Monday, July 28, 2008

Movie Wars Volume I: Night of the Lepus vs Kingdom of the Spiders

It's time to introduce a new feature here at Moving Picture Trash. Time to mix things up a bit. Every so often, the plan is to take two similar pictures and force them to fight it out to the death for my, and your, amusement. Each contest will feature a short review of each film plus a "final thoughts" where I declare the victor. On rare occasions, there may even be more than two pictures fighting it out in a battle royale-type thing. Chances are, I'll be too lazy to write the third review so I wouldn't count on it. Anyway, in this corner we have a 1972 picture called Night of the Lepus weighing in at 180 pounds of lethal bunny and featuring that guy who played Doc McCoy from Star Trek. And, in the other corner, we have a 1977 televison production weighing in at 1/2 a pound (times a billion!) of furry cuddly tarantulas and starring that guy that used to boss around McCoy in Star Trek, called Kingdom of the Spiders! Remember the rules gentleman. Hitting below the belt, kicking, spitting, and sodomizing are all allowed and encouraged.

Night of the Lepus (1972):
I watched this one about a week ago and took no notes, so you'll have to bare with me here. This is one of those pictures TNT used to show on a saturday afternoon...or maybe it was USA. Anyway, the point is, I always thought it was a fucking awful premise. I mean, come on, giant mutated bunny rabbits don't just go around eating people! Then I grew up and now I know better. It's a brilliant premise. Something about bunnies just isn't right. Like in that Monty Python movie where the bunny decapitates all those knights in the blink of an eye. Maybe that was supposed to be funny, but I don't know. Wasn't it a bunny that led poor Cujo into the bunny hole where a rabid bat bit him on the nose. I think the little fucker knew exactly what it was doing. The crazy bitch in Fatal Attaction had the right idea. Too bad her pot wasn't big enough to boil a few more. This is the first picture to ever devote it's entire runtime to the fluffy menace. Is it able to sustain itself for the full 88 minutes?

Not really. The film opens with about five minutes of filler where some documentarian describes the history of bunnies in Australia. Apparently, they were introduced into the ecosystem to help control the grasshopers (or some shit) that were introduced into the ecosystem to control some other shit, etc. Well, I'm sorry, but Australia might have scores of "the world's deadliest" this and that but their ecosystem is pretty fucking weak if Thumper and Jiminy can ruin it. Also, that frog in The Simpsons. I liked the footage of the stampede of bunnies crashing into fences and so forth, though I suspect PETA was against it. PETA may be for bunnies and such, but this picture hypothesizes that they are against ecosystems I think. If PETA were for ecosystems, they'd probably urge us to kill ourselves because we are certainly destroying the big one.

Anyway, the American Southwest, like Australia before it, is being overrun by bunny rabbits. That cowboy Rory Calhoun plays a cowboy in this one by the name of Cole (solid cowboy name). He's out riding his son's favorite horse Billy or Tucker or something when it breaks its leg in a rabbit hole (Like in Cujo, rabbit holes suck). Cole takes out his gun but the poor horse pleads for it's life: "it's ok, I'll sit on the couch and watch TV...look look...i can hop along on three legs, no problem...." Cole doesn't speak horse so he puts it down. Damn bunnies. Cole calls upon his friend Elgin Clark who works for a university and also played that doctor in Star Trek. He exhibits some good range here because he grew a moustache and wore dungarees. Elgin, basically incompetent when it comes to rabbits, calls upon his two zoologist friends, Roy and Gerry Bennet (played by Janet Leigh). I was disappointed in Leigh's performance as she had bad hair. Oh well. Roy and Gerry theorize that if they give some kind of hormone thing to a rabbit and reintroduce him to the population that they will literally stop fucking like rabbits. Unfortunately, their annoying little bitch daughter mucks it up by switching a test subject with a control subject or something...maybe it was a different hormone, I don't know can't remember. Well, these rabbits begin fucking even more, but what's worse is that they grow to be the size of a VW bug. What can I say, bunnies become super-engorged when they fuck I guess.

