Saturday, October 31, 2009

Happy, Happy Halloween

Thanks again for joining me for "The Yucky Movies of October." It was a fun challenge for me - at one point I thought I'd never make it, but thanks to a few sick days I did catch up (heh). Next year I think I'll plan a little further ahead and pick 31 truly yucky movies. This was a total whim when it started and a lot of fun for me. You'll probably see many more reviews on this site, but there's going to be some brain-scrubbers and palate-cleansers come November, that's for sure.

One parting gift:


HAPPY HALLOWEEN!

Friday, October 30, 2009

The Yucky Movies of October: Patrick Still Lives

31) Patrick Still Lives

I'd heard of Patrick vive ancora (in the original Italian) before, but I wasn't really motivated to watch it until I saw the bit done about it in the terrific documentary Not Quite Hollywood.

A rip-off sequel, in the grand Italian cinema tradition, to the not-really-that-successful "psychic coma patient with Marty Feldman eyes" Australian film Patrick, this is a not-really-that-good sequel done in perfect "just redo the same damn story and add some breasts" manner.

In this version, Patrick winds up comatose after a passing driver throws a bottle out the window and it hits him in the head. His surgeon father is involved in the surgery that saves his life, but he's still "locked in."

We then go to a clinic set in the same mansion used in the film Burial Ground: The Nights of Terror, and meet two couples and a single guest, along with a skeleton staff and some grouchy guard dogs. These guests seem to have been blackmailed into attendance and are quickly given (ahem) "spa treatments" that turn out to be very deadly. This sparse clinic seems to be rather stylish - a minimal budget means it's sparsely furnished, but heavy on the green and purple lighting to make up for that. They also decorate with lead actresses constantly exposing their breasts. (Well, it's better than the wallpaper.) One plays an entire scene in a nipples-exposing bra while teasing her blackmailed husband that she'll screw them out of the situation. Such a classy flick.

The new assistant is seeing green visions of floating pale-blue eyes (seems the "Patrick" in this one was cast for having big, light eyes like the actor in the original.) The doctor is pushing his medical services hardcore, and in general, something is up that makes everyone nervous.

Well, next thing you know the secretary has been compelled to visit Patrick in the night and the politician is boiled in the swimming pool (there was a similar pool scene in the original Patrick). What's brilliant is that his boiling is attributed to his body having an unusual reaction to his alcoholism.

This is the type of movie where the spooky effects are typewriter keys that move on their own, as do skirts. (Amazingly this is not Zapped Again!) The actors rage, disrobe, and smack one another in perfect Italian passion. They try hard to make this flick seem less boring than it actually is, but don't succeed that well. People die off, but frankly not nearly quickly enough to spice up this bland potboiler. There's no spice in the pasta sauce. About the only thrill to be had is if you've seen Burial Ground, and care to compare the scenes in each film that happen in various rooms of the house.

There's a few "yuck" moments to be had in this one. The parboiling make up isn't bad. A beheading by car window goes the extra mile as it essentially "saws" the head off. There's a "violation" scene that's fairly grotesque and a precursor of the one more disturbingly executed in Mother of Tears. The actress here is the one who famously gets her nipple bitten off by young zombie son in Burial Ground, himself played by a creepy adult dwarf. This film has very little going for it beyond a few gross outs and a quartet of very naked Italian actresses. Proceed with caution as this one is probably only for Italian horror junkies, schlock connoisseurs, and people really hard up to see some naked breasts.

And with that I wrap up the 31 Yucky Movies of October. I did it all on a whim really and if I repeat myself next year I think I'll be a little more discerning in the titles I pick. Planning ahead will help us avoid those awkward 13 Frightened Girls and She-Wolf of London moments.
Thanks for playing along, boys and girls. I appreciate you joining me. Now, we're going to watch some palate cleansers. I'm thinking Indie Gay romances, Bollywood Musicals, and harmless comedies of old Hollywood.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

The Yucky Movies of October: Masters of Horror: The Black Cat

30: Masters of Horror: The Black Cat

This Stuart Gordon episode of Masters of Horror starts out more like a character study. Edgar Allen Poe has a young wife who's dying, unsympathetic editors, and a drinking problem. Jeffrey Combs is excellent, though barely recognizable in makeup that makes him greatly resemble Poe. He's another case of "an actor who should be 'huge' and in just about everything."

Things really pick up about 15 minutes in, when Virginia (though he calls her "Sissy"), his wife, starts coughing up blood. It's really disturbing... especially when you develop a tickle in your throat about the same time. When he starts losing his grip because of these pressures, she implores him to start writing again. Unfortunately, there's a black cat named Pluto distracting him. Even from beyond the eventual grave, Pluto remains a problem. The film kinda posits that these were the influences on his greatest fiction. What happens with his wife would certainly drive anyone to madness... and the audience to nausea. Seriously, it ranks up there with the "Animal Trap scene" in Pelts.

Visually, this one works great. There's a muted color scheme where red blood, black ink, and a canary and goldfish get to "pop" - it lends a sense of surrealism to a film that looks "realistic." This isn't one of those "clean" movies set in the past. There's dust and dirt and texture everywhere. There's some surprising moments of animal cruelty in this one. Certainly helps escalate it from "Character Study" to "Horror." The storytelling here is subtle, well-paced, pretty excellent. When the "yucky" scenes show up, they do so in grand (guignol) style. This is one of the creams of the Masters of Horror crop and highly recommended.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The Yucky Movies of October: 13 Frightened Girls

29) 13 Frightened Girls

William Castle was the producer who always had a gimmick. He gave us the electrified seats for The Tingler and fright-breaks in his movies. You could vote on the fate of and ending to Mister Sardonicus, who was such a jerk that there was only one ending (and it didn't end well for him). 13 Ghosts required special glasses to see the ghosts presented in Illusion-O! His films are always simple pleasures. Mannered thrillers and horror films filled with hammy actors and good production values for low-budget pictures. I'm sure they're not the same now that you can watch them at home, but they still provide a lot of pleasure.

Miss Pittford's Academy is home to 13 daughters of men who make the world move, Ambassadors and the like. Each is from a different country and our lead is, of course, the American girl. Candace, the daughter of an American diplomat, decides to become "The Kitten," her spy identity as she tries to solve a murder that was clearly set up to frame her father. Mostly, her plan is to flirt her way to an answer though...

Painful.

I was really hoping for skeletons on strings and axe murderers with a title like 13 Frightened Girls but instead got a tarantula and a limp, family-friendly Cold-War-era murder mystery. The girls are bland and their behavior is beyond stereotypical, which lends it that quaint air of fun. We're really introduced to them through a sequence involving the girls and a series of phone calls. America and China are friends but not "officially" as their countries aren't supposed to recognize one another. Russia is frosty and won't see eye to eye. This is very much a time capsule of the times... the sexist, gender-roled times.

The biggest - or, rather, ONLY- "yuck" is that the 16 year old Candace is all crushed out for her father's assistant, a man who looks to be pushing 40. (I wanna turn you over and spank you til my hand falls off. -Shudder) That said, it's fun to watch children play grown-ups at the "Spy Game." I'd never heard of this one before the new Castle set came out. I can see why. It's a family-friendly programmer but without the creaking gimmickry that made him so cherished by moviegoers everywhere.

(The other feature on this particular disc is Castle's original 13 Ghosts. I've seen that one several times over the years and wanted to review something new for my month of "Yucky" movies. Seems I steered a bit wrong.)

Monday, October 26, 2009

Way Back Machine


Erik, Diane, and I -- circa 1992 or so. We were beautiful... and if we'd been a band this would be our album cover. Jim took this picture. He always takes the best pictures. I've alwasy loved this one and had to share.

