Monday, February 28, 2011

Monster Dog (1986)

Monster Dog

Written & Directed by Claudio Fragasso

Vince Raven...Alice Cooper
Sandra...Victoria Vera
Frank...Carlos Santurio
Marilou...Maria Jose Sarsa

Gimmicky rock star Vince Raven (played by gimmicky rock star Alice Cooper) returns to his home after two decades of being away, bringing with him a van full of friends, lovers and associates. Upon arriving, Vince learns that there have been a number of deaths recently which have been attributed to packs of wild dogs, an occurence which eerily echoes events from his past.

As Raven and his Scooby Gang scout locations for his next music video and more people end up dead, it begins to seem like the pack of dogs may not be the only culprit...especially if you believe the lynch mob of angry townies organizing outside of the Raven Estate. Throw in a prophetic dream regarding lycanthropy and a crazy old man who swears that none of them will make it out alive, and you've just about got a party.

I've never been a huge Alice Cooper fan. I mean, I have nothing against him and there are a handful of songs by him that I enjoy, but I've never once contemplated purchasing one of his albums. I had previously seen him appear in Wayne's World, and while an entertaining cameo, his acting skills didn't exactly set the world on fire. And yet, when I heard about this film, I knew there was no chance of me passing it up. It just sounded so...strange.

1980s? Check.
Low budget? Check.
Puffy, aging rock star who was (let's be honest) puffy and aging even then? Check.
Two--count them two--music videos built right in? Check.
Brought to us by the man behind Troll 2? Check.
Directed by an Italian, filmed in Spanish, then dubbed into English? Check.
English-speaking Alice Cooper's voice dubbed back into English by somebody else? Check and double check!

Without nary an original plot point to be found, not much in the way of scares, and occasional lapses in logic, the only thing that Monster Dog has going for it is that it's sometimes a ludicrous, cheesy sort of way. Even then, the novelty of the whole thing kind of wore off about halfway through, and I was just left kind of bored.

Lovers of Hard Rock Horror may want to check this out, if it's not already sitting next to your forgotten copy of Trick or Treat (released, coincidentally, the same year). All others probably need not apply.

84 Minutes
Spanish (English Dubbed)

"I am a recognized expert in electronic videos!"

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Genre Films on TCM (02.26.11)

Two great, but drastically different, films are playing back-to-back on Turner Classic Movies tonight.  Are you ready for a bizarre double-feature?

10:00pm One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest (1975)
A small-time criminal fakes insanity in hopes of doing easy time in a mental hospital.
Cast: Jack Nicholson, Louise Fletcher, William Redfield, Dean R Brooks Dir: Milos Forman C-134 mins, TV-MA

12:30am Silence Of The Lambs, The (1991)
A fledgling FBI agent enlists a psychopath's help in catching a serial killer.
Cast: Jodie Foster, Anthony Hopkins, Scott Glenn, Ted Levine Dir: Jonathan Demme C-118 mins, TV-MA

Friday, February 25, 2011

The Penalty by Gouverneur Morris

The Penalty
by Gouverneur Morris

"Why don't you do some of your dirty work yourself?"
"I do all I can," said the legless man simply; "I can't find time for everything."

The Penalty is rarely thought of at all today, and in those rare instances when it is, it is more than likely the darkly melodramatic film version of the tale, a rarely-seen screen gem starring Lon Chaney. I first learned of this movie while researching my Horror Explorer series of articles, and was fascinated by the subject matter. While sitting down to watch the 1920 movie would definitely be kicking it old school, I wanted first to kick it REALLY old school by actually reading the source material from 1913.

Nevermind the fact that I was doing so on my new-fangled Kindle.

The setting is New York, where our characters range from denizens of the slums to the upper crust, and everything in between. Barbara is a well-to-do sculptress in search of inspiration. She finds it in the face of a legless beggar named Blizzard, whom she plans to craft into the figure of Lucifer, moments after his fall from grace.

Barbara has no idea just how astute her artistic eye is. Blizzard is no mere beggar, but rather some Great Pretender. He may not have his lower limbs, but he seems to have limitless wealth, limitless reach, and limitless power. He is a kingpin of crime, a man to be feared and revered, with his ear to the ground and a hand in every crooked enterprise imaginable.

