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0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
I have several Spanish words I could use, none allowed here, 8 August 2013

Wow. I have recently begun watching a number of Mexican films, and I vacillate between finding it a shame and being relieved that the current horror genre there seems to be as weak as it is in my own good ol' United States. This is one of of the worst films I've ever seen. I didn't give it a 1, because I reserve that for films in which a living being is actually killed or injured. It escaped a 2 rating only because it shows and applauds Xochimilco (I'm all for Xochilmilco being preserved and treasured), because it shows reasonably convincing stigmata, and because it features several dogs who do *not* die (Percy the Rottweiler even gets an end credit).

This is not a long film, but it feels interminable. A group of seven young friends decide to celebrate a birthday by taking a trajinera, a long, colorful, poled boat outfitted with a table and benches, through the waterways of Xochilmilco.

Nothing happens for roughly the first third of the film. The friends flirt, talk, and drink beer. There are many silences and shots of the boatman (made even more inexplicable because several of them are of his feet). The only break from this are shots of a man with really bad teeth who looks like a cross between the bad guy in a spaghetti western and the thing in _Jeepers Creepers_. He is inexplicably following the trajinera. Oh, and there's a scene when two of the characters sing while one plays guitar (the guitar seen in the opening minute was a sure sign of viewer pain to come; I might have run away). The singing and playing were clearly recorded in the studio, but the scene is shot as if we are hearing just what we are seeing. Oh, ugh.

Then the birthday boy finds a Ouija board under the table. Most of the friends want none of it, and there's about three minutes of yelling at him about it. There follow two minutes of what is supposed to be a scary Ouija sequence, but because we are deprived of reading what is spelled out, the audience soon tires of this too.

Nearly half an hour in, the boatman mysteriously and abruptly jumps off the boat and runs into the jungle. All of the passengers scream and cry in wild terror and despair, despite the fact that the boat pole is clearly left on the deck. This bizarre fact sets up what happens--or doesn't---for the rest of the film. This vagueness is not helped by the injudicious use of scene repetition, slow motion, and voice-over. The youngsters get off the boat at some point, and we don't know when or why. People split off from the group without explanation. They get killed when the menace is clearly in view and could have been stopped or evaded---repeatedly. I have never seen a film with a lamer group of protagonists. Their impotent nature rather reminds me of Edward Gory characters.

All in all, the film has no discernible motive or plot. The opening credits hint that this is about La Llorona, but I sure didn't see any sign of that in what followed. I think, given the dolls in the opening, that the filmmakers may have wanted to make a film on the genuinely creepy Isla de las Muñecas and couldn't get permission to. What and who the group encounters after the trajinera is never made clear. The implication is that two characters have become possessed by the Ouija board and their stubborn refusal to leave it alone, but the creepy man in black follows them all from the very first scene, when they're parking their cars. He follows them throughout, though most of the time he just looks constipated. A man they encounter at a shrine may or may not be St. Francis. I can't even figure out whether the Rottie was supposed to be good or a familiar of some evil being.

Needless to say, there was no budget. The sound is poorly recorded (not that it matters when the dialogue doesn't help), and the ending music runs out before the credits do, so they just start it over.

I suspect that a couple of the actors might have some talent, but the script and direction are so terrible that it's impossible to tell. I end this review as I began it---wow.

truly vile, 13 April 2013

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

*Here there be SPOILERS.* Not that this film isn't spoiled from start to finish.

I had the displeasure of watching this as part of a SeeFlik month on On Demand. I'm a fan of short indies, especially tense thrillers. This was anything but. What was coming at the end was all too clear from the first few minutes, although nothing could have prepared me for the far-fetched quality of the rationale for it, or for the extreme brutality.

I suppose I should have been ready for the former flaw, though, because the whole film is completely implausible. How could Sky expect that his desired victim would drive by? Or that she would stop? Or that someone else wouldn't? And if she did to him the implausible thing that she did in high school, wouldn't she remember him? (Or if she's *not* actually that same girl---which I've considered in the year since I saw this, that he's just that insane---that's not made at all clear to the viewer.) And why would she stop and try to figure out anything about his car instead of just phoning someone for help or getting help at the next gas station? And if she's nice enough---though also dim enough---to do all that she does to try to assist, would he really still go through with his plan? My biggest complaint in the Ludicrousness Department is that there is no mom on the face of the planet who'd willingly get in a car and drive off with some stranger *leaving her kid in the other car.* Slee knows jack about women.