The Yucky Movies of October, sidetracked: Friday the 13th: The Series, Season One

28) Friday The 13th: The Series

This show was a well-remembered Saturday afternoon TV creep-fest for me as a kid. Being that it premiered in 1987, I'm dating myself, but there was really nothing like it on TV during my formative years.

Especially well-remembered are a few of the antiques from shows in the first season. I remembered the Scarecrow as I think it was the first time I ever saw a beheading bit in a horror program, and a weird chair with needles that would tap and exchange spinal fluid between two people (I vividly remember watching this one on tape and then an episode of Just The Ten of Us. God, what a wasted childhood.)

I'm happy to say the show holds up pretty well. Sure the effects are dated and the quality of the actual episodes vary in storyline and look, but a good time is had by all. Every week, cousins Ryan and Micki would team with the older Jack, more experienced in the ways of the occult, and try to track down antiques their uncle had sold on behalf of the devil. Each one had a unique curse and what I consider to be a pretty impressive body count. They really blow Supernatural out of the water week after week in that department. Evil porcelain dolls, cursed comic books, cradles of filth (couldn't resist), and uncomforting quilts keep getting the trio of leads into situations that would lead to prison terms just based on the circumstantial evidence time and time again.

The shows isn't great, but each episode is a pretty decent time-capsule of 1980s Canadian syndicated television production. Robey's hair (ah, Robey, why do you forsake us?) alone is worth a view. Sprayed into ringlets, brushed out, pulled into something that's more construct than ponytail, her hairstyles vary as often as Mrs. Slocombe's do on Are You Being Served? (She also gets to be a lovely 29 year old actress who's beautiful and still has lines around her eyes. No one has expressions on TV anymore...)

The characters actually seem to grow a little over the course of the series, though most episodes could be watched in any order. Micki especially gets to be fearful and squeamish but still face that and get the work done. Most characters now are just cocky in the face of danger without conveying any real fear. She's not afraid to be afraid, and sure starts the series out as a helpless "Screaming Mimi." The characters remember that people are dying around them and show a sense of loss and stakes to what's going on. It's a surprisingly good content for what is, admittedly, a cheeseball show. That made it all the more entertaining to discover episodes directed by David Cronenberg and Atom Egoyan in the series. If you like this sort of anthology program you can't go wrong by picking these up, they're sturdy and still make for a good watch... all these (aak- 22?!?!) years later.

Final thought: I just don't understand why anyone would live in that incredibly smokey, dusty store... much less who would shop there. Seriously, there's a constant miasma floating around. That can NOT be healthy...

Sunday, October 25, 2009

The Yucky Movies of October: Roadgames

27) Roadgames

Yowza! I have memories of this 1981 creeper being on cable when I was younger and the scenes of hanging sides of meat (mostly pork) stuck with me permanently. I've seen it in plenty of other films from to, heck, even The Midnight Meat Train to, heck, even Coma, but this is the film that carved out that particular horror for me for life. The pale, cold, bloodless sides of beef here are most memorable.

A Hitchcock homage about 2 Americans in the Australian outback, a truck driver who is slowly putting together that he's encountered a murderer and a hitchhiker (conveniently nicknamed "Hitch," it's Jamie Lee Curtis playing the same character she did in The Fog) who helps him work out the clues even as she becomes a pawn in the cat and mouse game... which tends to end with people getting garroted.

It's well known that this is something of a mobile homage to Hitchcock's Rear Window, with our essentially stationary driver Stacy Keach slowly working through the clues. The neighbors this time aren't in the next apartment building, but in the cars he passes and those who pass him. (Robert Thompson, the googly-eyed, silent star of Patrick shows up as a red leather-clad biker.) Mostly thought it's about keeping an eye on the van. The one with the suspicious cooler in the front seat. Roadgames is an amazingly well-structured flick, not afraid to take it's time to develop the plot while never being "slow"when doing so. Keach is excellent as a character who spends more time delivering monologues than anything else. Be it into a phone or to his pet Dingo, he always sounds more like he's really talking to himself than delivering lines.

There's some pretty thrilling car chase scenes. My recent viewing of Not Quite Hollywood inspired me to put this at the top of my Netflix queue and, as pointed out in that doc with this and several other films, car chases seem to be a specialty in Australian cinema. They're also great on big vistas of Aussie outback which makes for some beautiful cinematography.

My one big complaint is that when Keach and Curtis first get together they immediately start in on his murder theory. Telling a hitchhiker this would have her thinking "gee, it's awfully nice of him to warn me through this flimsy third-person story that he's crazy as a fruitbat." Instead she's game to plot along with him. I just don't buy it.

There's a few incidences of levity to lighten the mood but things are mostly tense and stay that way. The meat is a yuck but the tension is high. This one's an under-seen classic and worth a viewing. It's good to the last shot.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

The Yucky Movies of October: Grace

26) Grace

Subtle, creepy, and nauseating, Grace is a monsterous, undead (zombie?) flip-side of It's Alive.

Madeline Matheson has a history of difficult, unsuccessful pregnancies and decides she's not going to let the in-utero death of number three stop her from being a good mom. She loses the baby in a car crash that kills her husband (an alternate universe slips off here with the movie Inside) and in her pain she decides to carry to baby she lost to term. Even though the midwife says you can't will a baby back to life... well, she kinda does.

From there things get a little creepy and maddening. Sure, this mom only seems to watch shows about slaughterhouses and bloodclots on TV. (I shudder to think the TV I watch is as heavy-handed and thematic as what she does - that wouldn't bode well for me at all.) The baby's hair is coming out and she's showing bruising... and sure, there's a few flies in the babies room. But that doesn't mean there's anything wrong... hmm, except that you're feeding the baby blood...

Why doesn't the baby have that "new baby" smell?

Samantha Ferris (the obsessive Midwife who's obviously leaving her implied girlfriend because the chick can't act) and Jordan Ladd (Madeline) turn out to both be excellent actresses, and the direction is such that the birthing scene will have you tearing up. Ladd is much more nuanced and given more to work with that Bijou Phillips was in It's Alive. Some of the revelations are the same, but they unfold here at a measured pace that makes it the creepier of the two. Seeing an actual baby with (fake) blood on it's chin is more disturbing than the CGI creature in the It's Alive remake(or the papier mache babies in the original).

The counter-story with the Mother-in-Law having trouble dealing with the loss of her son by deciding to essentially "snatch" her granddaughter makes for fascinating but equally unsettling viewing. Nice to see an older woman acting out in a movie though, it's terribly rare. Gabrielle Rose has guts, that's for sure. It's kind of a cheat in both the A & B story as they seem to be asking because that's kind of a moot question. Of course, people would do these things, go around these bends. We'd like to think we wouldn't be "How far would a mother go for her child?" but we would go to these lengths, around these bends. People would love to think they wouldn't, but we would be this crazy. It only adds to the creepy. I question if any grandmother would go as far as she does. Trying to get the law on her side to get the baby I can see, but trying to induce lactation seems a bit of a stretch.

I think my favorite bit is that Madeline has to wear sweatshirts and shivers because she's running the air conditioning in the house at full blast. When the baby is cold she keeps better? It's a creepy touch when you process it. The very end goes a little off the rails, I think. I'm not a fan of codas that leave the mail location the story has taken place at for a two minute button on the proceedings. There's a lot of padding around some excellent moments in this film, but everything ends on a perfectly dark note.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Best. Endorsement. EVER.

The lovely and talented Patrick Walsh (@RedMenaceNYC on the Twitter) said the nicest thing to me that any man has in over a month:



@JaytheBigLug
There's really no way to sugarcoat this, but I have a Long Distance Blog Boner
(L.D.B.B.) for your site.





Seriously. I may get that printed on T-Shirts. It's good for the ego.

Jay's Review: Not Quite Hollywood

This was fantastic - bears rewatching with the commentary track, and then again just for funsies... I want to see about 85% of the titles featured here. Check out my review from dvdsnapshot.com!

