Thursday, April 29, 2010

Search for the Beast (1997)

This movie is such a piece of shit that I couldn't find a poster for it anywhere.  Or, DVD artwork for that matter.  Apparently, it's only available as part of a Big Foot compilation.  The best I could come up with is the above screen shot I found using google.  That's the beast.  It's intended as a genuine beast.  Unlike Shriek of the Mutilated (available on the same DVD set) it's not supposed to be some guy in a costume luring unsuspecting teens to some kind of Satanistic, Cannibalistic, Ritualistic dinner.  Nope.  It's an actual beast.  That loves to fuck.

I did learn a little history so my experience with this thing wasn't all bad.  I learned that the Algonquin Indians used to sacrifice all their hot virgins to Big Foot in order to stave off slaughter.  If, however, the squaw was a little "rough around the edges" Big Foot would take his disdain out on the tribes in what could only be described as a maelstrom of slaughter and rape.  I'm pretty sure the American cavalry used similar tactics.  Anyway, point is Big Foot's got standards.

Basically, what we got here is a lose remake of Aliens.  We got the scientist type (played by Rick Montana) hired to go back into the mountains of Okaloosa, Alabama and bring back proof that Big Foot exists.  He's sent in by a shady executive (some guy stepping in for Paul Reiser and then re-writing the part so he doesn't actually have to get off his fat ass) to bring back evidence of the existence of Big Foot or Big Feet.  Accompanying him will be an armed squadron of rednecks and also porn starlet wannabe, Miss Holli Day.  Of course, the shady business guy is working a double cross ("kill the thing at all costs").  Montana wants to just leave it be (even though the thing is believed to have killed and raped at least forty people in the last year or so (including - spoiler - the executive's son and girlfriend)).

I'll be the first to admit that this sounds like an amazing plot for a movie.  Almost impossible to fuck up, right?  Well, the first thing they did is shoot on cheap home video with some of the worst sound quality I've heard.  Then they edited the scenes in such a way so that nothing makes sense.  We got an allusion to Montana saving Day's life but are never shown this event actually happening.  Maybe it was when they were scaling a "treacherous" "rock" "face" a few minutes back?  I guess they climbed down using some rope that was being sliced into by a rock, but never broke.  Maybe they forgot to put in the scene where it breaks causing Day to fall on Montana's dick?  Anyway, as a reward, Day fucks the shit out of Montana that very night in his tent, while the other rednecks, and their sister, jack off outside.  Of course, the rednecks in the group (i.e., everyone) assume she's fair game and, therefore, are justified putting their dicks in her whether she likes it or not.

The filmmakers also do some weird shit with the dubbing.  I couldn't tell if 99% of the vocals were intended as inner monologue or if the characters were speaking out loud.  Montana is eventually swindled, tied up, left for dead, and has his girl stolen from him by the rednecks.  All of a sudden, the guy becomes John Rambo, shooting and stabbing his way through the mountainside while being chased by barking dogs that we can hear, but never see.  Also, there's a sasquatch (see picture above for proof).

Seriously, Big Foot has only about three minutes of screentime (at one point, I think a close up version was a cartoon - primitve CGI?) and that was probably too much.  So, I don't know.  This thing never bored me too much but I can't say I enjoyed watching it.  It's only 69 (haha) minutes long.  The highlight of the picture is probably the part where this kid is taking his girl from behind when Big Foot sneaks up behind him, pushes him out of the way, and steps in without the girl even noticing.  Other than that, there were a lot of bad parts like anytime Big Foot peaks out from behind a tree or the final revelation (spoiler) that Big Foot is actually working for a couple of Banjo players (The Deliverance band, I believe they're called) by bringing them women, chaining them up, ripping off their clothes, etc.  Also, bad parts involved anytime a character spoke or anytime shot footage was shown on my tv.  So, to sum up i guess we can say the good thing about this movie is the nudity.  The bad thing about this movie is everything else (including the quality of the girls getting naked).  

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Truth or Dare? A Critical Madness (1986)

Let's keep this string of classics going.  Here's one that won a few academy awards and also that you'll find on most top 100 lists.  Or, maybe I'm mistaken.  Do they give academy awards to slasher films?  Probably not.  I'm also thinking they especially don't give academy awards to inept slasher films.  Well, I thought it had some good parts.  For example, this is one of the only movies ever made that features a drive by chainsawing.  The other one I'm thinking of is, of course, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2.  Am I missing any others?   Anyway, at the very least, this is superior cinema to the Madonna documentary of the same name.  This one even has a cool subtitle: A Critical Madness.  Other than that subtitle and the drive by chainsawing, and also some boobies, this is mostly a piece of shit, albeit a sporadically enjoyable piece of shit.  Sorry for misleading you into thinking this was a multi-award winning classic.

