Thursday, September 29, 2011

It's a tasty October with 31 Flavors of Horror

Are you ready for October? Those of us who love our scary movies are, and here at Big Lug Land we are no different. As many general film review sites, and horror specific ones, I'm ramping up and getting ready to bring you horror reviews for every single day of October. 31 flavors for 31 days, and it's going to be a real treat. I took a crack at doing this two years ago and loved my "31 Horror Movie October," but 2010 wasn't as accommodating. This year I am ready to hit the ground running, up to my eyeballs in scary movies!

I've been chipping away at the whole Friday the 13th series for you, and slogged through the Resident Evil series, suffering through every big, blown-up beastie and flash of Milla Jovovich's naughty bits.

I can't wait to share with you all the goodies I've got in store. I can't promise they'll all be as... drippy as my ice cream icon for the month, but hopefully you'll find them as tasty!

Watch this space because the fun starts this Saturday!

Monday, September 26, 2011

One A Week Reviews #38: UFOs Do Not Exist! The Grand Deception and Cover Up of the UFO Phenomenon

Reviewed for Exploitation Retrospect - this is such a no-go I'm mostly just posting my review to amuse and warn you off watching this claptrap...

Here's what I've always thought about conspiracy theories: If you really were on the path of hushed-up secret knowledge the powerful don't want you revealing, chances are good they would have shut your fat ass up long ago.

That said, for whatever reason, images of these big gray, blank-eyed aliens and the thought they might actually exist gives me no end of the heebie-jeebies...

This is not really a movie or a documentary. Bill Knell is some sort of paranormal researcher who's created a slide show assembled of third-hand stories, historical anecdotes, and huge leaps of logic. The tinny audio requires paying close attention, and he doesn't even edit his verbal stumblings.

For starters, the running time is actually 2 hours, not the 250 minutes claimed on the packaging. Why misrepresent it? If you can't even be honest about something as simple as that how can you be seen as credible about anything else? Blurry video, scanned photos, and paranoia do not a case make. He runs through his “credits,” but claiming appearances on public access shows and A Current Affair are kinda... well, cheesy. “I'm a guy who loves true stories of the paranormal.” (Sure, you are, sweetie. Sure you are....) If he were a younger man I wouldn't hesitate to assume he pieced this together in his mother's basement. However, I'd expect a younger man to be more technically adept. The awful pictures are oddly hypnotic. Sometimes you can't tell if it's an alien or just another grumpy old man in them, so bad is the image quality.

One A Week Reviews #37: The Walking Dead Girls!

If you're a fan of Horror cons you're gonna like this one. If you like cute girls who have tattoos, it'll also be up your alley. This review for dvdsnapshot covers a film with a lotta flaws... and a lotta zimbies!


Official Synopsis:

The Walking Dead Girls is a behind-the-scenes look into zombie culture in the United States and the obsession into "Sexy Female Zombies." What is it about Zombie Bimbos or "Zimbies" that are starting to gain the worlds (sic) interest? Why are zombies now in mainstream culture and seen in advertising from JCPenny and Sears? With interviews with zombie master maker George Romero and cult movie star Bruce Campbell from ZomBcon 2010 and so much more. Also with a rare look into the making of a Zombie Pinup Calendar, behind the scenes of "Stripperland." "The Walking Dead Girls" is a sexy look into the zombie phenomenon created by George Romero that is 40 years in the making.

Our Take:

Calling this a "documentary" may be a tad generous, but any movie that opens with Lloyd Kaufman doing a PSA to warn the world of Stripper Zombies can't be all that bad.  However, the sparkling sit-down interview with "Uncle Lloyd" is the high water mark of The Walking Dead Girls. This is a weird mishmash of interviews with zombie genre vets and tattooed cheesecake models posing for a zombie-themed calendar.

The recent glut of zombie movies and books have lead to proms, walks, and societies dedicated to planning a response for the evidently yearned-for zombie apocalypse. That's touched on here as some kind of connective tissue to string together the interviews. Kaufman, George Romero and a surprisingly restrained Linnea Quigley hold court for sit-down conversations, most with the quite game Luna Moon, while other actors are restricted to the convention floor. These are interspersed among conversations with the models of a hybrid Fifties cheesecake-zombie calendar. A lovely bunch of actresses and exotic dancers, hold forth charmingly while painted to look like rotting zombies. One, an adult film performer named Lilith Eve, is the most personable and charming of all the interviewees.  Her charm keeps the surprisingly sour Bruce Campbell - here playing Devil's Advocate in an uncomfortable conversation that'll remind you of the William Shatner "get a life" sketch from Saturday Night Live.

