Sunday, July 29, 2007

Silent Rage (1982)

Here's another picture from 1982.

There was a time in my life when Chuck Norris was my favorite action star. This guy has only lost one fight and that was because he let his good pal Bruce Lee win. I'm afraid we'll never again see action films like those we saw in the 1980s. The kind of films headlined by Norris, Schwarzenegger, Stallone. Later Seagal and Van Damme. The movies characterized by gratuitous violence, jingoistic attitudes, strip clubs that actually feature girls stripping. You know, R Rated films. To me, Norris, as an actor, was probably below Stallone, Schwarzenegger, and Seagal. (Sorry, Van Damme fans. Even if he loses the accent, he's still the worst actor I have ever enjoyed). As an agent of death, however, he pretty much beats them all. If you don't believe me, check out Invasion USA, Missing In Action I & II, and the Delta Force. In these films he wipes out an army of Latin American Guerillas, the entire Viet Cong, and every single god damned terrorist ever born, respectively. I'd recommend taking a day off from work sometime and watching them all. It's our right as American citizens to call in sick so we can stay home and watch Chuck Norris pictures.

Norris is the guy that perfected the blue jeans style of martial arts. Seagal later became a student of this style, but was certainly not in the league of Chuck Norris. Seagal just looked silly attempting his round house kicks in denim. Somehow, Norris was able to maintain a fluidity of motion while wearing such stiff attire. I think he just liked the challenge. It was sort of like a middle finger to his opponents, akin to beating them with both hands tied behind his back.

According to Wikipedia, Norris was the first choice to play the role of the evil sensei of the Cobra Kai dojo in The Karate Kid. Norris refuted this claim in an interview as complete bullshit. I wish he HAD been in the first one because it would mean that parts 2-4 of the series would never have happened. Norris would have painted the fence with both Miyagi and Daniel San at the conclusion of part one. This is one more reason that you can't rely on Wikipedia.

Silent Rage is one of his films that eluded me as a kid and I've seen most of them; from The Octagon to Lone Wolf McQuade. I think I was probably a bit wary at the time because it seemed like he only had to fight one guy in this one. And, the cover art didn't portray him handling a couple of uzis (not that he needed them). Also, the description made it sound like Chuck Norris vs. Frankenstein's monster. I was not the biggest fan of Frankenstein's monster as a young boy. I'm happy to announce that my tastes have evolved.

To be more accurate, this movie is closer to Re-animator (1985) than Frankenstein. Notice the dates? Re-animator ripped off Chuck Norris (and he IS pissed. He's coming for YOU Stuart Gordon). Both movies involve a serum that, when injected, can reanimate dead tissue. The difference being that the serum in Silent Rage also gives you superhuman strength, the ability to heal wounds to maintain the appearence of normalcy, and crazy eyes. Re-animator is the better film (more wit, more style, more gore). I still like the idea that Gordon and company were inspired by Lovecraft AND Chuck Norris.

I liked this film, but I have to admit, I didn't love it. Norris is pretty bad ass throughout, except for one scene towards the end when he runs from the reanimated psychopath. I'm sorry, but that was a bad creative choice. I enjoyed some of the supporting players, including Ron Silver (looking and talking just like a young Al Pacino) as a sympathetic doctor who is, in part, responsible for the serum's creation and Stephen Furst (Animal House) as the jolly (read Obese) deputy Charlie. Brian Libby (Action Jackson) played the psychopath and Steven Keats (Freddy's Nightmares) played the slightly mad doctor (and Silver's boss) who developed the serum.

The movie opens with Libby taking an axe to the husband and wife that he's been renting a room from. Libby is always telling his doctor (Ron Silver) that he's "losing it" on the phone, so it's pretty clear the couple that rented him the room didn't really care about references. Norris arrives, toys with him for a bit before finally getting the cuffs on him. This is no ordinary man though becasue he breaks the cuffs and proceeds to beat up a few cops. Norris and his men have no choice, except to gun him down. Ron Silver arrives to take Libby (miraculously, still alive) back to The Institute, a shady medical research facility. Libby dies during surgery, but is given the serum shortly thereafter. Silver was against the idea, but was overruled. Something about how they don't give out the Nobel Peace Prize for murder. The rest of the movie involves Norris reconnecting with an old flame, his deputy Charlie finally finding his courage, a biker gang terrorizing the town, Silver thinking about maybe a new profession, quite a few breast shots (a few involving biker chicks, two involving Norris' old flame), and Libby going on a Michael Myers inspired killing spree before coming face to face with Norris. If it sounds pretty good that's because it is.

Still, I had a couple of issues. First, Norris is not given one memorable line in this thing. I think that was pretty much the story of his career. His writers suck. Obviously, no one wants to see him act in the traditional sense, but a pretty big key to these types of pictures are the one liners. Schwarzenegger had them in spades, Stallone had them, Seagal had them, and even Van Damme got off a couple (when we could understand what he was saying). Norris, the best fighter of the bunch got zilch. He delivers lines like "Okay" and "Is that so?" I also didn't like the guy that played the villain too much. After he died, he didn't really talk at all. I guess that's where the title comes from. He was silent and full of rage. Get it? He had no motivation for killing the people he did, except for the doctors I guess. Actually, the more I think about it, this movie kind of ripped off Halloween. The killer was very much in the Michael Myers mold, never in a hurry, hiding in plain sight, and he even comes with his own Dr. Loomis (Ron Silver). Fortunately, for the real Michael Myers, Norris wasn't in Halloween. If Rob Zombie had balls, he'd put him in the remake.