At a distance you might have mistaken him for an electrician or a sewer-expert coming into view through one of those round holes in the sidewalk by which access is provided to the subterranean apparatus of cities. But, drawing nearer, you perceived that he was but half a man, who stood upon the six-inch stubs of what had once been a pair of legs. But what nature could do for what was left of him nature had done. He had the neck, the arms, and the torso of a Hercules. His coat, black, threadbare, shining, and unpleasantly spotted, seemed on the point of giving way here and there to a system of restless and enormous muscles. But that these should serve no better purpose than ceaselessly to turn the handle of an unusually diminutive and tuneless street-organ might have roused in the observer's mind doubts as to the wisdom and vigilance of that divine providence which is so much better understood and trusted by the healthy and fortunate than by the wretched, the maimed, and the diseased.
Barbara's sometimes-love interest has firsthand experience with Blizzard, as does Bubbles, the charity-case orphan that she employs, but their warnings go unheeded. She is willing to make sacrifices for her art, and indeed develops a strange friendship with the repugnant fellow. Perhaps even a twisted attraction to him. Even her father, a reknowned surgeon, can't keep her away, and he has a dirty little secret all his own.

His carelessness as a young man was responsible for Blizzard's physical condition, and thus possibly his current mental state. Is Blizzard befriending Barbara as part of some sick revenge scheme? And with her father's cutting-edge experiments in the field of limb transplants, could he really just be trying to get a leg up, as it were?

But where would he find a donor?

While the majority of this novel may play out like a potboiler romance, as Barbara scatters her interests and affections from sea to shining sea, don't be fooled. There is a very dark, and very pulpy, tone that echoes behind everything that happens here. And this is what pushes you through to the end: because you know, sooner or later, Blizzard is going to come undone. And when he does, watch out.

It's a decent story that unravels (perhaps not quickly enough) into a twisted, manic episode that would have felt right at home on FX's sleazetastic surgery porn show Nip/Tuck. It's just too bad that the resolution was such a cheap cop out. But this was back in the day when people believed in messages.

Pssht, whatevs.

The characters are colorful and amusing, especially Bubbles with his antiquated street hustler argot. Much of the dialogue seems forced and unnatural, though, at least to modern ears. Still, that's easy enough to get accustomed to after a few dozen pages. My only real qualm with the body of the story is that a certain political scheme of Blizzard's, which seems as if it is building into a major plot point, is never brought to fruition, turning it into unneeded padding.

With romance, horror, art, crime, revenge, and even a secret organization of crimefighters, there's bound to be something in this wild recipe that you might enjoy.


Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Dolls (1987)


Written by Ed Naha
Directed by Stuart Gordon
Produced by Charles Band

David Bower...Ian Patrick Williams
Rosemary Bower...Carolyn Purdy-Gordon
Judy Bower...Carrie Lorraine
Gabriel Hartwicke...Guy Rolfe
Ralph Morris...Stephen Lee

The dysfunctional Bower family, two thieving punk rock bitches, and an average schmo named Ralph all seek refuge from a terrible storm in the enormous mansion home of eccentric toymaker Gabriel Hartwicke and his wife Hilary.  Hospitable hosts that they are, they offer the guests rooms of their own in which they can hole up for the night.  At once charming and creepy, each room is filled with dolls crafted by Gabriel's skillful hands.

When one of the punk rock grrls vanishes in the night, only young Judy Bower knows what happened--and even she is a bit fuzzy on the specifics: the silly girl believes that the woman was attack by elves (as if that were even remotely possible)!  No, the tiny marauders are (surprise, surprise) dolls.

Bet you didn't see that one coming.

Being a child, Judy can't seem to convince anyone of her tale, except of course for Ralph, who is essentially just a big kid himself (at once charming and creepy, just like the house).  The two wander together, hand in hand, through the old dark house, narrowly avoiding death around each corner as they attempt to unravel the mysterious going-ons.