One A Week Reviews #36: It! (1967)

Time for another fun and thorough look at a B-movie, this time one where Roddy McDowell brings some camp...

It's appropriate that It! shares a disc with The Shuttered Room, as it stars with an attic a-fire just like the other film ends with one. We meet assistant museum curator and all around nebbish Arthur Pimm (McDowell) and curator Grove as they find out one of their museum's storehouses has just burned to the ground. Prissy Pimm is acting a little put upon and possibly guilty, but they meet some law types, including a young, future B-movie stalwart Ian McCulloch, at the rubble and try to figure out if anything is salvageable. All that has survived is a somewhat ominous looking statue that Pimm doesn't like at all. Grove tries to read the inscription on it, then somehow winds up dead as soon as Pimm turns his back. The question raised isn't so much "Did the statue do it" as "how'd he do it?" Especially as the arms are in a different position. Being that we then get the title "IT!" shown next to him I think it's a big 10-4.

Pimm heads home to hang out with his Mother, who he brings home "borrowed" jewels for her to wear. We quickly find out that Mother Pimm is a Mother Bates, dessicated and in a rocking chair. Less than 10 minutes in and things are completely whackadoo. Here's where you'll distinctly start thinking "This might just be a good flick."

Pimm was hoping to be named as replacement curator, but instead gets a raise and a new boss. He also finds that our Golem is now transported to the museum.The arms have moved yet again, but one could assume that Pimm, being loco, is imagining all of this. There's some dramatic lightning - this is all getting very Hammer Horror - and then the dishy electrician shows up. Either Pimm or McDowell is gazing at him longingly, and it's a shame when he's almost immediately crushed under the statue. Well, that's what tall, blonde, and dumb gets for blowing smoke in its face. Crazy pants even puts Mummy's necklace away before our cops are called in again. Two deaths in less than 24 hours would seem to make Mr. Pimm suspect number one. Everything is getting delightfully goofy in this flick. While we know he's secretly nuts, he behaves in a manner where everyone is going to conclude he is, even stating outright the unseen can be more real than the seen.

The papers already are having a field day while Pimm is using daddy's death as an opportunity to get close to Ellen (Jill Haworth), Grove's daughter. She's not really into him, thinking he's a bit of a mama's boy (not to mention clearly a repressed homosexual), but she's gonna humor him. That's not gonna end well.

One A Week Reviews #35: The Shuttered Room

This week I'm taking a thorough look at a B-movie on a very fun double feature disc, The Shuttered Room. The title sequence is surprisingly absorbing: A layered shot of lovely Carol Lynley just staring out a windshield, the reflected trees running past between us and her still face, with sputtering jazz propelling us along. Occasionally it splits into layers, making for a jittery effect. A splintered personality excellently depicted. Susannah and her new, older husband Mike (Gig Young) are returning to the old mill. a childhood home that haunts her. Being that this home is on Dunwich Island, a clear tip-off to anyone with even a passing acquaintance with Lovecraft. The story "The Shuttered Room" was evidently a "posthumous collaboration" between HP Lovecraft and August Derleth.

In other words, it's Lovecraft tropes adopted in a bit of a bait'n'switch.

Upon arrival to Dunwich Island they're nearly immediately accosted by Oliver Reed and his band of merry idiots, overacting some juvenile irresponsibility. His characterization is all acting drunk and wearing tight pants. He must've been a wearisome man to have to put up with if he was anything like the role here. He's all about making faces and threatening rape. This bunch of inbred island-folk don't exactly roll out the welcome mat for long-lost daughter Susannah. Uncle Zubulon does his best to shoo 'em off, showing off a maimed compatriot. We already know there's something in a pitiful cabin locked behind a red and fancy door. As the isle seems populated solely with man-children and utter douchebags, whatever is behind there already seems more appealing than they are.