I really really loved the premise, but I can't get behind the movie 100%. While, completely reminsicent of Them, this picture slowed down too much for boring exposition. The original plan to deal with them is not without problems. I mean, these guys aren't very scientific. The idea is to set off some dynamite at a cave entrance and bury the fuckers. I guess they think it was something else digging those bunny holes. Ever seen a fucking bugs bunny cartoon? He loves the underground. There are endless scenes of giant bunnies stampeding which I guess were filmed by really little people and their really tiny cameras. Unfortunately, these scenes had the effect of lulling me towards sleep as the bunnies were filmed in slow-mo with some kind of weird methodical underwater sounds. It was worse than counting sheep, trust me. Still, I liked how they just made little bunnies look huge instead of using CGI which hadn't been invented yet. I guess they could have used a bunch of men in bunny suits (they did this for a couple of up close attack scenes), but that would be ridiculous. My favorite scene was when the medical examiner was examining a body and he deducted that the only thing that could have done this was a sabre tooth tiger, which was the one scene where this picture delved into camp.

Well, for a movie about giant bunnies played mostly straight, this is just ok. There are a few attack scenes with bright red splatter but, for the most part, this one is gore free. There's a mini scene lifted right out of Night of the Living Dead where a cowboy and his family hole up in a basement as the bunnies try to get in. Cole fires his rifle through a door and a bunny goes flying straight up into the air. These are some brutish bunnies as evidenced by licking their lips before springing upon their prey (in one scene, a stampede of horses). Not much nudity in this thing, although I think we saw a naked female back of one of the victims. Not too sexy. The performances are all good and I'm surprised they could all keep a straight face. It's worth a look if it survives the night.

Kingdom of the Spiders (1977):
Here we have a picture that I'm pretty sure was made for TV back when the big three networks used to be in the movie production business. Remember those days, when things like Duel and Trilogy of Terror were actually made? Then, towards the late 80s early 90s everything had to be based on a true story or some shit like that. Fuck, I don't think they even make mini-series' anymore. You know why? I'm guessing the combination of cable channels and reality shows. What a fucking lousy time we live in. I yearn for the days when a movie about real (not CG) tarantulas mounting a full scale war on humans could be produced. If they made this movie today, the spiders would be as big as cars and computer generated. They'd have one natural predator and it would be a seven story tall dinosaur currently gobbling up people on Broadway. In the 70s, they actually had the balls to make a movie about regular sized spiders that just got pissed off for no real reason (there are some theories involving pestacide) and decide to one day march on all of mankind or, in this case, a small rural community in Arizona. What? This doesn't take place in New York City. That's fucking insane!

Like Lepus, this picture also stars a Star Trek alum, only this one is William Shatner. Shatner shows little of the range that Kelly exhibited in the previous feature, but he is infinitely more entertaining to watch. He may not have grown a moustache, but he does sport some dungarees and rides a horse (he was last seen riding a horse in Star Trek: Generations). Shatner plays a veterinarian named Dr. "Rack" Hansen (he's named Rack because he's bad at pool and was always told to "Rack 'Em"). Like any Shatner role, in this thing, he insisted that his character know how to work a lady or two. He has a thing for his dead brother's wife and, at one point, tells her "Lady, one of these mornings I'm gonna show up and milk that cow." (if you know what he means). She doesn't own a cow.

Rack is called out one day to investigate a sick calf at the farm of black cowboy Woody Strode (a few cowboy movies). The poor cow seems to have been brought down by a single bite from a spider (the movie isn't very realistic, although it employs realism. big difference in the film world people). This is too much for one single vet, even one that played Kirk, to handle, so Rack calls for some help in the form of a bug scientist named Diane Ashley. She's pretty hot, so Kirk immediately puts the moves on her by chasing her down in his truck and forcing her to come to dinner with him. I saw this a while ago, so it's possible his brother's widow has died by this point, but I can't remember and sorta doubt it. Kirk's hedonism knows no bounds.

Anyway, the spiders attack soon thereafter and kill off Woody Strode immediately (like most horror pictures, spiders are racist). Then they attack Woody's wife and she tries to shoot a spider off her hand with a handgun. There's a quick cut, so I assume she missed the spider. My favorite scene involved some crazy pilot in a crop duster who had to fend off some tarantula's that apparently learned how to fly because they weren't on the plane when he got on. These spiders are pretty big, so I find it hard to believe they found a reasonable place to hide. It's the picture's biggest effects scene and even comes with some maniacal screaming followed by an explosion. The scene where the town is overrun reminded me of Hitchcock's The Birds and employed something I'm not a big fan of (or, maybe I am but won't admit it); children in peril/or dying/or dead. Great scene.

