Friday, February 27, 2015

Progeny - 1998

I'm frankly surprised Brian Yuzna and Stuart Gordon are not better known, more revered, and are not still active today.  Their movies give the impression of people with a passion, a desire to make film, and original thought and creativity.  Sure, they are in their late 60's today, but many actors and directors are in it till death.  Perhaps it is just health, perhaps it is lack of funding.  Whatever the reason, it's sad that these two pioneers have perhaps filmed their last movies already.

Everyone knows Re-Animator as a quintessential 80's horror film.  And as I've reviewed in my blog, From Beyond is also a tremendous horror film.  Their movies are highly original, interesting, well done, well acted, creepy, and technically well executed.

A lot of Yuzna's films seem to revolve around intelligent people who are also a little crazy, or are messed up in a crazy situation.  The Dentist 1 and 2 is all about the mental deterioration of the titular dentist, his two Re-Animator films of course revolve around the little crazy and brilliant scientist main character.  And while it is not uncommon for horror films to have these types of main characters, it is kind of interesting to note that.

Progeny is in the same group.  The main character is Doctor Craig Burton (Arnold Vosloo, from those new Mummy movies).  He and his wife Sherry are making love one night when a bright light envelopes them and they discover that 2 hours has vanished.  While Sherry sort of dismisses it, he is stuck on how strange that really was.  When he develops a reaction to bright lights and surgical tools, he checks himself into therapy and undergoes regression hypnosis.  He discovers he remembers someone in their room, being lifted off his wife, and her being taken away.

Then Sherry announces to Craig that she is pregnant.  All is joyful, but too brief, as soon the pregnancy starts to cause her pain, and she pinpoints the night of conception to that horrible night when Craig remembers her being taken.  He has Sherry undergo hypnosis, and she tells a horror story of white squirmy aliens, experimentation, and a very creepy, well done impregnation by the aliens.

Soon, Dr. Craig Burton and Sherry begin to drift apart, it could be the influence from the thing inside her but she begins to want to keep the baby, and he wants to get it out of her.  When Craig hears of a alien specialist named Dr. Clavell (Brad Dourif), he calls him and tries to get his help.  Now it's up to the two of them to force whatever is growing inside of Sherry out.

This movie was pretty amazing.  It was very thoughtful, it was just the right level of realistic and sciency.  What I love about some movies like this is the strict line they walk between what is revealed and what is not.  This movie really never comes out and says explicitly if the aliens actually exist or not.  All we know is what these people remember from their hypnosis, that and a few things the main characters see, but those that could be written off as stress related visions.

Another thing this movie touches on, briefly, is why the aliens would look like they do.  It's a brief, slightly confusing sentence, spoken by alien expert Clavell, but it's smart, and a great little touch.  Another cool thing is that as the aliens have Sherry experience all these past memories while they have her.  There are these brief flashes she has, memories of her childhood, of random other things.  It is a really cool idea to show exactly what the aliens are doing.  We never really know their ultimate goal here, but you would have to think if aliens did exist, they would not only be experimenting with one part of the humans they kidnapped.

There is also some witty dialogue spoken in the film, which was very well written in general.  One thing I loved was a segment where Dr. Clavell dresses up as a doctor and tries to get Sherry out of the hospital.  Sherry, under the fetus's control, says the great line "He wants to take my baby!  He's a UFO expert!"  and the nurse says "She's flying tonight."  It was a funny moment.  Another cool part is when Craig convinces Clavell to help him.  He offers Clavell the one thing he would need to really prove that aliens exist - solid evidence.  It's just a very realistic, thoughtful approach to keep the story making sense, give the characters justification, and remind us that even though it's a movie, some things really do need explanation.

I also liked the ending a lot.  To spoil it for you, Clavell runs out on Craig in another great segment as he realizes just how carried away with this Craig is.  Craig is then operating on his wife alone, trying to remove the alien from her stomach.  He kills her, injecting her with a drug that will stop her heart, because he thinks this will cause the alien to leave her body.  It does, but then the hospital staff busts the door down.  Then Craig notices it's twenty minutes later than he thought it was.  Meaning, the alien has escaped...and his wife is dead.  You see, he could have brought her back, within three minutes only though.  So the fact the aliens came, wiped his memory, and took twenty minutes of his time means that effectively he was not there to bring his wife back to life, and he is now guilty of her death.

It's a great ending because it pulls no punches, it actually kills her.  Then we get a short segment where Craig, in jail, disappears.  Did the aliens come again, or is it his imagination?  We just never know.  It's a fitting end to a great film.

One other small bonus.  I really had to think about the nudity in this film from a different standpoint than normal.  There isn't much number one, just some shots of Sherry topless.  But it's always done with the aliens, and it's always done in connection with her helplessness and fear.  Thus it does not come off as sexual, which I think was a great achievement.  It comes off as like if you were to view a naked dead body, or when you have to get naked with a doctor.  Cold, unwanted, forced and departed.  It's the kind of thing where it's like watching a really rough rape scene in a movie.  Usually you're not aroused, instead you're kind of grimacing and wondering if you should look away.

I did not want to rate this 5 stars.  I think I should give it 4.  Writing that review made me think 5 was appropriate, but I do think I'll stick to 4. It's just not as good as From Beyond, or Re-Animator, or those other 5 star movies.  It's a little more slow paced, not as many effects, lower budget, and perhaps a bit more amateur in feel.  And given it's late 90's, it should not be "not-as-good" as mid eighties work.  But it is still a great movie, a classic, I highly recommend.

Madhouse - 1974

Madhouse.  Madhouse Madhouse, what to say about Madhouse.  This movie will attract many a viewer is my guess.  It's supposed to.  And yet, it didn't do great upon it's release.  Despite starring Vincent Price, Peter Cushing, Robert Quarry, and having cameos by Basil Rathbone and Boris Karloff.  The other thing about it is that it's an early (1974) send-up to past horror films.  It's both a tribute to Vincent Price and his career, and it's a tribute to the horror films of the past 15+ years.  It has references to Price's career and really it is a movie about and for Vincent Price.  And given that he was and is one of the biggest horror film actors, it should work.  But, it doesn't.

The plot is about an actor, Paul Toombes, who was at the height of his career when an actress died, and he was the likely suspect.  It is made to look like he was the murderer, and he himself almost believes it.  So he goes to a mental institution and is held there for a while, and when he gets out it's from an old friend Herbert (Peter Cushing) who wants him to reprise his famous role as Dr. Death, a killer, and the character he was playing in the film where the actress died.  Toombes initially doesn't want to play Dr. Death, but eventually does agree to it, and then other people start dying.

I was trying to think of why, why when you have such a good cast, and an idea of building a film around a horror icon, why would this not work.  The things that came to my mind are that:
1) Vincent Price's character is not especially likable.  He's not bad, has no unlikable traits to him, he doesn't grind on us or annoy us, but he's just not given anything good about him.  He's not especially smart, very underdeveloped, and doesn't really react in a realistic way to the events that are happening in the film.
2) The deaths are not very well done effects, they are not focused on, and kind of at the background of everything else.  I think if they were given more to do with the film, it would have been better.  In this though they serve as more of an afterthought.
3) The cameos by Karloff and Rathbone are from previous movies they had done with Price.  Did I not mention that?  Yeah, they scooped up footage from Tale of Terror and The Raven, respectively, and they are very brief and serve no function in the movie.  It's an actor playing an actor, the films that Price was actually in are then played as films that the actor he plays in the movie was in.  Does that make sense?
4) The whole ending thing doesn't feel especially well thought out.  It's not given enough build, it's not especially interesting, the twist is kind of a dud, and then the movie is just over.
5) It just has no heart.  That's the biggest flaw.  It comes off as just kind of...cold.  It's not fun, it's doesn't love it's actors or it's idea.  It feels mechanical, by the numbers, and half-hearted.  I guess one should not hope for an over the top soulful horror film, but this just feels too uncaring.

Just for the record, the movie-within-a-movie in this, the Dr. Death thing, also doesn't look especially good.  It looks too hokey and low budget to be believable, and that's another area where this film fails.