One look at this movie and it becomes obvious that this is a Charles Band joint (as the kids are saying these days).  It has his fingerprints all over it, from the use of miniature killers to its effective stop-motion animation, and occasional over-wrought melodramatic performances.  Whether this is a good thing or a bad thing depends on whether you are a fan of classic Band productions or not.

Yes, these days it seems painfully reminiscent of the Puppet Master franchise.  But when kept in perspective--Dolls was released a full two years before the first Puppet Master--it becomes obvious that the Puppet Master franchise is actually painfully reminiscent of Dolls.  And although lesser-known than its rival (owed mostly to the fact that Puppet Master spawned numerous sequels, while Dolls forever remained a done-in-one), it still held up surprisingly well in my opinion.  It's not a ground-breaking horror film, and the motivations of some of the characters aren't fully explored, but it's a well-crafted B-movie that would have been more effective if we hadn't already seen this sort of thing a few dozen times before.

Remember, hipsters:  You're never too old to play with toys.

Rated R
77 Minutes
United States

"Fuck you, clowny!"

Monday, February 21, 2011

Genre Film on TCM (02.21.11)

Only one film catching my eye on Turner Classic Movies today, but thought I would give you hipsters the heads up.

3:30pm Bad Seed, The (1956)
A woman suspects that her perfect little girl is a ruthless killer.
Cast: Gage Clarke, Jesse White, Joan Croyden, Bill Hopper Dir: Mervyn LeRoy C-129 mins, TV-PG

Friday, February 18, 2011

Piranha (2010)

Piranha (2010)

Written by Peter Goldfinger & Josh Stolberg
Directed by Alexandre Aja

Julie Forester...Elizabeth Shue
Jake Forester...Steven R. McQueen
Novak...Adam Scott
Derrick Jones...Jerry O'Connel
Deputy Fallon...Ving Rhames
Mr. Goodman...Christopher Lloyd
Matt Boyd...Richard Dreyfuss

Hi, kids!

Do you like boobs?  Do you like blood?  Do you like that fat kid from Stand by Me?  Do you like movies where Eli Roth gets his head crushed?  And, most of all, do you like fish?  If you answered yes to any of these questions, then have I got a film for you!

French horror filmmaer Alexandre Aja's remake of the cult-classic 1978 film Piranha follows the same basic plot of the original:  that is, a small lake town is terrorized by an outbreak of attacks by the flesh-eating fishies.  It's Jaws-lite, and although the fish in question may be much smaller than a great white, there's also a whole lot more of them...meaning they can strike in multiple places at once--which, unfortunately, isn't used to its full potential.

Regardless, it's that time of year in the vacation town of Lake Victoria, when the citizens of the town are outnumbered ten-to-one by tourists eager to get inebriated and drop top and trou, screaming "wooooo!" at the top of their lungs.  In other words, it's Spring Break.  The worst possible time for a plague of piranha to hit.  Talk about killing a buzz, man.

The film centers around a few distinct groups of people as they struggle to survive, each one with at least one member of the Forester Family.  Mama (aka SHERIFF) Forester leads a team of seismologists as they investigate a strange earth quake that occurred just prior to the attacks.  Jake Forester tags along with a crew of hornballs as they film a knock-off Girls Gone Wild video, simultaneously trying to score with and protect Kelly, the girl of his dreams.  And then little Laura and Zane Forester, the unlikeliest of survivors, who trapse around in search of Huck Finn adventures when they're supposed to be safe at home.

But don't worry.  To keep things interesting, the camera often pans to some random half-nude fish fodder, and the red stuff begins to fly.

This is definitely a departure from Aja's earlier work.  Haute Tension and The Hills Have Eyes, for example, were balls-to-the-wall horror.  Piranha is tongue-in-cheek horror, never afraid to go for the gross out or the guffaw.  It wears its inspirations and its influences on its sleeve, and while far from original (even as far as remakes go), it can be a hell of a lot of fun if you go in with proper expectations.

This is the perfect film for the drive-in, not the opera house.

So grab a beer, pop some popcorn, and sit down with a few buddies.  Pretty soon, you will be inebriated and shouting "woooo" at the top of your lungs.  But please...keep your clothes on.

Rated R
88 Minutes
United States

"This is what it's all about:  Beer, sun, and naked hunnies making out underwater."