Again, like Lepus, this one has a Night of the Living Dead inspired scene where Shatner and his fellow survivors hole up in a resort and try to defend it against little creepy crawlies that can climb through ventilator shafts, break windows, and jump really far. The last scene is apocalyptic yet looks like shit. Then some cowboy music comes on and it's all good (for the viewer anyway. i presume everyone else died horrible deaths). This is a fun one with many positives, though the lack of nudity in consecutive pictures is disheartening to say the least. Granted, both were rated PG, but that's kinda bullshit because I seem to remember seeing a PG movie in the early 80s that included bush....or tits..or both. I think Tommy Lee Jones was in it. Nate and Hank or some shit like that. I think he played a gay pirate. Anyway, Spiders beats that picture hands down (even with the bush shot that may or may not have happened). The real question is, of course, how does Spiders fare against Lepus? Will those murderous little fluffernators get caught in a web? Or, will the Spiders break their legs in rabbit holes (like Cole's poor horse, Fred)?

Final Thoughts

I'm not gonna get all scientific like the people in these pictures. I don't have rabbit hormones or pestacides in my apartment, so I'm gonna have to resolve this the old fashioned way. Since neither movie had boobs, I decided to go with the one that bored me least. Kingdom of the Spiders wins in the 3rd round after the refs stopped the fight and, thankfully, fast forwarded through the middle section of Night of the Lepus. Lepus died on the mat from the result of massive head trauma and also innumerable spider bites to the balls. If the picture had survived I would say that it, paired with Spiders, would make a terrific double bill on a lazy saturday afternoon. Just make sure it's a day when the Sci-Fi channel is showing one of their lame natural disaster marathons. Also, I'm sorry, but there is no fucking way on this earth, or in space, that Kirk is losing in a fight to McCoy. Although, if Lepus had involved space bunnies, the fight would have been closer.


Kingdom of the Spiders

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Ghost Ship (2002)

I'm not quite sure George Clooney knows what he's talking about. A few years back he gave an Oscar speech where he applauded motion pictures for being near the front of the civil rights movement. You know, for giving Hattie McDaniel an Oscar something like 100 years ago. It only took them another century or so to award another black actor with such a distinction. Anyway, it would seem that Clooney has never seen a horror film. I love a good horror picture, but I'll be the first to admit it hasn't been the kindest genre to the black actor. I thought about that whlie I was watching Ghost Ship, in which Isiaah Washington (token black guy) plays the first mate of a tug boat called the Arctic Warriors. If this thing were to hold true to form, he'd be the first one killed as soon as he got off a few funny lines. I admit it. I was wrong. Washington is the second guy killed (after the funny hispanic guy) and he's more of the stereotypical angry black man. Also, he cheats on his fiance with a hot naked ghost, but justifies it because the ghost is dead. Baby steps people, baby steps.

Julianna Marguilies and Ron Eldard, two of Clooney's ER costars, appear as part of a salvage crew out in the Bering Strait trying to recover a luxury cruise ship lost at sea forty years ago. Their tug is captained by a mumbling, nearly comatose, possibly embarrassed to be here, Gabriel Byrne. Karl Urban (Pathfinder) plays a guy that gets caught in some gears...and is also kinda funny for the first time in his career. Desmond Harrington is the mysterious stranger...and there's also a little dead girl, played by Emily Browning. It's a salvage mission in the frigid Bering Sea! It's my second consecutive review of a "ghost ship" picture!! It's a piece of shit!!!

I'm at the point in my life where I refuse to pay more than $4 for a horror picture (i.e., I'm broke). I picked this one up today from Newbury Comics for $3.99 (less 20%). In my other hand, was the underrated Jurassic Park III. Also $3.99. Still, I couldn't justify buying both, at least not this day. I figured Ghost Ship would make a great follow up review to the splendid Deep Rising. Also, when in doubt, always go with the hologram cover. I marched up to the counter, out came my debit card, and history was made. Unfortunately, I still had to watch it.

Here's what depressed the shit out of me. This picture gets off to a marvelous start. Pre-title, 40 years in the past. There's a great classic score, a beautiful Italian chanteuse in a red dress, revellers dancing the night away on the deck of the Antonia Graza. A little girl (Emily Browning) shares a dance with the captain. What follows just might be the greatest mass murder in film history that involves a taut wire propelled across the dance about midriff level. I was so amazed, that I actually had to watch it again....and again. I'm a sick fuck.

