Thursday, November 29, 2012

Strippers vs. Werewolves (2012)

I'm kinda amazed that there's now a "Strippers vs. Whatever monster the director felt like using" genre nowadays. I doubt Jay Lee had any idea that his film "Zombie Strippers" would have some sort of influence, but lo and behold, this is what we get. Unfortunately, in this case we get something like "Strippers vs. Zombies", which is from the same guys who gave you "Dead Cert."

Opening with a building blowing up and a shitty cover of "Hungry Like the Wolf", our film soon flashes towards the present, where a stripper named Justice (Adele Silva) kills a man via stabbing him in the eye with a silver pen. I think it should be mentioned that said man was turning into a werewolf. This doesn't sit well with a gang of werewolves lead by  Ferris (Billy Murray-no, not that one), who decide to head to The Silvadollaz club, but not for a lap dance. Let the battle begin!

Well, it takes a while-actually, way too long-for the final showdown to commence. What we get instead is a wave of tedium, bad acting (which shocks me considering several of the actors here aren't exactly amateurs or terrible actors), wasted opportunities (Robert Englund shows up for a rather pointless cameo, and seems like he doesn't want to be there), bad Electro Pop, and really cheap looking werewolves. Also, for a movie called "Strippers vs. Werewolves", you'd expect more in the gore and nudity department. Sure, there's full frontal female nudity and blood, but it seems to be afraid to embrace it's sleazy premise.

A scene from the local "Sideburns for Monsters" convention

If anything, "Strippers vs. Werewolves" is mostly guilty of the fact that it commits the biggest sin any movie could commit-it doesn't even try. It all feels muted, as if those who made it wanted to make a trashy B-Movie, but simply went with an attention grabbing title and forgot everything else. As it stands, none of the humor is particularly funny, the writing is lazy, the direction is piss poor, and the whole enterprise ends up feeling redundant. Sure, you've got strippers and werewolves, but the filmmakers leave you nothing else.

The most telling bit of dialogue (actually, the only memorable bit of dialogue) comes nearing the end, when someone leaves a theater saying "It's not great art, but it's great trash." Well, as a guy whose seen a lot of great trash, I can safely say that this movie is not great trash. It's just boring trash.

Rating: 0/10

As for why I haven't done many reviews this month: I've been pretty busy, and I decided to take a break after October. Don't worry though, as you'll get more in December, as well as the annual best sleepers and worst movies lists.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Vampire Circus (1972)

As the 70's wore on, it was starting to become obvious that old Hammer standbys like Dracula and Frankenstein were beginning to grow out of fashion. People still loved the characters. It was just that there had been several movies with them, and the decade that gave us the likes of "Dawn of the Dead" and "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre" saw the landscape of horror change. There were still plenty of Gothic horror films from this era, but even they began to rely more of blood and female nudity to appease the masses. How did Hammer respond? Well, there were misfires like "Scars of Dracula" and "Lust for a Vampire", and then there's more impressive entries. Films like "Vampire Circus", which managed to capture the changing of the guard whilst still holding on to what made Hammer Studios what it was.

The last thing a dentist wants to see

In the 16th century, the children of a small town have been disappearing, and the nefarious Count Mitterhaus (Robert Tayman) is blamed by the townspeople, who proceed to kill him. However, he places a curse on the town, and has a girl named Ana (Domini Blythe ) contact his cousin Emil (Anthony Corlan.) Decades later, the town has seen better days, and what do ya know, a carnival full of strange people (including "Star Wars" and "A Clockwork Orange" actor David Prowse as a strongman) rolls in. Soon though, dead bodies begin to show up, children go missing, and it seems that the curse of Mitterhaus is rolling into fruition.

I'd be lying if I said that "Vampire Circus" is a flawless movie. For one thing, there are (brief) scenes that rely on stock footage, and while it isn't too obvious, it still feels a bit distracting. Plus, the thing feels a bit illogical and rushed at times, with things such as crucifixes and stakes being used to kill vampires end up feeling undercooked, and it does feel a little rushed near the end.

