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"Happy St Patrick's day, boys"!, 22 March 2014

What am I doing watching this film? I disliked the first film, and I've seen "In Space" which was completely stupid. So far what I've seen, hasn't clicked. This first sequel is an improvement, but not by much. Mediocre at best, nothing flashy. This time there's some sort of narrative attached, if trivial and slight, but it bears no relation to the first film other than having Warwick Davis' fiendish leprechaun returning to cause havoc. Dead bodies begin piling up and the jokey humour looms large. It clearly plays for cheap laughs and jolts. This time it's set in the big smoke, where the centuries old leprechaun finds himself in Hollywood on St Patrick's Day to claim a bride who sneezes three times. This feature is playful, crude, risqué and mean-spirited, but moves at a welcoming pace. The make-up effects stand-up really well and the set designs, especially the hidden lair demonstrated some visual candy. In the title role Davis is having fun, spitting out those witty puns and it shows with him being truly being unrecognisable in costume. While the rest of the cast are acceptable, without making all that much of an impression. Although Shevonne Durkin sure was easy on the eyes. Still there are a lot of TV stars showing up in small/cameo parts. The eccentric set-pieces do standout more so than the story, but there is some creativity and twisted ideas around its daftness. Too bad I find it all to end on a whimper though, after a smart gag to outwit the leprechaun.

The Jungle (2013)
"Something is watching us"., 21 March 2014

I thought "Black Water" was excellently pitched eco-horror, while "The Reef" was a modest survival horror. So when it came to "The Jungle", I had some high hopes from Australian film-maker Andrew Traucki. Again very similar in formula to his previous films, but just a different threat. "The Jungle" is a simple story (ala "Blair Witch Project") that takes advantage of the found-footage market. Does it work? Yes and no. It's durable, but unexceptional in that we have been here before.

Animal conversationalist Larry Black along with his brother head to Indonesia to track down and film a rare breed of leopard to get documented evidence of its existence in the jungle. However in the area where they would be searching are rumours of a black magic demon, which Larry considers just local superstitions? But his guides are not so convinced.

I came away liking the taut situation and the overall build-up of it. It had me engaged (be it the characters and motivation behind the trek) and there was a grounded realism, but the pay-off was less than desirable. In what becomes a whirlwind of frustration, sudden camera movement and off-screen action in the last ten minutes. It's jerky in its execution, as the repetitiveness of certain actions started to become wearisome and the jump scenes simply erupted. You are kept pretty much kept in the dark, but that didn't bother me. Although the disappearance of a character in the final few seconds baffled me. It just I didn't feel like the back-end truly captured the suspense and horror of the situation as effectively as the lead up did.

The tag less is more, is used very much here. Only glimpses (glowing eyes), noises (snarling and branches breaking), symbols (black sorcery), signs (prints, blood and remains) and the humidly suffocating environment help it come alive. A creepy superstitious back-story helps a lot too. Throughout sound effects were well used, as well as the eerie jungle backdrop in isolating the danger and uncertainness the characters found themselves in. Majority of the reliable tension is fuelled by the character interactions of the unknown, than that of the unsighted beast stalking its prey (although there's one scene involving it climbing down a tree where you only see its hands is fairly unnerving). Why this works is because the performances are appealing and they're well written giving them such weight to standout from each other. The acting led by Rupert Reid is hearty and intimate by all in style that only lends well to the story and chemistry. I can why some people might not like it, but for me it does have its moments beyond its wandering nature and not entirely seeing the creature wasn't a problem. You get a good enough look in the final shot.

"The Jungle" starts off strong with its gripping slow-burn format to only go off the beaten track in standard clichés and a disappointingly frenetic close.

"Christ! They're shooting all over the place"., 21 March 2014

Wow. I'm kind of surprised by its decent rating on this site. But, talk about plagiarism. "Aliens" is what it wants to be. And "Aliens" it is not. It blatantly lifts scenes, dialogues ("Please, kill me"), characters, story arches and ideas. It's that obvious… you'd be in amazement. Yeah, you could probably play a drinking game with what it tries to squeeze in. It simply becomes a waiting to see what they rip- off next. And throw in a touch of "Terminator". Especially within the film's dying stages and misplaced climax. Well in some countries it does have the title "Terminator II". Wonder what James Cameron would have made of it? Director Bruno Mattei and writer Claudio Fragasso are no strangers to trash, and the grungy "Shocking Dark" is no exception to the trend. Too bad it's not as exploitative in its visuals. Even though it's on the cheap, daft in every sense, the plot doesn't make a lick of sense and junky as it can be… what killed it for me was how flat, sluggish and meandering the action and story came out to be. No great shakes that the acting is wooden (and that constant screaming from the Newt character gets truly unbearable), the genetic monsters look completely goofy and the thrills are more silly than rousing, but it's not as fun as it could have been. Good idea of the setting; a polluted Venice, despite most of the time is spent in dark, dingy and long underground corridors, which is caught by murky photography. Lame-brain, but it gets bogged down too often and doesn't let its outlandish nature implode.

