Monday, June 18, 2018

Blood Frenzy - 1987

We have been down this road before.  This is the tried and true "porn director makes a real movie" trope.  I wonder if porn directors are still trying this nowadays?  This was one of  13 projects listed for director Hal Freeman for 1987, check the whole list here:

 1987Best of Caught from Behind (Video) 
 1987Earthquake Survival (Documentary) 
 1987Erotic Dreams (Video) 
 1987Loose Morals 
 1987Love Notes (Video) 
 1987Star Cuts 61: Keisha (Video short) 
 1987The Million Dollar Screw (Video) 
 1987Blood Frenzy 

Now, IMDb does state that Earthquake Survival is an hour long "how to survive" documentary hosted by Shelley Duvall, but aside from that we have quite a bit of porn. Was he trying to branch out? Who knows.

Blood Frenzy plays out and follows the cliched name it has.  It is a horror slasher, sort of continuing my recent line of horror slashers.  The Prey and Iced and hopefully more are coming soon, as I need a dramatic tone shift from the 70's boxset every once in a while.  

YouTube users go through and create entire playlists of terrible slashers.  I'm watching a bunch from this user Jofer Jeff and pretty much just watching anything that I haven't seen before, which is most of them.  I also watched The Night Brings Charlie, Silent Madness, and I watched 1992's Winterbeast, still contemplating if Winterbeast should have a review.  I'll settle for a mini review here:  Terribly awesome, so bad it's fantastic with terrible effects and acting, great Ray Harryhausen type claymation, awesome monsters, great cult night weed smoky movie with nonsensical plot.  4 stars.

Blood Frenzy was similar in the way that it's terribly acted, minimal, filmed in the desert with a small cast.  They're supposedly all mental patients and thus get asked to act, which was a mistake cause most of them cannot.  The kills are average, the pacing is okay, the scare factor is zilch, and nothing really interesting happens the whole movie.  When the best part of your entire movie is the hint and beginning of a lesbian sex scene...yeah your movie sucks.

It's fun though, it could be worse, and it has the cheesiness factor that you can enjoy for drinking and watching with buddies.  I give it a B movie 2 stars.

Friday, June 15, 2018

Mr. Sycamore - 1975

Returning from a bit of a break, I watched Mr. Sycamore last night.  This is the movie on the boxset which I would have to say I was the most excited about.  I remember leafing through the boxset's booklet early on when I got the set, reading through the different movies synopsis.

Mr. Sycamore, I was going to try to find the exact wording and I couldn't, had a very short synopsis.  It basically said that the main character John became obsessed with the idea of becoming a tree, so he goes into his backyard and "plants himself" and awaits the metamorphosis.

And yeah, that is what happens.  No, it's not all that happens though.  In fact, I had a eerie feeling pretty early on, because by minute 20 or so, John has already made up his mind and he was already in the backyard.  It was then I knew, some dumb crap will probably happen to throw all this shit for a loop, cause otherwise this movie would barely make 30 minutes.

And it does.  I will say, this movie never went full on bad, but it has many unnecessary and extraneous moments.  There's a whole bit of "comedy" about the mental hospital coming for John with a straight jacket.  There's a "groovy" surreal bit where he watches a woman ride a horse.  But most interestingly, and perhaps even well done, was a bit of a deep dive into the relationship between John and his wife Jane, who generic names aside, have what appears to be a very deep and loving relationship.  We can see the true depth of feelings Jane has for John as he gets more and more into the tree idea, which would obviously point to marital problems.

This being 1975, I was genuinely curious to see how this movie would end.  A big part of me suspected he would actually turn into a tree.  After all, the movie had already stepped into surreal territory once, and obviously it wasn't going to end with the main character going to the hospital, killing himself, or waking up.  Spoiler warning, in the end John does turn into a tree.  His wife comes and touches his leaves.  Pan out.  Credits.  Okay...?

In the end, I wasn't sure exactly if I liked this or not.  I will categorize it as something that if you watch it when you're young it would probably stick with you.  It reminds me a bit of all the bizarre weird shit I saw on the other boxset.  The movie with the whale song dude.  The weird movie with the aliens.  Alien Prey.   (By the way it's been a full year since I finished Sci Fi Invasion and reviewed it!  My god time flies)

Maybe this movie could have actually been on that set...?  It felt thematically similar wherein it has an interesting premise, but for some reason it's hard to follow, and it leaves you with a general feeling of "wait...what?"  It has an ambiguity about it and I won't lie, it's an ambiguity I am growing to really appreciate.  For some reason, these movies have stayed with me.  I guess it's the perfect amount of bizarre feel, unanswered questions, strange but likable characters, and at times parts of the film that were actually quite good.  The acting, the way the characters interact, it's actually really good in a lot of these films.  It feels heartfelt.

