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"All of you here are dead!"
"Tenement it's a place to live some look so bad make you wanna shed tears." Tenement: Game of Survival is a tale of urban decay from Roberta Findlay (Blood Sisters, Snuff). Yes, women can make trashy exploitation just as well as men. Perhaps better. This movie has one scene in particular that goes further than anything in Last House or I Spit on Your Grave. I found myself covering my mouth with my hand! You'll know the scene if you've watched the flick. Actually, I'm going to spoil it: A woman is raped to death with a broom and her 6-8 year old daughter sees the aftermath. It was pretty shocking even to me, and I've seen plenty of trashy movies. The storyline is similar to Death Wish 3...only without Charles Bronson. A gang is hanging out in the basement of a building where one tenant has had enough. He calls the cops and the gang is arrested. Unfortunately, the punks are soon released and swear vengeance on all the tenants of the building. Before you can say Assault on Precinct 13, the gang is fighting their way through the building killing everyone. One complaint I had is that I would have liked to get to know the tenants a little better, specifically Mr. Washington. There are some things left unsaid about his character. Was he a Vietnam vet, or just the bada$$ super? The gang members were also one dimensional characters who are only amused by death (even if it's one of their own). I didn't really care when they killed the tenants, and on the other hand, I didn't find myself cheering when they were killed like I should have been. I think the movie is a bit of a failure in that regard, but it's still watchable. I really wouldn't mind seeing this one get the remake treatment. The acting is terrible all around with few exceptions. Those being Joe "Mr. Washington" Lynn, Dan "Cigar Face" Snow, and the always underrated Paul "Always Underrated" Calderon.
Curse II: The Bite (1989)
"All you had to do was show me your arm."
It's a movie about a guy with a snake hand...how do you f**k that up? The Curse II: The Bite is a sequel that has nothing whatsoever to do with the Wil Wheaton original. And if you disliked the first film, you ain't seen nothing yet. The Curse II is about a couple (played by 80's scream queen Jill Schoelen and soap star J. Eddie Peck) traveling through the desert who pick up a hitchhiking radioactive snake. When the boyfriend gets bitten by the traveling snake, he thinks it's okay to get treatment from a traveling salesman (Klinger from M.A.S.H.) who happens to be carrying anti-venom from various snakes. As his hand later transforms into a giant snake head and he gets all kinds of sick, his girlfriend can't understand what's wrong with him and even yells at the poor guy. Then local redneck sheriff Bo Svenson comes along and makes matters worse. I wish I were making this up. With this story and collection of random actors, you probably think I'm making this up! The Curse II might sound like some bizarre cult film, but it's not. It's really very boring until the end. That's where Screaming Mad George's unique effects come into play. The hero of the story starts vomiting baby snakes, his eyes fall out, and eventually a huge snake tears its way out of his head. It's as disgustingly offensive as it sounds. Speaking of disgustingly offensive, there is a slow-motion scene of the couple driving over hundreds of snakes on a deserted stretch of highway that will absolutely puzzle the hell of you. I would strongly suggest staying away from this film. But somebody out there must have liked it because there are 2 other movies that exist which bear the "cursed" Curse title.
L'isola degli uomini pesce (1979)
"They're men turned inside out!"
First of all, they're not men. And they're not turned inside out. What is the box art to this movie all about? Screamers is completely misleading in it's attempt to convey the plot of what lies within said box. It's actual Island of the Fishmen, a film that was directed by the legendary Italian Sergio Martino. Legend has it that Roger Corman acquired the rights to the movie, changed the name, and flared it up a bit with some over the top gore (specifically the intro scenes with Cam Mitchell and Mel Ferrer). Screamers is an Italian take on Dr. Moreau with good actors and bad, knock-off "Gillman" suits. Richard Johnson (who looks like he's on the same set, wearing the same clothes, and playing the same part as in Fulci's Zombi), Barbara Bach, Joseph Cotten, and the aforementioned added Mitchell and Ferrer are pretty big names for a project like this (of course they've all done their fair share of trash too). Screamers is entertaining enough, but nothing special. Only really noteworthy for the audacity of the misleading marketing.
