirties playing teens, and normally have similar acting range. With that you're left with the special effects, and man oh man do (most) Slasher films bring the latex to the table.

It's hard to pick only ten kills that I find the best. There are many quality moments of carnage, but ten? Well, I'm going to give it a shot.

10. Silent Night, Deadly Night (1985) - Toboggan From Hell
There are so many fantastic moments in 'Silent Night, Deadly Night', but this was one of the best for me. These two kids steal this sled from another group of kids, and they proceed to sled the hill. Little do they know that Billy is going around dressed as Santa killing anyone who he deems naughty. These two hoodlums have an axe awaiting them.

9. Halloween (1978) - Hung Up to Dry
John Carpenter's 'Halloween' is one of the staples of Slasher history. While it wasn't the first to be released, it was the first box office success. By today's standards the death scenes seem tame, Bob's death is iconic. All he wanted to do was get a beer, and ends up getting stabbed in the gut.

8. Sleepaway Camp 2: Unhappy Campers (1988) - Drugs can kill
The 'Sleepaway Camp' series is one of my favorites. The original has one of the best twist endings of all time, but I love how over-the-top the sequels are. The one liners by the killer, Angela, are some of the funniest in Slasher history. This particular death involves two drugged up sisters who are about to burn up one last time. These puns write themselves, I'm serious.

7. Hatchet (2006) - That's one way to loose your head
Adam Green's 'Hatchet' is one of my favorite horror films of the last few years. I also loved the sequel, maybe more so than the first. The death of the Jim and Shannon Permatteo is phenomenal, and then you see the tongue waggling in the aftermath. Adam Green really knows how to execute his death scenes with hysterical precision.

6. Friday the 13th Part 7: The New Blood (1988) - Tree Hugging Camper
I love the Friday the 13th series, so it was really hard to come up with just one to put on this list. However, this girl getting slammed into the a tree in her sleeping bag is one of the most brutal, especially the clip shown below, which is in it's uncut form. 'New Blood' was butchered by the MPAA, and apparently Paramount has lost the minutes (!) of deleted gore footage. Here's hoping it's discovered like the 'My Bloody Valentine' footage was back in 2009.

5. Twitch of the Death Nerve (1971) - Speared for Your Pleasure
Outside of Alfred Hitchcock's 'Psycho' and H.G. Lewis's 'Blood Feast', Mario Bava's 'Twitch of the Death Nerve' is one of the first true slashers. The film tells the tale of a crazed family trying to off one another in gruesome ways to inherit the fortune of a dead relative. The film doesn't hold back, and like many Italian Horror films is very graphic. The death of Duke and Denise may be familiar to some as the same exact death was lifted for 'Friday the 13th Part 2'. The clip below shows the death prior, and then the double impalement.

4. A Nightmare on Elm St. (1984) - Well, that's one way to hit the sheets.
Freddy Krueger has always been one of my favorite slashers since I was a kid. I enjoy all of the films in the series ('Dream Warriors' is my favorite), but Glen's (Johnny Depp) death in the original is by far and away one of the most shocking in the series. Not only does this genuinely good guy get killed, he is apparently shredded to death and his remains are spewed from his bed. Then his parents walk in.

3. The Burning (1981) - Raft Trip to Damnation
I love the Weinstein produced 'The Burning'. While the setting of the summer camp may be a tired one 'The Burning' uses it to his best. Using cabins and the woods to his advantage, the avenging killer Cropsey is best when on the river. The first time I saw this scene I was blown away. The amazing effects by Tom Savini are phenomenal, and these 2:05 of brutality show only some of his amazing talents.

2. The Prowler (1981) - Stabbed in the head, and forked to death.
The one-two punch of Sherry and Carl's deaths in 'The Prowler' is amazingly brutal. Carl's eyes roll back in his head, which is just one of the coolest effects in the movie. The villain isn't done yet, and goes to the shower to stab Sherry in the abdomen with his trusty pitchfork. The movie is one of my favorite slashers, and is criminally unseen.

