Monday, March 31, 2008

Dead Dudes In The House (1991)

Little old ladies scare the shit out of me sometimes. Dead Dudes in the House is the story of eight friends (five dudes) that purchase a house off the beaten Jersey path, a house that probably defines the term "fixer-upper". Oh, the house is gorgeous, an enormous vast manor that would fit perfectly within the plantation era south. Sure, the doors stick a little and the windows open and close on their own (and are made of unbreakable glass), but these are problems one can deal with when purchasing a house well under market value. Why has the house been unoccupied for forty years? Who the fuck cares! I got it for ten grand. Why is there a gravestone in the front yard? What's with that noose hanging from that tree? Again, ten grand! Totally worth it dude.

What these dudes don't realize is that forty years ago a psychotic old lady murdered her husband while her, apparently also psychotic, daughter sat idly on a beautiful couch, absent mindedly fussing with her anachronistic hair-do. What they also don't realize is that after callously knocking over the old hag's gravestone in the front yard, they woke the bitch up.

For a Troma picture, this one's I put it below The Toxic Avenger, but above every other Troma picture I've seen(which, to be honest, isn't much). Unfortunately, they skimp on the tits and ass which is to say, they don't include any. At least they turn this oversight into a bit of a gag. The characters are largely forgettable with the exception of Bob (played by Victor Verhaeghe) who gets all the best lines ("I always smoke a cigarette before a big job!") and gets to act like a loveable asshole to boot.

The basic story (and feel) reminded me of Night of the Demons crossed with The Evil Dead, minus any of the filmatic acumen that accompanied those pictures. This one had a stagnant camera, mediocre lighting, dreadful performances, etc. Once inside the house, these kids can't get out. The old lady appears immediately and picks off the dudes one by one (and somehow gets everyone to go their separate ways!). As each dude (or girl) is killed, they become a zombie and join in the killing. Who, if anyone, will survive until dawn?

The gore effects sold this thing to me. In particular, the scene where the old lady waits patiently by an open window with a fucking machete as one poor dude climbs up a ladder to help the other dudes. I'm pretty sure this is the first time I've ever seen an old lady with a cane wield a machete with much success. The best death is reserved for the best character, Bob, who is cut in half by a window that repeatedly slams itself on his back. I loved zombie Bob who clearly knows his way around a needle and thread.

A quick note on the DVD artwork. I fucking hate it. They inexplicably hip-hopped it up. Those guys on the cover weren't even in the fucking movie. Perhaps, it's in celebration of the New Kids On The Block reuinion tour? It's a disgrace.

What else can I say? It's a typical Troma picture. It's derivative as hell (how many riffs on the "Here's Johnny" scene from The Shining can one movie possibly have?). Still, I'm recommending this one, which is shocking to me (no nudity). It's not particularly scary, except for the old woman who says creepy things like "I know where your boyfriend is. I should know, I killed him." Really, there shouldn't be anything scary about her. She's an old lady with a fucking cane! Why, then, am I so terrified? Maybe it's her closeness to death that sends chills down my spine. Perhaps, the moth ball smell? I'm not trying to be ageist here, but I hope I'm long dead before they lock me in a nursing home with all those crazy old broads.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Black Circle Boys (1997)

It's basically an afterschool special with swearing, chain-smoking, and severe homo-erotic undertones. It stars Scott Bairstow (Party of Five) , Eric Mabius (The Crow: Salvation and Party of Five) and features an absolutely insane ,slightly more than a cameo, performance from Donnie Wahlberg (Dead Silence). The real reason I was interested in seeing this (besides Steve forcing it into my hands) was for the billing of the second cutest alterna-rock chick (Tanya Donnely is still numero uno) from the 90s, Lisa Loeb. I spent the first forty-five minutes of this picture thinking that Loeb was playing the main female part (Chloe, who in actuallity was played by Tara Subkoff). It didn't really make sense because this girl was blonde and, in hindsight, looks nothing like Loeb. Still, she was the only female in the cast, not including genre Stalwart Dee Wallace as Bairstow's mother (in a wasted performance). Finally, fearing I had missed Loeb's appearence, I checked imdb and saw that she was billed as "angry woman". I knew exactly who she was. She was some bitch I could barely make out in a dark club scene who threatened to kill the Mabius character for messing with her brother. In and out in 2 or 3 seconds. A hit and run performance that leads me to believe she was banging either Bairstow or Mabius at the time. My diappointment was unfathomable.