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Short Film: Smoke (2007)

Heya, Hipsters!

Filmmaker Grzegorz Cisiecki dropped me a line recently and asked me to check out his short film, Smoke.  I gave it a look-see, and while I can't honestly say that I "got" it, I can tell you this:  It's beautifully shot, artsy, dark, sexy and ambiguous--like if David Lynch had directed Eyes Wide Shut instead of Kubrick.  It does have an air of pretentiousness about it (the synopsis of the film is given as "The story of the person who became the captive of surrealistic madness"), but show me an art film that doesn't. 

Give it a gander, and let me know what you think.


Bare Knuckles (1977)

Bare Knuckles

Written & Directed by Don Edmonds

Zachary Kane...Robert Viharo
Black...John Daniels
Jennifer...Sherry Jackson
Richard Devlin...Michael Heit

"Zachary Kane, Bounty Hunter."

That's the kind of introduction that makes young ladies helpless but to do your sexual bidding.  It's like, "Stony Rockson, Astronaut," or "Alexander Midnight, Private Eye."  Of course, it doesn't hurt that Kane is 100 Percent Grade A Badass, with a mullet made of pure machismo and a mustache made of Chuck Norris's darkest fears.  These are the seedy streets of 1977 L.A., where only the toughest of tough guys don't get eaten alive.

When a masked killer begins stalking the streets, terrorizing and killing innocent women, the police take notice.  And when a 15 grand reward is offered, well, Zachary Kane takes notice as well.  For this man, it's all about the benjamins.

But Kane only gets his money if he brings down this serial slaughterer before the police do.  Luckily for Kane, he has something that the police don't have: street cred.  Kane uses his considerable pull, and his considerable fists, to track down the one surviving witness who has gone into hiding.  But in order to do so, he must forge an unlikely alliance with Black, an African-American rival.

You heard me right.  Zack and Black--but they aren't attorney at laws!

This nearly forgotten action flick probably deserves a bigger audience than it has.  Sometimes referred to as a Blaxploitation film, that's not quite an accurate description (although it does share certain elements with that peculiar sub-sub-genre).  It's a bi-racial buddy cop movie, only they're not technically cops...and they're probably not technically buddies, either.  Not to mention the fact that their partnership dissolves during the second half of the flick without another mention (despite what the poster would have you believe).  But still, if Shaft and Lethal Weapon had a cocaine-fueled quickie in the mens room at an all-night Pizza Hut, and Lethal Weapon somehow got pregnant (because let's face it, Shaft is nobody's lady), this is probably what their bastard offspring would look like.

Always cheap-looking, often corny, and occasionally harmlessly offensive, Bare Knuckles is quite dated...but that's part of its charm.  Definitely worth a look if you enjoy action and exploitation films from days gone by.  And it's an admitted favorite of Quentin Tarantino, who draws his inspiration from these sorts of flicks, so fans of his work will probably be interested as well.

"That's right.  I rock the flute, bitch."
Besides, where else can you see a bar room a gay bar?  Or a villain who makes sexual advances on his own mother?  Or an Asian bystander going toe-to-toe with a mad man using only a pair of chopsticks?

What's that you say?  Police Academy 2, The Manchurian Candidate, and Kung-Fu Panda?

All right, smart ass.  Let me rephrase:  Where else can you see it all in one movie?

Nowhere.  Now make room for Zachary Kane...or you could be his next punching bag.

Rated R
90 Minutes
United States

"Sunday brunch and sex orgies."

Friday, February 11, 2011

Spatter Analysis #4: January 2011

Let's face it: Image is everything.  That's the one valuable lesson I took away from high school, other than how to make a bong out of just about anything (thanks, shop class!).  Movies are judged by their posters just as books are judged by their covers--as are poorly planned online horror magazines.  The first three issues of Spatter Analysis: The Horror Movie Magazine YOU Wrote were graced with beautiful images donated by the great iZombie, which were promptly cheapened by my own non-existant design skills and the goodness that is MS Paint.  Thankfully, with this issue, iZombie has wrested control of any and all design elements from my grubby, bloody little paws, and the gorgeous image you see above is the result.  If you like what you see, I beg of you to visit his JMH DIGITAL homepage to check out his other work.  As always, I'd like to thank the undead artist for all his time, effort and support, and all of you bloggers out there for giving me content...even if you weren't aware you were doing so.  It's people like you, who freely give so many great articles and reviews to the public, that ease the pain of not being able to afford print magazines anymore.  For the love of the genre, that's what Spatter Analysis is all about. --J/Metro