1. My Bloody Valentine (1981) - Silly girl, that's not how you take a shower.
As you can see, the Slasher films from 1981 are my favorite. 'The Prowler', 'The Burning', and 'Friday the 13th Part 2' are all great flicks. Each offering their own brand of sadistic butchery. Then there is 'My Bloody Valentine'. A film I find to be very unique. The cast is all older, and by that I mean they are cast to meet their actual ages. The setting is also fantastic. The scenes in the mine are very atmospheric, and Director George Mihalka makes use of his cinematographer to put the tension on high.

'My Bloody Valentine' had nearly three solid minutes of violence edited due to issues with the MPAA. It was thought to have been lost until the footage was found, and edited back into the film. I already loved this death prior, but seeing this uncut was a true spectacle. Sylvia is being chased around the men's bath area. The villain, Harry Warden, drops mining suits suspended from the ceiling, corralling her into the shower area. Warden then proceeds to pick Sylvia up by her head, and impales the back of her skull on the showerhead, causing blood and water to spew out of her mouth.

I tried to find the clip for you, but alas Lionsgate Entertainment has removed it from all known video sources. So if you've got an insatiable urge for death, give these movies a chance as they're chock full of awesome special effects, and nubile young (cough) teens.

Honorable mentions: Machete to groin (Just Before Dawn), Frozen Head Smash (Jason X), "Welcome to Prime Time, Bitch!" (Nightmare on Elm St. 3: Dream Warriors), Wheelchair Electrocution (Popcorn), Piercing Kevin Bacon's Neck (Friday the 13th), Bullet through eyeglass (Opera). I'm sure I'll think of more and update as I go.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Deathrow Gameshow (1987)

What is the pitch for a show about death row inmates playing for their lives on a game show? What producer has the balls to say, "Hey, what if we take people who are going to die, and give them a chance on a game show to play for their freedom?". It takes care of the prison overpopulation, and it fills the populace's blood lust. It has become a sub-genre of its own over the past few decades with films like 'The Running Man', 'Gamer', 'The Condemned', and 'Death Race' (the remake). They're all action intensive movies, and although black humor comes through the violence; comedies they ain't.

'Deathrow Gameshow' was a title that I had seen in video stores when I was a kid. By the time I was into renting obscure titles many video stores were closing down, or moving to DVD. It's a film that I had been searching for many years to find, and finally got a copy on VHS. That's a lot of hype to see a film about people getting killed on TV, but that VHS cover was imprinted in my brain. I HAD to see this movie. To my surprise upon first viewing it was more a Comedy than a Horror. I mean, sure, a good amount of Cult movies have that over-the-top comedic appeal. 'Deathrow Gameshow' was more alike to the works of the Zucker Brothers with 'Airplane!' or 'The Naked Gun'. Well, it wasn't what I was expecting and that first view was kind of like meeting a long time pen-pal. You have all these great expectations through fantastic conversations, but then find out that they're really off the wall, bat-shit crazy and can only hang out for an hour or so before taking off, because they know they'll overstay their welcome.

America's most popular game show is 'Live or Die' hosted by the charismatic Chuck Toedan. The show is known for its high ratings, and higher moral objection (see what I did there?). Contestants sign a waiver before going on acknowledging that their death could come at any moment. Chuck gets death threats, bomb threats and even threats of sex from crazed fans. OK, that's not so bad but overall it's pretty outrageous.

While promoting 'Live or Die' on a local talk show, he is accosted by Gloria Sternvirgin who is the leader of a local female rights group. I didn't make up that name. They really named her that. Gloria talks about how it's wrong to kill people, but Chuck is quick to remind her that these "contestants" were going to die anyways. He's giving them a chance to live, and their families also receive great prizes if their loved ones die. The two exit the interview, and Gloria confronts Chuck about his horrible lifestyle. Then, suddenly, out of a cliche comes two armed hitmen coming to take his life. Chuck grabs Gloria into the car, and they're off taking out the assailants on their way.

