Friday, May 6, 2016

What I Watched - April 24-30 2016


The Forest (2016) AVI
- While not a bad film, I was ultimately disappointed by this American horror flick set in Japan. It has a great premise - an American girl travels to Japan to search for her missing twin sister, who has disappeared in the "Suicide Forest" on the slopes of Mount Fuji. I've watched a few documentaries about this very-real place and find the concept of a forest full of dead bodies to be as creepy as hell, so had fairly high hopes for this one. It does start promisingly, building up some nice suspense and using the setting to its advantage, but in the third act it devolves into jump scares and then ends with a ridiculous climax, complete with one of those awful last-second jump scare moments. Given the setting and premise, this should have been better.
Krampus (2015) AVI
- I had mixed expectations going into this one. On the one hand I was excited to see a movie made by the director of the awesome Trick R Treat, but on the other I was worried about the subject matter. I guess I'm a bit burned out on evil Santa movies after A Christmas Horror Story and Rare Exports. It turns out I did enjoy this one to a certain degree, but I ended up wishing it was more horror and less comedy.
The premise of a dysfunctional family at Christmas being forced to fight off an evil version of ol' Saint Nick and his minions is a good one, but so much time was spent setting up the family that the early parts felt a lot like a remake of National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation. I love that movie, but that's not what I was hoping for here. Minus some goofy gingerbread men, the creature effects are excellent - the Krampus itself is extremely creepy. 
Overall, Krampus is a decent horror comedy that is elevated by its effects, just don't expect it to be as good as Trick R Treat.
Diamond Ninja Force (1988) Stream
- See full review here.

Invasion of the Girl Snatchers (1973) Stream
- Originally going by the tongue-twister name of The Hidan of Maukbeiangjow, this is a no-budget 70s exploitation flick about a private eye hunting down a pair of criminals and getting tied up with a strange UFO cult. It never takes itself too seriously (the main private investigator is named Sam Trowel, get it?) and throws in some nudity to try to keep things interesting, but the acting is awful across the board and it looks like it was shot at the director's house. Quite boring for the most part, there's just not enough cheese factor to make this one recommendation-worthy.
White Ghost (1988) Stream
- See full review here.

Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens (2015) AVI
- The latest Stars Wars blockbuster has been reviewed to death so I'm not going to say much other than I loved this movie. After the extremely-disappointing prequels, this was a fantastic return to form for the franchise and what a Star Wars movie should be.

Robot Ninja (1989) AVI
- How could you not love a movie with that name? This low-budget actioner is about a comic book artist who adopts the identity of his superhero character (Robot Ninja) to fight crime. Kind of a Z-grade Kickass or, if you're my age, Condorman. Full of all of the traits you'd expect - bad acting, dumb humour, non-existent special effects (gotta love the fact that the main guy puts on a metallic mask to appear like a robot, but has his curly mullet showing out the back). Besides the cheese factor, what makes this watchable is the gore. Director JR Bookwalter (THE DEAD NEXT DOOR) doesn't spare the blood and guts, which are spilled in a lovingly low-budget manner. This is a good time for fans of bad cinema.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

White Ghost (1988)

White Ghost (1988)
Director: BJ Davis
Starring: William Katt, Martin Hewitt, Reb Brown
Format: Stream

Plot: An M.I.A. US soldier nicknamed White Ghost (Katt) lives in hiding in the jungles of communist Vietnam. The US army finds out about him and sends a black ops team to rescue him. However, the team is lead by a man who wants White Ghost dead.

The Greatest American Hero was one of my favourite shows when I was a kid. The show aired from 1981 to 1983, when I was aged 6 through to 9, the perfect age to appreciate the show's wacky appeal. Hell, I just loved getting to see a live action caped superhero in action, even if he couldn't fly properly or use his superheroes to save himself. And that theme song... awesome.

Lead star William Katt unfortunately faded into obscurity after the show's run, apart from showing up in a couple of the House horror/comedies I honestly couldn't tell you what he's been doing since. A look at his IMDB page shows that after Greatest American Hero he acted in a bunch of Perry Mason TV movies. Who knew? Well, luckily for us after that he chose White Ghost, a low-budget action flick that I happened to find in full on Youtube. The listing caught my eye because of one name - Reb Brown - an actor who I've raved about before on this blog for his bad, bad acting which is a sight to behold. Sadly Brown has only a small role in this, but despite that it's a good ol' time anyway.

Besides Brown and Katt, White Ghost also features Martin Hewitt (THE PARATROOPER), making for something of a bad-acting trinity. And it's directed by the guy who made the Brandon Lee vehicle Lazer Mission!