NOTE: None of the articles below are hosted on my blog, and the authors retain sole ownership. The links are provided here without explicit permission in many cases, because, as far as I know, linking with proper attribution does not go against proper blogger etiquette. Consider this the Midnite Media equivalent of an award, only rather than be awarded for your blog overall, it's for a specific post. You know what that means, don't you? More chances to win! Anywho, if for whatever reason you would like the link to your post removed, just let me know and it will be removed faster than a bad girl's panties in a 1980s slasher flick.

Table of Contents

Nabongo Pongo Overlongo - Down In The Jungle Something Stirred:  Who says genre films can't be educational?  Matthew of Carfax Abbey watches back-to-back jungle films from Poverty Row's PRC and learns a little something-something about gorillas.

My Conondrum About Funny Games:  The Girl Who Loves Horror (from the same-titled blog) goes round and round with herself about the film Funny Games, and, more importantly, how her affection for that film effects other people's perception of her.

Psycho-Babble Phantasm:  Tim of Post-Mortem Depression analyzes this classic film in a not-so-classic way.

Phantasm, I Love Your Freewheelin' 70's Ways:  Dod, of The WGON Helicopter, waxes wise on the cult status of everyone's favorite killer ball flick.

The Best Of Halloween Part One/ Part Two:  Steve Miller of Terror Titans boils the best of the franchise down to four solid picks.  I'll give you a hint:  Rob Zombie did not make the list.

Black Swan - A More Pointless, Female Version of The Wrestler:  Everyone loves Black Swan.  Except for B-Movie Becky of The Horror Effect.  Find out why.

As Far As Mr. Sullivan Is Concerned...:  CRWM of And Now The Screaming Starts does not talk about 2001 Maniacs: Field of Screams.  And we're all okay with that.

Re/Made In The USA:  A. Jaye of Thrill Fiction delivers insightful history and commentary on the American art of the Remake--with footnotes and everything!

An Introduction To The Italian Giallo:  Shuan of the Celluloid Highway kicked off a month-long Giallo-fest with this concise and precise discourse.

Robert Fuest - A Stylish Approach To Horror:  Mark Hodgson of Black Hole Reviews takes us on a journey through the stylized world of Robert Fuest.

No Wonder People Don't Read Anymore:  Jeff Allard of Dinner With Max Jenke is not afraid to judge a book by its cover.  Are you?

Robots!:  Bleaux Leaux of The Bleaux Leaux Reveaux (that's just fun to say!) examines some of cinema's Most Valuable Robots.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Act of Vengeance (1974)

Act of Vengeance

Written by David Kidd & H.R. Christian
Directed by Bob Kelljan

Linda...Jo Ann Harris
Jack...Peter Brown
Karen....Lisa Moore
Angie...Patricia Estrin
Nancy...Jennifer Lee
Tiny...Lada Edmund, Jr.

After lunch truck operator Linda is raped by a sadist in an orange jumpsuit and a hockey mask, she goes to the police.  There she's made to feel as if she is the criminal, as if she was "asking for it".  Once it is made perfectly clear to her that there is little to no hope that the police will find this man, Linda meets up with the rapist's other victims and form what they call a Rape Squad.

Through their 24-hour help line, the girls rush in to help like a sex crimes A-Team whenever a woman is in danger.  A good portion of what follows is almost episodic in nature, as the Squad deals with a number of unrelated problems and predators--a forceful night club owner, an abusive pimp, a heavy-breathing obscene caller, etc.  But it's all just training and preperation for the final confrontation with the hockey mask wearing rapist, who has been keeping tabs on their vigilante activities all this time.

