Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Movie Review: Otis (2008)

OTIS - Horror comedy from Raw Feed - movie poster

Written by Erik Jendresen and Thomas Schnauz
Directed by Tony Krantz

Bostin Christopher...Otis Broth
Ashley Johnson...Riley
Daniel Stern...Will Lawson
Illeana Douglas...Kate Lawson
Jere Burns...Agent Hotchkiss
Kevin Pollak...Elmo Broth

A number of girls have been kidnapped by an unknown assailant, who then calls the victim's parents numerous times and torments them over the phone. The girls are kept for a few weeks, and then found murdered at a later date. The authorities have no leads in this 41 day suburban killing spree.

But we know who is behind it.

His name is Otis.

This film is creepy right off the bat, as the lumbering Otis has his latest love-interest chained to a bed in a mock-up of a teenage girl's bedroom. He talks to her on the phone, asking her questions like "Do I make you wet?" and harming her when she refuses to play along. When she finally has enough, she attacks Otis and is accidentally killed in the ensuing scuffle. Now Otis has to find a new date to the prom. Who is the lucky girl going to be?

Otis is a pizza delivery man, and so he finds his next lady friend at one of his stops. Her name is Riley, and in short order she is unconscious with a bag over her head and stuffed in the rear of his hatchback. She awakens in captivity, a prisoner of Otis', and forced to participate in his immature high school fantasies, in which he portrays the football hero and she plays the head cheerleader.

Meanwhile her parents Will and Kate, and troubled younger brother Reed (who seemed a bit too concerned with his sister's underwear, if you ask me--maybe he'll be taking Otis's place in the sequel!) are aided by the cocky, insensitive and incompetent FBI Agent Hotchkiss, who promises he will recover their daughter. Just never mind the fact that he only recovered 60 percent of the last kidnapping victim.

After much abuse--physical, sexual, psychological and emotional--Riley manages an escape. She gives her family the address where she was being held, but rather than go to the police with it, the mother organizes a little search-and-destroy mission, a real family outing. But, of course, these things seldom go as planned.

The strange thing is that it gets more disturbing AFTER Riley's escape. When evil people do evil things, it's expected. When good people do evil things...it really hits you in the gut. Talk about your dark comedies! If they ran the scripts for Last House on the Left and Captivity through a William Burroughs cut-up machine, and the new mishmash was directed by John Hughes, I'm fairly certain that Otis would be the result.

Newcomer Bostin Christopher was very convincing as Otis, simultaneously imposing and creepy in almost equal degrees. Daniel Stern and Illeana Douglas as Riley's parents were great, as well, but their characters are on such opposite sides of the spectrum that you wonder how these two ever got married. And as for Riley herself, Ashley Johnson? Damn. Little Chrissy Seaver from Growing Pains is all grown up. With an amazing cast, a great soundtrack, a smart script, and great direction, there's really not much to dislike about this film, which is probably why it has garnered so many fans.

OTIS - Horror comedy from Raw Feed - Ashley Johnson all grown up
Ashley Johnson, all grown up.

Not Rated
100 Minutes
United States

"I hit the man with a shovel! I electrocuted his asshole!"

Monday, March 30, 2009

Movie Review: Hit and Run (2009)

Hit and Run
HIT AND RUN - 2009 vehicular killer thriller - movie poster

Written by Diane Doniol-Valcroze and Arthur Flam
Directed by Enda McCallion

Laura Breckenridge...Mary
Christopher Shand...Rick
Kevin Corrigan...Emser

After a night of partying, college student Mary wakes up in the middle of the night hearing strange noises. Investigating, she follows the noise into the garage where she finds a nearly-dead man hanging from her front bumper. Apparently in her drunken stupor, she had run over this poor fellow without even realizing it. Rather than call for help, she does what any responsible drunkard would do: grab the nearest available blunt instrument and finish the job.

Next, of course, she has to drive the body into the woods and bury it in a shallow grave (during a particularly manic rainstorm, nonetheless), clean up the blood, and attempt to patch up her vehicle, and then get back to her life. Guilt gets ahold of her, and she confesses her sin to her asshole boyfriend Rick, who doesn't much seem to care--so long as it doesn't disrupt his life at all.

Paranoia sets in, and Mary begins to see ominous signs everywhere. She's certain that the police are on to her, and they will be moving in any minute.

This movie appeared at first to be a decent (but not excellent) dark and moody exploration of an all-too-real horror--one that could happen on any given day. But then, around the 55 minute mark, it took a drastic and unexpected turn, steering the whole thing into your typical genre piece--and the film was definitely worse off because of it. We've seen it all before a thousand times, and those 25 minutes of material here weren't about to introduce anything new.

You know how in most movies, there's at least one likable character? Nope, not here. Everyone seems to be a rather despicable soul. But the most unappealing aspect of this film for me was the sound mix. I viewed it online, and so thought that it was perhaps a problem with the Netflix Instant Viewing program, but have since learned that DVD viewers have suffered the same problems. It was almost as if the volume levels had been flipped--background noise was way too loud and foreground noise was way too soft. Crickets chirped louder than the characters spoke, and if they were speaking quietly? Forget about it...you're left there trying to read lips. And as soon as any music started playing, I was covering my ears and diving for the volume knob while my neighbors pounded angrily on the walls.

This is just another example of a thing that could have been something but turned into nothing. Just like Kevin Corrigan's career.

That's right, I said it.

84 Minutes
United States

Keep on truckin'...

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Movie Review: Maniac Cop 2 (1990)

Maniac Cop 2
MANIAC COP 2 - Movie Poster

Written by Larry Cohen
Directed by William Lustig

Bruce Campbell...Jack Forrest
Laurene Landon...Teresa Mallory
Robert Z'Dar...Cordell
Robert Davi...Sean McKinney
Claudia Christian...Susan Reilly
Leo Rossi...Turkell

Officers Teresa Mallory and Jack Forrest are cleared of all wrong doings from the events in the first movie, but the commissioner still doesn't believe their story about Officer Cordell--the so-called Maniac Cop--having survived death in prison to raise hell on the streets. We know the truth, of course. Not only did he beat death in prison, he beat death at the end of part one, and he's still out there, stalking the streets and killing the innocent.

And in true slasher fashion, the first people he goes after are the survivors of the previous installment. So don't get too attached to Jack and Teresa. They won't be around long.

Our real heroes this time around are the dark and brooding Detective McKinney and police psychiatrist Susan Riley, who form an unlikely alliance to bring the scarred behemoth Cordell to his knees. But, like your devout prom date, he won't be going down easy, and this time he's not alone. You see, in the same spirit of unlikely alliances, Cordell has teamed up with fugitive serial killer Turkell, who looks a lot like Charles Manson and gets his jollies by slicing up strippers (a convenient excuse to showcase a little tits-and-ass).

This film is exactly what you'd expect, and depending on your tastes, that could be a good or a bad thing. If you liked the original Maniac Cop, chances are you're going to like this one as well. It wasn't quite as fun and charming as last time--possibly because we've already seen this before, or maybe because the fun and charming Bruce Campbell wasn't around long enough to liven things up--but there was more sleazy excitement to be found here, and the action was ramped up beyond belief.

Standout scenes include a shooting range shootout that turns into a full-scale Police Department invasion (which fans love to compare to a similar scene in Terminator), an absolutely over-the-top and insane speeding bus chase, and a prison riot that breaks new ground in terms of human incandescence. Must be seen to be believed!

Seeing as how the Maniac Cop is a disfigured and seemingly unstoppable killing machine who has returned from the grave on more than one occasion, I'd wager that it's safe to say he has entered into slasher territory, but this is a slasher film done in an exploitation manner. So really, it's the best of both worlds.

