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A Plea to Rob Zombie
Let's get this on the table before I start. I'm not a tremendous fan of Rob Zombie. His music leaves me cold and I've run hot and cold with his additions to the torture porn sub-genre.
This isn't to say that I don't appreciate his artistry or attention to detail. He really seems to dig the seventies/eighties horror classics that he pays tribute to. His films generally feature unusual characters and there's always a moment or two where he pleasantly surprises me. But EL SUPERBEASTO did nothing, nothing at all, to challenge my perception that he's content appealing to the lowest common denominator.
This is another instance where I'm stunned by the positive reviews I'm reading. This film seems to exist solely to titillate 13-year old boys. It's full of crude sex and excrement jokes, hundreds of them. I dare you, in fact, to find thirty seconds of this flick that doesn't feature one or the other. Go ahead. If this film was a drinking game, you'd be under the table by 10 minutes in.
The sad thing was that I was actually looking forward to seeing this. The character design really looked fabulous. I even thought animation might free Rob from the need to revel in mutilation and torture. I guess it did to a certain extent, although this was replaced by juvenile, extremely juvenile, pandering. This is the type of movie I would have laughed endlessly at when I was nine years old, if I could have convinced my parents to allow me to watch naked animated chicks shooting guns (which I couldn't have).
Come on, Rob. I know you've got a great film in you. While the whole head banging thing is no longer my bag, you have grown into a real artist over the years. This was a wasted opportunity. Despite some good animation and a multitude of missed opportunities, EL SUPERBEASTO was beneath you.
Hateful and Insulting
I always root for the little guy, whether it is the character or the filmmaker. It's why I love independent film. It's why I applaud Charles Bronson and Bruce Willis and all the films where they stand up to some half-baked criminal scum. It's why I wanted to like TAKEN, this scrappy little picture that took on big money titles and thumped them at the box office.
But TAKEN is a troubling case. As much as it pretends to be a "revenge" picture and it is as predictable as the worst of them TAKEN is a movie filled with dangerous, racist ideas. It makes troubling statements about America values, the exploitation of our fears, and the way we vilify sex but glorify violence. What does it say about us as a society that TAKEN, easily one of the most violently offensive movies I've viewed in years, became a box office sensation? Or that it remains so highly rated by IMDb users?
Liam Neeson stars as an ex-CIA agent whose daughter is kidnapped by sex traders in France, now the most dangerous country in the European Union(?). He immediately vows to kill these scum; you've got to see his ridiculous negotiation scenes to believe it. And then he proceeds to follow through in a manner that would make Charles Bronson blush. He tracks hordes of these foreign devils down and breaks their necks or shoots them or guts them or chases them into oncoming traffic. He shows no mercy. He's so busy smashing skulls open twenty at a time, that he can't be bothered to rescue other teenage victims of the sex trade.
Apparently only his daughter, a pony loving virgin (I kid you not), is worth saving. The rest of the kidnapped girls, dozens of them, are left in drug-induced stupors to be continually raped by bearded Albanians. Not only is TAKEN absolute rubbish, it is absolutely insulting to women, the French, and most intelligent life on this planet.
I've never done this before, but shame on all you who found entertainment in this vile excuse for an action film. And shame on Liam Neeson for having participated in this misogynistic excuse for entertainment. It really is that bad, an externalization of the fear of the foreigner, written by Frenchman Luc Besson at a time when his country is attempting to outlaw Muslim attire.
The fact that this movie received a PG-13 rating, despite scene after scene of violence and teenage rape is incomprehensible. Way to go, America.
Blood Car (2007)
An Amazingly Good Time
I'm amazed by the venom lavished in some of these reviews. These people have totally missed the point. BLOOD CAR is not a Hollywood construct. If you're looking for transforming car-bots or superhero-style CGI, then this is not the place for you. BLOOD CAR is a throwback to the John Waters' school of shock schlock. It's rude and crude, but it's also a tremendously mature satire of U.S. consumer culture (particularly our consumption of energy at the detriment of the rest of the planet).
