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188 reviews in total 
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Evil Dead (2013)
3 out of 4 people found the following review useful:
Another Tired Remake, Soon to Be Forgotten, 22 March 2014

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Let me admit up front that CABIN IN THE WOODS, one of my favorite movies ever, pretty well tainted the well for this project.

The original THE EVIL DEAD has been described as The Three Stooges Go to Hell. That's why I and so many others flat out love it.

The remake has the feel of a project written and directed by a junior high drama class that miraculously raised $17 million with a bake sale and hired some really talented performers to act in it.

Major themes are developed and then get lost in the gore and hardware. Mia (the main character) and her brother and three friends travel to an isolated cabin where she is going to try to get over her drug habit.

Mia and her brother, David, have issues. Mia was the one who stayed home to take care of their mother while David was away pursuing his own interests. Either of these is a perfectly valid dramatic theme. Neither is developed. Instead, these ideas are abandoned for a festival of blood, gore, recycled images from Japanese horror movies, a chainsaw, and other hardware.

The other characters are cruelly underwritten. Eric is there because someone needs to read the ancient curse out loud for the plot to kick into gear. Olivia is a nurse, there to take care of Mia's medical needs. Natalie is there because the plot calls for a fifth person to be present to fit the contours of the script.

There are lots of good things about the film. It's well photographed, and deserves special commendation because in the outdoor scenes where it's raining the light is appropriate to a rainy day. Even in the 21st century we still see films in which rain is pouring down out of a cloudless sky in brilliant daylight. The musical score is effective. And the actors seem to have a lot of natural talent that's going to waste.

But the project falters in comparison to the original. The actors plow their way through this with perfectly straight faces. Not a wink, a nod, an arched eyebrow, a tilt of the head. I can imagine them before each scene thinking, "This script is absolute crap, but Sony Picture is paying me to do this so I'll keep a straight face and soldier through."

If you do watch this, stay around for a brief clip at the very end of the closing credits that raised my rating from a 2 to a 5. When I saw it I thought, "That's what I'm talking about."

The Heat (2013/I)
1 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
Not Just Bad, But Forty Minutes Too Long, 22 December 2013

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

When I see a movie where one joke gets stretched out to just three minutes short of two hours long, my sympathy for the unfortunate actors overwhelms my common sense which is telling me to get up and do something else. Anything else. Instead, I kept watching and waiting for it to get really funny.

Instead, it got steadily worse.

The one joke is that Melissa McCarthy plays a Boston police officer (how did she ever pass the physical exam?) who is rude, disrespectful, vulgar, and profane in her speech and behavior toward everyone she encounters.

Wow. A woman who uses four letter words. This would be hilarious and jaw dropping...if Eisenhower were still president.

In the entire film I laughed out loud maybe half a dozen times. Not a good return on investment.

Most amazingly, this is from the same writer and director who made BRIDESMAIDS, one of the most hilarious films I've ever seen.

But the ability to make a great film about the idiotic rituals associated with a wedding does not translate to being able to milk laughs from a cop buddy film.

Lost among the supporting cast is a short performance by Jane Curtin, given almost nothing to do as McCarthy's mother. In her few scenes she essentially stands in her background and blends in with the furniture. Smart actress.

One consolation: bad though THE HEAT may be, it is nowhere near as awful as HOPE FLOATS. That's one that Sandra Bullock will be living down the rest of her days.

1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Was This Originally Intended to Be a Comedy?, 27 November 2013

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I recorded this last night on Encore Suspense, and it really looked promising. Great cast, great director, stylish opening titles (that's becoming a lost art), and an interesting premise.

Tonight I watched it. My jaw dropped, but for all the wrong reasons. In essence, Michael Keaton plays the Roadrunner, and Andy Garcia plays Wile E. Coyote. The big switch is that the coyote wants to catch the roadrunner because the coyote's son needs a bone marrow transplant and the roadrunner is a perfect match.

Garcia's character is a police officer who very improbably arranges for Keaton to be released from prison so that the transplant can be done in a San Francisco hospital. Of course, complications ensue. Unfortunately, so does hilarity.

It is admirable that Garcia's character, a widower, wants his child to survive. But after Keaton escapes he kills or injures dozens of police officers and hospital staff, but Garcia continually subverts attempts to capture or kill Keaton. As the Police Captain asks Garcia, "How many people are going to have to die here tonight so that kid of yours can live?"

