Thursday, February 25, 2016

The Brain - 1988

Canada gets kind of a bad rap for the movies it's put out, and that thought made me wonder what the other Canadian movie I reviewed was.  Looking real quick through the blog, maybe there wasn't one?  Huh.  Really thought there was.  Point is, I get into these sort of "modes" if you will where I'll dig into some specific place or time, and I'll watch movies related to it.  Canada is one of these such places.  (Update:  I found the movie I'm talking about, it is Def-Con 5)

I did a little googling and found The Brain.  Now apparently The Brain has two different covers:

Let's compare and contrast these shall we.  Jesus fucking christ.  True story, I deleted The Brain once from my queue on Amazon because of how mind-numbingly boring the cover looked.  Who would rent this movie here on the right?  It looks like some sort a train-related adventure film that was probably shot on video by employees at the dollar store. The movie on the left looks positively badass.  I like the minimalism: that's a fucking rad poster.  See, I can use the word rad cause the movie's                             from 1988.

The Brain was filmed in Canada, but stars American actors for the most part, and has a American director.  Can movies like this be claimed as Canadian?  In my opinion the answer is no.  I hate when this gets labeled as the awful portmanteau "Canuxploitation".  Y'all know that these days, practically every movie ever is filmed in Canada right?  Fuck man, the movie Godzilla - you know, the new one where he attacks San Francisco?  That was filmed in Canada!  They filmed in SF for like 1 day.  So are we now labeling that as Canadian?  Fuck no we're not.  So why does this get it?  Makes no goddamn sense to me, and someone needs to let me decide these things.

Made for TV, filmed in Canada, low budget, and 80's, all the ingredients add up to a possibly quite horrible film, but somehow The Brain worked.  The effects helped a ton.  We open The Brain with this girl in her room.  Suddenly, her stuffed teddy bear starts crying blood and shit starts to get crazy.  Then there's tentacles reaching through the walls and the room is shifting around and everything is attacking her!  Damn!  Her mom comes in to help and in a fit of terror the girl kills her mom.  Awesome, solid beginning.

Turns out that local preacher-like scientist guy Dr. Blakely has a brain creature that can control people.  He runs a TV show called "Independent Thinkers" and has the brain hooked into it, and the brain controls the people through the TV show.  It makes them kill people, specifically.  I love this movie.  WHY?  I love that, to my knowledge, I don't remember any fucking explanation at all.  Where did this brain come from, the list of questions goes on....  Local troublemaker Jim and his girlfriend Janet are the only ones who know what's going on, and soon the brain and the baddies are after them.  The Brain also cause Jim to hallucinate monsters that attack him, much like the girl from the beginning.

Solid pacing, good effects, plenty of brain monster in the film, and decent acting all around help The Brain be a greatly entertaining flick.  A popcorn throwaway movie, but one I'd see time and time again, and show to people.  4 stars.

Friday, February 19, 2016

The Beast in the Cellar - 1970

I've been doing these ideas of "what they mighta been thinking" sort of a lot recently.   It's a phase, you understand.  So here is my imaginary conversation between two of the makers behind this film:

"So we have this awesome monster going around killing people right?"
"Right, I love it.  But we need someone who's going to investigate the monster, or have some knowledge about it, or whatever."
"I gotcha covered.  See, the monster is being chased by two old ladies."
"Two old ladies?  ....Well, it is different I guess.  Doesn't seem like it's going to be exactly 'action packed' but maybe it would be exciting if-"
"If the monster lives in their basement!  And they know about it!"
"Oh yeah, they're like in on it?"
"Right!  And then most of the movie is actually focusing on them.  Their day to day lives.  The walks they take every day.  The fact that they're old ladies..."
"Um, well, I dunno if that's really, you know, what I had in mind"
"...the way they're continually out of celery.  The little chats they have with their neighbors and the police detective.  Them drinking tea.  Them talking about drinking tea.  It practically writes itself!"
"I quit."

And that takes us right to the story of Ellie and Joyce, two elderly sisters who live together in a house in England.  Ellie and Josie are a couple old lovable eccentrics, living pretty much the average retired lifestyle.  They're naturally quite disturbed when they hear through the grapevine of a couple killings going on around their area.  But what are they to do?  They soon suspect that it may have something to do with the beast that's in their cellar, especially once they see evidence that the beast has escaped.  It's known from early on in the film that they know of what's in their cellar and that they suspect it, but we as an audience don't know what it is yet.

Finally, the story gets to the point where all is to be revealed.  In the last 20 minutes of flashbacks we see the "horrific" story of the creation of the beast.  However it does not come off as a horror film moment but rather a strange and depressing story of how war can change a person, and change a family.  The effect the war had on Joyce and Ellie's father is explained, it's a dark and harrowing story of a man changed by war, and the extreme measures the family went to in order to protect their brother from war.  Spoiler alert the beast is their brother who's gone insane.

For a supposed horror movie, Beast in the Cellar was all over the place in terms of how it felt.  It's actually quite a good idea in some ways- a personal, rethought version of a horror film.  A film wherein the stars aren't who you expect, and the story isn't one you expect.  The majority of the story is told just the way these two ladies learn about it: people come to their home and have dialogue concerning what's happened.  It is perhaps extremely realistic in that sense,

The movie makes no firm statement about any guilt or punishment owed to these ladies for the role they played in holding this beast in their cellar, though I have to imagine in the US they would at least face false imprisonment charges.  It's not about that.  What it's primarily about, and what I don't want to be misinterpreted, is that the film is about these two old ladies and their day to day lives and how they deal with this fear and then later the knowledge their beast is doing the killings.