I remember this debate I had in college. I may have been drunk at the time. My friend claimed that everytime someone ripped a fart, microscopic shit particles would fling themselves into the air and cling to everything within about ten feet or so. I called bullshit. Well, I'm starting to believe. The rest of this movie is one of those shit particles farted out by this opening brilliant scene. That's a pretty awful segue, but I'm going to stick with it. The pacing in this thing is all wrong. I mean, the salvage boat arrives at the derelict cruise ship within the first fifteen minutes (so, after the opening scene, we had an introduction scene, a scene in a bar where a mysterious stranger shows up with a proposition, and then they actually had to find the thing....all in fifteen minutes), but then it takes about another 30-40 minutes before anything really happens. Finally, the hispanic guy gets blown up on the tug and the rest of the crew is stranded on the boat with anywhere between 100 to 200 million dollars in stolen gold. People wander off on their own repeatedly. Strange things happen. They see dead people, etc, etc. C'mon, get on with it man.

Another thing, this thing supposedly takes place in the Bering Sea, off the coast of Alaska, which, in checking my map, is pretty damned far north. How come the water is always calm? C'mon fuckfaces, I've seen "Deadliest Catch", I know those waters ain't fucking ever calm. And it's ice fucking cold too. And how does the final survivor spend days floating on a chest, Joe Vs The Volcano style, half submerged in these icy waters until he/she is picked up by another boat? I'm calling bullshit on this as well. This thing looked like it was filmed in the carribbean. Except that Karl Urban had a beard and wore flannel. Maybe I'm wrong. I've never summered in the Bering Strait. Apologies.

Finally, the little ghost girl shows up to talk to Julianna and we see, via a great flashback, what happened to the passengers. Unfortunately, I sat through over an hour of this crap to learn something I already knew. The "twist" in this thing is horrendous, involving a soul collector who needs to reach his quota in order to satisfy "upper management" (God?). He does this to the tune of some pretty lousy, completely out of place, heavy metal. Who is the soul collector? Well, I don't know, but I don't like the way that "mysterious stranger" is looking at me. Then the crew dies, save one, and the ship blows up. Come to think of it, the two minorities in this one should consider themselves lucky they got killed first. I still can't get this shit off me. The end.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Deep Rising (1998)

Holy crap! This makes three reviews in three days. What the fuck have I been smoking? Well, sweet (wave of contentment rolls over me). You guys'll be lucky if you get another review all month. It'll be good to spend my remaining free nights this month patrolling youporn and the like. Life is good. Actually, know what my secret is? I haven't worked my night job for three straight days. Unless you guys (and gal or two) want to start throwing money at me I'd suggest not getting used to this. It's an anomaly. Well then. On to Deep Rising.

Deep Rising is the story of a luxury liner in the South China Sea and the men who want to rob it. We're told the South China Sea has an underwater mountain range that can hide the himalayas, so we know it's pretty damn big. There's no telling what kind of beasties could be resting down there just waiting to be woken up. Treat Williams (Things to do in Denver When You're Dead) is Finnegan, the captain of a mercenary boat that happens to be transporting another group of mercenaries out to sea. His motto is "if the cash is there, we do not care" which is probably not the best motto to follow if the men you are hiring are armed to the teeth and also transporting what suspiciously looks like a giant torpedo. Last I saw, they don't allow money in the underworld, except to pay the boatman, but he only takes coins and I don't think there's a bank around, nor do I think they brought enough coin rolls. Finnegan's two man crew consists of the fantastic Kevin J. O'Connor as Pantucci and also the cute asian girl, Una Damon as Leila. They're also not big fans of Finnegan's motto, but he pays them, so they go along with it. The armed men they are bringing along to said unknown destination (hint: it's a big fucking boat) are led by Wes Studi and include several recognizable faces (still fodder though); Cliff Curtis, Jason Flemying, and even Djimon Hounsou. Hounsou made another boat movie, about slaves being transported by and dumped off a ship I believe, but this one is more enjoyable.

I want to apologize quickly to Kevin J. O'Connor. Last october, I wrote a review for a film called Flight of the Living Dead. I didn't even mention O'Connor by name. I think I actually referred to him as John Malkovich, or a homeless man's version even. Not only did the joke fall flat, but it was uncalled for. Yeah, I felt he was kinda apeing Malkovich from Con Air, except he had the basic capacity for goodness. In hindsight, I should have realized this guy's actually hysterical and even a somewhat accomplished thespian in his own right. Who gives a shit if he made a shitty movie like Flight...we all make mistakes. Anyway, O'Connor is at least as good, at his best, as Malkovich was in Eragon. I'm not even sure if Malkovich could pull off the following line: "Can you just get asthma? Or, do you have to be born with it?" Just one of several great moments in this picture.