The storyline is part Missing in Action, part Predator (the team aspect, not the alien) and part Rambo. There are plenty of great cheesy moments, from Katt's frizzy mullet (which he unfortunately gets cut early in the piece) to the facepaint he dons that makes him look like the bassist from a Norwegian black metal band. After growing up on Katt as a comedic actor it's hard to take him seriously in a straight-forward action movie like this, and his facial expressions don't help. Let's just say his stoic face is more Alzheimer's patient than ass-kicking soldier.

The climax of White Ghost is typical of these movies, with all the explosions and gunfighting an action fan can wish for. My only complaint is the misuse of Reb Brown - he spends most of the movie in an office and only enters the jungle in the third act. He does get to brandish two machine guns and use his trademark yell, which I appreciate, but it's too little too late. I really wish they had cast Brown in the lead role (ala STRIKE COMMANDO) or at least in the main baddie role which instead went to Wayne Crawford (BARRACUDDA). But that complaint aside, White Ghost is a fun actioner - not quite as cheesy as classics like Strike Commando or Deadly Prey but worthwhile for fans of cheesy shoot-em-ups.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

HO NO: Diamond Ninja Force (1988)

Diamond Ninja Force (1988)
Director: Godfrey Ho
Starring: Richard Harrison, Melvin Pitcher, Andy Chworowsky
Format: Stream

Plot: This is a Godfrey Ho movie... you expect plot?

Also known as Ghost Ninja, this is one of the many 80s mash-ups that Godfrey Ho "directed", starring washed-up former sword-and-sandals star Richard Harrison (GIANTS OF ROME). As is usually the case, Ho takes an established movie, adds some newly-shot ninja scenes and voila, ninja mash-up goodness. But unusually he chose a Taiwanese horror movie to chop up, which actually works in this movie's favour.

Whereas the non-ninja portions of many of the Ho movies I've seen thus far tend to be a bit boring, that's not the case here. The Taiwanese horror bits are goofy as hell and a whole lot of fun. A family - including mum Fanny and son Bobo (dig those names man!) - finds their home haunted by a ghost, or ghosts (it's hard to tell) and all manner of campy low-rent Amityville Horror stuff happens to them. Some of it is quite adult in nature, so we get a strew of sex scenes and nudity. That does get a bit tedious, but it's saved by the variety of supernatural "special effects" which are downright hilarious.

Meanwhile, the bad guy who summoned the "ghost ninja" to haunt the family and drive them off their land, accidentally(?) kills the girlfriend of badass ninja dude Harrison, a member of the titular Diamond Ninja Force. Naturally he vows revenge on the bad guys, leading to a series of "fights" interspersed between the haunting storyline - in each, Harrison shows up and kills a bad guy easily and without any blood (despite using swords and throwing stars). More haunting stuff, another fight, more haunting, another fight... rinse and repeat until the final showdown between Harrison and the main baddie.

Naturally this is a bad movie. The name Godfrey Ho essentially demands that. It has the usual awful dubbing and incoherent plotline (although more coherent than most Ho flicks), and everything else that lovers of bad cinema will revel in. And adding to its appeal is the fact the non-ninja portions are just as fun, not something that is common for Ho's masterpieces. Given that, I think this might be my favourite Godfrey Ho flick so far. I found it on a streaming website called, but it's also available on Youtube.

Catch Up - What I Watched March 27-April 23


I don't know what it is about March and April, but every year they seem to become one big black hole for movie watching in my household. This year has been no different, with viewing totals a lot lower than what I typically achieve. I honestly don't have an explanation, but with so few movies passing before my eyes, rather than do the usual weekly What I Watched column, it's time for a catch-up...

River's Edge (1986) VHS
- This teen drama that comments on the increasing apathy of the younger generation is as poignant today as it was back in the mid-80s. When a male member of their group of friends kills a female friend, the rest of the group reacts to the news in different ways. Oddball Layne (Crispin Glover) turns uber-loyal and tries to cover up the crime, while Matt and Clarissa (Keanu Reeves and Ione Skye) choose the more ethical route. Matt's younger brother Tim (Joshua Miller) sees his contacting the police as a betrayal, and adding to the volatile mix is crazed drug dealer Feck (Dennis Hopper). This bleak affair benefits from some stellar casting (Glover and Hopper are the stand outs).
Scream season 1 (2015) Netflix
- I'm on the fence about the Scream movies. I did enjoy the first couple (and part four was okay), but I also recognise the damage their success did to horror movies, spawning a long line of soulless teenybopper movies that are better left unmentioned. The TV series brings back a lot of the elements of the first movie, to the point of making me wonder halfway through if the outcome was going to be the same (luckily it wasn't). Yes, it revolves around high school life and features a bunch of stereotypes but the writing is pretty good and it kept me guessing all the way to a fairly-satisfying conclusion. Bonus points for giving regular work to Bex Taylor-Klaus (THE KILLING, ARROW).