I don't want to berate it too badly for this either, it takes a lot to make a "personal" or even a "dramatic" film in addition to making a horror movie.  Horror doesn't mix well with some genres, drama being one of them.  But I also have to ask, again, who this would appeal to now?  Modern audiences are all about the pay off, and a low suspense, low interest, dialogue heavy film is not going to go down as one to remember.  For trying, good actors, and some level of dark comedy to it, I'll give it a 2.5 stars, but in many ways I could give it 0 stars.  Just like in some ways I could give it up to 4 (maybe).  That'd be a tough sell.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Horror Express - 1972

Who Goes There? by John W. Campbell Jr. has obviously been translated to screen a few times, most notably in the 1982 film The Thing directed by John Carpenter.  This is a lesser known adaptation which subverts the Arctic setting for a more claustrophobic and British setting - a train.  hence the name Horror Express.  Get it, they're on the express train to horror?  Get it?!?

Actually this film was really cool, don't get me wrong.  First the cast:  Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee and Telly Savalas.  Also, there's this intense religious guy named Pujardov that is played by Alberto de Mendoza.  This cast was all really good obviously and helped this film out a lot.  But the script, the pace, the monster scenes, everything was very well done.

In this version of the written work, they are on a train, as I said.  Christopher Lee has a mysterious crate brought on the train, and everyone wants to know what's inside.  He refuses to tell them, only saying it's ancient stones, perhaps fossils, etc.  He's very dodgy about the whole thing.  Peter Cushing takes a personal interest in this, going so far as to pay one of the train inspectors to drill a hole in the crate to see what's inside of it.  The train man, in doing so, releases the monster inside of it, which looks positively badass.
It's got glowing red eyes, and it's the same story as The Thing, which is of course that it can shape shift.  It can shape shift, gain the knowledge and memories of the people that it kills, and pretend to be them in just about any way.  I haven't read the original story, but in The Thing they can tell who is the monster by taking the blood of the people in the station.  In this one, their eyes looks slightly whiter, and they also glow red when there is no lights.

The monster gets loose, there is the natural clash between Christopher Lee (who in my opinion is let off pretty lightly for bringing this thing on the train) and Peter Cushing.  Also, Pujardov is like the strange mystic fellow who has some sort of precognizance or knowledge about the monster, and his role is kinda who-knows-what.  There are also a couple of kills, and the creature seems to have a reason for the people it kills beyond that it wants to; it's seeking some sort of information that only certain people on the train have.

That last factor especially makes this film extremely interesting.  It's like a game first of all:  we as the audience don't always know who the monster is, and we don't know who he has to kill next.  The script has a lot of realistic dialogue, dark humor, and entertaining characteristics in it.  Cushing and Lee are at the top of their game, and obviously having fun.  This was Cushing's first film after his wife's death, but he doesn't come off as morose or distracted, rather this is one of his best roles in my opinion.  Telly Savalas was also quite entertaining as a energetic oddball on board the train.

The pacing like I said was good, actors and effects good, and again I have to think of the small changes that make films different.  This is so similar to The Thing, but you could watch both and have a great time.  They are different enough.  It's amazing really.  I loved this movie, and I'd recommend it highly.   It doesn't feel like it's aged hardly at all. The only obvious "aging" markers for this film would be the actors, all dead by now.  By the way, Telly Savalas is another of those underrated actors that put on great and memorable character performances when he wanted.
I give this 4.5 stars.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Breathing Fire - 1991

"Listen.  Annie's parents were killed for a piece of plastic pizza.  I want you guys to just stay home and not get hurt."

There's a now internet famous song from Teen Witch which was obviously originally going for like the tween/comedy angle, you know, throw a rap battle into your 80's movie cause that sort of music was popular with the kids.  That whole movie now has a semi-cult awareness about it, and that one and Breathing Fire feel like they share a production feel.  It's made for the tween young adult audience, stupid comedy is thrown in, the baddies are all muscled up meatheads who are as thinly developed as a Polaroid picture.

Annie's parent's like I said, were killed for a piece of plastic pizza.  I'm not going to explain more than that because honestly, if you can't imagine the retarded scene and dialogue, you need to watch more 90's teen movies.  Annie needs to be protected, and gets regulated to Uncle Dave.   Uncle Dave has two kids already under his care, one of them being the star of the movie Jonathan Ke Quan from Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom and also from Goonies.  Uncle Dave get his knee injured and the kids want him to to train them in kung fu, so he finally agrees to train them.  Stupid training montage ensues with shirtless guys.

All the dialogue in this film sucks man.  All of it is written in the most uninteresting, straight forward way.  Basically it sounds like anyone could have written it.  The acting is similar.  The only fun actor is Jonathan Ke Quan, and he's not even that fun in this.  He comes off like he's trying to still do the whole Short Round from Indiana Jones thing, except trying to do a little bit more serious, and it's the serious parts that don't work.  Saying it sounds forced is too generous.  No, it sounds straight up awful.  Forced is not anywhere extreme enough.

Did I mention there's a scene where the two main stars Jonathan and his brother fight three midgets at a bar?  You better believe it was filmed for comedic purposes.

Let's just say that, because I've been rethinking my entries on this blog, and because I wasn't enjoying this in any form, I came very very close to turning it off.  Kept it on, in the background though cause I only had 20 minutes left.  It's an obvious rip off of Karate Kid, and it feels extremely second rate.  I only watched it cause Bolo Yeung was in it, and his role is very minimal.  Don't watch it if you're a fan of his, cause he's practically not even in the movie.  I give it 1 star.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Children of the Corn - 1984

I did feel a touch obligated to at least watch Children of the Corn (CotC) after seeing several of the sequels, 3 and 4, followed by 5 and 6.  And of course, at number 6 I decided to give up and that I wasn't going to watch Genesis and Revelations, or whatever the next ones were called.  6, also known as Children of the Corn 666, is about as bad as the title suggests it would be.

