Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Seeding of a Ghost (1983)

Though martial arts and kung-fu movies are what they are known for, the 70's-90's film industry of China also gave the world exploitation movies known as "Category III" movies. These movies went farther than other Chinese films, giving audiences all the violence, gore, sex and depravity that polite society frowned upon. Even the Shaw Bros., who gave the world all kinds of kung-fu movies, got in on the act, with movies like "Rebekah", "Dr Lamb" and today's entry "Seeding of a Ghost" upsetting government officials and delighting cult movie junkies worldwide.

Taxi Driver Chau's (Phillip Ko) life is going to turn ugly. Not only was his wife Irene (Maria Jo) having an affair-she got raped and murdered by two thugs. So, what's a man to do in situations like this, get the law to help? Well, they aren't good for much here, so he'll have to to a warlock (Man-Biao Bak) to extract some nasty supernatural payback, which of course soon grows out of hand when Chau learns that she was preggers.

Though pretty gory, it takes a while for the splatter to get going. Granted, we do get some pleasing to the eyes gratuitous nudity, but those who are impatient have to wait 40 something minutes until any supernatural revenge takes place. Until then, you get some rather uneven acting and a few slow moments to trudge through.

Those that are patient however, will be thrilled with the rest of the movie, which is pure, unapologetic insanity. From here on, you get brains in coconuts, vomited worms, pitch black humor ("this coconut is plump! You should try it!"), spines popping out of backs, a tentacled demonic fetus monster, and so much more. It's a case of the director and writers going all out to give the audience something they haven't seen before, and for me, that was the mostly the case. I'm used to supernatural revenge tales, but I've never seen one from China, so that probably added to the fact that this movie manages to take a well-worn sub-genre feel fresh again. It's also got some nice, creepy atmosphere, and it's mostly well directed by Chuan Yang, who knows what audiences want to see, and delivers it in spades.

Is "Seeding of a Ghost" a good introduction to Chinese exploitation? I can't say for sure, but it makes for an entertaining 89 minutes of pure madness.

Rating: 8/10

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Deathstalker (1983) and Deathstalker II: Duel of the Titans (1987)

I didn't bother seeing the recent remake of "Conan the Barbarian" (and from the box office and reviews, if looks like I didn't miss anything.) Instead, I bought and watched the contents of "Roger Corman's Cult Classics: Sword and Sorcery." As I've mentioned in the past, Corman was quick to ride on the success of the original "Conan", with movies like "Sorceress" and "Barbarian Queen" flooding theaters and VHS rentals back in the day. The most successful of these though, was the "Deathstalker" series, which took the basics of the Sword and Sorcery genre and added more exploitable elements to them. So with all that out of the way, let's take a look at the first two movies in the franchise.

"Deathstalker" deals with a man named...well, named Deathstalker (Rick Hill), who ends up on a Journey to find the three powers of creation or something, rescue a princess (Barbi Benton) and stop an evil wizard named Munkar (Bernard Erhard), whose holding a big "'Enter the Dragon' with swords and blood" style tournament. He's not alone though, as he has a warrior woman in Kaira (Lana Clarkson), an old hermit in Oghris (Richard Brooker) and a man named Kang (Victor Bo), whose missing Kodos.

If there's any problem with "Deathstalker", it's that the main character is a huge asshole. There's really no reason to root for him other than his mission to stop Munkar, and the fact that he's practically a rapist is pretty off-putting. Apart from that, this is fun but minor exploitation with enough severed limbs and heads, female nudity, mud wrestling, and humor to make for a fun afternoon viewing. The sense of humor in particular stands out, as it keeps this from feeling like yet another drab "Conan" rip-off. At least it's one that doesn't take itself too seriously.

The humor was amplified in Jim Wynorski's sequel "Deathstalker II: Duel of the Titans", in which our hero is now played by John Terlesky as someone whose still an asshole, but is less of one, as well as a smart ass. Here, he must help Reena the Seer (Monique Gabriel), whose actually a princes that's been cloned by the evil sorcerer (is there any other kind-hey, I think Deathstalker actually says that at one point!) Jarek (John Lazar) who now control her kingdom. Oh, and let's not forget the evil Sultana (Toni Naples) who wants Deathstalker dead, and an army of Amazonian warrior women.

