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Q (1982)
Loose, funny throwback to B-Monster movies, 30 November 2003

Anyone familiar with the films of Larry Cohen will be aware that this is a man who acts like he owns the city of New York. The city is his backlot. Two of his films show this attitude more than any others. The first is GOD TOLD ME TO, the other is Q.

The plot of Q, distilled: Quetzalcoatl, the ancient Aztec god, is resurrected in the Big Apple by a religious fanatic who is performing human sacrifices. Q is a giant winged serpent that flies about the New York skyline, plucking topless female sun bathers and taking them back to it's giant nest at the top of the Chrysler building. On the trail of the badass lizard are cops, David Carradine and Richard Roundtree. Small time hood, Michael Moriarty, knows the location of Q's nest and is willing to give it up to the cops...for a price.

Several factors distinguish this film from any number of schlocky horror films put out in the 80's.

The first is the script by Cohen. He slyly incorporates several wry comments, that are so buried beneath exposition and goofy action sequences, they are almost lost. Be sure and listen to Carradine, Moriarty and Roundtree mumble these lines under their breath.

The second distinguishing attribute are the special effects. They aren't so special. That's not criticism. The use of old fashioned stop motion animation, miniatures and matte backgrounds might look hokey, but they fit the attitude of this picture perfectly. They may have been forced to do it this way for budgetary concerns, but it works.

The most important ingredient to the success of this film is the performance of Michael Moriarty. His Jimmy Quinn is a man falling apart. A criminal who has no stomach for violence. A small timer trying desperately to be a big, important man. Moriarty plays this role with gusto. He bugs out his eyes and delivers his lines with such mush-mouthed intensity, you can't help but sit up and pay attention. Just listen to the way he cries "Eat 'em!" at the monster as it devours a couple of thugs intent on doing him serious bodily harm. Moriarty performs as though he knew he was going to be stuck looking bored on Law and Order for several years.

The rest of the cast is uniformly fine. From Carradine's smirking performance to Roundtree's no nonsense tough guy.

This one is lot of fun to watch. And as Larry Cohen obviously knows, there's nothing wrong with that.

103 out of 122 people found the following review useful:
Fabulously original film, 11 August 2002

I recently had the wonderful opportunity to see this film at a horror and fantasy convention. Since it is not yet in distribution I jumped at the chance. Just to set the record straight, I didn't go into this film with normal expectations. The god that is known as Bruce Campbell stars in this film, and let's just say that any morsel of Bruce Campbell goodness I can get is going to make me absolutely love a movie.

The basic premise of this film is that Elvis Presley is alive and not too well. He lives in an East Texas nursing home. It seems that years before Elvis tired of his fame and switched places with an Elvis impersonator. The Elvis we see in this picture is a 68 year old man with a penchant for rings and large, jewel studded sunglasses. Whenever he claims to be Elvis, everyone just laughs at this crazy old Elvis impersonator obviously going senile in his old age. Elvis discovers that there's a mummy inhabiting his nursing home who is sucking the souls out of the residents through a rather disturbing bodily orifice. So Elvis teams up with an old African American man (Ossie Davis) claiming to be John Kennedy (his explanation for what happened to him has to be heard to be believed, and is one of the funnier jokes in the movie) to stop the mummy and save the souls of the residents of the nursing home.

As crazy and silly as this setup sounds, the film actually achieves depths that most "serious" movies can't even begin to touch. The film deals with what it's like to be an elderly person in this country when nobody cares about you. Elvis and Kennedy are both regretful about not being there for their children when they needed them. And a last chance for glory and leaving this world honorably is a recurring theme throughout the film (see Kemo Sabe's showdown with the mummy). All of these themes are handled with a deft hand, never hammering the point home, but intended to be taken seriously.

Ossie Davis gives a terrific comedic performance as "Jack" Kennedy. He delivers some rather eyebrow raising exposition with such a light touch, the audience is forced to except his explanation as fact and move on.

And then of course, Bruce Campbell. Campbell plays Elvis as we've never seen him, a 68 year old man with a bad hip and a cancerous growth in a very uncomfortable place. Anyone who has seen any of Campbell's performances knows he can play the hero or the buffoon with equal skill. But here, he pushes the bounds of his talent like never before. Perhaps the highest praise I can give his performance is that 10 minutes into the film, I forgot it was him, and truly believed it was Elvis on the screen.

The film was written for the screen and directed by Don Coscarelli. Coscarelli has been in something of a rut since his breakthrough hit with "Phantasm" over 20 years earlier. This is truly his best film since that horror classic, it may even be better.

The film was based on a short story by Joe R. Lansdale, the gifted writer. Lansdale routinely puts different genres in a blender together and comes out with something better than a genre outing. This film played just like one of his novels: Horror, comedy, fantasy, and a little bit of western.

Bruce Campbell was on hand for the screening I saw and made some comments before the film. He said that he did the film because it was so weird and that we need more films that aren't in the cookie cutter format. I couldn't agree more and I can't recommend this film highly enough. It breaks all molds and expectations. Seek it out when it finds a distributor, you won't be disappointed.

0 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
Bizarre, Bizarre, Bizarre, 8 August 2002

I recently saw this film for the first time at a horror and fantasy convention. Up until then, I had never heard of the film. Apparently, the film was a source of inspiration for "Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas", and this film is definitely echoed in that masterpiece.

