Saturday, December 31, 2011

Bring in the New Year: Bloody New Year

Happy New Year, 1985!  This movie gets the honor of being my final review of 2011 based solely on the title.  Unlike New Year's Evil or Terror Train, this film is really not about ushering in the new year.  Why is called this?  Good question, actually.  On the plus side, it doesn't feature David Copperfield for no discernible reason!  The movie comes to us from England, a country known for class and style.  This movie...features a rock band, a confusing tale involving time travel and an exploding zombie airman.  Did I pique your curiosity? If so, put down the champagne for a few minutes read on...
Our heroes get involved in a fight at a fair and flee for their lives.  By the way, they also grab an American young lady to, who just kind of gets dragged along for the ride.  Hello, innocent victim.
It sure was nice of them to give screen time to Fiend Without A Face, even if it probably was Public Domain by this point.  While I like the movie, how many teens would stop everything to watch this movie?
This movie has an interesting slew of monsters in it, including an actor who jumps out of a Silent Film and this Seaweed Monster.  Odd.
Remember that part in my intro about the Zombie Airman?  Well, he's no Zombie Dad, but he does do this...
Your body a-splode!  I won't question why that guy exploded when hit with a tree limb.  I mean, why would I?  Especially considering the science that runs the plot...
You see, the British government was doing an experiment on Christmas involving a time-travel machine in a plane.  Things went awry, apparently trapping the people at the party in limbo...and making monsters.  No, really.
After lots of death and a musical performance that nobody asked for, our Final Girl makes it away in a boat.  I'm sure that she'll be...
...trapped in a twist ending that would later be used in another movie (which is definitely not Mirrors).  The End.
It's bloody something alright!  The plot of this movie is, well, weird.  I say that a lot, don't I?  This one especially takes the cake for spending so little time actually explaining the plot...and then does it in such a silly manner.  Seriously, a major explanation of the plot comes in a TV that inexplicably plays in the background of one scene.  Who does that?!?  This whole idea is just silly.  A plane crashes with a time-travel device and this causes an inescapable time loop?  Did someone think this up, pitch this to someone and they actually did it without laughing?  Aren't you the guys that wrote the Magna Carta?!?  Even getting past the movie's bizarre, time-travel plot thread, there is no clear rhyme or reason to the monsters.  How does a time-loop allow a character to come out of a Silent Film, slash a guy's face and apparently poison them to death within seconds?  How does it allow people to come back from the dead as half-gold people?  How does it allow wooden figurines to come to life?  The point is that none of this movie makes a lick of sense really.  Furthermore, the pacing is really weird and the acting is kind of crappy.  All in all, it's no Terror Train...which was at least weird in a fun way.  Take us away, effects shot revealing that you aren't swinging a real blade...
Up next, 2012 begins with a batch of Japanese films- just like 2011 did.  First up, a movie about killer bees- my God.  Stay tuned...

Wrapping Things Up: Link Collection *UPDATED*

To simplify things for Wrapping Things Up, I'm going to provide all of the links to the films covered there and the films that were already done.  Simple, right?

* Sleepaway Camp
* Sleepaway Camp II: Unhappy Campers
* Sleepaway Camp III: Teenage Wasteland
* Return to Sleepaway Camp

* Cyborg
* Cyborg II
* Cyborg 3

* The Return of the Living Dead
* Return of the Living Dead: Part II
* Return of the Living Dead III
* Return of the Living Dead IV: Necropolis
* Return of the Living Dead V: Rave to the Grave

I hope this makes your searching easier.  I should probably get around to cataloging my reviews by name too, I suppose...

