Saturday, July 13, 2019

'70s Trash: I Drink Your Blood (1971)

One man's trash could be another man's treasure.  Today's Film is I Drink Your Blood, a 1971 Cult Classic restored on Video in recent years.  Let's get the obvious stuff out of the way first- it's not about Vampires.  There is no blood drinking at all.  The Title was changed from something accurate-but-innocuous like Phobia to the one you see purely for marketing purposes.  If you grew up watching sleaze in the '70s, you probably saw the Double-Bill of I Eat Your Skin and I Drink Your Blood.  I guess I need to watch that one too, don't I?  So if there's no blood drinking, what is the Film actually about?  Well, I won't give it all away just yet, but here are the key points: Satanists, Hippies, Murder, Dismemberment and infection.  This is another one of those 'Bad Movies With Good Locations' (like Doom Asylum's actual abandoned Asylum!).  In this case, it is a legit-abandoned Town in Upstate New York.  They could run around and do whatever there- within reason.  This one is all sorts of trashy and I kind of like it. To find out if you will too, read on...
A young woman witnesses a Satanic Ritual and gets beat up.  They don't kill her,, Plot.
The Town is nearly-abandoned, save for a few families and the people doing Construction for a Dam.

They sure won't be important later.
The group comes into Town, aided by the fact that the girl hasn't IDed them yet.  She will soon.
Grandpa finds out the truth and goes to scare the group off, but ends up getting assaulted.  Since that terrible plan failed, the Grandson has an even more terrible one...

1) Kill a Rabid Dog
2) Bake Dog's meat into Pies
3) Trick Satanists into eating Pies, giving them Rabies.
Shockingly, the act of making a crazed group of killers even more insane DOESN'T end well.

Seriously, the Maginot Line worked better than your plan, kid!
Most of the group starts to kill people, while some find other things to do.  One of the women finds the Construction Crew and basically acts out a '70s Porn Film with them (mostly off-camera).

This, of course, infects them all, making a bigger horde of pseudo-Zombies/Infected.
The gang kills many- Poor Bastards of Cinema to come- and only have two weaknesses- Water and, well, Death.

While this Film wants this to be serious, hosing down a yelling man is always funny!
The group is eventually killed and that's where *most* Prints end.  This Version has the complete Ending (with extra Film Grain).

During the last attack, the main Woman was bitten and kills the Sheriff.
Unrelated to that, the kid tries to confess to his actions, but the Police won't listen.  Did...did this inspire American Psycho?!?  The End.
A dumb, trashy Film that is kind of fun if you embrace the insanity.  Think about what happens in this Film.  A Satanic Cult of Hippies is given Rabies from infected Meat Pies and turn into Killers.  If this didn't inspire 28 Days Later, then nothing did!  The whole thing goes from 'Satanists are Evil' to 'Rabies Makes You Act Like A Zombie' over the course of an hour.  It goes from having a small group of obvious villains to a bunch of 'Zombies' chasing people around with knives.  If you just stop and think about what has happened during the 2nd Act of this while you're watching it, it's mind-boggling!  That's not to say that it doesn't have a sort of crazy charm.  It has lots of fake blood, silly Acting (especially from the infected) and some good use of props.  One poor guy gets decapitated and his 'head' is shown as a prize by one infected.  He seems so proud of it!  It's like the one henchman in Samurai Cop who practically fondles his gun the whole time during his Scene- he loves it!  It's definitely not a good Film- just in case you got that impression.  Everything about it looks cheap, other than the location (as noted above- it's great!).  They all seem to embrace the silly premise and take it 100% seriously.  How did Troma not learn this lesson?!?  If you actually look at a Title like this and go 'I'm curious enough to see this,' you'll probably like it.  It's by no means perfect, but it is gloriously-dumb and insane.  It also previewed the face that most unsuspecting people make when they leave a Theater showing Midsommar...
Next time, I might as well cover the other half of the double-bill.  It's actual Zombies this time, so...better?  Stay tuned...