Anyhow, no one's very interested in Susannah claiming her property, not Ethan (Reed) nor Aunt Agatha (Dame Flora Robson). Old, patronizing, paternal hubby only seems to have one personality trait, "bemused," when dealing with young, fresh Lynley. He doesn't seem flexible enough to put up with the cobwebbed, dusty rattrap she's inherited. They're immediately dragged out by "Rapey Reed" to go see Aunt Agatha in her even less appealing watchtower home. She tells 'em that Susannah was sent away so as not to be affected by the Whatley curse. I assume it means she was sent away so as not to turn into a magnificent jackass. Aunt Aggie proves her jerkiness by going out of her way to tell Susannah how horribly her parents died.

For all this running around, they've had a pretty full day. Seems like the only sensible thing to do is unpack and stay in the big, nasty, ramshackle old mill that everyone has told them to get away from as soon as possible. Even more, it's already been proven that the island is populated exclusively with assholes. Anyone smart would head back to the mainland and sanity. Instead, Mike takes off and Susannah wanders around, taking a trip down a very cruddy memory lane. We know she shouldn't be there alone, and everyone in the movie knows she shouldn't be there alone, but Mike and Susannah? Dipshits.

One A Week Reviews #34: The Pyjama Girl Case

Washed-up - and usually alcoholic - American movie stars who couldn't get work in the Seventies were probably beyond grateful for the European film industry.They were still marketable enough with their faded marquee glory to get jobs, and since all the audio was dubbed, more than one soused performance was probably saved. In The Pyjama Girl Case, Ray Milland and Mel Ferrer headline here, and Milland especially looks like he's a couple sheets to the wind in every scene.

The Pyjama Girl Case - based on a sensational Australian murder case from the 1930's - starts when a breezy, lazy day on a Sydney Beach is soured by the discovery of a dead woman. Her face has been burned beyond recognizing, and all the police have to go on are the yellow jammies she was wearing. Ray Milland plays the Inspector, doggedly working to solve the murder, even though it means visiting now-quaint video arcades and stopping peeping toms. The decision is made to display her nude body and destroyed face for a leering, morbid parade of spectators in the hopes someone will recognize her - the film's signature image.

While this is all going on, we also get to know Linda (Dalila Di Lazzaro) as she juggles several relationships in her very complicated love life, starting with Ferrer's character. Will she be the next victim?

(...and thar be possible spoilers ahead!)

Saturday, September 24, 2011

One A Week Reviews #33: Bereavement

Call it "The best looking POS I've ever seen" or "Terrence Malick's The Texas Chainsaw Massacre," Bereavement was an ill-starred review for DVDsnapshot. Blocked by a buggy computer, a buggy blu-ray disc, a death in the family, and other technical difficulties, I hope the review was judged to be worth the weight.


Official Synopsis:
In 1989, a 6-year-old boy is lured into the vehicle of a stranger. The stranger is a serial killer with a tendency for butchering teenage girls. In the basement of a rural Pennsylvania slaughterhouse, he will teach the boy everything he knows. Five years later, teen Allison (Alexandra Daddario of Hall Pass and Percy Jackson & The Olympians: The Lightning Thief) comes to live with her uncle (Michael Biehn of The Terminator) following her parents' death. In time she will discover the boy and his madman mentor and they will all be plunged into an unimaginable evil from which there may be no escape. Nolan Gerard Funk (Deadgirl), Brett Rickaby (The Crazies), Valentina de Angelis (“Gossip Girl”) and John Savage (The Deer Hunter) co-star in this graphic and acclaimed shocker from writer/director Stevan Mena about family, torment, and the nightmare absolution that is Bereavement.

Our Take:
There's an advantage in watching a “prequel” when you haven't seen the movie that inspired it. There may be things staged that retroactively pay off in that film that you miss, but you get to judge it on it's own strengths. However, what do you say about a film that's the story of a six year old being molded into a serial killer?

Well, for starters, Bereavement is coldly gorgeous. Beautifully filmed, with shots chillingly composed, it oozes ominousness from beginning to end. That beginning follows a character following children around in a truck, and eventually snatching one to keep for his own and raise to be a killer. He picks Martin, who can't feel pain, and quickly stops empathizing with others.

Talk about training up a child...

One A Week Reviews #32: Norwegian Ninja

A fun flick reviewed for DVD Snapshot. Weirdly spoofy and retro, like a kind of Nordic Black Dynamite.

