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The Mutilator (1984)
6/10
The epitome of 80s Slasher-cinema!
12 November 2018
This isn't my first review for "The Mutilator", in fact. I wrote one in 2004 already, but after reviewing the film (in far superior picture quality) last weekend, I decided to delete my previous comment and write a new one. Partially because my writing style was quite amateurish and embarrassing in 2004, but primarily because my rating and judgement for this slasher favorite were far too low and negative. "The Mutilator" pretty much emphasizes why we love horror slashers, those of the 1980s in particular! Maybe I'm embittered by the lack of quality and entertainment value in nowadays horror movies, but I feel that the spontaneity and cheesiness of films like "The Mutilator" deserve better ratings and more appreciation.

The joyfulness already begins with the director's name (Buddy Cooper) and the catchy opening credits song "Fall Break". Oh yes, "The Mutilator" is straightforward, unhinged and sheer entertainment! It was the early 80's and anyone capable to come up with a nasty title and a handful of dollars was given the freedom to produce a slasher. Buddy invented the title "The Mutilator" and made his lifelong dream come true. Good for you, Buddy! The whole thing doesn't make much sense, as the intro depicts how a young boy accidentally shoots his mother in the back on his father's birthday. It's supposed to drive the father crazy, but all he does is remain stoically calm and pour himself a drink. Several years later the father asks Ed Jr. to go up to their family beach house and close it for the summer. Considering it's also fall break, Ed and his friends, six dim-witted teenagers in total, see this as the ideal occasion to spend a little holiday. Little do they know, of course, that Ed Sr. arranged for his son to come to the cabin and kill him. Now lucky Big Edhas six teenagers to annihilate! "The Mutilator" is full of memorably nonsensical moments, like nude swimming parties, dull games of Monopoly and endless supplies of beer coming out of the rustiest refrigerator you'll ever see. The acting performances are stupendously terrible; - most notably the tall blond guy and the obligatory practical joker-guy. Our over-enthusiast director Buddy Cooper also knows all the cliches and he's not afraid to use them! Virgins have a fair chance to survive ordeals like these and the killer's dead body will have vanished when you turn on the car's headlights! Finally, the obvious reason to adore a film like "The Mutilator" are the vile and uncompromisingly gross slaughtering methods, as well as the unsubtle and explicit make-up effects. Apart from a couple of commonplace murders, executed with pitchforks or shiny axes, this genre gem features a rather unique speedboat-engine kill and a truly cringing scene involving a fishing hook and a young lady's lower regions. Auch!
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4/10
Have you watered your plants today? Or said something nice to them, at least?
9 November 2018
The world of horror/occult cinema is a wonderfully unpredictable place. I have been a horror fanatic for almost my entire life and I daresay that I have seen practically everything. I saw cannibal tribes devouring innocent people, serial killers painfully tormenting their agonizing victims and even I even watched babies getting impaled on spikes. None of these sights ever shocked or frightened me, though, but the simple alternate title and poster image of this obscure & low-budgeted thriller, I find strangely unnerving and eerie. "The Plants are Watching", and then the image of a tipped over plant next to the lifeless hand of a woman. You must admit that is somewhat uncanny, no? Well, I certainly think so.

"The Kirlian Witness", which is the official title, also brings forward some very original and intriguing themes but - unfortunately - it's too much of a poorly produced and amateurish effort to be entertaining. With better production values and slightly more competent cast & crew members, I'm sure this could have been a modest cult gem, but now it's destined to remain an obscure oddity for avid collectors. The idea of communicating with plants, and even depend on them as witnesses of vile crimes like murder, may sound foolish but actually it's quite compelling and suspenseful (given that the screenplay is better elaborated than here). Laurie is an introvert girl, obsessed with botanical flora and persuaded it's possible to telepathically communicate with plants. She's found murdered on the rooftop of her apartment complex one day, and since writer/director Jonathan Sarno could only afford Lawrence Tierney one single day for a cameo appearance as the Police Detective, it's up to Laurie's sister Rilla to identify the killer herself. Since there are only two main suspects, and one of them obviously did not do it, the script isn't exactly compelling or exciting. In fact, "The Kirlian Witness" is a painfully tedious film that only exists of lame conversations between 3 terrible actors and an endless amount of shots of Sansevierias hooked onto seismograph devices. There's one moment of spectacle, when someone makes a nasty fall down an elevator shaft, but that's also over in the blink of an eye. I'm giving it a generous rating 4/10, because I still very much like the main idea and because of the little shiver the title gave me, but it sadly can't be recommended.
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The Gallows (2015)
2/10
Hang 'Em High. ALL of them!
8 November 2018
I lost count of the number of times that I swore to myself not to watch any more of these lousy "found-footage" horror flicks, and yet I keep making the same mistake over and over again. I really should follow my own advice, though. After all, there's only one truly genius found-footage movie (that would be "Cannibal Holocaust") and just a few that are remotely worthwhile (like "REC", "The Bay" or "The Borderlands"). And yes, I'm fully aware that I'm not including so-called masterpieces like "The Blair Witch Project" or "Cloverfield" because they are, in fact, rubbish! "The Gallows" is even worse than rubbish; - an utterly boring and amateurish effort with an uninteresting story, loathsome lead characters and shaky camera movements that are possibly even more irritating than in every other found-footage movie ever made. Is there seriously anyone curious to learn the history of a geek who accidentally died 20 years ago during the performance of a high-school play. No? Too bad, because that's what "The Gallows" is about. In the same school in middle-of-nowhere Nebraska, new geeks are rehearsing for the same play in which poor Charlie got hung in front of a full theater. For some unclear reason, however, supposedly cool but dumb kids intend to wreck the scenery and decors in the night before the big premiere. They quickly come to regret it, of course, as Charlie's ghost haunts the school hall and clearly wants his tribute to take place. The routine of these zero-budgeted "found footage" movies is overly familiar by now. Nothing happens until the final five minutes, except maybe a couple of blurry ghost-apparitions. Then we get some vague and unidentifiable action-shots and a bit of hysterical shrieking, and then it's finished. What makes "The Gallows" even more unendurable is that the lead characters are beyond stupid, and the school setting is so damn dull and customary. Other found-footage movies suck too, but at least they are set in abandoned asylums, desecrated churches or whatever. I'm generously giving one additional point because Cassidy Gifford is pretty to stare at for as long as she doesn't talk too much.
