Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Assassin - 1986

Terminator came out in 1984, and ignited the genre of robots killing people, which was something that sold like hot cakes for a little while there.  Do hot cakes actually sell well?  I guess they apparently do, though I'm an waffle guy myself.  So, Terminator.  Another word for Terminator might be, oh I dunno....Killer?  Oh I know, Assassin!  Yes, what I'm getting at is that this is another rip-off of Terminator.  A made for TV rip off.

Robert Conrad stars as retired secret agent Henry Stanton, who is of course going to come out of retirement for one last mission in Assassin.  Sandor Stern, director of legendary made for TV Amityville 4: The Evil Escapes (obviously I'm kidding about the legendary status of that) directs this low-fi, pretty cheap rethought of Terminator.  

I just looked at the "also known as" section there on IMDB, and I do have to love some of these:
Brazil: RobĂ´ Assassino
Denmark: RoboKill
Poland: Golem
West Germany: Special Terminator CIA
Okay, Robokill and Robot Assassin make sense, sure.  Golem...well, it is the name of one fairly minor character, but I guess, yeah okay why not.  Then, Special Terminator CIA?  Wha? Sorry, but why "Special" Terminator?  Does he need those special education classes?  And is that title in the correct order?  Shouldn't it be "Special CIA Terminator" or "CIA's Special Terminator"?  Hell, I don't even know anymore.

This is going back to the Sci Fi Invasion boxset.  I don't normally just dial up made for TV copycats of Terminator to watch around Christmas time.  But this year I decided to forgo the holiday themed horror movies, and watch this instead.  

This movie wasn't especially bad.  It takes the Terminator idea and approaches it more from a cop drama angle.  Not that it's especially a drama, it's just that this is not an action adventure like Terminator.  Obviously, this one has far less effects as well, as well as a change in pacing. In Assassin, a robot created from the government gets loose and starts to kill people.  There is a list of people that the government knows about, which the robot is following, so they know where it will strike next.  They recruit our retiree agent Henry Stanton, and he helps them out to try and get the robot before it can kill everyone.

There's a twist or two on the way, but in general this movie plays about how you'd expect.  It's okay, in other words.  It's not gonna redefine movies or anything, but if it was 1986 and nothing else was on TV, I would probably have watched it.  It amps up he dialogue rather than the action, and it requires a bit more from you as the audience than the classic with Arnold Schwarzenegger.  But hey, you know, it is what it is?

It did make me wonder if you took more sci fi movies, and translated them into human stories.  Take for example, Alien or something.  Now, change everything that makes it a science fiction horror movie, and ground it in reality.  You could still make the movie, but the alien would be like a psychotic killer, and it would have to take place somewhere cool and creepy like an abandoned warehouse.  That movie sounds pretty dope actually.

I give it a very average 3 stars, in the end.  

Thursday, December 8, 2016

The Crater Lake Monster - 1977

This movie was an interesting one.  I'll admit to you, my reader, that I might have started a few of these movies and turned them off, only to forget about them and then later start something else, and never get back to these.  So the first half of Crater Lake felt really familiar, and I kept having deja vu.  I was not, and am not still, sure if I'd seen the movie already, or if I was simply getting it confused with the countless other science fiction monster movies I've seen.

Filmed in Lake Tahoe and surrounding area, Crater Lake is the epitome of 70's schlocky fun and silliness.  This movie drinks in the fact it's late 70's and uses it's stereotype characters to full effect.  To say that this is comedy is a must.  This movie had to have comedy on it's mind when being made, whether with the awful real jokes that are present, or with the inevitable way that it would age after it was made.

This movie brought a few interesting moments to me, as I watched it last night quite high and a little bit drunk.  First of all, whatever happened to facial hair?  I'm not saying people don't have beards these days.  I'm just saying, like all the styles these days are really conservative and minimal.  The only people that step outside the lines and have more hair are like the "counter-culture" statement makers who do it for dramatic effect.