One character I really liked was the deputy Charlie. You might remember the actor as Flounder in Animal House. He's pretty fun in this one. In the opening scene he nearly shoots Norris (by accident) as he's chasing Libby. Norris dives out of the way to avoid the shot and then looks back at Charlie with disappointment. Charlie just sheepishly shrugs. There's clearly a lot of love between these two. It shows in a later scene, when Charlie, in an effort to clear his conscience relates to Norris the story of how when he was 6 years old, he got a puppy. Once, when it got dirty, he tried to wash it in the toilet and then to dry it off he placed it in the walk in freezer. Of course, being 6, he forgot about it, so his mother found it a day later. It's mouth frozen in mid bark. Norris smiles, and reassures him by saying "Don't worry, that won't go on your record." Unfortunately, Charlie is given one of the lamest death scenes ever when he is bear hugged to death by Libby (who is half his size).

You can't have a Chuck Norris picture without a scene where he beats up 20 to 30 guys at once. Hence the subplot involving the bikers. This encounter takes place in a bar. Chuck and Charlie walk in to find the bartender tied up with a noose around his neck. One of the biker chicks walks over to Charlie and flashes her breasts for him. He reaches out to grab them when Norris clears his throat and calmly asks Charlie to go call for backup. Quick cut to Charlie in the Bronco relating to the dispatcher that 'they were the biggest things I've ever seen! And they had tattoos on them!". Good Ol' Charlie. I'd estimate that 30 seconds later the final biker is thrown out the front window and Charlie is broken out of his love spell: "Mayday! Mayday! Send Backup immediately!!" The fight itself is pretty good. Norris is clearly a master of Karate (he WAS the middle weight world champion at one time, after all). He's got some good moves. Even when he's hit (I think this happened once) and falling, he turns that into his advantage by falling into a 'sweep the legs' move. Controlled chaos. He's the best.

The movie ends with Libby basically killing everyone at The Institute (even poor Charlie). Norris arrives too late and is therefore pretty angry to find Charlie dying. It's at this point that I realized the title could refer to Norris as well as Libby. Norris doesn't say much throughout the final 15 minutes and he is ALSO full of rage. See, it's that neat little twist where the hero has to become like the villain in order to defeat the villain. Clever. Unfortunately, the final fight doesn't really live up to the rest of the movie. I expected Norris to deliver a roundhouse kick that would decapitate Libby and at least blind the body so he could then chop it into a hundred pieces and deliver them to the bottom of the Atlantic. That would have been MY ending anway.


In this thing, after Libby has been shot a couple hundred times, and burnt to a crisp, Norris' solution is to drop him into a well. Huh??? Admittedly, the well is pretty deep, but still, that's a little anticlimactic isn't it? It also hints that maybe Chuck Norris realized he couldn't defeat him and therefore this was the next best thing. Again, this is not an issue with Chuck Norris, but with his crummy writers.

The last shot is of Libby rising from the water at the bottom of the well. It might take him a year or so, but I think he could climb out. The guy is basically immortal, so he's got all the time in the world. His patience was established in an earlier scene when, after dispatching Ron Silver in his home, the wife walks in, finds her dead husband and a dead madman standing over the body. She runs and hides. Instead of trying to find her, the guy just sits tight and waits her out. Finally, thinking he must have left, the wife comes out of hiding only to be splattered against a wall. So, yeah, I think this guy can wait out a few lousy years down at the bottom of a well. If he can't climb out, someone will come along. Eventually.


Ending aside, this is still a pretty good movie. It was nice to see Chuck Norris tackle something in the horror genre. He would revisit this realm in later films like The Hero and the Terror, Hellbound, and also Sidekicks. The supporting cast is better than what you'll find in most Norris pictures, with the exception of M. Emmet Walsh in Missing in Action (Is there a better character actor than Walsh?). I wish they had made a sequel where Chuck Norris had to fight 100 of these reanimated fuckers. Although, in that case, he'd need to dig a lot of wells. There's still time though. I think we're all waiting for Chuck Norris to come back and show us how it's done.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Quetzalcoatl - The Winged Serpent (1982)

I remember seeing this movie on the video shelf in the Quality Superette when I was a kid. I wanted to see it immediately, but couldn't rent it because of the R rating. It was on the shelf directly below the pornos. Remember the boxes that porn used to come in? They were ENORMOUS. At the time, I thought it was great. Porn, in full view of a kid. On GIANT boxes. As I got older, it became more frustrating. I mean, that's not very discreet. How am I supposed to get that giant box out of the store unnoticed? It's absurd. I think porn companies had a sense of humor in those days. Living in a small town, we didn't have too many video stores with the curtained off back room. Anyway, Quetzalcoatl. Or Q, I guess (not much of a market for movies with twelve letter titles). I never got around to watching this. The years passed and I kind of forgot all about it. Finally, DVD replaced video cassettes and all of these older schlocky films started coming back. I could now also access porn more discreetly, but that's another story for a different blog. Now, after 20 plus years I can finally watch a movie about a giant flying serpent-like bird thing.

