Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Big Lizzy : The Crater Lake Monster

Oh Nessie, where are you?  The world's most famous lake monster doesn't star in a lot of movies and most of them are pretty terrible.  This puts the burden on the U.S. lake monsters.  Do they pick up the slack?  Well, we've got a movie here to review, so I'd say 'yes.'  Is this movie good though?  This mid-'70s monster flick is about as redneck as Hee-Haw and as gory as a kid's film.  In spite of this, the movie is a minor, cult classic.  Does it deserve this reputation?  Let's find out, folks!  Get out your forklifts for my review of...
The film begins with a shot of the titular lake.  We get to see a digitally-inserted shot of a silhouette in the water.  After that, we must endure the plot.  It's all about a small, country town which is full of cliches.  We've got the friendly General Store workers, a feisty waitress and a lazy doctor.  The honest Sheriff is a nice surprise though.  Some people have gone missing in town, which raises his concern.  Oh yeah, there's also a random plot thread involving people looking in a cave to investigate.  Don't make me think about Scalps, please.  He goes out on a boat with some people and the doctor, since the latter had nothing else to do.  In another sub-plot, two hicks rent out a boat to a city guy.  They speak in exposition about how nobody goes out on the lake any more.  They're the only ones who seem to be aware of this and/or care.  While trying to go fishing, the monster finally shows himself.  Basically, he's a giant, claymation turd with a mouth.  He kills the guy in a surprisingly-bloody scene.  Of course, none of the blood is shown at the same time as the guy.  Quick note: your claymation work is less effective when I can practically see the thumb prints in it!
The Sheriff and other authority figures question the guys who rent the boats out.  They promise not to rent any more, just to be safe.  Of course, a couple from the city shows up and rents a power boat from them.  You guys are really not endearing, you know.  The couple goes to a tiny island to have a picnic.  Guess who has come out to play though?  The turd monster confronts them via his rear-projection effect powers.  They scare him away by setting the boat on fire and it just kind of leaves.  Back on land, the Sheriff discovers the head of the guy killed on the boat.  It just kind of floated over, I guess.  Back on the island, the pair are left alone.  They are found by our heroes and talk about the monster.  In other news, a random guy shows up in a liquor store and kills some people.  Why are you showing me this, movie?  As it turns out, this will matter...a little bit...eventually.  Okay then.
Now that our heroes are aware of the monster, they make plans to stop it.  This involves the town working together, arming themselves and grabbing some construction equipment.  I was with you, but then you lost me.  Remember that plot thread with the robber?  Well, it matters now.  He shows up in town, while running from the cops, and wreaks a bit of havoc.  By the lake, the Sheriff is attacked by the monster, but escapes.  Thank God it was only on the screen placed in front you, huh?  He runs into the robber, the latter engaging the former in a shoot-out.  The robber runs for his life...towards the monster and dies.  Wow!  That was totally worth it!  Our heroes lure the creature out into the open the next day and start shooting.  This thing is fairly-bulletproof, however, so killing it proves difficult.  One of the men sacrifices his life to help stop it.  The finale involves our hero stabbing the monster with some construction equipment and killing it.  With a bit of dialog, the film just closes.  The End.
This movie is not good.  The plot is pretty lazy, basically stringing together characters who exist as monster fodder.  The creature itself is a decent effect at times, but mostly looks pretty cheap.  I can applaud them for committing to it, in contrast to movies like Snowbeast.  Of course, I hate that Bo Svenson film, so bear that in mind.  This movie is not that good, nor is it really terrible.  As a cult classic, it's pretty cheesy, but not that interesting.  With so many monster movies, this one is not that interesting.  You can get a good laugh at the cheap effects.  Of course, you can get that within 20 minutes or so.  Is seeing the story play out worth the rest of the runtime?  Not so much.  Whose idea was it to set up the 'liquor store robber' sub-plot again?  It feels like they just took footage from a random cop show and put it in.  I eagerly await people telling me that they actually did just that.  As for me, I don't care enough to look it up.  This film is okay, but nothing more.
Next up, we begin December with a batch of foreign randomness.  First, we get a Bollywood horror film that has a penchant for the woods, but not dancing.  Stay tuned...
  

Lost in Translation and/or Impossibly-Cool Cover Art: Jaws II (again)

Someone couldn't leave well enough alone and just had to do another one of these.  So be it.  Jaws II- again...
You know what- I wish that your poster was accurate.  Hell, this one could have gone in Impossibly-Cool Cover Art...so it will too.

Ironically, neither Jaws nor Jaws II really did 'bite.'  They saved that for 3 and 4.

Up next, a Stephen Spielberg alien classic gets the LiT treatment.  No, not the one you're probably thinking of.  Stay tuned...