If nothing else, you have to love the tagline: You have the right to remain silent...forever!

Rated R
90 Minutes
United States


Saturday, March 28, 2009

Movie Review: American Zombie (2007)

American Zombie
AMERICAN ZOMBIE - Mock Documentary Horror Movie Poster

Written by Rebecca Sonnenshine and Grace Lee
Directed by Grace Lee

Grace Lee...herself
John Solomon...himself
Ivan...Austin Basis
Judy...Suzy Nakamura

This mock-documentary sets forth a world very similar, yet drastically different, from our own. In the world in which this film takes place, zombies are not fictitious creatures relegated only to horror movies. They are a very real life form, and they exist among us, but not as the mindless shambling hoard that they are depicted as in Hollywood. They are a fringe society of relatively normal individuals--a subculture all their own. Filmmakers John Solomon and Grace Lee assemble a small crew, and set out to capture a slice-of-life story of these outsiders.

Speaking with zombie historians, medical doctors, experts of all kinds, and the zombies themselves, they learn all the basics of the zombie society: They return from the grave as the result of a virus that is activated by a particularly violent death; The virus instills in them not only a second life, but also a toxic mucus in their salivary glands, capable of passing the virus on to others, which is how they procreate; But does this make the zombies dangerous? Of course not, they say. Zombies are no more prone to violence than the living are--meaning that they are not violent as a whole, but there are the violent among them, just like us.

You see, there are three classifications of zombie: The feral, the low-functioning, and the high-functioning. The feral are essentially brain dead, moving vegetables, close to how they are depicted onscreen; The low-functioning are capable of simple tasks, and can be considered autistic; The high-functioning zombies hold down jobs, have love lives, and enjoy the same things that we do. The only real difference between them and us is the fact that we haven't died...yet.

How do we, the living, react to the zombies? Usually we ignore them, pretend they aren't even there. There are, however, factions that have a particular devotion to the undead. There is a Christian movement to save their souls (do they still have souls?): "God loves zombies! Jesus was the first zombie!" And there are, of course, that small group of fetishists, Zombie Chasers, who carry on sexual relationships with them. From what I hear, they suck at sex...but the foreplay is to die for!

Everything seems hunky-dory at first, but John and Grace begin to catch onto a few things that make them suspicious of what these "people" are hiding. They each seem to have at least one room in their house that they are forbidden entry to, for one, and they all get pretty touchy when it's insinuated that they eat human flesh (of course, who wouldn't?) When they catch wind of the annual Live Dead Festival--NO HUMANS ALLOWED--(think Burning Man for the zombie set), they assume that this is the place where they can get their answers.

And indeed it is.

This movie presents a very different view of the world, a way of peering into an alternate reality or stepping right through the silver screen and arriving in the middle of your favorite horror flick. The filmmakers did an admirable job of depicting all aspects of society, and how the zombie would fit into them. It is a very smart, engaging film, and I'd like to note that although there are moments of humor (dark humor, naturally), it still manages to take itself seriously. We don't lose our suspension of disbelief, and we're not knocked out of the moment by slapstick and braying laughter. It's just a chuckle or two, and then back to the show--just like real life. Only better.

It seems that the past few years has seen a bit of a Blair Witch revival, what with American Zombie and Behind the Mask: The Rise and Fall of Leslie Vernon. Surprisingly, though, I can't seem to get enough. These aren't precisely horror movies, these are movies that would exist in a world in which the horror movie was real.

Think about that one, fanboy.

95 minutes
Not Rated
United States


Friday, March 27, 2009

Comic Review: Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid on Earth

Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid on EarthJIMMY CORRIGAN: THE SMARTEST KID ON EARTH - Cover Imageby Chris Ware

The title is a bit of a misnomer, as the story is about three consecutive generations of men named Jimmy Corrigan, they are only children in flashback, and none of them seem particularly bright. The story does, however, take place on Earth.

Jimmy the third, who is our true protagonist here, is a 36 year old loser without any social graces, still attached to his mother's apron strings like they were his umbilical cord. His life is a monotonous and joyless routine--wake up, go to work, call mom, go to sleep, wake up, go to work, call mom, go to sleep--until he gets a message from his long-estranged father, requesting that they finally meet. After much debate, he flies out to meet him under a thick veil of secrecy.

Their reunion is awkward to say the least, filled with long silences, snifflings, and shuffling feet. Neither are quite sure how to act, as one has never known a father and the other has never known a son. The awkwardness only increases when "little" Jimmy meets his grandfather, whose relationship with his own son was always less than healthy.

Three generations of men. Three generations of Jimmy Corrigans, each one a heartbroken mess of a man who wants to amend the past, but has no idea how. A series of casually-linked events trudges the minor plot along, but this graphic novel isn't about plot. It's about the characters, and for every step forward we take in the story, we take another step deeper into their past, and another step deeper into their minds.

With the frequent crossing from modern day to different eras of the past, and from reality into dreams and fantasies, it's sometimes difficult to keep track of when--and where--you are. But all scenes blend together to form a melancholy melange of emotion and experience, overlapping so much that they become one and the same. If all three Jimmy Corrigans weren't still alive, one might assume that there was only one, reincarnated into three different lives.

The artwork is phenomenal, carefully and obsessively constructed. It sometimes appears deceptively simple, but the devil, as they say, is in the details. And the details are plentiful and painstaking.

Jimmy Corrigan is melancholy, disturbing, and more than a little depressing. But not only that--it's also quite brilliant. Read it, love it...then read it again.


Thursday, March 26, 2009

Movie Review: Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon (2006)

Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon

Written by Scott Glosserman & David J. Stieve
Directed by Scott Glosserman

Nathan Baesel...Leslie Vernon
Angela Goethals...Taylor Gentry
Robert Englund...Doc Halloran
Scott Wilson...Eugene

This movie sets forth the concept that all the major slasher movie franchises--Nightmare on Elm Street, Friday the 13th, and Halloween included--are very real occurrences, and that the people perpetrating these crimes are very real as well. The 'Slasher'--a close relative of the serial killer, but a rung or two higher on the evolutionary ladder--is something feared by all of America, but they're also oddly intrigued by them. Which isn't really any different at all than our America's love-hate relationship with murder. There are entire cottage industries dedicated to collectors of murderabilia, and look at the prevalence of true crime shows on television. If you can turn on the despicable Nancy Grace and not hear her exploiting victims, then it's a good day indeed.

Anyway, a group of documentary film makers has somehow had the luck of going behind the scenes with one such slasher, the legendary Leslie Vernon of Glen Echo, Maryland, who is planning his big, bloody homecoming many years after being killed as a child. We're entering in at the ground floor, so we're privy to all the trade secrets that everyone has so long dreamed about.

You know those books that try to convince you that the fictional and fantastical is indeed possible? You know, The Science of the X-Men or The Science of Star Wars? Well then, consider this movie "The Science of the Slasher."

Surely you've always wanted to know: how does someone die as a child, only to return as a full-grown man a decade or two later, looking for revenge? How does he keep up with his victims when they're running as fast as they can, and he's only walking at a brisk pace? When they hide in the closet, why can he never find them? Why does the power go out at all the worst moments? How does he come back, just when you think he's dead? And, of course, why is there always one girl that gets away at the end?

All the answers are here in this mock-documentary. The filmmakers have obviously spent way too much of their lives watching horror movies, but for the audience, that's a good thing. Yes, this is yet another self-aware genre film, but unlike Scream and its countless imitators, they're not referencing scary movies here...because in this film, the things they're referencing aren't movies. It may be a dubious distinction, but I assure you that there are moments of genius here. It is excellently made, scripted, and plotted out. My only qualm lies in the last half-hour, where it drops the behind-the-scenes-of-a-slasher angle, and simply becomes another slasher flick. I understand that they wanted us to see the payoff after all the careful planning that Leslie put in, but, as the rest of this movie was made to point out, we've already seen all of this a hundred times before.