If there's anything holding this sequel back, it's the unnecessary stock footage taken from the original, as well as a few moments that feel too goofy for it's own good. That out of the way, this is also a fun little movie, with Terlesky being a lot of fun (and clearly having fun) as our wise cracking hero. Gorehounds might fine themselves disappointed in the fact that the bloodshed is more minor here, but there's still enough boobs, amusing one liners, zombies and all around fun to make for a nice time. Also, nice electronic score by Chuck Cirino.

To be honest, these aren't good movies in the traditional sense of the word. That's just fine though, as they clearly know they aren't. These are to the point exploitation movies that deliver whatever base interests you have, and that's all one could ask for from movies called "Deathstalker."

DeathStalker: 6.5/10
Deathstalker II: 7/10

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Super Hybrid (2010)

Killer cars and automobiles aren't a rarity exclusive to Monty Python. Nope, they are also a sub-genre in horror, with movies ranging from "The Cars" to "Christine" to "Maximum Overdrive." That's fine and all, except there's one problem: with the exception of movies one and two, it's pretty much impossible to do a scary killer car movie. Why? Because the premise of a killer, driver free car is kinda goofy. Case in point: 2010's "Super Hybrid", which wants to intrigue, but instead ends up being mostly boring.

After killing two dumb guys nobody will miss, our killer car ends up getting in a traffic accident. However, the mechanics and their asshole boss Ray (Oded Fehr) soon find out that it has a thing for killing people, and seems to be controlled by a tentacled monster.

Sure sounds goofy, doesn't it? To be fair, director Eric Valette (whose credits include a bad remake of Takashi Miike's "One Missed Call" and the underrated "Malefique") does manage to give us at least one or two nice scenes of the car chasing people, and Fehr is a lot of fun as the dickhead boss. Apart from that, there isn't a whole lot that sticks out here. Sure, there are moments where the car is actually imposing, but almost everyone here is incredibly stupid, not to mention all that well written. The actors seem to be trying, but the screenplay by the ironically named Benjamin Carr doesn't really do them any favors. They mostly just argue, run from the car, and get killed off. Even the monster controlling it isn't all that interesting, as it's just another shoddy looking CGI creation.

Which leads to my biggest complaint about the movie: it's boring. If this had skipped the PG-13 rating and went all out crazy instead of trying to do a serious killer car movie, this would have been fun. Instead, the movie is too routine and uneventful to really warrant too much attention.

Look, as I said, there actually good killer car movies out there. This isn't one of them. Do yourself a favor and watch "Christine" again. Believe me, that offers more surprises and entertainment, even if you've seen it hundreds of times already.

Rating: 3/10

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Count Dracula's Great Love (1974)

I've always been fascinated with how other countries take on famous characters in horror. Japan gave us several vampire films and the absolutely bizarre kaiju flick "Frankenstein Conquers the World", Mexico gave us The Aztec Mummy, and then there's Spain's Paul Naschy, who gave us his take on the Wolfman, the Mummy, Dr Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, and in the case of Javier Aguirre's* "Count Dracula's Great Love", a certain vampire.

The plot is pretty simple: A bevy of women and some guy end up in a castle owned by Dr. Wendell Marlow (Naschy) Well, it turns out that the good doc is actually a bad doc, and by that I mean he's Dracula. Well, he and other vampires (whom he fights from time to time) begin turning these folks into vampires...except for one girl, a virgin who he needs to resurrect his daughter. Problem is, he starts to fall for her.

A mix of old school Gothic horror, unintended camp, dark romance and unapologetic exploitation (Paul sure does get the girls to drop their drawers in his movies), "Count Dracula's Great Love" is plenty of fun for fans of 70's Euro Horror. Here, we get

  • Paul Naschy being his usual self, this time sporting Bela Lugosi hair
  • Frequent topless women
  • Some fun pre "Dawn of the Dead" style bloodshed, including a nifty bit with a scythe
  • Atmosphere that reminded me of the good Hammer Vampire movies from the 70's-you know, the likes of "Vampire Lovers", "Vampire Circus" and "Countess Dracula"
  • Sapphic vampire feeding scenes that would make Jean Rollin proud
  • Requisite staking and whipping
And more. It's largely enjoyable, though it does run into pacing problems, as the movie tends to move a bit slow. Also, while this isn't something I would normally complain about, but the dubbing here is atrocious. It would be nice if an original language print with subtitles, but that doesn't seem to exist at the moment.