Now, I basically live in San Francisco, and I am almost certainly jaded by the people I am around.  But then again, it's also not in movies anymore.  In one scene of this flick, 4 men are standing around.  One's got the sideburns and 70's mustache displayed, and looks like a goddamn walrus.  One has the giant beard, like a solid year or more of growth.  One has a minimal lip-stache, the kind you might see today.  Only one was clean shaven.  Here in San Francisco, there's the eternal-stubble, a look I despise, and then there's clean shaven.  That's like, it.  Unless you're some old guy or a "counter culture" type, there is like zilch else out there.

Anyhow, Crater Lake gets hit by a meteorite in the beginning of this movie, raising it's temperature.  Shortly thereafter, a few people start disappearing along with the local fish population.  Sheriff Steve Hanson is on the scene, flaunting his 70's 'stache and trying to figure out what's going on.  But seriously!  Whatever happened to 70's 'staches?  Did people finally realize how they looked, and if that's the answer, why did they become popular in the first place?

When we finally see the monster, pretty early on actually, it's straight up hilarious.  A Ray Harryhausen looking, very dated looking monster made out of claymation.  Now, I love practical effects, but geez, these are pretty bad.  However, they do make the comedy factor more prevalent, even if it's not on purpose.  Now, often these old movies would shoot day for night.  Film in the day, and later apply a series of tints to the films, to make it look as if it was darker when they shot.  This film shot day for night, and simply never tinted the film.  So there are also a few "night scenes" that take place with a really bright sun out there.  Pretty awesome.

The movie was a huge success, making back 30 times it's budget.  It got pretty bad reviews too, and then it seems to have vanished from the public eye.  I guess it's public domain now that it's on the boxset.  It's a good film.  It's very well shot, and the actors are fun to watch even if they are badly scripted at times.  The pacing is adequate, and the setting is of course really nice.  It's a movie that some could complain endlessly about, of course, but then again they can go fuck themselves.  I give it a proud 4 stars.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

The Outing - 1987

Also known as The Lamp, this movie reminded me a lot of The Chill Factor, which I saw a long time ago.  It's interesting it reminded me of that, cause they essentially have nothing in common.  I mean, I guess they're both horror movies that were independently made and produced.  They also both involve people who at one point or another get possessed by a demon.  But I did like The Chill Factor, and I also did like this movie, The Outing.

The Outing is a genuine 80's flick, and I watched it in next-to-worst quality on YouTube just now.  Watching this took me back to when I was getting a bigger kick out of watching these types of things for the first time, and it really made me revisit my opinion that the 80's were simply the best decade for horror, hands down.  I think it was a mix of stepping over the line in terms of body count, yet keeping the films minimal in scope, and the zany electronic music and shitty effects really appeal to the kid in us that squeals when we see a puppet, or a string on an actor.

The Outing aka The Lamp is the usual twist on an old favorite.  We all know the story of the good genie coming out of the lamp and granting three wishes.  This time the genie comes out of the lamp and kills everyone in sight.  A group of house robbers rob an old woman, and find the lamp.  They release the genie inside, and it quickly takes over the body of the old woman and kills everyone.  Soon, the lamp is in the hands of a single dad and his daughter, because he works in a museum and the lamp is from 3500 BC.

The girl and her friends are thinking about staying overnight in the museum, just for kicks, you know?  The genie is released, and takes over the body of main girl Alex.  Evil Alex then gets the plans together to get all the friends to follow through on the plan of staying at the museum where the lamp is.  They stay, the genie starts knocking people off, and also a couple of local bullies have sneaked into the museum to inflict their own torture on the group of good guys.

This movie was really a lot of fun.  I'm trying to quantify why, and there's the usual reasons.  Number one, pacing.  Like 10 people die in this, spaced apart enough to keep you watching.  Minimal approach, not too much dialogue, but enough character development to where these aren't just "Character A and B" you're watching on the screen.  They actually take the time to make the main girl and her dad likable.  The bullies are the weakest, as they seem TOO evil, but when that's the biggest gripe, whatever.

The group of good guys are three sets of couples.  They're not given tons of development beyond Alex and her boyfriend, but the other couples are some easy cannon fodder, and they also give us a little bit of nudity.  The bullies are given time to be evil, but like I said their motivation is thin, and they leap from minor assholes to actually trying to kill someone and then raping a girl.  That escalated quickly.