The one cool thing I caught was that there is a costume party, and they had Peter Cushing dressed up as Dracula.  It's a neat little send up to all the Dracula movies he was in.  It's things like that that made me want to like this movie, but ultimately I felt rather bored with it, and didn't end up enjoying it too much.

There are also a couple things in the movie that are hinting towards something else going on that never get explained.  In one scene with a fire, Toombes's girlfriend begins to melt in the fire.  So she's made out of wax??  And then there's a scene where a character comes out of a television.  Sure, you could say it's all part of Toombes psyche, he is perhaps mentally unbalanced, but it doesn't work because these aren't recurring visions, they only happen once, and he doesn't even notice the wax thing.

It gets pretty decent reviews online, so I'm willing to say if I were a bigger Vincent Price and drama/horror film fan I might've liked it more.  But I'm not.
1.5 stars

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Killing Car - 1993

Although the original French name is "The Dangerous Woman" this movie is nonetheless known as Killing Car.  It's got a tiny bit of knowledge surrounding it, mostly because director Jean Rollin is known for films such as The Nude Vampire, Two Orphan Vampires, The Living Dead Girl, and some pornography.  Oh yeah, now we're in the Joe D'Amato territory, porn directors that directed some real movies too.

Perhaps it's not too strange that another of my grindhouse boxsets features another film by Rollin, Schoolgirl Hitchhikers, which is a soft core lesbian/action/drama/boring film.  These directors just can't seem to stay off these cheapo DVD boxsets.  That's quite something when your movies are exclusively available on cheapy grindhouse boxsets.

Killing Car has a plot best kept to one sentence:  an Asian woman drives around, shooting people.  Yep.  That's the plot.  Nope, it's not really explained, and yep, it's bad as fuck.

I just want to go on record here and say that I do not agree with the term "exploitation".  I guess when in reference to movies it means "the action of making use of and benefiting from resources" that is so broad that isn't everything "exploitation"?  If you film in Los Angeles aren't you "exploiting" the fact that it's a city that has a lot of resources for filming?  I just think there needs to be another term invented for a movie like this.

This movie falls under that extremely broad term, unfortunately, and I think it's mainly just because it has nothing else it falls under.  But this movie is definitely not exploitation.  It is just some boring French thriller/suspense film about an Asian girl shooting people.  She goes from spot to spot, finds people, kills them, leaves a toy car on the corpse, and drives off.

In the plot we sort of learn that she may have been involved in an accident with a car the same make and model as the one she drives in the movie.  We don't know really what happened, but we can kind of guess it was bad.  But she kills like 20 people in the film, how were they all involved in what happened?

The movie features a little bit of nudity, a tiny bit of blood, no special effects, boring gun fights, sloppy editing, no music or sounds worth mentioning, and zero production value.  It looks like the kind of thing I used to film with my friends in high school, just wander out into an empty parking lot with some fake guns and film an "action" movie.  Somehow, it got picked up and is now available on Netflix, and somehow, people find it and watch it.

The only true spectrum it falls under is that even more broad "experimental cinema".  But at 1993, it was far too late in the game to be making a movie this amateur.  Thus, I have to give it the big zero.  Zero stars, no value, time wasted.

Warriors of the Wasteland - 1983

Also known as "The New Barbarians"

I was trying to think of the most popular post apocalyptic movies last night as I watched Warriors of the Wasteland.  Obviously, The Planet of the Apes, Mad Max, Waterworld, The Omega Man / The Last Man on Earth are all on that list.  Yet, I think Mad Max is the only movie that inspired an entire sub-genre of post apocalyptic films in it's success.  I mean, you don't see many rip offs of Planet of the Apes (Time of the Apes is definitely the best).

What I love about these movies is just how insane they are.  Humanity crumbles for whatever reason, and the whole world turns to shit, and then things get super wacky!  The post apocalypse looks like a lot of fun from these movies!  Even Mad Max, you just have characters and traits and ideas that are so loopy, so out there, that they make me laugh.

Like why, in every post apocalyptic movie there is, do people have weird hair styles?  Did they just find a whole stockpile of styling gel in an underground bunker that survived and think "well, we might as well use it"?  Okay, sure, so mohawks are an ancient hairstyle that shows savage-ness or whatever.  But still!  It's just so weird!  Then the cars.  Oh, the cars.  I love them, but they are insane.  Spikes everywhere, top parts for a mounted gunner, spinning blades, bizarre intakes and exhaust ports.  It's so unpractical, so over the top.  Who in the future is able to construct these things?  Do they have like an advanced arc-welding and electrical school?

Another thing is that I love movies that take place in the middle of nowhere.  What the hell happened to everything?  Did the big apocalypse destroy every single last building frame, cement foundation, tree, bush, etc?  If that's so, how do these people survive?  Mankind could not exist in an endless lifeless desert.  Even resorting to cannibalism, using all our resources and brilliant scientists, you must have water, you must have food, etc.

Warriors of the Wasteland answers none of these questions, but doesn't need to.  Obviously, it's a bottom of the barrel Mad Max rip off, starring some Italian guy and then Fred Williamson.  Fred Williamson plays Nadir, and he is just some relatively relaxed dude that, along with the Italian, protects some group that is being assaulted by baddies on bikes.  That's another thing, so many of these post apocalyptic movies heavily feature motorcycles.  Did the Harley dealership somehow survive the apocalypse?

That was when a thought struck me.  Last night as I was watching I was thinking, so post apocalypse, everyone hops on a bike, spikes their hair, and covers themselves in oil.  Okay, sure.  OR!  OR, the apocalypse killed all the regular people, and the only ones who survived were the kind of people that were already biker mechanics with mohawks.  You know, like instead of the bomb making them like this, they were already like this and then the bomb hit??  An interesting concept.

Is the movie good?  Um, I dunno.  Not really.  It's slightly confusing, has a lot of characters, and it's generally sort of weird.  It keeps you watching, keeps you entertained, and that's something.  The acting and the design of it is good.  The props, the cars, the sets, they are all good.  It's cheap, but it works.  It's like Mad Max, but not as linear or interesting....  It just sort of is?  It's not bad, in other words.  If you like the genre, it's for sure worth a watch.

By the way, this and a few others I have already reviewed are part of my next boxset, Grindhouse Sci-Fi Collection.  I have already reviewed It's Alive, War of the Robots, and The Day Time Ended.  I have seen Galaxy Invader, but will re-watch and re-review for this website.  Next up is Cosmos:  War of the Planets.

I'll give Warriors of the Wasteland 2.5 stars.  It does keep you entertained, and stands out as a cheap but fun movie,  Could drink to it, watch it with friends.  Could even be a favorite to someone out there.  Some dark, lonely soul who owns about 65 action figures, in a box, collecting dust in a basement somewhere.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

The Black Sleep - 1956

Basil Rathbone, Bela Lugosi, John Carradine, Lon Chaney Jr, and Tor Johnson are all in this 1956 horror film, prompting one to think that if they'd gotten Christopher Lee, Boris Karloff and Vincent Price in cameos, they would have just about every well known horror actor from that era in one film.  Sure, Basil Rathbone is not strictly a horror actor, but just look at those fuckin names.  Man, this movie is like "The Expendables" of horror movies.  Tons of great actors all in one place.  Plus it was directed by "The Mummy's Ghost" director Reginald Le Borg.

The problem I had with The Black Sleep is that despite the cast, and despite a relatively well shot movie with a great idea, it's just nothing but boring.  The scenes drag on endlessly, the pacing is slow, the horror scenes are not convincingly executed or interesting, and most of that great cast does little to nothing in the movie.  So those are all very good reasons to avoid this movie.

Basil Rathbone plays Sir Joel Cadman, a very typical crazy doctor dude who has mapped out the human brain.  He recruits another doctor, Dr. Ramsay (played by Herbert Rudley, who was in some well known TV shows and not much else) after saving his life, and shows Dr. Ramsay his goals in brain surgery.  You see, along with mapping the brain he is also doing sinister experiments that messes with the brain, and changes people.  It's exactly what you would guess at this point, he has created a few monsters (Tor Johnson, Bela Lugosi, John Carradine, Lon Chaney Jr) and some of them are semi-threats for the length of the film.

