Saturday, November 14, 2015

On Second Viewing: Dead Clowns (2004)

When I do the whole "On Second Viewing" thing, I tend to dread it. That's because it's usually for movies that I have reviewed in the past and didn't care for when I first saw it. That being said, I was actually shocked to find myself enjoying the last entry in this series, "Neon Maniacs". Little about the movie is actually good, but the sheer stupidity and all around unintentionally goofy nature of it really left me happy. Did I get the same feeling out of watching "Dead Clowns" the second time? No, I did not.

The plot-well, what there is of one-deals with a town that is preparing for a hurricane. However, said town had a tragic incident that occurred fifty years earlier-a hurricane that hit the town caused a circus train accident that killed many a clown. Now, said clowns are back as zombies, and they want revenge. Why? Because the town has largely forgotten about the incident. Yeah, how dare those townspeople try to move on? The audacity of them! What follows is a micro-budget mix of "The Fog", the "Blind Dead" films, a Lucio Fulci zombie movie and a killer clown movie. Sadly, it isn't as fun as that description may imply.

Revisiting the movie, I remembered this about the movie-the thing, at the very least, has tons of atmosphere. That and it's gory as hell, and the make up and splatter FX are all pretty good. Said gore scenes also have a tendency to drag on for a long time, which diminishes the impact. Also diminishing the impact is that nobody in the movie is the least bit interesting, have little to no backstory and tend to act and behave in a manor that is alien to even the dumbest of horror movies. The movie really just feels like it was written by someone who not only doesn't understand how to write dialogue, but doesn't understand basic human interaction and behavior. 

Then there is just the fact that the movie is really fucking slow, and really fucking boring to boot. The whole movie moves in a snails pace, with little of what occurs feeling like it doesn't have any consequence, and that characters only exist to be killed by zombies. Speaking of characters, this is a movie that casts scream queens Brinke Stevens and Debbie Rochon, then fails to do anything with them. Hell, Rochon has proven in the past to be a good actor, but here she isn't even given any dialogue. Now let's talk about how there are zombie clowns-and that's it. Outside of being dressed like clowns, there is nothing really specific about them. They are just your typical zombies in a horror movie. At least put a little imagination in the zombie clown aspect of your movie.

This movie, BTW, was released by my old nemesis Lionsgate-a nemesis because of the amount of dreck they dump straight to DVD. While they still do this, they are also more of a studio proper nowadays, thanks to the likes of "The Hunger Games" and "Divergent" series. Nowadays, they aren't the kind of studio that releases micro budget, seemingly shot on video bullshit like this and "The Maize". 

Have their standards gotten better? Hell no, they released "Mortdecai" earlier this year. However, nowadays, they aren't going to release something like this, and I'm amazed they did in the first place. This is the kind of thing you expect someone like Brain Damage films (who have released work from the films director, Steve Sessions* in the past) to release instead of a major studio.

*Sessions has been directing, writing and scoring micro-budget horror for years, with directorial credits including "Cremains", "Hellbound: Book of the Dead", Torment" and "Malefic". 

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Humongous (1982)

After a brief dry spell, I'm back.

Anyways, a lot has been said about the 80's slasher. So much that it feels almost redundant to do an introductory paragraph that tells the reader about them. So instead, I want to mention the Canadian slasher "Prom Night" and it's director, Paul Lynch. The original was lambasted by critics (in particular one Roger Ebert), but has gone on to be considered a staple in the genre. Lynch's follow up movie "Humongous" however, hasn't garnered as warm of a response though, and it's easy to see why.

The film actually starts out in startling, classic exploitation fashion: a woman is brutally raped by a drunk asshole who refuses to take no for an answer. He then gets his just deserts, as a dog attacks him, and she finishes him off. Cut to years later though, a group of annoying teens find themselves stranded on an island. To make things worse for them, they are also being stalked by the progeny of the before mentioned victim.

Where as "Prom Night" owed more to "Halloween" and classic Giallo films, "Humongous" is basically an unapologetic rip-off of "Friday the 13th" with a bit of the proto-slasher "Tower of Evil" thrown in for good measure. On the plus side, Lynch actually manages to milk some solid atmosphere out of the locations, especially in the night scenes that manage to effectively use shadows to a good effect. I also like the score by John Mills Cockell, which manages to add to the atmosphere. It isn't a mind blowing score, but it still feels effective nonetheless.