Wrapping Things Up: The Return of the Living Dead

Please don't hate me, Internet!  1985's The Return of the Living Dead is considered a cult classic by just about everyone.  I'm not here to dispute that.  I am, however, going to talk about it since I've already covered the subsequent four films.  I'm all about being a completionist, after all.  If you don't know about the series, here's the gist of it: gas makes zombies and jokes ensue.  There's more to the story to that, but I think it's a pretty good summary.  It's an interesting mix of reality and fantasy, as it implies that Night of the Living Dead was based on real events.  So much for a crossover between them.  Mind you, Halloween is shown as a film in Halloween III, so I guess anything goes.  The point is that this series takes its own path, although it does go into silly territory by the fourth and fifth films, just like Romero's series (Land of the Dead, Diary of the Dead).  In Dan O'Bannon's hands, the film manages to work in a lot of ways that it shouldn't.  To find out more, read on...
The gas that can reanimate the dead gets free thanks to one guy being an idiot and slapping the canister.  It's the end of the world as we know it and...it's all due to you being a moron.
If a naked, yellow man ever runs at me, that's probably the face that I'll make.  Yowza!
Tar Man is here, making his first appearance.  Look at that- he actually is kind of important here.  Who would have guessed?
Linea Quigley brings a certain thing to this movie.  If only I could point them out...without stars everywhere.
Oddly, being exposed to the gas in the beginning slowly kills the two men and turns them into zombies.  I don't follow that science one bit...but I'm probably not supposed to.
Another key aspect of this zombie film that's different- zombies talk.  They seem pretty talkative actually.  Yes, they do say 'brains' a lot, but they also have a pretty big vocabulary.
My favorite scene- the Coroner being chased by a leg-less zombie, played here by a midget.  That's random...and I love it!  Why doesn't this 'guy' get more screen-time?
The remaining cast manage to get back to one of the film's four locations- budget limitations galore!- and all seems well.  I'm sure that they'll be just...
...dead.  On the plus side, they won't come back as zombies...right?  The End.
You're still the undead one.  The plot of this movie is fun, fresh and frenetic.  Alliterations aside, the movie makes the most of its silly premise.  They strain things a bit early on when they get into details about how the film is different from reality, but the story hits its stride soon enough.  I don't quite get why they were trying to be so precise about a fictitious narrative and a made-up story within the movie.  When the movie really gets going, the site gags and gore are top-notch.  As anyone who's read any of my writing before knows, I' m all about practical effects.  You may also know that I'm a major stickler for details and can't spot wires from a mile away.  I didn't really notice any major gaffes or effects mishaps here, so kudos to the filmmakers there.  The acting is quite good here, although it leans more towards comedy for certain characters.  Broad stereotypes aside, I loved the characters who were very 'matter of fact' like John Gulager's Owner and the Coroner.  They're like 'Well, zombies are trying to kill us- what do we do now?'  I'd like to think that I'd be 'that guy' in a zombie apocalypse, but I'd probably be the guy who locks his friends outside.  Sorry, theoretical people.  The bottom line: this movie is a classic.  It may not appeal to everyone with its silly comedy, but I liked it most out of the whole series.  For the record though, I still don't hate Part II- sue me!  Take us away, ironic lying...
Next up, the year-end review of a British Horror film.  Oddly, it's set around Christmas, despite the title.  Stay tuned...

Friday, December 30, 2011

Poor Bastards of Cinema: Fear of Clowns (Part 1)

Workers and employees don't usually get a good ending in horror movies.  Fear of Clowns is one of those cases...

After narrowly-avoiding death, our heroine is happy to go out on a date with her rich boyfriend.  He calls a friend and rents out a theater for them.  'No problem,' the friend thinks...
...Until a steroid-gobbling clown shows up and throws an axe into his back.  What about the other guy though?
He's wandering around and making sure that the place is secure.
Unfortunately, he picks the wrong time to take a piss break and gets bludgeoned to death by the killer clown.
So what was the point of their deaths?  Did these guys even have names?  Even if they did, I highly-doubt that they had last names!  C'est la vie, random characters.

Next up, another pair of people die for no good reason.  It doesn't pay to do your civic duty or to help a friend, apparently.  Stay tuned...