Still, a highly recommended film that is even better than the similarly-themed The Last Horror Movie.

Rated R
92 Minutes
United States

"She's empowering herself...with cock!"

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Movie Review: Scum of the Earth (1963)

Scum of the Earth

Written & Directed by Lewis H. Gordon (Herschell Gordon Lewis)
Produced by Davis Freeman (David Freeman)

Vickie Miles .... Kim
Thomas Sweetwood .... Harmon
Sandra Sinclair .... Sandra
Lawrence Wood .... Lang
Mal Arnold .... Larry
Craig Maudslay Jr. .... Ajax

Mr. Lang is a dignified businessman and head of an underground pornography ring. He employs Harmon, the skunk-haired photographer; Ajax, the ape-like male model; Larry, the young distributor; and Sandra, the reluctant nude beauty. The pictures are then sold to high school kids for a healthy sum.

Sandra wants out of the gig entirely, but she's still indebted to Mr. Lang. Instead, he offers her a new position as talent scout and recruiter, in charge of drafting new sexpots into the studio. Her first acquisition is Kim, a young pony-tailed brunette who has no idea what she's getting into. But for 50 bucks? Hey ho, let's go!

The shoots start off innocently enough, but they quickly reach a more “adult” nature. Next thing you know, she's swept up in the world of XXX (well, maybe just one X) photos and being blackmailed into continuing. She seeks help from Sandra whose only advice is to go along with it and turn her head when they snap the picture.

As the photographs begin to circulate about town, Kim's former reputation as a prude is tarnished by one of a pornographic princess, and Mr. Lang himself approaches her with an offer she can't refuse.

SCUM OF THE EARTH - vintage newspaper ad

How will this debauchery end?

I think we're supposed to believe that this film is a stab at serious social commentary. Perhaps that's why the filmmakers used pseudonyms. What we really have here is thinly-veiled sleaze full of voluptuous lovelies with little or no talent. And just when you think the acting couldn't get any worse, Kim's father comes gliding out on stage and introduces us to a whole new level of sub-par delivery. Even Kim's performance goes downhill when they're in a scene together, almost as if they were feeding off of each others anti-ability.

Bottom line is, a film of such ridiculousness has very little going for it except the promise of at least a breast shot or two. Incredibly, for a film about nude photographs there's very little nudity here. In fact, I rather lost interest after the first 40 minutes or so. But still I pressed on. That's just how dedicated I am to this job.

Okay, okay. Maybe I lost my remote.

Not Rated
71 minutes
Black & White
United States

Hump Day. Not as bad as we make it out to be, not as much fun as it sounds.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Movie Review: Pieces (1983)

PIECES - 1983 Slasher Flick - Movie Poster

Written by John Shadow & Dick Randall
Directed by Juan Piquer Simón

Christopher George .... Lt. Bracken
Frank Braña .... Sgt. Holden
Jack Taylor .... Prof. Arthur Brown
Edmund Purdom .... Dean
Ian Sera .... Kendall
Paul Smith .... Willard
Lynda Day George .... Mary Riggs

A young boy is caught by his abusive mother putting together a nudie-girl jigsaw puzzle, only moments before securing the vaginal piece into its home. She flips out and ransacks his room in search of more “filth.” Rather than part with his precious collection of pornography, the boy kills his mother with a hatchet and saws her body into...you guessed it: pieces. Covered in his mother's blood, the boy sits back down to complete the puzzle.

PIECES - 1983 Slasher Flick - Nudie Puzzle

Flash forward forty years, when the boy is a madman and his mother is nothing but memories and mementos in a shoebox.

Young co-eds at a Boston university have been found murdered and cut-up, each with different body pieces missing. The police believe it to be an inside job, either a member of the faculty or a student. They bring in a sexy young officer to go undercover as the new tennis instructor and enlist the help of Kendall, the resident ladies man, to help her out.

They find Willard the groundskeeper at one of the murder scenes, complete with a bloody chainsaw. He's arrested but is quickly released due to lack of evidence and then welcomed back to his job. The murders, of course, continue.

And that, unfortunately, is about the extent of the storyline.

Right off the bat we know that it's the boy from the opening scene who is behind the murders. The question is, it's forty years later, and who has the boy become? Is it indeed Willard? Or Professor Brown? Or the Dean? Or perhaps even the lieutenant or one of his men? And what's he doing with all those pieces he took, anyway?

This film has quite a number of plausibility flaws that I just couldn't get past. First of all, I found it odd that a tennis pro doubled as a police officer (and an undercover one at that.) I also couldn't buy the fact that the lieutenant deputized a horny frat boy with no experience or skills, for no real apparent reason. And a college with a kung-fu instructor? That's where I draw the line.

These flaws, coupled with the horrendous acting and ridiculous soundtrack, proved to be a near-lethal combination for this movie. It turns out to be nothing more than a mediocre slasher flick in a long line of mediocre slasher flicks, probably only of interest to those who think that a dozen or so Friday The 13th's just isn't enough. The only noteworthy part of Pieces, other than a small handful of entertaining shots, is the fact that it unsuccessfully touched on certain themes that Lucky McKee's May would later conquer.

ALSO KNOWN AS: One Thousand Cries Has The Night

89 Minutes
United States/Spain/Puerto Rico
Spanish (English dubbed)

Am I alone in thinking that a reproduction of the jigsaw puzzle from the opening scene would be a great product for collectors? With the same naughty pieces missing, of course.


Monday, March 23, 2009

Movie Review: Deranged (1974)

DERANGED - Ed Gein-inspired flick from Alan Ormsby

Written by Alan Ormsby
Directed by Alan Ormsby and Jeff Gillen

Roberts Blossom...Ezra Cobb
Cosette Lee...Ma Cobb
Robert Warner...Harlon Kootz
Micki Moore...Mary Ransom
Narrator...Leslie Carlson
The motion picture you are about to see is absolutely TRUE. Only the names and the locations have been changed.
Everyone knows that Psycho was inspired by the real life murderous exploits of Ed Gein. This is the other Ed Gein story...the one that nobody really talks about.

Ezra Cobb is a perennial mama's boy. He lives in a small country home, taking care of the housework and his overbearing, over-protective, bedridden matriarch. When she dies, not all together unexpectedly, he's left alone and lonely...a veritable babe in the woods of this world.

Without the comfort of his mother's love, and no other family to call his own, his solitude wreaks havoc on his already frail mind and he slowly descends into madness. A year goes by before he makes that final break with reality, and one night he hears his mother's voice, urging him to come get her and take her home. Which he does, digging up her putrid corpse and placing it back in her bed, play-acting as if nothing ever happened.

But even through Ezra's dementia, he knows that she sure ain't as pretty as she used to be. He begins to study the literature and practice the arts of embalming and taxidermy, hoping to restore her to a lifelike sheen. Before long, he's hitting the graveyard again in search of fresh flesh for his little science project, and then it's only a hop-skip-and-a-jump from being a ghoul to being a full-fledged murderer.

Oddly, the most disturbing scenes in this movie aren't the murders, and don't even involve the myriad corpses piling up in the Cobb Cabode. The scene in which Ezra practically force-feeds his mother split pea soup, before she regurgitates it in a bloody oral explosion was particulary distressing--red and green will never signify Christmas for me again--and the warped little sexual seance had me grimacing throughout. There was also a dinner table scene that seemed tacked on, and I would say that it was cribbed from Texas Chainsaw Massacre, but both films were released the same year.

