Saturday, October 31, 2009

HA-lloween Special: Dark Star

You know, I don't quite get it. Everybody says that I need to do a certain John Carpenter film on this day. It's an iconic film that he made about thirty years ago. My first and only option is this: Dark Star. I don't quite see the connection, but, I'll roll with it. This is Carpenter's first real film and is often forgotten amongst his classics like Ghosts of Mars and Memoirs of an Invisible Man. I think he made a film about Autumn Solstice too, but I could be wrong. What's impressive about the movie is just how much it de-constructs an entire genre. The other thing is that this is one of the few real sci-fi films he has done (not counting Starman). Why not do more when you can do it so well for so little money. Enough praise without substance, let's float on into...
The movie begins by explaining the simple premise to you: a ship called Dark Star has been sent out on a mission. What the movie does is filter in real science amongst all the fake stuff. The ship's mission is to destroy any planets that might pose a problem to outer space colonization. Here is the problem: the trip has taken them over 20 years! About six years later, Galaxina would use this same premise for laughs and a much different message. Can you imagine riding in a ship with the same people for over twenty years?!? Take a rough, week-long drive across several states and then multiply it times 1,040! On top of that, all they ever see for days on end is black, empty space. It's like traveling through the logic portion of Ben Stein's mind! On top of everything else, the Commander has recently died and is kept in cryonic suspension. So, the crew has 'cabin fever,' hates each other AND has no leader. Maybe if they were sent out with more clear of a mission or cryonic freeze chambers for the long stints (a la Planet of the Apes), this would be easier. Then again, as Apes taught us, at least one pod always malfunctions (see the first two films for proof). Yes, this is in fact by the same guy who wrote Assault on Precinct 13.
How much you love the middle portion of the film will be based entirely on whether or not you care about these characters. As simply-written as they are, the group has an interesting dynamic. One of them has an identity crisis to resolve, while another one has pretty much given up on companionship, preferring to spend all of their time in the ship's dome. This portion is also where we get some of the comedy aspects, which involve an alien 'mascot' for the ship. This little creature is a silly effect (very reminiscent of the balloon eggs from Contamination), but works as part of the movie. If this movie were to be made now, the thing would be all CG, rap and be voiced by Jerry Seinfeld. Here, it simply jumps around, messes with the food and does not play nice. Enough about that though, let's talk about...the bomb!
The whole thing builds up to the ship's approach of a planet deemed to be a threat. The crew finally snaps out of their prolonged stupor and tries to act. Their smart bomb is prepared to be dropped, but is actually too smart. The damn thing wants to blow up the ship instead! This sets up one of the most oddly-serious scenes in cinematic history as a crew member has a philosophical discussion with a talking bomb! They eventually manage to talk the thing into returning to its base unit and reconsidering things. Hurray! Everyone is saved! Oh wait, the bomb suddenly thinks that it is a God and blows itself up, killing all on board. So much for them, huh? The End.
This movie is very good, but definitely not for everyone. The whole idea was to take the entire mystique out of space travel and make it what man makes everything: a job. The realism works well to throw you off, even when compared to the obvious inspiration (2001: A Space Odyssey). Think about this movie as the anti-Star Wars and it will really be enjoyable. I admire films that can actually deconstruct an entire film genre in around 90 minutes. Maybe that's why I'm one of the few people that is not a gore-hound, but still loves Cannibal Holocaust (full review later). For fans of flashy sci-fi, this is not for you. If you ever thought that 2001 was a bit too 'in love with itself' (be honest now). Watch it on a double-bill with Galaxina to see how a similar idea can be done so differently. And yes, this is the inspiration for a good majority of the big scenes in Alien (it's co-written by the same guy).
Did you really want me to to do Halloween? I mean, what else could I say about them that you don't already know?
Up next, we return to my random format. What better way to do that than with a British sex comedy...that features a mummy. Stay tuned...

Friday, October 30, 2009

Forgotten Sequels: Pumpkinhead 3

You're probably wondering why I picked this movie? After seeing it, I'm a little curious about that myself. Here's the thing: Pumpkinhead is not that bad of a movie as a whole. The three direct-to-video sequels, however, have a less good reputation. I simply took a look at all three of them and asked myself 'which one looks stranger?' This one happened to win the lucky lottery with me, although I was not as lucky...more on that later. The film takes the basic idea of 'there is a Pumpkinhead monster' and does whatever the hell it feels like. That's as silly as the idea that you can turn Michael Meyers from a serial killer into a weird Celtic murder machine! Can you imagine the...oh, right. Before I make any more ironic realizations about horror franchise decline, how about I jump right into...
Pumpkinhead: Ashes to Ashes
The film begins with a guy running through the woods, with Pumpkinhead hot in pursuit. Wow, you don't waste any time, movie! This turns out to be a man's nightmare. On the plus side, they got the bullshit scene out of the way, as opposed to mid-way through the movie. We learn that some people in this tiny ghost town of a setting are up to no good. A man goes out hiking and stumbles across the man from earlier dumping a body in the swamp. By that, I mean that he barely submerges the thing. You must be new to this! The man runs off for help, but ends up running right to where the rest of the other man's friends are. Worst...luck...ever! We see a small group of people cutting up a body, although only one of them looks like they belong. Oddly, the scene resembles some sort of freaky field trip. Our mysterious stranger makes a noise and gets chased. Using his ingenuity, he randomly tosses and turns over every object in his path. This actually works, but, instead of fleeing into the woods, he decides to hide out in the barn that is about six feet away from the door. His super smart plan fails as their dog manages to find him amongst the rotting spite of the horrendous smell's ability to overload it's nose. They cut out a kidney and dump him in a hotel room. No, really. He stumbles upon a helpful resident, but dies. So, where is this going, movie?

The next day, everyone in town discovers the house of murder and dismemberment. Damn you, Doctor Satan! The evil old man from before shows up and...he is the town's coroner. He 'looks' into the matter, although a search of the swamp for bodies does occur as well. When the town discovers most of their relatives- and a small child- amongst the wet bodies, some of them decide to take matter into their own hands. They consult a local witch who takes the body of Lance Henriksen's character from the original and turns him into the new Pumpkinhead. This process creates a tie between the monster and our heroes, which will be a big factor later. What matters now is that Pumpkinhead is alive and off to kill some people. This brings us to the movie's biggest problem: CGI. As cool as the Pumpkinhead monster looks as a suit, it looks like crap as a CG creation. The movement animation is about as good as it was in Daredevil, only that one was disguised with dark shots. I should mention that this movie was made in 2006, just to diffuse any comments that may cover for this fault. If you are going to use it, spend the damn money! We get some good kills, including a man being stabbed through the heart with the beast's tail as he tries to open a window. That helps, but only a little.

Since the movie only gave us about five villains, the kills gets spaced out a bit, leaving us with the actual plot- dammit! Eventually, our villainous doctor/organ harvester figures out that there is a connection between the people who want revenge and the arrival of the monster. Him and his companions decide to after the people involved and stop the power at its source. Where have I heard this idea before? Oh right, it's from The Crow! This leads us to a really weird story arc where the villains track down our heroes, while the monster tracks down the villains at the same time! This does not lead to much, other than having one monster attack stopped by one of the men being killed. As if this can't get more convoluted for a simple revenge story, the monster climbs the church building (cue more crappy CG imagery) and attacks everyone. Um, what happened to the revenge aspect? I don't care by this point, but I can tell you that it ends with the remaining killers trying to snuff our heroes, only to meet a grisly fate themselves. The End.

