Thursday, November 29, 2012

'80s Horror: Murder Rock (Dancing Death)

If you ever wanted to see the awkward baby of Flashdance and Suspiria, this is it.  Today's film is Murder Rock aka Murder-Rock(:) Dancing Death.  Why is it hyphenated?  Why is there no colon?  That's just the beginning of the questions raised by this Lucio Fulci film.  Are all of the Fulci cliches here?  Well, sort of himself appearing in the film, Yes.  The story involves a series of mysterious murders at a Dance School that is definitely supposed to be in America.  Before anyone comments, it might actually have been filmed there, but it didn't appear to be.  This one is interesting for a couple of reasons, but also a bit generic at times.  To find out if this film achieves Fame, read on...
This film is about a killer at a Dance School.  Apparently this required a total of SEVEN people to get Writing Credits.  Really?
So yeah, dancing.  This footage helps pad the run-time out past 80 minutes, so I hope that you enjoy it.

The gist of it: a big Casting Call is coming up soon and it's a cutthroat competition (pun fully intended) to get the few spots available.
The first victim is revealed to be one of the female students.  She's given a dose of chloroform, has her boobs exposed and is then stabbed through the heart with a hat pin.  Ouch.
Fortunately, there's a Detective on the case.  It's not a good one, but it's also not Fulci.  A mixed bag, really.
 After failing to get one girl, the killer settles for a smaller victim.

Now I know how the caged bird dies!
Did the movie just reveal the killer's identity forty-minutes in with this dream sequence?  Well, 'yes and no' actually.  More on that later...
The lead woman is attacked by the Killer, but the Police show up to save her (but not from this tit shot).

As it turns out, she's not the real Killer.  No, she's just one of the students who didn't like the Teacher.  Okay then.
After another victim or two arises, the Police continue to have more suspects, but nobody that they can prove did it.  This film has more Red Herrings than a Norwegian Cannery!

Maybe this creepy splash of dead people and hat pins will help.
In The End, it turns out that increasingly-crazy-looking Teacher was actually the killer.  Actually, to be more accurate, the lead suspect just kind of says that she was the Killer after she commits suicide.

Clever twist ending or lazy writing?  You decide!  The End.
Seriously, does this ending make any sense to you?  Skipping past that confusing mess for a bit, let me focus on the rest of the film.  It's...alright, but nothing special.  Aside from the Nudity and mild-Gore, this is not much of a Fulci film.  Given that it took three people to write the Story and four to write the actual Script, I was expecting more.  This is one of those full-on investigation Giallo films.  It's not about a reluctant outsider solving the crime.  Instead, it's an alleged psycho-drama on this woman...who was apparently evil the whole time.  I would love to be able to explain this properly, but I can't.  This alleged twist is not really built up all that well.  Furthermore, there's no 'explain how this worked' scene to wrap things up.  Like a cliche Kung-Fu film, it just ends abruptly.  Oh and the quote from John Huston (minus my addition) was real nice too.  In all honesty, this movie has its moments, but also does so little to really stand out on its own.  How does this face make you feel now?
Next up, an anthology film who's title continues to confuse me.  With a slew of Character Actors on board, there's no way that this will get really silly.  Stay tuned...

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

'80s Horror: Night of Death!

Who says that the French are always classy?  Today's film is Night of Death, another film that finally escaped the limbo that it is my Queue.  After so many weird and incomprehensible Jean Rollin films, I was wary.  Plus, The Night of the Hunted didn't help either.  Future Project Terrible material perhaps?  This film is an interesting twist on the usual French fare and actually tells the story with a unique little twist.  The story is about a woman who gets a job at an eccentric Manor house for the Elderly, but there's a secret.  You actually find it out pretty quickly, making the film more of a ticking clock scenario than most.  It's usually an hour or so of build-up to the twist- i.e. Skeleton Key.  If used sparingly (which it seems to be), I kind of like this method.  This film is a mix of dark, gory and random humor.  To find out how this souffle tastes, read on...
A woman goes to work at this lovely Manor House.  Apparently, the Director decided that this shot was the best place to put his Credit- five minutes into the film.
There is something weird going on in this House.  You can't make phone calls, you can't leave for two months and everyone is clearly hiding something.  But what is it?
About twenty minutes in, you learn.  The residents kill and eat their Employees every two months in order to maintain their long lives.

As long as they're Arby's employees, I'm game!
So the rest of the movie is our heroine looking into the odd events and asking questions.  All the while, the residents plot their next move and enjoy the fruits of their labors.
 In a bit right out of Highlander III, the Head Mistress leaves evidence around showing that she's immortal.  At least she put it in a drawer and didn't decorate her house with it like Lambert did!
Finally, our heroine figures out the truth and fights for her life.  Second Wind!  Second Wind!

Oh and she finds out that her boyfriend works for the old people.  Betrayal!
If you ever wanted to see dramatic scenes of a young woman stabbing old people to death, you're in luck!  You're also in need of some therapy.  Get some help!
Apparently the deadline for feasting on young people flesh is very exact.  When our heroine escapes, the Head Mistress instantly turns into Carol Kane from The Princess Bride.  Holy Dr. Phibes Rises Again, Batman!
In an extra bit of darkness, our heroine is stabbed to death and carried back before she can truly escape.

