Sunday, January 30, 2011

Howling II:...You're Sister's a Werewolf (1985)

Cinematic failure is something that has always drawn me in. There's just something about movies, no matter how good or bad they did in the box office, that make you wonder "why was this made?" and "who though this was a good idea?" Maybe it's also because I'm really into Nathan Rabin's hilarious and at times poignant A.V. Club series "My Year of Flops" (and the book it begot), but there's just something about movies like "The Howling II:...You're Sister's a Werewolf" that make me watch them more than once, even though they are all around bad movies.

I really don't know why studios thought it would be a good idea to do a sequel to "The Howling." It's a great horror film, and was a hit, but nothing about it really screamed "sequel." The same could be of "The Exorcist", but that's a whole different story all together. Nonetheless, 1985-that year that gave the world the likes of "Re-Animator", "Return of the Living Dead", "Demons" and many others-was the year America got to see the sequel to "The Howling" that only some horror fans were clamoring for.

"Howling II" takes place right after the events of the original (well duh.) After a rather ridiculous monologue from Steffan Crosscoe (Christopher Lee, in what he calls his worst performance), we are witness to the funeral of Karen White (the newswoman from the original.) Well, Stefan lets her brother Ben (Reb Brown) and his girlfriend Jenny Templeton (Annie McEnroe) that she's not really dead, but actually a werewolf, and that she must be killed via titanium stake to the heart. After seeing Karen rising from her coffin as a werewolf, our trio head to Transylvania. Why? Because a covenant/cult of werewolves is about to awaken the ancient, powerful werewolf queen Striba (Sybil Danning.)

Though fans of bad movies will find much to enjoy here, "Howling II" is a disastrous sequel. Whilst the humor in the original was sly and knowing, the humor in the sequel is forced and tiresome. From bad sex gags to Christopher Lee in New-Wave glasses to a dwarf werewolf hunter, the humor ends up provoking more eye rolls than actual laughs. The acting is also suspect. Lee tries his damnedest to wring something worthwhile here, but the usual class he brings is lost here thanks to the bad script. Brown and McEnroe meanwhile, are all around bad, and Danning is more hilariously bad as Striba (who had a tendency to get naked and wear dominatrix gear), feeling too much like a forced attempt at making a campy villain than anything else. Even the direction from Philippe Mora (whose credits include "Mad Dog Morgan", "The Beast Within" and "Communion", among others) is lacking, mostly feeling flat and uninspired in spite of a few decent moments of atmosphere.

To be fair, there are a few bright spots (a flying bat creature, some nifty gore effects, a few almost Hammer horror likes moments of atmosphere, and a really fun end credits montage), but "Howling II" can only come recommended to fans of cinematic schlock, and while I tend to champion cinematic schlock, this proved to be a not particularly fun experience.

Needless to say, I've seen the movie twice (maybe there's something wrong with me), so maybe I'll watch it again. As I said, there's sometimes something appealing about major studio failures, even if they aren't particularly entertaining. 1985 was a fortuitous year for the horror genre, but this is not one of the highlights.

Rating: 3.5/10

There were five more sequels after this one, with only Howling III: The Marsupials" (which was also directed by Mora) getting a theatrical release. Afterward, it was straight to VHS town with "Howling IV: The Original Nightmare", "Howling V: The Rebirth", "Howling VI: The Freaks" and "Howling: New Moon Rising." Interestingly enough, only "New Moon Rising" hasn't gotten the DVD treatment, though it's apparently the worst of the series.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Resident Evil: Afterlife (2010)

I normally don't like the term "this movie is critic proof", because let's face it, no film will ever be immune to criticism, and I don't just mean film critics. Everyone is really a critic when you get down to it.

