Friday, July 3, 2015

Rare Flix: The Wax Mask (1997)

Oh what could have been.  Today's Film is The Wax Mask, a 1997 Film that was nearly much more memorable.  In 1996, plans were made for the two biggest living Italian Horror Directors to work together- Dario Argento and Lucio Fulci.  An earlier attempt at this- with Argento and Mario Bava- gave us Inferno, so fans were optimistic.  I actually got to see this intrigue, thanks to a Clip featured as an Extra on Cat in the Brain- which was better than the Film, really.  Sadly, reality came calling in a bleak way and Fulci died in the same year, mere weeks before Production!  As I've discussed before, Fulci died from not taking his Insulin one night before he went to bed.  Much like Heath Ledger's tragic death, you can interpret it as an accident or suicide.  I can't speak to it either way.  With everything ready to go, Argento stayed on to Produce the Film and a first-time Director stepped up.  It was another 7 years before he stepped up again, so make of that what you will.  The Story is loosely-based on a French Tale, while also being similar to a series of Films like House of Wax.  Being related to Argento, this one gets a little bit crazy and unexpected.  The only Print I could find easily was Dubbed (boo), had burned in Swedish Subtitles and was a bit out-of-sync with the Audio.  Even so, let me tell you all about it...
In the early 1900s, a crazed killer takes out a girl's father and leaves a grizzly crime scene.  He isn't caught.
Over a Decade later, this man dies of fright in a Wax Museum the day before our heroine- the girl who survived the beginning- goes to work there.
The mysterious killer is on another spree, first killing this kid after injecting him with some liquid.
A Reporter starts covering the Museum after the death and ends up working with our heroine and trying to be more than friends.

Gotta love Burned-In Subtitles, right?
He later captures a Hooker and she wakes up in a Lab.  He poses her in this metal rigging and then does some strange science to turn her into living Wax (I think)!  He puts fake eyes over her own moving ones and she joins the Museum!
In a Flashback/Dream, we learn that our heroine was traumatized by a strange a riff on the ending of House of Wax.

This time, he's burned by the Vat he falls into and is pushed there by Italian Charles Buchinsky/Bronson.  Odd.
Both her and the Reporter figure out the secret, but the former is captured and set up for an Exhibit.
He saves her and the Villain ends up on fire- naturally.  It doesn't end there, however, as the 'skin' melts away and...
this happens.

I can't explain it (a Terminator?), but there you go.  The End.
That got weird!  To be honest, this one is kind of a glorious mess.  It has some really simple elements- mysterious killer, Wax Museum-, strikes some familiar notes- heroine haunted by trauma-, and then goes off the rails to somehow include a Robot (or two!).  How did...what in the...I don't...yeah, this is odd.  I like the Period Design of things and the Effects are pretty damn good.  You at least hope for the latter when a Special Effects Man makes a Film (like Tragic Ceremony).  As a Film full of bizarre spectacle, it certainly delivers!  Mad Science, Murder and Make-Up!  Where it doesn't quite deliver is on giving us a coherent Narrative.  There is enough Story there to follow, but it does that lazy trick of just Exposition Dumping at certain points to skip ahead.  We suddenly see the Dream/Flashback bit and learn the context of it in the very next Scene.  I can  piece it all together, but not as easily as I should be able to.  Obviously, the stuff at the End is just beyond rational explanation.  Need I say anymore?  If you like Italian Horror and haven't seen this curious Film, it is worth a look.  It isn't great, but it is greatly-bizarre!  To give me one hour Terminator comparison, here we go...
Next up, I celebrate July 4th with a Film that fits.  It is all about our Marines...or, rather, one Marine.  Stay tuned...

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Rare Flix: Horror Planet (aka Inseminoid)