Haute tension (2003)
"I won't let anything come between us anymore."
I've been asked whether it's possible to both love and hate a movie in equal measure. My answer is that it's true because I've had those feelings. I absolutely love and absolutely hate High Tension. And I think most people reading this already know where the hate comes from: the ending. But don't let me get ahead of myself. Let me talk more about the plot and the dynamics of the film. The plot follows two college girls, Alex and Marie, who are staying with Alex's family at a remote farmhouse. The film gives you very little time to get to know the girls, but I feel they make the most of it. The night they arrive a visitor calls upon the farmhouse and starts slaughtering the family and kidnaps Alex. This leaves Marie, whom the killer did not know was staying there, to either hide or try to save Alex. She chooses the latter and this is where the film lives up to it's title. These sequences are all about the tension. I applaud Alexandre Aja and his writing partner Grégory Levasseur; they create edge of your seat, heart-attack thrills here. Every aspect of the film builds upon this dread. The acting is stellar, the music and sound design are very important, and the editing is brilliant. And who could forget the make-up effects. The Italian maestro, Giannetto De Rossi, is at play here and the effects are just nasty. De Rossi has not lost a step over the years and this is certainly another feather in his cap. Unfortunately it's the ending where things take a turn for the worst. It's like putting together this great puzzle but getting to the end and finding out that a few pieces have been lost. There is a Fight Club style twist at the end. It seems that there is no killer, or rather, that Marie is the killer. It left me scratching my head. I felt cheated. Some people are justifying it by saying that without the twist it would have been a regular slasher movie and we've seen that before. Not like this we haven't, not in a long time anyway. There hasn't been a "slasher" of this caliber since John Carpenter's Halloween. The twist has certainly sparked endless debate and I suppose you can make it work (however even Aja and Levasseur seem a bit confused about how some scenes work in the commentary track). But the ending negates everything you've just seen. And that's why I felt cheated. Aja had me eating out of his hand until that moment. Strange as it may sound, I still like the movie. Everything up until the revelation that Marie is the killer is so damn good that I still recommend watching this film and also consider it a masterpiece of sorts. It's just a heavily flawed one.
Secret Window (2004)
"You stole my story."
Secret Window, based on the Stephen King short story, is about a writer (shocker!) named Mort Rainey who is accused of plagiarism by a potential psychopath. The accuser, John Shooter, begins to mildly terrorize Rainey in an attempt to have him rewrite the ending which Rainey changed. You know how some directors often say "It's not a horror film, it's a psychological thriller."? Well, this is one of the times that really applies. I had a one of a kind experience seeing Secret Window on the big screen. Towards the end of the film a tornado touched down somewhere near the theater so we had to evacuate our seats and seek shelter in the halls. When the tornado warning was over we returned to our seats to finish the film, however the audio was not synced up and we had no idea what was going on. I had to wait until Secret Window hit DVD shelves before I could see how the story ended (even though I predicted early on where it was headed). Boy, was I unimpressed. Turns out Mort is Shooter...big surprise. Anyone with half a brain will see that coming. Fight Club is the only movie where this twist works and it's now a big cliché. The only aspect of this Stephen King adaptation that warrants an honorable mention is the cast. Johnny Depp is good as his usual weirdo self and John Turturro is always a joy to watch. Also the supporting cast made up of Maria Bello, Timothy Hutton, and Charles S. Dutton all turn in good performances. Writer-director David Koepp needs to heed Shooter's advice: "The most important part of a story is the ending."
Gin gwai (2002)
"I no longer question why I am blind."
