Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Fool's Views (11/1 - 11/12) (with Turkey!)

Who's hungry?

Welcome back, everyone!

Usually, my November reports start off with the obligatory, “After the madness that was October…” but this year actually wasn’t too bad. Maybe I’m finally starting to get the hang of this Scare-A-Thon thing after nearly a decade? Thanks to everyone for their incredible support – financial and emotional – and looking forward to next year already.

Perhaps due to the lack of burnout or maybe it was just the caliber of Blu-ray and DVD screeners coming my way, but I felt inspired to attempt a new Challenge for the month. As longtime readers know, November has been the occasion for the watching of many a Turkey, particularly on the Friday following Thanksgiving aka Turkey Day at Kitley’s Krypt, which will be celebrating its 16th annual outing this year and I hear the line-up is a doozy. Back in the days of the IMDb horror message boards (R.I.P.), there used to be something called the Annual Turkey Hunt, where participants watched as many bad horror flicks (with a 4.0 rating or lower) as possible, with additional points for trifectas (watching three or more films from the same low-grade director).

I have not done the Hunt for years, due to the fact that the 4.0 rating scale is no longer a reliable indicator for finding a true Turkey. For me, there is still an intrinsic “quality” rating scale based on actual moviemaking competence, which does not have a direct correlation to the inherent “awesomeness” that a film due to its INcompetence. The Giant Claw (4.3) and Dracula, Prisoner of Frankenstein (4.2) are not “good” movies by any stretch, but they are AWESOME Turkeys. So, rather than agonizing through truly bad (i.e. boring) flicks, I’m electing to enjoy a month of “so bad its good” material, as well as the usual assortment of “legit” Horror and Civilian stuff as well. Hope you dig.



The Addiction (1995) d. Ferrara, Abel (USA) (3rd viewing)

Intellectually stimulating vampire flick shot in sterling black-and-white in and around Ferrara’s NYC stomping grounds has a lot going for it, although decidedly cerebral in its approach despite the primal desires on display. Screenwriter Nicholas St. John is more interested in exploring survivor guilt and communal sin than stakes and hammers as philosophy doctoral candidate Lili Taylor struggles with her newfound need for the red stuff following an encounter with vampiress Annabella Sciorra. Released the same year as Larry Fessenden’s Habit and covering similar geographical and metaphorical terrain (as the “hooked” titles indicate), though the stylistic approaches are different enough to make for a very satisfying double feature. Available now on Blu-ray from Arrow Video, with audio commentary and retrospective interviews with the cast and crew.

Cabin Fever (2016) d. Z, Travis (USA) (1st viewing)

On the making-of doc, the producers come right out and say it: “We felt like there wasn’t any more money to be made with doing another sequel, so we decided, ‘Why not just go back and remake the original?’” I mean, there you have it, in case you were wondering. The unfortunate thing (well, the first thing of many) is that no one seems to have any interest in doing anything new with the premise – it’s very nearly a scene-for-scene retread, with a slightly less-comic bent and minus the marquee value of Rider Strong. The gore effects are actually less impressive, the acting less authentic, the surgically enhanced boobs less tantalizing, the direction more perfunctory, with more money going into executive producer Eli Roth’s undeserving pockets. It’s not the worst thing in the world, but it’s one of the least necessary. Available now on Blu-ray from IFC Midnight and Shout! Factory.

Entrails of a Virgin (1986) d. Komizu, Kazuo 'Gaira' (Japan) (1st viewing)

This Asian shocker has been on my “to-watch” pile for a while, but with a title like that, the time never seemed exactly appropriate. Finally sat down with it and, yep, wow. The basic plot follows the subjects and crew of a sexy photo shoot to a secluded cabin for a little post-show nibbling and nonconsensual necking (and, um, actual wrestling, complete with pile drivers). After about 30 minutes of squirm-inducing softcore action, a mud-covered giant shows up and tears everyone to pieces via his various anatomical appendages. It’s as insane and oogey as it sounds, and not one to watch with the kids. Or the parents. Or, well, anyone.

Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension (2015) d. Plotkin, Gregory (USA) (1st viewing)

It’s funny how the PA series, which started off so simple and effective, has evolved into a special effects-heavy soap opera tangled up in its own labyrinthine demonic mythology. In its sixth installment, we’ve now got an ancient VHS camcorder that allows us to see the activity through its lens, discovered by a new family in the same house where the original shenanigans took place and with their little daughter the target of the malevolent forces. Total junk-food horror, polished and pre-digested for easy consumption.