The movie stars Woody Allen as Michael Moriarty and Chuck Norris as David Carradine. What a cast, huh? Well, actually that's not Chuck Norris. It really IS David Carradine. I'm slightly less impressed. Although, I guess if it was Chuck Norris it would be a short, instead of feature length. Do you really think a flying serpent could last more than ten minutes against Norris? Also, Norris would probably manage to give an even more wooden performance than Carradine, if that's possible. While I'm being honest here, Moriarty wasn't exactly played by Woody Allen either. Moriarty is better than that. I'm sorry. Woody Allen is the Michael Moriarty of Woody Allen films. Another guy in this picture is Richard Roundtree as Shaft. Well, actually two guys play Shaft. Roundtree plays him up until the end when some other guy stands in and gets plucked off a roof and dropped to his death. No way is Shaft getting killed by a fucking bird!

The auteur behind this film is Larry Cohen. Cohen is behind some classic B horror movies from the 70s and 80s. I've only seen It's Alive III: Island of the Alive (also starring Moriarty, Cohen's Deniro). If you haven't seen It's Alive III, please do so as soon as possible. If the title doesn't sound familiar you may know it as Survivor: Mutant Killer Babies. I plan on attacking the rest of Cohen's filmography soon, including such titles as It's Alive, It's Alive II, and The Stuff. Now, I called Cohen an auteur earlier. That's not to disparage everyone else who worked on the film, but this is his baby. He gathered the money, wrote the screenplay, produced and directed the film. It's his. Ok, fuck the cast and crew.

The movie doesn't waste any time. In the first scene we see a window washer on the 40th floor of a high rise. He's pretending to clean the window, but really he's just ogling the pretty young girl in the office. He's a pervert and says "I know you love me baby", but he's also a coward because he knows she can't hear him through the glass. Suddenly, he looks up and screams. His head is bitten off by some sort of flying bird/serpent thing, I think that must be Q (I'm abbreviating it's name from now on). So, apparently, Q has a thing against perverts. Well, that's good. Maybe this is the kind of monster we can get behind? In the very next scene we see a woman sunbathing topless on top of a high rise. On top of the adjacent building is yet another pervert watching her through his telescope. Ok, pretty predictable so far. He's going to get his, alright. But no, Q swoops down and plucks up the girl in clear view of the now stunned pervert. He must eat her in mid air because pedestrians on the street are rained on. By blood. So, what the fuck? Now I don't know WHAT to expect from Q. This bird/thing is an equal opportunity people eater. Perverts and women are one and the same. I like that.

Moriarty plays a character that's down on his luck. He's nervous, can be funny, twitches a little. He's got no luck with women and can't hold down a job. He does have a girlfriend (Candy Clark), but something tells me she won't be around long. He walks into a bar to try to get a job as a musician. The barkeep gives him an audition and he goes on to play the most bizarre scat bee bop tune I have ever heard ("Evil Dream". I'm going to youtube this after the review. If I find it, I'll include a link). He mumbles his way through the audition and the bartender makes his decision when he decides to blare the jukebox halfway through the performance. What a dick. Carradine, Shaft's partner, likes the song enough from his barstool and tells him so on his way out. Moriarty replies, "what the fuck do you know?" and walks out. So, yeah, there are several little character moments like this sprinkled throughout this film. I don't know, I guess they really don't make 'em like this anymore. When you have $150 million budget, why waste time on shots that don't contain special effects? Well? Michael Bay? I'm waiting.

The movies basic premise is that an ancient Aztec goddish bird-like/serpent thingamajig has made Manhattan his home. It's nest is on top of the Chrysler building. In a sub-plot, or I guess it's more of a lateral plot, there is someone going around town performing Aztec ritual sacrifices, these include skinning and heart plucking. Are these sacrifices somehow connected to Q? Moriarty, running from the police discovers the nest of Q. Being the weasely guy he is, he blackmails the cops with his newfound information. He wants a million dollars, immunity (which is funny, because they aren't charging him with any crimes), rights to all photos/videos taken of Q, and a tax free life. Carradine and Shaft have to work against time to solve the ritual murders and kill Q, while also putting up with Moriarty's shenanigans. Basic plot in a Q egg.

What did I think of Q (the monster, not the movie). Well, it's clear that Harryhausen didn't work on this thing, but I still liked the design. What do you want for $1.2 million? I'm hoping Shaft and Carradine didn't work for scale, so the creature budget was considerably less that that. I mentioned Harryhausen earlier. So, you can infer that the creature was made using stop-motion technology. You may think I'm insane, but I would take stop-motion over CGI 9 times out of 10. There's something beautiful about stop motion. It's organic. Even when done poorly it can still create life. Q was alive, but he didn't look realistic, if that makes sense. I prefer that to the soulless CGI that dominates movies these days. The work on Q was actually very effective and it would have fit right in with a film like Clash of the Titans (if Clash were based on Aztec mythology instead of Greek with a splash of Norse). I take it back, the creature IS Harryhausen-esque. We see it in bits and pieces early on and mostly just it's shadow until the final 20 minutes or so. I'm actually amazed that Cohen was able to pull off the creature as well as he did. I mean, have you ever seen the mutant killer babies in It's Alive III? This is a long way from that.