Friday, July 12, 2019

Immediate Response: Spider-Man- Far From Home

After not seeing on my Birthday weekend, I made up for lost time and saw it tonight.  Here we go...
The Good
- The Film looks great.  It has multiple locations and makes the most of them.
- It is really funny and genuine, a balance that Marvel seems to get far more than DC.
- Mysterio and his arc is played well.  I wasn't surprised by the reveal, but they do as much as they can to make him seem like a good person.  Plus the way his name is created is genius.
- Without SPOILing anything, the twists and turns are nice.  They commit to a couple of important ones by the time the final Credits roll too.

The Bad
- The Movie has a hard time getting past Iron Man.  I get it, but...I'm ready to move on.  You?
- I'm not quite sure how the Ending quite makes sense, but that's all I can say without SPOILERS.

If you liked the previous Film, this is a great follow-up.  It has a few tricks up its sleeve, even if its biggest one isn't super-surprising.

Thursday, July 11, 2019

DCE-Hulu: Swamp Thing- 'Drive All Night'

A bit of a technical snafu delayed this one, so let me make up for lost time...
The girl at the center of the outbreak is now staying with Sunderland (for his own bad reasons).  Unfortunately for her, an angry spirit is still hanging around the House Ju-On-style.
Moping about the Swamp, our Lead discovers that he can see memories by touching certain trees.  Those include his own (below) and one involving Abby that he has to decipher.
The would-be Blue Demon discovers that trying to leave Marais is still a no-go.
The evil Doctor working Sunderland discovers samples in Alec's Lab and now knows that something strange exists in his logic-run World.
What is the secret of the flashback that Alec saw?  Will it help or harm the ones he cares about?

To find out, stream the Show while you can.  By all accounts, DC Universe may be something completely different in 2020!
More good Episodes- even if I now know that I'm halfway done with them.  Mind you, I've watched the first 9 Episodes of The Tick Season 2, but won't watch the last one for a while.  In this case, I'm just committed to enjoying it until it ends.  This time, we get mysteries going back to the 1st Episode finally getting answered.  Why did Mrs. Sunderland freak out so much about Abby?  Well, now we know- mostly.  Naturally, one mystery being answered leads to another one!  Beyond that, we get continuations of other Stories.  We also get a mystery man that may be important for later.  Will he or is this more of a could-have-been tease?  I'll wait and see.  Everything that worked so far continues to work.  I continue to be curious about the mysteries that they are teasing.  The Show continues to be good and I'll try to enjoy what little I'm going to get.  Thanks, HBO Max.  I may sound like a broken record, but...holy crap, look how much work they put into this Suit!
Next time, things get more intense for our hero and more secrets will be revealed.  It's vague, but so am I.  See you then...

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Rare Flix: The Wonderful Land of Oz

A quick 'Thank you' and 'Damn you!' to Rifftrax for this.  This is 1969's The Wonderful Land of Oz.  When we last left Barry Mahon, he had moved from WWII Pilot to Director for Errol Flynn.  When the latter died in 1959, Mahon kept up working, making such 'classics' as Nudes, Inc, Bunny Yeager's Nude Camera and, confusingly enough, Censored.  The Films aren't *actually* Porn, but also kind of are.  Think of Porn as French and Mahon's Nudies as Portuguese.  When people started to want actual Porn, Mahon changed Genres- Ed Wood just took his place.  After directing a dozen Films about topless women, the natural thing to do Oz Film.  Sure, sure.  As noted two Reviews back, the Oz Rights are a bit tricky.  He was able to cheaply do a later Book, but couldn't use stuff made up for the Films (like the Ruby Slippers).  To get the Film made, he had to scrounge up a hefty $50,000 for the Production (and $90,000 to get it distributed).  To get a Cast, he didn't go far- specifically, his own House!  He cast his son Channy Mahon as 'Tip' and got his Wife to the be Script Supervisor.  The rest of the Cast is made up of relative newcomers and unknowns.  I'm sure that being in this helped them break out, right?  Well, one of them was a Character Actor and another worked in the Make-Up Department for stuff like Ghostbusters 2 and Saturday Night Live.  So, didn't.  The Plot is *fairly* accurate to the Book and touches upon similar stuff we saw in Return to Oz.  It's also considered to be the worst Oz Film by many, so maybe authenticity only takes you so far.  I only watched this due to the Rifftrax release, so I might as well turn this into a Review and complete the 'trilogy'...
Tipp lives in Oz with Mombi the Witch (who doesn't steal heads or work with the Nome King).
Hating his existence there, he makes a Pumpkinhead to scare the Witch.  She, instead, brings it to life and he gets out of there that night.

