Thursday, May 27, 2010

Back in 12 (days)

So, I'm taking some time off from CinSom, you guys. I'm going to see my folks this weekend (for the first time in a long while) but after that, I've got something else in mind. You see, back in January, when I told you all about THE BOOK, I was all geared up to knock the beast out. Well, it's been 6 months and my European horror movie book is still in its infancy. I've watched soooo many movies and done quite a bit of research for this thing but it just ain't where I want it to be yet. I found myself getting more and more frustrated about the state the book is in so I made a (probably rash) decision.

I'm using up nearly all of my vacation time to take an entire week off from work for NEHF. Starting on Memorial Day and ending on Friday or Saturday or something, I'm going to be living, breathing, eating, and pooping European horror movies released between 2000 and 2010. I don't expect to finish the thing but I hope to get a handle on the (GOD ONLY KNOWS how many) films I've already watched and the (SATAN ONLY KNOWS how many) ones I have yet to see. So I won't be back for a week and a half or more. I promise there will be some cool surprises and cool stuff in June. But yeah, wish me luck.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Wednesday Ramble: Sign 'o' the Times & Purple Rain

Every journey, even a purple one, has to come to an end. After subjecting ourselves to the terror of Graffiti Bridge and the accidental masterpiece that is Under the Cherry Moon, my friend Nafa and I had to complete the Prince film cycle. The thing that worried us the most was that Purple Rain would just be a good movie. How the hell are we supposed to deal with Prince just being in a good film? Before we could know the answer to that, we dug on Sign 'o' the Times.

So anyway, I was fully prepared to rename this film to Sigh… No… The Times(?). But I’ll be damned if this isn’t one of the best concert films ever made. It starts off all artsy fartsy like Graffiti Bridge and then it soars into a funk explosion sensation. As I’ve stated before, I don’t like funk but I caught my foot tapping all by itself throughout nearly all of Sign ‘o’ the Times. Oh my God, that bass solo. Nafa, rewind that. Thanks to this film, I finally understand what the hell all the fuss is about.

The artsy stuff I mentioned are dramatic scenes featuring members of Prince’s band acting out some lame ass poetry/dialogue. The funniest of these is when the guy in the fuzzy hat complains about his woman to the bartender. What’s his beef? Well, his woman wants old fuzzy hat to talk to her. Oh wow, poor guy. Who talks to their women, seriously? And the weird thing is that the bartender totally understands! It’s moments like these, hidden inside this wildly entertaining concert flick, that threaten to ruin everything. But if you think about it, Prince’s overwhelming pretentiousness is part of the reason why his films are so amazing.

Since we watched Graffiti Bridge back in January, Nafa and I have developed a perfect method for viewing Prince’s films. I walk over to Nafa’s place from my apartment around 5:30 and go out to Zaxby’s. This is fine dining at its finest. Once we are stuffed with chicken and fries, we go to Wal-Mart. I’m not sure why but I think it’s to get cheap snacks and drink. For Purple Rain, I got some grape Faygo (though I really wanted Mountain Dew Distortion) in order to have something purple to drink. The only other soul joining us on our funk sojourn is Nafa’s cat, Buddha.

There are SPOILERS all up in this bitch, yo.

So Purple Rain begins and in the fabulous and infectiously energizing opening montage, we get to see Morris Day picking out his outfit. Immediately, I realize what was wrong about Sign ‘o’ the Times: NO MORRIS OR JEROME! Well, this movie fixes that. Thank Jesus. I still can’t wrap my mind around the fact that Prince’s world is centered in Minneapolis. Once again, the lunacy of Prince’s world is that his band is always competing against Morris Day and The Time. Yeah I know, I’ll talk more about this later. Oh yeah, Prince’s name in this movie is The Kid. Oh fuck. Not again. Hey, Jerome just threw a woman in a dumpster because she was annoying Morris.

Apollonia shows up wanting to sing in The Kid’s band. She gets introduced to the man himself and he just fucking stands there staring at the back of her head. When she finally gets the courage to speak to him, he’s gone. Unbelievable. The club owner (this morbidly obese black dude in a track suit) wants to ditch The Kid because he doesn’t draw a big enough crowd. Sigh. What the hell? So The Kid goes home and his dad is beating the crap out of him mom. His dad is played by one of the most intense black actors in film history: Clarence Williams III. Now I didn’t even spot this until IMDB pointed out this insanely obvious fact to me: The Kid’s mom is played by Olga Karlatos from Zombie. Holy crap, y’all. This is nuts. The Prince and Lucio Fulci connection is finally established. They said it could never happen.

“You have to purify yourself in the waters of Lake Minnetonka.”

This movie has a potty mouth! There can be no swearing in a Prince film. Wait, why is Apollonia riding on the back of The Kid’s motorcycle? Did I miss something? Are they dating now? The Kid convinces Apollonia to strip and jump in the lake. This caused a minor explosion of screams from me. First of all, NUDITY IN A PRINCE FILM!?!?!? Secondly, Apollonia has a superb rack. I mean, like outrageously nice. I could go on and on but I won’t. Great rack. I mean it. Even if you don’t want to see this movie, you have to check her bobbins out.