That out of the way, the "Resident Evil" franchise is the kind of thing that's the very definition of being critic proof. Like the "Saw" and "Underworld" franchises, they are a glossy, flashy and for the most part empty series of films that will always receive a critical drubbing, but they have a built in fan base that loves them, especially on the big screen. In the world of the "Resident Evil" franchise, only a superficial similarity to the video games that started it all is had (it's really "Resident Evil" fan fiction put into movie form when you think about it), the acting and dialogue is largely poor, the action is hyper-edited, and the whole series is an empty. So in short, it's perfect for those who prefer movies on the high-calorie junk food variety, so I have nothing against it really. Hell, I liked the last entry in the series, which understood fully that it was a low-aspirations B-Movie and nothing more. So while it's not the worst entry in the series (Hello "Apocalypse"), the latest entry in the franchise suggests something that is beginning to get long in the tooth.

Taking place after the events of "Extinction", "Afterlife" finds our heroine Alice (Milla Jovovich)
and her army of clones infiltrating an Umbrella Corporation unit in an attempt to take out Albert Wesker (Shawn Roberts), only to have Albert inject her with a serum that takes away her super powers. In the process, she runs into an old friend in Claire Redfield (Ali Larter), whose undergone amnesia. Thankfully, they find refuge with a group of survivors in L.A., which include Clair's brother Chris ("Prison Break" star Wentworth Miller). However, they soon realize that their safe haven isn't all that safe, what with underground mutants, flesh hungry zombies and a masked monster with a huge axe all after them, and that the place known as Arcadia (no, not the Duran Duran side project) might not be what they hope it is.

Got all that? Good. Sure sounds dumb, doesn't it? It sure is. To be fair, I do enjoy cinematic junk food, and there are a few good things about this. Jovovich for one, seems to be getting more comfortable as the ridiculously bad ass Alice, and Kim Coates (from the all around awesome FX series "Sons of Anarchy") is a total blast as the sleazy movie producer Bennett. At the same time, I dug the industrial rock score by tomandandy, and I even kinda like how it rips off other movies. This is the kind of movie that unapologetic knocks off other, far superior movies ("Dawn of the Dead" and it's remake, "The Decent" and "The Matrix" for example) so shamelessly that you can't help but go with it and say "okay then."

As I said though, this is not a particularly good movie, and is only sporadically entertaining one at that. Sure, there are moments that made me go "Okay, that was kinda cool", but those were only moments, as there isn't really anything here that's really engaging. It's just kind of there, with a lot of flashy editing techniques and action scenes, but little else. Scenes like Chris meeting his sister are clearly meant to appease fans of the games (and the movies) as well as gain some sort of emotional resonance, but they just can't. Also, I know it's useless to complain about bad acting in a movie like this, but dammit if Shawn Roberts is bad as Wesker. He grits his teeth and talks in an evil tone, and doesn't for one moment do anything to make him a very convincing villain. Another thing that needs to be brought up is the constant Slow-Motion shots, which are used to the point that it almost feels like you are watching someone parody the use of slow motion in a movie. It's no wonder the film feels shorter than it actually is.

As I said, it feels weird criticizing something that truly does feel critic proof, but in spite of a few fun things, "Resident Evil: Extinction" is a rather pointless sequel that barely furthers whatever dumb story there is, and feels like a franchise that's beginning to run on fumes. I wouldn't be surprised if even fans of the previous movies felt the same way.

Rating: 4/10

Monday, January 24, 2011

Dead & Deader (2006) and Devil's Den (2006)

Like many, I'm a fan of Quentin Tarantino. I am not however, a fan of those that try to imitate him. For years, many a director and writer has tried and failed to copy the pulpy dialogue and operatic violence of Tarantino's work, but has come up short (I'm looking at you, Troy Duffy). Well, you can add the 2006 films "Dead & Deader" and "Devil's Den" as examples of horror films that try to be like the master.

"Deader" tells the tale of Lt. Bobby Quinn (Dean Cain), who comes back as a walking, talking and fighting corpse-and to make matters worse, many of his old army pals are zombies. So, can Quinn find out why this is all happening (and why he's dead but not quite) with the help of his new pals in cook Judson (Guy Torry) and hot nerd girl Holly (Susan Ward)?

