Friday, December 27, 2013

Movie Review: Your Vice is a Locked Room and Only I Have the Key (1972)

How strange that I should watch this movie in such close succession to watching Lucio Fulci's The Black Cat because both films claim to be based on the Edgar Allan Poe short story "The Black Cat." Of course they changed the title a bit for today's film, obviously because Your Vice is a Locked Room and Only I Have the Key is much more simplistic, easier-to-understand title. I seriously have no idea what that title means. How can somebody's vice be a locked room? Am I misunderstanding the definition of "vice"?

In a palatial but dilapidated villa, failed writer Oliviero Rouvigny lives with his wife Irina where he throws decadent parties every night with a local hippie commune. He drinks heavily and humiliates and abuses Irina whenever he can, and obsesses about his dead mother. When a local girl Oliviero had relations with is found murdered, he becomes the prime suspect, making him more paranoid and letting loose his sadism against his wife, who herself is falling deeper into depression and madness as well. There is also Oliviero's black cat, Satan, who used to belong to his mother and who Irina fears.

Sergio Martino was not before on my list of giallo directors to look out for, but after Your Vice, he definitely will be. This film is tightly shot and paced, with hardly any lulls in the story and almost every scene has importance to either the plot or the arc of the characters. There is murder, of course, and free-flowing and sometimes perverse sex, but that never detracts from the core story around Oliviero and Irina. Oliviero's niece Floriana comes into the story later, manipulating both of them to her own gains. Complex characters, a tight plot, and a murder mystery - the perfect recipe for a truly engaging and entertaining movie.

I'd be remiss not to comment on each of the three lead actors. Luigi Pistilli as Oliviero is almost terrifying in the emotionless way he carries out his various atrocities. He has such a calm demeanor throughout most of the movie that it is hard to watch him abuse his wife, molest his black maid Brenda in the middle of the party at the beginning, and, most of all, take up a sexual relationship with his own niece while he plots to murder his wife. Anita Strindberg's best asset as Irina is her face, full of sharp angles, a tight mouth, and wide, expressive eyes. You absolutely believe every emotion that she portrays with that face. Edwige Fenech (whom you might recognize as the art class teacher from Hostel: Part II) is the seductive and intriguing Floriana. Her role is an interesting one with the way she wedges herself in between Irina and Oliviero, actually having sex with both of them. We find out that the only reason she is there is to get her late aunt's expensive jewelry, but you can tell that she almost enjoys the sick things she chooses to do in order to possess them.

As a giallo film, I was expecting lots of lavish and beautiful death scenes. I was a tad disappointed in that regard, with only a few neck and chest slashings, but they were still filmed to look very pretty. Fausta's throat being cut was probably the most well done out of all of them, while the long gash from Brenda's chest to her stomach was too obviously a prosthetic. The bright red paint serving as blood, a giallo staple, is a great image and helps to overlook the fact that the other special effects are sometimes not up to par with the rest of the film. After Satan the cat kills some of Irina's beloved pet doves, she goes a little crazy and stabs out one of the animal's eyes. Subsequent scenes of Irina's obsession with the cat wanting revenge on her show a ghastly bloody hole where his eye used to be. It doesn't look all that real, but it's certainly memorable and gets the job done.

Poe's "The Black Cat" is a story about obsession, fixation, and paranoia, and cleverly crafted right up until the gleefully fitting end. Given the fact that in the story is was the husband who murdered his wife, and it was her cat that he was afraid of and tried to kill, I should have known right away that Irina was actually behind everything that happened. Bah, what's wrong with me? The film ends the same way that he story does - with Satan the cat revealing Oliviero's dead body behind the cellar wall - but it's hard to feel as satisfied about this conclusion because of the sympathy the audience probably has for Irina. Though she has planned and carried out several murders of innocents in order to get to her husband, she suffered under him, and there is no reason to have any sympathy for Oliviero. Eh, I guess justice was served on both sides.

Your Vice is a Locked Room and Only I Have the Key was more than a welcome surprise. I never know what I'm going to get with some of these giallos, but several times I have been happy that I gave them a chance. This was a great find, and I hope that there are many others like it out there.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Movie Roundup: Just Some Random Stuff...

So despite my lack of posting lately, I have actually watched a bunch of movies, just never obviously got around to writing about them. I shall now do so in my Movie Roundup, Random Stuff edition!

Carrie (2013)
I was nervous as hell about what they would do to one of my favorite horror flicks, but as with all the remakes, I gave Carrie the benefit of the doubt. But... I fucking hated Carrie. There were some things that I was okay with - they changed the gym teacher's name back to Desjardin like in the book, added in Sue Snell's pregnancy, and did a nice job updating the flick to the modern day with the Internet video of Carrie's locker room humiliation. However, I was not sold on any of the performances. Though Chloe Moretz did her best, she just did not have the same feeling about her to make her as sympathetic or vulnerable as she should have been. I hated the scenes where Carrie was practicing her telekinesis because that totally went against who Carrie is supposed to be and the shock and redemption you're supposed to feel during the prom massacre. Moretz played Carrie too confident and rebellious against her mother. Julianne Moore was actually good casting, but I just could not get Piper Laurie out of my mind. That is one of my favorite performances ever, and I don't think anyone could have topped her. Sue and the rest of the girls were your basic stick-thin, pretty, popular bitches and they weren't memorable at all. The prom sequence was okay enough, but damn did I hate the deaths of Billy and Chris. The way her face was sticking out of the windshield? Ridiculous. 

