Friday, October 30, 2020

SCHLOCKTOBER FEST 2020, VOLUME VI: THE FINAL CHAPTER (FOR REAL, THIS TIME)

 


29.  We Summon the Darkness (2020) / Director:  Marc Meyers

This picture starts off the same way a lot of 80s pictures start off.   Some girl friends are on a road trip through rural America.  In this case, 1980s Indiana.  The radio reports news of a string of slayings perpetrated by a Satanic cult.  Also on the radio, we heard some preachings courtesy of Johnny Knoxville's Pastor Butler.  Not on these girls' radio.  These girls are too cool for that shit.  They're so cool they're on their way to a heavy metal concert at some bumfuck venue well outside of Indianapolis, I'm guessing.   At the venue they meet up with three (possibly) creeps in a van.  These dudes want to party, drink, smoke weed (but not smoke it the same way that those Dead chasing granolas would smoke it), and maybe get lucky.  These dudes are Metal snobs.  Their conversation regarding first bands seen live, etc ("KC and the Sunshine Band have some bangers") are pretty fun.  They hit it off with our three leads and eventually agree to go back to Alexis' father's house (he's away).  Alexis is played by Alexandra Daddario, burgeoning scream queen.  Anyway, shit gets real back at the house where true motives (whose true motives?) are revealed and actors get to dig in and have fun.  Where the movie is going is pretty predicable early on but it doesn't really detract from the enjoyment.  All the actors are great and even kinda likable.  Bloody without being overly gory (headshots, stabbings, no entrails that I remember).  



30.  Hosts (2020) / Director(s):  Adam Leader & Richard Oakes

Hosts was a pleasant surprise.  It had better be since I paid $6.99 to rent it.  A really great little British Indy about just as bad a Christmas dinner as one could ever imagine.  The movie opens with a train coming home to station.  Jack (a conductor or guard or whatever they call them over there) departs the train and heads home, across a pretty vast field.  Along the way, he encounters a hunter with some ducks.  They talk about dinner tonight (Jack and wife will be there).  Jack goes home, enjoys some cozy time with his wife, Lucy or was it Lauren?  They hear something out back, Jack investigates, returns, finds L....something's off.  Cut to the home of their neighbors, the place they're going to dinner as the mom prepares the feast, the dad watches TV with son, other son and daughter are upstairs talking.  Normal family shit.  Very mundane.  Eventually, knock on the door...and in comes Jack and L.  They say nary a word.  No one notices a thing...or thinks it odd.  It's not like they're family.  They're fucking neighbors.  This family is so involved in their own drama that they don't even notice their neighbors sit silently, staring straight ahead, eyeballs glowing, etc?  When it comes, the violence is disturbing, intense, shocking.  What happened to Jack & L?  What secrets does this family hold?  What's with the TV and the tunnel thing?  Also, wait a minute...I literally just saw a movie earlier this year (during the Pandemic) where people were becoming possessed after watching some kind of tunnel thing online.  What the hell was that movie called?  Shit, it was called Wounds.  Is this part of that cinematic universe?  



31.  The Mortuary Collection (2020) / Director:  Ryan Spindell

Here it is, last of the month!  And, possibly, the best??  It's up there anyway.  I love a good anthology film and the key to a good one (see Trick R Treat for a recent, like decade old, example) is the wrap-around story needs to be good.  See Danzig's whatever it was called for how not to do this.  The Mortuary Collection is all set in the same town, Raven's End.  There's a morgue, run by an old Tall Man like Mortician named Montgomery Dark (?), played by Clancy Brown.  When a beautiful young woman walks into the morgue looking for employment, she challenges Montgomery to tell her a story that might scare her.  The stories progress from simple morality tales (maybe don't check the medicine cabinet when you're not in your own home??) to...well...I'm not good enough with words, really fucked up stuff.  They're all morality tales.  Maybe "don't get married" is one such moral?  Or, maybe it's the "maybe don't poison your wife  after she falls into a vegetative state because you want to move on with your life" type of moral.  Look for another solution, perhaps?  Open marriage?   I don't know.  Here's another one:  Maybe try not to be such a hypocrite when it comes to preaching safe sex for others but not for oneself?  Each story has hilarious moments, usually followed by gross moments.  I'm intentionally staying away from discussing more about these stories.  It's possible this one is on the level of Creepshow I or maybe just Creepshow II or was it Tales from the Darkside the movie?  


Happy Halloween!

Wednesday, October 28, 2020

SCHLOCKTOBER FEST 2020, VOLUME V: THE FINAL CHAPTER (oh wait, I got tired there'll be one more chapter)

 


23.  Verotika (2019) / Director:  Glenn Danzig

Here we have the worst movie I watched this month, October, year of our lord 2020.  Danzig, in his mid 60s, having lived on a lifetime's diet of Vivid videos (apparently) decided it was a good idea to make a horror film.  Not just any kind of horror film.  An anthology film which is not always easy to pull off I would think.  Especially not easy to pull of when the guy with the vision has no experience making a film or even writing a film.  I'm guessing he's never seen a (proper) film either.  I can't say that this thing is unoriginal though.  It is.  Where else will you see a woman who can't keep a relationship because she has eyeballs where her nipples should be and, one particularly sorrowful night, sheds a single tear which happens to land on an albino spider which magically transforms into an 8 armed serial killer dubbed by the press as "Le Neck Breaker" (this takes place in France or some shit).  It's not as good as that sounds.  Anyway, that's the first story.  The second story is also about a serial killer, dubbed by the press as "Le face snatcher" (or whatever) and the third, and thankfully, final story is based on the Lady Bathory legend about the woman who bathed in blood of virgins.  At least, the last story is a period piece.  Oh, and the wrap-around story is all narrated by some dominatrix named "Morella" who's on the verge of overdosing on Xanax.  None of the stories go anywhere.  If I'm giving Danzig any bit of credit, I liked that English is not the first language of any of these actors (gives it a surreal feeling, not dissimilar from 70s-80s-90s Italian horror films).  That's an accident.  He just wanted to hire adult film stars that he liked.  This is not The Room.  I hate The fucking Room.


24.  Mausoleum (1983) / Director:  Michael Dugan

Mausoleum is a mini-masterpiece.  I mean, it's not exactly good, but it does everything I ask for of a 1980s splatter film.  Employ good (and gross) practical effects (courtesy of effects wizard John Carl Buechler), have characters that aren't completely terrible, and, uh, you know.....nudity.  The movie is simple.  A little girl, Susan, is at the funeral of her mother.  Her mother died having been possessed by a demon.  Susan's next in line.  The demon will possess her on her 20th birthday since that's an acceptable time for a horny demon to possess a young woman and not get cancelled I guess?  Anyway, 10 years later, Susan, now married to a greatest American Hero looking motherfucker, has inherited her mother's estate and also been possessed by that demon.  We find out when she goes to a nightclub with her husband and some guy relentlessly hits on her when the husband takes a phone call (back in the days when a guy in a club would be interrupted by the waiter announcing he's got a call).  Anyway, while waiting for their car, Susan sees the drunk asshole and, after her eyes light up, sets him on fire inside his own car.  Later, in a really sexy scene, she seduces the groundskeeper into a round of woodshed sex.  So, this is a pretty good one.  Lotta folks that want to save Susan, including her husband, aunt, and psychiatrist.  All but one of these people die with exposed rib cages.  2 out of 3 exposed rib cages for this one.



25.  Rituals (1976) / Director:  Peter Carter

Rituals is a nifty little survival horror film set in Canada, also known as Canadian Deliverance or The Creeper.  What we got here is the story of 5 doctor friends being dropped off in the middle of the wilderness, far, far away from civilization.  A bonding trip where they'll reminisce about botched surgeries while also taking in some fishing.  On the first night all of their boots are stolen.  No one, except D.J., packed a second pair of boots, which irks the hell out of D.J., who trudges off for the ten-mile-away Dam where he hopes to find a worker that can radio in for help.  While D.J.s out of the picture, the remaining non-woodsman are picked off one-by-one by some unseen force.  Is it a man?  It is some creature?  Is it something that might have a vendetta against doctors?  These particular doctors?  This is a fun, gritty little picture with a wonderful central performance from Hal Holbrook, as Harry (the reluctant leader).  The climax, when we get there, truly shocking.  


