Monday, December 28, 2015

Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives - 1986

In Friday the 13th part 4, a kid named Tommy Jarvis supposedly kills Jason Voorhees, the hockey masked serial killer.  It's why Part 4 was subtitled as "The Final Chapter".  But because no horror movie series can ever be called "over" part 5 came out simply titled "A New Beginning" and Jason was back at it.

Since Part 2, these movies had been on a routine formula, people for some reason come to Camp Crystal Lake, and Jason kills them.  They thought they could put a small twist into the plot by having Jason die and actually be replaced.  Originally, the idea was to have Jason be replaced by Tommy Jarvis, who would somehow get the same curse that Jason did, and he'd presumably start killing people, don a hockey mask (or maybe change it to an umpire mask or whatever) and the series could go on.  But poor box office results on Part 5 meant that people didn't want the plot going that way, and Part 6 decided it needed to firmly say "No, Tommy isn't replacing Jason".  And now we're all caught up.

We open with Camp Crystal Lake, again, camp counselors and kids out there, again, but no Jason in the woods.  Jason is "dead" as of the last film, and now, Tommy Jarvis is worried about Jason not being 100% for real dead.  He wants to go to Jason's grave, just to double check there's a body in there.  So he digs him up, and impales him with a huge metal spear.  This is of course on a typical stormy night, and lightning hits the spear, thus reviving Jason.  Jason is off to Camp Crystal Lake to do his thing, in the meantime Tommy is arrested for generally being a jackass.  He escapes eventually and is off to stop Jason.

This movie was one of the top inspirations for what eventually went on to become the movie Scream, and it's easy to see why.  At 1986, this was the sixth movie in the franchise, at a rate of almost one a year since 1980.  That was what the Scream idea was all about, this horror craze that was made by Friday the 13th and Nightmare on Elm Street.  Since Nightmare had a more bizarre and not straight-forward approach to it, it's always been my opinion that Scream was more directly referencing Friday the 13th, Halloween, Sleepaway Camp, and all the non-legacy slashers that were coming out around this time.  Turns out I was pretty much right.

This film is great: good budget, well shot, and with a record breaking 18 kills in this movie, it's awesomely entertaining.  Jason is badass and given plenty of great scenes to scare you in, and the deaths are really cool for the most part.  This is one of the first in the franchise that went above and beyond, reaching into a super-human, almost silly approach to the horror subject- but still keeping it horror.  I mean, just the idea of bringing him back with lightning was a notable change.  It's not like the other Friday the 13th series had been grounded in reality and realism, but none had gone that far off the deep end with wacky ideas.  That self-aware approach and the escalation of kills became exactly what horror movies became about later on in the 80's:  hyper-violence, almost silly suspension of reality, and the killer being the true star of the movie.

Tommy Jarvis is the only recurring character in the Friday series that doesn't ever die.  It was a interesting idea to write him out of the series after this, and in my opinion a smart idea.  3 different actors had played him, and he was more than disposable after this movie, but he was also not a very strong character, and we as an audience weren't exactly begging for him to come back after this.  Still, I have to wonder what would've happened if Friday the 13th had kept Tommy around in the future movies, always pursing Jason and somehow besting him.  I think that would be pretty cool, actually.  But in a way it's better to have him disappear after this, it sort of makes him a unaware survivor.  Since he never truly discovers that Jason comes back after this movie.

As of today, there is a Friday the 13th film "in development" on IMDb as well as a Nightmare on Elm Street.  They both had less-than-huge reboots in 2009 (13th) and 2010 (Elm St).  I have to think these new projects will not be sequels, because the time has been too long....  It's also interesting that none of the directors associated with the entire series of Friday the 13th have other big movies they're known for.

I've seen every Friday the 13th movie when I was a younger of course, and then again about 4 years ago, in order for the most part.  This one stands out in the series.  This is one where I remember, as a kid, my older brother had seen it, and he would frighten me by telling me about it.  I was so intrigued by the idea of chaining Jason to the bottom of a lake as well, wondering how in the world they did that.  It was definitely well done, it's linear, the plot is very well done, and the movie isn't hard to follow at all.  It's a great example of how, 6 movies in, a series can still have stand out sequels.  There had been some weak links in the chain along the way, as there always are, but somehow this one just worked.  I enjoyed it a lot, I give it 4 stars.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Cross Mission - 1988

First of all, I have to say this movie has the coolest opening sequence OF ALL TIME.  I know that's huge praise.  This deserves it.  There's some mindless action song, explosions, people fighting, midgets, midgets shooting lightning out of their arms, helicopters...all this and it keeps repeating the name of the film "Cross Mission" like 6 times in huge all caps across the screen.  No other credits, no reasoning, just senseless action scenes with music and crazy ass shit going on.

Of course with a beginning of that magnitude, things were bound to slow down, and they do big time.  It's not the worst setup in the world, we've got about 45-50 minutes worth of background story.  General Romero is a evil ruler over an anonymous South American country (this was filmed in the Philippines) and he has some visitors from the UN, William and Helen.  He shows them all the supposed good he is doing, and goes about to send them on their way.  But soon one of Romero's men is having second thoughts and decides to turn on him.

The best part about this is the wacky shit that is going on besides the plot though.  This movie is directed by Alfonso Brescia who did those Star Wars ripoffs.  This one is far more straight-forward than those, but does feature it's own good amount of bizarre shit.  It appears General Romero has dark mystic powers.  Powers which, for some reason, make him able to conjure up a little midget.  The best scene is when he shows this to the UN lady.  She stands there, her horrible acting is great.  She literally has zero reaction.  The guy just conjured up a fuckin midget!  Where is the horror and the WTF face any normal person would make?  That or the immediate burst into laughter....

I love the poster too:
Gotta love the Arabic writing.  This is the only one I can find online, I can't find a single one that is only in English.

Between the lags in plot, there is mostly mild action-violence.  Small gun fights and whatnot featuring some US soldiers versus the South American troops.  Not a lot is said or really matters in regards to why this is going on.  It's just a reason to get away with calling your movie an "action" movie.