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The Calling (2014)
6/10
Hi, my name is Simon and I'm collecting souls! Care to donate?
7 November 2018
Yours truly is a major sucker for (serial) murder stories set in small town locations, so "The Calling" already appeared on my radar when it first got released. I nevertheless patiently waited until it aired on television, because I was quite wary regarding the involvement of giant Hollywood names. Famous actors and actresses undoubtedly add quality and prestige to a thriller (especially if these are veteran names like Susan Sarandon, Ellen Burstyn and Donald Sutherland), but too often it's also an indication that the film might be "softer" and more restricted in terms of explicit violence, rawness and shocks. "The Calling" indeed isn't a film for gore or smut seekers, alas, but it still is a more than adequate effort thanks to the compelling plot, the efficient use of sets and scenery and - of course - the beautifully integer performances. It's been a while since I watched a good serial killer movie set within the sinister world of Catholicism, and I recommend "The Calling" to people who like convoluted, absorbing and well-structured stories. Remarkably enough, police chief Hazel Micallef (Sarandon) and her team (including Topher Grace and Gill Bellows) don't have too much trouble discovering the identity of the murderer, but the mystery is merely emerging from his patterns, modus operandi and motivations. The stoic and intelligent killer, named Simon, leaves a vague (and admittedly far-fetched) trail on the faces of his victims that leads to an ancient theological poem in Latin. Revealing the meaning of this poem would give away too many spoilers, but let's just state that Simon is (or, at least, considers himself to be) a sort of prophet with a - titular - calling. Debuting director Jason Stone's pacing balances between atmospheric and dull, with sadly too many slow parts and too much dialog. There's hardly any action, but a good portion of suspense is provided by the performance of Christopher Heyerdahl as the odd but menacing killer. It's praiseworthy for a relatively unknown actor to stand out in such an ensemble cast.
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Hellions (2015)
4/10
How about a purple and pink Halloween?
6 November 2018
Yours truly is a diehard horror fanatic, but also a sucker for mushy traditions. During the Christmas period I seek out holiday-horror with psychotic Santa's or demonic elves, and on All Hallows' Eve I like to stay in theme as well. And, since you can't watch John Carpenter's "Halloween" every year, it's good to have some alternatives. "Hellions" isn't nearly as good or entertaining as, say, "Trick 'r Treat" or "Tales of Halloween", but I'm nevertheless glad that I watched a genuine Halloween flick with spooky seasonal decoration, gruesome costumes and lots & lots of pumpkins! Perhaps I'm being too generous here, as I was in a festive mood, but I think "Hellions" is a solid film for a mere two-thirds of the running time. Bruce McDonald, director of the - in my humble opinion - heavily overrated "Pontypool", creates an ideally sinister atmosphere and comes up with an efficiently unsettling premise. The rebellious but troubled 16-year-old Dora Vogel finds out she's pregnant, so she's pondering alone at her house while the rest of her family goes out trick or treating. Eerie kids with seriously terrifying masks and outfits soon come knocking at her door, but these little monsters aren't satisfied with regular candy. They want Dora's unborn baby, and anyone who tries to protect her won't survive the night! The set-up of the plot is great, the little demon-kids look petrifying and Chloë Rose is a persuasive young actress. So far so good, but admittedly Bruce McDonald has no idea where his surreal storylines are going or how to lead everything towards a credible finale. The skies over Dora's isolated little town suddenly color purple and pink, along with various other surreal and inexplicably bizarre phenomena, which causes us to suspect that McDonald tries to cover for the lack of content and/or continuity with visual distractions. Nice try, but horror fans really aren't as dumb as some people think, you know! I'll remember it for the handful of authentic frights, but "Hellions" definitely won't become a cult classic.
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6/10
The TV is always right!
1 November 2018
This curious new Brit-horror effort starts out as a dead-serious, disturbing and paranoid Sci-Fi story, but gradually turns into an absurd and surreal but nevertheless still extremely bleak and gritty splatter flick. Of course, I would have preferred that it remained serious, but I can also accept that it would have been an extremely challenging task to come up with a plausible and intelligent denouement. So, instead, they merely went for the David Cronenbergian kind of body-horror, expanded with exaggerated dysfunctional family clichés and Northern Yorkshire racism. On Christmas Eve, Nick and his Indian girlfriend Annji reluctantly visit Nick's family for the first time in three years. Tensions quickly arise, and the couple decide to sneak out early the next morning to escape the racist innuendo of Nick's sister Kate, the nasty remarks of granddad and the overall dictatorship of his father Tony. The house is hermitically sealed off, however, with an unknown but unbreakable black substance covering all doors and windows. The TV-set in on, displaying short & sober messages like "Stay indoors and await further instructions". The father is persuaded that some sort of national crisis broke out and that they should strictly obey the messages on TV, but Nick and Annji openly question the source of the transmissions. The "instructions" on the TV quickly become far-fetched, and the decisions taken by the family members even more so, but at least director Johnny Kevorkian maintains a fast pacing and an unsettling atmosphere, and there's plenty of action at regular intervals. The third act is completely bonkers plot-wise, but the special effects are terrific and the make-up art is gruesome and quite often petrifying. "Await Further Instructions" may not be a masterpiece, or even a future cult gem, but it's definitely an unpredictable and extravagant Sci-Fi/horror experiment that keeps you glued to the screen.
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Summer of 84 (2018)
6/10
The 1980s called, they want their...um...never mind!
1 November 2018
Hit series like "Stranger Things" and blockbuster films like "It" didn't launch the trend of retro-eighties horror, they merely just popularized the phenomenon. Clever and nostalgic horror directors have been making 80s throwbacks for almost a decade now, primarily slashers, and quite frankly I can't blame them! Everything was so much better and simpler in the 1980s, including making a scary movie. Kids were naive instead of arrogant, they hung out in the streets rather than behind their computers and life wasn't made extra complicated by stuff like the Internet or mobile phones. Kids purely relied on their imagination and instincts to experience adventures, which is the starting premise of "Summer of 84". The film poster and reputation are actually quite misleading, as this story isn't horror. "Summer of 84" is more reminiscent to decade milestones like "The Goonies", "Explorers" or "Stand by Me"; - in other words: a light-headed and easily digestible 'coming of age' adventure with young adolescents collaborating to unravel a sinister mystery. Based on the picture of a missing child on a milk carton, the dreamy Davey Armstrong suspects that his neighbor, Mr. Mackey, is a notorious serial killer and persuades his 3 inseparable pals to unmask him. Only problem, however, Mackey is a respectable police officer and all their attempts to shadow him or dig up evidence lead nowhere. The talented directors' trio, previously responsible for the modest cult hit "Turbo Kid", tried very hard to pen down a compelling and suspenseful screenplay. They largely succeeded but forgot to consider pacing and the occasional moment of action. It's all very interesting, but there's nothing concrete happening until the last 10-15 minutes. The climax is decent but predictable and not nearly courageous enough. Provided that the denouement was grittier and more dauntless, "Summer of 84" could have been fantastic, now it's just slightly above average.