The poster was funny too, I like it cause it has almost nothing at all to do with the movie:
Why are the characters drawings also?  That's such a 80's thing.  Why not just have pictures of them?  It's so cool though, I love that someone actually spent time making this poster.  I also love the swamp there.  I don't know if you'll be "surprised" but I don't think there's a single swamp in the entire movie.

In all, this is a good science fiction horror fantasy film, it's got plenty of bodies and practical effects, it's got plenty of laughable mistakes and clothes, and it would be a fantastic entry level non-known 80's horror.  It's got slasher elements and follows those rules too, which always counts for something.  I give it 4 stars.

Monday, December 5, 2016

Galaxina - 1980

If I had to describe Galaxina in just a short wrap-up, with no review present, I'd simply say: "A waste of money and time, one star" and be done with it.  I don't have to do that, but I do feel like keeping this one pretty short and sweet.

Galaxina was an early spoof of Star Wars, and indeed sci-fi in general.  Star Trek, Alien, Star Wars, 2001: A Space Odyssey, yes those films and more have been spoofed to a greater or lesser degree by Galaxina.  No, of course Galaxina did not do it well, were you actually asking that?  Yeah, I'm tellin ya man, those movies can be riffed, but this is not the film to do it.

We join the space ship Infinity as it cruises through the galaxy.  The captain is Cornelius Butt.  Yep, this is the kind of "comedy" they can come up with in this one.  Get it?  His name is Corn Butt.  Like as in, Corn Butt...do you get it?  This is what passes for comedy as ol Corn Butt and his small crew go through the galaxy.  They fly with an old Chinese man who spouts off fortune cookie "Confucius Say" type of stereotypical things, a cigar smoking beefy dude, a black guy alien with wings, and a redneck character that never does anything much.

The plot is that they are looking for the Blue Star, which is some mega-powerful jewel.  In the meantime semi-main character Thor and Galaxina are falling in love, the side characters are being annoying or are barely there, and various sci-fi things are riffed on with a very low percentage of being riffed very well.

This falls into the same category of my last review, Morons from Outer Space.  See, I jumped across to America, and this one is getting slammed as well.  I don't discriminate!  I also started this one at least twice, turning it off each time.  I finally put it on last night, and watched the whole fucking thing.

This movie is named Galaxina, is known for starring a Playboy playmate, but there is no nudity from her, and her character is basically third or maybe even fourth fiddle in the plot lines.  Her story basically has no real interest, as we can see it coming, and about 45 minutes in it stops being front and center.  The Blue Star and the ridiculous shit surrounding it is really the plot, and it's okay.

To get to the money wasting part, this movie obviously had a budget.  Sure,  not a huge one, but this movie does look quite good in a lot of scenes.  The outer space scenes are done for a laugh but they still look quite good.  Also, the general production value and the look of the flick is good.  Those things should be given as props.  Which help the rating stagger up to an entire star.
Here's a quick preview of not-the-reason-this-was-rated-R.  Seriously why hire a playmate if she stays in clothes?

Morons from Outer Space - 1985

Sci Fi boxset, you let me down.  You let me down twice.  See the upcoming review of Galaxina. Morons from Outer Space was just about the lamest thing I could've imagined, and I'm a pretty imaginative person.  This is a British "comedy" about aliens that come to Earth and the fallout thereafter.

I guess British style humor is hit and miss for a lot of people.  People can laugh out loud at a series like The Office (the original one of course), which has no "punch lines" but rather just awkward people acting awkwardly.  Then you have something like Monty Python, going into serious reaches to be absurd and ridiculous, and that's funny too.  I myself like Monty Python, I like Ali G, and I don't particularly like Red Dwarf.  I liked Death at a Funeral, and I didn't like Bean.  I could go on with examples but I won't.

I couldn't really tell why Morons would've been funny.  Okay, the idea is good and it makes fun of the premise of a lot of other science fiction movie canon.  Aliens land on Earth.  They looks pretty much exactly like humans.  Despite the fact they don't have any special powers or abilities, they are immediately treated like celebrities.  I did like that they were mocking the celebrity obsessed culture that loves these people regardless of their actual abilities.