CotC was one of those movies I saw when I was heavily into reading Stephen King back in my early teens.  His style of writing was accessible enough and high paced enough to keep a young me interested, and I read many of his books, but then I also got really into the movie adaptations.  A whole lot of Stephen King book adaptations have been bad, but a lot of the bad ones also dwell in that so-bad-they're-good area.  Also, a lot of them are in my opinion very good, and this was one of the middle of the road interpretations.  I wonder if I could do a Roger Corman-like list of things to watch for in Stephen King adaptations......

1) Children:  virtually all of Stephen King's books contain child main characters.  Often imbued with special knowledge or powers, these kids have a precognizance of things to come.  They are the true symbols of innocence and must contend with the evil surrounding them.  That or they are the evil ones, and that's the root of the story.
2) Innocent women:  I don't think any Stephen King book/movie has a single evil female.  They hardly have complete female characters at all number one, and usually they are just "set dressing" that exist only because to exclude them would be unrealistic.
3) Monsters both in mind and form:  the biggest link, these monsters have an ability to stalk both your dreams and your day to day life.  They get inside your head, they make you see stuff, they dig into your subconscious and find your deepest and darkest secrets, and they use it to their advantage.  The only way to beat them is...
4) Strength of will:  the end fight is not so much a physical one.  In fact, pretty much never is.  It's about finding that inner strength, fighting it off, and realizing there's a strong "inner you" that you never had to rely on until now.

There are more, but let's move on.  This movie contains 1-3, and it's a rare children are evil one.  Seeing it made me think of several other Stephen King movies, as watching his films normally do.  I recently have watched Pet Semetary and The Mist, not as recently watched Cujo, Thinner, and Maximum Overdrive.  Specifically I want to see the Tommyknockers movie again.  Don't ask me why, it wasn't good.  It was a pretty shitty one if memory serves me right.

CotC is your average evil kids cult religion hybrid film.  Something infests the kids of Gaskin, Nebraska, which is a middle of nowhere religious community that is surrounded by corn fields.  The kids kill all the adults, and are led by preachy and raspy voiced Isaac.  Two of the kids are not evil, the prophetic girl Sarah and her brother Job.  While driving down the highway, adults Burt and Vicky hit a kid with their car.  They take the kid to Gaskin trying to get help.  Soon enough, Vicky is kidnapped by the evil children and Burt connects with Sarah and Job, and they launch a mission to save Vicky.

The kids in it are okay actors, I never trust kid actors in movies, but these ones are decent enough.  Isaac and Malachi are the two main ones, Isaac being the speaker for the demon that has infested the kids, named He Who Walks Behind the Rows, and Malachi is his destructive and disobedient military chief.  Vicky is played by Linda Hamilton, looking way more attractive than anything else I've seen her in, and making me feel strange about wanting to see her naked.  I did NOT like her in The Terminator, that's what's weird.

It's a relatively by-the-numbers horror film, not entirely remarkable or necessary, but some people might enjoy it more than me.  For me, it's neither very atmospheric or high paced enough to make it one of the best.  I give it a average 3 stars.

Friday, February 12, 2016

The People Who Own the Dark - 1976

Leon Klimovsky strikes again after his first one I watched, Vengeance of the Zombies.  That one was an entertaining Euro-fest featuring a star with one name and no cool zombies in it.  Instead it was people raised from the dead who followed the bidding of their master.  They didn't lust for blood like the real deal zombies.  The People Who Own the Dark (TPWOTD) also stars a woman with one name, this time it's Nadiuska, who was apparently also in Conan the Barbarian.

TPWOTD is one of those between genre things that came out and that I'm sure some would call exploitation.  Again, gonna disagree on that one.  It's trashy, it can offend, but I wouldn't call it exploitative.  It was actually a lot of fun - not that exploitation can't be fun.

It took me a little while to think of what movie this one was similar to, but I finally did in the last half hour.  The Omega Man with Charlton Heston.  If you haven't seen it, it's a classic, but it's also quite different from the newest version with Will Smith, I Am Legend.  In the Omega Man, there are other people that are not zombies, rather they are extremely weird altered humans.  They want Charlton to join them, and to do this they continually pester him, not even resorting to violence right away.  They talk, they reason, they are intelligent - it's just that they are no longer themselves, and they are possibly dangerous.

In TPWOTD, it's the same way.  It starts with those exploitative qualities.  A group of people are going to have what looks to be a Eyes Wide Shut style orgy, complete with masks, when an atomic explosion of some sort rocks the world.  Or, England.  It's never quite said.  Somehow one of the orgy member guys knows this and immediately takes charge of the situation, has everyone prepare for the coming hardship.  To my satisfaction it was never explained how this guy knew what was going on, but let's skip that for now.

Some of the people have sex, some of the people get food and supplies, and some of the people understandably freak the fuck out.
I guess we know which one of those choices these two chose....

When they eventually make their way to town, they discover that everyone in town has become blinded by the radiation.  Odd, that.  So the town is all blinded, and they are kinda pissed off at the non-blinded people, and the non-blinded just want to get food and water, etc.  In a mishap, one of the blind people is killed.  Then the fuckin' hunt is on and the blind peeps all come after the seeing peeps.

There were several easy things to like about this.  First of all ample nudity.  Second of all, I liked the beginning when it's all these people in this situation and you're not sure what they're going to do.  I felt the script was realistic, the people were realistic, and there was a hidden subtext going on since they were all obviously lovers at some point.  There were even a couple lesbian characters, added not because they had a lesbian sex scene, but simply to have realism, and to include some real human stuff going on in this movie.  All that worked well, and there were more things like that too.