The picture opens with a couple of people fucking which is probably how every movie ever made should open (well, maybe not Bambi).  We got boobies right away in this thing (and unfortunately, never again).  Tim Ritter, the director, masterfully cuts between the fucking and some nerdy bespectacled guy driving his car.  Turns out, he's the husband of the wife who is fucking some other guy.  Mike Strauber (the husband) is on his way home to give his wife, Sharon Strauber, some very good news.  He got the promotion at his accounting firm (or wherever it is he works).  Eventually, he arrives and walks around the house a bit calling out for his "honey".  While in the throes of passion she can't hear him.  It's amazing that he can't hear her either.  Finally, he gets to the bedroom, opens the door, and immediately slams it shut after seeing what's going on inside while shouting "Sharon!  How could you?"  He flees, she tries to stop him, then tells him "I'm sorry, I tried to tell you, this ain't working.  Maybe you should go out and find some good friends, live your life, etc."

Then we're subjected to long scenes of Mike driving to the beach, flash backing to all the hints of his wife's infidelities that, at the time, went unnoticed.  Long interminable scenes.  Later, he picks up an impossibly voluptuous strawberry blond, brings her to a campsite, builds a fire, sets up a tent ("you don't mind if we sleep in the same tent do you?").  A rousing game of truth or dare ensues.  Starts out innocently enough ("Do you still love your wife?") and ("I dare you to lift up your blouse").  Progresses to shit like "I dare you to gouge out your eye" and "I dare you to slice open your chest".  Also, the impossibly voluptuous strawberry blond was all in his head.  So, of course, Mike ends up in a sanitarium.

Basically, the movie goes like this.  Mike goes crazy, usually flashing back to his childhood and humiliating games of truth or dare.  Also, his crazy mother appears at times.  After these visions, Mike does something bad and ends up back in the psych ward.  Mike is later released, goes crazy again.  Back to the loony bin.  Mike escapes, goes crazy.  Back to the loony bin.  Rinse, wash, repeat.  Eventually, he completely loses it and plays truth or dare with a couple fellow inmates using the knife he apparently smuggled in using his anal cavity.  One guy cuts off his hand.  Another guy eats a grenade (also smuggled in somehow).  Mike cuts off his face and, I guess, this is the point where it becomes a traditional slasher film (about an hour in) since Mike now dons a copper mask.  He drives around like Michael Myers in that Halloween picture.  He also acquires an arsenal of weapons; including a chainsaw, a machine gun, a medieval mace, nun-chucks, hunting knives, etc.

Truth or Dare was shot in, and around, West Palm Beach, Florida so we got a lot of sunny, boring atmosphere.  We got a couple of bumbling cops hot on Mike's trail.  One cop accidentally burns down the town drunk thinking it's slasher Mike.  Later, he loses his car keys and has to drive around town in the back of a cab.  The end of this picture is pretty bat shit crazy as Mike just drives around killing people that remind him of other people that apparently tormented him throughout his life.  This being Florida, several of these victims are elderly including a poor trio that he machine guns while they're waiting for the bus.  The kills are extraordinarily unconvincing which sorta adds to the brilliance.  There's even a car chase that ends with one guy catching fire and getting shot multiple times as he burns.  Lots of fire in this thing.  That's where the budget went.  I almost wonder if the fire truck in this thing was a real fire truck responding to a fire these bozos started for the picture.

So, It's pretty fucking far from a classic but if you can wade through some of the boring parts there's a lot of fun to be had here.  I laughed every time they cut to the insane asylum when Mike is returned there.  Like I mentioned earlier, the kills were horribly executed.  Sometimes (all the time?) the camera would linger on the victim and would catch them breathing or scratching their ass or some shit.  Almost as if Tim Ritter were daring them to hold their position.  They never did.  Especially that one little leaguer that got drive-by chainsawed.  I can't wait to see some of this guy's other stuff.

Freaks (1932)

I feel like I don't cover enough of the classics so I'll try to rectify that shit.  A couple weeks ago, I wrote up The Wolf Man and its sequel (which I determined isn't worthy of "classic" status).  Well, here we got a pre-code picture from 1932 that is pretty bonafide in my opinion.  It's a picture about circus freaks simply called Freaks and was pretty controversial back in its day.  Tod Browning, the man behind the reputed classic Dracula, has fashioned himself a shocking work about deformed people (freaks) working the traveling carnival circuit and the people who are appalled by them while at the same time taking advantage of them.  Audiences were disgusted by what Browning put on film (real live freaks, no special effects) which makes this picture even more interesting because it exposed his audiences, as well as most of the normal people portrayed in the film, as prejudiced sons of bitches.  Browning was insulting his audiences years before Haneke.