Anyway, what did I think of this picture? It pretty much stinks. It's notable for being the only thing I've ever seen Bairstow in where he wasn't beating on Neve Campbell. I'm sure she guest starred in one or two episodes of Harsh Realm simply so he could lay the smack down on her a few more times. Also, it's directed by Matthew Carnahan (Helen Hunt's boyfriend). He started dating her in 2001, so I'm guessing this picture remains unseen by Ms. Hunt.

Bairstow plays high school student Kyle Sullivan, who has just moved to a new town with his mother (Stone) and father to escape their demons (his brother's suicide). I'm guessing Bairstow was interested in the role because it gave him the opportunity to look cool with a cigarette dangling between his lips in every scene (he actually looks like a douche). Sullivan immediately meets, and befriends, cool pseudo-hippie chick Chloe (Subkoff), but not even her lack of hygiene can keep him away from the Black Circle-Jerk Boys, a gothic troupe of adolescent, waify scumbags who conduct blood rituals, "perform" in an occult rock band, and basically raise hell across town (tresspassing, grave robbing, not getting laid, etc). The leader is Shane Carver (Mabius) of whom Chloe says "personally, I think he's an asshole, but he has great drugs". The "boys" are rounded out by the retarded Munn (Heath Lourwood) and Rory (Chad Lindberg), who is also retarded, but in that endearing Giovanni Ribidisi sort of way. Rory isn't really a member of the group. They just keep him around as an errand boy and to raise the self esteem of everyone else. They cleverly call him "fairy". I would probably apply that label elsewhere if I were into assigning such monikers. Sullivan is immediately welcomed because they need a drummer. Can he play? Uh. No.

The movie contains lots of talk about not fucking with "the brotherhood", as well as several scenes of drug indulgence (some crystal meth and mesclun "to balance it out"). Sullivan eventually finds himself in over his head as the BCJB's descent into crime gets deeper and deeper. There's even a fun little montage of partying and satanism. I'll be honest, all notions of the occult and breaking the law in this picture did nothing for me. What really fascinated me was their band. I lost count of the amount of times Carver proclaimed "our band is going to kick ass". Over an hour into the thing and, still, they haven't played a single note. I began to wonder. At one point, Rory ("fairy") "borrows" some of the BCJB's drug money to procure a guitar for Carver, "a really kick ass guitar with all the features", and, instead of a pat on the back he receives a vicious beat down. At this point, I questioned whether Carver was really dedicated to his "art".

The strangest scenes for me involved Donnie Wahlberg as occult king-pin Grey-go, who probably represents Carver in about ten years (if he lives that long. don't worry, he doesn't). Grey-go is androgynously creepy and asks Sullivan, upon meeting him for the first time, "you wanna fuck me?", while rubbing his chest softly. It's probably the only element of this picture that I'll still be talking about ten years from now (that and the utter lack of respect shown to Ms. Loeb).

Finally, towards the end of the picture, the moment we've all been waiting for. Band practice!! After a few horrendously off-key notes, Carver, in frustration, smashes his new guitar to bits shouting "this fucking guitar sucks. I can't play this!" It's a sad moment because I had high hopes for them. After Munn suggests lessons, he says, rather sullenly, "I don't need to take lessons. I just want to be in a fucking band." I think the blame can be placed squarely on the shoulders of Rory who should probably take a few classes on running a sound board. Clearly, what happens to him later is well deserved.

I had hoped for a supernatural bent to this picture, but, alas, I wasn't that lucky. In the beginning, Carver displayed an amazing ability to hold his breath underwater (for at least ten minutes). In the end, it's revealed that he just hid out in an underwater cave. He did use the cave to hide some bodies though (oh yeah, he eventually starts killing people as his drug induced paranoia takes hold). Sullivan, by this point, has had enough: "All we do is run around and do mean stuff to people. What's the point?" (if only, for Rory's sake, he had "had enough" a few points earlier). Eventually, he and Carver have an extremely awkward, bare chested, box cutter brawl in the cave. I would not have been surprised if it ended with them kissing each other's chest.

