Sunday, May 22, 2011

Fool's Views (4/25 – 5/1)


Howdy folks,

Don’t mean to kick things off with a downer, but it feels like it's time to come clean. This week in question, I must confess, was a really weird week, though my viewing habits might not bear it out except in their excess. Returning from the immersion film experience of Dead Weight turned out to be a harder adjustment than one might have guessed. In retrospect, I suppose it makes sense, since we were living in a post apocalyptic setting for most of the daylight hours, and then all taking shelter together every night in the same abode, a sort of commune-like existence. After nine days of this alternative lifestyle, returning to the “normal” world was a bit of a shock to the system. I found it difficult to do much of anything for the first few days, and so gazing into the magic window attached to the DVD player became the only thing that made much sense.

And then, on Thursday, April 28, I got a call that my good friend and former roommate Patrick Deveny had been unexpectedly hospitalized and was in a coma following heart failure. Patrick was 40 years old, not unhealthy and planning to move THAT MORNING to start a new job in Houston, TX with his bride of 10 years, Alasin. After 36 hours of life support with no brain activity, the decision was made to turn off the machines, and Patrick went on to a different plane of existence. I was happy that I was able to say my goodbyes in person before he passed, but once again, the normal world seemed completely foreign to me, trying to come to terms with the loss of my friend. The combination of the DW shoot and the week that followed are the primary reasons for my delay in writing. And I seriously questioned whether I would ever write another review, as everything in my life was called into question. Is this how I wanted to spend my time, knowing that any moment could be our last? But the truth is, yes, I have a passion for film, for horror, for sharing with my friends, and so, this past week I sat back down at the keyboard.

We must follow our passions. We must. Because it is this that makes us special, and makes us who we are. And whether or not it is “worthwhile” or “a waste of time” is not for anyone else to decide or judge. Remember that, my friends. When you keel over, may it be while you are doing something you love. I’d like to dedicate this particular batch of FV’s to Patrick, who, while he rarely weighed in on them, always enjoyed reading them and said that he often picked movies based on any recommendations I might throw his way. I miss you, pal.

On with the Views. We’ve got a wild and wooly plate for you this time around, with scream queens, alligator people, martial arts mayhem and terror from beyond the stars. Hope you like.

As always, feel free to throw in your two cents worth – we’ll make sure you get some change back.

Enjoy!

HORROR:


Alligator People, The (1959) (2nd viewing) d. del Ruth, Roy
Beverly Garland’s newlywed-gone-bonkers, Lon Chaney’s ranting, hook-handed hired hand and Ben Nye & Dick Smith’s capably scaly makeup effects are the highlights of this low frills, low chills yarn about handsome young groom Richard Crane transformed via that pesky science-gone-awry into a two-legged handbag rep. Fun in its own late 50s, cheesy sci-fi way, but far from a classic.

Drag Me to Hell (2009) (2nd viewing) d. Raimi, Sam
Raimi returns to the horror genre via this tale of vengeful gypsy curses visited upon comely Alison Lohman, filled with scads of fun boo-scary moments with bodily fluids spraying, drooling and spattering like the good ol’ days. Sure, the ending is a more than a little telegraphed and Justin Long is hard to buy as a professor of anything, but Lorna Raver’s turn as the antagonistic withered crone is worth the price of admission alone. While complaints have been lodged of the director cannibalizing his early work (specifically his 1981 debut, The Evil Dead), I have no doubt this was intentional and done with a wink and a smile.