What we got here is a picture that takes place entirely within the world of a traveling carnival.  We got the sideshow attractions (the titular freaks) and a few normals.  A couple of these normals, Olga the trapeze artist and Hercules the muscleman, begrudgingly put up with the weirdos.  We got lots of setup for what amounts to a barely longer than sixty minute picture.  The carnival is run by a little person named Hans who is pined after by another little person named Freida.  He feigns interest in her but only until something better comes along, better meaning normal.  Like maybe the blond trapeze artist for example.  Turns out Hans is due to inherit a large sum of money.  Olga might be interested after all.  She conspires with Hercules.  She'll marry the little bastard, poison him, and then the two of them can make off with the loot.  That's pretty much the plot.  This thing really isn't about what it's about though.  It's about how it's about what it's about. 

Today this thing would be full of special effects.  Can't use real freaks.  Exploiting freaks would cause an uproar.  Browning wanted realism in his picture and he got it.  Lots of real freaks in this thing.  We got "the human torso" which amounts to a guy with no arms and no legs who still manages to light his own cigarettes.  We got the siamese twins who have aspirations of marriage but haven't quite figured out the bed situation yet.  We've got the three sisters (I think) with bird like heads (one of them looks like Sid Haig).  We got the young woman with no arms that eats and smokes with her feet.  We got a couple dwarfs, one of whom went on to play the "master" part of "master-blaster" in Mad Max Beyond The Thunderdome.  We got the standard bearded lady type deal...only this one falls in love with a human skeleton.  And, most impressively, we got the guy with no lower half (who, as it turns out, is probably the best actor of the bunch).  There are a couple sympathetic normals who stick up for their co-workers.  Obviously, one of these sympathetic characters is a clown.  

As I mentioned earlier, for a sixty minute picture, this thing takes a while to get going.  That's a good thing.  We get a peak into the lives of these freaks.  Character is important and we got lots of characters here.  One thing weirded me out though.  I'll be honest.  At first I thought Hans and Freida were children.  And brother and sister.   So, I found it inappropriate that they were alluding to things like love and marriage.  Also, could we get a translator for these two?  I couldn't understand a god damned thing they were saying.  Except when Hans would constantly refer to his normal employees as "swine".  

Anyway, in the portrayal of the lovable freaks and also Cleopatra and Hercules what the picture is doing is showing us that freaks are more human than most humans.  Until the end when the freaks gather up knives, guns, etc and chase Cleopatra through the rain soaked forest and then chop off her legs, melt down her hands, cut out her tongue, gouge out an eye, tar and feather her, etc (some of this wasn't shown in the movie, I had to read it on wikipedia).  The movie loses its message a bit with that climax when it turns the freaks into monsters.  Admittedly, the bitch did have it coming.  I also understand that Browning needed to excite the audiences with some sort of horrific climax.  You know, to sell the thing.  Nothing more horrific than a bunch of freaks crawling through the muck on their way to disfiguring some broad I guess.

So, this is a classic alright.  I loved it.  Being pre-code and all we got bosomy women wearing skimpy outfits and some sexual innuendo between Hercules and Cleopatra, like the conversation about how many "fried eggs" would he like to eat for "dinner" and shit.  That's weird innuendo, but it worked.  The final reveal, the shock moment, that I already spoiled, is equal parts horrific and funny.  Then there's a tacked on scene involving Freida and Hans getting together at his newly acquired mansion which feels a bit perfunctory.  Should have left it out.  Oh, and sorry for overusing the word freaks.  I just like saying freaks.  Of all the movies about freaks, and especially called freaks, this one is probably the best, or close to it.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Robot Jox (1990)

I didn't expect to enjoy Robot Jox as much as I did.  Stuart Gordon (director of The Re-animator, Dagon, Stuck) and Joe Haldeman (author of the great "The Forever War") joined forces (along with producer Charles Band) to create something that manages to work despite its paltry budget.  Basically what we got here is a gladiator picture set in the distant future where the combatants are giant robots fitted with all kinds of crazy weapons and piloted by men (and a woman).  Nuclear war has ravaged earth and out of the dust rises two superpowers; The Market (the USA basically) and The Confederation (those evil bastards from the USSR).  War has been abolished.   Conflicts are resolved in the arena.  The Confederation has laid claim to the province of Alaska (the last vestige of natural resources on the planet).  The Market objects and demands they settle this thing as if they were in Ancient Rome.  Only with giant fucking robots.

The picture is a mash up of Rocky IV, Starship Troopers, and Voltron.  We got the reluctant American hero known as Achilles (a solid Gary Graham) versus the lovably loony Russian, Jox Alexander (Paul Koslo).  Koslo has a blast as the villain.  His performance leaves the earth's atmosphere (literally and figuratively).  He encompasses nearly every Russian stereotype and does it all with a ridiculously absurd accent.  At one point, telling Achilles over drinks, "you make my vodka taste like blood."  The picture opens with Alexander destroying the robot of one of Achille's teammates in battle and then stomping on the cockpit until the poor guy is dead, cackling with delight as he does it.  The referees seem mildly pissed off as a result (yes, these battles are pointlessly refereed).  No suspension or forfeiture though.  Just a little tongue lashing.

