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|54 reviews in total|
Look, it was the 70s. Everything had to come alive eventually.
So, here's this TV movie about big gruff workers terrorized by a large bulldozer that's taken on a life of its own after it touches a steely meteor half buried in the ground.
Laugh if you will, but the film at least has the conviction to take itself VERY seriously. A great cast helps, lending the film a tone of square-jawed SOB's who slowly start to reveal their soft, sensitive sides once they start dying.
The dozer itself is treated like the shark in Jaws, as it prowls around their campsite just out of earshot until they try to put a plan together, at which point it roars out of nowhere to squish someone.
As good as Duel? No. Better than The Car? Who knows. I haven't seen that one yet.
And no, I'm not THE Clint Walker.
OK, there's this serial killer with dry hair who absolutely MUST be
nude when he kills.
Why? Leave it to the keen detective skills of Charles Bronson (who acts like every other actor in the film is just there to annoy him while he earns his check) who gives us this trenchant insight: (read in Bronson-voice)..."His Knife is his penis." Or was it, "His Penis is his knife." I can't remember.
The entire second act is a lot of dull cop drama stuff that makes the mistake in thinking we care at all about Bronson's relationship with his daughter, or that we care if his beefcakey partner ever hooks up with her.
Just stick to the opening thirty and the last twenty, which gives you what you want: A lot of naked knifings, bare breasts, and blood spatters.
Consumer Note: At no point in the film is it ever ten to midnight.
Like several people here, I too saw this in the wee hours of the
morning on TCM, where yes folks, it ran with no introductory info, and
NO TITLES. It simply ended and faded into nothingness where TCM
switched back to some old Black and While film suitable for Gramma like
it never happened. Maybe it didn't.
Plot: It's one of those "woman fights for her life versus redneck" films that were around a lot in the 70s. This one has an African-American singer getting stuck in the rural south where she stays at a run down inn/bar while she waits for her car to get fixed.
Meanwhile, the dashing bar owner falls in love with her, which results in the expected rape scene, this one rendered even more distasteful by the inter-cutting of shots of local mouthbreathers watching dogs screw.
She goes almost catatonic from that point forward, and every person she turns to for help just leads her deeper into a maze of grotesque public officials who don't really want to help. It's like Kafka rolled around in batter and deep-fried.
It's all so off-putting, the result is less one of bloody revenge than it is of confusion...that something so odd could have ever existed, or actually been shown on late-night television on a channel that so many people get.
Be aware film fans...reruns of this could be lurking around your next sleepless night. Try to get some sleep.
...in a vehicle with no headlights.
Here's the story. In a future time when the government won't let you own private modes of transportation, a former race car driver (Majors) who now has to give commercial lectures on just how great it is in a world with no cars, gets fed up, rebuilds his Porsche, and hits the long abandoned highways to reach "free" California.
A film nowhere near as good as its wonderfully daft premise suggests, the problem with it is that you can tell it's just playing it way too safe. I'm not saying it had to turn into Death Race 3000 or anything, but there are parts where you can tell cuts have been made (the very brief glimpse at some kind of sex club) to get it a PG rating, and, besides one poor old man getting shot in the chest during a raid, the encounters with the government are handled in a pretty silly fashion.
Still, the concept is fun as far as B films go, and when this does allow itself to just be what it wants to be (Major's barrel-chested macho rebel act in the first twenty minutes) it almost gets by.
That Porche is a pretty lousy choice for a cross-country escape too as, again, it has no headlights, no storage compartments for food that I could see, and an open cockpit so he can freeze to death in the mountains.
I saw this film in an English class way back in Junior High. Even back
then, my critical instincts told me I hated it because I thought the
"you make up your own ending" stuff was a cop out.
To this day, I feel like if you write a story and if you can't make up your own ending, you shouldn't have started writing in the first place. But I understand in retrospect that this story is told to younger kids in order to develop their instincts in critical debate and analysis. Entire college classes are given over to spending weeks on end dissecting one story or novel; The lady or the tiger? is a good place to give younger students a starting off point into such things.
But the film, dear lord, the film! The story is told through narration, and is fashioned out of odd quasi-futuristic visuals that took this story from the era of knights and kings and stuff into the world of fascistic rulers. It kind of reminded me of what Julie Taymor did with her adaptation of Titus, or George Lucas' original student film version of THX 1138. The visuals and disquieting music all collide together to form a grim tone poem of sorts.