At first the film is entertaining. Keaton rightly realizes that the script is an improbable dud, so he has fun with it. But when he makes his big escape and slides down a laundry chute with a shock paddle in each hand to slow his fall it's clear that we've left the Earth's gravitational pull far behind us.

It's good to see Keaton working. He's a fine actor who makes a lot of films, they just don't get released. But, good Lord, this was his next film after JACKIE BROWN. Is he that hard up for work?

The much discussed in these pages ending, which I will not reveal, is predictable and even more unbelievable than anything else in the film. It's a perfect example of OK, smooth move, but what are you going to do now? What does NOT happen in the ending was that Garcia's son coming out from under sedation and speaking to his Dad in Keaton's voice. That's where the second star came from.

Parents' note: Violence, profanity, gore, and an unforgivable scene in which a gun is aimed at a child's head.

Trivia note: Later on Keaton starred in JACK FROST as a musician who neglects his family, dies, and comes back as a snowman. No, really, that's what happens. It's bad enough to count as a crime against humanity. The little boy who plays Garcia's son in DESPERATE MEASURES plays Keatons' son in JACK FROST.

Silent Night (2012/I)
2 out of 4 people found the following review useful:
If Dario Argento Had Directed TWIN PEAKS, This Is What It Would Have Been Like, 5 November 2013

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

SILENT NIGHT starts out so wonderfully well that I knew it wouldn't be able to sustain the momentum, but it's very much worth watching.

Early in the first act we meet a girl of roughly junior high age whom we first see back-talking her mother and using language that would make a sailor blush. Of course, everybody knows that in slasher movies a cardinal rule is that harm cannot be done to children. Guess what? Moments later a masked Santa is at the door and he bloodily dispatches her on screen with extreme prejudice.

It's Christmas Eve in a backwater town in Wisconsin (the grass and trees are green as can be, but we're not supposed to notice this). Aubrey (Jamie King) is a young widow who's a deputy to Sheriff Cooper (the wonderful Malcolm McDowell, gleefully overacting and eating scenery faster than a bulldozer).

The town has been in the doldrums since the mill shut down, but has mustered an air of festivity for the holiday celebration and the Christmas Parade, the highlight of which is a competition for Best Santa Claus which has hundreds of contestants.

Aubrey and her parents (her dad is a retired police officer and her mother a pleasant cipher) are among the town's few sane, normal residents. Drugs, adultery, promiscuity, theft, the production of pornography, a totally creepy priest, you name it, it's going on here. As the sheriff wonders aloud, "How has this town gotten so perverted?" The closing of the mill is cited as a possible cause for the town's decline, but that subtext goes unexplored.

As the corpses begin to pile up, the sheriff should have called for outside assistance. Alas, he suffers from Delusions of Competence and is steadfast in his refusal to seek outside aid. So the killer in the Santa suit continues his rampage.

Jamie King is, as always, solid in her characterization. I'm not sure if Malcolm McDowell's performance is "good acting" as such, but he has such fun with it that I'm in no mood to argue. Best of all, Donal Logue is one of the Santas, a cynical man who is a strong suspect to be the killer. When he's arrested, he and Jamie King have a dynamic scene at the jail at the end of the second act in which he expresses how Christmas has been a series of disappointments to him over his failure ridden life. His anger and and frustration and Ms. King's wordless reaction to what she's hearing are riveting.

The cinematography in SILENT NIGHT is excellent. The use of color, especially red, is what reminded me of Dario Argento's films. And Kevin Riepl's atmospheric musical score keeps up the tension throughout the story.

There is plenty of gore here, but unlike, say, HOSTEL, it's used effectively in telling the story and never seems to be there for its own sake.


At the end of the third act the sheriff is dead, the jail is burning, and Aubrey is squared off against the killer Santa. I'm sitting there trying to figure out just who it could be under that mask. The problem is, every suspect I could think of at that point was dead.

It turns out that the killer is not a character who's been part of the narrative. I know, it's not a law that the guilty party in a mystery has to be a character to whom we have been introduced. It's not in the Bible, it's not in the Code of Criminal Procedures. But it's a rule that Agatha Christie would have followed.

One of the prime suspects had been a man named Stein Karsson. He had told Aubrey a story about a man who had dressed in a Santa suit many years ago and gone on a killing spree with a flamethrower.

It turns out that this wasn't an urban legend. Several decades ago the man, Ronald Jones, had indeed done exactly what Karsson had said, and been gunned down by a young rookie police officer.

The young officer was Aubrey's father. And the flamethrower Santa's young son, Ronald Jones Junior, had seen everything that happened and had seen his father die. Here, many years later, he has come back for his revenge.