The blinded townsfolk were a mixed bag.  Sure, more explanation wouldn't have hurt.  However, it was decently done, and they were believable.  Also, they were wronged by the seeing men, and so if you imagine the blind are simply out for revenge, that makes this film work.  The pacing and the atmosphere was pretty good too!  I'm kinda into this movie, damn!

The end has a minor twist you'll see coming, but the execution of the film worked out very well all things considered.  Also, I wasn't expecting much from this and that definitely helped.  Go in with low expectations and be pleasantly surprised.  Maybe.

Update for the Year of the Monkey 2016

I did watch Highlander from '86 as well as Aliens from '86 and I also watched a borderline okay movie called Rampage from 1987.  My point is, like I said, the blog is gonna slow down.  I'm not gonna fuckin review movies like Highlander and Aliens.  You've seen those already, and I'm not going to watch movies just to throw my opinions out there.  I'm going to step back and only do like 6-10 reviews a month I think, and keep it fairly obscure.  I'm not saying this is my last commonly known movie, but I do want to watch things that are unknown.

I also had an experience last night as after I watched this.  After this I started some movie called The People Who Own the Dark, and I don't remember any of it, but I did have this feeling as I watched it that I really miss watching good movies.  I think this was brought on because I am supposed to rewatch Kubrick's The Shining with my wife, who hasn't seen it, and I'm psyched about that.  But more, I actually have put things I want to watch on hold for this blog, and that has to stop.  I have so many movies I want to see.  If I could include a list, I would.  In fact, I will put a list on this blog, but it's not complete.  IT NEVER IS!  The list of movies I want to say is, in a word, infinite.  I have movies saved on Netflix, I have lists of movies, I have memories of things that aren't saved or written anywhere, etc.  And it only ever grows.

So that said, expect things to keep slowing down, but I'm not quitting yet.  I did hit that one year mark I talked about, but I'm not going to stop this shit.  I enjoy it, so why should I?  Okay, update over.

Here's the list:

Razorback 1984
Demons 4 and 5 and 3 (The Church 1989, Black Demons 1991, The Mask of the Demon 1989 aka The Devils’ Veil)
The Dark 1979
Bloody New Year 1987
Def-Con 4 (1985)
Wizard of Gore 1970
The Brain From Planet Arous 1958
Progeny 1998
Rottweiler 2004
Octaman  1971
Nightmare in Blood 1977  some boring looking vampire movie, not sure why its on here
Spirits of the Air, Gremlins of the Clouds (1989)
Night of the Bloody Apes  -  some insane looking bloodfest exploitation
Robinson Crusoe on Mars 1964
Street Trash 1987  Zontar the thing from Venus
The Creature of Destruction  -this and Zontar are Larry Buchanan
Robot Wars (1993)
Chinese Hercules  1973 – Bolo Yeung, looks great
Deadly Snake Versus Kung Fu Killers (1977)
 Sorority Babes in the Slimeball Bowl-O-Rama (1988)
Future-Kill (1985)  hugely trashy 80’s fun
The Incredible Melting Man (1977)  effect filled sci fi that MST3K riffed on  (questionable?)
Damnation Alley 1977    post apocalypse sci fi
The Outing/The Lamp (1987)  - evil genie thing with lots of effects
The Hideous Sun Demon – classic b&w sci fi
From Hell It Came (1957) tree trunk monsters
A Nymphoid Barbarian in Dinosaur Hell (1990) – when Troma was still decent
Horror of the Blood Monsters (1970) – another ok looking vamp film
Invasion of the Blood Farmers (1972)  - backwoods Chainsaw
Frankenstein Meets the Spacemonster (1965) – classic b&w scifi
Creepozoids (1987) – 80’s sleaze horror
Thunder of Gigantic Serpent (1988) – Canadian giant monster movie!
The Meateater (1979)
Uninvited (1988 Video)  killer cat movie!
There's Nothing Out There (1991)  slasher set in the woods, like so many others
Dogs (1976)     killer animals
Strays (1991)     killer animals
Play Dead (1985)    killer animals
The Unseen (1980)  creepy looking thriller
Gymkata (1985)   overly ridiculous action film
Pin (1988)
Torso 1973
The Washing Machine (1993) sex thriller which may also have an evil washing machine
Night of the Demons – 1988  Demons like action horror
Remote Control (1988)   Blue Sunshine director
Zombie 1979 
Clones of Bruce Lee
The Dragon Lives Again 1977          
Eaten Alive (1977)   beyond cheesy looking cannibal movie.  Umberto Lenzi
Spontaneous Combustion (1990)  Tobe Hooper and Brad Dourif
Night Terrors (1993)  Tobe Hooper and Robert Englund  the creepers / the crawlers 1993  -  Contamination .7
The Executioner, Part II(1984)
Frankenhooker (1990)    trashy comedy horror
Rawhead Rex (1986)
Anthropophagus (1980)
Night Train to Terror (1985)             retro lookin thriller
Star Odyssey (1979)   (this is the third one from Alfonso Brescia who did War of the Robots)
Just Before Dawn 1981 (directed by the guy that did Blue Sunshine)
Blind Dead Series: Tomb of the Blind Dead, Return of the Evil Dead, Ghost Galleon, Night of the Seagulls
The Devil's Rain (1975)   cult film with Anton LaVey and William Shatner!
Star Crystal 1986 – some Alien rip off
The Vineyard (1989) weird looking, James Hong!
Jaws 5: Cruel Jaws  - Bruno Mattei
Spider Labyrinth 1988 – crazy horror
Incubus 1965
Werewolf and the Yeti
Phantasm series

Don't Go in the House (1979)
Don’t go near the park 1979
Don’t go in the woods 1981
To All a Goodnight 1980
Don’t Look in the Attic

Robo Vampire - 1988

This is again going a little more into the main stream cult movies, movies that have knowledge about them floating around already.  Much like an unflushed turd.  This is also going back to my Sci Fi Invasion boxset, finally, after waaaaay too long without.  Yes, I had a free night last night.  The rapper E-40 has a new malt liquor out, and I downed 24 ounces of it's 10% alcohol goodness, put this on, and sat back....