Early on, the action cuts between the mercernary ship and the luxury vessel (known as The Argonautica). The Argonautica is like The Titanic in that it's impregnable and also that only rich folk can have fun on it. Actually, the only poor folk on this voyage are likely working in the galley. Bunch of rich spoiled assholes. The biggest asshole of all on the ship is Canton, gloriously portrayed by Anthony Heald. It's a virtuouso performance. Famke Janssen plays the character onboard with the lamest name, Trillian. Still, she's hot and gets a pass. She's not what she seems, however, as she is basically just an upscale pickpocket. Wait, we see her "working" the room immediately. She's exactly what she seems, except I suspect her chest is even bigger than it looks. Actually, Canton's the one that's not exactly what he seems. Well, yes, he's still an asshole, but he's a bigger one than you originally thought.

Long story short, The Argonautica is disabled by a remote device (hint: Wes Studi). At the same time, the luxury liner picks up something BIG on sonar. Off the charts, man. And, it's not the little piddly diddly mercernary ship captained by Finnegan. Next thing we know, Finnegan and crew arrive at the liner, but by the time they board, it's a ghost ship. Also, since their own ship was damaged along the way, they now have to board the liner, help Studi and his assholes rob the vault, find parts to repair his ship, and avoid being eaten by some giant squid octopus-like killer worm creature(s). Well, this is Moving Picture Trash after all.

If you enjoy something like, say, Deep Blue Sea or Lake Placid, then you're gonna love this one. It's full of excessive gore and good for a few yucks as well. Treat Williams is the blunt everyman ("if this hull is impregnable, then why are my feet wet?"). Janssen plays the feisty female, who unfortunately does not get naked. For all the standing around in water they do, you think she'd take her top off to wring it out at least one time. Heald, as Canton, is a man of contradiction (i.e. poorly written character). When the creature initially attacks the Argonautica, he and a few souls seek refuge in the vault (where all the money is stashed). When Studi and his mercenaries open the vault, Hounsou (the first man inside) takes an axe to the face from a hysterical Heald, who can't stop shouting and crying and being all jittery. Barely ten minutes later, he's calmly admiring the creatures: "The power of these things! It's awesome!" After Hounsou is killed, there is still a token black guy remaining who gets to say this jokey line, "I don't mean to sound like a pussy, but this shit is freaking me out man!", and then get killed.

The picture was reminiscent of The Poseidon Adventure and The Abyss at times, with a small group of people trying to make it through vast overflowing corridors to an exit. Also, these movies all take place in or around water. Only here, the ship wasn't upside down and there was a beast forcing them further below. Here's the low down on the beast(s). They did a solid job with it (them). The creature effects weren't stellar, but for a picture like this, they don't have to be. I want to say it looked good for 1998, but fuck that shit. Starship Troopers came out the same year and it had flawless special effects. These aren't great for today and they're not great for '98 either, but they're adequate. I was confused on one point though. While watching the picture, I assumed all the various worm-things were actually tentacles attached to something much much bigger. Something we'd see later in the bowels of the ship or something. Now, I'm not so sure. (spoiler: We later see something huge, but it's still not clear if all the tentacles are attached or not) How did they move through closed doors and ventilation shafts like that? Small detail. Didn't affect my enjoyment in the least. There are some great scenes of people being eaten, half eaten, or just shit out. One guy is shot out of a tentacle and gets to his feet and starts walking around with half a head. Great effect. My favorite death probably involved my favorite native american character actor who, while being slowly devoured, asks another character for a gun (presumably to put himself out of his misery). His following action is priceless.

This is a great one. I'm really hoping to review something crappy soon. I only wish we got the sequel promised at the end, but I guess that was just some sort of joke. This one was directed by Stephen Sommers who showed a lot of promise here. Unfortunately, he went and mucked it up with the first two Mummies, and a Van Helsing. The best thing he directed after Deep Rising was the underrated Mummy ride at Universal, which I've been on. The line wasn't too bad, which is why I think I dug it (I guess it's no Hulk, Spider-Man, or Dueling Dragons ride). This guy got too ambitious I think and his use of effects didn't really improve. He did prove he can direct an action scene in this one. The jet ski chase through the halls of the luxury liner is top of the line. The characters all give fun performances and the creature looks and behaves as if it's in a B movie. It is. If you can find it, I suggest you make the blind purchase.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Master of the Flying Guillotine (1975)

I don't know, I guess maybe I like my kung fu warriors to be crippled. It just makes things more fun that way. Here we have a masterpiece of 1970s Hong Kong Kung Fu cinema, where the main battle is between a one armed boxer and a 97 year old blind monk. It'll have to do.