26.  Howl (2015) / Director:  Paul Hyett


I'm a sucker for train bound films, especially horror train bound films.  Horror Express comes to mind.  This one almost reaches those kind of heights until...ahem....derailment.  Joe (Ed Speleers) is a down on his luck conductor on an English Commuter rail.  Immediately after being turned down for promotion he's ordered (by the guy that got the promotion instead) to man the Midnight train to East Borough (not a very desirable shift, apparently).  It's a mostly empty train, we got the old couple, the irritable teen girl, the wannabe engineer student and the fucking asshole womanizer.  Oh, and there's also a large guy that gets trapped in the bathroom on multiple occasions.  Also onboard, the high strung businesswoman (annoyed when Joe asks for her pass, that she lost, since she's on the train everyday -- as an example of the nice character work in this film, she's later revealed to have many more facets to her than just career bitch). Oh, there's also Ellen (Joe wants her to be his love interest) and the driver (a completely wasted Sean Pertwee).  I try not to judge a move based on what I wanted it to be but what it actually is.  Still, damned if I didn't want a story where a werewolf got on a moving train and picked the passengers off one-by-one.  Still, kind of hard to do that if the train is a short distance commuter rail.  Essentially, this train breaks down, in the middle of a forest, Pertwee goes out to investigate (immediately killed), and the wolf terrorizes the remaining passengers who debate between staying and going (through the woods).  It's fine, no Dog Soldiers.


27.  The Hole in the Ground (2019) / Director:  Lee Cronin

Typical of most A24 productions (that I've seen) The Hole in the Ground is a slow burn horror film, a very good slow burn horror film.  In the film, Sarah moves with her son, Chris, to the countryside (somewhere in Ireland).  Next to their new home is the titular hole.  One night, after a argument about "where's dad" or some shit like that, Chris runs from the home, into the woods.  Sarah, what seemed like hours later, finds young Chris standing near the hole.  She takes him home, things seem fine at first.  Later, she sees Chris eating a spider in his room through the keyhole (we've already had it established that Chris is deathly afraid of spiders, so that's a bit weird).  The performance reminded me of Osment's in Spielberg's A.I.  A boy, not quite a boy.  Seana Kerslake as Sarah is tremendous as a mother suffering a crumbling psyche as she begins to question her son's identity (she even hides a camera in his room).  James Cosmo (the lord of the Nights Watch) shows up as a father who went through the same thing and whose wife is now completely broken as a result.  The build up is where this film finds its worth, full of dread and sorrow, and creepy scares that ripple more like a gentle wake (or whatever).  The finale, eh....again it's the build, the slow inexorable build to doom or, maybe it was, rebirth.


28.  Wildling (2018) / Director:  Fritz Bohm

Wildling is like if the movie Room had been directed by Lucky Mckee (The Woman).  The story opens with what seems like a kindly old Brad Dourif looking after a young girl in a home out in the woods.  The girl is never allowed outside and every night, Dourif regales her with the story of the wildlings; mythic creatures that will surely eat her if she ever steps outside.  Also, Dourif injects her in her stomach with something for some reason (we learn the reason later).  As she ages into a teenager, she becomes sickly and Dourif's injections stop working.  She asks to go to the "better place".  Dourif relents, can't shoot her, tries to shoot himself, misses, coma, girl (Anna) wakes up in hospital, goes home with Liv Tyler, she's a Sheriff, a really low key Sheriff, and the questions pop up faster than the answers do.  Why was Dourif hiding Anna from the world?  Do wildlings exist and, if yes, should the townspeople of this Pacific Northwest (I'm guessing) community be terrified?  Or, should they be more terrified of Anna?  Have we seen the last of Dourif?  What's with Tyler's kid brother?  Did I miss the part where they explained what happened to their parents?  How long does it take to walk to the north pole from the Pacific Northwest, and etc.  This is a pretty good one.

Saturday, October 24, 2020

SCHLOCKTOBER FEST, 2020: VOLUME IV

 


18.  Madhouse (1981) / Director: Ovidio Assonitis

Madhouse is a gem.  A story of two sisters.  One psychotic and institutionalized her entire life (all of this chillingly explained in a title sequence that culminates with with the crazy sister, Mary -- they're children in this sequence - bashing in the head of Julia, non crazy sister)  until, in her 20s, she escapes with vengeance on her mind and in her heart.   Mary hates Julia, blames her for all of her issues (where are the parents in all of this, did I miss that part?).  Something happened in her childhood that fueled that hatred, cased her psychotic break and led to 20 years in an asylum.  Julia, the good sister or, I should say, the well sister?  And, Mary, the quack job (acceptable 80s phrasing). Mary's got a vicious Rottweiler, somehow.  I forgot his name.  Also, there's their uncle the Priest.  He doesn't believe Julia when it comes to Mary's childhood abuse (of Julia), thinks the sister is probably wrongly institutionalized, needs to get out.

Anyway, what we got here is a Southern gothic masterpiece with an over sprinkling of Italian sleaze.  After the sister escapes, anyone that Julia loves, or even just likes Julia, is pretty much Rottweiler food.  Yeah, almost all of the attacks and murders are performed by the poor mutt.  He's a real cutie, didn't know what he'd gotten himself into.  There's a scene where Julia's prized student, a young lad, at the Savannah Academy for the Deaf, is obliterated by the poor Rottie.  The camera cuts aways before we see the devastation.

The picture is really just set piece after set piece, most taking place in the house where Julia has an apartment.  I guess it used to be a Funeral home.  It all climaxes in the best dinner scene since the Texas Chainsaw Massacre dinner scene where Julia sits to dine for her birthday (oh yeah, it's all leading up to her birthday, we even get text on the screen like "2 days until Julia's birthday) with all the killer's victims. Notice how I didn't say Mary's victims?  Did I ruin the surprise?  This goes on the short list for best of the month.


19.  The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad (1949) / Director:  I don't know, it's Disney

Essentially, I needed something light with this one since my girlfriend was watching and the scary shit isn't really her thing.  Found this on Disney Plus and got excited when I thought it would be a mash up adventure where Ichabod and Mr. Toad team up to send the headless horsemen back to hell or something.  Like, maybe Mr. Toad hitched a ride across the pond with the rescuers or whatever.  That's not what we get.  This is just two separate stories, a sort-of anthology film, with no wrap-around story.  The first story concerns Mr. Toad contracting motorcar fever and being sent to prison for stealing a car, much to the disappointment of his sort-of friends (no one seems to really like Mr. Toad because he's kind of an asshole).  Well, Donkey likes Toad so he breaks him out of prison and they try to retake Toad Manor from the weasels who had since moved in, after an elaborate con.  It's great, but also not really an October kind of tale.  More Christmas-y, I think, due to the scenes set during Christmas.

The Ichabod story is what we're here for anyway.  With songs by Bing Crosby.  In fact, the story is told through Song and narration.  We got Ichabod, a schoolteacher, moving to Sleepy Hollow and becoming quite the ladies man, despite his weird stick-figure type appearance and awkward movements.  He's really only into the women for their cooking though which seems like a pretty valid reason considering the time this movie was made and also the time the story was written (not sure if early 19th century women ventured out of the kitchen much or not).  Eventually, Ichabod sets his sights on Katrina a well-to-do young woman in town, daughter of a baron or some shit.  His competition is Brutus or Bron, a Bluto like figure.  Ichabod and Brom (looked it up) engage in plenty of hijinks where they looney tunes the shit out of one another.  All of these antics lead us to a Halloween party where it seems that Ichabod is on the verge of winning Katrina's favor.  Brom, in a last ditch attempt to not lose, zeroes in on Ichabod's one weakness:  He's a fucking scared-y cat.  He proceeds to tell the story of the headless horsemen (in a wonderful song) knowing full well that Ichabod has a lonely horse ride home, through the woods.  That horse ride is about all of this movie that i remembered from when I was a kid.  It's definitely terrifying for youngsters.  Is the horsemen real or in Ichabod's head?  Well, no matter.   The schoolmaster disappears from Sleepy Hollow forever and Brom marries Katrina.  Typical happy ending bullshit.  