One of the worst things about Carrie was that I went to see the movie with someone who had not seen the original before, and the remake was so bad that he said that he had no desire to see the original! I tried to tell him otherwise, and I only hope he listened. I tried not to compare the movie too much with the original while I was watching it, but with a film as big as Carrie and one that I admire so much, it was really hard not to be critical.

Curse of Chucky (2013)
I wrote a short post about how stoked I was for Curse of Chucky after seeing his new look for this sixth installment. For the most part, Don Mancini and crew did manage to take Chucky back to his scarier roots, however, I'm still not a big fan of the story they came up with. So Chucky is mad because a woman he kidnapped and whose husband he murdered called the police on him? Really? That's shocking! And it didn't really match up for me that this was the same night he transferred himself into the doll because where was his partner Eddie who left him? Not explained. As for the rest of the movie, I kinda dug it. It had a very old-school, old-dark-house feel to it with the location, and Chucky freaked me out just as much as he ever did in some specific scenes. Though his hair was a little too long, I was happy that they went back to Chucky's non-scarred look, and really disappointed when they brought the scars back again toward the end. Brad Dourif is fantastic as ever, and even gets some screen time himself during flashbacks. His daughter Fiona carries the film well as paraplegic Nica, and the other characters are fun and refreshing for the series. There's even some surprises that I never saw coming, and actually the whole plot was constructed in such a way that I never knew what direction they were going to go in. A very good installment for the series, and loads better than the atrocity that was Seed of Chucky. Here's hoping for more Child's Play fun in the future - and hopefully they'll actually put "Child's Play" in the title this time. I'm getting a little sick of this "of Chucky" crap.

How much did I love seeing the stuff with Andy at the end? A LOT, I tell you. A LOT.

Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1958)
There have been several adaptations of The Body Snatchers novel since 1955, and the only one I had seen was 2007's The Invasion which I don't even remember at all. Part of this 1958 version is very cool even by today's standards but I admit to getting a little bored toward the conclusion. I like how the film was introduced as a frame story; it gave good reason for the voice over and gave the audience some insights that they might not have had just from the plot itself. The effects work on the blanks and the pods was impressive, even that bubbly, sudsy effect, and a bit more gross than I was expecting. As for another effect - the cheese effect that is possible in any kind of B horror movie - I was happy to see that it was quite minimal. The movie has a very serious, creepy undertone stemming from the fact the more pods and replicas that are created, and the longer they go without sleep, the more likely it is that our main characters will fall victim to it as well. Very excited to see the Donald Sutherland version now, because, well, Donald Sutherland.

The Return of the Living Dead (1985)
Holy goddamn, you guys. I don't really have much to say about this movie other than that it was FUCKING AWESOME. Why, oh WHY, have I never seen this before? I loved every second of it and actually haven't had that much fun watching a movie in a long time. I'd really like to do a proper review of it soon, but I'll have to see it again in order to catch me up on the specifics. For now, just know that I am in love with this movie and want to have its baby.

The Black Cat (1981)
Definitely NOT Edgar Allen Poe's Black Cat, that's for sure. Shame, because that's one of my favorite short stories. Anywho, this Black Cat is of the Lucio Fulci variety, that mad genius who entertained the hell out of me with The House by the Cemetery. Sadly, he couldn't do the same with The Black Cat. I was beyond happy to find out that Patrick Magee, my favorite bushy eyebrowed actor, was in this one, and I love cats so I love seeing them  even when they're all evil and scratching and killing people. The problem though is that the movie lacks Fulci's famous gore and is mostly a bore. Fulci does once again show his love for doing lots of close-ups on people's eyes but nothing about this movie is up to snuff with other movies in the same genre. I'm bored now.

Bruiser (2000)
Well, hm. This was interesting. Actually on second thought, no it wasn't. This wasn't a good movie and it hurts me to admit that about something my beloved George Romero did, but this was just... weird. I mean, was there supposed to be some metaphor here about standing up for yourself when you lose your old identity and have the freedom to do what you want? Or something? Because this sure was an odd way to do it. The premise of the story is really just kind of stupid, with a guy waking up one day to find out that his face is nothing but a blank white mask. How or why this happened is never questioned by anyone, and main character Henry Creedlow runs with it too easily, immediately taking out anybody who makes him feel like the doormat he used to be. Boring, silly, unbelievable. Didn't like it.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

A Zombie SantaCon

In the spirit of the holidays, here is a short video from Local Empire, a sketch comedy group, about SantaCon 2013 in New York City - with a small zombie twist. Enjoy, and happy holidays from The Girl Who Loves Horror!

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Movie Review: Grabbers (2012)

What could be more satisfying on a winter's night than curling up on my comfy couch and watching a movie about hilarious drunken Irish men and women fighting a giant alien squid? Nothing, I tell you. NOTHING. There are some movies that you just know you're going to love, you know? I first read about Grabbers quite a while ago, saved it in my Netflix queue and eagerly awaited the day that they would add it. They finally did (weeks ago, actually, but I'm a well-known procrastinator) and tonight I had the pleasure of viewing it. 

