Reviews

50 ReviewsOrdered By: Date
Fear No Evil (1981)
Good marketing, bad film -- cliched, yet homoerotic
1 August 2003
Here's another film that was marketed well, but failed to deliver. Catching the tail-end of the Satan boom (`The Omen,' `God Told Me To,' `The Amityville Horror,' `Alucarda,' etc.) ushered in by `The Exorcist,' `Fear No Evil' attempts to mine gold from all predecessors, but instead comes up with a highly clichéd, highly tedious film that brings Lucio Fulci's `Gates of Hell' (which came out two years later) to mind for me. The film offers up a ridiculous prologue before the credits run, then adds another when they're done, setting viewers up for a story of a hapless, effeminate anti-Christ (Stefan Arngrim) who must contend with two meddlesome arch angels in human form (a young woman and an older, pious woman, played beautifully by Elizabeth Hoffman, the one person who could act in this flick). Arngrim, especially toward the film's end, looks more like Brian Eno or Gary Numan gone goth – pale, ostentatious, androgynous, and emaciated. And while director Frank LaLoggia puts together competent scenes – the dodge-ball incident, the dog's blood occurrence, the town's annual sea-side re-enactment of the `Passion Play,' the bloody baptism – his plotting and pacing are just atrocious! Everything seems jumbled together, somehow linked conveniently to Satan… and because it's `supernatural,' plot-holes never have to be filled! An optimist when it comes to film, I actually thought all the little intricacies were going to converge into something. Instead, I was treated to a last-ditch effort that added zombies (for no reason whatsoever), a hokey laser-beam showdown (not as bas as `The Manitou'), and absolutely no fear factor. To the film's credit, there's a bizarre homoerotic undertone running through the film, which we first see in a high-school gym shower scene. The school's sexually-active, chauvinistic, burn-out/thug sexually harasses Arngrim while they're both naked, then engages in a full-on kiss with him (for laughs, I guess). Still later, the two kiss again, and (making a reference to an earlier marijuana joke) the thug suddenly grows breasts (Satanic augmentation at work). Personally, I don't see many occult films with this angle, so it was a bit refreshing and disconcerting. Outside of that, this film has one hell of a soundtrack -- the Sex Pistols, the Talking Heads, and Richard Hell, doing "Blank Generation.' This movie runs 94 minutes long, but it seems like an eternity in Hell for a good soundtrack and one weird transexual scene!
3 out of 6 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
One of the most interesting B-movies I've ever seen!
28 July 2003
Warning: Spoilers
This is a very delightful film that should appeal to horror fans and those searching for offbeat and forgotten gems. POSSIBLE SPOILERS AHEAD.

Two small-time Baltimore crooks flee to Miami to hide out in a rented home in the suburbs - only, they aren't your ordinary petty thieves! No, sir! Instead, director/writer Thomas Casey has masterfully cast them as a gay couple, Paul (aka Aunt Martha) being the domineering, cross-dressing chief-boot-knocker, with Stanley as the callow, somewhat-submissive teen-hippie. Stanley (played by Wayne Crawford) is a child-like idiot (just turning nineteen) who, despite being wanted for murder, drives a colorful attention-grabbing van around (that actually has the word `door' painted on the door). And while he may indeed have a few character inconsistencies (a homosexual, coke-snorting hippie with hang-ups who knows how to deliver babies via C-section?), Paul (played beautifully by Abe Zwick in his only known role) is simply killer! He's got that over-the-top delivery that sometimes sounds ad-libbed, reminiscent of the many memorable characters of John Barrymore and Gene Wilder - mixing deadpan humor with over-enunciated words and psychotic facial expressions.

Partly to throw off the heat, Paul dons the guise of Stanley's "Aunt Martha," dressing in drag and doing the cooking and cleaning while Stanley jacks around with the Woodstock generation (drugged-out dudes in leather vests and skanky nude chicks). Extremely jealous (and tipping a hat to Hitchcock's `Psycho'), Aunt Martha then attempts to slice-and-dice any girls (referred to as whore, sluts, or bitches) trying to get in Stanley's snakeskin pants (which he never takes off throughout the film's entirety). Zwick's performance is a joy to watch and his dialogue is absolutely hilarious. He embodies elements of Vaudevillian slapstick, making even the subtle act of smoking a cigar a work of art! And the scene where Martha yells at the phone then throws darts at a poster of a girl's ass while swigging beer is priceless!

Another character, Hubert (Don Craig), shows up toward the end to make things even more baffling - he's a double-crossing heroin junkie in his 60s who once worked in a drug-store in Baltimore but, for some unknown reason, has followed our dynamic duo all the way to Miami (through the power of the Zodiac) because he has nowhere else to go (in reality, he's just another petty thief with horrible rationalization skills after some jewels). And, to make things even more bizarre, he's a junior astrologist bordering on analytical psychology.

The film drags on a little at the end (really, what's with that Caesarian section scene?) -- and should have been edited down a bit or reinforced with more crucial scenes, but director Thomas Casey has essentially (and effectively) crossed Truman Capote's `In Cold Blood' and `Psycho' with TV fare like `Bosom Buddies,' `The Odd Couple,' and `That '70s Show.' Now, he needs to turn this into a weekly series for HBO, or make a prequel that explains the whole odd arrangement. Or he could make a sequel that finds Paul surviving the gunshot wound and being released from prison thirty years later as a rehabilitated man (or so you'd think). The possibilities are endless!

`Sometimes Aunt Martha Does Dreadful Things' is easily one of the most interesting B-movies I've ever seen!
5 out of 5 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
A truly worthless film like you wouldn't believe...
27 June 2003
Well, I didn't laugh even once at this muddled, unfunny heap of film, which begins with a very boring, very unsmiling skit that centers around Cat Swimming instruction. It moves into other tedious skits like `The Church of the Jack Lord" (a Church of the Sub-Genius styled farce that looks great on paper) and a moment with Dan Aykroyd's deformed feet, not to mention the highly dim-witted "Laser Bra 2000" and a montage of male commentary called "Beautiful Women Love Disgusting Men," where the film unloads all of its cameos at once: Jane Curtin, Carrie Fisher, Teri Garr, Joan Hackett, Deborah "Blondie" Harry, Margot Kidder, Wendie Malick, Laraine Newman, Gilda Radner, and Loretta Tupper. That said, you can probably guess how misleading the box is that professes appearances from this bevy of stars! Dan Aykroyd is in some of the skits, and there's further cameos from people like Paul Shaffer and Bill Murray (who's even less funny here than in his cameo as Lefty Schwartz in `Loose Shoes'). Alas, not even the footage of Klaus Nomi, Sid Vicious, or Root Boy Slim and the Sex Change Band (which is way too long and utterly stupid – the Tubes they weren't!) helps this disorder. The one redeeming skit is called "Christmas on Other Planets.' "Tunnel Vision," `Amazon Women on the Moon,' `The Kentucky Fried Movie,' and even `The Boob Tube' and "Jokes My Folks Never Told Me" (groan) are much, much better than this!
7 out of 13 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
An unbearable mess of a film...
27 June 2003
Warning: Spoilers
Spoilers ahead? I'm going to have to say that `Women In Cages' is a downright ugly film with little redeeming value. In fact, I can't even imagine a Pam Grier fan liking it. The Queen of Blaxploitation is downright bad in this one, and I don't mean baaaad, as in `Coffy,' `Foxy Brown,' and `Scream Blacula Scream.' Her role as a one-dimensional lesbian sadist is just too much, and her death scene (being drowned in a river while raped by a gang of Asian thugs) is unbearable! Outside of that, Jennifer Gan, who plays Jeffries, is so bad you want to lock her in the hole for good and throw away the key! She stands around like the proverbial gentle giant, hovering above the cast like an Amazon, and looks absolutely pathetic (which the audience is supposed to decipher as innocence, dismissing the fact that her boyfriend is a drug-smuggler). Then, the director expects you to believe this whimpering idiot is capable of masterminding a prison break? Outside of a few TV appearances, Gan's acting career got the Electric Chair after this film (her only other flick is `Naked Angels'). and rightfully so! However, Roberta Collins (who played Matilda the Hun in `Death Race 2000') plays Stoke here and does an OK job, especially when juxtaposed against the rest of the cast, including Miss Del Monte Queen of the Philippines Sofia Moran (an actress once dubbed "The Sophia Loren' of the Philippines). Lastly, Judith Brown is especially bad as the back-stabbing junkie!