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Wrapping Things Up: Sleepaway Camp

Hide your bitchy campers and callous counselors!  1983's Sleepaway Camp has become a cult classic over the last quarter of a century.  In other words, nobody really got famous from this.  No Cast or Crew went on to be big movie stars, nor did the Director.  It's no Evil Dead II in terms of making stars, is what I'm trying to say.  In fact, it took the original Director 20 years to actually shoot his own sequel...and another five years to actually get it released...on DVD.  Let's stay focused on the film at hand though.  The film is most famous for its twist ending, one that I'm going to assume that you know about.  If not, do a Google Image search for 'Sleepaway Camp Twist Ending' & make sure to turn off the Filter.  Once you've done that and finished cleaning up your spit-take, we can continue.  Is this film more than just 85 minutes setting up a notable ending?  To find out, read on...
A tragic accident occurs on a lake as a father and child are killed.  It makes this young lady overact the hell out of this scene.  You're not Meryl, honey.
Several years later and we see shy Angela and her cousin being sent off to camp for the summer.  In hindsight, it helps the twist more if you don't establish that he's her cousin.

Plus, I'm skipping over the Aunt who is possibly the worst actress of all-time here.  Picture a drunk lady doing an impression of Judy Garland & you have her performance.
The first of many attacks/kills in the film involves the Cook getting oil dumped all over himself after attempting to molest Angela.  Oddly, this same scene kills the Cook in the sequel/remake from 2008.  Science has devolved, apparently.
The killer continues to take out people at the camp.  This guy tips his own boat over, just in time for a mysterious person to drown him.  Considering who the killer is, how weak is this guy?
Bees- my God.  Internet meme aside, I question who they could do this to a human body.  Killing you- maybe.  Turning you into the burn victim from Patrick Still Lives- doubtful.
In a truly-enlightened, '80s moment, Angela's make-out session with a nice boy is broken up when she flashes back to seeing her dad almost kiss a guy in bed.  Really?  You guys should be glad that GLAAD didn't exist until 1985!
As the bodies pile up, we are finally shown a flashback to Angela...as Peter, being forced to act like a girl.  Why is the house lit so poorly by the way?  Does Peter/Angela dream in lazy set design?  All of this is, of course, leading up to...
Yowza!  Shock value aside, there are some questions.  What was the point of being naked?  What is that scream about?  Why just stand there to be arrested?  According to the sequels, that's exactly what happened.  The End.
You can't sleep this film away!  The plot of this movie is interesting, although it hinges on a lot of things.  You have to accept that everyone at camp is an asshole of some kind.  There are maybe three nice people in the movie...and one of them is Angela.  Another thing to note that there is a lot of profanity in this movie, most of it for no good reason.  Did Robert Hiltzik think that every 12-year old talked like Dennis Leary?  I should also mention that the relationships in camp are a little odd, including the middle-aged Owner apparently having an affair with a 24-year old Counselor.  How much of a gold-digger are you?  Plus, how much 'gold' is there even to 'dig?'  Let's talk about the real draw- the kills.  The make-up effects are actually good, another nod for me towards practical effects.  I question why the guy in the stall doesn't just crawl under the door though.  I also question how Angela/Peter drowns that one guy when he/she can't weigh more than 80lbs!  I do give Hitlzik some credit for subtle touches to disguise the twist, including crediting Felissa Rose among four other random actors in the opening credits.  There are some pretty blatant hints throughout, especially since Ricky is not a good red herring.  As a whole, it touches on the same notes as Hiltzik's Return to Sleepaway Camp, but features a lead character who's not totally awful.  Take us away, really-obvious fake mustache...
Up next, I cover the first- and final- Return of the Living Dead.  Will nostalgia and humor keep it relevant after 26 years?  Stay tuned...

