Friday, April 27, 2012

Metamorphosis: The Alien Factor (1990)

In 1983, a group of  kids got together, and made a little movie called "The Deadly Spawn" for a mere $25,000. It found brief life in drive-in and grindhouse theaters before hitting VHS, where several distribution companies got a hold of it and unfortunately, most of those behind it didn't get a dime. However, producer Ted A. Bohus wasn't deterred, and got ready for a bigger budget sequel that was originally called "The Deadly Spawn 2: Metamorphosis", but changed it's name to "Metamorphosis: The Alien Factor." Interestingly enough, the end result has little if anything to do with the first movie, and more resembles a straight to video rip-off of Carpenter's "The Thing" (even paying homage to it at one point), a Corman vehicle from this time, and a bigger budget version of a Don Dohler movie ironically enough called "The Alien Factor."

When an alien being bites Dr. John Griffen (Matt Kulis), he begins to change into something else. Something that's definitely not human, and is deadly to boot. When his daughters Sherry (Tara Leigh) and Kim (Dianna Flaherty) try to find out what happened to their father, they find out that he now resembles this:

          "Isn't She Lovely?"

And he's not too happy about that for some weird reason. Oh, and Dr.Viallini (Marcus Powell) doesn't want the thing to be known by the authorities.

Though a serviceable bit of schlocky hokum, "Metamorphosis: The Alien Factor" does have it's share of flaws. For starters, nobody here is a particularly good actor, with much of the cast being either inexperienced  or just not particularly talented enough to carry the film. Also, while there's some gore, you aren't going to get as much pleasing splatter as you did in "The Deadly Spawn." Interestingly enough, the bigger budget actually does become a problem. Whereas the tiny budget in the prior film was part of it's charm, the larger one here makes it resemble what it ultimately is: an unspectacular straight-to-video horror movie.

However, that doesn't mean that it's a bad movie. For one thing, it's clear that director Glenn Takakjian knows that the creature effects are the real stars here, and they're great. A mix of puppetry, anamatronics and stop-motion animation, they really come to life in the film, and are especially a reason for celebration once John Griffen starts to change. I also really liked the synthesizer heavy score by John Gray, which mixes eerie passages with those that bring in some much needed humor and personality. Speaking of which, by the second half, the movie picks up, with a noticeable sense of humor showing up that thankfully never becomes intrusive or forced. Oh, and the ending is a nice little nod to the conclusion in "The Deadly Spawn."

At the end of the day, this isn't going to win a lot of high accolades, and it probably isn't the sequel fans were expecting. However, if you long for movies like "Syngenor", then you might enjoy this. Just don't expect to be bowled over.

Rating: 6/10

*These days, Takakjian does animation and effects for shows like "Modern Marvels," and works as an actor and writer for the show "Adventures of the Superseven." He got his start though, as a member of the effects crew for "The Deadly Spawn."

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Hell on Earth (2008)

If it wasn't for "The Deadly Spawn", I'm pretty sure Ted A. Bohus wouldn't be well known even by a select few horror fans. To be honest, I'm sure he's aware of that, as the horror movies he's produced (the pseudo "Deadly Spawn" sequel "Mutation: The Alien Factor") and directed ("The Regenerated Man" and "Vampire Vixens From Venus") since are meant to be seen as cheap, undemanding B-Movies and nothing more. Well,  after producing and directing two non-genre related films, he's returned to horror with the micro-budget horror comedy "Hell on Earth", which is now on DVD and Youtube Video On-Demand via a returning (and newly purchased by MVD Films) Elite Entertainment.

Seventeen year old horror fanatic Bobby walks with crutches and a metal leg brace, and get's routine verbal abuse from his all around evil mother, bitch of a sister and obnoxious drunk of a father. His only friends are his occult loving Aunt Sadie, and his all too real friends-made up of various demons and a few zombies. Well, when one of them had him read from the Apocryphal Book of Tarkuhm, which is essentially a poor man's version of the Necronomicon. When Bobby starts to read it, various zombies and demons reek havoc on the rest of the family, and his sister's friends-two of which are more sympathetic towards Bobby.