In the end of this one, the weirdness factor was pretty minor and never really as cool as the opening sequence.  Also, it was never explained - gotta love that!!  We ended with a film that had a better opening than actual film, and I had my hopes up.  True story, after I saw that opening I determined I was not in the right mood to watch a movie that "good" and decided to come back to this later.  But I'd gotten my hopes up.  I got back to it, only to discover it wasn't good, and then the damage was done.  So I guess my point is that this movie wasn't good.  But it also was fun and dumb, and I still had a good time.  So I give it 3 stars.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Nightmare Weekend - 1986

I turn 30 on March 30th next year.  I was an 86 baby.  As part of my turning 30, I decided that I should view a bunch of movies  that were released in the year I was born, as kind of retrospective to see what was "going on" in the film world when I was born.  It's an idea I had pretty recently, and this is my first film from 86 I've watched since the idea.  I have reviewed a few other 86 movies on this blog, but I wanna see a lot more.

Let's see how many of the "construction pieces" of this film we've witnessed before on this blog.
1) the movie is directed by a guy who's career otherwise has mostly been porn
2) the movie star several people who have very, very little other credits on IMDb
3) the movie is extremely low budget, bare bones, and it shows
4) the movie has nonsensical puppet scenes
5) the movie offers very little intrigue outside of the few nude scenes and kills

I could probably go on.  Look back at number 4 up there though, and tell me that this movie deserves strict attention.  Did I mention that part of this movies "graphics" and "special effects" include footage from an old ColecoVision video game?  That's fuckin cutting edge right there man.

So you have a puppet.  The puppet is plugged into a computer system, and it seems that the computer program directly affects the real world.  The puppet is in charge of protecting Jessica, the daughter of brilliant inventor Edward.  A couple people die as result of the puppet over-protecting Jessica.  Also, there's three girls that die that are then brought back to life.  Also, none of this movie makes any goddamn sense.  The dead alive girls don't come around until the very end, and by that time I had no idea wtf was going on.  This is definitely one of those plots where it requires far too much attention for a really, really stupid movie.

This was distributed by Troma, as a final nail in the coffin.

It was nonsense, and I wasn't sure what to think of it.  A little bit in the same line as Lawnmower Man and other early "technology" films, it had a decent vibe to it and some good 80's cheese, but eventually the story got too convoluted and I had no idea who was who and what was going on.  The lighting also didn't exist, and there are actual scenes of people where you can't tell who is in the shot because it's so dark.  You just hear voices and see vague shapes.  That never helps an already confusing, bad movie.

I'll still give it 2 stars for some fun for the first 45 minutes, a random puppet that is never completely explained to satisfaction, and some decent nudity.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Fleshburn - 1984

Some movies could've been a lot better with just a few changes.  Now, this movie was never going to be a classic film by any means.  This was coming out with a poster and a plot that seemed like a rip off of First Blood, and then a development that was more like a survival thriller type genre?  I guess survival is a genre, right?  If nothing else, I'd put this in the suspense category.  I dunno, I'm over the genre debate.

The real thing here with this movie is that it could've been better.  Heck, for a moment or two, I liked it as it was!  But those moments were altogether pretty brief.  The plot is okay; a Native American Vietnam veteran, Calvin, breaks out of the mental hospital where he's been ever since he killed some people, and he decides to get revenge on the people that sent him there.  Those people would be his psychiatrist Dr. Sam, his lawyer or something Shirley, this old guy Earl, and this guy Jay.  He decides to take them way out to the desert and strand them there.

Earl has a injured leg, Jay has little hope for their survival and turns to god for answers, Shirley and Sam used to be lovers I guess.  There's also a chance I got Earl and Jay confused.  They are left in the desert pretty early into the movie, and we get to watch as they struggle.  The Indian guy Calvin meanwhile stays in the area, with his gun handy to make sure they don't try to go anywhere and to make sure they die there.  That's his plan I guess.  But he allows them to survive IF they do it on their own.  He claims that is the Indian way.

The concept is sound, and we've seen this sort of thing before.  Small group of people, isolated location, mostly dialogue.  It's the sort of thing I normally like.  It's a challenge for a movie writer:  see how well you can write!  Without a lot "happening", can you keep the movie interesting?  The only problem is that it doesn't give any reason for these guys to survive, to do well, and to know how to confront their situation.

Dr. Sam, our agreed upon main character, seems to just be a desert survival expert.  Now, I know a thing or two about survival myself.  I could probably get a tiny bit of water, trap some sort of food, build fires, etc.  But this dude is like a walking resource on how to survive in the desert.  With essentially no explanation as to how.  He just kinda "knows this stuff".  He knows how to track where they are, how to get water, trap food, how to keep cool, how to survive.  And he knows it all and does it all right away.  So about ten minutes after they're stuck, they're pretty much fine.  There's very little feeling of danger.

Eventually, the situation gets to the point where they can either go for help, or stay there and die.  By utilizing the darkness of night and a small diversion, Sam and Jay sneak away from the watch of Calvin and break out to find help.

The movie is one of those where it gets labeled as bad, simply because of the absence of good.  Sure, this movie is not good by any means.  It's not something I'd ever watch multiple times, buy, have memories of.  It feels very TV-friendly, like an above average made for TV movie.  With a couple censored language things, it could easily be shown on AMC and fit right in.  It also doesn't really leave an impression.  The script I'd say is actually pretty good.  The writing is pretty well done.  The acting is solid enough.  Sonny Landham as Calvin isn't in the movie too much, but is believable in the role and his actions make sense.  I also really liked the ending.

So what do we do with movies like this?  It's so weird to me in a way.  That this is then labeled as bad, and is quickly forgotten.  The poster was cool, the concept was decent, the acting decent, it's just that it wasn't BIG and it didn't go BOOM and it was almost entirely pointless...?  I dunno.  I kind of want to make a point here as to giving it a chance, because I think it deserves one.  Yet I'm also saying it wasn't great.  So the end, take away is:  if you're into movies like this, you'll like it.  If you want action, revenge thriller, horror, drama, etc, look elsewhere.  Within whatever tiny subgenre this movie could be placed, I'd say this is actually quite good.  Some "survival/suspense/how-will-this-play-out" genre.  So I give it 2 stars.  But almost 2.5  Eh, 2.5 sounds good actually.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

The Executioner, Part II - 1984

I absolutely had to include a video.  Because the acting and the script in this is possibly the worst I have EVER seen.  This movie is the ultimate in forced, crappy dialogue.  Watch the vid, hombre.

