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The Medusa Touch (1978)
The plot arc reminds me of 1985's Lifeforce.
This 1978 movie absolutely blindsided me. I'd read its name mentioned in articles for years, but until 2015, hadn't seen it because it was out-of-print. Knowing nothing about its plot, aside from the title, I finally watched it. I don't know what I was expecting, but certainly not the quirkiest, most exciting, big-budget horror film since 1985's Lifeforce. If you're a fan of that film, then you'll probably be a fan of this one. Not because the plots are similar but because both have scripts that start off on one track and then---Wham!---careen into the unanticipated. Richard Burton stars as an author of highly-controversial writings about the British government who gets bludgeoned to death by an unseen assailant in the film's opening scene (this is not a spoiler). From there, the story of his life unfolds in flashback, some told by Burton's former psychiatrist (Lee Remick), and some gleamed by the French detective assigned to investigate the homicide. Nothing is what it seems. Burton had telekinesis.
This is not a film for anyone who wants fast-paced action. The slow build-up of The Omen has more in common with this film than, say, the hyper-kinetic set pieces of The Fury. What begins as a simple murder mystery evolves, by its conclusion, into a worldwide, epic-sized psychic battle to usurp The Establishment. Burton's character was not too keen about The Establishment. To reveal much more takes away the fun.
Would I recommend this film to anyone under 30? Probably not, its slow pace would likely frustrate most Generation X-ers and Millennials. They are not the target audience for this movie. But for those who were sipping bourbon when The Legacy, Halloween and The Shining were still playing in theatres, drink deeply and enjoy. This movie begs to be rediscovered and re-evaluated.
The Dark (1979)
For lovers of BAD movies, this one's for you!
Cathy Lee Crosby used-up all the goodwill she earned from Circus of The Stars by appearing in this gape-inducing howler from 1979 about a homicidal alien wrecking havoc on a set that's supposed to be downtown L.A. but instead looks like that big alley behind the Wal-Mart in Raleigh, North Carolina. (That's Incredible appeared in 1980. Coincidence, you ask? Pennance, I argue.) Original director Tobe Hooper left after a few days (reportedly the first day) and was replaced by John Bud Cardos, but distanced himself from the blast by going uncredited. (Smart move, Tobe...so sorry Crocodile went straight-to-video.) And I imagine that Producer Dick Clark---yes, that Dick Clark!---must still have long conversations with his agent about removing this flick from his IMDB bio. 70's rock DJ Casey Kasem should get down on his hands and knees every single night and thank God for the voiceover offers he's gotten despite his Method work here as a police pathologist. And what of poor William Devane? (Ponder: Knot's Landing was considered a comeback.) Should I mention that Miami Vice's Phillip Michael Thomas briefly appears as a street hood named Corn Rows? (Let's just observe that point and not belabor it.) The Dark was originally a zombie movie. After poor screenings, the studio tried to repackage it as science fiction by removing much of the zombie footage, freeze framing the monster during attacks, and adding laser beams emanating from it's eyes. Believe me, it takes true genius to make a movie this giddily dumbstruck. It's absence from the AFI 100 List is a sham. You're gonna love it.
Hilarious, well-produced Indie spoof that's an audience-pleaser.
SUPERFAG had its North Carolina premiere at the 2002 North Carolina Gay and Lesbian Film Festival, screening during a collection of men's comedy shorts, and quickly became an audience favorite. At 30 minutes, this indie spoof about a gay superhero doesn't overstay its welcome. If you're a fan of Scary Movie or Naked Gun, you're golden. If neither of these titles is your cup of tea, then you've been forewarned.
SUPERFAG is the type of film that includes the kitchen sink. (Look closely, I'm sure one's in there.) It boasts more in-jokes and pop culture references than your average festival comedy fodder, and that's a good thing, because low-budget filmmaking is sometimes tedious to watch, and credit must be given to director Kurt Koehler for attempting to truly entertain us, especially since the film's title alone would have probably generated as much interest. It doesn't hurt that Koehler cast himself in the title role (after all, he knows the difference between parodying the material and not simply mocking it) and that his well-defined body looks as if he went to the gym between every take.
Funny, irreverent and highly entertaining, SUPERFAG is one to watch with your friends.
Jason X (2001)
The best film in the series...and James Cameron will probably sue.
JASON X is a terrific, fast-paced, big-budget sci-fi/action movie that---silly plot synopsis aside---shouldn't work, yet does. And why shouldn't it work? Unlike previous entries in the series, this isn't a horror film. It's a rip-off of James Cameron's ALIENS (1986), although now starring Kane Hodder as Jason Voorhees instead of those nasty, overgrown roaches with piranha teeth. I watched this film in stunned disbelief. I suspect that New Line Cinema's decision to postpone the film's US Theatrical release has nothing to do with the film's quality. (It shouldn't, because the movie is very good.) Instead, I wonder if JASON X is being withheld because New Line is still processing the shock of reading its name atop the "Eagerly Awaited" column in Cameron's logbook of upcoming court dates. Not since Universal Pictures wiped GREAT WHITE off the face of God's green earth has there been such an opportunity to burn the master negative of a reported $13.5 million dollar motion picture.