I can't, in good conscience, recommend this. It's bad. The worst kind of bad because it's also pretentious. There's zero nudity. The violence is neither bloody, realistic, nor shocking. Scott Bairstow doesn't even look that cool while smoking, a nearly impossible feat! If this picture's subject is of interest, may I suggest Paradise Lost, a provocative documentary about three teenagers accused, and subsequently convicted, of murdering three children (with the majority of the evidence based solely on appearences). Fuck, the South Park episode "Raisins" provides more insight into goth-kids culture than this thing does. I just wish this picture had allowed Sullivan to use Butter's great line from that episode at the beginning of this film. Would have saved me an hour and a half: "Well, thanks for offering to let me in your clique, guys, but, to be honest, I'd rather be a crying little pussy than a faggy Goth kid."

*I guess this is some sort of milestone. My fiftieth review. To think I wasted it on this.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

The Condemned (2007)

WWE films presents an unofficial remake of Battle Royale, the great Japanese picture where young, unruly students are taken to an island and forced to kill each other. Each kid is fitted with an electronic collar that will explode if they break a rule or if the game ends with more than one survivor. Play or die. Win or die. The Condemned is like that only they american-ized the shit out of it. Instead of kids, we have death row inmates. So, yeah, they were going to die anyway, but now they have a chance to live. My, what balls these filmmakers have. Also, Robert Mammone (as Breckel, the ill-intentioned producer) is no Beat Takeshi, that's for sure.

Still, I give them credit for actually making a watchable action movie, something that has been few and far between since the late 80s-early 90s. Fuck Arnold and his Last Action Hero. "Stone Cold" Steve Austin is Jack Conrad, a CIA operative rotting away in a South American prison when the snarky Breckel purchases his freedom only to bring him to an isolated island to star in his new reality show. Nine other photogenic dead men (and women) walking have their "freedom" purchased as well. The producer is adamant about covering several demographics exclaiming "We need an arab" and "people are going to love to hate this cowboy." Since the game will be airing on the world wide web it figures they would take advantage of the rampant global anit-americanism. They even make up a fake biography for Austin claiming that he "bombed a clinic for the handicapped and mentally retarded".

The condemned includes a married couple (the mexican Bonnie & Clyde), a kung fu master, a burly Russian, an Italian, as well as a former member of British Special Forces (played by the always fun Vinnie Jones), etc. Jones was pretty effective as the villainous McStarley who decides to play the game and actually relishes it. He's reputed to have tortured 17 men and raped 9 women "all in a days work". Don't worry, he only rapes one girl in this picture and then sets off her ankle explosive (Or, perhaps she set it off. This is unclear). Ok, he's deranged. It's hard to blame him though. I mean, that's his nature. The guy was content to rot away on death row until the picture's real villain, asshole producer #1, brought him here. This guy (the producer) is such an asshole that he even charges $49.99 to stream the game online. I guess he couldn't find any advertising for his site. Why the fuck would I fork over fifty bucks to watch a bunch of psychotic meatheads (and women) kill each other when I could watch youporn for free. Ok, people fucking is not really the same as people killing (In my opinion, it's much better). But still, I resent having to pay for shit online. I thought it was amusing when they dropped the condemned on the island. They pushed them out of a helecopter, sans parachutes,and into the water far below. The poor cocky italian accidentaly was impaled on a steel beam. Yet, none of these scenes are included in the $49.99 rate. Fuck that.