He also, confusingly, sings a song about how he wants to be a Boy.  This is because she had threatened to turn him into a Statue FROM A BOY earlier.  Makes sense?
On their trip to Oz, Tipp and Pumpkinhead get separated.  The latter goes on without him- for no good reason- and makes it there.

Boy, does it sure look cheap as hell.
Tipp, meanwhile, finds an army of young women- dressed like Majorettes- who plan to take over the City (now ruled by Scarecrow).

Making Plots about your Children being forcibly-marched- that's the Barry Mahon way!
Skipping ahead, the ladies take over and our Heroes- along with the Tin Woodman and The Wogglebug- are trapped in the Throne Room.
They make the Gump and fly to the Good Witch, who proves to be an Ex Machina for this whole Story.  She makes the ladies leave and reveals the truth about Tipp...
He's actually the transformed version of Ozma, the true Ruler of Oz.  They proceed to undo the transformation, never bothering to ask how 'Tipp' feels about it.

She is back on the Throne and the ancillary Characters hang around, as we see the ladies march away sadly as the Film ends.
A delightfully-bad Movie.  If you have seen either version of Santa Claus and The Ice Cream Bunny, you know what to expect from a Mahon Fairy Tale.  This is more of the same- just longer!  The cheap Sets.  The bad Songs.  The bad Acting.  Hell, one of the Actors here is in Jack and the Beanstalk!  I almost don't believe that they spent $50,000 on this.  It barely looks better than a High School Play.  Poor Channy Mahon clearly didn't want to be an Actor and it shows.  He's just not good, bad Script or not.  He only really Acted this one time, so the proof is in the pudding.  The Songs are also not good here, not helped by stuff like the Singers not having good range.  Poor Channy- again- has to sing when he's not ready or trained for it!  The Costumes look pretty bad for the most part and this seems to be the only real Film to show the Wogglebug.  Oh well- you don't get an iconic look like the Scarecrow or Tin Man!  If you're a fan of 'so bad its good' Films, this one just squeaks by.  It's so inept that you have to laugh.  That said, Rifftrax also has a version- again, the one I watched- and its probably the best way to approach this.  As a final presentation, here's a Poster for the Film that...promises that it will be Live!
Next time, a break from Oz and/or Politics.  Instead, it involves evil Hippies and lots of blood.  Stay tuned...

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

Rare Flix: Cuban Rebel Girls (1959)

This one didn't age well!  This is 1959's Cuban Rebel Girls aka Assault of the Rebel Girls.  This is part-real and part-fake.  It's confusing, but stay with me.  Back in these days, a famous Actor named Errol Flynn was having not so good days.  He had 'personal demons' and his Film Career was not doing so hot.  On top of that, he was hanging out with Barry Mahon and nothing good could come from that!  He became really interested in Politics and it mainly involved one place- Cuba.  He was a big supporter of a young upstart named Fidel Castro.  That scrappy Rebel was trying to overthrow a bad Dictator who had the support of America- Fulgencio Batista.  No, not the Wrestler.  As a show of his support, Flynn decided to get a Movie made about Castro's Army.  That led to the creation of this Film, the first big credit for Mahon.  This is the same Barry Mahon who would go on to direct the Thumbelina and Jack and the Beanstalk portions of Santa Claus & The Ice Cream Bunny.  Naturally, he got his start with a pseudo-Documentary about a Cuban uprising!  A mere 5 years later, he was making stuff like Nudist Camp Horror Films.  What a strange life this man led!  In THIS Film, Errol Flynn plays...himself...kind of.  Him and his *way too young* girlfriend end up in Cuba as the fighting seems to be winding down.  Will they help the revolution?  Is this just confusing to add a fake narrative to real-life events?  Will Che Guevara or Casto even appear in this?  To find out, read on...
I just have to immortalize this moment in time.