Sleepwalkers (1992) d. Garris, Mick (USA) (1st viewing)

I had never heard anything positive about this slice of shapeshifting ’90s cheese until my pal Gavin Schmitt vehemently declared that it was wholly underrated and well worth my time. Um, no. So much morphing and underwhelming latex in the service of a bizarre (and incestuous) mother-and-son team (Alice Krige, Brian Strause) of kinda-sorta vampires who have their eye on cute girl Madchen Amick for their next meal. The last 15 minutes are entertaining in their sheer insanity, but the rest is so lame and/or dumb, it got me wondering just how the hell Mick Garris ever convinced anyone (especially Stephen King, who wrote the original screenplay, his first not based on any pre-existing material) that he was the man to bring King’s oeuvre to life over and over again. (The Stand, The Shining, Riding the Bullet, Desperation, Riding the Bullet, Quicksilver Highway, etc.), much less be considered a “Master of Horror.” And yet, here we are. Available now on Blu-ray from Shout! Factory, with commentary and interviews with Garris, Krige, Krause, Amick, and effects man Tony Gardner.

Suspiria (2018) d. Guadagnino, Luca (Italy/USA) (1st viewing)



Attack of the Killer Tomatoes (1978) d. De Bello, John (USA) (2nd viewing)

Inspired by the enjoyably silly sci-fi classics of the 1950s, this scattershot effort predates Airplane in terms of the absurdist, joke-a-second approach to laughs and, for the first 30 minutes, it’s surprisingly strong. Then we realize that there’s only so much mileage you can get out of murderous foodstuffs and the strain starts to be felt. Remember folks: Dying is easy, comedy is hard, it’s always good to have a killer third act in your back pocket, and “Puberty Love” ain’t it. Available now on Blu-ray from MVD Rewind.

Return of the Killer Tomatoes (1988) d. De Bello, John (USA) (1st viewing)

But wait, there’s more? To producer/director De Bello’s credit, he does take the story in a wildly different direction, one with a stronger narrative and fewer sight gags. He’s also got a stronger cadre of acting talent, in the form of veteran John Astin (playing a kooky mad scientist with a kooky mad plan for converting tomatoes into supersoldiers), Anthony Starke, the gorgeous Karen Mistal (as one of Astin’s early successes), and some young punk named George Clooney playing Starke’s wisecracking best friend. Available now on Blu-ray from Arrow Video.

Deadbeat at Dawn (1988) d. Van Bebber, Jim (USA) (1st viewing)

Van Bebber first came to my attention with his stellar experimental biopic The Manson Family, but this was his true calling card, a no-budget action flick where our writer-director-producer-star literally risks life and limb performing all manner of stunts and combat sequences in service of a story about a lowlife gang member trying to quit the life (which is tough to do when you’re also looking to avenge your recently deceased lady love). The grit and enthusiasm on display more than counterbalance the dialogue and plot’s (decidedly) rough edges. Available now on Blu-ray from Arrow Video.

Lady Terminator (1989) d. Djalil, H. Tjut (Indonesia) (2nd viewing)

Dammit, this is more fun than any unabashed Terminator rip-off ought to be. Our muscle-bound cyborg killer from the uncertain future is transformed into a beautiful lady possessed by the spirit of the Queen of the South Seas, but beyond that, James Cameron’s script and storyboards are readily identifiable and that’s half the fun. Watching the frequently nude Barbara Anne Constable shoot up a discotech, chase her quarry down a highway in a cop car, turn a police station into a slaughterhouse, perform makeshift surgery on her own injured eye, etc. is one of life’s great joys, matched only by the robust-yet-tone-deaf line readings of our hero Christopher Hart (doing his best Michael Biehn) as he attempts to rescue damsel-in-distress Claudia Angelique Rademaker. “Get the Panzer!” Hell, yes. Available on DVD from Mondo Macabro.

Night of the Lepus (1972) d. Claxton, William F. (USA) (2nd viewing)

Yep, it was only a matter of time before someone decided to make a giant killer rabbits movie. Thank the movie gods it was in our lifetime and they found enough money to convince actual Hollywood actors like Janet Leigh, Rory Calhoun, Stuart Whitman, and DeForest Kelley to partake in the madness. The "special effects" consist of a few miniatures next to the stampeding slo-mo bun-buns and a whole lot of straight faces. Shout! Factory’s Blu-ray release is highlighted by two stellar commentary tracks by animals attack enthusiast Lee Gambin and pop culture historian Russell Dyball. Thumping good times.