NOT QUITE HOLLYWOOD

OFFICIAL SYNOPSIS:

Free-wheeling sex romps! Blood-soaked terror tales! High-octane extravaganzas! Welcome to Not Quite Hollywood, the wild, wonderful story of "Ozploitation" films. Join Quentin Tarantino, Jamie Lee Curtis, Dennis Hopper, and many others as they take you on an irreverent journey through the 70's and 80's, an era when Australian cinema got its gear off and showed the world a full-frontal explosion of sex, violence, horror and foot-to-the-floor action.

OUR TAKE:
Not Quite Hollywood
is a gem of a documentary taking a look at twenty years of genre film production in Australia. Starting with sex comedies in the late sixties and moving through a horror film boom in the seventies to the action filled eighties, what looks to be a who's who of Australian cinema veterans reminisce in an anecdote-filled love letter to B-picture goodies. Classic titles like Picnic At Hanging Rock, Walkabout, Breaker Morant, and Dead Calm aren't here, but, oh, the films that are...

The film clips are beautifully remastered and there's fantastic animation sprinkled throughout to keep us moving between interviews with the filmmakers and actors. Those of us unfamiliar with these films aren't going to recognize some of the charming directors and still-stunning actresses highlighted in the talking head segments, however, a lot of very famous people show up here. Quentin Tarantino may be the most-featured interviewee, but Jamie Lee Curtis, Stacy Keach, Dennis Hopper, Steve Railsback, and Barry Humphries (out of his Dame Edna regalia) compliment directors like George Miller, Fred Schepisi, and Richard Franklin.

Americans may be familiar with films like Razorback, Mad Max, and perhaps the lesser-known Road Games, Patrick, and Fantasm (they sure do like showing that John Holmes shot - Australian cinema leaves nothing to the imagination). You'll want to track down titles like Turkey Shoot (they like that exploding head shot, too), Alvin Purple, Long Weekend (recently remade as Nature's Grave), Snapshot, Dead End Drive-In, Thirst, Mad Dog Morgan, Stunt Rock, and The Man From Hong Kong. Just about every title shown looks like a drive-in gem and perfect for viewing parties with friends. There looks to be a very unique language to these titles, from the ease of the sex comedies to the violence of the road chase pictures.

As a primer to Australian genre films, this is a documentary worth your time and attention. Not Quite Hollywood is worth checking out.

SPECIAL FEATURES:
The Special Features on this disc are a garden of delights:
-Audio Commentary with the director and a round table of 9 "Ozploitation Auteurs"
-A wealth of Deleted & Extended scenes
-Quentin Tarantino interviews writer director Brian Trenchard-Smith (13 minutes)
-a 22 minute audio interview with Director Richard Franklin
-"Funding Pitches" with Quentin Tarantino and John D. Lamond
-An Image Gallery
-Original Theatrical Trailer
-Trailers for Ong Bak 2: The Beginning, The Canyon, World's Greatest Dad, and the HD NET Television network
-an Easter Egg with the cantankerous Bob Ellis trashing Peter Weir.
Spanish Subtitles are available along with English audio in Dolby Digital 2.0 and 5.1.

CONCLUSION:
While perhaps not for the kiddies as it's awash in nudity, gore and stunts you shouldn't try at home, Not Quite Hollywood is an affectionate look at genre movies from Australia by the people who made them and love them. With the proverbial "Treasure Trove" of clips, it'll have you filling your Netflix queue like a gateway drug to trash movie goodness. When the 102 minute feature is over, you're just going to want more.

Highly Recommended!

OVERALL PICTURE:
MOVIE: A
EXTRAS: A

Thursday, October 22, 2009

The Yucky Movies of October (Jay's Review Edition): Staunton Hill

The movie's a bit of a trifle but it seems I had a lot to say in this review I wrote for DVDsnapshot.com.

25) STAUNTON HILL

OFFICIAL S
YNOPSIS:
It's the fall of 1969, and winds of change are blowing across America. but on a remote family farm in the hills of Virginia, a storm of evil has been brewing for years. Now for a group of young people hitchhiking to a rally in Washington DC, a detour to the nightmare homestead of the Staunton's will rip apart their young lives forever. A grisly secret is waiting. The raw terror is growing. And the clan's brutal harvest is about to begin. Kathy Lamkin (The Texas Chainsaw Massacre), Kiko Ellsworth (Dexter), Cooper Huckabee (The Funhouse), Cristen Coppen and David Rountree star in this extreme shocker from Pittsburgh filmmaker Cameron Romero - son of legendary Night of the Living Dead director George A. Romero - that unleashes a new generation of graphic horror.

OUR TAKE:
Cameron Romero presents a well-made slasher movie in the vein of (perhaps aping is more exact) The Texas Chainsaw Massacre with Staunton Hill. Another entry in the "Crazy Backwoods Killer Family" genre, here a group of optimistic hippie teens meet a horrible fate at the hands of a rural clan who turn out to have an agenda. Namely, one that involves mutilation and some weird recurring bits with feet. (Just like in TTCM, someone shockingly loses half a leg when you least expect it.)

Honestly. My backwoods relatives fight and act up, but there's nary an organ farmer among them.

Also, what is it with baby dolls in these movies? Lately, these films have to be filled with broken, dirty children's toys laying around cluttered, neglected homes. Be it the remakes of TTCM, Friday the 13th, or the recent The Hills Run Red, sepia-toned junk-room neglect and filth seems to be the name of the game. Along with that we get some very odd cinematography, credits from the "Seven school of movie titles", and effective gore. Though it starts slow, a speedy killing and skinning a smidge over half-way through the movie matter-of-factly shifts the tone and kicks things off. Before long, limbs and scalps are flying and the body-count mounts.

You've seen the story and aesthetics before, but when things get grisly, they get grisly. (A quick bit with a body and a pig pen is downright upsetting.) Romero name check's his daddy's Night of the Living Dead, though seems to have learned the family trade. The black comedy is here as is the skill to coax pretty good performances from unknown actors, the standout being Kathy Lamkin. With a resume of bit parts, a featured role in TTCM and a heart-breakingly memorable appearance on "Nip/Tuck," she's paid her dues and has the chops. She's refreshingly real. The rest of the cast seems inexperienced, but they're game.

Staunton Hill is one of those "a little of column A, little from column B" kind of movies. If you don't see the plot twists coming from the beginning, you need to watch more horror films. This doesn't mean it's not worth a watch. Romero has a promising future and Staunton Hill is a production that proves it.

SPECIAL FEATURES:
Pretty much nil. English subtitles are available along with chapter selections and a trailer for Edges of Darkness. Audio is English Dolby 5.1 Surround and the film is in a 1.78:1 Widescreen Presentation.

CONCLUSION:
Unrated and only 89 minutes long, this "Texas Foot-Fetishist's Massacre" shows that Cameron Romero can make a decent horror movie that shocks, appalls, and moves at a fair clip. You've seen this stuff before, but this is a nice watch for enthusiasts and the curious. Those newer to this kind of genre film will find even more to enjoy.

Mostly, you'll be campaigning for Romero to helm a remake of Motel Hell with Kathy Lamkin as the one saying "Meat's meat, and man's gotta eat."

OVERALL PICTURE:
MOVIE: B-
EXTRAS: D

The Yucky Movies of October: Revenge of the Living Dead Girls

24) Revenge of the Living Dead Girls

Evidently in France, pouty farmgirls will sit around and have breakfasts with their mothers while wearing really elaborate underwear... well, they do according to this movie.

A total piece of junk about girls who die from drinking poisoned milk and wind up coming back to life when more of the poison is dumped at the graveyard, there's little to redeem this one beyond it's sheer eighties-ness. When blackmailing a businessman, a woman has to bring in a huge video camera with a separate deck to record the tape on. Everyone's hair has that huge, puffy quality you only find from actually having chlorofluorocarbons in your hairspray.