Every other cheesy stereotype here is exploited:  one monster responds to voice commands by only one person (Chaney as Mungo), one monster is a mute servant (Lugosi as Casimir), one monster is the "big burly whatever guy" (Tor Johnson as Mr. Curry), and one is just plain nuts (Carradine as Borg).  Lon Chaney is the only one that is given real credence as a threat, and then he promptly disappears about a third through the film.  Tor Johnson and John Carradine don't show up till the very end.  Lugosi practically could've been played by any actor, he doesn't get to do anything in the film, and is not used at all.  It's pretty fucking lame.

This was Bela Lugosi's last real movie, also.  Given that the footage of him in Plan 9 was shot a while ago, this footage is the last of his to survive.  And it sucks.  He has no fucking lines, he does nothing, and he should've not even been in this movie.  Why do evil scientists always need a mute weirdo anyways?  Wouldn't it be easier to have a guy that can talk?

All joking aside, this movie was dulls-ville, I don't recommend it, and I'm not even saying so bad it's good.  I'm saying, if you watch it while tired you will fall asleep.  I did.  Just for a few seconds.
I give it one star, for the cast.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

The Blood Beast Terror - 1968

Really, just don't know what to say about this one.  You know how some movies have the trailer look way better than the movie, or the poster look amazing, or whatever?  Well this one is kind of like that, except the synopsis is the thing that sounds awesome.  Something is attacking people, draining them of their blood, and leaving their discarded bodies all over the British countryside.  It's up to Peter Cushing as a police detective to find out what it is and stop it.  And what does he find, but a giant fucking were-moth, a girl who turns into an insanely weird moth, and attacks everyone.

Well, that sounds great, you've got 1) good actor 2) giant were-moth 3) a body count.  But is it great?  I don't know.  I guess my point in starting the review this way is that I kind of found it not-so-great.  And not just because of the moth monster lady.  That may have actually been the best part because it was actually a neat little costume, not believable at all mind you, just neat.  The transformation scene sucks of course, they just kind of superimpose the moth costumed thing over the girl as she fades and then wa-bam, were-moth.

There are a few things I liked about this movie.  Number one was Peter Cushing's daughter character, Clare.  She comes along with him to investigate the terror, seemingly just because she can.  It is not really made super clear as to why he'd take her along, other than that he's pretending to be undercover, and she'll help that cover.  But it's really just an excuse to up the character count, and to put her in mild danger later.  But she is written pretty well, she seems very human, and the interaction between her and Cushing seems very natural, very realistic.  Another thing about this relationship is that though he is her father and obviously wants to protect her, he has no issues with her spending time with a local young man.  He's not the typical overprotective police dad.

Another thing I liked was the morgue attendant, played by Roy Hudd.  He is a weirdo, totally off in his own world, talking nonsense, constantly eating food.  There's a great little scene where he's setting up his dinner, and it's literally right next to a dead body's feet, his mug of beer is between the body's legs and the cloth over the body is right by his plate.  He's just a random, quirky little guy, who you have to wonder about because he's just so strange.  He also has one of those really, really British accents, whereas some of the other characters are just regular-British.

But that's mostly it.  The movie moves along at your typical 60's-70's slow pace, the blood is very minimal, and not well done, and the threat from the moth is very under-developed.  One thing that really didn't work was that we see the deaths coming from so far out that you never really are surprised or intrigued when it happens.  The only thing that keeps you watching is that maybe you'll see the moth.

One more thing about the plot, the doctor who is creating these moth-monsters, Dr. Mallinger, is not given a reason really, and he also abruptly changes his mind about the moth monster near the end.  It doesn't really work.  He's not played as crazy, rather he's very sane.  So why did he create a moth woman to begin with?  And when she started to need human blood, that was okay?  And then, when she keeps needing human blood, and kills the gardener, that's the last straw?  Why?  Was the gardener just like, one too many kills?  It's a bit of a plot hole.  He has been working on a second moth too, a cool looking prop that hangs from cobweb-looking things.
So then when he turns into a good guy, he kills this creation by throwing a liquid on it.  A liquid that instantly ignites??  There was not match thrown, no torch, nothing, just instant flames.  Neato.

Well, I won't go on too much more.  it definitely is not a classic, nor is it even necessarily good.  it just is what it is.  I'll give it 2 stars, or something.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

From Beyond - 1986

From the makers of venerable classic Re-Animator comes another cult classic monster movie, From Beyond. I have to admit that this film has eluded my viewing for a long time, the bar had been raised high, and I still loved it. I am a big Brian Yuzna fan. Before I started this blog, I rewatched Society, The Dentist 1 and 2, Return of the Living Dead Part 3, Re-Animator and Bride of Re-Animator, and Amphibious Creatures of the Deep.

I am not only going to say how good this movie is because of it's effects. Although that tends to sway my opinion in a huge way, I can't only love a movie because of that. Unfortunately. Although, thinking about movies that have practical effects (especially when there's lots of them) that I don't like, is pretty hard. I know! Puppet Master. I did not like Puppet Master. There's gotta be others too. I'm just trying to show that effects don't make the movie.

What made this movie was the pacing, the presence of real driving forces behind the characters actions, and genuine creepiness factor. This movie was one of the quickest pacings I have ever seen. Hardly a minute of screen time is just downtime, or wasted, or bland. It's constantly moving the story forward, showing our characters as humans, and reminding us that they are in fear of what is going on in their experience. This is attributed to both the acting, and the script, everything here just works, and it works amazingly well.

The plot involves the creation of a special device, called a Resonator, by Doctor Edward Pretorius and his assistant Crawford (Jeffrey Combs). The Resonator vibrates these tuning fork looking things to a certain frequency, which opens up our range of vision beyond what it normally is. Once tuned into this special channel, they start to see strange eel-like creatures all around, and bizarre jellyfish looking things. The only drawback to this is that the creatures can also see them now, too. Crawford is bitten by an eel, but Doctor Pretorius is decapitated!

Thinking the death of Pretorius was due to Crawford, he is quickly arrested and interrogated by the police. That's when he meets with Doctor Katherine McMichaels, a pretty though conservative and glasses-wearing woman. She becomes Crawford's biggest advocate, speaking out in her belief of his innocence. How to prove his innocence though, well, that's something else. The only way to do that is to re-create the Resonator experiment. Though Crawford warns them of the creatures, and whatever decapitated Pretorius, they go back to the house and turn the machine on again. When they turn on the machine, they see Pretorius, now some mutant creature, and it gets suuuuper weird and dangerous before they turn it off again.

This is where I like the movie, because what they say is that the machine makes the pineal gland in the brain grow, because of the sights you're seeing. What this also does though, it kick up their sex drive at the same time. Something about the pineal gland growing makes them all more aroused. So Doctor McMichaels soon looses the glasses and dresses more revealing, and she is super hot. But I also like it because it gives a clear reason as to why these people want to run the experiment again. They find the arousing feelings enjoyable, perhaps even addictive. And for the sex-reserved doctor, she is perhaps feeling sexual for the first time. She is the main proponent of turning the machine back on.

Needless to say, the machine is eventually turned back on, Pretorius attacks them and is trying to force his way into our world. Katherine and Crawford must battle him and his creepy eels to finally destroy the machine.

This is based on a story by HP Lovecraft, and though I didn't read this particular story, I did read this giant Lovecraft collection, so I am pretty familiar with his work. It does have that traditional feel of Lovecraft, and might I just say right now that Stuart Gordon is perhaps the only director who took Lovecraft books and turned them into good movies? Every other Lovecraft story turned movie is just bad. This, and the Re-Animator series, that's about it.

So to sum up, From Beyond did not disappoint, it was a great movie, and if you like Re-Animator I would definitely recommend it. I wish Brian Yuzna or Stuart Gordon were still making good movies...but, what can you do.

5 stars.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Invasion of the Bee Girls - 1973

This little piece of 70's history is a great exploitation classic.  Writer Nicholas Meyer went on to work in Star Trek, which is pretty cool.  Invasion of the Bee Girls almost would play like one of those old Star Trek episodes, in a way, if you cleaned up all the nudity and had Shatner fighting them, as they tried to seduce him.