It's a shame that Ma Cobb died so early in the film. She seemed chock full of Notable Quotables: "All women are filthy black-souled sluts with pus-filled sores!" and "The wages of sin is gonorrhea, syphilis, and death!" Phew...no wonder that boy wasn't right.

Before we go any further, let me assure you that this is no Psycho. Meaning, this isn't an unabashed horror classic. It is, however, more factual than that famous Hitchcockian masterpiece, and thus carries with it a certain creepy pedigree. The low budget could have granted it a realistic feel, but the strange choice of having an on-screen narrator throughout the film instead made it feel almost like an expanded episode of Unsolved Mysteries. And even this omniscient Robert Stack-like fellow was prone to a few, umm...mistakes. When introducing the barmaid Mary Ransom, he informs the audience that this woman is "Thirty-Four, and truth be told...over the hill."(!) Hate to break it to you, sir, but actress Micki Moore was--hell, STILL IS--a card carrying member of the MILF brigade.

DERANGED - Actress Micki Moore Today

By the way, the careful observer may see a brief, pictorial cameo by writer-director Alan Ormsby, looking very much like a parody of Dr. Phil.

A hell of a step up from Ormsby's previous effort, Children Shouldn't Play With Dead Things, and a suitable addition to any true-crime library. You just might feel a little dirty afterward.

Rated R
82 Minutes
United States

I'm tired and I don't want no soup!

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Movie Review: Shiver (2008)

SHIVER - 2008 Thriller from Spain

Written by Hernán Migoya, José Gamo, Alejandro Hernández, and Isidro Ortiz
Directed by Isidro Ortiz

Junio Valverde...Santi
Mar Sodupe...Julia
Jimmy Barnatán...Leo
Berta Ros...Erika

Santi suffers from both photophobia (the fear of light) and serious xeroderma (chronically dry skin that may cause scaling, cracking and peeling). Coupled together, it's no wonder that he lives a life consumed by darkness and suffers from horrendous nightmares of being caught in the sun and bursting into flames.

After a lifetime of being teased and tortured by his peers, being called Vampire and getting roughed up for his eccentricities, he finally convinces his mother to move them to a new country town--a canyon town where the days are shorter and the sun rarely penetrates.

Despite the warnings from the locals, Santi and a few of his new acquaintances venture into the forest. When one of them is killed by something unseen, and Santi emerges a blood-soaked mess, suspicions are quickly heaped upon him. And who can blame the townsfolk? Every time someone goes into the woods with Santi, he comes out alive and they stay inside, dead.

Something deadly is hiding in the woods, all right...but it isn't Santi. We're left wondering the same thing that Santi himself is: what is the bigger threat here? The sunlight, or the creature that lurks in the darkness?

This film was beautifully shot, and terribly creepy almost throughout. There were moments that reminded me of everything from The Ring to Stir of Echoes and even Blair Witch Project, which is fairly strange, as this isn't a supernatural film. It seems to have been promoted here in the States as a horror film, but that's not quite accurate, although it does have some of the qualities of that genre, and until about the halfway point you may think you're watching a horror film. It's more of a thriller, but a damn good one, and gorgeous at that. There was one point where Santi was exposed to bright light, and there was a degradation of the film stock. Very subtle, but a stroke of pure genius.

Recommended for fans of Spain's subtle stabs at surrealism and horror.

91 Minutes
Spanish (with English subtitles)

Yo soy frio, muchacho!

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Movie Review: Atomic Brain (1964)

The Atomic Brain
THE ATOMIC BRAIN - Sci-fi Schlock From 1964 - Movie Poster

Written by Sue Bradford, Dean Dillman Jr., Jack Pollexfen, & Vy Russell
Directed by Joseph V. Mascelli

Bradford Dillman .... Narrator
Frank Gerstle .... Dr. Otto Frank
Frank Fowler .... Victor
Marjorie Eaton .... Hetty March
Erika Peters .... Nina Rhodes
Judy Bamber .... Bea Mullins
Lisa Lang .... Anita Gonzalez

Dr. Frank is engaged in a series of secret medical experiments in which he transplants a living animal brain into a recently deceased human body. The secret to the process is the Cyclotron, a large glass tank which encircles the corpse in fog and somehow returns it to life. In order to keep a fresh supply of corpses, Dr. Frank has to steal them from local cemeteries and funeral homes, aided by one of his brutish "mistakes" Hans, his animalistic servant with a canine brain and an instinct to kill.

The objective of these experiments is to one day transplant a human brain, ensuring longevity and possibly even immortality. They are funded and housed by Mrs. March, a crotchety old heiress who's not yet ready to give up the ghost, under the condition that when the procedure is perfected she will be given a healthy, young, beautiful body.

THE ATOMIC BRAIN - Sci-fi Schlock From 1964 - Hottie With A Body
Dr. Frank realizes that the corpses he's stealing aren't nearly fresh enough, and so Mrs. March hires three beautiful women to "work" for her, until the time is right. She sizes them up like patrons of a legalized whorehouse and the doctor examines them for any health issues. They all pass muster, and there's just one more experiment to go before the big day.

The living body of one of the girls is implanted with a feline brain, and she becomes a full-fledged catwoman, tracking mice and lapping milk out of a saucer. It's a complete success, and now it's Mrs. March's turn to become the hottie-with-a-body she's so long been waiting for.

But mad science never goes according to plan.

The Atomic Brain is poorly edited, written and acted, but we have to keep in mind the technological limitations of the day and the fact that this is the type of film cranked out in mass quantities at the time. If it were to be made today, nobody would watch it, plain and simple. But it's worth a viewing, if only as a piece plucked out of the retro time capsule of yesteryear.

ALSO KNOWN AS: Monstrosity

72 minutes
Black & White
United States

Friday, March 20, 2009

Comic Review: Ultimate Fantastic Four Vol.1: The Fantastic

Ultimate Fantastic Four Vol.1

ULTIMATE FANTASTIC FOUR VOL. 1 - The Fantastic (TPB)The Fantastic

The Fantastic Four are arguably the best known, and most beloved, of the Marvel family canon. Everyone is aware of their origins, so why bother dropping them (or anyone for that matter) into the Ultimate universe, where mainstream Marvel characters are in essence "reborn" from scratch? Primarily for the benefit of newer readers, who may like the characters but feel bogged down by 500-plus issues or so of continuity, and would like to get in on the ground floor. It's a younger universe for a younger generation, but that doesn't mean that old salts can't try to enjoy it too, for its own merits. Think of it as an old black-and-white movie remade and modernized. You may have seen the story before, but never in such a context.

The first six issues of Ultimate Fantastic Four are collected here, telling the team's slightly-skewed origins, as well as their first genuine adventure in which they go toe-to-toe with the subterranean scourge known as the Mole-Man. It's interesting to note that while the Ultimate version is essentially following the same chronological timeline as their mainstream counterparts, the timeline is stretched so far out that it seems it might break. Meaning that what this Ultimate title covers over the span of six issues, the original covered in just one!

The real fun comes from pointing out the differences and the "first" appearances of familiar faces, because although this is all "new", we already know where it's going.

For instance, in the original storyline, Reed Richards, Ben Grimm and Victor Von Doom all met while attending college. Here, Reed and Ben meet in high school, and Doom (known here as Victor Van Damme) is introduced when Reed joins a secret, government-sponsored think-tank/school for genius youngsters that operates out of the Baxter building. Here we also meet the children of Dr. Storm, the director of the think-tank--Johnny and Susan Storm.

