The opening sequence is as fiendish and twisted as they come. After he allegedly just 'wanted to kiss her', Eric Gorman (Atwill) blandly disposes of an admirer of his wife by stitching up his lips and leaving him behind in a dark jungle full of wild animals. Back in the US, the petrified wife still has plans to run off with another lover, but the diabolical Gorman uses the zoo to which he supplies exotic animals as a macabre disposal ground. In between, the hysterical Ruggles goofs around as the zoo's marketeer/PR-spokesperson who's afraid of animals. "Murders in the Zoo" benefices from several things, most notably the unpredictable script (you genuinely can't tell who will or won't survive), the classy cinematography of Oscar winner Ernest Haller and the bone-chilling performance of Lionel Atwill. This legendary underrated actor was an evil genius as Dr. Moriarty in "Hound of the Baskervillers" and a vicious psychopath in "Mystery of the Wax Museum", but he was never more terrifying as here in this 30s horror gem.
PS: I find it quite remarkable that I haven't read in any other reviews that these Entin twins strongly resemble Alexandra Daddario. Surely, I can't be the only person who thinks they look alike?
Alas, it quickly becomes abundantly clear that "the old Tim Burton" will never return. Admittedly "Dumbo" doesn't provide the subject matter to turn into dark fantasy tales and the film certainly does contain a few noteworthy and positive moments, but the problem lies deeper. It's a soulless film, utterly devoid of passion and the power of imagination. The entire thing is one giant and digitalized merry-go-round attraction and Burton's traditional personal touches are nowhere to be found. The potentially fascinating supportive characters (including ALL the circus artists) are wasted, the references towards the brilliant '41 original (the pink elephants sequence, the music and the little circus mouse) are seemingly thrown in because it was mandatory, and the primary moralizing messages (the ugly duckling variant and trust in oneself) have been replaced by imposed compulsory messages, like "Free all animals!" or criticism against large corporations that take over small but creative companies. Speaking of which, how hypocrite is the plot of Vandervere's mastodon theme park swallowing the traditional Medici circus and abruptly killing its creative employees? This is basically what Disney is doing with Star Wars, Marvel and even Tim Burton's persona. Are they predicting their entire imperium will eventually burn to the ground, maybe? "Dumbo" doesn't just solely exist of CGI-effects, it also appears to be directed by a computer or a CGI-machine instead of by a creative human being. And, judging by his numb and impassive performance here, Colin Farrell clearly thought so as well.
But hey, I can't finish my review without acknowledging that my darling daughter joyously cheered and shouted each time when the cute little elephant flew around the circus tent, and admittedly that sight also sent modest shivers down my spine.
Condition #1: without producer Irwin Allen, there wasn't a budget for special effects and thus no movie. "Fire!" is a TV-production, so obviously it's less spectacular than its distant fiery cousin "The Towering Inferno", but the flames, set-pieces and cinematography look very realistic (and superior to "Flood!") quite good, so I'll give it a full point. Condition #2: all disaster movies star one major star (Charlton Heston and Paul Newman were prime choices) and a long list of "secondary" stars (like Ernest Borgnine, Leslie Nielsen...). I am going to be very generous here and award the full point again. For reasons linked to the TV-movie status, there isn't a major star, but Ernest Borgnine rises to the top as a genuine hero, and the list of secondary stars is nevertheless long and impressive: Vera Miles, Patty Duke, Donna Mills, Alex Cord, Erik Estrada, Neville Brand, ... Condition #3: The characters are usually split into two camps with completely opposite ideals and/or initiatives. This condition, on the other hand, isn't applicable here. The little town of Silverton is exposed to a humongous forest fire, ignited by a convict as part of a more elaborate escape plan, and there isn't a chance for anyone to deny the fire's existence or to minimalize the impact. "Fire!" is one of the rare 70s disaster movies where all the characters work together to battle the inferno. Condition #4: Regardless what type of disaster we're dealing with, variants of the exact same perilous situations are always applicable. Pass, for sure! We have little girls gone missing during the local school's field trip, wind and weather conditions that continue complicating the working conditions and doctors that can't provide medical care because their car nearly crashes into a bear! Condition #5: always remember that, when the situation appears to be at its worst, it can and will still get even worse! For this condition, "Fire!" scores a lot better than its companion "Flood!". The rescue helicopter crashes down, the mountaintop lodge that initially serves as safe harbor nevertheless still threatens to go down in flames, dumb kids lock themselves into their rooms and certain people become forced to heroically sacrifice themselves in order to safe the others. There's one hopeful little moment, however, when a cute and furry little bunny miraculously gets rescued by fire chief Gene Evans.