The Eye is one of the original properties that was responsible for getting everyone excited over Asian horror. I remember liking the film the first time I saw it, however, watching it now I find that it's a bit boring. Well, the first half of the film is still engaging, but the latter is tedious and uninteresting to me. In the beginning of the film, we find 20 year old Mun, who has been blind for most of her life, has just had a successful cornea transplant. The operation allows her to see once again. But this new sight is more than she bargained for. She now has the ability, or curse, to see apparitions. There are some genuinely creepy moments where Mun is discovering that she can see ghosts. One involving an elevator is downright unnerving. When Mun decides to find out who the donor of her cornea was, the film turns into a kind of supernatural mystery and doesn't offer up anymore chills. That's where they went wrong. The Pang Brothers have a knack for generating some good scares. Unfortunately thus far they've put those scares into sub-par films (i.e. The Eye 2 and The Messengers). If you like films such as the original Shutter, you will probably find something to like here.
Gin gwai 2 (2004)
"It's the beginning of a new life."
The Eye 2 sees the Pang Brothers back in familiar territory. This time out they're telling a completely different ghost story that has little to do with the original film. The new story follows a pregnant Shu Qi as she tries to kill herself multiple times and something will not let her die. Once again there are some chilling moments but I was ultimately let down. I watched Stir of Echoes, The Eye, and The Eye 2 back to back to back; I'm ready for an evil ghost movie. The ghosts in this film just hang around pregnant women while they are waiting to be reincarnated. The idea would have made a good anthology episode, but hardly warrants a feature film. That's the main flaw here, it didn't hold my attention. And I found Shu's character to be very annoying. She whines all the time and even after she knows the ghosts don't have evil intentions she is still afraid they are going to hurt her baby. If Philip Kwok tells you the ghosts just want to be reincarnated, you believe him. I know they are capable filmmakers, but the Pang Brothers have yet to seriously impress me.
Highway to Hell (1991)
"The devil has met his match...and it's a '48 ford."
Highway to Hell is one of the most interesting and off-the-wall horror/comedies that came out of the 90's. It's about a young couple (played by Kristy Swanson and Chad Lowe) who take the wrong road out in the middle of the desert. It's the highway to hell, hence the title, and the Hellcop who patrols this area gives our young couple one hell of a time. Bad pun, I know. This is one of those movies that sounds incredibly silly on paper but just has to be seen. Along with Swanson and Lowe, Highway to Hell stars Patrick Bergin, Adam Storke, and Pamela Gidley. The really cool actor here though is the Hellcop. He's played by C.J. Graham and this is Graham's only other role besides playing Jason is Friday the 13th Part 6. There are a ton of cameos in this film too. The late, great Richard Farnsworth, Lita Ford, both Jerry and Ben Stiller, and Kevin Peter Hall all pop up for a minute or two. And Gilbert Gottfried plays Hitler. Like I said earlier, this one has to be seen to be appreciated. It's not the best movie you will ever see, but it's entertaining and that's what counts with this kind of film.
"When you live in the dark there is nowhere to hide."
I did not know much about Shiver before I watched it. The only thing I did know was that Dark Sky films was releasing it and they are a company that I really trust right now. I can gladly say that they did not abuse that trust. Shiver is a good, albeit flawed, fright flick. It starts out in one direction and goes to a very unexpected place. The film follows Santi, a young man who has an affliction not dissimilar to vampires. Santi is highly sensitive to sunlight and also has fangs. However, this has little to do with the actual plot other than to make you think Santi could be a monster. Because there is a monster of sorts that lives in the woods near the small village where Santi and his mother have moved to. There are a few animal mutilations and murders that coincide with Santi's arrival and the townsfolk believe Santi to be responsible. I don't want to give anything away, but Santi is not the killer. The killer's identity is a highly original concept and it's what I think will separate Shiver and make it memorable. Also, there are a few scenes in broad daylight that gave me chills. That is an incredible accomplishment to me. And that's why I recommend seeing the picture. I think towards the end of the film Shiver becomes a little too routine. That is my main complaint. It goes down the same tired road we've been down before. It had a lot of potential to be different and it didn't take full advantage of that. I still think it's a good film because it did give me the "shivers" and I suggest seeing it especially if you are a fan of Spanish horror.
