Saturday, April 30, 2011

Blood Out (2011)

I consider myself a nice guy when it comes to my reviews. I try to be fair to movies, I really do. I sometimes even feel bad for ripping a movie to pieces. Well, that's not the case here, as "Blood Out" pretty much deserves the critical drubbing it's been receiving. The directorial debut of producer Jason Hewitt (whose credits include fun but flawed due to studio interference "Cabin Fever 2" and the so bad it's hilarious "Wrong Side of Town"), this movie released on DVD by (who else) Lionsgate is an all around bad film.

"Hellboy 2" and "Blade II" actor Luke Goss plays policeman Michael Savion, whose brother is killed by crime lord Zed (Vinnie Jones.) So, what does he do? Why, he does what anyone would do when his brother is killed-he gets tattoos and becomes a vigilante. In the process, he ends up working for another crime lord named Elias (Tamar Hassan) and joins his gang-not knowing that Elias was also responsible for his brothers death. Oh, and he gets "involved" with tough but hot girl Anya (AnnaLynne McCord) and ends up in a fight sponsored by Arturo (Val Kilmer, continuing his ongoing slump.) Other things happen, but to be honest, I stopped caring pretty fast.

One of the things that's noticeable about "Blood Out" is the DVD box. It advertises that Val Kilmer, Vinnie Jones and rapper 50 Cent (who also severs as an executive producer) have large roles. Not true. Okay, Jones plays a big part, but he, Kilmer and Mr. Cent aren't in the movie for very long. Hell, Reverend 50 is barely in the movie at all-which is for the best, as he's as wooden as they get. I do feel for the other actors, particularly Hassan, McCord and Goss. All three try so very hard, and to be fair, I don't think they're awful actors. The problem is the script. You can only do so much with terrible writing, and everyone here (save for Jones, whose his usual awesome self) is stuck with trying to carry it.

There's little else that stands out as good. Sure, I laughed at the ridiculous Gladiator outfit wrestler turned MMA fighter Bobby Lashley wears, and I had fun impersonating Jabba the Hutt whenever Kilmer showed up (dude's gotten pretty bloated), but that's all the enjoyment I got out of it. The movie itself is filled with flashy, obnoxious editing, unnecessary slow motion shots, a terrible soundtrack ("Beat 'em Up" sits up there with "You Gotta Fight" in terrible rap/metal hybrids featured in a Direct to DVD movie), and no real interest and motiviation. As I said, some of these actors try, but there's no feeling that there's something being done for a greater good like other revenge movies.

There isn't anything to recommend about "Blood Out." It's a lazy, lifeless little movie that offers nothing, and even fans of low rent exploitation/action movies will have trouble staying interested.

Rating: 1.5/10

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Zombi 3 (1988)

1979: Lucio Fulci gives the world "Zombi 2." Released as an unofficial sequel to "Dawn of the Dead" (which was called "Zombi" in Italy-though this movie was written before that movie), it made Fulci-who at this point was already a genre vet with several acclaimed giallo films under his belt-into a horror icon. Cut to the late 80's: Fulci's best days seemed to be behind him. After a string of other notoriously gory horror classics, he unleashed the likes of "Ghosts of Sodom", "Murder Rock" and "Aenigma", which were all not particularly good and squandered his reputation as a maestro of horror.

So yeah, Fulci was in need of a comeback. At the time, it seemed like a sequel to "Zombi 2" would be the thing to do that, and would cement his reputation. Well, there was a bit of a problem: Fulci was gravely ill at the time, as well as a full blown alcoholic. Filming in the Philipines with a script from noted "genius" Claudio Fragasso and his wife Rossella Drudi, he eventually left the film. However, Flora films needed this to be finished, so they hired Bruno Mattei ("Hell of the Living Dead", "Women's Prison Massacre") to complete the movie. The difference: whilst Fulci was well respected, Mattei was always regarded as a hack (though in his defense, he never cared much for his own movies either.) The end result was "Zombi 3", and it remains one of the most bizarre, misguided sequels ever made.

The premise really has no connection "Zombi 2." Basically, a terrorists body is infected by a deadly stolen chemical/man-made virus, only to be found and cremated by the US military. Well, as "Return of the Living Dead" taught us, cremating a zombie infected with a man made virus is, as Gob from "Arrested Development" would call, "A Huge Mistake." The virus ends up getting into the air, infecting the populace of a small Island (and it's birds) into flesh hungry zombies. Now, a trio of soldiers and a group of tourists must fend off the dead, who are for untold reasons slow one minute and fast the next.