On a small Irish island, two police officers lead the town in a fight against a huge blood-sucking, squid-like alien creature. After figuring out that the creatures don't like the toxic level of alcohol in their victim's blood, the entire town proceeds to get drunk while still trying to kill the creature.

Despite heavy influences, or at least close reminders, of other horror comedy creature features like Tremors, Grabbers is a movie that really seemed to find its niche and roll with it. Though the film is specific to its location, the jokes can easily be enjoyed by people of any country. Is it racist to say that Irish people are funny just because they're Irish? I love the accents, and they way they call people things like "gobshite" and use "feck" to replace "fuck." The humor is not dirty, but rather the quick-witted commonplace humor from everyday situations, and that is something that I can always appreciate. 

Special effects-wise, Grabbers delivers. There's the usual fair at the beginning of the film where the monster is only heard and not seen, and we only see the little grabbers first before seeing the big daddy grabber at the end, but what they give us is quite wonderful. There's nothing particularly ingenious about the design of the creature; really, it's just an octopus with a lot more legs and without the creepy bulbous head. There's a circular mouth in the middle where a smaller tentacle shoots out and attacks. With the well-rendered CGI, the way the creature moves and reacts with its environment, the movie is given just the right amount of semi-realism to be both believable and funny at the same time, which is something a movie in this genre needs. How the grabbers "walk" was probably my favorite part, as they had all of the, oh about 30 legs or so making it roll around like a ball. 

The only real flaw in the movie is the lack of explanation for the creature. It is, in fact, an alien, which we get from the requisite flaming-ball-of-rock-hurtling-toward-Earth scene at the beginning. At the risk of thinking too much into the situation, I don't really see how this thing could be from another planet. They figure out that the creature needs only blood and water to survive, two things that I'm pretty sure still don't exist on other planets yet. I digress. I really don't care that much about the non-explanation, but it did need to be pointed out. The alcohol thing, while probably mostly done for hilarity's sake, is a simplistic yet workable solution for the situation, so I'm cool with that, too. 

You'll love all the characters here. There's the curly-haired, lovable Garda (police officer) O'Shea and his new partner, the adorably eager Lisa Nolan, as our two main characters, and they're both a joy to watch throughout the film. When the drinking starts in the last act, Lisa (actress Ruth Bradley) proves herself to be the cutest drunk ever. Seriously, she's adorable. There are many yucks to be had from the rest of the townspeople as well, like the dorky marine ecologist Smith, the town crazy Paddy, and the dirty-minded pub owner's wife Una. All their little actions and quirks were wonderfully timed and executed, even though some of them could have a used a bit more character development so they that they didn't seem as much like the usual Hollywood stereotypes of what Irish people are like. 

Grabbers is one of those movies that there should be a lot more of. On the surface it seems like a silly, light-hearted comedy with a crazy monster in it, but the film is really very smart and uses good thought to get our characters out of this insane situation. Some movies just have that cute factor about them. Grabbers is a cute movie and I'm sure you'll love it. You also might need the subtitles like I did to catch all that Irish humor, though!

Monday, December 2, 2013

Movie Review: The World's End (2013)

Ay yi yi. Are the holidays over yet? I need my regular boring life back.

Edgar Wright. Simon Pegg. Nick Frost. No joke, three of the greatest things to happen to movies in the last decade. Shaun of the Dead is beyond words brilliant as a rom-zom-com with blood, guts, belly laughs, and a lot of heart. Hot Fuzz was an immensely successful follow-up that ventured into the buddy-cop action movie genre, but still had the blood, guts, belly laughs, and possibly even more heart. And now the fan-coined "Cornetto Trilogy" concludes with the appropriately titled The World's End. The blood and guts are blue this time, but they're there, and so are the belly laughs and never-ending heart.

Five childhood friends return to their hometown to attempt to complete an epic pub crawl they began over 20 years ago - 12 pubs in one night, concluding at The World's End. As the boys rehash old times and deal with their issues, they realize that the town is not the same as they remember, and for good reason, too - most of the townspeople have been replaced by robots.

The boys surely haven't lost their touch in creating something that audiences will love, both newcomers and those already familiar with their work. Once again I was impressed by the writing and the delivery of the writing by all the actors. The jokes come at rapid-fire pace (and people make fun of me for always using subtitles) and the humor is smart, sometimes dirty, but always cleverly laid out in relation to what the movie is about and situations that come later. Watching the movie again lets you catch on to some references you missed before, the double meaning behind some of the lines ("We're here to get annihilated!" "It must be the network"). They did similar things in their previous two films, but it still works and it's still brilliant how they're able to pull it all together.

Pegg and Frost are of course great in their roles, especially since here they are sort of playing a reversal of their previous roles in both Shaun and Hot Fuzz. Pegg is the wild and goofy Gary King, spouting out more one-liners than I could keep up with, while Frost is the more professional, subdued Andy Knightley. Nobody plays best buddies better than dudes who are actually best buddies in real life. Truth be told, though, I kind of loved the actors playing the other three friends in the group - Paddy Considine, Martin Freeman, and Eddie Marsan - a bit more, as they were all completely adorable and hilarious. It was good to see all of them have their chance to shine, instead of the movie being all about Pegg and Frost (not that they would intentionally do that, but they are the stars of the show to the fans).

