Sunday, December 11, 2011

December 7 - Blood Debts [1985]

The cover of my VHS copy of Blood Debts

Blood Debts (1985)
Director: Teddy Chase
Starring: Richard Harrison
Format: VHS (Force Video)

This weak Death Wish rip-off is a Philippines-Hong Kong co-production, filmed in The Philippines and starring a pair of American actors better known for working in Italy in the 60s and 70s.

Richard Harrison, who starred in Italian sword-and-sandal flicks in the 60s and moved on to a seemingly-unending series of ultra-cheap ninja flicks in the 80s, plays Mark Collins, a man pushed over the edge when he his daughter is raped and murdered.

He becomes a vigilante (what else?) and sets about hunting down muggers, rapists and other ne'erdowells. This brings him to the attention of a crimelord with a name that sends fear coursing through the veins of anyone who crosses his path... Bill. Bill is played by the other Italian movie regular, Mike Monty from the vastly-superior ATLANTIS INTERCEPTORS).

Look, there's really not much more to it than that. Woman gets attacked, screams for help, Mark Collins comes to the rescue in his styley red sweatsuit jacket and dispatches bad guy(s). Rinse and repeat. End with the prerequisite showdown with the mob boss.

The acting is bad (sadly in a bland way rather than a cheesy one), the action is unexciting and as I already mentioned the plot is predictable and unoriginal. Harrison mails it in big time - it's like he can't wait to get his paycheck and hit the Manilla titty bars.

About the only good, cheesy parts are the over-dubbing (which is distractingly echoey, but so campy in parts that it brings some laughs) and a couple of the kills (one involving a game of golf is mildly inventive). But it's not enough for me to recommend sitting through Blood Debts. Avoid.

November 30 - Forced Vengeance [1982]

The cover of my VHS copy of Forced Vengeance


Forced Vengeance (1982)

Director: James Fargo
Starring: Chuck Norris, Mary Louise Weller, Camilla Griggs

Format: VHS (MGM/UA)


I have a confession to make. Despite being a lifelong fan of action movies, good and bad, I've only seen one or maybe two Chuck Norris films. I've definitely seen The Octagon (which I own on DVD) and I think I watched Lone Wolf McQuade back in the mid-80s, but I can't be too sure about that one. I think the few glimpses that I saw of his TV series Walker: Texas Ranger probably scared me away from the guy.

But good ol' Chuck has become something of a pop culture icon in recent years (if you get a chance, check out Ian Spector's book "The Truth About Chuck Norris", it's hilarious). With a handful of Norris vehicles in my VHS collection asking to be watched, I sidestepped the more obvious choices (McQuade, Delta Force etc) and went for the one with the coolest cover - 1982's Forced Vengeance.

Now, as I've just admitted, I don't have much knowledge of other Chuck flicks to call on, but I imagine Forced Vengeance is pretty standard fare for his movies. Norris plays a good, moraled guy who is wronged by some shady types and kicks their asses. Ha, I guess I just described every action movie of the 80s, right?

Norris is Josh Randell, an American working as head of security at a small family-owned casino in Hong Kong. The casino owner (veteran actor David Opatoshu) is like a father to him. When the casino owner's real son gets into debt with another, shadier casino boss named Stan Raimondi (played with pompous delight by Michael Cavanaugh, ANY WHICH WAY YOU CAN), father and son are killed.

You'd think that would be the moment when Randell would open up a can of whoop-ass, but no. Sure, he's bummed about it (it's hard to tell with Norris' acting range), but he's more worried about protecting his dead boss's daughter (the beautiful Camilla Griggs) and snooping for answers than kicking butt. Shame.

Things meander along with the odd bit of chop-socky, but it's only when Raimondi's men kill his 'Nam vet buddy (Bob Minor, who played a similar role opposite Arny in COMMANDO) and rape his girl (Mary Louise Weller, who I didn't even recognise as the same actress who played straight-laced sorority queen Mandy Pepperidge in ANIMAL HOUSE) that he finally brings forth the sweet, sweet vengeance. We know it's coming because... we get a montage! Even Rocky had a montage.

As an action flick, Forced Vengeance comes good on its title in the final act. Before that there's too much talking and not enough kicking. But what action there is is well shot by director James Fargo (who'd previously worked with Clint Eastwood on The Enforcer and Every Which Way But Loose) as Norris kicks, punches and shoots various Asian hoodlums with glee. The good news is there's lots of humour (some intended, most unintentional) and cheese to keep the b-grade action fan happy, and a small amount of nudity (although it's mostly of the non-fun, rapey kind).

I honestly don't think I've ever seen a movie with this many mustaches. Not just Chuck's famous lip-sweater either - three out of every four bad guys has a mustachio, and some of them are faker than a politician's smile! The fashions, the acting, the music (for the most part good, but then you get a synth knockoff of Super Freak in a night club) - it's all cheesy good fun.

The dialogue is hilariously bad a lot of the time (Chuck: "Never let your girl hold your piece"). About the only annoying thing is the Norris narration that opens and closes the film and pops up throughout. It's badly-read and corny, but not in a good way. The best intentional humour occurs when Chuck takes on a guy with nunchucks, who sees his gun and slowly backs out of shot, only to return with two buddies.

If the fashions, hair and abundance of lip-hair don't do enough to give away Forced Vengeance's place in time, soccer fans will have a chuckle as Josh and his adopted family sit down to watch a "championship cup game" pitting Brighton against Nottingham Forrest - two teams that haven't been top clubs for a long time.

Again, I can't judge if Forced Vengeance is one of Norris' better films, but all I know is it's entertaining. A little too slow-paced in parts, but the cheese factor and the action in the last third make up for that.

Monday, November 7, 2011

November 7 - Silver Dragon Ninja (1986)

The cover of my VHS copy of Silver Dragon Ninja


Silver Dragon Ninja (1986)
Director: Don Kong
Starring: Harry Caine, Sam Yosida, Jim Gross
Format: VHS (IPD)

After watching 31 horror movies in the month of October, I've had a real hankering for some cheesy action. Don't get me wrong, I love horror movies, but I'm all horrored out for a while and need a change of pace. What better way to do that than with a Hong Kong ninja flick?

Like a lot of these cheap ninja efforts, this one is actually two movies spliced into one. The ninja portion has Silver Dragon Ninja (an uncredited Paulo Tocha, BLOODSPORT, PREDATOR 2) trying to rid Hong Kong of the evil Black Ninjas. The other, longer portion is a crime yarn about two cops trying to bring down a gang of baddies, which is clearly influenced by Scarface and other gangster films. There's also a female cop who goes undercover inside the gang.

I could go into more detail about the plot but a) So much of it is nonsensical that it'd be futile to try to summarise it, and b) who the hell watches these movies for the plot anyway? It's all about the action baby, and Silver Dragon Ninja delivers with an abundance of ninja fights and gun battles.

The martial arts fights are badly-choreographed but fast-paced and never boring. They feature an array of cheesy effects - ninjas disappear or reappear in a puff of smoke and all kicks, punches and weapon attacks are accompanied by cartoonish sound effects.

Most of the police action is fairly conventional (lots of shootouts between baddies and cops, and baddies and baddies), but there is one scene where a kid is blown up by a bomb strapped to a remote control car(!), another involving a dirtbike and molotov cocktails, and one baddie dies after being stabbed between the legs with a large piece of glass. Ouch!

The dialogue and voice dubbing are hilariously bad. Some of the voices are so hokey they sound like they were provided by Monty Python Silly Voices Preservation Society. One Hong Kong cop even speaks with an Australian accent, which is funny but a bit distracting. The prize for worst acting goes to Silver Dragon Ninja's apprentice, who appears in only two short scenes. His delivery is monotone to the extreme - we're talking porn-level bad.

As an aside, I recognised one piece of the music as an instrumental portion of Tonight by Genesis (used with permission? Yeah right!).

Final verdict? Silver Dragon Ninja is lots of fun and a must watch for any fan of low budget, spliced-together flicks like Ninja USA, Born a Ninja and any of Godfrey Ho's countless ninja films (I have my suspicions director Don Kong is Ho under a pseudonym).