Roadkill (2011) DVD
- This Scifi/Syfy original movie will be appreciated by fans of their output and is best avoided by haters of their fare. It has the usual elements - washed up star (THE CRYING GAME's Stephen Rea in a short cameo role), bad CGI and a killer creature (giant bird of prey). Making it rise above the crowd is its setting (Ireland) and the inclusion of some gypsy mumbojumbo magic. If, like me, you can appreciate Syfy's flicks as modern-day versions of 50s B movies like Attack of the Giant Leeches and The Giant Gila Monster, you'll dig this.

Journey to the Center of the Earth (2008) Netflix
- Family movie night, and we sat down to watch this Brendan Fraser vehicle. Remember him? I recently read something online about his fall from grace, and it seems part of the blame sits on his decision to pass on the sequel to this movie (he was replaced by Dwayne "the Rock" Johnson).
Fraser's slide into obscurity aside, this movie succeeds in doing what it sets out to do - bringing a Jules Verne tale to life in a family-friendly way using modern graphics. You get what you'd expect - lots of fights with giant creatures, perilous treks through underground worlds etc. Good fun.

The Hallow (2015) AVI
- I've lost count of the number of horror movies I've seen in the last couple of years that start off with a family leaving the city to move into a house in the country. That's the case with The Hallow (aka The Woods), with the three-person family (mum, dad and baby) leaving London to set up home in the Irish countryside. Dad is some kind of environmentalist, who ignores local warnings and ventures into the dark woods. This riles up the creatures of local legend (faeries, goblins etc), who begin to terrorise the family. It's a simple premise, part survival horror part fairytale, but one that succeeds for the most part. The creatures, which are presented using a mix of CGI and practical effects, are pretty damn creepy and the infusion of Celtic folklore keeps things interesting. Not a must-see, but okay for what it is.

Justice League vs Teen Titans (2016) AVI
- The latest DC animated superhero flick has a great premise, but sadly is not executed as well as it could have been. I love the idea of a movie centred around the Teen Titans (particularly Nightwing, my favourite outside of Batman) having to work together to defeat a Justice League possessed by an alien force. I even don't mind the heavy emphasis on Damien Wayne/Robin, despite the fact I usually find the character annoying. But what brings this one down a peg or two is the fact that it just feels like it drags on for too long. More action and less set-up would have been a better idea. My six-year-old son loved it, but then he's easily impressed when it comes to superheroes.

Hell and Back (2015) Netflix
- I was excited to check this one out, as stop animated movies for adults are few and far between. As the title suggests, two friends venture to hell to rescue their buddy who is accidentally sucked into the void. Together they face an army of demons led by the Devil (Bob Oedenkirk, BETTER CALL SAUL) and a variety of other characters, including a human demon hunter and a half-human, half-demon girl (Mila Kunis, FAMILY GUY). The humour is definitely of the toilet kind and I found myself laughing a few times, but for the most part the comedy hit the mark for me. I still enjoyed watching because of the glorious stop motion animation, but was left wishing this one had been better than it turned out to be.

Sunday, April 3, 2016

What I Watched - March 20-26 2016


Deathsport (1978) DVD
- A very loose "sequel" to Roger Corman's cult hit Death Race 2000, this stars David Carradine, although he doesn't reprise his Frankenstein role. Instead he's a cyborg warrior who rides a suped-up motorcycle (a "destructocycle"!) around the wasteland and battles bad guys. This is essentially Robin Hood if you trade the bow and arrow for a two-wheeler, with the always-menacing Richard Lynch playing our Sheriff of Nottingham-type baddie. Maid Marion is ex-Playmate Claudia Jennings, who naturally spends most of the movie in the buff.
Sadly this lacks the intended humour of Death Race 2000, although it's so bad that it elicits a few laughs, mainly around the action and the inane dialogue that Jennings and Carradine swap back and forth. The action consists mainly of motorcycle stunts, feeling very much like that other futuristic turkey, 1982's Megaforce. Definitely another one that bad cinema junkies will enjoy.