20.  One Missed Call (2003) / Director:  Takashi Miike

One Missed Call follows Ringu (1998) and Ju-On (2000) in the J-horror pantheon both in release date and probably also in quality.  Though, I believe time has been pretty kind to this one.  While not nearly as scary, there's actually quite a bit of humor to be found here as well as a sequence or two that still manages to shock.   Also, this one's got legendary film director Takashi Miike (Audition) to direct.  The movie opens with some friends in a restaurant.  A young woman, Yoko, receives a phone call.  She doesn't answer so it goes to voicemail (I think that's why they call this thing One Missed Call).  She listens to the voicemail and freaks out, goes to the bathroom.  Yumi (her friend) follows.  They both listen.  On the other end of the voicemail is Yoko saying something like "oh no, it's raining", then screaming, then nothing.  What can it mean?  Who's playing this prank?  Cut to a detective who is investigating strange deaths where the victims have candy in their mouth?  Well, that's a weird calling card.  I'm guessing evil child spirit or whatever.

Anyway, exactly 48 hours later, Yoko is destroyed by a train and her severed arm proceeds to dial the phone number of the next victim who will receive a voicemail from the future where they, themselves, are leaving the voicemail for themselves in the past and then screaming.  Oh, and eventually Yumi receives that voicemail so she and the detective need to team up to get to the bottom of this mystery (the detective has some personal stakes in this as his sister was a previous victim of this chain voicemail from beyond the grave).  While not all that scary (it's hard to imagine receiving a voicemail from myself, to be honest, unless it's something I did years ago in drunken revery) the movie feels really prescient in its portrayal of cell phone culture.  I imagine this movie having been made today and incorporating twitter (or whatever they decide to call twitter in the movie so they don't get sued).  Sure, cell phones have made many aspects of life easier but was life so bad before them?  Did we really need to democratize all voices?  Even the demonic ones?  Not worth the risk, in my opinion.

Anyway, this is a really good one.  There's a sequence, set about midway through, where one of the victims of the cell phone demon agrees to appear on a TV show where an actual exorcist will attempt to save her life as the 48 hour clock ticks down to her death date.  It's an incredible sequence, feels very Miike and ups the stakes to the point where the audience wonders "oh wait, I don't think there's anything they can do to stop this."  It's also the first time this picture truly feels like a "anything can happen" Miike type picture.  


21.  Zombie (aka Dawn of the Dead, the European cut) / Director:  George Romero / Cut by:  Dario Argento

I'm not going to get too deep into the weeds on this one.  We all know, the original theatrical cut of Dawn of the Dead is a flat out masterpiece, funny, sad, scary, gross, action-packed.  It's all of those things.  And probably more.  I'd never seen the cut that went out to European audiences, however.  Apparently, this is their preferred version.  Re-cut by Dario Argento, DOTD's European cut is almost a hyperkinetic version of Romero's original.  While Goblin's score finds its way into the Romero version, here it's almost front and center throughout.  The score is fast, like the picture.  The plotting is exactly the same.  Start in a newsroom, move to a SWAT team raiding an apartment building (full of minorities), move to a helicopter escape (including two SWAT guys, a reporter, and her boyfriend, the pilot), an eventful stop to refuel, and finally the iconic mall.  This version, however, does not stop to breather through any of this stuff.  It just moves and moves and moves, breakneck pace.  The action on screen repeatedly punched up by Goblin.

It's an action-horror hybrid.  The original is a horror movie with some good action stuff.  As far as going scene by scene and explaining what's different, I'm not capable of doing that.  I know that one scene, before the escape, featuring the actor that played Captain Rhodes in Day of the Dead was cut out.  I also know that calling this thing Zombie allowed them to call Fulci's sequel Zombie 2 or actually Zombi 2.  That's the one where the shark fights the zombie and also a zombie sticks a sliver of wood into a woman's eyeball which is not something I think any Romero zombie would even think to do.

So, this is a good version.  It's still pretty long so it's not like you can put this on if you want to watch a 90 minute version of Dawn of the Dead instead of a two hour version.  It's 8 minutes shorter (119 minutes vs 127 minutes).   It just moves a lot faster.   So, maybe you'll go a few miles further in less time but it still took almost the same time?  I don't know.  The original cut is obviously superior but this is probably the better one to throw on at a party where you want everyone to leave at 8 minutes to Midnight instead of Midnight on the dot.


22.  Little Shop of Horrors Director's Cut (1986) / Director:  Frank Oz

Figured I'd do a little theme here in the middle of Schlocktober.  So, following up on the Dawn of the Dead European Cut, I decided to watch another version of a classic, previously unseen by me.  Little Shop of Horrors is a film I revere.  When I saw it for the first time, at 12 years old, I'm guessing I hated musicals.  This was my gateway drug.  At the time, I'm sure i even scoffed at these songs but was completely won over the design of Audrey II as well as by Steve Martin's the dentist.  Hell, I'm sure I was even humming his theme song at school.  Also, at the time, I was unfamiliar with the original musical which has a much darker ending so it didn't even occur to me that Seymour and Audrey getting married, moving to the suburbs and living happily ever after might have ticked off a few fans.  

Years later, I learned they originally shot an ending, similar to the musical's ending where the plant wins (after eating Audrey and Seymour), spawns millions of other Audrey II's that grow into kaiju sized Audrey's, and completely take over/decimate the world.  I thought "that's pretty amazing but I'm not going to ruin the experience of this film by watching that stuff out of context on Youtube".  I was resigned to the fact that some fucking 80s test audience had ruined the chance of this every being properly re-edited into the film where it wouldn't look fucking shitty.  Well, I was completely wrong.  The ending, the original ending, is completely seamless.  It's also long, feels long.  I think that's part of the joke.  Once the plant devours Seymour, after psychologically torturing him for what feels like a half hour, it's revealed that some shady character snipped off some of Audrey II, grew little Audrey II's, and sold them around the world like fucking Cabbage Patch Kids.  We're treated to scenes of mass destruction on a global scale (highlight for me was an Audrey II breaking off a train track and letting that subway drive right down it's mouth).  

It's rare that a director's cut of a film is truly the preferred version.  I'd say this joins the short list.  Also, the songs are still great.  

Tuesday, October 20, 2020

SCHLOCKTOBER FEST, 2020: VOLUME III (PLAYING CATCH-UP)

Here's where I try to cover as many movies as I can in a possibly fruitless effort to write about 31 before my time is up.  I've seen a lot but have had almost no time or motivation to write about any of them.  I've posted a movie a day over at Instagram under the handle @mechakirker.  Feel free to follow me over there.  These will be short, much shorter than usual. Capsule-like.  Anyway, let's get started!

7.  WNUF Halloween Special (2013) / Director:  Chris LaMartina (and others)

At the beginning of the month I attempted several 5am movies and this one was perfect for that time slot.  Clocking in at 83 minutes, it also worked perfectly with my pre-work routine of having time to shower, dress, brew coffee and walk the 15 feet to my desk.  Anyway, essentially this is a recorded broadcast of a 1980s prime-time local news special where Frank Stewart (ace local reporter) and a couple of paranormal investigators are taping live from inside the Weber House (scene of murders, supposedly haunted).  In between Frank's reporting from the scene we're treated to some delightful recreations of era-appropriate commercials, local commercials, I should say, for such things as "Gordon's Petting Zoo" to "Local Music Night" at the bar to candy buy backs from the town dentist, and on and on and on.  Eventually, whoever was watching grew impatient and began fast forwarding through the commercials (this added to the 5 am feel of watching this - it was as if I had recorded it from the night before).  The movie is not exactly scary though it does end horrifically.  If you're an 80s kid you may have aged out of eating a bag of candy in a solitary sitting but here's some nostalgia for you instead.  It's only slightly less bad for you.