Still, for fans of this kind of thing, this is a must see. Also, it's in the public domain, so you can watch it free whenever you want to.

Rating: 7.5/10

*This isn't the only time Aguirre and Naschy collaborated, as the director also did "Hunchback of the Morgue."

Saturday, August 20, 2011

The Ward (2011)

The name John Carpenter means a whole lot to me. From the 70's ("Assault of Precinct 13", "Dark Star" and "Halloween"), the 80's (too many to name), the 90's ("In the Mouth of Madness") and the last decade ("Masters of Horror: Cigarette Burns"), he has practically defined cinematic fear and awesomeness. So that's one of the reasons why his latest, "The Ward", kind of disappointed me. Sure, he's let me down in the past, but the fact that he let me down with what is essentially not that bad of a movie, just a frustrating one.

In 1966, Kristine (Amber Heard) is arrested and sent to a mental hospital after burning down a house. Well, she's in for nasty weather, as a ghost seems to be haunting the place, taking girls who are hoping to leave and killing them, and haunting and attacking a select group of girls in the process. So, who is this ghost? Why is she killing people and haunting Kristine? Is Kristine all she seems to be?

To be fair, "The Ward" has a great score by Mark Killian that reminded me of Dario Argento movies, the direction is fine, and the acting is all around good. To be honest, it's not that bad of a movie, as there's plenty to like about it, yet they end up dropping the ball on several occasions. For example, there are too many plot holes in the movie, not to mention unanswered questions. Why are the orderlies and the doctors not recognizing that people are vanishing? When the final twist (which I'll get to in the next paragraph) occurs, you wonder to yourself "so, why dfidn't they tell her this in the beginning?"

This leads to the next complaint, which is a really bad and unnecessary twist nearing the end. Granted, you do get hints about it early on, but it comes out of left field so much that I just looked at the scream and muttered "what the fuck?" to myself loudly. It's also the kind of twist I really hate, which is the type that comes nearing the end, is explained exactly to point, and ends up leaving the viewer more angry then intrigued.

It's a shame too, as I really wanted to like this movie more than I did. I mean come on, it's John Carpenter, I should like this. Sadly, while not exactly "Masters of Horror: Pro-Life", it still left me wanting more. Chalk it up as a misfire.

Rating: 5.5/10

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Medium Raw: Night of the Wolf (2010)

Some premises are so ludicrous, you go with them because of this. Take "Medium Raw: Night of the Wolf", which sports a killer in a giant, metallic wolf outfit. Too bad the movie itself can't do much with the goofiness of that scenario.

Here, said killer is aptly referred to as "The Wolf", and has been captured. This still isn't enough for Johnny Morgan (Andrew Cymek, who also wrote and directed this), who wants him to suffer because he saw "The Wolf" kill his sister when he was a kid (which traumatized him into becoming a bad actor.) Well, an electrical outage causes the killers in the asylum he's in to escape their confines, and they soon start going after civilians. All the while, he must finally come face to face with "The Wolf", who might not be who he thinks it is.

"Medium Raw" is a movie with too many problems to talk about, so before that, I want to mention that William B. Davis (who you may remember as the cigarette smoking man on "The X-Files") is fine in his role, wrestler Christian Cage is fun as Johnny buddy Pete (dude could have a decent career as a character actor in B-Movies when he retires from wrestling), and the killer's lair is creepy and laden with a deathly atmosphere.

Now on to the negatives. For starters, this thing is way too long at an hour and 50 minutes. Movies like this should be 80 or 90 minutes long, not nearly two hours. That kind of length just makes you want to scream "oh just end already." Also, few of the performances are worth a damn, as John Rhys-Davies just mumbles most of his dialogue, co-star/producer Brigitte Kingsley is nothing more than a dull stock character, and don't even get started on Cymek. This guy's one of the worst leading men I've seen in a while, and delivers his dialogue via lots of grimacing and little other emotion or conviction. At least pretend you care. Hell, he wrote and directed it too. Maybe he shouldn't do the triple threat thing. Add some poor humor (a cannibalistic old woman), too many plot holes to name, and a weak conclusion, and you have a disaster.