Monday, November 29, 2010

Pull the Strings!: Curse of the Puppet Master

Just leave it alone.  Seriously, just stop!  In 1994, Full Moon released Puppet Master 4 (The Demon) and Puppet Master 5 (The Final Chapter).  The series was meant to go off in a different direction (more on that later this week), but that didn't quite pan out.  Jump ahead to 1998 and the series was back...for some reason.  Was there a big need here?  Of course, this revival led to this film, Retro Puppet Master, Puppet Master: The Legacy and Puppet Master vs. The Demonic Toys.  Let me be the first person to say this: thanks a ton!  This film is quick to toss out continuity and toss in stock footage.  You fools- you got it backwards!  Regardless, I'm going to be done with this series once I wrap up this review.  Let's go fetch the gun and take Old Yeller out back.  Get out your randomly-gray room for my review of...
The film begins out in the woods with a man doing something secretive.  I'm sure it's nothing evil or creepy at all.  Sometime later at a gas station, some jerks pick on a guy who clearly outweighs them by fifty pounds.  Oh, he's apparently one of those 'big guys that can't fight back,' so it all makes sense.  Wait- no, it doesn't!  An old man and his daughter intercede, the former picking a fight with the kids.  That's...random.  He hires the big guy to work for him, offering him a nicer job that doesn't involve pumping gas.  Of course, this guy has found something else he wants to pump: the guy's daughter.  She's 'Full Moon Hot' (translation: okay for a '90s chick), but she plays hard to get.  In fact, when she finally makes a move, she inadvertently causes him to cut his finger open.  That night, our hero wakes up to find his body opened up and full of doll parts.  That's really neat except...it's a dream.  How can you pad out your film and piss off your audience with fake-out moments in one fell swoop?  Pointless dream sequence- that's how!  By the way, want to know why I'm not talking about the dolls?  It's because they haven't done shit so far!
Finally, the action begins to pick up a bit as our hero and the girl go out on a date.  It's just walking around, since this movie's on a budget tighter than Chinese Finger-Cuffs.  They get confronted by the jerks from before, who have designs on going 'family-style' on the gal.  Her guy intercedes and starts choking one of them.  When he stops, they just sort of leave.  Hey guys, you outnumber him five-to-one.  That night, the girl settles in for bed, only for the same jerk to show up.  Welcome to Stock Footage Hell, people (not to confused with the segment)!  Pinhead goes from sitting on a table inches from the guy, followed by gray stock footage of him running on the ground to suddenly jumping at the guy!  That's...not even close to good.  To make matters worse, this little bit of puppet/stock footage action ends in the guy tossing Pinhead away and stomping on him.  You're worse than the original film at making them look like a threat!  Our hero and the professor help rebuild him.  In a silly sub-plot, a Sheriff (played by the same guy who was the co-star of Trancers 6) suspects that the professor has been up to no good.  By the way, this has to be addressed.  Where did the professor get the dolls?  He bought them.  Yes, I guess the guy from Puppet Master 4/5 got bored with them and just gave up fighting evil.  Lame.  They toss in yet another pointless dream sequence too, by the way.
As it turns out, the guy is pretty evil.  He's been experimenting with Toulon's puppets in order to find out a way to make his own.  As such, he hires young men, uses them as guinea pigs and then dumps the bodies.  Our heroine discovers this when she digs up the puppet remains of the last assistant!  Before that can happen, we need some of the only Puppet Master-style moments of the film.  Blades and Tunneler go to the attempted-rapist's place and kill him while he's working out...alone...at night.  Two things to note here.  First, you get to see a kill that would later show up in Doll Graveyard (only changed slightly).  Second, way to show one of the guys' hands while moving Tunneler.  Since they were too cheap to make new stop-motion, they just wiggled the dolls up and down.  Lame!  All of this leads up to the professor making an experiment out of our hero.  He is nearly done with it when the Sheriff and his Deputy arrive.  They get killed by the dolls in some decent action, although it too has stock footage in it a bit.  Nice of you to overcompensate on the blood for the Third Act too.  Both of them die and the girl sees the experiment go off.  Our hero has his, um, energy put into a robot-looking doll.  Not surprisingly, he zaps the old man just after the dolls show solidarity against him and cut him to ribbons.  Oh good, I wanted to see the ending of Puppet Master 1 and 2 again!  The End.
This movie sucks!  The plot is stupid and barely involves the dolls.  It could have been Killjoy 12 or Demonic Toys 8, just with different stock footage in it!  The dolls barely appear in the film because this movie was made so cheaply that they couldn't afford to make new stop-motion effects!  I know that I've mentioned that a couple of times now, but it bears repeating.  How can you not afford that?!?  Furthermore, why did you think that your 'disguise' would work?  Aside from this, the actual story is pretty lame.  The characters are stock, the plot moves slower than a fat guy trying to walk while holding a fart in and the special effects are done way too much at the end.  It's kind of like watching Roger Corman's The Raven and it's crazy 'magic duel' at the end.  The difference is that I like that movie.  It's fun, silly and gets what it's point is.  This movie does none of that and sullies the name of Full Moon.  I didn't think that it was possible, but things have changed.  Give me randomly-evil Toulon or puppets fighting mummies any day of the week over this shit!
Next up, we take a break from tiny things and go big.  I mean, sea monsters fighting rednecks big!  Stay tuned...
  

VHS For The Win: Outback Vampires

This...this just really speaks for itself.  Take a look...
This can't be serious, right?  This has to be a comedy!  Then again, the Bigfoot movie was quite serious, so who knows.

By the way, look out behind you.

Next up, we all love wine, but we hate monsters.  Naturally, someone mixed the two.  Stay tuned...

R.I.P. Detective Frank Drebin

Sadly, I have to report the loss of another great, cinematic talent...
Leslie Nielsen was a stilted, dramatic actor in the 1950s and '60s.  When the '70s and '80s came, he was able to make a complete 180 in his career as a comedian.  While he was not always in the best comedies, he was usually the best thing in them.  He will be missed.

As far as the picture goes, you know that's the one he would want.  He was just that kind of guy.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Pull the Strings!: Puppet Master V

