Thursday, October 30, 2014

Rare Flix: Willard (1971)

In Mondo Bizarro tradition, I cover the original Classic years after the knock-offs.  Before we got more killer rats (twice), people with spiders and a Chinese guy with snake pals, we get the Film that started it all.  The reason for this gap: Willard is hard to find.  I saw someone with a Midnite Movies 2-Pack of Willard and Ben, but those went out-of-print years ago.  I'm sad.  Thanks to a site who's name I won't mention (just in case), I was finally able to watch the original Film.  Yes, I do know that there is a Remake from 2003 and I will get to it later.  In the Film, a socially-awkward man finds some new friends in some little rats.  However, his crappy life threatens to turn even crappier.  When his life starts to fall apart, how will he react?  If you guessed 'killer rat attacks,' then you guessed right.  Good for you.  Have a chocolate bar.  To find out how it all plays out, read on...
Willard (a pre-X-Men Bruce Davison) is living in a big house with his Mother, but his Dad is dead.  On top of that, his Boss is a jerk...
...and stole the company from Willard's dad.  Damn you, Borgnine!

Fun Fact: the 2003 Remake used photos of Davison from the 1971 Film as new Willard's Dad.  Neat.
Did I mention that Willard REALLY loves his new friends?  Because, well, he does.  ALOT!

He even starts to take them to work- although it is mainly just Ben and Socrates.
Things start to take a turn for the better- in spite of his Mother dying- when he finds a kindred soul at work.  Naturally, this can't last.
It doesn't.  The Boss wants him to sell the House to make some Condos (some things never change!) and fires him to help expedite the process.  He also fires the Temp/Love Interest, but that could be a coincidence.
Willard gets desperate and angry.  This culminates in him sicking his now-large rat army on Borgnine and killing him.  Still better than starring in Laser Mission.
Unfortunately, all 'good things' must come to an end as Willard tries to get rid of the rats when he thinks that he can now live a new life without them.  Plus, they would tie him to the murder.

Ben takes this badly and sicks the rat army on him, killing Willard.  Plus, he wanted his own Film.  Starring Role, bitches!  The End.
After all this time, it is...pretty good.  Bear in mind that I'm watching it about 43 years after it was made, so my experience is different.  For Audiences back in this Film's heyday, it was certainly shocking in alot of ways.  Seeing animals actually attack people was a pretty big novelty for the time and this would certainly inspire others.  Would we get Jaws without this Film?  Probably.  Even so, the success of this Film was so great that a bunch of imitators/inspired-films would appear.  On the plus side, this one has less visible murder of Animals than Food of the Gods or Killer Snakes.  The Film is a pretty nice Character Piece, even if it has all of the makings of a medium-budget TV Movie.  To be fair, of course, the Version I found was a VHS-Rip, so it is possible that there are nicer-looking Prints out there.  Willard is a big piece of Film History, even if it isn't remembered as well as stuff like Jaws, nor is it treated as such.  Seriously, why did I have to go to a Streaming Site to watch the Film?  Is there a Rights Issue?  In summary, it is worth a look if you haven't seen the origin of stuff like Food of the Gods or Kiss of the Tarantula (not to be confused with Black Belly of the Tarantula).  As for how it matches up to the Remake, well, I'll find out soon enough.  In the meantime, enjoy the Italian Poster...
Up next, I cover a Film that has been a long time coming for Halloween.  What happens when you mix Audience Confusion, Robots and the Druids?  Stay tuned...

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Quick Reviews: Revolt of the Zombies (1936)

I suppose you're wondering why I'd do the older Film last, right?  Well, it was the one I watched later (and was that way on the DVD).  Oddly, the back of the Box labels them the other way around, so go figure.  On to the Film...
This is a more odd one and presents a brief glimpse into something that would be viewed as 'mind-blowing' about 70 years later.  The rest of it- kind of odd.
***
The film begins with a man giving a report about an incident involving some French Soldiers and Cambodian ones...who won't die!
It all relates to this Cambodian Priest, who claims that he could command them.  However...
Before they can get too much information, he's killed by this definitely-Asian villain who has his own plans to work on.
The main Story then begins with our three Leads looking into the matter in Cambodia- represented by pretty bad-looking Rear Projection Effects.  Naturally, it is two guys and a girl...and we get a love triangle.
One of them discovers the secret and now commands a similar force of well, Natives, now.  He is not exactly nice with this new power, killing off the conniving man from earlier after he's threatened by him.  Bye!
Weirdly, he'd rather have the one woman he pines for than this great power.  He gives it up for her, which I'm sure won't come with any drawbacks.
Oh right- they storm the place and kill him once they are free.