I have a few questions. How could these girls have totally dessicated in, what, two days? They all have drawn, wrinkled gray faces, though only one has hands that have also withered (meaning she has these overdone, superlong gloved fingers that look veiny and knotted). Also, why're these girls stilted zombies one minute and totally spry the next? Of course, it's obvious the only character effects in this film are some rubber gray rubber masks, because they didn't even bother with body make-up. The naked zombies with giant rubber heads are a real hoot.

For that matter, why does the female exec blackmail her boss with video and make a big deal out of showing her bra to her corporate scientist? What ever happened to good, hard, old-fashioned work? Why do the zombies have different hair in death than they do in life? Why do they decide to go swimming? How big a pig is the scientist that he banged a zombie? Ugh, don't think about it too hard. You'll go stupid.

This is also one of those badly dubbed foreign movies of a certain vintage where all the voices are vaguely familiar. Is anyone aware of whatever group of people dubbed all these flicks? These same voices show up in just about every 70s and 80s horror and naughty flick to come out of continental Europe. The acting is bad, the character motivations are worse, but much is (unintentionally?) hysterical. There's a scene with a sword and another with a pregnant woman that are also in more bad taste than I'm used to... and I just watched Gutterballs.

I can only recommend this one to people trying to hone their audition to be the next "MST3K" -- because there's a lot here to mock and wince through... though you will file away the idea of breaking off your high heel in someone's eye socket for later use.

C'est merde.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Jay's Movie Reviews: Jack Brown, Genius

Check out my dvdsnapshot review of the Peter Jackson produced film:

JACK BROWN, GENIUS

OFFICIAL SYNOPSIS:

A thousand years ago in England, the crazy monk Elmer (Stuart Devenie) wears a pair of wings and tries to fly from a high tower. He dies, and his soul is doomed to an eternity in hell for committing suicide. Now, in New Zealand, Elmer has one last chance to prove that men can fly and save his soul: his spirit enters into the mind of a very intelligent inventor, Jack Brown (Timothy Balme), and forces him to try to fly. Jack uses his latest creation, an amplifier in a tape recorder, to help him succeed in the attempt, but his invention is coveted by his former boss and his lover, who want to sell it to a Chinese investor.

OUR TAKE:
Jack Brown Genius
is a 1994 New Zealand comedy finally getting released in the States. The reason looks to have more to do with the fact that Peter Jackson is a writer and producer on this title, teaming back up with Timothy Balme, the star of his film Dead Alive (aka Brain-Dead).

This is a pleasant fun comedy with dashes of adventure and slapstick, but it's otherwise pretty slight. A few sequences have some good, simple special effects (a dream of hell, the flying scenes) and it's technically accomplished all-around. There's just not much "there" there. The villains of the piece, Jack's boss and his masseuse girlfriend, are practically Boris and Natasha. The romantic triangle isn't much to invest in since it's pretty clear pretty quick who lands with who.

Beyond that, there's not much more to say about it. It felt like a late 80's offering from Hollywood Pictures and would make a good double bill with something like The Year of the Comet or The Gun in Betty Lou's Handbag. Come to think of it, the lead actress here did remind me of Penelope Ann Miller...

SPECIAL FEATURES:

Jack Brown Genius is presented in anamorphic widescreen with an aspect ratio of 16 x 9 and 2.0 Dolby Digital Audio. Special features include stills gallery. Subtitles.

CONCLUSION:
PG-13 and pretty appropriate for teens on up, Jack Brown Genius is a perfectly passible lark you'll want to see if you're a Peter Jackson fan. It's a bit of fluff for a rainy day, not much to it though.

OVERALL PICTURE:
MOVIE: C
EXTRAS: N/A

The Yucky Movies of October: Drag Me To Hell

Seriously, this is like horror movie bukkake...

23) Drag Me To Hell

Okay, that first fight in the car, scary old lady versus scared girl, filled with hair-pulling, teeth-knocking, and car-crashing, was pretty damn good. Who hasn't wanted to kick an evil old gypsy woman in the ribs?

Well, I never had, but it sounded funny... after actually watching this movie, I'm giving old gypsies the respect they deserve, myself. Especially ones who may vomit cockroaches into your mouth...

They can also spill bile into your mouth and cause you to spit up blood and flies. These are not people to be scorned. Actually it's amazing what winds up in people's mouths in this flick. (Seriously, this is like horror movie bukkake.) A black comedy full of wet, slushy red stuff (mostly CGI) about a girl trying to get out from under a curse before she winds up -obviously- dragged to hell, this is a blast from beginning to end. It also feels very much like a heavily transformed remake of Night of the Demon (Curse of the Demon), but maybe that's just to me. From the "passing of the runes" to the appearance of the train station, there's some similarities. Of course, that's such a good movie, I'm totally okay with that.

One thing I've always wondered. Just how long would it take one person to dig out a grave. Especially one unaccustomed to a lot of exercise? Because the movies make it look like it'd take all of twenty minutes...

Sit back and enjoy the ride... and the flying eyeballs. This ain't a classic film, or a serious one. It's just good, yucky fun.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The Yucky Movies of October: Popcorn

22) Popcorn

A love-letter to the sweetly quaint, brilliant marketing campaigns and (secondarily) films of William Castle. Also, a time capsule of where horror films were circa 1991 complete with bad effects, a teleporting killer, and musical montage.

Anyhow, this is a Slasher film where the set-up is that you've got a group of film students throwing a movie night horror-thon and find a reel of film that's the work of a director who went berserk and killed his family. Of course, we're wondering if this can be related to our lead's nightmares of childhood events? Of course it turns out that Maggie (Jill Schoelen) was the daughter of the loony director, Lanyard, and now he's maybe back to wear disguises and finish off the family... and all her friends accordingly.

Whatever happened to Jill Schoelen? Evidently she retired and raised kids, but in the '80's she was one of the true scream queens; the lead in this and The Stepfather, The Phantom of the Opera, When a Stranger Calls Back, and Cutting Class (sadly, more people remember her now for her engagement to co-star Brad Pitt than her movies). Tony Roberts, Ray Walston, Dee Wallace, and Kelly Jo Minter also star here - so, let me reiterate, Time Capsule.

Things I wondered:
-Do tasks go faster if they can be done as a musical montage?
-How does the killer get the marquee to spit all it's letters at Dee Wallace when she shows up?
-As with all horror movies, why here, why now? Better to get a grudge out of your system when it's fresh than spend 10 years or so dwelling before you finally decide to do something about it? Was he just waiting, as a director, for film-makeup "technology" to improve so he could make his masks?
-Did Joe Dante know this movie was made already when he whipped up Matinee?
-Dressing up in costumes to go to a horror movie marathon is one thing, but who the hell would really keep wearing giant heads for the duration of the evening?
-Doesn't Tony Roberts kind of deserve to die if he's going to use a prop as dangerous as the Mosquito in a crowded theatre?
-did they just crib the makeup from The Abominable Doctor Phibes entirely for this flick or what?
-Why am I asking such banal questions? (Oh, yeah, this is a crap flick?)

Not a classic, I did read up that both the original director and lead were replaced during production. This is generally what you call a movie "born under a bad sign." But the faux-Fifties films are fun (even if they really didn't bother to do 'em right. No lead actress would have hair that fly-away in a Fifties flick). By 38 minutes in, not only had I figured out who the real killer was but I would have been willing to lay money on it.

It's crap, in a crap transfer with crap sound, but I enjoyed it. It's a yuck for it's gore attempts, a yuck for it's quality, but anyone bringing back the "Tingler" effect and making it a movie plot-point is okay in my book. Also, any killer who commits murder by toilet bowl really should be shown some love...