First things first: a lot of people have blamed Mattei for the film being a disaster. I think it's time to put that all to rest and face the fact that even if Fulci had stayed around, the whole movie would have been a mess anyway. Now, on to the bad and good.

The movie is illogical even by the standards of trashy Italian exploitation. For some reason, a zombie's severed head can fly out of a refrigerator and bite out a man's jugular, and no reason is given as to why. Also not explained is how the dead are such good fighters, and at times even better than the living. Also, why are the military so unbelievably stupid here? Anyone would know not to burn the body of a man infected with a deadly, man made virus, but they do it anyway. And what's with the Rastafarian music DJ? Basically, this is a movie where people make bad decisions and nothing is explained.

Apart from that-well, the gore is fine, but those expecting the flesh munching, eyeball piecing explicitness of Fulci's previous zombie movies will be let down. The zombies themselves-well, I've certainly seen worse, but those who loved the rotting dead of "Zombi 2" or the ghostly white zombies of Mattei's "Hell of the Living Dead" will be disappointed. The score by Stefano Mainetti is fun (I especially dig the main theme), but it pales in comparison to Fabio Frizzi's haunting horror music. Finally, while I like the idea of a more action packed sequel, none of it is handled or directed that well (though both directors certainly do try), and I prefer the nauseating carnage draped over with Gothic atmosphere of the original. This movie has no atmosphere-just action scenes and illogical behavior.

I know I'm being hard on the movie, but to be honest, I really don't hate it. The gore is still pretty good, it's certainly never boring, there's some pretty memorable moments, and it has no delusions of grandeur over what it is. Best of all, it's hilarious. Granted, none of this is supposed to be hilarious, but it's still hilarious. Seriously, if you can't laugh at the undead bird attack, or the flying zombie head (and what the hell was it doing in the fridge anyway?), or the ending with the Rastafarian DJ becoming a zombie, then you have no soul.

So, is "Zombi 3" worth watching? If you cherish absolute trash with few redeeming qualities, then yes, it's a laugh riot. That out of the way, if you go into it hoping for a worthy follow up to "Zombi 2", then you'll probably be angry with this. Proceed with caution.

Rating: 5/10

Friday, April 22, 2011

Hyenas (2011)

Every now and then, it feels like the bad movie gods are smiling at me. Sure, bad movies come and go, with many making me legitimately angry. I can't say that about "Hyenas." Directed by Eric Weston (who gave the world the cult fave "Evilspeak") and distributed by Lionsgate, "Hyenas" is a movie that's bad in so many ways, and terrible on so many levels, that it ends up leaving me cackling with laughter at the sheer ineptitude. It's the kind of movie that, if "Mystery Science Theater" was still around, they'd have a field day with it.

The plot goes a little something like this: Gannon (Costas Mandylor of the "Saw" franchise) is grieving the death of his family. Well, it turns out that a pack of were-hyenas (yes, really) is responsible for this, and he's gunning after them with the help of a man named "Crazy Briggs" (Meshach Taylor from "Designing Women.") Meanwhile, there seems to be rumblings in the were-hyena pack about who will be the new alpha leader, with the curvacious and often naked Wilda (Christa Campbell) taking a lot of interest in this role. Then there's a girl named Valerie (Amanda Aardsma) who Gannon saves and falls for, who-now get this-might not be all she seems (oh no!) and the whole "West Side Story" subplot revolving around a Caucasian gang and a Hispanic one. How that has any real meaning in this movie is beyond me.

Oh, where do I begin with this movie? Well, for starters, it really says a lot when Costas Mandylor of all people delivers one of the better performances in your movie. Every one else (with the exception of Taylor, who at least seems to be having fun with his role, even though his character seems to exist mostly to deliver narration by a campfire or explain everything that's going on) is bad beyond any possible belief. Campbell delivers all of her lines in this completely terrible accent, whilst everyone else is either over-emoting or unenthusiastic about the whole enterprise.