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Lost in Translation: The Holy Mountain

* No, I'm not skipping it another week.  It's just late. *

A midnight movie is one that is usually guaranteed to be arty, weird or both.  This is certainly true with this film, as seen through it's French poster...
To be fair to the French, this is apparently a quite freaky film and most of the imagery is from it.  That said, this is how you promote it?  This poster?!?

Next up, a sci-fi classic that actually spawned a TV show to boot.  Too bad this Foreign poster tells you jack shit about it!  Stay tuned...

Wrapping Things Up: Cyborg

Albert Pyun- what a hack!  Cyborg is a Mad Max rip-off with Jean Claude Van-Damme and a sci-fi twist.  The biggest confusion related to this film is the title.  The main character is a Cyborg and the plot revolves around her...but she doesn't really do much.  She's introduced, appears in a few scenes and plays into the finale.  That said, the main character is Van Damme.  I guess Karate Guy in the Wasteland was not as catchy.  The plot involves an irradiated, burned-out land full of murderers and thieves.  Yeah, we've seen that film before.  Van Damme's character agrees to help the titular cyborg get to Atlanta- don't, the zombies are there!- but almost immediately loses her to some bad guys who want her information too.  It's convenient that Van Damme already wanted to kill them, huh?  To find out how this somehow inspired a movie starring Angelina Jolie, read on...
This is a Cyborg.  This is a Cyborg in Cyborg.  She has the cure to a world-wide plague.  Any questions?
Seconds after she joins up with Van Damme, the group from earlier show up and kick his ass.  Our hero, ladies and gentlemen.
He joins up with this random chick who wants to get the cure because...well, it's a good thing.  That's pretty much her whole motivation here.  Good for you, I guess.
Rolph Moeller has a cameo as one of the bad guy's henchmen.  His role- looking like a cavemen and chasing Van Damme in oddly-Edited shots.  Good for you too, I guess.
Random nudity- why not?  It's not like the plot is anything more than 'go there and get him.'
Leave it to Albert Pyun to work in some Judaic-Christian imagery, courtesy of the bad guys putting Van Damme on the cross.  I should also mention that he did this in The Sword and the Sorcerer a year later too.  At least you're consistent.
Recovering well from this, our heroes get ahead of the bad guy- despite the delay and him always being faster beforehand- to set up a trap.  Take him out, Commando-style!
In the movie's defense, that face is creepy as hell!  I won't go near that guy in lit Church in the daytime!
After Van Damme defeats the villains, the Cyborg goes inside, presumably sharing the information and stopping one of the world's biggest problems.  Of course, you still actually did jack shit here.  The End.
Why is this called Cyborg again?  The plot of this movie is alright, although certain decisions distract from it too much.  Van Damme's whole back-story is not that complicated, but Pyun chooses to slowly reveal it through random flashbacks and/or dreams.  Furthermore, it never makes all that much sense when you finally see it.  He retires to a farm- stay out of the barn!- but gets followed there by the villains.  Why?  Do they need a motivation?  They tie him and this lady up with barbed wire in a well and drops them a few feet.  This apparently kills her, but barely scratches him.  Say what?!?  Aside from that goofiness, the plot is simple enough to work- follow bad guy, get in fights and try to save the day.  It's not Hamlet, people.  The pacing is a bit off at times, a lot of which has to do with telling Van Damme's back-story.  The actual action is pretty good and I can't complain about much else.  It is interesting to see that jarring jump from the Cyborg character here to the ass-kicker in Cyborg 2 to the older, more demure one in Cyborg 3.  Take us away, silly flashback wig...
Next up, a cult classic slasher film notable for its twist ending.  I already covered the rest, so let's go back to where it all began!  Stay tuned...

Monday, December 26, 2011

VHS For The Win: The Clown Murders

A movie about people killing clowns and/or people dressed as clowns is a simple enough proposition.  Can this film work with that idea?
Wow, that looks suspenseful.  I almost believe that something of note happens in the film!  Of course, I know that it doesn't.