The Yucky Movies of October: Masters of Horror: Dream Cruise

21) Masters of Horror: Dream Cruise

I gave another "Masters of Horror" a spin - this time with the season two closer, "Dream Cruise." This outing is J-Horror, complete with the de rigeur stringy-haired female ghost.

An American lawyer living in Japan winds up stupidly accepting the invitation of his best client to go out on the boat with him. It's stupid because a) as a child, he was unable to save his brother from drowning in open water and b) he's shtupping the client's wife. He's haunted by visions of his brother from the get-go, all water-related. Unfortunately, the client's on to their affair and plans to dispose of the pair of them out at sea... just like he did with his first wife.

Turns out, she's less than amused by events.

I can only assume that what the Japanese are scared of, based on the J-Horror films I've seen, is conditioner. The stringy-haired female ghost is this time green instead of white, with fab bloody teeth and covered in goo. (Over at "Masters of Horror," they do seem to love their goo.)

Our horror "Master" this time out is Norio Turuta, director of J-horror Theatre titles and Ring 0. He's joined by the lead actor from Audition, Ryo Ishibashi, and the film's based on a short story by Koji Suzuki, author of the "Ring" series of novels and "Dark Water." Needless to say then that this is the J-horror pedigree to have. I think the "Imprint" episode of "Masters of Horror" is more in that nightmarish vein, while this is pretty linear, but on the whole, it's an okay flick.

I had a few good jumps and a genuine "eww, look away" moment, so that's a "Yucky" movie keeper in my book!

Monday, October 19, 2009

The Yucky Movies of October: Masters of Horror: We All Scream For Ice Cream

20) Masters of Horror: We All Scream For Ice Cream

I am not a subscriber to Showtime. In fact, I cut off my cable back in January when I realized that between Netflix and the Library I could totally get my fix of visual entertainments on DVD and not deal with nary a commercial or Kardashian while getting it. Therefore, I'm still chipping my way through the "Masters of Horror" series. Yes, I know, "Bad Fanboy!"

Well, I wish I could have watched one to blog about that was one of the highlights, like "Imprint" or "Cigarette Burns" or even just over the top gore (the nauseating "Pelts" and "Jenifer," anyone?) but instead I have a middle of the road selection for you.

"We All Scream For Ice Cream" feels more like an entry in the "Tales from the Crypt" series. The director for this entry is Tom Holland, who also gave us the classics "Fright Night" and "Child's Play," along with three "Tales," come to think of it. This particular episode is a morality play about a group of men who, as children, played a prank on a mentally disabled clown who drives an ice cream van that wound up killing him. Now, Buster the clown is back and feeding cursed popsicles to their children. When the kids bite them, these men dissolve into Neopolitan goo.

...and it is fabulous goo. Thick white and pink and brown, it looks just like melted ice cream... though filled with chunks of bone. There's a big melting scene that's also fabulously '80's with a skeleton bobbing around in a tub of water, dripping big viscous streams of the aforementioned man-ice-cream.

I really need to come up with a better term for that.

It's a bit of a two-fer since you have "Ice Cream Vans" and "Clowns" - a pair of easily corruptible childhood icons. While based on a John Farris short story that I have not read (he is an excellent author, though), as a TV program it feels very reminiscent of "It." Featuring William Forsythe as a sweet-natured clown doesn't help either. He works as the evil ghost clown, but it's William bloody Forsythe. I've never put him in the warm 'n' fuzzy category, personally. The other lead here is Lee Tergesen. He's playing a stoic dad part, but I've got him typecast from "Oz." When he confronts a bad seed type from their youth while the guys in his tub, I more'n half expect him to climb in.

So far I've never been bored by one of the "Masters of Horror" programs, and recommend them, this entry included. "Dance of the Dead" was long-winded, and both "Homecoming" and "Deer Woman" also felt like "Tales from the Crypt." Some entries are more genius, some are just good. This was a just good. Like "Right to Die," it's a perfectly passable hour I enjoyed immensely... but won't remember much of in another two.

Hmm, maybe I'll try another one for tomorrow.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

The Yucky Movies of October: The Brotherhood of Satan

19) The Brotherhood of Satan

A very low-budget 1971 movie about a coven taking over a small town for very nefarious reasons I won't spoil here, The Brotherhood of Satan is seriously full of win. With a leisurely pace that does a good job of building tension, the film switches between small-town creeps and silly, set-bound robes and cobwebs satanism.

In the end it works, though. Pretty well in fact. There's a couple genuinely disturbing and dream-like nightmare scenes and a few cheesy effects, but the overall air is truly that of a small community under siege. A surprising beheading and what I could only infer as "attack-by-child's-toy" wind up being scenes that work well when there's no reason why they should.

I've seen the story's central twist before but it doesn't undermine just how effective this movie winds up being. The flat TV-movie cinematography actually adds to the overall creep factor as well, because it gives such an air of normalcy to the proceedings. The last ten minutes should veer into silliness but instead have you absorbed.

This one is a well-made gem I can't believe I'm just now seeing for the first time. The Brotherhood of Satan should have a much stronger following - it's like a flat, Californian Wicker Man - and I highly recommend it.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

The Yucky Movies of October: Gutterballs

18) Gutterballs

Well, "yucky" sums it up pretty well for this one. Something of a throwback to '80's slasher flicks, Gutterballs really is light on the redeeming features. With a long, heavy, very unpleasant rape scene in the beginning, a"hard core" oral sex scene, and a constant barrage of general offense and stupidity this is almost more porn than splatter. With characters dumb as bricks and about 15 minutes too much running time, you see the end coming from a mile away and don't really care.

The wardrobe is great, filled with '80's touches, the gore's good and everyone is obviously having a good time... but beyond that this is really a yuck-fest. A pretty good hollowed out head and some stabbed eye sockets make for terrific gore but the most prevalent prosthetic makeup effect is a silicone penis (and really I'm surprised the actors didn't hold out for a bigger one). I mean this is a pretty sleazy and vulgar movie - and this is coming from someone who loves Troma stuff just for that reason...

Going to go scour brain now...

Friday, October 16, 2009

Jay's Movie Reviews: Where The Day Takes You

Welcome back to the very early 1990s with this time capsule of a film I reviewed for dvdsnapshot.com.

"Dude! I had those flannels!"

WHERE THE DAY TAKES YOU


OFFICIAL SYNOPSIS:

It was the film that captured the grim reality of Hollywood's homeless teens, featuring an ensemble of actors delivering the most startling performances of their young careers. On the dark side of Tinsletown, a group of runaways - including tweaker Greg (Sean Astin), legless Manny (Will Smith), unstable Little J (Balthazar Getty), prostitute Kimmy (Alyssa Milano), just-off-the-bus Heather (Lara Flynn Boyle) and their leader, King (Dermot Mulroney) - live each day lost in a spiral of drugs, sex, crime and violence. They have nothing... except each other. Christian Slater, Adam Baldwin, David Arquette and Ricki Lake co-star - with a soundtrack of songs by Melissa Etheridge - in this powerful drama The Austin Chronicle hails as "often so authentic in its depiction of street life that you'll find yourself flinching."

OUR TAKE:

What do you say about a movie where just about everyone in it went on to be rich, famous and omnipresent in pop culture, making it pretty hard to suspend the disbelief that here they're down and dirty street kids?

Back in 1992, this social study and travelogue of the seedy side of Hollywood was filled with good intentions; grim and realistic. Our central character is a 20 year old street kid named King who's trying to keep together and alive a ragtag "family" of street kids, junkies, and prostitutes. Newly out of jail, he rounds up the group of transient teens, has run-ins with pimps and fights, all interspersed with him giving a videotaped interviews to social worker Laura San Giacomo to give it that feeling of verisimilitude.