To be fair, Flynn also died in 1959, so he never saw what happened AFTER Castro took power.
Flynn is here- as noted- playing a version of himself.  This version is apparently a War Reporter, which allows him to be our Narrator and barely show up.

Another note: Mahon became friends with Flynn when he became his Pilot.  Did he fly him in here?
The main Plot involves Bevery Aadland- Flynn's 18-year old girlfriend- learning the story of Cuba and its Rebels, focusing on the titular girls.

Hear such fun stories as Cuban funneling guns out of Florida and realize that they are supposed to be the good guys here!
Batista and his men are very mean, torturing and killing people.  The man himself does also not appear, but is that a surprise?
This Movie- which is just over an hour- feels very long as you watch Aadland awkwardly-act as a dumb blonde learning about The Revolution.

Shane Douglas once famously said 'There is no 'I' in The Revolution,' but I prefer to say that 'There is no pointless Bystander in The Revolution.'
Even when they find a dead body, she does the least Acting.  So sad.
To make a not-so-long story short, all seems to be going right for the Revolution, except for Beverly's missing Rebel man.

Yes, despite the Title, this is mostly about a woman trying to be with a Cuban Rebel Boy.
I was going to give the Film credit for leaving a dark bit in, but...he's alive.  Hurray?
Afterwards, Flynn appears one last time (literally his last time!) to thanks the Rebels and say that he supports them- nay, we all do.

Again- he didn't live to see the Cuban Missile Crisis.  The End.
A weird and very dated Film.  The Film's conceit- that Flynn is a War Reporter covering the Events- is already a little weird.  Throw in his super-young girlfriend in their only Film appearances together (only like 2, to be fair) and you have more spice for this crazy gumbo.  Seeing her take the Lead here is...not good.  Like I said, she barely emotes and she's working from a Script that makes her act like a dumb blond.  Was that how she was IRL?  I don't know.  It would be a shame if her Boyfriend hand-picked her for a role and then gave her something so bad for no reason.  Yes, she is supposed to have an Arc.  She goes from 'I don't know the War' to 'I want to stay with the Rebels.'  The problem is that her turn is SOLELY based on the guy she likes and being around him.  If you know the history, this one is very awkward.  After all, Batista was the President (the first time) when Cuba joined the Allies in WWII.  Did you know that?!?  This one is slightly-less awkward than Rambo III's Plot of 'Let's fight for the Rebels in Afghanistan' given the Bin Laden connection to all of it.  I'm not going to *really* pick sides here, since, of course, why would you even care?  FYI there will be far less dark historical discussion in the next Post- honest!  If you don't know the history, Cuban Rebel Girls is alright, but pretty dull.  It is the Film that introduced the World to the man who would one day give us Fanny Hill Meets Lady Chatterly, so that's something.
Next time, I segue from Oz to Politics and BACK to Oz.  Yes, Barry Mahon did an Oz Film, so I might as well cover that too!  Stay tuned...

Saturday, July 6, 2019

Zoned Out: The Twilight Zone- 'Blurryman' (2019)

At last, the final Episode...of this Season.  We're already getting Season 2, so yea.

In the meantime, enjoy this send-off...
A Writer- Seth Rogen- finally finishes his Story, only to find out about the dangerous truth outside...
...and this is a fake-out.  We've gone META, as things go down on the Set while shooting.

It had to happen eventually.
The Writer- Zazie Beetz- begins to see a weird, shadowy figure.  It is documented throughout different shots from different Episodes.
When she starts to look into it, she finds herself alone in the Studio and things go badly fast!
Can she deal with the shadow?  What secret will it reveal to her/about her?

To find out, stream the Show.  It will keep you warm until Picard.
A weird, but respectful Episode.  I can't exactly go into the latter part without SPOILERS- so I won't.  Outside of that, the Episode plays with the conventions in a fun way.  You see Actors playing themselves, which they always like.  At this point, Seth Rogen has played himself nearly half as much as he's played someone else (don't check my Math)!  Peele has a fun time going from The Narrator to a version of himself, which was neat to see.  The actual Story of the Episode kind of telegraphs where it is going early on, but it's fun to get to the Ending.  It is neat how they tie it all to previous Episodes, even going so far as to reuse the Sets for locations.  I do wonder why they are all still there, but I always overthink things.  The Episode pays tribute in a different way to the original Series and plays with its own conventions.  Now I just have to wait until the Show returns...
Next time, there's...oh right, nothing.  Time to take a break for a while to talk about 23 other Shows.