This movie was based on a play, which again points to things I normally enjoy.  Dialogue is cryptic yet refreshing, enigmatically pushing forward.  I don't want to sound like I'm hyping this movie too much though, cause it certainly was a bit boring and very difficult to love.  But I did like it, and I do give it 3.5 stars.  Which seems awfully high, but who cares.

Thursday, May 31, 2018

The Driver's Seat - 1974

Some actors get a reputation outside of cinema, which affects how they're seen in the public eye, the movies they're cast in, and much more.  This phenomena is not particularly something I care about.  I have always been of the opinion that an actor is an actor.  What they do in their private life doesn't fucking matter.  It has no effect at all on how they act.

I love Daniel Day Lewis.  I tell this to my buddy.  "Dude, Daniel Day Lewis is an asshole," he says.  First of all, how would you know that?  Have you met him?  "Apparently on set Daniel Day Lewis was a major dick to XYZ actor or actress and director."  Obviously if this was Weinstein level bad I'd give a fuck.  But just "being an asshole?"  Who gives a fuck?!  First of all, who knows why he was doing that.  Maybe the actor had it coming.  Second of all, it DOESN'T FUCKING MATTER.  Did it effect Lewis's performance?  Fuck no it didn't, the dude is amazing.

Elizabeth Taylor is an actress like this.  Married like 8 times, bout to fits of weirdness and intensity, she garnered quite a reputation outside of cinemas.  She's a gay icon.  She's controversial.  She has all sorts of legends and cult followings.  Do I give a shit?  Fuck no.  But movies like The Driver's Seat get reputed as legendary because she is acting weird in it, and thus it gets some giant cult following.  Well, okay.  Giant-ish following.  It's not super known.

People do agree with me in their online reviews that this movie induces a general sense of "what the hell?"  It played at Cannes and garnered similar reviews.  It's a movie with an electric feel to it, something you want to watch, but cannot comprehend, and don't know how to interpret.  I watched it with equal parts interest and disgust, love and hate, boredom and intrigue.

Elizabeth Taylor stars as Lise, an eclectic and bizarre, enraged and unexplained character.  She is prone to extremely weird dialogue and actions, doing seemingly incomprehensible things at random.  In the beginning she buys a shirt, then later flips out when she learns it is stain free.  This is by far not out of character for her the way she's written.  This movie was an exercise in having bizarre things for Lise to say and do with nothing to explain or restrain her.

Driver's Seat feels like it was made purely to capitalize on the weirdness factor, which means it's a precursor to the self aware.  Also it was definitely going for the "experimental film" thing.  It even has Andy Warhol in it, in a small role.  Eventually, things do get explained a bit, but not to the point where they make sense.  Just to the point where someone couldn't get mad and say the movie had no plot.

It's not a great film.  It has it's moments of comedy and weirdness and sexuality that shine through, but overall, it just feels like a garbled mess, and it does feel exploitative.  Oh, and surprise surprise, this was a return to the 70's boxset!  I actually went back to it, like a druggie with a bad habit.  I think others would like it way more than I did, but I will still give it 2.5 stars
Two guesses where two of the stars come from.

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Iced - 1988

I texted my new girl, sort of paid attention, ran through a array of different emotional and sexual feelings, and generally "lived" while I watched Iced last night.  I also ate dinner.  Chicken, cauliflower and bell pepper tacos.  Don't judge me.

There's not a lot to talk about with Iced, it's some subpar late 80's horror slasher that I watched solely because it was on some dudes IMDb list of movies from the 80's that were bad.  And well, it was.  It was both from the 80's and it was bad.

Iced is a long shot from the early 80's horror flicks.  This one is a bit more self aware, it is going for a more complete story versus just delivering the scares.  It even has some Scream like self-commentary moments, but they are few and mostly amateurish.  Specifically they make comments about how there "would normally be a killer targeting the hot women, who would be killed while naked, or having sex, or both" and then later on in the movie, the women are killed while you guessed it, being naked, having sex or both.

Sex is weird huh?  I was thinking while I was watching this movie, the overarching moral lesson behind a lot of horror movies seems to be that sex is bad.  Is sex bad?  Perhaps we missed the lesson though.  Maybe it has nothing to do with sex.  My second thought is vulnerability.  I think as a species we are extremely aware of when we're vulnerable.  Physically I mean.