Still, this is a solid little movie that bleeds atmosphere and eroticism. In fact, this is probably the most erotically charged of Hammer's vampire films, with scenes such as vampire lovemaking and a very suggestive dance between a leopard woman and her partner oozes sexuality. There's also a feeling of absolute evil that is hard to shake off, particularly the fact that even children are in danger here. Granted, children in danger is nothing new in horror, but to actually see something like a vampire sinking it's teeth into one's neck is an unsettling image. Oh, and those hoping for blood will be pleased. This isn't a splatter film, but there's moments that are pretty strong for a Hammer movie, in particular a leopard killing a family, some vicious stake impalement and decapitation. Fortunately, it's all handled pretty well (much better than the two aforementioned misfires) and helps add to the whole 70's vibe the thing has going to it.

Oh shit, I left the oven on!

For fans of Hammer, "Vampire Circus" is both worth a watch and one of the better vampire films they released in the 70's. Now if you could excuse me, there's a circus coming into town...

Rating: 7.5/10

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Tarkan vs. The Vikings (1971)

I love Mondo Macabro. For those not in the know, they are a label that gives DVD releases to some of the strangest films from around the world. Some of them are just plain awesome ("Mill of the Stone Woman" and "Alucarda") some are just plain bad ("Countess Perverse" and  "Clonus") and then there are those that are bad and awesome at the same time. Films like today's entry, "Tarkan vs. The Vikings", which truly must be seen to be believed. Think a "sword and sorcery" movie minus the sorcery and filled with bizarre but indelible moments.

I'm going to try and explain the plot of this movie, but bare with me because damn is it going to be hard. Tarkan (whose a Turkish pop hero made famous by comic books, and is played by Kartal Tibet) is a Hun whose people have been ravished and the princess kidnapped by ruthless vikings in really colorful outfits. I mean like psychedelic colorful.

Anyways, Tarkan and his canine sidekick Kurt (who makes many barking, whining and growling noises yet rarely moves his mouth) are going to rescue the princess, as well as avenge the attack on his people and the death of his other dog, who was also named Kurt. Good to see he thought things through while naming his dogs. However, he's got more than just the vikings to deal with as Chinese warrior girl Lotus (Seher Seniz-so yes, there are no actual Asian actors here) has made a pact with the vikings. Oh, and they sacrifice women to an octopus, which looks like this

The opening fight scene itself pretty much sets the tone, though in some cases not the one they were hoping for. It's pretty violent stuff, with plenty of beheading, impalement and even kids being killed. However, it's all done with swords and spears that are clearly plastic or made out of cardboard, and by vikings in technicolor outfits. Also, a dog attacking someone that is obviously someone throwing the poor thing at said person.

From then on, things get even stranger. There's loads of continuity problems (one of the main characters has water splashed in their direction, yet in the next frame they are completely dry), a score that is blatantly plagiarist (even "borrowing" from the theme from "2001: A Space Odyssey") and tons of random fights, acts of violence and even some brief nudity. Yep, this is all goofy as hell, but it's never boring. That's mostly because you get a feeling that everything here is meant to be fun instead of nasty, and the whole thing is so delirious and out there that you can't help but join in on the ride.

Plus, it's hard not to appreciate what those involved were aiming for. Yes, they didn't have the budget Hollywood movies had, but who cares? They made a movie, and at the end of the day, it didn't bore me at all and entertained me in spite of (and because of) it's obvious flaws. To pick on a movie like this is like yelling at a wounded puppy. It might be injured because of it's own stupidity, but you can't hate it no matter what.

For those with a taste for the truly out there, "Tarkan" is a blast. If anything, it's a shame that so many Turkish genre films have gone on to be forgotten about or even destroyed. It's such a strange but intriguing world, and it's always nice to see what these kinds of movies are like from a different cultural perspective.

Rating: 7/10

Friday, November 9, 2012

Listen (1996)

There were a lot of trends from the 90's that feel ancient nowadays. Virtual Reality. Industrial Rock. Pogs (not a diss on that though.) Another one of these trends was the "Erotic Thriller", which was made popular thanks to the likes of "Basic Instinct" and "Sliver" (you know, that movie with one of the Baldwin Brothers and Sharon Stone? You know, the one with Enigma aka "One of the whitest things in music history" aka "Hey, let's mix generic dance beats with half assed samples of chanting and world music!" on the soundtrack?) In the process, there were a lot of straight to video variations on this genre, such as the 1996 film "Listen" by Gavin Wilding.*

Sarah (Brooke Langton) is a former lesbian who has moved into an apartment, where her boyfriend Jake (Gordon Currie) and ex-girlfriend Krista (Sarah Buxton) live. In her apartment is a defective cordless phone that lets her eavesdrop and leads her to having phone sex. Unfortunately for her, a killer is targeting the people she's been talking to. The police say it's the same killer who just happened to vanish last year, but it could be anyone...