For an online show, this is a staggering production. Remote operated cameras were placed all over the island (I can't even imagine the budget for such an endeavor) to catch the action without having to actually be there. Occassionaly, guerrilla camera crews were sent in to film those hard to reach places. I'm sure you can guess what might happen to them. This film depicts a survivor-like game, but only if survivor had been good. Alliances are formed and broken. A few characters (Stone, the mexican couple) aren't interested in playing the game, but, instead, finding a way out of it. If the picture had focused on this action, we might have had something here. Instead, too often, we go back to the states to look in on Stone's girlfriend and the FBI investigation into his whereabouts. See, he was in prison to help the CIA cover up covert operations (i.e. bombing of building). They were content to let him rot, but now here he full view online in front of 28 million viewers (and rising). These sideplots were completely unneccessary and ground the action to a halt. The picture clocks in at 113 minutes, but it should have been 90.

Actually, I liked one scene back in the states where Stone's girlfriend is watching the game in a crowded bar with a bunch of their "friends". I don't know, if I'm ever forced to play this game I would hope my girlfriend would watch alone in a closet or something. Not over beers with a bunch of assholes looking to "console" her. Thankfully, I'd be the guy dropped on the steel beam so my involvement wouldn't last too long.

One element I found interesting (in a comedic sort of way) were the explosive anklets each contestant was forced to wear. If you tried to remove it, it would explode. If you ripped off the plastic tag, it would explode. A couple times, it accidentaly came off during a fight. I guess this gives the little guy a chance against the bigger guy. Again, if I were a contestant (and somehow avoided being impaled on the steel beam) this would be my strategy every time. Of course, after removing the tag, the 300 lb behemoth would likely accept his fate and just pin me to the turf as our time elapsed. I should probably start juicing immediately.

Overall, The Condemned was enjoyable. Not great, or even good, but I had some fun watching it. Austin has a future as an action star. He's a little too serious for my taste, but I actually dug the timbre of his voice. He just needs a scriptwriter that can provide him with better one-liners. He did have one good line. When asked why he blew up a South American building he replies, "it was blocking my sun." Vinnie Jones was despicably fun and even had a poignant moment when, before annhilating the crew working for the show, he asks "you enjoy watching all of this?" The action scenes were decent, although the explosions had a generic feel to them. No exploding body parts. Inexcusable. The Condemned is certainly superior to the last WWE release, See No Evil. Could have done without Breckel's "either you're with me or against me" Bush-ian rant to his crew. Although, I thought it was a nice bit of blackish humor when, after slapping the audience in the face with this line, he proceeded to physically slap his girlfriend. I only wish she had kicked him in the balls in immediate retaliation. The ball kick comes later.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

stay tuned!

Moving Picture Trash is experiencing technical difficulties. Actually, my home computer shat the bed. It should be up and running by the middle of next week. I've got several reviews in the pipeline including, but not limited to, The Condemned and Black Circle-Jerk Boys. My neglect, this time, is not intentional.

Friday, March 7, 2008

The Stuff (1985)

It's possible that this is the best picture from the 1980s. It's about this stuff that oozes out of the ground and stuff. A couple miners discover it. This stuff looks like fluff and bubbles like oil. One of the miners steals a taste and exclaims "mmm...tastes real good. Tasty. Sweet." Next thing we know the stuff is marketed and sold to every supermarket chain across the country. It's called "The Stuff" and packaged in ice cream pint containers. Unlike ice cream, this stuff has zero calories and no artificial ingredients. It also has an advertising budget that can afford Brooke Adams and Abe Vigoda. This isn't your ordinary stuff. It's highly addicting and contains a terrifying secret.

Larry Cohen (Q and the It's Alive series) created The Stuff. He's pretty much a genius. I'm not sure why this film has largely been forgotten, but it deserves a rennaisance. It's a pretty scathing satire on where the United States was in the mid 80s. Consumerism run rampant. Our motto was, and pretty much still is, "more, more, more". The jingle for one of many commercials in "The Stuff" tells us "enough is never enough". Executives in this film hold board meetings on yachts. The Food & Drug Administration is portrayed as a crooked organization that will approve anything as long as there's enough money in it. Danny Aiello has a funny guest turn as an FDA employee who justifies the stuff's approval by saying "it's not like it's prescription medicine. It's just a dessert". This is a world where the ice cream companies, facing complete collapse because of the stuff, hire former FBI agent Mo Rutherford (a terrific method performance by Michael Moriarty) to figure out what the secret ingredient of the stuff is. Why is he called Mo? "Whenever someone gives me money, I always want Mo."