The direction, lighting, and editing are horrible, the acting is three leagues under bad, and the plot, if you can call it that, centers around different ways to get the cast naked, including scenes involving a floating Asian whorehouse boat. It's not even worth a look if you like women-in-prison films, as the nude scenes are pretty drab and unpleasant looking. To its credit, it's only 78 minutes long though, so it's not like you're sitting through `Dances With Wolves' or `Gettysburg.'
6 out of 11 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Very, very, very unfunny...
25 June 2003
Was Rob Schneider funny in "Judge Dredd"? Definitely not. Was he funny in "Big Daddy"? Again, no. In fact, has he ever been funny in anything? I certainly don't think so, though his body of work (ranging from gems like "Down Periscope" and "The Beverly Hillbillies," to "Surf Ninjas" and "Home Alone 2") more or less (much less) speaks for itself. This film could easily be one of the unfunniest movies I've ever almost walked out of. Schneider isn't funny, has no comic timing, and isn't even endearing in a goofy way like Adam Sandler. Here, he plays a cornball fish tank cleaner whose life changes ever-so climactically when he's hired to clean the Koi pond at a swank Malibu apartment (what a premise). Deuce eventually crosses paths with the studly Antoine Laconte ("The Mummy"), a prime gigolo, and assumes his lifestyle (to help raise money for the damage he's done to Laconte's apartment) when Laconte goes on vacation. Oh, the fun of seeing Schneider date fat women and handicapped girls - ha ha! Even funnier is the fact that he's trailed by a vice cop (William Forsythe) who pulls out his dick every time they intersect paths - oh, the laughs! Then, by film's end, director Mike Mitchell (who's directed absolutely nothing worth seeing in his lifetime) expects viewers to sympathize with the jack-ass! This film hurt me. I didn't laugh once -- how it ever grossed over 35 million bucks is beyond me. I had no idea that third-graders had that kind of money!
0 out of 2 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Heard This Before? Not As Good As the Book!
25 June 2003
"The Cider House Rules," written by John Irving, stands as one of my favorite novels of all time, so imagine my anticipation of seeing it brought to screen. It's the story of a brainy young man's journey through life, starting with his involvement at a secluded orphanage/abortion clinic in St. Cloud, Maine, where he is born. Homer Wells, as he is named, is raised and mentored by the ether-huffing Dr. Larch, the establishment's resident doctor who eventually teaches Homer everything about medicine. A chance meeting with a beautiful pregnant woman and her army-hero boyfriend (after an abortion) causes Wells to hitch a ride with them, much to the displeasure of Dr. Larch, and venture out into the world to explore life as an apple-picker. However, as Homer's life heads into new directions (some dangerous), his past morality and ideals rear their head, only to clash with his complicated present.

Whereas the novel focused more on character development, coming-of-age values and generational issues, the film emphasizes the notion of discipline and the breaking of rules. At every turn in the film (which, by the way, isn't long enough to cover the genius of Irving in all his aptitude), and I mean every turn, someone is breaking a rule – it's almost subconsciously irksome (keep in mind, the film does center around abortion during a time when it was illegal). As a result, I don't get the same sense of resolution and clarity in the film that makes the novel so endearing.

Plus, I'm not sold on the main cast. I didn't mind Michael Caine (excellent line: "Good night, you princes of Maine -- you kings of New England!"), and though I really like both Toby Maguire and Charlize Theron, neither of them posses the magic of Irving's characters, and certainly don't create an attachment that viewers care about in the film. I might even go as far as to say they're mismatched.

Nevertheless, I give mad props to those in the supporting roles! Delroy Lindo, playing the incestuous Mr. Rose, should have gotten an Oscar nod (better yet, he should have done a comedy with Evander Holyfield as his twin brother). Likewise, Heavy D (as Peaches) and Erykah Badu (as Rose Rose) should be noted for their standout performances.
1 out of 1 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
One of the better action flicks of the late-'90s!
25 June 2003
"Desperate Measures" is one of the better action-flicks of the late-'90s, blowing s***e like "Con Air," "The Replacement Killers" and "Firestorm" out of the water! And the reason is simple - characterization (believe it or not, believable story lines have never been a big concern of action films). Michael Keaton is both intriguing and creepy as the beefed-up Peter McCabe, a brainy, homicidal psychopath serving life in a maximum-security prison for killing four people, including a fellow inmate. But he's also the villain you root for, based entirely on his charisma and likability (kind of like Hannibal Lechter).

McCabe plays a life-and-death game with Frank Connor (played by Andy Garcia), a San Francisco police officer forced to go to `desperate measures' to find a compliant bone marrow donor for his dying son. McCabe, as it turns out, is the boy's perfect DNA match. When offered the genuine opportunity to help, McCabe reflects, `After all these years of being locked up, I'm finally given the opportunity to kill again.'' Beautiful!

Connor haphazardly convinces his superiors to transport McCabe to a hospital, but the killer instead stages a resourceful escape, going on a destructive killing spree. It's a bit contrived (blueprints of the building from the Internet, broken joints in his hand, anesthesia-prevention, etc), but all accounted for. Under any other circumstances Garcia's character would shoot McCabe on sight, but in his current predicament, he tries to keep McCabe alive (if McCabe dies, his marrow is useless and the boy dies).

As you can see, "Desperate Measures" isn't just about the pursuit of a psycho - the movie toys with the idea of morality and virtue, then tosses in a lot of antagonism to get the point across. Still, it lacks a bit in presenting McCabe and Connor as the same person - each desperate with the capability to overcome and survive despite the chaos. Had they done that, I might've recommended this film a little more.
2 out of 3 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Con Air (1997)
Junk-food cinema for the Nintendo generation.
25 June 2003
There are two kinds of action flicks as far as I'm concerned – the elaborate, well-thought out vehicles that suck the viewer in with good characterization and worthwhile plots (stuff like "Die Hard," "The Fugitive" and "True Lies" to name a few recent cinematic highlights in this genre), and the ones that rely on explosions, relentless fight scenes, big budgets and plenty o' effects ("Eraser," "Die Hard II," "Rambo," and any number of action sequels). "Con Air" is wedged somewhere between the two, though closer to "Die Hard II" -- you sorta care about a few of the characters, but not enough to stand up and root for them unabashed. Still, it doesn't really matter, because by the final lap Jerry Bruckheimer has reduced the film to action-mockery and Explosions R Us (the same fate "The Fifith Element" suffered).