Friday, July 5, 2019

Al's Birthday Review: Donnie Darko (Director's Cut)

It's Al's birthday again! The tradition continues this year as I look at another film at his request - though this year, he was feeling relatively kind (even after Dimension High School - kind of a shock).

So: Donnie Darko (the director's cut version). The reason? It's from the same guy who did Southland Tales, which I absolutely loathed (so much so I did not one but two posts on it), so he wanted to see if another - somewhat better respected - film by the same person would come off better.

Short version: Yup.

Longer version...well, here goes.

Donnie Darko is the tale of teenaged Donnie, a troubled boy who hears voices and frequently finds himself waking up from slumber far from his house at places like cliffside roads or golf courses. Highly intelligent but confused and fearful, he struggles to fit in and understand the world around him, and to relate to family, teachers, and classmates. After one of his apparent sleepwalking episodes saves his life when an airplane engine mysteriously crashes through his bedroom where he otherwise would've been sleeping, he starts experiencing ever stranger visions, and investigates the words of Frank, a man in a creepy rabbit costume, who has told him the world will end in 28 days. This leads him to finally form some connections, but also to begin to understand a theory of time travel that suggests the apocalyptic prophecy might be true.

Donnie Darko lays a lot on the shoulders of Jake Gyllenhaal, playing the title character, and he knocks it out of the park. His Donnie is unsettling and erratic, confused and chaotic, but also sympathetic - a very difficult balance but one that Gyllenhaal manages exceptionally well. It's a very complex role and he captures the equal parts brilliance and confusion at the heart of the character - his search for answers and lack of understanding of his own identity, but also his certainty in rejecting answers he finds false. The film depends on developing an investment in Donnie's story and a willingness to follow it to its conclusion. The story can seem to jump around or experience somewhat jarring shifts, but Gyllenhaal keeps our attention quite well.

The supporting one does a bad job acting, but I'm not sure that all of them come off the way the film intended, necessarily. In particular there's an English teacher that I think I was supposed to like a lot more than I did - she seems downright mean at times in scenes that I think were supposed to come off as funny. Just a personal reaction, I guess. Other characters sometimes seem to change in characterization a bit from time to time, particularly Donnie's parents, who vary between warm acceptance of their son and almost a fear of him in ways that don't entirely seem natural. In some scenes I really liked them, in others I felt like they were robots. Not sure if that was intended or just some awkward acting or direction there. Most of the students in the film seemed to be totally awful people, particularly the two guys Donnie hangs out with most, who are just absolutely horrible and insulting to other people for no reason whatsoever. But there's a lot of good character work, too. Patrick Swayze as an overenthusiastic motivational speaker (with some secrets) puts on a great performance, and Donnie's girlfriend Gretchen helped a lot with bringing me into the story emotionally and providing both support and contrast to Donnie's viewpoint. Donnie's therapist, too, brings a lot of interesting discussion to the plot and I ended up liking her attempts to help Donnie figure out who he was and what he believed (with one exception). Overall, it's a good cast, just uneven at times.

I think the film carries a little bloat, honestly - there are some scenes that just don't feel necessary, mostly ones that happen with other characters without Donnie present and that don't relate to Donnie's storyline itself. There are points where we start following, say, the English teacher or Donnie's mom and don't really learn anything necessary, or that couldn't have been conveyed in a way more directly linked to our main character. It throws the film off a bit and breaks up its style - it relies a lot on Donnie's particular quirks and his unique viewpoint, so when we suddenly see things from another character's point of view, it's hard to quite know what to think. We suddenly move from the realm of the uncertain to that of the certain, and oddly, that doesn't work as well for the film.