American Psycho (2000)
"I'm into uh...murders and executions mostly."
American Psycho is best described by its title. Christian Bale stars as Patrick Bateman, a man with wealth, looks, and charm...a vision of the American dream. Or is he the American nightmare? You see, he just can't get that reservation at Dorsia. Also, his business card isn't as impressive because he didn't go with the eggshell white. This is a film that I initially found a bit disturbing and did not care for at all. Upon revisiting it, however, American Psycho has hit an unexpected place: my funny bone. This is one of the most quotable movies ever and I can't believe how funny it is. I guess the first time I watched I didn't get it for what it was: a satire. It's a satirical look at the materialism and excess of the 80's and I had not seen Oliver Stone's Wall Street before viewing American Psycho. Wall Street was the key to unlocking this movie for me. Sounds weird, doesn't it? But I swear that's what did it for me. Well, that and my love for Huey Lewis and the News. The film is packed with a star-studded cast, but it's Bale who makes a name for himself here. He is the whole show. If you are a fan of his, I suggest seeing this film as you will see a much different side of the actor. Or, if you thought Genesis was too artsy before the presence of Phil Collins became more apparent, then American Psycho is for you too. Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to return some videotapes.
"From the Amazon's forbidden depths came the Creature from the Black Lagoon."
The Creature from the Black Lagoon is Universal's last great monster. He came almost two decades later than his brethren, but that's what sets him apart from the rest: The Gillman was 3-D! I love the idea of 3-D movies but haven't had too many opportunities to see them on the big screen. I'm willing to bet that this was quite the theatrical experience in 1954. And for being over 50 years old, the costume is still pretty impressive. Sure it's just a rubber suit, but it's a good looking rubber suit (I love the updated look Stan Winston's crew did for The Monster Squad). The story is rather simplistic. An archaeological dig uncovers the skeletal remains of a creature who may be a missing link in the evolutionary chain from the time when creatures came out of the water to walk upon land. An expedition is led into the heart of the Amazon where the team finds more than they bargained for: a living specimen. After a few failed attempts to capture the Gillman, the surviving members decide to flee the area. They might be done with the Creature, but the Creature isn't done with them. He's blocked the only exit from the lagoon and has his eye set on the lovely Julie Adams. It becomes a basic story of survival at that point. Soon after the Gillman struck, the nuclear age came about and it was all about giant spiders and such during the late 50's and 60's. I strongly recommend any creature aficionados catch Creature from the Black Lagoon to see where many classics are strongly rooted.
The Invisible Man (1933)
"An invisible man can rule the world!"
The Invisible Man is the one classic Universal monster who is the least monstrous. However, his goal is a much larger one than any of the other monsters: world domination. For that I salute him. The guy thinks big. The Wolfman wanted a cure, Frankenstein's monster wanted acceptance...this guy wants the world. The Invisible Man stars Claude Rains (or does it?) as the titular character who has made himself invisible with the only side effect being the loss of his mind. The bulk of the plot revolves around Rains creating invisible mayhem and the baffled and disbelieving police trying to catch him. Much of the film holds up today, but the comedy is awful. The screaming lady had me rolling my eyes and holding my ears. Regardless of a few flaws, it's still fun to watch. It's may not be James Whale's masterpiece, but it is a worthy entry into the echelons of classic horror and sci-fi.
Body Snatchers (1993)
"We'll give 'em hell Malone!"
