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.