I think the picture is probably misunderstood. It's certainly not scary in a traditional sense. The stuff is too ridiculous looking to generate any real fear. As the general population becomes more addicted, families start pouring the stuff into a giant bowl and eating it for dinner. Kids have the stuff forced down their throats. The more they eat, the more they become like automatons. Zombie-like, willing even to kill for the stuff.

A young boy sees the changes in his family. Thankfully, he saw the stuff moving around in the refridgerator one night and has since refused to eat it. His mother presents it to them at the dinner table and exclaims it's "the taste that makes you hungry for more" to which he replies, "why are you talking like you're in a commercial?" Eventually, the boy runs away from home after his Dad admits the stuff is alive but adds: "There's something alive in yogurt. It's called benevolent bacteria. In bread, there's yeast. We eat plenty of things alive that are good for us. Now, take this pint of stuff up to your room and don't come down until you're finished." The boy flees to join forces with Mo and take down the stuff.

Have you seen the Futurama episode, "the problem with popplers"? Well, this is where they got the basic idea from. The performances are all first rate from Garrett Morris (as Chocolate Chip Charlie, inspired by Famous Amos) to the hysterical Paul Sorvino as the bigoted, commie-loathing, sexed up General Malcolm Spears who upon seeing the stuff explode out of a human being for the first time says "I love the sight of blood, but this stuff is disgusting!"

The commericals sprinkled throughout the picture are beautiful (and funny) to behold. In one, Abe Vigoda eats at an exclusive restaurant with his wife and asks her in a zombi-fied voice (hard to tell if this was the intent or if it was just Abe being Abe) "how's the food sweetheart?". Her reply? "Where's the stuff!"

Ok, ok, humor can only take a film so far. There's plenty of terrific vintage 80s gore effects mostly involving stuff oozing and eventually exploding out of human faces. There's a nice little scene where Mo punches a "stuffie" and his face comes off. One stuffie is run over and bi-sected. Instead of blood, the infected in this picture bleed stuff. There's a terrific battle scene at the end when Mo teams up with Sorvino's underground guerilla's and attack the stuffies at their manufacturing plant. As I said earlier, sometimes the effects involving the stuff are a little weak. For the finale, the stuff becomes like the blob only it moves the way you would expect stuff to move. Clearly, these scenes are just gobs upon gobs of fluff (ernutter) stop-motioned and superimposed over the picture.

This one comes highly recommended. It's original, hilarious, and an interesting twist on the standard old monster movie. For the ladies in my audience, there's even a love story between Mo and an Ad executive who originally marketed the stuff, but has now had a change of heart. I loved how the film ended, with the stuff hitting the black market, although I think Cohen missed a great opportunity when he could have had a guy wearing shades and a fedora stroll up to the back alley dealer and say "you got the stuff?" Oh well.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Nothing To Lose (1994)

Check out that image above. It's beautiful, isn't it? Perfect framing, vivid colors. Ah shit, I took that thing with my cellphone. The VHS box laid against a wicker back chair (Yeah, that's right. I have a piece of wicker furniture in my apartment. Fuck off). That's the prettiest I could get it to look. There wasn't one fucking image for this movie online. Anywhere. I thought of just using a picture of Paul Gleason (Die Hard and The Breakfast Club), but Gleason doesn't really deserve that. And he just died. Not really a fitting epithet.

This thing isn't as good as a piece of corn embedded in a piece of shit.

Immediately after playing this fucker, my VCR began devouring the tape. That should have been my first sign. I yanked out the tape, opened the flap, and re-spooled the thing. My experience with Nothing To Lose should have ended there. Like Ramon (Juliano Mer) I figured I had "nothing to lose", so I popped it back in, fast forwarded to the opening credits, and let it play. Steve, if the tape malfunctions on you later I'll reimburse you a dollar for the purchase.