Looking at the movie for what it is on the surface, it works as a weird hybrid action-scifi-comedy-bromance thing but there is a message and a reasoning for what they did. I liked the whole thing at the end about how human beings have every right to be fuck-ups because I get it. Conformity makes you normal and safe, but making mistakes lets you learn, become wiser, and help others. There's also something there about conforming and making uniform all the charming small town pubs and stores and whatnot (as two of the pubs in the movie look exactly the same) which is also somewhat bothersome. How long until real mom-and-pop places just cease to exist? However you choose to look at it, The World's End is a very charming movie about the simple things in life - friendship, a good night out at the pub - and how important they are to people.

It almost feels wrong to heap so much praise on pretty much everything these guys do, but I really can't help it. I fucking love Shaun of the Dead, I really super-duper like Hot Fuzz, and now I'm all kinds of giddy over The World's End. Wright and Pegg probably aren't completely done making movies but I do wonder about what they are going to do next. Something totally different? More of the same but different actors or something? I don't know, but I do know that I will be right there to experience whatever they come up with.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Project Terrible: Evil Behind You (2006)

Wait, what? A Christian pseudo-horror movie? Really? Oh, this is not going to be fun. My second-to-last Project Terrible assignment is Evil Behind You and it comes courtesy of Mr. Steve Miller, Writer of Stuff. The most pathetic thing about this movie is probably the fact that I watched it alone on a Saturday night before going to bed at around 8:30.

In Evil Behind You, two couples - Debra and Tony, and Lisa and David - have been drugged and abducted and taken to a locked room. The men are lying on gurneys with bandages over their ears and electrodes on their temples so that their brains can be monitored. As the two girls argue about how to get out, the guys start to go crazy from whatever they were given, claiming that there is an evil presence in the room with them. Is it just the drugs or something real? Dun dun dun.

I've read a few things online about this movie and some people are being way too nice, claiming that it has a "nice premise" and all. No, no it doesn't. There is hardly a story to the movie, and what little premise it does have - to me - is only there to serve the tiniest little message about God and demons and fighting evil. The people behind the kidnappings are Middle Eastern and they've also kidnapped a doctor to help them with the experiment they are doing on David and Tony on meningitis. Did I get that right? There's some kind of meningitis problem with them so they're experimenting on these guys to get a serum to stop it? It's something stupid like that.

You're supposed to think that the meningitis is what is making David and Tony crazy because throughout most of the movie they are constantly yelling and freaking out something they can feel in the room - an evil something! And of course, they always seem to feel that it is "behind" them. If there's more meaning in that, I didn't get it. Lisa is the sensitive, empathetic one who tries to help the guys, while the other chick, Debra, quickly turns into a bitch about it. Anyway, they FINALLY reveal what the things are - and they're just these skeletal demon things that take souls to hell. Goddamnit. That's lame.

The Christian stuff I can deal with, but there is such a strange dichotomy happening in this movie. Our two main girls are of course hotties with bodies, and their wardrobe is cleavage-revealing tank tops with low rise jeans, all topped off with their perfect, shiny, straight "come-fuck-me" long hair. Sure, I was jealous but I was also so annoyed that even this movie would use sex appeal where it is not needed AT ALL. There was no reason for them to be sexy. I was also a little offended that the captors were Middle Eastern - really bad, fake Middle Eastern, but Middle Eastern nonetheless. Just because they're easy targets for bad guys in movies? And where are they? And why are they there? And how did they pick these people? You see? Not a good premise. Too many unanswered questions.

If you were expecting any action in this movie, you are going to be sorely disappointed. There is one hilarious part where one of the other patients in the room suddenly gets up all roid-ragey and attacks. Lisa somehow manages to get him down and then kills him by hitting him about three times... with a folding chair. Sure. There was also the funny flashback where the kidnappers kill the doctor's wife by shooting her about three times near the head region as far as I could tell, but I don't really know for sure because there was not a single wound or drop of blood. A few other people also get shot and the best they can do is put a little spot of red on one dude's coat. I'm sure they were trying to keep things clean - morally and physically, probably - but a little bit goes a long way in terms of believability, ya know?

There's lots of background about the character Lisa and her journey through forgiveness and redemption, blah blah BLAH, but it's just annoying. The movie is not good, not exciting, and not nearly as "inspiring" as they try to make it. And now that I've run out of pictures to break up the text, I've also run out of interest in berating Evil Behind You. I watched it, then moved on with my life and forgot about it. Back to lazy Sunday!

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Project Terrible: Battledogs (2013)

Oh, right. Because I really needed to watch another bad werewolf movie. There are some things that I can give Battledogs props for - making "Battledogs" one word is not one of them - but it's still not that good, and the fact that it is a SyFy Original Movie should help you believe that. Battledogs comes courtesy of Bob from Gaming Creatively.

A wildlife photographer traveling to JFK is carrying the dangerous "lupine virus" and soon spreads it to hundreds of other people at the airport. The infected are quarantined on a island in New York, and while some try to quickly work to find a cure for the virus, one Army general decides that these creatures would be perfect for combat situations and tries to stop anyone who gets in his way.