This could have been passable, but insisted upon confusing its own damn narrative. There are some killers, some nice people in the town (sort of) and a monster. But, the nice people summoned the monster, which acts as evil as the killers...sometimes. In fairness, the monster kills people who did bad things...until it attacks the people in the church. Some of our heroes feel bad about summoning the monster, but don't really stop it. In addition, the bad guys attack them for summoning the monster and it is the only thing that saves (some of) them. Listen guys, this is not a deep story- it's a confusing one. If you could have made a simple monster tale without CG imagery, I might have passed this movie. As it is, Pumpkinhead 3 is simply an ugly mess. Random, pointless cameo by Lance Henriksen or not, this movie sucks.
As a side note, Noah over at The Spoony Experiment (page listed under Web Humor) reviewed the first two movies AND the crappy PC game based on the latter one. I feel his pain.

To celebrate Halloween, I cover the movie that I am legally-required to review. Stay tuned...

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Last Chance For Horror

Today is Thursday and for all you Netflix users- like myself- it is your last day to adjust your Queue to get some horror movies delivered on Halloween. As such, here are some solid recommendations from yours truly...who will be working on Halloween night. Whoopedy-freaking do.

Demons/Demons 2: Two solid choices, although one of them has an interesting edge. While the original is the superior film, the sequel is about people watching a horror movie in their house. So, if you are doing just that- it's even better if you live in a building, like the movie's protagonists- this could give you some freaky scares.

Return of the Living Dead: While not my favorite zombie film, it is fun and gory. As a bonus, the plot involves referencing Night of the Living Dead as being real. Not that you need an excuse to watch a movie about people being chased by leg-less zombies.

Shadow of the Vampire: This movie is criminally-underrated, which is a damn shame. It takes the premise that the star of Nosferatu- Max Schreck- was a real vampire. How else do you explain the astounding make-up work done in 1929? This is all you really need to know: Willem Dafoe as Nosferatu. If you haven't seen this movie as a horror fan, slap yourself and then go rent/buy it already.

The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari: Another curious favorite of mine, this movie is a precursor to David Lynch and is the clear inspiration for any trippy horror film you have/will ever have seen. Since it is 90 years old, you can see it many forms, be it cheap DVD, as part of about 500 different bundles or online. Public Domain is your friend, true believers.

The Abominable Dr. Phibes: This is my personal choice to watch any holiday- like I need an excuse- but especially this one. Price turns in one of his best performances, despite never actually delivering a line on film. Like Shadow, I say that this is a must-see. A man is killed by a brass unicorn that is catapulted across a London street. This movie is not about scares- it is about style and insanity. That's my recipe for a great movie.

She Creature: While not the best monster movie ever made, it is another underrated one from 2001. The plot is pretty simple: a crew of a ship picks up a mermaid and plans to take her back to the mainland for a profit. Given that this is a horror film, you know how this will turn out. The movie is paced well, establishes its setting and gives you a good old monster mash at the end. What more can you ask for?

That's obviously just the tip of the iceberg for horror films, but I just wanted to give you some of my favorite ones that are sure to please.

Two more big horror reviews to go before the format returns to my usual mix of weird crap that I find interesting. If you check the sidebar, you can see the tentative review schedule for next week. Stay tuned...

'Scratch' and Sniff: Satan's Slave

Fate has been against this movie for a while now. Twice has this review been delayed by mitigating factors and Hobgoblins 2's suckiness. No longer! This film comes to us from jolly old England, although nothing is too jolly about this movie. In fact, the closest we'll get to 'jolly' and 'England' is one of my Christmas-time reviews- more on that later. As for this movie, it has many of the qualities that you expect from a British movie: long dialogue scenes, a rustic setting and one memorable character actor. In this case, it is Michael Gough, better known as Alfred from the Batman films.  I should also note that this movie was made by Norman J. Warren, the man who also brought us Insemnoid. With all of that out of the way, let's go take a visit with...
The film begins pretty innocuously with a young woman meeting up with her boyfriend. They meet up in her tiny 'flat,' making it all the more clear that this is a British film. Her man wants to take things to the next level, but she can't do that right now. The following day, you see, she has to go meet up with her uncle in the country. She is leaving with her parents quite early, which puts a kibosh on the man's actions. One pleasant drive and the trip ends happily with...oh my god, the car just exploded! Why, oh why, did we take the Pinto?!? The girl manages to escape the wreck and awakens inside of the house. She is met by her uncle (Gough), her nephew and niece. They explain that they called the police to report the accident & that she can stay the weekend. That night, she goes down to dinner and learns that there is some weirdness going on here. The two younger relatives have an odd tension building between the two of them that goes unexplained for a while. Let's just say that dinner is not the best experience at this house. Fortunately, the uncle wants to keep giving tranquilizers to our heroine, so all of this does not seem too bad. I'm sure that he has no ulterior motive or anything.
More talking and more build-up to the strange events to come. The pair have an awkward conversation in the niece's bedroom and we learn that the pair are more than just relatives. Wink wink, nudge nudge, say no more. The movie has a very odd rhythm to it, going from long talking scenes to some weird shit going down. We get a couple of scenes of women on altars and some ritual sacrifice, but it is never quite clear how much is real. The whole dream-like narrative works both for and against the movie in the middle parts. The setting is nice enough, but the DVD transfer is not exactly at Blu-Ray level, so it can only do so much. As usual, the Brits nail atmosphere, but that can only account for so much.
As the film nears its conclusion, everything begins to pick up. Our heroine realizes that her family has some plans for her that relate to her recent birthday. Just a hint: these don't involve cake, but they do involve cutting. She takes this about as well as anyone would, which is why she stabs the lecherous nephew in the eye and runs away. After a tumultous confrontation, she suddenly...wakes up, with the family members over her in bed. Wait- so all of that was a dream?!? What a cheap plot de...oh, apparently it was real the whole time. Oh and the father is revealed to be the leader of the cult that wants to cut her up. I hope you weren't waiting for a happy ending, because you aren't getting one. This is European horror cinema! The End.
There is not a whole lot to say about this movie. It is good, but not great. Many of the problems I had with it are somewhat relative and could be ignored by others. Ultimately though, this is how I look at it. If you are a gore-hound who rents a movie called Satan's Slave, you are going to be let-down by the stretches without gore or the occult. If you like character dramas, you may very well be put-off by the crazy parts that the other audience would love. Ultimately, the movie cannot please both sides and end up being forgotten in the long run. That would be a shame, since the movie's high points are often able to overshadow any low ones. This is not the be-all-end-all in British horror, but it is a solid movie that is full of mood and atmosphere, even if there isn't always something else there.
In honor of the eve of Halloween night, I bring you a film that is from a less than iconic series. Even so, it does feature some pumpkins. Stay tuned...

Poor Bastards of Cinema: The Deadly Spawn

Do you like your job? Do you hate your job? Do you wish that you could suddenly get out of it, no matter how it happened? That's what happened to today's subject, although it was certainly not planned.

A sub-plot early on involves an electrician coming over to fix something. They talk about it several times before the guy finally shows up. He goes down to the basement and...we find him being eaten alive later. That's bad enough, but also consider this- the man had no name or back-story. I don't recall him even having a name tag. It's like that joke from Austin Powers 3 come to life!

Up next, a man meets his end just for walking down a street. Stay tuned...