Am I feeling deja vu all over again?  Today's Film is Horror Planet, a Movie that just felt so familiar.  I had to look it up or it would have just bothered the whole time.  I finally figured it out- this is Inseminoid!  I watched that Film back in 2012 and didn't think much of it.  For whatever reason, I didn't Review it.  Oh well- I might as well do it now.  Released in most places in 1981 (and 1982 in the U.S.), this Film suffers from a comparison to a far more famous Film- Alien.  Is that fair?  Kind of, yeah.  This isn't as much of a direct knock-off as stuff like Monster, but it is pretty damn similar.  Like Ridley Scott's Film, a group of people end up on a Planet and one of them gets 'knocked up' by an Alien creature.  Unlike that Film, the killer is actually the pregnant lady!  There are other differences too, but we'll discuss that in the actual Review.  To find out if you should check this one out or keep avoiding it, read on...
On a desolate Planet, some Humans are mining the mysterious rock.  Even before J.J. Abrams, they manage to one-up his use of the lens flare!
One of them is taken out after being exposed to some rocks that exploded.  He goes crazy when he wakes up, but that is just the beginning...
Is it worth noting that this Planet's sky is super-bright Pink?  I thought it was.
One of the crew gets inseminated (hence the official Title) by some Aliens and goes a bit crazy too.
She starts killing off members of the Crew with weights, flamethrowers and even her bare hands.  This is the toughest lady since Mrs. Voorhees!
As the crew gets whittled down, she gives birth to two freaky Aliens.  In an inversion of Alien, the woman is impregnated and the creatures' faces look like, well, lady parts.
With just two Crew members remaining, our Final Guy (!) chokes out the Aliens' momma and find his lady dead.

In the British Ending, we see him attacked by the other Alien and that's it.  In America though...
We get an Epilogue showing the Ship they were waiting for arriving, seeing the carnage and then leaving...with some Stowaways!  The (other) End.
A decent effort...but it is no Alien.  Yes, the Director claims that there is nothing to the comparison.  Furthermore, he says that Fox Studios wished them luck and had no problem with their Film.  Whatever you say, buddy.  To be fair, let me put this into comparison.  Alien had a Budget about $11 million, while Inseminoid had about $1 million (in Pounds).  Alien was Written by Dan O'Bannon- who wrote Blue Thunder-, while Inseminoid was Written by Nick & Gloria Malley- who only Wrote...this.  Ridley Scott has Directed Films that have made millions of dollars, while Norman J. Warren made...Terror and Alien Prey.  Here's a big difference for you: Alien flips the cliche and has the male Crew Members 'knocked up' by the Female Xenomorph (as much as I can tell) Spawn.  Inseminoid has none of that and steps back to disappointing cliche.  Oh well.  To highlight the positives, the Film does get a good Star Performance out of its crazy, Female Lead.  She doesn't play the role in a remotely-subtle way, but it is cheesy, convincing fun.  Other than her, the Acting is pretty dry and the Writing does them no favors.  Yes, it is by one-time Screenwriters and the Film was put together in about month after a different Film fell through.  The Film works on a few levels, but fails on so many more.  It is an interesting and flawed Film that isn't *just* an Alien Rip-Off.  No, it is also a Demon Seed Rip-Off (even originally being called Doom Seeds).  Hey- don't look at me like that!
Next up, I take care of another Foreign Film before the Holidays.  Can the Film team-up that was not to be stand up on its own?  Stay tuned...

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Lost in Translation(But Still Cool): Ginger Snaps Back

Happy Canada Day!

Our neighbors from the North have given us many good Horror Films, but none in the last 20 years than Ginger Snaps.

The Sequels- less so.  Let me cover, well, the Cover.

Instead of the normal one, how about a nice, Foreign one?
Neat...but a bit confusing.

The whole Theme of the Films is Sisterhood, so you only put one of them on the Cover?  Weird.

Regardless, a neat idea for a Poster.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Rare Import Flix: Zebraman 2- Attack on Zebra City