Unfortunately, you can hardly call "Mad Monster Party?" a masterpiece. While the crude production values can be excused as a fault of the time that it was made, the plot holes cannot. The story becomes increasingly more inane and bizarre as the running time lengthens. Also on the minus side is Phyllis Diller as the Bride of Frankenstein's monster. Phyllis Diller is a scary lady, no two ways about it, but in clay-mation, she's downright frightening.

On the plus side, Boris Karloff voices Dr. Frankenstein. Mr. Karloff's deep, authoritative voice lends class to the proceedings. Some of the humor in the first hour is very entertaining, as well.

It's in the last 15 minutes that the film truly falls apart (aside from a zombie air corps, an inspired gag). Plot strands refuse to come together and the climax is unexpectedly dark.

In the end, I can say this was a true original. And later animated and clay-mation films do owe it a debt.

p.s. I saw this film in a theater from a 35mm print. If you can manage to be lucky enough to stumble on to an opportunity like this, take it.

Spider-Man (2002)
The most faithful comic to film adaptation ever!, 19 June 2002

I must admit right off, I was incredibly biased in favor of Spider-Man before I saw it. I was a huge fan of the comic and an even bigger fan of director Sam Raimi. Heck, I even have the posters for the Evil Dead series on my living room wall. My sister has my favorite childhood chair, which was covered in Spider-Man wallpaper. If this gives you some kind of idea where I'm coming from, and you're looking for an objective review of this movie, you might want to go elsewhere. But if you're a fan of either the comic or Sam Raimi, you'll know where I'm coming from.

The reason I say this is the most faithful comic to film adaptation ever is the tone of the movie, not the strict following of the traditional Spider-Man story. The way Peter Parker and Mary Jane meet is different, but their relationship is still remarkably faithful (there's that word again) to the comic, and other things have changed, as well. But in the end, the soul of Spider-Man has been kept intact. And that's no small feat in current Hollywood productions.

The humor is still there ("Your friendly neighborhood Spiderman"). The teen angst, and moral questions still abound. My hat's off to Raimi for so successfully distilling the essence of Spiderman, the comic. I look forward to the second one (and possibly Evil Dead 4?) soon from this gifted director who is finally being given his due.

2 out of 4 people found the following review useful:
Always good for a game of spot the boom-mic., 30 March 2002

Walking Tall lived up to every expectation I had for it, unfortunately for the filmmakers, those expectations were not too high to begin with. The story of Buford Pusser, a rural county sheriff in Tennessee, is too bizarre to believe. A point the filmmakers seem to acknowledge during the end credits by noting that certain events were fictionalized. But I shouldn't be too hard on this movie. It's violent, brutal, manipulative & simplistic. In other words, it's everything that a 70's exploitation flick is supposed to be. Bottom line: should be a good movie for a drinking game. Everytime Buford has an attempt made on his life (4) you do a shot. Everytime someone spots the boom-mic (8 times by my count) you do a shot. You get the picture. Happy drinking and enjoy the civil rights violations.

Deep Red (1975)
0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
The best Dario Argento film ever., 4 November 2001

Like all Argento films, you have to be ready for completely off-kilter characters and plot machinations. Once you have excepted those eccentricities, though, this is one of the most rewarding experiences you can have watching a horror film.

Unlike most who-dunit/slasher films, the killer is not easy to recognize. Also unlike other films from this genre, it is truly frightening in it's setpieces.

Bottom line, a true masterpiece from one of the greatest genre directors ever to get behind the camera.

****Find the sub-titled, 126 minute uncut version, since all other cuts aren't even good enough to be called a pale comparison.

One of the landmark achievements of low budget horror, 1 June 2001

The Evil Dead is the first in a trilogy of films (Evil Dead II and Army Of Darkness followed). While it is not the best, that distinction would definitely have to fall to the second in the series, it has it's place in history as the film that launched the careers of Sam Raimi (writer/director) and Bruce Campbell (star).

A simplistic plot, which is just really an excuse to showcase the excellent (for the most part) special effects and the virtuoso camera movements of director Raimi.

The film also deserves notice as one of the slate of horror films that got fledgling studio New Line off the ground.

But perhaps the finest achievement of the film is it's continued influence on films to this day. Not just the low budget horror genre, but all films across the board. I don't know if Sam Raimi realized he was creating some revolutionary techniques at the time, but his film has stood the test of time and Raimi is finally getting his due in hits like Darkman and the critically acclaimed A Simple Plan (which is actually far more frightening than this film).

Raimi is currently directing Spiderman and I for one cannot wait to see what this master of the camera has in store with a budget that ridiculous.

0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
A wonderfully depraved road movie in the best trash tradition, 9 April 2001

Once you get past the cheesy made for video opening titles of the film you realize that this is a well made, albeit, whacked out of it's mind road film.

Alex De La Iglesia (Who seems hell-bent on becoming the Spanish John Waters) has delivered a truly twisted and inventive cult movie.

Weaving random violence, sex (including a disturbing rape), black humor, nonsensical flashbacks, the Mexican mafia, and great performances, the director delivers a demented and evil-minded tale of true love gone horribly awry.

I realize this may all sound awfully familiar to Natural Born Killers. In a sense it is. The tone of the film actually manages to find that darkly comic core that Natural Born...missed completely in it's convoluted excesses. But what else do you expect from Oliver Stone?

De La Iglesia is smart enough to realize that you don't need useless montages and idiotic laugh tracks to make your point, and the point he's trying to make here, is that there isn't one. Something Stone didn't realize in his film.

For everyone who sits around and complains there's nothing new to rent, check this one out, because no matter what you think of it, it's not the same old schlock.