Shocking Dark (1989) d. Mattei, Bruno (Italy) (1st viewing)

Remember that Indonesian Terminator rip-off you just read about? Well, this is the Italian Aliens/Terminator mash-up that you didn’t know you were missing in life. It’s not quite as much fun as Lady Terminator, but it’s just as derivative. One has to wonder what James Cameron’s lawyers were doing in 1989, because they must have been really busy or really busy getting fired for letting these slip through the cracks. Available now in a fantastic high-definition presentation from Severin Films that includes interviews with screenwriter Claudio Fragasso and Demons actress Geretta Geretta (who plays our badass “Vasquez”-type role here).

Sledgehammer (1983) d. Prior, David A. (USA) (1st viewing)

I mean, who doesn’t want to watch a completely nonsensical shot-on-video (SOV) slasher flick where the masked killer uses a big freaking hammer and can disappear and reappear at will? Oh, and there’s an epic co-ed food fight? And Ted Prior (Deadly Prey) takes his shirt off over and over again? Sign me up. Intervision/Severin give this turd the shiniest polish job you could ask for with two audio commentaries (one with Prior, the other with Bleeding Skull lads Joseph Ziemba and Dan Budnik) as well as an appreciation by Destroy All Movies!!! author Zack Carlson. You might need this in your toolbox.


Days of Thunder (1990) d. Scott, Tony (USA) (2nd viewing)

“Hey, Tony, can we do Top Gun again, but with race cars this time?” “Sure, Tom, we can do that. You mean with the whole hotshot rises to the top, has a crisis of confidence, and then comes back to win it all in the final reel?” “Yeah, that. Is Hans Zimmer busy?” “Yeah, but we’ll just use the same score and use a very young and attractive Nicole Kidman to distract people.” “Oh, she’s cute. Maybe I’ll marry her. Do you think Randy Quaid, Robert Duvall, and Michael Rooker can be convinced to come aboard?” “Sure. Bruckheimer and Simpson are loaded and they owe us a favor.” “Oh, and get Cary Elwes to play the Val Kilmer part.” “But he’s terrible.” “Yeah, but he makes me look good.” “True.” “Cool. See you at the track.” “K, bye.”

Dear White People (2014) d. Simien, Justin (USA) (1st viewing)

I’m going to be that pale privileged guy who comments on how insightful and smart and edgy this flick is while admittedly not having any real concept of the black experience and comes off like a totally woke poser, but I quite enjoyed it nonetheless.

Holy Motors (2012) d. Carax, Leos (France/Germany) (1st viewing)

In a film that is equal parts stunt and showcase, Denis Lavant is astonishing as an “actor” who plays roles in various people’s lives, transforming his appearance with latex, wigs, beards, etc., showing up for the important “scenes,” playing his part, then exiting to the next gig. Edith Scob (Les yeux sans visage) plays his trusty and dignified limousine driver, with marvelous support from Kylie Minogue, Eva Mendes, and Elise Lhomeau. Perhaps longer than it needs to be to make its point(s), but the effort is appreciated.

Reds (1981) d. Beatty, Warren (USA) (2nd viewing)

Bringing the story of journalist Jack Reed to the screen was no one’s idea of a blockbuster, but producer-director-star Beatty was at the height of his popularity and decided to cash it all in on an artistic gamble that earned him an Oscar for Best Director and two more for Maureen Stapleton (supporting actress) and cinematographer Vittorio Storaro. With Diane Keaton, Jack Nicholson, Edward Herrmann, Paul Sorvino, M. Emmett Walsh, Jerzy Kozinski, George Plimpton, Gene Hackman, and many others.

Shotgun Stories (2007) d. Nichols, Jeff (USA) (1st viewing)

Writer/director Nichols’ (Take Shelter) debut feature packs a surprising punch tracking the simple lives of two warring lower-class families in small-town Oklahoma. Michael Shannon leads a cast of unknowns with unshowy grace and simmering rage.

Time Bandits (1981) d. Gilliam, Terry (UK) (2nd viewing)

The story may rest on the diminutive shoulders of a young boy (Craig Warnock) and a rowdy band of would-be robbers comprised entirely of dwarves (led by David Rappaport, Jack Purvis, and Kenny Baker), but the real fun is in the smirking supporting cast (John Cleese, Sean Connery, Michael Palin, Shelley Duvall, Ian Holm, Katherine Helmond, Ralph Richardson, and David Warner) having a grand old time in their walk-on roles. High-spirited fun that almost loses its verve in the final act but sticks the landing. Keep eyes open for a young and thin Jim Broadbent as the TV show host.

2018 Totals to date: 265 films, 170 1st time views, 122 horror, 33 cinema


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