I love the cover, how it says "Martial Arts" on the side...  Like really?  Who's call was that?  I can imagine it now:  "This movie, I dunno, I just can't imagine what it would be about.  We need an indication on the cover, something that says like 'this is an action movie'.  But even that, that's not specific enough.  People will not know what type of action this movie is!  They'll be scared, confused.  How about we say it boldly:  Martial Arts.  Okay.  But I don't want it to obscure our blatant rip off of Robocop, so put it on the side.  Okay, perfect."

This is also that famous movie with the hopping vampires.  If you're not knowledgeable about cult movies, well first of all, I don't know why you're reading this, but secondly, that's a fairly well known about flick in terms of 80's Chinese made sci fi action films.  The list of movies this rips off is very long.  First of all, obviously Robocop.  Even though the robot in this doesn't quite look like it does in the poster up there.  No, that would be faaaarrrr to high budget for this piece o' shit.
This thing is what we get instead.  Looks like someone started out trying to make a costume for the Renaissance Fair, added some tin foil and maybe a kitchen pot, and then decided fuck it and threw it away.  Only to be rescued by Godfrey Ho!

The plot is mostly indecipherable.  It's not heavy on "making sense" but instead it goes this way and that.  Something about a guy dying and being brought back as this cyborg.  Then there's the hopping vampires.  The hopping vampires that, for some reason, take orders from a drug lord, shut down when you put a piece of paper on their face, and aren't actually vampires at all.  They are undead (I think) but don't necessarily suck blood, can be in the sunlight, etc.  Vampires as a term is used very loosely in this film.

The dialogue, the film, the plot, it's all in the shitter, but this movie is fun to watch anyways.  It's for sure one to take as it is, don't try to make sense of it.  You'll hate it if you do that. Instead, turn your brain off, kick back, and just try to imagine the twisted story of how this thing could've ever come to be.  Thinking of that made me google to see if anyone was making a Godfrey Ho documentary.  The guy was responsible for so many bad, weird, insane, low budget, bizarre, and now, hugely cult movies that someone's gotta make a documentary about him.  Well, there is a bunch of info on him but no documentary.  Give it like 3 years, someone will do a kickstarter for it, I guarantee it.

Cutting this short with 5 stars, let me move on.

I did watch Highlander from '86 as well as Aliens from '86 and I also watched a borderline okay movie called Rampage from 1987.  My point is, like I said, the blog is gonna slow down.  I'm not gonna fuckin review movies like Highlander and Aliens.  You've seen those already, and I'm not going to watch movies just to throw my opinions out there.  I'm going to step back and only do like 6-10 reviews a month I think, and keep it fairly obscure.  I'm not saying this is my last commonly known movie, but I do want to watch things that are unknown.

I also had an experience last night as after I watched this.  After this I started some movie called The People Who Own the Dark, and I don't remember any of it, but I did have this feeling as I watched it that I really miss watching good movies.  I think this was brought on because I am supposed to rewatch Kubrick's The Shining with my wife, who hasn't seen it, and I'm psyched about that.  But more, I actually have put things I want to watch on hold for this blog, and that has to stop.  I have so many movies I want to see.  If I could include a list, I would.  In fact, I will put a list on this blog, but it's not complete.  IT NEVER IS!  The list of movies I want to say is, in a word, infinite.  I have movies saved on Netflix, I have lists of movies, I have memories of things that aren't saved or written anywhere, etc.  And it only ever grows.

So that said, expect things to keep slowing down, but I'm not quitting yet.  I did hit that one year mark I talked about, but I'm not going to stop this shit.  I enjoy it, so why should I?  Okay, update over.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Proteus -1995

Proteus was never going to win any sort of awards for being great, original, or even entry-worthy.  It was simply made to be a action-adventure flick with a science fiction horror twist.  This late in the game (1995) it would not be fair to call it an Alien/Aliens rip off, but what it is really is another rehash of the tried and tired genre of "take a bunch of criminals, put 'em in an isolated environment, and unleash a monster".  This is followed closely by "throw in some character conflicts, this guy hates that guy etc, throw in some girls who never do anything of value, and make the death toll start to rise".  Don't ya just love mindless action films?

That's the plot right there above also.  In more detail, Alex, Rachel, Paul, Linda, etc (I don't remember) are all on this oil rig in the middle of the ocean, and they are doing some sort of heroin trade.  Paul's a big junkie, also a dealer, and no one seems to mind this.  Linda is his girlfriend I think and Rachel is Alex's girl.  Some monster is loose though, and at first they are all unsure of course until it's glaringly obvious.  It leaves slime everywhere a la Alien, and it can shapeshift into whoever it kills, as well as gaining their memories.

This is one of those movies where, at one point one of the characters watches a video that's basically plot detailing and synopsis.  In this it's main beefy guy Alex, who watches a video that an old scientist guy made where he explains all about the creature.  The creature is called Proteus, it's made from a Carcharodon (aka great white shark) and it takes different parts of the peoples personalities as it consumes them.  Also, it has a weakness to heroin from injecting it once.  Okay, stop stop stop.  At what point did the scientist guys decide to inject their weird shark monster with heroin?!  Why, how, when would they have possibly tried that?? That seems illogical at any length.