Originally the four gained their powers when bombarded by cosmic rays during a top-secret (and ill-advised) test-flight into outer space. Here, they (along with Victor, who wasn't involved in the space flight) are exposed to an onrush of energy from the N-Zone (or Negative Zone to the mainstreamers), due to an experiment in teleportation gone wrong.

Their first meeting with the Mole-Man on mainstream earth took place on his Monster Island, but in the Ultimate universe, he was employed at the Baxter Building before being fired for his illegal and immoral practices, and their battle takes place beneath the streets of--and eventually on the streets of--Manhattan.

The art is generally pretty good, and pretty well expresses the comedy and tragedy of the four learning how to use their new powers (a slowly materializing Susan Storm is particularly memorable.) And the Mole-Man is depicted as a blemish-plagued troll of a man, complete with gratuitous shots of his ruined complexion and wild nose hairs.

The sometimes stilted dialogue is meant to come across as realistic--and maybe it is--but is also at times distracting and annoying. I don't need my fictional characters stumbling over their words, or switching gears midway through a sentence. I get enough of that in real-life interactions.

Basically, if I were a babe to the scene, I would probably be entranced and enthralled, but as a long-time F.F. fanatic, I can't help but feel that this Fantastic Four is merely a flashy, but ultimately shallow, xerox copy of the original.

But then again, this universe wasn't built for me...

Anyone else agree?

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Triple Threat Alert!

Hello, readers...both of you.

Just wanted to drop in here and make you aware of an astounding little website that I stumbled upon recently, entitled Haiku Comics. This project--the brainchild of brothers Nathan and Robert Olsen--qualifies as the fabled Triple Threat (a frothy brew of Freakery, Geekery & Beatnikery) because it combines (a) the imagery of horror movies with (b) the hip-and-meditative art of Japanese haiku poetry and (c) the geekiness of a comic book.

Sound bizarre? It is--but amazingly it works! Don't believe me? Check it out for yourself at HaikuComics.com. It's a fledgling site, publishing new material three times a week since January 14 of this year, so be sure to show your support.

Tell 'em Jonny Metro sent you.

They won't know who the hell you're talking about, but anything to get my name in circulation.


Book Review: House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski

House of Leaves
Mark Z. Danielewski

Some years ago, award winning photojournalist Will "Navy" Navidson and his family moved into a new house, hoping for a fresh start in life together. As time went on, they noticed something peculiar: their house was larger on the inside than it was on the outside. Just a quarter inch or so at first, nothing to get excited about, really, but that quarter inch quickly developed into a foot; a few yards; and then into endless miles and miles of twisting corridors spreading out beneath the foundation.

Navidson, who always faced the world through a lens, assembled a team and gathered his video equipment to film their explorations of these eternal hallways, and the profound effect that this house had on their lives. Somewhere along the way, a five minute excerpt of these tapes was leaked on VHS, and it became an underground phenomenon, followed by another excerpt and even more acclaim. Eventually the entirety of the footage was unearthed and released theatrically by the fine folks at Miramax. It harvested much attention, and became the subject of countless analyses . The question on everyone's mind was: is it real?

One such critique was authored by an aging man known only as Zampano, exquisitely researched and even more amazing when taken into account that he was blind. It never saw print, however, as Zampano fell into a special kind of madness and succumbed to death.

Enter Johnny Truant, who found the battered and disheveled manuscript of Zampano's and made it his life's work to get it in order and see it completed. But Mr. Truant can find no mention of the strange film anywhere outside of Zampano's work, and none of the articles cited within seem to exist, which leaves Johnny asking the same question as the supposed viewers of the supposed film: is it real?

Peppered throughout the book are footnotes written by Johnny himself, documenting the effect of the manuscript on his own life. And it seems that special kind of madness is slowly creeping in.

None of this is real, of course. It's all an epic, sprawling piece of fiction by Mark Z. Danielewski. But it's so densely layered, and written by so many authors (all of them Danielewski) that you'll find yourself asking the same question: is it real? You'll be as tempted as I was to pull out a pencil and start scrawling your own footnotes atop the already existing ones--which I suspect was the authors intention.

The text winds, spins, rises, climbs, falls, etc., all keeping pace with the action in the story and the heart of the house. The text is practically a character of its own, and graphically this book is a work of art. Despite its 600+ page length, it held my attention firmly right up until the end. Only the appendices and addendums at the end occasionally seemed superfluous, but that's just more material to get lost in. Besides, that's the great thing about addendums...they're at the end. Meaning, you can skip right over them or skim right through them if you want, without really missing anything important.

But then again, somewhere among the fine print might be the answer to the question: is it real?

I can not recommend this book enough.  I have read it many, many times and always find something new.  If you liked the Raw Shark Texts, then you've got to give this book a read, as well. It is absolutely amazing, and that special kind of madness? I can honestly say I felt it creeping in...just a bit.

Is it real?

Find out for yourself.


Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Movie Review: Frankenhooker (1990)

FRANKENHOOKER - 1980 cult classic from Frank Henenlotter

Written by Frank Henenlotter & Robert Martin
Directed by Frank Henenlotter

Jeffrey Franken…James Lorinz
Elizabeth Shelley…Patty Mullen
Zorro…Joseph Gonzalez

Jeffrey Franken (like Frankenstein, get it?) is a med-school drop out, full-time electrician and part-time “Bio-Electric Technician”—which is a politically correct term for Mad Scientist. He loses his “fat” fiancé Elizabeth Shelley (like Mary Shelley, get it?) in a freak lawnmower accident as a result of his tampering in matters that are better left to God—such as lawn care. She is reduced to what a crass newswoman calls “a human salad…a salad that was once named Elizabeth,” and Jeffrey becomes obsessed with bringing her back to life. If anybody can do it, it’s Jeffrey. He’s already developed some strange human brain-eye hybrid which he keeps in a fish tank, and besides…his blueprints look pretty damned impressive. They would make a great poster for fans and collectors.

But all he was able to salvage of Elizabeth was her head, a hand, a foot, and something that is either a thumb or a toe. In order to bring her back, he needs body parts. What better place to go than 42nd Street in New York, which appears to be Whore Central? Arranging for a private party with a whole bevy of trashy beauties, Jeffrey plays doctor with them, literally, inspecting them to see who would be the best donor. But who to choose? This one has great legs…this one’s nipples are “awesome” and her breasts have “nice buoyancy”…this one has a nice ass. When the girls get a hold of his specially designed Super-Crack, it looks like he won’t have to choose after all. They smoke it and explode, leaving Jeffrey in a room full of bloody body bits.

The end result is one hot goth babe who just so happens to think that she’s a hooker, spazzes out a lot, limps around town with her Frankenstein Clodhoppers, and causes men to explode when they get too touchy-feely. As if dealing with all of this weren’t enough, Jeffrey also has to deal with Zorro (like, umm…Zorro), the angry pimp who wants to know what happened to all of his “bitches.”

This low-budget but highly-comedic classic puts a fresh, sleazy spin on the well-known legend. James Lorinz is great as the star, and Joseph Gonzalez as Zorro is thoroughly imposing. Only Patty Mullen, Frankenhooker herself, lacks a bit in the acting department, but that’s only noticeable during the brief moments that she’s in her Elizabeth persona. Henenlotter has the uncanny ability to turn low-budget but ambitious projects into masterpieces in their own right, when in the hands of most directors they would turn into Troma-fare.

Highly enjoyable.