I'm disturbed that SeeFlik's 2011 competition put this in its top 20. I'm disturbed that they categorized it under "Social Issues" or some such inappropriate moniker. I'm disturbed that the tag line on the SeeFlik site says, "How far will one man go to mend a broken heart?" That's not mending---it's over-the-top vengeance. And I'm extremely disturbed that this is filmed in a way that seems to insist that we the audience are supposed to side with Sky, that we are to empathize with his extreme vengeance instead of wishing he'd got the hell over it.

Well, I wish he'd got the hell over it. And that I'd never seen the movie. There's enough misogynist crap out there to last several lifetimes. I'd have given this a 1, except for the fact that the acting wasn't completely egregious, and some of the filming was vaguely interesting, and also because I try to reserve the lowest rating for those rare flicks that actually harm animals or people. Not those that just seem to glorify it.

2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
I feel like Charlie Brown with the football, 26 September 2012

Okay, with the title this movie has, it was eventually going to get a look in this household. The dedicated cult-movie fan will sometimes follow a title like this into a so-bad-it's good experience. Sometimes it's time well spent. Most of the time one remembers why one does not play the ponies or the stock market.

What to say of this movie? Well, there's lots of driving. Not Steve McQueen stuff, though. No, more like "Manos, the Hands of Fate." And the walking! More walking than in "The Beast of Yucca Flats." I will admit that my thumb leaned heavily on "FF." Even then, the pace was unendurable.

However, I did not fast forward through some truly inspired dialogue uttered by the satanic leader, who wears some sort of helmet of leather and horns---perhaps a ram's head? No matter. Whatever it is, it successfully hides the identity of the actor(?) as he intones such lines as "For rejecting the serpent, prepare to surrender thy unhallowed flesh to all that is evil!" and "Now, whore, shall ye know the hard-on of sin!" (What happens next gives new meaning to "Lust in the Dust," as well as an ironic twist to the director's name.)

I suppose I should mention that there's a topless waterfall-shower scene, as well as a topless woman in a thong carrying around a boa constrictor . . . if you like that sort of thing.

2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
Drive-in popcorn, a bit stale and needing more butter, 21 May 2012

I really wanted to like this, not least because I'm a big fan of that vanishing and venerable phenomenon, the drive-in. Alas, I've come away with a mixed reaction.

The overall conceit---a postapocalyptic drive-in run by mutants, zombies, and the undead for a similar clientèle---is a fun one for a horror film. I've been left sitting in the last car present in a drive-in in the middle of the night, and a deserted one that's still running in real life is creepy enough, let alone one that's at the end of the world. Best, this fictional drive-in features what few real drive-ins do today---that staple of yesteryear, the B movie.

The problem is that we have some F movies included in this anthology.

In that category, I'd have to put the first film, "Pig." I believe the filmmakers fancy it to be in the company of such revenge films as "Last House on the Left" or "I Spit on Your Grave," but for a variety of reasons, the comparisons don't work. The film started on a hopeful, if low-budget, note (the frat's front door reads Delta Omega Alpha--D.O.A.). But that's just about the last I liked of it, except for the fact of how the woman managed to get the man into the position he's in--a nicely ironic touch. The actors do their best with what they've been given, which isn't much. The female lead has been given a load of vituperative histrionics, and the film quickly degenerates into a lot of shouted imprecations and ceaseless torture. The film suffers further from the fact that the timing of the first half is all wrong, and I started to get the giggles because of it. This vignette isn't scary, suspenseful, or triumphal---it's alternately gross, depressing, preposterous, and annoying.

"The Closet," about an unhappy boy of the Space Age, is rather better. The characters are over-the-top and unidimensional, but they are intended to be. Although one can see the end coming, it's nicely done. The boy playing the lead is surprisingly good for such a young actor. My main quibbles with the film are some poor pacing and some anachronisms (for example, glaringly, the cell phone; less so, the answering machine). Surely the writers know some people over the age of 50---they should have tried talking to them before committing images to film, especially since some of the set dressing (such as the lighted globe) was really good.