The lineup of actors for Battledogs is pretty good though there are only two well known names. Ghostbuster Ernie Hudson has a small role as the head of security at JFK and then freaking Dennis Haysbert plays the evil Army general. He's also got some facial hair going on here, which I really didn't like. It was funny to me to see him in this because in one early scene they show the movie's bald, black President of the United States - and then the next scene is Dennis Haysbert, a.k.a. the greatest fake President EVER from "24." And now he's General Monning, the guy with the genius idea to have an army of werewolves to fight our enemies. Oh, Dennis, why???

Cute little Ariana Richards is also here as Donna Voorhees, the Patient Zero for the lupine virus because she got bitten by a wolf while photograhing them. The funniest part of the movie is when our other main character Major Hoffman (Craig Sheffer, a.k.a. David Boreanaz's long lost brother) actually asks Donna, "Why did that wolf bite you?" Why did a wolf bite somebody? Maybe because it's a wolf, just sayin'. There's not much to know or care about any of these people as the movie is all plot driven, and most of it is just a long chase sequence of Donna, Hoffman, and the doctor trying to save them all from Monning. It's pretty ridiculous how a high ranking Army general makes a decision in about 2.5 seconds to go against his entire moral code and kill innocent civilians and fellow Army buddies for the stupid idea of training werewolves to fight for the United States. Like, does he think that would actually turn out well?

Treating werewofism (I don't think that's the right word) as a virus is a good idea, I gotta say. The moon has nothing to do with when the infected transform. They get bitten and they change almost right afterward. They also change when their heartbeat rises above 150 beats per minute. Though the werewolves themselves are all CGI, I didn't hate the look at them as much as I thought I would. They look good, which is something I can't always give SyFy credit for - Piranhaconda, anyone?

I can't give the movie too much credit for the characters or the plot, but I was surprised to find that Battledogs was not as laughably ridiculous as every other original movie from SyFy. It's watchable, nothing groundbreaking or memorable, but definitely watchable. I've gotten worse movies so I'm pretty pleased with this one!

Friday, November 15, 2013

Project Terrible: The Oogieloves in the Big Balloon Adventure (2012)

Yes, it's a kid's movie. Yes, I watched it. I have Alec at Mondo Bizarro to thank for giving me this movie - ha, thank?! - for this Project Terrible round. Well I have to admit that at times I did get a strange childish pleasure out of watching something completely meaningless that didn't require any kind of thought. One thing that was pretty fun to watch was all the big name celebrities who had roles in this movie, the cinematic masterpiece that is The Oogieloves in the Big Balloon Adventure.

So the Oogieloves are Goobie, Toofie, and Zoozie and they are these Teletubby-like things I guess who are throwing a surprise birthday party for their friend Schluffy... who is a pillow. Their other friend J. Edgar - who is a vacuum cleaner (haha, like J. Edgar Hoover, geddit?) - gets Schluffy five magical golden balloons but loses them on the way home so the Oogieloves go out to recapture each one, while meeting some friends along the way.

Okay, really? I have to actually write a review of this? This is probably a really good movie for kids because it is supposedly the first interactive children's movie that was in theaters. There are prompts on the bottom of the screen for the kids to get up and dance and sing along. The problem is that there is nothing educational about this movie at all aside from a little counting and singing ridiculous songs that I now have stuck in my head. And apparently no one gave a crap about any of this because The Oogieloves in the Big Balloon Adventure has now gone down in history as being the movie with the worst box office opening weekend in history! Ouch. By the numbers, that makes it the worst movie ever... but I watched Howling 7. I love the Oogieloves compared to that movie.

Here's a rundown of the celebrities that showed up here: Cloris Leachman played Grandma Dottie, a woman who loves circles and lives in a "tree-pot" (a teapot in a tree); Chazz Palminteri is Milky Marvin, the beatboxing owner of a milkshake shop where you can get a milkshake made out of anything; Cary Elwes (!) plays Bobby Wobbly, a cowboy who owns a bubble truck and continuously bounces up and down; Toni Braxton is Rosalie Rosebud, a diva singer who loves roses but is allergic to them; and Christopher Lloyd and Jaime Pressly are Lero and Lola Sombrero, who live in a giant sombrero that can fly when powered by dancing tango. Oi. Should I think that it's kinda cute that these guys were in this movie or feel embarrassed for them? Okay, I admit. It was cute. Cary Elwes is possibly the best thing about this whole movie, even though I don't think I'll ever be able to look at him the same way again.

So, I don't have too much else to say about this. It's a kid's movie! And not really a horrible one either, just one that's really weird. I mean, most kid's movies are weird anyway but with stuff like Cars and Toy Story, I don't see this as being one that will become any kid's favorite movie to watch. The audience participation crap didn't even seem like it would all that fun for a child to join in on - and NO, I did not participate while watching it. The Oogieloves in the Big Balloon Adventure was a nice attempt at a new kind of movie for kids to go see in theaters, but things didn't turn out the way they thought. Show your children Toy Story. They'll like you a lot more for it.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Project Terrible: Track of the Moon Beast (1976)

Is it that time already again?! Oh, you betcha. Some of us just can't seem to get enough of those terrible, terrible movies so here we are with Project Terrible Round... oh, I forgot... 14? Something crazy like that. Anywho, I decided to with Maynard Morrissey's movie choice for me since he always seems to torture me the most. This time from him I got another obscure sci-fi movie from the 70s called Track of the Moon Beast. Goody. Let's get started.