That's were the positives end though, as this is a poor example of the 80's slasher. Why? For one thing, there's nothing in the way of suspense and little in interest here. Honestly, you are better off watching "Madman" instead of this, as that actually manages to throw in moments of interest in between the gory kills. Speaking of which, there isn't a lot of gore here outside of a head crushing scene. Granted, I think slasher movies can work quite well without a lot of splatter, but come on. This is a movie that has a huge mongoloid killer. Throw us a bone here.

Then there's the acting...oh my God, the acting is atrocious, even by the standards of 80's slasher movies. Nobody here is the least bit likable, sympathetic or interesting, and instead they just grate on your nerves to no end. As it goes on, this becomes the kind of thing where you find yourself rooting for the killer instead of the other way around. Not a very good sign.

There really isn't much of a reason to watch this movie. Negatives definitely outweigh the positives, and it ends up feeling like a mix of nondescript and dull instead of anything worthwhile. There's worse as far as 80's slasher films are concerned, but there's certainly better too.

Rating: 2.5/10

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Exeter (2015)

"Exeter" is a movie with a story behind it. It's from director Marcus Nispel (who, outside of his "Texas Chainsaw Massacre" remake, hasn't exactly done anything to make me go "Wow, that wasn't bad"-let's just say that his remake of "Friday the 13th" doesn't hold up for me) and all around horror mega producer Jason Blum. The story is that it shooting started in 2011 (under the title "Backmask") and was finished in 2012...then it just sat in limbo for a while. It wasn't until this year that it finally got a minuscule theatrical release before being dumped to video a month or so later. It's also the first movie Nispel has done that isn't a remake, reboot or adaptation of someone else's work, but that doesn't mean that it's good.

The story deals with a group of dumb teens (is there any other kind in these movies?) that decide to party in an abandoned asylum and what do ya know, decide to dick around and play with the occult. This leads to someone getting possessed, and tempers flare. In the process, this demonic entity can also jump from body to body, which soon turns into a fight for survival and a battle to find out the secrets of the asylum-secrets that may involve one Father Conway (Stephen Lang)

"Exeter" isn't just a bad movie-it's a frustrating one as well, as I could tell that there is actually potential for it to be better. The acting is hit and miss (Lang in particular seems wasted in what essentially feels like an extended cameo), but the gore effects and gore gags are actually pretty neat, and some of the jokes and one liners thrown in are amazingly enough kinda to pretty funny. That and the story-a demon that jumps from body to body-is a neat twist on the demonic possession genre. So, where does it go wrong?

For starters, the direction and editing are suspect. Nispel has never really been the strongest director, and his movies (especially "Pathfinder" and his "Conan the Barbarian" remake) are usually edited in a what that it feels more like a music video for a shitty Industrial Rock band than it does an actual horror movie. He also doesn't understand how things like build up for basic suspense work, as the movie jumps into horror territory pretty fast. However, none of it is scary, little of it is interesting and it all ends up feeling more like a poor man's version of "Night of the Demons" than it does something worth watching.

Then there is the script-hoo boy, the script for this thing sucks. None of the characters are likable in the least here. Like his "Friday the 13th" remake, they are all stereotypes and thinly written people you don't feel an ounce of sympathy for. The mere fact that someone says "supple ass" gave me some real douche chills. Then there's the fact that there isn't much of a payoff here. In fact, once I learned all about the entity and how it ties into everything, I just said out loud "that's it? That's what it is?" 

By the time it ended, I can say that I've seen worse this year as far as horror goes. However, the end result really left me cold, and while it's nice to see the director trying to do something that's original (well, as in it isn't a remake of something) for a change, I also can't help but wish that the end result was better. This movie is the definition of "swing and a miss".

Rating: 3/10

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Night of the Bloody Apes (1969)

The name Rene Cardona may not be familiar with you-that is, unless you know of the history of Mexican genre films. He and his son actually played a big part in that field, with movies like "Survive!", "Doctor of Doom" and uh, the MST3K fave "Santa Clause" as a part of his resume. 1969's "Night of the Bloody Apes" is the movie he did that ended up on the infamous "Video Nasties" list, though that is largely due to other distributors adding gore and nudity to the product-something Cardona did not intend. 