The final battle with the creature is actually a pretty brilliant set-piece atop the Chrysler building. Moriarty finally leads the cops to the nest in exchange for his demands. I'd say there's 30 or 40 cops, heavily armed, led by Carradine. This scene is kind of the anti-King Kong. Instead of the monster on top of the building swiping at planes, we have cops shooting at a swooping bird/lizard/harryhausen-thing as it plucks them off the building one by one. Obviously, you know how it ends. The very last scene before the credits roll (what's known as the "shock moment" in these kinds of monster films) rips off Godzilla (1998), except this movie came before Godzilla I think and I don't know if time travel had been made possible for human consumption by 1982. Someone wikipedia that and let me know.

Speaking of 1982, has there ever been a better year for film? That year alone produced Blade Runner, Poltergeist, Star Trek II, Conan the Barbarian, Creepshow, The Thing, First Blood, Basket Case, Enter the Ninja, Beastmaster, Friday the 13th Part 3 (in 3-D!), Halloween 3 (not 3-D), Slumber Party Massacre, Swamp Thing, and, yes, Quetzalcoatl. Holy shit, it's my desert island collection! Hopefully, those fucking babies won't be there.

I loved Quetzalcoatl. Seriously, I did. Dan, revise your rating on netflix. This is NOT a two star film. Of course, I do have a couple complaints. Why have David Carradine in your picture and not give him anyone to karate chop? I mean, yeah, he's NO Chuck Norris, but he's still better than, say, Franco Nero. The guy was in Kung Fu for Chrissakes! I don't get it. The second complaint I'm sure you can guess involves nudity. Yeah. Not enough of it. Check this one out.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Sunshine (2007)

This post is an anomaly. I can assure you it will never happen again. This is NOT a bad movie in any way shape or form. This post will also be extremely brief (at least compared to my other posts). I have almost zero interest in reviewing current theatrical releases. My reviews often contain spoilers, but I justify that by telling myself you guys will a) never see the movie, or b) the movie is sooo fucking bad that you won't give a fuck even if you do see it. This review contains NO spoilers. I'm not like that asshole that ruined Harry Potter 7 for millions of poor bastards. Feel free to read on.

I had the pleasure of catching a free preview of Sunshine at the Boston Commons theatre tonight, wednesday July the 18th. Let me just say that I was blown away. During a summer of mindless, sometimes awful trash (If you've been to this blog before, you know that I often love mindless trash even when it's awful) it's refreshing to see a film that knows what it's doing. This is a film with some powerful ideas, distinct characterizations, and mind blowingly fucking awesome effects.

The premise is fairly ridiculous (In the, not too distant, future the sun is burning out. The earth is entering an ice age and in a last ditch effort to save mankind a crew boards the Icarus II with a nuclear bomb the size of manhattan attached in the hopes of reigniting the sun), but is told with such conviction by director Danny Boyle and, frequent collaborator, screenwriter Alex Garland that I was able to buy into it completely.

Chris Evans (Johnny Storm from Fantastic Four) was an absolute revelation as Mace the ship's engineer. If there's any justice he would receive a best supporting actor nomination next year. Of course, we know there is NO justice and this movie will be largely overlooked. Hiroyuki Sanada (Twilight Samurai) as Captain Kaneda was another favorite character of mine. He brought a stoic calm to the film even in the face of extreme peril. Actually, there wasn't a weak performance in the cast (I haven't even touched on Cillian Murphy or Cliff Curtis).

The effects blow away most of the movies I have seen this summer (including Live Free or Die Hard and Transformers). The score was completely unique for a film of this nature. Like any good score it built beautifully to a crescendo at the perfect moments (of course, no surprise here as Boyle is known for incorporating terrific music into his films).

If I have one, albeit very minor, complaint it's that the story devolved a bit towards the end (not nearly the offender that 28 Days Later was, however). It briefly became a standard "trapped in space where no one can hear you scream" film, but thankfully was able to right itself before the big finale. I loved this film. It demands to be seen on the big screen. I would love nothing more than for it to become the sleeper hit of the summer. Quality wise, this is the kind of movie that should play in the fall with all of the other "important" films. It opens this friday and I can't wait to hear your reactions. Of course, it's very possible that I've just completely overhyped it and you will all hate it (at least on the outside). I'm betting it can withstand my hype.

Like I said, this post is an anomaly. Now, back to the trash...

Monday, July 16, 2007

Innocent Blood (1992)

Quick! Name the first Vampire movie that pops into your head. Mine would be Jesus Christ Vampire Hunter, but that's only because I haven't been able to get that title out of my mind. More on that in the coming weeks when I actually watch and review this.

Now, name your FAVORITE Vampire movie, not including Nosferatu or Browning's original Dracula. I want to see your answers posted in the comments, so don't be shy. It's ok if you're not a "poster" and would like to remain anonymous. I dig. Be honest. I want the first movie you thought of AND your favorite. They may even be the same film. Anyway, mine would be a little film from 1987 called Near Dark (directed by James Cameron's ex-wife, Kathryn Bigelow and starring such Alien's alumnus as Lance Henriksen, Bill Paxton, and Jenette Goldstein). What can I say?

I love it when genre films get blended together. Near Dark was a modern day western. With Vampires. Traditional gothic trappings were discarded in favor of dusty roads and shitkickers. If you have not seen this movie, or saw it as a kid but don't remember loving it, do yourself a favor and rent this immediately.