Bruckheimer, with his late partner Don Simpson, engineered flicks like "Beverly Hills Cop," "Top Gun," "Days of Thunder" and "The Rock" – "Con Air" is more of the same; a film that feels more like an arcade-game than a work of art. It's junk-food cinema for the Nintendo generation.

The star of the show, Nicolas Cage's ex-Army Ranger Cameron Poe, is finally getting out of lock-up after eight years to see his family; imprisoned for defending his pregnant wife in a bar fight and killing a hooligan (personally, froma legal standpoint, I don't see how he could have gotten sent up river, but hey, this is Hollywood). So, for God-knows-what-reason, he's sent aboard a C-123K plane in the Air Transport division of the U.S. Marshal's Service, a carrier that transporting some of the nation's most dangerous felons across the country to a new super-maximum security facility. But guess what -- Poe suddenly finds himself mixed up in a carefully detailed skyjacking masterminded by Cyrus "The Virus" Grissom (played unequivocally by Malkovich). And, as you might guess, Poe becomes a reluctant hero, fighting to thwart Cyrus and his band of "lifers" from massacring everyone on board as the damaged plane careens toward disaster on the famed Las Vegas strip. The criminal superstars are probably the best part of the film: there's Malkovich (awesome in every role he's played), black militant Nathan `Diamond Dog' Jones (Ving Rhames), Johnny 23 (Danny Trejo) and Garland Greene (Steve Buscemi), a serial killer who arrives on board encased in custom-made restraints patterned after Hannibal Lecter's in "The Silence of the Lambs."

The film's most riveting scene comes when Buscemi, the soft-spoken serial-killer, has tea with a little girl who's likely to become his next victim – the little girl and he instead sing `He's Got the Whole World In His Hands.' Other than that, and a few other scenes, the movie is basically a procession of swift set-ups, oddball characters, spiked colloquy and action sequences. If you like bright lights, loud noises, guns and explosions – don't miss this one!
0 out of 0 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Equinox (1970)
Satan is a park ranger -- this is an Evil Dead prequel!
25 June 2003
Warning: Spoilers
Spoilers ahead, perhaps. A moderate horror fan, I had never heard of `Equinox' at the time I popped it in (nor had I read any IMDB user-comments). But until Sam Raimi personally tells me he did not see this film prior to making the `Evil Dead' flicks, I'm going to assume he has paid loving homage to this forgotten gem. If you think `Evil Dead II' is a re-make of `The Evil Dead,' then you haven't seen this film yet (though it has a lot in common with John Newland's 1973 film, `The Legend Of Hillbilly John' too).

I liked this film a lot - like the `Evil Dead' films and `The Return of the Aliens: The Deadly Spawn,' this is pioneering film-making that must be seen to be believed. From the opening sequence where the credits are rolling (a nice parade of mechanical images moving around mysteriously) to the rather abrupt start, this is a film that keeps things interesting! In the beginning, a man running from an explosion (Edward Connell playing David Fielding) is hit by a phantom car. He later winds up in a psychiatric ward as a psychotic vegetable of sorts, staring at his cross for countless hours. He's visited by a newsman named Sloan (James Phillips looking like Bruno Sammartino), who hears the original tape of Connell's affirmations.

Now, note the familiarities here. His story recounts the day he and three friends cross a strangely recognizable bridge, hoping to meet up with a professor named Doctor Waterman who's holed up in an almost inaccessible cabin. The professor has gotten his hands on a 1,000 year old book written in many different languages that he calls 'The Bible of Evil,' which makes reference to the Dead Sea Scrolls, the Persian Gulf, the Lord's Prayer written backwards, the forces of good and evil, demonology, the natural methodology of symbols, and demon resurrection. The doctor has, as expected, become as amateur demonologist and tried a few of the experiments for the manifestation of certain creatures. His notes, found in the book itself, claim that his knowledge was premature and that he was unable to control what he created. When Dave reads the doctor's notes, the scene is uncannily similar to a another from some other film that involves a doctor's notes on a tape-recorder. Later, we see Dr. Waterman possessed by something as he runs through the woods. Oddly enough, there's also reference to a spiraling vortex and a fluctuating dimension where we see a medieval castle and an evil flying stop-motion demon - hmmmn. In addition, several of the cast-members get possessed, and Jim Hudson (played by WKRP's Frank Bonner) even gets an evil doppleganger (can you say `Evil Ash'?). And, at one point, Dave yells, `Into the woods,' which automatically brings Raimi's `Within the Woods' to mind in a weird de-ja-vu sense when you actually hear it said. Nevertheless, `Evil Dead 2' is still a much better film and tons more entertaining, but this is a nice reference point for any fan of the Raimi movies. Purchase this at any cost!

Lots of other weird stuff here too: 1) Susan is almost raped by Asmodeus (Satan as a park-ranger), who apes Billy Idol's sneer in a very weird scene. Luckily, her crucifix (y'know, the one that swings down by her near-perfect ass throughout the film) saves her. 2) The Ray Harryhausen-like stop-motion animation, created by future Oscar-winner Dennis Muren (of later `Star Wars' fame), is amazing! Everything from his Cthulhu-looking octopus, to his flying demon, to his 30 foot Aztec Gorilla with the furry forearms, to his big aborigine/caveman are spectacular! 3) The group of students is the most matter-of-factly group of kids since Scooby-Doo and the gang. They're not a bit scared when they hear maniacal laughing from a dark cave and see weird prehistoric footprints. Instead, they make torches and investigate! 4) Ed Begley Jr was an assistant cameraman on this film, and he ended up doing voices on `Scooby-Doo.' 5) There's a wonderful cameo from legendary sci-fi author Fritz Leiber in a small role. Leiber once wrote a short-story in 1950 called `The Enchanted Forest'). 6) Satan is a park-ranger!
15 out of 20 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
A quiet, desperate tale about human nature and loneliness
18 June 2003
I thoroughly enjoyed `Single Room Furnished,' a beautiful film about quiet desperation. The cinematic equivalent to a Graham Greene novel, this darkly daring film centers on Maria, an irrepressible girl in her teens played by the very catching Terri Messina (who looks a bit like Marlo Thomas and Mary Tyler Moore, only hotter) and the desolate trifecta character of Johnnie / Mae / Eilene, played by Jayne Mansfield.

Pop (Billy M. Greene) tells Maria the story of Johnnie's lowly life, as if it were one of Hilaire Belloc's `Cautionary Tales for Children,' against a backdrop of real, unadorned people in their real, drab existence. Director Matt Cimber, in his debut feature film, illustrates the ruthlessness and dreariness of life and how it gleefully pulverizes people who never had a chance. It's not a satirical film, just a bleak soul-shriveler of the cruelest kind. Throughout, Mansfield conceals a depth of softness and vulnerability, hinting that there's always a hopefulness hidden under her sobs and disappointment. The feel-good film of the year this isn't (Mansfield even died before the movie was completed)! But, if you're looking for a quiet tale about human nature and want to see how the majority of American people feel, definitely watch this one!
16 out of 23 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Bad acting, bad sound effects -- rent "Plague of Zombies"
16 June 2003
I have to say, this is nothing more than pure trash fueled by shock value with a hackneyed 'gateway to Hell' storyline akin to `The Evil,' `The Gate,' and `The Sentinel.' To its credit, director Lucio Fulci comes up with some interesting camera shots (inside coffin, some bird's eye shots) and gives the film that sickly feel of Lamberto Bava's work (`Demons' comes to mind), even aping Dario Argento on occasion. The maggot rain is pretty impressive, and, as far as I'm concerned, there's only one other scene worth watching, and even it's poorly executed! Midway through the film, a girl throws up her insides in anatomically-correct order (remember, Fulci had an early career as a med student), but the tight, dark editing and bad Technicolor shock cinema ruin the outcome. Also Fabio Frizzi's score -- some nice guitar and synth bass - is remindful of Goblin and used pretty effectively.