We're in the home stretch, people!  After Puppet Master 4 was released, this film was practically in post-production.  With a mere six months between them, these two films feel like one, long story.  Mind you, the run-times for both films are just over an hour, so they basically are one, normal film!  It's kind of like how I mentioned in my review of the Trancers series that all 6 films were equal to the theatrical cuts of LoTR: The Fellowship of the RingThe Two Towers.  That's not even getting into the Director's Cuts either.  Back to the subject at hand, this film brings back the previous two leads, as well as the puppets.  No new puppets this time, so why bother?  Seriously, every film introduces a new one- save for this one.  That's the inherit problem in filming movies back-to-back like this: they feel the same.  Subspecies II ended abruptly in order to finish the story in Subspecies III, while Trancers IV crapped out an ending...only to ruin it for Trancers V.  Will this film suffer the same fate or will it buck the trend?  Get out your tiny police stations for my review of...
The film begins with about five minutes of recapping the last film.  If you want to make a two-part film, label it as such!  When you just make two films together, you force yourself to do a stupid recap segment for anyone coming on-board for the first time.  Side note: who would go see Puppet Master 5 as their first entry to series exactly?  Anyhow, our hero is being questioned for the murders of the two scientists from the early part of the last film.  See, I told you that it wouldn't matter until now.  Despite him being nowhere near the building, they're convinced that he's guilty.  They try and rationalize it by saying that he must have sent robots out to do the deed.  As a bonus, they have video footage of her attack, yet the demon puppet is just off-frame.  Of course, that works out so well for you!  He has set free temporarily by his new boss, who has plans of his own.  He wants the secret that Toulon hid as well.  Meanwhile, our hero meets up with his girlfriend, who is looking over the psychic lady from the last film.  Apparently, she's in a coma of sorts.  I'm not really sure why, but whatever.  The evil monster from the last film also rears his ugly, puppet head.  He uses his magical powers to channel his spirit through her and into a new doll.  Yes, this movie is built around a single, killer doll.  You guys ever hear of escalation?
Back at the hotel, our hero is not having a good time.  It may have something to do with a secret meeting that his new boss has with...the Bartender from Feast?  Yeah, he's in the movie.  This marks the second, random film that he's shown up in.  You're worse than MadTV's Michael McDonald!  The people send in some flunkies to steal the formula from the hotel.  Gee, you're clearly in this movie just to be killed.  I guess they couldn't just kill Jerk Boyfriend again.  Sure enough, these guys exist to pad out the run-time by wandering around for a bit before being killed by the demon puppet.  The now-heroic dolls face off with the puppet, but find success is not as easy.  Their tiny bullets and blades are no match for it's...CG lightning.  So, you're not only a demonic God from another dimension attacking the real world with a puppet, but now you can shoot lightning?  Alright then.  The puppets retreat to fight another day.  Unfortunately, Toulon didn't stash another puppet in the walls, so back-up is not going to come.  Ruh roh.
As the battle presses on, all hope seems to be lost.  Fortunately, a Deus Ex Machine arrives in the form of Andre Toulon.  Despite him not really presenting much power before- save the 'head appearing on the puppet' trick from the last film- he has it now.  He leads his puppets in spirit for one last attack, where they manage to whittle down the demon doll's body.  He summons a portal to escape to live and fight another die. He's stopped by Toulon, however, who expends his last bit of energy to stop him.  The puppets finish him off and save the day.  I guess the monster is dead or something- it's not really clear.  Toulon does the 'head appearing on the doll' trick one more time to officially christen our hero as the new Puppet Master.  His adventures would continue on for years to come.  No, not really.  This is The Final Chapter, after all.  The End.
This movie...is just kind of 'eh.'  The plot is simple enough: the monster is back for another attempt at victory. It could work...but it just feels like a rehash.  If you want to view this as one story (and thus, one film), the first film is basically the First and middle of the Second Act.  They've turned back the enemy for the time being, but it's not a final victory.  It's only in the remaining half and Third Act that the story is actually resolved.  Do you want to watch a half film?  On top of that, it wasn't exactly a great first half of a film to begin with.  The stop-motion work is good, as usual.  Like in the other film though, it's not all that great.  It doesn't match up to the better moments in the series that we've already seen.  That's what happens when you make 9 films though- some of them just aren't as good.  Honestly, the biggest problem for the movie is this: the lack of merit.  Why does it exist?  It would be one thing if it was billed as Puppet Master 4- Part II.  As a separate film, it has the old villains, the old actors and the old sets.  More importantly, they don't introduce a new puppet.  What's a Puppet Master film without a new doll to shill?  Sorry, but you're the middle child in this movie family.
Next up, we wrap the Puppet Master series with Curse of the Puppet Master.  Naturally, it follows a film subtitled The Final Chapter.  Stay tuned...

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Poor Bastards of Cinema: Hercules (1987)

The Luigi Cozzi adaptation of Hercules is a freaky film that needs to be seen by everyone.  In the meantime, let's discover another Poor Bastard of Cinema...

Near the finale, Hercules is chained up by the orders of Minos and his lady friend (played by the busty Sybil Danning).  Naturally, he breaks free and fights off the guard.  During this struggle, one of the men grabs a spear and chucks it across the room.  Instead of hitting Danning or one of the guards, it hits Danning's old maid!

The movie just went all 'Scorpion' on you!  That's what you get for...um, going where your mistress told you to.

Why did you bring your maid with you to the dungeon again?  I don't get it.

Up next, we get to see a pair of Poor Bastards from a single, obscure film.  These people did nothing to deserve their fate!  Stay tuned...