Also, remember what I said about the character of Wilda getting naked a lot? Well, she looks great, but you don't really see anything, as her breasts are usually covered by unconvincing CGI fog, and when they aren't she seems to be missing her nipples. Apparently, hyenas don't have nipples-you learn something new every day I guess. You also don't get much gore outside of some light blood splatter and a few mutilated corpses, the intended comic relief is terrible, the most basic logic is thrown out of the window (Aardsma is naked one minute, then completely clothed the next), a stereotypical Hispanic store owner who could have come from the imagination of Rush Limbaugh shows up, and so much more. Oh, and it leaves the door open for a sequel that will most likely never happen, so don't expect "Hyenas: The Last Laugh" or "Hyenas: Laugh at the Moon" any time in the future.

So yes, "Hyenas" is the pits. However, I doubt most of it will make you angry, as it's so poorly put together that it's nearly impossible to hate. I swear, it will leave you laughing like...well, you know. It's only every now and then that a bad movie like this comes around.

Rating: 1/10

Monday, April 18, 2011

The Stink of Flesh (2005)

If you ask me, tales of a zombie apocalypse are kind of getting old. Maybe it's just me, but trying to tackle political and social issues with zombies and doing the same old same old with the premise of a zombie apocalypse is old news. I want my zombie apocalypse story to be different. Tackle something that few others or nobody else has bothered to do with the living dead. Hell, ask questions that no other zombie movie has bothered to ask. That's what Scott Phillips' 2005 movie "The Stink of Flesh" does, with this doozy of a premise: what's a swinging married couple (Diva and Ross Kelly) to do when most of the populace is made of of flesh eating zombies?

Well, for starters, they get a guy named Matool (Kurly Tlapoyawa)-who likes to fight zombies with his fists and kill them with giant nails as opposed to using guns-to have his way with wife Dexy. It seems like a fine thing-if you don't count Dexy's sister Sassy (Gunner Hansen's daughter Kristin) and her deformed, growth like Siamese twin sister on her stomach, and the fact that husband Nathan is starting to get tired of people fucking his wife while he watches. To make matters worse, a trio of army guys who narrowly survived a zombie attack (the things start out fast, but get slow as time goes on-great concept), and they start having their way with Dexy-much to the chagrin of Nathan. Then there's that naked zombie girl Nathan keeps chained and locked up, and that creepy kid with not so good intentions, and all of those zombies outside...

In a lot of ways, "The Stink of Flesh" is a movie that's a lot easier to appreciate than it is to enjoy. There's a lot to like here, such as the offbeat humor, the creative premise, catchy soundtrack, inventive touches and can do enthusiasm and energy it packs. It really is a 100% independent movie (made for a budget of at least $3,500) with a no bullshit attitude to match. It's a movie that's impossible to hate, and compared to other micro-budget zombie movies, it's a classic. Yet at the same time, it still lacks a bit.

One of the most notably lacking things is the performances. Whilst Tlapoyawa does a fine job, everyone else is about as rough as you'd expect from a movie like this. In particular is Hansen, whose performance seems to largely consist of weird, twitchy facial expressions and poor attempts at being quirky that get annoying fast. Also, don't expect a whole lot of T&A from this movie. Sure, you do get female nudity, but apart from the nude zombie girl (and a flashback of her pre-zombie life), the rest of the available nudity is made up of Matool's naked ass bobbing about as he gives Dexy a little something. Then there's the conclusion, which is unsatisfactory, and feels like the result of running out of film stock. When it ends, it ends rather abruptly, and left me wondering "that's it?"

Still, as far as horror made on an almost non-existent budget, you could do a lot worst than this, as it's certainly one of the better examples of a micro-budget movie I've seen. Just don't expect a classic or a great zombie movie.

Rating: 6/10

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Attack of the Giant Leeches (1959)

Ah, the public domain. You tend to find a lot of B-Movies there, ranging from classics ("Night of the Living Dead", "Messiah of Evil") and um, the terrible ("Manos: The Hands of Fate.") Anyways, it seems that several older Roger Corman titles have made it into the public domain, with "The Terror", "The Wasp Woman" and other "classics" (and actual classics like "Dementia 13" and "A Bucket of Blood") available for free, legal viewing. So, let's all take a look at one of these titles, the MST3K fave "Attack of the Giant Leeches", which was also produced by Rogers brother Gene.

Whilst searching for illegal weapons one day, Steve Benton (Ken Clark) and his girlfriend Nan Greyson (Jan Shepard) fine Lem (George Cisar) dying, with sucker wounds on him. Meanwhile, Liz Walker (Yvette Vickers) is in a bad way with her tubby husband Dave (Bruno VeSota), and is having an affair. Well, Dave catches them in the act, and what do ya know, they get taken off by the titular leeches. Can Benton save the day?