Congo (1995) VHS
- I hadn't seen this movie since it was first released on home video, but remembered quite liking it and my girlfriend had never seen it. Based on a novel by Michael Crichton (Jurassic Park) this tells the story of a group of explorers who venture into a jungle where ancient killer gorillas are on the loose. Pretty straight forward, although there's a "talking" gorilla that adds a bizarre, family-friendly angle to things. As a result this feels like a weird hybrid between a kid's jungle adventure movie and something more adult-oriented like Jurassic Park or King Kong.
What makes this watchable is the cheese factor. On top of the "talking" gorilla stuff, Tim Curry hams it up with an awful Romanian accent, Joe Pantoliano shows up for a humorous cameo, the science involved makes no sense, and the killer gorillas aren't very convincing. Oh, and Bruce Campbell has a very small role, although he plays it fairly straight.

The X-Files season 10 (2015) AVI
- I was a bonafide X-Files fanboy back in the day. The show kind of jumped the shark towards the end, with all of the alien conspiracy plotlines. I enjoyed it most when it was just Mulder and Scully travelling somewhere to investigate and finding some new form of creature or other unexplainable phenomenon. When they announced a new season I was a bit sceptical that it would just be more of the alien bullshit, but I was still pretty excited to see Fox and Dana back in action.
While there is a fair amount of alien conspiracy stuff in season 10, I was happy to see that there's also some "creature of the week" episodes amongst the 6-episode revival. Even the alien stuff wasn't overbearing, so I enjoyed this new season a lot. David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson feel so natural back in their career-defining roles and I was happy to see other series regulars like Mitch Pileggi (Skinner) and William B Davis (Smoking Man) show up for cameos.
My favourite episode was the comedic Mulder & Scully Meet the Were-Monster, featuring my fellow countryman Rhys Darby. Darby's comedy is very hit and miss for me, but this was extremely well written and funny throughout.
I'm looking forward to a season 11 if it happens, although it did kind of feel like the introduction of two young pseudo-Mulder/Scully type agents (played by Lauren Ambrose and Robbie Amell) was maybe setting the way for them to eventually take over the show?

Nothing Lasts Forever (1984) AVI
- This is a bizarre lost film, which has never had any kind of home video release. It was directed by Saturday Night Live writer Tom Schiller and because of this has a few SNL alumni (most notably Dan Akroyd and Bill Murray) show up in supporting roles. The lead is Zach Galligan, a couple of years before he would hit the big time with Gremlins (this movie was filmed in 1982 but shelved for two years, and then barely shown anywhere).
In terms of plot this one's a weird one, set in some weird future or alternative totalitarian world where you have to go through customs to enter Manhattan and pass a test if you want to become an artist. There's a bus that flies to the moon for shopping, some bizarre avant garde artists and more. It's definitely one of those movies where you have to throw logic out the window and enjoy the ride. A ride made quite enjoyable by the cinematography. Most of the film is shot in black and white, with the futuristic city resembling something out of 1927's Metropolis. Dream sequences and the finale happen in colour, a change that is quite startling. In fact, the word "dream" is probably the best way to describe this movie - it feels like one big dream.

The Witch (2015) AVI
- The uber-creepy trailer to this horror flick had me drawn in from the start. While the movie itself didn't prove to be quite as good, it's still a nice little tale of witchcraft, religion and family dynamics in the early days of American settlement. A puritan family is banished to the wilderness for an indiscretion, and soon finds that the forest bordering their new, isolated farm is harbouring something evil. 
I appreciate that this isn't your typical modern horror movie, so bypasses inane jump scares to take things slowly, building up the suspense and using light and shadow to create an ominous atmosphere. Some people might find this boring, but fans of more subtle horror should enjoy it. Add in a couple of creepy kids and an even creepier goat and you've got a successfully chilling flick. It's not perfect -  things fall down during a "possession" scene - but is one of the better horror movies to be released in the last couple of years. Recommended.

What I Watched - March 13-19 2016


Very much a down week in terms of movie watching. I don't know what it is about March - looking back over the past few years (I've kept note of every movie I watch since May 2011) it always seems to be a slow period for me watching films.

Leprechaun (1993) DVD
- Naturally I watched this movie on March 17, St Patrick's Day, because what is more Irish than a killer leprechaun, right? Embarrassingly I don't think I'd ever seen this movie up until now. Not that I was missing much. Beyond getting to see a young Jennifer Aniston in action, and some minorly amusing scenes, I didn't enjoy this one much at all. How do you screw up a movie about a killer leprechaun? I haven't seen any of the sequels either, are any of them worth seeing?