I'm kinda stepping into semi well known of cult movies again here.  This movie is on the bad side of cult, the so-bad-it's-awesome thing.  This movie is bad.  Bad, bad, bad.  Really, it's quite bad.  The actors, the script, they are what really make it bad first.  Then it's the plot.  The plot is very minimal, has absolutely no depth to it, and offers no payoff in the end either.  It's also a well established fact that this movie, Executioner Part II, has no Part I.  This is a sequel to a movie that DOESN"T EXIST.

Why would you do this?  To give your movie legitimacy.  Also, read my review wherein I explain the importance of a legacy.  Sometimes people will rent a movie solely based on the fact they think it's part of something.  That's why sequels, reboots, prequels, spinoffs, etc, exist.  You don't need to spend time establishing who these people are, you don't need to have a complete story in one film, you can kinda just dive right into the action, into the story, and the audience is ok because they already know what's going on.  

I dunno if I'd slam the movie for this.  As I said in that link above, I think it's kind of smart.  Now, in this case, it's a little to the extreme. But think about this - the most popular movie of all time Star Wars.  Launching with the 4th movie.  In 1977.  With no explanation.  Okay, how many people noticed, and how many people cared, that's up for debate.  But you know, shit could've happened.  George Lucas could'a died or whatever.  What if we never got episodes 1-3?  Some of you out there are like "that would've been better!"  Hey dude, I'm not arguing about Star Wars.  I'm saying it's okay to randomly make Executioner Part II.  

Executioner 2 is about an executioner who's takin' out all the baddies in LA.  People are taking it as a blessing and a curse, bored cop Roger O'Malley is trying to figure out who the executioner is, and the underworld is hurting.  His drug addict daughter Laura meanwhile just needs some drugs, yo.  She is trying to get her fix and gets mixed up with "the tattoo man" who I guess is one of the big bad LA crime lords.  She turns to prostitution via her friend, and pretty soon the executioner is also going after the tattoo man.  Roger is also hot on the trail of the executioner, and thinks he knows who the executioner might be.

This is most def a friends, drinking, smoking, riffing, etc etc movie.  Great choice for any bad movie party, or just something to put on if you want to see what a true amateur film looks like.  Although I enjoyed it, it should also be said that it's not 5 stars by any measure.  I think it could've been more fun, and the plot especially is not very discernible.  Lots of times it's just "stuff happening" and no reason.  In my opinion, the best midnight movies are the ones where you don't have to know what's going on.  It's not that you have to know what's going on in this, it's just that this movie is more like, you wonder what this scene has to do with another, and another, and a lot of times the answer is nothing.  It's hard to explain, it just makes watching this a lot more tedious.  Still, 4 stars.
Um, sir?  That's not how you smoke a cigarette.



Kiss of Death - 1995

A few of these reviews have been unintentional.  They snuck in because I was watching a movie, usually with my wife, and I had the realization that the movie could be fit to this website.  Of course, using my format, pretty much any movie can be on here.  But in general, I like to stick to bizarre/obscure.  Obscure, cult film, grind house, and forgotten.  Those are my usual quantitative features any film on here should have.  Of course I break the rules.  But everyone likes breaking rules...

Unforgettable was one of the first, and there have been a few others.  If I had readers, I'd hold a contest to see who could guess which movies I watched with my wife, if I didn't say so in the actual review of the movie, which I probably did.  The point to all this is that I watched this movie, and in my head I was thinking about if I could review it.  I decided I could.  This movie was truly stupid.

For a 95 film with real actors, and in a time when there was plenty of competition going on, this movie feels really out of place.  It has a weird laid back 80's feel, clashing with hyper violence and extreme unbalance brought on by weird performances and 90's "we have to be cutting edge" thinking.
Long before Nicholas Cage was hamming it up with bizarre performances or yelling about "The Bees", he was in weird, awful little roles like this.  I had the read some of the reviews of this movie right before I wrote this, and he got a lot of praise for this role.  WHY?  This is bad, bad acting.  Yes, he's fun to watch.  But he's fun because he's so fucking nuts, and you never know what he's going to say or do.  That's a good script, but he is not good in it.  He seems like he's fuckin' goofing off most the time.  It's similar to another early Cage movie I should've put on here, Deadfall.  Cage was also a "stand out" in that movie because of how awful he was in it.

Two second plot line here:  David Caruso as Jimmy is an ex-con who gets mixed up with a deal that gets busted.  He was doing the job for Nicholas Cage as crime boss Junior Brown.  Samuel L. Jackson, Stanley Tucci and Ving Rhames are all cops, and basically Jimmy eventually decides he'll give out some names in trade for spending time with his daughter.  Also, his wife dies in a fairly shady way, and he wants to find out what happened.  Jimmy has to get proof that Junior Brown did the crimes, so now he has to jump through a bunch of hoops to get some hard evidence on Junior.

There's several things that made me hate this movie.  One example would be Jimmy's wife, played by Helen Hunt.  She gets a job working for Jimmy's cohort villain Ronnie (Michael Rapaport) and he drugs her or something.  After she wakes up, randomly at Ronnie's house, she gets into a car, crashes, and dies.  That's it.  No explanation, no depth to that - that whole sequence is never explained.  So WTF happened?  Implied date rape there, and Jimmy never finds out WTF went down.  But he doesn't give a fuck.  Why not?  My single most hated thing:  he leaves his daughter under the care of the babysitter Rosie.  He visits a few times and whatevs.  Then randomly when he gets out of prison, Rosie tells Jimmy "you have me too" and the next scene they're fucking getting married?!?!  WHAT?