It's a simple enough idea, some sort of scientist is genetically altering bees, and somehow this infects nearby girls.  These girls then have sex with men, and they literally wear them out physically in bed until the men die.  Then, uh, well... no, there is no then.  That's it.  And Neil Agar is the cop who is tracking them down.  It's all very simple, nice and straight forward.

The coolest things about this movie are the breasts, the music, the breasts, the deaths, and of course the breasts.  Yes there's lots of topless girls, some young, some older, most white, one or two black.  Most in decent looking physical shape, one or two not so much.  It's basically part of these bee girls reproduction thing, it seems they must be topless.  Perhaps they are like bees in that bees don't wear clothing?  I don't know.  I don't care.

One of the other highlights to this movie is that we do get to see how these bee girls spread their bee infection to other women.  In a super cool sequence, a woman is stuck with a little needle, covered in a thick white paste, put into a sort of a pod looking mechanical thing, and then she is brought out after a while, and emerges as a bee girl.  It's a really well done, interesting and unique thing to see in a movie like this.  So many other movies would've just never approached this topic, or left it with the first needle thing and had that been it.  There's even a tiny girl-girl kiss to mark the transformation. Hot.

The music is also just dead on perfect for the film.  It's wacky, bizarre, and fun.  I thought it truly helped set an atmosphere, kind of serious because it's not so over the top to be comedy, but also comedy because you definitely can't take it seriously.  Music an amazingly overlooked part of a film that is noticeable when it's done right.  I always thought a good movie has a music piece to it that is memorable, recognizable, and unique.  Sure, some movies don't need a score.  But when the rest of your movie is just a fun filler boobfest, why not make it better by having an awesome soundtrack?

A couple other really cool things to point out:  I love that the girls have these black bee eyes when they are bee girls.

Very cool effect, very creepy, In fact this movie was almost creepy just because of how weird it was.  Similar to how you can have an uncomfortable feeling from a movie about abuse, or drugs, this one was so strange that it actually succeeded in making one uncomfortable.

Also the scenes with actual bees are always impressive.  This was back when people used to use real effects and actual insects on a film, and it looks soooo much better than CG.  I have been on a couple amateur film sets in my life, and I can tell you just how much work those shots must've been.  I do miss the days when films actually did things like that instead of green screen.

As far as a rating, I think it would be unfair to give it something too high.  It's a lot of fun, and it's aged well, and it could easily be someone's favorite B (get it, BEE) movie, but even that person would have to say it's not the greatest film ever.  I'll give it something like 4 stars.  It probably deserves 5, or 3, or 0, in different ways, but it's awesome, and it's my fucking website.

Frankenstein and the Monster From Hell - 1974

Welcome to my first Hammer horror film review.  Two firsts in a row now, a first martial arts film review and now a Hammer review.  This movie is directed by Hammer director Terence Fisher and features Peter Cushing, who reprises his role as Frankenstein.  Yes, the man.  Because I'm sure people are aware, the monster is not called Frankenstein.

In this one, a guy with tall hair named Simon gets put in an insane asylum, and there he meets up with a local doctor who is working on experiments.  Turns out this doctor is none other than Frankenstein, going as a different name I don't remember.  Well, Simon was put into the asylum cause he was doing work similar to Frankenstein's, so soon enough Simon and the mad man are tag-teaming on Frankenstein's latest work - some ape thing.

I have to say I don't remember why in this movie he's working on an ape, say, rather than a human.  It's odd, because this movie is a sequel, at this point in the continuity Frankenstein has already created his actual monster, and at this point this is his next project.  Well, didn't he learn anything having to fight off a human previously?  Don't mess around with creatures that are huge and strong!  Do the work with like a cat! Or a midget!  Not a huge strong ape.

Anyways, the ape experiment works, in that when he puts a recently deceased professor's brain inside the ape, the ape now has the consciousness of the professor.  It turns out that the body is transforming the brain into an ape brain though, somehow, so the ape creation thing needs to be destroyed, and that's about the time it escapes.

Like a lot of Hammer films, this one got a lot of things right.  The acting, the sets, the costumes and music, all are top notch.  This film looks great.  Then, there are the points where it's not especially strong.  There's a scene where the ape man gets unleashed.  This ape man has nothing but hatred for Frankenstein, and we see it approaching him, the door is closed and Frankenstein can't escape.  Then we cut.  Then a few minutes later, Frankenstein shows up with a partially bandaged, bloody arm?  That's it?  The monster scratched him, and then left?  Way to show him!  Stupid monster.

Additionally, I have to say that the monster doesn't look to great.  It's very obvious the suit is overly puffy, it looks like one of those foam bodysuits that are meant to look like muscle.  For something that gets a lot of screen time, it doesn't look too know.

It does have a really cool ending.  It's probably not a spoiler to tell you that the monster dies and Frankenstein and Simon live through it.  I mean, Frankenstein must always survive these stories so that he can try again.  But the end is genuinely clever.  Simon, disillusioned from the experience and in mortal terror, stares on in absolute disbelief as Frankenstein talks about the "next time" he'll perform these experiments.  What he'll do differently, how he'll control them, etc.  It's really cool to see Simon, who was his lackey and student, so horrified by the man Frankenstein truly is.

It's a good but not necessary film, the last Hammer Frankenstein film, and it felt like it.  It sort of had that been-here-done-that feel to it, yet it was still energetic and good.  If you are a Hammer fan or a Frankenstein fan, see it, otherwise, probably doesn't matter so much.  It is mostly slow paced and kind of talky, so if you're looking for thrills and horror, look somewhere else.

I will just rate it a total middle of the road 2.5 stars.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Gorehouse Greats Collection - Review

And so it is that I have watched all the movies contained in Mill Creeks epic "Gorehouse Greats" 12 movie collection.  Here are the links to all my reviews, in order of the appearance on the back of the DVD box.  I'll include a brief synopsis and review in the section below.

Blood of Dracula's Castle - Glen and Liz inherit a house, which currently has occupants - they go out to see the house only to soon discover that the people who live there are sadistic vampires.    I really liked this move.  A damaged print aside, it had that classic midnight movie feel to it, it hit all the right keys, and made watching it extremely fun.  4/5 stars.

Blood Mania - Two sisters inherit money from deceased dad - what they don't expect is the instant rivalry that puts between them, especially when one of them is kinda crazy.  This movie was ultimately very forgettable, but surprisingly the one that now I think I want to re-watch the most.  It did have a cool atmosphere and interest to it, It just needed more attention than I was willing to give it.  I gave it 2/5 stars but frankly I bet it deserves more.

Brain Twisters - Doctor Phillip Rothman is conducting experiments on students at a local university - experiments that drive them to kill!  Easiest to sum up so far!  This one was very 90's, and kind of entertaining in that 90's cheese sort of way.  It felt campy and bland but was actually kind of interesting and fun.  I gave it 2/5 stars.

The Devil's Hand - Rick Turner is haunted by visions of a woman in his dreams.  When he sees her likeness on a doll at a local store, he goes in, and gets introduced to a weird cult.  This movie had a strong beginning, petered out a bit, and ultimately made me unhappy at the end.  But it was pretty well made, it was just more of a drama than the rest.  It is perhaps the most vague film on here, is the oldest, and frankly it shows.  I wasn't giving movies stars at this point but in hindsight, 2.5/5

The Madmen of Mandoras - After a string of disappearances, policemen descend upon a South American island where Hitler's Reich still reigns, led by an enigmatic leader.  This movie is the "best" movie on here as far as Cult Classics is concerned.  I mean the front of the DVD case does say 12 cult classics.  So they were going for that.  This movie is also known as "They Saved Hitler's Brain" and just from that title you know it's good.  Wackiness and stupidity give this one a high watchability factor.  See it with friends!  I give it 4/5

Nightmare in Wax - Cameron Mitchell stars as Vincent Renard, a wax sculptor and psycho killer who is out for revenge for a wrong that was done to him ages ago.  This may have been the film I was most excited about in the beginning, and then let down by.  It just didn't have that certain indefinable thing to it.  I don't know.  Put this on the list of ones I must rewatch.  I gave it 2/5

Prime Evil - A satanic cult needs a virgin sacrifice to retain their immortality - will a local virgin girl be their next victim?  Meanwhile, a brave nun tries to infiltrate the cult.  This movie was my first to watch and I was not sure what to expect.  It's a slow film in retrospect, but it does create an atmosphere.  It's very talky, but has some unique kills. I guess it gets 2.5/5

Satan's Slave - Catherine and her parents are on their way to see her uncle when they crash, and her parents die.  Living with her uncle, she soon becomes aware that not all is as it seems. I liked this movie, and it may go down as the least likely movie to be on this set.  Why?  It is actually classy, well made, has good actors, and aged well.  It could easily be a well known 70's horror in other words.  It's a slow build up, not helped by the awesome beginning, and thus the biggest flaw in the movie is it's pacing.  Also, an overdone ending doesn't help. I feel compelled to give in 3.5/5 stars.