Five paragraphs ago we saw Aubrey and the killer Santa in mortal combat. Aubrey gains control of the flamethrower and the present day killer Santa is ablaze, just like his father many years ago. He falls to the floor, presumably dead.

Aubrey and Brenda, the presumably sinless dispatcher, stagger out the front door of the police station/jail, which is blazing like a proverbial Yule log. A large municipal building in the heart of town is afire but no crowd has gathered, no firetrucks have arrived but (like the green grass and leaves on the trees) we aren't supposed to notice that.

Ronald Junior somehow survives (sequel?) and gets out of the building. We see him in his truck driving out of town.

I should mention that this is a loose remake of SILENT NIGHT, DEADLY NIGHT which created a sensation in 1984 by daring to present a killer Santa. Protests by parents' groups caused Tri-Star to withdraw it from theatrical distribution. Publicity from the protests made it a runaway hit on videocassettes (younger readers will have to Google that) and inspired several direct-to-video sequels.

SILENT NIGHT is a very solid, effective thriller. However, I'll admit that the first two acts work better than the third. If I'd written it the story's climax would have been centered around the Santa Parade and, yes, the killer would have been introduced in the first act.

Of course, maybe that's why the producers didn't seek me out to write it.

Parents' note: Drug use, gore, nudity, profanity, and violence. Rated R for a reason.

Carnage (2011)
0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Let's get out of here: these people are crazy!, 5 October 2013

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I'd wanted to see this when it came out in theaters, but it didn't get very wide release. So I finally saw it on Encore, and found it a major disappointment.

The script seems to have been written by high school students who have studied Albee's WHO'S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF and Sartre's NO EXIT and decided to combine the two.

The basic premise of two couples meeting after their children have a fight is essentially resolved minutes into the film, and the visiting couple starts to leave.

In a better world, at that point Jodie Foster would break the fourth wall by pointing into the camera and telling her visitors, "You can't go yet. Those people sitting out there drove across town to see this, some of them hired baby sitters. And Mr. Polanski spent all this money on this lovely living room set. Please stay long enough that this turd will be at least somewhere near feature length!"

Alas, they foolishly listen to her. So they trudge back into the living room and talk. And talk. Foolishly, they consume alcohol. And talk some more.

Unfortunately, the more they talk the less we can identify with them. Characters in films don't have to be likable, goodness knows. But it helps if we can in some way identify with them. At about the midway point I was wondering if this was taking place in a coincidentally named "Brooklyn" that was actually in a different solar system.

I'm familiar with the author's work, having seen and hugely enjoyed ART on stage a few years ago. The three characters in it were so well developed, and based on that I'd looked forward to seeing CARNAGE.

The dramatic high point of the film comes when Kate Winslet's character vomits. Ooooh. Look at that! She projectile vomits, with much of the gunk landing on one of her hostess's books. As the reviewer in The New Yorker pointed out, not just A book but an ART book. Oooh.

The people who will be most disappointed in CARNAGE are teenagers who see the R rating and think they're going to see something. Nope. Just cursing.

Way back in 1972 comedian George Carlin had a monster hit with his routine Seven Words You Can Never Say on Television. And that is the heart of the problem. If you want to use these words for dramatic impact, they're all pretty well worn out from overuse.

Maybe the next President will run on a campaign of promising America new profanity.

After 49 years I Finally Got to See It!, 19 September 2013

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

The first two acts of SEX AND THE SINGLE GIRL set up and develop the basic situation. Helen(Natalie Wood) has written a best selling book called, well, you know that. She's being pursued by Rudy (Mel Ferrer), a fellow psychiatrist, but won't give him the time of day. Bob Weston (Tony Curtis) works for a tabloid and is obsessed with exposing Ms. Brown as a "23 year old virgin" and he does indeed used the previously forbidden word "virgin" more than once.

Frank (Henry Fonda) is Bob's neighbor. Frank is married to Sylvia (Lauren Bacall) and their numerous loud arguments keep Bob from getting to first base with Gretchen (Fran Jeffries), a singer with Count Basie's Orchestra.

Finally, in the long second act, Bob finds a way to get to know Helen up close and personal. He'll pretend to be Frank and go to her for therapy. This is complicated by the fact that as soon as these two incredibly good looking people are within physical proximity of each other they fall head over heels in love.

Of course, they have previously spoken with each other on the phone and shared a mutual loathing. I would point out how similar this is to the premise of PILLOW TALK five years earlier, but I've got better manners than that.