At least they are nice enough to not kill the good couple (and the old men there).  The (abrupt) End.
This is certainly an odd one.  On one hand, you have some neat ideas- like a Zombie Army controlled by magic.  On the other hand, you have a bunch of dated and tired tropes- like the Love Triangle, etc.  It is certainly a mixed bag.  One thing you have to accept is that this Film is *mostly* a product of its time.  You don't really get killing on-screen.  You don't really got Zombies doing much (although more than in King).  You don't really get big, interesting Characters to hold your attention all on their own.  That's not to say that good Films weren't made around this time- just that this isn't one of them.  All of the stuff that makes it an interesting 'time capsule' of a Film is the same stuff that will limit its audience.  The Story's core is quite interesting and I'm curious to see if anyone else has done something similar (and better) with it since.  I definitely like some of this Film and it is a little less 'dusty' than King of the Zombies (oddly enough!).  As a bonus, it saves its vaguely-Racist undertones for a different, if larger, demographic...
A more complex, but also simple story.  I know how little sense that makes, but deal with it.  It's alright.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Quick Reviews: King of the Zombies (1941)

I debated covering this movie for a couple of reasons, but decided to anyways.  I mean, obviously.  I wouldn't start writing this and then just stop, right?  Anyhow, I got this as a Present courtesy of a $.79 DVD (alongside the next Quick Review)...
To give you some History, this one is one of the early, pre-Romero Zombie Films that many don't realize exist.  Yes, Romero changed how the Films were made ever since 1968, but had no impact on the stuff made over 30 years before his (as you'll see tomorrow).  On to the film...
***
A trio of people- two Army guys and...their Servant- are lost on their way to the Bahamas and crash land on an island after they hear radio chatter there.
They find it to be a bit creepy and discover that one Austrian man (Maynard's grandpa?) is living there with...the Natives working for him.  Is this vaguely-Racist enough for you yet?
To keep things going then, the movie gives us Zombies (as you'd expect), which are Natives transformed via Voodoo by the Staff (which includes an old Witch and a creepy Butler) and owner of the Castle.

Naturally, nobody believes the 'Servant.'  Of course, his case isn't helped when he doesn't do the one thing he knows would summon the Zombies when everyone is around.  Wouldn't want the film to run short!
The Doctor's evil plan involves a previously-kidnapped (we're told this happened) Admiral and an attempt to steal Military secrets from him to affect the war (WWII, that is).
The Zombies continue to linger about, but don't really do alot on camera.  That's certainly one change that would come from Romero- for better or for worse.
The Doctor keeps experimenting and actually converts one of our leads (off-camera) to his Army.  Can he be stopped?
Yeah, of course he can.  They weren't big on 'dark' endings back in 1941.

We also get the 'explain everything to the Audience' Trope as well, since people were viewed as very dumb back then, apparently.  The End.
It is alright, but certainly hasn't aged well in many regards.  The 'Elephant (which would usually appear in flicks like this too) in the Room' is the way that Mantan Moreland acts/is portrayed in the Film.  He does all of the usual stuff you expect in stuff like this that was made in the pre-Civil Rights Era.  He doesn't *quite* go as far as others- like doing a silly dance, etc- but it is quite enough!  I do have to ask- why does he have to be their Servant?  The Film is set in the same year it came out (or at least right around it at worst), so it is not like those Films that take place before/during the Civil War.  If you have a black Character in a Film like that, I can kind of accept having them play a Servant of some kind.  In this Film, it is hard to get by.  Excluding that whole situation, the Film is chock full of cheesy jokes, silly Acting and just overall ridiculous look.  It doesn't play for Comedy- save for Moreland's bits-, so it is not as 'zany' as the DVD- titled Zany Zombie Films- implies.  As a middle-ground of Thriller and Comedy, it is a bit awkward at times.  Overall, it is more interesting to watch from an historical perspective than as an actual Film, both because of an in spite of stuff like this...
It is a really goofy and dumb film at times.  If you can get past/ignore the obvious racial undertones, it makes for decent 'Have you heard of this one?!?' fare.  Otherwise, just skip.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Quick Reviews: Legendary (2012)

After a while, I decided that I should finally Review this.