8.  Patchwork (2017) / Director:  Tyler MacIntyre

Here's another 5 am picture, though a slightly less appropriate 5 am-er than the last picture.  Based on the trailer, I kind of expected a really tense cross between something like Human Centipede and Hostel.  Thankfully, what we get is something more akin to Frankenhooker or Re-Animator.  Patchwork is about three woman who wake up after a night out to find themselves patched together into one person.  We got Jennifer, we got Ellie, and we've got Madeline.  The movie somehow doesn't make a mess of each of their consciousness having survived the bizarre medical procedure.  Don't think about it too much, this isn't that kind of picture.  So, the women escape and the mystery begins.  Funny and over the top gory and even, at times, kinda sweet.  The Jennifer-Ellie-Madeline thing moves through the picture with an almost hyperkinetic abrasiveness.  Each individual component of the "monster" has a unique personality; Jennifer the driven businesswoman who has trouble maintaining friendships / relationships; Ellie, the sweet young woman who is almost too approachable; Madeline, who...I don't know...she's pretty damned capable, I guess?  Anyway, this is a really good one.  

9.  Slaughterhouse Rock (1987) / Director:  Dimitri Logothetis
This one was kind of hard to find (it's not streaming anywhere) so I went ahead and ordered a copy of the VHS for like 2 bucks.  Dusted off the ol' VCR and then pressed play.  This is the kind of movie I'd catch as a kid as the 2nd part of a Joe Bob double feature or maybe on Up All Night...or just whatever the local stations were showing after 11.  The story involves a kid named Alex who has been experiencing some pretty intense dreams that are encroaching into reality.  The dreams involve the singer  (Tony Basil) of a rock band called Body Bags.  The entire band disappeared while on a tour of Alcatraz (weird).  Alex's therapist thinks it's a good idea for Alex to go to Alcatraz if he wants to put his dreams to bed.  Not sure if she's licensed.  Anyway, once they get on the island (they actually shot there) mayhem ensues, zombies are created, kids die...and oh yeah, a boob or two are seen.     If you're a fan of something like Night of the Demons this one will likely give you similar feels.  

10.  Books of Blood (2020) / Director:  Brannon Braga

Books of Blood kinda sucks.  I mean, the movie is fine I guess.  Just not sure why they went with that title since this isn't an adaptation of stories from Clive Barker's iconic collection.  It's just an adaptation of the title store.  They should have called this fucking thing Book of Blood but I guess that title was already taken by an earlier adaptation of the same story.  Anyway, we got a few stories here.  Only one of which is a Barker story.  Too be honest, I'm not even sure the other stories had a Barker feel to them.  The best story is the second story called "Jenna" (not a Barker story) involving a girl running away from home and something horrific in her past.  She comes upon a kindly old couple who......aren't what they seem?  Then there's a story about a couple of guys who want to steal the book of blood simply because some old rare book dealer told them it was valuable.  So, they drive into some mythical realm of the city called Ravenbore(?) to recover said book.  The third story is about the creation of the book of blood.  Turns out it's man.  The stories intertwine (sort of) but it feels a bit forced.  Apparently, this was intended as a series that was canceled before it even got to air.  That makes some sense.  I'm sure they were saving "Yattering & Jack", "Hell's Event", "In the Hills, The Cities" for later in the season.   

11.  The Cleansing Hour (2020) / Director:  Damien Leveck


The Cleansing Hour is in contention for the best movie of the month.  Even in the beginning this doesn't feel like paint-by-numbers exorcism fare.  The story is kind of genius.  A couple guys (one a wannabe Priest and his buddy) decide to stage exorcisms online to make some cash.  Their numbers are modest at first but they bring in 50,000 views which is pretty solid.  They even have fairly decent production values and a hardworking staff.  Things take a turn when one of the "possessed" subjects turns out to actually be possessed.  She's also the girlfriend of Kyle (the buddy of the wannabe priest and the producer).  As the #s skyrocket we get a glimpse of people around the world following the exorcism from their phone, their tablet, etc.  What's at play here?  What's at stake?  Fuck, that ending packs a punch.  

12.  The Lie (2010) / Director :  Verena Sud


Teenagers are pretty fucking awful I think that's the takeaway (and possibly spoiler, I'm now realizing) of this story.  This one is debatable as horror but all you have to do is put yourself in the place of Kayla's (teen pictured above) parents and damn if this thing doesn't count.   Basically, we got Kayla getting picked up by her dad (Peter Sarsgaard) who is estranged from her mom.  Her dad's a musician, lives in the city.  He's driving her to band practice.  They stop and pick up Kayla's friend Brittany at a bus stop.  Things are weird between Brittany and Kalya.  Brittany begs to stop so she can get out and pee.  Kayla follows.  They disappear into the woods.  Gone for a while.  Sarsgaard follows, hears a scream, finds Kayla standing on a bridge, alone, claiming she pushed Brittany off.  They find her purse in the river, but no Brittany.  How far will parents go to cover up their child's crime?  Pretty fucking far.  Also, what if their daughter is a sociopath?  I've seen pictures squeeze tension out of a ringing telephone before but this is the first one (that I can think of) that's done it with doorbells.  Anyway, this one's good, don't have kids.

13.  Spiral (2019) / Director:  Kurtis David Harder

Spiral is a bit of a gem in the mold of things like Wicker Man, Kill List, and even with a little sprinkling of Hereditary.  Ok, and the obvious antecedent would be Get Out.  It's the mid 90s and a young gay couple move to the an idyllic rural town with their daughter.  Things seem pleasant at first.  Things are never pleasant.  The neighbors seem kind if a bit over-kind.  Malik, one half of the couple, a man of color, is immediately suspicious (we learn through flashback that his suspicion is founded in trauma).  Aaron, the other half of the couple, plays the role of the completely oblivious to anything weird going on type of husband (see Peter Sarsgaard in Orphan).    The less you know about this one the better.  It's the horror of inevitability.

14.  Blood Quantum (2020) / Director:  Jeff Barnaby

I thought I was done with zombie pictures and then I saw Blood Quantum.  A great little picture set in an isolated island Native American reservation.  The outbreak starts slowly (maybe 30 minutes into a 90 minute movie when the real movie begins) and then things ramp up quickly.  Turns out those with native blood are immune to the virus.  Those outside the island community, white people, are suddenly treated as refugees trying to seek solace in this island community which they've heard has a miracle cure.  A miracle only if you were born native.  There's infighting between our heroes over whether to welcome in these new immigrants or to turn them away.  There's a heel turn that felt like it required hours of set-up when we barely got minutes.  I think I wanted a limited series of this thing.  Still, the characters, slight as they may be, are wonderfully played.  The gore is creative, disgusting, everything you'd ask for in a picture like this.  The ending, traumatic, beautiful in a way.

15.  The Evil (1978) / Director:  Gus Trikonis

One of a million movies like this during the tail end of the 70s.  This is probably not one of the better ones though it's certainly elevated by the ridiculous spectral attacks and the hilarious reveal of The Evil.  Anyway, Dr. Richard Crenna (70's Bryan Cranston) and wife decide to open up a drug rehab clinic in Montezuma's Castle.  Yep, real place.  The caretaker is incinerated by some kind of ghostly thing before anyone else even sets foot on the premises.  Crenna and crew spend most of the film wondering where that caretaker's run off to.  The ghostly hauntings happen almost immediately when one woman's German Shepherd runs off and is never seen again (though I think we hear his ghostly howls throughout).  Couple women in this thing.  They scream, get thrashed about, one almost gets Entity'd.   It's that kind of picture.  The end though.  Hoo boy, the end.  I guess they spent all the money on the location.  