The lovely Leslie Parrish is a secretary casually involved with Bob. Edward Everett Horton is Bob's boss. Otto Kruger plays Helen's boss.

The plot thickens. Complications ensue.

Although this isn't billed as a musical, Ms. Jeffries sings three songs. Two of the three are fine material- "The Anniversary Song" and Cole Porter's "What Is This Thing Called Love?"- and a novelty title song. During "The Anniversary Song" Frank and Sylvia "dance" something resembling The Twist. Their dance moves are totally unrelated to the song itself, and I was unsure whether the songs were to extend the film to feature length or to provide three opportunities for audiences to run out for popcorn and Cokes.

The disappointing thing about the film is that, for much of its running time, it just isn't all that funny. The only laugh out loud moment in the first two acts was at the anniversary party for Frank and Sylvia: the cake is, in honor of their constant arguing, decorated with a boxing ring motif.

There are wonderful actors at work here. Richard Quine is a solid director. Joseph Heller was the primary writer credited. Edith Head did the costumes. Neal Hefti wrote the original score. Charles Lang photographed the film. But too much of the film just lies there limp and pale.

It's strange to see a film in wide screen and color (and thanks, Turner Classic Movies, for getting such a great print) where scene after scene involves people indoors talking. There's a brief scene where Bob and Frank go golfing, with some business with golf carts that foreshadows the third act, but it's mostly set up like a TV sitcom.

Then, in the third act, Quine and company throw caution to the wind and have all the primary characters racing to the airport so that at least one pair of lovers will go to the Fiji Islands.

This gets the characters literally in motion, adds three points to my score, and introduces new characters such as a cab driver (Stubby Kaye!), an increasingly frustrated motorcycle cop (Larry Storch), and an elderly couple (Burt Mustin and the wonderfully named Cheerio Meredith) out for a drive in their antique car.

At the end of the story Bob and Helen are together, Frank and Sylvia are lovebirds, and, Gretchen and Rudy find happiness.

The film pretends to be very daring in its sexual attitudes, but I was literally horrified when Bob proposes marriage to Helen, and one of her first reactions is "But I'll have to quit my job!" It was like watching a Friday the 13th movie, except instead of "Don't go upstairs!" I was shouting "Queen Victoria died at the beginning of the century!" As the son of a career woman (college professor) and grandson of a career woman (newspaper editor) I found the idea that a woman couldn't have a successful career and a great marriage repulsive. Of course, that line could have been thrown in to appease the censors for having suggested that Bob and Helen might possibly have had a honeymoon night before the wedding day.

Interestingly, Henry Fonda worked with far more sophisticated material relevant to sexual politics twenty some years before this film in Elliot Nugent's hilarious adaptation of Nugent's and James Thurber's THE MALE ANIMAL in which Fonda played a professor who fears losing his strong- willed and independent wife to his old friend who's an athlete.

Still, SEX AND THE SINGLE GIRL was ultimately fun and gave me a chance to watch some of my favorite actors wear good clothes in nice settings. And Mom needn't have worried:

Parents' note: As racy as a Doris Day movie or an episode of The Love Boat. Hipsters will be distressed by the fact that a couple of characters are seen smoking.

1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Element 112 Runs Wild, 15 September 2013

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I remember seeing this movie at the Simon Theater in Brenham, Texas, when I was in the sixth grade, and am happy to say that it's held up very well over the years.

To start with, Turner Classic Movies got a top quality print of it that looked wonderful. There were literally a few seconds where the negative had suffered slight damage, but for that element it's solid.

The story is pretty much standard issue. A very, very dedicated scientist is so immersed in his work that he doesn't realize that he's in love with his beautiful lab assistant until the third act.

Not that he isn't busy enough. A strange rock called Element 112 has begun to cause earthquakes and worse all over the globe. Unless Steps Are Taken, it will cause the destruction of our planet.

Serious spoiler: The world doesn't explode. It does come close, but that shouldn't surprise anyone.

The acting is nothing amazing, but it's not set up as an acting lab exercise. There is a plot to be dealt with briskly. Leading lady Katherine Grant was far more impressive shortly after this in a similar role in Otto Preminger's ANATOMY OF A MURDER. Strong director plus powerful screenplay equals good results for actors.

Far more interesting than the story itself is the structure of the story and the sexual politics in play here. There wasn't sufficient budget for large scale special effects, so there's lots of stock footage of natural disasters and their aftermath. More interestingly, Ms. Grant isn't just the leading lady. For a big chunk of the running time she's the only lady.