Rated R
82 Minutes
United States

Hump Day. Not as bad as we make it out to be, not as much fun as it sounds.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Movie Review: Fiend (1980)

FIEND - 1980 cheesy horror flick from Don Dohler

Written & Directed by Don Dohler

Longfellow.... Don Leifert
Gary.... Richard Nelson
Martha.... Elaine White
“Certain legends have mention the Fiend, a hellish destructive force capable of entering time-worn coffins and invading a decaying corpse, allowing the dead to walk the earth again. The fiendish corpse maintains its youth and existence by withdrawing the life-giving energy from human victims, who suffer violent and painful deaths…”
It’s March, 1980 in a Seville County cemetery, when an “eerie” red glow enters an occupied grave, taking possession of the corpse therein. Said corpse, a man in a cheap Halloween mask and surrounded by an animated aura (looking akin to the 10,000 Watt Ghost from Scooby Doo) rises from the grave and sucks the life-force from a supple young lady, restoring him to his previous life-like state.

One month later, the Fiend, under the guise of a Mr. Longfellow, music instructor, purchases a home in the town of Kingsville, next to the jolly Martha Kender and her grumpy husband Gary (complete with mullet and mustache!). When the bodies of Longfellow’s latest victims begin turning up closer and closer to home, Gary grows suspicious and concerned. He always knew something wasn’t right with his new neighbor. Since the police have no leads, he decides to do a little poking and prodding of his own. And he won’t stop until he uncovers the truth.

This film can be summed up in one word: Ugh! Terrible acting, amateur dialogue, shitty special effects, a nerve-grating Casio-Tone synth score, and constant plugs for the book Film Magic. And while I’m sure the filmmaker found it hilarious that they named Longfellows’s unwitting assistant D. Frye (as in Dwight Frye who played the count’s bitch Renfield in the original Dracula), but it scored no points with me.

So what can a movie this bad possibly have going for it? Well, I sat through it once and didn’t find anything. I’m sure as hell not going to try again.

ALSO KNOWN AS: Deadly Neighbor

Rated R
90 minutes


Monday, March 16, 2009

Movie Review: Night of the Living Dorks (2004)

Night of the Living Dorks
NIGHT OF THE LIVING DORK - German Zombie Comedy
(Die Nacht der lebenden Loser)

Written & Directed by Mathias Dinter

Tino Mewes...Philip
Manuel Cortez...Weener
Thomas Schmeider...Konrad
Collien Fernandes...Rebecca
Nadine Germann...Uschi

The three biggest losers at Frederich Nietzsche High (Philip, Weener and Konrad) find themselves wrapped up in voodoo and necromancy as performed by your stereotypical goth kids, hoping for a love spell that would get Philip into the pants of Uschi, the most popular girl at school. Returning from the ridiculous debacle that was the voodoo ritual, all three are killed in an automobile accident, but they come back as zombies...an unexpected byproduct of the dark rites.

For these outcasts, it's not just a second chance at life. It's a second chance at popularity. After seeking some old-school rugby vengeance against all the bullies who fucked with them throughout their academic career ("I say, to hell with Ghandi!"), they find themselves with everything they have ever wanted: Respect, girls, and happy-party-fun time. Unfortunately, there are a few negative aspects that go along with being one of the undead, including an insatiable thirst for blood and the threat of important body parts falling off at the most inopportune moments.

In time, it becomes clear than an undead loser is still a loser at heart (even if said heart is no longer beating), and so it's not long until their fabulous new life returns to the shit from which it came, and Philip longs for a cure.

Worth a watch, if only for the insanely hot goth babe, a disturbing yet amusing scene involving a fractured phallus and a staple gun, and a nice nod to Michael Jackson's "Thriller".

NIGHT OF THE LIVING DORK - German Zombie Comedy - Sexy Girl

Granted, this is just another entry in the now-cliche Zombie Comedy sub-genre, but believe it or not, it actually works this time around. You know all of those geeks-make-good films from time's past (Can't Buy Me Love, Angus, and the New Guy to name a few)? Well, this is the horror version of those movies. It would fit nicely on any fan's shelf, right between Shaun of the Dead and Idle Hands.

89 Minutes
German (optional English Dubbing or subtitles)

Prepare to laugh your ball(s) off.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Movie Review: Turistas (2006)

TURISTAS - 2006 Traveler Torture Porn

Written by Michael Ross
Directed by John Stockwell

Alex Trubituan...Josh Duhamel
Bea Trubituan...Olivia Wilde
Pru Stagler...Melissa George
Amy Harrington...Beau Garrett
Finn Davies...Desmond Askew
Liam Kuller...Max Brown

Three attractive young people head to Brazil for a little R ‘n’ R. When their bus almost crashes right off the edge of a cliff, they’re bonded by this near death experience to a few more attractive young people, and together they venture to a secretive bar on the beach where, surprise surprise, they hook up with even more attractive young people. After a night of partying, they awaken to find that they have been robbed and two of their new friends are missing. Miles from anywhere, they have no choice but to hike to the next town, where an incident sees them fleeing from an angry mob and right into the hands of a philosophical madman, who kidnaps turistas and harvests their organs for sale on the black market.

This Hostel clone has a promising beginning and it gets rolling more quickly than it’s Eli Roth-directed counterpart, but unlike Hostel (which actually gets better once the ‘horror’ starts), Turistas quickly loses momentum and becomes a great disappointment. The acting was well-done for the most part, and the actresses were scantily-clad and gorgeous, but the characters themselves weren't sufficiently fleshed out to excuse all of their useless yapping. Some of the less dramatic scenes seemed entirely too-drawn out, while the good scenes were too few and far between. Aside from a couple of great kills, and a fantastically realized and extremely tense underwater chase scene, too much of this seems like a slow motion watered-down rehash of carnage that we have already seen.

Only for the uninitiated, or the mind-numbingly bored.

96 minutes

Turistas, go home!

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Movie Review: Wrong Turn (2003)

Wrong Turn
WRONG TURN - 2003 Hillbilly Horror Movie with Eliza Dushku
Written by Alan B. McElroy
Directed by Rob Schmidt

Desmond Harrington .... Chris Flynn
Eliza Dushku .... Jessie Burlingame
Emmanuelle Chriqui .... Carly
Jeremy Sisto .... Scott

A yuppie puppy in a classic Mustang turns off the main road in West Virginia and finds himself barreling through the backwoods on a dirt road. While he is distracted by a bit of road kill, he plows into another vehicle belonging to a whole bevy of WB twenty-somethings. Now, all of them without transportation, they head out on foot to find some help. The closest thing they find is a run-down shack surrounded by abandoned cars, but nobody's home. They invite themselves in but quickly find that this isn't the cozy cabin home of Ma and Pa Kettle, but rather an inbred clan of deformed murderous hillbillies…and they're on their way home.

As they say in the movies, the chase is on. Through the forest, an automotive graveyard, into watchtowers, behind waterfalls and even up into trees, it's a veritable murder mystery tour of the countryside with enough bloodshed along the way to keep things interesting.

WRONG TURN - 2003 Hillbilly Horror Movie with Eliza Dushku - Arrow In The Eye
True enough, this isn't the most original of movies, borrowing heavily from the likes of Deliverance with a dash of Texas Chain Saw Massacre. The young cast was pretty good while they lasted, though, and probably introduced a whole new generation to the hillbilly horror sub-genre. The make up effects were spectacular and each of the inbred killers had their own distinct look and personality, which was quite impressive. Eliza, of course, played her atypical badass self and looked great striking her atypical tough-girl poses.

Actually quite a bit of fun.

Rated R
84 Minutes
United States

Squeal like a pig,

Friday, March 13, 2009

Movie Review: Hatchet (2006)

HATCHET - 2006 Slasher Film from Adam Green

Written & Directed by Adam Green

Joel Moore...Ben
Deon Richmond...Marcus
Tamara Feldman...Marybeth
Mercedes McNab...Misty
Parry Shen...Shawn
Joleigh Fioreavanti...Jenna

"It's not a remake. It's not a sequel. And it's not based on a Japanese one."