Kam Kang stars as the old monk, Wu Chi, and master of China's most feared weapon, the flying guillotine. Basically, it's a hat with retractable blades attached to a chain. It lands on a head, the chain is yanked and the head comes clean off. It's the early 18th century and the Ming dynasty has been replaced by the Ching dynasty (I think). Wu Chi is a servant to the latter and has been contracted to root out and destroy all remaining Ming loyalists. I guess there was a previous movie, simply called The One Armed Boxer, where two Wu Chi disciples were destroyed by Ti Lung (Wu Yang, who also directed), uh...the one armed boxer. In the beginning of this story, Wu Chi is practicing with his hat of death when a carrier pigeon arrives bearing a message from his disciples. Apparently, one brail chinese character is all it takes for Wu Chi to learn that his two men went into battle against the one armed man, knowing it was certain death. They ask for vengeance. At this point, Wu Chi used his guillotine on a rooster, in anger, and it ran around the yard with no head for a while. Then he threw a grenade at his home and ran off to avenge his boys. Cue the funkiest title sequences I've seen in a while that actually gives this picture two separate titles; Master of the Flying Guillotine and The One Armed Boxer Vs. The Flying Guillotine. We're off to a fucking rousing start.

The picture then takes us to some town in China, forgive me if I didn't catch any of the names, where a Kung Fu tournament is about to begin. Ti Lung runs a kung fu school in the town and is reluctant to join. Fighters come from all over, even India and Japan, to compete in matches that often result in death. The tournament scenes were some of my favorite in the picture and featured riveting fights between such styles as eagle claw, monkey fist, snake charmer, some Japanese style, Indian yoga style, etc. My favorite was the Indian guy who could stretch out his arms for some reason (apparently, India has a gamma radiation problem or something) and choke his victims from far away. I'm not really sure how that's an advantage but, I guess if you're opponent isn't very good it could work. Against a guy like Ti Lung, it just gets you thrown against a wall. So, yeah, loved the tournament scenes which reminded me of Bloodsport and, strangely enough, The Quick and the Dead, except in this movie, the Gene Hackman character isn't too evil and he's disposed of rather quickly.

Wu Chi is one fucking old bastard. He shows up in typical fashion by killing a drunken homeless guy with his weapon just because he happens to have one arm. Then the old fuck proclaims, to a full bar, "I will kill anyone I come across that has one arm". It's a little jarring actually just how terrible a guy he is. One of the tournament fights involves a one armed guy (not the hero, again) and after Mr. One-Arm (his actual name) wins, Wu Chi jumps onto the field of play, decapitates the poor guy (some victory prize) and then kills the tourney president and wounds his daughter. I actually set myself up to like this guy, but those feelings have long since fled. In the beginning, we were manipulated to maybe root for Wu a little bit and against Lung, who after all, killed Wu's disciples. Usually, revenge tales are told from the side of good, so I actually enjoyed how they turned this one around on us a bit.

I'm positive Tarantino is a fan of this picture, although I couldn't tell where he might have referenced it in Kill Bill. Possibly the largely electronic score, which is a joy to behold. The dubbing on the DVD I watched was fine, except that, for no apparent reason, it was constantly switching to Chinese with subtitles every ten minutes or so. It became a bit annoying. If you've ever seen a Kung Fu movie, you know what to expect as far as sound effects: Lots of "whoosh whooshing" and the sound of bamboo poles hitting each other. The picture quality was much better than I expected with only a few instances of discoloration or grain. This is probably as good as this one's ever going to look.

The fight scenes are, with few exceptions, outstanding. A couple of the tournament fights could have been trimmed all together (the ones that were shot slowly to mask a lack of ability I'm sure). There's a great fight in a burning hut with a metal floor, where one of the combatants ends up frying like a strip of bacon on a skillet. The last fight between Wu Chi and Li Tung is fabulous. It begins outside of town and continues in a cave, through the town, and into a coffin shop! The end result made me laugh.

I would never have watched this if it weren't for my recent viewing of Machine Girl where another bastard character employs the flying guillotine. I think I need more Kung Fu in my diet. I just devoured this picture and I'm already hungry for more (barely ten minutes later)!