Stanley - I almost didn't include this review.  I must apologize for my short, inprecise, and inaccurate review of Stanley.  You have my promise as a film reviewer that I will actually watch this movie, and post a new review.  For now, read my drunk review and take it as more of a random drunk rant.  I cannot rate this movie yet.

Terrified - Someone is playing dangerous games on the road, and it leads 4 young people to a deserted mining town where they find a body.  Are they the next victims?  Definitely the weak spot on the DVD release, this movie was plagued by plot holes and stupidity.  I felt like some scenes were unnecessarily long and awkward.  It may have also been the most technically inept film on here.  That said, it would make a great movie to riff because of it's long silences.  Half a star rating.

Terror - While making a movie, a film crew accidentally unleashes a ghost, who comes after them.  The winner of the boxset for me initially, I felt compelled to read some other reviews of this movie.  People can find the smallest things to complain about.  I still think this movie was great.  It was smart, fast paced, clever, and fun.  An awesome movie.  I will give it 4/5

Trip With the Teacher - A couple rebel motorcyclists find a broken down bus filled with pretty young girls.  When they get in trouble with the girl's caretaker, they lead them all out to the middle of nowhere and get their revenge.  Definitely the darkest, strangest, and creepiest film on the set, this movie is the only one that I would warn someone about.  It's definitely well made and acted, it's got a cool setting, and it's a good movie.  It's just not campy, feel-good, or cheesy like the rest.  3.5/5

Alright!  So look at that! It's all done.  In all, I gave most the movies pretty decent reviews.  I have to say this was the first time I watched a boxset all the way through.  I should also say that I should have watched them all sober, approached them all the same way, been more analytical, whatever.  But I'm just human.  Let's give awards!

Most fun movie  -   Madmen of Mandoras
Most blood in a movie  -  Blood Mania
Least blood in a movie  - Terrified
Most yawn worthy  - The Devil's Hand
Best death  - Terror
Worst death  - Prime Evil
Stupidest plot - probably Stanley
Most nudity  - Blood Mania
Best to drink to   - Madment of Mandoras
Best to show to your lady  - Terror
Most forgettable  - Brain Twisters  /  Prime Evil tie

All in all this is a great purchase.  I loved 4, almost 5 of these movies.  So 5 great movies for the low, low price of 3 dollars on Amazon, is just a great deal.  Plus, I am going to rewatch at least 4 of these.  So that's cool.

Box quality is serviceable, those little black paper things that hold the DVDs are just about as cheap as possible though.  One is already coming apart.  

Overall value, I give it a solid B-.  Coulda been much, much worse.

Stay tuned to my blog, I have 5 more box sets to review, plus I have From Beyond, Invasion of the Bee Girls, and more coming up!

Brain Twisters - 1991

Aaaaand thus we come to the last but not least blah de de blah movie of the Gorehouse Greats.  This movie ranks right up there with the "Lawnmower Man" / "Time Chasers" feel of the very inane "computer technology" thrillers that were coming out in the early 90's.

It is such a small sub-genre.  You had some hits like Sandra Bullock's "The Net", you had some movies like Keanu Reeves in "Johnny Mnemonic" that have since become well known semi cult classics.  And then you had a lot of throw away junk in between.  I put it to the natural fear that people had of the unknown, and I think some people truly thought computers were going to "take over" and be able to do just about anything.  Certainly computers have made a huge impact on the world, hell they even have "taken over" but not in the way that these movies stipulated.

Brain Twisters is about a teacher at a university or community college or somewhere, just your average brilliant scientist, Dr. Phillip Rothman.  It seems some of his students have developed a cycle of killing other people and then committing suicide.  That's no good.  We follow police detective stud Frank Turi as he wears polo shirts and hits on college girls, all the while investigating Rothman who seems to know more than he is letting on.  You see, he is running bizarre mind experiments on students, using computers (duh duh duuuuuuuh), and he is altering the way they think.  And, he is working with some unknown organization of men, men with their own agenda...

Well, it's not gory first of all.  There is some blood, sure.  Just like there is one "f" word said.  That aside this could've been put on TV.  I wonder if it was.  It feels very made-for-TV.  No nudity of course.  Just very average, middle of the road, quasi-techno-thriller.

It's entertaining enough, the music is cool, the characters are believable and acted well enough.  The only weak link might be Rothman, who mutters all of his lines and always looks slightly distracted.  But that kind of works to the advantage of this movie since we are supposed to dislike him.  It didn't go for the comedy, and it didn't go for the R rating, so it leaves very little to keep one interested.  That said, it still does well enough, and I was wondering how the thing would end.

It's the newest film on the Gorehouse, and it does make for an interesting study - to see what these older B movies were like and then to watch one from about 12-15 years later.  Things definitely changed in the movie world.  This movie feels a lot more intentional than any other movie on the set, more like they were aware of their audience, their audiences expectations, and what they could get away with.

It's interesting though, because this movie must have been low budget, the director and the stars haven't done too much else, but it doesn't feel low budget and strained.  In fact, I'd say that dumb computer effects aside, this movie was actually pretty neat.  It's biggest flaw is that it's mostly unremarkable, but other movies that have been successful launching pads for directors and actors have had way bigger flaws than that.

This does mark the end of the Gorehouse as I said, so please see my next post for links to all reviews, in order.

I'll give this one 2 out of 5 stars.  Like I said, it's nothing you'll need to see more than once.  it does it's job, but it's nothing special.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

The Prodigal Son - 1981

My first kung fu movie review, and what a treat it is to write it about a movie that  a) is one I've never seen before today and b) is as kick ass as this one.  This movie had me laughing, smiling, interested, and entertained for the entire film.

Sammo Hung directs this 1981 classic film, in which rich kid Leung Chang is, at the beginning, a spoiled brat.  His father is so afraid of him getting hurt that he literally pays other martial artists to lose their fights with him.  So at the beginning, Chang thinks he is the greatest fighter ever to walk the land.  300 fights and he is still undefeated! One night, a couple of his bodyguards go to the opera where they are drawn in by the Leung Yee-tai, who, in drag, is playing a female opera singer.  They make moves on the singer, unknowing of his gender, in a hilarious scene.  Then things turn violent and they get their asses kicked.

Well the next day, Chang decides to confront Yee-tai about him beating Chang's bodyguards.  The only thing is, Yee-tai won't take the money to lose to Chang.  When Chang finds out his father has been fixing his fights, and then when he suffers an immediate defeat in martial arts at the hands of Yee-tai, he decides to become Yee-tai's disciple.  Yee-tai however, refuses to take him on.

Yee-tai is a traveling opera singer, that's his job.  One day he meets local tough guy Ngai Fei, who challenges him to a fight.  It is a draw because Yee-tai is sick.  When Ngai Fei's overlord hears he fought to a draw, he order Yee-tai's entire opera troupe killed!  So there's a really cool scene where a bunch of ninjas sneak in and slit about 20 peoples throats in like 5 seconds.  Amazing.

Yee-tai and Chang barely escape from the ninja ambush and go to live with Yee-tai's brother Wong Wah-bo.  Wong Wah-bo is played by Chinese megastar and director Sammo Hung, the guy is amazing, and hilarious.  In the first scene he's in he is demonstrating kung fu with calligraphy and it's a breathtaking scene.  Because 99% of what they do is real, and most of it is not sped up.  I would recommend this movie for that scene alone.

Anyways, Wong Wah-bo helps convince Yee-tai to train Chang, and also Wong takes to training Chang.  So then when Yee-tai is stabbed by some of Ngai Fei's bodyguards, it comes down to Chang vs. Ngai Fei, in disciple vs. master kung fu genius action.