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Rip-Off Cinema: Zibahkhana (Hell's Ground)

Mondo Macabro unearths another curious entry to make my life oh so interesting. This film is actually pretty recent, but the idea of getting it over here is still impressive. If you don't believe me, check out the case of Dario Argento's The Third Mother, a mainstream film. It was famously-released on Halloween Day 2007 in Italy. When did we get it? Right around Halloween Day in 2008! This film is a curiosity because it is the closest the country has come to a mainstream horror film...albeit a very dated one. The movie borrows pretty liberally from other films, but does come together into something interesting. Anyone who read the last blog entry on foreign rip-offs and wanted to know about this movie in more detail, you're in luck. This is...
Our story begins by introducing us to our main characters: a bunch of teenagers in the late 20s. They are going to play 'hooky' and go out to see a concert. Of course, said concert is far away, forcing them to drive through the 'boonies' to get there. They stop at a gas station and act like typical 80's horror movie jerks. This is where the movie works in a cameo by the star of The Living Corpse. In case you don't get it, they show the man watching the film as well. Do you get it? Do you get it?!? Anyhow, they go out for a drive, which is when everything goes to hell! When they get out into the woods, the group runs into zombies. Wait, what? Did another group of scientists fail to cure cancer and call down the wrath of a giant, black man? They actually never explain this as far as I could tell. Wikipedia says that it may have something to water contamination, but your guess is as good as mine. They manage to get away, so who cares? Maybe you guys should get some help.
Unfortunately, taking advice from me proves to be a bad idea. Wandering into a village, they pick up a local shaman who starts to act a little wonky. You may notice how this is similar to the crazy man getting picked up in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. You would be right. They kick him out of the car, which he takes badly. He attacks the car and our heroes do the only logical thing: run his ass over like he was worth 50 points! This turns out to be a bad idea in hindsight, which is odd considering how many problems that vehicular manslaughter tends to solve in my daily life. Our heroes decide to seek out some shelter, which is good considering that one of them was bit by a zombie earlier and will spend the remainder of the movie leaking some strange black fluid. They run afoul of a weird witch woman who is about two steps removed from putting a curse on their jacket buttons. Since they are out of gas, they prove to be easy prey for a masked killer with a giant, spiked-ball mace. If you are going to kill someone, that is one sure-fire way to do it. This can't get worse, can it?
Our heroes turn into horror movie cliches, which does help them fit in quite well here. A couple of them leave the van, they get attacked and more people decide to leave the van. One of them wanders around and runs across a house. They get their just in time to see one of their friends being cut up by the mysterious killer. After we get our sufficient gore for the scene, the idiot makes too much noise and gets chased by the killer. This ends about as well as you might think. Meanwhile, one of heroines finally figures out the reason for all of this. Well, everything except the zombies. The crazy guy they ran over- that's the old witch's son. The crazed killer- her daughter. What a family! Who's their cousin: Chop Top?!? The whole thing ends in an orgy of blood and stabbing. Did you expect anything else?
This movie is good, but certainly ridden with cliches. That said, the movie is fun and paced pretty well. There is gore, murder and make-up work aplenty. If you are looking for a nonsensical good time, you could do a lot worse. This is a Mondo Macabro DVD, so you get good production value, background information on the film and the classic trailer reel. That's the best thing about these DVDs. Even if the film is not that good (Seven Women for Satan), you get the trailer reel to make everything seem alright. Yes, I really do love it that much.
Up next, a long-delayed review finally gets done. Britain's attempt at courting the Satanic crowd gets looked over. Stay tuned...

Impossibly-Cool Cover Art: The Killer Shrews

I know what you're thinking. This movie does not sound good at all, at least not in terms of quality. You're right. I'm giving the movie this honor, however, because it manages to be dumber than even the title suggests.
Make note of how little of a monster the poster shows, since what we get are the infamous dogs with rugs on their backs. At least bad claymation shrews or animatronic ones could have looked mildly-convincing!

Up next, a Spielberg film comes to us circa Japan. Stay tuned...

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Mondo Trivia: Gacy (2003)

*The lead role of John Wayne Gacy Jr. was played by Mark Holton, known by most people as the spoiled man-child who tries to steal Pee-Wee's bike in Pee-Wee's Big Adventure!

I defy you to watch that film the same way after learning this news! I mean, I don't blame Mr. Holton, since he is a working actor. Plus, as an older, pasty actor, this had to be a big get for him. Even so, how creepy is that?!?

Just for the record, this is not an Uli Lommel film, despite being about a serial killer. I know- I'm surprised too.

WTF China?!?: Evil Cat

When I was researching my most successful blog to date- the Top 12 Weirdest Japanese Movie Monsters- I stumbled across this movie. I did not use it there since, well, it is Chinese. Even so, it is really odd and definitely needs some attention. It is mostly a horror film, but with some regional comedy and fantasy elements thrown in for good measure. It came out quite a while ago, but still hold up pretty well. Well, unless you look at the clothes. Before I get into my dissertation on anachronism in clothing, let's jump right into...
The film begins with some construction workers doing what they always do: desecrating landmarks. I know that we would not have buildings without them, but look at all the trouble they cause! Anyhow, a digital effect escapes some sort of seal, which upsets an old man looking on from a distance. This strange spirit travels to a large business office and decides to wreak havoc. It kills one guard and haunts an entire floor. The fact that said floor is coated in red light is just a bonus. The lone businessman around gets attacked by the spirit and becomes its vessel. That night, the police investigate the scene. The lead detective gets a visitor during her look-over of the building. That man: her father. He tells a tale of an evil cat spirit that has returned after fifty years of hibernation and must be killed. As he explains it, the beast has been killed by the males of the family in the previous eight appearances and that now is the time to strike. Once its ninth life is over, the family will be freed. She kindly tells him that he is crazy, a fact that he does not completely deny, and that he should be in the hospital. You see, he has terminal cancer, which just drives him to complete his mission. Time for a new helper, guy.
As he goes hitchhiking, the man is almost run over by a man chauffeuring a pop starlet. They are both annoyed by her complaining, so they decide to tie her to a light pole. Ha ha ha...she'll surely catch hypothermia! They get chummy, but he too refuses to believe the man's story. Well, that is until he gets attacked by his rabid, cat-like boss. He narrowly escapes with his life- but not his car- and goes to see his mother, only to find his boss there again. After a long comedy bit (which still translates pretty well), the boss reveals himself and makes everything float around the room Yoda-style. Mother and son narrowly escape and the latter seeks out the old man in earnest. He agrees to take on the young man as his pupil, which does not please the daughter. She goes along with it begrudgingly, mostly because she wants to spend some time with her dad in his last days. The hunters attack the boss in his office, but the police arrive to find a wounded man and his attackers- oops. This brings us the return of our comedic relief character in the form of a pasty cop who has the hots for our heroine. He is not all that funny and adds nothing, so let's move on.
The real power of the evil cat creature is its ability to jump into any body that it chooses. In the climactic battle near the end, it manages to possess the man's daughter. What are they to do? After all, one of them is related to her and the other has begun to court her (FYI she goes all the way). The answer is to let the demon take over the dad instead and let the trainee do all the work. Maybe you should try a different...oh, never mind, he's dead now. Unfortunately, the girl is still possessed by the powerful spirit and chases our wussy heroine. The tension is built around the fat cop trying to get the magical arrow down to our hero through a grate. Of course, a lot of this tension is killed by the woman turning into a reject from 'Cats.' The man faces his fears and stabs the cat creature with the arrow, causing him to lose the love of his life (or rather, this week) and kill the creature. Oh wait, it is actually in the fat guy now. Thanks for the upbeat ending, movie. The End.
The movie is pretty good, but definitely has some odd tonal issues. The comedy comes out of nowhere and distracts from the overall story at times. To be fair, the comedy is not all that bad, which is a blessing considering my experience with Hard Gun. The special effects are not that bad, especially given that it is low-budget film made 22 years ago. I still say that the make-up work done for the finale is ridiculous. Who approved that?!? Mind you, the people acting like cats and hissing is already a little silly to begin with. The whole thing can be fun if you turn off your brain for a little while and want to have fun. If you are a picky critic, you may hate this movie. I fell somewhere in-between, to be honest.
Pakistan brings us another film, this time from the modern era. Unfortunately, their modern era is the 1980s. Stay tuned...