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

31 Nights of Terror #30 & #31 - Halloween double feature



Halloween (1978) and Halloween II (1981)
Director: John Carpenter (I), Rick Rosenthal (II)
Starring: Jamie Lee Curtis, Donald Pleasance
Format: DVD

Every Halloween night I watch one of my two favourite horror movies of all time - Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Halloween. This year it's the turn of John Carpenter's masterpiece, the one that launched the slasher genre (yes I know Black Christmas was first), and this year I own Halloween II on DVD for the first time, so I'm going to watch them back-to-back.
I won't be taking notes, as I want to just sit back and watch these two great movies one after the other.
But here are a few observations from the back-to-back viewing:
- Interesting that they changed a couple of the shots from the finale of the first movie for the recap at the start of Halloween II. The music is different as well. Not sure why they would do that.
- Michael's mask is also slightly different for the sequel.
- The other noticeable thing from having watched the first movie just moments before popping in part two is how they tried to make Jamie Lee Curtis' hair look the same (remember, part 2 takes place on the same night as part 1) but couldn't quite pull it off three years later.
- The jazzed-up Halloween theme song for the sequel isn't bad, but I don't know why they didn't just stick with the classic original track.
- Donald Pleasance's performance as Dr Loomis gets crazier with each Halloween movie.
- Watching the two movies back to back was great. Because they take place on the same night and flow into each other so well, it's like one, big long movie experience.
- I will never forgive Rick Rosenthal for the abomination that is Halloween Resurrection. No amount of alcohol can wipe the image of Busta Rhymes kung fu fighting Michael Myers from my memory.

31 Nights of Terror #29 - Sharktopus (2010)



Sharktopus (2010)
Director: Declan O'Brien
Starring: Eric Roberts, Kerem Bursin, Sara Lane, Hector Jimenez
Format: DVD (Anchor Bay)

- In case you've missed me saying this before, I'm a fan of Scifi (or Syfy as it is now) TV movies like this and I always expect three things - cheesy CGI, a nature-run-amok plotline and a washed up actor from the 80s.
- The bad CGI is on show early - lesss than two minutes into Sharktopus we have some of the worst computer graphics I have ever seen.
- Washed up actor: Come on down Eric Roberts!
- Roger Corman alert! The King plays a pervy beachgoer who sees a girl get chomped by the titular creature and doesn't give it a second thought.
- The dialog makes me want to stab out my own eardrums.
- I've often wondered what became of Hector Jimenez after his awesome role in Nacho Libre. Now I know. His career has nosedived into this dreck.
- That's one more reason why I will never go bungee-jumping.
- So apparently the bungee-jumper who bought it was Roger and Julie Corman's daughter Mary.
- Okay, so not only is it half-shark and half-octopus, but it makes a roaring noise that can be heard even when it's underwater.
- Worst acting I've seen in a good while: Guy on beach who sees his buddy getting eaten by Sharktopus and has an expression on his face that's one of mild disinterest.
- Please, make it stop. The dialogue, the acting. Somebody make it stop.
- Thank God for Stumble so I don't have to keep watching this crap.
- Lol. That was a funny website. Sharktopus? Oh, right. That's still playing in the background and still sucking donkey scrote.
- It's over! Yay, it's over!

Overall thoughts: Yep, they messed up a movie about a freaking half-shark, half-octopus creature. How did they do it? Well, the bad CGI I can forgive, since that's par for the course with these movies. But the acting was pitifully monotone, the characters uninteresting, the dialogue written by a socially-inept monkey, and the plot more predictable than a fight between a pit bull and a kitten. I thought Eric Roberts might be able to salvage it, but even he phoned it in. Sharktopus does not have one single redeeming quality. Avoid at all costs or run the risk of wanting to club yourself to death with the nearest heavy object.

31 Nights of Terror #28 - My Bloody Valentine (2009)



My Bloody Valentine (2009)
Director: Patrick Lussier
Stars: Jensen Ackles, Jaime King, Kerr Smith
Format: DVD

- Disclosure: I've seen the original from the 80s, but it's not one of my favourites, so I'm not offended by a remake (unlike with Friday the 13th, Nightmare on Elm St and Halloween).
- Good gorey opening!
- Tom Atkins! One of my favourite character actors of all time, who featured in one of my favourite movies of all time, Night of the Creeps, where he spoke one of my favourite lines of all time (Atkins: "I got good news and bad news, girls. The good news is your dates are here." Sorority girl: "What's the bad news?". Atkins: "They're dead".)
- Kerr Smith. Blech. One actor I cannot stand.
- Jenson Ackles. My wife is in love with this guy. We're both big Supernatural fans, so it's gonna be fun to see how he does in a feature movie.
- Well, they didn't mess around getting to the "masked killer starts chopping up people" stuff.
- I now remember that this was released as 3D in the cinemas. It has lots of "stuff flying towards the camera" bullshit.
- Gratuitous full frontal female nudity alert!
- The trucker who bites the dust after the fight with the nude chick is Todd Farmer, the screenwriter for this film. He also wrote Jason X (uh oh).
- Remember when Jaime King went by the name James King? That was weird. Especially for heterosexual guys who said "that James King is one hot piece of ass".
- Killer reveal was fairly predictable, but you'll still be guessing most of the way.
- Ending sets up for a sequel. Is one in the works?

Overall thoughts: Yes, this is one of those annoying remakes. If you're a fan of the original, watching this will probably piss you off. If you're not and you've got an open mind (or are young enough to not have an attachment to 70s-80s slashers) you can do worse than giving this one a watch. Jensen Ackles carries the acting load - fans of Supernatural will be in their element because his performance here is essentially Dean Winchester with less wisecracking. Think of it as Dean on a solo adventure battling a killer in a gas mask.

31 Nights of Terror #27 - Wound (2010)


Wound (2010)
Director: David Blyth
Starring: Kate O'Rourke, Te Kaea Beri, Campbell Cooley
Format: DVD

Overall thoughts: Okay, so I'm getting a bit slack at taking notes. But I don't think my notes from watching this controversial New Zealand film would do anyone any good anyway. Let me summarise by just saying this is one messed up movie. It's almost David Lynch-esque in its weird vibe and surreality (Mulholland Drive springs to mind), if Lynch decided to jump on the torture porn bandwagon and throw in some nasty gore (be warned, this movie has the most realistic castration I have ever seen). Rape, incest, castration, strange things done with bodywaste, sadomasochism - there is plenty here that's meant to shock. But if you get past all of that there's actually quite a meloncholy, touching little story behind it all. Not for everyone.

31 Nights of Terror #26 - Paranormal Activity 3 (2011)



Paranormal Activity 3 (2011)
Director: Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman
Starring: Chloe Csengery, Jessica Tyler Brown, Christopher Nicholas Smith
Format: AVI

- Okay, there's no way I was going to take my eyes off the screen long enough to take notes during this movie. The whole fun of these movies is watching and waiting for something to happen.

Overall thoughts: As I've said plenty of times before, I'm a big fan of found footage movies. Blair Witch Project, the Paranormal Activity series, Cloverfield, REC, Troll Hunter - I love 'em all. But let's face it, you either love this sub-genre or you hate it. Paranormal Activity 3 isn't going to change that, but it does have more "scares" so is probably the most accessible found footage film of the lot. On the flip side, I found the reliance on jump-scares took away from the tension that made the first two movies work so well. That and I'm probably becoming a bit jaded to the Paranormal Activity formula, which was bound to happen by the third film. It's still a good watch, just not as good as the previous entries.

31 Nights of Terror #25 - Trick 'R Treat (2007)



Trick R Treat (2007)
Director: Michael Dougherty
Starring: Anna Paquin, Brian Cox, Dylan Baker, Leslie Bibb
Format: DVD

- I've seen this once before and loved it and have decided to make it a Halloween tradition to watch it again every year.
- Opening scene: Seriously, who has that many bedsheets?
- I dig the comicbook opening, it reminds me of those great anthologies of yesteryear, like Creepshow and Tales from the Crypt.
- Why hasn't Michael Dougherty had another gig since this? It's been four years.
- Anna Paquin. New Zealand represent!
- The family that slays together stays together
- Okay, so I stopped taking notes early in this movie and just enjoyed watching it. To write too much about it would probably ruin some of the plot twists anyway.