To be fair, this isn't the worst movie I've seen this year. Far from it in fact. It's just an all around bad movie, with little if anything to really recommend. It's just a a plateful of nothing.

Rating: 2.5/10

Monday, August 15, 2011

Resident Evil: Extinction (2007)

When I reviewed "Resident Evil: Afterlife", I mentioned that a lot of today's franchise movies-"the "Saw" sequels, the "Underworld" movies, and this one-just don't appeal to me. Sure, I can understand why they appeal to so many, but for me, they're nothing to go crazy for. However, I believe I also mentioned that the third entry in the series is the only one that I find worth watching, so I figured "Well, why not review it?"

Taking place after "Apocalypse" (which is the worst entry in the series), this movie sees Alice (Milla Jovovich) and her crew-Clair Redfield (Ali Larter), Carlos Olivera (Oded Feher), Nurse Betty (ha ha) (R & B singer Ashanti) and others now venturing the deserts of Post-Apocalyptic Nevada, looking for a way to survive. In the process, Alice has now gained a sundry of superhuman powers thanks to the Umbrella Corporation's T-Virus, and they haven't forgotten about her or the survivors. So now, Alice and co. must battle undead animals, a newer strain of fast zombie, new mutations, and more from the corporation.

To enjoy a movie like "Resident Evil: Extinction", you must at first acknowledge that this isn't much like "Resident Evil" the video game series. Sure, it has Clair Redfield and the Umbrella Coporation, as well as monsters from the game, but this is ultimately "Resident Evil" fan fiction author's interpretation of the "Resident Evil" universe with a fan made character in Alice. Also, while I abhor the term "turn your brain off" when it comes to movies (even if I did, I'd still hate the "Transformers" movies), that's what you should do with these movies, because there isn't a whole lot going on from a thematic level other than "Billion dollar corporations are evil." This is pure, mindless crap from start to finish.

However, this is shockingly enough, sort of fun crap. That's largely due to director Russell Mulachy (whose credits include "Highlander" and the underrated "Razorback"), who knows firsthand that he's directing B-Movie bullshit, and does it with a sense of playfulness and fun that's lacking from the other movies. The acting is also noticeably better from the prior installments, with Jovovich finally getting comfortable with the role of Alice, and everyone else-well, they aren't great, but they aren't terrible either. Add a few suspenseful set pieces (the best one involving zombiefied birds), a nice Industrial Rock score from "Saw" composer Charlie Clouser, moments of humor, some fun action, and a sequel ready conclusion that didn't annoy me, and you've got a watchable little movie.

Sure, I could complain about the lack of logic, Alice having superpowers, the fact that the movie cribs lovingly from other, better movies (Romero's "Day of the Dead" for example), but you know what? I won't. This is pure, stupid movie junk food. It might not be good, but it's satisfying for what it is.

Rating: 6.5/10

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Aswang (1994)

The vampire, in spite of what popular media might tell you, actually has a rich history dating centuries. From African tradition (the Asanbosam), China (the Jiang Shi) and medieval European lore (the Norse Draugr), the list goes on when it comes to the history and past of the vampire. Another one is the Aswang, a Philippines legend that uses it's tongue to consume unborn children, and is the subject of the movie of the same name.

A pregnant, unwed woman named Katrina (Tina Ona Paukstelis) is given the offer to marry the rich Peter Null (Norman Moses) and live in his estate with his dying mother, her daughter, and Cupid the caretaker (Mildred Nierras.) Of course, they have plans for that baby, and what's with the guy who keeps finding strange, cocoon like things and skulls of unborn children?

The history of "Aswang" is an interesting one. Premiering at Sundance (the first horror movie to be shown there in fact), it was picked up for distribution from Prisim, who cut a few seconds of gore from the movie. To make things worst, I couldn't find it in any of the VHS rentals back in the day, as they thought it's subject matter was too disgusting and offensive (ironic, considering they sold porn, soft core flicks, hentai and movies with titles like "Rape Squad" without batting an eye.) Fortunately, Mondo Macarbo finally released it uncut on DVD. So, how does it hold up?