Okay number one, you need some sort of fucking development in movies.  Things don't just fucking happen.  You cannot just randomly have one character do something, with no reason, and expect the audience to just accept it.  Last we as the audience knew, Rosie was a college student who was watching the daughter cause she was nice.  Sure, she could bond with the girl.  But not enough to fuckin give up on her education, marry some ex con she doesn't know, and throw her life away!  And it wasn't plot important at ALL!  That shit really bugged me.  This isn't 1935, or Japan or something.  You don't just off and marry someone for no fuckin reason.  That almost ruined the movie on it's own.  And it's not like she married him for the girl.  Later we see them naked in bed together.  WTF is not a strong enough phrase.

This movie fuckin sucked, it was slow, and Nick Cage tore up the scenery.  I hated it.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Bombshell - 1997

You know when I decided I might hate Bombshell?  40 or so seconds in when the director credit came up:.  "A Paul Wynne Mix"  A Paul Wynne "MIX"??!!  Are you fucking kidding me?  A "mix"?!  A mix.  Oh god.  I hate the fucking Robert Rodriguez calling his shit "flicks" I hate it when they do that goddamn "I'm so fancy I'm not going to call it a film or a movie or say directed by....I'm going to make up my own term."  I'm sorry but it's not a mix or a flick or a joint or a project or whatever you wanna call it.  You're not special, sit the fuck down.

There was no way I was going to miss any nudity in this movie.  But fuck me, they shot it in a way where you never see anything.  COME ON GUYS!  Give us something, don't just make us sit through this boring ass bullshit.  The hell am I doing....  Yes, this is partially written as I watch it.  I don't know when GPS was invented, but this movie does have it.  I wonder if it was a common thing at this point, I certainly didn't know anyone with it in 1997.

In this one, you have regular guy Buck.  One day Buck is kidnapped and has one of his kidneys removed, and a mystery bag put in it's place.  He doesn't seem to give a fuck though, and just goes about his business.  What is it?  Well, it might have something to do with a company that's doing experiments with nanotechnology.  Or it might have to do with a masked man who leaves him a weird voicemail, asking him to make a pickup from a restaurant.  Eh, it's probably both.

This movie is also king to bad CGI.  Okay, I take that back, other movies I've seen have it worse, but this is in line with those glorious 90's CGI movies where it looks like a damn cartoon.  I also am not sure if this was supposed to take place in the future or now?  I know it's an odd thing to wonder, but they don't riddle the movie with technology that's made up (besides the nanotech).  However, they do have the people dressing all weird and they have some other weird stuff that doesn't quite look 90's...so it's one of those where I guess it takes place in some bizarre alternate future.

Do you ever get the feeling that the backstory of a character that you're being given is just time killer? Yes, I know backstory shouldn't be considered filler per-say, but then again, when it goes on overly long, and it's not plot important, and it's hardly even a main character, well, yeah, that's just fucking filler dude.  Just a different type.  I've also been around long enough to notice the stock sound effects when I hear them.  This movie has them.  Just, you know, so that you know that.  This movie is chalk full of bad stock sound effects.  Obviously shot on a shoestring budget, and probably in empty buildings they found, without permits.

This movie was actually quite bad.  I just kind of wanted to do an in-depth analysis of it.  Hope ya enjoyed it.  It has basically no redeeming factors.  It looks like a school project - having made and seen plenty of those, I can tell you I'm a trusted source.  I almost forgot to mention!  The reason I saw this is that it was directed by Paul Wynne.  In mid 2005, I saw the movie Tail Sting on the Sci Fi channel.  That movie is about genetically mutated giant scorpions getting loose on a plane.  This was before Snakes on a Plane, hell that movie was made 5 years before SoaP.  So I watched Tail Sting and it was horrendous.  Having always had a special place for it in my heart, I wanted to see another Paul Wynne film, and this one was on Amazon.  There's the story.

In the end, Buck gets his kidney thingy removed, and it turns out it's a bomb. Him and the girl survive the explosion, and freeze frame as they kiss.  Awww.  I'll give it 1.5 stars for generic 90's trash that's funny to look at but not that good by any means.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Breeders - 1986

Ya like girls, right sonny?  No, I'm not your creepy uncle Larry.  By the way have you noticed that most bad movie seekers are guys?  Why is it such a sausage fest in the bad movie followers?  I start the blog this way because this movie has a whole lot of female nudity in it.  There are breasts, butts, and even some pubic hair.  There's something similar to nude yoga, and multiple scenes of girls in the buff walking around.  I have also seen the remake of this film from 1997.



It is kinda funny that this was remade in 1997 and that I saw it, without knowing it was a remake.  I saw the 1997 version because it was directed by the same dude who did Grim.  I wanted to check out another monster movie he'd made.  Why I didn't review it, I dunno.  I was still thinking that I should stay true to the blog name.  Although, back then the blog had a different name.  So I guess that's an irrelevant point.

Breeders is your typical alien comes to Earth, kills girls plot.  In this one, the alien needs to infest itself in virgin women so that it can reproduce.  There will be bodies, oh yes. This movie is most def for that inner dirty ol' man in all of us men.  It's pretty cool to see the bodies of the girls, these were real looking girls, not huge actresses or anything.  They weren't fake, they have obvious tan lines, etc.  But I love real nudity in this style way more than the other shit we get piled with now.

The acting and especially the dialogue is pretty not-so-good.  But we're not really watching the movie for that.  What this movie does offer is a very short, very breastified romp with a unseen monster, a hot black girl main character, and your typical array of policemen who are ineffective.  There's also Detective Dale, who is the only real major male character in the film.

This movie is pure sleaze, made for the two reasons that guys check out girls.  It has a small amount of blood in it, some decent effects, some okay music, and it seems like the budget was okay enough.  It's nothing hugely special to write home about.  It doesn't have that huge likability factor to it that some others do, and I doubt this one has a huge following.  Although, I could be wrong.  I'm not saying I didn't like it.