If we sum it up, "Fire!" scores 4 out of 5 on rating scale for 70s disaster movies! Make no mistake, though, as this is only an indicator to state that the film qualifies as fantastic entertainment with all the joyous clichés and stereotypes represented! Skeptical film fanatics are likely to disdain the film for all the exact same reasons!
The synopsis is grotesque and cheesy, but at the same time vastly intriguing. An unorthodox scientist lures a beautiful prostitute to his cabinet for different services than what she usually offers. Via hypnosis, he sends her to back to medieval times, to one of her previous lives as an innocent but condemned witch awaiting her execution. She escapes from the prison dungeon and then desperately attempts to prove she isn't a witch and avoid a bloody death via the executioner's axe. During her journey she meets many strange people, friendly ones and foes, and she also learns that her adventure threatens to alter the course of history forever. I have literally seen thousands of horror movies, but I'm genuinely astounded by the ingenuity of this one! The script is chock-full of neat, often only semi-processed ideas, and several of the themes were quite progressive for their time, like experimental hypnosis and reincarnation (inspired by the Bridey Murphy story). Roger Corman finds an apt balance between morbidity and comedy, and many of the performances are memorable. Pamela Duncan and Allison are beautiful and talented, Richard Devon is an archetypic Satan and Mel Welles is so terrific as Smolkin, the grave digger, that he honestly deserved his own spin-off series! I was impressed by "The Undead" throughout its entire running time, but I still I was hesitating between a rating 6 or 7 because there are nevertheless a lot of defaults. Upon witnessing the final and truly genius (yes, genius!!) end-twist, however, I knew for certain: this movie deserves at least an 8/10. Trust me, it's really good!
Condition #1: without producer Irwin Allen, there wasn't a budget for special effects and thus no movie. Well, Allen was the producer of "Flood", but it's a made-for-TV film and hence the budget was significantly smaller than in, say, "The Towering Inferno" or "The Poseidon Adventure". Still, for a TV-film, it's looking quite good, so I'll give it 0,5 points. Condition #2: all disaster movies star one major star (Charlton Heston and Paul Newman were prime choices) and a long list of "secondary" stars (like Ernest Borgnine, Leslie Nielsen...). Another 0,5 points scored here. For reasons linked to the TV-movie status, there isn't a major star, but the list of secondary stars is nevertheless long and impressive: Robert Culp, Barbara Hershey, Richard Basehart, Cameron Mitchell, Roddy McDowall, Francine York, Teresa Wright, ... Condition #3: The characters are usually split into two camps with completely opposite ideals and/or initiatives. Oh, definitely the case here! The little Oregon fishing town of Brownsville is recovering after weeks of heavy rainfall and storm winds. Local entrepreneurs Steve and Paul are persuaded that the ecologically built dam will burst and drown the entire town, whereas the stubborn mayor irresponsibly keeps proclaiming that the dam will hold. Who do you think is right? Full point! Condition #4: Regardless what type of disaster we're dealing with, variants of the exact same perilous situations are always applicable. Yes, but limited. We have 9-months-pregnant women trapped in their homes, missing children and elderly women sacrificing themselves to rescue others, but that's about it. 0.75 points! Condition #5: always remember that, when the situation appears to be at its worst, it can and will still get even worse! I'm not handing out a point here. There aren't any sharks or piranhas coming along with the flood, the central hospital doesn't collapse, or the helicopter doesn't crash. So, theoretically speaking, Brownsville could be worse off.