So, we got this awesome villain and a hero in Achilles who isn't perfect.  He's a drunk, a misogynist, kind of an all around asshole.  Still, it's a tribute to Graham's performance that we actually kinda like the guy.  The first battle between Alexander and Achilles is a memorable one.  It ends when Alexander's robot launches an errant missile/giant robot hand that locks in on a few thousand spectator's seated comfortably in the bleachers.  Achilles blocks the missile with his robot chest to save the crowd.  Unfortunately, the blow knocks him backwards crushing hundreds.  As a result, spectators are barred from future contests and the match is declared a draw.  Also, Achilles retires in shame (a retirement which predictably will be short lived). 

In addition to Achilles we also got a female robot jock with the code name Athena.  She's a fucking annoying character but thankfully we see her bare assed in the co-ed shower scene (predating Starship Troopers by nearly a decade).  She's cocky, hotheaded and, ultimately, incompetent especially when it comes to piloting a giant robot.  Sure, she does well enough during training exercises (including one that results in death or paralysis if you fail) but when the chips are down (i.e. ownership of Alaska) she comes up short.  Also, she pretends to be Achilles  to get access to his robot for the final fight and then proceeds to get the shit kicked out of her by Alexander.

There are other parts of this picture I liked such as the scene when a traitor is unmasked and he makes a hilarious "getaway".  The sets are cheap.  We're talking painted cardboard.  The special effects veer from the adequate to awful like the part where the giant robot foot is coming directly at the control tower window (reminded me of the shot where Jaws swims towards the underwater window at Seaworld and then Lou Gossett jr. tried to fend it off with his cane).  The robots are brought to life with what looks like a combination of model work, stop motion animation, and men in suits.  The last battle between Achilles and Alexander includes a moment where they launch their robots into space which serves no purpose other than to have a scene take place in space.  And then this thing ends just like Rocky IV minus the awkward speech.  Shit man, I had a great time with this picture.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Frankenstein Meets The Wolf Man (1943)

The title Frankenstein meets The Wolf Man is a bit of a misnomer.  First of all, Frankenstein isn't even in the picture.  It's Frankenstein's monster.  I suppose that title could be referring to Dr. Frankenstein's daughter, Elsa but I doubt it.  Obviously, what they are really referring to is the monster which, of course, isn't Frankenstein.  It's his creation.  So, anyway, The Wolf Man and Frankenstein's monster meet up for about ten minutes.  This thing was almost as disappointing as Alien Vs. Predator.  Mostly it was just boring.

Still, I can't dispute the atmosphere in this thing.  We got a full heaping of that shit.  Again with the matte paintings, the forest scenes filmed indoors, the fog machines, the beautiful black and white.  Unfortunately, all that production is let down by an incredibly slight story and Bela Lugosi's laughably bad performance as Frankenstein's monster.  According to the wikipedia (or some other source I can't remember) Lugosi turned down the role in the original Frankenstein because he wanted dialogue.  Here, they gave him some...and then cut all those moments out.  Thankfully for us, Karloff was the one that made the monster famous. 

Anyway, I didn't enjoy this picture nearly as much as I enjoyed The Wolf Man.  What we got here is a sequel that throws continuity out the window.  If you remember the first picture, the Wolf Man (aka Larry Talbot - a returning Lon Chaney jr.) was beaten to death with a silver walking stick by his unknowing father, Claude Rains.  As this picture opens, a couple grave robbers enter the cemetery hoping to rob the monies that Talbot was buried with.  They unearth the corpse which is then revived by the full moon.  Jugulars get ripped (off screen) and now we have ourselves a movie!  Unfortunately, things get really boring from there.  No one believes Talbot is actually Talbot.  And, why should they?  He's dead.  That would be impossible.  Anyway, Talbot spends the entire picture moping around and trying to figure a way to kill himself since obviously silver is ineffective.

Which brings him to Dr. Frankenstein's lair.  Maybe Frank can help him to die?  Unfortunately, the good doctor is away...or dead.  Who can be bothered with remembering all this shit?  He does encounter the Doctor's daughter though. I guess they had a fling.  Maybe not.  I watched this a week ago.  Struggling to remember minor details.  Anyway, Talbot ends up in some catacombs where he finds some tall doofus looking fellow trapped in ice (I think I missed that particular Frankenstein sequel).  He frees him and the creature shambles around clumsily as if he's in an Abbot and Costello picture.  He's fucking goofy.  No menace here.  So, some things happen.   More things happen.  Talbot and the monster fight eventually.  They're both swept away in a flood or some shit and then the picture ends.  Lugosi was better as the gypsy-wolf in part one.  Am I wrong for not enjoying this shit?

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Last House On the Beach (1978)

Well, here's an offensive, tasteless, and joyless slice of exploitative sleaze that may have passed you by. Renamed Last House on the Beach (not sure of the original title) to capitalize on Craven's Last House on the Left, this is a nasty picture with few redeeming qualities. Let's just jump right into it, shall we?