So this movie has one of the best plots I've ever heard. Seriously. This hunky young mineralogist named Paul falls in love with a really boring chick named Kathy on the same night that he gets hit in the head by a meteor from an asteroid that hit the moon. Herein comes the "moon beast" part of this fantastic story because apparently, having a little bit of meteor in your brain turns you into... a lizard monster. I know you're anxious to hear how this turns out.

As hilariously stupid as the plot of Track of the Moon Beast is, it's really a shame that the rest of the movie is rather boring. There's just not enough Paul-monster-moon-beast action, too much talky-talky with all the other characters, and not enough of those whacky 70s sci-fi effects that I was looking forward to. Though it almost kills me to admit it, overall the movie isn't that bad. The production value - albeit minimal - is workable for the plot and the characters are not nearly as annoying as expected. Hey, you even get some musical entertainment in the movie. What more do you want?

If you're like me, your main question with this oh-so-magnificent plot is the relationship between some meteor shit (yay Creepshow!) and transforming into a lizard beast. Like, how are those two things related in any way at all? How does having a piece of meteor imbedded in your brain cause you to turn into a lizard creature that is closely related to the Tyrannosaurus Rex (I didn't say it - the movie did, I swear)? Paul's good friend is Native American and professor Johnny Longbow, who not only has the recipe for awesome stew, but also can give you the most minimal explanation for all of this possible. It's a Native American legend. I think. I wasn't really paying attention. However, no explanation could make this plot point make sense enough for anybody to take it seriously.

Paul only changes into the moon beast about three times in the whole movie and it all takes up about five minutes of the movie's run time. There's one really crappy dissolve transformation scene - which I can forgive because they did their best - and just what Paul transforms into is not at all what you would expect. He doesn't look much like a lizard and is instead this dark, bumpy headed Creature from the Black Lagoon type thing. He goes a little rampagey by killing some random guy outside his house and then some more random people in a tent where he rips one of their arms off... and that's pretty much it. At the the end, he runs around the desert some more before he's killed. Eh, boring.

Fan art for Johnny Longbow's famous stew
Just need to interject here another plot point that begs repeating: The piece of meteor in Paul's head disintegrates after a while and some NASA guys who come to help out tell Johnny Longbow that Paul will basically explode when the moon comes out. Awesome. Just awesome. Bad part is that you never get to see him explode. Johnny Longbow decides to kill Paul before that happens by shooting him with an arrow made of the meteor that hit him. The screen goes red filter and Paul's just kinda gone after that. Oh, you're breaking my heart.

There's some questionable dialogue in Track of the Moon Beast, and the actress playing Kathy is basically a blonde two-by-four, but everybody else does a relatively good job for what they have to work with. The goofy plot warmed me up to the movie quite a bit more than it should have but seriously - when have you ever heard of something like this before? The bad part is the painfully slow pace and way too many boring scenes of people just standing around and talking. I actually say give this one a shot, if only for nostalgia's sake - they don't make 'em like this anymore. Thank goodness.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Franchise Review: The Howling: Reborn (2011)

Ah, we have reached the end, kiddies. I have made it through eight - count 'em, eight - Howling sequels and come out relatively clean on the other side. There have good times and there have been bad times throughout this little adventure, wherein we have traveled to Australia, Budapest, and little dumpy towns like Drago and Pioneer Town. But now we've come to the conclusion with a straight-to-video sequel that came out 16 years after the last sequel. The Howling: Reborn is definitely light-years ahead of all the other films in terms of production value, but that doesn't necessarily mean that it's any better.

Will Kidman is your typical teenager who is about to graduate high school without a clue as to what he is supposed to be in his life. He only has one good friend, his father is distant, and he has trouble expressing his feelings to a girl he's liked for years. All that changes after an attack by a creature causes him to realize the unbelievable changes in himself - that he is, in fact, a werewolf. Now he has to decide what to do with his new life, as a pack of powerful werewolves have moved in to take over. The credits claim that this one is based on the book "The Howling II" but I seriously doubt that the book could have been more than just a basic inspiration for the story based on the outcome here.

The whole movie is really about as generic, formulaic, and cliched as they come, mostly when it comes to the characters. Will, although quite well-played by Landon Liboiron, is not nearly as sympathetic as they try to make him - he needed something more to his character to make him different than every other loser-turned-awesome-person-of-circumstance. His goofy friend Sachin has made his own horror movie, and therefore is Will's go-to person when he wants to know all about werewolves (and they always seem to be right about that particular movie's werewolf lore as opposed to the others, you know?). Eliana is the outgoing, wild, but still vulnerable girl that seduces Will through the whole movie even though they make it seem like the two have never talked until a couple of days ago.