Unfortunately the aesthetic now seems impossibly dated because it's an art-directed look at poverty and grit that once looked cool and totally "in the moment." 17 years later, the fact that the cast is as accomplished as this one makes it more so. You get to see Will Smith in a wheelchair, Sean Astin huffing, and an fresh-scrubbed Lara Flynn Boyle with her original lips. Every performance is very accomplished, which is certainly a testament to their talent, but when even the junkie bit-players are Kyle McLachlan and Nancy McKeon and the drug counselor is Christian Slater, it's hard to not look at it through the prism of everyone's success (and in some cases, notoriety)

That said, it still packs the wallop of feeling authentic. Kids did and will wind up on the streets, living these lives. They overdose and get murdered. Their confessions in passing to drug use and being molested can move you to tears. They're still young people exuberant enough to still have hope. The heart of Where The Day Takes You is in the right place, and can still move yours.

SPECIAL FEATURES:


I really would have loved a commentary track on this one, as it's such a time capsule of the time it was made. The audio is in Dolby Surround 2.0 English and English, Spanish, and French subtitles are available. Trailers for He Was A Quiet Man, Flashbacks of a Fool, and Where The Day Takes You.

CONCLUSION:

Where The Day Takes You
hasn't aged well simply because everybody in the cast went on to become incredibly accomplished. However, it retains grit and a sense of realism. You can plop the teens in front of it and maybe they'll learn something. It's either a cautionary tale or "There but for the grace of god I almost went."

Also, You can put the thirtysomethings in front of it and we'll admit to each other we dressed like that and thought this movie was so cool when it first came out.

OVERALL PICTURE:
MOVIE: B+
EXTRAS: D

One more thought on "100 Feet": A Quick Rant

Back on Wednesday I posted a mini-review of the excellent Eric Red thriller 100 Feet, which you can see here. One other thought keeps popping up and I really have to express it. It's spoiler filled so read at your own risk as you really should check this one out.

*spolier coming - there's no jump, just scroll fast*
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*
*
*
....

Okay, so I get a little more annoyed with the main character Marnie the more I think about things. You're trapped in your house which is haunted by the ghost of your very angry and very abusive dead husband. A man who nearly killed you when you wanted to leave him because he viewed you has his property. For some reason - in your loneliness, your frustration, your admiration of his really sweet ass - decide it's a good idea to hump the very humpy and much younger delivery boy who lives down the street. (You cougar, you.)

Anyhow, how do you not know that your ghosty hubby is going to kill him? He's kicked the crap outta you repeatedly, so of course he's going to violently murder (and really, it was rather gross) the guy who you essentially cuckolded him with. (Dead or not, when he's still in the house and you're banging away at Ed Westwick and it's not his thing to watch... he's gonna get pissed.)

Marnie is a flawed character and very human (for an ex-model called "The Dutch Treat," I'm always very impressed with Famke Janssen), but no matter how much of a dumbass you are - or how little perspective you have on a situation - you HAD to know that was a BAD IDEA.

Really, it annoys me to think about. Sure, faced with that kinda pretty I'm doubting anyone would think far past "must touch now" but when ghosties have already yanked your hand into an in-sink-erator, you gotta figure they're gonna introduce your new swimsuit-area-friend to the marble mantelpiece. Seriously. Dude.

*
*
*End spoiler zone*

I feel so much better getting that off my chest. I really should delay these write-ups a bit more so ideas can properly percolate.

The Yucky Movies of October (Jay's reviews edition): Audition

Another DVD reviewed for DVDsnapshot.com. Like a (bad) dream you can't stop thinking about two days later, Audition stays with you. Jumping the gun a day to get this one posted because it's definitely recommended!

What's in the bag?!?!???

17) AUDITION

OFFICIAL SYNOPSIS:

Deceptively innocent at first, Takashi Miike's Audition finds Shigeharu Aoyama (Ryo Ishibashi, Suicide Club, The Grudge), a middle-aged widower of many years, urged by his teenage son and his film producer friend Yasuhisa Yoshikawa (Jun Kunimura, Ichi The Killer) to get out and start dating again. To help Aoyama meet women, Yoshikawa devises a plan to hold a fake audition for a leading lady. Reluctantly agreeing, Aoyama auditions 30 young hopefuls and falls for the silent beauty of Asami (model/actress Eihi Shiina), a former ballerina with a dark past. Their courtship veers from quiet romance to psycho nightmare.

Shout! Factory presents this 1999 modern horror classic in a new high-definition transfer from the inter-negative, with a new 5.0 digital soundtrack mixed from the original audio elements. This special collector's edition includes 90 minutes of new interviews with the cast.


OUR TAKE:

The best way to see Audition is the way I first did, without any knowledge of what it is about. If you must know, though, it starts out like an elegantly paced romantic comic-drama about a widower spurred on by his son to look for love again. To facilitate this, he and a friend set up a fake audition for an actress in order to "meet cute" his dream girl in a witty montage of “wacky“ candidates. The film takes time to develop it in a way where you start to expect an American remake would come out where Meg Ryan shows up as the perfect fiancĂ©e. It’s putting it mildly to say things then take a very weird turn. This cute romance turns into a mystery and then a nightmare. It's a horrible lovechild of Vertigo and 70s Giallo.

I won’t go much further into the film except to say it’s highly recommended and a must for every fan of horror films and those who just like excellent ones. The film’s mind-blowing chiller of an ending is rightly legendary. Having seen it before I was still stunned by it on this watch. The new high-definition transfer looks terrific with the muted fall-like color palate coming through cool and beautiful. The new sound mix is nice and crisp as well.

SPECIAL FEATURES:
Disc one features commentary with Director Takashi Miike and Screenwriter Daisuke Tengan and Audio in Dolby digital 5.0 or 2.0 stereo. The film begins with a special videotaped introduction by Miike and Eihi Shiina. The disc automatically stars with subtitles in English.

Disc two includes both the International and Japanese trailers for Audition, along with 73 minutes of charming interviews with four of the actors.

CONCLUSION:
A modern horror classic in an excellent new edition. If you’ve never seen it before you’re in for a real treat -- and if you have, this is the edition to own. Can’t recommend this one highly enough.


OVERALL PICTURE:
MOVIE: A
EXTRAS: B

The Yucky Movies of October: House of the Dead (with The Cadaver Lab)

16) House of the Dead

Oooh, girl, there is bad and then there is BAD. House of the Dead has the distinction of being just as bad as you've heard. Adapted from a video game and scored with outtakes from a Prodigy album, this is a (ahem) style over substance zombie movie that is just... not good.

A bunch of random teens get a grizzled sea captain to take them to a daytime rave on a deserted, wooded island where they find out a zombie attack is in mid outbreak. With cut-ins from the game, "blood dripping" transitions, and awful acting... well, it's almost a hoot. Actually, it probably is a good "drinkin' with buddies" kinda movie... but I'm too old to drink that much.

The gore splashes freely, and there's boobs a-poppin', which is good for any party-horror movie. When two characters make penis-size entendres over rifles and other weapons hidden in a crate of smuggled cubans, you'll be amazed to realize it's the apex of the dialogue in this flick. The stylistic height of the flick is a big zombie shoot 'em up with lots of bits from the game cut in, several exploding heads, and a total abuse of the "bullet time" shot made so popular in The Matrix. However, it's accomplished by just swinging the camera around an actor as they stand there then slowing it down a bit. Also of note is when there's a weird super-fast montage recap of just about everything that's gone before that one character has in the middle of the shoot 'em up. I think it could induce seizures.

You'll laugh, you'll cry, you'll hurl... and be amazed that evidently even co-eds in star-spangled body suits are tip-top Ninjas as long as they're Asian. They all seem to be in some Greek system that teaches swordfighting and weapons training along with bad partying. The much maligned Uwe Boll throws everything at the wall in this one and nothing sticks... a lot of it slides down in a gooey, chunky mess though, and that's fun too.