So what happened to Prince in his other films? Did he mistake aloofness for charm or something? I mean, The Kid is a total dick in Purple Rain. He smacks around Apollonia and he treats his band like shit. Especially when Wendy and Lisa want to share a song THEY WROTE. The nerve of some people! If I wrote a song and The Kid was talking to me with ventriloquism, I would be all like “Yeah, why don’t you go back to your parents’ basement, you fucking dick!?!” Yet, Prince is still charming as hell in this movie. Something that he would lose by the time he got to Graffiti Bridge. So yeah, The Kid’s home situation is pretty bad. His dad is a failed musician and he is insane. He beats his mom and then shoots himself in the head.

The Kid nearly loses his mind and even has a vision of hanging himself. Geez duder, do you have to be just like your old man? He takes the music that the girls wrote and combines it with his dad’s music to make the song “Purple Rain”. So on the night of nights at the club, he has to prove to the club owner that he has what it takes to rock the joint. Morris Day teases him about his dad shooting himself but then feels really, really bad about it. Holy shit, Morris can act! So The Kid and the band get on stage and he surprises them all by busting out “Purple Rain”. This is pretty much one of the most perfect moments in any movie ever. They play the song and practically the whole band is crying. It’s nuts. Then The Kid comes back from cooling off backstage and tears the place apart with funk. Pure brilliance.

So what’s my problem with this movie? It’s the same thing that’s wrong with Graffiti Bridge. (Okay, EVERYTHING is WRONG with Graffiti Bridge.) The fact that Prince has to compete with Morris Day for two things: 1) the headlining gig at a nightclub and 2) a woman. Give me a fucking break! How is this even remotely possible. I’m not saying Morris isn't ugly and I’m not saying that Prince isn’t short. And they’re both equally freakish in their own respective ways. But Prince is obviously a hotter duder and his music eclipses anything The Time ever did. So aside from the fact that the plot hinges on something that doesn’t make any dang sense, Purple Rain is totally great.

Okay, Nafa and I agree that it's time to watch Graffiti Bridge again. Who's with us?

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Haunting Fear

Haunting Fear
Directed by Fred Olen Ray
Released: 1991
Starring Brinke Stevens, Jan-Michael Vincent, Jay Richardson, Delia Sheppard, Karen Black, Robert Clarke, Robert Quarry
Running Time: 88 minutes

Victoria Munroe (played by Brinke Stevens) is haunted by horrible nightmares particularly those involving premature burial. Her husband Terry (Jay Richardson) is more worried about paying off his loan shark and banging his secretary Lisa (Delia Sheppard). Victoria blames Dr. Carlton (Robert Clarke) for the death of her father and is haunted by visions of her dad being buried alive in her dreams. Meanwhile, Terry's loan shark (played by Robert Quarry) sends his enforcer (Jan-Michael Vincent) posing as a police detective to keep an eye on the house in case Terry tries to skip town without paying.

Dr. Carlton calls in Dr. Julia Harcourt (Karen Black), a paranormal psychologist, to examine Victoria. Using hypnotherapy, she uncovers that Victoria was buried alive by her husband in a previous life. In order to get a hold of her dead father's money and house, Terry and Lisa decide to use Victoria's past life trauma to try and scare her into having a heart attack. What they don't count on is Victoria going completely insane and going on a stabbing binge with a butcher knife.

Well, color me surprised. I wasn’t expecting Haunting Fear to be this good. I have now learned never to underestimate Fred Olen Ray. It’s not my fault though. Have you ever seen Biohazard? The quote from Edgar Allen Poe, the simple opening credits that look like a classic 70s horror film, and Chuck Cirino’s perfectly pretty and haunting score, instantly convinced me this was a different film from the usual Ray insanity. Production values are modest but not rock bottom and the film is cut and shot excellently. There’s as much atmosphere as there is hokey bullshit in the script and things just sort of balance out. To fill in the gaps, there’s sex and even a little gore.

Ray regular Jay Richardson is such a great sleazebag in this movie. I can’t help but like the guy even though he is the scum of the earth. He and the lovely Delia Sheppard have a couple of love scenes that are ridiculously violent. It’s a love scene but oh yeah, they beat the shit out of each other. Karen Black (The Day of the Locust) rocks the Loretta Swit wig and the pink lipstick but she just seems kind of annoyed during her scenes. Michael Berryman (The Hills Have Eyes) makes a spirited cameo as a mortician. Jan-Michael Vincent is pretty good in this though he does seem a little out of place. His character has mixed up motivations (to say the least) but he does try to save the day. Alas, it is just too little, too late.

This really is Brinke Stevens’ (Sorority Babes in the Slimeball Bowl-o-Rama) movie. She knocks it out of the park as Victoria, a woman haunted by her dreams and who begins to lose her mind when those dreams start bleeding into the waking world. When she finally goes off the deep end, get the hell out of her way. Once her character comes back from the edge (I’m trying to not to say ‘brink’ here) of death, it is quite a transformation and well worth waiting for. When Stevens is in her crazy makeup, she channels Myrna Fahey in House of Usher but cranks it up a couple of loony notches.

Haunting Fear is a twisted and cruel little horror movie that works because it manages to be equally trashy, horrific, and fun. Instead of rushing through things or being half-assed, Fred Olen Ray puts a great deal of care into the production. There are moments of subtlety and patience to allow Brinke Stevens to do something great with her character and it pays off big time. Is this a cheesy B-movie? Sure. Does it meet the requirements for junky late night cable filler? You know it does! But more importantly, this movie is a prime example of how awesome flicks can seemingly come out of nowhere and, for those of us who love the genre, be our instant classics. I’m already nostalgic for Haunting Fear and I just watched it yesterday.


