Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Fool's Views 8/9 – 8/20

Howdy, kids! Yep, it’s been nearly two whooooooole weeks since the 21-day flurry of Fantasia, and how best to celebrate the reprieve from the madness? Why, watching a boatload of flicks, of course! The difference being that I was able to resume my regular role of program director, actually choosing the features to watch on any given day. Considering I’d been sitting on a pile of flicks both borrowed and queued (including a Nicholas Winding Refn triple feature), it wasn’t hard to fill the slots and the time.

No surprise, Kitley’s Krypt dictated a few of my choices, fulfilling my Kryptic Army assignment for July (giant monsters) as well as joining my fellow blood brothers and sisters in celebrating the great man’s birthday, breaking in Jon’s new backyard DVD projector and movie screen with a gooey double feature complete with sing-a-long cards and trivia prizes. Such a wonderful gathering of food, friends and fun, one that came hard upon the awesomeness that was Flashback Weekend/Wizard World Comic-Con. I love this town. (Blessings to Jason Coffman as well, for his generosity in lending out an array of recent fright fare.)

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



Creature (2011) (1st viewing) d. Andrews, Fred M. (USA)

A sextet of young dumb pretty ones heading for New Orleans take a detour to visit a tourist trap attraction concerning a half man/half alligator swamp legend known as Grimley. After a brief encounter with grizzled storekeeper Sid Haig (aka Captain Spaulding goes South) and cronies, they discover the fabled cabin in the woods and foolishly decide to camp nearby. Exploitation and evisceration ensue. Roll credits. Considering the amount of rage and bile spewed in its direction upon release last year, I was fully expecting this to be absolute torture to sit through. But with dialed down expectations and a firm beer n’ pizza mindset, Fred Andrews’ directorial debut (co-scripted with Tracy Morse) proves entirely watchable, with plenty of boobs, blood and beasts to go around. Is the mossy monster clearly a guy in a suit? Sure. Are the characters lame? Yes. Is the happy ending ridiculous? Absolutely. Are there more than a couple logistical leaps and skeevy character quirks? Ayup. And yet, and yet... While I would never call it a “good” movie, I’ve certainly seen less done with more. It’s puzzling that fans can get all gooey over “old school” throwbacks like Hatchet and its goddawful sequel, but substitute a mutated Gator Man for Victor Crowley and the goodwill spirals down the drain.

Dinosaur Island (1994) (1st viewing) d. Wynorski, Jim / Ray, Fred Olen (USA)

One look at the directors’ credits should tell you what you’re in for. Yes, the comedy team of Fred Olen Ray and Jim Wynorski, those purveyors of energetic, bouncy, low budget fun, ride the Jurassic Park gravy train with a bevy of bountiful babes who just can’t seem to keep their clothes on and “dinosaurs genetically engineered and trained by” f/x whiz John Carl Buechler. (Read as: hand puppets and a smattering of dodgy stop motion animation. If the T-Rex seems a little familiar, you probably saw it in 1993’s Carnosaur.) The anemic plot: a small military plane containing hard-nosed Ross Hagen and a shiftless trio of brig-bound bozos (Richard Gabai, Peter Spellos, Tom Shell) crash lands on an uncharted island inhabited entirely by prehistoric beasts and fur bikini-wearing beauts (namely Michelle Bauer, Antonia Dorian, Griffin Drew, Toni Naples and Nikki Fritz). After a series of (un)wisecracking misadventures – Gabai’s “witty” retorts will wear out your throwing arm – the boobs pair off with the babes and the film’s remaining run time trades between episodes of fleshy canoodling and flesh eating carnivores. Classic late-night Skinemax entertainment the way it used to be done.

Exit Humanity (2011) (1st viewing) d. Geddes, John (Canada)

There’s little denying the skilled craftsmanship of writer/director Geddes’ civil war zombie flick – the opening sequence alone, wherein Brian Cox soberly intones the narration of a recently discovered journal, immediately vanquishes any thoughts of just another DIY gutmuncher. With a sepia-drenched color palette and vivid animated montages detailing survivor Mark Gibson’s adventures amongst the walking dead, the film’s subtitle of “A Zombie Saga” bear no trace of hyperbole; this is more thoughtful survivalist drama than thrill ride horror flick. Yet, even approached with that mindset, it’s hard to defend the excessive 113-minute running time considering that the character-based yarn takes Cox’s laconic phrasings as its internal metronome and is peopled with stock types as opposed to empathetic individuals. Among the several fan faves on hand, Bill Moseley and Dee Wallace turn in subtle, nuanced work as a twisted general and a soothsayer, respectively, but their characters are too hastily sketched to make much of an impression. (By contrast, Stephen McHattie seems to be memorizing lines for another project during his brief mumbling screen time as a field medic.) The film rests squarely upon the shoulders of capable but limited newcomer Gibson whose frequent cries of anguish are indistinguishable from his frequent cries of anger or frequent cries of attack. An impressive but muted effort, inspiring more admiration at its innovative approach than genuine enthusiasm.