Jurgen Prochnow and Clint Howard are here so their mortgages must've been due. Ellie Cornell shows none of the promise she had in the eighties, though she does have a lovely death scene, dripping blood as pink as that in a 70s Hammer horror. The rest of the actors are mostly known for their chests and makeup jobs... and the zombie makeup is definitely lifted from Fulci.

About all I can recommend is the way I watched House of the Dead - listening to The Cadaver Lab's Cadavertrax for it. The guys are fun, they stay in sync, and it definitely felt like sitting in the living room with my friends. Highly recomended. (The boing-boing-boing at the end made my night, guys.) If you haven't checked out their podcast or visited their site, please do.

So, yeah, bad flick, but actually rather enjoyable - overdone in the way a film like Burial Ground: The Nights of Terror is. Young people and Zombies. Lots of exploding heads. Candy-colored art direction (very reminiscent to me of The Dead Hate The Living in places (now THAT'S a fun flick!)) and pink, runny blood everywhere. Totally nonsensical 90% of the time. No redeeming values, and a 2 outta 10 rating on imdb.com, so what's NOT to love?

(okay, the icky, slobbery zombie facelick isn't that loveable... but what can you do?)

Thursday, October 15, 2009

The Yucky Movies of October (Jay's review edition): The Shortcut

...and just like this we're back to the "Blergh" with a sucky Yucky movie that feels like an ABC Family channel film for nihilists. But this one is special 'cuz it's a dvdsnapshot.com review, and you know you need to be checking those out!


15) THE SHORTCUT

OFFICIAL SYNOPSIS:

Just behind the grammar school and past the 'No Trespassing' sign is the shortcut through the woods that nobody dares to take: People in town still whisper about the creepy old guy who lives back there and the kids that disappeared near his home a long time ago. Now a group of high school seniors has decided to find out just what the shovel-wielding weirdo may be hiding. But even if they can uncover his shocking secret, will they survive what happens when the truth is finally unleashed? Dave Franco ("Privileged", "Greek"), Katrina Bowden ("30 Rock"), Shannon Woodward ("The Riches") and Drew Seeley (Another Cinderella Story) star in this first twisted shocker from Scary Madison Productions (an offshoot of Happy Madison Productions) that takes a whole new route to horror.

OUR TAKE:

A local legends of a spooky path in the woods turns out to have tragically fatal consequences for a group on small-town teenagers. That said, when you watch this film you'll be wondering all the things I did. Why not call the police? For that matter, why haven't the police already done something about an anti-social creep in the woods if people are occasionally disappearing near his property? Why do cell phones lose their reception when lives are in danger in movies? When you see something that's as downright crazy and disturbing as the contents of the house they break into, why don't these kids run screaming for adults? Just how big are these woods anyways?

The final question is, sadly, why did they bother making this movie if they defanged it? Reading up, it seems this was originally going to be a harder horror flick, but investors watered that down to appeal to teens and be a more palatable PG-13. To their credit, the young actors get to play teens that act like teens. One's a real jerk and another is so concerned for his dog's safety he'll go along with the cockamamie plan they come up with. On the whole, the filmmakers created a palatable story that seems to still deliver the storyline they wanted, but without the bite and gore to make it worthwhile. Instead, you get some quick, throwaway endings that, while chilling in their own right, aren't anywhere near satisfying as they should be.

At 85 minutes, it's snappy, but the ABC Family Channel feel of the production doesn't jibe with the body count. Also, it's a shame those kids are too young to know that when you see the Cigarette-Smoking Man from The X-files (co-star William B. Davis) you get the heck outta there.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

-Trailers for Nature Of The Beast (Werewolf wedding comedy), It's a Boy Girl Thing (body swap teen-sex comedy), Nanny Insanity (no comment), and The Shortcut.
-Audio Commentary by the Director.
-Dolby Surround 5.1 English with English Subtitles

CONCLUSION:
A "Slasher flick" in training pants with an afterthought body count and coda that's downright annoying, you could sit the teens down with it during an October sleepover to excellent results. Other than that, it's for the completist only.

OVERALL PICTURE:
MOVIE: D
EXTRAS: D

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The Yucky Movies of October: 100 Feet

14) 100 Feet

...okay, NOW we're gettin' somewhere. 100 Feet is a well-made, smoothly-paced ghost story with a few good squirm-inducing moments. I knew I was in for a treat when I learned that this film I hadn't really been aware of was the return of Eric Red, the writer behind The Hitcher, Near Dark, Body Parts, and Blue Steel. On the whole I feel fairly rewarded.

Famke Janssen, an actress I've always been impressed by, is excellent as Marnie, a battered wife who finally killed her police officer ex-husband and is now on a year of house arrest after her time in prison. The officer supervising this, played by Bobby Cannavale, was the husband's partner and, as such, inclined to be less than sympathetic to what's happening with her. They're both excellent actors and do marvels with the material, especially Janssen.

While under house arrest, where she can only venture 100 feet away from the base station (leaving both the house's foyer and basement out of range), she quickly find out that along with the limitations of not being able to get her own groceries, she can't get away from the still-abusive ghost of her angry husband. Marnie gets to be strong and fight back, but she also gets to show fear and pain. All this without ever dipping into any easy Lifetime TV movie territory, which is where I'd feared it might go.

A good ghost-jump (he's well and simply-designed... he reminded me of the one in Carnival of Souls) introduces him but they're light on the spring-loaded cats and Poltergeist-style stuff. A nail-biting sequence with an in-sink-erator and what the ghost does to Ed Westwick (Marnie's grocery boy fling) make this worth at least a rental. Seriously, between "Invisible Man" headbutts and one unfortunately-placed mantelpiece, that is one NASTY fight. The shocking beating and good gore effects kinda make it the showpiece of the film.

The ending builds from there and while it does peter out a bit in hokey special effects at the very end, on the whole it's an intelligent, well acted, keeps a fine pace, and doesn't rely on a bunch of jump scares to get any points across. By very end I mean "very end" - if the last 5 minutes went differently this might be a ghost story classic. A little wispy and light in places, it's a nice quality chiller.

I find myself recommending this one.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The Yucky Movies of October (Jay's Movie Reviews edition): It's Alive (2009)

We continue the month o' Yuck with a flick that actually has some gore and grue in it for a change, a little title I reviewed for the lovely people over at dvdsnapshot.com called...

13) IT'S ALIVE (2009)

OFFICIAL SYNOPSIS:

When a young woman (Bijou Phillips) learns she is pregnant, she leaves graduate school to move to the country with her boyfriend in this remake of the classic 1970s horror film. The fate of the happy new family takes a gruesome turn when animals and people end up brutally dead - all with a strange connection to their newborn. Could their new child be the monster responsible for the gruesome murders?

OUR TAKE:
The original It's Alive is a sentimental favorite of mine from it's many airings on USA during my childhood. For some reason the mix of Larry Cohen's social commentary and killer mutant babies attacking milkmen stuck with me. The waxy plaster puppet babies in the first one hold a lot of nostalgia, but seeing them rendered with CGI might be fun, so I was open to seeing this remake/reimagining - a film I think I would like better if I wasn't a fan of the first one.

It's Alive stars Bijou Phillips, and her grating speaking voice, as an expectant mother forced into an early C-section by a baby that's ready to get out into the world at the end of the second trimester. Later on, the police are questioning her to find out what she remembers of the procedure as 2 doctors and 2 nurses were slaughtered during the procedure... now who do you think could've done that?