Well, it's a fun movie, but it's nothing really original or innovative. Borrowing liberally from "The Shining", "The Evil Dead", "Texas Chainsaw Massacre" and "Psycho", and adding a pinch of Filipino horror to the mix, it's still pretty odd, mostly due to the subject matter, but also due to the strain of very black humor on display, with a few moments (mamma hanging from a window by her very long tongue) garnering chuckles, proving that the people behind this at least know how to have fun. There's also some nice gore, a few genuinely suspenseful moments, a good enough score by Ken Brahmstedt (dig the weird electronic effects), an interesting subplot, and a fitting, bleak conclusion.

Problems? Well for one thing, none of the performances here are particularly good, with Moses being the worst offender. Here, he screams, grunts, bugs his eyes, and acts so over the top that you kind of wish someone else would have played him. Also, the viewer is lead to know that the Null family are a bit strange too soon, as it would have been nice to allow some sort of false sense of security when it comes to them. Then again, if they weren't crazy, you wouldn't have a horror movie, so I can't complain too much.

"Aswang" is an enjoyable little romp that managed to keep my interest throughout, though I don't think many will mistake it as a classic. It is what it is: an enthusiastic, nasty B-Movie. Nothing more, nothing less.

Rating: 7/10

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Body Parts (1991)

Eric Red is a pretty well known and largely respected name in the world of horror. As a writer, his credits include "Near Dark", "The Hitcher" and "Blue Steel", while as a writer and a director, his credits include "Bad Moon", "Cohen and Tate", "Undertow", "100 Feet" and this movie, 1991's "Body Parts."

After Losing his arm in a car accident, criminal psychologist Bill Chrushank (Jeff Fahey) finds himself with a new arm thanks to Dr. Agatha Webb (Lindsay Duncan.) The problem: it belonged to a serial killer, and he soon starts seeing violent images and begins to behave in a more violent nature. Now, with the help of Mark Draper (Peter Murnik) and artist Remo Lacey (Brad Dourif), who also got parts from the killer, Bill must put a stop to this.

From the premise alone, you'd be forgiven for thinking "Body Parts" sounds pretty stupid. That's because...well, it is very stupid. However, it's also more fun than it has any right to be, thanks to the fact that it becomes pretty clear that Red realizes how goofy this is, and adds an undercurrent of black humor to the proceedings, much of it provided by Dourif's creepy Remo. It's also capably directed and acted for the most part, with the supporting cast all doing fine work, especially Douriff and Duncan, who does a great job as the icy, evil Doctor with darker motives for what she's doing. Oh, and there's even some decent (but not exactly mindblowing) gore, a fine score by Loek Dikker (*snicker*), and a satisfying conclusion.

The problems it runs into largely deal with some pretty bad dialogue and a not particularly great lead performance. As Bill, Fahey feels a bit one note, though there are moments where his character seems to come at least a little alive. It doesn't help that some of what comes out of his mouth is just embarrassing. Maybe Red meant for it to come off as campy, but lines like "THIS ARM IS KILLING ME DOC!" are impossible to hear without titters of laughter.

Still, "Body Parts" makes for a decent little Netflix rental, and offers enough moments of inspiratin and ghastly humor to keep you interest. A nice little sleeper.

Rating: 6.5/10

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Leatherface: Texas Chainsaw Massacre III (1990)

Written by renowned "splatterpunk" author David J. Schow and directed by Jeff Burr, "Leatherface: Texas Chainsaw Massacre III" came out in the wrong time. At this point, theatrical horror wasn't the force it once was, the second one confused some fans (though I love that movie), and then there's the MPAA, who cut the thing to hell and hated it from the get go. So, how does the movie fair as a whole?

Michelle (Kate Hodge, in her acting debut) and her boyfriend Ryan (William Butler) are in Texas, where a body pit has been found, and they are threatened by a perverted gas station attendant. Before you can say "rev my chainsaw and call me Bubba", Leatherface (R.A. Mihailoff) is back, and this time, his family is made up of "Tex" (Viggo Mortensen), Mama (Miriam Byrd-Nethery) and a psychotic, unnamed little girl (Jennifer Banko), who may be Leatherface's daughter. Can survivalist bad ass Benny (Ken Foree) help save the day?