Kudos to the makers of the VHS box to not give John Candy above-the-title billing like on the DVD.  He wasn't dead then, of course.

Next up, a movie about a man with an odd murder victim.  Can you believe that someone can kill something that weighs several tons?!?  Stay tuned...

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Yuletide Obscurity: A Christmas Story II

It's always a lot like Summer in Florida.  Why am I doing a film called My Summer Story for Christmas Day?  Have I completely lost track of what day it is?  Given that I just said that it's Christmas Day, that's obviously not true.  I have a very simple reason for covering this film- it's the sequel to A Christmas Story.  If you have TBS- or some local equivalent- it's bound to be playing right now.  Bob Clark must have done something right to merit a 24/7 rotation on this special day of the year.  The film was released in the same year as I was born, so I have a connection to it.  Truth be told, however, I find it a bit overrated.  There's nothing wrong with it, mind you, but it's just so institutionalized that it's hard for most people to look at it objectively anymore.  This film- also known as It Runs in the Family- is much more obscure, despite it being made in 1994.  Does this film deserve the lack of attention that it gets or is it just waiting for someone like me- or someone with more readers- to come along and give it the attention it deserves?  To find out, read on...
The first thing to note is that this film does not feature much in the way of returning cast members.  That's understandable for the kids, since the movie is set mere months after the 1983 film.  Darren McGavin is sorely missed though...
Unlike the original film, this one is made up of four plots.  It fits into the 'stories of my life' theme of the source material- Written by the Narrator, BTW- but feels kind of like a cheat here.  The stories are as follows...
'Old Man' is having a feud with his neighbors, who are a bunch of country 'bumpkins.'  How they own a house in this otherwise normal-looking neighborhood is never addressed.  This plot just kind of peters out in the end...
The Mother's story involves an old marketing strategy in which housewives would go to a theater and get free dishware, in exchange for patronage.  The problem- they keep getting gravy boats and nothing else.  This too, just kind of peters out in the end...
As far as our lead Ralphie goes, his plot-line involves finding a Top to do battle with the new Head Bully, the former being demoted...apparently.  It all comes to a head with a battle...that's a draw.  0 for 3, movie!
In the final story, Ralphie and The Old Man going out fishing.  The first time proves to amount to nothing, but the second time yields a big haul.  More importantly, Ralphie gets treated like a man by his dad.  Kudos for not shooting your eye out, kid!  The End.
I'd stick with Christmas, Ralphie!  The plot of this movie is, well, four disparate plots.  How hard is it to write a single, all-encompassing plot?  Instead, this is set up like a lazy TV show and features a bunch of stories just tied together by the thread of the characters being related.  That's not to say that this is a bad set-up for a film in general.  However, when your film is called My Summer Story, I expect a more singular focus!  The other big problem is that nearly all of these stories end on an anti-climax.  If one of them did and the others didn't, it might stand out.  Since it's impossible to not compare this to the original 1983 film, let me do just that.  That film featured a lovably-grumpy dad, kind mother and a pair of nice kids.  This film's dad is practically a parody, since the new actor injects none of the realism that McGavin did.  The mother is nice enough, but the kids are a bit less friendly than in the last one.  Ralphie is a bit rude to some adults and only out to defeat a bully because...well, he has to do something, I guess.  He actively seeks the bully out and continues to spend money on tops.  There are at least a dozen other kids there- including his two friends- who simply watch the matches and don't get involved, so why does he seek out the conflict?  I should close this up by mentioning that the Narrator really, really overdoes it here IMO.  You're whimsical- we get it!  While I'm not a major fanboy for A Christmas Story, it's obviously struck a chord with people in a way that this film has not.  That's not going to change today either.
Up next, I wrap up the year with a look at some films which make up the only parts of a series I have yet to cover.  First up, the original Cyborg, which is like Mad Max, but with a dash of Christian imagery just for kicks!  Stay tuned...