Pink Motel (1982)
"Fighting is no fun with your clothes on"., 20 March 2014

Eight o'clock on a Friday evening several couples rock up at the cheap, but welcoming Pink Motel, with one thing on mind. You got two teenagers looking to further development their relationship, a couple whose affair seems to be wailing, a star running back of a local university football team enlisting the help of a hooker to overcome his virginity and two supposed studs looking for a one-night-stand.

Some films seem to come and go without making much of a scene. Usually there might be circumstances surrounding it. "Pink Motel" is one of those films that are never talked about. Coming out around that period when teen sex comedies were the in thing. I guess "Pink Motel" just didn't cut it for most and I can see probably why? It's a sex comedy that's more concerned about telling a story, focusing on its characters and thoughtful narrative arrangement with the sex shenanigans becoming seconds to the every growing drama that's developing. Sure it can be silly, but I found amusing. Characters come and go with the action being limited to the hotel rooms. For some it could be too talky, but I found the writing to be clever and the dialogues sharp and punchy. It's not all that daring or raunchy, but consisting of a sweet charm. The cast are mainly no-names with the likes of Phyllis Diller and Slim Pickens (who share are great rapport as the hotel owners and this would be Pickens final film) being the headliners, but they're not in it all that much. The rest of the cast give acceptable performances with the busty Kathi Sawyer-Young being the pick of the lot. What's going on behind these doors differ and the circumstances surrounding them bring their own unique laughs.

"I'm beginning to expect foreplay", 20 March 2014

Well, I didn't see this coming. But I got to hand it to it. It was surprisingly entertaining and easily surpasses the original "Psycho Cop". Think of "Die Hard", but sleazier and done like a slasher outing with a touch of soft-core as Officer Joe Vickers gatecrashes a late- night stag party. Probably even more on the cheap. While the first felt serious with unintentional humour, "Returns" seems to play-up the concept with tongue-in-cheek and self-knowing quips. It's outrageous, sexed-up and totally ups the ante, nasty and gory deaths with Officer Vickers chipping with a witty response nearly every time. Robert R Shaffer returns to the deranged role and he gives an even better performance, which doesn't feel as amateurish and his delivery of the dialogue is less painful. Everything moves at a fast pace, the setting keeps the horror confined, as the body count piles up and the story's developments go over-the-top. The plot is pulpy, but a little creative and the performances are fairly animated with the ravishing Barbara Niven leading the way.

"It's the welcome mat to hell"., 19 March 2014

My interest was starting to fade with the Amityville franchise, especially after "Curse'… but I wanted to see all the films and "Dollhouse" is probably the best sequel since "The Evil Escapes". Somewhat minor in that regards, but still better. Again it's another cheaply produced TV movie, but this time the cursed object happens to be a replica dollhouse of the Amityville house. Odd choice, but it did create certain creepiness. It affects the household in the usual manner, especially possessing the family and turning them against each other while feeding on the fear and anger it creates. Nothing really surprises here, as again it's a mixture of the previous films with its own slant. However it moves by fast enough, entertains with its twisted shocks, an eerie score effortlessly fits in and the characters for most part are fairly agreeable. Some of the make-up FX (that of our demonic guests) and special effects are well done, especially when the dollhouse becomes the gateway to hell. It gets crazy, but fairly entertaining. The cast give dependable turns with the likes of Robin Thomas, Rachel Duncan and Starr Andreeff. Neat, cosy horror that amuses despite its lack of new tricks.

The Hostage Tower (1980) (TV)
"I'm simply addicted to crime"., 17 March 2014

Mr. Smith is the world's most sorted out criminal, cunning and extravagant as he has eluded justice by hiding his true identity. Now he wants to pull off a big job, as he recruit's a team of fellow criminals that each has a speciality important to the job. Before knowing what it is, they must complete a training course where they discover it involves hijacking the Eiffel Tower for a $30 million ransom.