Pull the Strings!: Puppet Master IV- The Demon

When is enough 'enough?'  This is clearly not a question asked by the folks over a Full Moon Studios.  After all, they have made 3 Killjoy films, 4 Demonic Toys films (counting the Vs. movies) and 5 Subspecies films (counting Vampire Diaries).  Of course, the big Kahuna is Puppet Master, which has 9 films from Full Moon and a 10th one made by the Sci-Fi Channel's team.  I'm just over half-way through them now, so let's not sit around with our hands in our pockets.  Puppet Master 4 (aka Puppet Master 4: The Demon) was made on a shoe-string budget, which was aided by it being made in conjunction with Puppet Master 5.  Yes, it joins the elite ranks of Trancers IV, Subspecies II and LoTR: The Two Towers.  Note to 'Ringers:' hacks can do Peter Jackson's ideas too (and before him)!  This film ignores the cliffhanger/twist endings of both Puppet Master and Puppet Master 2, as well as merely referencing Part 3 (since that was a prequel).  We get a new lead, but Toulon actor Guy Rolfe manages to show up too.  How does a doubly-dead guy appear?  Well, if you don't know, prepare to laugh your asses off when you find out.  All of the dolls are back and joined by a new one: Decapitron.  Sorry, Full Moon- you won't ever live up to that kick-ass name!  Get out your $1,000,000 Laser Tag gloves for my review of...
The film begins in another dimension where a giant puppet talks to a bunch of guys in skull masks.  Context?  Hello?  Hello?  This is apparently the evil creature that the secret of the puppets came from.  Mind you, it was not made clear in Puppet Master 3 (especially with Toulon's contradictory statement about it's source) and it was not clear until Retro Puppet Master- a movie made about five years after this one.  Anyhow, he's mad at Toulon for stealing it, so he's going to get revenge on...this random guy.  Why him?  Because he's the caretaker for the famous hotel that was the setting for the first two films.  How is that still open?  It was the scene of numerous murders in the first film and was the subject of a government study in the second.  Before I have time to ask more questions, I have to note that the villain's tiny monsters kill a pair of scientists.  This serves no purpose until Puppet Master 5, so let's move on.  Apparently, our hero is assigned to be the hotel's caretaker in the Summer.  The guy is a super-genius who is trying to crack the secret of artificial intelligence and how to put it into robots.  Just so you know who to blame when Skynet takes over the world, it's his fault!  He tests this by playing Laser Tag with his Battle Bot rejects.  Full Moon plots- grounded in reality!  He has some friends over, as well as his girlfriend.  Nice of that abandoned hotel to give him a pointless job and let him invite strangers in too!  The pair are boyfriend and girlfriend, despite having no chemistry.  Oh yeah, the girlfriend is a psychic and senses an omen.  I can too- this movie has nearly an hour left!
Our two macho guys discover a chest in the basement that houses Toulon's dolls.  It sure was nice of the puppets to put themselves back in the chest and lock it from the outside, huh?  The guys break it open against the psychic girl's wishes and find Toulon's passport, but eventually learn that he wasn't really a Nazi.  Nice of you to simultaneously assume that we saw Puppet Master 3 and also spoil the ending in one fell swoop!  When the group splits up, the psychic girl decides to play with a Ouija Board.  Yes, they apparently still made those in 1994.  The evil monster puppet uses this as a gateway to bring his stop-motion creations into our dimension.  Side note: why does the guy have doll henchmen sent to Earth when he has human-size henchmen in the other world?  I'm sure that there is a reason, but do you really think that I want to know it?  The stop-motion killers convince the couple to leave, but the guy gets killed in the car.  Naturally, the girlfriend runs back inside...for safety.  Oh, Jerk Boyfriend- how I'll miss you.  You'll get your moment at the end of the review, so don't worry.  When the monsters go after our heroes, the dolls intercede.  The things already proved that they can play Laser Tag, so they must be great at actual combat.  Side note: Six-Shooter is in this chest, but wasn't in it for Puppet Master or Puppet Master 2.  Huh?  A pair of the dolls take out one of the tiny demons, sending a CG lightning bolt into the other dimension and killing one of the servants.  With a body count of 3, I'm sure terrified.
Despite winning their battles so far, the dolls feel the need to bring out another experimental doll from a different chest.  Of course, Toulon stashed into a hiding place other than the one where he put his original dolls, the Ninja doll from Axis of Evil, Six-Shooter and the one where he apparently stashed Torch.  For a guy who was caught off-guard by the Nazis, he sure did plan ahead!  This doll is Decapitron, whose gimmick is that he has multiple heads.  One of them is plastic and gray, which allows him to be a vessel for Toulon's spirit.  Guy Rolfe starred in Ivanhoe (the movie- not the shitty Showtime show based on it) and he's reduced to being a cameo as a head CG-ed onto a doll!  Seriously, who thought of this?  He explains that the second head is the most powerful, but can only be activated by ripping off moments from James Whale's Frankenstein.  It's basically a TV with small Tesla coils on the side and machine guns on the front- not that he ever seems to use the latter.  With only one villainous doll left- after another was taken out by Blade and Pinhead- the new puppet shoots lighting from it's head and kills it.  The monster is pissed, Rolfe has a second, silly cameo and our hero hints that his battle is just beginning.  Don't worry- it will end abruptly after Puppet Master 5. The End.
This movie...is trying too hard.  The plot is alright, but requires you to accept things that you shouldn't.  The dolls' origin continues to change, now introducing the magical element into the film proper.  How did the dolls get re-locked in their chest?  I should also add that our heroes mention that the lock appears to be 'fifty years old.'  Why reference the third film's plot set-up if you're just going to piss all over the first and second films?  I can only figure that Charles Band has really bad long-term memory.  He only seems to remember the last film in any series and just makes new shit up.  Case in point: the dolls are inject with fluid through their stomachs, as opposed to the pre-set holes in the necks from the last three films!  I know it's a minor point, but these things stand out in a series that pretends to be in order.  I can excuse the Blind Dead quadrilogy for stuff like this, since the films never actually sync up- nor do they pretend to.  This film is all about 'the legacy of Andre Toulon,' but can't get it right!  He's French (with no accent), then he's a brunette with a Hungarian accent, followed by French with a Spanish accent and finally the rich guy from Tales from The Darkside: The Movie.  Before you think that I do nothing but bitch, I can say that the stop-motion looks good here.  Honestly though, it looked better in 2 and 3.  Keep an eye out for where a human hand subs for Pinhead's in a close-up shot too.  If you like the series, you can do worse.  Of course, the mediocrity of 2 and the not-crappy nature' of 3 make them better choices.  This is a cash-in, simple as that.  Take it away, out-of-context shot of the boyfriend (see- I told you so)!
Next up, we get the second part of the story.  I sure hope it's almost exactly the same as what I just watched!  Stay tuned...