Considering the time this film was made, it's a pretty daring depiction of a simple story. But, then again, I just saw this story referenced on a Simpsons rerun (the one where Bart and his buddies sneak into Shelbyville), so maybe the story is more influential than I thought.
I don't know how or where this movie exists anymore. I'm sure it languishes deep in some educational film vault somewhere. In an era when just about anything warrants a DVD re release, I suppose it could see the light of day again on some kind of compilation. I wonder if I'll ever see it again.
It's been a very loooong time since I've seen this; 12 years or so, I
think. It was screened in my very first real writing class in High
The actual name of the class was "Term Paper" I think, meaning by the end of the semester we were going to have to compile a seven page or so report on a topic of our choice, with annotated notes and references and what not. Now, even back then, I knew that reading and writing were my strong points as a student, but I still wasn't really looking forward to the final assignment. Now, looking back after college, I would KILL to write a paper as short as seven pages, but back then, that was quite a lot to a kid who was just about to get his driver's license.
Now, I can't remember the exact reason why the teacher showed us this one. It's possible it was just to give us a break, or maybe inspire us. For whatever reason, my initial reaction wasn't exactly thrilled. After all, it was awfully hot in those classrooms, and as I remember I was madly in love with the girl who sat three rows ahead of me, and one seat to the left (she always twitched her nose as she wrote), so needless to say, paying attention to some moldy, out of date, production of a short story that I had never heard of didn't exactly make me want to leap to attention.
The film was an adaptation of "The Lottery" by Shirley Jackson, a story I'm going to assume you've read or at least know about if you've read this, so I won't really go into the plot.
But needless to day, I was drawn in instantly. And although we didn't know what was going to happen in the film, we could all sense that something wasn't right. Why were these people drawing paper from a box? Why didn't some people really look happy about it? What was with that scary old man talking about the "old days." Well, when the ending played out, we were pretty horrified, and rightly so. Like I said, I don't know what lesson teacher was trying to teach us besides the usual comments about the tyranny of tradition and the danger of mob mentality, but I always assumed that what she was trying to impress upon us was not to judge a story before it's been told, and that good writers can suck a reader in before laying in the killing blow.
Personally, as a writer, and as a just for fun critic of horror movies, I took from this adaptation the power of an image unexplained, of a tone of detachment from reality. What made this film so strong was how it just seemed so off kilter from common sense. Sure, growing up in the midwest, me and my fellow students all were very familiar with the images in this film; the fields, the friendly small town folk and their soft patter of "how ya doing" banter, the undercurrent of stab your neighbor in the back gossip, and the commonness of "do this because your dad and his dad did it too" tradition.
But yet, the film doesn't feel "familiar." Maybe it's because so much is left open and unexplained until the horrifying conclusion, but watching the town gather to participate in the lottery, the feeling is one of isolation. Not just from your fellow townsfolk, although I can understand this (sometimes it's just as easier to feel lonely in a small town as it is a big one), but from the outside world. As this film went on, and I started to realize the truth, I just couldn't help but wonder where this town was. Truth is, it may be the only town left on the planet for all I know, surrounded on all sides by endless fields of corn swaying in the breeze. I imagined what I would do if I were there. Could I get away? Could I duck behind a building, and take off running away from town square while everyone else was drawing slips from a box until i reached a road. Would I find anything else? What about the next town over? Is their yearly ritual even more hellish? It's those questions that haunted me most about the story and this presentation of it. I'm continually drawn to movies that take place in a world of their own where all you want to do as a viewer is escape what you see on the screen. Not because of gore of violence or anything so simplistic, but because you just can't bare to see a reality that's too harsh to believe, but too realistic to ignore completely.
I don't know if schools still show films like this anymore. It's possible though. All the thousands of educational films probably will be very slow to get DVD updates, and I'm sure that most school districts will be stuck with VCR's for a long time.
Heck, even as a senior in the mid-90's we were STILL seeing educational films on FILMSTRIPS (the ones where you turned the frames by HAND when you heard the beep), such as one we saw in economics class produced in the early 70's about a girl named LuLu who was learning to save her money to either buy a pink dune buggy, or to blow away on little things (like a KING CRIMSON album, I kid you not!).
So, I hope that somewhere out there this adaptation of The Lottery is still being shown. It captures the desolation, the strangeness, and the tragic sadness of life in a situation where reality becomes unhinged, and all you can do is scream at people to stop, even though they don't listen.