What a cast! Such an atypical plot! Groovy soundtrack! But alas those good intentions equal something that's mostly a lacklustre caper film with numerous fluff. Plenty of time is spent toiling and waiting around for things to happen, as the calculated situation is set-up, but never does it fully capture the danger and suspense until the last few minutes. It can be off-putting with its talky script and when things do occur the action is light-weight. Sometimes its comic nature feels oddly placed. Then again this was a made for TV enterprise. Gladly it's the performances that add colour. So did the infallible lasers. Watch it go to work on a soccer ball! Peter Fonda, Maud Adams, Keir Dullea, Billy Dee Williams, Britt Ekland, Celia Johnson, Jack Lenoir, Rachel Roberts and Douglas Fairbanks Jr all have their moments. Fonda and Adams worked off each other nicely… so did Dullea and Ekland. Interesting combinations. Although Dullea suave manner was sometimes laughable. Holding a city to ransom might just sound textbook, but the choice of location is inspired. However I wished they did a little more with the idea, then with the approach they took. Still it does get better as it goes along, even if it plays out in very contrived circumstances.

Flicks (1987)
"You gotta stop living in the past"., 8 March 2014

Think along the lines of "Amazon Women on the Moon", and this film did come out the same time and you have the lesser known "Flicks". Maybe not as effective as that previous mentioned film, but this wacky and pleasing send-up of yesteryear's Saturday matinée serials did have more hits than misses in what was a imaginative comedy that doesn't deserve to be forgotten. I probably would liked a little more variety, but the choices showed some freshness it how it tackled the loony premise. What's on show; bizarre newsreels, animated opening and epilogue involving retired cartoon stars. Then bring on the up-coming attractions; with the names attached to "No Way Jose", I bet you couldn't wait. Then we get features like the zany Flash Gordon spoof "New Adventures of the Great Galaxy", horror films get turn upside down in "The House of the Living Corpse" (my pick of the lot) and then we get a human-size bug thinking himself as a suave private eye in "Philip Alien". The cast featured some comic performances by Pamela Sue Martin, Joan Hackett and Martin Mull. The clever dialogues go hand-to-hand with the source material. In all its silly, but fun and spot on with its snappy gags in its quick and breezy format.

"It went off without a hitch"., 8 March 2014

Australia's answer to the slasher market… well kind of, as this weird, trashy psychodrama does contain numerous elements found it slashers. Not perfect by any stretch, but it especially does a good job constructing its stalk and slash sequences with stylish verve and a real mean streak to boot. Like other reviewers mentioned it has a striking resemblance to Michele Soavi's late 80s slasher "Stagefright" and there's a touch Giallo evident. The POV shots do at times strike a nerve; just listen to the heavy breathing. The suspense when it's on, is gripping and the attack scenes are brutal and bloody. Hearing the glass slice the skin really does come through in these scenes. Also it doesn't skimp on the sleaze and nudity either. However it's too bad that the editing throws up some random scenes that are poorly linked, or don't add much to the unfolding situations and the final twist is so easy to pick up on that it's no surprise when its revealed. When it's not focusing on the stage cast and crew being dispatched, it's somewhat textbook in its tired dramas. Surprisingly the opening sequences are very effective in setting up a scarred character.

There were some names attached to this Australian production that horror fans will recognise. Jenny Neumann playing the lead character, the aspiring actress with a troubled past would be known for her part in the Linda Blair's starring slasher "Hell Night" the following year. Also attached to the project was Colin Eggleston as writer, who brought us the eco-horror "Long Weekend" and would later churn out an even more stranger and ultra-slick slasher in "Cassandra" (1986). You could also throw in director John D. Lamond who was behind some Ozploitation films like "Felicity" and "Pacific Banana".

Lamond ups the atmospheric traits (good use of a theatre setting), keeps the drama thick with touch oddness and stays rather traditional in the set-up. No surprises, but just like our central character it can be a neurotic and twisted jumble. Although towards the closing stages it does feel fairly rushed and contrived. The performances are acceptable, if at times a little over-colourful and the dialogues did have that blunt nature to them. And that music score is far from subtle.

Stiff and ridiculous Conan rip., 6 March 2014

Conan the Barbarian you could say was at the top of the pile of these derivative sword and sorcery enterprises that were being churned out in the early 80s and the main influencer for these films. "Ator" was at the very bottom of the pile and was a quick cash-in on the former by notorious director Joe D'Amato. It's quite bad. More so in a banal and simple-minded way, this is unforgivable. What happens is second-rate and hasty in its execution and with little fun attached to it. A bemused Miles O'keeffe plays the title character and goes about things in a rather laborious manner (uneventful journey with plenty of strutting and flat sword choreography)… although there are some amusingly terrible dialogue exchanges (the heart to heart talk about love with romantic interludes), a lousy twist… and a battle scene with a slow moving gigantic spider… but other than that not much to recommend. It's just risible more so than thrilling. Oh I did forget something… the bear cub. I don't know what it had to do with anything, but its presence was a welcome inclusion.

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