At long last, the Zebra returns!  I suppose that sentence needs some context, huh?  Today's Film is Zebraman 2: Attack on Zebra City, the Sequel to a Film that didn't exactly translate big in America.  I found a copy online- as a U.S. DVD is hard to find- and burned it many months ago.  I said to myself 'It is on a DVD now, so there is no way that you can put it off for long.'  I sure  With that needless back-story all done, let me get to the Film.  The original Zebraman- also by Takashi Miike- told the tale of a Teacher who could secretly become the famous Superhero.  He was famous...from a TV Show made about him in the 1970s.  Now we're getting weird.  He managed to save the day in that one, but things go awry here.  I won't SPOIL the whole thing for some of you, but I'll give the gist of it all.  This one is really, really weird.  All ready for the crazy?  Too late to back out now...
In the wake of saving the City, Zebraman- with no secret identity- is overwhelmed by the Press and his Family has left him due to the strain.
Something strange happens and now we are in 2025, a fifteen-year jump from before.  The City is now Zebra City and overseen by a crazy lady in all black who wants to be Lady Gaga.
Our hero has no memories of the ensuing years and hides away with some victims of 'Zebra Time'- a sort of mass amnesia in the City.
While recovering, he starts watching a more recent version of the Zebraman Show (made after his fame in 2010) and his Counselor just happens to have been the Star!
He befriend a mute girl who is the key to the whole situation- no SPOILERS as to why- and he feels invigored with a mission of sorts.
He eventually learns the strange reason for his time-loss, amnesia and problem with his powers.  Again- no SPOILERS.  I couldn't make this shit up if I tried though!
When the truth comes out, all sorts of shit goes down.  Hopefully this WASN'T what the Villain had in mind...
Why is this lady dressed like our hero, but in all black?  Why is he in all white?  To find out, watch the Movie.  The End.
Wow.  I'm not going to sit here and pretend that I expected a Takashi Miike Film to NOT be weird.  The day he makes a Film that plays straight, somber and serious- like The Straight Story- will be the day that Sun burns out.  With that in mind, this was still a pretty damn strange and disorienting Film.  It takes about halfway through for them to really explain everything- as crazy as it is- so you're left wondering for a bit.  Throw in all sorts of events, Characters and the fact that they have to explain something called 'Zebra Time' to you and this all gets to be pretty odd.  Thankfully, there are good, likable Characters there to take the journey with, so you never quite get too lost.  With a Film like this, it is a must.  I'll definitely say that the Film walks a fine line between being a Film and just talking about its own Mythos.  Some of you will like it more for that, while others will like it less.  The CG Effects look good enough when they are supposed, but nothing more.  Given the oddball nature of the Film, you can forgive some of them for being a bit esoteric.  The Practical Effects- like the Suits- looks quite nice and definitely don't disappoint.  Overall, good stuff.  Weird as hell- yes.  It does, however, contain a very good message...
Next up, one of the many Alien knock-off Films.  Will it be good, bad or fun bad?  Stay tuned...

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Poor Bastards of Cinema: H. P. Lovecraft's The Unnamable II (Pt 1)

The Unnamable II is about a Lovecraftian Monster getting loose and killing people between it and its goal.  This leads to lots of random death.

Let's keep the theme of the last one going...

After our heroes leave the Cave with the Monster, it kills John-Rhys Davies and escapes.  This Cop gets a report of strangers near the Murder House (from the last Film and the beginning of this one) and investigates...
Now more animalistic, the creature is angry and loose nearby...
...and the Cop is dead.  It won't be the last time in this Film.
Here's the thing: the other Cops were called to kill the Monster, so I can't really induct them.  They died in the line of duty and it was part of the Plot.

This guy knew nothing and just died entirely because our heroes separated the creature from its human host and freed it in the process.

Alas poor Cop, you knew nothing at all.

Next up, random co-eds feel the wrath of the creature.  That's what you get for...being in your Dorm.  Stay tuned...

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Twin Piqued: Masked Ball

As the Morning sun rises, so do we return to the infamous Town of...
In this Episode, we get many little Reveals, some important information and one big Twist!
Important Stuff
- James meets up with a mysterious lady who agrees to let him stay in her house and fix her car.  There's a real Rebecca DeMornay thing going on here.
- Cooper gives a statement (in true Cooper fashion) and is told that the DEA Investigator will be coming.  He learns that it is Dennis Bryson, someone he's worked with before.

However, Dennis (David Duchovny!) is now going by Denise.
- Ben Horne loses everything officially and seems to go a little bit crazy.

- Andy and Dick try to one-up each other by bonding with a strange little kid from a Big Brother program.

- Josie exposition dumps her back-story (finally!) to Truman and later agrees to work for Catherine to protect herself.  When she leaves, we learn that her dead Husband is...alive!

- Finally, Cooper and Denise discuss the case.  The evidence was planted successfully, but the DEA Agent may be on his side.
This is getting complicated!
The big Theme is Letting Go of the Past and a lesser one is The Past Comes Back.  Let me elaborate...

- Cooper's past with Denise may help in his defense.
- Nadine has regressed to her past self and can't let go.
- Josie's past is literally coming back to haunt her as her seemingly-dead Husband is against her!
- Ben has some serious issues with his present and won't let go of his past (literally!)
He needs help!
Weird Stuff
A tough one this week as there are a few good picks...