Our story begins, as so many do, with a street fight for money (think Lionheart). A referee instructs the fighters to "do whatever you want. Just play by the rules". These rules apparently include gratuitous ball kicking. One of the fighters, the eventual winner, is Ramon. I'm pretty sure he was supposed to lose (for a fix) because the next scene involves a mafia hitman murdering Ramon's family in perhaps the funniest murdering-of-the-family scene ever put to film. Silencer, awful sound effects, no blood, long pause before falling down, etc, etc. It's all in there. The killer leaves Ramon's younger sister alive and orphaned. Can Ramon win custody of her while also avenging his families death? It's a tricky situation because he needs to show he can hold down a job that doesn't include just doing "this or that". He'll have to prove he's a good person to social worker Natasha (Alexandra Paul) , especially if he wants to bang her in the end.


Ramon succeeds and bangs Natasha. It's possibly the only sex scene, in a non pornographic film, placed at the end of the movie. It's not really gratuitous and it's poorly lit (i.e. no clear tit shots), but it's there. It's amazing. It makes sense though when you think about it. Most films place this scene at the middle of a picture or right before the hero takes on the bad guys for the climactic battle. Any trained medical mind will tell you to have sex after battle. This is the first movie that's ever gotten it right.

*End Spoiler*

I didn't like this movie. In fact, I hated it. Still, it had Paul Gleason and I liked his scenes. Gleason is best known for playing Principal Vernon in The Breakfast Club. Here, he plays Elliot, a Vernon-esque, ball busting police detective. He's like a piece of ivory in an elephant dump. He'd much rather be retired and moving to florida, but he'll stick around for one more case. He makes it clear that he's doing it for Ramon's little sister. He takes a line such as (when referring to Ramon) "he's an animal. He wouldn't know trust if it bit him in the ass" and turns it into.....something, which is more than what they had to begin with.

Unfortunately, Ramon is a prick. It's impossible to root for him. First of all, he's constantly punching guys in the balls. After being arrested for starting a fight in a club he explains to the cops how he "was defen-ging a woman". Sorry, that's another thing. His accent is a little hard to penetrate. Not his fault, but it still annoyed the shit out of me. He's the kind of guy that's always refusing help, but in constant need of it. Also, when he greets his sister at social services (after their family has been murdered) she hands him a picture that she painted for him. He says "nice", then picks her up and discards the picture behind her back. This actually happened. Between the punching of the balls and the dishonesty, I can't really abide this guy. He's a decent fighter, sure, but how would he fare if he kept it above the belt? The best thing I can say about him is he sure likes his ice cream, meaning he's sorta sensitive.

This picture has several quirky moments which are out of the ordinary for something like this. There's an attempted rape lifted from A Clockwork Orange. Included in this scene are the lines exhanged between the two, would be, rapists; "What a surprise Ed. Tonight we get to be heterosexual" and, after undoing his pants, "I told you to play some fucking music and I do mean fuck-ing music." I liked Gleason's line to a couple of keystone cops working under him that let Ramon escape: "You're through! You're on permanent suspension as soon as you get him back!" After this film, cops started cuffing hands behind one's back and a barrier was installed between the front and rear seats in all patrol cars. For that reason, this picture is to be commended.

Frank Pentangeli (The Godfather II) plays the mob kingpin who took Ramon in as his own son, after murdering his father years ago and then had the rest of his family (sans his little sister) murdered after he didn't go along with the fix. At one point, Ramon "captures" Frank's son, Daniel. Daniel, since he's basically Ramon's brother and all, goes along with the plan. Also, it gives him the opportunity to record the score to Nothing To Lose on his keyboard while sequestered in an abandoned warehouse.

Do you need another reason why Ramon is an asshole? After being captured by Frank and having the shit beaten out of him, he gives up the address where Frank's son is located. Only, it's Gleason's address instead. It did provide us another nice Gleason moment when, sitting in the living room with his wife watching TV, the doorbell rings and Gleason looks up clearly peturbed and wonders "now who the hell could that be?"

The pictures climax, of course it's set in a warehouse, involves Frank's gang and a rival Yakuza gang making a deal that get's all fucked up because of the lousy American exchange rate. This film, made in 1994, was kinda prophetic in a way. The Yakuza leader explains to Frank that his "dollar is as weak as his tea." Massacre ensues, Ramon waits until everyone (except Frank) is dead, then makes Frank cry before sparing his life. Whoops, forgot the spoiler warning.