Monday, October 26, 2009

Decology: Jason Goes To Hell

The word 'final' gets thrown a lot these days. We have DC Comics' Final Crisis, the Final Fantasy series and, of course, 'The Final Countdown.' Today I am going to cover one part of the Friday the 13th series, which just happens to have two films with the word 'Final' in the title! How much more ironic can you get, people?!? Anyhow, today's reviews is of the ninth film in the series. Why this film? I mean, it does not have the mother being decapitated (Part 1), the psychic girl attacking Jason with chains (Part 7) or that famous dance scene with Crispin Glover (Part 4). I'll tell you why: because it is the most creative of all of them. Mind you, it is also one of the worst in terms of logic for that same reason too. It also takes the film into a territory that it should not go. This lesson was learned, since the next three films (counting the remake of sorts from this year) have not touched this idea. This is...
Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday
The film begins with a woman approaching Camp Crystal Lake. Her purpose there: to wander around, disrobe and be attacked by Jason Voorhees! She runs away for a while, randomly stopping and starting again in the usual fashion. Suddenly, Jason is surrounded by a SWAT team and an array of spotlights. They fire at him, fire at him some more and keep firing. You'd think that he is Amadou Diallo! After a Sam Peckinpah wet dream, they blow up the demon killer with a rocket launcher, which oddly leaves his heart intact. Not ten minutes in, his body is taken to a morgue to be examined. Here, I'll make it short for you: he is a giant pile of debris- that is what killed him! While his partner is away, the man in charge (a dead ringer for the last Ossie Davis) gets entranced by magic and chomps down on Jason's still-beating heart! When the other man returns, he meets a gruesome fate, followed by the police guarding the place. By the way, the movie decided that their deaths should be shown off-screen. Why do you suddenly shy away from the killing now?
It only gets weirder from here, folks. A famous bounty hunter talks about how Jason is not really dead, a fact somewhat confirmed by the killings at said morgue. He explains that Jason can take over any body & you can only kill him by some means that he won't share. Quick: get the knife from Lady Terminator back! I suppose you're wondering why I'm not yelling at the movie for suddenly retconning the powers of Voorhees. Well, my reasons are simple. Three films earlier, he came back to life when a man stabbed a pole into his chest and lightning struck it. I have no expectations for sanity...which are still shattered by this movie. The town of Crystal Lake is beginning to get crazy tourists, which is not good for one diner waitress who is...Jason's sister. Dun dun what?!? Since when are we concerned about people being related to Jason in any...they aren't planning what I think they're planning, are they? The bounty hunter hassles her, but gets locked up in prison. See you when the plot remembers to bring you back, guy. Meanwhile, a nicer man is seeking her fancy and he is...the star of Friday the 13th: The Series. You really got him?
I'll try to make this thing brief, because it hurts my head. The doctor kills a sheriff (after shaving off his mustache- seriously!) and makes him the new Jason. He attacks his sister and the guy, managing to kill her before being knocked out a window. Well, this has a good ten years on Halloween: Resurrection's opening, guys. The daughter is in town with her baby daughter, which makes her the target. The man is thought to be guilty, but alleviates their concerns by breaking out of jail with a gun! The daughter does not believe his fairy tale about Jason only being able to be killed or resurrected by someone of his own bloodline. If that fails, just get a Prime! A bunch of underdeveloped characters die (including a diner full of people) and a police station gets wrecked. Jason's new body tries to change into the daughter's via slipping a weird slug from his mouth to hers. This is broken up and the body destroyed. All of this leads us to...a weird demon worm slithering around the place. That's the real Jason Voorhees?!? Unfortunately, a minor character dumped the mom's body there earlier and the Jason worm enters her...turning into his old body again. All of that to be the body that got killed so easily? Just to make my Lady Terminator joke more ironic, the girl stabs Jason with a magic knife and finishes him off. On the plus side, Kane Hodder got paid his normal rate to barely work here! This leads to the famous ending with Freddy's hand grabbing the Jason mask...which finally paid off ten years later in 2003. The End.
This movie is not terrible, but it's damn strange. Jason has gone from a scrawny, burned-up kid in a dream sequence (1) to a killer (2-4), to an impostor (5), a zombie killer (6-8), an evil spirit worm (9) and, ultimately, to a cybernetic-killer (10). What a strange journey for one guy to go on! As for this movie, the plot is completely nuts. It veers off into Halloween territory with the evil spirit, the magic (bonus points for the Necronomicon cameo) and the whole family murder aspect. Whose idea was it to do this? I also have to wonder how everyone is so keen to believe this idea that has never been set up before?!? Of course, I believe this new thing for no good reason because the second 'Deep Throat' guy from The X-Files told me so.' Also, look at this movie from a writer's point-of-view. You kill off Jason Voorhees and build up his return for 80 minutes...only for him to be stabbed to death mere minutes after his ridiculous return. The fight with The Fallen from Transformers 2 is the only big fight that was more disappointingly-short that I can think of. This movie makes no damn sense, but does have some charms. If nothing else, it has a sign that reads...
'Jason Voorhees is Dead'
Burgers 50% Off
Up next, I change gears with a Chinese film about ghosts, magic and felines. Stay tuned...

Sunday, October 25, 2009

80's Fun: The Deadly Spawn

You know the old Hydra expression that says that three heads are better than one? Of course you do. Today's movie is a case in favor of this cliche and it comes to us from the '80s. What is it about this decade that made people so obsessed with aliens and monsters? It just seems odd, is all. Anyhow, this movie is a tightly-focused tale of a family house that becomes the nest for some damn ugly creatures. Oh and the aliens hide out there as well. I kid, I kid- but seriously, there are not a lot of good-looking people in the movie. I suppose if the movie was full of models like so many slasher films, it might take away from the reality of it all though. I demand reality in my movie about carnivorous, three-headed alien monsters! That's enough set-up. Let's get to the show with...
The movie begins with a meteor crashing into the Earth. Of course, this is low-budget and from the 1980s, so we can barely see crap. They discover a big rock and one of them runs off to get the camera. Since neither one of them have last names, they both meet grisly deaths at the hands of unseen monsters. The movie does give a silhouette version of the monster though- how refreshing. After the titles, we unattractive couple waking up. After a few minutes, the man goes into the basement to check out a problem with the hot water. A little bit later, the mother wanders around and gets killed as well. I'll spare you all of their dialogue- you're welcome. I get that the idea of showing suburban home-life is done to contrast the monster, but it is a bit much for me to relive. We are introduced to our other protagonists here: the uncle, aunt and the two sons. Nobody realizes that the parents are dead since they had a trip planned and everyone associates their disappearance with that. God forbid that you just open a door and look! You're so close...
You know what helps a movie's pace? Introducing even more characters, of course. Our hero has two friends over to study, but something comes up. They have discovered an alien spore by a downed power line. I also should mention that the theme of the movie is rain, which is a constant factor in the scenes. We get a subplot where the young son is obsessed with monster movies and the uncle asks him questions for a psychology dissertation on them. Does it go anywhere or lead to anything? Not really. It's weird and random, which is what's important. An electrician arrives, but meets a grisly fate when he goes into the basement. Actually, we just see the aftermath of it. Implied gore is just the same, right? This brings us to one of the longest and oddest stretches of the movie. The young son goes down to the basement and discovers the giant, three-headed alien. Not only that, but it is surrounded by numerous off-shoots and slug versions, a couple of which are eating his mother's head! What does he do? He just stands there....for several minutes. Do something!
While our young hero stands there in shock, all sorts of havoc goes on. The mother is over at the grandmother's house for a luncheon with their friends. Of course, lots of alien slugs showing up and biting people sort of puts a damper on things. They scamper out to their car in the rain and...appear at the end of the movie unharmed. Okay then. Back in the house, the monsters finally make themselves known to everyone, but never quite appear in full-frame- how odd. It also bears a striking semblance in his movements to that of the monster from The Little Shop of Horrors. On the plus side, it does not look like the one from Please, Don't Eat My Mother. It also bursts through a door Kool-Aid Man-style. He manages to corner our heroes in the basement, but little kid is here to the rescue. He fills a monster head with flash powder and hooks it up to a light switch. After a suspense filled sequence, the monster eats the thing and gets blown to pieces. A long 'aftermath' sequence follows, complete with the sequel bait ending. This involves a giant alien coming up out of the ground nothing, since they never made a second film. The End.
This is a good film, but definitely has some curious pacing. In a way, it is the opposite of The Being. That film had about a dozen deaths in the first twenty minutes and then nothing for about half an hour. This film has a ton of action at the end, but takes a while to get to them. Once the action occurs- most of it on-screen- it is pretty satisfying. The movie does a good job of showing you a lot of the monster, but not so much that it can't be sustained (see Xtro III). Given the low-budget nature of the production, it is pretty impressive that they did so much. The movie has some odd tonality and pacing issues, but is easily a solid rental for any true fan of 80s monster movies.
Up next, I cover a mainstream series. Of course, given how I am, you know that I have something more in mind. Stay tuned..