All this adds up to a proper 2.75 rating, meaning "Flood!" is a recommendable and engaging disaster movie IF you are already familiar with the genre and if you are relatively tolerant. In case you seek pure blockbuster-fun, better stick to the mastodons of the era, like "Towering Inferno", "Earthquake" or the "Airport"-series.
PS: I'm still waiting for news on Roddy McDowall's character! Did he make it?
Why does everybody hate this film so much? Simple, because a lot of people consider the Wes Craven original as sacred and inimitable, so the opinions were largely established already before they even saw the film. Remaking the classic "A Nightmare on Elm Street" is supposedly blasphemy, but let's be honest, most of the sequels and notably Craven's own and dreadful "New Nightmare" were far worse than this film!
The initial idea apparently was to make a prequel to the 1984 original. Makes sense, because the plot deep-dives a lot more into the persona of Freddy Krueger and his past as a (possible?) child molester at a kindergarten school. Naturally, and understandably, the producers couldn't resist recycling the still brilliant premise of a killer stalking his victims in their dreams, so it became a remake. You don't have to take my word on it, but "A Nightmare on Elm Street" has a lot of positive things going for it. For starters, it's an R-rated horror film and it is quite full of nasty murders and gritty set-pieces. Many horror remakes are softened in order to obtain a PG-13 rating and reach wider audiences, but this isn't the case here. The character of Freddy Krueger, as depicted by Jackie Earle Haley, is also a worthy successor to Robert Englund's iconic role. Perhaps Freddy's voice isn't as menacing as it used to be, but he's certainly intimidating and scary, and his facial makeover make-up is very good. I even daresay Freddy's burning wounds and facial scars are more realistic now. There's also a decent amount of suspense and the characters' deaths are often unpredictable and surprising, making this a for more enjoyable horror remake than I ever assumed it would be. Therefore, don't take the opinions of others for granted and discover for yourself whether this is a worthless horror remake or not!
I had to watch this film anyway, because I have a tremendous fondness for dystopian Sci-Fi fables from the 70s and 80s, and particularly for those that seem absurd on the surface but become more disturbing when you analyze them more profoundly! The idea of a hyper-violent sport that is controlled by corporate mastodons that have taken over the world-leadership, and in which the athletes can suffer extreme injuries or even face death, may seem absurd, ... but isn't this what Julius Caesar & C° already practiced in the ancient Rome with their Gladiators in the arenas? "Rollerball" is the type of thought-provoking but low-profile science-fiction that genuinely sends cold shivers down your spine because of its realism and plausibility. Humanity isn't enslaved by aliens or intelligent robots, we aren't driving around in flamboyant dune buggies in a post-apocalyptic wasteland and we aren't going to work on plantations on Mars. Instead, the futuristic bleakness is there because all-powerful, yet largely unseen corporate leaders, imposed restrictions upon society and they decide on what is supposedly good for us. In this environment, in 2018, the sole form of entertainment is a sport named Rollerball, but the company goes even as far as regulating the lives of the players. The absolute best player in the world, Jonathan E., learns that must retire at the height of his career. When he objects, even in the most polite and civilized methods, he rapidly learns that the companies don't tolerate free willpower.
The positive aspects, for starters, include that the action sequences in "Rollerball" are fantastic and exhilarating. Although I'm surely not familiar with all the specifics of this crazy sport, the battles between these Rollerballers are brute, bloody and relentless in a comic-book type of style. Norman Jewison also does a terrific job in maintaining the suspense and uncomfortable atmosphere throughout the entire film. The invisible corporate menace is omnipresent, and the companies' bleak ideologies are occasionally demonstrated via the brilliantly stoic performance of John Houseman. There are definitely flaws and missed opportunities as well, though. For example, it's a shame that the story solely focuses on James Caan's character and a few of his team mates, whereas it remains totally unclear how the dystopian society affects the regular, non-athletic masses. Also, and I do realize this isn't Jewison or the crew's fault, it's difficult to accept that the makers assumed that technology and equipment in 2018 would still look the same as they did in the 70s. The computers, telephones, motorcycles, household stuff and even the roller blades are ordinary pieces of 70s scenery, and thus they look extremely dated today. Still, "Rollerball" is great cinema that righteously earned a spot in my personal list of favorite dystopian Sci-Fi, alongside classics such as "Soylent Green", "Logan's Run", "Fahrenheit 451", "Z.P.G", ...