For some reason, It's kind of hard for me to hate this movie. That's mostly because it knows what it is-a bit of horror/comedy fluff that has no pretensions whatsoever on what it is or what it's status in the world of horror cinema. Also, it's got a few neat make-up and gore effects that look shockingly alright (outside of one demon mask and the zombie make-up) for a movie with such a tiny budget. I even kind of like that it mostly feels like a no-budget (and I mean no-budget-it practically resembles a Youtube video at times) version of something like "Night of the Demons" and the kind of thing Full Moon used to release.

Unfortunately, it has too many flaws for me to give it a pass. The biggest of these is the acting, especially those playing Bobby's family. What you get is an exaggerated bunch of goons that felt like a mix of bad, sub-high school level humor and white trash family cliches that would make Rob Zombie say "Whoa, tone it down!" Especially guilty is the actor playing Bobby's dad, who says things like "pull my finger" that made me wish he would die quickly. The humor meanwhile, is more miss than hit, with only a few jokes feeling amusing and the rest just coming off as forced and irritating. Then there's the references to other movies. While some are amusing (including visual nods to other movies Ted produced or directed), most of them feel too much like Ted's going "Hey, this is a Ted Bohus movie! Clearly you'll love it!" That would be great if it wasn't things like people watching "Deadly Spawn" and "Vampire Vixens From Venus." That's just stupid. Oh, and don't get me started on the bad optical and digital effects that would have been laughed at in a shot on video movie from the 90's.

As a whole, this is more of a rental than it is a purchase, as people who wish they still made movies like "Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers" or Ted's prior directorial efforts might get something out of it.. For the rest of us, it's nothing you'll remember or recommend to anyone.

Rating: 4.5/10

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Outlander (2008)

It's harder to make a B-Movie than it looks. Sure, you can throw together humor, a cool premise, blood, boobs, etc.-in your movie, but it's all about building upon that promise. If you can't deliver what the audience wants, then your B-Movie has failed. Well folks, "Outlander" is a B-Movie that get's it right for the most part.

Kainan (Jim Caviezel) is a man from a far away planet who has crashed onto Earth in Norway, circa 709 AD. He is taken in by a viking village ruled by Hrothgar (John Hurt), who are currently at war with Gunnar (Ron Perlman.) However, the biggest threat is two creatures known as Moorwen, who seem to have crashed landed with Kainan, and are somehow connected to him. Now, with the help of Freya (Sophie Myles) and Wulfric (John Huston), he must destroy these monsters before it's too late.

While most directors would have played the whole thing for laughs, "Outlander" largely plays it straight, with an a occasionally amusing moment here and there. That thankfully works in the movies favor, as winking at the audience and going "ain't this silly?" would have ruined it a little. This is a movie that does what it can with said premise, and largely delivers, with blood, bad-ass action scenes, vikings and cool actors like Hurt and Perlman making for a good time. It also moves at a reasonable clip, with little if any time dedicated to unnecessary exposition, and the performances (save for Caviezel, whose kind of dull as the lead) are largely pretty great. In short, it's the movie "Pathfinder" should have been.

There's even some interesting thematic material revolving around Kainan and the Moorwen. As it turns out, Kainan's people viewed them as simple beasts, and slaughtered them without pity-only to see his family killed by the creatures in retaliation. Here, it could be looked upon as either a commentary on the war on terror or the affects of colonial imperialism, and while I can't say that's the case for sure, it's refreshing to see such food for thought in a movie like this.

In the end, "Outlander" is not a movie that will not be nominated for best picture, and that's just fine, as I'll take it over crap like "Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close" any day of the week. Besides, it's got Monsters, Vikings and Ron Perlman. If that doesn't yell quality, I don't know what does.