The high school portrayed in this movie is just atrocious. The comparison of high school to a prison is entirely appropriate in this instance because this place is some kind of very high tech Fort Knox. It is ridiculously unbelievable. Maybe in 20 or 30 years high schools will be able to be this secure (why, though, is still my question) but it doesn't even seem necessary where these kids are. Get this: they are actually able to completely lock down the entire school - with like metal gates over all the windows and such. Seriously, they're a bunch of middle class, snotty white kids. I'm not seeing the immediate danger to make this worthwhile of the taxpayer's money. The lockdown thing does end up making for a good plot point when Will and Eliana get trapped inside with all the werewolves at the end, but still. Come on.

The werewolves? They're actually pretty good once they (again) finally show up at the end. They're super-strong with weird acrobatic abilities, and they're probably the best looking werewolves of the series. A lot like the Dog Soldiers werewolves. Will's mom is the alpha wolf of her little pack and there's lots of crap talk about her wanting Will to give into his animal side and join the family, blah blah blah. Then Will finds out that he "accidentally" made Eliana into a werewolf (which is actually good because she saves him) so then they have to do another kind of emotional scene where he, like, talks her back into being a human because they love each other so much. Ugh, too much emotional stuff going on. Will's voiceover by the end gets a mite cheesy when he's getting all philosophical about basically the whole meaning of life, as well. It's nice writing but it's the same kind of stuff you've always heard about the dual nature of man and what it means to be human, BLAH BLAH BLAH.

Despite any overall lack of ingenuity here, I must say that this movie is still a hell of a lot easier to watch than any of the previous Howling movies. It's updated and snazzy looking, with a younger cast and a lot more in the action department which is something this series was seriously lacking. Not a terrible movie, really. Just kinda... meh. The ending is similar to the original's - Will broadcasts his transformation to warn people of the werewolf threat - and I only hope that it is some kind of ambiguous ending and not the beginning of yet another Howling movie. This Howling adventure has been fun, friends, but there's only so much I can take.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Franchise Review: The Howling [7]: New Moon Rising (1995)

Given the general, overall suckiness of all these Howling movies, I wasn't in the least bit fazed when everybody tried to tell me that The Howling: New Moon Rising was the absolute worst of the series. They're all bad! Why should this one be any different, you know? Well, it turns out that this one is possibly a new kind of bad.

Long-haired Australian biker boy Ted Smith rides into tiny Pioneer Town and gets a job at the local bar. He's related in some way to three previous Howling movies, but I didn't really remember how until they told me. Anyway, the usual starts to happen - disappearances and murders start to occur and seems to be the work of a "large animal," and as the new kid in town, townspeople start to suspect Ted as the culprit. Meanwhile, a priest and an inspector are hot on the trail of missing werewolf Marylou (from Howling 5) and it leads them right into Pioneer Town.

The movie actually sets itself up for the audience quite nicely. The opening scene is three guys standing around a skeleton found in the desert, and they all say, respectively, the best-slash-worst first lines of any movie I've ever heard - "Jesus Christ!" "Holy shit!" "Mother of God!" So appropriate for the reactions everyone will probably have while watching this movie. It doesn't get any better after this first scene, it just gets more stupid and boring.

The bar that Ted gets a job at - Pappy and Harriet's Pioneer Town Palace - is where everybody in town hangs out all the time. And this where a good chunk of the movie takes place, with some very uninteresting, inane, and unfunny scenes that have no relevance or importance whatsoever. This includes the most unenthusiastic line dancing I have ever seen, lots of drinking by the menfolk at all times of the day, lots of bad joke-telling, and far too many musical interludes for me to be comfortable with. My goodness, all those shitty montages with that shitty country music playing over them? All the random scenes of Harriet and Pappy singing with the band at the bar? Singing around the campfire? Ugh, stop it! Stop it now! This movie is certainly a first because it seems to be the first werewolf country western musical movie. And that's a horrible thing to be. Also, fuck George Jones and the number of times they mention him.

New Moon Rising infamously strings together its own flimsy plot by saying that it's all connected to the three previous Howling films, and actually includes scenes from all of them. I never would have guessed that Ted was the same guy who survived the castle in Howling 5 but apparently he is. Shows how memorable that movie was. Ted was also a guy in Drago that Marie Adams (who actually has a few scenes in this movie, too) supposedly killed in Howling 4, and they totally made that shit up. Anyway, by the end, the plot gets twisted up so much that it gets really ridiculous. The priest and inspector are talking the situation out and they bring up things that the audience never saw happen so it's incredibly confusing. Three dead guys all lead to Ted, but apparently it was the work of Marylou the werewolf who was somehow able to assume the form of another person (not possible, by the way!) in the town, this chick named Cheryl. It's anybody's guess as to why she was trying to frame this guy in the first place or what her ultimate plan was. Whatever it was, she failed miserably.

Here we are with the seventh Howling movie, and while there is plenty of werewolf talk throughout, we again don't actually see any werewolves until the very end. Very briefly. Like about 15 seconds. The red filter werewolf POV shots were more exciting than Cheryl's lame transformation and her equally lame demise that occurs off screen when she's shot by the townspeople after bursting through the door. The end.