The picture opens with a brutish bank robbery orchestrated by three thugs led by some guy named Aldo that vaguely resembles Luke Skywalker. One guy sorta looks like Ralph Malph from "Happy Days". Anyway, these guys make off with some loot, kill a couple bystanders, and head for the shoreline where they come across what appears to be the only house on the beach (so the title actually fits!). Living in the house is a Nun, Sister Somebody and her five (maybe six) teenage students (all twenty something females). Also, we got a maid, but she's taken care of, almost immediately, when a hot iron is implanted in her face. Then, Ralph Malph attempts to have his way with one of the girls as she strips nude in the bathroom but all he gets for his troubles is a sharpened comb (or maybe a pin) stabbed into his upper leg. Wounds like this tend to fester, get infected, maybe migrate up to the stomach, etc. So, things are bound to spiral downward from this point on.

The first thing I wondered is who the hell shot this overly stylized piece of shit? Couldn't be bothered to check, however. The opening robbery is shot, almost entirely, from the ground level. We got no faces unless they're off in the distance. Lots of feet though. We see one of the robbers off a ways wearing a mask. Weird cinematic shit. Anyway, the picture then cuts to a scene at the beach house where all we see are women's feet and I got worried the whole thing would be shot this way. Thankfully, things relax and we get to see the women in their entirety. And, by entirety, I mean they're naked a lot. Unfortunately, most of that nakedness is of the forced kind so unless you're a sexual deviant, best keep those flies zipped.

The Aldo character, and leader of the gang, is someone the filmmakers try, somewhat despicably, to get the audience to relate to. Here's a normal guy; in shape, blond, articulate. He went to college but dropped out after realizing it would take him a hundred years to make a million dollars. Why not just speed up the process by robbing banks? Or, he could just work harder and get a better job. One of the girls (the very blond one) develops a bit of Stockholm syndrome, seems to dig the guy, maybe she can get through to him, etc. Then, during the first night, he looks on as one of his cronies puts on makeup and rapes one of the girls (with Malph on the other side of her) in slow motion while David Lynch orchestrates the sound effects and also the camera angles. So, Aldo ain't exactly a guy we can get behind (neither figuratively, nor literally). Oh, and he also rapes the nun and then comments on the lax standards of the catholic church these days "'cause clearly, she wasn't no virgin when they took her in." Alright, maybe I'm making up quotes here....I think the guy articulated it a little better since he did, after all, have a year of college under his belt.

Anyway, For the most part, I got a problem with this particular genre of moving picture....let's call it the "men have their way with innocent women only to have the tables turned on them by the end" genre. Into this genre falls such pictures as Last House on the Left, The Night Train Murders, Day of the Woman (aka I Spit On Your Grave), Hitch-Hike, House on the Edge of the Park, etc*. A picture like Day of the Woman is full of misogyny, but ultimately justified (by it's many defenders, not me) because it eventually "empowers" women. Well, sure, it "empowers" them. But not until the audience has been subjected to a 30 minute rape scene that takes place in two parts. They're "empowered" if they've survived the raping and the bludgeoning.  The woman in Day of the Woman gets her revenge. She uses her sexuality (which is hardly an empowering notion - as if to say a woman can't use her wits or her non sexual physicality) to undo her tormentors. The "classic" moment in this particular picture is the bloody castration in the tub. Well, it should be the "classic" moment except I was still caught up on the 30 minute two part rape sequence. Unlike Last House on the Left, which at least raises a challenging moral issue or two, Day of the Woman has nothing to really offer its viewer beyond the horror of a 30 minute rape sequence broken up into two parts. Also, the slicing off dick part.

Anyway, Last House on the Beach falls into Day of the Woman category of the "men have their way with innocent women only to have the tables turned on them by the end" genre in that it has no reason to exist beyond its ability to disgust. The ending, aka the comeuppance, feels tacked on at the last minute of filming (much like the ending of House on the Edge of the Park). There's no natural progression. We got an hour plus of women being harassed, terrorized, violated, beaten, stabbed, tortured, penetrated with canes, etc. It's all shot tastefully of course. We got the aforementioned slow motion. The director (from what I can remember) made a conscious effort not to show the naughty parts during any of the assaults. I guess for fear of titillating his perverted audience. Doesn't matter. We know what's going on. And then there's the one scene where Ralph Malph approaches a helplessly bound girl with his phallic cane. This shot was so "awesome" that the director chose to show it twice! Yes, you guessed it. In slow-mo!