Loved Ones, The (2009) (1st viewing) d. Byrne, Sean (Australia)

Long-haired metalhead Xavier Samuel, traumatized by the violent death of his father, spends his final high school days in a haze of reefer smoke and tender embraces of trying-to-be-patient girlfriend Victoria Thaine. Little does he guess that his affections are the crown which malevolent wallflower Robin McLeavy aspires to wear…by any means necessary. Superb gore effects – some explicit, some implied – accent a wealth of fine performances, with McLeavy and perverted pater John Brumpton taking top marks while the quaintly comic mispairing of loveable loser Richard Wilson and goth hottie Jessica McNamee perfectly offsets the madness. Since its triumphant debut at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2009, this wickedly twisted “John Hughes meets torture porn” treat from Down Under has been laboring to find its way Stateside. After a semi-successful TUGG release this summer, whereby fans lobbied to have the film screened in their communities, U.S. horror geeks will finally be able to check out the candy colored carnage for themselves. (Paramount has announced a BR/DVD release date of Sept 11.) Highly recommended.

Monster Brawl (2011) (1st viewing) d. Cook, Jesse, T. (Canada)

Turgid monster mash by way of Spike TV programming that should have been a LOT more fun considering its outlandish premise: top monsters (Frankenstein’s Monster, Wolfman, Witch, Zombie, Swamp Creature, etc.) duke it out in a cemetery-set wrestling ring. The ringside patter provided by Dave Foley, Art Hindle and “Mouth from the South” Jimmy Hart rarely inspires more than a grudging grunt, and the underwhelming flying fiendish fisticuffs are snoozy and stale (with the exception of the climactic match-up’s final sanguinary moments). Decent creature makeups by The Brother Gore (Jeff and Jason Derushie, who also doled out the grue for Exit Humanity), but in the service of an uninspired narrative that never rises above its gimmicky set-up. All slop, no smarts.

Some Guy Who Kills People (2011) (1st viewing) d. Perez, Jack (USA)

Intriguing black comedy starring Kevin Corrigan as a slovenly ice cream parlor employee (recently released from the loony bin) whose former childhood bullies suddenly meet violent ends all around him. The vividly staged murders serve as punctuation marks to scenes of Corrigan dealing with less splattery aspects of life, which include meeting his estranged daughter Ariel Gade, dating quirky-cute Brit Lucy Davis, and attempting to appease caustic mom Karen Black. Barry Bostwick nearly runs away with the flick as a nattering sheriff whose knack for understatement and obsession with the mundane are among the many gems provided by screenwriter Ryan A. Levin. Sweet, quirky and affably enjoyable fare, adjectives not usually ascribed to a flick where limbs and red stuff fly with such abandon.

Thinner (1996) (2nd viewing) d. Holland, Tom (USA)

After rotund lawyer Robert John Burke accidentally runs down an aged gypsy woman in the street, the victim’s father attacks the barrister (and those who colluded with him to avoid justice) with a terrifying wasting black magic curse. Despite medical testing and a literal all-consuming diet, Burke’s pounds keep slipping off until, frantic at the skeletal prospects, he enlists former mobster client Joe Mantegna to track down the vengeful mystic and his saucy slingshot wielding granddaughter (Kari Wuhrer). The same year Rick Baker turned Eddie Murphy into the charmingly obese Sherman Klump for The Nutty Professor update, Oscar-winning makeup legend Greg Cannom tried his hand at inflating (and deflating) his star to more sinister effect…with less success. But under Tom Holland’s surprisingly garish direction, the whole affair is as blatantly artificial and cartoonish as Burke’s latex induced triple chin; a shame since what is called for (and what worked to such fine effect in Stephen King’s source novel) is shadowy mystery and creepy atmosphere rather than eye-rolling C-grade performances and in-your-face gross-outs. Disappointing, especially considering the talent involved.