KRYPTIC ARMY ASSIGNMENT: WE ARE NOT ALONE!
Journey to the Seventh Planet (1962)
(1st viewing) d. Pink, Sidney
Phantom Planet, The (1961) (1st viewing) d. Marshall, William
Wow. I’m usually a big fan of 60s sci-fi, but both of these featured about 4 minutes of awesomeness while the rest of the time was yawnsville, even with their relatively short running times (and John Agar on hand for Journey!) Much like 1959's Angry Red Planet (which Pink produced and co-scripted with Ib Melchior), there is only one sequence which will make creature feature fans sit up and take note – in place of that film’s cool-ass space bat-spider, here we have a stop-motion rat-cyclops monster who menaces our heroes. But once it’s been vanquished, the spookiest things that show up are the ghosts of girlfriends past and some incredibly stilted line readings. There’s a smidge more action in Phantom Planet, with blonde hero Dean Fredericks kidnapped off his rocketship by the titular world’s miniaturized inhabitants. They shrink him down to their size (presumably to save on the effects budget) and then it’s another “who’s gonna get the new guy” tug-o-war betwixt the extraterrestrial femmes. Richard Kiel (aka James Bond’s “Jaws”) shows up in the final reel as a “Solarite” monster, completely encased in a rubber suit with bulging eyes, and these scenes are the most fun to be had. Honestly, leaning on the FF button, pausing only for a few choice moments, is the means by which to achieve the optimal viewing experience.

TIFFANY SHEPIS FILM FESTIVAL


In anticipation of seeing my favorite scream queen at HorrorHound in March, I loaded up the Netflix queue with all of her features that I had not yet viddied…and then never got around to watching them before our date in Indianapolis came along. That said, it’s probably just as well, as I would have probably worn out my welcome asking her questions about each one during our HorrorHound interview (on shelves now!!!) However, I knew I wanted to make a point of visiting them all, and so one fateful day, I sat my tuckus down on the couch and let the Shepis roll. And roll and roll and roll… Sadly, the films themselves are not always the most entertaining. To wit:

Scarecrow (2002) (1st viewing) d. Itier, Emmanuel
Pretty darn silly slasher flick about a scarecrow inhabited by a vengeful nerd’s spirit. Tiffany plays the tough gal who bucks the “pick on him” trend, and avoids his wrath and teeth clenching one-liners…until the end, that is.

Home Sick (2007) (1st viewing) d. Wingard, Adam
Ill-conceived gorefest with little to no plot or motivation. Amidst a lot of annoying characters, Bill Moseley and Tom Towles are wasted in their small roles. Tiffany disappears halfway through the flick, but has a fairly memorable final scene. Good f/x on a small budget, and writer/director Wingard’s next film would be the critically acclaimed Pop Skull, but that’s hardly a recommendation.

Dark Reel (2008)
(1st viewing) d. Eisenstadt, Josh
Tiff plays a scream queen on a haunted movie set, while a burned-out looking Edward Furlong is cast as a burned out horror fanboy. Has its moments, but ultimately kinda blah. I wanted to ask if she got him the subsequent Night of the Demons remake gig, or the other way around, or was it a total coincidence, but forgot. Ah well.

Nympha (2007) (1st viewing) d. Zuccan, Ivan
Interesting but flawed nunsploitation/possession/torture flick with Tiffany entering a convent, only to be haunted by bizarre dreams and visions. For pure Shepis nekkidness, this would be the way to go, because she spends a lot of time in the buff and even has a mild lesbian encounter. A lot of good ideas, but never really gels as a film, which is too bad since it also seems to be Zuccan’s M.O. (Colour of the Dark, The Shunned House)

Nightmare Man (2006) (1st viewing) d. Kanefsky, Rolfe
This didn’t really make a lot of fans when it made the rounds as part of the “8 Films to Die for” series a few years back, and maybe by this point my defenses had been worn down, but I really got a kick out of this wisecracking horror outing centering on an African fertility mask that puts a whammy on its wearer. Not only is Shepis perfectly in her sexy/tough/funny element with frequent collaborator Kanefsky, but genre gal Blythe Metz is also on hand and lookin’ goooooood.

Tromeo and Juliet (1996) (2nd viewing) d. Kaufman, Lloyd
Finished strong with a rewatch Tiffany’s debut flick, in which she kicked ass and took names at the tender age of 15. This is also one of Troma’s finest hours, a legitimately funny and clever spin on the classic Shakespeare romance, set in a world of piercings, mutant cow spells, incest and drug abuse. Written by James Gunn, who would soon give us the Dawn of the Dead remake’s script and helm Slither and Super.