- Nadine embraces High School life and makes a play for a Wrestler.  She casually sits on a Leg Press next to him...and effortlessly pushes 600 lbs!  Damn!
- We get a voice cameo from David Lynch's Gordon. Always fun stuff.

- Finally, Cooper's crazy, random bit of positivity when talking to the Board elicits this reaction...
That is some Ending!  This one is another slow-but-steady build Episode.  Given that last Week was all about wrapping up Plots and setting up new ones, this is no surprise.  What they give you here is so good that you don't care.  We finally know Josie's back-story.  Catherine make a new power play.  David Duchovny is Denise.  Not to get too side-tracked, but I'm a little unclear as to what is up with that Character right now.  She explains that she self-identifies as Denise, but also says that she started feeling this way while dressing as a Transvestite undercover.  I guess she might be pre-op...but I don't know.  This wouldn't be as notable if it hadn't been for recent events that people couldn't help but talk about.  I'm curious to see where this goes, so I'm not judging it as a good or bad example just yet.  The other interesting timing is seeing Duchovny on a Cult TV Show with the imminent return of The X-Files and Twin Peaks.  Depending on how things worked out in the Show (which I intentionally don't know yet!), could he be on both in some way?  We'll see.  This was an overall fun and interesting Episode.  Since it featured a little Log Lady (at the Mayor's Wedding), why not feature Sesame Street's Log Lady Parody...
Next up, the mystery deepens and thickens.  What the hell is going to happen next?  See you then...

Thursday, June 25, 2015

New Crap: The Woman in Black 2- Angel of Death

****Before you go any further, check out my Review of the original Hammer Film here.****

When in doubt, make a Sequel to your Remake of an Adaptation of a Play that is an Adaptation of a Book.  Today's Film is The Woman In Black 2: Angel of Death, the much-delayed Hammer Sequel.  According to my sources (IMDB and Wikipedia), the Film was Shot in 2013, planned for a 2014 release and then dumped out in 2015.  It must be great!  To be fair, Cabin in the Woods sat on a shelf for 4 years and it was really good.  Mind you, Red Dawn (the one with Chris Hemsworth) also sat on that same shelf (or a different one) for 4 years and wasn't all that good.  In this Sequel (Hammer's first in forty years!), we jump ahead to 1941 and see how bad life in England was.  It was rainy, full of political strife and not getting alot with its sister countries in the UK.  Oh wait- that's today.  In 1941, they were being bombed the Nazis too!  With things desperate, why not hide your kids in a haunted house?  To find out why that is a bad idea, read on...
In war-torn London, a group of children is taken out to the Country to escape the bombing campaign and the blackouts.
They end up in the House of The Woman in Black...which is slightly-safer, I guess.
One of the two Teachers is haunted by an event from her past via these Dream Sequences.  If you don't realize that this will connect to the evil Woman, then...

Congratulations- you are watching your first movie!  Not the best Film choice, but whatever.
One little boy- traumatized by loss- is targeted by the Woman and given the Junior Blair Witch treatment.
After some bad stuff (which I won't SPOIL happens) happens, our heroine suspects that someone else is around and to blame.  She acts a little crazy.
She starts a brief romance with this Pilot, but there is more to the situation than either one of them realizes at first.
Can they escape The Woman in Black?  Will the curse be broken?  To find out, watch the Film.
A disappointing follow-up- authorized or not.  This one could be great.  According to what I've read, the original Pitch had a bunch of wounded Soldiers holed up in the House under the care of a Nurse (the Lead).  A bunch of shell-shocked, wounded men in a ghost house- sounds good.  By the time they Filmed this, we got a half-dozen kids getting Schooling there during WWII instead- less good.  The whole thing just isn't as effective.  Without giving SPOILERS, I can say that there is less on-screen activity of interest and the Title character doesn't do a whole lot.  It is kind of like how 'Dracula' is barely in Doctor Dracula...although that one is explainable for different reasons.  You know that a Film isn't that good when I bring up Al Adamson!  In this case, it is just a mediocre retread that doesn't give you much to see, give you much to care about and just generally looks 'blah.'  On the plus side, they brought back the Original Lead from the 1989 Film...even if his role is minor.
Next up, I finally stop putting off a Japanese Sequel that has been waiting for me.  Will this part-real/part-fictional Hero save the day again?  Stay tuned...