I love the description on Amazon:  "An alien life force descends to Earth in the form of spores and uses the bodies of beautiful women as reproductive hosts. In HD."  I just love the In HD part really.  Now I know, it's not part of the plot.  I'm just saying it sounds so much like a weird afterthought, or like "Hey bonus!  in HD!"  I want to see a movie where the plot line is "A huge fucking monster kills people with electric semen.  In HD"

It was good!  A little on the predictable, exactly-the-same-as-many-others way maybe.  3.5 stars.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Horror High - 1974

In keeping within the subgenre of school related slashed films, I checked out this '74 high school based slasher flick.  This one is pretty well known, I think, and had a sequel in 1987, Return to Horror High.  It does rank high on the originality factor too, people usually point to Black Christmas (1974), Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974), and Alice, Sweet Alice (1976) as the big slasher precursors to Halloween.  But this film came out in March, months before either of those other two from 1974 had come out.  Yet this doesn't usually make any lists of inspiring slasher films.

Horror High is unconventional, sure.  It takes a similar stance as Carrie (1976) in that it's a revenge film, and it also takes a small inspiration from werewolf and/or mad scientist movies.  Then it puts all this in a high school setting.  But the slasher movie musts are all there:  deranged unstoppable killer, dumb airhead blondes who die, a body count, blood, etc.  It did all this, and still only got rated PG.  So therefore it was also the first slasher film to NOT be rated R.  Damn, now I begin to really wonder why this isn't more well known...?

Horror High is the story of a science nerd who is the subject of bullying and constant torment.  Aren't nerds everywhere like that?  Anyways, this nerd (Vernon) is really committed to his science project, which is to turn a guinea pig into some sort of monster by way of a chemical he'll inject into it.  Vernon is neglecting his other classes, and in the first scene we see that his cunt of a teach Miss Grindstaff (the fuck kinda name is that?) is giving him hell for not paying attention or finishing his assignments.

Vernon's science experiment is working, in that it makes his pet guinea pig go crazy, and anyways there isn't too much time before wouldn't ya know it, the guinea pig kills the janitor's cat.  The janitor in a blind fit of rage MAKES VERNON INJECT HIMSELF WITH THE FORMULA!  Hahaha!  This scene was fucking great.  The guy who plays Vernon was ok, but the dialogue is so jilted and unrealistic.  This movie is definitely one of those comedy horror movies.  But the thing here is that it was intentional too.

This movie was really a send back to the 50's monster movies, when I think about it.  The style, the monster, the squirmy main character.  Everyone is so straight-laced that it practically oozes satire as it plays all the stereotypes to their fullest.  The cruel bullies, the picked on nerd, the high school jock, the fatherly supporting teacher, and the cruel other teachers....this movie was going for an underground comedy horror before comedy horror was a big thing.  Damn, what was that other one I reviewed.....  Brain of Blood and then Blood of Dracula's Castle.  In retrospect, Blood of Drac's Castle may not have been intentional, but I think Brain of Blood was, and this was only a few years after that.

Okay, so, then Vernon starts to go crazy and kill people whenever he damn well pleases, and the film takes on a sympathetic, anti-hero type of vibe.  He kills people that seem to deserve it:  the jerk jock, the janitor who turned him into this creature, and then his teacher Miss Grindstaff.  There is one friend he has, a girl that likes him, and eventually he tells her what's happening to him.  But what will his ultimate fate be?  I ask you, WHHHHHAAAT!?

Way ahead of it's time, comedy was good and has aged decently.  Really, really ahead of it's time actually.  Had this come out in the 80's I think it would be a cult classic.  Why is it not anyways?  This has every ingredient and was way more innovative that movies that supposedly do have followings like House on Sorority Row.

It deserves high marks, I give it 4.5 stars.

Cult Movies - My Thoughts

I’m going to attempt to define cult movies right now.  I think it all comes down to a connection.  A connection that we as the audience feel to other members of the audience.  These weird and unknown movies that came out, movies that received little exposure, were small in scope and budget.  They got bad ratings, or never got ratings.  They played at only a handful of theaters, or more likely no theaters at all.  Then they vanished.  Having no media department, no money to push them onto a larger stage, and a lot of time- no talent behind the films, it was only a matter of time until the movies would be forgotten about.  But they weren’t.

The movies lived on because of the growth in cultural taste for historical documents.  Plus, there are people out there, critics, for every different genre, niche, exploit and craft.  Because something doesn’t have mainstream appeal is a turn on for critics such as me.  I love me some mainstream art films, sure.  I love Stanley Kubrick, I love Akira Kurosawa.  But what I love perhaps more than either of those is the feeling I get when I discover someone who isn’t widely known, and yet I see them as a master-artist as well.  It’s a feeling of satisfaction, and it’s a feeling of discovery.

When people delve into the realm of bad movies, they expect to see a certain thing.  They expect to see bad lighting, bad acting, poor special effects, and they often expect to see storylines and plots that are undeveloped, dropped, unclear, and very threadbare.  What creates a cult film is when these things align in such a way where despite all these things that the film is “lacking”, the entertainment of watching the car-crash of a film is still high. 

It creates a sort of link between the audience.  Since this is still not at a mainstream level, audiences can connect with each other because of their shared mutual interest in these types of films.  Sure, you could be really into skiing, you could love a good craft beer, you could enjoy ancient Egyptian artwork.  These things could direct you towards groups of people who are similar to you.  But when you love an obscure 1983 movie that only about 100 people in the world know exists, you have a closer, more intimate feeling between you.  In the world we live in, it's all about connection.  What connects us, what makes us tick.

When you see an unknown of movie, when you "discover" it, and then you find someone else who knows it too, you get that sense that you two are somehow linked.  You tell your story of how you "found out about" this movie.  You share your interpretations of it.  That's the appeal of cult film.  Which is why the term cult.  A cult is a tight grouping of people with similar interests, and those interests are usually against the mainstream.  Enjoying bizarre movies is not as extreme as some things, sure.  But it's just another way of telling the world, "I'm different.  I like this cast off, shunned part of your world.  This is my identity."

To me, the idea is to segregate yourself.  It's to put yourself on a level - not above or below, just a different level.  You join a smaller herd.  Perhaps you really like pre-1999 Korean drama films.  Perhaps you only watch slashers from the 80's, but you stay away form the big ones like Halloween and Friday the 13th.  Or like me, perhaps you watch a little bit of everything, and embrace the whole world of cult.  Does that make me not a cultist?  If I'm trying to align myself with every small herd, doesn't that mean I want to be part of a big herd?  Or does it just mean I'm indecisive?  