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The Ranger (2018)
4/10
Take nothing but pictures. Leave nothing but footprints. Kill nothing but irritating punk kids!
1 November 2018
I added "The Ranger" straight to my watchlist, because I instantly liked the premise of a psychopathic National Park Ranger. Some of the best slashers of the 1980s took place in the backwoods, but the killers were always toothless rednecks or cannibalistic inbred families, so this could have been an interesting and original new angle, especially because the film (like so many others nowadays) supposedly also takes place in the 80s. But alas, "The Ranger" never fully lives up to its potential despite the cool titular killer and an adequate performance by Jeremy Holm, and that's principally because co-writer/director Jenn Wexler is seemingly more interested in a bunch of pathetic punkers and atrocious loud music than in atmosphere or scenery. Running from the police after an idiotic and unnecessary incident at a punk club, five vexatious teenagers seek shelter in a cabin in the middle of a National Park. One of them, the introvert Chelsea, spent much of her childhood vacations here with her uncle, and her own dark secrets from the past gradually come back to the surface. Meanwhile, the psychopathic Park Ranger ensures that Chelsea's disrespectful and arrogant friends receive the excruciatingly painful deaths they deserve. "The Ranger" is a textbook and thus unmemorable slasher that sadly doesn't make proper use of the locations, the villain, the numerous potential slash-methods or the 80s setting. The grim film poster remains by far the best asset of the entire production.
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Mandy (I) (2018)
6/10
I never realized how psycho you made me, oh Mandy.
1 November 2018
Five days after watching "Mandy" at a charming little genre festival in my home country, I only established one thing so far: that it's a damn difficult movie to review! Admittedly I also didn't watch "Mandy" the way it is 'supposed to' be watched. All I ever read about this film is how it's an experimental, abstract, trippy and even artistic masterwork, but yours truly simply and desperately wanted to see a straightforward and outrageously violent revenge flick with a completely derailed Nicolas Cage in one of the best roles of his career.

And thus, I did! Throughout the entire second half, "Mandy" is a fantastically absurd, blood-soaked, blackly comical and bizarrely intense horror delight, and that's what I primarily want to remember! This means, of course, that I found the first hour often tedious (with incomprehensibly muttered lines by Andrea Riseborough), pretentious (most notably the animated sequences) and surreal just for the sake of being surreal. Quite frankly, I didn't understand one iota about where those Cenobite bikers came from or what was the significance of that Seraph with his tiger. What I did understand, and loved, was that Cage's manly and robust lumberjack character goes bonkers when a clique of Jesus freaks kidnap and kill his beloved muse Mandy, so he manufactures himself a giant shiny axe and heads out for a massacre! The violence is masterfully choreographed and delightfully explicit, Cage unleashes his acting demons for 200% and the Jóhannsson soundtrack is truly unique.
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Cruise Into Terror (1978 TV Movie)
3/10
Featuring the, hands down, lamest and most pathetic "shark attack" sequence in the history of lame and pathetic shark attacks!
26 October 2018
"Cruise into Terror" comes with my warmest possible recommendation, but only in the unlikely event that you are deliberately looking for an occult thriller/horror film that is chock-full of utter nonsense! This made-for-television flick, produced by Aaron Spelling, contains so much senseless and imbecilic drivel that it's almost impossible to write a summary; - but here is an attempt anyway! The scenario raises the theory that the Ancient Egyptians discovered Mexico, and that they even laid the foundations for the Mayan culture. I tell you, it requires an experienced actor with a stoic and motionless straight face like Ray Milland to daresay claptrap like that! Furthermore, they want us to believe that the Antichrist (yes, the son of Satan) travels in a midget-sarcophagus from the US to Mexico and that there are pyramid tombs at the bottom of the ocean. Why drag in Satan and his offspring when you're dealing with Ancient Egyptians, by the way? What's wrong with bloodthirsty mummies, vengeful pharaohs or malignant Egyptian deities? So, 12 people are floating around on a ramshackle, retired cruise liner supposedly because the much better boat was overbooked. On board we meet a stereotypical group of travelers, including a reverend struggling with his beliefs (how very "Poseidon Adventure"), an estranged couple, two party girls, nagging women, an obsessive old scientist, a hunky deck officer/technician, a melancholic captain and a disposable black guy. Oh, and there's also a black cat. That's always a good idea to have on board of a cursed voyage! When they stumble upon the sarcophagus, most of the greedy passengers want to sell it to a museum and make money out of it, but the reverend insists to destroy it due to its unholy content. Just another exciting day on board of Aaron Spellings' secondhand Love Boat! The pacing is intolerably slow, and you can certainly tell it's a TV-movie by the complete lack of excitement or bloodshed. Whenever director Bruce Kessler does try to insert a bit of action, he fails miserably. Prime examples are the laughable cabin fire, where people simply stand motionless in between supposedly raging flames and the legendary dumb (to me, at least) shark attack. I know a thing or two about sharks, and this specimen is an average-sized Blue Shark. This species is almost entirely harmless and hardly what you can call menacing. There have been a few cases of Blue Sharks attacking humans, but they barely cause any damage. You also don't need to be an expert to see that the footage was added in separately. What tremendous good performances of the ensemble cast for looking so genuinely terrified at nothing!
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Death Cruise (1974 TV Movie)
4/10
Where's aunt Agatha when you need her?