Nothing spectacular or particularly good, "Leeches" is amazingly enough a watchable little B-Movie from the days in which exploitation was regulated largely to cheap creature features. The cinematography and direction are actually well done, with TV veteran and Corman regular Bernard L. Kowalski capturing a steamy atmosphere of adultery and cheap, campy thrills. Also worthy of note is Alexander Laszlo's catchy score, which comes complete with old monogram style organ, and some minor bloodshed (dig those drained bodies.) Best of all is Vickers-the "50 Foot Woman" herself-as the backwoods floozy. She delivers her lines with plenty of sleazy conviction, and isn't afraid to laze around in her bra and panties whilst rubbing lotion on her legs.

Sadly, the same can't be said for leading man Clark, whose the only bland actor in the movie (though ladies and gay men will be happy with him going about without a shirt on.) The ending is also pretty lousy, and just feels too sudden, as in "that's it, the monsters are dead, movie's over!" sudden. Then there's the leeches themselves. Whilst the idea of giant leeches is a creepy one, the damn things look way too goofy for their own good, and are pretty much nothing more than guys in giant trash bags with fake suckers attached to them. There's a reason why they are included in the goofy movie monster hall of fame.


Still, this is an okay time waster, and while I certainly didn't love it (I prefer the MST3K version), nothing in it made me angry. It's fine for a viewing on your computer-and remember, it's free.

Rating: 5.5/10

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Venom (2005)

In case you're living under a rock, "Scream 4" (or "Scre4m") is coming out tomorrow. In all honesty, it does and doesn't make sense that said movie has been made. On one hand, when the first "Scream" came out, horror was in pretty dire straits, whereas it's more popular now. On the other hand, the genre has changed so much since then ("torture porn", the return of the zombie, remakes by the truck-full, the neo-grindhouse movement, the return of evil rednecks-the list goes on) that the idea of "Scream" coming back to possibly mock one or two of these changes and returns kinda makes sense. It also makes sense because writer Kevin Williamson has been in the midst of a comeback recently with the TV series "The Vampire Diaries." On the other hand, the last genre picture he was involved with-2005's "Venom"-is something he probably doesn't want to look back on.

Eric (Jonathan Jackson) takes his Yankee pals to a backwater town in Louisiana, in which Sean'a (D.J. Cotrona) father Ray (Rick Cramer) died. However, he died trying to save a voodoo witch, and was bitten by one of her snakes. Well, he's now a zombie that kills indiscriminately, and he sees these kids as-well, as dumb kids who need to be killed.

Among it's problems, the biggest problem with "Venom" is how dated it must have felt-especially with it's small theatrical release, and the fact that it barely made a ripple in the box-office. By 2005, the "hip" style of horror Williamson helped spearhead was a thing of the past and out of date. Plus, with guys like Eli Roth, Rob Zombie and James Wan becoming the new poster boys for mainstream horror, and the wave of remakes (J-Horror, "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre" and "Dawn of the Dead" for example) coming in, Williamson's days at the top seemed to be numbered. Who needed him when remakes, gore and sadistic torture were the new thing? As far as audiences were concerned, this was a tired relic.

Apart from all of that, "Venom" isn't really a terrible movie-it's just a really minor one. Sure, there's a few neat kills, a few suspenseful moments, and some adequate direction (from "I Know What You Did Last Summer" director Jim Gillespie), but there's little here that stands out. In fact, the whole thing is just a generic slasher movie, and doesn't offer anything you haven't seen before (though some boobs would have helped.) I know, Williamson has been behind crap before ("Scream 3" for example), but this movie is so by the numbers, that one can't help but think "the guy that wrote "Scream" and "The Faculty" helped produce this?" Hell, even Williamson's knack for characterization is absent, and so many of the cliches he gleefully mocked in the past are present.

Granted, Williamson may be getting the last laugh (we'll see how "Scream 4" turns out), but "Venom" is such a minor slasher movie that one can almost wonder what made him such a big deal in the first place. You've seen worse, but you'll also struggle to give a shit as well.

Rating: 4/10

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Legend of Dinosaurs and Monster Birds (1977)

Before I get to my review, I just wanted to point out that it took me a while to review a genre title from Japan, due to the Earthquake and tsunami freaking me out. For a while, the thought of watching movies where people from Japan die when thousands were dying or dead was a bit much for me. Now, on to the review.


"So, what about everyone else?"