"What a fortunate turn of events. I think this calls for a hot tub session... of some kind."

Monday, May 24, 2010

This Weekend's Viewing

Is it Monday already? Dang it! I'm not ready at all. Here are some things I watched this weekend.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Bad Girls from Mars

Bad Girls from Mars
Directed by Fred Olen Ray
Released: 1990
Starring Edy Williams, Oliver Darrow, Brinke Stevens, Jay Richardson, Jeffrey Culver
Running Time: 86 minutes
DVD Studio: Lions Gate

Bad Girls from Mars is marketed as a sci-fi T&A spoof but in reality, it’s about the making of a sci-fi T&A spoof. A film crew making the titular (emphasis on the ‘tit’) film is beset with problems as each of their leading ladies dies under mysterious circumstances. TJ the director (played by Oliver Darrow) is at his wits’ end trying to get the production under control and it isn’t helped at all by the slimy producers and its awful leading man Richard Trent (John Richardson). Trent’s girlfriend and wardrobe girl, Myra (Brinke Stevens), offers to fill the role but the producers have someone else in mind already: Emanuelle Fortes (Edy Williams), ditzy blonde bombshell and queen of sex. Now the killer is after Emanuelle and is quite happy to leave a trail of corpses along the way to his prize.

Once I realized that this movie wasn’t a spoof but a spoof of a spoof, I kind of settled down a little bit. In fact, for the first 10 or 15 minutes, I was ready to bail on Bad Girls from Mars. Then Brinke Stevens shows up and I realized why I was there in the first place. Fred Olen Ray (Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers), the American maestro of cheese, directs this kooky flick which references Ed Wood (repeatedly) and spoofs The Happy Hooker. Filled with continuity errors (intentional, I think), goofy sound effects, knee-slapping one liners, and insanely gratuitous nudity, Bad Girls from Mars is pretty darn entertaining.

Edy Williams (Beyond the Valley of the Dolls) is pretty outrageous here as sex goddess Emanuelle. She looks a little worn out but her overdone breathiness just works. The best bit comes when Emanuelle goes to a convenience store to ask for help after she narrowly escapes the killer. She doesn’t notice that the place is in the middle of a stickup; hilarious hijinks ensue. Oliver Darrow (Teenage Exorcist) makes for a likeable guy who has that annoying problem of women throwing themselves at him. Aw, poor guy. And of course, we have Brinke Stevens of Sorority Babes in the Slimeball Bowl-O-Rama and Haunting Fear as Myra, the plucky wardrobe girl. One of the film’s strangest asides happens when, while the crew is filming a scene for the sci-fi movie, the camera suddenly pans to the left and we see Brinke in some lingerie smiling like a cat and cracking a whip. Then the camera pans back to the scene at hand. It’s weird, it’s pointless, and it’s genius.

Bad Girls from Mars definitely surprised me. I was expecting one thing that would not have been as good as what this turned out to be. Wait, what was that? If you don’t like corny jokes and a parade of silicone then stay far away from this flick. I went from thinking I would turn this off after 5 minutes to catching myself laughing out loud at some real zingers. If nothing else stick around for the climax when the heroes are only seconds away from rescuing the damsel in distress but decide to stop for burgers and pizza. It’s good for a larf, let me tells ya.


“There’s no room on Mars for limp dicks!”

SPOILERS and Other Stuff

According to IMDB, Bad Girls from Mars was shot in 5 days. Hmm, I could see that. The site also says that Fred Olen Ray had to cut 8 minutes of material before the film could be released including a kiss between Brinke Stevens and Edy Williams. Hmm, moderately interesting. Okay, onto the spoiler stuff. So it turns out that Brinke Stevens is the killer. I was going to accuse this movie of not having enough Brinke in my review but then she gets a great speech at the end about her motives for killing people and chasing after Emanuelle. Next thing you know, she has a grenade in her mouth and all’s well that ends well.

Wednesday Ramble: The Horror of Gigi

Thanks to my wife, I have actually seen some decent musicals and Gigi is one of them. The film is charming, funny, beautiful, and totally disturbing. Here, let me show you. First things first, turn of the century France is a dangerous and terrible place. Then Maurice Chevrolet shows up and talks about how great little girls are. He says he means when they grow up but I think he's a pedobear. He casually mentions that the story we are about to see is about Gigi (played by Leslie Caron). Not Gigli. That's a different sicko freakfest. No, Gigi, my sweet. You are damned. You must run. Don't let the sugar magnate catch you.

Gigi is a happy go lucky schoolgirl with a miserable old biddy grandma for a guardian. Her name is Mamita and she sends Gigi to an old crone named Aunt Alicia who is training Gigi to be a classy lady (whore) because Gigi's mother is too busy with her acting (whoring) career to deal with her own daughter. Aunt Alicia wears a choker because she has to hide all the scars on her throat. So many assassination attempts... This old snobby slut feeds Gigi some dead sparrows and makes her chew on the bones. Aunt Alicia instructs her to look down her nose at everyone and instills in her an unhealthy appreciate of jewelry. Wow, Gigi's life really sucks. The whole point of all this is for her to land a man. Not for marriage though! This is just so she can be some duder's mistress. Nice job setting your eyes on the prize, ladies.