23 October 2018
A whodunit mystery set on an inescapable and claustrophobic location, victims that were lured there with the cheap excuse of having won a lottery and an unseen assailant marking off the faces of a photograph each time he/she makes another kill. Hmm, that all sounds vaguely familiar. Could it be we're watching an inferior and less inspired knock-off of the almighty Agatha Christie's "And then there were None"? Set on the luxurious cruise liner that producer Aaron Spelling borrowed from other series "The Love Boat", "Death Cruise" is a rather tame and predictable, but nevertheless endurable TV-movie attempt to cash in on the contemporary tremendous success of typical Agatha Christie murder whodunits with impressive cast lists and excessively convoluted plot twists. The differences here are that the actors and actresses' names aren't too spectacular, and neither are the red herrings, the murder methods or the denouement. Someone is rudely interrupting the holidays of thee married couples by, well, murdering them! Each couple struggles with a relationship crisis, however, and they seemingly were all together once before in Atlanta, Georgia, in 1970. The ship's doctor (Michael Constantine) decides to put on his Hercule Poirot moustache and investigate! The script can't hold a candle to any of Agatha Christie's writings, as the final revelations are fairly obvious and not so waterproof. Everything else has written "made-for-TV" written all over it, like wooden performances and off-screen killings. If you want to see solid mysteries set on a vessel, seek for Christie's "Death on the Nile" or the fabulous "The Last of Sheila".
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Karloff the Greek versus the Plague
18 October 2018
Although not nearly playing in the same league as some of Val Lewton's other horror productions for RKO Radio, like the stupendous "Cat People" or "The Body Snatcher", "Isle of the Dead" is nevertheless still an extremely atmospheric chiller with a solid plot and a few moments of unforgettable fright! Set in Greece during the final months of the Balkan Wars in 1912, the film stars the almighty Boris Karloff as the relentless, cruel and excessively disciplined General Nicholas Pherides. He gets trapped on a small cemetery island, together with six others, when there's a sudden outbreak of the plague. Pherides stoically insists that they must remain quarantined on the island, in order not to contaminate his soldier troops on the mainland. As the number of survivors shrinks, the superstitious housemaid hints that maybe it isn't the plague that is killing them, but instead the mythological Greek vampire creature known as Vorvolaka. She gradually even persuades Pherides that the local beauty Thea potentially forms a much bigger threat than the plague! The atmosphere is non-stop unsettling and bleak, but the undeniable highlights of the film involve a cataleptic woman in combination with a premature burial. The scenes in which the poor woman awakes and finds herself entombed, as well as the footage of her meandering around the island at night in a white gown are truly nightmarish. Mark Robson is clearly a less talented director than Robert Wise or Jacques Tourneur, but Boris Karloff carries the film effortlessly. The rest of the cast is unfortunately rather wooden, and it's a crying shame that the role of the naturally born uncanny Skelton Knaggs is so small.
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Obsession (1976)
4/10
Exactly whose "Obsession" are we talking about here?
18 October 2018
Wait, I'm confused here. Exactly to whom is the titular "Obsession" referring to? I suppose it hints at protagonist Michael Courtland's firm believe that a young student-painter is the reincarnation of his beloved wife who got killed during a kidnapping. Granted, Courtland always stares rather eerily at the much younger Sandra and he's quite hasty to marry her, but he isn't *that* obsessed. I'm afraid that our director, Brian De Palma, suffers from a much bigger and more pitiable obsession, namely with the oeuvre of Alfred Hitchcock and perhaps even also with the desire to be seen as the Master of Suspense's ultimate successor! It's downright astounding how De Palma, with a little bit of help of writer Paul Schrader, blatantly copies "Vertigo", and borrows elements and ideas from other Hitchcock classics. In other words, there are several amazingly choreographed scenes and brilliantly unique camera angles in "Obsession", but we all know that virtuoso photography alone doesn't still make a good movie! This film has, at least as far as I'm considered, three major problems. In order from least to most irritating, they are: acting, lack of genre and pacing. Cliff Robertson is quite alright, but Genevière Bujold and especially John Lithgow are intolerably bad. Luckily there are only three lead characters in the film. I personally even don't understand how Lithgow still got assignments after this! "Obsession" is presented as a thriller, but the themes and subject matter honestly don't lend themselves for a suspense thriller. Throughout 95% of the running time, "Obsession" feels like a melodrama, and a truly dull one to boot. It only turns into a thriller with predictable revelations and perverted denouements during the last handful of minutes. Finally, the film is just too damn slow! The story already isn't very interesting, but the excruciatingly tame pace makes it even less endurable.
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1/10
Oh boy, that's a mighty big goldfish!
15 October 2018
I think it's safe to state that I never, in my entire life, tried so desperately hard to like a movie; - yet failed. "The Neptune Factor" stood on my must-see since many years because there were several indicators looking positive and promising. I love adventure/disaster movies from the 70s. I worship films with aquatic monsters, regardless of how trashy and cheesy they look. Heck, I'm even on a personal mission to track down every single movie in which Ernest Borgnine starred. Well, if I'll ever achieve something in this lifetime, I sincerely hope it's discouraging other people to watch this piece of dreck! The simple and honest truth is that "The Neptune Factor" is a film of monumental, unsurpassable and indescribable dullness! I still don't fathom how the story of a deep-sea rescue mission, for a manned research lab lost due falling into an ocean floor crack following an earthquake, can possibly be this boring, and yet I just witnessed it with my own eyes. These people are supposedly racing against the clock to save their friends and colleagues' lives, so the very last things I expect are 10,000 scenes moving at sea-snail pace or characters endlessly looking at each other and sipping coffee. After a full hour of infuriating and talkative tedium, the four-headed submarine finally descends into the unexplored abyss and you subconciously develop a tiny bit of hope that the film might improve. Alas, "The Neptune Factor" instead becomes even more pitiable and imbecilic, because director Daniel Petrie begs us to believe that optically enlarged and utterly harmless sea animals (sea horses, anemones and even a god-damn goldfish) are viciously lurking, bloodthirsty monsters. How retarded do they think we are? Not even Walt Disney movies dared to pull this off! And as for you, Mr. Borgnine, I'm sorely disappointed!
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Assassination (1987)
5/10
What's deadlier than Charles Bronson? Charles Bronson with a bazooka!