With this being an action movie, I guess my only hope was for some competently shot action scenes and a little boobage. Not a chance. Some of the hand to hand clips are ok (even if the characters are clearly pulling their punches), but the shootouts are atrocious. Lots of delayed reactions to getting shot followed by some flagrant overacting. It's a high school production. The picture was directed, produced, and written by Izidore Musallam. He's perhaps best known for directing Adam & Eve, which, as featured on imdb, is defined by the plot keywords: "sex standing up". I'd love to see that one someday. This one, Nothing To Lose, is as bad as they come. I feel sorry for Paul Gleason, having died and all with this picture (amongst several more terrible ones) standing out on his resume. Who knows? Perhaps, at the time, he had...*

*I refuse to say it

Sunday, March 2, 2008

KAW (2007)

Sheldon Wilson (Untitled Sheldon Wilson Project) directs one from the "most dangerous night on Television" collection. This one's called Kaw. I'm pretty sure you can figure out what it's about from the poster art (left). If not? what else can I say? If the birds ever decide to murder us, you're probably dead in the first wave. This plays like a loose sequel to Hitchcock's The Birds, except that it's only one type of bird (ravens) that turn against man. Also, The Birds already has a fitting sequel in the Brad Johnson starring, Alan Smithee directed classic known as The Birds II: Land's End. Smithee is pretty much the most versatile director in the history of cinema. His projects have included the Hellraiser where Pinhead goes into space, an episode of "The Cosby Show", and The OJ Simpson Story. I'm pretty sure he directed Rudy too, but checking IMBD it becomes pretty clear that he had his name removed from that piece of shit. Kaw is a little better than The Birds II. It's debatable whether or not it's better than Cat's Eye, the one with the murdering sun-uv-a-bitch pigeon on the ledge. My gut tell's me "probably not". Without question, it's far superior to the upcoming Michael Bay/Platinum Dunes' shitter called Sodomizing Hitchcock's Bones . Bay and his crap-factory, Platinum Dunes, are also responsible for Reeming Tobe Hooper a New Asshole and supposedly they'll be doing the same to Kathryn Bigelow (Near Dark, really? Bay and his cronies are actually remaking that?) in the near future.

For a Sci-Fi original, Kaw is about par for the course. It features a couple has-been actors like Sean Patrick Flannery (Powder) and Rod Taylor (Walker Texas Ranger and The Birds). Flannery plays the police chief of a small mid-western town. I'm sure they mentioned the name, but damned if I can remember it. Taylor is the grizzled old town doctor. Steven Mchattie, who was oh-so-despicable as the old killer at the beginning of A History of Violence, plays Clyde, the recovering alcoholic bus driver. He was actually pretty solid in this one. He's a poor man's Lance Henriksen. I'm not sure why they didn't call on Henriksen for the part, but maybe his agent priced him out of the equation. The cast is rounded out with a few sluts (making up a high school team, basketball I think, trapped on the bus with Clyde), a poor man's Joaquin Phoenix (Flannery's deputy), Kristen Booth (Cruel Intentions 2) as Flannery's wife, and Betty (diner proprieter).

Basically the Amish suck. That's the gist of the story. Ok, I just learned that the m-fers in this story aren't actually Amish, but Menonites. What the fuck is the difference? Well, I think these guys can ride in cars? They still grow awkward looking beards, wear wide brimmed hats, speak a barely intelligible dialect, and live on farms. Well, I'm mostly kidding. I've never met a Menonite before. Everything I know about them I learned from two films; Witness and Kingpin. They certainly didn't suck in those films. Oh wait, those guys were Amish. Damn this is confusing. Perhaps Wilson, the director, just has an axe to grind? Maybe a pack of Menonites murdered his family. More realistically, Wilson is probably just from a small town where a Menonite farmer let some mad cow disease go unchecked. It then spread to the local raven population who fed on the infected cattle carcasses. Due to the neglect of the Menonites, the townspeople were then set upon by mad cow infected birds. Wait, that's exactly what happens in this film. If that really happened to Wilson's town I can totally understand where he's coming from. However, in defense of the Menonites, it's possible they tried to warn the town only their letters didn't arrive in time. And, if there are any Menonites reading this well, then, I don't know.....are you sure you should be on that computer? I don't think you have a right to be pissed. I may have called you out but you had to break a sacred rule to find out about it. Whose God gonna favor?

