Wednesday, June 14, 2017

The Final Terror - 1983

I believe I was about halfway through this movie when I decided it was pretty awesome.  That was a nice feeling.  The Final Terror, which is a pretty awful name, was actually pretty awesome!  Other names up for contention, by the way, were: The Creeper, Three Blind Mice, The Forest Primeval, and Bump in the Night.  I get it, it's hard to name horror movies.  I do get it.

The Final Terror was step on the ladder for many of the people in it, which is always a good sign.  Director Andrew Davis later directed a classic Steven Seagal film, Under Siege, as well as one of my favorite Harrison Ford films, The Fugitive, an Academy Award winning film.  The film also stars Joe Pantoliano, Daryl Hannah, Rachel Ward, and Adrian Zmed.  A lot of them got famous literally about a year or two after this was filmed, which was in 1981.  That was enough to push this film finally out into theaters in 1983.

The charm of this movie, and the reason that I decided I liked it, is the complete picture.  This film has it all.  Like I said it has the actors.  Then, the music is great.  The music is always an important part of the horror film genre, where little things like atmosphere make all the difference.  Shot in the beautiful redwood forests of north California, the setting looks amazing.  Finally there's the actual horror elements which come into play as well.

Plot first, several friends are going up to the woods to go camping (original, right?!).  They are driven there by a generally pissed off and cranky Joe Pantoliano.  The friends are eight people, I think.....  There might have been too many characters, that is one thing I'll say straight out.  They're driving up to somewhere way up a river, to do a mix of camping and rafting.  Once they arrive, it's camping, pranking each other, and scary stories told around the fire.  Soon enough, a prank is played on Marco and he goes missing.  All the group sets off to search for him, and then the kills begin.

I mentioned there are a lot of characters in this.  The group of friends is big, and I'm not entirely sure why that is.  In fact, I thought early on, and on reflection I still think that Daryl Hannah never has a single line.  That's because there's just too many characters, and I sort of got them confused.  When everyone is a attractive blonde/brunette except for the two black characters, it's very easy to get the whitey's confused.  Most of the characters also do very little.  Besides walking around, screaming when need be and other such reactions, they are mostly just there.

But one thing I liked and why I decided I liked this movie is that about the halfway point, one character is dead and one is kidnapped, and none of the friends know it yet.  The friends find a cabin in the woods where it seems the killer is living.  As they look around the cabin, the killer is holding the kidnapped girl below the floorboards, machete held to her face.  It's a cool, chilling sequence.  And that's when I realized that plot aside, this movie was a cool mix between Texas Chainsaw and Friday the 13th.

The difference between a slasher like Friday and a horror thriller like Texas is of course, the grittiness and the disgust associated with the killer.  Leatherface in the first few Texas movies is disgusting, putrid, surrounded with decay and mental instability.  Whereas Jason is superhuman, almost a hero, and never really threatened, Leatherface is just a fucked up big guy in an apron.  These small things done to give the killer a level of humanity or depth are really where a horror movie can up it a notch.  Nothing is scarier than knowing that the guy after you might not just kill you.  He might do fucked up, sick or just plain hurtful things to you first.

The other interesting thing, spoiler alert I suppose, is that there's not a lot of deaths in this movie.  Most of the characters live.  This to me is a lot more realistic of a plot.  Despite the fact that the end had a small dumb plot point, this movie felt super realistic to me in a lot of ways.  Basically every part of this could and might happen.  There's no glaring parts that were idiotic like so many of these movies.  There were no supernatural parts.  This movie felt very honest about it's intention, and it was very well done in that way.

Amazon Prime has really shitty quality, and I bet that watching this on DVD would have been an almost 5 star experience.  However, I am only going to give it 4 because the quality was god awful.  Also, some scenes it's hard to tell exactly what was happening.  There's a scene where for some reason the girl who can't swim randomly gets out of the boat, and I have no idea why.  Also, the end was pretty dumb with a last minute, predictable twist.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Jason Goes to Hell - 1993

Where does that phrase "jumping the shark" come from, anyways?  I have no idea.  I think it refers to Evel Knievel jumping sharks, but since that's considered "cool" and "jumping the shark" is considered bad, I wonder bout these things.  I guess the vernacular phrases we use every day rarely have reasons for why they exist, and language as a form makes no fuckin sense anyways.

Jason Goes to Hell is a very "jump the shark" moment in the Friday the 13th series.  It had perhaps already jumped when Jason went to Manhattan, however at this point it seriously went just plain fucking wrong.  Jason, without any explanation whatsoever, can suddenly change bodies?!  In the first opening scene, which is again never explained, a girl typically runs from Jason only to have the police ambush him and literally blow him up.  Except that his heart doesn't blow up, which apparently means he's still alive.  But his body is destroyed, so now he can literally infest the "idea" of Jason into other people?!