16.  Z (2019) / Director:  Branden Christensen

Z is really kinda wonderful.  An unsettling film, for sure, where a mother's trauma is passed on down to her son.  Here, manifested in the form of an imaginary friend.  Sure, maybe it's all inside the kid's mind, I don't know.  He's got an imagination, like's to play with trains, push kids down stairs and stuff.  At a certain point though you gotta start to wonder like those times you hear something large shuffling down the hallway or you see those red eyes starting at you from the closet, or when you see that actual physical manifestation of what an imaginary friend might look like chasing your son through one of those tubes at Bouncy World or wherever.  Point is, it's a horror movie so this imaginary guy, this Z is probably real.  What does he want?  When we learn that, things get really great.  Also, Stephen McHattie, just a tremendous actor, shows up for a small role as the psychiatrist who takes an interest in the young boy and whose eyebrows raise a bit when he hears the name "Z" (he also treated the boy's mother when she was a child, hint).  So, it's intense, it's fun, it's really weird.  

17.  The Deeper You Dig (2019) / Directors:  Toby Poser & John Adams


Similar to The Lie, this picture's about the cover-up of a death.  In this case, a guy (Kurt -- John Adams) moved to a very rural community in far, far, far upstate New York where he's working on renovating an old farmhouse so he can flip it.  He kills his off hours by driving into town, getting drunk, and driving back to the farmhouse.  On one fateful, snow stormy night he runs over Echo (a young teen girl obsessed with sledding and hunting and goth makeup).  Panicking, Kurt brings her back to the house.  She comes to, he strangles her (again panicking) and then proceeds to spend the rest of the picture digging her a deeper grave as external forces (the cops, Echo's psychic mother, Echo's ghost) begin to circle the farmhouse.  The picture is even more interesting than that sounds.  Kurt and Echo's mom (Toby Poser, pretty great) seem to bond and even form a bit of a friendship.  It's kind of sweet and then Kurt's mind completely unravels and he digs up Echo, chops up her body and tosses her down a well (as deep as it's gonna get).  If I'm being honest, the thing I appreciated most about this picture is the New England (it's New York, I know I know, but upstate, same thing) atmosphere.  The way time moves but it seems like it's standing still.  The picture opens in the midst of Winter, maybe the tail end, the season's last gasp in a white squall.  Snow immediately gives way to mud and that mud season lasts for months.  This picture seems to cover at least 6 months of time since before we know it, it's October and Kurt is presenting his new friend, Echo's Mom (Ok, her name is Ivy) with a carved pumpkin.  The last act is some seriously psychedelic shit.  Funny, atmospheric, trippy, weird, and yes, sweet.  

Wednesday, October 7, 2020

SCHLOCKTOBER FEST, 2020: VOLUME II

 


4.  Malatesta's Carnival of Blood (1973) / Director:  Christopher Speeth

Malatesta's Carnival of Blood is one of those 70s films that looks like it was financed by and for drugs.  Essentially, this thing is an art installation turned into a moving picture.  The plot, so much as there was a plot, involved a carnival (but not a traveling carnival) somewhere in Pennsylvania (I think) that never has guests and the carnies are all weird bloodsucking freaks.  There's Malatesta (pictured above) the rarely seen owner of the Carnival and also Dr. Blood, the guy that runs the carnival.  As the film opens, we see a couple with an obnoxious daughter as they are led, by Carny, Kip (not a bloodsucking freak) to the Tunnel of Love.  They never exit the ride and later we see Kip cleaning up blood.  Oh, and also there's a mute caretaker named Mr. Bean who walks around with a trash bag and a trash picker, poking at staff and, the rare, customer that walks in his path.   Also, there's a guy named Frank and his wife who are staying on the premises with their daughter, Vina.  Vina, as much as this movie could possibly have such a thing, would be considered the main character, the proverbial Alice, I suppose.  

Taken as a film with a narrative that moves from point A to point B, Malatesta would be considered a failure.  However, we certainly would never dream of taking this film in that way.  It's almost entirely dream logic based.  Elements of the film, sound design & general griminess, recall the previous years' The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.  What separates this film from that one is the lack of a propulsive story and characters.  Dr. Blood and Malatesta, for example, appear to have been cast directly from the parking lot of the local 5 and dime.  At one point, Malatesta implores his army of Cannibals to "get them, my pretties!"  Which points to the most fascinating aspect of this picture.  Deep in the catacombs of the park, there is a film projector constantly in action where Malatesta and his troupe absorb film after film from the Silent era.  This adds to the film's disconnectedness from the current era (i.e., the 70s) and certainly from reality.  

Everything does culminate eventually in a sort of bloodbath when the Cannibals are finally unleashed upon the guests (again, no proper guests, just the names I've listed above, including Vina).  There's no real climax.  The picture ends and seemingly begins anew with the park running as before eliciting a bemused "huh" from the audience (me).  I do want to add that Herve Villechaize (Fantasy Island) appears as the twisted dwarf ,Bobo which made be both happy and sad simultaneously.  His performance was good, just sad to see him relegated to what amounted to a regional horror production.  Unfortunately, this is probably not (yet) a cult classic. 



5.  The Tomb of Ligeia (1964) / Director: Roger Corman

The Tomb of Ligeia is one of the Edgar Allen Poe adaptations that Roger Corman directed.  We often forget what a fine director Corman was before he mostly gave it up to become a full time producer.  This picture opens with the burial of Verden Fell's (Vincent Price) wife, the titular Ligeia (Elizabeth Shepherd) in consecrated ground.  The local clergy strenuously object as Ligeia had denounced God and become an avowed atheist.  Verden, who suffers from an extreme sensitivity to sunlight, then turns his back on the outside world and retires to the Abbey where he and Ligeia had lived.  It is Verden's intention to basically give up on living a social life.

That is until Rowena (also played by Elizabeth Shepherd) injures herself in a fox hunt and is brought to Fell's Abbey to receive some treatment.  I don't know, I kinda thought she was to marry that Christopher guy but no, she relentlessly pursues Fell who, against his better judgement, relents.  They get married.  There's a black cat that's a vicious fucking puss, there's some hallucinations, lots of fire, a recurring fox dream, and a butler who seems to know more than he's letting on.  All shot on sets so beautiful, garish, and ruined.  The script by legend Robert Towne (Chinatown) seems simple at first but grows more and more complex as we begin to understand the root of this evil, which may or may not be love...or at least the idea of a love so powerful it can consume one from beyond the grave.  Also, there's hypnosis I think.

The picture climaxes with more fire, a crumbling Abbey and Fell's silly (yet quite moving??) fight with that black cat.  So, this movie is like staunchly anti-Athesist, right?  I don't remember the story very well but did Christopher and Rowena ride off into the sunset immediately after her new husband dies to start a new life together?  That sounds very Poe.  Anyway, this one is pretty good for a hungover Saturday afternoon.  


6.  Xtro 3:  Watch The Skies (1995) / Director: Harry Bromley Davenport

The magic is gone.  Xtro (1982) is a classic video nasty containing a scene were a woman gives birth (due to some alien hijinks) to a full grown man and it's really fucking gross.  She dies, of course.  So, thirteen years later Davenport, who made Xtro and Xtro II: The Second Encounter (1990), returns with Xtro 3 and I can't, for the life of me, figure out why.  Now, I fully admit to not having seen Xtro II so perhaps there is precedent for this director not even half assedly attempting to one-up the previous film in the series.  That's the first rule of sequels!  More is better.  Be Bigger!  The first movie has a woman torn apart as she gives birth to a full grown person.  I honestly can't remember a single other element from that movie.  So, you gotta do something.  Pretend to try and top it!  Xtro 3 has a spider web that's acidic??  I guess????  I mean, it leaves a mark on a few characters I suppose.  The alien-thing has a long tongue-a-majig.  That's something.