Sorry for this being late. The combination of work and Borderlands is a doozy.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Mondo Trivia: The Boogeyman

Uli Lommel is not a well-known name in the video market, but he should be. If you have ever rented a low-budget film about a real-life serial killer (why you would do that- I don't know), odds are that is by Lommel. However, his biggest bit of notoriety comes from directing the original Boogeyman film in 1980. This is a fact that is mentioned in 90% of Lommel's trailers. Think that I am exaggerating? Check out...

*Zodiac Killer (2005)
*Son of Sam (2008)
*Dungeon Girl (2008)

That's right- Uli Lommel is still living off of the hype of a film he made nearly 30 years ago! That's sad.

Blockbuster Trash: Blood of the Beasts

Don't ever trust a DVD cover on its image alone. If you don't believe me, check out today's piece of Blockbuster Trash. Released in 2005, this low-budget fantasy movie tries to disguise it's plot very well. Unfortunately, if you actually watch the movie, you get to see it for what it is. Do you like being slapped in the face by a movie's plot? If so, this is the movie for you! As a bonus, it stars the lead actor from Dungeons & Dragons. No, not Jeremy much as I wish it was. If a man that would sign on to that crappy film, what does that tell you about this movie to come? I bring you...
The film begins with a quick establishment of the setting. It is thick, wet and covered in fur- how inviting. The first thing that comes to mind when you watch this is every fantasy film set in the time of Vikings ever made. You want to be taken seriously, but you are making me think about Erik the Viking?!? Our story revolves around a mysterious island that is inhabited by an unseen monster. Well, it has been seen, but all of those who did were also killed. So, it's only unseen in the technical sense. The King and his second-in-command lead an attack force against the beast, but this goes badly. The King is captured and his lackey flees in terror. On the plus side, he can go back to his betrothed (the King's daughter) and become King. Hey, wait a minute...I think he has an ulterior motive. Our heroine, being a strong and independent woman, goes with a small force to the island to free her dad. She defies the manipulative man in her life and...gets captured. Sorry, false Feminism Alert, people. Nothing to see here.
She becomes the prisoner of the evil beast, while her father is returned to the island. He actually turns out to be pretty nice. I guess it was hard to see that side of him while he was stabbing people in the face. He goes through mood swings, however, and acts more animalistic at times. It must be his monster time of the month. Eventually, we learn that there is a reason for the man's affliction. He was cursed by the all-mighty Odin to wander the island and kill people. As it turns out, he is actually the former beau of our heroine. Wait a second. She's a beauty and he's a beast. You made me wait all this time for a Viking version of Beauty and the Beast?!? Screw you, movie!
You aren't missing anything if I end here, don't worry.
Oh my god, what a terrible movie experience. The movie is dull, low-budget and uninspired. This would only be a little bad if it were sold as what it is. Instead, the movie is sold as a high-fantasy action film. You could not be any more wrong. When you dress up a version of a well-worn story (with no twists or updates) as something interesting, that is the definition of fail. No matter how hard they want it to be, the movie will never be this...

Up next, a film that was suggested. Should I shoot the messenger or actually take his advice more often? Stay tuned...

Forgotten Toons: Count Duckula & Quackula

We all love vampires, but don't necessarily care for ducks. How will this duality be worked out to create a quality cartoon? Let's give it a try in 1979's...
This character first appeared in 1979 as one of many characters on the The New Adventures of Mighty Mouse and Heckle & Jeckle. You all know the show, right?

Basically, he was a vampire duck who wanted to kill the bear who lived in the house above him, while the bear wanted to do the same thing. Great idea for a kid's show, huh? Two people joined by their love of hating each other. Of course, this is a kid's show, so they have all sorts of wacky adventures.
This show ran until they got sued by a comic strip artist named Scott Shaw. This makes the show very hard to find in any form. Scott sold his character to the Danger Mouse show, who spun him off into his own show in 1988 and called it...
Count Duckula
This show ran for three seasons and, interestingly enough, made note of how the character on Danger Mouse was obsessed with being on television. Only in Britain, you know.

The premise is that, after his demise, he was resurrected incorrectly. As a result, he is now a vegetarian. Oy vey! As the last of a line of vampires, this really upset his dead-pan butler, but does not affect his dim-witted maid all that much. As a side note, she has a permanently-broken arm in a sling. Why is that?
The show is quite a quirky bit of animation, with bizarre puns and stories. A cartoon duck who wants to be a race car driver? Why not? If you like bizarre humor, check out Season 1 DVD. Good luck with getting the rest of it though. Stupid DVD importing!

Friday, October 23, 2009

Mondo Trivia: Munchie

We all love sequels! Although we hate when movies pretend to be sequels. Such is the case today...

*In 1992, Jim Wynorski made the film Munchie, which was about a 'wacky alien' who had misadventures in suburbia with a pre-teen Jennifer Love Hewitt. It claimed to be a sequel to Munchies from 1987...but it wasn't.

*Wikipedia can't agree on that fact, as the Munchies pages lists them as sequels, but the Munchie page does not. Confused yet?

*Ironically, this film did have a sequel- Munchie Strikes Back- while Munchies did not.

*This movie is actually a trifecta of low-budget crap, as it was directed by Wynorski (of Deathstalker II/Chopping Mall fame), produced by Roger Corman (of Wasp Woman/Gunslinger fame) and features a small role by Fred Olen Ray (of Evil Toons/Bad Girls from Mars fame).

Quintology II: Vampire Journals

You might be a bit confused here, but let me explain. Despite Radu finally being dead in Subspecies IV (so far), I did this review last. Why, you ask? Well, for a couple of reasons. For one, I thought you might be pissed at me for interrupting the narrative of the series just to stick to chronological order. Second, doing this one last exposes it to one major plot hole that came from making Subspecies IV. Lastly, well, you'll understand that part. After doing the epic story of Subspecies II and III, Ted Nicolau took a break. But his longing to return to Romania (really- he says it) is too strong. He decided that not all vampires (read four of them) would be a group that hides out in the Romanian Mountains. As such, he made this film about a new group of vampires. A couple bits connect this to Subspecies, aside from it being a vampire film made by the exact same director in the exact same country. Let's get our fangs out and finish up the Quintology with...
The movie begins with a woman being attacked by a vampire! Wow, don't rush the story on my account, Ted. She is bitten, but her man shows up to help. He decapitates the vampire, but is too late to save her from turning and kills her too. The End? No, it's only the beginning. We next see a woman playing piano in front of a large audience. In the crowd is...a man that is clearly a vampire. I'm sorry, I know this is Romania, but does that not attract attention? This man is apparently our lead, since his narration is beginning to drone over any action on the screen. He's not bad, but he's just 'eh.' Up in the balcony, another creepy man is watching her as well. This is why it does not pay to be a cute, virginal young woman in Romania! Apparently, the other man forces our hero to not bother him via the power of his mind. Mind power = low-budget powers. After the concert, the man begins to follow her, using the shadow effect that Ted just freaking loves. He corners her, but the other creepy man shows up to scare him off. She starts to liking to him, but gets a little 'weirded-out' when he talks about how she needs to leave. The next morning, an emissary of the Club run by the other vampire meets with her and hires him to perform for them. Dun dun dun!