A few years back a mob boss died after he had passed his challenge; The Dance of the Seven Boners. You see, if he got an erection a motion device would trigger his electrocution. Well, he survived the model but it turns out that Chuck's manly touch is what did the boss in. Ever since he's had numerous attempts on his life. Gloria is thought to be in cahoots with Chuck (as is the case with every budding romance in a Cult movie), and is made a target as well. Will these two bite the bullet, or will they make it through to the other side? Find out on 'Deathrow Gameshow'!

Like I said, I was expecting a Horror movie and got a Zucker sytle Comedy. I love stupid, silly movies but was not expecting this. I decided to give the film a second view. After all, the hunt for such a film must return a positive experience, right? Right? Well, yes and no. The film is still pretty bad, but there are spots that are pretty funny. Visual gags like "Slow Children", and the kids are moving slow through a sidewalk always cracks me up. Where the film fails in the comic department is the dialogue. One of the best parts of the early Zucker films is while they have amazing visual gags, they also can write dialogue that makes you really laugh. Most of the jokes here felt forced, and really fell flat.

With a premise like 'Deathrow Gameshow' you would expect some pretty interesting death scenes, but they're really run of the mill. Electrocutions are the most popular, and don't really do much in terms of shock a response out of the viewer. The only real original death is an old lady (case of mistaken identity) runs through an fire themed obstacle course holding two canisters of gasoline. I'd say spoiler alert, but I don't think anyone cares. She makes it to the end, but blows up by a shoddy table with two candles.

'Deathrow Gameshow' was a real bust. I was expecting greatness, and got amateurish buffoonery. The film uses its low budget to its best abilities, but really can't find its ground between Horror and Comedy. The actors read their lines, but I don't believe they are enjoying themselves. Perhaps it's the quest was better than the treasure, but a film like 'Deathrow Gameshow' should make me feel like a winner. Instead I feel like a guy playing on the couch at home.

'Deathrow Gameshow' is available on DVD from Brentwood Home Video, but is currently Out Of Print.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Critters (1986)

Some say that imitation is the best form of flattery; others call it plagiarism. Either way, imitation has led to some horrendous rip-offs and inspired variations. For every 'Friday the 13th' there's 'House of Death'. 'Godzilla' and 'Gorgo'. George Romero's 'Dawn of the Dead' is responsible for almost 80% of zombie films from 1978 to 1983.

Then there are the films that claim they were written prior to those films. The film 'Critters' is one of them. I mean sure, you can try to cover your ass but I mean come on. If Steven Spielberg and Joe Dante's 'Gremlins' wasn't a hit at the box office I'm pretty sure New Line wouldn't have financed the film. That's the Hollywood machine sadly. What film is your film like, and how much money did that film make? With 'Gremlins' doing $148 million, that is more than enough convincing for studios to finance cheap films about dangerous little creatures. 'Hobgoblins' , 'Troll', and 'Munchies' are just some of the bastardized offspring of 'Gremlins'. 'Critters' on the other hand, was a well done variation.

An asteroid flies aimlessly through space, but this is no ordinary asteroid. It is a prison designed to hold the most vicious aliens in the solar system. Apparently the most notorious, the Crites, have been captured. Of course, as this is mere minutes into the movie the Crites break loose and escape the prison with a stolen space ship. This floating mass (similar to Mojo from the X-Men comics) hires two faceless bounty hunters, whose assignment is to track down the Crites at all cost.

Meanwhile, in a rural Kansas town on Earth, a family by the name of Brown works on their farm to make a living. Daughter April (Nadine Van der Velde) is trying to get in the bathroom before school, but her brother Brad (Scott 'Grimey' Grimes) is taking his time. The typical family bickering continues until a phone call for April comes in, and it's Steve from school. Jay (Billy Green Bush), the patriarch of the family, is concerned that his daughter might not be aware of how everything, you know, works down there. His wife Helen (Dee Wallace Stone) informs him that she's known for years.