"Leatherface" fortunately keeps up with the sadistic humor of the prior two movies, though the satire of yuppie-era America and consumerism of "Part 2" is not here. Nope, it's back to satirizing the dark side of the nuclear family, and for the large part, that works thanks to the fine cast, who manage to make it feel like you are watching a family bond and biker. The rest of the cast is also game, with Foree making for a great tough guy, and Hodge going through hell and coming out tough (naturally.) Burr also has a good eye for detail, as little things like Leatherface's abode brought to mind the bone based sets of the original. Plus, there's some fine one liners here ("There's roadkill all over Texas") that didn't hurt the least.

Problems? Well, one that's not the fault of the filmmakers is the way the MPAA handled the movie, as even in it's unrated format, it feels cut to hell. That didn't bother me too much though. What did however, were Leatherface's family and the killer himself. Except for ol' chainsaw and the little girl, none of the family is all that scary, and just feel like refugees from another redneck horror movie. Then there's the fact that Leatherface is a bit of a backwoods rapist/impregnation machine here. What made him so frightening in the original was that he was a sexless slaughtering machine. Here, he's a killing machine, but by adding a newer aspect, he feels a bit demystified.

So, is this one worth a look? As a rental-and especially as a curiosity-it's worth watching. That out of the way, even without some of the cuts, I can't help but feel they should have done a few things a little differently.

Rating: 6/10

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Witchville (2010)

Hey fans of Sy-Fy channel mediocrity, I've got news for you: "Witchville" doesn't differ from a lot of what you see, with...wait a minute, this is slightly different from a lot of what I see and review from said channel? Then slap me around and call me Bubba, this might be fun! Well, let's see if it is.

Malachy (Luke Goss), a prince who has been banished from his kingdom, has been thrust back into leadership due to the malevolent force of The Red Queen (Sarah Douglas), her daughter Jozefa (MyAnna Buring) and a whole slew of witches. Now, with the help of witchfinder named Kramer (Simon Thorp-yes, I too tried made the obvious jokes about his character's name), his right hand man Hobart (Ian Virgo), several other brave warriors, and master of the martial arts Darian (Xiaofei Zhou), he must bring this evil down.

An attempt at mixing standard sword n' sorcery fantasy, Gothic horror (some of the plot and events felt like they could have come from a British genre film from the 60's or 70's) and martial arts action, you can't say that "Witchville" doesn't have any ambition to try something different. On the plus side, the acting (save for Thorpe, whose way too over the top in his role) is fine, with Goss and Douglas clearly having fun with their roles, and Buring bringing a level of sympathy as the put upon by her mother Jozefa. The action scenes are also top notch, as is the score by Neal Arcee that adds a nice medieval flair. Also worthy of praise is the cinematography, which makes the world the film takes place in look gorgeous and foreboding at the same time.

Unfortunately, this isn't a real winner, though that's what one expects from a Sy-Fy Channel movie. For all the Gothic trappings, there's very little in the way of atmosphere, as it all feels mostly like another TV movie. Speaking of which, there's times where it looks cheap even for a Sy-Fy Channel flick, with the props and weapons looking pretty plastic, at times making it look more like people at a Live Action Role-Playing event than an actual movie. Then there's the ending, which threatens a sequel. Maybe it's just me, or maybe it's just common sense in the movie world (lol like that exists), but promising a sequel to a movie that will obviously never be made is pretty stupid.

So as it stands, "Witchville" is nothing worthy of a hardy recommendation. However, if you see it on TV or in a Redbox, you could probably give it a shot, as nowhere near as bad as I thought it would be, and is one of the better Sy-Fy Channel movies I've seen recently.

Rating: 5.5/10

Friday, August 5, 2011

Interplanetary (2008)

I usually tend to tip my hat when a horror comedy movie tries something different. In Chance ("Hide and Creep") Shirley's "Interplanetary", the usual broad, over the top humor that pervades no-budget films like this, instead going sticking largely with a more dry, observant humor. Does it work? Well...sometimes, though the end result is a movie that should have been better.