The end is like a veritable checklist of action movie cliches:  it's raining, there's a countdown until the whole f'in place is going to blow up, there's a guy in a t-shirt who jumps away at the last second before several explosions, there's a helicopter, there's even a stupid joke at the end as well as a unexplained teasing at a sequel (yeah right).  Why do places like these in movies always have an auto-destruct system?  What possible use would that have in the day to day life of an oil rig?

We do get to finally see a few cool creature shots crammed into the very ass end of this film, they are okay but nothing too exciting.  No nudity, not even very much blood.  Perhaps they were hoping they could pawn this off to the SyFy channel or something if they didn't make it too R-rated.  I dunno what the situation was but it leaves us with very little besides the "tension" to keep us interested.

It does do a OK job, it's just that we've seen this all before and this movie brings nothing new to the table.  The actors are all second rate but do their jobs, and actually pretty much everything in this flick could fall into the same category.....  It's second rate, but does it's job.  If you're looking for scares, there's zero, blood zero, tension zero, but if you're looking for a B movie, low rent, and a mindless way to kill some time....sure, put it on, I won't stop you.  2.5 stars.

K2 - 1991

I had a mild interest in the Everest movie that came out recently (end of 2015) but it's the kind of thing I would only see for free, wouldn't even use a Netflix DVD rental on.  It's just that every one of those movies is pretty much the same.  It's the can they or can't they story of peeps on a mountain, in huge coats, braving the cold, and the hardships they face.  There's always a disaster or two, and we as the audience are always supposedly held in awe and amazement at their feats.

K2 is based on the first American climbers of K2, which was a big deal in 1976.  Of course Everest had been climbed by then, and K2 was like the last frontier.  Supposedly K2 is harder than Everest but not taller, and thus it's list of people that topped it was not long.

I just considered deleting this entire post.

Michael Biehn one else as mountain climbers who do "the usual"climbing and harsh times up K2.  This movie was pretty average.  It does make you wonder why people do this shit.  That's all, two stars.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Tales That Witness Madness - 1973

Revisit my previously stated rules for an anthology film as I explained in my review of Body Bags:
1) the beginner: straight-forward horror/thriller or mystery. It's what I'd call the most "realistic" in terms of a real horror idea. No high body count, no supernatural elements,etc.
2) the weird one: Something outlandish and WTF. This is the kind of thing that would never make a full length movie.
3) the super dark one: this is where they pull out all the stops to leave you with a good memory of the film. Also, this is the chance to have the most "developed" of the anthology.

Here we have a small variation because Tales That Witness Madness has 4 stories, but essentially the idea is the same.  I was dead on accurate with my previous review of Body Bags, let's see how accurate I am here, shall we?  Spoilers will be included.

1) Tiger:  some kid has an imaginary pet tiger that hangs out with him in his room.  His mom of course isn't thrilled about this cause of all the meat that's being left around, but is like whatever, kids will be kids.  But is the tiger real?  I was pretty accurate here, this is very straightforward, very short, and with a small suspension of reality pretty believable

2) Penny Farthing: somehow a guy gets linked to a picture that was painted of a man from the distant past.  Also, there is one of those circus bikes with the huge front tire and tiny back tire.  Somehow the events in the future effect the past, and that includes when, in the future, the picture gets set on fire.  This one for sure qualifies as weird and WTF.  In fact, I was and still am mildly confused about what actually happened in this one.

3) Mel: a man brings home a strange looking tree one day and puts it up in his living room much to the dislike of his wife.  Soon, her dislike for the tree turns to hatred, while the man's liking for the tree turns to love.  Yep.  Bullseye.  This short was a huge WTF, and a clear winner for the neatest one out of the 4 on this collection.  

4) Luau: this one is the evil cult type movie.  Easily the most developed storyline, but also with the least explanation (besides maybe the tiger...) this one is all about this dude who is going to sacrifice a virgin girl to his weird tiki doll.   Again, pretty much nailed it.  He hangs out with this family where the mother wants to fuck him, the daughter wants to fuck him, and he wants to daughter's blood.  Sounds like a situational comedy actually, someone call FX and pitch that as a show to them. 

These four episodes are introduced and dialogued about by Donald Pleasence and Dr. Nicholas, who have a small story of their own which isn't much of anything.  The intro and outro parts are rarely considered a "real part of the film" but for what it is, it almost works on it's own as a mini-story.

About the tree episode, Mel.  This guy had like the perfect day, I realized.  He brought home some ridiculous tree he found, got the house hella messy but his wife was ok with it, then he left to go to the pub to presumably get drunk while he was hanging out with friends, then his pissed off wife still had sex with him that night.  I was thinking about that the whole episode.  Like, damn, I wanna be this guy!

This collection is all about situational comedy, it was done with a black humor in mind.  The tiger episode, Mel, the overarching story, there are dark comedy parts to it all.  It's not like, laugh out loud kinda funny, but it's amusing in it's own twisted way.  It's another working anthology film, sure it could be said to be second rate, but I liked it.  It was very light on special effects or movie magic, if I had to guess I'd say it was low budget or made for TV, but I'm not sure.  It doesn't look all that bad.  It's no Creepshow though, even no Body Bags on terms of how it looks.

I'll give it 3 stars, because if you like anthology films it's good, overall it's pretty weird, and it had decent actors in it.  Also, brief nudity.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Creature - 1985

Well, 1985 is pretty close to 1986.  Although, also look for my upcoming review of Highlander from 1986.  86...d6....6...ix....  Sorry, I guess that was the echo.  I'm starting to feel like this blog is over.  I decided I can pull through to the one year mark.  Then it will survive as a record, if you will, of what movies I watched in a year and what I thought about them.  I dunno.  I was thinking about it in the shower this morning, let's see if I can express it:  the concept of money has been said as "the rich get richer while the poor get poorer" right?  I feel like the internet is the same thing.  Like, if you start out with zero readers and no fan-base, unless you get incredibly lucky, you will stay that way.  You have to have someone reading your thing in order to feel the need to continue.