Overall thoughts: Trick R Treat is one of my favourite horror films of the 2000s. Of course it was meant to have a theatrical release but was delayed two years and finally released straight to DVD, which to me sums up the sad state of our film studios today. Trick R Treat is scary, atmospheric, funny, gorey. It has a dark, dark streak of black humour running through it, but the comedy doesn't detract from the horror. Ranks right up there was one of the best horror anthology films of all time, albeit with a non-chronological structure rather than a story-by-story one. Make this movie part of your annual Halloween viewing. I am.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

31 Nights of Terror #24 - Tenebre (1982)


Tenebre (1982)
Director: Dario Argento
Starring: Anthony Franciosa, Christian Borromeo, Daria Nicolodi, John Saxon
Format: DVD (Anchor Bay)

- I haven't seen this movie in quite a few years. In the late 90s I went through a period of discovery of giallo and I tried to get my hands on as much Argento/Bava/Fulci etc as I could.
- I remember really liking this one, but have only watched it twice, so a third viewing all these years later will be interesting.
- How much does Dario Argento owe Claudio Simonetti/Goblin for his success? His music is so key to Argento's movies, I can't imagine the movies working without it.
- Ania Pieroni (The House By the Cemetery, Inferno) is soooo hot. Yowza.
- You gotta watch out for those rapey tramps.
- Ah, the good old black gloves.
- Argento regular Daria Nicolodi is one of those actors who just don't seem natural in front of the camera.
- The scene on the beach has gotta be like porn for foot fetishists.
- Have to love the camerawork exploring both levels of the lesbians' house.
- Ah the 70s/early 80s, a time when a young girl would jump on the back of a motorbike without a helmet. And the boy rider would pull a wheelie to show off.
- Talk about random attacks. First the rapey tramp, now the bitey doberman.
- The surreal sight of John Saxon making out with the future first lady of Italy (Veronica Lario married Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi in 1990 and is in the process of divorcing him).
- Lots of nice, gorey blood during Lario's death scene.
- It's a shame I remembered who the killer was halfway through watching this again, but it's a good twist nonetheless.
- Love the Halloween-esque shot in the last scene (if you've seen the movie you know the one I mean).

Overall thoughts: Tenebre is just a great Dario Argento giallo. I'd rank it a close third behind Suspiria and Deep Red. It has all the elements that make Argento's work so great - nice camerawork and lighting, fantastic music by Goblin, a black-gloved killer, blood, nudity and a storyline that keeps you guessing until the killer is revealed. It's also fairly straight forward, so would make a good starting point for anyone new to giallo.

31 Nights of Terror #23 - Phantasm III (1994)



Phantasm III: Lord of the Dead (1994)
Director: Don Coscarelli
Starring: Reggie Bannister, Michael Franklin, Bill Thornbury, Angus Scrimm
Format: VHS (Village Roadshow)

- Disclosure: I haven't seen Phantasm 2, and it's been at least 10 years since I last watched the original Phantasm.
- Nice recap of previous happenings to bring us up to speed. In a nutshell: The Tall Man won't die.
- Exploding midget head!
- Serious laugh out loud moment as Reggie shoots into a tree and several killer dwarves drop out dead.
- So apparently the character of Mike was played in part 2 by James LeGros (SOLAR WARRIORS). But Don Coscarelli had more control over this sequel so brought back Michael Franklin to play Mike, 15 years after the first movie.
- Deserted town. Cool.
- Haha, it's like an R-rated Home Alone.
- Gotta love the sphere kills. So different than anything else in horror movies.
- Rocky is one kickass chick.
- Reggie, trying to get into Rocky's pants: "You ever try vanilla?". Rocky: "Didn't I tell you, dairy products give me gas". Bah-dum-psh.
- I wonder if Coscarelli got a bulk-buy discount on laser-light machines, 'cause he sure likes using them.
- Well, that was an action-packed last half hour. Zombies, spheres, nunchucks... yep, it had it all.

Overall thoughts: "Seeing is easy, understanding takes a little more time." That is a line from Phantasm III and it pretty much sums up the movie. Don't try to apply any logic to this movie, because the stuff with the spheres, killer midgets and zombies doesn't make a lick of sense. But if you just watch it without trying to figure everything out, it's pretty damn fun. I'm sure there are Phantasm purists who don't appreciate the amount of humour, which does detract from the suspense and atmosphere that I remember the first movie had. But non-purists should enjoy it - Coscarelli throws martial arts fights, zombies and a "good" sphere into the mix with the usual Tall Man, sphere and killer dwarf action and it's never boring.

31 Nights of Terror #22 - Otis (2008)



Otis (2008)
Director: Tony Krantz
Starring: Bostin Christopher, Ashley Johnson, Daniel Stern
Format: DVD (Warner Home Video)

- Fun opening scene. Let's just say Otis' reaction to his bad luck is hilarious.
- Heeeeello Ashley Johnson.
- Daniel Stern (Home Alone) and Illeana Douglas (Goodfellas) are funny as Riley's parents. Two great actors right there.
- Jimmy Kusnitz as the disturbed little brother. He of course was the lead actor in the movie that started this marathon, Dance of the Dead.
- Reason I feel okay ogling Ashley Johnson: She was 25 when this movie was made, despite playing a teenager.
- Reason I feel weird ogling Ashley Johnson: She played the youngest Seaver kid on the last few seasons of Growing Pains. Yup, the little kid.
- I'm digging the soundtrack. Talking Heads, Them (featuring Van Morrison), Flock of Seagulls.
- There are some great support actors - in particular Kevin Pollack and Jere Burns. Burns is hilarious as a bumbling cop.
- More great music. Quiet Riot! And now Blue Oyster Cult.
- Okay, this was meandering along as a mildly-funny black comedy. Now it's become Last House on the Left: The Comedy.

Overall thoughts: Otis is a horror-comedy that didn't have me laughing out loud too often but I enjoyed its sick and twisted humour. The most enjoyment comes from the interaction between the parents played by Daniel Stern and Illeana Douglas and their son, played by Jimmy Kusnitz. The situation they find themselves in while avenging their kidnapping of their daughter/sister, is really funny. The writing is mostly witty (some of the lines are groaners) and Otis is never too predictable.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

31 Nights of Terror #21 - The Hills Run Red (2009)



The Hills Run Red (2009)
Director: Dave Parker
Starring: Sophie Monk, Tad Hilgenbrink, William Sadler
Format: DVD (Warner Premiere)

- Nasty little opening. Is this going to be torture porn?
- And a fake "this is real" text scroll, ala Texas Chainsaw Massacre.
- Horror movie fans as protagonists. Will they be funny like the two kids in Summer School or as know-it-all as the Scream teens.
- William Sadler. A favourite of Frank Darabont (appeared in Green Mile, The Mist, Shawshank Redemption) and a great all-round actor. Who can forget him as the Grim Reaper in Bill and Ted?
- Less than five minutes in and we get our first naked breasts. Not that I'm complaining.
- Nice, they're watching House on Haunted Hill (the Vincent Price original).
- Sophie Monk. British former pop singer. She's certainly attractive enough, but let's see if she can act.
- Okay, Tyler is definitely gay. Passing up a naked Sophie Monk sprawled on the bed? Yup, gay.
- All you need to kick a hardcore drug habit is a montage. Even Rocky had a montage.
- So according to IMDB three of the four main protagonists are British, pretending to be American. Wow.
- Nice messy kill, but boo CGI! Boo-urns!
- Kidnappy, rapey rednecks, meet Babyface.
- That chick is good at holding her breath for a long time.
- How'd she get so clean again?
- Twisty ending.

Overall thoughts: The Hills Run Red has all the elements of a great horror movie, in particular a good plot (with several good twists), good music, a creepy and isolated location and lots of blood, gore and nudity. Unfortunately the sum of the parts don't add up to a final product that quite hits the mark. Don't get me wrong, there's some good viewing to be had, but there's something missing, something intangible that stops it from being really good. That being said, if you're after a modern horror movie with tits, gore and an interesting storyline, you'd do worse than checking out The Hills Run Red.