(I also watched the beginnings of Dorm of the Dead and Zombies! Zombies! Zombies!, but since Shepis’ characters disappeared within the first couple minutes in both and both were sucking out loud, I didn’t bother to finish them.)

CIVILIAN:


Escape from New York (1981) (3rd viewing) d. Carpenter, John
It’s easy to forget that this tongue-in-cheek futuristic actioner appeared several years before any of the rest of the he-man, musclehead 80s action fare, a pioneer if you will (even as Kurt Russell rolls out his best Eastwood impression). Revisiting this a week after watching the dogshite Escape from L.A. only made me hate the latter all the more.

Fade-In (1968) (1st viewing) d. Taylor, Jud
Shot at the same time as (and featuring scenes from) the 1968 Terence Stamp vehicle Blue, this TV-movie is notable now for being one of Burt Reynolds’ first lead roles. There’s minor interest in seeing the day-to-day behind the scenes goings-on of moviemaking grunt work, but the main focus of the story is Reynolds and film editor Barbara Loden’s production kickoff-to-wrap romance, and it’s fairly standard stuff.

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (2010) (2nd viewing) d. Wright, Edgar
Fresh, fast and funny film about nebbish Canadian bass player Michael Cera’s attempts to romance mystery girl Mary Elizabeth Winstead, not realizing that videogame-style combat with her “seven evil ex’s” is also a part of the bargain. Extremely winning work from the entire ensemble, and Wright manages to provide multiple opportunities for each to shine.

Spanking the Monkey (1994) (1st viewing) d. Russell, David O.
Jeremy Davies stars in Russell’s daring indie feature debut, a wonderfully unique coming of age dramedy, as a young undergrad who returns to his rural homestead after sexy mom Alberta Watson breaks her leg. In tending to her temporary invalidity, Davies finds himself tumbling into romantic entanglements of both Oedipal and underage varieties. Clever, bizarre, inspired, grounded…and well worth seeing.

Town, The (2010) (1st viewing) d. Affleck, Ben
Strong character-driven Beantown crime saga which continues the promise shown in Affleck’s 2007 directorial debut, Gone Baby Gone. Big Ben also shines as the leader of a gang of robbers who strikes up a romance with the solitary witness of their last job (Rebecca Hall), and is well supported by his sterling band of players: Jeremy Renner, Pete Postlewaite, Chris Cooper and Mad Men’s John Hamm That said, I can’t say that I hold much truck in the “Oscar snub” grumbling – it’s fine entertainment, but nothing extraordinary.




THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE DEADLY
Ip Man (2008)
(1st viewing) d. Yip, Wilson
Donnie Yen quietly commands the screen as real life Wing Chun kung fu master Yip Man reluctantly and graciously vanquishing his challengers, be they rival instructors, mercenary gangs, or even the invading Japanese army. Gorgeously photographed and elegantly choreographed, one of the best looking martial arts epics of the past decade.

Undefeatable (1993) (1st viewing) d. Ho, Godfrey
Jaw-dropping sleazefest of twisted mama’s boy Don Niam sparked to a murderous kung fu women-killing spree after his eternally abused wife leaves him. After sis becomes his latest victim, former gang member Cynthia Rothrock teams with good-guy cop John Miller to pursue and stop the eyeball-gouging goombah. With gleefully over the top performances hairsprayed within an inch of their lives, this is a cheese-tastic time capsule of 80s excess trapped in cinematic amber. Joy, thy name is Undefeatable.

2011 totals to date: 194 films, 114 1st time views, 94 horror, 13 cinema

TV:

The Office (UK version) – 4 episodes

2 comments:

  1. Did you see Ip Man 2 yet AC? If not you should! My review just went up at Wildsidecinema.com

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  2. I have not seen it yet, but it's definitely on my list. The nice thing about martial arts films is that it's much less about the what and more about the how, so I can actually read your review beforehand!

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