Body Snatchers is the second attempt at updating Jack Finney's classic tale for a new generation. Let me preface this review by saying both the original film and the 70's remake are haunting pieces of cinema. Body Snatchers '93 doesn't quite live up to its predecessors. It's not a bad film per se, but with the pedigree it sports it should have been much better. Some of the names credited with the story and screenplay are Larry Cohen, Stuart Gordon, and Dennis Paoli. Those three names can be seen on some of the most famous horror posters of all time. And with a director like Abel Ferrara the film should have been more interesting. This time the invasion takes place solely on a military base witnessed through the eyes of outsider Gabrielle Anwar. Forest Whitaker is playing the paranoid role and Meg Tilly is the main "face" of the aliens. There are some good moments to be found and the pod effects look good because they are still practical at this point. The problem is once the pods become people. The aliens are supposed to be completely devoid of emotion yet I think they show a lot in this film. I also think they blew the "scream" out of proportion for this one. It's not nearly as haunting as the previous film. I still think it has its own merits and is far superior to the latest Nicole Kidman retread.
Sleepy Hollow (1999)
"It is a place called Sleepy Hollow."
Sleepy Hollow marks the third time Tim Burton and Johnny Depp have worked together and I have to say it's their best collaboration. Burton's take on the the Washington Irving classic is a terrific slice of American Gothic. I'm sure everyone knows the tale of Ichabod Crane and the Headless Horseman, but this movie offers up a new mythos for the iconic duo. This ain't exactly your daddy's Sleepy Hollow. But don't let that stop you from seeing this exceptional film. The cast and art direction alone are worth the price of entry. Johnny Depp is of course the star and Christina Ricci is the love interest, while a combination of Christopher Walken and Ray Park are the Headed/Headless Horseman. Miranda Richardson, Ian McDiarmid, Michael Gough, Michael Gambon, Casper Van Dien, Jeffrey Jones, Christopher Lee, and Martin Landau are just some of fantastic character actors you will see. Along with a talented cast, the film is just visually pleasing. The picture is so monochromatic it may as well have been shot in black and white; which suits the atmosphere perfectly. I wouldn't say that Burton has ever made an out and out horror film, but this is definitely his closest.
"An abomination in the eyes of God."
Frankenstein Unbound was Roger Corman's first directorial effort in nearly 20 years. Unfortunately this is also the last film he has directed as nearly another 20 years have passed. The story starts out in the future as a team of scientists (led by John Hurt) are creating a super weapon that is causing time slips every time they use it. Hurt ends up falling victim to one of these slips and travels back to the time just before Mary Shelley wrote Frankenstein. In a weird turn of events, Hurt meets Dr. Victor Frankenstein, who is not a fictional character it turns out, and the Monster makes an appearance as well. Hurt's character has to deal with helping Victor create a mate for the Monster while trying to return to his own time. The first time I viewed Frankenstein Unbound I really enjoyed it. Looking back on it, however, I find that time has not been kind to the film. One major flaw is that the script is just too ambitious for a Corman budget. The film is set in the future as well as the past and Corman is using the same techniques he used in the sixties. If you watch any of Corman's Poe cycle and watch Frankenstein Unbound, you really wouldn't see much difference in terms of style and film-making. I wouldn't doubt if Corman used some of the same sets and costumes from those great old movies. Something is also lost towards the end. The film sets up a world where Frankestein exists along with Mary Shelley but doesn't have any fun with that. A romance is started between Hurt's scientist and Mary Shelley and that's wasted too. By the end of the film you probably won't care about any of the characters. They try to set up Hurt as being sympathetic, but he's just as big a madman as Victor. He tries to get Victor to do the right thing, but he himself has created a monster far worse than Frankenstein. And the showdown between Hurt and the Monster is a bit laughable. But I will give Corman one thing: this film has an amazing cast. John Hurt is one of the greats and I can't believe they got him for the lead here. Raul Julia plays Frankenstein and does so as a lunatic with no remorse for anything he's done. Bridget Fonda is beautiful as Mary Shelley while Michael Hutchence from INXS plays Percy Shelley in more or less a cameo. Jason Patric also has a cameo as Lord Byron. As an experiment in revisiting a familiar story with new turns, Frankenstein Unbound is kinda fun. But the movie as a whole doesn't quite work. This will not be the film that Corman is remembered for.