I liked both The Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones in spite of
their obvious flaws. But even knowing that chances are I was probably
going to like Revenge of the Sith, or at least give it more of a
lighter critical touch, I had to shake my head and laugh at all the
people who thought Lucas was finally going to put the naysayers to rest
with this one.
Just like I predicted, after an initial wave of accolades and applause, the haters are back in full force, chopping away at this film with every thing they've got, almost thrilled that they get the chance to make sure everyone in the universe who has an internet connection gets to see that they hate the movie, hate lucas, hate computer special effects, hate hayden christensen, hate, hate, hate, hate, haaaaaaaaaate. Just like they did with Episodes I and II, The Matrix sequels, The Two Towers, Hulk, Daredevil, Fantastic 4, X-Men, Narnia, King Kong, Land of the Dead, and on and on and on forever.
That's the problem with fanboys; they all think they are writers, or that the movies they see should be made to their exact specifications. And if they aren't, well you didn't just disappoint them, but you ruined their life.
On a long enough timeline, fanboys will tear down any empire they have a hand in building up. It's just their nature. Let me put it this way; A director or a writer who creates a fandom is like a god who creates his own society of worshipers willing to give praise at whatever he or she created. But when that god decides to take a break and leave his creation alone by stepping away and closing the lid on his little ant farm of fans, he doesn't realize that while he's gone, those fans in the dark have no new product to feed off of, so they turn on each other, cannibalizing the movies they are left with for food, and their fellow fans who don't agree with them.
So someday, when their happy god comes back with a NEW creation to drop in their midst, they find after they lift the lid that the once happy little worshipers are now feral mutants so changed from lack of attention that anything you feed them now will be spit back up in their god's face.
Now this may be a stretch to believe, but search your feelings. deep down, you know this to be true. You've no doubt taken a spin across the Internet and read the tons of pure hatred that these "fans" have for any number of product that doesn't fulfill them. Could any movie have made them happy? I suppose so, after all, Peter Jackson seemed to have survived this psycho ant farm phenomenon with Lord of the Rings (although just wait for what happens when King Kong comes out).
But please, scroll down through some of the user comments here. Page after page of one star invectives, with the writers almost THRILLED that they get to report that Star Wars is finally "Dead" or whatever else.
Obviously these people weren't going to like ANY Star Wars movie unless we pried Irvin Kirsner out of this little hole and broke out all the puppets, and had ILM spend millions of dollars building the greatest plastic models you've ever seen on screen.
That's not to say that ROTS is perfect; It isn't. Actually, it suffers from the same problems that the previous episodes did. But geez, don't trust the fanboy venom any more than you'd trust a slobbering 10/10 review either.
So, the film itself. Well, it is the best of the three prequels. It's certainly the most passionate, with moments of real fun and genuine emotion being on display.
Yes, there's lots of CG (check your calender, it's 2005), yes the talking droids are silly, yes the plot be-bops around a lot, yes the dialog flubs a little, but for some reason, none of this really bothered me that much, or at least not enough to shake my general impression of the movie as a whopping dose of space opera action. One that makes a connection to the original trilogy much better than even I could have expected.
I don't know how episode III will fare as the years go by, if it will be placed with the originals or spat on like episode I and II. But I like it, and despite what you may read from some fat naked guy on his computer with dogeared copies of Starlog and Fangoria around him, most people (and critics) agree with me.
Some movies haunt me for long after I see them. In the case of Eyes of
Fire, this isn't because the movie is all that hot, but because I
haven't been able to get the darn thing out of my brain since I saw it.
Plot: It's been a while, but right off the top of my head, Eyes of Fire is set during days of early American life. A "wicked" polygamist dude is kicked out of his village for his ways, so he packs up his stuff, and leaves town, taking his flock of naive followers with him.
He promises to find them a new place to live where they can all start a new society of sorts where they can live their lives the way they want to. But he ignores his Native American tourguide, and chooses to set up shop in a spooky, foreboding area of the woods which is supposedly cursed by evil spirits.
After that, I can't really remember too much about the plot, other than that it dissolves into nothingness, and in its place we get quite a bit nightmarish images of ghosts, slime, and spectral zap rays, all backed with a lot of screaming.