Okay, I'm getting ahead of myself. That man-whore Maurice Chevrolet has a nephew (man-whore in training) named Gaston (Louis Jourdan) who is a rich and spoiled son of a sugar billionaire or some shit, I don't know. He thinks everything is a great big bore. But you know what? He's right. This is frickin' France. It is B-O-R-I-N-G! Gaston, please do us all a favor and fucking kill yourself.

"An ugly black cigar is love," Gigi says. She doesn't understand the Parisians. Don't worry, babe, no one else does either. Gigi and Gaston are like second cousins once removed or something like that. She cheats at cards but that's okay because Gaston is dating Eva Gabor (not the one that slapped the cop) so he's not all that bright in the first place. Eva Gabor is cheating on him with a rollerskating instructor (no, I'm not making that up) but he sees right through her lying Hungarian eyes. To keep his stupid male pride, Gaston confronts his woman about screwing Disco Stu. Through all this crap, we get to see the social structure of Paris back in the early 20th century. Holy shit, it's like The Crucible! All of these losers deserve a painful death involving white hot knives going into orifices that normally don't accept white hot sharp objects.

What is Maurice Chevrolet's advice to Gaston? What else would a man-whore tell a man-whore in training to do? Go screw every woman (and a couple of dudes) in France. That'll make you feel better! Gaston gets bored after a while and shows up at Mamita's place. They get Gigi drunk on champagne, sing a song about it, and then it's off to the seaside. Gaston and Gigi play in the water and ride donkeys while Chevy meets up with Mamita and they reminisce about when they used to get it on. So yeah, as I suspected, Maurice Chevrolet was a fucking dickhead scumbag (no, he hasn't changed at all) and he just barely realizes that maybe, just maybe, he screwed up the only good and real thing that has ever happened in his life. Does he change his ways? No, he's a lecherous bastard the rest of the movie. Big shocker.


Aunt Alicia: What the fuck, bitch? You took Gigi to the seaside with Gaston?

Mamita: Yeah, so?

Aunt Alicia: So... Did you ever think that Gigi...

Mamita: Gigi, what?

Aunt Alicia: That Gigi could be our little meal-ticket to Gaston's sugar fortune? All we have to do is dress her up like a Parisian whore and he'll totally go for it.

Mamita: Hey, good plan! Let's do it.

So these stupid old jerks intensify Gigi's training so that she can be Gaston's mistress. Notice how they're not even trying to get him to marry her. Ugh, the French are such sickos. Anyway, Gaston pays a visit and flips his lid when he sees Gigi dressed up like an adult. You see, he wants Gigi to stay a little girl forever. Heh heh heh heh. Mamita lets him know that Gigi is on the market and he flips out... again. Gaston then sings a song about how Gigi is still a baby and a tot. Then he realizes she's a hottie. "Oh, what miracle has made you the way you are?" It's called puberty, dumbass. So he comes back and says "Uh yeah, I was just kidding, she's totally old enough."

They work out a financial arrangement for him to take Gigi to his bed. Mamita explains everything to Gigi and she's all like "Oh thanks, asshole, now I'm going to be Gaston's whore." Gigi flips out, understandably, and refuses Gaston. It gets worse when he admits that he loves her. We get more bullshit between Gigi and Gaston, Maurice Chevrolet sings a song about how he can't get it up anymore, and then Gigi gives in.

They go on their big date and things go wrong when Gaston realizes that that dumb idiot Mamita and perilous beyatch Aunt Alicia have totally screwed Gigi up. She acts too much like Eva Gabor now, damn it! As an added bonus Maurice Chevrolet is there and he's like "Nice job, I likes 'em young, too." Gaston drops Gigi like a bad habit and runs off to reflect for a while. Then he goes back to the apartment and asks Mamita if he can marry Gigi. Whoa, what a great guy! Although, I suspect that he just did it because it's cheaper to marry her then pay for an apartment where he can keep her chained up for sex and stuff. God, I love this movie! It teaches values that are lost on today's generation.

Monday, May 17, 2010

30 Gialli in 30 Days

Hey folks, just a quick note. Justin over at Italian Lemonade is going to watch a giallo a day for 30 days and document the experiment. His first pick is Ernesto Gastaldi's Libido starring Giancarlo Giannini and Luciano Pigozzi. Make sure you check it out.

The Worst Movies of All Time

I picked up Michael Sauter's The Worst Movies of All Time: Or, What Were They Thinking? for $2 at the book sale in front of the library. I am so glad I did because this book is pretty great. In order to ridicule bad movies as well as help increase the readers' appreciation of them (like we need help), the very opinionated Sauter picks on pretty much everyone: the actors, the writers, the producers, the studios, etc. For the most part, he leaves the independent features alone and focuses on Hollywood's biggest duds. Some movies that show up this book: Mame (the Lucille Ball one), The Ten Commandments, Steven Spielberg's 1941, The Conqueror (starring John Wayne as Genghis Khan!), Mommie Dearest, and that infamous (almost) studio destroyer, Heaven's Gate. The book was published in 1995 so Sauter missed such terrible splendors such as Gigli and Avatar. Maybe it's time for a new edition. They have some used copies of The Worst Movies of All Time over at Amazon for less than $5. Go for it, you bad movie connoisseurs.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Wicked City (1992)

Wicked City
AKA Yiu Sau Dou Si
Directed by Tai Kit Mak
Released: 1992
Starring Jacky Cheung, Roy Cheung, Leon Lai, Carmen Lee, Tatsuya Nakadai, Michelle Reis
Running Time: 90 minutes
DVD Studio: Image Entertainment

One of my strangest movie theater experiences happened in the mid-90s when saw the animated film, Wicked City (directed by Yoshiaki Kawajiri). It was at the old rundown theater somewhere in West Palm Beach where the Rocky Horror crowd would congregate. Wicked City is an action-packed, gory, and kinky anime with some hilarious dubbing. It was a packed house and a fairly lively crowd until a wee bit of tentacle rape happened. Then we all sat in stunned silence for the rest of the film. I don’t know how many anime fans were among the folks there that night but I’m going to go ahead and guess that most of the attendees had never seen anything like that before.