It's the future. Mike Brune plays Archie Andrews (yes, you heard right), a kindergarten teacher with a penchant for lecturing kids on the Kyoto Protocol. In his spare time, he's attempting to construct a car that runs on wheat grass, a vegan alternative to excessively costly oil. He cuts himself by accident and viola, stumbles onto an alternative energy source that's a cheap in comparison: human life.
The film hardly misses a beat from there. Despite its limited finances, it's a laugh riot of low-brow humor. Regardless of what the filmmakers might claim to the contrary, it's nice to see a film with a point -- any point -- in this era of pointless spectacle. BLOOD CAR might be the ultimate statement on U.S. car culture, all apologies to American GRAFFITI.
Mustang Sally (2006)
Did Any Other Reviewers Actually What This Film?
I try to be very tolerant of independent films. It has to take a lot of moxie to get any film made, let alone one on a limited budget, and MUSTANG SALLY wears its limited budget like a badge of honor. It looks like it was shot at a friend's cabin over the course of a couple days by some frat boys and their girlfriends.
Not that this is a bad thing. Sam Raimi showed everyone the possibilities of low budget horror (and the woods) with EVIL DEAD. But MUSTANG SALLY has none of the crazed energy of Sam's picture. In fact, it's difficult to classify it as a horror film despite its original title. There's nothing supernatural about it. There's nothing particularly bloody. Even the "sex scenes," which seem to be the main reason for this film's existence, are badly shot teases. There's no real nudity, just endless groping and rolling around. Lots of it. Sequence after sequence after sequence...and when that's not enough, the filmmakers split the screen into four segments so we can watch simultaneous rolling and groping.
*SPOILERS* What's the plot? As close as I could figure, a bunch of party animal frat boys overhear some bikers talking about a local whorehouse and decide to pay it a visit. The madame of the place (EG Daily of PEEWEE'S BIG ADVENTURE fame), is only to happy for their patronage, although she looks a little drug-addled and seems to be stumbling through her appearance. The guys hook up. There's groping and rolling for a good half hour of the picture. When the novelty of filming these sequences wears off, the girls try and kill the boys. And then there's a confusing revelation in which Miss Daily reveals that she was raped by the boys' fathers, had a bunch of kids, and has enlisted the aid of the bikers for payback. Why she went to such elaborate means for this revenge scheme is beyond me. It's never explained what association she had with the bikers or why the girls were so eager to assist her in this insane enterprise. It's suggested that there's some kind of relationship -- are they her daughters? -- but EG has little remorse when some of them are killed (and the others just disappear from the plot at the denouement).
Forgetting logic, because EVIL DEAD used very little and was still a classic -- here's the biggest problem: MUSTANG SALLY is either a sex film with no sex or a gore film with no gore. The "effects" are laughable. Gunshots, stabbings, gougings, are all done in cutaways. We see the after effects, but never an impact, which is unusual for this type of picture. But since there are no such distractions, this leaves us with endless dialog sequences that appear entirely improvised. Did I mention endless? All the guys speak in stilted "teen speak" that verges on the painful. The girls mumble clownishly about adolescent sexual fantasies, some of which I have to assume is intended comically, but these moments are few and far between.
How does a movie like this get distributed the world over? More important, how does it pick up so many rave reviews on IMDb?
Shark Attack 3: Megalodon (2002)
As If the Jaws Sequels Weren't Insult Enough
This is purportedly the sequel to what I must assume were equally vile predecessors, but it needs little introduction. There's a killer Megalodon, a prehistoric shark that happens to look exactly like a conventional shark. It's haunting a beach area while being pursued by a couple of talent impaired actors that spend most of their screen time screaming. The script borrows so liberally from JAWS that you'd swear this was conceived by a couple of crafts service people who had worked on the original. If anyone ever doubted the genius of Spielberg, watch five minutes of this turkey and you'll be convinced.