31 Nights of Terror #20 - The Reptile (1966)


The Reptile (1966)
Director: John Gilling
Starring: Noel Willman, Jennifer Daniel, Ray Barrett
Format: DVD (Midnight Movies double feature with The Plague of the Zombies)

- I don't think I've seen this one before. Getting to watch a new Hammer horror is always great.
- Typically great, moody Hammer opening featuring an old dark house and creepy English countryside
- Director John Gilling helmed several other Hammer horrors (The Plague of the Zombies, The Mummy's Shroud) and a few Hammer swashbucklers (Fury at Smuggler's Bay, The Pirates of Blood River, The Scarlet Blade).
- The lead actor is Aussie Ray Barrett, who I last saw as an old man in the trippy 1987 Australian flick Contagion (the review of which you can find elsewhere on this blog).
- The village in this movie was the backlot of Hammer's Bray Studios and was also used for Plague of the Zombies, which was filmed back-to-back with The Reptile (and shares actors Jacqueline Pearce and Michael Ripper).
- Jacqueline Pearce. Wow.
- Noel Willman (Doctor Zhivago, Kiss of the Vampire) is great as the overbearing and creepy Dr Franklyn.
- It's worth noting the prominence of Indian symbolism and music in this movie, as Indian mysticism reached new heights of popularity in England and the US in the mid-60s (due in large part, I would think, to The Beatles' dabbling with Maharishi Yogi).
- Creeping around in dark old houses, digging up graves, weird and creepy characters... man I love Hammer period horrors.

Overall thoughts: If you're a fan of Hammer horror, particularly their gothic period films, then you'll enjoy The Reptile. It has all the elements that Hammer did so well - a creepy old house, foreboding English countryside and a mystery. The acting is good, the cinematography top notch and the creature effects are primitive by modern standards but effective enough. A must for Hammer horror fans.

31 Nights of Terror #19 - Breeders (1986)


Breeders (1986)
Director: Tim Kincaid
Starring: Teresa Farley, Lance Lewman, Frances Raines, Natalie O'Connell
Format: VHS (Roadshow Home Video)

- This video has great cover art. Will the movie itself be able to live up to it?
- And we're off and running with good old fashioned alien rape.
- My VHS copy of this movie is like watching it through a layer of vasoline.
- Detective: "You're not dead, you're alive. And if you're alive you can remember and we can catch whoever did this."
- Teresa Farley (Dr Gamble Pace) gave up acting after Breeders, according to IMDB, and from what I've seen so far, she did the world a favour.
- A too-skinny model doing a line of cocaine, then playing a cassette on a massive boom box. God bless the 80s!
- And then doing yoga in the buff. God bless... naked women?
- Okay so I was just thinking to myself "the acting in this is so bad it feels like a porno without sex". Then I look up director Tim Kincaid on IMDB and discover he's spent the last 10 years directing gay porn (the title Men's Room 3: Ozark Mountain Exit 8 was the first clue). The plot thickens.
- Wait, so a cocaine-snorting fashion model is also a virgin? Huh?
- An alien with tentacles raping a girl. Suddenly I feel like I'm watching some kind of dodgy Japanese porn.
- The "virgins" in this movie sure do spend a lot of time buck nekkid.
- And the actresses who play said victims? Let's just say they're a perky bunch, and I'm not talking about their personalities.
- Bullets didn't faze the vagina-with-teeth alien monster, but a sharp stick kills it? Alrighty then.
- The mildly-bored looks on the actors' faces during the monster transformation scene had me laughing my ass off.

Overall thoughts: With a movie this bad, it always becomes a case of... is it bad enough to actually be good? Breeders is close, but doesn't quite reach the goal. It has quite a few moments of unintentional humor, but just isn't cheesy enough to be so-bad-it's-good. The acting, the special effects, the music - they're all atrocious. About the only thing I can recommend Breeders for is its constant naked flesh - adolescent boys or anyone with a tanlines/perky breasts fetish will be in their element. Otherwise you might want to give it a miss.

Monday, October 24, 2011

31 Nights of Terror #18 - Redneck Zombies (1989)


Redneck Zombies (1989)
Director: Pericles Lewnes
Starring: Lisa de Haven, WE Benson, William Decker, James Housely
Format: DVD (Troma)

- This is the 20th anniversary DVD.
- A quite funny Kaufman's Kultural Korner bit before the movie starts, with Lloyd Kaufman (one of the most fun men in movies) and director Lewnes.
- Troma movies without a drum of nuclear waste are like porn without nudity.
- Great country music credits song.
- Most of the acting so far is of the usual hammy Troma kind, but Bucky Santini is genuinely funny as fat good ol' boy Ferd.
- Lewnes is also good fun as a gay bearded redneck named Billy Bob who wants to be called Elly May.
- Jed always getting his sons Junior and Jethro mixed up is a fun bit.
- For a bunch of dirty rednecks the Clemsons sure do have a clean and tidy pickup truck.
- Nice homage/riff on the hitchhiker scene from Texas Chainsaw Massacre.
- Two rednecks watching porn on TV. "I like knockers". "I like knockers too". *knock on the door*. "Someone's knocking." "Yeah, I like knockers too". Top notch comedy right there!
- Man, that scene was trippy as all hell.
- Moonshine in the baby's bottle. That's just wrong.
- The makers of this must have had some fun doing the gore effects. They're pretty damn good for a low budget indy flick.
- Somehow I don't think Andy is as interested in the girls as he makes out.
- It's not hard to see why Lisa de Haven gets top billing. She's actually got some acting chops. Terrible pants though.
- The autopsy scene is hilarious.
- Love the scene with Bob pretending to a zombie but giving himself away. In fact, Bob starts out as one of the lamest characters (mainly due to the acting) but gets funnier as the movie goes on.
- Great ending!

Overall thoughts: As I've admitted before, I'm not much of a fan of Troma movies. And one of the reasons for that is I usually don't find the comedy in their stuff to be very funny. So I had low expectations going into Redneck Zombies, and was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed it, and how funny I found it. Make no mistake, the humour is as low brow as you would expect from a redneck movie, so if you're looking for clever jokes, look elsewhere. But if the concept of nuclear waste getting into a moonshine still and turning hillbillies into zombies makes you chuckle, you might want to check Redneck Zombies out.

31 Nights of Terror #17 - Bats: Human Harvest (2007)



Bats: Human Harvest (2007)
Director: Jamie Dixon
Starring: David Chokachi, Michael Jace, Pollyanna McIntosh, Marty Papazian
Format: DVD (Sony Pictures)

- There in the opening credits is the magic word: Scifi (as in the TV channel they stupidly renamed Syfy). I've said in past reviews that Scifi made-for-TV movies are a definite guilty pleasure of mine.
- To recap, when I watch Scifi movies my expectations lower and I know I'm going to get a few key elements: Bad CGI, a washed-up big name actor or two, and loads of cheese.
- I sure hope this movie can live up to the standards set by the awesome killer bat movies of the past, like, uh... hmmm. Now that I come to think of it I don't remember ever seeing a good killer bat movie.
- I'm surprised there hasn't been more horror set in modern day Afghanistan (ie warzone), or maybe I've just missed them? I only remember Sand Serpents from 2009, which was pretty decent.
- The aforementioned washed-up actor here is David Chokachi, who apparently played a lifeguard on Baywatch.
- And the bad CGI? Well, apart from the killer bats, all of the helicopter shots are quite obviously computer-generated.
- Hey, it's Pollyanna McIntosh, who played the feral woman in Lucky McKee's messed up little flick The Woman (the review of which you can find on this blog).
- Okay, so this didn't stay in Afghanistan for long. Looks like Chechnya is going to be the setting for the rest of the movie.
- The bats disarmed that Chechnyan rebel. He's 'armless now.
- I just remembered a good killer bats movie, Bats, the one with Lou Diamond Phillips. No wait, that was awful.
- Oh, how about Fangs, the one with Corbin Bernsen from 2002? Nope, even worse.
- Hang on, according to IMDB this is a sequel to the Lou Diamond Phillips flick? Okay then.
- Over-used corny line #1: "You hear that?", "What?", "Nothing. No birds, no animals. It's too quiet."
- Over-used corny line #2: "I'm not going anywhere. I'm bleeding to death. You go, I'll get these bastards."
- These bats are apparently able to camoflage themselves against trees, or something like that. I dunno, I'm kind of zoning out.
- To summarise the last third of the movie: Explosions, bats swooping about, explosions, more bats, evil scientist guy is captured, explosions, more bats, big explosion, the end.