Blob, The (1958) (3rd viewing) d. Yeaworth, Jr., Irvin S. (USA)

Considered by many the quintessential drive-in flick of the ’50s due to a memorably amorphous monster, Burt Bacharach’s hit title song and an unabashed “adults just don’t understand” message aimed squarely at its under-25 audience base. Future Hollywood superstar Steve McQueen (billed as “Steven”) might well have never graduated to the big time had producer Jack Harris’ film not been such a roaring success at the turnstiles – truth be told, the King of Cool comes off pretty mannered and awkward in his first starring role and his so-not-teenaged castmates don’t help matters. Luckily, the reddish-hued creepin’ leapin’ glidin’ slidin’ menace from space generates a venerable amount of fright factor as it oozes under doors, cruises around corners and swallows victims whole. Any scenes featuring Bart Sloane’s Blob effects are easily the highlights, especially Olin Howlin’s initial wooded encounter with the extraterrestrial goop, a doctor’s office attack and most memorably, the gooey assault on a packed movie house (screening the 1955 classic Daughter of Horror), an event revisited yearly at the annual Blobfest in Phoenixville, PA.

Green Slime, The (1968) (3rd viewing) d. Fukasaku, Kinji (Japan)

From the opening drum fill of Charles Fox’s mind-blowing funk rock theme to Ekisu Productions’ unforgettable screeching cyclopean beasties, this Japanese sci-fi effort (employing an entirely Western cast) benefits from high energy pace alongside an unabashedly pulpy narrative. A meteor on collision course with Earth is diverted thanks to a explosive -planting mission to the projectile’s surface (a plot device Michael Bay would later co-opt for 1998’s big-bam-boom Armageddon). While the plan is successful, a globule of the titular pulsing sludge hitches a ride within a spacesuit’s folds to the local space station; worse, the floating city’s decontamination process boosts the alien life form’s growth pattern, evolving the spongy green foam into red-eyed tentacled creatures capable of emitting lethal electronic shocks. Headlined by square-jawed, impeccably coiffed hero Robert Horton and Richard Jaeckel’s blue-eyed blue-collar captain – each vying for impossibly eyelashed stunner Luciana Paluzzi’s affections – Fukusaka’s action-packed space melodrama juices its corny kiddie sci-fi fare trappings with effective scenes of claustrophobia and a surprisingly high (and graphic) body count. (The director would achieve lasting infamy three decades later with his epic adaptation of the taboo-smashing, kids-killing-kids manga, Battle Royale.)


Aggression Scale, The (2012) (1st viewing) d. Miller, Steven C. (USA)

Dana Ashbrook’s no-nonsense hit man targets the family who made off with former alumni Ray Wise’s mob money, not counting on the sociopathic tendencies of youngest sibling Ryan Hartwig (whose survival skills conjure a much bloodier – and equally improbable – version of Home Alone). Director Miller keeps the pace jacked such that the thrills outrun the logic police and seeing Twin Peaks alumni Wise and Ashbrook sharing scenes with “new F13 Jason” Derek Mears offers its own distinct pleasures.

French Connection, The (1971) (3rd viewing) d. Friedkin, William (USA)

The Oscar winning cops n’ robbers flick is deservedly famous for its showstopping sequence of Gene Hackman’s hardcase “Popeye” Doyle pursuing an elevated NYC train from the streets below. But it’s a set-piece that often overshadows the rest of the superlatively suspenseful proceedings: a tense cat n’ mouse tailing sequence, an on again/off again subway platform dazzler, tossing a bar full of unsavory characters, the meticulous dismantling of a automobile in search of concealed drugs, and so on. Worth revisiting and often.

Mean Creek (2004) (1st viewing) d. Estes, Jacob Aaron (USA)

A clear-eyed, dark-hearted examination of adolescent bullying, crime and punishment, and best laid plans gone awry. When pipsqueak Rory Culkin is targeted by slovenly brute Josh Peck, his older brother and friends lend their hands to a scheme to teach the entitled thug a lesson. Writer/director Estes takes viewers on a haunting rollercoaster ride, rocketing around emotional dips and curves – impressive considering the youthful ensemble, all of whom tender fully realized portraits.

