Thursday, March 12, 2015

Mutilations (1986)

There are really only a few routes an alien invasion film can go. You can have the mass-destruction styling of Roland Emmerich, or maybe the film is an allegory for some part of our society like Invasion of the Body Snatchers. There's also just the good old fashioned "aliens are here to fuck shit up" approach.

Prior to the CG-laden adventures of a cigar smoking Will Smith in Independence Day, most films dabbling in alien invasion were left to the devices of practical and traditional special effects. Unless you're Ray Harryhausen it's probably pretty hard to show alien spaceships attacking metropolitan areas. Case in point: Plan 9 from Outer Space.

Mutilations takes the approach of most pre-CG alien invasion films, and isolates the action to a central location and group of characters. The benefit here is it would be silly to tackle such a broad story with what is obviously a small budget. With that we're given a pretty run-of-the-mill stalk and slash alien movie, and that's by no means a detraction.

Mutilations tells the story of a group of science students who hear tale of group of townsfolk who have noticed strange lights occurring in, and around the town. On top of that, apparently the cattle and other animals have been found stripped of skin, and partially consumed. Of course being the brazen young group that they are, they venture into the mountains to find out what has been causing all the... Mutilations.

At its 65 minute run time, Mutilations is a breeze in unabashedly fun stupidity. The minimal amount of character development here is all just fodder for the impending alien attacks. I guess the first question your asking is, "Hey, Chris. Does that scene on the cover happen in the movie?" Yes, yes it does. And it is glorious. Being someone who grew up with 50's Sci-Fi I always love when a film is not afraid to take some bold risks in the effects department. It was very pleasing to see a nice combination of stop-motion animation, and practical effects in regards to the antagonistic aliens in the film. Although I'm never really sure of the size of the creatures in the film, they are a fun sight and cause some great fatalities.

From a technical standpoint however, Mutilations falls into the "So bad, it's good" territory. From one-liners that would make Bruce Campbell balk to actors (a loose term here) inserting far too many "dramatic" pauses between words, the direction of Larry Thomas is that of someone that just wanted to tell a fun story.

Outside of the acting and dialogue, there really aren't too many negative aspects to Mutilations. From a time period of filmmaking where limitations were pushed to the extremes, this is a film that encapsulates what I really love about 80's movies. Silly story, quick-paced and absurdly violent.

Mutilations is a pretty hard tape to track down. It's available from Baron Video, and, if you can find one at a decent price, is totally recommended.

Rating: 3 1/2 out of 5 Trash Bags

Mutilations IMDB

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Satan War (1979)

Recently I've been on a real kick with TV shows and movies dealing with spirits, ghosts, demons, etc. Ghost and haunted house movies don't have as much of an affect on me as they used to as a kid, but I just blame that on desensitization. The real hard part as a fan of film is that I've tried to see it all, and in my 20-someodd years of doing so have seen some pretty messed up shit. No matter what though, I still seek out new stories about families or persons who become prey to otherworldly forces.

The film in topic is the 1979 film, Satan War. From a VHS collector standpoint this is a pretty hard-to-find movie, as I had never heard of it until one of the contributors of Bleeding Skull posted a picture a month or so back. The lurid cover of a leather-clad Satan was enough for me to be curious, but then upon hearing it was pretty much a Amityville Horror rip-off, I was 100% into it.

Satan War starts off with a narration describing how the stories you are about to see are based off of real life events in the realm of the supernatural. Louise and Bill, a newlywed couple who have just moved into their new home, start experiencing strange occurrences right after moving in. Their emotions fly abandon as they realize something is changing their surrounding. As Louise hangs the crucifix from their wedding cake, strange events start to occur. Like the cross turning itself upside down to the coffee pot and kitchen cabinets spewing out foul slime. Suddenly they're prisoners in their own home by an unseen entity that will do anything to have them out!

The second story within the credits of Satan War revolves around a tribe that does the mambo, a religious dance that is designed to have the spirits of demons, or whomever, enter your body to allow for their wishes to be realized.

So, yeah. That's basically Satan War. If it sounds like it was a bit trying to get through, it was. This isn't to say it's the worst film I've seen recently (that title still goes to Lunchmeat), but the biggest detractor to a film like this is the constant and ever present music in the film. The synth score, while repetitive, isn't the worst. What is the worst about it is that the film is never able to create its own tension and atmosphere as we're always waiting for the next scare based on the music cues. Over the 60-minute run time of the first segment, there were only maybe 2 minutes that did not have music over it. It just got to the point where it would have been better on mute.

The other big issue I had with the Satan War was, much like the music, the repetitive scares. We get the demon doesn't like crucifixes. We get that it can make lightning, thunder and an earthquake when it's mad. We get it can make animal smelling diarrhea come from every point in your kitchen. That's it. These are basically the only things that happen while the newlyweds move in. Well, Louise also finds herself at the end of 2 sexual assaults by an unseen entity.

Now what's interesting is that some versions of the film appears to have an extra scene prior to the Amityville Horror rip-off that involves a Black Mass. I have included that full, 92:00+ version below.

At the end of the day, Satan War is nothing special. I respect what Bart La Rue was trying to accomplish, but due to the repetitive score and the unwillingness to go balls-out with the scares, this is a film only for those really searching for rare and hard to find movies. I don't think you'll hate yourself after watching it, but you may want to have The Changeling, Legend of Hell House or The Evil as a good pallet cleanser.

Rating: 2 out of 5 Trash Bags

Satan War IMDB

Satan War Wiki