For an exciting climax, we got the nun (trained as a nurse) doing the proverbial ol' "turning of the tables" and poisoning the wounded guy and blowing another guy's head off with the wounded, now dead, guy's gun. And so, it all comes down to a brief sequence pitting the Stockholm sufferer against our lovable rapist, Aldo. Are the girls justified in their vengeance? Of course. No question. Does the audience feel satisfied? Of course not. We're still hung up on all the torturing and, you know, the violating. Other than all the negative shit I just mentioned, Last House On the Beach is a borderline passable entertainment. Mainly because, once you take that shit out you got about five minutes of movie.

*For the record, I think Hitch-Hike and, in particular, Night Train Murders are pretty great pictures precisely because the rape isn't the point. They're both shocking, brutal and, yes, borderline misogynistic, but, like Last House on the Left, they place the characters (and the audience) in situations involving fairly heady moral quandaries.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

The Wolf Man (1941)

Having recently seen The Wolf Man remake and having not properly reviewed it (it was good bloody fun) I thought it would be a good idea to watch the original. And, so, I did watch it. It's certainly one of the more interesting of the classic Universal horror pictures out there. To be fair, I've only seen (off the top of my head) Creature From The Black Lagoon, Frankenstein, and The Bride of Frankenstein. Bride was, and still is, the best of that lot.

Lon Chaney jr stars as Lawrence Talbot who returns home to his families estate after the mysterious death of his brother. Claude Rains plays his father. Some broad plays Talbot's love interest. Also, there are gypsies (some old broad and Bela Lugosi). Talbot's love interest sells him a walking stick. There's tension between father and son. Not much happens for a little while. Good set-bound atmosphere; matte paintings, fog machines, fake trees, etc. One night, Lugosi turns into a wolf and attacks some dame. Talbot fights it off with his stick which, incidentally, is made of silver and eventually kills it. Not before he's been bitten. With the bite comes a curse, the old gypsy recites a poem, something about the mark of a pentagram, people think Talbot's crazy, he turns into a wolf, maybe kills someone, Talbot gets depressed, etc, etc.

I loved this picture but let's be honest here. It ain't perfect. First of all, Chaney (perhaps due to his rampant alcoholism) looks about ten years older than Claude Rains. It's not a deal breaker, but their differing appearences stand out like a sore paw. Second of all, why is it that (in these old pictures) the guy changing into a wolf always seems to change feet first? What's with the feet? Sure, maybe the transformation effects are great for their time, but couldn't they at least have started with the face...or maybe the midsection?

Minor quibbles aside, the character of Lawrence Talbot is a good one. At first, he looks for ways to cure his curse but then he just sorta settles for wanting to die. This shit is more tragic than the misunderstood monster from Frankenstein. Talbot's a bit like the incredible hulk. Once transformed, his humanity takes a back seat to his instinct and also his snapping jaws. Instead of foiling criminal masterminds, he rips out jugulars. Unfortunately, learning to control the wolf part is not really an option. Only thing he can do is bite his girlfriend and then maybe they can have some adult wolf fun during the next full moon. That doesn't happen.

One more quibble. If you have a silver walking stick you shouldn't really fear walking around the English moors during a full moon. Hit the beast once and it goes down. Keep at it and he's dead within a minute or two. Why is it so easy? I can understand the whole silver bullet concept. Bullet pierces the skin, hits an organ, infects the blood stream. That's pretty understandable. Beating the thing with a silver walking stick? Not the same thing. Maybe it stings a bit, causes a welt, some bruises. I don't know. Is it like kryptonite? I guess that would make more sense. I guess we could kill Superman with a kryptonite walking stick? Just hit him a few times? Whatever. Regardless, The Wolf Man is a great movie.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Jennifer's Body (2009)

Jennifer's Body takes the tragedy of the 2003 fire at the Station Nightclub and exploits the shit out of it. If the picture had been more than passable I might have been able to excuse it. I will say that the picture at least manages to empower women. Why do I say this? Because it's written by Diablo Cody (of Juno and former stripper fame) and also directed by a woman. So, we can assume it must be all about girl power and shit. Megan Fox is smoking hot and look at her use her awesome body to lure boys to their doom. She gives new meaning to the term "boyeater", which is a term I just made up. If Fox (as the titular character) were ugly then these boys would think twice about trying to get biblical with her. Well, maybe not (boys will fuck anything, even fresh out of the oven cherry pies - see, my schtick is referencing late 90s comedies) but that's not the point I'm trying to make. Also, Amanda Seyfried shines in the role of Jennifer's needy best friend Needy. Needy is ugly and boring. We know this cause she wears glasses. Take those glasses off and you wouldn't even recognize her. Needy is desperately in love with Jennifer, wants to be her, wants to probably have sex with her, stands up for her when the boys call her a slut, etc.