Sex is a very vulnerable place to be.  You're concentrating on something which is taking so much of your attention, it's an action which is not associated with your immediate survival, you're naked or undressed, you don't have your weapons or your protection with you.  Perhaps we misinterpret the moral lesson now because we see movies doing things we don't understand.  We see the killer targeting sexually active people because "sex is bad" and not because of the vulnerability factor.  Also, when it's usually the women that are killed?  The reason could more so be that the killer is eliminating our survival as a species.  We know, obviously, that the human race is going to survive an average horror movie.  But it's a microcosm for what we're ultimately afraid of in our roots as a small tribe of hunter/gatherers.  If a predator was targeting our women, we would completely die out, having no way to keep the line going without reproduction.

It's these things that make me adore horror movies.  Horror movies speak to a base primal part of who we are as people.  Provided of course that you look beyond what's immediately apparent and you're willing to dig into the root of the question "why?"  Why we're afraid of another person being the killer, for example.  It's not just cause humans are powerful and smart.  It's because we HAVE to be around other humans to survive.  As a species we're extremely vulnerable when we're alone.  Hence, we join a group, tribe if you will.  What would be worse than finding out that someone you brought into your tribe, that you trusted with your life, is now hunting you?

Iced says none of this because it settles for having a ski-masked killer hunting a group of friends at a ski resort in the mountains.  There's about 4-5 friends, and they get picked off while we get clues as to what happened, who the killer may be, and the history behind why the killer may be killing.  But mostly the focus is on some decent kills, plenty of topless scenes with big ol' titties, and average pacing/dialogue/acting/whatever else we judge these flicks by.

I sound like I liked this movie, which I guess in retrospect I did, kind of.  It was fine.  Nothing too memorable or nothing that stood out.  It worked.  I give it 2.5

Friday, May 25, 2018

Help Me... I'm Possessed - 1976

I like the use of a good ... in a sentence.  For dramatic effect, randomly changing topics, style of writing.  I've probably made use of it countless times.  Yet, I don't think I have once used it in a movie title, and I doubt it's in many other titles.

Help Me... is the story of a classic mad scientist.  In fact, it had many tropes that are time tested.  It has a hunchback, it has exploitation, it has torture scenes, it has half naked women, it even has weird pacing and stuffy actors!  See, all the things one would expect are here, I told ya dawg.

So we have 70's, but conversely this was not on the boxset.  I told you, I'm taking a motherfucking break.  But I am also continuing my 1976 marathon, though I guessed this was a different year when I guessed earlier.  It feels like its been a little while since I saw a 76 film, but reality is it really has not been very long.  Whatever.

Help Me is the story of the mad scientist and his hunchback cohort, living in the desert, doing experiments on a few people in their basement.  There has been a string of killings lately, so a cop comes poking around but the scientist is able to convince him they have nothing to do with the killings.  Then the scientists wife shows up and meets the scientist, his crazy sister, and eventually uncovers the sinister experiments the bro is doing in his basement.

Its... average.  See there?  I used the ...  But yeah, it is quite average.  It should have had nudity, is my primary thought.  It's like an sexploitation in quality, but since it has no skin, it's basically just a worse than average exploitation flick.  Which, honestly, I could take or leave.  It's pretty much nothin', it's blah, it's bland.  Acting is underacting.  Music is under-scoring.  The look is pretty much nothing.  This whole movie left no real impact.  In other words.

There's like a few moments of entertainment, and it might be fun to watch with friends or while drinking.  But it's got many other, better films I'd recommend for such ventures first.  1.5 stars.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

The Prey - 1984

Remember when this blog was bursting with enthusiasm from a bad film seeker?  Remember the jovial and uncontainable fire that belched forward from me when I would watch some shitty movie?  I think watching these boxsets has killed a lot of my former enthusiasm for this.  It was something I deeply, deeply wanted to do, that I'd wanted to do for years, but I do think that it may have been a mistake.

The problem is that I don't really watch anything else when I'm in the sets.  It feels like, if I'm gonna watch something dumb, it may as well be the bad movie that's on the set versus the one that isn't.  Also, I do like some of the movies on the set.  But in the meantime, it becomes a tremendous chore to keep going through the set movies.  I wish there was an easy answer.

But nights like last night may be part of the answer.  I was trying to find a certain movie on youtube, one which I did not find naturally.  But it recommended this movie, The Prey to me.  It looked like a subpar 80's horror, and for some reason that greatly excited me.  I went home, did my laundry, cooked some pasta, and sat down to The Prey.