Anyway, the best part of Xtro 3 is the beginning newsreel 1950s newsreel footage which goes to great lengths to disprove the existence of UFOs.  There's even a scene in this footage of young Martin Starr being forced to retract UFO footage he shot as a hoax.  So, the set-up being "Trust No One" and "Don't believe a word the government says".  As the actual picture begins, we find our hero, a badly scarred Lt. Martin Kirn (Sal Landi), holed up in a seedy motel somewhere telling his story to a reporter.  Kirn was part of a mission to land on an island and detonate some leftover bombs or some shit like that.  Robert Culp collects a few bucks by ordering him to do that island bomb detonating thing.  Andrew Divoff, once a nice little supporting actor appearing in such mainstream fare as "The Hunt for Red October" appears as the menacing and, clearly, duplicitous commander of the mission, Captain Fetterman.  This guy's an asshole from the start, even ordering Kirn at the beginning to "keep your hands off Watkins" (I'm not even sure Kirn's met Watkins by this part of the story, but ok).  Watkins is a female soldier and Fetterman's direct subordinate.  He barks her name when he needs something and even roughs her up a few times here and there.  Helluva guy.  The rest of the platoon wouldn't even satisfy as stand-ins in Aliens, the movie this one is mostly closely ripping off.  We've got the mission, we've got the trip (by boat), we've got the landing (by boat) and then we've also got a Newt character (in the form of an old man) as well as a shit ton of bunny rabbits (I forget exactly what caused the infestation but I can assure you it was inconsequential).  

Oh yeah, and there's a fucking alien.  A single fucking alien.  The alien has the ability to cloak itself and it's stark fucking naked so that cloaking ability is a part of it's biology?  I guess?  Oh yeah, this movie also rips off Predator.  I mean, it's fun for a little while in that mid to late 90s Sci-Fi channel type of way.  None of the characters, beyond Divoff's caustic Fetterman, stand out in any interesting way.  I guess the most fascinating element of the picture is the alien's motivation.  By stag film in old man Newt's cave, we learn that this poor little shit was forced to witness the torture of his (or her!) partner by some government spooks, back in the 50s.  So now, his vengeance is unleashed when a platoon stumbles upon his island presenting him with an opportunity for some payback torture.  This is a motivation usually ascribed to a boogeyman in a slasher film.  Yet, here, because this is a not a slasher film, it's kinda interesting.  You kinda had a novel idea there, Davenport.  Sorry, that sounded snide.  This picture didn't kill me.  I just really wanted to see how Davenport topped that birthing scene from the first one.  Instead, he didn't even try.  Maybe in Xtro 4, coming soon.?

Tuesday, October 6, 2020

SCHLOCKTOBER FEST, 2020: VOLUME I

 


Ok, here we go with another round of Schlocktober.  I almost didn't do it this year since you know everything's been falling apart.  Also, I deleted Facebook and am terrified of promoting anything on Twitter.  So, this is basically for me and maybe a few lucky souls I actually tell that I'm doing this again.  I've tweaked the rules a bit this year:

1.  31 movies but not a movie each day (my plan is to double up early so I'm not watching 4 movies on some days like I did last year).
2.  It has to be a movie I don't remember, not necessarily a movie I haven't seen (Basically, any movie that's been the 2nd or 3rd feature of a drunken movie night would qualify)
3.  And, of course, it has to be horror 

Here we go!

1.  Shivers (1975) / Director: David Cronenberg
As a pretty big Cronenberg fan I couldn't believe I had never seen his 1975 - not quite debut but basically his debut - film ShiversShivers tells the story of a couple of doctors that develop a parasite that can replicate a human organ when a person's organ happens to be failing.  You know " a perfectly good parasite where you used to have a rotten kidney" type of deal.  Of course, this parasite has other ideas and spreads and spreads throughout an apartment complex just outside of Montreal.  By "spreads and spreads" I mean it infects its host with an insatiable appetite for orgiastic sex with anyone, whether they be willing or...unwilling.  So, yeah, kinda rape-y.

The movie opens with a middle aged man attacking and brutally murdering a young woman.  He then lays her on a table, slits open her stomach, and pours acid inside.  So, ok...shocking scene.  Pretend you didn't read that first paragraph, will you?  The picture like most of Cronenberg's pictures takes a very clinical, almost to the point of being detached, view of the proceedings.  At first the main character appears to be Nick who is suffering from a stomach ailment that gets progressively worse.  His, largely ignored by him, wife (Janine) finds comfort in the company of her neighbor Betts, played by scream queen legend, Barbara Steele (Black Sunday).  Eventually, the film settles on Dr. St. Luc (Paul Hampton) as our protagonist who, along with his very horny assistant (is she or isn't she infected?), Nurse Forsythe investigate the strange goings on.

All the while, the film feels like a really strange mashup of George Damiano (Deep Throat, Devil in Ms. Jones) and Stanley Kubrick.  We're just this side of things really going off the rails and full penetration breaking out.  Or, would that be on the rails?  Anyway, I liked this one quite a bit but might be the rare guy that slightly prefers Rabid.

2.  Hellmaster (1992) / Director: Douglas Schulze
3 Seconds.  It took 3 seconds for me to be annoyed with this picture.  The instant "God is Dead -- Nietzche" was slapped on the screen I figured I was in for an interminable 90 minutes.  And, well, the first 20 minutes or so is pretty damned interminable.  Students sitting in a class at Kant Institute of Technology (groan) philosophizing about the nature of evil, root of homelessness (ok, listening), etc.  This is the kind of class where the professor (who is, by the way, teaching remotely -- oooh...prescient) drops this nugget mid-lecture; " a full 90% of our graduates go on to lucrative careers in the CIA or FBI.  There is nothing more 90s than wanting to join the FBI as a young person.  Post Silence of the Lambs,  just pre-X-files.  Fuck, Keanu just a couple years earlier proclaimed "I am an FBI agent" and a generation was changed into little Hoover wannabes.  Anyway, very 90s, you had to be there.

So, once you cut through the bullshit of this one you get to a really sweet "Night of" type deal where a bunch of crazy monsters steal a bus after murdering a bible class and make their way to Kant.  The movie becomes a little bit Night of the Demons and a little bit, I don't know...Ilsa-y?  See, a former professor, 20 years back, experimented on some students in a Nazi camp type of way and then they became monsters and he (John Saxon) disappeared into the bowels of the school.  I don't know, I guess the abominations he created were detained and imprisoned in some mental institution or some shit, eventually escaping on this very night, whatever night this very night happens to be.  The monsters are in the cenobite realm, each having unique characteristics.  We got the Nun (sort of a chatterer), the little child (looking for a plaything), and the leader vaguely resembles Pinhead if you removed all the nails.  

The fodder, our students, are mostly unmemorable.  We've got the bully that's killed way too soon and the kid with the crutches who turns out to be the biggest asshole of them all (I respect that choice).  As far as I can tell, Douglas Schulze went on to make exactly zero more pictures which is kind of a shame because this one showed promise and, in short stretches, was actually almost brilliant.  Until the end where we get the battle of philosophical mind breaking world views:  "god is not dead because death is mortal and god is not mortal evil is mortal and you are evil so therefore mortal (and here...let me stick this knife in you right here....that's right...thanks)".


3.  KILLER CROCODILE 2 (1990) / Dir:  Gianetto De Rossi

Killer Crocodile 2 is a sequel to Killer Crocodile a movie where an Indiana Jones type character (named Kevin Jones) tracks down and blows up a killer crocodile that's been eating tourists and villagers down in the Caribbean.  In the sequel, Jones is absent until the last third of the movie when he is hired to rescue a New York Times reporter (Lisa) who has been sent down to the Caribbean to investigate shady business practices (i.e., a company dumping toxic waste in the jungle and away from their resorts...or whatever). Lisa, young and ambitious, deals with some incredible misogyny while doling out some homophobia of her own.  Well, it was the 70s...wait, this sequel is from the 90s!  I know it's Italian and some of these Italian pictures can be a bit rough around the edges but come on guys, learn to be offensive with subtlety.

Speaking of Italian pictures, they do love to rip off Jaws.  In this one, they re-use the Jaws POV shots while also re-using the John Williams score, like note for note.  I'm guessing the only reason this thing wasn't sued out of existence (like another Italian Jaws rip-off, Great White) was because by the time this one was released, 15 years later, no one gave a shit.  Basically, what we got here is a natural menace (laid-egg style=by the crocodile from the first picture) terrorizing and eating villagers and tourists alike while money hungry capitalists are desperate to keep operations at or above status quo.  Into the picture, comes an Kevin Jones, his aging buddy (Quint-esque) who was mauled in the first picture, and the NYT reporter who, actually, shockingly (for this type of movie) kinda holds her own.  She and Kevin also have a sex scene reminiscent, yet way more explicit, of the scene where Joan Wilder and Jack Colton sleep together in the belly of a downed aircraft (Romancing the Stone).  