12 October 2018
Here's a fictional but potentially possible piece of dialogue between Charles Bronson and his agent like it could have taken place prior to filming "Assassination" in 1987. Agent: "Hey Charlie, they asked for you to do yet another numeric and insignificant action movie. This time you'll be a Presidential bodyguard. Are you up for it?". Charles Bronson: "Sure. I'm only 64 years old. I'm still fit and plausible enough to pass for a bodyguard". Agent: "Awesome, Charlie. Cross-reading the script, it'll be something with plenty of action by land, by sea and in the air!". Charles Bronson: "Sure. I'm only 64 years old. I'm still fit and plausible enough to crash motorcycles, steer jet skis, fire off bazookas and jump from helicopters". Agent: "Great! And you know what? Your character fools around with a hot young Asian babe and eventually even the Presidents' wife will fall for you". Charles Bronson: "Sure. I'm only 64 years old. I'm still fit and plausible enough to pass for a viral and hunky stud". Agent: "You're the man, Charlie!".

Please don't misinterpret the feeble attempt at humor written directly here above! I truly do worship Charles Bronson, and even if he would have made a hundred lousy action movies more during his career, I probably would have watched those hundred lousy action movies as well! Fact remains, however, that during the 80s, Bronson exclusively appeared in excessively violent but routine action vehicles that are long-forgotten and look heavily dated by now. "Assassination" (even the title is unremarkable) isn't an exception despite being directed by a former James Bond guy (Peter "On Her Majesty's Secret Service" Hunt) and featuring a handful of impressively staged stunt sequences. Bronson's character Jay "Killy" Killian gets assigned to protect the flamboyant new First Lady, who has the reputation of being a difficult and insufferable shrew. This initially feels like a degradation for an experienced veteran like Killian, but he rapidly turns out to be the right man for the job, as the notorious terrorist/hit man Eddie Bracken is on a mission to kill her. "Assassination" delivers in terms of straightforward an action-packed entertainment, with plenty of virulent chases and numerous explosions, but the plot is predictable, and Charlie too obviously acts on automatic pilot. At least I hope he enjoyed being able to fire off bazookas, because the rest of his stunts were clearly performed by much younger men. For Jill Ireland, Bronson's wife and frequent co-star, "Assassination" was the last film. She died from breast cancer in 1990, at age 54.
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The Lost Boys (1987)
6/10
The 80s called. But only to state they are still inimitable!
11 October 2018
It's actually very relevant to watch or re-watch a film like "The Lost Boys" in 2018, because we're currently at the heights of an era where horror stories taking place in (or bringing homage to) the 1980s are tremendously popular. Thanks to the success of shows like "Stranger Things" and movies like "It", almost every young and aspiring horror director wants his/her film to play in the eighties and feature that indescribably joyous atmosphere. Can't blame them, of course, because everything really was a lot better and much simpler back then. But anyways, it's films like "The Lost Boys" that truly make you realize that all these nowadays attempts to recreate the 80s will always just remain pathetic wannabes. Nothing, and I really do mean NOTHING, can beat the spirit and the vibes of an authentic 80s horror movie, and "The Lost Boys" is a stellar example to prove so. It's difficult to put into words what the exact differences are, but if you're old enough to have witnessed cinema in this era, or if you're a genuine fan of the horror genre, you'll definitely know what I mean.

By this tirade, I certainly don't intend to claim that "The Lost Boys" is a masterpiece of horror. On the contrary, I even think it's quite overrated and that many people only regard it so dearly because they saw it upon its initial release and thought it was the hippest, freshest and coolest product since Coca Cola Light (or Diet Coke, depending where you are from). Following a few script-rewrites, "The Lost Boys" allegedly changed from a vampire version of Peter Pan (with child protagonists) to a Californian pop-culture vampire flick with teenage and adolescent protagonists. Whatever it is supposed to be, director Joel Schumacher fools around with all the traditional vampire trademarks and puts them down as nihilistic biker punks with flamboyant hairdos and party animal lifestyles. Hence the legendary tagline "Sleep all day. Party all night. Never grow old. Never die. It's fun to be a vampire". The vampires' haven is the beach community of Santa Carla, where the town's carnival remains open 365 days per year and excessively oiled muscular saxophone players give away free open-air concerts. Santa Carla is nevertheless known as the murder capital of the US, as illustrated by the hundreds of "missing children" posters hanging all over town. We're supposed to assume that head vampire David (Kiefer Sutherland in an iconic role) and his gang are responsible for all these disappearances, but we actually don't ever see them murdering or abducting any victims. The main plot revolves on two brothers, Michael and Sam, moving to Santa Carla with their mother, following her divorce. Adolescent Michael is immediately drawn to David's cool vampire gang, whereas teenage Sam joins forces with the crazed Frog-brothers; who always hang out in the local comic book store and claim to be experienced vampire hunters.

Several aspects of "The Lost Boys" are undeniably fantastic and utterly cool, like Corey Feldman's OTT performance, the soundtrack, the hanging-from-the-bridge sequence and the explicitly gross vampire deaths during the climax. Other, and sadly more important elements, are downright disappointing, like the absence of tension or genuine frights, the lack of real menace coming from the vampire characters, the inefficient comic reliefs (like grandpa) and the expulsion of mandatory monster essentials. For example, since when can you become a vampire by sipping from a bottle instead of getting bitten? "The Lost Boys" remains a must-see for horror lovers and admirers of typical 80s cinema in general, but in case you're searching for a truly great alternative vampire gem, check out "Near Dark" which got released in the same year, 1987.
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5/10
Get in touch with your homicidal feminine side!
10 October 2018
Warning: Spoilers
I have a bizarre love/hate relationship with the films of Brian DePalma, or at least with the ones he made between 1970 and 1985, prior to when he became overly commercial. Some titles, like "Phantom of the Paradise" and "Carrie", I find uniquely brilliant and they easily rank among my personal favorites of all times. Others, like "Body Double" or "The Fury", I find dull, pretentious and too desperately aspiring to resemble Alfred Hitchcock. It took me several years to finally watch "Dressed to Kill", just because it's De Palma's most blatant attempt to copy typical Hitchcock style and content trademarks, and also because it allegedly is an American version of the Italian giallo (which happens to be a dearly beloved horror sub-genre of mine). Frankly, I don't know what to think of "Dressed to Kill". I'm somehow convinced that it would have been long forgotten cult curiosity by now if it weren't for the fact Brian De Palma directed it. This is basically a much sleazier and audacious reworking of Hitchcock's "Psycho". Of course, the shocking impact of killing your lead heroine halfway into the film isn't so shocking anymore and the twist-ending also lost its surprise effect, so Brian De Palma (or better, Brian De Pervert) compensates for all this with overlong suspense mounting sequences that lead nowhere and gratuitous shower fantasy and masturbation footage. The cat-and-mouse scenes, for example in the museum or in the subway, are tense and very professionally photographed, but why so long? It feels as if De Palma is openly shouting out to his idol Hitchcock: "Look at me, Master of Suspense! Look how great I am!". I can see where the giallo classification is coming from, what with the razorblade as murder weapon and the targeting of lewd women, but personally I won't immediately include it in the genre. The acting performances are terrific overall, with special mentioning of Angie Dickinson in a courageous role and Dennis Franz as the cynical police detective.