One night, a couple of years later, I was watching HBO, Showtime, or Cinemax (I don’t remember which) and they announced that they were going to play Wicked City. I decided to watch it again but opted to pass on recording it to VHS. I was pretty sure that one more viewing would probably be more than enough. When the film started, I got a little confused. It wasn’t animated! I had no idea there was a live action version of Wicked City. And it was from Hong fucking Kong! Other than kung-fu films, my only exposure to Hong Kong cinema was John Woo’s The Killer. I was in for another surprise and luckily, there was much less tentacle rape involved.

Tokyo has quite a crisis on its hands. There are monsters disguised as humans walking the streets and there’s an epidemic of people addicted to a drug called ‘Happiness’ which has some seriously bad side effects. Taki (played by Leon Lai) is a member of an elite anti-monster taskforce who has a lot of issues. His partner, Kai (Jacky Cheung), is a half-monster full of angst and his ex-girlfriend, Gaye (Michelle Reis), is a full-blooded monster who is also full of angst. Taki’s boss has put him in charge of capturing Daishu (Tatsuya Nakadai), a monster who he believes responsible for bringing the happiness drug into Tokyo (and who also happens to be Gaye’s lover). All hell breaks loose when Daishu is captured by the anti-monster squad and Daishu’s son Shudo (Roy Cheung) decides to destroy the city. Can Taki and Kai save the day or will the differences between monsters and humans be too much for them to handle?

That is approximately 33% of the plot of Wicked City (or as I like to call it: Wacky City). This movie has so much going on that it still baffles me after multiple viewings. Double crosses and triple crosses and a duder humping a living pinball machine, this one has it all. Director Tai Kit Mak brings us a visionary splatterfest in primary colors that can barely sit still long enough to tell the viewer what the hell is going on. But then again, it’s also childishly simple in terms of character motivations and it’s pretty obvious that the writers (one of which is director Tsui Hark) don’t give a double goddamn about wallowing in the cheese in order to get this wild ass story told.

Oh, this cast is awesome. Leon Lai is great as the conflicted hero and Roy Cheung of Fight Back to School is perfect as the creepy evildoer. Jacky Cheung of A Chinese Ghost Story III gets all mopey and emo (waaa, I’m half monster, waaa!) but rises to the status of hero when the going gets tough. Prolific Japanese actor, Tatsuya Nakadai (Illusion of Blood), tries to steal the movie as the wise and completely bad ass 150 year old monster, Daishu. (But what about those lovely ladies? First up is Michelle Reis (A Chinese Ghost Story II) who kicks 100 different varieties of ass. She makes me want to find my own Happiness-addicted monstrette to call my own. Carmen Lee of Forbidden City Cop squeezes into her tight white dress oh so nicely which is probably standard issue for female anti-monster squad agents.

If you can look past the convoluted plot, great magic that awaits you. The word ‘spectacle’ barely does Wicked City justice. I can pretty much guarantee you’ve never seen anything quite like this before. Wicked City is the bright green mango cherry Slurpee version of Blade Runner. When you need your fix of eye-popping gore sequences and hyperactive fight scenes, give this one a spin. Oh yeah, be sure to watch the dubbed version for even more insanity and I also suggest you watch Wicked City as a double feature with Johnnie To’s ridiculous epic The Heroic Trio.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Wednesday Ramble: Ricky Horror Science Fiction Picture Show

Hey there, good people. (And I’m serious when I say that all of you are good people.) At some point in one’s childhood, one either stops being nerdy (and goes boogie boarding) or one just gets nerdier (and rents Evil Dead 2: Dead by Dawn for the fifth time and watches it alone (again)). As you can see, I chose the latter and I’ll never recover. What I find interesting is that I could have become a total comic book nerd or a sci-fi nerd or a horror movie nerd or an RPG nerd. I had enough nerd points gathered for any of those nerdy categories. For some reason (which I have explored thoroughly), horror won out. Science fiction was the easiest genre for me to give up on but there are so many fun things that made my friggin’ head explode with their bizarre ideas, insane plotlines, and/or total cheese.

All of the movies I’m going to blab about have a common thread, each have mated with multiple genres in order to reach multiple markets. The most common genre blended with science fiction in the following is action. Horror likes to sneak in there once in a while but mostly, action seems to be the easiest of sci-fi’s bedfellows. Like most children of the 80s, I think my sci-fi-ness really got started with something as obvious as Alien and then several years later with Aliens. But there were other things that influenced me as well. I'm starting to realize that my voyage through science fiction was a doomed from the start. Anyway, here we go.

I remember a strange show that came on after "Monty Python’s Flying Circus". It was called "Doctor Who" and the theme song scared the hell out of me. All I remember about the show was a cheesy looking robot walking on (what I thought was) the surface of Mars and a guy with crazy hair who dressed like a British schoolboy. There was "Buck Rogers" but all I remember from that is BEE TEE BEE TEE BEE TEE BEE TEE BEE TEE BEE TEE BEE TEE. And what kid didn’t watch the original "Battlestar Galactica" and revel in the tedium? Down, Muffit, down! Bad dog!