Farm handyman Charlie (Don Keith Opper) is the town drunk. It's so bad that he's even got a room setup in one of the jail cells. Harv (M. Emmet Walsh) the town sheriff tells Charlie he better get his ass in motion if he wants to keep his job. Charlie keeps on his story about how he can hear alien transmissions through is teeth, and that it ruined his chances at the pros. Charlie shows up for work, but is distracted by Brad and his homemade fireworks. When Brad's slingshot breaks and Charlie attempts to fix it. April comes home in Steve's (Billy Zane) car, and Jay tries his best to introduce himself. In testing the slingshot, Charlie misses a tin can and hits April in the ass. Brad takes the fall for Charlie, and is sent to his room without dinner. He learned his lesson; never take the blame for a drunk.

Meanwhile, in space, the bounty hunters have traced the Crites to Earth and begin finding a way to transform their play-doh faces into human bodies. The first, by the name of Ugg (Terrence Mann) searches through history for a body to duplicate, and comes across '80s rocker Johnny Steele (also played by Mann). Taking the look of a flammable rock god, in spandex, Ugg waits for his partner to transform. He's being picky, and can't find any one person over a thousand years to look like.

Night falls on the Brown farm as the family, subtract Brad/add Steve, gather for dinner. April is obviously hot to trot as she's all up on Steve's crotch under the table. She grabs Steve to go for a "drive", which is code to go fuck in the barn. Jay brings his punished son some food, and confiscates Brad's slingshot. All of the sudden the Crites ship lands on their yard, and start on the prowl for food. After devouring a cow the Crites aim towards the town, and the Brown family home. Will the bounty hunters be able to save the family in time, or will they have to defend the planet themselves?

For this viewing of 'Critters' I was able to view one of the few remaining 35mm prints at The Coolidge Corner Theater. This film was another staple for many young horror viewers as it was PG-13, and could be seen by a studio's biggest demographic; teens. Then with that, video rental and cable brought the film to a whole new generation. One of my favorite things about 'Critters' is how the film finds great moments to add humor into the script. Whether it be from the Crites themselves, or from the town folks there are many moments to lighten to mood.

The main attraction in films like 'Critters' and 'Gremlins' are the special effects. How the creatures interact with the human players is clutch. If the movements are too jerky the effect looses credibility with the audience. The effects in 'Critters' are pretty fun, but not really packing the WOW factor you had from the effects of 'Gremlins'. The Crites are about ankle high, but are like piranha on crack. A pack of four can devour a cow in under ten minutes, and strip a human clean in under five. I enjoy the effects of the Chiodo Brothers (they also directed, and did the effects for 'Killer Klowns from Outer Space'), but I'm not really scared of the Crites. I feel like I can kick them pretty easily, or at the very least burn them with a cigarette and hairspray.

The script contains the typical family pitfalls. Brother and sister rivalry. The father trying to accept his son. The mother trying to hold on to everything. It's all pretty run of the mill, and the acting does help with the cliches. Dee Wallace Stone is in my opinion just as likable here as she was in 'E.T.', and I'm always a fan of M. Emmet Walsh. Billy Zane in one of his first rolls is just there to be Critter bait, and his death is only slightly memorable for some chomped fingers and munched guts.

'Critters' may be a product of the '80s, but there are elements that hold up well for today. It's campy, and fun. A time capsule into when special effects involved material and hand, not a computer. I do recommend 'Critters', but it's more of a last on the list type of movie. While entertaining, the film doesn't really pack too big of a punch action wise. There are a few parts where the threat of eight Crites isn't as menacing as it should have been. 'Critters' spawned a slew of sequels. The second film, 'The Main Course', is my favorite of the series. The body count is higher, and more time to showcase the Crites in action. The third features Leonardo DiCaprio, and it's pretty shitty. However, it's not as shitty as 'Critters 4'. The Crites attacking a spaceship, and there is a marine with a huge drug problem trying to fight them. It's pretty bad.

'Critters' is available on DVD from New Line Cinema, and is also available in a box set with all four films.