If "Dead & Deader" has anything going for it, it's the effective and messy gore FX (surprising considering it started out as a TV movie-but it was from Sy-Fy, who let their movies get away with more in the gore department) and the presence of fine character actors like Peter Greene adding a little something to it. Sadly, much of "Dead & Deader" is yet another forgettable zombie-comedy that came out after "Shaun of the Dead." Only a few performances ring true, with Cain coming off as even blander than usual, and Torry being incredibly over the top and annoying as Judson. The biggest fault though, is the script, with the dialogue coming off like banter from an internet message board. I'm sorry, but a lot of movies with people talking about things like "Star Wars", "Dawn of the Dead" (both) and "James Bond" in attempts to gain geek cred are just sad.

On the other side of the coin is "Devil's Den", which is essentially a "From Dusk 'Til Dawn" knock-off. In this film, three strangers-Quinn (Devon Sawa), Caitlin (Kelly Hu) and Leonard (Ken Foree) who end up in a strip club that's inhabited by flesh eating demons. To make matters worse, Caitlin is after Quinn, and an all around hot woman named Candy (Karen Maxwell) isn't all that she seems...

Apart from the fact that it's a knock-off of a film Tarantino wrote and co-starred in, "Devil's Den" is guilty of a really forced bit revolving Zatoichi the Blind Samurai that's so painfully obvious it hurts. Apart from that, "Devil's Den" is a shockingly decent time waster that thankfully doesn't spend too much time trying to be like Tarantino or obtain geek cred. The acting (save for Sawa, whose just annoying) is good, the boobs and blood are ample, and the humor is hit and miss, though there are some funny moments and one liners along the way.

As a whole, "Dead & Deader" tries way too hard and just comes off as obnoxious, while "Devil's Den" is a not too memorable but watchable Saturday afternoon horror movie.

Rating: Dead and Deader-3/10
Devil's Den-5.5/10

"Den" was directed by Jeff Burr, whose credits include "Leatherface: Texas Chainsaw Massacre 3", "The Stepfather 2", the anthology film "The Offspring", "Puppet Master 4" and the horror/war movie hybrid "Straight into Darkness."

"Deader" was co-written by Mark A. Altman, whose credits include "Free Enterprise", the notoriously bad Uwe Boll film "House of the Dead" and it's sequel, "All Souls Day: Dia de los Muertos", the vampire film "The Thirst", and the supernatural horror film "Room 6."

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Hell Of The Living Dead (1980)

They say one man's trash is another man's treasure. For me, one of those "treasures" is Bruno Mattei's 1980 zombie flick "Hell of the Living Dead." An ineptly acted, written (by usual cohort Claudio Fragasso) and directed film to say the least, it still manages to find a place in my heart in spite of and because of its many deficiencies.

After a chemical leak in Papua New Guinea turns the staff into flesh eating zombies, a S.W.A.T. team lead by Mike London (José Gras) are sent to investigate the scene. In the process, they run into a TV News team lead by the gorgeous Lia Rousseau (Margit Evelyn Newton), only to discover that the entire country has been infected with this undead plague? Can they escape before it's too late? What exactly was going on in this chemical plant?

From beginning to end, "Hell of the Living Dead" is an exercise in cinematic incompetence. From the random, completely inappropriate stock footage from nature documentaries and mondo films, the "borrowed" music from Goblin, to the hilariously bad dubbed in dialogue (which doesn't seem to take itself seriously), this is the antithesis of good film making. It's like the director of "Robot Monster" traveled to the future and directed a zombie movie in Italy. And you know what? I can't help but enjoy it.