King of the Ants (2003)
"Sometimes you've gotta be a little ruthless."
Stuart Gordon has done some much beloved, cult horror films over the years. These over-the-top classics include Re-animator, From Beyond, and Castle Freak. If you've seen any of those films you know Gordon has a flair for pushing the envelope. But none of these movies, not one, come close to the disturbing nature of King of the Ants. I don't want to spoil anything for the viewer but Gordon, unlike many of his contemporaries, has not gotten softer with age. It's not a horror film in the traditional sense. King of the Ants is more along the lines of I Spit on Your Grave or Thriller: A Cruel Picture. The only thing that's missing here is that 70's grittiness. But it captures all of the other elements. I just want to say how impressed I was with newcomer Chris McKenna. He slips from naive and aimless to cold and calculating effortlessly. McKenna leads an excellent ensemble cast here (including Kari Wuhrer, George Wendt, Vernon Wells, and Daniel Baldwin) and I feel he may have trouble getting future work because he really put himself out there for this role. King of the Ants is one of those films that you only need to see once because you won't soon forget it.
Idle Hands (1999)
"Idle hands are the devil's playground."
Idle Hands is a horror film that is absolutely a picture of the times. It was made in the late 90's and everything about the film lets you know that. Looking back on it, this thing was dated the day it was released. But it's still a fun little movie and that really just adds to the overall feel. The plot mainly consists of taking a 10 minute segment of Evil Dead II and stretching it into a feature length project. It seems because Anton (Devon Sawa) is the laziest putz in the neighborhood his hand becomes possessed by a demon. He accidentally kills his parents and his two best friends (played by Seth Green and Elden Henson) before deciding to cut the damned thing off. Unfortunately that's not the best idea because the hand escapes and Anton must stop it before it kills his new girlfriend (an early role for Jessica Alba). On top of this, his two best friends come back to life Griffin Dunne style to hang out with Anton and smoke weed. The Offspring make an appearance as well. The whole thing is played for laughs so if you like a little horror with your comedy you will dig Idle Hands. There are some laugh-out-loud moments here, but they are few and far between to make this one a classic. It will be interesting to revisit this one in 10 more years.
La terza madre (2007)
"The darkness...gathering around Rome."
I'm one of the few horror geeks out there that does not see how Suspiria has garnered the reputation it has. And I can barely remember anything about Inferno. Dario Argento has crafted far superior masterpieces but these are the films that most people want to talk about. Imagine my surprise when Argento's latest film, the final act of a long awaited trilogy, was not well received by his fanbase. Mother of Tears failed to live up to many expectations. I for one was not disappointed because I knew it couldn't possibly live up to nearly 30 years of anticipation (Inferno was released in 1980!). The film follows Asia Argento as she tries to kill the last of the three "Mothers" in order to save the world from witches. That's the basic plot and I have to admit it took me a few days to finish this one. There are so many flaws with the film I don't know where to begin. If you're a die-hard fan, it has none of Argento's signature style or color palette. If you're just a casual horror fan, there's not much here that would hold your interest. If you are an Asia Argento fan, she is looking rough in this picture. So I question if there is an audience for this film. I enjoyed both of Argento's Masters of Horror entries, but he hasn't made a good film in a long while. Let's hope Giallo is a return to form.
Chi sei? (1974)
"Bargain with the devil!"