The film deals with two plots: One is female wrestler Lucy Osario (the ridiculously gorgeous Norma Lazareno), who is in a relationship with police Lt. Arturo Martinez (Armando Silvestre) and who in the beginning of the movie accidentally injures the woman she is in the ring with. The other involves Dr. Krallman (Jose Elias Moreno), whose son needs to be cured of his leukemia. How does he plan to do this? Why, with a human to ape heart transplant! Oh, and with actual heart transplant footage. Of course, this turns out to be
Because it turns his otherwise handsome son into a horrendous half man/half ape beast that has a thing for assaulting and killing women and just all around killing and mutilating dudes. Can Lt. Martinez stop this beast before it's too late?

In the traditional sense of the word, "Apes" isn't a very good movie. The gore and nudity is poorly edited in, becoming obvious that such scenes were added by distributors wanting to appeal to the exploitation market. The dubbing is also questionable and for the large part, hilariously monotone. Even someone yelling "a dead body!" sounds for all the world like somebody who isn't the least bit interested in their job. However, as a slice of cinematic trash, the thing succeeds.

The gore and nudity, whilst crudely done, has a certain low rent charm, as does the poor dubbing. It also thankfully moves at a pretty reasonable pace, rarely if ever slowing down and more often then not adding in something to keep your interest. The influence it takes from low rent horror from the 40's and 50's is also noticeable, as apart from the aforementioned exploitable elements, has a naive sense of unpretentious fun. Really, that's the best way to describe this movie-unpretentious fun. This is not a movie setting out to make a serious statement or the kind of thing you watch expecting a classic horror movie. It's an undemanding, fun bit of hokum that like the best kind of junk food, goes down easy and doesn't leave you feeling guilty for enjoying it.

One could argue "Gee, this doesn't sound like a very good movie" and to tell the truth, it isn't. To that, I say: if gratuitous exploitation, cheap makeup effect, goofy pseudo science and random Lucha Libra matches can't find their way into your heart somehow, then you have heart as black as coal.

Rating: 7/10

Sunday, September 6, 2015

On Second Viewing: Neon Maniacs (1986)

Like all human beings, I tend to be wrong, or at least change my opinion on some movies. I loved "Prometheus" when it came out. Revisiting it-not a very good movie. I remember originally liking "Night of the Sorcerers", yet upon revisiting it, I found it to be rather boring. Then there's the case of "Neon Maniacs", the sole directorial effort of cinematographer Joseph Mangine. When I first saw it, I didn't like it. I found it to be stupid, and at times offensively so. Revisiting it, I still found it to be stupid-yet, in many ways, I found it to be the right kind of stupid. The kind you see in movies like "Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers" and "Night of the Demons". I can't call it a good movie, but dammit if it didn't entertain me in spit of itself.

The premise deals with a group of killers called the Neon Maniacs. Granted, this is because 1.) the movie is called "Neon Maniacs", and 2.) The opening narration calls them this. Outside of that, they are never called "The Neon Maniacs". Anyways, they run roughshod on a group of partying kids, killing most of them off because they are partying kids in an 80's horror film, leaving Natalie (Leilani Sarelle)  as a survivor. Now, she and her boyfriend Steve (Clyde Hayes) have  to find a way to stop the maniacs. Oh, and Paula (Donna Locke). She's basically the female version of Tommy Jarvis from "Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter", as she loves horror movies and even has some posters of movie monsters on her wall. She also knows about these things, and finds out the only way to stop them is with water. Also, these things can only be stopped by water, but they live under the Golden Gate Bridge.

One of the things that sticks out the most of the movie is the maniacs themselves, which are also the only original thing about the the movie. They all have different outfits and identities-a Samurai, a doctor (played by Andrew Divoff), A killer with blades for hands, one dressed like a Native American-in short, they are essentially the horror equivalent of the Village People, only there are more maniacs than there are Village People. When I first saw this, I hated it and thought it was just dumb. Revisiting it-it's still dumb, but at least it's original. That's because, when you get down to it, this is a slasher movie. So in that way, it's actually a unique twist on the old slasher villain. Why have one or two killers when you can have a dozen?