It's a bad movie, but dammit if it isn't fun. While it could use a little trimming (103 minutes is a bit long), the movie is never boring. Its energetic enough, with all of the poor directorial choices and poor writing actually enhancing the experience. The gore is abundant and pretty effective too (dig that tongue ripping followed by eye gouging through the mouth), as are the gnarly zombie effects. I quite like the dead here, as they are like a mix of the standard Romero style zombie, but with an almost ghostly appearance to them. Plus, it still provides a few curve balls along the way that should keep the viewer interested. Among them
  • Franco Garofalo as S.W.A.T. team member Zontaro. Seriously, the man is so over the top it's amazing. You feel like you're watching a movie with a man hoped up on cocaine, daring zombies to bite him while blasting away at them.
  • An adorable kitten leaping out of a corpse. Hey, at least it was a kitten.
  • In the show stopping moment, one of the S.W.A.T. guys finds a ballerina outfit, and what do ya know, decides to wear it. Why? It's never explained why. He just does. That pretty much defines the movie too: Little of this make a whole lot of sense, but it just happens, and you go with it.
In the field of Italian horror, this is not one of the best examples. However, I still find a place for it in my heart, bad movie making and all. If anything, it deserves two ratings

As an actual movie: 0.5/10

As a so bad it's good movie: 7.5/10

Hell Of The Living Dead (1980)

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Takers (2010)

It's kind of weird to me that I'm reviewing a heist movie in a blog largely dedicated to horror and low budget dreck, but here I am. I also meant to review this movie in September of last year, but hey, time just slips on by, and I try not to review too many movies while they are in theaters, even after I have seen them. So with all of that in mind, lets get to the review.

In the universe of "Takers", the life of a bank robber is apparently a glamorous one, especially for Gordon Cozier (Idris Elba), John Rahway (Paul Walker), A.J. (Hayden Christensen) and brothers Jake (Michael Ealy) and Jessie Attica (Chris Brown.) Well, a former member of their team Ghost (Tip "T.I." Harris) comes into the picture, and wants them to strike an armored car carrying $20 million. Thing is, Ghost isn't exactly the most trustworthy man, as he seems to be none to pleased that Jake is dating his ex-girlfriend Lilly (Zoe Saldana), and that he was pretty much ignored by the team whilst he was in jail. To make matters worse, officer Jake Welles (Matt Dillon) and his partner Eddie Hatcher (Jay Hernandez) are obsessed with stopping this heist, and will stop at nothing to apprehend them.

Among it's flaws, the biggest thing holding back "Takers" is the script. While the whole thing is essentially one gigantic, walking cliche, there are too many sub-plots and poor attempts at characterization to make you care too much about it. The audience is given things like Gordon's crackhead sister Naomi (Marianne Jean-Baptiste), Jake's relationship with his daughter Sunday (Isa Briones) and the triangle with Lilly, Ghost and Jake, but they are all too underwritten to the point of feeling secondary and ill-conceived. It also doesn't help that the whole thing feels familiar to a fault. It's essentially a poor man's version of "Heat", with a little bit of "True Romance" and a whole lot of modern day editing techniques on display.

It also doesn't help that so few of the performances are any good. While Elba, Ealy and Baptiste do fine work, Dillon just seems bored, like he'd rather be in something else (plus, he already did a heist movie before this.) Walker and Christensen try their best with the material-with the latter clearly being the only actor who seems to realize how ridiculous the whole thing is-but the script really doesn't offer them much. Then there's T.I. and Chris Brown, who are just terrible. Brown overacts like you wouldn't believe, while T.I.'s performance barely even registers, and is filled with poor line reading that ended up generating more chuckles than anything else. Finally, I can't really say anything about Saldana, because she's barely even in the movie.

To be fair, not everything in the movie is a bust. The score by Paul Haslinger (a former member of Tangerine Dream) is a lot of fun, especially in the scenes where it does it's best Ennio Morricone impersonation, and a few tunes in the soundtrack aren't bad. Plus, there are a few fun action scenes, though one in particular stands out, and it's a parkour inspired chase scene involving Chris Brown that is, to put it bluntly, pretty awesome. It's the highlight of the movie, and actually kept me on the edge of my seat. Sadly, that's not enough to save the movie.