So, it was with no trepidation that I moved Innocent Blood to the top of my queue. You see, the gangster genre is another of my favorites. I'm pretty amazed that it's taken me this long to get to it, to be honest. It also features my favorite pre-Audrey Tatou french actress, Anne Parrilaud (La Femme Nikita) as the sexiest female vamp since Monica Belluci bared all in Bram Stoker's Dracula.

The movie is basically a hodge podge of Italian (read Gangster) character actors including, but not limited to David Proval (The Sopranos), Rocco Sisto (The Sopranos), Robert Loggia (The Sopranos), Tony Sirico (The Sopranos), and Tony Lip (The Sopranos). Ok, not all of the actors in this film were type cast. Let's run down THAT list, shall we? Chazz Palmienterri (A Bronx Tale), Anthony LaPaglia (The Brotherhood), Luiz Guzman (Carlito's Way), and Don Rickles (Casino). Admittedly, Guzman was previously cast in Carlito's Way as a hispanic gangster because, well, he's hispanic. He gets to plays a cop in this movie. LaPaglia plays an undercover cop who just has to pretend to be a gangster. Rickles? Well, he plays Don Rickles....only if Don Rickles were a consigliere for the head of the Pittsburgh mob.

Did I say Pittsburgh? Yup, this movie takes place in the 'burgh. I was unaware of their large Italian mafia problem...and even more unaware of their vampire problem, but more on that in a bit.

Who directed this? That would be John Landis (previously discussed in my Big Bad Wolf review). This is his second foray into "creature features", the first being An American Werewolf. Well, if you count Michael Jackson's Thriller video, then this is his third. Landis has a tendency to try to lighten the scares in his horror movies by injecting humor into them. It worked brilliantly in American Werewolf, but not as brilliantly here. This is actually more of a straight up comedy (with moments of some pretty fun gore) and on that level, I really enjoyed it.

Anne Parrilaud plays a lonely vampire named Marie. Marie likes to hang around churches (debunked myth?) and take showers at the YMCA. She robs thrift stores to fill out her wardrobe. Like most urban vampires, she's pretty much homeless and penniless. And also hungry. Flipping through the papers one evening, trying to come up with some food ideas (you see, she's a good vampire and won't just eat anyone), she comes across some headlines on mob violence. Her voiceover? "What about Italian?"

Anthony LaPaglia plays her love interest Joey. He's a tough italian cop who infiltrates the gang of Sal "The Shark" Macelli (Robert Loggia), but he's pretty much outed as a rat immediately. Chaz Palmienterri plays Joey's best friend Tony (who seems to be a low level enforcer, probably the guy that vouched for Joey). Tony is also Marie's first meal. Marie has two rules for eating. 1) Never play with the food. 2) Always finish the food. First she drains Tony's blood, then she finished it by blowing off his head with a shotgun. Now, to the cops this looks like an ordinary mob hit. Marie doesn't even think about this, however. Her reason for finishing "the food" is so it doesn't come back.

Well, her next target is Sal. Guess what, she neglects to finish him AND he comes back and proceeds to turn his gang into the undead. It's up to Marie and Joey (yeah, of course they team up) to stop him.

Loggia is hysterical as Sal. When he comes back, he comes back in hilarious fashion. He's been taken to the morgue (completely drained of blood, no chance he's alive). He's on the table prepped for his autopsy when suddenly he stands up. The medical examiner (Frank Oz) drops his instruments. The stunned security guard asks if he would "maybe like to go back and lie down". Sal then stumbles into the background of the press conference where the coroner is telling the press he's dead. When he has the autopsy results, he'll get back to them. Get off his fucking back! The press quickly forgets about the poor coroner and instead hurries after Sal. If one thing Sal (always the stereotypical gangster) cannot abide it's a messy suit. That might be a problem when you're a member of the bloodsucking undead. He's constantly changing suits and exclaims after one kill "This shirt is disgusting!" He really gets upset after having been set on fire. "WHAT you've KILLED here is my fucking suit!" He's a funny guy, that Loggia. Much funnier than he was in Scarface....or Lost Highway. (He played Gangsters in both of those).

Another character I liked is Sal's lawyer/consigliere Manny Bergman. This character reminded me of Don Rickles. He was also played by Don Rickles. Rickles is given perhaps the greatest death scene of 1992. Having been "turned" by his employer Sal, he is taken to the hospital for a blood transfusion. The nurse comes in to check on him and then goes to open the blinds. He wakes up, now a vampire, and gets ready to attack her. In the instant before, she opens the blinds and lets the sunlight in. I won't spoil the rest, but it's a lot of fun. He melts.

