Friday, October 24, 2014


Challenge Totals to Date:

Movies Watched Today: 5
Total Movies Watched: 63
Total First Time Views: 16
Amount raised: $485.10

Today's showcased SCARE-A-THON Charity:

AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL, sponsored by Christine Thom and Whit Spurgeon

To showcase your charity, send an email to with your pledge amount and the charity's website!

Squirm (1976) d. Lieberman, Jeff (USA) (4th viewing) 93 min

A downed power transformer in the small backwater town of Fly Creek, Georgia, sends thousands of volts of electricity into the wet ground and thousands of agitated biting Glycera worms to the surface. From this somewhat farfetched premise, writer/director Lieberman wrings a laudable amount of suspense, aided in no small part by his no-name cast who inhabit empathetic, intelligent, and resourceful characters worth rooting for. Following Hitchcock’s The Birds playbook, Lieberman spends the first act familiarizing us with the surroundings and likeable protagonists Don Scardino, Patricia Pearcey, and Fran Higgins, then isolates them to contend with the annelidic terror minus outside help. Legend-in-the-making Rick Baker created the memorable worm-face effect for R.A. Dow’s unfortunate bait farmer. Now making its Blu-ray debut via Shout! Factory.

The Dungeonmaster (aka Ragewar) (1984) d. Various (USA) (1st viewing) 77 min

Computer geek and fitness freak Jeffrey Byron (nice combo, that) and Flashdancing lady love Leslie Wing are transported into a magical mystery world lorded over by resident dark cloud Richard Moll. What follows are a series of seven “challenges” that Byron must go through in order to prove himself worthy, each of which directed by a separate player in producer Charles Band’s employ. To wit: Rosemarie Turko does “Ice Gallery,” John Carl Buechler handles “Demons of the Dead” as well as other makeup effects, Steve Ford delivers “Slasher,” Peter Manoogian unveils “Cave Beast,” stop-motion wiz David Allen cranks out “Stone Canyon Giant,” and Ted Nicoleau pulls co-editor duties whilst helming “Desert Pursuit,” with Band himself directing the wraparound and the “Heavy Metal” segment (featuring rock group W.A.S.P.). It’s as haphazard as it sounds, but it’s always cheesy and never boring, with boobs, blood, and beasts in rapid succession.

Cellar Dweller (1988) d. Buechler, John Carl (USA) (1st viewing) 78 min

This nonsensically scripted but energetic creature feature about a werewolf-like beast drawn into existence by comic book artist Jeffrey Combs (who only appears in a pre-credits sequence, so don’t get your hopes up) has an attractive cast and a decent-looking Buechler-designed monster, but nary an ounce of true inspiration. In fact, the highlight of the enterprise, outside of a few naked nipples, is the exquisite graphic artwork by Frank Brunner, with able assistance by painted comic cover artists Keith and Laina Turner, and cartoonist John Foster. Oh, the story? Some nonsense about aspiring pen ‘n’ inker Debrah Mullowney going to Combs’ character’s former residence, now an artists’ colony run by Yvonne De Carlo, for inspiration and experience, but mostly it’s just an excuse to give Buechler more bodies to mutilate onscreen. The first produced feature script from Don Mancini, released the same year as his (much) more successful Child’s Play.

War of the Worlds (2005) d. Spielberg, Steven (USA) (2nd viewing) 116 min

This big-bang-boom updating of H.G. Wells’ novel depicting hostile alien invasion includes several key elements missing from the 1953 version - namely the red root infestation and the tripod legs on the extraterrestrial marauders’ vehicles - and Dennis Muren’s FX team go all out in creating photorealistic scenes of grand scale mayhem. The biggest problem lies the casting of Tom Cruise as our everyman, not because of his performance (which I think is quite good), but because by following a central protagonist, we're forced to endure an endless parade of implausible close calls and near misses. Had screenwriters David Koepp and Josh Friedman spread the action out over a variety of characters, there would have been more opportunity for genuine surprise, suspense, and tragedy. As it stands, Cruise and insufferable moppet Dakota Fanning find themselves in scene after scene of crowd-filled catastrophes, yet miraculously find themselves free and clear (did everyone else run the other way?) for our moments of calm between storms. I'm all for suspension of disbelief, but Spielberg should have known better (or done it better, a la Raiders of the Lost Ark). However, no amount of goodwill can excuse the utter cop-out ending (and I’m not talking about Wells’ microbial deus ex machine) featuring cameos by Gene Barry and Ann Robinson, stars of the George Pal original. For shame, Steven.

Tribes of the Moon: Making Nightbreed (2014) d. Carson, Greg (USA) (1st viewing) 72 min

Accompanying Shout! Factory’s release of the Director’s Cut of Clive Barker’s much tampered-with passion project, this feature-length doc excels in behind-the-scenes footage and 35-years-later talking-head segments with cast members Craig Sheffer, Doug Bradley, Anne Bobby, Simon Bamford, Hugh Ross, and Christine McCorkindale. What is, however, glaringly absent are contributions from Barker, David Cronenberg (a rare acting turn as Dr. Decker), or any of the top-shelf makeup artists who brought the director’s nightmarish vision to life. Likewise, Carson would have done well to pick the brains of genre scholars to discuss the film’s lasting legacy and how its studio-mangled failure essentially ended – with the exception of 1995’s Lord of Illusions –Barker’s reign behind the camera. Considering Midian’s passionate fanbase, deeper exploration of the subject would have been appreciated.

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