Science fiction has always been a male dominated realm. But for the entirety of the first two acts Hutch, the lab assistant played by Ms. Grant, and the character I'd call the Civil Defense Lady are the sole female players. There's a substantial roster of supporting characters, but with the exception of stock footage everyone is White and male.

Then, in the third act, disaster is creeping up on the world. The governor's wife and young daughter come to be with him, and in a huge office area we see several women working. But it takes the approach of Armageddon to allow many women into the tree house.

One of the best things about the film is that it takes care of business in one hour and four minutes. This is a sharp contrast to this summer's earnest but plodding WORLD WAR Z which so badly needed about 45 minutes trimmed from it that my index finger ached because theaters don't offer viewers a fast forward button.

At the time this came out there were presumable 111 slots on the Periodic Table of the Elements. We are now on number 118. The honor of being number 112 (they didn't retire that jersey because of the movie) goes to Copernicum, the most stable of all the isotopes.

Parents' note: Nothing disturbing in my humble opinion. Some people would be distressed because a few characters smoked. So did both of my parents. It was 1957.

Bear (2010/I)
They're right there! Get 'em! Get 'em!, 12 September 2013

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

You've probably heard the joke about the starlet who was such a terrible actress that when she somehow landed the lead in a stage production of THE DIARY OF ANNE FRANK audience members shouted "They're upstairs!" when the Nazi soldiers arrived.

That's how I felt watching these twits (one of my favorite terms I've picked up from watching Monty Python) replaying CUJO only without the suspense and scares.

Now, my standards aren't picky when I'm watching movies on Chiller or SyFy. Generally, I'm a cheap date. And I had gingerbread cookies from the Mexican bakery and a big glass of iced tea.

But the characters were annoying, the situation increasingly ludicrous, and I soon realized that the sooner a character was ripped asunder and eaten by the bear, the sooner that character would stop talking.

One character, the younger brother's girlfriend, is eliminated before we can get really irritated with her. But the two brothers and the older brother's wife really were irritating. And their conversation was essentially a ploy to stretch an anecdote out to feature length.

Finally the older brother makes a run for it. He gets to the fringes of civilization. While he crosses the parking lot of a bar he sees that the bear has followed him.

And he winds up back at the car with his wife and brother because the bear made him come back. This happens offstage, so we have to take his word for it.

Let me confess at this point, I used the fast-forward button. A lot. I'm not a paid reviewer, so I can't get fired for this.

One of the highlights was when the door of the car swings open and we see the reflection of a huge studio light used during the outdoor shooting in the window.

I checked out the crew on IMDb. The first-billed screenwriter is not a native speaker of English. Really? Well, actually, I figured as much. But far more shocking is that the co-author is none other than Ethan Wiley who wrote the horror comedy HOUSE back in 1986. His career went downhill- he did one of the entries in the Children of the Corn franchise and this continues his decline.

I am grateful to Chiller, though, for showing this to the very end of the closing credits. It turns out that the wildlife preserve in California where the film was made suffered great damage in a wildfire and there's an effort being made to help restore it to functionality. The bear's performance is certainly more effective than any of the humans' because the bear is not saddled by any dialog. No wonder it looks so happy in the closing credits playing with what's left of the protagonists' car.

The closing credits also let us see someone in a uniform wander across the camera's field of vision, and at some point someone takes a flash picture of the bear. Yep. If Martin Scorsese was watching this, he probably was taking notes for his next production. You betcha.

Airborne (2012)
1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
Gets Steadily Worse As It Moves Along, 8 September 2013

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Early in watching this I thought I'd found a neglected gem. There's a very solid cast. The production values, while not spectacular, are all right. But in an extremely short running time the story spins totally out of control.

The action starts takes place over the course of a dark and stormy night. Right that. The various characters are introduced and we learn a little of their background information. One character, a very self centered and aristocratic man traveling with two bodyguards, quickly is at the head of the list of characters we want to see die horribly.

At first we seem to be in Agatha Christie territory. But too soon we realize that things, well, just don't add up. This particular flight to New York is the sole flight taking off that night- all others have been indefinitely delayed due to weather- and it's a huge jetliner about to fly to North America with about a dozen passengers and seemingly acres of empty seats.

A few characters disappear mysteriously. Where could they have gone? Could there be a killer among the crew or passengers?

Then a supernatural element rears it head. There's a vase on board that's valued in the millions and just may be the residence of a demon.