Thank Christ for that.

Two college students, an older couple, two amateur porn actresses, their director, and a local girl strike out into the New Orleans night for a Haunted Swamp Tour, lead by an Asian-American with a fake N'awlins accent. Turns out the local girl's family went missing in this part of the swamp a few days back, and she thinks they have fallen prey to Victor Crowley. Paying 30 bucks for a ticket to the tour was just a whole lot cheaper than buying herself a boat.

The legend goes that Victor Crowley was born horribly deformed, and was mocked and taunted by all of the locals. One fateful Halloween night, while his father was away, a number of kids tried to lure him out of the house, but the prank went bad. The house caught on fire just as Victor's father returned home, and as he attempted to break the door down with an axe to save his son, he accidentally killed him. The father lived on as a recluse for another ten years, before finally dying from a broken heart. And now, all this time later, Victor has returned. And he is pissed.

When the tour boat sinks, everyone on board is forced to shore, where they make easy targets. As their personalities clash, their numbers quickly diminish. As for the survivors...if the 'gators don't get them, Victor Crowley will.

Hatchet is a horror-comedy, which have become all the rage since the popularity of Shaun of the Dead, although very few, if any, have successfully replicated that film's formula. Unfortunately for this movie, most of the comedy aspects here fall flat, with a few exceptions--most notably a low-key, but pretty damned funny joke that uses Paula Cole's irritating song "I Don't Want To Wait" as a punchline. Luckily for us, though, the horror elements here are pretty strong, and most of the death scenes are badass.

Three horror icons appear in this film: Robert Englund, Tony Todd, and Kane Hodder--also known as Freddy Krueger, Candyman, and Jason Voorhees, respectively. However, Robert Englund's role is done for before the opening credits even begin to roll; he literally doesn't stick around long enough to see his own name onscreen. Tony Todd doesn't fare much better, in a very minor role as the comic relief huckster Reverend Zombie. Kane Hodder, though, does what he does best, silently stalking and slashing behind a disguise as the full-grown Victor Crowley.

Overall, a strong and solid entry to the backwoods-mutant-killer genre that could have benefited from taking itself only a little more seriously. Well worth a watch. See it soon, as Hatchet 2 is expected to drop sometime this year, and although I went in thinking this was just another slasher flick, I have to admit...I'm actually quite looking forward to it.

84 Minutes
United States

Now if you'll excuse me, I'm off to watch and review the latest installment of Bayou Beavers.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Movie Review: Maniac Cop (1988)

Maniac Cop
MANIAC COP - 1988 Bad Cop Horror From Larry Cohen, William Lustig & Bruce Campbell
Written Larry Cohen
Directed by William Lustig

Tom Atkins...Frank McCrae
Jack Forrest...Bruce Campbell
Laurene Landon...Theresa Mallory
Richard Roundtree...Commisioner Pike

A blond woman leaves the bar where she works, and begins the late-night walk home. Almost instantly, she's attacked by a pair of muggers. She runs in a panic, and is thrilled when she finds a police officer walking his beat. Only the cop isn't about to help her--he lifts her off the ground with his bare hands and snaps her neck, lickety split.

In no time at all, more bodies begin piling up and eye witnesses all state that it is a uniformed police officer committing the crimes. Only homicide detective Frank McCrae puts any real stock into these reports, and takes it upon himself to discover who the perp is. Going against orders from the commissioner, McCrae goes to the press and releases a statement warning the public to be wary of men in police uniforms.

This, of course, strikes fear into the heart of the city. Paranoia begins to run rampant, and suddenly every police officer on the force is viewed as a killer. This culminates in the shooting of an innocent policeman by a terrified woman who was only being offered assistance.

This Maniac Cop is intelligent, though, and realizes that he will be caught eventually. Unless, of course, he finds somebody else to take the fall for him. Enter officer Jack Forrest, whose chronically depressed wife winds up a corpse in a motel room registered under Jack's name. He's promptly arrested, and although we know he's innocent, we're not the ones who need convincing.

Against all odds, McCrae continues his pursuit of the real killer, chasing down any number of leads and suspects--but it's a long and dangerous road.

This is a good, solid little exploitation film that was probably even more frightening a few years back, during the last 'fake cop' scare. The acting was great, and the casting was inspired--I mean, Shaft as the Police Commissioner? Sign me up! The musical cues were powerful at all the right moments, the special effects used effectively, and the action was always fun. And the truth of the matter is that if you don't want to see a movie written by Larry Cohen, directed by William Lustig, and starring Bruce Campbell, then you're reading the wrong blog.

Speaking of Bruce Campbell, he is a little less...Bruce Campbell in this movie than you would expect from seeing his later output--meaning that he's not a constant smart ass who is relishing his cheesiness and mugging for the camera. This isn't an insult to Bruce Campbell, by the way...all this is part of the B-Movie Big Daddy's usual charm, although it is refreshing to take a look back and see him in a more actor-y role.

I appreciated the fact that you never really see the killer's face until the very end of the movie--it's all carefully orchestrated to prevent his identity from being known. Usually all you see is his white-gloved hands, sort of like an American giallo. It also helps build the suspense and the mystery--it could be practically anybody, and Bruce Campbell was a nice little red herring. Hell, even I believed it for a moment or two!

I can't recommend this movie enough, if only for the immortal line: "You always take a leak with a gun in your hand? That's a good way to blow your balls off!"

91 Minutes
Rated R
United States

I fought the law and the law won...

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Peeping Tom's Paradise

Betty Blue
Peeping Tom's Paradise!

Hump Day: Not as bad as we make it to be, not as fun as it sounds.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Movie Review: Ms. 45 (1981)

Ms. 45
MS. 45 - Rape Revenge Flick from 1981

Thana is a beautiful but shy and socially awkward girl who works as a seamstress for a metrosexual fashion designer in the garment district of Manhattan. Walking home from work one day, she's pulled into an alley and raped by a masked brute. When it's over, she returns to her place in shock only to find that her apartment is being burglarized. The thief, too, decides to rape her. Thana is a mute, so her cries for help are silent and she knows that nobody is going to save her. But twice in one day (hell, twice in the first 10 minutes!) is obviously too much, and she fends him off and brains him to death with an iron, chopping his body up and scattering the pieces around the city.

Carrying the thief's .45 handgun for protection, she panics at the first sign of danger and shoots another man in the head. Feeling empowered, she paints herself up like a ten-dollar Times Square hooker and embarks on a no-holds-barred killing spree, taking out any man who so much as leers in her general direction. Pimps, sheiks, hooligans and photographers all fall prey to Ms. 45.

This is but a minor entry in the Rape-Revenge sub-genre of morally-questionable exploitation trash cinema popularized by Last House On The Left and I Spit On Your Grave. It's competently directed with minor amounts of grue, but Ms.45 stands as proof that it takes more than a hot chick with a gun to make for an interesting movie. Plainly put, it's D-U-L-L! The soundtrack is a ridiculous mix of jazz lite and Casio keyboard and some of the scenes come off as unintentional comedy: for instance, when Thana goes head to head with the gang members in the park, their movements are so choreographed that it looks like something out of West Side Story; and when she stood in front of the mirror doing a pantomime version of Robert Deniro's "are you talkin' to me?" routine from Taxi Driver while wearing a nun's habit, I couldn't help but think "They CAN'T be serious!" But, of course, they were.

