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,