That's what Toei studios was probably saying upon preparing for "Legend of Dinosaurs and Monster Birds." Godzilla and his pals/enemies were on vacation and had become too beloved, Gamera was for the kids, and you can forget about another Gappa or Dogora movie (especially the former.) When was a studio going to make a kaiju flick for a more grown-up audience? Granted, there already was one of sorts with "The Last Dinosaur", and there would be another with next year's "The Bermuda Depths", but how about something with a little "oomph factor" that others seemed to lack? You know, exploitable elements. That's what they tried to do with this movie.

The story deals with an egg that hatches, and unleashes a none too friendly Plesiosaur, who has taken a liking to munching on the citizens. To make matters worse, a Rhamphorhynchus also comes into play, and as will happen in these movies, a fight's going to break out. Oh, and there's some shit involving a scientist and a hot girl, but I really didn't care about that.

As I said, "Legend" tends to offer a few things that other kaiju films of the time didn't offer, namely gore and nudity. Granted, the female nudity is brief, and the gore is mostly of the "found a severed limb" variety, but it was more than other such movies were presenting. At best, the people behind this at least deserve kudos for that.

Sadly, there isn't much else worthy of kudos. The two creatures we get are unconvincing and goofy even for the time, and one can just imagine audiences in Japan laughing their asses off at the sight of these creatures. Then there's the score from "pinky violence" regular Masao Yagi, which while catchy, is a jazzy score that really doesn't fit the proceedings. Hearing bouncy jazz/funk play while a girl is menaced by one of the least convincing dinosaurs ever put to screen is funny, no matter how you stretch it. The conclusion is also too bleak for a movie like this. I wanted the hero to come out on top here, but that doesn't happen, which just left me scratching my head.

The biggest problem though, is that it really isn't that much of a kaiju film. Granted, it's not the worst one ever made that some make it out to be (I'll take this over "Gamera vs. Zigra" any day of the week), but it's still nothing much, and that's mostly because, at the end of the day, it's nothing more than a rip off of a certain shark movie Spielberg directed. No matter how you dress it up, it's a knock-off of a much better movie, and not even a very entertaining one at that.

While it deserves credit for trying be a kaiju flick for adults, "Legend of Dinosaurs and Monster Birds" isn't much to get excited for. Believe me, you've seen better, and all the brief boob and butt shots in the world won't change your mind.

Rating: 4/10

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Legendary Assassin (2009)

In my years of wading through the recesses of Lionsgate direct to DVD movies, I've noticed that they like to release action movies from Asia. While this can go from shockingly enjoyable ("Three Kingdoms") to at least tolderable ('Fireball") to the outright unwatchable ("Four Dragons"), it's nice to see a studio offer something to fans of these movies, even if it is complete crap. Thankfully, Jacky Wu and Chung Chi Li's Action/Drama "Legendary Assassin" fits into the shockingly enjoyable category.

Wu (acting under the pseudonym Wu Jung) is Boo Tong Lam, an assassin who whose fresh from his latest assignment-knocking off a big time crime lord. Well, he ends up saving a pretty cop Hiu Wor (Celina Jade), and the next thing you know, some thugs who want payback for the murder of their boss come knocking in...

Apparently, Wu has been touted by some as the new Jackie Chan or Jet Li. I honestly don't see it (he's not exactly the most convincing actor), but "Legendary Assassin" is a pleasant little surprise. The direction is stylish and flashy, but thankfully not to the point of being distracting, the other performances are all fine (Jade in particular stands out-plus, she's a real cutie), and it all moves at a reasonable clip. Best of all, it manages to mix action with decently written character drama and interaction, which a lot of action movies released by Lionsgate seem to be lacking.

So, how about the action scenes? Well, they're really good IMO. Again, the film can be a bit flashy, but there's enough bloodshed, broken bones and brutality to please fans of these kinds of movies. In this case, I can totally see some of the hype Wu has garnered-now if only he could work on that acting thing.

So, it's not perfect, but I found this movie to be a nice little surprise that, while nothing spectacular, still offers enough to keep me entertained. Besides, isn't that what you want out of a lot of action movies?