For me, I never wanted to be "Part" of something.  I never did this as a social experiment, I never hung out with the sci-fi art movie nerds or anything.  I just loved movies.  And that's what it all comes down to in the end.  In the end we're all just movie nerds, talking about the loves of our lives, 90 or so minute escapes from reality.  We will always be looking, researching, watching, talking about movies.  Because that's what we do.  We watch movies.  Be they "bad" or "good", they all deserve to be watched.  They all deserve to have someone know about them.  They all deserve to be part of some small cult.  Well, almost all.  Not "It's Alive".  Fuck that movie.

(I'm kidding)

Monday, December 7, 2015

Top Line - 1988

I'm back to the mode where it seems I forget these movies as soon as I finish them.  That's one thing I will give my recent review 984.  At least I could remember the plot despite the fact I watched it before this movie, and I watched part of a movie after this one too.  Yet, 984 was still something I remembered.  This movie, I typed in the title, I went to the IMDb page, and I looked at it thinking, "did I watch this? maybe I didn't finish this one...?"  But after doing some research, I found this picture that made me remember:

I'm not going to call this a Terminator rip off, because just having cyborgs isn't enough to warrant the term rip-off.  Come on people, there are plenty of movies that take influence from others.  If every movie is ripping off Terminator that has a cyborg in it, then every movie with a detective is ripping off Sherlock Holmes, or like every movie with a stabbing scene is ripping off Psycho, etc.  The plot had virtually no similarities.

Actually, this had a lot more in common with the George Lucas bastard child movie Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull.  Because it's kind of a similar feeling action adventure movie about an adventuring author, Ted, who discovers a UFO in the Amazon.  Then a bunch of organizations, the CIA, KGB and of course Nazi's come along and start to hunt Ted.  One of the people hunting Ted is the above pictured cyborg guy.

The movie was directed by a decent director who also directed Django 2, and had real stars also, George Kennedy, Franco Nero, Deborah Moore and Mary Stavin.  You can look up the names and movies yourself.  But Mary Stavin was a Bond girl, and now she was post-Bond which means nudity!  Booyah, bitches.  I do love me some Bond girl nudity.

Top Line is ultimately extremely forgettable, as the opening paragraph hopefully shows you.  To say it was bad would be a mistake though, I think.  It was at least a solid action effort.  This is one of those movies where, if you were in the right mood:  riffing it with friends and beer, it would be a great choice.  It has enough bullshit going on, the real actors are always fun to see as they "slum it up", the effects are pure 80's cheese as seen above, etc.  Don't watch it alone, and don't go in expecting some awesome sci fi movie.  It's actually more of an action or even....yeah, I dunno, adventure.  With a sci fi element.

I'll give it 2.5 stars and I'll also say, I want to see it again.


984: Prisoner of the Future - 1982

I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that Tibor Takacs isn't a household name.  He's not someone who has wide box office appeal, nor is he even somewhat well known of outside of his movie The Gate.  Tibor would not remain in the known-of light much after The Gate, he soon took to directing made for TV movies, and has pretyt much remained there ever since.  I first became aware of him with the 2003 film Rats, then the monumental Mansquito, then Ice Spiders.  Yes, we are talking about the SyFy channel with some of these.  Aw yeah.

984 is some sort of dystopian future scenario in the same vein as 1984 (obviously) and other similar works.  It's a short movie, low budget, and the actors aren't very well known.  Everything I can find tells me that this was originally meant to be the pilot for a TV series, and that would have been pretty weird.  I guess it could have changed, or been different, maybe kept some of the twists hidden for a while longer in the show, but I really can't imagine this movie going on for very much longer than it did.  At 76 minutes, it was still not the best pacing and tended to be very dialogue heavy.

Basically you have a story about a high level executive guy who one day gets captured by the evil government and taken to a political prison.  There he is assigned the name 984 and told he must confess his supposed sins.  He is most likely innocent, the movie never really shows us if he is actually guilty or not, but that's not the point.  The point is the supposed thrill of watching him as he suffers through the prison system.  He makes friends with some of the other prisoners, who encourage him in different ways.  Slowly he begins to understand the gravity of his situation and he has to face the evil government.

A TV show from 1967, The Prisoner, has an almost identical plot.  Actually, the plot is also pretty similar to One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest.  In a way, a lot of innocent-man-in-jail things go the same way.  Remember that scene in Ace Ventura:  When Nature Calls when he's inside the robot rhino?  Classic scene.

This movie was pretty slow, had a low budget and minimal set and budget.  It was the simplicity I normally like, but in the end it ultimately felt like it was too pointless.  This has a lot to do with the fact it was a TV show pilot, they were obviously going to have more stories, more character development, more explanation, etc, as the show went on - but it was cut short before that could happen.  Instead they just sewed on some quick ending that they probably spent all of two minutes figuring out, and called it a day.

It would've probably been better had they not made it into a movie at all, but why wouldn't they?  The bulk of it was shot, with another 2 days of shooting, finish it up and throw it on TV much in the same vein as Killings at Outpost Zeta.  This was back when there weren't like, a billion shows and movies that they were playing- finding stuff to put on was still a challenge, and this was cheap so why not right?

Kinda feels like given everything I shouldn't rate this.  I feel like it doesn't quite deserve a huge mark down as a movie, because it honestly had some potential at least.  But they put it out, and what's more, they then included it on my Sci Fi Invasion boxset.  So I guess I kinda have to say, in the end, it doesn't matter what the intention was, it only matters what the final product was - which was a movie that was too slow, not very interesting, and really bland. I give it a star.


Saturday, December 5, 2015

Crippled Avengers - 1978

Damn, I suck.  This is only my second kung fu review behind The Prodigal Son, what am I doing with my life?!  How could I not watch more kung fu movies?  See this is what makes my blog good, introspection.  If you don't know yourself, who do you know?  Motherfucker.

So I am drunk.  But I was not drunk upon viewing of this feature film.  I was sober and I watched it despite being quite tired.  I fell asleep once, twice, several times during this movie.  It wasn't that boring, I was just fucking tired bro-han.  So I watched it and now we're here, what's the point?  The point is that I watched and now the review comes.  This movie was okay.  Wanna know the plot?  Here it is:  kung fu.