Outside of that-it's a fun guilty pleasure. Hardly a classic (the score ranges from decent to sounding like it belongs to an 80's sitcom. That and the direction isn't always up to par) but not a horrible waste of time. The acting for the large part is better than what you usually get from a movie like this, and the gore, while not overwhelming, is pretty solid (especially a sequence where Paula kills one of the the maniacs in a tub, which brought back found memories of "Street Trash"). That and the whole cheesy 80's vibe of the thing is actually somewhat charming the second time around. The goofy slasher villains, the dated fashions, the bright neon colors (ironically, these things are called The Neon Maniacs, but outside of their blood, there's nothing particularly neon about them) couldn't help but amuse me. Oh, and of course, this:

A battle of the bands. One is a poor man's Rick Springfield, singing a song called "Baby Lied". The other is a cheesy 80's metal band (complete with hilarious "tough guy" posturing) with a song called "We've Had Enough." It's so fucking stupid. And I found it hilarious. The whole thing is so goofy, it becomes endearing. The kind of dumb horror movie that is in no way offensively bad, and ends up being fun in spite of itself.

Don't confuse me here: This is not a good movie. At all. Among it's other crimes is the fact that when you get down to it, nothing about it makes a lick of sense. However, as far as 80's cheese goes, it isn't that bad. Really, it's the kind of dumb but largely inoffensive genre film that managed to warm up to me upon re-watching it. So much that I kinda want to smack the version of me that hated it years ago,

Monday, August 31, 2015

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Night School (1981)

Every now and then, you find a movie in which you can't believe who wrote or directed it. For example: I find it interesting that Bill Condon, who went on to direct films like "Dreamgirls" and more recently "Mr. Holmes" previously co-wrote Strange Behavior. Also: I find it interesting that Dario Argento also wrote and directed a few Spaghetti Westerns. Or in this case, I find it interesting that Ken Hughes, who directed "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang" and "Of Human Bondage" also made the 80's slasher "Night School", which was also his last movie.

Lt. Judd Austin (Leonard Mann) is on the case. The case at hand? Someone is killing college girls via decapitation. So, whose the culprit? Well, some believe it's the creepy, peeping Tom boy, but another potential killer could be a college professor (Drew Snyder), whose having an affair with student Elanor (Rachel Ward, who went on to do bigger things) and also got her pregnant. Or could it be Elanor herself, jealous of all of these women around him?

I honestly found "Night School" to be a better movie to appreciate than enjoy. On one hand, I liked the look of the killer. It's simple-black leather suit and matching motorcycle helmet-but effective, like a less cheesy version of the killer from "Nail Gun Massacre." Also, it's largely well directed, with Hughes getting away with some memorable set pieces (such as Elanor being stalked in an alley, the first murder set piece and two darkly comic bits with severed heads) that show you that this is a pro who seems to have a grip on what he's aiming for without overdoing it with the gore and nudity (though we do get that). Add a clear giallo influence and a solid score from future "Terminator" composer Brad Fiedel, and you have a winner, right?

Well, sometimes. Where the movie ultimately falters is the script. It's obvious that the film is inspired by the Italian giallo films of the time (as well as police procedural movies) but it doesn't quite know how to handle the who dunnit aspect. In fact, once the killer's identity is revealed, you realize that it can be seen a mile away, and it all leads to a rather lackluster conclusion. Also, whilst a lot of slasher movies aren't known for awards worthy performances-my God, some of the acting in here is really bad, in particular Ward. Watching this, it's kinda shocking that she went on to be in movies like "Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid" and "Sharky's Machine".

To be fair, this isn't too bad. If you are a big fan of slasher movies and you haven't seen it, then you will more than likely get a kick out of it, and there are enough moments that warrant at least one or two viewings. Still, I couldn't help but think "Well, that wasn't bad...but it could have been better" by the time it ended.

Rating: 6/10

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Skin Trade (2014)

Many a movie is made with good intentions. Case in point: "Skin Trade", which stars, was co-written and co-produced by Dolph Lundgren. Watching it, you can tell that this is a passion project that wants to address a serious subject in the horrible business of sex trafficking. It's also an action movie, and whilst such a genre has managed to successfully tackle social issues in the past, here it doesn't work out too well-though the movie itself isn't too bad.

Dolph plays Nick Cassidy, a cop on the hunt for Serbian mobster Viktor (Ron Perlman), only to lo and behold, discover that there is a human trafficking ring under his control. After killing Viktor's son, old Vik retaliates hardcore, setting an explosive in his house that kills his wife and leaves him injured. Now Nick wants revenge, and he heads to Thailand, where he runs into a colleague (Michael Jai White) and local cop Tony (Tony Jaa) whose also been fighting the country's criminal empire for a while.