As for science fiction movies, I guess I’ll start with The Black Hole. I remember seeing this movie at a very young age and being amazed, terrified, and immensely bored all at the same time. My mom bought me the toys for V.I.N. CENT and Maximilian. They mixed very well my Star Wars toys. A few years later, I would attempt the same cohabitoytion between my G.I. Joes, He-Man toys, and a Tupperware container full of Legos that failed. Big time, yo.

Another science fiction film I remember seeing at a very young age (that wasn’t Star Wars or Flash Gordon (oh, that theme song)) was a freaky little number called Android. I couldn’t sleep one night so I snuck out of bed and put on HBO just in time to catch the opening credits. What awaited me is a nihilistic and perverted little film starring Don Keith Opper as Max 404, an android who just wants to love (or kill if he doesn’t get to love, whatever) and Klaus Kinski as Dr. Daniel, Max’s creator and a total dick. Some space pirates show up, take control of the space lab, and things end pretty badly for everyone involved. There are sexual situations, awkward android moments, and a genuinely depressing atmosphere hangs over the entire movie. SPOILER: Max gets his own love droid. Isn’t that cute? No, it’s creepy and fucked up! Of course, vastly important things like Blade Runner and Planet of the Apes (when some network started playing all 5 movies on TV incessantly) came along shortly after this and made me even more afraid of the future. Android made me afraid of people. And androids. And Klaus Kinski, who is neither.

On a downloading spree I went on recently (I swear it was for charity), I found Eliminators. When I saw that amazing poster art staring back at me on my computer screen, I jumped for joy (while remaining completely still in my seat). This silly ass movie has cyborgs, a ninja, and a time machine. What more could a kid want from filmic entertainments? I loved this movie when I first witnessed it 24 years ago. But the funny thing about Eliminators is that I rented the tape again a few weeks later and couldn’t sit through it. Not even an almost boob shot from Denise Crosby could hold my interest the second time around. Now that I have a copy of it again, I’ll be able to judge it properly. And why the hell isn’t this on DVD anyway?

A year or so after the amazing Robocop entered my life, I got to see Cyborg. My parents and I were staying at a fancy hotel for another Tupperware convention and I was allowed to stay up late and watch Cyborg on the pay-per-view thingie. While my parents slept, I sat at the edge of our beds in complete darkness and had my mind torn in half by the awesomeness of Jean-Claude Van Damme. Now keep in mind that I was only 12 when this happened and please take pity on how lame I was (am). While I can’t confirm this (as I haven’t watched this film in a very long time) but I swear there was some brief nudity in Cyborg. I remember some boobs flashing and I was like ‘OH SHIT, I HOPE MOM AND DAD DIDN’T SEE THAT LADY'S BOBBINS- oh wait, they’re asleep.’ Anyway, I friggin’ loved this movie and I am kind of scared to watch it again for fear of it turning out to be a complete piece of shit.

Uh oh, I’m getting a little loopy now. Two movies that will be forever entangled in my mind are Trancers and Nemesis (from the same guy who directed Cyborg). Even though they were released 7 years apart, I saw them both around the same time and it just gets confusing. Both films have phenomenal cover art and they both have Tim Thomerson! These are great films but I can barely remember them. I know they are both better than Slipstream with Mark Hamill and Bill Paxton. That movie is about wind but it also features an android. There’s always Hardware, a movie that is so friggin’ disturbing that they needed the music of Ministry mixed with video footage of Gwar (as if neither of those bands are scary enough on their own). I seem to remember a long sex scene and a perverted fat guy peeping tom watching through the wall. Then a robot designed to kill humans reassembles itself and starts fucking shit up. Unfortunately, I remember Enemy Mine all too well. Not that it isn't a great film or anything but could it be any more preachy? Sheesh!

There were some also horrible disappointments that helped steer me away from the genre for years. Did you ever see I Come in Peace? It answered the age old question: “How could anything with Dolph Lundgren be bad?” For some reason, I need to mention Robot Jox. Oh wait, I remember. It sucks! Poor Stuart Gordon went from Re-Animator and From Beyond to friggin’ Robot Jox? This is one unbelievably dull and annoying movie. I had just gotten over mourning the death of my happy thoughts thanks to The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension. That baffling and stupid (now cultish) movie answers the age old question: “How could anything with Peter Weller be bad?”

Okay, this definitely is part 1 or something. I didn't even mention The Ice Pirates or Megaforce. Plus, there are a bevy of post apocalyptic films I want to ramble on about but that's something that could turn into a moviethon. I am full of promises and lies. Thank you.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Holocaust 2000

Holocaust 2000, from director Alberto De Martino, is a big budget (okay, modest budget) rip-off of The Omen but I have to admit, it does have its charm. Kirk Douglas stars as a businessman who wants to set up the world's biggest nuclear reactor out in the desert in order to solve the energy crisis. Unfortunately, his son (played by Simon Ward) is the spawn of Satan and wants to use an accident at the plant to start World War III. The film features some bizarre imagery, a few decent gore sequences, and a great score by Ennio Morricone. This movie quietly showed up on DVD a couple years back under one of its many alternate titles, Rain of Fire, and it's worth a rental even if it's just for a laugh or for the lovely Agostina Belli (Night of the Devils).