Storm Warning (2007) DVD
- This on the other hand I enjoyed immensely. It's a good backwoods, killer hillbilly movie ala Wrong Turn, with the major point of difference being that it's Australian. A city couple get lost while out yachting and end up on a secluded island where a family of rednecks (or yobbos as the Aussies would call them) are growing pot and killing anyone who gets too close.
What makes Storm Warning work so well is some great acting (especially by David Lyons as inbred Jimmy) and the way director Jamie Blanks (Valentine, Urban Legend) builds up the tension for a good long time before unleashing the inevitable violence. And when that violence arrives, it is gloriously brutal. The bodycount might not be high, but the way people meet their end will have any gorehound cheering their ass off.
Not as torture porn-y as fellow Aussie flick Wolf Creek, Storm Warning still packs a major punch and is a damn good time.

Saturday, April 2, 2016

What I Watched - March 6-12 2016


Finding Vivian Maier (2013) Netflix
- This documentary is a posthumous look at a woman who worked as a nanny for rich families in America, but secretly documented the world around her via hundreds of thousand of photographs that she took. After her death filmmaker John Maloof bought her negatives in an auction and discovered that her work was world class, so set about telling her story. It's amazing that none of her work was ever exhibited for the world while she was alive, because her work truly is inspiring. I do love a good doco and especially one that unveils something that has up until then been hidden from the world, which is definitely the case here.

Cub (2014) AVI
- I remember hearing about this Belgian horror movie in the lead up to its release, but I never got around to seeing it until now. It tells the story of a group of boy scouts who go camping in the woods in an area that is off limits, and discover something horrific lurking there. I was a boy scout in my younger days and director Jonas Govaerts captures that time of life perfectly, especially the banter and mischievousness of young boys. He also captures the bullying that inevitably goes along with any gathering of pre-teen males.
As for the horror elements, they are handled very well, with plenty of suspense and even some gorey moments. The mystery as to what is exactly going on keeps you enthralled until the ending, which will please some people but annoy others. It's definitely outside the box, and that's to be commended.

Dead and Breakfast (2004) DVD
- The cover of my DVD copy of this movie has a quote about it possibly being the American equivalent of Shaun of the Dead. Praise like that always makes me wary, so I went into this expecting to dislike it. But while it's not a great movie, it's a perfectly entertaining splatter comedy in the vein of Brain Dead (Dead Alive to you Americans), Evil Dead 2 and, yes, Shaun of the Dead. It's not as good as any of those, but I still enjoyed it. The gore is good fun, and the comedy actually hits the mark for the most part (the real telling factor for any horror-comedy).

This is England '90 (2015) AVI
- A couple of years ago my girlfriend and I discovered the English TV series (mini-series?) This is England and loved it. We subsequently watched all the sequels (This is England '86 and This is England '88). Then last year the final part, This is England '90, was released, so we were eager to see that as well.
In a nutshell, This is England tells the story of a group of young skinhead punks as they grow up in poverty in the UK. The best part is the series started in 2006 and finished last year, so the cast really do grow up before your eyes. There's violence, there's comedy, there's a lot of references to pop culture stuff from the 80s (and 1990) which is great for anyone who remembers those times.
This final chapter ties up a few loose ends (Combo gets out of prison, Shaun goes back to high school, Woody and Lol get married) and introduces some new storylines (Kelly gets hooked on heroin). I really do wish this series would continue though, as I have thoroughly enjoyed it. To me Woody is one of the best-written, funniest characters of all time.
Men Behind the Sun (1988) AVI
- This movie is one that I've heard about in passing over the years, usually mentioned as one of the most shocking films ever released. In my experience most movies that get that kind of hype fail to live up to it, and usually I'm left feeling a big "meh" about them. I guess that's what comes from having watched so much horror cinema over the years.
With that in mind, I sat down to finally watch this movie, and I can honestly say it shocked me. That's not an easy thing to do, but Men Behind the Sun did it. Parts of it feel very much like any other torture exploitation film (like the Ilsa series or 120 Days of Sodom), but what this movie does differently is set up the victims as sympathetic, so when they meet a gorey end it actually hits home. As anyone who has seen this movie will probably agree, the scene in the operating room is heartbreaking.
This is definitely one of those movies you don't need to watch twice, but I'm glad I finally got around to seeing it. Hard to "recommend" as such, but worth seeing once.  

The Man Whose Mind Exploded (2012) Netflix
- Another doco, this one about an extravagant British man who suffered a terrible brain injury in an accident and now suffers from short-term memory loss. There's really nothing more to it than that. Interesting enough, a good time waster.