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Premonition (I) (2007)
4/10
Dead or alive? Faithful or adulterous? Sad or relieved? Make up your mind!
8 October 2018
Last Friday night, upon checking the TV-guide and noticing this "Premonition" would be aired on some sort of women-orientated channel, my wife spoke the legendary words: "this looks like something we can both enjoy!". For you see, my wife is a fan of family dramas and Sandra Bullock movies in general, and she thinks that I love supernaturally themed thrillers and horror movies. I don't, actually, I love straightforward horror movies, and knew for certain that this wouldn't be the least bit interesting. But my wife is a fantastic person and I love her dearly, so I did what every regular family guy would do: shut up and watch the Sandra Bullock nonsense. And you know what? I'd be lying if I claimed that "Premonition" is a complete and utter waste of time! It's a heavily flawed, derivative and 200% forgettable drama-thriller, but we have all seen a lot worse and at least I wasn't bored.

Bullock depict Linda Hanson; a caring and family loving housewife who seemingly has it all: a nice stand-alone house, a hard-working husband and two beautiful, well-behaving daughters. One morning, however, the local Sheriff rings her doorbell with the devastating message that her husband Jim died in a car accident. Evidently, the rest of the day is a living hell, but when Linda wakes up the next morning, she finds Jim sitting at the breakfast table like nothing ever happened. The next day, he's dead again. The day after, he's alive. It takes a while before Linda realizes that the days of this hellish week don't come chronologically to her, but with the fragments that she remembers from the previous/upcoming days, she painfully discovers that her marriage wasn't so happy after all. "Premonition" is enjoyable for as long as you don't seek for logical clarifications or accurate continuity. This is the type of film where you will find plot holes and structural gaps if you search for them, so you better just go with the flow and accept the far-fetched script. Both director Mennan Yapo and Sandra Bullock try very hard for the film not becoming overly melodramatic and insert a few sinister (albeit bloodless) moments. The ending is weak, but still it could have been a lot weaker, so I'm not complaining too much. The small role of cult-faced Peter Stormare is pointless and unnecessary, though.
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A Quiet Place (2018)
8/10
No one dared disturb the sound of silence
3 October 2018
If you glance at the current IMDb rating, or quickly browse through the user comments and external reviews, you can't but assume that "A Quiet Place" must be the most brilliantly intense and original new horror movie of the past 10, 15 or perhaps even 20 years. I honestly don't know if the film deserves all the superlatives and standing ovations that it's receiving, but I'll easily admit that it's a very tense, absorbing and beautiful thriller with a couple of unforgettable moments of fright as well as emotion. The concept of "A Quiet Place" is original and innovative. If you really want to be historically precise, you could maybe state that the idea is somewhat similar to "Tremors" or inspired by "Day of the Triffids", but in the contemporary era of loud and visual effects driven blockbusters, it's quite unique to stumble across a genre film that primarily thrives on silent suspense and atmosphere. Around 2020-2021, the world is a post-apocalyptic wasteland with only a small number of survivors. It wasn't zombies or nuclear bombs that exterminated humanity this time, but instead a primitive alien monster race that cannot see, smell or sense. However, these creatures have an ultra-developed hearing capacity and relentlessly attach every sound or minor vibration they pick up. Judging by the old newspaper headings, it took quite a while before people realized they had to keep their mouths shut, and thus there aren't that many left. One family is still complete, though, largely because the oldest daughter is deaf-mute, and every member is fluent in sign language. Survival nevertheless remains challenging, even despite their remote farmhouse being equipped and prepared for every possible monster threat. They go through an immense tragedy together and face new ordeals as the mother is expecting another baby. How do you give birth without making a single sound? Being a veteran horror fanatic and advocate for the genre, I'm happy that "A Quiet Place" is so popular and well-received. Good to see that people, especially younger audiences, can still be impressed with basic but solid craftsmanship. One thing that director/lead actor John Krasinski does terrifically well is engaging the viewer. Whilst watching, you will be just as quiet and focused as the protagonists, and you're even likely to give angry looks to fellow spectators opening a can of beer, chewing too loud on their potato chips or making any other random noise. Compliant with the oldest, but still most effective rules of the horror book, the monsters largely remain an unseen but omnipresent menace. Only during the extended and action-packed finale, they are fully shown, and I must add they look fantastic! Think of a crossover breed between the legendary beasts in "Alien" and a cenobite from "Hellraiser".
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The Boy (I) (2015)
3/10
Creepy boy in a remote motel? "Psycho" did it better.
3 October 2018
I'm honestly struggling to capture what the moral/main theme of this film might be. Wait, perhaps I got it now! If your young child grows up in a practically isolated geographical location, where you don't give him too much parental attention and allow for his that his best pals are roadkill carcasses, then there's a fair chance he'll turn into a little freak with maniacal tendencies and limited social skills. Wow, really? Thanks for the advice; I'll try not to let that happen to my own son.