MS. 45 - Rape Revenge Flick from 1981

It all boils down to an over dramatic slow motion ending that perhaps answers the question "What if Quentin Tarantino had directed Carrie?"

The results are not as spectacular as you might think.

ALSO KNOWN AS: Angel of Vengeance;

Rated R
81 minutes
United States


Monday, March 9, 2009

Short Film Review: Doggy Poo (2003)

Doggy Poo

As I’m writing this, I am watching online an animated short film with the poetic title of Doggy Poo. From the moment our hero is “born” (i.e., dropped from the anus of a passing pooch), it’s pretty obvious that he is not your typical piece of shit. He is, in an odd way, rather cute and cuddly…sort of like what you might expect if a Cabbage Patch Kid were to consume too many chocolate laxatives.

DOGGY POO - Korean animated short film

Little Doggy Poo, the subject of disdain and ridicule, embarks on a spiritual quest of sorts in hopes of finding a way to do good in this world, far beyond his meager roots. He meets and befriends a lump of soil that extols the importance of finding his purpose, a dried up leaf who teaches him about death, a momma chicken who threatens to feed him to her babies (yuck!), and finally a dandelion who apparently becomes his lover, and shows him his place in the world.

Unfortunately, although this film is only thirty-four minutes long, it also seems pretty padded. Some of the dialog is excessive (witness the leaf’s poignant spiel, and try not to be tempted to hit the FF button), and fifteen minutes in, they’re giving you a flashback to events that happened earlier! I understand that this is the age of ADD, but if you’ve already spent fifteen minutes watching a cartoon about talking poop, chances are it’s got your attention.

So who could possibly be behind such a bizarre concept? Why, it’s the Koreans, of course! This is one that really needs to be seen to believed.

Something stinks.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Comic Review: Impossible Man Summer Vacation Spectacular #1-2

Impossible Man Summer Vacation Spectacular!
Issues #1-#2
(Summer 1990-Summer 1991)

The Impossible Man has an interesting history: he first appeared early in the Fantastic Four, seeming very out of place in this world of comic book "reality". It's one thing to have invisible, flaming, stretchy, and rocky-skinned people bandying about battling felons in long pajamas. It's another thing entirely to have a green-skinned space imp capable of 'popping' himself into any form imaginable, with a love of bad puns and a never-ending Rolodex of practical jokes. Like a Skrull raised on Three Stooges films, or Superman's silver-age Mr. Mxyptlyk--only instead of saying his name backwards, you have to bore him to get rid of him.

A bit silly, sure, but he was done-in-one, and the Fantastic Four were glad to be rid of him. But then he cropped up again in Marvel Two-in-One and again with the Silver Surfer. Then, in 1990, someone had the bright idea of dropping him back on Earth for his very own special. This time he brings his wife the Impossible Woman and his 5,000 or so Impossible Offspring. They raise a lot of harmless hell, meeting (or Impostering) numerous familiar faces along the way. When the vacation is over, they realize that they lost one of the many children back on Earth, and so issue #2 sees Mr. Impossible rushing back to find him.

Yeah, there's only the most rudimentary of plots here, but that's okay. The draw here isn't meant to be the story, but the humor. Every panel has a joke somewhere in it, so it's rapid-fire, which means there are an equal number of hits as misses. Humor isn't new to the Marvel Universe, but this borders on slapstick. It's Naked Gun or Hot Shots set in the funny pages, and not nearly as amusing today as I remember it--granted, I'm 18 years older and the pop culture references are now 18 years more dated. The 64 pages per issue is a bit of overkill--humor like this is more easily digested in bite-sized morsels--but as far as distractions go, you could do worse.

The end of the 2nd issue contained an affidavit that the reader was supposed to sign and return to the Marvel editorial offices, requesting the Impossible Man to receive his very own regular series.

Needless to say, we're still waiting.


Saturday, March 7, 2009

Short Film Review: A Short Film About John Bolton (2003)

A Short Film About John Bolton

Writen & Directed by Neil Gaiman

John O'Mahony...John Bolton
Marcus Brigstocke...Marcus (Interviewer)
Carolyn Backhouse...Carolyn Dalgleish

John Bolton is a brilliant artist, whose subject matter is typically gorgeous women in seductive poses with an almost disturbing and vampiric quality. He is preparing for his latest exhibition in a very swanky, very prestigious art gallery, attempting to break out of his shell for the documentary crew that is following him around. He is new to the world of celebrity, and everyone wants to know: where does he get his inspiration? Only one man is invited into his studio to find out...

John Bolton is a real fellow, though he is portrayed fictionally here by John O'Mahony. Bolton is a comic book artist and painter who has worked on both Marvel and DC Comics, including the first issue of Books of Magic, written by Neil Gaiman himself. He fully supported Gaiman's fictional film, going so far as to supply the artwork used and appearing in a cameo as a patron at the art gallery.

This short movie is Gaiman's first stab at directing, so perhaps we can forgive the flaws. It's competently shot and scripted, and just as competently directed. However, I found it rather dull and more than a little pretentious. But that could very well be because I'm not familiar with John Bolton's work. If someone were to make a horror-influenced metafictional short film about, say, Jack Kerouac, Steve Gerber or Bob Dylan, I'd probably be all over it.

Regardless, if you're a fan of the REAL John Bolton, or of Neil Gaiman himself (and really, who isn't?) it's worth a watch. Even if you don't like it, you've only wasted 27 minutes--plus bonus features. So what are you waiting for?

27 Minutes

John is better than Michael!

Friday, March 6, 2009

Movie Review: Year of the Yahoo (1977)

Year of the Yahoo
Year of the Yahoo/This Stuff'll Kill Ya! from Godfather of Gore Herschell Gordon Lewis
Written by Allen Kahn
Directed by Herschell Gordon Lewis

Claude King .... Hank Jackson
Ronna Riddle .... Tammy Parker
Ray Sager .... Sid Angelo
Robert Swain .... Senator Fred Burwell

When Senator Burrwell—who's been in office for 18 years—begins to develop politics too radical for the average American (such as putting a stop to crime, not wanting police to harass innocent civilians, etc.), a crooked political lobby group recruits country music singer Hank Jackson to run against him. Hank signs on quickly, wanting to do something for the country he loves beyond his usual blend of patriotic and Americana ballads.

What follows is a series of misadventures as Hank learns how things are played in the politics game. He's forced to change the way he acts, the way he dresses, and even the way he speaks and the songs he sings. Before long, Hank's whole persona is a sham and he's misrepresenting himself and his politics to the American public.

So why, pray tell, is this film even reviewed here? Because Year of the Yahoo, believe it or not, is a Herschell Gordon Lewis feature. That's right, it seems the Godfather of Gore was trying to broaden his horizons a bit, making a semi-serious but sometimes light-hearted film which is often misrepresented as a hillbilly movie.

Of course as a genre film it's terrible, but taken for what it is, it's really not bad. Much more watchable than This Stuff'll Kill Ya! with which it's double billed.

For completists only and for those who are curious as to what it would have looked like if Lewis had ever had the chance to direct an Elvis film. I'll give the man this much: he compiles one hell of a soundtrack.

Year of the Yahoo comes double billed with This Stuff'll Kill Ya on this Something Weird DVD release. Extra features include audio commentary by Lewis regular David Krogh, “The Old Grey Goose Is Dead” musical short (country music, natch), “Naked Moonshine” short feature (in which 3 roommates get half naked and make punch out of cheap booze), Gallery of Herschell Gordon Lewis Exploitation Art with drive-in radio commercials playing in the background, and theatrical trailers for 8 Lewis films.

Rated R
88 minutes
United States

Yee-Haw, Bitches!


Related Posts with Thumbnails