This film is a bit of an odd duck.  It's shot and looks like a made-for-television shocker--and in fact, if it was remade in toned-down form, it could probably air on Lifetime.  Don't get me wrong, this is an exploitative revenge thriller with a few moments of choice sleaze: for instance, the rapist makes his victims sing "Jingle Bells" while he brutalizes them; and when the girls aren't out Rape Squadding, they sometimes sit around chit-chatting while hot-tubbing in the nude.

Sleazy and exploitative, sure.  But not nearly as sleazy and exploitative as the majority of flicks in the controversial rape-revenge genre.  Most of the other movies in this category know full well that they are trash, and they don't try to hide it.  Act of Vengeance, however, seems to feel guilty about its base nature and so attempts to compensate by over-reaching and taking itself seriously, attempting to deliver a message.

That message is simple:  Men suck.

As is par for the course, nearly all of the men here are misogynist assholes, not just the Jingle Bell Rapist. While passing out fliers advertising their Squad and spreading their message, a pair of robust bastards heckle one of the girls with calls like, "Stop rape? But that's my favorite sport!" and "A little rape once and a while should make life more enjoyable." Class acts all the way.

Despite its somewhat schizophrenic personality, its moments of absurdity, and the sometimes pitiful scripting, fans of the revenge thriller may want to check this one out.  Sure, women have had their revenge before.  But have they ever had their revenge while looking this badass?

ALSO KNOWN AS:  Rape Squad

Rated R
90 Minutes
United States

"I've rung more bells than a god damn cathedral and I'm gonna ring yours."

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Genre Films on TCM (02.08.11)

Three films of interest playing on Turner Classic Movies today, scattered throughout their schedule.  Check 'em out!

11:30am 2010 (1984)
In this sequel to 2001: A Space Odyssey, a U.S.-Soviet crew investigates a mysterious monolith orbiting Jupiter.
Cast: Roy Scheider, John Lithgow, Helen Mirren, Bob Balaban Dir: Peter Hyams C-116 mins, TV-14

3:30pm On the Beach (1959)
After a nuclear war, U.S. sailors stationed in Australia deal with the end of civilization.
Cast: Gregory Peck, Ava Gardner, Fred Astaire, Anthony Perkins Dir: Stanley Kramer BW-134 mins, TV-PG

8:00pm Gaslight (1944)
A newlywed fears she's going mad when strange things start happening at the family mansion.
Cast: Charles Boyer, Ingrid Bergman, Joseph Cotten, Dame May Whitty Dir: George Cukor BW-114 mins, TV-PG

Monday, February 7, 2011

Taxidermia (2006)


Written by György Pálfi & Zsófia Ruttkay
Directed by György Pálfi
Based on short stories by Parti Nagy Lajos

This import follows three generations of Hungarian men during critical times of their lives.  The first sequence follows a lowly and slow-witted military private who has a very strong (and very graphic) fantasy life.  When he's not performing menial jobs for his asshole of a lieutenant or burning himself with his weekly candle rationing, he is usually engaged in one sick sexual fantasy or another.  In one instance (that blurs the line between fantasy and reality), he has sex with a pig carcass while dreaming about his lieutenant's wife...and 9 months later, she gives birth to a baby boy.

Complete with pig tail.

The repugnant pig-tailed bastard grows up to become a competitive eater, his life transforming into a grotesque cycle of eat-vomit-eat.  This revolting cycle somehow leads to a wife and child--though, granted, not the cream of the genetic crop.

Though spawned by girthy parents, this child grows to be a pale and sickly looking specimen, who has eschewed the world of speed eating in favor of taxidermy.  He cares for his morbidly obese father and his feline companions with more than a little resentment, although it later becomes obvious that he has nothing else to live for.

I'm not really sure what to say about Taxidermia.  I can offer a rough plot synopsis, but I'm still not sure what it's about.  I can tell you that it's supposed to be a dark comedy, but I can't tell you what's supposed to be funny about it.  I can tell you that it's artistic and disturbing, but that doesn't necessarily add up to great entertainment--at least not 90 minutes worth.