The problem: none of the people that were feasting on the young people flesh are alive anymore.  What was the point?  The End.
On the plus side, I understood everything in this movie.  In all seriousness, this is not a bad movie.  I wasn't sure what to expect.  As it turns out, I kind of liked it.  Giving the twist away early and making the film more about suspense was a neat touch.  Like I said earlier, it's a neat idea if done in moderation.  Here it works because it allows them to show you the residents being all sorts of evil and plotting.  If they hadn't done it, it would have been a slower film that would have just been trying to build up some sort of mystery.  I wouldn't have liked that movie.  That said, the random gore is...well, random.  I would also have liked some more clarity on how far the plan goes.  At one point, our heroine meets up with two random people and asks for help, only to be pulled away by the boyfriend.  So...were they in on it or is this just lazy writing?  As a whole, this is a neat little French film.  If you seen one film about cannibalistic French people, make it this one.  If nothing else, it has this...
Next up, I return to Lucio Fulci territory with one of his more obscure Slasher films.  If someone is trying to kill you, dance dance DANCE!  Stay tuned...

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

A Tribute to 'One-Shot' Stars

When you watch enough movies, certain people tend to pop up all the time.  For me, it's people like Steven Seagal, Sara Lieving and any of the Carradines.

However, some actors pop up in notable roles only once.  You watch their one film and go 'what happened to you?'

I ask this question a lot, so let's focus on a few...

1. Cleavon Little
Yes, I know he worked in smaller parts on TV and Movies.  However, he never did anything on par with starring in Blazing Saddles.  How did that happen?  It just seems weird to me.

2. 'Chocolate Mousse'
This is the stand-out character in Top Secret.  He was played by Eddie Tagoe...which is probably news to most people.  He stopped Acting in 1996 according to IMDB, but we miss him still.

Say it with me- 'Gasoline!'

3. Stephen Stucker
The Airplane films are the stand-out roles for this eccentric Character Actor.  His absence is actually explainable- he died of AIDS in 1986.  Bummer.

On a weirdly-ironic note, his last film was The Wizard of Speed and Time.  It came out 2 years after he died.  Wizards!

4. Veronica Zinny
This young Actress appears in Lamberto Bava's Macabre...and that's it.  Despite being the sister of Italian Genre Icon Karl Zinny, this is her only credit.

It's a shame because she is amazingly-creepy in this film.  On the plus side, this freed up dozens of roles for Asia Argento.

5. 'Samurai Cop'
Samurai Cop is a glorious example of pure-shit cinema.  It's a 'so bad it's good' film for a number of reasons.  Sadly, it's star- Matt Hannon- only appeared in this movie.  Come back!

Speaking of which...

6. Eric Freeman
Garbage Day!  Seriously, the star of Silent Night, Deadly Night Part 2 is apparently M.I.A.  He hasn't been seen in years, so won't you come back?  Bring Michael Dudikoff with you!

Seriously, come back to us, Michael Dudikoff.

Do you have your own 'One-Shot' Stars to highlight?  If so, leave a comment.

'70s Horror: The Vault of Horror

Another Horror film off of my Bucket List!  Today's film is The Vault of Horror, the sort-of sequel to Tales from the Crypt.  Essentially, it's based on tales from the same Comic series and features a similar Anthology format.  The film features a slew of Character Actors, including Terry Thomas, Denholm Elliott, Dawn Addams and THE Doctor Who- Tom Baker.  I'm the son of a Third Doctor Fan- it's just genetic.  Another good thing is that I can now check one film off of the 'You need to see this' list too.  Good.  The film's framing device is...weird.  Speaking of weird, the film is called The Vault of Horror, but none of the tales are from the Vault of Horror comic book.  It's a random point, but whatever.  To find out how this well-known, but also obscure film turned out, read on...
Five men ride a single Elevator to a room with a giant mirror on the ceiling.  Kudos for the camera angle...even if it is completely-superfluous.
In Story 1, a man tracks down and kills his sister.  Rather than, you know, flee the town and get away with it, he goes to a nearby Diner.  They dared close on him!

As it turns out, the town is full of Vampires- including his sister- and they kill him.  This silly fang effect doesn't help.
In Story 2, Terry Thomas is a neat-freak who finally marries and drives his wife mad.

She goes through a comedic bunch of mishaps and runs into Thomas, who she kills and categorizes his body parts.  Ew.
In Story 3, a pair of Magicians travel to India (not really) to find a new trick for their show.  When they see a rope trick that they can't decipher, they trick the performer into coming into their room and kill her.

The magical Rope attacks them- killing the wife, making her disappear into the ceiling- and kills them, while the performer is actually alive.  Don't diagram this one, please.
In Story 4, a man plans to fake his own death to collect the insurance.  As it turns out, there's 'no money in the horror business.'  Oh and he reads from the novelization of the 'Tales from the Crypt' film.  META!
After some wacky, out-of-place comedy, the man he was working with crashes the car (why was he there) and the Undertaker kills him.