In 2014, we in the United States are getting a 2012 Film Produced in China called...
A group of animal experts are tracking a giant bear in the Russian Woods.  It takes a turn for the worse when one of the group- Dolph Lundgren!- shoots it and aggravates it.
It kills one of the Crew before being taken down, leading the group's Leader- Scott Adkins- to quit.  He's convinced to come back for- say it with me- one last job to track down a Cryptid (undiscovered Animal).
The group runs into a hurdle when their prey turns out to be a large (CG) lizard that can attack on land and in water.  It helps them to rip off Jaws, so good news there.
Naturally, Dolph shows up and he has his own agenda: bring the Cryptid back dead and get famous for displaying the corpse.  He's...evil, I guess.
Since the film is so new (especially in the U.S.), I won't SPOIL too much.  I will give you a fleeting glimpse of the creature.  I trust that will be helpful.  The End.
It is something.  It is not much, but it is something.  At its heart, it is a straight-forward Action Film with a mild, Eco-twist to it.  The Story behind the Film is almost more interesting than the Film itself.  The Film was shot in China and funded by investors from the same Country.  It seems to be an attempt emulate Films that we (of the United States) make more often.  Does it succeed?  Well, it is a decent Film about a decent-looking CG Monster (a big Lizard).  That's about it though.  The Production Values are not lacking, but not much stands out.  It is funny to see how much they prioritize having Chinese Actors appear when you consider the background of said Film.  I'm sorry that I'm not more committal here, but I don't have much to say.  I will warn you to not get the Film mixed up with the Film of the same name from 2010 that is NOT about a giant Lizard (but is too old for this shit!)...
A simple, yet satisfying Action film.  It is nothing special and I doubt it being in 3-D would put it over the top either.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Zoned Out: Quarantine

Another week, another journey beyond that invisible line that separates two worlds...
Not to be confused with a more famous American Film (Remake), this 1985 Segment features a future Walking Dead Alumni...
A man- Scott Wilson- is awoken from Cryo-Sleep at some point after he'd been out for a long time.  The world he finds in front of him...
...appears to be devoid of modern technology and has reverted back to an Amish-style life.
However, it is not all low-tech and plain.  You see, the have to remove a tumor from Wilson's lungs (which is why he was frozen) and do it using their Psychic Powers!

Seriously, Psychic Anesthetic and Psychic Surgery!
They also have some freaky Computers powered by Bio-Organic Lifeforms attached to Machines.  I'm...just going to move on.
You see, this world is what is left about 300 years after WWIII happened and everyone went nuke-happy on each other.

The people now were the descendants of those that lived and abandoned their old ways.
Wilson was woken up to help them reactivate the remaining Satellites and blow up a Meteor.

However, the people are keeping a secret from him and he's NOT HAPPY when he finds out that...
...it is actually a Ship holding the surviving descendants of the Military Men that doomed our world once.  The new residents don't want them back and were going to trick Wilson.
Ultimately, realizing how bad his own people messed things up, he reluctantly goes along with the plan and boom goes the dynamite.
In the aftermath, they agree to help acquaint him to this new world and let him live with them.  After all, they share the same World and, now, guilt.  The End.
The future is looking quite rural.  This one feels like a nice, Classic Twilight Zone Segment, albeit with some updated ideas and effects.  The Story is a good one, giving you a set-up before twisting it around a few times.  Wilson plays his role well, although he pretty much always does.  Everyone else plays their roles well, so I have no complaints there.  The initial twist- of them having powers- is an odd one, but still works well.  The second twist- that of the ship- is certainly a stronger one and feels like something you'd get from the Classic Original Series.  This one really uses the run-time well, giving you time to take in what is happening before and after the Climax.  It shows you how to balance lots of Story with a shorter Run-Time, which not everyone gets.  I have heard many people claim that the 1980s Revival of The Twilight Zone is not that good, but I would point people to this Segment as an argument in its favor.  Take us away, the face of whatever the hell you are supposed to be...
Next week, I give a much more light-hearted Segment.  It features a Tribal Mask, dangerous Sound Effects and Live Radio.  Stay tuned...