Three of the aliens are being thrown into the lime light, while a fourth alien that got separated has to work his way alone through England.  I guess the jokes come from the difficult situations that the fourth alien, Bernard, experiences in England, such as being committed to a mental hospital.

The movie was graciously short, an hour and twenty minutes long, but nothing really happened in it.  If your 80 minute movie feels like it's overly long, you might've done something wrong.  Still, it was decently budgeted, so the looks are there.  The premise is sound and it's easy to follow.  But the jokes aren't really there, and the movie just tends to be one you stare at blankly while wondering how much of it is left.  I started this about 5 times, never getting far.  I finally watched it all last night, and I don't feel any more like I enjoyed it than all those times I turned it off.

One star is too many, so half a star.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Fiend - 1980

Fiend is traveling back to the known and loved director Don Dohler of The Galaxy Invader, Nightbeast, and The Alien Factor fame.  I'm on my fourth helping of Dohler sci fi, and I will be coming back for more in the way of Blood Massacre and Alien Factor II.  Check out his IMDb page here.  Dohler is definitely not a household name, but I do wonder about what his notoriety in Maryland back in the 80's.  I wonder if people knew about him there, he might've been a local celebrity or something for all I know.

Backwoods creativity is Dohler's trademark.  It's this type of thinking that I do love, the minimalism and the direct approach.  Having next to no budget and not a lot of real actors didn't stop Dohler from directing his films, he plodded on and made 'em anyways, and you can see the love here.  You know by watching these that these were made by someone who loved the idea, who was committed to the film, and who wasn't in it for any reason other than pure love.  That's pretty cool I think.

I guess I've always appreciated the DIY approach, and that's why I can see a 50's movie that a lot of people might hate, and I rate it highly.  Again, this movie has no conventional attraction.  If your favorite movie is The Lord of the Rings, if you love modern summer blockbusters, you probably will not get one stitch of entertainment out of this one.  I'm not saying I have a better taste than other people here, I'm just stating that the tempo and the type of movie this is isn't gonna appeal to everyone.

Fiend is a lot slower than most of the Dohler films I've seen.  It's a murder mystery with a sci fi twist, and the kind of "murder mystery" where we the audience know whodunnit but the movie character don't.  Suffice to say that the movie was decent, and I think it was paced well enough.  It was the weakest link in the chain of Dohler films I've seen thus so far, which I will definitely attribute to the change in pacing.

In the beginning, which I loved, a weird orange alien being flies into a graveyard and raises a mustachioed dude from the grave.  He kills a nearby girl, and we see that it revitalizes him, makes him heal.  He also glows orange while doing this.  So basically, he kills people = he stays alive.

Then comes the biggest problem with the movie and a major plothole.  The character raised from the grave, Mr. Longfellow, is next seen living in a neighborhood with his own music academy, employees, and piano lessons, and all.  So exactly how much time has passed here?!  He gets a house, his own business, he makes anough money to live alone, he has a very successful business all in what, a few days?  Keep in mind from what we see, it looks like he has to kill someone every single day just to stay alive himself.  And it's pretty much only women that he can get energy from.  So where are the 300 or so women that he had to off in order to establish himself in this situation?

Well as it turns out, the bodies of a few local women do turn up, and Longfellow's neighbors Gary and Marsha Kender are freaked out.  Gary begins to quietly suspect Longfellow when a dead girl turns up right behind his house.  Also, Gary goes to an occult bookstore and picks up a book on witchcraft, which he reads and discovers the entry on fiends, which sound a lot like Longfellow's traits.  It also points him towards a recently deceased music teacher a few towns over who might have something in common with Longfellow.

Eh.  It was ok.  Like I said, a lot slower, and it's not the first Dohler film I'd show to anyone.  It isn't enough blood, effects, or interest to keep the casual viewer interested.  It's for completionists only.  The beginning is good, the actors are good, even the music is fine, it's just the mystery never exists, so mostly it's watching very badly written Gary Kender trying to put together the pieces about Longfellow, who constantly drinks wine and sits around looking wannabe scary.

I'll give in 2 stars for trying.