This movie kicked my ass.  I had such a good fucking time at the theater just now.  Oh yeah, I did not mention, I got to see it at a theater!  Awesome.  The comedy was great and perfectly done  The kung fu was just the right amount, not too much and not too little.  The acting was perfect, the effects were great, the timing was top notch.  It may be elevated to high, high up on my list of kung fu movies.

Just so you know, I'm not like a giant kung fu guy.  I like my Jackie Chan, my Bruce Lee, my Donnie Yen and Jet Li films....but that's mostly it.  I'm not like the biggest kung fu nerd.  I have nothing but nice things to say about this movie though.  I will definitely watch it again.

Two minor gripes:
1) How did a kung fu master like Yee-tai get killed by two lowly bodyguards with tiny knives...and did he get killed?  We never see what actually happened with him.  We know he got stabbed, but he definitely could've survived.
2) Would've been nice to see what ended up with Wong Wah-bo.  By the time you realize he's not going to be in the movie anymore, you forget what his last scene was and I left kind of wishing like a 2 minute additional scene played.  But, minor gripes.

I'm going to give it 4 stars, and as time goes on, when I rewatch it in the future, I may decide to upgrade to 5.  It was pure awesomeness.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Blood Mania - 1970

IMDb tell me Blood Mania is about "A sex-crazed nympho helps speed along her father's death so she can use the inheritance to help out her depraved boyfriend."  Okay, yeah, I agree with that.  See the thing was that I could not find a way to really sum up what happened in this movie.  Now this is partially my fault; I watched it on 2-3 separate days, the last day (today, right now) I watched the 45 minutes that was left and I did so while slightly drunk.

So the sex-crazed nympho is in this case Victoria.  Victoria is an odd looking little woman, and though she's not particularly sex-crazed, she does have sex.  And what is a nympho really?  Cause she's not like super sexual in this.  I think maybe perchance somebody was trying to write a review to entice people to come to the movie.  Maybe.  Perchance.

It plays out kind of how you'd expect, she kills her dad, boyfriend Craig is scared by this, then the dad's will doesn't leave her what she wanted, in fact it leaves her long-absent sister Gail with the good shit, so she must murder Gail, and what have you.  It's all very connect the dots.  There is blood, there is nudity, there is a mildly confusing plot.  It could be my fault, again.

The ending was a big WTF moment for me.  I'm actually going to go online and figure out what the ending was cause I could not tell you what happened exactly.

Now here's a weird fucking thing right here.  IMDb also tells me main girl Maria De Aragon (she played the sex crazed nympho) was Greedo in Star Wars?!!!!!  WTF?!!  According to IMDb again, 3 people played Greedo, one as the voice of him so two others, including Maria here, did something apparently involving Greedo.  I want to know what she did with Greedo!  That's actually pretty fucking cool!  Okay according to Wookiepedia (stupid name) she did some close up pickup shots as Greedo.  Huh.  Interesting.

Well, as if you can't tell already I don't have tons to say about this movie.  It was very, very average.  It wasn't great, it wasn't bad, it barely held my interest, it's a great movie to leave the room but not pause because you don't really care if you miss anything.  I recommend beer or having friends to watch it with.  I also recommend not starting a horror grindhouse movie blog.

Ooooooh!  I cannot finish this blog without mentioning the horrible shirt the guy had on.  Oh it was just SO 70's.  Grey, with no buttons, but collared.  It had a deep V neckline, giant collars.  It was baggy as all hell, tucked into pants with no belt, and it had really awkwardly tight wrists.  What the fuck is that called, the section of a men's shirt that's the wrist?  I don't know.  Oh the shirt was fucking glorious.  The movie practically gets a star for that.

Well, 2 stars, who knows, who cares.  Enjoy, muchachoes.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Blood of Dracula's Castle - 1969

Yes yes yes!  Yes!  I just continued with Gorehouse Greats tonight, and am I happy I did.  I literally could not wait to write this review.  I just finished Blood of Dracula's Castle.  Now, you might want to know it has the same writer as Nightmare in Wax, so given that I didn't like that one too much it seems like I might not like this one either.  But I did.  Oh man I did.

Let me first point out that the quality of this film is horrible. Most of the prints they used in this boxset have been surprisingly good.  I have to say that the bad audio level on Nightmare in Wax and Terrified aside, all the quality on these movies has been great.  Until now!  There are green lines all over this movie, they run for almost the entire length of the film with only small breaks.  It's ridiculously bad.  There are also obvious places where scenes got part of them cut out, a character will jump or audio will be missed.  I have to say though, in this movie, it may add to it.  I think.  It made it more of an experience, and it felt more like the kinda movie you'd see in the drive in while you totally felt up the girl next to you.

Glen and fiancee Liz are two very happy people.  Liz is a somewhat strange looking model, and her husband Glen is a photographer.  Not weird at all, nope its the perfect couple and after they go to the creepy walrus tank at the sea-world place, they get awesome news:  they're going to inherit a fucking castle because Glen's relative died!  Rockin!  But it's occupied...not awesome.  So they head out to the place, maybe see if they like it, and if they do, kick the peeps out and move right on in.

The people that live there, are of course, Count Dracula- who is in this movie is called Count Townsend- and his wife Countess Townsend.  With them of course is their bizarre deformed dude, Mango, and then there's John Carradine playing some wormy guy named George.  George is helping out Townsend seemingly because he thinks he might get turned into a vampire for doing so.  Then homicidal criminal Johnny also shows up later, also working for the Townsend's to become a vampire.  Geez that's in high demand these days!

You might wonder at this point, isn't that a lot of helpers and characters?  2 vampires, 2 helpers and 1 Igor-like dude.  Well, that's because the vampires are really not in the movie very much.  They are practically not even in the first 45 minutes.  Sure, they have a line here and there, but for most of the shots it's day, and the vampires are sleeping.  Mostly it's John Carradine interacting with the couple.

Oh and that's because, getting back to the plot, the couple arrived at the castle and got talked into staying for two days.  But during the night they heard screams, so now they're investigating the castle, and when they find a clearly obvious, and also unlocked cellar door (idiots!) they discover a whole gaggle of girls down there tied up and being forced to give blood to the vampires.

You see, the vampires have this new system.  Rather than kill the people, they are now harvesting them.  They take blood from 3-4 girls, but keep them alive, and that way they don't have to kill someone new every day, they can use the same people time and time again!  Why it's genius, in fact it's kind of like True blood...And then, they even say "what if some day someone invented a fake blood that we could drink instead of blood...then we could walk among the living again!"  Holy shit, did they steal the idea for True Blood from here?!  That's the kind of movie this is.  It's fucking genius.

Well so now in the plot they have their new couple that discovered them, so clearly the girl must be sacrificed. I have not mentioned so far that Townsend and his wife worship a god now, that they must make sacrifices to.  Ugh, that was the only part of this movie I didn't like.  Dracula or "Townsend" has never needed some evil god before, why have one now?  I think they realized at some point that their vampires weren't evil enough.  All the were really doing was surviving, in actually the nicest, most efficient way they could.  Not killing people, not hurting anyone.  Just withdrawing as much as they needed to survive.  So they threw in this god thing to up the horror factor and hope it worked.

It all comes to nice classic ending and whatever.  But man, let's talk about the comedy in this movie!  I don't know a whole lot of trivia or movie facts for that matter,  so I don't know what the first true tongue in cheek horror film is. I am talking not overtly comedy here.  You could argue to a point that the 50's monster movies were so over the top and stereotypical they could be tongue in cheek but I think that is just our perspective now.  You could say the same for Ed Wood films, but everyone who knew him claimed he loved those movies, held them in the highest esteem.  So I wonder what the first tongue in cheek horror movie really was.  It probably wasn't this, but since this was actually filmed in 1966, it's probably not got a lot of predecessors.  It is a clever, funny movie!

I was practically expecting anything but that.  I realized it kind of late in, gradually.  It's the subtle kind of comedy, the subtle tongue in cheek.  Like everything is fine until you twist it just a little, and then it's totally different.  It played just to that level of over the top-ness to it, that extra something that lets you know it's winking at you.  It gets it.  And it does it extremely well.