Mr. Douglas, look out! Dario Argento is right behind you!

John Jacob JingleheimerJesus, his name is my name too!

Surprise! I'm not a Superman villian.

Article 16 of Mr. Douglas' Contract: Oily butt shot!

The seven-headed dragon of suck.

Here's the best death scene:

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Fatal Frame

One horror video game for the PS2 that freaked me the hell out is Fatal Frame. You play the game as Miku and you have to run around an old abandoned mansion, uncovering the story behind the mysterious disappearance of your brother and find out why the place is so freakin' haunted. The mansion is infested with ghosts that want to suck your life energy. Your only weapon is a camera that can capture these restless spirits. This is one of those games you have to play at night with the lights off. And you should probably wear a diaper too. It is scary pee pee leaky scary! Fatal Frame has a great story too and despite being frustrating as hell in parts (I didn't beat it before I had to get it back to Blockbuster), I had a great time with it.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Wednesday Ramble: Last Tango in Paris

[Yeah, I’m going to spoil the hell out of this. Parental discretion is advised.]

My ramble last week about depressing movies got me thinking about Last Tango in Paris which I think I’ve watched about a dozen times. What is Last Tango in Paris exactly? Is it a darkly hilarious sex tradgedy? Is it artsy couple’s porn? Sure, why not? Sometime in the late 90s, I was a pretentious bag of tears and I was drawn like a moth to a blowtorch to Last Tango. I knew I was going to love it even before I popped the VHS into the player. And you know something? I don’t give a shit about Paris or France and I don’t even know how to tango. Maybe it was all that Henry Miller I read. I’m shrugging my shoulders. Right now. It’s like that thing people say, “I don’t know much about art but I know what I like.” Yes, people really say that and I have to agree with them; especially when it comes to this film because I don’t know what I’m talking about. I’m probably missing the point but here I go anyway.

The film is about two selfish and unlikable people: Paul (played by Marlon Brando) and Jeanne (Maria Schneider). Paul’s wife just committed suicide and Jeanne is about to get married to a pretentious filmmaker. I still don’t know who is worse off. By chance, they go to rent the same apartment and start up a love affair. This is a bad relationship from the get go. They don’t tell each other their names and they just get it on and talk all the time. Doesn’t this sound like a fascinating film? Isn’t this the most riveting plot line you’ve ever read about in a crappy blog in your life? Well, it gets better. Paul decides to take their freakish relationship to the next level. Jeanne says “Screw you, tugboat!” and blows him away. The end.

This movie tries to be shocking. It features two characters doing and/or talking about things (SEXUAL THINGS!!!!) that must have been shocking and/or groundbreaking to the arthouse audiences that this film was made to reach. I’m just guessing here but this film probably didn’t give much of a thrill to the grindhouse crowds. They might have just found it odd that Brando was wallowing in their genre. This is a trashy movie but it is also a beautiful trashy movie. I have tried to get into other films by director Bernardo Bertolucci and it just didn’t work out. The Sheltering Sky? No. No. No. No. No. I’m not going to think about that. The Dreamers? Please, I’m getting a little nauseous now. Maybe The Conformist will save me. I’ll check it out soon, I promise.

Anyway, what the fuck was Brando doing in this anyway? Duder was getting weird, that’s what. He wanted to take a chance, to be totally indulgent and Bertolucci gave him that chance. Brando isn’t acting here. He’s just being himself. Brutish, crude, sardonic, cruel, and brilliant. His obsession with death would pop up again in Apocalypse Now, another movie where he stopped acting and just started being himself on camera. Bold or incredibly lame? I don't care. I am a huge Marlon Brando fan but I don’t know if it was this movie that started my fascination with him or if I was already into this guy’s work beforehand. For instance, I love One-Eyed Jacks and I sat through The Young Lions just for one brilliant Brando moment (“I have killed no one.”).

Paul’s wife’s suicide reveals to him that he didn’t really know her at all. It gets even worse when he meets the man she was having an affair with; a man just like Paul. His wife even bought the guy the same dang robe for Christmas. The greatest and most morbid moment in the film and probably my favorite of all of Brando’s monologues comes when he goes to view his dead wife’s body. He delivers a eulogy like I’ve never seen before. This scene is funny, jaw-dropping, profound, and insanely depressing.

[Baaaaaaaaad language]:

The funniest thing was comparing the censored version of this movie to the uncut (which I was more used to). In the uncut version, we see an overhead shot of Paul having anal sex with Jeanne using butter in a way that butter was never meant to be used. It isn’t erotic so much as it is terrifying and unpleasant to watch. In the censored version, this scene is obscured by a lamp! The editors superimposed a fake lamp over the shot of Brando doing the donkey donkey to Schneider! I remember watching this with my girlfriend at the time and we got a big laugh out of trying to see around the lamp on the TV. See, I told you it was a couple’s movie! The scene in the hall with the ballroom dancers more than makes up for this awfulness. Paul and Jeanne are the only people truly alive while the mannequins that inhabit the dead world twist and turn around them.

