Sunday, March 31, 2013

The Tomb (1986): Jay's Movie of the Week #13

Fans of the "B Movie" can approach these genre pictures in many ways. Some like Women in Prison, or the Cinemax-coddled '90s Erotic Thrillers that follow. Others go for the Creature Feature. There are more sub-genres for Bs than can probably be counted. Another way to look at them is by decade. The Drive-in and Grindhouse features of the 60s and 70s are a different creature, but kissing cousins, to the shot on DV/straight to DVD quickies of today.

The 80s, however, had an unusual magic. You start the decade with Cheesecake and Slashers, red-headed stepchildren released to theaters by major studios to pay the bills. Then home video broke and the distribution model shifted to the home market with cable and VHS. It cut the small, regional films out of exhibition. Now cheesy Action Flicks did their heavy lifting in the living room. It's hard to imagine that USA "Up All Night" perennial Sorority Babes at the Slimebowl-O-Rama or Chopping Mall, with its legendary, alluring, lurid box cover illustration of a shopping bag of body parts, actually played theaters.

Coming up at this time were directors who ground out this product then and still do it today. Jim Wynorski, David DeCoteau, and the now deceased Andy Sidaris come to mind.You can argue, with their complicated legacies and declining budgets, if they're artists or craftsmen. You can't deny that they must certainly turn the films in on time and under budget. One must also admit, even if you turn your nose up at "class" or technical quality, they frequently succeed as entertainers.

Nothin' Like an Old Picture of Your Sweetie Playin' in a Band...

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"Chris and the Alumni Jazz Band"

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Curtains: Jay's Movie of the Week #12

Curtains is mostly well-known for being hard to find, never released in the USA on DVD outside of a couple cheap collections. I'd read about it, and seen stills of the creppy, hag-masked killer, but beyond that I'd only ever seen it as a bootleg at conventions. When I came across one of these collections, I knew I had to check it out.

Samantha Eggar is Samantha Sherwood, muse of film director Jonathon Stryker (John Vernon). In order to research a part she gets herself committed to a mental hospital in order to research "Audra," the lead of Stryker's new film. The discouraging dormatory in this snake pit would drive anyone insane, so it's no surprise she escapes once she learns other actresses are being allowed to audition for the part. She's had her ego broken down by the experience, and that news is the final straw. Throughout the film there are several sparring matches, filled with threat and subtext, between the two. In once scene, she finds him after he's bedded another actress. Played only with looks, their whole long and complex dynamic is there. If making this as a slasher hadn't panned out, it could have been a crackling drama.

The film then introduces the six actresses who're off to the weekend in the country to all vie for the part, an idea that practically has murder built into it. Amanda, of the incredibly distasteful fantasy scenarios (a sleazy scene made worse by its payoff) and creepy, doll-infused nightmares, gets murdered before she even gets there by a killer in a hag mask. Rounding out the lucky contestants are Patti (Lynne Griffin), a stand-up comic; the glamorous, difficult Brooke (Linda Thorson), the insecure Christie (Lesleh Donaldson), and bland Laurian and Tara. Five brunettes in a dim, muddy video print of a film does not make it an easy time telling who is who, but the actresses all give distinct performances. Stryker and the rest are a bit surprised when Samantha crashes the party.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Piranha DD: Jay's Movie of the Week #11

A year or so ago I reviewed Piranha 3D, making this a lovely time to pick up where I left off with a viewing of the sequel. Will it have more fish, more gore, and more nudity? Hopefully...

As the first one opened with a witty Richard Dreyfus cameo, so we start here (after a quick recap of the previous proceedings) with an appearance by the now terrifying Gary Busey. There's little here that can possibly be as scary as his crazy, off-kilter stare. Here, backwoods Busey gets to bray loco while investigating a cow carcass filled with Piranha eggs. The fishies make short work of him before moving on to the plot proper. By this point we've also had several abuses of 3D, meaning they're living up to the DD claims.