The plot is minimal, and although the visuals are interesting, it's difficult for eye candy (whether sweet or sour) to hold attention for so long when there's nothing else going on.  This movie has sometimes garnered comparisons to the work of Alejandro Jodorowsky, but those comparisons are shallow at best.  Jodorowsky creates images of beauty, sometimes using ugliness as his media, and uses a comprehensible narrative to string them together.  Here, it is all ugliness, viscera for the sake of viscera, with only the slightest thread of narrative to lead the way. 

Only the final third of the film, for which the movie was named, was of any real interest to me, with its aspects of body horror and shocking finale that takes body modification to a whole new level.  Were this last segment a short film in and of itself, I would be obliged to give it a favorable review.  But as a whole, Taxidermia was 60 minutes of prologue too long, and recommended only to the most hardcore of arthouse aficionados.  However, if you've ever wanted to see a man shoot flames out of his erect penis, then this is the film for you!

Now, I'll be the first to admit that I probably just don't "get it".  Those of you that do get it, maybe you can explain to me what you liked about this flick.  But in the meantime, I'm going to go watch El Topo or Holy Mountain again.

Not Rated
91 Minutes


Friday, February 4, 2011

The Hills Have Eyes II (2007)

The Hills Have Eyes II (2007)

Written by Wes Craven & Jonathon Craven
Directed by Martin Weisz

Napolean...Michael McMillian
Amber...Jessica Stroup
Crank...Jacob Vargas
Sarge...Flex Alexander

A few years have passed since the population of the Carter Clan was cut in half by the mysterious mutant miner madmen in the original remake (how's that for an oxymoron?) of The Hills Have Eyes.  In that time, the military have moved in and reclaimed the land for reasons unknown.

A rookie group from the National Guard have been called in to this particular patch of desert (now called Sector 16) to assist the soldiers and scientists on duty there.  But when the newbies show up, the base is deserted, and there's no sign of life anywhere.

Except, of course, for the mysterious mutant miner madmen that call the hills home.  They're looking for men to kill, and women to breed with.  Fortunately for them, this is a co-ed squadron of soldiers.

I'm not ashamed to say that I was a fan of the previous entry.  Remake or not, it was a sick and slick, fucked-up good time.  That being said, a sequel to a remake (not, by the way, in any way a remake of the original sequel) is a tricky thing.  Even if you struck gold the first time around, there are a lot of pitfalls waiting for you here.  You want something fresh.  You don't just want to rehash the same thing all over again.  So what do you do?

Apparantly, you call in the big guns.  In this case, quite literally.

The tone of this film is drastically different than its predecessor, and in fact hardly seems related at all.  I can understand that the protagonists are of a whole different ilk here--previously they were just family folk, and here they are trained soliders.  Their characters are not nearly as well defined, as they have sacrificed much of their individuality to enter the soldiering life.  It's a bit of a machismo, group-mind effect, which rather prevents you from getting too close to these people.  I think it would have helped a lot if there had been a civilian or two amongst them--maybe Bobby Carter returning from the first film, acting as a hired desert guide.

Speaking of which, can anyboy explain to me how a civilian family on vacation seemed better prepared to deal with these killers than a group of soldiers?  Do you remember the booby traps that Bobby set up at the end of the last film?  Seems to me that he had the military training, not these camo-clad privates.

If the nature of the protagonists was the only thing that had changed, I could have dealt with that more easily.  But the antagonists have changed dramatically too.  Previously, you got the feeling that they were not all that bright, but they had years and years of in-the-field survivalist training.  Post-apocalyptic idiot savants.

This time around, the mutants are more organized, more intelligent, and better at combat than the military they're fighting.  They even wear fatigues, and appear to have super-strength!  This would seem more at home in a zombie or vampire movie--the living soldiers versus the undead soldiers--but just comes across as displaced here.  What's odd to me is that the script was written, at least in part, by Wes Craven!  It's hard to believe that this is how he wanted his characters to end up.

Plenty of action, plenty of gore, but with only shallow attempts at characterization and a desperate need to out-do the previous entries, this is just an overblown, over-the-top disappointment that could have been/should have been so much better.

But you know what really could have saved it? 


Having flashbacks.


89 Minutes
United States


Genre Film on TCM (02.04.11)

Only one genre film catching my eye on Turner Classic Movies today.  It's an oldie but a goodie!