First off, the story is pretty bad, dragged down by even worse sound effects. In the city of Dunwich (think H.P. Lovecraft), built right on the original ruins of Salem, we see a Catholic priest, Father Thomas (Fabrizio Jovine), hang himself (an obvious reference to Fulci's hatred for the Catholic Church). For some reason, which we're told though the melodramatics of Madame Teresa (played by Adelaide Aste), who speaks way too matter-of-factly about the portal to Hell and closing the gates, evil was apparently unleashed when Father Thomas hung himself (I wonder what the outcome of molestation of little boys is?). And while I'm on the subject of melodrama, Luca Venantini (who plays Emily's little brother, John-John), is by far the worst child-actor I've ever seen! And as `Sandra,' Swedish actress Janet Ågren's hysterics are so over-the-top you just want to cuff her! At one point she's painting a black rhino, which caused me to think back to `James & The Giant Peach,' where James' parents are abducted by a huge black rhino. no dice here! Just bad, bad acting.

As far as the rest of the cast goes, Carlo De Mejo (playing Gerry the psychologist and looking like Elliott Gould with a beard) is pretty good, as is the wiseguy journalist -- part Kolchak, part smart-ass Norm McDonald, part Peter O'Toole - portrayed by Christopher George (who could have used the Duke's help in this film!). On the other hand, Martin Sorrentino plays a hard-talkin' black sergeant who quickly disappears after the film gets going (thank God). and then there's Bob! All the characters in the film think the twitchy Ed Gein-like character (played by Giovanni Lombardo Radice) is the killer. We first meet him in a ramshackle country house with his blow-up doll, but if you're a "Twin Peaks" fan, his whole insubstantial palindrome moniker will bring Frank Silva's `Killer Bob' character to mind. Plus, he's wearing a UAW jacket throughout the entire film (a statement from Fulci?).

My last gripe centers around the film's inaccuracies, the sets, and the fluky coincidences. For starters, there's a character named Mary (played by Catriona MacColl, but resembling Elizabeth Hurley a bit), who starts out as a fourth-rate cleric of some sort with one initial vision that peters out and gets buried alive. But, the film actually shows an embalming scene at one point (some old woman), which makes me wonder how Mary could have been buried alive - 1) she obviously wasn't embalmed for some reason, or 2) she's the most kind-hearted, jovial, down-to-earth zombie the world's ever seen! Outside of that, Junie's Lounge (the local watering-hole) is damn depressing, and it looks like the catacombs were filmed in the same dimly lit cavern used in `Galaxy of Terror' and Sybil Danning's `The Phantom Empire' (this film is on par with both on 'em). Oh, and while you're down there, why not utter, `Hey look, here's that just-in-case-crowbar we need as we wander around aimlessly in the catacombs!'

If you want to see something like this, minus the gore with better character development and trippier sequences, check out John Gilling's 1966 Hammer film, `Plague of Zombies,' which I think this film lifts a little from.
0 out of 2 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
The Evil (1978)
Only two or three scenes worth watching here...
16 June 2003
Let's see - what positive comments can I make about this film? Well, the sound effects are interesting - laughter mixed with backwards noises and wind - and there's a few good scene - one involving someone's hand and a phantasmagoric possession scene that borders on necrophilia. Other than that, the ending is pretty surreal, not that it makes much sense, and I guess Richard Crenna and the sexy Joanna Pettet are pretty good. What's that leave us with?

Well, most of the death-scenes are pretty lame (a few electrocutions/catch-on-fire scenes and a nasty spill or two) and the plot is lamer than a 'Scooby-Doo' mystery that even Shaggy would figure out without the rest of the gang based on the two or three clues lying around (no tricks here). Also, the house is pretty creepy, though director Gus Trikonis never makes much use of it, and the character interaction flat-out sucks. Likewise, the music is really gay (and I don't mean that in a homosexual way, more of a `Thorn Birds' way), and there's a reprehensible scene where a kid is climbing down a wet piece of rubber-insulated cable in a thunderstorm five stories above the ground - sorry, there's just no way in Hell he could do it without gloves on!

It's not a bad run-of-the-mill haunted-house story, but it might have worked better in more creative hands. This is a case where the marketing campaign and poster-art worked better than the film.
1 out of 3 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
A charming film in the realm of Raimi
13 June 2003
I saw this movie in the mid '80s, renting it for a high-school slumber-party I dubbed `Dusk to Dawn' (a marathon of B-movie horror flicks). My jaw dropped - this was intense stuff! I recently watched it again and was extremely impressed by the imaginative film-making by everyone involved. First off, I don't this utterly fantastic piece of low-budget film-making should be referred to as a rip-off of `Alien.' Just because both films share `something' that comes from another world with sharp teeth and kills people doesn't mean they're in the same ball-park! If anything, this film owes a lot more to old Corman pieces and stuff like `Trilogy of Terror,' `Don't Look In The Basement,' the early Raimi pieces, and the reprehensible `Rabid,' starring Marilyn Chambers. If there's any connection, real or feigned, it comes from the distributors, who, hoping to cash in on the rumor of a sequel to `Alien' gave `Deadly Spawn' another theatrical as `The Return Of The Aliens: The Deadly Spawn' (hence the odd title), or `Return of the Alien's Deadly Spawn' (if you like Continental's mis-print).

I enjoy this film because it's gritty and real, shot in 16mm over weekends only, filled with the normalcy of everyday life - people prepare breakfast and lunch, they feed the cat, they worry about tests, they talk about plaster giraffes. The director gives us a glimpse into a normal middle-class family with a penchant for hard-work and education, then shows us how they and a surrounding circle of people react (based on their backgrounds). For example, the brainy older brother wants to dissect one of the alien brood; the uncle wants to help his nephew by psychoanalyzing him a little; the younger, imaginative brother wants to defeat the entire pack as a horror-film defender; the little old ladies fight back dynamically - hell, aliens are nothing next to the Depression-era vermin they might have faced! Simply put, this is top-notch amateur acting with a dose of actuality! By film's end, you feel at home in their house, despite the nastiness!

That said, almost all of the actors here are great! `Boring' Uncle Herb (played by John Schmerling) must be where the character of Dr. Frazier Crane (Kelsey Grammar) came from, 'cause he's on the money! Other MVPs include Ethel Michelson as the progressive Aunt Millie, and Judith Mayes as her off-the-wall new-age mother, Bunny. And, unlike the array of idiot characters you get in most horror flicks, these characters seem pretty smart, especially Charlie (played by Charles George Hildebrandt), who comes to breakfast reading a copy of `Famous Monsters') and his scientist brother Pete (Michael Robert Coleman). I like the way director Douglas McKeown juxtaposes their two disciplines (outlooks on life - left brain, right brain) against one another. in the end, science and imagination triumph together in sheer MacGyver genius!