Overall thoughts: I mentioned in my notes that my expectations lower for Scifi TV movies, which is maybe why I usually end up enjoying them. Bats: Human Harvest is pretty much on par with most of its ilk, except for one thing that made it boring for me. Bats. They're just not a very interesting "killer creature" as far as I'm concerned. You always know the bats are fake and people running around swatting at the sky doesn't build suspense or terror. I doubt anyone could make a killer bats story that would keep my interest.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

31 Nights of Terror #16 - Of Unknown Origin (1983)



Of Unknown Origin (1983)
Director: George Cosmatos
Starring: Peter Weller, Jennifer Dale, Lawrence Dane, Kenneth Walsh, Shannon Tweed
Format: DVD (Warner Bros)

- It's Peter Weller, four years before Robocop.
- And Shannon Tweed, the year after being named Playboy's Playmate of the Year. It was around about this time she started her relationship with Gene Simmons.
- Director Cosmatos' resume is sparse but includes a box office smash in Rambo: First Blood Part II, a cult favourite action flick (Cobra) and a fantastic western (Tombstone). He would also work with Weller again on the under-rated Leviathan. He died in 2005.
- Holy crap, now that's a rat trap.
- Anyone else agree that Peter Weller is a vastly under-rated actor? Buckeroo Banzai, Screamers, Leviathan, Naked Lunch, not to mention Robocop 1 and 2... all good stuff.
- The only thing uglier than a rat. Hairless baby rats.
- Uh oh, you messed with the babies. Now you done pissed off mama.
- Is this movie horror? My answer is yes. Although it's mostly a psychological thriller, it uses good suspense and has a few quite effective scare scenes.
- The rat-perspective shots are really well done.
- If you have any kind of fear of rats, this movie probably isn't for you.

Overall thoughts: I've seen this movie in discount bins forever. Heck, I finally picked it up for $3. The DVD cover was bland. All this pointed to a bad, bad movie. I was pleasantly surprised to find instead a simple-but-effective little psychological thriller about a man's obsession with a rat. Not just any rat. A big bastard with evil intent and intelligence to boot. There's probably some subtext about this man's battle with a rat affecting his progress in the business world "rat race" but forget that. Essentially Of Unknown Origin is a great little flick that'll creep you out, make you laugh and, if you've got any kind of fear of rats or mice, probably scare the living crap out of you.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

31 Nights of Terror #15 - Child's Play 3 (1991)


Child's Play 3 (1991)
Director: Jack Bender
Starring: Andrew Robinson, Peter Haskell, Brad Dourif, Perrey Reeves, Justin Whalin
Format: DVD (Universal)

- Cool opening credits.
- It's eight years after the events of part two and we're back with the toy company, which has reopened its factory and is bringing the Good Guy dolls back onto the market.
- Replacing Alex Vincent as Andy Barclay (the kid from the first two movies, whose body Chucky wants to plant his soul into) is Justin Whalin, probably best remembered as Jimmy Olsen on the Lois & Clark TV series.
- So Andy's now in a military school. That'll probably mean lots of hazing, asshole sergeants etc.
- Yep, pretty predictable. Not very interesting though.
- Writer Don Mancini wrote this before part two had even been released. He has been quoted as saying he was out of ideas, and from what I've seen so far, I agree with him.
- The carnival funhouse climax should be kickass, but it's not.

Overall thoughts: Dull, dull, dull. It's not hard to see why this was the last Child's Play movie before they rebooted the franchise as comedic parodies. Everything is by the numbers - the plot, the kills, the Chucky wisecracks, the acting, the setting etc. None of the actors are terribly interesting, and some are just plain annoying (the kid Tyler). You'll predict things before they happen and groan at some of the plot points. Definitely the worst of the first three movies and best avoided.

31 Nights of Terror #14 - Child's Play 2 (1990)



Child's Play 2 (1990)
Director: John Lafia
Starring: Alex Vincent, Jenny Aguttr, Gerrit Graham, Christine Elise, Brad Dourif
Format: DVD (Universal)

- Note the change of studio. Apparently MGM didn't want to continue the franchise because of controversy over the first movie (ie violence and kids), so Universal picked it up.
- I was wondering how they would bring Chucky back after his fiery demise in the first movie. Is it really realistic to think the company would rebuild the doll?
- Ah Jenny Agutter. She was so damn hot in American Werewolf in London. Nine years later she's still pretty but a bit frumpy in her role as a foster mom.
- Speaking of hot, it's Christine Elise, later of Beverly Hills 90210.
- Another familiar face is Grace Zabriskie (Galaxy of Terror, The Grudge).
- Chucky "killing" the other Good Guy doll, Tommy, is great. Hmmmm, Tommy? Maybe a shot at first movie director Tom Holland?
- "Hi, I'm...[pause]... Tommy". Funny.
- Haha, love the photocopier bit.
- The naked, hairless Good Guy dolls in the factory might just be creepier than Chucky.
- Nice kill. Two words - eye machine.
- And a very, very messy finale.

Overall thoughts: With Child's Play 2 the vibe begins it's slow slide towards comedy, with Chucky doing more wisecracking than in the original. But it's still a good mix, I'd say 80% horror, 20% comedy. There's not as much suspense as in the first movie, but there are some good kills and an interesting climax. So basically more of the same as the first movie, but with slightly more comedy thrown in. Definitely worth watching in a double-feature with part one.

Monday, October 17, 2011

31 Nights of Terror #13 - Child's Play (1988)



Child's Play (1988)
Director: Tom Holland
Starring: Catherine Hicks, Chris Sarandon, Alex Vincent, Brad Dourif
Format: DVD (MGM)

- It's a lazy Sunday, a perfect time for a mini-marathon within this 31 Nights of Terror marathon, and what better way than with a triple-feature of the first three Child's Play movies?
- I've recently acquired these three movies on DVD. I know I saw the first one on VHS back in the day, and I'm pretty sure I've seen the next two, but can't be certain.
- What ever happened to Chris Sarandon? He was in some great movies in the 80s (Fright Night, Princess Bride, this) but I can't recall seeing him in anything for years.
- Stop, hammer time!
- After all the Chucky films it's hard to watch this with fresh eyes, but it's done so in the early going you wonder if it's Chucky or the kid doing the killing.
- The mom in this movie (Catherine Hicks) went on to play the mom in one of the most sickening TV shows of all time, 7th Heaven. Now *that* is true horror.
- I remember how me and my friends used to say "Hi, I'm Chucky, wanna play" a lot when this movie came out.
- So that was the infamous shock treatment kill, which was cut from the VHS release but restored now on the DVD. It was pretty fun, but I can't see why it was cut.
- I get that Chucky is alive, but how the hell does a doll have the strength to push open a door that a fully-grown woman is holding shut?
- Yay, they beat Chucky. He won't be back. Right?

Overall thoughts: After watching the later comedic Bride of Chucky and Seed of Chucky flicks, it's easy to forget that the franchise started out as an effective straight forward horror movie. The plot is fairly run of the mill slasher, but the concept of a killer doll is done with style and fun without getting too cheesy (unlike Charles Band's Puppetmaster and Blood Doll movies). Like Freddy Krueger, Chucky got more goofy as time went on, but here he's a genuinely creepy little bastard. Good stuff.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

31 Nights of Terror #12 - The Brood (1979)



The Brood (1979)
Director: David Cronenberg
Starring: Oliver Reed, Samantha Eggar, Art Hindle
Format: DVD (Universal)

- David Cronenberg. I have to admit there are some gaping holes in my viewing history of this director. I've seen The Fly, Rabid, Videodrome, Scanners, The Dead Zone, Naked Lunch and Eastern Promises and enjoyed them all to varying levels. I have yet to see Shivers, Dead Ringers, Existenz or this one.
- Powerful opening scene. Oliver Reed was, by all accounts, an alcoholic asshole but he was a great actor.
- Great score by Howard Shore, who went on to win an Oscar for his score of Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring.
- Lots of slow build in the first hour, with intermittent moments of quite effective horror.
- Art Hindle reminds me a lot of Dominic West, star of one of my favourite TV shows, The Wire.
- Seeing your teacher get bashed to death in the classroom. Hey kids, you'd better get used to going to therapy.
- Cronenberg sure does love using gooey body fluid effects.
- I can't decide whether Samantha Eggar's acting in this movie is great or over the top. Either way it's memorable.
- Great twist ending. I didn't see that coming.

Overall thoughts: The Brood is psychological horror at its best. Cronenberg takes a simple-but-effective premise and runs with it, using his own unique style to make it work. The first two thirds of the movie build up the characters and storyline, giving hints of the horror ahead, before a simply stunning finale. The "creatures" are simple in design but extremely creepy and the acting performances are quite good. I definitely recommend this one for anyone who hasn't seen it.