SHARK ATTACK 3 is bad. Really bad. So bad that I couldn't sit through the entire picture (and I've made a habit of reveling in low-budget trash). Watch the prolonged sequence involving a para-sailor whose boats is attacked by the wicked beastie and you'll know exactly what to expect of the rest of it. Variations on the same three shots must have appeared 30 times in this sequence.
Truly horrific. I'm giving it one star for the shark's fake fin, easily the funniest prop I've seen in ages. You could actually see the creases in it. Nothing like the sole prop in your feature being shoddily put together. It's a sure sign of class.
Return to Sleepaway Camp (2008)
It amazes me how revisionist we movie fans can be. We love to look back on bad horror films and claim, in retrospect, that they deserve points for intentional camp. Where would Roger Corman's career be without this? Where would the SLEEPWAY CAMP franchise be? I should have known better than to watch this, as I found the original badly made/acted and offensive. But the RETURN TO SLEEPAWAY CAMP box had the look of a better than average sequel. And it had been twenty years since the original, twenty years that the writer/director had to mount an effort superior to his overrated debut.
Forget all that. RETURN TO SLEEPAWAY CAMP is as bad as cinema gets. It's amateurishly acted, badly scripted, and features some of the most obnoxious characters its ever been my displeasure to view. Sequences appear to have been randomly assembled. Even the death sequences, the bread and butter of the slasher film, are so badly put together that they're laughable.
There's also the basic plot (which is about as basic as you can get). Slasher kills. The problem is that the official red herring is such an obnoxious character that we never care whether he did it or not. I was actually hoping someone would just kill him fast and refund my rental money.
I realize that I've been overly critical of some films on this site, but this is not one of them. Contrary to anyone's assessment, the SLEEPAWAY CAMP franchise is not the result of high camp. It's the result of bad film-making.
Every once in a while I stumble upon an independent movie that succeeds on sheer bravado and love of its inspirations. The horribly named FRANKENSTEIN VS THE MONSTER FROM BLOOD COVE is one of those. In the tradition of Universal monster mash-ups like THE HOUSE OF FRANKENSTEIN comes this story of a mad scientist who is endeavoring to create a race of super-monsters to fight terrorism. Or some such nonsense. Despite any delusions the filmmakers might have had about topicality, the framework is just an excuse to hang as many creatures as possible on the story.
And creatures there are. Not content with Frankenstein's monster and the Monster From Blood Cove (an endearing Creature From the Black Lagoon type beast), Writer/Director William Winckler introduces a slew of loosely related beasts. A werewolf shows up for no apparent reason, only to be gunned down within minutes. The ghost of Dr. Frankenstein even drops by to choke(?) several victims.
As if that weren't enough, this black and white tribute throws in every stock supporting character/location from the Universal classics. There are Gothic looking exteriors. There's the mysterious gypsy woman who issues cryptic warnings. There's the disfigured/conflicted lab assistant, played by monster designer Chris Knight.
And if this weren't enough, there are also nods to the films of Ed Wood (the obviously cornball dialog, the lawn chair/lab table the monster lies on, etc.).
But this isn't Mel Brooks, people. This is low-budget film-making. It may be sincere and creative, but those looking for sophistication would do well to pass on this. The acting is universally bad, even by the standards of these films. There are some intrusive nude photo sessions/stripper performances that seem to have been randomly added to titillate adolescent boys and pad the running time (girls strip, dance, and then get killed). And there is an offensive gay stereotype that is repeatedly played for "comic" effect.
But all this is secondary to the creatures. Rubber-looking they might be, but they're retro-cool and well executed
and they are what lift this production to a noteworthy level. Their battles might be a letdown more Godzilla than Universal but perfectly in keeping with the limited intent. This is definitely a deserving entry in the low-budget monster sweepstakes.
Amazons and Gladiators (2001)
Sometimes Breasts Aren't Enough
Thank the gods I didn't pay to rent this. Obviously intended as a cheap T&A knockoff of GLADIATOR, this flick is lamer than your average episode of Xena.