Flannery is the chief of police who has "had his fair share of speed traps and parking tickets." He and his anthropologist wife (Booth) are looking to leave town but, first, he has to investigate an old man's "accidental" death on a farm. It was during the old man's death that I thought the film would actually have some balls. Initially, it seemed like the killer-bird epidemic was started after the old man accidentaly ran over one of their brethren. Unfortunately, the filmmakers didn't stick to their guns. I guess simple revenge wasn't "scientific" enough for the boys at Sci-Fi, hence the mad cow angle. Whatever. So, yeah, this old geezer was pecked to death and Flannery investigates. As the story progresses, the birds get more aggressive. It's all real simple. Eventually, the few remaining townspeople hole up in a central location (the diner) and try to stay alive. It's Night of the Living Mad Cow infected ravens. There's also a sub plot about Flannery's wife spending a good chunk of the movie stuck in a Menonite well after learning of their nefarious plans to keep their role in the spreading epidemic from the "english". Would those Menonite bastards kill to keep their secret safe? And, if so, would they use god-sanctioned weapons?

Despite featuring an assinine plot, characterizations, etc, the movie still managed to include some adequate special effects. I loved the silhouette of the ravens against the moon. I liked how the ravens were stark raven mad, yet retained enough of their senses to be able to work together, something these solitary creatures can't even manage when sober. The tragic demise of the deputy, complete with sad music, nearly brought a tear to my eyes. I don't know, it seemed to me, while watching, that Young Indiana Jones could have done more to save him. Many of the townsfolk wished the Menonites would just go away: "Why don't you go make a quilt, bake a pie, raise a barn, whatever. Just stop looking at me." This type of movie almost always features a doomed dispatcher and this one is no exception. As soon as the airwaves go dead, it's a sure sign that the town has been overrun.

There's a moment in this film, a moment so startlingly terrifying that I'm pretty sure you might just crap your pants. Of course, this happens when the ravens "throw" rocks at the bus windows in an attempt to get in. Stranded in the bus are Clyde, three female basketball players and their coach, Coach Bird Feed. Also, a Menonite girl (apparently this picture couldn't bear to have a plot strand without one). I liked the scenes involving the stranded bus. Basically, they consisted of Clyde running out to fix the bus, birds attacking, running back on the bus, and so on. The tension of the scene was created by adding a faulty door into the mix.

Finally, the film resolves itself back at the diner. The survivors make it back there, board it up and, still, the ravens get in. A Menonite elder tries to legally cover his ass by proclaiming "We have not kept to ourselves as we believe God wants and now he is punishing us for it." Uh huh. Sure. So, it has nothing to do with the mad cow disease you allowed to progress unfettered? Mother. Fucker. Anyway, Clyde comes up with an incredibly ridiculous final solution for dealing with the ravens. A solution so ridiculous, I'm not even sure how it worked. It's possible for Sci-Fi to do better, but to paraphrase a doomed character from this film, they're (the Sci-Fi Network) trapped in mud or shit or something and the ravens (awful, worthless films) are going to get in eventually (debut on an upcoming saturday night). Not sure how that fits, but whatever. I want a King Kong vs. Godzilla inspired sequel where the Kaws take on the abmominables from the coda of Abominable, only the abominables are sorta good, and the Kaws get the shit stomped out of themselves. Wow, I'm rambling and I'm tired. I guess I have one more thing to add. Why is it that the state police or the National Guard in these pictures can never make it to town until sun up? Are we to believe that their numbers are spread thin by similar incidents across the county, the state, the nation? It happens in every one of these pictures. I want a film where the national guard arrives on time, immediately followed by the marines, the CDC, a litany of mercernaries, some benevolent alien bounty hunters, maybe even a few hookers and still they're fucked.