Friday, November 26, 2010

Pull the Strings!: Puppet Master II

Charles Band won't leave us alone, so I guess I can't either.  We've officially reached the halfway point in the series, so, naturally, we're covering Part II.  I hate trying to analyze Full Moon films!  This film comes right off of the ending of Part 1, which is a rare thing to see in the series.  Mind you, there are no returning actors and only the same location, but it's an attempt.  This one is the odd one of the bunch, which is saying a lot.  Basically, Andre Toulon is evil now.  It only lasted for this film and wasn't even addressed again, save for in clips from Puppet Master: The Legacy.  I guess they wanted to try something new and then changed their mind about it.  Regardless, we have more killing, more puppets and some freaky-ass stuff overall.  Get out your random pieces of flesh for my review of...
The film begins with a group of people arriving at the same hotel from Puppet Master.  Same grainy shot of the hotel, by the way.  You guys never thought about cleaning that up or making a new one, huh?  Anyways, this group is from the American Paranormal Investigation Unit.  Fun Fact: that doesn't exist!!!  They are investigating claims made by the sole survivor of the incident that occurred there one year earlier.  What happened to the woman who appeared to master Toulon's formula?  She apparently fell into a Black Hole or something, I guess.  Don't you just love Full Moon cliffhangers that amount to nothing?  As another side note, take note of the really bad early '90s fashion worn by everyone, but especially the lead actress.  Back to the plot as our heroes investigate the place.  For all their joking and bravado, they scare instantly when a dish crashes against a wall.  The group is made up of our lead actress, her boyfriend, a horny brunette and a guy with a goatee.  The only noticeable thing about him is that he cracks jokes, questions everything and wears white shorts with a jacket.  Why did anyone ever do that?
Things turn bad one night when Tunneler breaks into the brother's room at night and gives him a frontal lobotomy.  That's what you get for watching Session 9!  The others burst in and smash the thing, but the damage is done.  The group analyzes the doll and sees that it has complex, moving parts.  They also run some sort of scanner over the thing to see that it has a form of blood flowing through it.  Did that technology exist in 1989, at least as far as one that could be hooked up to a Commodore 64?  Around this time, we get to meet another character.  She's a mean, old lady who thinks that something bad is going to happen.  After getting a bad vision, she says that she plans to leave that night.  While packing, she's attacked by Blade and Pinhead, who drag her off.  She's not unconscious or anything; she just can't muster the strength to stand up.  We also meet a pair of country folk who apparently live close to the hotel.  I'm not clear on why there's a farm and a house so close to a hotel built on a cliff, but whatever.  They try to explain that the hotel was built there as a spiritual chamber or something, but I really don't care.  Just when things look bleak, a freaky man covered in gauze and speaking with a Hungarian accent shows up.  Great- who invited Lon Chaney?!?
Big shock- the guy in the rags is actually Andre Toulon, now back from the dead after having his potion poured on him by the dolls in the beginning.  Yet again, this is not how the potion works in later films- continuity is for jerks and losers!  In a flashback, we see Toulon performing in 1912 with his Faust show.  They would show the poster in other films, so here's why!  A guy who looks like Moses shows up, sets the dolls aflame with his magic & offers Toulon and his bride Elsa a set of new dolls that work without strings.  Besides the obvious continuity change from what was established in Retro Puppet Master, you also have to accept that older Toulon had brown hair and a Hungarian accent, despite being blond with a French accent 10 years earlier.  The dolls up their body count by killing the farmer (off-camera) and eventually toasting the woman.  In another confusing bit, Leech Woman is killed and just sort of returns later in Puppet Master 6.  Watch for the stage hand catching a falling lamp before Blade kills the slutty lady too.  We learn that Toulon has a hard-on for reanimating Elsa, who he thinks inhabits the lead actress' form.  Her new man- a guy so dull that I didn't even mention him- fights past the puppets, but arrives too late to stop Toulon reviving himself in a giant, doll body.  For no reason, the other puppets turn on him and kill him.  In the end, they are driving off with Elsa, now in a giant, female doll body.  Another cliffhanger that wasn't ever resolved- perfect!  The End.
This movie is...okay, I guess.  The plot is alright, setting up the dolls to just kill some people- albeit with a focus.  It's hard to look past the elephant in the room though- Toulon being evil.  Where does that come from?  Why does he do it?  Assuming you believe in an after-life of sorts, he spent about fifty years with her there, so why the experiment?  Let's not forget that this plot thread has no bearing on Puppet Master 4, 5 and 6, which all take place after it in the story.  The stop-motion work is genuinely good here, especially some bits with Torch and a kid.  Like all Full Moon films though, the scene in question is just kind of there and serves no real purpose.  In spite of their otherwise good work, some noticeable Goofs occur.  Aside from the obvious stage hand's cameo mentioned before, we also see a good bit of another man's hand as he moves Jester around for the finale.  Seriously, what does Jester freaking do?!?  He never kills anyone that I can think of, so why is he there?  The new puppet Torch is good, but feels kind of weird.  By the way, why is he in Puppet Master 4, but not Puppet Master 6?  I really don't know the answer.  This is a stronger film as a whole than the original honestly, but it still lacks some real focus in the early parts.  It's better than stuff like Retro Puppet Master, but not as good as Part 3.
Next up, we jump to Part 4 in the series- which is part one of a two-part story.  I hope it can live up to the standard set by Trancers IV and V.  Stay tuned...