"Fall Apart" isn't big on action or plot, but it isn't meant to be. (My one argument with that fact is the plot threads that start and then go nowhere. Why?) The main character is likable enough, and he meets a terrible fate, which is the point of this one. It's a gross-out effects film, which starts creepily and builds to total nastiness, and the effects are well done. Unfortunately, the budget seems to have gone largely to making those effects; the small budget shows excessively elsewhere.

Of all the films, "Meat Man" may be closest to the creepy films and mags of the drive-in's heyday. It's certainly close to the real sorts of scary tales and rumors we told each other as children. The script, direction, and editing are crisp and well paced. The way these kids think is spot-on. Even the preposterous game they play with the freezer is on target---it's exactly the kind of game (that makes no sense to adults) that kids would invent. The child actors do a wonderful job portraying the brothers. Overall, I liked it. (But what did I miss at the beginning? What was with the Frankenstein monster in the bushes?)

Finally, "The Watcher" is 99% unwatchable. If Dark Carnival, the film festival I saw this at, had stuck to its schedule, and shown this one last, I'd have gone home after the few shots of some spectacular scenery, and caught one of my TV shows instead. The makers claim it was inspired by such classics as TCM, but there is nothing here of what made TCM a landmark film in the genre. The characters are unengaging, and there isn't a bright bulb in the marquee. These have to be THE stupidest characters I have ever seen in a film, and that includes the recent "Timber Falls." There is nothing scary or disturbing here, except perhaps the notion that "starring" on "Survivor" is an entrée to the film business.

The bits in between the vignettes are not particularly funny, but the guy playing The Projectionist does so with enthusiastic, committed glee, and the concessionaire Teenage Axe Victim is an inspired touch. There are plenty of trilogy-formatted B films, and I think that "Drive-In Horrorshow" could benefit by becoming one, that is, lose the first and the last vignette.

4 out of 7 people found the following review useful:
What was Donen's excuse for this mess?, 30 April 2012

Wow, this was bad. Unbelievably so, given the writing credits, given Bologna and Caine, and given the fact that this was helmed by one of my favorite directors: two of his films are in my Top Ten to take to a desert island. I couldn't figure out even that this was supposed to be a comedy until I was maybe halfway into it. No comedy, black or otherwise, is supposed to keep the viewer guessing for half the film whether this is the genre That's a big clue that it just doesn't work.

I see that Michelle Johnson was nominated for a Razzie, and she certainly deserved it, although Donen's the one really at fault here. He certainly seems to have lost his mind with this casting, the actress's most noticeable assets being located between her neck and her navel, and her greatest talent apparently her willingness to show them. Again, the atrocious performance by the female lead is Donen's fault (and is it any wonder that this was his last cinema release?), since Ms. Johnson was a mere 17, fresh out of high school and signed up to be a model. Her status as a minor just adds to the overall creepy quality of this film.

I've nothing against age-gap romance on film or in real life, but I do have something against minors used in this way for a film, and I also have something against the "comic" plot of the hook-up of a man with his good friend's daughter, whom he has known since birth and is his daughter's friend. Yes, this situation has been seen, more or less, in cinema both before and since, but not in this chuckle-chuckle buddy-film sort of way, and the others I've seen have higher values of every sort. Caine's character takes advantage, utterly ignores his own daughter (Demi Moore is wasted here), lies to his friend, and commits adultery, and we're supposed to find it all very nutty and funny.

The plot twist near the end did take me by surprise---contrived though it was---but even then I don't think I smiled once. What an icky, icky film.

The Apple (1980)
i was well warned and yet did not believe, 18 January 2012

I watched this because (a) it was free and (b) I couldn't bring myself to take at face value the claim that anyone had actually recorded the lyrics "It's a natural, natural, natural desire / Meet an actual, actual, actual vampire!" But they did. Twice, even. And a vampire pops up and hisses, despite the fact that the movie really has nothing to do with vampires. (I have a theory about this. The vampire bit player is credited with several other roles in this movie as well, so I imagine the director owed her a favor. I can hear the conversation: "Okay, okay, so you can have a part in my next film, and we'll call it even, right?" "Well, okay. . . . But I wanna be a vampire. "The script doesn't call for a vampire." "I WANNA BE A VAMPIRE." "Okay. Sure. Fine. You're a vampire." "Goody!" I have this same theory, by the way, about all the talentless strippers in Carmine Capobianco's cult classic Psychos in Love. But I digress.)