Some red lights fly out of Jason's chopped up body, infest the morgue attendant, and soon he consumes the heart of Jason which makes him into a psycho killer.  The temporary bodies Jason is in run out after some time, so he not only kills people randomly, but kills people with the intention of hopping bodies.  That's all well and good, and later it turns out that he can indeed be stopped, as long as it's at the hand of someone that's related to him.  He has a sister that's alive, as well as her baby daughter.  So it's up to them to stop Jason permanently by stabbing him in the heart with a special dagger.

Ugh.  If it sounds like this is stupid and/or complex, that's cause it is stupid.  It's complex, not in a good way, but in a way that makes you angry and realize just how low the bar was set at this point.  In Jason Goes to Manhattan, at least Jason was legitimately in the film, he had a reason to go to Manhattan, and it was such a small change to the series that is was fine.  In this one, it's not only fucking with the location, but with the mythology, the killer, the basic story elements, etc.

There are quite a bit of kills, and so therefore we come to the one part of the movie that is acceptable: the violence.  There's tons of kills in this, and a lot of them are pretty creative.  Also, I guess that the whole idea of Jason switching bodies is kind of cool, it's just that it needed to be introduced WAY before this dumbass film in order for it to make sense.  Also, there is never an explanation given as to how Jason comes back after being killed in this one.  I guess that was spoiler alert, Jason dies in the end, by the ways indicated, and then in Jason X, Jason just randomly is back at it.

So, this movie was pretty awful, and in fact these three (Manhattan, Hell, X) and even Freddy Versus Jason could all be seen as why this franchise is effectively dead unless they reboot it again like they did in 09.  Anyways, whatever, 1 star.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

There's Nothing Out There - 1991

The IMDb plot summary of this movie reads: "When a horror film buff tries to warn his friends of impending danger during March Break, they scoff at him, that is, until sinister things begin to happen."  Sound familiar?  Cause to me it sounds sort of like Scream.  Wes Craven is a genius obviously, but I do wonder what would've happened if this film had perhaps a tiny bit more talent behind it or any known name.

There's Nothing Out There (TNOT) plays out like a version of Scream that's about 45% sillier, and 100% more amateur.  This movie has, instead of ghostface killer, a weird mutant tadpole monster that I honestly don't think was ever explained.


It's the classic plotline as lampooned by The Cabin In The Woods.  Seven friends in an isolated cabin and one of them is a horror film aficionado.  They go through the typical bullshit as the wary horror film friend forewarns about the impending doom.  This was all well and good until there was an actual part where one of the characters is trying to escape the monster in the film, then suddenly a boom mic is visible.  The character sees it and actually grabs it and swings on it to escape the creature.  If that's not breaking the fourth wall, I don't know what is.

So it's incredibly self aware (at times) and it is basically a comedy in those ways wherein it glorifies it's "cleverness" and also it's "self awareness".  These things combined would not only make it a precursor to Scream, but the entire horror genre circa 2017.  I am trying to say that this is basically how a lot of horror films now are, especially low budget independent ones.  They are self aware as fuck, they have their intentions visible from scene one, and they make their characters and plot and everything secondary to that.

This film does follow that formula, hell one could say this film is the definition of that formula.  And I have to say, as impressive as that is, the novelty wore down.  The first 45 minutes I was pretty optimistic, and I wanted to like this and give it a great review.  In time, it wore out it's welcome and I was pretty bored.  The problem was that even with tits, monsters, originality, etc, this movie never felt like it was that interesting.  It just sort of kept going, and instead of being interested, I was bored and antsy.  That and I drank too much in the beginning so I was pretty drunk.

So I will admit that perhaps my short attention span was due to being drunk, but I doubt I missed out on much.  I'll give it 3 stars, and I'll scratch it off my list.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Strike Commando - 1987

Back to back with two of the most infamously bad directors.  Godfrey Ho represented China, and now Bruno Mattei represents Italy.  Bruno Mattei is known for the Z grade of action film which this film represents perfectly, and it also stars Reb Brown of Space Mutiny fame.  I've touched on Bruno Mattei with the fun Terminator and Aliens rip off Shocking Dark as well as the other type of film he's known for, sleazefest exploitation films like Women's Prison Massacre.

Strike Commando is sort of like your average run of the mill actioner that is set in the Vietnam war.  Reb Brown stars as the incredibly dull, completely undeveloped good guy who needs to find out the hidden link between Russia and Vietnam.  He is given permission to investigate this in his own method, which means no team and no pesky commanders.  But then once he gets captured, it means no help is coming either.