In closing, Killer Crocodile 2 is probably not as good as Killer Crocodile 1 but there is a scene where the crocodile stalks and eats a bible class (2nd straight movie where bible kids are decimated -- possible 90s trope) so maybe it's better than Killer Crocodile 1, after all.  I don't know, this one's pretty good.  There's a bad guy named mosquito.  I honestly don't remember what happened to him but that name has certainly stuck with me.  He carried around some radioactive waste barrels at one point.  Seemed like an ok guy.

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

Godzember, 2019: The Show Era (1954 -- 1975), Volume III


Here's where I watched "Invasion of Astro-Monster" (1965), "Ebirah, Horror of the Deep" aka "Godzilla vs. The Sea Monster (1966).  Also, here's where to my great relief these pictures began to distinguish themselves enough from one another that I could begin to enjoy each one on its own terms.

Invasion of Astro-Monster (1965)
Director:  Ishiro Honda
Length: 94 minutes

kaiju appearances (other than, well, you know)
Rodan
King Ghidora


I'll be honest, when I read the plot synopses for this one I was a little concerned when I saw that Rodan and Ghidora were, once again, making an appearance here.  My concerns were immediately assuaged when I realized this was a throw-back science fiction film to things like "War of the Worlds" or "Robinson Crusoe on Mars" or...basically any of those 50s red scare type of science fiction films.  Also, this is a co-production with Toho and an American studio so I was able to watch the dubbed version.  Of course I watched the dubbed version with the subtitles on so I could see how far off the dubbing was.  This contributed to what was already an immensely enjoyable picture.  Here's an example, occurring late in the film when a character is discussing the chances of Earth not being enslaved by aliens:

dubbed:  the odds are long
subtitle:  our chances are so-so

So, that's like going from "I, for one, welcome our new Alien overlords" to "I don't know, guy, more of the same...whatever...meh".  

The picture opens with a couple of astronauts on a space mission out to mysterious Planet X.  This is a newly discovered planet hidden behind Jupiter.  Apparently it's been the source of some electromagnetic disturbances that have been messing with Earth's orbital path.  I made that last part up, I think.  I'm not sure what it was disrupting exactly but whatever it was it was worth the trillion dollar expedition.  Aboard the ship are, like I said, a couple of astronauts.  We got Glenn (an American) and Fuji (uh....Japanese, I'm assuming).  Fuji's a total asshole throughout the movie but he's the good kind of asshole.  Glenn is predictably brash, cocky, blonde...a bit old looking.  Fuji speaks to Mission Control and makes them give a message to his sister that she'd better behave.  Essentially, his message is she better not bang the inventor she's been dating.  The inventor comes into play later.  So these two fucking asshole astronauts (that I kinda like) make their way to Planet X, land their rocket ship (the science in this film is hilarious, I mean, I don't know a lot but if there's one thing I know it's that you can't land a rocket ship -- you need a lander, right, right?).  So, Glenn immediately disappears on the surface while Fuji is busy planting an amalgamation of the Japanese and American flag.  Stunned by the disappearance of Glenn and, oh, also the rocket ship, Fuji is even more stunned by the disembodied voice that instructs him to get into the elevator that strangely just came up from beneath the surface.  Fuji hems and haws, ultimately relents.  

Beneath the surface he comes into an underground fortress type situation.  Maybe the recent picture "Ad Astra" lifted some of the visuals from this picture.  Within this fortress he's led to a control room where Fuji encounters some aliens, look Japanese, called Xliens for the duration of the picture.  Their leader, named Control, offers them a proposition.  Destroy Monster 00 and they'll reward the people of Earth with a miracle cure for every disease that has ever existed.  Monster 00 is the reason they have to live underground.  Every hour or so he flies around destroying the surface.  Also, Monster Zero is Ghidorah.  I guess that's where he flew to at the end of the last picture.

Well Fuji and Glenn (now reunited) have to wonder what the fuck can we do about that thing.  The plan, outlandish as it is, is to give the Xliens permission (they weirdly need permission) to transport Godzilla (known on Planet X as Monster 01) and Rodan (Monster 02) to Planet X so they can fight Monster 00 (Ghidorah).  Still with me.  After some debate, they tentatively agree, but also have to go back to Earth where that agreement can be made official.  The Xliens agree!  What can go wrong here?  So much agreement.

So, Glen and Fuji return to Earth and we know this because the newspaper splayed across the scene exclaims "Spaceship Returns from Planet X" and also because we now see them walking around Tokyo or some other Japanese city, perhaps.  The government officials aren't sure they can trust these Xliens but the science on the miracle cure checks out so they say 'why the fuck not".  Meanwhile, Fuji and Glenn have lunch with Fuji's sister and her paramour, the Inventor.  It does not go well as Fuji bluntly dubs "Terry" -- the inventor's named Terry, "I'm not sure you can make my sister happy". I can only surmise that Fuji wants to bang his sister.  Hey, whatever works for that guy I guess.  Also, this inventor is working on a pretty cool invention.  It emits awful, ear splitting noises.  I'm pretty sure that's all it does.

So, after lunch Glenn hops in a convertible with some Japanese broad while Fuji and the rest go their separate ways.  Thankfully, the Xliens told them where Godzilla and Rodan were resting.  Both at the bottom of some lake, it turns out.  Suspicions mount when Fuji and Glenn reunite and Glenn recounts his night.  He had just finished bedding his girl and was rolling over to sleep when he saw Control in his room.  Remember that Control was the leader of the Xliens?  Well, turns out that the Xliens had always been on Earth and were going to take Godzilla and Rodan whether they had permission or not.  They apologize for the subterfuge, claim it was necessary for whatever reason.  Then they beam up Godzilla and Rodan from the lake.
The human characters think "hey, maybe we can kill multiple birds with the same stone here".  Get rid of Godzilla and Rodan and walk away with a miracle cure.  Seriously, who wouldn't trust these piece of shit alien...sorry Xliens?  So...Fuji and Glenn also hitch a ride with the aliens so they can witness the battle back on Planet X.  Glenn tells his girl "so long, I'll marry you when I get back" which is a weird thing to say to a girl it seemed like he barely knew.  Anyway, back on Planet X they are "witness to a historical battle where 00 has finally met his match" or so says Control.  It's pretty good.  I can't disagree.  I'd imagine a battle between three giant monsters on a Planet tucked away behind Jupiter would have to be pretty historical and thankfully, there are a couple of humans there to log it into record.  It's my favorite battle of the series.  02 drops a space boulder on 00's head at one point.

It goes on for a while and then Monster 00, wounded, flies away as he always does and 01 salutes him.
So, hey...the movie should end right here with Godzilla (back to their earthbound names) and Rodan stranded on Planet X and the Earth with a new cure-all.  So why the hell are there still thirty minutes left in this thing?  Well, if you've seen any Twilight Zone with aliens (I'm thinking "To Serve Man" of course) you'd know that aliens are almost never to be trusted.  Glen and Fuji fly an exact replica (built by the Xliens) of their rocket ship back to Earth.  They feel bad for stranding Godzilla and Rodan but, hey, what are they gonna do?  

Back on Earth everything is going pretty well for everyone until it turns out that a bunch of their population are Xliens (oh yeah, including Glenn's girl) and that Control has just executed order #2 where all mankind "will place the Earth under our control and serve as our Colony".  The inventor (remember that cuck?) is locked up because apparently they fear him and whatever the hell that thing is that he invented.  Earth resists a bit so the Xliens send down Godzilla, Rodan, and Ghidora (all now under Xlien mind-control) to restore order (i.e., destroy everything).  Meanwhile, Glenn's alien girl, confesses her love for Glenn and is immediately evaporated by Control since emotion is a crime back on Planet X (and their new colony Earth, of course).  Also, these Xlien's have a thing against loud obnoxious noises.  Thankfully the inventor had a prototype of his loud, obnoxious noise emitting machine with him in his jail cell for some reason.  So, look...this is probably my favorite of the sequels so far.  The plot is just tremendously absurd.  These aliens, who are precisely one degree away from conquering the speed of light (honestly, kinda lame that they couldn't even do that) and are capable of telepathy, interstellar travel, giant monster tractor beams, etc...are destroyed by a really annoying dog whistle.  Sorry for the spoiler.   