Beyond the Door (a.k.a. The Devil Within Her) has been called The Italian Exorcist, and for good reason. For that's exactly what it is...with just a pinch of Rosemary's Baby for good measure. Jessica and Robert Barrett are about to have their third child. But this blessing may be a curse in disguise as Jessica's ex-boyfriend, Dmitri, shows up. Dmitri is played by Richard Johnson, who can be seen in other Italian fare including Zombi 2 and Screamers. Seems his character has made a "bargain with the devil" (as the film's theme song informs us) to extend his life in exchange for a vessel to host the devil. Before you can say "pea-soup", the pregnancy turns Jessica into a possessed woman who levitates and spins her head in a 360 degree manner. It's a blatant rip-off and Warner Brothers wasted no time sending their army of lawyers in. That didn't stop the film from becoming a moderate success, although I can't figure out why. The best feature of the film has got to be the dubbing of the children. It's painfully obvious someone much older is dubbing these kids and the things they get to say are mindblowingly funny. Other than that, I'm sad to report that the film is largely boring. I've been looking forward to seeing this one for many years (as I do with most of Code Red's DVD releases) and it was not worth the wait. But what did I really expect from Ovidio G. Assonitis, director of Piranha II: The Spawning? Not much happens in the film and the only memorable bits can be seen in The Exorcist. Also, the way the film is edited it repeats many scenes in brief flashes that seem to serve no purpose. I really can't recommend this to anyone but hardcore Italian buffs. However, if you make it to the end, if you can bear it, you will be privy to one of the best head-scratching moments of Italian cinema. I don't want to spoil anything, but it certainly had me laughing hysterically. Beyond the Door was followed by two sequels, neither of which have anything to do with this film nor each other.
The Unseen (1980)
"I see you've met Junior."
I wish The Unseen would have stayed that way. I now completely understand why Danny Steinmann took his name off the picture. It just doesn't play like a Steinmann movie. It's boring. And Steinmann's other films are anything but boring. The film stars the beautiful Barbara Bach as a reporter who is forced to stay with a weird old couple while putting together a story. Little does Bach and her crew know that something lurks in the basement. Not a lot happens during the first hour of the film and we spend too much time with the creepy Sydney Lassick rather than the luscious Bach. The attacks by the Unseen are not as terrifying as they should be mainly because, well, you don't see anything. When the Unseen actually does get some screen time, you will certainly be shocked, be it a good thing or a bad thing. Special commendation goes out to Stephen Furst who actually plays the Unseen. Never before has a performance simultaneously freaked me out and caused hysterical laughter. Seeing Flounder from Animal House in an over-sized diaper looking like one of the mutants from Nothing But Trouble is as good as it sounds. But it doesn't make the film watchable. Stick to Savage Streets or Friday the 13th part V for the real Danny Steinmann experience.
Blood: The Last Vampire (2000)
"The orders from the top are to hunt them down no matter what."
Blood the Last Vampire offers a decent anime fix but feels like an unfinished product. It only clocks in at 48 minutes! The film drops you into the world of vampire hunter Saya and then kicks you out of it just as quickly. There's no time for character development, story arch, or even the usual creature rules. It looks fantastic and there are some cool scenes, but there's just not much substance. No matter how awesome something looks, I need that substance. Sadly that seems to be the case with most of the anime I've seen; either that or they're way too deep and miss the mark entirely. Hopefully the new live action film will fill in the gaps and offer a more complete viewing experience.
Food of the Gods II (1989)
"This is the food of the gods!"
When I found out that there was a sequel made to The Food of the Gods some 13 years later, I thought it was one of those cases where someone had made a movie about giant rats and coincidentally owned the rights to use the title. But, believe it or not, Gnaw: Food of the Gods II actually stays pretty true to its goofy predecessor. If you remember the ending of the original, the possibility of giant children was threatened. Well, fear not, Gnaw delivers on the giant children promise; well, one giant child anyway. The important thing is that it's the best giant child actor of all time. It's not the dialogue the kid gets to say so much that made me laugh out loud, but the way he delivers it. Seriously some of the best line delivery ever. The scientists trying to find a cure for the child accidentally use lab rats which grow out of control and start feeding on students and faculty around a privately owned college campus. Another funny thing is in the scene involving the creation of the titular food where the music wholeheartedly rips off the Trioxin theme from Return of the Living Dead...but with a crappy synthesizer. The film also has one of the most hysterical and bizarre sex scenes that doesn't feature Rudy Ray Moore. It's just one of those things that must be seen. The film is bad, but like the original it made me giggle and kept me entertained. It's probably the best movie about giant rats who terrorize a synchronized swimming event only to be brutally gunned down by the police in a scene that rivals the sheer intensity of the finale to Sam Peckinpah's The Wild Bunch. Okay, just kidding about The Wild Bunch.