Here are some of the main story lines that feature in "Scum". The entire Tersago family, including Ronny's ex-wife and grandmother, are arrested after a sudden bust into their villa by the police. They have to let all of them go shortly after, except for son Wesley against whom there is substantial evidence that he committed murder. The role of Johnny De Mol is significantly smaller in this film as well as in the whole of season three. I know he has a loyal share of fans, but personally I think it's good because Wesley was the most annoying and misfit character of the franchise. During his short stay in prison, Ronny wrote a scenario for a Halloween-Easter themed musical that will likely boost up their financials and celebrity status again. During the big premiere, however, a feared Russian mafia boss show up to extract a vengeance that was still unsettled. Meanwhile, the entire family continues to stuff industrial amounts of cocaine up their noses, cheerfully visit prostitutes and betray one another.
Business as usual in the criminal clown industry...
"The Final Executioner" combines the contemporary overused post-apocalyptic concept with the (also numerously recycled) idea of hunting human beings for sheer entertainment value. In the apocalyptic wasteland that remained after an all-destructive nuclear explosion, direly illustrated through the same old stock-footage, there are basically just two types of people left alive. The uninfected elite and the infected trash. The elite permit themselves to rape, humiliate, hunt down and kill the infected survivors simply for fun and games. One man fights back, however, and when the elite viciously gang-rape and murder his girl right in front of him, he enlists the help of a former cop for his ultimate plan of revenge. I realize this sound cheesy and cliched enough to be entertaining, but for some incomprehensible reason Romolo Guerrieri ("Young, Violent & Dangerous", "The Sweet Body of Deborah") managed to make it very boring! There are too many long parts of sheer dullness, the lead villains aren't nearly freaky or maniacal enough and the supportive role of Woody Strode is sad and pathetic. The violence and bloodshed are tame and brief, whereas the rape sequence is too long and utterly provocative. There aren't any cool post-apocalyptic set-pieces, vehicles or gimmicks and hero William Mang tries too damn hard to look like Kurt Russell.
Just to illustrate: we watched "Werewolf" at the Brussels International Fantastic Film Festival, where the crowd is always loud, cheerful and where it's customary to sing during the film or shout funny remarks at the screen. This film managed, however, to shut up the crowd throughout practically the entire running time. Any film that accomplishes this at the BIFFF must have a powerful impact, I guarantee you.
"You Might be the Killer" is a fun and occasionally quite clever piece of throwback-horror full of the above mentioned 80s characteristics, but it nevertheless takes place in a present-day setting. The over-enthusiast head-counselor Sam invited all his fellow counselors to spend the weekend and prepare for the upcoming summer camp at the remote location. On the first evening, around the campfire, he narrates the local urban legend of a poor lumberjack who made an eerie mask and went on to kill his family and the entire village. His grave and the mask are supposedly buried somewhere on the camp grounds, so it's not too difficult to guess what happens next. The innovative aspect of "You Might be the Killer" is the narrative structure. When confronted with the first dead bodies piling up around him, Sam telephones his best friend and bona-fide horror nerd Chuck and, through retelling the bloody events that took place, they establish that Sam is probably the killer himself. Some ideas and gimmicks in the script are dire and overly cliched, like the body count indicator which has been done numerous times before, but others are quite inventive. With the non-stop phone conversation between Sam and Chuck, co-writer/director Brett Simmons at least (deliberately?) ignores one dreadful cliche already: there's always a phone-signal and the battery doesn't die. The gore is excellent, the killer's mask and preferred weapon are vintage slasher material and most of these unknown (to me, at least) actresses like Brittany S. Hall, Jenna Harve, Sarah Catherine Bellamy and Carol Jean Wells are drop dead gorgeous (pun intended)
The plot is fair but standard: a stereotypical loser in his late twenties, the kind that still hopes he will eventually make it as a rock star, joins his nephew's class on a field trip to the petting zoo to impress the boy's stunningly hot teacher Miss Caroline. During the day, zombies escape from a nearby military research facility and stumble their way to the zoo. Evidently, the selfish rock-musician will have to turn into a genuine hero to safeguard all children from the flesh-hungry living dead!