Now I am not a big 60's comedy person.  Personally, my sense of comedy is weird maybe, but I just don't find any of that old comedy stuff funny.  People make exceptions for "the greats" but sorry, I don't find the 3 Stooges funny, Abbot and Costello, Cheech and Chong, whatever comedy before my era I just don't get.  it's probably just me.  Whatever.  Oh, I will make an exception for Zucker/Abraham/Zucker, Kentucky Fried Movie was great.  My point is that this movie is funny.  It was done so well I actually wanted to go back and re-watch Nightmare in Wax because it was the same writer.  I think maybe I missed Nightmare in Wax's potential as a tongue in cheek comedy.  I might just do that.

I don't know what to say, I was blown away.  I don't know what to rate it cause it truly doesn't deserve 5 stars.  I want to give it 4, part of me is then saying 3.5 even.  But I liked it a lot, so 4.

I am actually wondering if these yellow shorts could possibly be a little higher.  It literally might be impossible.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Q - 1982

Also known as Q: The Winged Serpent

This is one of those quintessential films for cult film viewers, and one of those ones I really had not seen until just now.  Q is a film directed by tried and true director Larry Cohen, who also did It's Alive (the 1974 baby movie, not the mosasaurus drivel) and another cult film, The Stuff.  Q was made when Larry was in New York, ostensibly to work on another film, and was fired.  He then made lemonade outta lemons by making Q while he was there.

This movie was not as low budget as it looks also.  Q stars Michael Moriarty from Law and Order and Troll (had to mention that one) and David Carradine from Kung Fu and Kill Bill.  Moriarty plays Jimmy Quinn, an ex-con trying to stay straight after spending too much time in prison, but who doesn't have the time of day to do right.  He and his girlfriend Joan live in a little place in Manhattan, where it seems people have been disappearing recently.

There's been talk of a giant bird flying around, taking people.  No one quite believes it of course, but the reports keep coming in.  There's even blood that will fall from the sky when the bird dispatches it's victims in mid-air.  But this is no ordinary giant bird, (are there ordinary giant birds?) this is Mayan god Quetzalcoatl, brought back from ancient times by hardcore Mayan prayers, resurrected so he might again be worshiped and kill people and stuff.  Alright, so the film is not really clear on why.  Why really?  Who cares.

When Jimmy Quinn can't hold a job doing extremely bad scatting at a bar, he robs a jewelry store.  When he loses the jewels, he flees to the Chrysler building in New York and climbs to the top of it.  It is there he discovers the nest of the bird Q.  Quinn is amazed by what he finds, and he remembers that it's there.  Later, when confronted by some not some friendly dudes lookin for those jewels he lost, he decides a quick trip back to Q's nest ought to set them straight.

In the meantime, the police are headed by Carradine who plays a man named Shepard.  Shepard has heard the stories of the bird, and is swayed into thinking it exists.  He even tries to get his boss Powell to believe it, but Powell won't have none of that.  So when Quinn gets arrested and let's Shepard know he knows where Q is, Shepard is all ears.  Then it's cops vs. Q.

This movie is well known for the bird effects, the real actors, the 80's cheese, and the watch-ability.  Now personally, I found the acting to be not that great.  Michael Moriarty does not play the part of a badass well, when its insinuated that he beats his girlfriend I find myself thinking "that guy, yeah right".  The script maybe could've been tweaked to where he is more of a slimy bad guy instead of the tough New York bad dude.  It's like seeing Peewee Herman on a Harley with a flask, it just don't work.

The effects are pretty bad.  It's claymation, and it looks 70's at best.  They know not to show too much of it, but it's still too much, and it's pretty obvious that this was not where the budget went.  Everything else though, is classic:  the pacing is nice and even, the acting by everyone else is good and works.  There's just enough bodies to keep us from falling asleep.  Hell there's even just a tad of nudity.

There is all sorts of people that rave about this movie, and I guess I had pretty high expectations.  For me, I wanted it to be a little bit better, I don't know exactly what I didn't like about it, but it just didn't feel like the kind of movie that I would watch time and time again.  It is the kind of movie that I would recommend though, because I think other people might enjoy it more than me.  For me I would maybe just call it an average, whatever monster movie.

The ending, when the guys are fighting off Q in the Chrysler building, is very cool, I will say that.  It's pure cheese, bad effects, ridiculous looking fluff.  That must be a big part of why people like this.  The ending is pretty cool.  Just look at it

I feel compelled to give this a higher rating than what I would give it.  I would maybe give it 2.5 stars.  I think I'll bump it to 3 based on the ending.  I almost wanna go 3.5, in fact I know that if some people were to read this they would demand 5.  But it just wasn't quite what I wanted it to be, somehow.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Nightmare in Wax - 1969

Now here is a horror movie that was simply a chore.  I approach most of these from the real movie standpoint, which is perhaps where I am going wrong I realize.  This movie, albeit bad, probably is an excellent movie to riff on with friends.  But as a real movie, devoid of friends with which to riff on it, and sitting there wondering how this would be entertaining, it is bad.  Bad, bad, bad.

Director Bud Townsend is the same guy who directed Alice in Wonderland: And X Rated Musical Fantasy!  I've always wanted to see that.  And this movie did had Cameron Mitchell from Space Mutiny in it.  So it does have that.  Plus, it obviously got some money thrown in it's general direction, it has like 500 times the budget of Oasis of the Zombies.  Plus, I think if I were in the right mood, maybe with a 40 and a full pipe o' weed, and maybe with some friends or something, this would be a fun thing to watch.

Cameron Mitchell plays Vincent Renard, the owner and sculptor of a wax museum.  He creates incredibly lifelike wax figures of people.  Turns out he is also a killer!  He has been offing people by injecting them with some sort of substance that makes their body freeze.  He then proudly displays them in his museum, claiming they are a wax figure instead of a real person.  In the meantime, that person he's injected is under his complete control; they must do everything he says.

Renard is a disfigured man.  He has burns on his face and he's missing an eye.  We understand that this is due to a guy his ex-wife was dating, who threw flammable alcohol on Renard as he was lighting up a cigarette!  Holy fucking shit!  For some insane reason that guy who burned Renard is still not in jail and still with Renard's ex, and Renard's ultimate goal here is to make that guy suffer, turn him into a wax figure.  Plus, Renard wants to kill his ex, and a ditzy girl he meets at a club, and maybe throw in some others, as a bonus.

This movie is just incredibly badly written.  The dialogue is insufferably bad and forced, it does not sound real or clever.  The tension is undercut and destroyed by lack of understanding as to what is happening, who is where and what's going on.  There's a really long chase sequence where Renard is chasing this girl Theresa.  It is just SO bad.  It's one of those where the killer (in this case Renard) is always one step ahead of the girl.

First Renard is literally just in front of her, all the time, from scene to scene.  It's like, she'll turn and he's there laughing, and then she'll turn the other way and he's there.  Then run up the stairs and he's at the top of them.  There's a fucking scene where he lowers from the ceiling! How in the world did he get up there?!  He was just in the other room!  It's too dumb to be believed.  It's like they want us to laugh at it.

Which I could accept except just looking at it you know they took it seriously.  It wants to be creepy and weird.  It wants to be good.  It's just bad though.  Speaking of Theresa, when Renard meets her...oh man.  A scene I would not want to re-watch.  I couldn't tell what they were going for.  If they wanted it to be smart, it was a total failure.  If they wanted it to be funny, they don't understand humor, and possibly don't understand English.  It's confusing, annoying, badly done, and not well acted to boot.  I would describe what happens, but then I'd have to go watch it again.  If you see the movie, it's the bar scene.

I may have just not been in the mood.  This could be one where I eventually redo the review, but I doubt it.  For now, 2 stars is more than enough.  For the sets, if nothing else.  At least they got a cool looking place to film.  And because I might watch it, on some sleepy Sunday night or something, and enjoy it more.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Curse of the Swamp Creature - 1966

If you are an amateur film maker, and someone hands you a script (or you write one), and it contains a line where a scientist says "my beautiful indestructible fish man" it might not be the best movie ever.  In fact, it's probably a pretty shitty movie.  Especially if it also has scenes where a character speaks to someone off camera, pretends they respond, and then speaks some more.