Cry Wolf (2005) DVD
- I bought this DVD last year at some point (for very cheap) and have almost watched it a few times. But every time I picked up the case and looked at the back, the "pretty" teens (male and female) have put me off. I usually find that when a horror movie is populated by nothing but picture-perfect model types, it blows. But I had also heard some decent things about this one, so I finally pulled the trigger.
As a horror movie this is nothing special, just any other slasher about a group of high school students being stalked by a masked murderer. But what makes it stand out is that the storyline is very well written, with all sorts of twists and turns associated with the fact that this particular group of teens engages in a game where they try to outwit each other through deception and lies. Rich kids, am I right? But this adds another layer to the slash-and-bash proceedings, making for a fun little movie.

What I Watched - February 28-March 5 2016


A light week in terms of how much I watched, but definitely quality over quantity IMO. Well, maybe not quality, but definitely rarity over quantity.

Roller Blade Warriors: Taken By Force (1989) DVD
- I've seen this one before and bored one night I decided to throw it in again and have a few laughs.  In a desolate post apocalyptic world, a group of women belong to a religious order that instructs them to go out into the world wearing skimpy leotards and on rollerskates. As you do. This is actually the first sequel to the movie Roller Blade, and several sequels follow - talk about beating a dead horse.
The acting is over-the-top and campy, the fight scenes are hilariously bad, and the script doesn't make a lick of sense (why would anyone want to rollerskate when what’s left of the roads are going to realistically be covered in all sorts of rocks and rubble? Just who is sweeping these roads?). Notice I said rollerskate, not rollerblade. There are no rollerblades in this movie, only four-wheel rollerskates. I'm willing to let that pass though, because everyone fights with ninja swords (aka blades), so the name could come from that.
If you haven't figured it out already, this is definite so-bad-it's-good material. One for the bad cinema afficionados.

Funeral Home (1980) AVI
- A girl goes to stay with her grandmother, who runs a bed-and-breakfast in a creepy old Funeral Home, which grammy and her missing husband used to run together. In true slasher style people start dying and the girl hears some strange things coming from the basement. Is grandpa not missing after all?
This little rarity (no DVD release) from director William Fruet (House by the Lake, Spasms, Killer Party) is a solid slasher that is boosted by some solid acting from Lesleh Donaldson (Happy Birthday to Me) as the granddaughter and Kay Hawtrey as the grandmother. The wacky ending also saves it after some plodding middle parts. Overall it's definitely worth watching for slasher fans.

Boardinghouse (1982) AVI
- What drew me to this one was the cover art, which is so awesome/cheesy. The movie itself? Not so much. I'm sure if I'd seen this movie in the mid-80s my teenage self would have enjoyed it - it's full of T&A. So much so that it feels like a softcore porno with some supernatural/killings thrown into the mix. And the acting is terrible... it's obvious these girls were picked for talents other than their thespian chops. Apparently the budget was a whopping $10,000, and I guess most of that went on catering.
This one's definitely a chore to get through if you're not a teenager with over-active hormones.

Perfect Victims (1982) AVI
- Another rare title, this one has never made it to DVD. It's about a guy who contracts AIDS and blames women for it, so he goes on a rampage of killing random females. The AIDS angle makes it stand out a bit from the sea of slashers that the 80s brought, but other than that it's fairly by-the-numbers. There are a few rape scenes, so if that's a deal-breaker for you, I suggest you give this one a miss. Interestingly the director went on work on mostly Power Rangers-type TV shows, which is a real change of pace from his work here.

Monday, March 21, 2016

What I Watched - February 21-27 2016


Quite a lot of VHS watching this week, as I readied another lot from my collection to be sold online. Most of the ones on this list are rarer titles (not-on-DVD or OOP) which I watched while converting to DVD before listing them for sale.

Dagon (2001) VHS
- This movie isn't rare, but I was putting it up for sale and my girlfriend hadn't seen it so we sat down to give it a watch. I had seen it once before (when it first came out on home video) and remembered quite liking it. It definitely stands up to the test of time, but it's directed by Stuart Gordon (Re-animator, From Beyond etc) and based on Lovecraft, so how could it not be great? A creepy setting (isolated European fishing village), good gore and some nice creature effects make this is a must for horror fans.

Cabin in the Woods (2012) AVI
 - Another one I'd seen before but watched again because my girlfriend hadn't seen it. More a comedy than a horror, this one gets batshit crazy towards the end. As a side note, my girlfriend is legitimately terrified of werewolves and won't watch any movies that feature them - I forgot that there's a werewolf in the climax of this film... oops!