31 Nights of Terror #11 - Mr Halloween (2007)



Mr Halloween (2007)
Director: Andrew Wolf
Starring: A bunch of nobodies
Format: DVD (York Entertainment)

- This is one of a bunch of budget horror flicks I bought off a website in the US a few years back. I haven't gotten around to watching most of them, including this one, but since it's got Halloween in its name I thought I'd give it a go.
- Wow, this is uber low-budget.
- The killer, Mr Halloween, is played by Bill Loomis. Related to Dr Loomis maybe?
- For a movie with zero budget this has some half decent music and gore so far.
- The acting, though, is exactly what you'd expect from a movie this low budget ($6000 according to IMDB). High school production level.
- Hey, they're playing the boardgame Zombies! I've played that!
- Most common line of dialogue in this movie so far: "What the hell are you doing?"
- Mr Halloween is really, really annoying.
- On the cover he has a cool-looking evil clown mask. But of course it's nowhere to be seen in the actual movie. I hate that.
- Okay, so it seems Bill Loomis is a real guy who runs a haunted house attraction every Halloween and he played himself in this movie.
- The male lead is Justin Loomis. Bill's kid? Probably. And he reminds me of David Arquette.
- That kid looks very clean for someone who's been kept in a basement for a year.
- And there's the plot twist that a blind man could have seen coming.
- For a big, bad guy Mr Halloween went out like a pussy.

Overall thoughts: Want to see a great horror movie featuring a hulking killer in blue overalls and a character named Loomis? Go watch the original Halloween. Mr Halloween? Well, it's okay. For a movie that cost $6000 to make and stars first time actors, it could have been a whole lot worse. Director Andrew Wolf actually does a good job, throwing in some clever camera shots, good music and some alright gore. What drags Mr Halloween down is the acting (as you'd expect) and the fact it could really have done with being half an hour shorter. Overall, as micro-budget movies go it's probably one of the better ones I've seen, but I won't be hurrying to watch it again.

31 Nights of Terror #10 - House 3 (1989)



House 3 (1989)
Director: James Isaac
Starring: Lance Henricksen, Brion James, Rita Taggert, Dedee Pfeiffer
Format: VHS (Premiere Home Entertainment)

- You'd rather be on Elm St? Nice tagline, but I have feeling it's going to be true in a way the producers didn't intend.
- Written by Alan Smithee. That's not a good sign.
- Ah, the 80s, when Lance Henriksen still had some credibility and wouldn't appear in any old crap.
- So apparently this one was filmed as The Horror Show then retitled House 3 for the non-US market. The actual second House sequel had to be renamed House IV as a result.
- Hey it's Leon Kowalski. Brion James was a great bad guy character actor, although I must admit up until recently I thought him and Tobin Bell were the same person.
- Director Jason Isaac went on to helm Jason X (yikes) and Skinwalkers (haven't seen it).
- If I didn't know differently I'd swear this was a Wes Craven production. It has a real Nightmare on Elm St vibe to it, and shares a plot point with Shocker.
- According to IMDB this came out a few months before Shocker, so I guess it can't be considered a ripoff.
- Thom Bray! I haven't seen him since he was one of the leads on one of my favourite shows as a kid, Riptide.
- That Nightmare on Elm St vibe I mentioned only gets stronger as this movie goes on. Some of the special effects are extremely Krueger-esque.
- This movie came after quite a sequence of great flicks for Henriksen - Aliens in 1986, Near Dark in 1987 and Pumpkinhead in 1988. It's a shame it was all downhill from there.

Overall thoughts: Yikes, this was painful. Not even Lance Henriksen at the peak of his powers could save this tedious borefest. It's missing the out-and-out zaniness of the first House, instead taking a straight forward approach, which takes away any fun that was to be had. What we're left with is a pale imitation of Nightmare on Elm St. As pale as an albino dressing up as a Twilight character for Halloween.

31 Nights of Terror #9 - I Drink Your Blood (1970)



I Drink Your Blood (1970)
Director: David Durston
Starring: Bhaskar, Jadin Wong, Rhonda Fultz, George Patterson
Format: DVD (Madman)


- Naked hippies in the first scene. Good start. Satan-worshipping naked hippies, even better!
- Groovy 60s soundtrack with bongos. Like far out man.
- "Roger, I'm terribly upset". Great dialogue.
- Hey that's the girl from The Crazies (Lynn Lowry). I knew when I watched The Crazies the other night I'd seen her before. I must have remembered her from this (though admittedly I only watched about the first third of this, some 6-7 years ago).
- My DVD runs 83 minutes. The uncut version is 90 minutes. Damn.
- The kid in this movie sure is a resourceful little bastard.
- Horace Bones the Indian (as in Native American) hippy leader is played by an Indian actor (as in from the country India). Okay.
- I come from a country where we don't have rabies, so I'm not expert on the disease, but I'm pretty sure it takes more than a few hours for it to affect a human.
- I knew I'd heard one of the musical sound effects from this movie before. It's from the intro to the Rob Zombie song
- Rabid construction workers! If they would join up with the rabid Indian hippie and somehow find a cop and a navy guy, we'd have the coolest Village People cover group ever.
- Some of the music is creepy but some of it sounds like Batman should be dancing the Batoozie to it.
- This does have some good gore, especially for the time. I'm wondering if this print really is cut?

Overall thoughts: I can honestly say this is the best rabid satanist hippy horror movie I have ever seen. It's also the only one I've ever seen. All kidding aside, as low budget zombie movies go (I know they're not really zombies, but it still feels like a zombie movie) this one's pretty good. Some of the acting's really, really bad, but that aside it has a charm to it that only low budget late 60s/early 70s movies can have. The heavy-handed anti-beatnik moralising is quite laughable, but looking past that there's a good ol' gorey time to be had watching I Drink Your Blood.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

31 Nights of Terror #8 - Dead Snow (2009)



Dead Snow (2009)
Director: Tommy Wirkola
Starring: A bunch of Norwegian people you won't have heard of
Format: DVD (Madman)

- A hot chick who knows about classic horror movies. I'm in love.
- It's been a good last few years for Norwegian horror. I really enjoyed last year's Trollhunter and have heard good things about this one.
- From the goofy menu music I was expecting this to be a comedy/horror but so far it's an effective little chiller with lots of suspense and jump scares.
- Isolation horror is one of my favourite sub-genres and you can't get much more isolated than deep in the Norwegian mountains.
- Zombies that slit throats? What the deuce?
- Norwegian death metal. Rowrrrr!
- The movie geek guy is wearing a Braindead t-shirt. New Zealand represent!
- Jesus, at least let the guy finish wiping before you get it on in the shithouse.
- Nazi zombies is a sub-genre that is vastly underutilised. I can only think of Shockwaves and this.
- And this just went from being a atmospheric scarefest to a blood and guts (or more specifically brains) gorefest.
- I've seen enough modern zombie movies to be able to tolerate running zombies (or zoombies as I like to call them), but zombies that use weapons? Blah.
- Look, it's Zombie Colonel Klink.
- And now zombies that can climb trees. Are there no rules anymore?
- The comedy has increased a lot since the zombies showed up, but without the overall vibe getting too silly.
- Never sneak up on a man in the middle of a killing spree.

Overall thoughts: Dead Snow is fun and entertaining, I'll give it that. The characters are likeable, the zombies pretty bad ass and the setting desolate and remote. After a slow, atmospheric build up the action kicks in and doesn't let up until the climax. A good mix of horror and comedy. And it has Nazi Zombies!

Sunday, October 9, 2011

31 Nights of Terror #7 - The Crazies (1973)



The Crazies (1973)
Director: George Romero
Starring: Lane Carroll, WG McMillan, Harold Wayne Jones
Format: DVD (Umbrella)

- I haven't seen this one in a long time. I don't remember being very impressed by it, but then I think it was the first Romero movie I'd seen after the Dead Trilogy, so it was always going to be a let down in comparison I guess.
- That's quite the monobrow on WG McMillan
- The army personnel in white bodysuits and black gas-masks foreshadow Lucas' stormtroopers, which would hit the screen four years later.
- Evans City, also the setting for Night of the Living Dead.
- Man, those are some sharp knitting needles.
- I've heard most of the audio (especially voice work) was added in post-production, and it shows. There's a nasty echo to some of the dialogue and effects.
- Richard France plays an army doctor. He would later play another doctor in Dawn of the Dead, the cynical one who stays on the air in the TV studio as the world goes to hell.
- Look at the crazy rednecks getting all Wile E. Coyote with their sticks of dynamite.
- It's hard to believe this was made just a few years after Night of the Living Dead. But that's probably because NOTLD seems to much older, being in black and white.
- Holy incest Batman!
- Lynn Lowry sure was one unique-looking girl. And hot.
- I haven't seen the remake of this, but I'd like to check it out. I'm not a fan of remakes, but the original could be done so much better.