Rating: 3 1/2 out of 5 Trash Bags

Original Trailer on YouTube


Wikipedia Page

Amazon Page

Friday, August 5, 2011

Evan Chimes In: Death Race 2000

Hello, Interweb! I'm Evan, and I love movies. However, I lack the ability to remember a damn thing about 99.9% of all the movies I have ever seen. I haven't seen many old movies at all. I scare easily and don't really enjoy many flicks in the horror genre. I'm assuming that if you are reading this blog then you are a fan of the sorts of movies that Chris reviews here. I haven't seen anything that has been reviewed. Truth is, I'm too scared. Seeing as how I am ignorant when it comes to these sorts of movies, my function here will, hopefully, be to give all the cinephiles a glimpse into what a newcomer to these genres is thinking.

Enough about me. The first movie I will be watching is 'Death Race 2000'. Starring David Carradine and Sylvester Stallone. I actually think I may have borrowed this movie from Chris about a year ago. I'm fairly confident that I watched it, but I can't remember anything about it. Nothing. I'm told it is about a future (presumably the year 2000, so actually more than a decade in the past) where the national sport is a gumball rally style nationwide race where points are awarded for killing pedestrians. That's all I really need to hear. I'm reminded of the kick-ass old computer game Carmageddon. I'm going to go ahead and assume that this movie had some sort of influence on the people ultimately responsible for such a great computer game that consumed quite a bit of my childhood. I owe it to myself, and them, to watch the movie. I have been assured that it is not scary, so I'm game.

'Death Race 2000' is, indeed, about a gumball style trans-continental race in which drivers earn points by "scoring" a pedestrian. The type of pedestrian determines how many points are earned. Children, teenagers, old people, etc... are all worth different amounts of points. The American people seem to be enthralled by the race and show up in droves to the starts of each leg of the race.

The racers taking part in the race are Nero the Hero (played by Martin Kove), a Roman gladiator style combatant with his navigator Cleopatra (Leslie McRay) by his side. Then there is Matilda the Hun (Roberta Collins) a Nazi bomber style combatant with her navigator Herman 'the German' Boch (Fred Grandy). The last of the non-star racers is Calamity Jane (Mary Woronov) a wild-west style combatant and her navigator Pete. Then we get to the all-stars and favorites for this year's race: 'Machine Gun' Joe Viterbo and Frankenstein. Machine Gun Joe is played by Sylvester Stallone and is supposed to resemble a 1930's style gangster. Joe's navigator is Myra (Louisa Moritz). Lastly, there is Frankenstein (David Carradine). Frankenstein is presented as an all-time great in the race having won many times in the past. The name apparently comes from the fact that he has been rebuilt as a semi-bionic racer. We'll get to Frankenstein's navigator in a second.

We learn about Thomasina Paine(Harriet Medin) who leads a rebel group that wants to put an end to the race. Their plot is called 'Operation Anti-Race', which is quite possibly the laziest name for a guerrilla operation. Their plan is to kidnap Frankenstein and spare his life in exchange for the permanent abolition of the race. Frankenstein's navigator is Annie Smith (Simone Griffeth) who is actually Thomasina Paine's great grand-daughter, and begins the race working as a spy. Frankenstein easily sniffs her out, bangs her, and makes her fall in love with him.

All in all the movie was pretty damn entertaining. It's not really my "cup of tea" so to speak, but I could find the humor in places. There were some things that kind of irked me, like the fact that apparently broken legs are instantly fatal. My favorite part was easily when Frankenstein takes off his glove, showing a grenade seemingly grafted to his palm, to which Annie says "Is that a hand grenade?". I love puns.

Everyone but Machine Gun Joe is killed off, in various ways, by the rebels. Machine Gun Joe is finished off by Frankenstein's hand grenade. Frankenstein marries Annie and become Mr. and Mrs. President Frankenstein. The first order of business for President Frankenstein is to abolish the race that made him famous. Way to bite the hand that feeds you.

'Death Race 2000' is currently available on both DVD and Blu-Ray from Shout! Factory.

Overall Rating: 6.5/10