1:00pm Dr. Jekyll And Mr. Hyde(1932)
Robert Louis Stevenson's classic tale of a scientist who unleashes the beast within.
Cast: Fredric March, Miriam Hopkins, Rose Hobart, Holmes Herbert Dir: Rouben Mamoulian BW-96 mins, TV-PG

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Jack Nicholson Films on TCM (02.02.11)

Turner Classic Movies is playing back-to-back fan-favorite Jack Nicholson films tonight.  Check 'em out!  (And I'll forgive you if you skip Terms of Endearment.)

8:00pm Five Easy Pieces (1970)
A classical pianist who's dropped out of society returns to the family he deserted.
Cast: Jack Nicholson, Karen Black, Lois Smith, Susan Anspach Dir: Bob Rafelson C-98 mins, TV-MA

10:00pm Terms of Endearment (1983)
A mother-daughter relationship survives years of rivalry and romantic problems.
Cast: Shirley MacLaine, Jack Nicholson, Debra Winger, Jeff Daniels Dir: James L. Brooks C-132 mins, TV-MA

12:30am Easy Rider (1969)
A cross-country trip to sell drugs puts two hippie bikers on a collision course with small-town prejudices.
Cast: Peter Fonda, Dennis Hopper, Antonio Mendoza, Phil Spector Dir: Dennis Hopper C-96 mins, TV-MA

2:15am Last Detail, The (1973)
Two shore patrolmen decide to show a prisoner a good time on his way to the brig.
Cast: Jack Nicholson, Otis Young, Randy Quaid, Clifton James Dir: Hal Ashby C-104 mins, TV-MA

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

The Hills Have Eyes (2006)

The Hills Have Eyes (2006)

Written by Alexandre Aja & Gregory Levasseur
Directed by Alexandre Aja

Big Bob Carter...Ted Levine
Bobby Carter...Dan Byrd
Brenda Carter...Emilie de Ravin
Doug Bukowski...Aaron Stanford

Oh, wait...wrong movie.  Let's try this one:

The story is familiar to most every veteran of the horror genre:  the vacationing Carter family (boasting three generations of blood) have a breakdown in the unforgiving New Mexico desert.  What should have been just another speed bump in the road turns deadly when they learn that not only do the hills have eyes, but they have teeth too.  The entire Carter Clan is terrorized, brutalized, and yes, even cannibalized over the course of two days by a rival family, this one made up of mutant miners and their killer kin.

Wes Craven's original is widely considered a classic, and for good reason.  The twisted tale of the civilized versus the uncivilized--or, more importantly, the civilized losing their civility--was a shocking examination of how far one would go to survive, and how much further one would go to protect those that he loves.  And although it had its problems (I'm not such a devotee that I can't admit that), they were easy to look past when all was said and done.

As always, a remake of such a highly-regarded film is a risky proposition.  Admittedly, it has a built-in audience, but it also has its built-in detractors, fans of the original who will hate on the modern version no matter what its merits.  I live somewhere between the two camps:  I believe full-heartedly that there are some films that simply have no need to be remade; however, if and when I watch the remakes, I try to go in with an open mind and an empty slate.  While it's damn near impossible not to compare the remake to the original, you can still enjoy both long as they're both enjoyable.

The Busey that nobody talks about...
In my opinion, 2006's The Hills Have Eyes got it right.  Almost ridiculously right, actually.  While remaining true to the original plot and director's vision, they also gave us a more in-depth story, more kooky killers than you can shake a stick at, and more relentless action than the original.  Sure, much of the freshness of the original is gone, and like most modern films it goes for shock rather than suspense--but sometimes you feel like a nut, sometimes you don't.  If I want a Mounds bar, I'll sit down with Craven's version.  If I want an Almond Joy, I'll pop in Aja's.

Or vice versa.  I'll be honest.  I kind of got lost about halfway through that analogy.

Anyway, I think that Aja's maniac sensibilities successfully translated this classic flick to the big screen for a modern audience.

What say you?

Rated R
107 Minutes
United States

"Mmm, baby fat.  Bat fat and juicy."


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