Then, in the third act, the story turns flat out ridiculous. The control tower at the airport is commandeered by a government agency that eventually decides that the flight must not ever land and is going to use military jets to ensure that it never reaches its destination.

And then the story gets even sillier.

In case anyone wants to watch AIRBORNE I'll leave the final revelations hidden. But the sum and substance is that I watched this on my computer using Netflix and still felt that I'd been robbed.

However, I'll admit that it could have had a few more clichés. There are no children on board, no adorable old couples, no nuns, and none of the characters ever burst into song. That said, I'm sure that there are many cut scenes of actors choking back laughter with varying degrees of success while playing out these scenes.

We never see the demon. Stranger yet, we never even see the vase. Thankfully the film's makers have the sense to realize that with their limited resources they couldn't pull off the effects for a demon. But wouldn't some cast or crew member's family have a decent looking Chinese vase they would let the producers borrow?

Violence is fairly subdued. The first couple to vanish sneaks into a bathroom to join the Mile High Club, but there's no graphic sex or nudity. There are the inevitable bursts of profanity, proving Cole Porter to be correct that "writers who one knew much better words/Now only use four letter words/Writing prose./Anything goes."

Worse yet, the movie is a downer. None of the plot lines come to a satisfying resolution. In the very last seconds there's a hint setting up a sequel. No.

Bless their hearts. They really, really tried., 3 July 2013

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Watching this movie is like watching a high school production. I sat their rooting for the actors to do well, but the script and nonexistent budget finally took their toll.

The story opens in 2069, some sixty years after the main action of the film. A reporter prowls through an abandoned house and finds a diary, but the pages are missing. Determined to get her story, she drives cross country to visit Sarah, the main character.

Sarah is now about ninety years old and has been in a mental hospital for decades because of her insistence that what wiped out her town on 09-09-09 was the work of aliens, not a natural disaster. Kelly Pendygraft plays Sarah as both old and young woman. She's a good actress, but her old age makeup doesn't work. Worse yet, over the course of the story about Old Sarah we see her in daylight (a big mistake) and in closeup (a worse one).

Sarah tells the reporter how back in 2009 her former boyfriend Deke (Bryan Brewer, who also wrote the screenplay) came back to town after serving ten years in prison.

Deke's homecoming is not a happy event. Sarah is confused. His mother is hostile and rejecting. The sheriff (the fine character actor Lochlyn Munro) tells him to get out of town. His old buddies are nowhere near happy to see him.

But the plot thickens because a meteor struck down just outside of town. For economic reasons the meteor's arrival, like too much of the action, takes place off-screen. Soon creatures that reminded me of the monsters from 1958's THE BRAIN EATERS are crawling about taking over the minds and bodies of the townspeople (again, mostly off-screen).

Soon the creatures have almost total control of the town (echoing the paranoia of INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS and IT CONQUERED THE WORLD). The highways are blocked off and nobody can get in or out of town. Of course, we learn this thanks to a conversation over a police radio instead of actually seeing it happen.

What's peculiar is that as I'm typing this it sounds like a strong premise for a screenplay. And it is. But it just doesn't develop.

There's no pacing to the story, and never a sense of urgency as events unfold. The first attack by one of the monsters is based on its crawling up a man's pants leg...but he doesn't notice until it sticks its head out of his collar.

The town is cut off from the outside world and there's no communication, but Sarah's cell phone gets a call from a supporting character at a crucial points. The infected people are like raging zombies until it's convenient for the narrative for them to speak quite articulately. Although there's no getting in or out of the town, traffic on the main highway through it proceeds normally. A main supporting character sacrifices himself nobly, but his doing so has no real impact on the narrative flow. After the final siege against the monster several characters are established as alive and well, but we never learn what happens to them. And the way that people who have been taken over by the monsters can be cured is beyond belief. And nobody in the entire town has license plates on their vehicles, either front or back.

The "special effects" are ludicrous. Flames are green. And the footage of a "burning" house has to be seen to be believed.

The story ends up in 2069 with the reporter leaving Sarah and driving to set up a sequel. Stranger still, a major character reappears in a scene that provides way more questions than answers.

If director Howard Wexler had access to a decent budget (and the services of a good script doctor to tighten up the screenplay) he'd possibly have the chops to make a very decent thriller. I watched OUTBREAK on cable this week and was reminded of how $50 million and an awesome cast can't redeem a jumbled script. But Wexler was probably working with a budget literally under 1% of that, or less.

Parents' note: the film is unrated. No profanity, no nudity, and the violence and alien attack scenes shouldn't upset anyone junior high age or older.

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