Not a good thing to make a rock musical whose music is almost relentlessly this bad. I actually had to turn off the sound during "BIM's on the Way" (the anthem of the evil music corporation that is somehow taking over the world, or at least America), for fear the inanely repetitive thing would be stuck in my head indefinitely. "Master," a reggae tune, was discomfiting. And I flat-out cringed as the displaced star Pandi crooned while seducing the hero after drugging him. The title, "Coming," is a double entendre, but the verse jettisons any attempt at subtlety, preferring to hit the listener on the head with, say, a metal fire extinguisher: "I want it harder and harder, and faster and faster / And when you think you can't keep it up / I'll take you deeper and deeper, and tighter and tighter / And drain every drop of your love." That little ditty is backed by half a dozen slightly clad dance couples apparently making themselves into human seesaws on beds scattered cleverly about what must be the orgy room. One cannot help but wonder if American Idol and So You Think You Can Dance media mogul Nigel Lythgoe lives in fear that the American mainstream will discover this movie and learn the awful truth that he choreographed it.

Whoever sings for the female lead (I saw the credit but forgot it) has a decent voice, as does the male protagonist. And they have a rather enjoyable and sad duet, separated by circumstance and space, on "Cry for Me." But don't worry. That experience was strictly anomalous.

Most of the dance scenes are as bad as the songs, although the chorus boys have a couple nice routines. (Lythgoe was once one, so perhaps no surprise that those were the strongest dancers with the best routines.) Finally, BIM can't seem to get a grip on what sort of music it espouses: hair band at the beginning, disco later, and while the Captain & Tennille sorts of offerings from the protagonists are ridiculed at first, they seem to be what BIM is buying later.

The costumes are completely over the top and don't make much sense a lot of the time, which is fine, I suppose, because neither does the plot (just think every annoying attempted buy-in to youth culture you ever ran into), and the clothes and makeup are kind of fun to look at. (Well, except for the truly annoying, cheesy-looking BIM patches that everyone is made to wear.) This rock musical has more than a little of a gay glam film to it as well---loads of gold lame' briefs on the boys, and enough body glitter and pancake makeup to send me into sneezing fits just looking at it all.

What becomes of our protagonists and the final reckoning for BIM's evil Dr. Boogalow comes straight out of left field. I won't post it here even with a spoiler alert. It's just too weird. Suffice to say that at least I have never seen anything quite like it, and I've seen an awful lot of movies.

In the end, I can't begin to give this thing a numerical rating. Strictly on merits, I'd have to give it a 3. On intentions, I'd have to give it that as well, although I can't suss out what its intentions were, exactly. But if it was supposed to be serious, it failed; if it was trying to become another RHPS, well, you can't *try* to become a cult phenomenon. Well, you can, but it doesn't work. But putting those sorts of factors aside, there is something in The Apple that pulls you in, and even though that something is just watching to see if it can actually get any worse, well, it did keep me in my chair. And that's sayin' somethin'.

1 out of 5 people found the following review useful:
Film is not a perfect art form, 16 October 2011

. . . and won't be perfect until you can reach out and slap the characters. I wanted to reach out and slap that same tiresome, deeply annoying, manipulative expression off Wheeler's face so many times that my arm ached. I longed to slap Emily for falling for such a drip. I wanted to slap her mother for being Worst Mother in South America. I wanted to slap Jacqueline Bisset, who played Mommie, for allowing herself to be utterly wasted in this film. And Carre Otis for being such a bad actress that a parrot upstaged her. And Mickey Rourke for being Mickey Rourke circa 1990.

At least I can slap myself for knowingly watching a Zalman King film.

By the by, the 3 is for the pretty parrot, some good scenery, and the Carnaval players. Next time I'll just get a travel documentary.

She Freak (1967)
4 out of 7 people found the following review useful:
Does the Impossible, 17 July 2011

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

It makes carnivals really, really, really dull. Really. The most interesting thing for me, a boomer kid, was reminiscing about the fashions and decor of the era, and noticing how freak-show signs never seem to change.

We didn't need the extolling at the outset of the film to realize that the producer probably was getting a big chunk o' change from the West Coast Shows carnival to make this film. I mean, for pity's sake, as has already been mentioned here, the scenes of the carnival in which NOTHING HAPPENS are mind-bogglingly frequent and long. But it certainly did the carnival no favors to have five minutes here and seven minutes there and another five minutes here of these scenes, because they're things like the same shots of the same rides, or the same shots of the same signs, or people standing next to trucks and smoking, or people putting ride parts on trucks or taking them off, or even, heaven help me, Jade, the main character, clearing debris off picnic tables. If this had been my experience of the carnival when I was a kid, I'd have been in tears asking my parents to take me home NOW.