I really could not say exactly whether or not anyone has ever read this blog.  This website host, blogspot, totally fucking sucks in that way.  They count MY views of the blog in the total views of the blog.  So every time I look at it, it counts as a view.  Thus, I don't know if all the views are all due to me, or if people have stumbled upon this blog.  I also don't know how the fuck google works, but when I google "grindhouse review" this blog simply does not come up.  I added "blogspot" and the only mention of my blog was like page 4, and it was this informational page:

I would continue, if I thought anyone was going to read it.  And it's not necessarily that I want to be famous or even internet famous.  It's just part of the system, writing to be read, not just writing to sit on the internet and decay.  So I dunno.  I'll slow down, that's for sure.  I feel it's pretty uncommon for me to watch a review-worthy movie and NOT write a review of it.  Hell, I've even written several reviews about movies that don't need to be on here.  Creature from 1985 is going to be one of them.

What do you have in Creature, from 1985, starring Klaus Kinski and Ferris's dad from Ferris Bueller's Day Off?  You have an automatically dispensed Alien clone that actually had the guys from Aliens (before they did that one) to work on the special effects.  Thus, the effects are good.  However, it's a mostly uninspired, if serviceable, sci fi flick.

I was going to make a remark about the director, William Malone, being mostly in the realm of TV.  His IMDb profile reads like how I think of my life sometimes:  Started out really cool, with some original sci fi movies, then dabbled in TV for a quite a while, then made some shitty newer horror movies, some more TV, then hasn't directed anything since 2008.  I realize how depressing my life sounds now....  Anyway, then I scroll to the comments section of his page, and someone is calling him a visionary, and part of me (a small part) feels better.

Here's a guy that is only 63 years old, could definitely direct again, but let's face it, he probably won't.  He has come and gone like so many.  Since no one gives a fuck about directing TV shows, he inflicted a total of like 3 of his own ideas onto the world.  He won't be remembered, in the long term of Hollywood.  Yet someone out there loves him, thinks him a visionary.  I don't mean to rag on William Malone.   I'm just saying he's not like an "award winning" director.

His only remaining story be told is what people will think of his movies when they stumble across them in the future.  I remember when the commercials were on TV for his horror movie Fear Dot Com.  This was in 2002, and the internet still sucked big time.  It was the first real website themed horror movie, I think, and looked all sorts of shitty.  Out of curiosity, I went to their website, and this is what my browser told me:

Ah, isn't that just perfect?  It so symbolizes exactly how much "impact" movies have left us with.

I dunno.  I admit this is not per say an in depth review of Creature.  Here we go, three sentence mash up review:  In Creature, there are two primary outer space groups, the Germans and the US.  The US stumbles across something that the Germans found, only it turns out the Germans are now dead and there is some sort of creature that's out there and hunting people.  Tensions among the American crew are high and now that they're being hunted, who can say what their fate will be?

Klaus Kinski is pretty over the top, not his best acting job, and Lyman Ward doesn't make a great choice for a badass.  There is a Ian Holm-as-Ash-like emotionless human female who is okay, and there are a couple scenes of breasts.  All in all, that is your average example of a cash-in rip-off type movie.  Although the atmosphere is decent, the monster decent and the acting decent.  So I guess that's about 3 stars.  To be honest, I get this one confused with the other Alien rip-offs: Forbidden World, Galaxy of Terror, and Inseminoid.  And, now, Shocking Dark.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

The Freakmaker - 1974

Also known as The Mutations.

In an effort to watch more actors that I actually like, I searched for movies on Amazon a while ago that had Donald Pleasence in them.  I always like Donald Pleasence, from great roles he played throughout his career, but I especially loved him once I saw the Australian film Wake in Fright.  That movie made him one of my top actors.  He brings a sort of a crazed edge to a otherwise normal looking guy.  His intensity can be called upon seemingly at any time.

In this 1974 exploitation movie, Donald plays a genetic scientist who is trying to create something by mixing humans with plants.  I couldn't tell you what the desired result of this is, but the outcome is genetically malformed human beings.  Hence the name of the movie, The Freakmaker.  There's a woman with scales, there's a hairy guy, a guy with weird legs, etc, it's your normal range of real human deformities that are exploited here on the screen for the audience, much like in the movie Freaks from 1932.  So it's nothing new.  However, this method hasn't been used a whole bunch.

Sure, movies are known to have midgets.  If anyone can vouch for that it's me, since now I have reviewed about 10 movies that have midgets as central characters.  Movies are also known to have tall actors.  Big dudes.  From roles for men like Richard Keil to Carel Struycken to all those other giants.  But not a ton of movies make exploitation of the other genetic freaks.  So this is an example of real exploitation, not the fake kind.

Mostly the movie is a slow build.  The freaks that Donald Pleasence makes are sold to a circus, where they put on shows for the paying populace.  In the opening part of the movie, Donald Pleasence's mad creater character Nolter is approached by a man named Lynch, who has a totally fucked up face.  He wants Nolter to make him look normal again, and thus they set off on this series of experiments to try to get Lynch looking normal.  Nolter experiments on other freaks and normal humans, combining them with the plants, and doesn't seem to make a lot of progress.  Lynch gets hella pissed off.  He distances himself from the other freaks and from Nolter and goes all out for revenge.

The freaks themselves do get featured a lot, but most of them don't have a lot of screen time.  Of course they were real people, not actors, and that might be why.  We get "treated" to one freak show, where we "get" to see some of them do whatever it is they do.  There's an easy favorite of a guy who can seemingly pop his eyes partially out of their sockets.  It's pretty cool, actually.