Plot proper involves The Big Wet, a water park run by Chet and his step-daughter Maddie (Dainelle Panabaker) and some water-certified strippers. It's no stretch to say that the "Adult Pool" filled with naked Russian bimbos is an idea that would work in theory, though once you imagine the likely clientele you're very unlikely to want to hop in. Along with Maddie's summer spent managing her whore-filled Water Park, she's evidently on a quest to lose her maidenhead to either her absolute toodbox of an ex-boyfriend or "the other guy," a dweeb who can't swim.

Our Piranha invasion wastes no time in revving up. They first nibble on Katrina Bowden, who hides what all the extras are showing with discreetly suggested nudity while skinny-dipping with her boyfriend, and Travis - wittily devoured in his own sinking shaggin' wagon. She also gets to rock a pretty effective 3D arc of barf. Bowden really gets to shine here in a short set of scenes, especially a fun sequence involving her and Panabaker on a collapsing dock surrounded by voracious fishies, followed by her disastrous love scene, heavily freighted with vagina dentata anxiety. Fun cameos abound. Gary Busey and Christopher Lloyd deliver wacky, plot-expositioning hamminess, Ving Rhames rocks a pair of rifle legs, and a drunken, womanizing David Hasselhoff steals the show. He's in on the joke, he just doesn't care. Panabaker is a charming actress, though her character is a bit of a blank.

Chet the chump, of course, being a sleazeball must immediately start illegally pumping piranha filled aqua into their waterpark... and there the fun begins... The CGI Piranha are awfully cartoony, but that's unimportant. The gore is what's important, and pretty good. The breasts? Plentiful. All of these are shown to excess. This movie is all cheap thrills. When the big swimmer chow-down happens it's as fast and furious as in the first film, if a little... less? Bouncing breasts substitute for the original's pileup of bodies. There's just a little less gore here than in the first one, and it is missed. The humor and "gotcha" 3D shots almost make up for it. There's some good, tasteless shocks. This flick isn't afraid to kill off characters that would be sacred and untouchable in other films... and then show people taking video of one particular corpse with their smartphones. In the end, it's a disposable, fast-food thrill movie, and you feel kind of sorry for Maddie. While she owns 49% of the water park, she'll have 100% of the legal liability. Thank goodness for a fantasy world where you don't have to deal with the repercussions of actions that'll completely nullify your insurance coverage.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Excision: Jay's Movie of the Week #10

When the gore flashes in Excision, it's hot burgundy against ice white and neon blue; the high style to which a Lady Gaga video aspires. It's the stunning signature of an accomplished debut by Richard Bates, Jr. Excision is smart, funny, and unforgettable. Teen Pauline's unhappy in her oppressive home life with a controlling mother (Traci Lords), milquetoast father (Peter Bart), and favored, seriously ill sister (Ariel Winter). She's long since resigned herself to not fitting in, and her aspirations of being a surgeon are perhaps a tad unrealistic. In her dreams though, she's a high fashion, perfect empress of a blood-soaked realm of body parts. Pale and oily, pimply with limp hair, only her veneers give her away as the celebrity beauty queen we know. The first half of Excision is her quest to lose her virginity... during her period. Her single minded pursuit of the boy she targets, and her inner life of death and blood, hint at what's to come.

If you've dismissed Annalynne McCord as just another pretty face, she's here to school. I really only knew her from her bold, fun turn on Nip/Tuck. Terrific there, she's brilliant here. Her Pauline is too smart for her own good, and a budding psycho to boot. It's a good part and she runs with it, willing to sacrifice vanity for the opportunity. Her glamorous public image, echoed in the fantasy scenes here. makes for sharp contrast against Pauline's pimply, homely reality. She has no social skills and you almost forget amongst all the gore that she's dryly hilarious.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Jay's (Belated) Movie of the Week #9

Thanks to having a lot going on in life, I completely missed last weekend's post. The few before it were also pretty tardy. What can I say? It's horrible of me in terms of keeping any kind of editorial calendar. But sometimes, other things win out. On the up side, I have been making more time to read, so here's my directive for my Movie of the Week #9:

Take a break.
Read a book. Read a graphic novel. Real a self-published novel. Read a classic and show up your sweetie.

That last one has nothing to do with Chris tackling "Ulysses," I swear...

See you in a few days for Week #10