Highriders (1987) VHS
- Also known as Warlords of Hell, this rare film is about a couple of Americans who go motorcycling in Mexico and run afoul of some local bad guys. Naturally they fight back. This gets points for featuring future-Terminator Robert Patrick as a hell-raising biker but other than that though it's basically a bunch of action shots of dirtbikes jumping through the air. If that gets your blood pumping have at it, but I found it mostly boring.

Blue Sunshine (1978) VHS
- Bizarre oddity from Jeff Lieberman (director of Squirm, Just Before Dawn and Satan's Little Helper) about a mind-altering drug that turns people into bald psychopaths. Starts off really strong with a great "guy snaps and kills everyone" scene, but then it turns into a police procedural, before a final showdown that ends too abruptly. Still worth seeing though for some of the weirdness involved.

The Pay Off (1987) VHS
- Some movies that have never been released to DVD are better off that way, and this is one of them. A woman is framed for murder and sent to an insane asylum, where... well, not much happens. Most of the running time is taken up with various inmate antics, which boil down to showcasing how "crazy" they are. For a movie set in a woman's prison/asylum, it doesn't even feature any nudity to make things interesting. Avoid.

American Horror Story season 5 (2015)
- I'm somewhat torn on this show. I have watched all of the seasons so far and while I would say I have enjoyed most of them (the Coven series was pretty stupid IMO) I also feel like this show could benefit from being a bit less melodramatic and a bit more gritty. That being said, I did find this latest season to be a bit more enjoyable than some of the past ones.
The cast was great across the board (Lady Gaga surprised me, Wes Bentley needs more big roles and Kathy Bates is always fantastic), I dug the concept of a hotel full of murderers, both living and dead (the Halloween dinner with all of the dead serial killers was a lot of fun), and the music was fantastic. The only downside was Evan Peters' performance - I've always said he's the spitting image of a young Johnny Depp, and his acting here was way too much like one of Depp's "kooky" characters, all the way down to the wacky accent.
Overall, a great season of AHS.

Monday, February 29, 2016

What I Watched - February 14-20 2016


Slow Learners (2015) Netflix
 - On Valentine's night my girlfriend wanted to watch a rom-com, and since most big budget examples of the genre end up being formulaic crap, we settled on this indy movie. It follows two unlucky-in-love loser teachers, one male and one female, who decide to let loose over the summer and indulge in all sorts of one-night stands, drugs and alcohol. The end result - the losers ending up together - is predictable but the journey is less so, which I appreciated. Online reviews I've seen aren't very flattering towards this movie, but I found it enjoyable enough, more awkward humour (ala Napoleon Dynamite or Eagle vs Shark) than laugh-out-loud funny.

Boggy Creek II: And the Legend Continues (1984) AVI
- As a side-note, this blog was once known as "The Barbaric Bs of Schlocky Creek", a play on the original title of this movie, The Barbaric Beast of Boggy Creek, Part 2. But it was too confusing, long and obscure of a reference, so I changed it.
This movie is the second sequel to the original Legend of Boggy Creek (1972), but the first involving original director/producer Charles B Pierce. Pierce plays a university professor out to prove the existence of the Boggy Creek bigfoot. He takes along three young students (one played by real life son Chuck Pierce Jr) and naturally they run afoul of the creature.
Sadly this doesn't have the docudrama elements of the original (which felt like a 70s version of the opening portion of Blair Witch Project) and instead opts for straight drama/horror. The bad effects, acting and cinematography mean this movie is only worth watching for its unintentional comedy, and even that's in fairly short supply.

Bloodline Season 1 (2015) Netflix
- This is another TV series that has been on my Netflix list for a while. I liked the synopsis and the involvement of Kyle Chandler was enough to interest me. Chandler is one of my favourite actors since seeing him in the Friday Night Lights series (I did watch a few episodes of Early Edition back in the day, but it wasn't until FNL that he really made an impression on me). This series is all about how a successful family's facade can often hide dark secrets. It has a stellar cast including Chandler, Sissy Spacek, Linda Cardellini, Sam Shepard, Chloe Sevigny and under-rated Aussie actor Ben Mendelsohn. And a great setting - the Florida Keys.
Most of the season is dedicated to establishing the family dynamics and slowly revealing a tragic incident in the family's past. It ends with a bang, and Netflix has announced Season 2 will be online sometime early this year. I'll be interested to see how they proceed from the developments of Season 1.