In Mars Base 2 (technically, it's Mars Base One, but the company decided to change the name), strange goings on occur after Martian fossils are discovered. Now, the crew and scientists working are faced with something worse than the usual office politics...

Though it sounds like it, "Interplanetary" isn't exactly "The Office" or "Office Space" set in space with a murderous being. It comes close at times, but the movie is more of a social satire than an office comedy, with rips on the nature of corrupt corporations, clueless political maneuvering and what Science can (and sometimes maybe shouldn't) do. The low budget effects present actually help, making the movie look at times like a 16mm version of those old Sci-Fi shows from the 60's. The humor is also sometimes funny, with amusing gags (profanity filters in the spacesuits) managing to keep the audience laughing. Oh, and I really like the retro-tastic score, which perfectly evokes the likes of John Carpenter's "Dark Star" (which is clearly the main influence.)

At the same time, the movie suffers some serious pacing issues, with moments that are either supposed to be funny failing or at worst ending up being boring. Also, the sexual humor falls flat, as gags revolving around a slutty worker and sex toys are meant to tickle the funny bone, but they don't. They just annoyed me. Then there's the fact that nothing seriously bad happens until nearing the conclusion. I'm usually all for movies that make you wait, but there's nothing here that's really menacing. As the cliche goes, mixing the comedic with the horrific is hard, but when nothing is horrific and the humor sometimes faulters, the viewer may find themselves being frustrated.

As a whole, I'm 50/50 on "Interplanetary." It's available on Netflix streaming, and it's worth watching some of it during a slow day, but don't be shocked if it doesn't win you over at the end.

Rating: 5/10

Monday, August 1, 2011

From Dusk Till Dawn 2: Texas Blood Money (1999)

I recently read a review on Dread Central that brought up a good point: "From Dusk Till Dawn" was a solid film that really didn't need a sequel per say. Granted, you could say that about a lot of movies-"Jaws", "The Matrix", "Robocop", "Starship Troopers"-but here was a movie that was an anomaly as far as 1996 theatrical movies were concerned-a film that was an unapologetic ode to exploitation movies that featured gore and nudity with no shame and little censorship. That out of the way, we didn't need two sequels, as "Texas Blood Money" proves.

Buck (Robert Patrick), Luther (Duane Whitaker), CW (Muse Watson) Ray Bob (Woody Harrelson's brother Brett) and roided-up owner of a fighting dog Jesus (Raymond Cruz) are out to pull the ultimate robbery in Mexico. Too bad Luther runs into the Titty Twister, where he meets Razor Eddie (Danny Trejo as the only actor reprising a role), who turns him into a vampire. Soon, more people are turned and killed, and all hell breaks loose.

I will say this much: seeing it again, "Texas Blood Money" is slightly more enjoyable this time around. Here, there's a few amusing gags, lots of energy, a fun cameo from Bruce Campbell and Tiffani-Amber Theissen (which is more fun considering Campbell's cameo at the end of the director's first film "The Intruder") and some interesting kills. Plus, it's obvious that the director isn't trying to do a cookie-cutter style horror sequel, and actually pulls a few curve balls every now and then (including an amusing riff on the shower scene in "Psycho" .)

Still, this is a direct-to-video sequel, and sadly, not a particularly fun one at that. Sure, a few moments of humor work, but most of them (a bad conversation about what makes a good porn movie, a lot of terrible puns) fall really flat. Also, except for Patrick, Trejo and Cruz, nobody here delivers a good to decent performance. The make-up and gore FX are also hit and miss (a shock considering they came from KNB) and at times come off as cheap, and the score by Joseph Williams is as dull and generic as they get. Then there's the POV shots. While a few of them are fun (fangs biting a neck from the mouth's POV), most of them are terrible and headache inducing. Sure, this might have worked in "The Intruder", but here they feel unnecessary.

As far as non-theatrical sequels go, I've seen much worse than this, and again, I enjoyed parts of it. However, it's nothing worthy of a recommendation, and ultimately reminds the viewer that some movies just don't need sequels.

Rating: 4/10