He meets with her the next night before she goes. He gets a little bossy, which rubs her the wrong way. To note from her dialogue, however, she would not mind it if her boyfriend bossed her around. Um, okay. She goes inside and is warmly greeted by the vampires. That is to say that they stare at her like the girl who shows up to Prom with a mustache. Our hero ponders about whether or not to help her, but decides to abandon his Punisher-like mission of revenge to help a cute girl. Who hasn't been there? He uses his vampiric mental powers- which, again, marks the only time that they will appear in the entire series- to get all the way to the Inner Sanctum, but runs into the club's human owner, whose will is already controlled by the head vampire. Watch our limp-wristed hero...leave our heroine to be prey for the vampires! Oh the excitement! She gets bitten by the lead vampire- which draws more cheers than the music did- and locks her in a room. Our hero...does nothing. I'm sorry, but why are you here again?

Much like Michelle, our heroine is constantly antagonized by the villain to convert of her own free will. 'No 'means 'Yes' to Vampires, apparently. The next night, while our hero sulks around the outside of the building and narrates about his indecision, he is approached by the villain and his apprentice vampire. He gets invited in and immediately loses his one advantage when the Sword of Laertes is stolen by the villain. Good job, jackass! By the way, in Subspecies IV, this guy actually has the sword, but it gets stolen by Radu! What is it about this sword that inspires so much theft?!? Our villain locks up our hero and tries to turn him to the 'dark side' as well. Do all of these guys just need acceptance so badly?!? In one of my favorite pseudo-science moments, our hero explains that he can't do the 'shadow' trick to escape a locked door because no light is able to enter the room. Riiight...anyhow, the villain tricks our hero into drinking some blood right as the girl enters. Soon after this, our hero escapes, engages in some alright stage-fighting and kills our villain by slashing him with the Sword. He fall and explodes into ash. He and the girl escape to a crypt to live happily never after. The End...for real this time.

This movie is honestly not bad, but it is a bit too in love with itself for its own good. The setting is pretty good, but could do with some castles or two. With just dank buildings and streetlights, it could very well be Detroit instead of Bucharest. Let's get to the heart of this though, shall we? Is this a prequel to Subspecies 4 or a sequel, albeit one made a year earlier? It can't be a prequel, since the villain is dead here, but not addressed as having come back from the dead. But it can't be a sequel, since he does not have the Sword of Laertes at the beginning. Maybe there is a deleted scene from the fourth film in which Radu just hands the Sword to a random goth guy. As an aside, the Sword plays no part in Radu's death in IV, making you wonder why you have a 'vampire-killing sword' in a film and do nothing with it. Whatever spot this film has in the series, I can tell you what it means to me. It means that I am done with Full Moon vampires. Thank you and good night.

Up next, a blatant rip-off film comes to you via Blockbuster Trash. Oddly, it is ripping-off a Disney film and not the one it looks like. Stay tuned...

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Quintology II: Subspecies 4

We have made our way to Part Four, true believers. Did you think that you would make it this far? Our Romanian journey is nearly at an end, but we still have a little ways to go. If you are just joining us, what's your problem? I bring you a Quintology and this is what I get from you? Ahem, where was I? Oh right. What you need to know is that Radu is evil, Michelle is conflicted and everyone else around her can live or die at any moment. The best part: their deaths barely ever register as a blip on the radar. Take, for example, the love of Michelle's life. He dies at the beginning of two and is never spoken of again. Don't cry about it too long, Michelle. By the way, the beginning of this movie will be extremely polarizing. This is...

You recall how Radu was shot with several silver bullets, was lit on fire by the sun's rays and fell over the precipice, getting impaled through the head as he landed? Well, he fucking survives this! His body slips off of the tree and into a tiny pool of water, putting out the fire. He grabs the Bloodstone and shambles away, looking angrily at the sun that set him aflame mere minutes ago. He makes the cultist from Q: The Winged Serpent look like a slouch! After this bout of implausibility, the ante is upped. A no-name blond woman sees a wrecked car off of the side of the road with three bodies laying strewn about it. That's right- they killed off most of the cast off-screen in a car crash! As an aside, the only survivor was the one in a body bag- score one for irony. To make things even dumber, the car is found upside down and against a tree, with no obstacle that could have been in their path to cause it. How the hell did they do that? Did they hit a giant spring that disappeared seconds later? Oh right, I should mention the plot. In a nutshell, Michelle is taken to a local laboratory where the creepy doctor seems all too familiar with the idea of a vampire. I don't feel safe.

Back in the countryside, nobody is all that bothered by the death of an American citizen and an envoy to the American Embassy. This leads us to another ridiculous plot event: the return of the detective. After being stabbed to death by Radu, he is now a vampire. I'm sorry- what now? This gives us a scene where he is found sleeping in a closet and mistaken for being a drunk. Other than that- plus a scene where gives plot information to Radu- this goes nowhere. Moving on...we get the creepy doctor- a dead ringer for the villain from No Country for Old Men- acting, well, creepy. He takes blood samples from Michelle and asks her all about the Bloodstone. I should also mention that he drugs his assistant and sucks her blood, shouldn't I? Meanwhile, Radu sulks and just sort of wanders around. Early on, the doctor says that Radu can only come into the hospital if invited, thanks to it being a former Church. Nice of you to bring up that famous lore in Subspecies and have a character ignore it (really) and then finally bring it up again three films later! He finally comes to get Michelle, but walks into a trap. He is surrounded by extras with fluorescent lights and doused with holy water by the doctor. After he is stabbed, Michelle comes to his rescue, but scorns him again. Mixed messages!

The awkward part of the movie really comes into play now. In 1997, Nicolau made a film called Vampire Journals (tomorrow's review), which is not to be confused with The Vampire Diaries! The next year, he made this film and decided to cram the two together. Radu goes to the city and takes over his old domain, quickly making an ass of himself. Of course, as the powerful leader, he can do this. His allies, however, scheme against him. They give our heroes (the blond girl and the doctor) the key to the mausoleum that Radu is in. He has nearly turned Michelle- again!- and is resting when they get there. Of course, they get to the crypt at about 4:30, so they get there too late. The doctor tries to sell out the girl, but gets decapitated in one silly effect. Michelle turns on him again and helps the girl stab him to death. Early, they finally explained what the Bloodstone does- it makes its drinkers only killable by mortals. That's all well and good, except that the father drinks from it in Subspecies and Radu survives being decapitated by his half-human brother. They cut his head off, burn the body and stick the object out in the sun. The other vampires try to have their cake and eat it too, but are driven away by the sun. The End?

This movie is not bad, but definitely has some iffy writing. The awkward re-writing of events hurts things, as does the co-mingling of the two films. This also produces a major plot hole in Vampire Journals, which I will address tomorrow. That said- Radu is still a good character, although he really should learn his lesson by now! Michelle has more material, but is overshadowed by the doctor. What a strange character! He was apparently born to a vampire clan, but rejected it and mutated his body for good via science. Mind you, this was made the same year that vampires in Blade got around death via sunscreen and dark glasses! The way they killed off most of the cast is still damn ridiculous! I could have almost forgiven them if they had a scene where Radu cast some sort of spell on them. Anything but what they did! In spite of this, the atmosphere is still solid and you can definitely do worse when it comes to low-budget vampire films.

We conclude with Nicolau's story about snobby vampires. Not only that, but it has more than three vampires! Stay tuned...

Great Moments in Stock Footage: 'Mortal Kombat II'

While not necessarily a Horror movie, this film features a Bestiality and an evil centaur man. I think that is enough to qualify, don't you?