Polonia Brothers Splatterfest Double Feature:

Two movies made by the Polonia brothers 20 years apart, both containing the word "Splatter" in the title.

Splatter Farm (1987) AVI
- John and Mark Polonia were 19 years old when they made this low-budget gorefest, in which they cast themselves in the lead roles of young twins going to stay with an Aunt on her farm. Her live-in handyman is a psycho who kills and cuts up people.
The acting of the paltry five cast members is awful and  the plot is virtually non-existant, but what makes this amateurish flick stand out is the gore. The brothers go overboard with the blood and guts and show they aren't afraid to offend, throwing in necrophilia, animal abuse, incest and child murder. There were a couple of moments where I even felt a bit ill, which doesn't happen too often these days.
Good music and some inventive camera angles also help make this movie rise above what the budget should have allowed - this is truly an example of no-budget horror done right.

Splatter Beach (2007) AVI
- Two decades after Splatter Farm, the Polonia brothers directed this, their 22nd straight-to-video feature. It doesn't have anything to do with Splatter Farm, instead telling the story of a sea creature that attacks beachgoers, paying tribute to the 60s Frankie Avalon/Anne Funicello beach movies as well as every sea creature flick you can think of - Humanoids from the Deep, Creature From the Black Lagoon and so on.
This movie gets points for using practical effects for the monster - good ol' man in a suit - but unfortunately it over-indulges in green screen and CGI effects elsewhere and there just isn't the gore or shocks of Splatter Farm. The acting is on par with that earlier film (ie terrible) - the former-Misty Mundae, Erin Brown, is in it and she couldn't act her way out of a wet paperbag.
I can appreciate what the Polonia brothers were trying to achieve here, but it just felt flat and boring for the most part. Sadly this is the penultimate directing credit for John Polonia, who died in 2008, although Mark has continued to make low-budget horror flicks.

What I Watched - February 7-13 2016


Ash vs Evil Dead Season 1 (2015) AVI
 - I finally got around to watching this awesome series (filmed here in my native New Zealand), digesting it in just a few days. It's only 10 40-minute episodes, perfect for binge-watching. And what a show it is! Of course, I'm a huge fan of both Bruce Campbell and the Evil Dead movies, so I'm slightly biased, but my girlfriend isn't too familiar with either and she really enjoyed this too. Bruce is in great form in his return to the boom-stick and chainsaw-arm of Ash, and has a pretty good supporting cast (Ray Santiago is hilarious as Pablo). Best of all, it doesn't spare the blood and guts, which is vital. This really does feel like an extension of the original movies - I can't wait for season 2!

Burying the Ex (2014) Netflix
- I've heard a lot of good things about this horror comedy from Joe Dante (you know, the guy who did the Gremlins movies, Small Soldiers, The Burbs, Piranha, The Howling - the list goes on). It spent a while sitting on my Netflix list before I finally gave it a watch, and... it's pretty okay. As a zombie romcom it doesn't come anywhere near close to Shaun of the Dead, or Zombieland, but it's not bad. I like Anton Yelchin (having recently seen him in Odd Thomas), who is charming enough to do the donkey work here. More cute than outright funny but worth seeing.

The Lost Honour of Christopher Jefferies (2014) Netflix
- Sometimes I just browse a synopsis, think something sounds interesting and add it to my Netflix list, but when I finally watch it, it turns out to be very different than what I was expecting. This is a case in point - I thought it was a documentary but it's actually a dramatised retelling of real life events. That being said, it's an intriguing watch, telling the story of a man who is accused of a rape/murder basically because of his odd behaviour and appearance. He is found innocent but the damage is done by the media. Originally aired as a mini series, it plays a bit long in the "movie" form on Netflix, but is never boring and often awkwardly funny due to Jason Watkin's stellar portrayal of the title character.

Better Call Saul Season 1 (2015) Netflix
- Another series I've been looking forward to seeing for a while now. As a big fan of Breaking Bad I was so happy to hear that Saul Goodman was getting a spinoff show. This played on TV here in New Zealand last year but I don't have cable, so I waited until it showed up on Netflix. This first season was great, showing the history of Saul as struggling young lawyer Jimmy McGill, his nutty shut-in brother, his love interest fellow lawyer and best of all, Mike Ehrentrout, who is just as surly as he was in Breaking Bad. While Saul on Breaking Bad came across as an inscrutable lowlife, we get to see the man before he "went bad", the man with morales and dreams. Of course, seeing all of that get crushed and a life of crime come beckoning is all part of the fun!