That will show you...I guess.
In Story 5, Tom Baker is a Painter who is living on an island after not making it in the industry.  By sheer happenstance (or lazy writing), he learns that his paintings sold for a lot without him.
 He gets magic Voodoo powers related to his painting and manages to get revenge on them.  However, a self-portrait he did is his weakness.  When paint thinner spills on it, his head is run over by a truck.
In The End, we learn that these men are in some sort of Hell and forced to retell their death stories every time.  My question- what about the other people who committed crimes too?  Were they not-evil enough to warrant this punishment?
Don't leave this one locked up in the Vault.  Honestly, I didn't know what to expect here.  I liked Tales, even if I only watched it last year for the Killer Santa story.  This one is a mixed bag, quality-wise.  I have no major complaints about any of the Stories, but I could certainly pick them apart a bit.  In Story 1, there's no reason for him NOT to leave town, other than story convenience.  In Story 2, the mix of comedy and really graphic gore at the end is...odd.  In Story 3, I can't even begin to explain the actual events all that well.  Was the lady immortal or some sort of illusion?  Given how she appears outside while she's supposed to be dead in the closet, who knows?  In Story 4, the mix of comedy and sudden death is weird.  The two Doctors who come to buy the body are called 'Tom' and 'Jerry.'  Ha ha.  Another thing is that the co-conspirator comments about how he's not going to dig up the Author...which is why he's driving by the Cemetery that night.  Why were you there again?  In Story 5, the vague way that the magic of his painting powers works is a bit odd.  Oh and they only gave Denholm Elliott two lines- why?  As a whole, it's a decent film that just suffers from a slew of little errors/questions that only people like me would care about.  Enjoy this confusing censoring/effect to close us out...
Up next, a French film that's NOT a Jean Rollin film (I know, I know).  It features a hot young lady, old people and Cannibalism.  Stay tuned...

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Gamer Films: Red Faction- Origins

It held a fraction of my interest.  Today's film is Red Faction: Origins.  After three games, they decided to make a TV movie.  Why?  Who the hell knows?  I do know that this was a segue into what may be the last game in the franchise- 'Red Faction: Armageddon.'  Sure was a prophetic title, huh?  So, let me make this clear: I'm not big on this franchise.  I have nothing against it, but I've only played one game.  It was alright.  I know that there are a lot of people that do.  For you, I'll say this: the movie is decent.  I can't speak much to how it represents the franchise or its story, but it's alright.  The film is about two major Factions (get it?) on Mars trying to co-exist.  Unfortunately, there's a third, seemingly-dead Faction that has their own plan to take over.  Can the hero of former-franchise hero Alec (yea!)- who's now a drunk, old man (boo!)- save the day like his father did?  Can he make true peace?  To find out, read on...
Years after the events of Red Faction: Guerilla (the only one I've played), Alec Mason (Robert Patrick) is a wreck of a man.  His days of being a hero are over.  His days of being a drunk are upon him.  Subtle imagery, right?
His son is a Soldier and they have issues.  It doesn't help that Dad is a drunk, sure.  However, it all goes back to...
their childhood.  When they were young, some Militants killed their mother and took the sister.

Our hero got away, however, and Dad holds it against him.  Interesting choice of person to be mad at...
The outsider group lives in the Mountains and is a bit militant.

On the plus side, it was nice of them to re-use the Star Wars hologram effect.  Classy stuff.
On a whim, our hero goes out into the Forbidden Zone (aka rebel territory) to find his sister.  He gets stuck with a scientist/third wheel.  She...tries to be important.
In sheer movie coincident, the man that he sees stabbed by his mother before she dies is the lead villain of the film.  Pretty impressive how he survived that wound too.  The brain is meant to be pierced.

Oh and the other villain was on Torchwood.  He was also in The Asylum's Sherlock Holmes, so let's focus on that instead.  Tee hee.
'Dr. Watson' has a romantic angle with our hero's sister- who's alive...duh- and refuses to shoot her when she leaves.

Naturally, he turns full evil minutes later.  Subtle characters- what are those?!?
Thanks to circumstances that I won't SPOIL- although anyone with a brain can guess- the bad guys are taken out.  How can this day get any better?
It can!  With very little effort, our hero makes a tentative peace accord between the two groups.  Hurray for possible, eventual success!  The End.
Get your ass to Mars...if you have the time.  The good parts: the effects (usually), the basic story and the use of the setting.  The bad: just about everything else.  That's a bit of a generalization.  The execution of the story is lacking for me, just kind of meandering.  It's not a bad story per se, but it's just told in a sub-par way.  Does that make sense to anyone?  The Acting and overall Production is good, but not great.  They were trying here and it shows.  It would have been nice to see something more interesting.  Speaking of which, what's up with the subtitle?  I was expecting some sort of Origin story or something.  Instead, this is a bridging story between two games, so...Origins?  In all honesty, I was expecting something really bad.  A video-game tie-in film that only aired on Syfy- it must be shit.  Well, it's not.  It's not great either, but...well, I've already covered that.  Speaking of covering things...
Next up, a week of random Horror films because...why not?  First up, the unofficial sequel to Tales From the Crypt featuring...Doctor Who.  Stay tuned...