What I really appreciated about "Little Monsters" is that the comedy is primarily generated through the characters and via situational humor, instead of via cheap slapstick and over-the-top gore like in most "zomedies". The funniest parts of the film are even in the first half hour, when there isn't a zombie in sight yet and the story still centers on Uncle Dave taking care of his 5-year-old nephew and trying to win his girlfriend back. Another very imaginative aspect is that Miss Caroline (multi-talented beauty Lupita Nyong'o) spontaneously decides not to tell children that they are trapped in the middle of a zombie outbreak. Instead, she explains it's a sort of game and part of the excursion, which makes "Little Monsters" sort of the "La Vita È Bella/Life is Beautiful" of zombie movies.
Of course, "Little Monsters" does remain a derivative zombie flick and thus cannot escape the use of several dreadful cliches and idiotic twists. Sure, in a country as enormous as Australia, the military zone where they experiment with zombie viruses has to be located at less than 500 meters of a children's animal park! The zombie outbreak is the most random and unexplained one in history, by the way, but I don't mind that too much. You are also warmly invited to just accept that ravenous zombies are not capable to tear down a simple wooden gift shop, crawl through a gate with massive holes or apprehend the slowest driving tractor in the world. But the biggest and most irritating cliche that Forsythe included, and the only one that actually bothered me, was the character of Teddy McGiggle. We get it now: when in mortal danger, the masks of sympathetic celebrities fall off and they turn out to be loathsome, cowardly and egocentric bastards. Don't worry, though, as they always get what they deserve.
Delpard biggest scripting errors are that he reveals the macabre "secret" of Deadlock House too quickly, after 20 minutes already, and that he subsequently doesn't foresee any more victims, other than poor Nicole, to be led to the slaughter. For the remaining hour, "La Nuit de la Mort" solely thrives on sinister atmosphere and the genuine concern that something dreadful will happen to the mesmerizing Martine. It's not always enough, and certain parts of the film are boring and overdue (like Martine discovering Nicole's suitcase when she already knows that her disappearance was unusual). The extended finale features a few strong and unexpected plot twists and the gory make-up effects are really shocking for a low-budgeted 80s French flick. And, personally, I was happy enough to gaze at the ravishing Isabelle Goguey even during the duller moments. There's even a brief but wonderful topless scene. Did I mention already that this woman is a stunning natural beauty?
In good old Italian tradition, "Poliziotto Senza Paura" has a lot of alternate titles. I watched it as "Fearless Fuzz", but it's also known as "Magnum Cop", "Fearless", "Fatal Charm", "The Private Detective" and "A Matter of Honour". Despite several bad omens, like the comedy elements and recycled poster images, it is still an entertaining film that benefices from a solid plot and the presence of Joan Collins! To my knowledge, it's Diva Collins' only appearance in an Italian exploitation movie ever, but she does a terrific job and still looks astonishing as the 44-year-old stripper. Walter "Wally" Spada is a former cop now working as a financially struggling private detective. Austrian colleague Gaston Moschin subcontracts Wally to trace the runaway daughter of his wealthy businessman client, but the child is brutally kidnapped in front of him. Wally then travels to Austria himself, and via the related case of a murdered schoolgirl, he slowly uncovers a filthy network of teenage prostitution led by the owners of a sleazy nightclub. The first 10 minutes, as well as the final 15, are extremely compelling and chock-full of hard-boiled Poliziotesschi action. A few of the death sequences are unexpected and quite shocking and there are some clever plot twists. Unfortunately, the entire middle-section is too talkative and dull, and the non-stop, supposedly humorous gasconading between Merli and Moschin becomes irritating quite fast. Nevertheless, the more than decent score by the reliable Stelvio Cipriani and the above-average directing competences of Stelvio Massi contribute to making "Poliziotto Senza Paura" a recommendable viewing experience for fans of Italian 70s cult.