Today I want to address a major problem with the sequel to 1995's Mortal Kombat. It is...
Mortal Kombat: Annihilation
The film begins with a quick recap of the first film, via footage of our heroes fighting and some special effects going off. All fine and good, even if the first film is crappy and re-using footage of it is pretty sad.

As soon as we come back from the cliffhanger ending of the original, we are greeted almost entirely new cast of actors playing the parts. This puts Subspecies II to shame! They recast Sonya, Jonny Cage and Raiden. Hell, they would have recast Goro's corpse if it was possible!

As bad as this is, it would not be so terrible if it were not for showing us how different they looked in the intro. Good job, guys.

Up next, Ed Wood uses stock footage...of himself. Stay tuned...

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

'Deep Blue Sea' Moments: Subterano

This one has been a long time coming, so let's not waste any time shall we? Today's subject comes from a crappy little film called Subterano. It comes to us via Australia, but not that good part that makes interesting movies with Peter Weller. This is the part of Australia that brings us the weird movies like Tank Girl, which are not always good.
Basically, a bunch of people get trapped in a parking garage that is full of trap and remote-control evil. They are told that the whole thing is a game and they must try to survive. I know what you are thinking and 'yes, this does pre-date Saw.' We get a range of cliched characters, including the tough guy and the 'know-it-all.' The latter is the key one to this film's induction.
After surviving two levels (read: the same one, only lit differently), they come across a 'Save Point.' This is basically a big, glowing orb that you access by sticking your head into it. Yeah, that seems safe. Despite everyone's objections, he sticks his head in, claiming that everything will be safe.
Yeah, he gets decapitated. I think you all knew that I was going to say that.
More films are coming. Which ones? I can't say. No, really- I can't. Stay tuned...

Quintology II: Subspecies 3

Since there are more vampire tales to tell, I have returned. This movie again picks up right where the last one ended. Only, this time, they actually filmed the movies at the same time, so our heroine is not going to become a blond all of a sudden. As the director explains later, they attempted to make this like one long story, as opposed to two films that just come back-to-back. An interesting idea, but how feasible is it? Well, despite being stabbed more times than Sweeney Todd's cutting board, Radu is back in this tale, along with the sister, the police detective (who I just sort of glossed over last time) and the Embassy envoy. This continues to be a story about Michelle, so it's sort of a make or break thing. If you don't care about her at all, you will really have no connection here. We do get some new characters, but more on that later. Let's just pick up where we left off in...
We begin with a fairly-lengthy recap of the last movie (about three minutes) and get into things. First things first, Michelle is taken to the witch's laboratory and is apparently unconscious. Thanks for not showing us how the tiny burn victim overtook the full-grown adult with vampiric strength, movie! We switch perspectives briefly so that the movie can show us the sister's ass in a thong as she changes out of her dress right out in the open. Thanks, but was that necessary at all? She goes to a bar and calls the police, who apparently rush over, despite the movie not showing us her actual call. In the lab, Mummy takes some blood from Michelle and drips it in Radu's big, gaping maw. This, along with some chanting, brings Radu back from the dead. This guy is two for two when it comes to resurrections, so you may be stuck with me as I review Subspecies 53: Blood-drained. The police look around, but find nothing, thanks to the others being in a weird room behind a false wall. Well, they do find the dead professor, but who cares? Using some silly smoke effects and chanting, the trio of Mummy, Radu and Michelle escape to the new crypt.

Michelle's sister refuses to give up, although nobody believes her story. It does not help that the one person who did is an impaled corpse now, does it? This whole portion of the film revolves around two things: Michelle fighting the urge to become a corrupted vampire and her sister trying to find her. The latter starts to get closer to the man, but he gets cock-blocked by a montage of scary moments played in the woman's head. So close! On the other side, Michelle is waning in her resolve. She even gives in for a moment and feeds on a woman that is brought in by Radu. This is, of course, after her top is pulled down for the camera. You do have to prioritize, Mr. Nicolau. At this point, you also see just how thrifty the production is. Not only do they re-use the castle from Part 1, but they even re-use the 'Mouse Trap'-style cage! Radu and company figured that it would be good to hide out in a place that our heroes already know about and can sneak into. After some mysterious killings and a sighting, the sister finally manages to get the cops on her side. That and the fact that Radu stabs the lead detective to death with a dagger.

The sister, the Embassy envoy and some police are preparing to siege the castle. As a bonus, they get a CIA operative with a cocky attitude and no characterization. I smell a 'Red Shirt.' Rather than going in like before, they decide to climb up the face of the castle, why do they do that? The envoy and the new guy go in alone-save for a handgun full of silver bullets,- leaving the sister down below. The CIA guy insults Mummy and fires his machine gun at her, but she counters by launching a knife across the room via improbable science and it goes into her. Holy Kano-move, Batman! She locks our male lead up in the cage with the random woman who was 'on the menu' and wants to make Michelle feast on him. Her sister desperately tries to coerce her through the radio, but that gets smashed. It all turns when Radu rejects his mother's attempt at having him finally kill Michelle and rips her arm off! He kills her, but Michelle turns on him, making his move all the stupider. She shoots with with the silver bullets, but he still follows them! Despite never doing this before, the morning sun sets Radu on fire and he falls off the precipice and gets impaled on a sharp tree. Our heroes wrap up Michelle and leave, but neglect to take the Bloodstone. Dun dun dun!

This movie is a bit juicier than Part II and has a better ending. They definitely amped up the gore here and that is a good thing. Of course, as shown above, it can get a little over-the-top. The plot is good, but definitely feels like the second part of a story, as opposed to a sequel. Why not just call them Subspecies: Part 2 and Subspecies: Part 3? That is the inherent flaw with this movie- if you don't watch the others, you will have no emotional connection to it. The acting is good and *most* of the characters are well fleshed-out. It is at this point that the Radu make-up gets a little too 'messed-up looking' & Mummy is as exaggerated as ever. Given that our only other vampire is Michelle in heavy powder make-up, they just stand as a bit out of place. That said, I would rather have monster vampires than guys that glow in the sunlight. I say 'viva los monstruous!'

Is Radu really dead? Will Mummy return? Will Michelle find an emotion between anger and sadness? Stay tuned...

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Quintology II: Subspecies 2

Here we are again, this time with Part 2 (aka Bloodstone) of the series. This one stands out in a couple of ways. First off, Full Moon did not plan this out as a series, hence the reason for this being made two years later. This leads to a couple of problems that will be addressed early on. What has stayed the same is the director and lead actor (Anders Hove as Radu). They also went back to Romania, although they use some newer locations on top of the castle. We also get a ton of new characters, some of which have staying power and some that don't- more on that later, as well. It also bears mentioning that this was made in conjunction with Part III (aka Bloodlust), showing some planning on their parts. With all that out of the way, let's return to the world of vampires with...
The film begins with a short recap (about 2 minutes) and our villain managing to come back to life. The tiny 'subspecies' monsters help him put it on, but the real worker is his spinal column, which extends itself, hooks his head and pulls it back on. Just to be anti-climactic, he gets up and skewers the hero from the first film. The man explodes into fire...for some reason and becomes a really strange effect. He even manages one more 'pop-up' moment before his real death. He goes over to the other coffin and opens it to discover...a different actress in a more revealing outfit. What the hell? You book-ended the films, but did not keep the same cast?!? The rising sun scares Radu away, since he can't just close the curtains. This gives us the most anti-climactic suspense scene ever as Radu goes downstairs to his coffin and rests, while our heroine does the same. Being an early riser, she gets up before the monster, runs to her old room and flees to a train. The dumb guy is always right behind her, now with the aid of some weird 'shadow' effects that will become cliches for the series from this point on. Fleeing to Bucharest, she checks into a hotel, but is taken for dead in the morning. Maybe you shouldn't take a nap in a bathtub when you are pale and have no pulse. Fortunately, her sister is on her way to help out.