Oh, and the movie takes place in a town called, if I'm remembering correctly, Devil's Falls. It's called this because there's a waterfall in town and at the bottom of the waterfall there is a whirlpool that seemingly has no bottom and is apparently the portal to hell or something. Also, this is a picture about high school kids that are in their twenties which isn't very original. Anyway, we got this town called Devil's Falls and in this town are Jennifer and her friend Needy. One night, they go to a rock club on the outskirts of town where this hot new band is playing. They're called Low Shoulder and fronted by the witty Jewish kid that was in the O.C. He's the best part of the movie by far. Needy overhears the band talking about Jennifer, how the O.C. kid wants to fuck her and stuff because she looks like a slut. Or maybe they don't want to bother with her because of the sluttyness? Shit, what was it again? Anyway, bottom line is they called her a slut. Needy overhears and puts the O.C. kid in his place by saying that Jennifer's a virgin. Later, we learn that Jennifer isn't "even a backdoor virgin".

So, the O.C. boy is now interested in Jennifer. The band starts playing and a fire somehow starts behind the band, quickly envelops the walls, spreads through the club, pretty much kills everyone, etc. Except for Jennifer, Needy, and the band. O.C. guy shows up nonchalantly outside of the now smoldering club sipping on some whiskey and invites the girls to his van so he can "comfort" them by exposing them to the comfortably familiar surroundings of the interior of his van. Also, I guess his dick. Needy is against going as she's in shock and also a skittish prude. Jennifer is all for it though cause she is, after all, still a slut, albeit a moderately traumatized slut. She goes off with the band and appears later that night in Needy's kitchen covered in blood and vomiting up black oil which isn't normal. What's even less normal is when she develops an appetite for teenage boys. I'm glad that these fuckers could use the tragedy of 100 people dying horribly to craft a nuanced masterpiece about a girl that literally eats boys and that is also peppered with Dawson's Creek level witticisms such as "Who's Phil Collins?" Also, in response to an invite to see The Rocky Horror Picture Show, Jennifer says "I don't like boxing movies" which is pretty much the definition of wit.

So, I didn't like it. I would have liked it a hell of a lot more if the picture had focused on the band but I don't think Diablo Cody is capable of writing that movie. Turns out (SPOILER) the band tried to make a deal with the devil so that they could sell more albums. They brought Jennifer to the town waterfall and were gonna sacrifice her to Satan on account of her being a virgin and all. Unfortunately, they didn't realize that Jennifer wasn't even a "backdoor virgin". If you sacrifice a slut you open said slut to demonic possession. She becomes a succubus, starts eating the football team, can float through the air, maybe even eats Needy's boyfriend (kid is slumming - she's heinous in those glasses), etc. Meanwhile, the band becomes famous based on the media attention given to the fire. So, I guess their immediate fate* is better than Great White's who lost a guitarist in their fire and also became more infamous than famous which is not a good thing I don't think. Also, how did the fire start? I initially thought Jennifer started it with her mind, but then I guess I didn't realize she was just "high school evil" at this point. Then I figured maybe it was Satan that started it. Either Satan or faulty wiring. One of those two.

Megan Fox and Amanda Seigfried weren't bad in their parts. Seigfried plays a decent "ugly" and neurotic girl. She almost fooled me. I liked when she finally decided Jennifer was actually like evil for reals and decided something had to be done about it. She even did some library research which is where she read up on succubi. No wikipedia in Diablo Cody's world of 70s and early 80s pop culture references that teenagers today would'nt even think about using. I liked this gimmick better in Juno because the characters in that picture were genuine. Doesn't work as well in a less serious, supposed to be cultish, possibly offensive (am I reaching with the Station comparison?), horror picture. Megan Fox is better here than in Transmorphers I and II but this performance still doesn't set the world on fire. Nope, just a dingy little nightclub on the outskirts of some fake town.

*watch the credits for their ultimate fate which, in the movie's defense, is worse than Great White's (which, admittedly, hasn't been totally decided yet)

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Robot Monster (1953)

At this point, I have a hard time distinguishing the bad pictures from the good ones. To me the worst possible thing a movie can be is boring. I'm not a fan of the phrase "so bad, it's good". If a movie is bad then it's bad. If it's good, it's good. I like to keep it simple. Plan 9 From Outer Space is great. I enjoyed every second of that thing. Well, I'm here to tell you that Robot Monster is even better. Somehow the director, Phil Tucker, has made a picture that features scene after scene of an alien Robot, with the body of an ape and the head of a deep sea diver, lumbering across a desert canyon highly entertaining. It probably doesn't hurt that this thing clocks in at a brisk 62 minutes either.

What we got here is the story of Ro-Man (the ape/diver/alien/robot) who has come to earth on a mission to cure it of the virus known as man (also women and children). Why? Because if they don't kill us then we'll kill them. He's got a point. So, Ro-Man arrives and destroys most of humanity with a calcinator ray. This ray is so powerful that it also manages to bring back stock footage of fake dinosaurs that proceed to destroy one another for no reason other than it looks pretty "cool". Unfortunately, for Ro-Man, the ray fails to kill a scientist and his family; which includes a couple of children (Johnny and Sally or some shit), a pretty hot broad considering the alternatives (I think her name was Alice), etc. There's also an assistant to the old scientist (who has the hots for Alice). Also, the scientist's wife. Why are they alive? The scientist has developed some sort of serum or whatever that defrays the effects of the calcinator ray. Why doesn't the Ro-Man just kill them with his bare hands? Apparently, the scientist has found a way to cloak their home from his scanners. Their home consists of a rock wall which is apparently within short walking distance from Ro-Man's cave. This is the set up.