"The Mad Monk" is an amateurish, mid-80s Mexican film that is righteously obscure. It's shot on video, and director Julio Aldama practically did everything himself, including taking up the lead role and forcing his entire family to star as well. It's barely 75 minutes long and then still 30-40% of the running time is pure padding footage, like endless church organ playing and dull images of the Mexican countryside. The story is a sort of anthology, with two stories that are melodramatic rather than horrific. They are narrated by an insane monk, who's supposedly Satan himself and has an exaggeratedly over-the-top diabolical style of laughter. On the cover picture, it looks as if the monk has a creepy glass eye, but in the film, he is simply wearing an eye-patch in the shape of half an eggshell. The first tale revolves on a young soon-to-be priest, Father Martin, who meets again with a girl that he knew during his childhood. He madly falls in love with her and openly questions his calling, but when the girl chooses for another man, Father Martin goes berserk. The second tale introduces a financially struggling older couple. The husband receives a talisman that grants him three wishes, but he quickly learns that every wish has a nightmarish countereffect. "The Mad Monk" is a lousy effort, but still it must be mentioned that, essentially, the stories aren't bad. They just don't fit in a horror context.
Moreover, Gordon Green and Lee Curtis can say whatever they want; - in the end the new "Halloween" is also just a very prototypical and everyday horror sequel with dumb characters and extremely sadist annihilation. Fine by me, because I'm a slasher-fanatic, but then don't pretend you're better than the rest. And, for the record, I enjoyed every single and supposedly horrendous sequel in the "Halloween" series and even appreciated the widely exiled Rob Zombie remake.
The most interesting aspect of the film is that lead characters Laurie Strode and Michael Myers are 40 years older, meaning that cute babysitter Laurie is now a grandmother herself and Michael is, at 61, a sort of senior-citizen-serial-killer. That means he should apply for a discount card to travel by bus, rather than always having to kill the driver! Laurie led a miserable life, though, largely driven by fear and paranoia. She's trying to improve her relationships with estranged daughter Karen and granddaughter Allyson, but her isolated life-style and obsession with Michael returning to finish the feud complicate her attempts. When Old Mickey escapes, from a prison transport naturally, it turns out that he still has a fetish for hacking up babysitters. The intensity of the murders and the bloodshed in "Halloween" is terrific. They are sick and vile, and David Gordon Green often manages to adequately build up tension and atmosphere prior to the slaughters. The script, however, is very mundane and contains too many cliches and bad twists. Michael Myers is always nearby, and he easily finds his targeted victims, as if he has a build-in GPS system. The 2 podcasters are useless and irritating characters. Besides, since when is making stupid podcasts a good enough reason to be permitted to have access to the most dangerous serial killer of the country? Even more irritating and useless is the character of Myers' doctor Sartain, supposedly Dr. Sam Loomis' successor, for whom the script has an utterly ridiculous and implausible plot twist in store. The film's main message is that absolutely nothing has changed in forty years. Michael Myers is pure evil, like Donald Pleasance has been repeating since his very first murder at age 6.
The prologue introduces two 9-ish year old boys playing around in a forestry region. The smallest one is an irritating brat who commands the taller (and mentally underdeveloped) one to climb into a tree. He falls. After the opening credits, we are in the middle of a friends' weekend taking place in the country mansion of a continuously bickering couple. There aren't any proper character introductions or explanation on who these people are, though. In the film's absolute funniest scene, a really fat bloke just steps out of his car, throws off his clothes whilst crossing the garden and jumps into the pool. After that, everyone simply gets butchered by a savage maniac who turns out to be the dim-witted kid from the prologue (you can recognize him by his one missing eye).
Simply put, "Trhauma" is unimaginably bad! There isn't the slightly sign of tension-building, character development or coherence in the script. Due to the nonexistent budget, the murder sequences either occur off-screen or look very pitiable. If I would have to give an explanation on why this movie is still somewhat seen as a cult gem, it's probably because of two minor aspects: 1) there's a repulsive and 100% gratuitous necrophilia sequence and (2) the maniac killer still is the marionette of the same bully kid who rewards the murders with Lego boxes! The acting, directing, editing and cinematography are horrendous, but do stick around just in case in you are interested in witnessing the most moronic ending in horror history.