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.