As a movie with a message, "Skin Trade" isn't too successful. It's obvious that those behind it have their hearts in the right place and want to inform the viewer about the horrors of sex trafficking. However, it's tendency to have throw in action scenes and Muay Thai fighting kind of collides with the more serious subject matter, and it feels a bit jarring. That and the fact the movie doesn't really delve too deeply into the subject. At times, it feels more like it is paying lip service than it is telling a story worthy of consideration, and the fact that it is largely a no-brainer action movie doesn't help much.

That being said, it is more successful as a no-brainer action movie than it is a drama of any sorts. The action scenes are hard hitting and to the point, not to mention bloody. That and it's a movie that knows what it's audience wants, and that's guys beating the shit out of each other and it usually delivers as a low calories, Saturday afternoon action flick. It also helps that the movie is relatively well acted, with Lundgren in particular delivering a pretty strong performance, which is not something that I was expecting. Add some strong editing (well, for the large part) and solid cinematography and you get something that isn't a waste of time. Hell, it's the kind of thing I wish guys like Anchor Bay and Grindstone Entertainment would put out. You know, something that actually tried instead of just casting slumming actors and calling it a day.

That doesn't make for a high recommendation though. The all around tone of the movie, while serious, is also scattershot, and the combination of fun but dumb action and somewhat muddled social drama can be a little confusing. Thankfully, the fun but dumb part largely wins out, and it makes for a decent time overall. Just don't go into it with high expectations.

Rating: 6/10

Sunday, August 16, 2015

The Erotic Rites of Frankenstein (1973)

And I return with...well, Jess Franco. Now I know in the past I haven't exactly gotten along with the late purveyor of trashy exploitation but when I read about what was in this one (Zombies! A Frankenstein's monster covered in silver! A vampire/bird/naked woman hybrid!) I thought to myself "Hey, this one might be not too bad!" I was mostly proven wrong.

The film opens with Dr. Frankenstein (Dennis Price) re-awakening his creation, who is immediately in pain. Then out of nowhere, Melisa (Anne Libert) a vampire like bird woman attack and kills the doctor and his assistant Morpho (Franco himself, in what amounts to a director's cameo). This leads to Cagliostro (Howard Vernon), a nefarious practitioner of black magic who now controls the monster and wants to use it to create a new master race.

To be fair, there are a few somewhat neat things in this movie. Vernon and Libert are actually not bad (in fact, Libert ended up being the best thing about the movie), the score is kinda fun, and scenes like the zombies walking in a fog drenched landscape actually have a creepy, Gothic atmosphere. That's where the compliments end. There's gore and nudity yeah, but the gore effects themselves are both poor looking and seem to lack any real effort, while the nudity ends up feeling redundant. There's a psychedelic edge to the visuals, but most of the movie is really poorly directed and edited. Like many of Franco's movies, there are totally unnecessary zoom shots and camera pans that left me thinking "this guy directed countless movies in his career, and he never learned how to properly compose a shot."

Then there's the movies biggest problem: it's fucking boring. You watch the thing, and you realize that there is so much potential for this to be a fun Euro-Horror movie, but so little of what happens is interesting and is poorly done. People go on and on about things (Melisa does the same speech about Cagliostro's plan more than once in the movie) the thing moves at a snails pace and most it is filmed and written as if the people behind it really didn't give a shit about the end product. A movie with zombies, Frankenstein and his creation, black magic, rampant nudity and a blood sucking bird woman should not be as dull as this is.

Look, I know Jess Franco has an audience. If you already are a fan of his, then go ahead and watch this. You'll probably eat it up. Me? I couldn't help but think that I could have watched "Horror Rises From the Tomb" instead of this.

Ratimg: 3.5/10


"Hope. A new beginning..." Alice in Chains, "All Secrets Known"

In this case, not a new beginning, but hey.

Well, I've been gone awhile. Too long really. Long story short: I lost interest for a while. Plus, having to watch so many shitty straight to video movies started to take it's toll. Then, I decided to cruise through this place to get a look at memory lane. It was with this that something happened: I wanted to write about movies again. For a while, I thought about moving it all to Tumblr, but instead I decided that this would be a better place, and that I don't really like Tumblr.

In the process, some things have happened to me since then. I got a job. I got a new computer. I got a Blu-Ray player and High Definition TV. In short, I joined the rest of the world.

So, I hope that anyone who still gives a shit about this place is reading this, and I promise to get back to writing reviews soon. I probably won't be able to write as much as I used to, but I will try to keep up.