This picture does not strictly adhere to vampirology, I don't believe. First of all, I never noticed any fangs. They could have been there, but me, being a lazy movie watcher that night, just didn't notice. Second, they could see themselves in mirrors. This actually was the source of a pretty funny joke. Everytime Marie kills someone, she would happen to look into a mirror and see her blood soaked face. She'd immediately go all feral on us and destroy the mirrors with both fists in disgust. That's pretty clever, right? Third, crucifixes do jack shit in this movie & like I said before, Marie spends a lot of time in churches. She even meets Joey (LaPaglia, remember him) while flying around in one. Fourth, it's never clear if she can change into a bat or not. I don't think she can & certainly none of the gangster vampires can, but she can at least fly. They all have heightened senses (smell, hearing, orgasming, etc). Fifth, I don't think stakes through the heart will do much. It's pretty clear that this movie is trying to establish a new method for slaughtering vampires. Stakes are for fences. You need a good shotgun blast to the head. I just got an idea for a movie. Ash (Evil Dead) takes on Dracula. Say hello to my boomstick! Nah, just kidding. Really stupid idea.

All you gorehounds, keep an eye open for some pretty nice cameos in this one. Sam Raimi (Evil Dead I-III and something called Spiderman I-III) appears as a Meat packer, employed in one of Sal's meat packing plants. Tom Savini has a couple cameos as a tabloid photographer. Dario Argento (do I mention him every posting?) plays a male nurse. Heh heh. Alfred Hitchcock even has a cameo and he WAS dead. Well, his cameo is actually a cameo within a scene from another movie, "Strangers on a Train", but it's clear Landis has a hard on for cameos.

Back to Parillaud. I love her. I could listen to her struggle to read the phone book in english for at least an hour. She's sexy and has that short punky late 80s early 90s haircut that you all know I love so much. I swear, I do. She also looks great naked. The only thing I don't like about her is the mannish demon voice that comes out whenever she gets angry. If we're going to date, that's something she'll have to work on because, believe me, she WILL get angry. Perhaps, she'll agree to a gag? It's already been established that she's into handcuffs, so why not. Hmmmm, I think I might be onto something....and maybe I can even talk her into a three way with Monica Bell.....Oh....wait, are you still here? Ahem, I don't really have anything more to add about this film. It is what it is. A funny gangster movie. Way funnier than Analyze This or That. It also happens to have vampires. You'll laugh, but you won't jump. What else can I say. Now, If you'll excuse me, I've got to go google my new girlfriend.

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Dead Silence (2007)

in the 6th century B.C. it was believed that the spirits of the dead would speak through the stomach regions of the living.

From the latin VENTER for "belly" and LOQUI "to speak"

hence the term VENTRILIQUIST
--opening scroll from "Dead Silence"

Chalk that up as ONE thing I did not know. I didn't check it out on google or wikipedia either so I'll have to take their word for it.

This was not exactly what I expected. After having suffered through the Saw trilogy, I expected an unofficial sequel starring the creepy doll on the tricycle. What I got, instead, was more in the vein of Japanese horror, such as Ju-On (or The Grudge) and Ringu (or The Ring). It was a pleasant surprise because, as I'm sure you can tell from the above sentence, I didn't enjoy the Saw pictures. I have no problem with excessive gore (I actually thought some of the Rube Goldberg torture devices were pretty clever), but I am not a fan of gore without a sense of fun. Those movies were neither scary or fun. Worse, they were kinda boring. Of course, I'm in the minority here because they probably made over a billion dollars combined. So, what do I know?

Do not go into this thing expecting Saw. I actually expected something along the lines of Saw meets Child's Play or Saw meets Dollman or Saw meets The Puppetmaster vs. Demonic Toys. Or, Saw meets the creepy clown hiding under the bed in Poltergeist. Actually, it's not that far off from the last one, minus the Saw elements. In fact, the gore is pretty minimal in this picture. I actually would have been very pleased if this was a Child's Play rip off with Saw level gore. I wasn't THAT pleased, but I wasn't exactly dissatisfied either.

How's the story? It's pretty ridiculous when you break it down, so let's not break it down too much. I wasn't that thrilled with the opening. A young, recently married couple, Jamie and Lisa, receive a large box in the mail with no return address. Inside the box is a ventriliquist dummy named Billy. It looks like a little dracula inside a coffin laid out on top of velvet bedding. Now, I don't know, it's pretty fucking creepy. I would probably wrap it back up and return it to the post office (or, at the very least, chuck it in the basement incinerator), but then again, WHAT do I know? I just watch these movies, I don't live in them. Jamie leaves his wife home alone to go pick up dinner. He comes back to find Lisa on the bed sitting upright and covered with a sheet. He pulls the sheet off to reveal his wife with a pretty horrific expression on her face. Oh. She's also missing her tongue. Even worse than that, she's dead.

This is one of those dream state movies where nothing seems to make much sense. If you've seen a Dario Argento movie, or say...Hellraiser 2, then you are familiar with a dream state film. See, when you are in the business of making dream state pictures you can dispense with such things as logic and plotting, while instead throwing all of your money and time into atmosphere and special effects. Jamie is the obvious #1 suspect, but Detective Lipton (played very well by Donnie Wahlberg) let's him go. Lipton let's him know he'll be watching him, however, when he says "I've never arrested a dummy for murder, but I have arrested a few husbands". Jamie then flees to his home town of Raven's Fair (uh huh) where there is a local legend involving a dead Ventriliquist named Mary Shaw. The movie is actually pretty strong on the creep factor. They even chose a score that seems lifted right out of Halloween. The town of Raven's Fair is a typical ghost town. As far as I can tell it consists of a deserted main street, a mansion (home to Jamie's estranged father and his new step-mom), a mortuary (home to the mortician and his insane wife), and a brilliantly constructed theatre called the Guignol Theatre (located in a quarry and accessible only by boat). Again, only in a dream (or movie) would you ever find a theatre located in such a place. This isn't a little rinky dink theatre either, but the kind you might find in early 20th century Paris.