Rating: 6.5/10

Friday, April 8, 2011

Dead Heat (1988)

At the moment, I'm reading "Deadman's Road", which is a collection of tales from Joe R. Lansdale about a gun-touting preacher who battles all kinds of supernatural evil. I'm saying this because 1.) It's awesome, and 2.) I've always been interested in movies that try to mix horror with different dramas. Comedy, Action and Science Fiction are the most obvious answers, but Westerns, Period Dramas, Romance and Art House have all mingled together with horror. So what about sub-genres mingling with horror. Well, that's the case with Mark Goldblatt's "Dead Heat", which tried to mix Horror with the buddy cop comedy.

Treat Williams and (ugh) Joe Piscopo are Roger Mortis (gettit?) and Doug Bigelow, two officers who find themselves in a shootout with some guys who won't stay down, even after being shot many a time. Well, Roger is killed in the line of duty, but is brought back by a machine Doug and Dr. Rebecca Smythers (Clare Kirkonnell) find that can ressurrect the dead. Now, Roger and Doug have 12 hours to find out whose behind all of this until Roger is nothing but sludge, and in the process, they find some unlikely help in a girl named Randi James (Lindsay Frost.) Also, what does her father Arthur P. Loudermilk (a wasted Vincent Price) have to do with all of this?

An attempt to mix the likes of "Lethal Weapon" and "48 Hours" with the zombie movie and hints of old school Gothic Horror, "Dead Heat" is the kind of movie that defines cult favorite. Garnering a lot of hype from magazines like Fangoria, the film barely made a ripple in the box office, but found a sizable cult following on VHS from fans craving Horror/Action hybrids with a bit of humor. Sadly, I feel that the comedy is the film's biggest Achilles heel. The two leads aren't particularly funny, with Williams being too bland, and don't even get me started on Piscopo. Every time he opens his mouth, I kept hoping someone or something would shut him up, as his terrible delivery and cringe worthy one liners and jokes made me want to scream. This man's popularity in the 80's will forever be one of life's great mysteries.

That out of the way, there's still several things to like about the movie. The action scenes are all top notch, the direction is fine, and there are a few offbeat moments (a creepy scene involving a body decomposing and an awesome scene involving a butcher shop's cutlery coming to life) to warrant interest. Best of all is the effects by Stephen Johnson, which are incredible, and make every bullet hit, every gory detail and every monstrosity (such as a zombie with three faces) count. Also worthy of mention is an energetic and fun score from Ernest Toost, who also did the music for "Tremors."

If it wasn't for Vincent Price being wasted and Joe Piscopo, "Dead Heat" would come with a hearty recommendation. As it stands though, it's a decent little rental that might satisfy some fans of Horror/Action and Horror/Comedy movies.

Rating: 6/10

Classic Poster Art: The Last House on Dead End Street (1977)

Monday, April 4, 2011

1990: Bronx Warriors (1982) and Escape From the Bronx (1983)

Like many Italian genre directors of the time, Enzo G. Castellari dabbled in many genres. Among them were Spaghetti Westerns ("Keoma"), Fantasy ("Sinbad of the Seven Seas"), Crime and Police films ("The Heroin Busters", "Street Law"), War epics ("The Inglorious Bastards"-not related to that other movie) and even Giallo films ("House by the Edge of the Lake.") Oh, and of course, rip offs of other, better titles. The likes of "Jaws" ("Great White") and the "Mad Max" movies ("The New Barbarians") weren't safe, and as "1990: Bronx Warriors" and it's sequel "Escape From the Bronx" show us, not even "The Warriors" and "Escape From New York" were safe.

"1990" deals with a Post Apocalyptic New York (well, it just looks like the Bronx-so yeah, it looks Post Apocalyptic) in which many gangs rule the streets for survival. One in which is run by Trash (Marc Gregory), who finds Ann (Stefania Girolami Goodwin), who happens to be the daughter of a corporate leader. Well, she ends up getting kidnapped, so Trash ends up bringing some of his men with him, as well as finding help from Ogre (Fred "The Hammer" Williamson.) However, there's a snake in the grass in Ice (Josh Sinclair), and to make matters worse, an insane, nihilistic assassin named Hammer (Vic Marrow), is after Gregory and Ann, and will stop at nothing.

If there's any problems I had with the movie, it's Goodwin and Gregory. Goodwin delivers her lines as if she's on Xanax, and Gregory isn't that convincing as a bad ass hero. In fact, I think he and his gang spend more time getting their asses handed to them than the other way around. Also, maybe it's just me, but this movie didn't really go as far as it could have. Sure, there's some bloody action, but it's too far and in between at times, and the lack of female nudity also hinders it.