The Prey is a good example of the average Friday the 13th copycat.  It is almost the exact same flick as The Forest, which I reviewed over three years ago!  Wow dude, I have officially been doing this blog for way too long.  Similar to The Forest, it shares a lot more in common with Memorial Day Massacre now that I think of it.  Prey came before MDM though, so you know.  Just for completion, here is the link to the other movie that The Prey was similar to, The Final Terror.

Create the checklist here with me:  A group of six attractive teenagers are going to go camping in the wilderness.  There's a old forest ranger who saw something creepy years ago, a lone weirdo who was burned and wandering around the woods alone.  The group of six teens gets all hot and heavy on their first night in the woods, and the next morning two of them go missing.  Could it have to do with the perspective shots that play every once in a while accompanied by the sound of a beating heart?

Along with perspective shots, there are also plenty of psuedo-artsy shots of animals in relative close up, with bizarre music playing to accompany them.  Ants scurrying, worms, snakes, beetles, whatever the case may be.  The best was when a ranger comes across a vulture.  Inter-cutting his anguished face, the body the vulture was feasting on, the vulture itself, again and again, with strange music blasting, and with a scree of noise building....  It was fucking glorious.

I needed a tone shift drastically.  Maybe I'll take a two or three month break from the 70's set.  Cause you know what?  I actually had a GOOD TIME last night.  This movie was pretty good, but it wasn't just that.  Relaxing, not watching some forced 70's comedy or something, seeing horror and 80's, and something linear, I honestly could give this movie 5 stars just based on the night I had last night.  I didn't even drink!  No beer at all, I haven't really been doing the weed thing in a very long time, and I had a tremendous time watching this.

Speaking objectively, it was actually a good movie.  It was well paced, it was only an hour 17 minutes so it wasn't overly long.  It saved the monster to the end, the characters were like-able and the story made sense.  The kills were not shown for the most part, but good when they happened.  The whole thing was good.  It was a great average slasher.  It even left it open for a sequel!  Which, in another dimension, maybe this had the dozen or so sequels that other, lesser horror tropes had.  Why it's not better known is beyond me.  4 stars.

Friday, May 18, 2018

Frantic - 1988

I've only been updating the blog with movies from the boxsets lately.  There are multiple reasons for this.  Please see my review of Against a Crooked Sky  for some insight as to why this might be.  Also, what I didn't mention is that I've been writing a lot of other things recently.  This actually dates back to early last year, when I started writing my first movie script.

I wrote two full movie scripts, and I wrote about 6 partial scripts.  I wrote my "show" which has two complete scripts for 30 minute shows.  I also wrote a script of Workaholics to enter a contest.  All this writing drains me bro.  I can't write nonstop for "work" and then also write for fun on a movie blog.

Buuuuuuut, here I am reviewing a well known Polanski movie.  What can I say?  Life is confusing like that.  I'm also going to try and write a script for Bob's Burgers in the next two weeks.  Although I'm sure it's probably stressful and shitty to work in television, someone's gotta do it right?

Frantic is a great title and a great movie, directed by Roman Polanski, the OG child molester we hate to admit that we love.  Harrison Ford, John Mahoney, Dominique Pinon, and others star in the fast paced and well plotted 1988 flick.

Early on, about say 15 minutes in, Harrison Ford's wife has mixed up her suitcase with another that looks like it at the airport.  She receives a call while Ford is in the shower, and she goes out to meet the people who supposedly have her real suitcase.  She is promptly kidnapped.  Then the rest of the movie, right up until the hour forty or so minute mark, is all Harrison Ford tracking her down to get her back.

The tension is great, the soundtrack great.  The acting, obviously great.  Harrison Ford reminds me a bit of Daniel Day Lewis, I realize, maybe that's why I like him.  But fuck, you know, let's talk about what's NOT great a tiny bit.

First of all, the kidnappers basically never make any attempt to contact Ford's doctor character Richard Walker.  They turn out to be after a miniature electronic thingy hidden in a Statue of Liberty souvenir.  Well, why don't they EVER try to get it from Walker?  They could have called him about 15 minutes after they kidnapped the wife, and just made the trade.  Second of all, Walked finds a matchbox in the suitcase.  It happens to have the name and phone number of the guy he needs to contact.  Why?  Because movie magic.  In real life, it would have been some useless phone number, perhaps to a pizza delivery restaurant.  Third, the female that's tossed in as eye candy for the audience and temptation for Ford is just ridiculous.  A druggie punk, who stays with Ford just "cause" basically, it's not done particularly well.  Also, it's good and all, but I still think 2 hours total was maybe a little long.  Surely about 15 minutes of the filler could have been cut....

It's a good movie, it's fun to watch, and it's quintessential for a Ford enthusiast like myself.  4 stars.