Dr. Simond Trent is researching evolution.  He has his lab, set up way out in the swamp, where he's researching the evolution from fish to man.  What better way to do that than to take a human and cross it with a fish?  Create some sort of fish/human/thing?  He does just that.  His wife disapproves of tampering in god's domain, and he quickly locks her in a closet.  Meanwhile, a geologist, Barry Rogers (John Agar) and his team come upon the base of Dr. Trent's research, and they sense something amiss.  Dr. Trent's wife soon enough escapes and pulls the plug on the fish/man, killing it.  But Dr. Trent has noticed that one of the girls in the geologists team, Brenda, fits the mold of a candidate to become a fish/creature thing as well...

I wanted to hate this movie.  Believe me, another film by Larry Buchanan, a self described schlockmeister, and director of It's Alive.  I also heard this film's monster was the same later used in It's Alive.  Plus this was another made for TV extravaganza. My expectations were set pretty low.  I was just as surprised as I could be when I discovered this movie was actually quite a bit better than expected.

For one thing, it cuts down the dialogue by having multiple story lines.  What I didn't mention in the review up there is that there are these weird neighbors that Dr. Trent has, a community of black people who do a weird voodoo ritual they keep cutting to.  Just when you assume that they'll never explain why the neighbors are always drumming and dancing around in a pretty damn racist series of scenes, they come out of nowhere and turn up to be against the doctor.  Their storyline, the geologists storyline, and then Dr Trent make the movie flow quicker, and be less painful.

Another thing is that the characters in this are a lot funnier.  Not on purpose of course, but the people in this are played a lot more with a silly undertone, and they have that "this movie is a joke" way they seem to treat the material.  It's done especially well by Dr. Trent who spoke that line I have in my opening sentence.

The movie is still cheap and easy, but it also seems to have a higher production value, there is more than $50 worth of props in this, unlike other Buchanan films.  It does rely on the same stock footage of alligators swimming around, which are supposedly in the creek right beside the lab where they do all this.  Take a guess where Dr. Trent is eventually killed, by the way.

I don't really know what to rate this.  It's not good, but it's not terrible.  The poster sucks, just look at it:

Again with the Moasasouri thing.  If you're not paying attention, they claim the creature in It's Alive is a Mosasaurus.  I'll have you know that genetically splicing a fish and a human does not make a dinosaur.  That makes no fucking sense.  Makes me wonder though if this creature is actually supposed to be the same exact one in It's Alive, just bigger. 

Oasis of the Zombies - 1982

AKA Treasure of the Living Dead

There's camp and then there's like camp camp. You know those people who go camping but they take like 8 different outfits for two days and a gas stove and an ice-chest and all? Then there are the ones who store everything in one muddy old backpack, look miserable, but you're secretly jealous of? This is that kind of movie. People love this shit.

This is the kind of movie that people like Ed Wood made possible. When it was understood that people wanted to see something that looked like trash, that they wanted low budget fuckery. This is a 80's movie that looks so low quality and bad that it looks early 70's. It's got no budget, actors and a director that have done porn films, and it looks like it was most likely filmed directly onto VHS, with editing done in camera, by a teenager. In short, it's trash, at heart and soul, and it should be watched as such.

The difference for me is the intent and charm. I love the older films because I know they wanted to entertain. They took themselves seriously for the most part, and there's that part of your brain that almost wants think that if everything had worked like the director and producer wanted, it would have been a hit. But then there's this. Made with the goal of trash, the goal of nothing. No thought given, just money thrown at some 80 minute thing that's vaguely a film.

Oasis starts with some sort of conflict at an oasis in the desert. There are Nazis of course, and they're fighting some other people, and there's something about treasure, and there's random shots of other things. Cut to present day I think and that oasis is still there, treasure is still there, and a group of people want it. They go out to get it. They encounter other people who they also fight, and then in the last 15 minutes the zombies appear. No kidding. None until now. The zombies are afraid of fire so some 3 inch flames in a circle around our heroes keeps them safe until the daylight comes and the zombies magically disappear. And they may or may not have gotten the treasure.

Every reviewer of these types of things is different. Me, I like my trash to be fun, or accidental, or interesting, or fast paced, or to look cool...It really doesn't matter I just want one thing that's good about it. Not like this in other words. This might be interesting if you're stoned, maybe, but don't waste good weed on this movie.

I feel like it's still better than It's Alive though. 1 star. For some okay looking makeup and one cool prop head. That's it. Nothing else was done well.

Terrified - 1963

I was only off by one year, I guessed 1962.  Back to the Gorehouse "there is zero gore in this movie" Greats boxset with Terrified.

This is the first one on the boxset where the audio level just sucks.  I had a hard time hearing what was being said, the dialogue was very muffled and badly recorded. It sounded like instrument approximations of a voice, rather than a voice.

Someone is engaging in highly unsafe highway behavior, playing chicken with people on the road.  When he almost runs an elderly couple off the road, they take a load off at a nearby restaurant where Marge, Ken, and David overhear their story and wonder what it's all about.  So they head up to some abandoned town to talk to "Crazy Bill".  Turns out someone has killed him, someone in a black mask that now is hunting the three of them.  Could it be Joey, some guy who these three people somehow know?

I don't know about this movie.  That was my best guess at the plot after seeing it, because I couldn't keep the characters straight.  Apparently "Joey" was in the movie, but I don't remember him at all.  Who the hell was he?  And why does it sound like they're saying "Joy" whenever they say his name? It is revealed just about the time the three of these guys- Marge Ken and David- are wondering who the killer could be, that Joey has escaped prison.  Naturally, they assume it must be him that's killing people.  Whatever.  It's not plot important, I think they just wanted a reason for the 3 of them to pursue the killer.

So they go to this abandoned town, and Ken embarks on a mission to track down the killer.  It's so ridiculous, the hunting scene between him and the killer dude.  It has to go on about 15-20 minutes (feels like it anyway) and it is one of the worst sequences ever.  You can't tell who's hunting who first of all.  We're following Ken as he looks for the killer.  Yet, one time when he sees him, he just runs away!  WTF?  And then the killer goes through like 4 different times when he captures Ken, or almost kills him, just to each time let him go.  Why?!

Seriously, first he strangles Ken, but only to unconsciousness.  Then he traps Ken in a basement that is flooding.  As the water rises, the killer stands on the cellar door, blocking Ken from opening it.  Then he randomly lets him out.  And not like, right before he's gonna die or anything.  A good like, 8 hours before the place was going to flood.  Then he buries Ken alive.  With like, an inch of dirt.  Sorry, but I really don't think that would kill anyone.  But Ken dies.  Because he died of fright see?  He was Terrified, see?  It's the name of the movie.

Then it's just Marge and David and spoilers are that the killer is indeed NOT Joey, but rather some guy named Wes.  Yeah, you remember Wes from earlier right?  Oh, you don't?  Hm.  Oh, I see.  He wasn't IN the movie earlier.  Yes, it's the stupidest thing, the random guy they pulled out of a hat.  He apparently knew the girl Marge when she was young.  And then he decided to start killing because he thought the world wasn't good enough for her and he loved her.  Yeah, sure, whatever.

Okay, just a point or two here:  So he wants the world to be "better" for Marge.  And he does that by:
1 - Playing chicken with random people on the road?  What the heck was the plan there?  Although, that road plot was dropped like 15 minutes into the film, it never got back to it, and the film never actually said it was the killer in the end, Wes.  So does that mean that someone else was doing the road games?  I think that logically we must say "maybe".
2 - Killing Crazy Bill??  Wes specifically states that he did not like the attention Marge was getting from the boys at her school.  That's why he killed Ken.  But what did Crazy Bill do?  He was just some old wino living in an abandoned town.  I doubt he was making the moves on Marge any time soon.

It's pretty dumb, I'm giving it a half a star.  It's not clever or smart, has no replay value, it serves no function.  It tries too hard too.  It's over the top attempts at tension are just tedious.  And as I said in the first paragraph, zero gore.  Okay, there's like an attempt at some blood around Crazy Bill's body, but it's nothing worth mentioning.  Can I give a 1/4 star?

This is what Google came up with when I image searched 1/4 star