Tuesday, July 28, 2015
Ghost Town (1988) d. Richard Governor (USA)
On the outskirts of Riverton County, AZ, handsome quick-draw expert deputy Langley (Frank Luz) gets a call that local bad girl Katie (Catherine Hickland) has fled the altar and headed out into the desert. But when her car turns up missing its driver (played out in a fine spectral dust storm kidnapping sequence), it’s up to Langley to track her down, which he ultimately does in a desolate, literal ghost town run by malevolent gunslinger Devlin (Jimmie F. Skaggs). Seems Katie bears a striking resemblance to the dark one’s former barkeep flame Rose, and Devlin isn’t giving her up without a fight. The haunted netherworld’s residents’ souls hang in the balance – and it’s mighty hard to kill what’s already dead.
Wednesday, July 22, 2015
I, Madman (1989) d. Tibor Takács (USA)
This is a very good time to be a fan of genre/exploitation cinema, which is ironic considering how grim things looked even just a few years ago. DVD sales have been on the decline for years and Blu-ray hasn't fared any better, and it seemed the death of physical media would be upon us any day. But several home video imprints have appeared on the scene giving long-overdue releases to some fan favorites and lost gems alike. Scream Factory has particularly been on a winning streak with their slate of horror releases, and their latest Blu-ray offering finally brings a cult favorite home in the presentation it deserves.
Monday, July 20, 2015
Cellar Dweller (1988) d. John Carl Buechler (USA)
Catacombs (1988) d. David Schmoeller (USA)
Yet another double pack from Shout! Factory, although unlike their recent, head-scratching pairing of The Outing and The Godsend, at least the two films in question bear the common thread of having been produced by Charles Band’s Empire Pictures during its twilight (aka bankruptcy) era. An amiable monster movie and a convoluted possession tale make for unlikely bedfellows, especially with the muddled and occasionally slapdash storylines and characters that mark both pictures, and the results are as decidedly mixed as one might imagine.
Wednesday, July 15, 2015
Howling II (1985) d. Philippe Mora (USA/UK)
Certain movies are so misguided that they nearly defy description. Howling II (aka Howling II: Your Sister Is a Werewolf and Howling II: Stirba – Werewolf Bitch), while not technically an experimental film, feels like it started as an attempt to fuse art-house sensibilities to a cash-in sequel. While the director, Philippe Mora, is far from a hack, he had neither the chops nor the budget to pull off the goofy, pretentious tone and style he apparently intended. The results go beyond terrible to a circle of filmmaking Hell so staggeringly bone-headed that my brain physically hurt by time the last werewolf bit the dust.
Tuesday, July 14, 2015
Dark Summer (2015) d. Paul Solet (USA)
17-year-old Daniel (Keir Gilchrist) is placed under house arrest for cyber-stalking his lovely if unstable classmate Mona Wilson (Grace Phipps). Despite receiving the severe and sardonic ground rules from his severe and sardonic corrections officer (a slumming Peter Stormare), which involve no online presence whatsoever, Daniel (who is, naturally, a super cyber hacker) arranges to have his best buds Kevin (Maestro Harrell) and Abby (Stella Maeve) sneak into the house and provide him with all the tech equipment he needs to surf undetected like the Great Kahuna. Of course, he can’t resist checking up on his would-be gal pal, and, wouldn’t you know it, said contact tips her over the cliff and she blows her brains out live on Skype chat. But this isn’t the last Daniel’s heard from Mona, as her malevolent spirit begins to make its presence known... in the house from which he cannot escape lest his shiny ankle bracelet alert the authorities.
Monday, July 13, 2015
Alien Outpost (2014) d. Jabbar Raisani (UK)
Blending sci-fi genre trappings with the rowdy macho camaraderie of soldiers has been a popular mix since James Cameron basically defined the style with Aliens in 1986. There have been a number of knock-offs both big-budget and no-budget since, although it’s rare that anyone gets anywhere near the perfect balance of Cameron’s action/sci-fi masterpiece. Similarly, the number of found footage films has grown exponentially in the last several years as producers constantly look for cheaper ways to get movies in front of audiences to maximize profits. One film that brought something of a new take to this style was Neill Blomkamp’s District 9 in 2009, and while its mix of found footage and faux documentary was well-received, there have been few attempts to replicate its style and structure. The recent UK film Alien Outpost (aka Outpost 37), directed by Raisani, seeks to meld the gritty “realistic” approach of District 9 with the character dynamics of military sci-fi to mostly positive effect.