"The ocean is a very hostile place."
Barracuda is NOT the movie you think it is. It is not a rip-off of Jaws and it is not as much fun as Piranha. There is only one scene really of Barracuda even attacking people. What this actually is is a government conspiracy movie that is a bit boring. The government is tampering with the water supply of a small town with a form of rage serum. These aren't the rage infected zombies from 28 Days Later however. These poor townsfolk just get upset and yell at each other. The serum also leaks into the ocean and that's were the barracuda come in, briefly. The movie vaguely reminded me of Halloween III only it's not as much fun. It has the same silent, suited men stalking around that were in Halloween III, and the bad guys win. That was the best part of the film: seeing the heroes get blown away in slow motion, Sam Peckinpah style. So, in closing, creature feature buffs should stay away.
Please Don't Eat the Babies (1983)
"There's something really strange about this island Sid."
Island Fury, a.k.a. Please Don't Eat the Babies, is definitely one of the weirder movies I've seen. That is saying a lot, believe me. The film has two separate timelines going on at once. One takes place in the present that follows two women who are being chased by some two-bit thugs who kidnap them and force them to help find some buried treasure on an island. The second timeline focuses on the same two women when they were little girls during their original trip to the island. In the flashback story, definitely the more entertaining of the two, the girls are traveling with some tweens who decide to treasure hunt on the island. They are taken in by a family who lives on the island and whose presence should raise about a hundred red flags if our characters were smart. Lucky for us, they aren't. The scenes where the tweens are being attacked by the family are truly bizarre. The patriarch of the family is played by Hank Worden, who is about 100 years old in this picture. He was the star of many great westerns in the past, but I know him as the "Elderly and Senile Room Service Waiter" from Twin Peaks. So if you can imagine him being menacing, or trying to be, you will see the dilemma the viewer is faced with. These scenes consist of Worden walking outside his cabin, firing his rifle towards the main characters, and simply walking back into the cabin. This happens several times and is downright goofy. Other head scratching moments that aren't even mentioned by any of the characters are giant bugs, underwater fissures and earthquakes, a nude lady who likes to castrate men, and some...thing who kills people with a pitchfork. I almost believe this is a Night Train to Terror situation where many movies were pieced together and the footage is totally incoherent. There is no logic to Island Fury and for that reason I wish more people would watch it just so I could discuss it with someone. Should you choose to accept this mission, don't say I didn't warn you.
"Ain't war hell?"
I guess I can now understand some of the animosity among Aliens fans when they first saw Alien 3. After Aliens people wanted to see a bigger, badder product. And Alien 3 went a much quieter, darker route. This made many people angry. Starship Troopers 2: Hero of the Federation suffers from this same syndrome. But they don't have the luxury of David Fincher or a budget to back them up. This is a low budget film. It shows at every seam and the product really suffers for it. I guarantee if you made the same film but punch it up with a few action sequences and some special effects, this would have been more accepted. I actually like the movie, but don't really like the way it looks. Everything is too blue and the effects are a very shoddy. Most of the time you can tell they are on a green screen. Fortunately, the acting makes up for what it can. Richard Burgi is the best thing this movie has going for it. The dude is awesome. Ed Lauter is also doing some great work as is the mostly untried young cast (the beautiful Colleen Porch and Eureka's Ed Quinn are highlights). If you go into the film knowing that it's much more scaled back, as I did thanks to a Fangoria article, you might enjoy this one more than others. I haven't seen part 3 yet, but I am looking forward to it.