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