This is an independent film, much like `Evil Dead I/II,' with the same tongue-in-cheek approach, plenty of point-of-view shots, the same good editing (though certainly not as tight), and loads of staggeringly elaborate alien and gore effects (that would make Tom Savini proud). The adult alien is much like Audrey, the blood thirsty plant from `The Little Shop of Horrors,' but has thousands of teeth and an almost-leering grin, while the offspring are part piranha, part mealworm, part eel, part phallus - they like look like something you'd see in a Gwar stageshow or film. None ever seem like puppets! Like Raimi's film, this one has an energy and spirit that surpass the gore-and-horror paint-by-numbers. In fact, while McKeown (with screenwriters Ted Bohus and John Dods) isn't as effective as Raimi in the humor department here, he brings a much deeper social and truth-seeking criticism to the table. He pokes fun at vegetarians amidst man-eating aliens and ends the film in a 'black humor' finale.

A charming film, `Deadly Spawn' overcame some serious distribution problems (imagine that) and eventually grossed something like $320,000 in one weekend (?). Made for less than $20,000, it's since gone on to make several million dollars (wonder who got the dough?). Hooray for the little man!
19 out of 22 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Atlantis: The Lost Movie -- as hollow as they come
5 June 2003
Warning: Spoilers
Spoilers ahead. The funniest thing about this mess is the fact that it was written by six separate people!! It actually took that many hacks to rip-off the much better `The Road to El Dorado' (animated fare from Dreamworks), then paste it haphazardly to a plot lifted from a video-game - `Indiana Jones and The Fate of Atlantis'! In `The Road to El Dorado,' a pair of money-hungry frauds journey to a mythic city for a friendly bit of embezzlement, but end up revitalizing its people and learning an important lesson. On the other hand, in `Indiana Jones and The Fate of Atlantis,' the player assumes the role of Jones, who chases down a wild theory about Atlantis, supposedly substantiated by the 'lost' dialogues of Plato and authenticated by a female archaeologist who's been channeling special forces through an Atlantean necklace. Oh, and there are Nazis after the power-source, who hope to take it to Germany and utilize it as energy. Disney, who are privy to pillaging Grimm's Fairy Tales and fables the world over, should be ashamed for their lack of originality (though I'm certainly not surprised)! This just in: another critic has just pointed out that Atlantis lifts the entire storyline from a Japanese anime film called `Nadia: the Secret of Blue Water,' and I've since been thinking of Tobe Hooper's `Lifeforce' (now on DVD) and the animated `Heavy Metal' since seeing this drivel! To its credit, Disney doesn't fill the movie up with song-and-dance numbers and cute animal sidekicks, but instead serves up a pulpy film-noir adventure of old-timey proportions, akin to `The People That Time Forgot,' `Journey to the Center of the Earth' and `20,000 League Under the Sea.' But Jules Verne and Edgar Rise Burroughs would both still be wondering who left the plot in Davey Jones' locker! Outside of that, the characters are all OK, ready-made for action-figure aisles everywhere and ripped directly from the manly pages of Mike Nomad and Doc Savage. And I really dig Princess Kida (Cree Summer) - Atlantean chicks rule! But back to the lack of plot. The film starts with a Howard Hughs-like millionaire offering to finance an expedition in search of Atlantis. He summons nerdy linguist Milo Thatch (voice of Michael J. Fox, body of Ichabod Crane), the grandson of his closest friend, and entrusts him with an ancient Atlantean journal full of secrets (hmmm... no record of Atlantis, but a book full of its secrets written in an Atlantean language - sounds fishy - bad pun, sorry). Truly, the film would have been much more rewarding had Milo been handed the `Book of the Dead' from Bruce Campbell! Anyway, there's a robotic sea leviathan and a corny ending with some huge Galactus-looking sentries - all of which cheapen the film that much more. I was bored; my daughter was bored; `Atlantis' rang hollow. Yet, somehow, Disney has again managed to dazzle some of the best critics in the country with their sleight of hand (if I ever have to sit through `Pocahontas' again.). Hey, Walt - here's a little Francis Bacon for you: "They are ill discoverers that think there is no land, when they can see nothing but sea.' Stick that in your blowhole!
1 out of 2 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Blade II (2002)
A very meaningless sequel with little redemption value...
5 June 2003
I could be wrong, but there's not a lot of plot going on in this follow-up to the surprise '98 hit `Blade.' Again, Blade (Wesley Snipes), the half man, half vampire, gets to save humanity from a blood-drenched Armageddon in a very violent, round-about way. Here, Blade aligns himself with a militant group of vampires (The Bloodpack) -- originally trained to kill him -- to battle a new genetically-enhanced strain of super-vampires called Reapers who feed on both vampire and human. The hunt takes Blade into the compound of vampire overlord Damaskinos (Thomas Kretschmann), where he meets Nyssa (Leonor Varela), Damaskinos's exotic daughter. His infiltration unveils many secrets of the vampire sect, but not too much more, unless you consider fighting scenes a crucial part of the narrative. To the film's credit, super-Reaper Jared Nomak (Luke Goss) is highly entertaining, and del Toro creates some pretty stunning visuals, like the vampire autopsy and the Reapers who have a scar down the center of their chins that spreads out into retractable jaws. Outside of that, the only redeeming factor is Blade's mentor, Whistler (Kris Kristofferson), as crusty and bad-mannered as ever. The film actually throws in a useless, unrelated subplot just to have Kristofferson back for the ride -- he didn't die, but was instead infected with the vampire virus and taken overseas (of course!). Still, `Blade II' is nothing like the first installment – instead, it's all flash and blood and guns and `Matrix' kicks. The first brought `humanity' into the picture; this one ignores it. For example, when Blade's industrial unit is attacked by messengers from Damaskinos, a ten-minute fight ensues before the invaders – risking death -- stop and let Blade know they're just stopping by to deliver a message (maybe have some blood and crumpets). And the characterization is horrible – the Bloodpack is easily one of the worst and least-memorable collection of heavies I've seen since 1997's `Con Air' – bombastic, predictable, stereotypical, and pumped full of steroids. Furthermore, outside of the physical stunts, this couldn't have been a very challenging role for Snipes (he only has five minutes of dialogue scattered throughout the film at best). Why bother using an actor at all – just digitally generate Blade in the next flick! Oh, and did I mention that everyone in the film knows some type of martial-arts… must be a vampire pre-requisite or something? I hear those late-night vampire karate-schools are all the rage out in LA!
0 out of 0 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
A letdown of major proportions in amateur film-making!
5 June 2003
I was so damned excited to see this film when I first heard about its premise - three film-students go out in the middle of nowhere in search of a local myth, and never return, though their film footage resurfaces a year or so later. And while I'll probably be crucified or burned at the stake for saying it, I certainly don't see what all the hubbub is about! I come from a pretty decent film background, and have viewed plenty of student-work that's both similar and superior! So, first, I have to ask -- what's the attraction? Three people get lost in the woods while making a documentary on a local legend and eventually die, making this what some people are calling `the scariest film ever.' I don't think so. `The Blair Witch Project' (great title, by the way) is filmed in the documentary style, yet it divulges the whole scam prior (that the film is staged), making me wonder how viewers can insert themselves into the characters' dilemma or feel any of their pain and anguish. I agree that the fear of the unknown is oftentimes the spookiest, but if you're in on the joke, then it's known (and therefore invalid). I wish that the truth of the filming would have been kept a secret; that the directors and company would have kept their mouths shut and let the media-ball continue to roll - then, and only then, would `The Blair Witch Project' have been scary. Sure, you could fire right back, saying a documentary that encompasses fiction is every bit as justifiable as `Halloween' or `The Shining,' but then again, those two films had genuine stories