The capture scene and escape was reminiscent of The Deer Hunter, but the movie this really ripped off was Rambo part 2.  In part two, Rambo was sent to Vietnam by a bunch of uncaring diplomats that turned their back on him once he was out the door.  If Deer Hunter is first rate (which it is) and if Rambo 2 (sure, that works) was second rate, then that puts Strike Commando probably in....6th rate.  Yeah, this movie was not "good" in any sense.

Doing about 5 minutes of research just now, I found something kind of odd.  Reb Brown was mostly an action film star, nothing weird about that.  However, it's funny cause all of his action movies are based around Vietnam.  Now, I know there's nothing really odd about that, he was the right age and all.  It's just funny to me that one actor would end up getting cast as a Vietnam-era soldier multiple times.  He must've felt at the end like he practically did go to Vietnam.  He probably spent more time on the sets of movies about Vietnam then some actual soldiers spent in Vietnam.

All side tracking aside, this movie was not good.  It was the sort of movie that makes you watch, you don't get side tracked as easily as some other films, however I kept wondering how much was left, and I kept noticing how second rate everything was.  Reb Brown makes a really uninteresting star also.  It's no wonder he never "took off" as a star.  Being Captain America in the 70's and acting in one movie with Gene Hackman are no doubt his career highlights, and I am not surprised in any way.

The film was made in the Philippians, and the scenery is nice.  It would look better on a high transfer DVD instead of Amazon Prime, but hey I take what I get.  According to the 2 minutes of research I just did, this is not available on DVD at all, which would not be surprising since it's public domain no doubt and I'm sure no one gives a shit about it in any way shape or form.

I give it a subpar film, Z grade in intention 2.5 stars.  It was actually not all that bad.  Good riff fodder probably.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Crocodile Fury - 1988

There's a natural allure to Godfrey Ho movies that I cannot explain, and that I sometimes wonder about the sanity of people everywhere because of.  I went out in SF last night, to our local Alamo Drafthouse theater, and caught this in a tiny theater, and I was one of 40 people there.  This is one of those infamous "dice and splice" movies that Ho is known for.  Take several scenes from movie A, and randomly cut in movie B, and act like it goes together.

Another point in the plus category for this movie is that it has literally zero information on IMDb.  The director and one actor is listed, and that is the extent of information they have about this, apparently.  I'm half inclined to go on there and list the "plot" but I like the blank, anonymous look of the page too much to alter it.

So, since you can't get it from IMDb, here it is in my words:  Maria is a crocodile.  Or, I should say, Maria can turn into a crocodile.  She is in a small village, casually killing dozens of people, when her lover Jack finds her and tells her she must stop.  How will they live together in the next life if she dirties her karma with dozens killings?  Maria is one of several crocodile/human hybrids sent by witch master Monica.  Monica also has the traditional hopping vampire at her disposal, and it's up to Jack to stop her.

This movie was completely incomprehensible.  I don't mean that as an insult, nor do I mean it as an over-exaggeration.  Seriously, this movie made no fucking sense.  First of all, it's a Chinese movie with English dubbing and Greek subtitles.  The only known DVD version permanently has Greek subtitles, just in case, you know.  So it's another situation where, who knows if the original Chinese (or even the Greek subtitles for that matter) made sense, but the English certainly didn't.  It's pretty near impossible to follow the story lines, there are tons of names being thrown out, and honestly I didn't know who half the characters were.

Going into this, it's like watching the aftermath of a tornado.  Especially if it was a town you'd never been to that got hit by a tornado.  You wouldn't know what it was supposed to look like originally.  An entire water tower or something could've been ripped out of the place, and you wouldn't know cause you had never seen the water tower there.  Half of buildings would be missing, but you'd only be able to guess what it originally had looked like.  It's like looking at a half finished painting.  And especially, an abstract painting.  Something that was by definition random and at the artistic discretion of the artist.

Let me see here.  I dunno.  I want to try and explain more about how exactly little sense this movie makes, but just thinking about it gives me a headache.  It's not terrible, it's just that it gets tedious watching something, even at only 85 minutes long, when you have no clue what's happening, why, and where it's all going.  There's like, a fight scene or two, there's crocodile puppets flying through the air, there's bad acting and dialogue, stuff happens, and then randomly the words The End, and you're wondering, "Wait it's over?!  What the fuck happened in that movie?!"

The ending was abrupt, and I was glad that I wasn't the only one in the theater to think this.  It feels like this movie could've kept going forever, not that I was enjoying it, but, just because there was never a semblance of plot and they just randomly decided to end it at one point.  So in the spirit of that,

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Oh, God! - 1977

This is perhaps my first and only review of a movie I watched based solely on the internet show On Cinema At The Cinema.  I watched season seven or whatever it was when Gregg Turkington did a bunch of location shooting for the film Oh, God!  I decided shortly thereafter that I should watch the movie, based solely upon the fact that Gregg likes the movie both in character and in person.