Rating: 7.5/10

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Dick Clark: 1929-2012

Why? Well, because he's Dick Clark, and because he did serve as producer for "Mutant."

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Mulva: Zombie Ass Kicker (2001)



If you watch a lot of horror, you more than likely seen at least a few bad, no-budget movie. If you are one of the people whose encountered the likes of Chris Seaver, then I feel bad for you.

Seaver, for the uninitiated, is a man who has dedicated his life to making micro-budget movies. Okay, that's fine and all-except for the fact that his movies aren't just bad. They are abominations upon the eyes of anyone-movies that seem to delight in how bad they are, and show no real effort as far as comedy, wit, skill or entertainment are concerned. He may very well be the Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer of horror/comedy, and "Mulva: Zombie Ass Kicker" is one of many movies that serve as proof of that.

Missy Tonatuti stars as Mulva, a chocolate addicted, who decides to go Trick r' Treating with her friend, only to run into zombies, who want their brains and their candy.

That's about it as far as plot is concerned, as that seems to be something Seaver doesn't really care for. Instead, he decides to go for laughs. By laughs, I mean disgusting shots of our titular character's chocolate smeared mug and pop culture references and quotes that are there because hey, if you don't have anything resembling talent, then reference something! It's what Friedberg and Seltzer did for the likes of "Epic Movie." Oh, and Seaver himself getting in on the act-playing a painful, minstrel show worthy character named Mr. Bonejack, and even sporting blackface. Yep, racism too. You also get indie mavens like Debbie Rochon and Trent Haaga, Lloyd Kaufman (of course) and even the Naked Cowboy shows up.

I'm not exaggerating when I say that "Mulva: Zombie Ass Kicker" may very well be the worst zombie movie ever made. At least the likes of "Zombiez" and "Curse of the Screaming Dead" felt like they were made by people who were trying. Nothing in "Mulva: Zombie Ass Kicker" suggests that. This is a movie made by a guy who picked up his VHS camera and thought "hey, who needs to make any effort?" I know he's working with pennies here, and that this is for a select audience, but consider these two things: 1.) other people working on a micro-budget at least try to make a worthwhile movie, and 2.) I can't even see the select audience going for this much. Just because he doesn't care what you think of his movies doesn't excuse the fact that they are beyond awful.

If you find something to like about "Mulva: Zombie Ass Kicker", then guess what: I don't want to know you. You are lower than a parasite, and you offer nothing to the human race. What kind of rating does this deserve? Why, it deserves a


Saturday, April 14, 2012

The Main Reason to Bother Watching "Wrong Side of Town"

The Exterminator (1980)

I love Synapse films. Along with Blue Underground, these guys are pretty much Criterion for fans of horror and exploitation, with movies like "Thriller: A Cruel Picture", "Frankenhooker" and "Maniac Cop" under their belt. So it makes perfect sense that they would release the vigilante movie favorite "The Exterminator" on a Blu-Ray/DVD combo pack. This is a mixed bag for me, as I don't have a Blu-Ray player, but I do have a DVD player, so I can watch the movie but not judge the two discs. I can however, judge the movie.

John Eastland (Robert Ginty) is a Vietnam vet whose war buddy and long time best friend Michael Jefferson (Steve James.) When Michael is fatally wounded by thugs, Eastland decides that not only those responsible should pay: the pimps, pushers and filth of the streets must be exterminated. Thing is, this is bad for the mayor, whose got an election coming up, so it's up to Detective James Dalton (Christopher George) to stop the man known to the city of New York as "The Exterminator."

While there are flaws in this movie (the relationship between Dalton and a nurse played by Samantha Eggar feels unnecessary), this is a prime example of early 80's exploitation. While gore-hounds will be let down (only a gnarly decapitation in a Vietnam flashback), the violence here is vicious and unrelenting-in fact, largely skimping on splatter actually helps enhance the brutality on display-and boy is it a vicious little movie. Eastland is not a man who plays around, setting people ablaze, dropping them in meat-grinders, shooting them with mercury laced bullets-he means business. Also, exploitation fans will more than likely enjoy this, as this is the type of movie that shows you New York before it was cleaned up. This is a world of drug pushers, murderers, and more-the scum of the Earth, and The Exterminator has had enough of them.