And for the grownup seeking some titillation in Moon's "topless" dancing, well, caveat emptor. There's a question mark on her sign for a reason.

If anyone wants to know what it was like working in the actual West Coast Shows, there is a site by the (late) Amazing Vanteen, who played Mr. Babcock and also one of the killers, which details his life with that show. He briefly discusses the making of this film as well.

The attempted rip-off of Browning's "Freaks" is shameless and futile. For all of Jade's trembling hatred for the freaks, we don't see many of them. We have the odd-talent people, who only marginally qualify for this sad label. The closest to the classic definition of a sideshow freak is Shortie (and the oddest thing to me about Shortie is that he didn't grab that bottle of booze while Blackie and Pretty-Boy were duking it out by the trailer under which Shortie was hiding). The finale, of course, is total theft, although the details of the transfiguration constitute a more plausible end to Jade than the Browning ending provides. Whatever revolted viewer satisfaction there might be in the revenge is, however, I think undone by Greasy's reveling in Jade's undoing. We have no reason to think he is not as despicable as she is, after all.

Anyway, save yourself a wasted afternoon. This is no cult classic, kids.

6 out of 8 people found the following review useful:
Crazy, mixed-up movie, 17 July 2011

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

This poor movie can't make up its mind whether it's a history lesson, a romance, a scary movie, or a nudie cutie, and it ends up being none of them. Thankfully, I didn't waste money on this flick (unless you count opportunity cost, and I suppose I should).

In blatant padding to fill out an hour, we're subjected to repeated details of a Bosch depiction of hell, while a narrator---Gary Owens, no less!---maunders on about witches. (Wish I knew who the narrator was of the single line following Owens's speech--he's familiar too.) Our history lesson ends and our geography lesson begins when the ostensible hero of the film haplessly runs out of gas outside of Luckenbach, Texas, whose roots we learn about ad nauseam. I nearly ran away when the German-singing tots appeared, but I hung in there to watch a possible love interest develop with the hotel owner's daughter. The appearance of a black peignoir set was promising . . . but no.

The witch of the film's title wants (and gets) her own romance (well, okay, lust-fest) with the hero, but though the camera lingers long on the naked witch swimming, so does the little soft-focus bubble over all her naughty bits. For the nudie-cutie enthusiasts out there, she does cavort later in the aforementioned sheer peignoir, but with the sudden and unexplained appearance of white underpants, and you have to suffer through something like liturgical dance as well. (And just where did the music in that cave come from, anyway?) The movie has about as many walking scenes as "The Beast of Yucca Flats." The voice-over narration seems unending, but maybe that's okay, because the German accents are atrocious, as is most of the dialogue. The acting is . . . well, let's just say the annoying children are given a run for their money by the rest of the cast.

And while one does give a bit of credit to the film for its sympathy for victims of witch trials, both literal and figurative, the end makes me want to slap the hero. The "naked witch" comes back to life after centuries of death, exerts mind control, and kills a few folks, and yet he wants to know "Was she really a witch?" Well, DUH.

Remote (2010)
1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
take time for this one, 5 October 2009

I saw this yesterday as part of the Dark Carnival Film Festival in Bloomington, Indiana. It has some interesting ideas injected into a well-worn theme, and I like that director/writer Roussel used a television set as the medium for the plot. How many of us have not played with the idea of interacting with someone in the set? The main characters are quickly established as likable--important in a short! I thought the film was well acted and had decent production values. Overall, the pacing was quite good, although I think one section in the second half takes too long to establish its point. There is one breathtaking moment I didn't see coming at all, although the circumstances that set it up to happen seem a bit too hard to buy, in retrospect. (I can't say more without spoiling that part.) I don't understand enough about physics and math (despite a long relationship with SF) to get the various arguments about alternate time lines, so I won't go there much. The only thing that I had a quibble with was the photo--I don't see how it was possible that it was sent to Matt. Otherwise, I bought the set-up and most of the details. A nicely handled ending, too. This is Roussel's third venture into directing, I believe, and I hope he does more.

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