The movie is actually awesome despite it sort of being lampooned on On Cinema, and it has aged. This movie is one of those that's got a really interesting, inquisitive nature about the world and then dresses it up in comedy.  I completely love the idea of taking serious topics and turning them into comedy.  If we can't laugh at the nature of life, ourselves, our beliefs, and the world then what in the hell can we laugh at anyways?  This movie was not laugh out loud funny, but more of a quiet, bizarre comedy.

Jerry Landers is a completely normal guy, assistant manager at a local grocery store and a firm agnostic.  He one day gets a letter that says that God wants to meet him at a building at a specific time.  He reluctantly goes after extenuating circumstances, and meets George Burns as God.  God is a somewhat grouchy older man, who gives a lot of non-answers but makes a certain type of sense in an aloof, disconnected sort of way.  He also does prove himself to Jerry's satisfaction, and he tells Jerry that he must spread God's word, much like Jesus or Moses.

The best part of this movie though, for me, was to try and imagine myself in these circumstances.  It's funny, because I've been agnostic all my life, and I basically don't think about death, life after death, god, satan, the whole situation.  And I know there are people out there, right now, every day, who swear up and down, on lie detectors and the whole deal, that they have seen or spoke to god.  So what motivates these people, and I guess when it comes down to it, how do we know if someone has ever actually seen god.  More importantly, what would we do as individuals if we saw god, if god asked us to spread his word?  It was a fun question that was addressed in a refreshingly non-religious sort of way.

This movie was highly entertaining, and it's easy to see why sequels were made.  I think it's interesting in a bizarre way that it seems people who claim to see god are labeled as crazy, at least in my book.  I always wonder about what actually convinces these people they've seen him, and one can only guess and wonder.  It's a topic that I think people don't think about or talk about enough.

But still, this movie remains casually aloof from the whole thing.  It's not out to convert anyone, and it addresses the whole thing in such a way where all the question and answer sections are good enough to appease anyone, and to where some questions are wisely avoided.  Basically it says the reason for existence is what we make it, we believe what we want, and as long as we're good to each other we are following god's plan.  I think that's a nice message anyone could get behind.

John Denver as Jerry was a weird casting choice, but he works I guess.  George Burns is fantastic as God, and the rest of the cast is good.  It's a solidly entertaining flick that surprised me with how much I liked it.  4 stars.

Monday, May 8, 2017

Reptilicus - 1961

In case you've been living under a rock or you've been wondering where da fuck I been at, the new season on Mystery Science Theater 3000 launched on Netflix pretty recently.  I've been watching that in my spare time, and I also got into watching actual good movies too, lately, again.  I watched the movie The Fly from 1958, a definitely 5 star, 5 bag of popcorn treat that I loved.

But back to MST3K, I'm not going to go into the new episodes too much, but one movie they riffed which I'd also seen recently-ish was Reptilicus.  Reptilicus was the Danish answer to the recent hit Godzilla, a giant monster movie that was made to capitalize off of it's success.  This was quite the fun movie for me to see, as I'm always up for a giant monster and destruction of that sort.

From everything I can find, it doesn't look like this was ever in 3D, but there are several parts where giants monster goo comes flying at the screen, so that's kinda cool.  Sorry, sort of a random thought there.  I'm super fucking hung over today.  I didn't even drink that much.  I just had like a shot and a beer at night!  What the fuck.  I did drink all day, obviously, but towards the night I was sobering up and barely had any at all!  Fucking body.  Thanks a bunch.

Back to Reptilicus, this is one of those slow developing films.  In the beginning, a group of guys find a giant frozen reptile tail.  A scientist accidentally leaves the freezer door open and falls asleep, and the tail thaws out over night.  Then it starts regenerating, growing, and all that good stuff.  Soon enough, all of Denmark is up shit creek as a monster starts crushing buildings and spitting green acid goo all over the place.

This was the first episode of the revamped MST3K show, and as an episode it's pretty solid.  The movie is for sure one that could be riffed and enjoyed, it's pretty perfect for that sort of treatment.  As a movie aside from that experience, it's decent.  It's a bit clunky and forced, but it's good to see another take on the Godzilla idea, and the monster is pretty cool looking.  I'll also say that it doesn't feel quite as old as it is.  I guessed it was in the 70's when I was writing the title above.  So, that's pretty cool.

It's entertaining enough, nothing too memorable or awesome or anything.  A very average 3 stars.