and backgrounds - nothing ever happens in this film that justifies fear. I understand the directors' intent to reveal real fear, rather than produce digitally-effected monsters that spew blood and goo from their eyes and noses -- and I think it's true that the human imagination conjures up plenty of s**t scarier than any three Stephen King books -- but put a real ski-mask-clad chainsaw-wielding half-breed in the woods with these three characters (in actuality), and watch how quickly their lost-in-the-woods scenario and mysterious pagan stick-figures become secondary. Hey, Marlon Perkins' Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom specials are real and rousing, but they're not really scaring the pants off of anyone, y'know? Secondly, though to a lesser degree, the movie is pretty poorly made (a fact acknowledged by the film-makers), due to a lack of budget. And while I celebrate the crew's resourcefulness, the hokum is nonetheless still present (does the fact that you're shooting in a documentary style vindicate amateur film-making? Only future directing jaunts from Myrick and Sánchez can answer that one). Still, there are a lot of good scenes: Heather's self-filmed confession (completed when she runs out of faith) is unsettling, and some of the locals' stories are just great. Plus, the creepy ending is pure art no matter where or how it was shot. And not to be overlooked, the crude bundles of twigs and unsettling stick figures actually look like they were created by a Wicca-starved witch or hermit. Sure, there was a mini `Blair Witch' craze that swept through the American underground, but I'll still take `The Sentinel,' `The Shining' and `The Exorcist' any day!
0 out of 1 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Big Daddy (1999)
A so-so film, at best -- "Little Miss Marker" this ain't!
5 June 2003
I don't agree with all the critics that Adam Sandler is a talentless buffoon, and I've liked quite a few of his films, but I sure didn't care for "Big Daddy" too much. In a bold departure from his other `loser' roles (yeah, right), Sandler plays 32-year-old Sonny Koufax, a brainy law school graduate too smart for his own good (talk about miscasting); a kid with a lot of potential who dropped out of the world of adult-like creditability to spend his days sleeping-in, eating carry-out food, goofing around, drinking beer, watching TV and contending with typical slacker diversions. So, in a misguided attempt to impress his girlfriend, Vanessa (Kristy Swanson), and prove he's responsible, Sonny unwittingly adopts a five-year old boy, Julian (Cole and Dylan Sprouse), who in actuality, is his roommate's illegitimate son. And while he takes his role as father somewhat seriously, he's more than a bit unconventional: Sonny's teaches the boy to trip roller-bladers (unfunny), to dress how he wants (funny), to piss outside in public (unfunny) and to help pick up chicks (funny). In fact, the movie sways between funny and unfunny so much that you're sitting on the middle of the fence by the end of the film with no attachment to any of the characters. Only the weak-ass story-line, the unmistakable predictability, and the recycled, abusive jokes about foreigners, old people, homeless folks and homosexuals jolt you into truly disliking the movie. By the final courtroom scene, you just wish the judge would march everyone off to Devil's Island, especially Steve Buscemi (making yet another eccentric cameo). The kid, I digress, is kind of cute, but if you're looking for this kind of story, check out either version of "Little Miss Marker."
0 out of 0 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Blade (1998)
Slingblade this ain't!
5 June 2003
Warning: Spoilers
Spoilers, perhaps? Wesley Snipes stars as Blade, a modern-day vampire hunter pulled from the pages of Marvel Comics' '70s schlock-o-rama title, `Tomb Of Dracula.' He doesn't have the afro, the goggles or the orange trenchcoat, but nonetheless Snipes' version would kick the s**t out of the Marvel character! Because Blade is a baaad man - a seemingly immortal killing machine who possesses the superhuman strength and evil cunning of a vampire but none of their weaknesses (daylight, garlic, etc.). Born a `daywalker,' he relies on his blood-cursed heritage to understand and conquer the undead enemy. From the opening scene, a bloodbath of epic proportions, viewers know this film is the real deal - no pulling punches here. Built around countless action scenes, it employs amazing effects, plenty of video-game carnage, sensational camera angles, bizarre sets and excellent fight scenes. But, as usual, it's got a pretty archetypal action/sci-fi storyline: Blade and Abraham Whistler (Kris Kristofferson), in the middle of a bloody crusade of vampire-vanquishing, unearth a diabolical plot hatched by their preeminent adversary, the vampire overlord Deacon Frost (an overacting Stephen Dorff). Using the different vampire keys, Frost tries to seize control of the House of Erebus, become Bloodlord and reign over all vampires to suppress humanity in a bloodsucking Armageddon. And kudos to the final confrontation between Blade and Frost in the illusory vampire mosque - someone actually dies without coming back six or seven times (just like the old kung-fu movie showdowns)! N'Bushe Wright (Dead Presidents) plays Karen, a blood specialist who doesn't really do much in the film but follow Blade around and solicit the plot of the movie, and Traci Lords plays Racquel, a pretty vampire seen only in the opening sequence - two needless characters. With the aforementioned opening scene and characters like Pearl, `Blade' rises above the other sci-fi induced comic-book movies (like `The X-Men' or `Daredevil') as pure fun and eye-popping entertainment. It's nice to see a company like New Line Cinema; one with the balls to make rough and tumble films like `Last Man Standing,' `Rumble In the Bronx,' `Boogie Nights,' `Dark City' and `Spawn.'
0 out of 0 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Bulworth (1998)
Better than expected -- when it's good, it's really good...
5 June 2003
Regardless of the fact that I'm not a huge Warren Beatty fan (my heads still reeling from `Dick Tracy'), I still expected `Bullworth' to be halfway decent, based entirely on the film's trailers… but I never expected it to be this good! Warren Beatty plays Jay Billington Bullworth, a groveling California senator who can no longer stomach the political game -- he hates politics, fat-cat lobbyists and his phony family life, and has just lost a bundle in stocks. As a result, he takes a contract out on his own life and flies back to Cali, thinking he has one final weekend to live. In due course, Bullworth then feels a newfound independence from the system and begins challenging it in the most asinine ways he can conjure up, saying everything that's really on his mind. He insults Jews in their own mansions, corporate America on national TV and blacks in their own church ("If you don't put down the malt liquor and chicken wings and get behind somebody other than a running back who stabs his wife, you're never going to get rid of somebody like me"). Along the way, he hooks up with a couple of zealous young hood-rat chicks (including Halle Berry), and heads to an after-hours club, where he gets his first taste of hip-hop. There's more to Bulworth's insults than meets the eye, and a lot of it comes out in the overt guise of social commentary. Beatty attacks the government as wasteful and racist, the film industry as gutless and money-hungry and insurance companies as contemptible. In fact, his best line comes when he says everybody should screw everybody until we're all one color – then there won't be any racial problem. The movie hits hard when it hits (just try to sit through Beatty saying `nappy dugout' or `macking' without cracking a grin), but makes you wince at other times (it's really hard to watch Beatty's first rapping scene). But it's definitely gutsy, and straddles the thinnest line between poor-taste and laugh-out-loud comedy, thumbing its nose the fallen-angel predicament of American politics more comically than `Wag the Dog' and/or `Primary Colors.'
0 out of 1 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Apt Pupil (1998)
Finally, a film with no moralistic lesson!
5 June 2003
Warning: Spoilers