I tend to remain fascinated with movies that seem to exist in their own world of reality, where our rules of logic don't always apply. If the world of movies were a giant city, these films would be brief snapshots of dangerous streets you don't want to drive down. These don't always have to be horror movies; Over the years I can think of several examples of these kind of films; Gummo, Elephant, The Toolbox Murders (the 70's one), and Impulse (the meg tilly one) all come to mind off hand. These movies all have a worldview that depressed me enough that I just cant shake the characters and their environment afterwards.
Eyes of Fire is like that, really. I don't recall one character, actor, or line of dialog. Nor am I really sure I've got the story down right. But the memory of being totally freaked out by it has stuck with me ever since.
The only review of this one I really read was one on Ain't it Cool news
(a site I'm trying to break the habit of visiting) where the guy simply
repeated the words "sucked" over and over again.
While I kept that in mind as i rented this one, you should keep something else in mind before you read this.
1. I love zombie movies. Yes, I'm one of those guys. Zombie films like Dawn of the Dead and Lucio Fulci's Zombie were part of my initial education of the horror genra back in 1997. It's a genra that apart from a few hiccups, had been dormant since the mid-80's.
2. And this is the kicker: I actually kind of like movies based off of video games. Well, I should change that too: I'll give movies based off of video games a chance. Maybe it's because I grew up in the age of the original Nintendo (and the age of the Atari, now that I think about it, although I was so young then that I had to ask my dad to hook it up everytime I wanted to play it), but I think it's possible to make a video game based movie as long as the film captures the spirit of the game. It's been done before: Both Tomb Raider films are kind of nifty; Mortal Kombat was fun in a Saturday afternoon way; And Resident Evil was OK, I suppose. But it's also been done really poorly: Wing Commander (does anyone even remember that game?); Double Dragon; Street Fighter all come to mind.
So, here we are with House of the Dead, an adaptation of the Sega arcade game (I'm guessing it was available on other platforms, but I'm only familer with the ardade version).
It was one of those first person games where the player used a lightgun to fire at zombies and such that lurched towards them. It was pretty cool, I suppose. And did a fairly good job of recreating the vibe of a 70's zombie flick. So, I actually thought it made a lot of sense to make a movie based off of it.
The Plot: A handful of young adults get a ferry ride to an island where an allnight rave is being held. They arrive only to find the place deserted, except for the legions of zombies being raised by the spirit of a tortured Spanish scientist from the 14th century or something.
Thrown into the mix are a crusty sea smuggler, and an undercover police officer.
The first twenty minutes or so of this is more bland than it is bad. But when the zombies start popping up, House of the Dead reaches an apex of sorts in what its trying to do. Let's just say that when the protagonists launch their big offensive against the dead, the story gives way to what seems like nearly 25 minutes of uninterrupted bloody action.
Bullets fly, heads go exploding, limbs get munched. All to the tune of a heavy metal song that I actually kind of liked. Well, I didn't like it so much as I thought it fit the scene real well. Maybe it's that part of me that grew up in the era of Iron Maiden and Judas Priest, but it's kind of nice to have heavy metal reclassified as "devil music" instead of "I'm mad at my mommy for bringing home a stepdaddy music."
Yes, it's silly. Yes, the constant screen shots from the video game are a bit much. Yes, like i said, the big battle really does occupy nearly a third of the film's running time. All of these criticisms are valid, I suppose.
Still, the movie worked for me. 2003 and 2004 found horror coming back to life in a way. New directors were going back to the past for inspiration, and bringing back new takes on old stories. Eli Roth's "Cabin Fever" drew from cyncical portraits of human cruelty like "Last House on the Left." Marcus Nispel's redux of "Texas Chainsaw Massacre" did the same, only with a nearly apocalyptic visual sense. Heck, even the 2004 take of "Dawn of the Dead" showed new audiences a hint of the cerebral horror of George Romero.
It's amazing how quickly we lose our perspective on the genra. "House of the Dead", as far as im concerned, is the best, heck, the only, attempt at bringing the gritty, sloppy, rotten, zombie experience of Fulci back to life. Something I thought I'd never see playing at my local cineplex.
Don't believe me? Well maybe I should give you some perspective. I told myself a long time ago that I wasn't going to complain anymore about "Scream" and wave of films passing themselves off as horror through the late 90's, since that genra has pretty much died out now, and that by doing so I was really starting to sound like one of those Fangoria dweebs. But honestly, what would you rather sit through when you go to the movies? "Valentine" or "House of the Dead?" "Urban Legends" or "House of the Dead?" "I know what you did last summer" or "House of the Dead?"
Yea, I thought so.