It also helps that this is a well directed and mostly well acted movie. James Glickenhouse* films the whole thing in a matter of fact style-no flashy editing or tricks here, just the worst the city has to offer and ugly violence pushed into your face, which aids the already gritty tone of the movie. Meanwhile, Ginty (who most may remember from the MST3K movie "Warriors of the Lost World") has a kind of Charles Bronson like quality-not as good of an actor, but he doesn't really look like an action star. He just looks like a regular guy, and the actor thankfully manages to make Eastland human but not too sympathetic. If anything, he's a psychopath. George meanwhile, plays the guy who may be the most likable character. He doesn't want The Exterminator killing people, but he understands why he's doing it, and doesn't seem to care much for the corrupt political and police establishment around him.

For fans of revenge movies and exploitation, "The Exterminator" is something that must be seen. Is it a perfect movie? No, but it get's the job done without any added bullshit.

Rating: 8/10

*Glickenhouse also wrote this movie, and directed the Christopher Walken action movie "McBain", Jackie Chan's ill-advised U.S. debut "The Protector" and the Peter Weller/Sam Elliot cop movie "Shakedown." He also produced "Basket Case 2", "Frankenhooker", "Maniac Cop" and the Joe Don Baker vehicle "Ring of Steel."

There was a sequel to this movie, but Glickenhouse had nothing to do with it. It's a bad movie, and not in a "so bad it's good" way.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Porkchop (2011)

Partying, mayhem and gore...80's style.

So says the tagline for "Porkchop", a micro-budget throwback to "kids are killed in the woods" slasher movies from the 80's. Maybe it's because I recently watched "Rabies", which managed to do something new with the backwoods slasher movie, but I found this to be a pretty bad movie all around.

The plot goes like this: Deborah (Ruby Larocca), Mike (Charles Sullivan), Chris (Chris Woodall), Ian (Brandon Raker), Courtney (Sierra Ferrell) and Rachael (Erin Russ) go to the woods for sex, drugs and good times. Also, they bring around a goofy talking robot named Elron (voiced by Danny Hicks of "Evil Dead II", "Darkman" and "The Intruder" fame.) Long story short, there's a hulking man wearing a pig-head mask known as Porkchop (Robert Cobb) that has murder on his mind, and you know what goes on from there.

While the killer is pretty bad-ass and the kills are gory as hell and usually inventive (with the gore and make-up effects actually looking great), "Porkchop" is pretty bad. In some ways, it kind of reminded me of Drew Rosas' "Blood Junkie" in the fact that it wants so much to be like the slasher movies from the 80's, what with it's 80's fashions, bad hair, bad pop music, etc. However, "Blood Junkie" at least made me laugh. This movie was just annoying, with all of the jokes being deliberately bad. My problem with this is the fact that I hate it when a movie acknowledges that it isn't exactly a good movie, and just goes "fuck it." Deliberately making bad jokes doesn't excuse anything. In fact, that just makes it worse.

In the process, everything else about the movie is just poorly done. Eamon Hardiman directs the whole thing as if it were his first motion picture, and that would be forgiving if it was (it's not.) The entire stretch before the kills start to occur is just a pain to sit through, with actors mugging for the camera and doing next to nothing interesting. Speaking of which, it takes way too long for the kills to start to happen, and by the time they do, you'll hardly be awake. This is a movie that, as I said, wants so much to capture the vibe of 80's slasher movies, but it lacks the most important element: fun. There's hardly anything in this movie that's remotely enjoyable. It just feels like a group of people goofing off with their home video equipment in the woods, and not like the tongue-in-cheek slasher fun-fest it wants to be.