Overall thoughts: While not a bad movie, there's just something about The Crazies that doesn't click with me. Part of it is the characters - I don't empathise with any of the leads, which always makes it hard to care about their plight. Another part of it is the "crazies" themselves. They're just, well, not that crazy. Despite its faults, a movie like 28 Days Later featured a good example of infected people going absolutely bananas. Not so much here.
Sure, The Crazies shares a major similarity with Romero's two most famous movies, Night of the Living Dead and Dawn of the Dead, in that it features a group of people trying to survive when everything is going the crap around them. But give me a horde of zombies anyday.

Friday, October 7, 2011

31 Nights of Terror #6 - Eden Lake (2008)



Eden Lake (2008)
Director: James Watkins
Starring: Kelly Reilly, Michael Fassbender, Tara Ellis, Jack O'Connell
Format: DVD

- This one was a cheap blind buy. I know nothing about it.
- Okay, so it's British. And directed by James Watkins, who wrote a great little flick called My Little Eye.
- And stars Michael Fassbender, who since this has gone on to play parts in Inglourious Basterds and X-Men: First Class (as young Magneto).
- Hello Kelly Reilly. If there's one thing the Brits know how to produce it's sexy redheads (for more evidence see Karen Gillan from Dr Who).
- I guess I'm getting old and crotchety, because nothing makes my blood boil like disrespectful kids.
- Jesus Christ, there's some tough viewing in this. The one scene with the kids taking turns cutting the guy in particular.
- Movie is finished and I just realised I didn't write any notes for the second half of it, I was so engrossed in what was happening on screen.

Overall thoughts: Wow. It's been a long, long time since I've been as affected by a horror movie as I was by Eden Lake. This movie brought out more raw emotion (most of it anger) than I've felt in forever. At the core it's an isolation survival movie (like The Hills Have Eyes and so many others) mixed with a revenge flick (Last House on the Left, I Spit on Your Grave et al), and an effective one at that, full of suspense, jump scares and brutal violence.
But beyond that it is a commentary on the way our society is changing. From what I've seen and read, the increase in youth violence is a major problem in England (where Eden Lake is set), but disaffected and disrespectful youth are prevalent in any western society. This movie takes what we all know is going on in our society and puts it right in our face in a blunt and extreme manner. The idea of a monster chasing us through the woods is pretty scary. Switch the monster with a group of conscienceless youths and it becomes something that could actually happen, so all the more terrifying.
If you haven't seen Eden Lake, see it now.

31 Nights of Terror #5 - Body Bags (1993)



Body Bags (1993)

Director: John Carpenter (2 segments), Tobe Hooper (1 segment)
Starring: John Carpenter, Robert Carradine, Stacey Keach, Mark Hamill

Format: VHS (Home Cinema Group)


- I had this one on my list to watch for this marathon, but had to bump it up to today after learning that actor Charles Napier had died. He features in one of the segments in this anthology.
- I've been wanting to see this for years. All I know is it's an anthology, was made for TV and is meant to have all sorts of horror movie cameos in it.
- So instead of The Cryptkeeper we get John Carpenter himself as The Coroner. Nice touch.
- Another nice touch: The first segment is set in Haddonfield.
- Alright, let's go horror actor/director spotting!
- Spotted in segment 1, The Gas Station: Directors Wes Craven and Sam Raimi, David Naughton (American Werewolf in London).
- Decapitated head humor, always funny.
- Segment 2 is void of horror guy cameos, but it does feature 80s singers Sheena Easton and Deborah Harry.
- Stacey Keach in a long hair wig is just creepy. Like seeing Fabio as an old man.
- Segment 3, there's Charles Napier, playing a baseball coach. RIP Charles.
- Mark Hamill and Twiggy as a married couple. Mr and Mrs Has Been!
- Roger Corman as a doctor. Nice! Ha, and his acting is terrible, exactly what you'd expect from one of his own low-budget movies.
- And Corman's doctor colleague is played by former b-movie leading man John Agar (Tarantula, Attack of the Puppet People etc).
- Hamill's actually pretty good in this.
- And the final cameo comes in the wrap-around conclusion, as director Tobe Hooper plays a morgue worker alongside Tom Arnold.

Overall thoughts:
I've read that this anthology was intended as a pilot for a TV series that didn't get picked up. I'm not sure why it didn't get picked up, because it's as good as most horror/scifi anthology TV series of the past 30 years. And no, that's not a compliment. Like its peers, Body Bags suffers from the restraints of TV censorship (sparse blood and guts) and weak source material.
The middle story, Hair, is the least conventional of the three, but is also the weakest. The opening story has good atmosphere, music and camerawork, the hallmarks of John Carpenter's career, while the third one, directed by Tobe Hooper, is from the predictable transplanted-body-part-is-evil line, and is only saved by a good acting performance by former Luke Skywalker Mark Hamill. The best stuff comes in the wrap-around, which is full of dark humour and a fun performance by Carpenter himself.
Final verdict? Not a complete waste of time but if you've seen most horror anthologies you know what to expect. If nothing else horror fans will have fun trying to spot all the director cameos.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

31 Nights of Terror #4 - The Toxic Avenger (1984)



The Toxic Avenger (1984)
Director: Lloyd Kaufman
Starring: Mitchell Cohen, Andree Maranda
Format: DVD (Troma)

- Alright, so this is the Director's Cut DVD. Not sure what that means, other than there are a few "deleted scenes" in the special features.
- Special DVD intro by Lloyd Kaufman, Mr Troma himself. As he says, this movie is what "built the house of Troma".
- Disclosure: I'm not really a fan of Troma movies. I prefer my horror a little less, well, silly I guess. I enjoy Class of Nuke 'Em High and a couple of others, but most Troma flicks do nothing for me.
- More disclosure: I haven't seen any of the sequels, and it's been close to 25 years since I saw this one. I remember quite liking it back in the day and I think it was probably one of the first gorey movies I ever saw.
- Digging the totally gnarly 80s soundtrack.
- Toking sit ups. That seemed so badass when I was 13.
- Nothing says 80s (or 70s) like naked breasts with tanlines.
- The Toxie transformation effects are actually pretty decent for such a low budget.
- Bad, bad overdubbing when Toxie speaks. Was that in the original, or is it some Director's Cut meddling?
- I am not surprised to read on IMDB that actor Pat Ryan, who played Mayor Belgoody, died at the age of 44. Boy was he one obese dude.
- Hey look, a one-armed bandit!
- Nice head-crushing scene. I guess that was the one it mentions on the cover of the DVD?
- A lot of the humor is lame, but I love the montage where Toxie does good deeds, like opening a jar for an old lady.
- Gratuitous car chase/crash sequence for no reason.

Overall thoughts: After a rough couple of days at work, tonight I needed some good old fashioned escapism. To switch my brain off and watch something that didn't take any thinking. So what better than a Troma flick right? As I mentioned above, I haven't watched The Toxic Avenger since the late 80s. I liked it when I saw it way back then, but how did it hold up to the test of time? Well, it was okay. A lot of the humor fell flat, but overall it's got a certain low budget, underground charm to it. Definitely a movie that appealed more to 13-year-old me (lots of boobs, toilet humor and gore) than 36-year-old me, but I'm glad I revisited it.