There's little in "Listen" that's terrible per say, but there's little that's good either. Like many straight-to-video films from the period, it's largely forgettable and isn't particularly well acted or directed. Hell, the sole reason most audience members will want to see this is the eroticism angle, which plays out like an extended, suspense themed episode of one of those old "erotic anthology" shows from the period like "Erotic Confessions" (How do I know about this? Simple, scramble vision from the 90's my dear reader!) or something.

If your a fan of that kind of thing, then will probably be of interest, and the killer aspect of the film does kind of bring to mind something that wouldn't be too out of place in a giallo film (Just don't expect anything too violent.) However, the conclusion is something of a confusing twist ending that goes "No, this is the killer! No, this is the killer!" too often, leaving anything revolving around believability out the window. Also worthy of mention is how it kinda bungles the whole lesbian aspect. There's tons of potential here for commenting on society's attempts to repress homosexuality, but it doesn't seem interested in that at all.

As a whole, I've seen much worse than "Listen", but there's little of it worth mentioning other than the fact that I remember seeing a copy of it in one of those VHS rentals in the 90's (Haven't bothered to watch it until now. I'm sure 15 year old me would be all like "Whoa, she's masturbating!") and that it was talked about in "VideoHound's Horror Show", which was a book I had. Unless you have fond memories of straight-to-video erotic thrillers from the 90's, skip it. Actually, I don't think it's available on DVD anywhere (not even in some sort of Echo Bridge or Mill Creek box set), so I doubt you'll ever see it anyway.

Rating: 4.5/10

*Wilding is a veteran of the direct to video world, whose genre credits include the Christopher Lloyd vehicle "Convergence", "Spliced" with Ron Silver, "Stag" with Mario Van Peebles and Kevin Dillon and "Caught in the Headlights" with Erika Eleniak. Never heard of them? That's fine, I doubt few else have, or at least remember them.

Exorcism (1975)

The cinematic output of Jesus Franco is a puzzling one for me. Well, the praise it gets is. Whilst guys like Jean Rollin were dreamy, atmospheric and poetic at their best, I rarely got that feeling with Franco. Some of his 60's films are worth a look ("Diabolical Dr. Z" is actually a pretty good time), but as the Spanish film system became more liberated, Jess decided to make movies that offered what exploitation fans wanted-tits, ass and violence. While this sounds great on paper, for me his movies lack much as far as entertainment goes, and "Exorcism" (which in spite of it's title, never has such an event happen) is a good example of that.

She's either dying or bored to death

Franco himself stars as Mathis Vogel, a defrocked priest who writes to an pseudo S&M magazine about demonic activities and black magic practices. One night, he goes to an erotic show based around a Black Mass, and lo and behold, he thinks the whole thing is real and that everyone is possessed, he goes on a killing spree, with the likes of a model named Anne (Franco regular Lina Romay) being a prime target.

That's about it as far as plot is concerned. There's potential here for some interesting social commentary, but Franco doesn't seem to be too interested in that sort of thing. He seems to be more interested in sex and female nudity than saying anything relevant. To be fair, Romay does a fine job, the aforementioned nudity is sometimes pleasing to the eyes and there is a great bit of shocking violence, but after a while "Exorcism" starts to get really boring. Most of the violence isn't all that graphic, and Franco isn't really the best director. Sure, there are one or two nice shots, but the direction is kinda lifeless, with way too many lingering shots and repetition to really get invested.

Oh look, something shiny!

Which leads me to my biggest complaint: this movie is fucking boring. Franco seems to be obsessed with showing you the same thing (Black Mass rituals and writhing naked bodies) to the point of making the whole endeavor redundant to sit through. This is a movie that's main goal is showing off as much boobs, butts, bush and sleaze as possible, but it never feels erotic. It's all shot in a really matter-of-fact style, and after a while all of the events end up blurring together. You can only show sleaze for so long until it loses it's impact and becomes uneventful.

I know, there's an audience for this. For that audience (and fans of the directors work), you'll probably eat this up. Me? I just kept wanting to hit the fast forward button.

Rating: 2.5/10