Some of the film's attempts at humor or characterization didn't thrill me. There's a lot of, as I mentioned above, people just plain being awful to other people for no apparent reason, which doesn't really do a lot to make you want to see the world saved. There's a lot of references made for the sake of making references - you know the kind I mean - and one spectacularly unnecessary scene in the therapists' office that I could've done without mixed in with a bunch of better and much more interesting ones that I thought were great. The film is good but I think could've used a bit of a trim or a second look at things occasionally.

From a technical perspective, there's nothing to complain about. The film is shot well, very clear, and makes great use of lighting to set the mood and change perceptions when needed. Effects are handled well and aren't overdone - the film resists the urge to go for particularly massive sequences even when it has an excuse, and has an understated sort of tone to it that does just enough to get its point across. Yes, some of it looks a bit dated now, but not in any serious way - a benefit of it not pushing hard on an effects angle to begin with.

I'll be honest, this is still a pretty opaque film, just not near as much as Southland Tales. But it shows a real willingness to heavily explore its version of time travel and time theory, and in ways where things do start to "click" by the film's end. It lays out concepts and then eventually demonstrates how they are fulfilled. I felt, at the end of the story, that I at least had a theory as to what was happening and why things were happening, and a general understanding of the plot, the ending, and what it all meant. I don't know for sure that my concept absolutely matches the intended concept - maybe it does, maybe it doesn't - but I felt like I had grasped the film overall. Much better than I can say for several other films Al's given me! And it was genuinely interesting, which is also a change of pace.

And heck, it's a film that actually makes pretty good use of title cards - it sets them up as chapter headers from a book on time travel Donnie is given, and relates information that is actually important to the plot rather than just being self-important.

Also, dance numbers! Okay, just one or two.
The time concepts used in the story are pretty fascinating, and they're presented interestingly - Donnie and his perceptions feel unreliable, so we're never quite sure if what's being presented is real or in his imagination. Is Frank real, or some kind of voice in his head? Is he both? Donnie's actions are so erratic and he's so unable to explain himself that it can seem like things might not actually be happening - he might just be crazy. But if he isn't, if the strange events really are happening, then what does it mean for his world?

The theory presented, too, works well and is used nicely by the film. Much of what else I have to say may qualify as spoilers, so if you haven't seen this yet and don't want them, there's your warning.

The theory used here is basically a variant of the many worlds theory, where a "tangent" universe is created when something causes a change. In this concept, however, the tangent universe is inherently unstable and will come to a dramatic end that, if I was interpreting properly, would kill off the prime universe as well. A "living receiver" (i.e. "chosen one") is tasked with restoring the timeline to normal, and "manipulated dead" (i.e. "time ghosts") serve as his guide. In this case, the receiver is Donnie and the dead is Frank (as well as possibly some other characters, though that's less clear).

The film effectively uses its mythos and builds nicely to its ending, which ties together a lot of loose ends and shows how the theory works together well. Effectively, with minimal spoilers, Donnie's actions establish the very thing that will save him, allowing him to play his role in the film's ending. The film, I think, could still have been a little clearer with what Donnie actually does do in the end - it would be easy, if you missed one line earlier in the film, to mistake what happens as an accident and Donnie as a passive observer, or to mistake which precise action he takes that's "necessary" (which I think I did at first). Don't want to go into more detail than that as this one's quite good and I'd rather you watch it and form your own opinions, but there you go.

Look - Donnie Darko does have some flaws, and this director's cut at least could probably have used a little trim here and a little tweak there, but by and large, it's a very good film. A good lead, an interesting concept, and some fascinating work with theory combine to make one of the better films I've watched recently. I feel like it still has some revelations or some deeper understanding I could reach, but I don't feel confused - I feel like it was more than clear enough for me but still deep enough to be interesting and have more to explore. Something to delve into again but that didn't leave me wanting, if that makes any sense.

What the heck happened with Southland Tales, right?

So yes - I really liked Donnie Darko, flaws aside, and this is one case where I'm pretty grateful Al picked a film for me. It's an interesting story and - while I can only comment on this version - is told well, in a way that kept me going and searching for what was going to happen and how things would all come together. There are ways it could be stronger, but nothing crippling to the film. It's a strange tale, but worth the time. So - thanks, Al. Maybe I'll take back that lump of coal I got you for your present.