I really did find myself liking the set design of this film. It was clearly lovingly constructed. The theatre's facade is simply stunning. Fog machines also worked overtime on this film. They even used the old black and white Universal logo at the film's beginning. Again, this all contributes to the vintage, dreamy atmosphere intended by James Wan (director) and Leigh Whannel (screenwriter).

The movie also has more humor than the Saw movies, mostly due to Donnie Wahlberg (New Kids On The Block). There is a great scene where he follows Jamie to his hotel room in Raven's Fair and proceeds to interrogate him while "performing" with Billy the doll. Wahlberg delivers all the funny lines and his reaction when he finally comes to believe Jamie's ghost story is priceless.

One more thing about this film. I have a suspician that this is one right out of the ol' twist factory. You know, the place that was officially open for business in 1995. "We'll come up with a twist, you come up with a crappy story. The idiots (you, ok AND me) won't even notice the story because all they'll talk about is the twist!" That's their motto...or perhaps I'm paraphrasing. This movie did not need the twist. Argento never needed a ridiculous twist (ok, I haven't seen EVERY Argento film, but I'm sure if he used one he had good reason). This movie was creepy and scary enough without it. It was unneccessary. Of course, we shouldn't be surprised. Wan and Whannel have a history involving terrible twists. The twist at the end of the original Saw is one of the worst offenders. I actually blame The Sixth Sense more than the Usual Suspects (that film from 1995), a film I actually like. If you take the twist out of Sixth Sense, what are you left with? A dreadful and dreary film.

Alas, I've written way more than I intended to about this particular film. I liked it. The climactic scene set at the Guignal theatre (before the awful twist) is terrific. The ending even features a cameo from that loveable SAW doll. Sadly, he left the trikey at home. You'll be creeped out and maybe even jump out of your seat once or twice. You might even laugh. Just don't go in expecting lots of entrails and detached limbs. Be sure to turn it off after the final theatre scene. You'll thank me.

Sunday, July 1, 2007

Big Bad Wolf (2006)

This movie is a flaming piece of shit. I was suckered into netflixing it because it "stars" David Naughton. If you're like me then you love 1981's An American Werewolf in London. It's one of the few movies to effectively mix comedy and horror. Evil Dead 2, Dead Alive, and Shaun of the Dead are three of my favorite movies, but I was never scared during any of them. American Werewolf was funny AND it scared me. So, when I saw that there was a 2006 werewolf movie featuring David Naughton (Do I really have to explain who he is?) I had no choice except to move it to the top of my Netflix queue. Even the cover of the DVD made me think of American Werewolf.

Again, this movie is a flaming piece of shit. It's no American Werewolf. It's no Cursed. It's no Silver Bullet. It's certainly NOT Dog Soldiers (a movie I'm convinced is a masterpiece). I'm positive that the assholes over at Screen Media (a company that may have surpassed Charlie Band's Full Moon as the biggest purveyors of crap around) have never even seen any of these movies. It's actually more inspired by the legends of Chucky, Freddy, Jack Frost, and the Gingerdead Man. This is the first movie I can remember that features a wisecracking werewolf. This thing just doesn't shut up. He's the kind of beast that recites the 3 Little Pigs before slaughtering his victims. At one point, he rips out a girls guts and as they spill onto the floor he asks future victims if they're "going to eat that?". I chuckled when he ripped off a kids head and punted it before yelling "GOALLLLLLLLL". Kind of funny. In addition, he's the horniest werewolf I've ever seen, but more on that later.

The first 30 minutes are like the Evil Dead or Dog Soldiers (Ok, it's possible someone at Screen Media saw one of these or at least heard about them). Derrick and his tom boy girlfriend Sam, go to Derrick's stepfathers mountain cabin with two of his fraternity brothers (and their girlfriends) for a night of drinking and screwing. A werewolf attacks, makes bad jokes, rapes one of the girls in front of her boyfriend before killing everyone except Derrick and Sam, who somehow manage to escape. The next 40 minutes involve a cat and mouse game between Derrick, Sam, and Mitch (stepfather who is clearly the werewolf). The final 20 minutes take place at the cabin. This movie at 90 minutes is about 80 minutes too long.

Back to David Naughton. He must be really hard up for cash. I can only think that he assumed no one would see this, so his "name" wouldn't be all that sullied. Unfortunately, I saw it. His name is sullied. All I can say is THANK GOD for Griffin Dunne. Naughton plays the town sherriff and appears in one brief scene, following the opening massacre. Mitch asks him if the kids told him what they saw. His response: "Not much. He and the girl said much the same thing. A large animal too dark to see. To be honest I think they were holding back. Any information you could get from your son sure would be helpful". Exit. WHAT THE FUCK! They couldn't even provide a subtle nod to American Werewolf. The only reason he was in this thing was to sell the movie. Well, he didn't even do that very well. Last I checked there were 11,315 DVDs ranked ahead of it at Amazon. That number is getting higher every tuesday.