In the end, "Takers" clearly wants to be a tough, cool heist movie, but it's just so erratically acted, directed and edited to engage, and mostly too poorly written to warrant recommendation. A shame really, as there's a good movie in here somewhere. Too bad that doesn't happen in the end. Nothing terrible, but nothing worthy of note either.

Rating: 4/10

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Vampire Journals (1997)

I could probably complain about the way the vampire has changed as far as pop culture is concerned, but lets face it-the vampire changes with the times regularly. From Hammer's Gothic yarns, the Lesbian Vampire craze of the 70's, the hip vampires of the 80's, and the action vampire of the 90's and 00's, the vampire will always undergo a change. The current "Twilight" and related titles craze will die out eventually, and the vampire will go through another change.

Oh, and then there's the Gothic Romantic vampire of Anne Rice. I was never really a fan of Rice to be honest. I tried reading "Interview With a Vampire" and another book of hers with a title I forget, but I just found it kinda whatever to be honest. Nonetheless, through much of the 90's Vampires were seen as tragic, almost romantic figures, and you can thank Rice (and maybe Coppola) for that. Said influence can be seen in Ted Nicolau's film "Vampire Journals", which has plenty of brooding and bloodshed. None of the homoeroticism, but I guess Rice fans can't always get everything they want.

Zachary (David Gunn) isn't a bad guy. Sure, he's a vampire, but he doesn't want to be. He also kills vampires, hoping to eradicate the bloodline or whatever. Also, he is fighting for a young pianist named Sofia (Kristen Cerre), who has also caught the eye of Ash (Jonathon Morris), who is the leader of an aristocratic coven in Budapest.

I will give "Vampire Journals" credit for this-it's very well directed, and has atmosphere by the ton. Nicolau clearly has an eye for location, and he milks it for every bit of it's worth. Also, it's one of the last Full Moon titles that actually resembled something of a classy production-okay, about as classy as a direct to video movie can get, but class nonetheless. Things like that always made Full Moon stand out from it's other compatriots that flooded the video market.

The problem though, is that apart from Morris, nobody here is a good actor. Gunn in particular is bad, and delivers most of his dialogue in long, drawn out and irritating monologues that feel like they never end. Every time the character of Zachary tells us about how he is a tormented soul or his war against other vampires, I just wanted him to shut the fuck up. It also doesn't help that none of the vampires here are that frightening. I know, it's influenced by Anne Rice, but none of them are that interesting except for Ash. In fact, they all look more like people in Bauhaus tribute bands than they do vampires, and it's hard not to laugh at the pancake make-up wearing actors trying to be scary. Then again, as I said, I was never a Rice fan, so maybe that's just my own prejudices talking.

"Vampire Journals" isn't a total waste of time, but it's not anything that will win anyone over other than Full Moon devotees. Interestingly enough, the last entry in the "Subspecies" franchise was a crossover with this movie, and saw the vampire Ash returning.

Rating: 5/10

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Smokin' Aces 2: Assassin's Ball (2010)

In the world of straight to DVD movies, you have to really be careful. Sure, you'll sometimes run into something that wins you over, but more often than not that's not the case. The same can rarely be said for straight to DVD sequels of movies that played in theaters. While there have been exceptions (the sequels for "Undisputed" for example), what you normally get is a cynical cash grab and nothing more. So, does the sequel to "Smokin' Aces" fit into the cynical cash grab category? Answer: Yes. Yes it does.

Walter Weed (Tom Berenger) is a desk jockey without much going on in his life. That is, until the FBI finds out that there's a plot to assassinate him. Among them are sexy Ariella Martinez (Martha Higareda), who has a unique way of dispatching villains, the tough as nails Finbar McTeague (Vinnie Jones), and the Neo-Nazi family the Tremors. So, why are they after him? Or is all as it seems?