Rare Flix: Witchboard 2- The Devil's Doorway

Before there was Ouija (the movie, that is), there was Witchboard!  After that, we had two Sequels that are remembered much less fondly (if at all).  That leads to today's film- Witchboard 2.  While the original featured an inadvertent Music Video Icon (Tawny Kitaen of rolling around on cars fame), this one features...the daughter of a Music Video Icon.  That man- Micky Dolenz.  For those of you who are under 50, this one might require explanation.  Micky is one of the members of The Monkees, a group that your parents listened/watched on TV.  Oh and that song from Shrek (you know the one) is a Remake of one of their songs.  So yeah, his daughter was in a bunch of films like this.  In 1993, she actually starred in this AND Pumpkinhead II: Blood Wings.  Good year or bad year- you decide!  So why make a Witchboard Sequel after several years?  Money, of course.  The Video Market must be fed!  In this unrelated tale, a young lady finds a Ouija Board and discovers that it can help her achieve her goals.  Is there something more sinister coming?  Well, duh- this is a Horror film, after all!  To find out what happens, read on...
Our heroine (Ami Dolenz) moves into a new Flat/Apartment on her own.  She meets the odd people there and finds a Ouija Board.  It apparently belonged to the last tenant.
The most notable of the people around her is the obviously-up-to-something Handyman.  He gets killed by a mysterious force (using full-on Evil Dead Cam) manipulating a large stove.

Naturally, this (and the dozens of tools embedded in the wall) raises no suspicion!
This guy serves two roles.  On one hand, he's the Obvious Love Interest.

On the other hand, he's a Red Herring for when you start to question what happened to the previous Tenant.  That's succinct!
While her personal life goes well, she starts to have weird dreams and some people in her surrounding life die.  Nothing to worry about.
Okay, there may be SOMETHING to worry about.  On the plus side, this doesn't happen to her (in this movie, at least).

You have to appreciate the small things, you know.
On the plus side, this car blows up and looks kind of neat.  There's also a fun (but cliche) 'I can't control the car' bit thanks to the evil spirit.
Our heroine takes nobody's warnings and doesn't see that she is 'addicted' to using the board.  The final break comes when she starts to think that Obvious Love Interest/Red Herring killed the lady she's been 'talking to.'

Obviously, he didn't, but she still takes one use too many and...
...gets possessed by the spirit of the dead lady.  Unlike the last Film, she is talking to the right person...they are just kind of evil.
They eventually manage to excise the Spirit and all is well (for those who weren't killed or maimed).

We get some Sequel Bait in the form of a sarcastic Ouija Board Planchette...but that film is only on YouTube dubbed in Russian, so I'll get back to you on that.  The End.
Pretty forgettable overall, really.  The movie has a certain pedigree to live up to, as the original Film is a Cult Classic to most.  The Film makes no major, film-breaking mistakes...but also does nothing to stand out.  It uses basic Characters (new girl in town, Obvious Love Interest), basic scenarios (invasive ghost) and does nothing all that interesting with them.  Nobody is necessarily doing a bad job, but they have little to work with.  Watching Ami Dolenz play both innocent and less-so is kind of fun, but, again, not much is done with it.  She doesn't go all 'Black Swan' or anything- she just says 'damn' and wears some black.  I do that- am I evil?  The ghost is mostly represented by Evil Dead Cam (which was, at least, fresh in 1993), which I'm sure saved on the budget.  I will give the Film points in one regard- those Panning Shots are pretty neat.  While Argento is still the Master (see Tenebrae's five-minute long continuous shot), they at least do something visually-interesting.  Other than that, this is just one of those 'Stop doing something stupid and you'll be fine' movies.  It isn't terrible, but it isn't great.  As for being a Sequel to Witchboard, that's a bit dubious.  If you want a closer thing, apparently this would be the one to see (for me included!)...
Next up, I finally tackle a Horror Film Cult Classic not on Netflix.  After some bad Rat Films, who knows what to expect.  Stay tuned...