Spoilers, perhaps? Apt Pupil is Bryan Singer's follow-up to his highly successful '95 release The Usual Suspects, and he does a very proficient job with the chilly story (adapted from a Stephen King novella of the same name). I remember reading the psychologically disturbing story as a child, thinking, `Man, this is some truly scary s**t!' - thankfully, Singer sounds the gavel on my former judgment with a nice loud thud (insert sound of lifeless body hitting the floor here). Brad Renfro (Tom & Huck, Sleepers) plays Todd Bowden, a 16-year-old honor student in an LA high school who transforms from typical all-American to snarled Nazi mentor after studying the Holocaust in school. Discovering SS war criminal Kurt Dussander (Ian McKellen) in his hometown, Todd (a history buff who dusts the mailbox for fingerprints) blackmails the old man into sharing the horrors of war with him, urging him to linger on the immoral details. But, as Dussander reveals his evil past, the two begin a psychological game of cat and mouse that spirals out of control as they begin to `need' one another too much. The cast is flawless and there are some truly horrific scenes; not horrific like Friday the Thirteenth or anything, just memorable in a more sinister way! And although David Schwimmer's moustache is positively abominable, he turns in the best performance of his entire career as a nerdy high-school guidance counselor named Ed French. And here I never thought I'd like the guy! On a deeper level, Apt Pupil focuses on the real evil that lies beneath the whitewash of Suburbia, applying the horrors of the Holocaust as a backdrop while prompting viewers to question what depravity really is. In that respect, the film tips its hat to David Lynch's Blue Velvet, succeeding as its characters slowly regress. Eventually, bodies get buried in dark basements and animals buy the farm, but the film sticks with its unfavorable will the whole way through (typically un-Hollywood). At last, a film with no moralistic lesson to be learned that toughs it out for the bad guys until the very end!
0 out of 0 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Amistad (1997)
No new tricks here, just the same archetypal Spielberg
5 June 2003
Warning: Spoilers
Spoiler, perhaps? After ripping movie-goers off with The Lost World, Steven Spielberg tosses out a less-then-fulfilling flick, this time in the guise of Amistad. True story: in the summer of 1839, Cinque (Djimon Hounsou) and fifty-some Africans aboard the Spanish slave ship La Amistad break free of their shackles, kill the crew, take control of the ship and reclaim their freedom, hoping to return to Africa. However, without any navigational skills, the Africans bank on two surviving members of the original crew. Too bad, because after two months, an American naval ship captures the Amistad and the Africans are charged for murder and piracy. OK, now you've got fifty Africans who don't speak English or Spanish, an abolitionist named Theodore Joadson (Morgan Freeman) who just stands around, a young real-estate lawyer named Roger Baldwin (Matthew McConaughey) and pro-slavery President Martin Van Buren (Nigel Hawthorne), who only wants to appease the South. Mix them together and you've got a typical `good versus evil' Speilberg film. And let me tell you something, ole Stevie sure has a hard-on for these dastardly, `I'm-an-immoral-symbol-of-everything-that's-wrong-with-America-and-the-system' villains: Amistad maintains that white people are generally evil, just as ET and Jurassic Park painted humans capitalistic and exploitive and Schindler's List made everyone who wasn't Jewish in the ‘40s `bad.' Hell, even The Color Purple made an argument that most black men were ignorant and irresponsible. In other words, enough is enough!! Speilberg, one of the world's most talented film-makers, has succumbed to making carbon-copy connect-the-dots movies, and gloats in the disappointing results. Schindler's List was both suspenseful and amazing, but why re-make it (as another giant turning point in American history). Next, Speilberg can make a version for the Native-Americans, then one for the Irish, then one for Croatians… and maybe when he's done, he'll get back to making movies again. If creating a film of this magnitude, why not focus on Dredd Scott or Nat Turner stories. The movie isn't un-watchable by any means, and Spielberg pulls some strong and shocking scenes out of his bag of tricks, but we've seen this stuff before. Highlights include Anthony Hopkins (as former President John Quincy Adams – the film's hero) and his great eleven-minute court-room speech, as well as the performances from Djimon Hounsou and Matthew McConaughey (in his best role). Let's just say I wasn't spellbound.
0 out of 2 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Blow Out (1981)
Good film -- a brilliant piece of black-humor!
5 June 2003
Because Travolta became a bona-fide star again, and John Lithgow and Dennis Franz are always hot commodities, I figured I'd check out Brian DePalma's assassination thriller from yester-year. Quentin Tarantino is a big fan of this film, which parallels Michelangelo Antonioni's `Blowup' (1966), so that's good enough for me. Set in Philadelphia, sound-effects manager Jack Terry (John Travolta) unintentionally observes a car crash as he's recording the sound of the wind for an upcoming film. He jumps into a stream, saves a call girl from drowning, but is unable to save the man, who turns out to be a presidential candidate. Jack thinks the `accident' was an execution-call for the governor (a Chappaquidick-type political scandal), and checks his audio-tape for evidence. Meanwhile, a sleazy photographer (Dennis Franz) on the scene has a roll of pictures of the accident and sells them to a magazine. Jack eventually uses his editing skills to link his sound to the photos -- when the two are put together, Jack discovers evidence of a cover-up, thus putting himself in grave danger. Travolta is awesome, and really looks like he knows what he's doing in the studio. Likewise, Lithgow turns in a psychotic performance as Burke the assassin (and serves as a model for his later, better role in `Raising Cane'), while NYPD Blue's Dennis Franz is the same as he is now seventeen years later. The end is a brilliant piece of black-humor – let's just say Jack's boss finally gets the heart-stopping scream he's been hoping for!
0 out of 1 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Not a classic, but not half-bad for a lot of reasons!
2 June 2003
From the opening scene, director Jack Smight (Damnation Alley, Midway, Airport 1975) exhibits an ability to `show' the story through cinematography and action rather instead of telling it through dialogue and actors – viewers actually learn a lot before any single character really opens his/her mouth (a tribute to the mood of Ray Bradbury stories, perhaps). This story, which, like The Matrix, struggles with question of existence and the relationship between the real and the perceived, is based on a collection of Bradbury short-stories by the same title. Only three are selected here (including "The Last Night of the World," `The Long Rain,' and `The Veldt,' about a virtual reality play-room of `free involvement and instantaneous atmosphere'). All center around alternate realities, future occurrences, and imagined stories (you be the judge).. It all starts when carnival worker tuned cursed drifter Carl (Rod Steiger) meets up with transient Willie (Robert Drivas) and reveals his `skin illustrations' (don't ever call them tattoos). Unfortunately, Carl's beautiful artwork transmits realistic stories in paranormal emissions to whoever stares long enough, which gets the stories started. They're done in the tradition of The Twilight Zone, The Hitchhiker, Tales From the Crypt and The Outer Limits, only with more involvement from the narrator here. In a flashback, viewers learn about the artwork's origin as Carl arrives at Felicia's house. When we're introduced to him in the past, he's nothing more than a lowly bumpkin pitching tents for a traveling carnival. Horny, he sits under the needle only hoping for sexual gratification. Now, I understand the `tattooing' as an intimate and sexual metaphor here, albeit a `mystical' one, but why does this woman produce such beautiful artwork for free… and why doesn't Carl bleed from all the etching, which would takes months and months to complete? As they kiss, she utters, `Pain is part of anything good,' which further points to the edge of sadism the film carries. Steiger's performance of Carl throughout is a bit too vigorous much for me. I thought the film could have played better if the audience could feel more sympathy for his character, but the screenwriters obviously thought differently and had another agenda. As a result, Steiger is violent, gruff, and obnoxious, though a bit wiser and hardened after his altercation with Felicia (even the contrast between the Carl of the present and the Carl of the past is way overdone). Whatever the case, Felicia certainly gives Carl a new perspective and deeper insight (`Maybe she went back to the future… maybe 1000 years?' he laments). Outside of the hints to sadism, there's a lot of homoerotic content between Carl and Willie… unless it's just a clever ruse to get Carl's shirt off for most of the film. Creepy, nonetheless… unless you're into swinging stranger-hobos! I mean who parades around shirtless in front of strangers and owns a Pomeranian dog named Peke (as in `Pekinese').