Also featuring James Murray from the TV series Primeval, It's Alive features some decent CGI gore, Bulgaria filling in for New Mexico(!), and sadly, a storyline not much stronger than candy floss. There's not a lot of density to the storyline besides "let's cover up for our killer baby," although a bit with mother correcting him for eating a bird is awfully amusing. The story goes from point A to B to C without much depth. Even by horror movie standards, the character of the friend who clearly exists solely to get knocked off is a flimsy character. It’s a claustrophobic story with isolated characters and action, so when things start to feel draggy early on, that's not a good sign. The movie's only 84 minutes long.

The core concept and a little of the original’s sly wit remain in this remake (gnawed while nursing, anyone?), but on the whole, this one can’t hold a candle to it.

SPECIAL FEATURES:
Trailers for the giant bug horror comedy Infestation, the Charlize Theron Oscar-Winner Monster, Jeremy Sisto (unbelievable as a priest) and Kristin Chenoweth (more unbelievable as a street walker) in Into Temptation, the Dolph Lundgren (least convincing of all as a rock star) hostage film Command Performance.
The disc also features the trailer for It's Alive. Audio options are spoken English audio in 5.1 surround and 2.0 stereo Subtitles are available in English and Spanish.

CONCLUSION:
If you have seen the original and enjoy it, this is worth viewing to compare. If you haven't seen it and have no intention to, well, you should reconsider. But if you don't, then you should at least catch this one. There’s a few thrills, and you’ll only be offended if you don’t like the central conceit of monster babies (and who doesn't like monster babies?).

Otherwise, it’s a decent picture to screen for friends... and baby showers.

OVERALL PICTURE:
MOVIE: C
EXTRAS: D

Monday, October 12, 2009

The Yucky Movies of October: Brutal Massacre: A Comedy

12) Brutal Massacre: A Comedy

So far my batting average for "Yucky Movies of October" isn't that hot. Another flick that's not very "yucky," Brutal Massacre is a mockumentary of the production of a low budget horror film with a slew of fan favorites. After the absurdities of films like This is Spinal Tap, Waiting for Guffman, or TV's The Office, I'm afraid this isn't just absurd enough.

It is, however, a love-letter to b-horror-movie fans with actors like Davin Naughton, Gunnar Hansen, Ellen Sandweiss, and Ken Foree and a realistic sense of this being probably how most very low-budget horror films are made. People quit, there's on-set accidents, testy talent, money problems. Problem after problem compound until their little film production becomes a big mess. As a fan of these types of flicks, I could enjoyed it - but you should focus on the word "Comedy" in the title.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

The Yucky Movies of October: She-Wolf of London

11) She-Wolf of London

Well, this one wasn't yucky at all. Part of the Universal Monsters Wolf Man set, I figured this was a werewoman story. We'd have a girl who wolfed out, people would be mauled, and gypsys would show up at some point. There's an heiress, some relatives, a mammoth house set, and lots of that patented Universal atmosphere.

Sadly, it's more of a "is she going mad" number. More Gaslight than The Wolf Man it's a passable enough way to spend an hour with a very young Miss June Lockhart, and a very nice, nasty speech denouement of a speech towards the end, but that's about it.

If you like old programmers, give it a whirl. Otherwise, ya ain't missin' much.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

The Yucky Movies of October, sidetracked: Supernatural Season 4

10) Supernatural, Season 4

Taking a sidetrack from icky, squishy, occasionally nauseating movies to fill up my October, I'm also working my way through season 4 of Supernatural on DVD.

I think this is a pretty underrated show. Recently I've watched episodes that reproduce Universal Monsters, address the "Wincest" fan fiction, ghosts avenging high school bullying, and take a skewered look at It's a Wonderful Life. Along with the healthy sense of humor there's also hot chicks, a pretty satisfying monster of the week, and good special effects.

One episode features a family in a haunted house - of course, the house turns out to actually be "haunted" by creepy children who live in the walls like roaches. The "Wincest" episode is a meta construct where the brothers confront a writer who's been writing about their lives. A wishing well that fulfills every wish ends wittily for a kid who'd been bullied and sadly for a guy who gets his heart broken. Another story with a succubus turns into an observation about brothers who only have each other in the world. The Lilith and angels stuff gets tiresome, but it's worth slogging through for the goods that abound in every episode.

This is a well-rounded, balanced mix of humor and horror. All four seasons have been satisfying so far on DVD, and the fifth is airing live now on the CW. If you haven't seen Supernatural, check it out. Scares and laughs galore.

...I do understand why people want them to make out, though...

Friday, October 9, 2009

The Yucky Movies of October: Untraceable

9) Untraceable

What can you say about a movie that opens with someone gluing a cat to a mousetrap to let it die while people watch? This whole movie is about that level of class.

This is one of those high-toned "thrillers" where it doesn't look like anyone enjoyed any part of making it. Everything is gray, everyone looks drawn. It may was well be Deceived. Everything feels like the people involved felt a little sleazy about making this one. That impression of shame colors everything. Diane Lane is also starting to resemble the middle-years Mary Tyler Moore... she has a big bright smile like Moore's too. She should be in lots of comedies not these dreary thrillers and Richard Gere romances...

A killer who broadcasts murders live on the internet and accelerates their timetable based on how many viewers they have "squares off" with a FBI agent. Pretty standard stuff. The deaths by anti-coagulant, heat lamp, and home-brewed battery acid are somehow creative yet incredibly dull all at the same time. Also, we learn who the killer is about 40 minutes or so into the picture. The fact that he's a nebbish kid doesn't help any. The guy in Copycat was more threatening in comparison.

On the whole this is an unthrilling-thriller. I say "meh."

Thursday, October 8, 2009

The Yucky Movies of October: Laid To Rest

8) Laid To Rest

This was just gross. No, really. Good and gross. "Fix a Flat" as a murder weapon? Heads cut in half, people stabbed thru the temple? The gore is bold and accomplished, the movie's pacing propulsive, and the effects are excellent. There isn't much in the way of exposition or backstory, but there doesn't need to be. Instead there's just movement. Be it rapid editing, camera movement, or character, it seems like something's always moving in this one. As a result, even when it does slow down (admittedly infrequently) you don't feel the lulls.

If you like gore, you'll LOVE Laid To Rest. It doesn't need much more in the way of an edorsement than that.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

The Yucky Movies of October: Graduation Day

7) Graduation Day

Wow, what a stinker. Someone is killing off the high school friends of a girl who died during a track meet. Is it the hammy coach? Is it the hammy older sister, home on shore leave? Is it Blondie, the hammy receptionist? Perhaps the hammy leisure suit wearing lounge singer of a music teacher? The hammy hypocritical cop?

Well, when watching Graduation Day you won't ask any of these questions. Because you won't care!

With an epee through the throat of a girl who's nonsensically shaving her legs in the locker room sink, the de rigueur 80's slo-mo decapitation, and a football with a sword spiked through it thrown at a player, the kills aren't imaginative but they at least occur with some frequency. Okay, what happens to the pole vaulter IS pretty good.

Our first full look at the killer he's dressed in sweats and a fencing mask. It turns out that a fencing mask is no where near as ominous as a hockey mask... even if it does do the only decent acting in the movie.

Just about every adult character lurks at some point so it can be implied they maybe are the killer. Christopher George does it best... and by "best" I mean "hammiest."Linnea Quigley shows up here, looking far too young to open her shirt up in a movie and Vanna White has a role but doesn't even get a close up. In fact, she's almost always shot from the back, looking away from the camera (it's like she knew it'd come back to haunt her one day). The whole mess is so inexpertly shot and edited it's hardly worth watching.

Wait that's not entirely true. The painful, awful "Graduation Day Blues" singalong has to be seen. Then mocked. The fact that it's followed by a Rollerdisco dance scene is just icing on the cake. Between the incredibly dated 80s music and the score's cues that are stolen straight from "Psycho," it'll make your ears bleed, this one.

As an artifact of the times it's worth a watch and the story holds together better than some of the slashers of the era, but on the whole there's not much to recommend here.