Monday, October 3, 2011

31 Nights of Terror #3 - The Video Dead (1987)



The Video Dead (1987)

Director: Robert Scott
Starring: Rocky Duvall, Roxanna Augesen
Format: VHS (Premiere)

- Name in the opening credits: Michael St Michaels. Nice pornstar name there buddy.
- Zombies that come out of a TV, even when it's unplugged. 15 years before Ringu.
- Both of the two main leads have just this movie to their name (according to IMDB.com). Not a good sign.
- Director Robert Scott has one other credit to his name. Ratdog (1990). Sounds like a winner.
- And one more fact from IMDB: The budget for this movie was apparently $80,000. I believe it.
- Dude warns you there's a TV that isn't really a TV and it could lead to the loss of lives. You find a TV in the attic and decide to turn it on. Ladies and gentlemen, your Moron of the Year.
- Zombies coming out of the TV bad. Naked hot blonde chick coming out of the TV? Not so bad.
- Oh boy, I can see why Rocky Duvall never worked again. His acting is so bad it's unintentionally funny.
- Speaking of bad, some of the camera work is pitiful.
- The zombie effects are, for the most part, not too bad.
- Laughing zombies? That's a new one.
- The old zombie hiding in the washing machine bit. If I've seen it once I've seen it... well, once now.
- These zombies like killing but they're not much for gut-munching. Maybe they're vegetarian?
- What kind of lame zombies get taken out by arrows?
- Zombie with a chainsaw! Run!
- Zombies that are afraid of mirrors. Zombies that can sense fear. Just give me plain old "braaaaains" zombies any day.
- Okay, that is the lamest method of "defeating" a group of zombies I have ever seen. So, so lame.
- And an uber-lame twist ending just to tie things off with a corny bow.

Overall thoughts: To make a successful horror comedy you need to achieve two things. Your movie should be funny and also have suspense and/or gore. The Video Dead fails on all counts. The thing is, it had the makings of a low budget version of Return of the Living Dead. Maybe with a more competent director and writer that could have been achieved. But instead we get horrible acting, bad camerawork, no laughs, no suspense. About the only positive is the zombie effects, which are average. I cannot imagine why anyone would want to see this movie a second time. In fact, the only reason most people would have seen it once has to be because of its awesome cover, which would have drawn in a few punters at the old video store. Definitely give this one a miss.

31 Nights of Terror #2 - Xtro (1983)



Xtro (1983)

Director: Harry Bromley Davenport
Starring: Philip Sayer, Bernice Stagers, Danny Brainin
Format: VHS (Thorn/EMI)


- Alright here we go with a movie I've been aware of for years but have never seen before now.
- Huh, I wasn't expecting it to be British.
- Bond Girl Maryam D'Abo in her early 20s. Mmmmm.
- Ah the 80s, when even the English had mullets.
- Dogs can always sense when there's a slimey space monster lurking about. Yep, the same creatures that eat vomit and lick their own asses are geniuses.
- Wait, did the monster just eat that woman or copulate with her?
- The monster effects haven't been too great so far, but the synth music soundtrack (which IMDB.com tells me was done by the director) provides suspense, shock and more than little bit of weirdness to proceedings.
- Well, I guess that answers my question about eating/copulating. One of the surrealist alien births I've ever seen.
- Naked Maryam D'Abo. Three words that should make any red-blooded male want to see this movie.
- Plot so far: Guy gets abducted by aliens then returns three years later. He tries to pick up where he left off with his wife and son, but his wife has since shacked up with another guy. Naturally dear old Dad starts acting strangely.
- D'Abo is extremely sexy but her ever-changing accent is distracting.
- Midget clown alert!
- And it just got weirder. Yes, weirder than a midget clown.
- There has been very little in the way of blood and gore so far. I've just checked and my VHS appears to be uncut at 83 minutes long.
- The monster effects got better towards the end.
- The ending opens the way for sequels. I believe two were made, but not sure if they follow narrative-wise or just in name.

Overall thoughts: I've heard this movie referred to as a "mess", but as far as plot goes it's actually pretty straight forward, in that everything at least makes sense. But at the same time there are definitely quite a few trippy, offbeat (or, in the modern parlance - WTF?) moments. The monster effects range from quite bad to quite good and the musical soundtrack is extremely effective in adding to the surreality. I guess the word I would use to sum Xtro is "different", which is a good thing, trust me. I don't think I've ever seen a movie quite like Xtro.

Friday, September 30, 2011

31 Nights of Terror #1 - Dance of the Dead (2008)


Dance of the Dead (2008)
Director: Gregg Bishop
Starring: Jared Kusnitz, Greyson Chadwick, Chandler Darby
Format: DVD

Observations:
- Hey look, a recent horror flick with a cast of "teens" that aren't fake-looking models. I already like this movie.
- The realistic casting and well-written high school hijinks gives this a vibe of Freaks and Geeks crossed with Animal House crossed with Dazed and Confused.
- That is, until the zombies show up. Then it only gets better!
- Braaaaains!
- Oops, Mitch lost his head.
- I see on IMDB that male lead Jared Kusnitz is also in Otis, another movie I'll be watching during 31 Nights of Terror 2011.
- Holy jumping zombies Batman!
- A car cigarette lighter as a weapon. "Don't move or I'll scorch you!".
- Zombie carjackers. I guess all the usual rules are out the window.
- I can honestly say that is the first time I have seen anyone do pro wrestling moves on a zombie. Awesome!
- I guess the saying "music soothes the savage beast" is true.
- Coach Keel is officially my favourite character in this.
- What prom would be complete without the band playing an 80s power ballad, right? "Shadows of the Night" by Pat Benatar - rockin' choice!
- Hey look, it's Mitch.
- Zombie sex looks painful.
- Cool guys (and gals) don't look back at explosions.

Overall thoughts:
I'm going to make this short. Dance of the Dead is a worthy entrant into the Zombie Horror Comedy Hall of Fame, alongside the likes of Shaun of the Dead, Zombieland and Return of the Living Dead. It does the simple things well. Realistic characters you care about. Comedy that is actually funny. Moments of suspense and gore. Good zombie effects. Effective camera work. It ticks all the boxes, making for a fun watch. And a great way to get the ball rolling on 31 Nights of Terror 2011!

Announcing 31 Nights of Terror... the sequel!

Hi everyone, sorry for my lack of blogging lately. The usual real life things have gotten in the way.

But that's about to change!

Back in 2008 I attempted the first 31 Nights of Terror marathon. My intention was to watch one horror movie every night for 31 consecutive nights leading up to Halloween.

I failed. I made it through 21 nights but found it too hard to commit to watching a movie every single night for a whole month. (You can read the marathon in its entirity in the blog archive).

But now I'm extremely happy to announce the revival of 31 Nights of Terror! It remains essentially the same - I will try to watch 31 horror movies in the month of October. But to make it a little easier on myself, I won't be watching *every* night. Some nights will have double features, others will be movie-free, but in the end it will still add up to 31 movies over the month.

What are the movies? Sorry, you'll just have to wait and see, but for the most part they will be movies I have either a) never seen, or b) haven't seen in a long time. Some will be on VHS and some on DVD. The only connecting thread is that they will all be horror flicks.

The only cheat I'm allowing is that I'm starting the marathon tonight, which is Friday September 30. I know, not technically October, but like I said it's a small cheat and doesn't ruin the spirit of the marathon.

As with my past movie marathons, I won't be writing full reviews of the movies I watch, but will instead post the notes I write while I watch, followed by a short summary of my overall thoughts.

So, stay tuned!

VHS collection - Action, martial arts, b movies

Monday, September 5, 2011

August 23 - Frozen (2010)



Frozen (2010)
Director: Adam Green
Format: DVD

This is one of those movies I've been hearing good things about, but was worried wouldn't live up to the hype. I mean, it's a movie about three people being stuck on a ski-lift. How could that possibly be entertaining or terrifying?

Well, you know what? It is a good movie and in parts it does quite a good job of being scary/suspenseful/intense.

Adam Green (HATCHET) is developing quite a reputation as an up-and-coming horror director and there's plenty to admire about his work here. For a start Frozen was filmed entirely on location in the mountains. No sound stages here and no CGI - watch the main featurette in the special features of the DVD to see just how creative Green and his crew were in making the sparse script work.

The plot is, as I mentioned, simple. Three friends - played by Emma Bell (WALKING DEAD TV series), Shawn Ashmore (X-MEN series) and Kevin Zegers (DAWN OF THE DEAD remake) - sneak onto a ski-lift and through a series of bad luck end up stranded high above the ground while the ski resort closes for the week. What do they do? Jump? Try to climb along the wires? Wait it out? And what about the wolves circling below?

So, there's not much meat on the bones of this plot, which makes character development all the more important. Luckily the script and dialogue of Frozen do a good job of establishing the three main characters. The dynamic of two best mates and the "third wheel" girlfriend tagging along is entertaining in the build-up to the horror.

And once it starts the "survival horror" portion is full of tension, especially if you're scared of heights like me. There's also a few small moments of gore.

If you're a keen horror movie fan and think you've seen every possible scenario and setting, a flick like Frozen makes a refreshing change.