Official Synopsis:

A fictionalized account of the most notorious political scandal in Norwegian history, Norwegian Ninja is a deliciously tongue-in-cheek spoof of the Cold War spy movie, with added ninja action. Because, as everyone knows, every story can be made better with ninjas. Blending historical events with his own less-than-historical elements, writer-director Thomas Cappelen Mailing creates the Rushmore of ninja films, a film that wryly questions just how truthful the truth really is. And then sends a ninja to punch the truth in the face.

Our Take:

According to Wikipedia, Arne Treholt was a Norwegian politician and diplomat convicted of treason as a Soviet and Iraqi in “the most serious spy case in the modern history of Norway.” However, the revisionist satire Norwegian Ninja chooses to add another dimension – that he was also a member of the Ninja Force of the King of Norway.

Reclaimed as leader of a crack squad of “Ninjas” who seem more like a Nordic “A-Team,”I suppose this is a bit like an American recasting Alger Hiss as James Bond? If the film's political and satirical dimensions escape you (as they did with this viewer), one can still enjoy the sense of humor, witty eye of eighties detail, and some surprisingly effective CGI as these “GI Svens”of the “Ninjatroppen” defend the Norwegian way of life. The look, however, is frequently more seventies than eighties, but the verve of this film gives it a delightful uniqueness. One set-piece especially, involving an oil-rig, is so creative that any limitations of the computer effects are quickly forgiven.

One A Week Reviews #31: Breath

A beautiful Korean surprise reviewed for - and highly recommended.

A prisoner on death row and a woman who's drawn to his plight go through their own spring, summer, fall and winter of love in Breath, a typically quirky chamber drama by helmer Kim Ki-duk.

Nominated for the Golden Palm at Cannes, this emotional tour-de-force from the world-renowned Korean auteur will sweep you away with restrained passions painted in seasonal colours. Asian star Chen Chang (Red Cliff; Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon) leads an excellent cast that includes a Jung-Woo (The Chaser) and Park Ji-a (The Coast Guard).

Our Take:

It's easy to understand why Breath was nominated for the Palm d'Or at Cannes. Scenes in films are composed to direct the eye where the filmmaker wishes the viewer to look. Kim Ki-duk seems to thrive in oblique composition and scenes that almost engage in misdirection. The subject is frequently happening right outside the frame, off-center, or even the blurry foreground. With a spareness of both visuals and dialogue, this plain quiet movie adds up to be surprisingly rich.

Yeon is a frustrated wife and sculptor who's just discovered her husband is having an affair, and decides on a whim to visit Jang-jin. He's a death row inmate who'd tried to kill himself to avoid his pending execution. Breath is the kind of film that can make a character's affair perfectly clear from the beginning even if not actually confirmed until the half-way point (and that is not a spoiler).

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

One A Week Reviews: An Update

So, I've been off-line a lot lately...

At the beginning of the year I set a simple goal for myself with this blog - to try and knock out one movie review a week. I love writing them, and a few dear souls (you know who you are) are kind enough to enjoy perusing them. Sure, some are re-purposed work from DVD Snapshot and Exploitation Retrospect, but it's still my writing, and it's fun for me. I also set a goal that I'd do 31 Horror reviews for October, which I did a couple years ago and enjoyed immensely.

These were small goals, but I felt they were manageable. Well, the best laid plans of mice and blogs...

I've been a busy boy, with a busy summer and a career change. I moved into social media, which has been demanding and rewarding, but very time consuming. A modicum of free time, and creativity turned primarily in the service of clients, lead to Big Lug Land falling a bit by the wayside. By a tardy Week #30, I'd stalled out completely.

I'll be catching up this week, to bring myself back up to this weekend, which will be #38. As I've been banking some reviews for October over the year, I also plan to engage in the daily October reviews. Many sites do this, and I say the more the merrier! It was fun for me last time I did it, and I regret not joining in last year.

So, Big Lug Land is getting back on schedule, and I'll also be returning to my original purpose for the blog. Opinion and personal pieces along with the reviews I have so much fun writing.

Thank you to everyone who's stuck with me through the many ups and downs lately, especially my Chris, my "Halloween People," and my Twitter peeps. I'm back, and I look forward to properly engaging with all of you again!