On the plus side, the other performances are good, with Marrow clearly having a blast as Hammer, and Williamson being his regular bad self doing his thing. The direction is also fine, as are the action scenes (though you have to wait for those at times.) I especially dug the score by Walter Rizzati, which really brings the thing to life. So, like many movies of this kind, it's kinda dull, but it's the little things that make it worth a rental.

The same can't be said for it's sequel, "Escape From the Bronx", which was rightfully ripped apart by the guys from "Mystery Science Theater 3000" (under the title "Escape 2000.") Taking place 10 years after the events of "1990", this sees Gregory returning as Trash. Here, the evil Manhattan Corporation wants to all the gangs to New Mexico. Cut lots of guys in silver outfits and shit blowing up.

I will give the movie this much: Gregory is better here. He's not a good actor mind you, but he's a more convincing bad ass this time around. Apart from that, there's nothing that really stand out in this movie. The action is monotonous, as you can only see things blow up for so long. There's also no serious identity here. While the previous movie had little original going on, it at least managed to offer a few moments in which it felt like it's own movie. This movie is just painfully boring, as even the action scenes and score by Francesco De Masi failed to keep my interest.

So in closing, these aren't really good movies. However, indiscriminate exploitation and action fans might like the first one, though the second is only worth watching with Mike and the Bots tearing it apart.

Ratings:

1990: Bronx Warriors 5.5/10
Escape From the Bronx 1/10

Saturday, April 2, 2011

The Visitor (1979)

Italian exploitation and horror is known for a lot of things: strong atmosphere, striking visuals, nauseating gore, excellent music, exquisite cinematography-you know, the good stuff. Oh, and ripping off whatever was really big at the time. Two names come to mind in these cycles-one is Bruno Mattei, and the other is Ovidio G. Assonitis. Sure, he did produce the giallo classic "Who Saw Her Die?", but he's mostly known for producing, writing and directing films that ripped off "The Exorcist" ("Beyond the Door")." "Jaws" ("Tentacles", "Piranha II: The Spawning"), "Conan the Barbarian" ("Iron Warrior"), and other titles that were popular at the time. Well, in 1979, he put a whole lot of eggs in a basket to give the world "The Visitor", and the result is one of the most certifiably insane genre pictures I've ever seen.

The plot deals with an alien being (John Huston-yes, that John Huston), who must save an eight year old girl Katy Collins (Paige Conner), who has evil powers. Her mother Barbara (Joanna Nail) is dating basketball player Raymond Armstead (Lance Henriksen, proving he had been in bad movies for years), and wants to marry her. Also, evil businessman Dr. Walker (Mel Ferrer) has a specific interest in Katy, and wants Babara to produce another child, which Babs has no desire to do. Well, she ends up getting pregnant anyway, and Jerzy Colsowicz (the name the alien ends up taking) lets her know that the kid can't be born. Plus, he now finds himself fighting Katy and her falcon for the fate of the universe, and Django himself, Franco Nero shows up as Jesus Christ, though the wig he's wearing makes him look like a member of a Glam Rock band than the Lord. Also, why Christ is visiting aliens is beyond me, but then again, Jesus does love everyone.

I swear to God, I did not make any of this up. This all happens in the movie.

Directed by Giulio Paradisi (who served as a second unit director for Fellini's "8½"), "The Visitor" is completely out of it's gourd. Let's say somebody spent a few days watching an old Biblical Epic, "The Omen", "Close Encounters of the Third Kind", "Rosemary's Baby", "The Fury", "The Birds", "Star Wars", "Saturday Night Fever" and "The Exorcist." After this movie binge, they thought "You know what would be awesome? If someone combined all of those movies!" This movie is the end result.

To be fair, the acting, cinematography and direction are all mostly good, but the movie in itself is a train wreck that you find yourself recommending to others even though it's bad. Even by the standards of Italian genre fare the plot makes no sense, it contains a largely inappropriate score, and is so unapologetic about the movies it's stealing from. Then there's the other appearances, with Sam Peckinpah, Glenn Ford and Shelly Winters all showing up, seeming to be confused as to why they are in this movie.

At the same time, there's nothing at all to hate about the movie. I mean, it's a bad movie, but it's also the kind of once in a lifetime viewing experience that anyone who says they love horror should see. There really is nothing else quite like this movie, and to pardon the cliche, it must be seen to be believed, even though you won't be able to make sense of anything that's happening onscreen.

Rating: I Don't Know