JASON X doesn't settle for lifting and reworking certain scenes from Cameron's space classic. Oh no, it does so much more. What do you call a movie that not only recreates the mood, setting and characters from someone else's original screenplay, but then also insists on lifting actual dialogue from that same screenplay and passing it off as its own? How is it possible that director Jim Isaacs unknowingly staged entire segments of JASON X with his actors framed in the same proximity to the camera as in Cameron's film? And what's the defense when these actors physically react to these situations in exactly the same manner as the cast of Cameron's original? I do not dare whisper the words, homage or spoof, because I have indeed seen the films of John Sayles and, in my opinion, a spoof is something the Zuckers Brothers are hired to do. What we have here is something deliciously more akin to swiping your dad's credit card and using it to buy yourself a home theatre system with THX SurroundSound. It's fun while it lasts, but sooner than later you're gonna get nailed by the higher-ups. And yet, I'm so pleased with the results of JASON X that I'm damned if I don't want the silly thing to break $100 million at the box office, if only to read how James Cameron copes with it.
Let me say that JASON X does not begin promisingly. The film opens with one of those standard attack sequences in which our heroine races from one darkened set to another, while Jason dispatches a quarter of the Screen Actors Guild and violins screech in the background. I doubt whether such a high-security government facility would have truly allowed an imprisoned psychopath to continue wearing his hockey mask, but what the hell. Jason gets cryogenically frozen and the film skips four hundred years into the future. Before long, a group of teens on a field trip from "Earth 2" are dumping Jason's frozen carcass onto their orbiting spaceship, and never thinking twice about the bloody machete still clutched in his oversized mitts. (In all fairness, they do observe that hockey was a violent sport outlawed in 2010.) Did I forget to mention that our dark-haired heroine was also cryogenically frozen in the same room with Jason and has now been rescued, too? Or that the spaceship is filled with a rowdy band of Marines armed with enough firepower to overthrow a small Republic? Or that there's an android aboard? Or that the expedition's leader turns out to be a greedy entrepreneur with selfish motives? This is not a movie that wastes time with creating new storylines, not when laying a piece of onion skin over somebody else's work and carbon-copying it idea-for-idea will suffice. Once Jason wakes up with a truly hateful headache, however, the film finally closes its eyes and steps on the gas. It was at this point, I do suspect, a silly grin spread across my face.
Take the scene, for example, where the Marines find themselves stalking Jason in a cargo room that's roughly the same size as that warehouse at the end of RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK. The teens, huddled elsewhere on the ship, are monitoring this same track-and-pursuit by listening to the conversations being broadcast over the loudspeakers. (Don't ask why.) We're not stupid. We know that Jason is going to skewer every person in that cargo room. We know this because we've been around a while. We've seen a few horror flicks, maybe some sequels. And of course we've seen ALIENS. Jason finally does attack, while the camera zooms around corners and our heroine demands "Get your men out of there!", and walkie-talkies squawk about copy this and copy that. And I didn't care a smidgen about how James Cameron did it better or that I was watching a rip-off, because the scene worked. In fact, it rocked.
And much later, when a new-and-improved Jason Voorhees strides through a shattered doorway, out of the smoke, as if daring you to make one more ALIENS reference, I knew this film had blindsided me. It's a moment as cinematically thrilling as when Sigourney Weaver finally confronts the Queen, delivering the line quoted 'round the world. And why shouldn't it work? After all, it's the exact same scene.
Yes, JASON X ought to be ashamed. Perhaps I should be embarrassed for being so easily amused. And yet, credit must be given to the filmmakers for attempting something unique---now nine sequels into the series---when the same tired storyline would have probably earned as much money. Yes, the film has flaws. The first half-hour shows severe signs of tampering in the editing room, including an awful sex scene between a student and teacher that feels like a filmed memo from the Audience Research Department to the screenwriter. (This particular moment almost collapses the movie.) On the other hand, the final three minutes of JASON X are everything that a certain 2001 re-imagining claimed to be, without involving apes on motorcycles. This is the best film in the series.
So, we've been to Camp Crystal Lake. We've been to hell. We've even been to space. For the next installment, I suggest the filmmakers now further Jason's adventures. I've heard there's this little-known art-house film about an island overrun by dinosaurs...
Late at Night (1998)
Colorful and creative animated short
Late at Night is a colorful, creative short film. Excellent production values and cinematography, as well as a great soundtrack which captures the "mood" of the film. Not a narrative, but rather a series of shots featuring one woman strolling across different landscapes and locales. Brilliant, and highly recommended by the North Carolina Gay and Lesbian Film Festival, although not necessarily containing gay or lesbian content. Reminiscent of SILENCE.