Alright, I'm exaggerating perhaps, but there honestly isn't too much else to learn from Craig William Macneill's "The Boy"! Admirers and wannabe intellectual cinephiles might claim that the film gives a lesson in tension-building and character development, but that's hardly defendable. "The Boy" starts out boring, the entire middle-section is boring, and the climax is frustratingly boring! Since 1960, since Norman Bates in "Psycho" in other words, we already know that remote and ramshackle roadside motels aren't ideal places for the mental development of vulnerable young men, so the overlong and supposedly harrowing story of single father David Morse trying to give space and liberty to his 9-year-old son Ted is redundant, uninteresting and pathetic. There is absolutely nothing happening throughout 2/3 of the film, unless you find tire-swinging or scooping up dead squirrels a fascinating sight. Then, when you hope the action might finally shift into a higher gear because the motel is suddenly filled with disposable teenagers during their senior prom after party, "The Boy" incomprehensibly becomes even more cowardly and dull. The least that we, patient and tolerant viewers, deserved to see was a psychopathic rampage and not a lousy mass-murdering! I usually have a lot of sympathy for both David Morse and Rainn Wilson, but they shouldn't feel forced to star in over-ambitious but substantially void projects like these, just because they assume it'll look good on their resumes. The only 45 seconds in "The Boy" that I truly enjoyed were the ones during which Jefferson Starship's "Nothing's Gonna Stop us" was playing on the radio.
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Death Wish (2018)
6/10
Precisely the kind of unhinged revenge/vigilante trash I was hoping for!
3 October 2018
Author Brian Garfield can be proud and satisfied! The three (!) times that his legendary source novel "Death Wish" got adapted into a film project it each time resulted in a success and a remarkably efficient teaming between director and lead protagonist! The first time, in 1974 already, sensationalist master Michael Winner directed Charles Bronson and the role shaped both the further career of Bronson as well as the prototype character of the 'avenging angel'. The film spawned several sequels, all starring Charles Bronson but furthermore unrelated to the original book, and literally hundreds of cheap imitations and foreign knock-offs. In 2007, Garfield's novel served as the inspiration for "Death Sentence", directed by James Wan and starring Kevin Bacon. It was another heavily enjoyable popcorn action flick with excessive violence and solid performances, but obviously less iconic than the 1974 version. In 2018 we're witnessing the third terrific director/actor pairing, namely with Eli "Hostel" Roth behind and Bruce "Die Hard" Willis in front of the cameras. Is "Death Wish" a genius film? No, not particularly. Does it stand guarantee for a good 100 minutes of marvelously trash-entertainment? Yes, most definitely! This is exactly the type of unhinged revenge/vigilante thriller I was hoping to see on a Friday night after a long and frustrating week, with Willis stoically hunting down the bastards who killed his wife and put his teenage daughter in a coma following a home-jacking gone wrong. The scenario is rudimentary, old-fashioned and distasteful! Critics allegedly hate this film for its glorification of violence and the "defending-what's-yours" principle. Well, I'm European and very much against the system of free firearms possessions, but I do love over-the-top trash cinema! How are you supposed to take a film in which Bruce Willis depicts a brilliant ER surgeon seriously, anyway? It already required quite a lot of suspension of disbelief accepting Charles Bronson as an architect, let alone Willis as a doctor! But, as uncomfortable and silly he looks wearing his surgical mask and holding his scalpel, the happier he feels when pouring brake fluid into the open wound that he cut in the leg of one of his wife's murderers! "Death Wish" is fast-paced and never boring, the violence is raw and (largely) uncompromising and the humor is crude and twisted (and typically Eli Roth). Sheer entertainment, and that's literally all I ever wished for!
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Videodrome (1983)
6/10
James Woods; human VCR
21 September 2018
David Cronenberg is undoubtedly a brilliant and truly unique director, but also someone with a seriously twisted and deranged mind. How else would you explain the unworldly bizarre storylines of his 70s & 80s "body-horror" classics, and "Videodrome" in particular? I might be crazy for watching and loving these type of movies, but Cronenberg wrote them, so he must be totally bonkers beyond repair! Admittedly, however, "Videodrome" is my least favorite Cronenberg effort of that period. I can't really explain why, but the story isn't nearly as compelling and unsettling as the case in "Scanners", "Shivers", "The Brood", "Rabid", "The Dead Zone" or "The Fly". It also doesn't help, of course, that meanwhile the plot is hopelessly dated. Cronenberg was experimenting with visual technology during the heights of the videotape era here, but I reckon that younger horror fans nowadays laugh hysterically at the sight of an old-fashioned video cassette being shoved into a vagina-resembling body wound.

James Woods stars as Max Renn, a cable TV programmer who's continuously seeking for the ultimate viewing experience. He picks up an illegal transmission of a show called "Videodrome", and instantly becomes intrigued by its S/M images and snuff-movie realism. During his search for additional Videodrome footage, and finding out who's responsible for making them, Renn doesn't realize that his hallucinations, caused by watching the show are gradually taking control of his body and brains. I think the main problem (or MY main problem, at least) with "Videodrome" is the absurdity of the concept (operating people like VCR's), as well as the film's complex narrative structure. Cronenberg may not be the greatest storyteller, but what he lacks in that department he widely compensates in terms of creating an uncanny and claustrophobic atmosphere. Also, the plot and the scenery may have dated, but Rick Baker's special effects still look stupendous! Although there sadly isn't a sequence as powerful as the notorious head explosion in "Scanners", the cruel and violent massacres during the final act of the film are by far my favorite moments of the film. James Woods is excellent as Max Renn and finds the exact right balance between being a sleazy thrill-seeker and a pitiable victim. Deborah Harry, singer of "Blondie", is also very impressive as Renn's kinky and pain-addicted girlfriend (with cigarette burns on her breasts to prove it!)
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Brubaker (1980)
6/10
Old McRedford had a farm
18 September 2018
Admittedly I've never been a great admirer of actor/director Robert Redford, but I do adore raw & gritty prison movies, especially from the 70s-80s period, and I was also blown away by the fabulous supportive cast! With names like Yaphet Koto, David Keith, M. Emmet Walsh, Everett McGill, Joe Spinell and even a still unknown Morgan Freeman in the line-up, this became an absolute must-see for me. Redford stars as the titular Brubaker, the newly appointed manager of a large prison farm in Southern Arkansas and initially posing as a randomly nameless inmate in order to observe how the institution is currently being run and how the prisoners are treated. With his little act, Brubaker exposes far more than he bargained for, as the supposedly exemplary and most beneficiary prison facility of the United States is really a hellhole full of corruption, greed, physical abuse and slavery. The regular prisoners live in miserable conditions and are submitted to hard labor on the farm fields, while the privileged "trustees" and even the local community entrepreneurs benefit tremendously from the farm's crops and harvests. Brubaker puts his career and even his healthy at risk to alter the situation, but can the deep roots of typical human greed and political corruption be dug out by one man?