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Night of the Creeps (1986)

How is it that a little 80s classic with a legitimate cult following such as Night of the Creeps can remain unavailable on DVD? It just doesn't seem right to me. I had to watch the thing about a week ago on demand. What a fucking joke. This movie has everything; tits, booze, gore, a classic soundtrack, brain slugs, zombies, Rusty Griswald (just kidding), and Tom Atkins. The only thing its missing is an original story, but it's not like that's a prerequisite for making a classic genre film. Everybody rips everybody off, especially when they're paying homage. It's just the nature of the business.

In fact, James Gunn, who wrote the Dawn of the Dead remake, clearly must have seen this movie at some point despite the fact that he conveniently doesn't remember it. The similarities between this and Gunn's Slither are fairly striking. Between the small town settings, the zombie-making space slugs, the similar tones, etc; it's hard to believe that Night of the Creeps wasn't, at the very least, playing on a screen behind Gunn while he and his family were watching Crocodile Dundee or some shit at the drive-in. C'mon man, just cop to it already. What's the big fucking deal?

Exactly. What is the big fucking deal Gunn? You actually improved on a minor classic, a beloved (albeit in a fairly small circle) cult picture. Slither is a fantastic gem. You should be proud. Along with that pride comes acknowledging your influences which should include Fred Dekker (Creeps) as well as Cronenberg, Romero, and Carpenter. It's ok, man. We'll still dig your film. In the future though, can't you just let us see Starla's breasts? Maybe in the sequel?

I enjoyed Night of the Creeps, warts and all. Let's get the bad news out of the way first. Jason Lively (who made a worse Rusty Griswald than the abomination that is Ethan Embree) is a horrible, god awful, I'd like to punch him in the nards (possible homage to Dekker's Monster Squad?) till they fall off kind of actor. If this were any other kind of movie, say a romantic comedy or Rent, I would have turned the thing off after five minutes. Luckily, this mopily abysmal performance is, for the most part, offset by Steve Marshall as J.C. , Lively's sarcastic best friend. J.C. is given all the fun lines not given to Tom Atkins ("that guys got one continuous eyebrow").

One more thing I didn't really like. The film tried a bit too hard to nod to its sources. Characters had names like Romero, Carpenter, Cronenberg, Hooper, Cameron, Landis, Raimi, and Sally. Hell, one guy was even billed as Psycho Zombie. We get it Dekker. How about next time you come up with some original names so that whenever Detective Raimi is announced we're not thinking of a somewhat better picture like Evil Dead II? Ok, minor complaint. The movie is what it is and I fucking liked it. A lot.

I loved the melding of genres. Part zombie film, part escaped maniac (aka slasher) film, part alien invasion film, and part college frat comedy film. The tits could come from any one of these film types, so I'll just attribute their inclusion to all of them. This picture is full of terrific flashbacks, including the black and white opening ("sorority row 1959"). The soundtrack is terrific and includes the likes of the Platters ("smoke gets in your eyes") and Paul Anka ("Put your head on my shoulders"). Several allusions are made to Plan 9 From Outer Space, including, um, the entire fucking plot. Aliens raising the dead? It's genius! Why didn't it work so well for Ed Wood? I'll tell you why. Technology. He lacked the technology to computer generate good performances, good dialogue, good plotting, etc. I suppose his special effects could have used a little tweaking as well. Whatever. I still love that movie.

The effects in this picture are great and, in a way, the slugs are more convincing than the overly computer generated slugs from Slither (ok, my one complaint from that one). I also like how they get into their human host, lay eggs in the brain, force them to walk around dead for a while, and then explode outward so they can find a new host. Another difference between this and Slither: The slugs in Slither didn't have to go in through the mouth. They just tended to burrow into your skin. Not so here. I love a good mouth slug (not a euphemism for dick). Actually, the more I think about it, Fred Dekker probably should have named a character Detective Sholder. Oh well. Like Sholder's film (The Hidden), this one also has an infected dog. Actually, I can't remember if the dog in Sholder's film was infected at the end of the first one or the start of the second one. Hmmm...

Did I even talk about the plot yet? Fuck. Space slugs land on earth. 1959. They infect a person. He's cryogenically frozen. Cut to "pledge week 1986". Lively wants to get laid, so he tries to join a fraternity. J.C. goes along for the ride. Their assigned prank: Retrieve a corpsicle from the morgue. Instead, the break into David Paymer's Cryogenics lab and unleash hell upon the town. It's up to J.C., Lively, and Tom Atkins to avert some kind of oral hostile take over.