What follows is a series of video conferences set up between Ro-Man and his otherworldly supervisor, who happens to look and talk just like Ro-Man, and also between Ro-Man and the last surviving family on earth. During one such conference, Johnny sticks his tongue out at Ro-Man to which Ro-Man replies "that child is impertinent!" Ro-Man proposes a truce: He offers the humans a "painless surrender death" as opposed to "the horrible resistance death". Ro-Man falls in love with Alice and can't bring himself to kill her. He has no such problem in dealing with the little girl. The child's murder does result in one of the picture's most touching scenes when the scientist, in a heartrending eulogy, offers these words of comfort to his remaining brethren: "Well, we enjoyed Sally while she was alive...", rubbing hands together...."we'll just have to think of something else to enjoy now". Maybe I'm paraphrasing.

Anyway, Robot Monster is a classic alright. We got sub par acting, horrid special effects, some incredibly hamfisted acting, inept plotting, etc. And yet, all this shit comes together to create something breathtaking. I hope they rerelease this thing in 3D someday. Oh yeah, almost forgot about the score created by oscar winning composer Elmer Bernstein (Thoroughly Modern Millie). Um, it's not bad. Perhaps I wouldn't be as enthusiastic about Robot Monster if it had been longer. 62 minutes is the perfect length. It's 17 minutes shorter than Plan 9 From Outer Space. Shorter, in this case, equals better. Check it out.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Funhouse (1981)

The Funhouse is an interesting slasher film in that, after a terrific opening scene which pays homage to (while also spoofing) Halloween, it can barely be considered a slasher at all. I mean, we got lots of buildup for a movie that comes down to a retarded mutant and his father chasing four horny teens around a funhouse and offing them with little to no imagination. Tobe Hooper's followup to his adaptation of Stephen King's Salem's Lot is an interesting misfire which borrows Frankenstein's monster (in this case, Jason Vorhees if he'd lived long enough to become a teenage rapist) and places him within the interesting world of carnival sideshows. The opening scene is a classic of stalking and slashing and what can only be considered some wildly inappropriate nudity. For the first 30 or 40 minutes I was entertained by scenes of carnival peep shows, two headed cows, a fetus in a jar, crotchedy old fortune tellers, and the promise of "teens" (Buzz looks about 35) in "love" getting it on. Unfortunately, the picture eventually collapses under a mountain of tedium.

Basically, what we got here is a movie with a teen girl (Amy), her bratty younger brother (Joey), her boyfriend (the aforementioned Buzz), her two friends, and a carnival which leaves a series of murders and rapes in its wake. At the previous town, a couple girls were found dead so understandably Amy's father doesn't want her anywhere near the thing. So, they come up with a story about going to the movies or some shit and head out for a fun night of making fun of freaks and sneaking a peak at real live boobies. Then, one of them (I'm sure it was a guy) comes up with the brilliant idea of hiding in the funhouse, waiting for the carnival to close for the night, and then having sweet, sweet sex on the disgusting floor. Also, Amy's brother Joey sneaks in. Also, they witness a carny in a Frankenstein mask about to have sex with an old fortune teller, prematurely ejaculate, and then murder the old hooker rather than pay up. Also, the guy's a mutant and the shame of his father (also a carny) who, upon discovering the corpse, beats his son for forcing him to cover up yet another murder. Also, I think they found out the kids saw everything so then spent the last thirty minutes or so stalking and slashing them. Also, ZZZZZZZZZZZ......

I didn't like this one very much. I did enjoy the carnival atmosphere. It seemed like they filmed this thing at a real carnival. They even set up some rides and shit. I loved the stuff with them just walking around and taking it all in, mocking the weirdness of it all, staring at the two headed cow, etc. Once they witness the murder things just take a turn for the worse. I was bored. I mean, we know right away who the killers are. No suspense there. We know who is going to survive. The kills are all sort of matter-of-fact. We got a guy hung up by a noose and then axed to the head after he's already dead. We got a girl clawed to death. We got a gunshot wound I think. Strangulation. Not too many teens in this thing so not too many deaths I guess. Since we don't have much death or gore I guess the thing we'd look for is suspense, but this picture doesn't have any. What we're left with is an atmospheric exercise. Yeah, it looks pretty good and there's some nudity and shit but so what? Maybe this was enough in 1981 but today I got something called the internet. No reason to sit through a ninety minute picture looking for boobs when I can just find thirty second clips online. I guess my attention span is getting smaller. Hooper let me down here.