Melancholia (2011) (1st viewing) d. von Trier, Lars (Denmark)

On the von Trier menu this year: A rogue planet, extravagant wedding, epic depression, stable of horses, stunning cinematography comprised of both urgent handheld and lyrical compositions, achingly gorgeous classical music, star-studded first act stripped down to a four-hander at the halfway point, complete undressed Hollywood A-listers, terrific atmospheric effects, symbolism less heady than Anti-Christ but headier than Dogland, Kirsten Dunst, Alexander Skarsgard, Charlotte Gainsbourg, John Hurt, Charlotte Rampling, Stellan Skarsgard, Udo Kier and the end of the world. I liked it a lot and I’m okay if you didn’t – it’s that kind of flick.

Popatopolis (2009) (1st viewing) d. Westervelt, Clay (USA)

Complementing the usual “filmmaker as subject” tropes of talking heads and film clips (behold the recent Corman’s World), Westervelt’s documentary on low-budget exploitationeer Jim Wynorski also offers a from-the-trenches glimpse of the artist in action (on the set of 2000’s title-says-it-all The Bare Wench Project). Trying to wrap a feature in three days presents its own challenges, but Wynorski’s brusque no-nonsense approach further stymies his “actresses” who are used to having makeup artists, rehearsals or, oh, a finished script. Through the bellowing and chaos, the microbudget maestro comes off as a passionate cinephile who endeavors to at least cut the corners in semi-interesting ways.


Pusher 3: I'm the Angel of Death (2005) (1st viewing) d. Refn, Nicolas Winding (Denmark)

Even having not seen the previous Pusher installments, I never felt lost or wanting, so well realized is this day-in-the-life portrait of drug dealing Milo (Zlatko Buric) who tries to stay clean himself even as he attempts to move 10,000 ecstasy tablets, wrestles with fears of food poisoning while prepping a 50-head meal to celebrate his daughter’s 25th birthday, and indebts himself to unseemly types with a sinister sense of recompense. The rumble-voiced Buric is never less than electrifying and empathetic, even as he allows his emotions to makes epic errors in judgment. Grittty, grimy, sleazy, breezy, stunning, cunning and cool.

Valhalla Rising (2009) (1st viewing) d. Refn, Nicolas Winding (Denmark)

Mesmerizing six-part existential tone poem that tracks a savage Viking warrior (Mads Mikkelsen) after he escapes from bondage as a competitive fighter and crosses paths with a roving band of Christians bent on joining the Crusades and discovering a new Holy Land. Reminiscent of Werner Herzog’s Aguirre, The Wrath of God and Fitzcarraldo, Refn and co-screenwriter Roy Jacobsen weave bloody, bone-crushing action sequences within static contemplations of epic landscapes of wild flora and weathered faces, a magnificent blend of stark imagery and sparser dialogue.

Drive (2011) (2nd viewing) d. Refn, Nicolas Winding (USA)

Confronting and confounding expectations at every turn, what could have been a cliché-riddled story about a criminal loner falling for a pretty girl becomes something wholly original. Ryan Gosling continues to stretch as an actor, dialing down his emotional reactions to a near-whisper in his portrayal of an aspiring stunt/race/getaway driver, and the rest of the cast (which includes Bryan Cranston, Albert Brooks, Carey Mulligan and Ron Perlman) is ready to play. Amazing soundtrack, surprisingly graphic bloodshed combined with wickedly unconventional and stylized action sequences are the tools in Refn’s case, winning him the Best Director award at Cannes last year.

2012 Totals to date: 401 films, 347 1st time views, 219 horror, 150 cinema


  1. I'm beginning to think I may have been way too easy on Monster Brawl. Nobody else seems to like it at all. Conversely, you're the first person I've seen who's had anything positive to say about Creature.

    Also, the first two parts of the Pusher trilogy are well worth seeking out, but I figure you probably already know that.

  2. I've been meaning to ask you - was there a pretty good response from the HorrorHound crowd to MB? As I've learned from festival fare, an enthusiastic crowd can make all the difference. Watching it at home alone, I was bored out of my mind.

    Re: CREATURE Actually, I had heard the same things, but then I looked at Kitley's review as well as Dave Kosanke's in LIQUID CHEESE and all of us had similiar responses. Not a great flick, but entertaining enough and not nearly as bad as everyone was making it out to be.

    I'll get to P1&2 eventually - P3 was the only one streaming on NF. It's a Refn kind of year.

  3. Actually, the crowd at HorrorHound was pretty sparse and not particularly vocal, but showing Monster Brawl at midnight definitely placed it in the right context.