In the era of the DVD, when video stores already pressed for space now
find themselves in the position of having to clear out mucho shelf
space to make room for both VHS and DVD copies of the newest Kate
Hudson film, many odd and obscure VHS films that have sat for ages are
Sure, many of these films will probably be refurbished on DVD someday, but will these releases trickle down to the rental market? The answer to such a question could really hurt the horror industry in the long run.
For instance, how many people would buy a DVD special edition of "Screams of a Winter Night" if they haven't paid 99 cents to rent it first? If the answer to that is zero, like i think it is, than distributors who dare to spend lots of money attaining the rights to obscure films like this will end up taking a bath when no one buys them.
So, I guess it all comes down to the rental outlet. Which is where my interest in this movie began. One of my local video haunts is a semi-major chain, at least in my area. And it's one that has the biggest rep for stocking odd and offbeat VHS films. But I had noticed that within the last few months, many of these films were being sold off to make room for DVD's like I mentioned earlier. So, in and effort to see as many of these "targeted for deletion" movies before they were gone, I started renting them A through Z.
By the time I reached "Screams," most of these movies were already gone, either bought by geeky film dweebs like myself, or just carried away by the staff.
"Screams" caught my eye thanks to it's thick black clamshell VHS box (an increasing rarity) and odd picture of an indistinct monster trudging through the woods. The title of the film was written in a jagged font that remined me of those off beat comics from the 70's like Marvel's "Man-Thing" or DC's "House of Mystery." The text on the back promised an anthology film, and since I have always had a weak spot for those, I gave it a chance.
I'm glad I did. Over the course of around 90 minutes, I knew I had found that dusty, out of print VHS rarity: The nugget of gold amongst the dirtpan.
The Plot: A group of college students about to graduate travel to a woodland cabin for some R and R. Once there, many of the girls start to feel uncomfortable (something which I'll come back to) after which the guys start telling "true" horror stories they heard from someone who heard them from someone else.
The three tales include:
1. A couple taking a late night drive start hearing scratching noises on the roof of their car. 2. The best of the bunch, and oddly enough, the one people rag on the most, has three frat pledges fufilling their dare to spend the night in an abandoned hospital with a rep for having a haunted second floor. 3. A quiet and shy college girl turns out to be a psychopath, much to the surprise of her roommate.
What surprised me the most was the material in between the stories. There's something really unsettling about this gathering, and the way they all interact with each other. Has anyone out there ever been to a party of some kind where you could just tell the vibe wasn't right? Well, that's what this is like. From the way the girls seem to be uncomfortable around the guys, to the way that the guys seem to be divided into little sub-groups, there's just a feeling that their little trip wasn't going to go well even if evil, supernatural things didn't happen.
As for the stories, yes, that first one is real moldy by today's standards. But you have to keep in mind, that while talk of "urban legends" are pretty commonplace today, back in the late 70's, these legends were just that: Legends, not the stuff of Discovery Channel debunking programs, or community college courses.
It's the second one that really got me. Dark and dingy, with the characters pretty much spending the whole telling cowering near the stairway to the second floor, there's a real feeling of danger as each one of them goes upstairs and dosent come back. The director could have easily copped out and just not showed what the evil green light was, but he did. And while the revelation of the light is a common snickering point among reviewers, I have to admit, something about the unexplainable nature of the explanation has stayed with me to this day.
Add some colorful touches such as the opening sequence: A dark screen backed with increasinly nightmarish sound effects that follow a linear pattern (something which has been done recently in movies like Cabin Fever and the remake of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre) and an impressive finale where chaos breaks out.
I've seen movies that try to scare by cranking up the wind machine and having the cast yell before. "Screams" is just about the only one where I really felt fear for the characters. These actors may have been amateurs, but when called upon, they really do make the ending of this one sing with apocalyptic passion. I almost expected at least one person to survive only to throw open the cabin door only to find a yawning black abyss.
"Screams" is no four star classic, don't get me wrong. But it is proof that not all zero budget cheapies are made equal. I can see I'm not alone on this one. The call for a DVD release here is small, but definitely there. Hopefully, we'll get what we want someday.
As for the copy I rented, I hovered over it for months, waiting for a "sale" sticker to appear on it. I showed up one day, and it was already gone. Oh well, I hope it found a good home.
As long as it didn't get bought by the same jerk who snatched "Her Summer Vacation" out from under me too. I'll probably never see that film again, no matter how popular DVD's become.
That's another story though.
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