The movie also features a cameo from Clint Howard (Leprechaun 2). If you're a Seinfeld fan, you may remember him as Tobias Nagy, the serial killer Kramer is mistaken for during his trip to L.A. He's around for a minute to warn the kids not to go up to the cabin. Like Naughton, his inclusion is pretty pointless. He's the requisite "that guy" who you will forget about by the next scene. Interestingly, Naughton also had a guest appearence on Seinfeld as a recovering alcoholic who falls off the wagon. I can only think that, after watching him in this movie, he's still off it. If you must see these two guys, just rewatch your Seinfeld DVDs. I'm warning you. My "job" is to see this movie so you won't have to.

The werewolf/stepfather is played by Richard Tyson (Black Hawk Down). He drunkenly mumbles his way through the scenes as the stepfather. One thing I liked is that they equate the morning after he's a werewolf with having a massive hangover. His wife is constantly nagging him about his drinking. At one point, he wakes up covered in blood next to a ravaged corpse. He grabs his head in an attempt to regain his senses. What's this? He notices something caught between his teeth. He pulls out a finger. Studies it for a minute. Burps (I guess he had to clear room) and pops it into his mouth. A nice little pseudo clever scene. Tyson is a Farrelly brothers regular. I remembered him from Kingpin. He played the stuttering twitching proprieter of one of the bowling alleys where Harrelson and Quaid attempt to hustle. I usually enjoy him, but here he sleepwalked through the part. Maybe that was the point.

A major key to EVERY werewolf film is the transformation scene. How's that scene in this piece of shit? Well, maybe these guys actually saw THE WOLFMAN because they used the same "technology". Apply a little makeup. CUT. Apply a little more makeup. CUT. A little more makeup. CUT. A little more....well, you get the idea. Terrible. American Werewolf came out 25 years ago and THIS is the best they could do? How about the design of the werewolf? Well, the Sasquatch in Abominable was a more convincing werewolf and that thing was a Sasquatch. I think this thing looked more like Sasquatch than Sasquatch. Props to the crew for sticking with practical effects (CGI was used sparingly). I guess they deserve credit for reusing a costume from what I'm sure must have been a better movie.

The film is completely lacking in the suspense department. First of all, we learn who the werewolf is within the first twenty minutes. The movie is loaded with "Boo" moments that are telegraphed a mile away. Characters back into shadowy corners (this happens several times) where the werewolf is clearly visible behind them. We're supposed to jump from our seats when he suddenly reaches out to them. I think he was supposed to be completely hidden in shadow but the lighting boys really dropped the ball on this one. The cat and mouse game that makes up the bulk of the movie involves Derrick, Sam, and Uncle Charlie (I guess they may have heard of Silver Bullet also) trying to prove Mitch is a werewolf so they can justify killing him to the cops. I'm not sure this line of defense would really fly in a court of law, but I didn't go to law school so I'm not sure. Apparently, there is a werewolf DNA test that Uncle Charlie (Christopher Shyer of K9: PI fame) knows about. I didn't go to Medical School either, so I'm unclear as to whether or not this particular DNA test actually exists. All they need is 10 hairs with the root attached. So, they make Sam go into Mitch's bedroom to procure the hairs from his brush. Mitch comes home, Derrick does the worst job of stalling that I have ever seen, and Sam has to improvise. This involves....ahem....her finally putting that tongue ring to good use (to Mitch's pleasant surprise). You can imagine the friction this causes between Sam and Derrick.

Earlier, I mentioned that Mitch/Werewolf is quite the horn dog. In the opening scene at the cabin he rapes one of the frat brothers virgin girlfriend in front of the poor guy. The poor guys pathetic response: "but, but She's a virgin!!". "She ain't anymore kid." This clever line is followed by the werewolf castrating the poor sucker and then poking fun at his manhood as the poor bastard lies there bleeding to death. Funny guy/thing.

Quick sidenote: What's with all the castration in movies lately. Between this, Sin City, Hard Candy, and Hostel 2 I don't think I can take anymore. Note to future filmmakers. Guys don't like watching guys lose their johnsons on tv. It's not cool. Girls may like watching it, but these are not the kind of girls us guys want to hang out with. Thanks for reading.

Back to the review. Cell phones and text messaging play a huge part in the suspense. I guess that makes this like The Departed in that regard. Charlie sends a picture image through his cell phone of the DNA test results minutes before Mitch uses his head as a cookie jar (Spoiler warning. Oops). Derrick must have a really lousy service provider though because he doesn't get the results for another hour (Movie time, not real time. Thank Christ). Was this film as good as The Departed? Just kidding. Ridiculous question.

To sum up, the movie stinks. I would rather watch The Gingerdead Man 100 consecutive times than sit through this garbage again. In the movies defense, their was some decent nudity. So, if you have the mentality of a 13 year old boy, it's 3AM, and you don't get Cinemax go ahead and watch this (As long as it's available free on demand. For the love of god, don't pay for it!). So, yeah, this was not a fun 90 minutes. I dare you guys to rent (netflix) this.

Just a quick note on the DVD. The guys in charge of sound mixing should be fired (or at least forced to watch this movie once a day for the rest of their lives). The dialogue was recorded very low. The sound effects were recorded extremely high. I was constantly having to adjust my volume in fear that the neighbors would think I'm some kind of freak. The folks at Screen Media (an offshoot of Universal or so I'm told) should be ashamed.