To be fair, "Smokin' Aces 2" does have a game cast whose up for anything. Sure, it's not the high profile case of the original, but it's the best the straight to DVD market can get. The problem though, is that many of them feel underused. Sure, Jones and Higareda do a good job, but we aren't given much time to learn anything about them other than they had a thing going on, and the plot twist nearing the end. Speaking of which, said twist is just terrible on so many levels. There were complaints about the twist in the original movie, but that was nothing compared to the head smacker we get here. Hell, they would have almost gotten away with it if there was something there to care about.

That's the films biggest problem. There's nothing there. I know, it's a direct to DVD sequel, but it doesn't do anything to justify it's existence. Hell, it's obvious because it tries so many attempts at being subversive and edgy, but it tries way to hard in that case. There's nothing I hate more than poor attempts at wackiness and edginess, and when that's all the movie has going for it, why should anybody care? The moment we got exploding circus clowns and a shootout set to the music of Evanescence, I just about gave up.

In the world of direct to DVD sequels, you can certainly do worse than this. That's no excuse for the movie though, which is nothing more than a heartless trudge of excess and pointlessness that offers very little to the table.

Rating: 2/10

Monday, January 10, 2011

The Torture Chamber of Dr. Sadism (1967)

There's just something about seeing Christopher Lee in a horror movie that appeals to me. The movie can be great ("The Wicker Man", "The Devil Rides Out"), good ("Dracula Has Risen From the Grave", "The House that Dripped Blood"), terrible (the recent "Season of the Witch") and the bad but unbelievable ("Howling II"), if he's in it, I'll most likely watch it. Thankfully, the Greek picture "The Torture Chamber of Dr Sadism" fits in the good category.

Lee plays Count Regula (har har), who is killed early on for killing twelve virgin women and using their blood to try and become immortal, and vows revenge on those responsible. Thirty five years later, the decedents of those responsible just happen to get an invite to the castle that once belonged to the count. It turns out that they've been invited by Anatol (Carl Lange), who wants to revive the count.

"The Torture Chamber of Dr. Sadism" is a great looking and all around atmospheric tale of Gothic horror that doesn't bend many rules, but proves to be some fine entertainment. Much of it plays like a mix of Mario Bava and the Edgar Allan Poe films of Roger Corman (indeed, the film is an extremely loose adaptation of "The Pit and the Pendulum"), with enough garish colors, medieval torture devices and nefarious plots to make fans of these kinds of movies happy. It also makes great use of paintings, with the images of Hieronymus Bosch and surreal, almost Salvador Dali like works filling the Count's castle. Then there's Lee himself. While he's only there for the beginning and the films third act, He makes the most of his presence, delivering the kind of classy but ghoulish performance that he's known for, and it's great to see him do his thing, no matter how long he's there.

If there are any problems, it's that our heroes aren't all that interesting. Les Barker is just boring as the man Roger Mont Elise, sleepwalking through his role without bothering to eve try and make some sort of impact, while Karin Dor Baroness Lilian Brabon as just feels underwritten. I know, she's the thirteenth victim that escaped, but that's all we know. She and Elise are just connected through relation to the people Regula wants payback on. There's nothing else to them, so it's hard to care too much about their fates.

Still, "Torture Chamber" makes for a fine little gem that's not quite a diamond in the rough, but it certainly worth watching, especially for fans of Gothic horror. After days of bad to mediocre movies, it was just what the doctor ordered for me.

Rating: 7.5/10

Friday, January 7, 2011

Judgment Night (1993)

It's kind of weird for me to review 1993's "Judgment Night." When it comes to action movies, I tend to review low rent films that go direct to DVD, and not major studio fare from the 90's that most people have forgotten. Well, I guess times change or something. Or maybe I'm just bored.