If you want to see a fun, 80's style slasher movie-then go watch an actual 80's slasher movie like "The Prowler." It'd be a much better choice than watching a bunch of people play pretend for 92 minutes.

Rating: 2/10

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Rabies (2010)

I don't know about you, but I'm really looking forward to "Cabin in the Woods" (and I'm not what you'd call a Whedon fan boy.) I just find the idea of a movie that takes a long used formula (kids go to a cabin in the woods and get more than what they bargained for) and does something new with it exciting. That out of the way, there's another movie that takes an old formula and does something new with it that's out on DVD right now on DVD and Amazon Instant called "Rabies", which apparently is the first horror movie from Israel.

The premise goes like this: A brother and sister who share a dark secret (it's hinted that it might be incest) are on the run and find refuge at an abandoned nature reserve. However, the sister is trapped by a killer, leading the brother to try and save her. Meanwhile, a group of friends, a ranger and his dog, and two policemen end up becoming intertwined in the whole case-and, without giving two much away, the killer end's up becoming...any one of them.

If "Rabies" does run into any problems, it's that the characters are largely an unsympathetic and at times uninteresting bunch. Granted, the actors involved do a good enough job, but they feel underwritten at times. Thankfully, the unsympathetic part of that equation turns out to work, as it allows the movie to play with who the killer is, and in the end, makes him more of a catalyst towards the oncoming events instead of the usual "there's a guy killing kids in the woods" trope. That out of the way, I was a little put off by the intentionally disjointed nature of the narrative, which made it a little hard to watch on a few occasions.

As far as gore is concerned-well, it's not a splatter flick, but you do get a few choice moments, the best involving a wounded teen wielding an ax. To be fair though, gore isn't the big focus of the movie. Instead, directors Aharon Keshales and Navot Papushado opt more for suspense and a nasty streak of black humor, and for the large part, that works because they manage to keep you guessing whose going to die next-and how-without relying on excessive bloodshed. Meanwhile, a few of the scenes (such as one revolving around a landmine) are, as I mentioned, laced with a sense of dark irony that managed to keep me amused. I even liked the rather open ended conclusion, as it actually felt like the most natural conclusion to the prior events. It's refreshing to see someone who knows how to use such an ending.

Will "Rabies" change the slasher genre as we know it? I doubt it, as it's flaws are pretty glaring. However, I did find it to be a refreshing change of pace in the overcrowded slasher genre, and is worth a look for horror fans looking for something different.

Rating: 7/10

Friday, April 6, 2012

Tactical Force (2011)

I like Michael Jai White. Sure, he's done some crap ("Spawn" for example) but if you've seen the all around awesome "Black Dynamite" or the shockingly fun straight-to-video action movie "Blood and Bone" (and who hasn't seen "The Dark Knight"?) can see why: he's a natural born ass-kicker with charisma and a likable personality to boot. So when I saw that he was in the latest "Stone Cold" Steve Austin/Nasser* movie "Tactical Force", I thought to myself "I'm sure I'll like Michael Jai White." I can say I did, even though the movie itself is pretty bad.

Austin stars as Tate, the leader of an LAPD SWAT team whose men (White and Steve Bacic) and lady officer Jannard (Lexa Doig) kind of botched a mission, and are sent by their straight from the 80's cop movie Chief (Peter Bryant) for a training exercise at an abandoned hangar. However, things go wrong when two when two rival gangs lead by Demetrius (Michael Shanks) and Lampone (Adrian Holmes) have decided to use said hangar to settle business, and our heroes only have blanks...

As I said, Michael Jai White is the best thing about this movie, as he delivers plenty of fun one liners, kicks all kinds of ass and clearly seems to be having fun with his role. If it weren't for him and some enjoyable action scenes, this movie would pretty much be unwatchable. While White is good in his role, the rest of the cast doesn't fair too well. Austin-look, I'm a wrestling fan, and I know he's great as far as the "Stone Cold" character he portrayed-but he spent years with that character. Here, he comes off as stiff and unnatural, delivering his dialog without much in the way of conviction. Meanwhile, Shanks isn't bad, but he's given a ridiculous Russian accent, and MMA star Keith Jardine is certainly imposing looking as an assassin, but when he opens his mouth, all bets are off.