What else.....?  Hm.  Donald Pleasence is pretty good as the freakmaker dude, but his character is one dimensional and never does anything all that cool in the movie.  It's a lot of screen time for lead midget Michael Burns as Dunn.  Michael Burns was also the midget in Werewolf of Washington!  Other than that this movie had not a whole lot to say about it.  It's a very low key kind of movie, everything feels a little dialed down for the first say 70 minutes, then it finally picks up at the end.

Finally, Nolter makes a real monster, some sort of giant carnivorous plant thing:
This monster has a Cheeto as a chest

Monsters and freaks and Donald Pleasence aside, like I said it all feels kind of toned down.  Like they wanted to perhaps approach this as a drama/horror or maybe as a more true to life film.  I guess that should be respected, but when you are gonna have badass monsters like the dude above, you should maybe make your movie mood fit the monster, not cram your awesome monster into an otherwise yawn-inducing movie.  For that I only give it 2.5 stars.

Monday, February 1, 2016

The X-Files: I Want to Believe - 2008

In 1998 I somehow convinced my mom to take me to the first X-Files movie when it came out in theaters.  I was 12.  It left a giant impression on me.  You see, I saw all these TV spots (probably at a friends house) and I heard that last line of the trailer "Only in theaters."  To this day I hate that wording.  When is it NOT only in theaters when it's a real, like not HBO, movie?!  I mean sure now we have things premiering in theaters, on iTunes, on HBO, all over the fucking place and it could easily be confused where to watch something.  But I literally thought at the time that meant this movie was ONLY going to EVER play in theaters.  No DVD, no VHS, no cable play, etc.  So with that sense of urgency, I somehow talked my mom into taking me.

I had never seen the TV show X-Files at that time.  I had heard of it, sure.  It was in it's height of popularity at the time, around season 5 when the writing was at full strength, the ongoing plot was hitting left and right turns, and there was plenty of places the movie could have gone.  The first movie was about aliens, which of course was the story-arc of the TV show.  Heavy spoilers for the TV show and the first movie may be present in the rest of this review.

In the end of the TV show (we're ignoring Doggett and Reyes because who gives a fuck about them) Mulder and Scully have had a son, who was given up for adoption because he may have been a human/alien hybrid OR he may have been a supersoldier with psychic ability.  I don't really even know anymore.  The show ends in 2002 with the death of the Smoking Man, Mulder and Scully are together, and their future is uncertain now due to the fact the alien invasion is coming in 2012.  Then in 2008, money and fan interest demanded a sequel movie.  And, not to rag on it too much, but the movie was way off in terms of continuity and feel.

Like I said I can't rag on it too much.  I think they did a pretty good job with the characters.  Scully has left the X-Files, Mulder has quit the FBI entirely, and then this case comes up where they need to both come back to help, ostensibly like a "one last time" type thing.  But it's the X-File itself that I think fell flat.  Billy Connolly co-stars are a pedophile priest who has a psychic connection (maybe) to a case involving a kidnapped FBI agent.  It seems the guy is legit, because he finds two bodies and at one point he cries blood.  Mulder is all in, Scully is doubtful because of the guy's past and also because she doesn't believe in that shit.

But I dunno.  The feel is somehow very low-importance.  I think it's the fact the villain's don't have a lot of screen time or strength, it's also the priest as a pedophile thing.  In fact, that as well as references to George Bush as president and stem cell research make the whole movie feel really dated.  It was like they took two (at the times) controversial things, kinda half threw them together, and decided to make it into an X-Files movie. Essentially, the plot in the end is that the villains are kidnapping people with the intention of transplanting heads onto other people's bodies, with the stem cells working to connect the two.

The pedophile priest angle also feels unfinished.  We're supposed to have a hatred for the guy, but he instead just seems laughable.  He doesn't actually do very much in the film, sort of disappears in the second half, and to my satisfaction his connection to the case is never fully explained.  Spoilers again.  It is eventually revealed the priest molested one of the villains when he was a kid.  So the priest is connected to the villain.  It's also then proven the priest isn't psychic when he tells Mulder and Scully that a woman they know to be dead is still alive.  So was he actually in on the kidnappings then, like everyone suspects?  Or did he have a psychic connection just to the ex-victim guy and somehow not know that the woman was dead?  I am not sure.  After that, Billy Connolly's priest character promptly dies.

The movie is well shot, decently acted, and as a murder mystery I guess it's ok.  It's a dial back from the over-the-top movies that have been coming out, more of a realistic murder case.  No high body count, no aliens, and no out of the range of possibility plot lines.  In that way, it succeeds because having realism in a movie now is mostly unheard of.  But as an X-File, well - that's what the X-Files were:  outrageous, nightmarish, with aliens and way out there plots.  So I guess it brings me to the same thought I've had both times I've seen this:  why is this an X-Files movie?

We as fans were so anxious to see more, to understand the hanging plot threads.  Then instead we get a movie about what in the end could have been a normal, if a bit complicated, case of kidnapping?  I'm not saying there's no place for that, I'm just saying why make that plot, that specific plot, into the movie?  It's kid of like if they had taken an episode, and not even a great one but just some run of the mill monster of the week episode from season 2 or something, and made that into the X-Files movie.  I can't say that this was a terrible movie, it's just that it in no way feels X-Files related.

With the show's 6 episode revival started a week ago, we're sure to see some of the actual plot lines be addressed and perhaps resolved.  We're bound to see aliens, or at least hear about them, and we're bound to see our favorite characters back in action.  But just like a crappy episode from a random season of the X-Files, this movie will never be mentioned again.  Not because it wasn't successful, not because the characters or the plot sucked, simply because this movie was never important, will never be important, and made no impact at all upon anything in the X-Files universe.  And for that it gets 1.5 stars.