Kung Fu man stars in Kung Fu: movie 691.  In this movie, kung fu master 1 fights a buncha grunts and kung fu master 2, as well as evil kung fu guy.  There is reason a b or c, and there is side character xyz.  What I'm trying to say here is that this movie has no discernible plot or things that happen.  It's action from minute 1, through to minute 107.  Yes, it is an hour and 47 minutes long.  Yes, several of those minutes could have been cut out.  But no, they weren't and thus the pacing is quite off too.

Essentially you have a blind guy and a deaf mute.  These guys are brothers, and they are good.  They fight the evil guys, which are a guy with huge grey sideburns and his gang of henchmen.  Somewhere, a guy has robot hands.  The good guys know a guy with robot legs.  The robot hands guy is explained, the robot legs guy not so much.  So robot legs and good guys, as well as lovable idiot, all team up against grey side burns and company.  Does that make it clear to you?  It better.

This was produced by the legendary Shaw Brothers, and directed by veteran martial arts film dude Chang Cheh.  This movie has other names for it up the ying yang, and I'm not going to go into details.  But essentially it's just kung fu, and yes, the action is passable.  It's ok. I'm not going to give it a huge rating or whatev, but there are several moments in the film where I was surprised and impressed with the kung fu, timing, and stunt coordination.  This is part of the Five Venoms story line, kind of, which is compromised of several movies, I'm not going to research how many.  I didn't initially know that this was part of that, and now I do.  In retrospect, it makes sense since this feels somewhat incomplete, and that it's part of a series makes a whole lot more sense.

I think that the "problem" is that there weren't any likable characters. and there was a lack of a main character.  You know how I said robot hands was explained?  Yeah.  He was.  I thought he was the main character.  35 minutes in I said, "where the hell did the main character go?"  Cause they spent a lot of time initially on him.  Not on the deaf mute/blind brothers.  They are hardly given a backstory at all.  Then they are the stars later.  Uh, ok???!

I definitely wasn't paying the strictest attention, and like I said, I fell asleep, so I'll chalk some of it up to my fault.  But the action is occasionally impressive, and the movie does entertain.

I'll give it a whatever rating of 2.5 stars.  I guess.


Friday, December 4, 2015

Jingokumon - 1953

Known in English as "Gate of Hell"

I'm not sure if I'm going to keep putting serious movies on this blog or not.  If anyone read this blog, I'd simply take a poll, or ask for comments or something.  There's not many, and in a way I figure that they could easily transition out without anyone knowing.  I have pretty much decided not to do any more reviews of new movies, or pretty much anything after the year 2000.  Sure, you might see the odd thing pop up, but I think that is going to be the exception from now on.  Like my interest in movies, this blog is going to stay firmly rooted in the years 1950-2000.

Well, if normal movies are your interest, you could read my reviews of Moebius and A Colt is My Passport.  I might have done others, but those two stick out cause they are Asian.  *two minutes go by* No, I did just check and I really haven't reviewed anything else that sticks in here.  I did watch The Living Skeleton, as well as Kuroneko and probably some other things, but I guess I didn't review those.  The point here, is kind of this:  I have a thing for classic Japanese movies.  Why, I don't know, probably cause I'm fuckin awesome.

Gate of Hell starts out in an odd way.  I guess it makes sense in retrospect, but don't judge it by the first 20 minutes.  Loyal warrior Morito is battling for the survival of the emperor or someone, and he fights a rival clan.  They disguise a local volunteer as the Emperor's wife, and protect her from the rival gang.  Turns out the rival gang includes Morito's own brother, who has turned against the Emperor.  Morito successfully protects the pretend-wife, and stays loyal.  But during this, he falls in love with the woman (Kesa) who volunteered to fill in for the Emperor's wife.

They have one brief dialogue scene pretty early on where we can see they do have a mutual attraction, and then later on they meet again.  This time they speak through Kesa's aunt for a little while, as it would be considered impolite to not address the elder woman (you have to know a little bit about Japanese custom in some of these movies).  So, we know that Morito is into Kesa, and she seems like maybe she is a little into Morito.  He respectfully goes through the proper channels to make her his bride, asking the Emperor who he protected so valiantly.  That's when he learns she is in fact already married.  Morito loses it, and decides he cannot live without her.  Rather than back down, which is the respectable and "correct" thing to do at this point, he pursues her anyways, to the point of planning to murder her husband.

The title is great.  I love it especially because, early on in the film, when Morito is guarding the Emperor and all, they kill one of the rival gang members, and hang his head above a doorway.  They refer to this as the Gate of Hell.  One would think that's where the title comes from; but indeed it is not.  See, the movie is drawing a distinction between that: death, and love.  Would you rather face death and disgrace or would you rather live without the woman you love?

Another thing I loved about this movie is that Kesa's husband is just a solidly good guy.  He's not in the movie that much, but he is so remarkably likable, so simplistic and good-natured.  He doesn't understand what Morito's all about, and why Kesa is so worried, but he is a strong, dependable, lovable man that only wants the best for everyone. Kesa is well played by Machiko Kyo, a veteran actress who was in Rashomon and Ugetsu.  She does a great job as a woman who, perhaps through a minor fault, or perhaps just through circumstance, is caught up in a horrible situation.  We are never clearly and definitively told whether she actually wants to be with Morito or not.

Spoilers.  In the end, we know that someone has to die.  Morito has almost forced himself on Kesa, and she has agreed (under strong duress) to assist with her own husband's murder at the hands of Morito.  She goes home and has an emotional, loving last night with her husband Wataru. She begs him to sleep in her bed, then takes his place in his bed.  She turns out the lights and falls to sleep....knowing that at midnight Morito will come in and stab her, thinking it's Wataru.  The plan goes exactly as predicted.  Later, when Wataru holds her body, he asks the same words that us as the audience have been wanting to know:
"Why did you not confide in me?  Why did you not trust me enough to tell me what was going on?"

It's a great moment, and it's acknowledging the situation.  If pride, if lust, if emotion and ritual and regiment was not in place, it would've been so easy for her to tell Wataru, for this whole situation to have been avoided.  But this was not the time or place.  Things went out of control too fast, and just like in Romeo and Juliet, the perfect coincidence happened to make everything turn out as worst as it possibly could.