Sunday, July 12, 2015
Robot Jox (1990) d. Stuart Gordon (USA)
Can a film be both derivative and ahead of its time? Drawing from Hasbro’s popular line of Transformers toys, Japanese kaiju and anime, and Gerry Anderson’s Thunderbirds TV series, Robot Jox is an entertaining grab bag of influences and styles that, even if it never quite gels into a consistent tone, emerges as an enjoyable cinematic Frankenstein’s Monster, lurching back and forth across the line separating satire from silly, but noble sincerity. It’s also more fun and cohesive than any of Michael Bay’s wretched Transformers flicks and serves as an obvious forerunner to Guillermo Del Toro’s very similar Pacific Rim.
Saturday, July 11, 2015
The Town That Dreaded Sundown (2014) d. Alfonso Gomez-Rejon (USA)
One of the smarter and genuinely worthwhile remakes to come along in recent memory, this updating of the 1976 Charles B. Pierce drive-in stalwart manages to both acknowledge and incorporate its predecessor, using the original 1946 murders and the docudrama they inspired as the springboard for an entirely new spate of slayings in modern day Texarkana. Following a Halloween-night screening of Pierce’s film, local gal Jami (Addison Timlin) sees her boyfriend (Spencer Treat Clark) brutally butchered before her eyes by none other than the gunny-sacked “Phantom Killer,” who then releases her to spread the word that he has returned... and that more blood will soon be shed.
Friday, July 10, 2015
The Outing (aka The Lamp) (1987) d. Tom Daley (USA)
The Godsend (1980) d. Gabrielle Beaumont (UK)
If you’ve been paying attention at all, you know Shout! Factory’s specialty arm Scream Factory has been making a name for itself among horror fans over the last few years, giving many genre films their first Blu-ray and/or DVD releases, ranging from big-name franchises to obscure gems. Some of the latter have found their way onto double feature discs, most of which have an overt theme in common: the recent double feature of Italian “haunted house” films GhostHouse and Witchery, or the “nature’s revenge” discs of Food of the Gods / Frogs and Empire of the Ants / Jaws of Satan. This month’s S!F double feature, however, pairs two films, The Outing and The Godsend, that appear to have nothing in common whatsoever thematically, tonally, or otherwise.
Tuesday, July 7, 2015
If there’s one thing I recognize from exploring the horror genre over the past 15 years, subjecting myself to everything from the slickest Hollywood remake to the barest-of-bones backyard indie feature, it’s that my appreciation and/or tolerance for weird and wild cinema has deepened and grown. Where once poor dubbing, acting, or penniless production value would have instantly turned me off of a film, I now find myself able to gaze into the abyss for hours at a time; similarly, bizarre aesthetics and unconventional narratives are no longer received with frustration, but with the excitement of a new, fresh taste for my cinematic palate. Not to say I love everything I encounter, but these days, I’m far more likely to remember and appreciate that which is foreign to my sensibilities as opposed to any highly processed computer-generated, star-powered multiplex fare.
Monday, July 6, 2015
Contamination (aka Alien Contamination) (1980) d. Luigi Cozzi (as Lewis Coates) (Italy)
One of the more flamboyant examples of ’80s Italian rip-offs, director/co-writer Cozzi borrows heavily from Ridley Scott’s Alien but then literally explodes in directions you’d hardly think possible. When a mysterious ship comes floating into a New York harbor, a group of investigators headed up by Col. Stella Holmes (Louise Marleau) and NYPD Lt. Tony Aris (Marino Mase) discover a crew that has been turned to a bloody mess and a cargo hold filled with strange pulsating eggs… much like the strange pulsating eggs soon discovered in a NYC warehouse. At this point, a previous space expedition to Mars is revealed, headed up by astronauts Hubbard (Ian McCulloch) and Hamilton (Siegfried Rauch), which also involved some alien eggs, and we’re off to the races, a trail that will lead us all the way down to a Colombian coffee plantation run by Perla de la Cruz (Gisela Hahn), who is growing a very strange crop indeed.
Sunday, July 5, 2015
The Happiness of the Katakuris (2001) d. Takashi Miike (Japan)
Former shoe salesman Masao Katakuri (Kenji Sawada) purchases a bed & breakfast in a remote hiking area in the shadow of Mt. Fuji where a new road is planned to be built and moves his father (Tetsuro Tanba), wife Terue (Keiko Matsuzaka), son Masayuki (Shinji Takeda), daughter Shizue (Naomi Nishida), and granddaughter Yurie (Tamaki Miyazaki) to assist in the running of the vacation establishment. Guests rarely appear, and when they do, they tend to wind up expired in the morning. As they say, friends help you move, but real friends help you move bodies, and as the death toll rises, the dysfunctional family learns to put aside their petty differences and discover the true meaning of joy and unconditional love.