Thursday, November 25, 2010

A Real Turkey: Scalps

I'm thankful for many things.  Unfortunately, the shitty movies that I continue to subject myself to on the holidays is not one of them.  Go ahead- take a look back at them.  Peter Rottentail, Toxic Zombies and Pocahauntus- just to name a few.  Hey, guess what- it's another holiday.  That means another piece of shit movie to talk about.  Oh boy, I can't wait to relive this one.  Made in 1983, this Fred Olen Ray film apparently went through quite a bit of editing.  The original film clocks in at 83 minutes (my god!), but it's original cut was down to 74 minutes.  Oddly, none of the cuts were that related to violent content or gore.  Thankfully, a DVD company got the full cut back together for us to see.  Oh good, because I couldn't have found anything else to do with those extra nine minutes of my life!  The film involves an evil Indian spirit coming to life, some idiots hanging around the site and death ensuing.  I'll try to contain my excitement.  Get out your blunt arrows for my review of...
The film begins with a warning that the version I'm about to see has been cobbled together from a number of sources, so video quality may vary.  I've been raised on Pan & Scan releases, the 'not quite widescreen' cuts and, my favorite, the un-edited VHS transfer, so I can handle it.  We get some random shots from the desert that involve an old man, a person digging through the rocks and...a man in a cat mask popping in front of the camera.  Fun fact: Fred Olen Ray claims that this was test footage and not meant for the film.  News Flash: the makers of Planet of the Dinosaurs didn't mean for you to use their footage twice!  The plot jumps to the city to focus on a Professor who wants to go out and make a dig.  After some bad banter- accented by some even worse Sound Editing- he goes outside to talk to his buddy.  He's played Forrest J. Ackerman, who makes sure to hold his own magazine right at the camera the whole time.  The point of this cameo: nothing.  The Professor goes off to talk to his students- who appear to be in the late-20s- and sends them off to go digging for arrow heads.  The only problem: it's illegal.  Thankfully, he is not going with them, so they can just get in trouble by themselves.  So they drive off...and keep driving...and driving.  Now I see how you used those extra 9 minutes!
Seriously, we've gotten into Manos territory here!  After more than a few minutes of driving, shots from the car and talking whilst in the car, we get a break with...them stopping for gas and snacks.  Yeah, that's not really a plot, movie.  They talk about the dig, which is not bright when you consider that it's illegal.  The generic people at the gas station warn them about the dangers.  Naturally, being total idiots, they blow them off and go anyways.  Why couldn't you have skipped the trip and spared me the rest of this movie?!?  They get there and do some digging.  It's pretty much the same thing you get from Zombi 5: Killing Birds and it's just as scintillating as it was there!  We get random flashes of the Indian lady head as well, another thing that Ray objected to.  He didn't complain about them being in the movie, mind you.  He just complained that they were used so randomly.  I'd care more, but you still made Scalps.  They eventually go near the cave mouth we saw earlier and find a bowl used for Indian ceremonies.  Just for fun, they decide to do one.  Yeah, that never ends well.
I'm bored, so i'm hitting the writing equivalent of the Fast-Forward button.  One of the group gets possessed by the evil spirit and starts the killing.  More random shots of the head too.  One of the girls gets killed and scalped.  It's not a terrible effect, but it's not exactly 'worth the price of admission.'  Another odd bit involves one of the girls running from the killer, who is shooting arrows at her.  This girl takes three arrows to the back and one to the leg before finally going down!  You're such a wuss, Boromir!  Our remaining heroes can't leave due to the car being damaged, so they have to battle the creature.  The fight is not exactly thrilling, folks.  The spirit goes down, but the others are killed.  The Professor finally shows up, only to get killed by the creature in a new body.  They also tease a sequel in the credits too- Scalps II: The Return of DJ.  I'm pretty sure that the film was never made.  The End.
This movie sucks- big shock.  The plot is a joke, basically serving as a giant ball of cliches.  Seriously, this film has been made about 500 times, just with the 'Indian spirit' switched out for any random monster.  The acting is not good, the effects are not good and the script-writing isn't great either.  There's really not much to talk about here.  I don't care about these people, nor do I care whether they live or die.  What's the point?  Fred Olen Ray made a ton of films before this and hasn't stopped making them since.  Much like a pandemic, the Great Chicago Fire or the success of Eli Roth, there's just no stopping this shit!
Up next, we return to the Puppet show with the second film in the series.  Hey, it's time to randomly become a bad guy now.  Stay tuned...

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Pull the Strings!: Puppet Master

The year was 1988.  A man named Charles Band had a dream.  He wanted to make a horror film with dolls. Sure, he had already done that in 1987 with the film Dolls, but he wanted to do it again.  It's not as dramatic when you say it like that though.  This is the film that started it all, people!  Does it hold up well in the wake of 8 other sequels, as well as numerous attempts to copy it's success?  Basically, a man controls dolls that kill people.  There's more to it, but I prefer to leave out context sometimes.  Get out your stuffed dog for my review of...
The film begins in 1939 with a grainy shot of a hotel near a cliff.  Not the best place to build a hotel, but whatever.  If this footage looks and sounds familiar, it's because it was also used in the beginning of Puppet Master: Axis of Evil.  Naturally, the last film made- as of this writing- begins with the footage that started the first film ever in the series!  Only in Full Moon films- I'm telling you!  A tiny P.O.V. scene leads to Andre Toulon, here played William Hickey.  You don't appear to be a tall, gaunt character actor with a goatee.  When the Nazis show up at his door, he kills himself with a bullet to the skull.  So much for the guy who got revenge on the evil Nazis, stole an officer's identity and escaped the country, huh?  Considering that the man who taunted a God, stole their power and escaped Egypt offed himself in a similar fashion, I guess it's just part for the course in this series.  We jump ahead about fifty years to the same hotel.  Apparently nothing of interest happened in the time between those two events.  Screw you, Puppet Master: Axis of Evil!  By the way, note how the Oriental puppet is put in the chest, but does not appear again.  Was he not cool enough, Charlie?  To further compound this, his footage is used in the other film and he still does nothing.  Ouch.
The whole film revolves around a group of people going to the same hotel from before.  For some reason, they're all psychics.  I'm sure that won't come into play later.  The segue into this is a seance, since there aren't enough horror films that include these.  I guess a Ouija Board would look silly.  The whole trip sounds like a fun affair, even if the characters are all jerks.  However, the fun ends when they learn that their host is dead.  Naturally, one of the psychics pokes the body with a needle to verify his corpse status.  What did you gain if he actually was alive exactly?  This leads us to some filler where we get to learn about the characters' individual, psychic powers.  That will really matter a lot when you start killing them, Charlie!  Later that night, we see one of the dolls climb out of the man's grave.  Alright then.  The doll kills one of the people off-camera with a poker while they're by the fireplace.  Note to self: next time I'm told to avoid a fireplace, I'll do it!  When the scream is heard, the people are surprised to also find the body of the dead man from earlier in a different place.  Those wacky dead people, huh?  Two more of the psychics wander off to have sex.  Yeah, that's going to end well...
Sure enough, the pair die when two more dolls- Leech Woman and Tunneler.  Just to note: Leech Woman shouldn't exist, since she was made in 1941 according to Puppet Master 3.  No, I won't let that go!  In the hallway, one of the other psychics is attacked by Blade, but she knocks it away.  Pinhead shows up and punches her via the 'Bruce Lee punches the camera' trick, but she knocks it away too.  You know, for the film that set up the dolls as killers to be reckoned with, they kind of get their asses kicked by a girl here!  They eventually take her down, however, redeeming their credibility.  All of this leads up to the big 'villain explains everything' monologue.  What happened, you ask?  Well, the dead guy from the beginning actually stole Toulon's formula from the case.  I'll try to ignore the inconsistency with how the formula works and the fact that the case was still at the hotel while we're here.  He's now immortal and has some killer dolls at his whim.  Other than killing the remaining psychics, that's about the extent of his big, master plan.  I guess you have to start somewhere.  When he shows his sadistic side more overtly, the dolls turn on him and torture him to death.  What's the moral here?  In the 'it's not over' ending, we see the remaining woman go upstairs with the now-reanimated dog from earlier.  The End.
This movie...is not that great.  The plot is simple in theory, but confusing in practice.  The guy invites them to the hotel, kills himself and then uses the dolls to kill them.  He doesn't really need to, as far as I could tell.  In fact, if he had just quietly killed himself and done this without the others there, he'd probably still be alive today.  I guess we can't always count on our villains to be logical, people!  Aside from that, the humor is just weird.  Looking back at the film, you can see the basic outline which would guide the series along.  The dolls are brought to life with good stop-motion effects.  However, they do skimp out on other effects.  Case in point: the whole beginning scene where Blade runs back to Toulon.  It's not bad- just made in a cheaper manner than it could have been.  The dolls and their actions are the star of the show.  To that end, the producers put off showing them in action until quite a ways in.  Wait- that doesn't really make sense?  It doesn't make it a bad film, mind you.  I just think it's important to know what they're going to get.  If you haven't seen it yet, it's a fun enough film.  They would go on to make better films in this series...and worse.
Up next, we take a break from dolls and that damn hotel for the holidays.  Unfortunately, this does not mean that I can get away from low-budget crap.  Stay tuned...