Anyways, the film deals with four guys-Frank Wyatt (Emilio Estevez), his brother John (Stephen Dorff), and his pals Mike Peterson (Cube Gooding jr.) and Ray Cochran (Jeremy Piven) on their way to a boxing match. Well, they get stuck in heavy traffic, and decide to take a wrong turn. Well, said wrong turn ends up in gang-land so to speak, and they end up seeing a brutal murder perpetrated by the ruthless Fallon (Dennis Leary), so they find themselves on the run from Fallon and his thugs.

There isn't much to say about "Judgment Night." The acting is fine, with Estevez playing the everyman whose pushed to the limit (leading to an obvious tribute to "Heart of Darkness"-even more obvious when you consider who his dad is), Cuba being the loose cannon of the bunch, Piven being the "smooth talker", and Dorff the trouble making younger brother. Granted, they're all people we've seen before, but they play them well.The action scenes are also handled well, with each one handled with at least a modicum of suspense, and while not gory, can at least be attention grabbing.

As far as flaws go, Leary isn't so impressive. Granted, he's proven to be a good actor, but here he's just playing a sadistic villain version of his stand-up persona. He has his moments, but I'm amazed he didn't talk about being the alpha-male while smoking cigarettesThe big problem I had with the movie is the fact that you've seen this all before. Yeah, there's a little suspense, but you pretty much know how this is all going to end, what's going to happen to most of the characters, and whose going to come out on top. It's not boring, but it's not too exciting either.

So, is "Judgment Night" worth watching? Well, for a boring weekend afternoon, it's a decent enough time waster, and has it's moments, even though it's been done better. Whether or not that sounds like a recommendation is totally up to you.

Rating: 5.5/10

Before "Judgment Night", director Stephen Hopkins did "A Nightmare on Elm Street: The Dream Child" and "Predator 2." His other efforts include a segment for the TV movie "Vault of Horror I", the Jeff Bridges/Tommy Lee-Jones effort "Blown Away", The Val Kilmer/Michael Douglas venture "The Ghost in the Darkness", and the all around bad "Lost in Space" movie. His most recent genre venture was the forgettable at best "The Reaping."

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

High Planes Invaders (2009)

Hey kids! Gather your friends and family, because it's time for yet for another piece of B-Movie Schlock from the folks at RHI Entertainment and Viviendi. Granted, guys like Genius Entertainment used to release some of these (under the "Maneater" series), but I don't know what happened to them, so now Viviendi releases some of the stuff RHI makes. Or something like that. Now onto the show, with "High Planes Invaders."

In a small town in 1892, train robber Sam Danville (James Marster, who I'm sure some readers may recognize) has been arrested by the Annie Oakley like Rose Hilridge (Sanny Van Heteren) and is about to meet the end of a rope. Well, some big alien creatures addicted to uranium come crashing in, canceling this execution and wiping out most of the population. Now the survivors must band together to stop them. Can Sam get back together with his ex-love Abigail (Cindy Sampson)? Will Rose get him in the end? Why are these aliens there? How can these insect like creatures make a huge spaceship?

Trying to be a mix of "Starship Troopers" and "Assault on Precinct 13" with average Western elements, "High Planes Invaders" could have been a lot worse, though that's not saying a lot. Marster does a fine job as a Gloomy Gus type ridden with guilt, some of the more humorous moments work, and thankfully, director Kristoffer Tabori never reaches over his budgetary limits. However, the film never takes full advantage of it's potential. Sure, it's a made for TV movie, but the idea of mixing a western with a campy Science Fiction film is really appealing. Yet, it just ends up feeling kind of there, rarely if ever doing anything that interesting.

Another liability I feel the movies has is Sanny Van Heteren as Rose. The character is clearly meant to be a tough, booze swilling anti-hero, but Heteren plays the character far too broadly, making the character more of a caricture, and an annoying one at that. Most of the scenes involving her just made me roll my eyes and wish they'd just knock her off already.

"High Planes Invaders" isn't really an offensive movie by any stretch of the imagination, but it's nothing particularly noteworthy. It's just kinda there. Best viewed if it's on TV, but don't expect much.