Our new heroine arrives in town to help out her sister, but is too late. She woke up in the ambulance and ran away in mid-day, since the sun does not affect her that much, apparently. She takes refuge in what appears to be a prop warehouse, but is never actually explained. Her sister is given the hard facts and shown the Bloodstone, which our heroine made sure to take with her when she left. Radu is pissed about this, but mostly just appears in random places and lurks. For a long time, only Michelle (the newbie vampire) sees him, which does not help her case. In the film's sub-plot, the sister and an envoy of the American Embassy investigate the events of the first film. They meet up with an old professor who tells them about the Bloodstone, which the guy does not believe to be more than just a piece of junk. Incidentally, the look has vastly improved on this artifact in the last couple of days- hm, I can't imagine how. They go into the castle via a secret entrance and come across the chaotic remains of the Subspecies finale battle. Another sub-plot introduces the mother of Radu, who vastly resembles the evil witch from Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, albeit if she was a zombie. She pushes Radu to kill Michelle and regain the stone, but he has feelings for her. At least, as much as he can muster.

Finally, the two sisters reunite, but it does not last long. Radu appears and takes the vampire girl away, with Bloodstone in tow. He tries to coerce her to his side, but she resists. This pushes the sister to really try and save her sister, now with the knowledge about Radu and the Vladislaas clan. The envoy does not believe it and chooses not to go, leaving it down to the woman and the old man. They find the crypt with Michelle and Radu, but the man is killed by the mother, who apparently is not bound by the normal vampire rules for some reason. Michelle awakens and learns that her sister is going to be used as a sacrifice to get rid of the woman's last aspects of humanity. Desperate, she manages to find her convictions and stabs Radu in the face! The mother fights back, but gets lit aflame by a torches and does the 'Wonder Woman spin' to exit. Radu is stabbed many times, the last one coming from Michelle's sister (a point for later). They both go to exit, but the morning sun forces Michelle to stay. As she backs up into the crypt, the mother pops up and grabs her! To be continued...

This movie is not bad, but definitely suffers from some casting shock. The whole idea of the film is that you invest in the Michelle character, since she is the only connective thread of the series aside from Radu. I applaud them for this, but question the re-casting of the role. This is actually never addressed in the Making Of segment, which is a strange omission. As a story, it is solid, even if there are some questions left unanswered still. Radu is an effective villain, although his mother (credited as Mummy) is too over-the-top for this movie's tone. There are still very few vampires in the movie (the mother never acts like one), which works as a highlight for the vampires appearances. At the same time, a film like this could use more vampires. One of the films in the series manages to address this, but most of them stick to just Radu and Michelle. No matter how many times they do it, the shadow effects are still silly. I will leave you today with this illogical effects shot...

Will Michelle escape with her soul? Will her sister save the day? Will the movie include a pointless ass shot of our heroine? Stay tuned...

Mondo Trivia: Troll 2

Joe D'amato was always known as a cheap bastard when it came to making movies. As such, this should come as no surprise...

*The Hobgoblin suit from Troll 2 was later used for the monster suit in the fourth Ator film (aka Ator III: The Hobgoblin).

*Said Hobgoblin suits were designed by Laura Gemser, also known as the star of the Black Emmanuelle series. Only Joe could cast one of his stars in lieu of a costume designer!

Monday, October 19, 2009

Quintology II: Subspecies

Vampires are often the subject of low-budget, horror movies. Why? Because they can be just about anything, depending on how much money you have. Scary monster- sure, if you have the cash. Guy with $20 fangs and eye liner- also a vampire! In the case of today's movie, they manage to scrounge up enough money to make one really scary vampire...and that's about it. I will discuss the whole villain situation in the actual reviews, but the fact that the series has one monster vampire alone is a bit curious, is all. All of these films were made on location in Romania, a fact that takes up most of the time on the DVD Making-Of features. These films are also the brainchild of a man named Ted Nicolau, who is also responsible for the Leapin' Leprechauns series, Bad Channels & Puppet Master vs. the Demonic Toys. The man is not Orson Welles, is what I am trying to say! So, we have a small budget, a lazy choice of monster and a questionable director. Let's jump right into...
The film begins with a silly-looking old man sucking on what looks like a pacifier. He hears someone coming and hides it behind a false wall. In walks...the ugliest damn vampire of all time! It's like if the monster from Castle Freak got in a car accident and got reconstructive surgery from the worst doctor ever. The best part is that he will get even more ugly as the films go on. In a bit of lazy exposition, we learn that the weird old man (Phantasm's Angus Scrimm in a nothing role) is the King of the Vampires and the freaky guy is Radu, his bad son. His good son is coming as well, but Radu wants the Bloodstone, an artifact of great power that does different things in the different films. The King drops a 'Mousetrap'-like cage on his son, but our villain has a plan. He breaks off the ends of his super-long fingers and they form into tiny demon-looking monsters out of Ray Harryhausen's dreams. They go into the wall and pull the cage away, allowing Radu to stab his dad to death- remember this for later films. Our heroines show up just in time for the villain to be thirsty.
The crux of the movie involves three woman- two of them American tourists- who are in Romania to do a thesis paper on ancient folklore. Well, you came to the right place! They stay at a castle which only has one other guest, a mysterious man who works long hours and never comes out during the day. Hmm...I wonder. They look into the area around the castle & find that the people don't want to talk about the Vladislaas Manor, despite it being the biggest place in the country. They meet the mysterious man, who is a dashing guy surrounded by mystery that will be addressed later. Meanwhile, Radu makes himself seen around the area, culminating in a bit where he pursues our heroines into the woods, which they run through after napping too long. No, really. He also talks about how he can't find the Bloodstone, despite it being in the same room that he now lives in. Things get bad when he decides to feast on one of our heroines, which the doctor cannot figure out. You're a doctor in a land of vampires and can't see what this is? She dies and the friendly native (the only one, really) tells her that she must decapitate her friend. Yeah, I'm sure that she'll do that...

Of course, the man was right and Radu recruits the young woman to work for him. He has plans for the mysterious man, who it turns out is...Radu's brother! Dun dun obvious! After being deserted by our heroine at a festival, the remaining heroine is captured by Radu and kept in his dungeon. He leaves his weird finger monsters to guard her, which leads us to some of the worst optical effects of all time. I mean, they're real bad! Both of our heroes get captured by Radu, after a rescue attempt ends in the second victim being revealed as a vampire. They take the woman away so they can put her in a different outfit (off-camera, for some reason). Through some luck and determination, the good vampire manages to free himself, leading to a battle. One girl is crushed by a falling chandelier and another is lit on fire. Radu himself is stabbed with a spear and decapitated by his brother. At her request, he turns the only girl left into a vampire, in order for them to be together forever. Yeah, good luck with that in Part II. The teaser ending reveals that Radu is still alive...somehow. To be continued...

This movie is not bad, but it does suffer from being the first of a series. They have to introduce everyone and explain all of the back-story. That said, they leave a lot of it unexplained. What is the Bloodstone? Why are there only three vampires- all of them related? Why does one native like the good vampire and the King? Why is there a King for three people, two of which don't live there?!? Our heroines don't fare much better, save for the lead. Even then, all of her expansion is done in the later sequels. All that said, the movie is saved by its use of real Romanian locations. While they don't always make great use of them, the Gothic wonder can distract you. Radu's make-up is interesting, but not all that logical. He is the only Full Moon vampire that looks so monstrous and bizarre. By the way, his weird off-shoot monsters were changed in post-production (as says the Making-Of). Originally, they looked interesting and seemed like they were off of the same creature. Thanks for the change, guys.

How will things change in Subspecies 2? Will Radu look even freakier? Will this movie ever explain this fact? Stay tuned...