So this sex/death obsessed film appealed to me at the time and I’d probably still get a kick out of it now. It is a celebration of life in the face of death, a tango in the face of misery, and it's also a real downer. It’s the physical world painted with bold strokes and in achingly painful detail. When Jeanne kills Paul at the end and then practices what she'll tell the cops (that she has no idea who he is), does she do it to free him? Does she do it for herself? Can she really not handle their relationship on a realistic level? Is Paul a sacrifice so that she can be happy in her new life? Or is she just setting herself up for a life inside a world of secrets like the kind that Paul’s wife lived in (which ended in tragedy)? Who knows? Maybe Paul deserves to die. Maybe this movie is so indefensibly pretentious and full of itself that I shouldn’t even be talking about it. But this comes from a period in my life when I had the patience for bleakly passionate shit like this. What can I say?

Monday, May 3, 2010

Death Hunt

Death Hunt came up in conversation just now. I was talking about watching this film on a tiny little television set on the coldest night of the year while guarding an ice cream factory. Impossible, you say? Hard to believe? I swear that's a totally true story. I mean, I was a security guard (with a nightstick and a can of mace) and the coldest night of the year in West Palm Beach isn't all that cold but still, it happened. Oh yeah, and you can increase your chest hair by 38% just by watching this trailer.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Nightmare on Elm Street (2010)

While I prefer Muvico Starlight 20, I am not going to drive all the way across town just to visit my favorite theaters. I figured that since there was a big ass oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico that I should at least have the decency to save a little gas and hit up AMC Veterans which is only 5 miles from the new Doomed Moviethon HQ. I'm glad I remembered to set my alarm this morning for 9am because I would have slept and slept and missed the 10:30am showing. I'm usually an early riser on the weekends but you never know.

So I cruise out to Veterans, pay for my ticket (only $5 for the first show of the day), pick up a couple of hotdogs, and a Coke. I could have sworn this theater was a Pepsi establishment. Mountain Dew is so much better for you than Coke. Ask anyone. I go to theater number 13 (!) and get a decent seat in the center of the place. After chowing on my dogs, my spirits sink when a family of 6 walks in. Mom, dad, and 4 kids ranging in ages from 7 to 12 arrive and make a big fucking noise. I'm a pretty cynical guy so I just assume that this is going to be one movie that will be totally ruined by a bunch of loud fuckwads. The movie starts and these kids are just constantly murmuring and whispering to each other.

I try to focus on the opening credits because I figure that eventually, these kids will be scared silly and that'll be the end of all the noise. Then a miracle happens. The first death scene occurs. (Trust me, you don't have to wait very long.) Someone's throat gets opened up and the family of 6 gets up and starts heading for the door. Everyone in the theater is laughing as these idiots who haven't been able to shut the fuck up since they set foot in the place are sent packing. After they left, things settled into a nice silence and the rest of us could enjoy the show.

If a horror fan is choosy, that horror fan can really score with remakes. For example, The Crazies - I'm sorry but that was just awesome. I'm fairly open minded with remakes. If a film is something that I can't imagine being improved with a remake, I check out the trailers/poster art and make my mind up as to whether or not I'll go see it. If it's a movie that I think could use a little touch-up or re-imagining, then I avoid as much press as I can and just go see the film as cold as possible. The new A Nightmare on Elm Street was definitely part of the first category. I was very, very skeptical. The original film is very important to me so I was a smirking jerk when I heard it was getting the millennial treatment.

I was pleasantly surprised by Nightmare. I only counted one ridiculously cheesy moment* (not counting the micro-naps) and a handful of overly sped up/CGI'ed effects. Logic and character development suffered a bit mostly because everything felt a little rushed. The running time could have gone about 5 or 10 minutes longer to slow things down a little. And coming from me, that's a compliment. There were also a few corny moments in the dialogue (enough with the micro-naps!) and some weak acting. I know this sounds like a lot but honestly, everything else was grand. When the new Nightmare does things right, it does them very right.

Jackie Earle Hailey (Watchmen, Shutter Island) is excellent as Freddy Krueger. He adds this twitchy and unpredictable quality to an already scary monster. The makeup is astounding and holds up very well, even in well-lit sequences. I love Rooney Mara as Nancy, our heroine. She is stunning to behold and a great actress. Former music video director, Samuel Bayer, takes the viewer to some creepy, disturbing, claustrophobic, and grimy places with this film. A Nightmare on Elm Street does not skimp on the blood and the surreal especially when dreams and reality start to collide. This won't ever replace the original film in the hearts of its fans but this is a worthy addition to the universe of Wes Craven's classic dream maniac.


Okay, now to get down to specifics. The cheesiest moment in the film is when Nancy is asleep in her bed and Freddy is pushing through the wall behind her as though it is made of rubber. This worked very well in the original film because it was a practical effect done right. This CGI shit looks so cheesy that all I could think of was The Frighteners. But you know what? It's not 1996! I think that sometimes revisiting iconic moments from the original can be where the remake shoots itself in the foot. The people who are new to the story are just going to see a stupid scene and wonder what the hell that was all about while people familiar with Freddy and his antics will just be annoyed. Nobody wins.

I like how the film focuses on Kris (Katie Cassidy) for a while and we start to settle in with this chick as our heroine. Then the rug is pulled out from under us when Freddy takes her out. I knew this was coming but it was still great. I loved the scene in the drugstore where Freddy is walking down the aisle terrorizing Nancy. Instead of a jump scare, we have horror casually but steadily coming right out of the world of dreams. And finally, at the end of the film, when Nancy pulls Freddy into the waking world and the showdown commences, I was on the edge of my seat. It all came together and it was very bad ass. Plus, we all learned once again just how deadly paper cutters can be.