Full Moon's Repeat Offenders: Megan Ward

Megan Ward is not exactly a household name, even among Full Moon fans.  She has, however, been in a trio of them...
Her big break was playing the jail-bait, reincarnation of Jack Deth's wife in Trancers II.  You know, the only good entry in the series.
She returned for one more film in the series- Trancers III.  Her role is minor and mostly expository.  She was written out of Trancers IV in a lazy way and never returned for V or VI.
Finally, she appeared as the female lead in 1993's Arcade, a film that literally went out-of-print a week or so after I reviewed it.  Did I jinx it?

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Pull the Strings!: Puppet Master- Axis of Evil

Dolls, dolls, dolls!  Where do they get those magnificent toys?  Full Moon continues to beat the dead horse that is the Puppet Master series to this day.  A bit earlier this year, they released the 9th film in the series.  Technically, it's the 10th film, but that requires you to acknowledge Puppet Master vs. Demonic Toys- I don't.  Furthermore, the film was made for the Sci-Fi Channel (pre-name change), so they don't own it.  Copyright laws are strange, huh?  This film attempts to fill in the gaps of the series, despite nobody requesting this.  Mind you, they don't fill in the gap between Retro Puppet Master and the other films, since I guess that train left the station when Guy Rolfe died in 2003.  You had no qualms about the first guy dying, but this one is too much!  I said in the last teaser that this is where the real headaches begin- I wasn't kidding.  Mind you, the 3rd film had a different answer for Toulon getting the formula, but that can be excused by saying that he just lied.  This time- not so much.  If your brain hurts, send a letter of complaint to David DeCoteau.  Get out your second, secret compartment for my review of...
The film begins with a grainy, establishing shot of a hotel.  Why is it grainy?  Because this is untouched footage from the original Puppet Master film from 1988.  That sure mixes well with your HD footage, guys!  Now here's the big thing: this film takes place in 1939.  No, really.  You see, the original film begins there and it's actually the fault of Puppet Master III for moving the timeline around.  Nearly 20 years later, they did nothing to fix this problem whatsoever.  It's all on you, DeCoteau!  Why does this make my brain hurt?  Well, you'll find out soon enough.  The film mixes the original film's opening- which is mostly a P.O.V. shot of a doll running back to Toulon's room- with some new footage of our hero in the basement making furniture.  Some shady men go to Toulon's room, but he hides the dolls in the wall and commits suicide.  So, to recap, Andre Toulon died in 1939, went back to Germany and was tormented by Nazis...after they were already chasing him.  This has to get worse, so the guy explains that he talked to Toulon- since the Toulon actor died nearly 20 years ago, it is off-camera- and he recapped the plot of Puppet Master 3.  So that happened already?  Aargh!  Anyhow, the guy finds the dolls and goes home to his mother.  His only problem: he can't fight in WWII, but his brother can't.
Where do I begin here?  The whole plot is about our heroes hating the Japanese and going off to war.  We didn't go to war until 1941- December 1941 at that!  I don't think of the folks over at Full Moon as History buffs, but a 10 year-old could tell you how wrong that is!  I'll try to get over this giant, gaping plot-hole for the sake of the review though.  Our hero finds the secret compartment containing the serum and figures out how to reanimate the puppets.  It's not clear why the stuff wore off when it has only been a short time since Toulon's death and Blade moving around, but it's a minor complaint.  He has a love interest who works in a factory that makes bombs for the war that we weren't in yet.  This leads to a bit where her boss yells at him for being late to their lunch date.  Two questions, movie.  First- why does he care about this?  Second- why does this character appear only once and for this purpose?  Trouble is afoot as actors who are stand-ins for the stock footage Nazis from Puppet Master 1 are looking for Toulon's dolls in the area, since that saves time in the film.  They team up with a 'dragon lady' who is a Japanese woman who passes for Chinese.  That's kind of clever, but mostly racist.  Their plan: to blow up the factory and cripple the war effort...that wasn't happening.  Sure- why not?!?
Since this is a fairly-new film, I'll be brief and mostly SPOILER-free here.  Our hero finds some evidence to convince his lady about the conspiring spies' plans.  Of course, in the process, he reveals that he has the dolls and sets the villains on the right path.  Since this is a fairly-predictable film, you can see where this is going.  The villains kill our hero's family and kidnap his lady.  Thankfully, he discovered a Ninja doll in a different, hidden compartment of the container.  Why did Toulon- a Frenchman- make a Ninja doll again?  Thankfully, this strange doll comes in handy for the final fight.  I won't SPOIL the results here, but I will say this.  Make a better ending, Full Moon!  You're just asking for trouble with the one you gave this movie.  The End.
This movie...is not that great.  The plot itself is pretty good at face value.  Of course, the whole thing is based on an amazingly-inaccurate view of World History!  Full Moon apparently wrote themselves into a corner here.  Mind you, the problems arise from a film made in 1988 and a film made around 1991.  This film was made in 2010, so it's not like you didn't have time to think about this!  You may think that I'm being picky here or trying to make a big deal out of nothing.  You may be right.  However, I think that this is symbolic of a bigger problem: laziness.  This is a major motion picture company (relatively-so, at least) and they do crap like this.  How did this pass their screening process?!?  If I can get past my rant, let me state that the film does have some decent production values.  Nothing really stands out though.  Given that this is the film meant to bring the series back after the debacles that were Puppet Master vs. Demonic Toys and Puppet Master: The Legacy, they needed to do more.  The film is alright, but the ending is a let-down and it just feels like another missed opportunity.  There's always Puppet Master: Axis of Evil- Part 2, I guess.
Next up, we come back to the film that started it all.  Why is it fourth in the order exactly?  Stay tuned...
  