Which leads me to the biggest problem I have with the movie-it's poorly written and directed. This is the second writing and directing effort from Adamo P. Cultraro, and he directs the whole thing with the kind of hyper-fast editing that makes it hard to tell what's happening, with flat cinematography and listless direction to boot. Meanwhile, the script and tone of the movie is clearly meant to be a tongue-in-cheek action/comedy, but few of the jokes are funny, and the whole thing is riddled with holes (How is it that the police force wasn't aware of two feuding gangs? Shouldn't they know this kind of thing?) and one-note characters, making it difficult to care about any of what's happening.

Unless you are the world's most indiscriminate action fan, "Tactical Force" isn't worth sitting through. I've seen worse, but that's no excuse for this kind of mediocrity.

Rating: 3/10

*Austin also starred in "Damage", "The Stranger" and "Hunt to Kill" for the company.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Shark Night (2011)

I tend to not review many movies when they are in theaters. I think it's better to do so when said movie is on DVD-I dunno why, I just do. So when I saw "Shark Night" in 2011, I knew it would be bad-so bad it ended up in my "worst of the year list", but until now, I've held out on reviewing it. So now that said movie is now available on the home market, let's get this show on the road.

Sara Palski (the adorable Sara Paxton) and her pals Malik (Sinqua Walls), Gordon (Joel David Moore), Beth (former "American Idol" contestant Katherine McPhee), Nick (Dustin Mulligan) Blake (Chris Zykla) and Maya (Alyssa Diaz) go on vacation at a lake house in Louisiana. In the process, then run into redneck goons Dennis (Chris Carmack) and Red ("Blair Witch Project" actor Joshua Leonard, whose found a fine second life in the world of indie and art house movies) and seemingly nice sheriff Greg Sabin (Donal Logue.) The big danger however, is that the fresh water lake has sharks-and that the rednecks might have something to do with them being there.

It's weird to see that David R. Ellis directed this. This is a man who previously directed "Snakes on a Plane", "Final Destination 2" and the fourth one. Here's a guy who knows how to take a potentially fun concept and run with it (well, not with "The Final Destination", but beggars can't be choosers.) Here however, the movie plays the whole concept straight, with little in the way of personality, humor or thrills. It's a shark movie without any life-one that's so lame, even the folks at The Asylum would raise their noses at it. The whole thing is directed lifelessly, with no potential fun on display. The movie instead goes with one of the biggest cardinal sins in horror-it plays it safe.

Granted, part of that could probably be blamed on the PG-13 rating. It's obvious that the movie is trying to ride the coattails of movies like "Piranha 3D." When you see a movie called "Shark Night", you immediately expect coeds being munched on, female nudity and tons of gore. With a PG-13 rating, it loses much of the impact it could have. Another advantage something like "Piranha" has over this is the fact that it was aware of it's own ridiculousness, and fully embraced it. This is a movie that has potential to be a commentary on reality television with its "Rednecks use sharks to make a bloody web show" sub-plot, but instead it just becomes a morass of bad stereotypes and tiresome torture-horror tropes.

Even more offensive is that much of the cast is actually made up of good actors. I've seen shows and movies where Leonard, Paxton, Moore and Logue (who starred in the sadly short lived FX series "Terriers") have delivered good to great performances. Seeing them in this is just depressing. I know they are better than this, and yes, I'm aware that a job is a job at the end of the day and that actors have to make cash. But it's sad to see the wasted in crap like this.

There is no reason whatsoever to watch "Shark Night", as it has plenty of sharks and no sense of fun. Besides, if you are going to make PG-13 movie with sharks, make it about about a superhero shark, and call it "The Shark Knight."

Rating: 0/10