Of course, once the Xliens are eradicated and the giant monsters are freed from their control they immediately get to fighting each other.  I'm a fan of Godzilla's pre-fight ritual where he hops up and down a few times and shakes his arms.  His arms are getting shorter with each sequel.  So, the last fight is not as good as the first fight in this picture.  How could it be?  It doesn't take place in Space.  It takes place on Earth.  Also, each monster is thrown onto his back at least one time and has to turtle his way upright.  I enjoyed those moments immensely.  The picture ends with Ghidorah thrown into the water, causing a tidal wave (thousands killed) and then flying off into Space again.    I can only imagine the great sadness he'll feel when he arrives back to a deserted Planet X.

Oh yeah and that miracle cure they were promised?  A fucking lemon.


Ebirah, Monster of the Deep (1966)
Director:  Jun Fukuda
Length:  87 minutes

kaiju appearances:
Ebirah
Mothra


"Ebirah, Horror of the Deep", aka "Godzilla vs the Sea Monster" was originally written to be a King Kong picture and it shows.  That's not a bad thing.  It's just a bit jarring in the way they didn't really change anything in the script except for the name of the monster.  The picture opens, as almost all of these pictures seem to open, with a colossal hurricane.  But, wait....no, not actually.  It opens with on a tribal village beneath Spirit Mountain, on some island, where the villagers pray for some guy named Yata, who is lost somewhere.  The woman, a shaman of sorts, reveals that she's searched the underworld top-to-bottom and could not find him.  Good news!  He's alive!  Also, who's Yata?  The picture then cuts to the mainland where a few guys participate in one of those dance competitions where the last person standing is the winner.  These guys (one is revealed to be the brother of this Yata character) hope to win the grand prize (a yacht) so they can set out to sea and find him (ok).  Too bad, they lose.  Plan b is "let's just steal one instead".  They do...only the guy that owns, and was sleeping, in the yacht is some infamous cat burglar who's been in all the papers lately.  They become friends, all set out to sea....and that's where the typhoon that I falsely claimed opened the picture, finally hits.

A couple things; First, the score.  It's all over the fucking place.  The opening is layered with funky African drum beats which seamlessly transitions into almost Spaghetti Western notes.  Later, we've got surf guitar as we later transition into the 1960s Mod shit (during the dance competition).  So, basically it's enjoyable as all hell.  Second, I'm once again having trouble remembering or identifying any of these characters beyond some basic traits.  The brother is determined, angry.  The thief is good at cracking safes.  

So, the typhoon hits and suddenly this is all feeling very Gilligan's Island as the four sailors struggle to maintain control of their battered yacht.  It doesn't help matters that they suddenly see a giant claw protruding from the sea.  They abandon ship just before they fall into its clutch.

I assumed these guys were all dead but, no, they come to on a deserted island.  Well, not so deserted actually.  They immediately spy some armed men and then later they see a large compound.  Inside the compound, the native islanders have all been enslaved.  Also, Yata is with them.  These guys are not really up to good.  They're led by an eye patch wearing motherfucker and, to be honest, other than  wearing an eye patch, guy doesn't really do much.
He's no Serizawa, that's for sure.  For the first time in these pictures we get an evil human organization that's not just the government or corporatists.  These guys call themselves Red Bamboo and they're on this island working on splitting some atoms, etc.  Also, the slaves mine some sort of yellow liquid to keep the island monster at bay.  It hates the yellow liquid.  Have a look at the guy.

So, now I can only assume the yellow liquid they're mining is some sort of molten butter type deal.  This creature is amazing.  After a couple of the native islanders attempt an escape he smashes their canoe, breaks off a piece of wood, skewers, the islanders (back to back) and devours them kebob style.  Here's the evidence.
So, this creature....Ebirah, is pretty fucking great.  If a bit silly.  Not exactly the Lovecraftian monstrosity the picture's title promises.  Basically, what we got here is a picture where our four heroes (the marooned sailors) run and hide from Red Bamboo and their trigger happy soldiers, while devising a plan to rescue Yata (and I guess the other slaves if everything works out) and also they discover Godzilla asleep in one of the island caves.  He's in a deep sleep, can't be woken unless, I don't know, they rig a lightning rod or something but why would they want to do that?  Turns out these Red Bamboo fellows (they seem incompetent to me) are more than they can handle.  Also, there's Ebirah but he can't get too close to the island because of all that artery clogging butter.  Oh, and there's also Mothra asleep on neighboring Infant Island (another thing that reminded me of Gilligan's Island was the neighboring island that, alas, was not home to cannibals).  They met a native island girl, I forgot to mention.  She filled them in on the Mothra stuff.  But Mothra, like Kon...Godzilla is also in a deep sleep.  Currently, the twins are trying to sing her awake but it's not working.  

Of course, they go with the lightning rod.  It takes a few days of waiting but finally they get a storm, Godzilla wakes up, and immediately rushes out to sea to confront Ebirah.  These monsters have some incredible monster radar.  This fight is mostly entertaining.  Godzilla throws a bunch of rocks.  They fight underwater, at one point, "Top Secret" style.
Ebirah, eventually, scuttles away, a bit wounded.  Godzilla proceeds to stomp his way across the rest of the island, destroying the compound where our heroes have made it inside, finally rescuing Yata.  I'm recalling story out of order, apologies.  I missed an earlier rescue attempt, maybe that's where they rescued Yata and one of our heroes got stuck in a hot air balloon, taking him to Infant Island.  Who knows, can't remember, and my handwriting is terrible.  They discover the nefarious plan (a cache of nuclear materials ready to be turned into ultimate weapons).  The slaves make a plan to instead of, you know, making actual butter that will keep Ebirah at bay, let's just make margarine or something?  Later, the Red Bamboo attempt to flee in their ship (which spews the yellow stuff over its sides -- as a shield) but Ebirah's not having any of that shit, doesn't mind margarine, and that's the end of Red Bamboo.  Oh, but before they left they set a timer on their nuclear cache so in comes, Mothra, having finally woken up, to fly a rescue mission.   

Also, Godzilla and Ebirah fight one last time.  This one does not end well for Ebirah.  He loses a claw.  Godzilla taunts him with it, a trait of King Kong (as he plays with it, opens and closes it), as Ebirah scuttles away for his life.  Later, Godzilla jumps off the island (to the sound of cheering villagers being carried away to safety by Mothra) just as the bomb goes off.  That's it.

Except, the Kong stuff.  There's a scene about 2/3 of the way through this thing where Godzilla encounters the native island girl at the top of the mountain.  It's the first time (maybe the only time) that Godzilla pays any attention to an individual human.  Godzilla is smaller here than usual.  He saves the girl from a flying dinosaur (Pterodactyl) and then sits down to rest.  He even sits down like Kong.  
He's become her protector.  The Red Bamboo launch an air strike and Godzilla, angered, stands up, bats away the onslaught, sits back down to rest.  They acknowledge each other.  She looks at him with what can only be described as a strange sort of yearning.  Finally, she wanders off after he falls asleep.  So, yeah....they basically had a scene in here which encompassed every Kong involved action scene from the 1933 film.   That was a bit weird.  If I didn't know this was written for a Kong film I'd still be a bit dumbfounded.  To be honest, I loved it.  It's lazy, to be sure.  They took the screenplay, as written, and didn't change a damn thing, except for the name of the monster.  Not sure if Mothra was supposed to be in the Kong version or not but based on how little Mothra appears in this picture it wouldn't have shocked me.  I do wonder if Kong was meant to die in the explosion since I don't know, he's not much of a long distance swimmer?  Anyway, masterpiece.