Yeah, the Tom Atikins. The great Tom Atkins. What the fuck hasn't this guy been in? I don't know, but it's a short list. Here's a sampling of his credits; The Fog, Escape From New York, Creepshow, Halloween III, Lethal Weapon, Maniac Cop, Bruiser, um...Xena. He's one of those guys you'll recoginze instantly and not know his name. He's in the "that guy" hall of fame. Well, guess the fuck what? He's dropped the "that guy" status and become a full fledged star in this picture. He's tremendous as Detective Cameron (still, not happy with the names) who delivers all the classic lines from "thrill me" to "it's miller time". Vintage 80s lines. Let's not forget the great line on the poster work above. The instant J.C. leaves the picture it's up to Atkins to prevent Lively from ruining it. Between Atkins and some soaped up boobies, Lively had his work cut out for him. He wasn't up to the challenge.

Release the fucking thing on DVD already. Shit, and if you even think about putting this out exclusively on Blu-Ray, I'm going to be fucking pissed (especially as I'm shelling out my cash).

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Raw Meat (1972)

Well, this wasn't exactly the kind of mutant cannibal picture I expected. Or, hoped for. They sold this thing as a type of "underground man-eating society" kind of film. Instead, the filmmakers only provide us with one mutant (his mutant wife dies relatively early) picking off one or two subway passengers. Pathetic. The only saving grace in this thing is a fun performance from Donald Pleasance. If that's not enough for you, I'd think about catching the next train.

It's a shame because the movie gets off to a well enough start as we're presented with a seedy side of London; a side of strip clubs and sex shops. Perverts row. "This is the Queen's exclusive striptease" reads one of many neon signs. Actually, the opening title sequence reminded me of Taxi Driver only this came first. The premise is pretty intriguing: Victorian era workers are trapped in an underground cave-in. They live for generations beneath our (Londoner's) feet fucking each other (apparently female workers were trapped as well) and eating anyone from above that ventures too close. By present day, they've become slightly mutated (as evidenced by weird puss leaking growths on their heads), super horny, and generally pissed off. Oh, and they're all dead except one guy and his soon to be expiring wife. It's not until a perverted government official, after a night carrousing through seedy London, disappears that the police actually take notice.

Unfortunately, this is kind of a dull, suspenseless picture. The viewer knows immediately what's killing and eating people. Far too much screentime is devoted to an american student and his british girlfriend. Predictably, the last part of the film involves her being taken by the cannibal with her boyfriend following them and the cops following him. Earlier, I metioned one saving grace. Well, there are actually two. Donald Pleasance is saving grace #1 as Inspector Calhoun, a man more obsessed with tea than solving a murder. He also has a low opinion of americans apparently, telling the student at one point to "hurry back to school. There might be a protest march for you to join." His back and forth banter with Seargent Rogers (Norman Rossington) account for several humorous moments.

Saving grace #2 is a tremendous long take (about ten minutes without a cut) in the cannibal's underground lair. I'm not sure what it reminded me of (Texas Chainsaw, Rope, that scene in Goodfellas, etc), but I'd be surprised if it's ever been topped. It's for this shot that I'm recommending the film. Accompanied by a silent score (except for the "drip drop" of water) we are taken into the lair of the cannibals and shown a vision of something akin to hell (mutant sleeping quarters, victims in various states of decay and also their body parts). The brilliance of the scene is when the camera seemingly takes us away from the lair and towards the surface....only the surface is so fucking far away. It's an amazing shot.....that's unfortunately drowning in mostly boring shit.

I cringed everytime the american and his girlfriend appeared. Terrible actors. Some of the violence and gore were effectively done. There's a unique broom handle through the chest scene. The cannibal goes Ozzie Osbourne on a rat. Oh, and I must add that this is probably the second nicest dressed cannibal I've ever seen (after Hannibal). I think he even wore a tie. The filmmakers actually managed to create some sympathy for him. Perhaps, it was the constant drooling or the head wound. Quite simply, he just wanted to capture the british girlfriend so he could rape her over and over again and spawn a new race of cannibal mutants. Yep, they actually managed to make me feel for the guy. Also, towards the end, he kept muttering "hold the door" or something like that ad nauseum. Not sure what that was about.

I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the pretty inexplicable cameo by Christopher Lee as MI-5 agent Stratton-Villiers. He shows up for about a minute to warn Pleasance and Rogers away from the case of the missing government official. Could they possibly be covering up the existence of cannibals? Perhaps, they don't want anyone to know about the governement abandoning city workers over a century ago? Who the fuck knows? He's never heard from again.

This movie was once called Death Line. I think there's one brief scene on board an actual train. Since no one died in that scene, I'm glad they dropped that title.