Tuesday, October 18, 2016


Challenge Totals to Date:
Movies Watched: 8
Total Movies Watched: 18
Total First Time Views: 10
Scare-A-Thon Pledges: $553.14

Remember, if you would like to make a pledge toward Scare-A-Thon 2016 (benefiting THE GREATER CHICAGO FOOD DEPOSITORY) at any time, drop me an email at drach101@gmail.com to say how much you would like to pledge. Your donation is tax deductible and, seriously, even a penny per film helps.

Shin Godzilla (2016) d. Hideaki Anno (Japan) (1st viewing) 120 min


Francesca (2015) d. Onetti, Luciano (Argentina) (1st viewing) 80 min

I know I’m echoing the same phrase that every one of my cinephile contemporaries has spouted, but the miracle of the Onetti clan’s accomplishment (Nicolas and Luciano basically make up the entire credits crawl, from writing to producing to directing to original music to editing to cinematography) is that their little film looks, sounds, and feels like a slice of Italian giallo right out of the 1970s. Not in a jokey throwback way (The Editor) or in an ultra-heightened way (The Strange Colour of Your Body’s Tears), but in a pure and focused way that makes me appreciate it just that much more. Plus, Unearthed Films’ deluxe release (DVD/BR combo, with the original soundtrack included on CD) is physical media done right. Their website, however, which doesn’t allow one to directly access the film in question, leaves something to be desired. (Go to the main page, visit the “store” and scroll to the bottom.)


Flowers (2015) d. Stevens, Phil (USA) (1st viewing) 79 min

What opens like a strange little cinematic experiment – featuring a terrified woman slithering through muck, gore, and slime in a basement crawlspace – becomes infinitely more interesting the longer you stay with it, so hang in there. I’m not going to spoil the commendable amount of layering that writer/director Stevens has in store for the viewer, and I can’t say that things still don’t grow just the tiniest bit tiresome even at a lean 79 minutes, but this is an ambitious microbudget feature with more on its mind than degradation and torture. Kudos to Stevens and his fearless cast of (mostly female) players. Also available from Unearthed Films.


Critters (1986) d. Herek, Stephen (USA) (2nd viewing) 82 min

Furballs-with-teeth alien criminals known as The Krites escape a space prison and end up on Earth, pursued by two face-changing bounty hunters. Though easily dismissed as a Gremlins clone, like that film the reasons it works are a) director Herek keeps his wacky monsters more consistently scary and vicious than goofy, and b) we are given relatable human protagonists that we actually grow to care about and worry for their safety. Dee Wallace Stone, Bill Green Bush, Scott Grimes, Don Opper, Lin Shaye, Nadine Van Der Velde, and M. Emmet Walsh ground the madness so the Chiodo Brothers’ wild, teeth-gnashing, quill-flinging, puppet creations are able to really take flight as characters themselves. A legitimately enjoyable slice of mini-monster mayhem.

Critters 2 (1988) d. Garris, Mick (USA) (2nd viewing) 86 min

When I first saw this five years ago (at the Music Box Theatre's Sci-fi Spectacular), I enjoyed it enormously due to low expectations (not a fan of the director, it’s a sequel). On a revisit, it’s still gory, goofy, joyously delirious, and high-spirited, with a game and willing cast – including the scantily clad Roxanne Kernohan, the stuff of which male adolescent fantasies are made – fleeing the Chiodo Brothers’ lively creations. That said, it’s not quite the horror/comedy masterpiece I might have thought; it’s clearly designed with a more comic bent and, well, not all the jokes land, and the characters are geared more toward punchlines than actual arcs. But it’s a heck of a lot of fun and this, his feature debut, remains my favorite Garris effort to date.

Critters 3 (1991) d. Peterson, Kristine (USA) (1st viewing) 86 min

Don Opper (the only actor to appear in all four installments) returns as misfit-turned-intergalactic-bounty-hunter Charlie, but our screenplay takes us out of the farmlands of rural Kansas and into an L.A. high rise apartment complex with mixed results. Characters, both human and Krite, are slimmer and wackier, though the Chiodos still deliver the goods. Leonardo DiCaprio makes his film debut, and the future Oscar-winner is completely watchable if not a revelation. For my money, seeing Motel Hell star (and this film and its sequel’s casting director!) Nina Axelrod back in action (as a no-nonsense telephone installer) is the real reason to show up.

Critters 4 (1992) d. Harvey, Rupert (USA) (1st viewing) 94 min

Speaking of Oscar nominees, it’s pretty amazing to see Angela Bassett (one year before her electrifying turn as Tina Turner) paying her dues here as a member of a six-person space crew (that also includes fellow nominee Brad Dourif and Subspecies franchise star Anders Hove) that unsurprisingly becomes infested with the last two remaining Krites. Yes, right there is the problem, folks: THERE ARE ONLY TWO CRITTERS IN THE WHOLE MOVIE. This leaves us with a lot more human time and, well, that’s not why we came. Laboriously padded and unfunny, with a fraction of the gore and mayhem of the previous three efforts, making it the last and least. (Thanks to Tim Palace for hooking me up with a loan of the DVD four-pack, since this is not one that I need for the library.)

Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah (1991) d. Kazuki Ohmori (Japan) (3rd viewing) 100 min

One of the finer chapters in the entire G-catalog, combining imaginative effects with an inspired storyline where space aliens convince Earth’s scientists to travel back in time to Godzilla’s original emergence and erase him from history so that Japan won’t have to suffer his wrath over and over again. This all sounds fine on the surface, but as we all know, you can never trust a space alien. Before you know it, triple-headed threat Ghidorah is back in the mix – under the control of the intergalactic interlopers, naturally – and with no Godzilla around to stop it, Tokyo is left trembling in its collective boots. As with any good time-travel movie, there’s some mind-bending what-if scenarios, alternative histories, workaround solutions, and top-shelf titan clashing. Plus, Godzilla’s origins are explained for the first time, expanding the creature’s mythology in an interesting and surprisingly resonant way. Impressive stuff for a franchise 18 films deep.


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