And not a moment too soon. The Howling: New Moon Rising is simply a pointless movie. It sucks, and it's pointless and irritating with how horrible it is. All the actors, including writer-producer-director-actor Clive Turner, are terribly lifeless and boring, much like the rest of the movie. It's not even funny though it tries very hard to be and those attempts just turn out to be really pathetic. Ugh, bad movie. Do yourself a big favor and avoid this one at all costs.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Check This Out! "Why Horror ?" Documentary Trailer

If you're a horror fan, you've probably asked yourself at one time or another just why you are so attracted to the genre. Maybe you've even felt bad about yourself because of it. I even wrote a college paper and later a blog post about the subject and that really helped me come to terms with it and be okay with my obsession. 

The filmmakers for this documentary "Why Horror?" are also looking to explore the subject and while they seem to have a great start so far based on this Kickstarter trailer, they still need some help getting the word out there! So check out this trailer and share it with every other horror fan you know. 

More information on the filmmakers and the docu itself can be found at the Kickstarter link HERE. This looks to me like it's going to be a very fun and informative docu and I can't wait to see how it turns out. They've already got interviews with such greats like George Romero, Don Coscarelli, Eli Roth, and Alexandre Aja, so you know how serious the filmmakers are about the project, and that's something I can really respect.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Franchise Review: Howling 6: The Freaks (1991)

In the palindrome year of 1991, somebody decided that after four bad Howling movies, they might be able do it right for once. And surprisingly, they kind of do. Don't get me wrong. I will probably never watch any of these movies willingly again (except maybe for Howling 2 because that one was a freaking hoot), but Howling 6: The Freaks is strangely okay, if your standards are fairly low like mine usually are.

Ian Richards is a quiet drifter who comes to the dying town of Canton Bluff looking for work. Local man Dewey man gives him a job helping to fix up the church, while Ian makes nice with the man's pretty daughter Lizzy, and tries to hide the fact that he is a werewolf. However, the owner of a traveling circus, Harker, learns Ian's secret and kidnaps him to make him a part of the rest of his freaks.

What's missing from Howling 6 - and not in a bad way - the comedic element that sometimes very prominent in the previous films. The sixth entry takes its idea very seriously with hardly a hint at anything funny, even when it comes to the freaks in Harker's World of Wonders. That doesn't mean that the movie is magically any better than first four sequels, but heck, I have to give them an A for effort for not making this a total shitfest like it very well could have become.

Speaking of Harker's World of Wonders... that was interesting. When Lizzy and Ian go through the unusually large space where the main freaks are held, Harker gives them a personal tour while they view the half man-half woman, the midget with a third arm, the newbie freak Alligator Boy, and a clown that... bites the head off a chicken? Whuh? How is that supposed to be an "oddity"? Well yes, it's odd and very disturbing, but not your normal freak fair at these things. Harker is very good at running the show. He is very creepy in his looks and demeanor, but also seems strangely respectful of all his freaks. So he can't be all bad, right? The Funhouse and now this movie keep making me wonder whether or not it would be cool if they still had shady sideshow circuses like this anymore. There would be outrage from the community, for sure, but who doesn't want to see a mutated pig fetus or something?

The special effects, while well done, are just not to my liking aesthetically for the particular monsters they are trying to portray. Ian's transformation into a werewolf is one of those typical, really painful-looking transformations where we see fingernails growing, feet lengthening, etc. until they do the full shot at the end. I hate the look of this werewolf, mostly because he has no snout and his face is mostly hairless. How can you call something that looks like that a "wolf" of any kind? The rest of the body is good (even if the hair on top of his head was way too long) but doesn't make up for that awful face. One of the worst werewolves out there. There's also a bit of a change with the werewolf lore in that not only can the full moon change Ian, but he can also transform by use of an amulet and certain magic words that Harker recites.

The big reveal - oh no! a spoiler! - near the conclusion of the film is that Harker is a vampire. Kind of. Actually, he's a bald, purple vampire with no nose and pointy, chewed-up ears. WTF. And the first thing that came to my mind when I saw him was that Buffy, the Vampire Slayer of all people ripped off his look for the ubervamps in season seven of that show.

The ubervamp look didn't bother me there, but the fact that Harker was a weird purplish, blue color really threw me off. I wouldn't have even known that Harker was supposed to be a vampire if it weren't for the coffin full of dirt (disguised as a couch) in his trailer or the fact that Ian staked him at the end and ultimately killed him by exposing him to sunlight.

I didn't love any of the actors, but I didn't hate any of them either. The girl playing Lizzy had a really annoying voice and no awareness of her physicality, and other than that, these guys did an okay job for the caliber of movie they were in. Nobody stands out except maybe for Bruce Payne as Harker, and that freak who played the half man-half woman. He/she could have had a real career at that. The lead actor playing Ian is easily forgettable, even after his semi-sweet moments of not eating the kitty and walking off into the sunset at the end with Alligator Boy (they became buds).

All in all, really not a bad flick. It's not blatantly retarded like some of the earlier Howling films were and that gives it some major points in my book. The plot could have used a bit more work and there could have been more character development - but then the film could have been a bit too serious for its own good. Strangely I didn't miss the lack of werewolf attacks in Howling 6. The fight scene at the end between Ian and Harker made up for it and then the movie ends quickly after that, as it should have.

Oh my gosh, you guys, I am so freaking close. Only two Howling movies left. I think I might actually make it through okay.