Lost in Translation: The Godfather II

It's rare that a sequel is so critically-acclaimed and award-winning.  Mind you, the other sequel wasn't...but this one was.  Naturally, Poland does this to it...
Is this Memoirs of an Invisible Man all of a sudden?  I think I missed that part where this became that movie, with a dash of Don't Look Now thrown in for spice.

Next up, do you remember when I said I was done doing Jaws II posters?  I lied.  Stay tuned...

Monday, November 22, 2010

Pull The Strings!: Puppet Master III

David DeCoteau directed a film without shirtless guys and gay subtext?  That's news to me!  Let's check this one out then.  This is Puppet Master 3, aka the second film chronologically in the series.  My brain hurts!  This film is set in 1941 Berlin, a date that will be very important for you to remember in the next few days.  Andre Toulon has apparently decided to move out of Paris, although they never really say why.  I guess he got tired of the wine, cheese and mummy attacks.  Although, why you would live in Berlin over six years after the conflicts related to WWII began is anyone's guess.  All of the original puppets are back, plus a new one named Six-Shooter.  Of course, this guy didn't show up in some of the films set in later times, but did in others.  You still haven't reached the really confusing stuff yet!  The movie uses a slew of character actors with decent resumes, including Sarah Douglas, Ian Abercrombie (of Seinfeld fame) and Richard Lynch.  The latter appears to have a thing for Full Moon sequels, as he was also the villain of Trancers II.  A lot of people actually like this movie, so I should probably be nice.  Oh wait- when has that ever stopped me?  Get out your German prostitutes for my review of...
In Berlin, Andre Toulon is running a puppet show that mocks the famous leaders of the day.  Nah, it's just Hitler.  By the way, good call, dumb-ass!  One Dwight Schrute-looking guy in the audience takes notes when he sees the puppets move without strings.  Toulon: people are attracted by this feat, so stop doing it in public!  He stays behind after the show and sees Toulon injecting the dolls with their magic liquid and takes a picture or two.  He reports to his leads (Abercrombie and Lynch) about his findings.  Hey, maybe that will help you with your Evil Dead-style experiments to reanimate dead soldiers.  With only his word and some pictures, the Nazis break in and threaten Toulon for his secrets.  When Toulon's wife runs to grab the serum, she is shot.  That will teach you to touch things that belong to you!  By the way, this event is so important that it only bears mentioning in one other Puppet Master film- the 9th one!  They take Toulon away in a separate car from the other Nazis and leave two of his dolls with him.  WHY?  What sense does that make?!?  He's just going to use them to kill the guards and escape because you...he just escaped.  Now he's pissed off and has a small army of killers at his beck and call!
One of the first things that Toulon does is find the body of his wife, which didn't bleed when she was shot, but has bled since.  He uses the doll he made in her likeness, injects her liquid soul into it (why not?!?) and transforms it into Leech Woman.  How does the leech part work?  Does it make leeches or does he just keep filling it up?  He adds that 'this is the best I can do for you,' which I find a bit questionable.  You could just let her soul live on in Heaven, as opposed to being immortal in the form of a doll that spits up leeches!  Abercrombie, meanwhile, has the formula, but can't make it quite work.  This upsets both him and Lynch's superior, who orders them to do better.  Before that can happen, Toulon sneaks up to a Nazi brothel and lets Six-Shooter in.  His disguise- a jacket and sunglasses.  The doll kills the bemused Nazi, but loses an arm in the process.  Thank you, obvious plot point.
Toulon hides out in a bombed-out building, which is also inhabited by a kid and parent from the first scene.  He helps the kid out, but the dad is convinced that he can sell Toulon out to get his Jewish wife back.  Toulon meets up with Abercrombie, who does a 180% face turn and helps him, only to die in the last installment of 'Deep Blue Sea Moments.'  Naturally, Lynch kills the dad too, but Toulon escapes.  He finds his way back to Lynch, however, and beats him up via his dolls.  They set up an elaborate 'Saw-like' rigging to kill him, which involves hooks, some rope and a halberd.  The man dies, but not before seeing a doll made in his likeness.  Keep an eye out for that continuity aspect to get muddled up too.  Toulon escapes by way of some stock footage of a train station and Lynch's ID.  Yes, nobody in town recognizes the man in the Wanted posters or the fact that he's not the famous Nazi LieutenantThe End.
This movie is...good, but flawed.  I can deal with a lot of the plot quirks because it's a nice, simple story.  Mind you, some of it exists merely for pathos- see the wife and kid apprentice stories.  The villainous acting of Richard Lynch is always good, even if he's more two-dimensional than usual here.  Rolfe does a good job too.  The puppet work is good at times, although some claymation bits are a bit dated.  I guess it's better than mid-90s CG though.  DeCoteau (apparently pronounced Dakota) does a decent job here.  I like that this was not filmed in Romania or Bulgaria.  Of course, they explain that this is only because of issues in those cities.  The Universal back-lot stuff looks good- naturally- but doesn't quite match their stock footage.  Swing and a miss, guys.  As far as telling a good story, this succeeds.  You can question certain choices here and there, but it's easy to recommend to sell anyone on the series.  It's too bad that it gets retconned to hell later.
Next up, we jump ahead to the year 2010...and also jump back in time.  Let the serious confusion begin, readers!  Stay tuned...