I liked Jerry Goldsmith's experimental electronica, and Steiger's costume in `The Long Rain' sequence. Playing a futuristic space-colonel, he looks like The Beast Rabban from Dune in his apocalyptic rippled-rubber suit!
0 out of 1 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Not a classic, but not half-bad for a lot of reasons!
2 June 2003
From the opening scene, director Jack Smight (Damnation Alley, Midway, Airport 1975) exhibits an ability to `show' the story through cinematography and action rather instead of telling it through dialogue and actors – viewers actually learn a lot before any single character really opens his/her mouth (a tribute to the mood of Ray Bradbury stories, perhaps). This story, which, like The Matrix, struggles with question of existence and the relationship between the real and the perceived, is based on a collection of Bradbury short-stories by the same title. Only three are selected here (including "The Last Night of the World," `The Long Rain,' and `The Veldt,' about a virtual reality play-room of `free involvement and instantaneous atmosphere'). All center around alternate realities, future occurrences, and imagined stories (you be the judge).. It all starts when carnival worker tuned cursed drifter Carl (Rod Steiger) meets up with transient Willie (Robert Drivas) and reveals his `skin illustrations' (don't ever call them tattoos). Unfortunately, Carl's beautiful artwork transmits realistic stories in paranormal emissions to whoever stares long enough, which gets the stories started. They're done in the tradition of The Twilight Zone, The Hitchhiker, Tales From the Crypt and The Outer Limits, only with more involvement from the narrator here. In a flashback, viewers learn about the artwork's origin as Carl arrives at Felicia's house. When we're introduced to him in the past, he's nothing more than a lowly bumpkin pitching tents for a traveling carnival. Horny, he sits under the needle only hoping for sexual gratification. Now, I understand the `tattooing' as an intimate and sexual metaphor here, albeit a `mystical' one, but why does this woman produce such beautiful artwork for free… and why doesn't Carl bleed from all the etching, which would takes months and months to complete? As they kiss, she utters, `Pain is part of anything good,' which further points to the edge of sadism the film carries. Steiger's performance of Carl throughout is a bit too vigorous much for me. I thought the film could have played better if the audience could feel more sympathy for his character, but the screenwriters obviously thought differently and had another agenda. As a result, Steiger is violent, gruff, and obnoxious, though a bit wiser and hardened after his altercation with Felicia (even the contrast between the Carl of the present and the Carl of the past is way overdone). Whatever the case, Felicia certainly gives Carl a new perspective and deeper insight (`Maybe she went back to the future… maybe 1000 years?' he laments). Outside of the hints to sadism, there's a lot of homoerotic content between Carl and Willie… unless it's just a clever ruse to get Carl's shirt off for most of the film. Creepy, nonetheless… unless you're into swinging stranger-hobos! I mean who parades around shirtless in front of strangers and owns a Pomeranian dog named Peke (as in `Pekinese'). I also liked Jerry Goldsmith's experimental electronica, and Steiger's costume in `The Long Rain' sequence. Playing a futuristic space-colonel, he looks like The Beast Rabban from Dune in his apocalyptic rippled-rubber suit!
17 out of 25 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Not as bad as The Wizard of Mars, not as good as Alien
31 May 2003
As is the case with a slew of Roger Corman-produced films, this flick underwent several title changes -- Mindwarp: An Infinity in Terror, Planet of Horrors, Quest - before settling on the worst choice. When I picked it up, I actually thought it was an old '60s film, as the tape-cover aped some old-school EC sci-fi comics with the names `Ray Walston' and `Edward Albert.' I immediately assumed it was Eddie Albert of `Green Acres' fame, not his son, along with Walston, fighting space invaders in their plundering youth. I was wrong. very wrong. Instead, I got a rip-off of Alien (1979) with a heaping portion of David Hewitt's 1965 snooze-a-thon Wizard of Mars (aka Horrors of the Red Planet), though Walston is no John Carradine! Likewise, Galaxy of Terror is peppered with the `guard duty' slant from The Sentinel (1976) and the Jedi theme of the Star Wars films (seen here as `The Master'), as there's some sub-plot about a long line of guardians or protectors that make a rite-of-passage through the planet's funhouse. There may have even been a narrative of some sort surrounding 'symbolic salvation' at one point before all the gratuitous violence was jostled in! As is the case with Wizard of Mars, our astronauts land the Goodship Quest only to discover the remains of an ancient civilization replete with an ancient pyramid-like structure and horrible, horrible aliens (a giant sexually-charged mealworm, an arachnid, some self-propelling leeches, and an extra-terrestrial that looks like the masked assailant in George Romero's Season of the Witch). The cast is a mishmash of TV personalities, actors past their prime, a few Corman/New World regulars, and a few up-and-coming stars (a trend that arguably began with disaster films like Earthquake and Airport). Erin Moran of Happy Days is fairly good here as a telepathic `biosensor' (and fairly sexy too), as is pre-Freddy Krueger Robert Englund (perhaps the highlight of the film). Nevertheless, our cast is picked off one-by-one by an unknown force that preys on fear (personified in physical form). Most of the kills are pretty lame, and Taaffe O'Connell's big scene with the mealworm is ineffectual as well. Still, the crew is every bit as good as the one in Alien, though there's no Sigourney Weaver here (big difference). Unbelievably, this film helped launch the careers of Englund (who would have become a great actor had he not lapsed into Elm Street limbo) and James Cameron who was the production designer here (perhaps prepping him for Piranha II: The Spawning). Perhaps to Cameron's credit (I guess), the Martian landscape is convincing and the sets and visual effects are great, even if it steals sets from other films (Corman's Forbidden World). Plus, it has a few scenes of cool stop-motion photography (now a thing of the past) courtesy Brian Chin. On the bad side, it's too dimly lit (though the water-slide caverns and Tron-like wall of lights are well captured) and has inappropriate music (which you didn't get in Alien). Lastly, the characters have great names like Cabren, Alluma, Kore, Ilvar, Baelon, Quuhod. It's too bad this film didn't take off and spawn licensing deals, as this crew would have made great space-soldier action-figures, as their back-packs already look like Cobra Commander accessories! All in all, a operative film, albeit not the best I've ever seen.
13 out of 23 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
loading
An error has occured. Please try again.