I must confess it took me a while before I properly understood the hierarchy and organigram-structure of this prison farm! Apart from the manager and one buyer, there aren't any wardens or other staff members in this penitentiary. The "trustees" serve as wardens and fieldwork supervisors, but they are also convicted criminals and thus prisoners, only apparently, they have better and more influential friends. The trustees walk in and out of the prison gates, and basically can make their escape quite easily, but obviously they don't because their lives inside is much more luxurious and privileged. Neighboring businessmen also access the prison farm like it's a petting zoo, coming to ask the trustees for additional manpower or beneficial deals. The story is truly compelling and (I think) contemporary relevant, but unfortunately also monotonous. In the end, you are watching a 130 minutes movie in which every possible type of evil simply gets attributed to human greed and selfishness. If you compare "Brubaker" with prison epics like "Shawshank Redemption", "Beyond the Walls", Cell 211", "Shutter Island" or "Nightmare in Badham County", it comes out rather pale, but it's nonetheless a recommendable film with terrific acting and marvelous settings.
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RoboCop (2014)
3/10
Robo-Kindergarten Cop
17 September 2018
No, I'm sorry, but it's a complete misfire! I really tried to remain open-minded and set all my prejudices aside, but this is a hopelessly disappointing remake of one of the greatest Sci-Fi/Action flicks of all times! The original "Robocop" (Paul Verhoeven - 1987) was dystopian Sci-Fi trash with extremely OTT violence and sadistic humor. That formula worked brilliantly, so why on earth would anyone consider turning it into a dead-serious, melodramatic and politically correct mainstream flick with a PG13 rating?!? This modernized dud only makes me worship Verhoeven's original even more, and it especially makes me admire how simplistic, straightforward and fast-paced that classic was! José Padhila's "Robocop" is intolerably slow, boringly talkative and the actors almost seem to drown in all the supposedly intelligent and socially relevant sub plots (like "why should our boys die in Afghanistan" or "is America ready to be protected by machines"). Who cares about all that? The only thing everybody wants to see is Robocop in action and neutralizing evil street thugs.

Will that ever happen, though? Nope, sorry! It takes, what, 17 hours into the film before officer Alex Murphy, wearing his Robocop outfit, sets his first baby-steps into Detroit and picks up a gun (dull target practice games with that idiotic Jackie Earle Haley doesn't count). But there also doesn't seem to be much need for a Robocop, anyway! The 2028 Detroit of this script doesn't look the least bit menacing, pauperized or overtaken by crime. In the almighty original, Detroit became a filthy hellhole where it was impossible for normal families to live or even walk the streets during the daylight because of police strikes and deranged criminals with gigantic guns! Sure, corporate greed and corruption remain obstructions for proper law enforcement, but there aren't any real bad guys for Robo-Murphy to defeat. Clarence Boddicker and his psychotic gang of the original were pure evil, whereas here Murphy/Robocop only has a pathetic weapon dealer (Patrick Garrow) and a cuckoo robot-fetishist (Jackie Earle Haley) as main opponents. But the miserable PG-13 rating is what neutralizes this film the most. Gone is the extreme violence and perverse humor of Verhoeven's original. No more target practicing on poor cops, death by toxic waste, bloody massacres by a malfunctioning ED-209, insanely offensive TV-commercials or gratuitous nudity & drug abuse! All this got replaced by bloodless shootouts and tedious gibberish by an annoying marketing guy. Even the leftovers of Murphy's body after the explosion are laughable instead of unsettling. Robocop? Yeah right, more like Kindergarten Cop!

However, exactly like the case with "Robocop 3" (Fred Dekker - 1993), I am aware and personally persuaded that director José Padhilo cannot be blamed for this insult of a film! Via many little details, it's abundantly clear that Padhilo is a big admirer or Verhoeven's original and that only the cowardly attitude of the production company led to this inferior version. Also, I can't resist mentioning the hypocrisy of the script. Americans are supposedly worried that emotionless machines will be carrying guns, while mass-shootings take place daily because every crazed nut can purchase a weapon? Please!
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RoboCop (1987)
10/10
Directive 4: assure everlasting Sci-Fi entertainment
17 September 2018
I was supposed to watch the 2014 remake today, but I postponed that viewing with another day and re-watched the original for the 127th time, simply because I'm somehow convinced the remake will suck tremendously! I don't want to be the sourpuss who's against every kind of cinematic remake, but honestly, Paul Verhoeven's 1987 original is damn close to perfection already, and I don't see how a remake with Samuel L. Jackson and a miserable PG-13 rating could bring any added value. "Robocop" is an immortal Sci-Fi classic with a breakneck pace and an ingenious script that is literally chock-full of insane humor (the perverse and twisted kind), outrageous graphic violence and a wide variety of villains that are genuinely evil. The plot is incredibly simple, but even more efficient than a comic book franchise: in the near future, the city of Detroit is completely overrun by crime and corporate corruption. Whenever the remaining police officers are not on strike, because the force got privatized by Omni Consumer Products (OCP), they are bluntly being executed by remorseless criminals. But OCP is planning to build the brand-new Delta City and thus needs to ensure the safety of construction workers. They'll need a different type of law enforcer, though, because their prototype robot ED-209 keeps short-circuiting. In comes officer Alex Murphy, clinically dead after being used for target practice by the psychotic Clarence Boddicker and his gang, and unwillingly volunteering to become Bob Morton's first half-human/half robot police officer. Murphy's brain is still reasonably intact, and he seeks to capture his murderers, but unfortunately his artificial program prevents him to sort out internal OCP corruption issues. This movie is downright brilliant, and also one of the only personal favorites that I can watch repeatedly without ever getting bored. For his first US-production, the Dutch and natural born rebel director Paul Verhoeven threw all the conventional rules regarding good taste and political correctness overboard. This results in an unhinged trash-flick with atypical casting choices and unlimited sadistic violence, but nevertheless one with superior production values and terrific special effects. The highlights of "Robocop" are almost too numerous to list: the demented TV-commercials, Murphy's cruel execution, death by toxic waste or even Boddicker's unsubtle way to make a couple of prostitutes leave an upcoming crime scene. The theme music is awesome, Kurtwood Smith gives the performance of his life, and you're guaranteed to copy the catchphrase "I'd buy that for a dollar" in many random conversations. Have I mentioned already that "Robocop" is brilliant cinema?
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