Rating: 4.5/10

Monday, January 3, 2011

Legacy Of Blood (1971)

I remember reading a review of "Dead Noon" that saw the reviewer (In this case, Foywonder from Dread Central) saying two days ago, he saw that movie, and the next day he saw "The Spirit", so he was a man in need of a good movie. Instead of offering the usual historical tidbits and whatnot, I want to say that after sitting through the remake of "And Soon the Darkness", "New Years Evil" and now "Legacy of Blood", I too need a good movie. I don't even feel like telling people about micro-budget horror movies from the 70's. I just want a good, or at least watchable, movie.

When Christopher Dean (John Carradine) dead and gone, the four heirs must stay at the family estate so they can collect his last will and testament of $140 million. Well, someone begins knocking them off. So, who is it? Is it Igor (yes, that's really the character's name, and he's played by Buck Kartalian)? Perhaps it's Elga (Ivy Bethune)? Or could it be that Christopher isn't really dead?

One of the very few notable things about "Legacy of Blood" is that it has a cast of veteran character and television actors, which is a bit surprising to me considering that this is a movie clearly made for next to nothing. You'd expect a group of amateurs and then Mr. Carradine. Apart from that, the entire cast (except for Kartailan and Bethune) are all terrible, delivering their dialogue with little to no conviction, and are clearly embarrassed to be in this movie.

Apart from that, there's nothing in this movie to write home about. Sure, the cheap 70's gore effects have a charm, and there's a few seedy details to the plot (including an incestuous relationship and Igor's sadomasochistic tendencies), but it's all directed and acted with little to no energy. In fact, the movie itself is boring, with most of the action being replaced by lots and lots of talk, and little else. Even the score by Jaime Mendoza-Nava is lacking, as it largely sounds like it would be more fitting for a television movie from that era.

As it stands, "Legacy of Blood" is the kind of cheap, no budget exploitation that promises all kinds of lurid thrills, but offers tedium instead. For cinematic masochists only.

Rating: 1/10

Saturday, January 1, 2011

New Years Evil (1980)

Slasher movies love to take advantage of a particular holiday. "My Bloody Valentine", "April Fools Day", "Silent Night, Deadly Night"-the list goes on really. Well, since it's New Year's Day, let's take a look at this 1980 entry that deals with that holiday, produced by none other than Globus and Galen.

It's time for the year to end, and who better to host the festivities than Diane "Blaze" Sullivan (Roz Kelly, aka Pinky Tuscadero herself), a clearly aging, wanna be "New Wave" Dick Clark? Well, it seems that someone's killing people whenever the clock hits midnight in each timezone, and he's letting Sullivan know this-and that she's on the shitlist.

To be fair, "New Years Evil" does have two fairly suspenseful scenes (a girl being pursued by the killer in the woods and an effective bit with an elevator), and its hard not to appreciate the nods it makes to other genre films-including a double bill of "Blood Bath" and "Blood Feast", the clear ode to biker films. As a whole though, it's a pretty bad movie. The "New Wave" music ranges from really bad Punk Rock to the title song, which is more Heavy Metal than anything else. It's also a rather dull affair, with no really interesting kills on display, and two of them being off screen. Then there's the killer's motive, which is pretty much your typical "I hate women" bullshit.

Then there's the character of Diane, whose not the least bit sympathetic, and doesn't even get a good "Final Girl" moment. In fact, she's just a vapid, shallow celebrity who offers nothing in the way of interesting characterization, yet somehow I'm supposed to care about her. It doesn't help that Roz Kelly (as well as pretty much everyone else here) does a pretty bad job here, though in her defense, she isn't really given very much to work with.

In the world of 80's slasher movies, "New Year's Evil" isn't one of the worst entries, but it's far from one of the best. Unless you happen to be a hardcore slasher fan, there isn't any reason to see this.

Rating: 3/10