Well shot, well acted, and a classic minimalist story,  A story that transcends to all lives, everywhere.  I give it 4 stars.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Lord of Illusions - 1995

Imagine this plot that you've seen and heard 1000 times:  gritty guy who is a loner and outsider somehow gets involved in a series of grisly murders.  He also gets involved with a girl who is involved with the series of deaths (and she knows something more about the murders than she initially lets on) and he slowly figures out what is going on, which is usually some super evil group led by one enigmatic figure.

How many movies did I just describe?  A whole hell of a lot.  The dark mystery man in this is Nix, who is supposedly dead.  The girl who is involved is Dorothea, played by Famke Janssen, the investigator dude is Scott Bakula as Harry D'Amour, and lastly Kevin J. O'Connor as Philip Swann, the shrimpy guy that is essentially good at heart.  So, we do have a great cast!

I'm going to spend most of this review trying to think why I did not like this, nor did I like Nightbreed especially much.  Both written and directed by Clive Barker, both from the 90's and using practical monster effects, starring real actors and high budget enough to not look cheap.  Cult writer, good effects, good time frame they came out in...  Plus, Barker was a good director.  he proved that by his first film, Hellraiser, which is not only a movie everyone loves, but a true test-of-time classic.  So how does this movie not feel as good?

Well, first and foremost it is the plot.  The cliche.  I've seen this exact idea tons of times, it's just that in this one it's dressed up with a little bit more blood and an R rating.  Originality aside, I think the pacing is also a huge factor.  Each one of these two movies is almost 2 hours, and since they're both more of mystery suspense movies, that makes sense...but the plots do drag, and there's a lot of dialogue going on.  Plus, it has that feel of scripted.  You can tell when you're watching something if it feels really rigid in it's development.  This feels like that.

It's kind of like HP Lovecraft.  What sounds great on paper doesn't always translate to screen, I think.  The vibe is lost, unless somehow the movie captures it.  The best Lovecraft movies are the ones where it was based on a simple idea:  Re-Animator was a simple story, From Beyond was simple.  And don't feel bad if you change the story.  Necessarily.  Yeah, I'm all for sticking to the book if you want to make a faithful adaptation, but I think merit needs to be given to directors like Kubrick who took a well known story and changed it into something else, and it was still really good.

The feeling that comes off of this is that it actually feels like a book.  I can practically imagine reading it, the words that it would say.  But just like someone can really love the style of certain books, and some can hate them, the style of this movie is the same.  How that worked out exactly, I don't know, but it really did.

I don't wanna sit here writing out more vague ideas of why I wasn't quite into this movie.  It does have good acting, good effects, and a basic but interesting plot.  I'm sure it has it's own following too, just like Nightbreed.  But for me, 3 stars is being generous.

Phantoms - 1998

The 90's are a strange time in movies, for me specifically.  Of course, I am biased because this is the era in which I was growing up, and it's always fun for me to look back at.  I feel like the 90's and early 2000's were the end of an era in Hollywood:  the early CG gave way for high budget movies to 1) either look silly and take the CG route, or 2) still use practical effects because they realized they needed something real.  The end came when the CG was decidedly cheaper and as good looking (to some) as the practical.

The actors were a mix of old favorites and new up and comers.  Trends were moving towards a type of obsession with the movie stars, their personal lives, and what they did when they were off the silver screen as well.  That made for each movie starring someone major to be a story more about that actor versus the character they were playing.  Perhaps that was going on earlier too in Hollywood, but I felt like in the 90's and especially later (like now) it's all about the actors, and less about the movies.

Anyyyyyyyyways, a lot of the movies coming out were also like, kinda changing gears.  A lot of the action movies were getting longer and longer as the short movies were looked at as "undeveloped" or something, and audiences demanded to have a emotional connection or some dumb shit like that with the actors.  Look at action movies now, the movies are running 2, 2.5 hours long as a regular thing.  The conversion to digital especially meant that they didn't have to deal with 8-10 reels of 35mm film when they make a movie that long.  As someone who used to work with 35mm film and projectors, trust me, 10 reels = not easy to deal with.

Ben Affleck, Mira Sorvino, Peter O'Toole, Liev Schreiber, and Rose McGowan fill out this star-studded cast.  Basically what the plot is, is a sort of reworking of Mimic from 1997.  Mimic as you may remember is the story of some genetically mutated bugs that start killing people.  This one is like, some ancient life-form that lives underground that comes outta nowhere and starts offing people in a small town somewhere.

This one kind of pulls that mystery/horror thing too, it takes a lot of weird steps to make the mystery build.  This includes weird sounds coming from drains, phones, etc, it includes the missing persons, and other stuff.  This is all, oddly enough, a plot by the monster that's underground (let's just call it Jeff) to get a hack reporter, some guy who writes for a magazine similar to Weekly World News, to come and document the fact that Jeff exists.  Huh?  So a huge fucking powerful underground monster wants some unknown of reporter to document it?  WHY?!

Ben Affleck and company are investigating the disappearances in the small town, and basically the lead up to the discovery of the monster is actually pretty cool.  Jeff (the monster) has a wide array of odd powers, such as infesting himself in the bodies of humans and controlling them.  This makes for a lot of creepy scenes of people being taken over.  Also, the weird sound effects and the atmosphere are pretty top notch.  When they discover what they think Jeff really is, some weird underground monster that's been around since the dawn of time, it then turns into more of a suspense movie as they plan to kill Jeff.

The build up is good, the pay off not so much.  At some point, the movie really felt like it changed gears, especially because I went into this not expecting much at all, and the first half hour was really cool.  Whatever happened that changed the tempo up, it is hard to quantify exactly.  But it was definitely like, horror turned into action or adventure...or like, I don't even know.

Okay, generally, it's ok.  It's not like a cult movie or anything and I doubt if it will stand the test of time.  It's ok as like a pass-the-time type movie that might entertain you a lot if you're in the right mood or if you're at the right age.  I'll give it 2.5 stars I suppose.