A bunch of Amazonian warriors hide in the woods outside Rome, intent on battling the mighty Roman army. They revel in their sisterhood, which would be fine if this was a woman's rights movie instead of a sexploitation flick. The only things viewers are asked to revel in are fur covered push-up bras and midriff bearing outfits (hardly the best protection against the brutal weather). But this isn't a skin flick, my friends. It's a badly scripted, badly acted, B movie. Cleavage is a secondary consideration.
My favorite piece of cheesy dialog, and it's difficult to single out one exchange in a movie rife with it, occurs between the Amazon leader and the newest arrival.
Leader: "Your training begins tomorrow." New arrival: "What training?" Leader: "Amazon training." Need I say more?
Crazy Eights (2006)
Predictable Waste of Time
Being named to the After Dark Horrorfest must be a mixed bag. On the one hand, your independent horror flick gets great distribution and promotion. On the other, it gets saddled with unrealistic expectations, the result of the festival's hype about releasing films that are too scary and subversive for Hollywood. I've yet to see one of these films that lived up to these inflated expectations. Most are just variations on a theme, with CRAZY EIGHTS proving no exception.
This picture offers us a combination of THE BIG CHILL and CUBE (or any number of Twilight Zone episodes about people being stuck in strange environments). A group of childhood friends regroup after the death of one of their own and find themselves stuck in the basement of an abandoned research hospital. Of course, they share a horrific secret: they were all test subjects in a psychological experiment that went awry. They hallucinate. They scream and cry. And then they run off by themselves, character after character, so they can be conveniently picked off by an evil entity.
CRAZY EIGHTS is competently directed. It features a great location (who can fault an abandoned, creepy hospital?). And the actors, including former porn star Tracy Lords, do a nice job.
But I was again struck by what the film didn't have: any kind of plausible explanation about the spirit infestation. Instead, we get lame J-horror borrowings. *BIG SPOILER* All this carnage was due to the spirit of one angry little girl. It's an angry little girl we hardly ever glimpse, which is a good thing in a film like this, but it's still a lame excuse for 90 minutes of supposed "terror." It's as nonsensical as its big-budget cousin, SILENT HILL, which used the same premise.
Don't get me wrong, this isn't a horrible movie. But neither is it a thinking person's horror film. I'm actually confused by who its target audience was. There's so little blood that it isn't pandering to gorehounds. CRAZY EIGHTS actually goes out of its way to hide the aftermath of the ghost attacks. And even if it did want to linger on the carnage, the effect would have been nullified by the muted color palette of the film. The entire picture looks like it was de-saturated. It's an odd and pointless approach
a perfect compliment to the plot.
Raging Sharks (2005)
To be fair, I didn't watch this entire fiasco. I missed the beginning, which would have detailed some type of alien cylinder that is placed in the ocean, one that drives sharks into a feeding frenzy. One that apparently also provides them with super powers, like the ability to growl while they are under water.
But this missing piece only increased my appreciation for the horror that is RAGING SHARKS. Finally, a Sci Fi Channel acquisition that was so bad, so incompetent, that it descends into the realm of the ludicrous. This movie is Ed Wood bad. It's startlingly, stunningly bad, even by Sci Fi Channel standards.
My favorite exchange occurs when the hull of the sub/underwater station is compromised. There are explosions. There are fireballs. People run screaming this way and that. Water rushes into the structure. Pipes and walls burst. Then, Corbin Bernsen gets on the radio, looking rather dapper in the command set that he never leaves (like Basil Rathbone in an old Roger Corman movie), and puts out a desperate inquiry: "How long will it take to repair?" "About 15 minutes," comes the answer.
Or did I just dream this sequence? It's one of those movies where you can zone out for 5 or 10 minutes and miss absolutely nothing. At least he doesn't scream every line of dialog like many of the actors (who appear to have been plucked from a high school play). To be fair, it's probably not their faults. Many are shot in close up and appear to be acting in completely different scenes, even when they're having interactions. It adds to the insane charm of the piece, which is why I gave it a 2 star rating instead of a 0.
Great sets, though. A pity they were wasted on such an abominable piece of work.